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Medina Bombing: Where WE Stand & Why We Must State It Clearly, by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani


In an unprecedented escalation of events, an explosion has occured close to the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ mosque in Medina, allegedly detonated by a suicide bomber. The Medina bombing comes at the heels of the devastating violence in Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh in recent weeks. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani makes it clear: where do we stand on such events and should we speak out?

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The Plague Within: Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on the Roots of Violent Extremism

Vigilante acts of violence have killed hundreds around the world in the last few days. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf writes plainly on the dark and destructive ideology which underpins groups like ISIS and their sympathisers.

According to a good hadith related by Ahmad and al-Tabarani, the Messenger of God, may God’s peace and blessings be upon him, said, “You will never believe until you show mercy to one another.”
“All of us are merciful, O Messenger of God!” his companions responded.
The Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him, explained, “I’m not talking about one of you showing mercy to his friend; I’m talking about universal mercy—mercy towards everyone.”
For those Muslims and people of other faiths who lost loved ones in the recent tragedies in Baghdad two days ago, in Bangladesh last Friday, in Istanbul the day before that, in Lebanon earlier last week, and in Yemen and Orlando last month, I am deeply saddened and can only offer my prayers, even as I am painfully aware of my state of utter helplessness at what has befallen our global community. As I write this, I learned about yet another bombing outside our beloved Prophet’s mosque in Medina, as believers were about to break their fast yesterday, unjustly killing four innocent security guards. Fortunately, due to the blessings of the place, the sound of the explosion was thought to be the boom of the cannon used to announce the time has come to break the fast, so the people in the mosque were not frightened nor panicked. The Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him, said, “Whoever frightens the people of Medina has the damnation of God, the angels, and all of humanity.” Needless to say, the horror of these atrocities is compounded because they are being carried out—intentionally—in the blessed month of Ramadan.

A faith-eating plague

A plague is upon us, and it has its vectors. Like the brain-eating amoebas that have struck the warm waters of the Southern states in America, a faith-eating plague has been spreading across the global Muslim community. This insidious disease has a source, and that source must be identified, so we can begin to inoculate our communities against it.
New versions of our ancient faith have sprung up and have infected the hearts and minds of countless young people across the globe. Imam Adel Al-Kalbani, who led prayers in the Haram of Mecca for several years, has publicly stated that these youth are the bitter harvest of teachings that have emanated from pulpits throughout the Arabian Peninsula, teachings that have permeated all corners of the world, teachings that focus on hatred, exclusivity, provincialism, and xenophobia. These teachings anathematize any Muslim who does not share their simple-minded, literalist, anti-metaphysical, primitive, and impoverished form of Islam, and they reject the immense body of Islamic scholarship from the luminaries of our tradition.

The spread of this ideology

Due to a sophisticated network of funding, these teachings have flooded bookstores throughout the Muslim world and even in America, Europe, and Australia. For a case study of what they have spawned, we might look to Kosovo. Our “Islamic” schools are now filled with books published by this sect that lure the impressionable minds of our youth at an age when they are most susceptible to indoctrination. This sect of Islam, however, is not the sole source of our current crisis, and it would be wrong to place all blame on it alone; many of its adherents are peace-loving quietists, who want only to be left alone to practice their faith as they see fit. Their exclusivism is a necessary but not sufficient cause for the xenophobic hatred that leads to such violence. The terroristic Islamists are a hybrid of an exclusivist takfiri version of the above and the political Islamist ideology that has permeated much of the Arab and South Asian world for the last several decades. It is this marriage made in hell that must be understood in order to fully grasp the calamitous situation we find our community in. While the role that Western interventions and misadventures in the region have played in creating this quagmire should not be set aside, diminished, or denied, we should, however, keep in mind that Muslims have been invaded many times in the past yet never reacted like these fanatics. Historically, belligerent enemies often admired the nobility Muslims displayed in their strict adherence to history’s first humane rules of engagement that were laid down by the Prophet himself to insure that mercy was never completely divorced from the callousness of conflict.
We need to clearly see the pernicious and pervasive nature of this ideological plague and how it is responsible for the chaos and terror spreading even to the city of our Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him, in all its inviolability. Its most vulnerable victims are our disaffected youth who often live in desolate circumstances with little hope for their futures. Promises of paradise and easy-out strategies from the weariness of this world have enticed these suicidal youth to express their pathologies in the demonically deceptive causes of “Islamic” radicalism. The pictures they leave behind—showing the supercilious smiles on their faces, even as they hold in their hapless hands their Western-made assault rifles—are testament to the effective brainwashing taking place.

Normative voices drowned out

The damage being wrought is not only within Islam but also to Islam’s good name in the eyes of the world. These now daily occurrences of destructive, hate-filled violence are beginning to drown out the voices of normative Islam, thereby cultivating a real hatred in the hearts of those outside our communities. In the minds of many around the world, Islam, once considered a great world religion, is being reduced to an odious political ideology that threatens global security; that, in turn, is proving disastrous for minority Muslim communities, who now abide in increasingly hostile environments in secular societies.

Counter-voices of scholars and activists

What we need to counter this plague are the voices of scholars, as well as grassroots activists, who can begin to identify the real culprits behind this fanatical ideology. What we do not need are more voices that veil the problem with empty, hollow, and vacuous arguments that this militancy has little to do with religion; it has everything to do with religion: misguided, fanatical, ideological, and politicized religion. It is the religion of resentment, envy, powerlessness, and nihilism. It does, however, have nothing to do with the merciful teachings of our Prophet, God’s peace and blessings upon him. Unchecked, we will see this plague foment more such violence, until one day, God forbid, these hateful and vile adherents obtain a nuclear device, the use of which has already been sanctioned by their “scholars,” including one currently imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. If such a scenario unfolds, it is highly probable that the full wrath of Western powers will be unleashed upon a helpless Muslim world that would make even the horrendous Mongol invasions of the 13th century look like a stroll in the park.

“To flee from calamities is the Sunnah of Prophets”

Invariably, some will remark that a fear of Western retaliation is a sign of cowardice. For those zealots, I would recommend turning back to the Qur’an, specifically to reflect on the undeniably brave Messenger Moses, peace be upon him, who unintentionally killed an Egyptian after striking him with his powerful blow, only because he was considered an enemy, and then asked God’s forgiveness and “fled vigilantly out of fear” (28:21). This is a cautionary tale, and it behooves all of us to reflect upon it as a lesson of what not to do when oppressed, especially when we are without political authority or the means to redress our grievances. Imam al-Sahrwardi stated, “To flee from calamities is the Sunnah of Prophets.” It is best not to let our baser self, our lust for revenge, get the better of us.
We would do well to acknowledge that much of what is happening in the Muslim world and to Muslim communities in the West is from what our own hands have wrought. Muslims have been in the West for a long time and have done little to educate people here about our faith; too many of us have been occupied in our wordly affairs, while some of our mosques and schools have been breeding grounds for an ideological Islamism rather than Islam. The Qur’an clearly instructs us that when faced with calamities, we ought to look first at what we may have done to bring them upon us. Introspection is a Qur’anic injunction. Until we come to terms with this Qur’anic truth, we will remain mired in the mirage of denial, always pointing fingers in every direction but at ourselves. “Verily, God does not change the conditions of a people until they change themselves” (Qur’an, 13:11).
As Ramadan comes to a close, let us pray for the oppressed and the guidance of the oppressors, for those who have been killed, and for those who lost their loved ones, and most of all, let us heed our Prophet’s call and want mercy for everyone.

Resources for seekers:

How to stop the cycle of hate, by Imam Khalid Latif

Almost daily there are news reports of hate crimes against Muslims in the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, as well as news of mass terrorist attacks against Muslims in countries like Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh. Imam Khalid Latif reflects in this article originally published on CNN.

This morning, I woke up to images and stories outlining numerous hate crimes taken place against Muslims in cities throughout the United States just in the last 10 hours. Two Muslim teenagers assaulted in Brooklyn, New York outside of a mosque while the assailant called them “terrorist”, a Muslim doctor ambushed and shot in Houston Texas by three men as he went for morning prayers, and another Muslim beaten in Fort Pierce Florida right outside of an Islamic Center there. These are just the stories reported and that took place less than a day ago. That’s in addition to so many more reported over the last weeks and months, and so many more that just aren’t reported.

Don’t Be A Passive Bystander

If you see something, say something has to mean something different to us today. If you see bigotry, say something. If you see hatred, say something. If you see racism, say something. You and I have to be the change that this world needs. We cannot adopt a bitterness or passivity that lets people who have no interest other than their own self-interest succeed
A failure to acknowledge and deal with illness doesn’t mean that it’s not there. I can pretend like I’m not sick, but my body will let me know otherwise. We can pretend like our society is not in pain and in need of healing, but atrocities like those that took place just even last night will let us know otherwise. The anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States isn’t just rising, it’s really high. An unwillingness and indifference on the part of individuals and institutions to put it in check is a large part of the problem.

Our Sense of Compassion Is Being Obliterated

Our indifference to the narratives of those distinct from our own coupled with our own egocentric priorities places us in the reality that we find ourselves in. Issues of race, class and privilege are the roots of our ailments, and an unwillingness to recognize it is leading us to a terrible place. With every assault, every hate crime, every death, our sense of compassion is being obliterated. With every failure to remedy injustice, we add to the pain. These assailants knew that they were going to attack Muslims. They knew they would find them at the mosques at those specific times. For what reason then with will there be a hesitancy in labeling their actions as anything but a hate crime?
More likely than not we won’t see an outcry against these actions by political leaders of any kind. There will be a continued utilization of Islam as a political football by those who have no real interest in anything other than their own self-interest. Letting hate prevail seemingly didn’t work as a solution to stopping hate, but seemingly that isn’t an issue.
In my opinion if you don’t speak out against it you’re just as bad as the person who is saying it in the first place. What do you think it teaches people when senior officials of major political parties throughout the country are either espousing, and in turn justifying, hatred against Muslims through their words or their silence? What does it teach a broader society about the worth and designation of a population that is over 1.5 billion in number throughout this world?

What Message Are We Sending Out?

The same thing that it teaches the broader society when mosques are kept from being open and built, when unjust surveillance and profiling policies are legitimized and implemented, when media has no problem making cursory links of every and any Muslim to terrorism, but dig deep to connect people of other backgrounds to troubled childhoods and mental health issues, and when politicians are allowed to build racist campaign platforms taking advantage of fear and ignorance. It teaches them that it’s ok for Muslims to be treated differently, to in fact be mistreated, simply because they are Muslim, and that there is no problem with that.
There is, in fact, a huge problem with it.

This Isn’t Just A Muslim Thing

If you think my anger and frustration is only because that there were Muslims who were attacked, then you don’t get it. I feel for these people because they are people. I feel for these people as I feel for Orlando. I feel for these people as I feel for Baltimore, Ferguson and Chicago. I feel for these people as I feel for Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq and Syria. I feel for these people as I feel for anyone who finds themselves in any type of affliction or conflict. We have seen minorities of all backgrounds get vilified more and more and things have gotten to a point where assaults and even death doesn’t bring about a recognition of their value as humans. We have seen shooting after shooting take place in this country, increasing directly along with our country’s legislators unwillingness to speak about gun control. My anger and frustration stems from the fact that with every act of hatred and our failed responses to it, indifference is becoming more alive and in the process our shared humanity is dying.
Will there be droves of leaders marching in the streets, elbowing each other to make sure they stand at the front of the pack and let the world know that they are outraged by the assaults on Muslims throughout the country? Will they hold vigils to speak out against the realities of hate and address the deeper, systemic issues around race, ethnicity and privilege or even give a simple nod to the signs and symptoms around us indicating their existence? Probably not. But will you stand up, simply because you are able to and it’s the right thing to do?
I am a Muslim. I work as the University Chaplain for New York University. I serve as a Chaplain for the New York City Police Department and am given the rank of inspector. I have traveled on behalf of the State Department, met with the heads of homeland security, senior white house officials and even President Obama himself, shared stages with the likes of Pope Francis and the Dalai lama. I am still one of the many Muslims in this country who have been detained, profiled and surveilled. My home has been visited by the FBI on numerous occasions where I have been told that I am being watched because I am too good to be true. As much as I am seen as antidote, I am first still seen as a poison for no other reason that I choose to practice the faith that I do. That is not ok. But I still believe that we can and will be better.

Be The Change You Want To See

Healing requires admitting we are sick. You and I are a bigger part of the cure than we might realize. On the eve of our Independence Day, we as a nation have a choice to make. At a time when we are still debating whether Black Lives Matter or not, candidates for the highest offices of our land make statements that indicate they speak for and to only a select group of Americans. We can no longer let our perspectives of each other be fueled through a media machine that seeks to sensationalize and bombard readers and viewers with narrative that serves to only segment and antagonize even further. The amplification of extreme voices has to be drowned out by our coming together. The ignorance of ISIS or the Republican right can no longer be the basis of how we function in diverse societies. We must learn the reality of struggles faced by those around us by actually being with them, as opposed to simply through the biased images that are cast in front of us every day. We do not have to be women to stand up women’s rights, black to stand up for black rights, or Muslim to stand up for Muslim rights. An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us. I said it before and I’ll say it again, if you see something, say something has to mean something different to us today. If you see bigotry, say something. If you see hatred, say something. If you see racism, say something. You and I have to be the change that this world needs. We cannot adopt a bitterness or passivity that lets people who have no interest other than their own self-interest succeed. We cannot lose hope – tomorrow will be better than today so long as you do our part. Our coming together of today is only meaningful if we continue to come together tomorrow. Let us be the reason that people have continued hope in this world, and never the reason people dread it.

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The Prophetic ﷺ Response to Islamophobia: The Story of Adi bin Hatem

What can we learn from the Prophetic ﷺ response to Islamophobia? There was once a known Islamophobe, Adi bin Hatem. He was the head of a monotheistic tribe that worshipped the God of Abraham but lacked any further guidance. Adi bin Hatem hated Islam and hated the Prophet ﷺ. His own sister had gone to see the Prophet ﷺ and embraced Islam and this infuriated Adi bin Hatem even more. So when he visited Madinah, how did the Prophet ﷺ treat him? A fascinating, uplifting true story, retold by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani. It is replete with lessons for our time.

Blackness, Racism And How The Arabic Language Rises Above It All

Shaykh Muhammad Mendes responds to this question during a Lamppost Education Initiative Seminar on Muslim Spirituality From Africa to Americas.

“Why is the colour black – black people and all things black, so foul to humanity?”

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Cover photo by Andrea Moroni.

Dalia Mogahed’s debut at TED met with standing ovation

What do you think when you look at me?

When you look at Muslim scholar Dalia Mogahed, what do you see: a woman of faith? a scholar, a mom, a sister? or an oppressed, brainwashed, potential terrorist? In this personal, powerful talk, Mogahed asks us, in this polarizing time, to fight negative perceptions of her faith in the media — and to choose empathy over prejudice – TED

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Responses To The Islamophobic Attack On The Bus Illustrate Wider Problems Of Racism

LondonBusRantOver the last few days, the video of a black woman launching an islamophobic attack on two muslim women has attracted much attention on social media, and eventually was reported in the National Press. The provocative lady who undertook a tirade of threatening verbal abuse has since been arrested by the police, and one hopes she will be held to account for her actions.

As a black Muslim woman I was sickened by this lady’s behaviour. It was particularly saddening that a black person acted in such a venomous manner, and undertook a xenophobic attack upon another minority in a way that black people often experience themselves. Her behaviour illustrated sheer ignorance of the history and struggle of her own people; if she had truly internalised the lessons from black history, she never would have behaved in such a manner. Her actions culminated with a distinct lack of humanity, when despite her irrational grievances she felt it was acceptable to threaten to kick a pregnant woman in the stomach.

‘Half of all Caribbeans are animals’ and ‘banana eating inbred’

However, I was equally disgusted by the reactions of seemingly ordinary Muslims who used utterly vile anti-black language on social media in response to this episode. Although part of me is not surprised at this spew of vitriol, the carefree manner in which some Muslims expressed their racism so openly was something I have not seen before. In one social media group full of Muslim women, one commentator thought it was acceptable to state that ‘half of all Caribbeans are animals’. There was a common theme of people using disgusting racist language such as ‘banana eating inbred’. There were references to her skin tone being the product of ‘ancestral rape by the slave master’ and questions around the father of her child (who she can’t possibly know because all black women are whores). Worst still were the numerous references to the enslavement of black people by Arabs; ‘’we used to own you!’’ one social media commenter spited, regardless of the fact that she was of Asian descent and not an Arab.

Racism is just as as disgusting as Islamophobia

Furthermore, not only were there those who readily used anti-black language, there were those who sought to justify their use of it – ‘we are racist towards black people because of women like her’. Let us be very clear that the South Asian Muslim community of Britain has struggled with racism, and this incident somehow gave a number of racist Muslims the ‘courage’ to publicly air their views. For those that found this ignorant black woman’s islamophobia disgusting, it would be hypocritical if they were not equally disgusted by the racist anti-black reactions. It is imperative that we condemn both equally and unreservedly.

She didn’t create Islamophobia

However, let us not forget that whilst this black woman’s actions are totally reprehensible, she didn’t create Islamophobia. She isn’t the person who has criminalised Islam and made it synonymous with terrorism and violence. She is not the enforcer of the laws that continually view Muslims through the lens of securitisation. She does not give muscular public speeches, beating Muslims with a stick that they must adopt undefined ‘British values’ (even though the overwhelming majority of Muslims proudly assert their British identity). She is not of those spreading suspicion throughout society, encouraging others to view the Muslim community as the fifth column. Whilst she has no doubt been influenced by much of the negative discourse surrounding Muslims, we must remember that much of it is essentially coined by the upper echelons of society.

Of course, this in no way diminishes the crime that took place on that bus, especially now that this woman has now been arrested and charged, but what next? Should we demand the arrest of Daily Mail writers, and certain politicians who tread ever so closely on the boundary of free speech and inciting hatred? Whilst this isolated attack on a bus is indeed shocking, the ‘well-articulated, well-reasoned’ Islamophobia we face is far more sinister and much more insidious than what this woman did.

The rise in racism throughout society is indeed a worrying phenomenon, and superficial approaches to the problem will do little to address it. The BBC recently ran documentaries on Britain First and the Ku Klux Klan in America. However, I think there is a fundamental problem in focusing on fringe groups when addressing racism, as in some respects these groups become convenient scapegoats in much the same way that this ignorant black woman has become following this incident.

It’s about power

At the heart of the debate around racism and Islamophobia is power and that many of those who run our society hold similar, narrow-minded views. Documentaries such as those aired by the BBC hide from this fact, leading us to fall into a false belief that anti-Muslim and anti-black sentiments are largely limited to a handful unintelligent individuals that are part of a crazy cult. It absolves the institutions of the state; from politicians, the media and the police from the role they play in creating and perpetuating racism and Islamophobia. It allows cross sections of society to be under a collective illusion that hate and xenophobia are exceptions; it isn’t us, it is ‘them’.

This type of superficial analysis does nothing to challenge the structural and institutional racism and Islamophobia that affects us all and impacts adversely on our children. We should be angry at this latest incident, but let’s also have some perspective and get a grip on reality; this woman isn’t the root cause of the problem, her actions and the actions of others like her are symptoms of a deeper problem that is in fact far more dangerous than a lone black woman’s vile rant on a 206 bus in London.

By Sulekha Hassan. Republished with much gratitude to our friends at Islamicate.


Resources for Seekers:

Our Condition Today: the Disease and the Remedy
Advice from Habib ‘Umar: How to defend the Prophet
Hadiths on the “Bad Traits” of Black People
Letter to the West: we just have to learn to live together
Race To The Top
Would it Be Wrong To Avoid Interracial Marriages For Cultural Considerations?
Dealing With Those Who Harass Muslims
“Sound societies come from sound hearts”
Allah’s Mercy and the Mercy Showed by People

Arabic, an asset or liability in schools?

America - Speak EnglishThis week, an American school’s foreign language department arranged for the US Pledge of Allegiance to be read in a different language each day for a week. The day it was Arabic’s turn, things didn’t go down very well. The school district superintendant, Joan Carbone, told the Times Herald-Record newspaper that the Arabic pledge had “divided the school in half” and that she had received numerous complaints.

A statement from the local district apologised “to any students, staff or community members who found this activity disrespectful” and said the reading was intended to “promote the fact that those who speak a language other than English still pledge to salute this great country”.

The Council of American-Islamic Relations  (CAIR), said: “The meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance is the same regardless of the language in which it’s recited. When a simple student activity designed to promote mutual understanding receives such a negative reaction and the school in which it takes place is forced to issue a public apology, all Americans who value our nation’s history of religious and ethnic diversity should be concerned. One has to wonder if such an intolerant response would have resulted from reading the pledge in a language other than Arabic.”

Also in response, the British Council opined that Arabic should not only be celebrated in public schools, but systematically taught as part of the curriculum: “A study of Arabic opens up endless possibilities and opportunities for those who embark upon it. A rich and sophisticated language, spoken in many varieties throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it is both challenging and rewarding to learn. A knowledge of Arabic is instrumental to gaining a real understanding of the peoples, societies and politics of the Arab world, and accessing a range of employment opportunities in the region’s finance, media and commercial sectors. As its social, political and commercial importance increases, demand to learn Arabic is set to grow.

“Knowledge of Arabic among young people in the UK also brings wider benefits, including a deeper mutual understanding between our communities and the chance to restore much of the trust that has been erased over the last decades as a result of political circumstance and military interventionism. Those who learn Arabic will move beyond the shallow media stereotypes to a fuller, more authentic awareness of the Arab world.”

 

Resources for seekers:

Arabic is Easy for the Brain – Shaykh Riyad Nadwi
Hans Wehr and the Arabic Language
Seeking Arabic from Auckland to Amman

Defending the Prophet – Advice from Habib ‘Umar

Written by Lina Abdul Wahab

Habib Umar bin Hafiz calls upon us all to teach people about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his life, his character, his call, his different states, his beauty, his perfection and his kindness and to teach about the Prophet’s light, by allowing it to shine through our words and deeds.

habibAccording to Habib Umar, amongst us are people with families and children who are ignorant about the important matters in the life of Allah’s Prophet. It is good to see that out of the love for him, Muslims are protesting peacefully and speaking out (in defense of the Beloved Prophet). However, Habib Umar added, it is essential for us to take into account by asking themselves, where have they been all these years? What are the states of our homes? Muhammad (pbuh) is absent from our families, unknown to our children and unknown to our friends at work. To them, he is a figure who has not yet penetrated their hearts. They are not connected to him, they do not revere his teachings, and they know little about his life, his character, his message, his call, peace and blessings upon him. These are the people to whom we should say, “Convey the character of the Prophet! Tell the world and everyone in it about the character and qualities of this Prophet. Express your attachment to him in the best way!”

Habib Umar added, “This is YOUR role. You! This is your task! This is your job. This is the vicegerency of Allah on His Earth, conveying the Message of Allah and His Messenger and his family and his companions. This is the reason the noble companions spread out in the east and in the west!”

Resources for seekers:

Advice in Times of Hardship, after the Chapel Hill shootings and other incidents
Video: Capacity Building for Dealing with Islamophobia
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on Rising Anti-Muslim Sentiment – AlJazeera
Letter to the West: we just have to learn to live together – Habib Ali al-Jifri