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“Lights, Camera,….STOP!” – an Exclusive Interview With Pakistani Former Showbiz Actress and Model, Sara Chaudhry

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بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Sara Chaudhry was a household name in the Pakistani show business industry until her sudden departure from her acting career. The reason she gave up her career as a television actress and model was her repentance as a result of reverting to her faith, Islam, similar to the decision recently taken by Pakistani ex-musician Shiraz Uppal.

Here she gives an exclusive interview to MuslimMatters:

[Sadaf Farooqi]:  Can you please tell us how and when you joined the Pakistani show business industry?

[Sara Chaudhry]:  I joined it in 2001. When I was 14 years old, my father’s friend offered me an opportunity. I accepted because I always liked showbiz and I also wanted to financially help my parents; I wanted to be the son they never had.

[Sadaf]:  How did you feel working in this industry especially after you became successful and famous?

[Sara]:  It was not bad as all. I kept busy with my work. My jobs didn’t require many social appearances—just some awards functions. I always treated it as a job, except that I worked long hours. I got to know some good people, some of them are still in touch and good friends. There were both good and bad times. It was quite tiring compared to any other good job. I had to work in various conditions, sometimes in the summers without electricity, air conditioning, sweating from head to toe. There were days when I worked through the nights, sometimes working continuously for 3 days without sleeping or just few hours sleep. And, of course, there was a healthy dose of backbiting, gossiping, and lying.  It did have some perks, being famous did help at times, but mostly it was difficult.  I had virtually no personal life; I wasn’t able to go out with family freely and missed family functions. As a result it affected my relationship with my relatives. I lost touch with some relatives as well as good friends too because of my inability to spend time with the people I cared about.

[Sadaf]:  Young girls usually admire and look up to glamorously portrayed women in the media. Is the life of glitz and glamour really what it appears to be?

[Sara]:  Not really, you might have noticed that many film and drama makers have made films and dramas whose themes are based girls who chased fame, and most often, these characters end up involved in things like drugs, or commit suicide or murder; they end up in really dark, depressing places. Granted, fame does give you money, and a little bit of happiness and enjoyment, but at the same time there is a negative side to the business that should not be overlooked. Many people involved in this profession struggle with all kinds of pain, both mental and physical such as, migraines, backaches, insomnia, and depression to name a few. To top it all off, your life is not private anymore; even if you sneeze it’s in the newspaper!

[Sadaf]:  What was the first step in your journey of relinquishing showbiz?

[Sara]:  I come from an average practicing Muslim family. Our deen (way of life) was limited to praying five times a day, hosting mehfil-e-milaad’s (celebrations held during the month of Rabī‘ al-Awwal to praise Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and giving charity. Despite that, I always felt something was lacking, and finally I began searching for answers in the seerah of Nabi ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). I reflected on the ways in which Ummuhat ul mu’mineen (the wives of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) are known as the ‘mothers of the believers’) lived and conducted themselves, and I felt that I stood nowhere near them. That’s how and when the change started, and I decided to end my career. It wasn’t easy; many people called me a hypocrite and, they claimed that I would soon come back to “normal.” No one but Allah gave me istiqamah (steadfastness). Alhamdulillah, it was Allah who helped me in every way.

It was through my experiences and study of Islam that I learned that the hijab is a sign of modesty, a sign of respect. I learned that we shouldn’t judge people just because they cover their faces. I realized how wrong it is to assume thing about people before we meet them, and we shouldn’t judge the virtues of Islam through a cultural lens.

[Sadaf]:  Did you face opposition from family for your decision to leave the industry and start hijab?

[Sara]:  Yes, a little bit. My family is religious, but unfortunately they are not practicing Muslims in that sense that they don’t read the Qur’an with tarjuma (translation) and tafsīr (interpretation) in order to understand what is written and commanded. In short, many of us (Muslims by birth) are only recognizable as Muslims from our names; our clothes, lifestyles, and actions suggest something else entirely. Only a few people actually practice Islam, and even they face criticism in their own country than Muslims do in the West.

[Sadaf]:  How did you face and react to this opposition? 

[Sara]:  I just kept praying to Allah, and alhamdulillah He gave me the strength and determination to remain firm in my decision.

[Sadaf]:  Many people presume that the life of a veiled Muslim woman is restricted and dull. How do you feel about this? Please briefly compare your feelings about your life as a celebrity and your life now, behind the veil.

[Sara]:  Really, is that so? I was not aware of that. Now that it has been brought to my attention, I might start noticing if that is really the case. Currently, I am studying  and running a business with my husband’s help, I am surrounded by family and friends. Alhamdulillah, I feel so secure and respected—no longer a showpiece. And people don’t soothe their eyes on me; I am the coolness to my husband’s eyes only, alhamdulillah. As for comparing them both, I was happy before, but there was always something missing. There was always a sad part in life, my worries for the world which were never-ending; some new issue daily. I used to get irritated a bit at times that men were looking at me as if I was a piece of meat. Now, alhamdulillah, I feel peace, the only thing I am worried about is my akhirah. My goal is Jannah, insha’Allah.  I always used to worry about something going wrong; how we would deal with a difficult situation, but now alhamdulillah, I recognize that Allah is Al-Razzāq, The Provider. I’m no longer concerned with how much money I have, I am no longer afraid to face tomorrow.

[Sadaf]:  Please comment on the role your husband has played in your journey towards Islam, and give us your opinion about what makes a Muslim husband-wife bond more strong and supportive. What, in your opinion, should a husband and wife do or not do that can help them remain close, and become pillars of support for each other in deen?

[Sara]:  My husband has been a blessing for me, and I have been the same for him. Allah made us a source of hidayah for each other.

My husband has stood strong by me, supported me when many people turned against me. We spend a year by ourselves in order to relax . He motivated me to study and become a source of inspiration for others. Alhamdulillah, he has always encouraged me to be active in something (within the limits of Islam) rather than being idle. He would always encourage me to try different things. He reassured me, telling me that I am talented. He told me that he did not want me to waste my abilities. He never held me back. Even though my first duty is to Allah, and then him and our future kids, insha’Allah (whenever Allah wills), my husband motivated me to pursue my own goals and interests.

Our ideal is Prophet Muhammad’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) married life. He is the best example.  First and foremost, we respect one another. We also try to fulfill our obligations to each other as husband and wife while recognizing our rights. Along with being spouses, we are friends too alhamdulillah.

A wife should be sensible; she should have knowledge of the world as well as buisness literacy. For examples, my husband he shares his work with me and even asks me for suggestions. Like any couple, we play games, we fight too, but we always make up. A husband and wife should be a complete package for the one another. They should know how to change their roles when needed.  They should be partners and friends, and whatever else may be required for each other. They should be true to each other; the more true and faithful you are to your better half the more peaceful your life will be insha’Allah.

********

We are extremely grateful to Sara for granting us this opportunity to publish her story here on MuslimMatters, and hope that it will be a source of inspiration in the future for countless people in the global blogosphere, inshā’Allāh.

For those of our readers who can understand Urdu and Hindi, we’d like to share the speech Sara gave at SIST in 2012, talking about her journey towards Allah after her marriage:

Sara Chaudhry’s speech

And here is her recent interview (again, in Urdu, sorry to our English readers) that was aired on a morning show of a Pakistani TV channel earlier during Ramadan this year:

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We ask Allah to grant Sara Chaudhry steadfastness upon the right path.

We ask Allah to bless her marriage and grant both she and her husband undying love that is pure and for the sake of Allah alone, especially since it was this blessed marital union that hallmarked and facilitated her transformation, and gave her the push that caused her progression upon the path towards Allah. We ask Allah to henceforth make Sara’s persona and identity a source of inspiration for the entire Muslim ummah, Ameen.

Sadaf Farooqi is a postgraduate in Computer Science who has done the Taleem Al-Quran Course from Al-Huda International, Institute of Islamic Education for Women, in Karachi, Pakistan. 11 years on, she is now a homeschooling parent of three children, a blogger, published author and freelance writer. She has written articles regularly for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine and Saudi Gazette. Sadaf shares her life experiences and insights on her award-winning blog, Sadaf's Space, and intermittently teaches subjects such as Fiqh of Zakah, Aqeedah, Arabic Grammar, and Science of Hadith part-time at a local branch of Al-Huda. She has recently become a published author of a book titled 'Traversing the Highs and Lows of Muslim Marriage'. For most part, her Jihad bil Qalam involves juggling work around persistent power breakdowns and preventing six chubby little hands from her computer! Even though it may not seem so, most of her time is spent not in doing all this, but in what she loves most - reading.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Avatar

    siraaj

    September 26, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    Great interview, jzk for doing it

  2. Avatar

    Um Malika

    September 26, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Masha Allah this is an inspiring article. I also liked how you did not include her before picture. I don’t like it when they do that on facebook or other articles, because its disrespectful of the sister and the hijab. Jazak Allah khairan :)

  3. Avatar

    Irfan Hussain

    September 26, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    masha Allah !
    May Allah make you steadfast in the religion !
    May Allah Guide more and more people like this !

  4. Avatar

    BintKhalil

    September 27, 2012 at 3:39 AM

    Assalamu alaikum

    Did she marry before or after her religious awakening? It is truly when a person becomes more religious and his/her spouse supports them instead of becoming a thorn in their side.

    • Avatar

      umm.esa

      September 29, 2012 at 11:56 PM

      if you listen to her interview in Urdu, she gives more details about her marriage life and how things changed for her.

  5. Avatar

    Umair Azhar Khan

    September 27, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    Jazak Allah khairan

  6. Avatar

    umm.esa

    September 30, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    With all the dark side of Pakistani issues, the country always surprises me with some beam of hope. Such great musicians (like Junaid Jamshed, Ali Haider, Shezad Uppal), many cricketers, and now some actresses have turned to become better Muslims. May Allah continue to guide us all and bring a sea of positive change in a country that was once named as the Land of Pure.

    • Avatar

      shehzad

      September 30, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      Since when does wearing a niqaab and believing the arts and culture is haram all of a sudden make you a better Muslim? These people think we should emulate the Gulf Arabs and discard our rich culture. Why does this site want to insist that music, film, and the arts is haram and want us to be carbon copies of Gulf Arabs? Thank God this site only represents the Salafis and not the majority of Muslims who don’t feel music is haram nor do they feel that covering your face makes you a better Muslim.

      • Avatar

        Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

        October 1, 2012 at 1:10 AM

        Dear Shehzad

        What made you think only salafis consider music haraam and call for the niqaab? I know a whole majority of Deobandi scholars/students of knowledge who hold this belief. I even know some Sufis of the Naqshbandi tariqa who hold this belief. And all of them are non-arabs. Amazing isn’t it! :)

        • Avatar

          malkslam

          October 6, 2012 at 6:24 PM

          @ Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi,
          Are calling to Deobandi and Naqshbandi idealogy? or what?
          make yourself explicit in light of qur’an and sunnah.

          • Avatar

            Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

            October 8, 2012 at 7:53 AM

            @malkslam:

            Please read the thread to understand my comment. In reply to the original comment (below) my reply is quite apparent.

            “Thank God this site only represents the Salafis and not the majority of Muslims who don’t feel music is haram nor do they feel that covering your face makes you a better Muslim. “

      • Avatar

        SYS

        October 4, 2012 at 12:35 PM

        The moment you mention ‘Gulf Arabs’ your comments lose their value because Nationalism is not a constituent of Islam-something ALL scholars and ALL sects would agree on. And culture?Really? Do you know what the word Deen means? Really bro, you’d do well to do some reading of your own. Just saying. Salaam!

      • Avatar

        khanbaba

        October 4, 2012 at 1:06 PM

        LOL! “Gulf Arabs”. Please bro you need to stop.

      • Avatar

        umm.esa

        October 18, 2012 at 6:06 PM

        lol. dunno why but i am getting a kick out of this comment.
        Brother, if you don’t like the “version” of Islam these people are following then you don’t have to bother coming here and vent. Go talk to them.

        I thought Junaid Jamshed & many crickets were influenced by Tableegh-i-Jamat.
        Ali Haider – – lol. come on bro, last time I checked he was shia.

        someone, please give this brother cold water to drink :)

  7. Avatar

    Laila

    September 30, 2012 at 11:52 PM

    there’s nothing haram about being in dramas…. just as long as it’s halal and youre in a hijab/ covered, just as you would be snywhere else. I actually love drams for the fact that they are extremely appropriate and portay lots of aspects of pakistani life.

    • Avatar

      Jibran

      October 9, 2012 at 12:11 AM

      Laila……………… when a lady is gonna expose herself in front of millions of people, its haram because you can’t judge the other person remarks n thinking what they have in their minds about you………. wherever you were talking about the pakistani dramas are the most best source to depict our society …….. its totally wrong……pakistani girls are wasting their precious time to watch fantasy dramas and dream the same guy as groom or boyfriend. its the human nature if you cant do anything you always imagine that thing and will be gonna happen in front of your eyes….. so that please come out this hollow sphere and get the real life as did sara chudhary……. May every muslim man has a best practising wife like her…………. Ameen

      • Avatar

        Carlos

        November 4, 2012 at 9:28 PM

        A woman is responsible for what a man thinks about her?!

  8. Avatar

    Shiney

    October 21, 2012 at 9:58 PM

    I enjoyed reading this…i love reading articles about how coming back to Islam/adopting full hijab helps sisters become better people.

  9. Avatar

    Ruby

    December 19, 2012 at 4:37 AM

    yar please get out of this extremist view of Islam. Islam is not only wearing niqab and looking horrible. It helps us in living a balanced life. and yes i agree with one of the comments that how a universal religion can be opposed to art and culture.

  10. Avatar

    Asma

    July 13, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    Ruby teachings of Islam will remain the same till qayamah. Your practicality can not change it . One day IN SHAA ALLAH YOU will realise that hijab doesnot make u horrible instead it enhances your inner and outer beauty both. Being practical is not bad but questioning ALLAH commands just because it doesnot seems practical to you is surely not advisable . Try to abide by the words of quran without any hesitation because those words are Undebatable instead you should try understand each and every commandment of ALLAH and the purpose behind it.

    *This comment was edited by the MM Comments Team in order to comply with our Comments Policy*

  11. Avatar

    Fareed

    June 5, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    May Allah give me Hidayat too. I have also led a life if sin and want to change. Allah pl help me.

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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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#Life

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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#Current Affairs

Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah: A Genuine Muslim Voice for Peace

Mufti Mustafa Ceric

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By Mufti Mustafa Ceric, Ph.D,

Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia

The essence of the faith of Islam comes from two primary sources: the Qur’an, which is God’s revelation, and the Sunnah, which is the teachings, traditions, and attributes of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. But the nature of Muslims come from their many peoples and tribes:

“O men, God has created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes so that you may know one another. But, indeed, the most noble of you is the most morally correct among you. God knows and is well informed about everything.” (Qur’an, 49:13).

Thus, the experience of the faith of Muslims is as diverse as the nature of their national and tribal backgrounds. Therefore, both a specific God-given nature and a specific societal experience of Muslims must be recognized and appreciated within a global Islamic civilization, as long as the principle of tawḥīd (oneness of God), as is expressed in Lā il ā ha illa Allah, and the principle of an ultimate nubuwwah (prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him) are properly upheld. This diversity in the unity of the faith of Islam is a blessing for our ummah. Hence, Muslims must see the various natures and experiences of their fellow Muslims as a blessing from God that enriches an overall Islamic culture and civilization in the world.

Inspired by the reality of this blessing, I would like to share with you my perspective which stems from my God-given nature, my war and peace experience as a Muslim in Bosnia and a genocide survivor in Europe, and how I also see myself as belonging to the universal Muslim community today. Indeed, I would like to tell you why I believe that the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies in Abu Dhabi, UAE, led by the esteemed Muslim scholar Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, is a right path of Islam and a good program of peace for Muslims around the world.

My testimony is based on my personal nature and my own first-hand experience of war and peace in Bosnia without a need of apology to anyone. It starts from the fact that, during the war and postwar time in Bosnia, it was hard to find a peace initiative from a credible Muslim group or institution to help me engage in dialogue and trust building with others. All the peace initiatives were coming from Christian groups or institutions that, by this very fact, had an advantage in presenting their case. So, when a major Muslim peace initiative was introduced by Sheikh Bin Bayyah in 2014 in Abu Dhabi, I was delighted to be invited to join it. Indeed, I was praying for its success and continuity because rarely do genuine Muslim ideas survive the tremendous pressure of staunch opponents who oppose such initiatives if they are not in— if it’s not their own idea. Fortunately, it seemed that the Forum for Promoting Peace in Abu Dhabi was spared this destiny—until the last, and in my opinion, the best of all Forums so far—the Fifth Forum of 2018. We know from the Qur’an and Sunnah that right and constructive critique is an important aspect of the nature of Islam, but the recent hate-speech and false accusations against the Forum are not in accordance with the nature of Islam and as such are not of an Islamicʼ adab (ethics) and ʼakhlāq (morality).

Let me say that neither the esteemed Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah nor Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is in need of my defense. They are capable and upright people; their lifelong dedication to Islamic work speaks for itself. I feel the need to raise my voice clearly and loudly in defense of the importance of promoting peace, and the work of both esteemed scholars towards that goal. I humbly claim to be aligned with them in this purpose. And we should be grateful to the government of the UAE for supporting this project that has already engaged prominent religious, academic, cultural, and political leaders from around the world and earned their respect and commitment to this cause of peace.

First, no one has a monopoly on peace, but everyone has a duty to promote peace in their own way because, by its very definition, “Islam” is the concept of peace, and thus a “Muslim” is also by definition a peaceful man or woman. Therefore, the Forum for Promoting Peace is an application of this unique and powerful concept of Islam, namely the concept of peace.

Second, no one has a monopoly on tolerance, but everyone has an obligation to learn and teach tolerance in his or her neighborhood and surroundings because Islam is the faith of tolerance, made clear in the Qur’anic injunction: “there is no compulsion in religion” ( lā ikrā h a fī l-dī n) .

Third, no one has a monopoly on dignity, but everyone is entitled to enjoy the right of life (al-nafs), faith (al-dī n), freedom (al-ʿaql), property (al-māl), and dignity (al-ʿirḍ) because Muslim scholars defined these peace-oriented principles, and they did this long before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These principles are based on the letter and spirit of the Qur’an and the Sunnah as an amānah (trust) of the entire Muslim ummah, not just a part of it.

Fourth, no one has a monopoly on alliance, but everyone has the right to seek alliance with peace-loving persons and nations based on the example of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), who participated in an alliance prior to Islam, known as the ḥilf al-fu ḍūl (the Alliance of Virtues) that he also approved in Islam.

Fifth, no one has a monopoly on democracy, but everyone has the right to speak about democracy, even if they believe it can sometimes lead to tyranny. The Greek philosopher Socrates had that right as well. He used to say that oligarchies become democracies for predictable reasons: “Democracy comes into power,” Socrates says, “when the poor are the victors, killing some and exiling some, and giving equal shares in the government to all the rest.” It’s an “agreeable form of anarchy,” Socrates tells us and adds that “the insatiable desire for freedom occasions a demand for tyranny.”

Sixth, no one has a monopoly on moral preaching, but everyone has a duty to improve his own morality before preaching to others. Islam teaches us that a right moral praxis is better than empty preaching.

And finally, no one has a monopoly on Islam, but everyone has the duty of farḍ ʿayn (personal responsibility) and far ḍkif ā yah (collective responsibility) to behave in such a way that does not corrupt the moral teachings of Islam and does not compromise the right image of Islam and Muslims in the world for the sake of personal gains. The work of Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is their due of farḍ ʿayn and farḍ kifāyah for repairing a damaged picture of Islam and Muslims in the world, due to some irresponsible and militant groups who have claimed to act on behalf of Islam. Those who don’t understand the importance of the message of these scholars are out of touch with reality, and thus, cannot claim to be the right guide for the Muslims, especially in the West. Those among the Muslims, wherever they are, who still support a catastrophic regicide that has happened recently in some major Muslim countries ought to be advised that suicide, individual or collective, is not part of the nature of Islam. Indeed, Islam has never been a religion of destruction. Islam has always been a religion of constructive and inclusive culture and civilization.

Let me say that no Muslim with a good heart and sound mind can be indifferent to what is happening in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Myanmar (Burma), and elsewhere, where our Muslim brothers and sisters suffer. But this pain will not be removed by additional destructive ideas that would cripple the rest of the Muslim countries just because some others are in an internal or external conflict. On the contrary, our duty is to do whatever we can to prevent further destruction of the Muslim states and societies. The Muslims today don’t need more Palestines. They need more hearts and minds like Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. Indeed, they need more countries and societies like the UAE to support the promotion of peace and security among Muslim societies and others in the world.

And my final note to my Muslim brothers and sisters in the West is not to make a hasty judgment that is instigated by some people (and institutions) who do not have sympathy for Muslims who are suffering. If you cannot help the plight of Muslims today, then at least don’t make the Muslim situation worse than it is. Those who have not tasted the bitterness of war cannot fully appreciate the sweet taste of peace. I have tasted both. Therefore, my dear Muslim brothers, sisters, and friends, wherever you are, pray for peace and support those who work for peace, whoever they may be.

Mustafa Ceric, Ph.D.
Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia

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