Friday, December 31, 2004

The Five Pillars of Islam: A 1400 Year Old Myth?

According to another reform group whose website is entitled www.free-minds.org, the five pillars of Islam are a long running myth. The “Free Minds” group and their reasoning for the decay of the Muslim umma is based on the idea that too many Muslims adhere to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam). The Muslim world’s decline of political independence, standard education and technological progress solely rests on the archaic words and sayings of our beloved Prophet (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam). And all this time we were thinking that the decline of Muslim power had more to do with colonization, exploitation of the poorer masses, the rich working in complicity with foreign powers who just want to control and manipulate rather than enhance and protect. Our failures have nothing to with the erosion of traditional education (secular or religious), debts owed to more powerful nations which many Muslim countries will never pay off (that’s the whole idea) and dictators who care more about adding more rooms to their palaces than providing their people with good leadership. So what is their beef against the five pillars of Islam: the testimony of faith, prayer, fasting during the month of Ramadan, charity or the poor tax and the pilgrimage? Let’s keep in mind that this is another “Qur’an only” group of Muslims. Shari’a, Hadith and all that do not apply for them. Let’s look at the pillars and see if this group is justified in tearing them down.

Charity (zakat)
“Those who spend in charity spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:274) There’s the verse confirming the necessity to give to those who are less fortunate. Why would the “Free Minds” want to discourage that? Why knock down the duty in Islam to help the poor? And according to the verse, those who give will receive God’s mercy and have peace in the afterlife. And it is only 2.5% of our yearly earnings. Think of how many people would benefit if everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, would give the same?

Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)
“And to complete the Hajj or ‘Umrah in the service of Allah. But if you are prevented from completing it, send an offering for sacrifice, such as you may find, and do not shave your heads until the offering reaches the place of sacrifice.” (2:196) Here is another verse explaining how it is incumbent upon Muslims to make the pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lives. And look at how merciful Allah subhana wa at’ala is. It is only necessary on those who can afford it and who are in good health. Why wouldn’t a Muslim want to visit the land purified by the Best of Creation?

Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan (Saum)
“Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear signs for guidance and judgment between right and wrong. So every one of you who is present at his home during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up days later.” (2:185) Here’s another verse explaining how fasting during Ramadan is an obligation unless you are ill, too young, too old, in the advanced stages in pregnancy, traveling and while menstruating. Actually, another one of reforms that the Free Minds are trying to push is that menstruating women should fast for Ramadan. I am sure most of you can imagine the health concerns of a person who is fasting while undergoing the hormonal and physiological changes during their monthly cycle. Hormones levels fluctuate which can lead to slight symptoms as a simple headache to larger symptoms such as backaches, abdominal pain, and an extreme form of menstrual cramps called dysmenorria. Why fast during a time when your body is vulnerable. But I guess “gender equality” comes before common health sense.

Prayer (Salat)
“As to those who hold fast to the Book and establish regular Prayer, never shall We suffer the reward of the righteous to perish.” (7:170) We must establish regular prayer which means the five daily prayers. We are all familiar with how the five daily prayers were established. Allah subhana wa at ala ordained that Muslims pray 50 times a day but the Prophet Musa (aleyhi salaam) convinced Mohammad (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam) to ask Him to reduce it until He settled on five times a day. Now we are living in a time when some Muslims will not even do that. During the time of the Prophet (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam), even the hypocrites prayed five times a day. Dr. Maxtor told us a Progressive Muslim meetup where one of the attendees advocated reducing salat to twice a day. There are many Muslims who do not pray or fast but at least most of them do not tell the other praying, fasting Muslims how and when to do it.

Last but not least, the Declaration of Faith (Shahada)
La ilah illa Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah. Anyone can submit to this. One God, that is easy. Anyone one can submit to “La ilah illa Allah.“ The Free Minds and other “Qur’an Only” Muslims have no problems with this. But what about “Muhammad Rasul Allah?” It is not simply saying that Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam) is the Messenger of God. So was Adam, Nuh, Ibrahim, Ismail and Ishaq, Musa, Dawud, Sulaiman, and Isa (may God bless them all). The Qur’an does not put one prophet over another. But it is confirming that Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam) brought the Message. Actually Brother Yahiya Emerick says it best, “By stating the Muhammad (sallahu aleyhi wa salaam) is God’s Messenger, we are pledging ourselves to practicing what he preached, doing what he did, and look to him as our role model. There is even a special word, Sunnah, or Way of the Prophet, that is used to refer to his life’s example.” (Emerick, Idiot’s Guide to Islam, 119) I hope that I have proven that the five pillars are not a myth or a vice grip on the umma but rather another blessing from God that when followed, gives us success in this life and in the next.

Risama's Reflections on a Christian Science Monitor Editorial

Christian Science Monitor, a fairly liberal Christian magazine, can't seem to stop writing about Muslims and Islam. (Which is kinda weird because you would think that they would write about...Christian Science.) They even had a Muslim woman who didn't fast for Ramadan keep her own Ramadan journal on their website. Isn't that wonderful? And Ahmed Nassef has been a frequent contributor for their publication. He has, yet again, written another editorial. I inserted my thoughts in between.

Nassef: When Americans think of a Muslim American, most probably envision a bearded man or veiled woman, speaking accented English and holding traditional, conservative views of the world.

Risama: Thanks for reinforcing negative stereotypes! Why should Americans think that veiled women and bearded men can speak proper English because we all know that wearing it means that you just got off of plane from (fill in the blank with Muslim country).

Nassef: Although the reality is much different - most of the nation's Muslims are American-born converts or second-generation immigrants, not particularly religious, and liberal - you'd be hard-pressed to learn this by watching most Muslim spokespeople in the media.

Risama: Okay, umm, how does he know if most American Muslims are non-religious and liberal? And does non-religious Muslim translate into a good Muslim? Did he get his generalization from a poll or did he ask every American Muslim about his/her iman? Oh, and do you see how he goes into what the “real” problem is and why Americans fear Islam--the Muslim spokespeople--basically CAIR, ISNA, ICNA, MAS, etc.?

Nassef: Most Muslim American institutions today, from local mosques to national advocacy groups, reflect an ultraconservative Muslim agenda not shared by most within their community, which at an estimated 6 million now equals the size of the American Jewish community.

Risama: Generalization #245, “Muslims are a homogenous group of people.” It’s as if he wants to swing the pendulum the other way. If the main Muslim organizations are ultraconservative then Nassef and crew must be ultraliberal. I have no problem with Naseef being liberal but I do have a problem with him painting all of us with the same political/social stripe. American Muslims are liberal, conservative and every shade in between.

Nassef: The Washington-based Committee on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the most prominent Muslim American civil rights organization, spends much of its time and money defending the rights of female students to wear veils in public schools. However, when confronted with the rabid misogynistic policies common in most mosques - such as limited access to main prayer halls or bans on women serving on mosque boards - CAIR makes no such efforts on behalf of Muslim women's rights.

Risama: No. CAIR is not just responsible for hijabi women enjoying their rights as Americans. They handle cases where Muslims have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to religious discrimination. They also probe into cases where Muslims have been attacked and murdered because of their faith. So why is Nassef picking on them? CAIR created a program to fill America’s libraries on accurate information about Islam, many of these books written by non-Muslims. What exactly has MWU.com done about Islamophobia other than reinforce the idea that our masjids are teeming with extremists? Nice way to build social, cultural dialogue. Sometimes I wonder what would Nassef and Co. would do if their boss fired them for being Muslim and they had no way to pay their bills, take care of their families or worse, face possible deportation? Subhan’allah. Personally, I think the problem of women’s spaces in masajid should be handled by each, individual masjid because everyone has different comfort levels. Whatever happened to Muslims handling their own problems? Do we really need to write articles for the NYT and CSM complaining to everyone else instead of the people who count--other Muslims?

Nassef: Not only are Muslim organizations out of touch with their supposed constituency, they're far removed from the realities of American life. Often this can reach the level of the absurd. For example, last month, the nation's biggest American Muslim group, the Islamic Society of North America, which represents a quarter of the nation's mosques, hosted the annual conference for the National Temperance and Prohibition Council, a Christian-based group working to ban the sale and manufacture of alcohol in the US.

Risama: Why is this so absurd? Alcohol is prohibited in our religion, right? As Americans we have the right to champion whatever causes we want. Why is it okay for people champion for teenage abortion without parental consent, legalization of marijuana and prostitution, lowering the age of sexual consent and yet as Muslims we can’t support a cause for an alcohol free society? It’s not as if the mass proliferation of alcohol has done such wonders for America with alcohol being the major cause of death in car accidents. Doesn’t date rape and suicide often include the influence of alcohol or some other intoxicant?

Nassef: The reluctance of the Muslim American leadership to deal honestly and directly with the important issues within their community is causing a major crisis in American Islam. Today, most Muslim Americans are so disaffected by their existing institutions that they have dropped out of the community altogether.

Risama: Actually, as reported by CAIR (the big bad boogeyman), since September 11th, more Muslims have become involved with their communities. And many organizations witnessed more conversions to Islam than before that dark day so once again, I'll just add that to the list of his many unfounded generalizations.

Nassef: A survey of Detroit mosque goers and officials released last month by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding shows that half of those attending mosques are recent immigrants, many of whom intend to return to their homeland. When asked if they thought America is an immoral society, more than half said yes. Such views - certainly radical in the context of mainstream American culture - are probably a major reason less than 7 percent of American Muslims attend mosque regularly (compared with 38 percent of Americans who attend church weekly).

Risama: According to the 2004 election, it’s not only us Muslims who think that America is an immoral society with Bush winning the “morality vote.” And yet, who did most Muslims vote for…immoral liberal John Kerry. There are a multitude of reasons as to why Muslims do not/ can not attend the masjid regularly. But I guess low attendance of Jumah prayer has nothing to do with the fact that Jumah prayers are on a Friday (when Muslims are working) and Sunday is when most people are off from work. (Which is why some Muslims either attend Maghrib and Isha prayer on Friday nights and Zhuhr prayers on Sunday, sssh, don’t tell anyone.) And I think it is strange that the above poll says that mostly immigrants attend the masjid but African-American Muslims make up 33% of the Muslim community. But maybe we were left out because the polltakers automatically assumed that we belong the Nation of Farrakhan.

Nassef: The dismally low level of attendance at US mosques is not something Muslim organizations like to discuss, especially when they're busy presenting their ideologically charged agendas as representative of the larger American Muslim community. Studies confirm that the majority of Muslims living in the West don't share the fundamentalist agenda of their self-appointed leaders. Yet conservatives are still most likely to be called upon by the media and policymakers to represent the Muslim community because they fit a convenient stereotype of what a Muslim should look and act like. As a recent RAND Corporation study points out, "They present a better photo-op, so the media tend to choose them when they need a pictorial illustration for a story about American Muslims."

Risama: “Ideologically charged agendas” is the same thing MWU.com and the PMU are pushing, just in a different social and political stripe. And what groups is he really talking about? I have never had ISNA, CAIR, MAS, ICNA or MPAC beat down my door to make me buy what they are selling? Contrary to his belief, American Muslims can voice their opinions about politics without the “ultraconservatives” or the Progressive Muslim Union. And…are you guys just a tad bit creeped out with his reference to the RAND report?

Nassef: So Americans are often left with two extreme views on Islam - one promoted by Muslim ultraconservatives and the other, an equally dangerous one, represented by professional anti-Muslim bigots. The challenge for the millions of Muslims excluded by these groups is that they don't have the financial and institutional backing enjoyed by the fundamentalist organizations, many of which are financed by rich donors from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Risama: And Nassef seeks to fill the void by being another spokesman claiming to speak for all of us. Oh and you noticed is covert plea for “financial and institutional backing?” He's basically saying, “America, give us support. CAIR and all the others are a bunch of violent Wahhabis. We’re the good Muslims!”

Nassef: Most Muslim Americans are well assimilated into the mainstream of American life. And because there are few organized spiritual and cultural outlets for them, the moderate and progressive Muslim American majority is harder to find than the vocal conservative minority. But there are definite signs that the silent majority is beginning to coalesce into a movement to reclaim its faith. Books calling for a progressive reinterpretation of Islam, such as Omid Safi's "Progressive Muslims," are being widely discussed by American Muslims, although you're unlikely to find them at mosque bookstores.

Risama: Yes, we are assimilated into American life and we don’t need any extra help with being both American and Muslim. Oh, but…you know Omid Safi’s book has to get a plug. As far as for finding it in an Islamic bookstore, I think most of us live in city where there are secular bookstores everywhere. My main problem seems to be finding an Islamic bookstore, not the other way around.

Nassef: MuslimWakeup.com, a progressive online magazine I edit, now has a monthly readership surpassing 70,000 - more than any other publication specifically catering to North American Muslims.

Risama: Wrong. Dr. Maxtor has already proven that Islamicity.com is the most widely read Islamic website.

Nassef: Even some Muslim organizations are beginning to wake up. Recently, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a lobbying group connected with the largest mosque in Los Angeles, invited two progressive Muslim scholars to participate in their annual conference. That is an important step.

Risama: Actually, that’s not shocking. One of the main advocates of the Progressive Muslim Union used to work for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. Nice try.

Nassef: But American media and policymakers also need to step up to the plate to defeat Muslim extremism at home. Instead of encouraging the most conservative fringes within the Muslim American community, it's time to give voice to the moderate majority.

Risama: Yeah, Brother Yahya at Masjid X is more dangerous than American imperialism, racial and religious intolerance, poverty and falling public education. Basically, defund major Islamic organizations and give more funding the Progressive Muslim Union. Something’s rotten in Denmark and I think it is the RAND report.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

"...And Give in Regular Charity."

Salaam 'Alaikum

Across religious and political lines, people all over the world are reacting to the Asian tsunamis with sadness, grief, and a desire to help. As Muslims, we shouldn't care about the religion or politics of the victims -- we are simply commanded to do what we can for them. Outside of the Ummah, there is a bigger sister / brotherhood -- that of Bani Adam.

As some of you know, our own AJ is in Chennai. Alhamdulillah, he and his family are safe and sound. Insha'Allah, he'll be able to give us an update soon.

But thousands of others are not. Hundreds of thousands of people from Indonesia to Africa have lost their homes, livelihoods, and families. So I wanted to do something a little different and give you some resources for that.

We in the West have so, so much. To me, sharing some of that wealth is a progressive thing to do. Don't stop and ask if the person your money is going to is a Muslim or Hindu or Buddhist. Just give. I think that no matter what sort of label we apply to ourselves (or others apply to us) we all, as Muslims, believe in and want to put into action God's Commands and Calls to give in charity. In His Noble Book, he constantly links being a true believer to two things -- prayer and charity. There are so many times in the Qur'an that He encourages and commands us to give to those in need, so many times that He equates it to true, pure belief in Him and His Messenger (peace be upon him).

At the end of it all, don't we all want to be able to stand before Him and say, "I heard you and I obeyed because I loved You?" So give, even if just a little, from what you have.

You may not agree with the "mainstream" organizations who parent some of these charities, but if you can see that they are doing reliable charity work, then give if you feel they're doing the best work. You don't need to go to their conventions or read their magazines, if they're the ones providing help to the orphans and the sick in Asia, you know? There are also links to non-Islamic, secular charities doing reputable work.

And please, remember that supplications -- du'a -- are the most powerful, effective resource you have.

(Links are for your information only, not an endorsement from Living Tradition. Please research a charity before you give to them).

Islamic Relief

Indian Muslim Relief Committee

UNICEF

Minhaj Welfare Society

ICNA Relief

Muslim Aid

Red Cross, Red Crescent

Muslim Hands

Doctors Without Borders -- Their regular site is experiencing very heavy traffic, so you may be redirected to another site.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Taking Our Knowledge From Those Who Know

There is probably no other body of literature in Islam that conjures up so many feelings than Hadith literature. Most Muslims are content to believe the Qur’an is the unchanging, literal word of God but quoting Hadith in some circles may get you into trouble. It has certainly become very unpopular among the reform movements with such groups as the “Qur’an Only” Muslims who advocate its entire removal. Some merely quote the sayings and actions of the Prophet (saws) when it conforms to their agenda and then scrap everything else. Because there is a major lack of traditionally trained scholars living with the vicinity of most masajid, Muslims are often times left to fend for themselves when it comes to learning the basics of Islam. This problem is made worse by the lack of education for Muslim converts whom have to rely on a few choice texts from the local bookstore or dawah organization. Because of this dire situation, some Muslims have decided to appoint themselves as a mujtahid, interpreting everything to the whim of their nafs. I have found myself in some depressing situations where Muslims gladly admit their disdain for hadith and some who were quite content to not learn fuhsa Arabic saying that the English intrepretation is enough. Despite these gross violations, they have no qualms in telling you what Islam is and what Islam isn’t. What hubris, indeed!

As Living Tradition has stated before, Western Muslims live in an iconoclastic culture. Authority is meant to be ridiculed and anyone who desires to follow time-honored traditions of the past is ridiculed along with it. So it follows that some Muslims are not willing to be guided by the scholar who studied under the ones who have a direct link to the Prophet (saws) through the chains of isnad. We are already taught to question such authority. Questioning religious authority is one of the hallmarks of Western civilization from the Protestant Reformation to the current debate on the validity of gay marriage. This wouldn’t be a problem if our men and women of learning were corrupt and hypocritical but what about the Muslim who passed up a lucrative career in order to learn this deen and teach it to others.

Alas, in some parts of the Muslim world, those trained in religious studies are on the bottom of the totem pole when compared to doctors and engineers. Our scholars are constantly ridiculed by some Muslims as those who are stuck in some time warp who hand out strange fatwas and have no real understanding of modern society. But what puzzles me is that the same Muslims who wouldn’t give our ulema the time of day would take as gospel truth Western academics’ writings about Islam. Is it no wonder that MWU.com can criticize the men and women of Sunnipath and Zaytuna but puts on a pedestal those who do not even confirm “la ilaha il Allah, Muhammadan Rasul Allah?” Why is the Muslim who has a degree in Islamic studies from an American university better than the Muslim who studied under the shayukh? I like the works of Karen Armstrong and John Esposito and I respect what they are doing for Muslims for the sake of inter-religious peace. But Muslims are commanded by Allah (swt) to take their knowledge from those who confirm the above shahada. For us, Islam is not a academic field, it is a way of life. Only those who love Allah (swt) and serve as teachers and guides for His pleasure alone are the ones worthy of our attention.

We need a good dose of humble pie and realize that the quest for knowledge is a constant tranforming journey. Islam is not mastered in the halls of Secular University, USA. It is cultivated through awareness of God, the purfication of our intentions and the stoning of that idol known as the Self. It means that unless you have mastered Qur’anic Arabic, hadith, fiqh, tasawuuf and all the other displines of Islam, it would smart to rely on those who have. I am not asking that we turn off our brains and place our scholars on a pedestal where they are far removed from critcism and inquiry. On the contrary, a learned Muslim would respect the curiosity and challenges of his/her students. I only ask that all Muslims, those raised as such and converts, make a serious effort to understand Islam. Our education must go beyond once a week halaqas and skimming the books of Barnes and Noble. We must start with the blessings and guidance of Allah (swt), the knowledge of the scholars and the sincerity of our intentions so that we can progress towards a better life in the dunya and eternal happiness in the akhirah.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

PMU-NA Debate Blog & The Neo-Salafi Label

Salaam 'Alaikum

The folks over at PMU-NA Debate have a post on Ahmed Nassef's appearance on Dayside with Linda Vesser on Faux News the other day, as well as something that we mentioned a few weeks ago.

As you know, Nassef & Co labeled their critics at PMU-NA debate "neo-Salafis." We questioned the use of this label, as we believe it is meant to effectively shut down any examination of criticism of and valid concerns about the PMU. By labeling one's critics (or even those who question) as adherents to extreme sects of Islam, what Nassef & Co have done is delegitimize their concerns and consign them to the loony bin. No one with an ounce of knowledge about Islam and politics today can honestly put the folks at PMU-NA Debate in the same category as bin Laden, but MWU did it anyway. Why? The idea that a man like Farid Esack is a "neo-Selafi" extremist is laughable to anyone who knows him or who is familiar with his work, but for those people (non Muslim journalists especially) who don't, it's a very effective way of scaring people away from approaching him or any other critic for their point of view.

This method of dealing with questioners and critics reminds the author of the way extreme Muslim groups deal with questioners and critics. The words ("neo-Salafi, extremist" vs "kafir, mutbada'") may be different, but the purpose and ends are the same -- to shut down communication, questioning, learning, criticism. "You're either with us or against us."

As you know, Nassef appeared on Faux News the other day and said that "not all, but many mosques are run by people who have extremist views on women, etc." To my knowledge he has not clarified, even on MWU, what qualifies as "extremist" nor what he meant to include by "etc." (nb: I do not check MWU every hour or every day to see what Nassef has said during my absence, so this may have changed by the time you read this).

His attempts to defend his Faux statements on the blog raise even more questions, as he appears to be relying on a survey taken by CAIR, an organization MWU has consistently criticized and mocked; a survey that many Muslims felt was not a comprehensive or reliable portrait of American masajid. How can CAIR be the agents of the Evil Empire (Saudi Wahabiya), but at the same time, be a reliable statistical source? Is this like trying to have your cake and eat it too?

When Muslims go to the media (or the government) and tell them that the majority of our masajid are run by extremists, who are they serving? Do such declarations help the Muslim community? Do they make our masajid better? Do they help the government and neo-con think tanks? Do these claims only serve to confirm the biases and hatred of Muslims by racists and right-wingers?

Many of the responses that I saw from Faux viewers on MWU are from people who appear to be laboring under the mistaken idea that Muslims in this country as well as the Middle East have not been speaking out against violence and terror, and that Nassef and MWU are the lone reeds. Again, the last I saw, Nassef did nothing to correct this gross misconception.

Ask the Muslim Society of Memphis, TN who's been helped by the perception that our masajid are teeming with extremists. They can't even find a place to bury our dead brothers and sisters. But those racist individuals who opposed the cemetary can now hold up Nassef and say "See, even their own people call them extremists." (Because no matter if Nassef intended it or not, people are already interpreting and remembering his statements at Faux News as being a slam on masasjid in general, not the views on women held by those who run the masjid).

As with the masjid arsons and the murder of a pregnant Muslima in Louisiana, I suspect that this incident (which, for now, is the only one of the above incidents where anti-Muslim hate was clearly present) will go unnoticed by MWU. But maybe we'll get another feature on how the rest of us need to loosen up sexually.

Living Tradition -- What's Our Purpose?

Salaam 'Alaikum

There seems to be a few misconceptions floating around about this blog.

1. This is not an individual's blog. This a group blog.

2. Our sole purpose is to refute the "Progressive Muslim Union" and the MWU website. This is not so. It just so happens that at the moment, they are getting the most press.

Our purpose is to examine ideas and statements put forth to non Muslims and Muslims under the rubric of "progressive Islam" and see if they are in conformity to or opposition to Islam as it has been traditionally understood and practiced by Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama'at.

There is a lot more to "traditional Islam" than pointing out how MWU is wrong about matter X this week and matter Y next week. We've been deficient in putting up posts that show the richness and beauty of "Traditional Islam," but hopefully that will be changing soon. We do all tend to have day jobs and other internet projects, and sometimes, LT might get pushed to the back burner.

Slave Mentality in the American Umma

For those of you who are offended easily by strong language and comments, than you might not want to read this entry because right now, I am very angry.

Have you ever read the autobiography of Malcolm X? Many people are inspired by his message and some converts to Islam were heavily influenced by his life. He often spoke a sociological paradigm amongst African American people known as the house slave/ field slave mentality. Here’s a brief explanation.

On a plantation, there are basically two types of slaves. The field slave is risky, adventurous and always thinking about freedom. He wants to make a life for himself where he is free to live as he pleases. He doesn’t want to live under the boot heel of his abusive, jealous master. He constantly thinks of a better life away from the plantation. The house slave, on the other hand, is quite happy with his condition. Even though he is hated and feared on the same level as the field slave, he is quite content to live under the tyranny of his master. Despite his squalid conditions and low social status, he will defend the same people who would rather see him eliminated.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X compared the field slave to African-Americans who were fighting for their social, economic and political rights. The house slaves were those who didn’t want to rock the boat and preferred things as they were under Jim Crow law. Now…how does this relate to today’s Muslim of North America? I must thank the Muslim who left a comment on my last entry about an appearance by Ahmed Nassef on Fox News informing his viewers that most of the masjids in North America are filled with extremists.

Yes, that’s right. If you are a Muslim who goes to the masjid, your mosque is probably crawling with Al-Qaeda types who want to take over America. Thank you Brother Ahmed Nassef for making our neighbors even more afraid of us and warning them of the immiment danger.

"You’re one of the good ones,” the Fox Newslings must say.

This is prime example of a slave mentality. Rather than work with all Muslims and key Islamic organizations on issues like foreign and domestic terrorism, you and the key figures of the PMU, write articles about how all our masajid are walking time bombs. I find this claim absurb and ridiculous on so many levels because many of the people who are making these claims have never been inside of a masjid in years. How would you know if Masjid X is a front for Al-Qaeda if you don’t even attend Friday prayer?

And what does he mean by “extremists”? Is an “extremist” a Muslim who does not agree with Ahmed Nassef and Co.? If that’s the case then Farid Esack, the unofficial founder of the Progressive Muslim Movement, is an extremist. Or better yet, according to Nassef and Tarek Fetah, “ a neo-Salafi.” It must be nice to silence your competitors by mislabeling them rather than answering their claims. Sure, make claims that CAIR and ISNA are run by Saudi Wahhabis. What better way to help to your American Muslimeen than to tear down established institutions who don’t share your worldview?

It’s not progressive. It’s not helping us. It’s putting us in danger. Innocent Muslims are being stereotyped and demonized. We have not yet recovered from the tragedy of September 11th. We are trying to fight a world wide plague of suspicion and racism known as Islamophobia. And now we must contend with these Muslims who are cooning it up with the Step-n-Fetch It routine.

“I’m not a themza Muslim. I’s a youza Muslim.”

Make no mistake, this group does not care about Islam or creating an environment of inter-religious tolerance. It’s not enough for them to go against Sharia. It’s not enough to hate hijab or reject Hadith. It’s not even enough for them to reject the kamila shahada. They want to be THE voice of the Muslim American community, whether you like it or not. If you don't fall in line to their agenda, they'll just write an article about you so that others can ridicule devout Muslims and Islam. But just as the field and the house slave, if the government decides that all U.S. Muslims are a threat, they will be in the detention centers along with the rest of us. They hijacked the original Progressive Muslim movement for their own media campaign (and of course, for the promotion of their books and music) under the mantra of fighting racism, sexism and homophobia. But here are some questions…

If Ahmed & Co. are so dedicated to fighting racism, why all the Arab-bashing (particulary Saudi-bashing) on their website? Where is the voice of the converts, particulary African-American converts? (You know, we do happen to be at least 33% percent of the American Muslim umma.) Where are the articles about masajid being burned down or Muslims being assaulted in the streets? There was a pregnant Muslim woman stabbed to death in Louisiana, where is the MWU opinion on that?

If they are so dedicated to fighting sexism then why is there all that humiliating, degrading pornography on their website? It doesn’t matter if the writers are women. Aren't enough women being exploited and shamed through the pornography industry? What about our sisters who are being discriminated against for wearing hijab? Isn’t that just as hateful, oppressive, demeaning and sexist as the pseudo-Islamic states that make hijab compulsory?

Oh, they are very keen on gay rights. You should hear what they said about Maulana Rumi and Imam Sirraj Wahhaj. What better way to demean a strong black man like Imam Siraj Wahhaj than to call him a "homo?" (What is the deal with Michael Knight and his beef with Siraj Wahhaj and Ibrahim Hooper?) This day and age, you can not be a poet or have a close relationship with a person of the same sex without people accusing you of being a homosexual. Never mind that Rumi was a Hanafi scholar well versed in Qur’an, Hadith, fiqh and hated all forms of sinful deviation. We are very familiar with the efforts of Orientalists who paint him as some kind of whacked out hippie who rejected Sharia and espoused inclusion of all kinds of nonsense. Audhu billah. But if the MWU crew is so keen on gay rights, why invite Bush-supporter Malik Hasan to serve on their Progressive Muslim Union? Isn’t President George Bush responsible for amendment which currently bans gay marriages?

The jig is up and this people are causing serious problems for us Muslims in America. They are killing our efforts to reach out to others and they need to be revealed for the people that they are.

But all is not lost.

We don’t need Fox News, CNN or MSNBC to throw us a bone. Who is stopping us from having open houses at the masjid? Who is stopping us from creating newspapers, websites and writing articles against Islamophobia? What about documentaries, blogs, writing clubs, charitable societies, non-profit organizations?

Nobody, that’s who.

Don’t think that just because you’re not a imam or sheikh that you can’t do something. We can not afford to be silent. Our lives and the lives of those who come after us depend on it. CAIR, ISNA, ICNA, Zaytuna and others can't do it all. We must all put in an effort. It’s time to stop being nice, quiet and pleasant because confused Americans are mistaking that for guilt. It's time for the gloves to come off. We have nothing to be guilty about. We do not condone the actions of September 11th or any other murderous actions against innoncent people whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim. Let's knock off the slave mentality and get to work.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Hacking of MWU: Internet Prank or Publicity Stunt

There has been some speculation in many different corners of the web as to whether or not Muslim Wake Up.com was legitimately hacked into by a group of Muslim hackers. As of this moment, we don’t know if the culprits were Muslims or non-Muslims. Hackers aren’t known for revealing their true identities so every theory put forth is just that—a theory. Some people think that it was a publicity stunt perpetrated by MWU to gain more press from the Canadian and American media.

Whoever did the deed, The MWU crew being the media-savvy people that they are, will find a way to promote themselves from it. The “Islamic Challenge Brigade” will be painted as tyrannical internet jihadists attacking the inclusive, tolerant Progressive Muslims who just want to make the world a better place. I can see the future interviews where they discuss their terrible ordeal when their main hub was shut down and the world was left in the dark without the voice of “Islamic Reform”—at least for a few days. As Dr. M has stated before, we know that they claim to be the most popular Muslim magazine even though Islamicity is clearly the winner according to the stats, alhamdulillah. And to claim to be the voice of the silent Muslim majority is not accurate when you ban people from posting on your website when their views don’t quite mesh with yours.

As they have stated, they will not stop. They have too many interviews lined up with Chrisitan Science Monitor and the Toronto Star. The “Sex and the Umma” column will push whatever boundaries are left to push, though I doubt there are any boundaries left. They have already labeled Imam Siraj Wahhaj a f#gg*t so they are not above resorting to immature tactics and name-calling. (Am I the only one who thinks it’s funny that none of these insults are directed at the very people they offend? Why on the internet and not face to face? Is it normal for a white Muslim to call a Black Muslim imam a f%gg*t? I’m just not feeling that interracial brotherhood.) We know sooner or later they will call us folks at Living Tradition some horrible sexual or religious slur. They might be progressive but one thing’s clear—they are not interested in progressing towards Allah (subhana wa ta’ala).



Saturday, December 18, 2004

Out of Touch

MWU supremo Ahmed Nassef has repeatedly claimed that his website is the MOST popular Muslim American website, with more page hits than either CAIR or ISNA, hence we should all donate generously to their fund drive. This is based on Alexa ratings.

Ignoring the many discrepancies of the Alexa ranking system I took the liberty of verifying this claim, and while MWU ranks above CAIR and ISNA, its clearly left in the dust by Islamicity. So much for being number one. Even if we were to accept the mendacious claim that MWU is the most popular Muslim American website, the question remains how relevant is their message? More importantly, are they in touch with issues which concern the Muslim American community?

Last week, two masjids were burnt to the ground; the week before a Sikh-owned gas station was the target of arson. This week, a Muslim family was targeted by gunfire as they sat to eat dinner in their Arizona home. Alhamdulilah, there was no loss of life in these cases of domestic terrorism.

Yet no mention is made of this or any other hate crime on the self declared “most popular Muslim American website.” Kind of makes you wonder what they deem worthy of their collective progressive gaze. The sort of message one gets is “let the adults worry about real world stuff while we enjoy and promote soft pornography, call prominent Islamic personalities “f*gs” and “homos,” and impersonate officials from CAIR."

Those who don’t agree and fall in line will be prominently labelled “neo-Salafis” and “Muslim Pat Robertsons.” It's sadly apparent that MWU is out of touch with reality.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Down With... .the Prophet (peace be upon him)??!!

Salaam 'Alaikum

Would a person who calls him or herself Muslim ever dream of saying such a thing? We all answer, from our guts, no, never! Astaghfirullah, our hearts cry out (as the denizens of MWU laugh, because apparently asking for forgivness from the Lord is funny. It must be nice to be perfect in front of Him. I definitely wouldn't know).

Anyway, before MWU was hacked (again), there was an article (which, admittedly I scanned, looking for something else) on the front page about a book published for Russian Muslims on sex. Apparently, some of the language was a little too licentious for one scholar, and MWU responded the way they usually do -- making fun of him. "Down with the prudes!" they proclaimed proudly.

Adab, according to the denizens of MWU, is oppression of women. Especially adab about sex. That's why the overwhelming majority of the pornographic "Sex and the Ummah" features are written by women. (Of course, pornography is generally an industry that trades in the sexualization and sexuality of women, with men profiting the most, but I think it's supposed to be liberating and progressive when it's MWU doing it).

So, according to MWU, our liberation and progression as a people will come when Ahmed and Iman are up on Jerry's stage bragging about their escapades with the next door neighbor. Hey, that's what non-prudish people do, isn't it? No class, no tact, no adab. Naturally, the more intellectually elitist will pen erotica anthologies to be sold in the Anthologies section of Barnes and Noble (and what is "Progressive Islam" but an extremely class / status conscious and intellectual elitist movement? It permeates all of their writings... but that's another day).

So anyway, one of MWU's refrains is "Down with Prudes!" Risama has talked about it here before. Apparently, prudishness is modesty or adab about sexuality (and no one means this nicely, it's a put down of any modesty, so let's not fool ourselves). Now it's clear to anyone with an ounce of common sense that in the real world, Muslims don't really need "help" with sex by talking about it, watching movies about it, or reading pornography about it. We have one of the highest birth rates in the world, and we all know how babies are made. So it's a mystery as to why anyone thinks Muslims haven't gotten the hang of intimacy and sexuality just because we don't talk about it.

I tried to go back to MWU's website to re-read the article, but... it was hacked again. Oh well.

I tried to go back because this rather lame slogan (reminds me of a weak copycat of the mood of Berkeley in the 60s) kept coming back to me as I went around my business. "Down with Prudes!" I keep remembering how MWU and "progressives" in general often tell people (especially the media) that they are the true carriers of the Prophet's torch (peace be upon him). We know that MWU doesn't think highly of men with beards or women with veils, or of the scholars of the diyn... we're prudes. But Muslims are human beings. Some of us come from cultures where sexuality is open and pervasive, where talking about your sexual escapades is normal. So where do we get these practices and concepts of modesty about sexuality from?

Right.

The Prophet of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, was more bashful than a virgin concealed in her veil. (Ibn Majah)

The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Modesty brings nothing but good." (Bukhari, Muslim)

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Verily, there is a (special) morality of every religion. And the (special) morality of Islam is modesty."(Ibn Majah)

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Verily, amongst the words people have obtained from the sayings of the past prophets is that when you are immodest (unashamed) then do
whatever you desire."(Ibn Majah)

The Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "Modesty is part of 'iman and 'iman is in paradise and obscenity is part of hard-heartiness is in hell."(Ahmad, Tirmidhi )

The Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, came upon a man of Ansar who was advising his brother regarding modesty (not to over do it) . The Messenger, peace be upon him said, "Leave him alone, for modesty is part of 'iman."(Bukhari, Muslim)

So when they say "Down with Prudes!" they mean "Down with Modesty!" and if they're saying that... well, what then do they say about the overwhelming evidence that the Prophet (peace be upon him) lived out the Qur'anic command of sexual modesty and was himself exceedingly modest?

Maybe I don't want to know.

Are you the torchbearer if you mock an essential trait and characteristic of the Prophet (peace be upon him), something he emphasized when teaching his Companions?

Subhan'Allah.

MWU gets hijacked!

Ladies and Gentlemen

Salaam alaikum and alhamdulillah,

I am usually a mature person who does not pick on people when they are down. If a person has a different opinion than my own, I usually let them speak their mind. I may or may not offer my own opinion and that usually depends on how I am feeling at the moment. I do not condone the censorship of others (unless they enter my blog world where I rule with an iron fist), even if they say the most hateful things about a particular group of people because freedom means tolerance. Even if that means tolerance for the things that you don't like or can not change due to the laws or social rules of the governing society.

So...why can't I stop laughing?

If you ever plan on visiting MuslimWakeUp.com, please go now. They have been...how shall I say...silenced. Some very spunky hackers know as Islamic 0x Challenge Brigade have brought down the website and renamed it MurtadWakeUp.com. Apparently we are not the only ones who are tired of some of the ideas that have been flowing from that corner of the web. We never thought of breaking in and shutting them down and I don't condone that but...the giggles keep coming up. I can't help it. The hackers have some requests which follows...

Stop slandering the mujahideen (I do get tired of people lumping terrorists with men who are just trying to defend their families. Yes, there is a difference.)

Stop letting chief pornographer Mohja Kahf speak about Islam and stop letting her publish her fantasies online (thankfully, I stopped visiting the website before the whole "Sex and the Umma" stuff started.)

Stop using the names of the Prophet (saws), his family and the Sahaba (ra) in those stories (hey, there are other names they can use that are not the names of the revered people of Islam.)

Stop slandering scholars of Islam (disagreeing with the scholars is one thing, putting them in humiliating erotic stories or complaining about them behind their backs on a website instead of addressing them face to face is another.)

Stop anti-hijab articles (Hear, hear! They talk more about how much they hate hijab as much as some Muslims go on and on it about all day. The umma has bigger problems than headgear.)

There are optional requests but please take a gander for yourself before they fix the problem.

Print out the message as a keep sake item.

(Giggle)

Yeah, I'm bad.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The meetup that wasnt

Our "progressive" friends generally get together every first monday of the month courtesy of Meetup, a free online service which allows people of similar interests to get together. After signing on in an effort to have a discussion with the proggies, I've discovered that these little shindigs arent attracting the kind of numbers we're being told about, much to their chagrin.
If not counting endless postponments and outright cancellations I would have had some interesting reports to share with the rest of you. Oh well, I'll try again next month.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A Truly Progressive Mosque

Alhamdullillah, I live in Mississauga, Canada which is blessed with a fast growing Muslim population and one of the more vibrant Islamic communities in North America. My house is situated within ten minutes of seven Masjids (there are close to 15 Masjids in Mississauga in addition to a number of Islamic schools and Centres) and we are just West of Toronto, which is home to one of the biggest Muslim populations in North America.

Having lived here since 2002, I have had the opportunity to worship in various Mosques in the GTA; they range from the humble to the impressive. But the one thing that they share in common is that they are frequented by people who are bound together by love of Allah Subhan Wa Taala and his beloved Messenger (peace and blessings on Him).

Unfortunately, all is not well in the state of Denmark for there is a new player in town. A few weeks ago, I received a rude shock when I found splashed on the front page of The Toronto Star news of the inauguration of the first ‘Progressive Mosque’ in Toronto. And yes, the ideas espoused by its founders include the concept of free mixing of the sexes, prayer without any segregation, permissibility of female imamat, homosexual and same sex marriage rights, a more ‘inclusive’ agenda and all the other tired arguments that we have grown accustomed to hearing from them. All this accompanied by a photo of men and women praying side by side.

In contrast, let me tell you about a masjid that is truly progressive for it strictly conforms to the principles of The Quran and the Sunnah (and what can be more liberating than that?) I am sure that there are other masjids similar to this, but as this is one that I regularly frequent, I know what I am talking about. The name of the Mosque is Masjid-al-falah and it is managed by the Islamic Circle of North America (Canada). Among its many distinguishing features are the following.

1. The Masjid is a place where members of both genders are made to feel welcome. Yes, men and women are separated by a barrier in accordance with the Sunnah, but the sisters’ section is as bright, airy and well ventilated as ours. They are certainly not herded into a small room like cattle nor confined to an insignificant part of the mosque.

2. Women are active participants in the activities of the Centre. The sisters’ wing consists of a group of disciplined and dedicated individuals who run regular deeniyat classes and are also involved in activities pertaining to the mosque. Most of the women wear hijab but the few who do not are never made to feel unwelcome or turned away. The spirit of tolerance is alive and kicking.

3. The Centre has made a concerted attempt to reach out to the youth of our community and this take various forms. A few months ago, it was decided that the Khutba of the second Jamaat on Friday would be aimed at our youngsters and the response has been decidedly enthusiastic. Another progressive idea implemented in Ramadan was to give various youth the chance to expound on the verses recited in Salah. Mash'Allah! They did a wonderful job.

This is an effective way of encouraging and training the next generation of Imams and leaders. Regular sports activities and youth programmes ensure that our children look forward to visiting the mosque.

4. The Centre does not restrict itself to religious activities. It takes the role of an active and responsible citizen seriously. It is involved at both the local and the provincial levels on issues that affect all Canadians. Its members participate in Dawa and inter-faith meetings. It runs a full time Islamic school. It has a charitable wing that provides monetary assistance to Muslims all over the world. And all this is possible because it is run by a group of low profile, selfless, hard working individuals who are wedded to the deen.

The members steer clear of controversy but have never shied away from fighting for the rights of Muslims. The atmosphere and the membership is what I consider inclusive in the true Islamic sense as a result of which a spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie prevails. But most important of all, there is no compromise on the Deen to curry favor with others.

This my friends is the kind of masjid that will not be featured in the media for its members do not court controversy nor do they take pleasure in insulting or running down other Muslims. There is no talk of turning a blind eye to the haraam, in the name of political correctness. There is respect for our pious predecessors and our scholars.

Practising Muslims are not the subject of ridicule and no one writes deliberately provocative books that question what is wrong with Islam. We do not have experts on ‘Tantric Sex’ spearheading the fight for women’s rights in the Masjid for these rights have never been denied! Our Sisters are far too busy living the deen to find the time to write soft porn for the titillation of the Ummah as some of our more ‘progressive’ sisters have been doing! Moderation in all matters is key; extremism of all kinds is shunned.

What the masjid offers is a safe and welcoming area for all Muslims irrespective of their race or ethnicity. A place where the entire family can participate and remember our Creator. An atmosphere that allows us to connect with our inner selves and become useful, contributing members of the Ummah. And for this oasis of tranquility, I am truly grateful.

May Allah Subhan Wa Taala always guide us to distinguish Right from Wrong. Ameen.