THE MUSLIM STUDENT PUBLICATION AT BERKELEY
VOLUME 15: ISSUE 2
>> letter from the editor
copy editors Nina Brown Raneem Taleb-Agha Omar Rehmane layout editor Lameese Eldesouky layout designers Asad Akbany Fayyaz Mukarram Marium Navid Iman Rai
But allow me to explain; I do not say this to shower my staff and board with praise and affection, but rather, to highlight the fact that the articles in this issue exercise what I believe is one of the primary functions of this magazine.
Mustafa Eisa Natalie Irwin Tariq Mela Sajid Nasir
finance manager Aman Sufi external affairs Fatima A. Azam
They perform self-critique. These authors question themselves, the Berkeley community, their home communities, their families and masjids, their professors and advisors, the foundations of consciousness, and the meaning of life. And that is rare. Undoubtedly, we endeavor to self-critique, but it is not an easy task to accomplish. Often, we end up apologetic and compensatory, attempting to pat ourselves on our backs without wondering whether we were ever trying to stand with perfect posture in the first place. Most importantly, this issue critiques accessibility. How can you and I access our spiritual potential? How can we access knowledge? How can we make our community a welcoming space? If we ask ourselves: “Why is our community inaccessibie?” we will discover that an answer to this question is our inability to reflect and ask ourselves how we can be the solutions to our own problems. This is not a simple question nor does it have a simple answer. But we owe it to ourselves, to our communities, and to God, to try. Of course, this issue is not solely a critique. It performs many other functions, but I will leave it to you to decide what it does for you. My only hope is that you too are inspired to question, and even further, to act. Rarely do we call upon ourselves to change and follow through. I am the first to admit that I start every new semester or year with incredible optimism, but by the end, I find myself left with unkept promises and the crippling burden of the “What if?” What if you and I take it upon ourselves to cross those promises – the ones we made to ourselves and to our communities – off our to-do lists? I encourage you to reflect on what you read here, to find us online at www.albayanmag.org, to read our content there and to join the conversation. Tell us how you want to change yourself and your community. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns please feel free to contact us. Finally, I must take a moment to thank you, dear reader, for supporting us. I thank my amazing board and staff, who remind me that there is good in the world, and for giving me the most rewarding publication experience I have had in years. To my Al-Bayan family, thank you. With that, I proudly present to you the Spring issue of Al-Bayan. I ask that you turn the page with an open mind. Asalaamu Alaykum (may peace be upon you),
al-bayan spring 2013
managing editor Marjon Momand
photography editor Sana Saifuddin
Let me tell you a secret: this is my favorite issue of Al-Bayan.
editor-in-chief Sarah Mohamed
web editors Noma Kahf Mariam Sleiman advisors Maliha Ahmed spring contributors Rawan AbuShaban Uzma Amin Huzaifa Ahmad Lameese Eldesouky Maryam Hassan Ali Hussain Hamza Jaka Aafreen Mahmood CONTACT Al-BAYAN email@example.com Visit our website www.albayanmag.org Al-Bayan means “The Clarification” in contemporary Arabic and “Eloquent Speech” in classical Arabic. The goal of this magazine is a convergence of both, to clarify issues pertinent to the Muslim community in the most eloquent of speech. Befitting the dynamic Muslim community in one of the world’s premiere intellectual hotspots that Berkeley is, Al-Bayan continues to grow and expand. We ask for your duas and your feedback! Insha’Allah, we serve our purpose to the best of our ability with the help of the Almighty. Published with support from the ASUC and Campus Progress/Center for American Progress. CampusProgress.org
>> campus happenings
Dawah in College by Ali Husain
Islam and Disability: My Story by Hamza Jaka
A Lost Battle by Aafreen Mahmood
Global Deaf Muslims by Maryam Hassan
Reclaiming Muslim Language by Uzma Amin
The roadblocks Muslim students face when discussing Islam on campus.
A Glimpse Inside Sunday School by Huzaifa Ahmad What the Berkeley Masjid Sunday School means to its director and the community.
A student activist shares his experiences with the Muslim communityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s misconceptions of disability.
Community rallies as ASUC Senate votes to divest for human rights.
>> global perceptions Performing Hajj - what is there to gain?
Finding Identity in Berkeley by Rawan AbuShaban
A Muslim student explores her identiy in the aftermath of 9/11.
Experience Islam through a deaf Muslimâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s viewpoint.
A Meaningful Life by Lameese Eldesouky
Psychological studies aim to define happiness without religion.
>> arts & inspiration
The Muslim ummah and the Muslim language have lost their strength.
Second Annual Poetry Contest
The winning entry from our second annual poetry contest!
18 al-bayan spring 2013
>> campus happenings
DAWAH AS A MUSLIM COLLEGE STUDENT Article by Ali Husain Photos by Sana Saifuddin
e know from the words of God sent to his messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him; pbuh) of the importance of dawah, or the invitation to submit to God. Specifically, Allah (God) states: “And who is better in words than the one who calls to Allah, does righteous acts, and says to others that he is one of the Muslims?” (Quran 41:33)
Indeed, dawah is a core part of Islam. However, the types of dawah vary, from inviting your friends to stop their bad habits, to inviting others to submit themselves as servants to God. Rather than broadly addressing the topic, I will examine some of the roadblocks experienced by Muslim students when they wish to communicate the message of Islam to non-Muslims.
al-bayan spring 2013
prophets after him, nor is there a need because the message he came with has not been lost, as we have the Quran and his teachings in our Perhaps the most obvious problem hands to this day. Muslim college students have with dawah is The third is that we will ultimately be that they do not understand the fundamentals of Islam themselves. In other words, they lack judged for our actions on the Day of Judgment. an understanding of what the basic beliefs and Humans will be brought to life after their death actions that define a Muslim are. It cannot and stand before their Creator. If someone does be merely our belief in one God, for the Jews good he will see the results of his actions, and share this belief. It cannot be our fasting alone, likewise if someone does evil, he will also see because the Catholics share this practice. It the results of his actions. Those who performed cannot be our charity alone, because Sikhs good by following the guidance of Allah and submitting to Him will be rewarded with heaven, share this duty. and those who did not will be punished.
Iman with a weak basis becomes very clear when doing dawah.
Not Understanding the Fundamentals of Islam
So what are the fundamental beliefs of a Muslim?
Islam answers the fundamental philosophical questions that humans confront: The first is to believe in the oneness of God “How did we get here?”, “What is the meaning and that it is our purpose in life to submit to of our life?”, “Where are we going after our Him. He created us; there is no one worthy of death?” worship other than Him, and we do not rely on Not understanding that these principles anyone except Him. are the core of Islam explains why students have The second is that humans were not left trouble communicating concisely to others. alone to figure out how to live and to worship They will talk about Middle Eastern politics, Allah. Instead, Allah sent messengers to humans culture, Hijab, prayer, not eating pork, etc. and in order to explain how to live their lives and the listener will still not understand what Islam worship Him. New messengers were sent is about. This is all caused by the student’s fuzzy each time the people lost this guidance; thus, understanding of what it means to be a Muslim, messengers from Adam to Jesus were sent with as he is unable to decide whether it is the the same guidance from Allah. The last of these cultural background, religious acts, or physical messengers is Muhammad (pbuh), who came appearance that makes someone a Muslim, with the Quran. There are no messengers or when, in fact, it is none of these things.
Not Having a Sound Intellectual Basis for Your Beliefs
Muslim students face a common problem in that their faith is unstable. They will be at a spiritual high after listening to a touching lecture, but this quickly disappears within a few days. This is because for many Muslims the strength of their beliefs is emotionallybased, rather than logically-based. The latter is concrete and does not become any less convincing during emotionally troubling times. For example, one may have certainty in the authenticity of the Quran because, rationally, it could not have been fabricated by an illiterate shepherd. This is a logical reason for belief that is much different from sticking to Islam because of cultural pride which is entirely founded in emotions. Emotionally-based iman (faith) is akin to an uprooted tree; although it is tall if placed on its roots, it can be knocked over by the wind, will not grow taller no matter how much water it receives, and will eventually wither away. Logically-based iman is akin to a tree firm in the ground; it cannot be pushed over by the wind and grows stronger and taller from the rain. Iman with a weak basis becomes very clear when doing dawah. The student will explain the fundamentals of Islam to the listener, but eventually the listener will ask the student why Islam is the correct way of life. The student will mention random tidbits that he has heard from touching talks, but will not be able to give a concise and direct answer. Instead of explaining how the marvel of the Quran coming from the illiterate and uneducated Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a proof, he will ramble about the problems of other religions or will be stumped by the question.
Not Applying the Aspects of Islam that You Claim to Practice
This roadblock is a more difficult problem. The main idea is that the student does not implement the very ideas of Islam that he aims to represent. For example, a student may tell a listener that Allah requires us to pray to Him a minimum of five times a day; however, the student does not do it himself. The requirement is typically very impressive, but loses much of
Dawah in College its impact on the listener when the student tells him that he is too busy to perform all five prayers, or that it is not necessary (contradicting his earlier statement). Another example is when a Muslim student will tell his friend that Islam teaches him to have the best of character, so swearing, lying, and gossiping are forbidden. The listener may initially be impressed, but will find Islam to be mere talk when he realizes that his friend fails to apply these aspects. The basic principle is that a student should not expect someone to adhere to Islam when the student himself cannot bring himself to do so.
Being Apologetic About Islam
fundamental principles of Islam instead of using purely secular and philosophical arguments. Returning to the example of homosexuality, one should avoid secular arguments such as bringing up medical dangers of homosexuality. Instead, one should direct the discussion to the Islamic principle that Allah has given us guidance on how to live our lives through the Messenger (pbuh). This guidance, which shows us how to perform everything from praying to using the restroom includes the principle of preserving the family, which means actions such as incest and homosexuality are not allowed. This method of discussion has the benefit that if the listener argues with the point, the student does not need to deal with modern arguments about homosexuality; instead, only proof that the Quran is indeed the word of God and that Muhammad (pbuh) is His messenger need be provided. In summary, one needs to connect the question to the core principles of Islamic belief, and only once the listener is convinced of this should the student give secular or philosophical reasons.
4 6 5 Because most American Muslims in college today have encountered Islamophobia in some way or another, they tend to be apologetic about Islam instead of asserting its place as the ideal way of life. Students will spend time explaining how Islam is not an evil and primitive way of life and will stop once the listener is convinced. This ends up with the listener being tolerant of Islam, but the listener still does not have a clear idea about what Islam is based on, which means that the dawah was incomplete.
Getting Sucked Into Side Discussion
It will often be the case that a listener will bring up a topic about Islam that requires explaining due to misunderstanding and misinformation, for example: terrorism, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;honorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; killings, and the hijab. A common mistake made by students is to get wrapped up in these discussions, which will go on for a very long time with arguments back-and-forth, and eventually branch out to other topics. This is best seen in an example scenario: the listener criticizes Islamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s disapproval of homosexuality. The student will respond by saying it is an unnatural activity, and the listener will argue that homosexuality occurs naturally. The topic will quickly shift from homosexuality to genetics and the listener will not gain anything. The more correct approach is to respond to criticisms of Islam by connecting them to the
Muslim Student Association table on Sproul Plaza.
Not Paying Attention to the Environment and Listener
The final roadblock is perhaps the most difficult to master. To do proper dawah, one needs to pay attention to the environment and listener. For example, doing dawah to a close friend and someone coming to the MSA table asking about Islam require different approaches. One interacts with you often and readily engages in personal conversations with you. The other is specifically asking about Islam, can only listen for a short time, and may interact with Muslims very rarely. Communicating Islam through actions will be more effective to your close friend than the random person due to the time of interaction. Communicating Islam through words will be more effective to the random person because they asked for an explanation. In this way, the Muslim student should be cognizant of the different people with whom he or she is interacting. One will appeal to an Orthodox Jew differently than an atheist. This list goes on, but the central point is to be cognizant of the environment and listener and to use these to shape the dawah style. At this point, someone may misinterpret this discussion on dawah roadblocks to mean that people who make these mistakes should stop doing dawah. This is far from the truth; the best way to get over these roadblocks is actually to do more dawah and to watch how experienced Imams and activists do dawah with those around them. One must be careful, as all of our actions shape the perception of Islam in the people around us. Most of all, remember the purpose of dawah itself is to please Allah and to invite others toward good as the Prophet (pbuh) did to those before us n
al-bayan spring 2013
>> campus happenings
dumpling was too short to reach the handles of the bathroom door and had been trapped inside. Like a rescued island castaway, he looked up at me with overflowing eyes, whimpered a breathless “thank you” in a heavy Arab accent, and staggered away with his hands raised to the ceiling, eyes flaming with gratitude, weeping, “Alhamdulillah! Alhamdulillah!” The fear of being eternally imprisoned in the bathroom of a mosque fueled our young hero’s debut onto the Bollywood stage. He truly thought he would never escape the bathroom, so it is with pleasure that I open the door to freedom for him and witness his tears for a higher being. I cannot help but think, when have I last so sincerely thanked Allah? This would be the first of many bathroom and non-bathroom doors opened to the children of Berkeley Masjid.
GLIMPSE Inside SUNDAY SCHOOL A
Article by Huzaifa Ahmed Photos by Sajid Nasir
UMMER OF 2012, BERKELEY
Masjid’s first Ramadan – life is hectic. The mosque’s Executive Committee appoints me as me the Ramadan volunteer manager. My evenings are spent patrolling the hallways of 2716 Derby Street while my volunteers fill over 100 plates with iftar. I walk back and forth hurriedly, with purpose and a stern face, the mask I wear to make it look like I am in the middle of doing something important. No one bothers you this way and it is a wonderful tactic to use when in a managerial position or when Sproul flyering is in session.
al-bayan spring 2013
It is on one such night, in the midst of my rounds through the mosque, when I hear a curious thudding from inside the men’s bathroom at the end of the hallway. I look around but none of the volunteers take notice. As the thuds become more urgent I apprehensively approach the door and pull at the handle slightly. The heavy door bursts outward and hits me in the face, and I stumble back tripping over bathroom slippers strewn across the floor, those godforsaken landmines! Through the agony I hear crying and look down to see a tiny, wailing Syrian boy, less than half my height, tears streaking down his face. The little
My position as the Berkeley Masjid student liaison (and subsequently the Ramadan volunteer go-to person) led me to meet the Sheikh family that Ramadan, whose members innervate every level of Berkeley Masjid – the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, Ramadan coordinators, the head of Sunday School, the Sunday School teachers, the Sunday School parent volunteers, and lastly some of the program’s 100 plus students. It is not until after the summer school program that I realize these core members are all part of the same family. But by then it is too late. I have fallen prey to their children, who, like tiny giggling ninjas in training, lure me into the upper echelons of the school and into the position of volunteer coordinator. August rolls in and the fall semester brings with it more than fifty families and over 100 children. (We are a prolific people.) With more than twice the number of students handled in the summer, Cal students and the larger Muslim community step up to keep the administrators from flipping. With simply too many students bouncing across walls and not enough teachers to catch them, a cap is necessary and much to the dismay of many, a waiting list is established. Nine months later I am still reminded of the little boy who almost broke my face off with a bathroom door. These Sundays, in the second semester of the school, it is not just the doors of the bathroom that we hold open for children, but also the doors to the mosque, to their minds, to their futures, and to the future of our community. Sunday School starts with an assembly at 10 a.m. Scores of children together chant the supplications they were taught for entering and leaving these doors. They disperse afterwards to an hour of Islamic Studies, where kindergartners build slingshots from the everimportant bathroom’s spent toilet paper cardboard tubes and rubber bands to reenact the battle of David and Goliath. Meanwhile, parent volunteers spend time challenging preschool kids with different games on the
A Glimpse Inside Sunday School
Evendamusa di unt et vendenisto It is alwayssentusa important for teenagers et be idustrunt ommolor eperum sequo tem confident with their identity, which faces qui-sitiis es et recae vella - forsolorem teenagers is a construction of
their milieu. For Muslims, the masjid is a great environment.
Arabic alphabet. What follows is, for me, the on me. This story ends with a No Running, No on to their children, and down the lineages that most daunting task of the day. Tackling rule enforced soon thereafter. the Khalil of Allah Ibrahim pbuh wished to be of righteous standing. After a short snack break of cheese, At 11 o’clock the invaluable Quran teachers A friend once shared a deep secret with walk into the mosque one after another. I pass crackers, and fruit, the Fundamentals teachers out their attendance sheets before they begin take over. The younger kids split into groups to me. It was the few moments of Islam he had their classes. A total of thirteen Quran teachers, learn the basics of Islam. Older kids transition encountered in his childhood Sunday School that more than a decade later brought him from Cal alumni living outside Berkeley to back from the throes of societal darkness. BCC students, handle over 100 students It is the change in the lives of the students in seven different Quran levels; the Quran that keeps this school on its feet. It is the portion is by far in most need of teachers. diverse backgrounds of all the teachers, This is apparent when, in an effort to administrators, and volunteers that makes better assess the student to teacher ratio, Sunday School the biggest event of Berkeley we draw a map of the area with all the Masjid since its opening in 2012. While on different Quran classes on both floors. I the brink of necessary cuts due to too large kneel down on the carpet to begin when a student to teacher ratio, I am positive that I’m ambushed from my right. An Arab five year old appears from the shadows and leaps upstairs to discuss topics more pertinent to somewhere along the line more of Cal’s students into my lap, kneeing me in the chest and planting their developmental behaviors (rated PG-13), as will pick up the flame and lead the young of the sloppy kisses on my cheeks and crushing me well as virtues of the prophets. Parents and Cal community forward. It is when you have freed with bear hugs. He bounces off and I have not students alike pass on their knowledge of Islam a child from closed doors that you truly see the regained consciousness before five others jump to these children. This knowledge will be passed flames in their eyes n
“For it’s when you’ve freed a child from closed doors that you truly see the flame in their eyes.”
Children are the most curious among us. They are always observing and learning.
al-bayan spring 2013
>> campus happenings
This article is for my parents, my brothers and my dear friends Brother Ayub, Ginny Thornburg and Lawrence Carter Long. Imam Zulfiqar, I owe you a great deal. Imam Zaid Shakir, thank you for taking the time to learn about persons with disabilities. Also, to that one brother at ISM who always takes the accessible parking spot without a sticker or license plate: this article is really for you.
ISLAM & DISABILITY M Y NAME IS HAMZA JAKA,
and I am a 20-year-old junior at UC Berkeley. I am also Co-President of the UC Berkeley Disabled Students Union, so I guess that makes me something of a disabilityrights activist. As a Muslim with a disability (I have cerebral palsy, which affects the control I have over my arms and legs), I strive to educate as many people as I can about both Islam and what it means to live with a disability. However, for most of my life, I felt that my identities as a Muslim and as a person with a disability were separate. It was not that I did not find kind people through my masjid, nor that people didn’t want to associate with me. In fact, I met one of my best friends, Brother Ayub, when he started working as my assistant at Sunday school. My wonderful Sunday school principal, Naheed Arshad, has helped me start a non-profit project that works for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Pakistan. In spite of these and many other excellent people, my disability always felt out of place when I spent time in the masjid, especially because I could not remove my shoes. People always looked at me with frustrated expressions, as if my shoes were sullying the prayer hall. When I was little and couldn’t take my shoes off, these people often used special signals to try and tell my parents to remove my shoes; however, my parents refused. My greatest nemesis of all was the dastardly driver, who, every Friday, would park in the only accessible parking spot at the Milwaukee Masjid. Every single week, my dad would ask the sheikh to make an announcement to keep the space open for persons with disabilities, yet he would
al-bayan spring 2013
continue to park there! Thankfully, more accessible parking spots became available later on; however, according to my parents, he still parks without a permit. As a child, I often asked my parents why he would continue to park there; they told me that in many Arab and South Asian countries, there is no concept of accessibility. “But we’re in America,” I would respond. My parents would simply say, “Yes, son, and he’ll learn eventually.” However, he never seemed to get the message! Oh, well, there is still more time for him to learn.
to truly be good Muslims, we have to work to live and improve society. There were many other hardships due to the physical structure of my masjid, but what irked me most was how I was treated socially. People would be kind, get me food if I was hungry, and help me use the restroom (no easy task, mind you), but I always felt pitied. Many elders in the community would often suggest that my parents isolate me and teach me the Quran in the hopes that this would fix me, or help me walk again. It is kind of ironic that the Muslim community gathered around to help me while I was in need while still hoping Allah would make me normal. Outside of the masjid, some of the women in the community would ask what sin my mother had committed to deserve a disabled child, as though I was a punishment to my parents. My mother, being the fiery woman she is, completely ignored them,
my story Article by Hamza Jaka Photos by Natalie Irwin
and eventually the thought dropped. However, people continued to suggest to my parents that I memorize the Quran. Now, becoming a hafiz is a truly wonderful and noble goal, but these people made it seem as though memorizing the Quran should be my sole purpose in life because it would protect me from harmful influences and furthering my “sickness,” assuming that my disability was degenerative and would become more harmful with time. I would always get angry at the suggestion that, because I had a disability, I should memorize the Quran and become an expert on sunnah. I was honestly more surprised at my parents’ angry reaction upon hearing this; they had always informed me that everyone should strive to learn and live by the Quran and sunnah. I didn’t understand why this upset my family until I, one day, asked my blind friend Imran if he had been told to memorize the Quran because of his disability. He laughed and responded that he had. However, he felt that there was more to understanding the Quran than just memorizing it; to truly be a good Muslim, we have to live to work and improve society. My parents echoed this sentiment, and it was the first time I felt like I could identify as both a Muslim and as a person with a disability. Nevertheless, there were still challenges after that. When I went to a conference on Islam and the family at Northwestern University, all of the talks were in inaccessible auditoriums. With some nifty wheelchair tricks and the help of my strong older brothers, I managed to participate in all of the events. However, I never said anything to the conference organizers about the inaccessible
Islam and Disability locations because my elder brother told me not to, thinking they had already been notified by other people at the conference. I sincerely hope they were. The funny thing is, I still have to deal with issues of accessibility and social awkwardness within the Muslim community here in Berkeley, even though Berkeley is considered one of the most accessible and open places in the country — anyone who lives near People’s Park can verify this. To get an idea of what I’m saying, think about where our socials are held: do their apartments have an elevator? Are they on the ground floor? In addition, not all restaurants are accessible. Look at Crepes A-Go-Go on Telegraph: the entry way is too narrow, and it is violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A locked gate near the garbage hides the accessible door of House of Curries, the du-jour Pakistani restaurant of MSA socials. On a busy day, staff cannot open the door promptly, delaying access for everyone! More seriously, in Ramadan 2010 an assistant and I went up to Foothill with the intention of attending an Iftar scheduled in the dining commons that day, but we lost each other while trying to find an accessible route. I eventually found one that involved taking a freight elevator and clearing a seven-inch lip into the back door of a dining hall: clearly not accessible, and really disappointing.For a while, I was afraid of experiencing the same thing at other MSA events so I wouldn’t attend many. Beyond MSA events, I once went to greet a brother on the street but he did not want to talk me. Why? Because he said his parents told him not to bother people in wheelchairs, as they are weak. I still want to talk to you, bro! In all seriousness, though, these first impressions are a big deal and really discourage people with disabilities from expanding our social circles. Please note that accessibility needs are both general and individualized, and that accommodations are not always one-size-fits-all. The ADA is a great guide, but the best policy is to ask what accommodations we need. Most persons with disabilities, myself
included, have simple strategies to get around; make an effort to ask, and most of us will be happy to work with you. My disability rights activism took off during my early teens, when I began serving as a board member of Kids As Self Advocates, a national youth-run disability rights project. I also started a non-profit in Pakistan, was an actor in an integrated troupe of people with and without disabilities, and worked to create the Silver Scorpion comic book in Syria. I felt loved and accepted by the new friends I made. They understood my frustrations with able-bodied people, I could make wholly inappropriate disability jokes, and they were not uneasy around incontinence (the ultimate conversation starter). However, I always felt lonely because there weren’t many other young Muslims with disabilities who I had met. In spite of working everywhere from D.C. to Damascus, from my dad’s clinic in Milwaukee to UNESCO, I have to this day only met about five fellow Muslim activists with disabilities. As my activism work grew and more people began to find out about it, some members of my Muslim community accused me of “rocking the boat,” and felt that my work would hurt the families of children with disabilities who wanted to live peacefully. My parents and I were hurt and horrified by these comments; I was at a loss. Was I hurting people, or was I doing the right thing? These questions bothered me for a long time until I spoke to our new imam, Sheikh Zulfiqar, while watching a Green Bay Packers game in 2007. I discussed my worries with him, and he told me that I was absolutely doing the right thing. He told me about Surat Abbas — the same one that people often quoted to my parents telling them why I should study the Quran. The surah admonishes the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), for ignoring a blind man who came to him for guidance, instead choosing to speak to another person, who wanted nothing to do with his religion (Quran 80:2). This ayah has been interpreted as an invitation for Muslims with disabilities to study Quran, as if having a disability made you more in tune with the Quran and Allah (swt). According to Sheikh Zulfiqar, having a disability is a chance to become a stronger Muslim because it gives one the opportunity to educate others and promote equality for all. These words were the answer and acknowledgement for which I had long searched. I carried these words like a badge of honor; they became my motivation and my source of spiritual strength. However, I wasn’t sure if actually believed them myself.
A model of the campus layout - does your organization choose locations that accomodate disabled members?
I finally understood the meaning of these words when I worked in D.C. the summer of my freshman year and began talking with Ginny Thornburgh, the interfaith director at the American Association of Persons with Disabilities, and my
good friend Lawrence Carter-Long. Though not Muslims themselves, they introduced me to many Muslims in the D.C. area who were committed to helping people with disabilities. They helped me understand that advocacy was a spiritual release and a way to achieve inner peace. I have long wanted to express the following message to my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters, Hamza Jaka is determined to make the Muslim community more aware of disability.
especially to those with disabilities: Do not be afraid to speak up to make society (and especially our community) better and more accepting. Our community tends to shield people with disabilities from social discrimination by isolating us and teaching us the Quran. These are noble intentions and learning the Quran is an important goal, but we must truly live the Quran and embody our faith by working to make the world a more inclusive place. I recognize that for much of this article, I sound very critical of our community. We are making strides in the right direction: holding an ISNA panel on accessibility annually for the past three years (credit here is due to Isra Bhatty), and having sign language interpreters at major conferences, like MSA West! I would be remiss if I did not mention the work on disability and Islam by Imam Zaid Shakir, with whom I have been hoping to discuss disability for a long time, and my dear friend Sheikh Zulfiqar Ali Shah, who inspired me to continue my work. However, for every positive step we make, there are always necessary improvements; this can include holding events in accessible locations, allowing service dogs in cabs or restaurants, or, my personal pet peeve, finding a better place to put shoes, instead of in front of the door to the prayer hall! Now brothers, I know you are all excited to pray, but so am I; your shoes prevent me from entering the prayer hall. It’s an access issue. To those of you who read this article, I have one request: get to know and spend more time with people with disabilities: we’re actually pretty cool. Work with us to help make this world full of equal opportunities and more inclusive. By promoting equality, you will be even cooler than you already are, and it’s not a bad way to rack up good deeds n
al-bayan spring 2013
>> campus happenings
Divestment Description by Sarah Mohamed Photos by Sana Saifuddin & Aman Sufi
n the early hours of Thursday, April 18th, after ten hours of public comment, deliberation, and debate, UC Berkeley’s ASUC Senate voted 11-9 in favor of SB 160, a bill calling the University to divest from companies that profit from perpetrating human rights violations in Palestine. The bill aimed to achieve “targeted divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation and settlement construction,” including Caterpillar Incorporated, Cement Roadstone Holdings, and Hewlett Packard – in which the University invests 14 million dollars through its Retirement Program and General Endowment Fund, according to the bill. It was truly a testament to the solidarity of the movement and the salience of the cause as hundreds of students, alumni, faculty, and community members gathered in Anna Head Alumnae Hall to
al-bayan spring 2013
participate in and watch the meeting unfold, staying late into the night as many slumped over chairs and fought back drooping eyelids. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and poet Alice Walker made an appearance to speak in support of the bill. On Tuesday, April 23rd, ASUC President Connor Landgraf issued a statement announcing that he will not veto the bill, as did his predecessor, Will Smelko, in 2010, though he rejects the “onesided narrative” it presents. During elections, the student body passed a referendum to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Earlier this month, the ASUC Senate voted to divest from companies supporting the prison-industrial complex, and voted in February to divest from companies utilizing conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo in their supply chains n
al-bayan spring 2013
>> global perceptions
A Lost Battle Article by Aafreen Mahmood Photos by Sajid Nasir & Sana Saifuddin
HE IS OVER 70 YEARS OLD, but still just as stubborn as a seven year old child. If she does not like the food in front of her, she will not eat it. If she does not like someone, she will tell them. She says what comes to her mind, never hesitating to consider the time and place. She will put up a fight with anyone -- because she knows she is right -- and always wins. I have always admired her steadfast conviction in herself and her morals, her reassurance that she is right, her lack of care for what others think of her, her absence of fear. I have always admired her stubbornness, but I fear it in one case -- her refusal to perform Hajj.
“...I do know of a solution to the disunity in our ummah, our families, and in ourselves: Hajj.”
Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a pilgrimage that all Muslims who are physically and financially able must perform at least once in their lifetimes. During the last month of the Islamic calendar, Dhul Hijjah, hundreds of thousands of Muslims travel to the cities of Mecca and Medinah, to wholeheartedly submit themselves to Allah (SWT) in solidarity. It is in such moments that a Muslim, with the sincere intention to submit him/herself to God, experiences a closer connection with Allah (SWT) and increases their taqwa (awareness of God). I have heard many excuses -- from “We weren’t able to book a ticket in time” to “I don’t
think I will be able to walk that much” -- but only once have I ever heard, “Why should I? What’s the need for it?” In fact, her questions were not quite an “excuse” – this was her method of venting her frustration with life and God. Rather than fearing the Day of Judgment, she awaits it. She awaits the moment when she will face God and be granted Heaven or Hell, and yearns to learn the reason why Allah (SWT) has placed so many obstacles in her life, from her failed marriage to broken relationships with her daughters-in-law. She holds God responsible for the lack of unity in her family, for the absence of happiness in her life, for her grandchildren living far away from her.
Bottom (left to right): These two men have assumed the state of Ihram (sacred state invoving cleanliness and prescribed attire) for Hajj; Pilgrims pass the Maqam Ibrahim, where Prophet Ibrahim (Peace be upon him) once stood.
al-bayan spring 2013
A Lost Battle
Left to right: As the temperature rises in Madina, the umbrellas tend to open to provide more area for Muslims to pray; Pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba to fulfill an obligation of the Hajj; Canisters filled with water from the well of Zam Zam quenches the thirst of millions of pilgrims; Masjid Nabawi after Fajr Salaah Sometimes I worry that her firm stubbornness will only bring more pain and discontent into the remaining years of her life and the Hereafter. Though she is aware of the accommodations that are made for the elderly, she does not see it as as an urgent religious duty to fulfill. Does this mean she is a bad Muslim? (There is only one judge for that.)
do we strike arms with God? What is it that leads us astray from fulfilling the foundations of our deen (faith)? Though I cannot formulate a thorough answer to those questions, I do know of a solution to the disunity in our ummah, our families, and in ourselves: Hajj. The very thing that this sister is running away from is the very solution to her disappointments which have consumed the past thirty years of her life.
on the Earth. What gave someone who drained her body of all energy for five hours to do tawaf around the Ka’bah, walk for miles between Safa and Marwa (two mountains that the wife of Prophet Abraham ran between in search of water for her crying child), and survive the pushing and shoving to find a spot for Fajr (morning) prayer afterwards? Allah (SWT). He gave me the strength to forget everything and join the mass of brothers and sisters as we embarked on an unforgettable journey to become closer to God.
But when I ask myself this question, I find Allah (SWT) tell us in the Qu’ran (23: 114), it hard to accept that she has abandoned her iman (faith). Instead, I believe it’s her taqwa “You stayed not but a little – if only you had But if Umrah is only a snapshot of Hajj, (awareness of God) that needs rejuvenation; known. If the door for performing Hajj is finally she has not reached a point where she can open, a person should jump at the chance to then Subhan’Allah (praise be to God), we have perform it.” been blessed with a priceless opportunity to simultaneously love and fear God. But she boost our iman (faith). When will we ever is not the only one who has this problem “But if Umrah is only a snapshot get the opportunity to live, breath, and -- we all do, to some extent. of Hajj, then Subhan’Allah (praise speak Islam for ten days? When will we ever completely detach ourselves from From my own experience and be to God), we have been blessed worldly distractions and submit ourselves observations of many of us UC Berkeley students, I found that we are planners; with a priceless opportunity to to Allah (SWT)? When will we ever see anything more beautiful than the Ka’bah? we hold a certain expectation of how our boost our iman (faith).” future will look, when we will take the MCAT, My eye-opening experience performing Perhaps by performing Hajj, this sister will when we will get a job, how much we will earn, when we will get married and have kids, Umrah (a shortened version of Hajj) during the be overwhelmed by the unity of our ummah our plans for retirement, et cetera. We leave summer of 2010 was in some sense a reality in our tawaf (circling the Ka’bah seven times) very little room for uncertainty. This constant check for my priorities in life and an opportunity rather than lamenting over the disunity of her yearning for a concrete life is what weakens our to evaluate myself as a Muslim. I distinctly family. Perhaps her newfound strength in iman iman (faith), as we never truly experience the remember walking into Masjid al-Haram in will combat her weak knees when walking from complex dichotomy of faith and doubt coexisting Mecca after a long journey from Medinah. I one site to another. Perhaps in her efforts to together. Essentially, we build ourselves up for was miserably sick from the four hour drive form a connection with God, she will be able to disappointment and dissatisfaction with what and vomited over twenty times on my way to mend the broken relations with those around the holy city. After a cleansing bath and a glass her. Allah (SWT) has given us in life. of electrolyte juice, I made my way over to the To this sister: Though you may have won This sister epitomizes the struggle to mosque, holding onto my mother and sister for in your battles with others, you can never understand and accept her limits as a human support. win in your battle with God. Though now being, and leave the rest to God. Throughout When I entered and gradually opened you may not want to perform Hajj and face life, she has lost her trust in her family, society, government, and -- unfortunately -- Allah (SWT) my eyes, I simply fell to the ground in tears. the realization that you have lost, I pray you The simplicity, yet utter beauty of the Ka’bah will eventually realize how much you gained as well. removed everything from my mind, leaving me through submitting yourself to God. Soon you What is the cause for this dissatisfaction in a state of oblivion and the inability to fathom will realize that this is the greatest joy -- losing with life among our ummah (community)? Why how privileged I was to be in the holiest place some to win some n
al-bayan spring 2013
>> global perceptions
Finding Identity in Berkeley Article by Rawan AbuShaban Photo by Sajid Nasir
ince childhood, I have been aware that I am different from everyone else. Nevertheless, while growing up in Northern Virginia’s D.C. suburbia, my odd name, olive skin, and tendency to eat a lot of rice had never interfered much. Life as an Arab-American was okay. However, after the tragic events of 9/11, an identity crisis had been violently birthed, and has since been constantly growing inside of me, gnawing at my sense of self, forcing me to question who I really am, and ultimately what I am worth. For the remaining years I had lived in the United States, I felt reprimanded for being a traitor to my country; and, unfortunately, when I moved to the Middle East, I was instead scorned for “losing” the other half of my heritage. I speak broken Arabic, I’d rather join a mosh pit than a dabke line, and I would never eat as much as a tablespoon of tabouleh. Apparently, such details pointing to my ostensible lack of a definitive culture have led to the general devaluing of my lifestyle. So, where do I belong? This crisis might not seem altogether unfamiliar to many members of the growing multiracial population living in America. In
al-bayan spring 2013
“Does one’s identity determine ones self-worth? Well, this is the answer that I have slowly, arduously, and thankfully come to: Yes. Yes, it does.” fact, I have even seen individuals of one race or ethnicity who identify completely with the culture of another, and are largely confronted with the same issues. On campus, we can experience firsthand the variety of global essences that form our student body. For those of you out there facing this problem of social rejection due to your cultural or ethnic background, you’ve probably asked yourselves this same question: “Does one’s identity determine one’s selfworth?” Well, this is the answer that I have slowly, arduously, and thankfully come to: Yes. Yes, it does. What few seem to realize is that there is more to a person than just culture or ethnicity. It is a sad yet common sight to see judgments being made on people based on a characteristic they did not choose to have and cannot wish to change. “Diversity” has become a distasteful word, bringing to mind mere racial or ethnical denominations, or the categorization of people on a foundation that is not only superficial, but incapable to
accurately describe any individual by itself. Whether one is Caucasian, Latino, African, European, Asian, light-skinned, dark-skinned, or different in any other aspect of one’s state of existence does not necessarily control who they are or what they can contribute to society. Since this is the case, why is it expected that we only live up to our most trivial of classifications? Are human beings not individuals? It is the heavy reliance upon racial and ethnical identification that strips us of our individuality, and without our individuality, our greatest value is our ability to add to statistics. We are much, much more than what meets the eye. For example, I am more than part of an ethnic demographic. I am both anemic and asthmatic. I am the second-oldest of five children, and my family means more to me than almost everything. I wear a headscarf. I am an athlete. My favorite Pokémon is Blastoise. I think recycling should be lawenforced. As a child, I was an intransigent solipsist. Now, I am an optimistic cynic. I am
straight-edge. I don’t think socialism sounds like such a bad idea. These are a few things one would not be able to tell just by looking at me or my skin or having prior knowledge of where my parents were born. These are some of the things that make me different, and affect what other people think of me, for better or worse. In the end, where we come from does not matter, it’s where we are going and the choices that we make that truly count. When it comes down to struggling to identify ourselves and seeking acceptance through only our race or ethnicity, the solution to our troubles is simple: we should not end ourselves where we begin. Through it all, I realize that there is only one constant in my life that will always provide a place for me to rest my head and beat my heart, where my differences are not only accepted, but welcomed. There is one single characteristic above all others that defines me in the first and last way that I can be defined. The only identity that matters is the only one I choose to have, and that is the choice I make in being a Muslim. For us Muslims, Allah comes before not only our misfortune, but our pride as well. Reliance on race and ethnicity can harm us in two offerings, one of grief and the other of arrogance. As they say, it is the choices we make that determine who we are. By choosing Islam to define who I am, it doesn’t matter what rejections I face in this life, because there is only one judge of my true value, and that is Allah. As a friend once reminded me, it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else thinks I am worth, so long as I choose to follow the path of Islam, I am worth something to Allah, and that is more than enough, and certainly more than anything
something as trivial and fleeting as the social acceptance of my race can provide. The world is loaded with critics. It isn’t easy to find a place in this life, and there are some among us who may never will – but alienation is simply the struggle of the Muslim, and the servants of God are never misplaced. It is narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) once said “Islam began as something strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” We are all strangers to the world, but not to the rest of the Ummah, for we are not strangers to each other. Here at Cal, many of the Muslim members of the campus community are part of the firstgenerational group of Muslim-American youths who possibly face the roughest path towards social acceptance. However, this estrangement is not faced alone. The bond Islam creates between Muslim individuals is great enough to transcend skin colors and cultural differences. It is a faith shared by over one billion people, in the desert, in the snow, in the greatest cities and smallest islands, spoken in different tongues, practiced by the richest and the most impoverished, seen through brown eyes, blue eyes, dark eyes, and pale eyes. It is the shahada that binds us in faith, ash’haduann laa ilaaha ilullah, wa ash’haduanna Muhammadan ar-rasulullah. It is the five prayers that we stand and recite every day, in our homes or in our mosques in congregation. We go on pilgrimage to Mecca together, we fast and break bread during the holy month of Ramadan together, we join together in helping the less fortunate by relinquishing a sum of our wealth each year.
The fundamentals of Islam revolve around the worshiping of God, obeying his messenger, and purifying ourselves while embracing brotherhood and solidarity – and God does not turn away those who seek Islam, nor does He, like so many of others, turn those away who seek His acceptance. No matter what our differences may be, the only gap that distances us from our Muslim brothers and sisters is dug with our own selfimportance and conceit, the same diseases that caused the rejection of Islam when it was first revealed. Indeed, we are all equal in God’s eyes, and He is the One who determines our worth. I cannot define myself in any way other than in declaring that I am a Muslim, and I cannot seek to increase my worth in anything else other than trying to fulfill my duties in pleasing God. Who else is there to live for? Who am I trying to impress? Is there anyone whose approval is more significant than that of the God I exist for? Is there anyone else I want to accept my differences when He already does? In response to the question of one’s identity determining one’s self worth, the answer is yes. Yes, it does, because who you are determines what you are worth – but, then again, it is up to you to choose who you are. I know where I belong, and it is not within the confinements of any culture or any particular part of the world. As a Muslim, I choose Islam to be my driving force in this life to guide me into the next, where I hope to meet the true judge of my worth – and thankfully, He does not judge us contemptuously as others in this life inevitably will. n
al-bayan spring 2013
Global Deaf Muslims “ ” I couldn’t help but ponder at all the other countless Islamic events that these students miss out on because we do not provide ASL interpreters.
Article by Maryam Hassan Photo by Mustafa Eisa
FTER A FIVE-HOUR ROAD
trip, we finally arrived at our destination: UC Santa Barbara. We entered the land of beaches, surfers, and flip-flops not to party, but rather for the sake of acquiring Islamic knowledge by attending the annual MSA West conference organized by students from universities all over California. We walked in late to a full classroom for the first workshop, quickly sitting on the first seats we found in the back. For a minute, I didn’t understand what was going on. My eyes were fixed on the somewhat out of place white lady at the front of the classroom, sitting poised close to the speaker. I had never seen anything like it in all my twenty-two years. She was interpreting everything the speaker was saying from spoken word to sign language. Amazing, I thought as I watched her sign words like “Allah,” “Quran,” and “Fatiha” to an attentive and interactive front row audience of deaf Muslims. At regular intervals, the two non-Muslim female interpreters would take turns on stage, speaking through sign language while also asking questions on behalf of the deaf students. They used facial expressions, hand gestures, and also mouthed a lot of the words. In any case, it did
al-bayan spring 2013
not seem like an easy task and I have to applaud the interpreters for learning how to sign Islamic words and for keeping up with the at times complex topics discussed. I turned to my friend sitting next to me, “Wow,” I whispered, “that is so awesome.”
I thought it was so great that deaf Muslims were able to attend this conference because the broader Muslim community was able to provide interpreters. I couldn’t help but ponder over all the countless other Islamic events that these students miss out on because we do not provide ASL interpreters. Not only do we fail to accommodate the needs of this group of individuals eager to learn about Islam, many of us, like myself, are unaware that such a group even exists within our community. In fact, there is even a nonprofit organization, Global Deaf Muslims, that aims to meet the needs of our deaf brothers and sisters in America.
soon sunk in. Simple things that we take for granted were seen as precious gems from their point of view. I am not talking about the ability to hear; I am talking about the ability to understand the holy Quran in its original language. This is because although it is possible to translate the Quran into sign language, each language, even ASL, has it’s own style, words, and grammar, which cannot encapsulate the meaning of certain Arabic words and phrases. Beyond the issue of language, deaf Muslims face challenges in their own community. I am talking about going to Jummah prayer and not having to worry about sitting for about an hour, week after week, without understanding what the Imam is saying. I am talking about not having to worry about being excluded from Muslim activities because you’re different. Imagine if we didn’t have these things, how much harder it would have been for us to understand and practice our faith. This is an unavoidable reality for our deaf brothers and sisters but they don’t let these things stop them from learning.
Until the conference, I do not recall ever having met a deaf Muslim. Watching various Islamic speeches being translated into sign language was interesting, fun, and inspiring. We were fortunate enough to hear individual Shawdi Rahbar, a fourth year Anthropology stories of struggles, concerns, and feelings revolving around experiences being Muslim, major at UC Berkeley also sheds light on this topic. “The speakers for Global Deaf Muslims but also deaf. were incredibly inspiring in that they deeply Though it was fun learning to sign words wanted a translation of the Quran for the like “mashallah” and “subhanallah,” the reality hearing impaired,” she said. “The ability to hear
Global Deaf Muslims What if you could never hear the adhan - the call to prayer - or listen to a recitation of the Qur’an? What if all you had were words on a page or signs of the hand?
Watching various Islamic speeches being translated into sign language was interesting, fun, and inspiring.
Allah’s words is something we should all be immensely grateful to have and we should strive for everyone to have access to, especially our deaf brothers and sisters.” I got the chance to meet one of our deaf Muslim sisters. Her name is Roeena Opiani and she was not afraid to ask questions and speak her mind. Currently, she is a third year student at Diablo Valley College studying to become a certified teacher for early childhood education. When I asked her what we could do as a community to help our brothers and sisters, she replied, “We may need to provide and have access to interpreters for events and Jummah! That’s all we ask for, a big favor. We don’t need your money or others, but we are in need of professional interpreters in American Sign Language.” Therefore, we should make the effort to provide ASL interpreters at Islamic events once
it is confirmed that a deaf brother or sister will because it comes so easy for some of us, but we be attending. I don’t think that’s asking for too don’t understand the value of what we’ve been taught. much. Masha’llah, we have an amazing Muslim community and if we work together and put our resources to good use, we should be able to accommodate and meet the needs of this small but significant part of our Ummah (community). God willing, we will be judged by our intentions. Let’s make the intention that we will try our best as a community to include deaf Muslims.
Most of us have been reciting the Holy Quran from a young age and some of us have barely bothered with learning Arabic for the sole purpose of better understanding our Holy book. Their love and desire to learn, regardless of their struggles, touched my heart and forced me to reflect on the significance of the Quran in my life and to appreciate it more.
I learned a very important lesson from all of this: don’t take the Quran or hearing for granted. After learning about these struggles, I reflected on my own relationship with the Holy Quran as we all should.
These voices and stories should not be overlooked. We have to be aware and meet the needs of everyone. May Allah (swt) bless our brothers and sisters in their struggle to learn, grow, and become better Muslims and may He give them the knowledge they desire, ameen. n
I can’t help but feel inspired and small at the same time. Inspired from seeing the desire For more information on the organization and passion to learn more about Islam and Global Deaf Muslims, go to: http://www. wanting to find a deeper meaning, and small globaldeafmuslim.org/
al-bayan spring 2013
A MEANINGFUL LIFE:
COMPASSION, GRATITUDE, AND NO GOD Article by Lameese Eldesouky Photos by Sajid Nasir
N EARLY 2009, COMEDIAN
Louis CK guest-starred on the Conan O’Brien show and criticized people for their lack of appreciation for the marvels of today’s technology. As he referred to highspeed internet and how we literally “sit in chairs in the sky” when flying in airplanes, he pointed out a paradox; most people remain unhappy despite the many benefits of technology. Aware of this paradox, disciplines such as psychology and neuroscience have recently increased their efforts in understanding what people can do to be happy and live meaningful lives. Examples of such efforts can be seen at research centers such as the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC), which have produced groundbreaking research on how things such as compassion and gratitude can enhance individual and societal well-being. However, throughout the investigation for what makes a meaningful life, a slightly disturbing trend has been on the rise. Although most of this research targets all people,
al-bayan spring 2013
Unfortunately, the favoritism toward Buddhism has been associated with a downplaying and underestimation of the benefits of monotheistic religions. The primary reason? They involve accountability to a higher being. Buddhism does not.
regardless of religious affiliation, it has been showing a subtle and growing bias against religion, and monotheistic religions in particular. The consequence? Removing God from the list of factors for living a meaningful life. One indication of the bias towards agnosticism can be found in the constant effort to argue that any possible benefits one can get from religion, one can also get without religion. There is almost an unspoken fear amongst researchers in admitting that there may be an advantage to being religious. For instance, a study at the Institut für Psychologie in Berlin, found that religious individuals had better psychological adjustment (e.g., resiliency) than non-religious individuals, but that this was more common in cultures that valued religion as opposed to cultures which did not (Gebauer
et al., 2012). This led them to immediately downplay the psychological benefit of religion and conclude that non-religious individuals could be equally happy without religion. Another instance can be seen in a study on compassion sponsored by the GGSC, which found that individuals who were less religious were more motivated to act compassionately than those who were highly religious (Saslow et al., 2012). The authors of the study have argued that this does not mean that highly religious individuals are not compassionate, but rather that their motivation for compassion is linked to religious obligation. Despite the authors’ effort at clarifying the results, the article continues to receive criticism for implying that religious obligation to be compassionate is somehow an inferior motivation for compassion.
A Meaningful Life Left Photo: Trust and companionship between a man and his friend. Bottom (Top to Bottom): Statue of Mahatma Ghandi stands as a symbol for character or peace; A man sits to rest and reflect.
A second indication of the drive towards defining a meaningful life without religion can be seen in a lot of intervention-based research, which creates forms of treatment known as interventions, that can be used to enhance people’s lives. For instance, loving-kindness meditation involves meditating, closing your eyes, and telling yourself phrases such as: “May I be healthy and strong. May I be happy. May I be filled with ease.” The goal in this type of meditation is to stop for a moment and take care of yourself. The subtle bias towards agnosticism however, can be seen in the selfdirectionality of the phrases being said. It sounds as though a person is making a prayer to him or herself, instead of a prayer to, say, God. Self-directionality can also be seen in gratitude exercises, where one writes about what he or she is grateful for. Though helpful in making one appreciative, these exercises make absolutely no reference to who a person is thanking, thus serving more as an awareness of what you have as opposed to actually thanking anyone. A third indication of bias in this research, particularly against monotheistic religions, can be seen in the rising attitude that Buddhism is the only “cool religion”. Books such as Rick Hanson’s “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom” and Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Coming to Our Senses” have become must-reads for researchers studying what makes a meaningful life, and the Dalai Lama, a highly-respected Tibetan Buddhist, is nearly worshipped by researchers for his Buddhist teachings on compassion and forgiveness. Additionally, Buddhism has strongly come to influence interventions such as the popular mindfulness-meditation, in which one focuses his or her attention on breathing and increasing awareness of fleeting thoughts.
unfair for researchers to place Buddhism’s mindfulness-meditation on a pedestal while disregarding prayer in other religions. It is also wrong to assume that those religions do not emphasize as much compassion and forgiveness as Buddhism. Unfortunately, the favoritism toward Buddhism has been associated with a downplaying and underestimation of the benefits of monotheistic religions. The primary reason? They involve accountability to a higher being. Buddhism does not. Though research on happiness and wellbeing can be beneficial to everyone, we should be aware of the biases that it has in implicitly striving for defining a meaningful life without God. Even though this area of research is backed by empirical evidence, it belittles the benefits of religion, assumes that we are self-sufficient, and quickly disregards religions which have an element of accountability to a higher being. Thus, even in supporting this research, we should be cautious and even question why it is becoming so biased to begin with. Perhaps researchers are just trying to escape the harsh reality that there will be times in which you need more than psychological benefits, social support, and even fancy interventions, to get you through life. And perhaps their greatest fear is that God, who you would be accountable to, might just be what you needed all along to make your life meaningful n
References 1. Gebauer, J. E., Sedikides, C., & Neberich, W. (2012). Religiosity, Social Self-Esteem, and Psychological Adjustment On the Cross-Cultural Specificity of the Psychological Benefits of Religiosity. Psychological Science, 23(2), 158–160. 2. Saslow, L. R., Willer, R., Feinberg, M., Piff, P. K., Clark, K., Keltner, D., & Saturn, S. R. (2013). My brother’s keeper?: Compassion predicts generosity more among less religious individuals. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(1), 31–38. For more information on psychological research on happiness and related topics: UC Berkeley: www. greatergood.berkeley.edu Yale University: www.helab.research.yale.edu Stanford University: www. ccare.stanford.org University of Wisconsin-Madison: www. investigatinghealthyminds.org
While Buddhism is a religion to be respected and admired, it is a shame that other religions such as Islam and Christianity have not received nearly as much attention. It is deeply
al-bayan spring 2013
>> arts & inspiration
UNSPOKEN, UNWRITTEN: “Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
HE MUSLIM LANGUAGE IS
dying. It is a soft whisper drowned out by a flood of incessant chatter. It is a broken hum barely discernible beneath a cacophony of criticism. It is a forgotten scribble on a crumpled napkin in the world’s back pocket. It is becoming silent, invisible. The Muslim language is dying. I am not referring to Arabic; instead, I am referring to a language that encompasses the Muslim identity– the essence of who we are, how we communicate with one another, and how we ultimately communicate with the world. It might seem strange to refer to this kind of an interaction as a language, but isn’t language the vehicle through which we communicate our thoughts and feelings? Don’t we define ourselves through various amalgams of words and sounds and breaths? Language is a living and breathing phenomenon that not only changes with time, but also records the passing of time. It is personal yet communal, bringing people
al-bayan spring 2013
together in sounds and script as well as relating individual thoughts and ideas. It is created by a people to define a people. The Muslim identity is a language with conventions of worship, appearance and communication, with each Muslim speaking a dialect of this language in his or her own tone, culture and lifestyle.
Moors. With developments in mathematics, astronomy, medicine, engineering, literature and the arts, the clamor made by these Islamic Caliphates echoed through time and resonate even to this day. That is the Muslim language – defining ourselves while communicating with the world. Unfortunately, this language is being weakened by the media’s portrayal of Muslims, The Muslim language, one of many the withdrawal of Muslim identity and selflanguages that make up our world, is victimization. unfortunately losing potency. There is a significant amount of attention focused on the The weakening of the presence of our Muslim world as it is riddled with conflict both language is heavily affected by the depiction of internally and externally. However, non-Muslims Muslims in the media. After the terrorist attacks are getting a corrupted view of this world, as of September 11, 2001, many of us reacted the Muslim language is no longer cohesive but defensively to the new perception of Muslims instead spoken in broken staccato. What good that permeated throughout the United States. are our voices when they don’t resonate in the We tried time and time again to interact with hearts of people? The purpose and existence others to show that Islam was a peaceful of language is nullified if it is not understood religion and that the actions of a few extremists or acknowledged, and language is dialogue were not reflective of us as a people. There amongst people to create understanding. was some improvement, but for the most part, Today, the Muslim world is making sounds, not the media continued to portray us Muslims in speaking a language. a negative light, stuffing cotton into the ears of the public. How many times can we repeat Has it always been like this? Has the something before our voices get hoarse? It’s Muslim world always been unable to voice its been almost twelve years, and our voices have identity? In defiance of this claim is the legacy become tired. of Al-Andalus, which flourished in Spain from 711 C.E. to 1492 C.E. under the rule of the While external influences have indeed
Reclaiming Muslim Language
MING THE MUSLIM LANGUAGE worn out our language, it is partly our own fault. After 9/11, many Muslims became silent while others played the role of perpetual victim. Those who became silent did so out of fear; horror stories of what happened to suspected terrorists kept them quiet. They refused to acknowledge any piece of them that was Muslim: they changed their names from Mohammad to Mo, took off their hijabs, and stopped interacting with other Muslims. As a result, some Muslim dialects started going extinct and our language as a whole began to lose potency.
language weakened. Recognizing these problems, we need to start working on a solution. This requires the rekindling of brother and sisterhood within the Muslim community. How are we to achieve unity in the Ummah if we are not united with the Muslims around us? Our language is dying because we’ve become too focused on ourselves; each of our dialects has become too specialized and we refuse to change our manner of speaking.
Article by Uzma Amin Photos by Tariq Mela
Association, touching on a smorgasbord of issues such as segregation and the “clique mentality” within the Muslim community. It’s an unfortunate reality that Muslims tend to group ourselves by race or denominations, and many Muslims wish to avoid these divisions. Others feel that groups like the MSA actually isolate us from the non-Muslim community, as religious groups seem exclusive. Putting these issues aside, it is imperative that we engage in some kind of dialogue with one another. Once we make connections on a small scale, this can be extended on larger and larger scales until it spans globally. Strengthening the Ummah is key to reclaiming our language. If our community is not united, thriving and conversing, how do we expect the world to pay attention to anything we have to say? We need to rebuild our language and piece together our dialects, words and thoughts, working them together to create something that speaks for itself, flows throughout the world, and resonates with people. We need to reclaim the Muslim language before it becomes mute and forgottenn
IF OUR COMMUNITY IS NOT UNITED, THRIVING AND CONVERSING, HOW DO WE EXPECT THE WORLD TO PAY ATTENTION TO ANYTHING WE HAVE TO SAY?
The other group was so incensed by the effects of 9/11 that they victimized themselves to the point of isolation. Feeling sorry for themselves, they forgot to sympathize with other groups. Muslims have a right to feel like victims, but there needs to be an understanding within the community that all tragedies deserve attention. When we play the victim for so long and always complain about our misfortunes, others start to turn away in order to get away from the incessant complaining that only points fingers, ignoring the plights of others. As the Muslim identity was abandoned and Muslim actions became misconstrued, the Muslim
We need a community to have a language, so I believe that our language can only be salvaged if we reach out to other Muslims. This means greeting one another when passing each other at school or in the store. This means taking part in Muslim events and getting to know the community. This means being comfortable with identifying oneself as Muslim. Many have a variety of reasons for not joining certain mosques or clubs such as the Muslim Student
al-bayan spring 2013
>> arts & inspiration
Second Annual Poetry Contest Winner
Urgent Care Poem by Lena Ghamrawi Photos by Natalie Irwin
’M SITTING HERE IN URGENT
Care Thinking about global affairs Waiting for the world to care Wondering why we aren’t more aware Blood boiling, just wanting to be repaired
I find out my stomach’s lining is thinning and worn Just as the lining of Syria’s civil society has been torn I see Family Feud playing on the TV But the only feud my family sees Is the bloodshed happening across the sea As the red game buzzer illuminates the screen A family wins, crying for their gain But as a red explosion in Damascus illuminates the streets A family loses, crying for their pain Echoes with no name Feeling uncomfortable in my shame How can we allow our brothers and sisters to suffer? How can the world disregard all the innocent deaths, rape, and torture? Is the United States a supporter? I’m disillusioned Slowly becoming anesthetized to the images projected on Aljazeera This creeping normalcy frightens me The tears that once blurred my vision desiccate and at last I can see Internalized, de humanized, and de sensitized, my emotions hide in the debris Never daring to take center stage World leaders are just actors in this theatrical cage A silent audience watches the atrocity unfold
al-bayan spring 2013
This play doesn’t have to be told As I sit in the waiting room of Urgent Care I look around and see Pain overpowering me Two hours later and my name has yet to be called The wait has me appalled What determines which bodies are more valuable? When looking through the lens of the international Is there a mechanism that perpetuates hierarchal privileges that can’t be divisible? Why is Syria invisible? Assad’s actions aren’t permissible Those children aren’t invincible In this war of ideologies I question the basis of humanity We know our words are powerful and essential But the absence of them has been influential By not speaking out I’m only Exasperating, encouraging, escalating, empowering, and enabling the conflict Three hours later Nurse J. calls my name “Finally!” I proclaim Having blood drawn from my arm When all that my arm wants to do is draw Syria away from the blood n
Over forty Cal student protesters gathered on Thursday February 28th, 2013 to protest on Sproul Plaza about the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
A family loses, crying for their pain Echoes with no name Feeling uncomfortable in my shame
alhamdulillah All praise is due to Allah/God Allah the Arabic word for God Al-Andalus refers to the area of Spain and the time period during which the Islamic Umayyad Empire ruled in the Iberian peninsula. This was a time period during which Islamic learning and thought flourished. Ameen Arabic word for Amen: so be it, truly. Ayah a verse in the Qur’an Da’wah proseltyizing for Islam. Literally: making an invitation. Deen Arabic word for religion. Fatiha refers to the name of the first chapter of the Qur’an. Literally: the opening. Hadith the saying(s) of the Prophet Muhammad. Hafiz Arabic for one who has preserved, or memorized, the Qur’an. Hajj the pilgrimage to Mecca that must be performed by Muslims at least once in a lifetime. It is one of the five “pillars” of Islam. This is performed during the holy month of Dhul-Hajjah. Hijab the mandatory head-covering worn by Muslim women. This word is also considered to refer to more than just a piece of cloth, but rather, a manner of self-conduct. Hijab, in Arabic, means “a curtain”. Iftar the breaking of the fast, or the meal eaten to break the fast. Iman faith. Insha’Allah God-willing, or if God wills it. Jummah Friday, or, the Friday prayer. Ka’bah the most sacred site to Muslims. Believed to have been built by the Prophet Abraham, it is the site towards which Muslims conduct their daily prayers and the site which Muslims visit during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca. Masha’Allah by the will of God. Pbuh - “Peace and Blessings upon him” used in reference to prophets and their companions. Qur’an the holy book of Islam; the word of God. Salah prayer. SAW refers to Pbuh, but in Arabic (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wasalim) Shahada proclamation of faith in Islam, “I bear witness that there is no God, but God and that Muhammad is His messenger.” This is the most important pillar of Islam. Shariah the ‘way’ of Islam. Also refers to Islamic law as it is derived from the Qur’an and hadith. Subhan’Allah Arabic word for “glory to God”. Surah chapter of the Qur’an. There are 114. Sunnah The way of the Prophet Muhammad, based on the teachings and sayings of the prophet, by which Muslims try to live their lives. Swt - Subhan’Allahi wa ta’la Arabic phrase for “glorified and exalted is God.” Taqwa awareness of God Tawhid belief in the onenness of God. Also, oneness to be used in terms of the group of Muslims. Tawaf the action of circling the Ka’bah seven times, performed during the Hajj and Umrah. Ummah the Muslim community. Umrah a pilgrimage to Mecca performed by Muslims, at any time of year. Unlike the Hajj, the umrah is not a pillar of Islam.
al-bayan spring 2013
Open Daily 11am-10pm.
2511 Durant Ave., Berkeley, CA