Sunday, December 12, 2010

Muhammad and Genital Mutilation

I followed up a link to what was called an "excellent balanced article regarding Islam" by a poster on beliefnet. I'm not going to include the link on this papge, because only a person who hates and fears Islam would consider this article balanced. It is full of highly insulting and inflammatory comments about Islam and Muslims, treating both as a scourge that threatens to engulf all of Western Civilization. Most importantly, none of these comments are backed up by footnotes, and I am certain that at least one of them is completely fabricated:an alleged Hadith in which Muhammad praises genital mutilation. The Arabs of Muhammad's time and place did not practice genital mutilation, so Muhammad would have had no reason to praise that practice, if he had heard of it at all. This is an African practice, and is done only by Sub-Saharan Africans and some Arabs who live in Africa. i.e. Egypt. The fact that this article contains such an obvious falsehood gives good reason for dismissing the rest of its alleged facts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Muhammad the Reformer

A New York Times Article describes how Iran has instituted Needle exchange and Methadone programs to help combat AIDs and drug abuse. How does a doctrinaire theocracy manage to overcome the moralistic objections that have made it so hard to start these programs in the West? Here's one quote of interest.

No matter what the regime, Iran’s medical schools have emphasized real science. “When I look at other countries I see lots of power interference from religion in public health,” said Bijan Nassirimanesh, a harm-reduction pioneer in Iran and founder of Persepolis, a drop-in harm reduction center in Tehran. “You don’t see that in Iran except for sex education. The foundation (of science) was so strong that it became a shield.”

In the "enlightened" USA there is not a single Republican Congressman that accepts the science of global warming. Apparently the foundation for science isn't as strong here.

Another quote confirms something I have definitely noticed in my own studies of Islam.

There is a rule in Islam that between bad and worse, you have to accept bad.

This is a principle that runs through all of Muhammad's teachings. Muhammad knew he couldn't get full equality for women. Consequently, he settled for giving women partial rights, while affirming that the rest of the patriarchal system should remain in place, to placate his male patriarchal followers. The unequal distribution of inheritance replaced a system in which women not only couldn't inherit at all, but were often inherited as property themselves. The passage in the Koran on corporal punishment for wives lists a series of things that men must do before they are permitted to use corporal punishment. (And according to some translators, doesn't mention physical force at all). Muhammad did not abolish slavery, but instituted reforms that permitted slaves to sue their masters in court if they were mistreated.

Sadly, many contemporary "conservative" Muslims are insisting that Muhammad's first steps towards reform be frozen in place, and have thus portrayed this great reformer into a reactionary.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Apostasy in Islam

Loonwatch has done the best scholarly research on Apostasy in Islam I have ever seen. These Guys rule. Careful reasoned attacks of the Loons on both sides of this controversy. Among its many useful resources is a link to a petition which renounces the idea that Islam requires death for Apostates. This petition was signed by over a hundred prominent Muslim clerics. Here's an important quote from that petition.

Undeniably, the traditional position of Muslim scholars and jurists has been that apostasy [riddah] is punishable by death. The longstanding problem of the traditional position, as held by Classical jurists or scholars, can be explained and excused as not being able to see apostasy, an issue of pure freedom of faith and conscience, separate from treason against the community or the state. However, the accumulated experience over the history in terms of abuse of this position about apostasy even against Muslims as well as the changed context of a globally-connected, pluralistic society should help us appreciate the contemporary challenges in light of the Qur'anic norms and the Prophetic legacy. In this context, while the classical misunderstanding about this issue of apostasy is excusable, the position of some of the well-known contemporary scholars is not

Not your Father's Hajj

This is a comment I made on a nice beliefnet post called Not my Father's Hajj The author discussed the fact that the trip to Mecca he took recently was both more comfortable and more commercial than the Austere pilgrimage he made as a boy with his father.

It's really nice to see a discussion about the heart of Islam, which ignores the trivial issues of clothing etc. that often dominate discussions in the mainstream media. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

The question between good modernizations of traditions and bad ones is a complex one, that runs through all religions and many non-religious aspects of life as well. Because I am not a Muslim, anything I say about this topic must be accepted with not only grains of salt but huge handfuls. Nevertheless, I feel inclined to offer my comments, and humbly hope they might be interesting, and perhaps even useful.

The way you describe your first Haj seems to imply that it had many of the benefits of Ramadan: a kind of ritualized deprivation which brings one face to face with our own vulnerability, and inspires compassion for those who are less fortunate. I think there is something that can be received from that kind of pilgrimage that would not be received from looking down on Makkah from an air conditioned room while drinking Starbucks coffee. If I were a Muslim, I would try to approximate the first kind of experience in my own Haj, and would encourage other Muslims to do so if they could. Nevertheless, the Koran specifically says that people are exempt from Haj if they are too weak or sick to make the journey. Making the Haj more comfortable makes it possible for many people who would not have the strength to otherwise go, and I think that Muhammad would have approved of that. I think it's a good thing to make one's own Haj as austere as possible--as long one doesn't fall into the trap of becoming smug, and looking down on those who for whatever reason decided to take a more comfortable route.

The issue of the shops around the Masjid al-Haram is more complicated. I think it's a good thing to preserve old buildings, and a bad thing to sacrifice them to make a few bucks. Nevertheless, I can't see those aesthetic considerations as being equivalent to religious laws. If there have always been commercial buildings around the Haram, I can see no reason why new ones should be seen as more unreligious than old ones. We have to be careful about creating new religious prohibitions which change religion in the name of preserving it. Perhaps part of the challenge of the Haj is to maintain a spiritual sense while surrounded by elements of commerce.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What is Sharia Law?

I put up the following post on the NYtimes discussion board on Stanley Fish's column on the relationship between Shariah law and American Law:

It's amazing that so much discussion takes place over Sharia Law by people who have no idea what it is, whether or not the term refers to a single consistent point of view, or whether there are any significant number of U.S. Muslims who want Sharia law. I include myself in this category, but I'd like to clear up my ignorance on this topic. I do know that Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Taliban had significantly different ideas of what it consisted of. (although they are all pretty vile in their respective ways.) Isn't it possible that there are other interpretations of Sharia Law which are not that different from American Law? And how many Muslims in America actually want Sharia? Has anyone taken a poll? I have never seen a single demonstration in America demanding it. My guess is most US Muslims came here to get away from it.

Later I discovered another poster had given me something like an answer to my question:

"Must a devout Muslim choose between his or her faith and the letter of the law of the land?"

NO - and that's from Islamic doctrinal perspective.

When Muslims migrate to countries not governed by Islamic sharia or tradition (yes, there are Muslim countries that do not embrace sharia law), they are commanded to obey the laws of the country they reside in as long as those laws do not prevent them from carrying out their basic duties as Muslims.

To use some simplistic examples, under sharia it is permissible but not required for a man to have up to four wives. A man can have one wife and still be able to fulfill all his duties as a Muslim in any country. Therefore, according to Islam, he needs to follow US law and marry only one wife and duly punished under US law if he chooses to flout it.

On the other hand, if a law were passed that every person has to eat bacon with every meal then the law is in direct conflict with some of the basic tenents of Islam and Muslims are exhorted to move away from areas where laws conflict with religious practice.

France is a more nuanced case because of the burqa ban. The Quran directs women to "dress modestly" but does not explicitly advocate a burqa - that's a tradition passed on from the Saudis. The burqa vs niqab debate is still ongoing in the Muslim world, so technically the jury is still out on whether one can live as a devout Muslim there. Of greater concern is that a country felt it had to single out a minority religion for discrimination.

As a Muslim I find it ridiculous Prof Fish has decided to make an issue of a problem that does not exist. If he had simply looked into actual Islamic law, he might not have had to write this column as yet more fodder for the Tea Partiers. And for the record, no, I do not have references for my assertions. This was all taught to me long ago in my Islamic studies class in a muslim country (Pakistan).

It looks like I'm going to have to start reading about Sharia law these days, given that so many apparently unfounded statements are being made about it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Muslims and Free Speech

Aziz Poonawalla has co-authored a petition for muslims endorsing the principle of Free speech, specifically naming those who have been drawing caricatures of Muhammad. Here it is, in full.

I am proud to co-publish and add my name as a signatory to this statement upholding the principle of free speech and denouncing those who would threaten violence in the name of Islam. If you would like to add your signature, please send an email with your name, title, and organizational affiliation (if any) to Sheila Musaji,


We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur'an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.

The Qur'an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
* remain patient in adversity (3186);
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).

Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.

We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.

We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate--not reward them with further attention--by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.

A master copy with the complete list of signatories to this statement is available at The American Muslim website. If you would like to add your signature, please send an email with your name, title, and organizational affiliation (if any) to the Editor at The American Muslim, Sheila Musaji (

Amongst the responses were the usual urban legands that pass for Islamophobic scholarship, and demands for even more statements from Muslims about Hamas. etc. The expression "Moving the Goalposts" seems appropriate here. Whatever moderate Muslims do, there's no acknowledgment of the progress, only demands for more.

There's also a link in one of the posts to a site called Loonwatch Which is a Muslim response to sites like Jihad watch. The tone of the site is somewhat angry and abusive,(but no where near as bad as the average Islamophobe site, but there are some good facts on it, written by Muslims who are clearly sensible and honest.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Smearing of Feisal Rauf

Once people acknowledge that there is no possible reason to deny one of the two Mosques near ground zero the right to build a community center with a prayer room, the next step is to try to find something wrong with Faisal Rauf, the sufi teacher who is organizing the project. Ross Douhat claims that he endorsed the Iranian regime, and won't denounce Hamas.

I checked Douhat's link to Rauf's supposed endorsement of the Iranian Regime, and both Douhat and blogger Michael Weiss misinterpreted Rauf's statement. Here's the conclusion of the section Weiss Quoted:

Now, on the streets of Teheran and undoubtedly in high political circles behind the scenes, Iranians are asking themselves, has this election confirmed the legitimacy of the ruler? President Obama has rightly said that his administration will not interfere with the internal affairs of Iran, unlike what happened in 1953. Now he has an opportunity to have a greater positive impact on Iranian-American relations.
He should say his administration respects many of the guiding principles of the 1979 revolution -- to establish a government that expresses the will of the people; a just government, based on the idea of Vilayet-i-faqih, that establishes the rule of law.

Anyone who was not reading this with a pathologically prejudiced eye would see that this is a criticism of the Iranian government, not an endorsement. What Rauf is advising is that Obama express his criticism of the Iranian Government by saying this: the poll fraud of the last Iranian election does not live up to the ideals that the Iranian Government claims to stand for. Rauf is surely correct in saying that this would be a more effective strategy than demanding that Iran adopt the American Bill of Rights. Rauf is arguing that the principles of just government and rule of law are an essential part of Islam's value sytem. This is certainly true. It is the reason that the U.S. Supreme Court building has a carving of Muhammad along with Moses and Hammurabi in a frieze honoring the great lawmakers of history. This is also by far the most persuasive way of persuading Muslims who are sitting on the fence between moderation and extremism.

As for Rauf's refusal to condemn Hamas: I feel that both Israel and Hamas are treating each other abominably. I disagree with both the softpedaling of Israel's atrocities by many Americans and the soft pedaling of Hamas' atrocities by many Muslims. But none of us has to agree on these issues to be recognized as legitimate members of the American Community. Catholics don't have to denounce papal infallibility, or accept Dawkins' demand that the pope be arrested as an accessory to pedophilia, in order to build their Churches anywhere they want, and that's exactly the way it should be. Violent destruction of property, whether by Bin Laden or McVeigh, is a crime and anyone who commits such crimes or irresponsibly advocates them should pay the appropriate penalty. But it would be a dark day for America if mere differences of opinion about foreign policy could be used to deny anyone's right to build a community center on their own land, in an area that already has several other houses of worship (including two Mosques).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Burqua again

I think the "Ban the Burqua" controversy is basically a conflict between two principles of ethics-the deontological (based on issues of justice) and the utilitarian (based on issues of happiness.) Deontological arguments of this sort are often used by people on the libertarian right--"No matter how unbalanced the distribution of wealth, the Government must never interfere with property rights". Nussbaum's NYTimes argument against Burqua bans has a similar form-- "No matter how many women are made miserable by the burqua, we must never interfere with religious freedom." Some of us use the utilitarian argument that banning the burqua could help to bring some Muslim women in greater contact with people outside their orthodox families, and thus give them more freedom of choice in the long run. This seems to be a more important fact than the abstract principle defended by Ms. Nussbaum. This issue is confused by the fact that the primary motivation for most burqua banners is Islamophobia. ( like the banning of Minarets.) Nevertheless, some people do the right thing for the wrong reason.

Utilitarian arguments do require more empirical input than justice arguments. Will the ban really give women more freedom, or just prompt their husbands and fathers to keep them permanently at home? Can this problem by more effectively dealt with by having the burqua wearers be persuaded by their hijabi and bare-headed sisters? Can the law really be written so that it doesn't ban ski masks? I'm still uncertain about the answers to these questions, but I do think these kinds of issues need to be considered, rather than only thinking about justice in the abstract. Abstract principles of justice often produce concrete examples of injustice.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

This religion is easy

This religion is easy. Do not make it a rigor, or you shall be overcome. Be steadfast, seek the closeness of Allah, grow in virtue, and implore His appeasement day and night.

- Hadith The Prophet Muhammad (SAW), as reported by Abu Hurairah

Nothing in here about not playing music, or keeping your beard long, or stopping women from driving cars. As a political leader, sometimes Muhammad had to make a lot of ad hoc decisions about what his particular Ummah had to do at that particular time. I see no reason to believe he wanted a troop of scholars to comb through everything everyone remembered about what he said and construct a set of prohibitions that are not mentioned anywhere in the Koran

Sunday, July 25, 2010


Terrific Interview with the Builder of the so-called 9/11 Mosque. Lots of unjustified accusations against somebody (apparently him) in the comments. Read it, it needs no comment from me. Among other things, he invites Sarah Palin to visit his current mosque.

I've now decided that it is important to see this thing through. Muslims need to be patient, and take a lot of abuse,like black children attending white schools for the first time. Or like Muhammad who let a woman dump garbage on him until she finally realized he was a saint and converted to Islam. Let people see that once this center is up, it is not dangerous, and they will regret their hysteria years later.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Quotes from NYtimes comment page

Here is an excerpt of a statement by H.E. Shaikh Salih bin Muhammad Al-Luheidan, Chairman of the Muslim Supreme Judicial Council on Friday, September 14, 2001, following the terrorist attacks in the United States:

". . . God Almighty says: 'And let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just, that is nearer to piety.' Inflicting a collective punishment is considered by Islam as despicable aggression and perversion. Killing innocent people is by itself a grave crime, quite apart from terrorizing and committing crimes against infants and women. Such acts do no honor to he who commits them, even if he claims to be a Muslim . . . " Sounds pretty dead- set against terrorism to me.


Visit the Cordoba house initiative and see just how scary these people are.

They believe in changing the muslim world through modern education. They believe in empowering women, women's equality.

Isn't that the key to ending the fundamentalism in Islam that is fueling the problem?

"A bit insensitive"

Suppose someone refused to serve African-Americans in their restaurant because he had once been beaten up and robbed by a gang of African-American teenagers? After all, it would be " a bit insensitive" to require him to let blacks in his restaurant after that traumatic experience he went through. Furthermore there are lots of areas of town that white people can't go into now for fear of violence. It's hardly fair to expect us to let blacks into "our" parts of town, when we can't go into "their" parts of town. And don't tell me that these teenagers were not typical blacks, that's just liberal propaganda. If you read the paper, you'll see that there are lots of black people who do things like that.

Do I need to spell this out? There is no significant difference between this example and the reaction to the Cordoba center. It's bigotry, pure and simple, to blame and discriminate against individuals because of the behavior of other individuals who happen to share their religion, skin color or ethnicity.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

the Mosque at Ground Zero

Check This Blog about the Mosque at Ground Zero, which actually isn't a Mosque, but a community center called Cordoba house, and is further away from Ground Zero than a strip club or pornography shop. Check out the comments if you have any doubts that Islamophobia is a real and present danger.

The poster "AngelElf" ought to change his or her nom de web to "DemonDwarf" considering the content of his or her message. This message complains that "Having a Muslim presence in the heart of Ground Zero is the ultimate in poor taste." The idea that someone can insult America by their mere presence is about as racist as one can get. Would DemonDwarf be equally outraged be the presence of blacks, Latinos, or Jews? DD is also worried by the fact that "Cordoba was the capital of an Islamic caliphate during the Moorish occupation of Spain." Cordoba was the capital of the most tolerant regime in the world for its time. It protected both Jews and Christians until the Muslims were thrown out by the Christians, who killed and tortured Muslims and Jews who didn't flee to the Muslim world. It's a perfect name for a Muslim center advocating tolerance.

Another poster wanted a Buddhist Temple at ground Zero, because "Buddhists have never murdered innocent citizens, American or otherwise, in the name of their religion." As a Buddhist, I'd be happy if this were true. Unfortunately, Zen Buddhist Monks and Priests trained and blessed the Japanese Kamikaze pilots in World War II, who were Buddhist suicide bombers. If you tell someone who remembers World War II that you're a Buddhist, they'll often talk about the "Bad Buddhists" who tried to destroy America. I don't feel the need to apologize for those Zen Buddhists, however, and I think it is equally unfair to say things like "Islam has too much anti-American rhetoric" when you mean "Some Muslims use too much anti-American rhetoric". Is it really so hard to understand the principle that people should only be blamed for the things they actually do?

Monday, July 5, 2010

I just found this Hadith on the Beliefnet site:

The Holy Prophet (saw) said "There will come a time upon the people when nothing will remain of Islam except its name and nothing will remain of the Quran except its inscription. Their mosques will be splendidly furnished but destitute of guidance. Their divines will be the worst people under the sky; strife will issue from them and avert to them."

No Citation for it, so I'm not sure it's legit. But if it is, it is a direct contradiction to my friend Abdullah's frequent claim that "Allah does not unite the believers in an error."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Women in Islam

Very interesting post by a Muslim woman can be found here Some quotes from it below.

To understand Islam’s treatment of women, one needs to understand the condition of the world prior to the advent of Islam. Pre-Islam, women in Arabia were considered the property of men and lacked basic human rights. A man could marry as many women as he desired and upon his death, they became part of his estate for his heirs. Women could be inherited, sold, traded for gambling debts, and abandoned at will. They had no rights or position of their own and female infanticide was widely practiced. It was into this environment that the Holy Prophet (pboh) introduced a religion that was revolutionary for its time. He taught kindness, charity and humanity towards women. Almost overnight, women were endowed with equal rights and put on the same level as men elevating their spiritual, educational, economic and social status....

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (pboh) said, “It is the duty of every Muslim man and woman to acquire knowledge.” He exhorted men and women to seek knowledge “from cradle to grave” even “if you have to go to China.” He also said that, “a man who has 3 daughters and brings them up and educates them to the best of his capacity shall be entitled to Paradise.” Any Muslim country that forbids a woman from seeking an education is totally unIslamic....

Other traditions of the Prophet (pboh) indicate that women would pose questions to him directly and offer their opinions concerning religion, economics and social matters. He designated his wife, Aisha, a religious authority when he stated that “You can learn half of your religion from Aisha.” She played a visible and active role in the political, legal and scholastic activities of the Muslim community and passed on knowledge of the Qur’an and the prophet’s sayings and practices to later generations of Muslims. She narrated 2,210tradions of the Prophet and scholars have noted that ¼ of the norms of Shari’ah law were also narrated by her.” (The treatment of women).

It may surprise you to know that the oldest academic degree-granting university existing today, the University of Karaouine or Al-Qarawiyyin, was founded in present day Tunisia in 859 by a Muslim woman, Fatima al-Fihri. In the United States, the first endowed institution for the education of girls did not open its doors until 1821 and most universities did not even admit women until the 20th century (Century of Struggle).

As modern as Islam’s teachings were regarding the education of women, its teachings on their economic status were truly revolutionary. Over 1400 years ago, Islam gave women the right to earn money, to own property, to enter into legal contracts and to manage of their assets in any way they pleased. A woman could run her own business and no one had any claim on her earnings or property including her husband. The Prophet’s wife, Khadija, ran a successful trading company before and after she married the Prophet. Women are allowed to work in Islam but their earnings belong to them and can only be used by the husband upon her permission. A married woman in Islam retained her independent legal personality and her family name.

Compare this to English Common law, which held that all the real property at the time of a woman’s marriage became the property of her husband. Married women in Europe & the U.S. did not achieve the right to enter contracts and own property until as late as the 19th century (Century of Struggle). According to English Common Law: “All real property which a wife held at the time of marriage became the possession of her husband. He was entitled to the rent from the land and to any profit that might be made. As to her personal property, the husband’s power was complete. He had the right to spend as he saw fit.”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Moderates, Conservatives, and Extremists

Sunnipath has an interesting position on the Danish Cartoons. They say it comes from another Website called (although this link doesn't connect correctly to it) and is signed by about 40 Islamic scholars throughout the world. The Sunnipath website contains many teachings which definitely press my limits of toleration, but also many others which have an internal consistency and basic gentleness which occasionally inspire my respect. If I thought there was any danger of these principles becoming the way I had to live my life, I would be very worried, as would most Muslims I know. Many Muslims came to America precisely so they wouldn't have to live by these kinds of social restrictions. Nevertheless, this declaration shows that this conservative Islamic establishment is equally out of step with both liberal Muslims and violent extremists. That is why it is dangerously simpleminded to divide the Muslim world into The Good Guys who agree with us, and the Bad Guys who disagree with us. The position advocated in this paper is one that needs to be debated. Nevertheless, it clearly denounces the attitudes that make Islam seem completely incompatible with Enlightenment values. It is clearly inflammatory and misleading for the Western media to report only on riots and violence, and ignore reasoned and careful documents like this one.

My biggest problem is with these sentences:

"We call upon the Danish government and the Danish people to yield to the large number of objective and sincere voices emanating from within their society, by apologizing, and condemning and bringing an end to this attack. "

Sorry, this isn't going to happen, and it shouldn't. As vile as some of those cartoons were, they were within the limits of acceptable free speech. If the Danish Government were to "bring an end to this attack", this would be the worst sort of censorship. The doublespeak that is used to justify this is worthy of either George W. Bush or the most extreme forms of Politically Correct Liberalism (who says the Muslims haven't learned anything from the West?)

This is to ensure that Denmark is not isolated from the global community, a community that upholds the kind of freedom that prevents it from attacking and desecrating religious symbols or provoking animosity and antagonism towards any religion or race.

The reference to "a freedom that prevents" is worthy of Orwell. My point here, however, is that this kind of doublethink is, unfortunately, not out of sync with modern western thought (would that it were.) That is why they have a point when they say:

there is no society today that advocates an unaccountable freedom without putting in place measures of regulation so as to prevent harm to come to others. Of course, societies differ in their levels of regulation.

Our society bans hate speech and holocaust denial, their's bans pictures of Muhammad. Their ban appears irrational to us and vice versa. I'm willing to accept the ban on holocaust denial, with considerable reservations that make me unwilling to expand the ban further. I've got no problems with their protesting the content of the cartoons, that's their right to free speech. But because "societies differ in their levels of regulation", the Islamic world is going to have to accept that there is a difference here.

However, the thing that makes most Islamophobes feel that there is an irreconcilable difference is the willingness of Muslims to violently attack the cartoonists and other westerners vaguely associated with them. It is important to recognize that these very conservative Imams condemns such attacks in no uncertain terms.

3. We affirm here that freedom of ideas is a right guaranteed by the teachings of our noble religion to those who seek clarification or desire to engage in dialogue provided that no abuse is intended, in consonance with the Quranic directive: 'And argue with them in the most courteous way'. This point has been agreed upon by all rationally-minded people and is stated clearly and categorically in the agreements on human rights.

4. We appeal to all Muslims to exercise self-restraint in accordance with the teachings of Islam and we reject countering an act of aggression by acts not sanctioned in Islam, such as breaking treaties and breaching time-honoured agreements by attacking foreign embassies or innocent people and other targets. Such violent reactions can lead to a distortion of the just and balanced nature of our request or even to our isolation from the global dialogue. The support that we give to our Prophet will not be given by flouting his teachings.

Again I ask: Why aren't statements of this sort being given the same kind of coverage as the riots?

P.S. I've tried to start a Beliefnet thread over the issue of whether Islam in fact requires Muslims to protest non-Muslims making pictures of Muhammad. Muslims are banned from making pictures of Muhammad, according to certain sources, but I can see no basis in the Koran or the Hadith for saying they should force this position on non-Muslims. The issue of insulting vs. non-insulting pictures has been blurred here, creating a lot of unnecessary confusion.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Islamic "Consensus"

My friend Abdullah quotes the following passage from the Koran, and this commentary on that passage:

(1) Surah al-Imran (3:103):

"And hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah and be not divided."

Imam Sayf ad-Din al-Amidi (d. 631/1233; Rahimahullah) said in his al-Ihkam fi usul al-ahkam (The proficiency: on the fundamentals of legal rulings, pg. 295) with regard to the above Qur'anic verse:

"Allah has forbidden separation, and disagreement with consensus (ijma) is separation."

Hence, if Allah has forbidden separation then surely we must all unite on the unanimously accepted aqid'ah of our pious predecessors.

I disagree strongly with this commentary. It is not disagreement with consensus that is separation. Rather it is the attempt to force consensus which creates separation. The rope of Allah unites all Muslims who honor him. For a group of Imams to claim that they alone can decide the correct interpretation of the Koran, and to exclude all Muslims that disagree with their alleged "consensus" is to divide the Islamic community. Look at all of the millions of people that are excluded by this "consensus": The Shiites, The Sufis, The Ahmadis, and any Sunnis that happened to have lost this vote.

Not that a vote was ever taken. Many Muslims on Beliefnet have claimed that Abdullah's reasoning on this point is circular, because anyone who disagrees with the Imams he likes is defined as being outside the consensus. However, let's plead nolo contendere on this point,and temporarily assume that the majority of Imams do agree where he says they agree. Excluding all Muslims who do not accept this consensus still divides the Islamic community, and thus violates the Koranic passage quoted above. A link that Abdullah posted on Belief net connects to an article that says there is only "one saved sect" in Islam, and says that 72 other sects are not saved. As I understand it, all of these other sects are Sunni. Surely these kinds or pronouncements violate the Koranic command stated above that muslims should "hold fast, all of you together, to the rope of Allah and be not divided."

There may be other reasons (although I have yet to see any that convinced me) for overtly rejecting the doctrines of these other branches of Islam, rather than politely agreeing to disagree. But preserving the unity of Islam is not one of them, for trying to force this procrustean "consensus" on a billion people, divides the Islamic community, it does not unite it. By all means let us study the writings of the great Islamic scholars, and seriously consider what they have to say. But let us not grant them the authority of prophets.

It is likely that many Muslims do have incorrect interpretations of the Koran. Perhaps some Muslims will be excluded from paradise because of their incorrect interpretations. But surely if the principle of "Let there be no compulsion in religion" applies to non-Muslims, it should be applied within the Muslims community as well. We must restrain and punish those who misinterpret Islam, or any other religion, in ways that make them harm other people. The British rightly banned the ritualistic murders of the Thuggee worshippers of Kali. Muslims must reject those who ignore the Koranic condemnations of suicide and slaughter of innocents. But metaphysical beliefs about the nature of Allah, or personal decisions about marriage, harm no one but the persons who choose to be involved. Allah is just and all-knowing, and surely he will decide what punishment is required, if any.

P.S. I refer to God as "Allah" in this post, because as I understand it, the word simply means "God" in Arabic, and is used by Arabs of all faiths. If any Muslim feels it is inappropriate for a non-Muslim to use the word, I will stop using it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Texts and Context

Most Christians are not aware of the tremendous differences between the authoritative foundations of their scriptures and the Koran. They simply ignore the fact that the Bible was a compromise reached by a committee, and treat it as the authoritative word of God. They shouldn't ignore this fact, but most do.

I don't think, however, that these sorts of problems disappear once one accepts that the Koran is the direct word of God spoken to Muhammad. The problem is, language gets essentially all of its meaning from the context in which it is spoken, which means the only way one can understand the Koran is to recreate as best one can the historical context in which it was revealed. This is why it so important for Muslims to study both the Koran and the Hadith. When the Koran speaks of "the Jews" or "the Pagans", does it mean all Jews and Christians, or only the Jewish and Pagan Arab tribes that were trying to slaughter Muhammad's people. Sometimes it means one, sometimes the other, and it is very difficult to be sure which is which.

There is also the question of applying the rules implied in the Koran to new cases. Do rules about camels apply to cars? Do rules about swords apply to missiles? Muslims scholars use their intelligence as best they can to answers questions of this sort, but they often do not come to a consensus.

I've been studying the Philosophy of Language for decades, and these problems are much much bigger than most people of any religion realize. They are the main reason that no one has succeeded in building a computer that can understand ordinary language. Philosopher John Searle calls this context "the background" and every sentence gets most of its meaning from this background, and very little from what's actually on the page. This is as true of a sentence like "I'd like a steak with potatoes" as it is with any sentence in the Bible and the Koran. Consequently, even if God or Gabriel spoke directly to Muhammad, we are still left with the hugely challenging task of figuring out what the words meant at the time, and what they would mean today.

I left Christianity and became a Buddhist because of this problem of interpreting Sacred Texts. In Buddhism, we have revered texts, but no texts that can be trusted absolutely, because the truth is seen as something that cannot be expressed in words. I may have move too hastily, for I have since met many Christians and Muslims who recognize that precious as their sacred texts are, they do not absolve you from the responsibility from figuring how to apply their truths to your own life.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Muhammad the Warrior

This quote from a post to Aziz Poonawalla's blog is fairly typical for Islamophobes:

"Even a superficial reading will show that your prophet conducted raids and wars of conquest against his neighbors."

Yes, a superficial reading "shows" this, but a careful reading doesn't. Muhammad never fought any wars of conquest, he only fought to defend himself against the attacks of the Meccans and their Allies. Islam's wars of conquest were fought by the Khalifs who succeeded Muhammad. War during Muhammad's time was a violent and nasty business, even more so than it is now. Often Muhammad rose above his time, and performed acts of unprecedented mercy and compassion. Other times he had to take into consideration the realities of war, and do things that no one would do in peace time. Did he always make the right decisions? Probably not, he was a man, not a god. But I know I couldn't have handled the moral challenges of his situation anywhere near as well as he did.

Let's take one story the Islamaphobes like to cite: Muhammad's slaughter of 600 Jewish Arabs. Three tribes of Jewish Arabs lived near Muhammads community, abiding by an agreement created by Muhammad known as the Constitution of Medina. Later, in two separate battles, two of these Jewish tribes each formed a secret alliance with Mecca, which almost enabled the Meccans to completely massacre Muhammad's community. The Constitution of Medina specifically forbid any diplomatic or commercial relations with Mecca, because of Mecca's overt hostility to the Islamic Ummah. These particular alliances, however, are generally considered to have been military in nature, and a genuine threat to the Islamic Community. The standard procedure during this time was to slaughter any captured adult male prisoners of war, and sell the women and children into slavery. Muhammad insisted on a more moderate course. Two of these Jewish Arab tribes were sent into exile, and the third tribe, the Banu Qurayza, was allowed to remain as neighbors.

A few years later, One of these exiled Jewish tribes returned to invade Medina, having formed an alliance with both Mecca and other nearby Arabic tribes. The Banu Qurayza were caught conspiring with this alliance. If this conspiracy had been successful, it would have exposed the Muslim's entire rear flank, and almost certainly have resulted in the slaughter of the entire Medinan community. After this alliance had been defeated, (even though the Muslims were outnumbered more than 3 to 1), the Muslims marched on the Banu Qurayza, who surrendered, and agreed to be judged by Sa'd ibn Mua'dh, a leading man among Aws, a Jewish tribe that converted to Islam. The Banu Qurayza obviously believed that a Jewish convert would judge in their favor, and it is likely that Muhammad, who suggested Sa'd, believed the same. Unfortunately, Sa'd opted for the traditional punishment of killing the men and enslaving the women and children, and the Muslim community overwhelmingly supported this verdict.

At this point, Muhammad said something like "you have spoken rightly", which I think was probably the Arabic equivalent of "OK". Did this express approval or reluctant acquiescence? Muhammad's ideas of peace and justice were radically alien to most people of his time and place, including his followers. I don't think he could afford to overturn the traditional procedure for dealing with prisoners of war once his new ideas had placed his people in danger. He did what he could, but it's hard to expect mercy from people whose life has been threatened. What do you think would happen to Obama if he freed everyone at Guantanamo and several of the ex-prisoners commited a terrorist act? And Obama is dealing with a culture that supposedly accepts the idea that people should not be imprisoned without trial.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bikinis and Earthquakes

A lot of people have been talking about the claims of some Iranian Clerics that scantily dressed women cause earthquakes.

I don't know what the Koran says about this, but I do know that even though this kind of talk is forbidden by the Bible, Christians like Pat Robertson do it all the time. In the book of Job, Job's comforters go on for pages trying to explain why Job is suffering, telling him it must be because of his sins. God appears in a whirlwind, and rebukes the comforters for several pages, telling them that human ignorance makes it impossible for them to account for any of Gods reasons for doing anything. The point being that yes, God has a reason for why bad things like earthquakes happen, but we are specifically forbidden from speculating as to why they happened, and certainly forbidden from using people's bad luck as proof that God is punishing them. My guess is that somewhere in the Koran or the Hadith it says the same thing, as Islam is always stessing that we must accept that God's will exceeds our understanding.

Personally, I think we should recognize that there are not just these two positions on the issue 1) The Universe is a meaningless mechanical process 2) Everything is deliberately planned by an Omnipotent God. I think it is at least possible that there are ordering forces in the universe which shape our destiny, but that they don't control every sparrow's fall, and therefore sometimes shit happens. That's what the ancient Greeks believed, and I think that's very plausible. It would account for the fact that Universe appears to contain both meaningfulness and absurdity, by saying that this appearance is accurate. Speculations about a blind watchmaker require us to claim that the meaningfulness is an illusion, and speculations about an omnipotent God require us to claim that the absurdity is an illusion. I think Occam's razor favors a position which says the world really does contain both meaningfulness and absurdity. On the other hand, I also think that our ignorance of theology is so great that Occam's razor should be used with a grain of salt (to create a painful mixed metaphor.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Muslim Protest

I originally thought this was overstating the case, but after thinking about it I can see only one thing in this statement that I disagree with. The Palestinians are not being persecuted by Israelis because they are Muslims, but because they are occupying land that the Israelis want. They would get the same treatment if they were Buddhists or Pagans or Christians (Indeed, many Palestinians are Christians.) I think the Palestinians and the Israelis behave about equally badly on this issue, although the winner of the "bad guy race" fluctuates from month to month. The issue of who has the right to be there really is completely orthogonal to questions of religion, which is obscured by the fact that Muslims from England to Malaysia tend strongly to root for the Palestinians because they are Muslims. That's why I'm not going to talk about it here, and why I think it would be better for everyone not to confuse these two issues as deeply as they are confused today.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Muslim Outrage keeps coming (and being ignored)

Thanks once again to Aziz Poonawalla for spreading the word about Muslims who are protesting Islamoid Extremism. Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad is the imam and director of the Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center in Sacramento, CA. He issued a scathing critique of Anwar Al Awlaki's call to violence recently. I did searches on both his name and his center.s name on the New York Time Website, and found nothing. There were 231 references to Anwar al Awlaki during that same period.

You can find Ahmad's entire statement here. Some excerpts are below.

You asked; “To the Muslims in America, I have this to say: How can your conscience allow you to live in peaceful coexistence with a nation that is responsible for the tyranny and crimes committed against your own brothers and sisters?”

Well, now that you’ve posed the question, I’ll tell you why, and may Allah grant us His mercy. First of all, peaceful coexistence is not a crime; it is a mercy from the Almighty God be He Exalted and Glorified. As American Muslims, we peacefully coexist with our country because we are not under attack because of our faith and we are not driven from our homes; “Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” 60:8 Quran. We live here because some of us were born and raised here, and it is the only home that we know. My forefathers came here as slaves, and have helped build this country with their bare hands. Millions of other Muslims have sought and received refuge and safe passage through this vast land of ours, and have made it their home. As American Muslims, we are of different origins; nevertheless we are here now, and it is the result of God’s divine Providence, and we are connected to this soil.

We live here because we are free men, women and children. We have the right to live here and this is our country. We live here because Millions of American Muslims attend this nations masaajid every week without being accosted, bombed while in prayer, or hindered in any way from worshipping our Lord. Many Muslim Imams and scholars have branded our country as evil, even calling her the ‘Great Satan’. I say that the Lord that we worship favors not the east or the west; He favors the righteous wherever they dwell. “Say: To Allah belong both East and West: He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight.” Quran, 2:142. So to answer your question about our conscience as we peacefully coexist in The United States of America, my conscience, and the conscience of many Muslim Americans who live in this great land, is clear. As for those Muslims whose conscience and belief compels them to leave this country for another land, then the door is open for them to leave.

As for your call for American Muslims to wage jihad against our country and homeland; the land that you are urging us to wage war against, is the land of our homes that we are obligated to protect. In a prophetic narration by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-’As, he said: When we were around the Apostle of Allah (SAWS), he mentioned the period of commotion (fitnah) saying: “When you see the people that their covenants have been impaired, (the fulfilling of) the guarantees becomes rare, and they become thus (interwining his fingers). I then got up and said: What should I do at that time, may Allah make me ransom for you? He replied: “Keep to your house, control your tongue, accept what you approve, and abandon what you disapprove, attend to your own affairs, and leave alone the affairs of the generality.”[1] Therefore as Muslim Americans we are obligated by faith to protect our homes, and our homeland upon which they stand, as our homes are our refuge.

The people whom you claim we are obligated to take up arms against are our neighbors whom we live next to and share neighborhoods with, and our Prophet (SAWS) informs us to honor our neighbors by his words in the hadith reported by Abu Shuraih; “By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe! By Allah, he does not believe!” It was said, “Who is that, O Allah’s Apostle?” He said, “That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil.“[2] Furthermore, in the hadith of Aisha, she mentioned that the Prophet (SAWS) said “Gabriel continued to recommend me about treating the neighbors kindly and politely so much so that I thought he would order me to make them as my heirs.”[3] They are our co-workers whom we work alongside them, our students who we teach, and our teachers who we learn from. The people whom you incite us to violence against are our firefighters who defend our homes and our property from ruin, our law enforcement officers who patrol our streets at night, and municipal workers who restore power after the storms, and remove injurious objects from the road. The individuals whom you suggest we wage jihad against are our physicians, nurses and medical professionals who care for our sick and mend the broken bones of our children. They are university professors that you yourself have benefitted from and under whose instruction you obtained your engineering degree. So in summary, my dear Imam and may Allah guide us, we must categorically reject your petition that we wage jihad against the United States of America as in doing so we would be in disobedience to Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala and His Prophet (SAWS).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Muslim Non-Outrage

Below is the complete text of Statement made by Karamah an organization of Women Muslim Lawyers, which is pretty much self-explanatory. It counteracts the stereotype of irrational insult-sensitive Muslims quite well, I think. They are also doing some really extraordinary and important other work, as you can see by looking at other pages of their website.

KARAMAH was contacted by a number of Muslim organizations, which were concerned about reports of a sculptured representation of the Prophet Muhammad in the historical frieze on the north wall of the Supreme Courtroom. KARAMAH was also asked by these organizations to contact the Supreme Court administrators and discuss the matter.

A KARAMAH delegation visited the Supreme Court and looked at the frieze, one of several honoring a broad spectrum of leading figures in the law, including the Prophet Moses, Napoleon, and the fourth Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall. Contrary to early information, the frieze does not contain an inscription referring to the Prophet Muhammad as "the founder of Islam." That statement appears in a caption prepared by the museum in connection with a miniature replica of the frieze on display there. The statement is repeated in brochures distributed to visitors.

KARAMAH explained to the administrators that for Muslims, the Prophet is not the "founder" of Islam. As an Abrahamic religion, Islam is considered by Muslims as a later revelation of the same message revealed to Moses and Jesus. Supreme Court administrators showed great sensitivity and understanding of the matter. It was readily agreed that the caption would be revised to describe Prophet Muhammad as the "Prophet" of Islam. It will also be revised to refer briefly to the concerns discussed below.

Furthermore, the sculptured figure purportedly of the Prophet, carries what appears to be a Qur’an in one hand and a sword in the other. Some Muslims expressed their concern to us that the sword would reinforce the current stereotype about Muslims as violent. In fact, KARAMAH discovered that throughout the friezes in the Supreme Courtroom and at the entrance of the Supreme Court itself (statue on the Authority of the Law, lamppost on west entrance, base of Plaza flag poles), swords are repeatedly used as a symbol for the protection of law and justice. Based on these facts, KARAMAH has concluded that there is no reason to assume a contrary intention in the case of the Prophet Muhammad.

A more complex issue remained; namely that of the sculptured representation of the Prophet in the frieze. Muslims have generally refrained from such representation as a strong expression of their commitment to monotheism. Islam was revealed initially to a population of idol worshippers. Fearing a return to these old practices, jurists discouraged any sculptured or even pictorial representation of the Prophet early on. That tradition has generally continued throughout Muslim history, although some Muslim cultures, such as the Turkish and Persian ones, did produce throughout history art, which represented the Prophet pictorially.

While KARAMAH fully identifies with the Islamic aversion to such representation of the Prophet, we are very pleased that Islamic contributions to law are recognized in the highest court of our land. We see that attempt in a tolerant light similar to that in which earlier Muslims saw Turkish and Persian art. It is well intentioned. While it is not what we would have chosen to represent Islam, we do appreciate this early attempt at recognizing Islamic contributions to American jurisprudence and we do not believe it is necessary to destroy it. In reaching this position, we have consulted with many Muslim leaders and relied upon the reasoned opinion of Dr. Taha Jabir al-Alwani, President of the Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) Council of North America.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Trouble with Mawlid

This Post is inspired by a beliefnet discussion on the celebration of Muhammad’s birthday or Mawlid . The discussion began with a post which said in part:

I converted to Islam almost 10 years ago. One of the many things that I found interesting about this deen is how G-d (Allah, swt) is a diety with no partners and how the messengers of G-d are not diefied. As a Christian, I always thought that the reverence for Jesus (Isa, as) was equal to worship.… My husband really wants our family to partake in the Mawlid festivities this year. I am extremely uncomfortable with it. Not just because I feel that this is wrong on so many levels, but, I find myself thinking of my Muslim brothers and sisters as hypocrites for mocking the Christians who celebrate Christmas yet find it "permissable" to celebrate Mawlid. Really, what is the difference?

I do love the Prophet, saws. He was a special creation for all mankind and I am a beneficiary of the message from Allah, swt, he delivered. But, he was a man- not G-d.

The responses this discussion received reveal that modern Islamic thought cannot be understood with a simple dichotomy of liberals vs. conservatives. The posters I’ve thought of as liberal were unsurprisingly supportive (one compared it to celebrating one’s mother’s birthday). The Conservatives, however, were all over the map. Abdullah gave his usual scholarly review, and claimed that it was a matter of choice because there was a roughly equal number of Imans who came down on each side.

There seem to be two main arguments against celebrating Mawlid 1) We should not add new practices that were not performed in Muhammad’s time 2) Muhammad was a man, not God, and therefore should not be worshipped as Jesus is worshipped.

The first argument cannot be consistently used by the Conservative Clerics who cite it most frequently, because they themselves have added a host of prohibitions to Islamic practice that were not followed in Muhammad’s time: separating men and women during worship, forbidding music, requiring women other than the prophet’s wives to wear veils, forbidding women to run businesses and drive cars etc. etc. Interestingly, these clerics seemed to think it’s OK to forbid things that Muhammad didn’t forbid, but not OK to permit things unless Muhammad specifically permitted them. Apparently whatever isn’t permitted is forbidden. This kind of attitude is not unique to the Muslim world by any means. H.L. Mencken defined a puritan as a person who is deeply worried that someone somewhere might be having fun. These people often acquire positions of spiritual authority in every religious tradition, because it is easy to confuse hating the world with loving God.

I am glad that Abdullah was willing to accept that there was no consensus of scholars on this issue, and that his conclusion was clearly based on careful research and reasoning. I would suggest, however, that he be less willing to rely on an argument that he has frequently used in our discussions with each other “Allah never unites the Muslims on an error”. The Salafi scholars he frequently cites almost universally agree that the Muslims have been united on many errors ever since the passing of the rightly guided Khalifs. Beliefnet poster Bint Maqbool apparently agrees with this when he says that the Prophet's birthday was celebrated only "when many of the features of true religion had vanished and bid’ah had become widespread”. I disagree with almost all of the reforms proposed by the followers of Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab, but I do agree with him that all religions need to reform themselves regularly in order to stay spiritually healthy. The Koran does say “If ye turn back (From the Path), He will substitute in your stead another people; then they would not be like you! (Sura 47:38). This seems to me to imply that it is possible for the Muslims (or any other group) to unite on an error, and that we each have an obligation to constantly be on guard against that possibility.

The second objection—that Mawlid involves worshipping Muhammad—has grains of truth that cannot be so easily dismissed. If I were a Muslim, I would be more aggressively critical of certain practices common in Islam which seem to me to come dangerously close to deifying Muhammad. I would question the willingness to treat everything Muhammad said (or Muhammad’s cousin said) with the same kind of reverence as the Koran. I would also question the banning of pictures of Muhammad, which I believe is now having the opposite effect than it had in Muhammad’s time. Muhammad originally banned his followers from making pictures of him because he wanted to make sure that his followers worshipped Allah without any intermediary. However, when this ban is applied to non-Muslims, as it never was in his time and often is today, Muhammad becomes so sacred that no one should ever be allowed to make pictures of him.

However, as I am not Muslim, I am both more tolerant of the use of spiritual intermediaries and less willing to make judgments about what is going on in the hearts of people from other cultures. I am a professor of Western Philosophy and am reasonably skilfull at interpreting texts. But my study of Islam has only just begun, and mere study can never substitute for the experience that comes from actual spiritual practice. Only those who live and practice Islam can judge if there is any validity to these comments. I offer them only for your consideration.

With that caveat in mind, I shared with this Muslim sister some comments that might have validity because of our shared experiences of being converts from Christianity to another religion. (Buddhism in my case.)

Perhaps the reason that you find Malwid so disturbing is that it reminds you of your own experience of worshipping Jesus as God during Christmas. If so, it might be best for you to ask your husband to let you stay away from Mawlid ceremonies, until you work these issues out. If I were you, I would recognize that this is your problem, not his or Islam’s, but I think he should respect the fact that these are serious religious issues that you need to wrestle with. Perhaps someday you will see the holiday the way your family and children see it—as an expression of love and respect for Muhammad roughly analogous to celebrating any other esteemed person’s birthday. Until then, however, it is good to search your heart, to make sure that this celebration is genuinely in harmony with your spiritual aspirations.

This is a problem that all religions have recognized, although it is especially crucial to Islam. Sociologist of Religion Peter Berger talks about what he calls the Sacred Canopy—a network of rituals, buildings, art works, priests etc. which enables people to connect to God on a daily basis. The problem with this sacred canopy is that it often becomes a substitute for God, rather than a means of reaching him. (Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa called this mistake “Spiritual Materialism”.) When religious reformers become aware of this kind of corruption, they often demand that the sacred canopy be destroyed, and/or be made as simple as possible, so that people can have a more direct experience of God. We can see this kind of reform in the transition from Catholicism to Protestantism in Christianity. The Catholics rely heavily on what they sometimes call “smells and bells”-Incense, rituals, priests in bejeweled robes etc. The first protestants replaced all this with bare wooden buildings, with one man in a plain black robe reading from a single black book. In Buddhism, Chinese teachers rebelled against the elaborate rituals of Indian Vajrayana Buddhism by creating what is now known as Chan or Zen. Instead of complicated mantras and visualizations, Zen meditation consists of staring at a wall and counting your breaths.

I practice Vajrayana Buddhism (which now survives only in the Tibetan lineages), but I initially had some troubles with the fact that many of the rituals are very similar to Catholic rituals. I eventually discovered that the Vajrayana tradition deals with spiritual materialism not by renouncing the sacred canopy, but by constantly reminding oneself that this canopy is only an illusion that works as a means to enlightenment. There are special meditiations that remind us that our practices, and everything else, are only illusions created by our attachments and choices. But these practices are challenging, and there is no denying that Muhammad was right that there are real dangers in mistaking the means for the ends. Perhaps I am sometimes seduced by spiritual materialism, despite my attempts to focus my awareness on higher essences. But I find these practices seem to make me more patient and compassionate than I otherwise would be, so I keep doing them. Because you have chosen Islam as a spiritual path, you will probably have to make very different decisions about what is spiritually acceptable than the ones that I have made. I wish you all the best in your journey

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Koran and the Hadith

Abdullah, the gentleman who posted replies to some of my earlier posts is engaged in a debate on beliefnet over whether the Hadith (the collected sayings of the Prophet) should be considered as authoritative as the Koran itself. Here are some of the passages from the Koran he cites to support the authority of the Hadith.

Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger, but if they turn their backs, Allah loves not the disbelievers. (3:32)

And whoever obeys the Messenger, thereby obeys Allah (4:80)

And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has gone astray into manifest error. (33:36)

As a relatively new, but careful student of Islam, I appreciate seeing the Koran citations for why Muslims should follow the Hadith. I can understand why a reasonable person would interpret these passages this way, but I do not think that is the only possible interpretation of those texts.

These commands to obey and heed the messenger refer to Muhammad himself, and seem to me to be only applicable to people who could actually speak directly to him. When Muhammad was alive, it was obviously important that the Ummah accept him as its leader, otherwise there would have been chaos in this newly-formed and militarily threatened community. However, I see no reason to infer from this command that Muslims a thousand years later should pour over old documents and infer the existence of prohibitions that are not even explicitly stated in the Hadiths themselves.

The alleged prohibition against music is the example that bothers me the most, particularly since almost all of my music teachers have been Muslims. I don't think it is " obeying the prophet" to take a Hadith which says something like "when society starts to deteriorate people will behave badly, and some of those badly behaved people will play music" , and infer that no one should play music today. (particularly since there is ample documentation that the Muhammad permitted members of the Ummah to play music.) Firstly, If Muhammad had wanted people to not play music in his time, he would have said straight out "Don't play Music". Secondly, there is no reason to assume that all commands given by Muhammad to his Ummah should be automatically applicable today. Part of Muhammad's greatness lies in the fact that he was not only a religious leader, but a military and political leader is well. All military and political decisions have to be made to deal with the contingencies of the moment, and there is no reason to assume that all such decisions are as universally applicable as the moral truths found in the Koran.

Saying that one should follow the prophet means "do what the prophet tells you to do". Muhammad was both a saint and a genius, and if such a person were leading my community, I would definitely accept him as my leader. But now that the Prophet is no longer with us, he can't tell us to do anything. One should remember that Muhammad is the last prophet, which means that no Imam or group of Imams that came after him should be given the same kind of authority as the prophet in the flesh. I think it is important to read the Hadith, because they contain much wisdom and inspiration, and because they provide the context that enables us to understand the complete meaning of the Koran. But that doesn't mean they should be given the same authority as the Koran itself, or as words spoken directly to you by Muhammad himself.

As a non-Muslim, I can only offer these thoughts for your consideration. I will however quote two highly regarded scholars: Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and Imam Malik. They state that any attempt to construct prohibitions from the Hadith violates this passage in the Koran: Say: Have you considered what provision Allah has sent down for you, how you have made of it lawful and unlawful? Say: Has Allah permitted you, or do you invent a lie concerning Allah?” (Yunus: 59) They take this passage to mean that no one should construct prohibitions that are not specifically stated in the Koran.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Where is the Conservative Outrage?

On February 18th, a man who had posted conservative anti-tax rants on a website crashed his airplane into an IRS office in Austin Texas. This was the third act of far-right political violence since the FBI issued a report saying that such acts would become a danger. During that time there have been only two acts of Islamoid political violence.

Muslim Blogger Aziz Poonwalla says we should not blame the Tea Party movement for this attack. I understand and admire his willingness not to do unto others what has so frequently been done to Muslims, but I think he is being too easy on the far right fringe movements.

It is, of course, unfair to blame the Tea party groups and Sarah Palin for this act--exactly as unfair as blaming all Muslims for the 9/11 attacks. Nevertheless, it's important to point out that if we consistently applied the standards that many Americans use for evaluating and categorizing Islamoid terrorism, everyone would recognize that those standards are unfair and confused. Poonwalla points out that there is no evidence that this man is a member of the Tea Party movement. However, there is no such thing as membership to the Tea party movement. They are a mob, not an organization, and expressing ideas similar to theirs is the only requirement for membership. For many otherwise intelligent Americans, the shouting of "Alahu Akbar" was all that was necessary to transform Hassan from a lone gunman into a member of terrorist movement. Why should it be any different for Anti-Tax terrorists?

More importantly, no one is imposing the so-called obligation to renounce terrorism on the far right when it comes to this case. On the contrary, at least one prominent conservative refused to denounce the Austin attacks. According to NYTimes columnist Gail Collins:

"Scott Brown... the new senator from Massachusetts, was asked on Fox News about the I.R.S. office attack. He appeared to embrace the possibility that the pilot of the plane might have been one of his followers.

'And I don’t know if it’s related, but I can just sense, not only in my election but since being here in Washington, people are frustrated,” he said. 'They want transparency.'"

If a Muslim Imam had made this kind of statement about 9/11, he probably would have been jailed.

P.S. I just coined a new word "Islamoid", because I don't like implying that these terrorists are genuine Muslims when there so many renunciations of both suicide and slaughtering innocent people in the Koran. The suffix "oid" is usually used to mean something that vaguely resembles what the suffix modifies, but doesn't really belong in the category i.e. a planetoid is not really a planet, an asteroid is not really a star, and a humanoid is not really human.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Still more Muslim Outrage

thanks again to Aziz Poonwalla's Blog

It was about a year ago that Aasiya Zubair Hassan was brutally murdered by her husband in a horrific crime (must-read: Wajahat Ali's excellent piece about Aasiya in the Guardian on Friday). In response to Aasiya's murder, the muslim community stepped up to the plate, condemning domestic violence, hosting friday khutbahs devoted to the topic, and founding organizations like Muslim Men Against Domestic Violence and a grassroots facebook page devoted to remembering Aasiya as the face of the domestic violence epidemic for the muslim community to rally around.

This year, on the first anniversary of Aasiya's murder, the muslim community still remembers and is doing something about it. Here are a few examples:

1. MMADA has issued a Call to Action and PDF information packet to raise awareness in the muslim community about domestic violence. They encourage people to download the packet and distribute; see their website for more details.

2. For people in the New York area, there is a panel discussion hosted Sunday by the Domestic Harmony Foundation and Turning Point for Women and Families, from 11 am - 1 pm at 7 Jaymie Drive, Basement, Westbury, NY 11590.

3. A global Facebook Event - wear purple, the official color of domestic violence awareness -- February 13th through February 16th, in memory of Aasiya Zubair Hassan and other victims of domestic violence. Event organized by Hadayai Majeed of Baitul Salaam.

4. is hosting a domestic violence awareness photographic campaign - "aimed at providing an alternative to the dominant media image of oppressed Muslim women and angry Muslim men." Send your photos in!

5. Abdul Malik Mujahid, a prominent imam and community activist in the Chicago area, has written a 9-point plan for ordinary muslims (based on a khutbah he will deliver today) to take concrete steps against domestic violence. I am reprinting the document in its entirety with permission:

In memory of Sister Aasiya Zubair: 9 things you can do
By Abdul Malik Mujahid

1. Organize "In Memory of. Aasiya: Domestic Violence Awareness Day"

Get together a couple of Imams, leaders, mosques and Islamic centers in your city and organize a city-wide "In Memory of Aasiya: Domestic Violence Awareness Day", This would feature Khutbas and speeches by both men and women leaders from the local Muslim community, workshops on domestic violence awareness at local Islamic institutions, as well as the distribution of multilingual information about this form of abuse in area mosques, Islamic centers and Muslim institutions.

2. Audit Yourself for Domestic Violence

You many not be physically beating your spouse but verbal abuse can lead to physical abuse. Verbal abuse is also prohibited by the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. Verbal abuse occurs where there is a deficit of mercy and forgiveness. The low level of mercy points to a low level of love or an absence of communication. So let's do a self-audit in our own homes:

Start by saying praises to the Merciful God who says He has ninety-nine times more mercy than mothers and remembering that the Prophet did not raise his hand against anyone. Period. Ask yourself the following questions about your relationship with your spouse:

· How is our communication?
· How is our expression of love?
· How are we doing in terms of mercy and forgiveness?
· Is there any verbal abuse in the relationship?
· Is silence being used as a weapon?

Once you have done this personal audit, seek Allah's forgiveness if you feel it is required and then sit down with a pen and a paper to plan for a better life.

3. Name something after Sister Aasyia

Aasiya Zubair was a leader. She was the one who thought of the idea of starting a television station to correct the image of Islam and Muslims in the media. She was named Aasyia after the wife of a Pharoah who took care of the Prophet Moses, peace be upon him. She is considered among the four best women of the world by the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. So name something after her: a baby; a food pantry; a new not-for-profit organization; a sisters' Halaqa (Islamic studies circle); a. new media project; a Masjid; a school; a scholarship.

4. Stop ignoring a situation involving domestic violence

If you know of a woman who is being abused by her husband physically, verbally or emotionally, then start helping her today.

You may not be ready to confront her abuser. However, one of the first and most important steps you can take is to reach out to her. That means keeping in touch on a regular basis. One thing abusers do is isolate their victims by cutting off their relationships with the outside world, particularly with family and friends. By keeping in touch, you can literally be a lifeline by alerting authorities if her situation becomes deadly.

What's more likely to happen though is that by slowly breaking the isolation, you will help the abused woman gain the strength and support she needs to take a stand and get out of the abusive situation.

5. Insist that your Imam talk about domestic violence, using Sr. Aasiya Zubair's example or Sr. Shahpara Sayeed who was burned alive.

Call, email or snail mail your local Imam and discuss the need to have a Khutba about the Islamic perspective on domestic violence. Offer him specific points and insist that he use Aasiya Zubair's case to show a practical example in the Muslim community.
If your Imam does not respond, arrange an in-person meeting with a delegation and make sure to include some brothers to show this is not a "women's" issue but a community issue. If that doesn't work, keep contacting Imams in your city until you find one or more who are willing to give at least one Khutba on this topic.

6. Make collective Dua for Aasiya Zubair and all victims of domestic violence. Make this the closing of the Friday Khutba on this topic, as well as all related events.

7. Make this excellent directory available in every mosque and for all abused women in your community

Last year, the Muslim Women's League, in collaboration with the Peaceful Families Project, put together a directory of "Domestic Violence Programs for Muslim Communities" which is available here:

Make sure this is on the desk of every Imam and Muslim community leader in your city, as well as any woman you know who is being abused.

8. Contact a women's shelter or help hotline and see if you can volunteer

This may be emotionally trying and is not for everyone. If you don't think you can bear the sadness and pain, at least help the shelter or hotline with your money by making a small, monthly donation to support their work.

9. Seek and distribute multilingual information about domestic violence

There is information available online and through various social services agencies about domestic violence in Arabic, Urdu, Somali, Bangla, Punjabi and many other languages. Get these pamphlets and put them in the women's section of every mosque in your city, as well as in the main areas usually frequented by men.

If you cannot find information in the language you need, arrange to have it translated, published and distributed. Consider this your major project for year 2010, one that could very possibly save the lives of women and children suffering pain and abuse.

Some resources include:

If you have information on other activities please share in the comments thread.

And, have a happy Valentine's Day :) Inshallah every victim of domestic violence will someday be able to enjoy it too. It's our collective responsibility to make it so.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Culture vs. Religion

Here's another Beliefnet post. The rest of that post, and the discussion in which it occurs, can be found here:

As a christian, I read the bible several times and disliked how women were treated in the old AND new testament. The subjection of women in christianity is doctrine. You can't argue that women are equal using scripture and the scripture clearly points out that women are subject to men, shouldn't take leadership, and should wear a constant reminder that they are under the authority of a man. Do all christians do these things today? No, but I am a person who is concerned with principles and islam doesn't have those principles. I have often found it amusing that I left one religion where the (general) culture is that women are equal to men, but the religion does not prove it, to a religion where women are equal to men, but the culture doesn't prove it. Dealing solely with the principles, I wouldn't want to raise a daughter in a religion that considers her second class in relation to men. Islam does not teach this, and the culture of many muslims, I can deal with that by using the Quran to refute it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hijab or my Job?

I just visited a discussion board on beliefnet, in which a woman who is interested in Islam is considering whether to wear the Hijab at work. Interestingly, most of the Non-Muslims encouraged her to do so, but many of the Muslims said that she shouldn't. Here are some quotes from that discussion. Full disclosure: I intend to quote fully the positions I am most in sympathy with, and only paraphrase the others. If you wish to see the full force of the arguments on both sides, you should click on the link above:

Here's something from someone who use the nome de web of Miraj:

{witness22, I apologize, but I don't get this. I'm not sure what you have been reading about Islam, but the faith is not primarily about clothing, and Allah certainly doesn't invite you to Him to give you an excuse to piss other people off. I was asked to intervene on this thread by a Muslima who is concerned about what she is reading here. Alhamdulillah , may Allah bless her for her warning, for there is much to be corrrected in what is being presented here.

First of all, hijab is never mentioned in the Quran as clothing. It is mentioned in the context of modesty and humility, none of which is conveyed by a piece of cloth, nor by condemning others who disagree with you. There are several rules in Islam of which you are to be reminded. One is that you do not back bite, gossip and use the faith to antagonize others. You have modeled all three prohibitions in your post. Allah says:

"Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious; for your Lord knows best who have strayed from His Path, and who are truly guided." [16:125]

It would not be fair to other Muslimas who are devout in their practice of faith to use a symbol that they hold dear to express ill-will to your boss and co-workers, and cause them harm. Muslims are directed by God to become examples of good and fair treatment. We are not to believe we are superior to others who hold to different faiths. Allah alone can definitively judge between us; it is His Will that we not all be the same. Allah says:

". . . To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute;" [5:48]

I regret that any of us should allow you, encourage you, to enter into Islam or to represent it with such a distorted perception of how one is to act within one's community. We are to keep our promises and to obey the law where we live; at work, your employer has the right to set policies that accomodate his business plan. If he is reticent about allowing you to wear hijab, be patient; you are not even a Muslima yet. If you decide to become a Muslima, believe that your conversion will make you a better person, not a more confrontational and alienated one. Even if you do not convert, know that Allah is the best of planners; He will always find a way for you to express your sincerity of belief to Him and to those you encounter.

One should never come to faith with a hateful heart. I will make dua that you will find a proper teacher who will show you the true tenets of the faith and allow you understand how to find the beauty in Islam so that you will not see it as a weapon to be used against others, but as a tool to draw them to Him through your example.


other Muslims said:

{If you're interested in Islam, I suggest that you start by learning the 5 pillars first and start implementing them in your life before being concerned about things like hijab. I''m not saying it's not important but after seeing so many converts leave Islam in so little I have really come to the conclusion that until someone is able to implement the 5 pillars consistently, we shouldn't be insisting in anything else.}

{Take it easy and take time to learn more about Islam. Start by practicing it privately. Once you have some knowledge of Islam and start wearing hijab after then, maybe you will be able to remove misunderstanding about Islam from good Christian people.In the noble Qur'an God said Christians are "Nearest to the Muslims" [ Ref: The noble Qur'an 5:82 ] and there is a whole chapter devoted to our spiritual mother Mary [ Chapter 19. The word "Jesus" was mentioned in the Qur'an 25 times and "Mary" was mentioned 32 time [ 19 times in the Bible].We pray to the same God of Jesus, Moses, Abraham and Muhammad [ Peace be unto them all] ."And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone."[ The holy Bible Mark 10:18 ]}

{I'm still in the don't wear it, never wore it, won't wear it, won't have my daughter wear it group!}

{I don't wear the hijab except as stated above {for going to the masjid or specific, religious things}. I like wearing short skirts, running shorts, bikinis at the pool or beach, and my hair flying free when I run in the mornings. Nobody is going to tell me I have to wear the hijab. BUT, nobody had better try to tell me I cannot either!}

{I go to the mosque and I see 98% of the brothers wearing jeans (some following the "low rise" fashion) or slacks, or khakis and their shirts tuck inside, or short t-shirts. So I have to endure the unfortunate sight of their bum and underwear while their are in rokoo` and if I'm really unfortunate I get to see their "cracks". If a woman went dressed like that... hell would break lose!!! Then all the khutbas about women's dress... how about those about men's dress???? Why don't I hear men going on and on about their modesty. After all, modesty is required for both men and women, and I can tell you that at my mosque the women do much better than men.}

The one poster who defended the the hijab most eloquently, and with the best scholarship has a nome de web of 'The Middle Way" (hereinafer MW> MW quoted the Qur’anic verse, “Say to believing women, that they cast down their eyes and guard their private parts, and reveal not their adornment save such as is outward; and let them drape their headcoverings over their bosoms, and not reveal their adornment . . .” (Qur’an 24:31) and said this is a specific requirement for Muslim women to cover their hair. MW followed many of the principles I have been advocating in this post: To understand what the Koran is saying you have to consider the historical context in which the words were revealed. He quoted several passages in Arabic in which the original word meant "head covering", and claimed that therefore we should interpret this as saying that the head covering should be tied around the neck and cover both the head and the breasts.

Miraj replied forcefully and with even more impressive scholarship:

{I am a native speaker of Arabic, and, as a scholar of Islam myself, I have a strong understanding not only of the theology of hijab, but the history of its development as an "obligation to God" in the minds of scholars.

Also, the word "khimar" did not mean headcovering in the Prophet's day, Sheikh Keller admits as much, stating that khimar is familar "in our day" as hijab. However, the fact remains that nowhere in the Quran does hijab refer to a means of costuming. That it does "in our day" is the result of fatwas, not sharia. Scholars connoted the word "khimar" to mean headcovering approximately 200 years after the death of the Prophet. Historically, it was not headcovering in the early ummah....Not to mention that Quran 24:31 never directs women to cover their hair. It does say use your khimar to cover your breasts, but I don't see many hijabis taking that command literally.

"Consensus", another word that is bandied about in a self-serving manner in order to stifle debate, is undefined - it is all too common for dissenting scholars to be dismissed as "illegitimate" - thus creating a consensus of convenience. A consensus of Sunni scholars, of Shia scholars; a consensus in the village, the nation, of the Arab world alone. There is a consensus for everyone who wants one. That doesn't make the fatwas Islamic.}

This discussion goes on like this for twelve pages, with a variety of positions being defended. One more dramatic piece of evidence that Islam is a religion with many faces, and in the process of growth.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cleanliness and Godliness

One of the things that impresses me about Muhammad's teachings is his ability to unite so many aspects of life into a single religious context. He lived at a time and place when the concept of law and justice was virtually non-existent. What substituted for it was what today we call the concept of Vendetta. The only thing that stopped pre-Islamic Arabia from breaking down into complete chaos was the custom that if anyone stole from or killed anyone in your family, everyone in your family would go after everyone in the criminal's family. Messy, but better than complete chaos. Muhammad replaced this system with a form of law that was based on both justice and forgiveness. By modern standards, it was harsh, but he was dealing with harsh people, and his authority was based on relatively little military power. Applying every aspect of the letter of that law today would violate its spirit, but it was almost perfectly adapted to his time, and thus remains one of the world's great achievements.

There was no point in Muhammad's time of talking about separation of Church and State, because Muhammad had to create both himself. As Karen Armstrong once wrote, Muhammad could not say "Render unto Caesar what it is Caesar's" because he had no Caesar to render unto. Similarly, Muhammad also incorporated not just law, but personal hygiene into his religious practices. Imagine living in a hot dusty climate, where it was almost impossible to find water for drinking, let alone washing. Then imagine what it would be like to begin every act of prayer with cleaning yourself carefully, so that cleaning of the body was always deeply linked with cleaning of the soul. What a powerful union of soul and body that must have created, what an exhilarating sense of purity and peace. This would make one want to wash more often and pray more often, linking both spiritual and physical health. Is it surprising that so many of Muhammad's contemporaries felt that he had brought them into a whole new way of living and being? Is it surprising that only two years after the treaty of Hudaibiyah, Muhammad follows had added 10,000 Meccans to his original community of 1400, and was thus able to take over the city without any bloodshed?

Do these rituals still have the same power today, in Societies with temperate climate and water on tap? Some people think so. If I were a Muslim, I would probably keep these rituals, or try to. Cleanliness is about as universal a virtue as you will find. Unlike many of the other decisions that Muhammad had to make there is no real problem in interpreting them in a modern context.

One irony, however, is that because people in Muhammad's time could not afford to keep themselves as clean as we do today, these rituals might have less impact now, because cleanliness is often practiced for its own sake, and thus not as inevitably conjoined with rituals connected with Godliness.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fatwa against Terrorism

ISCC affiliated Imams Issue Important Fatwa
Attack on Canada and the United States is Attack on Muslims
Over 10 million Muslims Live in North America

Calgary) Twenty Imams affiliated with the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada have issued a Fatwa today declaring the attacks on Canada and the United States by any extremist will be the attack on 10 million Muslims living in North America. This is the first Fatwa by the Muslim clergy declaring attacks on Canada and the United States as attack on Muslims. Following is the text of the Fatwa.

FATWA (religious edict)

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful

We, the undersigned Imams, are issuing the following Fatwa in order to guide the Muslims of North America regarding the attacks on Canada and the United States by the terrorists and the extremists. In our view, these attacks are evil and Islam requires from Muslims to stand up against this evil. In the holy Qur’an Almighty Allah orders Muslims,

"Let there among you be a group that summon to all that is beneficial commands what is proper and forbids what is improper; they are the ones who will prosper." (3:104)

"Believing men and believing women are protecting friends of one another; they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong; they perform salat and give zakat..." (9:71)

"Those who, if We establish them in the land (with authority), establish regular prayers and practice regular charity and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong..." (22:41)

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in a Hadith;

"When people see a wrong-doer and do nothing to stop him, they may well be visited by God with a punishment."

Therefore, it is an obligation upon us (Imams) to inform all Muslims around the world that Muslims in Canada and the United States have complete freedom to practice Islam. There is no single city in Canada and the United States where MASAJIDS (Mosques) are not built. In all major cities Islamic schools provide education to Muslim children about Qur’an and the Islamic traditions. Thousands of Muslims perform Hajj every year and travel to Saudi Arabia with complete freedom and respect. In the month of Ramadan, both Canadian and the United States governments recognize the occasion and greet all Muslim citizens. Muslims pray five daily prayers in mosques without any fear or restrictions. Muslims have complete freedom to pay Zakat (poor due) to the charity or a person of their choice. Muslims have complete freedom to celebrate their festivals openly, publicly and Islamically. Muslims enjoy freedom of religion just like Christians, Jews and others. No one stops us from obeying Allah and His Messenger (Peace be upon him). No one stops us from preaching Islam and practicing Islam. In many cases, Muslims have more freedom to practice Islam here in Canada and the United States than many Muslim countries.

In fact, the constitutions of the United States and Canada are very close to the Islamic guiding principles of human rights and freedom. There is no conflict between the Islamic values of freedom and justice and the Canadian /US values of freedom and justice.

Therefore, any attack on Canada and the United States is an attack on the freedom of Canadian and American Muslims. Any attack on Canada and the United States is an attack on thousands of mosques across North America. It is a duty of every Canadian and American Muslim to safeguard Canada and the USA. They must expose any person, Muslim OR non-Muslim, who would cause harm to fellow Canadians OR Americans. We, Canadian and American Muslims, must condemn and stand up against these attacks on Canada and the United States.

May Allah save Canada, the United States and the entire world from the evil of wrong doers. Ameen.

Signed by:

1. Prof. Imam Syed B. Soharwardy - Calgary
2. Allama Imam Ghalib Hussain Chishty - Calgary
3. Allama Imam Syed Mukhtar Naeemi – Houston, USA
4. Allama Imam Muhammad Nasir Qadri - Montreal
5. Allama Imam Abdul Latif No’mani - Vancouver
6. Imam Hafiz Muhammad Zarif Naeemi - Airdrie
7. Imam Nizamuddin Sayed Qadri - Calgary
8. Imam Qazi Bashiruddin Qadri - Hamilton
9. Imam Osman Qazi - Toronto
10. Imam Saeed Ahmed Saifee - Toronto
11. Alimah Hafizah Sister Zaheera Tariq - Calgary
12. Imam Ayaz Khan Qadri - Calgary
13. Alimah Sister Fatimah Zohra - Toronto
14. Imam Shahid Bashir Lahori - Calgary
15. Imam Hafiz Intizar Ahmed Qadri - Montreal
16. Imam Sayed Sajid Qadri – Calgary
17. Imam Arif Mahmood Naqshbandi - Calgary
18. Imam Muhammad Anees Siddiqui – Calgary
19. Sister Shahana Kamil – Mississauga
20. Mr. Mushtaq Khan - Mississauga

Today, January 8, 2010, Calgary Imams will be available at the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, 5700 Falsbridge Dr. NE at 2:00 PM to explain the Fatwa and answer any questions. The other Imams will be speaking about this Fatwa in their Friday sermons.

(Comments by Me) Some people have asked “if America were oppressive of its muslim population would it then be permissible to attack America?”

That inference is a fallacy called affirming the consequent.

If America does not oppress Muslims, It should not be attacked

Therefore if America does oppress Muslims, It should be attacked.

This has the same logical form as:

If Napoleon was killed in a plane crash, then Napolean would be dead. (true)

Therefore, if Napoleon was not killed in a plane crash, Napoleon would not be dead. (false)

Terrorists of course are likely to embrace fallacious arguments. But you can't accuse these Imams of making a statement that would give them logical justification for attacking America.

All of the Abrahamic faiths were deeply influenced by Aristotle, which is a good thing.