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Can Muslims Stop The Rise of Extremism? Perhaps, If…

muslim-boys-peace-sign…We start with our own families to make sure there is a safe, non-judgmental space for everyone, all the oddities and the depressives and the questioners, so that no-one feels so isolated from their religious environment that they swing first to extremes of rebellion, drugs, gangs or suchlike, only to bounce to the opposite extreme of psuedo-religious death cults.

…We invest in the arts. Ezra Pound said that “Artists are the antennae of the race”, which I take to mean the human race. Artists are not beholden to political vetos or line-toeing: we can say what we like, and often it’s the artists who point out hypocrisies when no-one dares to. We’re like the jesters of medieval courts. But more important than that, the arts are a space in which we can renew ourselves, be freed from frustrations and heartache, find deep peace and then share it with others. We don’t need to wait to be “discovered” by the mainstream – we can create our own channels and platforms, but it needs support, time, a bit of manic sharing on social media and most importantly, investment. This might be through micro-grants or crowdfunding via sites such as LaunchGood (I recently did a crowdfunding campaign through them and they are very friendly, helpful and dedicated).

…We learn Non-Violent Communication to defuse confrontation and turn verbal abuse into a valuable way for Islamophobes to reassess their prejudices. I believe this is essential if we are to get away from defensive attitutes that turn into insular, divided realities. Read how families have soothed ancient feuds, women have pulled the rug from under the feet of would-be rapists, disputes between Israeli and Palestinian neighburs have been resolved, and millions of people worldwide have been enabled to deal with problems without resorting to fighting.

…We recommit to the founding principles of our faith, compassion and mercy. Why compassion and mercy, why not just love, straight up? Because compassion and mercy are forms of love you can give anyone, even when they’ve hurt you or treated you unjustly. You have to be a saint to truly love your tormentor, but even us mortals can hope to treat others with compassion.

…We campaign passionately but peacefully to end the roots causes of extremism, of any kind: militias and corrupt dictators being propped up and funded by our tax money ($500m of American tax dollars was sent to Syria to arm the Free Syrian Army in their fight against Bashar al-Assad…yet the FSA is the biggest source of arms and recruits to ISIS, go figure); poverty; social exclusion; racism.

…We take every opportunity to create beauty in the world. When everything looks ugly, plant roses. Write poems, paint murals (where you can), sing, whirl, do whatever you can to drown out the ugliness with its opposite. This is how we love and respect creation, how we show thanks to its Creator, how we free ourselves from fear and pessimism. This is a spiritual path that encompasses everyone, regardless of faith or practise, and does not require others to agree with us.

There will always be extremism of some form or another, somewhere or another. But at least we can say we didn’t sit and watch helplessly. There are no excuses – “A smile is charity”. You don’t need money, only determination. Now read this again without the title!

By Medina Tenour Whiteman, Cavemum

 

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Helping our children find the light in dark times, by Hina Khan-Mukhtar

“You should probably think about what you’re gonna say to kids when you go back to school on Monday,” I told my son Shaan this weekend.

He raised his eyebrows quizzically.

“About Paris … and Muslims.”

He suddenly looked irritated. “I’ve done the drill before. Every year of my high school life, I’ve had to deal with what to say and how to react. In freshman year, it was the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. The next year, it was the Boston marathon bombing. Last year, it was Charlie Hebdo. Now I’m a senior and its 127 dead in Paris. I’m a pro at this now.”

He walked away, a signal that he didn’t want me to continue with further advice or suggestions. But before I could say anything more, he turned back to me and I saw the anger on his face replaced instead with sorrow. “Isn’t that sad, Mama? Isn’t it sad that I’ve become a pro?”

I was surprised by the tears that suddenly sprang to my eyes. “I’m sorry,” I mumbled. “I’m sorry that this is your reality.”

“You know what’s really frustrating?” he asked. “Last week we had the highest number of students ever show up to our Muslim Students Association meeting. I bet you the numbers are gonna drop now.”

“Why would they drop?” I asked. “I would think that in these types of dark times, kids would find it helpful to seek solace and comfort within a larger group. Wouldn’t they want to come to the MSA where they could maybe find guidance and support from one another?”

He shook his head. “It’s easier just to stay away, to not be known as a Muslim anymore.”

I was still mulling over his words when my youngest son piped up. “How can these terrorists be Muslim? They attacked on a Friday which is supposed to be like a mini-Eid for us; it’s a holy day. And ISIS people carry a flag that has the seal of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on it. Those aren’t bad things; those are good things! How can they turn everything that’s beautiful into something that’s so ugly? They just can’t be Muslim!”

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa“It doesn’t matter if they’re actually Muslim or not,” I heard myself telling my sons for the umpteenth time. “What matters is what people’s perception of them is. That’s our reality. If the majority of the world says and thinks Muslims are doing these horrific acts, then that’s the reality we have to deal with. That’s what we have to address.”

I felt gratified to know that my boys have a hard time believing that Muslims would be the ones who would be barbaric enough to commit the heinous crimes of Friday the 13th. Whereas someone else may accuse them of just being in denial, I actually realize how so far removed from evil they are that they aren’t even able to recognize it within anyone who claims to be a co-practitioner of their faith. They simply can’t relate.

I gathered them close to me. And, as I did so, I found myself wishing once again that I could create a special protective bubble within which to encase my family. I’ve always wanted only to get through life with them in safety — not only safety of body and limb but safety of heart and soul. I want them all to be safe in their deen (religion) and to never waver in their faith, insha-Allah (God willing). It feels like we Muslims are under attack from every side these days. Please know that not for one moment do I compare myself to the refugees fleeing war-stricken lands; my loved ones and I are not tested in the least when it comes to what the Syrians and the Palestinians and the Afghans and the Iraqis and the Rohingyans and the Kenyans are suffering these days. Yet I still worry what effect today’s state of affairs will have on the hearts and minds of my charges.

So my response has been to hunker down. To create an oasis in the middle of the desert. To lead them to the center of the vortex and let the storm rage around us. The way I try to do this is by minimizing our exposure to news media and teaching them about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instead. I show them examples of his magnanimity and his kindness and his generosity on a daily basis, and then I remind them to emulate him. My husband and I try to maintain a peaceful, loving, welcoming atmosphere in our home where prayers are prayed in congregation and the Holy Quran is recited on a regular basis and friends enter open doors to share food and funny stories and words of wisdom. We attend dhikr (remembrance of God) gatherings where the lyrical chants of God’s name wash over us while we close our eyes and calm our spirits. We talk about Islamic history and point out examples of tests and tribulations greater than the ones in our time and then we teach them about the even greater responses of dignity and grace. We pool our resources — and encourage our friends and relatives to do the same — and then share blankets, warm clothes, and funds for food with refugees and orphans from around the world, some who are now living locally. As a family, we pray for peace and healing for all of mankind.

“This world is not meant for us to wrap our arms around,” I tell them. “It is fleeting and we are here only for a little while. Our only duties in our lifetimes are to worship our Lord and to serve our fellow mankind. We serve by spreading peace and light and knowledge; we serve by leaving the world a better place than we found it, even if it only means that we’re picking up the litter we happen to find in the street or we’re giving a smile to someone who looks sad and lonely.”

No matter what the headlines and the political pundits may be screaming, my top priority in my childrearing is to prove to my kids that “Islam works”. If they can grow up seeing that Islam worked in their homes, then the deviant aberrations they hear about in the world will be recognized by them for what they are — complete impostors perverting the pure message of a religion that provides so much peace and guidance and benefit to its followers. And the next time an ignorant person tells them, “You Muslims are terrorists!”, they can honestly respond with, “Come meet my family and find out the truth.”

 

The author, Hina Khan-Mukhtar, is a mother of three boys and one of the founders of the homeschooling co-operative known as ILM Tree in Lafayette, California, which now serves over 30 homeschooling families in the East Bay. In addition to teaching Language Arts to elementary, middle school, and high school students, she has written articles on parenting and spiritual traditions for children and is involved in interfaith dialogue.

Republished with special thanks to The Muslim Observer.

 

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Paris Attacks: Response and Responsibility

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Assalamualaikum (peace be upon you), Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem (in the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful),

In the aftermath  of the tragic attacks in Paris, France where so many have died senselessly, many Muslims feel very shaken. The believer is someone who is pained by the loss of others, who is saddened in the grief of others, who dislikes all that is odious to Allah. So the believer should be saddened, should be pained, should feel outrage at the wrong and should be praying for the families of those who died, should be praying for safety and good.

Don’t feel dejected

With that, one has to realize that the believer never feels dejected nor overwhelmed by the sheer force things. The believer takes everything back to their faith. We believe without a doubt that everything happens by the will of Allah and with the Wisdom in it. Nothing is outside of the will of Allah. Everything is in His hands, and we do not object to that.

You are not responsible

While saddened, don’t forget you’re not responsible for this. Did you do it? Did you support it? Did you agree with it? As a Muslim, you should not feel shaken, that “How come this happened?” None of us agree with it, none of us supported it, none of us see that this has anything whatsoever to do with the example of the beloved messenger, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, the one who in battle was praying for his enemy, who after two decades of being attacked and ostracized and oppressed and wronged and ill-treated by his own people, forgave everyone upon entering Makkah victorious. He said, “May Allah forgive us and you. There’s no blame on you today.”

It’s not info-tainment

Our Messenger is a messenger of absolute mercy even in battle, with the highest standards of noble conduct in the most difficult and testing of situations. Don’t feel somehow embarrassed. [What happened in Paris] has nothing to do with you as a Muslim. It has nothing to do with your belief in Allah. It has nothing to do with your religion. It has nothing to do with your Prophet (peace be upon him) nor what he has come with, so that’s not what should consume us nor should we just sit back and make this a mode of info-tainment. “What’s the death count now?” or “Oh, 150 people have died” or “Oh there’s X number of attacks” or “Oh look there’s a dead woman!”

You have a responsiblity

There is a tragic loss but along with being saddened and feeling grief for those who have lost, realising you’re not responsible for what took place, we do have a responsibility as believers. Our responsibility as believers is not fulfilled by sitting back and watching what is going on and feeling dejected by it or being defensive about it but rather, Allah, Most High, has made us responsible for protecting the good and standing up to the wrong.

Don’t sit back and watch

“You are the most virtuous of communities raised on to humanity. Call to all that is good. Forbid all that is wrong,” so when we see ugliness being spread in the name of our religion, there are travesties and terror being committed in the name of our Prophet (peace be upon him), we have to realize that we have a collective responsibility. Instead of sitting and watching the news for hours, ask yourselves – “How can I be a part of change for the good? Are there religious understandings in our community that are ugly, that are affecting our youth and causing them to embrace erroneous ways?”

A counter-narrative

There are. Those understandings have nothing to do with the way of the messenger of mercy but we are responsible for having a positive counter-narrative. What is the counter narrative? It is the way of light, the way of the beloved messenger, peace be upon him, who is an embodiment of Mercy. The way we deal with harshness is mercy. The way we deal with ugliness is beauty. The way we deal with darkness is light.

Dedicate your life

We have to ask ourselves, what am I doing to be part of the way of light, the way of Mercy, the way of beauty in this life? We should all be asking ourselves how many hours we give of our days and weeks and months and years in serving the religious good, calling people to the beauty, mercy and virtue of the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him). How much of our time do we spend being agents of mercy?

Prophetic concern

Our messenger is  the one who while on an important expedition as the Messenger of Allah, stopped to attend to the concerns of a deer. That’s the nature of prophetic concern. The Prophet (peace be upon him) cared for the concerns of animals, let alone human beings so what part of the good are you dedicating yourself to? That’s what we have to ask ourselves.

How can you direct your time towards the good? How can you direct your life towards the good? How can you direct some of your time to be of assistance to others? In these times, call yourself to Allah. Commit yourself to reconnect with virtue.

Heal and be healed

Yes, there may be other people, who are causing damage all around in the world but many of us are causing damage in our own marriages, in our own families, to our own children, to our own parents, in our own communities, in our own relationships. We need to heal and be part of the healing because this is what the Messenger (peace be upon him) has come with.

Urgency

When we see ugliness, we should have a renewed sense of urgency to uphold the good ourselves, to become embodiments of the good, to become ambassadors of the good, to become callers to that good so find something of the good that you are connected with on a weekly basis in your personal life. Connect with knowledge, connect with spirituality, connect with service and have something that you do on a weekly basis that benefits others so that you serve to become an agent of the good. Renew that commitment and when you see events that are ugly, have a sense of urgency. If you’re not able to do good yourself, support the causes that are doing good. The ways of good are many – actively support them with your time but also with your wealth, your skills and with all that you have.

May Allah Most High make us of those who spread light when we see darkness, who spread good when we see evil and who are part of healing and mercy because that is the way of our beloved messenger, peace be upon him, and have no doubt whatsoever about that.

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
13 November 2015

 

Is ISIS justified in its ritual slaughter of enemies?

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani addresses a question asked at a session in SeekersHub Toronto, “Is ISIS justified in its ritual slaughter of its enemies and its burning of prisoners and others on the basis of prophetic teachings, specifically in regards to the hadith where the Prophet (saw) is reported to have said, O Quraysh, I have come to you with slaughter?” Catch his brilliant and comprehensive response on the SeekersHub Podcast or watch it below.

 

Podcast: 

icon-podcastShaykh Faraz Rabbani was asked “According to a commentary I read on Hadith 13 (None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.] – this hadith is very broad and includes Non-Muslims. Should we then consider Non-Muslims to be our brothers and sisters?”

The question came from Shaykh Faraz’ class on Imam Nawwawi’s 40 hadith – take the course for free today. Listen to the answer: Are Non-Muslims Our Brothers, as Mentioned in the Hadith?

 

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