MAY 2001/SAFAR 1422 VOL. 5 ISSUE 2
‘THE CLARIFICATION’ THE MUSLIM STUDENT PUBLICATION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY
In this Issue... PERSPECTIVES
The Obligation to Speak Up
Another look at the facts concerning the oppression of Palestinians. By Bassel Tleimat Page 3
A historical perspective of the seemingly forgotten war that continues to be fought. By Fareeha Syed Page 6
Islam in Spain
Reminding ourselves of the great European Islamic Empire that left a lasting impact on the West. By Genene Salman Page 8
Slavery and Islam
Dispelling the myths and describing the stances Islam has taken on slavery By Maliha Khalid Page 8
Dumbing us Down? The role of public education in the our society. A book review with a look at implications. By Nadia Yousef Page 4
Looking for the Rights Have we forgotten Islam’s insistence on human rights and its precedents? By Faiz Ahmed Page 4
Palestine in Pictures An Artistic Interpretation By Nadia Yousef Page 11
MSA Announcements: Meet your new 2001-2002 MSA board! Page 12
Al-Bayan - May 2001
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Assalamu alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu. To step back and view the Muslims of the world today, one has to mentally prepare oneself for a barrage of chaos and a sense of overwhelming despair. The constant tragic song of the Palestinian, the horrific torture of Chechnya, the slow death of Iraq and our own domestic confusion in America is not easy on the human heart. Adding to the problem is a sense of urgency without answer, a semi-panic, and consequently, for many, a complete abandonment of effort, in a move many deem as “leaving it to Allah.” Many of us fall into a denial pattern wherein we cannot afford to care because of overwhelming nature of these issues. This denial and detachment gives us some false sense of control. University opportunities and, often, a comfortable upbringing have given us a different reality of life. Here, we set our goals based on this reality and study and work hard to ultimately serve our faith. This in and of itself is an honorable task, and the most reasonable action we so fervently clamber for. Others of us who get past the hopelessness and magnitude of tragedy often choose a project to work on as well, bit by bit, there being no dearth of work that the Muslim ummah can benefit from. For others, there are so many actions to be taken, it seems as if one is expected to pick an action and work at it, in order to feel validated. However, what we must realize is although lack of action is inexcusable, hand in hand with all essential projects are particular motions that every Muslim must understand as the criterion for action. The motions, self-examination and purification, are that which make any of our projects not only valid and meaningful, but also give proper success to that which we do. A Chechen Muslim that we chanced to interview recently said the following: “A Chechen was put in the Chernokozovo concentration camp, a few months ago, a brother of 20 years. Russians brought him in for interrogation. They beat him to make him kneel down. He refused, saying that a Muslim kneels down only to Allah. They broke his both knees with a butt of a gun. He fell down. They laughed, saying, ‘Hey, you are down on your knees. We are your God.’ He told them, ‘No, it is my body down on the knees, my spirit is not. You broke my knees, I cannot stand.’ They took him out, and to scare him, poured gasoline on him and said they would set him ablaze if he does not bow down. He turned to the Chechen prisoners who were taken out to watch the ‘fun.’ He told them, ‘Do not dare to cry for me. Do not show we are weak. I shall see you in firdous, Insha Allah.’ Russians set him on fire to torture him. He shouted out Allah’s name. They tried to take out the fire, to make him suffer more. But he burnt alive…” The emphatic point made in this account is not the suffering of the Muslims, but the glorious faith by which they can lead their lives. Often, we feel sorry for them, or feel as if we should do something for them, to help them, in the way of Allah. This is what moves us to begin all of our projects, fundraisers, and awareness campaigns. But what often doesn’t occur to us is that these accounts are perhaps telling us to do something for ourselves as well, to look at ourselves. If we spend a few minutes reflecting on the meaning of these signs and the meanings of these worldly disasters, we recognize there is a greater Aspect involved. The spiritual connection is salient; even our actions will not do us any good unless we humble ourselves and recognize that the success of our fundraisers, the success of our little steps are from, for and by God. Our actions will be far reaching if we do them for the right reasons, and to do something for the right reason, we must be people of righteousness...Insha’Allah
Al ! Bayan Staff Editors Adil Khan Salman Alam
Copy Editors Munira Syeda Elsa Elmahdy
Distribution Shayrun Ali
Layout Abdul Rahman Jandali
Staff Writers: Faiz Ahmed Reema Dodin Nazish Ekram Tashfeen Ekram Javad Hashmi Adnan Iqbal Nura Jandali Maliha Khalid Saeed Mirza Sauda Mirza Hooma Multani Genene Salman Fareeha Syed
Farhan Syed Bassel Tleimat Zaakir Yoonas Nadia Yousef
QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? SUGGESTIONS? CONTACT US AT AL_BAYAN@YAHOO.COM
CLARIFICATIONS: The following line of Saudah Mirza’s article [Tasawwuf: Purification of the Heart, March 2001] was mistakenly ommitted from the published version of Al-Bayan. The line read “Credits for this article are mainly due to articles written by Nuh Ha Mim Keller which can be viewed at http://www.masud.co.uk.”
Al-Bayan is operated solely by students on a voluntary basis. Signed articles represent the views of their respective authors, not necessarily those of the Al-Bayan staff or the University of California. Unsigned articles represent the views of the majority of the staff.
Al-Bayan - May 2001
The Obligation to Speak Up: Reading through distortions of Palestinian plight BY BASSEL TLEIMAT Edward S Herman once commented, “If Jews in France were required to carry identification cards designating them Jews (even though French citizens), could not acquire land or buy or rent homes in most of the country, were not eligible for service in the armed forces, and French law banned any political party or legislation calling for equal rights for Jews, would France be widely praised in the United States as a symbol of human decency and paragon of democracy? Would there be a huge protest if France was declared by a UN majority to be a racist state?” This very question which Herman put forth can just as well be directed toward the unjust government of “Israel” and the situation of the Palestinians who currently reside in “Israel,” the occupying power supported by our very own U.S. government. In 92% of Israel, the ownership of land is under the jurisdiction of Israeli Land Authority, which applies religion and nationality as the “fundamental criteria” for land distribution. Arab Israelis and Palestinians are not allowed to buy, rent, live, or even pass by any area that is termed “Jewish Only.” Israeli Professor Uzi Ornan once said in an article that “those registered as ‘Jews’ have full rights in regard to most of the land, cities and settlements; those who are not registered as ‘Jews’ are barred from owning real estate in most sectors of the country.” For the last 33 years, Palestinians have lived under these conditions. Palestinians are also required to carry identification cards that designate them as “Arabs” and drive cars with either yellow or blue license plates, which indicate whether they are Arabs from the Palestinian or the Israeli side. They must also stop at checkpoints whereas Israeli Jews freely pass by. Israel can close the areas under Palestinian control whenever it wishes to do so, sometimes completely closing those areas and preventing thousands of Palestinians from going to work on the Israeli side yet, they call it a democracy. Over the last few months, the Middle East has witnessed the eruption of nonstop “violence.” The American media is swift to blame the Palestinians for all the violence, once again labeling them as terrorists, anti-Semites, and haters of peace. The violence was enticed by Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Aqsa Mosque Compound in al-Quds (Jerusalem) and his declaration that the land is, and will always be under Israeli and Jewish control. We did not, however, hear this very significant fact from the American media, which should lead us to question why the initiating factor of all of this sudden violence has not been mentioned a
second time. This visit was the very reason the Palestinians started protesting in the first place and were subsequently fired upon to disperse. The Israeli Army has murdered nearly 400 Palestinian civilians, yet we do not hear about these casualties from the media. Many of those killed were children, the most famous of whom was Muhammad al-Durra, whose vicious murder by the Israelis was captured on video by a French cameraman. Before learning that it was captured on video, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) claimed Muhammad was throwing rocks at the soldiers. Much to their chagrin, however, they later learned of the footage and immediately claimed he was caught in a ‘crossfire’. Robert Fisk of The Inde-
nocent people. The bombing of civilian targets is illegal under international law. I was in Lebanon in 1993 when Israel launched “Operation Accountability.” In retaliation to Hizbullah’s attacks on Northern Israel, the army unleashed a weeklong air, artillery and naval blitz against civilian targets in Lebanon, killing over 130 civilians. I still remember one of the attacks on Tripoli in the northern part of Lebanon: a building in the middle of the city was completely blown up, there were no close-by military targets that would justify such a hit. It was nothing but clearly inhumane act by a racist regime. What happened during my stay in Beirut over the next six days further convinced me that Israel was intentionally aiming at civilian targets. T h e y bombed all the power stations surrounding the city, roads leading to and from Beirut, including heavily-traveled roads to the mountainous areas which — once bombed — became inaccessible, and most shockingly, civilian villages in southern Lebanon. T h i s , however, is not the pendent newspaper (UK) said that when- whole story: you could fill an entire liever he hears the word ‘crossfire’ in Is- brary with books on Israeli aggression rael he knows for a fact that a Palestin- and violation of international Human ian was killed by Israeli bullets. The Rights laws. Many international human French cameraman confirmed. rights organizations, including Israeli To cover up their ugly crime, the IDF groups such as B’Tselem, have conreleased the results of their own inves- demned Israel for its excessive use of tigation,http://www.nasrproductions.i-p.com/1421flash/p5.GIF saying that it was actually a force, torture, and inhumane treatment dirty plot by the Palestinians—a plot that of the civilian Palestinian population. apparently included the cameraman — The media uses the phrase ‘Peace Prothat went wrong and resulted in them cess’ to describe brokering between Is[the Palestinians] killing the child and rael, Palestine, and the United States. paralyzing his father. However, if one looks closely, the PalesThe IDF does not discriminate in its tinians have made less decisions for use of force, civilians or otherwise. As themselves than the United States, long as the targets are Arabs, they are whose interests in such a small state to be shot. In retaliation to the killing of leaves one wondering. Palestinians are three of its soldiers, the IDF shelled ci- supposed to be happy with whatever Isvilian areas for hours, injuring many and rael and its mentor the U.S. offers them killing a few civilians in the process and in exchange for peace, even if it means bringing to ruin the homes of many in- relinquishing their rights to land that was
stolen from them, their right of return to their own homeland, and allowing an occupying power to control every single inch of their “sovereign” land, which includes settlements declared illegal under international law. This is not a ‘Peace Process”. I wonder what you and I would do if we had the same experience. Imagine, if you will, having lived in your home in the land inhabited by your ancestors for the past 1400 years, and one day a group of people comes in and kicks you out. You resist their occupation for the next fifty years and they get tired of you after a while. To quell your resistance, they make you an offer: they will give you back the doghouse in the back yard as a price for peace—a peace with a few conditions. They will control entrance and exit to your house, the food allowed, and your own movement inside your new ‘home.’ They will also leave their dog inside. Would you accept it? This is the reason the Palestinians have revolted against Israel. They have rejected the ‘Peace Process,’ which has only made them more miserable. The Israeli brutality and oppression we have witnessed over the past few weeks is not a result of Sharon’s visit only: it is a culmination of frustration that has been building up for years. The whole world has witnessed this over and over, but we continue to close our eyes. Here in the U.S. we keep believing everything our media presents to us. I urge you not to take my word or anyone’s word without verifying its validity. Go ahead and check for yourself. This is what many anti-Zionist Jews have done over the past few years, people like MIT professor Noam Chomsky, and Daily Californian columnist Rebecca Kahlenberg. They found out the real nature of Zionism and the state of Israel and spoke against it. They must have had a reason. I urge you, our reader, to do the same: look for yourself and research the truth, going beyond CNN (who chooses to hide the story of its own reporter being shot by Israeli troops), NBC, CBS, and ABC. Go there and live on the Palestinian side if you can. Your eyes will open. Our goal here is to raise awareness, to get you started on your own path to finding out who is the oppressed, and who is the true terrorist. Islam tells us that we have the obligation to speak up against oppression wherever and whenever we notice it, be it against Muslims or nonMuslims, even if the oppressors are Muslim. We are speaking up against this oppression. We hope you listen. Bassel is a UC Berkeley graduate with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology.
Al-Bayan - May 2001
Looking for Rights in All the Wrong Places BY FAIZ AHMED Human rights have become a prominent discussion amongst Muslims. Having witnessed the miserable tyrannies of puppet rulers in the Muslim world, Muslims are calling for the guarantee of basic human necessities such as food, shelter, medicines, education, income and security of life for peoples across the world. Nor is it limited to countries overseas, as even here in the United States, millions (yes, millions) struggle for the same needs. As an example, in its latest study on hunger, the US Department of Agriculture reported that more than 10% of Americans faced hunger last year or worried that their food would run out. Despite a booming economy last year, 17% of the US’s children—about 12 million kids—did not get enough to eat. Thirty percent of all single mothers and their children went hungry or lived on the edge of hunger as did – further highlighting America’s racial disparities— 21% of blacks and 20.8% of Hispanics. As Muslims, how should we react to this appalling situation, this denial of human rights? Other than heaving sighs, first of all, if we’re reacting then we’re already behind—over a millenium behind to be exact. This article is not a dissertation on human rights in Islam. It is an issue taken up in a 1200-year-old Islamic text, written in Baghdad, then the capital of the Islamic state. Not Munich, not Geneva, not Paris nor Washington DC. Baghdad. The author, famed jurist Abu Yusuf, was an advisor to the Khalifa Harun al-Rashid. Most Western ac-
counts would dwell on Harun al-Rashid’s purported lavishness, expansive palaces, or exotic harems, further propogating the orientalist versions of history that seem more like 1001 Arabian Nights than actual history. Meanwhile, they conveniently overlook the implementation of Islam in everyday life for the common citizen of the state. Or in this case, for a convicted criminal in prison. In his Kitab al-Kharaj, one of the several legal and state-administrative issues Abu Yusuf discusses is the fiqh of haqooq as-sijeen, or the rights of prisoners. The jurist expounds that in Islamic prison law, convicted criminals are guaranteed the rights of food, clothing, ability to make prayer, and protection from torture or any punishment beyond the limits set by Sharia (Islamic Law). Much of the text is a recorded discussion between Khalifa Harun al-Rashid and Abu Yusuf, and therein an understanding of the treatment of prisoners in Islam is crystallized, for Abu Yusuf does not speak off the top of his head, but as in any Islamic legal decision he provides the relevant daleel (evidence) from Qur’an or a narration of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) or from a consensus of his companions (may Allah be pleased with them). Some specific points of interest that Abu Yusuf’s text mentions regarding the feeding of prisoners, for example, is that the imprisoned have access to their own wealth outside jail and can use it to buy their own food from outside. If the prisoner has insufficient means, then the
Dumbing Us Down? BY NADIA YOUSEF School is like art. “Teaching is nothing like the art of painting, where, by the addition of material to the surface, an image is synthetically produced, but more like the art of sculpture, where, by the subtraction of material, an image already locked in the stone is enabled to emerge.” Perhaps the solution to the problem of our system that schools well but educates poorly, suggests John Taylor Gatto, author of Dumbing Us Down, is that we need to add a third dimension to the composition of school by carving away accumulated crud, leaving less school and not more. For Muslims who sense the futility and social inadequacy of a decaying school system, Dumbing Us Down can be a launch pad for devising an Islamic solution at best, or an alternative at worst. A punch in the stomach for those of us who have attended public schools all our lives, Gatto describes students as “indifferent to the adult world and to the future, indifferent to almost everything except the diversion of toys and violence, . . . unable to concentrate on anything for too long, have a poor sense of time past and time to come, mistrustful of intimacy, hateful of solitude, are cruel, materialistic, dependent, passive, timid in the face of the unexpected, [and] addicted to distraction.” But students are not at fault. These inadequacies result from teachers and the seven lessons they are instructed to teach, lessons, he admits, he readily taught to his own students: Confusion. Material is taught out of context with a lack of coherence, full of
contradiction, unrelated, and disconnected. Makes sense to those who have ever wondered why you know President Eisenhower’s favorite food. Class Position. Placement and numbering so that “smart kids” are in the accelerated class (wish I was as smart as Carla), and “dumb kids” are in the adjusted class (glad I’m not Johnny). Indifference. Students are encouraged to show fake enthusiasm, though the truth is that no lesson is ever worth learning to completion since classes are interrupted by bells, like a factory. Emotional Dependency. Privileges and rights are withdrawn. Teacher to class: the First Amendment is free speech but not in my classroom. Intellectual Dependency. Dependence on being told what to do, no curiosity allowed, only conformity. The fact of evolution, or was that theory? Provisional Self-Esteem. No confidence, good schooling depends on perpetual dissatisfaction, begin with 100% and it’s all downhill from there. One Can’t Hide. Constant surveillance, private time is not legitimate, and homework is an extension of surveillance into the home so you don’t pick up unauthorized info from mom and dad. These seven lessons are our national curriculum, and according to Gatto, “schools teach exactly what they are intended to teach and they do it well: How to be a good Egyptian and remain in your
Bayt-al-Mal (state treasury) pays for the nourishment of the individual. Writes Abu Yusuf, “Surely for one (in prison), if he finds nothing for him to eat, and has no wealth to buy food to fill his belly, then it is mandatory to provide this for him from sadaqa (charity funds) or from the bayt-al-mal, either source of which is permissible, but it is more preferable to pay from the bayt-al-mal to nourish every single one of them (prisoners).” The same applies to clothing, and Abu Yusuf even gives attention to the type of clothing according to the season, thus requiring suitable clothing for winter and summer conditions. In addition to the detailed treatment of prisoners such as the laws above, this chapter of Abu Yusuf’s text expounds upon even larger, fundamental issues in Islamic criminal law. The first is the concept of due process. Abu Yusuf reiterates the fact that in Islam the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Evidence must be provided; moreover, if there is any shadow of doubt then the punishment must be annulled, as illustrated in Abu Yusuf’s reference to the sayings of the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them), “annul punishments through the means of finding doubts” and “error in mercy is better than error in punishment.” At the same time, Abu Yusuf addresses Islam’s prohibition of corruption and patronism through leniency in implementing punishments to convicted criminals. This great balance in Islam’s justice system is illustrated in his quote, “the implementation of punplace in the pyramid.” John Taylor Gatto was an award winning New York schoolteacher at six different schools for twenty-six years, a period during which he observed unhealthy consequences of the American educational system. He poses the simple solution – frustrating for quantitative minds – of giving students less schooling instead of more. Pumping more money into an already sick system just makes it sicker. Perhaps a Thoreau-like approach could save education by allowing students to learn what they need to, as they need to through the natural course of life, says Gatto. “I have broken with teaching tradition and sent kids down their separate paths to their own private truths.” The solution to spend less and not more on schools is difficult to endorse because schools are businesses, and powerful interests simply wouldn’t be able to afford the loss. For the world’s narcotics economy, American schools are a place of business as well. Our school crisis is actually linked to deeper and greater social crises of consumerism, globalization, and television. Gatto asks us to “think of the phenomena which are killing us as a nation – narcotic drugs, brainless competition, recreational sex, the pornography of violence, gambling, and alcohol, and the worst pornography of all: lives devoted to buying things, accumulation as a philosophy- all of these are addictions of dependent personalities, and this is what our brand of schooling must inevitably
ishment is prohibited on one who doesn’t deserve it (hasn’t been conclusively proved guilty beyond a doubt), just as the cancellation of punishment is prohibited upon one who deserves it.” In another proof of the profound level of systematic legal advancement achieved by Muslims because of Islam, Abu Yusuf discusses in his text the need to look for the root causes of crimes. Why do these crimes really happen? Criticizing many governors’ and mayors’ qilat-an-nadthr (lack of insight), Abu Yusuf reiterates again through the example of the Prophet (SAAW) that if you take care of the people, the population of prisoners will go down. Let us remind ourselves here that this text was composed in the 8th century CE. If this was the required treatment of prisoners, what does this tell us about the respect and dignity in the implementation of Islam given to those walking the streets, and to human beings in general? Human rights, as we say today. On this matter, Abu Yusuf’s chapter on the rights of prisoners in Kitab-al-Kharaj is a revealing and real example of the codification of security and protection for the individual – Muslim and non-Muslim – in a way that balances with the needs and protection of society. All this over a millenium before Locke or Rousseau or any other ‘break-through,’ ‘enlightened’ forefathers of the West who we proudly need not turn to for our example or inspiration. Alhamdulillah, we already have that.
Please see Human Rights, page 5 produce. The character of large compulsory institutions is inevitable; they want more and more until there isn’t any more to give.” TV and school are the two institutions that control children’s lives and blur real world wisdom, patience, and justice. Of a child’s 112 waking hours per week, 55 hours are spent watching television and 45 hours are spent at school and doing homework. This leaves children 12 hours to eat, be a kid and a member of a family. Many aspects of the Islamic model of education confirm Gatto’s conclusions. According to AzZarnuji’s Ta’lim al Muta’allim: Tariq alTa’alum (Instruction of the Student: The Method of Learning), a student should not over-learn meaningless information, learning enough to fulfill a job and to become proficient in a business before all else, just as Gatto emphasizes that we need to learn less useless trivia in schools and end the “let’s do this” then “let’s do that” cycle. According to AzZarnuji, students should study a few subjects of broad scope and material met with frequently so that they not only retain what they learn, but also understand it, validating Gatto’s plea for a shift to a qualitative over quantitative model of education. Gatto also emphasizes that the basics like reading, writing and arithmetic can be learned in a more natural sequence as life unfolds around a child rather than in set age-graded cellblocks. According to AzZarnuji, the student should also remain with the teacher long enough to perfect his learning of the subject matter, unlike our public schools in which nothing is ever truly finished in a class period and sometimes not even by the end of the school year. Asking questions is also highly encouraged: “StuPlease see Education, page 5
Al-Bayan - March 2001
Human Rights in Islam (continued from page 4) If we think with a defensive mentality, it means we’ve already lost because we’re underestimating the comprehensiveness of our deen (religion) as well as our history; the solution to this problem – as with any problem – can only come from Islam. So first and foremost, rather than reacting to the issue off our whims and thoughts-of-the-moment, as Muslims we must ask how does Islam look at human rights, how does Islam define human rights, and how does Islam implement those human rights. Islam must be our frame of reference, as it was for Qadi Abu Yusuf. “Human rights violations” have come upon us because we have left Islam, not in belief and rituals per se, but in our day-to-day implementation of Islamic laws as a system – the individual and governmental level. Furthermore, since we are dominated by a culture that does not derive its values and ideas from Islam, we must constantly be on guard for false concepts and misdefinitions from the mass media system, educational system, newspapers, etc. Regarding human rights, for example, it is defined in a particular way here in the West, and though sometimes Islamic and Western laws may coincidentally overlap in appearance [probably because of human fitra], Western law can carry certain connotations that directly contradict Islam. For example, freedom of speech, family and marriage rights, gender rights are defined in a unique way in Islam and defined in another way in the US and each of the European countries (some of which might have changed again by the time you finish this article), in spite of surface similarities. This is all in addition to the fact that Western law
is derived from the human mind and the ever-changing dhunn (conjecture) of society, whereas Islam is derived from divine sources, the Qur’an and Sunnah. Muslims should not be apologetic, passive, or defensive for any of our ideas or laws that are proven to be authentically from Islam, since they are from Allah. It is a sad state of affairs when Muslims praise the West and its agencies such as the UN as champions of human rights and justice, even if one concedes “but in the U.S. life is better than it is in Pakistan” [or Egypt, or Turkey, or Syria, or any carved up piece of the Ummah] – forgetting that maybe one reason for our problems “back home” is because of the actions of the Western imperialists, not Islam. Instead, if we look beyond the Western media’s biases, distortions and carefully selected emphases and still see problems [which nevertheless do exist] then verily if we study Islam we will see the problem is the lack of Islamic law enforcement and implementation, not Islam itself. Being the Creator, only Allah knows what is best for man and what is not; meanwhile post-renaissance and “enlightened” man lurches in the dark for solutions using a flimsy trial-and-error method, trying to extend what works in the laboratory for technological-scientific issues to social, cultural, spiritual, political, and legal issues, which as Muslims we know are the domain of the Wahiyy (revelation). Little did they know that Muslims had blazed before Europe centuries beforehand, while today the American prison-industrial complex continues its lopsided racial incarcerations and mistreatment therein. Now over 1400 years after the completion of the Message, man is the same as he was at the time of the Prophet in the 7th century CE. His biological needs and
basic emotional and spiritual instincts remain the same [e.g. we still have to eat, want to make money, have man-woman relations, etc.] – only the means to satisfy and organize these needs have changed. Hence, as Muslims we must not ignore our precious guide and light, and surrender it for the constantly changing, falsely experimental, here-and-there, culturally relativistic Western notions of human rights and morality in general. Granted, there is an abundance of misconceptions here in the West as well as amongst Muslims as to what those rights in Islam actually are. This is due, however, to our lack of education and awareness; we cannot blame the deen-al-haqq for our own weaknesses and oppressive acts of ignorance. And as if the Qur’an as a miracle isn’t enough to assure our minds and hearts about the truth of Islam as being the correct way of life from the Creator, then our history is full of factual reminders, like this 8th century Islamic legal jurist Abu Yusuf extracting laws from the Sharia concerning rights of prisoners that only recently — and often today not even that — have been granted to normal human beings, let alone prisoners. Islam defined for us what human rights are and what our responsibilities are in a way that brings peace and tranquility to the individual and society and we should have the confidence of carrying these ideas and laws alone, for this alone will rid us from the oppression of man-made conjecture in running our lives. “O you who believe! Fear Allah, and believe in His Messenger, He will give you a double portion of His Mercy, and He will place a light for you to walk in, and will forgive you. And Allah is OftForgiving, Merciful.”(Qur’an, Faiz isMost a junior majoring in His57:28) tory at UC Berkeley.
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Aref El-Natour, D.D.S MEMBER ADA, CDA & SFDS
Education (continued from page 4) dents should reflect, meditate, and continually pose questions to his teachers,” warding off full intellectual dependency.” Islamically, a large problem with American school systems is that they have no moral authority due to the separation of church and state. Where children are supposed to pick up moral guidance is a mystery, as puzzled teachers and parents shrug their shoulders (or point fingers) at one another. In many ways, schools have become a replacement for church in our secular society. More specifically, students have complete faith in what they are taught by their teachers, rarely questioning the validity of what they are presented as fact. Tae’leem (education) and tarbi’ya (training) are inseparable in Islam so that “mosque and state” have no distinction. Morality is taught in true Islamic schools, and the teachers selected should always be the most learned, pious, and venerable Muslims. The Islamic model does not teach the seven lessons. There is no confusion because students are taught subjects in logical timing and order with progression in life. Children are taught the Qur’an until maturity at which time they are taught fiqh, or jurisprudence, a logical sequence responding to natural development. The Islamic model, discouraging indifference, is much less formal so that a lesson is not rigidly stuffed into a fortyseven minute period that is more important than the lesson itself. Students do not drop their lessons and books at the sound of a bell in submission to an institutional command; Muslims nobly interrupt all actions only for the melodious call of the athan in submission solely to Allah’s command. Islam is a balanced path so that with every right given is also a weighty responsibility to fulfill the right of someone else, eliminating emotional dependency. Islamically, there is no bell curve because the purpose of education is not to give poor or failing grades to half the class. Instead, the teacher’s pursuit is enabling every student to learn, comprehend, and reflect, so that there is neither class position nor undivided intellectual dependency. Dumbing Us Down is a quick read that equips the reader with sophisticated responses to common vague comments such as “this society is messed up.” Although some of Gatto’s ideas are very broad, readers who have been subjected to public schooling comprehend the vivid reality behind his ambiguous words. This book may be best appreciated by conspiracy-theorists, idealists, and technophobes (Muslims too), but is practical enough so that its message can be appreciated universally. For Muslims trying to decide upon the best form of education, this book is a useful primer for choosing Islamic schools and home-schooling as healthier alternatives to education if there is no drastic, immediate reform in public schooling. Maybe eliminating public schools and television is not the solution for every Muslim, but reading this and other deprogramming/unplugging literature or books by Jerry Mander or Neil Postman, may help Muslims critically make decisions about their future in this increasingly challenging society. Nadia is sophomore majoring in Architecture at UC Berkeley.
It is a daunting task, to understand the events leading up to the current situation in Chechnya. Today, a few thousand Chechen Muslims with basic arms fight in extreme conditions, using exhausting, prolonged guerrilla warfare, against a massive Russian army far superior in numbers and weaponry. Chechnya is also plagued with media distortion of facts, as well as Russian attempts to disseminate fabricated information. What makes understanding their plight all the more daunting, however, is the fact that injustice is not a new phenomenon to the Chechens; indeed, Chechnya has been struggling against oppression for centuries. More often than not, each generation of Chechens has had to undergo extreme tribulation, and at the end, pick up the scattered pieces of their history, families and land, and stitch their lives back together. It is essential, then, to reflect upon the rich history of the Chechen people, in order to appreciate their Islam, their jihad, and the free spirit that runs in their veins. A tiny country, smaller than Wales, Chechnya is tucked away at the border of Europe and Asia in the most foreboding and magnificent of regions. The country lies on the north side of the Caucasus Mountains, a thousand miles south of Moscow. The north of Chechnya is comprised of grassy plains and a long river, the Terek, that winds to the Caspian Sea. The heartland, however, is the dramatic, mountainous region in the south, with breathtaking rivers that rush through gorges, deadly ravines, and foothills that climb high, covered in dark beech forests. It is the perfect stage for the guerrilla warfare that has consumed the country, in the past as well as in the present. Chechnya is home to a hardy people, a people of rich culture, Islamic piety, and a passion for freedom which one can observe even in mundane affairs. Upon meeting, the Chechen greeting is marsha voghila, or “come free.” Upon parting, the term is marsha oila, or “live free.” Adding to the free spirit is a rigorous upbringing of horsemanship and fighting, discipline, hard work, intense honor and passion. There are many stories of Chechen joie-de-vivre, and this passion for life, coupled with the power of Islam, has made for a race highly resilient to Russian violence and oppression. The centuries of destruction have taken its toll on Chechnya; recorded history vanished when towns were destroyed and libraries were burned to the ground. Chechen elders, who may have preserved and handed down their history, died in droves, generation after generation, in perpetual violent upheavals that significantly cut back the Chechen population. Much of the written history of Chechnya that exists today is often from a Russian perspective and remains a thorn in side of the Chechens, propagating images of the Chechens as war-mongers and criminals. Fortunately, however, there are efforts to scrutinize these early works and present Chechen history in a favorable and accurate light.
THE TURBULENT HISTORY OF CHECHNYA The accounts vary as to the advent of Islam in the Caucasus; some sources maintain that Islam came to the Vainakh tribes (Chechen and Ingush) by the second half of the 16th century. The high mountains of Chechnya, a natural barrier to invasion, proved to be only a minor obstacle for Islam. Trickling gradually in, Islam enveloped even the foreboding highlands. Prior to Islam, folkloric spirituality, elaborate paganism, and the veneration of ancestors was practiced in Chechnya. As Islam entered the region through mainstream tareeqas, or spiritual methodologies, those customs antithetical to Islam were abolished. As the Islam that came was of authentic Sufi traditions, the Caucasian Naqshbandi were able to preserve a strong spiritual and ideological link to Islam elsewhere . Islam in place, it was to be in 1721 that the Muslims of the Caucasus confronted the Russians for the first time. That year, Peter I landed in Dagestan and was driven out by rebellious ‘natives’. As expansion of the Russian empire took place, elements of conflict began to arise. From 1735 to1763 the Cossacks, runaway serfs and settlers, came from Russia to settle along the River Terek and began building several forts called “The Line.” Although initally the Chechens accepted and lived in peace with migratory Cossacks in the north, Russian aggression eventually ignited Muslim determination to defend and protect their land. In 1785, Imam Mansur, a leader from the Chechen village of Aldy, exhorted the Muslims to piety and action through teaching a doctrine of spirituality and ghazavat (battle) against the Russians. In 1785, Catherine II sent soldiers to quell the ‘rebellious’ Mansur, and the Russians moved in and burned down Aldy. Imam Mansur and his followers rallied back, surrounding the Russians in a dense forest and nearly wiping them out. Brave fighting on the part of the Muslims resulted in a catastrophic defeat for Russia. Imam Mansur was captured and imprisoned in 1971, and three years later, passed away. In 1816, Russia assigned the ruthless Alexei Yermelov as commander-in-chief of the Caucasus. By 1819, Yermelov had moved into Chechnya, leveling 6 villages in the process of establishing the fortress of Grozny. His campaign was one of severe aggression. Yermolov threatened to “destroy auls (villages), hang hostages, and slaughter women and children.” He carried out his vow in 1819, killing 300 families in the village of Dada-Yurt on the Terek River. Yermolov, basking in his pride, failed to recognize that he had planted the seeds for large-scale violent Muslim resistance. In later years, Yermolov’s successors were to face the fruit of his terror tactics, a people thirsty to reclaim the honor and dignity snatched from them. One recent work on Chechnya states, “The Chechen’s attitude to Yermolov had never been in doubt. In the 1970’s and 1980’s they kept blowing up his statue in Grozny until it was eventually thrown in the river once and for all.” By 1832, “The Line” of fortresses extended from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea. The Russians were growing stronger, and fighting continued. Ghazi Mullah, the first imam (Islamic leader) of Dagestan, had implemented strict policy of revival of religion, spiritual purification, and now exhorted his men to jihad. He fought valiantly in several clashes, and made his final stand at Gimry, his village in Daghestan. With him was his close companion Shamil, who on that occasion, made a well-recorded brilliant escape. Shamil jumped from a fortress tower and cut down three Russians before being bayoneted. Pulling the bayonet from his chest, he leapt over a stockade and escaped, leaving the Russians dumbfounded. Ghazi Mullah, who had not survived the stand at Gimry, left his men to his successor, Hamza Bek, but only for a short time. After Hamza Bek’s death in 1834, Shamil became the third imam of the region, a skilled military and spiritual leader who carried on the fighting.
By the early 1900’s, Islam in Chechnya was strong, with large numbers of masajid (moqsues), madaris (religious schools), and ‘ulema (scholars) in place. With the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, however, Chechnya was propelled into a chaotic series of battles and rebellions with various alliances. The climax of the chaos occurred in 1944, and with Stalin in power, Russia committed human rights horrors of irreparable magnitude against the Chechens and others. By 1961, Soviet authorities firmly seated, every single masjid was shut down. The spirit of the Chechen prevailed however, and secret dhikr (invocations) and worship sessions continued throughout the century, part of the underground preservation of Islam. Said-Hasan Kaimov, a custodian of a grave site outside of Vedeno, commented on the Chechen ability to keep up prayer during even the worst of times. “It all continued despite prohibitions, all the time in Khazakhstan, in Grozny, here.”
DEPORTATIONS On February 23, 1944, under the directives of Stalin, the Soviet NKVD (precursor to the KGB) moved into Chechnya, and en masse, packed the entire halfmillion population of Chechnya into cattle cars to transport them to Central Asia where there was little or nothing to eat. Temperatures would dip to -30C, and in the first two years, 100,000 of the deportees died. Stalin had no substantial reason for the deportations; the tactic was nothing less than genocide of a ‘troublesome’ people. Thousands of people died on the harsh journey to Kazakhstan. On board the trains, men and women were crammed tightly together for three horrifying weeks without any toilets or washing arrangements, utterly humiliating the Muslims and causing a typhoid epidemic that spread through the cars. Those who left the trains were often shot; the dead bodies left unburied in the snow by the railway tracks. Many other terrible crimes took place on the occassion of the deportations. On Feb 26, 1944, Gvishiani, a Russian general, herded thousands of people to be sent out of the mountainous Glanachozh area near Georgia, to spend the night in Khaibakh. There he detained more than five hundred Chechens, including elderly, sick, pregnant women, and young children, telling them that they would be taken down to the plains later, on horse, in cars or by plane. With these ‘untransportables,’ were many others who had stayed behind to care for them. In all, over 600 people were gathered inside a stable-block at Khaibakh. When the rest of the people had left the village, Gvishiani suddenly had the doors to the stables boarded up. The windows of the stables had been stuffed with straw earlier, and the entire building had been doused with kerosene. Upon his command, soldiers lit the building with torches, and soon the stable was engulfed with flames. Several witness accounts described the horror and the screams of people being burned alive. The humiliation and injustice of the deportations, declared by Russia to be “permanent without the right to return” was a tribulation in which the Chechen will was momentarily subdued, but Islam remained strong. Willi Weisserth, now Hadj Mohammed, was a German who grew up with the Chechens during the Stalinist exile in the 1940’s and 50’s. He accepted Islam and reflects on the Chechens of that time. “It was a very difficult period, but the Islam there was of very high quality,” he said. “It was very just. The Chechens especially were of high quality. Those old men who I managed to get to know had a prophetic nature, they had justice, correct behaviour and they observed Islam. Despite all their difficulties they submitted completely, 90 per cent I would say, to Islam. There were no distortions.” When Stalin died in 1953, the Chechens began to trickle back to Chechnya. Bans and attempts to stop them failed, and Russia had no choice but to recognize their return. However, Chechnya had been dealt a debilitating blow, and still had to resist the Russification and Soviet influence that continued through the 1960s. Finally, in 1978, the first mosque reopened. Although the Soviet years had done enormous damage, Islamic undercurrents remained strong in the culture, and the foundations of Islam lay waiting for the decade that would give rise to a powerful movement.
INDEPENDENCE AND THE FIRST WAR In 1991, Chechnya declared independence from a crumbling Soviet Union, and no action was taken by Russian forces for a short three-year period. In 1994, however, Russian tanks moved into Grozny to try to subjugate the breakaway nation. Failing to remember Chechnya’s history of resistance, Russia figured that a “small military victory” in the Caucasus would boost national morale. The repercussions for the careless action were enormous. The horror they were to face for the next two years can be summed up in the description of a single scene on New Year’s Eve 1994, when Russians moved in with heavy weaponry against lightly armed Chechens. From Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus: “The Russians were totally unprepared for the grenade attacks on their tanks. For all their heavy weaponry, their communications and back-up were abysmal, and isolated units blundered around without orders, even clashing with each other. The Chechens, by comparison, were fearless... natural marksmen who learn to handle a gun as young boys, they picked off fleeing soldiers easily. Hundreds of volunteers ran in to grab weapons from the dead Russian soldiers.” The rocketpropelled grenades of the Chechens, fired from the shoulder, would rip through Russian tanks, igniting ammunition inside. The tank was a “moving coffin”, and would explode with tremendous force. Chaos abounded, the number of casualties were immense, and the thousands of young Russian soldiers, ill-trained and desperate, fought under superiors unconcerned with the massive slaughter of the troops. Over the course of the next three years, Chechnya was bombarded mercilessly. Heavy bomber planes, bombings, planted mines, tanks, innumerable men and weapons were poured into the Caucasus try to “punish” the Chechens for their brave stand. The casualties mounted, and the Chechen fighters, under first Chechen President Jokhar Dudayev, resisted strongly. The resurgence of Islam was apparent, many of the young, articulate fighters increased their worship and fought under the banner of Islam to defend their land and people. In August of 1996, Chechnya’s few fighters brought the Russian Army to its knees with an all-out offensive, retaking Grozny from the occupants. Boris Yeltsin had been humiliated; his popularity-gaining endeavor which cost thousands of human lives had failed. When they pulled out in 1996, the Russians left Chechnya, a country once extolled for its beauty, in smoldering ruins and ecological misery. They left flying white flags, yet the Russians still did not understand the unconquerable spirit of the Chechen Muslims.
DAGESTAN AND BEYOND: THE SECOND WAR OF THE MODERN ERA Chechnya had not yet recovered from the devastation when, in August 1999, a series of complex events resulted in the outbreak of war once again. Chechen mujahideen (Islamic fighters), under Shamil Basayev, moved into Dagestan to come to the aid of the Dagestani Muslims. “There were two operations in Dagestan,” said Basayev in an interview with JDW correspondent Tomas Valasek, “The first one started when Russians with helicopters began bombing Islamic villages in Dagestan. We demanded that the Russians let the Dagestanis through to Chechnya but that only made the Russians bolder. So in two days, we worked out a plan and entered into the Botlikh district and sent one battalion to the Tsumadinsky district; we surrounded the Russians and allowed the residents of three villages to break out of the circle.” The goal of the second incursion in September, Basayev said, was to relieve the Islamic villages of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi. “When Russian forces started to bomb two villages, Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi, we again appealed to the Dagestani and the local Russian government to solve the problem peacefully. When that failed, we entered the Novolakskoye region and that lured some of the Russian forces away from Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi.” Many sources say that Russian aggression in Dagestan against the Muslims was a ploy to provoke Chechnya, as the Kremlin was well aware that Basayev and his men would move in to aid the Muslims. The Chechen entry into Dagestan gave Russia a reason to once again enter Chechnya and subdue the “terrorist threat.” Around the same time, Russia proved that they were capable of taking innocent civilian lives to establish the Chechens as criminals, with a chilling episode that left the world in shock. In Moscow and another city in Southern Russia, four bombs exploded in apartment buildings, Please see Chechnya, page 10
Slavery and Islam BY MALIHA KHALID The first call to prayer at the Quba mosque built by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was given in 622 by Bilal — a black slave freed by the Prophet (pbuh). The Supreme Court of The United States declared in 1857 that the slave Dred Scott could not sue for his freedom because he was not a person, but a piece of property.
The phrase ‘Islam allows slavery’ is used by many as an onslaught against Islam. Meanwhile, many uninformed Muslims become confused and question the existence of slavery in Islam. For them, this element seems to contradict all the tenets of the faith that are based on equality and justice. In reality there is no contradiction. The attacks and the confusion are the result of imposing Western experience and definitions onto Islamic concepts. Chattel slavery, as it was exercised in the United States, was based on racist ideologies and tyrannical methods and was even supported by the Church. This particular type of slavery has little in common with that in Islamic history. Slavery and Islam The origins of slavery go back to the prehistoric era of mankind. Before Islam, slavery was ingrained in the societies of all the major empires – both Christian and Judaic– to such a degree that it was assumed to be natural and indestructible. Slaves were treated in the most inhumane manner. Under Constantine, any free woman who married a slave was to be executed and the slave burned alive. The Emperor Gratin, in fact, decreed that a slave who accused his master of any offense except high treason should be burned alive at once, without inquiring into the validity of the charge. Arabs in the pre-Islamic days were as bad offenders as their historic neighbors. Slaves were commercial commodities, and slavery was a time-honored establishment. Slavery, as it existed, was inherently against the spirit of Islam. But unlike other ideologies and practices, removal of this deeply embedded social institution was not as simple as eradication through reason. It was a source of livelihood for thousands. Nonetheless, three magnanimous changes were brought that, at least in the Middle East and the Muslim Empires, completely weakened and transformed this ancient practice. Firstly, serious restrictions were placed on the acquisition of slaves. Prior to Islam, slavery was practiced without any restraint. War captives were either killed or made slaves, but weak people – like debtors – could be captured and sold into slavery as well. Chiefs could enslave anyone residing under their dominion. Even fathers and grandfathers held absolute authority and could sell or give their offspring away. Islam absolutely
forbade all forms of slavery with the exception of war-captives. Even in war, many strict limitations were erected. Enslavement was only allowed in wars fought against an unbelieving enemy, and Islam did not permit wars of aggression. All the battles fought during the lifetime of Prophet (pbuh) were defensive battles. Also, a new alternative was introduced and enforced “to let the captives go free, either with or without any ransom” (The Qur’an, 47:4). The captives of the very first Islamic battle, Badr, were freed on ransom, such as money or work like teaching ten Muslim children how to read and write – while those of the tribe of Tay were freed without any ransom. The separation between members of families and tribes was prohibited as well. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Islam raised the status of a slave to that of a free man. Sharia (Islamic law) lays out extensive rules on the treatment of slaves. Slaves gained dignity and social status in society. In a Hadith (a Prophetic saying), Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “…and your slaves, see that you feed them such food as you eat yourselves and dress them with what you yourself dress. And if they commit a mistake which you are not inclined to forgive then sell them, for they are the servants of Allah and are not to be tormented.” To say that slaves are treated in Islam on the basis of equality is actually an understatement because in criminal law, the punishment for a slave was half the punishment for a free man. Islamic jurisprudence details laws of the rights of the slaves. Some of them include giving slaves medical attention when required, giving adequate upkeep, and providing support in old age. If the master defaulted on these or other obligations, the qadi (judge) could compel him to fulfill them, or else to sell or emancipate the slave. A master was forbidden to overwork his slave, and if he did so to the point of cruelty, he was penalized. A slave could enter into a contract to earn his freedom, in which case his master had no obligation to pay for his upkeep. There were also certain rights of land ownership for slaves in which a fixed sum was paid to the master. Thirdly, an active campaign was started to emancipate slaves. Islam is the first and the only religion that has prescribed liberation of slaves as a virtue and a condition of genuine faith in God. The emancipation of a slave is declared to be an expiation for a number of sins. For example, if a man failed to fast without any reasonable excuse during the month of Ramadan, or if he failed to observe fast of I’itikaf, or vow, he had to free a slave for each day missed, in addition to fasting afterward. Similarly, a slave had to be freed for every breach of vow, or for tearing one’s garment as a demonstration of grief on the death of a spouse or child, or if a woman beat herself or cut or pulled her hair in grief over the death of anyone. This type of penalty for seemingly small trespasses shows the extent of Islam’s effort to free slaves. These views of Islam on slavery were necessarily geared towards diminishing it as a social institution and incorporating slaves into society. It is often argued that Islam envisaged
Please see Slavery, page 9
Al-Bayan - May 2001
Islam in Spain BY GENENE SALMAN In Al-Andalus (711-1492), Arabic for Spain, Muslims, Jews, and Christians generally coexisted peacefully. Fouad Ajami explains, “It was a polyglot world that the Muslims came to rule in the Iberian peninsula… It thus made its accommodation with its habitat, [and] ruled with a light touch.” This description may be hard to imagine considering that the recent wars in Bosnia and Kosovo and the struggle in Palestine are religiously initiated. Prior to the Muslim dominance, the political, economic, and religious rights of the people – including civilians, serfs, slaves, and Jews – were severely violated by the Visigoths. Ironically however, in the thirteenth century when the Christians from Castile began their conquest of Spain, the human rights of non-Christian Spaniards were taken away and more land was conquered, resulting in total annihilation of the Muslim population in Spain. Muslims granted leniency and extended the rights of all Spaniards during their reign, but as indicated by the fact that almost all Muslims were exiled, the fifteenth century Christians were determined to cleanse Spain of non-Christians by any means necessary. Spanish Society Before the Arrival of the Muslims The social spectrum of Spain during the Visigoth reign, which spanned from the early 500 CE to 710 CE, consisted of two classes located at opposite ends. Spaniards were either categorized as members of the latifundia class – the elite – or the subjects, who were politically, economically, and religiously oppressed. The latifundia included the king, the churchmen, and noblemen while the subjects consisted of curials, serfs, slaves, and Jews. According to Reinhart Dozy, the latifundia lived lavishly and selfishly: “They lived lives of effeminacy and unbridled luxury in splendid mansions, beside some placed river which mirrored the vineyards and olive groves of smiling uplands. There the days were spent gambling, bathing, reading, horsemanship, and feasting.” The latifundia made political and economic upward mobility of the citizens impossible through oppressive laws. The subject class consisted of curials, serfs, slaves, and Jews. The curials typically inherited at least twenty-five acres of land, and were assigned by the latifundia to manage municipal affairs. Although the curials were ranked the highest (in terms of economic and political rights) among the subject class, they nonetheless suffered economic hardships. For instance, they were forced to pay land tax in the case that the crops of the cultivators would fail. S.M. Imamuddin states that many times, to evade the overbearing tax, the curials
would enter into the military or other servile occupations. The serfs, slaves, and Jews were subject to oppressive laws in all aspects of life. In the social hierarchy of the subject class, the serfs held a lower status than the curials, but a higher status than the slaves and Jews. They cultivated land and served in the military. They were also forced to pay both land and personal tax. Slaves, which included ploughmen, shepherds, fisherman, blacksmiths, and serfs, were denied several rights. The main distinction between the serfs and the slaves was the serfs’ attachment to the land; slaves could be sold independently of the land they worked on. The marriage of both slaves and serfs required the consent of the master. The children of slaves or serfs from different estates would be divided equally and then sold in the market. Furthermore, Dozy says, if the masters were displeased with their slaves, they would face brutal punishment: “They were treated with pitiless severity: a master would condemn a slave to three hundred lashes for having kept him waiting for hot water.” To escape their dismal condition, slaves often escaped to the forest and looted the cities. From 587, when King Recared (586601) converted to Catholicism, to the invasion of the Muslims in 710, the government’s agenda centered on the creation of a Catholic state. In 616, A.C. Sisebut, the Gothic King, implemented a law that forced Jews to convert or face exile and confiscation of property, resulting in the nominal conversion of 90,000 Jews. Also, Edwyn Hole states that “the Fuero Juzgo of the 7th century forbade the celebration of the Passover or circumcision or marriage according to the Jewish rite, and laid down that any Jew who failed to give his child Christian baptism should receive a hundred lashes, forfeit his land to the king and have his head shaven for a sign.” There was a law that forced all Jews to become slaves with the exception of children under seven who were to be brought up as Christians. This law was instituded in 694 when the Jews planned a revolt in which the Berber Jews of North Africa and other exiled Jews who had found refuge in North Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar participated. When the Visigothic government discovered their plans, they immediately punished the Jews by confiscating their land and forcing them into slavery. Jews were then forced to marry Christians in order to reduce the Jewish influence on future generations. According to Imamuddin, “The Jews waited and prayed for the day of the deliverance.” Their prayers were to be soon answered. The Great Invasion The Viceroy of Africa, Musa ibn Nusary, opened the continent to people of all religions, providing a sanctuary for Jews, slaves, serfs, and non-Arab Berbers. Ibn Nusary heard the pleas of the oppressed and knew of the political
Please see Spain, page 9
Al-Bayan - May 2001
Islam in Spain (continued from page 8) problems in Spain. With permission of Caliph Walid of Damascus under the Umayyad Dynasty, Ibn Nusayr assigned Tariq Ibn Ziyad, the governor of Tangiers, the task of conquering Spain. At this time, King Roderick reigned. Internal strife for power existed between members of the latifundia, including King Roderick, indicating that the government was unprepared for the focused and united Muslim army. Bin Ziyad, along with about 12,000 non-Arab Berbers, erected their base in Gibraltar against 100,000 Spanish men. Within about a year, bin Ziyad conquered about half of Spain. He and bin Nusayr later conquered all of Spain with the exception of Asturias. The miraculous victory of the undermanned Muslims was attributed to their intense determination to extend the boundaries of the Islamic Empire. The Visigothic government also aided in the victory with their own internal strife making them vulnerable. Furthermore, the toleration of the Arabs also helped bring about their victory in that the nonArab Berbers fought diligently and in unison with the Arabs. Because the Visigothic men were underpaid by the government and not treated appropriately, the effort of the discouraged Visigothic men could not match that of the Muslims. Also, Spanish slaves, serfs, and Jews actually welcomed the Muslims instead of resisting them. Imamudin states, “The general body of people in Spain looked upon the Muslims as their saviors and benefactors and this is why they at once joined hands with the Muslim invaders and tendered every possible help to them to enable them to complete the conquers of the peninsula in such a short time.” Although the leadership from 711 to 1492 changed many times, Muslims were generally tolerant of Jews, and they granted human rights to serfs and slaves. If the Spaniards followed the new “light laws,” they were not bothered. For instance, the Muslims showed clemency
Slavery in Islam (continued from page 9) a continuance of slavery by allowing it and by prescribing emancipation of slaves as penance for sins. This is not true, because for every instance penance of emancipation of a slave is prescribed, an alternative is also prescribed. Thus, people today do not free slaves as an expiation for their missed fast in Ramadan, but rather feed the hungry and fast for a number of days. Slaves in Islamic History These Islamic injunctions created the most unique institution of slavery in history. It is remarkable that although governmental structures and royal practices – to a great extent – became very distant from the original teachings of Islam, the institution of slavery in almost half of the globe, with the expansion of Islamic Empires, maintained its original spirit, and slaves were treated not just as equal humans but were incorporated into the society where they were granted social mobility. Mamluk sultans who ruled Egypt, Syria, and western Arabia for two-anda-half centuries were actually slaves in the armies who eventually became the emperors. They were mostly from the Turkish and Circassian peoples of the Black Sea area. Even the Ottoman Empire, the last Islamic one which suc-
History to abiding Spaniards in that they allowed them to be governed in accordance with their own laws and by their own counts and governors. Furthermore, the property of those who surrendered to the Muslims was not confiscated, and civilians could now buy and sell their land without the consent of the government. Also, the serfs were no longer attached to the land, a right never endowed to them under Visigothic laws. Even the lowest of peasants could own
out intervention. The Christians and Jews could marry members of their respective religions (recall that the Visigoths forbade Jews from marrying Jews.) Dozy states, “In religious matters [the government] put pressure on no man.” The Jews and Christians occupied respectable positions in Al-Andalus and prospered in several facets of life. In Haim Zafrani’s article Convergent Stream, the political, educational, and economical accomplishments of Jews
land after the feudal system was dismantled. Under Islamic law, the slaves and the master were able to work out a contract that would ensure them eventual emancipation. Thus, movement up the social ladder was now possible for Spaniards under the Islamic dominion. As Imamuddin states, “Social equality was granted to all: Suevi, Goth, Vandal, Roman, and Jew.” The new Muslim government reconstructed the tax system significantly, changing the due amount from overburdening to “light.” Since non-Muslims could not pay Zakah, the earning families had to pay the jizyah, which ranged from twelve to forty-eight dirhams a year. In addition, both Muslim and non-Muslim producers paid kharaj, which amounted to about twenty percent of the crops produced, which was considered a fraction of the amount due during the Visigothic period. Also, the Muslims allowed Christians and Jews to perform religious rites with-
during Islamic Spain are dubbed a “bourgeois revolution.” Rachel Arie, in her article Singular and Plural: The Heritage of Al-Andalus, points out that Hasday ben Shaprut was a Jewish dignitary of the Cordoban court and a director of the financial department in the mid900s. Jewish academies also existed in Cordoba, Granada, Toledo, and Barcelona. Also in the mid-900s, Recemundo, a Christian Cordoban who worked in the Umayyad chancellery, was given the responsibility by the Caliph as legate to the German Empire and to the court of Constantinople. Ajami describes the tolerance of Islamic Spain eloquently: “This was a world in flux, an ideal setting for a community of outsiders.” The Collapse of Al-Andalus and Annihilation of Muslims The disintegration of Al-Andalus began when the Christians from the northern mountainous region of Castile invaded prominent cities, including Toledo
ceeded the Mamluks in 1517, though a freeborn imperial dynasty, consisted mostly of sultans who were themselves sons of slave mothers. The Ottomans relied on the slave corps of Janissaries, who were mainly from the Slavic and Albanian populations of the Balkans, for their infantry. Interestingly, the majority of the slaves in Islamic history were white – Turks and Caucasians in the East, Slavs and other Europeans in the West. Ottomans were also known for starting the un-Islamic practice of recruiting young boys from Christian villages of the conquered provinces. The devsirme slaves were not servants or menials, but were recruited for the service of the state in military and civil capacities. Until the early seventeenth century, most of the grand viziers and military commanders of the Ottoman forces were recruited this way. This was an unaccepted practice from an Islamic point of view, but it is necessary to note that since these boys were destined to have a secure future and become part of the elite, parents were eager to have their sons join the devsirme. It was with the Islamic principles, nonetheless, that the slave population was prevented from naturally increasing. This is in striking contrast with conditions in the New World, where the slave population grew very rapidly. The reason why these populations did not increase natu-
rally was due to the high rate of emancipation. Military slaves were liberated at some stage in their career on a normal basis. The sharpest contrast between the type of slavery practiced in Islamic states and that practiced in the United States is perhaps the fact that slavery was never associated with race. Thus, it is only in Western literature that we come to see specification and notes of a white slave and a black slave in Muslim history. Identities were never based on race. Bernard Lewis’ scholarly work Race and Slavery in the Middle East notes the very few special cases where race might have stood out in the slave experience. He mentions an incident when the Tulunids were overthrown at the beginning of 905 CE and a black infantry was especially killed by order. However, he admits, this course of action was taken on account of the unit’s undying loyalty to ousted dynasty and was not based on racist reasons. Lewis’ article is, in fact, a good prototype of English-speaking writers’ treatment with this or other similar subjects regarding Islam and the Muslim world. The body of the article mentions, without explicitly admitting, the extraordinarily humane treatment that Muslims granted slaves, and picks out some unique incidents that only apparently deal with race at first glance. His overall
in 1085. At first, the Christians were tolerant of the Muslims. As the Christian domain expanded, however, the human rights of Muslims and Jews were correspondingly reduced due to power issues. For instance, the economic rights of non-Christians were taken away. According to Anwar Chejne, the Mudejares, the Muslims as well as the Jews living under Christian rule, now lived in ghettos. To decrease the number of Muslims, intermarriage between Christians and Muslims was enforced, and after the enactment of the Inquisition, Muslims and Jews were coerced into conversion to Catholicism. When Granada was captured, Christians gained full control of Spain under the leadership of Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. According to Alaistar Hamilton, the Christians were set on eradicating any traces of Islam by expelling all openly practicing Muslims in 1502, and then progressing to Moriscos, Christian converts from Islam. Chejne states the Spanish government considered both openlypracticing Muslims and Moriscos, who were often suspected of insincerely converting, a threat to the religious unity of the state. In other words, the government desired complete control of ideologies of their people. In its eyes, the presence of Islam posed a high potential for revolt. Although during the 800 years of Muslim rule some religious disputes did erupt into violence, the magnitude of is small relative to the intolerant actions committed by the Visigoths and Christians in the 15th century. During the existence of Al-Andalus, followers of all three religions prospered in multi-faceted areas of society. Slaves and serfs were no longer destined to their dismal economic status under Visigoth authority. After the Christian takeover and the existence of a single religion, the concept of tolerance became obsolete. Fear of losing power was the motivation for the religious cleansing, as it still is in many countries today. Genene is a junior majoring in Chemistry at UC Berkeley. claim, however, is that slavery in the Middle East was not a uniquely inhumane phenomenon, nor was it more abusive (as may have been expected) than slavery practiced by the rest of the world. This, as the article itself notes, is completely understated. Islam radically transformed the ancient institution of slavery. Slaves became kings in the Middle Ages of Islam. In the United States, it took more than 80 years after the legal abolition of slavery for African Americans to be recognized as equal citizens, although the de facto reality took more time to evolve. This clearly represents that the abolition of slavery was an outcome of economic interests rather than humanitarian motives. Even today, American society is far from complete egalitarianism concerning race and social issues. With these comparisons, slaves in Islamic history were, thus, not really slaves if any Western definitions are to be associated with the term ‘slave.’ The religion and the people who gave a radically new meaning to the concept of slavery, are today accused by the West of supporting the tradition that the West itself bastardized and took to new lows. Maliha is a senior majoring in Rhetoric and Developmental Studies at UC Berkeley.
Al-Bayan - May 2001
Chechnya(continued from page 7) killing hundreds of Russian civilians. The Russians decried the bombings as Chechen terrorism, but there remained a fifth bomb in Ryazan that didn’t detonate. The embarassment came for the Russians in Ryazan, when two men were caught red-handed near the bombs. They quickly flashed their FSB (formerly KGB) IDs to local policemen, who nevertheless took the men to the station. The next day, the FSB acknowledged its involvement. FSB chiefs demanded the immediate release of the two employees, with no substantial reason. The second war was soon underway in Chechnya and continues today. On the Russian side, the war is saliently characterized by severe atrocities against Chechen civilians. The fighting is in the form of guerrilla warfare on the part of a few thousand Chechen Muslims, who desperately defend their lives, land, honor and Islam. The Chechen mujahideen rigorously struggle against the Russian oppression, maintaining their Islam through increased worship, Islamic learning, humility and piety. Despite the media downplay of Islam in Chechnya, images of men in collective prayer, supplicating fighters, and Arabic inscriptions abound. Interviews and messages from the fighters are replete with Qur’anic and Islamic philosophy and subsequently, for them, either winning the war or shahada (martyrdom) are ultimate victories. There are common accounts of huffadh (those who have committed the Qur’an to memory) and scholars participating in the fighting and bestowing knowledge to the mujahideen in group settings. A French reporter documented the spirit of the fighters; when a young Chechen fighter was asked if he feared death, the response was, “We do not know how to fear. We only know how to die.”
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Since September 1999, Russia had waged a military campaign to reestablish control over Chechnya that has cost thousands of civilian lives, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and caused massive destruction to civilian infrastructure. Civilians bore the brunt of Russian forces’ indiscriminate and disproportionate bombardments of summary executions, and other violations of the rules of internal armed conflict.” In October of 2000, HRW published a comprehensive report entitled “Welcome to Hell: Arbitrary Detention, Torture and Extortion in Chechnya.” The report detailed the activities of various Russian “filtration camps,” in which hundreds of “suspected Chechen fighters” would be imprisoned and tortured to produce confessions. Focusing on the Chernokozovo camp, to the north of Grozny, the report includes several horrifying accounts. A detainee recounted how the officers would comment, “Welcome to Hell. You’re lost now. You will die a slow and painful death. We will teach you to respect Russian officers.” The many horrifying and humiliating accounts of beatings, electrocutions, tear gas, suffocation, rape of women and men, sexual assault with weapons, and several other forms of human torture are detailed in the HRW exposition. The humiliation and degradation of Chechen Muslims by deranged individuals is a tragedy that continues to be callously ignored. Two of the “lesser” incidents from the HRW accounts are as follows: “Aslanbek Degaiev,” (real name withheld) told of his experience. “At 7:00 PM, they turned on the music, and the beatings lasted until morning.” I have scars on my head, and my nose and ribs were broken. (My head) was bleeding...They were maniacs, they enjoyed it.” “Fatima Akhmedova,” (real name withheld) a female detainee at Chernokozovo witnessed the brutal beating of a retarded 14-year-old boy when she arrived at Chernokozovo on February 1. After she was allowed to walk through the corridor of soldiers without being beaten, the soldiers called for the young boy: “I heard the soldiers say, ‘you brought us a clown here, let the clown go next,’ referring to the 14-year-old. I started to explain that he really could not comprehend what was happening, and asked [the soldier] not to beat him. Then I looked back and I saw the soldiers putting on their masks. They started to beat the boy with batons, and they kicked him. The boy screamed, calling for his mother and asking for God’s help. [He] was beaten for an hour. He was bleeding from the mouth, and had a head injury and was having trouble breathing. Then, when the boy was laying flat on the ground, they kicked him and said, ‘Why are you bleeding? Stand up!’ Then I fainted...” The exposition concludes that Russia is in violation of, among other human rights laws, Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 (Protocol II), which states the prohibition of “at any time and in any place whatsoever...violence to the life and person...” of non-combatants. A few eyebrows are raised, a few shoulders shrugged. The astonishing lack of response to the documented atrocities seems to reinforce the world’s apathy to the situation. The world watches the violation of its own laws, records it in detail, and yet the torture and subhuman treatment of the Chechens continues.
THE HOPE OF CHECHNYA As Chechen refugees live packed in tents in neighboring Ingushetia, the Muslim fighters within Chechnya are recovering from a cold winter in the mountains and preparing for a summer of intense clashing. Young and educated, they have an impressive network which, despite mass media silence, allows for information from the Caucasus. Several internet sites have been established with information, interviews, pictures and documentaries. The end is nowhere in sight, and many Chechens are exhausted. The horror experienced by fighters and refugees, most of whom have witnessed bombing, slaughter and the death of family members, leaves the entire population sweating out a nightmare. Yet the desperate fight continues for the Muslims. In Hadji Murat, Leo Tolstoy’s “thistle” surrendered, but today, the Chechen fighters have no intention of doing so. In the words of Shamil Basayev, “The Russians want to force the whole people onto their knees and turn us into their slaves, but we can’t take these insults anymore. Our fathers and grandfathers fought and died for freedom, and we consider it a great honour to die for this too. It’s an honor to continue the fight.” Fareeha is a UC Berkeley graduate with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology
Russian Atrocities Against Civilians: BOMBING OF A “HUMANITARIAN” CORRIDOR, 29TH OF OCTOBER, 1999 Witness: Shapieva Zara Avganovna, born 1957 Address: Grozny, Dekabristov street 59 “We were living in Grozny when we heard on the radio and the TV that on the 29th of October, a corridor would open for the refugees. At that time, a relative of ours, Yusupov Dashalu, told us that the corridor would remain open for six days. But on the 27th of October, the Russians bombed the Oktyabrsky district of Grozny to such an extent that we had lost all hope of remaining alive. On that day, a bomb percussion threw me into a sewage pit, as the lid had been removed, causing an injury to my knee. My mother pulled me from the pit with great difficulty and carried me into the basement of our house. We sat in the basement throughout the remainder of the bombing. “That day, not wanting to wait for the corridor to open, we decided to set off for the village of Starie-Ataghy where we had relatives. From there, we planned to travel to Ingushetia on the 29th of October. So, on the evening of the 28th, five of us (Yusupov Dashalu, age 70; his wife Yusopova Arpat, age 64; my parents, Shapieva Hanipat Djamulaevna, age 65; Shapiev Avgan Magomedovich, age 74; and me, Shapieva Zara Avganovna, age 43) set off in a hurry towards Starie-Ataghy in our Jighuli. Yusupov’s son was in a second car with his wife. We successfully reached our relatives, the Bashirovs, and spent the night of the 28th with them. “On October 29th, we set off in two cars along the highway leading to the village of Sleptsovsk in Ingushetia. Although we arrived early in the morning, our car was number 187 or 188 in line. There were numerous people and vehicles. The vehicles were queued into three lines. We waited until 10 A.M., when we were finally told that the corridor would not be opened. Cars and trucks started to turn back, slowed by the traffic jam and large number of vehicles. Hundreds of cars could be seen crawling along the road. “At about noon, I felt an intense impact that left me stunned. When I came to my senses, I saw my mother to my left. She was covered in blood. My father, who had been sitting in front of me, was gone. Our relative, Arpat Yusupova, was also covered in blood. Yusupov Dashal had lost his hand and lay unconscious. Arpat and I were the only ones who were not wounded and were able to move. We started to pull my mother and Yusopov Dashal from the car. Suddenly, I saw my father. He was laying at the edge of the road. Arpat and I pulled our two wounded into a ditch along the road. At that moment, I saw a bomb hit a passing car, literally tearing it to pieces. The bomb blasts were unceasing. When the bomber planes finally left, I ran out of the ditch seeking help for the wounded relatives. I needed a car to transport them out, but there was panic everywhere. There were dead and wounded all along the road, parts of human body and human flesh everywhere. A bit further down the road, there was the remains of a bus. I remember the body of the driver. His hands were still holding onto the wheel, but he did not have a head. People were running into the field from the road, and there were so many women and children amongst them. “I ran along the road shouting for help. I noticed a Niva coming from the village of Shaami-Yurt. It stopped next to me, and two young men got out to help me. They took my wounded relatives to Urus-Martan. There was no room for me in the car, so I stayed behind on the road. At that moment Ramazan drove up to me. Fortunately, he had managed to drive away before the bombing began. He took me to the hospital in Urus-Martan where my family was. We transferred my family from Urus-Martan to a hospital in Starie-Ataghy. My mother died eight days later at the hospital on November 9th, 1999, and my father died on January 25th, 2000. Dashalu died without regaining consciousness, days later, on November 2nd. Yusupova Arpat sustained light wounds and remained alive. I too was wounded and small pieces of shrapnel were lodged in my body. A nurse worked on my wounds, and I kept tending to the injured relatives until they all had died. We buried our three relatives. I shall never forget that bloody day and the pieces of human flesh which lay on the road, nor the women’s wild shrieks. There were many dead bodies laying around me on the road that day. I believe that to have been an intentional execution of our people. They purposefully called us to gather in one place, declaring the opening of the humanitarian corridor on the television and the radio, in order to concentrate as many people as possible. And then planes were used, to systematically kill, in cold blood. It was clearly planned with the sole purpose of annihilating a large number of people. “Nowadays, I live in the village of Kantashevo, at Djabaghiev street 22, in the house of Dzaurov Bisolt, who altruistically took us in, without any interest but to help us. Prior to that, we lived in the house of Dzaurov Ahmad, who also helped us.”
Al-Bayan - May 2001
PALESTINE IN PICTURES BY NADIA YOUSEF - AL BAYAN STAFF WRITER/ARTIST
Al-Bayan - May 2001
P OETRY MSA Announcements The Muslim Student Association at UC Berkeley
2001-2002 MSA Board Members Basim Elkarra Junior, Political Science
Nadia Yousef Sophomore, Architecture
We must realize that we have a huge responsibility on our shoulders, but Insha’ Allah, with all of us working together, we will make this a successful year for the MSA and set a model for the future MSA to follow. We will work together on bringing a better balance between sprirituality and activism, and Da’wa. We need to realize as students in one of the finest istitution in the world we a have a great responsibiltiy to our Ummah. As future leaders, doctors, economists, and lawyers, we will all have unique role in shaping the Ummah.
Insha’Allah next year the MSA will host numerous activities catering to the brothers and sisters on campus. For sisters, activities may include a ski trip, a scavenger hunt, ice skating, parties, dorm visits, an ice cream social, and other forms of good, clean, halal fun intended to strengthen our sisterhood bonds and increase our taqwa of Allah. However, none of these events may come to frutiton without the regular, consistent involvement and dedication of our community on campus.
Elsa Elmahdy Junior, Arabic and Chemistry
Faiz Ahmed Junior, History
I hope, Insha’ Allah, the MSA will have a greater role in the community by helping the Muslim Sunday School, and beginning tutoring and mentoring programs for Muslims at local schools. As Muslims on campus we have a responsibility to be active. Our MSA has many dedicated members and has great potential. The MSA board needs to facilitate avenues for all Muslims to participate and help the Muslim community on campus grow. The MSA will not improve by itself--all Muslims need to take the initiative on changes they want to see.
College is a time of exposure to all kinds of ideas, and ideas make up why we act the way we do; now, more than any other time probably in our lives, is when we formulate our way of thinking and outlook on life—who changes their way of life when they’re 29 or 37 years old? Few. So how we come out of here is usually how we stay—till the grave. We hope that through all the diverse things we do next year inshaAllah, whatever it is. Be it ballin’it up to busting salaams on Sproul to passing bros/sis’s to salat in MLK to oasis sessions, we somehow somewhere therein in a subtle gradual way realize what’s up with ourselves and come out of Cal with the right way of thinking and seeing life and understand on our own who we are and what our place is in this life. Insha’ Allah while always building the brother/sisterhood, and most of all having a reflective and aware mindset and not being asleep, we can realize that way of thinking is Islam.
Wajahat Ali Junior, Undeclared I honestly believe that we, the board, all have the intention to use our collective creativity, intelligence, and aptitude to motivate, inspire, and lead the ummah to resurrecting the dormant, yet very much alive, spirit of the ummah. Insha’ Allah, learning from our mistakes, allowing ourselves to take risks, and spearheading broad, new initiatives shall undoubtedly revitalize the current MSA: an amazing, powerful collection of minds, bodies, and souls willing to perform and advocate righteous just deeds for the sake of Allah.
Be SURE to Look for the MSA during Welcome Week in the Fall 2001!
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