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MAY/JUNE 2019/1440 | $4.00 | WWW.ISNA.NET




An Angel Among Us

28  Fostering Muslim Children and Youth in Canada 32  The Islamic position regarding the care of orphans and abandoned children 34

Serving the Underserved


30 Care with Faith When Most Needed

8 The Manifesto 9 To New Beginnings 10 Faces in Places

FEATURE 36 Malaysia Steps into Uncharted Territory 38  Muslim Americans and the Legacy of Said Nursi

42 The Fast and the ¡Fiesta!

ISLAM IN AMERICA 40  Making the Best of a God-given Gift 44  Raising Observant Muslim Children in a Permissive Society 46 Unboxing the Hijab: “iCover”


48 A  Traditional Ottoman Art Form Goes Global

50 Touching the Soul 52 Philadelphia to Zanzibar

FOOD 56  Are Products Labeled “Alcohol-Free” Really Free of Alcohol?


Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases Food for the Spirit

58  The Muslims of Buddhist-majority Cambodia

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



Humanity Outshines Hate — at least in New Zealand


SNA has officially relaunched itself as an organization dedicated to rendering social good, as well as urging and supporting those who pursue such goals. During the Feb. 12th “family retreat” held at the headquarters, Executive Director Tayyab Yunus and his team inaugurated the new mission: “to rejuvenate ISNA into a dynamic organization that not only reaches out and includes all segments of the Muslim American population, but also establishes and promotes an ethos of service to humanity that embraces all Americans.” This issue of Islamic Horizons coincides with Ramadan falling in May, which has been observed as National Foster Care Month since 1988. Fittingly, we feature Mohamed Bzeek, an angel foster-parent who has spent decades caring for children with severe birth defects. More than six weeks ago, the world saw humanity outshine the terrorism and hatred that shook New Zealand. This horrendous assault both exposed the enormity of the evil that Islamophobes have created and continue to advance and thrust Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern onto the international stage. In stark contrast to other leaders, she instantly and courageously led a mission of mercy. Within 72 hours she initiated legislation for a comprehensive ban on all types of assault rifles and accessories, and within 10 days she initiated the most powerful judicial probe available under the law to determine whether the police and intelligence services could have prevented the murders of Muslims praying in two Christchurch mosques on March 15. Addressing the National Remembrance Service, held near an affected mosque, March 29 and attended by more than 20,000 people, Ardren declared, “We each hold the power, in our words and in our actions, in our daily acts of kindness. Let that be the legacy of the 15th of March. The answer lies in our humanity.” She also sent foreign minister Winston Peters to Istanbul to address the emergency meeting called by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the aftermath of the terror attacks. This agnostic leader has pronounced a clear and sharp message for religious 6    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

freedom and social harmony. She has set the example; it is for others to follow. On March 24 Escondido’s Dar-ul-Arqam mosque, located in suburban San Diego, suffered an arson attack. The graffiti left behind referenced the New Zealand massacre. Picking up on this, the following day Washington Post reporter Isaac StanleyBecker entitled his article “A California mosque was set ablaze in ‘clear homage’ to the New Zealand terrorist attack.” While visiting Pakistan, on March 25, The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini stated that Islamophobia threatens both Muslims and all of European society because it threatens diversity. She stressed the need for all EU member states to ensure that it finds no foothold within the union. Back in the U.S., the public has yet to see how law enforcement agencies plan go deal with the many verbal and written death threats received by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who has dared to reflect upon certain issues that many prefer not to discuss. Regrettably, the U.S. record in combating hate and Islamophobia leaves much to be desired. Since 9/11, federal prosecutors have applied anti-terrorism laws against 34 right-wing extremists compared to more than 500 international terrorism defendants. Even the claims of fostering civil rights have been reduced to farce. Mentioning a certain letter (such as the “N” word) causes an uproar, whereas a violation of rights engenders only a deafening silence. Congress, which hurriedly adopted a resolution that has pleased certain lobbyists has yet to address the lacuna in the Thirteenth Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted [italics added], shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” And even more disturbing, no federal law prevents lynching. It’s time for all of us to say Tena Koe Jacinda (Thank you, Jacinda) and follow her lead in becoming more humane toward each other.  ih

PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Sayyid Muhammad Syeed EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Tayyab Yunus EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2019 All rights reserved Reproduction, in whole or in part, of this material in mechanical or electronic form without written permission is strictly prohibited. Islamic Horizons magazine is available electronically on ProQuest’s Ethnic NewsWatch, LexisNexis, and EBSCO Discovery Service, and is indexed by Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. Please see your librarian for access. The name “Islamic Horizons” is protected through trademark registration ISSN 8756‑2367 POSTMASTER Send address changes to Islamic Horizons, P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 SUBSCRIPTIONS Annual, domestic – $24 Canada – US$30 Overseas airmail – US$60 TO SUBSCRIBE Contact Islamic Horizons at (317) 839‑8157 / (317) 839‑1811 Fax (317) 839‑1840 E-mail: ADVERTISING For rates contact Islamic Horizons at (703) 742‑8108, E-mail, Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distribution) Sales Agreement No. 0666300 CORRESPONDENCE Send all correspondence and/or Letters to the Editor at: Islamic Horizons P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Email:


The Manifesto Transforming ISNA from an umbrella into a platform for social good BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF ISNA concluded its long search and welcomed its new executive director, Tayyab Yunus, on Dec. 17, 2018. Here, we present his comments after he accepted this great responsibility.

Tayyab Yunus, a social entrepreneur from Orlando, Fla., has been providing strategic guidance to both for profit and nonprofit organizations for over 20 years. In his role as founder and CEO of Intuitive Solutions, he uses this social enterprise to transform human talent from underserved areas around the world into human capacity for nonprofit and for profit organizations. This is all in pursuit of his personal mission to improve the human condition.


IH:  What motivated and inspired you to accept this challenge, considering that you are pursuing several entrepreneurial projects? TY:  Honestly, I care about making the world a better place. So everything I do or invest my time and resources into has to align with that objective. I can’t stand the idea of the world getting any worse. And I’m tired of bad news traveling faster than good news. I believe good news from the good things people do is what the world needs in order to actually get better. That’s right, more good people doing good things for the world with a whole lot of good news going around. So when I was asked by enough friends and family to consider ISNA, I looked into it. I discovered ISNA’s original intent aligning with my mission. Then what really convinced me was what the great folks on the board did. You see, prior to signing up for this position, I had drafted a personal “manifesto.” I shared the essence of the manifesto with the folks on the search committee during a few phone calls and a physical meeting. Later on, I found out that the board embraced it. I was really impressed by this. In my work with nonprofits, I rarely find boards ready to embrace radical ideas and innovative strategies. And it isn’t easy for a board of an organization this old to bring someone totally new from the outside in to lead it. This sent a strong message to me, that this group really cares. So I stepped away from other entrepreneurial projects and committed myself to transforming ISNA. IH:  Can you tell us about this manifesto? TY:  It is simple really. I told them that I wanted the world to fall in love with Muslims. When they asked how, I said that I imagine an ISNA that serves the Muslim American community by upskilling, resourcing, connecting, and opening doors for Muslim Americans to serve humanity. I believe that a humanity served by Muslims falls

in love with Muslims. I believe through service one attains humility. Through humility one sees the signs. Through signs one finds Allah. And I believe a single sincere act is the ticket to Paradise. That is the essence of the manifesto. IH:  How do you plan to realize this goal? TY:  I believe every person has a cause they care about, and that every individual has a unique ability to do something about that case. But that ability needs to be unlocked and a pathway opened for them. I also believe that there are few who had enough courage to actually commit themselves to a cause. But they need help. They need help in the form of human and financial resources. What we’re going to do is bring these folks together. I’m calling the strategy “connecting the community with causes they care about.” If we can unlock every individual’s ability by connecting their hearts to causes they care about, we will have an entire community out serving humanity for social good. IH:  Why ISNA? TY:  ISNA’s original intent was to build the Muslim community in America. I embarrassingly admit that I was one of those kids growing up in the 80s and 90s who thought ISNA was just a convention. I realize it has been so much more. Institutions and individuals were brought forth with ISNA’s help. When you look back, it did its job. Honestly, I am thankful and proud of it. I wake up every morning honored to be here. Some say it hasn’t done its job too well in recent times. I say, that’s why I’m here. The board brought me in to reimplement ISNA’s original intent from an umbrella that established, shielded and lifted the Muslim community in America and transform it into a platform that uplifts American Muslims for a better world for tomorrow and beyond! Let me tell you something, I am in HOT pursuit of JUST THAT! Stay tuned…  ih

To New Beginnings The ISNA Family takes shape BY MONICA NIRO


he search for a dynamic leader for ISNA culminated on Dec. 17 last year, with the introduction of Tayyab Yunus as executive director. Tayyab Yunus, a first generation Muslim American and a Florida native, has set out on a mission to turn ISNA into a dynamic organization that not only reaches out and includes all segments of the Muslim American population, but also establishes and promotes an ethos of service to humanity, embracing all Americans. ISNA, now in its 56th year, is said to be the continent’s largest Muslim organization and arguably has lost its dynamism and promise. Indeed, today, to most, ISNA is an annual convention and a few regional and specialized conferences. Tayyab Yunus is poised to change all that and usher ISNA into a new beginning that will bring continual growth and enable it to live up to, fulfill and exceed its vision and mission. When asked where he would start, he answered with one word, “team.” Calling it his “faces in the right places” strategy, he began meeting with existing staff, both employees and contractors. Like a general manager of a baseball team, he mapped and placed talent, finally assembling a team of committed people, each one poised to deliver the best in their area of expertise and devotion. He brought this newly assembled team together at what he called a “family retreat” at the ISNA headquarters in Plainfield, Ind., on Feb. 12, initiating the first step towards this coming revolution. ISNA staff is a family that works together, each bringing their talents and hearts to serve their fellow Muslims and the community at large. Addressing the retreat, Tayyab Yunus said, “When I think about the significance of ISNA, I don’t think about what it has achieved. I don’t see in my mind buildings, pictures, awards, and plaques. I guess those should exist too, but perhaps better in museums than in my mind, where they can be visited by schoolteachers who tell stories to little kids or the academics who love to study

the past. When I think about the significance of ISNA, I think about the possibility of what it CAN achieve. I see in my mind a whole new future. A better future brought to the world by ISNA. “Four capital letters on a page or floating around on a screen can’t get much of anything done. To bring that new future state

Nashwa Khalil, Nida Saleem, Nuri Alam, Omer Bin Abdullah, Rahela Mallick, Ramo Jelovac, Sandra Moore, Tabasum Ahmad, Wendy Barnard, Zubair Zafar, Adil Lakhani, Anjum Khan, Catherine Orsborn, Diane Hummeid, Fiyyaz Jaat, Habibe Ali, Kirsten Turnbull, Sara Razi, Monica Niro and Alaa Abdeldaiem. The retreat was about laying the first brick for this new house. The first brick of familyhood. Understanding that we are all brothers and sisters, on the same team and living for the same purpose—To make the world a better place. At the retreat, we held hands, we tore down the past, we grabbed hold of a FRESH new brick, we laid it down together, and we started to build together.

ISNA STAFF IS FAMILY THAT WORKS TOGETHER, EACH BRINGING THEIR TALENTS AND HEARTS TO SERVE THEIR FELLOW MUSLIMS AND THE COMMUNITY AT LARGE. to life it’ll take a team. Not just any team. Or buncha folks with fancy titles. Even sports leagues have teams with fancy logos and titles that exist only for ticket sales. ISNA’s team can’t exist simply for ticket sales. It must exist for something far greater. And far more significant. ISNA’s team has to be a family. “Nothing of great significance has ever been achieved without family. And I don’t mean the blood kind. I mean, the kind that sticks together no matter the size of the storm or the length of the calm. The kind of family that respects one another. That trusts one another. That encourages during the downturn and inspires on the upswing. That teaches one another. That learns from each other. That smiles through the mistakes and laughs A LOT at every single thing, big or small. The kind of family that is fierce with resolve but humble in success. The kind of family that goes out into the world every day to make it better, and every night assembles together in its own House. It’s House of Champions” The attendees included Dr. Richard Klopp, Ivana Zajkovska, Maliha Khan, Mohammad Khalid, Mohannad Mofawaz,

The retreat was about enlightenment. The light at ISNA comes not from outside. The light at ISNA shines from within. At the retreat we ignited the light within each of us onto our imagination. Dreams individually shared. Dreams that will now be woven together. The retreat was about empowerment. The power at ISNA no longer lies at the top. It rests at the bottom. Where it will resurrect a whole new ISNA. A new ISNA that will stand tall like a tower. Like a lighthouse. This lighthouse will beacon a call out to all to serve humanity. From this family, we will radiate love for humanity. From this family, we will enlighten all, we will empower all, and we will call upon all to discover their super power for social good and act on their love for humanity to serve humanity. By all serving all, we will create a better world for all those who come around us and after us. From one hand. To one brick. To one family. To one House. To one tower. To one Humanity. To one future.  ih Monica Niro is ISNA System Operation Procedures (SOP) Specialist



Faces in Places The ISNA Family sets out on the mission to renew the organization BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF


certain amount of inertia had set in over the years and transformed ISNA from being a proactive and engaged service organization into an entity most often associated with a single event: the annual convention. To counteract this reality, the new leadership has decided to move forward and position ISNA as an organization that serves humanity. Working on achieving this goal is a team that is functioning like a family that is not only revamping existing practices, but also opening new venues of growth and service to realize this changed focus.

MEET A FEW MEMBERS OF THE ISNA FAMILY Funding makes things happen and keep happening. Ahmed ElHattab, a 36-year veteran who now serves as ISNA’s major gifts and endowment officer, explains that he joined the ISNA Family when he found a very sincere leadership with a clear vision about the future of Islam and Muslims in the U.S. and a strategic plan for building sound institutions to meet the community’s spiritual, social and educational needs. He observes, “And now, with its new leadership, I’m feeling rejuvenated due to its positive energy and clear vision of relaunching ISNA as a home for social good and a platform for American Muslim nonprofit institutions. I’ll be the ambassador of ISNA Renewal to connect its mission to the top donors and promote it to our grassroots nationwide.” In his assigned role, he will “share the beautiful story of ISNA’s journey and its new vision and projects with ISNA members and top donors to restore the confidence in ISNA’s relevancy and importance. This will result in increased membership and lead to inspiring donors to give larger gifts. I’m planning to do that through all forms of communications, including personal visits, special events, social media and a donors’ cultivation strategy.” 10    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

An active participant in Islamic philanthropy, nonprofit management and fundraising in the U.S. for the past 41 years, Ahmed joined ISNA in 1983 as its first full-time fundraising officer. Ahmed, who studied electrical engineering in Egypt and telecommunications in the U.S., served as the executive director of the ISNA Development Foundation since its inception 25 years ago. He also helped establish the ISNA Endowment Fund, served

to be affordable for members and families. Such ISNA initiatives as masjid development, educational workshops, matrimonial services, chaplaincy, interfaith, membership and fundraising will continue to play a significant role in the organization’s regional conferences. Wendy, a native Hoosier, attended Indiana University. After living in Bloomington for 15 years, she moved to Indianapolis, converted and, a few months later, started working at ISNA. She has now been at ISNA for five years, serving as the Convention Department’s registration and housing assistant and then rising to Programs Department’s assistant director. Nida Saleem returns to ISNA as its funding development operations officer after leaving her position as intern program manager at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the world’s largest children’s

BY TOUCHING AND CONNECTING HEARTS TO SOCIAL GOOD, ISNA’S REGIONAL CONFERENCE PROGRAM SEEKS TO BUILD A COALITION FOR A BETTER WORLD.” as ISNA’s acting secretary general for several years and as president of the Muslim Arab Youth Association for two terms. At the core of ISNA activities are its specialized and regional conferences. The goal of these conferences, says project manager Wendy Barnard, is to connect the audiences to social good action through convening. “We are touching hearts at the grassroots level by showcasing inspiring individuals who are doing amazing, but often unrewarded, service. Our focus is on supporting local communities’ efforts to bring about change by showcasing the extraordinary organizations that are making a difference and positively impacting the lives of others. “ISNA’s regional conference will be offering workshops, training, and special events as part of ISNA’s larger platform for social good. By touching and connecting hearts to social good, ISNA’s regional conference program seeks to build a coalition for a better world.” The conferences, she adds, will continue

museum. In her capacity as a board member (2017-19) for the National Association of Colleges and Employers, she advised the Leadership Advancement Program. In addition to presenting at various conferences, among them the Intern Bridge, she has participated in podcasts, presentations and webinars, and has a chapter included in the upcoming “Cases in Career Services: A Working Guide for Practitioners.” Her professional focus has been the nonprofit world. Before joining ISNA in 2009, she was a student in the inaugural class of the Al Waleed bin Talal Fellowship Program, which she later went on to manage. During her earlier stay at ISNA, Nida played an instrumental role in implementing new software management tools in the development and scholarship programs. Nida holds a B.S. in cell and molecular biology (State University of New York at New Paltz), an M.P.H. in epidemiology (the State University of New York at Albany) and an M.P.A in nonprofit management and governance (Marist College).  ih


ISNA ANNOUNCES NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ISNA is pleased to announce the appointment of Tayyab Yunus as its executive director. With over 20 years of experience as a social entrepreneur, Yunus has founded, incubated, launched, reinvented and led numerous domestic and international enterprises. “ISNA is fortunate to hire the first Americanborn Muslim executive director of our organization, a person who has demonstrated a strong ability to improve operations, building capacity and executing strategy,” stated ISNA president Dr. Sayyid M Syeed. “Tayyab’s long service to the American Muslim community, as well as the fact that he was born and raised in small-town America, will help revive and rebuild ISNA for generations to come.” Tayyab started his journey in the social good sector as early as high school. He created his own personal mission statement, “to improve the human condition,” and has spent his life spreading awareness of the People Greater Than Profit lifestyle philosophy. In 2002 he founded the for-profit Intuitive Solutions, a social enterprise that brings employment opportunities to low economic areas around the world, improves the human condition through professional development and job creation and has helped over 1,000 businesses achieve success. With offices in North America, India, Colombia, Guatemala and the Philippines,

Intuitive Solutions has become a critical part of the social good ecosystem. “I took the job because as an American Muslim I care not only about the Muslim condition but about the human condition. For me, that is what Islam is really about — service to all of humanity,” stated Yunus. “ISNA has long embraced the incredible diversity of the Muslim community in North America. I am honored to be selected to serve as ISNA’s executive director. My goal is to continue to strengthen that vision by bringing to light what it means to be an American Muslim and a community that serves others.” Tayyab serves on the faculty of The Fund Raising School at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and as president of the Center on Muslim Philanthropy. In addition, he is a member of the university’s Council of Advisors at the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative, assists Northeastern University’s School of Business in developing a pipeline of young Muslim social entrepreneurs and sits on the advisory board of Muhsen and other local and national Muslim nonprofit organizations. He also manages a mentorship program for Muslim American nonprofit CEOs and executives to help build their management and strategic capacities. Previously, Tayyab was president of Young Muslims and a number of Muslim nonprofits in the U.S.  ih


ISNA board member Dr. Shariq Siddiqui presented “Creating Your Fundraising Plan” at the ElHibri Foundation’s executive nonprofit training seminar. Held on March 23, this event focused on fundraising and development and was attended by some 56 nonprofit leaders representing more than 30 national organizations. One of the attendees was Nida Saleem, ISNA’s funding development operations officer.  ih 12    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

Habibe Ali retired from ISNA on February 28, which coincided with her birthday, after serving for 29 years. Her last temporary assignment was interim executive director. On March 2, ISNA Founders Committee recognized her outstanding service during its annual retreat at ISNA HQ. In her farewell note, the former chief operations officer said, “It has been my honor and pleasure to work with you and so many wonderful people over the years. I consider us all members of ISNA’s, family as we share successes and challenges, highs and lows.” The Minnesota native attended her first MSA conference in 1974 in San Jose, Calif., having converted a year earlier while living in northern California. After obtaining an undergraduate degree and a graduate degree, majoring in education, from Indiana State University, she taught for one year at a junior college in northern California.

After moving to Indiana, she worked as an administrator and teacher for the Islamic School of Plainfield (1983-84) and with a company that supervised international graduate students and their scholarships. She joined the ISNA Education Department in October 1989 as a secretary for the late Dr. Shaban Ismail, the then director of education. During her 29-year tenure, she assisted all of ISNA’s secretary-generals and other leaders. A mother of four and a grandmother of five, she is now enjoying a well-deserved retirement.  ih


“Are we hopeful that we are making a difference? Yes. In fact, we know that we are,” proclaimed Rabbi Marisa Elana James, director of social justice programming, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, as she hosted a Shoulder to Shoulder “Faith over Fear” training session in March. An alum of its Emerging Religious Leadership program, she shared how, as presidential campaign rhetoric heated up with the increasing dehumanization of Muslims during 2016, she reached out to New York University’s Islamic Center to offer support and solidarity. That week, members of the Jewish community stood outside the center handing out roses as a sign of welcome and solidarity. They continue to show up week after week, welcoming students and others and building relationships with the worshippers. After the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018, their Muslim friends at the center called the synagogue first to offer solidarity and support. This was when, according to Rabbi James, she experienced firsthand why interfaith work is critical to building resilient communities: so that “hopefully one day we can just get together to trade potluck recipes and solve shared community problems, rather than having to show up for one another in times of crisis.” With hate crimes and hate groups at an all time high, a discriminatory ban on travel from numerous Muslim-majority countries, armed guards at religious centers and bullying impacting children’s education, Shoulder to Shoulder’s central message remains the same as it has been since its founding in 2010: “Anti-Muslim discrimination and violence goes against our religious values and poses a threat to all religious communities in America.” Therefore, she notes, “we will continue to show up with our Muslim neighbors to advance the American ideals of respect, equality and religious freedom for all.” During its nine-year existence, Shoulder to Shoulder has grown from 20 to 34 national member organizations and to over 60 local affiliate community organizations and congregations nationwide. These include a spectrum of Christian, Jewish and other faith traditions’ organizations. Since day one, ISNA has served as its hosting

partner and has worked with it on numerous projects and initiatives to advance understanding between Muslims and other faith communities, and to further the rights and dignity of all Americans. Shoulder to Shoulder focuses on three primary areas: Equipping faith communities with knowledge about anti-Muslim bigotry and how to address it, with a focus on our member denominations, clergy and community partner organizations. Connecting individuals, institutions and communities with one another to build and strengthen the faith infrastructure for pushing back against anti-Muslim discrimination. Mobilizing faith communities to speak out publicly in response to anti-Muslim bigotry. This period has witnessed the creation of a strong network of partners and friends, people willing to commit their time, resources and passion to building a better America. These relationships, built over meals, meetings and joint community projects, allow us to deepen inclusive faith communities nationwide as well as enable communities to show up for one another when faced with a crisis and in times of joy. More “Faith over Fear” trainings are scheduled for this year. The organization is also launching its “United States of Love over Hate: A Ramadan Supper Series” again for 2019, identifying and advertising iftars open to people of other faiths looking for a chance to meet their Muslim neighbors. Also planned is a Ramadan Road Trip that will highlight Muslim and interfaith partners in several cities in the South, showing how people are coming together over meals and community service. If you would like to know more about Shoulder to Shoulder’s work or get involved, go to to learn more!  ih — From Cassandra Lawrence, project and communications consultant, Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign

ISNA NEIGHBORS CARE In the glow of the message of care emanating from New Zealand, some ISNA headquarters’ neighbors stepped forward to express their solidarity with Muslims. One area family brought a large bouquet of flowers, and a church group brought chocolates.



Muhammad Ali’s home to become a summer school Behram Turan, head of the Turkish educational Türken Foundation (www., is transforming the The Champ’s farm, located on the edge of the Joseph River in Berrien Springs, Mich., into a summer school for Muslim youth, reported Istanbul’s Daily Sabah on Jan. 21. Ali spent the last two decades of his life here. The farm, located near Chicago’s large Muslim community, comprises a


▲  Ali’s house was a place where he secluded himself from time to time after moving to L.A. and Arizona.

four-bedroom house and seven additional buildings, including a gym with a boxing ring, a basketball field and a pool. Turan said, “This will also be a chance for students to be inspired by Ali’s life philosophy and work for success” and that “Our work will be supported both by the Muhammad Ali Museum and the family of Ali. We want it to serve as a functioning community center with summer school and conferences.”

U.S. media outlets valued the sale at $2.5 million. The Türken Foundation was established in 2014 in the U.S. by two of Turkey’s prominent educational foundations, Ensar and Türgev, to assist eligible students through housing, scholarships and other cultural programs to improve their educational experience in the U.S.  ih

The Islamic Center of Siouxland hosted a grand opening ceremony on Feb. 20 to celebrate the center’s expansion. South Sioux City mayor Rod Koch, Police Chief Ed Mahon and City Manager Lance Hedquist were among the local officials in attendance. The center had launched the $300,000

project in December 2017, for a 3,000-square-foot expansion that roughly doubled the center’s space. Ahmad Mohammad, the congregation’s imam, said the center was founded in 1996 by a small group of doctors and professionals. In 2000, the group purchased a 2½-acre site in South Sioux City, where they built the original center in 2002. At that time, only 25 to 30 Muslim families lived there. Primarily due to a surge in Muslim families from Somalia and Ethiopia who have recently settled in the community, the number attending services and social gatherings has grown to as many as 150.  ih


Foundation Supports Elevating Muslim Americans Pillars Fund (, a Chicago-based foundation funded by a network of Muslim American donors, announced on Feb. 12 that it has given a total of $625,000 to 26 organizations it recognizes for “elevating American Muslims through political advocacy, health and wellness, research and the arts” in nine states and the District of Columbia. Recipients include a Chicago project that seeks to raise awareness about companies profiting from or promoting anti-Muslim policies, a New York-based effort to create an in-depth television documentary series on the entire history of Muslim Americans and an Ann Arbor, Mich., organization working to create understandings of black and Muslim Americans. Supported by 25 Muslim professionals, the fund has awarded $3.5 million since its inception in 2010.  ih

Standards Alliance of America (HFSAA),” according to the Islamic Center at N.Y.U. It also has a small convenience store that only sells halal-certified items. HFSAA monitors two other N.Y.U. dining halls at their halal sections. “The Lipton Dining Hall is a milestone for our community,” said ICNYU imam Khalid Latif in the announcement. Along with more halal dining options at the university, there are a growing number of halal food options in neighboring Greenwich Village and many halal food carts — 57 percent of the city’s food vendors are Muslim, according to Muslims for American Progress.

New York City recognized the contributions of the Jamaica Muslim Center and the impact it has had on the New York community and the U.S. at large by naming 168th Street, between Gothic Drive and Highland Avenue, “JMC WAY.” The new sign was unveiled on Mar. 15 after Jummah prayer. Siddiqur Rahman, DDS, serves as president, and Monjur Ahmed Choudhury as general secretary.  ih

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.,

The Islamic Center of Wallingford (Conn.) celebrated the mosque’s reopening on Jan. 20 in its new location, which they obtained after a nearly 10-year search. The mosque was formerly the Ward Street Church of Christ, which moved to the former Temple B’Nai Abraham synagogue in December 2018. In 2008, after months of meetings, the 16    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

Planning and Zoning Commission had bowed to its opponents’ demand and unanimously voted down the mosque’s proposal to build on their lot. Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., who attended the event, said, “It’s a real plus for Wallingford. We need very active and involved religious institutions in town. That’s where good values are learned.” The community has done minimal renovations and continues to raise funds to transform the church into a mosque. New York University opened its first completely halal dining hall, the Lipton Hall, on Jan. 27, making it the “first fully dedicated residential dining location at a major university in North America certified at the highest level of Halal through Halal Food

New York City Council re-named a section of Coney Island Avenue, where the Pakistani community is concentrated, on Dec. 26, 2018, in honor of Mahomed Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, who was born on Dec. 25, 1876. The move was the result of years of hard work and lobbying by this community, especially the Pakistani-American Youth Organization. Jumaane Williams, a city council member from Brooklyn who successfully piloted the resolution, unveiled the road sign, while Pakistani-Americans, carrying Pakistan’s flag, burst into cheers and chanted slogans. Pakistani Consul-General in New York, Naeem Iqbal Cheema, was a special guest at the event.


Imam Omar Suleiman Joins ShariaPortfolio as ethical advisor. Imam Omar Suleiman’s addition strengthens ShariaPortfolio’s mission to educate the Muslim community on halal investing and offer professionally managed investment solutions. This boutique asset management firm specializing in Sharia-compliant investing announced on Mar. 13, that Imam Omar Suleiman, founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research (, has joined the firm as ethical advisor. Suleiman, who has amassed a large following due to his humanitarian and activist work, said, “ShariaPortfolio has been investing according to Sharia for over a decade, and it is this expertise and professionalism that inspired me to join their team. I’m excited to share this important message and educate the Muslim community about this important pillar of our faith.”  ih


Ibraheem Samirah, a 27-year-old dentist of Palestinian descent, won the Virginia House of Delegates 86th District seat in by-elections held Feb. 9. He secured nearly 60 percent of the votes in the special election. “I don’t want to think of myself as the future by myself, because there’s a lot of people that want to be involved in this, but I’m glad to be part of the stepping stones for that,” Samirah told supporters. 18    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

▲  Imam Felton Quiett (center) with Muslim offenders in his Taleem class.

Imam Felton Quiett (Ali Khan Salaam), a contract chaplain, was honored for his years of service to Muslim offenders. Deputy Warden of Programs Tonya Toomey and Chaplain Roscoe Barnes III presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation and a Special Recognition Award (plaque) for his contributions to the Religious Programs at Wilkinson County (Miss.) Correctional Facility. “Chaplain Quiett has been with us for about four years or more,” said Barnes. “He is truly exceptional ... a dedicated and exemplary chaplain who assists me with the Islamic programs and other activities in my department. We are blessed to have him on our team and as our leader in the Islamic faith.”  ih Samirah is focused on addressing transportation, health care, education, the economy and justice for all Virginians. All 140 General Assembly seats will be up for election in Nov. 2019, meaning that he is expected to wage another campaign for the same seat later this year. At the annual Celebrate Muslim Women Expo, held March 3 in Oak Brook, Ill., The Muslim Women’s Alliance (MWA; recognized three outstanding Muslimahs for their leadership and activism: Zakiyyah El-Amin — Playwright, director at SUN Puppet Theatre, activist and member of the board directors of Masjid Al-Taqwa and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. Maaria Mozaffar — Civil rights attorney, author of “More than Pretty” (Culturatti Ink, 2017), founder of The Skinless Project and legislative consultant. Itedal Shalabi — co-founder and executive director of Arab American Family Services and community organizer. MWA, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, focuses on developing female leaders, community service, mentoring high school and college girls and advocating for social justice.

Vaccine expert Dr. Saad B. Omer was appointed inaugural director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, which was founded last year, reported Yale on Jan. 24. Omer served as the William H. Foege Professor of Global Health, Epidemiology, and Pediatrics at Emory University’s Schools of Public Health and Medicine. He will hold joint appointments at the Yale School of Public Health and the Yale School of Medicine and a secondary appointment at the Yale School of Nursing, effective July 1. Omer, who has published widely in peer-reviewed journals, has received multiple awards and served on several advisory panels, among them the National Vaccine Advisory Committee, the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria — Incentives for Vaccine Working Group, the WHO Expert Advisory Group for Healthcare Worker Vaccination and as an academic affiliate of the Office of Evaluation Sciences (the former White

COMMUNITY MATTERS House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team). He received his Ph.D. and M.P.H. degrees from the Johns Hopkins University, and his M.B.B.S. from The Aga Khan University Medical College, Karachi, Pakistan.

Kassim Busuri, 32, took oath of office St. Paul’s City Council on Feb. 6. The other six council members appointed him to serve out the remainder of Dan Bostrom’s term, which lasts until the end of 2019. Bostrom retired in Dec. 2018. The entire council is up for re-election this year. Busuri, the first Somali American in this office, is the education director at the Minnesota Da’wah Institute ( and childcare center director at Bright Start. Busuri was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and spent his early childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp before immigrating to the U.S. with his family in 1996. A St. Paul resident since 2010, he lives with his wife and two children, aged 2 and 4.

Associate Professor Dr. Farhana Sultana of the department of Geography at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, received the 2019 American Association of Geographers’ AAG Glenda Laws Award on April 7 at the AAG Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The awardees represent outstanding contributions to and accomplishments in the field of geography. The citation said that Sultana’s work is theoretical and applied, interdisciplinary, rigorous, critical, layered, intriguing, 20    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

provocative and even uncomfortable at times. She began her professional career in social justice and gradually expanded her focus to colonialism, institutional racism and related concerns. One of her most recognized bodies of work has forced people to recognize that academic freedom is not globally guaranteed. More recently, she has brought her skills, knowledge and talents to the increasingly vocal and visible problems of mental health that have emerged in academia. She has supervised more than forty Ph.D., Master’s, and Honor’s students and mentored many more. She has been described as a scholar/ activist and public intellectual, as someone with the courage and bravery to speak out even when doing so may be uncomfortable to the status quo. Dr. Syed Eqbal Hasan, professor emeritus of Geosciences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, received a Fulbright Senior Scholar award for the 2019-20 year. He will be affiliated with the University of Jordan, Amman, where he will teach courses in his specialty: waste management. This is the second time he has been selected for this award. During spring 2016 he taught at Qatar University. Hasan, who a doctoral degree in engineering from Purdue, has served as a president and board member of the Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City. In addition, he serves as chair of the MSA of Greater Kansas City, the Shawnee Mission Islamic Education Center and on the advisory board of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. He has been contributing a faith column in the Kansas City Star.

In March 2019 Dr. Nyla Ali Khan was appointed as a commissioner on the Oklahoma Commission on the Status of Women for a five-year term by Sen. Greg Treat, president pro tempora of the Oklahoma Senate.

Ali Khan told the Red Dirt Report on March 11 that she acts as a resource and provides expertise to the commission as well as research and information on societal violence and structural inequities that result from deep-rooted prejudices against women. The Morton Grove City Council honored the Sabeel Ahmed family on Feb. 11 for their acts of kindness during the January polar vortex in Chicago. The family put a letter into their 40 neighbors’ mailboxes, issued an invitation to come to their home for hot tea and samosas and offered to help with grocery shopping, snow removal and medicine pick up.

On March 25, Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell (D) was sworn in as the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ first hijab-wearing legislator on the copy of the Quran belonging to her son Charles, who was lost to gun violence in 2013. Inspired by this tragedy, she created the nonprofit CHARLES Foundation ( to empower communities and prevent gun violence. Her platform ranged from socioeconomic opportunity and education reform to prioritizing gun violence prevention. A former supervisor of Victim Services in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, she stated, “My win … is not just momentous because I’m the first Muslim woman to be elected … but because of what I represent. Because I come from five generations of poverty, because I’ve had to live on food stamps and [in] public housing, because at one point in my life the only care I got was from Planned Parenthood, because I am a Muslim woman, because I am a black woman.” Announcing her candidacy in January, she told Philadelphia Magazine that she was “running because I care about my community — I don’t need a job,” adding that if she won, she would actually be taking a $20,000 pay cut.  ih

Join us in opening the door to social good.

While you spend this blessed month of Ramadan in worship and harmony with family, friends and community members, keep ISNA in mind. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was the most generous of the people in good deeds, and he was even more generous in the month of Ramadan than the nourishing winds. Donate generously today to support ISNA from your Zakat and Sadaqa.



An Angel Among Us A foster father dedicated to caring for terminally ill children BY AMAL OMER


ohamed Bzeek, a retired electrical engineer, was 44 years old when he went to the gym for the first time in his life. Bzeek started exercising after years of his doctor telling him that he needed to lose weight. He lost 75 pounds and ran his first of 16 marathons in the span of seven months. And although this is an amazing feat, his true might is his heart. Bzeek, who came to the U.S. from Libya in 1978 as a college student on scholarship, has dedicated 30 years of his life to serving as a foster parent. He was introduced to fostering by his late wife, Dawn. She was a foster mother when he met her and had lived with her grandparents, who were a foster family. “When we got married, that’s what we started doing,” he says. Since 1995, Bzeek has specialized in caring for terminally ill children, who others will not take in because they are dying, and is the only foster parent of his kind in Los Angeles County. Bzeek, now 64, has fostered more than 80 children, most of whom, he says, came to him as two-week-old babies after leaving the hospital.


SERVICE TO HUMANITY “Some of them — you know what’s the surprise? They have no names. Their families don’t bother to give them names. They come to my house [as] ‘baby girl’ or ‘baby boy.’ I name them. It’s not official, but I [just] give them names because I can’t call them ‘baby girl’ or ‘baby boy.’” In 1997, Bzeek and his wife had their own biological child, Adam. He was born with brittle bone disease and dwarfism. Today Adam, 21, who is mobile using an electrical wheelchair and has a nurse aide during the day, is a college student studying computer science. Along with his son, Bzeek cares for a foster daughter. She has macroencephaly, a condition in which the brain is not fully developed, and came to him when she was only six weeks old. “[The doctors] told me ‘You are lucky if it’s a few weeks or a few months.’ Now, today exactly she is eight years and four ▲  Bzeek gives his best care to his foster daughter months. She’s lived eight years,” he says proudly. after the Los Angeles Times published an Bzeek has taken the little girl in as a article about him in February of 2017. The long-term foster child and refers to her as article’s publication was delayed for two his daughter. months and ultimately printed within days “She will stay with me as long as she is of the ban, barring nationals from seven alive. She is going nowhere,” he says like a Muslim-majority countries—including protective father. Libya—entering the U.S., being instated. The little girl’s rare condition requires “[The reporter] told me ‘Your article full-time care. She is deaf, blind and has a came at the right time.’ I told her ‘No, God minimum of four seizures a day. Her con- works in mysterious ways. For two months dition also requires 15 medications in the you’re trying to publish it and you couldn’t, morning and evening, and oxygen, feeding, and after it [the Muslim ban] was signed, and suction machines, as well as a nebulizer it came out.’ And, a lot of people criticized for her lungs that she is treated with four [the ban] after hearing my story.” Bzeek’s story went viral after the article times a day. Her treatments are upped to was published. Outlets from Al Jazeera and every four hours if she is sick. At one time, Bzeek and his wife were PBS NewsHour to People magazine and all of caring for their own son and two foster chil- the major state newspapers, multiple church dren. They continued to foster even when publications and even media in Europe and Dawn became ill. Dawn passed away in 2015. China, covered his story. Bzeek says the story After three decades of fostering, the work was reported in 10 different languages and that Bzeek started with his wife came to light in more than two-thirds of the world’s 24    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

countries. It also inspired an Oakland-based woman to create a GoFundMe page for Bzeek. The fund has exceeded the set goal of $100,000. The L.A. Times connected Bzeek, who prior to the fund being created had never heard of GoFundMe, with the woman. She had been struggling with depression and told him that his story changed her outlook on life. “She said, ‘Mohamed, I read your story. It made me cry and you changed my life, and you inspired me and so I said ‘I have to do something for this family.’” Bzeek says that this kind of response to his story is common. “Most people [who send me messages] tell me that they cried when they read my story because my story, it’s not religious, it’s not political, it’s [about] humanity. And people also told me that [they were] sick of negativity and [that after so many years] it was a positive story to read.” Many of them also told Bzeek that they were surprised to learn that a Muslim in the U.S. was doing work that even Americans don’t do. “[It’s] because they always have negativity about Muslims. The purpose of my story is to inspire people to help other people, especially these unfortunate kids who are born terminally ill and have been left in hospitals.” In 2016, Bzeek was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent an operation two weeks later, one day before his birthday. He says his own health scare helped him understand the experience of his foster children. “I was by myself. I had to do the tests. I had to talk with the doctors. I had to face the operation by myself. I even went to the operation room by myself. They [asked me] ‘Where’s your wife?’ and I said, ‘My wife passed away’ and they said, ‘What about your son?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, but he’s handicapped.’ I was scared, you know? It’s very scary to

SERVICE TO HUMANITY go for a cancer operation by yourself. I was 62 years old at that time and scared [as an adult].” He laments, “What about the kids? They’re little kids. They have nobody. My operation humbled me. I was in their shoes. I felt what they feel. Those kids need somebody to be with them. They are sick from the minute they are born. I believe every kid has a right to have a family, mom and dad, brothers and sisters, a place to call home, somebody to love them, care for them, do the best thing for them and be with them until the last minute of their life and during their hardship.” Bzeek says that he always speaks to his son openly about the children he fosters. He explains to Adam that the children need their help and that they don’t have long to live. Bzeek has seen 10 of the children he has fostered pass away at his home from their illnesses. “I do as a human being everything that’s in my power, but as a human being I have limitations. I leave the rest to God.” He credits his faith when people ask why he takes on the responsibility of being a foster parent.


“My faith is a big factor because my faith obligates me that if I am able to help people [then] I have to help because our deen is a religion of love and compassion and helping other people who need help. So if you are able [to help], you must do that.” Bzeek makes a point to take reporters who cover his story to the mosque. Much of the coverage he has received describes him as a devout Muslim. His goal is to use his story to change the perception of Muslims in the U.S. “There’s nothing wrong with Islam. You have to distinguish between the [people] and Islam. Islam is going to be the same [from the day of the] Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to the Day of Judgment.” He says he has received an outpouring of messages from people all over the world. “The thing that affected me the most was when an atheist man messaged me. He said ‘Mr. Bzeek, I am an atheist man. I don’t believe in God, but I read your story [and] I’m hoping there is a God so that He will reward you.’” His story has even caught the attention of filmmakers. An Academy Award winning director showed up at his door just days after

the L.A. Times article was published. He is currently filming a documentary on Bzeek. Another film crew from Turkey followed him for 33 days and showed their movie at the Los Angeles Film Festival. It is also slated to show at the Istanbul Film Festival. There is also a feature-film project in the works to bring Bzeek’s story to the big screen in Hollywood. Since 2010 he has not had one day off, with the exception of a trip he took to Turkey to accept an award he received from the Turkish president. Bzeek often gets asked how long he will continue his work. “As long as I am healthy, as long as I can provide good care for them, I’ll keep doing it the rest of my life. I never had any [foster] kids from the Middle East or my country. I never had Muslim [foster] kids, but to me it’s like the Prophet said: ‘Every newborn is a Muslim.’ I don’t see religion, color, background, or ethnic group. I only see a human being. I never think about them as foster kids. That’s what keeps me going. I think of them as my biological kids. I have to provide for them like my own.”  ih Amal Omer is a writer based in Washington, D.C.


Fostering Muslim Children and Youth in Canada Canada’s growing Muslim community needs to pay more attention to developing foster care and social services BY SYED IMTIAZ AHMAD


ostering occurs when a non-related family takes in a child or a youth to provide him/her with life’s necessities and emotional support. Canada’s Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) defines foster care as placing a child or young person in the home of someone who is compensated for caring for him/her, despite not being the child’s biological parents. “Foster care” and “adoption” are often used interchangeably, despite two fundamental differences between them. Foster care is a temporary measure that may be acceptable if there is an expectation of ultimate return to the biological parents; adoption is permanent. Funding agencies don’t favor indefinite foster care because of potential complications, although technically no limitation has been placed on its duration. In addition, the child’s biological parents retain parental rights while he/she is in foster care. Adoption terminates all such rights, even to the point of giving these children new names and telling them nothing about their biological parents. Fostering may take place in families or “group homes,” such as orphanages. While orphanages exist in many parts of the world, particularly in Muslim countries, in the U.S. 28    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

“orphanage” has been replaced by “group home,” which indicates the lack any family setting. In Canada, the number of children and youth involved in family fostering is over 500,000. The fact that more than 20 percent of them live in group homes is considered unsatisfactory, because research shows that children placed in foster families have a better chance of success. A common thread running through all religions and community cultures is the core importance of being good to others and doing good to them. In Islam, these terms are ihsan and khayr, respectively. Muslims have fostered children ever since the advent of Islam, most notably the future Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who was fostered by his uncle and then his grandfather. The Arabic phrase for this arrangement is re’aya at-tifl, or simply re’aya: taking in an orphaned child who continues to be known by his/her biological father’s name. The Quran uses tabanni for adoption. In February 1853, a group of Canadian social reformers established the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) with Charles Loring Brace as its secretary. The founders were motivated

by the desire to inform policy and provide social services to poor, disabled and homeless children and impoverished families. In 1988 President Reagan proclaimed May to be “National Foster Care Month” to recognize those parents who open their homes to children in need and care. Every year a new theme is chosen. This year’s theme is “Foster Care as a Support to Families, Not a Substitute for Parents.” This year, Foster Care Month coincides with Ramadan. The purpose of fasting is to cleanse oneself spiritually and to rejuvenate oneself by striving to live more in accord with Islam’s teachings and ideals. There is a heightened focus on proper practice, for belief has no value if it is not manifested in practice. Ramadan asks us to focus on cleansing our souls by reflecting on what we pray for and cleansing our possessions by seeking ways to be responsive and proactive when it comes to meeting the needs of those around us. Being a foster parent is clear need. Four years after Canada’s founding in 1867, the 1871 Canadian census recorded 13 Bosnian Muslims among the population. Even before the country’s founding, there is evidence that Muslims were moving to areas known today as “Canada” since 1851, even as far back as 1492, when Columbus reached the “New World.” The 2011 Canada National Household Survey counted 1,053,945 Muslims, or about 3.2 percent of the population, making Islam the country’s second largest religion. Perhaps the same or a higher proportion holds true

today. More than half of these Muslims reside in Ontario; however, every Canadian province and territory contains Muslims. As Canada’s Muslim population continues to grow, we can see that many of their needs have not been met, as is the case for the population at large. Just as social reformers established CAS in 1853, Muslim social reformers need to follow their example — with the added consideration of living an Islamic lifestyle. For example, the community has more than 100 organizations, many of which are local mosques serving as places of worship and services as well as sites associated with food banks that serve thousands of all Canadians. Some also provide shelter to the homeless, as is the case with the 45-bed Muslim Welfare Centre facility in Whitby, Ontario. However, the participation of Muslim organizations in foster parenting is quite limited. One reason for this is that the required skillset is demanding, for such children have often experienced trauma that requires professional training. The situation is further exacerbated when a child has to be moved from one home to another. According to clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Saadia Ahmad, who assesses the mental health status of children removed from their homes allowing a child familiarity with culture, religion, and fundamental day to day practices can minimize trauma for the child. It allows the child to hold on to aspects of her/his identity in order to maintain as much of a stable sense of self as possible. It assists

with reassuring a child that his/her needs will be met in familiar ways. Parenting invariably requires communication skills, empathy, patience and a commitment to support the child’s proper growth — requirements that may vary from one child to another. It is often difficult to raise your own children, and likely much harder to provide care to the children of others.

call. A qualified Muslim family will likely be more successful in fostering a Muslim child. In fact, Muslims should regard providing such care as their responsibility. Muslim organizations should also seek to resolve familial conflicts, dysfunctions, and support issues because success in these areas will allow Muslim foster care children to rejoin their biological parents.

MERCY MISSION OF CANADA, A NATIONAL MUSLIM DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION, HAS LAUNCHED FOSTER LINK (HTTPS:// FOSTERLINK.CA) TO ENCOURAGE MUSLIM CANADIANS TO BECOME FOSTER PARENTS. ITS DIRECTOR SHAHZAD MUSTAFA BELONGS TO A MUSLIM FOSTERING FAMILY. As formal foster care is highly regulated, it is hard to qualify for becoming foster parents. In Canada, Muslim fostering has a long way to go before becoming an organized operation. Informal fostering of the children of relatives and friends is taking place, and Islamic organizations are being asked to find foster parents. An informal arrangement can be made without involving the regulatory agencies. This approach has some benefits, but some risks may arise in complicated situations. Any organization that supports foster care arrangements must have an ongoing setup to ensure success, as well as a registry of potential foster parents based on scrutiny, evaluation and professional training. Sometimes foster placements don’t work, and the arrangement’s end leads to various difficulties, among them trauma for the child, the family or both. Mercy Mission of Canada, a national Muslim development organization, has launched Foster Link ( to encourage Muslim Canadians to become foster parents. Its director Shahzad Mustafa belongs to a Muslim fostering family. This project focuses on making the community aware of fostering, determining the family’s demographic and support needs, connecting with CAS and similar agencies, facilitating placements and providing ongoing support to foster families. The alert sent out by CAS about the scarcity of Muslim foster homes is a wake-up

Canada has nationwide service organizations such as ISNA-Canada, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). However, none of them have made any organized effort for fostering Muslim children. ISNA-Canada’s Shaykh Abdalla Idris Ali, senior community and religious advisor, says that the only sustained activity is giving advice on specific requests for fostering. He feels that there is a need for training programs. MAC executive director Dr. Sharaf Sharafeldin indicated that MAC provides support to those involved in fostering but does not have any dedicated setup. ICNA Relief Canada offers counseling and training to anyone willing to be a foster parent, whereas NCCM’s priority is civic engagement. The Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA) stands out for its work in Muslim fostering. In 2009 it published “Caring for Muslim Children: A Guide for Foster Parents.” In addition, its work was recognized and funded by Manitoba’s General Child and Family Services Authority. It can be ordered by clicking the “Publications” button at  ih Dr. Syed Imtiaz Ahmad, emeritus professor at Eastern Michigan University, has served as ISNA vice president and president, ISNA Canada vice president and president, president of Computer Science Association of Canada, president of Association of Pakistani Scientists and Engineers of North America, president of Pakistan Canada Association, president of Windsor Islamic Association and chair of the ISNA Canada School Board.



Care with Faith When Most Needed Muslim families need to step up the plate when Muslim children face foster care need BY SAMEENA ZAHOOR


his year, Ramadan coincides with President Ronald Reagan’s 1988 proclamation of May as “National Foster Care Month.” While most of our children look forward to family gatherings, special foods, congregational prayers and gifts, what about those who are trying to fast in a home where everyone around you is eating, trying to wake up for suhoor when everyone else is sleeping and/or breaking fast alone? Foster care is a state-initiated temporary placement for children when their parent(s) or guardian(s) is unable or has failed to keep them safe and/or meet their basic needs. Placement may be necessitated due to parental substance abuse, homelessness, extreme poverty, physical abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, death of a guardian

or separation due to war and refugee resettlement — issues that can be found in all communities. The awareness of foster care is increasing among Muslims, but the number of licensed Muslim families who can accept them remains extremely low. In addition, as foster families often don’t renew their license due to burn out, many children end up in non-Muslim homes. Imagine a child who was removed from his/her family for one of

The National Foster Care Month campaign aims to: • Raise awareness of foster care issues. • Motivate others to help foster care and foster children succeed. • Create a positive framework that maintains the progress made during May throughout the year.


the reasons listed and now has to live with a family that doesn’t share his/her religion, culture or language. Realizing such challenges, in 2016 Dr. Sameena Zahoor, a Plymouth, Mich., physician and domestic foster parent, and Ranya Shbeib, a refugee foster parent, founded the Muslim Foster Care Association (MFCA; This Michigan-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization’s mission is “To answer the call of our faith in caring for orphans, by improving the lives of foster children and supporting the foster families who care for them, through community education, support networks, and advocacy.” To achieve their goals, MFCA works to directly improve the lives of Muslim foster children. For example, they create welcome

packages for those entering the foster care system filled with items to help them stay connected to Islam, such as prayer rugs, Islamic children’s books, a Quran and more. These comfort items seek to help them during a very traumatic disruption in their lives. For the past four years, MFCA has partnered with the Michigan-based Michigan Muslim Community Council (https://www. to organize an annual Eid gift campaign to bring some holiday joy

on several initiatives designed to have an ongoing positive impact: •  Educating the community about the growing number of Muslim children in the system and the need for far more licensed Muslim foster parents. •  Working with religious leaders to dispel the myths, to explain the relevant fiqh rulings on fostering and adoption and to remind us of our duty to fulfill this community responsibility.


into these children’s lives and, in a small way, show them that their community cares. As one can imagine, it’s especially hard for many foster children to realize that they won’t be celebrating with their biological family and will be waking up with no Eid gifts, no new clothes and no one to take them to the mosque or Eid celebrations. This is the reality for many of those placed in unrelated foster homes, group homes or residential facilities. Even those placed with relatives struggle around the holidays, for relatives generally receive no funding to care for them and often cannot afford to purchase Eid gifts or clothes. Every year, this campaign emails Michigan’s foster care agencies, asking them to identify Muslim children in foster care and help them complete MFCA’s wish list so that it can create individualized gift baskets to be distributed before the Eid holidays. Last year, people donated over $15,000 and more than 130 Muslim foster children in the state received such gifts. Some of this year’s Eid wish list items are gift cards, Muslim-fashioned dolls and remote control cars. The total gift package is valued at over $75 per child. In addition, MFCA has been working

•  Providing assistance and local contacts for interested Muslim families. •  Educating and providing resources for non-Muslim families fostering Muslim children.

•  Asking Muslims at large to help via mentoring, tutoring, social work, court-appointed special advocate (CASA) volunteering and respite care. •  Providing a support network for Muslim foster parents. •  Educating state and local private agencies about Islam's dietary requirements, prayers and holidays. •  Advocating at all levels for foster children and their families by promoting funding and legislative changes that will improve these children’s protection and welfare. MFCA, which currently focuses on local initiatives in Michigan, seeks to develop best practices and solutions locally and show other communities how to replicate its efforts. We are also collecting information nationwide about licensed Muslim foster parents so that we can contact licensed Muslim foster parents when we are notified of a Muslim child needing placement. Even if there are no Muslim children in your area’s foster care system, we encourage you to consider fostering any child in need of a loving home, regardless of his/her faith. Our website shares information about foster care and fiqh that supports this sunna. You can also sign up to receive quarterly e-newsletters. Please join our Facebook page, follow our progress and consider making a donation.  ih Dr. Sameena Zahoor, a physician, is MFCA co-founder and board member.



Fiqh Council of North America and Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America

The Islamic position regarding the care of orphans and abandoned children


he number of orphans and abandoned children has identity. We urge the use of the term Guardianship (or Kafalah) grown in recent years. There is greater need that Muslim for this purpose (33:4-5). families, especially those living in more peaceful and affluent ❷  Use of the legal documents: Fosterage and guardianship laws environments, come forward to care for these children. The in most Western societies are complex and require knowledge and Qur’an and Sunnah emphasize the care of orphans and promise expertise. Lawyers and experts in the field should help find approGod’s many blessings both in this world and the Hereafter for those priate ways to preserve the child’s as well as the guardian family’s who undertake this duty (Qur’an 90.11-16; 93:6; 93:9). legal rights. We call on Muslims who are engaged in fostering or Caring for an orphan and abandoned child has been guardianship to consult with lawyers and expert in the both a moral and legal imperative in the Islamic legal system. ❸  Flexibility in Titles: Islamic law shows tradition. flexibility when it comes to calling an elder The Fiqh Council of North America male or female “Father” or “Mother” out (FCNA) and The Assembly of Muslim of respect, as well as, referring to a child Jurists of America (AMJA) give the folas “Son” or “Daughter” out of love and lowing guidelines: ❶  Foster Care: There are many compassion. This ruling might ease Muslims currently in the foster-care the way of communication between system due to substance abuse, mental all persons involved. health issues of a guardian, homeless❹  Observance of the Rules of ness, and other reasons. Domestic fosMahram: The Quran emphasizes the ter-care is typically a short-term cirknowledge and observance of the rules cumstance. The goal of domestic foster of mahram (the kin who are not allowed care is reunification with birth parents, to marry each other). In the case of the unless the courts have terminated parental guardian and his biological and matrimorights. Refugee foster children are typically nial family members are not mahram to the teenagers and come to the U.S. without their child under guardianship/kafalah and fosterage, birth parents as unaccompanied refugee minors. the rules of mahram should be observed. Hence the For many foster children whose parents are living but Quran and the Prophetic model emphasize the loving cannot care for them, we call on Muslim Americans to increase the and compassionate relationship in terms of living together in the same house. The rules have been set number of licensed Muslim foster homes, support licensed foster famin order to preserve relational stailies and foster children. We call on bility, respect privacy and protect all ISLAMIC CENTERS AS WELL mosques to provide the support and members who live under one roof. AS ISLAMIC ORGANIZATIONS The rules concerning non-mahram create a friendly environment that support foster families and foster in the household should be observed SHOULD PROVIDE THE children. when the child under kafalah grows Kafalah: The primary goal of fosup as an adult. All restrictions related SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL, terage, guardianship and kafalah is to to acting with the opposite genders PHYSICAL AND FINANCIAL come after puberty. provide care for a child who would otherwise be deprived of a family Mahramiyah through Rada’ah: ASSISTANT NECESSARY FOR environment. Kafalah comes from Guardian families can be advised of INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE the Arabic root “ka-fa-la,” (to take the possibility of creating mahramiyah care of). In legal terms, kafalah is typthrough milk relationship (rada’ah) THE DESIRE TO CARE FOR ically defined as “the commitment to [4:23]. If the child is under two years ORPHANS BUT THEY LACK voluntarily take care of the mainteold then it is unanimous that the child nance, education and protection of THE FINANCIAL RESOURCES. can become the mahram of guardian a minor. The Qur’an emphasizes the family, if the guardian woman nurses preservation of child’s lineage and the child five times. The milk does not 32    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

necessarily have to come from the guardian “mother” only but someone in her family like her sister or daughter can also provide five feeding of the child and it will be considered as rada’ah. The feeding could also be through a cup or bottle (31:14). Special Rules of Seniors: Single women can obtain kafala/guardianship of girls and single males can obtain kafala/guardian of boys. Senior women or al-Qawa’id (post-menstrual women who cannot get pregnant or give birth) can be a guardian of orphaned and abandoned children (Q 24:60). The rules of interaction with the other gender are relaxed for them. ❺  Laws of Inheritance: Children under kafalah are not the kafeel family’s legal heirs and they would not inherit from their guardian parents. however, permissible according to Islamic law, the Guardian can make a special will — one third of their wealth – unless more is accepted by the Sharia-designated heirs for the children under kafalah. The same rule will apply for the children’s assets for their parents. In Islam, individuals have the right to act as they please with their wealth while alive, but within the Shariah guidelines. ❻  FCNA and AMJA urge Muslim communities to make collective efforts in dealing with the orphaned and abandoned children crisis. Islamic centers as well as Islamic organizations should provide the spiritual, emotional, physical and financial assistant necessary for individuals who have the desire to care for orphans but they lack the financial resources. ❼  Moving forward: Organizations, groups and individuals caring for orphaned and abandoned children are welcome to discuss with FCNA and AMJA any challenges they are facing regarding relationship to the Islamic jurisprudence.  ih

FIQH COUNCIL OF NORTH AMERICA (FCNA) P.O. Box 38 Plainfield, Ind. 46168 Email URL: ASSEMBLY OF MUSLIM JURISTS OF AMERICA (AMJA) 2251 Florin Rd., Suite 19 Sacramento, Calif. 95822 T +1 (916) 290.7601 Official Statement of FCNA & AMJA

The world we live in is constantly evolving and ISNA is committed to being a positive driver of change. ISNA has long recognized the importance of engaging with other faith communities as a fundamental part of its mission, and therefore, we continuously host and participate in interfaith events, meetings and webinars to educate our friends, partners, officials and activists about Islam. These interreligious initiatives have helped break down barriers of misunderstanding, formed genuine partnerships of faith and ethics, and established a platform to advocate for social justice issues for the common good. We aim to work together to fight Islamophobia and share knowledge about the true teachings and understanding of our religion in all sectors. The gift of education has a ripple effect—it creates change locally, nationally and globally. Ignorance is our enemy, and with your support we can make a difference. Please donate to ISNA today.

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▲  IMANA medical team at work in Sudan

Serving the Underserved Anesthesiologist Saud Farooqi takes part in medical missions overseas in Sudan and Bangladesh to care for those who need help the most BY HABEEBA HUSAIN


ne week on a medical mission overseas for a Chicago-based anesthesiologist is the most rewarding experience of his year. “You come back tired. You come back jet-lagged, and then you have to go to work the next day — but for me, it’s worth it,” Dr. Saud Farooqi says of his annual journey. “It’s one of the most fulfilling weeks that I have throughout the year.” Farooqi first got involved with medical missions ( six years ago through the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA; after he was informed about the opportunity by a friend. “As soon as he told me about it, I got excited,” Farooqi says. “I signed up for it right away.” 34    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

Out of the six trips he has taken so far, five of them were to Sudan, where he treated patients with cleft lips and cleft palates. These trips are surgical missions, and patients come from all over the country to receive the free services at a local hospital. There is a mix in terms of patient demographics; however, treating children with this specific surgical procedure is especially common during these missions. Farooqi says repairing the condition of cleft lips and cleft palates at an early age can really affect the course of a child’s life. “[The surgery] helps the children with their speech. It helps them with their swallowing,” Farooqi explains. “If anyone is walking around with a cleft lip, they are going to be stigmatized — issues with school, education, making friends. Some of them have difficulty

getting jobs, getting married. If you get it fixed as a child, there’s a huge difference.” A typical day consists of getting picked up from the hotel at the start of the workday, being transported to the hospital and remaining there until all of the patients have been taken care of. While Sudan saw Farooqi working in a somewhat familiar hospital environment — albeit seeing patients with conditions rarely encountered in the U.S. — his single mission to Bangladesh in 2018 brought him and his IMANA colleagues to a Rohingya refugee camp. There, Farooqi provided primary care — something the anesthesiologist had not dealt with much since he was a resident roughly 19 years ago. “Before I left to go to Bangladesh, I found myself reading, looking over primary care textbooks, diagnoses, treatments. I loaded up all these apps to try to help me when I got there,” he says. “When you get there, you realize there’s only so much you can do.” The limitations in the care that can be provided are due to a pervasive lack of resources within the refugee camps, unlike in Sudan, where the mission was carried out in a hospital. Basic necessities like running water, electricity and medicines for common



conditions like thyroid and diabetes were simply unavailable. “Here, you go see a doctor. You have the slightest illness, and they’ll order X-rays, they’ll order labs. They’ll do all this,” Farooqi says of medical care in the U.S. “Over there, you can’t do that. When you go on these missions, you see the lack of resources and how it affects the care people get.” As of September 2018, Bangladesh was accommodating over 1 million Rohingya refugees, according to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed. Her country welcomed the staggering number, despite being poor itself. “Bangladesh, for me, was life-changing. It shows you the inherent generosity of some people — and some countries essentially,” Farooqi states. “You hear the stories about how villages were burned, people were murdered, women were violated, the entire population of a village was wiped out. It was just a brutal scene, and they had nowhere to go. They crossed the border, and Bangladesh let them in. Bangladesh is a very poor country, and for them to accommodate all these people, I thought it was an unbelievable gesture on the part of the government and also on the part of the people.” Farooqi says Bangladesh felt it a duty to help the Rohingya, and he feels the same way about himself. “You go through all this education, you go through all this training, and it’s not just to get a job,” he says. “You can also use it to help people, provide basic care for people who don’t have it.” Refugees in Bangladesh rely upon organizations like IMANA, Doctors Without Borders ( and others to receive medical care. It’s something many of us in North America don’t have to think about twice.

“Every time I go on one of these missions, I come back and say Alhamdulillah that I live here. You try to count your blessings, but you just can’t,” Farooqi says. “It makes you want to keep going back to support these initiatives.” Farooqi hopes to increase his annual missions to twice a year, and he encourages others to look into mission trips as well. “There are a lot of Muslim physicians in the U.S. and Canada, and they should definitely be involved,” Farooqi remarks. “It’s a very eye-opening experience.” While physicians are essential for the on-the-ground work, Farooqi has gotten his friends and family involved, as well through Facebook campaigns necessary to fund the procedures needed by the overseas patients. He shares on Facebook at the end of his mission in Bangladesh last year: “As the sun sets over the Bay of Bengal, I had some brief moments to reflect over the last five days. All of the ups and downs, the sagas of the horrors experienced by our patients, the smiles of the orphans upon receiving a cookie, and the group contemplation upon what is to transpire for these refugees have created some unforgettable memories. The images of these despondent refugees are forever embedded in my mind. “I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity to come here and serve. I gained far more than what I had imagined I could give to others. May Allah accept this humble effort.” Farooqi points out that, unfortunately, most of the world’s refugees are Muslim. Through programs like IMANA and others, he hopes that those of us in fortunate circumstances will realize our abilities as well

as our responsibilities and assist in any way we can. “I think I benefit more from going [on these missions] than do all the patients that I’m helping there,” Farooqi says. “With the amount of blessings that we have, Insha’Allah we can continue to help.”  ih Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/ New Jersey, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for WhyIslam and is social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared in and MuslimGirl. com, aiming other online and print publications.

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Malaysia Steps into Uncharted Territory First Indonesia and now Malaysia — another corrupt Southeast Asian Muslim administration replaced peacefully via the ballot box BY JAY WILLOUGHBY

▲  Anwar Ibrahim


n a stunning election upset on May 9, 2018, Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad defeated his one-time protégé, Najib Razak, thereby ending the ruling Barisan National coalition’s six-decade-long monopoly. The country is now going through its first transmission of political power since it obtained independence from Imperial Britain more than half a century ago. Mahathir, 93, who has the distinction of being the world’s oldest head of government and Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister (1981-2003), stepped out of retirement and defected from the party he had helped entrench in order to lead the opposition. Former deputy minister Anwar Ibrahim, 71, whose People’s Justice Party had supported Mahathir and whose past convictions — widely believed to be spurious both at home and abroad — were pardoned by Sultan Mouhammad V, won a parliamentary seat in a by-election Oct. 14, 2018. This set 36    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

▲  Mahathir Mohamad

the stage, according to the pact between the two politicians, for his eventual rise to the post of prime minister within two years. His wife, Dato’ Seri Dr. Wan Azizah binti Wan Ismail, served as president of the party from 1999 until 2018. During the 1970s, Anwar’s long-standing interest in Islam and Malaysia’s young people led him to found ABIM (Malaysian Muslim Youth Association) and become a member of both IIFSO (International Islamic

Federation of Student Organizations) and of WAMY (World Assembly of Muslim Youth) representing East Asia. Anwar is no stranger to the Muslim American community. In 1975, while visiting Malaysian students in the U.S., he established MISG (Malaysian Islamic Study Group) in Peoria, Ill., an organization that was closely associated with MSA and ISNA. In 1982, while Dr. Hisham Altalib of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) was conducting an IIFSO and WAMY camp in Kuala Lumpur, the leader of the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) invited Anwar to join them. After a great deal of consultation, he did so on the grounds that “the majority said you should go and do more good work than just being in ABIM.” The next year, he was appointed minister of culture, youth and sports. Other appointments followed: minister of agriculture in 1984, minister of education in 1986, minister of finance in 1991 and deputy prime minister in 1993. On February 10, 2019, Anwar, officially titled Yang Berhormat Dato’ Seri (Most Honorable) Anwar Ibrahim, who is also chairman of IIIT, addressed a public gathering at the IIIT headquarters, located in Herndon, Va. IIIT president Hisham Altalib introduced Anwar, who he has known for 45 years, by reciting Surah Yusuf 33:36, for both men had risen to great heights within the government only to be cast down and imprisoned on false charges. He then outlined Anwar’s political career so far (given above). Anwar began his lecture, “Conscientious Governance,” by informing the audience that he thinks Malaysia has “made history” — at a time when racism is increasing in the West and religious strife among Muslims and with other religions is growing. He remarked that his joint campaign with Mahathir received major support from Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist Malaysians. In stark contrast to many other countries, in 2018


The Q&A Session ◆ Reflecting on an attendee’s remark that Muslim Americans aren’t using their freedom of speech to oppose injustice at home and abroad, a fact of which their children are fully aware and don’t understand, Anwar said that Muslim Americans should become part of the mainstream, adopt and then declare their position(s). He implored them not to work from the ghettoes or to be mere spectators, for the American legal environment puts them in a unique position. ◆ The “battle” in Malaysia isn’t so ideological, for after 2008 the goal was to craft a clear agenda to interact with Muslims and non-Muslims and counteract the latter group’s strong suspicions of

the Malaysians managed to usher in significant political change via the ballot box, as opposed to the all-too-common uprisings, coups and revolutions elsewhere, and without losing a single life. This, he said, shows that all is not despair and gloom. “I always say that other than our faith in Allah, subhana wa ta‘ala, … [and] the values and the wisdom of our people, [the] wisdom of the masses [must be listened to],” for the solutions proposed by academics and the elites don’t always connect with the masses’ aspirations. He gave the example of the mental and physical atrocities inflicted upon African Americans, despite all the talk of liberty or democracy, a reality that “cannot be altered and changed unless the entire psyche can be altered and changed. “What is in deficit is not just democracy. It is good, responsible, transparent, accountable, government, which [Francis] Fukuyama labels as democratic accountability.” Accountability, Anwar maintained, is associated with the entire transformation or change. For Muslims, this means reflecting the Quran’s values in our actions. While he is aware of what’s going on in the world, Anwar is more concerned about the internal dynamics within Muslim societies. For instance, he wonders why Muslims cannot surpass these old prejudices that our faiths demand us to change. He then recalled, while still a youth, learning only that Salahuddin Ayyubi defeated the Crusaders, not that he spent the first decade of his rule creating a new culture of discipline, values and ethics in governance. This ruler’s priorities were to consolidate his governance, ensure that most religious and educational institutions

the former, due partly to the failure of Muslims themselves. ◆ Both secularists and so-called Islamists need to understand that they must be humble and not too ideological or doctrinaire. In addition, the government must be transparent, fair and help all people, for there is no room for discrimination based upon religion or race. ◆ Saying that he has been called a “chameleon for quoting Shakespeare in New York and the Quran in the villages,” he asserted that it would be stupid to do otherwise, for “in this way you articulate the vision. But whether it is in the village, in the remote parts of Malaysia or in New York, do you alter the core values and principles [i.e., rejecting corruption, oppression]? You don’t.”

IN STARK CONTRAST TO MANY OTHER COUNTRIES, IN 2018 THE MALAYSIANS MANAGED TO USHER IN SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL CHANGE VIA THE BALLOT BOX, AS OPPOSED TO THE ALLTOO-COMMON UPRISINGS, COUPS AND REVOLUTIONS ELSEWHERE, AND WITHOUT LOSING A SINGLE LIFE. became places of learning, practice the deen and understand the Islamic mission — goals that he pursued by expanding trade relations and working with non-Muslims. In other words, instead of conquering more land he sought to improve his people’s wellbeing via economic growth, educational institutions and social programs. Anwar refuted the ulema’s claim of having all of the answers in the world, for it is “too simplistic” to say that problems exist because Muslims aren’t following the Quran. This attitude, he said, doesn’t address any of

these problems. For example, if education, Islamic education and understanding are enough, then why is good governance lacking? Moreover, who but the government is going to disburse that education; provide the creative environment necessary to conduct reasoned discourses; encourage the free flow of ideas, creative thinking and thought; and how much money the various ministries get? He cited Caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib’s letter to Malik Ashtar, his appointed governor of Egypt, and its ethical dimension in terms of governance. This letter, he remarked, is so compelling that it needs to be republished with notes and annotations, especially when it comes to integrity in leadership. “In the absence of education, understanding, awareness or even ethics in governance,” he asserted, “it’s just hudud [Islamic law]. You implement it [and] then you are Islamic because you follow the Quran.”

THE MALAYSIAN CANVAS During this part of his talk, Anwar related that: • After last year’s election, the people’s expectations are very high for immediate change, ending corruption and abuse of power, free media, judicial independence and relief from some of the major economic hardships. But a new administration needs time to formulate correct policies, adjust existing policies and make new investments so that such expectations can be realized. • Malaysia’s media now has to grapple with the people’s right to publicly criticize their leaders at all levels and speak out on socially taboo issues (promised in the new administration’s pre-election manifestation). Anwar is sure that such issues can be worked out through reasoned discourse and navigating their way forward. • Such openness also engenders the “mushrooming” of civil society. The new administration has to connect with the people’s concerns and transcend the priorities or agendas of the many civil society organizations. For instance, those who still live in poverty, lack access to medical care or good quality education can’t just be cast aside based upon the rosy picture presented by statistics. In fact, the leaders need to imagine their children in such situations so that they will deal with such issues now. Malaysia, he claimed, needs to be able to “guarantee service and justice to its citizens.”  ih Jay Willoughby is an author and freelance copy editor.


Muslim Americans and the Legacy of Said Nursi Remembering Said Nursi, a Muslim role model of religious belief and cooperation in a rapidly changing world BY SALIH SAYILGAN


ediuzzaman Said Nursi (18771960) is one of the most important Muslim scholars in modern times. During his lifetime, the situation of the Muslim world was tragic — physical and psychological decline in almost all aspects: militarily, culturally, economically and socially. By the turn of the 19th century, the Western powers and Czarist Russia were dominating most of the world, in particular the Muslim territories. The situation actually worsened during the early 20th century, for by that time almost the entire Muslim world was controlled by the British (i.e., Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and India), the French (i.e., North Africa, Syria and Lebanon), the Dutch (Indonesia and Malaysia; the British eventually colonized the latter), and the newly proclaimed Soviet Union inherited Russia’s Central Asian lands. The Ottoman Empire 38    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

collapsed, and from its ashes emerged the new Republic of Turkey. No words are better than “nationalism,” “secularism” and “Westernism” at describing the nature of the new Turkish republic. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938), its founder and president, deliberately altered the new country’s foundations in order to disconnect it from Islam, for his vision contained no room for Islam and the freedom of religion. We should note that secularism in Europe was a gift. For example, it ended that continent’s decades-long religious wars. History tells us that the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48) killed 35 percent of Central Europe’s population. For the vast majority of the Muslim world, however, the encounter with secularism was painful, dramatic and forced upon them from top to bottom. What happened in

Turkey was no exception. In order to make the new state, secular, national and Western “reforms” were imposed by “compulsion and without popular consultation,” which had not been the case in either the United States or Europe. All the religious orders (tariqas) were dismantled and their properties confiscated. Some Sufi lodges (zawiya) and mosques were turned into museums, and madrasas and religious endowments were shut down. In short, Turkey’s encounter with secularism came at expense of its people’s spirituality and religious freedom. It is important for us to understand Nursi’s legacy and magnum opus, the Risale-i Nur, in this context. His own experience of secularism was even more painful — he was exiled to and jailed in various parts of Turkey for over 30 years, his writings were banned and his followers were persecuted and imprisoned. This year his followers, who are now estimated to number in the millions, will remember him on the 59th anniversary of his death. In dealing with the question of the Muslim community in the U.S. and around the globe, there is much to learn from Nursi’s legacy. For example: Positive Action. Despite all of the persecution and injustice that he and his followers faced because of their faith, Nursi constantly

FEATURE encouraged his fellow believers to commit themselves to positive action. In other words, he sought to build from the inside out. His assertion that “the one who sees beautifully thinks beautifully; thinking of what is good makes life pleasant,” became a mantra for his students, for embedded in it is the idea that both the macrocosm and the microcosm are the mirrors of God’s attributes, that all elements in the universe reflect God’s Beautiful Names (asma’ al-husna).

four Quranic chapters and to which he refers more than a dozen times in his writings. As he explains, this verse means that no one’s shortcomings are to be the basis of judgment against anyone, male or female, and that someone’s faults or mistakes cannot be assumed by someone else. In other words, no scapegoats. In this way Nursi closes the doors, particularly for self-declared militant jihadists who commit violent acts against innocent

NURSI DEVELOPS A JIHAD AGAINST THE THREATS OF IGNORANCE, CONFLICT, UNBELIEF AND HATRED. HE STRIVES AGAINST THEM WITH KNOWLEDGE, POSITIVE ACTION, BELIEF AND COMPASSION. IN HIS APPROACH OF TRANSFORMING SOCIETY, NURSI STANDS IN THE COMPANY OF GANDHI, MANDELA AND DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING. The “Jihad of Nonviolence.” Nursi forbade his followers to confront the government and engage in physical clashes, for he believed that there is no religious justification for a civil war within a faithful society. Rather, he emphasized a “jihad of words” that, for him, meant engaging with opponents through the pursuit of knowledge, intellectual ways and argumentative means. Convinced that the “jihad of the sword” was only applicable in the past and thus would yield no benefits for contemporary Muslims, he preached the “jihad of nonviolence.” Nursi begins with the fundamental belief that since human beings are God’s sacred creation, all of them are deserving of appreciation. This approach is based on “We have honored the children of Adam and carried them by land and sea. We have provided good sustenance for them and favored them specially above many of those We have created” (17:70). In this regard, every individual is a manifestation of God’s Beautiful Names, the divine attributes mentioned so often in the Quran. As every person is a reflection of God’s qualities and a unique combination of these divine characteristics, each person is, in a sense, sacred. Another crucial element of Nursi’s advocacy of nonviolence is his understanding of the divine assertion “No soul shall bear the burden of another soul,” which appears in

civilians. Based on this Quranic principle, neighbors, relatives and fellow human beings in general cannot be held accountable for another person’s evil acts. And, as establishing the guilt of the individual is the core upon which the penalty will be based, collective punishment can never be an option. Nursi develops a jihad against the threats of ignorance, conflict, unbelief and hatred. He strives against them with knowledge, positive action, belief and compassion. In his approach of transforming society, Nursi stands in the company of Gandhi, Mandela and Dr. Martin Luther King — for all of whom nonviolence, compassion and reconciliation were at the center of their jihad to bring justice to their society. Community vs. the Individual. The “communal expression of faith” has clearly been losing ground in many contexts. This is even more obvious in societies dominated by modernity and secularism, where “the individualistic expression of faith” has become more important. One of religion’s most important aspects is that it provides a sense of belonging. With gradual secularization, however, the “believing without belonging” approach draws more and more followers. A growing number of people in the U.S., for instance, do not identify with any religious group. To address this and other challenges, one of

Nursi’s focuses was to form a bonding community in a secular environment by means of spiritual gatherings in private homes. His statement that “this time is the time of community engagement” became another mantra among his followers. Maintaining that it is almost impossible for contemporary believers to remain spiritual and preserve their faith individually, citing the collective attack on faith and spirituality, Nursi contends that the “castles” surrounding the faith are being damaged and thus the believers’ faith has become fragile. To his mind, collective gatherings are necessary for strengthening the individual’s faith. Inclusive. Nursi encouraged his students not to be judgmental, but to concentrate on life’s beautiful and positive aspects. A model of humble behavior, he urged his followers to direct criticism first to themselves instead of projecting it onto others. To his mind, one was permitted to say that his or her way is the best one, but not the only good one. According to Nursi’s understanding of justice, any person who possesses nine bad character traits out of ten cannot be rejected, since the one good human feature is innocent. Compassion. Nursi strongly recommends to his followers that they display compassion to all human beings. If people would like to express hatred toward something, then they should first direct it to the enmity in their own hearts and fight it, because that is the real destructive force. Cooperation with people of other faiths. Nursi believed that faith alliances among pious believers would help better the human family and preserve our globe. He tells his fellow Muslims to cooperate with sincere Christians and join hands to tackle common challenges such as egotism, excessive materialism and aggressive atheism without compromising their integrity and beliefs. As one who both spoke and acted upon his beliefs, he reached out to Christian representatives of his time. Today, in the midst of challenges to Muslims in the U.S. and around the globe, Said Nursi’s legacy of positive action, “jihad of nonviolence,” community, inclusiveness, compassion and cooperation with people of other faiths is more needed than ever.  ih Dr. Salih Sayilgan is currently a visiting assistant professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies. He is the author of “An Islamic Jihad of Nonviolence: Said Nursi’s Model” (Cascade Books, 2019).





Making the Best of a God-given Gift Muslim communities can proactively help safeguard Earth by using solar energy technology BY THE ISNA GREEN INITIATIVE TEAM


ost American mosques/Islamic centers operate on limited budgets; however, except a few, they have not fully utilized the Godgiven option: solar energy. God tells us: “And He subjected for you the Sun and Moon, continuous in orbit, and subjected for you the night and day” (14:33). Just try to imagine life on this planet if the Sun, a divine mercy and crucial source of energy for all of creation, wasn’t moving in its prescribed orbit. God has appointed humanity as caretakers and protectors of this abode. The negative side effects of overusing fossil fuels have been universally felt, as can be seen, for example, either directly or indirectly in the excess carbon dioxide, increasing temperatures, and rising sea levels. The energy that comes from the Sun, however, can be utilized in numerous ways and is cost-free at the source. Muslim communities can play a crucial role in confronting this major challenge and thereby ensure a brighter future for everyone. The ISNA Green Initiative Team has been promoting the adoption of environmentally friendly practices in our institutions and daily lives both as the need of the hour and as a religious obligation. The “The Green Masjid Project” booklet, available

on ISNA's website, provides information on how to conserve energy by implementing the necessary, and relevantly simple, steps. Even small steps can conserve some energy and thus reduce the energy bill, as well as the carbon footprint, in the long run. Improving insulation and using LED bulbs, lights with sensors, energy efficient heating/cooling systems and appliances, along with smart thermostats, are also helpful in this regard. The unwanted byproducts of fossil fuel extraction and usage create air and water pollution and release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The best way for mosques/Islamic centers to help counter this is to install solar panels that, instead of creating various emissions, produce clean, renewable energy from a source that requires no locating, excavation, transportation or combustion. Solar panels absorb sunlight with photovoltaic cells, which generate direct current (DC) energy and then convert it to usable alternating current (AC) energy via inverter technology. A solar inverter takes the DC electricity from the solar array and uses it to create AC electricity. Inverters, which are like the system’s brains, also provide ground fault protection and system stats, including voltage and current on AC and DC circuits, energy production and maximum power point tracking. On warmer days the excess energy goes to the main electric grid, and on colder days the systems operate from the grid line. For an optimal system there is no net usage of the grid’s electricity. Although manufacturing solar panels is a high-tech process, the installation is very simple and system maintenance is minimal. Moreover, they are cost efficient. In fact, the cost of solar energy panels has dropped significantly. Their average price dropped more than 70 percent between 2010 and 2017 and continues to drop even further ( A moderate upfront investment can reduce the electric bill significantly and, in many cases, generate a profit, protect against rising energy costs and reduce carbon emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy is leading the charge on reducing soft cost. The federal solar tax credit, also known as the investment tax credit (ITC), allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal

taxes. The ITC applies to both residential and commercial systems, and there is no cap on its value.

INITIATIVES AFOOT Once the panels have been installed, the savings can be utilized for meeting the community’s other needs. In fact, many state grants for renewable energy are available to non-profits for partially covering the cost. Information is available at com/news/search?q=State+Incentives+For+Renewable+Energy. Like any other development, solarizing also has its startup and maintenance costs. Take the case of the Bridgeview, Ill.-based Mosque Foundation. In 2008, with the help of a grant from the nonprofit Faith in Place (, it became the country’s first solar energy powered mosque. The Islamic Center in Evansville, Ind., raised the funds by requesting each family, or a group of several families, to pledge $1,000 during a one-year period. Realizing the project’s environmental benefit, the community enthusiastically donated more than was needed. In the first year of operation, the solar panels generated about 100 percent of the required energy. The estimated total installation cost will be paid off in 10-12 years, and the panels’ estimated lifespan is 25-30 years. Among the ways of financing such projects are individual community members pledging the cost of one or more panels, crowdfunding, forming a for-profit company that owns the solar assets and sells the electricity to the congregation, solar lease financing (the solar installation company pays for installation and maintenance and the congregation pays a fixed monthly price over the course of the lease), as well as signing power purchase agreements. In this case, the solar power company installs and maintains the system, and the congregation buys the electricity at an agreed-upon monthly price. Of course, before doing so the entire process must be thoroughly evaluated. The best places for panel installation are the building’s south or southwest roof — provided there are no trees blocking the sunlight — and at ground level facing south or southwest. Information on the expected monthly electric bill for a year as well as how to use a solar installation calculator can be found at org and similar sites. Solar inverters, as discussed above, are a key part of the solar panel system. Vendors

provide three types of inverters: string inverters, microinverters and power optimizers. As most vendors offer just one type of inverter, purchasing the appropriate one involves carefully comparing vendor quotations — get at least two or three quotations — for the price varies considerably even for the same type of inverter. Normally, the panel warranty offered covers 25 years and 10-15 years for the inverters and service. Given this reality, you should also try to negotiate a 25-year warranty for the whole system. Installing solar panels will reduce fossil fuel consumption, reduce the carbon footprint and, in the long run, help the environment and enable more money to be directed toward other useful community projects. The most important aspect of this undertaking, however, will be to fulfill partially our religious obligation as the caretakers of this planet. ISNA’s Green Initiative team will be glad to help your mosque/Islamic center install solar panels. Please contact us at  ih The ISNA Green Initiative Team: Huda Alkaff, Saffet Catovic, Nana Firman, Uzma Mirza, Saiyid Masroor Shah (chair)

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The Fast and the ¡Fiesta! Latino Muslims celebrate Ramadan in their very own way BY WENDY DÍAZ


hen Ramadan is approaching, the Brooklynite Ortiz-Matos family — Julio Ortiz and his wife Shinoa Matos, both Spanish-speaking Puerto Rican converts — begins to prepare the only way they know how: Puerto Rican style. Muslim for two decades each and married for close to 14 years, they have three children, ages 9, 7, and 5. Although Shinoa is also half Greek, she identifies herself as part of the ever-growing Latino Muslim population, a community that is bringing its very own sazon, or Latin flavor, to spice up Islamic holiday traditions. Ramadan preparations for this familia (family) consist of planning together with their children to get them excited about the fasting season. With the children’s help, they make a grocery list of what they need for the suhur and iftar meals. A typical meal will feature a variety of Puerto Rican dishes, such as pollo guisado (stewed chicken), sorullos (corn dumplings stuffed with cheese), pasteles (meat-filled dumplings made out of root vegetables and plantains), tortilla española (Spanish omelets), empandas (meat-filled turnovers) and finger foods such as guava, cheese, and Spanish olives coupled with the iconic Ramadan dates. Right before Ramadan, the Ortiz-Matos home is decorated with typical fiesta décor: shining lights, pom poms and banners in Spanish. One of their most unique Ramadan and Eid traditions is dressing up in their cultural attire. Shinoa explains, “My husband can usually be found wearing a guyabera (Caribbean dress) shirt in different colors along with a matching kufi. My sons will also wear tropical shirts with their own kufis. This year I am planning on dressing all my children in typical jibaro (Puerto Rican country) attire, complete bomba skirt, machetes and sombreros de paja (straw hats)!” For Eid, they redecorate with Feliz Eid (Happy Eid) signs and

fill decorative bowls with traditional Puerto Rican sweets made with coconut, passion fruit and pineapple. As converts, Julio and Shinoa know the isolation that new Muslims can feel during the holidays, and so they have made a habit of spending the month with fellow Latinos and converts. Not only does Shinoa want to make sure that no one is spending Ramadan and Eid alone, but she also wants her children to feel a sense of belonging and to reinforce the concept of a Latino Muslim community. She said, “It is important for them to be able to see representation in others they associate with.” Even though they live in Brooklyn, Julio and Shinoa often attend Union City’s North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC; www.nhiec. com), the mosque across the Hudson River in New Jersey,

home to one of the nation’s largest Latino Muslim communities. It has been catering to their growing needs by providing Spanish-language services and an annual Hispanic Muslim Day for the past two decades, as well as continuous educational programs specially geared toward Spanish-speakers and new Muslims of Hispanic heritage.

HALAL ON THE HUDSON Union City may be known as “Havana on the Hudson” because of its large Cuban population; however, South Americans like Ecuadorians and Peruvians are also plentiful. Nylka Vargas is a mixture of both; residing near NHIEC, this Latina conversa (convert) is a social worker by day and an active member of NHIEC’s dawah committee by night. In her home, she and her Syrian husband prefer to set

▲  The author (second from left) and her family at the New Jersey NHIEC masjid Eid prayer

aside a quiet space for prayer and reflection. But in the mosque, she works passionately alongside other Latino Muslims to make Ramadan memorable for fellow Latinos. Due to most Latin American Muslims being converts, their relatives are usually non-Muslims who neither celebrate Ramadan nor Eid. Nevertheless, NHIEC provides an inclusive atmosphere by inviting converts to bring their families to the break-the-daily-fast meals and enjoy the festivities. Their dawah committee organizes



yearly Ramadan programs, an annual grand iftar for converts with Latin dishes, converts’ get-together iftars and a “Share Your Iftar with a Convert” program to encourage community members to break their fast with new Muslims. They also teach Ramadan prep classes, arts and crafts for children and host a converts’ Eid extravaganza. Nylka said, “We take much pride in bedazzling and giving our Eid Party a custom touch... It is always about what the community wants.” One of Nylka’s fellow dawah committee members is Flor Maza, a Salvadorian convert and mother of three married to an Egyptian Muslim. Ramadan is an exciting and busy time for Flor, who is a full-time pastelera (baker); she caters to the NHIEC community, literally, decorating and preparing all kinds of postres (desserts), both Spanish and Arabic. She has learned how to prepare typical Egyptian dishes and sweets, and thus alternates between these and Latininspired foods for iftar. “I have not lost my culture, but I am learning from other cultures,” she joyfully explained,

“All cultures are beautiful.” Flor believes that Ramadan is a time to learn tolerance and patience, compassion and gratefulness, and to collaborate in doing good. NHIEC is one of the country’s few Islamic centers where guests can experience Ramadan and Eid festivities in Spanish. The Muslim community in Union City and surrounding areas performs Eid prayers outside in either a park or a soccer field. Non-Muslim neighbors can hear the takbirat al-eid, watch the Eid prayer and listen to the sermon that follows on the loudspeakers while admiring huge green banners with golden letters that read, “Happy Eid, Eid Mubarak (in Arabic script), and Feliz Eid.”

A MEXICAN, HAITIAN AND PUERTO RICAN RAMADAN Brooklynite Eva MartineauOcasio, born in Mexico to a Mexican mother and a Haitian father, was brought up speaking Spanish at home. She is married to Ismail Ocasio, a Puerto Rican who was raised Muslim in New York by convert parents. Their three girls, ages 6, 3, and 6 months, have inspired

them to be more diligent about making Ramadan extra special and memorable. The focal point of their Ramadan décor is a table spread with Islamic and Ramadanthemed books, calendars and art projects. As with the Ortiz-Matos family, great care is given to set the mood for the commencement of the Month of Mercy. As Eva explained, “We prepare ahead of time by reading books and telling stories to remind ourselves about Ramadan. We use lights, banners and homemade decorations to make Ramadan special in our home.” While other Muslim families have similar routines to welcome Ramadan, what sets the Martineau-Ocasios and other Latino Muslims apart is the way they have tailored their cultural traditions to adapt to Islamic practices. “Food and language play the largest roles in shaping the way we experience Ramadan outside of the important religious-based practices,” Eva stated. “I strive to make Ramadan as special and exciting for my children as Christmas was for me growing up.” The family enjoys fast-breaking meals representative of their unique mix of cultures. Some of their staples include Mexican tacos, fajitas, frijoles refritos (refried beans), Haitian style beef BBQ ribs, Haitian black rice, and Puerto Rican arroz con maíz (yellow rice with corn).

A CHICAGO LATINO MUSLIM RAMADAN Another Latino Ramadan legacy is being constructed west of the Tri-State area, in the Windy City. Rebecca Abuqaoud is founder and director of Muslimahs of Chicago (, as well as a community organizer at the Muslim Community Center at Elston Avenue (MCC; and at

the Islamic Community Center of Illinois (ICCI; The Lima, Peru, born Rebecca and her husband Hasan Abuqaoud have three children. Rebecca has been involved in organizing Ramadan events for the Latino community and for Muslim women and children for many years. One of these is the annual “Welcoming the Arrival of Ramadan” program featuring lectures, Q&A and a potluck dinner. Guests can choose from a variety of Latin American foods, such as arroz con gandules, arroz chaufa (Peruvian rice) and pollo rostisado (rotisserie chicken). This event began as an initiative for Spanish-speakers only; however, it has grown to become a bilingual affair and draws anywhere from 60-80 attendees. Among other social events during Ramadan, Rebecca holds a Halaqa Book Club for ladies in Spanish at the ICCI, and for Eid, with the help of other volunteers, prepares fun activities for the children like puppet shows and arts and crafts. The Eid Potluck Fiesta at MCC began as a way for converts, who would otherwise be spending Eid alone, to celebrate together. The walls are decorated for the occasion, and candy-filled piñatas are set up for the children. Rebecca suggests that these events serve to comfort lonely individuals and families and foster unity. She said, “Learning the religion together promotes brotherhood and sisterhood.” Not only do the Latino Muslims enjoy these festivities, but also the community’s diverse members who join them in the unifying celebration that is the culmination of the Month of Mercy and Forgiveness. ¡Feliz Ramadán!  ih Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, translator, and poet. She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, Inc., a nonprofit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in the Spanish language.



Raising Observant Muslim Children in a Permissive Society Always maintain parent-child communication, for you should never get rid of this God-given family bond (Silatul Rahim) BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF ▲

  Dr. Hisham Altalib


he Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which removed existing restrictions on immigrants from Asia and Africa, led to a large influx of Muslim immigrants intent upon pursuing higher education and/or the “American dream.” Some of those who decided to settle down began establishing organizations to help these new citizens retain and pass their Islamic identity on to their children. Given that more than 50 years have passed since those days, Islamic Horizons’ staff sat down with Dr. Hisham Altalib, the president of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), author of “Training Guide for Muslim Workers” (IIIT: 1991) and co-author (along with Dr. AbdulHamid AbuSulayman and Dr. Omar Hisham Altalib) of “Parent-Child Relations: A Guide to Raising Children” (IIIT: 2013). He is also an active Islamic worker who was, as they say, “there at the beginning.” We began by asking him why he decided 44    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

to write about parenting. “During a 1994 IIIT board meeting in Tioman Island, Malaysia,” he related, “we realized that everything under the sun has to do with parenting in one way or another.” For Muslim Americans, parenting was and is a major concern. Naturally, one of the first questions they asked was “Should we create isolated ethnic-linguistic ghettoes, assimilate (become “cultural” Muslims), partially integrate but keep the essential components of the Islamic identity or just let it all go and perhaps even convert?” Dr. Hisham stated, “I do not advocate [becoming] so insular that we create a ghettoized alternate world [to raise ‘super-Muslims’]. A balance between where we come from and where we are must be maintained. Ideally, parents should teach their children the national language, the Quranic language, and their ancestral languages. Other languages can also be learned in school and through tutoring.” In fact, modern research supports the ability of children to learn

several languages simultaneously during the first decade of their lives. Many adults later on regret that their parents missed this window of opportunity. As the U.S. is becoming an increasingly multicultural society, a “colorful salad” instead of the traditional “melting pot,” after establishing their children’s Islamic identity, parents should expose them to the surrounding cultures. Dr. Hisham emphasized that Muslim students should establish friendly relationships with all students, participate in both MSA and non-MSA clubs, and interfaith discussions and cultural programs. He also encouraged those parents who face conflicts between their ancestral culture and Islamic teachings to side with the Islamic paradigm. When asked about the sometimes rocky relationship between the immigrant and indigenous Muslim communities, he replied that those who arrived in the 1950s and 1960s were lacking in knowledge and exposure to the indigenous Muslims, and that the latter were lacking in the knowledge and experiences of the Muslim history and legacy coming from the Muslim-majority countries. This created a gap; but alhamdulillah, the second-generation Muslims born here have more opportunities to interact and comingle with the indigenous Muslims and vice versa, especially in academic institutions. Thankfully, the gap between the two communities is narrowing and getting closer to the Islamic paradigm of one ummah. As parents we need to facilitate this intercultural connection and participation. Immigrant Muslims were not aware of many aspects of American society for, as Muslim American scholar Sherman Jackson contends, immigrant and indigenous (i.e., primarily the Nation of Islam) Muslim communities have

markedly different concerns: The immigrants are frequently well-educated professionals who are pursuing the “American dream,” whereas the indigenous have been and continue to be prevented from advancement by white supremacy, mass incarceration, poverty and low levels of education. There is also the issue of the Nation’s “unorthodox” practices, which makes it difficult for immigrant Muslims to participate in its institutions (mosques, schools, and businesses). Dr. Hisham pointed out a very important practice of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi

many Muslim scholars present other ideologies as “sick” entities so that they can easily attack and criticize them unfairly. Furthermore, maintaining the extended family is a good idea because its members can provide experience-based advice, help with childcare and other needs, as well as create an enriched environment for children full of mutually beneficial and healthy relationships. Moreover, relatives near and far can help reduce the stress associated with single-parent families and lessen marital breakdowns.

DR. HISHAM EMPHASIZED THAT MUSLIM STUDENTS SHOULD ESTABLISH FRIENDLY RELATIONSHIPS WITH ALL STUDENTS, PARTICIPATE IN BOTH MSA AND NON-MSA CLUBS AND INTERFAITH DISCUSSIONS AND CULTURAL PROGRAMS. wa sallam): He both corrected his tribe’s faith and accepted Arabian cultural practices and norms that were in line with Islam (ma‘rouf). “We hope to achieve this here by establishing the proper creed and incorporating that which is good in American culture. In fact, IIIT has talked with the Fiqh Council of North America about carrying out research (ijtihad) to produce a healthy American Islam/Islamic American culture.” Nevertheless, he stated, “training and education to stamp out prejudice, bias and stereotyping is highly needed. One of the ways to do this is to interact in Islamically appropriately ways with our neighbors, colleagues and workmates, as well as with American institutions at large.” Parents should teach their children about other ideologies (e.g., capitalism, socialism, communism, democracy and liberalism) and religions (e.g., Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism) as presented and practiced by their adherents. As inhabitants of a multireligious country, Muslims must engage in interfaith discussions, participate in the religious services of others (as much as Islam allows) and learn about their essential commonalities as well as differences with Islam. Doing so will help to move all Americans closer to mutual understanding, acceptance and social harmony. The Algerian scholar Malek ben Nabi (d. 1973) lamented that

An additional problem is that many parents are so engrossed in their professional or Islamic work that they neglect their spouses and children. Thus, Islamic institutions don’t benefit from their involvement and participation in running them as the original founders start to retire. Hence, whenever possible, the entire family should attend the camps, seminars, conferences and other community activities. “In our personal case,” Dr. Hisham stated, “we correctly refer to our own children as the children of MSA, ADAMS Center, IIIT, etc.” When asked “How much freedom should children be given to follow their own path?” Dr. Hisham advised parents to ask themselves a basic question: “Do we have a healthy relationship with our children, or do we feel disconnected from them?” Essentially, parents should love their children and children should respect their parents. Also, communication must never cease between [them] regardless of any difficulties or problems in the relationship. However, parents should recognize their children’s freedom to pursue their interests, careers and preferences because every soul is accountable for its choices and will bear the consequences. In the hereafter, everyone will face their Lord as an individual. Parents should teach their children to be connected to the mosque. In some cases, however, wives and children are repelled

by its environment. But instead of blaming them for such problems, we should discover why the repulsion exists. Dr. Hisham offered the following suggestions: Make mosques more than just places for adult-oriented prayers, esoteric religious classes and foreign cultural activities. Provide banquet halls and gyms, arrange mosque-based family get-togethers and offer sports teams and other youth-focused events. Most importantly, listen to the children’s constructive feedback on how to make the mosque more inclusive and attuned to meeting their needs. Doing so, he opined, will “help attract children toward activities that are important for their own growth.” Mosques and Islamic activities must be userfriendly and inclusive. Throughout the interview, Dr. Hisham stressed the importance of parents really listening to their children. This becomes even more important if they start indulging in haram (but very common) mainstream activities, such as consuming illegal drugs and alcohol and engaging in premarital, extramarital, and same-sex sexual relationships. When confronted with such realities, he advised parents to: ■  Explore why they are pursuing such activities —- peer pressure, desire for social advancement, escapism from personal problems, lack of parental love and appreciation or the absence of an Islamic role model? ■ Provide intelligent and realistic answers about such activities’ potential negative and legal consequences while continuing to “flood them with love,” involving them in useful activities, taking their children’s words seriously and admitting their own shortcomings. ■  If, after all of this, your child still gets into trouble, control your emotions, keep things in perspective and seek professional advice and counseling (regardless of any resulting gossip and any notions). If you are afraid of losing control of your emotions, imagine that “a friend’s child has come to you … for advice,” for countless families are facing similar problems. Even if your child leaves Islam, “this is not something new. It happened even at the time of the prophets (peace and blessings upon them all)! Don’t place blame, either inward or outward, and get trapped in negative behavior. Du‘a is a very powerful tool God has given us. May God protect our children and keep them on the straight path. Ameen.”  ih MAY/JUNE 2019  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   45


▲  Sadaf Syed

Unboxing the Hijab: “iCover” Photojournalist Sadaf Syed is on a journey to dismantle misconceptions about Muslim women BY SUMAYYAH MEEHAN


espite its diminutive size — a mere 20x30 inches — the hijab is a huge point of debate. Some say it’s a sign of “oppression” or “indoctrination,” whereas others claim that it has no basis in Islam. But because none of these detractors or critics have ever worn it, there is no way for them to know how this simple garment has raised Muslim women up throughout the ages to give them dignity, a place in the global arena and imbued their faith with mercy from our Creator. For photojournalist Sadaf Syed, unboxing the hijab and showing the reality behind it became her mission after she was inspired to give Muslim women a voice. “Often Muslim women are defined by one perspective, and those sentiments are magnified by politicians and media alike,” she laments. Syed chose to wear the hijab just a few months before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “I felt it was the 46    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

religions, wore the headscarf too, along with modest dressing,” she shares. About her hijab, she adds, “It was a choice I made. That couple yards of fabric I proudly wrap around my face is my jewel – my crown. I am proud to stand out and be identified as a Muslim woman.” The hateful rhetoric and negative stereotypes directed toward Muslims in a continuously changing American landscape, sown with fear and Islamophobia, compelled her to give Muslimahs a way to reclaim their own stories. “I felt a responsibility to create a platform for Muslim women so they can finally share their narratives,” she says. Syed also wanted to show that there is much more to the women who wear the hijab than what meets the eye, “the colorful bouquet of Muslim women worldwide and in our own backyard here in the United States.”


right decision, as it’s required by Allah and [because] so many of my role models, the Mother of the Believers in the Abrahamic

Syed’s photo documentary book, “iCOVER: A Day in the Life of a Muslim-American COVERed Girl,” is a labor of love in every sense of the term. She hit the road, literally, with her two young children in tow to travel across the country and showcase the hijab’s beauty as worn by diverse Muslimahs living from sea to shining sea. “It’s my faith that

empowers me to move forward, and my profession as a photographer that drives me to show the beauty of the hijab, which is often misunderstood,” she says. Within its pages, as the reader is transported from the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere in between, Syed shares an exciting mix of Muslimahs who were more than happy to impart their own insights on the hijab and let their voices be

Muslim girls can build their own bravery and courage to wear it by finding the support they need to make such a heartfelt decision. “I feel like encouragement starts from [the] home. Once you receive positive feedback from [the] home, your own courage becomes stronger. I understand not everyone has that privilege, so that’s why books like ‘iCOVER’ are so important to exist and share.” Furthermore, positive female role models

PEOPLE FROM TODAY’S TIME, LIKE [OLYMPICS MEDAL WINNER] IBTIHAJ MUHAMMAD, [CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER] LINDA SARSOUR, AND [REP.] ILHAN OMAR [D-MINN.] ARE SO IMPORTANT FOR OUR YOUNG GIRLS TO SEE THE DIFFERENT AND POSITIVE ROLES THEY ALL ARE PLAYING IN OUR SOCIETIES WHILE THEY ADHERE TO THEIR FAITH. heard. “These girls [have] always existed. It’s just that the focus was never on them,” she notes. “My goal was to highlight the many roles these women carry throughout their lives so people can notice their abilities and disabilities in spite of them wearing their hijabs.”

often make a lasting impression on those young Muslimahs who identify with them. People from today’s time, like [Olympics medal winner] Ibtihaj Muhammad, [civil rights leader] Linda Sarsour, and [Rep.] Ilhan Omar [D-Minn.] are so important for our young girls to see the different and positive

roles they all are playing in our societies while they adhere to their faith.

A SILVER LINING The reception to “iCOVER: A Day in the Life of a Muslim-American COVERed Girl” has been overwhelmingly optimistic. “The reaction from the Muslim community has been very positive. I’ve gotten nothing but praise and prayers of success from them,” Syed shares. “No doubt their conviction in my work helped me to move forward in completing this photo documentary book.” There have also been some negative comments by critics of the hijab, but she sees these as a silver lining, “There will always be trolls out there, but I am happy that they too are noticing my work. Hopefully, they will open up their train of thought,” she enthuses. The future looks bright for Sadaf Syed, as she has already embarked on her next project — a collaborative book that will be announced soon. In the meantime, she was recently hired as a photographer for a project with the Chicago History Museum that, for the past two years, has been collecting oral history interviews of Muslim Americans for its upcoming fall 2019.  ih Sumayyah Meehan, a Waynesburg University graduate with a BA in criminal justice, is a journalist, marketer and freelance graphic designer. She resides in North Carolina with her children.

A CELEBRATION OF FAITH When setting out to create her book, Syed had no intention of trying to convince anyone to wear the hijab or to convert. In her own words, “I wanted Muslimahs to feel pride, confidence and celebrate themselves once they read ‘iCOVER,’ and of course share this book with whomever they believe needs it the most.” Despite that, one woman contacted her shortly after purchasing the book to let her know how it “helped her make her final decision to wear the hijab,” she shares. “‘iCOVER,’ with the inspiring photographs and personal quotes, is what she needed to make her choice.” The decision for any Muslimah to wear the hijab is voluntary and based on her dedication to Islam. But this is a difficult decision to make if she is living in the West, given that hijab-wearing Muslimahs are too often painted in a negative light and can be affected by hate-mongers while moving through their daily lives.

IMAM WANTED The Muslim Community of Williamson County, TN is seeking a qualified imam to lead this diverse community. ICWC caters to the cities of Franklin, Brentwood, Spring Hill and Nolensville. ICWC is a part of greater Metro Nashville, TN, located about 10-15 miles from the State Capital. The potential candidate must have the following qualifications: • Formal degree in Islamic Studies from a recognized Islamic institution. • Comprehensive knowledge of the Quran, Hadith and Fiqh. • Complete fluency in English and excellent communication skills. • Ability to communicate effectively with all age groups. • Hafiz-e-Quran preferred. • Ability to lead da’wah and interfaith activities. • Green card and Citizen of USA preferred. Islamic Center of Williamson County (ICWC) offers an attractive compensation package including allowance for housing, family health insurance and vacation. Individuals should submit their resume and references to: or mail to: The Chairman, Selection Committee, ICWC 320 Mallory Station Road • Franklin, TN, 37067 MAY/JUNE 2019  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   47


A Traditional Ottoman Art Form Goes Global Ebru, like most art forms, creates a mind-body connection that both promotes healing and involves your mental processes in a physically engaging activity


slamic Horizons recently talked with Sabiha Ozgur, founder of the Marvels of Marbling enterprise in Northern Virginia. As ebru remains largely unknown in the U.S., she began by explaining that in 2014, UNESCO added this art form to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and defined it as “the traditional Turkish art of creating colorful patterns by sprinkling and brushing color pigments onto a pan of oily water and then transferring the patterns to paper.” This distinctive aqueous art, used to produce fascinating works, is particularly popular in Turkey and Central Asia, encourages dialogue, reinforces social ties and strengthens relations between individuals and communities.


Ebru (“clouds”) originated in Turkistan’s Samarkand in the 13th century and was seen in eastern Iran around the 14th century. Specimens of marbled paper in Turkish museums and private collections date back as far as the 14th and 15th centuries. According to Hikmet Barutcugil, author of “Dream of Water Ebru” (Ebristan Publications, 2001), no one knows when this art form first appeared in Anatolia. Around the end of the 16th century, tradesmen and travelers coming from Anatolia brought this art to Europe. After the 16th century, booklovers in Europe cherished “Turkish Paper.” Later on, it was widely used in Italy, Germany, France and England (Galen Berry, “The Ancient Art of Marbling on Paper and Fabric,” http:// Europeans used marbling mostly for legal/official documents, letters, notebooks and decorative bookbinding because its unique patterns provided security to legal documents by making erasure and forgery impossible. Inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire also considered it a piece of art to be hung on the walls of their homes (Hikmet Barutcugil, “The Dream of Water Ebru” [Ebristan Publications, 2001] and http:// 48    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

▲  Sabiha Ebru collection ALLAH

▲  Sabiha Ebru collection TULIP

Traditional Turkish marblers used thickened water (size), which is similar to contemporary marbling solutions, to produce detailed combed and flowing designs. Some of the most amazing images have a complex combed background upon which detailed images of flowers, leaves and other objects are the lightly shaped. Works with such figures as flowers are unique to Turkish marbled pieces. Ebru designs and motifs can also be transferred to fabrics, canvases, glass, ceramics and wood. Today Turkish marbling is blooming, for hundreds of masters in Turkey are exploring and reinvigorating the traditional methods, contributing new ideas and teaching ebru’s secrets to a now-global audience. Ozgur’s works are the result of personal inspiration as well as commissions. She says, “Sometimes commissioned projects lead me into different trials that I would never think of if I didn’t have that commission.”

for the paints. Pour the now-ready water (size) into a shallow tray. ■  Sprinkle several colors on the size’s surface to create a design. These sprinkles will float on the surface because they are lighter than the thickened water. Thanks to the ox gall contained in the paints, the sprinkled paints won’t mix with each other and thereby lose their unique colors. An awl then manipulates the colors into the desired designs and patterns. Various specialized combs and rakes may also be employed to make more intricate patterns. ■  After this, carefully place a sheet of the appropriate paper (discussed below) on top of the size so it can absorb the floating colors and thereby transfer the design to the paper. Remove your creation from the liquid, let it dry and voila — no one, not even you, will ever be able to replicate it! Ozgur says that traditional ebru artists continue to employ the traditional ebru paints, which are made from natural pigments and minerals extracted from soils and plants, because these recipes work the best for them. Many kinds of soil can be made into mud and then filtered and crushed to form paints. After being ground into fine powder, they are stored in paste format in glass jars by adding a little bit of water and a few drops of ox gall.


To produce an ebru painting, follow the steps outlined below. ■  Mix water with colors from natural pigments/minerals to produce the paints. Use ox gall as the surfactant. Mix carrageenan, a type of seaweed, with water to prepare it

▲  Sabiha Ebru collection BISMILLAH

▲  Sabiha introducing ebru at Montgomery College in suburban Washington, D.C.

EBRU TEACHES US THAT WE AREN’T IN TOTAL CONTROL BUT ARE PART OF A GREATER WHOLE, THAT WE JUST DO OUR BEST AND THE REST IS IN THE CONTROL OF THE DIVINE POWER AND ITS RULES, AND THAT IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG THERE IS ALWAYS A SECOND CHANCE! Thanks to the growing worldwide interest in ebru art, in Turkey one can buy traditional paints in a ready-to-use paste format. If one chooses to work in such modern paints as acrylics and glass paints, she notes, then the whole chemistry of the process should be changed, based upon the fluid dynamics of the paints and surfactants to be used, for these colors to work.

WHAT IGNITED YOUR INTEREST IN EBRU? WHERE AND HOW DID YOU TRAIN FOR IT? I was into arts throughout my university years and took several classes on different mediums with oil paints, pastels, water colors and other materials. Around that time, one of my best friends introduced me to this art form. I first studied under ebru artist Ayla Makas at Istanbul’s Caferaga Medrese and then met my master Hikmet Barutcugil. The six years I spent in his classes changed my life. I have been doing ebru since 2003, first as a hobby and now here in the U.S. In fact, I am one of the ambassadors of Turkish Paper Marbling — Ebru. Academically, I have a psychology background and am a practicing social psychologist. I personally believe that art has a natural healing component, for the act of engaging in art can be a source of cathartic release or just a pleasant get-away from the hassles of daily life. Ebru and most art forms force you to forge a mind-body connection. Creating

art accesses both your mind and body to promote healing. Every time you sit down to do ebru, you’re also using mental processes in a physically engaging activity. However, ebru is unique because it has two more important aspects: (1) working with water as your medium, for we are created in water and more than 65 percent of our body is water and (2) it lets us know that we’re both part of and influenced by our environment, whether it is visible to us or not! We can’t control it totally, and thus it isn’t only our creation! That is why I love ebru the most among all of the mediums with which I have worked. The art of marbling also had a significant importance on the Islamic arts. When the Ottomans adopted Islam, they tried to express the beauty of the divine in all branches of art by, for instance, integrating it with calligraphy, miniatures and other Islamic arts. Today, ebru masters begin their works by asking God to count it as an act of worship. Marbling is a result of different factors working hand in hand, in just the right balances. Fluid dynamics are at work here: the surface water’s (size) density and the interaction of the size, the paint, the surfactant ox gall, the quantity of gall in the paint and the environmental temperature are all very important. It may take some time to establish the right delicate balance, but when everything is in harmony with each other the artwork is produced smoothly.

The underlying philosophy here, that “everything is interconnected with each other,” also makes it very suitable for “therapy.” Ebru teaches us that we aren’t in total control but are part of a greater whole, that we just do our best and the rest is in the control of the divine power and its rules, and that if something goes wrong there is always a second chance!

WHAT PREVENTS THE PAINTS FROM FLOWING INTO EACH OTHER? The miraculous and most important of ingredient of ox gall that, due to its solvent-like and adhesive-like properties, prevents the paint from sinking to the bottom of the tray and the colors from mixing with one another. Its main functions are to ensure surface tension so that the paints spread over the water’s surface, that the paints don’t mix with each other and that the final product is successfully transferred to and bonds with the paper. Just as importantly, it enables different shades of the same color to appear and provides different levels of expansion to the variously colored paint drops on the surface. What sort of paper do you use and how does it “absorb” the paint? Is it available in stores? The ideal paper has a high absorption capacity and is acid-free. It should not be a glossy paper. The secret ingredient for binding the paints to the paper is, again, ox gall. If the paint contains enough ox gall, no additional binding agent is required. While Turkish ebru art uses ox gall, European and American marblers must treat their paper with alum to enable the paints to stick to it. The type of paper that I use is available in stores. However, you need to make sure that the paper you buy has a thickness between 55-90 lbs so that water can’t damage or weaken it, that it won’t rip or tear easily and won’t shrink or wrinkle when it dries. Acidfree paper will also ensure that the colors last longer.  ih MAY/JUNE 2019  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   49


Touching the Soul

dropping the paint onto the kitre and used the comb to make feathery designs. Placing the paper on the water, she had no idea what the end result would look like. I helped her take out the paper and turned it around so she could see the fruit of her labor. I wasn’t expecting the expression on her face BY SALWA MEDANI — she was ecstatic, and her eyes glistened with sheer joy! Another lady bought a pair y recent artistic endeavors in creating a perfectly sharp image with no of earrings and a few greeting cards. Later, began several years ago with bleeding or grainy sandy look, she explained she sent me a note saying: “Thank you for zakhrafa, the art of illumination how to make kitre (the water placed in the bringing so much beauty into this world!” better known in the West as ara- tray to paint on) and how its consistency That day I decided to share the excitebesque. My short but continuous journey affects the paint’s flow and the final product. ment, joy and tranquility that ebru brings with it took a detour when another art form This was a hands-on class, which made it me. An opportunity arose when a local noncaptured my heart: ebru, Turkish water even more informative and enjoyable. profit hosted an art therapy day for orphans. marbling. Both of these traditional I took my supplies, set up my station and began working. Children of difIslamic labors of love have opened a door to a new creativity that I had ferent ages were waiting eagerly for not known before. their turn. A few years ago, I attended a They selected the paints, used course on zakhrafa taught by the the horsetail and rose twig brushes renowned Arabic calligrapher Ustadh to drop the paint on the kitre, and Abbas Baghdadi, who was teaching it made their own designs with the varto complement his calligraphy course. ious tools. Their faces reflected their From day one, I was fascinated by its delight, and the light that shone from beautiful intricate floral and vegetal their eyes when they saw what they motifs, variety of chain shapes, curvy had created was priceless! They were totally awestruck! golden lines and the magnificence of this artistic method originally develOne boy was very keen about oped to decorate the Qur’an. adding a heart to his pattern. When I asked him why, he replied, “It’s for Then one day I was introduced to a my mother.” His mother arrived and very different and formerly unknown — at least to me — art form: Turkish he handed her his “masterpiece,” hapI HELPED HER TAKE OUT ebru. On a trip to Turkey, I visited an pily proclaiming, “Mom, this is your Valentine’s Day gift!” Quickly realizartist at her studio where we chatTHE PAPER AND TURNED IT ing that Valentine’s Day had already ted about her spectacular zakhrafa AROUND SO SHE COULD SEE passed, he corrected himself, “This pieces. At the end of my visit, she gifted me with one of her exquisite is for your birthday!” THE FRUIT OF HER LABOR. ebru creations — colorful and simple, Although it was a long exhausting I WASN’T EXPECTING THE yet elegant. day, every minute was worth it just The background consisted of the to see the children’s beautiful shiny EXPRESSION ON HER FACE most vibrant turquoise color with eyes and beaming faces. — SHE WAS ECSTATIC, AND Ebru is not only a beautiful art to shapes resembling clouds and a bright work with and look at, but it also has pinkish maroon tulip standing graceHER EYES GLISTENED WITH fully in the center, looking toward a powerful effect on one’s well-beSHEER JOY! the sky. She described the process of ing; it touches the soul. It brings joy painting on water and transferring to the young and old, the novice the image to paper. Once back home, and the expert. The colors’ dancing I searched for ebru on YouTube and was Recently, I displayed my zakhrafa and movements on the water transports one to a instantly mesmerized by this stunning art. ebru paintings, as well as a line of jewelry world of peace and tranquility. Also, this new Fortunately, an ebru class was being inspired by the two art forms, at a market- experience has given me the opportunity to offered in a nearby city by Sabiha Ozgur, place event. I set up an ebru station so that share with others the joy and serenity that a student of Turkey’s well-known ebru the attendees could experience its beauty I feel when making art, especially ebru.  ih master Hikmet Barutçugil. In the first class first-hand. During a break to answer quesMedani is a blossoming artist working with zakhrafa she presented a brief history of ebru and tions, a young girl mustered her courage Salwa and ebru to create unique art pieces. She also has a jewelry then explained how to prepare the paint. and came forward with her mother to make line inspired by both arts. More of her work can be found After emphasizing this step’s importance her own piece. She chose the colors, started at

One’s life can never have enough beauty



Philadelphia to Zanzibar The Please Touch Museum hosts a new children’s exhibition on Islamic cultures BY KENNETH T. WAHRENBERGER


uslims live and work in every part of Philadelphia. They represent 10% of the total population, nearly 200,000 people.” With these two simple sentences, this wall text featured in the Please Touch Museum’s ( America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far exhibition clearly communicates Islam’s strong presence in the Philadelphia community. A corresponding “Regional Map of Masjids” shows the locations and small images of over 50 mosques located within the city limits — from storefront mosques and retrofits to the newly built Bait-ul Aafiyat mosque, the city’s largest. Although the exhibition was curated and first shown at the Children’s Museum 52    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

of Manhattan (CMOM;, it has found a perfect home at the Please

Touch Museum, where it will remain until Sept. 2, 2019. The first children’s exhibition on Muslim cultures to be staged in the U.S., America to Zanzibar seeks to provide a space where children can learn about the art, history and culture of diverse Muslim communities through hands-on activities. According to the show’s curator, Lizzy Martin, “biases can form by age 6,” and children can benefit immensely from experiencing foreign cultures through universal themes and activities that seem familiar to them (New York Times, Mar. 13, 2017). The welcoming wall text states in both English and Arabic: “Learning more about our neighbors brings us closer together and helps us connect to other communities.” Of course, the exhibition’s beginning features a toy car, a mountable animal and a playground boat — staples of a children’s play






area. However, unlike the generic versions, America to Zanzibar allows young visitors to drive a beautifully decorated Pakistani truck, ride a desert-faring camel like centuries of Muslim traders and set sail on a multi-level Indian Ocean dhow (boat). Through these vehicles in the “Trade Routes” section, the exhibition displays some of the ways that the world’s centuries-old Muslim cultures exchanged goods and services, as well as artistic styles, languages and social customs. The exhibition’s center features a marvelously designed courtyard modeled after the Persian charbagh (“four-garden”) layout. This space introduces children to the beauty of Islamic geometric patterns through three lattice work windows with images of various courtyards from the Muslim world nested behind the panes. From the courtyard, one can enter into

The exhibition courtyard

Zanzibari fish market activity in the "Global Marketplace." MAY/JUNE 2019  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   53



clearly shows children that the U.S. is home to one of the world’s most diverse Muslim populations. Philadelphia is also home to the New Africa Center (NAC; www. — a community center, museum and archive dedicated to preserving AfricanAmerican Muslim heritage. The NAC collaborated on a wall text that features the bios of impactful African-American Muslims, including Yarrow Mamout, a former enslaved Muslim who was brought from West Africa in 1752. Known for his steadfast faith and happy demeanor, Mamout gained his freedom at the age of The exhibition courtyard 60 and purchased property and bank stock in Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. His portrait, painted by Philadelphia artist Charles Wilson Peale, was acquired in 2011 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and demonstrates Islam’s long history in the U.S. A Please Touch Museum press release states that the exhibition’s organizers worked with a local advisory council “made up of more than two dozen local Muslim community leaders” who were appointed to oversee the adaptation of the traveling show to the Philadelphia setting. With a $600,000 budget from donors like The Pew Center for Arts and Bank of America, the museum spared no expense to ensure that the exhibition would engage directly with the Philadelphia public — both Muslim and non-Muslim audiences, children and adults alike. Prior to America to Zanzibar: Muslim ▲  A Qur'an from India (1852), (Ink, gold, Cultures Near and Far, an exhibition of this watercolor on paper), Lewis 017, Rare Books Department, Free Library of Philadelphia. caliber specifically made for children was unheard of and hardly imaginable. Besides portraiture to infuse Islamic architecture, engaging both children and adults of many geometric motifs and Arabic script into the backgrounds, the curatorial team had to clothing of the Muslim figures depicted. accurately represent the identities and culThese artists helped children at tural expressions of the world’s more than 1.6 Philadelphia mosques and schools create billion Muslims and then interpret them to original artwork that is displayed in the American audiences. Yet, astonishingly, they prayer room — a reserved space for reflection made it work. By soliciting assistance from in the middle of the exhibition. An accom- the local and national Muslim community panying wall text informs the non-Muslims and constructing an exhibit that helps chilof the five daily prayers and asks them to be dren interact with new cultures, America to respectful of the room. Zanzibar has pioneered a model that should The exhibit also devotes a whole area to be followed in the years to come.  ih the Muslim American home. Local Muslim families lent meaningful objects that tell sto- Kenneth T. Wahrenberger (University of Pittsburgh ‘19) is pursuing a degree in religion and loves studying Islamic ries about their lives in Philadelphia and else- art in North American museums. He recently interned at where. Out of all the show’s areas, this section the Philadelphia Museum of Art.



the “Global Marketplace,” which includes a labyrinth of vendor stalls reminiscent of great bazaars and souks. In each stall, children can experience products unique to various Muslim countries, from smelling Indonesian fruits to weighing a fresh catch at a Zanzibari fish market. Every product is accompanied by an activity that engages them with the traditions of the represented Muslim cultures, while simultaneously teaching them basic lessons about math, food, commerce, history, art and music. Designed to keep pace with children’s short attention spans, the market allows them to jump from pretending to weigh Egyptian spices to solving a puzzle on Turkish ceramic patterns to designing outfits inspired by New York City Senegalese fashion. There is even a digital interface that lets them hear the sounds made by popular musical instruments like the oud, the ghijak and the ney. Just like the bazaars of the Islamic world, the “Global Marketplace” is emblematic of the cross-cultural exchange that has connected Muslim communities for centuries. Amidst the toy objects of America to Zanzibar, the Please Touch Museum displays real works of stunning Islamic art on loan from the Penn Museum and the Free Library of Philadelphia. One glass vitrine holds a delicate, finely ornamented Qur’an from India dated to 1852, which belongs to the library’s renowned Lewis Collection. Another casing presents a selection of vibrantly colored ceramics from Syria, Iran and Asia Minor that are part of the Penn Museum’s permanent collection. The innumerable smudges on the glass cases suggest that many of the young visitors gazed intently at the masterful craftsmanship of previous generations of Muslim artisans. Five watercolor illustrations from the Lewis Collection invite the viewer to look closely at scenes from historic Persian, Mughal and Turkish cultures, all carefully selected to reference the exhibition’s spaces and activities. The exhibition also features contemporary works from the Please Touch Museum’s artists in residence, Bariq Cobbs and Keisha Whatley, that respond to the show and express themes of family, love, faith and community. While the gestural strokes of Bariq’s colorful semi-abstract paintings evoke a sense of love and connection between Muslim families, Keisha blends surrealism with traditional

NEW RELEASES From Victims to Suspects: Muslim Women Since 9/11 Shakira Hussein 2019. Pp. 272. HB. $27.64, PB. $24.65, Kindle $23.42 Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn. uslim women, once regarded as passive victims waiting to be rescued, are now widely regarded as arbiters of “terror” and a potential threat to be kept under control. Drawing on interviews and examples from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Europe, North America and elsewhere, Hussein's unique perspective on what it means to be a Muslim woman post-9/11 shows how this shift occurred and how it impacts feminism, multiculturalism, race and religion on a global scale. She argues that alongside the fear of what non-Muslims invariably label as “Islamic” terrorism is a growing fear of Islam as a cultural hazard that is undermining Western society from within. Muslim women, the transmitters of cultural practices, are frequently seen to play a key role in this.

Being Muslim: A Cultural History of Women of Color in American Islam Sylvia Chan-Malik 2018. Pp. 288. PB. $29.00 New York University Press, New York, N.Y. han-Malik argues that Muslim womanhood is constructed through affective insurgency — everyday and embodied acts of resistance. In negotiating the histories of anti-Blackness, U.S. imperialism and women’s rights of the 20th and 21st centuries, she explores how Muslim American women’s identities are expressions of Islam as both a Black protest religion and a universal faith tradition. By accounting for American Islam’s rich histories of mobilization and community, the author offers insight into the resistance that all Muslim women living in post-9/11 America must engage in. In addition, she shows how American understandings of Islam have shifted due to the evolution of domestic white nationalism over the past century.



An Islamic Jihad of Nonviolence: Said Nursi’s Model Salih Sayilgan 2019. Pp. 148. PB. $18.54 Cascade Books, Eugene, Ore. oday, a dedicated lobby continues to associate Islam with violence primarily by distorting the concept of jihad. Sayilgan, who details how secularism was ruthlessly forced upon Turkey, argues that some Muslims justify their violence by such distortions and that the concept itself is intentionally used to promote fear of Islam and its adherents. He challenges such views by exploring Said Nursi’s (d. 1960) jihad of nonviolence and explaining how his teachings concerning nonviolent struggle, reconciliation and religious tolerance has much in common with those of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Nursi’s advice is timeless: “Love love and hate hatred.”

Anwar Returns: The Final Twist: The Prosecution and Release of Anwar Ibrahim QC Mark Trowell 2019. Pp. 400. PB. $21.99, Kindle. $9.99 Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd, Singapore, Singapore nwar Ibrahim, released from prison and recipient of a full royal pardon from the King of Malaysia on May 16, 2018, has reentered public service. Mark Trowell QC [Queen’s Counsel — the title for a licensed attorney in the U.K.], who observed Anwar’s trials, says that this event was “as historic as the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.” His documentation of the dramatic twists and turns in Anwar’s prosecution to his vindication 20 years later includes an exclusive May 2018 interview that focuses on Anwar’s new relationship with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his vision for Malaysia.


Beyond Debt: Islamic Experiments in Global Finance Daromir Rudnyckyj 2018. Pp. 272. HB. $75.00, PB. $25.00 University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Ill. ecent economic crises have made the centrality of debt and the instability it creates increasingly apparent. This realization has led to calls for change, and yet there is little popular awareness of possible alternatives. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Malaysia, Rudnyckyj describes efforts to create a transnational debt-free economy and illustrates how the state, led by the central bank, seeks to make Kuala Lumpur “the New York of the Muslim world” — the central node of global financial activity conducted in accordance with Islam. He shows how Islamic financial experts have undertaken ambitious experiments to create more stable economies and stronger social solidarities by facilitating risk- and profit-sharing, enhanced entrepreneurial skills and more collaborative economic action. Building on scholarship that analyzes how financial devices impact human activity, he shares how Islamic finance fashions individuals who are at once more pious Muslims and more ambitious entrepreneurs. In so doing, he explains how experts seek to create a new “geoeconomics” — a global Islamic alternative to the conventional financial network centered on New York, London and Tokyo. The author’s groundbreaking account tells the captivating story of efforts to re-center international finance in an emergent Islamic global city and, ultimately, to challenge the very foundations of conventional finance.


Under My Hijab Hena Khan, Aaliya Jaleel (illus.) 2019. Pp. 32. (4-8 years; Grade Level: 1-2). HB. $17.95 Lee & Low Books, New York, N.Y. n her latest children’s book, Hena Khan provides a window into the world of a Muslim American girl and the diverse women in her family and community so that readers can learn more about the hijab and its nuances.



The Evident Memorandum Musa Furber (trans.) 2019. Pp. 630. PB. $29.95 Islamosaic Publishing, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


he Evident Memorandum” is by far the best Shafi’i fiqh manual to appear in English since “Reliance of the Traveller.” The original text is from the 14th-century Shafi’i jurist and hadith master Ibn al-Mulaqqin’s “Tadhkirah fi’l Fiqh al-Shafi’i,” which was originally designed for novices studying fiqh. Furber has enhanced the work for contemporary audiences with commentary and evidence drawn from Ibn al-Mulaqqin’s other works. “The Evident Memorandum” helps explain why Islamic law includes specific topics and provides essential evidence behind much of the school’s rulings.

Changing Saudi Arabia: Art, Culture and Society in the Kingdom Sean Foley 2019. Pp. 220. HB. $35.00 Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, Colo. oley, who taught in Saudi Arabia (2013-14), explores the country’s contemporary arts movement in the context of its changing political realities. Artists, he says, are now expressing thoughts and feelings that the public typically has feared to articulate by promoting discussions about the need for peaceful and progressive social reform — and in ways that escape the wrath of the absolute monarchy. Without confronting the state or its political system, he argues, Saudi society is exercising significant agency through its cultural production.


R is for Ramadan Greg Paprocki 2019. Pp. 32. Board Book (Ages 0-3). $9.99 Gibbs Smith Publisher, Kaysville, Utah amadan is a time to focus on values such as sharing, empathy, compassion, generosity and selflessness. Paprocki illustrates these ideals in his inimitable style for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet.  ih




Are Products Labeled “Alcohol-Free” Really Free of Alcohol? A definitive ruling on the permissibility of “non-alcoholic” products continues to elude Islamic scholars BY ASMA JARAD


ne of the gifts my son brought back from his visit with my sister in Abu Dhabi last year was a small bottle of vanilla extract. My sister was so proud of herself for finding a halal version of her favorite flavoring agent that she wanted to share her joy with me. Since I don’t share her enthusiasm for baking, I was unmoved by the notion that vanilla comes in a halal version. I’m familiar with it as a subtle ice-cream flavor and as a flowery scent emitted from lotions and shampoos. I also know that it’s derived from the beans of a tropical orchid that has delicate flowers and a long pod-like fruit — all natural and halal to me! And so I never realized that some Muslims actually consider vanilla extract to be haram until I started my research for this article. Another point of contention is whether one can drink “alcohol-free” beer. For those who regularly drink beer, the notion 56    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

of doing so is akin to eating a meatless hamburger. Not only is this nonsensical, but it also defeats the purpose of drinking beer. For many Muslims, this area is so murky that most choose to avoid it. However, the question remains as to whether such a drink is halal. A convert had a clear answer about the appropriateness of consuming such edibles. Of eating soy look-alike bacon, he asked: “Why remember the haram aroma when you have left the haram environment?” For Muslims, the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is the source when it comes to what is clearly haram and possibly haram, especially when halal alternatives are available. On the authority of an-Nu’man ibn Basheer, the Prophet said: “That which is lawful is clear and that which is unlawful is clear, and between the two of them are doubtful matters about which many people do not know.

Thus, those who avoid doubtful matters clear themselves in regard to their religion and their honor, but those who fall into doubtful matters [eventually] fall into that which is unlawful...” (40 Hadith Nawawi, no. 6). In the case of vanilla extract, most food experts concur that virtually all of the alcohol used to derive vanilla from the beans evaporates — but not in its entirety, as some may assume — during the cooking process. Vanilla is most commonly sold in extract form

the globe, one should remember that Islam is a religion of ease, not of unnecessary hardships and restrictions. As such, we should avoid being overzealous in labeling food items or practices haram when they are not certifiably so. In fact, the Prophet resisted this very tendency. As narrated by Anas bin Malik, he said: “Facilitate things to people (concerning religious matters), and do not make it hard for them and give them good tidings and do not make them run away (from Islam) (“Sahih al-Bukhari” 69, Book 3, Hadith 11). And so don’t just blindly follow what others have decreed. We should follow in the Prophet’s footsteps and, through critical thinking, acquire ANOTHER POINT OF CONTENTION IS a balanced perceptive. As Muslims, God’s love WHETHER ONE CAN DRINK “ALCOHOL-FREE” and favor are clear in many verses, among them: “You are the best nation produced [as BEER. FOR THOSE WHO REGULARLY DRINK an example] for humanity. You enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong and believe in BEER, THE NOTION OF DOING SO IS AKIN Allah. If only the People of the Scripture had TO EATING A MEATLESS HAMBURGER. NOT believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them ONLY IS THIS NONSENSICAL, BUT IT ALSO are defiantly disobedient” (3:110). DEFEATS THE PURPOSE OF DRINKING BEER. Simply put, the main difference between alcoholic and alcohol-free beer is the amount of alcohol each one contains. According to the Drinkaware Trust (https://www.drinkaware. as a derivative, because on their own vanilla beans and flowers, an independent British alcohol education organization lack the characteristic flavor we recognize in our vanilla-flavored funded largely by voluntary and unrestricted donations from UK products. This flavor is the result of curing and processing the alcohol producers, retailers and supermarkets, there are four types beans in a liquid, most commonly in alcohol. According to the of beer: • Alcohol-free beer = no more than 0.05% alcohol by volume U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards, one unit of pure (ABV) vanilla extract is one that contains a minimum of 35 percent alco• De-alcoholized beer = no more than 0.5% ABV hol ( • Low-alcohol beer = no more than 1.2% ABV CFRSearch.cfm?fr=169.3). At face value, this sounds alarming • Alcoholic beer = contains more than 1.2% ABV to many Muslims, and the mere mention of alcohol in any food product immediately makes us uncomfortable. While Islam clearly prohibits alcoholic beverages, Islamic scholWe know that deliberately consuming alcohol is haram, but ars disagree over consuming non-alcoholic beer. Some argue that what about using it to process vanilla when only less than one-half doing so is haram because the product retains alcohol in varying of 1 percent by volume remains? This scientific fact concludes that amounts based on the manufacturer. In addition, given the plethora the consumer neither tastes, smells, nor sees any alcohol in the of drinks available that contain zero alcohol, why choose a drink vanilla extract. that may be haram? Others argue that the remaining amount is Furthermore, Islamic scholar, lecturer, and author Shaikh Yasir negligible and thus can’t be considered intoxicating. In the end, the Quran and Sunnah have laid down eternal and Qadhi, in his “Precious Provisions: The Fiqh of Food and Clothing” seminar, who prefers practicality when considering the widespread clear rules and boundaries for us to follow. After conducting our manufacturing practice, notes: “Vanilla in and of itself must be own research and consulting the Islamic narratives and authorities, extracted [by] using alcohol, but the quantity of vanilla in ice-cream as well as food science experts, we must make our own informed is minute. Even fruit juice — it is impossible not to have some choice. On the basis that a miniscule amount of alcohol could alcohol in fruit juice, but no one says this is haram.” possibly be present in a final food product but couldn’t intoxicate At the same time, since substitutes for vanilla extract are avail- the consumer, some scholars find a way to concur that one can able, many Muslims use them instead and thus avoid the issue. eat or drink it. However, the question is that can anything started with haram For example, many people claim that the vanilla powder or maple syrup used in baked goods causes the product to taste very close to be converted into halal? or exactly the same as one that uses alcohol-based vanilla extract. Of note, there is a hadith that the Prophet had warned that a The ingredients of the Dr. Oetker brand, the Madagascan Vanilla group of people will make peoples’ intoxication halal by giving it Extract my sister sent me, includes invert sugar syrup, glucose other names (see Ahmad ibn Hanbal; Sunan e Abu Daud, Vol., 3, syrup, water, and vanilla extract. The label also proclaims: “We No. 3688). The argument that the end justifies the means has no use sugar syrup base rather than alcohol, so it is suitable for cold place in Islam (see Hamza Yusuf, Sept. 30, 2011).  ih preparations such as desserts and icings.” Asma Jarad is a freelance writer and editor. She has a YouTube channel, Sami & Amro While these alternatives are useful and widely available across Reading Time, to promote literacy for children from all backgrounds. MAY/JUNE 2019  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   57


The Muslims of Buddhist-majority Cambodia Muslims have been living in this Southeast Asian nation for centuries BY ISLAMIC HORIZONS STAFF (Editor’s Note: Dr. Philipp Bruckmayr is the author of “Cambodia’s Muslims and the Malay World” (Brill: 2018). The dissertation upon which the book is based won the 2015 Dissertation Prize of the German Association of Middle Eastern Studies. Philipp Bruckmayr is a lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Vienna in Austria.)

▲  The Imam San community brings its new mosque drum into position (2009).

Q:  Why did you decide to write on the Chams, a rather obscure Southeast Asian people? A:  The Cham people are a remarkable case for several reasons. In their homeland of coastal central and southern Vietnam, Cham culture rests on a sophisticated system of interaction between the adherents of strongly localized forms of Hinduism and Islam. In predominantly Buddhist Cambodia, where the great majority of Chams now live, since 1998 the state has recognized two separate Islamic congregations, which is a unique case in Southeast Asia. Besides the local Sunni Muslim mainstream, whose official leader is Oknha Sos Kamry (the Mufti of Cambodia), the Islamic Community of 58    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  MAY/JUNE 2019

Imam San and its leader, the Ong Ginuer (Venerable Master) Kai Tam, have received official state recognition. The Imam San group still preserves an Islamic manuscript culture in Indic Cham script and many distinctive practices and beliefs, which have long disappeared among the Cambodian Muslim mainstream. Approximately 20 percent of the local Muslim population, however, are not ethnic Chams. Known as Chvea, they are speakers of the national Khmer language and trace their origins to unions between Malay settlers and Khmer wives. Q:  What sets the Imam San group apart from the Sunnis? A:  The main ritual differences are the

Imam San group’s practice of praying only once a week and the paramount importance it accords to the mawlid festivities of the eponymous 19th-century saint Imam San. As far as beliefs are concerned, the Imam San group’s veneration of ancestor spirits (muk kei) is another distinctive feature. Q:  How was the Cham network in Makkah affected by Ibn Saud’s conquest of Arabia? Does this connection still exist? A:  The Saudi conquest of the Hejaz contributed to a reduction of the number of Chams studying in Makkah, as more Southeast Asian seekers of knowledge turned toward al-Azhar for religious education during the period in general. Individual Chams, however, continued to study there after the Saudi conquest. Certain Malay scholars such as Muhammad Nur al-Fatani of Patani, Thailand, served as bridges between traditional Malay and Wahhabi scholarship. Since 1992, the connections between the Chams and Saudi Arabia have once again been strengthened. Q:  Do you know if any Cham students are currently enrolled at the Islamic University of Madinah? Do they study at other Islamic universities in the Middle East, Patani, or Malaysia? Are they respected when the return home? What do they do there? A:  Since the mid-1990s, a number of Cambodian Muslim students have graduated from the Islamic University of Madinah and the Imam Saud University in Saudi Arabia. Initially also the Islamic Da’wa College in Tripoli (Libya) had been a destination. In recent years, the College of Sharia and Islamic Studies in Kuwait has gained in importance due the major activities of Kuwaiti charities in the country. Cambodian students also continue to enroll at al-Azhar Uuniversity, especially in its preparatory schools. In the region, Yala Islamic University (Thailand) attracts students, whereas Cambodian adherents of the Tablighi Jama’at attend the movement’s educational centers in Yala and Petaling Jaya (Malaysia). Returnees from Middle Eastern universities often work as teachers or employees of Arab embassies. Some have also founded their own schools and charities. As in the

past, Islamic education abroad comes with prestige at home. Despite the great local expansion of religious schooling, however, the demand for religious specialists is limited. Q:  How did Patani become a center of Islamic scholarship, given that it’s located in Buddhist-majority Thailand? A:  The Sultanate of Patani was only incorporated into the Thai state in the late 18th century. This loss of sovereignty greatly boosted Islamic consciousness and scholarly activities among the local Malays. In the 19th century Patani developed — through its scholarly networks extending to Makkah — into one of the major centers of Islamic scholarship in Southeast Asia. Q:  Did French colonialism affect the Chams’ understanding/practice of Islam? If so, how? A:  French colonial policies inadvertently strengthened the process of Jawization, as French efforts at standardizing Islamic education and streamlining the religious administration privileged jawi models. This was related to colonial assumptions about what constitutes “true” Islam. Q:  What do you mean by Jawization, and how did it transform indigenous Cham culture? A:  Jawization refers to the gravitation of large parts of the Cambodian Chams toward a pan-Southeast Asian scholarly and religious culture predicated on the use of the Malay language and its adaptation of the Arabic script (jawi) as the common medium of scholarly exchanges and religious study. As a result of this process, the great majority of Chams were gradually disconnected from their distinctive historical manuscript culture written in the Cham script and from many local Islamic traditions. Instead, Malay religious and cultural models were appropriated. The emergence of the Imam San group is an echo of these developments, as it represents currents within the local community that have historically refused to travel that road. Q:  Please give a brief description of the Malays’ historical link with the Chams and influence within the community. A:  The Chams have been closely aligned with resident Malays at least since the late 16th century. At that time, SpanishPortuguese attempts to control Cambodia were frustrated inter alia by fierce ChamMalay resistance. In the mid-17th century a usurper to the throne from the royal family embraced Islam and, with heavy backing from the local

Cham-Malay community, ruled Cambodia as Sultan Ibrahim from 1643-1658. Since this time, the Chams and Malays coming from different parts of the peninsula and the archipelago have closely cooperated in the commercial, political and religious spheres. Q:  What happened to the Chams under the Khmer Rouge? Has an indigenous spiritual leadership taken over, or do outsiders now control the community? A:  According to different estimates, between one-third and one-half of the

Cambodian Muslims is not only the result of the influx of Middle Eastern money, for the Tablighi Jama’at, which has much less financial backing from abroad and entered Cambodia through Thailand and Malaysia, is now the country’s largest Muslim movement. Even though it also triggered far reaching changes, it is locally perceived as much less foreign than Salafism. Q:  Have other Muslim nations become involved with the Chams — Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, India?

AS IN THE PAST, ISLAMIC EDUCATION ABROAD COMES WITH PRESTIGE AT HOME. DESPITE THE GREAT LOCAL EXPANSION OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLING, HOWEVER, THE DEMAND FOR RELIGIOUS SPECIALISTS IS LIMITED. Cham population perished under the Khmer Rouge. While not initially targeted for ethnic or religious hatred, the Chams soon became collectively regarded as enemies of the revolution. Key factors in this regard were two Cham rebellions against the Khmer Rouge during Ramadan 1975, which erupted primarily as a result of the regime’s ban on religion. The level of persecution apparently varied across different parts of the country. Religious leaders were, however, specifically targeted for extermination. Among this group the survival rate was a mere 10 to 20 percent. After the Khmer Rouge, the spiritual leadership was taken over by survivors of the genocide who had received their religious education in the 1960s, such as the current Mufti of Cambodia, Sos Kamry, and the former Deputy Mufti Tuon Him, a graduate of al-Azhar University. Q:  Has the influx of Middle Eastern money into Cambodia changed the Chams’ understanding of Islam? Has it led to new conflicts like the earlier ones mentioned in your book? A:  The late 1990s and early 2000s witnessed conflicts between the representatives of a new Salafi trend within Cambodian Islam and the local supporters of the Tablighi Jama’at. Even though the latter, with its Indian roots, also represents a recent arrival, it managed to rally many of the more traditionally oriented discontents of Salafi influence behind it. This shows that religious change among

A:  Apart from Saudi Arabian and Kuwaiti charities, Malaysia has played a predominant role in rebuilding Cambodia’s Islamic infrastructure since 1992 through federal, state and private agencies. This has to do with geographical and cultural proximities, strong historical linkages and the influx of Cambodian Muslim refugees into Malaysia in the wake of the Khmer Rouge. The Ahmadiyya movement spread to Cambodia via Thailand and Indonesia. Shiism has been promoted – with similarly limited success – by Iranian state organizations and the Imam Al-Khoie Foundation. There is now even a Naqshbandi lineage from Bangladesh with a community in rural Cambodia. Q:  How many Chams live in Cambodia? Are there certain population concentrations? What types of occupations do they pursue? A:  An estimated 400,000 Muslims live in Cambodia, the great majority of whom are ethnic Chams. Their largest concentrations are found in the eastern provinces of Kampong Cham and Thboung Khum, as well as in Kampong Chhnang and around Phnom Penh in the center. Rural Chams have traditionally engaged in fishing and agriculture. Urban Chams are found in a number of professions, including politicians, doctors, hotel and restaurant owners and major businessmen. The more successful have started to invest in rubber plantations in eastern Cambodia.  ih MAY/JUNE 2019  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   59


Mosque Protocols and Ethics Remember that you are not the only one in the mosque BY SALEH A. MUBARAK


assan, who has not missed a Friday prayer in years, was hit by the flu a couple of days before. Now he is contemplating whether to “end the streak” by staying home instead of possibly spreading it to others, given that congregants stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Going to the mosque is an ‘ibada (act of worship), but does this mean that one necessarily has to suffer unpleasant events? Not


at all, as such difficulty or suffering must not be self-imposed, such as walking to a farther mosque when there is one close by. Islam requires believers to worship in a normal and convenient way while accepting any difficulty that they might encounter. Great care must be taken when going to the mosque so that those who go there, as well as those who don’t and non-Muslims, will have a positive impression of our houses of worship.

Among those elements that need to be constantly looked after are common courtesy when parking one’s car, organized shoe racks, functional and clean bathrooms for both men and women, a tidy and well-maintained prayer hall, imams who make both prayers and speeches appropriate in terms of duration and content, along with mutual respect and good manners among the attendees. Let’s start with the person intending to

go to the mosque. It is better to perform wudu’ at home so that you arrive ready for prayer. Abu Hurayra narrated: “The Prophet said: ‘The prayer offered in congregation is 25 times more superior (in reward) to the prayer offered alone in one’s house or in a business center, because if one performs wudu’ (ablution) at home and does it perfectly, and then proceeds to the mosque with the sole intention of praying, then for each step which he takes towards the mosque,

then uses his (hair) oil or perfumes himself with the scent of his house, then proceeds (for the Friday prayer) and does not separate two persons sitting together (in the mosque), then prays as much as (Allah has) written for him and then remains silent while the Imam is delivering the khutba, his sins in-between the present and the last Friday would be forgiven.” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” vol. 2, book 13, hadith no. 8). Cleanliness also requires removing

EVERY MUSLIM IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MAKING THE MOSQUE EXPERIENCE PLEASANT AND HEALTHY FOR EVERYONE SO NO ONE WILL HATE GOING TO THE MOSQUE. Allah upgrades him a degree in reward and (forgives) crosses out one sin till he enters the mosque. …’” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” vol. 1, book 8, hadith no. 466). Nevertheless, following this norm is not always possible. Another important issue is arriving in a state of calmness and solemnity (sakina wa waqar). This applies both inside and outside the mosque, even if the person fears that he/she will miss the congregational prayer. As narrated by Abu Hurayra: “The Prophet said: “When you hear the iqama, proceed to offer the prayer with calmness and solemnity and do not make haste. And pray whatever you are able to pray and complete whatever you have missed. (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” vol. 1, book 11, hadith no. 609). This “state,” which applied to people and the animals carrying them, has been expanded to include cars and other means of modern transportation, as well as compliance with the relevant safety and traffic rules. Speeding is illegal because it endangers people. People must park properly, even if doing so means that they have to walk for a while to reach the mosque. Also, no double parking or blocking others unless the mosque administration allows it and such people leave immediately after the prayer so that no one will be inconvenienced. Those going to the mosque must dress properly, for God instructed: “O Children of Adam, take your adornment at every mosque” (7:31). An authentic hadith narrated by Salman al-Farisi reinforces this: “The Prophet said: ‘Whoever takes a bath on Friday, purifies himself as much as he can,

unpleasant odors from one’s body, clothes, or breath. In fact, this was a sunna of the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). It’s amazing that people care so much about their appearance when going to a job interview or visiting someone, but not when going to the mosque. God says: “Whoever honors the ordinances (symbols) of Allah — indeed, it is from the piety of hearts” (22:32). The Prophet also encouraged us to set aside special clothes for the Friday prayer. Using deodorant is considered part of dressing cleanly and appropriately, which coincides with the traditional recommendation of applying perfume to keep bad odors away. Moreover, mosque attendees should avoid wearing dirty socks, t-shirts with inappropriate writing or graphics and clothes that ride up or down during ruku‘ and/or sujud. Many hadiths emphasize having good-smelling breath, so use a toothbrush to remove those foul odors caused by eating onions and garlic, smoking, or digestive or dental issues. This also applies to body odor. When my friends and I used to play basketball in the mosque yard between maghrib and isha’, we would stop upon hearing the adhan and take about 15 minutes to cool off. I always took along some deodorant and a change of clothes. If bad odors disturb people, then bringing in contagious germs is even worse. Unfortunately, some Muslims believe that not only is it okay to do so, but that they receive more reward for “enduring this hardship.” Perhaps this would be alright if the sickness were non-contagious, such as

a joint pain or an injury; however, if doing so may cause harm, then such people must stay at home because the Prophet is reported to have advised “No harm is allowed; to one self or to others” and forbade people to harm themselves or others intentionally (see “Sunan Ibn Majah” 2340; “Sahih al-Bukhari” 10; “Shu’ab al-Iman” 20). This basic principle stems from our belief that God is the only true owner of everything, including our own bodies and souls, and that we, given our role as custodians, are obliged to take good care of them. Muslims must treat the mosque with respect. Abu Hurayra reported that the Prophet saw some sputum in the direction of the qibla of the mosque. He turned toward people and said: How is it that someone among you stands before his Lord and then spits out in front of Him? Does any one of you like that he should be made to stand in front of someone and then spit at his face” (“Sahih Muslim,” The Book of Prayer, hadith no. 1121). If you have to sneeze, cover your mouth. As the mosque must be kept clean, pick up any dirt or garbage that you may see and dispose of it properly. If you see things in the wrong place or order, do what you can to correct it. An additional rule is not to raise one’s voice while inside, except for calling the adhan or the iqama or when the imam is leading the prayer or addressing the congregation. This rule applies to those who are reciting the Quran, remembering God or praying alone, as well as to those who are socializing or using their cellphones inappropriately — doing business, for example. And, indeed, even “harmlessly” fiddling with cellphones disturbs people around you and distracts them from their ibadah. The sound level of outside loudspeakers is another issue. In non-Muslim countries, such speakers are usually absent. If they are present, arrangements are made so that only people inside the mosque premises hear the call to prayer. This issue sometimes causes great annoyance in various Muslim countries, for some imams compete in raising the volume for the adhan, the iqama, the prayer itself and probably lectures. Every Muslim is responsible for making the mosque experience pleasant and healthy for everyone so no one will hate going to the mosque.  ih Saleh A. Mubarak, Ph.D., a construction project management consultant, is a trainer and author.


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Islamic Horizons May-June 2019  

Islamic Horizons May-June 2019