Archive for August, 2010

Two Doors to Paradise

Two Doors to Paradise: Your Mother and Father

I remember in high school one of my close teachers, whose father had passed away, would always say: “Your parents are your two speedy doors towards heaven. One of my doors has been closed and I only have one door left open. Be sure to serve them properly while they are alive.”

Every time I would hear him say that phrase, I would pause for a moment to think about how ungrateful I was. Two gates towards heaven so accessible at my service, I would think. Later on, I realized that his saying was taken from this hadith:

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him and his family) said:

“One, who follows the orders of Allah with regards to obeying parents, shall have two doors of Paradise opened up for him.  And if there happens to be only one parent, one door of Paradise shall open up for him.” [1]

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30

08 2010

Fighting Islamophobia

As much talk there is about Islamophobia nowadays, I think hatred toward Muslims is a classic case of “The Other.” Whatever you call it, Muslims are misunderstood and misrepresented.

The latest issue regarding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” may not be a case of wanting to vilify Muslims. In some ways, I think it’s just finding someone to lash out against. Muslims just happen to fit the category in this moment in time.

The most distressing part of the discussion hasn’t been that people are angry or don’t want the mosque. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinions, and the issue brings out a lot of emotion in people.

No, the most troubling has been the insistence that ALL Muslims are a certain way, no matter the proof to the contrary.

Sure, there are Muslims who would like nothing more than to see the destruction of America. And there are those who will go to extremes to reach that end. But there are the rest of us – the majority of us, I would argue – that have the exact opposite views. Sure, we hear a lot about Islam as a “religion of peace,” but those words start sounding hollow after a while.

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27

08 2010

She Mourns the Loss of Pakistan’s Vision

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“I love Pakistan,” she said, tears welling up.  She took the edge of her duputta and wiped them away.  “I was born there and every part of me has memories of it.”

My mother-in-law lives with me.  We sat this week in the living room, just the two of us.  Her heart breaking, she lamented  the lack of assistance being given to the flood victims who are being crushed by a system that exploits poverty.

“If the wealthy in Pakistan gave Zakat as they should,” she said angrily, “we wouldn’t even need assistance from outside.  This isn’t the vision of Quaid-e-Azam.”

I watch her sit sullenly in America day after day, alienated from everything she loves:  her friends and family, the sights and smells and culture of the land of her birth.  She watches the destruction of the dream of Pakistan on the internet and simultaneously denounces and longs for her home.

And it makes me angry.

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24

08 2010

The Art of Loving Your Baby

“Does your baby sleep through the night?”
“Is she a good baby?”
“Does she let you put her down?”
“Will she let other people hold her?”

These questions are constantly asked to new mothers. Whenever somebody asked me if my new, innocent, vulnerable baby was “good,” I often wondered what a “bad” baby would be.

It took me awhile to understand that we live in a world where adults expect babies and children to be seen and not heard. The “good” baby was one who rarely cried, slept through the night, exhibited social behavior, laughed in the arms of strangers, and did not ask too much of their mothers. Throughout the 20th century, health and child care professionals advised mothers not to “spoil” babies by responding to their cries. We have been told that babies manipulate their mothers and that we should not “give in” to their “demands” or else they will try to control us.

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22

08 2010

Heart of Darkness

He was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold. . . . Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy—a smile—not a smile—I remember it, but I can’t explain . . . . He was a common trader, from his youth up employed in these parts—nothing more. He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Not a definite mistrust—just uneasiness—nothing more. You have no idea how effective such a . . . faculty can be. He had no genius for organizing, for initiative, or for order even . . . . He had no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come to him—why? . . . He originated nothing; he could keep the routine going—that’s all. But he was great. He was great by this little thing that it was impossible to tell what could control such a man. He never gave that secret away. Perhaps there was nothing within him. Such a suspicion made one pause.

Heart of Darkness –Joseph Conrad

William Deresiewicz quoted the preceding passage in a speech given at West Point. The character described is a good example of the type of leader modern society promotes; a person whose main goal in life is self-preservation and upward mobility—with disregard for the moral or philosophical implications of their transcendence. Lately, I have been reflecting on the moral requirements of just leadership. We live in a time when many of us are unaware of our moral values. Those of us who are aware are unwilling to act on our convictions.

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18

08 2010

Prioritizing Boycott: The Right Side of History

The recent attacks by Israel on the humanitarian Flotilla is yet another signal for us, as Muslims and citizens of the United States, to hold the Israeli regime accountable for its reckless and illegal behavior. Israel has consistently prevented aid from entering Gaza, including medical supplies, cement and food. Consequently, the three-year old blockade has turned Gaza into the world’s largest “open air prison,” with an entire population being slowly starved and deprived of the most basic of necessities.

The simple yet tragic truth is that Israel acts with such disregard because of the international community’s failure to hold it responsible for its ongoing occupation and apartheid against the Palestinian people.  But that is slowly changing as more and more people around the globe have begun to question Israel’s policies, with an increasing number taking more active roles and joining local solidarity movements.

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16

08 2010

Political & Social Dimensions of Surah Yusuf

“Indeed my Lord is all-attentive (lateef) in bringing about what He wishes.” (Qur’an, 12:100)

With the blessed month of Ramadan upon us, Muslims often times engross themselves in reading the Holy Qur’an. When studying the Holy Qur’an, the lay Muslim often focuses on issues of spirituality or the law, as these topics apparently impact us on a daily basis. While these two aspects of the Holy Qur’an are critical, what may occur is that the historical narratives given by Allah (swt) are often times not given proper attention. These historical accounts not only contain individual spiritual lessons, but also include social and political principles as well. In order for the Islamic Movement in the United States to continue to develop and improve, we must become in-tune with the social and political principles espoused by Allah (swt) in the Holy Qur’an.

One well-known story to Muslims, Christians, and Jews, which is detailed in the Holy Qur’an is that of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph). Allah (swt) calls this story “the best of narratives” (Quran 12:2) and devotes the entire twelfth chapter of the Holy Qur’an to it. This chapter is well known for the lessons it teaches regarding self-purification, chastity, and reliance on God. However God or Allah (swt) also teaches us social and political principles throughout this narrative, two of which I will outline below.

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14

08 2010

Hajj Rafic Labboun

For the purposes of this read you do not focus on the specifics of Hajj Rafic Labboun or his trial. I hope to elaborate more on his story in later posts. I refer to him as Hajj in this article. For any unfamiliar readers, the term Hajj refers to a person who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca, but is also used to confer respect.

Suffice it to say, he could be anyone in your community. He could be a father, husband, brother, loved one, leader, adviser, marriage counselor, spiritual guide, or any Hajji that you know. In fact he is all of these things and more. The bottom line is that his story signifies not only a tragedy for him and his family, but also illustrates fundamental problems in the American justice system and law enforcement with respect to the handling of Muslim minorities, and a problem in Muslim and Muslim communities themselves. I will focus on the last item, the Muslims and the Muslim community.

———————-

Shocked and defeated we sat in silence, the four of us, driving back from the US Northern District Court of California in San Jose. Our beloved friend had just been sentenced to 27 months in Federal prison, followed by 3 years of probation, and $102k in restitution owed on top of that.

That’s justice right? From the best justice system the world has to offer: the right to habeus corpus, the right to a free, fair, and speedy trial, protection from abuse as well as protection from cruel and unusual punishment.
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11

08 2010

Islam and Consumerism I: Empathy Overtook Apathy?

In this first installment of a series of articles on consumerism, I share a personal story that illustrates my experience with a society that neglects its poor and downtrodden and prefers material wealth and consumer goods over a holistic, felicitous society. While a short narrative might seem a strange way to open up a topic like consumerism, I think it humanizes the concept well.

It was a cold, gray day in downtown Detroit. We sat in the Pontiac sedan, surrounded by brown paper sacks full of sandwiches and snacks. We searched for the less fortunate living on the frozen concrete. Block after block…no luck.

And there she was. I asked her if she was hungry and approached her with a sack lunch. Her watery eyes squinted and her forehead squeezed as she pleaded for a ride to the local church shelter. Her voice, roughened by age and shrill with desperation, cut through this heart.
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08

08 2010

Invitation from Allah (swt)

The Holy Month of Ramadhan
On the last Friday of the Month of Sha’aban, the Prophet delivered a famous sermon about the month of Ramadan where he states “This is a month in which you have been called to the banquet of Allah. Allah has honored you in it”[1]. In less than 7 days, we are all going to attend a grand banquet by the name of Ramadhan, and the host is Allah. Typically when we are invited to a very big event we make huge preparations and spend much time beautifying ourselves.

The Preparation
You have been invited by the Al-Mighty, The Highest of high, The King of kings. Have you figured out what you’re wearing and in what state you are going to be present there? For some of us, it’s been eleven months since the last Ramadan banquet, and we’ve just accumulated more sins while our hearts have become darker. In this materialistic world, we don’t realize the effect of sin on our souls, but the angels can sense it. They can smell the bad breath of a person who has been backbiting, lying, or slandering and can see their true form in the eyes of Allah SWT. Will we be attending this banquet with a clean heart?

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06

08 2010