Category Archives: Islam

My Ultimate Feminine Makeover

I had a transformative makeover that left me feeling totally renewed and poised. It all started when I received a gift some time ago. It was wrapped up really well. I unwrapped it carefully, layer by layer. To my surprise, it was Islam. Feeling compelled, I slipped it on. At first I was kind of awkward, timid to step outside in it. I loved it, but what would people say? What would they think?
After a while, it became part of me. I found it comfortable and beautiful. It taught me that I had been crafted, designed, thoughtfully developed — to be me. A female. This Islam increasingly strengthened and empowered me. My femininity — Islam helped me embrace it wholeheartedly. Confidence replaced self-doubt; it ran through me, ultimately emanating and radiating from within. For the first time, I became proud to be a woman.
 BEFORE THE MAKEOVER
Growing Up Female
For many girls, discovering how overarching, pervasive and fetishized the concept of beauty is in our culture comes as a rude awakening. My understanding of what I was supposed to become, was formed in part via movies, shows, magazines, music, and probably the over-sexualized Barbie dolls I used to play with.
I remember pre-teen trips to the mall with my friends. Gazing in awe at models and mannequins, I surmised how I was “supposed to look.” Weighed down with self-consciousness I, like too many other females, agonized over my appearance and behavior. The pressure overshadowed and really destroyed what could have been many enriching experiences.
The Tomboy Solution
Sometimes, it was just easier to be boyish. To hang out with boys, to wear the loose t-shirts they wore, to be rough and grungy. It was a relief to be away from the competition and feeling of inadequacy amongst my girlfriends. I felt freer; it was a reprieve from the intense expectations I had been facing. But, that abandon was not to last.
Puberty Rained on my Parade
As puberty arrived, even the boys became a problem. They began to sense female sexuality and it was no longer possible to be one of them. Rude comments and discomforting observations made being a girl more tormenting than ever. As boys began desiring girls, additional pressure was applied on us, to have a great body, to be popular, to be the top-pick, to be “hot.”
We witnessed our bodies’ changing, dismayed to find that they weren’t developing into material for the cover of a magazine. Looking into a mirror while pinching away body parts that “shouldn’t” be there is a sad part of growing up female these days.
So much time is wasted wishing to be different, which leads to the constant feeling of failure. Failure we have absolutely no control over, because we didn’t choose the shapes of our noses or the structure of our hips. Many girls teeter on the brink of self-destruction because of the imposition of impractical, artificial standards.
Full Grown and Out in the Real World
I eventually quietly rebelled against society’s demands of me. I became artsy, audacious and gained a certain self-confidence by choosing to be different. I started taking fashion classes at Manhattan’s FIT during high school. I had freed myself from the bondage of cultural expectations, but I discovered a new reality when I began commuting independently to the city.
What I found is described accurately in an article published on upworthy.com a while back. The author detailed what so many women experience on a daily basis. How we are forced to attempt to deescalate and brush off situations that, upon closer examination, are clearly unacceptable. She describes this as the “reality of being a woman” in our world:
We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man, or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to.
We are sexualized before we even understand what that means. We get stares and comments before we can even drive. From adult men. We feel uncomfortable but don’t know what to do, so we go about our lives. – Gretchen Kelly*
That article went totally viral when it was posted; it’s still circulating more than a year later. The reason being that it resonates deeply with women. It exposes a reality most women conceal.
Artificial Respect
Judging by all the discussions on sexism and gender equality, you may be led to believe that women are in fact respected and treated equally nowadays. Unfortunately, we haven’t come as far as we like to believe.
I think it’s a mistake to confuse the word equal with the same — when in fact men and women are different and our differences should be respected. Females are under impossible pressure to reach unattainable standards of beauty — and meanwhile, men are shamed for being attracted to women. This contradictory messaging about sexuality has unsavory ramifications.
A Dangerous Reality
The American National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) reports that 1 out of 5 American women will be raped in their lifetime, and 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. In 2008 the Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported huge increases in incidences of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault over a two-year period. Not to mention the epidemic of pornography addiction, which devastates far too many families.
These statistics indicate that we are headed in the wrong direction; our attempt at gender equality is looking like a colossal fiasco. These issues are symptomatic of a much deeper problem. I believe, due in part to the unnatural defining of men and women, and the denial of our innate sexuality. Removing the healthy channeling of that sexuality is resulting in a hazardous imbalance.
THE MAKEOVER
So Where Does Islam Come In?
I can’t ignore the very real fact that even modern Muslim societies have problems when it comes to sexism, abuse and varying degrees of all the issues I have mentioned above. They need to be addressed just as much as our failings in the West.
But, my makeover didn’t have anything to do with Muslims, it was directly related to actual Islam. The transformation I have undergone was internal and external, spiritual and physical.
From Within
The most important change occurred within. Islam changed my own attitude towards femininity — towards myself. Honestly, before Islam, I subconsciously devalued females. I guess that’s why I felt the urge to assert my value by demonstrating that I was on equal footing with men.
Enter Islam: Islam taught me that we women have been created intentionally; that men and women are of equal value; we’ve been created differently so as to complement one another. God is concerned with women’s deeds and devotion no less than with men’s. God said:
I never fail to reward any worker among you for any work you do, be you male or female, you are equal to one another. [Sûrat Âl ¢Imrân, 3:195]
To add emphasis and ensure that there’s no ambiguity on this, the Quran sometimes states the same thing twice — once for men, once for women — such as in Sûrat Al-Aḥzâb, 33:35, reassuring us: Devoted men, and devoted women. See also 4:124; 16:97; 33:35; 40:40; 49:13.
Internal Changes Led to External Ones
So, there I was with this new realization – this affirmation – that I was imbued with worth the moment I was created. My femininity itself is valuable. Furthermore, if I do good, my Lord appreciates it more than any mortal ever could.
The characteristics that differentiate women from men – those are the things that make us special, and through which we contribute to the world in ways no man can. This newfound self-esteem naturally led to external changes. I craved to dress more modestly.
The guidelines in Islam for gender relations were enlightening. They protect people, especially women, from all of those undesirable situations described in Gretchen Kelly’s UpWorthy piece. In Islam, God has already given us precautions to take so as to protect ourselves from living that way — we do not have to live “the reality of being a woman.” We can live with dignity and respect.

Makeover Complete

Islam gave me self-confidence and poise by teaching me to value myself as a female. I changed the way I dressed to reflect my new state of being: a woman devoted to God — like Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I changed the way I interact with the opposite sex. I now have control over my body: who can see it — who can touch me. I’m off-limits. My presence is a privilege.

This makeover powerfully switched my focus away from how people perceive beauty, or sexuality, and instead towards more meaningful endeavors and accomplishments. I’m free now from the shame that was once a part of being a female, and I love it. No more hours in front of the mirror wishing away “flaws”; instead, I see through them. When I look in the mirror I see me. And thank God, I finally love what I see.
————————
* http://www.upworthy.com/this-is-how-a-lifetime-of-potentially-dangerous-situations-affects-every-woman1 and https://driftingthrough.com/2015/11/20/the-thing-all-women-do-that-you-dont-know-about/

Originally published by Al-Jumuah magazine: 

http://aljumuah.com/islam-the-ultimate-feminine-makeover/

Video: Why I Admire Prophet Muhammad – A Response to Islamophobes

Dr. Craig Considine

The following lecture, which I broadcasted first on Periscope, is based on my article, Why I Admire Muhammad: A Response to Islamophobes. Islamophobes have attacked me because I’ve written positively about Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam. Because I am a Catholic, they consider me to be a heretic and feel that my interfaith activities are sacrilegious. Islam, to these critics, is evil and Muhammad is nothing but a terrorist. I see Muhammad very differently from these fanatics. This short piece highlights his exemplary character and challenges Islamophobes to think differently about the Prophet.

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On The Topic of Love

 Love probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Islam, or when you think about Muslims.

Still, Islam  presents a very familiar and beautiful concept of love, particularly in the context of marriage.

Love and Marriage

Marriage is a sacred contract between a man and woman, taking them from being disparate individuals and uniting them as family. Marriage is a promise and an exclusive permission for the most private kind of intimacy. In Islam, family is the foundation of all society and so the protection and sanctity of marriage are considered paramount.

Although Muslims avoid situations that can lead to undesirable attraction and intimacy outside the marriage bond, it is acknowledged that individuals may unwittingly fall in love. The prophet Muhammad said,

“There is nothing better for those who love one another than marriage.” (Recorded in Ibn Maajah)

And so we learn that, to build on love and enjoy it in the best way,  marriage provides the ideal consecrated fortress for love to flourish.

The Intimates Department

Husband and wife are literally described as garments for one another in the Quran. Regarding the spouses, it reads:

“They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” (Quran 2:187)

This description symbolizes the romantic closeness between husband and wife. Clothing is the nearest thing to you, it envelopes, protects, comforts and even beautifies. In a simple sentence the Quran expresses the intended beauty of marriage and sexuality in Islam.

Pay special attention to the following verse from the Quran:

“And of His signs is that He created for you, from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for an people who give thought. ” (Quran 30:21)

Who does not hope for tranquility, love and mercy in their marriage?  Obviously we are meant to view our marriages in this way and prevent them from descending into turmoil or from losing that spark of love and affection.

“You complete me.”

Remember Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire?

 

youcomplete me.jpg

 

How many hearts melted when he said those words? I think it is fair to say that almost any woman on earth would absolutely love to be told by her beau that he is not complete without her. It goes even deeper than having a companion to love in life. In Islam we believe that men and women were initially created from one soul, thus one is forever longing for its other half. Think: soulmates. The Quran says:

“It is He (God) who created you from one soul and created from it, its mate that he might dwell in security (peace, comfort, love) with her.” (Quran 7:189)

The important bond of marriage is also considered half of religion, because the prophet Muhammad described it in this way. The Muslim spouses are partners, helping each other, side by side, hand in hand. Finding pleasure in one another and acting as allies, helping each other stay focussed and determined in seeking God’s favor. They wake each other up for prayers and encourage each other to do good.

 

Examples to Live By

Much of what we learn in Islam regarding how to conduct our own lives, comes from lessons provided through the examples of others. The Quran is chock full of  examples of admirable character and  conduct. From prophets Noah, Abraham, Joseph, to Jesus and many in between, we learn deep life lessons and find solace and inspiration. The life of Muhammad is  meticulously recorded in volumes of hadith. This allows us to observe the way he implemented the divine guidance he received.

We learn quite a bit about love from Muhammad’s life.  He accepted the marriage proposal of his first wife, Khadijah while he was a young man. She was older than him and a widow. He loved and cared for her deeply. She was his rock, supporting him through the most difficult times of his life after he became a prophet. She was the first one Muslim. 

The year she passed away has been forever named “the year of sadness”. They were married for a quarter of a century and long after her passing he recalled her fondly and longingly. Aisha, whom he married years after the death of Khadijah is reported to have said that she was never jealous of anyone as she was jealous of Khadijah, even though she was no longer living.

A great example of marriage in the Quran is that of the prophet Zakaria and his wife. The Quran tells us that until they reached old age, they had not had any children. Zakaria deeply desired a child. 

It’s subtle, but I think it sweet that he “cried to His Lord in secret” (Quran 19:3)  praying for a child. He did not burden his wife, but  protected his wife from the suffering she may experience if he had complained to her. They must have been an extraordinarily special couple; their prayer was granted with the birth of John. 

They are described as always rushing to do good:

 

“Indeed, they used to race to do good deeds and supplicate to Us (God) in hope and fear, they used to call on (God) with love and reverence, and humble themselves before (God).” (Quran 21:90)

 

From Zakaria and his wife we learn one of the best parts of marriage is helping one another to do good, supporting and encouraging each other to be our absolute best.

21st Century Love

With all the great advice and endearing examples provided in Islam, Muslims have the tools to potentially enjoy ideal love and marriage bliss.

“You may now kiss the bride!” Many of the couples who get married today have already had their first kiss, but for Muslims the wedding day is literally the first time they touch.

The majority of Muslims continue to remain virgins until marriage in spite of the overwhelming social pressure from society and media, from TV to Subway billboards. Saving themselves for their soulmate and life partner.

Though this is not always the case, and divorce rates are increasing in the Muslim population as they are generally across the board, still many Muslim couples today have long-lasting, loving marriages.  I believe the more Muslims stick to the teachings of Islam, the more happy marriages will be enjoyed.

Despite the various images of Islam floating around, there is no doubt that Islam includes the notion of Love and provides the basis for a loving, romantic relationship and family foundation.

I want to end with this picture from my friend Sahar’s wedding day. I love looking at it. It’s so delicate and a the same time sensuous. For me, it really embodies they way I see marriage in Islam.

They’ve been together a long time now, with six grown children. They are a family of various talents and accomplishments. The story of their family began on that day:

saharwedding1
Shahid and Sahar Abdulaziz

Whatever your faith, I hope you can experience a love like the love described in Islam: A partnership  full of mercy; tranquil, comforting and sweet.

The Final Deadline: A Tool For Success

Do you work better under pressure? Do you procrastinate and at the final hour suddenly give it your all?

In Islam, the inclination of human beings to procrastinate has been accounted for and we’ve been given tools to help prevent us from waiting to the last minute to truly live with purpose.

We’ve been taught to remember the thing that effectively destroys all the attractions of life on earth and puts priorities into perspective: death.

It can come at any moment, therefore we are technically perpetually in that potential final hour.

If we remain aware that this could very well be our last day, our last meal, our last conversation, we could be propelled to weigh our words and actions more thoughtfully.

We will be less inclined to hold on to material things and put more importance on lasting things, like treating others well and giving gratitude to the source of all we have, whether rich, poor, well or sick, etc.

So although death may seem like a taboo topic, a downer, a negative subject worthy of avoidance, Muslims actually welcome it as a subject of thought and even discussion.

Knowing our deadline may be around the corner encourages us not to waste time or live oblivious to our purpose.

When we think of death, it is a motivator. Motivating us to do more good, both in our private spiritual lives as well as with our families and communities. It also causes us to fear doing wrong, because we would hate to face our Maker with wrongdoing on our account, especially as our last deed.

If you were to remember death more often, do you think it would also motivate you to strive to be a better person?

The Male Is Not Like the Female

Muslim women who are scientists, doctors, engineers, police officers, firefighters, American soldiers, lawyers and even Judges,  exemplify the diversity of Muslim women in the world.

These examples demonstrate the fact that Muslim women can – and do – follow their dreams and strive for achievements outside the home. Such pursuits undertaken by modern Muslim women are not foreign or new. In the time of the prophet Muhammad, Muslim women assumed many roles; they were entrepreneurs, scholars, poets and more.

But, part of the beauty of Islam is the way women are valued. Our worth does not stem from what we accomplish in terms of careers, or how we stack up against men –  rather our femininity itself is valued and we elevate ourselves via piety.

In our modern society, women who are”housewives” or “stay at home moms”  often feel a sense of inadequacy. No doubt when asked the question, “What do you do?” they often answer with dread, and are met with awkwardly incredulous, blank stares. The questioner often is not sure if they should express sympathy for the homemaker or provide encouragement that they can be so much more.

Muslim women however, have no reason to feel deficient. We’ve been created female and don’t need to try to be like men to prove anything! In Islam, a “housewife” is not considered inadequate, instead her inherent value is acknowledged and appreciated.

In Islam, it’s made clear that it is no accident that humans come in two forms. Although distinct, males and females are equal in the sight of God as He explained in several places throughout the Quran. For example:

“Never will I allow the work of [any] worker among you to be lost, whether male or female; you are of one another.” (Quran 3:195)
In nature, we see creatures in pairs, from plants to animals.  Reproduction of most species occurs via two mates. Human beings have also been made in pairs, like halves that complete a whole. This completion is possible, due to the differences between the male and female.

Men and women are complimentary, physiologically and functionally.

While one might argue that men have certain advantages over females, and much of the last century (take a look at the feminist movement) has been in large part about proving women can do whatever men can do – the fact remains that women are the ones who can do what men cannot.

I personally don’t understand how this has been overlooked. The female’s unique qualities have been all but utterly disdained by feminists who often forsake marriage and motherhood in favor of corporate advancement, for example.

In Islam, due to the special, divinely endowed nature of women, special status is afforded to females. Take a look at one example from the Quran:

“O mankind! Reverence your Lord, who created you from a single person – created, of like nature, its mate, and from them both, dispersed many men and women;- reverence God, through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for God ever watches over you.” (Quran 4:1)
It is made clear here that men and women are of like nature, but women are singled out in this verse for reverence. This is because it is through women both males and females come into the world.

When Mary, the mother of Jesus was born, God said regarding her:

“The female is not like the male.”(Quran 3:36)

Because, Jesus the messiah , one of God’s chosen messengers was to be developed in her womb, born through her labor and pain, raised in her enveloping care, and fostered with her wisdom and piety – all without any male intervention or contribution.

God could have informed us about Jesus without mentioning his mother, but instead, an entire chapter is named after her (chapter 19). She was not merely a vessel for delivery of the Messiah. Her lofty character was a critical part of the birth and development of Jesus Christ.

We see the importance of motherhood in this and many other examples from the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. A mother is not deficient if she is primarily a mother, wife and daughter. In Islam she is continuously revered.

The prophet Muhammad said that mothers are most deserving of their grown children’s companionship. Even caring for her in her old age is an honor, rather than a burden.

Mothers lovingly struggle  to bring generations into the world. Mothers nourish and nurse future leaders, inventors, heros. Mothers comfort, reassure and support the best of humanity. Mothers are the backbone of the human race.

But women are not only valued as mothers.

Islam honors women as daughters and affords great status to parents who raise their daughters well.

Women are also highly regarded for being wives. Spouses are described in the Quran as garments for one another. (Quran 2:187) This description represents the closeness, protection, intimacy, shielding and adornment spouses provide one another. No one feels complete without his or her clothing. Husbands and wives fulfill each other’s vital needs and provide a sense of wholeness and satisfaction that is difficult to attain in any other way. Marriage is described in the Quran as follows:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Quran 30:21)

 

In my life, it was Islam that enabled me to truly appreciate being a female, and it brought out my femininity in many ways.

I love knowing now that I am meant to be a woman. That my Maker does not discriminate between men and women. That I have equal opportunity to achieve success, and that I am not held to standards I am not made for.

I don’t feel pressured to prove my worth to anyone. I don’t feel inadequate or inferior. And I will strive to endow my daughters with this knowledge, appreciation and sense of worth, so they can grow up confident and comfortable in their own skin.

 

Kill Them Wherever You Find Them?

A few years back, my house was invaded by flying ants. I would find them crawling near my kitchen window. Sometimes I would see them fall down out of the air – weak.

One had fallen into a cup of water, writhing.

Ants are small, but they run away from danger. They find their way out of difficult situations. They help each other.

They’re alive and they clearly have a will to live.

I preferred to remove them and place them outside. If I saw them struggling, near death, I resorted on a few occasions to ending it quickly for them – in order to remove the suffering.

For me, killing an ant is a moment of agony. You can see it on my face. It’s hard to take the life even of a small insect.

In Islam, we’ve been permitted to remove pests that may be harmful to us or our homes, even if it means exterminating them; but the appreciation and respect for life we are instilled with by the Quran and the example of the last prophet, Muhammad, make it difficult to do that.

In Islam, we’ve been permitted to eat meat- to kill a living being in order to provide nutrition for our bodies, sustenance for our lives. We’ve been given that permission by the one who gave them life, but there are very strict guidelines on how to do it.

The animal is to be given consideration. It should be treated well, with care. It should never be frightened by witnessing the slaughter of another animal, or even by seeing the blade being sharpened. The blade must be extremely sharp so that the animal doesn’t feel it.

Then, we have to say “Bismillah” – In the name of God.

Because taking a life is no small thing.

So, imagine: Muslims have been instructed to respect life, the lives of animals – even insects.

How could it be possible that human life is easy to destroy? How could it be okay to just kill people?

There are verses in the Quran. Some people love to pull them out and present them all by themselves. Here’s one of them:

“And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give charity, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful.” (Quran 9:5)

It’s clear why this verse arouses discomfort and distaste.

Bear with me…

Islam provides guidance for virtually all aspects of life- including war, which is an unfortunate reality that is not going to vanish any time soon.

War is not encouraged in Islam, but it is permitted where there is untenable oppression, or for self-preservation of an established, valid Muslim state.

Violence is not permitted for individuals or rogue or vigilante paramilitary organizations. Only in the context of justifiable war executed by a viable government or ruler.

What would you expect your country to do if it is attacked or threatened?

Or better yet, what does your country do when it is attacked or threatened? If you are an American like me, our country is at war – i.e. killing people – right now.

But, war in Islam has it’s own stringent guidelines and restrictions. All of the guidelines focus on accomplishing what is necessary in the most merciful way. Always with respect for life, fear and reverence for the One Who created life, as well as with methods that reduce damage and unnecessary harm.

In a legitimate war, only combatants are to be fought. Women, children, the elderly, Priests, Rabbis, Monks and even trees are forbidden from being harmed.

Yes, I said trees.

Muslims may not cut down trees or damage structures during combat. Muslims may not slaughter the enemy’s animals except if necessary for food.  All unwarranted damage is forbidden. 

The verse I quoted above, was revealed in a particular context of a specific war that occurred at the time the Quran was being revealed. That is the case with all of the Quranic verses sanctioning or mentioning fighting.

The Muslims at that time had been suffering years of persecution and oppression at the hands of the Quraysh – for nothing more than believing in One God. The fact that Muhammad’s followers were increasing had caused anger amongst the polytheistic culture and the establishment who profited from idolatry. This inevitably induced the powerful Quraysh tribe to inflict harsh punishments, torture and humiliation on Muhammad and his followers.

The persecuted Muslims ultimately migrated in order to escape the persecution and were invited to a place called Yathrib, which then became Medina, the new Muslim state. As the leader of this new nation, Muhammad established treaties with neighboring tribes. Some of those tribes who entered into treaties with the new Muslim nation later betrayed their treaties and committed acts of aggression.

This verse was permitting retaliation against those idolaters who had committed acts of betrayal and violence and who violated the treaties. If it had meant that Muslims should kill non-Muslims in any context wherever we find them, then the verse which follows the previous verse would be rather peculiar:

“If any of the polytheists seeks asylum from you, grant him asylum until he hears the Word of God. Then convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.” (Quran 9:6)

This is still in the context of war. The one seeking asylum is not a Muslim, but a polytheistThey are to be granted safety and even escorted by Muslim fighters to a place of safety where they will not be harmed by either side.

If the previous verse had generally meant to kill all disbelievers wherever you find them, there would be no verse commanding Muslim fighters to escort disbelieving soldiers from their enemy during a war, to a place of safety.

And there is this:

“Fight in the way of God those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed, God does not like transgressors.” (Quran 2:190)

Here it is made clear that permission is being given to fight those who attack. This permission was necessary, because prior to this allowance, retaliation had not been permitted and the Muslims had passively and patiently endured unspeakable torture and oppression for more than ten years.

It is important to note that the word used for fighting in the Quran is not “jihad”, but “Qital” in Arabic and in the entire Quran there is no mention whatsoever of “holy” war. 

In the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad, the ones who accepted Islam and followed him had found the greatest source of peace and happiness. They were most willing to endure the oppression of their people and to struggle to share the beauty of Islam with others, in spite of all the difficulties and rejection. Their souls had found peace and satisfaction, like I have, and like so many millions have in Islam, and when the permission to fight in self-defense was given, many of them were shocked and somewhat disappointed.

This was due to the realization that they could no longer bask in the beauty and tranquility of their faith, they would have to instead struggle, strive and even fight to defend its existence.  The threat against them was in fact, an existential one. If they had not fought against the powers threatening them, Islam could have vanished altogether.

Regarding this, the following verse was revealed:

“Fighting has been enjoined upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And God Knows, while you know not.” (Quran 2:216)

This verse is important to me because I see it as a metric. It tells us that the natural disposition of a believer, of a Muslim, is not one that inclines towards violence. Rather, the Muslim, finds war and violence hateful. This example is enough for us to realize that there is something remarkably wrong and tremendously un-Islamic about the bloodthirsty, merciless extremists we see today, though they pretentiously claim validity via Islam.

Furthermore, the reasons for fighting have been explained in greater detail via the Quran. Above, we saw that fighting was sanctioned against those who commit aggression (fight those who fight you). The following verse embellishes the reason war is sometimes necessary:

“[They are] those who have been evicted from their homes without right – only because they say, “Our Lord is the one God.” And were it not that God checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of God is much mentioned. And God will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, God is Powerful and Exalted in Might.” (Quran 22:40)

If people are oppressed such that they cannot live in peace, when they are driven from their homes unjustly because of their faith in the One God, then there is justification for war under the right circumstances. And it is mentioned here that if God had not checked some people by means of others, many places of worship would have been destroyed. In other words, the right of worship would have been at risk.

The order of words in the Quran is significant. Please take notice of the order of the places of worship referred to. Before Mosques were mentioned, Monasteries, Churches and Synagogues are put forward. This indicates that war is required to protect the right of people to worship when there is oppression and an existential threat.

Perhaps most importantly in understanding war in Islam – in the context of war, if the aggressor – the enemy inclines to peace, the Muslim nation is REQUIRED to also incline to peace:

“And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing.” (Quran 8:61)

This means that if Idolatrous Country A attacks Muslim Country B, Country B may fight back, without transgressing the stringent rules of war in Islam. If Country A wants a ceasefire and to make peace, the Muslim country B is categorically forbidden from continuing hostilities. Country B is required to come to the table and make peace, no matter what atrocities had been committed by the Idolatrous Country A.

Islam imbues in its followers respect and reverence for all life. It is God who gives life and takes it away. We are allowed by the giver of life, in certain instances to take life, such as when it is necessary to remove insects from our homes, or to slaughter an animal for food without going to excesses.

Above all plant, animal and insect life, human life is more sacred. The Quran tells us of God’s established law of old,

“…Whoever kills a soul, unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely. And Our messengers had certainly come to them with clear proofs. Then indeed many of them, [even] after that, throughout the land, were transgressors.” (Quran 5:32)

This verse expresses the magnitude of murder. Killing one innocent soul is like killing all of humanity. There are so many more examples to give, so many ways in which Islam honors life. The instances in which taking the life of a human being is sanctioned are very few and subject to strict criteria. Harm is to be minimized in all matters.

Violence by individuals is not permitted (except appropriate self defense) nor by vigilante groups that declare themselves a state out of nowhere. It is forbidden to kill innocent men women and children. Even during legitimate war, harming them is to be avoided. In a true Islamic war of self-preservation, drones would not be dropping bombs on innocent civilians.

Islam does not make people violent. It does not encourage people to hate. It is not scary and terrorism has no relationship to Islam.

The people who commit crimes and try to cover them with the blanket of Islam will indeed find justice. Meanwhile, we the people must strive against the tyranny of their lies and refuse to let liars dictate our actions.

We must look deeper and more critically into all current geopolitical issues and into history, which can inform our understanding of much of what is happening today. We must also remember the countless other deranged groups and people who have, and continue to commit crimes against humanity of the worst kind from many different ethnicities – with and without religion as a factor. They include Christians, Jews, Atheists and even Buddhists (such as in contemporary Myanmar). Radical, violent extremists exist across cultures.

Everyone on this planet can do better by having a copy of the Quran and reading it several times at least for a decent grasp of what it says. I recommend suspending judgment on all matters, until sufficient information from many angles has been ascertained and considered.

Remember when you read, that it is meant as guidance for all times and places, but the context in which each verse was initially revealed adds additional understanding about its implementation. So, although verses were revealed dealing with specific wars for example, the guidance is applicable in future wars. But, the original context provides details about the conditions and the reasons and methods for implementation.

May God grant us understanding and remove from us our unwillingness to see. Ameen.

Walking With Diamonds

My family and I, we don’t have to be subjected to the reactive anti Muslim hatred boiling up.

I could easily take off my scarf and blend right in. My husband could easily shave his beard and go unnoticed.

But we don’t. And, by God’s Mercy, we never will.

We stand tall and walk with confidence. The way you would if you knew you had the earth’s largest diamond, or the next world changing invention, or a bank account with a few billion dollars.

Because, the Islam we’ve been given is better than every last bit of good the world has to offer all together.

It’s why we are here… And this struggle?

People before us went through worse.

When you see us I want you to wonder… Wonder and ask yourself what is so good about Islam that we stand up tall with confidence and a smile, even when the whole world seems to be against us.

Why My Halloween is Different.

My goal is to present the familiarity of Islam to my fellow Americans, but some instances require highlighting differences.

In Islam, we are taught to think and to research. We are told to make our decisions based on careful consideration, and to always seek the best path in all matters.

The people we should aspire to be are the ones mentioned in the Quran:

“Those who remember God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth…..” (Quran 3:191)

And when we act it should be with knowledge:

“And do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.” (Quran 17:36)

So, when we are presented with a recurring celebration,  such as Halloween, it is a good idea to take a deeper look at it before jumping on the bandwagon.

What I find when I research the origins and history of Halloween*, is that its foundations are not in line with what I am striving for in this life. I don’t see how it will help me get any closer to my Maker, or fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

While one may argue, “it’s just for fun”, “it’s not really based on any meaning anymore, “there’s no harm in it” – For me, those are not strong enough arguments. I could argue back, saying that I am not doing any harm by not celebrating it or partaking in it, either.

Although it may not be practiced with the intentions and meanings it once held, there are still practices which do not fit well with my way of life, such as begging (trick or treat) and making fun of the dead and death (think mummies and ghouls – lawns “adorned” with bloody heads and skeletons).

My children are free to play dress up and eat candy now and then, but they don’t need to on a day that is based on a conglomeration of pagan rituals and superstitions.

In my very sincere opinion, I am deeply saddened for the Muslims in our day, who have departed from the path of thinking and learning and who have embarked upon the path of blindly following others by celebrating Halloween and in many other matters. We have been urged to be careful of whose footsteps we walk in:

“…do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before; who misled many and have strayed from the sound path.” (Quran 5:77)

Islam provides me a sweetness sweeter than a million nights of candy: The sweetness of faith, the sweetness of knowing where we come from, where we are going – The sweetness of following the generous guidance of the Owner of all things and His help. I’m so  grateful for that and I seek God’s protection from ever passing it up for a momentary thrill or to “fit in”.

*You can learn more here: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

World History, Re-Written

Some people are getting very upset over a chapter in a Florida world history book, dedicated to the history of Muslim civilization. Within the chapter, the religion that altered the landscape during that time period, fundamentally changing the social structures, is described in detail.

Some of these people claim they are upset merely because the book does not also teach other religions in such detail, but I suspect the vast majority of them are really upset because, in their minds they have an embedded bias against Islam. 

If you take a look at the contents you will see that there is in fact a section dedicated to the rise of Christianity and also many civilizations that were Christian, such as Byzantium. Below, I highlighted two chapters:

world history textbook contents

I want to allow everyone to test whether or not they have a bias, so I have taken the text from the workbook associated with the textbook, and translated all the Arabic words. I’m not defending the book itself, I actually found certain claims to be incorrect. I have edited those as well. Let me know if you still find this offensive:

The religion of “Surrender to God”, whose followers are called “Those Who Surrender to God”, emerged in a desert central to many continental trade routes. There, in A.D. 570, A man was born, whose name means “praised”. He was born in a trading and religious center. The prevailing religion of that region at the time was the worship of more than 300 idols carved from stone and wood, housed in his city.  

This man worked among nomadic herders. Later, he became a successful merchant and accepted the marriage proposal of the owner of his trade company, a 40 year old, well respected and beautiful woman, when he was 25. He was known for his honesty in business and devotion to his wife and their four daughters. He often meditated on the moral ills of his society, including greed. According to tradition, he became a prophet at 40 when he was asked by an angel to become God’s messenger. When he began teaching, a few listened, but others opposed him with threats and persecution. In 622, he and his followers fled their home for another town who welcomed them, on a journey called the migration. In this new city, thousands adopted “Surrender to God” as their way of life and formed strong, peaceful communities. When the leaders they had fled from, grew more hostile and came to their peaceful city militarily equipped for war, the young city of “Those Who Surrender to God” defeated them in battle. The prophet returned to his home town in 630, and declared forgiveness and freedom for the people who had previously oppressed, tortured him and killed many of his followers. He died in 632. The sacred text of “Surrender to God” is called “the Recitation”, believed to be the direct word of God as told to the prophet. All people who Surrender to God and believe in this prophet study it to learn about God’s will and living a good life.

They believe that priests are not necessary to mediate between people and God. They pray in congregation five times every day. They follow the Five Pillars of Surrender to God, which are the following duties: 1. declaring faith (That there is nothing worthy of worship except God and belief in all God’s prophets such as Noah, Abraham, Jesus and the last one, whose name means “Praised”, 2. praying five times daily, 3. giving charity to the poor, 4. fasting during their holy month, and 5. making the pilgrimage to the prophet’s city where the first house of worship to God was built by Abraham, if a person is able.

Because Jews and Christians worship the same God and study what are considered God’s earlier revelations, “Those Who Surrender to God” call them “People of the Book.” In most cases, they have been allowed religious freedom in societies ruled by “Those Who Surrender to God”.

The “Path to Water” is a body of laws that interprets the Recitation and applies religious principles to legal situations. According to the Recitation, women are spiritually equal to men. Infanticide, which the people previously committed, killing female babies out of shame, was treated as a heinous crime and the prophet taught his followers that the best of them were the ones who treated women best with kindness.

That is the actual text I have edited to reflect the meanings of the Arabic words originally included. Do you think if all the words had been translated in the textbook, or if it had been a different religion that changed the fabric of a region so dramatically, that so many people would be outraged and protesting as they have been when they see the words Islam and Muslims? Let me know what you think.

Take a look at the book for yourself, here: http://www.phschool.com/webcodes10/index.cfm?wcprefix=nak&wcsuffix=9995&area=view

My Husband’s Standard for the Treatment of Women

The owner of the company was a man, maybe in his fifties; white hair, but still youthful. He came over to give us an estimate for some work we need done. He seemed nice enough. He smiled, greeted our children, and appeared to have our best interests in mind.

While we were walking him through the job, his cell phone began ringing.

“Probably my wife.” He said, slightly shaking his head as he silenced the phone.

Within several minutes the phone rang twice more. We assured him we didn’t mind if he answered the call.

“Hello? I’m still on a job estimate.” He paused and listened.

His lips tightened and his voice hardened. “I told you, they’re in the back.” he said, somewhat exasperated.

He wrapped up the call. To me, he had not done anything out of the ordinary. He completed the rest of the estimate kindly and left.

But, as I would learn later, my husband was disturbed by what he witnessed.

In fact, my husband chose another company, in spite of getting the lowest estimate from this man, simply because he didn’t like the way he had spoken to his wife.

My husband grew up in a Muslim family. When he reached college, his interest in Islam and religions intensified. He began studying Islam as well as Christianity and comparative religion. After completing his bachelor’s, he travelled overseas to study Islam and the Arabic language. While away, he benefitted from many scholars of Islam. Upon returning, he has been dedicated to teaching Islam to Muslims, founding several institutions to that end.

His days and nights are usually spent studying, teaching or working for Islam.

He’s also gentle and even tempered.

I often insist on asking him, “Are you mad?” and he always responds, “Do I ever get mad?”

The truth is, my husband implements the teachings of Islam and follows the prophet Muhammad who was asked repeatedly by a man for advice and responded each time simply, “Do not get angry.” (Narrated in Sahih Bukhari)

This is the power of Islam, to overcome even strong emotions such as anger. In fact, as indicated in the advice of the prophet Muhammad above, Islam has the power to prevent those emotions from boiling up in the first place. When it is the guidance for everyday life, the results are beautiful.

I’m so fortunate and grateful to have a companion who is concerned with living in a way pleasing to his Maker, and that my Creator has guided His creation to “Be kind to women.” as explained and emphasised by His last messenger, Muhammad.