Archive for February, 2011

Libyan Protesters Remain Steadfast

By Aisha Ibrahim

The online world was abuzz after the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Working off the momentum of their Tunisian and Egyptian neighbors, Libyan youth declared February 17 as the Day of Anger. The protests in Libya began in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya.

As a country where it is prohibited to protest, the people of Libya knew the risks they were taking.  The peaceful protests began in Benghazi with people chanting “Wake up, wake up Benghazi, the day you have been waiting for has come.” The protesters were confronted with live ammunition.  In the meantime, the regime controlled the media-aired footage of pro-Gadaffi rallies and people chanting slogans against Al-Jazeera News, who was quick to air any amateur footage that they received.  This marked the beginning of what was to become a bloodbath in the coming days. Most of the deaths are concentrated in the eastern cities of Benghazi, Al Baydah, Shahhat, and Derna.

Libyans are living in a state of constant paranoia and fear, a result of the regime’s tactics to end the protests immediately.  A man who spoke to CNN reported that he joined the protests because he became tired of constantly looking over his shoulder in fear of getting arrested.  No official opposition against the government exists since anyone who even thinks of protesting is quickly taken out by incarceration or death.  As a child living in Canada, I remember my parents always being wary of new Libyans coming to Canada because it was impossible to know whether they were Gadaffi spies or pro-government people. Some people went as far as to deny that they were Libyan so as to remove themselves from the radar of these people – nicknamed “antennas” by the families of Libyan dissidents in the west.  Although at times exaggerated, these fears were not completely misplaced – when dissidents were finally able to return to a country which banned their entrance for many years, they were interrogated by members of the internal security forces who showed them pictures of themselves, their homes and even their license plates in Canada.

The Gadaffi regime uses the tactic of spreading false rumors to frighten the peaceful protestors from protesting. Among these rumors are that the people protesting on the streets were external agents that were going to ruin Libya, the water supplies are poisoned, and phones are monitored.  Many Libyans who reside outside of Libya have tried to get information to share with the world, only to have their relatives tell them that “everything is ok.” Cities in the west such as Tripoli and Misratah have such a heavy security presence that it makes it difficult for protestors to leave their homes.  The regime has gone as far as to ban groups of people walking together on the streets of Tripoli; some residents claim that every home is under surveillance.

Through these challenging times, Libya’s young men and women are taking to the streets, where they are faced by foreign mercenaries hired to suppress their voices; hundreds have died. Through this devastating struggle we are reminded that from this same land came one of the most inspiring figures throughout history – Shaykh Omar Mokhtar – a brave fighter against the facist Italian occupation of Libya during the early twentieth century.  On horseback and armed with a rifle, his faith, and his love for his country, he fought and led a resistance against one of the most aggressively and well-equipped armies of their time. Our youth are fighting a regime that has no morals or scruples; they are going out in the streets armed with conviction and determination for a better life.  As Shaykh Omar said: “We will not surrender, we will win or we will die, this is not the end! You will fight us and you will fight the generations that follow us, until Libya is free.”


  1. MAKE DU`A’ - the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has taught us, “The servant’s du`a’ will be answered provided he does not ask for what is sinful or for the breaking off of relations, and also if he does not show impatience.” He was asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is impatience?’ And he replied, “That the servant says: I invoked, but I do not think it (my invocation) was answered, and he becomes disappointed and abandons supplication.” (Muslim)
  2. INFORM PEOPLE – Write op-eds and letters to the editor to your local newspapers. Blog about it. Use twitter and include the #Libya hashtag.
  3. SUPPORT NEWS MEDIA THAT IS DOING COVERAGE OF LIBYA – CLICK, CLICK, CLICK on news articles! And comment on them! And share them on Facebook, on Twitter, on Tumblr. This is how news media thrives. It’s a sad reality, but clicks and comments encourage editors to cover a story more. Tweet “Thanks” to Anderson Cooper, AlJazeera, etc. Send them thank you letters.
  4. SIGN THESE PETITIONS: BP, Pull out of Libya now! (; Sanctions to stop Libya crackdowns (; Send help to Libya! (PetitionOnline)
  5. GO TO LOCAL SOLIDARITY PROTESTS - The Libyan people think no one cares about them. Sending them photos and videos of supporters brings up morale. If there are no protests planned for your city, plan one! Stage one in your university’s free speech zones!
  6. DISSEMINATE ONLINE RESOURCES – There is a lot of helpful, crowd-sourced material online right now. Like this crowd-sourced list of the dead. Or this number for free unmonitored Internet. Or even these instructions on how to control bleeding of a wound.
  7. MIRROR VIDEOS – Many videos are being taken down – especially Facebook videos. If you know how to, mirror the video and upload it yourself.
  8. TRANSLATE – If you know Arabic, help translate things like tweets, videos, audio, etc. The more people this information is accessible to, the better.
  9. CONTACT YOUR LOCAL STATESMEN AND WOMEN – Tell them you want the U.S. to acknowledge what’s happening in Libya. Tell them you want them to call for the resignation of Gaddafi. Tell them you want them to send aid to Libya. Tell them to support freedom. Tell them to support democracy. Tell them to CONDEMN THIS MASSACRE. Look here and here.
  10. SEND AIDMuslims Without Borders is organizing a medical convoy from Alexandria, Egypt to Libya. Send them money “earmarked” for Libya.
  11. Participate in the Global Evening of Qiyam for Libya this Saturday, February 26, 2011.

Courtesy of : at

The Statute of Tolerance in Islam

The Qur’an establishes clear principles for mankind (to live by). It declares unequivocally that all human beings were created from one being and are united by common origin.

Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (Exalted and All-Mighty) says:


“O mankind, be mindful of your Lord, Who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them spread countless men and women far and wide; be mindful of God, in whose name you make requests of one another; and beware of severing the ties of kinship: God is always watching over you.” (Qur’an, 4:1)

The Prophet ﷺ also said: “All people are children of Adam, and Adam was created from dust.”1

Thus, from the Islamic perspective, everyone has a right to live honorably, without distinction or discrimination. The human being is honored in the Qur’an, irrespective of religion, color, or race.

Allah (swt) says:

17:70“And We have certainly honored the children of Adam and carried them by land and sea; and We provided good sustenance for them, and favored them specially over many of those We created.” (Qur’an, 17:70)

It is not right for people to initiate discord and enmity over race, color, language, or religion. On the contrary, this [diversity] should be an opportunity to get to know one another, and to collaborate over mutual interests. As Allah says:


“O mankind, indeed We created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes for you to get to know one another. Indeed, the most honorable of you in the sight of Allah are the most righteous.” (Qur’an, 49:13)

The only qualification for distinction put forth by the Qur’an is one’s contribution to the well-being of all mankind: “Indeed, the most honorable of you in the sight of Allah are the most righteous.”

As such, Islam’s approach to non-Muslims, especially People of the Book (Jews and Christians), is one of coexistence and cooperation—particularly over mutual interest based on values and ethics that are encouraged not only by all religions, but accepted by all of humanity.

Islam’s injunction in dealing with non-Muslims is summed up in the following ayah:


“Allah does not forbid you from dealing kindly and justly with those who have not fought you in your religion or driven you out of your homes. Indeed, Allah loves those who are just.” (Qur’an, 60:8)

In this ayah and others, Islam defines the basis of one’s interaction with others; it is rooted in tolerance, which is deeply connected to pardoning others by overlooking mistakes, pursuing excellence in conduct, and increasing virtuous deeds.

The foundation of this tolerant view of other faiths is a set of beliefs and truths that Islam inculcates in the hearts and minds of Muslims. The most essential of these are: humanity’s common origin; the dignity of human beings; religious differences existing by Allah’s will; Muslims not being charged with judging people of other faiths. Also, in addition to prohibiting forced conversion, Islam has encouraged establishing justice among people, which is required for stable and peaceful coexistence.

Islam deals with non-Muslims on two levels:

  1. A non-Muslim individual or group within a Muslim community.
  2. A non-Muslim group dealing with a Muslim state (externally).

Islam provides some of the greatest examples of coexistence with non-Muslims on both levels. It illustrates how to deal with other people, both through legislative theory and practice – and human history is witness to this throughout the centuries.

The Prophet ﷺ went to great lengths to show mercy, tolerance,and pardoning of non-Muslims. He ﷺ also warned us against being unjust to them: “He who is unjust to amu`ahid (non-Muslim covenanted with Muslims), detracts from his rights, burdens him beyond his capacity, or takes something from him without willful consent, I will argue against him on the Day of Judgment.”2

When the Islamic state expanded during the Prophet’s time ﷺ, there were many Arab Christian tribes, especially in Najran,3 that he signed pacts with. These pacts guaranteed them freedom of belief and practice, protection of their places of worship, as well as freedom of thought, education and work. The pact between the Prophet ﷺ and Najran’s people states: “The people of Najran and its surrounding areas have the protection of Allah and His Prophet over their lives, their religion, land, and property—including the present and absent of them—and their markets and places of worship. No bishop shall be removed from his bishopric, nor a hermit from his hermitage, nor an endowment from its state of endowment. The agreements of this pact are guaranteed protection by Allah and His Prophet forever, until Allah’s order comes, and as long as the people of Najran remain faithful and adhere to the conditions made for them.”4

During ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab’s caliphate, the Muslims followed the example of their Prophet ﷺ when they signed a pact with the people of Aelia (Jerusalem). ‘Umar radi allahu ‘anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) secured for them freedom of religion and the sanctity of their temples and rituals. He states: “Do not take over their churches, or destroy them or detract anything from them; do not take from their property, or crosses, or their wealth. They should not be forced to leave their religion, and none of them should be harmed; and let none of the Jews live in Aelia with them.”5

This is how Muslims have dealt with people of other faiths throughout history.

It is important to note that the Egyptian Copts enjoy a special status amongst Muslims, especially Egyptian Muslims. Umm Salama (may Allah be pleased with her) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ counseled before his death:  “(Be mindful of) Allah, (be mindful of) Allah with the Copts of Egypt. You shall overcome them, and they will add to your numbers and support you in the cause of Allah.6

In another narration, he said: “You will conquer a land where carats (used in currency) are mentioned, so treat its people with kindness, for they have rights and (share) kinship7(with us).”8

All these documented examples, and many others which are too lengthy to include here, illustrate the tolerance of Islam and Muslims in their heritage, thought, and perspective towards non-Muslims.

Courtesy of by Dr. `Ali Gom`a | Translated by Farida Khalil and

Showing Off: The Minor Shirk

You have to realize that most of the diseases of the heart are solved by “iyaka na`budu (it is You we worship).” (Qur’an, 1:5). When we say “iyaka na`budu” arrogance, for example, is wiped away. Being scared is wiped away. Shirk (associating partners to Allah) is wiped away. Being lazy, misguided, miserly or devious is wiped way. Most of the diseases of the heart are cured by struggling to obey Allah (swt). Sometimes you wonder, “SubhanAllah how long do I have to keep going through this internally?” Iyaka na`budu. I’m waiting and I’m trusting in You. One day You’re going to fix it for me.

The next disease of the heart is very dangerous; in fact the Prophet ﷺ feared this thing the most for us. The Prophet ﷺ was merciful, loving and good to everyone – but this is the thing he feared for you and me the most. It is so dangerous that the one who feels safe from it is usually the one who’s been entrapped in its tentacles with no way out. It’s so deadly that you can do a lot of good deeds but if you’ve cloaked your good deeds with the dress of this thing, you’ve lost all the rewards. Imagine doing good and getting none of the rewards. You’re doing good deeds but you’re getting nothing: in fact you’re getting punished.

This is the disease of ar-riyaa: to be a show-off. People like me with big mouths who you guys invite to speak everywhere are the ones who have the biggest test of riyaa. It’s very difficult.

Nobody can say, “I’m safe from riyaa.” The one who says this is showing off. The Prophet Muhammed ﷺ warned us about riyaa, but what is the meaning of ar-riyaa?

Imam al Ghazali said in his book Al Ihya that ar-riyaa is to seek stations (i.e. being high in people’s minds and hearts) with actions so that they see you; to seek the praise of the people. There are some signs of the one who has riyaa that we will talk about , as well as their cures as found in Surat al-Fatiha (Qur’an, 1).

Riyaa is so dangerous that the Prophet ﷺ gave it a special name. He said, “Indeed the thing I fear for you the most is the minor shirk (associating partners with Allah).” We have minor shirk and major shirk. Major shirk is something like worshipping a statue or another god with Allah (swt) or to take a legislator other than Allah (swt). But the minor shirk is mentioned in this hadith. And the Prophet ﷺ said that it is the thing he fears for us the most. The Companions of the Prophet ﷺ asked him, “What is minor shirk, ya Rasullah?” He said, “Ar-riyaa. Showing off.” In one hadith the Prophet ﷺ gave the example of someone making the athan (call to prayer) and while making the athan he thinks, “Wow I bet the people think my voice is beautiful.” This is ar-riyaa. In another hadith the Prophet ﷺ said it’s so dangerous that it’s like the black ant on the black rock in the night with no moon. It can sneak up on you like this.

Indeed riyaa is so difficult and dangerous that it can fall into your good actions. The Prophet Muhammed ﷺ said, “The one who prays and wants people to see them has committed shirk. The one who fasted and they want the people to know about their fasting has committed shirk. The one who gave sadaqah (charity) and wants people to know about their charity has committed shirk.” You know how dangerous shaytan is, especially when it comes to sadaqah? For example, maybe Islamic Relief or some charitable organization comes to your campus and they do a fundraiser. You’re not even married and you say, “Subhan’Allah I really need this money but the Prophet ﷺ said wealth does not decrease from giving charity. So I’m going to give and no one will know about it.” So you give the money and then later you get married. Then ten years later you’re sitting with your spouse at home and you say, “You know what I did ten years ago?” You just lost it. This is Shaytan. Don’t think that Shaytan will just mess with you at that moment. We will talk about the attacks of Shaytan later in this series, insha’Allah. One word that Ibn Qayyim used to describe Shaytan is very scary. He said Shaytan is patient. He waits. Then, at a specific moment, he hits you. For ten years you got the hasanat (blessings) of this charity. But what counts is when you die. So after that ten years if you start boasting to someone, then you’ve lost it. You’ve got to start over. This attack is even more dangerous because if Shaytan hits you today with riyaa you still have ten years to make up for it. But if he waits ten years and then gets you then you lost ten years. Shaytan is an enemy to us.

How dangerous is riyaa, the minor shirk? If you read any of the du`a’ that we recite every day after Fajr (predawn prayer) or `Asr (afternoon prayer) we say, “Oh my Lord, I seek refuge in You from associating partners with You knowingly and from associating partners with You unknowingly.”

How subtle is riyaa? Maybe a sister goes to Egypt or Syria for three months to study. She buys a nice jilbab (dress), not the American not-really-quite-there jilbab. She buys the real jilbab. Then she comes back and goes to campus and now she wears jilbab and she thinks to herself proudly, “Oh yes, now I wear jilbab.” Why is she wearing this jilbab? Did she wear this jilbab to please Allah (swt) or did she wear this jilbab so that people would say, “Oh you wear jilbab, you’re a big sheikha!” This is very dangerous.

Maybe a brother got some knowledge and then he comes to the MSA and he starts preaching, “Well Ibn Malik said in the Al-Fiya…” and he reads some poetry that no one in the world can understand except him. Then you say to him, “SubhanAllah, brother. We’re talking about parking at jum`ah (Friday prayer), and you’re reading the poetry of sarf (Arabic morphology)?” Why did the brother read this poetry? Why did he learn? Why is he increasing himself? This is ar-riyaa.

Many of us might be listening today and think, “Oh well I’m not even a good Muslim. I don’t need to worry about riyaa. I’m doing bad, ain’t no riyaa in doing bad.” Check yourself before you wreck yourself. That’s not the case because you can even have riyaa in doing bad.

You might be doing bad and think, “Yeah them brothers see how I’ve got it going on. They’re going to think I’m all that.” This is riyaa. In fact 99% of hip-hop music is riyaa. “Look at me, I’m the baddest dude on the block, I got more girls than stars in the sky, I can drink more than the Pacific Ocean. It’s because of me that the world’s in motion.” This is riyaa! This is showing-off and exaggeration.

Those of us who feel safe from riyaa, listen to the following statements of one of the great scholars. He said, “The closest to people to falling into showing off are those who feel the most secure from it.” Those people who think, “I don’t have to worry about what he’s talking about. I’m not an active Muslim.” There is only one type of Muslim and that’s an active Muslim. You move, you breathe, right? Your blood is moving in your body. You’re active and you’re a Muslim. Therefore you are an active Muslim.

We should note the types of riyaa so that we can protect ourselves from it.

Lecture by Suhaib Webb | Transcribed by Fuseina Mohammad. Courtesy of

Bravo Egypt! Thoughts on the Revolution in Egypt – Imam Zaid Shakir – New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

The Egyptian people have accomplished one of the major objectives of their historic revolution. They have brought the thirty-year reign of Hosni Mubarak to an end. As they celebrate, from Alexandria in the north down to Aswan in the south, they realize that this is only the beginning of the long and arduous march to a free and open system that will guarantee their dignity and fundamental rights. However, every journey has a beginning and this glorious beginning is a harbinger of a glorious end. As the great Egyptian sage, Ibn ‘Ata Allah Sankadari, mentioned, “An illuminated beginning is a portent of an illuminated end.” May that be so in the case of the Egyptian Revolution.

The size and strategic position of Egypt, her central place in America’s geo-strategic planning, her historical leadership of the Arab world and the sheer magnitude of the security “apparatus” that the people had to overcome to reach this point will ensure that the ongoing revolution will be deeply studied by many for decades to come. Here are some of my reflections on the revolution thus far.

First of all, I do not write these lines as someone unfamiliar with Egyptian society. Upon completing my graduate studies in 1986 I departed for a year of Arabic studies in Cairo. As a poor student with only the irregular salary from my part-time job as an English teacher at the ‘Aziz Billah Mosque in the Zaytoun section of Cairo, I ate what my neighbors ate, namely a steady diet of Ful and Ta’miyya sandwiches, supplemented by pickled turnips. I slept on the floor of the masjid with my brothers during my Ramadan retreat. And I rode the crowded buses, becoming adept at grabbing the pole and jumping into the backdoor of those constantly moving, diesel-belching wrecks.

I also had an opportunity to become familiar with the expansive reach of the secret police, the Mukhabarat. One day while walking to one of my classes, I was offered a “taxi” ride to the mosque where the class was being held. In my then broken Arabic and through pointing I indicated that the mosque was only two blocks away. The driver and the passenger in the front seat insisted that they take me to the Mosque. I was adamant in my insistence that I walk the remaining distance. Finally, one of them flashed a badge and demanded that I get in the car. Upon doing so, I was bombarded with a barrage of questions asking what I was doing in Cairo, did I know this or that Muslim personality, where was I really going, etc. Finally, convinced that I was just a student from America they let me go, but not before rifling through my briefcase and helping themselves to a few “souvenirs.”

I was allowed to go on to my destination, but for far too many Egyptians, their “taxi rides” ended on the “dark side.” I had the opportunity to get first hand descriptions of that “dark side” by talking to many Egyptians who had been in the “Zinzanah,” the torture cells of the regime. They spoke of the beatings, the cigarette burns, the dogs, and other horrors they had experienced directly or witnessed. This is part of the reality that contributed to the revolution that has succeeded in ousting Hosni Mubarak.

In the events leading up to and now culminating with Mubarak’s resignation there are accusations, such as that articulated in an editorial in the Israeli daily, Haaretz, that Obama will go down in history for losing Egypt. This sentiment succinctly expresses the deep, dehumanizing racism that has driven the policy of supporting authoritarian dictators in the Middle East. These paternalistic tyrants will keep their “children” in their “place” to protect foreign interests. The same racist sentiment also drives the idea of Muslim “exceptionalism.” Muslims in the Middle East, we were told, are too irresponsible, reckless or just plain undeserving of governing themselves.

The people of Egypt have shown that they are not the property of any foreign power to be owned, used, abused and then discarded or possibly “lost.” They are human, men and women determined to carve out a dignified existence for themselves and their progeny. In so doing, they have shattered, to this point, virtually every myth and stereotype encouraging Americans to view Muslims as our inherent enemies. For example, we have been told that Muslims are bloodthirsty savages. We have been told that political Islam is a totalitarian system that knows of no compromise. Yet in Egypt, as in Tunisia, we have seen a majority Muslim population engage in a nonviolent revolution. The Muslim ideologues in the movement, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have cooperated with their Christian and secular fellow citizens aspiring to a new Egypt, not as a domineering and condescending force, but as full partners.The youth have been universally recognized as the visionaries who expanded the realm of the politically possible. Finally, women have been accepted as equal if not surpassing agents of change -the heroine of the revolution is a brave and defiant woman, Asmaa Mahfuz, whose youtube appeal was critical in the success of the pivotal January 25, 2011 mobilization. All of these characteristics make the Egyptian revolution one of the great sociopolitical developments of this new century.

Here in the United States many politicians and pundits are asking, “Why didn’t we see this coming?” I will offer my answer here. Specifically, American policy-making towards the Middle East has become dominated by anti-Muslim bigots. They have projected their own fears onto the governing elite and created such an obsession with so-called radical Islam that the latter has accepted the draconian (and profitable for some) measures being put into place to fight it, including support for “moderate” regimes like Mubarak’s. All the while, they have failed to take note of the real, dynamic politics on the ground in the Middle East and the civil society that has sprung up around those politics. The Egyptian Revolution has shown just how weak and marginal so-called radical Islam is in most Muslim societies. In one of the great ironies of history, the violent nihilists of “radical Islam,” besides the army, represent one of the few potential counter-revolutionary forces in Egypt.

The road ahead in Egypt will not be an easy one. There are powerful interests, both in Egypt and in other countries who were profiting lavishly from the ancient regime and the system of crony capitalism it has put in place to syphon off the country’s wealth. They have much to lose from a new system and will fight hard to preserve at least some of the privileges they formerly possessed. New institutions will have to be built. A new balance of power will have to be hammered out between the groups the protesters represent and the older, more established parties and groups who supported the protests, along with those who did not. The health care and university systems, both of which have been destroyed by mindless and neglectful policies, will have to be rebuilt. The minefields of the Palestinian situation will also have to be traversed.  However, that is tomorrow’s work and tomorrow’s worry. As for today, let the people of Egypt celebrate. Bravo, Egypt, Bravo!

Originally posted on

Today’s Opening of the Red Sea (Lessons from Egypt)

By Yasmin Mogahed

When Prophet Musa (as) stood in front of the Red Sea, a tyrant and his army approached from behind. Some of those in Musa’s midst began to divide. Looking ahead, those people saw only defeat:

“And when the two bodies saw each other, the people of Moses said: ‘We are sure to be overtaken.’”(Qur’an, 26:61).

But Musa (as) had different eyes. His eyes were spiritual eyes that saw through the illusions of worldly hardship and defeat. He saw through. With a heart connected to the Most High, looking at the same seemingly impossible situation, Musa saw only God:


“(Moses) said: ‘By no means! My Lord is with me! He will guide me through!’” (Qur’an, 26:61-62)

And indeed Allah did just that:

“Then We told Moses by inspiration: ‘Strike the sea with thy rod.’ So it divided, and each separate part became like the huge, firm mass of a mountain. And We made the other party approach thither. We delivered Moses and all who were with him; But We drowned the others.” (Qur’an, 26: 63-66).

Today in Egypt, we are standing in front of a Red Sea. Today in Egypt, a tyrant and his army are at our back.  Today, there are some who see only defeat. But, there are others whose eyes are looking through the blockade to the path and the hope beyond it. Today in Egypt, there are some who – even with a tyrant at their back – are saying:

إِنَّ مَعِيَ رَبِّي سَيَهْدِينِ

“Indeed my Lord is with me, He will guide me through.”

One might wonder why, at such a critical time in history, we would retell an ancient story. Why would something that happened thousands of years ago be relevant today? The reason is that it is not just a story. Nor is it ancient. It is an everlasting sign and a lesson for all time. In the very next ayah, Allah says:


“Verily in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe.” (26:67)

It is a sign of the Reality of God and the secrets of this world. It is a sign that tyranny never wins and that obstacles are only illusions, created to test us, train us, and purify us. But most of all it is a sign of where success comes from. And it is a vision of what that success, against all odds—at a time we think we’re trapped, defeated, and powerless—really looks like.

Some might ask why, if we are indeed on the side of God, does victory not come easily? Some might wonder why God doesn’t just give the righteous victory without immense struggle and sacrifice. The answer to this question is also given by God. He tells us:


“And We did not send a prophet in a town but We overtook its people with distress and affliction in order that they might humble themselves (reach a state of tadaru’).” (Qur’an, 7:94)

Here, Allah says that the purpose of the affliction is to reach a state of tadaru. Tadaru is humility before God – but it is not just humility. To understand the concept of tadaru, imagine yourself in the middle of an ocean. Imagine that you are all alone on a boat. Imagine that a huge storm comes and the waves become mountains surrounding you. Now imagine turning to God at that point and asking for His help. In what state of need, awe, dependency and utter humility would you be in? That is tadaru. Allah says that He creates conditions of hardship in order to grant us that gift. God does not need to make things hard for us. He creates those situations in order to allow us to reach a state of closeness to Him, which otherwise we’d be unlikely to reach.

That priceless state of humility, nearness and utter dependence on God is what the Egyptian people have been blessed with today. Allahu akbar – God is great. But Allah mentions another purpose for these hardships and struggles. He says:


“And We divided them throughout the earth into different groups. Of them some were righteous, and of them some were otherwise. And We tested them with good [times] and bad that perhaps they would return [to obedience].” (Qur’an, 7:168).

In Surat ali-Imran, Allah tells us:

If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses (to Truth). And Allah loveth not those that do wrong. Allah’s object also is to purify those that are true in Faith and to deprive of blessing Those that resist Faith. Did ye think that ye would enter Heaven without Allah testing those of you who fought hard (In His Cause) and remained steadfast?” (Qur’an, 3:140-142).

Here, Allah describes the purpose of hardship as being tamhees. Tamhees is the same word used to describe the heating and purifying of gold. Without heating it up, gold is precious metal—but it’s full of impurities. By performing tamhees, a process of heating, the impurities are removed from gold. This is what God also does with the believers. Through hardships, believers are purified—just like gold.

And so too are the Egyptians being purified. Only days before the uprising, the world had considered the Egyptian youth a lost cause. We believed they had lost their direction and their purpose. We believed that they had chosen to live their lives on the streets, catcalling girls, or at internet cafes smoking hookah. Through this hardship, the Egyptian youth have been brought back from the dead.

Now, these youth are standing on the streets in defiance of tyranny, on their knees praying, and with their hands facing the sky, calling on their Lord. The same people who just days before barely prayed, stand today in front of military tanks to bow down to their Creator. Only days before the uprising, the tensions between Egyptian Muslims and Christians had grown to an all-time high. Today the Christians and Muslims stand side by side in defense of each other and their country. The same people who did not trust each other the day before their ‘heating,’ have come together as brothers and sisters, as one body, to defend their streets, their homes, and their neighborhoods. And through this hardship, a person who only days before lived for his cell phone, sheesha, and cigarettes, has become willing to sacrifice his own life to give freedom to his people.

Allah tells us in the Qur’an:


“Say: ‘Who is it that sustains you (in life) from the sky and from the earth? Or who is it that has power over hearing and sight? And who is it that brings out the living from the dead and the dead from the living? And who is it that rules and regulates all affairs?’ They will soon say, ‘(Allah)’.  Say, ‘Will you not then show piety (to Him)?’” (Qur’an, 10:31)

It is Allah who brings the living out of the dead. He has brought us back from the dead. Don’t think for a moment that a single moment of this is not happening with a purpose—a deep, profound and beautiful, liberating purpose. For decades the Egyptian people have lived a life of fear. But when you let fear control you, you are a slave. Allah has liberated the Egyptian people from this slavery, by making them face–and overcome–their greatest fear. Allah has liberated the Egyptian people by allowing them to look their oppressor in the eye and tell him, and the whole world, that they will no longer live in fear.  And so whether Mubarak stays or goes, lives or dies—it doesn’t really matter. The Egyptian people have already been liberated.

They have been liberated.

Hosni Mubarak is irrelevant. He is nothing but a tool—a tool by which God carries out His plan for the Egyptian people and for the entire Ummah. A tool to carry out His plan to purify, beatify and liberate the Egyptian people and the Ummah. And whether we are in Egypt today or not is unimportant. Egypt is just one limb of our body. The purification of Egypt is a purification of the whole body of our Ummah. It is the purification of you and me. It is our chance to ask ourselves to what are we attached. What are we afraid of? What are we striving for? What do we stand for? And where are we going?

When a body is in a deep, deep slumber—a coma—it is only out of His infinite mercy that He sends us a wakeup call. It is only from His infinite mercy that He sends to us life where there was once only death. We were heedless, so He sent us a sign. We were asleep, so he woke us up. We worshiped this life, and preferred our material possessions to the liberation of a soul attached to, and afraid of nothing but Him—so He freed us.

How many people will experience something like this in their lifetime? How many people will experience the opening of a Sea, the humbling of a tyrant? Shouldn’t we ask ourselves why we were chosen to see it? Shouldn’t we ask ourselves what we were intended to learn, change, transform? Because if we think for a moment this is all just about the people of Egypt, then we have desperately missed the point. We were asleep, and Allah chose to wake us.

We were dead and Allah wants to give us life.

We were conditioned to believe that our enemy was outside of ourselves. That he had power over us. This is also an illusion. The enemy is inside of us. All external enemies are only manifestations of our own diseases. And so if we want to conquer those enemies, we must first conquer the enemy inside ourselves. This is why the Qur’an tells us:


“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they first change what is in themselves.” (Qur’an, 13:11)

We must first conquer greed, selfishness, shirk, ultimate fear, love, hope and dependence on anything other than Allah. We must conquer hubb ad-dunya (love of dunya)—the root of all our diseases, and all our oppression. Before we can defeat the Pharaohs in our lives, we must defeat the Pharaoh inside ourselves. So the fight in Egypt is a fight for liberation. Yes. But liberation from what? Who is truly oppressed? Are you and I free? What is true oppression? Ibn Taymiyyah (ra) answers this question when he says: “The one who is (truly) imprisoned is the one whose heart is imprisoned from Allah and the captivated one is the one whose desires have enslaved him.” (Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Wabil)

When you are free inside, you will never allow anyone to take away your freedom.  And when you have inner freedom, you can look through tyrants and thugs to the Lord of the tyrants and thugs. When you are free inside, you become unenslaveable, because you can only enslave a person with attachments. You can only threaten a person who is afraid of loss. You only have power over someone when they need or want something that you have the ability to take away. But there is only one thing which no person has the power to take away from you: God.

And so when we fight to free Egypt, on a grander and realer scale it is a fight to also free ourselves. It is a fight to free ourselves of the tyranny of our own nafs and desires. A fight to free ourselves from our own false attachments and dependencies, from all that controls us, from all that we worship—other than Him. It is a fight to free us from our own slavery. Whether we are slaves to the American dollar, to our own desires, to status, to wealth, or to fear—the purification of Egypt is a purification of us all.

That is why the formula for true success given to us in the Qur’an consists of two elements: Sabr (patience, perseverance) and Taqwa (fear of God alone):


“O you who have believed, persevere and endure and remain stationed and fear God (alone) that you may be successful.” (Qur’an 3:200).

So if we watch Egypt today as if it is only a spectacle happening outside of ourselves, without cleaning, examining, and really changing ourselves and our lives, then we have missed it’s purpose.

After all, it isn’t every day that a sea is opened before our very eyes.

Orignially posted on

Turning Towards God in the Worst Moments of Our Lives

These moments are often full of anger, sadness, regret, or a combination of all. They show up in our lives as the death of our child, emotionally painful marital strife or divorce, through difficult living situations, or health problems that wage war upon our physical bodies which leave us in constant pain. They can materialize through financial losses, physical assault, or sexual abuse and victimization.

How does one recover from these traumatic times? How does one trudge through them and come out of the other side still capable of functioning and finding some semblance of joy in life? And how does one deal with the realities of these problems, and find the strength to develop optimism and happiness again?

If you are being victimized or have thought about hurting yourself – seek help from professionals immediately.

Before we discuss how to turn towards God to withstand tribulations and heal the rifts in our hearts, I want to mention that if you are being hurt physically in any way, you should not hesitate for a single moment in seeking help from the authorities. Contact a friend, a school counselor, a teacher, or the police. Many people hold off on doing so, thinking that their situation will get better or that reporting their victimization will somehow bring dishonor on their family; they think their abuser will one day stop. This  only makes bringing an end to the abuse more difficult. You need empowering to end the situation immediately, and then we can begin to discuss your healing process. The same goes for anyone thinking about hurting themselves or have already self-harmed. Before any progress can begin spiritually, this physical complication needs to end.

Islam values the roles of expertise and professionalism, as the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said: “Verily Allah has prescribed proficiency (إحسان) in all things” (Muslim). We should remember that religion alone is not a ‘cure all’ – but that each subject field has its own set of professionals and licensed workers who can help us through various issues. Thus, if victimized, we should always seek to protect ourselves through the professionals in law enforcement, and sound medical advice – in addition to prayer and faith.

The Trap We Fall Into: “When my situation is better, I will be able turn to God and practice my religion better.”

One of the reasons for Islam’s revelation, along with improving the human condition and pointing the way towards Allah’s worship and love, is to give us the spiritual sustenance we need to navigate through life’s tribulations.

As Muslims we can make the mistake of idealizing Islam as being some kind of perfect lifestyle that if implemented ‘we will have the perfect life, without the trials and difficulties we face today’. We may think that Islam is a set of teachings, rules, and acts that we can only incorporate fully when our lives aren’t so messed up. What happens when we think this?

Firslty, we may suffer withdrawal symptoms of finding sweetness in our prayers and pray just to get salat out of the way, if we pray at all. We break our relationship with the Qur’an. We might start to withdraw emotionally and spiritually from engaging with Islam as an active path to allow God’s Light to burn away the impurities, the anger, the sadness, the depression, and the burden in our hearts. Finally we may completely stop thinking about Islam altogether, learning about it, and conversing with it. We instead believe that before we can engage with Islam and partake in strengthening an ongoing relationship with God – we need to lick our wounds and heal from the calamity that has befallen us.

This thinking is a fatal mistake that first and foremost is one of Shaitan’s (Satan) best tricks: to push us away from engaging Islam and pursuing a relationship with God, precisely when our hearts are bursting with negative emotions and sadness. Shaitan dupes us precisely when we NEED GOD THE MOST. This in turn misplaces the reason why Islam came with a form of worship to God and functional way of life. Islam came to strengthen us, heal us, and ultimately guide us to salvation from these trials of life. Whether those trials are spiritual, material, emotional, or all of the above, we must maintain that Allah (swt) is our Friend. The One Who will never leave His worshipper alone. The One God Who will never forsake His slave. He is Allah. And His names tell us about His true attributes:

As-Salam – The Source of Peace
Al-Muhaymin – The Guardian
Al-Qahhaar – The One Who Subdues with Strength
Ar-Razzaaq – The Provider
Al-Fattah – The Giver of Victory
Al-Latif – The Gentle
Al-Nur – the Light
Al-Mu’eed – The Restorer

So, we come to the main question. If we are going through a tribulation and we are stressed with what no-one in the world understands, why would we not want the Source of Peace on our side? Why wouldn’t we want to engage with Ar-Razzaaq, The Provider to strengthen us? Why do we shy away from studying and delving into life’s trials that the Giver of Victory has sent down to us?

It is time to ask the only One Who Subdues with Strength to subdue our sorrow, and ask God to shine His light into our lives and Restore our joy. This is why Muslims use du`a’ (supplication) for anxiety as taught to us by the Prophet ﷺ:

“O Allah, I am Your servant, son/ daughter of Your servant, son/ daughter of Your maidservant, my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name belonging to You, which You name Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur’an the life of my heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a release for my anxiety.”


Just look at this beautiful du`a’ taught to us by our Prophet ﷺ. Here, we are reminded of Allah’s (swt) Overwhelming Dominance over everything and over ourselves. We are also reminded of His Names, so that we can feel connected to His unlimited abilities that help us understand His roles in our lives. And finally, we are reminded of the Book – the Qur’an – that He sent, and through the Qur’an, the religion that is outlined for us.

But how can the Qur’an be our heart’s light and a release for our sorrows if we never read it? How, if we did not drown ourselves in it and in learning its secrets?

The Test is Not Whether We Bear Calamity, But Whether it Pushes Us Towards Allah


We know from Surat-al-Mulk that Allah (swt) has created life and death in order to try us and test us. We also know that Allah (swt) tries those whom He loves. However, there is more to life than simply passing a test of difficulty.

The test is not only whether or not we will bear the burden we are given, with patience. The test is also accepting that for our patience, at the end of the road is a guaranteed reward. It is accepting that a child we lost will insha`Allah (God willing) play with Prophet Ibrahim (as) in Paradise. That through patience a broken marriage devoid of love will be replaced by one that is better in this world or in the Hereafter. And that a painful sickness endured with remembrance of God, only results with each ounce of pain forgiving a sin clean.

The test is not simply to remember these things either, though they are the key to being patient. The ultimate test is whether the calamity pushes us towards Allah (swt). Whether we are able to take our difficult situation, and rather than relying on ourselves alone, recognize our dependency on and rely on God. From this we can then pursue a stronger relationship with God Who can bring peace to our hearts, and we can seek knowledge of how the deen (way of life) He revealed can in fact ease our pain.

It may be easy to worship Allah and engage with His deen when our lives are perfect. But that is exactly the wrong point. Our lives are not perfect, and will never be. So will we worship Him by participating fully in His Religion, even when things fall apart around us? Will we accept that the Sovereign King has the power and the mercy to bring us what we so desperately need? We must begin turning back to Allah, today, because He loves us unconditionally every day. And how does Allah love His servants? This story from the Prophet ﷺ should give us the answer:

“…Suddenly, a woman saw an infant in the midst of the captives. She took hold of it, brought it into her bosom, and started nursing it. The Prophet then told the Companions, “Do you think that this woman would throw her child in the fire?” We said, “No, By Allah she would not, if she is able not to.” He then said, “Allah the Exalted is more merciful with His slave than this woman with her child.” (Al-Bukhari)

Courtesy of Abdul Sattar Ahmed

Da’wah in the Age of iPhones

by Jannah

“By (the Token of) Time (through the ages),
Verily Man is in loss, except such as have Faith,
and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching
of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.”
(Qur’an, Chapter 103)

In the 103rd chapter of the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (Glorified and Exalted is He) gives us a blueprint for our lives:  Have faith, do righteous deeds, and join together to teach people truth, patience and constancy. Our first priority then is to have this faith and to do good deeds as individuals, families and a collective community. Secondly, we need to teach others.

Everyday, people interact and learn from the internet. The world is now so wired that people sleep with their iPhones so that they don’t miss anything. (Yes admit it!) The statistics on how obsessed people are with things like Facebook are mind-boggling. The internet ‘cloud’ is now the living space of the world. Everyday, there are new and more sophisticated anti-Islamic websites, rants on Youtube and powerful bloggers that publish their latest Islamophobic tirades. Where are the Muslims?

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf once said, “Spend a little time on the Internet, and search for issues related to Islam, the way people who have little or no knowledge about Islam might do if they were curious about our religion. Try Google searches for terms like “jihad” or “women in Islam,” and see the top websites and links that appear. Compare some of the websites run by Muslims with the ones run by people attacking the Muslims, and note the difference.” Indeed, what we will find is that we still have a lot of work to do. Not just for non-Muslims but for Muslims as well. We need to do something to counter this disinformation about Islam.

“Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching;
and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious:
for thy Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance.”
(Qur’an, 16:125)

My philosophy since the 90’s has not been that we need to convert people. That is not our job. Faith is something that is between a person and Allah (swt). Our job is to present the real, true, good Islam. It is up to people if they want to believe, understand, sympathize or hate. (There will always be people who won’t believe and we should accept that.) However, we should not accept when the Palin-Geller monsters of the world create a “terrorism-honor-killing-jeehad-shariah-izlam” and present that to the world as our faith. That is not fair, and it’s about time that each of us participates in taking back our own narrative. The Qur’an asks us to join together in this mutual teaching. We need to step up, participate, represent, and bring true Islam to the people.

You might ask at this point if one person/website/blog/video/tweet can make a difference. The way I look at it is, that if one person is affected positively by what you’ve created, it is well worth the effort. (It can even be beneficial to you.)

So the typical image of an Islamic website you might have is of an elderly scholarly Shaykh (with a big beard) posting long religious edicts! Or perhaps a programmer in big glasses typing feverishly away in complex programming languages. Yet, the websites of today are far more nuanced and don’t have to be in ‘traditional website’ form. Easy software, helpful guides and simple interfaces make everything accessible, even to those not technically inclined. You also do not have to be a scholar or “perfect” in religiosity to show different aspects and positive sides of Islam.

A few great examples of non-traditional ‘Islamic websites’ that have popped up recently:

  1. Muslim heroes/Muslims wearing things – blogs in response to Islamophobes showing the huge diversity of what Muslims are doing to serve the world and what Muslims actually look like and wear.
  2. iPhone Islamic apps – now you can do everything from finding a Halal restaurant in a new city to memorizing online with a Tajweed master.
  3. How-to-Hijab videos – Youtube videos showing girls how to pin their Hijabs.
  4. Twitter’s Hadith-a-day – tweets a reflective Hadith a day to thousands of followers.
  5. Muslim media & radio shows – broadcasting everything from Qur’an recitation to discussions on relevant topics for Muslims.
  6. Halal food blog – all about creating great Halal recipes, good substitute ingredients and traditional foods from the Muslim world.
  7. Muslim anime artists – creating anime and comics representing Muslims and their struggles.
  8. Flickr collections – showing Muslim architecture, art and life throughout the Muslim world through photos.
  9. Facebook fan pages – fan pages on such diverse topics as Salahuddin Ayyubi, Muslims & Science Fiction and Steampunk Shariah.
  10. Youtube Muslim skits & parodies – cartoons, skits and entertainment for all, by funny people and MSAs.
  11. Yahoo! comments – Muslims who comment on Islam related articles to counter all the hate. (Hey, we have to start somewhere!)

These are all just ordinary, individual Muslims using their talent to educate and spread Islam online. They’re not perfect and I’m sure their diverse opinions will differ, along with the way they went about things, but the point is they are regular, normal, struggling Muslims expressing their own faith, interests and daily lives to others.

So what about the rest of us? There are so many Muslims that have such great talents and skills. Each of us can contribute to this mutual teaching. So how do we get started in making something beneficial? And what are some steps in the process?

But oars alone can ne’er prevail to reach the distant coast;
The breath of Heaven must swell the sail, or all the toil is lost.

– William Cowper

Pre-Step 1: Purify your intention. Anything we do should be for Allah (swt), so it’s important to keep in mind our goals and original intentions.

Step 1: Find your niche. Do you have any special abilities or talents? Do you know how to program Islamic widgets, themes, apps, software? What are you interested in? Do you like politics? Art? Software? Poetry? History? Fashion? What kind of website do you want to create? Do you want to start a blog? Create some funny videos? Gather articles on a specific topic? Live stream local lectures and study circles? Start a forum for a certain hobby? Open a Yahoogroup for people similar to you or for your local community? Every Muslim can contribute in their own way, so think of the way you can best contribute, using your interests and skills.

Step 2: Do some research. See what’s out there in the areas you’re interested in. Who is the audience you are targeting? Muslims, non-Muslims – both or a specific group? Do you think your website will be useful to them? Does it add value to what is already out there? How is it different or needed? Analyze what works and what doesn’t. Seeing other things might spark some new ideas or help you find where you are most needed. If the idea is out there already, you could do something similar or a little different. If someone is already doing what you’re interested in, then you should join and strengthen them. You might even want to contribute something or help an established site out there already instead of starting something new.

Step 3: Get started. Create some content! You don’t have to buy your own domain and host your own site at this point, which can be expensive and technically complicated. You can use free services like WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr, Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr, Deviantart, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Find things you can use for your site, write to publishers and authors for permission. Write articles, create videos, and start tweeting. Be smart, innovative, creative and fresh. There is so much potential for us out there with so many great ideas.

Step 4: Advertise and allow for feedback. Advertise in Google, post comments on other blogs, and list your site in Islam related search engines. Ask other website owners, friends and those who might be interested to take a look and give you suggestions. Tweak and change where needed. Keep your goal in mind and don’t mind negative criticism. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the response you wanted. The internet is a big place, but know that you have contributed positively, insha’Allah (God willing).

Step 5: Try to keep it up. This is actually the hardest step. There are so many outdated and orphaned Islamic sites out there. Or worse, good things that were completely deleted! Don’t destroy good work. Pass it on, delegate or encourage others to continue. Keep updating and posting, be current and in touch.

“The World is three days:
As for yesterday, it has vanished, along with all that was in it.
As for tomorrow, you may never see it.
As for today, it is yours, so work in it.”
- Hasan al-Basri

Some guidelines that can help keep your website da’wah (call to Islam) friendly:

  1. Keep sites small, simple, clear and organized. With more and more people accessing the web using their mobile and hand-held devices, a complex and maze-like site is near impossible to navigate.  Include what the site is about, who it’s for, who’s behind it, what we can find and why. There’s no point to androgynous, nameless, anonymous Islamic sites. People crave a personal connection, so why not share who you are and what you’re about as a Muslim.
  2. Share, collaborate and work with others that have the same goals and interests. What’s better? Having 10 tiny sites with a few articles here and there on ‘Women in Islam’ or having one collaborative site by ten people on women in Islam? Obviously, synergy is better. Let’s strengthen and grow what we have already. Then, strive to expand your site, recruit contributors and moderators, and make your website a collective effort. We can also work with non-Muslims in our shared goals as well. It’s of interest to note that in Surah al-Asr, Allah (swt) mentioned universal principals that we all share. So a site on Hijab (head covering) can collaborate with those of other religions that talk about their covering traditions. A site on a Muslim soup kitchen should link with other charitable groups.
  3. Avoid controversial Islamic issues and Fatwas; let’s leave those to the real scholars. Some sites can easily degrade into fighting over five issues: Shia/Sunni, moonsighting, meat, music and Mawlid. It can get ugly. People also ask difficult complex Fiqh (understanding of Islamic laws) questions because they really need help. It’s easy to give them an answer, but we may not have the wisdom or knowledge to give them the best answer. For example, we could give them a very strict, difficult opinion we know of, while there is an easier and just as Islamic way out there. We’re also unable to know all the details and conditions of a person’s problems or follow up with them. Leave it to the professionals.
  4. Use wisdom and kindness when speaking to other Muslims and to non-Muslims. Follow the general Islamic guidelines of Adab (proper conduct relating to each other and with the opposite gender). It’s amazing what some people say online. I’m reminded of an old Dawud Wharnsby song, ‘We use so many words but have so little to relay/ as angels scribble down every letter that we say/ All the viral attachments sent and passionate insults we vent/ It’s easy to be arrogant behind user passwords we invent/ But on the day the scrolls are laid, with every word and deed displayed/ when we read our accounts, I know, for one, I’ll be afraid.’ People may think they’re anonymous, but guaranteed you are not. Remember that literally thousands of people are reading your words, including many many non-Muslims (and government agencies). We forget that words have a powerful effect even through a computer screen. Arguing with your Muslim brother/sister to such an extent where hate starts to bloom is just wrong. A Golden Rule: Never post when you’re angry. Wait a day or two, and then respond calmly.
  5. While ‘counter’ websites are needed, such as those dispelling myths, countering religious dogmas and refuting certain anti-Islamic sites, it’s better to create positive websites about Islam. We can talk all day about how X is wrong but it will not bring a person to Z. Any form of negativity also can keep people from learning more. Again, we’re not trying to forcibly convert anyone. We just want to show the truth about Islam and Muslims so people can understand it and us.
  6. Allow some room for interactivity, so you’re not just sticking static pages out there. Imagine a very long lecture without any Q&A at the end! You can enable comments or have some kind of guestbook or even have an email address available. Rather than sending a one way dissemination of knowledge, you end up with ‘relationships’ and ‘conversations’. This brings a website to life. Don’t mind the haters. Feel free to censor them and keep your comments moderated. (There are so many Islamic videos/sites with disgusting comments. There’s no need to have them there.)
  7. Stick mostly to English (or your main language) and explain concepts and words where possible. Too much of Arabic or a different language may cause people not to understand what you’re saying. It may even make Islam seem like a ‘foreign religion only for foreigners’. Even if your site is for Muslims only, not everyone knows complex Islamic terminology, Arabic or Arabic script. It’s very difficult to learn about Islam when you also have to learn Arabic and learn all about Arab and Desi (Indian and Pakistani) cultures! Also, keep things relatable to your audience. Using examples like going to the Souk is probably going to be foreign to westerners, just like ordering a pizza would be inexplicable to someone in Damascus.
  8. Balance design versus content, form versus function. There are many beautifully designed and technically advanced sites with little value content wise, and there are some sites that are so rich with information and resources but have no infrastructure. People don’t know how to access the information available or even that it’s there. Try to keep both in mind, as both are important.
  9. Attribute, get permission and follow internet protocols and copyrights. It’s not cool to steal. This is because people spend time and energy to create something, just like you, and they want it to be out there a certain way. Most authors/artists have no problem with sharing as long as you ask their permission. To recreate or copy someone’s entire site is redundant. Why not join others or contribute something new instead?
  10. Lastly, this may seem strange, but the most important concept for Islamic webmasters/app designers/admins to remember, is to be fair. Be fair to your users, to your ‘competitors’, to other Muslims, to non-Muslims and to the greater internet sphere. Be open-minded and just in how you present things, how you attribute things, and how you handle things. You might be the creator and administrator, but you’re more like a diplomat at the UN. Everyone has their rights and everything should be balanced. Give people your time and help. Respond to all those who email you, write to you and even criticize you. Stick to what you know and can do. There’s an Arabic proverb that says ‘one cannot give what they do not have’. If we are not educated in an Islamic topic we should not talk about it, if we do not know the politics of a region we should not enter into a debate over it. In the same way, whatever we create should be something we have knowledge of, and a love for.

“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”
– Rumi

I hope one day to find such diverse sites as a comprehensive commentary on all those ‘controversial verses’ in the Qur’an, academic and interesting responses to current Islamic issues in the media, a detailing of the Muslim response to 9/11, Muslim bloggers and tweeters with thousands of dedicated inter-faith followers,  interactive live streaming of every Muslim-related event in North America, and of course, a site on how to make the perfect Ramadan cupcakes!

Jazakamullahu khairan. May Allah reward you all.

Jannah is the founder of, one of the first Islamic websites ever, and is also the founder and administrator of two discussion-board sites, and Jannah can be reached at

This article was originally posted on

Love in Islam: Valentine’s Day

I once dropped by the MSA at the University of Tulsa and heard a very disturbing story. A man from the area had left Islam and had recently given a talk at a local church about his apostasy. He claimed that there was no love in Islam. He felt that the Islamic way of life is filled with hate, harshness and rigidity. I plan to touch on how this apostate and others like him are dead wrong. It is obvious to any common practicing Muslim that they have very little knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah (ways of the Prophet ﷺ). Before making such a judgment they should have based their decision based upon the scripture. The truth is that a problem common to all apostates I’ve heard of is in blaming Islam for the actions of people who happened to be called Muslim, yet aren’t necessarily practicing Islam correctly.

When talking about love in Islam let’s see what the Holy Qur’an say’s about it. First of all I would like to note two definitions of love found in the American Heritage Dictionary:

8a. God’s benevolence and Mercy toward man.

8b. Man’s devotion to or adoration of God.

These two definitions precisely describe the Islamic concept of the relation between God and man.

When reading the Qur’an, anyone can easily recognize the emphasis put on God’s love, compassion, graciousness, mercy and forgiveness. As a matter of fact, all chapters of the Qur’an except one begin with the phrase “in the name of God” who is described as Al-Rahman (the Benevolent) and Al-Raheem (the Merciful). This verse is often translated as “in the Name of God, the Benevolent and Merciful.”  This fits the exact meaning of the definition for the love of God found in the English dictionary. These two descriptions are the most commonly used words by which Allah describes Himself in the Qur’an. These characteristics of Allah refer to His countless blessings, bounties and forgiveness He has bestowed upon us without us deserving anything. He does all of that even though we constantly break His commandments.

Similarly, when we look at the Arabic word muslim, we find that it is a person who is devoted to Allah, submitting to His will. This is exactly what the English dictionary has to say about the meaning of a person’s love for God.

Life is all about a test of realization and action. We are drawn to a realization of God’s love to us and leading a life of gratitude, which reflects our deep adoration and devotion to God. We do this hoping that our beloved Creator will be pleased with us and yearning to be with Him for eternity in the bliss of the hereafter. This well known concept of the purpose of life according to Islam perfectly reflects the meaning of the man’s love for God.

Islam enjoins the general concept of love between mankind as well. This is first and foremost done by promoting the love of God amongst our fellow man. This is manifested through our practice of the concept of “rahmah” which can be translated as love, mercy, compassion or forgiveness. The Prophet ﷺ told his companions as narrated authentically in al-Targheeb (3/210):

لن تؤمنوا حتى ترحموا قالو يا رسول الله كلنا رحيم قال إنه ليس بر حمة أحدكم صاحبه و لكنه رحمة العامة

“You don’t truly believe until you have rahmah for others.” His companions responded, “We all have rahmah.” The Prophet ﷺ then told them, “Verily, you don’t reach this level of faith by just having rahmah for those who are close to you, but you must have rahmah for everyone.”

In fact this was the sum of why Allah sent the Prophet ﷺ. He says in verse 107 of al-Anbiyaa in the Qur’an,


And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds. (21:107)

In this category of general love for everything, we have another very important type of love. This is the love between the husband and a wife. So before continuing about this love and how it manifests itself between married couples, let’s talk about how one gets married according to Islam.

Finding a spouse in Islam is quite easy. It is actually much easier than in common western culture. Islam forbids anything that can possibly lead to fornication. First, let’s ponder over verse 32 of Surah al-Israa in the Qur’an,

“و لا تقربوا الزنى”

This verse means “Don’t even come close to fornicating.” (17:32)

As a result of this, it is prohibited to be alone with, flirt or touch someone from the opposite sex who isn’t your spouse or immediate family. The only mixed gender interactions should be with lowering the gaze, hijab, only speaking about a necessity like buying something, asking directions, discussing religious matters, etc… So you can see why Islam prohibits the modern concept of boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. This solves so many social problems prevalent in societies that don’t observe this seemingly strict code of mixed gender mingling. Many who were raised here in the west have many reactions to these rules, the most common of which is, “So how are we supposed to find a spouse?”

Back in the time of the Prophet ﷺ and even until today in some cultures, parents arranged marriage through their relationship with another family they know well. Best case scenario is that they might allow them to see each other once or show a picture, but then the parents would completely make the decision of compatibility as well as the marriage itself. Believe it or not, in the old days this would work the vast majority of the time for reasons which I will mention later.

Nowadays, people have become more critical and have an individualist opinionated outlook and women have taken a stronger role in society. For this reason, it would be wise upon parents not to force their children to marry someone without their full approval and acceptance. This advice is based upon firsthand knowledge of many arranged marriages which obviously were not arranged based upon compatibility and/or went sour.

It should be that the family and friends of a Muslim bachelor are those who are actually looking for a suitable spouse for him or her. If Allah’s will was that a Muslim bachelor meets, or personally knows of someone with whom he or she is interested, then he should immediately go to her family about it, preferably the father. Parents should allow their child to have some chaperoned meetings with someone in whom they are initially interested. These meetings should be strictly about learning about each other’s personality and expectations in their spouse. If after a few of these meetings they don’t feel compatible then they should break off all communication in that regard and go back to being a regular Muslim brother and sister. If after praying for Allah’s guidance (istikharah) they feel close and compatible then it is best to get married as soon as possible. There may be a small period of engagement, but even if they are culturally engaged that does not change the fact that in Islam there is no change in their relationship. It is just an inclination to marry down the road which either party can break free from at any time.

The basic difference between an Islamic marriage and a western marriage is that in the west a couple generally meets without any help from the family. Their meeting is usually a result of a man’s attraction and a woman’s being flattered and enjoying his charming company. Then they proceed as a married couple – sometimes for many years – until they decide that they want to live the rest of their life with each other. Then they get married. They feel like they were already in love for some time. So they live together after getting married and they get sick of each other and get a divorce for one reason or another. In Islam, the marriage is protected by the divine legislation of God. The first factor in this preservation is that the marriage – if done correctly – is first formed through real compatibility and not physical desires which can often get a man to act in whatever way will get him what he wants and by the girl being flattered and charmed by his fake façade – or as we say in modern terminology, “his game.”

Once a Muslim couple is officially married, they understand that even with compatibility they must work for the rest of their lives to preserve love, compassion, understanding, respect and forgiveness between them. They have entered into a covenant with Allah that carries rights and responsibilities between each other. The basic foundation of that bond is found in the Holy Qur’an in verse 21 of Surah al-Rum,


“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (30:21)

That being said we are now coming close to the time in which most westerners celebrate Valentine’s Day. There is much mystery and folklore as to where this holiday came from, but the general story is that it was originally a pagan holiday. After the Roman Empire embraced Christianity, it was later named after a Catholic saint named Valentine.  Folklore suggests that in the 3rd century C.E., the Roman Emperor Claudius II banned young healthy men from marriage. In defense of the divine union of marriage, St. Valentine allegedly protested this by secretly holding marriage ceremonies. He later was martyred on February 14th thus marking the date.

That being said, today this holiday has no religious affiliation and is common to both religious folk and atheists. It is a day that couples exchange cards, candy, chocolate, flowers and even jewelry as a token of their love.  This is also a day where many premarital relationships happen or are forged.

So the question many Muslims have is, “What is the ruling on taking part in any of the traditional practices of this holiday?”

The vast majority of scholars hold it to be prohibited to buy, sell or take part in anything that is related to this holiday. They base this ruling on a few reasons:

  1. They are seeing it lead to social problems in the Muslim world, especially the recent skyrocket in dating and romantic premarital relationships.
  2. It is a day in which a lot of fornication happens and even small children are encouraged to start engaging in premarital relationships.
  3. It is imitating the disbelievers in their religious practices. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.”
  4. It is rooted in the religious practices of non-Muslims so it is an innovation which must be rejected.
  5. It is a holiday and all holidays except the two `Eids are innovations religious or not.

A handful of other scholars don’t feel that there is anything conclusive evidence that prohibits Muslim married couples from taking this opportunity to recognize and commend their love for each other and doing something special together. They argue against the five aforementioned proofs that celebrating this holiday isn’t necessarily what has caused Muslims to have illicit relationships, but that – Valentine’s Day or not – those people are going to follow their desires and prohibiting this day won’t solve that problem. They then contend that if some choose to do fornication and teach kids the path to fornication then that is their problem. They ask, “Why can’t we do what the Prophet ﷺ did when he told the Jews that the Muslims were more worthy of following Moses than them and thus he fasted with them?” These scholars contend that this holiday was originally named after St. Valentine who defended the sanctity of marriage which is something common between us and it isn’t related to polytheism or false worship. With that argument they also bring up the debate among the madhabs about al-Ateerah. Al-Ateerah was a feast in Rajab where people originally slaughtered animals for their idols. The Muslims later took the same practice in the same month, slaughtered for Allah’s sake, and gave some meat to the poor. Some scholars held that this allowance was later abrogated and prohibited while others held that it being a sunnah was abrogated and thus remained permissible. This is because many texts are hard to put together and make an easy ruling (for more info see the Kuwaiti Encyclopedia for Islamic Jurisprudence volume 29 under عتيرة). Furthermore, they argue that in the west this is a part of secular culture; even atheists take part in this holiday, and it is not seen as a Christian holiday, nor celebrated in churches like Christmas and Easter.

Allah knows best if there is sin in taking part in the tradition of this day, as both arguments have their proof, but let’s take our love seriously and live a life that reflects our love for Allah and His messenger ﷺ. This is indeed the true love; as Bob Marley correctly said, “One Love… Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right.”

Courtesy of Yahya Ederer and

The Essence of Islam: Are We missing the Point?

To some, a Monet is only a collection of dots. To others, it is a perfect masterpiece. To some, Islam is nothing but a code of rules and regulations. But, to those who understand, it is a perfect vision of life.

As Muslims, we often focus so much on Islam’s dos and don’ts that we miss the bigger picture. Islam came to perfect our manners, and yet we are willing to scream and shout to win an argument about zabiha meat. Islam came to build our bond with our Creator, and while we wear our hijabs and kufis, we delay our prayers.

Islam came to establish a community of believers, but while we decorate our masjids with gold and silver, our prayer rows remain empty. Islam came to teach us about God, and despite wearing His words on our necklaces and decorating our houses with them, when those verses are recited to us, our hearts remain unmoved and our lives unchanged.

And Islam came to make us one brotherhood, yet we divide ourselves and alienate one another over issues like moon sighting and voting.

This is not to say, of course, that the dos and don’ts in Islam are not important. They are crucial. The problem is that we have forgotten what they stand for. For example, the wearing of Islamic dress should never be minimized. But we have forgotten that that hijab and that beard are only symbols of our greater devotion to God. For us to wear that hijab and that beard while it has no bearing on our character means we have missed the point.

If we spend thousands of dollars decorating our masjids but then use that masjid only to display status and win arguments, we have lost its intended purpose. And if we have memorized every haram and halal ingredient of facial soap, but we own businesses that are based on interest and sell alcohol, have we not made a mockery of Allah’s deen?

That deen is what transforms humanity from the lowest of the low to the representatives of God on earth. The Qur’an tells us: “Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth…’” (Qur’an, 2:30)

As a representative of God on earth, we are given a very great responsibility. It is a trust so heavy that even the mountains rejected it. Allah tells us in the Qur’an: “We did indeed offer the trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it; he was indeed unjust and foolish.” (Qur’an, 33:72)

As believers, we should never lose sight of this responsibility. It is the fulfillment of that mission that transforms us from ‘asfala safileen’ - the lowest of the low (Qur’an, 95:5), into ‘khaira ummatin ukhrijat linnaas’ – the best of people arisen for mankind. (Qur’an, 3:110)

But how can we be that “best of people”? Allah describes how in His book: “Ye are the best of peoples, risen up for mankind, commanding what is right, forbidding what is evil, and believing in Allah…”  (Qur’an, 3:110).

The essence of that struggle is to believe, to fight for Truth and to strive against evil. And as soon as we give up that noble struggle, we will become among those people who Allah describes in surat Al-Asr as being in an utter state of loss. Allah also describes the ones who will be saved from that state: “Except such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy.” (Qur’an, 103:3)

And, so, if we continue to abandon this greater mission and purpose, we will have transformed the perfect vision of existence into nothing more than a collection of dots.


 Originally published by InFocus

Eight Reflections from an American Student in Cairo

Wednesday, February 3, 2011

I write this message on the first day of being back in America having traveled from Cairo. It was with an incredibly heavy heart that I had to leave. When the protests started and the situation was uncertain, my husband and I had to make a choice: will we stick it out in Cairo, join the protests, and serve the cause of freedom and human dignity with our neighbors there? Or will we leave and try to the serve the same cause but in a different way in America? After istikharah (the prayer of guidance) and shura (consulting with others), the decision was to leave.

All the while, we prayed that if there was something Allah (subhanahu wata’alaI – exalted is He) wanted us to do for His sake in Cairo—if staying in Cairo was more pleasing to Him–that He closed off the means to return to America completely. And if what we could do in America is more pleasing to Him, then He closed off the means for us to participate in Cairo, and He makes the way to America easy and open. After the decision was made, we tried to plan our departure as quickly and safely as possible, and subhan’Allah I (glory be to Allah), it was easy and open, while message after message from the Egyptians and others that we know was consistently telling us to “go home.” Subhan’Allah, at the same time, I know a western sister whose father is a prominent international figure, and various factors in her situation pointed to the decision to stay in Egypt and participate with her brother, and see this thing through. I believe we were both guided to what was best for us. And yet, the great fear that I had and still have is to not betray the amanah (trust) of what we were destined to witness. Below are some scattered reflections on this experience and what we can take from it:

1. This is not an Egyptian issue, it’s an Ummah issue, and even broader than that—a human issue.


While millions around the world watch the news to see what is going on in Egypt, we have to realize how significant this struggle is to both the Muslim ummah and the world at large. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us that this ummah is like one human body; when one part of it hurts, the rest of the body also experiences the pain. The protests that have erupted globally are a testament to the fact that our ummah is alive and able to feel. Another issue we have to keep in mind is the pivotal role that Egypt plays. Whichever way Egypt goes, there will be a ripple effect throughout the Middle East and the rest of the Muslim world. What started in Tunisia, spread to Egypt. Already Algeria has announced the end of their 19-year infamous emergency law, and Yemen is also protesting. This is a pivotal moment in our history; perhaps akin to the Badr of our times. The struggle for human freedom, justice, and dignity is one that must be honored and supported by every God-fearing Muslim. Therefore it is incumbent upon all of us as Muslims to not just look upon this issue as spectators, but as those who feel personally invested.

It is a human issue. Subhan’Allah, when I was in the airport I was talking to a non-Muslim woman who was heading to America. She told me that if it were not for her own daughter’s safety, she would have stayed and joined the protesters. She said something beautiful that stayed with me: “Every country that ever wanted freedom had to fight for it.” Another thing I was struck by was when I asked her what her plans were on return, she said: “I’m going to join the protests and efforts I can find in Texas.” She told me she had tried to start a business in Egypt, and her accountant had told her it would cost $15,000 plus bribes. The accountant also said the best business licenses were only given to people who had personal connections to Mubarak, and unless there was a way to get referred, there really was no point in trying. This non-Muslim woman taught me in a matter of moments that we should all, as human beings who honor justice and equality, have the drive to get involved, and speak out against the corruption and oppression in Egypt.

It is not for Israel or America to decide who the interim president will be when Mubarak steps down. I say “when” and not “if” because as far as the Egyptian people are concerned, getting rid of Mubarak is not a point of compromise.

We need to pressure our governments, no matter where in the world we may be, to call for free and fair elections in Egypt, and allow the people themselves to choose the interim leader. The interim leader cannot be someone associated with the Mubarak regime in any way. We must voice our opposition to any effort that undermines the people’s choice.

2. Courage is in rising above fear to do what is principled, with full tawakul in Allah (swt).

Last Saturday, we had Imam Suhaib and his wife over at our place in Cairo for lunch when we heard a call from the microphone of the masjid and some screaming in the street.  It was announced that thugs were let loose and looting different areas. The call asked for all the young men to come down and protect the neighborhood, their families, their wealth, and their honor. At that moment, we didn’t have any idea of how many thugs to expect. Would it be truckloads of men, would be in the hundreds, would it only be a few? Subhan’Allah I remember standing on the balcony listening to the announcement and my husband turning towards me saying, “I have to go.” He and Imam Suhaib went to the kitchen, grabbed some broomsticks, and headed into the street to help protect the neighborhood. I asked my husband later how it was that he didn’t hesitate, and went immediately into the face of the unknown. He admitted that in the beginning there is a moment of fear, but you just have to make a choice to overcome it, and be ready to face the consequences for the cause you believe in. Subhan’Allah, that incident is symbolic as to what happened on a much larger scale for the whole country. The news kept reporting that “the wall of fear has come down.” A few weeks ago, we could have never imagined people saying anything negative about Mubarak on the telephones which are all assumed to be tapped, let alone demonstrate in the millions. What changed was people made a choice not to be afraid anymore. They made a choice to take a stand and accept the consequences of that courage.

We heard that a young man who was part of the neighborhood watch on the other side of our neighborhood was killed by a thug who shot him in the head. It was assumed locally that the thug was working for the regime, as they are the only ones with easy access to guns. When people in the neighborhood discussed this incident, subhan’Allah they were not overcome by grief, sadness or fear. They answered solemnly, “Shaheed insha’Allah.” He is a martyr, God willing. The discussion that followed showed how people recognized that martyrdom is a price that will be paid in their struggle for human dignity and freedom. Some young men who were protesting wore white thawbs with signs on them, saying that this is the cloth they may be buried in. Azhari students and shuyukh also protested in Tahrir, recognizing that though al-Azhar is government funded, its people of knowledge will still speak against the oppression of the government. People were so overjoyed to see them they tried to carry them on their shoulders. It is really something to witness a people who have lost their fear and are relying on Allah. If this ordeal lasts a long time, it will be those whose struggle is based in their relationship with Allah who will have the patience to endure and stay strong.

3. Just as oppression creates many ills, hope in Allah and the freedom to practice can heal them.


Having lived in Egypt for a number of years now, one of the issues that people faced socially was the difficulty of getting married due to the economy. As the average age for getting married increased well into the 30s for men, so too did the social ills of harassment, leering, and cat calling. Yet, on my street the neighborhood watch was made of these same young men, some who would normally be seen hitting on women. In this environment, given the opportunity, hope and freedom to participate in a process that asserted their own dignity, these young men rose to the occasion. They were the chivalrous guards of the community, protecting and respecting the women instead of harassing them. At some point, one of them buzzed the apartment and addressed me as their sister, warning me to fill up water bottles because of a rumor that the water might get turned off. I felt safer on my street during the days of the neighborhood watch than any other time in Egypt. Some of these young men took extremely long shifts, lost a lot of sleep, and were still the first responders in the middle of the cold nights when false alarms went off. While oppression has the power to undermine manhood, the fight for human freedom and dignity has the power to assert it.

Another powerful image was that of the masajid and the small mussalahs being full for the daily prayers. People who never came for the regular prayers started to come regularly. As the masjid became a place of organizing and free speech, the community came together and spoke for once openly about all that was on their minds. The sweet taste of freedom of expression followed by the sweet taste of praying next your neighbors while the Imam makes qunut al-nazilah (the du`a’ when hardship descends) is something the people cherished. While oppression alienates neighbors, and makes people lose hope and even iman, struggling for a just cause brings people together, increases hope and even iman. Hearing different American students say that the masajid near their places were full for prayers was something that increased my hope as Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change that which is within themselves. I pray the iman rush is not temporary and that the Imams use these moments to emphasize the role of self-development and tarbiya in seeking success from Allah (swt).

4. The importance of having a “Fiqh of Priorities”

Freedom of religion, expression and assembly are all necessary elements of any just society. Muslims, Christians, and secularists in Egypt all understand this. While Egypt is a Muslim majority, I was happy to see that various Muslim groups took the inclusive approach of seeking justice and freedom for all. From makeshift clinics, to neighborhood watch efforts, to the protests themselves, everyone acted as participants and not as opportunists. When they were interviewed, they spoke about democracy and freedom. I compared this to some of the other commentators, who took these moments as an opportunity to claim credit and undermine the efforts of others. This is not a time to focus on differences. Salafis, Sufis, Tablighis, Ikhwanis, secularists, conservatives, liberals, Christians and others have a goal they all need to protect with their lives: freedom, democracy and the rule of law. With freedom, each group can participate, organize freely and call people to their da`wah. This is a time to unite on shared values–not get caught up in the blame-game. Once the people have won this struggle for a just and free government, they can debate all they want about the future of Egypt. It’s important to have a fiqh of priorities and not contribute to division during a time when basic human rights and dignity are at stake.

Courtesy of Muslema Purmul,