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From The Editor’s Desk – July 2015
Salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh, Young Guardians of the Word (new Hafiz).................................5 Column - Dawah Path - The #1 Reason.......................................7 Column - Qur’an Lesson - Let Freedom Ring.............................9 Alex Kronemer: Telling the Stories of Muslims.................10, 11 Community Bulletin Board...........................................................15 Mary & Moses................................................................................16
Insha’Allah, I pray that this Ramadan has been good to you. My du’a for the entire community is that we have maximized our days of Mercy and have embraced the days of Forgiveness and that we enter into the days of Protection from Hellfire with resolve to be the best Muslims that we can be. I am looking forward to sharing this Eid with the many
Please support the advertisers and help Muslim business prosper! communities of Charlotte, traveling to each Masjid and June -2015, Volume 1, Issue 7 ISSN 2377 - 9624 Publisher & Editor-in-Chief: Mohamed Haroon Sait Editor: Duston Barto Design & Layout: Mubin M.K. All content Copyright © 2015 Muslim American, Inc. except where otherwise noted. Please contact the editor or publisher directly to obtain reprint permission and guidelines. Opinions expressed in this magazine are those of the advertisers or individual contributing writers and not necessarily those of the editor or publisher of this magazine. This magazine is published monthly. Article submissions are welcome, email: Editor@MuslimAmerican.com Advertising inquiries should email: Ads@MuslimAmerican.com
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sampling the joy that everyone has to share.
As we move forward into our new lives as beings cleansed by our experience in Ramadan, what will we leave behind to the old life? What lessons will Ramadan teach us to carry into our new lives? I ask you all to ponder these questions and I invite you to write and share your thoughts about the Ramadan rebirth. Submit comments, questions and other items you wish to share to: Editor@MuslimAmerican.com and we will, insha’Allah, publish some of them in upcoming issues.
May Allah’s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you all,
Editor, Muslim American magazine EID MUBARAK from the staff of Muslim American!
Young Guardians of the Word
Three young men in our community have recently been recognized as Hafiz and are leading taraweeh here in Charlotte during this Ramadan. The Arabic root of “hafiz” directly translates to “guardian” so literally speaking, these young men are guardians of proper recitation and thereby protectors of the perfection of the prayers of those they lead. After speaking with them, it is clear that they take this task very seriously. Hafiz Arslan Ahmed
Arslan Ahmed (aged 15) and Usman Matin (aged 16), both studied for four years to complete memorization of Qur’an. Fayzaan Rafiq (age 14), however, began when he was 7 and took only two years to complete memorization. These young men were focused on the rewards of akhirah and the virtues promised by Allah for memorization of the Qur’an and this became their core motivation and focus. Fayzaan adds that since he lived in Riyadh, he was able to hear so many beautiful recitations which inspired him toward hifz. They all enjoyed strong support from their parents who reminded them that they didn’t have to push themselves if they didn’t want to. Fayzaan adds “I don’t think it would have been possble without their help and encouragement.” Fayzaan had the pleasure of living in Riyadh while he was studying and learned from many accomplished qari, the primary teacher he had was Qari Munir who he describes as an incredibly supportive teacher who guided him through the course.
difficult to make this transition at first because the use of Skype presented new challenges. Ultimately it was the best option at the time and he was able to complete due to added effort on his own. Similarly, Usman has to switch teachers. While he began with Maulana Sajid in Atlanta, he decided to take an opportunity to study in England and finished his hifz training under Maulana Muhsin in Manchester. Usman absorbed a British accent over the two years he spent there and he says that in England he was able to experience a larger and more structured Muslim community. He hopes to see such a strong effort towards structure here in the USA as well. They all agree that it becomes hard at times because of the amount of dedication that has to be put into it. Usman said that he missed a lot of time with family and friends because of the daily dedication that becoming a hafiz required. Fayzaan said that he was focused on daily, weekly and monthly goals and that meeting those was a challenge. Arslan said that there were many times that he wanted to quit and he gave himself breaks of a day or more to calm his mind down.
Arslan said that Surah Al-Baqarah was the most difficult, while Usman had trouble with Surah Hafiz Fayzaan Rafiq Yusuf, then immediately said that the entire 16th Juz was definitely the easiest to memorize. Usman enjoys Surah Mariam and Rahman the most while Fayzaan prefers Surah Al Anbiyah and Arslan prefers the flow of Surah Mulq.
In giving advice for prospective Hafiz, Usman encourages “Do it! Maybe it’ll be hard at first but then it gets easier and you’ll realize that it was a great decision to make.” Arslan encourages moderation “Don’t feel rushed; it took 23 years for the Qur’an to come down so don’t be discouraged if it takes you a while to learn.” Lastly, Fayzaan says, “Start without worrying yourself too much about completing. I firmly believe that once you start and then you pray to Allah (SWT), His help comes and it becomes easy.” Insha’Allah, there will be increased rewards for every Muslim who dedicates a portion of their lives to the cause of Islamic knowledge. Especially these two young men who focused during the age that most are running around enjoying nothing but the diversion of this world. It is never too late to learn, ask your Imam about hifz programs available in your own community. No one should miss the opportunity to learn more about the word of Allah (SWT).
Uthman (RA) related that the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) has said: “The best of you are the What’s next for them? Both Arslan and ones who learn the Qur’an Usman have set their sights on learning and teach it to others.”
Arslan studied years under Sheikh Abdullah Marhoum and then had to transition into finishing up via Skype instructions from Sister Aqsa who is located overseas. He said that it was tafsir of the Qur’an and they agreed, To advertise call (704) 597-8089
“What is the use of memorizing if you don’t understand it?” Fayzaan has said that he wants to attend AlAzhar or Al-Madinah universities to expand his Hafiz Usman Matin k n ow l e d g e and become a scholar (insha’Allah). Usman has also said that he is looking toward an Alim course once he finishes high school.
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Non-Muslims are Embracing Islam “I always believed in my heart that there is only one God, and, after listening to the concept of God in Islam, I came to realize that I can connect with Islam; it makes sense,” comments Peter. Peter contacted GainPeace to request a visit to a mosque and to complete an assignment he was given in his diversity class he was studying at a university. Alhamdulillah, after hearing the explanation of Islam, centered on Tauheed, the oneness of God, he closed his assignment book and said, “I have now completed my assignment for which I came to the mosque, but let me fulfil my assignment for which my Lord sent me to this world. I want to embrace Islam.” Uttering these words, Peter recited the shahada and embraced Islam. Tauheed, the oneness of God, is what attracted Peter to Islam.
the presentation, Erica also embraced Mark 12: 29, Christian New Testament) Islam. Tauheed, the oneness of God, “O friends, do not worship anybody but is what attracted Erica to Islam. Him, the Divine One. Praise Him alone”
Alhamdulillah, of the 2,800 individuals (Rigveda 8: 1:1, 10, a Hindu Scripture). who embraced Islam through GainPeace, the majority of them gave the reason for their embracement of Islam: Tauheed, the oneness of God, is what attracted them to Islam Of the nearly 15,000 Americans who convert to Islam each year in the USA, the number one reason they cite which attracted them to Islam: Tauheed, the oneness of God in Islam.
The oneness of God, Tauheed, is the number one attractive feature of Islam. Oneness of God resonates from every surah of the Qur’an, is simple to comprehend and easy to explain. Oneness of God was the same message preached by all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah (SWT). The oneness of God was the message that the Prophet was preaching for 13 long years in Makkah. Most of the commandments of Islam came later in the Madinah period, after the oneness of God was firmly engrained in the hearts and minds of the first recipients of the Qur’an. “And your god is one God. There is no deity [worthy of worship] except Him, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful” Nick came to a lecture on Islam, arranged (Qur’an 2: 163). by the Muslim Students association in Chicago. The topic of the lecture was Oneness of God is also the basic “Misconceptions about Islam” and was message which resonates from the presented by Dr. Sabeel Ahmed of teachings of the Torah and in the GainPeace. Nick asked many questions Christian Bibles (in both the Old and during the presentation and after the the New Testaments) and, according to presentation spent 45 minutes discussing some, even from the Hindu scriptures! the concept of God with the presenter. Here are a few passages: Alhamdulillah, he mentioned that the oneness of God in Islam resonates “I am the LORD your God, who with him, and he embraced Islam a day brought you out of Egypt, out of the after the presentation. Tauheed, the land of slavery. You shall have no other oneness of God, is what attracted gods before me” (Exodus 20: 2-3, Torah Nick to Islam. and Christian Old Testament). Erica attended the Islamic Awareness Week at Wayne State University, MI. The topic was “Prophet Muhammad, Role Model for Humanity.” The presenter focused on oneness of God and the continuity of the same message of oneness of God brought by all the Prophets. Alhamdulillah, two days after To advertise call (704) 597-8089
Important lessons in Sharing Islam
1. Each person is born with the innate nature, a spiritual chip, to know and recognize the true concept of one God. Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) said, “No baby is born but upon Fitra (as a Muslim). It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Polytheist” (Sahih Muslim). 2. When explaining Islam, stay focused on the concept of Tauheed, the oneness of God, and connect with this innate nature, the hidden pure fitra. 3. Connect every answer with Tauheed, oneness of God. 4. Don’t bring up or deviate too much into topics like the current Middle East situation or multiple marriages, hijab, Bible, etc. These are important topics, but stay focused on Tauheed and provide a crystal clear explanation of it. A good place to start is Surah Al-Ikhlas (surah 112 of the Qur’an). Answer questions on other topics respectfully and quickly before refocusing on the concept of Tauheed. 5. The simple concept of “no one is worthy of worship besides Allah” (La Ilaha illallah), and properly explaining it is more potent and priceless than the billions of dollars “That all the peoples of the earth may that the Christian missionaries know that Yahweh is God; there is are spending to share Trinity no other” (I Kings 8: 60, Nevi’im and or the millions invested by the Christian Old Testament). Islamophobes to fight Islam. “The most important commandment,’ Dr. Sabeel Ahmed is the president of ICNA-Chicago answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: and Director of the GainPeace Project, an outreach The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” project of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). 7
Let Freedom Ring Linda “iLham” Barto
We can honor those who sacrificed for our freedoms by using freedoms and rights responsibly and by teaching our children the value of responsibility in freedom. God has given us standards by which to discern right from wrong. He has told us to enlist the right and forbid the wrong. We must obey God’s laws and develop healthy consciences in order to utilize our freedoms in a responsible manner. In order to develop a healthy conscience, one must be active in promoting positive energies around oneself. For example, you must use the best words in speech that is kind and respectful instead of speech that is filled with cursing and vulgarity. If you watch movies with no regard to the amount of profanity or immoral activities they espouse, you are actively sending negative energies into your environment, and negative energies are what will be returned to you. Your enslavement to sin is going to reap for you the evil consequences of those negative energies.
Let freedom ring in every good choice that we make whether “The believing men and believing women are it is in our personal lives or in our communal lives. Let ring in our hearts and souls as we live lives in total protectors of one another. They enlist righteousness freedom submission and obedience to God. Great is His faithfulness! and forbid evil, pray regularly and practice charity, May the whole world know of His awesome deeds! May the and obey Allah and His messenger. Allah will show whole world see that we celebrate our freedom as people in mercy to them. Allah is truly the Almighty, the service to the One God to whom we must give all gratitude, honor, and glory for the blessings we enjoy in this great and Perfectly Wise” (Surah 9: 71) wonderful nation. May we strive to be more deserving of His As a veteran of the United States Air Force and the North love and grace and mercy! Amen. Carolina Air National Guard, I feel blessed to have been free and able to participate in service to the United States of America and in safeguarding the freedoms Americans enjoy. All American citizens must unite to keep the USA worthy of the sacrifices that service members have made and are making. We must enlist righteousness and forbid evil. The American way of life is suitable only for a moral and just society; it is totally inadequate for a society in which citizens make selfish, corrupt, and irresponsible choices in their lives. Freedom without integrity enslaves us to a false freedom rampant in immorality and injustices. Integrity, ethics, and morality are key ingredients to success in American liberty. If we become slaves to sin, we live in bondage, and the freedom we enjoy is squandered. Freedom without integrity is not sustainable. If we use our freedom for self-indulgence, it is to the detriment of the entire society. We all must seek to use wisdom and honor in our daily lives. Our liberties give us the freedom to make choices, many of which are not healthy or moral. You are free to smoke, drink, curse, view pornography, commit adultery, and engage in other unhealthy vices, but these things will enlist you into slavery. In fact, you are going to be a slave to something, but you have the freedom to choose your form of slavery. You must choose whether you are going to be a slave to sin or a slave to God. Slavery to sin keeps a person on a path to self-destruction and discontentment. Slavery to God and His commandments gives a person freedom from sin and the freedom to live in spiritual peace and harmony. To advertise call (704) 597-8089
Alex Kronemer: Telling the Stories of Muslims Tori Dominski & Duston Barto
Alex Kronemer is one of the founders of Unity Productions Foundation, a non-profit media organization whose award-winning films have been viewed by over 150 million people.
s Muslims, we’re always very aware (whether we like it or not) of how we’re portrayed on television and in the media. Frequently, the images of us the media chooses to present to its viewers are inaccurate, biased, or completely false. These negative images collect in the minds of the public and, sadly, end up representing all Muslims instead of a small, radical, misguided minority. This struggle of ours is insufferable... or so it would seem. Enter Alex Kronemer, fellow Muslim and co-creator of Unity Productions Foundation (UPF). UPF is a multifaceted organization that produces Islamic films, promoting religious education and coexistence with all faiths. “What UPF is trying to do,” Alex explains, “is we’re trying to tell the stories of Muslims and Islamic culture and history that goes beyond the headlines. The headlines seem to drive everything so that the larger community and even the Muslims themselves know about the religion these days.” Alex says that this changes how Muslims see themselves as much as it impacts how society sees Muslims. “There’s a certain narrowing 10
of the discussion within the Muslim space of what it means to be Muslim.” Alex hopes that with continued UPF television features, “we deal with history and culture and expand that idea to allow people to engage more broadly in the kinds of discussions we can have as Muslims about our identity.” What is the biggest driving factor? According to Alex it is stories “The most powerful thing in the world is stories. We understand everything in stories. Facts get put into a prevailing narrative. We make sense of our world, of ourselves, of where we were or where we’re going through the stories we tell ourselves and the stories others tell us.” One of its championed projects, MOST, or Muslims On Screen and Television, has pioneered in providing an online “story bank” for Hollywood writers. Once there, writers have access to current news stories that feature real Muslims in everyday life, the ways they truly live, and how they practice Islam and contribute to society. Kronemer says that any writer “can go to this and get stories about people and ideas beyond the headlines.”
That is what makes the story bank of MOST so influential and instrumental in making sure that Muslims are accurately portrayed in movies, television, and other forms of entertainment. Kronemer recalls that he was attending a ceremony with several television writers when one of them told him that once she wanted to write a Muslim character into a sitcom, but because she was afraid that she didn’t know enough to write the character correctly, she ended up changing the character to be a Catholic. He said it was about that time that he began to wonder just how many writers were out there who, in their hearts, really wanted to branch out and write more diverse characters for a more diverse world. “I can say honestly that, talking to writers, one of the inhibiting factors for this happening is fear. And it’s fear of saying the wrong thing [about Muslims] and it’s fear of backlash... from people who may have anti-Muslim feelings,” Kronemer explains. Due to the sensitive nature of religion, writers are generally reluctant to poke at something that, historically, hasn’t been a popular thing to poke at. Recently, Muslims rallied and cheered after succeeding in getting a show they considered offensive canceled from airing. Kronemer understands that after this, there “was a sense of victory.” However, he adds that there are also “unintended consequences” of events like this. Producers, he says, become reluctant to invest money and touch or approach the idea of Muslims or Islamic elements in their shows because they believe that they (the shows) will catch too much criticism from Muslims and never be able to air. Kronemer says that as society moves forward and begins showing Muslims in a more cultural light instead of directly religious manner, the defensive attitudes could fade as Muslims themselves www.MuslimAmerican.com
Saladdin as portrayed by Ghassan Massoud in Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven is a rare moment where Muslim characters have been portrayed in a positive light by Hollywood. Alex Kronemer hopes to provide more positive views of Islam through UPF’s MOST Storybank.
become more relaxed seeing how they are portrayed. He also says that it’s generally a matter of exposure, meaning that as more Muslim characters or Muslim concepts are introduced, the public will become more comfortable, accepting, and open-minded.
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However, Kronemer encourages Muslims to take leading roles in setting these changes in motion. He says that we should interact more with the media - and be the media ourselves! Careers in these fields are slowly being accepted as they are shown every day to be necessary if we want Islam to be represented and understood by those unfamiliar with our way of life. Just by getting out in the community and taking a stand, any Muslim could have an opportunity to become a dynamic part of the MOST story bank. Kronemer stresses that “stories shape understanding, stories shape the facts,” and “stories shape the narratives we see.” Muslims and Jews are about the same percentage of the US population. However, Jews have been able to work with media to a far greater degree than Muslims. In fact, Jewish representation in media is directly responsible for the overwhelming shift in public perception of Jews from being a group persecuted and marginalized to being seen as a normal part of the American fabric.
Muslims have failed to achieve this status because, frankly, it has not been a priority. If we want people to see us for who we are as Muslims, we have to raise our narrative of truth - our voice - over the narrative of falsehood. If we want that truth - the facts - reported and written down, sometimes we have to hold the pen ourselves. We can’t continue to take passive roles regarding our representation to the world. We have to get involved. If we want people to understand us, we have to provide information through stories that everyone can relate to. We, as Muslims, must be able to tell our stories for anyone who is willing to listen.
The mission of Unity Productions Foundation is to create peace through the media. Films include: Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet, Prince Among Slaves and Inside Islam. To learn more, visit www.upf.tv
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Mary and Moses: Shaking a Tree and Striking a Sea Samia Mubarak
What was said to Maryam after experiencing the excruciating pains of childbirth and giving birth to a baby in isolation never ceases to amaze me. Allah(swt) tells her in Surah Maryam: “And shake the trunk of the palm-tree towards you, and fresh ripe dates will drop upon you.” Keep in mind Maryam just went through labor. She’s all alone. She’s exhausted and scared. Now God is ordering her to shake a tree. Why? Can’t He provide her with food miraculously as He did before when Prophet Zakariah came to check up on her earlier in the story? (Surah 3, verse 37). Why did she have to shake a tree for dates to fall, when Allah could have made the dates come to her without any effort from her side? Something about this scenario is quite striking. But then there is the story of Prophet Moses, who God also orders to strike the sea with a stick in order for it to split and save him and his people from the tyrannic Pharoah. Why did Moses have to strike the sea with his stick when God could have opened it for him miraculously without any effort from Moses himself ? The scenario here is no different than Mary shaking the datetree. Perhaps Allah is teaching us a valuable lesson in these two famous stories of honorable people. No matter who you are to God, you have to do your own labor in order to receive the fruit. You have to give up something from your own self in order to see the change ahead. We cannot rely on “God’s magic” when we have not put our own effort in that which we want. We see communities that need change and ask for a miracle to occur. What can one person do? Not much, but it may be that little effort from one that brings change and brings God’s help, 16
as Maryam’s shake and Moses’s strike sideline waiting. We need to plant the seed in order to see the harvest. brought God’s help from above. A prime example in today’s society is Deah Barakat, may Allah have mercy on him, his wife and sister in law. Deah was a dental student that knew of the disheartening situation in Syria, just as we all know of it. We all know it hurts to be in the place of these refugees who have very little and who have lost so much. Yet what do we physically do about it? Deah was one person. What could he do for these refugees? He did what he could. One person wanted to give from what he could, his dental experience. It was a rather small gesture, yet how far has it stretched today? Deah didn’t wait for the miracle to come from God. He shook the tree. He struck the sea. And now we see the fruit. His simple goal of $20,000 has now surpassed half a million dollars! Mashallah. This is what it means to put your own effort rather than idly wait for intervention. Put your own sweat into it, and God will be there with you till the end of the journey.
Belief is important. Yet what follows belief is action, which is just as necessary. In the Quran, Allah numerously pairs the verbs “believe” and “do good actions” together as one. We cannot believe in God’s assistance without trying to physically assist the situation ourselves. Believing is doing. There are so many lessons that can be derived from the orders Allah gave Maryam and Prophet Musa. Yet the question is, how are these lessons being reflected in our own lives? May Allah give us the ability to shake the tree in order for us to see the fruit ahead. Ameen.
We as Muslims are taught to be the change we want to see around us. God says repeatedly in the Quran that He will not change a nation until the individuals themselves change on the inside. We cannot sit on the www.MuslimAmerican.com
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Published on Jul 3, 2015
All content Copyright © 2015 Muslim American, Inc. except where otherwise noted. Please contact the editor or publisher directly to obtain r...