October 28, 2007

Reversion vs. Conversion

I got an e-mail this morning from a man who read some of my comments on Daily Kos. He questioned why I used the word "revert" instead of "convert." Below is the comment he is referring to, which I wrote, except that he has capitalized all the times I used the word "revert":

“Yes, I'm well aware that people REVERT to Islam for petty reasons. That's not my point. My point is that Muslims would want people to have the right intention for REVERTING to Islam instead of a petty reason. In Islam, one's intention to behave in a certain way carries considerable weight, both in this life and the Hereafter. How much more forgiveness might Allah (swt) grant to one who REVERTED to Islam for His sake than for a person who REVERTED for a petty reason, like marriage or business?”

His letter:

I notice that you speak of Christians and others “reverting” to Islam and elsewhere put ‘“conversion”’ in quotation marks. Obviously you are making a point. What is it? That we once were all Muslim, and hence those who are not (really, no longer) within the dar al Islam are infidels?

And my response:

I wouldn't exactly put it the way you've described it, especially with the use of the word "infidel," which I rarely if ever use.

Some Muslims will talk about people converting to Islam, others (perhaps the majority) talk about "reverting" to Islam. I use the latter word. The reason why Muslims like me use "revert" instead of "convert" is due to some passages in the Qur'an.

The Qur'an states that mankind was brought forth before Allah (swt) long before we were born. In one particular passage, it is said that mankind swore an oath confirming that Allah (swt) is the one God:

"When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): 'Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?'- They said: 'Yea! We do testify!' (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: 'Of this we were never mindful': Or lest ye should say: 'Our fathers before us may have taken false gods, but we are (their) descendants after them: wilt Thou then destroy us because of the deeds of men who were futile?'" (7:172-3)

In this regard, Muslims believe that through this oath we all became Muslims prior to birth. It is after birth where we may lose our innate sense of the oneness of Allah (swt) (such as through the teachings of our parents, teachers and others). In that sense, those people who come back to Islam (such as myself) are not "converts," but "reverts."

Another explanation, by Muhammad Asad:

"According to the Qur'an, the ability to perceive the existence of the Supreme Power is inborn in human nature (fitrah); and it is this instinctive cognition - which may or may not be subsequently blurred by self-indulgence or adverse environmental influences - that makes every sane human being 'bear witness about himself' before God."

So, in this respect, yes, we were all once Muslims, but after birth some of us are taught to be other than Muslim.

Salaam 'alaikum (peace be unto you).


July 06, 2007

An Open Letter...

...to the young Muslim man at Masjid Al-Abrar:

I doubt that you know me, nor do I know who you are; however, I do have something to say to you: you were embarrassing at jumu'ah today. You know how crowded it gets at the masjid: SRO, brothers praying on the stairwell landings, praying on a hot tile roof. I was able to get a small place to sit next to you on the second floor just as the sunnah prayer was starting, right after today's khutbah. I did the sunnah prayer but noticed that you didn't - that hand phone of yours seemed more important to you. However, the prayer was, after all, only sunnah, not fard, so I can see why you might not want to do it, even though 99% of your Muslim brothers there were praying.

But then I noticed that you didn't pay attention to the duas being recited by the imam; it was that hand phone of yours again. You were playing Tetris, or some similar game, and I could only shake my head in disgust at you. Not that you noticed. You kept on playing your game until the final adhan. Then you got up like a bolt of lightning and you were all business. Up until this point I had been wondering if you were really a Muslim; I had assumed that you were but you sure weren't behaving like one. But you finished the prayer, shook my hand (which I was tempted not to touch because I was so disgusted with you by this point), and then you were out of there, once more, like the proverbial bolt of lightning.

Dude, we're here to escape from the world at large for a few brief minutes so that we can return our thoughts to our Lord and Creator. Perhaps you need to be reminded of a few ayat from the Qur'an:

(Lit is such a Light) in houses, which Allah hath permitted to be raised to honor; for the celebration, in them, of His name: In them is He glorified in the mornings and in the evenings, (again and again), By men whom neither traffic nor merchandise can divert from the Remembrance of Allah, nor from regular Prayer, nor from the practice of regular Charity: Their (only) fear is for the Day when hearts and eyes will be transformed (in a world wholly new), (24:36-7)

O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the Remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (and traffic): That is best for you if ye but knew! (62:9)

O ye who believe! Let not your riches or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. If any act thus, the loss is their own.

So my gentle advice to you is that, next week, you should put your hand phone away and pray earnestly to Allah (swt) for forgiveness. And if that's too hard, then just stay away from the Masjid so that another Muslim brother can pray on a cool carpeted floor instead of a hot ceiling tile.

Your brother in Islam,


June 30, 2007


This is such a broad topic that it's difficult to do it justice in a relatively short answer. First and foremost, as I suspect most of you know, jihad does not mean "holy war." Literally, it means "struggle." I think this becomes apparent in a related word, ijtihad or "reasoning." As we all know from school, working through a problem can be a struggle. Those of you who are musicians should understand jihad very well as practicing music can often be a struggle. From a Muslim perspective, virtually any aspect of life can be a jihad. And this is why Muslims get rather upset when non-Muslims mistranslate jihad, because jihad is a concept far broader than many non-Muslims understand and is very highly regarded among Muslims. Fighting back against those who oppress, in Arabic, is qital, which is a completely different term (see below). Qital is part of jihad, but it is far from being the whole of the concept.

Sunni Muslims have developed a hierarchy for jihad. There is:
* Jihad of the heart/soul (jihad bin nafs/qalb) - an inner struggle of good against evil in the mind, through concepts such as tawhid (the oneness of Allah (swt)).
* Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan) - a struggle of good against evil waged by writing and speech, such as in the form of dawah (proselytizing), khutbas (sermons), etc.
* Jihad by the pen and knowledge (jihad bil qalam/lim) - a struggle for good against evil through the scholarly study of Islam, ijtihad (legal reasoning), and through the sciences.
* Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad) - a struggle of good against evil waged by actions or with one's wealth, such as going on the Hajj pilgrimage (seen as the best jihad for women), taking care of elderly parents, or political activity for furthering the cause of Islam.
* Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif) - this refers to qital fi sabilillah (armed fighting in the way of God).

Despite the hierarchy, most Muslims think of jihad in two forms: the Greater Jihad and the Lesser Jihad. This comes from a hadith, one variation of which reads:

"Some troops came back from an expedition and went to see the Messenger of Allah Muhammad (pbuh). He said: "You have come for the best, from the smaller jihad (al-jihad al-asghar) to the greater jihad (al-jihad al-akbar)." Someone said, "What is the greater jihad?" He said: "The servant's struggle against his lust" (mujahadat al-`abdi hawah).

The lesser jihad then is the physical fighting in the cause of Allah (swt). The greater jihad is the jihad an-nafs, the struggle against our own desires, our ego. This greater jihad gets into the very heart of the concept of "struggle," because that struggle permeates our lives. As my wife is fond of saying, "We strive to be better Muslims." And that striving is jihad.

Cross-posted at Street Prophets, Daily Kos, and Dunner's.

June 07, 2007

Unity in Diversity

Khutbah from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS)
Originally published: 3 December 2004 / 20 Syawal 1425H

Blessed Friday congregation,

On this blessed Friday, let us heighten our zeal and taqwa to Allah (swt) and let us carry all that He has commanded us to do and abstain all that He has forbidden. Let us hope that we will leave this world with deep faith in His religion.

Blessed Friday congregation,

In last week's sermon, the khatib shared on tolerance being one of the noble values that must be practiced by all those who are faithful.

This highly encouraged value can only be realized when we truly understand and trust that among the tests Allah have for us is through His diverse creations. Allah (swt) commanded in Al-Ma'idah (5), ayat 48:

"To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way. If Allah had willed, He would have made you one nation, but that He may test you in what He has given you; so compete in good deeds."

Respected Friday congregation,

Diversity is a sunnah of Allah's creation. On the creation of men, we see diversity in race, culture, language and faith. Men are different in size, looks and skin color. Men too have varied interests, emotions, way of thinking, ambitions and more.

Let us look and ponder on nature. It too has its variety. The flowers and herbs have different shapes, colors and usage. The same goes for the insect life. Insects have got varied shapes, colors, sizes and abilities in managing the environment they breed in. In ecology, we see variations in weather, temperatures and seasons that follow the natural ecological cycle and Allah's will.

However, what is it that binds all of us? What is it that binds all of His creations? What is it that makes all of us the same? The thing that makes us similar is that we are all creations of Allah (swt) and we submit to the will of Allah (swt)

Dear Brothers,

Let us reflect on the beauty of Allah's creation, which are diverse in colors and beauty. It is actually a nikmat to those who wish to take opportunity of this diversity without hating nor ignoring it altogether.

This beauty in diversity needs to be protected and cherished so that it does not fall into bad hands or those schools of thought that are narrow, extreme and unbalanced, which rejects the sunnah of diversity in men's life and the universe.

Blessed Brothers,

Islam teaches us that in us acknowledging diversity, we too need to do so guided by balance and maintaining harmony amongst mankind.

Islam teaches us that all matters have their respective rights that are in line with Allah's laws and the laws of the universe. Islam teaches its followers to always be moderate in managing varying lifestyles and thinking, and not to follow one's desires blindly.

We acknowledged that the current state now is open to conflicts pertaining to differentiation in understanding. In addition to the fitnah of today's living where people are getting too liberal and taking mannerisms and pride too lightly. These have made people without pride like how Allah said in Surah Al-Ma'idah (5), ayat 49:

"And so judge among them by what Allah has revealed and follow not their vain desires, but beware of them lest they turn you far from that which Allah has sent down to you. And if they turn away, then know that Allah's Will is to punish them for some sins of theirs. And truly, most of men are rebellious and disobedient to Allah.

As we accept diversity and differences, it should not push us in giving away our identity until we get ourselves mixed up or rid of uniqueness.

Beloved Friday congregation,

In Islam we acknowledge the diversity in religion and way of life. Notwithstanding, we should manage the differences maturely and fairly so that it does not evoke any rifts. If that happens, it will be at the loss to the whole community.

The history of human civilizations has proved that there are two differences that will bring to the downfall. One is differences in behavior and, two, differences in thinking.

Islam encourages differences that promote diversity but not differences that promote disunity in the society. The differences in diversity should work together on the basis of mutual respect, strengthening and complementing one another. Islam encourages diversity in activities and thoughts, but it should not fall prey to the disintegration of ukhuwwah and social ties. In one hadith sahih narrated by Imam Bukhari, Rasulullah (saw) said:

"Do not breed hatred, jealousy and promoting ill-feeling. Be servants of Allah who are kindreds to one another, and no Muslim is to ignore a fellow Muslim for more than three days."

Blessed Friday congregation,

Cherish the diversity as a gift from Allah (swt). Administer this diversity by uniting the hearts to be self-strengthening. Make diversity a rahmat that will bring good to Islam and the lives of all humankind. Let us instill the spirit of togetherness in the hearts of Muslims and the nation and be careful with internal and external factors that are striving to disunite us from being united in diversity.

Remember that syaitan is the man's closest enemy. Syaitan are constantly striving to disintegrate the human nation from respecting one another and living harmoniously. Remember, "Syaitan is the wolf amongst human beings, and the wolf will only prey on those lost from their group."

Fitnah: Civil strife, war, riots.
Hadith: Reports on the sayings and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (saw) or what he witnessed and approved are called hadith (plural: ahadith). These are the real explanation, interpretation, and the living example of the Prophet (saw) for teachings of the Qur'an. His sayings are found in books called the hadith books. Some famous collectors of hadith are Imam Al-Bukhari, Imam Muslim, Imam An-Nasa'i, Imam Abu Dawood, Imam At-Tirmizi, and Imam Majah. There are many others.
Khatib: Orator, speaker, the one who delivers the khutbah (sermon).
Nikmat: Gift, blessing, satisfaction, enjoyment, comfort, comfortable, delicious, enjoyable, grace, luxury, pleasant, sensuous.
Rahmat: Mercy, clemency.
Rasulullah: The Prophet of God, Muhammad (saw).
Sahih: Healthy and sound with no defects, used to describe an authentic hadith.
(saw): These letters are abbreviations for the words “Salla Allahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam,” which means, “may the blessing and the peace of Allah be upon him.” When the name of Prophet Muhammad is mentioned, a Muslim is to respect him and invoke this statement of peace upon him.
Sunnah: In this context, sunnah means a recommended practice, something that should be done but is not obligatory.
(swt): These letters are abbreviations for the words of “Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala.” When the name of Almighty Allah is pronounced, a Muslim is to show his respect to Him by reciting this. The meaning of this statement is that Allah is purified of having partners or a son.
Syaitan: The Bahasa Melayu spelling of Shaitan. Shaitan (Satan) is the source of evil in the world. He always tries to misguide and mislead people. The Qur’an states that Satan is not an angel but a member of the Jinn. His other name is Iblis.
Taqwa: The condition of piety and God-consciousness that all Muslims aspire to achieve or maintain. It can be said that one's taqwa is a measure of one's faith and commitment to God. The love and fear that a Muslim feels for Allah (swt). A person with taqwa desires to be in the good pleasures of Allah (swt) and to stay away from those things that would displease Allah (swt). He is careful not to go beyond the bounds and limits set by Allah (swt).
Ukhuwwah: Brotherhood.

June 04, 2007

Is Life Choice or Chance?

The following is a comment I wrote to a diary at Street Prophets called, Is Life Choice or Chance? The diary is rather long, but I thought the crux of the diary was rather easy to answer. The block quotation below is from the original diary, and everything written below is my writing (except for the Qur'anic quotations, of course).

So why doesn't God's kindness result in a fair distribution of good things? I have no idea. I have to think that God is always trying to work with us, to give us good things, but that there are forces of evil in the world, and that those can be very destructive.

The answer is simple enough from an Islamic perspective: Allah (swt) has said numerous times (dozens of times) that He will test us in our lives and in our possessions to see who is best in conduct, because not all of us acknowledge Him in both the good times and bad. Following are a small number of ayat from the Qur'an to give a flavor for the topic:

Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, (2:155)

Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden (of bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? they encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: "When (will come) the help of Allah." Ah! Verily, the help of Allah is (always) near! (2:214)

Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. (3:186)

Thus did We try some of them by comparison with others, that they should say: "Is it these then that Allah hath favored from amongst us?" Doth not Allah know best those who are grateful? (6:53)

It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (6:165)

And know ye that your possessions and your progeny are but a trial; and that it is Allah with Whom lies your highest reward. (8:28)

Among them is (many) a man who says: "Grant me exemption and draw me not into trial." Have they not fallen into trial already? and indeed Hell surrounds the Unbelievers (on all sides). (9:49)

See they not that they are tried every year once or twice? Yet they turn not in repentance, and they take no heed. (9:126)

If We give man a taste of Mercy from Ourselves, and then withdraw it from him, behold! he is in despair and (falls into) blasphemy. But if We give him a taste of (Our) favors after adversity hath touched him, he is sure to say, "All evil has departed from me:" Behold! he falls into exultation and pride. (11:9-10)

But verily thy Lord,- to those who leave their homes after trials and persecutions,- and who thereafter strive and fight for the faith and patiently persevere,- Thy Lord, after all this is oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (16:110)

That which is on earth we have made but as a glittering show for the earth, in order that We may test them - as to which of them are best in conduct. (18:7)

There are among men some who serve Allah, as it were, on the verge: if good befalls them, they are, therewith, well content; but if a trial comes to them, they turn on their faces: they lose both this world and the Hereafter: that is loss for all to see! (22:11)

"That We might try them by that (means). But if any turns away from the remembrance of his Lord, He will cause him to undergo a severe Penalty. (72:17)

April 03, 2007

The Amman Message

To be honest, I had not heard of The Amman Message until Abu Sinan blogged about it a few days ago. His complaint with the Amman Message deals with who gave the Message its initial push (King Abd'Allah of Jordan) and various of its signatories. However, I find Abu Sinan's reasoning comparable to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. His complaint deals not with the message itself, only with some of those people who have attached their names to the document. Personally, I looked through some of the list of signatories and found people who, IMO, are the opposite of whom A.S. is complaining about. For example, among the signatories from SE Asia are Dr. Yaaqob Ibrahim (who serves, among other duties, as Singapore's Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs) and Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdallah, who is also an Islamic scholar.

But the point I should not have to stress to Abu Sinan is that we are all sinners, and that it is our intentions that matter the most. Can you judge the intentions of King Abd'Allah or some of the other signatories, Abu Sinan?

I, personally, support the Amman Message.

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad and his pure and noble family

(1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (Mathahib) of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali), the two Shi'i schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Ja'fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Islamic jurisprudence, is a Muslim. Declaring that person an apostate is impossible and impermissible. Verily his (or her) blood, honour, and property are inviolable. Moreover, in accordance with the Shaykh Al-Azhar’s fatwa, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to the Ash'ari creed or whoever practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate. Likewise, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.

Equally, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare as apostates any other group of Muslims who believes in God, Glorified and Exalted be He, and His Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him), the pillars of faith (Iman), and the five pillars of Islam, and does not deny any necessarily self-evident tenet of religion.

(2) There exists more in common between the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence than there is difference between them. The adherents to the eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence are in agreement as regards the basic principles of Islam. All believe in Allah (God), Glorified and Exalted be He, the One and the Unique; that the Noble Qur’an is the Revealed Word of God preserved and protected by God, Exalted be He, from any change or aberration; and that our master Muhammad, may blessings and peace be upon him, is a Prophet and Messenger unto all mankind. All are in agreement about the five pillars of Islam: the two testaments of faith (shahadatayn); the ritual prayer (salat); almsgiving (zakat); fasting the month of Ramadan (sawm), and the Hajj to the sacred house of God (in Mecca). All are also in agreement about the foundations of belief: belief in Allah (God), His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, and in the Day of Judgment, in Divine Providence in good and in evil. Disagreements between the ‘ulama (scholars) of the eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence are only with respect to the ancillary branches of religion (furu') and some fundamentals (usul) [of the religion of Islam]. Disagreement with respect to the ancillary branches of religion (furu') is a mercy. Long ago it was said that variance in opinion among the ‘ulama (scholars) “is a mercy.”

(3) Acknowledgement of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Mathahib) within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas: no one may issue a fatwa without the requisite qualifications of knowledge. No one may issue a fatwa without adhering to the methodology of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. No one may claim to do unlimited Ijtihad and create a new opinion or issue unacceptable fatwas that take Muslims out of the principles and certainties of the Shari'ah and what has been established in respect of its schools of jurisprudence.

Section 1:
Notice that a number of religious groups that are either offshoots of Islam (e.g., the Baha'i, the Ahmadiyya) or are quasi-Islamic groups (NOI, Submitters, etc.) are not listed among the definition of who is a Muslim. Also, insha'allah, this definition of who is a Muslim and who isn't I hope will help to defuse some of the sectarian violence between the Sunnis and Shi'a, especially in Iraq and Pakistan.
Section 3: I find this section to be the most important of the three. This section removes the ability of both extremes of Muslims, the al-Qaeda types and the Secular/Pro-regressive" Muslims, to write legitimate fatawa. The eight mathahib are the only legitimate providers of fatawa for the Ummah.

March 17, 2007

Conversions Unveiled

An interesting article from Wednesday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (JS) Online about the new book, Becoming Muslim: Western Women's Conversions to Islam, by Anna Mansson McGinty. Amazon's book description reads, "While Islam has become a controversial topic in the West, a growing number of Westerners find powerful meaning in Islam. Becoming Muslim is an ethnographic study based on in-depth interviews with Swedish and American women who have converted to Islam. Proceeding from the women’s life-stories, the author explores the appeal of Islam to some Western women and the personal meaning assigned to the religion. While conversion is often perceived as entailing a dramatic change in worldview, the women’s experiences point to an equally important continuity. Notably, the conversion is triggered by particular personal ideas and quests, and within Islam the women can further explore already salient thoughts. The work appeals to students in the fields of anthropology, religious studies, psychology, and women’s studies, interested in identity, conversion, and gender."

In the 1990s, when she first set out to interview women about their conversions to Islam, Anna Mansson McGinty expected to meet the wives of devout Muslims, women whose religion had come from their husbands.

But a more complex picture emerged as McGinty, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, began delving into the women's stories for her 2006 book, "Becoming Muslim: Western Women's Conversions to Islam."

McGinty, 35, interviewed women in her native Sweden and in the United States, and found no typical Muslim convert. Nor did she find conversions that could be reduced to a single act.

"The book's main aim," she said, "is to show that conversion is not, as many scholars have described it, a one-time event. It's a constant process. It's never-ending."

Among the nine women profiled in the book was Mariam, an American-born graduate student in anthropology who went to do field work in an oasis in northern Africa, and while in the field converted to Islam at age 25. Years later, she married a man who also was a Muslim convert.

There was Fatimah, a former Catholic who had abandoned religion in college, then, as a married mother of two, watched a documentary on nuclear holocaust that led her to embark on a spiritual quest. In the course of this quest, she would divorce her husband, convert to Islam and later marry a Muslim man.

"Becoming Muslim" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, $65) sheds light on how women in Islam are perceived, an issue that reflects the rift between the Muslim world and the West.

Yvonne Haddad, a professor who teaches the history of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Georgetown University, said a fundamental misconception about Islamic women stems from an old colonialist notion.

"There is a whole history of European colonialism," she said, "that justified the occupation of Muslim lands by saying, 'We have to save Muslim women.' "

Early Crusaders saw Muslim women in their veils and imagined they were abused by their men, hidden under cover, Haddad said.

Today the idea persists, though it is balanced by a view from the opposite side of the cultural divide.

"Muslims look at Western women as being abused by their husbands because they allow strange men to talk and flirt with the women," Haddad explained.

Negative ideas about the treatment of Islamic women, however, are not without some grains of truth.

There have been forced marriages and "honor killings" of women in certain Muslim cultures, said Marcia Hermansen, director of the Islamic World Studies program at Loyola University of Chicago, but such practices are not part of most Muslims' "everyday reality. It's not sanctioned by the religion."
[Note: Honor killings are not solely a "Muslim phenomenon," but have been done by members of other religions, including Christians.]

"Under the Taliban, certainly women were hideously oppressed," said Leila Ahmed, a professor at Harvard Divinity School.

At the same time, Ahmed said, "nobody has ever asked me to explain why there have been women heads of state in Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. How many European and American women heads of state have there been?
[Note: To my knowledge, only two, the UK (Margaret Thatcher) and Germany (Chancellor Angela Merkel).]

"The extraordinary achievements and freedoms of Muslim women are simply invisible."

Hermansen pointed out that some of these heads of state were the wives or daughters of leaders, evidence in her view that "family identity trumps gender distinctions for the most part."


McGinty's interviews with the nine women were never intended to be a scientific survey. Instead, they offer a window into the journey toward conversion and the consequences of that decision.

One of the Swedish women told McGinty that the decision to wear the veil changed the way fellow Swedes viewed her. The woman said that strangers assumed she was an immigrant and would speak slowly, asking, "Do . . . you . . . speak . . . Swedish?"

The veil has become a powerful symbol of the complexity of Islamic conversion.

McGinty found that converts were eager to wear the veil to identify themselves as Muslim, yet also saw it as something "intimately linked to the stereotypes of Muslim women."

Some women, McGinty said, remove the veil before entering their workplaces.

Women also told McGinty that, since their conversions, people seemed to view them as boring or serious, almost discounting the possibility that they might have a sense of humor.

All of the women, McGinty said, found something in Islam that aligned to a core part of their personality.

Some found that zakat, or alms giving to the poor, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, fit a belief in social justice.

Others found in Islam a faith that spoke to their sense of religious yearning or spiritual quest.

Some of the women, she said, found that Islam allowed them to try out a new kind of femininity, one that emphasized modesty and placed value on who a woman is rather than what she looks like.

"Conversion triggers profound questions to the self," McGinty wrote in her book. "It heightens the awareness and prompts reflections of who one is, who one was, and where one is heading."

March 12, 2007

Answers for John and Mary

Mary wrote: "I don’t get how Rayyan can be a doctor. Well at least a doctor with Male patients. She should only treat females."

No doubt there are some Muslim countries where there are male doctors who treat only men and female doctors who treat only women. However, this is not a universal practice around the world. In fact, I, a Muslim male, have a female Muslim doctor.

John wrote: "I have heard it said that while it is forbidden for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man, the reverse is not true. Did I understand this correctly?"

Yes, this is true; Muslim men are allowed to marry believing Christian and Jewish women per the Qur'an.

"...is the non-Muslim wife expected/allowed to continue in her own religious practices?"

The wife may continue in her religious traditions, although she will be encouraged to become a Muslim in time. Still, some do, some don't.

"Are there limits on what religions she can belong to?"

The Qur'an specifically says Christian and Jewish women. However, it wouldn't surprise me if Muslim men marry women of other religions in areas of the world where Christianity and Judaism isn't as common (e.g., South Asia).

"Would Fatima be less upset about her son studying with a ‘white’ girl than Babar was about his daughter’s study buddy?"

No, she would (or should) be just as upset. There's a hadith that says (paraphrasing) when an unmarried man and woman are in a room together alone, Shaitan is the third. In this particular episode, both Rayyan and Babar's daughter should have known better.

BTW, one thing that's grated on me a little is that Fatimah's name throughout this show is always mispronounced. Among Muslim women, "Fatimah" is pronounced "Fah-TEE-mah." Trust me on this; I know all too well. :)

March 08, 2007

The Hadith of Jibril

In his recent diary, There is no god but God, Abdur Rahman wrote, "In a very important prophetic tradition, Prophet Muhammad (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is reported to have said: 'Then he (the man) said, "Inform me about Ihsan..."'"

I thought this hadith was worth expanding on because it provides a very succinct description of Islamic beliefs. The tradition is known as the "Hadith of Jibril," who is also known as the angel Gabriel, and it makes up part of the first hadith in the first book of the first chapter of the sahih ahadith collection by Muslim.

A narration attributed to Umar reports:

While we were one day sitting with the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam ["peace be upon him"], there appeared before us a man dressed in extremely white clothes and with very black hair. No traces of journeying were visible on him, and none of us knew him.

He sat down close by the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, rested his knee against his thighs, and said, "O Muhammad! Inform me about Islam." Said the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, "Islam is that you should testify that there is no deity save Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that you should perform salah, pay the zakah, fast during Ramadan, and perform pilgrimage to the House [i.e., the Ka'ba], if you can find a way to it (or find the means for making the journey to it)." Said he (the man), "You have spoken truly."

We were astonished at his thus questioning him and telling him that he was right, but he went on to say, "Inform me about Emaan (faith)." He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, "It is that you believe in Allah and His angels and His Books and His Messengers and in the Last Day, and in fate (qadar), both in its good and in its evil aspects." He said, "You have spoken truly."

Then he (the man) said, "Inform me about Ihsan." He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, "It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you." He said, "Inform me about the Hour." He (the Messenger of Allah) said, "The one questioned knows no more than the questioner." So he said, "Well, inform me about the signs thereof (i.e. of its coming)." Said he, "They are that the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress, that you will see the barefooted ones, the naked, the destitute, the herdsmen of the sheep (competing with each other) in raising lofty buildings." Thereupon the man went off.

I waited a while, and then he (the Messenger of Allah) said, "O 'Umar, do you know who that questioner was?" I replied, "Allah and His Messenger know better." He said, "That was Jibril. He came to teach you your religion."

March 04, 2007

Strong vs. Weak Hadith

tina asked: "What makes a weak hadith and what makes a strong hadith?"

The "strength" or "weakness" of any hadith refers to the isnad or chain of transmitters of the hadith. Each hadith has an isnad that tells us who related the hadith from person to person. Each of these persons has had their life reviewed, especially as it pertains to the transmission of ahadith (the plural of hadith). For example, was that person trustworthy, how good was their memory, were they known for having created any spurious ahadith or falsifying in any way any hadith, and so on. The grading of all of the transmitters in each isnad would determine the status of the hadith, whether it is sahih (strong), hasan (fair), daif (weak), munkar (denounced), or maudu (forged).

You might find this article, The Science of Hadith of interest.

February 02, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie, Episode 3: The Open House

Until I can find a video that's not broken into segments, this will have to do.

January 27, 2007

Questions about Islam

I came across this post on the "About: Islam" forum. A man named Tim, who says he's struggling with his faith and had questions about life as a Muslim. The following is my reply:

I reverted to Islam almost seven years ago. Practicing Islam for me is a striving (jihad) to become a better Muslim. I submit to the will of Allah (swt) by trying to obey His laws and the example of the Prophet (pbuh) in all aspects of my life, to the best of my abilities. I stumble sometimes (we all do, being human), but I continue on.

What has it done in my life? What hasn't it done? :) It provides guidance for me; "the straight path," so to speak. On the one hand, Islam encourages my taqwa, my "God-consciousness," helping me to be more mindful of my relationship with Allah (swt); on the other hand, it helps guide me to live a better, more healthful life, so that I can avoid the mistakes in life that so many others make.

What makes it real to me? Islam is largely an "orthopraxic" religion, which means that we are mostly concerned with "correct practices." For example, of the five pillars of Islam, only the first, the shahadah, is more belief-oriented than a practice like the other four. (And even there, we recite the shahadah at least once in every prayer.) So, in living life as a Muslim, many of our practices makes Islam real for me.

Am I happy? Am I content? Yes, I am probably more content now as a Muslim than before. Obviously I felt a need was missing in my life that Islam filled for me (otherwise, I wouldn't have reverted). But I will also say that in the six+ years of my life as a Muslim, I've never thought at any point that I made the wrong decision. As for what waits for me in the hereafter, insha'allah, I'll go to Jannah (heaven), but that's for Allah (swt) to decide. In the meantime, I can only live my life as best I can as a Muslim.

If you're serious in your interest in Islam, I suggest that you start reading the Qur'an.