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Defining Beauty when True Beauty is ‘Crazy’

Several years back, I heard a story that deserved to be written in letters of gold. I did just that; immediately wrote down the story. Although not in gold, it was to me in meaning more glamorous than gold.

I heard the story directly from a Romanian brother, Muhammad, who was a guest on a program called Kayfa Aslamt (How did you accept Islam?) on the Quran Radio Station of a Muslim country.

Around 1992, Muhammad visited Bosnia, and seeing the state of the people there, was motivated to embark on a ‘peace tour’ on foot, as he called it.

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One night his travels landed him and his wife in a small remote village in Turkey. As he searched for a motel or any roof to spend the night under, he came across a villager and asked him for information regarding a place to stay. The man responded that there was none, and through a few English words and Muhammad’s very limited Turkish, managed to invite him to spend the night in his home.

Seeing that he had no other choice, Muhammad agreed, although they were frightened of this stranger who was a large man and sported a long beard. Little did he know that the man he feared was the same one who would change his life.

As soon as he arrived at the man’s house, Muhammad and his wife were comforted by the fact that there was a family there; an elderly grandmother of about 80 yrs, a mother and five children all close in age. The family prepared a supper for them that he described as simple, yet tasty. Then they were told that they shall sleep in the same room and the family would go sleep in another.

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Early the next morning, Muhammad and his wife got up to thank the family and complete their journey. (Remember, Muhammad was not a Muslim, yet).

To their complete astonishment, they discovered that the house only consisted of that one room where he and his wife had slept, while the old woman, the man, his wife, and their five children were all sleeping outside, under a tree. This was in the month of November and the cold was bitter.

Extremely shocked at the man’s behavior, Muhammad asked, “Are you crazy?

The man, who could barely communicate, replied:

No, I am Muslim.”

The words went through Muhammad like an electric shock. He could never forget that man’s action.

He began searching Islam, as he only had a distorted image of it, and even read the Quran. He visited Syria, Jordan and Egypt, were he furthered his studies about the Quran and the hadeeth.

When the host asked him when he embraced Islam, he replied that in his heart, he was a Muslim from the time the man said, “I am Muslim.” But he and his wife officially took their shahadah in Egypt, 2 months after the encounter with the Turkish man.

When he returned to his home country, Romania, he faced anger and rejection from his family. Taking heed in the conduct of the Turkish man, he decided that preaching would serve no purpose. He showed them the beauty of Islam through his actions. Later, the ones who carried the most enmity towards him, were the first to accept Islam.

Today, we look around us and witness how many have been deceived into limiting the beauty of an individual to their physical characteristics. But Islam disagrees; it is only magnificence of one’s character and conduct that make them truly attractive in the eyes of the people. Not only does it earn one an elevated status in the eyes of the people, but in the hereafter as well, where a special position is promised.

The Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) said,

The dearest and nearest among you to me on the Day of Resurrection will be the best of you in conduct.” (Bukhari)

An individual who upholds good morals and cares to possess fine character is a gift to society. People feel contented in the presence of such a person; they trust, admire, and aspire to be like him. While others around us set ‘examples’ of beauty in their own terms, it is upon us to be the ones with whom people are dazzled by their beauty in moral uprightness.  And while others undress their bodies in hope of earning titles in the race to beauty, we shall wrap ourselves in the garments of honesty, mercy, forbearance, courage, patience, humbleness and modesty.  For our race differs: it is to be among the most perfect as described in the words of the Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) who said,

The most perfect man in his faith among the believers is the one with the best behavior.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

We wished to write the story of the Turkish man in gold due to the status the mineral holds in the eyes of the people for it’s shine. But it remains hard and solid, unable to smear those who adorn themselves with it permanently. As for the shine of good character, it blinds the beholders from all other faults, as they only see perfectness in the shining one, free from all blemishes.

The Prophet (sallaAllahu alayhe wasallam) said,

“Verily, a man would attain, through his good character, the ranks of someone who stands the night (in prayer and supplication) and fasts the day.” (Classified as Sahih by Al-Albanee in As-silsila Saheeha).

Indeed, true beauty shall always leave a crown on your head. But, you do not have to wait for anyone to place it there.

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Mariam is of Middle Eastern origin, raised in North America, not quite settling in one specific place. After living up in the North of North America, she has shifted continents and currently residing in a rapidly flourishing, historical city located in the desert of Arabia. She is a recent graduate of the American Open University, with a Bachelors in Islamic Studies. She believes that regardless of where a person is, writing is a tool to reach out and express that which inspires, touches and affects them. So she writes; perhaps that which inspires her will be a source of good for at least one other person.

42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sayf

    May 25, 2010 at 1:10 AM

    Mash’Allah! JazakAllah khair for sharing this remarkable story!

  2. Avatar

    AbdulRahman

    May 25, 2010 at 3:36 AM

    An excellent reminder!

  3. Avatar

    Abu Abdayn

    May 25, 2010 at 3:41 AM

    Masha Allaah. Truly inspiring

  4. Avatar

    Amatullah

    May 25, 2010 at 4:27 AM

    Jazaaki Allahu khayran Mariam for this beautiful and inspiring reminder. May Allah beautify our character as He as beautified our creation!

    • Avatar

      Mariam E.

      May 25, 2010 at 9:19 AM

      Ameen!

      May Allah continue to reward the Turkish brother and his family.

    • Avatar

      shiney

      May 30, 2010 at 4:56 PM

      Ameen!

  5. Avatar

    amad

    May 25, 2010 at 4:29 AM

    On a slight tangent, I’d like to mention how the “Islamic” culture of hosting guests is slowly dying off. I remember on a trip sometime ago, I fully expected some friends to host me for a night or two. After all, 3 days is a guest’s right upon a host, who he even doesn’t know, let alone friends! While one friend pushed so much for us to stay with him, I was disappointed by others who instead gave information on nearby hotels. Not that I couldn’t afford them. But I wanted to spend time with the friends, because I could not imagine myself that they would come to my city and would stay anywhere except my house. At the same time I was happy to see people who I had never met being angry at me for not telling them I was coming to their town so that they could host me! But that seems to be the exception

    This issue has been bothering me for a while because this isn’t the first time I witnessed this sort of attitude towards out-of-town guests. So, thanks for letting me take it off my chest on this post :)

    At one time guests used to be blessings, now they are a burden. I would like to say that those that know which city I live in, if you are in my part of the world, you are always welcome to stay at my place… we still love guests :)

    I hope that people will take the beauty lesson and the hosting guests lesson in this story too!

    • Avatar

      Mariam E.

      May 25, 2010 at 9:17 AM

      Asalamu Alikum warahmatu Allah

      Jazakum Allah khayr for emphasizing this point. there is no doubt that when performing a certain good characteristic has become ‘strange’ to society, it has a stronger effect on the hearts.

    • Avatar

      shiney

      May 30, 2010 at 4:59 PM

      yeah that’s so true! ppl are not as hospitable as they used to be-it’s sad to see muslims like that.

      • Avatar

        sabirah

        May 31, 2010 at 12:38 AM

        mashallah, here the muslims are very hospitable, and I get invited a lot as well as other muslims and non muslims since i reverted.
        But astaghfirullah, i started hating to go, as a guest you either have to buy something that this family is selling (a hijab, or whatever the woman stitches up) or I have to listen to rather rude lectures (you are not allowed to come inside with that shirt the next time and don’t wear leather we don’t know if it’s pig, you know this abbaya looks a bit too nice), or getting pressured into marrying a friend of a friend who wants to desperately get out of his homecountry in northern africa. Been there, done that.
        I have a caller display, alhamdullillah, and I got somewhat scared to pick up the phone.
        They might mean it well, but something I need to learn how to deal with first before I go out in the wild wild islamic world… May Allah forgive me these feelings

        • Avatar

          Sayf

          May 31, 2010 at 2:20 AM

          as a guest you either have to buy something that this family is selling (a hijab, or whatever the woman stitches up) or I have to listen to rather rude lectures (you are not allowed to come inside with that shirt the next time and don’t wear leather we don’t know if it’s pig, you know this abbaya looks a bit too nice), or getting pressured into marrying a friend of a friend who wants to desperately get out of his homecountry in northern africa

          LOL!
          Anyone wanna play “guess that culture”?

  6. Avatar

    Muhammad

    May 25, 2010 at 4:38 AM

    Beautiful masha Allah!

  7. Avatar

    ibn Ahmed

    May 25, 2010 at 5:34 AM

    MashaAllah. An excellent post. May Allah help us all perfect our character as this was the goal of the Prophet – I have only been sent to perfect Noble Character.

    Posts like this are much more powerful and beneficial than some controversial posts which may be more popular. MM take note ;-)

    JazakhAllah khair author

  8. Avatar

    sister

    May 25, 2010 at 6:04 AM

    Subahanallah..Mashaallah .Jazakallahu khairaa .It`s really inspiring story.May Allah give us hidayath to follow the sunnah.Amazing to see people going out of the way to help some stranger in this time .

  9. Avatar

    Lnahrawi

    May 25, 2010 at 8:22 AM

    I love it, masha’Allah! truly inspiring.

  10. Avatar

    Abdul-Qadir

    May 25, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    Assalamualaikum,

    @ Mariam E.

    Did the story-teller indicate how long it took for his family to accept Islam? Was it his entire family?

    • Avatar

      Mariam E.

      May 25, 2010 at 9:13 AM

      Wa Alikum asallam warahmatu Allah

      Sorry, I don’t have those details. I have only included here what I wrote the same day I heard the story years ago.

  11. Avatar

    Just Another Ayesha

    May 25, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    Great story. Pure gold!

  12. Avatar

    MW_M

    May 25, 2010 at 10:43 AM

  13. Avatar

    hayat

    May 25, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    Machalla what a good story ….may allha reward you for posting this. i have to pick some family as a guest today and it helped me to get some moral lilahi tala. even thoug i was a little sick and so tired.
    you changed my day machalla.
    i will be in full energy to treat them well like our deen teach us. sometims we need some reminder.

  14. Avatar

    Hena

    May 25, 2010 at 11:20 AM

    Jazakillah Khair Sister Mariam,

    I really needed this. This whole week as been really frustrating- I am going to go and post this on our youth group page. These are the kind of positive uplifting stories that they need to hear and parents need to hear so they can share them with their kids. Guess what we will be reading at bedtime today :)

    wasalam

  15. Avatar

    elham

    May 25, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    This is what always proves my belief that there is still much khair(good) in the Ummah.

    The turkish family made me *almost* cry, may Allah increase them in blessing and make them and Muhammad steadfast on their Islam. Ameen

    BarakAllahu feeki ukhti, for this great reminder.

  16. Avatar

    Cali Muslimah

    May 25, 2010 at 8:56 PM

    Subhanallah! Great Read!

  17. Avatar

    Rafa

    May 25, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Masha Allah, that was a truly beautiful story. Its reminders like this that we need every single day. Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah, Alhamdulillah.

    And JazakAllah for the article, sister. :)

  18. Avatar

    Subhanallah

    May 26, 2010 at 2:32 AM

    SubhanAllah!

    What a great sadaqa jariya for that turkish family. A whole family reverted to Islam because of ONE selfless and simple act. May Allah grant both families with jannatul firdous. Ameen. And may Allah allow us ALL to follow Islam in its purest form. Ameen!

  19. Avatar

    Rightstuff

    May 26, 2010 at 7:24 AM

    Assalam u alaikum,

    JazzakAllah Khyar for this wondersful story.

    May Allah bless us wih these Qualities….Ameen

  20. Avatar

    az

    May 26, 2010 at 8:02 AM

    Asalamalaikum

    I am sorry , wanted to leave a comment on the blog , not reply to user : theRightStuff , I am very sorry about that.

    Good character is something that is required of a Muslim and it is a starting point for Da’wah.

    But this story indicates it to be the only means and that is not true. Because RasulAllah (Sallallahu alahie wasalam) had the best character, he (Sallallahu alahie wasalam) practiced this good character and he (sallallahu alahie wasalam) also preached and mentioned the message. And still people did not accept him (sallallahu alahie wasalam) even though he (sallallahu alahie wasalam) had the best of character.

    And the day he (sallallahu alahie wasalam) mentioned the message , people despite his (sallallahu alahie wasalam) best character turned away.

    So Da’wah by ones character is a required starting point (to have the best of manners) and then the message of Islam needs to be mentioned and preached. For one can have the best character and be a Disbeliever and possess shirk and die upon that , going to Hell. Some people think that just by having good character and keeping quiet they will have a good impact on people and then they might inquire about a person. That is true but it doesnt work all the time. The message of Islam needs to be uttered and preached , ofcourse the basis and starting point again being with a basis of good character upon the Sunnah.

    JazakAllahu Khair

    • Avatar

      Yaqeen needed

      May 26, 2010 at 11:47 PM

      And the opposite is also true.

  21. Avatar

    y

    May 26, 2010 at 11:25 AM

    Very nice. good points made

  22. Avatar

    Zeba Khan

    May 26, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    SubhanAllah!!!

  23. Avatar

    ummmanar

    May 26, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    mashallah this is beautiful story and inspiring. May allah (swt) beautify our chracter.Jazakallahkirn I always love to read your articles they are beautiful mashallah.

  24. Avatar

    Mariam E.

    May 26, 2010 at 9:36 PM

    Asalamu Alikum

    Jazakum Allah khayr for your comments. May Allah guide to the best of words, deeds and purify our intentions.

  25. Avatar

    Yaqeen needed

    May 26, 2010 at 11:46 PM

    Mashallah for the story

    After all said and done, the thrust of this message is change and call to action. Change. Sacrifice. Sadly if we are surrounding ourselves by means that do not help us change …all me might end up doing is praising articles like this without the desired change

    The turkish man in the story cleary shows that it is not the academic knowledge of islam a large no of us lust for and venerate these days that counts: its acting upon that we know. In our times, islamic knowledge has been academised and made for sale. Perhaps that’s why the iman that should couple the knowledge seems to have vaporised and the sacrifices to make the required actions just not there. As for the turkish I know some of my ‘on the manhaj’ crew brothers will be saying may be was a sufi or deviant and all that stuff. But there you have it- pure sacrifice and done sincerely without any publicity available then. And we would not have known if not for the radio station talk to the beneficiary of this turkish brother’s sacrifice. As capitalists leaving in a capitalist sociiety with enough academic islam to synthesize fiqh material to support some of our inaction and unwillingness to sacrifice, are we ready to make changes and jettison our desires?

  26. Pingback: Defining Beauty when True Beauty is ‘Crazy’ | MuslimMatters.org « From the Pulpit …

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  28. Avatar

    africana

    May 27, 2010 at 7:54 PM

    mashAllah!

  29. Avatar

    Mombeam

    May 27, 2010 at 10:24 PM

    as-salaamu `alaykum

    This post reminds me of another post a while back about “missed da`wah opportunities”. I and others tried to point out in the comments that sometimes (or even more often than not) it is not direct “preaching” that will turn people’s hearts torwards Islam, but just the presence and good feelings that arise from a Muslim person’s good actions in the world. I think this story illustrates that idea so wonderfully.

  30. Avatar

    The Me.

    May 28, 2010 at 3:22 AM

    This inspired me. Thankyou! =]]]

  31. Avatar

    Mariam E.

    May 29, 2010 at 9:00 AM

    Asalamu Alikum warahmatu Allah

    It was brought to my attention that the last hadeeth quoted in the article was in fact a weak hadeeth:

    Verily, the worshipper will ascend the higher ranks and superior grades of the hereafter through his good character, even though he is weak in acts of worship.” (Al-Tabarani). (classified by Sheikh Al-Albani rahimahullah as being munkar/weak in his book Assilsila Da\’ifa # 3030)

    Therefore, It has been removed and replaced with a saheeh hadeeth:

    “Verily, a man would attain, through his good character, the ranks of someone who stands the night (in prayer and supplication) and fasts the day.”

    May Allah reward the person who pointed this out to us.

  32. Avatar

    Nayyab

    June 1, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    Amzazing! Mashallah! Subhanullah!

  33. Avatar

    Gurabah

    June 2, 2010 at 8:18 AM

    Salamu Alaykum,

    Baraka Allahu Feeki ya Uhkti!! great article, mahsAllah!! what a great reminder and beneficial knowledge.
    May Allah the Forgiver, grant you many blessings for posting the story. May Allah the Doer of All make us like the turkish family in their character, Ameen!!!
    It did brought tears to my eyes, truly!!!
    Never lose HOPE in Allah and in the Ummah!!
    p.s. Sister SABIRAH, i am sorry for what happened to you with the local muslim community you face. Just know that they don’t have the adab of dealing with reverts and guest. So make Dua for them, inshALLAH. May Allah give you sabr and tolerence, ameen

  34. Avatar

    Syed Nasiruddin

    May 24, 2011 at 4:27 AM

    SubhanAllah!!! Identified a family who will be adjacent to our great prophet on the day of resurrection!!!.

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Torment And Tears: The Emotional Experience of Tawbah

Have you ever had that moment where, all of a sudden, you remember something that you said or did in the past, the severity of which you only realized later on?

That sharp inhalation, shortness of breath, the flush of humiliation, the sick lurching in the pit of your stomach as you recall hurtful words, or an action that was so clearly displeasing to Allah… it is a very physical reaction, a recoiling from your own past deeds.

It may not even be the first time you think about those actions, it may not even be the first time to make istighfaar because of them… but sometimes, it may be the first time that you really and truly feel absolutely sickened at the realization of the gravity of it all. It might not even have been a ‘big deal’ – perhaps it was a cruel joke to a sensitive friend, or not having fulfilled a promise that was important to someone, or betraying a secret that you didn’t think was all that serious.

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And yet… and yet, at this moment, your memory of that action is stark and gut-wrenching.

It is a deeply unpleasant feeling.

It is also a very necessary one.

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The Act of Tawbah

Tawbah – seeking forgiveness from Allah – is something that we speak about, especially in Ramadan, the month of forgiveness. However, it is also something that we tend to speak about in general terms, or write off as something simple – “Just say astaghfirAllah and don’t do it again.”

In truth, tawbah is about much more than muttering istighfaar under your breath. It is a process, an emotional experience, one that engages your memory, your soul, and your entire body.

The first step of tawbah is to recognize the sin – whether seemingly small or severe – and to understand just how wrong it was. Each and every one of our deeds is written in our book of deeds; each and every deed will be presented to us on the Day of Judgment for us to be held accountable for. There are times when we say things so casually that it doesn’t even register to us how we could be affecting the person we’ve spoken to.

As RasulAllah ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) once told A’ishah raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her),

“You have said a word which would change the sea (i.e. poison or contaminate it) if it were mixed in it.” (Sunan Abi Dawud)

The second step is to feel true remorse. It’s not enough to rationally acknowledge that action as being sinful; one must feel guilt, remorse, and grief over having committed it.

Tawbah is to feel that sucker-punch of humiliation and guilt as we recall our sins: not just the mildly awkward ones, like a petty fib or mild infraction, but the genuinely terrible parts of ourselves… ugly lies, vicious jealousy, violations against others’ rights, abuse.

Some of us may be actual criminals – others of us may seem presentable on the outside, even religious, maybe even spiritual… and yet have violated others in terrible ways. Abuse comes in so many forms, and some of us are perpetrators, not just victims.

Facing that reality can be a gruesome process. 

It is a necessary process. Token words, glib recitation of spiritual formulae, those do not constitute tawbah in its entirety. Rather, it is a matter of owning up to our violations, experiencing genuine emotion over them – true humiliation, true regret – and striving not to be that person ever again. 

Much as we hate to admit it, we have our own fair share of red flags that we create and wave, even before we get into the nasty business of committing the worst of our sins. Tawbah isn’t just feeling bad for those Big Sins – it’s to recognize what led us to them to begin with.

It requires us to acknowledge our own flaws of character, of the ease with which we fall into certain behaviours, the way we justify the pursuit of our desires, the blindness we have to the worst parts of ourselves. Tawbah is to sit down and face all of it – and then to beg Allah, over and over, not just to forgive us and erase those specific actions, but to change us for the better. 

This experience is so much more powerful than a mere “I’m sorry,” or “omg, that was awful”; it is an act that embodies our submission to Allah because it requires us to make ourselves incredibly emotionally vulnerable, and in that moment, to experience a deep pain and acknowledge our wrongdoing. It is to hold your heart out to Allah and to beg Him, with every fiber of your being, with tears in your eyes, with a lump in your throat, wracked with regret, to please, please, please forgive you – because without it, without His Mercy and His Forgiveness and His Gentleness and His Love towards us, we have no hope and we will be utterly destroyed.

Surah Araf Verse 23

{Rabbanaa thalamnaa anfusanaa, wa illam taghfir lanaa wa tar’hamnaa, lanakunanna mina’l Khaasireen!}

{Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers!} (Qur’an 7:23)

This experience of tawbah is powerful, emotional, and heartbreaking. It is meant to be. It is a reminder to us of how truly dependent we are upon our Lord and our Creator, how nothing else in our lives can give us joy or a sense of peace if He is displeased with us. It is a reminder to us of how deeply we crave His Love, of how desperately we need it, of how His Pleasure is the ultimate goal of our existence.

Finally, there is the step of resolving never to commit that sin again, to redress the wrongs if possible, and to follow up the bad deed with a good one.

The vow is one we make to ourselves, asking Allah’s help to uphold it – because we are incapable of doing anything at all without His Permission; the righting of wrongs is what we do to correct our transgression against others’ rights over us, although there are times when we may well be unable to seek another individual’s forgiveness, whether because of distance, death, or otherwise; and the good deeds to undertake as penance are numerous, whether they be sadaqah or increased ‘ebaadah.

But it doesn’t end there. And it never will.

Tawbah is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is not even a once-a-year event, or once a month, or once a week. It is meant to be a daily experience, a repeated occurrence, in the earliest hours of the morning, in the depths of the last third of the night, during your lunch break or your daily commute or in the middle of a social gathering.

Tawbah is a lifelong journey, for who amongst us doesn’t commit mistakes and errors every day?

All we can do is beg of Allah not only for His Forgiveness, but also: {Allahumma ij’alnaa min at-tawwaabeen.} – O Allah, make us amongst those who are constantly engaging in repentance!

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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.

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#Islam

Moonsighting Gone Wrong, Again.

Moonsighting is just not working out.

Atleast not for our community here in the Toronto area. As I speak to my friends in other large (read: fragmented) communities, such as those in the UK, I hear similar tales of confusion, anxiety and horror. The problem in these communities stems from the fact that there are numerous moonsighting organizations in the same area, all following different methodologies for declaring Eid and Ramadan. This naturally results in a catastrophe and Muslims from the same family living in the same city are forced to celebrate the holidays on different days.

To give you a taste of how (and why) things went wrong in this year’s Ramadan declaration, here’s a summary highlighting the series of events as they unfolded. (Reminder: Ramadan was expected to start on Friday, April 24th or Saturday, April 25th 2020 in North America)

  • Wednesday, April 22, 10: 13 pm EST: Crescent Council of Canada (CC) declares Ramadan to start on Friday, 24th April based on the fact that it received no reports of moonsighting sighting on Wednesday night. This committee follows global moonsighting and it declared Ramadan so early because it was already the 29th of Shaban based on the lunar calendar it follows (for most of North America, the 29th of Shaban was to be on Thursday). So, starting Ramadan on Saturday was simply not an option for the group (as it would have meant observing 31 days of Shaban). Also to note is that this group gives precedence to official declarations from authorities from Muslim-majority countries, even if these declarations conflict predictions of visibility charts and astronomical calculations. It argues that testimony of witnesses takes precedence in the sharia over astronomical data.
  • Thursday, April 23rd, 7:27 pm EST : The Hilal Council of Canada (HC), another committee in the area that follows global sighting, states that there has not been any sighting of the moon in any country, including South and Central America (it is past sunset in most of the Muslim world by now). The committee decides that it will wait till sundown in California to receive the final reports before making a declaration. Confusion starts spreading in the community as one organization has already declared Ramadan while another claims no one in the Muslim world saw the moon. Note that HC does not accept moonsighting reports if they contradict astronomical data.
  • 8:39 pm: Confusion continues. The CC claims that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Malaysia, Turkey and a host of Muslim countries have declared Ramadan. The committee thus feels validated in its original declaration which it made on Wednesday night.
  • 8:48 pm: More confusion: California-based CrescentWatch.org also claims that moonsighting reports from the Middle-East and Africa are all negative. People naturally start wondering how so many countries supposedly declared Ramadan if there were no positive sightings.
  • 9:40 pm: The Hilal Committee of Toronto and Vicinity, the oldest moonsighting group in the city, declares Ramadan to start on Saturday the 25th of April. Since the committee did not receive any positive reports by sunset from areas in its jurisdiction, it declared Ramadan to commence on Saturday. This committee follows local moonsighting and doesn’t rely on reports from the Muslim-world. Two of the three major moonsighting groups in the city have declared Ramadan on different days at this time. Residents are confused whether to fast the next day or pray tarweeh as its almost Isha time.
  • 11:11 pm: The HC finally declares Ramadan to start the next day, i.e. Friday, based on confirmed reports from California. Mosques following the HC advice to pray tarawih – an hour after Isha time had already entered. After an anxiety filled and frustrating evening, residents finally know the positions of the various moonsighting groups in the city. Now they just have to decide which one to follow!
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This baffling circus of contradictory declarations is nothing new; it has become a yearly occurrence. Last year we saw the exact same series of events unfold and the same confusion spread throughout the community; it is entirely expected that the same will happen again in future years.

Our leadership has decided that it is acceptable to put the average Muslim through this nerve-racking experience every year. For Eid declarations, the experience is far worse as thousands are often waiting till midnight to decide whether to go work the next day or send their children to school. The stress and anxiety this decision causes for the average person year after year is simply unacceptable.

Popular advice in these situations has been to ‘follow your local masjid’. However, this idea is impractical for large communities where there are numerous local mosques, all following various opinions. It is also impractical for the thousands who simply don’t frequent the mosque and are not tied to a particular organization. The layperson just wants to know the dates for Ramadan and Eid; it is an undue burden on them to research the strength of various legal opinions just to know when to celebrate a religious holiday with their families.

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Only one way forward: astronomical calculations

There have been numerous sincere attempts to solve these long-standing problems associated with moonsighting over the past 50 years – all have failed. I have documented in detail these attempts, the reasons for their failure and argued for the only viable solution to this problem: astronomical calculations.

Since its introduction in 2006, Fiqh Council of North America’s calculations-based lunar calendar has proven to be the definitive solution for communities struggling to resolve the yearly moonsighting debacle. An example of such a resolution is the 2015 agreement by some of the leading mosques in the Chicago area who put aside their differences and united behind FCNA’s calendar. This approach has brought ease and facilitation for the religious practice of thousands of Muslims in that community.

While the use of calculations has been a minority position in Islam’s legal history, it has a sound basis in the shariah [1] and has been supported by towering figures of the past such as Imam Zakariya al-Ansari and Imam Ramli. Given the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in now, it is incumbent on scholars of today to revisit this position as a means of providing much needed relief to the masses from this lunar quagmire.

References:

[1]  From SeekersGuidance: Scholars upholding this can be traced all the way back to the first Islamic century. The textual basis for this opinion is the hadith narrated by al-Bukhari, “When you see it [the new moon of Ramadan] then fast; and when you see it [the new moon of Shawwal], then break the fast. If it is hidden from you (ghumma ‘alaykum) [i.e. if the sky is overcast] then estimate it (fa-qdiru lahu);” (al-Bukhari, hadith no. 1900). The last verb, fa-qdiru, can be validly understood to mean calculation. Of the scholars who held this, are Abu al-‘Abbas b. Surayj (d. 306/918), one of the leading founders of the classical Shafi‘i school, the Shafi‘i scholar and renowned mystic Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 465/1072), the leading Shafi‘i judge Taqi al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355), the Shafi‘i legal theorist al-Zarkashi (d. 794/1392), the renowned Maliki legal theorist al-Qarafi (d. 684/1285), and some Hanafi scholars. The late Shafi‘i commentator al-Qalyubi (d. 1069/1659) held that all sighting-claims must be rejected if calculations show that a sighting was impossible, stating, “This is manifestly obvious. In such a case, a person may not fast. Opposing this is obstinacy and stubbornness.” See al-Mawsu‘ah al-fiqhiyyah al-kuwaytiyyah, c.v. “Ru’yat al-hilal,” vol. 22, pp. 31-4. The leading scholar of the late Shāfi‘ī school Muhammad al-Ramli (d. 1004/1596) held that the expert astronomer was obliged to follow his own calculation as was the non-astronomer who believed him; this position has been used by some contemporary Shafi’i scholars to state that in the modern world, with its precise calculations, the strongest opinion of the Shafi’i school should be that everyone must follow calculations; see ‘Umar b. al-Habib al-Husayni, Fath al-‘ali fi jam‘ al-khilaf bayna Ibn Hajar wa-Ibn al-Ramli, ed. Shifa’ Hitu (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2010), pp. 819-22. See also the fatwa of the Hanafi scholar Dr Salah Abu al-Hajj (http://www.anwarcenter.com/fatwa/معنى-حديث-لا-تصوموا-حتى-تروا-الهلال-ول) last accessed 9/5/2016) which states, after arguing against relying on calculations, “However, the position of [following] calculations is the position of a considerable group of jurists, so it is a respected disagreement in Islamic law, whereby, if a state were to adopt it, it is not rejected, because the judgment of a judge removes disagreement, and the adoption of a state is [as] the judgment of a judge.

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#Current Affairs

COVID19: Calling The Conscientious

Violating borders, scaling every wall and traveling faster than a rumor, COVID19 is now around nearly everywhere. It has reduced nations and societies, low and mighty, to their knees, demoted all preoccupations to insignificance and is threatening to torch everyone in its path.

The imperial hubris of nations, with and without nuclear weapons has crumbled. Mighty militaries have been reduced to mere spectators. Borders are closed. Markets have tumbled. Even the gods amongst humans – rulers, monarchs, dictators, religious heads, generals, billionaires, movie stars, icons of sports and music –have been forced to recede from the limelight. Neither they are in control nor can they perform. All of them are forced to surrender by an unseen microscopic speck with an insatiable appetite to devour humankind, bit-by-bit, part by part.

A pre-COVID19 world is now a blurred memory. It was not long ago that we were a different planet and a different people. Neither hand-sanitizers nor masks were precious enough to purchase let alone hoard, or even think about. YouTube was popular but not so much for videos on how to wash hands or what to do when self-quarantined. And, shaking hands were a norm and we used to respond with a “bless you” to our neighbor’s cough or sneeze.

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That was pre-COVID19.

Places of worship are already shut down and airports, train stations and shipping ports are shutting down. Boulevards and avenues are eerily silent. Shopping malls and theaters stand abandoned.

This is post-COVID19.

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Yet, there are flashes of hope and inspiration. Medical professionals and health care workers are fighting to save mankind, a patient a time. Our ill equipped and fatigued hospitals are abodes of our new heroes and true patriots. And no less are trash collectors, grocery workers, truck drivers, postal workers, fruit pickers among others whom we took for granted all along.

Covid-19 is not just the biggest story of our time, it is the only story.

Amidst a piercing cacophony of politicians’ press conferences and public interest advisories, we cannot afford to miss out the soft whispers of COVID19.

It is telling us to pay more attention to the under-estimated meaningful over the hyper-marketed mundane. Its whispers remind us to remember that we are but a mere mortal. We are reminded in the Quran that God made us from a mere speck (40:67).

Not, too long ago, we seldom had to remind ourselves that we are human. Not too long ago we could afford to be enemies of ourselves. Humans were enemies of humans, fighting and taking life of those considered ‘others’. We fostered division … “them” and “us,” “citizens” and “illegals.” COVID19 has spoken: no more. We stoked exclusion … “black, brown and white,” “conservative and liberal,” and “urban and rural.” COVID19 has spoken: no more.

In its sweeping trail of destruction, COVID19, is imploring us — harness my power to cause dread in each one of you, across borders, across genders, across races — and unite. COVID19 is challenging us: find a common cause against me. When any of you find an antidote against me, may that be a reason for your coming together, even if right now I have forced you to stay away from each other – six feet part.

COVID19 is an equal opportunity and a non-discriminating enemy, which will kill no matter how we worship, what we eat, where we live. One touch strikes all with equal precision.

Today, as we face an existential threat from a mortal molecular foe, we must remind ourselves about what matters most, our humanity and not our race and nationality.

The truth is that long before COVID19 struck us, we were sick. We spread viruses; hate and bigotry, we held thoughts of xenophobia for those who did not deserve it. We wallowed in bias and built echo chambers. COVID19 exposed all of our pre-COVID19 shortcomings.

Coronavirus will kill us for a while, but then in the end, we will overpower it. But before that happens, all the human deaths would be in vain if we don’t realize that in a world of such threats, we never needed to have been at each other’s throats.

In fear and panic, people resort to extreme behavior, it amazes us with their capacity for wisdom and kindness, or stupidity and cruelty. COVID19 is beseeching us to reclaim and regain our humanity of compassion and kindness. It is telling us to come together to fight our common battles. It is forcing us to wash our hands of all sins of our past and then lock our hearts and hands and build a world where meaning must matter more than the mundane.

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