Sunday, November 30, 2008

Burying Daughters Alive

Answer quickly: Under what special circumstances does Islamic Shari'ah make it legal for Muslim parents to bury their young daughters alive?

If you answered never, you are right.

The people of Makkah prior to the message of Islam condoned the the heinous custom of burying their daughters alive. Oh they had their reasons - girls consumed resources but didn't contribute economically. There was shame associated with anything wrong they would do. The tribes into which they married gained an upper hand, etc.

One of the earliest revelations that came to the Messenger of God provoked the early believers to reflect on this crime:

When the female child who was buried alive is asked for what crime she was killed. 81: 8-9

Islam forbid this custom forever. And this prohibition is absolute. No compromises. No special considerations. Nothing, absolutely nothing would justify or condone or accept or tolerate this monstrosity. And it is a monstrosity.

Islam forbid a few other crimes, some equally as heinous. Sadly, some Muslims want to bring those criminal and inhuman customs of jahiliyah back. Read on...
First, what do I mean by "special circumstances." Islamic Shari'ah has an incredibly flexibility built into it. A Muslim jurist is required to weigh all factors in a situation before issuing a ruling. While doing this, she or he must also prioritize and ensure the law is serving to better human condition. Consider an example: Pork is forbidden from a Muslim's diet. But if a Muslim faces starvation and pork is the only food available, the shari'ah does not hold the Muslim liable for consuming this food in order to survive. Human life has precedence over the piety of avoiding pork. Numerous other examples can be cited. This flexibility is a mark of our Lord's blessing and mercy upon us.

This flexibility is subject to judicial principles and not easily open to abuse. For instance, let us consider if there could be a situation under which parents may bury their little daughter alive. Say, if there was a famine when there was not enough food for everyone? The answer is an absolutely undisputed NO. What if the parents were convinced (for whatever reason) that their little girl may not be able to cope with the moral decadence of society and grow up to fall prey to its perversions? The answer is still no.
Why this inflexibility? Because God provides and God guides. Also because taking another's life is not a matter of personal choice. There are numerous principles vastly more powerful than the silly fear of food scarcity and moral decadence in the above example. I think all sane Muslims would agree with my analysis of this hypothetical question.
I am about to make a point. I believe a similar prohibition applies to terrorism. It is evident that Islam's prohibition on acts of violence is absolute. I feel some Muslims believe that if we have been wronged, we may resort to some form of violent retaliation. This perversion of our faith is sickening. It has besmirched the name of this great faith and continues to. I am still recovering from the filth of what happened in Mumbai. I am ashamed for what happened on 9/11. My heart bleeds that the curse of terrorism has befallen the community that was charged with inviting all to the "Straight Path." Oh how we have lost our way.

This prohibition is categorical. No excuses. Terrorism = Sin in Islam. Big sin.

I know what some of you are thinking. You are asking yourselves, this guy made a list of acts of terror by Muslims, how about acts of terror inflicted upon Muslims? I overheard someone at the mosque today "Muslims in India have suffered a lot, some of them were bound to lose it and become terrorists."

Look, I understand the human failing if "losing it" aka insanity. Anyone can lose it and commit crimes or acts of sin. The Pharao lost it and wanted all humans to worship him as God. But please don't tell me that my religion permits insanity and heinous crimes.

Surely Muslims are persecuted in many parts of the world. So are Christians, and Jews. Blacks in America have suffered centuries of oppression, humiliation to the point some generations were born, lived and died with very little of their humanity acknowledged. Yes the world isn't perfect.

But as standard bearers of the world's morals, you want to tell me that retaliation against oppression through random acts of terror is accepted, permitted or condoned in Islam, you are dead wrong. I will oppose you with every breath, and God willing, your false ideology will be defeated.

Islam forbids this perversion. And this prohibition was absolute. No compromises. No special considerations. Nothing, absolutely nothing would justify or condone or accept or tolerate this monstrosity called terrorism.

Insha'Allah-itis Is An Official Sickness Now

This elaborates on my post from yesterday "Spotting IWDCs #2." You know it's true when the New York Times does an article on an issue :).
Click here to read the article.

The reason I don't find this abuse of Insha' Allah funny is because it is happening at the hands of (through the mouths of) educated folks in our mosques. Our history teaches us to be more tolerant of those who could not know better...the villager who has no education, the tribesman who came to the Prophet's mosque and not knowing more refined ways, started to urinate in the mosque. The prophet taught us to deal with such ignorance with understanding and kindness. But when educated folks, the ones who are to be the standard-bearers of knowledge, themselves slip up, it calls for action.

In the words of William F. Buckley, some of us need to stand athwart history and yell stop. So here it is - STOP ABUSING THE PHRASE Insha' Allah. Think if it makes sense to use it in a sentence.

Will you not join me?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Abusing Insha' Allah

Imams Who Don't Care(IWDC) #2: Abusing Insha' Allah

Abuse of the phrase "Insha' Allah" abounds in most mosques across the United States and Canada. First, let's do a crash course on Insha' Allah.

Our Lord in the Holy Qur'an instructs us as follows: "And never say of anything, 'I shall do such and such thing tomorrow. Except (with the saying): 'If God wills!'" (18:24). The phrase Insha' Allah is translated as "If God Wills."

Growing up in a Muslim family I never had any confusion about its usage. In fact, I remember the following childhood story used to illustrate correct and incorrect uses of the phrase:

An uneducated and not-so-religious villager was on his way to the market with his livestock when an acquaintance met him and inquired as to what he was up to. "I have a plan" responded the village, "I will be in the market this afternoon, will sell the animals for a handsome profit and with the money I get, I will build myself a large house." To any Muslim, that sentence has a few missing words, and so this acquaintance sought to remind the obviously ill-educated villager. "You mean to say Insha'Allah, you will be in the market this afternoon and, Insha'Allah, you will sell the animals for a handsome profit, and with the money you get, Insha'Allah, you will build yourself a large house?" The villager didn't see the point of all the extra words. "What's Insha' Allah got to do with anything? Here's my livestock, there's the market. So it's all in my hands."

Later that evening the acquaintance saw the villager returning back from the market, looking visibly shaken and troubled. "How was your day, sell your livestock?" "Oh, friend," responded the villager, "I should have listened to you and used Insha' Allah in my speech. Anyway, here's what happened...Insha' Allah, I went to the market and Insha' Allah, I had a great sale. But, Insha' Allah, someone pick-pocketed me, so Insha' Allah, I have no money. And that dream of the house is, Insha'Allah, all gone!"

End of a story with fairly obvious moral. The phrase "Insha' Allah" has a purpose, a meaning and a proper usage.

Yet, countless Imams Who Don't Care (IWDCs) (ab)use it like many use "ummh," and "errr" in their speech.

See if you can spot the illiterate and uneducated villager in the following announcements in your local masjid:

  1. "Insha'Allah, brothers and sisters, please remain seated during my announcement."

  2. "I hope everybody is well, Insha'Allah."

  3. "Please donate generously, Insha'Allah".

  4. "I have a question, can we, Insha' Allah, sit and discuss this issue a little longer?"

  5. One brother even goes on to say "Assalamu' alaikum, Insha' Allah." I hate being the IA police but it's got to hurt other ears besides mine. And it sets bad acoustics for the younger generation who might pick up a good word but use it incorrectly?

Many mosque leaders have a far more serious problem with the phrase. They use the phrase improperly multiple times in a sentence - and I mean 4, 5 times! Insha' Allah! Oops, I meant, SubHan Allah! What's happened to their 'aql? Big time Imams, established mosque leaders, improperly dropping Insha' Allah to the point of disrespect for the phrase.

Insha'Allah, one of these days, I shall write a simple set of rules under which the use of the phrase is appropriate and all other use is actually an abuse and trivialization of the important command of our Lord.

The "Imams Who Don't Care (IWDC)" Series

Some Imams Don't Care

We've all seen them and suffered at their hands - Imams who simply don't care. They must think they have us all fooled with their phony smiles and loud "masha'Allah"s - but the truth of the matter is, they fail the important tests of caring.

I am building a list of acts of omission and commission by Imams across the United States. God, the Most High, is my witness, I am motivated by a desire to point out these on-going and fairly obvious, even glaring acts, with a desire that they may read them and change. My own shortcomings are such that I had to deploy sarcasm to shed some light on these. If you are an Imam or a leader of a muslim group of any sort, please check the list below to see if any of these apply to you:

Imams Who Don't Care(IWDC) #1: What's In a Name?

This is the most shocking for me and deserves the first spot. If you've attended a Muslim Wedding recently chances are you have been subjected to this blatant act of not caring by an Imam.

The next generation of Muslims growing up in America proudly embraces its Islamic heritage and invites an Imam to perform their Nikah - the equivalent of "the exchange of vows" at a wedding. Ceremonies range from simple to stylish. Now since Muslims come as rich and poor and of varied backgrounds, venues range from Masjid basements to ritzy hotel ballrooms. Menus range from a few samosas or masboosas to elaborate 5-course sit-down meals. Yet, in all this diversity, there is one facet common to all Imam-led wedding ceremonies.

(In many cases, thanks to the cultural baggage of our parents' generation most Muslim weddings run hours behind schedule. The one silver lining to this shamefully dark cloud is that Imams are rarely the cause of delays at weddings. "Six PM Sharp" conveys simply nothing to Muslim masses. They stroll in anywhere between 7 and 8 PM.)

But the most embarrassing act of the ceremony belongs to the Imam, our leader. I have yet to go to a wedding where the Imam took the time to get to know the bride or the groom. And I don't mean in such a way as to say a thing or two about the beautiful qualities in the young people and their families coming together - that would be too much to ask for. How about their names? That's right, NAMES. The very things by which angels refer to us. If you listen to NPR, you are familiar with the effort that they put in to get people's names right on radio. They remind you "when writing us, please tell us how to correctly pronounce your name."

At your life's most important event, with all your loved ones surrounding you, the obviously lazy Imam (who couldn't care less but) who has given hundreds of khutbahs and lectures about how the Prophet (pbuh) had a personality that won over others, doesn't feel the need to ask the bride's family what her name might be, or the groom sitting next to him how his name is to be pronounced...until it's too late.

I have seen prominent Imams struggle with this. "We are here to witness the most important day in the life of our brother Sha...Shaw...err, (whisper on 1500 W speaker) how do you say your name, brother? - oh yeah, Shah-Zad, we are here for dear Shahzad and, errr, (to the man to his other side this time) what's her name..."

Recently, the "Azhar-educated" Imam made rookie mistakes on Indian-Pakistani (aka desi) Muslim names. Desi Names 101 tells you that among men, their given names may be preceded by a Muhammed or a Syed. But a Syed Abrar Ahmed's name is never to be Syed. The dude is Abrar since the day he was born. Likewise, Muhammed Aleem Khan is Aleem. The brave, couldn't-care-less Imam kept praying loudly that God may bring happiness to the life of "our dear brother Syed" - while the visibly uncomfortable attendees showered their "Ameen"s - some of them rechecking the groom's face to make sure they were at the right wedding.

The same IWDC managed to do the entire ceremony with the microphone turned off, apparently he forgot, so no one heard the most critical part of the ceremonies. Aaaagh!

If God has honored you with the status in the community that you get invited to perform nikahs, then kindly take the duty seriously before you accept. And part of the duty is to know the names of the bride and the groom, know the names of their parents, know whether the parents are attending, know whether any of their parents are deceased - so that on the day we are to believe is the most important of our lives, in the ceremony that is most important part of that day, we are called by our names without hesitation, correction and embarrassment. Is that too much to ask of you? I don't think so!

I once even sat at a Nikah where the Imam tried to convince the groom that his name was not a "proper Muslim name." Imagine this: "We are here to celebrate the nikah of - what's your name brother? - maysur? now, that's not a proper Muslim name, you sure it's not Mansur?"

I had never fantasized sitting in the groom's seat until that day, but that evening I wondered if I could swap seats with the young man who was beginning to sweat by now simply so I could tell the learned Imam what I thought of him.

Dear Imams, if you're so busy to do justice to an important ceremony, do the bride and groom a favor. Politely bow out of the responsibility. There is no clergy in Islam and any adult Muslim can lead in all ceremonies. I would rather someone who had the decency to do justice to the ceremony than someone who acted like a mercenary who didn't care.

Then there are clumsy Imams. It is not until they have started giving their sermon that they bother to ask the family about their preference on the sequence of the ceremony. In all their years of learning, no one told them that it's not planning when you are already under way with something and the microphone in your hand is not the best time to start consulting about what to do next.

Sarcasm and outrage aside, I pray to God that our Imams will have the sense, the courtesy and decency to see the point I am making and stop embarrassing young Muslim brides and grooms, their families and friends and portraying all Muslims in poor light.