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To The Holy Land: Crossing The Border | Part 1 of 4

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By Zainab Chaudry

Crossing the border into present day Palestine is a dystopian experience.

As our bus leaves Amman and approaches the Jordanian side of the bridge, our guide explains what to expect.

We’re warned to not take any photos.

“It’s illegal. You can’t see [the soldiers], but assume they can see you.”

The mood is no longer upbeat; conversation and laughter fade into an uneasy silence.

The tense ride is only punctuated by the occasional anxious wisecrack.

We arrive at the Jordanian terminal where officers check our passports.

After our passports are returned, the bus inches past heavily armed soldiers and ominous warning signs to cross through several secondary checkpoints and barriers.

Finally, we arrive at the Israeli terminal. We’re told to collect our belongings and exit the bus.

An uncle opens his medication bottle, shakes out a pill and chugs it down with water.

No one reassures him everything will be fine.

My husband and I retrieve our luggage and lead our group in.

After we pass through metal detectors and our luggage is screened, we answer preliminary questions, are handed stickers, and make our way to the immigration kiosks.

I find myself being questioned first. The immigration officer examines my passport, flipping through the pages.

“What is the purpose of your visit?”
“How long will you be here?”
“Do you know anyone in Israel?”

The questions continue

Suddenly, an Israeli soldier – strapped with a rifle almost as long as he is tall – appears and signals emphatically for him to hold my passport.

The immigration officer nods, hands me a form, and instructs me to take a seat in a waiting area; my name will be called.

Several people are already seated.

Some are part of various tour groups, some are Palestinians traveling from Jordan to visit their home.

These are not criminals. But they are Palestinians and Muslims – so they have to endure interrogations, searches, long wait periods and calculated humiliation.

A Palestinian woman and her son, about 24-years-old, are ushered into the waiting area.

She is perspiring, even though it is chilly inside. I smile reassuringly, offer her my chair.

They speak some English. They are Palestinian refugees living in the outskirts of Amman.

A short while ago, a family member had been murdered in the West Bank. They’re traveling to his funeral.

Little else would be worth the headache, humiliation and harassment of crossing the border.

I express my condolences, then there’s little else to say.

I open my book to read, but my mind is distracted by this family’s tragedy. I have trouble focusing on the words.

About thirty minutes later, my name is called and a female officer begins questioning me.

“What kind of work do you do?”
“Where do you work?”
“What do you do there?”

As if she doesn’t know. We challenge hatred and bigotry. Seek justice and stand for the oppressed.”

“For Palestinians too?”

I wait for her to make eye contact so I know she is paying attention. Calmly and deliberately reply: Yes.

I say this knowing that I may be denied entry on a whim.

Knowing there is a price for speaking my truth.

Knowing that it must be worth paying every single time.

I was the first of our group in line to approach immigration; not surprisingly, I was the last to be cleared almost two hours later.

Had it taken twenty hours or twenty years, my answers would not have changed.

When I walked onto the bus, our group cheered loudly. But I wasn’t feeling celebratory.

There was no joy – only anger and sorrow.

I make my way to my seat amidst relieved conversations, stare out the window, tears streaming unchecked.

My heart is outraged and heavy.

As I’d awaited clearance, the Israeli officer approached the Palestinian mother and her son.

“Why are you traveling to Israel? What is the purpose of your visit?”

The absurdity of the situation struck me. This land, Palestine, is this family’s homeland.

Spanning countless generations, until they were forced out by violent, state-sanctioned settler colonialism.

And yet they were being ordered to provide a reason for their visit.

“Our family member was murdered. We are going to a funeral.”

More invasive, probing questions. More calculated humiliation.

“What are the names of your parents and grandparents? Who’s funeral? What is their name? When did they die?”

No. They didn’t “die.” They were murdered. An inconvenient fact, and semantics can be such a nuisance.

Her hands had trembled as she’d lifted a paper cup to take a sip of the water her son handed her.

A temporary relief. No amount of water can quench the innate thirst for liberation and freedom from occupation.

The knuckles of her son’s clenched fists had turned white, but he remained silent at her side, having been instructed to let her do the talking.

In my mind, the mother and son’s conversation is eerily similar to the one parents of black sons in America have about how to walk away alive from law enforcement encounters.

Don’t make eye contact. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t appear threatening. Don’t make sudden movements. Place your hands where they can see them. Don’t raise your voice. Be calm, be polite, be respectful at all times.

When the border officer arrived to hand me my passport and tell me I was free to go, the mother was clutching a tasbih doing dhikr.

They would wait a long while.

In my mind, I wanted to toss my passport on the floor. In my heart, I have a thousand things I wanted to say in that moment.

I wanted to yell, and rage and demand to know why I as an American am “free to go,” while this Palestinian mother – who has more right to the land than I and anyone in this terminal would ever have to enter – is being subjected to this humiliation and injustice.

Why I, in my privilege, can feel calm and determined regardless of the outcome of this harassment, while she – with whom I’d felt an instant bond – must endure fear, humiliation, indignity.

Our gazes held, and I prayed to convey some measure of comfort, solace.

I slowly exited the terminal acutely aware of the fact that an ocean of tears shed by a million Palestinian mothers have soaked the earth beneath my feet.

The indescribable joy of visiting Al-Quds, of praying at Al Aqsa, of literally walking in the blessed footsteps of our beloved Prophets, peace be upon them all, is tainted with the indelible stain of apartheid.

I’m grateful to have crossed at this border prohibited to Israeli Jews so I could witness for myself the egregious mistreatment and blanket criminalization that Palestinians endure every single day.

Social media activism is not enough

Every Palestinian I met during our travels had the same message: when you go back, tell our brothers and sisters to visit us soon.

Go visit Palestine, the illegally occupied land that her people call the home of all Muslims.

Pray at Al Aqsa, visit Hebron and pray at Masjid Ibrahimi. Support Palestinian businesses. Sit among them. Listen to their stories. Share in their pain, sorrow, joy.

Stand with them as they resist apartheid and sacrifice their most beloved to defend our holy sites and land.

If you are blocked entry, go again. Take ten more with you. Go again and again.

My faith is never in the courts and systems of the dunya.

Our blessings are a bigger test than our trials.

May Allah help us to remain steadfast, be courageous, and forever use our privilege to benefit the oppressed.

We never know, their duas may be an intercession for us on the day of reckoning.

“Beware of the dua of the oppressed; there is no barrier between it and Allah.”
– Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (Bukhari)

To The Holy Land: Jericho | Part 2 of 4

Zainab Chaudry sits on the Maryland State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and is the Director of Maryland Outreach at CAIR. She writes about her trip in her personal capacity.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    E Ahmad

    November 29, 2018 at 4:41 AM

    Mashallah my dear sister how well have you sum up the blessed land, with Allah’s mercy I have been twice and will be going again and again Inshallah. People of Palestine need us all, we can’t fight for them but just hugging one of them confirms to them we care for them. Please please visit Palestine

  2. Avatar

    Sameeha

    January 12, 2019 at 8:12 AM

    Assalamualiakum sister
    I just came back from the same trip and by reading your article I felt I relived the whole trip very well put and Allah bless u

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#Islam

What Does Sharia Really Say About Abortion in Islam

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice, Islam recognizes the nuance.

Reem Shaikh

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The following article on abortion is based on a research paper titled ‘The Rights of the Fetus in Islam’, at the Department of Sharia at Qatar University. My team and I presented it to multiple members of the faculty. It was approved by the Dean of the Islamic Studies College, an experienced and reputed Islamic authority.

In one swoop, liberal comedian Deven Green posing as her satirical character, Mrs. Betty Brown, “America’s best Christian”, demonized both Sharia law as well as how Islamic law treats abortion. Even in a debate about a law that has no Muslim protagonist in the middle of it, Islam is vilified because apparently, no problem in the world can occur without Islam being dragged into it.

It is important to clarify what Sharia is before discussing abortion. Sharia law is the set of rules and guidelines that Allah establishes as a way of life for Muslims. It is derived from the Qur’an and the Sunnah, which is interpreted and compiled by scholars based on their understandings (fiqh). Sharia takes into account what is in the best interest for individuals and society as a whole, and creates a system of life for Muslims, covering every aspect, such as worship, beliefs, ethics, transactions, etc.

Muslim life is governed by Sharia – a very personal imperative. For a Muslim living in secular lands, that is what Sharia is limited to – prayers, fasting, charity and private transactions such as not dealing with interest, marriage and divorce issues, etc. Criminal statutes are one small part of the larger Sharia but are subject to interpretation, and strictly in the realm of a Muslim country that governs by it.

With respect to abortion, the first question asked is:

“Do women have rights over their bodies or does the government have rights over women’s bodies?”

The answer to this question comes from a different perspective for Muslims. Part of Islamic faith is the belief that our bodies are an amanah from God. The Arabic word amanah literally means fulfilling or upholding trusts. When you add “al” as a prefix, or al-amanah, trust becomes “The Trust”, which has a broader Islamic meaning. It is the moral responsibility of fulfilling one’s obligations due to Allah and fulfilling one’s obligations due to other humans.

The body is one such amanah. Part of that amanah includes the rights that our bodies have over us, such as taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally – these are part of a Muslim’s duty that is incumbent upon each individual.

While the Georgia and Alabama laws in the United States that make abortion illegal after the 6-week mark of pregnancy are being mockingly referred to as “Sharia Law” abortion, the fact is that the real Sharia allows much more leniency in the matter than these laws do.

First of all, it is important to be unambiguous about one general ruling: It is unanimously agreed by the scholars of Islam that abortion without a valid excuse after the soul has entered the fetus is prohibited entirely. The question then becomes, when exactly does the soul enter the fetus? Is it when there is a heartbeat? Is it related to simple timing? Most scholars rely on the timing factor because connecting a soul to a heartbeat itself is a question of opinion.

Web MD

The timing then is also a matter of ikhtilaf, or scholarly difference of opinion:

One Hundred and Twenty Days:

The majority of the traditional scholars, including the four madhahib, are united upon the view that the soul certainly is within the fetus after 120 days of pregnancy, or after the first trimester.

This view is shaped by  the following hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إن أحدكم يجمع خلقه في بطن أمه أربعين يوما ثم يكون في ذلك علقة مثل ذلك ثم يكون في ذلك مضغة مثل ذلك ثم يرسل الملك فينفخ فيه الروح..

“For every one of you, the components of his creation are gathered together in the mother’s womb for a period of forty days. Then he will remain for two more periods of the same length, after which the angel is sent and insufflates the spirit into him.”

Forty Days:

The exception to the above is that some scholars believe that the soul enters the fetus earlier, that is after the formation phase, which is around the 40 days mark of pregnancy.

This view is based on another hadith narrated by Abdullah bin Masood raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him):

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: إذا مر بالنطفة إثنتان وأربعون ليلة بعث الله إليها ملكاً، فصوره، وخلق سمعها وبصرها وجلدها ولحمها وعظمها…

“If a drop of semen spent in the womb forty-two nights, Allah sends an angel to it who depicts it and creates its ears, eyes, skin, flesh and bones.”

Between the two views, the more widespread and popular opinion is the former, which is that the soul enters the fetus at the 120 days (or 4 months) mark, as the second hadith implies the end of the formation period of the fetus rather than the soul entering it.

Even if one accepts that the soul enters the fetus at a certain timing mark, it does not mean that the soul-less fetus can be aborted at any time or for any reason. Here again, like most matters of Islamic jurisprudence, there is ikhtilaf of scholarly difference of opinion.

No Excuse Required:

The Hanafi madhhab is the most lenient, allowing abortion during the first trimester, even without an excuse.

Some of the later scholars from the Hanafi school consider it makruh or disliked if done without a valid reason, but the majority ruled it as allowed.

Only Under Extreme Risks:

The Malikis are the most strict in this matter; they do not allow abortion even if it is done in the first month of pregnancy unless there is an extreme risk to the mother’s health.

Other Views:

As for the Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of thought, there are multiple opinions within the schools themselves, some allowing abortion, some only allowing it in the presence of a valid excuse.

Valid excuses differ from scholar to scholar, but with a strong and clear reason, permissibility becomes more lenient. Such cases include forced pregnancy (caused by rape), reasons of health and other pressing reasons.

For example, consider a rape victim who becomes pregnant. There is hardly a more compelling reason (other than the health of the mother) where abortion should be permitted. A child born as a result in such circumstances will certainly be a reminder of pain and discomfort to the mother. Every time the woman sees this child, she will be reminded of the trauma of rape that she underwent, a trauma that is generally unmatched for a woman. Leaving aside the mother, the child himself or herself will lead a life of suffering and potentially neglect. He or she may be blamed for being born– certainly unjust but possible with his or her mother’s mindset. The woman may transfer her pain to the child, psychologically or physically because he or she is a reminder of her trauma. One of the principles of Sharia is to ward off the greater of two evils. One can certainly argue that in such a case where both mother and child are at risk of trauma and more injustice, then abortion may indeed be the lesser of the two.

The only case even more pressing than rape would be when a woman’s physical health is at risk due to the pregnancy. Where the risk is clear and sufficiently severe (that is can lead to some permanent serious health damage or even death) if the fetus remained in her uterus, then it is unanimously agreed that abortion is allowed no matter what the stage of pregnancy. This is because of the Islamic principle that necessities allow prohibitions. In this case, the necessity to save the life of the mother allows abortion, which may be otherwise prohibited.

This is the mercy of Sharia, as opposed to the popular culture image about it.

Furthermore, the principle of preventing the greater of two harms applies in this case, as the mother’s life is definite and secure, while the fetus’ is not.

Absolutely Unacceptable Reason for Abortion:

Another area of unanimous agreement is that abortion cannot be undertaken due to fear of poverty. The reason for this is that this mindset collides with having faith and trust in Allah. Allah reminds us in the Quran:

((وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا أَوْلَادَكُمْ خَشْيَةَ إِمْلَاقٍ ۖ نَّحْنُ نَرْزُقُهُمْ وَإِيَّاكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ قَتْلَهُمْ كَانَ خِطْئًا كَبِيرًا))

“And do not kill your children for fear of poverty, We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Al-Israa, 31)

Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is an acceptable excuse when it comes to mocking Islam in today’s world. Islam is a balanced religion and aims to draw ease for its adherents. Most rulings concerning fiqh are not completely cut out black and white. Rather, Islamic rulings are reasonable and consider all possible factors and circumstances, and in many cases vary from person to person.

Abortion is not a simple option of being pro-life or pro-choice. These terms have become political tools rather than sensitive choices for women who ultimately suffer the consequences either way.

Life means a lot more than just having a heartbeat. Islam completely recognizes this. Thus, Islamic rulings pertaing to abortion are detailed and varied.

As a proud Muslim, I want my fellow Muslims to be confident of their religion particularly over sensitive issues such as abortion and women’s rights to choose for themselves keeping the Creator of Life in focus at all times.

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#Current Affairs

Faith Community Stands With Peace And Justice Leader Imam Omar Suleiman During Right Wing Attacks

Hena Zuberi

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In a follow up to the right-wing media platforms attack on Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists, as well as criticism of Israel policies, Faith Forward Dallas issued a statement.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square – Faith Leaders United for Peace and Justice is a Texas-based interfaith organization that has worked on many initiatives with Imam Omar Suleiman.

The statement reads:

“Imam Omar Suleiman a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice!!!!!

Time after time in our city, in the United States and around the world, Imam Omar Suleiman has been a spiritual and moral voice for peace with justice. When others seek to divide, he calls for unity. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square works to unite faith leaders for justice and compassion. Imam Suleiman has been a trusted leader among us. In the wake of his beautiful prayer to open the House of Representatives on May 9, he has received threats of violence and words of vilification when instead he should have our praise and prayers. We call upon people of good will everywhere to tone down the rhetoric, to replace hate with love, and to build bridges toward the common good.

Faith Forward Dallas at Thanks-Giving Square”

Commenters on the Faith Forward Dallas statement have left comments of support.

The group has invited locals and other leaders to endorse and share the statement. “Endorsed! I love and fully you Imam Omar Suleiman!” wrote Karen Weldes Fry, Spiritual Director at Center of Spiritual Learning in Dallas (CSLDallas), commenting on the statement.

Some commentators do not understand the manufactured controversy.  Heather Mustain writes, “What people are writing is so vile. They obviously didn’t even listen to his prayer!” Imam  Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives on May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas, TX.

“I’m grateful for the faith leaders with whom I’ve built relationships with and served with for years that have shown full support throughout this process. Together we’ve stood with one another in solidarity in the face of bigotry, and in the support of others in any form of pain. We will not let these dark forces divide us,” said Imam Omar Suleiman in response to the outpouring of love from the people he has worked with on the ground, building on peace, love, and justice.

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan

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Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar

JazakAllahuKheiran


A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source: DMagazine.com


Muslim congregation writes letters of support to Dallas Jewish Community

The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News


Historic action: Muslims and Jews for Dreamers

“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Bend The Arc


Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News

 


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

Source: The Carter Center


Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred

My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN

 

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