Tag Archives: islam

Islamic Intellectual Resurgence : Looking Westwards

handmade revolution

From my experiences in living in three different and distinct regions in the world, I have always maintained that an intellectual Islamic resurgence has the greatest chance of starting in the West. Dr Tariq Ramadan in his reasons for not attending the ISNA and RIS conferences very clearly outlines the following, which are as pertinent to the West as it is for democracies in other parts of the world like Sri Lanka, where Muslims live as a minority community.

“I have said it once and I will say it again: Western Muslims will in the future assume a critical role. Educated and living in free societies, they must acquire greater knowledge of their religion and become free, active and outspoken citizens, fully aware of their duties and dedicated to the defense of their rights. In the United States, just as in Canada and in Europe, they must defend everyone’s human dignity, and refuse to keep silent in the face of intimidation by the state. Drawing on their spirituality and their values, their commitment will be their finest contribution, the best possible example of the contribution of Muslim citizens to the future of the West. The leaders of the previous generation are too cautious, too fearful; they dare not speak freely.”

“I am also a member of a generation that is passing on. It is up to the new generation to produce leaders who have understood that in bending over backwards, in saying “Yes sir!” they sacrifice not only their dignity, but forget and betray their duty. I dream of a new feminine and masculine leadership, educated, free and bold, a leadership that does not confuse the concept of dialogue with the authorities with unacceptable compromise and intellectual surrender, a leadership that does not transform Sufism, the historical underpinning of so many liberation movements, into a school of silence and cowardly calculation. As I look around me, I see the first premises of a dream come true, alhamdulillah”

Image from here.

1 Comment

Filed under 2014, england, Islam, politics, revolution

Ramadan In a British Setting

338_1vertical_mosque_with_graffitti_red

First published here for The Platform earlier this Ramadan.

Being a British Muslim in Ramadan can be an accommodating and amusing experience – and even more so with this year’s programming on Channel 4

I used to work at a prominent architectural practice in central London. Being the only Muslim, let alone the only non-white employee, I stood out for some of my ways and mannerisms, stemming of course from my faith. During office social outings I used to diligently stick to my loyal glass of orange juice, or Redbull if I was feeling adventurous, while my erstwhile colleagues indulged in their socially-acceptable libations – some extolling its many virtues when the intake was slightly above the norm.

Many of my colleagues at work found the concept of Ramadan to be novel and rather unusual. They struggled to reconcile the idea of abstaining from food and drink while working in the office and having to stay on top of one’s professional game. My closest work friend was a Scouser lad from the Wirral, with whom I once walked into a local Asda and saw not a single Asian employee, in stark contrast to the picture of all the brown-skinned employees I would see if I were to walk into any supermarket in London. Upon being asked if the chicken was halal, an English worker consulted his superiors and kindly replied saying “I am sorry sir, the chicken isn’t ‘halal-friendly’”. Naturally I was amused at the thought of chicken being halal-friendly, when it is either halal or it isn’t.

My colleagues were extremely considerate of my Ramadan routines, sometimes somewhat mortifyingly, as they would inconvenience themselves by trying to avoid eating and drinking when I was around. My boss then, a well-respected senior partner of the firm would facetiously ask if I was on “Ramadan Poppadom”, and then go to the extent of asking me to write about the experience of working during Ramadan for the office magazine. Such was the obliging nature of an office in the city where I was the sole fasting employee. I am sure mine is not the only such experience.

Most Brits are curious to know what Ramadan is and exhibit a genuine desire to learn more about it, particularly when it is from someone they already know. However, many prominent British media organs have made these ambassadors of Ramadan come across as extreme and unapproachable, so much so that the concept of Ramadan is lost to many people.

It is in this atmosphere that Channel 4 rather provocatively chose to state that they will be broadcasting the morning adhaan (call to prayer) which, upon hearing, Muslims must stop eating and drinking for the rest of the day till dusk.

This news has been received with a plethora of mixed reviews. Muslims in the UK, if they do not go to the local mosque to break their fast, typically rely on the internet for the times of the adhaan or have an adhaan clock which will have been localised to UK settings, or use the latest iPad or android app. Channel 4’s decision to broadcast the adhaan is a truly refreshing intervention by a British mainstream broadcaster that will help bring the concept and significance of Ramadan, and what it entails, to the broader British public.

There has also been widespread criticism and sensationalised headlines following Channel 4′s decision to broadcast the adhaan by the usual suspects. But then the question begs to be asked, who watches Channel 4 at 3am for the duration of the adhaan for 2-3 minutes if not British Muslims during Ramadan? Surely it is a rather insignificant societal matter if it will not be seen by mainstream Britain. Yet, at the time of writing, an online poll shows that over 66 per cent replied ‘No’ to the question ‘Is Channel 4 right to broadcast the call to prayer?’

This Ramadan, as with every Ramadan, Muslims will be especially conscious of their actions and will endeavour to act with particular respect and good conscience in manners relating to physical, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing. During the 30-day period of Ramadan, it is common practice for Muslims to attempt and complete reciting the entire Qur’an.

On the matter of diversity, the Qur’an states: “Oh mankind, We have created you from a male and female, and made you into races and tribes, so that you may identify one another. Surely the noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most pious” (Chapter 49, Verse 13). This is further reinforced by Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon where he said, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black, nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action”.

Integration among communities is of the utmost importance, and one can confidently say that British Muslims do make conscious efforts to integrate into mainstream British society and contribute to the UK socially and economically. It is tragic that this still needs to be mentioned.

As David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband will no doubt emphasise in their Ramadan messages, charity is a core value of Ramadan and Muslims should contribute charity towards the wider community – for indeed justice and equality are not just Islamic values, but are values at the heart of British society too.

Image from here.

2 Comments

Filed under 2013, england, Islam

Bodu Bala Sena and Their Muslim Funding

c07bdbd398dd4ac563358e095fc5d2e0_XL

Evangelicism is quite a common phenomenon in many parts of the world. Evangelicals take many forms and hues, from the hysteric evangelic Christians with their TV shows in the US or Muslim televangelists in many parts of the Muslim world, mostly in South Asia than in the Middle East, like this Muslim loon here who likes to put on a show.

What is also known is that these evangelical types operate in most covert and clandestine ways, often conspiring between power factions to create turmoil to facilitate the requirement of a peace keeping force in whose guise these evangelical types can creep in furtively through INGO’s and clubs & societies, smaller tentacles of the evangelical types have even percolated as clubs & societies in Sri Lankan schools. Co-Education not being the norm in Sri Lankan schools, these clubs and societies thrive on the notion that boys or girls get the chance to interact with the opposite gender, not something readily available if you schooled in Sri Lanka.

The crux of my ranting above is to drive the fact that evangelicals work in the most ingenious means by penetrating into our collective psyche so much that they become part of the default setup, so much so that you welcome them in, not knowing that they are luring you out.

The Bodu Bala Sena have been on the rampage in Sri Lanka these past few months, you may think they are a Buddhist organisation trying to promote the values of true Buddhism, like Metta, Karuna, Muditha and Upekka, but you, like most of the others around you are far from the truth.

It has been revealed that the Bodu Bala Sena is funded by a Muslim evangelical organisation based in the Middle East. Having successfully taught Sri lankans about Halal and Haram, they are now hell bent on teaching Sri Lankans about the attire of Muslim women in Sri Lanka, before long the vast majority of Sri Lankans will know about the hijab and abhaya, terms otherwise confined mostly to cities with mixed ethnic populations.

The concept of Halal and Haram are ancient Islamic concepts, but they were confined to the inner walls of the Sri Lankan Muslim community because non Muslims do not have to live according to what is stipulated by Halal and Haram. Halal being anything that are permissible and Haram being what are impermissible. The Bodu Bala Sena has gone about vociferously advocating the abstention from Halal foods. They put out posters, large rallies were held and many TV slots were allocated for the BBS to teach the Sinhalese Majority of the Islamic concepts that are halal and haram.

Many monks belonging to the BBS have been seen researching the Qur’an very studiously to understand what it means and what it seeks to espouse. Ven. Galaboda Aththe Gnansara Thera has been seen holding the Qur’an and explaining to the Sinhalese masses what it truly means.  Sinhalese Buddhists who probably never held a Qur’an in their life, having seen a revered monk propagate from it are now driven to study the Qur’an to see what the fuss is all about, thereby getting attracted to the Islamic faith, reliable BBS sources who cannot be revealed have stated.

Of course the reverend monk who appears on TV and BBS platforms seemingly espousing true Buddhist teachings in the pristine Sinhalese that he speaks with calming rhetoric that can proselytise to Buddhism even members from the Taleban was once seen to have behaved like this video shows – ranting in colourful language, except the colour here was in reference to anatomical sections in the human body, both Muslim and Buddhist.

It has been revealed that the paymasters of the Bodu Bala Sena now want the Sinhalese masses to be educated on the Abhaya and Hijab. The rapid westernisation of Sri Lankan society means that the Muslims are getting de-islamicised and the Buddhist majority are getting secular, thereby deviating from Buddhist ethical codes of morality and charity. If the secularisation of the majority Sinhalese were to go unchecked it would be onerous for the Muslims to proselytise the Sri Lankan Sinhalese. The role of the BBS therefore is constantly keep the Buddhist majority in check by infusing Islamic principles into their daily routine, what better way than doing so by scapegoat-ing the existing Muslim population.

Indeed the Muslim evangelical intelligentsia have been so powerful and devious that the Bodu Bala Sena have got wide recognition in Sri Lanka, and the BBS are promoting Islam in Sri Lanka in ways the Sri Lankan Muslim community would have known to be possible.

Further cementing the devious nature of the Muslim Jamiyathul Ulema can be seen in the kind and calm manner in which they have been dealing with the situation compared to the hate filled hysteric rhetoric employed by BBS. This is a carefully orchestrated move of trying to portray goons as Buddhist monks and thereby smear the nobility of a revered philosophy such as Buddhism. It seems this is now bearing fruit, as Gamini Kotakadenia from Theldeniya  mentions here.

True Sinhalese and Buddhists who value their cultural identity must be careful of this rapid Islamisation being spread by the Bodu Bala Sena, their intention is to make this beautifully diverse island nation rid of the majority Sinhalese who if this Bodu Bala Sena scourge were to go on a rampage would soon be much less in proportions.

Image from here.

4 Comments

Filed under 2013, Islam, politics, Sri Lanka, Uncategorized

Sri Lanka and the Halal Controversy

I have been trying to write on this matter for sometime, for lack of time and the want to write something coherent without just ranting, I have been keeping away from it.

This gentleman from the Jemmiyathul Ulema (Sri Lankan body of Muslim Theologians) gives an excellent analysis of the social, legal and political dimensions of what ‘Halal’ is and what this controversy is all about, in very eloquent Sinhalese I must add.

It is important that non Muslims in Sri Lanka are enlightened on this matter,  please do share this video to dispel doubts and reduce the chances of unnecessary tension.

1 Comment

Filed under Islam, politics, Sri Lanka

The Golden Globes, Homeland and Islamophobia

homeland-episode-9

I watched both seasons of Homeland, as gripping and exciting as both seasons are, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that it is yet another film/TV Series that portrays the default image of Muslims as being terrorists. In the defence of the show, it does show the US Vice President as being a murderer who ordered drone strikes that killed 80 or so children, but the damages the show would do for the image of an everyday Muslim living a normal life is overshadow any depiction of fairness or balance of the real narrative.

It is with a lot of accuracy that Laila Al Arian describes the show as “TV’s most Islamophobic show“.

I like Damian Lewis who plays Sergeant Brody, the Muslim, Vice Presidential candidate nominee and secret terrorist. I posted a facebook link to Damian Lewis being interviewed by Jonathan Ross where he says that he did not want the film to make ‘lazy’ comparisons between  Islam and violence, and instead Islam could be a force for good that sustains him. As noble as Lewis’s thoughts may have been, I am reluctant to feel that Homeland succeeds in doing that. I did the mistake of posting the YouTube link on facebook before actually watching the show.

Homeland has been featuring in my facebook feed for sometime now and many have been watching it. My worry is that it will reinforce the wrong and lazy assertion that the average Muslims, for all their average activities are usually closet terrorists.

The Golden Globe awards that concluded a few days ago have been an endorsement of a rancid American foreign policy in the Middle East and the Film Industry has yet again proved to be the preferred apparatus of US foreign policy to set the stage for future operations.

Rachel Shabi notes in The Guardian about the Golden Globes-

The three winners have all been sold as complex, nuanced productions that don’t shy away from hard truths about US foreign policy. And liberal audiences can’t get enough of them. Perhaps it’s because, alongside the odd bit of self-criticism, they are all so reassuringly insistent that, in an increasingly complicated world, America just keeps on doing the right thing. And even when it does the wrong thing – such as, I don’t know, torture and drone strikes and deadly invasions – it is to combat far greater evil, and therefore OK.

I am inclined to side with Rachel wholeheartedly.

If Homeland did one good thing to sustain my faith it is this – Brody recites a prayer after Abu Nazeer is killed, in thankfulness that his life is now returning to normal, he recites this outside Carrie’s family holiday camping home, I had forgotten this prayer, I must say I say it a lot now. If not for anything, I am thankful to Homeland for this.

وَقَالُواْ ٱلۡحَمۡدُ لِلَّهِ ٱلَّذِى هَدَٮٰنَا لِهَـٰذَا وَمَا كُنَّا لِنَہۡتَدِىَ لَوۡلَآ أَنۡ هَدَٮٰنَا ٱللَّهُ‌ۖ

And they say: The praise to God, Who has guided us to this. We could not truly have been led aright if God had not guided us. (A’raf : 43)

Image from here

6 Comments

Filed under 2013, Film, Islam, Uncategorized

The Muslim Life of Pi

life-of-pi-3

Not really the Muslim life, but spiritual life would have been more apt. Also, spoiler alert.

I finally managed to watch ‘Life of Pi’ yesterday, I say ‘finally’ like I have been wanting to watch it for sometime now, but no – it was just a spur of the moment decision to go and watch it. I didn’t necessarily have it bookmarked as a must watch.

The book has been highly commended and many people whose opinions I trust have recommended it to me and I really did want to read it. I did the mistake however of watching the film first, and I think I may now never read the book. By this I mean not to say that the book has now diminished in my mind as an essential read, but the film I thought was a bit of a drag.

What the film successfully does however is to make it clear how good the book is and why the book must have been so good in the way it elucidates the power and presence of God in our lives. Therefore, if anything the film doesn’t really reduce the impression one may have had of the book.

The film I thought was a bit too long, and there were instances where I would have pressed the forward button if I was watching it at home on a DVD.  Pi, the protagonist (a believer of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam)  gets stranded in the middle of the ocean after a shipwreck that kills all aboard including his parents and his brother, that was made clear, with that the  human mind can associate to some extent the various perils and sufferings that come with being stranded. The film spent a lot of time trying to convey this.  Personally, I felt there were instances where time durations could have been cut down, more so when no powerful spiritual or literary message was really being conveyed compared to the time that it was taking. Another good film which had good reviews and yet which I found to be a drag at times is 127 hours, yet another instance where the film tended to focus far too much on reinforcing the suffering of the protagonist upon the viewer when the message surely had been conveyed.

But as a spiritual person and someone who believes in the presence of God, there were poignant moments which struck me and certainly pushed the case for the fact that as humans we aren’t entirely in control of ourselves or our actions. Our actions too are a result of the manoeuvring of us by a far more supreme being.

When Pi was stranded in the middle of the ocean, with nothing to depend on except some emergency supplies he finds on the boat and a Bengal tiger with which he was constantly involved in a battle for life, and yet at the same time kept him alive and alert, one does get the idea that much is said here about life. This is an instance when one really feels helpless and is truly in the hands of God. Many times we come across people or situations in life which are to our lives like the tiger was to Pi in this particular sequence of his life.

The tiger was an apparatus used by a higher power that kept Pi alive by being the significant threat to his life that it was, the fact that Pi had to struggle so much to go to the boat from his little raft to collect supplies at the risk of being eaten up strengthened his resolve and kept him vigilant. When all else was lost and the tiger had nothing else to feed on except to eat Pi, hordes of flying fish suddenly collide with the boat and the boat fills up just enough fish for the tiger and Pi to feast upon, thereby reducing the vulnerability of Pi from being eaten up by the tiger.

Just at that point I was reminded of this Qur’an verse –

 وَمَن يَتَّقِ ٱللَّهَ يَجۡعَل لَّهُ ۥ مَخۡرَجً۬ا (٢) وَيَرۡزُقۡهُ مِنۡ حَيۡثُ لَا يَحۡتَسِبُ‌ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ فَهُوَ حَسۡبُهُ

 “And for those who fear God, He (ever) prepares a way out. And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if anyone puts his trust in God, sufficient is (God) for him.”  (Chapter  65 Verses 2-3)

There were numerous instances during the film when I thought that the ideal scene had been set where Pi would perhaps dramatically yell out something similar to the prayer of Prophet Jonah (Yunus for Muslims), but he did not. However, Pi did look towards the skies and cry out in despair that he had lost his parents and everything else, and asked what more God wanted from him.

After leaving the carnivores island, Pi says something to the effect that even though he was in instances of difficulty in numerous occasions and all hope was lost, he sensed that God made His presence felt in one way or the other and despite all the pains and sufferings, he felt that God never abandoned him.

This is when one (I in this instance) realises how every single living and non living construct play a part in our lives and this whilst accomplishing their own purposes of existence, they also come and influence our lives to a certain extent to remind us of the purpose of our existence, and how we should get about our lives, as peoples of faith or otherwise.

Upon reaching the shores of Mexico, Richard Parker (the name of the Tiger) just walks away from Pi, stops for a moment as if to look back at him, and then just continues to walk into the dense forest and Pi never sees him again. This naturally upsets Pi a lot, despite all that the tiger and the boy have been through, through the most perilous moments of their lives, the tiger just walks off without saying good bye. This reminded me of another Quranic story, the story of Moses and Khildr.

Moses had erred by proclaiming that he was extremely knowledgeable and that he knew the mysteries behind all or most things without attributing his strength as coming from God. God sends down Khildr to meet Moses and after three incidents where Moses’ wrong claim to absolute knowledge is established, Khildr goes away, never to be seen on the face of the earth.

The tiger in this instance had a worldly purpose to fullfill, and amongst its scope of work would have been to teach Pi vital lessons of trust, belief, hope and absolute reliance on God.

Sometimes people come into our lives; in their living they fulfil their purpose of existence. But the very purpose of their existence may perhaps be purely as guidance to us who have erred as a mercy from Allah. The soldiers of Allah can take any form, and rarely do we recognise them as soldiers of Allah sent to help believers – but they are there.

Tabarani reports that , “A man came to Abu Darda and said to him, ‘O Abu Darda, your house has burned.’ He said: ‘No, it cannot be burned. Allah will never allow this to happen because of the words that I heard from the Prophet, peace be upon him. Whoever says these words in the beginning of a day, the Prophet, peace be upon him, told us, will not be afflicted by a misfortune until the end of the day, and whoever says these words in the evening will not be afflicted until morning. These words are, 

“O Allah, You are my Lord, there is no god but You, I put my trust in You, You are the Lord of the Mighty Throne. Whatever Allah wills will happen and what He does not will, cannot happen. There is no power or strength except with Allah, the Exalted, the Mighty. I know that Allah has power over all things, and Allah comprehends all things in knowledge. O Allah, I seek refuge with You from the evil of myself and from the evil of all creatures under Your control. Surely the straight way is my Sustainers’ way“.

In some versions of this hadith we further find that he said, “Come, let us go. So he went with them to his house. They found all the area surrounding the house burned but his house was not damaged.”

Life of Pi is of book or film that illustrates the life of a man, who believes in all main faiths, yet the lessons derived from it and the resonance it has to Islamic values is truly poignant. Points to those of us who ponder.

For those of you who do not believe in a God, this post will come across as loony. Watch the film or read the book all the same.

Image from here.

3 Comments

Filed under 2012, Islam

The great burqa/niqab/hijab debate

 

Interesting arguments on the New Statesman here by Mehdi Hasan.

Two questions immediately come to mind:

1) In the middle of the worst economic crisis in living memory, how can France’s ruling conservative party justify focusing its legislative energies on banning an item of clothing worn by 0.1 per cent of the French population of adult Muslim women (or 0.003 per cent of the French population as a whole)?

2) Why did the “French internal security services” commission a study on the burqa/niqab? Is it now deemed to be a national security risk? Do French intelligence agencies have nothing better to do with their time? No other threats to deal with, apart from 2,000 Muslim women with covered faces?

Then there is the matter of the clothing itself and distinguishing between the various types. I’m no fan of the burqa or the niqab myself, and have yet to be convinced of the Islamic legal reasoning behind either garment, but I do recognise the difference between the burqa and the niqab, on the one hand, and the hijab on the other.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized