FATAH: Allah’s Islam vs. Mullah’s Islam

Muslim men practice social distancing as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 as they take part in Friday prayers during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in Chana District in Songkla Province on May 8, 2020.TUWAEDANIYA MERINGING / AFP via Getty Images

Without fail, hardly a week goes by when news from the Islamic World does not embarrass ordinary Muslims worldwide.

Either we are each other’s throats, or are hunting to eliminate the ‘kuffar,’ be they Christian, Hindu, Jew or the agnostic and atheist, unless of course, they adhere to the guilt-ridden ‘Cancel Culture.’

And if at all a Braveheart among the ‘infidels’ murmurs a protest, trust us to invoke ‘Islamophobia,’ the ever-present Sword of Damocles that hangs over the head of whosoever dare protest. For we are unique — demanding both supremacy as well as victimhood.

The late Iranian scholar Ali Dashti concluded that Muslim follies have little to do with Islam, but everything to do with early Islamic conflicts where “ambition for the leadership replaced zeal for the religion as a pivotal motive.

In the book Twenty-Three Years that got him tortured by the Khomeini regime, Dashti wrote: “The study of the history of Islam shows it to be a sequence of struggles for power in which the contestants treated the religion (Islam) as the means, not as an end. … The further the Prophet’s death receded in the past, the greater became the tendency to use it (Islam) as an instrument of seizure of the leadership and the rulership.”


What pandemics mean for religion

In Harper Lecture, Prof. David Nirenberg traces impact of diseases on faiths through history

As the bubonic plague made its way westward from China in the 14th century, Christians, Muslims and Jews in its path thought anxiously about what practices of public health and of piety might save them.

In the 21st century, as COVID-19 spreads much more rapidly around the globe, we see similar debates over public health and religion. In this virtual Harper Lecture, University of Chicago Divinity School dean David Nirenberg compares his research on reactions to the Black Death in the Middle Ages with the results of polling on religion and COVID-19 in the United States today.

“We don’t know how profound the lasting effects of COVID will be, and that’s a source of great anxiety and uncertainty,” he said during his June 8 lecture.

A leading scholar of the interactions between Jewish, Christian and Islamic cultures, Nirenberg led a recent project that polled American religious practices during the pandemic, conducted in partnership with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs.


Islamic Society of North America condemns Turkey’s conversion of Hagia Sophia

The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has released a statement condemning Turkey’s conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

ISNA says that the Quran states that it against their religious beliefs to desecrate a Christian place of worship and to “demolish places of worship and convert them into something else.”

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, President of the Board of Directors of ISNA, a national umbrella organization which has more than 300 affiliates across the United States and Canada, wrote a full statement as following:

“We need to work together to convince President Erdogan not to convert Hagia Sophia into a mosque in Istanbul. Hagia Sophia was built as a Church and a pride of the Greek Orthodox Church which commands the loyalty of Greek Orthodox Christians counting some 300 million in Greece, Turkey and around the world. Russian Orthodox Church which is a splinter of Greek Orthodox continues to jointly have a sacred sentiment for Hagia Sophia.

Sultan Mohammad AlFateh, the Ottoman King who conquered Istanbul (Constantinople), converted the Church Hagia Sophia to a Mosque. He is hailed as a Muslim hero and conqueror but the desecration of a place of worship of Christians, Jews and other faiths is strongly prohibited in Islam. The Quran 40:22 clearly states that it is against Allah’s plan to demolish places of worship and convert them into something else.

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH emphasized that we have to protect the unarmed enemies, their crops and places of worship in a war. We have a long list of similar items that our first Khalifa, Abu Bakr gave to his army generals commissioned to fight the enemies in Syria and Iraq, protecting their sacred places was an important item among them.

You must be fully aware of the historical event when Umar al Khattab, the second rightly guided Khalifa of our Prophet visited Jerusalem after it was conquered by his army and the vanquished governor Sophronius took him around to show the sacred Christian monuments in the city of Jerusalem. Holy Sepulcher, the Tomb of Jesus was one of them. Umar was overwhelmed and Sophronius could very well notice that. Sophronius was aware of the Islamic belief about Christ and he asked Umar to pray according to Islamic tradition in the Holy Shrine. Umar told him that he would not pray because if he did, later generations of Muslim rulers would convert the Holy Sepulcher into a Mosque. He made it clear that as conquerors, Muslims are charged with the duty to protect the religious monuments of the defeated people with dignity.


Islam’s guidance for coping with the pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly spread globally, the whole world is desperately looking for ways to contain it, finding cures for the infected and developing vaccines to protect against it.

The world adopted the Muslim practice of quarantines in the form of lockdown, self-isolation and physical distance. The Doge (lord) of Venice learnt that when facing epidemics, Muslim rulers in the East imposed precautionary 40-day quaranta (‘arbain), as mentioned by Ibn Khaldun.

Contrary to the teachings of some, ironically, although not well-known in Muslim societies, such methods of prevention and protection are rooted in the teachings and history of Islam.

As social beings, Muslims are encouraged, but not required to perform their daily obligatory prayers in congregation, and typically are emotionally attached to mosques. Thus, measures such as quarantines and physical distancing, are causing psychological distress to many Muslims. Undoubtedly, COVID-19 is undermining long practiced religious customs.

Strict, prolonged “stay in shelter” lockdowns have especially hit and hurt millions of urban poor living in slums and shanty towns, sometimes identified as the “precariat” typically working in the “informal” economy, and in recent decades, increasingly beyond.

As more and more pressure comes from powerful business interests as well as much of the population suffering from the loss of livelihoods, governments have to “open up” and switch to other means to contain the epidemic and its adverse consequences.


COVID-19 and Indian Muslims

It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is common decency.” — Albert Camus

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s seminal work, Death and Dying, describes the five distinct stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While the Swiss-American psychiatrist was speaking about the series of emotions terminally ill patients go through, the first of the five stages that she postulated possibly holds true for a section of India’s people when the country was trying to come to terms with COVID-19 in the initial days of the pandemic.

The spread of the virus in the early months had then exposed the country’s second-largest religious group to a vulnerability born out of denial. Indiscretion and reckless behaviour by members of the Tablighi Jamaat had purportedly led to a spurt in coronavirus-positive cases, not only in Delhi but also in many other parts of the country.

The spread of the virus in the early months had then exposed the country’s second-largest religious group to a vulnerability born out of denial.

An international gathering of Tablighis — preachers or a society to spread the faith —had taken place in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin area in March 2020, drawing hundreds of foreign nationals from Thailand, Nepal, Myanmar, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan. Despite a government order prohibiting large gatherings, more than 4,500 people had assembled at the Tablighi Jamaat Markaz (headquarters).

Media reports had quoted government sources as saying that since 1 January 2020, over 2,000 foreigners from 70 countries had arrived in India to participate in Jamaat activities. As the COVID-19 lockdown came into force on 25 March 2020, over 1,000 were left stranded in Nizamuddin.


Sudan scraps apostasy law and alcohol ban for non-Muslims

After more than 30 years of Islamist rule, Sudan has outlined wide-reaching reforms including allowing non-Muslims to drink alcohol, and scrapping the apostasy law and public flogging.

“We [will] drop all the laws violating the human rights in Sudan,” Justice Minister Nasredeen Abdulbari said.

A raft of new laws were passed last week but this is the first public explanation of their contents.

Sudan has also banned female genital mutilation (FGM).

Under the new laws, women no longer need permission from a male relative to travel with their children.

The reforms come after long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir was ousted last year following massive street protests.

The current government is an uneasy mixture of those groups which ousted Mr Bashir and his former allies in the military, who ultimately staged a coup against him.


As a Sufi singer, I believe the sounds of world religions can cultivate compassion during COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic has taken us into an era of social distancing. By relying on online digital media, we may be isolating ourselves from more local and diverse communities.

As an ethnomusicologist at the University of Alberta, my research and musical practices lead me to reflect on how what I think of as a “socially isolated ear” is more prone to resist and be intimidated by cultural and religious diversity. As a Sufi vocalist, through my music I share the message of love and interfaith harmony taught by Sufi mystics — and I explore the crevices of Muslim belief and expression from a feminist standpoint.

Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam that is based on introspection and spiritual practices for cleansing the heart to receive closeness with Allah. Sufis have used the power of art, music, poetry and dance to show human soul’s relationship with the Divine.

How intercultural listening transforms us as humans became ever clearer to me this past spring as I watched students grow in understanding in courses I taught.

I contrasted this with the racism and intolerance demonstrated by some to the public sounding of the Muslim call to prayer (azanin Mississauga, Ont. and in Edmonton.

Communities of sound’

Ritual is a powerful gift that brings a sense of a collective and been a source for social cohesion within societies, instilling support and resiliency or creating new social bonds, as the French sociologist Emile Durkheim points out. For those in religious communities, ritual is about human interaction with the Divine.


WATCH: ‘The Racial Divide: Time For Change’ Town Hall – faith and mental health focus

WASHINGTON (ABC7) — On Tuesday night, WJLA broadcasted a live virtual town hall addressing affairs of race relations with a focus on faith and mental health issues.

ABC7 News anchors Jonathan Elias and Michelle Marsh moderated the one-hour virtual panel discussion with religious leaders and mental health experts from the Washington, D.C. region.

The discussion centered around the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide protests and calls for justice, and how those have impacted our mental health in terms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Our panelists discussed how to move forward in a better direction together and provided resources for help.ADVERTISING

RELATED: The Racial Divide: ABC7 hosts second town hall, tackles mental health concerns

Panelists and special guests who appeared:

You can watch our first Racial Divide: Time For Change Town Hall, which aired on June 9, HERE.

Take a look below at the topics that were discussed:


Faith leaders discuss what they’re hearing from their congregation in terms of stress, anxiety, and depression related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the toll is taking on people and affecting their ability to return to church.


Islam’s anti-racist message from the 7th century still resonates today

One day, in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad dropped a bombshell on his followers: He told them that all people are created equal.

“All humans are descended from Adam and Eve,” said Muhammad in his last known public speech. “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

In this sermon, known as the Farewell Address, Muhammad outlined the basic religious and ethical ideals of Islam, the religion he began preaching in the early seventh century. Racial equality was one of them. Muhammad’s words jolted a society divided by notions of tribal and ethnic superiority.

Today, with racial tension and violence roiling contemporary America, his message is seen to create a special moral and ethical mandate for American Muslims to support the country’s anti-racism protest movement.

Challenging kinship

Apart from monotheism – worshipping just one God – belief in the equality of all human beings in the eyes of God set early Muslims apart from many of their fellow Arabs in Mecca.

Chapter 49, verse 13 of Islam’s sacred scripture, the Quran, declares: “O humankind! We have made you…into nations and tribes, so that you may get to know one another. The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most righteous.”

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This verse challenged many of the values of pre-Islamic Arab society, where inequalities based on tribal membership, kinship and wealth were a fact of life. Kinship or lineal descent – “nasab” in Arabic – was the primary determinant of an individual’s social status. Members of larger, more prominent tribes like the aristocratic Quraysh were powerful. Those from less wealthy tribes like the Khazraj had lower standing.



A chance find in a Damascus bookshop is a reminder that to study Arabic is to be drawn into a wider and vibrant multicultural world

By Tarek Makhlouf, University of Melbourne

Sometime in early 2010 I was visiting my favourite bookshops in the al-Halbouni suburb of Damascus. This was before the civil war.

Al-Halbouni is an Arabic book lover’s paradise: it has dozens of bookshops door-to-door packed with books of all genres and types.

The central souk (marketplace) in Damascus in 2019. Picture: Noe Falk Nielsen/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Closely scanning the shelf before me, I reached for a volume with a blank spine – a good sign that it was a facsimile of a rare text printed in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. I had stumbled on a commentary of a classical Arabic philosophical text that was new to me.

My excitement was soon replaced by astonishment as my eyes scanned down the page. I stopped and stared at the two lines of Cyrillic text. The accompanying Arabic told me that this book was printed in 1901 in Kazan, in what was then the Russian Empire.

I had seen Arabic texts printed in many places before; from Leipzig to Lucknow and many others in between. But now holding this book printed in Russian Tartarstan made me realise that the way Arabic studies is taught in Australia is too narrow. It isn’t just about Arabs.

Today, Arabic is mostly thought of as the language of the Arab world and the liturgical language of Islam. But Arabic, and its literary heritage, is much more than a national or religious language – it is a classical and global cosmopolitan language with a vibrant culture that spans a millennium.

The spread of Arabic and its complex interactions with different cultures in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas challenges us to think of Arabic studies differently.

Arabic began as the language of the inhabitants of the northern part of the Arabian Peninsula and the Syrian desert no less than two thousand years ago. The Arabs were politically insignificant on the world stage and therefore there wasn’t much interest in their language. But the Arabs loved their language and composed copious amounts of poetry, their main artistic output.