Islamic Horizons November/December 2018

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#5 18



Representative people power reaches Pakistan


Pakistan on the Mend


VOL. 47 NO. 6  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018 visit isna online at: WWW.ISNA.NET

COVER STORY 20 Pakistan on the Mend

Representative people power reaches Pakistan

24 Literacy is More than Books

28 Taqwa in an Age of Distractions



Muslim-Digital Influencers Redefine the American Woman

55 The Benefits and Responsibilities of the Freedom of Speech


Editorial ISNA Matters Community Matters New Releases

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.

Fostering a Leadership from Within


The Power of Storytelling


Coping with Sadness



ISNA #55


All Cheese Are Not Created Equal


Effective Counseling Can Help Stabilize Marriages

MUSLIMS IN ACTION 38 One Way to Increase Muslim Visibility 42 A Stick, a Ball and Six Sisters 44 Why Protest? 45 Demanding to Be Seen

MUSLIMS ABROAD 48 Jerusalem: A Childhood Dream Comes True 50 Muslim Mathematicians Win Coveted Medals

FEATURE 51 Thinking Bioethically 53 Is Retail Therapy the Answer?

IN MEMORIAM 56 57 58

Shahid Athar Ron Young Irfan Ahmad Khan


Museum Houses Ancient Middle Eastern Artifacts



Giving Back is no Longer Enough


much-forwarded email, most obviously originating the first Friday after Pakistan’s July 25 elections, reported that an Arab-American imam somewhere in the U.S. asked his congregation to pray for the success of that country’s new head, Imran Khan, because he had heard that he is an honest person, whereas the Muslim world is infested with kleptomaniac rulers. The people of the Muslim world continue to suffer due to the greed of those who manage to attain power, sometimes with the help of foreign powers whose only desire is to pursue their own interests, regardless of how it affects the regular people. The list is never ending. In July, former Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia was arrested for alleged involvement in embezzling $4.5 billion. In Pakistan, former rulers Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari are being tried for stealing billions of dollars. Even those who carried out some highly publicized anti-corruption campaigns aren’t above suspicion. The rulers of the British-crafted Gulf countries regard everything above and below ground as their sole property. Their thefts immerse their people in perpetual misery and disenfranchisement; however, supposedly free people cannot be fooled forever under alien garb, including the misuse of religious authority. The U.S and quite a few other countries have become home to many Muslim entrepreneurs and inventors, ironically because the corrupt practices back home impeded their personal growth. Some have and others are trying to give back to their homelands. However, doing so now requires more enlightened thinking and action than just building a clinic or a school. Muslims who have the wherewithal to reach out to the policymakers in their adopted lands need to tell them that real friends do not support kleptomaniacs and that national security interests should work toward long-term goals and, as such, must not be founded on the shoulders of corrupt rulers.

It’s an open secret that many countries that pride themselves on being the epitome of freedom, fair play, and honesty turn a blind eye when ill-gotten wealth is laundered through their economies. The semantic clowning that goes into justifying such actions perhaps only satisfies their own mutilated conscience. For instance, the Panama Papers unearthed in 2106 comprised 11.5 million documents detailing the financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities — some of which were actually the rulers of Muslim lands. Most recently Britain, home to more than a handful of thieves who have spirited their loot out of Muslim and other countries, refused to arrest and repatriate a former Pakistani finance minister “hiding” in plain sight in London who is responsible for causing colossal losses that almost bankrupted the country. Former Pakistani president Zardari, the owner of sizeable real estate assets in the U.S., U.K. and Europe, was the subject of 1999 Senate hearing on money laundering. Ironically, the assets spirited out of various Muslim countries are more often than not the very same dollars given as foreign aid and loans to help them. In other words, the American taxpayers’ money has been benefiting a handful of corrupt rulers and their numerous local and foreign collaborators. It is time that Muslim voters send a clear message to governments of their adopted lands to stop nesting these kleptomaniacs. After all, their continued looting causes the instability, poverty and near absence of social services that, along with outside interests, cause the flood of immigrants and refugees considered so unwelcome by the elites of those very countries that welcome this huge outflux of stolen wealth. Maybe, just maybe, one Muslim country is finally going to shatter this destructive pattern.  ih


PUBLISHER The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) PRESIDENT Sayyid Muhammad Syeed INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Habibe Ali EDITOR Omer Bin Abdullah EDITORIAL ASSISTANT Faryal M. Khatri EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Iqbal Unus, Chair: M. Ahmadullah Siddiqi, Milia Islam-Majeed, Habibe Ali, Faryal M. Khatri ISLAMIC HORIZONS is a bimonthly publication of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) P.O. Box 38 • Plainfield, IN 46168‑0038 Copyright @2018 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:


ISNA NEW LEADERS START TERM Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed assumed office as ISNA’s president, which entails heading its Executive Committee and Board of Directors. Syeed, who retired as national director Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed Safaa Zarzour M. Jalaluddin of ISNA’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, D.C., last year, served as the organization’s secretary general for 12 years as well as MSA’s president, during which time he pioneered its transformation into ISNA. ISNA Vice President (Canada) Mohammed Jalaluddin, founding member and president of Toronto’s Ansar Financial Group and ISNA life member, has worked with MSA/ISNA since 1972 in various capacities, including board member and secretary of the Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers. The Executive Council also includes Dr. Asra Ali, treasurer, and Dr. Julie Belz, secretary. The other new Board of Directors members are Safaa Zarzour – a former ISNA secretary general and chairman, Council of Islamic Schools of North America, vice president-USA, Mohammed Jalaluddin, vice president-Canada, Dr. Asra Ali, treasurer, Dr. Julie Belz, secretary, and board members Lubabah Abdullah, Zeyn Patel, Sehrish Siddiqui and Dr. Iqbal Unus, a former secretary general.  ih


Colin Christopher (first right) welcomes visitors

IOICA director Colin Christopher welcomed 12 high school students from across the United Kingdom to ISNA’s D.C. Office on Capitol Hill on August 8 for an engaging discussion about the strengths of the Muslim American community and interfaith policy advocacy. They were in town as part of their U.S. State Departmentsponsored program, The Social Cohesion Exchange, to meet with a variety of civil society groups that resemble their own civic engagement efforts back home. Facilitated through Legacy International (, a U.S.-based international capacity-building organization that specializes in peace building, social entrepreneurs and leadership training, they exchanged ideas with Americans on how each country can increase voter registration, strengthen interfaith relations and decrease incarceration and recidivism. The dialogue also touched on the unique history of Muslims and Islam in the U.S. and the recent successes of Muslims in the domestic political system, including the election victory of Rashida Tlaib, who is likely to become the first Muslimah to serve in Congress come January 2019.  ih 8    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018


ISNA President Dr. Syeed spoke at the daylong 10th forum on “Emir Abd el-Kader: Teacher for the World.” This event, which focused on this 19th-century Algerian scholar, sufi, warrior and humanitarian, highlighted Muslim Americans’ contribution to the U.S. and the institutions they have built, among them the MSA and ISNA. It was held on Sept. 12 at the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. Seminary president David McAllisterWilson, author and scholar John Kiser and Kathy Garms, all co-founders of the Abd el-Kader Education Project, headed the forum. The Algerian embassy and the US-Algeria Business Council supported the program. Kiser presented the Abd el-Kader Global Leadership Awards to students. The town of Elkader, Iowa, is named after him.  ih

HOUSTON GOES GREEN In August 2017, more than three feet of rain pounded Houston, courtesy of Hurricane Harvey’s three-day onslaught. Harvey, which flooded Houston for weeks, became a historic hurricane due to climate change. During the summer of 2018, award-winning filmmaker Mawish Raza and IOICA director Colin Christopher spent time with Muslim Houstonians to learn about the Islamically inspired sustainable practices they live out to counter climate change. During this year’s convention, which was convened in Houston, ISNA used the main stage to present both documentary films ( video/287676938) to over 1,000 people.  ih


First Muslim Director of Spiritual Life

Imam Sami Aziz, who took charge as director of DePauw University’s Center for Spiritual Life on July 23, is the first imam to ever direct a spiritual life program at an American campus.

A graduate of Hartford Seminary’s Islamic Chaplaincy Program, where he is a doctor of ministry student, he previously served as chaplain at Wesleyan University and also worked at the Connecticut-based Choate Rosemary Hall. The imam, who founded the Islamic consulting firm Common Ground Services and is a frequent presenter at Connecticut schools, libraries and places of worship, remarked: “My appointment opens a new path for Muslims and pluralism in America. I bear the sacrifice of past giants such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali and pray to open the way for the future.”  ih

School Packs Delight 50,000 Needy Students

The Chicago-based Islamic Circle of North America Relief ( distributed 50,000 backpacks containing school supplies to needy children nationwide just before the school year started. ICNA Relief Chicago director Dr. Saima Azfar asked, “Do you remember the joy of having brand new school supplies? Many of these children don’t. The sight of hundreds of parents and children lining up hours before the distribution starts is heartbreaking and humbling.” This was part of the organization’s 30-day #OneNationOneCause back2school drive that took place in 35 states, 120 cities and Puerto Rico, along with 220 partners representing faith groups, businesses and civic organizations. Beneficiaries also included migrant children separated from their parents during the recent border crisis, unaccompanied minors seeking asylum housed at many Greater Chicago charity-run locations, the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, Catholic Charities’ DuPage County Back-toSchool Fair and local police events.  ih 10    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018

Mosques Receive Building Permits •  Columbia’s Islamic Center of Central Missouri launched its expansion project after securing planning commission approval on Aug. 17, the Columbia Missourian reported. The estimated $800,000 two-story building, located in the rear of the center’s mosque and school, will contain classrooms, a gym, kitchen, storage space and bathrooms. The facility will also support the center’s efforts to donate food to the homeless and help refugees learn English and find jobs. The community has outgrown the center’s existing space, said Imam Misbahu Musbahu. •  Masjid Qubaa, a 2.3-acre plot of land that comprises The Islamic Center of Mableton as well as a retail or office establishment, was approved 5-0 on Aug. 21 by the Cobb County Board of Commissioners. Accommodating 100 to 110 people, the mosque will occupy the rear building of 3,625 square feet and be used from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. Undeveloped property behind the mosque may be developed with a playground or more parking spaces. According to, this mosque is one of 77 in Georgia, including nine in Cobb County alone.

•  More than two years after its initial plans were rejected, the Islamic Society of the Northwest Suburbs mosque, located in Rolling Meadows, Ill., received unanimous approval on Aug. 28 from the city aldermen to move and expand its new 8-acre center. Once there, it will renovate a vacant one-story, 47,534-square-foot brick industrial building into a prayer hall and Sunday school. The mosque could be open by 2021. Future phases call for a gymnasium for youth activities and a multipurpose room. •  Farmersville City (Tex.) Council unanimously voted to approve a settlement agreement with Islamic Association of Collin County (IACC) that paves the way for the religious group’s Muslim cemetery. The IACC first proposed its Muslim cemetery in 2015 but was met with resistance from some Farmersville residents who were worried about the spread of Islam, according to then media reports. In 2017, the City Council unanimously voted against the cemetery claiming concerns over drainage issues — although no such report was produced to back such claims.  ih


Outreach in Cincinnati

Michigan Mosque Gets Building Permit

Cincinnati Muslims’ first “National Midwest Meet a Muslim” campaign was the first such experience for over 60 percent of the attendees. During the event, around ten hijabis took the streets of downtown Cincinnati with 100 carnations in hand and big smiles on their faces. The people who they met and handed out flowers to were amazed at what was happening and thanked them for what they were doing, reported Hoda Shalah, MYNA’s Midwest regional chair. She said, one of the most unique experiences was meeting other Muslims on the streets who were extremely surprised by this undertaking. A group of Muslimahs who stopped to ask us about the initiative were brought to tears once we explained it to them. Overall, this event made a huge impact upon both the participants and those who learned about it. The group looks forward to making this an annual happening.  ih The Howard County (Md.) Muslim Council elected its new leadership for 2018-20: Ainy Haider-Shah as president, Mehwish Qureshi as vice president, and Aref Baig as treasurer. Past president Ali Abidi is also a board member.  ih

Rebuilt Vandalized Mosque Opens The Victoria Advocate reported that the Victoria Islamic Center (Texas) held its first formal prayer — the Eid-al Adha prayer — on Aug. 22 in its newly constructed mosque. An arsonist had burnt the previous building to the ground on Jan. 28, 2017. Among the congregants was Omar Rachid, who helped raise over $1 million internationally with a GoFundMe campaign. The center continues to raise money to help return to the pre-fire status. VIC president Dr. Shahid Hashmi stated: “The enjoyment of seeing the new building and seeing the faces of our congregation this morning is hard to describe. It seems

that they are truly excited to be in a fully functional mosque once again.’  ih


On Aug. 1, Judge Gershwin Drain of the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan rejected a challenge to a consent judgment reached between Sterling Heights, Mich., and the American Islamic Community Center (AICC) regarding the building of a mosque, reported the Macomb Daily. The city had denied the mosque permission in 2015. The 2017 consent judgment — reached after AICC and the U.S. Justice Department sued the city — includes reducing the height of the mosque’s dome and spires, providing off-site parking, shuttling for events exceeding available on-site parking and prohibiting the use of outdoor sound projection or calls to prayer. The judgment also requires that the dome be painted with non-reflective paint, that all religious activities be conducted indoors and that the city can institute permit parking on surrounding residential streets and enforce parking ordinances. The judge also ruled that the city followed due process regarding the First and Fourth Amendments, as well as the Constitution’s equal protection and establishment clauses. The mosque building plans have been slowed due to the AICC’s changing of architects. New plans have been approved, but new engineering prints must be drawn and permits pulled and approved before construction can begin.  ih


Farhana Khera

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh

Ilhan Omar

Imam Omar Suleiman

Among this year’s Frederick Douglass 200 awardees were Farhana Khera, president and executive director of Muslim Advocates; Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder and editor of; Ilhan Omar, director of policy and initiatives at Women Organizing Women Network; and Imam Omar Suleiman, founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, a professor of Islamic studies at Southern Methodist University and co-chair of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square. 2018 is Frederick Douglass’s Bicentennial celebration. After escaping slavery at the age of 20, Douglass went on to become one of America’s most celebrated and active campaigner against slavery. This award honors the impact of 200 living individuals who best embody Douglass’ work and spirit as an

abolitionist, politician, writer, feminist, educator, entrepreneur and diplomat — areas in which he had a major impact. The FD200 has been curated and compiled by the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives and the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at the American University. The list was published in the Guardian (U.K.), which partners the program. All awardees will be honored at the Library of Congress on Douglass’ next birthday, February 14, 2019. Khera was a member of Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Property Rights. While there, she wrote the first drafts of the End Racial Profiling Act and challenged the racial and religious profiling within the Patriot Act. Sulaiman, named one of the 25 most

influential Muslims in America by CNN, has risen to national and international prominence as a theologically driven spokesperson and activist for human rights. Khatahtbeh’s multimedia network gives voice to the young Muslimahs challenging Islamaphobia and de-stigmatizing Islam in the mainstream media. As a Palestinian refugee, she has been an outspoken supporter of Palestinian human rights and ending the Israeli occupation. At 23, she was named as one of Forbes 30 under 30 in the media, becoming the first hijabi to make the list. Omar, the first Somali-American elected to a U.S. political office, is currently running for the House of Representatives. She has been an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform, economic justice for the working class and Palestinian rights.  ih

The Baltimore-based Muslimat Al-Nisaa Shelter was awarded the National Safe Place Network Culture of Respect award for providing a safe haven. The network said it is honored to recognize those who are making a difference in the lives of youth and families. This award honors those who champion justice and equality. Its recipient exemplify the spirit by demonstrating (1) consistent

professional and/or organizational development in the areas of cultural competency and social justice and (2) leadership in securing or maintaining access to resources, representation and/or decision-making power for all youth, their families and community. Muslimat Al Nisaa provides a sanctuary for homeless women and those in need of shelter. Whether as refugees, victims of

domestic violence or impacted by natural disasters, nothing is more important than a safe haven, a home to live in. As this cannot be accomplished when their residence is made public and identified as a “shelter,” Muslimat Al Nisaa has adopted a non-location disclosure policy.  ih

The indefatigable Chaplain Asma Inge-Hanif NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018  ISLAMIC HORIZONS   13


ISNA #55 ISNA Houston Convention attracted more than 25,000 attendees BY SAMAN ESSA

A real Texan welcome

Outgoing ISNA president Azhar Azeez


or the first time ever, ISNA held its annual convention in Houston — and what they say is true: “Everything is bigger and better in Texas!” The convention, held at the newly renovated George R. Brown Convention Center, located in the heart of downtown Houston, attracted more than 25,000 attendees primarily from the Dallas-Austin-Houston area. The Steering Committee went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to giving the out-of-staters a big Texan welcome. Upon entering the convention center, everyone was greeted by friendly volunteers dressed in cowboy hats and bandanas featuring Houston sports teams like the Texans and World Series winners, the Astros. The weekend-long convention was kicked off during the post-Jummah prayer’s Opening Session. Outgoing president Azhar Azeez was joined by his fellow outgoing vice president, Altaf Husain, and the co-steering committee heads MJ Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH;, and Zeyn Patel, co-founder of the Risala Foundation ( Khan’s speech, followed by Azeez’s speech, were both bittersweet in nature. Nearly a year after Houston was hit with

Outgoing ISNA president Azhar Azeez receives his due recognition

the devastating Hurricane Harvey, Khan reflected on the city’s turbulent past year. However, he emphasized how proud he was to be a part of this great Muslim community that had converted its mosques into shelters for the displaced, a selfless act that garnered nationwide positive media coverage. Azeez reviewed his presidency, looking back at the initiatives, deemed ISNA’s biggest accomplishment to be its implementation of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign (www. which united 35 religious groups in an effort to end anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. Patel urged attendees to follow ISNA on social media and commended the Program Committee for including something for everyone. Hussein added that there was a boys and girls basketball camp, the latter


of which was headed and taught by Bilqis Abdul Qadir, a Muslimah athlete who made headlines as the first-ever hijabi professional basketball player. This year’s theme came out of our nation’s sociopolitical climate. With much debate over “What it means to be American,” what better theme to discuss than something that Americans, Muslims and MuslimAmericans all believe to be one of the highest truths: putting one’s trust in God. The words “In God We Trust,” which have appeared on every form of U.S currency since 1956, is also the foundation of every Muslim’s belief — that good and bad come from God. In a hadith, Anas ibn Malik reported: “A man said, ‘O Messenger of God, should I tie my camel and trust in God, or should I leave her untied and trust in God?’ The Messenger of God said, ‘Tie your camel and trust in God” (“Sunan al-Tirmidhi,” hadith no. 2517). In other words, be proactive and then place your trust in God’s plan. Given the current political climate, Muslims and other minorities have become more vocal in their assertion that they are just as American as any other American. Although the nature of ISNA’s annual conference has shifted toward political engagement and calling for social reform, as such activities better reflect our community’s current concerns, its spirituality component retains its traditional prominent position. Several Muslim Americans are making headlines for their accomplishments and unapologetic attitude of being Muslim, such as Khaled Beydoun (associate professor of law, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law), Lisa Vogl (founder of Verona Collection modest fashion) and Zahra Billoo (CAIR), all of whom were co-panelists on the “Newsmakers” session. Billoo talked about how today “you can make the news in various ways” and the use of social media platforms to reach ever more people. Importantly, she cautioned individuals to be thoughtful before speaking, for “not everything that is legal is morally right, and not everything that is right, is legal” and

Chaplain Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad (second left, first row standing) with workshop attendees

GIVEN THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE, MUSLIMS AND OTHER MINORITIES HAVE BECOME MORE VOCAL IN THEIR ASSERTION THAT THEY ARE JUST AS AMERICAN AS ANY OTHER AMERICAN. ALTHOUGH THE NATURE OF ISNA’S ANNUAL CONFERENCE HAS SHIFTED TOWARD POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT AND CALLING FOR SOCIAL REFORM, AS SUCH ACTIVITIES BETTER REFLECT OUR COMMUNITY’S CURRENT CONCERNS, ITS SPIRITUALITY COMPONENT RETAINS ITS TRADITIONAL PROMINENT POSITION. “What’s more, our religion asks us to speak out.” However, she also said to “make sure you own it [what you say].” Beydoun touched on similar topics, applauding what he calls “the MuslimAmerican Renaissance” movement, such as the much-expected election of Rashida Tlaib, the first Muslimah and PalestinianAmerican woman, to Congress. He also commended Ilhan Omar, the first SomaliAmerican legislator elected to office, as well as Abdul El-Sayed, the first Muslim to run for governor of Michigan. Beydoun and Billoo urged attendees to engage politically, especially in the upcoming midterm elections. While Beydoun and Billoo have similar backgrounds, lawyers by profession but on the front lines of addressing Islamophobia in the U.S., Vogl started “Verona” (https://, the first

hijab-centered fashion line to appear in a major department store — Macy’s. It has garnered great attention both within and outside the Muslim world. As a single Muslimah mother, she wanted to create a fashion line that would challenge the media’s image of Muslimahs. “They never showed edgy, vibrant, outspoken Muslim women, and those are all things I identify with.” She said she started the line “not to promote hijab, but to show proud women in hijab.” The session featuring Omar Suleiman (founder and president, Yaqeen Institute []), who spoke on “Pride and Prejudice: The Impact of Internalized Bigotry,” was so packed that people had to stand in the back, sit on the floor around the chairs or line up outside) It was co-paneled by Kameelah Rashad and Ieasha Prime. “Sometimes,”

Suleiman said, “we don’t want to talk about our problems as a Muslim community because it gives the Islamophobes something else to use against us.” Urging people to stand up to oppression both within and outside the community, he alluded to the protest by armed members of the extreme right-wing Texas Patriots Network, joined by the “Western chauvinist” Proud Boys group and the counter-protest launched by the [notably non-Muslim] New Black Panther Party and other groups that occurred earlier that day. Stating that “Texas has 10% of the country’s hate-groups,” he remarked that sometimes the “love conquers all” approach is not the best method, referencing the way Umar (‘alayhi rahmat) stood up to the bullies of Mecca. In the same session, Iesha Prime (Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center, Falls Church, Va.) and Kameelah Rashad (founder and president, Muslim Wellness Foundation) talked about encouraging children and Muslims of all ages to ask questions about their faith. “How else,” Prime asked, “can we reach middle Muslims unless we allow them to ask questions, instead of suppressing their concerns and evoking an identity crisis later in life?” Suleiman reinforced that idea by dubbing our era the “microwave era” in which we want answers fast. However, that is not the way religion works because we need to take the time to find our answers — and it might take us some time to love Islam. It might also, first, take some time to love ourselves. This year’s convention featured more mental health sessions than ever before. Kudos to ISNA for realizing that mental health within our community is usually unreported and needs to be addressed. Muslims, more than any other religious group, are more likely to confide in their religious leaders. Imams are not trained to deal with such situations, but many other community members are. “Community leaders should expand their knowledge on mental health and understand where to outsource advice and help to those that are knowledgeable,” said Dr. Heather Laird (director, Center for Muslim Mental Health and Islamic Psychology at the University of Southern California) during the “Promoting Help Seeking Behavior: Muslims and Mental Health” panel. Other ways to promote mental health is to recognize that something might be wrong within yourself and support those who have a mental health illness. Dr. Amber Khan and


CONVENTION REPORT ISNA Conventions are for all ages

Dr. Nur Abdullah receives the award from outgoing ISNA president Azhar Azeez. Outgoing vice-president ISNA Canada Pervez Nasim (first left) and incoming ISNA president Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed (first right) flank them

family and marriage therapist Sadia Jalali shared the panel “Being Muslim with Mental Illnesses,” in which they addressed depression. “You can feel sadness. Islam teaches us that sadness, being stressed, or worried is not haram,” Khan said. Jalali expanded on the importance of therapy to help those coping with these illnesses. “Most people do not know what therapy is. It’s not a cup of tea.” If more people understood the purpose of therapy and how it can help engender positive change, then more people would have a more positive attitude toward seeking such help. Nader Irsan spoke about his experience in the foster care system and how the community should get involved. As a guest speaker for New Star Kafala (www., a Muslim Adoption and Child Advocacy Agency, and Cultivating Families (, a Missouri City, Texas faith-based nonprofit organization that works with local faith-based congregations to be with foster and adoptive children and families, he noted that “because many Muslim youth are not in the foster care system, bringing awareness to such hidden issue is a challenge in itself.” He chose to share his unique experience to promote organizations like New Star Kafala. “I feel that awareness of Muslim kids in the foster care system is the perfect example of encompassing everything that ISNA stands

for.” He concluded by telling the attendees “to get involved, no matter how big or small the action is, their main job is to just get involved. … This experience was a roller coaster ride for me, but at the end of the day I am glad I participated. I look forward to being the voice of the voiceless in as many capacities as I can find.” Dr. Rania Awad (the Stanford Muslim Mental Health Lab) and Dr. Sabeena Rehman (a Houston gynaecologist), talked about understanding postpartum depression, while Dr. Ingrid Mattson (London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies, Huron University College at Western University, Canada), a former ISNA president, related that Muslim chaplains have traditionally been shuyukh who combined Islamic knowledge with listening and presence to help others. Today’s chaplains, she stated, must be professionals and well trained because they are the bridge between Islam and counseling. Other panels addressed suicide. “It is not an option to ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist, because the polls say otherwise” said Hooman Keshavarzi, a licensed psychotherapist on the staff of the Khalil Center ( Telling people that suicide is haram isn’t always enough, for it can sometimes minimize the feelings of the struggling individual.

Zulfat Suara of the American Muslim Advisory Council delivers her acceptance speech 16    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018

Studies show that religion is often a protective factor for psychological distress because individuals see it as a social support structure. As many Muslims want a spirituality component in their mental support, spirituality should be used as a strengthening, not a minimizing, factor. Several resources are available, such as the Khalil Center’s crisis hotline and the Naseeha Youth helpline ( The Muslim Wellness Foundation (https://www.muslimwellness. com) and IMANA ( also offer support services. Many parallel activities also ran alongside the sessions. The 500-booth bazaar was buzzing with business. Many remarked that it was truly like a marketplace. Several booths sold dazzling, heavily embroidered South Asian outfits, flowing abayas, or elegant Turkish ballgowns, while others, like Quranic (, advertised apps to learn Arabic. Some stalls promoted non-profits like R-Zu (https://, an organization that seeks to provide easy access to clean water in impoverished countries, and others sold embellished Turkish hanging lamps. In addition to the health clinic that provided free blood pressure blood sugar tests, a blood drive was organized in conjunction with the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Methodist Hospital. Also featured were a

Linda Sarsour and Aljazeera's Mehdi Hasan

Amelia Kegan of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (left) with her 2018 Interfaith Trailblazer of the Year Award. Zulfat Suara of the American Muslim Advisory Council (right with her 2018 Muslim Policy Advocate of the Year Award.

ISNA president Azhar Azeez presents the ISNA Community Service Award to Farooq Malik, a co-founder of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston

qirat competition for those 18 and younger, legal clinics and film screenings, along with interfaith dialogues and political engagements that included meet-and-greets with Muslim elected officials. Sound Vision ( had live puppet shows featuring its famous Adam from their very popular “Adam’s World” children’s series. The Islamic Arts Society ( transformed part of the center’s first floor into an art gallery. One of the greatest successes of ISNA’s special events this year was its Saturday morning 5K run. The City of Houston and the Houston Police Department blockaded the streets surrounding Discovery Green park, thus allowing participants to jog undisturbed. Hundreds of people came out with their families, despite the cloudy skies. A few panels were offered in other languages to emphasize the diversity within Islam and convey messages of spirituality to specific sub-communities. Houston is home to the nations’ first Spanish-speaking mosque, Centro Islamico (https://www., many of whose members speak only Spanish. Our community’s diversity is beautiful. Unfortunately, as Imam Magid, director of ADAMS Center, pointed out, racism exists in our masjids and Islamic schools. On a panel, “Confronting Racism within the Muslim Community,” Iesha Prime and Imam Magid called for a critical reevaluation of our school’s curriculum and khutbahs. “We need to re-educate ourselves about our history and remind our children about the contributions black individuals have made in everyday items we use. The microwave, batteries, caller ID, pacemakers, blood banks, gas masks, traffic signals … they were all inventions of black people,” Prime said. “If we examine and change our curriculum, maybe,” Imam Magid noted, “we will change the way we see each other.”

Dr. John Esposito

The “Where are you REALLY from?” panel, featured three the Indonesianbackground Yunus brothers from Houston, Imam Shamsi Ali, a scholar from Indonesia and former Indonesian ambassador to the UN, and Tawakaltu Busari, a Nigerian Muslim from Houston. Panelists talked about their experiences as Muslims from under-represented communities. Iman Yunus said that his parents, after moving to the U.S., wanted him and his brothers to be more American. Jealous of every hijabis’ instant recognition as Muslim, he consciously decided to use his middle name, Iman, to bring his Muslim-ness to the forefront of his identity. “My Indonesian-ness was not Islamic enough,” Yunus said, “and this is a uniquely American problem.” ISNA commendably continued the MeTooMovement (https://metoomvmt. org) conversation with a panel featuring Prime, scholar Anse Tamara Gray, founder of Rabata, and Yaser Birjas (AlMaghrib Institute). Gray talked about the importance of women’s voices and referenced the divorce verses concerning the wife who

complained to the Prophet about her husband. Panel members also talked about the #MosqueMeToo movement and advocated for people to be where the truth is in cases of sexual harassment and abuse in mosques, and that is not necessarily where the imams are. “We should not be publicly raping the victim by posing what has been done to the individual versus what the imam has done for the community.” Prime proposed teaching young men to stand up for women, and also for the men in their life to talk with them about treating women with respect. “No more ‘boys will be boys,’” Prime said to applause. The Saturday afternoon Community Service Recognition Luncheon commenced with a beautiful oud recital by Mohammed Horo, a Kurdish refugee who now calls Houston his home. Colin Christopher, director of ISNA’s Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, D.C., introduced Rashida Tlaib who is expected to be the first Muslimah in Congress. Taking the stage with two of her young children, she said “Speaking up is the most American thing you can do. People didn’t vote for me because I’m Muslim, but because Americans elect Americans.” Mattson introduced her teacher and this year’s recipient of the ISNA Pioneers Memorial Service Award, Sheikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah, a former ISNA president. The Sudanese-born Sheikh Nur, who studied at the University of Madinah, moved with his wife to Chicago in the 1970s, at the request of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, to become the first non-African American imam of any Nation of Islam temple. He played an integral role in transitioning MSA to ISNA, served as ISNA president (2001-2008) and helped the community tremendously after 9/11. Upon completion of his term, Sheikh Nur returned to Sudan and joined the International African University as an associate professor.


CONVENTION REPORT A second guest speaker, Shaun King, famous for his #BlackLivesMatter movement, addressed the crowd before keynote speaker Mehdi Hasan, an award-winning presenter on Al Jazeera English, took the stage. King said that before he became the face of a national movement, he was a writer for the Intercept (, but became obsessed in seeking justice for Eric Garner, a young unarmed black man who fell victim to police brutality. Once on stage, Hasan applauded all of the earlier speakers and left the audience feeling positive by quoting late great Muhammad Ali. “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” At the convention’s main session on Saturday, Azeez presented Farooq Malik, a co-founder of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, the ISNA Community Service Award. Azeez also presented Mazhar Kazi, father of Yasir and Obaid Qadhi, with an award for being one of the country’s early Muslim pioneers. Saturday night’s session featured Imam Zaid Shakir, who told parts of the story of Musa and highlighted his mother’s unwavering trust in God. “She placed her trust in Almighty God and believed that everything that was happening, happened because of His Divine plan,” thereby encouraging the attendees to reflect on this year’s theme: In God We Trust. Yasir Qadhi, a fellow panelist, said “we must not look at them [the seerah] as tales; rather, they are lessons for contemporary lives.” Dalia Mogahed elected to retell Nuh’s story. “When Nuh asked his son to board the boat, his son chose to climb a mountain instead. The mountain looked so reliable at time,” she said. “The mountain is symbolic of us wanting to be in control of situations, but the boat is trusting God.” She confessed that trusting God can be scary at times, but went on to talk about a study done by Google that asked people what made them most productive. The answer was emotional safety, the idea that someone out there loves you and will care for you, forgive you and help you. “Islam does that!” Mogahed exclaimed. “Allah does that for us.” Finally, Omar Suleiman advised the audience to never lose adab and akhlaq (manners) when speaking confidently and

Azhar Ali Shah receives his award

Sayed Gomah

unapologetically, whether it’s in the face of injustice or being proud of being a Muslim. “Trust in Allah creates change in you,” he concluded. The evening entertainment had something for everyone. On Saturday night, the “Allah Made me Funny: The Almost Midnight” comedy show featured Musa the comic, Abdullah from Detroit, Extreme Rahim, Atheer Yacoub, Preacher Moss and Yasmin el-Hady. The comedians had everyone in tears with their jokes and in awe of their magic tricks.

IOICA RECEPTION AND AWARDS CEREMONY In recognition of her faith-inspired policy work to shift structural economic injustice, IOICA Director Colin Christopher presented the 2018 Interfaith Trailblazer of the Year Award to Amelia Kegan of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. She spoke of the guidance faith communities and allies are presented with through the flickers of light that penetrate what seems to currently be a very dark reality. Zulfat Suara was recognized for over twenty years of work through the American Muslim Advisory Council and other Tennessee-based faith organizations that organize to alleviate


economic barriers for low-income communities, IOICA presented with the 2018 Muslim Policy Advocate of the Year Award. She stressed the critical need for ISNA and other prominent Muslim-American organizations to stay more connected to the segments of our community who are struggling the most, to collaborate with grassroots advocates, and to elevate more African-Americans to positions of power within organizational leadership. Other speakers included IOICA partner and Blessed Tomorrow Director Anita Fête-Crews, Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign Operations and Outreach Manager Nina Fernando, and ISNA Policy Fellow Kamil Jamil. On Sunday night, ISNA board member Lubabah Abdullah, an attorney in St. Louis, Mo., presented awards to Azhar Ali Shah, a veteran MSA worker and retired engineer, and Sayed Gomah, a former ISGH president, for their dedicated service to the Muslim American community. ISNA had its traditional entertainment night featuring old-school favorites and new talents. Mal Kassir, an international spoken word poet, moved the audience and received snaps all around for her heartfelt pieces. Yasmin el Hady also made an appearance. Amer Zahr, a law school professor and an Arab-American comedian, helped hype the crowd by performing some original pieces. Another spoken word artist and comedian, Houston native Muhammad Yunus, took the stage. Kudos to the program committee that included these budding artists and cultivated the young, unique talents within the our community. The two main events, Dean Squad and Native Deen, did not disappoint. Audience members, old and young, sung the night away to their favorite tunes. Primarily drawing in an older, South Asian crowd, Sunday night also hosted Mushaira, the Urdu poetry late-night event. After a fun-filled night, and an even more eventful weekend, attendees returned to their hotel rooms and homes on Sunday night eager to get some sleep, but heavyhearted, knowing that the convention was coming to an end. Thank you, Houston, for a wonderful, wholesome convention! Mark your calendars now for ISNA’s 56th, August 30-September 2, 2019, convention inshaAllah, and stay tuned!  ih Saman Essa, who is majoring in psychology and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Houston, plans to become a psychologist with a focus on immigrant and refugee populations in the U.S.


Pakistan on the Me

Representative people power reaches Pa Imran Khan addresses an election rally 20    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018






ugust has always been important for Pakistanis, for Aug. 14th is Independence Day. But this year there was an additional celebration four days later when Imran Khan was sworn as the 22nd prime minister — the second democratic transition in the country’s 71-year history. This new era began on July 25th, when voters rejected the family-owned political dynasties for his Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI; Pakistan Movement for Justice). Pakistan follows the British democratic model: The Parliament’s majority party, singularly or in coalition, names the prime minister and governs. The PTI won 153 seats — including those reserved for women (70) and minorities (10) — in the 342-seat National Assembly (the lower house). Just shy of 14 seats needed to form the government, it soon gained several coalition partners. Nawaz Sharif ’s PML-N (the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) placed second, and the Pakistan People Party (PPP), led by Asif Ali Zardari (the late Benazir Bhutto’s widower) placed third.

A TROUBLED PAST Pakistan has traveled a long and trouble troubled road to reach this point. Founding-father Muhammad Ali Jinnah died one year after the nation’s birth, while millions of Muslim refugees were still arriving. Even more, its eastern and western parts were separated by 1,372 miles of Indian territory. Jinnah’s successors were a disappointing lot. Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan’s first prime minister — a truly honest and dedicated person, was assassinated in 1951. Governor General Ghulam Muhammad

dismissed the elected government of his successor, Khwaja Nazimuddin, in 1953 and the Constituent Assembly a year later. On Oct. 27, 1958, Maj. Gen. Iskander Mirza took over and appointed Army commander-in-chief Gen. Ayub Khan as the country’s Chief Marshal Law Administrator; the next day, the latter seized power and imposed his own contrived democracy and constitution. In March 1969, responding to popular discontent following a rigged election, he handed over power to his subordinate Gen. Yahya Khan, who was more interested in drinking and womanizing. However, he conducted fair and free elections in 1970; but, when the East Pakistan-based Awami League (AL) led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman secured 160 of the province’s 162 seats in the 300-seat lower house, and thus the right to govern the country, Yahya and Ayub protégé Zulfikar Ali Bhutto — another debauchee, who won only 81 seats (from Punjab and Sindh), demanded to share power. In March 1971, Yahya launched a fateful military action to douse the AL’s demand that its mandate be honored. India, actively supported AL through cross-border terrorism and, during



Prime Minister Imran Khan met with Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo in Islamabad on Sept. 5, 2018. Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa seated on prime minister's Khan left. U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford seated on Secretary Pompeo right

AN ESTIMATE OF THE DAMAGE WROUGHT BY THESE ELITE KLEPTOMANIACS: THE MAY 2018 STATE BANK OF PAKISTAN STATEMENT REPORTED THAT THE COUNTRY’S EXTERNAL DEBT WAS $91.8 BILLION, A WHOPPING 50 PERCENT INCREASE OVER THE LAST FOUR YEARS. December 1971, invaded East Pakistan to create Bangladesh (lit. “Bengali country”). Ironically, while militarily supporting the creation of a “Bengali country,” India continues to hold on to West Bengal as its province. In 1977 Bhutto, who had attained power in 1971 in West (now) Pakistan due to his party’s strength in Punjab and Sindh, engendered turmoil by allegedly rigging the national elections. Following mass public discontent, commander-in-chief Gen. Zia ul Haq ousted Bhutto. The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Gen. Zia’s decision to support President Ronald Reagan’s plan to fund and arm a “jihad” have left deep furrows in the region in terms of violence, poverty, intolerance and Washington’s constant haranguing despite the country’s allout support for its military campaigns in Afghanistan. And then there were the interventions, such as President Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s dismissal of the elected governments of Benazir Bhutto (1990) and of Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif (1993), on the not entirely unsubstantiated charges of corruption. However, this move badly hurt democracy in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, who secured a second go as prime minister in 1993 was sacked in 1996 on corruption charges by her handpicked president, Farooq Leghari. In his

second coming as prime minister in 1997, the military sacked Sharif ’s government in 2001, proclaiming chief of army staff Gen. Pervez Musharraf president, who was forced out by the public in 2008. In 1981, Zia launched Sharif ’s political career by appointing him finance minister of Punjab. Sharif went on to become the province’s chief minister (1985) and was re-elected after martial law ended (1988). In 1990 he led the controversially financed Islamic Democratic Alliance (Islamic Jamhoori Ittihad) to become the nation’s 12th prime minister. After serving time in prison followed by a more than a decadelong Saudi-brokered exile, he returned to politics in 2011 and claimed victory yet again in 2013. The PTI charged that the election was stolen, protested the rigged elections until the end of 2014 and continued to demand electoral reforms even after 2014. In 2016 Sharif was found guilty of corruption; two years later he was sentenced to a decade in prison after a PTI-led massive anti-corruption campaign against him. Sharif was granted bail in September, but his corruption cases continue to be heard in courts.

A NATIONAL EXCHEQUER FOR THE TAKING Corruption remains a plague. The PPP is


also known to some as the “Plunder Pakistan Party” primarily due to Asif Ali Zardari (i.e., Mr. 10 Percent), who “inherited” the party (along with their son Bilawal) via his late wife’s “will.” As the Nov. 9, 1999 U.S. Senate hearing ( stream/gov.gpo.fdsys.CHRG-106shrg61699/ CHRG-106shrg61699_djvu.txt: “Minority staff report for permanent subcommittee on investigations hearing on private banking and money laundering: a case study of opportunities and vulnerabilities”). The Telegraph (Feb. 8, 2013; U.K.) offered another example: a real estate tycoon “gifted” Bilawal, then 24, a bombproof £32 million mansion in Lahore. Even the ostensibly “religious” participated. Maulana Fazal ur Rahman, head of his eponymous faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i Islam, is popularly known as Maulana Diesel for raking in wealth by dealing in diesel import permits. Without ever holding a cabinet post, he commandeered a luxurious publicly paid ministerial residence and perks for more than 15 years. Many Pakistanis are dismayed that the Jamaat-i Islami, founded by the venerated Maulana Abul A‘la Maududi, often stands with such people. An estimate of the damage wrought by these elite kleptomaniacs: The May 2018 State Bank of Pakistan statement reported that the country’s external debt was $91.8 billion, a whopping 50 percent increase over the last four years. After four decades of constant deterioration of state institutions and the abysmal standard of governance, people have lost their trust in almost all of them. Many state-owned enterprises, including the country’s largest (i.e., Pakistan Railways, Pakistan International Airlines and Pakistan Steel Mills) have accumulated massive losses due to widespread corruption and malpractice.

COVER STORY Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first address to the Pakistani Senate on Aug. 27

Since leading the national cricket team to the world championship in 1992, Imran Khan, who has no political lineage, has built a needs-based cancer treatment hospital in Lahore, one in Peshawar, planted the seed for another one in Karachi, and the firstever quality need-based technical education university in a rural area. Soon realizing that social activism was not enough, he launched the PTI in 1996. The youth has always been his priority, and his focus on them led them to deliver the momentum that resulted in Lahore’s epoch-making Oct. 30, 2011, mammoth rally that changed the party’s fortunes. In the 2013 elections, PTI attained 35 seats in the National Assembly, six in the Senate and 63 in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincial assembly — enough to attain a ruling coalition. In the March 3, 2018 elections, it gained six more Senate seats. It has implemented police reforms that have ended political interference, launched a massive forestation program and enacted reforms in the education and health sectors to benefit the needy. And yet a host of foreign media and especially self-proclaimed “liberals” assert that the “establishment” (i.e., the military, its intelligence branch and the judiciary) have steered his party into power. But the PTI only attained 115 seats in the 342-seat National Assembly, along with the due allocated reserve seats, and thus had to patch together a coalition. In his post-vote speech in Parliament, Imran stated, “We lost 14 seats of National Assembly by less than a 4,000-vote margin. If someone was ‘manufacturing’ this or helping us, why would we lose these seats?” Imran, who wants to base Pakistan on the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) Charter of Madina, has brought in allies on his own terms. In a March 23, 2012 interview with Tom Hussain of The National, one of Imran’s 1992 teammate, Zahid Fazal stated, “They [the new entrants] think they can mould Khan into being a politician like themselves. They are sadly mistaken. He’ll do precisely what he thinks is right, and won’t care whether they like it or not.” Another major challenge is legislation, for the PTI must contend with a formidable opposition in the National Assembly and a thin minority of 17 seats in the 104-seat Senate (the upper house).



The PTI deftly governed KP province in coalition for five years with its reformist agenda, an accomplishment that gives hope that the party will repeat and rather improve its performance during its 2018-2023 term. Among its accomplishments were the KP Police Act 2017, which depoliticized the police force by making it accountable and operationally autonomous, and carrying out the Billion Tree campaign in a long-term attempt to repair the environmental damage caused by the timber mafia. Some critics asks why the PTI accepted crossovers from other parties. But this is hardly surprising, given that the other parties are much older and were, for a long time, the only choices. In fact, quite a few of PTI parliamentarians in the 2013 KP assembly were also crossovers. In his first address as prime minister, Imran stressed hope, merit, transparency, accountability, institutional reforms, governance, equality, hard work, youth, unity, discipline and faith. In addition to presenting the vast challenges facing Pakistan and promising to be honest and transparent, he committed himself to keeping ordinary Pakistanis — the country’s key stakeholders — informed about all matters. The prime minister revealed his inspiration for reclaiming the nation’s grace and dignity: the lives of the Prophet and his Companions (‘alayhi rahmat), and his intention to follow the principles laid down by the country’s founders.

SUCCESS IN THE PROVINCES In the crucial 371-seat Punjab Assembly, the PTI secured 175. The PML-N took 159 seats, whereas the Q-League and the PPP have 10 and seven MPAs, respectively. Independents secured 28 seats, 26 of which have already joined the PTI, enabling it to form a ruling coalition. Thus, the PTI has broken the

PML-N’s grip on Punjab province, which it has had [mis]ruled since 1997. In Sindh Assembly, the PPP secured 76 of the 130 seats and governs without partners. The PTI has 23 and leads the opposition. The MQM-P holds 16, the TLP 2, the MMA 1 and the Grand Democratic Alliance 11 seats, respectively. In 124-seat KP Assembly, PTI took 66 seats and rules without partners, while the MMA, the ANP, the PML-N and the PPP have 10, 6, 5, and 4 seats, respectively. In the 65-seat Balochistan assembly, the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) is the senior ruling partner with 15 seats; the MMA in second place with nine and the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) six PTI seats each. Both of them are coalition partners with the PTI in the federal government. Pakistanis are hopeful because Imran has always delivered. He got the country’s first need-based $25 million cancer hospital built when experts had declared it undoable. He implemented his promised social and administrative services in KP, a precariously balanced act of working within a coalition. At the 15th National Assembly’s oath-taking ceremony, he set the tone of national unity by lining up party and allied leaders from the country’s four provinces with him on his front bench. Resolved to strengthen Parliament. Imran has set a new precedent and will answer questions on floor of the House the first Wednesday of each month, subject to his availability. And perhaps most importantly, he has promised not to accommodate the corrupt.  ih Sayyed Safi Peerzada is senior manager, Rozan, a Pakistanbased leading civil society organization. Working as a specialist in improving public dealing and governance of institutions since 2003, he is engaged with the police training since 2010. He is a member of the Police Experts Network, founded by the Norwegian Police University College, and is a founding member of the Pakistan Forum for Democratic Policing.



Literacy is More than Books Muslims should take the lead in promoting public information literacy BY JUSTIN PARROTT


t some point in human history, the general populations of developing societies deemed it necessary to ensure mass literacy because, due to progress, reading and writing could no longer be considered luxuries to be enjoyed only by the wealthy and specialized elites or scribes. Instead, a given society’s rapid progression from milestone to milestone and its subsequent growing dependence upon increasingly complicated forms of nonverbal communication (e.g., letters, numbers and symbols) transformed public literacy into a matter of its survival. Today we, both as human beings and particularly as Muslim communities, are facing another defining moment that will determine whether our species will flourish or decline: information literacy. This relatively new competency involves not only being able to read and write proficiently, but also being able to accurately process and synthesize enormous amounts of online information

in a way that leads us to the truth of things as they exist in reality. Information literacy is the set of skills required to discover, evaluate, interpret and use information properly, effectively and ethically. These skills are explicitly taught to students by research librarians, professors and journalists in institutions of higher education. However, it is abundantly clear that it’s time to transfer these skills from colleges, universities and editorial rooms to the population at large. The online environment has become so polluted that a deep cynicism and sense of despair exists among significant sections of the citizenry, as if finding the truth amidst all of the digital noise is impossible. Society can no longer afford to ignore the tidal waves of erroneous information driving public behavior and even government policies. In a world of widespread misinformation on the Internet, what some analysts have dubbed our “post-truth” era, information


literacy could possibly be this century’s most important human competency. Achieving literacy in terms of accurate information and its related technologies is essential to the Muslim community’s progress for several reasons. The copious amounts of misinformation on the Internet and in social media can mislead us or cause us to mislead others. We should be aware that as the web is a literal minefield of falsehoods, healthy skepticism is warranted. Stories recently spread over Facebook and Twitter during this political season were completely baseless and deliberately so, outright lies that one might call “fake news.” Such reports distort people’s perception of reality and, since many viral stories are driven by powerful emotions like anger and disgust, can provoke unwarranted action, hatred and even violence against today’s out-groups — immigrants, foreigners, ideological opponents and so on. Indeed, many Muslims are shaken in their faith not because of anything flawed in mainstream Islamic teachings, but rather because they have been

exposed to egregious misrepresentations of Islam and Muslim communities, sometimes by wayward Muslims themselves. Moreover, humanity as a whole faces enormous global challenges, ranging from political and economic instability to climate change and resource mismanagement. Without a critical mass of citizens who can sift reliable information from everything posted online, we cannot reach a consensus on how to approach these challenges or even agree that they actually exist. Malignant conspiracy theories are invented, evolve and metastasize to new online spaces every day, sometimes asserting wild allegations based on flimsy or non-existent evidence, and at other times “denying” what can be firmly established by literal mountains of proof. For example, how can we possibly redirect the dangerous course of Earth’s climate if very large groups of people, along with the politicians they are supposed to hold accountable, either cannot or refuse to distinguish hard scientific evidence from unfounded speculation? Thankfully, not everything is doom and gloom for us. Information literacy skills are not terribly difficult to learn, understand and teach, for it is simply a matter of mainstreaming the intellectual habits, tools and techniques now confined to academia and journalism. Muslims can — and should — take the lead in educating our communities and people in general about the specific mechanics of determining truth within the ocean of information overload. In fact, our historic religious tradition contains key concepts that both preceded and foreshadowed what has become modern information literacy. The American Library Association, which endorses a full framework for teaching information literacy to university students, has uploaded the complete set of standards on its website ( For our purposes, the ideas that we need to advocate for, and are entirely consistent with our religion, can be boiled down to three: lifelong learning (having a disposition for truth and fact-finding), information authority (recognizing credibility and expertise) and roots and branches (learning topics systematically). The most important aspect in this regard is to develop an identity as a lifelong learner of all knowledge that is beneficial. Imam Malik stated: “It is not befitting for anyone with knowledge to give up learning” (“Jami‘ Bayan al-‘Ilm wa Fadlih,” vol. 1, hadith no. 401; Dar al-Fikr, 1990). Many of our righteous predecessors expressed a similar sentiment.

In other words, we ought to genuinely care about continually finding, understanding and acting upon the truth of whatever issue is at hand, not just cherry-picking facts to suit our preferred narrative. Life-long learning involves nurturing a

habit of examining authors and websites critically and fairly in this fashion will eventually equip us to detect fake news, bogus allegations and conspiratorial nonsense. Evaluating sources should be accompanied by systematic learning, what our

THANKFULLY, NOT EVERYTHING IS DOOM AND GLOOM FOR US. INFORMATION LITERACY SKILLS ARE NOT TERRIBLY DIFFICULT TO LEARN, UNDERSTAND AND TEACH, FOR IT IS SIMPLY A MATTER OF MAINSTREAMING THE INTELLECTUAL HABITS, TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES NOW CONFINED TO ACADEMIA AND JOURNALISM. sense of intellectual humility and a willingness to honestly discuss with those who disagree with us in pursuit of the common goal of arriving at the objective truth. Our predecessors’ attitude can be summed up as: “Our way is correct, but could be mistaken. Their way is mistaken, but could be correct” (Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, “al-Fatawa al-Kubra al-Fiqhiyah ,”4/313; Turath for Solutions, 2013). This must be our stance regarding all secondary religious topics and worldly issues, in which there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The mark of a true scholar is a readiness to change one’s opinion in light of better evidence and sounder arguments. Having developed positive character traits conducive to acquiring information literacy, the next step is to learn how to identify credibility and expertise. Every field of knowledge has leading scholars, experts and associations who are the “go-to” resources due to their recognized authority in their fields. However, both leading scholars and organizations sometimes make mistakes because, of course, they are not infallible. But experts are far more likely to be correct than laypeople and, even if they are wrong on some issues, their mistakes are more likely to be pointed out in appropriate public forums by their peers. They are, after all, embedded in communities of learning that keep them in check. Internet resources should be critically evaluated in the same way we look at a scholar’s work. When confronted with dubious claims on a website, we should ask ourselves who authored this content, what is his/her agenda, what are his/her credentials and biases, what is the opposing argument and evidence, and can this claim be independently verified? The

predecessors called the method of “roots” (usul) and “branches” (furu’). Every topic to be studied has primary concepts (roots) that must be understood before one can move on to secondary issues (branches). Primary concepts are usually found in standard reference materials like encyclopedias, primers and introductory literature. It takes a measure of intellectual humility to acknowledge that we may not know enough about a topic to hold a reasonable opinion about it, in which case we have to study its primary concepts before engaging with its secondary issues. Thus we should follow the example of our predecessors, who fully internalized Islam’s basics before approaching the higher scholarly disciplines. So far, we have only touched on the very tip of the iceberg that is information literacy and its myriad of practical applications to our personal, professional and digital lives. Our community’s imams, scholars and leaders would do well to read up on the fundamentals of information literacy and reflect upon its connections to the Prophet’s teachings and traditional Islamic learning. These ideas can be easily integrated into sermons, lectures and speeches given in our mosques, during conferences and elsewhere in daily life, right alongside the Quran, the Sunnah and the words of our predecessors for the benefit of humanity in general. In this way, we have the potential to take the lead in teaching people what they absolutely need to know to safeguard a prosperous future for humanity. The fate of generations unborn is hanging in the balance.  ih Justin Parrott, MLIS, MRes, Librarian for Acquisitions and Middle East Studies, New York University in Abu Dhabi.



Fostering a Leadership from Within An all-star group forms a new Islamic seminary to produce Muslim American leaders BY OMAIR BAKALI


ome of the nation’s most prominent Muslim American leaders have launched a bold, ambitious project: a world-class seminary to be known as The Islamic Seminary of America (TISA; The formal announcement was made at the 55th ISNA Convention in Houston. Dr. Ihsan Bagby, TISA’s first president, opened the event by introducing the seminary and was followed by several Muslim American leaders, all of whom are heavily involved in the project. Board chair Dr. James Jones, who led the discussion, was followed by TISA’s dean of academic affairs Dr. Yasir Qadhi; faculty members Dalia Mogahed, Imam Omar Suleiman, Shaikha Tamara Gray and Roula Allouch; Dr. Zainab Alwani (editor of the seminary’s Journal of Islamic Faith and Practice); and Board of Advisors members Imam Zaid Shakir, former ISNA presidents Imam Mohamed Magid and Azhar Azeez; and Saif Omar (provider of Arabic courses to TISA through Fawakih). The overflow crowd heard such words as “excited,” “enthused,” “passionate,” “gamechanger,” “unique,” “breath of fresh air,” “unprecedented” and “potentially historic.” Both Jones and Qadhi spoke on what distinguishes TISA from other efforts. First, the unprecedented quantity, quality and diversity of its faculty and leadership demonstrates the preparatory work needed to develop a strong foundation for success. Jones stated that having a diverse student body, faculty and leadership in terms of gender, ethnic and economic status is an important principle. The more traditional Islamic seminary setting excludes women; however, TISA recognizes the need for female ulama, faqihah and mufassirah to serve the domestic community. Another aspect is the partnerships that have been developed. Foremost among these is the Irving, Texas-based Yaqeen Institute led by Imam Omar Suleiman,

Dr. James Jones

BOTH THE HISTORY OF ISLAM’S GLOBAL SPREAD AND THE HISTORY OF JEWS AND CATHOLICS IN THE U.S. REVEAL THAT A RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY GROWS AND STRENGTHENS ONLY WHEN IT BEGINS TO TRAIN ITS OWN RELIGIOUS LEADERS. who has been closely associated with TISA from the very beginning. TISA will focus on the academic side, and Yaqeen on the research side. Another important partner,


the Association of Muslim Chaplains (AMC;, this group’s main representative body, works with TISA to organize annual conferences and in-service training. TISA produces chaplains, and AMC represents them. Second, TISA’s unique partnership with the Dallas-based Southern Methodist University (SMU) can be described as mutually supportive. TISA has helped SMU establish an undergraduate Islamic studies program, and SMU has been working with it to offer graduate-level Islamic studies courses. Eventually, the seminary hopes to formulate a cooperative agreement of shared courses, students and degrees. Third, TISA will bring together the best of traditional Islamic and Western academic scholarship. Most TISA professors in Islamic studies will have experience in both settings. Qadhi, who noted that some seminary efforts import one tradition, stressed that the seminary wishes them well but will not follow their approach. TISA’s approach embraces the idea that the Qur’an and Sunnah are Islam’s foundational sources, as well as the idea that they “can and should be understood in light of the modern context.” Islamic scholarship cannot exist in bubble, disconnected from real world issues. As Qadhi commented, “The Islamic Seminary is not throwing away the tradition, nor is it wedded to anyone strand of that tradition. This is a unique approach.” In this regard, TISA will represent the ummah’s diverse voices. Qadhi remarked that when he came on board, he stressed the necessity of hiring scholars who represent alternative voices within the tradition. He did not want a seminary tied to a personality, but one tied to rigorous Islamic scholarship and service to this country’s community. Fourth, TISA is unique because it will focus on the graduate-level coursework needed to produce fully qualified imams and chaplains. It will therefore immediately start the accreditation process so that other American institutions will recognize its degrees. Imam Zaid Shakir said that Zaytuna College (https://www.zaytuna.

edu), an undergraduate institution, is not in competition with TISA. Fifth, TISA focuses on Islamic studies, the professional skills required for imams and chaplains, as well as the skills that its graduates will need to function properly in masjids and Muslim nonprofits. In order to be successful and effective, they must master the skills of counseling, leadership and organizational management. TISA will also focus on providing certificates and degrees for those Muslims who work in masjids and nonprofits. While highlighting TISA’s mission, Bagby proclaimed that the seminary seeks to educate and nurture a new generation of imams, chaplains, scholars, youth directors, relief workers and so on, as well as to raise the understanding of Islam both within the domestic community and American society at large. One reason why this undertaking is so important is that almost all full-time paid imams are born and trained abroad. As Qadhi stated, “If you want to flourish in any land, you cannot import your scholars from other lands. If you want to flourish, you have to groom your own and have them trained in your own institutions.” Both the history of Islam’s global spread and the history of Jews and Catholics in the U.S. reveal that a religious community grows and strengthens only when it begins to train its own religious leaders. TISA’s effort to nurture homegrown imams, therefore, will be an historic game changer. Moreover, masjids and Muslim nonprofits are hiring Muslims, but few of them have the professional skills to match the challenge of their jobs. TISA will provide certificates and degrees to those of its students who have been trained to function in these and other positions. The second aspect of TISA’s mission is to raise the Muslim community’s general Islamic literacy and the level of understanding within American society by providing appropriate programs and material. According to Bagby, ISA will be located in Dallas, home to one of the country’s fastest growing Muslim communities; applications and class registration will begin around January 2019; classes will begin during September 2019; and graduate degrees and graduate certificates will focus on Islamic studies and nonprofit management.  ih Omair Bakali is an information technology and systems student at the University of Texas in Dallas.

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Taqwa in an Age of Distractions We need to return to the Prophetic subtlety of human closeness and empathy BY SAAD RAZI SHAIKH


haykh Abdal Hakim Murad is dean of the Cambridge Muslim College, U.K., which trains imams for British mosques. In 2010 Jordan’s Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre named him Britain’s most influential Muslim thinker. In this interview with Saad Razi Shaikh, he talks about taqwa in an age of distractions, the Muslim response to colonial modernity, what we can learn from Imam al-Ghazali and other subjects. ❶  Your college trains imams. As the leader of the community, what are the ideal qualities that a mosque imam should have?
 H.M.  This shifts according to time and place. In our ‘frontier’ situation in the U.K. most of our imams are not fit for purpose. Unable to comprehend the ambient society and deeply invested in ethnic and sectarian obsessions, they have nothing to say to the new generation and thus are largely ignored. Our college trains imams, chaplains and scholars who want to present an Islam that respects our internal diversity and is

articulate and attractive. An imam needs to be a person of da’wa, as sharing the faith is the only real justification for Muslims to live in the West. Our scholars should be leading this process by acquiring a good working knowledge of modern thought and science and our neighbors’ religions. ❷  Many Islamic studies programs in modern universities cater to the needs of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Is there a danger of studying Islam through a secular lens and not by its own benchmarks, its own reference points? 
 H.M.  Islamic studies in Western universities do not exist to serve the needs or interests of Muslims, for their intellectual lineage is 19th-century Orientalist philology and historiography. While one can study Christianity as a Christian at, say, Yale or Oxford, one cannot study Islam as a Muslim there. ❸  We see on the Internet a new platform for the ummah to understand and articulate Islam. But given that there is possibly more misinformation than sound information,


what should one look out for while scouting for guidance on Islamic matters there?
 H.M.  The Internet is an impure space, and its convenience should not be relied upon as a source of guidance. The Islamic scholarly ethos insists that we learn from actual human exemplars with whom we can interact humanly and directly, observe their manners and virtues as well as absorb the subtler aspects of the learned tradition that they represent. The religious Internet is dominated by the most vociferous and well financed factions. The result is a cacophony that either confuses Muslim users into cynicism or invites them to choose whichever opinion, however rare, might suit their personal desires. There are a few exceptions, of course, such as and ❹  The British sociologist Anthony Giddens observes that trust and faith have taken a backseat in the modern age. Given that Islam is best understood as deen (faith), how has the relationship between us and our faith changed in the past 200 years?
 H.M.  There has been a series of earthquakes, of course. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire, with its institution of the Shaykh al-Islam, shattered the structure of Sunni authority, thereby allowing dozens of new factions to make headway. Sectarianism has been exacerbated by the decline in the number of very high-level scholars. For instance, a true master of the jurisprudential method can easily resolve the arguments between the Deobandi and the Barelvi schools; however, the seminaries have shifted steadily toward memorizing and classifying hadith, as well as repeating the local fatwa traditions. A further shift has been triggered by the decay of most Sufi orders. Historically, jurists and muftis always belonged to tariqas, where their egos would be tamed and a spirit of empathy and compassion inculcated. But today, much Muslim opinion making is driven by vast steaming egos that compete for attention and enjoy fighting with other scholars and communities. This reality only validates extreme positions, because these tend to gratify the vice of pride. ❺  The response to colonial modernity in the colonized world often took the shape of movements urging a return to a purer, simpler form of religion. Has this reduced our understanding of our faith’s rich nuances and traditions?
 H.M.  I have taught non-Muslim undergraduates for 20 years. They are always

amazed by the subtlety and beauty of classical Islamic thought, art and literature, while Muslims here tend to favor a simple-minded and emotive fundamentalism with a growing disconnect from this heritage’s aesthetic dimensions.

form of addiction. The long-term results are significant for, as he says, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” This is one reason why top tech leaders tend to deny their children access to computers or social media. We should be following suit!

RELIGION DOESN’T PROVE ITS TRUTH BY RUNNING AWAY FROM THE FIELD OF CONFLICT. IN RECENT YEARS, MANY ULEMA HAVE CHOSEN TO CLOSE THE WINDOWS AND HOPE THAT THE STORM WILL BLOW OVER. BUT THE STORM IS GROWING IN STRENGTH. ❻  Imam Abdul Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111) both mounted a brilliant defense against the Mutazila (a 10th century school that emerged in Basra and Baghdad, and among other notions denied the Qur’an being eternal) and advanced the Islamic theology of the day. How important is his example today in helping us confront our many challenges, both spiritual and intellectual?
 H.M.  Religion doesn’t prove its truth by running away from the field of conflict. In recent years, many ulema have chosen to close the windows and hope that the storm will blow over. But the storm is growing in strength. Imam al-Ghazali defeated the severe challenges of his time by mastering his adversaries’ intellectual systems in order to show their internal weaknesses and contradictions. This is what our senior ulema should be doing to reassure Muslims that Islam is superior, to continue the work of the scholars and the prophets: proclaiming the truth. Fortunately, some Muslim thinkers are doing so, whereas some scholars remain trapped in the cobwebs of an ancient madrasa curriculum and are facing modern battles unarmed. ❼  As Muslims who know that taqwa has to be our guiding light, our cornerstone of being, how do we deal with the innumerable distractions facing us in the Internet age?
 H.M.  Surfing the web is not obligatory. The effect of the Internet and social media use on the brain is profound and disturbing. Sean Parker, a co-founder of Facebook, has admitted that it was designed to foster addiction, a “social validation feedback loop” with graphics designed to generate a dopamine hit in the brain — exactly like any other

Too many spiritual diseases today, like depression and anxiety, are growing all the time. We need to switch the router off, take the family to visit friends and family and encourage the art of intelligent conversation at the dinner table. It’s not so difficult. ❽  In his book “Secularism confronts Islam” (2007; trans., 2009, Columbia University Press), the French author Olivier Roy observed that “the redefinition of the relations between religion and politics is a new challenge for the West and not only because of Islam” and that “Islam is a mirror on which the West projects its own identity crisis.” How do you see this comment in the present climate of European politics?
 H.M.  Europe is not sure how to deal with Islam and Muslims. We are a significant presence: In the U.K. we are projected to be around 20 percent of the national population by 2050. And we are disproportionately religious, whereas Christianity is experiencing a steep decline. In Paris, 65 percent of people who pray are Muslim. In a sense we have become Europe’s significant religion, and this is placing psychological pressure on many non-Muslims who are afraid of losing the identity brought about by globalization. This is reflected in the enactment of series of anti-Muslim laws in France, Denmark, Switzerland and elsewhere. It is sometimes claimed that Europe historically defined itself not by geography, but by its resistance to two “Semitic” Others: its internal Jewish communities, which were historically scorned and maltreated, and the Muslim nations outside it. This ancient idea of Christendom is being resurrected in a good deal of European right-wing discourse,

although it sits ill with the continent’s mass abandonment of Christianity. ❾  We see in the emergence of a faceless, anonymous virtual space a far more hateful, impatient and empathy-lacking type of behavior. What could be the reasons for this and, as Muslims, how do we respond to it?
 H.M.  Virtue is not learned from textbooks, but from close contact with virtuous people and, sometimes, from learning from our own mistakes. We need to return to the Prophetic subtlety of human closeness and empathy, the firasa that is the discernment of spirits, and also regain a sense of wonder at the brilliance of creation and the marvel of other souls. The Quran invites us to see the world as wonderful, as a vast display of God’s signs, of which human beings are the most remarkable of all. When we regain the lovely enjoyment of admiring the brilliance of creation in the world and in other people, we will start to reclaim the natural human virtue of empathy and courtesy, which is the foundation of all moral existence.  ih Saad Razi Shaikh, a New Delhi-based freelance journalist, writes on citizens’ initiatives and popular culture, with particular focus on India’s Muslim community.

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The Power of Storytelling

and coffee shops — 5,000 copies every quarter. It amazed to me to think that maybe people were actually reading my writing. A year later, I met a girl at a Muslim conference who said that she waited for every single issue to come out and read them all immediately. When I told her that she could write for us too, I could almost feel her excitement. That was the moment when I realized that we were doing something new. When asked why she started MY Voice, Naqvi, a children’s storybooks writer, explains, “Allah wants us to work for humanity wherever we see there’s a gap, wherever we see someone hurting. And in this case I felt that there was no one really targeting the youth in the way they should be targeted — yes, there are people that are targeting youth, but they are doing it in a way that youth are running away from them. And teenagers, I find, are the most creative people, and I wanted to get that creativity channelled in the right direction.” See, this was the opportunity for youth to engage with Islam in a fun and creative way, to incorporate it into their artistic passions and to voice the issues that nobody else was talking about. No longer passive bystanders, MY Voice encouraged us to be active participants in our faith. Beyond this, it enabled us to BEYOND THIS, MY VOICE empower and equip ourselves with the skills needed for becoming the leadENABLED US TO EMPOWER ers of our generation. We have grown AND EQUIP OURSELVES WITH a team of writers, editors, graphic designers and illustrators. We run the THE SKILLS NEEDED FOR executive board and make important decisions that one could only imagine BECOMING THE LEADERS getting when in the professional world. OF OUR GENERATION. WE The best part is that any group of youth can create its own MY Voice chapter HAVE GROWN A TEAM through us and thus become connected OF WRITERS, EDITORS, all over North America. That is how our Vancouver chapter started. GRAPHIC DESIGNERS AND Aisha Hyder, a team member who ILLUSTRATORS. WE RUN THE joined us when she was in the 10th EXECUTIVE BOARD AND MAKE grade, started “Young Artists for Syria,” a collective project that raises money IMPORTANT DECISIONS THAT for charity. Maariyah Baig, our first editor-in-chief, pioneered a self-auONE COULD ONLY IMAGINE thored annual play that was performed GETTING WHEN IN THE by local youth. Raiyan Syeda, a young poet who had never performed before, PROFESSIONAL WORLD. performed at one of our events and blossomed into a beautiful spoken

Young Muslim Canadians analyze what is important to them in MY Voice magazine BY KOMAL ADEEL


y experiences growing up as a young Muslim in North America are, I would imagine, similar to those of many others: sent to weekend classes or put in the mosque’s youth programs, where we would sit and listen to lectures that were often just lists of what is lawful and not. Admittedly, these activities were a valuable part of my Islamic education, but I always felt a disconnect, a sense that these adults did not truly understand the reality of young peoples’ experiences and daily struggles and thus made us passive participants. This was all I knew while growing up. But that ended one day in 2013, when I had just finished 10th grade. A group of friends and I were sitting around a dinner table when [now chief executive officer] Nargis Naqvi, one of our friends’ mothers, proposed starting a magazine for young Muslims, one that we would edit, design, write and market. She said that if any of us had talents we wished to put toward a good cause, now was the perfect time. Though I was a shy kid who didn’t like stepping out of my comfort zone, I was very studious and loved writing and editing my friends’ school essays for fun. So, not really knowing what to expect, I joined. In the early days, we would get together in a friend’s basement and brainstorm ideas for the articles and topics we wanted to discuss, ranging from intercommunity racism to world news to mental health to fashion. We recruited students who had as much experience as a 16-year-old can in graphic design and photography and launched our very first issue of MY Voice magazine. From there, what started as something small quickly snowballed into something we never expected. We started distributing the magazine at schools, universities, libraries


The MY Voice Team

word artist. All of them are now university students. Through it all, we have filled a gap in the Muslim community. So often our youth are encouraged toward traditional careers, such as doctors, engineers and lawyers. As our community does not see the creative arts as a valuable commodity, we rarely engage with them or encourage such creativity in our children. However, art is the medium through which stories are told. And what is the power of a story? The media calls us extremists and fundamentalists. We are depicted as something to be feared and to be other. Our natural response to all this is to defend ourselves. Whenever a terrorist attack happens, we have to jump in and state that we do not condone it. I remember planning, even in grade school, what to say the next day in school to defend my faith after such events. From such a young age we learn to passively react to the media. So what’s the solution? Well, if we create our own media, we’re the ones in power and can share our own stories. MY Voice has shown the power of agency that you give people by letting them tell their story. Moreover, in this divisive and hate-filled culture that we currently live in, only by sharing our stories can we bridge the gaps and develop empathy for each other. A few years into MY Voice’s publication, we got an email from a 62-year-old Polish Jewish woman. Her granddaughter had picked up a copy and she had read an article about the consequences of silence when witnessing injustice toward minority groups. The woman explained how she was so impressed that a 10th grader had written this article, and that what the writer spoke about — people of different backgrounds fighting injustice — was something that she related to as a Polish immigrant. This was a reminder to us

of our purpose: When we share our stories, we begin to see the commonalities between us, the humanity that connects us all, and we start to understand each other better. Art is the medium through which stories

are told, and by engaging young Muslims in the creative arts, MY Voice has prepared us to become the novelists, artists and filmmakers of tomorrow; the people who will justly share our stories with the world. Five years on, I have become the editor-in-chief and I, for one, know that MY Voice has made me a more confident leader, a more passionate artist and a better Muslim. To get a copy of MY Voice delivered to you or gifted to someone you know and to support this cause, visit, and/ or facebook/instagram/twitter: @myvoicecanada and place your order. Zakat money can also be given to MY Voice as well — and is much appreciated.  ih Komal Adeel is editor-in-chief of MY Voice.



Coping with Sadness Reflections on religious resources BY SADAF BINT SULTAN POPAL


he Quran describes many prophets’ sadness and strife as God challenged them and their faith, for example, Prophet Jacob’s (‘alayhi as salam) sadness over his missing son: “And he turned away from them and said: ‘How great is my grief for Joseph!’ And his eyes became white with sorrow, and he fell into silent melancholy” (12:84). Yet many Muslims fail to realize that extreme sadness is part of life; that even our exemplars of virtue and closeness to God (the Prophet’s) experienced grief and instead dismiss grief and sorrow as weakness in faith or as a divine punishment. Admittedly sadness is part of life, and extreme grief can be a normal response, and even depression (which may require clinical treatment) are all tests from God albeit of different depth and magnitude. The Nigerian poet Ijeoma Umebiyuo wrote, “So here you are/ too foreign for home/ too foreign for here/ never enough for both” (Questions for Ada; 2015). Muslim adolescents living in non-Muslim-majority countries, particularly those born to immigrant parents, face a myriad of distinct struggles and obstacles as they struggle to

find their way between being Muslim and Western “norms” in an overwhelmingly Islamophobic environment. Their parents may also be forced to compromise their faith identities in order to assimilate into a culture that, more often than not, rejects anything “other” and foreign. Alongside unrealistic academic, social or family expectations, these internal battles may lead to clinical depression among Muslim adolescents. Seriously depressed Muslim teens are often silenced due to the attached stigmas and, in addition, hesitate to seek psychiatric and psychological counselling because some of the circumstances that may trigger their condition may be rooted in their experiences as Muslims or their understanding of Islam, which is not well understood by Westerntrained psychologists. For example, some of these triggers may be rooted in a particular sin, a media attack on Islam or an attack by peers due to their Muslim identity. When sadness and grief take a turn for the worse into depression, one must understand that depression isn’t the opposite of happiness, but of vitality. This definition is critical to understanding depression as a


debilitating illness that can affect one’s ability to pray or worship. But there can also be a reciprocal effect, for one can use his/her faith to prevent, ameliorate aspects of, and sometimes alleviate some of the dysfunction wrought by depression.


Reciting the shahada enables us to recognize our subservience to our Creator. Given that depression can stem from our obsession with how others perceive us, fully accepting our status as servants to the Creator and not the creation will allow us to realize that true worth and salvation depends only on Him. In fact, people can only achieve an elevated rank by serving God. Moreover, we would do well to remember the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) plight as he delivered the message and how God comforted him. During several of his most difficult times, God revealed many comforting verses, among them: “He is the Lord of the East and the West. There is no deity except Him, so take Him as Disposer of your affairs” (73:9). When we pray, we begin with subhan Allah (glorified is God). The root word subha means swimming. But if you trace it further back, it means swimming in an ocean instead of a pool. God used it because He knows the difficulties awaiting us in this life, as well as to indicate that a drowning person must

continue to swim and that his/her refuge and air is prayer. By simply focusing on what we are saying during the prayer, we have the potential to gain a far more concentrated and direct therapeutic benefit. By understanding the word’s cognates, we can use our conversation with God as a source of help and develop a greater understanding

would loan Allah a goodly loan so He may multiply it for him many times over? It is Allah who withholds and grants abundance, and to Him you will be returned.” The Almighty promises us that if we train ourselves to give in times of personal ease and hardship, our sustenance will increase, and with it our own happiness.

TO UNDERSTAND THE GRAVITY OF THIS CONDITION, ONE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT DEPRESSION IS NOT THE OPPOSITE OF HAPPINESS, BUT OF VITALITY. THIS DEFINITION IS CRITICAL TO UNDERSTANDING DEPRESSION MAY BE A DEBILITATING ILLNESS THAT CAN AFFECT ONE’S ABILITY TO PRAY OR WORSHIP. of its significance and of our relationship with God. I encourage the readers to delve more into this area. In addition to the ritualistic practices associated with fasting, this second pillar also improves one’s mood. A study conducted in 2016 to observe the effect of the Ramadan fast on depression, anxiety and stress found that these scores decreased in the MMSE (Mini Mental State Exam) on the 14th and 28th days when compared to baseline values. It further showed that stress scores were significantly lower on the 28th day and that cognition scores improved after fasting the 14th and 28th days (Amin et al., https://www. Fasting places us in a state of constant remembrance of our hunger, and therefore of God, which allows us to be in a mode of constant worship, remember our relationship with Allah and, perhaps, improve our mental state. As with moving away from passive prayer, fasting encourages us to take a more active and consequentialist outlook on what we do during the day, and this change in mindset can help alleviate depressive symptoms. Another pillar is paying the obligatory zakat (i.e., growth, purification and blessing) and offering the optional sadaqah (i.e., a sign of sincere faith). The Prophet is reported to have said: “Allah the Exalted says: ‘Spend, O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you’” (Sahīh al-Bukhārī 5037, Sahīh Muslim 993), and Quran 2:245 proclaims: “Who is it that

Giving awakens one’s soul and triggers genuine concern for the well-being of others. It can also help purify the soul by acknowledging and showing gratitude to the Creator. God’s recommendation that we give (in His name) even during times of hardship reminds us that such events are part of life and should not to be seen as a never-ending punishment, as some very depressed people may believe. Thus, by giving at such times we remember God’s greatness and remind ourselves that we can bring joy to others. And so it must stand to reason that we can, with Allah’s help, seek joy in our own lives. The fifth pillar of faith is the hajj. A study was conducted in 1982 to ascertain the levels of anxiety, depression and religious attitude via rating scales in a group of physically sick adults planning to make the [Roman Catholic] pilgrimage to [the Sanctuary of Our Lady of] Lourdes, France. The study, which assessed these levels at the stage of one month and then at ten months, found that after the pilgrims returned that they exhibited a statistically significant and sustained decrease in anxiety and depression (Morris, publication/16099405). The hajj erases past sins and allows people to start over, as well as to feel more at ease as they become more aware of the global community of which they are a part. This latter effect is especially helpful if one’s depression was triggered by an attack on Islam.

Hajj is also a time of reflection that heightens our mindfulness, increases our appreciation and awareness of Islam and, in addition, gives us access to the water of Zamzam. According to the Prophet: “The best water on the face of Earth is the water of Zamzam. It is a kind of food and a healing from sickness” (“Saheeh al-Jaami‘,” hadith no. 3302). Another hadith states: “The water of Zamzam will treat whatever ailment it is drunk for” (Narrated by Ibn Maajah, 3062). Thus, the intention one makes before drinking this water is important, as it can dictate the water’s healing effect. Both the Quran and the seerah acknowledge depression as a debilitating clinical disease. Additionally, contemporary scientific literature states that depression is just as much of a disease (in the traditional sense of being characterized by hormonal and physiological changes) as is diabetes, thereby validating the genetic and chemical imbalance observed in the former. Some studies, such as the work done in Feinstein Institute recommends treating depression as an inflammatory condition, professors at Cambridge even feel that a field of immune-neurology is upcoming to further delve into illnesses that can present as psychological but also have physiological roots (Knapton, Sarah, “Depression is a physical illness which could be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, scientists suggest”, The Daily Telegraph (U.K.) Sept. 8, 2017). Although there are “Islamic” adjuncts, those with severe depression and major depressive episodes should seek medical attention in addition to religious counsel. Furthermore, the growing number of Islamic psychological counseling centers nationwide should encourage them to do so. One can find more information through the Khalil Help Center ( and through the Institute for Muslim Mental Health, which allows one to find Muslim therapists in their region, ( organizations, both of which have opened their doors for the sole purpose of providing counsel to the Muslim community.  ih Sadaf bint Sultan Popal, (’21) Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, Harlem, N.Y. [Ed. note: Sadaf carried out the research for this article as part of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine’s Medical Student Internship program at the University of Chicago in 2018, under the tutelage of Dr. Aasim I. Padela. The program is underwritten by Drs. Skina and Hossam Fadel.]



All Cheese Are Not Created Equal Muslim cheese lovers need to check whether or not their cheeses are free of animal rennet BY ASMA JARRAD


egans and vegetarians who seek to avoid consuming animal products so as to keep the animal alive and whole have to avoid some types of cheeses, as well. To the millions of cheese-loving vegetarians, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you should be aware that certain types of cheeses contain parts that were harvested from a slaughtered animal. Similarly, Muslims should be aware that certain types of cheeses might contain enzymes from pigs and non-zabiha slaughtered animals. Milk, the main component of cheese, is an easily recognizable halal product. However, another important ingredient, one that has been used for thousands of years, is rennet, a complex set of enzymes that causes milk to coagulate to form a thick curd. The key ingredients in rennet are chymosin, pepsin and a lipase. In addition, there are different types of rennet: animal, vegetable, microbial and genetically engineered. Animal rennet is derived from the lining of the stomach of a slaughtered young calf, lamb or goat — and also from pigs. Vegetarian-friendly and halal rennet are common these days. Vegetarian rennet performs the same purpose as animal-based rennet — making cheese coagulate — but is sourced solely from plants such as soybeans, dried caper leaves, thistle, mallow, fig trees, nettles and ground ivy. Microbial rennet is derived from mold, fungus or yeast. Finally,

the use of genetically engineered rennet-like enzymes, also known as fermentation-produced calf chymosin (FPC), is increasingly becoming a popular coagulating agent in the U.S. This type of rennet is made by taking the rennin-producing gene out of the animal cell’s DNA string and inserting it into the bacteria, yeast or mold host cell’s DNA string. Once inserted, the newly placed gene begins to produce the chymosin enzyme within the host. To start with, any cheese that contains animal rennet is non-vegetarian, because the animal must have been slaughtered in order



to harvest the rennet. According to the Dec. 19, 2013 HuffPost article by Rebecca Orchant, “Bad News: These 11 Cheeses Aren’t Always Vegetarian,” common non-vegetarian cheeses include Parmigiano Reggiano, Gruyere, Manchego, Emmenthaler, Pecorino Romano, Gorgonzola, Mimolette, Grana Padano, Camembert, Boucheron and Vacherin Although these cheeses are non-vegetarian, they are automatically non-halal because in most cases the rennet used to make cheese, even if not derived from pigs, is from a nonzabiha sourced animal. The cheeses that contain porcine enzymes are mainly used to flavor products such as chips and other snack foods. For example, the American Food Company, Frito Lay, specifically says on its website that “Animal enzymes that are derived from pork (also called “porcine enzymes”) are used to develop the cheese in some of our cheese seasonings.” As always, it’s best to check food labels, when available, and ask the person behind the deli counter about the source of the rennet. Ideally, there should be a clear distinction between rennet harvested from halal sources and rennet sourced from porcine and other non-zabiha enzymes; however, labels do not always make this distinction. To narrow down the choices, choosing a vegetarian or vegan type of cheese helps eliminate pork and non-zabiha culprits. Also, when available, looking for the halal symbol is a

sure way to know that your cheese is halal. Since the halal symbol is not widespread, you can also look for the kosher certification because that indicates that the rennet is not from an animal source. According to Jewish dietary standards, milk and meat are not to be combined or eaten at the same time. These steps remove the guess work as to whether the curdling process of separating the milk into curds and whey was derived from a haram source. More good news for vegetarian and halal cheese lovers: Cheese can be made with or without animal rennet. In fact, a few varieties of cheese are made without any curdling agent at all. At the same time, as mentioned above, many cheeses use plantbased forms of enzymes or a rennet made from genetically modified fungi. More and more companies are moving away from traditional animal-based rennet and opting for the cheaper microbial source. The only drawback of these nontraditional forms is that they can cause the cheese to taste bitter, thereby making it of lower quality. For those interested in cheeses made without animal rennet, Linda Johnson Larsen, a food science and nutrition expert, lists them in her article published on titled, “Are There Any Cheeses that Do Not Contain Rennet?” Some of these cheeses are Cottage (nearly all brands); Kraft

Cream cheese; Stella and Frigo Mozzarella; Stella Provolone; Organic Valley Ricotta, Cheddar and Parmesan; Cabot cheddar; Dutch Farms Swiss; Kerrygold Cheddar; Bel Gioioso Ricotta; Joseph’s Farms Provolone and Vermont Creamery Feta. Keep in mind that any ingredient list is subject to change at any moment, because recipes are often altered and modified based on what is available, in demand and profitable for the business making the product. This is why it is important for those who wish to be aware of what they are eating to regularly contact food companies and ask about the source of such ambiguous ingredients as “enzymes.” Although the use of animal rennet is the most traditional throughout the cheese-making industry, cheeses that use vegetable, fungi and microbial other sources are available. This advancement in technology obliges to

seek out these alternatives, for they can help us avoid consuming any haram foods. I look forward to a future where those of us who live in non-Muslim countries don’t have to rely on kosher certification to verify that our food is pork- and non-zabiha-free. Although kosher and halal share key principles in terms of food, there are still significant differences. Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “God the Almighty is Good and accepts only that which is good. And verily God has commanded the believers to do that which He has commanded the Messengers. So, the Almighty has said: ‘O (you) Messengers! Eat of the tayyibat [all kinds of halal (legal) foods] and perform righteous deeds.’” (Quran 23:51) (Hadith Nawawi, 10).  ih Asma Jarad is a freelance writer and editor. She recently began a YouTube channel (Sami & Amro Reading Time) narrating picture books for the youth.

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Effective Counseling Can Help Stabilize Marriages There is no harm in seeking professional and informed advice when needed BY M. BASHEER AHMED


he Muslim American community is not immune to mainstream society’s high divorce rate that, according to Rutgers University’s national marriage project (http://nationalmarriageproject. org), is about 50 percent. However, its overall divorce rate is unknown due to the lack of recent research and the non-reporting of many cases. In the 1990s, Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus conducted the sole study of the community’s divorce rate (Islamic Horizons, July/August 2000, pp. 52-53). Based on information obtained from various Islamic centers and imams, I contend that the rate is increasing. Many couples enter marriage with false assumptions and expectations as regards each other’s personality, cultural practices, religious beliefs, financial matters, parenting issues and hobbies. Such misunderstandings often result in ever-growing differences that eventually affect their ability to communicate with each other. As counseling is not always successful, both spouses must know how to build a good relationship before tying the knot.

The Quran states: “And among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquility with them and that He has placed between affection and mercy. Verily, in that are signs for those who reflect” (30:21). Islam views marriage as a social contract a man and a woman before God. Ideally, each spouse is allowed to discuss the contract’s terms and conditions so that they are fully aware of their relevant obligations after getting married. Each spouse’s voluntary consent is an essential element. The Quran, which gives women a substantial role in choosing their life partners, also spells out their rights in case of a divorce: “And when you divorce women and they have fulfilled their [menstrual] term, do not prevent them from remarrying their [former] husbands if they agree among themselves on an acceptable basis” (2:232). There is no foolproof method for choosing the “right” marriage partner. In my psychiatry practice, I have seen couples who had dated for three or four years and even lived together for a long time before getting


married; some of them were ready to file for divorce about two years later. As people seek to present themselves in the best possible light before marriage, family involvement is important, provided that its members use good sense and wisdom about each potential spouse’s personality, religiosity, strengths and weaknesses. Happily married couples are aware of their various rights and responsibilities, develop realistic expectations, have good communication skills, make joint decisions and resolve their conflicts based upon their personal commitment to each other. In addition to honoring each other’s rights and sexual needs, they realize that honesty, trustworthiness, humility and willingness to cooperate and compromise are essential elements.

THE SESSIONS The primary purpose of pre-marital counseling is to discuss the potential realities of married life, such as issues related to personality differences and communication style. The counselor should be a professional who has been trained in family dynamics; can

detect personality patterns, communication problems and, in certain cases, clinical issues; and is able to help alleviate some of the problems and/or refer the couple to appropriate specialists, if necessary. During the first session, the couple is given general information about the pur-

that you cannot do now? Which activities can you give up, if necessary? Which ones will you hang on to at any cost? Parenting Issues. The counselor must make the couple aware of their obligations as parents, the stresses and challenges that they will face up to and including the teen-

HAPPILY MARRIED COUPLES ARE AWARE OF THEIR VARIOUS RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES, DEVELOP REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS, HAVE GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS, MAKE JOINT DECISIONS AND RESOLVE THEIR CONFLICTS BASED UPON THEIR PERSONAL COMMITMENT TO EACH OTHER. pose and confidentiality of pre-marital counseling. They are then informed that, generally speaking, individuals will naturally have different personalities, opinions and feelings on many issues. Thus, they will have to find one or more ways to respect these differences and learn how to reach a mutually acceptable compromise. The counselor also points out that there may be areas of disagreement that are so severe that they need to think of resolving them before marriage. Unfortunately, many couples do not wish to discuss such issues due to the lack of opportunity to do so or to very strong emotional involvement with their future spouse. The following subjects are generally discussed during the sessions: Communication. As this is the basis of love and hate as well as the source of stress and anger, it cannot be ignored. If there is no understanding of what the other spouse’s words mean, no empathy with his/her feelings and actions, no treating of him/her with respect and consideration, how long can the marriage last? If the divorced wife feels depressed, she needs support to help her during the transition period. If the husband feels guilty about moving away from his parents, he also needs support. If something is on your mind or your spouse has upset you, be open and honest with him/her. If your spouse says that you have somehow bothered him/ her, hear him/her out without judgment, apologize sincerely for any intentional or unintentional hurt and try to change. Activities, Friends, Hobbies and Social Activities. After marriage you will have to give up at least some of current activities. What are you expecting to do after marriage

age years, proper child care, appropriate disciplinary methods and raising them in a loving religious environment. Financial matters. This is one of the most important subjects, for devising and then adhering to a realistic budget allows couples to live within their means, keeps the marriage healthy and reduces money-related stress. If this task is divided, the wife — usually more involved in domestic matters — must assume the responsibility for working out a monthly budget and implementing a savings plan. In addition, each spouse must understand how a credit card works and the importance of making monthly payments on time and in full to avoid interest. Conflict. As this is necessary and normal part of a new relationship, it must be resolved in such a way that no underlying resentment remains. Seeking advice in such situations does not mean that the relationship is headed for divorce. As there will always be things that an individual can and cannot change, the other spouse must learn to have patience when confronted with such (to him/her) frustrating habits and appreciate the other spouse’s good qualities. The second session deals with each spouse’s expectations of marriage and major differences and techniques they can use to resolve their differences. A brief discussion about the pre-nuptial agreement is also recommended at this time. The high divorce rate in the U.S. is becoming a source of concern to family courts, religious organizations and government officials. Moreover, the assumption that love prior to marriage is the “key to success” is also becoming a myth. While strong

religious teachings are always helpful, they do not focus on issues like personality differences, compromise, attitude and making adjustments to an imperfect marriage. Pre-marital counseling does not guarantee a stable marriage; however, it makes our community’s engaged couples aware of what they can expect during their married life and prepares them for successfully working their way through its ups and downs.  ih M. Basheer Ahmed, M.D., is founder and chairman emeritus, The Muslim Community Center for Human Services (, Dallas/Fort Worth, Tex.

Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims

SALAM Seeks Religious & Social Director

SALAM Islamic Center seeks a Religious & Social Director to meet the spiritual, youth, & social needs of its multiethnic community. Responsibilities include leading prayers, Friday Khattab, youth activities, Khaterahs, Friday Family Night Program, Ramadan & Eid programs, religious counseling, & other related religious duties as needed. Qualifications: 4-year college degree from an accredited university in Islamic studies or related fields, good communication skills, experience in dealing with religious affairs, mastery of English language, strong knowledge of written and spoken Arabic, good recitation of Qur’an, ability to motivate young Muslims & relate to their aspirations, ability to reach out & be able to get involved in interfaith activities within the context of living as a Muslim in the U.S. Candidates must be US citizens or Permanent Residents. Salary & fringe benefits are competitive, commensurate with qualifications & experience. Qualified candidates should send letter of interest, detailed resume, recent photo, & three letters of recommendation, with at least one from recent employer if any, to: Chair, Religious Director Search Committee SALAM Islamic Center 4545 College Oak Dr. Sacramento, CA 95841-4515 You may e-mail the documents to: 916-979-1933 Ext. 3



One Way to Increase Muslim Visibility in Mainstream America BY SHEIKH A. RAHMAN


ccording to the 2015, Washington, D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute ( and Religion News Service survey, relatively few Americans regularly interact with Muslims. Only 8 percent report having had a conversation with a Muslim at least once a day in the past year; 29 percent report occasional such interactions, 26 percent responded “seldom” and 36 percent said “never.” Not surprisingly, Americans who have had such occasional conversations in the past year express a far more positive view than those who report far less regular interaction. However, Americans who watch TV see and hear about Muslims in mostly negative terms. And thus even if they get an opportunity to meet a Muslim, they generally avoid it. This country’s mosques and Islamic centers hold interfaith and “Meet Your Muslim Neighbors” programs. The number

of non-Muslims attendees is modest, and the dialogue and sharing of snacks and dinner is limited to the property boundaries. But as it is often the same people who participate time and again, there is not really any broader interaction. Hijabis draw most of the usually negative


attention. On the other hand, one can see non-Muslims on TV shows such as Spelling Bee, Jeopardy, and Geo Bee, where contestants of all ages and all religions, particularly Christian, Jewish, Hindus and Sikh participants, have won as much as $1 million. On shows like Jeopardy, the champion can stay on for up to eight weeks. Muslims are achievers in the arts, medicine, engineering and science. They are recognized in the pages of Islamic Horizons and other Muslim magazines. But only rarely do we see a Muslim contestant on Jeopardy and winning a few thousand dollars. Of course winning or losing is important, but not as much as accepting the challenge and appearing before a very diverse audience. This is one way everyday Americans can see that Muslims are just like any other American — an intelligent person, an achiever and an entertainer. These clean and educational TV shows draw high school and college competitors as well as people aged 30 and above. Hindus and Sikhs usually win the Spelling Bee and Geo Bee. The $40,000 prize certainly helps them pay for their college education. Each Spelling Bee contestant is given a booklet of 1,000 words to study. They are also asked to spell maybe 30 or 40

other words just to see if they can spell the word correctly based upon its phonation. Five years ago a hijabi from Lebanon won $14,000. Roughly seven years ago a high school student from Pakistan answered 90 percent of the questions correctly on Jeopardy — host Alex Trebek kept on saying “Zia, Zia, Zia.” Now such names as Mohammad, Ahmad, Fatima and Samina should be there as well, so that everyday Americans can see that Muslim Americans excel in general knowledge, medicine, arts and technology, history and geography, as well as international politics. A sampling of Jeopardy’s questions reveals a great deal. For example, one Jewish contestant knew who chants Labaik Labaik La shareeka la labaik and where they do so, and another one answered the question of what strategy Muhammad [salla Allahu ‘alyah wa sallam] adopted to save Madina. A Christian correctly answered what it means when Muslims say “lightning and thunder” and to which Quranic chapter it refers. And another contender knew that Riyadh is both the name of Saudi Arabia’s capital city and has meadows. Why are Muslims lagging behind in terms of appearing on these shows? I contend that this is because neither their parents

nor their teachers watch these programs, and thus they cannot encourage their children even when they are fully capable of meeting this challenge head on. I have been watching Jeopardy and other knowledge programs with my children for the last 40 years and have learned

they will have seen hundreds of them on these shows. Over time, they will begin to know who Muslims are and what is Islam all about. This will help dispel their existing misconceptions and negative stereotypes. I have promoted my ideas in various educational forums, and yet I remained

WHY ARE MUSLIMS LAGGING BEHIND IN TERMS OF APPEARING ON THESE SHOWS? I CONTEND THAT THIS IS BECAUSE NEITHER THEIR PARENTS NOR THEIR TEACHERS WATCH THESE PROGRAMS, AND THUS THEY CANNOT ENCOURAGE THEIR CHILDREN EVEN WHEN THEY ARE FULLY CAPABLE OF MEETING THIS CHALLENGE HEAD ON. a lot. I always urge them to participate in such competitions. My daughter was her school’s Spelling Bee champion and made it all the way to the state semi-finals. We were grateful that she went as far as she did and that she was not shy about competing. I have encouraged our Islamic and Sunday schools with sponsorship of $300 to $500 for any Muslim to participate, even if he or she does not make to the finals. It is commendable that ISNA has a program of awarding college scholarships. It could also go one step further by encouraging Muslims to enter such competitions, for their presence would help raise the community’s visibility. If they win they keep their money, and even if they lose they could still get up to $500. Our high school- and college-aged youth should be made aware of these shows and supported after they decide to apply to appear on them. After they show up and make their mark on the American scene, they should be recognized in their own Islamic centers via graduation ceremonies. ISNA should not only just put their news and photos in Islamic Horizons, but actually recognize them in one of its main annual convention sessions, which have thousands of attendees. Moreover, local media outlets are very interested in these champions because some may go on to become high school valedictorians. Muslims should make the best possible use of the media on all occasions, so that even if an average American has not met a Muslim,

surprised why such an easy method has not been promoted. Appearing on such educational shows is not only very productive and perhaps financially rewarding, but also promotes the image of Muslims as modern, intelligent and law-abiding citizens, just as any other American.  ih Sheikh A. Rahman, MD, is a Lawrenceburg, Ind.-based family medicine specialist.

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Muslim-Digital Influencers Redefine the American Woman Bloggers working with mainstream brands add representation of Muslim women to media landscape BY AMAL OMER


ifestyle influencers Leena Snoubar and Shahd Batal have created a digital following with over 800,000 and 400,000 plus followers, respectively, incorporating their faith on their social media channels. They share content on their YouTube and Instagram platforms, such as makeup tutorials, travel vlogs (videos documenting their travels), and how-to guides on getting organized and styling fashion looks. Snoubar also manages a blog. In one of her YouTube videos, which average almost 100,000 views, she shares her favorite things for Ramadan. Snoubar, 24, a labor and delivery nurse based in Tyler, Tex., tells her viewers how she would sniff peppermint oil while fasting to keep her energy up during an 8 a.m. class she had to take for work. She quips, “It’s not as good as coffee, but it works!” Along with sharing the Mario Badescu facial spray — a cult favorite in the beauty world — she talks about the Bayyinah TV app’s Al Fatiha lecture series and how its explanation of the surah helped her be more connected in her prayers. On Batal’s YouTube channel in a video about what she learned at 21, she expertly applies her makeup while talking about the importance of doing what scares you to her love for Rihanna’s Fenty foundation, and how her move to Los Angeles has reinforced staying strong in her iman. In another video, she gushes over a public relations package from Benefit Cosmetics that includes her favorite brow pencil and discusses the Islamic books that she’s reading. She apologizes for only sharing Islamic books because she wants to cater to everyone, but adds “[Islam is] such a big part of me that I don’t want to hide that.” The word “normal” comes up in speaking to both women. Snoubar says, “I want to show everybody that Muslim women are just normal people like everyone else and that hijab or wearing modest clothes doesn’t stop you from doing anything you want to do in your life.” Similarly, Batal says, “A huge part of

[being an influencer] is normalizing [hijab] because it’s so exhausting to constantly be the ‘other.’ If I’m doing something that’s beauty related, then let’s talk about beauty. We do not have to talk about my hijab forever.” Batal, who is Sudanese-American, finds that she is often the only Muslim and only black Muslim woman at brand-hosted events for influencers. She says, “I want there to be more women [like me] in the [influencer] industry. I would love to open those doors for other women to do what I’m doing and to do it better and bigger than me.” In one of her videos, Batal calls out the racism that exists within the Muslim modest fashion industry. Last year’s Dubai Modest Fashion Week, which included Somali-Muslim model Halima Aden and a few black influencers, was criticized for mostly excluding black Muslim bloggers. And though Batal doesn’t shy away from taking a stance on race or speaking about her experiences in the industry as a woman of color, she doesn’t let it consume her. “My world is so much bigger. I want to be at Milan Fashion Week. You have to think bigger. I want to be in the commercial world and do bigger campaigns.” Batal, who was profiled in Vogue and Vogue Arabia, counts working with the cosmetics brand Bobbi Brown as a milestone of her commercial projects. “I really love Bobbi Brown. To be able to work with a brand that I genuinely am obsessed with is amazing. I love [their] products and I’m like ‘Oh my

A photo from Snoubar's Instagram account (@ withloveleena). She posts photos like this to show her followers how she styles her outfits.

gosh, there’s a budget behind your love for these products. That is crazy!’” She has also worked with makeup brands like Clinique and Hourglass, and won’t just sign on to any campaign. “I look to the ethics of a brand. The whole trophy minority thing is a big discussion right now, and if I notice a brand has never put a black girl in a campaign or is clearly jumping on the bandwagon, I can see right through it if it’s not genuine. And a lot of times I don’t want to take a campaign just because I’m a hijabi.” Batal acknowledges the need to educate companies on how someone like her fits their brand. She says that in such moments it’s up to her to show them that she knows their products and how she can work with them. And, as some brands are learning, others are taking notice. Snoubar, who first started posting pictures on Instagram of the modest fashion looks she styled, was approached by Nike to promote its “LunarEpic” running sneaker. Her Instagram post wearing the shoe garnered over 11,000 likes.




Batal models the L.A. based hijab brand Austere Attire on her Instagram page (@shahdbatal). She says, "makeup is not my passion, fashion is not my passion, my passion is making people feel good about themselves.

Working with Nike not only opened more doors for Snoubar, who has done campaigns with Sephora, Revlon, Olay and Williams Sonoma, it also showed her that brands understood how to work with her. Nike sent Snoubar the outfit that she wore in the post. “It was a long sleeve running top and loose joggers, and I was so happy because they actually got it. They didn’t send me a pair of leggings that were super tight. They sent me the perfect hijabi outfit. That was a really good experience to see that brands are more aware of modest influencers and modestly dressing girls’ needs.” Batal first started sharing natural-hair tutorials on YouTube. She deleted the videos after starting to cover. Ironically, she didn’t give much thought to how wearing hijab would affect her following, which declined, but bounced back with a new wave of followers. “One day, one video did really well and that’s kind of where it took off,” she says. Originally from Minnesota, Batal, 22, has the shared experience of many children of immigrants whose parents often steer them toward careers with the promise of financial security. She says her parents are proud of her, but admits it’s not always easy for them to understand her career. “A lot of it was being patient with my parents because they value stability. They’ve given me the luxury to do what I want and me settling for anything less than my dreams, which is what my parents gave up everything for, would be disrespectful. I have all the opportunities

An editorial photo of Batal from a feature she did with the beauty website, Byrdie, modeling spring makeup looks.

that they never had. I’m going to use that in a way that I can contribute best to the world.” Batal adds that being able to find your purpose is a privilege. “Not a lot of people have that, so if you have that, you better run with it.” She followed through on her own advice when she moved to L.A. in March of this year to commit to her YouTube career full time. “I feel like I’m part of an industry [now], whereas before I was just making videos in my bedroom.” Down the road, Batal says she’s interested in hosting and public speaking. And despite putting college on hold, she’s spoken on panels at both Columbia and Stanford. Snoubar, whose mother is a white convert and father is Palestinian, has transitioned to working part-time to focus on her social media channels and pursue her dream of launching a clothing line. She’s currently working on design sketches and is in talks with manufacturers to produce the line. Both women understand that their platforms are bigger than the products they sometimes promote. What they are doing is redefining what it means to be an American woman. Batal says, “It’s ok to push your values and have people cater to you, versus always catering to other people.” She asks to work with a female stylist on photo shoots and speaks up if she’s not comfortable wearing something. For a feature with the beauty website Byrdie, Batal requested the manicurist to use breathable nail polish,

Snoubar models Nike sneakers on her Instagram page. Influencers like Snoubar and Batal partner with brands as ambassadors to promote their latest products.

a wudu-compatible formula that allows water to get under the polish. In her vlog (video blog) from the shoot, Batal asks the manicurist if she’s ever received such a request, to which she replies, “No, but it’s totally cool.” Batal also withdrew from a deal with a major ice cream brand after learning that the product contained alcohol. Despite having signed a contract, the company understood her position, paid her for the work she had done and apologized for not having done more research. The following Batal and Snoubar have gained is a testament to finding success while putting their faith first and embracing their differences. For Batal, wants to shatter the expectations of what Muslim women are supposed to look like. She recalls eating at a trendy L.A. café with a group of Muslim friends. “Everyone around us was looking at us like we were aliens. I was like ‘Have you guys have never seen a Muslim woman wearing cute sneakers? You’ve never seen us wear makeup and be normal people?’ I want to walk into a room and feel ‘I’m different from you, but I’m also a human being.’” And as Snoubar sums it up, what they’re really promoting is confidence. “It’s nice to see someone whose [style] you [admire] and you think that they dress modestly and stylishly, and it gives you confidence to know that you can do that too.”  ih Amal Omer is based in Washington, D.C. and works in communications at a nonprofit.



A Stick, a Ball and Six Sisters

Girl and sports — a most natural combination BY NARGIS NAQVI


couldn’t wait to interview the five hijabi girls I had been hearing about. The Toronto Star had covered their story last year, and I had been impressed! They were daring to be different and doing it the halal way. I finally got a chance to talk to them, only to find out there was another sister,

now 14, who plays with them as well. Six sisters and all with the same sport? How did that happen? Husnah, 22, who just starting graduate school in environmental sciences, explained that her father had moved from Pakistan to Canada when he was four. As he grew up on the streets of Toronto, he enjoyed playing

Azmi sisters ready for a game. 42    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018

hockey. This inspiration led to him enroll his children in the field. “Did you not want to go into any other sports?” I asked, curious as to how everyone could enjoy the same sport — maybe because I had seen a big variety in my own family. After all, one of Canada’s two national sports is ice hockey. Mubeenah, 14 and the youngest, said that she had played soccer and ice hockey but that since no other sport had a gender-segregated league, after puberty all of them joined ball hockey leagues. The rest of the sisters related that their father was their inspiration, which is also one of the reasons they love hockey. In her free time Mubeenah enjoys baking, which she learned from her eldest sister Asiyah, who, at 25, now works at a legal firm but often sends her inspirations on Pinterest to Mubeenah. Sajidah, 19, and Haleemah, 17, are more on the athletic side and often choosing to watch sports in their spare time, whereas Husnah is also an avid reader. Nuha, the 23-year-old second sister, has graduated in fashion design and is hoping to start her own business. She often tries out her creations on her sisters. At the moment, though, she is helping their brother with his café business. Brother!? They have brothers too? Wow! We had focused on the girls so much that no one had thought to ask if there was a brother. The girls giggled and amidst the laughter, Haleemah, 17, remarked that they had three brothers: Yusuf, the eldest, is married and lives next door with his wife and one-year-old daughter, who the family dotes on; Salih started the Black Gold café in Scarborough; and Tayyib, 16, is still in school. And yes, they all played hockey as well. I was speechless by this time, yet even more curious to know about their parents. What and how and … so many questions were forming in my mind. How do you all sleep? I was trying to imagine a large spacious house with all three floors full of kids running around, bumping into each other. Sajidah broke the news with a smile on her face, “All the girls sleep in one large room which encompasses the top floor.” Okay, by this time I was trying hard not to be shocked. Mashallah. This was the ideal holistic scenario and maybe a nightmare to envision for those who like their privacy. “You’d be surprised to hear that our mom now runs a daycare,” Husnah tells me with a grin. My only thought: I need to meet this

Azmi family.


These Muslimahs clearly live that life and they do it in the best possible way. At the end, all I could say was kudos to their parents. One sees the fruit of their labor and, in their case, their labor was apparent.  ih Nargis Naqvi is founder and CEO of MY Voice Canada magazine.

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strong woman one day who really can’t seem to get enough of children. They went on to mention how their mother is from Guyana. As their father had not known Urdu that well and their mother had never known it at all, they had neither learned it nor visited Pakistan. As I absorbed this and tried to wrap my head around the information pouring in, I learned that they all had gone to a madrassa — started by their parents — instead of a regular public school. There, they had memorized the Quran and been educated in the regular school studies as well. Mubeenah is still memorizing the Quran, and Sajidah has taught it to the other attendees. “Do you guys even have friends?” I asked, thinking that they probably don’t have time to make any. “Of course, we all need our own friends to vent to,” Husnah replied, having just

celebrated her birthday a few days before with her friends. “We mostly get to meet each other on the rink and that’s why we have that bond, because otherwise we are very busy in our daily tasks.” “Do your friends play hockey too?” I asked. “Only the boys at the madrassa do. The girls don’t, even though we keep trying to get them to.” Haleemah answered. The girls opined that the benefits of playing a sport consistently was that they all felt healthy, energized and alert. They thought that everyone should do so and that if gender-segregation were an issue, then ball hockey was a great sport to play. Husnah’s parting message to Muslimahs: “People see religion as a barrier for anything they want to do in life, whereas we want to discourage that mindset. Islam is meant to be a religion of ease.”

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Why Protest?

track record of success. Examples are numerous, such as the partial list given below: • The Egyptian revolution against Britain’s tyrannical occupation (1919) Living in a democratic country entails • Gandhi’s non-violent movement in India (1915-47) • Martin Luther King’s civil rights struggle in the U.S. for racial certain responsibilities equality (1960s) • The anti-Vietnam war non-violent protests in the U.S. (1967-71) BY SHAKEEL SYED • The non-violent overthrow of the Shah of Iran (1979) am neither embarrassed nor ashamed for having been • The People Power Revolution in the Philippines that overthrew Ferdinand Marcos (1989) arrested thirteen times in the last eighteen years for engaging in civil disobedience. In fact I’m rather proud of it, because protesting • The people-led Indonesian revolution that forced Suharto to against injustice is inherently prophetic. Moreover, and contrary to resign (1998) • popular opinion, civil disobedience The Tunisian-Arab Spring — including getting arrested — is that caused Zine El Abidine Ben neither a criminal act nor can it be Ali to flee (2010) • used to deny employment, housing The Egyptian protest that brought down Hosni Mubarak or any lawful pursuit. As we read in the Quran, God’s (2011) • prophets (‘alayhum as salaam) The Yemeni protest that topprotested against the unjust rulers pled Ali Abdallah Saleh (2011-12) and powerbrokers of their times: Add to the collective struggles Abraham vs. Nimrod, Moses vs. and the individual sacrifices of Pharaoh and Muhammad vs. the such people as Hassan Banna and Quraysh. Zainab Ghazali (Egypt), Abdul The oft-repeated saying of the Ghaffar Khan (British-ruled India), Prophet, narrated on the authority Ahmed Kathrada (apartheid South of Abu Saeed al-Khudri, “When Africa), El Hajj Malik Shabazz (the U.S. Black Liberation Movement), you see a wrong, right it by your and Nagi Daifullah (the U.S. born hand or speech or at least feel aversion to it in your heart” (“Sahih and based Yemeni United Farm al-Muslim,” chap. 20, hadith no. Workers Movement). 79) ends with a profound encourTheir struggles were diverse, agement that a believer ought to but they were not the vocation of prefer deliberate “action” over a “speaking truth to power.” They mere “feeling,” for that is the weakmay or may not be the followers of est expression of faith. We are told the prophetic principle: “The best to engage in deliberate (non-viostruggle is the word of truth against lent) action and not mere reflection a tyrannical ruler” (“Musnad Ahmad,” hadith no. 18449), but against wrongs. One of Shakeel Syed's 13 arrests they sure were among the best And there are quite a few wrongs all around us, especially examples of it. here in the U.S. As Muslims living A LEGITIMATE GOVERNMENT IN A The concept of “justice” is a core here with relative freedom, we DEMOCRATIC COUNTRY DOES NOT ENJOY Islamic principle. Non-violent civil carry a bigger responsibility and disobedience in the cause of jusbear a greater responsibility to PRESUMPTION OF RIGHT IN ITS CONDUCT, tice is inherently democratic. Civil honor the prophetic tradition of FOR IT CAN COMMIT ERRORS, SUCH AS disobedience is by definition a civil protest to right that which is wrong. and non-violent form of breaking AN UNJUST LAW OR POLICY THAT ONLY Especially since the beginning the law to protest a particular of this century, Muslim Americans AN ACTIVE AND COMMITTED CITIZENRY policy or general oppression. on their own and in collaboration CAN CORRECT. A legitimate government in a with other impacted communities democratic country does not enjoy have been protesting against unfair presumption of right in its conduct, and unjust U.S. domestic and foreign policies in myriad peaceful for it can commit errors, such as an unjust law or policy that only an active and committed citizenry can correct. Civil disobedience ways. But very few have chosen civil disobedience. And hence this reminder that no justice movement can prevail gives life to those very democratic principles and is one of the best through arm-chair or pulpit-led reflections alone. In fact, engaging expressions of community conscience. This nonviolent collective in deliberate nonviolent civil disobedience actions has a proven action seeks to effect change in the political domain as a deliberate



MUSLIMS IN ACTION political act for both the common and the greater good. Muslim Americans, including imams, should not merely celebrate the sacrifices of the pioneers in this country, but must go a step further and uphold their legacy by putting their bodies on the line for the principles they claim to have inherited from the prophets of God. We are but a continuum of the prophetic tradition of struggle against tyranny and oppression. Muslims need to recommit themselves to this prophetic legacy with humility and ambition, and not as the marginalized, but as the mainstream. Prophet Muhammad cautions us to “beware of oppression, for oppression will turn into excessive darkness” (“Sahih al-Bukhari,” hadith no. 2315; “Sahih Muslim,” hadith no. 2579), and under no circumstances should we allow America to go dark; rather, we must ensure that it continues to shine — something that we cannot achieve unless we are prepared and committed to sacrifice, including participating in civil disobedience.  ih Shakeel Syed is a freelance writer and seeker of justice and human dignity.

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Demanding to Be Seen Teens Zena and Mena Nasiri bring diversity to libraries by donating books featuring Muslims through their new nonprofit BY HABEEBA HUSAIN


hen two fourth-grade Michigan girls walked into their library hoping to research Muslim female role models for a project, they were disappointed by what they found — or didn’t find. “We went to our local library, Rochester Hills Public Library, with Muslim females in mind,” says the now 14-year-old Mena Nasiri. “But we couldn’t find any books.” It became clear that Muslimahs were in dire need of more representation. Mena and her older sister Zena, now 15, knew that for a fact — but what were two young elementary school-aged girls to do? The issue floated around in their minds for years. In early 2018 the gears finally began to turn, and they came up with an idea. “In February of this year we read the book ‘The Lines We Cross’ [Scholastic Press: 2017], which has a female Muslim main character, and we felt such a connection with her,” Zena states. “It was so great seeing ourselves represented … we wanted other [Muslim girls] to feel that.” The two then began their nonprofit foundation, Girls of the Crescent (https://, an organization dedicated to collecting and then donating books about Muslimahs — both fiction and nonfiction — to libraries. With the help of their school district’s PTA, their first book drive brought in about 200 books. They then moved on to working with their public library — the same one they had walked into years ago during their search for books on Muslimah role models. “Everyone that we’ve asked to help us and everyone that we’ve donated to [have] been really positive,” Mena remarks. “They’ve been really excited to see two young people trying to make an impact in the community. The librarians especially have even ordered their own copies of our books alongside us donating to them.” Zena adds that locals in the neighborhood and even authors have sent books to them. The Nasiri sisters always loved reading

Zena and Mena Nasiri


and were a part of their library growing up. And so it was natural for them to turn to the physical library space for a research project, instead of to the virtual world of the Internet. Thus, they focused their organization’s efforts on a place with which they felt a special connection.



“The library is a really communal place,” Mena says. “A lot of younger kids also go, so we thought it would have a better outreach. Rochester Hills Public Library Youth Services Manager, Betsy Raczkowski, said she recently touched base with the girls’ mother who has brought her daughters to the library since they were babies. “They saw their library as the perfect place to reach people,” Raczkowski says. “I’m insanely proud of them — instead of waiting, they took charge.”

In addition, these two book lovers wanted to ensure that young Muslimahs would be able to see themselves on the library shelves when they walked in, instead of feeling invisible, like they had felt as fourth graders. “Seeing yourself represented in a book enhances not only the reading experience, but it helps people feel included in society,” Zena tells me. “We didn’t feel like we belonged because we didn’t see Muslim main characters in books.” In their Michigan area, Girls of the Crescent


has donated books to numerous libraries, both public and within school districts. “We want to spread out and maybe go to other states and possibly even other countries,” Zena enthuses. “We want to reach as many people as we possibly can and have the biggest impact that we can.” Being featured on actress and comedian Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls this past summer helped them gain great exposure. Their Instagram, @girlsofthecrescent, is also slowly building a following, and that’s where many authors reach out to them, the girls say. For now, the sisters are focusing on getting proper representation in their local Michigan community and triumphing through the school year. They’re even working on their own book to add to their Girls of the Crescent collections — a nonfiction reader about important Muslimahs. “There’s a lot of amazing [Muslimahs] that need to get more recognition,” Mena says. One day, a fourth-grade Muslimah working on that same research project will be able to find this upcoming title (and hopefully, many others) on her library bookshelf. She’ll feel validated, represented, and recognized in her society — feelings that Zena and Mena Nasiri longed for years ago and are currently turning into realities for the next generation of Muslim youth in this country.  ih

Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/ New Jersey, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for WhyIslam and is a social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared on and, among other online and print publications.

NEW RELEASES Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires Juan Cole 2018. Pp. 336. HB. $28.00 Nation Books/HBG, New York, N.Y. ole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan and director of its Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies, presents Islam as a movement strongly inflected with values of peacemaking, as well as a reaction against the slaughter of decades-long war between the eastern Roman Empire and the Sasanian Empire of Iran and the attendant religious strife. He stresses that Islam, no less than Christianity, is a Western religion that initially grew up within the eastern Roman Empire. The Quran is discussed in its historical sense, rather than trying to explain what Muslims believe about their scripture. He counters the established Western narrative of Islam as a religion of violence and war by offering a history that is both eye opening and original. This book brings the Prophet’s (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) world to life and explains how peace is the rule and not the exception for one of the world’s most practiced religions.


Muslims of the World: Portraits and Stories of Hope, Survival, Loss and Love Sajjad Shah and Iman Mahoui 2018. Pp. 224. PB. $19.98 Abrams Image, New York, N.Y. n a time of unrest for many Muslims around the world, “Muslims of the World,” a book based on the popular Instagram account @MuslimsoftheWorld1, seeks to tell this global population’s diverse stories. Profusely illustrated with photographs (by Ala Hamdan), each chapter focuses on different aspects of Islam and the many cultures it encompasses, offering tales of love, family and faith while empowering Muslimahs, refugees and people of color. Yasmin Mogahed correctly observes that this book seeks to unite people of all cultures and faiths by sharing the hopes, trials and tribulations of Muslims from every walk of life.


How to Read Islamic Calligraphy Maryam D. Ekhtiar 2018. Pp. 156 + 141 color illus. PB. $25.00 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y. khtiar introduces the five major Islamic calligraphic script types, demonstrates their distinctive visual characteristics and explains the various contexts in which each one came to be used — transcribing the Qur’an, composing poetry or issuing written edicts from the sultan’s court. Numerous examples illustrate how the master-to-pupil model of transmitting these styles and techniques was fundamental to this art’s flourishing, and how handwriting models from the 10th century onward continue to inspire students of calligraphy today. This book, produced by New York’s resource-rich Metropolitan Museum of Art, is an accessible introduction to the Islamic world’s quintessential art form.


Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West Roberto Tottoli, ed. 2018. Pp. 492. PB. $53.95. HB. $255.00 Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, New York, N.Y. slam has long been a part of the West in terms of religion, culture, politics and society. Discussing this interaction from the time of al-Andalus to the present day, this volume explores the influence Islam has had and continues to exert, particularly its impact on host societies, culture and politics. Offering readers a range of perspectives from scholars based in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East, it challenges both Western and Muslim perceptions. It is also an excellent resource for policymakers and academics interested in the history of Islam, religion and the contemporary relationship between Islam and the West.


The Islamic World: A History in Objects Ladan Akbarnia, Venetia Porter, Fahmida Suleman, William Greenwood, Zeina Klink-Hoppe and Amandine Merat 2018. Pp. 272. 400+ illus. HB. $39.95 Thames & Hudson, New York, N.Y. his lavishly illustrated book represents the British Museum’s Islamic collection and explores the Islamic world through superb art objects and cultural artifacts dating from the 7th century to the present day. Its six chapters also offer a fresh approach to the Islamic world’s history. The authors provide accompanying text for the wide variety of objects depicted, which range from architectural decoration, ceramics, jewelry and metalwork to calligraphy, textiles, musical instruments, coins, illustrated manuscripts and modern and contemporary art.


In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism Scott A. Shay 2018. Pp. 640. HB. $35.00 Post Hill Press, New York, N.Y. eligion can be both inspiring and distressing, and the many critiques of it are simultaneously compelling and dubious. Shay examines atheist arguments about the most fundamental questions related to faith and reason with a refreshing modern eye. He argues that prominent atheists claim the Bible is a racist text, and yet Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. read it daily, as did many ardent segregationists. Some atheists claim that religion oppresses the masses, and yet a priest wrote the classic text of the French Revolution: “What is the Third Estate?” On the other hand, the revolutionaries ended up banning religion. Given all of this, what are we to make of religion’s confusing role in history? As for its relationship to science, some scientists claim that we have no free will whereas others argue that advances in neurobiology and physics disprove determinism. As for whispering to the universe, “an absurd habit” according to skeptics, prayer remains a transformative practice for millions. This exploration of the most common atheist critiques of the Bible and religion, incorporating Jewish, Christian and Muslim voices, encourages a reevaluation of religion and atheism.


Muslims in a Post-9/11 America: A Survey of Attitudes and Beliefs and Their Implications for U.S. National Security Policy Rachel M. Gillum 2018. Pp. 248 + 15 tables, 1 map, 18 charts. HB. $75.00 University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, Mich. illum examines how public fears about Muslims in the U.S. compare with the reality of Muslim Americans’ attitudes on a range of relevant issues. While most of her research focuses on Arab Muslims, a quarter of this specific population segment, Gillum includes the perspectives of African American Muslims, as well as of those of Pakistani, Iranian, or Eastern European descent. Muslim readers especially may note her connection to the RAND Corporation, a source of many Islamophobic reports and initiatives. Unsurprisingly, the book carries a blurb by George W. Bush’s secretary of state and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, a member of the famous “Iraq has WMDs” crowd.


The Heart of Aleppo: A Story of the Syrian Civil War Ammar Habib 2018. Pp. 250. PB. $11.99 CreateSpace Independent Publishing eparated from his family on the night Aleppo was attacked — a 7,000-year-old city ruined overnight — Zaid Kadir, 13, is lost in the middle of a war zone. Along with his friends and forced to survive the dangers of a civil war that he does not fully understand, Zaid witnesses its destruction as it grows deadlier by the day. Braving this destruction, he desperately tries to survive and discovers that humanity’s spirit of hope burns brightest in the darkest hours.  ih




JERUSALEM: A Childhood A Muslim heart is rekindled with the glories of the Holy City BY MISBAHUDDIN MIRZA


t was time to board our flight at the airport in Istanbul. We – myself, my wife and our youngest son – reached the check-in counter, where the uniformed woman asked, “What’s the purpose of your visit to Israel?” I was surprised, for this question is usually asked when one arrives in a different country. I almost blurted out, “Seriously sister? Don’t you know that this was a province under your Seljuk and Ottoman sultans?” But I held back because she was not a Turk, but an Israeli officer based at the airport. “For pilgrimage,” I replied. She took out a swab, lightly touched my wife’s hijab, analyzed the swab and then let us through the boarding gate. As we landed in Tel Aviv, my mind was bubbling with a many thoughts. This was my first trip to Masjid al-Aqsa — a dream I had harbored since I was a young kid growing up in Hyderabad, now occupied and part of an Indian province. I looked at the tarmac — no valiant Seljuks or invincible Janissaries in sight. But no evil-looking Mossad agents either, just airport maintenance personnel. The arrivals lounge was teeming with people. There was a row of counters, each with a very long queue. Upon reaching it, the officer asked, “Purpose of your visit?” while glancing at my wife and our teenage son. I would hear this and other questions several times during our 36-hour visit. Finally she handed back our stack of papers and gave us three visa tickets. At the airport taxi stand, a uniformed woman asked about our destination, handed us a printout and instructed a waiting taxi

driver to ferry us to Jerusalem. We discovered later that our taxi had white license plates, instead of the yellow Palestinian license plates. Our ride was smooth, for we were not stopped at any checkpoints due to the taxi’s license plates. Our taxi driver was a Jewish settler from Kazakhstan. The highway was almost deserted — no overpasses — just a plain stretch of well-maintained roadway. We saw a series of alternating barren and unpopulated areas followed by small towns situated away from the highway. We could see that every populated area had modern-looking mosques/ minarets. A harmless looking-wall stretching to the horizon ran parallel to the highway. The driver responded that this was the Separation Wall (also known as the Security Fence); many non-Israelis call it the Apartheid Wall. We arrived in the city’s new section, which he said is unofficially known as “Brooklyn.” It’s full of Jewish people in their cultural clothing, teeming with young, noisy children. Everything was new and sleek: the paved streets, the sidewalks, the playgrounds, the buses and so on. It looked like part of a wealthy European city. “See, no trouble. All peaceful. Don’t believe television. Everything okay in Israel. You see,” our talkative driver remarked. The taxi made its way toward Old Jerusalem. We didn’t need to be told that we were now in the Muslim area — unplanned, shabby-looking buildings were everywhere, heavily congested commercial space competed with residential space, littered streets and putrid smells emanating from overflowing trash dumpsters.


Before noticing the Old City’s walls, we were overcome with an indescribable feeling. All of a sudden you feel completely calm, for the stress disappears. The feeling was so serene, surreal and palpable that I looked out the other side’s window. We were right across from the Damascus Gate — a stone’s throw from where the Prophet (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) had ascended to the heavens and then led all of the earlier prophets in prayer, thereby signifying Islam’s superseding of earlier religions’ claims of spiritual supremacy. This, according to the Quran, is Masjid al-Aqsa. There really is something very special about this place that connects to your sixth sense with some sort of holy vibe. The hotel was certainly not four-star, but I wouldn’t have stayed anywhere else because this location allowed me to experience first hand the lives of the Palestinians, their culture, quiet dignity and courage in the face of overwhelming colonization. The staff ’s directions on how to get to Masjid al-Aqsa, and later on to other local areas and restaurants on foot, were clear: Cross the street, pass through the Damascus Gate, walk straight through the marketplace, bear left where the street forks, and you’ll soon find an entrance to the Haram al-Shareef on your left. Just inside the Damascus Gate is a crowded marketplace full of vegetables and fruits, trinkets and souvenirs, clothes and countless other items. One would never see such an impoverished area even in any of India’s small city marketplaces. And yet the area had the fascinating old world charm

Dream Comes True of Mamluk architecture that makes one immune to the stench and the puddles. But the most striking feature is the neatly dressed people, who carry themselves around with amazing dignity and self-respect. We entered through the Bab al-Mathara Gate and paused to admire the beautiful architecture of the fountain built by the Mamluk sultan Qaitbey (d. 1496). We then walked up the steps, through the qanatir (arcade) to the magnificent Qubat al-Sakhra (Dome of the Rock) Mosque, one of the several mosques, structures and open grounds that collectively constitute the 38 acres of the Masjid al-Aqsa. The al-Aqsa complex is extremely serene and peaceful. I visualized ‘Umar’s (radi Allahu ‘anh) army praying here and Salahuddin Ayyubi retaking it from the Crusaders. The Qubat al-Sakhra Masjid, an architectural marvel, contains the rock from which the Prophet ascended to the heavens directly below its dome. The small cave located under rock is accessible from the side. Qubat al-Sakhra is always full of Muslimah volunteers, known as Murabitat, who are also present in the ladies’ section of the Qibli masjid and scattered in small groups throughout al-Aqsa. When there are no security restrictions, their male counterparts (Murabiteen) are present as well. Armed only with cell phones, they are there to protect Masjid al-Aqsa from intrusions by Zionist groups. When we told the souvenir store owner that we were from New Jersey, he exclaimed, “Welcome home!” I felt a sudden surge of emotion. Yes, this holy place really feels like home; I could easily spend the rest of my life here. We were in the Holy Land for less than two days and took full advantage of every minute. We prayed in al-Aqsa and,

between the prayer times, walked through the important places. Unfortunately, the hop on-hop off bus tour of Jerusalem had been cancelled. At the end of our visit, we took another taxi. As it approached the checkpoint, we saw a soldier waving through all of the cars

we had stayed at and so on. I answered him carefully and patiently. Asking the driver to open the trunk, he beckoned the leaning soldier, who came over with the dog, to sniff our luggage. After what seemed like an eternity, he handed back our passports and said, “Have a nice day.”

WHEN WE TOLD THE SOUVENIR STORE OWNER THAT WE WERE FROM NEW JERSEY, HE EXCLAIMED, “WELCOME HOME!” I FELT A SUDDEN SURGE OF EMOTION. YES, THIS HOLY PLACE REALLY FEELS LIKE HOME; I COULD EASILY SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE HERE. with white license plates. Our taxi, which had yellow license plate, was directed toward a checkpoint. A soldier with a machine gun slung across his chest was questioning the taxi driver of the car stopped in front of us, while another machine gun-wielding soldier with a dog was looking at the person being questioned. Finally, they allowed that car to pass. In the meantime, a soldier in the booth had already asked for our passports and asked me a couple of questions. The second one then took our passports from him and began questioning our taxi driver. After a while I started wondering what would happen next. Will our taxi driver panic and make a break for it? Will the soldier with the dog, who was now eyeing our taxi, start shooting? Is there a bulletproof screen between the driver’s side and the passenger’s side? It was an eerie, uncomfortable feeling. The soldier eventually came over and asked our reason for visiting, the hotel

In the airport entrance lobby, a person in civilian clothes stopped us and asked for our passports, as did another person at the airport entrance door and then the immigration counter. This last official beckoned to one of her male superiors, who came over and asked, “So you came to visit al-Aqsa? How did you travel from your hotel to al-Aqsa? Did you travel to Ramallah?” Answering all of their question, we were allowed to proceed toward the departure gates, where a biometric scan of our eyes was recorded. I told the officer at the final door that he was the first Israeli I had met who spoke English without a regional accent (he had a British accent). He smiled and thanked me. Wow! In less than 48 hours I was able to make two Israelis smile.  ih Misbahuddin Mirza, M.S., P.E., a licensed professional engineer who served as the regional quality control engineer for the New York State Department of Transportation’s New York City area, is the author of the iBook “Illustrated Muslim Travel Guide to Jerusalem” and has written for major U.S. and Indian publications.



Kurdish-Iranian and Turkish Mathematicians Win Coveted Medals BY SAMEEN AHMED KHAN


aucher Birkar was one of four recipients of the contributions to public outreach in mathematics education, honors 2018 Fields Medals at the 2018 International Congress of his father's Nesin Matematik Köyü (Nesin Village of Mathematics). Mathematicians (ICM), held on Aug. 1-9 in Rio de Janeiro, The Village, opened 11 years ago in a remote region more than Brazil. The award, named for the Canadian mathematician 600 kilometers from Istanbul. His 13.5-acre village, approximately John Charles Fields (1863-1932) and often 7.5 acres of which consist of olive groves, is called the Nobel Prize of mathematics, is given located just a few miles from the Greek and to up to four persons who are under 40, every Byzantine ruins of Şirince and Selçuk. The four years. initiative, which runs both short-and longThe citation released by the International term math courses, open-air discussions and Congress of the International Mathematical university summer camps, is bringing the area Union reads: “For the proof of the boundedness to international prominence. of Fano varieties and for contributions to the A special committee of the International minimal model program.” This medal (est. Mathematical Union (IMU) believes that Nesin 1936), which has been awarded to 60 people Village, which offers a chance for students to engross themselves in learning, research and so far, recognizes outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the intellectual exchanges, represents a milestone promise of future achievement. The award in increasing public engagement and interest in mathematics. money is $13,700. Professor Caucher Birkar Birkar (b. 1978) comes from Marivan, a The son of the eminent Turkish writer, subsistence-farming village in Iran’s westcomedian and satirist Aziz Nesin, Ali left ern Kurdish region. “My parents are farmhis position as an associate professor at the ers,” he remarks, “so I spent a huge amount University of California when his father asked of time actually doing farming.” While in him to take over his non-profit organizathe middle-school, his elder brother Haidar tion: the Nesin Foundation (www.tpfund. introduced him to more advanced matheorg/my-tpf/nesin). The foundation works matical techniques (e.g., differentiation and to provide housing and education to at-risk integration). His curiosity was awakened by children until they finish their university algebraic geometry, which had also attracted education. the attention of such earlier regional greats Upon returning to Turkey, in 1995 Ali founded the mathematics department of like Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) and Sharaf al-Din al-Tusi (1135-1213). Istanbul’s Bilgi University. During this tranSeeing portraits of past Fields winners at sition, he noticed students’ difficulties and the University of Tehran, where he earned The Fields Medal (front): Archimedes facing realized that the foundation could add somehis bachelor’s degree (2000), inspired him to right. The inscription reads “To transcend one’s thing new to its repertoire — summer courses spirit and take hold of (or to master) the world. become a mathematician. That same year, he for young students entering university-level took asylum in the U.K. Four years later, mathematics courses. By 2007, he had created the village. he obtained his PhD at the University of Nottingham. He is currently a full proAs word spread, demand for the fessor at the University of Cambridge, village’s courses grew. Now, it is open to U.K. He and his Thai wife Tarn have a all student, from the primary school to 4-year-old son named Zanko. the doctoral level, captivated by mathIn 2014 the Iranian Maryam ematics. Approximately 1,000 pupils Mirzakhani became the award’s first pass through its olive grove-strewn and so far only female winner. She died grounds every year, supported by volin July 2017 after a battle with cancer Ali Nesin unteer teachers from around the world. at the age of forty. More than recognition solely from the IMU, the Leelavanti is a mark Visionary Turkish mathematician Ali Nesin, 60, became the third of appreciation from the international mathematics community.  ih person to be awarded the International Congress of Mathematicians’ Dr. Sameen Ahmed Khan, assistant professor, Department of Mathematics and Sciences, Leelavati Prize on Aug. 8. The award, which recognizes outstanding College of Arts and Applied Sciences, Dhofar University, Salalah, Oman. 50    ISLAMIC HORIZONS  NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2018


Thinking Bioethically: Using the Maqasid al-Sharī‘ah to Understand Islamic Morality A reasoned approach to the controversies around medical marijuana BY ANAS M. QATANANI AND AASIM I. PADELA


he increasing marketing and use of medical marijuana — which is any part of the marijuana plant that you use to treat health problems — raises ethical questions for Muslims: What are our stances on medical marijuana use and public policy given that the Qur’an forbids intoxicants (5:90) and consequently Islamic law prohibits the recreational use of drugs? Some argue that if such a substance helps to preserve someone’s life or their coping with illness-related harms Islamic law should accommodate such use. They suppose that since Islam prioritizes the saving of life, medical uses of marijuana cannot be categorically banned. Others hold that the prohibition is categorical. In order to resolve this quandary, Muslims must deeply understand the values, and apply the rulings of, the Sharī‘ah. However, many of us do not have the requisite knowledge of Islamic law for such reasoning exercises. Hence we often stick with implementing fiqhi rules, simplifying Islam into a rulebook of dos and don’ts, right and wrong, halal and haram. Such simplistic application has the potential to empty our deen of its intrinsic moral message and turn our acts into soulless habits. To combat robotically-performed activities and give heart to our practices, scholars teach us the Divine wisdoms and legal rationale behind fiqhi rulings. For example, the importance of salah (prayer) is taught through reflection on the Arabic root word silah (connection) which motivated us to think of prayer as a way to connect with our Creator; such teaching reminds us of the ultimate purpose of our existence and gives motivates us to beautify our obligatory acts. 51    ISLAMIC HORIZONS

The maqasid al-Sharī‘ah (the overarching objectives of Islamic law) reveal the otherworldly interests being served through our acts of obedience and the human values and interests reflected in its rulings, thereby re-framing the human actions as the center of those rulings. Moreover, they offer a framework for applying the Sharī‘ah when human interests are not immediately clear. The Sharī‘ah includes legal rulings and moral guidance derived from scholarly understandings of the Quran, the Sunnah and other religious sources. The principles of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) both outline and prioritize the religious sources

of knowledge, which are used to guide the derivation of legal rulings (fiqh). Usul al-fiqh provides a methodology that allows scholars to extend the Shariah to different times and places. It is important to recognize that the Sharī‘ah serves our benefits and interests (tahqeeq al-masalih) in both this life and the Hereafter. For example Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 1350) said: “Verily, the Sharī‘ah is founded upon wisdom and welfare for the servants [believers] in this life and the afterlife. In its entirety it is justice, mercy, benefit, and wisdom. Every matter which abandons justice for tyranny, mercy for cruelty, benefit for corruption, and wisdom for foolishness is not a part of the Sharī‘ah even if it was introduced therein by an interpretation” (I’lām al-Muwaqqi’īn 3/11). Since the Sharī‘ah is fountainhead of Islamic morality, and it seeks to serve our (human) interests, jurists must discern the interests the Sharī‘ah validates in order to extend and apply its rulings. And we, as lay people, can better understand the rationale behind the rulings if we were to understand the human interests the Sharī‘ah seeks to preserve.

THE MAQASID Imam al-Shafi’i (d. 820; al-Shafi’i, “Risala: Treatise on the Foundations of Islamic Jurisprudence” [Islamic Texts Society, reissue ed., 1997]) was arguably the first scholar to write formally on the maqasid al-Sharī‘ah. He used the Quran, Sunnah and Sharī‘ah to describe core values Islamic law is designed to preserve “the five essentials”: religion (deen), life (nafs), mind (‘aql), progeny/integrity (nasl) and property (maal). These overarching objectives undergird Islamic law, and identifying these makes it possible for us to


FEATURE understand the ensuing the legal rulings, for they all serve one or more of these essentials. The Shariah is constantly growing to meet the needs of more people, places, times and circumstances. When the Quran and Sunnah provide no clear guidance on new situations, qualified scholars must undertake ijtihad (independent reasoning). This has been the case since the time of the Companions (‘alayhi rahmat), who used it to apply the Shariah to in just such cases. The maqasid are especially important in this regard, for they expand the

MEDICAL MARIJUANA AND THE MAQASID Take the contemporary issue of medical marijuana. The recreational use of marijuana is forbidden because it harms individuals and society. Although its use does not threaten one’s deen and nafs, as a mind-altering drug it does harm the preservation of one’s mind by altering mental states and thus is judged immoral. But what about medical marijuana, which is increasingly being touted for its benefits in health care settings today?

AS A FRAMEWORK TO ORGANIZE OUR THOUGHT PROCESSES, THE MAQASID CAN SERVE AS A COMPLEMENTARY MODEL TO CONTEMPORARY SECULAR BIOETHICS BY BRIDGING SCRIPTURAL AND WORLDLY SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE. discussion on determining and prioritizing our interests so that new fiqh can be generated and our interests preserved. The elements of the maqasid, which exist as a hierarchy, must be prioritized before performing ijtihad. Scholars differ on the exact hierarchy and thus say that its five elements should be prioritized based on the specific case being analyzed. The maqasid provide a framework in which to consider and discuss human interests when generating new laws. They help us think in a structured way by making the preservation of human interests, both this worldly and otherworldly, our ultimate goal. When performing ijtihad, the maqasid guide and direct the scholars according to the following basic assumptions: (1) All legal rulings should ensure our interests or prevent harm; (2) If the interests are contradictory, the larger interest is prioritized; (3) If the harms are contradictory, preventing the larger harm is prioritized; and (4) If the interests and the harms are contradictory, preventing the harm is prioritized. The maqasid, which are used in all fields that secure human interests or generate legal rulings, are invaluable tools for dealing with contemporary policy issues, given their multidimensionality. For the laity, thinking in terms of the maqasid can help us in moral deliberation about the “Islamic” position on an issue, although Islamic jurists are needed furnish rulings and scholarly opinions.

From a simplistic maqasid lens one must think about which interests are harmed and which preserved. If one holds preservation of life to be a higher-order interest than preservation of intellect, one could argue that in cases of life-threat and the only treatment being marijuana, Islamic law might permit it. However marijuana is not known to cure any specific disease. Rather, its benefits are related to relief of pain, nausea, and depressed mood. Hence it is not clear an argument based on preservation of life can be advanced, the bar might be too high. Yet some could argue that quality of life might be enhanced by reducing pain, nausea, and elevating mood, and that in some instances medical marijuana is not only the optimal therapeutic but the only one available. Here Islamic jurists must weigh in on how to balance the possible harm to preservation of intellect with possible benefit to preservation of life. It is incredibly important to recognize that each of the maqasid have dimensions, daruri (necessary), haji (need), and tahsini (enhancement), and that a risks and benefits must be thought about in terms of which aspect of the specific human interest in at-risk or is benefited. Cases of extreme pain may be a necessary aspect of preservation of life, while less severe cases only reach the level of need or enhancement. Similarly the loss of mental faculties also has gradations where some confusion is


tolerable but loss of consciousness due to similar gradations in the human interest of preserving intellect.


Using the maqasid framework reveals the core human interests behind Islamic law, helps individuals prioritize among them, and delineates the rational bases Islamic law is built upon. While the objectives of certain fiqh rulings might not be immediately clear to a layperson, the maqasid are easier to understand. They are more human-centric and bring to the forefront how the Sharī‘ah is made to benefit human beings and show us that our interests are met by following the Sharī‘ah. As a framework to organize our thought process, the maqasid can also be joined with other ethical frameworks to, among other things, serve as a complementary model to conventional bioethics by bridging scriptural and worldly sources of knowledge. The maqasid allow secular conversations to focus on human benefits, thereby shifting the conversation on Islamic law toward a conversation on human interests. Understanding the Shariah’s human-centric nature thus equips us with the vocabulary needed to engage society in a dialogue on identifying and then preserving our interests. However, we need to realize that the maqasid also have some important limitations, most notably that despite the long history of scholarship in this field, it remains a theoretical framework that is still being developed. We therefore rely on scholars who have a comprehensive grasp of the Sharī‘ah, the maqasid and types of interests, as well as those who are fully qualified to assess the benefits and harms of a legal ruling when applying them as a framework. As students of knowledge, our goal in learning these objectives is to observe the Sharī‘ah’s human-centric nature because that mindset allows us to see it not only as a code of law, but also as a system that serves the ultimate human good.  ih Anas M. Qatanani (BS [Honors], Drexel University, 2018) is an MD student at Philadelphia’s Drexel University College of Medicine. During the summer of 2018 he completed a medical student internship at the Initiative on Islam and Medicine at the University of Chicago. Aasim I. Padela MD MSc is associate professor of medicine and director of the Initiative on Islam and Medicine at the University of Chicago. [Editor’s Note. Research for this article was carried out as part of Anas Qatanani’s internship program, which is underwritten by Drs. Skina and Hossam Fadel.]

Is Retail Therapy the Answer?

Why would you ever want to waste your time, given that it can never be increased? BY HABEEBA HUSAIN


he fall season just does something to me. As the summer months bid farewell and the temperatures slowly begin to dip, my excitement builds and builds. The colors of the leaves highlight the trees, the aroma of salted caramel and apple pie fills the air and the fashion turns modest for the entirety of my region. The crunch of the leaves under boots, the need for something warm in the morning and the anticipation of the first snowfall makes me all fuzzy inside. Needless to say, fall is my favorite season by far. But there’s something else about autumn — it makes me want to buy new things. More and more. The deep rich tones of the

cardigans, the shiny new boots and the fall jackets for when it’s a little chilly but not too cold yet — I spend time browsing it all. The advertisements and catalogues entice me more than they do at any other time of the year. It could be that the fall trends fit most easily into my hijab-friendly wardrobe. I don’t have to worry about getting hot, and the weather is finally appropriate to layer (something hijabis often need to do year round). Whatever the reason, my eyes are scanning the sales to stock up. I justify this by saying I hardly shop for myself during the remainder of the year and the fall trends genuinely bring me joy, so why not? But then the dreaded thought lingers in the back of my mind: What do I actually need?

Some days I find myself browsing endlessly through the shopping pages online. If I finally come across an item I want, I will try to find the best deal for it. Where is the free shipping? Any coupon codes? Paying full price is a rip off! A few days before writing this article, I drove out to a mall and spent three hours hunting for a new wallet … a gift card had been sitting in my bag for the past few months. I held different wallets in my hand, trying to get a feel for this one or that one. Plum or navy? Saffiano leather or pebbled? I circled the specialty store at least twice, only to walk out empty handed. I texted my friends as I got back into my car, “Why is shopping always such a disappointment?” It’s clear that a significant amount of time is invested into this whole consumerism ordeal. Trying to find something that speaks to you paired with an affordable price — that’s quite a rarity. But when it does happen, I’ve always argued that the time spent is worthwhile … but is it really? Writer Hayley Phelan, a contributor to publications such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, challenged herself earlier this year by engaging in a six-month shopping detox. After realizing that she had accumulated piles of stuff over



TAKE BENEFIT OF FIVE BEFORE FIVE: YOUR YOUTH BEFORE YOUR OLD AGE, YOUR HEALTH BEFORE YOUR SICKNESS, YOUR WEALTH BEFORE YOUR POVERTY, YOUR FREE TIME BEFORE YOU ARE PREOCCUPIED, AND YOUR LIFE BEFORE YOUR DEATH.” time, she avoided buying any fashion and style items for herself from January to June of 2018, knowing that she didn’t actually need any more pants. Her takeaways? Besides saving money, she discovered she had many more hours in the day. Skipping the boutique to take a peek and avoiding the online shopping rabbit hole to browse the latest things out there gave her a heck of a lot more time. “When I eventually did make a purchase, I may have saved a buck or two — or at least achieved a degree of confidence that I was getting my money’s worth — but I’d lost several hours of my life in the process. This, according to behavioral economists, is a poor trade: Since time is a finite commodity, it’s more valuable than money,” Phelan writes. Our Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) advises us to be mindful of both the time and money we have, among other blessings: “Take benefit of five before

five: Your youth before your old age, your health before your sickness, your wealth before your poverty, your free time before you are preoccupied, and your life before your death” (Narrated by Ibn Abbas and reported by Al Hakim). Our time and money are not to be wasted away browsing and purchasing items for which we have no need. Our nafs pushes us toward frivolous materialistic objects that, in reality, add nothing of real and lasting value to our lives. If the cellphone we purchased last year is working as good as it did right out of the package, must we spend another $1,500 on the latest model only 12 months later? If we already have a light jacket in excellent condition, do we need to spend hours looking for another one just because there are more attractive colors on the market? We all know the answer to these questions, and I too am very much guilty of caving in to my desires … especially in the fall.


Of course when there is a need, by all means spend your money and time providing for your family. This too is an honorable act in Islam. The Prophet said: “Without a doubt, when a Muslim spends money on his family while considering (the action as worship), it is an act of charity” (Ahmad, Bukhari and Muslim). Whether providing essentials like food, clothing and shelter, or simply giving a gift to increase the love in our relationships — spending time and money on family and friends is obviously encouraged. Buying what you need and occasionally allowing yourself to splurge on what you want is fine and dandy — no harm done. What we need to be mindful of, however, is the time we spend mindlessly browsing online and in-store. Are we going to the mall simply to kill time, or are we trying to fulfill a need in our lives? If it’s the former, we need to reanalyze how we are investing one of the greatest commodities we have — both according to Phelan’s economist sources and to our own deen — our time. This fall, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the sights, smells and sounds of the season. Most of it didn’t cost a dime; rather, they inspired moments of reflection and appreciation. That, I can confidently say, was time well spent.  ih Habeeba Husain, a freelance journalist based in New York/ New Jersey, contributes to SLAM Magazine, blogs for WhyIslam and is a social media manager for WuduGear. Her work has also appeared on and, among other online and print publications.

The Benefits and Responsibilities of the Freedom of Speech and Expression Questioning authority and long-held beliefs is not always a bad thing BY RAJA RAFI


was yet to be born when Salman Rushdie’s fourth novel “The Satanic Verses” was published. I am told that for the first few months it was rather unnoticed beyond the usual literary circles in which such people socialize. But once its contents became widely known, it caused an uproar, particularly in the Muslim world. Ironically enough, Iran’s supreme leader Imam Khomeni issued a fatwa calling for his execution on Feb. 14, 1989 — Valentine’s Day in the U.S. The ensuing protests and agitation soon caused Rushdie to go into hiding. As the rhetoric stands, the whole controversy and the fatwa itself signified something far more than an author of Muslim origin losing his faith and using his creative imagination to take an insensitive swipe at his former faith. The entire affair was supposed to be a prototype of East-West tensions, particularly between the latter and Islam. Tucked in between were arguments on “freedom of speech” and how the West has progressed, whereas the lands of Islam had remained entrenched in deep-rooted

ignorance and barbaric savagery, as reflected in its inhabitants’ reaction to Rushdie’s work of “fiction.” Before we go any further, let me clarify that I view Rushdie as a brilliant author. In


fact, his second novel, “Midnight’s Children,” remains one of the better books I have read and a very accurate portrayal of the subtleties of my own South Asian culture. I can’t think of any substantive reason as to why he decided to write a book like “The Satanic Verses” other than just an apostate’s burgeoning desire to vent his own psychological slurs of gradually losing his faith by mocking the ones from who he is trying to disassociate himself. The crux of Rushdie’s response to the fatwa and the criticism was that under the pretext of “free speech,” he could write whatever he wanted and that the ensuing uproar was the fault of Muslims, who were “rigid” and “intolerant” in their views on politics, the world and, above all, high art and literature. I am not an advocate of whatever Rushdie had to say and still mumbles to this day in media outlets through his ever-shrinking podcasts and columns. However, freedom of speech and expression are essential to initiating and driving social and intellectual revolution in any society, particularly when held up against centers of power and tyranny that lead to the pivotable moments in the play we call “world history.” The story of Galileo (d. 1642) standing up to the Vatican by questioning its geocentric model faced the wrath of the Catholic Church, is much documented in folklore. However, what is not told is that the heliocentric model he stood for was first articulated by Copernicus (d. 1543), who,



FEATURE as documented historical evidence shows, used theories and observatory methods developed by the 13th-century Maragha school astronomers of Muslim origin. The reason I use the shift to the heliocentric model (the Sun is the center of the solar system) from the geocentric model (the Earth is the center of the solar system) is because this shift holds a particular significant symbolic value in the continuum of global intellectual history. The realization that Earth is not the center of the universe and that humanity is not its ultimate focal point are the result of profound contemplation, an activity that would in part usher in the scientific revolution and change forever how we perceive them. And all of this was only made possible by questioning the Vatican’s authority and having the audacity to speak freely. From then until today, the scientific method’s fundamentals of questioning everything to overthrow false beliefs and incorrect theories — from Aristotle to Ptolemy; from Averroes, Copernicus and Galileo; to Newton and Einstein — has transformed the world. The scientific method, which fundamentally posited the right to challenge and speak freely against established beliefs, has moved humanity forward immensely, both materially and intellectually. However, I find something in “The Satanic Verses” affair and Rushdie’s defense of himself unsettling, despite my vehement support for constructive freedom of speech, expression and innovation. That said, why be disrespectful when no substantive higher purpose of progress is involved? Anyone who has read even a few pages of this book will wonder what higher purpose it serves, other than to distort known historical facts and show blatant disrespect toward figures and entities revered by more than a billion Muslims. Maybe Rushdie might have had a “higher purpose” in mind — perhaps trying to spur the Muslim intelligentsia out of its intellectual degradation so that it could progress. But in his defense, he has mentioned such a higher purpose only rarely, most of which revolves around his highlighting the Muslims’ intolerance and savagery. If such a higher purpose was involved, then one might give him some credit because today the lands of Islam indeed find themselves deeply entrenched in ignorance and an inability to engage in introspection and inquiry. The freedom of speech and expression is a powerful tool, but with this power also comes the responsibility to use it to make end goals more meaningful and to facilitate progress. For example, what would be the point of me shouting insensitive slurs about the Founding Fathers’ moral bankruptcy in front of Washington Monument, despite the availability of a great deal of historical evidence, without aspiring to a higher purpose by doing so? The Muslim world needs to become accustomed to the freedom of speech and expression that has thrived in the West for the past few centuries and ushered in what we now call modernity. But I don’t know how this can be achieved by using that freedom to show disrespect without having any constructive purpose in mind. And even the likes of Rushdie know that; he is too shrewd and well-read a man not to have realized this reality a long time ago.  ih Raja Rafi is MPA candidate 2018 at Cornell University.


In 2015, Dr. Shahid Athar (center) was recognized with the Golden Hoosier Award, presented by Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, left, and Dr. John Wernert, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administrations.

Shahid Athar

Healer, Thinker and Activist 1945-2018


r. Shahid Athar, MD, FACS, a pioneer and leader of Indianapolis’ Muslim American community, passed away on Aug. 4, 2018. An active and lifelong member of ISNA, he served as past president and co-chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee of the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), belonged to the Islamic Academy of Sciences and published many articles and seven books dealing with medicine, Islam, interfaith, spirituality, and medical ethics. A graduate of Patna University, India, he earned a degree in medicine from Dow Medical College, Karachi. Upon completing his residency in Chicago’s Cook County Hospital, he secured an endocrinology fellowship at Indiana University’s School of Medicine, where he was a clinical associate professor. A specialist in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism in private practice in Indianapolis since 1974, he was also on the staff at St. Vincent Hospital as well as a fellow of both the American College of Physicians and the American College of Endocrinology. He served as a board member for the Protection of Conscience Projects, St. Vincent Ethical Committee and IMANA. A socially conscious activist, Dr. Athar was the founding

For his interfaith activities, in 2002 the Indianapolis Medical Society gave him the Gov. Otis Bowen Award for Community Service. ISNA immediate past-president Azhar Azeez said, “I had the pleasure of working with him. He was a very humble and good human being who stood by ISNA for many years and served ISNA in various capacities and had also served on several committees. He will be greatly missed.”

Dr. A. Al-Jebawi, a fellow professional, said, “Being a physician, he was qualified not only to diagnose the diseases of the body, but of the soul, as well. He could easily recognize the ailments of the American society and the Muslim community with which he lived.” He is survived by his wife Nisreen; children Masood, Ahmed, Sabuhi and Ayesha: brother Javed Athar and brother-in-law Dr. Buland Ashraf.  ih

Ron Young A Bridge-builder 1942-2018

R president of the Islamic Society of Greater Indianapolis, a cofounder and past president of The Interfaith Alliance of Indiana (later the Center for Interfaith Cooperation, Carmel Interfaith Alliance), the Islamic Society of Greater Indianapolis, IMANA (a cofounder, president [2001-02] term and chair of its medical ethics committee [2003-06]). In addition, he served on the board of advisors for the International Association of Sufism and the international human rights organization the Protection of Consciousness Project. His many accomplishments were recognized by the bestowal of various awards, among them St. Vincent Hospital Internal Medicine Residency Teaching award (2001 and 2007), the American College of Physicians (Indiana chapter) Laureate Physician award (2007), the Distinguished Physician award at St. Vincent Hospital Indianapolis (2009), the Dr. Ahmed el-Kadi award (2011) for distinguished service to IMANA, the Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed Excellence in Interfaith award (2014) and the Golden Hoosier award (2015). In 2017, Mayor Jim Brainard of Carmel, Ind., proclaimed Nov. 19, 2017 “Dr. Shahid Athar Day” for his service to the community in medicine and interfaith relations and also bestowed upon him the Interfaith Ambassador of the Year award.

on Young, who served as consultant of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI) that he helped found in 2003, died on July 27, 2018, in Everett, Wash. A tireless advocate for Israeli-Palestinian peace and a two-state solution, he started the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East in 1986 after working in the region from 1982-85 for the American Friends Service Committee. His work with leaders of 25 U.S. Jewish, Christian and Muslim national religious organizations to develop united advocacy positions and mobilize public support for active, fair and firm U.S. leadership for Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace gained him wide respect for his holistic and balanced perspective. Building on its founding “Principles of Cooperation,” in November 2008 NILI’s religious leaders issued “A Window of Hope for the Peace of Jerusalem.” Building on the work of the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace organized by Ron in 1987, NILI was organized in 2003. During 2004-05, Ron met with local religious leaders in 40 cities. Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders met with Secretary of State Colin Powell (2004) and with Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes (2006). In June 2005 the Initiative organized 50 local host sites for a Town Meeting for Peace (via the Internet) sponsored by A Different Future with speakers from Jerusalem and Washington, DC. NILI leaders met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (2007) and met regularly with her deputy

thereafter. The religious leaders believed that the Annapolis Peace Conference (Nov. 27, 2007), the Arab Peace Initiative (2002), and the current emphasis on negotiations among the parties made interreligious efforts for peace important and timely. Ron spoke and wrote widely on the Middle East and interfaith cooperation, taught a course on the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Haverford College, organized the Interfaith Convocations for Peace, and generated statements and other resources endorsed by Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders. Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, now ISNA president, once said: “Ron Young has an unusual depth of experience in the whole area of understanding the realities of the Middle East. He also has a strong calling to help religious leaders work together for peace. He will contribute realistic hope and vision to those who are looking for understanding and some ways to be involved in reconciliation.” He is survived by his wife Carol Jensen, sons Jonah and Jamie Jensen-Young and sister Judy.  ih



Active until the last moment: Dr. Khan (front right) is seen here with other scholars at the MuslimChristian Dialogue in Garden Grove, Calif., on March 16, 2018.

Irfan Ahmad Khan

An activist and contemporary scholar of the Quran BY AHMADULLAH SIDDIQI Dr. Irfan Ahmad Khan, a model student of the Quran and a contemporary scholar of Islam and Western philosophy, passed away at the age of 87 on April 3, 2018, in Chicago. Born in Saharanpur, India (1931), he graduated in physical sciences (B.S. 1956) from Aligarh Muslim University and pursued traditional higher studies in the Islamic sciences at Rampur (1956-58) in an institution specially designed for graduates of Western universities. After receiving his Master’s degree in philosophy, he taught both it and Islamic theology at Aligarh until 1973, when he left for the U.S. Khan, who admired the philosophers Immanuel Kant and Rene Descartes, earned a

master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1977 and a doctorate in Western philosophy in 1986. Khan was a visionary who always sought to fulfill the needs of his community and humanity at large. While in India, he helped found the All India Students Islamic Movement. In the U.S., he was among the founding trustees of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, founding president of the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations, founder and director of the Association of Quranic Understanding, a member of the International Peace Committee and founding president of the Inter-religious Engagement Project.


But his true passion and profession were teaching the Quran and emphasizing that it is a blessing of God with which all of us should have a live relationship. He helped people connect with the sacred text so that they could both understand it and live by its teachings, as well as realize that everyone should develop a direct and personal relationship with God’s word. A world citizen who inspired people regardless of their nationality, race, ethnicity or religion, his complete trust in and relationship with God led him to work for many causes without worrying about resources Another passion, bringing people of different faiths together to create a better understanding of them and their religions, was grounded in his firm belief in interreligious dialogue and opinion that all people were servants of the same God. He often spoke of co-uboodiyah, which he defined as all people worshipping the same deity together and thereby living together in peace. Khan always

reminded everyone that being Muslim means being a better human being, that God creates every member of humanity and that its unity of humanity is necessary to bringing peace to our world. He tried his best to bring down the walls of hatred, which followers of different religions have erected around them.

entities of our common external world, he appears to be concerned with reality only so far as it is thinkable, for “when thought runs out of what it can think, it becomes the upper limit of our knowing” (Irfan Khan, “Authenticity and Development of Islamic Thought,” International Journal of Islamic

HE HELPED PEOPLE CONNECT WITH THE SACRED TEXT SO THAT THEY COULD BOTH UNDERSTAND IT AND LIVE BY ITS TEACHINGS, AS WELL AS REALIZE THAT EVERYONE SHOULD DEVELOP A DIRECT AND PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD’S WORD. Khan’s connectivity allowed him to feel the pain of people, a quality that caused him to try his best to help them. Basing his actions on his understanding of the Quran, which was both authentic and progressive, he spent his life cultivating a personal relationship with it. Not content with acquiring an intellectual understanding of its text and contents by studying its language, theology or law, he sought to enter into the Quran’s spirit by internalizing it and making it his own. He was influenced by Moulana Hamid al-Din Farahi (d. 1930), who had developed a unique methodology of understanding the Quran. According to him, “there is a structural and thematic coherence in each individual surah (chapter of the Quran), among surahs of a group, among the adjacent group of surahs and the Quran as a whole” (Tanveer Azmat, “An Introduction to the Qur’anic Hermeneutic of Irfan Khan,” Islamic Studies, 56:1-2, p.78). Moulana Farahi claimed that “nazm is the only characteristic of a text (kalam) that establishes correct direction [of meaning] (Hamid al-Din Farahi, “Majmuah-i Tafsir-i Farahi,” trans. Amin Ahsan Islahi: Lahore, Faran Foundation, 1991; quoted in Azmat, op. cit.). Khan also applied his knowledge of modern philosophy to study the many ways in which Muslims have understood the Quran. His Ph.D. dissertation, “The ThingEvent Distinction,” is a valuable addition to the contemporary literature on event theory and is considered by many philosophers as basic and highly inspiring for a better comprehension of metaphysics. While he seeks conceptual clarity concerning some

and Arabic Studies, 4, no. 2, 1987, p.18; quoted in Azmat, op. cit., p.81.). However, he underlines that human thought keeps advancing due to the continuous progress of knowledge in science, technology, philosophy, literature and the fine arts. Combining the Quranic and philosophical epistemologies to study the sacred text, he argues that the God-given capabilities of sam’a, basara and fu’ad (hearing, seeing and thinking /intuiting) help one live a more well-informed and well-intentioned life. He points toward the person’s inherent qualities of being able to judge between right and wrong, as well as his/her abilities to become spiritually enriched, acquire God-consciousness and receive prophetic guidance. These capabilities enable them to read and then reflect upon the Quran so that they can benefit themselves as well as others by its teachings. However, none of this can happen unless one has a dynamic, uncoerced and unhindered relationship with God, the Prophet and the Quran. Throughout his life, Irfan Khan strove to liberate people from the slavery of thoughts, people, scholars and everything that destroys human creativity. He urged Muslims to work hard, to learn classical Arabic so they could benefit from the exegeses and works of past scholars and, ultimately, dive deep into the Quran’s riches and thereby become ambassadors of God’s message in a true sense. Concerned about pseudo-scholarship and pseudo-scholars, he argued that Muslims remain behind others because they have left thinking to other peoples and nations. He emphasized dynamism and creativity as

hallmarks of progress, and viewed the Quran as the most dynamic book and Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as humanity’s most progressive person. In recognition of his contributions to learning, last year ISNA presented him with its Interfaith & Community Service Recognition Award during the annual convention. Irfan Khan’s published works include “Reflections on the Qur’an: Understanding Surahs al-Fatiha and al-Baqarah” (Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation, 2005); “Understanding the Qur’an with Examples” (Chicago, Association of Qur’anic Understanding, 2011); “An Exercise in Understanding the Quran: An Outline Study of the Last Thirty Divine Discourses (Surah 85-Surah 114) (Chicago: Kazi Publications) various articles and many video recording of his Quranic lectures. In the early 19602, he co-edited “Islamic Thought.” He is survived by Shamim Akthar, his wife of more than 60 years, daughters Nusba Parveen, Husna Ahmad, Bushra Islam and Saba Khan, son Salman, brothers Ehtasham, Afzal, Iqbal and Rehan, sisters Ayesha Jamal and Rehana Bilquis and 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and thousands of disciples, friends and well-wishers.  ih Dr. Ahmadullah Siddiqi is the dean of academic and student affairs at Northwest Suburban College in Rolling Meadows, a Chicago suburb.

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Flood Tablet / Deluge Tablet, Nippur, Iraq (17th century BC) Gift of the Sultan; Babylonian Expedition to Nippur, 1896


The Penn Museum Houses Ancient Middle Eastern Artifacts in the U.S. War, the theft and/or destruction of regional artifacts, and the gradual erasure of local memory BY KENNETH WAHRENBERGER


any young Americans visit art and cultural museums before reaching adolescence, as had the 6-year-olds I used to guide through the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As a result, metropolitan-based Americans have some idea of the cultural heritage of both the U.S. and of other countries. But one recent exhibition, the Penn Museum’s “Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq” (ended on Nov. 27, 2018), made me aware that the same cannot be said of the Levant region. At the forefront of this reality is the 2011 Syrian civil war, which has wreaked havoc on the cultural identity of one of the world’s oldest civilizations. All six of Syria’s World Heritage Sites have been on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage in Danger since 2013, and the world-renowned museums in Raqqa, Palmyra and Aleppo have been looted or harmed, all because of the ISIS militants’ iconoclastic crusade. ISIS shocked the world in early 2015 when they released videos showing the destruction of ancient artifacts from the Mosul Museum and the disfigurement of monuments from Nimrud and Nineveh. Still more shocking was the profit they made from black-market sales. Throughout the 19th- and 20th-centuries, Western powers deprived the region of its cultural heritage while amassing impressive colonial treasure chests of ancient Near Eastern artifacts. The now abolished practice of partage, which spells out the stated percentage of object ownership between the governing body that owns the archeological dig site and the foreign research organization sponsoring the project, enabled Westerners to cart off literally millions of items. More recently, as U.S. troops were entering Baghdad in April 2003, gangs of thieves stole an estimated 15,000 items from the National Museum of Iraq over an unbroken 48-hour period. Responding to claims that such heinous cultural vandalism was due to an oversight by the invading military forces, Department of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld remarked, “Stuff happens.” The international community has, to its credit, spent the last 15 years trying to locate the lost objects. In 2010, Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby exacerbated the issue by purchasing more than 5,500 Iraqi objects with suspicious origins from dealers in the U.A.E. and Israel. In 2017 the company, which financed Washington D.C.’s recently opened Museum of the Bible (, agreed to



pay a $3 million fine and return thousands of artifacts. The Iraqi objects were allegedly smuggled into the U.S. using false shipping labels, inaccurate item descriptions, phony invoices and other unlawful trafficking tactics. In May 2018 Hobby Lobby finally handed them over to Iraq’s ambassador to the U.S. The University of Pennsylvania, which sent the first on-site U.S. archeological expedition to historic Mesopotamia in 1887, now possesses over 100,000 artifacts whose origins span more than 10,000 years. In April 2018, its museum reopened its Middle East galleries after a 3-year, $5 million renovation project to showcase 1,200 of its finest holdings. The Penn Museum was established in 1887 to house the first expedition’s findings in Nippur, an ancient Sumerian city in Iraq. The new galleries reveal an array of Nippur’s cuneiform tablets, ancient Mesopotamia’s earliest system of writing. In 1922, Penn began working with the British Museum to uncover the Royal Cemetery of Ur (Tell al-Muqayyar, Iraq). Among the displayed bounty from Ur is a rich gold, silver and blue lapis lazuli statue of a ram in a thicket and a lyre fragment depicting a bull’s head. To top it off, a 6’7” relief of a winged bearded man (genie) from the palace of Nimrud’s Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II towers over the gallery; ISIS damaged the original site in 2015. The expansive collection is marvelously curated, with digital interfaces enhancing the visitor’s access to the artifacts’ history. A floor above, the “Cultures in the Crossfire” exhibition delivered a heart-wrenching view of the loss of material culture through 50 artifacts from the permanent ancient Near East and Mediterranean collection. Other exhibition items include Arabic manuscripts from the UPenn Libraries, audio and video recordings, and contemporary installations by Syrian-born artist Issam Kourbaj (http:// As one enters the exhibition space, video monitors juxtapose footage of ISIS mutilations of artifacts and Kourbaj’s first work — a video of him repetitively lighting and then dropping matchsticks into a pile to evoke his homeland’s loss of life and culture. A mound of charred matchsticks lies beneath the monitor. Roman Palmyrene funerary reliefs show how the university has preserved artifacts despite the militants’ mass destruction of similar statues. The exhibition also highlights this tortured region’s cultural diversity

Seljuk illuminated Quran with interlinear commentary. Written and illuminated in Hamadān, Iran, in Jumada al-Awwal 559 AH (1164 CE)

by playing its diverse music and filling the middle of the room with home-related objects: a lute with English and Arabic inlaid script, a Hebrew bowl, a Kurdish doll and an illuminated Quran. Here, Kourbaj’s work speaks again to today’s Syria. Inspired by 5th-century bce Syrian sea vessels, he fashioned old metal bicycle mudguards into miniature boats crowded with burnt matchsticks to depict refugees sailing into the bleak unknown. Kourbaj’s use of numerous burnt matchsticks in both installations represents the physical and emotional damage that the wars have inflicted on the populous. The university’s Penn Cultural Heritage Center helps Syrians and Iraqis preserve the cultural heritage of communities at risk of destruction. Relevant information on Penn’s funding and researchers at work were displayed throughout the exhibition. This effort, dubbed the SHOSI Project (https://global., bombproofs museums and trains locals how to conserve and document artifacts. Penn’s archeological explorations in the Muslim world do not stop with Syria and Iraq. The museum houses one of the largest collections of ancient Egyptian and Nubian artifacts in the U.S., with the majority of the 42,000 items obtained through archeological research in the region. A key highlight in the Egyptian collection is a 13-ton sphinx — the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

In contemporary times, Penn has sponsored and conducted archeological projects in Oman, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and historic Palestine. In Egypt, the university has ongoing projects at the Saqqara pyramid complex and the mortuary site of Pharaoh Senwosret III. With deep ties to the Muslim world and millions of Middle Eastern objects in their possession, the museum strives to promote critical dialogues about collecting ethics and best practices in preserving heritage. Along with thought-provoking exhibitions like “Cultures in the Crossfire,” the museum’s monthly “Great Lecture” series features titles including “Whose Stuff is it, Anyway? Decolonization and the Role of Museums in Contemporary Society” and “Protecting Stuff Today: Cultural Heritage Sites and the Penn Museum.” Above all, the Penn Museum’s Middle Eastern collection is an immense resource for the American public; however, its contents are becoming the last of their kind. With artifacts destroyed, sold or excavated and shipped elsewhere, future generations in the Middle East might never see some of the beautiful art created by their ancestors.  ih Kenneth Wahrenberger (University of Pittsburgh ‘19) is pursuing a degree in religion and loves studying Islamic art in North American museums. Last summer he interned at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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