Archive for May, 2014

Muslim coalition condemns Boko Haram & kidnapping

COURTESY OF WWW.ICNA.ORG

(WASHINGTON DC 05/07/2014) — The US Council of Muslim Organizations, a coalition of several leading national and local Muslim organizations, strongly denounces Boko Haram and its kidnapping of at least 200 girls in Nigeria. We call for the girls’ immediate release and safe return to their families.

Boko Haram does not represent Islam and their actions completely violate Islamic teachings and principles. The USCMO joins hands with others who have openly condemned these actions. Slavery, oppression and injustice are prohibited in Islam and Boko Haram threats to sell these girls into slavery are reprehensible.
“The actions of Boko Haram show its members to be very ignorant of Islam and its teachings,” said Oussama Jammal, USCMO secretary-general. “No one in their right mind would condone these actions, especially Muslims, as they violate everything we hold sacred.”
USCMO calls for the immediate and safe return of these girls to their families and commends President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for intervening for these girls’ well being.
Organizational members of USCMO include: American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA), Muslim American Society (MAS), Muslim

ISNA Condemns Boko Haram Kidnapping of School Girls

COURTESY OF WWW.ISNA.NET

(Plainfield, IN 5/6/14) The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the oldest and largest American Muslim umbrella organization, today condemned the kidnapping of and threat to sell off the over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

In a statement, ISNA Vice President Azhar Azeez said:

“We condemn wholeheartedly, the disgusting and un-Islamic actions that the terrorist group known as Boko Haram has committed. Kidnapping and threatening to sell the over 200 Nigerian school girls has no validation in the religious tradition of Islam and we urge the Nigerian authorities to find the missing school girls and bring their captors to justice.”

ISNA was among the several American Muslim organizations that condemned the terrorist bombing attacks on Nigerian churches in 2011.

SEE: Religious Leaders Condemn Attacks On Christians in Egypt and Nigeria

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) is the largest and oldest Islamic umbrella organization in North America. Its mission is to foster the development of the Muslim community, interfaith relations, civic engagement, and better understanding of Islam.

World Muslims Urge Nigeria Girls Release

COURTESY OF ONISLAM.NET

CAIRO – A leading international Muslim organization has deplored the kidnapping of more than 200 school girls in Nigeria by militant group Boko Haram, considering it a criminal act against the teachings of Islam and calling for the girls immediate release.

“The International Union for Muslim Scholars received the news of kidnapping girls from their schools by Boko Haram with great sadness and regret as an indication of how the hearts of some Muslims have deviated from Islamic Shari’ah which bans these crimes,” the statement obtained by OnIslam.net on Thursday, May 8, read.

“The Union asserts that Islam is completely innocent from these acts deemed far from his teachings and rulings,” it added.

US Muslims Slam ‘Un-Islamic’ Boko Haram

Boko Haram: Grave Mistakes in the Name of Islam

Nigeria’s Boko Haram (Profile)

Boko Haram Insurgency Troubles Nigeria

Muslim organizations worldwide have been calling for the immediate release of nearly 300 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria last April 14.

The kidnappings three weeks ago by the extremist group Boko Haram have led to worldwide attention and condemnation.

Muslims’ anger maximized after Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau admitted kidnapping the girls in a video obtained by the Agence France Presse (AFP) last May 5, threatening to sell them in the market.

Using Islamic teachings as justification for threatening to sell the girls into slavery, Shekau threats sparked Muslim anger worldwide, asserting that Islam was innocent for all such crimes.

“Islam, a religion of mercy to the worlds, was the first religion to give great care to women’s rights,” IUMS statement said.

“Therefore the girls kidnapping is considered a forbidden act and a major sin on which Islam imposes the harshest penalties.”

The union also urged Boko Haram to return to the true teachings of Islam by releasing the kidnapped girls and keeping civilians, especially women, away from political differences.

“The Union urged conflicting parties in Nigeria to study the reasons for the difference to find solutions and prevent the spread of conflict and disagreement,” it added.

India Muslims

Joining Muslims worldwide, All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, the umbrella body of Indian Muslim organizations, has vehemently condemned Boko Haram in a statement published by Milli Gazette.

In the statement, the group’s president, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, he condemned organizations like Boko Haram in Nigeria and the “Islamic State in Iraq & Syria” (Da’ish) as terrorists and enemies of Islam and Muslims.

He said such organizations are puppets in the hand of our enemies to blacken the name of Islam and Muslims, asserting that Islam does not allow kidnapping of innocents, slaughtering or crucifying people.

Dr Khan cautioned Indian Muslims to beware of elements trying to disseminate extremist ideas.

In the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Shaikh Ahmad Kutty, described the actions of Boko Haram as “monstrosities according to the clear dictates of Islam.”

“Due to the gravity of such offences, these actions, perpetrated by anyone, whether Muslim or otherwise, have been classified under the category of Hirabah or terrorism, according to all schools of jurisprudence,” he added in the statement obtained by OnIslam.net.

Similar condemnation to Boko Haram were voiced Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world.

Al-Azhar has also demanded the release of these girls immediately.

Muslim anger has maximized reaching UK and US where leading Muslim group condemned the un-Islamic attacks.

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the oldest and largest American Muslim umbrella organization, has condemned “the disgusting and un-Islamic actions that the terrorist group known as Boko Haram”.

Another leading US Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has also condemned Boko Haram’s kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls as “un-Islamic and obscene”.

Following the news of the tragedy, more the Association of London Muslims issued a statement Tuesday condemning the kidnapping and forced conversions of more than 200 girls in Nigeria by extremist group Boko Haram.

Boko Haram, a Hausa term meaning “Western education is sinful”, is loosely modeled on Afghanistan’s Taliban.

The militant group says it is fighting enemies who have wronged its members through violence, arrests or economic neglect and corruption.

It has been blamed for a campaign of shootings and bombings against security forces and authorities in the north since 2009.

But recently, the sect has carried out attacks against Christians and Muslims alike.

Denouncing the acts of Boko Haram-An Islamic Perspective.

The shocking events in Nigeria that occurred over the last few weeks is not only shocking to hear as Muslims, but also as humans. There is nothing more horrifying than seeing a group hijack a religion and twist it into an ideology that commits such horrific acts. For Boko Haram to use Islam to justify the kidnapping of over 200 young girls is nothing short of a blow to the humanity in the teachings of Islam. Islamic Service Center of America, American Muslims, and Muslims all over the world would like to publicly denounce the acts of Boko Haram as un-Islamic and inhumane and demand the immediate release of these girls without condition. We collectively encourage the Nigerian government to act in working towards the freedom of these girls as soon as possible.

Addressing the Diminishing Role of Leadership: The Mosque and the Imam

COURTESY OF YUSUF RIOS AND WWW.SUHAIBWEBB.COM

In the name of Allah, the All Hearing, the All Knowing

In 2012, Dr. Ihsan Baghby republished the 2011 report The American Mosque1 . In that research piece which seeks to map the growth, tendencies and leadership structure of the American Muslim community, there are a number of points to which I will call your attention as the subject of this da`wah (invitation to faith) reflection.

Mosques are under-staffed. Only 44% of all imams (Muslim religious leaders) are full-time and paid. Half of all mosques have no full-time staff. Program staff such as youth directors and outreach directors account for only 5% of all full-time staff.
Mosques are under-financed. While mosque attendance is higher than that of other American religious congregations, mosque budgets are less than half the budgets of other congregations. The median income for mosques is $70,000, whereas the median income of all congregations is $150,000.
The role of the imam in the mosque is evolving. In 26% of all mosques, the imam is not considered the leader, in 55% of mosques the imam is considered the leader, and 19% of mosques do not have an imam. This is a significant change from 2000, when in 40% of mosques the imam was not considered the leader, and in 41% of mosques the imam was considered the leader.
Key Points:

We can gather a number of important themes from the report as quoted above.

The roles of the imam and the mosque are evolving.
The mosque for the most part is understaffed and underfunded.
The Muslim community lacks in effective, qualified leadership.
Reflection:

Dr. Baghby’s research has chronicled major trajectories that draw our attention to the manner in which the Muslim community has grown in the US. Coupling the report with grass root experience, we gain new insights into the form and shape the community is taking. Much of the Muslim community has grown without solid leadership and with few resources for understanding of Islam. Of interest is the reality that most communities do not have a spiritual-religious guide (for lack of a better term).

The role of the imam is diminished in the overall community and increasingly, the mosque resembles a religious center more than a Prophetic institution. The days of the “strong-man” grass roots imam that was the hallmark of the Muslim African-American community have faded, and in many places they are a thing of the past. Today many communities are instead governed by the “strong board” composed of professionals with little to no Islamic training. And let us face the reality that many of our institutions are locked in a political grind that is not very productive. Couple that scene with the lack of collaborative, visionary leadership on the da’wah scene, and then we are ready to ask a series of questions.

Before moving forward I want to add a few more layers to the scenario being built here. Along with an evolving mosque lacking in funding and leadership and a da’wah platform lacking in collaborative, visionary leadership, we find our youth struggling to make sense of the world around them. A growing professional community left to itself, sincere but lacking roots in Islamic learning, and a cry for reform in the way we interpret Islam in regards to women, society, culture and other religions puts us in a very awkward space. There is no question that we are aiming to redefine ourselves and make sense of life in a new space we now call home–and seeking to do so with integrity.

The responsibility of those on the da’wah platform is to guide this process or at least guide the discourse by seeking to answer the question: Where are going? Put differently, into what are we evolving? For most of us, our responsibility is to open up the platform to engage this dialogue. But before doing so we must commit ourselves to studying Islam and the life of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) and to holding his model as a paragon for evolving the community. Without mature dialogue, humility, learning, guidance and leadership rooted in knowledge, piety and wisdom our community is headed for an evolution based on circumstance and whim.

In the Qur’an we learn the importance of dialogue among those of varying status, for Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala – exalted is He) allowed the angels to engage a dialogue with Him (swt). According to scholars of Qur’anic exegesis (tafsir) this indicates that Allah (swt) teaches us to dialogue with others regardless of the station they hold in relation to us, and by extension, this teaches us the very spirit and principles of leadership.

And [mention, O Muhammad] when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” Allah said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know.” (Qur’an, 2:30)

In a Prophetic tradition narrated by Bukhari and Muslim with their chains of transmission on the authority of Umar (radi Allahu `anhu – may God be pleased with him), the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Actions are guided by intentions…” From this we learn that an end should guide all action. Imam ibn Abi Zaid al-Qayrawani (ra) teaches us that all actions and intention should be rooted in the Qur’an and sunnah (traditions of the Prophet ﷺ), thereby teaching us the centrality of revelation in our life on earth.

We lack a transparent vision(s) that makes clear what principles and evidences are guiding our thinking and action. In the last reflection it was mentioned that Abu Bakr (ra) as a leader had clear principles to guide his leadership. The question of leadership for that generation was highly pertinent. The question of continuity of the community after the death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ preoccupied the community not solely for political reasons but more so from the angle of keeping the effort of Prophecy alive–that is, to guide people to the best life, to Allah (swt). In the moment of intense crisis Abu Bakr (ra) illustrated the qualities of a leader concerned with the community’s well being, and hence he is remembered today as the only companion to be recognized as the amir (leader) of the Believers and the vicegerent (khalifa) of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

In the struggle for definition and existence as we aim to find a space within the broader American culture, we are tending toward loosing a sense of what a life lived as a Muslim means and entails. And we witness this reality in many adults and youth. In an environment where debate, illiteracy, conflict and confusion reign right alongside sincerity, hard work, knowledge and sacrifice, we would do well to reflect on the reality that our community was governed by volunteerism and sincerity for so long before us. Now we are in need of knowledge, mentorship, organization, wisdom, sacrifice and investment. Until that moment is seized we need to strengthen ourselves and families and support our friends in the Muslim life lived in the 21th century. And that begins with drawing near to Allah (swt), learning, practicing, being good to others and encouraging the good for others and in others. Pray and work so that we evolve into a community of iman (faith), a community of deeds and testimony, a guide for others and ourselves.

The Four Seasons

COURTESY OF MAHAM MASOUD AND WWW.SUHAIBWEBB.COM

An elder relative once said to me, “There’s joy in remembrance.” At the naive age of 10, I assumed he meant having lived a life that’s full of good memories.

Upon reflection now, I think he meant it in a different context. I think he meant the joy in doing dhikr, remembrance of Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala, exalted is He‎). Isn’t it wonderful to remember Him in all aspects of life? Because remembering Him provides us the stability our thoughts require. The barakah (blessings) our plans require. The humility His Magnificence brings in us mere mortals. We are reminded of the ayah (verse):

“Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest,” (Qur’an, 13:28).

The four seasons are just one of the many examples of such remembrance for me. Changes in the weather remind me how man has no control over the seasonal weather and how God has control over everything. The chilly winters remind me of the gratitude I should feel when I come home to a centrally heated house or the warm clothes I wear when I step out. It reminds me to not only reflect, but to also give back through donating my winter clothes or buying hot food for those in need.

After the hardship of winters comes relief in spring. The flowers and the colors in bloom, subhan’Allah (glory to God)! It makes me wonder what Paradise will be like which in reality is beyond anything we can imagine as said in the Qur’an:

“And [as for all such believers,] no human being can imagine what blissful delights, as yet hidden, await them [in the life to come] as a reward for all that they did,” (Qur’an, 32:17).

The spring reminds me of His beauty for He is al-Jameel (the Absolute Beautiful) and how He bestows His loves for us in all things beautiful. This is a blessing to have not only the outer sight but also the inner sight to recognise the sights that surround us. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) said: “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty,” [Sahīh Muslim (911)].

The summer is a time for family vacations in many countries, and festive events and the sunshine generally puts everyone in happy mode. When you fast in this heat, how do you feel? There are poor people who feel like that 365 days a year. When I apply sun block, I remember the hellfire and realise no form of protection will give me shade except for my obedience, good deeds and His Mercy.

The autumn is another palette of colors. From Johannesburg to Chicago, the colors of the fall are breathtaking. They make me stop for a moment by the neat rows of autumn trees in the pretty lanes of my neighbourhood and thank Allah (swt) that I see this sight rather than torn down buildings from drone attacks and natural disasters. Autumn also provides an opportunity to reflect on the past summer and the oncoming winters. What we achieved this year, how was our Ramadan and what can we do better in the New Year given the opportunity. Life is all about continuous improvement and gratitude. Indeed Allah (swt) says: “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor],”(Qur’an, 14:7).

May He increase us in our remembrance of Him, in gratitude, and in recognition of all the signs He sends our way for reflection.