MUSLIMVOICE SEPTEMBER 2008 VOLUME XIV ISSUE 2
Photo: Reza Ashraf
FAITH IS HIDDEN WITHIN ALL OF US Reza Ashraf “This picture was taken in Granada, Spain at the Alhambra complex which is home to the most beautiful Muslim architecture. I highly recommend this now tourist site to anyone visiting Spain or the surrounding area.”
Table of Contents MEET THE EXECS LIVING IN A NONMUSLIM LAND Dr. Khalid Al Anbari
8 9 10
ISLAMIC LECTURES ONLINE Farhan Raja
WITHIN THE WALLS
SALAAM SHALOM Taus Shah
3 4 6
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
12 18 22
Photography Contest Results
ISLAMIC KNOWLEDGE Taha Ghayyur
Photo: Daanish Afzal
23 24 26 29
Asna Khadija Ahmad
THE MOTHER Hodan Osman
AFTER YOUR FATHER DIED Fathima Cader
VISIT OUR WEBSITE FOR THE ONLINE VERSION OF THE MUSLIM VOICE FAITH IS ENLIGHTENMENT Daanish Afzal “Faith shines through and causes enlightenment in both spirit and mind. It shines through darkness, prejudice, hate, ignorance and guides those who hold fast.”
THE MUSLIM VOICE VOLUME XIV NUMBER 2
EDITOR Sheikha El-Kathiri ASSISTANT EDITORS Naveed Islam, Taus Shah LAYOUT Rifa Tahsina, Naveed Islam Taus Shah, Syed Omar SECTION EDITORS Mahmud Moallim, Zainab Shaikh Saadia Jamil, Javeria Ahmad WRITERS Hashi Mohamed, Taus Shah Taha Ghayyur, Farhan Raja Farhana Rahman, Hodan Osman, Asna Ahmad, Fathima Cader Arzoo Zaheer COVER DESIGN Photography Contest Winner Daanish Afzal FAITH IS PEACE SPECIAL RECOGNITION Photography Contest Coordinators Salma Shickh, Farhana Rahman The Muslim Voice is a non-profit magazine published by the Muslim Students’ Association at the University of Toronto’s St. George Campus and sponsored in part by the University of Toronto Students’ Union (U.T.S.U.). CONTACT US The Muslim Voice 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 405 Toronto, Ontario M5S1J6 email@example.com DISCLAIMER The ideas and opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the staff of The Muslim Voice or the Muslim Students’ Association.
In the winter of 2007, The Muslim Voice held its first photography contest. The premise of the contest was unique – rather than focusing only on technical or aesthetic merit, we asked students to relate their images to what faith meant for them by completing an associated caption for their photo, “Faith is.....” As I waited anxiously for submissions, I wondered whether I should have chosen far simpler and more standard submission criteria for a premiering initiative. Then, the submissions arrived. Image after image, we were impressed by their creativity, their careful compositions, but most of all, by the spiritual symbolism they contained and that was expressed through the captions. Despite the wide range of subject matter, from the serene to the seemingly mundane, each submission had found a link to faith. We believe that not only do they demonstrate the connection between art and spirituality, but they also show how faith is manifest all around us. The selection process proved to be a challenging task for our judges. In the end, we chose to showcase as many images as we could in a special colour insert (another first for The Muslim Voice), and use the winning photo as the cover image. All credit for the arrangement of these images as well as the entire TMV layout goes to the brilliant, dedicated members of the layout team, who have made this edition possible, and whom I cannot thank enough: Taus Shah, Naveed Islam and Rifa Tahsina. In this issue, you will find a series of articles demonstrating some of the ways our readers see faith in their lives. From professional development to personal insight, I am sure you will find at least one connection that will inspire you to reevaluate what “Faith Is”. Sheikha El-Kathiri TMV Editor, 2007-2008 THE MUSLIM VOICE
execs ILYAS ALLY - President firstname.lastname@example.org
Ilyas is a fourth year student majoring in Philosophy and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. His main goal as President is to reach out and make sure that everyone knows what the MSA is up to and gets involved. He really hopes that members will share their ideas and suggestions, and take part in organizing events and programs that will make this year memorable.
to spend his next summer fixing electric bulbs and wires around the campus. This he thinks is more challenging than writing ‘artsy essays’. Mueen’s hatred for ‘artsies’ goes to the extent of plotting to rid the MSA executive committee of nonengineers. However, he failed and Ilyas became the President.
Ilyas is a seasoned MSA member. Before becoming President, he was Brothers’ Vice-President, and before that, Outreach Coordinator, and even before that, Outreach Committee volunteer. He assures you that he wouldn’t have stuck around this long if he wasn’t conviced that the MSA is truly awesome.
Mueen’s ultimate goal in life is to solve the energy crisis by inventing a perpetual motion machine. This, he thinks, will get him a Nobel Prize for both Peace and Physics. Or at the very least, the Muslim equivalent of Nobel Prize, whatever it’s called. Mueen’s short term goal is to advertise Halal hot-dog vendors around the campus. Mueen also hopes to become the President of the not-yet-formed Fatwa Club so that people don’t have to go beyond the campus boundaries for legal opinions.
When Ilyas is not working on MSA stuff, or studying, he likes to go on long bike rides north of the city. His longest ride has been roughly 100 km, but he dreams about some day going on a Great Lakes tour or a cross-Canada trip. He also spends time at the Hart House gym pretending to get fit. (He encourages everyone to do the same.)
Some of Mueen’s non-serious goals include a more pro-active and inclusive MSA, an efficient and ever-more transparent MSA budget, a healthy sustainable relationship with the administration, an effort to build a Muslim community centre around campus and a dialogue and reflection on the dynamics of modern-day Islamic revivalism.
Ilyas can be reached by email at email@example.com. He eagerly awaits your ideas and suggestions!
Mueen is also interested in politics and thinks that B. Hussein Obama will make a better President than Grandpa Johnny if only he changed the second letter of his last name to an ‘s’. Mueen reads more than five newspapers everyday but sometimes also watches Tom and Jerry with his younger sister, when they both have nothing better to do.
MUEEN HAKAK - VP Brothers firstname.lastname@example.org Mueen is this year’s Vice President for brothers on campus. He is a third year electrical engineering student and plans
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Mueen aspires to be a pilot, a lawyer, an Imam, a politician and a farm manager. If all fails, he will become an engineer. Mueen can be reached at vp.brothers@ uoftmsa.com for non-sisterly advices. FARHANA RAHMAN - Sister’s Events Coordinator email@example.com Farhana is currently a second-year student specializing in International Relations and Peace and Conflict Studies with a minor in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. She is an avid reader and writer of almost everything from politics and religion to poetry and prose. As Sisters’ Events Coordinator, Farhana hopes to make this year an exciting one for all sisters on campus and in the broader community. She welcomes any and all suggestions, so don’t hesitate to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. HUSAIN CADER - Brother’s Events Coordinator email@example.com Husain’s goal is to become a PRACTICING doctor (meaning, a practicing Muslim and an employed doctor). Husain loves to be active in all aspects. From the age of four, scribbling was one of his favourite past times. He also loves football, not the European kind (soccer) and he wouldn’t mind playing for the Blues, but injuries keep holding him back. Maybe Allah is indirectly forcing him to spend more time studying than playing sports.
As the Brothers Events Coordinator, he has the responsibility towards the Muslim brothers at UofT, and the nonMuslims that are curious about Islam. It is his job to organize events for you, in the hopes that they help you succeed in the nearby future, both in Islam and your academics. However, he is not perfect, so he asks for your support. Feel free to send suggestions and ideas to brothers. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Therefore, she sincerely urges their input and their assistance in the coming year. It is essential to find a balance between school work and getting involved. Hence, setting a schedule for yourself is imperative.
SALMAN KABIR - Religious Accomodations Coordinator email@example.com
She is very approachable and welcomes you to speak your mind! You can contact Anum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salman is responsible for catering towards Religious Accomodation for Muslims on Campus. His duties includes allocating prayer spaces, halaqah, housing, etc. He is currently in his last year of BASc in Electrical Engineering.
HORIS MANSURI - SWJ Coordinator email@example.com
Salman likes to travel.... a lot. Within the last year he covered almost all of Western North America. Some places include: Vancouver, Calgary, Banff, Los Angeles, San Diego, the Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Hawaii, Crater Lake and Seattle. So, if you need any assistance regarding prayer spaces or any other religious accomodation issue, you can email Salman at religious.accommodations@ uoftmsa.com if he’s not backpacking across the globe. He can also be reached around campus, usually at Bahen Centre. So feel free to drop by even if it is just to say ‘Salaam’. ANUM KHAWAR - Treasurer firstname.lastname@example.org Anum is a second-year undergraduate doing a specialist in Commerce and Finance. She finds the MSA to be an exceptional opportunity for students to both enlighten their hearts and minds and keenly participate in different events.
Everybody needs a break in his/her hectic student life, and Anum hopes that nobody miss out on the great events the MSA has planned for the student body!
Horis is the Committee Head for Students for World Justice (SWJ). He has been involved with the MSA since his first year of university and has participated and volunteered for events such as the MSA Eid Dinner, Sandwich Run for the Homeless, and Ramadan Iftars to name a few. Currently, he is a fourth-year student specializing in Human Biology: Health and Disease with interests in writing and French. He enjoys working with people and volunteering at the Royal Ontario Museum. Horis is also a very active person and can be spotted playing basketball at the AC or workingout at Hart House. As head of SWJ this year, he has worked hard and spent a great deal of time to prepare events that will, insh’allah, build the foundation for you to approach and understand issues of justice in all its forms. The theme for SWJ for this is year is Human Rights. By focusing attention on Human Rights Horis believes we can unearth and unravel the root causes behind the many injustices we hear, read, or learn about everyday. If you have any questions or comments, you can reach Horis at email@example.com. HASHI MOHAMED Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Hashi genuinely hates talking about himself, but here goes. To those who don’t know him, he appears unapproachable; to those who do know him, he seems quiet and reserved; and to his close friends, he’s just as quiet, but when enticed to argue he can be surprisingly animated. It has taken him way too long to decide what path to take in his studies (he’s 24), experimenting with computer science, IT, and even life sciences. He now feels content being a humanities student (to add to Mueen’s despair) in his 3rd year, majoring in Near & Middle Eastern Studies and minoring in both History and Writing & Rhetoric. He’s a morbid procrastinator when it comes to school work, but (wishfully?) hopes to change that this year. (Hmmm, what else)…Oh, and he recently decided to give up coffee (let’s see how long that lasts). As Outreach Coordinator, Hashi intends to transform Islam Awareness Week into Islam Awareness Month, designated for January 2009 in which three high-profile events are scheduled. Additionally, his committee hopes to sustain an ongoing initiative to occasionally host Islamic information booths at various times and locations throughout the year. Finally, Hashi encourages those with a passion for da’wah to join the Outreach Committee and help make these plans successful. RABIA MOHAMMADI - VP Sisters email@example.com SHAHINA SHAIKH - Secretary firstname.lastname@example.org YASER KHAN - Communications email@example.com HANAA ALKHODOR - Community Affairs Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org ABDULLAH AL RASHID - Academic Affairs Coordinator email@example.com
THE MUSLIM VOICE
LIVING IN A NON-MUSLIM
LAND In light of Surah Yusuf
BY DR. KHALID AL-ANBARI*
Indeed, the principle is that the Muslim should prefer an Islamic land so as to establish the rights of his religion, but circumstances may force him or her to live in a non-Muslim land. And Islam, being a religion that provides guidance for all aspects of human life, has addressed this issue. Numerous texts within Islamic literature have expounded on the topic of Muslims living in non-Muslim lands, and the story of Prophet Yūsuf (‘alayhi al-salātu was al-salām) serves as an ideal source of reference for such a discussion. The Prophet Yūsuf was forced to leave the land of the Prophets, the land where his father Ya‘qūb resided and where the Heavenly Law was being applied. Due to the betrayal of his brothers, Yūsuf was taken as a slave by a caravan and eventually purchased by a minister of Egypt known by the title al-‘aziz. The man in Egypt who bought him, said to his wife: “Make his stay (among us) honourable: may be he will bring us much good, or we shall adopt him as a son.” Thus did We establish [i.e. give authority to] Yūsuf in the land...” [Yūsuf (12):21]
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The hint within this ayah is that a person may not be able to gain authority in his own land but may acquire it in another. This brings us to the question of how Yūsuf conducted himself in this nonMuslim land. The most obvious challenge that faces the Muslim in such a land is how to cope with the non-Islamic values within society that inevitably led to a prevalence of fawāhish1 and thus conflict or clash with one’s faith. Certainly, falling into this fawāhish is easy, but it was just as easy in the time of Yūsuf (‘alayhi alsalātu was al-salām) as the ayah on Yūsuf’s encounter with the wife of alaziz illustrates: And she, in whose house he [Yūsuf] was, sought to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, “Come, you.” He said, “I seek refuge in Allah. Indeed, he (your husband) is my master, who has made good my residence. Indeed, wrongdoers will never prosper.” [Yūsuf (12):23] 1 Obscenity, indecency, immorality, lewdness, especially in regards to prohibited sexual behavior.
It is not fitting for the Muslim who believes in Allah and the Last Day to come near obscenity. The Prophet Muhammad (sul Allahu ‘alayhi wa salim) mentioned seven people who will be shaded by Allah on the Day of Judgement;2 among them is a man who turns away from the temptation and seduction of a woman with beauty and status, saying “I fear Allah.” It is upon the Muslim to fear Allah in every gaze and in every instance he or she is alone. And living in an environment where the opportunities to sin are manifold, if a Muslim is not careful, he or she may not only fall into a sin or two but perhaps may reach a stage of being immersed in sinning, such that one abandons repentance. Soon, a love for these sins develops and by this the Muslim leads him or herself astray. And Allah would not let a people stray after He has guided them until He makes clear to them what they should avoid. [At-Tawba (9):115] 2 The hadith is narrated by Abu Hurairah and collected in Sahih al-Bukhari [English trans. vol.1, no.629, p.356] and Sahih Muslim [English trans. vol.2, no.2248, p. 493].
The Muslim who abandons having taqwa and does not repel the fawāhish, his or her heart may start to see the evil as good, perhaps even leading him or herself out of the pail of Islam. So it is incumbent on the Muslim to strive against the fawāhish and constantly seek the help of Allah. The Quran relates how Yūsuf (‘alayhi al-salātu was alsalām) sought the help of his lord in his situation: And if You do not avert from me their [evil] plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant. So his Lord responded to him and averted from him their plan. [Yūsuf (12):33-34] The desires and lusts are great and numerous, but they remain trifling in the eyes of the believer, the one who is sincere to Allah and trusting in His assistance. Thus it was, that We might ward off from him evil and lewdness. Indeed, he was of Our chosen servants. [Yūsuf (12):24] So if the Muslim turns to Allah in supplication and with sincerity, seeking refuge in Him, Allah will surely protect Him. Thus, the first thing a Muslim must do in this society is to confront the fawāhish that he or she faces and strive to overcome them. After the Muslim is rendered victorious against his or her desires, it is upon him or her to exemplify high Muslim morals, manners, and character while living in this society, as the Prophet Muhammad (sul Allahu ‘alayhi wa salim) instructed, “Treat the people with good manners.” It has been established that Yūsuf (‘alayhi al-salātu was al-salām) was innocent of what he was accused of, yet he was oppressed, accused unjustly and put in jail where he stayed with two youth. And there entered the prison with him two young men. One of them said, “Indeed, I have seen myself [in a dream] pressing wine.” The other said, “Indeed, I have seen myself carrying upon my head [some] bread, from which the birds were eating. Inform us of its interpretation; indeed, we see you to be of those who do good.” [Yūsuf (12):36]
Yūsuf was seen to have high morals and character and because of this, the two men trusted him and related to him their dreams. This is the way a Muslim should live in a non-Muslim land, having high morals and good character by which he earns the trust of the people and shows the greatness of Islam. Unfortunately, some Muslims turn others away from Islam due to their bad character and end up becoming a source of trial for others. Our Lord! Do not make us a trial for those who disbelieve… [Al-Mumtahina (60):5] The scholars of exegesis said explaining this ayah that reason for the Prophet Ibrāhīm (‘alayhi al-salātu was al-salām) and the believers with him making this supplication was not simply for the sake of saving themselves but also because they did not want to become a source of trial for others such that they become the reason behind others turning away from Islam. [Meaning] “Oh Allah do not give authority to the disbelievers over us such that they will punish us and be led to think that by possessing this authority over us, they are upon truth and we are upon falsehood.” Although, if this oppression occurs against the believers, the blame remains in the hands of the oppressors and the believers carry no blame. In the time of Musa when the Pharaoh used to torture the children of Israel, the believers amongst them clearly had no cause in this. So what about a situation where a Muslim engages in evil behaviour and takes it to the level of carrying out suicide bombings, terrorism, hate crimes, etc.? Undoubtedly, this will turn people away from Islam!
a Musli Muslim “should exert exe him herself im or herse towards benefiting others so as to be a blessing for the society... .
If the Muslim treats the people with good morals, and shies away from the fawāhish, then there are two additional matters he or she should fulfill. Firstly, the Muslim should be a caller to Allah, ceasing every opportunity to enlighten the people with the greatness of Islam. He or she should begin their call with al-tawhīd3, as the Prophets did, since it is the cornerstone of the religion and 3 Islamic Monotheism – “There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah.”
THE MUSLIM VOICE
He or she must also exemplify high morals and behaviour amongst the people so as to show the greatness m of Islam
the reason for Allah sending down revelations and Messengers. The Muslim makes his priority calling the people to sound beliefs and does not allow him or herself to call the people to other things before al-tawhīd. Yūsuf (‘alayhi al-salātu was al-salām) did not call the youth inside the prison to seek revenge against the government, nor did he preoccupy himself with defaming the wife of al-azīz. He was far above all of this. Rather, he seized the opportunity before interpreting the dream to call to al-tawhīd, to that which will benefit them in the Hereafter, grant them Paradise, and save them from the Fire. This is the way the Muslim should be. O [my] two companions of prison, are many lords better or Allah, the One, the Prevailing? You worship not besides Him except [mere] names you have named them, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. The command is for none but Allah. He has commanded that you worship none but Him. That is the right religion, but most men understand not... [Yūsuf (12):39-40] The second matter is that the Muslim should exert him or herself towards benefiting others so as to be a blessing for the society, as Prophet ‘Īsā (‘alayhi al-salātu was al-salām) said about himself, “And He has made me blessed wherever I am.” [Maryam (19):31]. A Muslim should become a source of blessing for all, whether to Muslims, non-Muslims, or animals. Yūsuf (‘alayhi al-salātu was al-salām) became a source of blessing for his society by being the cause that led the people of Egypt to evade and prevent an economic crisis. [Yūsuf] said, “You will plant for seven 8 THE MUSLIM VOICE
years rs consecutively; and what you harvest leave in its spikes, except a little from which you will ll eat. Then h will ll come after that, seven hard (years), which will devour what you saved for them, except a little from which you will store.” [Yūsuf(12):47-48] [Yūsuf] said, “Appoint me over the storehouses of the land. I will indeed guard them, as one that knows (their importance).” [Yūsuf (12):55] Yūsuf not only offered a plan to save the people from the crisis but also asked to be the supervisor of it. That was part of him showing benevolence to the people whom he lived with. In summary, the Muslim should strive with his or her utmost effort to shy away from lusts and desires because it is a danger for one’s belief and religion due to it being a stepping stone to fawāhish. He or she must also exemplify high morals and behaviour amongst the people so as to show the greatness of Islam. The Muslim should also call to Islam through al-tawhīd, prioritising in what he or she calls to, showing kindness in his or her calling, and carrying solid arguments with proofs so as to self-guard his or her faith. And finally, a Muslim should strive to benefit those in his community so as to become a source of blessing for a people. These are some of the great and exemplary traits that can be derived from the life of our Prophet, Yūsuf ibn Ya‘qūb ibn Ishāq ibn Ibrāhīm, ‘alayhumā al-salātu wa al-salām. * This is an English translation and rendering by Hashi Mohamed of a lecture given on February 12, 2008, at the University of Toronto (St. George), hosted by the Muslim Students’ Association. Dr. Al-Anbari is originally from Egypt and earned his Ph.D. in Islamic Shari‘ah from Kulliyat Dar al-‘Ulum (Cairo)
ISLAMIC LECTURES ONLINE FARHAN RAJA Many lectur lectures delivered by world renowned Islamic scho scholars can be viewed freely online. These masterful mast speakers give more than your average Friday khutba (sermon), and are guaranteed to entertain and inform. So click over tto YouTube. YouTube.com and check out these famous scholars:
A medical ddoctor by training, this champion ddebater seeks many of the evidences of the truth oof Islam in modern science. Furthermore, like one of the earliest 20th century pioneer in the field, Ahmed Deedat, he has conducted research in the area of comparative religion. Check out these lectures: “Is the Qur’an God’s Word?”, “The Qur’an and the Bible in the light of Science?”
ABDUL RAHEEM GREEN
Brother Abdul charms audiences with his brand of casual, all-encompassing lectures and seems to follow his train of thought wherever that may take him. This British revert to Islam makes light of his resemblance to Christian images of Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him, and once slyly remarked that he could “probably start a cult if [he] wanted to”. Check out these lectures: “Coca Cola Muslim Generation”, “Passion of Jesus: Son of Mary”
Brother Khalid is a powerful speaker with an animated delivery who was inspired by Malik El-Shabazz’s (aka. Malcolm X) acceptance of mainstream Islam. He will especially appeal to those who seek the Muslim equivalent to the familiar booming church Pastor. Check out these lectures: “What is the Purpose of Life?”, “Changing the World Through Da’wah”
Philips was born in Jamaica, spent some of his childhood in Toronto, travelled the world, reverted to Islam, and then settled in the Middle East. Thankfully, brother Bilal’s lectures follow a more due course, and he calmly addresses topics that are often glossed over by other scholars. Check out these lectures: “Angels and Jinns”, “Think Win-Win: The Motto of the Believer”
Within the Walls
Subject: The Interior Place: Mosque Time: Evening
Stepping onto the carpeted ground, the soft texture brushing smoothly against the sole of the feet is a warm reminder that this will be the resting place for the night. The white walls envelope the place with all its beauty – intricately designed with Islamic art and Arabic patterns, outlined with a hint of gold. To the far right, against the wall stands a bookshelf – the wood slowly peeling away like dead skin that has seen better years. Old, but sparkling clean, the shelf houses 30 or so copies of the Holy Qur’an, neatly aligned one after the other. Stand facing forwards, and you will see a translucent wall of glass – a separation between the men and the women, it serves as an important part of the Islamic way of life. Beyond and below this glass wall, is the men’s area, a much wider space but with the same soft carpet, the same intricately designed walls, a similar bookshelf. A peaceful atmosphere, it is a quiet place – calm and relaxed with very few people. In the women’s section, to the left is a little girl quietly sitting with her mother; against the back wall an old woman sits with outstretched legs, struggling to keep her droopy eyes open. Still others who have found refuge on the soft carpet sit quietly in their own personal area – a mumble is heard, a whisper or two is exchanged, the soft humming of someone reciting the Holy Qur’an harmoniously floats through the calm air. A pregnant woman’s faint cries of supplication can be heard from the far end of the long room, as she sits hunched over with hands on her face. All the while, there is a sense of peace – each person quietly awaiting the time to arrive; each person is here for the same reason. The continuous tick-tock tick-tock of the clock above the bookshelf slowly reminds everyone that the time is quickly approaching. The lights in the room dim and remain cool – no longer bright, it is now a soft glow. “Allahu-Akbar”, the Muezzin calls from down in the men’s section – calling everyone to prayer. The time has come. Everyone is now awake with life. Subject: The Little Girl Place: Mosque Time: Evening Dressed in a white dress with pink flowers neatly decorating the sleeves, she looks like she is at peace. Her back is hunched over with a child’s grace while she rests softly against her mother’s wool coat. Perfectly matching her outfit, she quietly clutches the ends of her pink and white hijab in one hand as she eyes the room. With dark eyes wide open, she seems amazed by the place – the beauty, the calmness, the sheer sensation of the moment – slowly looking from one place to another, taking it all in. It is as though she has come for the very first time. Her mother quietly stands up – walking out of the room; the girl is left alone. She is no longer leaning; her petite body remains frail but strong. Her small hands, white with innocence, hold each other in reassurance as she continues to sit quietly, cross-legged, staring at the old woman across from her. She looks like a girl of no more than 5 or 6 years of age – light-skinned, with the dim lighting in the room doing little to accentuate her sharp features. Compared to the beauty of the place, she is exquisite. FARHANA RAHMAN
THE MUSLIM VOICE
On March 4th, 2008, a delegation of Muslim leaders visited the Vatican to establish interfaith dialogue between the two faiths. Both Catholics and Muslims welcomed the meeting as a step towards healing the relationship between them, especially after the friction created by Pope Benedict XVI’s comments in the fall of 2006 and the angry protests that followed. It began when the Pope quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologos, who called Islam ‘evil’ and ‘inhuman’. After protests across the Muslim world, Sunni and Shiite Muslim leaders sent a letter, titled “A Common Word Between Us and You,” to the Vatican in hopes of establishing interfaith dialogue to prevent such events from occurring again. Indeed, the hope is that such misunderstandings do not happen and that we can live side by side being tolerant of one another—as the holy ayah (verse) states: “Unto you your religion, unto me my religion” (Qur’an 109:6). These events show how important it is to keep lines of communication open between religions.
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However, hate-filled acts make it difficult for people of different religions to come together in peace, and to understand one another. Acts of hatred—such as the arson attacks on mosques in the UK or the kidnapping and torture (which resulted in the death) of a Jewish man, Ilan Halimi, by a gang of Muslim immigrants in France—are all despicable to say the very least. In light of such events, people generally remind others of the way people of all faiths had lived in harmony in examples from the past: alAndalus in Spain, Mughal India under Akbar, Ottoman Turkey, etc. Although these examples highlight our shared histories, we shouldn’t forget the efforts being taken today to promote mutual understanding and amicability. In 2006, British Muslims and Jews took it upon themselves to resurrect bridges between their communities by launching a radio station titled Radio Salaam Shalom. The radio station makes it a part of their mission to “promote positive relations and advance cooperation and
understanding between the Jewish and Muslim communities.” The station, which just celebrated its first anniversary on February 1, broadcasts Jewish and Islamic programs, as well as music. The presenters also showcase up-and-coming artists from both cultures and religions, and hold discussions on topics relating to Islam and Judaism. The organization, Salaam Shalom Ltd, funds the station and hopes to start similar projects to promote interreligious cordiality. Another instance of religious cordiality occurred in November 2007, when a Christian bishop returned to the St. John’s Church in Baghdad. Upon his return, a crowd of local Muslims and Christians were waiting to welcome him home. According to Lt. Col. Stephen Michael of the American military, Catholic Christians were the first to be harassed by the Al Qaeda terrorists, but local Muslims were the first to urge the American army to protect the Christians from Al Qaeda. Soon after, Al Qaeda’s harassments (which included demanding
the Christians to pay a non-existent “rent”) escalated into killings of both Christians and Muslims, forcing thousands of Iraqis to flee their own homes. On that peaceful day in November, however, the pews of St. John’s Church were filled—mainly by Muslims, who just of both Christians and Muslims. The Iraqi Muslims just had one message for their Christian friends: “Come home.” More recently, Muslim scholars sought to establish better relations with the international Jewish community. The Centre for the Study of Muslim-Jewish Relations (CSMJR), which is part of the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths based in Cambridge, is promoting a letter of understanding between the Muslim and Jewish communities. The letter emphasized the two faiths’ common theological beliefs—especially, their strict monotheism—and the shared reverence for the Hebrew patriarchs. This attempt to reach out is long overdue, especially due to the animosity generated by IsraeliPalestinian conflict that has constantly damaged Muslim-Jewish relations. Signatories to the letter included Dr. Tariq Ramadan, Mustafa Ceric, the grand mufti of Bosnia, and Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian professor at al-Quds University in Jerusalem. Rabbi David Rosen welcomed the initiative by stating that modern politics had overshadowed the “remarkable cooperation and crossfertilization” which often existed between Muslim and Jewish people. These examples highlight some important steps already being undertaken in the world today. People, who are quick to remind others of the religious tolerance and amity in the past, forget to mention the many campaigns in our contemporary world working to create that same era of
religious tolerance and amity today. Some may say that the examples mentioned above are limited to the Abrahamic faiths, which suggests to them that Muslims aren’t interested in amiable relations with other faiths. That’s simply not true. Muslims have defended the rights of non-Abrahamic faiths as well. Last year, the BBC reported on a group of Muslims who were monitoring the treatment of followers of the Baha’i faith in the Muslim world, as part of an online network. The network is appropriately called “The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights.” More undertakings ought to be encouraged, especially since there is a dire need for more bridge-building between Muslims and other religious communities. Channels of mutual understanding will help educate others about Islam and Muslims, as well as counter the growing Islamophobia in the world. With greater harmony between faiths, we will be one step closer to peace—no matter if you call it “Salaam” or “Shalom.”
SOURCES: “Muslim Scholars Seek Improved Relations with Global Jewish Community.” <http://www.ekklesia. co.uk/node/6861> Yon, Michael. “Come home.” <http://www. michaelyon-online.com/wp/come-home.htm> “Radio Salaam Shalom.” salaamshalom.org.uk/ >
“Formation of a Muslim Group in defense of the Rights of Baha’is.” <http://www.bahairights. org/2007/07/20/this-network-featured-on-bbcpersian>
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The Muslim Voice presents Photography Contest
Faith is a Beacon of Light in a Desert of Solitude Faareha Khalid â€œThis photo was taken on the night of the storm on February 1st, 2008. It reminds me a lot of the lamp that Lucy Pevensie sees when she first enters the world of Narnia, the lamp which she also uses as a guide to get back home.â€?
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Faith is a Blessing Zachary deVries “This picture was taken in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul in mid-June 2007. The skyline of Istanbul is filled with mosques and minarets not skyscrapers.”
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1st 2nd 3rd
FAITH IS PEACE Daanish Afzal (See Front Cover)
FAITH IS A BEACON OF LIGHT IN A DESERT OF SOLITUDE Faareha Khalid (See page 13)
FAITH IS A BLESSING Zachary deVries (See above)
Faith is to live in the shade of the Chosen One Nosheen Mian
Faith is a Polished heart that reflects Truth Nosheen Mian
Faith is unfaltering Muhannad Malas
Faith is like The Light of Con Hall Fahad Khan
Faith is Mother Nature Tasneem Dasoo Faith Is The Thirst for Knowledge Reza Ashraf
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Faith is Beautiful in Bloom
Faith is To Believe that the Trees prostrate to Allah Sana Ghazi
Faith is the Footsteps you take towards Allah Arfeen Malick
Faith is Affirmed by Everything Around Us
Faith Points Us towards Heaven Fahad Khan
Faith is Like the Sunset over the Red Sea Hashi Mohamed
g Meet the Judgesf Peter Gould Sydney-born designer & artist Peter Gould founded Azaan to explore his passion for contemporary graphic design, art, photography and the rich visual & spiritual traditions of the Middle East. His travels and studies throughout the region have inspired a unique cultural fusion that is reactive to a world of misunderstanding. Peter’s work has reached many audiences locally and abroad through exhibitions, appearances and collaborations with other artists. Day to day he runs his graphic & web design studio Creative Cubed (http://www.creativecubed.com.au/graphicdesign/home.html) based in Sydney, consulting to both local and international clients in print, branding and web-based design projects. Please visit his website at: http://www.azaan.com.au/. Umar Shahzad Umar Shahzad is a graphic designer by profession, and photographer by passion. A recent graduate of the York University/Sheridan College Joint Program in Design, he has always had an interest in fine arts. After purchasing a digital SLR camera, he was still unsure of how to capture the types of photos he envisioned in his mind. Through self-education, practice and experimentation, he has learnt about various photographic techniques and continues to apply them to his work, including the photos posted on his photoblog (http://www.umarshahzad.com/ focus/). He is also a contributor to Global Themes, a collection of photographs revolving around a weekly theme, from people around the world. Through his own experience with his foray into photography, Umar Shahzad believes that when an individual is fully intent on learning something new, there are no limits to what they can learn. His website: http://www.umarshahzad.com/. Teakster Teakster is an artist from United Kingdom. What he lacks in sanity, he replaces with his artistic ability. His art is a form of escapism: being able to be creative without any boundaries. When people look at his work, he wants them to feel an emotion or move something inside them. He believes that Muslims, especially in non-Muslim lands, shouldn’t underestimate the value of their work. Together we have the power to communicate on a platform unhindered by language barriers and inspire or even reach people at a personal level. Anyways, he’ll stop babbling, but if you want to see more of his work, then please go to his website www.teakster.co.uk
The Muslim Voice would like to thank the Judges and everyone who particpated in the Photography Contest. THE MUSLIM VOICE
Islamic Knowledge “I want to be a scholar when I grow up! I will go to Syria to study Islam for five years.” “You can’t learn Islam from books! You have to learn under a traditional Sh Shaykh.” kh ” “You should be careful about who you learn your Deen (religion) from! Don’t listen to this deviant scholar.” “Make sure you never study the Quran on your own.” “Just stick to Quran and Hadith and that’s enough! Scholars just pollute Islam with their personal interpretations.” “You can’t learn or teach Islam without mastering Arabic first!” “I don’t trust the Sunnah (Prophetic traditions). We should follow the Quran only.”
IN PURSUIT OF KNOWLEDGE These real life statements represent a vast array of confusion and naïve thinking found among many Muslims. In an 18 THE MUSLIM VOICE
attempt to extinguish a burning desire for ‘learning Islam or Deen’, many practicing Muslims, often take extreme approaches to the study of Islam that are devoid of practicality and spirituality. In order to overcome this problem we need to unlearn, before we learn. The Prophet, peace be upon him, used to ask, “O Allah, grant me benefit in what You have taught me, teach me what will benefit me, and increase my knowledge.” (Related by Tirmidhi) “Whenever Allah wants to favour a person He grants him Fiqh (understanding) of Deen.” (Related by Bukhari and Muslim) “The best of you in the time of ignorance (Jahiliyyah) will be the best of you in Islam, only if you attain the understanding (Faquhu).” (Related by Bukhari and Muslim) Is every book you read on Islam truly beneficial? Does a class led by a particular
scholar help you understand Islamic knowledge better? How practica practical is it in our context? Public universities and colleges colleges, driven bby corporate-and-profi d fit-driven di agendas, often fail to impart knowledge that makes you think about the purpose and reality of life. As Dr. Elijah Dan, a Professor at the University of Toronto says, “University was supposed to teach us about the universe. Today, sadly it educates about everything but universe and creation. It is simply busy producing technocrats to soon join the corporate world.” In perplexing times like ours when Muslims mix up their priorities and abuse Islamic knowledge, we are in dire need for luminaries who understand Islam and modern challenges, learn to take beneficial knowledge from everyone, seamlessly integrate the traditional learning with contemporary sources, and make education relevant to our society.
As Imam Zaid Shakir explains, we need balanced seekers of knowledge who can show “that it is possible to combine, without conflict, the constructs that have come to be known as Sufi and Salafi; that it is possible to be deeply committed to the Sunnah while simultaneously advocating and defending the four juridical schools; and that one can be critical of the formulations of the speculative theologians, while simultaneously respecting the institutional reality built by their followers.”
UNLEARN “CAN’T TEACH UNTIL I PERFECT MYSELF” Life is an ever-growing circle of study, practice, and improvement! As Ustadh Khurram Murad states, “We cannot wait to become ‘purified’ and ‘perfect’. For, at no point in time can one consider oneself to be perfect.” As our personality, faith, and knowledge evolve and reach new heights, so should our concern for the environment and people around us. So there is no such notion in Islam as “I will not invite people to Islam until I am through with learning Islam myself.” When will you ever be through?
SECULAR VERSUS ISLAMIC EDUCATION According to Dr. Ingrid Mattson, there is no division or dichotomy between secular and Islamic learning. The only type of division in knowledge that we see in Islam is between: * Mu’amalat (the daily affairs & dealings, i.e. business, relationships...etc.) * ‘Ibaadaat (the matters dealing with worship and belief system, i.e. Salah (prescribed prayer), fasting....etc.) If you are a doctor, businessman, engineer, journalist, teacher, etc., you need to know, what Islam says about the ethics of your profession. Wholeness is the essence of Islamic education. Even in
“worldly” affairs, Muslims are obliged to learn the laws of Allah, Glory be to Him, in the particular field that we are in, in order to live Islam completely!
QUALITY VERSUS QUANTITY In Islam, training (tarbiyyah) and character-development is a life-long process. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. The great companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, always made sure to first practice whatever they knew. Abu Darda, may God be pleased with him, used to say, “I am not afraid that it will be said to me (on the Day of Judgement): ‘What have you learnt?’ But I am more afraid that it will be said to me: ‘What have you done with what you have learnt?’” How do we plan to use the knowledge that we gain in our lives?
UNBRIDGEABLE GAP BETWEEN SCHOLAR AND NON-SCHOLARS As Dr. Mattson argues, there is really no difference between a ‘traditional scholar’ and a layperson, because a knowledgeable and pious professional or entrepreneur, in principle, is a scholar as well in a specialized field, since he learns what he needs to know about his profession and applies this knowledge in his everyday life which could be passed on to others who seek it. In our present day and age, we need scholarship that specializes in contemporary disciplines, such as medicine, economics, arts, media, social services, engineering and others, to provide Islamic perspectives and alternatives in these fields.
SAHABAS WERE ALL SCHOLARS To every Companion of the Prophet, Islamic education and training was a natural process. Moreover, it was an issue and situation based learning, more than an organized theoretical learning.
You can count the number of “scholars” among the Companions on your fingers. This did not prevent them from applying Islam to all aspects of their lives and confidently spreading the pure message of Islam throughout the world. Even the ones who were devoted to learning and recording knowledge did not aim to be “scholars”.
ORAL VERSUS LITERARY TRADITION In response to a question, “What about the claim of those who say that Islamic knowledge has always been an oral tradition?” Dr. Ingrid replied: “Transmission of knowledge in Islam has always been a dual process. The presence of Islamic books and literacy is a blessing from Allah, Glory be to Him. But we do need scholars as a source of clarification and motivation. Do not belittle the books! The Prophet, peace be upon him, encouraged literacy among Muslims. Even the Quran was later preserved in the form of a book.”
MADRASAS AND TRADITIONAL ISLAMIC UNIVERSITIES A few centuries after the time of the Sahabas (Companions of the Prophet), came the idea of official Islamic educational institutes/schools, known as Madrasas. This concept of institution served to organize the Islamic teachings and sciences and provided a central place where people would go and learn. It also helped tremendously in preservation and further development of Islamic sciences. However, according to Dr. Ingrid Mattson, there were a few major problems with the concept of Madrasas: * It gave rise to the development of ‘personalities’ of the teachers, who became quite complacent, and at times arrogant due to their status. It also gave rise to factionalism and rivalries between the Madrasas, lead by their teachers. THE MUSLIM VOICE
* We also witnessed an increasing exclusion of women from the spheres of knowledge, due to this system of learning. Women were much more involved during the time of Prophet (peace be upon him) and a few generations after, as they attended the Halaqahs (study circles) that were open to the public. These women preserved the knowledge and narrated books even to the males and females of the next generation. Therefore, we see that the Halaqah system was much more beneficial for women, in comparison with Madrasas.
of the people. As Imam Khalid Griggs, a North American Muslim leader, activist and scholar, explains: “Our problem, in the Muslim community of North America is not that we have a lack of Islamic knowledge. We have hundreds of Muslim scholars graduating from Islamic universities around the world and coming to the West every year. Yet there is no change! The real problem is that we have lost the real vision and understanding of the mission of Islam!” Where are our priorities?
CAN’T INTEGRATE CREATIVITY AND FUN WITH ISLAMIC EDUCATION
* Madrasas also introduced the ‘Ijazah’ system, which certified a student to narrate a Hadith or a book to others in the exact same manner as he had heard it from the teacher--- the chain going back to the Prophet, peace be upon him. While this was an excellent way of ensuring the accuracy in the oral transmission of knowledge, later on it discouraged common people from conveying the message of Islam. Such notion of monopolization of knowledge in our interconnected world of information technology is absurd, if not contrary to the teachings of Islam, to say the least.
There are several new and creative modes of Islamic learning that make Islam much easier and fun to learn. Just because Allah, Glory be to Him, has made Islamic education easy through technology, such as audio/video/CD/DVD programs and lectures, email newsletters, phone conference calls, e-magazines, articles, PalTalk, video conferencing, and iPod, doesn’t mean they are not effective or beneficial. In many ways these avenues of auditory and visual learning supplement traditional method of learning through books and scholars.
STICK TO QURAN & HADITH ONLY
Some people think that their personal reading of Quran translation and a few Ahadith is enough to pass judgements on complex matters in our community. They discard the valuable collection of wisdom, reflections, and sciences developed by the classical scholars. Such simplistic, literal, and naïve thinking often results in perverted fatwas (legal rulings) that make media headlines. We need the aid of scholars and contemporary sciences to come to a comprehensive solution.
Some so-called ‘progressive Muslims’ have a hard time digesting certain aspects of Islam or Islamic sources that do not seem ‘rational’ or ‘compliant’ with our modern age. They pick and choose whatever they like. Due to this cut and paste method of learning they fail to see the bigger picture and deny Islamic law any role in our society. This leads to privatization of Islam to the domain of personal worship only.
LEARNING IN A VACUUM Our Islamic education cannot be detached from the problems of our society: it should directly address the concerns 20 THE MUSLIM VOICE
10 TIPS TO ENHANCE KNOWLEDGE OF ISLAM 1. PRIORITIZE What are the priorities of the Muslim
community today? What is required of me? Is it essential for me to spend 4 years isolated in a desert or some foreign country to study Islam or is it more beneficial for me to use my skills to benefit the community, while learning Islam in Canada?
2. SPECIALIZE Young minds and scholars need to do research on contemporary issues such as entertainment in Islam, Islamic banking, media studies, etc.
3. START WITH THE BASICS Don’t be overwhelmed by the hundreds of books and dozens of Islamic sciences to choose from. It is better to start your journey by focusing on and mastering three things: i) Tafsir (commentary and exegesis) of the Quran, ii) Fiqh (analysis) of Sirah (life of the Prophet and the first generation of Muslims), and iii) Our Society (the history, culture, political system, demographics, and current events of the country).
4. BE A SCHOLAR IN YOUR PROFESSION Look for Islamic institutions that offer workshops and training programs that train Muslim professionals in Islamic ethics for their respected professions. Professionals need to learn the ethical issues related to their work. We rarely see Muslims sharing Islamic knowledge at their job. For some reason we feel that Islam only needs to be applied in our personal life, and not in our professions. If you are approaching your final years of university, try doing a research project, a thesis, or internship that incorporates Islam or issues concerning Muslims.
5. USE BOOKS/CDS/INTERNET/E-MAIL We are blessed with resources such as books, magazines, websites, CD’s, email, etc., due to the advancement of technology. We should not ignore or underestimate these beneficial resources if we do not have regular access to Muslim scholars to learn from. By using these resources, when an opportunity arises to spend a day, a week, or a year with a knowledgeable Muslim, we will be better prepared to benefit from their learning. Do not underestimate the power of books and articles! These resources let you analyze the information most effectively. Many people come to Islam because of ONE book.
6. PARTICIPATE WEEKLY IN A HALAQAH Have a Halaqah (study circle); even if you have very few people available, just be regular. Halaqahs are interactive group studies where people learn from the Quran and other books together. Halaqahs are more informal and focus on real life issues. Keep It Simple. Sometimes people get discouraged by looking at our complicated and ambitious syllabi for classes or Halaqahs. We should keep it as simple and practical as possible.
nopoly over the Truth. As Ali bin Abu Talib, may God be pleased with him, used to say, “don’t judge the Truth by a scholar (i.e. who’s saying it). Know the Truth first and you will find the scholars that belong to it.” Don’t stop listening to a scholar because another scholar or a book says something bad about them. Be critical of everyone. Question the content and sources of your own scholar. When in doubt, resort to the principles in the Quran and Sunnah.
9. DO NOT JUDGE SCHOLARS BASED ON MEDIA (MIS)REPRESENTATION Don’t believe media reports about a Muslim scholar or leader in a community. The media loves quoting scholars who are vocal or controversial without providing the context. All too often journalists misquote or partially quote people. Just because a newspaper has a statement by someone, doesn’t mean they are either good or bad. Try to verify a controversial statement directly from the scholar or leader before launching your own criticism.
10. LEARN A LITTLE EVERY DAY OR WEEK Doing a little bit regularly is the real way of learning our Deen! For example by learning one Hadith per week at a Halaqah, you can memorize 52 Hadiths a year!
7. BE DYNAMIC! Any class or Halaqah you join, find out if it trains its students or members to provide leadership in the community. Does it revive the Muslim mind and spirit? Or does it focus primarily on secondary issues? Does it dwell on trivial differences most of the time? The process of gaining and imparting Islamic knowledge should be a dynamic one.
8. TAKE GOOD FROM EVERYONE Stop using labels. No scholar has a moTHE MUSLIM VOICE
3-4 A.M. Early morning, 3am I am still awake Feeling my heart ache Struggling to collect The past that was wrecked Reminiscing, I swam Exhausted I am Knowing life is opaque And how often people are fake Innocent mind they infect Purity, they foolishly reject Not finding an answer; I climb Staring at stars; loveâ€™ em I see the floating clouds that make Onlookers feel fully awake Crisp, dark night fully reflect Majesty of God in full effect Magnificent nature; a true gem Deeply satisfied I am His presence melting my ache His shelter, I must take Slowly, I will learn to collect Because myself, I truly respect Losing my fear, I finally rest; 4 a.m. ARZOO ZAHEER
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BEHOLD! It creeps and crawls Along the walls Unexpectedly it springs out, A big surprise without doubt! So proudly, it is walking by And I wonder why … Ah! Because Allah has mentioned it in His Qur’an – The Book that changes hearts, strengthens Imaan. Amongst Allah’s most magnificent creatures So Behold! His powers in its splendid features! Allah’s commands it’s only obeying It’s spinning, it’s weaving Look at it go! Its silky thread now a big trap – So watch out! Little insects … Indeed, a friend to you and me From the insect bites, we get to be free Behold! He Himself has mentioned it in His Book In Surah 29, have a look! ASNA KHADIJA AHMAD
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As I listen to my mother sing to Mustafa on her lap in a soothing rhythmic Somali lullaby, a stream of memories flood my mind. I remember a time, not so long ago, when I sat on her lap listening to the same lullaby silently, feeling sleepy and satisfied. I would feel as if my heart were content whenever she picked me up to gently caress my head or put a band-aid on those fake scratches I imagined on my arm. I remember the look on her face everytime I fell on the floor or jumped off a tree. I even remember that black ski mask she persistently bought me every winter because I seemed to have “lost” them accidentally every year. Lastly, I remember a cold winter day in Grade 11 when my Mother and I got into a heated argument over a matter that seems frivolous today. I yelled and she yelled and I left the house that day slamming the door behind me walking out into the cold winter air surrounded by a sea of snow. I angrily stomped through the snow, and just thinking about her made my blood boil in anger and rage. Reaching the bus stop, the fury was written like a map all over my face and almost certainly evident to the strangers in the bus shelter that I was huddled with. When the bus came to a stop I heard someone yell from behind me, “Hodaaa, Hodaaa!” I turned around to see my Mother wearing a thin jacket and the shalmaad (long shawl) she wore that morning. In her hand was my lunch. In the midst of my frustration I had left the lunch packed for me on the table. She continued to run towards me in the snow, barely dressed for the cold. When she reached me she said, “Hodan, you forgot your lunch at home. Here you go and run, the bus is almost gone.” I ran towards the bus and quickly climbed up the steps. As I sat down in a comfortable seat, away from the chilly wind, I had a moment to reflect and that is when I came to a realization: Her love was unconditional. She ran through the snow on that cold day. A day when my disrespect for her became as clear as the full moon on a dark solemn night. Despite this, she ran through the cold to give me my lunch. My eyes glistened and a tear slowly appeared rolling down my cheek. Allahumma ighfirlee (Allah forgive me). HE MUSLIM VOICE 24 T“RAMADAN IS/RAMADAN WAS” | THE MUSLIM VOICE 24
I sat in my classroom today next to this, masha’Allah hijabi sister hoping that through her I could attain some sort of connection. I thought that this servitude and submission to Allah (Subhanahu Watalla) which we shared would reflect upon the discussions we could engage in. Unfortunately, I underestimated this love and it seemed to me that the sweetness of Imaan (faith) was void in our conversation as it lead to idle talk and concerned matters of no benefit neither in this duniya (world) nor the afterlife. She spoke to others about matters that seemed of no great importance, such as how “freaking” long this class was and why this “dumb prof” would not let them out early. About how it “sucks” to be the oldest and that my brother is ABC and my sister is XYZ. She listened and laughed along when another student told her of a time she went jogging drunk through high park At me, however, she looked blankly when I spoke about a tafseer (exegesis) class that took place on campus, and mentioned ongoing events that were being organized by the MSA. She responded by saying, “that really isn’t my thing.” The disappointment I felt was evident. Throughout
the class I was itching to move to a different seat, a place where people didn’t act so fake and bubbly, and one where the conversations were of substance and benefit. Perhaps this anger and disappointment came from the realization that I too had picked up the traits this sister was displaying in my day-to-day conversations. Why was I in dismay about this conversation when it was me who committed greater sins daily? It was me who spoke about the person I loved the most in a despicable manner daily. I had felt better about myself because, hey, at least I didn’t talk about getting drunk or how ugly the professor looked. In a popular hadith a man came to the Prophet, peace be upon him, and asked: “O Messenger of Allah! to whom should I show kindness? He replied: Your mother, then your mother, then your mother, and then comes your father…” Imam Ali bin Hussein, the great-grandson of the Prophet, said:“Coming to the rights of relatives, it is the right of your mother that you should appreciate that she carried you [in her womb] as nobody carries anybody, and fed you the fruits of her heart which nobody feeds anybody, and protected you [during pregnancy] with her ears, hands, legs, hair, limbs, [in short] with her whole being, gladly, cheerfully and carefully; suffering patiently all the worries, pains, difficulties and sorrows [of pregnancy], till the hand of God removed you from her and brought you into this world. Then she was most happy, feeding you forgetting her own hunger, clothing you even if she herself had no clothes, giving you milk and water not caring for her own thirst, keeping you in the shade, even if she had to suffer from the heat of the sun, giving you every comfort with her own hardships; lulling you to sleep while keeping herself awake.” The Quran and Sunnah (traditions of the Prophet) illustrate to us, time and time again the magnitude of love and mercy the mother has towards her child and the manner in which respect and admiration should be reflected in this relationship. When even saying “ooff” (giving attitude) is impermissible, how can I have the audacity to continue to speak about what a siser says and how she acts with others? We jump on others as well as ourselves when we begin to backbite about people, yet we continue to insult and abuse our mothers daily and with content and joy. Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said, “The pleasure of the Lord lies in the pleasure of the parent. The anger of the Lord lies in the anger of the parent.” So once again I shall turn to Allah and say, Allahuma Igfirlee (Allah forgive me). Insha’Allah (God willing), let’s work to make speaking bad about our mothers, or anyone else, extinct from our discussions with our friends and others so we can be resurrected and remain under the shade of the tree as those who were friends for the sake of Allah. I say this as an example to myself before anyone else. And May Allah have mercy on our mothers and help us to fulfill the rights they have upon us. Ameen (Amen)! HODAN OSMAN
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The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I and the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise like this,” putting his index and middle fingers together.
Orphan Sponsorship Program Making a Difference Worldwide!
The deafening explosions, the clouds of dust, and the wounded bodies scattered on the ground cause a split second of disturbance. The very next moment, the scene shifts to a remote village where the sight of malnourished and disease-afflicted people and armies of flies buzzing around their bodies causes another brief moment of pity. The scene switches again. Flashes of images continuously appear and disappear until something pleasant becomes visible, and the remote control finally rests. The spectator sitting before the television feels relieved as he/she pushes away from sight the most “clichéd” images that penetrate our lives every day. Allow me to confess that I can easily identify with this spectator. Our hectic schedules and our own predicaments in life often create within us an indifferent attitude towards the countless victims of war, poverty, natural disaster and disease all over the globe. The feelings of grief that are felt are often temporary, as we possess the liberty to flip the channel or discard the newspaper at any time. We tend to live within the illusion that the events are so distant from us in both geographical and political terms, that we and our lives bear little to no relevance to them. Therefore, we often do not feel that we have an enormous responsibility towards the victims, especially the children. It is no surprise that those victimized the most in these tragic events are the children who lose their parents, their sole string of support in the midst of their already difficult conditions. It is the orphans that are left bearing the crushing burden of poverty and hunger, and the responsibility 26 THE MUSLIM VOICE
of looking after younger siblings. The UNICEF fact sheet for 2004 estimates that by the end of 2003, there were 143 million orphans aged 0-17 in 93 developing countries. More than 16 million were orphaned in 2003 alone. Due to recent disaster such as Tsunamis, earthquakes, war and the AIDS-related crisis in Africa, the numbers are continuously on the rise. Putting things in perspective therefore, allows us to reassess the magnitude of our own problems. It also enables us to consider our duties towards the children and to recognize ourselves as potential activists and helpers who can very easily contribute to the improvement of an orphan’s life. In 2003, a volunteer student initiative was launched at the University of Toronto known as the Orphan Sponsorship Program (OSP), with the aim of bringing awareness to the situation of orphans around the world and raise funds to sponsor orphans. Since then, OSP’s achievements have been remarkable: This past year alone (2007-2008) they raised over $60,000, masha’Allah (God has willed it). Accumulatively, in almost 5 years of OSP’s existence, more than $205,000 has been raised. They are regularly sponsoring via recognized and registered charities, 120 orphans from over 17 different countries, spanning 4 continents. All donations received by the OSP are used to sponsor the orphans, with the OSP at UofT not taking any administrative charges. All their expenses are covered by student funding and other initiatives such as bake
sales. Donation covers education, health, food, shelter and other basic necessities for the orphans. As the Founder of OSP, Dr. Farhan Asrar, currently a resident physician and the Head Coordinator of OSP for the past 5 years, said: “The Orphan Sponsorship Program is a prime example among many others that show us the positive difference that students can make in today’s society and in the lives of others. Our achievements is truly a blessing, at the same time it is a challenge as every year, we need to raise enough to sponsor 120 (and hopefully, even more) orphans annually. However, with the continued help of our community, we will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of orphans year after year.” The OSP at UofT is unique among student groups since its pursuits are ongoing. Unlike many student-organized fundraising initiatives that are usually short-term events, the OSP has been able to help many orphans since its inception and continues to do so regularly on an annual basis. They sponsor orphans from a wide range of geographical areas such as the tsunami-affected Indonesia and Sri Lanka, countries shaken by earthquakes such as Pakistan and Kashmir, conflict and war-torn regions such as Afghanistan, the Middle East, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya and many others. The versatility and activities of OSP are encouragement and student groups and
sincerity in the reflected in their aiding of other committees from
various universities to start similar orphan ssponsorship initiatives. Besides continuing their own efforts of sponsoring continuin orphans through educating students and the co omm community about the plight of the childr ren by means of talks, seminars, children pposter posters and booths, they participate in crea ati leaders in other institutions who creating cann co co-ordinate the similar task of raising awa are awareness. As such, the OSP has been suc successful in extending beyond the label of a University of Toronto organization and has brought the public together in the collective pursuit of one goal: the creation of positive difference in the lives of orphans. The OSP hopes and plans to continue re-sponsoring the children that they are currently sponsoring on an annual basis, and gradually sponsor additional orphans at a manageable pace. The organization also enforces a policy of helping orphans everywhere, regardless of race, creed, gender, nationality, or cultural and ethnic background, with no bias or preferential treatment towards any group. Other goals of the OSP include bringing awareness about orphans all over Canada by the means of more large-scale events and seminars. The OSP has also begun keeping a rapport with the sponsored children. The charities that they sponsor from, annually provide OSP with profiles and updates on the children. Donors who donate to OSP can be assigned to a specific orphan and such profiles/updates can be forwarded to them, to keep them updated on their sponsorship. As OSP continues to build a rapport with the sponsored children through letters and greeting cards, they aim to strengthen the bond with them by thinking of new ways to make these gestures more thoughtful and more expressive. As Dr. Asrar said, “These children not only lack financial support but they also lack emotional support. Our aim is to create a connection with the children by opening a channel of communication. We’ll be sending letters,
greeting cards telling them about us and the community here. Hopefully they’ll write back, enabling us to know how they are doing and at the same time, keeping a check on the charities to ensure that our donations are being properly utilized and the needs of orphans are being met.” The OSP recently organized ‘Eid Card Signing Socials’ where greeting cards were signed, decorated and then sent along with Eid gifts to the orphans being sponsored. It was a pleasant surprise for the OSP, when they received cards and letters back from a number of the orphans, thanking them for the card, gift and asking the students to keep corresponding with them! Furthermore, the OSP Co-Head Coordinators for this academic year 2008-2009, Asma Challiwala, Asna Ahmad, and Maheen Khatri have some new events in store for OSP participants. Last year the first ever OSP Fundraising Dinner, was a huge success both in terms of fundraising and enjoyment, so we plan to organize a similar event this year as well. We also plan on organizing other awareness and fundraising events such as the Eid Card Signing Events as well as Mini-Bazaar which will consist of a variety of items like baked goods, ethnic dishes, henna, hand-crafted bookmarks and an information booth with updates on the orphans we are sponsoring. The kindness and generosity of the Muslim students on campus and everyone else who donated, was simply overwhelming. Donations were not limited to Ontario, but have been coming in from provinces all over Canada (Alberta, New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador) and even from the United States. The OSP at UofT has come a long way and consists of over eight committees which are constantly striving to help orphaned children all over the world and make a positive difference in their lives. We’re currently in the process of adding new countries to our list of child sponsorship.
To all OSP’s past, present, and future readers, donors, and volunteers: Jazakum Allahu Khairan (may God reward you for your efforts) for helping OSP in whichever way possible and making a difference in the lives of orphans worldwide, and may Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) reward you. Please also spread the word, encouraging others to donate to OSP, which is important to OSP in continuing to sponsor orphans. Furthermore, please remember the Muslims in less fortunate communities, who are all over the world in your prayers. May Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) grant all of us His highest level of Paradise (Jannatul-Firdaus). Ameen.” Sponsoring an orphan can be a truly meaningful and fulfilling experience. You can lend a helping hand to that child who awaits and certainly deserves a bright future, and it only costs $1-2 a day to make a difference. Donations can be made in cash, online via Paypal or cheques addressed to: Orphan Sponsorship Program c/o Muslim Students’ Association 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 405 Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1J6 Note: Tax receipts will be issued upon request
It costs $360/year to sponsor an orphan from: Afghanistan, Kashmir, Bangladesh, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Guyana, Kosova, & Indonesia. It costs $720/year to sponsor an orphan from: Palestine, Lebanon, & Bosnia. It costs $420/year to sponsor an orphan from: Egypt & Burkina Faso. Donate any amount that you can this Ramadan! For more information: E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit: www.ospuoft.wordpress.com SILMI ABDULLAH
THE MUSLIM VOICE
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After Your Father Died
My first reaction was as always guilt. Survivor’s guilt in this instance, I suppose. Or some ugly ly variation of it. Not so much the niggling gling question of what does it mean for me to be alive, but what does it mean thatt I can have these moments of happiness?? h that I’m alive, Not so much ot about the death. because this guilt is not I did not know the man n your father who died. His absence now iis nott an absence b any greater than it was when I did not know him. Also, it’s these moments of happiness, my life undisrupted, that makes me question the extent and the nature of my love for you. His absence is manifested in your grief, so my guilt stems from the fact not of my being instead of him, but of my being happy instead of you. There are certain moments of happiness, though, that I do not think jar with your mourning. Joy in the snow, for instance. This is a piece of joy even in the life you’re still living. I am sure of this, absolutely sure. And I say this with my stomach sinking from fear that I may be wrong, because after all what do I know? This is your story that I’m extrapolating my surety onto. This is not a story I’ve had to survive yet. But I am sure of this. I need to be sure of this. That your love,
like my love, for the sky is undiminished, that it heals, that it is one piece of living and of dying and that our mournings can be conducted in, through, and despite these moments of euphoria. Those are not the moments for which I feel guilty. It’s the other things, the mundane everyday glancing kinds of happinesses that I regret: a song; a memory; something trivial, something passing, i something thi di disconnected t d ffrom you. That sky was not disconnected from you. In my moment of joy looking at it, I was still remembering you. But these little things, these other conversations, these other people, do not contain you. So when I am happy in these other, smaller spaces, I feel that I need to justify myself, because there is no space here for me to remember your mourning except as a nagging remorse disconnected from the moment at hand. Which is selfish and small of me, I know. This is a puritan approach to mourning that demands that I attempt to assume your grief, to make your pain my own. But how would that help and whom? FATHIMA CADER
THE MUSLIM VOICE
The September 2008 issue of the Muslim Voice magazine.