Monday, February 8, 2010

The Holy Prophet Muhammad's Example: Keeping Company with Ex-slaves and Poor Muslims

One day the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) was sitting with Salman (Persian ex-slave), Bilal ibn Rabah (African ex-slave), Ammar (Yeman ex-slave), Suhayb (Roman ex-slave), Khabbab (African ex-slave and the 6th person to accept Islam) and a group of poor Muslims. When some unbelievers passed by and saw these 'unimportant' people with the Prophet, they said, "Have you chosen these persons from among your people? Do you want us to follow you along side them? Has Allah bestowed His favor on them, that they have believed, and not us? You better remove them from around you; if you do so, then perhaps we would follow you." The Prophet did not agree to their demand, and Allah sent down the following verses in respect to this scenario.

"And do not drive away those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening seeking His pleasure. Thou are not accountable for them nor are they at all accountable for thee. In case you do it you would be counted as the unjust. In this way have We made a distinction in some of them from the other with the result that they say: Are these lowly ones whom Allah has favored by choosing them from among us? Does not Allah know best the grateful? And when those who believe in Our signs come to you, say: "Peace be upon you, your Lord has taken Himself to show mercy..." (Holy Qur'an 6:53-55)

Salman, Bilal, and 'Ammar said, "When Allah revealed these verses, the Prophet turned towards us, called us to come nearer to him, and said, 'Your Lord has ordained mercy on Himself.' Then we used to sit with him, and when he wanted to stand up to leave, he did so. Then Allah revealed:

"And keep yourself attached to those who call upon their Lord morning and evening, constantly seeking His pleasure; and let not thine eyes pass beyond them, seeking the adornment of the life of the world;..." (Holy Qur'an 18:29)

"When this was revealed, the Prophet used to make us sit so near him that our thighs almost touched his thighs; and he did not stand up before us. When we felt that the time had come for him to stand, we took his leave; and then he stood up after we had gone. And he used to say to us, 'I thank God, who did not take me out of this world until He ordered me to keep patience with [this] group of my community. I shall spend my life with you, and after death, shall remain with you.' " *

Back in the days of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) many of those who were attracted to Islam were ex-slaves and poor people. Like wise, in America today, many of those who have accepted Islam are ex-slaves and poor people. This scenario has repeated itself going back, in American history, to the Islamic movement, which began here in the early 1900's. During the 1920's the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community began to preach the true Islam, which was taught and practice by the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

The Occident is the "unbeliever" in this day and age. They are the people who look upon themselves as being above the ordinary, belong to what is called higher society and would consider it beneath them to join a Divine movement where there are ex-slaves and the poor in it. They're message of material prosperity, sympathy, kindness, godliness and gentle behavior, plays magic on ears with its mellow music. It is this world of romance which generally attracts people to Occidental culture. However, at the same time they maintains systems that result in cruelty, suppression, gross injustice and large scale subjugation of defenseless ex-slaves and the poor from having an equal footing with them.

True Islam is the way to end this inhuman cruelty and the true followers of Islam will dismantle those systems, not by physical means, but by spiritual means. The true representatives of Islam will be engaged in prayer and divine worship day and night. Ex-slaves and the poor have the promise of success and Divine Mercy from Almighty Allah.

* Source: Al-Majlisi, M.B., Hayatul Qulub, vol. II, Tehran: Kitabfurushi-e Islamia, 1371 AH, pp.562-3; Abu Naim Ahmad al-Isfahani, Hilyatul Awliya, vol. I, Beirut, 1967, pp. 146-7

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Are the Women of Islam Our Enemy?

America's conservative Christian Right movement would say, "Yes! They are the enemy. Their mode of dress is a political statement of non-conformity, non-integration into Western culture and a sure sign of Islamic fundamentalism." To complete this picture, the Muslim woman's mode of dress is considered as a gateway to extremism and viewed by many as an affront to gender equality.

There is an African proverb that says, "Until the lions tell their side of the story, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." That said, Muslim women have a lot to say about their condition and position. Naheed Mustafa, in her compelling article entitled My Body is My Own Business says,

"WOMEN are taught from early childhood that their worth is proportional to their attractiveness. We feel compelled to pursue abstract notions of beauty, half realizing that such a pursuit is futile. When women reject this form of oppression, they face ridicule and contempt. Whether it's women who refuse to wear makeup, or shave their legs, or to expose their bodies, society, men and women, have trouble dealing with them. In the Western world, the hijab has come to symbolize either forced silence or radical, unconscionable militancy. Actually, it's neither. It is simply a woman's assertion that judgment of her physical person is to play no role whatsoever in social interaction. Women are not going to achieve equality with the right to bear their breasts in public, as some people would like to have you believe. That would only make us party to our own objectification. True equality will be had only when women don't need to display themselves to get attention and won't need to defend their decision to keep their bodies to themselves."

Oppression, which Muslim women face for taking control of their own bodies, comes in many forms. In the case of the two Muslim women pictured above, they were rejected from employment at McDonalds because they wear the hijab. These are not immigrants who society wants to integrate into American culture, but two Dearborn, Michigan African American Muslim women seeking employment. The McDonald's manager could not see beyond their hijab and discriminated against them on the bases of their religion.

Modesty is the "signature distinction " of a Muslim woman. The Holy Qur'an is very clear where Allah, the Al-Mighty says, "And say to the believing women that they restrain their looks (also in the presence of men who are not near of kin and so lawful for marriage) and guard their private parts, and that they disclose not their natural and artificial beauty except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-coverings over their bosoms, ..." (Al-Nur:32)

Islamic dress and Islamic norms of modesty can be easily absorbed within Western culture without the perception that Muslims are not conforming or integrating into society. The reaction toward the Islamic norms of modesty by the Western Occidental power-brokers may be illustrated by the judicial ruling of the Michigan justice system, which will allow judges to bar Muslim women wearing veils from testifying in court. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Religious and domestic violence groups joined to fight against the Michigan Supreme Court.

The West's response and subsequent reaction to Islamic dress and Islamic norms of modesty is puzzling to say the least. The very people who judge us as non-conformist, fundamentalist, extremest, who pose an affront to gender equality have a holy book which says, "But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered shames her head for it is one and the same as if she were a (woman) with a shaved head. For if a woman does not cover herself let her also be shorn; but if it is disgraceful for women to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered." (1 Corinthians: 11:5-6)

As explained from the aforementioned verses, the Bible treats the wearing of a veil as an inherently righteous undertaking.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Muhammad Ali's Life Lessons through His Daughter's Eyes

The following incident took place when Muhammad Ali's daughters arrived at his home wearing clothes that were not modest. Here is the story as told by one of his daughters:

When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila, and me up to my father's suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day.

My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You've got to work hard to get to them."

He looked at me with serious eyes. "Your body is sacred. You're far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too."

Source: Taken from the book: More Than a Hero