Archive for the ‘Muslims’ category

Muslims under non-muslim rule by Yahya Michot,; oxford

May 17, 2007

Book Review – The father of Islamic radicalism?

Muslims Under Non-Muslim Rule, by Yahya Michot, Oxford: Interface Publications, pp. 190, 2006, HB.

Born in 1263 in Harran (located close to Damascus) into a family of Islamic scholars and Hanbali jurists, Ibn Taymiyyah received his early education in Arabic and traditional Islamic sciences at home under the tutelage of his pre-eminent father. According to Yahya Michot, the author of the book under review, Ibn Taymiyyah was around seven when his family was forced to flee to Damascus due to an imminent threat of Mongol invasion.
In Damascus he studied under the guidance of some of the city’s leading theologians and jurists, and was barely seventeen when Shams al-Din, the city’s Chief Justice, granted him ijaza (certification) to issue fatwa. As an omnivorous reader, he claimed to have read more than two hundred different tafâsir (commentaries on the Qur’an) and became a leading authority on tafsir, hadith (Prophetic traditions), fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) and ‘ilm al-kalam (dialectic theology). He knew the Qur’an and hadith literature probably better than any other scholar of his generation so much so that his books and treatises on Islamic sciences, philosophy, logic, comparative religion and heresiography are replete with references to the Qur’an, Prophetic traditions and the sayings of the early Islamic scholars.
Ibn Taymiyyah was not only an outstanding Islamic scholar and jurist, he was also a prolific writer and critic. According to Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi, the author of Tadhkirat al-Huffaz, he ate little and did not marry, and remained a confirmed bachelor all his life. This enabled him to read extensively and write prolifically on a wide range of subjects. Indeed, according to some of his biographers, he authored as many as five hundred books and treatises on all aspects of Islam and also actively participated in jihad (military struggle) against the Mongol invaders. However, to understand Ibn Taymiyyah, his religious ideas and thoughts, one has to thoroughly examine the social, political and intellectual condition of his time.
He was born five years after the Mongol sack of Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate. It was a time of considerable socio-political uncertainty and upheaval as the Mongols threatened to overwhelm the entire Islamic East. Likewise, most of the prominent Islamic scholars and jurists of the time were in the service of the ruling elites and this created a culture of blind imitation (taqlid) rather than promote intellectual creativity and fresh thinking. To make matters worse, the Sufis, he felt, had deviated from the original, pristine Prophetic norms and practices (sunnah). Thus, living as he did at a challenging and unpredictable period in Islamic history, it is not surprising that Ibn Taymiyyah’s life and thought also reflected the difficulties and contradictions of his time.
That is why it is imperative to study and explore his writings in the existential condition in which they were produced otherwise one is not only likely to misunderstand but also misinterpret them. His Mardin fatwa (which is the subject-matter of the book under review) is a good example. Mardin, as the author explains, is a Turkish town which “occupies a strikingly strategic location. It is dominated by a fortress reputed to have been unassailable, from which the view reaches deep into the vast plain of upper Mesopotamia.” (p1) And although the precise date of this fatwa is not known, Ibn Taymiyyah issued it in response to a request to clarify whether Mardin was a domain of peace (dar al-salam) or domain of war (dar al-harb).
In his own words, “Is [Mardin] a domain of war or of peace? It is a [city of a status] composite (murakkab), in which both the things signified [by those terms are to be found]. It is not in the situation of a domain of peace in which the institutions (ahkam) of Islam are implemented because its army (jund) is [composed of] Muslims. Nor is it in the situation of a domain of war, whose inhabitants are unbelievers. Rather, it constitutes a third type [of domain], in which the Muslim shall be treated as he merits, and in which the one who departs from the Way/Law of Islam shall be combated as he merits.” (p65)
Ibn Taymiyyah’s refusal to say whether Mardin was a domain of war or peace is most significant, not least because in the West he is increasingly considered to be the real inspiration behind many radical groups including al-Qa’ida.
In addition to Western writers like Gilles Kepel (Jihad: The Trail of Political Islam, Cambridge, 2002) and Malise Ruthven (A Fury for God: The Islamist Attack on America, London, 2002), the US 9/11 Commission Report identified him as an intellectual champion of contemporary Islamic radicalism/militancy. But is he the real inspiration behind these radical groups? His refusal to say whether Mardin was a land of war or peace proves, if proof was required, that his religious ideas and thoughts were far from being black and white. Indeed, according to Michot, “Crass howlers about Ibn Taymiyyah have long been in circulation – one might think as far back as the tittle-tattle about him hawked around by Ibn Battuta. Since 9/11, however, the situation has worsened. The most ignorant untruths are reproduced apace, not only in the media but even in supposedly serious studies.” (p123) He then takes prominent academics and writers like N J Delong-Bas (Georgetown University); Bernard Haykel (New York University); Menahem Milson (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and Guy Sorman (University of Paris) to task for disseminating untruths about Ibn Taymiyyah.
If Ibn Taymiyyah is grossly misunderstood by Western scholars and writers, then many contemporary Islamists have also failed to understand and appreciate his ideas and thoughts, argues Michot. He proves his case by examining six modern Muslim readings of Ibn Taymiyyah’s Mardin fatwa; he shows how five of the six writers and activists (namely, Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj, Abdullah Azzam, Muhammad al-Mas’ari, Abd al-Aziz al-Jarbu and Zuhayr Salim) have singularly failed to understand the full thrust and complexity of his religious ideas and thought. A closer examination of Ibn Taymiyyah’s vast corpus of writing demonstrates, argues Michot, he was in favour of resisting foreign invaders but completely rejected internal rebellion and insurgency. So, far from being a champion of religious radicalism, he was a sophisticated and pragmatic Islamic scholar and thinker, argues Michot. If this is true, why is he so readily misunderstood and misinterpreted – both by the Western scholars as well as the Islamists?
Michot, who is a lecturer at Oxford University and prominent authority on Ibn Taymiyyah, argues both the Western scholars and the Islamists have advertently or inadvertently emphasised his political thought at the expense of his moral and ethical teachings. This has led to the increasing politicisation of his complex and sophisticated writings on Islamic moral, ethical and legal thought. This raises an interesting question, namely, were there two different Ibn Taymiyyahs, an “Islamic reactionary and jihadist” or Islamic thinker and pragmatist?
Michot has no doubt that he was a pragmatist who carefully examined the ideals and realities of his time before he authorised military action or issued a legal decree to the contrary. To him, Ibn Taymiyyah was a multi-dimensional Islamic scholar and thinker, whose writing needs to be studied and explored in their totality if one is to understand and appreciate them fully. Although I could not agree more, it may nevertheless be possible to argue, for instance, that Ibn Taymiyyah the jurist was very different from Ibn Taymiyyah the critic. The reason for this is because his Islamic moral, ethical, legal and economic thoughts are much more polished and restrained in their tone than, for instance, his refutation of the Sufis, falasifah, mantiq’in, qadariyyah, the Christians, etc. Thus, as a polemicist, he was not only uncompromising but also very dogmatic. This naturally led to his incarceration on more than one occasion, but Michot is right to say Ibn Taymiyyah bore all his trials and tribulations with great patience and dignity. He eventually died in prison in 1328.
Having said that, Yahya Michot should be congratulated for writing this book; it is a powerful and cogent defence of Ibn Taymiyyah against the charge of radicalism/militancy. Originally written in French and meticulously translated into English by Jamil Qureshi, Ibn Taymiyyah’s Mardin fatwa is rigorously referenced. The author’s commentary and exploration of the fatwa is both extensive and enlightening, even if at times one feels he is all too eager to give Ibn Taymiyyah the benefit of the doubt
Muhammad Khan
M Khan is author of The Muslim 100: The Life, Thought and Achievement of the Most Influential Muslims in
History (forthcoming).

Maulana Rumi r

March 2, 2007

When you come to my tomb

The dome on my roof top will appear to you Dancing

Do not come without a tambourine my friend

For a grieving person does not belong in God’s banquet

=

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is. Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thru’ narrow chinks of his caravan.

Rend the veil

Defender of the Flag: In Memory of Alia Ansari

November 7, 2006

This past Tuesday, Muslims celebrated ‘Id al-Fitr, one of Islam’s two great festivals. For me, it was a beautiful day that began with a truly warm and vibrant ‘Id gathering at the Zaytuna Institute. God afforded me a wonderful opportunity to see friends who had been “missing in action,” to meet enthusiastic new converts to Islam, and to kiss so many babies I felt like a politician. During that time, I was also able to break away from the gathering to visit the graves of some distinguished Muslims buried in a nearby cemetery. Visiting the local Muslim cemetery on ‘Id day is a practice I have been able to maintain since my earliest years in Islam. They serve as a solemn reminder that all of us have an appointment with the Angel of Death.I was blessed to stay at Zaytuna until the early afternoon when I departed to attend a meeting at a local school, a reminder that we are in America and sometimes, despite our best efforts to clear our schedules on the day of our festivals, the requisites of our everyday duties intervene. After that meeting, I was able to visit some of the Muslim families in the area. All of those visits filled my heart with awe at the simple dignity of ordinary Muslims, many of whom are struggling valiantly to survive in this sometimes cruel, always challenging and complicated society.

The last of those visits was to the family of Alia Ansari, the Afghani-American mother of six who was gunned down in central Fremont last Thursday as she walked to pick up her children from school. The Ansari family are everyday people—and, they are proud people. As I talked with Alia’s husband, brothers, and cousins who were gathered in the family’s humble apartment, it became clear to me that, most of all, they were proud to be Ansaris, descendants of the companion of the Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, and the great Muslim mystical sage, Khawaja Abdullah Ansari. In Afghan society, they are people who are identified with piety and they endeavor to live up to that identification, in their various ways.

Alia Ansari migrated from war-torn Afghanistan at the age of 17. When her father died shortly thereafter, she became a second parent to her younger siblings. A life of hardship could not suppress her inner beauty, expressed most readily in an irrepressible smile. Her husband, Ahmadullah Ansari, an auto mechanic struggling to make ends meet for a family that includes six young children, five of them girls, spoke glowingly of Alia’s martyrdom and the place God has reserved for her in Heaven. Her story impressed on me the truth embodied in the words of a poet who said, “Be yourself beautiful, and you will find the world full of beauty.”

Her husband, contrary to the caricature of the vindictive, hateful, enraged Muslim, mentioned how the family did not wish her martyrdom be treated as a hate crime, because he did not want her death to be a source of agitation in the area’s large Muslim community. He also mentioned that the family would not want the murderer executed, because that would not bring his wife back. His wife was a martyr, her place in Paradise secure—for him that was enough.

His gentle voice was most emphatic when he mentioned that he did not want his wife’s death to be politicized. Rather, he wanted her spirit of love and reconciliation to prevail after her passing as it had during her life. He spoke of his desire that her funeral be a solemn service, where people of all faiths could gather to remind each other just how important it is to work to remove the pernicious stain of racial and religious hatred from this society lest it lead to ever deepening spirals of senseless violence.

As we sat on the floor of their sparsely furnished living room to eat a meal of traditional Afghan food, our gathering was overseen by four walls decorated with only an unframed picture of the Ka’aba, and a tapestry with Ayatu Kursi, the Qur’anic Verse of the Throne (2:255), printed on it. Husband, brothers, and cousins gathered around to tell me more about just who Alia Ansari was. They spoke proudly of a deeply religious individual who embodied the true spirit of the “Ansar,” the Helpers. The original Ansar were those Muslims in Medina who welcomed into their city and homes the faithful believers who had migrated from Mecca, fleeing the persecution of that city’s population. The Qur’an mentions the spirit the Ansar exhibited in the following terms:

As for those who had previously established homes [in Medina], having adopted the faith; they show their love and affection to those who migrated to them [seeking refuge]. You will not find their hearts harboring any desire for that given to those migrants; rather they give preference to them over themselves, even though they are themselves afflicted with grinding poverty. (59:9)

Alia was indeed a helper. In addition to her tireless and faithful service to her immediate family, she was constantly helping relatives and neighbors, many of whom themselves had recently migrated to this country from their native Afghanistan. Her brother, Humayun, remarked that she did the work of six people and never complained. A typical day might find her preparing meals for the family, dropping the children to school, taking a neighbor shopping, shuttling a newly-arrived relative to the immigration department, watching a neighbor’s child, nursing a sick relative, or numerous other tasks demanding the sacrifice of her time and energy.

Although never formally educated in Islam, she was a deeply devout and spiritual individual. Her husband noted that she never missed a prayer. He quietly added that she would stand for voluntary prayer every night until she wept beseeching God to save her daughters from the ravages of the lewd, violent, promiscuous youth culture of this country. Her deep spirituality is illustrated by the following incident. A few days before her demise, she told her husband that she had seen her deceased grandfather, an individual well known for his righteousness, in a dream. The learned sage indicated that the end of her worldly struggles was near, and a resting place in Paradise would soon be hers.

As a pious Muslim woman, she never left home without her hijab, the traditional head scarf worn by Muslim women. She was proud of her hijab. In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001, some of her friends and relatives, afraid of reprisal attacks, took off their hijabs. Alia encouraged them not to compromise their religion, especially when they had nothing to do with those crimes. As for herself, she told them that she would never take off her hijab, even if someone put a gun to her head demanding that she do so. Alia said that her hijab was her flag. She could not have known as she began the fateful walk to her children’s school last Thursday that her path would cross that of a lone gunman who in a single act of mindless violence would bring a close to a life of dedication and service. She could not have known that her grandfather’s words were so close to fulfillment. She could not have known that she would soon die defending her flag.

Among the believers are those who have been true to their covenant to God. Among them are those who have given their lives, others patiently wait their turn, having never weakened in their resolve. (33:23)Imam Zaid Shakir
Zaytuna Institute
10/25/06

The author requests that you share this article with non-Muslim friends and neighbors.

Dr. Joel Ibrahim Kreps, new book ‘Snakes and Ladders,Aphorisms for Modern Living’

June 14, 2006

Dr. Joel Ibrahim Kreps
Is a psychiatrist in private practice. He has previously taught psychiatry at McGill University's Faculty of Medicine. At the time his particular interests were in Integrative
Psychotherapy (synthesizing the various therapeutic modalities into a common framework) and the Negative Effects of Psychotherapy- a controversial subject even nowadays. Ultimately he left the institutional setting finding it stifling to his own process of discovery.

As well Dr. Joel Kreps has been on the spiritual path for 30 years- beginning with Buddhism but soon after finding his way to Islamic Mysticism(Sufism). He has nevertheless maintained an interest and respect for other spiritual paths including those of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Sikhism. The issue of comparative religion (the place of the different religious practices within the life of man) has remained for him a continuous preoccupation which is evident in much of his writing

December 11 Achievement

Anything of a serious nature that we would like to accomplish in life will
involve overcoming four obstacles

1) fear-there will be multiple sorts of fears-fear of failure,fear of negative
consequences,fear of harm to self or others,fear of poverty and fear of pain
amongst others

2)fatigue-a considerable effort will be necessary which will involve fatigue.
Imagine the Olympic athlete who trains in the early morning and late
afternoon,imagine the soft-ware programmer who has to go through the
night to meet a deadline,imagine the businessman who needs to work seven
days a week in the early days of operations

3)opposition-Any valuable project will meet with opposition. The family of the
artist will warn him that he won't be able to earn his living,the spouse and
children of the new businessperson will tell him to get a regular job as they
need a steady income,and the friends of the aspiring medical student will tell
him/her that it's too hard to get in

4)doubt-there are usually many reasons to doubt the success of the project
and to doubt one's own capacity to realize it.

December 18 Religion and Spirituality

Religion is about developing our love for God.
Spirituality is about realizing God's love for his creation.ich is evident in much of his writing.

Imam Siraj Wahhaj

May 25, 2006

Over twenty five years ago, a dynamic generation of African-American Azhar graduates came back home all ready to inspire the Muslims in North America with the richness of knowledge that they had gained. They were the first Americans to go overseas in pursuit of sacred knowledge, and the last echelon to have had the unique privilege to study with the late, eminent scholar of our era, Dr. Suleiman Dunya (1407/1987). When they returned home, and as direly as the community needed them, the masses did not have the lexicon to understand their noble message—nearly two decades before any American pontiff started talking about a “sacred tradition.” However, none could have had any success without fifteen years of Imam Siraj Wahhaj going around the MYNA camps, igniting the imagination of young people, creating a yearning in their hearts for something more, preparing the soil for the seeds of blessed scholarship that would change their lives.
        Long before “traditional” sacred sciences captured the imagination of a generation, imam Siraj was inspiring people to know themselves through the profound simplicity of Islam.

        Few—(if any)—servants of sacred knowledge have the right to be called 'imam' in our day. Siraj Wahhaj is an imam in charity; an imam of bridge building between people; an imam in the way that he is a visionary; in the way that. FROM SAKEENA
http://www.sakeenah.org/celebrate2.shtml

Marmaduke Pickthall

May 9, 2006

 The translation duly appeared, in 1930, and was hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as ‘a great literary achievement.’ Avoiding both the Jacobean archaisms of Sale, and the baroque flourishes and expansions of Yusuf Ali (whose translation Pickthall regarded as too free), it was recognised as the best translation ever of the Book, and, indeed, as a monument in the history of translation. Unusually for a translation, it was further translated into several other languages, including Tagalog, Turkish and Portuguese.
In 1935 Pickthall left Hyderabad.

In 1935 Pickthall left Hyderabad. His school was flourishing, and he had forever to deny that he was the Fielding of E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India. (He knew Forster well, and the charge may not be without foundation.) He handed over Islamic Culture to the new editor, the Galician convert Muhammad Asad. He then returned to England, where he set up a new society for Islamic work, and delivered a series of lectures.
Despite this new activity, however, his health was failing, and he must have felt as Winstanley felt:

‘And here I end, having put my arm as far as my strength will go to advance righteousness.  I have writ, I have acted, I have peace: and now I must wait to see the Spirit do his own work in the hearts of others and whether England shall be the first land, or some other, wherein truth shall sit down in triumph.’ (Gerrard Winstanley, A New Year’s Gift for the Parliament and Army, 1650.)

He died in a cottage in the West Country on May 19 1936, of coronary thrombosis, and was laid to rest in the Muslim cemetery at Brookwood. After his death, his wife cleared his desk, where he had been revising his Madras lectures the night before he died, and she found that the last lines he had written were from the Qur’an:

‘Whosoever surrendereth his purpose to Allah, while doing good, his reward is with his Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.’

Marmaduke Pickthall; a brief biography, by Abd al Hakim Murad

From Sufis of Andalusia, by Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi

May 1, 2006

Beshara Publications
Extracts
Al-'Uryani, Abu Ya'qub, and Nunah Fatimah
From Sufis of Andalusia, by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi

He was staunch in the religion of God and in all things blameless. Whenever I went to see him he would greet me with the words, 'Welcome to a filial son, [12] for all my children have betrayed me and spurned by blessings [13] except you who have always acknowledged and recognized them; God will not forget that.'

55: Nunah Fatimah Bint Ibn Al-Muthanna

She lived at Seville. When I met her she was in her nineties and only ate the scraps left by people at their doors. Although she was so old and ate so little, I was almost ashamed to look at her face when I sat with her, it was so rosy and soft. Her own special chapter of the Qur'an was 'The Opening'. She once said to me, "I was given The Opening and I can wield its power in any matter I wish."

I, together with two of my companions, built a hut of reeds for her to live in. She used to say, "Of those who come to see me, I admire none more than Ibn al-'Arabi." On being asked the reason for this she replied, "The rest of you come to me with part of yourselves, leaving the other part of you occupied with your other concerns, while Ibn al-'Arabi is a consolation to me, for he comes to me with all of himself. When he rises up it is with all of himself and when he sits it is with his whole self, leaving nothing of himself elsewhere. That is how it should be on the Way."

Although God offered to her His Kingdom, she refused, saying, "You are all, all else is inauspicious for me." Her devotion to God was profound. Looking at her in a purely superficial way one might have thought she was a simpleton, to which she would have replied that he who knows not his Lord is the real simpleton. She was indeed a mercy to the world

disclaimer: Perennial philosophy is not where we stand, hence the else of the website is disgarded by us. the only excellent book by them is The Sufis of Andalusia,