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Open Thread Sunday 15/2/2009

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abulqasimbookstoreContinuing with last week’s theme of all things book-related, here’s an inspiring story about one sister’s efforts to continue the spread of Islamic knowledge via the written word.

American Convert Guides Publishing House Into New Territory
by Amira Elghawaby

In a land where shopping malls sprawl the horizon, a modest bookshop tucked away in a tree-lined neighbourhood of East Jeddah offers a soothing alternative.

From the outside, Dar Abul-Qasim bookstore and publishing house looks like any one of the tiny store fronts that peek out from beneath dusty buildings, stubbornly withstanding the onslaught of super chains.  But its history speaks to a past, and to a promising future, of offering readers of all faiths with accessible information about Islam in English, as well as in other languages.

Its owner, an American convert to Islam and mother of two, says she has big plans for the shop she took over just two years ago.  Seated on a deep brown couch that contrasts the earthy tones of the store’s walls and bookshelves, Amatullah Bantley enthuses about her vision.

“I’d like to expand it into to being more than just a bookstore; I want it to be a resource centre,” she says, her Saudi-style niqab whisked away from her face, revealing a large smile.  “I want to add a wing that has books available for people to just to come in and read, to research; of course, add Internet access… just to give people knowledge.”

Bantley’s relationship with the company started in 1989, when a friend asked her to deliver a manuscript to the publisher, a Saudi national named Soliman Gasim.  Having opened the business in 1980, Gasim was dedicated to spreading correct information about Islam in English.  So when Bantley brought him the manuscript, with some suggestions on how to make it read better, he told her to go ahead and make the changes herself – and to typeset it, as that had already been completed on the original version.

“What was I to do?” reminisces Bantley.  She didn’t have a computer, a printer, nor any idea on how to typeset.  A friend came to the rescue and found her what she needed – including a computer program that taught her how to prepare text.  Soliman appreciated her work and asked her if she’d like to do more – she hasn’t stopped since.

After 16 years of collaboration, it was the bookstore’s founder who finally had to pull out.

In 2005, deteriorating health impelled Gasim to put the store up for sale, but he wasn’t just after the right price, says Bantley.  “His vision was for this company to be more than just a business.  He always wanted it to be a means of dawah [inviting people to learn about Islam].  He wanted to be sure that whoever he sold it to, would continue with this intention.”

As she watched Gasim turn down offers, Bantley said she couldn’t bear the thought of the company’s demise; she had benefited so much from reading the work they had produced over the years.

“I approached him and told him honestly, I don’t have the money to buy this company but if you can work out some kind of payment plan, I would be more than happy to open the store again… he agreed.”

Bantley, who has a degree in business management, now had to find lenders to back her project.  “There was no other option but to go into debt for it,” she explains.  “From a business sense, people would probably think it was crazy, going on a wing and a prayer, and I just decided it is what I had to do,” she says, the strength of her voice matching the conviction of her words.  “It was very risky [but] for me this is Allah’s project, because He Has opened doors that I could never have imagined.”

Through those doors, community supporters of all backgrounds, both men and women, pitched in to help.  They offered loans, reduced costs on labour and materials, decorating tips – even the framed photographs of Islamic architecture gracing the walls were donated.

This helped Bantley remake the bookstore into a modern, yet comfortable place where readers can leisurely explore the diverse selection of books lining the shelves.  The store sells about one hundred original titles (published by Dar Abul-Qasim), plus over two hundred others from well-known publishers like Darussalam, International Islamic Publishing House and Dar Al-Khair.

And while about ninety per cent of the books are in English, Bantley points to a few shelves featuring books in other languages including French, German, Tamil, Tagalog, Sinhala, Malabari, Russian, Spanish, Indonesian, Turkish and Urdu.  She’s also got thirty translations of the Qur’an in stock.

All she needs now are more customers.

“Honestly, business is a bit slow,” explains Bantley, who says she’s trying to balance the need to pay back lenders with further investing in the company’s promotion and expansion.  “I try to do a little bit of advertising here and there but right now it’s more word of mouth.”

To get people talking, the publishing house hosted a couple of lectures featuring Sheikh Yusuf Estes, the American preacher turned caller-to-Islam in January.  And plans are also underway to promote new and seasoned authors through book signings and readings.  Bantley hopes these efforts – “baby steps,” as she calls them – will help her fulfill the aim of her work:  to produce, provide and distribute top quality Islamic literature  to those who want and need it.

Even Arab businessmen could benefit, suggests Bantley.  “This is an opportunity for them to get [books] locally and at decent prices and they can offer them to their workers.  But they don’t know about us.”

Unless they’re reading this.

Dar Abdul-Qasim is located off of Sahafah Street, on the north side of the Madinah Printing Press. Their phone number is (966-2) 671-4793, or email abulqasimbooks@hotmail.com.  Many of their products can also be ordered online in the United States through islamicbookstore.com and halalco.com

Those interested in the subject of boycotts will be interested in a new site worth checking out: TogetherAgainsTyranny.com 

It’s great to have water, electricity, and smooth transportation in our lives. It’s nice and easy to cuddle up in our warm beds at night and sleep peacefully. And it’s just as easy to forget, too rapidly, how some of our fellow human beings are trapped in a city without the blessings that we take for granted – food, water, electricity, medicine, and safety. The holocaust that has torn through the heart of Gaza is the latest, and possibly the most inhuman, blow to the Palestinian people. If we don’t stand up together now, we’re never going to.

Israel gains far more – over ten times more strength through international trade than it does through billions of dollars of US aid. An organized boycott of strategically selected goods will directly hurt the Israeli economy and hence their funding of this genocide. But how many of us can actually boycott everything on these famous lists that swarm the Internet? How many of us actually know where we’re heading with our boycotts? How many are convinced that a boycott will even work?

TogetherAgainstTyranny.com will provide a clear guide to making organized, goal-driven boycotts. It is not going to focus on rumors, isolated boycott events or every product on your grocery list. To get real results, we need realistic goals. We need to track our progress. We need to target brands that will make the greatest difference, depending on where in the world we are. And for every product we boycott, we’d better know why we’re doing it.

Let’s stand up Together Against Tyranny, now.

And meanwhile, in the news:

The Domino’s pizza chain today defended its decision to give the go-ahead for a halal-only outlet which does not offer its customers ham or bacon.

The firm said it had “thought long and hard” about the decision not to offer pork products at its store in Hall Green, Birmingham, which serves an area with a large Muslim population.

Some customers at the store have criticised the new policy, claiming it limits their freedom of choice and discriminates against non-Muslims.

But a spokeswoman for Domino’s stressed that replacement items such as halal pepperoni had been sourced wherever possible.

China has signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia to build a new railway system linking the main sites of the annual Muslim pilgrimage, the Hajj.

The new railway will connect the city of Mecca with the pilgrim destinations of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.  Saudi Arabia also plans to build a high-speed rail link to take pilgrims from Mecca to Medina, Islam’s two holiest cities, in 30 minutes.

The journey time by road can take anywhere between four and five hours.

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Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. UkhteeFillaah

    February 15, 2009 at 1:16 PM

    For sisters…..Bismillaah……..

    Alhumdulillaah was salaatu wa Salaam ‘ala Rasulillaah

    Registration for IlmSummit ’08 Revision is now open!

    http://ilmsummitrevision.googlepages.com/home

  2. Together Against Tyranny

    February 15, 2009 at 3:19 PM

    It’s great to have water, electricity, and smooth transportation in our lives. It’s nice and easy to cuddle up in our warm beds at night and sleep peacefully. And it’s just as easy to forget, too rapidly, how some of our fellow human beings are trapped in a city without the blessings that we take for granted – food, water, electricity, medicine, and safety. The holocaust that has torn through the heart of Gaza is the latest, and possibly the most inhuman, blow to the Palestinian people. If we don’t stand up together now, we’re never going to.

    Israel gains far more – over ten times more strength through international trade than it does through billions of dollars of US aid. An organized boycott of strategically selected goods will directly hurt the Israeli economy and hence their funding of this genocide. But how many of us can actually boycott everything on these famous lists that swarm the Internet? How many of us actually know where we’re heading with our boycotts? How many are convinced that a boycott will even work?

    TogetherAgainstTyranny.com will provide a clear guide to making organized, goal-driven boycotts. It is not going to focus on rumors, isolated boycott events or every product on your grocery list. To get real results, we need realistic goals. We need to track our progress. We need to target brands that will make the greatest difference, depending on where in the world we are. And for every product we boycott, we’d better know why we’re doing it.

    Let’s stand up Together Against Tyranny, now.

  3. Faatimah K

    February 16, 2009 at 12:07 AM

    Halal Dominos!

  4. Amad

    February 16, 2009 at 1:39 AM

    More tid-bits about Shaykh Tawfique’s post on MM:
    Al-Kauthar Forums
    Kamal El-Mekki’s Response

  5. Aussiemuslim

    February 16, 2009 at 3:23 AM

    I want to draw everyones attention to an interview that Anwar Al Awlkli gave to National Geographic here

    In it he espouses a position very similar (if not identical) to Sheikh Tawfique.

    Al Awlaki has not publicly retracted this position nor he has not written to the NAtional Geographic disavowing this view.

    Indeed he links to it on his wikipedia page.

    I can therefore only conclude that he holds two opposing views on the same subject and is condemning a sheikh for only sharing one of them.

    I also want to point out the lack of courage demonstrated by other scholars who privately hold similar views to Sheikh Tawfique but lack the Sheikh’s courage to speak them publicly. They prefer to slink down to the state department offices and say one thing there and another thing to their supporters.

    It just goes to show the difference between Sheikh Tawfique and other people.

    May Allah preserve him ameen.

  6. Aussiemuslim

    February 16, 2009 at 4:03 AM

    Here are some excerpts from the interview that Anwar Al Awlaki gave

    1. referring to 911

    “First of all, we stated our position clearly, and I even feel that it’s unfortunate that we have to state this position because no religion would condone this, so it should be common knowledge. But we were in a position where we had to say that Islam does not approve of this. There is no way that the people who did this could be Muslim, and if they claim to be Muslim, then they have perverted their religion”

    2. The motivation of the 911 perps

    So why the attacks on the United States?

    I’ll tell you the way that [the perpetrators] justify them. That does not mean that scholars of the Muslim world approve

    3. On the scourge of extremism (which is perhaps the most ironic part in light of his recent comments)

    My worry is that because of this conflict, the views of Osama bin Laden will become appealing to some of the population of the Muslim world. Never in the past were there any demonstrations raising the picture of Osama Bin Laden—it has just happened now. So Osama bin Laden, who was considered to be an extremist, radical in his views, could end up becoming mainstream. That’s a very frightening thing

    4. And finally the motherhood statement that makes me want to hug my teddy bear and watch re-runs of Lassie come home

    So we need to strive as human beings to improve the situation of everybody on the planet, not just look at ourselves, our particular nations or ethnic groups. We should strive for the betterment of all of humanity

    sob! that just tears me up, can I get a hug from someone?

  7. Aussiemuslim

    February 16, 2009 at 4:22 AM

    Anwar Al Awlaki also holds this view

    I pray that Allah destroys America and all its allies and the day that happens, and I assure you it will and sooner than you think, I will be very pleased

    so what does he really believe? should we “strive for the betterment of all humanity” (and Lassie the golden retriever) or “I pray that Allah destroys America and all its allies” (including all the Muslims who live there I presume.

  8. Hector

    February 16, 2009 at 6:54 AM

    Tawfique’s inability to hold two mutually exclusive world views simultaneously in his mind is considered by Awlaki to be a sign of weakness and misguidance. Awlaki says one thing for the National Geographic and Readers Digest set and another thing on his blog where he holds court with his internet jihadi fanboys.

  9. abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

    February 16, 2009 at 9:29 AM

    SubhanAllah. pray for Muslims in Pakistan whose deaths the US government will call collateral damage, as though their lives had less value than the paper of a bank note.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/world/asia/17pstan.html

    Airstrike Kills 31 in Pakistan
    By PIR ZUBAIR SHAH
    Published: February 17, 2009
    At least 31 people died near the Afghan border in what appeared to be a missile strike from a U.S. drone, according to an official and a resident.

  10. Fitna

    February 16, 2009 at 11:08 AM

  11. Suhail

    February 16, 2009 at 12:27 PM

    Amazing how people jump when Yasir or other are attacked while you do not do jack when Anwar is attacked. Regarding Anwar article about the article on MM then why do you want people to agree on every point anybody makes. There are a lot of students of knowledge who have disagreed with Tawfique. His own academy instructors have disagreed with him. There are many other graduates who have disagreed with him.

    Anwar didn’t say in those interview that he wanted to cooperate with Anti terror agencies in there war on terror. Tawfique didnt define what terrorism is first of all so he left it for us to define. His audience was anti terror chiefs. So we will assume that he was talking about terror as those anti terror guys think i.e. islam. What do you think those anti-terror experts think extermism is?

    His own instructor in his own academy criticized Tawfique publicly. Why are you not having a go at them? Anwar is a fair game because now he is a extremist as some authors here would like us to accept.

  12. Suhail

    February 16, 2009 at 12:31 PM

    Go and shed some tears on the muslims who died from that drone attack planned by your own anti -terror chiefs whom you want to help in war on terror.

  13. ShaamPeace

    February 16, 2009 at 1:51 PM

    This again convinces me to study Family Counseling education and Marriage Therapy. Muslims families in USA esp. need our generation to study in the field of Psychology… in addition to Islamic education. I really want to do my master in counseling psychology. I hope to help our community. Please pray for me. I am planning to go to Kutztown University, PA. Anyone know about this uni? Will I benefit by going there? InshAllah. Any piece of advice will be appreciated.

  14. Amad

    February 16, 2009 at 7:24 PM

    Maybe we need to start fixing our own problems first…
    From Swat with no love

  15. LearningArabic

    February 18, 2009 at 1:54 PM

    I don’t know if this is related, but I just wanted to encourage everyone to check out Br. Nouman Ali Khan’s classes at Bayyinah.

    Alhamdulillah, I took his Divine Speech class last week in SoCal and I was left wanting more and more. I have studied Arabic on and off for the past several years, but I have never experienced a class like this. It reminded me of why I decided to study the language of the Quran in the first place.

    I just wanted to encourage everyone who reads this post to take his class as it will be making stops all across the country.

    Mark my words, this class is well worth it and then some! Shout out to Br. Nouman Ali Khan, Shaykh AbdulNasir Jangda, and the rest of the Bayyinah team for their much needed efforts.

  16. Mostafa

    February 18, 2009 at 9:56 PM

    The story of Dar Abul Qasim is really inspiring masha Allah. Please tell all your friends or family who live in Jeddah to go there now insha Allah. Location and phone at end of above article.

  17. J

    February 19, 2009 at 5:37 PM

    Anwar al-Awlaki has turned into an extremist, and his fan club is all e-jihadi khawaarij. Anwar thinks it’s ok to kill non-combatants.

    -Edited. Pls maintain respectful tone.

  18. J

    February 19, 2009 at 5:53 PM

    How long will our scholars and ustadhs stay silent on Anwar al-Awlaki? We need to respond to this extremism.

  19. J

    February 20, 2009 at 3:26 AM

    May Allah [swt] reward you for keeping the tone of your voice respectful, unlike Anwar al-awlaki who only edits out posts that are against him!

  20. J

    February 20, 2009 at 3:50 AM

    I posted this on Anwar al-Awlaki’s blog:

    I think the main issue most of us have with you (Anwar al-Awlaki) is not that you disagreed with TC’s article (which many of us–including Yasir Qadhi and others–also disagreed with), but that you (Anwar al-Awlaki) are an extremist in general.

    You’ve said on this blog itself that you believe it is permissible to target non-combatants, citing the absolutely Shadh opinion of Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen. Tell me: what is the difference between you and the modernists who latch onto Shaadh opinions such as music being halal? They will go to the moon and back with the solitary opinions they can find to justify their positions, just like you (Anwar al-Awlaki) justify your extremist opinion that targeting non-combatants is permissible. Can you find me even a handful of classical scholars that held such an abhorrent opinion?! Even one single?

    You see, when it comes to jihad, then you extremists become modernists. You will use maslaha to get around the prohibitions of the Shari’ah, just like the liberal modernists do in order to appease the West.

    Imam Shawkani declared an absolute ijma on the issue, i.e. that targeting non-combatants is haram.

    Also, can you tell us what your views are of Al-Qaeda? Most of your fan club consists of Al-Qaeda supporters, and surely you cannot be blind to that, since you interact with people on your blog.

    Not only this, but you have started to work with At-Tibyan publications! Your credibility goes absolutely down the drain when you do that. They are extremists of the worst sort, who are known for taking things out of context (and for mistranslating things). They support and love Al-Qaeda, the khawaarij of today.

    So why do you think anyone will take YOU seriously when you work with At-Tibyan?

    In regards to your recent diatribe towards TC, you keep saying that you did not ask him privately since he posted publicly. Yet this is side-stepping the issue. You could have advised him in private and asked him first to retract his statement publicly. THAT would have been the proper way. Instead you bashed him in public. All that you said about the scholars publicly writing against each other is nonsense, because that is only if the person remains obstinate on what he is upon. It’s only if the person refuses to change.

    In any case, you showed your extremist mentality in the way you refuted TC. Typical poor adab that is characteristic of the extremists like you and your fan club.

    You jumped the gun to condemn TC for supposedly working with the authorities; then why should we give YOU the benefit of the doubt when you work with such loose characters as at-Tibyan?

  21. J

    February 20, 2009 at 5:03 AM

    Here is a post I made on Anwar’s blog which he deleted:

    Let me repost this, and give Anwar al-Awlaki a chance to be honest and live up to his claim of being open to open dialogue and freedom of speech:

    Here is what you (Anwar al-Awlaki) said in an interview to National Geographic…keep in mind that in the same article you said that Al-Qaeda approved of the 9/11 attacks, and it seems that now Al-Qaeda takes responsibility for it. So YOU said this about the 9/11 hijackers: “There is no way that the people who did this could be Muslim, and if they claim to be Muslim, then they have perverted their religion.”

    So why are you no longer saying things like this about Al-Qaeda any more? Why the sudden change in tone? Is it possibly because you have changed and have now become an extremist yourself?

    Here is what you said about Bin Ladin:

    “My worry is that because of this conflict, the views of Osama bin Laden will become appealing to some of the population of the Muslim world. Never in the past were there any demonstrations raising the picture of Osama Bin Laden—it has just happened now. So Osama bin Laden, who was considered to be an extremist, radical in his views, could end up becoming mainstream. That’s a very frightening thing.”

    So can you tell me now: do you still condemn Bin Ladin and say that he is an extremist radical? That those who espouse his ideology are “frightening”? I’ll have you know–as you must already know–that most of your supporters on this blog support Al-Qaeda. I can name names if you wish!

    Then you said:

    “So we need to strive as human beings to improve the situation of everybody on the planet, not just look at ourselves, our particular nations or ethnic groups. We should strive for the betterment of all of humanity.”

    So what happened to this?! Where did this Anwar al-Awlaki go!?

    • Amad

      February 20, 2009 at 9:43 AM

      I believe “J”, that Imam Anwar has already condemned his own past views, and has distanced himself away from them. He said so clearly on his own blog in some comment.

      In my mind, this is the issue of how time, place and experiences have effects on us, regardless of how much we think our views our shielded from our environment. People who live in bubbles (artificial or real), people who live surrounded by Muslims, people who live surrounded by non-Muslims, people who live in lands of conflict, people who live in lands of peace, people who have suffered injustice, people who have never been touched by hardship… all these factors affect us and our views.

      That is why, in my humble opinion, it is so important for Muslims in the West to have scholars who LIVE HERE (“permanently”, not a temporary-waiting-for-hijrah-pit-stop), who understand things here, who are INVOLVED with their communities (beyond the Muslims), who INTERACT with people here, and if possible, who have been raised here. Yes, many students of knowledge have been raised in the West, but many of them didn’t think of America as home, or worked towards the betterment of the society that they were in. And that is also why online fatawa, esp. which deal with social interactions, integration and the like, from scholars of the East have to be carefully used (or not used). You don’t have to agree with me on this, this is what I have started observing after being here for many years and having been in different bubbles.

      wallahualam

  22. muslim

    February 20, 2009 at 10:13 AM

    If it was just Anwar Awlaki that disagreed that would have been ok, but Imam from lewishim masijed condemend it and asked for it to be retracted he works closely with people who are effected by the laws of anti- terrorism and knows the reality that speeches like that of T. Chowedery would has had. Cage prisioners agreed Sheikh Abu Ayman from austrialia and another imam from Canda. But so far no one with ilm showed any support to the speech in question

    • Amad

      February 20, 2009 at 10:22 AM

      Actually, “Muslim”, you are incorrect about other ppl of knowledge not agreeing, see my earlier comment and Kamal el-Mekki’s talk (by the way, there are other shayookh who agreed, and that info. will be coming in the near future).

  23. Hidaya

    February 20, 2009 at 10:27 AM

    Afiya Siddiqui’ court hearing is on Monday @ 9:00 AM…Please spread the word and yeah just tell your boss that you will be coming late to work, InshaAllah!

    [MM: Jazak Allah khayr for posting this update! May Allah reward you immensely. May He free sister Aafia from these injustices.]

  24. Pingback: Who are you going to call? | MuslimMatters.org

  25. Amatullah

    February 22, 2009 at 4:27 PM

    I was looking forward to this sunday’s open thread to post this, but oh well :D

    I don’t speak urdu, but I thought this was toooo funny: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAntiH6wuIg

    .. Nostalgia ..

  26. IbnAbbas

    February 23, 2009 at 12:38 PM

    @J
    I think Shaykh Anwar had made his stance cleared:

    Moderated

    I think its a bit stupid to hold someone accountable for something he said 8 years!! back. and you cannot compare that with Shaykh Tawfeeq’s case. At least, he has retracted from the previous views and this is all he is asking Shaykh Tawfeeq to do.

    I find ‘J’s comment very disrespectful. btw, why is it that when an external scholar is bashed and insulted on the blog, no one says anything but when a scholar from the MM blog is insulted, it is quickly moderated. why the double standards!

    please, don’t get me wrong. I respect all the MM shayykhs as well as many others (and I have nothing against Shaykh Tawfeeq either)

    • Amad

      February 23, 2009 at 2:45 PM

      Ibn Abbas, if you go through some of the comments that the “MM Shayookh” have gotten that are still there to see, I don’t think you will be making this judgment (about moderation). Also, if you noticed, one of J’s comment was in fact edited to tone it down. What is respectful and what is not can be subjective, so its hard to keep everyone happy. There are some legitimate questions that J has brought forward, which should be answered. Finally, feel free to advise people to tone it down too (“J” you heard it again).

      wasalam

  27. Atif

    March 17, 2009 at 3:51 PM

    Is Amatullah Bantley “Umm Muhammad”?
    The one who did the Saheeh International Translation?
    mashaAllah, may Allah aid her.

    • Amad

      March 17, 2009 at 4:48 PM

      Atif, yes, believe so.

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