Copyright © 2003-2011, Aishah Schwartz. Permission granted to circulate among private individuals, groups, or in not-for-profit publications in full text and subject title. All other rights reserved.

January 25, 2007

Violence Fails Both Our Religions

By Rev. F. Vernon Wright and Zachary Wright - 01/25/07

(Rev. F. Vernon Wright is currently the pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church UCC in Helena, Montana, and is the director of the Progressive Clergy Alliance. Zachary Wright Wright, his brother, is a PhD student in African-Islamic History at Northwestern University, and a licensed muqaddam (teacher) trained by the Senegalese Shaykh Hassan Cisse, one of the world's more renowned Muslim scholars.)

In today's political and religious climate there is growing perception that Muslims and Christians are at odds. For my brother and me from New Hampshire, this is not the case. Though we both grew up in a traditional New England Congregational church, one of us has become a Congregational United Church of Christ minister, and the other has embraced Islam. Our faiths have inevitably been the cause of heated debates, but they have also provided the basis for us to remain fond of each other, even through difficult times that would perhaps have alienated us if not for our mutual love and trust in God.

As persons of faith in Christianity and Islam respectfully, we feel jointly compelled to condemn the political and theological implications of current US militarism. In the last ten years, the American government has been steadily directing us on a course of global, military-backed imperialism.

According to the 1996 and 2000 Joint Chiefs of Staff's vision for the military, America should prepare to implement "full spectrum dominance," through which the military can control any "situation," military or otherwise, throughout the globe. Though the vision for military dominance was begun in the Clinton administration, our military commitments have intensified drastically under the Bush administration. We are behaving less like a democracy, guiding the world by exemplary respect for human rights and self-government, and more like an empire dominating the world through force of arms.

Such militarism is frightening enough, but it is positively catastrophic when combined with religious fanaticism. Recent articles by Lawrence Davidson and Gary North reveal the real reason for Protestant Fundamentalist "Dispensationalist" support for American imperialism in the Middle East: to hasten the Rapture and Tribulation and God's judgment on the non-Christians. Under-girding the new American Empire is thus a pernicious theology of "the righteous nation at war with the enemies of God."

Despite what fanatics and power-mongers on both sides would have us believe, religion can and should serve as the basis for mutual understanding and common concern. As Christian and Muslim citizens of this nation, we are infuriated that fundamental precepts to both our religions continue to be violated and neglected right here at home with our dangerous distraction in Iraq. Christianity and Islam prohibit neglect of the poor, unjust imprisonment and torture, subjugation of religious or ethnic minorities, abandoning the education of children, the rape of the environment, and not providing care for the sick or elderly. With the amount the U.S. has spent on Iraq, we could have fixed social security and provided universal health insurance, revived a public school system in crisis, and provided people with a living wage. All of these would have been acts of great faith in a Loving and Merciful God. Instead we have the privilege of being engaged in a disastrous and deadly conflict.

Christians and Muslims have a responsibility to testify to our duties to promote loving, humanitarian assistance and to establish societies of justice and peace. Ultimately Christ as interpreted by most main line Christians is the prince of peace instructing us that the Reign of God will be fulfilled not at the jack boots of advancing armies but as neighbors and enemies alike love one another. The Qur'an declares that God's purpose in creating diversity among humanity is that the various communities and tribes should come to know one another, not to show enmity towards each other. In the end, those who would use their faith for the murdering of innocent civilians of another religion, whether by hijacked planes or cluster bombs, have not taken to heart their own faith.

"Full Spectrum Dominance," combined with the theology of "hastening the rapture," goes beyond the need for a nation to defend itself from attack. It constitutes nothing less than an anti-Christian, anti-Muslim, ungodly assault; not only on thousands of children, women and innocent civilians murdered by US military attacks, but on American citizens themselves. Too many of us are marginalized, unfed, uneducated and forgotten. Let the people of faith unite to spread the message of the Merciful God, who requires us all to feed the hungry, care for the sick, be kind to our neighbor and educate our children. Together, let us put down the weapons and rhetoric of tyrants, and revive the ideal that has always inspired this nation: a merciful and just society which would stand as a beacon of light to the world.


Alexandria, Egypt - Vol. I

January 23, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women Speak

edited by Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur

Written by David Barker
Published January 22, 2007


Living Islam Out Loud is one of the best non–fiction works I have read in a long time. It is a collection of pieces by Islamic women living in the United States. Their stories reflect a diversity of experience — from growing up within the tradition–laden strictures of immigrant families, to Afro–American women who are children and grandchildren of Nation of Islam founders. A common theme beneath these accounts is the hyphenated nature of existence for Islamic women living in a predominantly secular/Christian culture.

When I was a child growing up within Ontario's public education system, I was exposed — like thousands of others my age — to a social studies curriculum that betrayed more than a small hint of anxiety about the Canadian identity question. How were we to resist the looming presence of American culture creeping up from the south? One answer, as a matter of educational policy, was to teach us that there were differences, however subtle. One difference was the American melting–pot/Canadian mosaic distinction. Both countries are peopled predominantly by immigrants imposed on dwindling native populations. When immigrants come to America, there is a tacit expectation that they will blend in, dress in jeans, eat at McDonald's, watch Hollywood movies, and (of course) learn to speak English. But in Canada, perhaps because of Québec's presence as a constitutionally protected "distinct society," there is less pressure — at least officially — for newcomers to blend in. We belong to a mosaic. The hyphen is essential to our identity. And so we are Indian–Canadian, Euro–Canadian, Chinese–Canadian, and so on.

Sometimes I'm skeptical whether there is any truth to the official indoctrination we received as children. However, at least conceptually, we understand what it means to have a hyphenated identity, and, at least conceptually, we have little problem with the idea that a person might want to assert the part they have brought with them from their homeland. And so the voices I encounter within Living Islam Out Loud strike me as more assertive than necessary. Then I remember: I am not an American reader.

One of the boldest pieces within the collection is "The Muslim in the Mirror," by Mohja Kahf, and it perfectly illustrates the demand to be acknowledged as distinctive, She writes: "If there's anyone I was more sick and tired of than Muslims, it's Muslim–bashers. No one is allowed to criticize Islam and Muslims but those who do it from love. Those who do it from hate, step aside. And step aside, those who do it as a way to fame and fortune funded by neo–conservatives who think they can kaCHING up genuine "reform" in Islam and manufacture docile little McMuslims for the maintenance of U.S. McHegemony in the world. Neocons can kiss my Islamic ass.

"Not exactly the writing we expect from our stereotypical woman of Islam, demure in her hijab! But that is one of the points of the book — with women claiming identity from so many different sources, there is no such thing as a stereotypical woman of Islam.

Perhaps it is increasingly difficult for people in the U.S. to maintain the story of America as a cultural melting pot. I think of Ada Maria Isasi—Diaz, author of En la Lucha (In the Struggle): A Hispanic Women's Liberation Theology, who writes of mujerista theology among Hispanic women in America. There is a growing trend among Hispanic women to expect not only their faith, but also their social services, including education and health care, to happen on their terms, to be delivered in Spanish, and to be sensitive to the particularity of their culture and history as a distinctive people. What may strike some Americans as uppity (or even as bordering on treasonous) is a 350–year–old fact of life on Canadian soil — and no one seems to be worse for it. In fact, the converse may be true. It may be that we find ourselves enriched for allowing those we encounter to live on their own terms. Could America be moving in the same direction?

However, it would be misleading to suggest that the women contributing to this collection are primarily engaged in struggles against a hegemonic American culture bent upon pouring them into Barbie molds. For many of the contributors — certainly all those born to immigrants — the greatest points of tension arise from within Islam. The question of hijab is the least of their worries. Or perhaps, by its many different understandings, it reflects the complexity of life for women. For some, wearing hijab is an attempt at earnest devotion, for others, a bold assertion of identity, for still others, a great way to deal with a bad hair day, but for many, it represents views of sexuality whose unhealthiness has intensified once transplanted to American soil. Surprisingly (for a Westerner like me), if there is oppression of women, few of these writers find it in Islam itself. Like the Bible, the Qu'ran can be interpreted to support all sorts of nastiness, but these women read it in ways which affirm them. Instead, most oppression in their experience arises from an insecure foothold in a strange new land.

So, for example, Samina Ali tells how she came with her family to Minneapolis from Hyderabad, India. When she married, she had to be a virgin. If not, she would be useless to her husband and would bring dishonour to her family. Along with her Islamic friends (making lasting friendships with Americans was out of the question), she was married off to a young man from India.

"Our parents plucked these men out of their homelands for this very reason: the daughter's purity should match her groom's, a man not exposed to and perhaps even controlled in some invisible way by demonic Western possession. In this manner, the daughters of the community became mere vessels of parental legacy.

"Utterly naive, Samina Ali blamed herself when, after the wedding, her husband refused to touch her and was repulsed by her body to the point of vomiting. She was convinced that she must have done something wrong. Even after he confessed that he was gay and left her, she continued to believe that her own faithlessness was to blame for the failed marriage. Family and friends disbelieved her story and assumed she was slandering her husband. Her husband could not possibly be gay; she was merely failing in her duties as a wife. What followed was the difficult work to establish a sense of herself apart from family and faith, before re–entering her faith with a more mature understanding.

But we must be careful not to presume too much sexual oppression. "A Day In The Life," a poem by Su'ad Abdul–Khabeer, makes it clear that if we use Western mores as our yardstick, we may find ourselves on questionable ground:

"And their mani–pedi
talk smack,
like they kick it
with freedom on the regular
their angular
under the guise
of liberty.
Free yourself!
they tell me,
patting my hand
tugging my scarf,
From the tyranny of Faith —
So ...I can be neatly chained
to a thong?"

Another struggle from within Islam arises from the segregationist practices of many mosques, which require women to use separate entrances and to pray behind a curtain or wall. In 1994, only one-third of American mosques had instituted this practice, but by 2000, the number had risen to two-thirds. In "Being the Leader I Want to See in the World," Asra Q. Nomani tells how, despite feelings of inadequacy, she found herself inevitably challenging the practices of her mosque in Morgantown, WV. It began as personal indignation, and grew into a national media event that brought about change and resulted in "An Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in Mosques" and "An Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom."

Although this book is about gender and identity and asserting power over one's own destiny, all these themes get rolled into a larger theme — this is a book about spirituality. It isn't surprising, given that Abdul–Ghafur serves on the Board of Directors of the Progressive Muslim Union, that her book includes several progressive contributions. So, for example, Mohja Kahf concludes her piece with two wonderful paragraphs that seem to rise out of Islam resonate across the faiths. They begin with:

"...I began to free myself of the false god who lived within, the god whose obsession is obedience. I had been battered by an internalized idea of this god. My prior clumsy attempts to make my way around him by myself gave me that crazy schizoid feeling — that I must be doing something terribly wrong in going outside the house of tradition, disobeying, while a yaqin–certainty told me that not to do so violated everything I knew to be sacred.

"And near the end, Inas Younis offers "My Son The Mystic," which grounds some of the most profound reflections on the nature of spirit in the experience of dealing with an autistic child. Her reflection runs in two directions. Looking one way, she asks: how could it be wrong for her to make room for ego when it was the absence of ego which lay at the heart of her son's disease? And looking in the opposite direction: was there not something strangely holy about her son who lived permanently in a state that only the holiest of Sufi mystics ever knows? While the challenge which Younis must confront differs considerably from the challenges of the other contributors, she follows their path insofar as she rejects a simplistic understanding of Islam and moves to a more mature engagement with her faith. Perhaps that is all any of us, whatever our faith, can or even should aspire to.

Theoblogger - a forty-something ex-lawyer theologian from Toronto dedicated to finding the nuggets beneath the mountains of crap that some try to pass off as belief.

January 15, 2007

From a Muslim Outlook, Imams Have Missed the Point on Flight Behavior

By M. Zuhdi Jasser
Dec. 11, 2006

The first thing one must understand about this whole hullabaloo with the Muslim imams taken off a Phoenix-bound plane in Minneapolis is that it most definitely was not about the right to prayer or freedom of worship.

And much as the imams and their handlers may try, it is certainly not about victimization.

But because the case of the six imams (five from the Valley) and US Airways Flight 300 has taken on a life of its own, it would be helpful to look and see what lessons can be gleaned from this story.

All of us as Americans have endured the incremental inconveniences of air travel since 9/11. From 3-ounce fluid limits to random searches, those of us with the first name Mohammed can also attest to humbling profiling. Most of us are quite willing to endure all this because we know the inherent dangers of flying in the world today.

There is little argument that American airport concourses have become clinics of anxiety-laden travelers who have become vigilant in spotting anything out of the ordinary. This vigilance and anxiety is even more acutely felt by U.S. Transportation Security Administration agents and airline crews. They will never be rewarded for a safe flight. But they will be globally vilified for one lax call that leads to tragedy.

Into this highly charged environment comes this incident of the imams returning from their conference. To ignore the larger context is to virtually live in an airtight bubble.

The preponderance of evidence points to some troubling coincidences during flight preparation, regardless of where we stand on this issue. The distribution of their seats, while in fact random, raised concern. Changing seats after boarding, rather than before, raised concern. Conversations in Arabic after boarding raised concern. Seatbelt extenders raised concern. However, no passengers refused to board after seeing and hearing the imams pray aloud at the gate. Taken individually, each of the reported actions could be something any of us would do. However, in totality, although unfortunate in retrospect, it remains hard to fault a cautious crew who must act with little information to ensure a safe flight.

But let us look at the response of the imams since the incident.

They rushed toward the media never looking back. They have taken their story of victimization to every soft media they could find. They then stoked the same tired Muslim flames of victimization through their own political pulpits in mosques around the Valley.

Organizations like CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) and the Muslim American Society also immediately jumped on board, even before the imams' flight reached Phoenix the next day, and began whipping up the drums of victimization. Their handlers flew in from across the country staging rallies and pray-ins so they could teach the American people about this supposed tragedy of injustice.

As a devout Muslim, I have watched this painfully protracted saga unravel, fearing what comes next. The media, especially print media, have bent over backward to hear minorities' fears. Yet public opinion has not seemed to budge in favor of the imams. The lesson here lies in why. It has to do with credibility.

We are all creatures of passion. This fiasco has stirred the passionate cry of victimization from the Muslim activist community and imam community. But where were the news conferences, the rallies to protest the endless litany of atrocities performed by people who act supposedly in my religion's name? Where are the denunciations, not against terrorism in the abstract, but clear denunciations of al-Qaida or Hamas, of Wahhabism or militant Islamism, of Darfurian genocide or misogyny and honor killings, to name a few? There is no cry, there is no rage. At best, there is the most tepid of disclaimers. In short, there is no passion. But for victimization, always.

Only when Americans see that animating passion will they believe that we Muslims are totally against the fascists that have hijacked our religion. There is only so much bandwidth in the American culture to focus upon Islam and Muslims. If we fill it with our shouts of victimization, then the real problems from within and outside our faith community will never be heard.

Though this was not about prayer, let us look at the prayer itself: certainly a central part of our faith both alone and in congregation. The Quran teaches Muslims that God did not make our faith to be too difficult. Thus, during travel, many of us pray alone in silence when we cannot find a private place or where public display is not appropriate.

Prayer is an intimate thing, five times a day for Muslims. It is a personal conversation with God and not about showing others how devout we are.

Congregational prayers are preferred, but in travel (as three of the imams did apparently do) they can be combined upon their arrival in Phoenix.

Alija Izetbegovic, former president of Bosnia-Herzegovina, once said he was never so close to God in his prayers as a Muslim as he was during his solitary confinement for 12 years as a political prisoner struggling for liberty under Josip Broz Tito's oppression.

These imams would do well to learn from President Izetbegovic. He further understood the separation of religion and politics.

He understood God teaches us in the Quran that our religion is based upon intention and that if we perceive that the public situation is not conducive to our congregational prayer, that a forgiving God will understand.

Because these imams and their handlers just don't get it, it's time we Muslims found leadership and organizations that do.

Our predicament is unique, fragile and precarious. We Muslims are a relatively new minority in a nation that gives us freedoms that no other Muslim nation would allow.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, a radical subset of our faith community is seeking to destroy the basis for this liberty.

Either we predominantly direct our passions against these radicals or Americans will not count us as allies in this consuming struggle.

M. Zuhdi Jasser is a Phoenix physician and chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. He can be reached at

January 14, 2007

UPDATE 2: Nazanin Fatehi Acquitted!

Jan. 14, 2007 UPDATE 2 PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release According to information received by the International Committee Against Execution, the charges against Nazanin Fatehi, the teenager under a sentence of death in Iran, have been dropped. She will probably be released from jail next week. Earlier today, the court sitting in Tehran decided on Nazanin’s case and told the defence lawyers that she would not have to face execution but has to pay financial compensation before she is released. The defence lawyers are planning to oppose the compensation ruling and are demanding that she be released immediately on bail. The Save Nazanin Campaign will follow Nazanin's case and keep the public and the press informed of her situation. The International Committee Against Execution congratulates all those who have helped and supported the campaign to save Nazanin's life. This is a victory for humanity and against ignorance and laws of retribution. Mina Ahadi Co-ordinator International Committee Against Execution

See Also:

UPDATE: Iranian girl who killed 'rapist' may be spared death penalty By Angus McDowall in Tehran Published: 14 January 2007 The case came back to court on Wednesday, when Ms Fatehi, now 19, was told by the judges that they did not consider the killing to be deliberate. Defence lawyers are confident she will be spared the death penalty, and expect a sentence within 10 days. Hopes have risen for an Iranian teenager sentenced to death for stabbing a would-be rapist, after a panel of Islamic judges declared on the first day of her retrial that she had not committed intentional murder. The case of Nazanin Fatehi, highlighted in The Independent on Sunday last week, has caused an international outcry. She was sentenced to be hanged a year ago, but a retrial was ordered by Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, head of Iran's religious judiciary, after an Iranian-born singer and former Miss Canada, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, gained more than 300,000 signatories to a petition. Nazanin Fatehi was 17 when she and her niece, 15, were attacked by three men in a park in Karaj, a town an hour's drive west of Tehran. She stabbed one of the men in the hand and another, who died, in the chest. A third man escaped unharmed. "I wanted to defend myself and my niece," she said at her first trial, when she appeared in court crying, wearing a prison-issue floral chador. "I did not want to kill that boy ... I did not know what to do, because no one came to help us." Ms Fatehi's defence team, led by the human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr, will make its case this week. Ms Sadr last year helped save Ashraf Kalhori, convicted of murdering her husband, from death by stoning. She also represented the family of Atefeh Rajabi, a 16-year-old girl hanged for "crimes against chastity" in 2004. The prosecutor and the dead man's family have requested the death penalty under qisas, a category of Islamic law that demands equal punishment for a crime. When the retrial opened, the dead man's family scuffled with Ms Fatehi's father, according to Iranian human rights websites.

January 11, 2007

Nazanin Fatehi...Not Forgotten...Sign the Petition TODAY!

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful [Taken from the Muslimah Writers Alliance Muslim Women Making History Project originally published last March and updated today.]
Jan 10, 2007: Nazanin Trial Update Sign Petition to Save Nazanin Fatehi
My signature number is 310747 - add yours today! Feminists Should Focus on Basic Rights for All [Excerpt] By Kathryn Lopez - Newspaper Enterprise Association March 6, 2006 Wednesday marks what the United Nations designates "International Women's Day." I'll be thinking about an 18-year-old Iranian girl named Nazanin that day. Instead of letting activists waste the day denouncing George W. Bush and other protectors of human rights and freedom, the United Nations ought to use its bullhorn to insist that Nazanin become a household name. Nazanin and her 16-year-old niece were about to be raped last year when the older girl stabbed two of their three attackers, killing one. Nazanin reportedly told a criminal court that "I wanted to defend myself and my niece. I did not want to kill that boy. At the heat of the moment I did not know what to do because no one came to our help." But she was sentenced to death earlier this year for her crime. Her (insane) sentence is subject to higher court review. International Women's Day this year should be Save Nazanin Day. It's not only this one young woman's life who might be saved, but also countless unknowns in similar situations. (read more) In Iran, violence against women has been legalised and institutionalised by the state. A recent study conducted by the National Welfare Organisation found that two-thirds of Iranian women are victims of domestic violence. Iran remains one of the only countries in the world where women are stoned to death. Last year, the UN Special Rapporteur for Violence Against Women, Professor Ertürk, chastised Iran over what she said were abuses and discrimination built into the Islamic republic's laws. She wrote in her report: "Iran's laws do not provide protection for victims of domestic violence and make it difficult to escape violence through divorce." (read more) On the web: Death sentence for a teenage girl in Iran condemned An 18-year-old girl to be hanged in Iran

January 07, 2007

Shop Turkey

Assalamu Alaikum wa Rahmatuallahi wa Barakatuhu. Insha'Allah this message finds you in the best of health and imaan. Amin.
It's been some time since I put a plug in for my good friend in Florida, Br. Rasim, who has a very nice business known as "
Shop Turkey".

I met Br. Rasim in Connecticut a couple of years ago at a convention and snapped a few sample shots of the wonderful turkish/arabic artwork and calligraphy items you will find at the Shop Turkey website.

I was just spellbound by what I saw ... and the photos can't nearly do justice to this wonderful work, so with no further ado, I urge you to visit the website to see and learn more for yourself, insha'Allah. Believe me, you'll be glad you stopped by, insha'Allah!


Male Hijab According to the Qur'an and Sunnah

The Noble Qur'an Al-A'raaf 7:26

O Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment* upon you to cover yourselves (screen your private parts, etc.) and as an adornment, and the raiment of righteousness, that is better. Such are among the Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allâh, that they may remember (i.e. leave falsehood and follow truth).

The Noble Qur'an 7:3 [translated] [Say (O Muhammad SAW) to these idolaters (pagan Arabs) of your folk:] Follow what has been sent down unto you from your Lord (the Qur'ân and Prophet Muhammad's Sunnah), and follow not any Auliyâ' (protectors and helpers, etc. who order you to associate partners in worship with Allâh), besides Him (Allâh). Little do you remember!
Narration - al-Hakim and Tirmidhi (hasan) "Allah likes to see the mark of His benevolence on His servant." Wearing the izar (loin-wrap), thawb (long cloth), `imama (turban), jubba (coat or mantle), sirwal (baggy pants), etc. is of the Prophet's (SAAWS) Sunnah of dress. There is no such thing as an unimportant or unnecessary Sunnah.

Hadith - Tirmidhi (hasan), Book of knowledge; al-Baghawi, Sharh al-sunna 1:233. Whoever gives life to one of my Sunnahs which was eliminated after my time will receive the reward of all those who practice it without their reward being diminished...

Hadith - Tirmidhi (hasan gharib), Book of knowledge. Whoever gives life to one of my Sunnahs, he loves me: and whoever loves me is with me.

And Abu Hurayra (r.a.) narrates the following hadith in Muslim, Nasa'i, Malik, and Ahmad:

The Prophet came to the graveyard and said: "Peace be upon you, O abode of a people of believers! We shall certainly join you, if Allah will. How I long to see my brothers!" They said: "O Messenger of Allah, are we not your brothers?" He replied: "You are my Companions! As for my brothers, they are those who have not yet appeared." They said: "How will you recognize those of your Community who had not yet appeared (in your time), O Messenger of Allah?" He replied: "Suppose a man had horses with shiny white marks on their foreheads and legs: would he not recognize them among other horses which are all black?" They said: "Yes, O Messenger of Allah!" He continued: "Verily, they (my brothers) shall be coming with shiny bright foreheads and limbs due to their ablutions, and I shall precede them to my Pond."

Dressing according to the sunnah is an act of ibadah that brings with it a reward, insha'Allah.

The very least that has been said by the scholars of the Shari`a in the matter is that following the Prophet in matters of dress or everyday matters such as eating, walking, and sleeping is a matter of excellence (ihsan) and perfection (kamal) and is desirable (mustahabb) and part of one's good manners (adab) in the religion. Every desirable practice performed on the basis of such intention means a higher degree in paradise which the person who neglects it may not attain to, and Allah knows best.


Modesty for Men:

Comprehensive Guide to Muslim Dress Code for Men and Women:

January 05, 2007

Assalamu Alaikum and Jummah Mubarak!
Do you have friends you like chat and email with who live in different time zones, and you're always counting out on your fingers the number of hours difference from the zone you're in and the zone they're in to figure out what time it is? *ugg* I do this all the time...or I used to do it! But the other day I found this really cool page, and now I've customized it to display specific time zone clocks for the cities in which I have friends that I communicate with, and I've added the link to my menu/tool bar for instant access and with one click I know what time it is wherever my friends are!
Check it out!!

Food: Understand the Basic Principles, Observe the Rules

By: Adil Salahi, Arab News

Q. Muslims who live abroad have different views on what is permissible to eat and what is forbidden. Some insist on specific conditions with regard to meat; some refuse to eat non-meat products for fear that lard might have been used in frying; some fear that the food might have been contaminated by some other prohibited material. Others refuse to eat the food made by people of other religions, including Christians and Jews, except when they are invited by them. Could you please explain the nature of the correct attitude we should adopt in this respect?

H. Mehmud

A. There are basic rules which we must always observe, and certain principles that we must keep in our minds. The first of these principles is that the authority to forbid anything belongs to God alone. It is not up to a scholar, or a group of eminent scholars to prohibit anything, unless their verdict is based on a clear principle laid down by God. What the Prophet (peace be upon him) pronounced as forbidden falls within this category, because he did so only on God’s clear instructions. Another principle is that God has no wish to make things difficult for us. On the contrary, He always wants to make things easy for us. He says in the Qur’an: “God desires that you have ease. He does not desire that you be afflicted with hardship.” (2: 185) He also says: “God wants to lighten your burdens; for man has been created weak.” (4: 28) If this is what God wants, then it is wrong that people should make things difficult for themselves or for others. In fact the overriding rule of all Islamic legislation is to make things easy, not difficult.

Another basic principle is that our approach to Islamic legislation must always be one of understanding and obedience. When we are certain that Islam lays down a certain rule, or gives a specific order, we must obey it. We abide by it even if we cannot understand its purpose or discern the wisdom behind it. We must always trust that what God orders, and what His messenger teaches are meant for our benefit. Nothing we do or refrain from doing brings any benefit to God. He is in no need of anything or anyone.

However, this should not deter us from trying to understand the purpose and objective of any Islamic legislation. In fact, we should do so, because it helps us to strengthen our belief in the truth of our religion. When we understand the objective of a certain legislation, which may involve some effort or sacrifice on our part, and realize that it is for our own benefit or for the benefit of our community, we make that effort or sacrifice willingly, feeling that God is taking care of us.

We must also take into consideration the fact that people tend to make things difficult, rather than easy. They look for ways to make things stricter. This is described in the Qur’an: “And know that God’s messenger is among you. Were he to comply with your inclinations in many a case, you would surely come to harm.” (49: 7). You notice this in people’s attitude to everyday matters. It is always easy for people to say to one thing or another that it is forbidden, without any basis from the Qur’an or the Sunnah. Often people impose on themselves and on their families rules which they associate with religion when Islam does not have anything to do with them. Communities establish rules, giving them a religious character, while they are based only on social tradition that has no basis in Islam. It is, therefore, important for people to learn what Islam requires and abide by it.

When it comes to food and what is permissible, we must remember the basic rule that all things are allowed and permissible unless there is a specific text to make them otherwise. Things that were not known at the time when Islamic teachings were revealed can be pronounced as forbidden only on the basis of well-defined Islamic rules that are unquestionably applicable to them. One case in mind is tobacco smoking. Eminent scholars who have studied the issue of smoking and its effects on man’s health have returned a clear verdict of prohibition, based on a number of rules that prohibit anything that is harmful to man’s physical and mental health.

When it comes to food and drink, God has prohibited only what is harmful such as carrion, blood, pork and wines. He permitted the slaughter of animals for food, provided that the slaughterer takes into account that he can only take away the life of an animal by God’s permission. This is reflected in the fact that we have to invoke God’s name at the time of slaughter. If we are in doubt as to whether God’s name has been invoked, we mention His name before we eat the meat presented to us.

People’s approach in this area always tends to be very strict. They want to make absolutely certain that everything was done in the correct way, going too far in establishing details. God does not want us to do so. The Prophet made it clear that we need not investigate things that are not readily known to us with regard to worship and religion. We take the case of Umar who was walking with another companion of the Prophet when some water dropped over them from a building nearby. Umar’s companion started to inquire whether the water was clean or contaminated with impurity. Umar stopped him, saying to the man in the building that he should not answer the questions put to him. He also told his companion that the Prophet ordered that we do not go to such lengths in trying to establish details. This ties up with the rule mentioned above that everything is permissible unless pronounced otherwise. Similarly, everything is pure unless we are certain that it has been contaminated with impurity.

The reader says that some of his friends maintain that they would not eat the food prepared or processed by people of earlier divine religions except when they are invited into their homes. This adds a condition that has no basis in the Qur’an or the Sunnah. It is absolutely wrong. The meat sold in supermarkets or by butchers in Christian countries is permissible for us to eat, unless it is specifically forbidden, such as pork. God has granted us a concession in this respect, saying: “The food of those who were given revelations is lawful to you, and your food is lawful to them. And the virtuous women from among the believers and the virtuous women from among those who were given revelations before you (are also lawful to you) when you give them their dowers, taking them in honest wedlock, not in fornication, nor as mistresses.” (5: 5)

If you read this carefully, you find that God has not imposed any conditions that qualify this permission. Why would people impose such conditions is beyond comprehension. It can only be attributed to the fact that people tend to make things difficult for themselves and for others. This is the wrong attitude. If we are uncertain that God’s name has been invoked at the time of slaughtering such animals, we mention God’s name before we eat it, as indeed we are recommended to do every time we eat.

In short, an easy, relaxed approach is always better, as it is more in line with what God wants for us. It is He who has stated this, and we take His orders as they are stated, knowing that He only wants what is good and beneficial for us. All praise be to Him.

January 04, 2007

Welcome Kylie!

Kylie Marie Porchea

Born: Jan 3 @1:28am 4lbs 11oz 17in

Congratulations Shannon and Vern!