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Jerusalem: Don’t Be A Stranger

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The other night I was sat on my sofa not doing very much. Being the easily bored woman-child that I am, I ended up messing around with the Google Maps feature of my latest toy, which allowed me to view aerial shots of almost anywhere in the world, 007-stylee. All of a sudden, I felt the urge to perform a virtual Umrah, and a few seconds after typing in “Mecca”, I was magically transported to… California.

Say what?

You can check it out for yourself. You lucky American Muslims have your very own Mecca! It has nothing on the Saudi version, obviously, but perhaps it is worth a visit if you’re in the area. Imagine living there? That would be one awesome postal address for a Muslim!

Anyway, after being a little more specific with Mr G. Maps, (“Take me to Mecca, Saudi Arabia – please”), I was soon gazing down upon the dusty streets of Makkah Al-Mukkaramah – and with a few sweeps of my right index finger, I quickly happened upon the unmistakable shiny, white marble floors of the Sacred Mosque.

I’ve seen plenty of photos of the Haram – I even have a large poster of that truely iconic scene of the masjid being packed to the rafters with worshippers – but none of them ever gave me the chills that I felt when I zoomed into the image on my little hand-held screen, in order to have a better angel-eye’s view of the roof of the Kaaba. Amazing, subhanallah!

Of course, no Umrah is complete without a visit to Medina Al-Munawarrah, in order to pass on one’s salaams to the Beloved Prophet, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam (and I mean “complete” in the sense of personal satisfaction: it would be sad to travel so far and not experience that immense blessing). Thus a virtual Umrah should be no different. After plugging in the new destination, again, it did not take me long to locate the second sacred mosque – its bright whiteness and distinctive courtyard are a familiar sight, even from my sofa in the sky. Zooming into the green dome above the resting place of our Nabi, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, sent further chills down my spine – to be directly above this spot, even in the virtual sense, was mind blowing.

So where to next on my virtual pilgrimage? The obvious answer, of course, was the location of the first Qiblah, and home to the third holy site of Islam: Jerusalem. However, having never visited this location in person, I wasn’t so familiar with the terrain. It looked similar enough to Makkah and Medina in that the city was a large patch of brown and grey, intersected by rows of streets and buildings – but where was Al-Aqsa, the masjid where Rasoolallah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, lead the previous Prophets in prayer? Where was the famous golden dome of the Dome of the Rock from where he, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, was escorted to the Heavens by Gibreel, ‘alayhis salam?

I really had no idea what I was looking at, and as much as I scrolled up, down, left and right, I couldn’t see any distinctive shapes that lead me to my desired location. It was frustrating to say the least, but more than that, it was quite saddening. Saddening because this incident so clearly highlighted how alien this holy ground is to me. I have never walked upon it as I have done with the previous two sanctuaries – and to be perfectly honest, I am scared to even try.

I mean, none of us wants our special, potentially once-in-a-lifetime, pilgrimage experience to be tainted with the fear of facing armed soldiers at checkpoints, right? But then again – imagine – that is exactly what the people of Palestine have to face every day for the simplest of errands, such as going to work, to school, even to hospital. Bravery, necessity, whatever the motivation, it’s a reality that they have no choice but to face – may Allah continue to strengthen them.

Restricted access to the furthest Mosque is one of the lesser casualties of the Middle Eastern conflict – though it is one that affects the entire Muslim world. Even so, the third Haram still remains a beacon of hope; we pray that one day we will all be free to enter its gates in peace, just as we pray that one day, the people of Palestine, the children of Ibrahim, ‘alayhis salam, can go about their lives in peace. May Allah, the Most Merciful, grant us that day soon – Ameen.


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Entry written for Blog About Palestine Day. Image Credit: Simeon.

Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim joined MuslimMatters as a blogger in late 2007 under the handle 'iMuslim', whilst still a struggling grad student. Since then, she has attained a PhD in Molecular Biology and a subsequent Masters in Bioinformatics, and now works as a specialist in this field for a well-known British, medical charity, masha'Allah. Somewhere in between she found the time to get married, alhamdulillah. She likes to dabble in photo and videography, a sample of which can be found on her personal blog: iMuslim.tv.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Islam Blog

    May 16, 2008 at 4:45 AM

    Jazakallah for the reminder. I am very saddened by the thought of not being able to go to Jerusalem and masjid al Aqsa. But I hope my assumptions are wrong and it really isn’t that difficult to go there.

    Is there anyone who has visited the mosque who can narrate their experience?

  2. Avatar

    Abu Ninja

    May 16, 2008 at 6:14 AM

    When was the last time any of us remembered to make dua to Allah to free al-Aqsa from the control of the Zionist yahood?

    I pray the Muslims of this ummah wake up before its too late.

    The Zionist yahood have been planning for a long time to destroy al-Aqsa. I pray with my whole heart that this never happens. but I have a feeling that one day they may be successful in demolishing al-Aqsa and the Muslim ummah will continue to sleep.

    How many adult Muslims do we see who do not even know how to perform wudu?

    I know a brother who until he was 23 years old did not even know how to perform ghusl until I taught him.

    I know of a another person who literally lives two doors away from a masjid and has not once entered the masjid to perform a single salaat, jummuah or even a Eid prayer in 7 years and more!

    How many Muslims do we see drowning in shirk & bid’ah while they think they are following Islam?

    What will it take for the Muslims to wake up? An attack on Ka’bah?

    May Allah strengthen the Muslims and guide us upon the Sirat al-Mustaqeem.

  3. Avatar

    Veiled_Muslimah

    May 16, 2008 at 9:53 AM

    Mashallah, good post. Very will written. :)

  4. Avatar

    Veiled_Muslimah

    May 16, 2008 at 9:54 AM

    well* [And ameen to the duas].

  5. Avatar

    Siraaj

    May 16, 2008 at 10:38 AM

    Really cool post – does the street view feature work on those areas? That would be really cool.

    Siraaj

  6. Avatar

    Abu Hafsa

    May 16, 2008 at 11:18 AM

    If you thought Mecca in california was cool. Here in Chicago, we have a suburb by the name of Medinah.

  7. Pingback: Jerusalem: Don’t Be A Stranger « iMuslim

  8. Avatar

    iMuslim

    May 16, 2008 at 1:10 PM

    Islam Blog: My tajweed teacher once told the class about a plan to visit Syria, for the purposes of learning Arabic and meeting some shayookh. They would also try to enter Jerusalem from there to visit Masjid Al-Aqsa… she said that young Muslim men would not be allowed to enter alone, and they should try to bring as much family with them as possible. In my case, I am pretty sure my father would never let me even attempt the journey! And seeing as he is the only mahram I have to hand at the moment, it doesn’t look good. :(

    Abu Ninja: Ameen to your dua.

    Veiled Muslimah: Jazakallah sis.

    Br. Siraaj: My iPod wouldn’t zoom in that close, but perhaps the fully featured Google Maps would allow that, insha’Allah.

    Abu Hafsa: I discovered via Facebook that there are three towns in the US that have the same name as my home town here in the UK… not as cool as Mecca/Medinah, obviously, but interesting from my standpoint!

    Btw, jazakallah to br. Omar for installing the Google Map view of the Dome of the Rock in my entry! I found it to be a somewhat poetic end to my post, masha’Allah. Almost romantic in a “two loved ones reunited” kind of way. :)

  9. Avatar

    Umm Ibraheem

    May 16, 2008 at 2:32 PM

    but where was Al-Aqsa, the masjid where Rasoolallah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, lead the previous Prophets in prayer? Where was the famous golden dome of the Dome of the Rock from where he, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, was escorted to the Heavens by Gibreel, ‘alayhis salam?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, sister…but isn’t the famous golden dome not actually Masjid Al-Aqsa (or where the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was escorted from)? I thought that was just a common misconception….

  10. Avatar

    Broken Mystic

    May 16, 2008 at 6:05 PM

    Salaam alaykoum!

    This was a beautiful entry, masha’Allah. It’s really heart-breaking whenever I think about how much conflict haunts the Holy Land. How can people allow so much blood to spill and then blame it on another group of people? Our Palestinian brother and sisters do not have the same luxuries that we may have in the west, we are not constantly worried about the security forces patrolling and occupying our homes. Just even going to the Masjid for a really spiritual experience is difficult because you must be constantly reminded of how war-torn the region is.

    We need to an end to the occupation, end to discrimination, end to racism/prejudice, and an end to dehumanization. No human being can live like that — the saddest part is that we are all brothers and sisters, and yet, no one seems to be interested in that. I pray to go there some day insha’Allah too. I have faith in our generation of Muslims.

  11. Avatar

    AbuAbdAllah the Houstonian

    May 17, 2008 at 6:58 PM

    Bismillah. As salamu alaykum.

    For the author, you wrote about the fear of performing a journey to Masjid Al Aqsa. Yes, armed Israeli soldiers occupy the Holy City and deny Philistini pilgrims access regularly and at whim. But, mashaAllah, the Philistini never give up their hopes to pray in that blessed masjid. Some foreign nationals cannot visit because of visa issues, but for Americans the excuse is almost always only fear.

    MashaAllah, the intended-Hajj of the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam and the sahabah — the journey that ended in the Treaty of Hudaibiyah — that was a journey to a city literally in the hands of the armed enemies of Islam and the Muslims. Fear of the mushrikeen did not stop those who feared Allah.

    If more Muslims made visits to the Holy sites only to please Allah, then perhaps they find more courage and more reward.

    Regarding Mecca, CA, and Makkah, SA, Google Maps prefers the official/local spellings of street names, cities, etc. So to find Beijing, one should probably not use Peking, and to find Makkah, one should search for Makkah. And if it would suffice for anyone, we have a Palestine in Texas, too.

    In reply to the first comment, I had tawfiq to visit all three holy sites last summer, http://myamazingumrah.blogspot.com. There are videos of the grounds of Al Aqsa for those who cannot walk there in person. My visit filled my heart with love for the Philistini. I urge everyone who can go to do so.

    I would not call a Google visit to Makkah a virtual Umrah, because there’s no virtual Tawaf, Sai’, etc. But you can visit all three holy sites in satelite view (courtesy of Google) at prayinjamat.com — you’ll start at Makkah, and then zoom out to see markers for other masajid. Try a street address from your home town — you’ll find over 1000 jamat in America, Canada, and Europe. Add any-sized jamat!

  12. Avatar

    iMuslim

    May 19, 2008 at 4:21 PM

    Umm Ibrahim: As far as I am aware, the Dome of the Rock (with the golden dome) is the place from where Rasoolallah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, was escorted to the Heavens, and Masjid al-Aqsa (with the black/grey dome) was built by Umar, radiallahu anhum, during his caliphate, above the musalla where Rasoolallah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam, was thought to have lead the other Prophets in jamaat… please someone correct me if I am wrong.

    Broken Mystic: Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah. Ameen to your dua.

    AbuAbdAllah the Houstonian: Wa ‘alaykum salam wa rahmatullah. Jazakallah for all the info, especially the websites. Your example of the intended Hajj also came to mind while I thought about the entry. It does inspire me, and many people, to make the journey, insha’Allah. Please make dua that I am given a mahram who thinks the same way. :)

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#Current Affairs

Criticism, Accountability and the Exclusion of Quran and Sunnah – Critiquing Ahmed Sheikh’s Critique

Shaykh Tarik Ata

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Let me begin by making two things clear. First, this article is not seeking to defend the positions of any person nor is it related to the issue of CVE and what it means to the Muslim American community. I am in no way claiming that CVE is not controversial or harmful to the community nor am I suggesting that affiliations with governments are without concern.

Second, this paper is meant to critique the arguments made by the author that encourage holding Islamic scholars accountable. I encourage the reader not to think of this article as an attempt to defend an individual(s) but rather as an attempt to present an important issue through the framework of Islamic discourse – Quran, hadith supported by scholarly opinion. In that spirit, I would love to see articles providing other scholarly views that are contrary to this articles. The goal is to reach the position that is most pleasure to Allah and not the one that best fits our agenda, whims, or world views.

In this article I argue that Islamic scholars in America cannot effectively be held accountable, not because they are above accountability but because (1) accountability in Islam is based on law derived from Quran and hadith and this is the responsibility of Islamic experts not those ignorant of the Islamic sciences. And to be frank, this type of discourse is absent in Muslim America. (2) Muslim Americans have no standard code of law, conduct, or ethics that can be used to judge behavior and decisions of Muslim Americans. I do believe, however, that criticism should be allowed under certain conditions, as I will elaborate in the proceeding paragraphs.

To begin, the evidence used to support the concept of holding leaders accountable is the statement of Abu Bakr upon his appointment to office:

O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me.

This is a well-known statement of his, and without a doubt part of Islamic discourse applied by the pious companions. However, one should take notice of the context in which Abu Bakr made his statement. Specifically, who he was speaking to. The companions were a generation that embodied and practiced a pristine understanding of Islam and therefore, if anyone were to hold him accountable they would do it in the proper manner. It would be done with pure intentions that they seek to empower Abu Bakr with Quranic and Prophetic principles rather than attack him personally or with ill intentions.

Furthermore, their knowledge of the faith was sufficient to where they understood where and when the boundaries of Allah are transgressed, and therefore understood when he was accountable. However, when these facets of accountability are lost then the validity of accountability is lost as well.

To give an example, during the life of Abu Bakr, prior to appointing Omar (ra) as his successor he took the opinion of several companions. The prospect of Omar’s appointment upset some of the companions because of Omar’s stern character. These companions approached Abu Bakr and asked him “what will you tell Allah when he asks why you appointed the stern and severe (ie Omar).” Abu Bakr replied “I will tell Him that I appointed the best person on earth,” after which Abu Bakr angrily commanded them to turn their backs and leave his presence.

Fast forwarding to the life of Uthman, large groups of Muslims accused Uthman of changing the Sunnah of the Prophet in several manners. Part of this group felt the need to hold Uthman accountable and ended up sieging his home leading to his death. Now, when one researches what this group was criticizing Uthman for, you find that Uthman (ra) did make mistakes in applying the sunnah that even companions such as Ibn Mas’ood expressed concern and disagreement with. However, due to the lack of fiqh and knowledge, these Muslims felt that the actions of Uthman made him guilty of “crimes” against the sunnah and therefore he must be held accountable.

With this I make my first point. A distinction between criticism and accountability must be made. Ibn Mas’ood and others criticized Uthman but, since they were scholars, understood that although Uthman was mistaken his mistakes did not cross the boundaries of Allah, and therefore he was not guilty of anything and thus was not accountable.

Holding Muslim scholars accountable cannot be justified unless evidence from the Quran and hadith indicate transgression against Allah’s law. Thus, before the Muslim American community can call for the accountability of Dr. Jackson, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, or others, an argument founded in Quran and Sunnah and supplicated by scholarly (classical scholars) research and books must be made.

It is simply against Islamic discourse to claim that a scholar is guilty of unethical decisions or affiliations simply because CVE is a plot against Muslims (as I will detail shortly). Rather, an argument must be made that shows how involvement with CVE is against Quran and sunnah. Again, I emphasize the difference between criticizing their decision because of the potential harms versus accusing them of transgressing Islamic principles.

To further elaborate this distinction I offer the following examples. First, Allah says in context of the battle of Badr and the decision to ransom the prisoners of war,

“It is not fit for a prophet that he should take captives until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You ˹believers˺ settled with the fleeting gains of this world, while Allah’s aim ˹for you˺ is the Hereafter. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. Had it not been for a prior decree from Allah, you would have certainly been disciplined with a tremendous punishment for whatever ˹ransom˺ you have taken. Now enjoy what you have taken, for it is lawful and good. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (8:67-69)

In these verses Allah criticizes the decision taken by the Muslims but then states that ransom money was made permissible by Allah, and therefore they are not guilty of a punishable offense. In other words, Allah criticized their decision because it was a less than ideal choice but did not hold them accountable for their actions since it was permissible.

Another example is the well-known incident of Osama bin Zaid and his killing of the individual who proclaimed shahadah during battle. Despite this, Osama proceeded to slay him. Upon hearing of this the Prophet (s) criticized Osama and said, “did you see what is in his heart?”

Although Osama’s actions resulted in the death of a person the Prophet (s), did not hold Osama accountable for his actions and no punishment was implemented. Similarly, Khalid bin Waleed killed a group of people who accepted Islam accidentally and similarly, the Prophet (s) criticized Khalid but did not hold him accountable.

Why was there no accountability? Because the decisions of Osama and Khalid were based on reasonable – although incorrect – perspectives which falls under the mistake category of Islamic law “And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but [only for] what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful” (33:5)

The previous examples, among others, are referred to in Islamic discourse as ta’weel (interpretation). There are many examples in the lives of the companions where decisions were made that lead to misapplications of Islam but were considered mistakes worthy of criticism but not crimes worthy of punishment or accountability.

Ta’weel, as Ibn Taymiyya states, is an aspect of Islam that requires deep understanding of the Islamic sciences. It is the grey area that becomes very difficult to navigate except by scholars as the Prophet (s) states in the hadith, “The halal is clear and the haram is clear and between them is a grey area which most people don’t know (ie the rulings for).”

Scholars have commented stating that the hadith does not negate knowledge of the grey entirely and that the scholars are the ones who know how to navigate that area. The problem arises when those ignorant of Islamic law attempt to navigate the grey area or criticize scholars attempting to navigate it.

Going back to Ibn Taymiyya -skip this part if you believe Ibn Taymiyya was a dancing bear- I would like to discuss his own views on associating oneself with oppressive rulers. In his book “Islamic Political Science” (As Siyaasa ash Shar’iah) he details the nuances of fiqh in regards to working with or for oppressive rulers.

It would be beneficial to quote the entire section, but for space sake I will be concise. Ibn Taymiyya argues that the issue of oppressive rulers should not be approached with a black and white mentality. Rather, one must inquire of the relationship between the person and the ruler.

One can legitimately adhere to the verse “And cooperate in righteousness and piety” (5:2) while working for an unjust ruler such as: “performing jihad, applying penal laws, protecting the rights of others, and giving those who deserve. This is in accordance to what Allah and His messenger have commanded and whoever refrains from those things out of fear of assisting the unjust then they have left an obligation under a false form of asceticism (wara’).”

Likewise, accepting a position under an unjust regime may prevent or reduce the harm of that regime, or prevent someone mischievous from taking the position and inflicting even more harm, then such an association is Islamically valid. Furthermore, someone working in a particular department is not responsible or accountable for the crimes being committed in another department nor are they guilty of “cooperat[ing] in sin and aggression” (5:2). He ascribes these fiqh rulings to the majority of scholars including Abu Hanifa, Malik and Ahmed.

The argument against those who are affiliated with the UAE is simply not grounded in fiqh or supported by clear evidences from the Quran and hadith. How does being part of a peace forum make the participants guilty of the crimes in Yemen? The claim that such participation enhances the influence of these regimes is not necessarily consistent with Quran and hadith.

Dr. Jackson, I argue, is in line with Islamic discourse when he says that being part of such initiatives does not mean he agrees with all they do. The same goes for CVE. As Ibn Taymiyya suggests above, participating in such programs is Islamically justifiable if the goal is to reduce the harm and this is what Dr. Jackson claims. Ibn Taymiyya gives the example of someone working as a tax collector for a ruler who unjustly takes taxes from his citizens. If the individual can reduce the amount being taken then his position is Islamically valid.

One might state that such a claim – reducing the harm – is naïve and an excuse to justify their affiliations. No doubt this is a possibility, however, I once again quote Ibn Taymiyya,

“The obligation is to bring about the benefit to the best of their ability and or prevent the harm or at least reduce it. If there are two possible benefits then the individual should pursue the greater of the two even if it leads to losing the lesser. If there are two possible harms to prevent then they should prevent the greater of the two even if it results in the occurrence of the lesser.”

There are ways of determining whether a persons is clearly excusing himself. At the same time, the debate as to whether the benefits outweigh the harm is almost always within the grey area mentioned above. Thus, it is irresponsible to attack Islamic scholars and call for their accountability for positions that are not clearly against Quran and hadith.

Another rebuttal might claim that the rulers during the time of Ibn Taymiyya were better than present day rulers and that his fiqh was addressing his realities which are inconsistent with ours. My response is that although that is true, Ibn Taymiyya’s teachings are not built on contextual realities that are only effective in those realities. Rather, his teachings are built on principles that are formulated in a way that renders it capable of measuring a particular context. In other words, it acts in a way that considers the realities and context as part of the equation and decision process.

A third rebuttal might claim that Ibn Taymiyya, like many others, warned of the harms of befriending rulers. Again, this is accurate, however, an important distinction must be made and that is between spiritual advice and fiqh rulings. An issue can be spiritually problematic but permissible fiqh-wise and this differentiation is seen in the lives of the companions and spiritualists in general.

For example, the companions rejected many worldly pleasures out of zuhd and wara’ (two forms of asceticism) and not because they are forbidden. To be more specific, a person may restrict themselves from drinking green tea not because it is forbidden by Quran or hadith but because of they view it as a desire that distracts them from the next life.

Similarly, the discouragement scholars expressed towards relationships with rulers was because of the spiritual harms and not because of an unequivocal prohibition against it. This is an important facet of Islamic discourse that should be recognized by the Muslim community. That is, a person can critique an issue from various angles (for example the psychological harms of political rhetoric and how it effects a person’s spirituality) while remaining neutral to Islamic law. What I am trying to say is that legitimate criticisms can be made about a particular issues without having to bring a person’s Islamic credibility into the discussion.

To conclude, I’d like to once again emphasize a distinction between criticism and accountability. Criticism is justified when the criticizer is qualified in the topic and when the one being criticized has made a mistake. Accountability is legitimate when a person has transgressed red lines established by Islam itself. But, in order for such accountability to be valid one must invoke the Quran and hadith and here lies the problem.

In the several articles posted against UAE and CVE, Quran and hadith are excluded and such has become Muslim American discourse – we are Muslims who invoke Allah and His messenger yet exclude their words from the conversation. I remind the Muslim American community and myself of the following verse “And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result” (4:59).

I would like to pose the following questions to the Muslim American community:

  • Under what code of law and ethics should scholars be held accountable? In other words, what standards do we use to deem a scholar accountable or guilty? Who determines these laws and principles? Is it other scholars who are well versed in fiqh? Is it American standards or perhaps Muslim American activists and whatever is in line with their agenda?
  • Who or what institution has the authority to hold scholars accountable?
  • To what extent do we consider Quran, hadith, fiqh and scholarly opinions in determining illegal actions, problematic decisions, and or immoral behavior?
  • Are these laws and principles only applicable to scholars or are other Muslim leader figures held to the same standards?
  • Are all scholars “dancing bears” who have no credibility? If not, who, in your opinion, is trustworthy and credible and why do you think so? Is it because they are following Quran and Sunnah, or because they fit activism?
  • Do you believe that certain celebrated Muslim American activists / politicians present theological and moral problems to American Muslims that are corrupting their faith and behavior? Should they be held accountable for their statements and actions? What about the various Muslim organizations that invite them as keynote speakers and continue to show unwavering support?
  • Do you believe it is fair to say that these celebrated activists are not responsible for clarifying to the community their controversial positions and statements because they are not scholars or seen as religious figures?
  • Do you believe that activism is dominating Muslim American discourse and do you believe that there is a serious exclusion of Quran and hadith in that discourse?

I hope the community will acknowledge the concerning reality of the exclusion of Quran and hadith from our affairs. Until we live up to the standards of Quran and sunnah our criticism will only lead to further division and harm.

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#Society

Do You Know Why Uzma Was Killed?

#JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

Fatima Asad

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Last week, Pakistani society was struggling with the story of the horrific murder of Uzma, a teenager, who worked as a house maid in the city of Lahore. The 16-year-old was allegedly tortured for months and then murdered by the woman she worked for…for taking a bite from the daughter’s plate. #JusticeForUzma is a campaign that highlights the many terrible ways household help is treated in places around the world. Here, Fatima Asad writes about how she is raising her children to be the change they want to see in their society. 

By Fatima Asad

Living in Pakistan, my children realize that within the gates of our neighborhood, they will see no littering, they will not experience water or electricity shortages and certainly, no one will be knocking on the door begging for food or money. The reason they have this realization is because I make it the day’s mission to let them know about their privilege, about the ways they have been blessed in comparison to the other, very real, living, breathing little girls and boys outside those gates. Alas, my children come face to face with those very real people as soon as the gates close behind us.

“Why are there so many poor people in Pakistan, Mommy?” they ask, quite regularly now, unsatisfied with the answers I’ve provided so far. The question perpetually makes me nervous, uncomfortable, and I hastily make a lesson plan in my mind to gradually expose this world’s truths to them… ahista, ahista…(slow and steady).

But on days like these, when we find out about the death of yet another underprivilged young girl (they’re becoming redundant, aren’t they?), on days like these, I want to hold them, shake them, scream at them to wake up!

Wake up, my child! Beta jaag jao.

Do you know why that little girl we see outside, always has dirt on her face and her hair is in visible knots?

It is because, there are too many people who can take a shower anytime they want, who have maids to oil, brush and style their hair.

Do you know why there are children with no clothes on their backs?

It is because, there are too many of us with too many on ours. There are too many of us with walk-in closets for mothers and matching wardrobes for their infant daughters. We obsess about tailors, brands, this collection, last season. How often do we hear or say “can’t repeat that one”, “this one is just not my thing anymore…”

Do you know why there are children with their cheeks sunk deep in their skulls, scraping for our leftovers in our trashcans?

Because there are too many of us, who are overstuffed with biryani, burgers, food deliveries, dinner parties, chai get-togethers, themed birthday cupcakes, and bursting appetites for more, more, more, and different, different, different.

There are too many of us craving the exotic and the western, hoping to impress the next guest that comes to lunch with our useless knowledge of foods that should not be our pride, like lasagna, nuggets, cinnamon rolls, banana bread, pizza, minestrone soup, etc.

There are too many of us who do not want to partake from our outdated, simple traditional cuisines… that is, unless we can put a “cool” twist on them.

Do you know why there are children begging on the streets with their parents? Because there are too many of us driving in luxury cars to our favorite staycation spots, rolling up the windows in the beggars’ faces.

We are rather spent our money of watching the latest movies for family nights, handing out cash allowances to our own kids so they won’t feel left out when going out.

Do you know why there are mothers working during the days and sacrificing their nights sewing clothes for meager coins? Why there are fathers, who sacrifice their sleep and energy to guard empty mansions at the cost of their self-respect? Because there are too many of us attending dance rehearsals for weddings of the friends we backstab and envy. Because there are too many of us binge-watching the latest hot shows on Netflix, hosting ghazal nights to pay tribute to dead musicians and our never-ending devotion for them, and many more of us viciously shaking our heads when the political analyst on TV delivers a breaking report on a millionaire’s private assets.

Do you know why there are people who will never hold a book in their hands or learn to write their own names? Do you know why there will never be proof that some people lived, breathed, smiled, or cried? Because there are too many of us who are given the best education money can buy, yet only end up using that education to improve our own selves – and only our own selves. There are too many of us who wear suits and ties, entrusted with building the country, yet too many of our leaders and politicians just use that opportunity to build their own legacies or secret, off shore accounts.

Do you know why children, yes children, are ripped apart from their parents, forced to provide their bodies and energies so that a stranger’s family can raise their kids? Because, there are too many of us who need a separate maid for each child we birth. Because, there are too many of us who have given the verdict that our children are worth more than others’.

Because, there are too many of us who need a maid to prove to frenemies our monetary worth and showcase a higher social class.

Because, there are too many of us who enslave humans, thinking we cannot possibly spoil our youth, energy and time on our own needs, our own tasks, our own lives.

Because, there are too many of us who need to be comfortable, indulged, privileged, spoiled, educated, satisfied, excited, entertained and happy at the expense of other living souls.

And we do all this, thinking—fooling ourselves into believing— that our comforts are actually a way of providing income for another human being. Too many of us think that by indulging in our self-centered lifestyles, we are providing an ongoing charity for society’s neediest.

Too many of us are sinking into a quicksand that is quite literally killing us. This needs to stop immediately. This accelerating trend of possessing and displaying more isn’t going to slow down on its own- in fact, it’s become deadly. Too many of our hearts have hardened, burnt to char.

More of us need to sacrifice our comforts, our desires, our nafs so others can have basic human rights fulfilled. More of us must say no to blind consumerism, envious materialistic competition and the need for instant gratification so others can live. We may have the potential to turn into monsters, but we have exceedingly greater potential to be empathetic, selfless revolutionaries. Too many of us have been living for the here and now, but more of us need to actively start thinking about the future.

Do we want to raise generations that will break bread with the less fortunate or do we want to end up with vicious monsters who starve and murder those they deem unworthy? The monsters who continue to believe that they have been blessed with more, so others can be given less than they are entitled to.

It is time for change andthe change has to start from within these gates.

#justiceforuzma #justiceformaids

 

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OpEd: Breaking Leases Into Pieces

Abu Awad

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Ali ibn Talib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him)once said, “Know the truth and you’ll know who’s speaking the truth.” 

I am based in Canada and was recently having coffee with friends. In the course of the conversation, a friend (who I consider knowledgeable) said that it’s okay to pay interest on a leased car because interest doesn’t apply to lease contracts. This completely caught me off guard, because it made no logical sense that interest would become halal based solely on the nature of the contract.

I asked him how this can be true and his response was that the lease contract is signed with the dealer and the interest transaction is between the dealer and the financing company so it has nothing to do with the buyer. Again, this baffled me because I regularly lease cars and this is an incorrect statement: The lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company who is charging you directly for the interest they pay the car dealership. Therefore, any lease contract that has interest associated with it is haram. This is the same as saying your landlord can charge you interest for his mortgage on a rental contract and this would make it halal. I tried to argue this case and explain to my friend that what he was saying was found on false assumptions and one should seriously look into this matter before treating riba in such a light manner.

Upon going home that night, I pulled out all my lease contracts (negotiated to 0% mind you) and sent them over to my friend. They clearly showed that a bill of sale is signed with the dealer, which is an initial commitment to purchase but the actual lease agreement is signed with a third party financing company which is charging you interest directly. If this interest rate is anything above zero it is haram (anything which is haram in a large quantity is also haram in a small quantity).

To my dismay, instead of acknowledging his mistake, my friend played the “Fatwa Card” and sent me a fatwa from a very large fatwa body in North America, which was also basing their argument on this false assumption. Fortunately for me, my friend pointed out the hotline number and the day and time the mufti who gave the fatwa would be available to answer questions.

I got in touch with the scholar and over a series of text messages proceeded to explain to him that his fatwa was based on a wrong assumption and for this reason people would be misled into leasing cars on interest and signing agreements with financing companies which are haram.
He was nice enough to hear my arguments, but still insisted that “maybe things were different in Canada.” Again this disappointed me because giving fatwa is a big responsibility – by saying “maybe” he was implying that full research has not been done and a blanket fatwa has been given for all of North America.

It also meant that if my point was true (for both Canada and the United States) dozens of Muslims maybe engaging in riba due to this fatwa.

The next week I proceeded to call two large dealerships (Honda and Toyota) in the very city where the Fatwa body is registered in the US and asked them about paperwork related to leasing. They both confirmed that when leasing a new vehicle, the lease contract is signed with a third party financing company which has the lien on the vehicle and the dealer is acting on the financing company’s behalf.

It is only when a vehicle is purchased in cash that a contract is signed with the dealer. This proved my point that both in the US and Canada car lease contracts are signed with the financing company and the interest obligations are directly with the consumer, therefore if the interest rate is anything above 0% it is haram. I sent a final text to the mufti and my friend sharing what I had found and letting him know that it was now between them and Allah.

1. As we will stand in front of Allah alone on Yaum al Qiyamah, in many ways we also stand alone in dunya. You would think that world renowned scholars and an entire institution would be basing their fatwas on fact-checked assumptions but this is not the case. You would also think that friends who you deem knowledgable and you trust would also use logic and critical thinking, but many times judgment is clouded for reasons unbeknownst to us. We must not take things at face value. We must do our research and get to the bottom of the truth. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says to stand up for truth and justice even if it be against our ourselves; although it is difficult to do so in front of friends and scholars who you respect, it is the only way.

2. There are too many discussions, debates and arguments that never reach closure or get resolved. It is important to follow up with each other on proofs and facts to bring things to closure, otherwise our deen will slowly be reduced to a swath of grey areas. Alhamdulillah, I now know enough about this subject to provide a 360 degree view and can share this with others. It is critical to bring these discussions to a close whether the result is for you or against you.

3. Many times we have a very pessimistic and half hearted view towards access to information. When I was calling the dealerships from Canada in the US,  part of me said: Why would these guys give me the information? But if you say Bismillah and have your intentions in the right place Allah makes the path easy. One of the sales managers said “I can see you’re calling from Toronto, are you sure you have the right place?” I replied, “I need the information and if you can’t give it to me I don’t mind hanging up.” He was nice enough to provide me with the detailed process and paperwork that goes into leasing a car.

Finally, I haven’t mentioned any names in this opinion and I want to make clear that I am not doubting the intentions of those who I spoke to; I still respect and admire them greatly in their other works. We have to be able to separate individual cases and actions from the overall person.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) guide us to the truth and rid of us any weaknesses or arrogance during the process.

Aameen.

Ed’s Note: The writer is not a religious scholar and is offering his opinion based on his research on leasing contracts in North America.

Suggested reading:

Muslim’s Guide to Debt and Money Management Part 6

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