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.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

the Moderate Virtual Umma

I've been posting a lot on other Muslims sites now, and am glad to discover some more moderate Muslim discussion boards. Some of them in fact, are more "moderate" than I am, in that they are more forgiving of various manifestations of Islamophobia than I am. Shiren Qudosi's Revolution Islam Has this statement on the front page:

REVOLUTION Islam is a movement gathering a diverse community in a single online forum for people of all faiths and backgrounds who want a change in Islam.

Islam is yours. You need no "special connection" to God, no scholars, mullahs, or madrasas. No figure of authority has the right to tell you of your faith.

A revolution in Islam is only possible when a larger Muslim community realizes, accepts, and practices this fact.

Qudosi was willing to blame Muslims for the Swiss ban on Minarets, which I am not, especially because the districts in Switzerland with the four minarets in them all voted against the ban. This is a pretty good indication that it was Islamophobic propanda, not actual contact with minarets that caused the ban.

I also thought it was cool that she kept her hair uncovered. She has lovely hair, and no, I do not think I am going to hell for having an allegedly "lustful thought". Such thoughts are spiritually dangerous only when they are translated into action. In Vajrayana Buddhism, we do not deny that we have such thoughts. We let them arise and disapear, and give them neither attachment or aversion. That's the goal anyway, and it's definitely a better strategy than repression. Islam, unlike Christianity, has no tradition of celibacy, and no place for the idea that Sex is intrinsically evil. On this score, Islam scores even somewhat better than certain sects of Buddhism. There are no Muslim Celibate Monks. Even the most conservative Salafi Muslims will usually say that the purpose of the head-coverings is to discourage promiscuity, not sexual desire itself. I think head coverings are a really bad strategy for this, but that's a subject for another blog.

I found Qudosi's blog when she joined Beliefnet. There's a nice mix of Muslims on Beliefnet, from the courteous gentlemen who defended Salafi Islam on his comments on my site, to an American Muslim who fought in Iraq. (For the Americans.). Qudosi seems quite far to the left of most of them. It will be nice to see how she shakes things up.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

More Muslim outrage

I found a link to this Article on Juan Cole's Blog. There's lots of good stuff there, both ideas and research. Cole is president of the Global Americana Institute, and has written at least two books on the interactions between Islam and the West.

Thomas Friedman recently wrote a column in the Nytimes demanding that more Muslims speak out against terrorism. Isn't fifty-three protests enough to merit some sort of western coverage? The NYtimes put the explosions that were being protested on the front page of their web site, but I saw nothing about the protests. The number of people who caused the explosions was probably in the very low hundreds or less. There were a thousand people at only one of those 53 protests. These protests were co-ordinated by the Pakistani organization Aman Ittehad, which is a powerful force for peace and should be encouraged. I just joined their face book group, and found this photo among many others on their flickr page.

Perhaps these don't count in some people's eyes because they were protesting both the Taliban bombings and the American drone strikes. But a peace rally is a peace rally, and for obvious reasons, Muslims don't see any difference between slaughter of innocents by Americans or Taliban. Our willingness to see the rights and lives of other Muslims as "collateral damage" is an inevitable consequence of seeing terrorists as soldiers instead of criminals. No American police force would consider it acceptable to destroy an entire city block in Harlem or Compton just because they knew that there were drug dealers in one apartment there. But that is the strategy we are following with our drone attacks against terrorists, because this is supposedly a war, not a police action.

Perhaps the American Government is making a mistake in thinking they have to kill terrorists to eliminate them as a threat. If we just let them reveal their barbarity to the local public, rather than matching it with barbarity of our own, they would probably lose the support they need. Al Qaeda's insistence on killing Shiite Muslims destroyed their credibility in Iraq, and it is destroying their credibility in Pakistan. Many of the rallies mentioned below were organized by Sunni groups protesting the killing of Shiites. Cole says, "The Pakistani public is clearly fed up with the Taliban, and is cheering on the army in its struggle against them. If it weren't for the American drone attacks, in fact, there would not be the slightest ambiguity in the politics of peace and anti-terrorism."

Rally in capital reaffirms commitment to promote peace
Saturday, January 02, 2010
Rasheed Khalid


More than 1,000 citizens marched in the Federal Metropolis as part of a nationwide campaign in which people took out rallies in 53 cities and towns of Pakistan to reaffirm the commitment to peace and observe Jan 1 as a day to express solidarity with those who suffered violence and injustice.

Under the banner of Aman Ittehad, the peaceful rally marched to the point law enforcing agencies allowed it to proceed near the Parliament House here on Friday. Chanting slogan of “Aao milke zulm mitaey — hissay ki apne shama jalaen,” the demonstration was one of the 53 public rallies held nationwide at Aman Ittehad’s call across Pakistan.

Representatives of civil society organisations including trade union leaders, mediapersons, business groups, youth organisations, lawyers, students, teachers, and political activists participated in the rally in Islamabad.

According to a spokesperson of the Aman Ittehad, rallies were also held in Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Muzaffarabad, Multan, Hyderabad, Dadu, Badin, Larkana, Sukkur, Jamshoro, Naushero Feroz, Mithi, Umerkot, Jacobabad, Khairpur, Nawabshah, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Chakwal, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan, Khushab, Muzaffargarh, Okara, Gujrat, Hafizabad, Sheikhupura, Chiniot, Mandi Bahauddin, Kasur, Mardan, Swabi, Mingora, Abbottabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Karak, Dera Ismail Khan, Buner, Havelian, Mohmand Agency, Kurram Agency,Orakzai Agency, Khyber Agency, Kohat, Loralai and Sibi.

Ali Asghar Khan, younger brother of late Omar Asghar Khan, addressing the rally in Islamabad said that the fact that citizens from every part of Pakistan are holding public rallies today reflects public aspiration for peace and their resolve to strive for an end to violence and extremism. He said that we will continue this struggle for democratic governance, rule of law, and equal opportunities for all citizens.

Earlier, Naeem Mirza of the Aman Ittehad requested participants to pray for all those that have lost their lives due to suicide attacks, target killings, drone attacks, etc