Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reciting the Word: the science and art of tajwid

led by Hafidh Na'eel Cajee
Sunday 2-4pm @ Harvard's Canaday Musulla(3 mins from Harvard T stop)
Looking to improve your recitation and have Sunday afternoon open? Trying to memorize Juz Amma, but need direction? 
Learning Tajwid provides you with the opportunity to draw near to the Divine through the articulation of His Word. The two hours will be divided between theory (25%) and practice (75%). Each class will begin with a 30-minute plenary session covering the theory of tajwid (A soft copy of Tuḥfa al-Aṭfāl will be provided in English and Arabic). For the remaining hour and a half, the teacher will sit with each student and help them work at their pace toward their goals(to memorize Yaseen, Juz Amma, or to simply read fluently)

Regular attendance is a given. You just can't climb stairs without all the steps.
If you have any questions please feel free to contact:  Na'eel Cajee 

This event is free and open to all interested brothers. Sisters' tajwid classes TBA shortly.

Please join us and forward widely!

LECTURE: "Allahu Jamil: Reclaiming Beauty as an Islamic Value" by Mr. Abdur-Rahman Syed (Harvard College '97, Harvard Islamic Society Member, Fmr Harvard Islamic Society Graduate Advisor)
(Saturday Jan 29, 2011)
186 Chestnut Hill Ave. Brighton, MA 02135

Monday, January 24, 2011

A well-done article in the National (UAE) profiles the Muslim Urban Professionals group (MUPPIES). Harvard connections abound. Go Muppies!

At age 21, Farhan Syed, then a recent graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, started a new job at Accenture, the giant consulting firm. Almost immediately, he was confronted with an enviable problem. The enviable part: his superiors took him and his newly-hired colleagues out to lunch constantly over their orientation period. The problem: Mr Syed was fasting. His start date fell during Ramadan, and as a Muslim he could not partake of any of the lavish, corporate-sponsored meals.

"How was I going to explain this to the executive sitting next to me?" he remembers. "Here I was surrounded by people who not only didn't share my faith, but most of them knew nothing about it whatsoever. I promised myself that if I made it, I wouldn't let anyone else face that kind of awkwardness." Now 34, Mr Syed has made it. He works in Palo Alto, California, as a consultant at Bain and Co., a top-tier management consulting firm that accepts few of the legions of pedigreed hopefuls who apply. To his Berkeley degree, Mr Syed has added an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution. And he has succeeded in helping younger Muslims navigate the worlds of high finance and consulting through his involvement with Muslim Urban Professionals, a service organisation with a two-pronged mission: to help Muslims maintain their religious identities in these heavily Judeo-Christian professional environments, and to provide advice about the fiercely competitive schools and firms to which all ambitious business types - Muslim and otherwise - aspire.

Known by its absurdly endearing nickname of Muppies, the organisation was founded in 2006 by three men scarcely out of school themselves. Faisal Ghori, now 27, Hassan Jaffar, 28, and Umair Khan, 28, formed the group after comparing notes on experiences such as that which Mr Syed describes. "When I started at an investment bank" - where hours are notoriously long and the workload Sisyphean - "I found the culture to be really homogenous," recalls Mr Ghori, now an associate at Emerging Markets Management, an asset management firm based in the US capital. "Was I going to be able to leave in the middle of the day for Friday prayer?"

Mr Jaffar brings up another challenge, one he experienced as a young management consultant at McKinsey & Co. (he is now an associate at Seneca Capital, a hedge fund) "Drinking was a big deal," he says. "Whenever there was a social event, or if people from work went out on Friday nights, it was always at a drinking venue. As a practicing Muslim, I can't drink, and I can't be in a place where people are drinking. I didn't want to be antisocial, because I'm inherently friendly and I enjoy meeting people and going out."

Mr Jaffar says his choice to forego the social outing led to alienation and exclusion from the camaraderie of his colleagues. Then, he says, it occurred to him to "step in and be an organiser", and he started planning group brunches and daytime meet-ups in the park. Problem solved. These tactics, born of workplace anxiety, are just the kinds of solutions that Muppies offers its members, who now number more than 600. Mr Ghori points out that many Muslims in finance and consulting are the children of immigrants who have spent their careers in different professions. Parental guidance is therefore, he says, not helpful.

"My parents came to the US from Pakistan in the 1960s," he explains. "A lot of Pakistanis in that wave of immigration were engineers and physicians; they weren't in the professions that we are. If I were looking for a residency in dermatology, then I would be all set." Mr Ghori and his Muppies associates believe that there is "perhaps a half-generation" of Muslims ahead of them in their fields, but that Muslims are essentially new to the finance and consulting professions. He is hard-pressed to identify any well-known role models for Muslims in these fields, mentioning "the head of quantitative trading at Citigroup, and the head of strategy at Merrill Lynch", without naming them. Mr Syed self-deprecatingly calls himself "an elder statesman" at the age of 34. After cogitating, he does, however, nominate some Muslim stars on the US business scene: Omar Hamoui, the CEO and founder of AdMob (recently sold to Google for US$750 million), and Kamal Ahmed, a managing director of Morgan Stanley.

In addition to its US chapters, Muppies has recently launched a Gulf chapter in Dubai, a move Mr Jaffar, who is originally from Oman, attributes to the recent development of the United Arab Emirates as a business hub. "If you grew up Emirati, what do you or anyone in your family know about investment banking?" There is a similar lack of accumulated familial and cultural knowledge about finance and consulting in the Gulf as there is among Muslim families in the US, he maintains.

The Dubai chapter, which currently has between 20 and 30 members, will take its lead from the other chapters, says Mr Jaffar. "We have an informal presence in Dubai. However, we are planning on launching a formal chapter soon." The last Muppies "event" was the TEDxDubai conference, which was organised, supported and attended by Muppies members. The primary modality in which Muppies works reflects its post-millennial date of origin. Many of the organisation's activities take place virtually, either through its website and e-mail blasts, or on sprawling conference linking scores of members to a moderator who leads discussion. During a teleconference last year, the Muppies co-founder, Umair Khan, answered questions from young Muslims seeking admission to Harvard Business School (Mr Khan is a second-year MBA candidate at Harvard). Most queries could have come from believers of any faith: What is the best strategy for answering the essay questions on the application? How important is the interview portion of the screening process? But Mr Khan's answers sometimes took a distinctly Islamic twist, peppered with insha'Allahs.

A moderator of another Muppies teleconference, also regarding admission to Harvard, advised listeners that they should not shy away from referencing their faith in their application essays "if it's an important part of who you are as a person". The moderator, Sofina Anne Qureshi, an American who is studying at the Harvard, then recounted her own admission essays, in which she told the committee of her work as a chairperson of Ramadan dinners at her undergraduate university. "Just be careful of the Arabic-to-English translations," she cautioned.

"Give the essay to someone who isn't Muslim, and let them read it through. If they say, 'What the heck does that mean?' then you know you need to explain better." Although Muppies relies on female members such as Ms Qureshi to help conduct its operations, the founders concede that the leadership is, for now, entirely male. "At some of our events, the majority of participants are women," Mr Jaffar says, explaining the absence of women at the top by saying that Muppies came about as a collaboration between friends. One of Muppies' partner organisations, the Muslim Finance Professionals Association, is headed by a woman, Dahlia Mahmoud, and Mr Jaffar says that Muppies is actively seeking to place women in leadership positions.

As part of its goal to aid those seeking advice about professional opportunities, Muppies often visits universities, where the organisation is hosted by Muslim student associations. Information sessions offer students the chance to quiz accomplished bankers and consultants about their path to success. (All are welcome at these sessions, regardless of faith, Mr Ghori notes). Thus far Muppies has paid visits to Berkeley, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, MIT, Harvard, and the University of Texas.

In addition to the access to seminars, conference calls and job listings, Muppies members have a powerful tool at their fingertips - a database of all Muppies searchable by employer and alma mater. Mr Ghori encourages members interested in, say, Goldman Sachs to call up fellow Muslims with experience at the bank and ask for advice on applying. True to their ambitious natures, the founders of Muppies aren't content to be idle. They have recently expanded the group's outreach to include Muslim professionals in the governmental and non-profit sectors.

There is also talk of a Muppies capital fund, which Mr Jaffar says will take investment from interested members and channel it to community-level businesses relevant to the Islamic faith; he cites a start-up halal meat processing plant as an example. Investments would be sharia compliant, with investors seeking only their principal in return. That body would grant scholarships to Muslims seeking to study business and make a bid for success in the growing list of professions under Muppies' remit.

Although many American Muslims may feel the need to educate non-Muslims about the realities of Islam, Muppies does not concern itself with that particular task, though their "experiences are very much framed by September 11," Mr Ghori explains. He tells the story of one friend who was advised by an older Muslim to shave his beard when applying to an investment bank, while another used his middle name rather than his Muslim-sounding first name when seeking jobs. Mr Ghori himself was once asked in a job interview for his opinion about the Danish cartoon controversy. "Totally inappropriate," he says, shaking his head.

Yet if Muppies seeks in any way to control stereotypes, it is by advising members to remain true to themselves and visibly succeed in their chosen fields. "Be communicative about the functional things like taking Eid as a holiday and fasting during Ramadan," Mr Syed tells his patrons. "You don't need to explain the entire faith of Islam.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A worthwhile summary of an unpublished study by Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah in which he calls for a renewal (tajdid) of the traditional Islamic discipline of usul al-fiqh (ethico-legal methodology) has been posted on his official site. In sha'Allah, I will translate portions (particularly the summary of Sh Bin Bayyah's "suggestions") and annotate them in the future. No time now.

في بحث غير منشور يقدم العلامة عبدالله بن بيه -نائب رئيس الاتحاد العالمي لعلماء المسلمين- لملحق (الرسالة) مقدمة مشروعه الخاص في تجديد أصول الفقه؛ حيث يعكف الشيخ على بلورة رؤيته الخاصة لتجديد علم أصول الفقه. وكان الشيخ قد قدم لمشروعه في محاضرة ألقاها بالدار البيضاء تحت رعاية “مؤسسة مسجد الحسن الثاني” على جمع من المتخصصين والباحثين والمهتمين بالشأن الشرعي.

التجديد مصطلح لايعرف

ابتدأ العلامة ابن بيه رؤيته بتعريف التجديد حيث أكد أن "التجديد مصطلح يكثر في الكتابات تناوله وعلى الألسنة تداوله؛ ولكنه غير محدد المعالم ولا محدود المدلول، فهو من تلك المصطلحات المعروفة جدًا إلى حد أنه لا يمكن أن يعرف؛ لأنه في أصله عبارة عن فعل متعد تظهر تجلياته في متعلقاته، فبقدر ما يتسع متعلقه وتتعقد علاقته وتتشعب أدوات الفعل وإمكانات الانفعال تنفسح مساحات المدلولات".

وأشار إلى أن التجديد من المفاهيم المتمددة أو المشككة أو ما يسمى بكلمات التذكير والإثارة غير المحددة يصعب حصره بحدود الحد والرسم وإن كان يسهل التعاطي معه من خلال المثال والعد والسرد والتقسيم والسبر؛ لأنه حالة وعلاقات بين مؤثر ومتأثر ينشأ عن التأثير انفعال ليتشكل من جراءه الأثر أو النتيجة.
ثم سرد في بحثه بعض الاستدلالات والتعريفات للتجديد من السنة ومن بعض كتب التراث، وذكر العلامة ابن بيه أن التجديد يتجلى في خمس صور: الأولى: تجديد ما اندثر من الأحكام في حياة الناس. والثانية: تجديدٌ بإنشاء طرائق من شأنها أن تخدم الدين، ولا يبعد أن يكون إنشاء منهج في أصول الفقه من هذه السنن. الثالثة: تجديدٌ يتعلق بمستجدات حياة الناس لوصلها بحبال الدين. الرابعة: اختراع وإبداع وليس ابتداعًا، ومنه ما أحدث السلف من تدوين الدواوين والجمع للتراويح وإحداث السجون، وقد يكون منه ما أحدث الخلف من الاجتماع للذكر وتلاوة القرآن على خلاف في ذلك. الخامسة: تجديد يتعلق بالاجتهاد في الأحكام إنشاءً في قضايا لم يسبق فيها نظر للعلماء، أو قضايا سبق فيها نظر للعلماء وظهر ما يعارضه إما لضعف مستند الأول طبقًا للبرهان أو تغير زمان أو اجتهاد في كيفية تطبيق الأحكام، وهذا موضوع أصول الفقه.

ثم تساءل ابن بيه عن الحاجة إلى تجديد أصول الفقه قائلًا: هل التواصل بأصول الفقه في الوقت الحاضر مفضٍ إلى إنتاج الأحكام في مستجدات الوقائع؟ وهل هناك مستجدات تفتقر إلى استنباط؟ نافيًا إجابة السؤال الأول، مثبتًا الثاني؛ مضيفًا أن الحاجة داعية إلى مراجعة عملية الاستنباط التي كانت مدعاة لإنشاء أصول الفقه وهي وظيفتها الأساسية، وعملية الاستنباط ضرورية لوجود مستجدات، وسوق الاستنباط كاسدة لوجود طلب لا تقابله بضاعة صالحة بل يقابله عرض كثير لا يستجيب للحاجات ولا يلبي الاحتياجات.

فالحديث عن التجديد في أصول الفقه هو بالضرورة تجديد في الفقه ذاته؛ لأنه هو المستهدف في الأصل والنتيجة المتوخاة. مؤكدًا ضرورة التجديد الذي يختلف عن معنى الإحياء والإصلاح وحتى التنوير في الفكر الغربي الذي يعني تفكير بلا سقف.

دعاوى التجديد

وبعد أن أكد الحاجة إلى التجديد في أصول الفقه عرض إلى ما أسماه (دعاوى) تجديدية لأصول الفقه لها خطورتها -بتفاوت بينها- على أصول الفقه بل والشريعة، وهذه الدعاوى بحسب ابن بيه تتمثل في ثلاثة اتجاهات، الأولى: دعوى الحكمة والمصلحة غير المنضبطتين بضوابط التعليل ووسائل التنزيل مما سيحدث ارتجاجًا في بناية الاجتهاد وزلزلة لأسسه. الثانية: الدعوى المقاصدية مجردة عن مدارك الأصول وعارية عن لباس الأدلة. الثالثة: دعوى تاريخية النص وظرفيته.

واتهم ابن بيه هذه "الدعاوى" بأنها هروب من ديمومة النصوص، وقفز في المجهول، وخروج من العلم إلى الجهل، وبحث عن الوداعة والسهولة دون تجشم سبل البحث الجاد وتقحُّم عقبات علوم الشرع بالعدة والعتاد. ووصف هذه الدعاوى بأنها أقرب إلى التبديد منها إلى التجديد.

أصول الفقه والعلل الأربع

ثم شرع في طرح رؤيته من خلال صورة تقريبية تعرف عند المناطقة بالعلل الأربع التي تمثل الماهية ولوازمها، وهي: المادة، الصورة، الغاية، الفاعل. وكما تتجسد فلسفة الأشياء الحسية من خلال هذه العلل يرى ابن بيه أنه يمكن أن تتجسد فلسفة القضايا الذهنية من خلال ذات العلل. لذا فقد حاول فلسفة أصول الفقه وتفكيكه من خلال هذه العلل؛ فقد عرض "لمادة" أصول الفقه التي يكون منها استمداده وهي سبعة أصول: القرآن، والسنة، واللغة العربية، والفقه، وفتاوى الصحابة وقضاؤهم، وعلم الكلام، والمنطق الأرسطي، ويمكن الاستعاضة عن الأصلين الأخيرين بالعقل باعتباره مرجعيتهما.
وكان البحث في "الصورة" طبقًا للمفردات التي وضعها تحت عنوان "دلالات الألفاظ" مرتعًا خصبًا –كما يرى ابن بيه- وميدانًا فسيحًا للتجديد من خلال إعادة التركيب والترتيب والتبويب، وكان لمبحث مدلول الدليل نصيب وافر ارتكز على مسألة: الوضع والاستعمال والحمل التي انبثقت الدلالات بألقابها المختلفة واشتبكت المعاني بشياتها المتعددة بين وضوح وغموض منها. واقترح ابن بيه تضامن علوم اللغة من جديد في عملية التعامل مع الظاهرة اللغوية على مستوى المفردة أو دلالة الإسناد ووضع مقدمة عن اللغة تشتمل على الاشتقاق بأنواعه، وعن أنواع المجاز والكنايات والمعاني الأصلية والثانوية في الإسناد –في علم المعاني- ومعهود العرب في الخطاب لإبعاد ظاهرية التفسير التي سماها الباجي بدعة الظاهرية لأن من شأن ذلك أن يساعد على اكتشاف مكنونات النص وإمكاناته واحتمالاته.

الاستفادة من علم "اللسانيات" الغربي

وطالب العلامة ابن بيه بإضافة ما توصلت إليه المعارف البشرية في اللسانيات والهيرمينوطيقيا لتقريب صورة العلاقة بين اللفظ والمعنى، وما يعنيه المتكلم وما يفهمه المتلقي. وأكد أن تلك إشكالية لا تزال أصول الفقه وعلم الكلام والتفسير تعاني منها.

وشدد في بحثه على ضرورة مراجعة الأدوات؛ لأن "للتجديد أدواته، كما لكل بناء أدوات، فقبل الشروع في البناء علينا أن نخترع الأدوات أو نفحص ما لدينا من أدوات؛ لنرى "صلاحها وصلوحيتها". ومعنى ذلك أننا سنتعامل مع الكليات التي تمثل أساس البناء ومادته. والتجديد بمعنى التوليد -الذي يعتبر الغاية- هو الوصول إلى التصور الجزئي وهو في حقيقته متردد بين اتجاهين: الكلي والجزئي ولهذا فإنَّ القسمة الأرسطية المتمثلة في الانتقال من الكلي إلى الجزئي وهو القياس المنطقي، ومن الجزئي إلى الكلي وهو الاستقراء، ومن الجزئي إلى الجزئي وهو قياس التمثيل تظل صالحة. وأشار ابن بيه إلى أن تحديد الغاية أمر ضروري في كل عمل واع وتصرف هادف، إذ إنه يجيب عن سؤال لِـمَ؟ في حين أن المادة في محل التجديد، تشير إلى جواب: عن أي شيء؟
أما الصورة فهي البناء الذهني الذي يجيب على ثلاثة أسئلة هي: ماذا؟ لماذا؟ كيف؟ فدلالات الألفاظ في الصورة تجيب عن ماذا؟ والتعليل يجيب عن لماذا؟ والتنزيل يجيب عن كيف؟

إنه كالسرير طبقا لمثال أبي حامد رحمه الله تعالى في "معيار العلم" فإنَّ الغاية من السرير أنْ يكون مستقرًا صالحًا للاعتماد عليه اضطجاعًا ونومًا وجلوسًا، والمادة من الخشب. أما صورته فهي أن يكون في وضع وكيفية تلبي الغاية التي يطلب لها، كأن تكون له قوائم يثبت عليها وطول وعرض وجلد وثير.
وأكد على أن التجديد مفتاحٌ لتغيير أوضاع الأمة في كل مناحي الحياة وميادين العلوم ليكون انطلاقًا من القوى المعنوية والتاريخية للأمة عبر معادلات ومرتكزات جديدة تنشئ فكرًا خلاقًا مستوعبًا ومضيفًا ومتجاوزًا الاستجابة والتكيف إلى الاختراع والإبداع، والأخذ والعطاء، والشراكة الحضارية والندية.
ويضيف: "إن التجديد تطور نابع من عبقرية الأمة وحاجتها، شامل لكل ميدان، مبلورٌ للمشروع الحضاري الواعد الواعي، مدمجٌ القيم والتاريخ في بوتقة الحاضر والمستقبل، في تناغم وتناسق، في خطاب قديم في مضامينه، جديد في طروحاته، أصيل في مقارباته، ولهذا فهو الجديد بالنوع، القديم بالجنس الذي يجعل من التراث حافزًا، ولا يقيم منه حاجزًا، إنه سيكون بمثابة التنوير للغرب مع فارق المرجعية".

مقترحات في التجديد كما يطرحه العلامة ابن بيه

ويقترح الشيخ عبدالله بن بيه في بحثه لإعادة التركيب والترتيب والتبويب:
1- في المادة: إبدال عنوان التحسين بمكانة العقل في التشريع.
2- في مدلول الدليل: وضع مقدمة عن اللغة تتضامن فيها العلوم اللغوية، لغةً ونحوًا وبلاغةً وصرفًا، بالإضافة إلى الأصول، بما في ذلك دراسة مقارنة عن المنهج الغربي في اللسانيات والهيرمينوطوقيا انطلاقًا من ثلاثي الوضع والاستعمال والحمل لتوليد الدلالات في ثلاثة محاور.
3- في منظومة التعليل: مقدمة عن الأقيسة الثلاثة الشمولي والاستقرائي والجزئي تؤصل للتعليل.
4- مقدمة عن المقاصد وضبط التعامل مع المقاصد بخمسة ضوابط لإدماجها في الأوعية الأصولية، وهي:
- التحقق من المقصد الأصلي الذي من أجله شُرع الحكم.
- أن يكون ذلك المقصدُ وصفًا ظاهرًا منضبطًا؛ لأنه إذا لم يكن كذلك فلا يمكن التعليل به.
- أن نحدد درجة المقصد في سلم المقاصد هل هو في مرتبة الضروري أو مرتبة الحاجي لأن التعامل معهما ليس على وتيرة واحدة، وهل هو مقصد أصلي أو تبعي ووسيلة؟
- النظر في النصوص الجزئية المؤسسة للحكم لأنه من خلالها يمكن ضبط التصرف في ضوء تأكيد الشارع على الحكم أو عدمه للتعرف على المقصد ومكانته وضبط التعامل معه إلغاء أو إثباتًا لما يعارضه من الضرورات الحاقة أو الحاجات الماسة.
- هل المقصد المعلل به منصوص أو مستنبط؛ في الحالة الأولى يرتفع الحكم بزواله وفي الثانية لا يرتفع لكنه يمكن أن يخصص.
5- في التنزيل: وضع جملة من أبواب أصول الفقه في أربعة مؤطرات تدرس فيها علاقة الأحكام بالواقع والمتوقع (الحال والمآل)، والمصالح والمفاسد، والأعراف والعوائد، والاستعانة بعلم الاجتماع في هذا المجال، ودراسة الواقع الدولي وتأثيره على النظم والتشريعات المحلية، ومسألة الحريات الفردية والجماعية المنوه عنها في الدساتير ومواثيق حقوق الإنسان، ومدى ملاءمة ذلك لنظام العقوبات في الشريعة المطهرة.
بالإضافة إلى إحداث باب في هيكل الأصول بعد باب الاجتهاد لتمرين الباحثين على تطبيق القواعد الأصولية على المسائل الجزئية على غرار كتب التخريج.
6- في الفاعل: أن يكون التجديد في الشريعة جماعيًا تماشيًا مع روح العصر، يشترك فيه الخبراء مع الفقهاء.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A nice lesson about laziness Sh Abdullahi Adhami < SeekersGuidance (Sh Faraz Rabbani)

Lecture transcript re-posted from here with slight modifications. Please forgive any formatting and phonetic spelling mistakes.

Posted with confirmation from Shaykh Abdallah Adhami. To listen to more of Shaykh Abdallah Adhami’s insightful and refreshing lectures please visit Sakeenah

bismillahi al-rahman al-rahim

Laziness, or lethargy can come from running low on “spiritual reserves,” from being in uninspiring settings — but, you know, I really believe that for the mu`min the center of tranquility, the sakina, the inspiration, all of that, is within. I know it is very hard — but by the grace and mercy of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala), it is in there. Sometimes what appears to be laziness could also be misinterpreted as “burnout” or exhaustion because we’re too hard on ourselves. May Allah (jalla thana`uhu) bless us with vision and wisdom to see the difference. The du`a that’s specifically against laziness is in the Sahih of Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) on the authority of sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (radiyallahu’anhu):

“… Allahumma inni a’outhu bika {Oh Allah I seek protection in you}
mina al-hammi wa al-hazan, {from anxiety and sadness}
wa al-’ajzi wa al-kasal,* {and inability and laziness}
wa dhala’i al-dayni, {and the burden of debt}
wa ghalabati al-rijal …” {and the “humiliation” of men}*

The word “‘ajz” is not just inability or incapacity. It indicates a certain “lack” to act that comes from inner weakness. As in the hadith of Tirmidhi (rahimahullah), our beloved messenger (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “al-kayyisu man dana nafsahu wa ‘amila lima ba’da al-maout. wa al-’ajizu man atba’a nafsahu hawaha, wa tamanna ‘ala Allahi al-amani.” - the intelligent or, vigilant servant is ever blameful of himself, and works for what comes after death; the ‘ajiz is the one who lets himself follow his whim, and then wishes for good things from Allah. Notice how the one who “follows his whim” is attributed to “weakness.”

Abu al-Hasan al-Mada`ini related the following (du’a): ”Allahumma la takilna ila anfusina fa na’jaz, wa la ilan-naasi fa nadi’” — Oh Allah! do not leave us to our own selves for we would weaken. And, do not leave us to the whims of people for we would be lost.” When one is always concerned with how people think, that would ultimately affect her sincerity. Sayyiduna ‘Umar (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said: “Whoever purifies his intention to be sincere to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’aala), Allah would take care of what would be between him and people.”

This is reminiscent of the hadith of Zayd ibn Aslam (rahimahullah) that I related to you from the Muwatta` where he said: “Fear Allah (have taqwa), and people would respect or, have an affinity toward you — even if they hated to.” ‘Ajz comes from being low on spiritual reserves and from the ghaflah — or, absent-mindedness, that comes from being content with little deeds. Al-imam al-Hasan al-Basri (rahimahullah) said: “the righteous ’salaf’ were as fearful of their good deeds being squandered or not being accepted as the present generation is certain that their neglect would be forgiven.” Please remember that al-Hasan passed away 110 A.H.

In this capacity, Rabi’ah al-Qaysiyah al-’Adawiayh (rahimahallah) said: “We need to repent to Allah (ta’aala) for the way that we repent to Him.” In this capacity, sayyiduna Sa’id ibn al-Jubair (radiyallahu ‘anhu) said: “The reward of a good deed, is a good deed after it. The ‘reward’ or, jazaa` of a bad deed is a bad deed after it. May Allah (’azza wa jall) save us from ghaflah here, and humiliation in the akhira– amin. ‘Ajz is also synonymous to dha’f, as in Sura al-Nisa`: “wa khuliqa al-insanu dha’ifan.” Some scholars of language distinguish between dha’f — with a fatha; and dhu’f — with a dhamma. The former is weakness in body or in intellect or opinion; the latter is weakness in body only. In Surat ar-Rum, Allah (jalla thana`uhu) said: “He created you from dha’f, and provided you with strength after it …”The word kasal implies a certain “heaviness” or, tathaaqul to do something, rather than inability. Since the ‘ajz is the more complex inner dynamic associated with defeatism, we are taught to seek refuge from it first, because it is the inner weakness that leads to outer laziness and lethargy. Likewise, we are taught to seek refuge from anxiety because it leads to sadness.

Therefore, in the Sunan of Abu Dawud (rahimahullah), our beloved messenger (sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “. . . Allah judges for ‘ajz, so be “mentally vigilant” - - ‘alayka bi al-kays - - and if something overwhelms or overcomes you, then say: ‘hasbiyallahu wa ni’ma al-wakil’.” Allah (jalla thana`uhu) describing the believers who were tested in Surah al-’Imran: “fa ma wahanu lima asabahum fi sabili Allahi wa ma dha’ufu wa ma istakanu…” — and they did not “act weak” in the face of what befell them in the path of Allah, and they neither exhibited inner weakness, nor acted as if humiliated…” Our beloved messenger (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) warns: “He is not among us — i.e. does not embody our adab, who willingly agrees to humiliate himself, without being coersed.” When this happens on a communal level, you have a prevalent wahn, or defeatism. It means “weakness of the sort that no longer enables its bearer to stay ‘upright’.”

And, so Allah (jallah thana`uhu) gives the believers the proper perspective and focus in Surat al-’Imran: “wa la tahinu wa la tahzanu wa antum al-a’laouna,” — do not become “weak,” do not grieve, for you will be dominant (i.e. high) — with the catch, however, “in kuntum mu`minin,” — if you would be believers. Surrender to Allah (’azza wa jall) first, and you rise, you transcend the need for anything, truly. This yearning to be with Allah (jalla thana`uhu) is what begets the inner sakina referred to in the beginning. Yahya ibn Mu’adh (rahimahullah) said: “The servant who is ‘aware’ of Allah (ta’aala) leaves this world not having done enough of two things: crying over himself — and yearning to be closer to His Lord (subhaanahu wa ta’aala).”

May Allah grant us awareness. Ameen.

Friday, January 14, 2011

In a surprising essay in the Guardian, ("End human rights imperialism now") Stephen Kinzer's condemns what he calls "human rights imperialism."

For those of us who used to consider ourselves part of the human rights movement but have lost the faith, the most intriguing piece of news in 2010 was the appointment of an eminent foreign policy mandarin, James Hoge, as board chairman of Human Rights Watch.

Hoge has a huge task, and not simply because human rights violations around the world are so pervasive and egregious. Just as great a challenge is remaking the human rights movement itself. Founded by idealists who wanted to make the world a better place, it has in recent years become the vanguard of a new form of imperialism.

Want to depose the government of a poor country with resources? Want to bash Muslims? Want to build support for American military interventions around the world? Want to undermine governments that are raising their people up from poverty because they don't conform to the tastes of upper west side intellectuals? Use human rights as your excuse!

This has become the unspoken mantra of a movement that has lost its way.

Human Rights Watch is hardly the only offender. There are a host of others, ranging from Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders to the Carr Centre for Human Rights at Harvard and the pitifully misled "anti-genocide" movement. All promote an absolutist view of human rights permeated by modern western ideas that westerners mistakenly call "universal". In some cases, their work, far from saving lives, actually causes more death, more repression, more brutality and an absolute weakening of human rights.

Yet, because of its global reach, now extended by an amazing gift of $100m from George Soros – which Hoge had a large part in arranging –Human Rights Watch sets a global standard. In its early days, emerging from the human rights clauses in the 1975 Helsinki Accords, it was the receptacle of the world's innocent but urgent goal of basic rights for all. Just as Human Rights Watch led the human rights community as it arose, it is now the poster child for a movement that has become a spear-carrier for the "exceptionalist" belief that the west has a providential right to intervene wherever in the world it wishes.

For many years as a foreign correspondent, I not only worked alongside human rights advocates, but considered myself one of them. To defend the rights of those who have none was the reason I became a journalist in the first place. Now, I see the human rights movement as opposing human rights.

The problem is its narrow, egocentric definition of what human rights are.

Those who have traditionally run Human Rights Watch and other western-based groups that pursue comparable goals come from societies where crucial group rights – the right not to be murdered on the street, the right not to be raped by soldiers, the right to go to school, the right to clean water, the right not to starve – have long since been guaranteed. In their societies, it makes sense to defend secondary rights, like the right to form a radical newspaper or an extremist political party. But in many countries, there is a stark choice between one set of rights and the other. Human rights groups, bathed in the light of self-admiration and cultural superiority, too often make the wrong choice.

The actions of human rights do-gooders is craziest in Darfur, where they show themselves not only dangerously naive but also unwilling to learn lessons from their past misjudgments. By their well-intentioned activism, they have given murderous rebel militias – not only in Darfur but around the world – the idea that even if they have no hope of military victory, they can mobilise useful idiots around the world to take up their cause, and thereby win in the court of public opinion what they cannot win on the battlefield. The best way to do this is to provoke massacres by the other side, which Darfur rebels have dome quite successfully and remorselessly. This mobilises well-meaning American celebrities and the human rights groups behind them. It also prolongs war and makes human rights groups accomplices to great crimes.

This is a replay of the Biafra fiasco of the late 1960s. Remember? The world was supposed to mobilise to defend Biafran rebels and prevent the genocide that Nigeria would carry out if they were defeated. Global protests prolonged the war and caused countless deaths. When the Biafrans were finally defeated, though, the predicted genocide never happened. Fewer Biafrans would have starved to death if Biafran leaders had not calculated that more starvation would stir up support from human rights advocates in faraway countries. Rebels in Darfur have learned the value of mobilising western human rights groups to prolong wars, and this lesson is working gloriously for them.

The place where I finally broke with my former human-rights comrades was Rwanda. The regime in power now is admired throughout Africa; 13 African heads of state attended President Paul Kagame's recent inauguration, as opposed to just one who came to the inauguration in neighbouring Burundi. The Rwandan regime has given more people a greater chance to break out of extreme poverty than almost any regime in modern African history – and this after a horrific slaughter in 1994 from which many outsiders assumed Rwanda would never recover. It is also a regime that forbids ethnic speech, ethnically-based political parties and ethnically-divisive news media – and uses these restrictions to enforce its permanence in power.

By my standards, this authoritarian regime is the best thing that has happened to Rwanda since colonialists arrived a century ago. My own experience tells me that people in Rwanda are happy with it, thrilled at their future prospects, and not angry that there is not a wide enough range of newspapers or political parties. Human Rights Watch, however, portrays the Rwandan regime as brutally oppressive. Giving people jobs, electricity, and above all security is not considered a human rights achievement; limiting political speech and arresting violators is considered unpardonable.

Human Rights Watch wants Rwandans to be able to speak freely about their ethnic hatreds, and to allow political parties connected with the defeated genocide army to campaign freely for power. It has come to this: all that is necessary for another genocide to happen in Rwanda is for the Rwandan government to follow the path recommended by Human Rights Watch.

This is why the appointment of James Hoge, who took office in October, is so potentially important. The human rights movement lost its way by considering human rights in a vacuum, as if there are absolutes everywhere and white people in New York are best-equipped to decide what they are.

Hoge, however, comes to his new job after nearly two decades as editor of Foreign Affairs magazine. He sees the world from a broad perspective, while the movement of which he is now a leader sees it narrowly. Human rights need to be considered in a political context. The question should not be whether a particular leader or regime violates western-conceived standards of human rights. Instead, it should be whether a leader or regime, in totality, is making life better or worse for ordinary people.

When the global human rights movement emerged nearly half a century ago, no one could have imagined that it would one day be scorned as an enemy of human rights. Today, this movement desperately needs a period of reflection, deep self-examination and renewal. The ever-insightful historian Barbara Tuchman had it exactly right when she wrote a sentence that could be the motto of a chastened and reformed Human Rights Watch:

Humanity may have common ground, but needs and aspirations vary according to circumstances.