MARCH/APRIL 2014/1435 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET
A MULTI-RELIGIOUS VISION OF PEACE • ISLAM EMPOWERS WOMEN • A BLAZING LIGHT
PIONEERING ISLAMIC SCHOOLS Can aspiring Muslim communities in North America learn from the glowing examples in the development of present day, full-time Islamic schools?
VOL. 43 NO. 2 MARCH/APRIL 2014 visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET
COVER STORY 14 Pioneering Islamic Schools
Muslim Americans can benefit from examples set by pioneering Islamic schools
22 Basing the Language Arts Curriculum on an Islamic Worldview
26 Muslim Americans Lack Autism Awareness
Are Muslim Americans focused on serving special needs children?
28 Recommended Educational
Apps and Websites
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
30 A Mujahida Against Vice 32 Year of Light and Reflection 33 A Blazing Light
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
34 Welcoming a Multi-Religious Vision of Peace 36 Liberating Muslim Women: Really?
38 Lack of Empowerment Not Ordained by the Quran 40 Successful Marriages are Family Affairs
6 8 10 42 44
DEPARTMENTS Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters Reviews Food for the Spirit
DESIGN & LAYOUT BY: Gamal Abdelaziz, A-Ztype Copyeditor: Madihah Krishnamurthy. 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. COVER PHOTO: 1996 – 1997 Edmonton Islamic School
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
Building Upon Success
ull-time Islamic schools in the United States and Canada have surpassed expectations and attained prominent stature. Several of these schools have served for 20 years or more. Despite the current Islamophobic climate, many schools have upgraded, with others planning to do so, and more similar initiatives are emerging. Soon after accomplishing the initial stages of its organization, MSA (now MSA-National) focused on the education of children. By the mid-1970s, an education committee established by MSA envisioned expanding weekend and evening Islamic education programs into full-time schools, with two pilot projects being initiated in Toronto and Chicago. These pilot projects inspired many initiatives and they themselves continue to thrive. Invariably all full-time or part-time Islamic schools owe their existence to the community’s dedication and its spirit to work together in advancing its collective goals. Among the outstanding initiatives is the Muslim community of Edmonton in the Alberta province of Canada, which offers an inspiring story of its $22 million purpose-built Edmonton Islamic Academy. This is a school that was launched in 1987 by Masjid Al-Rashid in a basement with a group of 21 students and has continuously grown since. Assessing the community’s needs, the area’s four mosques pooled their resources and now own a school that accommodates their growth.While the school board operates independently, its governance structure includes members from all four mosque boards. A success story like Edmonton Islamic Academy lays the framework for other Islamic education institutes and illustrates their accomplishments in North America.
PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
However, education is not the only issue that has led to successful citywide cooperation. Islamic centers and organizations that initially sought to pool their resources to arrange Eid prayers, have progressed further in initiating joint projects. Such efforts should not only continue, but the community should also tackle more challenging endeavors. Among the much-needed projects is a Muslim school certification board, a textbook development board, and a teachers training academy. The annual ISNA Education Forums — now in Chicago and the West Coast — provide a unique opportunity for teachers and school administrators to learn from each other and enhance their skills. However, there is a dire need for a teachers training academy to ensure that there are skilled Muslims available to work in Islamic schools. Debates continue, but students in Islamic schools will benefit from having teachers who share their values and perspectives. Similarly, there is an utmost need for a curriculum based on Islamic principles and worldview. Laudable is the recent effort by Dr. Freda Shamma to sensitize Muslims to the subject matter their children are exposed to in Western literature and popular culture, and in describing ways to incorporate and teach Islamic values in all subject areas. Each and every institution that Muslims have built is of great significance, especially those related to education. It may be useful to explore all possibilities, and through understanding and cooperation, perhaps some of these existing saplings can be adopted and built to strengthen and serve the cause of educating Muslim children in an Islamic environment.
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PRE SID ENT Mohamed Hagmagid Ali INTERIM SECRE TA RY GENER A L Iqbal Unus ED IT O R
Omer Bin Abdullah FE ATURE S EDITO R Deanna Othman D EPA RTMENT S EDITO R Aisha Kishta ED IT O RIA L A DVIS O RY B OA RD
Imam Mohamed Magid (acting Chair); Julie Belz; Iqbal Unus; Sohaib Sultan; Wafa Unus. ISL A MI C H O RIZO NS
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ISNA MATTERS ISNA & IDB DISCUSS SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMS ISNA hosted an Islamic Development Bank (IDB) delegation at ISNA headquarters Dec. 18, 2013. ISNA Development Foundation Executive Director Ahmed ElHattab and the new ISNA Scholarship Manager Saba Safder welcomed IDB Scholarship Division Head Manager Dr. Malek Shah and IDB Scholarship Officer Abulmayeen Huq. ISNA and IDB have partnered together to offer American university students the
opportunity to apply for an interest-free scholarship loan. Upon graduation, the
recipients reimburse the trust for the $15,000 (per year) loan, which then helps benefit future students. ISNA manages this scholarship program in the United States. Similar programs in partnership with IDB are established in countries all around the world, including Canada, India, and Malaysia. ISNA is pleased to provide another opportunity to help Muslim American students fulfill their college ambitions in becoming the next generation of empowered and educated Muslim leaders.
ISNA OPPOSES NEW IRAN SANCTIONS
ISNA along with 62 other national faith, security and peace organizations signed a joint letter against the Menendez-Kirk sanctions legislation that would impose new sanctions on Iran (S. 1881). The letter, which has been sent to all Senate members, has received much attention in the media, especially in the
Washington Post. The coalition argued that “The Senate passage of new sanctions would critically endanger the possibility of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear standoff, increasing the likelihood of a nuclear-armed Iran and an unnecessary and costly war.” This coalition, which is the first of its kind, includes Orthodox, Methodist, Baptist, Jewish, Muslim, Evangelical, Catholic, Quaker and Mennonite groups, and other organizations such as Move On, the American Values Network, Daily Kos, Americans for Peace Now, Sojourners, and the National Iranian American Council.
ISNA CHAPLAINCY DIRECTOR VISITS HAWAII MILITARY BASES
ISNA Director of Chaplaincy Services Abdul Rasheed Muhammad visited the Hawaiian island of Oahu Jan. 22-25 to meet with senior chaplains and key leaders spanning seven bases, including all branches of the military, and to emphasize 8
the importance of religious support to service members. Abdul Rasheed also met with the 8th Military Police Brigade Commander Col. Mark Jackson. They discussed reaching out to women service members through town hall forums to address their unique needs in faith; establishing annual training opportunities for Distinctive Faith Group Leaders (DFGL); addressing issues of continuity; and building and maintaining relationships with senior chaplains and key leaders to ensure the best possible supports in terms of resources, opportunities for worship and information distribution to Muslim personnel.
REACHING MUSLIM YOUTH
MYNA concluded its 2013 winter camps, which were held in Texas, Illinois, Ohio and Maryland. The year’s theme was “Timeless; The Miracle of the Quran.” Lectures and workshops were developed with the intent that the Quran be the core subject of discussion. About 300 campers spent six days taking part in activities to help them become more spiritually connected to God, which included khatirahs (reflections with their respective counselors), group prayers and intimate time with esteemed scholars and speakers, such as Habeeb Qadri, Dr. Jawad Shah, Mufti Hussein Kamani, Ahmed Deeb and others. The youth also participated in activities, such as archery, basketball, and hiking. “This DMV winter camp, MYNA successfully stirred a renewing of brotherhood and sisterhood as bonds were formed by people who learn together, live together and love each other for the sake of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala),” said Fariha Hossain, who attended the Maryland camp. MYNA is now looking forward to its next camp cycle this spring. The spring camps will encompass three weekend-long camps in Texas, Ohio, Indiana, and a program at the upcoming Education Forum in Chicago.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
THIRD ANNUAL ISNA WEST COAST EDUCATION FORUM The third annual ISNA West Coast Education Forum, “Empowering Educators to Prepare Students for the Future” was held Jan. 17 and 18 in Anaheim, Calif. More than 250 educators and board members attended. The forum provided a platform for professional development and networking and covered topics such as: achieving excellence in schools, character education, conflict resolution, differentiated learning and teaching Arabic. There was an array of inspiring speakers, including renowned educator Sheikh Abdalla Idris Ali, Habeeb Quadri, principal of Chicago’s MCC school, Necva Ozgur, president of MERIT and chair of the ISNA West Coast Education Forum, Sufia Azmat, executive director of CISNA, Jihad Turk, president of Bayan College and ISNA west zone officer, and Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Shura Council of Southern California. Among the sessions was a special track centered on board leadership, which discussed a board’s role in fundraising, legal issues facing Islamic schools, and strategic board development. Attendees also enjoyed a networking luncheon and a wrap-up session to provide overall feedback about the forum. A separate matrimonial banquet for single Muslims in the area also was organized during the event.
her father and uncle, as well as the special relationship she has with Hathout as his only niece. “He is not only an uncle but a counsel and a very special friend,” she said. Imam Magid thanked all the educators and teachers present in his keynote address, and a rose was given to each one of them as a token of appreciation. Magid reflected upon the great impact Hathout has had on so many Muslims and how he has been an exemplary model of how we as a Muslim community should serve society. Hathout expressed his gratitude to ISNA and all those involved in the work of God. He shared words of encouragement with the audience about the importance of their roles as educators and reminded them that they are part of a changing world. “We must continue to have patience and compassion in our work,” he said.
SHOULDER TO SHOULDER CAMPAIGN MEETING Dr. Hathout addresses the ISNA Award Banquet
The forum concluded with a celebration banquet honoring one of the community’s most endeared members, Dr. Maher Hathout, and recognizing the unsung heroes among our educators. Hathout, a retired physician best known for his tireless commitment to public service and a prominent international figure, received the ISNA Community Hero Award. Hathout is the founder and senior advisor for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). Due to health reasons, he was unable to be physically present but communicated with the banquet audience via Skype. Another community leader, Dr. Omar Alfi, received the award on Hathout’s behalf. Dr. Eba Hathout, Hathout’s niece, also was present to pay tribute to him, along with Jihad Turk, member of ISNA Executive Council and the west zone officer. Eba spoke about her uncle’s great accomplishments and enduring impact on society. She also expressed gratitude to ISNA for the tribute they paid to her late father, Dr. Hassan Hathout, in 2005. She talked about the family dynamic between ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
On Jan. 27, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops hosted a meeting for 25 of the Shoulder to Shoulder members to discuss interfaith efforts to challenge anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. These national religious organizations addressed issues related to this and made commitments to undertake efforts to end religious discrimination. Interfaith leaders from Christian, Jewish and Unitarian traditions spoke about the importance of building relationships between their own communities and Muslim Americans. They agreed on the civic responsibility of protecting religious freedom for all faith traditions. Other topics included challenging anti-foreign law legislation and facilitating basic education about Islam and interfaith efforts. As part of the effort to connect interfaith work in the U.S with global efforts to protect the rights of religious minorities, the group met with Ambassador Rashad Hussain, special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Hussain discussed the Obama administration’s efforts to engage religious leaders globally to improve these efforts.
COMMUNITY MATTERS American Halal Company Recognized The Chicago-based Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA) was recognized at the Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES) held in Dubai on Nov. 25, 2013. IFANCA President Dr. Muhammad Munir Chaudry was presented with the Islamic Economy Award for Compliance and Standardization by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai. The GIES awards celebrate companies that have demonstrated significant business and social impact using Islamic economic ethos. IFANCA’s exemplary halal compli-
ance procedures and practices, its certification of more than 50,000 food, beverage, and pharmaceutical products in more than 100 countries, and its social contributions merit nomination for this prestigious award. As part of its community service, IFANCA started Chicago’s Sabeel Food Pantry to help the needy. The group also supports scholarships for needy Muslim students, publishes the Halal Consumer magazine and maintains a halal product database on its website (ifanca.org). IFANCA also has developed a Halal Food Service Kit to help schools, universities, hospitals and correctional facilities prepare halal meals.
NYC Schools to Observe Eid Holidays New York City public schools will soon be closed for the two Eid holidays and the Chinese New Year. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio shared his plans for the Muslim holy days, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and the Chinese New Year while on WNYC radio’s “The Brian Lehrer Show” Feb. 3. “It is complicated in terms of logistics of school calendar and budget, but it’s something I want to get done in a reasonable timeframe,” he said.
Re-Elected Board Chair
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions recently elected Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid as chairman of its board of trustees. The council is a leading organization in the international interfaith movement based out of Chicago. Mujahid is the executive producer of Radio Islam daily talk show, founder of Sound Vision, an author and producer, and a blogger for Huffington Post. He has written more than 400 articles and essays on religion, social issues, civil rights and public policy. His book, “Con10
Many Muslim groups and organizations are thrilled to see such initiatives. “The NYC Muslim community looks forward to finally having the Eid holidays recognized in our public schools. It will be gratifying to know that Muslim children will soon no longer have to choose between honoring and celebrating their faith or missing class,” CAIR-NY Executive Board Member Zead Ramadan said in a news release.
The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut last fall announced a new interfaith partnership with the Farmington Valley American Muslim Center (FVAMC), which will include interfaith educational programs and the leasing of a building in Avon, according to a news report. The project is part of the broader diocesan Khamis Abucommitment to interHasaballah faith initiatives. “Our partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut is an exciting new venture for our center [and] we look forward to further strengthening our community’s interfaith coalition and joining together on new initiatives,” FVAMC President Khamis Abu-Hasaballah said. Abu-Hasaballah and Bishop Laura Ahrens of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut recently attended the community dinner to welcome back the Hujjaj. These types of gatherings help support efforts to establish a center “dedicated to worshipping God, interfaith understanding and dialogue, service to community and country, and creating a secure, nurturing environment where [the] community can congregate.”
Virginia Governor Appoints Muslim
version to Islam: Untouchables Strategy for Protest in India,” won the Outstanding Academic Book of the Year Award by the American Library Association. Mujahid has been involved in a multitude of initiatives and posts in the public sphere for many years. He was the former chairperson of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, led efforts for universal health coverage in Illinois, and was recognized by former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley for his service toward interfaith harmony and bridge-building with an award from Chicago’s Human Rights Commission. He also gives Friday sermons at area mosques, is a voice against domestic violence in the Muslim community, and speaks about the need to enhance women’s spaces within mosques.
New Founded Interfaith Partnership
Zaki Barzinji serves as policy assistant in Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office. He was appointed Jan. 14 to help in “finding common ground with members of both parties on issues that will grow Virginia’s economy and create more jobs across the commonwealth.” Barzinji has worked within McAuliffe’s office since last April, and assisted with his election campaign. Barzinji holds a bachelor’s degree in English and political science from Virginia Tech, and previously served as the director of Southern Business Council.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
CAIR Documents Bullying of Muslim Students
A special report released Dec. 19, 2013, by California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) documented bias-based bullying of Muslim American students in California schools. The report titled, “Growing in Faith: California Muslim Youth Experiences with Bullying, Harassment and Religious Accommodation in Schools,” focused on surveys of Muslim students ages 11 years through 18 years old who were asked about their experiences in the school system.
The report found disturbing percentages of Muslim students who said they have been bullied in some form. One in five women reported being bullied because they wore an Islamic headscarf to school, and more than one-third of bullying victims surveyed indicated that reporting harassment incidents to school administrators was not helpful, according to the report’s findings. “Too often we find that parents and teachers don’t know how to adequately address bias-based bullying of American Muslim students,” said Rachel Roberts, a civil rights coordinator for CAIR. “We hope this report will shed light on the resources available to parents, teachers, and students in order to effectively and proactively address school bullying.” The report offers information to parents to help them learn more about current issues the youth face in schools and ways to request accommodations for Muslim students.
The Islamic Shura Council of Southern California designated Jan. 24 as a special day of prayer for rain in response to Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement that California is in a state of drought. Special supplications to God for rain, Salat al Istisqa, were held after the weekly congregational Friday prayer in mosques and in full-time Islamic schools that helped children understand the importance of minimizing their water usage at home and other places.
Roadmap for the ■ Muslim Community
Year of Palestinian Solidarity
The United Nations officially launched the International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on Jan. 16, reported the United Nations News Centre. The resolution is focused on bringing peace to the troubled region, and creating a sustainable two-state solution. “Negotiators are working hard toward a peaceful, comprehensive settlement of all permanent status issues, including securing an independent, viable and sovereign State of Palestine living alongside a secure State of Israel, where each side recognizes the
Southern California Prays for Rain
other’s legitimate rights,” U.N. Deputy SecretaryGeneral Jan Eliasson said. The final vote was 110-7, with 56 abstentions. The seven nations who opposed the resolution, included the United States, Israel, Canada, Australia, Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands. With lack of support from key countries, this initiative will require great cooperation and efforts from all members involved, and should openly address and rectify the decadeslong issues. General Assembly President John Ashe summarized the goal of the resolution clearly: “Now is the time for vision, compromise and deepening of respect. Let us make this year — 2014 — the decisive year for achieving peace between Israel and Palestine. I implore all those who have a stake in this outcome — governments, international organizations, and people everywhere — to do their part.”
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
The Whitestone Foundation is a Muslim organization that “aspires to foster the development of ideas, encourages ingenuity, supports the maximizing of resources, and overall is committed to enriching the Muslim community by providing models of excellence, strategic direction, and grants
that transform community aspirations into reality.” To help further its mission, the Whitestone Foundation is developing a strategic roadmap for the next 15 years, based on a previous in-depth study assessment of the Muslim community. The roadmap will be developed by utilizing information collected from Muslim community leaders, scholars and members, and will aim to “provide foresight on how to navigate the financial resources to serve the community in the long-term,” and “help Whitestone to strategically select the direction of projects that will have a maximum impact on the community.”
Shakila Ahmad First Woman to Head Cincinnati Islamic Center On Jan. 1, Shakila Ahmad became the first woman to lead the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in the organization’s 18-year history. Ahmad, an enthusiastic community leader, is dedicated to numerous civic and community causes. An active member of ICGC’s board of trustees since 1995, Ahmad employs the Center’s Tours and Talks program to educate civic and public organizations and leaders about Islam and Muslims. She spearheaded the planning of A Visit to a Mosque in America, an educational DVD produced to increase understanding of Islam and the Muslim community in the United States.
Ahmad is a founding member of ICGC’s Muslim Mothers Against Violence initiative that brings mothers of all faiths together to explore peaceful and constructive means of conflict resolution. She and other members lead training sessions and distribute educational materials on bullying prevention. She teaches people of all ages, especially youth, how to identify bullying and what to do about it under various circumstances. Her talks on bullying prevention are offered at ICGC and other locations throughout Cincinnati and in other areas. She is a dedicated supporter of interfaith and outreach efforts, and has served as board chair of BRIDGES for a Just Community. Additionally, Ahmad serves on the executive board of directors of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Ohio Humanities Council, YWCA Cincinnati, and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati.
Muslim Scientist Honored
Mohamed El-Naggar of the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences has been selected to receive the nation’s highest honor bestowed upon science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers — the 2012 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. (The announcement was delayed due to last year’s government shutdown). The award, established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, is coordinated by the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy 12
within the Executive Office of the President. El-Naggar, who was nominated by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research that funds his research, is among 102 of the nation’s leading young scientists and engineers to receive this year’s honor. The winners will receive their awards from President Obama in Washington, D.C. As a biophysicist, El-Naggar is a pioneer in studying energy conversion and charge transmission at the interface between living cells and synthetic surfaces. He leads USC Dornsife’s NanoBio Lab, which focuses on the fundamentals, implications and technological applications of biological charge transfer, using environmental bacteria — which he calls “the champions of moving electrons” — as model systems. El-Naggar’s work, which has important implications for cell physiology, may lead to the development of new hybrid materials and renewable energy technologies that combine the exquisite biochemical control of nature with the synthetic building blocks of nanotechnology. This would mean huge payoffs in terms of reduced costs and increased versatility for both the energy and nanotechnology fields. This grant will help him expand his research to investigate how the knowledge he has gained from studying bacteria may impact our understanding of human cells.
Mohamed El Filali, who served as executive director of the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson, N.J., has been named executive director of the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Islamic Center of Indiana in White Township, Penn. is completing its new building which includes a 3,444-square-foot prayer room, and a 2,535-square-foot social room. Its parking lot will have 44 spaces. The center is located close to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus.
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ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
Building a school even today is very invigorating work. You are a pioneer building something that changes families.â€?
PIONEERING ISLAMIC SCHOOLS BY ZOOBIA WAZIR CHAUDHRY
he Muslim community of Edmonton, in the Alberta province of Canada, offers an inspiring story of the development of its $22 million purpose-built Edmonton Islamic Academy. In 1987, Masjid Al-Rashid started the school in a basement with a group of 21 students. Within a decade, the enrollment increased to 186 leading to the opening of the junior high program shortly thereafter, and a physical move into a former local school building in 2003. In an effort to find a permanent solution to the increasing demand, a 12.7-acre lot was secured by pooling the resources of the four area Islamic centers representing the Edmonton Muslim community.
ISLAMIC HORIZONSâ€ƒ MARCH/APRIL 2014
COVER STORY Al-Rahmah School (Est. 1987) second and third grade
AMONG PIONEERS The committed community members established Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore in 1987. “People didn’t think that we would raise that much money to start the school and we ended up raising $85K in 40 minutes,” said Dr. Maqbool Patel, one of the founding members reminiscing about the community’s spirit and generosity in the initial years. “We felt so blessed at that time; we decided to name the school AlRahmah.” Today, the school has nearly 400 students enrolled, is accredited by the Middle States Association (MSA), and is certified by the State of Maryland. Several alumni, graduates from prestigious universities, are now bringing their children to the school and serve as a dedicated parent body to help school grow.
Collectively, the Edmonton community built a gleaming campus over a period of four years. The new campus has 36 classrooms, science labs, a spacious courtyard with a masjid, two large libraries, two gymnasiums and a cafeteria with an onsite kitchen. In 2010, the high school program was introduced and today nearly 700 students attend the school. The school has worked with local public schools to provide Arabic curriculum. Khalid Tarabain, a long time member of the school’s governing board is proud of the academic successes of the school and attributes it to leadership collaboration of all Islamic centers involved, funding from the state, commitment of the community and the hard work of teachers and staff members. While the school board operates independently, its governance structure includes members from all four mosque boards. Edmonton Islamic Academy’s success story lays out a framework for other Islamic education institutions, and is illustrative of the achievements of Islamic schools in North America. The growing Muslim population in North America has not only led to an increase in mosques, but also full-time Islamic schools. Although statistics are scarce, various studies show that within a 15-year period from 1992 to 2005, the number of full-time Islamic schools has increased from 92 to 400 — a more than 400 percent growth. With an estimated 32,000 students having attended full-time Islamic schools in North America, it is imperative to understand their origins, successes and challenges so that the Muslim American community can learn from the pioneers of these trailblazing institutions. The proliferation of Islamic schools in North
America stemmed from two catalytic movements: the transformation of the Nation of Islam and the development of the Sister Clara Muhammad Schools (SCMS) in late 1970s and secondly, the need of Muslim immigrants who came to North America in the 1960s and wanted their children to be educated in an Islamic environment. Second-generation immigrants and converts to Islam have played a key role in shaping these schools in recent years. The Sister Clara Muhammad Schools — renamed from the University of Islam to honor Imam Warith Deen Mohammed’s mother — started with Imam W.D. Mohammed’s centripetal movement toward mainstream Islam. The restructuring led to challenges highlighted by the decrease in schools from 41 in 1975 to 23 in 1998. Sister Clara Muhammad School Atlanta, established in 1980, is considered the flagship school. Though most of SCMS started teaching Quran and Sunnah and follow the guidelines of the central curriculum established in 1990, a sizeable number of scholars and educators do not consider these schools mainstream Islamic schools. The SCMS continue to cater to African American communities mostly in the inner cities. Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad and his wife, Clara, refused to enroll their children in public schools. Despite being challenged by law enforcement agencies, they kept teaching their own children. In 1932, the couple started the University of Islam in Detroit. Although an elementary school, it was called a “university” to emphasize the universal and advanced nature of its curriculum when most schools were segregated and openly racist. Second-generation immigrant schools started forming in the late 1970s to 1980s as ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
the Muslim population grew significantly. The Islamic Community School in Baltimore, established in 1977, appears to be the oldest full-time Islamic school. The Islamic Community School continues to exhibit features of most Islamic schools in their earlier years — with 40 to 50 students situated in multi-level classrooms, and four full-time and four part-time teachers. The school still exists in the building attached to Masjid Saffat, with most of the teachers working as volunteers. Zakia Amin, principal of the school since 1980, is proud of her school’s vision and heritage. “The mission of the school is to continue on the small scale to produce graduates who after completion of their education come back and serve their community,” she said. The Muslim Student Association of United States & Canada (now MSA-National) was key in
AMONG PIONEERS Dawud Tauhidi (19492010) was one of the founders of the Islamic school; one the pioneers of Islamic schools. The establishment is part of history for Muslims in Michigan and in the Detroit metropolitan area. In 1988, Tauhidi helped found Crescent Academy International in Canton, Mich. The school has more than 400 students enrolled. After several years of planning and development, the school opened its doors in 1991 and shortly thereafter moved into its new, $2.4 million school facility on a 10-acre site. The school later completed a $9 million expansion project that provides an additional 68,000 square feet of facilities for students and staff.
CREDIT IS BETWA SHARMA FOR TIME
Girls from the Noor-Ul Iman High School girls basketball team.
launching a large-scale effort to establish Islamic schools to focus on the educational needs of Muslim children. By the mid-1970s, an education committee established by MSA envisioned expanding weekend and evening Islamic education programs into full-time schools with two pilot projects being initiated in Toronto and Chicago. Sheikh Abdalla Idris initially directed the Toronto pilot project, the present day ISNA School located in Mississauga, Ontario. The Mississauga ISNA Elementary School, founded in 1983 and moved to its current location in 1985, is among the oldest Islamic schools in the Greater Toronto Area. The ISNA Elementary School also has a high school branch in Mississauga, which is housed in the Islamic Center of Canada complex and is one of the few Islamic high schools in the area. The Chicago pilot project is the present day Universal School located in Bridgeview Ill., which Dr. Seema Imam, now associate professor at National Louis University, administered in its early years. “When the early schools were being established, very often people would donate good amounts of money,” she said. “Some dedicated families who saw a need for an Islamic elementary school built Universal School building from scratch. We were all so excited and full of enthusiasm and energy. Building a school even today is very invigorating work, you are a pioneer building something that changes families. Those who were experienced in education were the ones who brought the knowhow. Everyone else was trying to establish the nonprofit, get donations and make things work. At that time there were very few certified Muslim educators, let
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AMONG PIONEERS The Islamic Foundation in Villa Park, Ill., purchased a former school building in 1983, and in 1988, established a full-time school for kindergarten through eighth grades. In 1997, the high school opened. Islamic Foundation School (IFS), serving about 650 students, is accredited by the North Central Association and recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Established in 1983 as one of the first and now the largest Islamic schools in Orange County, Orange Crescent School was founded by the Islamic Society of Orange County. The pioneers of OCS had a vision of providing a balanced academic program with an emphasis on comprehensive Islamic Studies. It exists as a nonprofit, private academic institution serving a student population of about 400 representing more than 20 nationalities. It is one of only a few Islamic Schools with the stamp of Accreditation from WASC (The Western Association of Schools and Colleges).
Universal School students from Bridgeview, Ill., line up for morning assembly.
alone certified principals. You could count the qualified principals on one hand. Curriculum was also not ready. I believe still today that general curriculum including Islamic, Arabic and Quran content and the building blocks of an Islamic environment are current day challenges of Islamic schools in general.” As Islamic schools in the past decade concentrated on becoming more academically focused, several milestones were achieved and various extra curricular programs were successfully established. The New Horizon School-Los Angeles was established in 1984 by the Islamic Center of Southern California. The school expanded into four schools currently operating in Southern California serving nearly 600 students. The New Horizon School-Pasadena became the first Islamic school to be awarded the U.S. Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon Status in 2006. “Our alumni have brought back their children to school, and some have come back to teach at our school leading us in the accreditation process,”said Shahida Alikhan, principal of New Horizon School-Pasadena. “All four New Horizon Schools are fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and three of the schools are accredited by the California Association of Independent schools.” New Horizons has graduated more than 2,000 students who have gone to attend prestigious universities, including Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, Princeton and Duke. Sufia Azmat of Noor-Ul-Iman School, established in 1993 in Monmouth Junction, N.J., coached her team that took part in the 201011 Vincent J. Apruzzese high school mock trial competitions and finished in first place. Such academic and extracurricular achievements
highlight the growing accomplishments of students attending Islamic schools in North America. A number of entities have contributed toward providing vital resources for the Islamic schools, including the Islamic Educators Communications Network (IECN), the Islamic Schools League of America (ISLA), the Council of Islamic Schools in North America (CISNA), the Council on Islamic Education, the Muslim American Society’s Council of Islamic Schools, and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). CISNA recently partnered with AdvancED to accredit Islamic Schools. ISNA along with CISNA holds annual education forums in Chicago and on the West Coast to provide professional development conferences for educators to share their knowledge and learn from each other’s experiences. Despite the endurance of many Islamic schools who continue to pursue their mission, a few schools have been forced to close their doors for various reasons. The Islamic School of Seattle, established in 1980, closed in 2012 after serving its community for 32 years. Ann El-Moslimany, who was involved with the school from the beginning, said several reasons contributed to the school’s closing. She said some parents wanted the school to focus almost exclusively on religious teachings, while others disliked its Montessori model and wanted classes to be structured more like those of a rigorous preparatory academy. Some parents didn’t like that some teachers and principals were not Muslim, or wanted the school to limit enrollment to people of one national heritage. El-Moslimany said demographics played a big part. Seattle’s Muslims fall into multiple income brackets, but those most able to afford ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
Full-time Islamic Schools Established for more than 20 years School
Islamic Community School
Clara Muhammad Elem. School
Orange Crescent School
Garden Grove, Calif.
ISNA Islamic school
New Horizon School Pasadena
New Horizon School - Los Angeles
Al-Ghazaly Elementary School
Jersey City, N.J.
Al-Ghazaly High School
Tea Neck, N.J.
Maritime Muslim Academy
Michigan Islamic Academy
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Granada Islamic School
Santa Clara, Calif.
Islamic Foundation School
Villa Park, Ill.
Al-Rahmah School and Nursery
The Edmonton Islamic Academy
Huda School & Montessori
Madrastu Ahlis Sunnah
East Orange, N.J.
Muslim Community Center Full Time School
Morton Grove, Ill.
South Ozone Park, N.Y.
Brighter Horizons Academy - College Preparatory Garland, Tex.
College Preparatory School of America
School of Knowledge (Madrasa-Tul-Ilm)
Al-Ikhlas Training Academy
Crescent Academy International
DCC Dar Al-Arqam School
Al Nur School
Islamic School of San Diego
Universal Academy of Florida
Monmouth Junction, N.J.
Oregon Islamic Academy
Darul Arqam School North
Islamic Foundation School
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
AMONG PIONEERS Granada Islamic School (GIS), a K-8 school in Santa Clara, Calif., was established in 1988 by the Muslim Community Association. GIS is the largest Islamic school in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was named to honor Granada, Spain (Andalusia) — the beacon of Islamic civilization in the West. In 1999 the school was accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC). Granada school has about 400 students enrolled. “Community members felt the need for Islamic school, they put their heart and soul into it. Each of the 10 founders brought in $10,000 each and help start the school,” said Malika Khan, one of the founding members. Former alums of the school have gone on to attend University of Southern California, UC Berkeley and San Jose State University.
AMONG PIONEERS Closely tied to the history of the development of the Muslim community in Minneapolis/St. Paul is the Fridley-based AlAmal School that was started in 1994. A group of four parents and one community member then became the school’s first governing board. With bare resources and only $5,000 in hand, the school started in the homes of two of the board members, who also were teachers. In 1995, the school moved to the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley. By 2006, the school outgrew its capacity. In 2007, the school expanded the facility and built an adjacent building for the middle and high school classes. Current enrollment is about 400 students. Today, the school is accredited by AdvancEd, has a strong STEM program and has participated and performed well in the Central Minnesota Regional Science Fair for the last few years. In 2013, Al-Amal School won 93 awards.
the school’s tuition live outside the Central District, primarily on the Eastside, where they are closer to competing Islamic programs, she said. In the end it became an issue of finances that lead to closure of one of the pioneers in Islamic education. All Islamic schools, though different from each other, have a common mission: to provide quality academic education in an Islamic environment. “Building and maintaining an Islamic School is a complex, challenging task,” said Necva Ozgur, founding school head of New Horizon School in Pasadena, Calif., established in 1984. “At times, the school administration may feel as though a specific challenge exists only at their school. However, in reality, most Islamic schools share similar difficulties.” Even after being in existence for decades, Islamic schools still share many challenges, such as: Academic excellence — acquiring, retaining and training high quality teachers and leadership. An acute scarcity of qualified and certified teachers and leaders is an obstacle that needs to remedied by Muslims founding their own teacher-training academy. Most schools started as volunteer efforts and still lack qualified leadership. In order to improve upon this, Muslims need to create a nurturing environment in which leadership can flourish, and plan for leadership succession. Curriculum — in the area of standard subjects,
Quran, Islamic studies, and Arabic studies. Muslims need to be at the forefront of innovation in education, whether it be through multiculturalism or environmentalism. Financial stability — Quality education at any school requires sufficient finances. The community needs to explore alternative ways such as establishing an endowment fund and approaching a new circle of donors to bring steady income to the school besides tuition revenue. Governance — Strong, well educated, and effective boards function as the backbone of an Islamic school. In order to produce an efficient board, a board development plan — whereby board members are oriented, trained and assessed — should be established and implemented. The educators and leadership of Islamic schools need to collectively deal with challenges not only faced by the schools in existence for decades, but also provide resources for newer schools. ISLA and ISNA educational forums have provided these platforms, which can be streamlined and facilitated by local chapters. Along with aspiring to attain the highest level of academic excellence, Islamic institutions should strive to graduate students that have a strong Islamic foundation, with fluency in Arabic to understand the Quran and Hadith, and who are prepared to face real world challenges as proud, aware and socially responsible citizens.
Zoobia Wazir Chaudhry is the board chairwoman of Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore.
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
COVER STORY — EDUCATION FORUM PAPER
Basing the Language Arts Curriculum on an Islamic Worldview DR. FREDA SHAMMA
thousand years ago, in 1013, the Muslim civilization was at its cultural height. It provided an excellent education which enabled Muslims to be linguistic masters of their language, and excel in all areas from qualified searchers of reliable hadiths to revolutionizing learning in spheres like science, medicine, and mathematics. Children began their studies with Quran and Islamic sciences. This directed their thinking into an Islamic mold, an Islamic worldview. Religion was not divorced from life; it provided the springboard to study every aspect of life from an Islamic perspective. Among the important foundational ideas that the Islamic point-of-view provided were: God is the One and Only God, Who created the universe and all its creatures, including mankind as one unified whole. He created a set of natural laws which all creation follows. Created mankind according to His natural laws, plus one addition. He gave him a mind which has freedom to choose right or wrong. As a special favor for us He sent down multiple prophets and guidance to help us chose the good and right. Islam is a religiously based way of life. The material and spiritual are not dichotomous modes of experience. God has created mankind to worship Him and to be a force for good. After receiving this education, students of that time understood that it is God’s world, that mankind is limited in understanding and reasoning, and that unless he and she depend on God they will fail in the ultimate analysis. They felt that they should use their knowledge for the good of God’s creation. Europe at this time was in its Dark Ages, bereft of universities, hospitals, books for the common man, libraries, and even sanitation. The Islamic world, on the other hand had multiple universities, libraries with thousands of books in multiple cities, cities with street lighting, market inspectors and so on. But time went on, the Mongol invasion of 1258 razed many of these cities, and destroyed many of the great libraries. By 1900, Europe had experienced its 22
renaissance and industrial revolution. Its wealth and luxury now appealed to wealthy Muslims, especially urban dwellers. Selfinflicted problems, such as Muslim rulers borrowing from western banks to buy these innovations caused decline in Muslim government, culture and education. Ironically Europe rose so far so fast, partially because they adopted the knowledge of the Muslim world. However, the Church was most powerful during the Dark Ages so scientists, inventors and writers had to carefully omit all references to Islam. Objecting to the Church’s heavy hand, many also turned away from all religion. Secular humanism led effortlessly to individualism, materialism, and capitalism. If humans are supreme, then there can be no absolute values. Homosexuality could be a vice for thousands of years, but a virtue today because some humans want it that way. World War I ended the Muslim realm’s unity. The European overlords split the World of Islam into small pieces. This led to a “systematic process of political, economic and intellectual subjugation by Western imperialism. In order to produce a suitable workforce needed to implement the vision and policies of the colonialists, basic changes were made to the local educational systems.” In order to have subservient and obedient workers, the new educational system promoted passive acceptance of whatever the teachers said. Memorization without critical or creative thinking skills helped produce obedient pen pushers. The language for economic, political, intellectual, and cultural success was that of the European colonizer. Perhaps the most damaging change was a total absence of the conquered peoples’ religion, language, culture and contributions to civilization. Knowledge was divided into distinct subject matter with nothing to connect one branch of knowledge to another. By the end of the 1900s, “educated” Muslims were convinced of the superiority of everything western. Many of them migrated to North America, in part so their children could receive this “best” education.
Third grade student from Universal School.
Even the madrasa fell under the colonizers’ spell. They taught the facts of the religion, but did not encourage critical thinking or application to real life situations. Religion became one of the distinct subjects with no connection to any others. When Cairo’s Al Azhar University added “academic” subjects to its curriculum, it did not train its religious studies students in history or science so that the subjects could be taught from an Islamic perspective. It used the same “educated” teachers produced by the western secular schooling. Now, “Islamic schools” routinely follow the western educational system. Realizing that something is wrong with this system, they use a quick-fix with an Islamic class at the end of the day. In most schools, students don’t get this kind of immersion for Islamic education, instead one period is shared between Arabic language and Quran memorization. So for about 30 hours a week they receive a western education along with one to two hours a week of religious education. If we want to change the focus of a secular subject, our idea usually is to add bits and pieces of Islam to the best secular text, thereby leaving the secular worldview in place. Although the majority of Islamic school students excel academically, too many do not practice an Islamic lifestyle outside of school. Children need a consistent value system on which to base their life. What will become of their worldview if the majority of their time is spent studying a Western worldview?
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WHAT IS WRONG WITH WESTERN CURRICULUM? Not everything is wrong with Western curriculum, but it is unwise to assume that Western material is culture or value-free so there is no problem with our children studying it. Everything needs to be examined by a critical Muslim eye. Even our practicing, educated Muslim scholars fail to see the western slant of their education. Studies show that children learn best what is closest to their culture and religion. A social studies curriculum, which spends 11-½ years of its 12 years on Western history (even world history is mostly focused on the West), is not going to meet the needs of children who have a Muslim, Eastern or African background. Textbooks which attribute everything to “mother nature” or coincidence or human faculties of senses and mind, are diametrically opposed to the knowledge of God and His laws of nature. Reading textbooks which include acceptance of un-Islamic ideas, such as disrespect of absolute values and families, approval of mixed-gender relationships and so on are clearly not reflecting value-free material that is harmless to our children’s thinking and behavior. In short, our Muslim North American students need academic excellence based on a consistent Islamic worldview and both Western and Islamic cultural literacy.
WHAT CAN BE DONE IN LANGUAGE ARTS? Of primary importance, we must under-
stand our own worldview. Converts to Islam must be aware that without doubt we have a Western worldview. Everything we learned from birth until conversion was based on the idea that our mind is capable of absolute reasoning and understanding. “It seems to me,” “in my opinion” are the way some Muslims explain Quranic verses to our satisfaction. We feel free to interpret Islamic ideology according to our own reasoning. “I found one hadith where the Prophet, peace be upon him, said an old woman could lead her ignorant male servant in prayer. My reasoning therefore is that it is Islamically acceptable for any knowledgeable woman to lead any number of knowledgeable men in the Friday prayer.” Likewise, people born into Muslim families and/or in Muslim majority countries need to be aware that a cultural connection to Islam does not mean they have not been severely affected by their secular education. Once this author asked a group of Muslim historians where and when Prophet Ibrahim might have lived, all but one immediately cited Western sources. It was only the historian who had never attended a secular university who first mentioned a verse in the Quran that might shed some light, before he mentioned other Western sources. Muslims must understand their own worldview so they can identify the un-Islamic elements in their schools. Why do we have each subject completely separate from the other? Why is language arts, dealing as it does with reading and writing skills, not
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
connected to religion and social studies and science where critical reading and writing skills are needed? How many of our teachers have an Islamic worldview so what they teach is based on Islam? Can we expect teachers belonging to other faiths and traditions to base everything on Islam? Muslims must understand an Islamic worldview so they can identify the un-Islamic elements in the secular books being used to teach reading skills. Look at the themes of the textbooks — do they stress the individual, self-interest, doing what a person enjoys regardless of whether it is of benefit to God’s creation? Do they encourage students to use reading skills for other subjects? Look at the selections being used to teach reading skills. Here are two examples: the selections are interesting for the Western child, well-written and appropriate reading levels. Are they suitable for Muslims as well? “George and Martha: A Picnic” (a picture book) One Saturday morning George wanted to sleep late. “I love sleeping late,” said George. But Martha had other ideas. She wanted to go on a picnic. “Here she comes!” said George. Martha did her best to get George out of bed. “Picnic time!” sang Martha. But George didn’t budge. Martha played a tune on her saxophone. George put little balls of cotton in his ears and pulled up the cover. Martha had a clever idea. (She puts the bed on roller skates) “This is such hard work,” she said, huffing and puffing. “But I’m not going to help,” said George. “I’m getting tired,” said Martha. George had fun on the picnic. “I’m so glad we came,” said George. But Martha wasn’t listening. She had fallen asleep. What do you think? Is there anything un-Islamic in the fact that Martha goes into a boy’s room; that there is no parent present to prevent her from doing so, that she forces her friend to do something he does not want to do? Did you notice that Martha and George are best friends of a different gender (although at this age boys and girls generally do not like to play together)? The second example is from a middle school reading textbook: Glencoe Literature: The Reader’s Choice. Course 2: Theme One: What I am, what I want to be: (includes the following seven consecutive selections) 1. “Strong Men Weep” — an essay about how sad it was that a famous baseball player (Lou Gehrig) who had played for a number 23
COVER STORY — EDUCATION FORUM PAPER of years, and was well paid for it, had to retire from baseball because of a serious illness. 2. “Wait until Next Year” — a memoir about the interaction between a boy and his father, which consisted totally of talking about baseball. 3. “The Wonder Years” TV script — boyfriend-girlfriend awkward moments 4. “Broken Chain” — short story about a teenage boy who agonizes about what to wear in order to fit in, and is embarrassed by some boys claiming he likes a certain girl. 5. “Barrio Boy” — a pseudo autobiography about a Mexican boy who starts first grade not understanding any English. 6. “Fish Cheeks” — an autobiographical account which begins with “I fell in love with the minister’s son …when I turned 14.” 7. “Rosa Parks” — this is the only acceptable piece for Muslim students. It is culturally important for all Americans to understand the civil rights movement and the people involved. The purpose of these selections is to teach reading skills, not values or character building. Per California law, they reflect some culturally diverse characters — one Chinese, one Mexican, one black, but don’t reflect any Muslim culture. There is nothing special about these selections in terms of teaching reading skills. If anything, they are less than desirable when trying to teach critical reading skills. Muslim teachers should instead substitute more appropriate material.
SUBSTITUTE BETTER MATERIAL For the middle school let’s compare the Glencoe selections with equivalent selections from: “Treasury of Muslim Literature Age: The Golden years: 750-1250 CE,” author Freda Shamma. The “Treasury” is an anthology of Muslim writers who lived 1,000 years ago before the Islamic educational system came under the sway of Western imperialism. Most of the authors began their education with Quran and Islamic sciences and then went on to produce material that educated as well as entertained, that broaden the geographical, historical and cultural understandings of the general populations, that made great strides in the development of many sciences and branches of medicine. These selections reflect the ethnic diversity of Muslims. They are similar genres of writing as the western text, but contain wisdom to guide the readers to think along Islamic lines rather than western. 24
1. “Strong Men Weep” – an essay about a white American Substitute: “Superiority of Blacks to Whites — an essay, by Al Jahiz, the son of black slaves who lived in what is now Iraq. He was known as the foremost writer of prose. 2. “Wait until Next Year” — a memoir Substitute: “Observation on the Crusades” — a memoir “The Book of Reflections” by Usama Ibn Munqedh (1095-1188 CE), who lived in what is now Palestine. 3. “The Wonder Years” TV script — boyfriend-girlfriend awkward moments Substitute: Movie script from “Prince among Slaves” — about a West African prince who maintained his religion and his dignity even though he was forced into slavery in America (a UPF production, not in the “Treasury”) 4 “Broken Chain” — short story about a teenage boy who agonizes about what to wear in order to fit in, and is embarrassed by some boys claiming he likes a certain girl. Substitute: “What the Birds Know” — a short story from Khlila wa Dimna: animal fables spun around two jackals and their dealings in the court of their king — the Lion; about an old Muslim killed on his way to hajj who calls on the birds above to witness to God for justice, by a Persian (Iranian) author. 5. “Barrio Boy” — a pseudo autobiography about a Mexican boy who starts first grade not understanding any English. Substitute: “Autobiography of Ibn Sina” — about the famous polymath Ibn Sina from Afghanistan. 6. “Fish Cheeks” — an autobiographical account of a Chinese American which begins with “I fell in love with the minister’s son … when I turned 14.” Substitute: Interpreting the Self — the autobiography of al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi, Islamic scholar and Sufi, from Afghanistan. The “Treasury of Muslim Literature: The Golden Age 750-1250 CE,” is designed as an integrative text, including religious subjects as well as historical and geographical beside the usual “literary” subjects found in Western anthologies. The middle school teacher can use individual selections, plan to teach the anthology in one year or over three years. Lesson plans are available. Language arts classes should include literature from the West as well as from Muslim countries. This “Treasury” includes only the works of Muslims due to the amount of material that was produced in the Golden Age.
While this is the only integrated Muslim literature text, it can be used as the sole textbook one year, with Western literature taught in other years. But when more books are available, it would be best to include some from both cultures in every year. However, the Western material should be chosen to reflect western classics. What is really needed is more Muslim authored textbooks. In the mean time, teachers should read each selection from a critical Muslim eye before using it in class. They can: Collect appropriate stories and nonfiction from different subjects that can be placed in a Muslim authored text for a particular reading level. Use this material in your classroom and add your lesson plans to your text. Contribute your stories/selections to a joint project, perhaps under the auspices of the Islamic Schools League or CISNA. God willing together we can begin to steer our schools toward a more Islamic worldview.
Condensed from Dr. Freda Shamma’s paper read at the ISNA Education Conference, Chicago, April 2014, with author’s permission. Shamma is author of “The Treasury of Muslim Literature: The Golden Age 750-1250 CE” (Amana Publications; First Edition, 2013).
ISLAMIC SCHOOL IN SOUTH FLORIDA Seeking a dynamic educational leader to lead our school to next level of excellence for 2014 – 2015 school year.
Qualifications: 1. At least three years experience as a principal 2. Master’s degree in education or related educational field 3. Legal resident of the United States 4. Principal Certification or pursuing certification If you are interested in applying for the principal position, please submit your resume via email to email@example.com.
Muslim Americans Lack Autism Awareness Are Muslim communities doing enough to raise awareness about autism? BY AYA KHALIL
hen Tunde Brazlik would pick up her daughter from Sunday Islamic school, people would tell her to leave her son, Amin, who is autistic, outside before entering the school. Brazlik stopped taking her daughter to the school. She discovered her now 10-yearold son had Autism Spectrum Disorder, a brain development disorder, when he was 14 months. “The Muslim community did not want to deal with him at any point of time,” said Brazlik, a nurse and special education teacher, adding that her main support system was people of other faiths through whom she found lots of help and encouragement. “Many times Muslims looked down on me and my kids, and I was subjected to some very cruel, unreasonable questionings and comments,” she said. Brazlik started a blog, My Autistic Muslim Child (http://myautisticmuslimchild.com), to address such issues and communicate with similarly affected parents. Brazlik and her family moved to Saudi Arabia from Orlando about two years ago. The situation isn’t any easier there. “Being in a Muslim country doesn’t make it better either, so it is not just the problem of Western countries,” she said. In Saudi Arabia, Brazlik mostly lets her children play with children of other faiths so there is little chance of them being bullied because of Amin’s autism. Even if Muslim 26
kids are understanding, their parents are not, she said. Brazlik said autism has such a stigma in the Muslim community because many do not understand the problem, thinking that it’s a disciplinary issue that will go away, or they have some irrational ideas, or a sense of shame. Joanna Beituni, who works in the educational technology field in Washington, D.C., is striving to get Muslim and Arab communities more involved with autism awareness. She started a team for the Walk Now Autism Speaks in Chicago, called Arabs Walk Now. This is her fourth year organizing it and the team’s goal is to raise $15,000 for autism research. Many people within the Arab community lack knowledge when it comes to disabilities. Often mothers are blamed and people wonder if she did something wrong during her pregnancy or in bringing up her child. “A lot of times, it’s just brushed under the carpet,” Beituni said. “The Quran and hadith say that people with disability shouldn’t be shunned. Disabilities shouldn’t hold you back. Unfortunately, people mix culture with religion so they say things like, ‘we’re going to hide the child with disability because we want our other child to get married.’” Beituni quoted what a speaker at the 50th annual ISNA Convention said about disabilities: “Allah didn’t give us a disability. He gave us a special ability.” Often parents don’t notice their child has autism until a professional points out the problem, said Itedal Shalabi, executive
director and co-founder of Arab American Family Services (AAFS). “A lot of time people are uneducated about it and sometimes they don’t understand the signs going on,” she said. AAFS started training its staff after noticing an increase in the number of families with an autistic child. “It became quite a concern and we needed to address it,” Shalabi said. “So when the parents are here for other services, we will pay attention to the children.” Among the signs AAFS staff members look for in children are no eye contact, very little speaking, and being isolated from others. Shalabi said there is often a stigma when it comes to disabilities in Arab communities. “A lot of times the mom gets even more shunned [than the child],” she said. “There needs to be awareness campaigns, and if there’s a child with special needs, you don’t need to make the mom and child segregated in the community. We need to make the space of the mosque a haven for moms.” Wafiyyah Muhammad, a special education teacher for 28 years in Newark, said there are several ways the Muslim community can help cater to children with autism. “The Muslim community can help make families living with autism feel more welcome by fostering acceptance and respect throughout the community and masjid by spreading autism awareness,” she said. At Masjid Ibrahim in Newark, Imam Mustafa El-Amin helps spread autism awareness in the community in several ways such as providing literature on autism, and hosting book giveaways with autism literature distributed along with school supplies and books. Celebrating Autism Awareness Month is another way the mosque spreads awareness. Another idea is to have a bulletin board display in the mosque lobby. Brazlik agreed raising awareness in the Muslim community is a must. “In the community we find a lot of prejudice [with] regards to so many things,” she said. “One of them [is] autism or other mental [disabilities]. I spoke with a lot of born Muslim families who are happy to be able to talk to me freely about their kids’ autism because they don’t have to worry about if I will talk behind their back, I will judge them, or make it impossible for their typical kids to get married into a good family.”
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MANY PEOPLE DO NOT TAKE AUTISM SERIOUSLY, THINKING THAT IT’S A DISCIPLINARY ISSUE THAT WILL GO AWAY, OR THEY HAVE SOME IRRATIONAL IDEAS, OR A SENSE OF SHAME. “Furthermore, one family told me that mental health issues [have] always been hush hush in a Muslim community, and it is very hard to address them due to consequences later in life,” she added. “Hiding something will not take the problem away, but it will enhance it over time.” Brazlik said the main goal should be educating the community and religious leaders about these problems, and setting up a plan for how the community can pitch in and help. Accommodating children with autism in Islamic schools is crucial, said Beituni. She said training staff on how to deal with autism and acknowledging families is important. “Islamic schools can accommodate students with autism by making sure that each student is being educated in the least restrictive environment according to his/her Individualized Education Plan,” said Muhammad. “This is the legal document that outlines the goals [and] objectives for the student.” Schools also must provide staff members and support teams for those students, such as speech and occupational therapists. Spreading autism awareness will help schools foster respect toward and acceptance of affected students. Brazlik said due to a bad experience with Sunday schools, she probably would not send her children to an Islamic school unless close friends who are special educators or therapists open a school. “It is important for Muslim families to be able to send their children to an Islamic school, therefore, why can’t the special need children have that option too,” she said. “Autism is a very diverse, wide spectrum, and we all need to understand if we see something not to judge, and show mercy toward the child and their family,” Brazlik said. “I see Muslims, young and old, staring at my son, making ugly comments about him and my parenting skills, which used to made me cry. Now my answer to them is, ‘I feel sorry for you treating a person of [paradise] so poorly, surely you don’t have a clue what a blessing [it is] to be around someone whose status is so high.’” Brazlik said although it’s not easy to be a parent of an autistic child, it’s not impossible. “I started a 30 days challenge on my blog, posting pictures about what we do every day for 30 days with a very short commentary hoping to reach to those who feel alone, inadequate or lost in the 24/7 caretaker’s world.” Parents in the Muslim and Arab community should stop shunning their children who have any disability and learn more about autism, said Shalabi. “If you are shunning your child, [the community] will shun your kids,” she said. “[They] can contribute so much to society. They are a gift from God. Respect them, and have them be a part of our community.”
Aya Khalil is a freelance journalist and educator and can be contacted at www. ayakhalil.blogspot.com
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Recommended Educational Apps and Websites AYA KHALIL
hen I was in school, we didn’t have educational apps for phones. There were some educational websites and software we used in school (such as “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”). Today, there is an abundance of educational and learning apps. I asked teachers, parents and students what some of their favorite apps were and tested them out, along with apps I have used in my classrooms. Here are my top favorite educational apps (for iPhones and iPads) and websites for students. Of course, technology should never replace the teacher in the classroom, rather it should supplement what’s being taught or used for review. These are great for centers, free time, indoor recess, or when there’s extra time at the end of the classroom.
ARABIC: Arabic Alphabet Jungle — I use this in my Arabic classroom all the time during centers. Students can learn and review Arabic animals with each of the Arabic letters. There’s also the Arabic alphabet song they can play. ABC Arabic for kids — This app has fun Arabic games for children to help them learn and review letters and numbers. It also has songs for kids to singalong. Arabic Alphabet — My students loved taking the quiz on this app to test their knowledge of letters or vocabulary.
ISLAMIC STUDIES: Muslim Kids Series: Duaa — This is a great app to teach your students certain supplications, including for waking up, before eating, and after eating. Allah Made the World — My students loved listening to this story because it’s interactive, colorful, and the sounds are fun. The author, Suzanne Muir, explains Allah’s creations such as the moon, sun, and the diversity of people. Ramadan Mubarak — Happy Ramadan. This app, also created and written by the same author of Allah Made the World, teaches kids about Ramadan and Eid. This is great for elementary students. If your child attends a public or private (non-Islamic) school, this app would be great for the teacher to read to the class. Ali and Sumaya: Let’s Pray! — This is a great app for children who are learning to pray. It features stories on praying, wudu (ablution) and games. Children have the choice to read out loud or read quietly. Kids of the Ummah — This is a wonderful app that 28
focuses on the diversity of Muslims all over the world. It has puzzles, coloring “pages,” and fun activities.
INTERACTIVE APPS: Story Me — This is similar to Bitstrips, where you can make cartoons and comics and add captions. Story me is great for older students in foreign language classes. You can assign students to make a story using the foreign language you’re teaching with this app and share it with the classroom. Flashcards+ — Instead of using real flashcards and losing them, there are a ton of flashcards on this app, including math, Spanish, and more. This is excellent for high school students. Read Me Stories — Children’s Book is like a Kindle for children. They can read a new book every day. There’s also audio for those who like to listen to stories. Toontastic — Similar to Story Me, where students can create cartoons and make their own stories and personalize characters. This is nice because students can easily share their stories with family and friends. Endless Reader — This is a fun app for children who are beginning or learning to read. This helps students recognize common sight words with fun pictures and puzzles. Khan Academy — This is based on Salman Khan’s educational website where he has posted thousands of educational videos ranging from math to science. You can watch many of those videos on this app.
EDUCATIONAL WEBSITES TO CHECK OUT: ABCmouse.com — This is a popular educational website among preschoolers and kindergartners. It has a wide range of activities, reading, and coloring. There are hundreds of lesson plans available on this website. They have a free 30-day trial, after which one can purchase a subscription for $7.95 per month or $79 per year. Notimeforflashcards.com — This website has many great ideas for children of all ages. They have arts and crafts, cooking activities, math, science and and reading sections. The website is easy to navigate because you can search by age or by category. http://www.storylineonline.net — I used this website often when I worked at an after-school program at a private elementary school. I would let a student choose a book and we would all sit and listen/ watch it. I would then ask them questions about the book after we were done and have them ask questions. It’s a fun way to incorporate reading, and children love it.
Aya Khalil is a freelance journalist and educator. She can be contacted at www.ayakhalil.blogspot.com
ISLAMIC HORIZONS MARCH/APRIL 2014
51 ANNUAL ISNA CONVENTION ST
Elevating Muslim American Culture Register Online at WWW.ISNA.NET
1 Washington Blvd • Detroit, MI 48226
August 29 – September 1, 2014 CONVENTION HIGHLIGHTS Main Sessions (ISNA, MSA, MYNA) « More than 200 renowned speakers « Parallel Sessions Bazaar with 550 booths « Entertainment Program « Interfaith Reception Qira’at Competition « CSRL Luncheon « Matrimonial Banquets « Art Exhibit Islamic Film Festival « Health Fair « Meet the Author Program Photography Exhibit « Children’s Program « Babysitting CONTACT:
Phone: (317) 838-8129 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Web: www.isna.net
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
A Mujahida Against Vice Can Muslims join mainstream efforts in educating against vice? BY ASMAOU DIALLO
ianne M. Berlin, an American activist from Penryn, Penn., has been battling the ills that Muslims were prohibited more than 1,400 years ago. Berlin, 72, a lifelong Pennsylvania resident, celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary last year. She is an inspiration to many Muslims who can support her work and pursue similar efforts as it coincides with what the Quran and Sunnah requires of them. In 1983, Berlin led a national effort by public broadcasting networks, dubbed “The Chemical People,” at the urging of her pastor. It led to her being invited to the White House Conferences for a Drug-Free America and numerous opportunities to speak at conferences. An email networker for nearly 15 years, Berlin continues her fight to make a difference. She has started writing letters to the editors again. She distributed “bulletin inserts” at various churches last year. Two car window clings she produced years ago have served as mini-billboards reading “Alcohol is a drug” and “Gambling is theft.” “Legalizing something harmful never eliminates the harm,” Berlin said. “It just changes the legal consequences and usually for those who produce, promote, and in other ways, profit financially from the ‘legalized’ substance or activity with very little to no regard for the negative impact on society at large.” Berlin stresses the need to undermine the “normalization” of the reckless, unnecessary use of any drug, and wants to see a massive public campaign to destroy the belief that there is such a thing as “recreational” drug use and “experimentation.” “Life is too precious for us to be so careless,” she said. And cautions that nearly every drug has negative side-effects leading to secondary health issues. People need to develop a healthy respect for their minds and bodies and use drugs only when absolutely necessary. According to the World Health Organization’s 2014 World Cancer Report, the major sources of preventable cancer include smoking and alcohol.
Berlin believes a change in attitude is possible and it can happen if enough people care enough to get involved. She said she wants to hear from people or speak to groups interested in making positive changes. She also calls for a focus on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders that are preventable birth defects, but don’t get the attention they should.
DIANNE M. BERLIN: “I AM CONSIDERED BY MANY TO BE IRRITATING AND BY OTHERS AS A HERO.” Berlin shared her passion with IH and her fight to make a difference in peoples’ lives. IH: Who is Dianne M. Berlin? Have you always lived in Pennsylvania? DMB: Many consider me to be irritating, and others see me as a hero. In looking in my life’s rearview mirror, I realize that I always had an interest and have been active in social justice issues. As an eternal optimist, I believe that people can make this world a better place. IH: What made you enter the fight against drugs, gambling and alcohol? DMB: As a teacher, I knew that a child’s
genes are important, but the environment in which a child grows also plays a major role in his or her development as a person. This knowledge was reinforced when I became a mother and became aware of the problems of the growing drug use. It is unreal to put children in charge of changing social justice issues, while adults stand by and let bad things happen without working to stop what can be stopped, and change that which can be changed. Prevention, the most sensible of all efforts, is given the least attention. Too many of the so-called “prevention” efforts are even controlled by drug pushers or those involved in areas where they limit prevention to children. These result in mixed messages which are actually “do” messages. Of course, I have very high standards for those who should be teaching or promoting prevention. Sadly, too many of these national efforts did not acknowledge alcohol as one of the drugs. However, during one White House Conferences for a Drug-Free America, one of the speakers was loudly corrected when making the commonly used “drugs and alcohol” by a group representing Teen Challenge, a treatment center, shouting “alcohol is a drug!” This is important in understanding the poor public policy decisions on alcohol because the alcohol lobbyists have much clout with our elected officials in all parties. I served on our denomination’s advocacy board (United Methodist Witness in Pennsylvania) when one of our members went to an anti-gambling conference. The information he brought back was very upsetting when our incoming governor, Tom Ridge, was said to be pushing riverboat gambling. Our organization took the lead in organizing a statewide diverse coalition and successfully held back the push for gambling expansion for a decade. When an off-track betting parlor was trying to come into a community in Lancaster County, I decided to help that community fight. Although we lost, it served to teach me about the dirty underbelly of the way that unnecessary harm is dumped on citizens and the role of money in politics. One of the people from Penn National Racetrack described me as “relentless,” and at the time, I was appalled. Now, I wear that description with honor. Those who push vice always count on grassroots getting tired of the battles. That is so often the case, but I
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am either not that bright or just so anxious to taste victory. I became involved on the national and international levels. I resigned from National Coalition of Legalized Gambling when they changed their mission. I felt that they were on the wrong track and just could not compromise my own beliefs, position, integrity and credibility. I still do email networking on the gambling issue and help when and where I can, just as I do with the alcohol and other drugs. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had words which are so wise for all people regardless of their beliefs. They run around in my head when I get discouraged. I believe that God used him to help people see the possibilities of positive social change. He said: “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.” Can you imagine the world if we all lived those words? I hope to live to see this. IH: How are Drug Prevention Week and the Alcohol Awareness Month organized? Who usually participates in them? DMB: Awareness Month is April. It is up to the various groups and individuals who work on this issue to take on projects that they believe are important. I have usually used the opportunity to educate through distributing informational brochures. Some organizations sponsor screenings for addiction. Others may have special alcohol-free events. For Red Ribbon Week, it’s the schools that take the lead. There are two Sundays in Red Ribbon Week which faith groups and others could use to address the drug issue. When I chaired our county group, we worked together and our local group decorated the town square with large red ribbons on the trees to call attention to drug issue. Over the years, I have used these two opportunities to spread information that just may help prevent or stop someone from using alcohol or the other drugs. As a member of our denomination’s church and society, I have provided flyers, brochures, window clings, etc., at our conferences. Other opportunities are when there is focus on domestic violence, prisons, etc. IH: Do you participate in any health fair locally/or otherwise organized to pass on your message? DMB: When I first got involved in the issue of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, our
community group participated in health fairs. They were very useful experiences. Over the years, I have made educational materials available to individuals and groups on my network. Some of them do participate in health fairs as well as other events such as county fairs, faith related events, etc. My email network has helped me reach people who do participate in health fairs and other events. In keeping them well informed, they can use that information in reaching others. Many of them have their own email networks and sites allowing the “ripple” effect. IH: What hurdles do you encounter? Do you think you have had any impact? DMB: One of the hurdles is to get people away from the usual debates about the use of alcohol and other drugs, which only seem to divert attention from the real issue about what the real use of any drug should be, and that is for a legitimate medical reason when drug-free methods are not effective. Another is having people be led like sheep by the booze producers and pushers with their slick and less than honest advertising. For far too many, the legality of alcohol and, now in some states, marijuana, is used to disguise the harm of these drugs. Every time I get an opportunity, I try to reinforce good adult behavior by complimenting them. It is great to see parents out with their children and not having alcohol. I have made at least a small difference. One of the young adults from our congregation moved away and found a church with a
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young adult group. When he came back to visit his family, he made it a point to share with me that this young adult group had social events and none involved alcohol. My personal experience is that a window cling is a great way to start conversations as well as send a message. For example, one man was pumping gas when I was and complimented me on my window clings. He was an addiction counselor. Of course, I had some in my trunk and asked him if he would like some. Supposedly, bumper stickers on cars will reach 25,000 people. There have been many other examples but needless to say, there are millions who haven’t gotten the message. This crusade is not over unfortunately. IH: Any joy in doing what you are doing? Any regrets? Any hope? DMB: My greatest reward is meeting either in person or via the Internet some of God’s most caring people who are willing to give time and effort to this issue. When I have had down moments, there has been what I call “divine intervention” by someone sent into my life who cares about these issues too. Regrets? Yes. Alcohol use is still causing unnecessary injuries, deaths, violence and other crimes, etc., and babies born with FASD. Alcohol is the only cause of alcohol problems. My hope is that people become less gullible and are not easily seduced by the glitzy, less than truthful advertising for vices.
Asmaou Diallo is a Maryland-based freelance journalist.
MUSLIMS IN ACTION
Year of Light and Reflection Can Muslims reconnect to their scholarship and enlighten the fields of light and light-based technologies? BY SAMEEN AHMED KHAN
ear 2015 was declared as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) during the 71st Plenary Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly’s 68th Session held Dec. 20, 2013. While IYL 2015 will be a time to recognize the Greek and the Arab pioneers of optics, it should also be a time to reflect on the decline of science in the Arab and the Muslim world, and to address the theme of the renaissance of science in these countries. IYL 2015 represents more than 10 centuries, since the publication of the great works on optics by the medieval Arab scholars, during the Islamic Golden Age. Abu Saad Alaa Ibn Sahl (d. 1001CE) had translated Greek books on optics including Ptolemy’s Optics. Ibn Sahl’s book, “On The Burning Instruments”, published in 984 CE, is both experimental (he provides the mechanical means to draw the conic sections) and theoretical.
The diagram on refraction of light from the book by Ibn Sahl (published in 984) In this book, he stated the law of refraction of light (commonly and erroneously known as the Snell’s law after Dutch scientist, Willebrord Snellius,1580-1626) long before Snellius himself. Abu Ali al-Hasan ibn alHaytham (965-1039, known as Alhacen/ 32
Alhazen, the Latin transliteration of his first name al-Hasan) wrote 14 books on optics alone, where he acknowledged his mentor, Ibn Sahl. Ibn al-Haytham’s magnum opus, “Kitabl al-Manazir” (Book of Optics), earned him the title of father of optics. This book was translated into Latin in 1270 as “Opticae Thesaurus Alhazen,” and many prominent European scientists, including Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Johannes Kepler (15711630), Roger Bacon (1214-92), Isaac Newton (1643-1727), and others benefited from Ibn al-Haytham’s theories. The IYL 2015 partnership, formed in 2010, a cross-disciplinary educational and outreach project comprises more than 100 partners from more than 85 countries, and U.N. Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s International Basic Sciences Program. At its 190th session held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris from Oct. 3-18, 2012, the UNESCO Executive Board had adopted a resolution welcoming and endorsing an IYL in 2015 and formally submitted the plan to the U.N. on Nov. 6, 2013. Several years of lobbying by numerous optics-related organizations eventually led to the proclamation. The resolution’s text, adopted as part of a more general agenda item on science and technology for development, read: “Applications of light science and technology are vital for existing and future advances in medicine, energy, information and communications, fiber optics, astronomy, architecture, archaeology, entertainment and culture.”
The central role of light needs no elaboration. On a basic level it provides us vision. On the most fundamental level through photosynthesis (mostly in the green leaves of plants), light is necessary to the existence of life itself. In the human skin, sunlight induces the synthesis of the essential vitamin D. The
science of light is applied in the technological field known as photonics, and this theme addresses the important ways that photonic devices impact areas such as medicine, communications and energy. When harnessed, the light-based technologies can promote sustainable development and provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture, health and well-being. Light is more than just science and technology. Light matters to all. IYL 2015 will create a forum for scientists and engineers and all others inspired by light to interact with each other and with the public to learn more about the nature of light and its many applications. IYL 2015 is a tremendous opportunity to ensure that policymakers are made aware of the problem-solving potential of light technology. As light becomes the key crosscutting discipline of science and engineering in the 21st century, it is essential that the brightest young minds continue to be attracted into careers in this field.
AS LIGHT BECOMES THE KEY CROSSCUTTING DISCIPLINE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING IN THE 21ST CENTURY, IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT THE BRIGHTEST YOUNG MINDS CONTINUE TO BE ATTRACTED INTO CAREERS IN THIS FIELD. IYL 2015 commemorates a remarkable series of important milestones in the history of the physics of light, when several major scientific anniversaries will be celebrated, starting with Ibn Al-Haytham’s work (1015). Other noted celebrations will be the notion of light as a wave proposed by Fresnel in 1815; the electromagnetic theory of light propagation proposed by Maxwell in 1865; Einstein’s theory of the photoelectric effect in 1905; Einstein’s embedding of light in cosmology through general relativity in 1915; the discovery of the cosmic microwave background by Penzias and Wilson in 1965; and Charles Kao’s achievements in 1965 concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication.
Prof. Sameen Ahmed Khan, Salalah College of Technology, Salalah, Oman
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A Blazing Light
Senior drilling engineer Shereen Yusuff serves as a role model for girls BY TASKEEN ALI KHAN
f asked about the most influential people in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers, most girls would probably list Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs among the top. As yet, women don’t dominate STEM careers, but they are making successful inroads. One woman who has proven herself to be exceptional in this field is 29-year-old Shereen Yusuff, who graduated as an aerospace engineer and today works as a senior engineer in the oil and gas industry. In 2013, Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide listed Yusuff as a Professional of the Year in her field. An Indian immigrant, born and raised in Oman, Yusuff currently works in the United States. She is an accomplished athlete, student, and has broken barriers choosing to work as an engineer on oil rigs in India, China, U.S. and Brazil, in a field occupied by mostly men.
WOMAN IN A MAN’S WORLD Starting with her acceptance at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur’s highly selective engineering school, Yusuff was a woman competing in a man’s world. Her chosen field, aerospace engineering, was male dominated. Though outnumbered, she stood out, graduating in the top five percent of her department. In 2005, she topped more than 500 internship applicants to get hired by Schlumberger, the international oil and gas company. After her training in China, Schlumberger gave her a pre-placement offer to continue with them. Thus began her journey in the oil and gas industry. Yusuff did more
than stand out — she climbed the corporate ladder with astonishing speed and became a senior drilling engineer at a young age. “I worked on offshore deepwater rigs as a field engineer for three years – mostly in Mumbai, China, and the Gulf of Mexico,” Yusuff said. “I got a double promotion and at the age of 24, became the youngest manager at the time and worked in Louisiana for two years from 2008 to 2010.” Yusuff went on to become a drilling manager managing multiple projects in Brazil and is now in Houston with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation as a senior drilling engineer.
IT STARTS WITH THE FAMILY Yusuff credits her parents for instilling a sense of dedication in her. “I was raised in a culture where girls did not get the needed support simply because it was not the norm for girls to achieve academically or professionally,” she said. “Luckily, my parents decided to go against the norm and supported me through my endeavors. As the years went by, and I left home, and I didn’t have the support of my family anymore, it seemed to get harder and harder, simply because of all the preset rules. Nonetheless, I have always chosen the path less travelled, faced hardships and come out stronger.” Yusuff continues to embody this motto in her athletics. “It began in Muscat, Oman, with my love of tennis,” she said. By the age of 10, Yusuff was number one in Oman as a Under-14 and UnderW-16, and a year later claimed the distinction of being number one in every category she was eligible for. “Before graduating university, I won the Bhandarkar Cup, which is given to the
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sportsperson of the year,” Yusuff said. “I am only the second female to have achieved the distinction since 1951, when IIT Kharagpur opened its doors.” Yusuff never let work overshadow her athletic interests. She makes sure to find time for hiking and Capoeira, a martial art she was introduced to in Brazil. “I learned to do hikes that usually require three to five days in 11 to 13 hours. I still hike to this day, and have started doing multiple excursion day hikes,” she said. In 2009, Yusuff participated in her first running event, a half marathon in New Orleans and a marathon in Orange County, Calif. She competed in another marathon in Rio de Janeiro in 2011. Yusuff is the second Indian woman to have competed in the 2013 Ironman Texas. “I also love rock climbing, and when I am resting, reading and painting are my destressing agents,” she said. Yusuff said she strives to empower others with self-confidence and support, just the way her parents did with her. “I believe I am who I am because of the different cultures I have been exposed to having lived in Oman, India, China, U.S.A. and Brazil, books I have read, and for leaving room to be influenced by keeping an open mind yet maintaining my core values,” she said. “Almost all my life, I have chosen fields where women were a minority. However, I have never let this deter me. Focus, hard work, and dedication is all that is needed, and the constant negative force that comes from external factors needs to be zoned out. Some of us are lucky to have supportive people around us, while not all of us are as fortunate. However, with the right attitude, there is no limit to what you can achieve.”
Taskeen Ali Khan is an award-winning writer based in the Chicago area.
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Welcoming a Multi-Religious Vision of Peace Dr. Syeed second from the left in the second row, in a crowd of 600 religious leaders of the world in Vienna
BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF
ore than 600 religious leaders and people of faith representing faith traditions from every region of the world gathered at the Ninth World Assembly of Religions for Peace, Nov. 22-26, in Vienna, Austria. The global Religions for Peace family — which convenes every five to six years — encompasses 90 national interreligious councils and groups, five regional councils, one world council, and international networks of religious women and religious youth that call to work together for peace. Previous world assemblies of Religions for Peace have discerned positive elements of peace, common threats to peace, and a multi-religious consensus expressed through shared values for peace. We commit to common action based upon these deeply held and widely shared values, as a foundation for affirming the imperative of “welcoming the other” as the heart of our multireligious vision of peace. Representing ISNA were Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, national director, and Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, director of community outreach,
for ISNA Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances. A new World Council was elected at the gathering. Syeed was elected co-president and Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah was named the new Muslim representative on the council, which includes Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, indigenous, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Shinto, Taoist and Zoroastrian religious leaders. Members adopted a communiqué (http:// www.rfp.org/sites/default/files/pubications/ Vienna%20Declaration%20-%20Final.pdf) declaring that “the delegates of the Ninth World Assembly of Religions for Peace are united in our commitment to resist threats to peace that take the form of hostility toward the other, and to take positive action to welcome the other by promoting the true flourishing of all human beings. These dual commitments and corresponding calls to action express our multi-religious vision of peace.” Conference attendees also declared that peace is central to “our respective religions, and our diverse faiths compel us to work together to build it. They affirmed that love, compassion and honesty are stronger than hate, indifference and deceit. While affirming the dignity of genders
and “equal partners in our efforts to build peace,” leaders resolved to stand on “the side of and raise up the most vulnerable, and to promote just and harmonious societies.” The communiqué stresses that the special state of childhood deserves protection and care, and should receive priority from among our societies’ resources. Leaders reminded that nonviolent conflict transformation through dialogue and reconciliation are central to peacemaking; and the positive elements of peace “we share are inextricably linked to our shared calling to confront common threats to peace.” The threats include the misuse of religion in support of all manner of violence, including violent extremism; an ongoing spiritual crisis that erodes values that support life; violent conflict and the proliferation of arms; extreme and growing inequality, including widespread violations of basic rights; violence against women, abuse of children and weakening support for families; extreme poverty, preventable diseases left untreated, and broad scale lack of opportunity; and environmental degradation, natural resource depletion, and climate change, all of which threaten civic order and human flourishing. The communiqué read, “We support the
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robust promotion of tolerance, a principle that is fostered by recognizing universal human rights and is essential for welcoming the other.” The document read, “welcoming the other both strengthens and goes beyond tolerance by calling each religious community to stand in solidarity with the dignity, vulnerability and well-being of the ‘other,’ with the full force of its respective spiritual and moral teachings. Such teachings are specific to each religious tradition. Welcoming the other calls us to work to advance the full flourishing of human dignity through the holistic development of human beings.” The communiqué stressed that religious communities, working together can be powerful actors to prevent violence before it erupts, diffuse conflict when it occurs, and lead their communities to rebuild war-torn societies. Excessive resources devoted to arms are better spent to alleviate poverty, advance education and basic healthcare for all, and address environmental challenges. “Welcoming the other involves seeing ourselves in each other. To facilitate this, we must teach nonviolence, conflict prevention strategies, and the universal value of peace to our children. Our shared positive vision of peace grounds for us a human right to peace.” Religious communities, it read, welcome the other when they work together to advance human development that respects the earth. “Welcoming the other rejects complicity in the destruction of the earth, which aggravates disasters and human distress. The preservation of our air, soil and water is essential for human survival and well-being. Development should honor the continuity of life, preserving nature for the benefit of present and future generations.” “Our respective religious communities can become centers of religious education on welcoming the other. To do this, we must reclaim our own religious teachings that call us to welcome the other, widely share them among our respective faith communities, including our young people, and put them into practice. Religious communities can work to reverse the rising tide of hostility toward the ‘other’ by advancing a multi-religious vision of peace and through multi-religious action.” Specifically, the Religions for Peace World Assembly called on: 1) Religious leaders and people of faith to honor and protect human dignity whenever
and wherever it is under attack; foster more active collaboration between women and men in exalting the dignity of women and girls, and work together to prevent violence against them; and speak out on behalf of vulnerable individuals and groups, and all people persecuted, or whose existence is denied, because of their faith. Also, they recognize that the well-being of immediate and extended families, as well as of communities, are a prerequisite to the well-being of children. Address climate change issues. Acknowledge the value of youth-led, grassroots initiatives aimed at welcoming others and promoting sustainable peace; advance spiritual values essential to shared well-being; reinforce acceptance of diversity in our communities; welcome the other through prayer and service; engage in multi-stakeholder partnerships to welcome the other; and leverage the power of multi-religious networks to welcome the other by advancing human dignity, shared well-being and citizenship through concrete multi-religious action. 2) Governments, international organizations and civil society to: Promote transparent governance that ensures and protects the development of comprehensive well-being and full enjoyment of universal human rights for all; provide legal remedies for victims of intolerance; promote social policies and legal norms that recognize the dignity of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced and stateless persons; advance citizenship that ensures human dignity while protecting the safety and well-being of all individuals, including freedom of religion or belief, and other rights of individuals and groups, whether in the majority or in the minority; ensure the protection of places of worship; eliminate nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and stem the proliferation of small arms; promote restorative justice to heal both the victims and the perpetrators of violent conflict; address threats of nuclear exposure and contamination to protect all living things and future generations; and support and partner with people of faith, religious leaders, religious communities, and religious networks in their efforts to welcome the other. 3) All people of good will to: Call attention to, and work to eliminate, all forms of intolerance and discrimination by states, by non-state actors, by civil society, by religious groups and leaders, and by individuals. And welcome the other.
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EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR POSITION The Noor Islamic Cultural Center (NICC) seeks a highly motivated, enthusiastic, and dynamic leader to be a full-time Executive Director (ED). NICC is one of the largest Islamic centers in central Ohio, and is located in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. The center serves over ten thousand Muslims with diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. RESPONSIBILITIES: • Work with the Board of Directors (BOD) and the Executive Committee (EC) to manage and coordinate the operations of NICC. • Manage and Supervise NICC staff. • Design, plan and execute youth programs. • Conduct effective fundraising and establish creative revenue generating programs to address NICC’s growing needs. • Represent NICC to external organizations and media. Improve outreach efforts with the community at large. REQUIREMENTS: Any candidate for the position must: • Have a bachelors, masters or advanced degree (courses or training in administration/management/finance are preferred). • Have at least 3 years of experience working as an Executive Director/Administrator (or in a similar capacity) with another Islamic organization(s). • Excellent communication skills and fluency in English. • Proficiency with commonly used computer programs • Strong knowledge and understanding of the Quran, and Hadith (fluency in Arabic preferred). • Possess management skills with experience in managing people and interacting with individuals of other faiths. • Experience as a successful fund raiser (experience with budgeting/finance preferred). • Must be a citizen or a permanent resident of the USA. COMPENSATION PACKAGE: • Salary commensurate with qualifications, knowledge, experience, skills and abilities. • Benefits include health insurance and three-week vacation. Interested candidates should send a cover letter, a resume and three references to email@example.com by April 18, 2014. 35
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Liberating Muslim Women: Really? Do other motives lurk behind the sympathy and support for Malala Yousafzai? BY ARUBA MAHMUD
ero. Traitor. CIA operative. Liar. American pawn. Courageous. Extraordinary. These are just some of the labels that have been given to Malala Yousafzai, the now 16-year-old Pakistani girl who rose to global fame after being targeted and shot by a Taliban gunman on Oct. 9, 2012, after campaigning for girls’ education in Pakistan. Yousafzai has since been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, has received the European Union’s Sakharov human rights prize, published the bestselling book, “I am Malala” (written by British journalist Christina Lamb), met with President Barack Obama, spoken at the United Nations, and also famously made an appearance on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Her attempted murder was a cowardly and heinous act which should be unilaterally condemned by all. Islamic organizations,
including The Fiqh Council of North America and ISNA, as well as leaders in Pakistan and around the world have spoken out against the attack. The discourse surrounding Yousafzai in Western and Pakistani news media, and the online “blogosphere” has highlighted interesting tensions and viewpoints. First though, who is Malala Yousafzai and how did this young girl from the Swat Valley of Pakistan become a household name worldwide?
WHO IS MALALA YOUSAFZAI? According to the BBC and Marie Brenner of Vanity Fair, Yousafzai first appeared in a November 2007 report from Pakistan’s Dawn news service. In the clip, she explained her fears of unrest in the formerly peaceful region of Swat. Her confidence in front of the camera and her clear, articulate speech caught the attention of Dawn reporter Sayed Irfan Ashraf, who would later interview her and her father, Ziauddin, a private school owner. A year later, when New York Times
journalist Adam B. Ellick traveled to Pakistan to investigate Pakistani news reports about the Taliban’s plans to ban girls’ education in January 2009 (Ellick, Oct. 8, 2013), Ashraf introduced him to Yousafzai and her father. Ellick outlines how he went on to make two short films about Yousafzai, which brought her story to a global audience — these films were later made into a 34-minute documentary available on the New York Times website. Also in 2009, the then 11-year-old began writing a blog for BBC Urdu under the pen name Gul Makai. The blog “captivated audiences with its heartfelt account of the struggle for girls’ education at a time when the Taliban controlled Swat,” according to BBC. Since then, Yousafzai continued to campaign for girls’ education and was nominated for The KidsRights Foundation’s International Children’s Peace prize in 2011, and in 2012 she was awarded the National Peace Award by the Pakistani government. Soon after returning to Swat, Yousafzai was shot in the head in October 2012, which
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brought her international attention and support. In the aftermath of the shooting, Yousafzai was flown to Britain for treatment, where she now resides with her father, mother and two brothers, and her father has been given a diplomatic appointment with the Pakistani embassy there. Yousafzai has made remarkable progress in her recovery and has used her newfound fame to bring awareness to her fight for girls’ education in Pakistan. However, while many laud her message and her passion, Malala Yousafzai has become the source of division and debate, particularly given the extensive coverage and attention which she has received from the Western media and public.
WESTERN MEDIA COVERAGE Yousafzai’s story fits nicely into the Western media’s seemingly insatiable need to “save” Muslim women from their perceived suffering and hardship, one which is presumed to be rooted in Islam, as well as (in this case) all of Pakistani society. Academics such as Goli Rezai-Rashti, Deepa Kumar, Lila Abu-Loghd and Edward Said have well documented that this need to “rescue” Muslim women and girls from their violent, patriarchal environment has existed since European colonization and imperialism, and is now ingrained in Western public, political, and media discourses. In November 2001, weeks after the American-led invasion of Afghanistan, the New York Times’ David Stout (Nov. 18, 2001) reported how then-First Lady Laura Bush used her husband’s radio show to speak about the plight of Afghan women, describing the “horror” felt by “civilized people” at “the brutal oppression of women [which] is a central goal of the terrorists.” Stout noted that Bush used her address to invoke fear and justify the war, stating that “…in Afghanistan, we see the world the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us.” This address kicked off a campaign meant to raise awareness of the Taliban’s oppression of women and children. The intention here is not to undermine the oppression of Muslim women, but rather to highlight how, in the West, Muslim women are seen as being in an exceptionally pitiful state, one which they can be “saved” from either by Western military intervention — as was the case in Afghanistan — or by coercion and legal measures — as in France and now possibly the Canadian province of Quebec, where state sponsored discrimination has targeted the hijab, niqab, and other religious symbols.
By highlighting the “otherness” of Muslim women, both those living abroad and those in the West who choose to wear the hijab and niqab, Western nations ignore and divert attention away from the sexism, abuse, exploitation, and oppression of women, which is rampant within their own borders and elsewhere, regardless of religious, cultural, or racial background. Yousafzai’s story is an inspiring one, yet many have noted that the media attention and sympathy her story has received is at least in part due to the fact that it fits into this narrative. The media coverage also has ignored that many Pakistani women are educated and instead has painted a picture of Pakistan as a primitive, backward nation. “The current narrative continues the demonization of the non-white Muslim man…the only way to deal with this kind of savage is to wage war, occupy and use drones against them. NATO is bombing to save girls like Malala is the message here,” wrote Aseed Baig regarding this “White Saviour Complex” (Huffington Post, July 12, 2013). The fact that Yousafzai has received global attention and recognition while thousands of children killed and maimed by drone strikes go unnoticed is a concern shared by many, including Omid Safi (Religionnews. com, Oct. 12, 2013) and British Minister of Parliament George Galloway, who on October 12, 2013, tweeted: “If Malala had been murdered in a drone-strike the UK media would never even have told you her name #sickhypocrites.” Although Yousafzai raised the issue of drone attacks in her meeting with President Obama, her concerns were largely ignored, by both her host and the news media. Though Western media must certainly be criticized for its hypocrisy, this should not
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detract from the fact that Yousafzai has been campaigning for girls’ education and spoke on foreign policy well before she was shot, as noted by Meriam Sabih in her blog post “Silencing Malala Yousafzai and the brown man’s honour complex.” Sheema Khan, a guest columnist for The Globe and Mail, like Sabih, argued that in such debates, the universality and strength of Yousafzai’s message, one which few, including her critics and detractors, find fault with, is lost. Many reduce Yousafzai’s message to Western propaganda, rather than directing criticism at the media, where it rightfully belongs. As Khan noted, Yousafzai has helped spread Islam’s message of peace and mercy, and it can also be argued that Yousafzai continues to wear the hijab and traditional shalwar kameez, something which at least symbolically helps challenge the stereotypes which associate hijab and “non-Western” traditions with oppression and backwardness. Despite criticism in some of the Pakistani community and media, who are resentful of the appropriation of and attention paid to Yousafzai while the impact of drones and other forms of American and Western imperialism are overlooked, this is not Yousafzai’s fault, but rather of Western governments and the media’s selective coverage. Safi wrote that Yousafzai has shown that she stands against brutality and injustice in all of its forms “whether it is state-sponsored violence or terrorism violence” and argued that this holistic sense of justice must be embraced by all. It is a noble message, which ideally will be heeded, if not by the media, then by “the millions of people inspired by the example of Malala.”
Aruba Mahmud is a freelance writer who is currently pursuing a PhD in Education at Western University in London, Ontario.
Not Ordained by the Quran The lack of women’s empowerment in Muslim societies contradicts the Quranic vision BY PARVEZ AHMED
o nation can rise to the height of glory unless your women are side by side with you,” warned Mohamed Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, in a 1944 address at Aligarh Muslim University. “We are victims of evil customs. It is a crime against humanity that our women are shut up within the four walls of the houses as prisoners. There is no sanction anywhere for the deplorable condition in which our women have to live,” he said. Seven decades later the status of Muslim women around the world has scarcely improved. Former President Jimmy Carter addressing an international conference on women and religion in Atlanta, Ga., on June 28, 2013, blamed religious leaders, including Christian and Muslim, for the mistreatment of women. The actions or the lack thereof from religious leaders and groups is certainly not the sole contributing factor. Women’s education has suffered at the hands of Muslim conservatives, secularists, nationalists and socialists. Finger pointing is not the solution.
GENDER EQUITY CHALLENGES The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2013 Report shows wide disparity in Muslim majority countries between genders, across four key areas of health, education, economics and politics. No Muslim majority country cracks the top 10 in gender equity, and nine out of 10 at the bottom of the list are Muslim majority countries. Despite enormous wealth, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates have been unable to close the gender gap. While there are no systematic studies regarding the gender gap in the Muslim American community, the 2011 Hartford Institute’s “Women and the American Mosque” study finds that only 18 percent of women attend Friday prayers and this number has not changed in more than a decade. Six out of 10 mosques have at least one woman on their board and only 13 38
percent of mosques do not allow women to serve on their boards — a 50 percent drop from a decade ago. And yet, only 14 percent of mosques scored “excellent” for being women-friendly. Among the five biggest Muslim American organizations, ISNA, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Muslim American Society (MAS), CAIR, and Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), only MPAC has more than two women serving on its board, while MAS has none. ISNA is the only organization to elect a woman to its top leadership positions. In 2004, roughly 40 years after its founding, MSA National elected a female to its top position long before any other national Muslim American organization did. With the notable exception of Muslim Advocates and Islamic Networks Group (ING), none of the major national American Muslim organizations are led by a woman in executive capacity.
ISLAM AND GENDER EQUITY Normative Islam, taken holistically, supports gender equity despite the presence of isolated texts that are mistaken as relegating women to subservient roles. The Quran (4:1) notes: “People, be mindful of your Lord, who created you from a single soul, and from it created its mate.” This verse along with verses 7:189 and 42:11 unambiguously assert that men and women have the same spiritual nature and they are created out of a single soul (nafsin wahida), and as our mates (azwaja), they are a part of us (min anfusikum). Given that both genders have the same spirit, thus it is only natural that the Quran obligates them to the same religious and moral duties and responsibilities. Contrary to the current state, the Quranic message was transformative, at least among the first generation of Muslims. The first person to believe in the message of Prophet Muhammad (Salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was a woman, his first wife Khadija (‘alayhi Rahmat). Two of the Prophet’s wives, ‘Aisha (‘alayhi Rahmat) and ‘Umm Salama (‘alayhi
Rahmat) are among the greatest narrators of prophetic traditions. Much of what Muslims practice today is transmitted via the scholarship of these two great women. Another woman among the Companions, Nusayba bint Kaab, was celebrated for her military skills. In the battle of Uhud, after initially volunteering to supply drinking water to the fighters, upon observing the situation, she joined the battle and was wounded while serving in the Prophet’s defense circle. The Prophet said that on the battlefield that day, she was unsurpassed by anyone else, man or woman (Mahmood Ahmad Ghadanfar, “Great Women of Islam,” Riyadh. 2001. pp. 207-215). Islam’s most sacred place, Mecca, was founded by Hajar, the wife of Abraham (‘alayhum as Salam). Her diligence and faith remarkable, as that of her celebrated husband. The first martyr in Islam was a woman, Sumayah (‘alayhi Rahmat). The world’s first academic degree-granting
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institution of higher education, which is still in operation today, the University of Qarawiyyin in Morocco, was established by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri. Dr. Jamal Badawi in his short book, “Gender Equity in Islam: Basic Principles” (American Trust Publications, July 1995), states: “Nowhere does the Quran state that one gender is superior to the other. Some mistakenly translate ‘qiwamah’ in 4:34 as superiority, when in reality it implies a greater degree of responsibility.” At-Tabari, who lived two centuries after the Prophet, conceptualized the relationship of qiwamah as being conditional upon the man being able to take care of the wife’s socioeconomic needs. This cannot be generalized as any inherent superiority of men over women. In the Quran, qawwamun, used three times is conjoined with the idea of justice and fairness. Later in the same verse, 4:34, another word, wadribuhunna, also has contested meanings. The verse reads: “And as for those
women whose ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them, then forsake them from physical intimacy, and then wadribuhunna.” wadribuhunna is derived from the triliteral root “da ra ba,” from which 55 verb forms result in the Quran. These verbs have wide variations in their meanings — from strike (idrib) to travel or put forth (darabu). Yet, Muhammad Asad translates wadribuhunna as “beat them,” Yusuf Ali as “beat them (lightly),” Pickthall as “scourge,” and Thomas Cleary as “spank them.” Such parochial translations contradict the Quran’s central message of fairness and mercy. In Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon one of the definitions of “daraba,” the root for wadribuhunna, is “to go away.” This then allows wadribuhunna to have alternative meanings than the commonly misunderstood “beat” or “strike.” Reading without context causes words, such as wadribuhunna, to be used by some men to justify spousal abuse. Amal Killawi, who contributed to Imam Suhaib Webb’s website (Oct. 31, 2011), noted: “Based on the few studies that we have about Muslims in America, we know that 12 percent to 18 percent of Muslims in the United States experience physical abuse, and 30 percent to 40 percent experience emotional abuse.” These numbers mirror rates in the general American population. The Londonbased group, Imams Against Domestic Abuse, released a report authored by Imām Abdullāh Hasan, “The End to Hitting Women: The Qur’ānic Concept of Ḍarb (‘hitting’)” (Nov. 24, 2013), reading: “Under no circumstances is abuse against women, in its various manifestations, encouraged or allowed in Islam.” Violence cannot be a cure for marital woes. There are no reports of the Prophet ever hitting his wives, even though he encountered many marital challenges. Classical scholars such as At-Tabari (d. 923 CE) and Ar-Razi (925 CE) viewed verse 4:34 as a staged way to reduce marital conflicts in a culture where violence against women was rampant. At-Tabari noted that wadribuhunna means striking without hurting. But, in his exegesis, Ar-Razi, quoting a hadith that men who hit their wives are not among the better men, did not even allow this. There is an inordinate amount of obsession by both Muslim conservatives and by many non-Muslims about a simple scarf on a woman’s head. While many Muslim conservatives use the hijab as a litmus test for a woman’s piety, many people of other
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faiths view it as a sign of oppression. The Quranic verse, 24:30, suggesting hijab as a sign of modesty for women actually starts by asking men to lower their gaze. However, even in other cultures, usually no man is socially ostracized for violating this command, while women are often blamed when they are the victims of sexual violence. Hijab is a choice. It is woman’s right to determine her own identity. It is her personal expression of devotion. No compulsion can be used to make women wear hijab. Women must be given the freedom and opportunities to choose their own paths in life without fear, intimidation or coercion.
THE VISION OF ISLAM Islam’s goal is for believers to deepen their relationship with God. Social norms are a means to the goal of seeking nearness to God, and gender is no barrier to this spiritual seeking. Treating women with the inherent dignity that they were created with, ensuring that their rights are preserved and advocating that they are given equitable opportunities to succeed is necessary to uphold the Quranic vision (4:135): “O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding justice.” The way forward requires leveling the playing field by changing hearts and minds, if possible, or by instituting affirmative actions when antiquated cultural norms prove too intransigent. There is a sliver of good news. On Dec. 30, 2013, Justice Ashraf Jehan took oath as judge of Pakistan’s Federal Shariah Court, established in 1980, which examines and determines whether the country’s laws comply with sharia law. The World Bank noted that across the Middle East and North Africa, the gender gap in education and health is decreasing (April 2010). And yet, women account for only a quarter of the labor force and only nine percent of the seats in parliaments in that region. The World Economic Forum (2013) asserts a simple truth: “Countries and companies can be competitive only if they develop, attract and retain the best talent, both male and female.” Empowering women should be as much a man’s responsibility, as it is a woman’s aspiration.
Parvez Ahmed, a former Fulbright Scholar, is associate professor of finance at the University of North Florida and director of the Center for Sustainable Business Practices at UNF. NOTE: This article was adapted by the author from his Friday sermon delivered at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida on Dec. 13, 2013. An abridged version of this article was published by him in the Huffington Post.
Successful Marriages are Family Affairs Marriage involves establishing new roles, defining responsibilities and maintaining balance for the new couples and both sets of parents. BY IMAM MOHAMED MAGID
A PARENT’S LOVE IS A POWERFUL THING, WHICH CANNOT BE TURNED OFF OR IGNORED, BUT AS ADULT CHILDREN MOVE TO THIS NEXT STAGE OF LIFE IT IS IMPORTANT FOR PARENTS TO OBSERVE A NEW BALANCE.
arriage is the union of a man and a woman, often coming from different backgrounds and upbringings. Certainly the union is coming together of two individuals, but it is also the joining of two extended families into one happy family. One of the leading causes of divorce among Muslims in the United States stems from unhealthy relationships with in-laws. This beautiful union is too often compromised by conflicting expectations and demands, leading to interference by the families. Yet with balance and the ultimate focus on God, marital relationships can be strengthened even when it seems beyond repair. God declares: “It is He who has created man from water then He established relationships of lineage and marriage: for thy Lord has power over all things.” (25: 54). The couple, along with both sets of par-
ents, must understand their roles as the families come together. In the early years of the marriage, the couple will be spending time trying to adjust to each other’s differences. It will soon be apparent each has their flaws, many times unnoticed before the marriage. Before marriage, a person’s primary responsibility is usually to the parents, this now changes as it is the spouse who should be first. Marriage is a shift in lifestyle for the parents as well. They love their child and while they feel joy and happiness as the couple starts a new life, they also feel a sense of loss. This means both sets of parents and the newlywed couple have to adjust to new roles in their relationships.
NEW ROLES What should these new roles be when the marriage begins? • The in-laws should be a safety net for
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the couple but not the decision makers. They should let them learn to make it on their own, as difficult as it will be to see them struggle. The couple must learn to be independent to succeed. • The parents should be considerate of the couple’s feelings. They should not get upset with them for not spending as much time with them as they did before. They are building a new life that requires spending some time on their own. Likewise, the couple must be considerate of their parents’ feelings. They have spent their lives raising their child and now the child has left the nest. They simply miss them. • Parents should not try to influence the choices that their offspring make within their marriage. Don’t try to manipulate your new son-in-law or daughter in-law to move in the direction you prefer. Your job is to continue providing them with parental love and support, not to make their choices. • Boundaries are particularly critical and challenging when young couples start their new life together, especially if living with one of the parents. Tensions undoubtedly will arise as the home of one family now becomes a living space for two. Clear boundaries will be needed to help alleviate this tension. It is recommended that the young couple chose a living arrangement that will allow for them to grow as people and as a couple. If a shared household is not conducive to that, it may compromise the well being of couple’s relationship with each other.
FOR PARENTS A parent’s love is a powerful thing, which cannot be turned off or ignored, but as adult children move to this next stage of life it is important for parents to observe a new balance. This balance is between loving your child, providing support while giving them the space to make their own decisions including making mistakes and letting each child grow with their spouse as a couple. Parents should also maintain balance when involved in helping the couple through a difficulty. It is normal to want to favor the side of your child, remember no one is perfect and no one in this relationship is an outsider. Your child and the spouse need to be equal in your eyes and given the same considerations. The new couple must establish boundaries
as well and it is critical for parents to respect them. The husband and wife are now one unit, but that does not dissolve parental rights over them. As they enter into marriage, they move toward having four parents instead of two. It is now their responsibility to bestow love, mercy, and kindness to all the parents, not only in words but spending time with them, taking time to call, and attending to their emotional and physical needs as they age. Remember your child’s religiosity is now also contingent upon the spouse’s practice. It is their responsibility, and certainly to their benefit, to be there for their in-laws and to enable the husband or wife to be there for their parents as well.
DIFFERENT TIMES, DIFFERENT WAYS Each generation lives in a different time and environment than the one before and the one after. God has made each of us for a particular time, place and situation. Therefore, parents cannot expect the children to live their lives exactly as they have lived theirs. This is particularly important in dealing with first- and second-generation Americans. This country offers many unique opportunities. One of those great opportunities is to interact with and get to know people from around the world. As a result, our children sometimes find companionship in people who are different from us. The children we raised are not going to be exactly the same as we are. This may be even truer of the person they select to be their life partner. This is not saying we should restrict our children to marrying those who are most like us, in fact preventing them from marrying on that basis is a violation of their own right bestowed upon them by their Creator and something one would be accountable for before God. He has said in the Quran (49:30): “We have made you into nations and tribes so you may know one another and the best among you is the one who is most righteous.” God has bestowed variety among humans so they know one another and the only true difference in His eyes is in their deeds. Why do some parents insist on limiting access to the most suitable spouse for their children to a particular ethnicity when God has stated that was not the purpose of the diversity? Certainly cultural differences will present challenges to the new couple and the new in-laws. One or both sides may have language barriers or particular standards that are expected of the mother or father-in-law,
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or daughter or son-in-law. Challenges can arise even within the same culture; status, wealth, religiosity and expression of communication are just a few. No marriage is free of conflicts. It is how we deal with those situations that will strengthen or weaken the marital relationship and the relationship with the new in-laws.
SOME ADVICE FOR THE NEWLYWEDS What happens when conflict arises? At the first sign of conflict, search your knowledge base making sure to apply it with wisdom. “I’m sorry my mother said those things to you, but I couldn’t say anything to her, she’s my mother.” The Quran and Hadith teach us to honor our parents, never speaking back to them and humbling ourselves before them. Islam also teaches us that there are others who have rights on us. The relationship of husband and wife is not like any other and the unique rights of the relationship cannot be ignored. This is our knowledge but you must apply it with wisdom. Here is a common question: “Do I fulfill my mother’s rights or those of my spouse?” The answer is both. It is your responsibility to provide an emotionally safe environment for your spouse. You should speak up on your spouse’s behalf to your mother or father, but you must do so with the utmost gentleness and respect toward them. While respectfully addressing parents, one can tell them that such a way of speaking to your other half is not only hurtful to your spouse but that it is hurtful to you as well, not to mention it is displeasing to God. Likewise, you cannot sit by while your spouse speaks to or treats your parents in a degrading manner. It is impossible to name all the situations that will arise but remember Islam is not a religion we follow blindly. Know your rights, the rights of your spouse and of your parents, and apply wisdom thoughtfully to the situation at hand. Even intense conflict does not permit us to disregard the basic Islamic conduct. And if all else fails, follow the prophetic example of seeking sincere counsel from an outside source. Striving to preserve these important relationships, even when it seems difficult, is an act of worship in itself. May God bring peace, tranquility, comfort and kindness to all of our relationships.
Imam Mohamed Magid is president of ISNA.
These Birds Walk ZAHRA CHEEMA
hen Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq showed up at the office of Pakistan’s most respected humanitarian, Abdul Sattar Edhi, to begin filming a documentary about this ascetic man and his work, Edhi surprised them. He told them to focus their cameras elsewhere. “If you want to find me, you will find me among the people,” says Edhi in the documentary film, “These Birds Walk.” “I come from ordinary people. And to find me, look among ordinary people. My story is there.” The aging Edhi, whose charity work lead to the development of an emergency ambulance service that burgeoned into the country’s largest nonprofit social welfare organization, offered Mullick and Tariq access to the foundation’s different programs. This led them into the hallways and rooms of a runaway home for boys in Karachi. “We thought that it was best for us to focus straight on to the runaway kids and use that as a story that props Edhi’s work,” said Tariq, co-creator of the travel blog, “30 Mosques in 30 Days.” “These Birds Walk,” available on iTunes, tells the story of 9-yearold Omar and a handful of other boys, who, for different reasons — neglect, abuse, or abandonment — left their families and entered the runaway home. That is where they stay until they choose to return to their families. In the process of cleverly capturing the candid, day-to-day, profanity-laden banter, bravado, brawls, tender moments of brotherly love, and tearful yearnings for their parents, the film explores the meaning of family and belonging, a sentiment that struck Tariq as being universal. “I realized that they’re having that conflict that I think all of us have,” Tariq said. “That we’re all programmed to love our families, but where our families are a little dysfunctional and not exactly what we wanted or what we thought we’d get. It gets a little difficult.” Asad, an ambulance driver, grappled with the issue of belonging before finding his place working at the foundation; work that exposes him to the city’s underbelly and hones his street smarts, a skill he relishes. It is through ride alongs with Asad that we catch scenic glimpses of the bustling coastal city of Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous urban center. In between his main job of transporting injured bodies and cadavers, Asad drives the boys back to their families. He is there when the boys are enveloped by their grandmother’s loving arms, dismissed by an uncle as nuisances for running away, and greeted casually by parents. Over the period Mullick and Tariq traveled to Pakistan to film, they found themselves increasingly in awe of the resiliency and personal strength of the characters they grew close to, and also learned in the process that viewing the lives of these individuals with pity would be misplaced. 42
“They’re not looking for our pity … and they don’t need it,” Tariq said. During a Q&A session, following a film screening in Fairfax, Va., Mullick and Tariq were asked by an audience member moved by the film what action they wanted people to take. “I feel that there’s this idea that when you make a documentary film that it has to have a thesis, it has to have an issue or cause that we can all rally behind … but we’d like to think this isn’t one of those films,” Tariq said. “These Birds Walk” takes a step away from traditional documentaries in other ways as statistics and background text, often used to guide viewers through a film’s content, is almost nonexistent. The viewer is plunged directly into Omar’s, Asad’s and Edhi’s worlds, to explore each character and at the same time to explore their own reactions to the film. “We wanted this to be as much a vehicle of empathy as possible,” Tariq said. Whether that empathy leads people to donate time and resources to Edhi’s work, or to look within themselves to discover that commonalities can exist among different people, or motivates others to a Facebook “like” on the “These Birds Walk” page, is up to each individual.
In-Home Exercise Revolution BY HAKEEMAH CUMMINGS
hen’s the last time you popped in an at-home workout DVD and made “dua” with your fully-dressed trainer before beginning the exercise? And when was the last time your trainer told you to say “bismillah” if it hurts too much, or to “curl your toes under like you do in “salat” to create the perfect form? I’m going to guess never. That’s because Zainab Ismail, vice president of Nadoona, has created the first and only fitness DVD created by Muslim women for Muslim women — and the workout is no joke. Dubbed the “hijabi drill sergeant,” Ismail has more than 20 years of experience in health and fitness and is using her talents to cater to the needs of the Muslim community. There is no showing off six-pack abs and perfectly chiseled shoulders. Absent are the scantily clad women and the “do this if you want to look like me” attitude. “Nadoona Extreme” is a two-disc set: Level 1 for beginners and Level 2 for the more advanced, and both DVDs offer the option of exercising with or without music. Each disc is 30 minutes to 35 minutes long and consists of a sustainable repetition of fitness cycles that mix cardio, weight training, muscle strengthening, and stretching. Ismail works the entire body in a way that is both manageable and challenging, and because the DVD allows you to work at your own level, pregnant women can exercise with this DVD, as well. When the beads of sweat start to form on your forehead, your shoulders begin to burn, and your legs ache the day after, you know it’s working. And that’s only Level 1. Oh, and brothers, the DVD cover clearly states that this is a workout specifically for women. Sorry.
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BOOK REVIEWS EDUCATIONAL VISION
New Directions in Islamic Education: Pedagogy and Identity Formation Abdullah Sahin 2014. Pp. 304. HB. $54.95 Kube Publishing Ltd., Markfield, Leicester, UK Abdullah Sahin, who has researched the learning and teaching of Islam within the Muslim majority and minority contexts in the modern world, offers a combination of empirical analysis of the existing situation in Islamic education, its authentic and intellectual theological grounding, and its practical solutions. This book, which grew out of the author’s doctoral dissertation, provides insight into the curriculum and ethos of traditional Islamic seminaries and a way to enable a creative conversation with modern educational theory and practice. The author proposes a psychological model to investigate the formation of Muslim religiosity and faith development in the modern world. He maintains that without grounding their research in such a model, Muslim educators cannot assess the impact of their teaching on the religious agency of the learners.
Pre-Islamic Carpets and Textiles from Eastern Lands Friedrich Spuhler 2014. Pp. 186 + 60 illus. HB. $55.00 Thames & Hudson, New York, N.Y. The fourth volume in Thames & Hudson’s series catalogues Kuwait’s al-Sabah collection featuring carpets and textile fragments from the pre-Islamic and early Islamic world. The Sasanian fragments fill a substantial gap in the early history of pile carpets, dating from the 2nd to the 8th century CE, and make a valuable contribution of the understanding of local artistic traditions. The book’s second half documents post-Sasanian and Sogdian silks dating from the 6th to the 10th century.
THE LIGHT FROM AFRICA Educating Muslim Women: The West African Legacy of Nana Asma’u, 1793-1864 Beverly Mack and Jean Boyd 2013. Pp. 240 + photographs & illustrations. $22.95 Kube Publishing Ltd., Markfield, Leicester, UK
ana Asma’u, a devout and learned Muslim scholar — daughter of the renowned scholar Usman dan Fodio — observed, recorded, interpreted, and influenced major public events that happened around her. Her example as an educator is still followed. The system she set up in the first quarter of the 19th century for the education of rural women has not only survived in its homeland — through the traumas of the colonization of West Africa and the establishment of the modern state of Nigeria — but also is being revived and adapted elsewhere, notably among Muslim women in the United States. Beverly Mack and Jean Boyd, in their third book on Asma’u, introduce readers to Asma’u’s upbringing and critical junctures in her life from several sources, mostly unpublished, her own firsthand experiences presented in her writings, the accounts of contemporaries who witnessed her endeavors, and the memoirs of European travelers. For the account of her legacy, the authors have depended on extensive field studies in Nigeria, and documents pertaining to the efforts of women in Nigeria and the United States to develop a collective voice and establish their rights as women and Muslims in today’s societies. Daughters are still named after her, her poems move people profoundly, and her memory remains a vital source of inspiration and hope.
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The Muslim Heritage of Bengal: The Lives, Thoughts and Achievements of Great Muslim Scholars, Writers and Reformers of Bangladesh and West Bengal Muhammad Mojlum Khan 2013. Pp. 384. $30.95 Kube Publishing Ltd., Markfield, Leicester, UK Muhammad Mojlum Khan offers a look into the Muslim history, culture and heritage of Bengal from the early 13th century to modern times through 42 biographies of eminent Muslims of Bengal beginning with Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji, the Muslim conqueror of Bengal, and ending with Begum Rokeya, an influential educator of Bengal during the early 20th century. Parallel Histories: Muslims and Jews in Inquisitorial Spain James S. Amelang 2013. Pp. 207. PB. $25.95 Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, La. Amelang explores not only the expulsions but also challenges of maintaining religious beliefs and practices by Muslims and Jews living under repression in Spain. The experiences of these two groups who were forced to convert to Christianity varied: while the converted Jews ultimately assimilated into the mainstream, the Muslim counterparts, the morisco, were expelled in 1609. The Ancient Near East: A Very Short Introduction Amanda H. Podany 2013. Pp. 168. PB. $11.95 Oxford University Press USA A compact book that covers 3,000 years from around 3500 BCE, with the founding of the first Mesopotamian cities, to the conquest of the Near East by the Persian King Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE. Islam In Perspective Sultan Ahmad Pp. 322. PB. $18.54 AuthorHouse, Bloomington, Ind. In 62 chapters, Dr. Sultan Ahmad introduces the fundamentals and teaching of Islam, offering a fare that can be shared in Friday sermons.
Correction: The title of Eric Broug’s new book, reviewed in the Nov./Dec. 2013 issue, is Islamic Geometric Design (publishers Thomas & Hudson USA). It was erroneously listed as “Islamic Geometric Patterns,” which is the title of the author’s previous book.
FOOD FOR THE SPIRIT
Giving Life to Our Actions BY IMAM MAGID WITH HANAA UNUS
WISDOM #10: Actions are lifeless forms, but the presence of an inner reality of sincerity within them is what endows them with life-giving spirit (Victor Danner, Ibn ‘Ata’Illah’s Sufi Aphorisms (Leiden: Brill, 1984).
n this aphorism, the great spiritual teacher, Ibn ‘Ata Allah, reminds us of the importance of sincerity and God consciousness in all aspects of our lives. He explains that without sincerity our actions are “lifeless;” despite hard work they serve no eternal purpose and yield nothing of eternal value. To act without sincerity is to laboriously till soil that has no access to water and will bear no fruit. It is only when we act with sincerity toward God that our deeds take on purpose and become a means of drawing nearer to Him and to Paradise. And so we are called upon in this Hikam to engage in soul searching — asking ourselves, “why do we do the things that we do?” “Are we doing them for the right reasons?” Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) expressed the importance of sincerity when he told Mu’adh ibn Jabal (radi Allahu ‘anhu): “Be sincere in your actions and a little of your work will be sufficient” (Al-Bayhaqī, Shu’ab al-Imān). Sometimes in our lives we can be busy with spiritual actions and wonder why our hearts still feel hard.
What is lacking is often not the quantity of our actions. What is lacking, as the Prophet taught Mu’adh, is their quality. How then do we improve the sincerity in our actions?
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS The first way to improve our sincerity is to align our public and private actions. This is important both to worship and in our general actions. Are we kind to our parents or our children in public but treat them poorly at home? If so, we need to ask ourselves if our real purpose in treating them nicely in public is for the sake of pleasing others. We should try to evaluate ourselves similarly when it comes to worship. We should ask ourselves, “Am I praying because I am in the masjid and others will see me, or am I praying because God has commanded me to pray five times a day wherever I am?” Of course, if we find a disconnect between our worship and treatment of others in public and private, we should not give up
our worship and kind treatment. We should instead strive to improve their quality in our private lives. One useful method can be to insist on an unfailing regular habit; for example, always praying sunnah after certain prayers, using kind words with others, etc., regardless of where we are. If doubts then come to us in public, we should simply say to ourselves, “this is what I have endeavored to do for God.” Our scholars have taught that it does not contradict sincerity to perform a good deed because we were encouraged by others. Of course, if our intention is only to be seen by others, then it is not a sincere action. But if it is to practice something we know is pleasing to God, then we should not stop ourselves from doing so. It also is not contrary to sincerity to do good deeds in public, if our intention is to encourage others to do good. There is no harm in publicizing our actions, if we feel confident enough that our intentions will not be sullied. If we are not confident, we can always seek a discrete way to do it. However, refraining from doing something good simply because we are worried about what others will say or think is actually blameworthy, for we are placing the interests of humans ahead of God.
REVIEW AND ASSESS OUR ACTIONS To maintain sincerity in all aspects of our lives we should take time at the end of
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each action, or the end of the day to thoughtfully review and assess our actions. Doing so will allow us to assess what areas we need to improve and grow in. We must hold ourselves accountable and constantly strive toward pleasing God before He holds us accountable on the Day of Judgement, as it will be too late for us to make amends.
sonal growth rather than searching the mistakes of others. Admitting WHAT SPIRITUAL TOPICS MATTER MOST TO YOU? for mistakes not only grounds a person Please help “Food for the Spirit” better meet your needs by in their humanity, it also builds a completing a 2-minute survey at: sense of humility amongst people and further increases our humility www.isna.net/foodforthespiritsurvey with God. Admitting our mistakes and faults will also help us become non-beneficial arguments. Discussion and keenly aware of ourselves. consensus building are certainly useful, but Finally, one of the signs of sincerity arguments that lead nowhere are a waste within a person is that all humans become KNOW YOUR ENEMY of time. If we look deep enough, we realize equal in their eyes. They don’t see differences We must remember that while we strive to that our only purpose in continuing such in culture, gender, skin color, economic or act righteously in our daily lives, Satan is arguments is for our own ego — so that we social status, intelligence or education as continuously trying to distract us because he can have the last word or be pronounced ultimately important. The only difference does not want us to remain focused on God. victorious. Such arguments are not for God. they care about is God’s opinion of us, and only He alone knows that. Even when we start with the right intention, Let them go. Satan tries to sway us in the direction of performing it for other than God, such as ACKNOWLEDGE OUR FAULTS May God enliven our hearts with sincerfor the praise of other people. Two useful We should get into the habit of acknowledg- ity as he gives life to the Earth, for “It is God ways to protect ourselves from Satan are to ing our faults and mistakes even when it Who sends forth the winds, so that they raise strive to stay in wudu and to recite the last makes us look bad in front of people. God up the clouds, and We drive them to a land two surahs of the Quran. has created mankind with flaws. No one is that is dead, and revive the earth therewith perfect. We should acknowledge this and be after its death” (35:9). LET ARGUMENTS GO prepared to own up to our mistakes. Doing Ameen. We should commit ourselves to letting go of so allows us to see potential areas for per-
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