Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An interesting editorial piece on the "Arab Money" remix, a rap song by hip-hop artists Busta Rhymes, T-Payne, Akon and others in which the first two ayat (verses) of the the opening sura (chapter) of the Qur'an are used as the hook (chorus) of the song.

"It's time that Muslim activists come together with a plan to do some serious outreach to Muslim rappers, who are part of the mainstream music industry but detached from the mainstream Muslim community. The recent Busta Rhymes' “Arab Money” remix that caused a brief uproar for not only using the term ”A-rab” as in the original version but also interpolating verses of the Qur'an in it is a prime example of how brothers and sisters “in da game” need to be pulled in." Read more...

Hailing from and having grown up in NYC, having witnessed the birth of hip-hop and key milestones in its history, knowing something about the interplay between hip-hop culture and Islam in NYC in the 90s, I believe that a very firm stance is required from the African-American Muslim community, in particular, on this issue and on the many harmful aspects hip-hop culture, "urban" culture and Blackamerican popular culture in general. I may be addressing these issues in greater detail in a few weeks. Stay tuned :)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Given the appropriately intense scrutiny that conventional derivatives are under, in general, and the profound policy implications of increased adoption of derivative-like instruments by the shari`a-compliant financial services sector, I read with interest a recent media interview with Mr. Werner, Policy Director at the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), in which he mentioned that ISDA's collaboration with the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) has produced a draft master agreement for Shariah compliant derivatives. The draft master agreement will reportedly be undergoing final Shari`a compliance review soon. As a student of some of the leading Islamic ethicists (fuqaha') who make up the IIFM's compliance review board, I am particularly interested in the board's decision on the validity of the structure that will apparently be used to implement the proposed profit swap, since it is not a matter of agreement among Islamic ethicists (fuqaha').

Friday, November 07, 2008

In the wake of the election, here is a brief post-election analysis by Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey (Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director, Muslim American Society) that features some (if to my mind, not nearly enough) of the realism that should characterize American Muslims' response the President-Elect Obama's election. Here is an excerpt:

In the 2008 election campaign, it is clear that the convergence of shared interests within the Muslim community gave birth to larger, progressive collaborations with other political forces to help move the nation beyond the legacy of the Bush administration.

Yet more sobering realities remain.

While the Muslim community voted in large numbers, our impact on a possible shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East leaves something to be desired.

It is no secret that the policy statements from both President-Elect Obama concerning Israel and Palestine – especially Obama's recognition of Jerusalem as the de facto capital of Israel – reinforces the status quo of American regional foreign policy at the expense of a more even-handed and democratic discourse that recognizes not only Israeli security rights, but Palestinian national and human rights as well.

In the course of his marvelous campaign President-Elect Obama made a concerted effort to directly reassure Jewish voters of his sensitivity to their concerns; in comparison, however, Muslims received no such consideration.

There is also the question of challenges to the legitimacy of the American Muslim identity itself.

We remember that Obama campaign staff members removed Muslim women in hijab from a photograph with the candidate – an action that subsequently resulted in a public apology. However, the incident signaled to the Muslim community a "don't-get-too-close-to-Muslims" policy that may carry over into the Obama administration as positions of power are assigned.

Added to these concerns is the ambivalence shown by the Obama campaign on the issue of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

President-Elect Obama's endorsement of American military strikes inside Pakistan raises enormous anxiety and concern for Muslim advocates who seek to demilitarize our foreign policy and create non-violent approaches to building new and better relationships with Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, and other majority-Muslim states on the current American military target list.

The inimitable Imam Zaid Shakir has written another insightful piece on his blog about Muslims' political and strategic posture in this post-election period.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

According to various eyewitness reports, CDs containing the viciously anti-Islamic propaganda film, "Obsession," were recently being distributed in Harvard Square. This fact has apparently not gone unnoticed by Harvard College students: the distribution of the CDs outside the gates of the University has been mentioned unfavorably by members of one of the Quad Houses on the House's e-mail list. While much could be said about the links between one of the major presidential candiates and the shadowy organization that is massively financing the distribution of "Obsession" CDs by mail, in newspapers and on the streets of the so-called "swing" states, I restrict myself to here to calling attention to an insightful essay that points out just some of the fallacies that the film seeks to promote.

In a recent entry on his blog, New Islamic Direction, the inimitable Imam Zaid Shakir reveals some of historical and political inanities to be found in this Islamophobic piece of propaganda. I reproduce the entire essay here in recognition of its relevance and importance:

Recently, 28 million copies of the anti-Islamic propaganda documentary, Obsession, were distributed free of charge in what are being considered the “swing” states in the current election campaign. This effort is clearly designed to leverage the idea in the minds of many Americans that Senator Barack Obama is a Muslim (he is not), and therefore, he is to be identified with the images and statements of Muslims portrayed in the video. These portrayals give the impression that Islam is a fanatical, bloodthirsty religion, whose adherents are hell-bent on destroying America. In essence, the video represents a diabolical attempt by dark forces to sway an American election.

The film is black propaganda that relies in some instances on distorting the truth and in others on blatant lies or vile innuendos. One of the allegations advanced by the film that is particularly insidious is that Islam is the new fascism, a deadly force that constitutes an existentialist threat to the United States. To support this allegation, the film’s producers juxtapose scenes of Nazi marches and other forms of political imagery with corresponding Muslim images. I have briefly discussed the issue of the Islamo-Fascist threat in my article, Vote for Me and I’ll Set You Free. There I mentioned:

In recent days, surrogates of one of my opponents have been distributing, free of charge, a disturbing DVD entitled “Obsession.” This film attempts to portray the maniacal rants of a minuscule fringe of deluded Muslim fanatics as an existentialist threat to the United States that must be combated by the full might of the United States’ military and society. It tries to deceive you into believing that “Radical Islam” and “Islamo-Fascism” is the 21st Century equivalent of Hitler’s Germany. Both history and contemporary reality belie that claim. Nazi Germany was an industrialized state that had military means that rivaled or surpassed those of America. Had circumstances proved more favorable for the Germans, they could have well developed an atomic bomb before America. Similarly, under more fortuitous circumstances, Germany’s ballistic missile program, which produced the deadly V2 Rocket, and its fighter aircraft program, which introduced the Messerschmitt 262, the world’s first tactic jet fighter, could have given Germany a tactical advantage that could have turned the tide of the war in Hitler’s favor.

As a result of their combined military strength, combating the fascist threat of Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hirohito’s Japan would require the military service of 16.1 million American troops and cost 406,000 American lives. What has been the cost of containing the so-called “Islamo-Fascist” threat? First of all, there is only one real front in the so-called “War on Terror,” Afghanistan. There, the remnants of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the latter of which has not been implicated in a single terrorist act against the United States, have been held in check by 34,000 American troops currently on the ground, at a cost of 519 American lives, even though the conflict there has endured longer than World War Two. The number of troops committed, and the number of lives sacrificed gives you a clear indication of the true extent of the nature of the threat posed by Radical Islam.

The shameless allegation that Islam is the new fascism would be bad enough were it presented in isolation. However, it is coupled with the false claim that Muslims supported Hitler and the Nazis during World War Two. This claim is a foul misrepresentation of the historical record and it serves to dishonor the memory of all of the courageous Muslims who selflessly fought and died in defense of the European democracies, even though many of their own lands were still suffering under the yoke of European colonization.

At the heart of this baseless and base allegation is the fact that the Palestinian Mufti of Jerusalem, Al-Hajj Amin al-Husseini, had close ties to the German leader Adolf Hitler, and even spent part of the war in Berlin. While this much is true, al-Husseini’s sentiments were not those of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians, to say nothing of the rest of the world’s Muslims. To use al-Husseini’s ties to Hitler as a means to defame and discredit Islam and Muslims as fascists is misleading and has to be challenged.

In fact, there were several Palestinian brigades in the British Army who actively fought the spread of fascism. The existence of these Palestinian brigades was more indicative of the mood of the Arab and Muslim masses, than al-Husseini’s misguided actions. Therefore, when al-Husseini issued his call for a Muslim “Jihad” against the allied forces his plea was largely ignored. The fascist “Jihad” never materialized. The reason for that is simple. It had no significant support from the masses of Muslims.

The Palestinian Muslims were not alone in terms of their participation in the anti-fascist effort. Hundreds of thousands of North and West African Muslims assisted in the liberation of France from the German occupation and the French Vichy government. Upwards to half of the free French forces that landed in southern France in 1944 were Africans, the overwhelming majority of them Muslims. Among their ranks is a group referred to as Senegal’s Secret Soldiers, a group of Senegalese Muslims who played a major role in the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation.

One of this country’s staunchest Muslim allies in the struggle against the fascist menace was the Moroccan king, Muhammad V. He not only worked strenuously to insure that Moroccans supported neither the French Vichy government nor the Nazi effort in North Africa, but he also courageously supported Moroccan Jews during the war years.

Farther east, hundreds of thousands of Muslims enrolled in the British Indian Army. On January 1, 1945, there were 447,580 Punjabi Muslims in the British Indian Army. This number constituted 32% of the army’s troop strength, a percentage tremendously greater than the percentage of Muslims in the overall population. These Muslim soldiers were deployed in all of the major theaters of battle in the fight against the Axis powers and performed admirably. They were firmly supported by the political leader of the Muslims in India, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a fervent critic of Hitler.

The claim of widespread Muslim support for Hitler is further belied by the fact that Turkey, at that time the strongest independent Muslim nation, maintained strict neutrality for most of the war. When the Turks did enter the war they did so on the side of the Alliance. The Turks broke all diplomatic and economic relations with the Germans in August of 1944, and declared war against Germany, February 25, 1945. These moves were instrumental in the defeat of fascism. Besides the political importance of Turkey’s declaration of war against the Axis forces, her entrance into the war on the side of the Alliance deprived Germany of one of its major supplies of chromite, an essential element in her steel production.

Perhaps the greatest testimony to the Muslims who actively opposed fascism is the work of the Paris Mosque in protecting Jewish children from the Nazis, who were sending French Jews: men, women, and children to perish in the death camps of Eastern Europe. The mosque itself was built by the French government in appreciation of the 500,000 Muslims who had fought for France during World War One, with 100,000 losing their lives in the trenches. It is estimated that the mosque helped to save over 1,700 Jewish children, by providing them with shelter, transit, and Muslim names. Below is a copy of a pamphlet that circulated among Algerian Muslims in Paris at the onset of the Nazis’ campaign against the Jews in France:

Yesterday at dawn, the Jews of Paris were arrested. The old, the women, and the children. In exile like ourselves, workers like ourselves. They are our brothers. Their children are like our own children. The one who encounters one of his children must give that child shelter and protection for as long as misfortune - or sorrow - lasts. Oh, man of my country, your heart is generous.

It is a great shame that sinister propaganda like Obsession is allowed to be disseminated in this country. Similarly vile hatemongering would never be allowed were it directed at Jews, African Americans, gays or other segments of the American population. It is a greater shame that supposedly reputable newspapers such as The New York Times have participated openly and actively in that campaign. However, the greatest shame is for us Muslims to sit back and do nothing. We have to fight back with the truth. We have to organize to disseminate the truth, and to inform the citizens of this land of who we are as Muslims, the truth about our religion, and our history. Most importantly, we cannot allow the honor and dignity of our innocent coreligionists, whose sacrifices have enriched humanity, to be trampled on and violated by individuals who have placed themselves in the service of a sinister and nefarious agenda

Monday, October 06, 2008

Q. What is the relationship between belief in tawhid [editor: i.e. the recognition of the Oneness of God] and morality? I am asking with the intention of [asking a] follow-up: For those individuals who were born into a polytheistic faith but who are morally and ethically very upright, what does the Qu'ran say of their judgment? I know that associating partners with Allah (SWT) is one of the biggest sins, but I am having trouble grasping why someone who lives honestly, sincerely, generously, etc. should be so severely punished. Are we not judged on the basis of our actions?

A: Recognizing and affirming the Oneness of Allah, i.e. tawhid, is the epistemoloical and ontological basis of morality in our religion (din). Professing that there is no god but God (la ilaha illa llah) implies that one affirms that no one decides that an act is right or wrong but Allah and that none decides the relative degree of rightness or wrongness of an act but Allah.

So, if a person is raised as a polytheist (mushrik) and dies as such, we affirm that they will not be treated unjustly by Allah in the afterlife. Qur'an: "Nor is Allah unjust to His slaves".

Note: One should strive to achieve certainty (yaqin) on this point, since it is a basic element of our belief (iman) and doubt about this matter is akin to thinking badly of Allah which is an enormity (i.e. a major sin), at the very least.

Specifically, there are several possibilities:

Case 1: If a polytheist (mushrik) is presented with Islam during his life and accepts it, he becomes Muslim, thereby and, assuming that he dies on Islam, will enter the Garden.

Case 2: If he refuses Islam after it is offered to him, he is a disbeliever (kafir). If he dies in that state, he is promised an eternity in the Fire and forbidden entry into the Garden, as indicated by numerous univocal, clear passages (ayat) of the Qur'an and mass-transmitted prophetic traditions (ahadith). Again, Allah will not have wronged them or treated them unjustly in the least.

Case 3: If the prophetic invitation to worship the One God never reached him (e.g. he lived during the period between two prophets or he was never informed that there was a Prophet named Muhammad that invited people to surrender to God by recognizing that there is no god but Him) and he dies in this state, then some of the religious scholars (`ulama) affirm that he is not punished in the afterlife because Allah does not punish without sending a Messenger. Qur'an: "We do not punish until we send Messenger". Others of the `ulama hold that he may be punished as a disbeliever polytheist because the natural inclination towards recognition of the One God (fitra) that Allah has created in human beings is evidence enough against him. Allah knows best. Whatever the case, we affirm that Allah will not have treated them unjustly in the least.

N.B.: As Muslims, we should avoid giving preference to our own ethical intuitions (i.e. suppositions and whims as to what should be right and wrong or how relatively right or wrong some acts should be compared to others) over Allah's statements. It is simply not for a reasonable person--not to mention a Muslim--to say to himself, "Well, a person who behaves in a manner that seems good or moral to me, but just happens to do what the Creator of the Heavens and Earth has said is the worse act that can be done (i.e. associating partners with God), should be judged acceptable by God and not punished." Islam, i.e. Surrendering to God means, among other things, recognizing him as the Judge (al-Hakam). We are judged on the basis of (more precisely, the intention behind) our actions. In our ethical system, the basis of actions that is associated with salvation in the afterlife is belief (iman) in God and the Last Day.

N.B.: As for describing a person who does not recognize God as God as living honestly or sincerely, clearly people who are not yet believers can have good personality traits and do acts that are apparently good. Not only do we not deny this but we affirm it since Allah affirms it in the Qur'an. But going the next step and suggesting that apparently good deeds, without belief (iman), must be acceptable to God (whereas Allah stresses good deeds and belief in the Qur'an), because these criteria are consistent with our own ethical intuition, is logical inconsistent with tawhid and runs contrary to revelation.

May Allah guide us to the best in this world and the next.

The Needy Slave of Allah,
Taha bin Hasan Abdul-Basser

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blessed Feast of the Fast-Breaking (`Id Mubarak)! May Allah accept from us all!

Now that the blessed month of Ramadan is over, our study group (majlis) should be starting up again! May Allah bless our efforts and grants us beneficial knowledge and accepted actions.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A precious site with lists and actual downloadable reproductions of hard-to-find printings of Arabo-Islamic texts that were first printed nearly 100 years ago...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The following are some notes that a sister, Maria Khan, wrote up on the Pre-Ramadan workshop I have been doing at Harvard for the last 5 years or so. Last year, Shaykh Suheil Laher and I did a combined session for the Harvard Islamic Society and MIT MSA. May Allah reward the sister and benefit people with it.

Notes on the Harvard Ramadan Intensive
Maria Khan
Fall 2007

Instructors: Shaykh Suheil Laher (MIT Muslim Chaplin) and Ustādh Taha Abdul-Basser (Harvard Islamic Society Muslim Chaplin)
Where: Harvard Islamic Society Prayer Space, Harvard Yard
When: September 2007


Ramadan is one of the practices upon which Islam is built. It is obligatory (wājib) for all ethically responsible (mukallaf) Muslims to seek and obtain a basic understanding of the key formal aspects of the Ramadan fast, so that they can perform a valid Ramadan fast and achieve the spiritual benefit associated with fasting the month. True spirituality is associated with belief and practice; it is only through sound belief and acceptable practice that one can heighten one’s spiritual attainment; hence the need for a solid understanding of the formal aspects of Ramadan fast.

Imam Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazali’s (d. 505/1111) spoke of three levels of fasting: 1) Common level fasting: which is to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse; 2) elite level fasting: which is to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse and to abstain from sinning with tongue, heart and the other faculties and limbs and 3) “elite of the elite” level fasting: which is to disengage one’s heart-mind (qalb) from all thoughts that do not bring one closer to Allah.

0. Repentance (Tawbah)
0.1 Three Components
0.1.1 Regret
0.1.2 Discontinuation of the sin
0.1.3 Resloution to never to do it again
0.1.4 Restitution, when the sin is against another person
1. Basic Terms
1.1 Ḥukm (plural aḥkām) is an ethico-legal value (e.g. obligatory, commendable, neutral, offensive and impermissible).
1.2 The Shar'ia (Islamic sacred ethics and law) is made up of aḥkam.
1.3 Fiqh is a deep understanding of ethico-legal values of human acts based on indicants (i.e. evidence) from the Qur'an and Prophetic Custom (Sunnah); Fiqh is knowledge of what is permissible (halāl) and impermissible (harām). Fiqh is “discovering” the ethico-legal values of the Sharī`a.
1.4 Sawm means “abstaining” in the Arabic language in general. In fiqh sawm = abstaining from food, drink, etc from true dawn to sunset as an act of devotion for Allah.
1.5 Fard 'ayn = personal obligation
1.5.1 As opposed to communal obligation (farḍ kifāya)
2. Fiqh of Fasting
2.1 Performing the Ramadan fast is a personal obligation (fard 'ayn) for each ethically responsible Muslim who does not have a shari`a-recognized exemption
2.1.1 A child who becomes mature during the day must abstain from those things that invalidate a fast for the rest of the day.
2.1.2 An insane person who gains sanity during the day must abstain from those things that invalidate a fast for the rest of the day.
2.1.3 A person who becomes Muslim during the day must abstain from those things that invalidate a fast. A convert need not make up the missed fast.
2.1.4 Exemptions Sickness: If fasting will aggravate the sickness, or delay the healing, of a person, that person does not have to fast. They must make up the days later when they are in good health. Strenuous physical exercise, like working out or heavy labor is discouraged, as it weakens the body. Travel: Traveling on a journey of 48 miles or more. If one feels as though there is no hardship in one's travel then one may fast. One must fast until one is actually traveling. A traveler must make up the missed fast. A traveler who has returned home and is not fasting should abstain from those things that invalidated a fast (in public and private) until sunset. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Pregnant and nursing women are exempted from fasting if they fear for themselves or their children. Hanafī school [madhhab (plural madhāhib)]: A pregnant or nursing woman can just make up the fasts. Shāfi`i and Ḥanbalī schools: If the pregnant or nursing woman feared for her child's health (only) and not her own, then she must perform substitution (fidyah), i.e. feed a poor person every day for each day of fasting that she missed, in addition to making up the fasts. Old Age: Very old people who are weak and will not regain their strength are exempt from fasting and must perform substitution (fidyah), i.e. feed a poor person for each day of fasting. Menstruation: A woman who is menstruating is exempt from fasting and must make up the fasts she misses later. A woman who is not fasting due to her menstrual cycle but who regains the ability to fast during the day must abstain (or should [Shāfi`i]) from those things that invalidate a fast.
2.2 Valid Fast
2.2.2 For a valid (ṣaḥīḥ) fast one must abstain from food, water and sexual intercourse from true dawn until sunset (maghrib). Refraining from talking the entire day is prohibited.
2.2.3 Intention One must make a separate intention (niyya) for each day of Ramadan that one is fasting. One makes the intention to fast during the night, before each day of fasting. One is not required to vocalize the intention of fasting. One makes the intention one's heart.
2.2.4 Fasting Begins at True Dawn Definition: If one observes the eastern horizon during the night (in optimal conditions which are not available in most cities) one sees two appearances of what could be called “the dawn.” The first dawn is “false dawn” (al-fajr al-kadhib); the second, which is more lateral in its spread is “true dawn” (al-fajr al-sadiq). It is sunnah to stop eating a short while (10-15 min) before Fajr even though it is allowed to eat until the time. In a hadith in Sahih Bukhari, Anas ibn Malik (the personal attendant of the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) asking Zayd ibn Thabit (one of the scribes of the Qur'an) how long the interval was between when the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم) stopped eating and fajr. Zayd ibn Thabit's response was the amount of time that it took to recite fifty ayāt of the Qur'an. Another lesson to be drawn from this hadith: The scribe of the Qur'an, Zayd ibn Thabit, was closer to the Prophet (صلي الله عليه وسلم), during Ramadan than was his personal attendant, Anas ibn Malik. So we should read, contemplate, and keep in our memory the Qur'an as much as possible in Ramadan as it is the month in which the Qur'an was revealed.
2.2.5 Fasting Ends at Sunset Sunset is when the sun disappears below the horizon. It is suggested to add 3 minutes to the calculated timings for sunset. It is a Prophetic custom (sunna) to break the fast when the as soon as day has ended (i.e. as soon as the sun has set).
o It is impermissible to intentional refrain from eating during the night after a day of fast and then fast the next day.
2.3 Invalidating a Fast
2.3.1 There are three (3) ways to invalidate a fast indicated by the Qur'an Eating Eating something that is not normally eaten (e.g. pencils, dirt, pebbles) invalidates a fast. Drinking Engaging in sexual intercourse Masturbation invalidates a fast. A husband may kiss his wife as long as it does not lead to sexual intercourse or ejaculation. Note: Hanbalis and Maliki schools: Even the emission of pre-ejaculation fluid invalidates the fast (in case of kissing, masturbation or other physical contact). Hanbali and Maliki schools: Even pre-ejaculation fluid invalidates the fast (in case of kissing, masturbation or other foreplay physical contact).
2.3.2 Three ways to invalidate a fast indicated by aḥādith Inducing vomiting Inhaling something through the nose Therapeutic blood-letting that weakens the patient Note: according to the majority of scholars, invalidation by means of the third of these, i.e. therapeutic blood-letting, is abrogated.
2.3.3 Idle talk is discouraged.
2.3.4 Backbiting (ghība) reduces the value of one's fast.
2.4 Consequences of Invalidating the Fast
2.4.1 If one unknowingly invalidates one's fast by eating, drinking, engaging in sexual intercourse, etc.--i.e. if one breaks it out of genuine forgetfulness--then one’s fast is still valid. One need not make up that fast.But, it is obligatory to stop eating and drinking as soon one realize’s (i.e. remembers) and one must then continue fasting for the rest of the day (i.e. not eat, drink, etc. until sunset).
2.4.2 If one knowingly invalidates one's fast by engaging in sexual intercourse, then one must perform expiation (kaffārah), one must either: Free a slave or Fast for two months consecutively or feed 60 poor people
2.4.3 If one knowingly invalidated one's fast by eating or drinking anything which provides nourishment or medical benefit, then the fast is invalidated without disagreement. Hanafi school (but not the Shāfi`ī school): In addition, expiation (kaffārah) is required.
2.4.4 If one knowingly invalidates one's fast by any means other than those covered above (e.g. by eating sand or pebbles, or by masturbation) then the fast is invalidated, but expiation (kaffārah) is not required.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"And who is better in speech than one who invites towards Allah, does good and says, 'I am indeed one of the Muslims!'?"

Inna li-llah wa-inna ilayhi raji`un (To Allah we belong and to Him do we return). News reached yesterday of the death of Warith al-Din (W.D.) Mohammed. May Allah have mercy on him.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

While a few first years and some other members of the community have been gathering in the Harvard Islamic Society Prayer Poom (Canady E) for salat al-isha' and salat al-tarawih, most of the students have yet to return to campus. Things should pick up this week.

Tomorrow at the Prayer Room (5;30-7pm) there will be a Chaplain Open House, in sha'Allah. First-years and others interested in the Islamic Society should feel free to stop by.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I missed the New England Imams' Council meeting today. Shaykh Suheil Laher tells me that the Council met this evening and, as expected, no member reported that any reliable report had reached him of the crescent moon having been sighted anywhere in the world. Since, according to Council's methodology, tonight is the 30th, tomorrow night, Sunday, August 31, will be the first night of Ramadan and Monday, Sept 1, will be the first day of fasting. The Council will make an offical announcement tonight in sha'Allah. I will send out the announcement insha'Allah to the Harvard Islamic Society lists.

May Allah accept.

Over the last few weeks I have been participating in a series of telephone conferences at the invitation of the New England Imams' Council (NEIC). The Council is essentially composed of the 10+ Imams (prayer leaders) of the major mosques in the Greater Boston Metro Area. There are imams from elsewhere in Eastern Massachusetts (e.g. Worcester, Burlington) and Rhode Islam. The meetings are organized and led by Imam Talib Abdullah Faaruuq (Amir and Imam of Masjid li-Hamdillah). The group meets every year, for the past 5 years or so, just before Ramadan, in order to coordinate a unified announcement of the confirmation the sighting of the moon, which ocassions the beginning of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and the month of obligatory fasting, in Islamic law.

For several years now, the Council has held meeting during the last days of Sha`ban (the month before Ramadan) in preparation for their meeting on Sha`ban 29. On Sha`ban 29, they meet in order to evaluate open source (e.g. media, blog) reports of crescent moon-sightings in tradtional Muslim societies in the East of North America. The Council looks for a convincing large numer of announcements from multiple countries in order to overcome suspicion of political manipulation and the like. For similar reasons, preference is given to announcements made by authorities that are known to base their announcements on eyewitness testimony as to the sighting of the crescent moon.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Check out Shaykh Musa Furber's e-Nisab site. It is a very useful and informative web resource that offers Muslims (and non-Muslims) periodically updated financial data related to zakat, the obligatory alms that Muslims who have saved up wealth exceeding the exemption limit (nisab) are required to pay to the poor, needy and other deserving memebers of sociey once a year.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My friend, Shaykh Abdullah bin Hamid Ali, member of the Zaytuna faculty, is about to release his latest publication, a translation of Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali's important work on creed, Iljam al-`Awaam `an `Ilm al-Kalam. An excerpt from the first chapter is available on the Lampost Production site.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Update: It appears that our teacher, Shaykh Nizam Yaquby, regrettably, will *not* be able to vist us at Harvard this summer...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Al-hamdu li-llah, I am back from the Fawakih Qur'anic Arabic Intensive Program. May Allah accept my efforts and those of the coordinators and students. Since Marisa Stroud, one of the attendees, took excellent notes on my presentation, I may have a detailed summary to present soon.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

In sha'Allah I am leaving today to deliver a series of lecture (a mini-course) at the Fawakih Qur'anic Arabic Intensive, a month long Qur'anic Arabic program hosted at the Legacy Institute Indianapolis, IN. May Allah accept and bless our efforts and those of all the instructors, attendees and participants!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Interested seekers should consider reading a noteworthy post, Framing The Maqasid ash Shar’iah Debate: A Call To Prepare For The Liberal Onslaught, by Abu l-Hussein on Shaykh Suhaib Webb's blog. As the title suggests, the essay addresses the tendency among liberal, modernist and post-modernist Muslim intellectuals to co-opt the traditional Islamic concept of the "Aims of the Sacred Law" (maqasid al-shari`a) in order to lend authenticity to their various theological, ethical, political, social and strategic agendas.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shaykh Nizam may be coming back to Harvard later in the summer....Stay tuned...

Monday, May 05, 2008

A benefical translation by our brother, Shaykh Ustadh Abdullah Ali, of a lecture by Shaykh Muhammad Ta'wil, teacher in the ancient Qarawiyyin Mosque, on the special characteristics of the Maliki madhahb.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I will be teaching at the Fawakih Qur'anic Arabic Intensive in early July, in sha'Allah. Stay tuned.
The second session of the "Essentials" Workshop (i.e furud `ayn) took place last Fri. evening. We covered conviction (al-iman) and, briefly, inner excellence (ihsan). May Allah accept our efforts!

In sha'Allah, there is a intensive on the fiqh (ethics) and adab (etiquette) of financial issues, "Striving in the Path of Allah with One's Wealth," this Fri. 1-2pm @ the Harvard Islamic Society Prayer Space.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Al-hamdu li-llah. The first of two sessions of the annual "Essentials Workshop"--a brief intensive that the Muslim community at Harvard has been holding every year, at least once a year, for the last few years--took place last Fri. Although I was late again (may Allah forgive me and reward the attendees for their patience!), I think that it was beneficial. May Allah accept! Part Two will be this Fri. in sha'Allah.

As I have been presenting for years, it is a concise presentation of the personal obligations (furud `ayn) that every mature Muslim should beb aware of and perform, focused through the lens of the famous Gabrielian Hadith (hadith jibril). In the past, I have used the Hadrami Shafi`i primers al-Risalat al-Jami`a or Safinat al-Najah, in addition to the text (matn) of the hadith, but this time we focused almost exclusivley on the text of the hadith, with indicant-texts and supporting texts from the Qur'an and Sunna mention as I was able.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Al-hamdu li-llah, Shaykh Suheil Laher (MIT Chaplian) and I were able to sit down and share some food with Shyakh Suhaib Webb, who was visiting Boston this past weekend on a educational trip. We discussed some of the issues facing the Muslim community in America, particularly college-age youth.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Al-hamdu li-llah, I got a chance to catch up with Imam Siraaj Wahhaj (May Allah grant him sucess in achieving that which He loves and that with which He is pleased) at the Worcester Islamic Center. The Imam was delivering a fund raising keynote for al-Huda Academy.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Al-hamdu li-llah, I recent returned from a visit to beautiful Bellingham, WA, where I met with Mr. Monem Salam and other representatives of Saturna Capital Advisers, manager of the Amana Mutual Funds, one of the oldest shari`a compliant financial entities in the North America. I also had the pleasure of meeting Shaykh Humza Chaudhry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Al-hamdu li-llah! StraightWay Ethical Advisory, a consulting partnership focusing on Islamic financial ethics has been launched. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani and I are the Group's Principals. May Allah bless it and its fruits. More on this later in sha'Allah!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani (Toronto) visited Boston this past weekend. It was a blessing to spend some time with him and his gracious host, Shaykh Sami` ul-Ihsan Khan (who is a student at the Harvard Law School) and the newly minted Doctor of Philosophy, Dr. Harun Spevack, Director of the Bukhari Institute. The Bukhari Institue coordinated Shaykh Faraz's trip, along with the MSAs at BU and Northeastern (may Allah reward them all).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Recently, an op-ed by appeared in the Harvard Crimson that criticized the University for allowing the Harvard Islamic Society to perform the adhan (lit. announcement, the traditional Muslim call to prayer) in the Tercentenary Theater. Members of the Islamic Society shared the adhan with the University community in the early afternoon of each days throughout Islam Awareness Week. The issue--along with the other recent Muslim-related controversy at Harvard, i.e. the University's decision to set up womens' hours at one of its many gyms--was mentioned in a short but fair piece that was recently published in the NY Times. While the authors of the Crimson Op-Ed appear to raise reasonable questions about the nature and limits of tolerance and pluralism at Harvard, on closer inspection, their objection to the Islamic Society's performance of the adhan for the University community appears to rest on a rather tenuous definition of the limits of public religious expression.

I will not attempt to deal with the problems raised in the Op-Ed comprehensively here. One of our major contentions with the article's authors argument, however, is that, although they attempt to do so, they in fact fail to convincingly explain why performing the adhan on campus differs from other religious expressions that are allowed to be performed in public on campus. They argue that performing the adhan in public, since it contains the Two Testifications (shahadatyn) "I bear witness that there is no god but God; I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of God (in Arabic)" and the Statement, "There is no god but God (again in Arabic)," is 1) an act of proselytization and 2) offensive to those who believe that that God does not exist, that there are gods other than God or that Muhammad (upon whom be peace and blessing) is not the Messenger of God. They argue that other expressions, such as the public lighting of the menorah or the ringing of church bells from Memorial Church (which is a steady feature of the sonic landscape here at Harvard) do not share this proselytizing and offensive aspect and therefore should not be supressed by the University (as they call for it to do with the adhan). The question that I leave the reader with however, is the following: Is it in fact the case that other religious rituals do not convey their performers' affirmation of core principles of the religions with which they are associated? More on this later in sha'Allah...
An excellent post from Ustadh Abu Eesa Ni`matullah on his occassionally humorous blog about the current revival of the practice of holding intense, marathon recitations of major hadith collections. My teacher, Shaykh Nizam Yaquby, told Shaykh Suheil Laher (MIT) and me, when he visited us at Harvard last year, about several blessed recitations of this type that he has attended. He mentioned, for example, a recitation of the entire Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal under the supervision of the "Shaykh of the Hanbalis", Shaykh Abdullah Ibn `Aqil (may Allah preserve him!), in his home in Eastern Arabia! In fact, Shaykh Nizam will be attending a serial recitation of this type, in the Grand Mosque of Kuwait, from April 17 to 25. Private sessions start every morning and public sessions last from `Asr to 10pm at night!
On Fri., March 14, I participated, along with our dear friend `Abdur-Rahman Syed, in an evening discussion of Islam and Violence at Northeastern, the first event of the Islamic Society of Northeastern's Islam Awareness Week. The title of my presentation was "Does Islam Have a 'Violence' Problem?: Theological, Ethical and Strategic Considerations." The strategic consideration including personal and public policy suggestions, and were quite interesting--if I must say so myself!:)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Even a fairly casual observer of the mainstream media and blogosphere will have noticed that the Harvard University administration's decision to provide women-only hours at the QRAC, one of the University's many gymnasiums, has attracted a significant amount of attention. Regrettably, a great deal of confusion, hostility, ignorance and inaccuracy has characterized the treatment of this issue, not only on anti-Muslim, Islamophobic blogs and talk radio, but also in the mainstream media, even the campus paper! As Chaplain at the Harvard Islamic Society (the primary Muslim students' organization at Harvard University), I support the University's decision to provide this opportunity to women who do not wish to workout in front of men and would encourage people--even those who, for one reason of another, find themselves violently opposed to all things Islamic--to make a good faith effort to get the facts right! A good place to start would be with the Harvard Islamic Society press release and other helpful statements, such as this or even this.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Messenger said: "The sun and moon are two of God's signs. They are not eclipsed because of the death or life of anyone. So when you see that [i.e. an eclipse], pray and supplicate until that which you are experiencing [i.e. the eclipse of the sun or moon] is uncovered."(Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim).

Subhanallah. In the Boston area, we just experienced a very visible, truly spectacular total lunar eclipse (the totality lasted about 1 hour!), during which we were blessed with the opportunity to engage in the Prayer of the Lunar Eclipse (salat khusuf al-qamar), a confirmed practice of the Prophet Muhammad (salla llahu `alayhi wa-sallam). Al-hamdu li-llah. The students at Harvard gathered for prayer during the Eclipse. I regrettably missed the opportunity to be with them and prayed by myself at home.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I came across an interesting article in Forbes that was published two days ago. The article was essentially about the need for more fuqaha'. Although this piece--and others like it that have appeared in the press recently--stress the need for more traditional Islamic ethicists within the context of one particualr field (i.e. contemporary finance) it should be noted that the need actually pressing in several areas of human activity--including (but not limited to) the following:

military ethics
intellectual property ethics
environmental ethics
medical ethics

Monday, January 21, 2008

A precious study by Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah on the well-known issue of qiyam jama`at maqam al-qadi, i.e. a community of Muslims collectively fulfilling the role-function of the Islamic judiciary in the absence of a qualified magistrate. This issue is of obvious importance to Muslim communities living outside locales in which there is an Islamic judiciary, as medium to advanced students of fiqh, can recognize. Enjoy. More comments to follow later, in sha'Allah!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The following are notes from my recent appearance on "The Family Tree," a local Boston radio program on WRBB 104.9 hosted by local activist, Ms. Latifa Ziyad Turner.

In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

May peace be upon you.

I testify that there is no god but Allah, alone without partner. I testify that Muhammad is Messenger of God and His Servant.

Today I want to speak to you about speaking truth to power.

Speaking truth to power is an expression that one can hear on people's tongues a great deal nowadays. It means to point out a flaw, to say that something is wrong, to note that all is not right, in the presence of authority, of the wealthy, of those in command. Many think of it as a political act: Speaking out against a war, for example. This is speaking truth to power. This is important. However, speaking truth to power is more: it is a comprehensive practice that applies to the external, the internal, the personal and the social.

God says: "O you who have believed, fear God and say a word that hits goes to the points (qawlan sadidan)." The commentators notes that this 'word that goes to the point' refers to the Statment "there is no god but Allah." The statement really does "hit home": all other truths flows from it. A person who lives this truth is drawn, pulled by the demands of basic consistency, to live true in every area of his/her life.

The Prophet Muhammad (may peace and upon whom) taught that the best struggle, the best jihad, is a word of truth in the presence of a tyrannical leader. This is speaking truth to power.

The Prophet Muhammad (may peace and upon whom) taught the believers to speak truth even if it is difficult. And speaking truth can be difficult. When every one around you, for example, says that making money is what life is about--and the truth is that making money in itself can not save any one--then speaking and living truth can feel like swimming against the current.

Faith is intricately linked with speaking truth to power. We bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the One, the Only, the Lord of all that exists, the All-knowing, All-powerful. This means that we know that only God can benefit us or harm us. Not our boss, our leaders. A person that internalizes this is freed from the paralysis of fear of every would-be tyrant.

Speaking truth to power means being ready to hear the truth when in position of responsibility. As husbands, are we ready to hear truth from our wives? As parents, our we ready to hear truth from our children?

It means pointing out what is wrong with ourselves. God tells us in the Qur'an to stand up as witnesses even if against our relatives and own folk. This requires us to be real with ourselves.

The Prophet (may peace and upon whom) taught that speaking truth to power can be an expresion of loyalty: "'Religion is loyalty.' They said 'To whom.' He said 'To God, His Book, His Messenger, to the leaders of Muslims and Muslims in general'"

May god makes us people who speak truth to power in the comprehensive sense of the expression and illuminate our hearts.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A week or so ago, I literally stumbled across some complaints that have apparently been made by workers at an Indianapolis-based real estate group against their employer. The employer is poised to act as the manager of an aspiring shari`a-compliant real estate fund (see below for use of the term "aspiring"). Since I am a member of the fund's shari`a consultant committee, I am very interested in these claims. I have not verfied the claims and therefore can not comment on them or their consequence, should they be verified, for the shari`a compliance of the fund once it comes up for review. In sha'Allah, I will update this space as more information becomes available to me. I have contacted an individual, mentioned in several press reports and blogs, who is apparently familiar with the details of the complaints. I am waiting for more information from this individual.

For now, I would like to make a few quick remarks:

* In traditional Islamic ethics (fiqh), treating one's workers fairly is an obligation (wajib). This obligation is indicated by the general signification of multiple passages (ayat) of the Qur'an and multiple, explicit Prophetic traditions (ahadith). As such, this obligation has been transmitted--and related issues discussed--in detail by master ethicist-jurists across centuries of Islamic intellectual history.

* The fund has not yet been launched. Therefore, of course, the fund has not been reviewed by the committee for shari`a compliance. To repeat: the committee has not opined as to the whether the fund is shari`a-compliant. (Hence the use of the phrase "aspiring shari`a compliant fund.")

* The committees known in the shari`a compliant finance sector (aka the "Islamic finance" sector) as "shari`a supervisory boards" are, in essence, ethical compliance review boards. I therefore strongly encourage any party that is aware of possible ethical violations to bring these issues to the attention of the ethical boards of the shari`a compliant financial entities in question. This is why such boards exist. This tactic has been effective on numerous occassions in the past.
Q: How can one become more sincere?

A: You become more sincere by realizing (i.e. deepening and concretizing) your awareness of the One who is the only worthy target of your actions, Allah (God). This is done in many ways. Among them are the following:

* Reflecting on Creation (e.g. the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky, the water cycle, vegetation, animals, human beings themselves, your own body, etc) in order to comprehend what they indicate of Allah's Beauty and Majesty

* Reflecting on the afterlife (e.g. the Tribulations of the Grave, the Questioning by the Two Angels, the Resurrection, the Gathering, the Accounting, Crossing the Bridge)

* Performing your obligations

* Striving for mindfulness in your prayer

* Shunning bad deeds

* Mentioning Allah frequently

* Reciting and reflecting on the Qur'an

* Monitoring yourself scrupulously, both inwardly and outwardly

* Taking yourself to task

May Allah make us all servants of His who single Him out as the target of all our deeds and states.
A typically beneficial post from Imam Zaid (may Allah preserve him) on "Islam and Honor Kilings"

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Posted Jan 5, 2008

For that reason, we ordained for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a soul for other than murder or spreading corruption in the land, it is as if he has killed the whole of humanity… Qur’an 5:35

One of the gravest charges levied against Islam, in terms of its alleged antipathy towards women, is the claim that it encourages a phenomenon known as honor killings. This un-Islamic practice consists of the murder of female family members who are seen as dishonoring their families through real or perceived acts of indiscretion, such as premarital sexual relations or unapproved dating. This charge has been intensified recently due to the tragic murder of a Pakistani Canadian teenage girl, Aqsa Parvez.

The practice of honor killings has absolutely no sanction in the Qur’an, the Prophetic practice, or in the evolved systems of Islamic law. In the case of fornication or adultery, the only way a charge can be levied against an individual, male or female, is through confession, which is discouraged, or by four people actually witnessing the male organ penetrating the female. Even if four people witnessed a naked man engaged with a naked woman, but could not actually testify that they witnessed penetration, their testimony would be rejected.

In a somewhat related issue, it should be noted that in three of the four Sunni schools of law, as is the case with all of the major Shiite schools, pregnancy is not a proof of fornication, as the possibility of rape exists in such a case. Therefore, if a single woman were to become pregnant, according to the overwhelming majority of Islamic jurists, there is no basis for punishing her. In the few well-publicized instances where a pregnant woman has been threatened with death, the minority opinion of the Maliki School of law was unjustly evoked, as occurred in Nigeria, or criminal malfeasance occurred as is the case in Pakistan.

In the case of dating, there is no Islamically-mandated punishment for a male or a female seeing a member of the opposite sex against the wishes of their families. Such situations should be handled with counseling, compassion and a healthy dose of common sense. Muslim immigrants who have migrated to the West should realize that they have placed their children in an environment where there is a tremendous amount of anti-Islamic peer pressure. This is especially true if they have placed their children, as was the case of the young lady who was recently murdered in Canada, in public schools. Children who succumb to that pressure should not be seen as “bad” kids, for by the standards of the society that has shaped them, no matter how strong their home environment is, they are normal. To kill a female guilty of an offense such as dating or dressing like her peers under such circumstances is nothing short of cold-blooded murder, and no Islamic authority can argue otherwise. < /P>

The overwhelming majority of Muslim societies are free from the practice of honor killing, although it does endure in some parts of the Middle East and South Asia. According to statistics released by the United Nations in 2000 there are approximately 5,000 deaths annually from “honor” killings. Even if one killing occurred due to such barbarity, it would be one too many, as the Qur’an emphasizes.

However, to use the existence of such killings to smear Islam shows the desperation and misplaced priorities of many of those levying such attacks. Most of those deaths are the pathetic acts of sick individuals, who are far removed from the letter, as we have shown above, and the spirit of Islam. An example of such an individual is Muhammad Riaz, a British Muslim of South Asian descent who died as a result of a fire he set to burn to death his wife and four daughters, allegedly because his wife resisted his attempt to arrange marriages for his daughters. His wife and daughters did perish in that fire. To present Riaz, whose daughters had neither fornicated nor dated, as anything other than a sick individual is a sad attempt to defame Islam.

To attack Islam from this angle is a case of misplaced priorities because it can distract attention from far graver abuses of women that demand immediate redress. For example, the State Department estimates that approximately 800,000 women and girls are trafficked as sexual slaves annually. The overwhelming majority of these females are taken from and sent to nominally Christian countries.

Over the last five years well over one thousand women have been kidnapped and then gruesomely murdered in Guatemala. Their bodies usually turn up after a few days, mutilated and in some instances with messages such as “death to bitches” written on them. To date only three men have been incarcerated in connection with those attacks. Would it be proper to thereby conclude that the “Christians” of Guatemala, an overwhelmingly Christian nation, have no regard for the suffering of their women? Of course it would not.

At the end of the day, attacks such as the one that resulted in the death of Aqsa Parvez are acts of domestic violence resulting from rage that emanates from a total neglect of Islamic teachings. Ms. Parvez lost her life due to such violence and perhaps there are a few other instances where Muslims women in Canada or here in the United States, have been similarly victimized. However, these instances should be kept in perspective. In the United States there are approximately 1,200 women killed every year by their husbands or intimate partners. There are other “Christian” nations where murders of this type are even higher.

The United States, Guatemala, and other countries we could mention where similar abuses occur are Christian nations. However, it would be disingenuous to use such statistics as an indictment against Christianity. These issues are an affront to humanity and require our collective attention. Until we all view the problem this way, we are in jeopardizing the health and integrity of our society.

Saying this is not to minimize the gravity of so-called honor killings to the extent that they do occur in Muslim societies. As Muslims, we are commanded to be committed to justice. That commitment entails that as a community we oppose in the strongest terms “honor” killings and take immediate action to end such a practice in our communities.

Practical steps include the following:

1. Emphasize that such killings have no sanction in the Qur’an, the Prophetic practice, or in Islamic law.
2. Declare anyone guilty of involvement in honor killings to be a cold-blooded murderer.
3. Encourage judicial authorities to enact the harshest penalties possible for anyone accused of involvement in such killings.
4. Educate our Muslim communities, especially in the West, about the un-Islamic nature of honor killings, and the pressures, nuances, challenges and complications facing young Muslims, male and female in the West.
5. Work to eliminate the double standards, and to expose the hypocrisy that exist in our communities, generally, concerning attitudes and standards relating to the indiscretions of males as opposed to females.

In conclusion, Islam honors the female, and values femininity. It is up to every Muslim to translate teachings in that regard into a beautiful reality that helps to elevate the status of women in all societies. Honor killings, domestic violence in general, murders of the type terrorizing women in Guatemala, female sexual slavery and trafficking, pornography, especially its more violent manifestations, are all crimes against humanity that we should oppose in the strongest terms and work strenuously to eliminate. If our women are not safe, physically, emotionally, spiritually, or psychologically we are all at risk, for without women men are incomplete, and without men women are incomplete. Our Prophet, peace and blessings of God upon him alluded to this complementariness when he said, peace upon him, “Women are the complimenting halves of men.” Let us all work harder to make our societies whole.