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Image Credit: Illustration: Nino Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

Islam puts an emphasis on the environment like no other religion. It is not a foreign concept, a tree hugging fad or something to be done after we have acquired all other knowledge about Islam; it is an integral part of our deen. The branches of knowledge are all branches of a single tree whose roots are grounded in the belief in One God. From this we get our sense of unity and balance.  A Muslim has responsibility to this earth, to its environment.  As an ummah, Muslims have ignored this part of their deen.  Our emphasis in schools, khutbahs, lectures, Islamic courses is primarily on rituals, on spiritual growth at the expense of this very practical aspect of Islam.

If we believe that everything belongs to Allah and that we are just transiting then we have to treat the earth as His amanah – a trust of which we are the guardians, the khalifahs.  Abu Sa’id Khudri reported that Allah’s Messenger said: “The world is sweet and green and verily Allah is going to install you as vicegerent in it in order to see how you act.” (Muslim) Does this make you think? We have been placed on earth for the purpose of taking care of it.

According to Najma Mohamed, a lecturer and environmental journalist,  “Muslim environmental scholars interpret this to mean that men and women are custodians of creation and are provided with bounties to be enjoyed with limits. The interpretation of a khalifah as a vicegerent not master, trustee not tyrant is central to the environmental teachings of Islam. If a Muslim understands by trusteeship that he or she can exploit and abuse natural resources, then they fail to understand the concept khilafah. Humankind needs to carry out this role with compassion, kindness and sincerity – with justice and goodness. Our relationship with all of creation should reflect these qualities.”

Let’s reflect on this eloquent ayah from Surah Rahman:

The All-Merciful has taught the Qur’an.
He created man and He taught him the explanation.
The sun and the moon to a reckoning, and the stars and trees bow themselves;
and heaven – He raised it up and set the balance. Transgress not in the balance,
and weigh with justice, and skimp not in the balance. And earth – He set it down for all beings,
therein fruits and palm trees with sheaths, and grain in the blade, and fragrant herbs.

Which of your Lord’s favors will you then deny? (55: 1-12)

Frequently this verse is just used to deter us from cheating in business but look at the context here. Trangress not in the balance is an order from Allah the Almighty. So many ayahs of the Quran are devoted to reflecting on nature. If we cannot take care of the gardens of earth, how can we aspire to live in the garden of jannah?

“And it is He Who has made you successive (generations) in the earth. And He has raised you in ranks, some above others, so that He may try you in that which He has bestowed on you. Surely your Lord is Swift in retribution, and certainly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”  (6:165)  This ayah is the crux of our relationship with this planet and all of creation in it.  It  is another test for us.

Nothing is more destructive than a khalifah who has stopped being an abd (slave) of Allah, disobedient to his commands. Why did the angels ask Allah (ta’ala), why He is sending humans as khalifahs?  Look at our state today? We have become so caught up in the consumerism, in gratuitous consumption, that we do forget that we will be held accountable in front of Allah for all our deeds.  We look for convenience over doing what is right.  This has caused disequilibrium in the balance that Allah has created and we see the consequence is the excess in the developed world and the deprivation and hunger in other parts of Allah’s world.

But somewhere inside us we have that ability to live up to the lofty maqam of a khalifah.  Allah knows us better than we know ourselves, we just need to find that in us and live up to the personal responsibility that every one of us has.  Look at the example of Prophet Muhammad, he slept on the ground close to the earth on a bed made of palm leaves, wrapped in his shawl. He sat on the floor to eat simple, wholesome food. He repaired his shoes and urged us to wear out our clothes until they had patches on them.  According to a hadith narrated by Tirmidhi, “The worldly comforts are not for me. I am like a traveler, who takes a rest under a tree in the shade and then goes on his way.” So lets use the symbolic tree for shade, to nourish our self, but let’s also follow the sunnah and leave the symbolic tree intact so that the next traveler can use it.

Some American scholars are cognizant of our state and speak of this issue. Imam Zaid Shakir reminds us that “as Muslims we are called on to be a community of conscience, and as such we should be leading the cries urging a cessation of this madness. The Qur’an is a book of nature that alerts us to the importance of our lives being integrated into the natural world given us by God to nurture and sustain us.” Imam Ammonette says “faith has 73 branches, you live your faith, it’s your life and the lowest part of faith is removing pollutants or harmful substances, whatever will cause harm to human beings, from the path… when you clean up whatever is dangerous or unhealthy, that is faith.”

These voices are few. Responding to environmental issues in the Islamic world and teaching its rulings is the imperative of our present ulema (scholars), especially now as we can see the ubiquitous results of the destruction caused by our prevailing way of life.  All the injunctions are in the classic books of fiqh distributed across the different babs (chapters), they need be gathered and taught to the layman.

“All the produce of the earth is duly proportioned (bi-qadarin mawzun-15:19), not just in what is evident but as to their internal composition of nutrients, water, minerals, salts, etc. God blessed the earth and made it safe such that you shall not see imperfection in the creation of the Most Merciful (67:13).”   “When man acts, instead of a trusted custodian and architect of the earth, as its most dangerous destroyer, driven by greed rather than need,” then the result is havoc. We are obliged not to do injustice to the rest of creation.  These will be witnesses for or against us on the Day of Judgment.

Dr. Soumaya Pernilla Ouis, a senior lecturer at Lund University, Sweden, coined the phrase Islamic ecocosmology.  The idea is that nature in itself is Muslim; that we look around us and recognize every organism as our Muslim fellow being. That really changes the relationship, doesn’t it?  We know that everything from thunder to ants hymn the glory of Allah, all beings therein, declare His glory; there is not a thing but celebrates his praise: and yet ye understand not how they declare His glory. (17:44)

Allah asks us, do you not see that to Allah bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth – the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a great number of mankind? (22:18) It is harder to ignore and cause destruction.

Many of the already established Islamic legal principles can be applied within the environmental field, and it is actually argued by some ecotheologicans that the environmental perspective has traditionally always been a part of Shariah. Institutions within Shariah such as harim (preserved natural environments) and hima (protected land for grazing purposes) are used for natural conservation. The five principles of protection in shariah are religion, reason, life, property and descendants, which may not include the 20th century term environment but all lead to its protection.

An addition to Islamic law includes a specific category of contemporary jurisprudence called fiqh al-bi’ah, or jurisprudence of the environment. “Law-makers take a number of the foundational concepts of Islam such as rahmah (mercy), tawazun (harmony) and shukr (gratitude) and apply them to this ethico-juridical discipline which links ecological health to the psychological health of man. Environmental degradation is seen as a sickness of the human ego because man is unable to give up short-term gratification in favor of long-term prosperity.”

If we look back at our heritage, the principles of reuse, recycle, clean energy are NOT new – “Muslim potters heated their kilns by burning fruit husks, fruit stones, pine-cones and vegetable waste. Millers ground their corn in mills turned by the wind. Both windmills and animals were used to lift water into irrigation channels.”  The industrial uses of tidemills and watermills in the Islamic world date back to the 7th century.

This may be because “traditional Islamic society, no matter how rich in spiritual and aesthetic content, was slower, and simpler in its technology. The production of the artifacts and adornments did not wreak havoc on nature or strew debris over land and sea. Means were simpler, materials natural and even crude. Exquisite ceramics emerged from raw clay and textiles of unrivaled beauty were born from hand-looms and the hand of the embroiderer. Travel, although surprisingly extensive – consider the journeys of Ibn Battuta – was on foot, on beasts of burden or by sailing boat.”

As Muslim nations are going through industrial renaissance and calls for industrialization increase, let us not make the same mistakes, importing inappropriate technology, setting up industry without studying the environmental ramifications.  We have the opportunity to inculcate Islamic injunctions into eco-concsiouness, and to be leaders protecting our  planet.

Make your deen green is a series which will include small ways that our readers can make a difference in their daily lives to make it more earth-friendly as well as global environmental issues that affect the Muslim world. Surely changing a light bulb will not change the world, but what we need is a change in attitude to our eco-lives.  If we do these acts as forms of ibadah, of obeying Allah insha’Allah we can live up to the status that He has bestowed upon us.

‘Aisha (radiAllahu anha) narrated, that the Prophet was asked: “What deeds are loved most by Allah?” He said, “The most regular constant deeds even though they may be few.” He added, “Don’t take upon yourselves, except the deeds which are within your ability.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, 8:76:472]

PRINCIPLES INTO PRACTICE: Islamic Traditions – Ismail Peter Hobson

Environmental Care in Islam: A Qur’anic Perspective – Mohammad Hashim Kamali

Global Environmental Relations: Islamic Perspective – Dr. Soumaya Pernilla Ouis

I have neglected this blog because I have found so much joy and purpose writing publicly. So am taking the WordPress challenge, I will be posting on this blog once a week for all of 2011, Insha Allah. I was challenged by Sister Ify over at ifyokoye.com.

My intention for starting this blog was to meet Muslimahs and moms beyond my community.  In the process, I have rediscovered my love for writing.  Alhamdulillah, there are greater purposes to aspire to and words can inspire people.  Since last year, I have found many brothers, sisters and shuyookhs who inspire and educate me every day. Even started a twitter account. I am finding blogging anonymously while writing publicly for Muslim Matters stifling, so here I am. Ummezaynub is Hena Zuberi. This is takes some guts because it is so much easier being anonymous.  Even before, I started writing I asked Brother Amad whether to write using my kunya or under my name. He said it provides credibility and tells readers you believe in what you write in and you are not afraid to be associated with your writing. My main concern at that point was niyyah-when does it become about yourself and your name vs. giving dawah for the sake of Allah.

I renew my intentions in the words of Native Deen:

And know that everything up until this point I’ve ever written
I submit as my repentance
And if its blessings You’re sending my way
I beg You hold them to the judgement day
so maybe in Jannah you can look back and say…it was a lovely day, a lovely, a lovely day, yes a lovely day
Are my intentions, alright, am I doing for Allah
When I am looking deep deep down inside, do I have the right niyyah (intention)?

I am finding myself thinking clearly. Writing makes me really think about what I feel about an issue, however I have become hesitant too, its not like speaking, every word you write remains like pertoglyphs etched in rocks. Readers hang on to phrases and judge, you can not please everyone. But then so does every word uttered from your lips, that too is written down to be judged by As Sami.  I should worry more about living up to what I write about.

If you already read my stuff over at MM, I hope you will give me feedback and suggestions. Salaams

Technology is a double edged sword: it can bring you closer to Allah or take you away from Allah, it can be used for haram or halal. Without running after the latest gadgets or wanting just because my neighbor has one, if we kept our needs in mind and use it as tools to help us practice our deen, then it is Allah’s (SWT) blessing otherwise a fitnah. I wanted to share my favorite apps and technologies and how they help me be a better Muslim, InshaAllah.

My Macbook Pro – This was an Eid gift from my husband last year, it was better gift than any piece of jewelry. After getting it I started blogging and have I have found a piece of me that was lost somewhere between the kids and the dishes. May Allah (SWT) grant him Jannah; it’s portability has freed me from sitting at the desktop and I can write anywhere.  It syncs with my phone. My calender is right there so I am better organized, Alhamdulillah.

iTunes– Nasheeds , Quran, lectures. If my kids need to learn the month of Islam nasheed, I download it or when the latest Bayinnah podcast is ready , I can upload it on my iPhone, hook it up to my car stereo and have Sheikh Nouman on surround sound during our long drives in LA traffic.

iPhone Apps

  • iSubha – this app helps you keep count of your misbaha/tasbeeh. You can set the time and it keeps someone slightly ADD like me, on track.  There is a selection of azkaar and you tap the screen to keep count.  For example, if you know you have goal that you want to read at least 365 azkaar a day or as many as you can in an hour with this you can keep a visual count.

  • iQuran app- Quran and translation at your fingertips anywhere, whether you are in a waiting room at the doctor’s office or between meetings.

  • Asma-ul-Husna 1.0- learning the 100 names of Allah on the go- there are checkpoints so you can check yourself. My kids and I are competing who can learn all 100 first.

  • iPray-gives you salah timings on your phone (we are humans, we forget so if we have the technology to  help us, why not use it). The adhaan reminds you to pray lest shaytan makes you forget.

  • Qiblah compass pro- my husband uses this all the time as he travels a lot for work.

Online school– this has opened a whole new world for me,. I was so scared when I made the decision to home school my eldest daughter.  Their system is keeping me organized with her attendance & grades. Daily and weekly planning is done for me. It has simplified the process and the curriculum is state of the art.  Without the hassle of ordering books,  devising a curriculum, I can spend time actually teaching her.   When I can not explain something to her I use Khan Academy– This brother attended college with my husband; his goal is to provide a world-class education to people anywhere in the world. He posts short, simple videos on mostly math and sciences explained on an electronic blackboard. A great tutoring or homeschooling tool for kids and adults.  There are several online Islamic courses that you can take over the net along with fabulous websites like Halaltube- Lectures, duroos from scholars on my laptop, TV screen, need I say more.

Skype–  I love Skype. My mother sits across the world on her dining table and I sit on mine. She has her morning chai in her hand and I have my cup of evening tea. It is the closest thing to being next to each other. I can be a better daughter inquiring about her health, it makes her happy to see my face.  She shows me her new curtains and I show her the kid’s awards.

My niece and my daughter live many continents away. These best friends and milk-sisters have a  book club on skype, they read the same book and then have discussions about them.  The last one they read was Fudgemania. It keeps them close despite the distance.Using Skype, we broadcast my sister in law’s Nikaah to her grandma in Saudi and her aunt in Karachi simultaneously.

Our friends are moving and their kids are super excited about Face Time, Apple’s video conferencing tool on the new iTouch- so they can keep in touch with their friends where ever they move in the world. With distances and relative and friends all over the globe, technologies like these help keep the ties of the womb & kinship, as long as you keep the right niyyah and don’t let it overtake your life.

I love books. I have hundreds, as I suppose any aspiring academic should. I need to move out of Manhattan, because I can’t afford an apartment large enough to house all these books. (Ask my wife: There aren’t enough walls left and my attempt to shelve books on the ceiling has, one lawsuit later, failed.) If you ever invite me to speak at your library, mosque, Mediterranean cruise, church, temple, workshop, tropical resort or university, and you can’t give me an honorarium, an Amazon.com gift certificate will find its way into my heart in a non-surgical and non-disgusting way.

And now, for most Americans, it’s the season of gift-giving. Some love the season, while some protest its commercialization. I suggest making the best of it. This holiday season, why not share the gift of good books — and all the wisdom they can provide? When misinformation on Islam, Muslims, and America’s relationships to the Muslim-majority world is in oversupply, we need relevant and useful information. Conversations about Islam shape local, regional, and global affairs: to not know about Islam is to be left out of issues that deeply affect all of us.

In that holiday spirit, I’m sharing a list of great books about Islam and Muslims, in the hope that you’ll share them too, as profound (and affordable) presents. What better way to create excitement on Christmas morning than by watching your loved ones unwrap presents to reveal the word “Islam,” and the noticeable, measurable, visible jump in their heart rate that follows? (Ask their doctors if they’re healthy enough to unwrap books about Islam. Chances are, their doctors, being Muslim, will get it.)

Or you can just gift them to yourself.

Are Civilizations Clashing?

Do Muslims hate the West? If so, why? Why do some Muslims radicalize? What cultural incompatibilities exist between Islam and the West? Building off of works like Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and Bernard Lewis’ What Went Wrong?, too many analysts presume that there is a core conflict, and that this conflict, of which Afghanistan and Iraq are manifestations, is cultural, and therefore both essential and inevitable. Don’t believe the hype.

Mahmood Mamdani’s Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror explains how and why radical Islam has become a threat, and how to comprehend radicalism not as an unavoidable cultural expression, but as a political grievance translated by the cultural world it emerges from. If you’re going to read one book on the “clash of civilizations,” read Mamdani’s.

Common Problems

Richard Bulliett’s The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization should be on every bookshelf. (Embarrassingly, it is not yet on any of mine). Bulliett, who is, like Mamdani, a Columbia Professor — Go Lions! — has written a fantastic book. He’s not making a facile case for Muslim-Christian fusion; Bulliett’s pointing out that Islam and Christianity spread across the Earth almost simultaneously, and produced similar institutions through their periods of expansion and entrenchment. An easy, breezy, bright introduction to history over the long haul, Bulliett neatly explains how Islam and the West are in fact comparable and relatable. Because Islam isn’t immune to, or exempt from, history.

Who Let Shariah Through Passport Control?

You can’t have a conversation these days without worrying about Shariah. The term is complicated enough to explain in a soundbite, never mind what hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world make of it. And, of course, Oklahoma’s out to fight back against Islam’s conquest of Middle America, and will bury the Ten Commandments in a panic over surreptitious Islamification, Muslimization, or whatever. Everybody needs to calm down.

Start your detoxification with Dalia Mogahed and John Esposito’s Who Speaks for Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think. It’ll make you unthink everything you might think about Shariah. Next up: The best explanation of the political attraction of Shariah to many in the Muslim-majority world has to be Noah Feldman’s The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State; Feldman explains how Muslim societies had been structured in the past, the political shortcomings of many Muslim-majority states today, and how Shariah has become a symbol of democratic and Islamic reform, trashing any simple opposition of Islam and modernity.

If the topic deeply interests you, you may want to dig deeper with Geneive Abdo’s No God but God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam, and Caryle Murphy’s Passion for Islam: Shaping the Modern Middle East: The Egyptian Experience. While these latter two titles concentrate on Egypt, the experience of other Muslim societies is quite different. Maybe one day I’ll do an Islam outside the Arab world list. For Valentine’s Day.

The Forest for the Palm Trees

Of course, one of the primary reasons for ongoing tensions between the Muslim world and the West has been differing interpretations of current conflicts. Did it start with Bin Laden? Is it about the Taliban, too? Is it about radicalism more generally? How do other Middle Eastern conflicts factor in?

There have been a huge number of works about America after September 11th, but certainly one of the most enjoyable and thought-provoking is Karen Greenberg’s The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days. Greenberg is a fabulous writer, pointing out the larger issues at work while describing the day-to-day drama at Camp X-Ray and the decency of the men and women on the ground who pushed back against a dangerous direction in American policy.

Complement Greenberg’s work with a broader look at the future of the Muslim world, going beyond the attention-stealing headlines, to the actual trends at or just below the surface — what the overwhelming majority of Muslims are doing and experiencing. If you’ve got a special someone interested in business, trade, finance, or emerging markets, I’d unhesitatingly direct your attention to Vali Nasr’s The Rise of Islamic Capitalism: Why the New Muslim Middle Class is the Key to Defeating Extremism. I reviewed the hardcover edition of this work (which had a different title) some months ago; Christopher Schroeder’s recent op-ed may also be helpful in illuminating Nasr’s general thrust.

American Muslims

Are we well-educated, suburban, often brown folks actually trying to take over your country, which is also our country? Why do some Americans believe that a tremendously religiously and ethnically diverse and also very tiny minority actually has any chance of taking over the country? Never mind that many American Muslims came here to escape the religious and political persecution our haters allege we’re all about imposing.

Of course, Islam is far deeper and more profound than the events that have dominated the news over the past few decades. Don’t mind those “experts on Islam,” who make comments like “Islam has existed in Europe since the 1960’s” (clear-up: there have been European Muslims on that continent longer than there have been Protestants in existence). Islam in the West is very often an indigenous phenomenon. I must push you towards Geneive Abdo’s overview, From Mecca to Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11, filled with great stories, and Mustafa Bayoumi’s troubling How Does It Feel to be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America. (It’s not about Islam per se, but does get to the heart of the conflation.)

There are voices from the inside that need to be heard. Wajahat Ali wowed audiences in New York last year with his hit play, Domestic Crusaders, now available in book form. His play takes you into a South Asian American family and the generational conflicts, cultural misunderstandings and religious tensions which shape what one Muslim family does and says at the kitchen table. How many artists can give you that intimacy? Comic book writer G. Willow Wilson traveled to Egypt, fell for Egypt (and an Egyptian); based on those experiences, she’s written the beautiful memoir The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam. Through anecdotes, observations, and tiny moments, she can speak to expansive questions of identity, faith, and practice in ways that supposed specialists cannot communicate, not only because they can’t write nearly as well, but also because they don’t even try to understand. I can’t wait for her next book.

Fear of a Green Planet

What does Islam have to say about the environment? Does Islam have anything positive to offer the world? How do Muslims react to the same challenges that affect all people, because Muslims are people? Ibrahim Abdul-Matin’s Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet outlines the ways in which Islam encourages stewardship of the Earth, and the many means by which Muslims are living a green practice of the faith. Structured to encourage short readings, reflections, and inspire local and national activism, Abdul-Matin’s work suggests the ways in which religiosity and ecological consciousness are not just compatible, but mandatory. For the flipside, you won’t be disappointed by Tom Bissell’s amazing tour through Uzbekistan, Chasing the Sea: Lost Among the Ghosts of Empire in Central Asia. Witty, erudite, fascinating and at times hilarious, Bissell’s travelogue explores this young state as he trudges towards the disappearing Aral Sea, uncovering a social landscape ruined by Communism.

A Sound Heart

And, to end things, let us not forget that Islam is, at its heart, its beginning and in its ends, a religion. We hopefully don’t need the Department of Justice to remind us of this.

To better understand the Qur’an, Islam’s holy text, try Ingrid Mattson’s The Story of the Qur’an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life, and then check out the following translations: Tarif Khalidi’s (which is just a translation, without commentary and with minimal notes) and Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s (the most popular translation among Anglophone Muslims); if you’re looking for something inspirational, and easier to digest, Princeton Chaplain Sohaib Sultan’s The Qur’an and Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad is worth checking out (his The Koran for Dummies is, title aside, a wonderful introductory resource as well).

To understand the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his place in Muslim life, either read Martin Lings’ tremendously ambitious, but sometimes overwhelming study, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources (only for the serious reader — it’s easy to get lost in the details), or go for Karen Armstrong’s much slimmer and more accessible biography, Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time. To get a good sense of the place of Islam in the world, from its emergence to the contemporary, you’ll certainly love Reza Aslan’s book, also titled No God but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam. And to perceive Muslim spirituality through a more advanced text, which requires a fair amount of background knowledge, pick up Diseases of the Heart, by Hamza Yusuf, which does a good job explaining the core Islamic ideal of purification, which is central to the Islamic understanding of achieving nearness to God through a moral life.

Read rest here

As a Muslim mom of two sons who will grow up in the U.S., one of my greatest fears is radicalism. What if I am taking them to the masjid to learn how to get closer to Allah (SWT) and somewhere along the way they are exposed to extremist ideology through internet radicals or overzealous ‘ticket to heaven’ freaks, or agent provocateurs. My sons are toddlers but this is a bleak reality faced by mothers of our youth; the horror of finding your own son involved in this craziness. But the answer isn’t to keep your sons away from masjids as some moms do but to communicate with them and teach them what Allah allows us to do in His name and what He absolutely abhors. We are so pleased that they are turning away from haram and towards deen that we stop reaching out to them, guiding them.

I am also a youth group leader and every time some young man falls prey to FBI baiting and decides to take other people’s lives, I feel the need to talk to the boys and remind them to be careful, to talk to a trusted adult if someone approaches them and talks about overseas contacts and other shady stuff. Many people just blame the FBI, but our Muslim youth have to take responsibility for their own actions too. That finger on a remote is yours and you will be accountable for what you have done.  Imam Zaid gives us some very direct words of wisdom that are loaded with common sense. Use them, talk to the youth in your community, repost this on your blog, you don’t know whose life you may save. (He is definitely a straight-shooter.)

Letter to a Would-be Mujahid

Recent developments have forced me to put some things on hold to write you this letter.  You might ask how I know you. I have met you at student events, in mosques, and at conferences. I have listened to your arguments and I have made my counter arguments. Oftentimes, my arguments have been somewhat formal. I figured I would write you a letter, since that is a lot more personal and less formal. Perhaps this way you will be more inclined to listen.
To begin with, whenever you are criticized for your bloody, anarchistic ideology, you point to the bloody abuses of the American war machine or their Zionist accomplices. This diversionary tactic on your part does not impress serious and thoughtful people. It is simply an abdication of your moral responsibility. It is as if you are saying you reserve the right to violate established Islamic principles, such as those guaranteeing the protection of innocent life, because the American military or the IDF do no respect innocent Muslim life. That would be a credible argument if the American military or the IDF claimed to be operating on the basis of Islamic principles. They don’t, but you do. I hope, without further elaboration, you can immediately sense the moral dilemma you are creating for yourself.
Along those lines, please allow me to remind you of something else. Your misguided attempts to kill and maim innocent Americans only make it easier for the American military to kill more Muslims with greater impunity. Your actions help to create a political climate that removes any moral restraint from the actions of the American military, the IDF and soon the forces of India’s increasingly Hindu nationalist armed forces. You see, fear is a very potent emotion and when it is carefully manipulated it can lead to very irrational politics. That most extreme form of those politics is called genocide.
Fear can be especially dangerous when it is combined with another emotion, insecurity. You are so divorced from reality that you probably haven’t noticed that a lot of Americans are extremely insecure right now. Especially, the white middle class or what is left of it. They don’t know if they will soon lose their homes, if they will have a job tomorrow, if their money will be in the bank next week, if they will be able to send their children to college or if their retirement funds will be stolen or totally devalued. Those insecurities combined with the spectre of the “Muslim terrorist next door” are a lethal combination that a group of people called demagogues is exploiting to justify an all out war on Muslims.
Those demagogues use the fear of you to prevent people from building the kind of grassroots, popular, movements that are necessary to challenge the corporate rape of our society and from challenging the destructive logic of permanent war. For example, remember the growing movement to challenge the new invasive TSA screening procedures at airports? Did you notice how it disappeared after the would-be mujahid in Portland allowed himself to be trapped into the scheme to blow up the Christmas tree ceremony? Do you think the timing was accidental? It is a shame that you and your ilk are so mindlessly complicit in such schemes.
Now you think the mujahideen can win an all out war against the Americans. Look at what the mujahideen are doing to them in Afghanistan. Sorry, but Afghanistan is not what all out war looks like. I’ll give you a clue what all out war looks like. Remember a couple years ago when the Israelis were bombarding the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Muslims, for all of their courage, couldn’t do anything except appeal to outside powers to stop the carnage? Or a few years before that when Jenin was flattened? Think of the scale of that devastation expanded to encompass all of the major cities of the Muslim world. Imagine America unleashing a new generation of “tactical” nuclear weapons being designed to be used specifically against Muslims targets raining down on Muslim capitals and there is no Muslim strategic deterrent available to stop it. AK-47s and RPGs will be of no avail. Imagine the calls to human rights organizations to stop the slaughter finding no ears to hear them because the neo-fascist forces your stupidity has helped to unleash have swept those organizations away in its maddening torrent.
I have heard you counter that such an argument is a manifestation of a lack of faith. God has promised the believers victory. Indeed, He has. However, it is very pretentious of you to assume that someone who murders women, children and innocents with blazon impunity in the Name of God are the believers that victory has been promised to. He has promised the believers victory, but that promise is not unconditional. God is not going to give victory to people who murder in His Holy Name.
I applaud your courage, but how it manifests itself puzzles me. You have the courage to fly halfway around to world to engage in an armed struggle, but you do not have the courage to knock on your neighbor’s door to explain Islam to him or to give him your take on world affairs. I am also baffled at how you can smile in his face, but are ready to blow him up if he happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. What calculus do you use to assume he would not be amenable to your message? What has he done to you to be the target of your bloodlust?
You claim a refined understanding of Islam, so refined that you can make grave decisions concerning life and death, decisions with huge strategic implications –yet you seem to perceive nothing of the divine wisdom of your being in this country. You have an opportunity to be an educator at a time people are looking for a new way. You have an opportunity to be a guide at a time people are looking for a new direction. You have an opportunity to provide a source of spiritual solace at a time people are confused, angry and afraid. You have an opportunity to be a fierce advocate for truth at a time when lies are transforming the image of your religion and the direction of your country. You have the skills, the command of the language, the knowledge of the people to do all of that and more, but you choose to run away from this battle to join one you do not even know who the commander is.
Did I say that? “To join a battle you do not even know who the commander is.” No! I didn’t say that. Do you think that if the FBI can send fake mujahids into mosques all around America to find confused, vulnerable Muslims, develop fake bomb plots, with fake bombs, for very real political objectives, the CIA couldn’t do the same thing abroad? No, wait a minute. Didn’t the CIA build the Afghan mujahideen network? Didn’t what’s his name, Zbigniew Brzezinski, describe the Afghan operation as the CIA’s finest hour?
They would never use fake mujahids, operating through fake websites, to recruit confused and desperate Muslim youth to engage in operations that keep the climate of fear alive, would they? They wouldn’t do that to keep support for bloodsucking, treasury-draining wars alive at a time when there is no money for the poor, the elderly, health-care, education, infrastructure or investment in the green economy. No! It’s preposterous. Those would be psychological operations (psych ops) and that would be cheating. America never cheats, we’re the good guys!
I apologize, I’m tripping. On a serious note, I hope you don’t one day end up feeling as stupid and abused as young Antonio Martinez or Mahomed Osman Mohamud, the Somali kid in Oregon, are probably feeling right now. They have been tricked, deceived, used, and abused by fake mujahids and then thrown in a dungeon to rot for the rest of their lives. Do you think your fate will be any different? Don’t be a fool.
Sincerely,

Imam Zaid Shakir

Ramadan in Public School

This year Ramadan coincides with the first day of school for many families. Realizing that many of our Muslim brothers and sisters do choose the public school system for their kids’ education, this is a resource to help make the best out of Ramadan in public school. This blessed month is such a vital part of being Muslim that enjoying it and sharing it with others, instead of hiding it, goes a long way in maintaining Muslim children’s Islamic identity while attending public school. After the will of Allah, it begins with parental involvement in the lives of their children. You owe it to them.

Elementary School

Send in a letter or email to the school principal and the classroom teacher introducing your family and informing them about Ramadan. This sample letter to your child’s principal includes an offer to come into class and do a presentation on Ramadan.  You can correlate it to the phases of the moon in science especially for first and third graders as it is a part of the curriculum. One year, we did the phases of the moon craft and asked the kids to watch out for the waxing and waning of the moon throughout the month.

To preempt any misunderstanding, meet with the teacher and/or principal and show her your material. For example, the Adam’s World Ramadan DVD is a great resource, so I asked the classroom teacher to preview it beacuse she is more familiar with the school disctrict’s rules; she chose to show the second stanza onwards of thenasheed “We scanned the sky” by Dawud Wharnsby Ali – it was such a hit!! The kids kept asking her to replay it over and over again.

There are several great books on the subject that are perfect for sharing during story-time.

My First Ramadan by Karen Katz – this little book is perfect for preschoolers – 2nd graders and makes a great gift for the class library.  You can mix in a nasheed. It was amazing watching my daughter’s preschool class holding hands in a circle singing along to the chorus of ‘These are the days of Eid.”

Hamza’s First Fast by Asna Chaudhry – I read this book to my daughter’s third grade class, which led to a great discussion where kids of all different faiths talked about how their parents fast too. “Oooh, my mom fasts too, on Lent! Mine fasts to lose weight! We do it too on Yom Kippur” The kids gushed after I finished my presentation. My daughter loved being the center of attention and the discussion was alive for days.

The Three Muslim Festivals is a beautifully illustrated book that has stories of Muslim kids celebrating Ramadan, Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha in a western country. It is a must-have for every Muslim kids’ library, and to educate others, gift it to your school library.

Print out some Ramadan activities for your kid’s classmates to color or crafts that they can make.

Send in Eid gifts – its great dawah. It’s the beginning of the school year; it will break the ice and help your child feel special. Alhamdulillah, the children in our elementary school look forward to being in my kid’s classroom and remember that Zahrah doesn’t celebrate Christmas. They don’t have to be elaborate; pencils, dollar-store toys, chapsticks, ahandmade rendering of their names in Arabic, etc. Attach a tag that says Eid Saeed/Happy Eid.

If your school has a newsletter and the administration wishes the students on their religious holidays then do ask for Muslim holdays to be acknowledged as well.  This little note started the beautiful tradition of wishing Muslim students Happy Eid in our elementary school.

For Middle/Junior High and High School Kids-

Fasting is fardh for most Muslim youth this age. A letter should be sent to the principal, homeroom teacher and especially the P.E. teacher. In this letter, explain your child’s physical and spiritual needs. This sample letter for high school can be adjusted to fit your family.With so many Muslim kids participating in team sports, coachs have to be included in this conversation. They are often concerned out of care and liability issues but a friendly letter or talk can ease their worries.

If your son wants to  follow the example of Muslim atheletes i.e. Hakeem Olajuwon and Husain Abdullah and man up to attending P.E.class, then let them. It is hard being the only guy in class sitting on the sidelines. (My maternal instinct says no way in this 102 degree weather, but  I give this advice based on talks with Muslim teens).

Make sure you make them get up for suhoor – if they are in the pratice of getting up for fajr this should be easy if not, use these tips for waking them up. Have them eat a healthy breakfast, say yes to the smoothies, multi-grain pancakes, oatmeal, and eggs their way. This is not the time to insist on a traditional meal from the home country. Keep them hydrated through the night with a water bottle designated just for your teen at their bedside.

Don’t go back to sleep after fajr – this is a great oppurtunity for family time. Read Quran together. It is one thing to tell your kids “Go read Quran” and quite another to read Quran to each other. They can also study at this time and do homework as well. This frees up the afternoons for dhikr, helping around the house, reading Quran and napping so your teenager is fresh for taraweeh.

Empower your children with information. When they are younger role-play with them so if friends ask them why they are fasting or if they are made fun of, they have some standard answers to give. For high school kids, have honest discussions about Ramadan, its virtues and its spiritual aspects; listen to or watch a lecture together.  They want their whys answered – so talk to them about the psychological aspects, about reflecting on their lives, about cleansing their spirit, about using this time to set up good habits for the rest of the  year.

Ask you teen to go to the library during lunch time or help out a teacher in class. Staying away from the cafeteria helps makes fasting easier.

Urge them to have a good attitude – “If you complain and say I am hungry – that’s just not good dawah and frankly people don’t care or will urge you to eat.” Listening and sharing other Muslim youths’ stories on how they handle Ramadan in school can spark great dialogue between teens, their parents and siblings.

Read the rest here

I had an odd lump in my throat when I dropped of LF2 and LF3 off at school; she sat wistfully on the sofa. ” Do you want to come with me to drop them off'” ” No, Mama.” It felt so weird like was I punishing her. ” I don’t want people to ask me why I am not coming to school.”

Her name was on the school list, I guess her withdrawal letter hadn’t been processed yet. No new backpack or lunchbox for her. LF2 got this whole set and I finally gave in got LF3 the Star Wars one he wanted. It was his first day of kindergarten (Am on an anti-brands promotion binge, would not get him Toy story 3 paraphernalia or Iron man 2 sneakers- meanest mommy in the world.) No back to school night, no first day of school pictures with shiny new shoes and a new outfit.

“Come on we will be late,” LF2 called. This will be interesting, may be she can learn some responsibility now. She is the second child but will be the eldest in the family at school.  Her older sister won’t be there to take care of her, to make sure that they weren’t running late.

I finally enrolled her in the K12 online school program. It didn’t help that her ‘school’ will start two weeks after her siblings- It’s done, I will  be her teacher … but they call me her “learning coach” and the lady who will guide us, the teacher??? I just received an email showing me then we can log in.

She is fasting almost everyday and she is only 9. I like having her around- I didn’t realize how much I missed her. And I am much calmer with her too. Maybe that’s just because I am fasting. Ya Allah, make this easy on me and even easier on her. Ameen.