VIDEO: A Night of Praising the Prophet at Dar al-Mustafa

A night of praising the Prophet (peace and blessings upon him) led by Habib Umar at Dar al-Mustafa.

Resources for seekers:

Short Film: al-Hayat al-Dunya (The Life of This World) by Abobakr Mohammed

Short Film: al-Hayat al-Dunya (The Life of This World) by Abobakr Mohammed

al-Hayat al-Dunya (The Life of This World) from Abobakr Mohammed on Vimeo.

a Kinetic Typography for the story “Jesus and The Third Loaf”

Zaytuna College October 2010 Update – Imam Zaid Shakir

Zaytuna College October 2010 Update – Imam Zaid Shakir

A glimpse into the student life of the new Zaytuna College. Imam Zaid Shakir delivers an update on the latest happenings at Zaytuna College for the month of October.

Video: How SeekersGuidance Courses Work

Video: How SeekersGuidance Courses Work – Online Islamic Learning Made Easy

An explanation of how SeekersGuidance courses work: registration; downloadable lessons; the Seekers forums for questions; the related materials and resources; the self-study assignments; the live sessions and being able to contact or ask questions from teachers or TA’s at any time.

Saturday Night with the Habib

Saturday Night with the Habib

Religious enthusiasm in Indonesia promotes the growth of majelis led by a number of habib, descendents of the Prophet Mohammad. They teach religion using morals and the love for Prophet Mohammad, denying allegations that Islam was introduced here through violence.

ROHIM, 19, dressed in an all-white traditional Islamic outfit, wanted to spend his night with a certain habib. He always wanted to be with this habib, a person whom he believes to be a descendent of the Prophet Mohammad—through his daughter, Fatimah az-Zahra, and father-in-law Ali bin Abi Talib. At home, a poster of the habib wearing glasses, heavy robe, and a white turban is hung on the door of his room. A picture of the same habib accompanies him on the road, stuck to the gas tank of his motorcycle.

Rohim was driving fast on Monday night before the end of Ramadan fasting, and on the eve of the Idul Fitri holidays, in a convoy of motorcycles. The black jacket he wore, with “Majelis Rasulullah” embroidered in gold thread on the back, shone in the dark of the night. Seated behind him was Yakub, another youth, a neighbor in the Jagakarsa area, bearing a large green flag with “Majelis Rasulullah” written on it in Arabic lettering.

The black jacket, white fez cap and large flag are typical of youths who have foregone typical teenage pursuits in order to spend their Monday nights with a habib. However, it is well-known that they are also an unwelcome sight to city bus drivers and thousands of commuters—residents of Depok, Bogor, Cimanggis, and vicinity—who are tired from work yet are forced to navigate through the traffic created in their wake.

“All this just to go to a study meeting,” said a city bus driver in an East Javanese accent, berating the religious group in black jacekts. He did not finish his sentence, but alternatively slammed on the gas and brake pedals. Rohim, Yakub, and friends do not drive wildly on the streets. But to the bus driver and the public at large, they are no different than the overenthusiastic fans of local football teams, known as Jakmania, who also travel in droves. The bus driver drives carefully around these youths, who drive their motorcycles without using helmets.

The habib is indeed a popular figure. His picture can be seen all over: conspicuously on billboards featuring invitations to religious study gatherings held in strategic locations. Similar posters also hang on the walls of homes tucked away in narrow alleyways. Because he did not initially have a permanent location for his majelis or gathering, this habib relied on a masjid jami—a mosque where Friday congregational prayers are usually held—as a basis for his propagation in Pancoran, South Jakarta. The followers of this majelis, which he has been nurturing since 1998, began to grow in the thousands, causing traffic congestion on the roads around the mosque. Shop-houses and homes located on either side of the mosque are used as makeshift parking areas.

He is the 37-year-old Habib Munzir bin Fuad al-Musawa. The religious work he began long ago by humbly going from house to house has now grown into a large tree with many branches. Habib Munzir gives sermons on the north and south coasts of Java, and has gone as far as Bali, West Nusa Tenggara, Papua and even to Singapore, Johor and Kuala Lumpur. The Majelis Rasulullah is part of spiritual training events held in office buildings and on television stations. A kiosk has been set up right behind Al-Munawar Mosque, selling various Majelis Rasulullah paraphernalia.

After learning Arabic and Islamic law from some prominent habib in Jakarta, Munzir followed a long-standing tradition among the habib: studying religion in Hadramaut (Yemen). Hadramaut has become an interesting destination for Indonesians wanting to study religion, as Mecca has reduced the scholarships it grants to foreign students. So, at the Darul Mustafa school in Tarim, Yemen, under the direct guidance of Professor Habib Umar bin Hafidz, he studied Islamic jurisprudence, exegesis of the Qur’an, the science of the traditions of the Prophet, history, Islamic monotheism, Islamic spirituality, religious propagation and Islamic law.

“Habib Umar bin Hafidz explicitly forbids his students to hold protests or take part in practical politics,” said Ismail Fajrie Alatas, a historian and doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, United States, who studies the diaspora of the Hadrami people in Southeast Asia. Habib Umar teaches that Islam is a rahmatan lil ‘alamin (mercy for the entire world). Allah and the Prophet Mohammad continue to be the most substantial reference in matters of religion. However, he does not permit his students to harshly criticize religious jurisprudence which is different than his.

Habib Umar emphasizes individual piety, and the results can be seen in Munzir al-Musawa, a former student at Ma’had Darul Mustafa whose sermons are mostly about religiosity presented in everyday language. “I propagate the faith by introducing the gentleness of God and His Prophet, which is rarely mentioned by the religious speakers these days,” said Habib Munzir al-Musawa.

Habib Munzir does not stop there. Billboards, banners, and a band enables a wider audience to witness the events being held by the Majelis Rasulullah. Such events are carefully planned and coordinated, as if by a professional organizer. “The mosque and yard are full, all the way out into the street,” said Taufik, from Majelis Rasulullah, a committee member at the event held on Monday night at Al-Munawar Mosque.

A section of the main street in Pasar Minggu suddenly turns into a night market. Vendors along 500 meters of roadside, offer various religious study items, including fez caps, prayer beads, long white shirts and perfume. According to Taufik, some 20,000 people attend the Monday night events, many more at special events such as Nuzul Quran night in the field surrounding the National Monument, held on Thursday night two weeks ago.

Not all city youths have become enamored of Habib Munzir. In Kebagusan, Pasar Minggu, one habib has begun with a program that is no less interesting. Targeting the same audience, Habib Hasan bin Ja’far Assegaf, founder of the region’s Majelis Nurul Musthofa, is indeed trying to convince youths that spending Saturday night at his majelis is not boring. So, every Saturday night, they move from place to place. “Tens of thousands of people can show up,” said Habib Abdullah bin Ja’far, Chairman of the Nurul Musthofa Foundation and younger brother of Habib Hasan bin Ja’far Assegaf.

The roar of motorcycle convoys and the lighting of firecrackers usually kicks off the majelis, which is centered on the idea which has developed among the habib: love God and the Prophet. In the style of Wali Songo, nine wali or religious propagators who allowed room for local Indonesian cultures, he even said, “Shiar (religious promotion) requires knowledge of what is liked (by the community).” So, it is understandable why Habib Hasan bin Ja’far Assegaf, 33, who studied at the Darul Hadits Islamic Boarding School in Malang, East Java, likes to tell stories about the wali in his work. He differs from Habib Munzir, who was educated in Yemen and likes to talk about the exemplary behavior of the Prophet’s family.

Young and charismatic, both these habib realize the importance of presentation and technology. These two large majelis serving Jakarta and vicinity have websites with complete information, including the schedule of events, articles on religious studies, and group paraphernalia such as jackets and motorcycle helmets. These two majelis can be accessed at www.majelisrasulullah.org and nurulmusthofa.org. From our observation, the two are routinely updated, at least once a week.

Habib Abdullah bin Ja’far Assegaf from the Nurul Musthofa Foundation described the relationship between the two majelis as being very positive. “Competing in goodness, to be precise. Other majelis have been successful, and we have to be able to do that as well,” he said. If tensions rise on the streets, Habib Munzir has an effective way of solving it. “With the method of the Prophet: show good character to all, kiss the hand of the elders, smile a lot, and speak well of others and honor them, even in my own majelis. Because of this we do not have any enemies,” he said.

l l l

THE fasting month of Ramadan is coming to a close and Yakub, the flag bearer, is very busy. The nights of the last 10 days of Ramadan are filled with a tight schedule of events: in Empang Bogor on the 21st night of Ramadan, at the grave of Habib Kuncung, Kalibata, on the 22nd night of Ramadan, at the Al-Hawi majelis in Condet on the 23rd night, in Kwitang on the 25th night and at Pekojan (Habib Ibrahim Kramat Pulo) on the 27th night of Ramadan. Like his father, Yakub is a loyal visitor to the majelis of the many habib located around Jakarta and Bogor. These nightly activities in the last 10 days of Ramadan begin with reading religious invocations together, then reciting the asmaa ul husna or beautiful names of God, listening to a short sermon, praying the Isha evening prayer in congregation, and finishing with Ramadan’s non-obligatory tarawih prayer.

Out of empathy for the feelings of the others attending these traditional majelis gatherings, he just wears a plain white outfit with a fez, without the black jacket which is the pride of his followers at such study gatherings. Yakub intentionally avoids the impression of group exclusivity. In this way, he hopes to easily associate with followers of other majelis who seek spirituality in these blessed nights. Yakub is carrying out a tradition passed down in the family, demonstrating some wisdom in his actions.

l l l

ROHIM and Yakub from Jagakarsa, and Taufik from Kalibata, all converge on the nucleus which has the power to draw the crowds: Munzir al-Musawa, Hasan bin Ja’far Assegaf, and some other habib. Eight decades ago, a habib born in Jakarta who took up religious education in Hadramaut and the Hijaz returned home and began a routine activity which turned into a huge event.

He was a vendor who lived in Kampung Kwitang, Central Jakarta. In the morning, this habib would open his shop in Tanah Abang. After serving his customers and taking care of other needs, Habib Ali bin Abdurrahman al-Habsyi would get ready to head back when the sun was at its zenith, from 11am-12pm. He would head home, but not directly. On horseback, he would travel to numerous neighborhoods, offering his wares, while talking with local kiai about various religious matters.

He kept this routine for years, until he finally formed a vast network, out of which he got the idea to start a majelis as a forum for those local kiai to give their religious talks. The place and time was set, Sunday mornings, in Kwitang. Ever since then this weekly tradition has continued on the same spot. This study gathering is so popular that no other Jakarta kiai hold gatherings on Sunday morning.

Habib Ali al-Habsyi—known better as Habib Ali Kwitang—is the one who has done the most to popularize the maulud in Jakarta. Maulud is an Arabic text which tells about the birth of the Prophet, which is always recited at important events, such as at births or circumcisions. The Maulud is important because the story also touches on the theological concept that God placed Mohammad’s light as a creation which constitutes the beginning of all creatures, because it is a manifestation of the light of God. “So, if the original inhabitants of Jakarta wanted to hold a maulud, a habib had to be there. It was not deemed good unless a habib was there,” said Ismail Fajrie Alatas.

l l l

TWENTY thousand people in a daily study gathering, a million at special events, such as maulud, Nuzul Quran, and Israf Mifraj (the ascension and night journey of the Prophet). “They promote the faith by showing a like-mindedness among the people, so that the public is willing to come out in droves to their gatherings,” said Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali. Even if they are not mobilized, not given buses, not given food, they still come willingly, sincerely. “I am from a political party. To mobilize 10,000 people, buses and bag lunches are prepared. It costs a lot. But not this one.” He sees a positive side: rather than fight in the streets, the youths are being invited to invoke God and bless the Prophet.

Four decades after the departure of Habib Ali Kwitang (1875-1968), something natural has happened: the regeneration of the habib. In line with the developments of the day, much has changed in how the habib conduct education and propagate the faith. Even so, the more things change, the more they remain the same, such as temptations from politicians. Habib Abdurrahman al-Habsyi, who now holds the Sunday morning gatherings in Kwitang, is careful to remind his followers of that likelihood. “Even though we know large groups are targeted, sometimes political seduction is done subtly, almost unnoticed,” he said.

Idrus F. Shahab, Harun Mahbub, Ahmad Taufik

The Blessed Tree – Video Trailer

The Blessed Tree – Video Trailer

The rediscovery of the tree where as a child the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) met with Bahira, the Christian monk who foretold the Prophethood of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him).

The Blessed Tree – Trailer from AGCaustralia on Vimeo.

Some background:

Meeting with the Monk Bahira

The Prophet’s first meeting with a Christian occurred when he, as a young boy aged between nine or twelve, joined his uncle’s merchant caravan for a trip to Syria. The Christian whom the Prophet Muhammad encountered was the monk, Bahira, who was living in Bostra, a Roman colonial city. Monk Bahira was known for his belief that a prophet was soon to appear among the Arabs. Bahira had studied old manuscripts, where he had learned of the coming of a final prophet, and he was convinced that this prophet would appear in his own lifetime. He was particularly interested in the Arab merchants who visited Syria, to see if his conviction would come true.

Bahira’s attention was struck in particular by a caravan from Makka, which to his amazement, was shaded by a cloud that hovered closely above them. The cloud moved as the caravan moved, and did not go any further when they stopped; it was as if it were providing shade for a person or people in the group. When he also noticed that a tree lowered its branches over the caravan to provide further shade, he immediately realized that this caravan must contain an extraordinary person or persons. He invited all of the individuals in the caravan to a meal at his place, but none of their faces revealed the capacity of the expected Prophet. He inquired if there was anyone who had not joined the meal; the answer he received was that Muhammad had been left behind to watch the caravan. He was keen to see Muhammad; and when he actually saw him he realized that he carried all the signs that the awaited Prophet was to have, as described in his books. He told Muhammad’s uncle to take him back to Makka as soon as possible in order to guard him against potential enemies.

Taken from: Interactions between Prophet Muhammad and Christians

Video: True Religion Celebrates Diversity – Eid 2010 Sermon by Imam Zaid Shakir

True Religion Celebrates Diversity – Eid 2010 Sermon by Imam Zaid Shakir

On the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr, Imam Zaid Shakir delivers a sermon on the theme of unity in diversity. Brought to you by Zaytuna College, www.zaytunacollege.org. Video Credit: Shafath Syed.

Video: Yemen’s many shades of Islam – Shaykh Abdul Karim Yahya Interview on CNN

Video: Yemen’s many shades of Islam – Shaykh Abdul Karim Yahya Interview on CNN
Shaykh Abdul Karim Yahya is interviewed in Tarim, Yemen on the day of Eid.

Shaykh Abdul Karim Yahya is interviewed in Tarim, Yemen on the day of Eid.

Video: The Qur’an 101 – A Brief Introduction to the Holy Quran – Faraz Rabbani

The Qur’an 101 – A Brief Introduction to the Holy Quran – Faraz Rabbani of SeekersGuidance from Faraz Rabbani on Vimeo.

The talk was supposed to be delivered in Gainesville, FL, at the University of Florida.

A short (30 minute) presentation by Faraz Rabbani on the reality of the Qur’an; what is the significance of it being Divine Speech; its purpose; and the reality of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) as the “Living Qur’an.” Book recommendations are also given for translation of the Qur’an; introductory books on the Qur’an; and introductions to Islam and Islamic beliefs.

Video: “Be Peacemakers” by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf – Eid Al-Fitr 2010

Video: “Be Peacemakers” by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf – Eid Al-Fitr 2010

From a proposed Islamic center in New York City, to a proposed Quran burning in Florida, Muslims in the West have again come under siege. On the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf delivers a sermon filled with hope, balance and guidance to navigate the troubled waters. Brought to you Zaytuna College.

-‘Everyday the headlines are about Muslims. Who did this? If you ask me I say Allah swt did this because Muslims have been sitting on this religion for so long, and not sharing it the whole world is turning against them. Because this is the age of the Internet this is the age of mass communication, this is the first time in human history where you could be in a Christian country and openly talk about Islam and they won’t burn you, they might burn the Quran but they won’t burn you.’

-‘Muslims have to rise above their own egos, tribalism, their self-identity and their own images of worth that they put higher than the deen sometimes.’

-‘As Shakespeare said: “Their is a tide in the affairs of men, which if taken at the flood leads onto ventures, fortune, omit it then you spend your life in shallows and miseries. Upon such a sea are we now afloat.”‘

-‘Thomas Clearly said, “American’s can’t even think about thinking about Islam” so we have to break down the barriers and let them know who we are. This is an immense opportunity people, the Prophet salallahua alayhi wasalam only asked for one thing from Quraysh: “Just let me talk to people.” That’s all he asked for.’