Islamic Horizons January/February 2021

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Learning During the Pandemic


Cover Story


20 The Challenge and the Relief 23 Learning in an Impersonal Life 24 Learning in the Time of Corona: A Parent’s Perspective 26 Day 239 Since School Closed 28 An Uncertain Future? 30 Assessing Success in U.S. Islamic Schools

41 Issues of Poverty in the U.S. Have Solutions 43 Who is to Blame for This Country’s Economic Decline?

Interfaith 44 Improving Faith Coexistence in Emerging Digital Space

Family Life

ISNA Matters 8 Building Centers for Positive Youth Development

Environment 16 ISNA Leads Muslim Environmental Engagement

32 Bridging the Gap

Op-ed 18 Thomas Jefferson, Unitarianism and Islam

Islam in America 34 A Seat at the Table of American Democracy 36 Connected by Faith

Health 50 Racial Health Care Disparities in the U.S. 52 The Organ Thieves 54 A Pandemic of Health Care Inequities 58 Do You Want to Better Survive This and Future Pandemics?

In Memoriam 57 Laleh Bakhtiar

Making a Difference

Muslims Under Siege

38 When All Hope Seems Lost

60 The United Nations: After 75 Years of Existence, is it Worth Anything?

Religion 40 Nafs: Ego, Self or Personality

46 The World Turned Upside Down 48 Teaching and Sharing Islam with Mercy

56 Coping with Covid-19

Departments 6 Editorial 10 Community Matters 62 New Releases

DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz COPYEDITOR: Jay Willoughby. The views expressed in Islamic Horizons are not necessarily the views of its editors nor of the Islamic Society of North America. Islamic Horizons does not accept unsolicitated articles or submissions. All references to the Quran made are from The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana, Brentwood, MD.



Need a New Resolve


020 was a year of challenges, deprivations and blessings. God will withdraw the pandemic, for our Prophet Muhammad (salla allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) has stated that God has appointed a cure for every disease except old age (Abu Dawud). Supremacism, born of Satan’s refusal to bow before Adam because he was a “superior creation,” continues to thrive everywhere. Many people cannot comprehend that Muslims and others have been forced to seek refuge in the West because their homelands have been looted, plagued by proxy wars and — except for the elites — cannot escape poverty. Asking immigrants to love it or leave it is no different than asking people to eat cake if they can’t find bread. Supremacism did not end after King Leopold II of Belgium had slaughtered 10 million Congolese, with the defeat of Nazism, with the stopping of Serbian massacres of Bosnians, or with the destruction of Iraq, Libya and other Muslim-majority states. Refuting their continued claims of having the moral high ground, the perpetrators of these crimes and their descendants continue to benefit from long-ago injustices. For instance, 14 African countries have been paying off their colonial debt to France since 1961, to the tune of depositing 85% of their foreign reserves into Banque de France, the state treasury. Today, France and Austria protect supremacism and anti-Islam views under the guise of “defending the freedom of expression.” A commonly heard supremacist refrain is that they are preserving the “Western way of life.” History reveals just what this “way of life” is — shedding Muslim and Third World blood, destroying and/or ending countless lives, seizing lands and resources when their owners are prostrate. Instead of arguing among ourselves about the proper response to such provocations, we need to look at the real issue: ongoing colonialism, regardless of what we call it today. Some Muslims urge silence, taking verses, hadiths and historical events out of context; writer and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox (d. 1919) said, “To sin in silence while others

doth protest makes cowards out of men. … Therefore I do protest against the boast / Of independence in this mighty land” (https:// Our silence won’t stop the Islamophobes from using the innumerable poison arrows in their quivers to put us in our “proper” place. Interestingly, the supposed interfaith community doesn’t have much to say. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria suffer through proxy wars; roughly 70,000 Pakistanis have died through incessant bomb and drone strikes; Palestine is being forced into nonexistence; European Muslims are being hounded; Kashmiris and Muslim Indians are being hammered into nonentities; and Muslims in Myanmar, Xinjiang, and other Muslim-minority countries find their continued existence threatened. This election cycle we again heard the familiar call of “Vote for the lesser evil.” But who can any longer determine who the “lesser evil” is and what policies it will follow? Muslims, especially those who have been blessed to make hajj, must stone three pillars that represent the small, medium and larger Satans (evils). Of course they remember that even lesser evils are unacceptable. We see how these evils have (and continue to) bring them nothing but death, destruction and loss of much, in not all, that they value. Does anyone wonder why Muslims allow all of this to continue? This year’s West Coast Education Forum, held each January, will be virtual. In this issue we inform our community of how its school administrators, teachers, parents and students have adapted. We also look into how the U.S. health system has and continues to treat Black and minority-Americans differently. It is opportune to remind physicians that as they don their white coats, graduating medical students take an oath that combines the idea of “do no harm” with vows to remember the social and financial well-being of those upon whom they place stethoscopes. The pandemic has stripped away all the rhetoric, platitudes and assertions. We can no longer claim ignorance.  ih


PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Safaa Zarzour EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Basharat Saleem EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2020 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 204-0187 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail, To subscribe, please e-mail: CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email:


Building Centers for Positive Youth Development ISNA is set to support communities help run robust youth development programs BY FIYYAZ JAAT


ope is more than just a feeling; at least it should be. It is a culture of norms that we, as a society, work toward in order to achieve a greater communal good. Hope should not just sit in our hearts; it should be felt by our neighbors, teammates, colleagues and by leaders who can bring about that for which their constituents’ hope. You see, hope in the hearts of some is a subtle cry for that which they wish to come to pass, to come to fruition. Our great Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab (radi Allahu ‘anh) taught us to be concerned about other’s hopes — the hopes of people to be ruled with justice, the hopes of travelers to find their roads safe and the hopes of animals to find paths well made. Dawud ibn Ali reported: Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “If a lost sheep under my care were to die on the banks of the Euphrates, I would expect God, the Exalted, to question me about it on the Day of Resurrection” (“Hilyat al-Awliya’,” 137). Hope in the eyes of our youth is no different — to have a safe space to grow, develop, identify one’s strengths and weaknesses, and to do so in an environment that allows one to grow up obeying God and serving society, beings and everything else that is created. We all have a part to play in developing our youth’s hopes, and then continue to play a part in making those hopes a reality. In the most formative years of one’s life, one doesn’t simply take his or her foot off the gas pedal and attempt to coast through it, especially in today’s climate, where that road is uphill. There are many wonderful examples of organizations — may they all be blessed — trying to do their part to realize this vision. One of them is ISNA’s very own Youth Development department (YouthDev), which is delving into this field passionately through its Center for Positive Youth Development (CPYD) program. ISNA’s YouthDev comprises a team of subject matter experts in youth work who are striving

WE ALL HAVE A PART TO PLAY IN DEVELOPING OUR YOUTH’S HOPES, AND THEN CONTINUE TO PLAY A PART IN MAKING THOSE HOPES A REALITY. IN THE MOST FORMATIVE YEARS OF ONE’S LIFE, ONE DOESN’T SIMPLY TAKE HIS OR HER FOOT OFF THE GAS PEDAL AND ATTEMPT TO COAST THROUGH IT, ESPECIALLY IN TODAY’S CLIMATE, WHERE THAT ROAD IS UPHILL. toward the goal of connecting, upskilling, resourcing and opening doors for communities in the realm of youth work. For the most part, youth do not control the resources or their deployment to offset their own needs. God has placed that responsibility in their community’s elders and those who lead their mosques and/or Islamic centers. The current pandemic, as with the case of any major ripple or disturbance to our communities, has caused resources to be reassigned and re-envisioned based on the latest identified priority. That focus, however, can cause us to lose sight of some members’ critical needs, such as those of our youth. The effect of this unintentional pivot may not be seen for four or five years, when it is either too late or difficult a task to resolve and more youth have left our spaces. In a time when many organizations and communities are seeking ways to adapt their programs, a strong focus must always be placed on our youth. The CPYD program seeks to consult with and provide communities with the resources they need to kick-start or improve their youth development programs, to help them create the environment in which our youth can realize their hopes and thrive. This is not meant to be a plug, but rather a call for our communities and leaders to see what so many others see: the obligation to understand our


youth’s reality and the important role we all play in their development. Ensuring sound leadership tomorrow requires investing in those stewards today! Our communities should not find themselves alone in a climate and at a time when the ongoing global pandemic is showing us how deeply we are all connected. CPYD’s program assesses community resources and involves a leveraging plan through ISNA’s nationwide reach. Charting a course for a community to become such a center, however, requires that CYPD know where that particular community is standing today. As such, this program’s first phase is a needs assessment. Interested leaders can reach out to the team — — and help team members start formulating a relevant plan by providing the necessary data. More information can be found there as well, so let’s work together on it. As every community can benefit from this program, let’s support our youth’s positive development, inspire and then help their hopes come to fruition.  ih Fiyyaz Jaat, Strategy & Operations Officer, ISNA Youth Development Department.


Umair Shah Heads Washington State Health Department Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, took charge as Washington State’s new secretary of health, Dec. 21, 2020, in Gov. Jay Inslee’s second-term cabinet. He had served as executive director and local health authority for Harris County Public Health (HCPH) in Texas since 2013 “Dr. Shah brings an unrivaled expertise, knowledge and passion for public health,” Gov. Inslee remarked. “His leadership will help us lead Washington state through the next crucial phase of this pandemic. He is uniquely suited to continue our nation-leading response. An immigrant, originally from Pakistan and raised in Ohio, equity is incorporated and considered in every decision as he leads organizations to ensure the health and safety of everyone.” The Seattle Times (Nov. 22, 2020), which editorially lauded Shah’s coming, quoted University of Houston medical historian Helen Valier, an expert on pandemic responses, that Shah “… can get a crowd going and understands that public health is local health. He’s done a lot for Houston. … We’re not spiraling out of control the way we were. That’s down to good leadership and the front line clinicians.” While thanking the governor, Shah stressed, “Without question, the number one priority for me is to work with the team to continue the fight against COVID-19 and help Washingtonians through these challenging times. “This pandemic has highlighted the importance of public health and health care working together, and I am confident [that] my experience in both will serve the state of Washington well now during these difficult times, and into the future.” During his seven-year tenure as leader of the nationally accredited HCPH, which manages the 700 public health staff serving the 4.7 million residents of the nation’s third largest county, in 2016 the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) recognized HCPH as Local Health Department of the Year. Before this, Shah had been chief medical officer of Galveston County Health District and served as an emergency department

physician at Houston’s DeBakey VA Hospital for 20+ years. Shah acquired extensive leadership experience while responding to such public health crises as novel H1N1, Ebola, Zika, Covid-19 and various hurricanes and other emergencies. During his training, he spent time at the World Health Organization and was deployed to Kashmir and Haiti after both countries experienced devastating earthquakes As NACCHO’s president (2017), he represented nearly 3,000 local public health departments nationwide and its Texas affiliate. In 2019 the American Public Health Association awarded him its Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work. Dr. John Wiesman, the outgoing secretary of health, noted, “I am leaving the Washington State Department of Health in good hands. I have known and worked with Umair for over a decade. He is a thoughtful, knowledgeable and energetic leader. He brings with him deep public health expertise, passion for addressing health inequities, and emergency response experience, all of which will serve the state very well right now during this pandemic and for the years to come.” Shah has a bachelor’s degree (Vanderbilt University), a medical degree (The University of Toledo Health Science Center) and a master’s (public health, with an emphasis in management and policy sciences, The University of Texas Health Science Center). Last year, Elemental included him in its list of the nation’s 50 health and science experts to help people separate truth from misinformation and stay up to date. Other Muslim health professionals listed included Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, MD, DRPH (author; CNN political commentator; former director, Detroit Health Department); Nahid Bhadelia, MD, MA (medical director, Special Pathogens Unit, Boston Medical Center; associate professor, Boston University School of Medicine); Abraar Karan (department of medicine, Brigham & Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School) and Syra Madad (senior director, System-wide Special Pathogens Program, NYC Health + Hospitals).  ih


Azhar Azeez, a former ISNA president, addressed the Islamic Council of Ohio’s (ICO) 33rd Islamic Day in Ohio (IDO), held virtually on Oct. 10, 2020. This year’s theme was “Racial Justice: A Moral Obligation.”

He reminded the audience that we have to remain aware of those who try to divide us and to applaud the nation’s Founding Fathers and Mothers, who showed great wisdom by allowing freedom of religious practices in this great nation of ours to grow. He pointed out that Muslim Americans come from 57 Muslim-majority countries, 54 of which had either been colonies and/or dictatorships, and the U.S. allowed them to grow and thrive in a democratic and pluralistic environment. As with every minority community, their stories and challenges are unique. Thus, he stated that we should never minimize our contributions and have the moral obligation to continue to contribute, as well as stand with and for those marginalized people who face brutality and oppression. Each year ICO partners with a state Islamic center to host the event. This year, the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent (ISAK) and the Akron Masjid collaborated with ICO to host it virtually. Speakers included Councilman Basheer Jones (Cleveland’s first Muslim council representative), Toqa Hassan (founder of Youth Inspiration Network, Akron Masjid’s youth group), Khalid Madhi (chair, Faith Islamic Academy’s board of education), Sohail Khan (chairperson, ICO), Faheem Shaikh (president, ISAK) and Abdelkareem Melaiye (amir, Akron Masjid). Lydia Rose (public relations director, ISAK) moderated the event. Governor Richard Celeste declared an official Islamic Day in Ohio in 1987, prompted by the council’s efforts to familiarize public officials with the religion.  ih

people cannot gather together in a place of their choosing and practice their faith. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act marked its 20th anniversary last month, and it ensures that people of all faiths can establish houses of worship. The Justice Department will continue to enforce this important law against any government that violates the right of faith communities to build gathering places for worship.”

Muslims Making Change

The Shawnee Mission Islamic Education Center (SMIEC) inaugurated its Masjid Maryam (Merriam, Kan.), Sept. 18, 2020, thereby meeting its need for a conveniently located center. Metropolitan Kansas City, which includes 14 counties in both Kansas and Missouri, is one of the region’s fastest growing areas. All but two of its mosques are located on the Missouri side; the other two are located in Kansas. As north-central Johnson County, Kan., had no mosques, its Muslims were renting a hall for jum‘a services; however, they could not offer taraweeh prayers because the mosques were too far away. Discussions about finding a suitable place had been ongoing since fall 2009. Members started a weekend Islamic academy in 2010 and held classes in rented public buildings. In August 2019, they purchased a vacant church located in Merriam — site of the famous Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education Kansas legal case — Johnson County. Major renovation was completed in summer 2020. At the first jum‘a service, Muhammad Tarife called the inaugural adhan and Hamza Alshami, MD, delivered the khutba. SMIEC plans to organize lectures by reputed scholars and offer workshops and seminars. Farrukh Jamal, Mohamed Abulbashar and Ahmad Ali supported the project, which was spearheaded by Prof. Syed Eqbal Hasan (president, SMIEC; professor emeritus, University of Missouri-Kansas City). Besides generous donations from local and nationwide supporters, SMIEC obtained an interest-free loan from the North American Islamic Trust. SMIEC also managed the Dr. & Mrs. M.A. Zikry Memorial

Scholarships for college-bound high school graduates for five years. Farrukh Jamal, an author, college English teacher, Fulbright scholar and board member, offered English classes to Syrian refugees at her home. These classes, along with weekend Islamic academy, will be held in the new center.

The Omar Islamic Center (Meriden, Conn.), which sought Department of Justice intervention after the town denied it permission on March 13, 2019, to build a mosque, secured its right through a consent decree, applying the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, reported the Washington Times, Nov. 6, 2020. According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut, city officials had said they were worried about the loss of tax revenue if the two-story structure, which had sat vacant for 15 years, was permitted for religious use. The ground floor will serve as the mosque. DoJ Civil Rights Division Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband noted, “The United States of America is, and must always be, a nation that protects the religious freedom of all people. For more than four centuries, religious people from all over the world have found refuge here. Our Constitution protects the right of all people in this free nation to exercise their religion. But that right will mean little if

Muslim Advocates (Muslim Advocates — Halting Bigotry in its Tracks) celebrated leaders nationwide who exemplified their commitment to justice during the past year on Oct. 14, 2020, at its Muslims Making Change: National Honors event. The national honorees were: • Racial Justice: The Family of Muhammad Muhaymin Jr. (Arizona), for working to secure justice for Muhammad’s killing and for broader police reforms in Phoenix, and Sanaa Abrar (Washington, D.C.), for her advocacy against racist and xenophobic immigration policies affecting immigrant youth. • Covid-19 Relief: Kamal Eldeirawi (Illinois), for creating the CIOGC Joint Task Force and advising Chicago-area mosques on best practices to close and safely reopen during the pandemic, and Taneeza Islam (South Dakota), for her efforts to protect the largely immigrant and refugee workers of Sioux Falls’ Smithfield meatpacking facility from the country’s largest Covid-19 outbreak. • Civil Society: Daisy Maldonado (New Mexico), for organizing residents of the state’s colonias to build power and leadership in some of the country’s most marginalized communities, and Umer Rupani (Georgia), for registering and mobilizing Muslim and non-Muslim voters statewide in advance of a historic election year. • Ally Award: Jessica J. Gonzalez (Washington, D.C.), for valiantly speaking up against online hate and its effects on Muslims.  ih


COMMUNITY MATTERS Dr. Nadeem Ahmed Memon, scholar and leader in Islamic school education and research, joined the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA) board October last year. A senior research fellow in the Centre for Islamic Thought and Education (the School of Education, the University of South Australia), he is a leading expert on the history of North America’s Islamic schools and developing the “Principles of Islamic Pedagogy.” His latest book, “A History of Islamic Schooling in North America” (Routledge, 2019), reflects a strong sense of our challenges and achievements. His research focuses on teacher education, especially Islamic pedagogy, comparative faith-based schooling, the philosophy of religious education and culturally relevant and responsive teaching. He is the co-editor of “Philosophies of Islamic Education: Historical Perspectives and Emerging Discourses” (Routledge, 2016) and ”Discipline, Devotion, and Dissent: Jewish, Catholic, and Islamic Schooling in Canada” (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2013). Dr. Seema Imam (chairperson, ISLA) said, “I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Nadeem Memon for over a decade now, and I look forward with excitement to his work with the ISLA. He brings a unique combination of international experience and critical Islamic pedagogy. “We look forward to Dr. Nadeem’s contributions to ISLA in forging research with practice in a manner that advances Islamic education and assists Islamic school teachers and leaders to become grounded in the principles of Islamic pedagogy — an essential component to the success of Islamic schools as a whole.” Stafford (Va.) County’s Board of Supervisors effectively voted on Oct. 29, 2020, to repeal ordinances that prevented new construction at the All Muslim Association of America, Inc. (AMAA) cemetery. The vote came after Muslim Advocates, Milbank LLP and HMA Law Firm filed a religious freedom law suit against the county and its board on June 8, 2020, for blocking the cemetery. The U.S. Department of Justice also sued the county on June 19, 2020. AMAA’s current cemetery in the county

N.J. Mosque Wins Approval

The Garden State Islamic Center and the City of Vineland, Cumberland County, reached a $550,000 settlement in August 2020. This ended the discrimination case launched in 2017, which accused the city of preventing the mosque’s planned expansion to accommodate facilities that will include lecture rooms, a library, and offices. The city also agreed to issue the certificate of occupancy needed to open the mosque’s second floor so that the South Jersey mosque, which has about 220 members, can finally provide full congregational and educational programs as well as childcare services. The settlement ended more than a decade of litigation, sparked by the city’s refusal of the center’s 2009 request to build the mosque. In addition to raising constitutional objections, the center argued that the city’s actions violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, which protects houses of worship from zoning discrimination. The center filed suit in U.S. District Court in Camden three years ago, after the city refused to issue the certificate of occupancy, alleging that the city “unreasonably and unilaterally rescinded the pre-construction permits” and “engaged in a pattern and practice of discriminatory conduct.” The city planning board had approved their site plan for a three-level house of worship in 2011 after settling an earlier complaint filed in state court. Among the discriminatory acts were slapping a $50,000 property tax bill on the mosque in 2015, despite the obvious fact that any mosque is a tax-exempt religious organization, and wrongly determining that the mosque’s sewage flow, a threshold that requires state approval for new septic and waste management systems. The calculation method used, which grossly overestimated how many people visit the building each day, has not been imposed upon other religious and secular institutions, the center stated.  ih

is expected to reach capacity during 2021. Anticipating this, in 2015 it purchased additional property. In response, the Stafford County Board of Supervisors initiated a rushed and unusual process to pass a new (and discriminatory) ordinance. The vote effectively repealed this ordinance, as well as a second one adopted in August 2020. Now that this significant hurdle has been removed, AMAA plans to continue legal proceedings to ensure the cemetery’s actual approval and that it is fully compensated for the unnecessary


costs generated by the county and board’s actions. “Discrimination against Muslims follows them even to their graves, but this repeal is a step toward ensuring that Muslims in Stafford County will be able to mourn their dead,” said Muslim Advocates senior staff attorney Matt Callahan. “Across the nation, Muslims trying to build cemeteries have faced similar roadblocks. Our clients have lost significant time and money trying to build their cemetery, and we will keep fighting to ensure that they finally achieve that goal.”  ih

ACHIEVERS Governor Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) appointed Faisal M. Qazi, 46, to the California Commission on Aging, on Oct. 2, 2020. Since 2011, Dr. Qazi has served as president and co-founder of MiNDS (Medical Network Devoted to Service), a nonprofit that provides specialty health care services to underserved families. In December 2015, he spearheaded the “United for San Bernardino” campaign, which raised over $200,000 for the victims of the 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting. He also served on the Justice Mental Health Project Advisory Board during January 2016. Qazi, an assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside since 2018 and an assistant professor at Western University since 2008, is also an Advisor to University of Chicago’s Initiative on Islam and Medicine. During his career, his works have been featured in the mainstream media, he was listed among the Best Doctors in Inland Empire in the late 2000s and received the St. Jude Medical Center’s Values in Justice award in 2016. In addition to being a City of Fullerton Commissioner and member of its Citizen’s Community Development Committee since 2014, he has received the New Leaders Council’s 40 under 40 Outstanding Service award (2012) and the Calif. State Assembly Representative’s Excellence in Leadership Award (2013). A practicing neurologist and member of the California Neurology Society, Qazi holds a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (Touro University, College of Osteopathic Medicine). Michael A. Rashid (president, Michael A. Rashid Associates; former CEO, AmeriHealth Caritas) took over as director of the Philadelphia Commerce Department on Nov. 30, 2020. While announcing his appointment, Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney said, “Michael Rashid brings an unmatched combination of entrepreneurial passion, long-standing relationships and a business savvy that will be crucial for Philadelphia as we confront the extraordinarily challenging economic climate facing our city.” Rashid, who holds an MBA in finance (Harvard Business School) and a bachelor’s in marketing (The University of Southern California), served on the Obama administration’s National Council on Minority Health and Health Disparities (2013-15). Having dedicated his career to ensuring that people in need have access to health care, Rashid seeks to strengthen the earning power of minority residents and grow minority businesses. The American Muslim Community Foundation (AMCF; presented its Outstanding Fundraising Professional award to Azhar Azeez (director, Fund Development, Islamic Relief USA; former president, ISNA) on Nov. 14, 2020. Founded in 2016, this grass-roots national nonprofit organization focuses on creating donor-advised funds, giving circles, distributing grants and building endowments for Muslim Americans.  ih

Muslim Winners 2020 Federal, state, county and city legislatures welcomed several new Muslim members. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) won their first reelection races for a second term in the U.S. House. Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) — in Congress since 2008 — was reelected. Minnesota also elected five Somalis to state and council seats. ■ Omar Fateh (D), a 30-year-old business-systems analyst at the University of Minnesota, became the first Somali-American in the Minnesota Senate's history. He wants to continue “bridging the gap” between the African immigrant community and the American culture in which he was born and raised. He has worked for the city as a community specialist to improve outreach to African immigrants and is currently the vice-chair of the Hennepin County 2040 Comprehensive Plan Policy Advisory Committee. ■ Hodan Hassan (D) was reelected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, making her the second Somali-American woman elected to be a state legislator. Since her arrival 20+ years ago, she has worked as a social worker, a mental health clinician and an advocate for social and economic justice and human rights. She currently serves as executive director of Pathways 2 Prosperity. ■ Mohamud Noor (D) was reelected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. A computer scientist by training, before he entered politics he was a system administrator for the Minnesota Department of Human Services. He is also the director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. ■ Abdullahi Abdulle (D), 36, an associate transportation planner for the City of Minneapolis, became the first Somali elected to New Brighton City Council, as well as the suburb’s first Black and first Muslim council member. He joined the Minnesota Army National Guard during his freshman year at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and served until 2018. ■ Iman M. Jodeh, a community activist, educator, and daughter of Palestinian immigrants, became the first Muslim lawmaker elected to the Colorado House of Representatives. As a community liaison for Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, she continues to advocate at the Capitol for Muslims. In 2008, she founded the nonprofit Meet the Middle East to help Americans understand the “most misunderstood region of the world.” She lectures at the University of Denver and is a regular guest speaker on Islam and the Middle East’s geopolitical climate. ■ Nafisa Fai, 43, a Somali small business owner and public health expert, was elected Washington County (Ore.) Com­m­issioner — the commission’s first Black member and first Muslim member. She has worked for the American Red Cross, the Multnomah County Health Department and Upstream Public Health (a Portland-based JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   13

COMMUNITY MATTERS nonprofit) and done consulting work. She now manages the county’s contact efforts. ■ Nadia Hasan (D), a daughter of immigrants elected to the Beaverton City Council (Ore.), brings a wealth of experience as a former high school teacher in Beaverton schools and a human resources/marketing professional who has worked at Nike, Fred Meyer, Warner Bros. and other Fortune 100 companies. ■ In Wisconsin Samba Baldeh, 49, who emigrated from the Gambia in 2000, became the first Muslim elected to the Wisconsin State As­ sembly, as well as the first Black man to represent Dane County in the legislature. A former president and current member of the City of Madison common council, he was declared the winner with 80% of the vote in a White-majority district. ■ In Florida, lawyer Christopher Benjamin, became the first Muslim American elected to a statewide office — he represents the state’s 107th District in the House of Representatives. After a three-year tour of duty in the US Army, Christopher enrolled in south Florida’s only HBCU, Florida Memorial University, where he led various campus organizations as the Kappa Gamma chapter of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, the NAACP college division and served as class president and attorney general of the Student Disciplinary Council. He has his own law practice, The Barrister Firm, and is a certified mediator, a qualified arbitrator, a special magistrate in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and an active public servant. ■ In Delaware, Madinah Wilson-Anton (D), 27, became the first Muslima lawmaker to serve in the state’s General Assembly and the first Muslim to hold the local state House seat, securing 72% of the vote. She first made waves back in September by defeating the 11-term incumbent Rep. John Viola. In her own words, her win sends a message “to our community that we are a part of this country, no matter if you’re a first-generation or if you’re a descendant of enslaved Africans. We’re all part of this country.”



Public Office

Aziz Akbari


Alameda County Water District Director

Aliya Christi


SF City College Board

Hosam Haggag


Santa Clara City Clerk



Sunnyvale City Council

Sam Din Hindi


Foster City

Farrah Khan



M. Saud Anwar


State Senate

Christopher Benjamin


State House

Ako Abdul Samad


State House

Raheela Ahmed


Prince George’s County Public Schools Board of Education

Sam Baydoun


Wayne County Commission

Eric Sabree


Wayne County Treasurer

Adel Mozip


Dearborn Public Schools Board

Yameen Jaffer


Pittsfield Board of Trustees

Mo Sabbagh


Crestwood School Board

Charlene Elder


Wayne County 3rd circuit court

Helal Farhat


Wayne County 3rd circuit court

Mariam Bazzi


Wayne County 3rd circuit court

Abdullah Hammoud


State House

Sharon Dumas El- Amin


Minneapolis Board of Education

Nida Allam


Durham County Board of Commissioners

Nasif Majeed


State House

Mujtaba Mohammed


State Senate

Safiya Wazir


State House

Aboul Khan


State House

Fahim Abedrabbo


Clifton Board of Education

Feras Awwad


Clifton Township Board of Education

Melinda Huerta Lee


West Orange Board of Education

Sahar Aziz


Westfield School Board

Smita Nadia Hussain


Bloomingdale Board of Education

Bernice “Tina” Jallo


Somerset County Surrogate’s Court

Yousef J Saleh


City of Jersey City Council

Khizar A. Sheikh


Mountain Lakes Borough City Council

Fozia Janjua


Mt. Laural City Council

Zeeshan Siddiqi


Old Bridge City Council

Mohammad Ramadan


Haledon City Council

Shahin Khalique


Paterson City Council

Zohran Kwame


State Assembly

Robert Mamdani Jackson


New York State Senate

Charles Fall


New York State Assembly

Mauree Taylor


State House

Sharif Street


State Senate

Jason Dawkins


State House


■ Palestinian American Fady Qaddoura (D.) is the first Muslim in the Indiana Senate. In 2016, Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett appointed him Controller of the City of Indianapolis and Marion County to fix the city’s budget deficit. He balanced the city’s annual budget, helped it receive four credit upgrades from four national credit rating agencies and “smartsized” the city government to save taxpayers over $70 million over three years. At the end of 2019 he became chief innovation officer for Katz Sapper & Miller, the city’s largest accounting firm. ■ Zohran Mamdani (D.), 29, a housing advocate, represents Astoria, a multiethnic neighborhood in Queens, in the New York State Assembly. Mamdani is not only the first Indian but also the third Muslim elected to the assembly. Muslims make up 9% of the city’s population — about 800,000 people. ■ Farrah Khan, the first Muslim American woman elected to the Irvine City Council (2018), is now Irvine’s mayor. During her career she has, among other things, created 500 workforce housing units and 200 permanent affordable housing units for homeless people, veterans, disabled people, and senior citizens as well as authored an option for Community Choice Energy, a program that gives local residents control of where their energy comes from. Khan is currently chair of the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and stresses preserving green spaces and transferring to renewable energy. ■ Omar Din, 23, was elected to the council of his city’s birth, Sunnyvale. His experiences of volunteering at community centers and mosques have given him a deep relationship with the city. During 2016, he was appointed to the city council as Parks and Recreations Commissioner, where he oversaw the annual budget of over $40 million for the department and the development and renovations of parks and recreational facilities. ■ Belal Aftab, elected to Saratoga’s city council, also serves as chair of the Traffic Safety

Commission in the City of Saratoga, vice chair of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Citizens Advisory Committee and as a member of the Flight Safety Foundation. He currently works for financial technology company Stripe, which is building economic infrastructure for the internet, and is co-founder and co-lead of Stripe’s Interfaith Community Group. ■ Mauree Turner, 27, who won her race for state House in Okla­ homa, became the first Muslim lawmaker ele­ cted to that state’s legislature. She was raised in a Muslim and Baptist household. ■ Fauzia Rizvi was elected to the Corona, Calif., Western Municipal Water District Division 5. Des­cribing herself as a mother, engineer, small business owner and community advocate, she has lived in Corona for 17 years and has worked with, among others, For the People Task Force, City of Corona Homeless Task Force, CNUSD PTA, Corona Norco Interfaith Association, Beloved Corona and Riverside Community College Measure C Bond Oversight Committee. She has 20 years of experience in implementing innovative solutions to important environmental and water issues in the private sector. ■ Aziz Akbari was reele­ cted Alameda County Water Dis­trict director, representing at-large in California. A Uni­versity of Southern California (‘15) graduate, Aziz has a background in industrial engineering and resource planning. He has been the county’s consumer affairs commissioner since February 2014. ■ San Francisco bornand-raised Aliya Chisti, elected to the City College Board, is the first Muslima elected in San Francisco’s history. In her current capacity of overseeing the Department of Children Youth and Their Families’ Free City College Program, she holds the partnership between City College of San Francisco and the City and County of San Francisco. In

2016, a 12-member board appointed by President Obama selected her to serve as a Fulbright Scholar in North Macedonia, where she taught English and developed higher education policy recommendations. ■ Hosam Haggag was reelected unopposed as Santa Clara City Clerk — the first MuslimAmerican elected in the city’s history.  ih



ISNA Leads Muslim Environmental Engagement Humanity has forgotten its role as God’s representative on Earth BY THE ISNA GREEN INITIATIVE TEAM


limate change and environmental degradation remain existential threats. Scientific studies continue to draw our attention to them, as do the increasing frequency of such extreme weather events as extraordinary forest fires, more destructive hurricanes — obvious signs of human-caused climate change. More than 700 Quranic verses and scores of hadith deal directly or indirectly with the environment and the natural world. For example, “And He has made subservient to you [as a gift] from Himself and all that is in the universe and on the earth. In this, behold there are messages indeed for the people who think” (45:13). By endowing only humans with a creative mind, and thus the ability and responsibility to make conscious use of the natural world, God directs us toward a just, equitable, sustainable and prudent use of its limited natural resources so humanity can continue to exist. Recognizing climate change’s impact and reality as an unprecedented global threat, in 2015 Muslim scholars and environmental leaders issued the Istanbul “Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change.” This document asks all Muslims to tackle the habits, mindsets and root causes of pollution, environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity.

Controlling global warming requires international governmental cooperation and commitment. But individual and community action is also necessary. Mosques and Islamic centers, along with the communities they serve, must do what they can to confront this ongoing reality. ISNA’s Green Initiative Team is working to increase awareness and understanding, raise consciousness of Islam’s teachings in this regard, as well as our responsibility to care and protect Earth, and to promote Prophet Muhammad’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) eco-friendly practices. We have been entrusted with caring for our planet, through which God nourishes our bodies and soothes our souls. As such, interacting mindfully with our environment is yet another manifestation of our faith. The ISNA Green Initiative Team has several modest goals: ■  Promote the ideals and practices of a green Ramadan, “when less is more,” by following our Prophet’s example of keeping waste to a bare minimum. Today, this involves eliminating disposable plastic water bottles, Styrofoam and similar products, as well wasting as little food, water and other products as possible. ■  Raise awareness of the need and our community’s responsibility to protect the


environment and promote restraint and conservation, including highlighting what climate change means for our planet and future generations. ■  Promote the use of solar energy to reduce our use of and dependence on fossil fuels. ■  Develop ways and measurable means to transform and retrofit mosques into environmentally friendly places and promote eco-friendlier lifestyles for Muslim communities. ■  Build new mosques that meet the standards of green architecture. ■  Promote environmental and social justice, especially in environmental justice communities.

GREEN RAMADAN CAMPAIGN Unfortunately, the North American tradition of holding community-wide iftars and dinners results in a considerable amount of food and water being wasted and very few conservation and recycling efforts. Since its inauguration in 2015, many mosques and Islamic centers, and even some abroad, have adopted its goals: to lift our spirits and deepen our eco-consciousness by encouraging less consumption, more conservation and promoting Ramadan’s blessing via beneficial social activities.

Specifically, the campaign directs mosques and households to: ■  Eat more fruits and/or vegetables and less meat. Take only what you can comfortably finish, eat moderately, don’t waste food and keep in mind the following hadith: Miqdam ibn Ma‘d reported: “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘The son of Adam cannot fill a vessel worse than his stomach, as it is enough for him to take a few bites to straighten his back. If he cannot do it, then he may fill it with a third of his food, a third of his drink, and a third of his breath’” (“Sunan al-Tirmidhi,” hadith no. 2380).

PUBLICATIONS AND WEBINARS ISNA Green Initiative’s widely referenced “The Green Masjid Project,” available online at ISNA Green Initiative – Islamic Society of North America, contains specific guidance for environmentally friendly practices. Every year we conduct webinars to raise awareness and provide guidance and direction.

ENERGY CONSERVATION PROMOTION Many scientists contend that the burning of fossil fuels is the major cause of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere and a primary driver of climate change. In the U.S., roughly 80% of our energy comes

DUE TO ITS STRONG BELIEF IN “TO CHANGE EVERYTHING WE NEED EVERYONE,” THE SLOGAN FOR THE PEOPLES’ CLIMATE MARCHES OF 2015 AND 2016, OUR TEAM ARGUES THAT CROSS-SECTOR PARTNERSHIPS CAN SERVE AS THE CATALYST FOR NEEDED CHANGES. AS ALL OF US SHARE THIS PLANET AND A COMMON FUTURE, WE ARE WORKING WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS AND ACROSS FAITH COMMUNITIES. ■  Recycle and minimize your use of plastic products, for their production requires large amounts of fossil fuels and most of them end up in landfills. Avoid using plastic water bottles, for an estimated 80% of them are not recycled. Use quick degradable and/ or paper products. Bring your own utensils and avoid Styrofoam products, which are neither recyclable nor bio-degradable. ■  Use energy-saver light bulbs, ensure your facility’s energy efficiency and conserve water — even while making wudu’. ■  Request your khateeb to deliver at least one khutbah during Ramadan on the Islamic imperative to conserve and protect the environment and perform socially beneficial deeds. ■  Plant trees and vegetable gardens, and remember that planting a tree is a continuing charity (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 2195, “Sahih Muslim,” hadith no. 1553). ■  Participate in civic activities, volunteer at homeless shelters and community social projects, collect items for food pantries, invite others to community and home dinners and don’t forget the Muslim inmates in nearby jails.

from fossil fuels, 8% from nuclear energy and 12% from renewable resources. Formulating both clean and renewable energy solutions is critical to reaching a carbon-neutral — and ideally a carbon-free — future and reducing global warming. Installing solar panels will also save a substantial amount of money over the long run. To learn more about solar energy and installing solar panel systems, please consult “Making the Best of a God-given Gift” (Islamic Horizons, May/June 2019, 40-41).

PARTNERING WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS Due to its strong belief in “To change everything we need everyone,” the slogan for the Peoples’ Climate Marches of 2015 and 2016, our team argues that cross-sector partnerships can serve as the catalyst for needed changes. As all of us share this planet and a common future, we are working with other organizations and across faith communities. For example, ISNA’s Green Team worked closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to develop the “Energy STAR Action Workbook for Muslim Communities”

( This historic partnership, launched at ISNA’s 2020 annual convention, seeks to enable over 2,700 mosques and 300 Islamic schools nationwide to reduce their buildings’ energy, water and operating expenses, as well as emissions, and pursue other sustainable initiatives. In addition, we have partnered with GreenFaith and, in 2020, celebrated Faith Climate Action Week together with Interfaith Power and Light, which coincided with the Green Ramadan campaign.

ONGOING EFFORTS ■  Become Eco-friendly. A mosque or Islamic center may earn an ISNA-certified environmentally friendly status by attaining a comprehensive set of achievements and measurable accomplishments. We are developing standards to help them do so. ■  Green Architecture. These comprehensive standards will help Muslim communities that undertake future building projects make them eco-friendly. ■  Environmental Justice. Climate change disproportionately impacts Black, Latino and Native American communities, which are the least responsible for global warming. Power plants, transfer stations, ports, superfund sites and mining operations for fuel resources place a significant environmental burden on the neighboring — and usually low-income – communities. But despite being directly and disproportionately affected by such facilities, they are rarely included in the discussion and decision-making processes. For example, Blacks made up only 14% of Michigan’s population, and yet the state’s most heavily polluted zip code is 84% Black. ISNA’s Green Initiative team plans to work closely with these communities to push this issue into the public’s consciousness and to find ways to engender real solutions and justice for them. ■ Protecting and Preserving the Environment. As both the Quran and Hadith emphasize these two activities as being central to Islam, our community’s leaders must assume a leading role in adopting the relevant practices. Ideally, we suggest that our mosques and Islamic centers become spiritual centers that strengthen our faith and role models of community care and outreach programs, along with champions of the environment and protectors of the natural world.  ih ISNA Green Initiative Team: Huda Alkaff, Saffet Catovic, Nana Firman and Uzma Mirza, Saiyid Masroor Shah (chair).



Thomas Jefferson, Unitarianism and Islam The role of Unitarianism, a Christian theological movement, in the founding of the U.S. BY ZULFIQAR ALI SHAH


resident Trump said that Islam hates us. Evangelists claim that the U.S. was founded on Christianity and that virtually all of the Founding Fathers were Biblebelieving, Christ-loving, devout and orthodox Christians. For instance, Baptist evangelical minister Tim LaHaye (19252016), author of the very popular apocalyptic “Left Behind” series with Jerry B. Jenkins, concludes that President John Adams was “deeply committed to Jesus Christ and the use of Biblical principles in governing the nation,” and George Washington, if he were alive today, “would freely associate with the Bible-believing branch of evangelical Christianity that is having such a positive influence upon our nation” (Mark David Hall, “Did America Have a Christian Founding?” 2019). But just how accurate are such assertions? The U.S. has always been a predominantly Christian nation, and the Founding Fathers were born in Christian households. However, many of the leading ones were Unitarians, which has been called “Muhammadan Christianity” due to its denial of the Trinity, Jesus’ divinity and death for humanity’s sins, Original Sin, salvation through grace and the Bible being God’s word. Fathers like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine were followers of English Unitarians and Deists who were called Muhammadans by their orthodox opponents. Jefferson’s Federalist opponents called him an outright Muslim in 1771 and during the 1800 election. “Muhammadan Christians” were a vocal community in 16th- to 18th-century England and France. They opened Turkish coffee shops in both capitals, dressed in Islamic clothes and turbans and refused to attend Church services and take the sacraments. Jefferson, one of the most important Founding Fathers and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence — despite owning slaves — had this to say about Unitarianism, “I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither Kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian” (http://www. Adams_1.html; Allen Jayne, “Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence,” 1998). Like the English Unitarians, Jefferson believed that the Roman Catholic Church had corrupted the original true monotheistic Christianity and that Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had preserved it. Like the Enlightenment thinkers, Jefferson denied Original Sin, Biblical inerrancy, Church authority, predestination and salvation through Jesus’ crucifixion; preferred reason over revelation; and believed that the laws of nature were the laws of God (Jayne, p. 25). In his “Letter to William Short,” Jefferson wrote the following: ■  Biblical laws were “cruel” and “remorseless,” and the Biblical God who chose the Hebrews over others was a “family God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob, and the local God of Israel.” ■  The Jews “had presented for the object of their worship, a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust.” ■  “Moses had bound the Jews to many idle ceremonies, mummeries and observances, of no effect towards producing the social utilities which constitute the essence of virtue…” ■  “[A]mong the sayings & discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, 18    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence: and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth; charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate therefore the gold from the dross; restore to him the former, & leave the latter to the stupidity of some, and roguery of others of his disciples of this band of dupes and impostors. Paul was the … first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus. These palpable interpolations and falsifications of his doctrines led me to try to sift them apart” (; mtj1/051/051_1224_1227.pdf). This appears in what became known as the “Jefferson Bible,” which was given as a state gift to the visiting heads of foreign states. He circulated it only among his closest friends because “I am unwilling to draw on myself a swarm of insects [clerics], whose buz[z] is more disquieting than their bite.” In sum, Jefferson believed that historical Christianity and its institutions were antithetical to science and progress, disdained how faith backed by civil government persecuted scientific inquiry, ridiculed such a faith and prophesized that such an erroneous faith would soon flee once “reason and experiment have been indulged.” Jefferson’s copy of the Quran is in the Library of Congress. Congressman Keith Ellison (DFL-Minn.) took his 2007 oath of office on it. Jefferson’s notes show that he read it with appreciation and was well acquainted with Muslim history, political and diplomatic thought. According to John Andrew Morrow, he owned a copy of Prince Demetrius Cantemir’s “Histoire de l’Empire Ottoman,” which contained a complete account of the “Covenant of the Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai” and a full translation of Sultan Selim I’s decree of authentication, renewal and perpetual protection ( While in France, Jefferson befriended Ishak Bey, a high profile Ottoman emissary, and frequently discussed with him Islam, Christianity and politics. He also knew a number of French converts.

From the prism of this Unitarian-Islamic syncretism, Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli (1797) unequivocally asserts: “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Mussulmen, — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries” (“The Debates and Proceedings of the Congress of the United States with an Appendix…”, 3:3094-95). The Senate approved the treaty and its language. Some Federalists were opposed to this article. For example, in the June 23, 1797, issue of the Porcupine

■  “The president here refers implicitly to the fact that his country, unlike those in Europe, is not officially Christian, and therefore without any inherent antagonism toward Islam” (p. 225). ■  “To many of his political opponents, Thomas Jefferson may have been our first Muslim president. That a Muslim might legally have attained the office in the eighteenth century was not out of the question, insofar as the U.S. Constitution affirmed the possibility in theory… Nevertheless, he had been defamed and denigrated as a Muslim since 1791— especially during the vicious presidential campaign of 1800 — as an infidel and atheist” and “The accusation that Jefferson was a Muslim placed him, unknowingly, in the same category as his intellectual hero John Locke, who was charged with professing “the faith of a Turk.” ■  Political opponents condemned Jefferson for “advocating religious toleration, including civil rights for Muslims, as well as embracing Deism and Unitarianism” (p. 271). ■  “Three years after his election, fears of Jefferson’s ungodly and possibly Islamic presidency persisted” (p. 230). ■  In private, Jefferson “affirmed a much more pointed approval of the faith in one letter to Tripoli and in four to Tunis, the last in 1806, wherein he assured his ‘great and good friend’ of the mutuality of their beliefs in a single supreme being. I REJOICE THAT IN THIS BLESSED Jefferson’s kind words for Hammuda Bey’s faith may have been purely an expression of diplomatic politesse, COUNTRY OF FREE INQUIRY AND BELIEF, or even desperation, but considered alongside his final WHICH HAS SURRENDERED ITS CREED AND placement of the Qur’an, they suggest something more akin to respect for a monotheism that would have seemed CONSCIENCE TO NEITHER KINGS NOR to him theologically closer to the faith into which he PRIESTS, THE GENUINE DOCTRINE OF ONE had grown than the one into which he’d been born” ONLY GOD IS REVIVING, AND I TRUST THAT (pp. 236-37). ■  Jefferson, who “knew the Qur’an well, having owned THERE IS NOT A YOUNG MAN NOW LIVING a copy of it for more than a quarter century…” (p. 205), IN THE UNITED STATES WHO WILL NOT DIE showed affinity with Muslim religious terminologies and sentiments and theological intricacies; used such AN UNITARIAN.” — THOMAS JEFFERSON, Muslim cultural terms as “God, the very Great” (Allahu THIRD PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. Akbar) in his letters to North African Muslim rulers (p. 224). His repeated insistence upon God’s Oneness and greatness in all such letters was meant perhaps to Gazette, editor William Cobbett opined, “it certainly emphasize the common theology and close affinity. looks a little like trampling upon the cross.” Denise ■  “What is perhaps most interesting was that Jefferson, whatever his innermost Spellberg notes that to the Federalists “the article intent, should express repeatedly a personal belief in God to a Muslim ruler at a seemed an attack on Christianity, and what he pre- time when many of his own countrymen considered their president an atheist, sumed to be the Christian character of his nation. And an infidel, or even a Muslim outright. These letters dare to assert that Jefferson, so he detected the blame, speculating that Muslim offi- at least, agreed that North Africans and Americans worshipped the same deity, cials in Tripoli or the American diplomat Joel Barlow and that this common belief would enhance their diplomatic relations” (p. 224). were responsible for this article of the treaty… His ■  This affinity cannot be dismissed as diplomatic jargon or stratagem, and ideas, however, were not unique but already well rep- thus “it must at the same time be allowed that these inclinations are entirely resented in the domestic politics of the United States” compatible with Jefferson’s own religious evolution, as reflected in other private (Denise A. Spellberg, “Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: letters of this time; his embrace of Deist and, finally, Unitarian ideas is in full Islam and the Founders,” 2013, p. 208). harmony with the Muslim belief in a single, shared deity” (p. 227). Jefferson’s 1805 letter to Hammuda Bey, leader of In short, Jefferson and other leading Founding Fathers rejected almost all Tunis, stated that his Muslim ambassador who stayed central Christian doctrines, followed English Deists and Unitarians and were in the U.S. for over a year will “be able to inform you, on called Muslims by their opponents. Islam had a respectable place in their minds. the evidence of his own observation, that the character, Consequently, Islam does not hate this country, and the U.S. is not and never has principles, and institutions of our Government, distin- been a Christian nation. Rather, it is a secular, democratic republic in which all guish us essentially from the Nations of Europe. Their religious groups enjoy equal rights and opportunities [unless you were a member practices can therefore be no rule for us” (“Thomas of the country’s indigenous population]. We cannot let the extremists usurp our Jefferson to Bey of Tunis,” June 28, 1806, “Thomas rights. Let us all join together as people of faith to protect our civil liberties.  ih Jefferson Papers,” Library of Congress, 302). Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah is executive director/secretary general of the Fiqh Council of North America and director of religious affairs, the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. Spellberg also makes the following points: JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   19

Brothers Yunis and Owais Omeira of the Northern Virginia based Al-Fatih Academy attend virtual classes (Photo (c) Hazim Omeira)

The Challenge and the Relief

How Islamic schools and the Islamic Schools League of America rode out the pandemic



or everyone, but especially for Islamic schools, the year 2020 was like no other. In the Quranic spirit of “So surely with hardship comes ease; surely with hardship comes ease” (96:5-6), I spoke with Dr. Seema Imam, chairwoman of the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA; https:// and professor of elementary middle level teacher preparation at National Louis University, Chicago, about the challenges Muslim educators and administrators faced during the pandemic and how they rode out the storm.


COVER STORY IH: How did these challenges affect ISLA’s work? SI: ISLA’s foundation has revolved around service to Islamic schools at all levels. We have been able to tackle the needs of their teachers, administrators, board members and even parents. The pandemic reached the U.S. as we ISLA board members were coming back from our annual leadership retreat. We had a strategic plan ready to go for the year, part of which included professional development. Then the pandemic hit, and, as expected,

Leaders” course for administrators. She then diligently taught two cohorts for eight weeks: one for about 80 school leaders and another for about 150 teachers. The content included how other experts are advising schools and admins to guide and prepare schools to be remote and online, or blended — face-toface and online. Summer 2020 had come by then, so schools were closed. Khan started holding a weekly administrators’ meeting, which resulted in many questions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and sharing.

AS AN EDUCATIONAL LEADER IN TEACHER EDUCATION, I FEEL THAT THE PANDEMIC HAS BEEN AN OPPORTUNITY FOR EDUCATORS TO CATCH UP WITH THE TECHNOLOGY OF THE DIGITAL WORLD IN WHICH WE NOW LIVE. MANY OPPORTUNITIES ARE OPENING FOR ISLAMIC SCHOOLS AND ISLA — ESPECIALLY NOW THAT WE’RE CLOSER TO ONE ANOTHER. everyone panicked. There was a lot of uncertainty and confusion, for part of the issue was that many Islamic schools have not embraced technology and digital tools. Thus, many of them were not prepared for remote learning. Some schools had to go remote immediately while others did not, as they discovered that teachers needed support just like others across the country and around the world. Classroom management on Zoom is very different from a classroom’s face-toface management, when you can just walk over to a child. IH: How was ISLA able to help and support these technological needs? SI: ISLA is blessed with Dr. Shaza Khan, a strong, educated and dedicated executive director who is full of synergy. She spearheaded many projects that we had only dreamed about in 2019. We launched webinars for various constituents: parents, teachers and administrators. We also found experts and uploaded important topics in one-hour webinars. Shortly thereafter, realizing that a course would be beneficial, we sought a learning management system. Board member Rasha El-Haggan, a private school teacher and administrator, together with Khan, began creating a “Hybrid Design for Islamic School

IH: So there were subsequent positive outcomes from these meetings? SI: Alhamdulillah, the pandemic brought more collaboration, more support for one another. The Islamic Educators Communication Network (IECN), the support network started by ISLA founder Karen Keyworth (d. 2017) and our email platform for nearly 20 years, also brought people together. When the pandemic hit, out of the 300 Islamic schools in the U.S., our course served around 30-40% of their leaders. Involvement hit about 50% at some points. This is, of course, a guesstimate. However, the survey we sent out for a research project does give us a good idea of the pandemic’s impact on Islamic schools. There has been significant impact in terms of finances, education and enrollment. Parents who lost their jobs couldn’t pay for their children’s tuition as they once did. Also, some students appear not to benefit from the internet learning experience, particularly if their parents cannot guide them. As a result, there have been many challenges. After the course and the meetings, we realized that we needed to serve the faculties of Islamic schools directly. So, we started offering a weekly series called “Teach with


COVER STORY Tech.” Sophia Jetpuri, a very experienced and Google-certified Islamic school teacher, developed the content with very dynamic topics, for instance, “Building Your Emoji Classroom.” She also focused a lot on Google tools, Google suite and Google classroom. Another great topic was “Classroom Management in the Zoom Classroom,” what I call the “Hollywood Squares” when I teach teachers at the university. As of now (November 2020), we remain committed to regular administrator meetings and technology tips for teachers. Following the admin course on the learning management system, we also offered a “Hybrid Learning Design for Teachers” course for teachers. We had to be concerned about “Early Childhood” because this particular classroom is even more challenging, given that, interestingly enough, little children sitting in front of a screen isn’t as simple as it sounds. Their attention spans are so short! These were the main things we accomplished due to the pandemic. I think they were essential, healthy things that schools needed to do anyway. We hadn’t been doing a lot of webinars previously, so it was a good experience for everyone. School administrators and their teachers became much closer, and a lot of collaboration resulted from the pandemic. Many people met new people, shared expertise we didn’t know they had, jumped in head first and learned as much as they could. IH: So was ISLA involved mainly in Covid19 response during 2020? SI: No. We were involved in other work as well. Three of our board members were invited to write a chapter about the history of Islamic schools in America. Too often we forget that the Sister Clara Mohammed schools were the first ones. Each of us studied Clara Mohammed and spent some time considering their history before the [Muslim] immigrants came to the U.S. and began what we’re calling “community Islamic schools.” We coined this new phrase, which we think is important, for many of those Americans who are Muslim by choice are heads of Islamic schools and not immigrants. We want to steer away from “immigrant schools” and use the phrase “community Islamic schools” instead, which includes the Clara Mohammed schools. This is a great project, because if we don’t tell our own story, someone else will. Khan is our lead author on the chapter.

Dr. Seema Imam

During the course of the pandemic, we also experienced nationwide the tragedy of Black lives being lost in police confrontations. We solicited statements of solidarity and support from Islamic schools, with action plans for confronting racial injustice in their schools and society. We offered training through Muslim ARC [Muslim AntiRacism Collaborative,] for racial injustice and equity. We wanted our communities to look within themselves and see how race and race matters are handled within each school and community. Additionally, for a couple of years now ISLA has been looking to expand its board. Last October we invited Dr. Nadeem Memon to return to our board. Memon, a scholar in education, is involved in research and teacher education and has authored many articles and research projects, among them his doctoral research project: the excellent “A History of Islamic Schooling in North America” (Routledge, 2020). IH: How did the pandemic affect Islamic schools? SI: We actually carried out a research project with Khan and Isra Brifkani, ISLA’s research associate, and are now finalizing a report on it. I’ll discuss some of its findings. Islamic schools in general were terribly affected in terms of enrollment, and thus lost a great deal of financial support. Many, but not all, of them were able to take advantage of government assistance though the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). We provided updates to schools to help them better understand the federal support. Besides the financial impact, the pandemic led to both struggles and at the same time some interesting benefits. Faculties also became more


prepared for internet learning, for example. IH: What other benefits do you see growing out of all this activity? SI: ISLA and CISNA have increased collaboration during this pandemic. The admins have been discussing the possibility of pooling resources, for instance sharing substitutes, Islamic studies courses and so on. I don’t know the outcome, and neither I nor ISLA can take the credit for that. IH: Do you see what happened in 2020 affecting the future direction of ISLA’s work? SI: As an educational leader in teacher education, I feel that the pandemic has been an opportunity for educators to catch up with the technology of the digital world in which we now live. Many opportunities are opening for Islamic schools and ISLA — especially now that we’re closer to one another. We have shared resources and benefited indirectly from what has been a tragedy. But as there is no time for despair in Islam, we must confront bravely what God puts in front of us. This is one of the greatest worldwide challenges that I have seen during my five decades in education.  ih Fawzia Mai Tung, who holds a degree in medicine (University of Jordan) and an advanced diploma of education (University of London), has served on the ISLA Board since 2012 as secretary and co-editor of The ISLA News.

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Learning in an Impersonal Life How educators are innovating in the Covid-19 challenging times to serve both in-class and virtually-based students



ugust is usually one of Each classroom has a separate the happiest months of the year video call-designated laptop that the for teachers. The excitement of teachers move around to suit their summer has usually worn off needs. All students remain in one by then and the store shelves, once classroom all day while the teachers filled with inner tubes and grilling cycle through the classrooms, making accessories, are now stocked with contact tracing easier if we should backpacks, notebooks and shiny new ever encounter a case of Covid-19. school supplies. We also drafted and published an The start of the school year is filled E-Learning Protocol document that with new possibilities and exciting outlines the expectations for students adventures in learning. This year, and parents. The faculty consistently enforces everything listed on it, and however, Covid-19 robbed us of that the virtual students adhere to it. feeling. The exhilaration and anticipation were readily replaced with As the first day of school with WE ARE SHOWING UP EACH AND anxiety, uncertainty, and fear. How students approached, it was becomEVERY DAY WITH BIG SMILES ON could such a familiar time become ing increasingly apparent that our OUR FACES (ALBEIT BEHIND MASKS) so unfamiliar in a matter of months? little school was on its own. As we AND INSTRUCTING OUR VIRTUAL A few weeks before school started, are a private school, we receive very AND IN-PERSON STUDENTS WITH THE limited public resources. The school our school’s — The Huda Academy in PASSION AND RIGOR THAT WE’VE Little Rock, Ark. — Covid-19 Task received some technology funds through Title I (federal funds that Force, comprising the principal, ALWAYS HAD WHILE MODELING support financially disadvantaged parents, teachers and community ADAPTABILITY, FLEXIBILITY AND members, held a Zoom town hall PATIENCE, AS WELL AS HELPING OUR students); however, this grant has been put on hold indefinitely for meeting that outlined the new proSTUDENTS DISCOVER A RESILIENCE cedures and gave us all a glimpse IN THEMSELVES THAT THEY MAY NOT reasons unknown to us. But despite into how this year was going to start this big blow, we continue to succeed HAVE RECOGNIZED BEFORE. out. Even with all the plans in place against all odds by depending on our I was still skeptical, for there were own resourcefulness and creativity, so many obstacles in our way, and of which there is no shortage here at I had no clue as to how we would even surface cleaners, gloves, face shields and the Huda Academy. Our staff has worked tirelessly to make begin to overcome them. Would we be able so on — for our teachers and students. We to successfully implement the guidelines also received and placed signs for masks and this academic year have some semblance of prepared by our health officials? Would social distancing reminders throughout the years past. There is no doubt that things are the students need to wear masks? Would school. These resources made our jobs so very different — we are a little more distant we really be able to social distance all day much easier! from each other, a little more tired at the long? And how on Earth would we be able The biggest challenge was still ahead of end of each day — but the nature of our to accommodate our virtual students and us, though: integrating our virtual students work remains the same. We are showing up make them feel like they were still part of into our regular classroom in the most effi- each and every day with big smiles on our our classroom? cient, practical and effective way possible. faces (albeit behind masks) and instructAs preplanning began, I quickly realized After days of brainstorming and trial runs — ing our virtual and in-person students with that there was no time to doubt. Our new including a complete simulation of a virtual the passion and rigor that we’ve always had normal, coupled with my being promoted class with teachers logging into our second while modeling adaptability, flexibility and to lead teacher, threw me into execution grade teacher’s Google Classroom for a prac- patience, as well as helping our students dismode. It was easy to plan for screening, tice math lesson — we devised a sustainable cover a resilience in themselves that they wearing masks and maintaining social and streamlined way to teach our virtuals may not have recognized before.  ih distancing measures. A government relief and in-class students simultaneously. Using Negeen Ghasedi is the elementary lead and fourth and program would provide PPE and sanitation Google Classroom and Google Meets proved fifth grade ELA and social studies teacher at the CISNAproducts — hand sanitizers, antibacterial to be the most effective medium. accredited The Huda Academy, Little Rock, Ark. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   23


Learning in the Time of Corona: A Parent’s Perspective School administrators, teachers and the “new normal” BY AQSA KHAN had to become cognizant of their students’ different situations, with some pupils working more independently than others. This pandemic soon taught parents and teachers to be patient and understanding because there were so many variables at play, and students were crossing new terrain. Even kindergartners seemed to have so much more responsibility for their own learning.



s 2020 began, nobody anticipated what our lives would look like in the coming months. Less than three months into the year, a sudden jolt was felt by all of us in the Northeast — our communities and towns were put on lockdown. The tragedies experienced by those who lost loved ones to Covid-19 are difficult to process and imagine, especially since they could not be near them during their last moments. The virus’ economic toll has left too many breadwinners jobless or working part-time and struggling to make ends meet. And we must not forget that as schools closed and extracurricular activities were suspended, students of all ages would now be attending online classes from their homes. But as online learning stretched into weeks and months, the question soon became not when they would return to school, but rather if it would be safe for them to go back even in the fall. Those first few days were very confusing — exactly what were we preparing for? Should school administrations and families

plan for something prolonged? Our school, Noor-Ul-Iman (NUI) in South Brunswick, N.J., quickly informed parents that the school was doing its best to find a way to ensure that their children’s schoolwork and learning would continue uninterrupted. The administration and staff met for half a day to plan a remote learning system using the now ubiquitous Zoom and Google Classroom technologies. Before closing its facilities a few days before the area public schools did — but without missing a beat — NUI’s staff and administration set up remote learning for all of its students — preschoolers to seniors. Even though I had the luxury of being at home during the day, I immediately thought of working families who relied on school as their childcare. How could they supervise their children and work on their own tasks simultaneously? Not only was this an unfair burden for many families, especially mothers, it ended up being an impossible feat that led many women to resign from their employment to give their children the supervision and care they needed. On the other side of their virtual education, teachers


When remote learning first began, my first grader’s teacher focused on what was most important: her students’ mental well-being. Educators understood that a specific curriculum still had to be covered, despite the new social and emotional consequences, and many of them created activities during their sessions to make their students feel cared for and supported. Every day my son’s teacher opened the session with a remote circle time so the kids could share what they were doing at home and socialize with their peers. Staying positive, providing extra time for assignments and implementing other adaptations enabled teachers to help students of all ages learn that even when big changes happen, structure remains important and talking through it is helpful — and that to modify one’s goals is an act of reflection and purpose. Parents appreciated that many educators understood that while this pandemic would slow down their children’s learning, it was nevertheless the perfect opportunity to provide an important life lesson to keep them buoyed and feeling secure. This emphasis on student well-being, a priority for educators, was felt even more acutely by parents. Removing children’s ability to interact with their peers in close proximity left many with a gaping hole in place of their usual engaging learning environments. It became evident that our children needed new outlets to express themselves and to partake in safe social activities.

Many families, including my own, frequented trails and hikes to keep our children moving and engaged with nature. Such outings also provided a fun activity, some exercise and some very necessary screenfree time. This past year has given us time to bond more and share more responsibility. It was critical to creating a change of pace not only for my children, but also for myself. Social distancing made being mom feel like

rus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/ covid-19-planning-considerations-returnto-in-person-education-in-schools/). Their argument that schools should be priority number one in reopening, especially for children who have no or limited internet access at home, revealed just how essential internet access has become. Hopefully, this will drive necessary government regulations so that all families have adequate access. Many teachers navigating the pandemic

THIS YOUNG GENERATION APPRECIATES WHAT WE ALL TOOK FOR GRANTED. IN ADDITION, WE ALL NEED TO REFLECT MORE ON HOW MUCH MORE PRIORITY, FINANCIAL AND OTHERWISE, OUR SCHOOLS SHOULD RECEIVE, CONSIDERING THEIR INTEGRAL ROLE IN OUR SOCIETY’S PROPER FUNCTIONING. a 24/7/365 experience from which I needed some reprieve. Engaging with my children in different outdoor environments helped vary our interactions and benefited all of us. Parents have taken up new pastimes with their children, like cooking with each other, and other important life skills that might have been ignored in previously full schedules.

VARYING EPIPHANIES ON LEARNING Schools like ours — closed throughout the fall — have scheduled monthly outdoor meetand-greets with their classes, weather permitting, so students can get together with friends and peers and have some real face time with their teachers. Teachers provide small goodies to keep their spirits high, and the second my children get back they lament about how they wish school was back in session in person, for they had enjoyed that short hour with their teacher and classmates so much. This young generation appreciates what we all took for granted. In addition, we all need to reflect more on how much more priority, financial and otherwise, our schools should receive, considering their integral role in our society’s proper functioning. In 2019, The American Academy of Pediatrics stated in a startling article that the psychological toll of closed school spaces and limited social exposure would have unknown consequences on young minds for years to come (https://services.

report feeling limited by remote learning. Most notably, they miss the in-person connections with their students, one of the true joys of teaching. Other challenges are how to modify the curricula so they can work online, how to accommodate fewer topics and how to choose which topics can be dropped. As the new school year was about to start, schools like NUI also implemented

new technologies to help create a smoother learning experience. Online programs like Schoology (, which makes student-teacher interactions and assignments more streamlined, have helped students and teachers connect. In their quest to use best practices and limit screen exposure, some families have created their own curricula and are homeschooling. Many have found support from neighbors and friends who have similar privileges and can dedicate the necessary time, energy and money. Some parents now enjoy this learning style more than they thought they would and plan to continue with it, while others have a newfound appreciation for teachers. There is no question that this appreciation for all that teachers prepare and endure with our children is universal. While we continue to adapt to the ever-changing pandemic situation, we learn more about our own capabilities and what is most important in terms of our children’s current and future success. God willing, Covid-19 will subside soon. However, it doesn’t seem that things will go back to the way they were. Last year we realized what really matters: how resilient our children and we can be and the connections we must maintain for everyone’s well-being.  ih Aqsa Khan, an educator from New York, has taught in both public and Islamic schools across the Tristate area.

SEEKING IMAM & DIRECTOR The Muslim Community of New Jersey (MCNJ), established in 1992, is centered in the heart of Woodbridge Township, in Central New Jersey. It serves the residents of Central New Jersey and has over 300 families in a very diversified community. Over 600 Muslims attended our weekly Jumma Salah. In addition to conducting five times daily prayer and Jumma salah, we organize a variety of activities for Muslims and non-Muslims in the neighborhood. MCNJ also conducts a weekend Islamic School and a daily Quranic school. Other activities include adult halaqas and various youth programs for boys and girls, including YM, Boy Scout, and Girl Scout programs. Currently, MCNJ is looking for a full time Imam and Director of Islamic Education and Religious Affairs. This role serves as the spiritual and religious leader of the community and also plays a crucial role in the education of the community. You will be a US citizen or Green Card holder and fluent in English. Remuneration varies with experience. If you are interested, please send your resume to



Day 239 Since School Closed A day in the life of a virtual student BY HIBA KHAN


:40 a.m. I woke up late today. I slept through three alarms, with only 20 minutes until my first class started. I jumped out of bed and walked across the hall to the bathroom. It was chilly in the morning, and I was not interested in switching my fleece-penguin pajama bottoms for a pair of blue jeans. Nobody would see them anyway. I headed back to my room and threw on a school hoodie. I hurriedly made my bed and opened the blinds in my room. 7:49. I sat at my yellow desk and opened up my sister’s old laptop. The keyboard is plastered in Rutgers stickers, and the screen glowed pure blue. I traced my finger along the trackpad, and sure enough, the cursor had disappeared. I decided to restart it. The screen, after going black for a few minutes, started up again. I opened up my school and personal emails, catching myself up on any last-minute messages. 7:53. A Google Hangouts notification alerted me of a classmate’s birthday Zoom call in the evening. With two minutes to spare, I raced down the stairs to grab a glass of water. Breakfast would have to wait. I joined my first class’s Zoom meeting, Arabic, and greeted my teacher and five classmates. Three students had their cameras off, causing our teacher to spend a few minutes lecturing us on class participation grades this year. He continued the lesson with a Kahoot on grammar and a Quizlet on vocabulary. His microphone echoed quite badly, so he ended the class early. We have a 10-minute break between each class, but teachers will usually go over time. In the rare case of today, I realized that I had about 23 minutes before English: just enough time to pop two Eggo waffles in the toaster, eat them and get another glass of water. So I went back downstairs, drizzled syrup on the scrumptious frozen waffles and enjoyed my little breakfast while my mom sipped her tea in front of the news. Record Number of Cases Yesterday, blared across the headlines. I glanced at the time and rushed back upstairs. I had to be early for English,

but not too early, or else I’d be alone in the meeting with my teacher. My English teacher let me into the meeting a minute early. Her screen was shared, and on it she wrote, “Menti Presentation Activity.” She had us all enter a code on, where she prompted us with a question. “Write a quote you noted down in chapter 7. Why?” She projected the responses from “Lord of the Flies” on the screen, and once again informed us of how this would affect our class participation grades. The rest of the class was spent going over the new vocabulary lesson. Next was geometry, one of my favorite classes. We had a quiz, which meant that our microphones were on and our workspace would be visible in our cameras. I entered the meeting right on time, and so did the rest of my classmates. Our teacher had us open an application that tracked our activity on other tabs. I opened up the PDF and started. Throughout the test, younger siblings cried, lawn mowers roared, and reporters on TV argued in the background. I completed all of my answers on two sheets of loose-leaf paper and borrowed my sister’s iPad to scan my work. Once my photos uploaded to our


school’s testing platform, I was free to leave the meeting. Right before our lunch break would be biology. I find the class interesting, but at the same time there’s an overwhelming amount of information thrust at us during every class. Today would be tiring; we had two periods of the class. We started off with individual work in an online lab, phospholipids and mitochondria scattered across the screen. To be fair, the website worked well. The lab was interactive enough, and students continued to unmute and ask our teacher questions. She said something along the lines of “If we were in-person, we would have…,” and everyone groaned. It’s hard enough staring at a screen all day. It’s even worse when we’re reminded of what could’ve been. Lunch and office hours started at exactly 12:30 p.m. I finished up my biology work, prayed and went downstairs. I called out for my mom, and there was no response. I assumed she was out for groceries. I shoved on my sneakers and opened the garage door. This was my little routine of getting myself out and in the sun. Except

today it was drizzling with rain. I pulled the hood up from my hoodie and ran down the driveway to the mailbox. I opened it with my sleeve and pulled out an Amazon package and a stack of letters. Dr. Cha, my next-door neighbor, backed out of his driveway and waved. Working at an Urgent Care, he had contracted the virus a few months ago. I waved back.

some English reading: “Lord of the Flies,” chapters 8-10. A death shocked me, and I drew parallels between the boys’ savagery on the island and the seemingly normal people of today. 2:30. Last class and then I’d be free. We talked about the functions of lysosomes, the Golgi apparatus and the different types of endoplasmic reticulum. Our teacher also

SHE SAID SOMETHING ALONG THE LINES OF “IF WE WERE IN-PERSON, WE WOULD HAVE…,” AND EVERYONE GROANED. IT’S HARD ENOUGH STARING AT A SCREEN ALL DAY. IT’S EVEN WORSE WHEN WE’RE REMINDED OF WHAT COULD’VE BEEN. Back inside, I washed my hands thoroughly in the kitchen sink. I called my mom, and she was, indeed, at ShopRite. I made myself a gorgeously seasoned cheese sandwich and grabbed a banana. Around 1:30, I went back upstairs and texted my cousin in England. He had finished school already, with the time difference. He was going in-person. We FaceTimed for a half-hour or so, mainly talking about school. Apparently, some of his classmates hadn’t been wearing their masks in the classrooms. And apparently, that was normal. Before my second biology period, the day’s final class, I decided to get ahead on

assigned us a project that, she informed us, would be due next week. “If we were in class, we would have made 3D models of the cell. But since we’re not, we’ll do a cell-themed Google Slides presentation!” I appreciated her enthusiasm, but we all knew we were definitely missing out on our freshman year. Class ended, and our “9th Grade Honors” chat exploded with messages about the project, among other things. After reading everyone’s opinions for a few minutes, I decided to exit the tab and head downstairs for the fourth time today. I prayed and changed my penguin pajama bottoms; I also finished up my homework.

I sat down at my piano and played a warm-up of a few of my favorite songs and pieces to play. I ended with Chopin’s “Waltz in A Minor.” My headphones were in, because my sister had an exam a room away. I also tried to practice “Mia and Sebastian’s Theme” from La La Land before my FaceTime call with my teacher on Monday. Then I set the table for dinner and prayed maghrib with my dad. We all ate dinner together, except for the sister taking her exam, and I headed back upstairs for a Zoom birthday call. Girls in my class had made personalized Zoom backgrounds for a friend’s birthday, and we sang over weak wi-fi signals. For the next hour and a half, we talked about her day, our days, and quarantine in general. Some people got emotional, and the conversation sort of fizzled out. And now we’re here. It’s around 8:00, and I’m going to go back downstairs to chill out for a bit. Maybe watch some of “The Great British Bake Off.” We’ll see. That’s about it for now.  ih Hiba Khan is a high school freshman from New Jersey. She enjoys reading, playing sports, baking and practicing her piano skills.

IMAM WANTED The Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown, OH, seeks

FULL TIME IMAM Required: • Comprehensive knowledge of Islamic Aqeedah, Fiqh, Sunnah & Shariah • Bachelor’s Degree in Islamic Studies • Fluent in English & Arabic (spoken and written) • Ability to teach Qur’an (Tajweed) and Religion • A dynamic personality & motivational speaker • Experience in Interfaith outreach • Ability to teach and relate to youth • At least 2 years of experience as an Imam or Assistant Imam. • Collaborative relationship with Shura • Authorized to work in the U.S. • Some administrative duties Email resume with 2 reference letters to: or mail to: Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown PO Box 1452 Youngstown, OH 44501



An Uncertain Future? How Covid-19 is impacting enrollment levels in full-time Islamic schools BY SHAZA KHAN AND ISRA BRIFKANI


slamic schools have a 90-year history in the U.S. From the Nation of Islam’s “University of Islam” (est. 1930; renamed “Sister Clara Muhammad Schools” in 1975), as the primary and secondary Islamic schools were first known, to the community Islamic schools established in the late 1970s by Muslim immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, full-time Islamic schools have played an important role in cultivating an Islamic identity for all Muslim Americans. These schools were established for many reasons, ranging from creating an alternative to racially oppressive and discriminatory public schools, to protecting students from what has often been perceived as an immoral youth culture and to cultivating a strong Muslim identity.

Each school has taken on unique ways of delivering on its “why.” Such institutions remain important to Muslim youth and community formation. Based on data from the Islamic Schools League of America’s school registry (ISLA,, full-time Islamic schools educate approximately 50,000 students in an estimated 300 schools nationwide. While they educate only 3.8% of Muslim American children, their impact extends further afield. First, these schools represent a mature nonprofit institution that follows federal and local laws and has joined accrediting bodies and professional organizations to help them achieve their missions. Second, they help provide foundational and systematic instruction on Islamic sciences to young

Muslims, more so than most weekend or supplementary Islamic educational institutions are able to offer, if for no other reason than their consistent daily instruction and need to deliver a quality service to their paying constituents. Third, they help nurture ties to the mosque across multiple generations, since many, if not most, Islamic schools offer some portion of their educational program within a mosque. In addition, after its establishment an Islamic school often offers many programs and services to those who do not attend the full-time school, including Eid carnivals, iftars, community service initiatives and more. Thus, their impact is felt throughout the entire community. Yet with Covid-19, Islamic schools face an uncertain future. While we hope that Islamic schools will recover from the multifaceted issues presented by the pandemic, there is a significant concern about the sustained enrollment and fundraising they depend on to maintain operations. The following sections highlight findings from a recent ISLA-conducted study regarding the current and future state of this country.

WIDESPREAD DECLINING ENROLLMENT AND HYBRID INSTRUCTION Last year, ISLA administered a survey (late October through early November) to help Islamic schools make data-based decisions to mitigate the pandemic’s impact. In addition to directly emailing the survey to over 300 schools in ISLA’s database, the survey was also shared via two communication networks designated for Islamic schools.

Average Full-Time Islamic School 2020 Enrollment

Sectarian Affiliation


Islam (Sunni)


Annual Operating Budget

Yes, or seeking accreditation




Staff Particulars

Average Tuition


Muslim & Non-Muslim, 19 full-time employees

$6,000-7,000 per student

cuts, which included staff reductions and voluntary pay cuts by administrative staff. Respondents also reported that the hybrid model enabled them to mitigate enrollment declines by accommodating working parents. Government assistance through the CARES Act also helped schools by providing payroll coverage and funds to purchase resources for remote learning.



Responses were received from 81 schools, representing all regions of the U.S. and some in Canada. The study found that the majority (49%) of Islamic schools began the 2020 academic year with virtual instruction. As the academic year progressed, most of them (59%) began providing a hybrid model. Data from a previous study, administered in partnership with ISLA, Indiana University’s Muslim Philanthropy Initiative (MPI) and the Council for Islamic Schools of North America (CISNA,, show that Islamic schools were remarkably quick and agile in responding to school closures in March 2020 — the majority were providing remote schooling options within two weeks. Yet in the 2020-21 school year, 79% of Islamic schools experienced various degrees of decline in enrollment. The ISLA survey asked school leaders to explain these declines; they most frequently cited families’ financial standing, followed by the fact that local schools offered comparable learning options. The most impacted grade levels were Pre-K and K-5. The study also found that around 11% of Islamic schools experienced an increase in enrollment, while 10% were not impacted. The most common trend

was a 20-30% decline in overall enrollment. In contrast, an average of 56% of private schools in the U.S. had falling enrollments, with the impacted schools facing an average 6% decline in overall enrollment for the 2020-21 academic year (Neal McCluskey, “Private Schools: COVID Enrollment Winners or Losers?”, CATO, Sept. 2, 2020). Based on this data, we can say that Islamic schools have seen a more drastic decline than other private schools.

MITIGATING COVID-19’S IMPACT ON STUDENT ENROLLMENT The study found that 67% of schools saw an increased number of families requesting tuition assistance. Notably, 60% of schools increased their allocation for financial assistance in response to the heightened demand. Other methods used to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on student enrollment included working with families on a case-by-case basis to design payment plans and clear and consistent communication with parents to keep them engaged regarding quality programming and safety precautions. Many schools increased their fundraising and marketing efforts, as well as their social media presence; others made budgetary

Private schools nationwide are trying to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on student enrollment. Many are offering hybrid models and making accommodations for working parents. Islamic schools must continue to survey their students’ parents to keep them engaged and find ways to sustain enrollment levels by meeting their needs. The pandemic has highlighted the urgency for Islamic schools to create sustainable financial models. With the anticipated enrollment declines and reduction of donor-based funding, they must locate creative and diverse funding sources to create emergency funds for financial aid and enrollment sustainability. On a visionary level, Islamic schools must differentiate themselves from local public and private schools. They need to communicate and provide the value of an integrated Islamic education and embed it in their strategic planning, Covid-19 crisis management and across the curriculum. Islamic schools will overcome this challenge, just as they have overcome many others in the past. The Muslim community’s support will be needed, however, to help these nonprofits continue to thrive in the face of economic uncertainty. They will have to enter uncharted territory in order to address not just enrollment declines, but also the increasing mental health challenges that our staff and children will face as the pandemic continues to disrupt their lives. Education has long been considered a cornerstone of society. While public schools and other options remain, full-time Islamic schools offer a unique opportunity to nurture community, identity and Islam all under one umbrella. Their existence is essential to the continued thriving of this country’s Muslim communities.  ih Shaza Khan, Ph.D., is the executive director of the Islamic Schools League of America. Isra Brifkani, Ed.D., is one of ISLA’s research associates.



Assessing Success in U.S. Islamic Schools

Aligning mission statements with institutional practices BY SUFIA AZMAT


n the last decade, the number of full-time Islamic schools in the U.S. has grown significantly. And with this growth has come scrutiny not only from Muslim Americans, but also from the general public. Some of the questions being asked are: How effective are these schools in providing a quality academic education? How effective are they in developing and preserving an Islamic identity? Will their graduates go on to be positive, contributing members of American society? How are Islamic schools held accountable? Research shows that successful schools make mission-aligned decisions when developing the school’s programs, hiring principals and evaluating principal performance.

ISLAMIC SCHOOLS Islamic schools today, as did the educational institutions established 1,400 years ago, focus on faith formation along with academic excellence. They serve parents who enroll their children to protect them from this country’s ongoing anti-Muslim backlash, safeguard their faith and develop their Islamic identity while also striving for academic excellence. Although Islamic schools have existed here since the late 1970s, data on these schools is very limited; even less information is available on the Clara Muhammad Schools (later Imam WD Mohammed changed the spelling to Clara Mohammed), which were established in 1931 within the Nation of Islam. One reason for the lack of available data is the absence of a central governing agency to which these schools need to report. In 1989, an ISNA-organized- andhosted educational symposium gathered Muslim educators, community members and representatives from Islamic institutions throughout North America. In November 1991, the first full-time Islamic schools’ general assembly meeting was held in Detroit.

Approximately 45 full-time Islamic schools were represented, a constitution was ratified and the Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA; https://www.cisnausa. org/) was formed. According to its mission statement, CISNA envisions a future of promoting “quality education at Islamic schools through advocacy, accreditation services, and professional development to ensure institutional effectiveness leading to student success.” To meet its goal of serving as a unifying organization for Islamic schools, CISNA set out to acquire contact information for those existing in the U.S. — claimed to be somewhere between 300 and 400. According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2017 report, there was an 800% growth in Islamic school enrollment from 4,482 students (1991) to 40,485 (2015). Research conducted by ISNA in 1989 numbered 50 full-time Islamic schools in the U.S. A study conducted by Karen Keyworth (1957-2017), co-founder of the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA; https://, revealed that the number had grown to 235. Research conducted by this author and research assistant Hiba Khan in July 2019 recorded just over 300 schools. Of these, 107 are registered CISNA members; 40 have earned CISNA accreditation status. The school with the highest enrollment has 800+ students, and approximately 125 schools include high school grades. Azmat and Khan’s research indicates that California and Texas have the greatest concentration of Islamic schools, followed by New York and Florida. No Islamic schools could be found in Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming. The school’s highest growth rate occurred during the 1990s (see Table 1), when 70 new Islamic schools were established. Student enrollment in the U.S.


is currently estimated at 65,000, with more than half of these schools having fewer than 200 students. Table 1: Number of Schools by State

Table 2: Number of Schools Established by Year

Table 3: Number of Schools Served by Grade Levels

Parents may find a complete list of CISNA-accredited schools at www.cisnausa. org. Since most accrediting programs are secular in nature, such agencies and their accreditation standards and processes do not concern themselves with a school’s spiritual dimension. CISNA’s self-evaluation process, however, focuses on a school’s spiritual life,

provides assurances that it is committed to continuous improvement and holds itself accountable for following best practices and high standards.

THE POWER OF PURPOSE An organization is much more likely to achieve measurable success if its goals are purposeful and meaningful. Purpose plays a pivotal role especially in faith-based organizations, which are often born out of values that reflect a social or religious core. The religious dimension is essential for Islamic schools, for it is generally agreed that a Muslim’s purpose, or being successful in life, is to worship God and serve humanity. It therefore follows that Muslim parents strive to provide an education for their children that fulfills these goals.

state funds — and to build reputations as providers of high-quality education. To attain such recognition requires that they meet the mission and goals they set for themselves. In fact, the very first thing a school accreditation team evaluates is the presence of a practical and compelling mission statement outlining how a school plans to become effective. An Islamic school’s life starts from the passion in its founders’ hearts. The systematic work begins in vital areas such as curriculum, staffing, community relations, finances and facilities. As a deficiency in governance ultimately leads to problems that affect the quality of education and the school’s ultimate longevity, one of the governing board’s responsibilities is to guard the school’s mission and hire, support and

CONSULTATION DOES NOT MEAN CONSENSUS OR MAJORITY RULE; RATHER, IT ALLOWS FOR MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES, EMPOWERS AND INCREASES SELF-WORTH IN OTHERS AND NURTURES LEADERSHIP THAT IS VITAL TO AN ORGANIZATION’S GROWTH. MAJOR DECISIONS ARE BEST MADE BY CONSIDERING THE PARTICIPANTS’ VIEWS, AND JUSTICE AND EQUALITY ARE BEST REALIZED UNDER SHURA GOVERNANCE. The role of education, as determined by classical-era Muslim scholars, can be categorized as the individual’s physical, mental and moral growth. These scholars stated that educational institutions exist to prepare students to be contributing members of society, be lifelong learners, be of good moral character, gain a religious education and engage in public service. Many contemporary Muslim scholars state that Islamic education’s primary role is to construct and retain one’s religious identity. Treating mission statements as a data source reveals what contemporary Muslim communities want to achieve by providing their youth with an Islamic education.

SCHOOL EFFECTIVENESS The first Islamic schools spent their early years struggling to survive financially — religious schools do not receive federal and

evaluate the principal, who is responsible for implementing it. As such, an effective governing body is vital. Another key element is implementing the mission through the leader’s decision-making process. These managers should adhere to Quran 42:38, “Those who…conduct their affairs by mutual consultations (shura)” — a critical but often misunderstood or inaccurately utilized aspect of the Islamic organizational system. Consultation does not mean consensus or majority rule; rather, it allows for multiple perspectives, empowers and increases self-worth in others and nurtures leadership that is vital to an organization’s growth. Major decisions are best made by considering the participants’ views, and justice and equality are best realized under shura governance. Such governance also prevents abuses of power.

While not required for daily matters that require quick decisions, shura does ensure transparency, accountability, collective responsibility and unity of purpose. This is why CISNA accreditation visits identify the decision-making framework as an area for close scrutiny and often for improvement. A process that aligns all decisions with the mission and is based on shura’s principles is vital to helping Islamic schools adhere to their stated purpose(s).

MISSION STATEMENTS Mission statements, which provide the context for governance and decisionmaking, must focus on the stakeholders’ common purpose and reflect the school’s proclaimed distinctive educational, spiritual, moral and social purpose. This statement’s spiritual dimension manifests the community’s goals. Ideally, a school’s strategic plan is based on its mission statement, which is designed to guide the school, inspire the community and anchor it during turbulent times. Formalized by the coming together of a community, it should remind parents of their hopes for the future of their youth and fulfill the basic human need of being part of something greater than themselves — to contribute to a larger purpose. In sum, it articulates the community’s desires and goals and provides a framework from which a strategic plan can be formulated in order to bring an organization’s vision to life. The active involvement of individuals belonging to each stakeholder group — community, parents, staff, alumni and students — is key to the creation/review process. The mission statement’s strength lies not simply in its wording, but also in the process by which it was conceived. Once a school has agreed on its mission, the governing body must preserve it. To make sure that this happens, a process must be devised to guarantee the hiring of an effective principal, one who will ensure that the stated mission will be reflected throughout the school’s entire program. Subjecting the mission statement to regular review ensures that all stakeholders understand, support and make sure that it remains relevant. Only then can the next steps be taken — how to carry out the mission, allocate resources, implement specific programs and make policy decisions.  ih Sufia Azmat, M. Ed., is executive director of the Council of Islamic Schools in North America.



Bridging the Gap Wali Mahmood uses his clothing brand, Deaf Apparel, to make a dominantly hearing world more understanding and inclusive of the deaf community BY HABEEBA HUSAIN


hen New Jersey native Wali Mahmood saw inquisitive eyes on him and his uncle at the local grocery store for what they considered a very ordinary outing, he realized for the first time that their relationship was anything but ordinary. They discussed the typical shopping list full of fruits and breads to feed their household of seven, when Mahmood noticed passersby glance toward them. “People were staring at us, as if we weren’t normal or we’re alien,” the 23-yearold says. I didn’t realize how great of a language or even how different it was until that very moment.” The language in which Mahmood and his uncle communicated that drew in the eyes — not the ears — of their fellow shoppers was American Sign Language (ASL). According to the Communication Service for the Deaf (, roughly one million Americans use ASL as their main form of communicating. Mahmood’s uncle and aunt are two such individuals. Thanks to their sharing the same home, Mahmood learned the language at an early age directly from them. Mahmood is considered a CODA in the deaf community, a child of a deaf adult, though not deaf himself. As he grew older and helped his uncle with errands like grocery runs and bank visits, he noticed that what was routine communication for him was foreign to most. “It made me realize, ‘Hey, you have a really good skill set that not a lot of people have, and it’d be awesome to share,’” Mahmood says. From this thought, Mahmood brainstormed ways to introduce the language with which he grew up to others in a seamless and interesting way — Deaf Apparel (, an online e-commerce storefront that sells shirts, sweatshirts, hats and accessories featuring ASL designs. Customers can personalize T-shirts with their names fingerspelled across the front, with each letter represented by its corresponding ASL sign. Buyers can also opt for readymade designs that communicate phrases like, “I love you” or “friend.” These styles display a single sign that symbolizes an entire word instead of a letter-by-letter design. “If I’m walking down the street and I have sign language or fingerspelling on my clothing, I want people to pose the question, ‘Hey, what’s that on your shirt? Looks interesting, but I don’t know what it means,’” Mahmood says. He intends for the clothing to be a conversation starter in more ways than one. On one hand, it piques the curiosity of those who have never been exposed to the deaf and hard of hearing communities and, essentially, introduces them to these people. On the other hand, it serves as a comforting recognition for those communities’ members to see that they’re not alone in their experience. Being a part of the greater community but not deaf himself, Mahmood says he walks a fine line. “I think the biggest lesson I learned getting more involved within the niche itself was understanding the boundaries as to how far I could pursue Deaf Apparel,” Mahmood explains. “You want to stay in your lane, but at the same time, you want to incorporate different communities.” 32    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

To do this, Mahmood says he had to outline his goals from the get-go: bridge the gap between deaf and hearing by incorporating ASL onto clothing. In addition, he says understanding the struggles of this community’s members is vital. “I’m a hearing person, but I want other hearing people to understand what the deaf community goes through on a daily basis, what kind of struggles, what kind of challenges,” Mahmood states. For example, during the pandemic, Mahmood

Wali Mahmood


says the deaf and hard of hearing communities are struggling with facemasks. While most do not enjoy wearing a mask — it can be uncomfortable and inconvenient — they do so to protect themselves and others. But beyond this discomfort, most facemasks eliminate the deaf community’s ability to lip-read and observe facial expressions, which can really help them communicate with others. “In a public setting, a lot of deaf people use lip reading or hand gestures to communicate … that gets

thrown out the window with the face mask,” Mahmood explains. “You have to put yourself in their shoes — they’re struggling to communicate in this setting of Covid-19.” Mahmood, who recognizes that he can only understand only so much of their struggle because he himself isn’t deaf, hopes his brand will bring more awareness to what the deaf community is currently going through. In addition to apparel, Mahmood recently began publishing blog posts on his website,, for people interested in learning more. There, readers can find interviews with other deaf community members in “Hearin’ Me,” a series of informative posts discussing everyday hurdles and tips on learning ASL. On his Instagram page, @deaf.apparel, Mahmood uploads short snippets followers can use to learn basic sign language, with detailed instructions on how to sign the alphabet, numbers and everyday phrases like, “Thank you,” “You’re welcome” and “Nice to meet you.” These efforts all work together to familiarize the hearing community with ASL and bridge that gap. “If you’re working towards helping a person who is deaf, understanding the struggles goes a long way for them,” Mahmood remarks. “They get very happy when they see a hearing person try to communicate with a deaf person using sign language. They get very excited that there’s another person that actually knows their language. It feels welcoming when somebody understands what you’re going through and what you’re actually saying.” That welcoming feeling is unfortunately absent from many Muslim spaces. Mosques and Islamic conferences can make deaf Muslims feel isolated in a place that should feel like home. Nonprofit organizations like Muhsen ( and Global Deaf Muslim ( work tirelessly to provide ASL interpreters, promote inclusivity and make accessible resources for those who cannot easily pursue Islamic knowledge. These resources include subtitled video content, online sermons in sign language and a project to translate the Quran into ASL. While there is still much to be done, Mahmood says the comments he received since beginning Deaf Apparel in 2018 keep him motivated. “Positive community feedback really makes you want to work harder,” he notes. “Getting messages from people saying, ‘Oh, this is a really cool idea; I never even thought of sign language on T-shirts’ — that really motivated me to push harder and find opportunities and avenues to grow even more.” From a thought that popped into his head in a grocery store checkout line to a successful e-commerce business, we’re excited to see the avenue Mahmood drives Deaf Apparel down next.  ih Habeeba Husain is a freelance journalist based in the New York tri-state area. She blogs for Why-Islam and helps manage Muslim-run businesses, WuduGear and Kamani. Her work has appeared in SLAM Magazine and, among other online and print publications.



A Seat at the Table of American Democracy Imam W. Deen Mohammed and the Carter White House: A Model for Engagement IRSHAD ABDAL-HAQQ

Imam Mohammed was greeted by President Carter in the Roosevelt Room of the White House during his 1977 meeting with Black leaders. (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, an institution that is a part of the National Archives and Records Administration)


Deen Mohammed (1933-2008) was the first imam to recite and provide a commentary on Quranic verses, the first being 5:69, at a Presidential Inaugural Interfaith Prayer Service. He did so first on Jan. 20, 1993, following Bill Clinton’s initial election as president, and again in 1995, following his reelection. During the first interfaith event, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch said in his “The Clinton Tapes” (2009) that he was pleasantly surprised by the imam’s involvement and remarked, “I considered [Imam Mohammed] the nation’s most underappreciated religious figure in the twentieth century…” (p. 24) Clinton later recruited the imam as a consultant to the advisory board of his initiative on race: One America in the 21st Century. More than 15 years earlier, however, Imam Mohammed had participated in an equally historic White House event hosted by President Jimmy Carter on Dec. 14, 1977. A year after the 1976 presidential election, a coalition of prominent Black leaders that called themselves the Black Leadership Forum prevailed upon Carter to grant them an audience to address the socio-economic issues plaguing Blacks, other minorities and the poor. The Black vote, including the first-time vote of tens of thousands of Black 34    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

American Muslims, had been critical to Carter’s successful campaign. Thus, representatives of 14 major Black organizations thought it appropriate to request a meeting with him — he ultimately agreed. The process leading up to that meeting, the specific agenda items discussed and his administration’s post-meeting relationship with Imam Mohammed’s organization may prove instructive for engaging with the administration of any president. In 1977 Imam Mohammed, whose organization was then called the World Community of Al-Islam in the West (WCIW), had been included in Ebony Magazine’s highly anticipated annual list of the “100 Most Influential Black Americans” for three years running. At that time, the WCIW had more than 100 affiliated mosques nationwide, tens of thousands of members, extensive property holdings and other assets. The imam’s outreach activities and prominence as head of the WCIW justified inviting him to sit at the table of Black leaders scheduled to meet with the president. He graciously agreed to do so. The imam’s recognition as a representative of the Black community was not based solely on his position as the WCIW’s head. Scores of leaders of large Black organizations had not been included. In the case of the imam, however, he had demonstrated his sincere interest in addressing Black socio-economic and other concerns and by reaching out to other Black leaders for nearly a year prior to the meeting in an effort to identify and implement viable solutions to these ongoing problems. “I do not know if I will be successful or not, but I am going to ask our leaders to come together in an emergency meeting because our condition is just that bad,” he said early in the winter of 1977. “I am issuing a national call for survival to all concerned leaders and all concerned citizens of America. We are in the process of forming a group of such persons from all segments of society who are ready to mobilize their forces against the common enemies of our communities,” he added. (Bilalian News, Jan. 20, 1978, p. 4). By early November 1977, more than a dozen prominent Black leaders had met twice during the year to discuss strategies for addressing the crisis of unemployment and additional serious issues affecting Black Americans and others. Despite their philosophical, religious and/or political differences, these leaders adopted a unified strategy for accessing the power of the White House. They built their solidarity upon an agenda of common concerns. Some of them had publicly rebuked the Carter administration for failing to aggressively seek solutions to the problems they were trying to address and accused him of failing to live up to his campaign promises. So they agreed to request a meeting with him. Perhaps the most critical voice was that of Vernon E. Jordan Jr. (executive director, National Urban League [NUL]), who served as the group’s spokesperson. “The

Imam Mohammed (seated right rear) in attendance at President Carter’s meeting with Black leaders, Nov. 4, 1977. (Courtesy of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.)

helping the unemployed and poor. Nevertheless, overall they were skeptical because he did not commit to including sufficient funding in the federal budget to support programs that would address their concerns. This prompted one leader to propose taking their concerns to Congress rather than rely solely on the White House’s doubtful cooperation in terms of budget increases. Imam Mohammed, however, expressed strong satisfaction with the outcome. (Bilalian News, Dec. 30, 1977, p.3). Thus, while it is undeniable that a seat at the table of democracy is desirable, that, in and of itself, is not I CONSIDERED [IMAM MOHAMMED] THE enough. After discussing concerns and obtaining assurances of support from a president or other powerful NATION’S MOST UNDERAPPRECIATED politicians, there must be follow-up and follow through. RELIGIOUS FIGURE IN THE TWENTIETH In the above case, the follow-up partially consisted CENTURY…,” TAYLOR BRANCH, “THE of revamping the minority business assistance program operated by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Office of CLINTON TAPES” (P. 24) Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE) to assist more minority businesses. For Imam Mohammed and the Administration has formulated a new foreign policy, WCIW, follow-up involved establishing a robust relationship with OMBE based a new defense policy and a new energy policy. But it on information it shared with Black leaders during the White House meeting. has not adequately addressed itself to a new domestic Ultimately, this led to an OMBE-WCIW 1978 initiative in the Chicago area to policy,” he alleged in his keynote NUL convention support programs designed to benefit minority communities. This initiative address in July 1977. “We have no full employment culminated in the award of a January 1979 Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) food policy. We have no welfare reform policy. We have no supply contract, bolstered by U.S. Commerce Department loan guarantees, to national health policy. We have no urban revitaliza- the American Pouch Foods Company, Inc. (APF) — a joint venture between the tion policy. We have no aggressive affirmative action WCIW’s Chicago-based Progressive Land Developers, Inc. and APF International, policy. We have no national solution to the grinding Inc., an Asian-American firm. problems of poverty and discrimination.” Valued at up to $35 million ($133 million in current value when adjusted Ebony Magazine’s “Annual Progress Report for for inflation), the APF project was touted for having the potential of creating 1977” was equally critical. It said that Carter’s inau- hundreds of future jobs for the urban poor. Unfortunately, and through no fault guration had provided a glimmer of hope, but that of the imam and WCIW, which had only contributed land and buildings, DLA this hope faded to despair by mid-1977 as his unex- terminated the contract after less than two years due to APF’s alleged failure to pectedly conservative administration had begun to meet production schedules. Notwithstanding this action, an examination of Imam Mohammed’s approach neglect the Black community. For his part, Carter believed that too much was for engaging with the Carter administration is instructive. He encouraged forming being asked of him in such a short time. “I have been and then joined a coalition of non-Muslim Black organizations and individuals in office now six months, have no apologies to make…” who shared some of his socio-economic and moral concerns. Along with them, he He asserted that the problems he was expected to approached and engaged Carter, and subsequently his administration, to pursue address had existed for many years before his tenure a community development project. He did not simply sit at the table and request and could not be quickly resolved. Nonetheless, he government funding; rather, he brought something to the table — an economic granted Jordan’s request for a meeting. development project that required shared risk, but which would reap shared success In addition to Imam Mohammed and Jordan, in the form of job opportunities — an objective toward which all parties aspired. In the current political climate, perhaps Muslim Americans can employ part among the other attending dignitaries were Rep. Parren J. Mitchell (D, chairman of the Congressional or all of Imam Mohammed’s strategy for engaging with the White House. This Black Caucus), Dorothy T. Height, Coretta Scott would involve partnering with one another as well as with non-Muslim orgaKing and Jesse Jackson. Among the issues they nizations on matters of mutual concern, thereby claiming our seat at the table raised were expanding job programs to remedy high of democracy, bringing something of concrete value (e.g., proposed projects unemployment, developing an overall urban policy requiring investments on our part), following up on our expressed objectives and, supported by sufficient funding and reorganizing finally, following through by executing a viable action plan to achieve them.  ih the civil rights agencies. At the conclusion of the meeting, the delegation’s Irshad Abdal-Haqq, a writer and attorney, pens fiction and nonfiction that focus on issues of importance to Muslims and Black Americans and marginalized communities on “Irshad’s Blog” ( He is general consensus, as expressed by Jordan, was that the author of the newly released short story collection, “Dash: Young Black Refugee and Migration Stories.” President Carter seemed personally committed to He also contributes to #MuslimLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   35


Connected by Faith Muslim students have devised and are successfully navigating ways to stay, learn and advance together BY SAMINA SALIM


he desire for proximity is a basic tenet of human existence, one that constantly pushes the boundaries of the unknown and thus reveals new horizons for us to explore. Interactions are quintessential to our moral, social, creative and intellectual growth and form the social foundation of vibrant communities. It is with friends and family that one seeks to rejoice, entertain or empathize, sometimes vent and often simply to confide and share. The Covid-19 pandemic has radically modified our lives, creating a culture of “social distancing” that in an otherwise normal world would be deemed rude and cold. Nevertheless, it has become the new etiquette — and rightly so. While technology’s many virtual platforms can somewhat compensate for the loss of physical contact, they can never replace the assurance of a touch and the texture of an embrace. The virtual cheers can hardly convey or reciprocate the warmth of friendly touches of appreciation that make us feel esteemed, valued and satisfied. Our lives have been altered so drastically that we are craving for connection like never before. We miss what used to be normal, which perhaps — and at the time — seemed rather mundane. As a professor at the University of Houston (UH), I miss the energy of our lecture halls, the smell of coffee mugs, the casual hellos, crowded elevators, long lines at the local Starbucks, the laughter and the noise. I miss every bit of it. Despite virtual classrooms, social events and webinars, the craving for connection remains unfulfilled. Having witnessed my own daughter graduate from college without a ceremony, handshakes or hugs, I fully empathize with the 2020 graduates for the moments they have missed. Considering the social distancing norms, I wondered how Muslim students were coping with the quarantine and thought about reaching out to the UH

THESE ARE HISTORIC TIMES, AND WE WANT MUSLIM SISTERS TO BE REMEMBERED AS HAVING PLAYED A POSITIVE ROLE IN HISTORY.” — AYSHA SAIF, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON BUSINESS MAJOR Muslim Students Association (UHMSA), a pretty active student body established in 1964 that takes pride in its outreach and service activities. With its 16 officers, 20+ interns and 500+ active members, UHMSA is one of Houston’s longest-running Islamic organizations and a leading resource for day-to-day Muslim campus life. The association offers a wide range of services and programs, including spiritual fulfilment, academic success, social connections and Islamic education, to a rapidly growing community. Considering UHMSA’s active role in campus activities, I wondered how its members were facing the challenge of keeping it relevant and significant. Curious, I reached out to president Mishaal Siddiqui and was thrilled to learn that UHMSA has stepped up its roles of service and leadership during these unprecedented times. She informed me of how its members have tapped into out-of-the-box measures by conducting such virtual educational, social and professional development events as biweekly fiqh and Muslima empowerment classes, a weekly class on Imam An-Nawawi’s “40 Hadith,” a biweekly da‘wa class, weekly interfaith table hours, and a game night, as well as separate


biweekly brother and sister halaqas and fitness sessions. Of particular significance was UHMSA’s collaborative spirit in its outreach across institutions. Along with Rice University, Lone Star College, Texas Southern University, University of Houston-Downtown and the Ahlul Bayt Student Organization, it undertook a very creative approach to hosting a “Game Night Social” over Zoom. This firstever and very unique event reached out to Muslim students across Houston’s institutions, thereby enabling a spirit of unity, understanding and compassion. With over 50 attendees, the game night social involved multiple breakout rooms in which people played Skribblio, video games, Kahoot — and yes the winners did receive gift cards as prizes! “While we look forward to getting back to in-person events, we celebrate the opportunity the virtual semester has given us in terms of accessibility. Students and non-students from around the world can easily attend all of our events on Zoom. Our attendance has been at an all-time high, and we have got lots of positive feedback about how UHMSA events help our members remain connected with their peers and with Islam during the pandemic, Alhamdu lillah,” said Siddiqui. Clearly, the desire to connect is the dominant theme for everyone. During the pandemic, UH business major Aysha Saif invited me to serve as an advisor for the Muslimahs For Change ( sorority, Houston chapter. Curious, I asked about the need for this organization and how they intended to serve Muslim students during the pandemic. I was impressed with her response, “These are historic times, and we want Muslim sisters to be remembered as having played a positive role in history.” This immediately sold me on the idea, and I agreed to serve as faculty advisor. Clearly, the human spirit has thrived right along with the virus, with much of the umma seeking a closer relationship not only with God, but also with each other. “What better time than now to use our iman to support our umma and our umma to support our iman,” Aysha responded. It’s young women like Mishal and Aysha and so many more who remind us of the resilience of the human spirit.  ih Samina Salim, Ph.D., is an associate professor of pharmacology and neuroscience at the Department of Pharmacological & Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, University of Houston.

The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam. These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good.

We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.

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When All Hope Seems Lost Muslims helping Muslims achieve their higher education goals — interest free! BY MONA ADHAMI

As-salamu alaikum,” I gently called out as I closed the front door behind me. “Wa alaikum as-salam,” distant voices responded. Taking off my shoes and hanging up my coat, I headed down the corridor. My parents looked up as I walked into the kitchen. “How was work, Ibrahim?” my mother asked as she prepped the table for dinner. I could smell the redolent aroma of chicken emanating from the oven. “Long and tiring,” I responded, putting my keys on the counter and looking through the mail that lay neatly piled in the corner. “I’m ready for winter break.” “Winter break? We haven’t even reached Thanksgiving break yet!” my father chuckled as he patted me on the shoulder. Beep beep beep. The timer announced that dinner was ready. My mother gingerly

took out a large dish of chicken, potatoes and vegetables from the oven and set it on the hot plate. She beckoned me to the dinner table. “Come. Eat. You must be hungry. I made you your favorite. Great for this fall weather!” “I’ll eat later. I’m just really exhausted right now,” I said wearily, shaking my head. “Besides, I have to submit my scholarship application that’s due tonight. I’ll come down later tonight.” As footsteps took me upstairs to my room, I heard the muffled whispers of my parents. “We barely see him anymore … he’s working too much … he just comes and goes … like he’s a renter.” I hated to admit it, but they were right. I felt the same way. Working two jobs and juggling five classes was not an easy task. I couldn’t help but feel I was stretched too thin, like I was taking on more than I could handle. A disorganized desk of textbooks and notebooks welcomed me into my room.


I kept digging until I finally found my planner, which lay buried under copious papers and binders. Looking at today’s date, I saw large text highlighted in neon yellow: SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE. I had taken it upon myself to actively seek any scholarships that I had an even remote chance of winning. Since the beginning of the year, I had applied for dozens upon dozens of scholarships — sadly, I didn’t win any of them. With the hours I consistently poured into writing scholarship essays, I considered the initiative to be like my third job. But that’s the way it had to be, because I didn’t have much of a choice. With expensive tuition and a national loan system entrenched in interest, what other options did I have? I had made a commitment to eschew interest for the sake of God. I had made it this far, and I wasn’t about to give up now. Pulling my laptop toward me, I opened up my scholarship essay to proofread my

work and add a final closing paragraph. My fingers typed away as I concluded my essay with: “I feel that this scholarship will undoubtedly help me achieve both my educational and career goals as I work towards my Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering. My journey at the University of Texas at Austin has already proven to be both enlightening and enjoyable, and I hope that you will support me as I continue along this path.”

hold of me. It was like a knot of negative energy lodged in my chest. I scrolled through my list of contacts on my phone. Uncle Howard. Clicking on the text message icon, I saw our previous chat history. I had asked him for help with school earlier, and he said he would get back to me. He and his family were known for their generosity, so I was hoping he would be the answer to my dua.

WA SALAM IBRAHIM. I’M DOING WELL, HOPE YOU ARE TOO. THANKS FOR REACHING OUT, BUT I’M AFRAID COVID-19 HAS MADE ME A BIT STRAPPED FOR CASH RIGHT NOW. I WISH I COULD HELP, BUT I JUST CAN’T. I WOULD RECOMMEND A CONTINUOUS CHARITY. CHECK OUT THEIR WEBSITE: WWW.ACCEDUCATE.ORG.” Skimming through my essay one last time, I copied and pasted the contents into the online scholarship portal. My cursor hovered over the submit button. Closing my eyes, I whispered, “Ya Allah, open the way for me. Ya Allah, let me win this scholarship.” With an invocation to God and a confident click, I pressed “submit.” “Alhamdulillah.” With a sigh of relief, I closed my laptop and pushed it away. Looking down at my overfilled planner, I saw that I had three exams the following week and multiple assignments due, all peppered between my work schedule. The relief I felt from submitting my scholarship was short-lived. Big bold letters highlighted in neon yellow stared out at me with menacing eyes: TUITION DUE. It was like a stern opponent challenging me to a duel, awaiting my response. My feeble efforts did not seem to intimidate it in the least. Having recently signed up for my spring classes at the University of Texas at Austin, I needed to pay tuition in full or sign up for a payment plan the following week — otherwise, I would run the risk of losing my classes altogether. My parents were kind enough to help me pay for part of my tuition, and I had saved up my money from work. We would be able to pay a good portion of the tuition, but a remaining $3,000 still loomed over me — and that was just for next semester. I inhaled deeply, feeling a kind of stress take

“Salam Uncle Howard, how is everything? Hope you and the family are doing great. I just wanted to follow up with you about my tuition. Do you think I could possibly borrow the 3k I mentioned before please?” I felt my heart skip a few beats as it pounded in my chest. Pacing around my room, I thought of his possible responses: “Sure thing,” “I’m still looking into it,” “Not at this time.” After a few moments, my phone vibrated and buzzed. Holding my breath, I was almost too afraid to read his message. With pursed lips, I held up my phone and opened his message. “Wa salam Ibrahim. I’m doing well, hope you are too. Thanks for reaching out, but I’m afraid Covid-19 has made me a bit strapped for cash right now. I wish I could help, but I just can’t. I would recommend A Continuous Charity. Check out their website:” I felt my heart drop as a dull tension washed over me. I closed my eyes and shook my head. How would I pay for my classes now? Where would I find the remaining $3,000? As my mind raced with uncertainty about the path that lies ahead, my fingers typed a response: “No problem. I completely understand. May Allah make it easy for you. I’ll try to check out the link. JAK.” I threw my phone on my bed and ran

frustrated fingers through my hair. He was my last hope. And now that hope was gone! I pulled out my laptop and, in skepticism, typed in the website he referred me to. A large bold font greeted me on the homepage: “Providing interest-free loans for a better future.” Scrolling down, I saw infographics highlighting “Interest Saved” and “Amount Given in Loans.” Curious, I clicked on the “About Us” link at the top banner. As I skimmed through the content, my jaw dropped in disbelief. Shaking my head, I said to myself, “I can’t believe it! This is the answer to my dua!” I had finally found a solution to funding my education, and it was literally staring right at me. Reading further, I learned that A Continuous Charity is an Islamic organization that provides interest-free loans for higher education. I was shocked by their model’s ingenuity: When students repay their loan, ACC re-loans that same money to another student, ultimately establishing a sadaqa jarriya (continuous charity). I moved away from my desk and fell into sujood. Upon rising, I let out a sigh of relief: “Alhamdulillah for this newfound hope.”

A CONTINUOUS CHARITY ACC offers a solution to this very real and pressing dilemma that students such as Ibrahim face. A national Islamic organization that offers interest-free loans to students for higher-level education, it not only helps students pay for school, but also helps them refinance their loans. Naim, a recent Rochester Institute of Technology graduate and an ACC recipient, currently works as a full-time UX designer. After graduation, he found himself approximately $24,000 in debt. His loan provider explained how the accumulating interest would ultimately require him to pay back almost double the principal amount. Upon discovering ACC, he seized the opportunity and applied for loan refinancing. ACC’s decision to accept his application allowed him to break free from the shackles of interest. ACC wants to help even more students like Naim who are struggling with the difficulties of funding their education and repaying their loans. Donors not only give hope to others, but also ultimately craft an indelible legacy for themselves.  ih Mona Adhami, Programs Specialist at A Continuous Charity, published her first book “Sinjab and Sasha: Love in Chirring Woods” in 2019.



Nafs: Ego, Self or Personality How the Quranic concept of nafs contrasts with Freud’s theory of personality development and Nietzsche’s Superman BY M. BASHEER AHMED


he Quran uses nafs to indicate our inner self or personality, the seat of our desires, anger, love, passion, and awareness of right and wrong; our consciousness; and the ability to achieve peace and self-satisfaction by controlling our self-centered desires. The Quran proclaims that each individual is responsible for choosing the appropriate behavior based on its guidelines: “O you who have believed, upon you is [responsibility for] yourselves” (5:105). There are three types of nafs: al-nafs al-ammara, al-nafs al-lawwama and al-nafs al-mutma’inna. The nafs al-ammara is dominated by inner desires, self-satisfaction and immediate gratification — “The human soul is certainly prone to evil” (12:53) — namely, greed, power and dominance without regard for right or wrong, justice or inequity. It seeks the pleasures of this world and embraces such characteristics as self-admiration and self-praise, arrogance and pride, lying, gossip and backbiting, envy and jealousy, criticism, dissatisfaction, selfishness, greed and love of self. Muslims are urged to control such desires by treating others with humility, respect, dignity and similar qualities. The Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) once noted this struggle’s importance after returning from a battle, “We now return from the lesser struggle (al-jihad al-asghar)


to the greater struggle (al-jihad al-akbar). Ali (radi Allahu ‘anh) said, “The nafs al-ammara is like a wild horse upon which you are riding. If you move your attention for one second, he will throw you off.” The nafs al-lawwama enables people to be conscious of their own imperfections by blaming themselves for following their insatiable desires and demanding instant gratification. It desires what is good, is aware of the excellence of good actions and keeps the self away from wrong actions and bad deeds: “I swear by the self-reproaching soul” (75:2). Engaging in wrong actions produces guilt, which increases so much that the person


begins to correct or avoid such actions so that he/she will stop feeling shame, embarrassment and regret. At this stage, the person’s conscience is awakened; the self begins to accuse him/her for obeying the id’s commands; and his/her consciousness, rationality and aspirations inspire the nafs al-lawwama to be perfect: “By the One who brought the self to equilibrium inspiring it with its transgression and its consciousness” (7:8). Anas ibn Malik reported: “The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘All of the children of Adam [and Eve] are sinners, and the best sinners are those who repent” (“Sunan al-Tirmidhi,” hadith no. 2499). The nafs al-mutma’inna is a state of serenity, tranquility and peace, for one has reached the stage where he/she no longer commits wrong actions and bad deeds: “As for you, O content soul, return to your Lord, pleased and pleasing” (89:27-28). Having lived a disciplined life, such people have finally become selfless and humble by abandoning false pride, greed and dominance. Their only desire is to serve humanity for the rest of their life, which should be everyone’s ultimate goal. As we can see, the Quranic concept of nafs has an extremely modernistic undertone, much like Freud’s theory of personality development and Nietzsche’s Superman (Übermensch).

FREUD’S PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT THEORIES Freud postulated that the personality (human psyche) is structured into three parts — the id, the ego and the superego — all of which develop at different life stages. Humans are born with the id, the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that generates the desire for immediate gratification. The ego is the realistic part that mediates between the id and the superego, and the superego operates as a moral conscience. These purely psychological concepts, which do not correspond to the brain’s structures, constantly interact among themselves. Ultimately, the ego must determine how to meet the id’s needs while upholding social reality and the superego’s moral standards. The id drives newborns’ behavior, as they are concerned only with meeting their needs, and thus remains infantile. As it is the source of an infant’s bodily needs, wants, desires and impulses, it never considers reality and thus remains illogical, selfish and focused on obtaining pleasure.

OPINION The ego engages in secondary process thinking and uses this rational, realistic and problem-solving orientation to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways. In many cases, this can be accomplished by delaying the desired gratification until the appropriate time and place. Freud compared the id to a horse and the ego to its rider. The horse provides the power and motion, while the rider provides the direction and guidance. Without its rider, the horse may simply wander aimlessly. Ali used a similar image to describe the nafs al-ammara. Freud’s “ego ideal” (“ideal self ”) includes the rules and standards of good behavior to which one should adhere. If one manages to do so, he/she will eventually experience feelings of pride. The superego, which consists of the conscience and the ideal self, develops when children are around 3 to 5 years old. Incorporating the surrounding society’s values and morals via one’s parents, it continues to grow over time so that children can adopt moral standards from people they admire, like teachers. The superego controls the id’s impulses, especially those that society forbids (e.g., non-marital sexual relationships and immediate gratification); acts to perfect and civilize our behavior; works to suppress the id’s unacceptable urges; struggles to make the ego act upon idealistic standards; and tries to persuade the ego to turn to moralistic goals and strive for perfection. If the ego gives in to the id’s demands, the superego may make the person feel bad by giving rise to feelings of guilt. For example, an individual with an overly dominant id might become impulsive, uncontrollable or even a criminal, as immediate gratification is his/ her only concern. On the other hand, an overly dominant superego might lead one to become extremely moralistic and judgmental and thus unable to accept whatever he/she deems “bad” or “immoral.” Those who have a strong ego can manage these pressures effectively, while those whose ego is too strong or too weak can become too unyielding or disruptive. One can only acquire a healthy personality by striking the correct balance among the id, the ego and the superego.

NIETZSCHE’S SUPERMAN Nietzsche presented his Superman as a man who possesses his own independent values and is therefore able to affect and dominate others. He therefore lives with pleasure and happiness in the present, but with the purpose of leading humanity. A biological product, as opposed to a product of moral and spiritual forces, this individual creates his own morality based on his own experiences, which are grounded in the secular physical world. The poet, scholar and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), who published his “Asrar-i-Khudi” in Persian in 1915 (“The Secrets of the Self,” trans. Reynold A. Nicholson; http://www.gutenberg. org/ebooks/57317) noted, “It is probable that Nietzsche borrowed it (Übermensch) from the literature of Islam or of the East and degraded it by his materialism.” In footnote number 8, S. A. Vahid states that Iqbal dictated this note to Sayyid Ivazir Niyazi during the summer of 1937) ( oct82/3.htm#_edn1). In comparison to Freud and Nietzsche, the Quran gives a clear understanding of the concept of nafs and its role in developing a person’s character in such a way that it can reach the level of al-nafs al-mutma’inna (the soul at peace).  ih Dr. Basheer Ahmed is a former professor of psychiatry, South Western Medical School, Dallas, Texas, and chairman emeritus of the MCC for Human Services, North Texas.


Issues of Poverty in the U.S. Have Solutions For many Americans, the “American Dream” recedes even further into the distance BY S. A. REHMAN


he COVID-19 crisis has brought to the fore issues associated with hunger and homelessness, unemployment and hopelessness. However, these can be solved and reduced if we pool our resources. The common denominator for all of these issues is the lack of education. Every year, more than 1.2 million Americans drop out of high school — one every 26 seconds, or 7,000 a day, writes Tony Miller (“Partnering for Education Reform,”, July 7, 2011). David Silver, Marisa Saunders and Estela Zarate find that about 25% of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s high school freshmen fail to graduate on time (https://www. In 2017, the average high school “event” dropout rate — that is students between grades 10-12 — was 4.7%, contrasting with 3.5% in 2007; while 54% of students who drop out of high school left in 10th or 11th grade, reported The study also found that nearly 83% of incarcerated persons are also high school dropouts. They usually find jobs in fast food outlets, grocery stores, factories or the construction industry. The National Employment Law Project found that entry-level jobs at fast-food restaurants are more likely to be dead-end jobs than stepping stones to more advanced positions (Stephanie Levy, June 10, 2015; https:// Adults need to explain to youth the importance of graduating from high school. Sometimes the parents insist they do, but in other cases they need the student’s income to improve the family’s economic status. Lyndsey Layton, author of “National public high school graduation rate at a four-decade high” (Washington Post, Jan. 21, 2013),

OPINION found that a dropout will earn $200,000 less than a high school graduate over his lifetime and almost a million dollars less than a college graduate. What is needed is legislation stipulating that only graduates should be given jobs. Aren’t athletes barred from being recruited as professionals without graduating? In addition, they should also be given financial or other incentives to encourage them to graduate. If they want to go to college, they should be given financial or other support that will enable them to excel and earn their degrees, particularly in the sciences, so they can get good jobs, become independent and help themselves, their family and the economy as a whole. Statistics also show that millions of

And once you’re on their radar, charities typically start spending marketing dollars to chase you for more donations (Liz Weston, Nov. 25, 2015, Donors can help reduce processing costs by bundling their giving into one or finding a way to lessen the number of installment payments. Research shows that some fast food and regular restaurants throw away a great deal of food even though millions of Americans are going hungry. For instance, a single restaurant wastes about 100,000 pounds of food a year ( waste). Many restaurants are reluctant to donate their edible leftovers to hunger relief groups because, states Eleanor Goldberg,

WHAT IS NEEDED IS, LEGISLATION STIPULATING THAT ONLY GRADUATES SHOULD BE GIVEN JOBS. AREN’T ATHLETES BARRED FROM BEING RECRUITED AS PROFESSIONALS WITHOUT GRADUATING? IN ADDITION, THEY SHOULD ALSO BE GIVEN FINANCIAL OR OTHER INCENTIVES TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO GRADUATE. Americans struggle every day to feed their families, and thus food pantries are valuable resources. As the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, job loss, an unexpected medical bill or a reduction in income can seriously affect one’s financial situation. In an emergency, free food pantries can offer a degree of help. Many low- to moderate-income families struggle to keep food on their tables as prices rise and the economy remains weak. As a result, every year millions of Americans receive some type of food assistance from food pantries. According to the World Giving Index, which measures how likely residents of 128 countries are to practice acts of generosity, the U.S. has been the world’s most generous country for the past decade. The index, from the U.K.-based nonprofit Charities Aid Foundation, is based on Gallup’s World Poll surveys of 1.3 million people (Leslie Albrecht, Dec. 7, 2019, The other problem is that the presence of so many charities divides their resources, and the associated processing costs mean that proportionately less of a small donation can be used for good cause. For example, if it costs $2 to process a donation, that is just 2% of $100 donation but 20% of $10 donation.

they’re afraid of being sued if the recipients become sick. But they shouldn’t be so worried about such a backlash, experts say. As Nicole Civita (professor and director, the Food Recovery Project with the University of Arkansas School of Law; assistant director, the Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, Sterling College) writes, there is no public record of anyone in the U.S. being sued or having to pay damages in such cases. In fact, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act (1996) protects restaurants from civil and criminal liability should a recipient get ill or hurt as a result. Donors are only culpable in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Regrettably, however, even 24 years after its passage this act remains an underutilized tool (“Restaurants Officially Have no Excuse Not to Donate Leftover Food,” HuffPost, July 18, 2016). Jean Buzby and Jeffrey Hyman, who used the USDA’s Economic Research Service’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data to study the amount and value of the food being wasted, estimated that 29% of all food is wasted (“Total and Per Capita Value of Food Loss in the United States,” 37 Food Policy 561, 565 [2012]).


But some fast food chains have found ways to help. Panera has a national storewide policy of donating unused food to local homeless shelters. In 2015, Bon Appetit’s 650 cafes offered a “low-ball” estimate of having donated more than 286,000 pounds of food. Some initiatives are striking. In 2009, Arlan Preblud launched “We Don’t Waste” (https:// — a Denver-based nonprofit that works with restaurants, universities, distributors and major stadiums to collect food five days a week and deliver it to recipients on the same day. Perhaps some Muslim nonprofits should follow these examples and retrieve halal foods for needy Muslims. Although accurate counts of the homeless population are impossible to come by, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that at least 40,056 veterans are among the large number of transient homeless Americans on any given night ( uploads/asset_library/Homelessness_in_ America._Focus_on_Veterans.pdf). This, in my opinion, is a profoundly shameful and dishonorable way to treat those who were deployed in wars and possibly mentally and/or physically injured while defending our country. Homeless shelters help many people, but they obviously have a limited capacity. During periods of extreme weather, they only house people between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. This problem could be solved by erecting affordable-housing apartment complexes that contain a library, a rehab center and a vocational center. The latter center could help residents by training them to become electricians, plumbers and other blue-collar professionals who could then find jobs, take care of themselves and their loved ones, be happy and independent, as well as help the economy. Those who are interested in such an undertaking could build and maintain affordable accommodations — especially if there were a tax write-off incentive. In the 1970s I purchased two affordable apartment complexes in downtown Cincinnati in lowrent districts and enjoyed a comfortable tax write-off for their maintenance. Surely there are other ideas, but I feel that such initiatives can help people escape poverty and restore their sense of personal dignity and worth.  ih Dr. Sheikh Rahman, MD, has spent 50 years practicing medicine in the U.K., the U.S. and India.

Who is to Blame for This Country’s Economic Decline? Shifting the blame from Asians and Asian Americans to the American Business Model BY SAMAN ESSA


rom its roots in slavery to plantation-based economies, and from the modern-day working conditions of minimum-wage workers in capitalist corporations to the below-average pay of factory workers of American-based companies abroad, the U.S. has a history of loving cheap labor. For decades, Americans have protested, rallied and lobbied to bring attention to the discrepancies of Black and Brown wages as compared to Whites wages, and demanding that Americans take a closer look at the systemic racism that inhibits communities of color from making socio-economic progress. Historically, Asian Americans have evaded these conversations and deliberately remained uninvolved, thereby conforming to the “model minority” stereotype. However, racial tensions and the drive to seek social justice through the Black Lives Matter movement has prompted them to rethink their role and responsibility in this regard. Furthermore, the rising number of hate crimes directed against them are throwing this community into the mix of minority victimization by the majority group. President Trump’s redubbing of the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” has helped normalize anti-Asian sentiment. This has no doubt played a role in the astounding 875% increase of hate crimes directed against Asian Americans within just the past three months (UN Report, 2020). Asian Americans have long been told to “go back to where you came from.” In the wake of the pandemic, many White Americans feel that their jobs and health have been compromised and thus place even more blame on this racial group. The pairing of “virus spreading” and “Asian” may lead the average White American to imagine that both of them are very closely related. Similarly, the terms “Asian” and “outsourced” also produce an

inference that lays the foundation for negative stereotyping (Hamilton & Gufford, “Illusory correlation in interpersonal perception: A cognitive basis of stereotypic judgments,” 1976). As a result, numerous Asian Americans have been threatened with death; others have become victims of hate crimes. This charged hatred and blame can also be examined through the lens of terror management theory. In their 1986 publication “Advances in experimental social psychology” (vol. 29, pp. 61-139), Greenberg, Solomon, and Pyszczynski posit that human beings who are made aware of their vulnerabilities and inevitable death become paralyzed with fear. Seeing themselves as vulnerable, these in-groups may resort to increased negative stereotyping and aggression against out-groups. This differentiation becomes particularly heightened when mortality saliency is increased. Given the ongoing pandemic and the ensuing rampant fear and concerns of death, preserving one’s self and fellow in-group members has become more immediate. Not only does this bring our attention to the incomprehensible discrimination toward yet another minority group, but it also brings into focus the true culprit behind the financial insecurity experienced by all Americans — the American Business Model.

Corporations rely on Black and Brown people to operate their companies at a measly pay, which is why so many American manufacturing jobs have been outsourced to Asia. Instead of creating jobs in the U.S. for Americans, each of whom must be paid a legally mandated minimum wage, corporations employ middle-class, Englishspeaking Asians abroad to handle customer service, technical issues and similar jobs at far lower prices. A study by Tajfel, Billig, Bundy & Flament (European Journal of Psychology; April/June 1971) found that it is harder to blame one’s own than others. By shifting the blame from Asians and Asian Americans to corporations, Americans are actually taking partial ownership for the state of our economy. Blaming others and inciting xenophobic attitudes only diverts this blame. As the pandemic continues to hurt Americans financially across all racial and ethnic backgrounds, more fuel is generated to punish and express anger toward Asian Americans for “stealing” American jobs. If American corporations were to end outsourcing, would CEOs be willing to accept the financial losses associated with employing Americans? Corporations can maintain lower product costs by lowering their labor costs. However, if products were to be produced here, the cost of making them would rise exponentially and make them more expensive to purchase. More importantly, would Americans be willing to give up cheap outsourced labor for American jobs and, consequentially, American prices?  ih Saman Essa is a counseling psychology doctoral student, Department of Psychological, Health & Learning Sciences, University of Houston.



Improving Faith Coexistence in Emerging Digital Space Mosques need to provide more informative websites BY RASHEED RABBI


eorge Floyd’s death at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for almost eight minutes, has rejuvenated the interfaith movement. Once again, imams were walking alongside rabbis, priests, pastors and other conservative and mainstream religious leaders during the past year. This revived solidarity movement still has the same goal: to dismantle the reality of systemic discrimination in a divided nation that still debates the need to wear masks to stifle Covid-19, which has already killed over 187,000 Americans Amidst this uncertainty and distrust, American religious leaders and organizations have pursued interfaith activities to advance unity through equality during the Covid-19 pandemic. One example of this occurred when Wisconsin’s faith leaders held a virtual assembly on June 2, 2019, to show their unanimity of feeling with the community (Jennifer Kliese, “Together in mourning and hope, interfaith religious leaders host virtual worship,” 27 ABC WKOW). Writing for Reuters on June 9 in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, Andrea Shall stated that the approximately 1,000 religious leaders’ “spontaneous participation” in online conferences “marked a new breadth and depth of digital interfaith initiatives.”

THE FORESEEABLE SUCCESS This shift of platform was neither abrupt nor fleeting; rather, it was inherent and befitting for the 90% of the population that is already online (https://www., including 98% of the public school districts ( While Pew Research noted on July 25, 2019, that 28% of this online population is constantly active, CNN’s Jacqueline Howard opined on June 30, 2016, that the average American spends at least 12 hours a day online. More interestingly, in 2004 Pew Research reported that 64% of online users have a history of searching for religious content; their religious quest has been surging ever since. The record numbers of online ministry participants show their communities’ cyber-savvy aptitude, which enables religious leaders to resituate social movements in the virtual realm during the ongoing pandemic. Activists participate in raw conversations on virtual podiums as they grapple with questions of equality and oppression. The internet’s ubiquity has overcome geographic boundaries, and its speed enables fast interconnection among leaders. Its users’ faith-driven motivation supplements additional rigor to make sure 44    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

that this movement will remain ongoing and thereby ensure its recognition. Despite the potential for conflict with antagonistic and often anonymous internet trolls, faith communities are trying to establish equality and enduring relationships that will defeat our current national disunity. Their renewed commitment to achieving a more equitable society for all offers healing, a sense of extended community and a cumulative hope. We are responsible for working together to realize that hope.

INCORPORATING INTERFAITH SOLIDARITY ON MOSQUE WEBSITES While faith leaders are on the frontline in terms of interfaith commitment at the national level, our communities must demonstrate this inclusiveness on the local level. However, current mosque websites do not represent the depth and breadth of their continuous interfaith engagements. Most mosques only post notices about their activities and press releases. Nevertheless, explaining how such events leverage opportunities for collaboration can increase the breadth of interreligious bonding. For example: •  Sharing the dates of religious holidays makes it easier to schedule events, classes and activities and avoid possible conflicts. This information connects all faith communities and fosters mutual compassion. •  Discussing menus that accommodate halal, kosher, vegetarian and other types of meals shows sensitivity to others. •  Personal stories offer a comfortable way to

Providing at least a page or two of information for non-Muslims reflects the mosque’s desire to welcome, and depth of their interfaith maturity. I remember inviting a few non-Muslim colleagues to observe the Friday prayer in a local mosque after U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed in Libya in 2012. They were impressed by the website’s numerous interfaith activities, but found no explanation of what to expect while attending this event. For example, they didn’t know that Muslims remove their shoes before entering the prayer area. Such knowledge would have allowed them to prepare themselves by wearing clean socks and/or bringing bags to hold their shoes. Contrary to other religions, Muslims observe gender separation when it comes to seating and often when entering the mosque and/or prayer area. To avoid any confusion and possible embarrassment, this tradition should be prominently displayed on the website. Visitors also should be informed about certain features of the prayer ritual. Muslims pray while standing shoulder to shoulder in lines. Thus, clean clothes and good hygiene are highly recommended. In addition, there should be no talking, walking around or passing others from the front during the prayer. While visitors aren’t expected to follow the Islamic dress code, the relevant information should be posted — women covering their hair and both men and women covering the area between their shoulders and knees. Female visitors should be encouraged to bring their own scarves, for not all mosques provide them. Explaining the Friday congregational prayer as a series of optional and obligatory rituals performed in order and together — the adhan, the following two short khutbas, often in Arabic and English, and a short, formal prayer — would also be helpful. Before and after this final event, some people perform short individual prayers and others socialize. The purpose of these rituals should be explained in clear, simple English. THE INTERNET’S UBIQUITY HAS OVERCOME Although photography or video recording GEOGRAPHIC BOUNDARIES, AND ITS SPEED is permissible, one should obtain the mosque authority’s approval so that the congregants ENABLES FAST INTERCONNECTION AMONG can be informed. This also would enable those LEADERS. ITS USERS’ FAITH-DRIVEN MOTIVATION women and men who consider it un-Islamic SUPPLEMENTS ADDITIONAL RIGOR TO MAKE SURE or personally undesirable to get out of the way. Guests need to know that visiting THAT THIS MOVEMENT WILL REMAIN ONGOING mosques is free, but that donations are highly appreciated. AND THEREBY ENSURE ITS RECOGNITION. After their visit, I surveyed the websites of almost 20 Washington D.C. metro-area deepen listeners’ values and motivations and allow mosques and 100 others nationwide, but failed to locate an organized page conus to come together around our commonalities while taining this information. Things haven’t improved much in the past eight years, appreciating our differences. Over time, these narra- even after I brought this to the administrations’ attention. As houses of worship reopen, visitors will soon start attending physically and tives blur our respective national, cultural, religious looking for such pages. Or perhaps they will only browse the websites of other and other boundaries. •  Using everyday speech and acknowledging religious communities to learn about commonalities and leverage a stronger faith others’ rituals and symbols reveals our reciprocal connection. Hence, such carelessness on our part benefits no one. Since digital methods are often the primary means of communication amidst attitude and respect for others, which strengthens current national division and turmoil, incorporating these ideas online would be faith inclusiveness. Showcasing such interfaith affinity prominently on very helpful and incur only a one-time nominal cost. They will not change over mosque websites is more effective than simply listing time; however, they will have a long-lasting impact. As Islam urges us to include events. For example, this set-apart section’s embrace of Jews, Christians, Sabaeans and other communities to be “nourished” (5:66) with diversity, common values and convictions can reflect divine provision to battle social evils, let’s use this divine nourishment to unify the local community’s acceptance of others as equal our nation and display that harmony digitally.  ih partners despite hostile histories and current realities. These instances of reconciliation in the face of such Rasheed Rabbi, an IT professional who earned an MA in religious studies (2016) and a graduate certificate larger crises as social division, national turmoil and in Islamic chaplaincy from Hartford Seminary, is also founder of e-Dawah (; secretary of the Association of Muslim Scientists, Engineers & Technology Professionals; serves as a khateeb and leads doctrinal disagreement exemplify the cumulative the Friday prayers at ADAMS Center; and works as a chaplain at iNova Fairfax, iNovaLoudoun and Virginia’s hope that interfaith engagement upholds. Alexandria and Loudoun Adult Detention Centers. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   45


The World Turned Upside Down How the lack of Islamic modesty among our men and women affect our community BY NOOR SAADEH


hen I embraced Islam over 30 years ago, the contrast to my previous life was quite shocking. Suddenly I saw that everything in the world was upside down. Like most new converts, I thought that running away to live in a “Muslim” country was the only viable choice. Holding tight to my Islamic values in an immoral and immodest society would surely be like holding a hot coal, as so aptly described in “Sunan al-Tirmidhī” (hadith no. 2260). I quickly learned that Muslim societies had their own share of problems, albeit then without the disintegration of modest and moral values. It was better to stick it out here and share my newfound faith with fellow Americans, who surely would see the value, truth and logic of Islam as I did. And then, maybe together we could make a change. The world of the late 1980s now seems Pollyannaish compared with the realities of 2020. Could we ever have imagined a covered Muslimah being featured in Playboy (“Playboy’s interview with a Muslim woman mocks modesty and offends women,” Sept. 28, 2016)? Hugh Hefner, whose objectification of women earned him his fame and fortune and defined his time, opened up a Pandora's box and normalized women’s sexualization. This trend has only gathered more steam. Halima Aden, a Muslimah, who retired from this profession late last year, had graced the cover of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue in a skintight burkini — the magazine’s most eagerly anticipated and arguably the most popular one (“Halima Aden Makes History as the First Model to Wear a Hijab and Burkini in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit,” April 29, 2019, What next? Open a catalog, a newspaper, a magazine or an ad and, regardless of the location,

alluring female models are posing suggestively, marketing everything from cars to toothpaste, and others are alluding brazenly to subjects that were once only suitable for the bedroom. Network television still mandates some censorship, but Netflix et al has no such limitations. Vulgar language and

full-frontal male and female nudity, but more explicitly the latter, have become normal and enter our homes at all hours of the day and night. The more we are exposed in every sense, the less we are scandalized. What happened to modesty? Haya’ (7:26), a Quranic term commonly translated as bashfulness, decency, diffidence, honor, humility, inhibition, modesty, self-respect, shame, shyness or even timidity, would be severely condemned by feminists the world over. In our race to compete and assume


equality with men, we have never abandoned the position of objectification — we have actually increased it! Has it ever been more of a man’s world? To a certain degree, some men also follow some of this trajectory by embracing tighter clothing, jewelry and nails buffed and shined. Walk down any city street during the summer, and you can see men sporting longish shorts and a shirt, while their female counterparts are wearing the minimum of clothing allowable. Women’s clothing seems to become more revealing every year. Just when we think it can’t get any worse, what’s fashionable proves us wrong once again. We cannot deny these effects on our men. Although there is no known published record of pornographic consumption within our community, Islamic scholars have reported an increasing number of inquiries related to this now common behavior and widespread epidemic. The antonym of haya’ is not just immodesty, but lewdness and obscenity (Sarah Gulamhusein, “Pornography Addiction: An Epidemic”, https://inspiritedminds., March 27, 2108). Yet somehow Muslimahs must still uphold a man’s honor. The Quranic mandate to lower one’s gaze (24:30), which was directed first toward men, seems impossible today. Our scholars admonish Muslim wives to dress and behave like women of ill repute at home to keep their husbands happy and prevent their eyes and actions from straying. And yet such advice clearly violates the very definition of haya’! These women and their non-Islamic lifestyle have become our new role models. Most troubling of all, how does the young mind interpret and understand all of this? One of the Quran’s miracles is its eternal preservation, perfect relevance for all times and societies (15:9, 56:77-80, 85:21-22) and unchangeable rulings. In the early 19th

century, people in most of the world, even the West, were covered from head to toe. Early European conquerors labeled Indigenous populations “savages” for their “improper” clothing. And yet today it seems that covered Muslimahs agitate and infuriate their Western counterparts, especially those who want to “save” us from our “patriarchal and misogynistic” men and our “demeaning and oppressive” religion. “You don’t have to wear that here,” they tell us. It’s certainly a world turned upside down! We can’t blame the kids, for this is their world. It surrounds both them and us. Society falls prey to the almighty wizardry

this is just the tip of the iceberg of what is displayed on social media. We argue that modesty is in the eye of the beholder or within the determination of any given society. But given that what might be unacceptable in Saudi Arabia is normal in this country, how and where do we draw the Islamic line of modesty in the sand? One mother’s take seems compatible with this verse: “O children of Adam, We have bestowed upon you clothing to conceal your private parts and as adornment. But the clothing of righteousness — that is best. That is from the signs of Allah that perhaps they will remember” (7:26).

OUR SCHOLARS ADMONISH MUSLIM WIVES TO DRESS AND BEHAVE LIKE WOMEN OF ILL REPUTE AT HOME TO KEEP THEIR HUSBANDS HAPPY AND PREVENT THEIR EYES AND ACTIONS FROM STRAYING. AND YET SUCH ADVICE CLEARLY VIOLATES THE VERY DEFINITION OF HAYA’! of marketing and the powers of socialization. Women’s fitra, to be admired, has been so manipulated that it’s nearly out of control. Admiration, whether for beauty or character, was originally meant as a means to marriage, protection and support. But today it has morphed into objectification, artfully hidden under the guise of raising the status of women and girls and their rights to be anything they choose to be — and men should just get over it. We see this normalization in our own communities. A sweet three-year-old Muslim girl — “Oh so cute in her itsy, bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow, polka-dot bikini. And adorable four-year-old Ahmad in his Spiderman Speedo™. Ah, c’mon. They’re young. Let them enjoy themselves and have fun before the restrictions of modesty set in. Leggings universally have replaced women’s pants for young and old alike. Their skin is covered. That’s good enough, right?” Now our female teenagers and women pose endlessly on social media, agonizing over the best angle and filter to show their most attractive selves. Full lips exaggerated and lipsticked into an enormous kiss. It’s so normal. If gently brought to their attention that this might be immodest, you are summarily unfriended. And, frighteningly,

She taught her young children that clothing prevented sunburn, kept them dry, shielded them from the wind, kept them warm and meant less serious scrapes. Eid heralded excitement and the anticipation of purchasing new clothes. As they grew older and gender differences became obvious, she focused on concealment as a way to fend off unwanted advances and put the focus on their character. Modest attire therefore became not only literal and physical, but also figurative in terms of their bearing and character. All defenders, even many Muslims, respond that it’s a woman’s right to wear whatever she chooses and that a man should be held responsible for checking himself. After all, doesn’t God first God ask the man to lower his gaze? We forget what God says in 67:14, “Does He not know what He created?” Islam is a comprehensive, as opposed to a partial, code of conduct, and modesty is its soul. Even though Muslims have become obsessed with women’s modesty, it’s also a virtue for men. In fact, the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) himself was described as the epitome of modesty in his behavior with people. Yes, men should do their utmost to lower their gaze, but women need to help them in this regard. We are

a community of believers, and thus what affects one of us affects all of us. Let’s reinstate the exercise of jihad as struggle. In this upside-down world, parents are still their children’s role models. What we watch, wear and do affects and forms their character and prepares them for adulthood. Parents who walk the talk of modesty in their bearing, dress and character set the stage for what is proper, no matter how people act around them. Suddenly forcing modesty on a teenager without the proper early preparation and development typically fails. This is also true of those hypocritical community leaders whose main concern is what others will think if their children don’t conform to Islam’s modest and moral standards. To avoid such outcomes, both parents need to talk earnestly and realistically with their children about how men and women differ. God guides both genders toward proper dress and propriety out of love and protection, just as the verse states. Far too often we couch His merciful guidance in terms of threats and restrictions — Haram! Shame! The blessings of the truth are weighty. If Muslims were to model the Qur’anic and prophetic examples sincerely, we could return the world to its rightful state.  ih Noor Saadeh is production manager, Noorart, Inc.

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Teaching and Sharing Islam with Mercy Some things for fellow Muslims to think about BY NOOR SAADEH “It is by God’s grace that you were gentle with them — for if you had been harsh and hard-hearted, they would surely have deserted you — so bear with them and pray for forgiveness for them” (3:159). If you had been harsh… hink back to how you learned your religion. If you were born into a Muslim family, did you hear tales of hellfire and punishment or of forgiveness and Paradise? Haram or halal? Do this, but mostly don’t do that? Was your experience positive or negative, inspiring or perhaps frightening? Did you learn to believe through love or at the end of a stick? Was taqwa always explained as fear of God? Were you introduced to your Creator and His Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) through rules and regulations or through God’s beneficence and the exemplary character of Muhammad? Many a starry-eyed convert, heart full of the light of God’s guidance, eager to learn, to hear and obey, is initially brought into the faith with ease and tenderness. Suddenly, after the pronouncement of the shahada, the gentle explanations give way to restrictions and rules. You must pray, fast, cover - and what punishments await you if you don’t do it all perfectly! If you had been harsh… Prophet Muhammad offered God’s love and mercy, justice and equality to those who had never known it. He taught his community to look at the miraculous natural world around them and marvel at its perfection — a reflection of its magnanimous and wise Creator. Why, then, is our fascination today limited only to perfection of the rules and rituals? Within our mosques we are very unforgiving of highly insignificant infractions. Well-meaning men and women become boisterous judges and juries about all manner of indiscretions. What drives us to be so judgmental and so unforgiving? Thirty some years ago when I first was curious to read the Quran, I found the best book of human psychology I’d ever read. Who but our Creator could know us so well? What struck me most, after the innumerable verses that uniquely describe and define God as no other scriptures do, was the focus on the behavior of us crazy humans. Don’t forget that even the angels disputed and questioned God’s purpose for creating us. We are a contentious species, often preferring the stick over the carrot when it comes to dealing with others. Perhaps limiting a limitless way of life to rules and rituals keeps many a dictator and despot in place. Let the populace have their prayers and fasting. Just don’t encourage reading and understanding. Forbid questions or selfstudy. Keep them busy, keep them poor with little time for self-reflection. Do you ever wonder why so many khutbahs and lectures focus only on the same few topics? It is paramount in order to maintain the status quo in many a Muslim nation. Yet this is America. We are still marginally a democracy. There is no other country where Muslims are able to worship as freely as in the U.S. Why then do we continue to maintain the same means of teaching Islam as if we were under the thumb of a repressive state? Old habits die hard perhaps. To hear the words of many a cleric, it seems that God is very eager to punish His believers, although the Quran states just the opposite: “Why should God punish you if you give thanks and believe in Him? God is All-rewarding and All-forgiving” (4:11). Think back to when our children were small. Like all parents, we oohed and aahed over their first smiles, words and steps. What was more adorable than to



see them mimic the prayer or hear their first hesitant recitation of the Quran? How we smiled, praised and showered them with our love and affection. Fast forward a few years and see how things have changed. Instead of encouraging and praising our children for their efforts, we yell and threaten them with God’s displeasure. Our children drag themselves off to weekend Islamic school only to receive more dark looks and condemnation from their teachers. We are losing Muslims. Converts revert to their previous faith or leave religion altogether. Born Muslims find more love, forgiveness, mercy and acceptance within Christian circles. “Faith gives comfort, solace, and reflection to many. But the Islam practiced by many Muslims (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) … is not one of reflection, but of ritual without understanding. It is about punishment, pain, and barriers, rather

than enlightenment, openness, and the nurturing of creative thought” ( politics/religion/2018/05/what-i-learned-when-ispoke-people-who-chose-leave-islam). According to a 2017 Pew Research Center survey, about 100,000 of this country’s 3.5 million Muslims abandon Islam each year, while roughly the same number convert to it. Altogether, nearly a quarter of those raised in the faith have left. Similar trends prevail

in Western Europe, where movements in and out of Islam appear roughly to balance out ( and Learning and knowledge, self-reflection and thought, the very word of revelation (iqra’) and the emphasis on thinking and reflection, even questioning, have been replaced with dependence on rigid hadith, celebrity clerics and schools of thought as opposed to our own self-study of Quran. The Quraysh were not rocket scientists, and STEM was not the acronym of the day. The Prophet’s contemporaries were traders, merchants, and shepherds. Journeymen, not PhDs. How did the Quran’s lofty and unparalleled eloFAITH GIVES COMFORT, SOLACE, AND quence so transfix and transform Muhammad’s conREFLECTION TO MANY. BUT THE ISLAM temporaries? Today most of us think that we are far more learned, well-read and worldly-wise, and yet we PRACTICED BY MANY MUSLIMS (SALLA implement our teachings with such rigidity. ALLAHU ‘ALAYHI WA SALLAM) … IS NOT ONE Within 100 years of Islam’s advent, Haroun Al-Rasheed (ruled 786–809 CE), the reigning caliph OF REFLECTION, BUT OF RITUAL WITHOUT in Baghdad established the Bayt al-Hikma (House of UNDERSTANDING. IT IS ABOUT PUNISHMENT, Wisdom) to translate all of the documents Muslim explorers and soldiers came across while encountering PAIN, AND BARRIERS, RATHER THAN new and non-Islamic civilizations. During the next 100 ENLIGHTENMENT, OPENNESS, AND THE years, Muslims established themselves in Andalusia. NURTURING OF CREATIVE THOUGHT” This event, when combined with their scholars’ spectacular developments in many fields of science, mathematics, medicine and humanities, sparked the advent of Europe’s Renaissance centuries later. The type of negativity and belief without question that we find today in Islamic teachings could never have produced or inspired such a Golden Age. Tragically we find ourselves having exchanged places with our European counterparts. Muslim nations, poor and illiterate, are experiencing their own Dark Ages, During a recent virtual presentation of Islam for a Unitarian community, one observer was impressed by the importance of intention in Islam. He had viewed a wonderfully positive video, “What I Love About Islam” ( com/watch?v=2qk82WFmh9A), made by a Unitarian/Sufi minister who shared the meaning of the Five Pillars in a powerful and manner that many of us would be hard-pressed to emulate. What then is our intention, our ultimate goal, when we share or teach Islam? What kind of Muslims do we hope to lead the world? God’s prophets were sent to the truly erring peoples in the hopes of changing their behavior. None came brandishing swords, threatening their communities without first approaching them with logic and mercy. Even poor Nuh (‘alayhi as salam) set a world record beseeching his people for 950 years before he finally asked God to unleash His vengeance upon the unbelievers. So what of Muhammad, sent as God’s mercy to humanity? Where is the mercy of God and His prophet when we introduce our child or a new Muslim to Islam? We’ve become harsh, and so many whom we had all good intentions to guide, have instead deserted us. The advent of groups such as ISIS, the Taliban and Al Qaida should be a huge wake-up call that something is drastically wrong with our intentions and how we have been teaching our deen. How many of us cringe now that “Muslim” and “Islam,” the meanings of which stem from the root words of “submission” and “peace,” respectively, have become synonymous with terrorism and violence. We have forsaken the absolute furqan (criterion), namely, the Qur’an. It’s time to begin again, to rethink our intentions. Just as God begins with reiterations of rahma (mercy), so must we when we impart the very meaning of being Muslim with our children and others.  ih Noor Saadeh is production manager, Noorart, Inc. (



Racial Health Care Disparities in the U.S. The oft-proclaimed “best health care system in the world” isn’t accessible to all Americans BY MOHAMMED MOINUDDIN


he Great Depression of the 1930s, which caused severe socioeconomic stress throughout the U.S., precipitated the surfacing and escalation of longstanding racial tensions between Whites and Blacks. During the ensuing massive unemployment, poverty, diseases and political unrest, crime and violence increased exponentially. Politicians tried hard to lessen the racial tension that continued throughout the 1930s. In 1938, Frederick Keppel (president, Carnegie Corporation) invited Swedish Nobellaureate Gunnar Myrdal (professor of sociology, University of Stockholm) to prepare a report on Black-White friction. After traveling all over the country to talk to various communities and their leaders and interview people in responsible positions, he wrote and published his approximately 1,400-page “An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy” (1944). In this book, which became a well-known reference on racism, he wrote, “Area for area, class for class, Negroes cannot get the same advantage in the way of prevention and care of disease that Whites can. Discrimination increases Negro sickness and death both directly and indirectly, and manifests itself, both consciously and unconsciously” (p. 172). For the first time, many Americans became aware of racial preference in health care. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) further raised consciousness among health care workers so much that by the 1980s and 1990s, the number of racial disparity-related articles appearing in the medical literature reached more than 200 on the subject of heart disease alone. Congress took note, and in 1999 assigned the Institute of Medicine (IOM, now the National Academy of Medicine) to specifically assess the differences in health care due to bias, discrimination and stereotyping, in addition to the known causes, and to recommend how to intervene and eliminate them. Consequently, IOM appointed a 15-member commission composed of physicians, lawyers, nurses, psychologists, sociologists, scientists, health administrators and economists. They spent three years reviewing data from medical literature, interviewing the authors to validate their observations, traveling nationwide to talk with community and organization leaders and conducting several 50    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

workshops. Another panel of 11 experts then reviewed this report. After two IOM-appointed experts reviewed it once again, it was published: “Unequal Treatment — Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care” (https://www. A summary of this rigorously scrutinized report on Black-White health care disparities is provided below. Cardiovascular Diseases. Heart disease, the number one cause of death in the U.S., has the most data as regards health care disparities. The IOC found that Blacks are less likely to undergo cardiac catheterization (a “gold standard” invasive procedure that diagnoses coronary artery disease) when the disease is clinically suspected. If they undergo catheterization, they are less likely to receive revascularizing procedures such as angioplasty, stenting and atherectomy, or drugs such as beta-blockers (commonly used for angina) or thrombolytic therapy (clot dissolving medication) and Aspirin (used for prophylaxis). A meta-analysis of 25 studies showed that these differences were due to known factors, bias and discrimination. In 2000, the New England Journal of Medicine and Social Science and Medicine published two studies that identified bias, discrimination and stereotyping as the causes of health care disparities, in addition to known factors. Between 1993-95, they studied 938 patients at the Cleveland VA Hospital for cardiac catheterization. The cardiology fellows would present patient data in the patient`s absence to a panel of cardiologists and heart surgeons. Race was not specified. When the staff physicians were unaware of the patients’ race, no difference was found with reference to the incidence of catheterization. This impressive study emphasized the role of race in clinical decision-making. Kidney Diseases. The incidence of end-stage kidney disease and diabetes is higher among Blacks and Native Americans, and yet they are less likely to receive kidney transplants or be put on the waiting list. When they are, their waiting period is longer. In one dialysis center where 67% of the patients were Black, 64% of those who received kidney transplant were White. Within the first year of dialysis, in a national sample 30% of Whites and 13.5% of Blacks were placed on the transplant list. The reasons for such a disparity included patient preferences, biologic factors such as immunologic problems, disease severity and bias. It was

such as the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the African American Male. In 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) — a division of the Department of Health and Human Services — launched a study to determine the natural history of untreated syphilis. Choosing Alabama’s Macon County as the research site because of its very high concentration of indigent people suffering from syphilis, they recruited 199 patients and 201 normal controls. The study continued for 40 years until New York Times reporter Jean Hiller visited in 1972 and, after gathering the relevant data, stated in her July 26, 1972, front-page article: “Syphilis victims in the United States study went untreated for 40 years — the longest non-therapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history.” The Tuskegee study came to symbolize racism THE TUSKEGEE STUDY CAME TO SYMBOLIZE in medicine, ethical misconduct in human research RACISM IN MEDICINE, ETHICAL MISCONDUCT and government abuse of vulnerable people. The government subsequently ordered the study stopped IN HUMAN RESEARCH AND GOVERNMENT — after 128 patients had died, 40 wives were infected and 19 children had contracted the disease. ABUSE OF VULNERABLE PEOPLE. Considered the darkest chapter in American medicine, this reality caused deep psychological scars among Blacks and led to their view about consistently less likely to undergo mammograms, Black patients’ AIDS and the refusal of some of them to take the flu vaccine. However, such problems are not inevitable. This cycle of biascolorectal cancer was treated less aggressively, Blacks had a lower incidence of sigmoidoscopies and were less likely to undergo sur- mistrust-bias needs to be broken. Due to the system’s flexibility, gery for lung cancer after controlling for age, gender, stage disease, some meaningful progress toward equality has been made. For comorbidity and income. example, the first clause of the Constitution — Blacks are only Similar disparities were also observed in other diseases. three-fifths human — was amended in 1867 and they were given They recommended: the right to vote. The gap between screening mammograms in the 1990s has also ■  Increased awareness among health care workers and the general disappeared. These and other changes occurred because of educapublic about the causes of racial disparities. ■  Defragmented insurance plans — having one uniform plan tion and widespread knowledge of the inequalities. But much more for all to ensure equal treatment. still needs to be done. The overall mortality rates among Blacks ■  More minorities in the health care system. were 60% higher than Whites in 1950; they were the same in 1995. ■  Cross-cultural education — teaching health care providers Health care inequality in terms of heart and other diseases continue. about cultural differences in peoples of different ethnicities, reli- Minority individuals suffering from fractures are prescribed fewer analgesics (painkillers) than Whites. gions and cultures. ■  More interpreters to ensure accurate communication between The IOM report recommends several steps to remedy this non-English-speaking patients and health care workers. ongoing problem: increase public awareness; educate physicians, ■  More research on the causes of disparities and how to intervene. health care workers and the public about these disparities; and The IOM committee, which included specialists with no self-in- repeatedly emphasize education as the most powerful means to terest or political agendas, approached the subject meticulously achieve balance. IOM has done an excellent job of researching this subject. Its and went through it methodically. After a thorough review of the literature, they found robust evidence that in addition to known landmark “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic causes of racial disparities, bias, discrimination and prejudice con- Disparities in Health Care” (2003) has raised the consciousness tribute significantly to mortality and morbidity among minority of the American Medical Association, the National Institutes of populations; that bias may be conscious or unconscious, institutional Health, the American College of Physicians, the Robert Wood or individual, overt or occult — however, it is often subconscious Johnson Foundation, the American Heart Associations and several and subtle; that bias is difficult to diagnose or quantify; and that others. All of them are working to eliminate racial disparities in health care workers are frequently in denial. health care and ensure system-wide equality and equity so that Interestingly, some Blacks think AIDS was created to wipe out the everyone enjoys health care justice in this country of which we Black race. This raises the problem of bias on both sides. To under- are so proud.  ih stand why people have such biases, one must know the underlying perceptions. Sometimes, bias may be a response to an earlier bias, Mohammed Moinuddin, MD, is a nuclear medicine specialist in Memphis, Tenn. concluded that relatively less time was spent on explaining kidney transplantation to Blacks. AIDS and HIV. Prophylactic treatment and bronchoscopy (a diagnostic test that visualizes the airways and lung through a tube) were less available to Blacks. Among gay and bisexual men, Whites were 60% more likely to get the anti-retroviral drug AZT. Cancer. Cancer is a complex multifactorial disease and therefore less frequently mentioned as a cause of racial bias. Biologic factors, cultural beliefs and socioeconomic reasons are often mentioned as the cause of racial disparities. However, soft data indicates that discrimination may also be a factor. For example, older Black women were



The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South On African Americans’ distrust of the medical system BY ABU ISMA’IL


he inequities in the American health care system have been well documented by Harriet A. Washington, “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present” (2006); J. H. Jones and Tuskegee Institute, “Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment” (1981); and other authors over the decades. One of the latest additions to this disturbing literature is Chip Jones, whose “The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South” (2020) seems to align itself with ideals of the Black Lives Matter movement. In Time (Aug. 18, 2020), Jones noted, “The legacy of second-class medical treatment for Black people across the United States can still be seen, not least in the disproportionately high death rate of Black Americans from Covid-19. And the scars left behind for generations of families like

the Tuckers can be seen in the suspicions many African Americans still harbor about getting tested for the virus.” Jones, a much-awarded journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee, reveals how a coterie of Southern White hospital personnel stealthily acquired a person’s heart for a transplant operation (see Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” 2020). “Thieves,” “Shocking” and “Segregated South” are the inflammatory and accusatory terms. It presents the scenario of the first heart transplant performed in Richmond. On May 24, 1968, a Black man named Bruce Tucker was rushed to the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederate States of America. According to the author, by 1968 “MCV had only recently integrated its hospital wards. Given the local tensions between the black community and the white-dominated government and police [let alone the


urban areas of the United States in general], this was not a good time for a black man like Bruce Tucker to be rushed into an emergency room with a severe head injury,” writes Jones. Tucker, 54, and some of his buddies were enjoying each other’s company on a Friday afternoon and getting a little buzz from a shared bottle of wine behind a gas station around 5:00 p.m. The official story says that he fell off a “three-foot-high” brick wall and hit his head. The ambulance driver said that earlier in the day Tucker had a seizure but refused to go to the hospital. It’s not unlikely that he fell asleep due to the alcohol and being tired after a full day of work. So he arrived at MCV in his work clothes — he worked at an egg-packaging plant — and smelled of alcohol. After the physicians discovered that his brain had shifted, his skull was cracked and he had a severe bruise at the base of his brain, within roughly three hours the doctors drilled a hole in his skull for a craniotomy and one into his windpipe, a tracheotomy. By 1:00 p.m., Saturday, however, Tucker was “dead from a neurological standpoint.” He was brain dead, but he still had a heartbeat, a pulse, and was breathing via a ventilator. Life support was turned off at 3:30 p.m. Three minutes later Tucker was formally pronounced biologically dead. Twenty minutes later, his heart was inserted into another patient. By 5:00 p.m. one of Tucker’s kidneys was made available for an out-of-state hospital transplant, and the other one was stored for MCV’s use. This operation took place about six months after Dr. Christiaan Barnard’s epoch-making heart transplant surgery in Cape Town, South Africa. In the case of Bruce Tucker as the donor, however, the doctors had not informed the family or obtained its consent. Jones had originally intended to write about the heart transplant race of the 1960s. He changed his focus, however, after discovering materials related to Tucker’s death in his own hometown of Raleigh, Virginia.

The hospital claimed that it had tried — but failed — to contact the family, despite the fact that Tucker’s brother had called the hospital three times. Its subsequent decision to treat the deceased as an unclaimed body was clearly a breach of the law, because the state’s Unclaimed Bodies Act required a 24-hour waiting period before a corpse can be used for academic purposes. During a book interview, Jones stated, “As a person who came from a white, mid-

St. Philip Hospital

THE OPENING SECTION, “ROOTS,” INTRODUCES US TO THE EARLY HISTORY OF GRAVE-ROBBING AND BODY-SNATCHING IN THE U.S. AND EUROPE. CADAVERS WERE NEEDED FOR ANATOMICAL STUDIES WITHIN MEDICAL SCHOOLS. THE PEOPLE WHO SUPPLIED THEM WERE EUPHEMISTICALLY AND CUSTOMARILY KNOWN AS “RESURRECTIONISTS” AND “DEMONSTRATORS.” SUCH PEOPLE WORKED FOR OR WERE ACTUAL MEDICAL PERSONNEL. dle-class home, I simply had no idea of the long, gruesome history of injustice in the medical arena for Black Americans” (Our Time Press: Q&A with Chip Jones, Sept. 11, 2020). His text provides the relevant background of all the main characters and of the heart transplant movement. The subtheme of racism abetted the striving to perfect the heart transplant methodology, for with it would come prestige, admiration and self-fulfillment [the author provided no evidence for that assertion] that would accrue to the surgeons. The opening section, “Roots,” introduces us to the early history of grave-robbing and body-snatching in the U.S. and Europe. Cadavers were needed for anatomical studies within medical schools. The people who supplied them were euphemistically and customarily known as “resurrectionists” and “demonstrators.” Such people worked for or were actual medical personnel. The cadavers used throughout American medical schools were usually those of Blacks and impoverished Whites. Richmond was one of the best places for acquiring such study materials. After all, it was “the largest slave market in the New World except for New Orleans.” The second section, mostly devoted to the transplant race, MCV’s history and its personnel, relates that as late as 1964, “MCV hospitals were not integrated, were

still socially segregated, [and were] racially segregated.” Although the school of medicine had admitted six African-Americans to its class scheduled to graduate in 1962, none of them were allowed to attend the alumni social hour, a buffet luncheon and other graduating class events — a reality that the author called an example of “the school’s apartheid policy” — even Charles F. “Charlie” Christian, who had the highest academic standing in the 88-member class. Part three, the book’s most exciting and perhaps saddest part, relates Tucker’s funeral and his mother’s reaction upon learning that her son’s heart and kidneys had been removed. Adopting an hourly diary fashion, Jones recounts Tucker’s last hours from right before “The Fall” until his brother William’s arrival at St. Philip Hospital, MCV’s hospital for “colored people.” Dressed in his coat and tie because “[h]e wanted to look presentable,” he was using crutches, having “contracted polio in his youth.” Upon reaching the second floor, he was told something he wasn’t prepared to hear: His brother had died “four hours ago.” Attorney L. Douglas Wilder, a future governor of Virginia, represented the Tucker family’s suit against MCV. The recipient, Joseph Klett, died about a week after the operation. MCV’s second heart transplant operation

took place on Aug. 24, 1968. Louis Russell received the heart Robert Clarence Brown, 17, who had been shot in the head. Both men were African American. Russell, who became longest living heart recipient — six years — died on Nov. 24, 1974. When Jones talks about the early days of cadaver suppliers and “resurrectionists,” he notes, “Underlying the mayhem were the nation’s earliest protests about why black lives matter” (italicized for emphasis). On another website he says, “As the Black Lives Matter movement leads a much-needed reckoning and conversation about systemic racism, I hope the story of the early days of heart transplantation serves as a reminder of just how literally those words need to be taken, and the importance of taking every life—and death—seriously” (https://time. com/5880419/heart-transplant-segregation/). On his LinkedIn page (dated 2018), he states that something or someone persuaded him to have a descriptive, aggressive title: “Now I’m writing my fourth book, “Heartless,” about the heart transplant race of the 1960s and the epic trial in 1972 ....” Although the author paints no one with an “all bad” brush, he does label the specific practices and actions with such a brush. He is also admitting his ignorance of how his fellow Whites treated Blacks in toto until he started looking into it. Using specific words to convey exactly what he means, his text seeks to open its readers’ eyes as to what was done in the name of medicine. Appropriate descriptive terms would include “sensitive,” “traditionally morally based,” “discerning” and the like. As Jones informs us, “It’s good that today’s medical school students are hearing about the Tucker case, alongside other examples of ‘historical trauma’ caused by America’s health care system.” For Muslims who are American and Black, confronting ethnic-based injustice requires believers not to use remedies that resemble those of our non-Muslim counterparts. When a society in general and a Muslim society in particular has to endure khizi (‫ ِخ ْز ٌي‬disgrace), dhilla ( ‫ ِذلَّـ ٌة‬humiliation) and maskana ( ‫ َم ْس َك َن ٌة‬misery) and poverty, God tells us first to examine ourselves, for as 2:61 and 2:85 state, such hardships may be a result of our own transgressions.  ih Abu Isma’il is a retired chaplain.



A Pandemic of Health Care Inequities “The familiar dictum that ‘prevention is the best medicine’ needs to be the focus when treating patients of color” BY SHAZIYA BARKAT


rayvon Martin. George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmed Arbery. These are just a few of the names that have ignited Black Lives Matter (BLM), an activist movement that promotes public consciousness about police killings of unarmed African Americans. While BLM has sparked nationwide protests calling for the end of race-based discrimination, its concurrent nature with the Covid-19 pandemic has sparked conversations about barriers that prevent racial minorities from accessing optimal health care services. Thousands have joined the #WhiteCoatsForBlackLives movement, which calls for action to eliminate these inequities. Health care inequities may be defined as avoidable and unjust inequalities that lead to worse health for disadvantaged social groups such as the poor, the disabled, women, and racial and ethnic minorities. Latinx, Native Americans and Asian Americans have predominantly been classified as underserved populations within our country’s health care system, with African Americans being at the top of the list. The existing gaps have been amplified even more during this pandemic. According to the Covid-19 Tracking Project (https://, infection rates are 2.5 times higher and deaths are 1.7 times higher among people of color than they are for Whites. Blacks, who make up about 13%

of the population, account for at least 22% of all Covid-19 deaths where the deceased’s race is known. The Washington Post poll published on June 26, 2020, stated that nearly onethird of African Americans report that they personally know someone who has died of Covid-19. In addition, more than half of all Blacks state that they know someone who has either had or died from Covid-19; less than 40% of Whites stated the same. While testing is crucial to reducing Covid-19 infection rates, Black patients are currently six times more likely to receive less testing than White patients. Unfortunately, such realities are nothing new. Consider the following facts: On average, Blacks live six years less than Whites. Racial minorities account for more chronic medical conditions than others, putting them at higher risk of developing severe illnesses from Covid-19. The Centers for


Disease Control and Prevention reports that Blacks suffer from chronic health conditions like asthma and diabetes significantly more than Whites do. A Black woman is 22% more likely to die from heart disease than a White woman. Black infant mortality rates are twice the national average, with Black women dying three times more during childbirth than White women. As someone who works with cancer patients, it’s heartbreaking to see that Blacks have the highest mortality rate for all cancers combined when compared to any other racial and ethnic group. Some barriers that contribute to these inequities include the limited access to necessary resources, such as food and housing, as well as a predominant history of systemic racism and unequal treatment of minorities. Even work environments play a part. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more Black than White workers cannot work remotely during the pandemic. Minorities are also more predominant in high-risk environments, such as meatpacking plants, where Covid-19 rates are higher than those in 75% of U.S. counties ( publication/black-workers-covid/). The increased unemployment rates have become a barrier to obtaining proper care as well. A Gallop study said that 1 in 7 individuals in the U.S. reported that they would not seek treatment due to the cost (https://, April 28, 2020). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2017 10.6% of Blacks were uninsured, compared to 5.9% of non-Hispanic Whites. An analysis conducted by FAIR Health found that insured patients hospitalized with coronavirus can expect to pay up to $38,000 for their stay, while the uninsured may pay up to $74,000. However, even after controlling for insurance coverage, employment, age, gender, marital status and residence region, African Americans have worse health outcomes in nearly every illness category. Medical education teaches that prevention is the best medicine. This is why the health care professionals’ ultimate responsibility is to fight systemic and individual racism, address the inequalities and close the existing gaps in patient care. Ultimately, this begins in the classroom, long before we even step into the world with our embroidered white coats. Unfortunately, many medical schools’ curriculums lack the context of race in

OUR METHODS OF TEACHING WERE UNFAIRLY DISADVANTAGING AND ‘OTHERING’ STUDENTS FROM BLACK AND MINORITY ETHNIC GROUPS,” TAMONY TOLD THE WASHINGTON POST. “THE OTHER ISSUE IS ONE OF PATIENT SAFETY. ARE WE ADEQUATELY TRAINING OUR STUDENTS TO BE COMPETENT HEALTH-CARE PROFESSIONALS WHO CAN DETECT IMPORTANT CLINICAL SIGNS IN ALL PATIENT GROUPS?” medicine. “I noticed a lack of teaching about darker skin tones, and how certain symptoms appear differently in those who aren’t white,” reports Malone Mukwende (Washington Post, July 22, 2020). Mukewende, a 20-yearold medical student at the University of London, along with Peter Tamony, a London University lecturer, and Margot Turner, have published a handbook called “Mind the gap: A handbook of clinical signs in Black and Brown skin” to address this absence (https:// Mukewende explains: “The booklet addresses many issues that have been further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as families being asked if potential COVID-19 patients are ‘pale’ or if their lips ‘turned blue.’ These are not useful descriptions for a black patient and, as a result, their care is compromised from the first point of contact. It is essential we begin to educate others so they are aware of such differences and the power of clinical language we currently use.” “Our methods of teaching were unfairly disadvantaging and ‘othering’ students from

black and minority ethnic groups,” Tamony told the Washington Post. “The other issue is one of patient safety. Are we adequately training our students to be competent healthcare professionals who can detect important clinical signs in all patient groups?” The lack of context in terms of race in medical curriculum may also be partially due to the lack of diversity in medical schools, which forestalls much-needed conversations. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only 8.4% of applicants to U.S. medical schools in the 2018-19 academic year were African American. Of the 7.1% who were accepted, only 6.2% graduated (1,238 out of more than 19,900 medical school graduates). This number also plays into the workforce — only 5% of active physicians are African American. Moving forward, we must provide better health care for racial minorities, and current efforts should focus on doing so. To control Covid-19 in these populations, effective testing, contract tracing, quarantine and treatment are needed. Testing must be free with no prescription required to allow

the uninsured to gain access to it. Clinics must be widespread to provide testing for underserved communities, which means that we must have a sufficient amount of personal protective equipment to keep these clinics safe and open. Funding for accurate and rapid test results are crucial. Contact tracing is vital to lowering Covid-19 rates in underserved communities. To realize this goal, we must overcome language barriers for non-English speakers, develop cultural competence to better empathize with our patients and develop patient-centered care plans. In addition, quarantine is much more difficult to achieve for individuals who live in small and shared housing arrangements. For example, a Public Policy Institute of California study found that 18.4% of Latinos live in overcrowded spaces compared to 2.4% of Whites ( overcrowded-housing-and-covid-19-riskamong-essential-workers/). The barrier to accessing free space to self-isolate can contribute to the higher rates of Covid-19 in this population. Sufficient funding must be directed toward making empty, temporary housing available to those who need to self-isolate. For those who stay home, we must increase our efforts to provide support for grocery and medication delivery services. The federal government must ensure that uninsured patients have access to the proper Covid-19 care that they need. Some insurance companies have already altered health insurance plans to cover this treatment. For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have waived cost sharing for Covid-19 care for now. It’s crucial to have these services covered for as long as the pandemic continues to plague our country. Lastly, whenever the medical community develops a vaccine — hopefully in the near future — it must be distributed equitably and made accessible to all communities. The ongoing protests over the murders of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmed Arbery shed light on the systemic racism that contributes to the health care inequities that have plagued the country for so long. The current crisis only stresses the failings within our health care system. As we continue, the federal government, public health experts and health care systems must create solid plans to address inequities and provide truly equal, accessible health care for all.  ih Shaziya Barkat, PharmD, an inpatient bone marrow transplant pharmacist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, is also the author of “knowing You” (2019).



Coping with Covid-19 How to deal with the challenges of the pandemic BY M. BASHEER AHMED


iving through such a widespread pandemic as Covid-19 understandably induces feelings of helplessness, depression, anger, stress and anxiety within a huge number of people. The numbers of people who have lost their jobs, careers and/ or savings continue to grow, as do incidents of domestic violence, child abuse and negative and/or self-harming behaviors. We now know more about Covid-19 than we did in March 2020. For example, the virus causes blood clots in the lungs, which causes reduced oxygenation. Aspirin and blood thinners are now being used to prevent clotting. Patients showed no symptoms until the oxygen saturation level sank below 70%; now, pulse oximeter readings help doctors call for patients to be hospitalized if their oxygen saturation drops to 93% or less. As a result, they have more time to correct the oxygen deficiency without using ventilators. Remdesivir and other antiviral medications can prevent Covid-19 patients from becoming severely ill. Some of these people die because their immune system responds in an exaggerated manner — a cytokine storm — that can be prevented by using steroids. Research has shown that other infected patients’ plasma with antibodies can be used to boost the immune system.

PROTECTING YOURSELF AND OTHERS The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has listed ways to protect oneself and others from Covid-19. ■  Share accurate information and your feelings with trusted friends, for doing so will help them feel less stressed. Arrange video calls with family and friends. Talk with your children calmly and confidently about the pandemic and reassure them that they are safe. When schools are closed, create a schedule of both learning and fun activities.

■  Do all that you can to put your life in order. For example, update your will to include a clear statement of your assets and liabilities, bank accounts, investments and businesses. Identify the guardian and executor of your will, especially in terms of who is responsible for making the usual end-of-life decisions. ■  Accept that fear, worry and uncertainty about your health and that of your loved ones are normal. We all experience anxiety and sadness at some point in our lives, and most of us are experiencing these now. Be aware of the signs of stress so you can act or consult a health care provider. Talking to those you trust helps reduce feelings of isolation, anxiety, fear, boredom and/or vulnerability while practicing social distancing, quarantine and other safety measures. This pandemic reminds us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial or social status. By being “locked in,” we have developed a sense of supernatural control over our lives as well as oppression. The current restrictions placed on our daily lives should make us aware of how millions of people around the world live every single day. In addition, they should also force us to realize our own powerlessness and cause us to become humbler, because a single virus really can make this world stand still. Our reaction to Covid19 is a sign of humanity’s smallness and vulnerability. We should hope that in addition to making us feel afraid and unsure, it is also making us more pragmatic and open-minded, sensible, compassionate and understanding. We should maintain a sense of hope and seek to improve our sense of control and endurance.



IN MEMORIAM QUARANTINE: A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE The very first step the World Health Organization took to flatten the Covid-19 curve was to insist upon imposing quarantine. Interestingly, a hadith reports that Sa‘d reported: “The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, ‘If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in land where you are, then do not go out of it’” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 5396; “Sahih Muslim,” hadith no. 2218). Ibn Sina’s (980-1037) words are also coming in handy. Suspecting that small invisible organisms spread some diseases, he recommended 40 days of isolation (al-arba‘iniya) to prevent human-to-human contamination (, as well as for the use of quarantine to control the spread of diseases in his five-volume “The Canons of Medicine,” originally published in 1025. Traders from Venice heard of this successful method and took the information to Italy, where they Latinized it to quarantina. Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) is most probably one of the first scholars to explain the intrinsic relationship between a political leadership and the management of pandemics in his “Muqaddimah.” He wanted political leaders to understand that pandemics can destroy civilizations, urban centers and rulers regardless of their prosperity and military superiority. Having recognized wisdom, logic, honesty, justice and education as a ruler’s most desirable qualities, he asserted that those rulers who surround themselves with wise ministers, bureaucrats, counsellors and scholars would be able to tackle pandemics intelligently and realistically. Many see the current Covid-19 virus as a great disaster. Actually, it is giving us the opportunity to change and adopt the right path. God has given us free will so that we can learn from our experiences and choose our path. Thus, we should revisit our priorities in life and re-evaluate our paths in terms of serving humanity as our life’s supreme goal.  ih M. Basheer Ahmed, MD, a former professor of psychiatry at South Western Medical School Dallas, is chairman emeritus of MCC for Human Services North Texas.

Laleh Bakhtiar 1938-2020

A Scholar and Sufi


aleh Bakhtiar, an Islamic and Sufi scholar and the first American Muslimah to produce a translation of the Quran, passed away on Oct. 18, 2020, in Chicago from Myelodysplastic syndromes, a rare blood disorder. Born in Tehran and raised in the U.S., Dr. Bakhtiar studied Islam’s mystical (Sufi) dimensions and revisited Islamic texts from a Muslimah’s perspective for 50+ years. The founder and president of the Institute of Traditional Psychology ( institute-of-traditional-psychology), she was also scholar-in-residence at Kazi Publications ( She authored, translated, edited and adapted 150+ books, including “The Sense of Unity” with Nader Ardalan, and “Sufi Expressions of the Mystic Quest.” Many of these books deal with Islamic unity, architecture, psychology, psychoethics and moral healing through the Sufi enneagram. One of her proudest accomplishments came in 2007 with her translation of the Quran: “The Sublime Quran.” Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad, chief advisor for religious and cultural affairs to King Abdullah of Jordan, endorsing her translation on Amazon, wrote: “Her translation has generated intense scrutiny and criticism as well as praise and recognition from around the world.” Since Islam’s advent, the Quran’s translators and interpreters have mostly been men. Her mentor Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr said, “The late Laleh Bakhtiar was for me, at once, a student, a friend, and a colleague. Deeply rooted in Islamic studies and avidly interested in Persian culture, she devoted a lifetime to scholarship and produced many fine works in the fields of Islam and Persian studies, Sufism and psychology. I pray for the blessing of her soul.” In May 2016, Chicago’s Mohammed Webb Foundation ( awarded her its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contributions to the Muslim American community. She has also been lauded as a pioneering scholar and practitioner in the emerging discipline of Islamic psychology. Her “Quranic Psychology of the Self: A Textbook on Islamic Moral Psychology” (2019) has helped Quranic psychology claim its place as its own science, incorporating ethics, medicine, natural philosophy and philosophy. Dr. Bakhtiar, who received her bachelor’s (history, Chatham College, Pennsylvania), master’s (philosophy and counseling psychology) and doctoral degrees (educational foundations, the University of New Mexico), was a nationally certified counselor and studied Islam under Dr. Nasr for 30+ years. Her father Dr. Abol Ghassem Bakhtiar, who emigrated in 1919, served at Harlem Hospital and married Helen Jeffreys, a public health nurse, in 1927. She is survived by her siblings Parveen, Jamshid, Lily, Maryam, Parvaneh, Shahrbanou, Afsaneh, Norooz, Pirooz and Abol; her children Mani Helene Ardalan Farhadi, Iran Davar Ardalan and Karim Ardalan; her grandchildren Saied, Samira, Rodd, Ryon, Aman, Amir, Ryan, and Layla; as well as daughter-in-law Susan Khalili and sons-in-law Shervin Farhadi and John Oliver Smith.  ih [Source: Davar Ardalan; Copyedited in accord with Islamic Horizon’s guidelines.]



Do You Want to Better Survive This and Future Pandemics? The answer lies in eating the right food and saying “Yes” to less BY MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH


early three out of four American adults are obese and half of them have diabetes or pre-diabetes, says a CNN report (Aug. 7, 2020). This information concerns Americans because for a world crippled by the coronavirus, salvation hinges on a vaccine. Scientists in the emerging field of immunometabolism are finding that obesity interferes with the body’s immune response, putting the obese at greater risk of infection from pathogens such as influenza and the novel coronavirus (https://westerntoday.>ame). Obesity is a complex health issue caused by a combination of causes and factors, such as behavior and genetics. Others are “food deserts,” namely, geographical areas that sell poor quality and often processed foods such as sweet desserts, fried foods and sugary carbonated beverages — all high in salt, sugar and fats — instead of healthy nutritious foods such as meats, fruits and vegetables that contain dietary fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. This is because the latter foods are hard to find in those areas. Eating too much and moving too little stores much of the surplus energy as body fat. Some blame restaurants and government policy for nutrition insecurity and the prevalence of obesity. A research survey, however, finds that most people blame the individual, not the farmers, grocery stores, restaurants or government policies ( During this pandemic, farmers and donors have faced a historic spike in the need for food. However, as imperfect as the U.S. food system is, no other country has so much cheap food and wastes so much. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service works to end hunger and obesity via 15 federal nutrition assistance programs, including programs directed toward women, infants and children; food stamps; supplemental nutrition assistance; and school meals program. The government also provides guidance about eating nutritious and balanced meals

through the USDA’s famous “Food Pyramid” of the 1970s, the current “MyPlate” and “Nutrition labeling” programs.

But the government can do more. For example, it can establish long-term sustainability programs rather than short-term payoffs to farmers not to grow certain foods, create incentive programs to attract supermarkets to vulnerable communities, restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing to schools, regulate calorie labeling in restaurants and revive the like of former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign. However, it’s up to the individual to make healthy choices. As one survey shows, people living in full-service grocery store areas where healthy nutritious foods are available still eat unhealthy foods (>how-to-eat-healthy). They need to resist how good the food feels in their mouth, its smell and taste, as well as the perfect blend of ingredients that excites their brain, stimulates its reward system and keeps them coming back for more (https://>nutrition). Moreover, new products keep entering the market and soon are available everywhere. Ordering online is also rising, and technological advancements mean more food fraud, the lack of traceability, the ever-decreasing lack of quality and fresh foods, along with other issues. One result of this is that vegetarian and vegan menus, once unheard of in this country, are now


being offered on board, conferences and restaurants. The two most popular meatless burgers, “Beyond Burger” and “Impossible Burger,” are in demand. People naturally like convenience and cheaper foods. Even when those on limited budgets can afford nutritious food, they still want to buy at cheaper priced foods, except, perhaps, millionaires. Food processors worldwide know this. And so they use technological innovations to beat competition and process food to transform it from one form into other forms. Each year about 39 million cattle from farms, feedlots, auctions and sale barns are slaughtered in the U.S. ( There are eight different USDA quality beef grades. “USDA Prime,” the highest, precedes “USDA Choice.” Unlike meat produced on a commercial level that must be inspected for its fitness for human consumption, meat grading, which analyzes the meat’s quality, is optional. Meat inspection is free; however, as the USDA charges for grading services, not all carcasses are graded. The meat industry integrates all edible tissues, including blood, meat trimmings and bone scraps, into the food chain as protein-rich ingredients for human consumption. For example, blood is integrated into human diets as whole blood or separated blood plasma. There are even processes that remove miniscule amounts of meat attached to beef trimmings and connective tissues. Known as “partially defatted chopped beef ” (PDCB) and “lean finely textured beef ” (LFTB), they cannot be removed manually. These products meet the official definition of meat, cost less and are added as a meat blend to help lower the price of ground beef. These realities need to be considered by those who give blanket permission for consuming food produced by the People of the Book. Ground beef is categorized as ground chuck/ground round, ground beef, hamburger, pure beef patties, pure beef patty mix, beef patties and beef patty mix. Each has its own standard of identity, composition and labeling requirements. Some products contain PDCB or LFTB, which is allowed; in other products they don’t even have to be mentioned on the label. Mechanically separated meat, which is produced by forcing bones with attached edible meat under high pressure through a sieve to separate them from each other, is

used in hot dogs, chicken nuggets and frozen dinners. Mechanically separated pork and poultry are permitted, but must be labeled. Due to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regulations enacted in 2004 to protect consumers against bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE; “mad cow disease”), mechanically separated beef is considered inedible, prohibited for use as human food and not allowed in hot dogs or any other processed product. In addition, various additives are used to enhance flavor and appearance, to increase volume and, more significantly, to meet the growing demand for cheaper processed food products. Equally important, however, is eating low-calorie nutrient-dense foods to maintain a healthy weight.

When FSIS implemented its nutrition-labeling program in 1993, I was serving as assistant area supervisor in the USDA Topeka, Kan. office, which had jurisdiction over 200+ slaughter and processing plants in Kansas and Nebraska. Meat processors needed guidance on the new proposed rule. On Jan. 25, 1992, after I made a presentation on this new rule during the “21st Annual Midwest Meat Processors Seminar” at Kansas State University at Manhattan, I asked the attendees if they had read and understood it. All I got back were smirks. However, things became clearer to them when it became effective in 1993 and federal food inspectors started issuing non-compliance notices.

HEALTHY EATING IS NOT ABOUT DEPRIVING YOURSELF OF THE FOODS YOU LOVE, BUT ABOUT YOUR OVERALL DIETARY HABITS AND, MORE IMPORTANTLY, REPLACING PROCESSED FOODS WITH REAL FOODS WHENEVER POSSIBLE. Healthy eating is not about depriving yourself of the foods you love, but about your overall dietary habits and, more importantly, replacing processed foods with real foods whenever possible. Changing our eating habits and substituting healthy nutritious foods (e.g., vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and lean meats) for junk food will reduce obesity and improve overall health. A University of California, Berkeley study found that students at schools that contract with vendors serving nutritious food perform better on tests (School Meal Quality and Academic Performance, Oct. 23, 2018). Eating habits can impact your health, and thus you really are what you eat. Some consume soft drinks, alcohol and other foods that have minimal or no nutritional value. Fifty excess calories per day over a 10-year period adds about 50 pounds of extra bodyweight, which can take away many years of a person’s life (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih. gov>pmc). Reading and understanding nutrition labels can help one avoid this fate. To help consumers identify food ingredients and their nutrient contents, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) was passed in 1990 so buyers could select foods that fit their dietary needs and preferences.

Islam takes a different approach, because its dietary regulations encourage living a balanced life to seek the good in this world and the Hereafter by eating halal foods and avoiding the haram (7:31, 20:81). A hadith attributed to Miqdam bin Madikarib narrates that Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air” (“Sahih Bukhari,” vol. 4, book 29, hadith no. 3349). Islam encourages people to acquire knowledge and accept personal responsibility: “Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves” (13:11). To mitigate obesity and better survive this and future pandemics, learning more about the food we consume, reading nutrition labels, eating in moderation and engaging in physical activity is critical. The choice is ours.  ih Dr. Mohammad Abdullah retired after serving for 29 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which regulates the meat industry. His book, “A Closer Look at Halal Meat from Farm to Fork” (2016), is available at


A Request to Scholars and Khatibs As you emphasize sadaqa and zakat, please emphasize the importance of sadaqa hasana in terms of blood and organ donations. The Fiqh Council of North America also advocates such donations. God says in Quran 3:92, “You will never achieve righteousness until you donate some of what you cherish. And whatever you give is certainly well known to Allah.”

When Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) began receiving the revelation, Abu Talha (radi Allahu ‘anh) donated his favorite fruit orchard to benefit the young community -- an act of generosity that the Prophet greatly appreciated.

One of our imams recently had a bilateral lung transplant. He is now doing very well. A Muslim college graduate received a kidney from his Jewish roommate. Both are also doing well. Dear scholars and imams, please take a few minutes to emphasize these things, especially blood donation.

Organ donation is very personal and can be complicated. But any healthy person aged between 20-45 can donate blood. One should try to donate 2 units of blood every year to help out fellow Americans. Our supply of blood replenishes itself every 4-6 weeks, which gives us new-found strength and energy. In addition, this process helps rejuvenate our immune system so that it can do a better job of fighting off heart disease, diabetes, lupus and other illnesses.

Especially during this ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, our donated blood, which contains both red blood cells and antibodies, can be used to fight off the infection. Your jum‘a khutba is the platform for talking with your congregation about such matters. So please use this time to promote this sadaqa hasana.

Those who have not traveled abroad for at least a year are the best-suited blood donors. Moreover Muslims, who abstain from drugs, alcohol, and other bad habits, have the cleanest blood. Perhaps this reality will encourage Americans to ask us to donate our blood. This is one of the best ways to give back to our fellow Americans. This can also be one way of countering Islamophobia. Space donated by Dr. Sheikh A. Rehman Aurora, Ind.


The United Nations: After 75 Years of Existence, is it Worth Anything? Measured by the yardsticks of international peace, human rights and self-determination, the UN has been incredibly ineffective BY GHULAM NABI FAI


ast September, H.E. Volkan Bozkir, president of the UN General Assembly, commemorated the organization’s 75th anniversary under the theme of proclaiming, “The future we want, the United Nations we need; reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism.”

Bozkir further added, “I intend to place an emphasis on the need to advance the UN collective agenda for humanity with particular attention to vulnerable groups, people in need and the people under oppression.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed, “And it’s very important that we now create the conditions to address the smaller but still dramatically deadly conflicts that we are facing in today’s world.” Success is measured not only by the objectives achieved but also by whether an alternate strategy would have been an improvement. Considering the dismal situation today, it might be said that the UN is the worst international organization for achieving peace, self-determination and human rights — except for all the alternatives that have been attempted or contemplated. Success is also measured by the goals achieved. The UN Charter’s Article I identifies a cluster of primary purposes: the maintenance of international peace and security, collective efforts to prevent and remove threats to peace and to suppress acts of aggression, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations that might lead to a breach of international peace and security, the cultivation of 60    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

amity among nations based on the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. Before surveying its historical record, consider a few earthbound observations. Candor and fair-mindedness relate that measured by the yardsticks of international peace, human rights and self-determination, the UN has been painfully ineffective. The most gifted men and women have toiled since time began to end conflict and warfare, but without much visible success. Look at the world as it comes before you day after day. Conflict and carnage seem ubiquitous: Palestine, Kashmir, Syria, Xinjiang, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Iraq ... the list seems horrifyingly endless. The UN has no excuse for its failure to pluck universal peace from the profoundly flawed human species. Counted among the UN’s greatest failures is the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Only 10 miles from the Serbian border, the Serbs attacked it in July 1995 during the Bosnian war. And yet despite already knowing the Serb plan not only to attack but also to separate Bosnian men and boys from women and children and then kill them, U.S. and British officials did nothing to prevent the massacre, UN forces were not reinforced and there was no evacuation plan. Despite being guaranteed as a “safe zone” by the UN, the official policy was to allow the Serbs to take the town they had besieged, as it was indefensible. More than 8,000 men and boys were slaughtered in a matter of days. In 1994, a far worse genocide occurred in Rwanda when Hutus slaughtered about a million Tutsis. Despite its foreknowledge, the UN allowed this genocide to

occur. The Telegraph (U.K., “What have been the successes and failures of UN peacekeeping missions?” Sept. 28, 2015) said, “A 1999 inquiry found that the UN ignored evidence that the genocide was planned and refused to act once it had started. More than 2,500 UN peacekeepers were withdrawn after the murder of ten Belgian soldiers. In one case, the peacekeeping forces deserted a school where Tutsis were taking shelter — hundreds of people inside were immediately massacred.” Cyprus, founded in 1960 as a partnership state between the Turkish and the Greek Cypriots, features an equally bleak UN past. By constitutional design, its legislature and executive offices were proportionally divided between the two ethnic communities. In November 1963, a genocidal attack on Turkish Cypriots by Greek Cypriots destroyed this arrangement.

Another dangerous situation was — and remains — Kashmir. A princely state under the British Raj, Muslim-majority Kashmir was sold to a Hindu brigand for a pittance. It achieved statehood on August 15, 1947, when British paramountcy lapsed. Amidst much intrigue, India dispatched its military to prop up the crumbling autocratic regime and concurrently raced to the UN Security Council, with Pakistan in close pursuit, to secure multiple resolutions prescribing an UN-conducted self-determination plebiscite for Kashmir. The Security Council agreed to the formula, but India soon apostatized from its commitment when it realized that Kashmiris would never vote for accession to its sovereign orbit in a free and fair referendum. For more than 73 years, India’s international lawlessness has escaped UN sanctions or even moral reproach. India’s human rights record is gruesome but hidden behind an iron curtain that keeps out the likes of CNN and BBC. Its military’s commonplace military atrocities, among them extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, plunder, abduction and arbitrary detentions without trial, are at least on a par with Slobodan Milosevic’s savagery towards Kosovar Albanians, which provoked a NATO — but not a UN — military intervention. The Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human AT PRESENT THIS LONG-TERM FESTERING Rights report circulated by the UN secretary genDISPUTE HAS MADE THE TERRITORY THE eral on Aug. 22, 2019, describes the people’s pain and SITE OF THE WORLD’S LARGEST ARMY agony: “One such people who have been recognized CONCENTRATION AND ITS MOST DANGEROUS by the UN for their ‘rights and dignity’ and ‘security and self-determination’ are the people of the State NUCLEAR HOTSPOT. THE UN MILITARY of Jammu and Kashmir. [The] UN has defined these people as ‘People of legend, song and story, associated OBSERVERS GROUP STATIONED ALONG THE with snow-capped mountains, beautiful valleys and LINE OF CONTROL SINCE JAN. 24, 1949, IS AN life giving waters.’ Today we associate them with living IRRELEVANCY — SPECTATORS WHO NEITHER in a highly militarized zone and locked down inside their homes. We associate them with a habitat where DETER INFRACTIONS NOR PROTECT THE children are recruited to carry out espionage for the Indian Security Forces (a war crime).” KASHMIRIS’ HUMAN RIGHTS. Tens of thousands have been slaughtered, and the vast human rights abuses remain ongoing. India’s U.S. Undersecretary of State George Ball denounced unilateral 2019 abrogation of Kashmir-specific Article 370 and 35A of its conGreek Cypriot president Archbishop Makarios (d. stitution is just another episode in this long drama. In 2020, India enforced the 1977) for turning the island into his “private abattoir.” Domicile Law to change Kashmir’s demography, which may also push its culture, UN peacekeeping forces have remained along the language and identity to the brink of extinction. At present this long-term festering dispute has made the territory the site of so-called Green Line since 1964. In July 1974, after a Greek coup overthrew Makarios, the UN troops the world’s largest army concentration and its most dangerous nuclear hotspot. simply retreated into hiding when Greece and Greek The UN Military Observers Group stationed along the Line of Control since Cypriots began a second genocide of Turkish Cypriots. Jan. 24, 1949, is an irrelevancy — spectators who neither deter infractions nor Turkish troops, in an intervention proclaimed legal protect the Kashmiris’ human rights. It is extremely unlikely that India and Pakistan will embark upon any meanunder international law by the Athens Court of Appeal, foiled the genocide. ingful peace process on their own. Even if they do, the Kashmiris’ rights and May 1948, on the heels of a UN partition plan, interests might be at risk of being bypassed. The case for an earnest mediatory gave rise to the Arab-Israeli conflict over the sov- initiative by the UN is thus indubitable, even though in Guterres’ words, “it’s very ereignty of Palestine. The UN remained militarily difficult to mediate them (international conflicts) and to solve them.” Clearly, this conflict needs a strong and determined will and the genius of an passive, but did arrange a fragile truce or armistice and deployed peacekeeping troops in the Sinai in the imagination that knows how to negotiate and bring people together. There can peace plan that ended the Suez conflict. However, be no better person than the secretary general himself, because the negotiator Secretary General U Thant (of Myanmar) withdrew (and his team) will have to remain completely neutral. Thus the person who resolves this long standing tension between two nuclear them with alacrity in 1967. Then came the Six Day War, which resulted in UN resolutions 242 and later powers deserves a special place in history. Resolving this dispute will bring unpar338. The mainstream approach to resolving this issue alleled honor to the one who helps achieve it — an honor that could be borne is the “two-state solution.” At present, the U.S. is the by the secretary general, who will favor neither country but rather advance the only international arbiter of peace in the Middle East, causes of freedom, democracy and human rights in South Asia.  ih although Palestinians have lost faith in its neutrality. Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai is secretary general, World Kashmir Awareness Forum (, The UN plays only an ornamental or ceremonial role. Washington, D.C. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   61

NEW RELEASES God’s Shadow: Sultan Selim, His Ottoman Empire, and the Making of the Modern World Alan Mikhail 2020. Pp. 496 + illus. HB. $39.95. PB. $29.92. Kindle. $19.24 Liveright, New York, N.Y. t the height of the 16th century, the Ottoman Empire’s extraordinary military dominance and unparalleled trade route monopolies made it the world’s largest territorial and populous empire. This reality forced various fractured European kingdoms to look beyond the Mediterranean to counter it. Mikael argues that despite its towering influence and centrality to the modern world’s rise, the empire’s history has been distorted, misrepresented and even suppressed for centuries in the West. He retells the empire’s conquest of the “world” through the biography of Sultan Selim I (1470-1520). Selim, who was never supposed to become sultan, was enthroned in 1512. During his eight-year reign, he nearly tripled the empire’s size and built a governing structure that lasted into the twentieth century. At the same time, “God’s Shadow on Earth” fostered religious diversity, welcomed minority populations, especially those driven out of al-Andalus, encouraged learning and philosophy and wrote poetry. Drawing on previously unexamined sources from multiple languages, Mikael also shows how the Ottomans allowed slaves to become the elite of society, while contemporaneous European kingdoms engaged in the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade.


Life Against Death: Srebrenica Kadir Habibović 2020. Bosnanski, English. Pp. 217. HB. $43.80. PB. $32.40 Behar Publishing LLC, Coral Springs, Fla. Imagine your town instead of my town, Srebrenica; your people instead of mine; and your name instead of my name. Then form your own judgment and try to answer this question aloud and without fear, so that everyone hears: ‘What did THEY do to the innocent people of Srebrenica?’” The author recounts what happened to him, a Bosniak man separated from his family, lined with his hands bound and awaiting execution. But he survived, and his experience makes up this book. This gripping, intense story of survival relates how he drew the strength to survive not only from his desire to see his family again, but also from the inspiration of his religious sensibility, his hope that the genocide would be remembered and that justice would one day be served.

China’s Muslims & Japan’s Empire: Centering Islam in World War II Kelly A. Hammond 2020. Pp. 314 + Illus. 2020. HB. $95.00. PB. $29.95. Kindle. $20.49 The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C. ammond places Sino-Muslims — as distinct from Xinjiang’s Muslim Turkic Uyghurs — at the center of imperial Japan’s challenges to contemporary China’s nation-building efforts. Revealing the little-known story of Imperial Japan’s interest in Islam during its occupation of northern China, Hammond shows how Tokyo worked to defeat the Nationalists’ attempt to win the hearts and minds of Sino-Muslims, a vital minority population. Presenting themselves as “protectors of Islam,” the Japanese sought to provide Muslims with a viable alternative and create new Muslim consumer markets that would hopefully subvert the existing capitalist world order and destabilize the Soviets. This history can be told only by reinstating agency to China’s Muslims, who participated in the brokering and political jockeying between the two sides. Hammond argues that the competition for their loyalty was central to creating the ethnoreligious identity of mainland China’s Muslims. Their wartime experience ultimately helped shape the formation of Sino-Muslims’ religious identities within global Islamic networks, as well as their incorporation into the Chinese state. However, the conditions of that incorporation remain unstable and contested.


Women and Gender in the Qur’an Celene Ibrahim 2020. Pp. 232. HB. $29.95 Oxford University Press, New York brahim, who explores the women mentioned in the Quran, argues that stories about gendered social relations permeate the text and that nearly 300 verses feature specific women or girls in its accounts of human origins, nations’ founding and destruction, conquests, romantic attractions and family devotion and strife. Overall, this material weaves theology and ethics together to reinforce central Quranic ideas regarding submission to God and moral accountability. The author finds that the Quran regularly celebrates women’s aptitudes in the realms of spirituality and piety, political maneuvering and safeguarding their own wellbeing. And yet they also occasionally falter and use their agency toward nefarious ends.


Realizing Islam: The Tijaniyya in North Africa and the Eighteenth-Century Muslim World Zachary Valentine Wright 2020. Pp. 326. HB. 95.00. PB. $29.95. Kindle. $20.49 The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, N.C. n this analysis of West and North Africa’s largest Sufi order, Wright situates the Tijaniyya’s late 18th-century origins and development within the broader intellectual history of Islam in the early modern period. Introducing founder Ahmad al-Tijani (1737-1815), Wright focuses on the wider network in which he traveled, revealing it as a veritable global Islamic revival whose scholars commanded large followings, shared key ideas and produced literature that was read throughout the Muslim world. From their interlinked chains of knowledge transmission emerged vibrant discourses of renewal in the face of perceived social and political corruption. The author argues that this constellation of remarkable intellectuals promoted personal verification in religious learning. The Tijaniyya, who were very concerned with human actualization and the universal human condition, emphasized the importance of people realizing their Muslim identity. Since the order’s beginning, its influence has attracted significant populations in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and North America.

Remaking Muslim Lives: Everyday Islam in Postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina David Henig 2020. Pp. 210. HB. $110.00. PB. $28.00. EBook. $19.95 University of Illinois Press, Champaign, Ill. ugoslavia’s violent disintegration during the 1990s and ensuing cultural and economic dispossession continue to force the Muslims living in one of its successor states, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to reconfigure their religious lives and societal values. Drawing on a decade of fieldwork spent examining the historical, social and emotional labor undertaken by people to live in an unfinished past, and how doing so shapes the present, Henig offers a rare sustained look at what it means to be — and live as — a Muslim in that country. Henig questions how contemporary religious imagination, experience and practice infuse and interact with social forms like family and neighborhood and with the legacies of past ruptures and critical events.


A Universal Message Interpreted from the Holy Qur’an Linda Ilham Barto 2020. Pp. 612. PB. $26.99. Kindle. $9.99 Light Switch Press, Ft. Collins, Colo. inda Barto, who pursued this work alongside Dr. Sheikh Ahmed Pandor, subtitles it as a simple, English version for young readers and youthful minds. She has made this translation of the Quran’s meaning simple enough for young readers, yet powerful enough to attract even the most sophisticated minds. Barto, who embraced Islam in 1999, says she was guided in this effort by “This Book of Scriptures is perfected and clarified. It is from the One who is Perfectly Wise and Fully Aware” (11:1). Arguing that many translations are inaccessible to children, she utilizes short, simple sentences and easy-to-understand words. Pandor, a student of Skeikh Ahmad Deedat, is a hafiz, author and student of Jewish and Christian scriptures.

The Son King: Reform and Repression in Saudi Arabia Madawi Al-Rasheed 2021. Pp. 312. HB. $29.95 Oxford University Press, New York l-Rasheed, who challenges the inevitability of repression and dismisses defunct views that “Oriental despotism” is the only path to genuine reform, argues that the on-going wave of unprecedented repression springs from Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s (MBS) consolidation of personal power without the royal family and influential groups’ traditional consensus. MBS’ divisive domestic reforms, as well as his adoption of populist nationalism and repression of the critical voices of religious scholars, feminists and professionals, have failed to silence a vibrant Saudi society, including its articulate and connected youth, many of whom have left the country to seek freedom, equality and dignity abroad. While the regime pursues them and punishes their families at home, determined dissidents persist in their struggle against one of the Arab world’s most repressive monarchies.  ih





The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168-0038


Articles inside

The United Nations: After 75 Years of Existence, is it Worth Anything?

pages 60-61

New Releases

pages 62-64

Do You Want to Better Survive This and Future Pandemics?

pages 58-59

Laleh Bakhtiar

page 57

A Pandemic of Health Care Inequities

pages 54-56

The Organ Thieves

pages 52-53

Improving Faith Coexistence in Emerging Digital Space

pages 44-45

Racial Health Care Disparities in

pages 50-51

Teaching and Sharing Islam with Mercy

pages 48-49

The World Turned Upside Down

pages 46-47

Who is to Blame for This Country’s Economic Decline?

page 43

An Uncertain Future?

pages 28-29

Issues of Poverty in the U.S. Have Solutions

pages 41-42

Nafs: Ego, Self or Personality

page 40

American Democracy Connected by Faith

pages 36-37

When All Hope Seems Lost

pages 38-39

A Seat at the Table of

pages 34-35

Assessing Success in U.S. Islamic Schools

pages 30-33

Day 239 Since School Closed

pages 26-27

Learning in the Time of Corona: A Parent’s Perspective

pages 24-25

Learning in an Impersonal Life

page 23

Community Matters

pages 10-15

The Challenge and the Relief

pages 20-22

Thomas Jefferson, Unitarianism and Islam

pages 18-19


pages 6-7

Building Centers for Positive Youth Development

pages 8-9

ISNA Leads Muslim Environmental Engagement

pages 16-17
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