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Contextualising Justice in the Muslim Community – Social Justice Series

In this series, Shaykh Walead Mosaad speaks about defining social justice in the Islamic paradigm. Here, he and Ustadh Nazim Baksh discuss contextualising justice in the Muslim communities.contextualising justice

When the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, began his mission in Mecca, the society was rift with tribalism, racism, and economic inequality. As he taught his people, he did so with a deep understanding of how they operated. This serves as an example for us, since we cannot have social change without deeply understanding the people that we aim to affect. Otherwise, what will follow will be a series of Band-Aid solutions which do not have a lasting impact.

The current paradigm is very much based on identity politics. In the long term, we may wish to upend the paradigm, because sincere Muslims do not fit into any of these boxes. Similarly, we cannot put others into boxes, because we lose the opportunity to engage with them.

In addition, we should take steps to realise and cement our identity, and be cautious about how our own principals may be warped and used against us. For example, in traditional Islamic teachings, the hijab was not termed as such. Guidelines on how to cover properly would be found in the fiqh books, in chapters with titles such as “covering one’s nakedness,” in the context of both men and women’s dress. It was not politicised or used as a spiritual status symbol. Nowadays, the rhetoric of hijab goes two ways: it is politicised in the Western world, and in the Islamic world, it is seen as something that only women of very high spiritual stations may wear.

About the Series

Social justice has been the focus in recent times of Muslim activists and communities. More often than not, the methods and objectives employed in Muslim social justice work has drawn from practices of other communities and traditions not necessarily rooted in Islamic principles. Does the Islamic tradition contain relevant principles that can be drawn upon to inform social justice work?


 

Contextualising Justice in the Muslim Community – Social Justice Series

In this series, Shaykh Walead Mosaad speaks about defining social justice in the Islamic paradigm. Here, he and Ustadh Nazim Baksh discuss contextualising justice in the Muslim communities.contextualising justice

When the Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and give him peace, began his mission in Mecca, the society was rift with tribalism, racism, and economic inequality. As he taught his people, he did so with a deep understanding of how they operated. This serves as an example for us, since we cannot have social change without deeply understanding the people that we aim to affect. Otherwise, what will follow will be a series of Band-Aid solutions which do not have a lasting impact.

The current paradigm is very much based on identity politics. In the long term, we may wish to upend the paradigm, because sincere Muslims do not fit into any of these boxes. Similarly, we cannot put others into boxes, because we lose the opportunity to engage with them.

In addition, we should take steps to realise and cement our identity. We should be cautious about how our own principals may be warped and used against us. For example, in traditional Islamic teachings, the hijab was not termed as such. Guidelines on how to cover properly were included in the fiqh books. The chapters would have titles such as “covering nakedness,” in the context of both men and women’s dress. It was not politicised or used as a spiritual status symbol. Nowadays, the rhetoric of hijab goes two ways. It is heavily politicised in the Western world. However, in the Islamic world, it is seen as something that only women of very high spiritual stations may wear. Neither of these ideals are correct.

About the Series

Social justice has been the focus in recent times of Muslim activists and communities. More often than not, the methods and objectives employed in Muslim social justice work has drawn from practices of other communities and traditions not necessarily rooted in Islamic principles. Does the Islamic tradition contain relevant principles that can be drawn upon to inform social justice work?


 

Caribbean Calling, An Interview with Ustadh Nazim Baksh

At the beginning of the blessed month of Rabi’al Awwal 1438, Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari and Ustadh Nazim Baksh will visit the twin-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

Shaykh Ahmad will give a series of talks on the life of Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, at local mosques and will teach from Al-Nubdhah Al-Sughra at the prestigious San Fernando Jama Masjid.

In this special podcast episode, Ustadh Nazim speaks to SeekersHub’s Amr Hashim about why the Caribbean and why now.

Our thanks to Raihan for the beautiful singing in this podcast episode.

Caribbean Calling: Nourishing Communities of Faith, by Nazim Baksh

sh_saadAt the beginning of the blessed month of Rabi’al Awwal 1438, Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari will visit the twin-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. He will give a series of talks on the Sira of Allah’s Messenger , peace and blessings be upon him, at local mosques and will teach from Al-Nubdhah Al-Sughra at the prestigious San Fernando Jama Masjid.


Shaykh Ahmad’s host is Maulana Siddiq Nasir and his Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah Institute (ASWJI), the same organization that recently hosted Shaykh Faid Muhammad Said and Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ninowy. Maulana Siddiq is one of the early graduates of the Aleemiyah Institute in Pakistan. Seeker’s Hub has endorsed this initiative. Sidi Nazim Baksh will be accompanying Shaykh Ahmad on this tour and in this article he explains why it is important for Muslim scholars to continue visiting Muslims in the Caribbean.
 

Shaykh Ninowy in Guyana, March 2016

Shaykh Ninowy in Guyana, March 2016

What Exactly Constitutes an Authentic Expression of Islam?

For the last three decades Muslims who live in Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, have been grappling with the thorny issue of what exactly constitutes an authentic expression of Islam. It wasn’t always like this, but it has made the Caribbean a highly desired destination for a variety of foreign scholars and organizations looking to make their mark.  
In Guyana and Trinidad, countries with the largest communities, the majority of Muslims are direct descendants of indentured labourers who were brought from India to cultivate rice and sugar plantations during the British colonial period. There is also now a growing number of converts to Islam mostly from the African West-Indian communities across the English-speaking Caribbean.   
While indentureship ended in the early 20th century, the East-Indian Muslims stayed on, raising families, establishing businesses, forging communities and building mosques – 140 alone in Guyana.
Although religious texts were imported and disseminated locally, it played only a limited role in keeping people connected to the religion. The rhythm of Islamic spirituality for the mostly agrarian communities were the intermittent visits of a number of respected scholars who were grounded in tassawuf.  

Mawlana Siddiq
Nazim Baksh with Maulana Siddiq Ahmed Nasir

Historical Scholarly Visits to the Caribbean

In the 1930’s Maulana Sayed Shams-ud-Din visited Guyana traveling by boat from Trinidad where he was a scholar in residence for two years. Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddique’s visit to the region in 1950 makes him the most prominent scholar in this period to have visited and spend time in both Trinidad and Guyana before he died in 1954 in Al-Madinah and was buried in Al-Baqi.
Maulana Fazlur Rahman Ansari was a young man when he accompanied Maulana Siddique and he returned to the Caribbean in the 1960’s to conduct seminars and encourage local Muslims to establish educational institutions. He would later create the Aleemiyah Institute in Pakistan where three young Guyanese and one Trinidadian were offered scholarships to study sacred knowledge. Maulana Siddiq, our host, was one of the them.

Maulana Noorani
Maulana Noorani in Guyana in the 1960s

Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani also visited the Caribbean in the late 60’s and early 70’s and he single-handedly revived a love and devotion to Allah’s Beloved Messenger with his inimitable style of reciting Qasidas and making the standing during the salutation on the Prophet known locally as ta’zim, a standard feature at all types of major religious gatherings.
He was so well-liked that the Muslim leaders of Trinidad made an LP of his recitation of the Quran along with his renditions of a few qasidas. Today, there are still men among the older generation of Muslims who imitate his style of reciting the Quran.

The Infusion of Alien Religious Ideas

As the 14th hijri century came to an end the Islamic waters of the Caribbean got murky with the infusion of alien religious ideas. Not surprisingly, the first practice that would be attacked was the central role of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in Muslim religious life. Opposition to the Mawlid was fierce and the singing of qasidas in praise of the Prophet was seen as a throwback to bygone days and an imitation of Hinduism. Some even labeled it as shirk.     
Political organizations based in the United States began to focus their gaze on the communities in the Caribbean. The Nation of Islam was one of the first, but soon Dar al-Islam and The Islamic Party of North America led by Yusuf Muzaffaruddin Hamid, began setting up branches in the Caribbean. Both organizations were militant but also heavily influenced by the ideology of Hasan Al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood and Syed Abul Ala Al-Mawdudi’s Jamaat-i-Islami.  
The first murder to take place in the name of Islam in the Caribbean happened in 1985 in Trinidad when a group of men gunned down an Ahmadiyya Missionary in front of his teenaged son. The men were followers of Jamaat Al-Fuqra, a U.S. based organization headed by a Pakistani mystic that was an offshoot of Dar al-Islam.
Long before Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi dreamed of establishing a Caliphate, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr staged a failed coup in Trinidad in 1990. His goal was to establish a Caliphate according to an important report on the failed coup. Six people were killed and Abu Bakr’s Jamaat Al-Muslimoon caused millions of dollars in damage.  

Largest Number of Da’esh Recruits Per Capita in the World

Today the government of Trinidad estimates that 130 adult men along with their wives and children – some 400 in all – have left the country in the last three years to join Da’esh in Iraq and Syria. This makes Trinidad the country with the largest number of Da’esh recruits per capita in the world. Some of them have taken to social media to declare Yasin Abu Bakr an apostate of Islam because he no longer pursues the path of Jihad and Hijra.
The convenient course of action is to ignore the Caribbean because afterall it is on the extreme periphery of Muslim majority countries. To do so is to ignore the vast majority of Muslims who desire to live respectfully and peacefully in a faith-diverse community as their ancestors have for well over a century with their Christians and Hindu neighbours. We have a moral obligation to assist the silent majority by opening for them the doors of sound Islamic knowledge lest some of them fall prey to a vigorous campaign by violent extremists.  

Resources for Seekers

caribbean islamCover Photo by Samuel David

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How Does Media Impact the Way You Teach?

 

mediaWe are constantly bombarded with news from the media related to Islam and Muslims, especially given the post-9/11 context in which we live. This highlights the need for students in Islamic schools to be media literate.

As an Islamic school teacher, you have a social responsibility to open up the eyes of your students to the outside world. It is important to give students the opportunity to question the ways in which Islam and Muslims are represented in the media.

Nazim Baksh is a journalist with expertise in media coverage related to Islam. In this video, he provides practical suggestions on how to incorporate media literacy in your classroom. See a short excerpt above.

Nadeem Memon, Director of Education for Razi Education wrote the above in 2011 and it remains are relevant as ever. Find out more about the Islamic Teacher Education Program.

 

Resources for seekers:

Beyond Flak Attack: A New Engagement with the Newsroom – Tabah Foundation

Beyond Flak Attack: A New Engagement with the Newsroom – Tabah Research – Tabah Foundation

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This essay, by Ustadh Nazim  Baksh, is written for Muslim activists and scholars who are alarmed at today’s headlines and would like to engage the mass media in the hope of balancing its predominantly negative reporting with positive stories pertaining to Islam and Muslims.”

Download

English version

Arabic version

 

Stark Contrasts – A Desire to Find Meaning: The Japan Earthquake & Habib Umar’s North American Tour – Nazim Baksh

 

Stark Contrasts – A Desire to Find Meaning

The Japan Earthquake & Habib Umar’s “Tranquility Amidst Turbulence” North America Tour

 

Stark Contrasts – A Desire to Find Meaning (at www.HabibUmar.org)

by Ustadh Nazim Baksh

After yesterday’s horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I felt compelled to say something about the theme that was chosen for Habib Umar’s tour – “Tranquility Amidst Turbulence – A Prophetic Message for our Times.”

This 8.9 magnitude earthquake was caused by a megathrust, i.e. one tectonic plate shoved or thrust under another. In this case, it took place 15 miles beneath the floor of the sea causing a rupture 186 miles long and 93 miles wide. It caused at least 80 aftershocks some measuring 6.9 in magnitude.

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Although this all happened 80 miles off the coast of Japan, the most prepared nation in the world when it comes to earthquakes, it caused a series of massive tsunamis which sent waves slamming into towns and villages along the coast, destroying lives and property at a scale that the nation is still trying to fathom.

The quake was assessed at 700 times more powerful than Haiti’s earthquake in 2010. An important footnote is that Haiti’s earthquake was caused by a shifting of the tectonic plates, a very different and a less disruptive occurrence from a thrust earthquake.

The energy alone that this earthquake radiated is almost equal to one month’s worth of energy consumption in the United States. It’s force was so strong that it moved the island of Honshu 8 feet to the east according to U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Ken Hudnut. And a significant detail we can’t afford to overlook is what NASA observed. This quake sped up the earth’s rotation by 1.6 microseconds.

Why is this detail significant for Muslims? It has to do with an important Hadith that can be found in the Sahih of Imam Al-Bukhari pertaining to the Signs of the End of Times. Abu Huraira reported that he heard the Messenger of Allah say that “the hour will not come” until two big groups fight each other, the coming of 30 Dajjals claiming to be God’s Messengers, the removal of religious knowledge on account of the death of ‘Ulema. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, then said, “wa takshuru al-zalazil” and earthquakes will increase. Immediately following this sentence he said “wa yataqarabu al-zaman” and time will decrease. First, everything about the Signs of the Time are literal. They are not figurative or metaphorical. Second, there is a relationship between the two signs.

Some translators have rendered “wa yataqarabu al-zaman” as “time will pass quickly” perhaps because they assume that time is a fixed entity. However, Allah created time and He can increase it or decrease it and we know from many ahadith that this happened in the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him.

At the NASA Jet Propulsion lab in California, scientists observed that the Sumatra earthquake of Dec. 2004 measuring 9 in magnitude caused a shift of the earth’s axis by a whole 3 inches. This in turn caused the earth’s rotation to speed up thus shortening the day by 6.8 millionth of a second (NASA’s scientists can measure a day to 20 millionth of a second). Add to this the impact of the Chile earthquake which shortened the day by an estimated 1.26 millionth of a second. And now the impact of Japan’s earthquake will cause a further shortening of the 24 hours day we take for granted. This might not keep you up at night but scientists worry it can affect animals and insects and in some cases disrupt the GPS (Global Positioning Systems).

While science tries to digest and interpret these events as natural disasters for us, believers need to have awe of the majesty of God’s power.

With Habib Umar’s visit, we have the opportunity to witness the tranquility that accompanies a servant who submits his will to the Will of Allah and the dazzling spirit of sakina that radiates from a scholar determined to walk in the footsteps of the Messenger of God.

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