Archive for June, 2016

Ramadan Super Foods

Bismihi Ta’ala

COURTESY OF HAQISLAM.ORG AND UMME FAATIMAH

The modern world has swept us off our feet in so many ways… our dressing, our lifestyles and most noticeably our eating habits. We have so casually adapted the western culture of unhealthy eating, moving further and further away from the Noble teachings of the Quraan and Sunnah of The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him).

Yet, the newest nutritional research continues to discover the benefits of certain foods, labelled as “Super Foods”. They have also unravelled the great benefits of certain eating habits, such as washing the hands before and after meals, eating with the hands, not drinking with meals…just to mention a few. However, all of this has already been outlined in the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah more than 1400 years ago.

We are certainly the losers if we do not make an effort to practice upon the Sunnah in our homes and kitchens. What better time to bring about these changes than now? Our beautiful Deen offers us the opportunity during the beautiful month of Ramadhaan, to bring about positive changes in our lives- changes that benefit us mentally, physically and spiritually which Insha Allah (Allah Willing) can be sustained for the future.

Physically, fasting gives the digestive system a much needed rest. Energy normally used for digestion is now directed to body detoxification, tissue repair and system healing.

With that in mind I have chosen to highlight just a few of the favourite foods of our The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him). With the special month of Ramadhaan fast approaching, we can all ensure we have these foods on our shopping lists. InshaAllah, by us adopting the lifestyle of The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) we will be rewarded enormously… Ameen.

DATES

Dates are the most mentioned fruit in the Quraan. They are high in energy, fibre, iron, vitamins and minerals. The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him)said: ” The home with no dates is like the home with no food”.(Hadith- Sahih Muslim)

The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him)used to break his fast with fresh dates and a few sips of water. If he did not find fresh dates, he would use dried dates. He (pbuh) said: “When one of you breaks the fast let him do so with dates, for they are a blessing and if he cannot find dates then with water for it is a purification” (Hadith-Tirmidhi)

He often consumed dates with cucumber, butter, cream or bread. A dessert called “Haisa” made with ghee (butter), dates, cheese and yoghurt was also prepared.

Tips: At iftaar (breaking fast) time, dates can also be used to prepare date milkshakes, date chutney, date desserts as well as sprinkled over salads. For sehri (pre-dawn meal), dates can be used as a softened spread over bread or added into muffins, rusks etc.

OLIVE OIL

Dieticians and nutritionist the world over have been advocating the use of olive oil for its excellent cardio-protective, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Ongoing research is revealing more and more great benefits on the consumption and application of olive oil.

The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him)said: “Eat the olive and use it as an ointment as it comes from a blessed tree”.(Hadith-Tirmidhi)

Tips: During Ramadhaan, olive oil is best used raw as a dip for breads or as a salad dressing. The lighter olive oils are well suited for cooking and baking purposes. Whole olives can be added to salads as well as de-pitted and added to breads, muffins, pies and pizzas.

BARLEY

A recent Readers Digest article highlighted barley as one of the five healthiest foods we tend not to eat. Yet it was barley that was one of the staple foods in the diet of our The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him). Modern research is discovering that barley has a very high soluble- fibre content. This helps to keep the arteries clear and healthy. It has an extremely low glycaemic index (GI), which means it takes a longer time to digest, keeping one fuller for longer.

It is mentioned that The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) consumed barley in the following ways:

SAWIQ – a coarse broth prepared from ground wheat and barley – very much like a haleem (soup)

THARID – Barley bread covered in gravy cooked with meat

TALBEENAH – A porridge prepared using barley and milk

A Hadith in Mishkaat narrates that The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him)never used sifted flour in his lifetime. We should take lesson from this, as we are all moving to consuming more refined and processed foods where all the beneficial nutrients have been stripped off. Allah SWT mentions in the Holy Quraan grains with their husks, amongst His many gifts to us. Un-sifted flour as used by The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him)contains all the valuable nutrients found in the bran and germ layers and has a lower GI.

Tips: During Ramadhaan, barley can be added to soups and broths or prepared as a drink by boiling and straining mixture. A hadith in Bukhari mentions that The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) consumed “Sawiq” at iftaar. Barley flour can be used for preparing breads and rotis. Substitute 1.5 cups barley flour for every 3 cups regular flour. Cereals containing barley flakes like muesli can be purchased, or barley flakes can be added to biscuits, muffins, breads and other cereals.

Barley can be prepared as a filling porridge for sehri -Talbeenah. Soak 1-2 tablespoons whole barley overnight in a flask filled with rapidly boiling water. At sehri time, strain water out and prepare porridge with honey and milk. (Store bought “pearled barley” has been polished with some of the bran layer removed).

HONEY

Modern research has been abuzz with the myriad of health benefits associated with honey- anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, energising tonic….to name a few.Our beautiful Deen has encouraged the use of honey 1400 years ago. The Holy Quraan mentions”there comes forth from the bee’s belly, a drink of varying colours, wherin is a healing for men”.(Qur’an 16:68-69)

The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) further said ” Make use of two cures- honey and the Quraan”(Hadith-Ibn Majah)

The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) loved drinks that were sweet and cold and often consumed honey water.

Tips: Honey can be used to sweeten items like tea, fresh juices, milk drinks and cereals etc. Raw honey which is thicker and creamier has a lower GI, and can be mixed with cinnamon and used as a spread on toast for sehri.

GRAPES AND RAISINS

Grapes have been found to contain resveratrol- a powerful antioxidant that protects the body on a cellular level from damage. The seeds are rich in flavonoids which lower the risk of fatty plaque accumulation on the lining of blood vessels to the heart.

The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) loved eating grapes. Hadith in Abu Dawood mentions The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him )often consumed a drink “Nabeez”- prepared from soaked raisins. Nabeez can be prepared by soaking raisins after Esha (evening) prayer in clean water covered with a plate. The following morning the water can be drunk and the soaked fruit eaten or just use the blender to obtain a beautiful cloudy Nabeez. And, if you soak in the morning, drink in the evening. Nabeez should be consumed within twelve hours of soaking to prevent fermentation.

Tips: Nabeez or fresh grape juice can be prepared as a drink after Taraweeh (evening prayer in Ramadaan). Grapes can be served as part of salad or dessert. Raisins eaten with nuts can be enjoyed as a healthy munch after taraweeh salaat.

The Sunnah way of eating is the healthy way of eating. InshaAllah, let us all strive to revive and bring alive the Sunnahs of The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) in our homes this Ramadhaan. I have highlighted just a few. Make an intention to eat on the floor, share eating utensils and to fill a third of your stomach with water, a third with food and a third left for air.

Besides the immense health benefits outlined above our greatest rewards really lie in following the Sunnah, as it comes in Hadith mentioned by The Noble Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him):

” The person who follows my Sunnah is the one who truly loves me, and will be with me in Jannah” (Hadith-Tirmidhi)

Allah Ta’ala said to His Messenger (pbuh)”Say (to mankind), if you love Allah, follow me – Allah will love you and forgive your sins.” (Qur’an:3: 31)

Wishing you all healthy eating, the Sunnah

Muslim Matters: Muslim Conversations

Courtesy of www.suhaibwebb.com

So I believe that culturally we are uniquely positioned to speak to certain aspects of our society. Now, I’m not saying there is an American “us” and an American “them”, but what I am saying is that there’s a certain part of the community that we can directly speak to. And it would be great to see more and more of that happening. Something similar to what the NOI did. They were so relevant that certain people found connections with the NOI immediately. So I would like to see something like that on a much larger scale.
JB: In your opinion, what should be the role of the born Muslim with regards to their interactions with converts?
ISW: Well on both sides I think that there needs to be more religious tolerance, and everyone needs to just give us a break and understand that we have to make certain calls for our convert community. Our attitudes are more relaxed than most post-colonial communities, our nuances and activism might be a little different than what that community is used to. There needs to be a level of mutual understanding and a sense of self-governance to a certain degree. Allow us to handle and tackle issues that we as converts are better equipped to handle.
suhaib-webb
JB: Do you ever see the convert/non-convert dichotomy every going away? Do you see converts ever being able to fully assimilate into the community without having that convert designation?
ISW: Yeah I think so, I mean people like Imam Zaid Shakir have done that really well. Dr. Umar Farooq Abdullah, Dr. Ingrid Mattson.
JB: So what is that one elusive variable that allows someone to transcend all of that?
ISW: Time. I think we have to realize something, which is that our communities are kind of like what we see in the film “Poverty Inc.” in that they tend to profit from the poor even though they are there to benefit the poor. Not all of charities and organizations of course, more so ones like the IMF (International Monetary Fund). But I do think that the community tends to benefit from the presence of converts. Converts are a constant reminder that Islam is still guiding people. And all that’s great to a certain degree, and I mean it’s great experience but you don’t have to own it. If that person has converted then they have converted. You know, I really like when Imam Marc Manley says, “Conversion is a moment, and then Islam is the process.” You hear people talking saying things like, “Oh, meet this convert he has been Muslim for eight years now.” Why don’t we ever refer to ‘Umar raḍyAllāhu ‘anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) as a convert, or even all of the companions? However, I don’t think it’s a negative from the non-convert community. I honestly just think that it reminds them of the greatness of Islam and they’re happy to see it. They’re genuinely overjoyed to see Islam permeating the bowels of disbelief and bringing people up to the light of guidance.
Therefore, I would encourage communities to have conversations. Imam Khalid Latif did this brilliantly in Manhattan. What he did was he had a panel of just converts speaking to this massive hall of non-converts, and I think what would be even better than that would be to turn this into mosque policy. I think converts should speak to people in institutions and then craft some sort of understanding about language and programming. That’s when you create a real opportunity for cohesion. Unfortunately though, we are not talking to each other. We tend to think the worst of each other.
JB: Despite the fact the fact that male and female converts both share similar experiences upon conversion, there are undoubtedly certain issues that are specific to the sisters, such as finding a trustworthy wali (male guardian or representative), dressing modestly, and divorcing their non-Muslim husbands. How would you advise our sisters and the religious leadership to address some of these issues?
ISW: I think with initial converts we need to discover the rulings in Islam that allow new Muslims certain concessions when they are valid, even if it goes against a specific text. [I advise] don’t divorce your non-Muslim husbands, at least not right away. I say that because those special and sacred non-negotiable texts didn’t just come to the companions overnight. Like ḥijāb (the veil), it came 13 or 16 years later. I mean, I understand the verse “today I have completed your religion and completed my favor upon you” (5:3). I get it. But I also look at the prophetic statement “And whatever I have commanded of you, do the most that you can.” It’s very difficult to expect a person to apply all the rulings of Islam in a short period of time. It’s irresponsible and it’s irrational.
And what I’ve seen is people go in that way and then go out much quicker. I think that’s why I said we have a need for independent institutions.
For example, I got a guy that comes to my ḥalaqah (study circle) right now high as a kite on weed. And I know he’s high because I used to get high too. Nonetheless, he comes to the ḥalaqah. So hopefully he will slowly begin to open up, have conversations, and then find the spiritual motivation to struggle and overcome that vice. But if I just start going in on him about why he smokes, I may lose him. He may never come back to the ḥalaqah again. Ibn al-Qayyim talks about this when he poses the question, “Is it allowed for a person who has an infinite number of sins to just work on a few?” In other words, get those right and then move on to the next. And he says absolutely yes, because it’s illogical to burden someone with all of that at once. So one of the challenges that we have, like you and I as sharī’ah students, and this is going to hurt you and I a little bit when I say this, but we have introduced a language of law to people when there are many other languages of Islam. First thing people are worried about is “Can I do this, can I do that?”, which is important no doubt. But there are other languages of Islam, like the language of love. And of course love is then tied into the rulings of law. There are so many different languages to our religion not just the language of law.
So I think the issue with these sisters specifically and with converts in general is that we need to find the concessions that work for them when it is allowed. There will be times where we need to make fatāwah (personalized legal verdicts) for those people. We need to get across the fact that we understand what they are going through, that they are facing certain issues and that they have their own unique set of challenges. So when we speak to them, we make sure that we get across the fact that we are not telling them what they are doing is right, and that we are not encouraging them to continue, but rather tell them just like Chris Rock said in one of his standup routines, “I understand,” and we’re here to try and help you.
Whenever Allah talks about a convert, He uses words like the word iḥyā’ (revitalization), the word inshirāḥ (spreading out, opening), it’s always a word about growth and resurrection, life and blossoming. So our job is to facilitate the process of blossoming. Allah is the one who plants the seeds, He’s the one who causes people to blossom. So we should take to heart what the famous scholar Imām ash-Shāṭibi says in his work al-Muwāfaqāt. He says that the mufti (the legal jurist capable of issuing legal rulings) must treat people like a doctor. If you over medicate you poison their liver, but if you under medicate they die of an infection. So the goal for the muftī is to carry them on the middle path in order to stabilize that person.
I had a stripper convert. She was in my office and she’s crying and she told me she met a Muslim guy at her work, what a story. We have to realize that her struggle, and people like her, is not like a “tomorrow I’m fixed” type of struggle, there’s a ton of issues at play; psychological issues, abuse issues, their hatred of men. So the first thing I told her was to not tell anyone in the community what she does for a living, obviously because it’s no one’s business and secondly they may not like what they hear. I also asked her how she fell into that career because I wanted to learn. So she said, “My father is non-ambulatory, my brother is a drug addict, so there was no one in my home to earn money. I don’t even have a GED.” She told me that she doesn’t have the skill set to read and write properly, and this is in America! A white girl! She’s told me that that line of work was the only thing she could do. She said she hated it because she was a Muslim doing this.
So the average person in our community cannot imagine what facing that type of challenge must be like. So my job at that moment is to find someone who can find her a job so she can begin to earn a ḥalāl (lawful) living, the answer is not to find her a husband. The answer is to find her a source of income. So that’s what I meant by institutional and financial support. So I think with women in general, conversion needs to be explained. I think the statement, “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah” needs to be explained very well, because it involves a form of divesting and investing. “There is no deity worthy of worship” is a person saying, I’m divesting from other than Allah, and the last portion, “except Allah” is a person saying, I’m investing completely in Allah. Both of those entail applying the rules and regulations of Islam, learning, and growing.
What I loved about the people from where I converted was this idea of constant change. You constantly uncover things about yourself that you need to address and fix. It wasn’t like one day you wake up and you are ‘Umar raḍyAllāhu ‘anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him). So I think with these sisters, finding qualified scholarship, and trying our hardest to keep them offline. Oh my God, so much damage is being done to people with all these online fatwas. In Azhar and I’m sure here in Madinah, you are actually taught how to read a fatwa, how to criticize it. Is the language correct, is the logic right? Is it written in a way that is suitable and fits the person inquiring? And that’s one of many challenges. But I think it would be great to see a tafsīr (an explanation of the Qur’an) for converts, or a book of fiqh (Islamic legal rulings) for converts. The Maliki school of thought in its books actually discusses all kinds of scenarios in the various chapters of fiqh, and they’ll put a disclaimer at the end, “except for new Muslims.” Even fornication, drinking, wearing a cross, and I even think Imām Dasūqī says even if that person is walking to church. If they’re a new Muslim you have to give that person a break. And that’s not to say that the break is the goal, the break is a means to reach capacity.
So I think with a lot of these people we need to give them the idea that they are on a spiritual trajectory, they made a covenant with Allah, and it means that over time you will be changing. Our job is to facilitate that process; to help them grow, help them learn acquisition of actions and knowledge that will aid them in their growth as a Muslim and then deal with the rulings more in a step by step fashion. I mean if you are asking a woman to leave her husband, just think of the systemic outcome of that. It could be financial, it could cause her to give up her kids, she could very well end up homeless, it may subject her to scorn from her family. It could really lead to bigger problems. And that’s why scholars say to not give a fatwā that leads to basically a bigger can of worms, to another thousand rulings. I mean, what if she lives in a place where Islamophobia is hot and the husband takes her to court and accuses her of being a terrorist and they take her kids? I mean all kinds of stuff. So I suggest we get to know each other first, build relationships, build a community, be nuanced, and then begin to kind of dissect these little issues.
I actually thought about my first week as a Muslim, there was probably like 7,000 new rulings. I’m serious, just the number of things I ran into. Like my mom has a dog, they eat pork at the table, they drink. I tried to go back and literally count them all. I was going to write a book about the things I faced in those first seven days. It was like 7000 new rulings, it was an infinite number. So I called this African-American brother I knew, Abdul Salaam, who taught me at that time. I told him, I have a girlfriend, I have this and that, I mean I was completely overwhelmed. He was like, “Brother…tawḥeed, ṭahārah, and ṣalāh (knowing Allah, purification, and prayer). For the first 8 months I just want you to learn how to pray.” I had one of those little books, with transliteration, and I just used to read that. Then he said he wanted me to read this book by Bilal Philips. After that, he wanted me to join this thing called a ḥalaqah. It was like a one year program. But now with the internet, and the sheer amount of information out there it complicates things. People say to me, “Oh, it must have been difficult back then”, but no it was easy because you were able to dose what you learn.
But I think it would be good to see some materials, study materials, written from the perspective of a convert, written in a way that speaks to some of the issue. I had a sister who converted and she was like 16 at the time. Her mother was an evangelical Christian, really hardcore. And this girl, may Allah bless her, said that she had to hide fasting from her mom. So she went out and bought these protein shakes and would keep them under her bed. She would have a protein shake for suḥūr (pre-dawn meal, eaten prior to the commencement of fasting) and one for ifṭār (post-fast meal, eaten after the sun has set). That’s all she was having, and this was when the days were long. At ifṭār time, she said she would have to go to the restroom and pray in the restroom, drink her protein shake in the restroom. And when I mentioned that to some people they started attacking me, like how can you say someone can pray in the restroom? First, go back and read what the Maliki school has said about this issue, it’s very clear. Secondly, that’s a specific challenge that no one can understand. She even started to lose a lot of weight and her hair started falling out because she wasn’t eating properly. So there has to be that understanding, it has to be as if you are wearing their clothes as my teacher would say. The muftī has to wear their clothes, they have to really know the depth of the issue, because the ultimate goal is to bring people to the obedience of Allah and to help them get to that point.

“We are too pious,”, Suhaib Webb tells students.

Courtesy of www.suhaibwebb.com

Muslims aren’t perfect and the community should stop pretending it is, an American imam told Western University students Friday night.
“The idea that being a Muslim means being perfect is wrong . . . It makes us acutely irrelevant to ourselves and to others,” Imam Suhaib Webb told more than 200 men and women gathered on campus for the end of Islam Awareness Week. “We freak everyone out. It creates this strange vibe.”
Webb, who converted to Islam in 1992, was in London to talk to students about cultivating a Canadian identity.
Islam Awareness Week is put on by the Western Muslim Students’ Association.
Webb used his distinctive, American-preacher-style lecture to tell his audience the need to be a “perfect Muslim” alienates others and forces Muslims to lose sight of their humanity.
“We’re too pious. The Prophet tells us to be the best you can. Try to seek the target to be close to God, but you won’t hit the target every time,” Webb said. “The community has to expect at an institutional level that there will be imperfection.”
Webb told students it takes time to understand religion and its teachings. “Don’t expect sudden change. It takes patience . . . The need to change people drives us to the point where we’re rude . . . What’s with this need to change people, instead of just being freaking human?”
Someone will inevitably criticize the fact the event was for both men and women, Webb said, an example of how some Muslims create rigid rules that aren’t important.
“There’s a difference between a brothel and a mosque, man,” he said. “We sexualize ourselves to the point we become perverts. There’s a sense of patriarchy that makes young women think about their sexuality way before they should. The Muslim community reinforces sexuality that would have been learned way later in life.”
Webb said there are cultural reasons why Muslims feel the need to seem perfect, but that letting go of those pressures can help young people. “Utopian visions are rare, and they’re crippling,” he said. “The Prophet doesn’t have the goal of utopia.”

This is What Ramadan is About

Courtesy of Sara Tofiq and www.huffingtonpost.co.uk

As the sun sets on a cool June evening, Muslims across the UK prepare to break their fast. The eating of sweet dates from across the Middle East and drinking of cool water is a hallmark of this evening meal. This year in the UK, the abstention from food and drink beginning from the first thread of light at dawn till the sun sets, stretches to eighteen hours. The ninth month in the Islamic calendar, Ramadan, is one of the most spiritually uplifting times for a Muslim. It is often asked how refraining from eating and drinking leads to closeness with The Creator – to diminish fasting to time check starvation is somewhat missing the point. The meaning behind the month goes beyond the outermost physical acts of not eating or drinking, and instead is focused internally within one’s mind and heart.

From time to time, my stomach might ache out of hunger, but this only serves as a reminder that I am fasting for a purpose. Sabran, ya nafsi – ‘Patience, my soul’ I tell myself. The Arabic term used to describe patience, is emphasised during these times. The emptiness of my stomach allows me to focus my thoughts and prayers on those for whom an absence of food is an every-day reality. For those who have no food, sunset or no sunset, hunger pangs are as much a part of daily life as breathing and blinking. The fact that people across the world can find themselves in such circumstances, and still have an unshakable love for The Creator and a purity of intention, is a testament to their Taqwa, or God-consciousness. My recognition of their hardship, and my gratefulness for the comparative ease bestowed upon me are a poignant reminder. Calamities come as a gift from Allah, they serve a purpose, and are there as humbling reminders that you cannot be without the remembrance of Allah.

Ramadan is one of the year’s most beautiful times. It’s both a reminder of our blessings and a form of spiritual fulfilment and replenishment we need after a year away. With the right focus on its essence, we shall find our faith renewed, our hearts calmed and our identities redefined. This month speaks to each of us differently. Muslims arrive at the same destination -Ramadan – at the end of a variety of paths. Our histories and piety are our own, and that we come together during this month is the beauty of Islam. The past, no matter what it entailed, is firmly in the past. Ramadan brings an abundance of motivation. It brings opportunities to reflect, and to change – to grow. If we set ourselves goals, that in every action we perform, we remain conscious of the might and majesty of Allah, we will find an indescribable peace within ourselves.

A scholar of antiquity, Junayd of Baghdad relates the following.

‘The Creator said to his Beloved Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him); Oh Muhammad! Here is the key to the riches of this world! Take what you will and be glad of it!
Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) replied ‘Oh my Lord, I desire it not! Keep me instead one day hungry and one day fed, for that is enough for me.’

May we all benefit from the blessings this month brings!

Orlando Shooting Tragedy

We are shocked and saddened by news of the horrific mass murder in Orlando today. As an Islamic website, we are committed to providing the truth about our faith and completely denounce this kind of violence against humanity. This no way reflects who we are as people and more importantly, who we are as a religion. We stand together with our Florida brethren and offer prayers and condolences to all the families affected by this terrible tragedy.

“Innah Lillahi wa Innah Illahi Raji3oon. To God we belong and to Him we Shall Return.”

Muslim Leaders Wage Theological Battle, Stoking ISIS’ Anger

Courtesy of www.suhaibwebb.com

As the military and political battle against the Islamic State escalates, Muslim imams and scholars in the West are fighting on another front — through theology.
Imam Suhaib Webb, a Muslim leader in Washington, has held live monthly video chats to refute the religious claims of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. In a dig at the extremists, he broadcast from ice cream parlors and called his talks “ISIS and ice cream.”

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, an American Muslim scholar based in Berkeley, Calif., has pleaded with Muslims not to be deceived by the “stupid young boys” of the Islamic State. Millions have watched excerpts from his sermon titled “The Crisis of ISIS,” in which he wept as he asked God not to blame other Muslims “for what these fools amongst us do.

It is a religious rumble that barely makes headlines in the secular West since it is carried out at mosques and Islamic conferences and over social media.
The Islamic State, however, has taken notice.
The group recently threatened the lives of 11 Muslim imams and scholars in the West, calling them “apostates” who should be killed. The recent issue of the Islamic State’s online propaganda magazine, Dabiq, called them “obligatory targets,” and it said that supporters should use any weapons on hand to “make an example of them.”

The danger is real enough that the F.B.I. has contacted some of those named in the Islamic State’s magazine “to assist them in taking proper steps to ensure their safety,” said Andrew Ames, a spokesman for the F.B.I.’s field office in Washington.
The death threats are a sign that Muslim religious leaders have antagonized the Islamic State, according to analysts who are studying the militant group. Their growing influence also contradicts those who claim that Muslim leaders have been silent in the fight against violent extremism.

“This is what hurts ISIS the most. It is Muslims speaking out,” said Mubin Shaikh, a Canadian who once joined an extremist Islamist group and now advises governments on countering radicalization. “Fear-mongering is what ISIS is trying to do, whether to silence these people or to silence others as a deterrent.”
Several of the targeted Muslim leaders said in interviews that, while they were taking the threat seriously, they had no intention of backing off. They have hired security guards and fortified their workplaces, and some keep guns at home.
“It’s an honor to be denounced by ISIS,” said Imam Webb, who frequently engages young Muslims over social media, whether on YouTube, Facebook, Periscope or Snapchat. “I consider it one of my greatest accomplishments in life.”
“It has only reinvigorated me,” he said, “to provide the antivenom to the poison of ISIS.”
These Muslim leaders say they are responding to fellow believers who are looking for a religiously based rebuke to violent movements that claim to be acting in the name of Islam. They say that extremist groups like the Islamic State are a threat not just to civil society and security, but to the future of their faith.

Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, who is based in Tennessee and runs a popular Islamic educational institute, thundered against the Islamic State in a Friday sermon at one of Europe’s largest mosques in March, only three days after the group’s suicide bombers had attacked the Brussels airport and train station.

“None of our senior scholars of any school — any school — has justified these deeds,” Sheikh Qadhi said at the East London Mosque.
He argued that the terrorist attacks of recent years had clearly violated Islamic teaching because they “cause more harm than good,” bringing more bombs, more drones and more chaos to Muslim communities, he said.
“Who has benefited? Please use the intelligence that Allah gave you,” he said. “These radical groups have harmed the image of Islam infinitely more than all of the foreign policy of Western lands combined.”
These scholars ridicule the Islamic State’s claim to have created a “caliphate” ruled by a successor to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. Instead, in a highly effective bit of rebranding, they call the Islamic State Kharijites, a reviled group of Muslims who killed women and children and rebelled against the caliphs in the seventh century.

The imams named by the Islamic State are based in the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. They represent a broad spectrum of Islamic thought — from spiritual Sufis to puritanical Salafis, and even the more militant “Salafi Jihadis.”
To the Islamic State’s propagandists, it does not matter that the imams are fervent Muslims or critics of American foreign policy: They are all “unbelievers,” just like the Shiite Muslims, Christians and Yazidis that the Islamic State has killed by the thousands in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere.

This is not the first time that the Islamic State has targeted Muslim leaders in the United States, but this is the longest list yet. It includes Sheikh Hisham Kabbani, a Lebanese Sufi now based mostly in Michigan who has been warning for years about rising extremism.
The list also includes Salafi-oriented preachers such as Bilal Philips, a Canadian convert who has been barred from several countries because of allegations that he preaches extremism; Tawfique Chowdhury, an Australian doctor who founded organizations and charities that propagate orthodox views of Islam; and Abu Basir al-Tartusi, a Syrian preacher based in London who has spoken in support of Al Qaeda, according to news reports.
Cole Bunzel, a scholar at Princeton University studying Islamic history and jihadist ideology, said, “What ISIS is saying is that even if you support Al Qaeda, even if you’re a supporter of someone like Tartusi, you’re still not on team Islam.”
The Islamic State’s magazine also targeted American Muslims in government, such as Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota; Huma Abedin, a longtime top aide to Hillary Clinton; and Mohamed Elibiary, a Texas Republican and former adviser to the Department of Homeland Security.
Several terrorism experts said that an attack on any of these people was more likely to happen abroad than in the United States, but that all it would take is one deluded or mentally unbalanced “lone wolf.”

In March, a popular Saudi preacher, Sheikh Aaidh al-Qarni, was shot and wounded by a gunman in the Philippines, soon after the Islamic State’s online magazine had put him on a list of “apostate” Saudi scholars. Sheikh Qarni, who writes Islamic inspirational books and has nearly 13 million followers on Twitter, had just given a lecture at Western Mindanao State University, and his assailant was an engineering student.

The effort to undermine the Islamic State using religion is not just a Western phenomenon. In January, Muslim leaders from around the world gathered in Morocco and produced the Marrakesh Declaration, which denounces Muslim oppression of religious minorities. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 Muslim countries, recentlyendorsed the declaration.

Sheikh Hamza will soon air a television series in the Middle East, “Rihla With Sheikh Hamza Yusuf” (rihla is “quest” in Arabic). The show applies traditional Islamic scholarship to contemporary challenges in the Muslim world, and it includes strong messages against extremism — which Sheikh Hamza said amounts to “swatting the hornet’s nest again.” It is likely to be seen in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State’s strongholds, he said.
Sheikh Qadhi, however, said that, based on several frightening experiences recently in Tennessee, he has more to fear from right-wing Muslim-haters than from adherents of the Islamic State.

“I’m not scared of ISIS in America,” he said. “I feel very safe in every mosque I go to. But I am scared of other people in this land who are very ignorant and bigoted.”
He said he had gotten used to being vilified by both sides: “The right wing is calling me a stealth jihadist. And ISIS is calling me a sellout. We challenge both of their narratives, even as their narratives feed into each other.”

As an Egyptian American, I have faced a lot of speculation regarding my roots. From
Greek to Italian to Indian, I have been mistaken for everyone. Well, everyone with an
olive-skin undertone. But when I inform people that I’m Egyptian, there are two specific
reactions that dominate the rest: fascination and disappointment.

For many non-Arabs, being Egyptian is an interesting and (forgive my use of the word)
exotic conversation starter. Immediately, I am compared to some actress they once saw
in a show years ago when they were on vacation who happened to be Egyptian. Or maybe
they’ll tell me how much they love hummus, especially the kind served at a certain
restaurant. Was Lebanese the same as Egyptian? No? Oh…but that place still had good
hummus though.

However, amongst the Arab community, reactions are a little different. One of my best
friends (a non-Egyptian, hereby now known as ‘other’) told me that when she first met
me, she was really surprised that I wasn’t more “ghetto”. It was an offhand remark said
so casually, and yet I’d never really quite gotten over it. This was the stereotype that she, an Arab but non-Egyptian, had of African-Arabs. Despite our similar cultures, despite the fact that we ate similar foods, spoke similar languages, she had been raised to believe that there were oceans between us.

Now, let’s gloss over the derogatory nature of term “ghetto” for a moment because that’s
an entirely different rant. But my friend’s upbringing made her believe that because she
came from a lighter-skinned Arab background, her culture was automatically superior to
mine. On some level, I couldn’t really blame her. Of course she had been conditioned to
think that. But over the course of a decade of friendship, I’m happy to say that she has
become less in-tune with that idea and more aware of just how backwards that thinking
is. But it took work. It took a lot of racist comments and patient explanations until we got to a place where it wasn’t an issue where we came from anymore.

But this mentality is not specific to non-Egyptians. Even within my own culture, there
lies a color complex so profound that it dominates the idealistic view of a person,

especially a woman. When I was in the Middle East last year, a close family member
gave me the name of a soap (a SOAP!) that would supposedly “brighten” my complexion
and make me look like a “bride”. The reality of using a cleanser to wash my skin clean
(literally) gave me a bit of a litmus test of what to expect of the standard of beauty in the Middle East.

Growing up in America, I was exposed to different cultures from all over the world,
allowing me a certain level of acceptance that might not be present in other countries. But
when it came to the topic of marriage, repressed racism and prejudice reared its ugly head
and it became evident just how important color was in a relationship, or at least an Arab
one.

This is not a new phenomenon. The problem is, members of the Muslim community
(some, not all), are overriding religious specifications in order to satisfy cultural criteria,often at the expense of the bride or groom. Sometimes, potential spouses are limited to being from the same country or, in some cases, the same village as the family. This not only causes a rift between family members that want to marry outside of the culture, but continues to reinforce the belief that the only people good enough are those who are “like us”.

Now, we can list all the reasons in religion where this type of mentality is strongly
discouraged, even forbidden, but that won’t change the effect of the power of culture. But
there is a silver lining. The longer time passes, the less effect this cultural restraint has on future generations. With the heightened effect of the Internet making the world smaller, it becomes harder and harder to find reasons not to relate with someone. And like it or not, cultural ties are becoming looser as we adapt our own fusion of influence in our daily lives.

That being said, I believe it’s time to rewrite the narrative we teach our children. That
means not only meeting people you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to, but having dinner with
them, breaking bread; connecting on a level that goes beyond a stereotype formed on a
distant memory you had in your childhood. Accept marriage prospects because they are
righteous, not because they culturally convenient. You don’t need to change who you are
to be capable of opening yourself to someone else. You can still be proud of where you
came from while appreciating someone else’s contribution to the world as a positive one.

Courtesy of Sumaya Attia for Asfurah.com

Color, Culture, and Compatibility; Why Just being Muslim Sometimes isn’t Enough.

By Sumaya Attia. Retrieved via asfurah.com.

As an Egyptian American, I have faced a lot of speculation regarding my roots. From
Greek to Italian to Indian, I have been mistaken for everyone. Well, everyone with an
olive-skin undertone. But when I inform people that I’m Egyptian, there are two specific
reactions that dominate the rest: fascination and disappointment.

For many non-Arabs, being Egyptian is an interesting and (forgive my use of the word)
exotic conversation starter. Immediately, I am compared to some actress they once saw
in a show years ago when they were on vacation who happened to be Egyptian. Or maybe
they’ll tell me how much they love hummus, especially the kind served at a certain
restaurant. Was Lebanese the same as Egyptian? No? Oh…but that place still had good
hummus though.

However, amongst the Arab community, reactions are a little different. One of my best
friends (a non-Egyptian, hereby now known as ‘other’) told me that when she first met
me, she was really surprised that I wasn’t more “ghetto”. It was an offhand remark said
so casually, and yet I’d never really quite gotten over it. This was the stereotype that she, an Arab but non-Egyptian, had of African-Arabs. Despite our similar cultures, despite thefact that we ate similar foods, spoke similar languages, she had been raised to believe that there were oceans between us.

Now, let’s gloss over the derogatory nature of term “ghetto” for a moment because that’s
an entirely different rant. But my friend’s upbringing made her believe that because she
came from a lighter-skinned Arab background, her culture was automatically superior to
mine. On some level, I couldn’t really blame her. Of course she had been conditioned to
think that. But over the course of a decade of friendship, I’m happy to say that she has
become less in-tune with that idea and more aware of just how backwards that thinking
is. But it took work. It took a lot of racist comments and patient explanations until we got to a place where it wasn’t an issue where we came from anymore.

But this mentality is not specific to non-Egyptians. Even within my own culture, there
lies a color complex so profound that it dominates the idealistic view of a person,

especially a woman. When I was in the Middle East last year, a close family member
gave me the name of a soap (a SOAP!) that would supposedly “brighten” my complexion
and make me look like a “bride”. The reality of using a cleanser to wash my skin clean
(literally) gave me a bit of a litmus test of what to expect of the standard of beauty in the
Middle East.

Growing up in America, I was exposed to different cultures from all over the world,
allowing me a certain level of acceptance that might not be present in other countries. But
when it came to the topic of marriage, repressed racism and prejudice reared its ugly head
and it became evident just how important color was in a relationship, or at least an Arab
one.

This is not a new phenomenon. The problem is, members of the Muslim community
(some, not all), are overriding religious specifications in order to satisfy cultural criteria, often at the expense of the bride or groom. Sometimes, potential spouses are limited to being from the same country or, in some cases, the same village as the family. This not only causes a rift between family members that want to marry outside of the culture, but continues to reinforce the belief that the only people good enough are those who are “like
us”.

Now, we can list all the reasons in religion where this type of mentality is strongly
discouraged, even forbidden, but that won’t change the effect of the power of culture. But
there is a silver lining. The longer time passes, the less effect this cultural restraint has on future generations. With the heightened effect of the Internet making the world smaller, it becomes harder and harder to find reasons not to relate with someone. And like it or not, cultural ties are becoming looser as we adapt our own fusion of influence in our daily lives.

That being said, I believe it’s time to rewrite the narrative we teach our children. That
means not only meeting people you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to, but having dinner with
them, breaking bread; connecting on a level that goes beyond a stereotype formed on a
distant memory you had in your childhood. Accept marriage prospects because they are
righteous, not because they culturally convenient. You don’t need to change who you are
to be capable of opening yourself to someone else. You can still be proud of where you
came from while appreciating someone else’s contribution to the world as a positive one.