MuslimMatters.org http://muslimmatters.org Discourses in the Intellectual Traditions, Political Situation, and Social Ethics of Muslim Life Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:18:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 2014’s Best Places in America for Wanna-Be Halalies http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/29/2014s-best-places-in-america-for-wanna-be-halalies/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/29/2014s-best-places-in-america-for-wanna-be-halalies/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 04:00:43 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=54267 Given that the American Muslim population was just recently found to be the most racially diverse religious group in the United States, it is only natural to wonder about the food scene that has flourished as a result of the many cultures coexisting within one nation. With that, enters the halal food scene. While halalies […]

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Given that the American Muslim population was just recently found to be the most racially diverse religious group in the United States, it is only natural to wonder about the food scene that has flourished as a result of the many cultures coexisting within one nation. With that, enters the halal food scene. While halalies (halal foodies) might know the ins and outs of the best places to be, in the most interesting towns and states, the rest of us still aren't really sure.

Enter then, the first annual ranking of the best places to be for the most delicious halal noshing experiences.

An exclusive Illume feature with famous halal foodies Shahed Amanullah and Sameer S. Sarmast gives us the low-down on the top places in America to be for the best halal food.

Shahed Amanullah is the founder of Zabihah.com, the first-ever halal restaurant review database, consisting of over 10,000 reviewed restaurants and markets worldwide and boasting 10 million annual users. Sameer S. Sarmast is the founder of Sameer's Eats, the web's most popular show for discovering the best halal eateries. The host of The Halal Food Tour, Sameer's Eats is instrumental for putting halal food on the American culinary map.

With the input from them both, we have been able to put together a list of the best fourteen places for 2014. Let us know if you agree- or better yet, disagree, and have a better place to add to the list!

1. The Tenderloin, San Francisco, California

Located in downtown San Francisco, the Tenderloin is known as the ragged and determinedly dingy domain of the city's most down and out. Yet there's a sort of grittiness found in the area that is not seen much anymore. An area that used to have no restaurants, the Tenderloin attracted the attention of a restaurant owner and the rest is history. “Because of the strength of a single restaurant, Shalimar, multiple halal restaurants have now pushed the area from being down and out into possessing a booming food industry, solely on the back of the Muslim food dollar,” Shahed Amanullah, founder of Zabihah.com, reflected. Drawing people from all over the San Fran area, the restaurants in the Tenderloin are primarily South Asian, but Chinese, Italian, North African and other cuisines are now beginning to feature predominantly as well.

Top picks: Shalimar, Tikka Masala, Bang San Thai 2

2. Street Cart Scene, New York City, New York

“When you talk about New York City as a distinct area, you have to recognize how it's all about the halal carts and how they transformed the field for food carts everywhere,” Amanullah divulged. With a near-perfect rating of 9.2 out of 10 on Foursquare, The Halal Guys wins the top twenty five most popular food trucks hands down. It's not even a question as to what to purchase when you're standing in line: “chicken and gyro over rice with as much white sauce as is humanly possible to ingest,” says Foursquare and Buzzfeed.

Top picks: The Halal Guys, Halal Food Cart, Halal Food Cart II

3. Devon Avenue, Chicago, Illinois

A major east-west thoroughfare in the Chicago metropolitan area, the area boasts the perfect way to get a fix on South Asian food, all in a ten-block stretch on the Far North Side. Known as the most multicultural street in the city, Devon features businesses run by Indians, Pakistanis, Iraqis, and Russians, while catering to Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, and Christians. “It's the only place I've ever seen where there is a kosher butcher near a halal butcher,” Amanullah divulges. South Asian restaurants in the area jockey for the most authentic and spicy, but the history is unconventional, to say the least. Although all of Devon used to consist of Orthodox Jews and Russians, Indians, Pakistanis and Bengalis moved in and took over the street. As a result, the street boasts a whole gamut of spices.

Top picks: JK Kabab House, Sabri Nihari Restaurant, Ghareeb Nawaz

4. North Jersey, New Jersey

It's easy to let New Jersey's size fool you, but don't discredit this small state. Known as the absolute halal hub, Sameer Sarmast of SameersEats.com was quick to call it a “halal paradise.” Although the city was dominant in silk production during the 19th century, it has since evolved into a major destination for Hispanic emigrants, as well as Arab and Muslim immigrants. While the majority of people in North Jersey are Middle Eastern, with a large number of Arabs residing in Paterson, there are a lot of Bangladeshis living in the area as well. “So you find a variety of restaurants, lots of halal restaurants,” Sarmast said.

Top picks: China Pagoda I, Al-Basha, Toros

5. Ford Road, Dearborn, Michigan

One of the heaviest populations of Arabs and Muslims in America, Dearborn is known as a utopia for those that do not reside within the town boundaries. The center of the town is Ford Road, which is also the most concentrated area. The predominant Arab concentration is Lebanese, although the area has mellowed out into a pan-Arab population in recent years. The town's economic strength is reflect “in the number of establishment on Ford Road, most of which are Lebanese… but in recent years, a lot of mainstream meat and potato places have opened up for the younger crowd.”

Top picks: Shatila, Fuego Grill, Cedarland

6.Sugar Land, Houston, Texas

Known for being the heart of the Muslim community in Houston, Sugar Land is also one of the most affluent and fastest-growing cities in the state. It is only natural, then, that its diversity is reflected in the fact that, as Amanullah said, “no one type of food dominates.” “Two things make it unique,” he continued, “one is its very Texas culture – Southwest and Mexican cuisine and meat- and the second is in its Asian immigrants and cuisine, reflected in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines.” One of the more diverse scenes in America, Sugar Land has come a long way from its more homogenous sugar plantation roots. Don't miss the opportunity to sample from the different ethnic contingents during your time here.

Top picks: Crespo Pizza & Italian Grill, China King, Bijan's Persian Grill

7. Northern Virginia, Virginia

“It's the kebab capital of America,” Amanullah said immediately when we brought up the area. “Everyone focuses on kebabs, because they're a comfort food for people coming from different places. If you like kebabs, it's the place to come to. It's the only area where there are restaurants and food joints open 24 hours in a day, so it's very fascinating.” Northern Virginia comprises of several counties, but is the widespread region radiating westward from Washington, DC, and the most populous region of Virginia. With the commute from DC, it is only natural then to rely on everyone's favorite comfort food.

Top picks: Charcoal Kabab, BBQ Delight Kabab & Grill, East West Grill

8. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis is the 48th largest city in the United States and known on the down low as the “Somali capital of America.” Although “it doesn't have a large number of restaurants,” Shahed confided, “the food is amazing.” The dominant cuisine here is Somali, reflecting the area's population, which has a long tradition of charitable support through progressive social programs and volunteering. In one generation, Minneapolis' Somali residents grew from penniless immigrants into wealthy entrepreneurs, banking on their popular cuisine to contribute to the greater community. Right at the crossroards to Arab, African and South Asian food, Somali dishes are like no other.

Top picks: Hamdi Restaurant, Safari, Kabob's Restaurant

9. Queens, New York City, New York

Known as the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world with a population of over 2 million, 48% of which are foreign-born, Queens is a place like no other. “There are a million halal restaurants in New York City,” Amanullah said, “but Jackson Heights is the best place to go.” A very vibrant neighborhood, Jackson Heights is a dense working class area – but any place where the cabbies go to eat is known as having the most delicious food. Vying for a close second is Astoria, also known for being a halal hub. With a diversity of restaurants between 28th and Astoria, a true glimpse at the richness of the Muslim community in New York City can be seen.

Top picks: Fatima's Halal Kitchen, Kabab King Diner, Kababish

10. Central Jersey, New Jersey

Given that New Jersey is such a halal hub, it needed more than one feature on this top fourteen list. The other notable region to look at is central Jersey, which is a mix of Indo-Pakistani, Afghani and Arab residents, clumped in different towns. “On the weekend,” Sarmast said, “everyone goes to weekend buffet restaurants.” Where there are strong cultural populations, there can always be found delicious cuisine developments, and Jersey is no stranger to this phenomenon. Although there are not found specific hubs of cuisine, notable restaurants can be found nonetheless.

Top picks: Shalimar BBQ & Curry House, Douglass Pizza, Kabab Paradise II

11. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

If you really want to try out a famous Philly cheesesteak, there is no other place to go than the original source. Shaped by the city's mixtures of ethnicities, available foodstuffs and history, it is an icon to the city. Invented in the 1930s, the soft bread filled with an indulgent mix of beef and gooey cheese is a longstanding foodie favorite in Philadelphia, and a halal scene has finally caught up and begun creating their own delectable versions of the food. The economic and cultural center of Delaware Valley, Philadelphia is home to over six million people and the country's sixth largest metropolitan area.

Top picks: 7 Seas Seafood/Broad Street Cheesesteaks, Saad's Halal Restaurant, Nanee's Kitchen

12. Washington, District of Columbia

Although it's well known as the capital of America, complete with government buildings and national museums, what's less known is the wholesome, filling and vibrant halal food scene that thrives off of its loyal customers. Amanullah spilled about the most famous restaurant in the area: Ben's Chili Bowl. “Ben's Chili Bowl is a restaurant in the African American area of the city, straight up salt of the earth. The most famous dish there is the half-smoked, half pork, half beef sausage – but the interesting thing is the founder of 60 years, Ben Ali, never once ate the dish, because he's Muslim. When he passed away, the city gave him a hero's funeral – the restaurant is really one of a kind.” Compared to northern VA, DC is predominantly African American in cuisine.

Top picks: Busboys & Poets, Kabob Palace, New Dynasty

13. Atlanta, Georgia

Another halal hub that falls in the more unconventional category, Atlanta is well known for its halal food not simply because of the quality but because, according to Amanullah, “it's very big on American food and less on immigrant food.” One of the South's largest cities, Atlanta has a flare for the arts that allows its visitors and residents the opportunity to develop their creative taste – and then the opportunity to satisfy their more traditional culinary taste. The Muslim community in Atlanta is fully integrated and engaged in the state, with community life being expressed in areas of education, entrepreneurship, civic involvement, and interfaith. It's no surprise, then, to see the array of predominantly American halal cuisine options, with “highlights in seafood and soulfood cooking,” Amanullah said.

Top picks: Shujaa's BBQ, Karachi Broast & Grill, Famous Sharky Seafood & Company

14. Dade County, Miami, Florida

The most populous metropolis in the Southeastern United States after Washington, DC, Miami is nicknamed the “Capital of Latin America,” as the largest US city with a Spanish-speaking majority. It is only natural, then, that the halal food scene is “influenced by the proximity to Cuban cultures,” as Amanullah said, “creating a new kind of taste, Afrocaribbean halal.” With the Muslim community in Miami representing cultures and backgrounds from around the world, including a significant Hispanic population, the food is “pretty diverse in terms of offerings.” This is the place to find something with a little Latin flair, and not feel like you're struggling to discover it.

Top picks: Lazeez Asian Cuisine,Juicy Gyros, Natural Chicken Grill

 

 

Laila Alawa is the Social Media Associate at Unity Productions Foundation; and a Public Policy & Government Intern at the Muslim Public Affairs Council. She is also the founder & editor of ComingofFaith.com

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[VIRAL VIDEO] Moving Account of Children In Gaza by Jon Snow (With Transcript) http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/viral-video-moving-account-of-children-in-gaza-by-jon-snow-with-transcript/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/viral-video-moving-account-of-children-in-gaza-by-jon-snow-with-transcript/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 03:45:01 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org?p=54246&preview_id=54246 This short but powerful video is presented by respected British journalist, Jon Snow, for Channel 4 News. The report was recorded on Snow's return from Gaza. It is clear from his words that it was a life changing experience that will stay with him forever.

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This short but powerful video is presented by respected British journalist, Jon Snow, for Channel 4 News.

You may remember Snow from his recent gutsy encounter with Israeli spokesperson, Mark Regev, wherein he grilled him on the murder of the four, innocent, Palestinian boys, playing football on the beach.

The report above was recorded on Snow's return from Gaza. It is clear from his words that it was a life changing experience that will stay with him forever.

Please share the video with all your contacts. The world needs to hear eye witness accounts from brave journalists such as him. No doubt he will get a lot of flack for his honest reporting, so please take a minute to thank him directly for his coverage via Twitter: @jonsnowc4.

Video Transcript

I'm back, and in the comfort of this studio it's hard to imagine I was ever away. I don't need to imagine though, because what I saw is still etched in my mind.

What I never knew is what I know now: which is that those people who live in Gaza are mainly, but unbelievably young. The average age is 17. That means that about a quarter of a million are under 10.

And you know, if you know any 10 year olds, seven year olds, five year olds, four year olds, the idea in the looseness of a war zone, that you can control your children – that they won't be somewhere where they can be hit – it is beyond any kind of imagination; you can't hope to control that. So that in a very densely packed urban area, if you decide to throw missiles, shells, and the rest, then undoubtedly you will kill children. And that is what they're doing.

There was one specific moment that stood out above all others, and that was penetrating the third floor of the Shifa hospital, one of two floors dedicated to children. That's where I met Maha, terribly crippled by shrapnel that had penetrated her spine.

That's where I saw this little, 2 1/2 year old, with Panda-sized, huge, suppurating, round, Panda-like wounds that almost prevented her eyes opening at all. They were the consequence of a broken skull and a fractured nose.

I can't get those images out of my mind. I don't think you can either, because they've been everywhere. They are the essence of what is happening in Gaza.

Now of course Hamas, for its part, was throwing rockets into Israel, designed ideally, as they would put it, to kill Israelis. But of course Israel – courtesy of American finance – has invented the most brilliant shield which is keeping absolutely everything out. And that's a big difference. Suffering is amongst the ground troops, mainly 20 year olds, who go in and get killed.

So when I last spoke to the Norwegian doctor who is one of those dealing with the consequences of this bombing, I asked him: how many children have been wounded? They've registered, 1310. How many children dead? 166 – but that number is growing all the time.

That is what makes this something that everyone of us has to confront. We have to know that in some way we actually share some responsibility for those deaths, because for us it is no priority whatever to stop it. Our United Nations, our government, our world is not that interested.

The fact that you're watching this, that you've chosen to watch it, means that you're actually motivated to do something. And that in the end is the greatest hope the people in Gaza have.

We cannot let it go on.

If our reporting is worth anything – if your preparedness to listen, and watch, and read is anything to go by – together, we can make a difference.

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Finding Love in Ramadan, Part 2 http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/finding-love-in-ramadan-part-2/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/finding-love-in-ramadan-part-2/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 20:57:30 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=54236 Through Ramadan and the company of the righteous, the believer will grow near after being distant and be able to see with his heart after it was blind.

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Click to read: Finding Love in Ramadan, Part 1

Five steps to Finding Love in Ramadan

These five steps are all statements made by the messenger of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Equally, they are typified in conduct by all those who were sent by Allah to lead humanity from darkness into light.

Prophet Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) life story, in particular, is highlighted by imam Ibnul Jawzi in Bustan al-Wa'idhin wa Riyad as-Sami'in, as typifying the spirit of the month of Ramadan. Just like Prophet Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was the most beloved of the twelve sons to Ya'qub 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), Ramadan is likewise the most beloved month to Allah from the twelve months.

  1. The best of people is he who is best to his family

Begin the month of Ramadan with a determined covenant of love for your spouse. Remember the du'ā' that was made for you on the day of your union. We congratulate a newly-wedded couple with this supplication:

May Allah place barakah (in your spouse) and give you barakah and may He unite both of you in goodness.”

The marital union is a blessed one that is governed by our obedience to Allah. Your union as husband and wife fulfills half of your religion. What blessing can be found in fasting from food and drink when your heart is turned away from the one who sits across from you at the time of breaking your fast?

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) teaches,

A believing man should not hate a believing woman (wife).  If he dislikes something in her character, he should be pleased with some other trait of hers.”

  1. Show compassion to others and Allah will provide you with His mercy

Begin with those nearest to you in relation. Exert yourself to righteousness towards your in-laws, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. Your neighbors have a right over you – be they Muslim or not.

Remember, that a believer loves for others what they love for themselves. The food of one is enough for two and that of three is enough for many.

Remember, that the one who feeds others receives the reward of their fasting, while those fasting lose nothing of their own reward.

Remember, that faithfulness is not complete unless you honor the elders and show compassion to the young and weakest in society.

Remember, always that Allah is gentle and loves gentleness.

Remember, that we will not enter paradise until we have faith; and we will not complete our faith, until we love one another.

Remember, that excellence is to gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the oppressed.

Remember, that kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.

Remember, that Allah is not merciful to him who is not so to mankind.

Remember, to deal gently with humanity, and be not harsh; cheer them and condemn them not.

Yusuf [alyahis] had the mercy and compassion to say to those who kidnapped him and placed him in harm's way,

There is no reproach in blame for you (my brothers) today (for what you did to me in the past)…” [12:92]

Ramadan, which exceeds that of all the other months, is likewise the month of mercy, blessing, goodness, salvation from the Fire, and forgiveness.

  1. Remain in the service of others and Allah will be in your service

The best of believers is the one who is in the service of others. The one who meets the needs of others, Allah will meet their need and the one who shelters others, Allah will shelter them. Seek to serve the visitors to the masjid, volunteer to help in the car park, organize ifṭār functions, and provide water for those praying tarāwīḥ. Search for ways to benefit your community and neighbors.

Serve others with your du'ā' for them and remember their previous good when you see recent error. Humble yourself to those who are not normally a part of your circle of association. Strip back the racial, ethnic and linguistic barriers the bar you from righteous association.

Yusuf's brothers came to rely on him when they were in need of sustenance and, eventually, to purify their mistakes. He 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) met them with compassion, service, and assistance. Even before they recognized him and his position of status he fed them, honored them, and instructed his servants:

Carry their belongings with you so that they don't lose them.”

One person fulfilled the needs of eleven others, and the month of Ramadan is likewise one month that expunges the mistakes that span the other eleven months.

  1. Reconnect with the one who cut you off

Take the first step, regardless of how much time has passed since you have seen a family member or whatever transgression has made you keep your distance, use this blessed and opportune time to reach out to those who have been estranged from you.

It's as easy as picking up the phone and inviting him or her to your home for iftar.

The worst that can happen is that they turn you down or hang up the phone. The action is not for their sake but for Allah the Almighty.  Fulfill your obligation of maintaining family ties and re-establishing past friendships.

There is no need to rehash the past once your estranged family member is in your presence. Forgiveness is the key to re-establishing your bond.

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

Forgive him who wrongs you; reconnect the one who cuts you off; do good to him who does evil to you; and speak the truth even if it be against yourself.”

A perfect example can be found in Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him. Word came to him that his very own cousin, to whom he had been giving much financial support, had publicly slandered his beloved daughter Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her. Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, immediately stopped giving him charity. Allah Almighty then revealed the celebrated verse (which means):

And let not those of virtue among you and wealth swear not to give [aid] to their relatives and the needy and the emigrants for the cause of Allah, and let them pardon and overlook. Would you not like that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” [24:22]

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

Whoever would like his rizq (provision) to be increased and his life to be extended, should uphold the ties of kinship.' (Bukhari and Muslim) 

Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) reconnected his brothers and invited his family to migrate to him, although they had committed the greatest of atrocities to him.

  1. Seek the company of the righteous

The believer to the believer is like a solid building, one part supporting the other.

Content yourself with those who pray to their Lord morning and evening, seeking His approval, and do not let your eyes turn away from them out of desire for the attractions of this worldly life, and do not yield to those whose hearts We have made heedless of Our remembrance, those who follow their own low desires, those whose ways are unbridled.” (18:28)

Ya'qūb 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), upon the loss of his pious son Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) and the knowledge that his sons were responsible, wept in complaint to Allah until his eyesight was lost. It was not until the scent of his pious son Yusuf 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) arrived to him that his sight would return. He became strong after weakness, and began seeing after he was blind.

Likewise, if the sinner takes advantage of the season of Ramadan, sits with those who remind him of Allah, recites the Qur'an, befriends on the condition of faithfulness and uprightness, and avoids backbiting and vain talk in sinful company, he will become whole and strong after the infirmness of sin. Through Ramadan and the company of the righteous, he will grow near after being distant and be able to see with his heart after it was blind.

Ya Allah reform our hearts and increase our love for one another.

Ya Allah make light our burden, rejuvenate our energy, quell our fear, silence our gossipers, purge our hearts of hate and forgive us our trespasses.

Ya Allah suffice us when others turn away, grace us when hope wains, shelter us from envious eyes, contemptuous tongues, and sinful passion.

Ya Allah use us in the service of others, let the righteous love us and the sinful repent upon our hands, let the young learn, the elders advise, and grant us love of the ākhirah.

Ya Allah only you honor and with your allowance are some humbled, elevate us with the Qur'an & bless us with the sunnah of the best of man ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Ya Allah accept our fasting, standing in prayer by night, and bless us with a sincere repentance.

Ameen.

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US Tax Payers, It Will Take You 1 minute to Help Kids in #Gaza http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/us-tax-payers-it-will-take-you-1-minute-to-help-kids-in-gaza/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/us-tax-payers-it-will-take-you-1-minute-to-help-kids-in-gaza/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 18:12:36 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=54221 The escalation in and around the Gaza Strip is causing terrible suffering to people— to men, women, the elderly, and children— Palestinian as well as Israeli civilians. The military offensive conducted by the Israeli military has so far caused hundreds of Palestinian casualties; the vast majority of them unarmed civilians. The siege and economic blockade […]

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Send a Letter to Your President, Senator and Congressperson

The escalation in and around the Gaza Strip is causing terrible suffering to people— to men, women, the elderly, and children— Palestinian as well as Israeli civilians. The military offensive conducted by the Israeli military has so far caused hundreds of Palestinian casualties; the vast majority of them unarmed civilians. The siege and economic blockade have reduced most of Gaza's population to abject poverty, devastated its economy and caused the death of critically-ill patients who were denied access to vital treatment.  Let Congress hear your voice that you agree with Secretary of State John Kerry's frustration over the civilian toll in Gaza.

Read all the dead kids ages & names here: http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/html/Years/2014/July/img/gazaDeaths2.png

After you SIGN this SPREAD the WORD!

nodeadkids.com

 

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Crescent Chronicles | A Brief History of Moonsighting in North America http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/crescent-chronicles-a-brief-history-of-moonsighting-in-north-america/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/crescent-chronicles-a-brief-history-of-moonsighting-in-north-america/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=53588 The city of Toronto has many distinctions; the CN Tower, Skydome – the crack smoking escapades of its mayor – just to name few. One distinction, unbeknownst to many, is the city's unique position in Islamic history. Toronto is one of the few cities, if not the only, which hosts mosques that simultaneously follow all […]

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The city of Toronto has many distinctions; the CN Tower, Skydome – the crack smoking escapades of its mayor – just to name few. One distinction, unbeknownst to many, is the city's unique position in Islamic history. Toronto is one of the few cities, if not the only, which hosts mosques that simultaneously follow all permutations of moonsighting opinions that have ever existed in Islam's legal history; local sighting, global, Saudi-sighting, astronomical calculations – perhaps there are more. This represents a trend which has become common occurrence across much of the North America; Muslim communities split along lines of lunar dogmatism.

So, how did we get here? In 2006 the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) decided to switch to astronomical calculations, as opposed to moon sighting, as a means of tabulating the Islamic calendar. The unprecedented decision led to a considerable degree of controversy due to its unorthodoxy. However, what is not as well known is the history and the context which lead to this decision. I had the unique opportunity to sit with Shaykh Abdullah Idris Ali, former President of ISNA, who shared with me a brief history of the moonsighting methods employed and what eventually lead to the current climate.

The Early Days

In the 1960's and 70's when the Muslim community of the US and Canada was still in its infancy, most mosques would rely on moon sighting reports from Muslim countries. Depending on the community, congregants would either rely on their country of origin (e.g. Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan) or would go with decision announced by Saudi authorities. ISNA itself relied on following Saudi Arabia in those days.

Given the diversity of immigrant communities here, relying on moon sighting from countries abroad would naturally lead to conflicts based on the differing dates of those countries. As the Muslim community grew, the issue of establishing local moon sighting organizations was raised. Moon sighting committees such as that of Chicago and Toronto started to appear in the late 1970s' and early 80's. In Toronto, these early Muslims would go up to the CN Tower to search for the moon; one year they even chartered out an airplane to scan the skies for the crescent!

However, it soon became evident that sighting the crescent was going to be no simple task in North America. Mosques within the same city would follow different opinions; some relied on local sighting while others still placed their confidence on reports from Saudi Arabia or other countries. Two groups of people emerged and the trend of having two (or more) Eids thus began.

To get guidance on the subject, Shaykh Abdullah Idris wrote a letter to the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Abdal Aziz Bin Baaz, seeking advice. Sh Bin Baaz responded stating that Muslims in North America should follow their local moon sighting instead of following Saudi Arabia. Based on his advice ISNA switched to local sighting in the 80's.

Local sighting came with its own set of problems however. The lack of a centralized authority meant there were numerous local moon sighting groups; each having their own criteria and procedures. There were concerns about the criteria of accepting testimony and how to verify reports coming from distant places by inexperienced sighters. Sometimes an organization would announce Eid but the congregants would question the decision due to their lack of trust in the process.

The extent of the zone from which to accept moon sighting reports was another issue; what if reports came from outside mainland USA and Canada? Should reports from South America be accepted too? Furthermore, the timing difference from coast to coast, which can be up to four hours, was another problem. This would mean Muslim communities on the East coast would have to until midnight at times until a decision was made based on reports after sunset from California. The cumbersome process made any kind of planning for Eid and Ramadan extremely difficult for the average Muslim.

The Lunar Calendar Conference

Frustrated with the situation, a major lunar conference was organized in 1987 at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Herndon, VA. Over $100,000 were raised to invite renowned astronomers from around the globe. Experts from NASA, US and Canadian Navies, Adler Planetarium, British Almanac and others were present at this conference alongside Muslim scholars; Dr. Muhammad Ilyas was the keynote speaker.

A number of key issues were discussed and addressed at this conference. For example, it was decided that sighting reports contradicting the calculated birth of the moon were to be rejected. Further, since the earliest recorded sighting of the new moon had been 12 hours after its birth, any reports before this time were highly questionable.

The idea of relying entirely on calculations to mark the beginning Islamic months was raised as well during this conference. To make a decision on this matter a crucial question needed answering: is sighting the new moon simply a means of determining the start of the lunar month or is it in itself an act of worship which needs to be established? If it is only a means to calculate time, then the moon's sightability can be determined to very high degrees of accuracy using modern astronomy and it removes the need for physical sighting. If, however, the sighting itself is considered a form of worship then it can't be replaced by mere calculations.

The conference concluded with the aim of further investigating the method of using astronomical calculations. The FCNA and ISNA returned to moon sighting as a methodology and this was continued throughout the 90's and early 2000's. During this time, they worked with astronomers and mathematicians to derive a method based entirely on astronomical calculations.

Also during this time rose the issue of whether it makes sense for North America to follow Saudi Arabia to determine the dates of Eid al-Adha. FCNA's Dr. Muzzamil Siddiqui wrote to the late Shaykh Uthaimeen of Saudi Arabia to seek advice on the matter. To the surprise of many, he opined that even for Eid al-Adha Muslims here should rely on local sighting even if this means having a different day of Arafat from Mecca.

FCNA continued its work on the calculated lunar calendar. Abandoning moon sighting in favour of astronomical calculations is an unorthodox opinion that historically was never relied upon. To consult with other Muslim scholars on this issue, a delegation traveled across the Muslim world with this proposal. Sh Bin Baaz and other Saudi scholars didn't demonstrate interest in the idea and told the FCNA to make their own decision based on their research. Similar responses were given by scholars in Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey; while some were receptive such as Sh. Muhammad Al-Ashqar of Kuwait, most were either opposed to the concept or felt that it was something that needed more investigation.

After much deliberation and in light of the continued disarray on the moonsighting issue, the FCNA and ISNA adopted its position to use astronomical calculations in June 2006. It deemed that moonsighting itself is not an act of worship and thus one could rely solely on calculations to start the lunar month. The European Council on Fatwa and Research (ECFR), lead by Yusuf-al Qaradawi, also adopted this position shortly afterwards. As was expected, this decision stirred a major controversy amongst Western Muslim scholars. A war of academic papers and articles soon ensued but it did little to unify the fragile cohesion that was there in first place.

On Unity

Since 2006, a number of initiatives have take place to try to unite and better organize the moonsighting organizations within the US and Canada. Examples of these are the 2007 National Moonsighting Conference in California and the 2009 National Hilal Sighting Conference in New York. Furthermore, since the late 2000's, some organizations have changed their positions from that of a local sighting to a global one. This would allow for a greater chance for congruency with FNCA's calculations and also greater unity with the rest of the Muslim world. While these are welcome steps, there is still need for considerable work to unite the community on this issue.

I asked Shaykh Abdullah Idris about how ISNA's decision only further divides Muslims and whether such an approach is counterproductive. He explained that considering the divisions on this issue, their hope is that overtime people will adopt FCNA's opinion as the best alternative to the current debacle. Further, he stated that ISNA's position is that if there's a city in which all the mosques agree on a single moonsighting position, ISNA will switch to that position for the sake of unity there. This was attempted in Toronto but all the mosques which rely on moosighting there were unable to arrive at a unified position.

It is evident that the ultimate reason for the divisions on the moonsighting issue arise due to the lack of an agreed upon authority amongst Western Muslims. There are hundreds of independently run mosques across the Americas; uniting them under a single banner is no simple task.

While its easy to have a dismal outlook on this debate, there are positive take a ways from this situation as well. As Shaykh Hamza Yusuf recently pointed out, Muslims arguing over something like moonsighting, which may appear as a trivial matter, is a sign of a serious community of believers. People disagree because they hold their convictions to be true, they care about their religion, and they strive to practice it in the most correct way. In a society where religion is increasingly viewed with an eye of irrelevance, it is refreshing to see a people who care enough about it to disagree over it.

 

I would like to thank Shaykh Abdullah Idris for taking the time to share the much needed information for this article. I undertook this project to document history and I've pieced together this chronology based on the best resources available to me. I am interested in improving it further and invite feedback from readers on any more details (e.g. dates,places,names etc) they may have or any chronological errors they see.

 

References

The Fiqh and Scince of the New Islamic Moon

IslamicMoon.com

ISNA's on the astronomical moonsighting

Islamic Center of Wayland, Boston

Cesarean Moon Births, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Hilal Controversy in Toronto – The three positions: local, global, Saudi

International Symposium on Moon sighting and Science

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Consumption-Consciousness in Ramadan http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/consumption-consciousness-in-ramadan/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/26/consumption-consciousness-in-ramadan/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 04:00:43 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=53721 A couple nights ago, we broke one of our family Ramadan rules of “no fried food” and my mom went all out and cooked a bunch of deep-fried traditional Pakistani food.  It tasted amazing and hit the spot, but we paid for it and all felt lousy when we woke up for suhoor the next […]

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A couple nights ago, we broke one of our family Ramadan rules of “no fried food” and my mom went all out and cooked a bunch of deep-fried traditional Pakistani food.  It tasted amazing and hit the spot, but we paid for it and all felt lousy when we woke up for suhoor the next morning.

By no means am I a health-nut, but during this month I find a new level of painstaking awareness of what I am eating and other habits that contribute to my general well-being.  The gray areas of my eating habits before become a lot more black and white during Ramadan, like avoiding fried food, for instance.

I suddenly find the motivation and discipline to cut out junk food and caffeine nearly altogether, stay properly hydrated, and balance what I am eating and when I am eating it.  I listen to my body and do what I know will help me perform at my best, even if it means dropping some habits which might not be that bad, and picking up some extra good ones.  I would often get questions from classmates in high school, amazed and appalled by the physical demands of this month on fasting Muslims, “How do you do it?” Honestly, we all do it and we find a way to make it work, we have to.

Just like the samosa overload made us sick to our stomachs, our souls have a similar propensity when we do certain actions.  Scholars say that a person is made up of a body and a soul, and these two entities are constantly seeking a balance with one another.  Once the bodily needs are suppressed through fasting, there is a lot more room for the soul to express its needs and be fed.  This may be one of the reasons why we find ourselves capable of performing acts of worship and feeling a level of spirituality that would be hard for us to attain outside of Ramadan.

It is this newfound urgency of my spiritual needs that I believe pushes me to make important decisions about certain habits I have and develop a whole other kind of “consumption-consciousness.”  Whether it's simply not being able to justify sitting down to watch a TV show for an hour, feeling uncomfortable about engaging with certain content in a movie or book, or doubting the suitability of being in certain types of gatherings, I start to look at how I spend my days and nights in a new way.

I don't want to be wasting my time or purging my fasts and prayers of their blessings by doing something stupid that will displease Allah.  The kinds of actions that will earn the displeasure of Allah are the ones that we should hope our bodies will have an averse reaction to, helping us reject what is not good for us.  To be able to make those small decisions that impact our daily spirituality, and eventually long-run spirituality, are a part of the broader idea of “taqwa,” and ultimately a goal of Ramadan.

In the Qur'an, Allah tells us that our main goal in fasting is to attain taqwa, commonly translated as “God-consciousness.”  While this is something we should all be striving for in this blessed month, maybe “consumption-consciousness,” particularly in the way we spend our free time, might not be a bad thing to hope to walk away from Ramadan with—in a balanced way, of course.  And even better would be if some of those habits might stick with us once this blessed month is over.

 

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Ramadan Fundraising: Tackling The “MY CHARITY ONLY” Stance http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/25/ramadan-fundraising-tackling-the-my-charity-only-stance/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/25/ramadan-fundraising-tackling-the-my-charity-only-stance/#comments Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=54122 As I write this post, it is the last Jumuah of Ramadan, the 27th fast here in London. The new moon of Shawwal is almost upon us. As with every previous Ramadan, the month has been witness to a great rise in the amount of time and money spent in the cause of Allah. Muslim […]

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As I write this post, it is the last Jumuah of Ramadan, the 27th fast here in London. The new moon of Shawwal is almost upon us.

As with every previous Ramadan, the month has been witness to a great rise in the amount of time and money spent in the cause of Allah. Muslim charities bank on this, gearing up their marketing campaigns to make the most of the spirit of giving.

In fact, this annual surge in charitable donations is so significant, that our own Prime Minister, David Cameron, made note of it in his Ramadan 2014 message. Let's just look past the loaded subtext of his speech for a moment, and feel proud and grateful that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) has blessed his Ummah with such visible generosity, as per the sunnah of His Messenger ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).

Another, sadder, Ramadan tradition also returned this year: one of severe trials. It is almost too obvious to state that, as of right now, our hearts, minds – and wallets – are focused on Gaza.

Our newsfeeds are swollen with links, videos, and photos. Every so often, the seemingly endless flow of pain and injustice is punctuated with news of atrocities from Syria, Central African Republic, and Burma – we are rightly reminded not to withhold our love, charity, and duas from these places either.

At this point, the heart feels torn in multiple directions: to whom should I donate? Who needs me more?

Though the situation in Gaza has been getting worse and worse over the years due to the siege, none of us could anticipate that Israel would choose the sacred month of Ramadan to unleash their aggression, least of all Muslim charities who had been busy planning their campaigns all year long.

Marketing for urgent, vital projects such as clean water in Africa, schools in rural Pakistan, multiple orphan and widow funds, has been put on hold by the large charities, overwhelmed by the call from Gaza – and before this, from Syria.

The impact on small charities has been even greater. They have fewer resources, and as such are even more reliant on Ramadan-fueled generosity to get by the rest of the year.

One example close to my heart is Amirah Foundation (AF), a social enterprise based in Birmingham, whose mission is to “help women achieve their full potential, live in safety, security and positively contribute to their community and society”.

Their work brings them face to face with victims of domestic violence, families struggling with poverty, converts dealing with isolation, and other such problems that are often neglected by our community.

amirahfoundation-fb-convertcouple

An example of a recent emergency appeal from Amirah Foundation.

Like other charities, AF had a whole Ramadan appeal prepared involving a series of videos based on real cases that they have encountered (this link is from 2012, but still pertinent).

Considering the size of the charity and the challenges they face, it would be completely understandable if, in the face of such stiff competition, they were to ramp up their marketing with slogans of “CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME!”, and “DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE MUSLIMS ON YOUR DOORSTEP!”.

On the contrary, AF Director, Shaz Manir, was so shocked by the carnage she witnessed from Israel's vicious attack on Gaza, she cancelled her own charity's campaign half way through Ramadan, and encouraged all supporters to donate to Palestine instead. SubhanAllah!

When I heard about the cancellation, I empathised: the decision must have constituted a huge sacrifice, like cutting off one limb to save another. This was sister Manir's response:

I don't regret that decision for a moment. I know things will be hard for us post Ramadhan, and we are prepared for the hardship and stress to follow! But it was still the best decision over all to make for the sake of Allah.

And Allah's promise is that wealth does not diminish when given in charity. In unity and integrity we will be able to achieve so much more. We shouldn't adopt the my charity only stance, as whatever is meant to come to us will come to us from whatever means.

I was gobsmacked! What an inspiration, masha'Allah!

I then asked how much she was hoping to raise from this now-cancelled campaign? The amount was so small, it was gutting to read.

I wondered, why should our community be making this brave sister choose between family here and family in Gaza? Are we British Muslims not blessed enough, or not generous enough? Or are we just blind to the suffering of those right in front of us?

So, because of their selflessness in the face of such difficulty, I decided that in these final moments of Ramadan, and beyond insha'Allah, I would set myself a never-before-attempted fundraising target of £10,000 for AF – to ask on behalf of those who do not ask for themselves.

On the one hand, I think it is a paltry sum, easily achievable insha'Allah. On the other, I feel trepidation in daring to share this appeal right now on MuslimMatters. I fully expect comments of “HOW CAN YOU ASK WHEN GAZA IS BURNING?!”. Ya Rabb, I know it is!

But here are four reasons why I will ask anyway:

First, Allah is al-Kareem, the most generous, and His treasures are unending; He will continue to give as long as we do.

Second, the whole world is looking to Gaza right now – aid is pouring in from all corners of the Earth alhamdulillah! But how many countries are running appeals to help vulnerable Muslims in the UK? If we do not help our own, who else is going to? (If you say the government (!) then you need to familiarise yourself with the damage caused by welfare cuts.)

Third, charity does begin at home. It is a cliché, but one supported by our traditions.

Fourth, research shows that Muslims are Britain's most charitable faith group: we have a rep to protect!

The sacrifice of Sister Manir (who is unaware that I am writing this piece) demonstrates that our hearts are indeed big enough to house the whole world.

We shouldn't be selective with our generosity, choosing one charity over another - we should increase it. Give to Gaza, give to Syria, to Burma, to CAR, to Pakistan, to Bangladesh… and give to Amirah Foundation too (please!).

I will end with this powerful testimonial by sister Lauren Booth, in which she describes her personal experience with AF and why their work is so important (don't miss her heart breaking stories at 4:17 and 12:10).

Click to Donate

mehzabeen-donation-button

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A Date with Obama | The White House Iftar: Inclusion or Delusion http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/25/a-date-with-obama-the-white-house-iftar-inclusion-or-delusion/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/25/a-date-with-obama-the-white-house-iftar-inclusion-or-delusion/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:07:41 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=54070 By Hena Zuberi The White House Iftar —An opportunity to honor American Muslim achievements or an attempt to whitewash U.S crimes in Muslim countries by painting a flowery picture of their relationship with the American Muslims? The first White House Iftar was held in 1805 by Thomas Jefferson for Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy from […]

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By Hena Zuberi

The White House Iftar —An opportunity to honor American Muslim achievements or an attempt to whitewash U.S crimes in Muslim countries by painting a flowery picture of their relationship with the American Muslims?

The first White House Iftar was held in 1805 by Thomas Jefferson for Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, an envoy from Tunis. He was visiting due to a tense dispute over piracy. This year's iftar was just as tense, if not more.

The issue of whether to attend or not is certainly contentious, with vitriol from both sides spilling over, spoiling friendships and creating divides. There were calls for a boycott this year. Several scholars and activists signed the letter asking to protest against the  'amalgamation and institutionalization [of] War on Terror policies.'

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee which urged a boycott stated that “political engagement is important and having a seat at the table is crucial — but only when that seat is intended to amplify our voice as a community, not tokenize or subdue it.”

Many were appalled at the audacity of the administration to host an “Iftar” and try to honor a select few Muslims (including an Ahmadi) , while quietly violating the liberties,  spying and even killing other Muslims citizens. This was just days after the Intercept exposed the NSA's surveillance of national Muslim leaders like CAIR's Nihad Awad and Dr. Agha Saeed from the American Muslim Alliance.

Muslim Advocates, an advocacy group  based out of California, released a statement saying that they would attend the iftar, where they hoped to talk to officials 'about the deeply troubling reports of the US government spying on American Muslims.'

Others were proud that outstanding Muslims were invited to the White House to be acknowledged for their achievements inside their own community.

“To condemn a young leader inside the Muslim community for attending a dinner hosted by the people, who if anything, have a huge influence on possibly ending the massacre occurring in Palestine, is absolutely preposterous,” commented a university student.

The Call to Boycott

Dr. Maha Hilal is an Egyptian American activist; she completed her Ph.D from American University in Justice, Law and Society. She is one of the organizers of the boycott. Her work at a number of human rights organizations includes the Center for Victims of Torture and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. In addition, her experience working with survivors of trauma as a Case Manager with the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition makes Guantanamo a priority for her. She was planning a vigil for torture victims in Ramadan.

Hilal initially conceptualized the vigil as a Guantanamo related event, but then the Intercept report on NSA spying became public and the world witnessed horror at the recent invasion of the Gaza Strip, that has now claimed 200 745 lives.

This brought several issues that the American Muslim community has with the Obama administration to the helm and the idea emerged to make the boycott a platform for American Muslim grievances.

Along with Dr Hilal, Muhammed Malik, Former Executive Director of CAIR-South Florida, Ramah Kudaimi, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and Darakshan Raja were some of the activists calling for a boycott. At first they were dismissed as online activists without credibility.

The call for boycott rippled through the American Muslim community. Sh Omar Soleiman, a popular speaker and Islamic scholar, revealed that he has declined the invitation in past years and will be boycotting the event.

Professor Omid Safi, Duke University and Dr. Hatem Bazian, American Muslims for Palestine and Co-Founder Zaytuna College also signed on the letter making clear that they will not break fast with the Obama Administration.

They collected 400 hundred signatures. They were met with what they call unprofessional responses from many mainstream Muslim organizations.

Activists decided on a multi-pronged approach: along with the letter urging for the boycott they brought the story of Mariam Abu-Ali to the Huffington Post. Mariam's brother Ahmed Abu-Ali, a 22-year old student at the University of Madinah, was arrested and subsequently given life in solitary confinement for an alleged conspiracy to assassinate former President George Bush. The Saudi government, apparently at the behest of the U.S government, detained him without charges. According to Abu-Ali, the only evidence admitted in court was a videotape of a coerced confession obtained through two years of torture  in a Saudi Arabian prison.

Mariam Abu-Ali writes in the Huffington Post, ”Victims like us will never get invited to the White House to tell our story. I can only hope that there will be those invitees who refuse to exonerate the cruelty of such policies and make a statement to that effect when declining to attend.”

The Attendees Recount

Salim Patel serves as an elected Commissioner on the Board of Education for the City of Passaic, NJ.  It is the 6th largest school district in the state and it ranks as one of the lowest in terms of per capita income.  He is also the Chairman of a charity called SMILE that manages a domestic fund entitled Zakat Inspired, envisioning building community and alleviating poverty. His motivation for attending the iftar was to be in a room full of inspirational leaders and activists from across the country to learn from them and their experiences.

“The 'political' iftar is something quite customary in New Jersey and they are those rare moments where there are a diversity of leaders coming together in one room.  The political iftars I attended throughout the years in NJ have allowed many of us in attendance to collaborate, lobby, influence, agitate at a much larger scale and capacity if we did not create the bonds and relationships that we did by meeting at these functions. New Jersey has two Muslim judges appointed under two separate governors – there is a reason for that,” he shares with the Muslim Link.

If emotions were strong before the iftar, after the President's Obama's remarks on Gaza and the inclusion of the Israeli Prime Minister close confidante, Ambassador Ron Dermer, they burned up Ramadan nights.

Some described it as an ambush. The President spoke about common faith traditions and freedom of religion, recognized some attendees by name, and then stated that no country can accept rocket being fired into its land.  When he spoke about 'unacceptable' attacks— he was talking about those against Israel.

Patel describes the mood of the room as sober throughout the evening.

He recounts a heavy silence fell over the entire room upon the President's remarks.

The audience did applaud the speech and a sigh of relief is audible heard after the President made a quip about the soup. Tarik Takkesh was one attendee who refused to applaud, he writes about his experience here. Some used derogatory terms such as 'sellouts' to describe the attendees after news about the Israeli ambassador's attendance spread.

Live tweeting from the event, the Ambassador used his social media to let the world know that the President stood by the official narrative.


This stirred reactions across the world for Muslims who felt humiliated and horrified as they watched news reports of four boys murdered by  Israeli missiles as they played soccer on the beach near their family's boat.

Attendees did engage with the President in conversation about his comments, says Patel, as he watched some impassioned encounters.

As for the presence of the Israeli Ambassador being uncomfortable, Patel says that it is difficult to know who or who is not in attendance.  “Once seated it is difficult to roam the room, and one is usually confined to conversation to the guests at their table,” he shared.

As the attendees were breaking their fasts inside, a vigil for Guantanamo prisoners and victims of the siege in Gaza were being commemorated outside along with protest against the iftar. With help from Code Pink and Witness Against Torture, they raised their voices against the duplicity.

Imam Zia Makhdoom of MakeSpace, alternate spiritual space for young Muslim professionals,  was in attendance and defended the attendees, many who have served the community,  when people called them derogatory names on social media. “#WhiteHouseIftar attendees are no #sellouts. I most certainly am not,” posted imam Zia on his Facebook page

Ali Mahmoud, the founder of Alif Lam Meem (the first fraternity for Muslims in mainstream universities) was in attendance.  He commented that “in the future and with more dialogue, I think we can come closer to a unified and practical solution to make things better. A real solution will take time, thinking, and patience. I'm glad we had Muslims who attended, and I'm glad we had Muslims protesting it. We need to be everywhere,” under a photo of himself at the iftar.

The Need for Research and Engagement

“We need more research in our communities. Several of our organizations are disengaged from the community, from the average American Muslim who shops at the halal stores, own small businesses and work blue collar jobs,” says Dr Hilal.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council Executive Director Salam Al-Marayati did not attend the event,  but supported the effort as he was involved in reviving the iftar under President Bill Clinton. His wife, Laila Al-Marayati, who heads KinderUSA, a charity which helps Palestinian refugees, has declined the invitation to the now postponed State Department Iftar.

In attendance was Haris Tarin, who heads MPAC's Washington chapter and Hoda El Shishtawy, National Policy Analyst.

Imam Magid of ISNA and representatives of MPAC were unavailable to comment to the Muslim Link.

Muslim Advocates spoke to the Guardian.

“I specifically asked the president if he would meet with us to discuss NSA spying on the American Muslim community. The president seemed to perk up and proceeded to discuss the issue, saying that he takes it very seriously,” Junaid Sulahry, the outreach manager for Muslim Advocates, a legal and civil rights group shares with The Guardian's journalist Spencer Ackerman.

Sulahry said, Obama was non-committal, but displayed “a clear willingness to discuss the issue.”

Journalist Max Blumenthal, a prominent writer on Palestine-Israel,  spoke to Ali Kurnaz, the central regional director for the Florida-based Emerge USA.

Kurnaz told Blumenthal that Dermer spent the evening isolated in the White House's Green Room adjacent to the main reception area. According to Kurnaz, none of the activists invited to the dinner approached him.

A local social service agency was invited and does not want to give a public statement because of how political the topic has become. As an American agency they were being recognized for their contributions to low income families.

For some heads of nonprofits, it is a time to network with each other and with elected officials. A chance that they normally do not get.

These are the agencies and nonprofits that we can excuse for wanting to attend as they work to save lives in the US and may not get a solid chance to meet elected officials, says Hilal. Her umbrage is with those Muslim organizations who consistently work on policy issues with the government. “They should have boycotted,” and at the minimum they should have walked out after Obama's deeply humiliating speech.

According to some attendees, people were astonished by the remarks, especially the closing words of President Obama's speech.

Manal Omar, an American of Palestinian origin, an Associate Vice-President for the Middle East and Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace is unapologetic of her decision to attend the event.”There are two separate issues which is engagement as American Muslims, and our position on US foreign policy especially in the wake of humanitarian crisis. I don't think the two have to be mutually inclusive on our stances. I believe in engagement, [spent] my entire life as an American Muslims calling for engagement and am proud to have been at the White House in 1996 when Clinton first made this initiative, and proud to attend with Obama this year.”

Omar says that she is not a cheap date as she posted photos of herself passionately talking to the President. “An Iftar does not buy our silence.”

She took her two minutes with the President to emphasize that the people of Gaza (especially the women and children) should not be forgotten. “I asked the President to stop talking about this as if it was a war between equal powers, and to remember that there is a crucial issue of the disproportionate use of force and collective punishment, which violates international law. Not only did the President listen, but also he engaged in a discussion.”

Dr Hilal says that people are acting like the President is not aware of the current situation.”He is aware and he is attuned to those policies- we are not talking about [speaking] to your local city councillor and a park permit —$3 billion worth of foreign aid is at stake here.”

What Dr Hilal would like to ask the attendees is “What did you tell the president that he was not aware of?”

People who attended say that it is a necessity and that American Muslims should have a seat at the table need to know the rules of engagement, say critics.

Engagement comes with Consistency

After the backlash surrounding the event, MPAC issued a statement that they found the remarks appalling. They have also launched the 10-100-100 campaign.

These organizations are in frequent contact with the government thus critics find calls for apologies a waste of time.

“Given that they didn't walked out, calling for a joint meeting with President Obama, Eric Holder, and [agencies] —that is a concrete, substantive way to engage the concern,” says Dr Hilal.

This issue is bigger than the iftar, she says. Engagement should be a priority and communities need to hold organizations accountable about what issues are being combated. “How do organization make decisions about which issues to pursue?” she asks.  Many mainstream Muslim organizations aren't making a case for the issues they choose to work on.

“Where are their assessments?” says the researcher, insisting that increasingly these organizations do not speak for young American Muslims.

Obama has yet to visit a masjid in the United States since he was elected. Muslims realize that they cannot combat the calibre lobbying of groups, such as AIPAC, without a lot more organizing, and bold, effective advocacy.

Amongst boycott calls, one suggestion floating around is that next year American Muslim organizations should convene and hold a unity iftar, set the agenda and invite the President on their own terms.

Will the President save the date?

A version of this article was first published in the Muslim Link newspaper.

 

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Are You Hurt? #iForgive http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/25/are-you-hurt-iforgive/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/25/are-you-hurt-iforgive/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 04:00:25 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=54103 If you prefer watching a video of the same exact content, rather than reading it, you may click here As-salaamu alaykum my beloved brothers and respected sisters, Every letter in this article is written from the bottom of my heart and I ask Allah to have it reach your heart. I also ask Allah to accept […]

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If you prefer watching a video of the same exact content, rather than reading it, you may click here

As-salaamu alaykum my beloved brothers and respected sisters,

Every letter in this article is written from the bottom of my heart and I ask Allah to have it reach your heart. I also ask Allah to accept the time spent writing this article and the time you would spend reading it.

When someone hurts you and oppresses you there are several permissible ways where you can react to that oppression:

- You can go to Allah with your weakness and raise your hands to Him and make a du'a, a supplication, against the one who has oppressed you; and the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) confirmed in numerous authentic ahadith that the du'a of the one who is oppressed would surely be accepted without any doubt.

- You can also just wait until the day of judgment and seek to get the good deeds, equivalent to the amount of oppression and pain that person did to you, as means of revenge and taking your right back. And in case the one who oppressed has no good deeds to give you then you would give THEM your bad deeds as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) also stated in an authentic hadith.

But there is another option, which is the point of this whole article, that is better than all what has been mentioned but only a few people pursue it. I ask Allah to make me and you amongst the few. What is that option? It is for you to forgive the one who hurt you and oppressed you. So you don't make a du'a'a against them and you don't take from their good deeds on the day of Judgment. But what's the point then? You will get more than seeing that person being harmed just like how you were harmed and more than the good deeds you could've taken…

Rather you will be getting a reward, from who and how much? From Allah… He didn't put a limit to it. Allah said in Chapter 42 Verse 40:

  1. And the retribution, the payback, of an evil act is an evil one like it,
  2. But whoever forgives, overlooks and reconcile [OK, what will happen then?]
  3. Then their reward is on Allah.

It is so amazing how Allah puts these words together. When a king in this world tells you: “I have a gift, a reward, for you”, then you would imagine that that gift and reward is equivalent to the wealth, power, majesty and capability of that king. If this is the case with a king in this world then what about the king of all kings, Allah…?

If you would allow me, my beloved brother and sister, to stress on the point of forgiving those who wrong you, and please don't rush and say: “speak as long as you want brother Majed, I will not forgive that person who wronged me and oppressed me”. Rather, please give Allah and the Prophet of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) a chance through the verses and ahadith you would hear. By Allah, that is for your own sake. I want to stress on the concept of forgiving those who wronged you by doing 2 things:

Number 1: by destroying and exposing the real value of this low and cheap dunya that we are living in

Number 2: by showing you how amazing, honorable and beautiful is the reward of Allah in this dunya and in the akhirah for those who forgive.

Number 1: 

Are you perhaps ready for  a life changing experience?

Bismillah, let's look at the reality of this dunya: In an authentic hadith, in Saheeh Muslim, the Prophet of Allah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once grabbed a dead one-eared goat from the ear that remained. [Try to picture it ] And he asked his friends while holding the dead goat: “Who would buy this for 1 dirham” [such a low price for something the people would pay tens of dirhams for but the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) offered it for 1]. The companions said: “We don't like to have it even if it was for nothing. What is the benefit of it?” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then asked: “Would you like to have it for free?” They replied: “By Allah, if it was alive we wouldn't take it for the way it looks with the chopped ear and so on then what about if it was dead.” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then said: “فَوَاللَّهِ، لَلدُّنْيَا أَهْوَنُ عَلَى اللهِ مَنْ هَذَا عَلَيْكُمْ‏.‏” [I swear by Allah, this dunya is of a lesser value in the sight of Allah than this, dead disgusting one-eared goat, is to you.]

Allahu akbar! What is it in this lowly and cheap dunya that is worth cutting our ties of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Number 2:

On the other hand, know that of the fastest and easiest ways to gain the forgiveness of Allah, don't we say so desperately: “اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوٌّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفْوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي” [O Allah you are forgiving and you love to forgive so please forgive me], do you want to maximize your chances of having Allah to forgive you!? Then your best and easiest of chances is to forgive the one who has wronged you. The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said in an authentic hadith, in Saheeh Al-Adab Al-Mufrad: “اغْفِرُوا يَغْفِرِ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ” [forgive and Allah will forgive you]. Allahu akbar!

I feel comfortable ending the article right here and it may be convincing enough to forgive someone after having such a guarantee from the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) that your forgiveness to the one who wronged you will actually be means for YOU to be forgiven by Allah. But let's get even more motivated with statements from Allah and His prophet motivate us more! Bismillah!

Listen to this, after Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) stopped giving his relative, MesTah bin A-thaathah, a monthly allowance because MesTah contributed to the accusation of Aisha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) that she committed a major sin with another man, in which Allah has already shown her innocence in surat An-Noor, Allah revealed a verse addressing Abu Bakr and he said in Chapter 24 Verse 22:

24:22

Let not those whom Allah blessed them with wealth to withhold it from their relatives, the needy and those who immigrated for the sake of Allah.

Then Allah said: “وَلۡيَعۡفُواْ وَلۡيَصۡفَحُوٓاْ‌” [rather, forgive and reconcile]

ALLAHU AKBAR! WHAT!? Forgive and reconcile the one who accused my honor and the chastity of my own daughter!!! Then Allah continues and says, here he is addressing ALL of us!

 أَلَا تُحِبُّونَ أَن يَغْفِرَ اللَّـهُ لَكُمْ ۗوَاللَّـهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ” [don't you love for Allah to forgive you… And [note] Allah is The Most Forgiving The Most Merciful].

Upon hearing this, RIGHT AWAY, Abu Bakr raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said: “بلى واللهِ إني لأحبُّ أن يغفرَ اللهُ لي” [Yes, wAllahi! I love for Allah to forgive me. And he also said: I will never stop giving the monthly allowance back to him.]

Allahu akbar, what a man! May Allah be pleased with him. I ask Allah to grant you my beloved brothers and sisters who is reading such a strong iman and such eagerness to care about Allah's forgiveness to you. Ameen.

Another reward and honor from Allah to those who forgive, Allah basically tells them: “I love you”…. And if Allah loves you then what else in the world matters… Allah says: “وَٱلۡعَافِينَ عَنِ ٱلنَّاسِ‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُحۡسِنِينَ” [And those who forgive the people. And Allah loves the muhseneen].

Allahu akbar! He considered you among the elite, the muhsineen, and he said that He loves them. I ask Allah to make you, my beloved reader, among those whom Allah loves.

In an authentic hadith in Saheeh Bukhari, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once had poisoned brought to him by a Jewish lady. When the Prophet knew the meat was poisoned the lady was brought forth and the companions raḍyAllāhu 'anhum (may Allāh be pleased with them) asked the prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him): “Shall we not kill her?” [What do you think the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said? What would his reaction be towards a person who was about to poison him, basically, an assassination attempt!] The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) replied with one word and said: “No.”

Allahu akbar! She tried to kill him but he chose to overlook what she did.

In Conclusion:

To sum my message in one sentence:

There is nothing, in this cheap and lowly dunya that is worth forsaking the forgiveness, reward and love of Allah, nothing.

I begin with myself, as of tonight, Allah and you are my witness that I have forgiven anyone who has ever wronged me in any way, shape or form since the day I was born, whether it was the person who used to bully me when I was in school and caused me to hate being in school, or the one who cursed me and called me names on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter or even those who have backbit me and gossiped about me behind my back and I am not aware of. All of you are forgiven.

Bismillah, it is your turn. My beloved and respected brother & sister:

o   Forgive and Allah will forgive you

o   Forgive and your reward is on Allah

o   Forgive and Allah will love you

 

Be sure to share this article, for you might be means of helping others forgive those who wronged them, and such act of worship is better than praying taraweeh, sunnah prayers and giving charity as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) stated in an authentic hadith in Saheeh Abi Dawud. Share J May Allah bless you.

Wassalaamu alaykum

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What’s The Matter? | Confronting a Cheating Husband http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/24/whats-the-matter-confronting-a-cheating-husband/ http://muslimmatters.org/2014/07/24/whats-the-matter-confronting-a-cheating-husband/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 04:00:37 +0000 http://muslimmatters.org/?p=54095 Question: Salam aleykum. I just wanted some bit of Islamic advice on a very important matter. Alhamdulilah, I've been married for nearly 4 years to my husband and we have one child. Recently my husband' behaviour has changed. For example he would be mean to me and try to blame all his problems on me, he […]

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Question:

Salam aleykum. I just wanted some bit of Islamic advice on a very important matter.

Alhamdulilah, I've been married for nearly 4 years to my husband and we have one child. Recently my husband' behaviour has changed. For example he would be mean to me and try to blame all his problems on me, he just wasn't the person i knew anymore. He would spent less and less time with his family. This in turn made me very suspicious and pushed me to check his emails & social networking site.

SubhanAllah, I found something that broke my heart to pieces. I find out my husband was cheating on me. I don't know the extent of it but I found a trail of messages of other women and him flirting! I never felt so sick and paralysed, as you would never expect that from someone you love dearly; and whom you sharing your life with. I feel incredibly hurt & betrayed and humiliated! Millions of questions went through my mind! Wasn't I enough for my husband

So I find out my husband of years has been cheating on me ! I feel so betrayed and heartbroken. I know I've got to face him and speak to him about it although it makes me feel sick. I just wanted some advice on how to approach this calamity that has befallen on my family and I pray that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) will help me overcome the state I'm in. I don't know where to start and if I ever will be able to trust him.

Jazaka Allahu Khair,

Need to talk to him

Answer:

No words can describe the pain and humiliation that comes with infidelity. May Allah grant you the strength and patience to do what is right for you and your family, and help your heart heal from the repercussions of this traumatic event.

Why did he do it?

Unfortunately infidelity has become a common occurrence, so you are not alone. Although every case is unique, there are four basic situations why people have affairs:

1.  A person has a sex addiction. Are they willing to go to a 12-step program to deal with their addiction?

2.  A person gets caught in a slippery situation, is under the influence of drugs or alcohol and they do something they never thought they would do. They usually have great remorse for what happened and vow never to put themselves in that type of situation again.

3.  A person seeks revenge or pay back because their partner had an affair.

4.  A person is hungry for attention or nurturing, so they connect with someone outside the relationship to fulfill their needs.2

What do I do first?

First and foremost, find a way to express and process rage, hurt, and often feelings of panic. Dr. Spring eloquently states:

What you are experiencing is a normal and appropriate response to an acutely traumatizing experience. You're reeling not only from the loss of the integrity of your relationship but also from the loss of an illusion—that you're special to your partner and that the intimacy you thought you shared with that person would last forever. If in the face of such shattering news, it would be strange if you didn't feel lost.1

You can either speak with a trusted friend or colleague, journal about your emotions, or converse with the One who is The Hearer of All. It is important to be in a calmer state of mind in order to answer for yourself some very important questions. Moreover, it is crucial that you keep any children out of the pain of the situation to the furthest extent possible.

Every situation is different, and what works best for one family may not work best for another. At this point you must decide what it is that you want. Is infidelity a deal breaker for you? Or do you wish to stay in the marriage and try to work it out?  

How do I confront him?

If you choose to and are ready to confront your husband, my first concern would be about safety. Sometimes confrontations can get violent especially if he has been abusive in anyway in the past or short tempered.  I don't recommend confronting him in front of friends or family, but definitely avoid a closed door, private place. Even if there is no history of violence, he can become very angry and defensive about getting caught.

There is no right or wrong way to do this, or any written rules, but I found these recommendations to be helpful:

1. Set up some time when you can sit and talk. You want a time when you are rested.

2. Have your questions written out. Some examples may include: What happened? How did this situation come into our relationship? How long has this been going on? What went wrong with us?

3. Make sure your partner is willing to talk, all phones are off, the children are taken care of and you are in a safe place.

4. Set a beginning time and an ending time. I would suggest no more than two hours. People get weary, exhausted and hungry if you go too long and things can escalate and become extremely ugly. 2

Please understand that all your questions probably will not be answered in one meeting and that you two may have to meet several times. This traumatic incident will take some time for you to process and to resolve.

How do I communicate my needs?

Some tips on effective communication may help the conversation be more productive. Two typical dysfunctional ways of talking include being in “Silence” or being the “Storm.”

If you remain silent in order to protect yourself from further harm or disappointment, you are also losing the chance to feel understood, having your needs met, admit your mistakes and reconnect. “For you to heal and forgive, you must be convinced that your partner grasps how deeply you have been violated. For that to happen, you must talk about the affair and how it has affected you on the most personal level” 1

If you have the opposite tendency to storm, understand that a full on outpouring of rage and anger will only breed more anger in both parties and put your husband on the defense and shove him away.  He is more likely to listen to you and feel your pain if you speak calmly and directly.

How will he respond?

Possible responses also vary from situation to situation. Your husband may beg for forgiveness, he may be in complete denial despite the evidence you provide, or he may admit to his cheating and then initiate a marriage dissolution himself; therefore, it is vital for you to have a system of support set up that can help you with both your immediate and future needs.

Is it possible for our relationship to heal from this?

The possibility of healing from infidelity rests on the willingness of both parties to rebuild trust and the relationship. If only one partner desires to recommit, then it will not work.

If both of you decide to work through this, in time, you might view this traumatic even as a wake-up call. You may discover that this soul shattering event is the reboot you needed to develop a healthier and more mature approach to relationships. “I encourage you to enter the process, to challenge the hurt, and to see what you are capable of producing together. In essence on the count of three, I invite the two of you to step into the center of the ring, remove your boxing gloves and join hands.” 1

In terms of regaining trust, “it must be earned, and not with verbal reassurances alone, but with specific changes in behavior.” 1 Your husband will have to demonstrate though bold, concrete actions that he is committed to you and that you are safe with him. And you will have to open yourself up to the possibility of trusting him again as well as reinforce his efforts to regain your trust. You will also have to “spell out exactly what your partner can do for you, and give this person a road map back into your life.” 1

Continue to seek guidance from Allah for the best course of action and outcome for you and your family. Do not forget to establish a support system for you and your child, including family therapy and, finally, I highly recommend reading the book “After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner has been Unfaithful” by Janis Abrahms Spring, PhD.

 

 

References:

1. After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner has been Unfaithful by Janis Abrahms Spring, PhD with Michael Spring, completely updated 2nd edition.

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-c-jameson/how-to-confront-a-cheating-spouse_b_4534619.html

 

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