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.