Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Prayer Isn't Enough

If I get asked one more time to "make dua (supplicate to God)" for this, that or the other I am going to SCREAM!!!

With the Muslim world literally on fire--whether from Imperialist war machines, takfiri mercenaries or even their own Western-backed militaries--most observers with even an ounce of compassion are asking what they should do to help save humanity. Unfortunately, most Muslim leaders here in America are not offering much advice other than telling us to say a prayer.

While asking God for help and deliverance is obviously essential, (God: "Call Me, I will answer you." (Quran 40:60)), what's glaringly missing from the pulpit is a strategic plan of action to accompany the prayer so it can work its power.

God: “And when the prayer is finished, disperse through the land and seek God’s grace….” (62:10)

"God, the Exalted, has placed in our hands two keys through which we can unlock the treasures of His mercy, and seek through them His provision and bounties," says scholar Muhammad Mahdi al-Asifi.  "These two keys are action and prayer. Action does not dispense with prayer, nor does prayer dispense with putting effort. Therefore, one should not confine himself to prayer to the exclusion of endeavour."

But that's exactly what our scholars are asking us to do. Some examples:

--When a relative emailed the board members of this mosque last week suggesting that they organize a demonstration against a military coup in Egypt, especially as $1.5 billion of our tax dollars goes to the Egyptian army every year, this is what he got in reply: "All what we can do now is pray for them."

--An imam of national standing organized a "Global Qiyam (prayer) for the People of Syria" in May but has never condemned the U.S. government or Middle East monarchies for equipping the foreign fighters who have brought death and destruction to Syria for over two years now. What a missed opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of the West's War on Terror!

"If prayed in congregation, everyone is able to share the same call, begging God to shower His Mercy and aid upon the Syrian people," say the organizers.

--The blog of one of America's most popular imams includes no articles on how to solve the Muslims' geo-political problems but is selling "The Prayer of the Oppressed" as its featured store item for $24.99.

--Scholars active on Facebook keep posting personal prayers to God on behalf of those suffering in the Muslim world but provide no guidance from the Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (S) on how to change the situation. One status update: "...Ya Allah forgive us for our deficiency in not being able to do anything but ask You what we have been asking You in this du'a. Ameen."

Prophet Muhammad (S): "The example of he who supplicates without acting is that of him who shoots (an arrow) without a bow.”

Indeed, God will surely help us if we help ourselves.

One of the best examples God gives us is in the Quran regarding prayer and action is the story of the ever-supplicating Maryam (mother of Jesus and one of the four perfect women of all times).

When Maryam was in extreme pain and suffering during child labor, God came to her rescue but only after she took action. After Maryam shook the trunk of a palm tree, ripe dates--that too, the top-of-the-line Ajwah variety--fell into her lap to give her ever-needed strength and nutrition.

That makes me wonder: If we could shake some sense into these make-dua-only Sheikhs, will pearls of wisdom finally start falling from their mouths?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


My three sisters and I spent most of our weekends at our Islamic center, attending youth meetings, fundraising dinners and, of course, Sunday school, but I haven't fallen in love with a mosque yet where I can continue that tradition with my kids.

And I'm not the only one.

An upcoming documentary called UnMosqued the Movie discusses widespread Muslim disenchantment with mosques in the United States. According to a recent survey of American mosques, ninety-percent of Muslims in America do not attend any of the 2,000-plus mosques across the country.

"Everyday, Muslims that have grown up with or near a masjid [mosque] are rethinking their committment to the Muslim community and dropping out. They are unMosqued [adjective coined from the term 'unchurched' which means not connected with a mosque]," as explained on

Indeed, the promotional teasers of the documentary, slated to be released later this year, indicate the film aims to highlight a multitude of reasons why Muslims (especially youth, reverts and second and third generation Muslims) are turning away from mosques, including cultural bigotry, intolerance, women's issues and language barriers. Muslim leaders interviewed in the trailer include Suhaib Webb, Nouman Ali Khan and Waleed Basyouni.

But what the documentary does not promise to do is delve into the root problem of mosques across the world today. Like the hypocrite-run and (Byzantine) Empire-backed Masjid al Diraar at the time of Prophet Muhammad (S), most mosques today are controlled by the powerful elite establishment and support their hegemonic agenda. They are no longer centers of awareness, critical thinking and problem-solving focused on achieving their God-given mission of ending oppression and establishing social justice in society like they were supposed to be.

God: "There are those who built a masjid to harm, and to promote disbelief, and to divide the Muslims and as an outpost, from where they will wage war against God and God's Messenger. And they will say, under oath, that they only want to do good. But God bears witness that they are liars."  (Quran 9: 107-108)

Our mosques don't need to be reformed, as the filmmakers suggest. They need to be revolutionized. We can learn how from Jesus, whose mother Mary was one of the four perfect women of all times who was dedicated to the service of the mosque by her own mother while still in utero. Jesus taught us that all struggles for socio-economic justice in society begin with a cleansing of the "temple," the God-centered power base from which truth, mercy, justice and peace should emanate in society. He embarked on his bid to purify society by first overturning the tables of the greedy and oppressive money-changers in the House of God in Jerusalem and throwing them out for good.

"Consider your houses as way stations, and the mosques as your residences," Jesus said. "Upon my life! You have directed yourself to what is other than God. What has corrupted you? Are you afraid of becoming lost if you direct yourself toward God?"

Indeed, the mosque needs to be transformed from the House of Empire back to the House of God by focusing on its ultimate mission of establishing social justice in society for the pleasure of God. In the process, it will also be able to solve its many infrastructural problems as well as attract not only greater numbers of Muslims but also peace and justice-loving non-Muslims.

"The Quran is not a history book, it is not an entertainment scripture," says scholar Muhammad Al-Asi, imam of the Islamic Center in Washington. "The Quran presents us with the hard facts of life, and what happened at that first Masjid al Diraar right now is happening at a much larger scale because that clique of hypocrites in Al Madinah at that time have become now the rulers in the Islamic world. And if in the time of Allah's Prophet they could not get away with building one masjid today they have gotten away with controlling ninety-nine percent of the masajid in the world."

In direct opposition to the teachings of Jesus, most Christian churches in America have for centuries supported the imperialist agenda by, if not actively encouraging genocide, slavery and war, then, remaining silent regarding them. Unfortunately, mosques have followed suit, and documentaries like UnMosqued are not doing anything to change that. In fact, one imam interviewed for the film declared: "The masajid should keep clear from politics abroad. The mosque must be a place of worship but it is not supposed to be a place to discuss politics."

On the bright side, throughout American history there have been God-fearing people and religious organizations that remained committed to struggling for social justice in the harshest of times, such as the Quakers when they opposed slavery, the Black churches when they mobilized against racism and the Methodist church when it recently decided to boycott goods coming from illegal Israeli settlements.

It is these groups that Muslims should study if they take the filmmakers' advice to learn from other religious institutions "to see how their houses of worship are running and how they are catering to their respective constituencies."

The late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

"If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will ecome an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions....If the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace."

Ditto for mosques.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rock Star Imams

If you're among the growing number of Muslims who get their Islam online, keep reading but with your antennas up high. There's a conspiracy underfoot to virtually misguide you.

A new report released in February by U.S global policy think tank RAND Corporation, entitled "Promoting Online Voices for Countering Violent Extremism," discusses plans to more deeply infiltrate, co-opt and create popular sources of online Islamic information---web sites, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more---with information that is packaged as Islamic guidance based on the Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (S) but in reality is government propaganda aimed at aligning the political views and behavior of Muslims with imperialist interests.

The report's authors, Todd C. Helmus, Erin York and Peter Chalk, all of whom have links with the U.S. military (RAND originated as a project of an American military aircraft manufacturer), instruct government officials, nonprofit organizations and private funders on how to "encourage and empower credible, authentic, and constructive online Muslim voices" that echo the White House's 2011 initiative to "counter violent extremist (CVE) narratives on the Internet."

These efforts are ostensibly to foil online recruitment by Al Qaida and other Muslim extremist groups, but RAND analysts admit in their own report that "this [Al Qaida] campaign has produced an extremely low yield of recruits in the United States and that vast majorities of American Muslims hold no sympathies for al-Qa’ida’s distorted vision."

So the true purpose of this expansive initiative lies elsewhere: to control and direct the social and political agenda of Muslims, who they realize are mandated to de-establish the existing oppressive systems and replace them with peace and social justice in the world.

Some RAND plans to be aware of:
  • Building alliances with existing "rock star imams" that already have huge online followings. "U.S. officials should identify both established and up-and-coming social media personalities and incorporate these individuals into interagency engagement strategies."
  • Creating new "Web sensations." This is to be one by developing leaders who have "scholarly credentials, understand and are able to work in an American context, and can speak to young American-born Muslims who may feel disenfranchised from local religious institutions."  
  • Disseminating political information through popular online magazines, virtual mosques, blogs and other portals that cover all aspects of Islamic life. "The key is that efforts placing less emphasis CVE and security aspects will gain better traction and resonance among many important audience members and promote participation from a broader cadre of influencers."
  • Funding technology, public relations and marketing training for "Muslim influencers" at home and abroad. Recently, during two-and-a-half day training sessions in Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Jakarta, people were introduced to social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. "Individuals were taught the basics of how to successfully get a message out, the art of storytelling, and the creation of viral messages."
History has repeatedly shown that coordinating with imperialists to bring peace and justice is not only folly but also counterproductive. Leaders, movements and organizations directed by the ruling elite don't speak out against oppressive systems like Zionism, capitalism and globalism and end up supporting extreme violence in the forms of imperialist wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and terrorist groups that serve their interests (Libya and Syria).

While this RAND initiative to take on high-tech Islamic personalities is new, sell-out scholars have been around for ages.

When Moses (foster son of Asiya, one of the four perfect women of all times) went to the mountains for 40 days, Sheikh Samiri--a religious scholar and savvy engineer from among the Israelites--used his knowledge and skills to turn the people back to the Pharaonic system and ways.

God: "He said: Lo! We have tried thy folk in thine absence, and Samiri has misled them."  (Quran 20:85)

Imam Ali: “I warn you about the hypocrites. They are misguided and they misguide as well. They have appeared in society in different colors and with different faces. Their speech is eloquent, profitable and is even a cure for pain. But their actions are like incurable diseases.”

To prevent such false scholars from gaining power and influence, the Muslim masses must be able to identify them, put pressure on them to return to Islamic principles, and if they refuse, abandon them for true scholars who not only have knowledge but also the courage and strength to speak truth to power like Talut, a true leader of the Children of Israel mentioned in the Quran.

"You think it's easy to propagate the truth in hostile territory, even if that hostile territory is your own [Islamic} center? It takes bravery," says scholar Yusuf Husayn.

Thanks to social media tools that allow interactions, we can put public pressure on scholars through questions, comments and feedback online.

Imam Khomeini, leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran, teaches us how in an open letter he wrote to cleric Hussein Ali Montazeri to inform him he will no longer be his successor after it became evident Montazeri was cooperating with the hypocrites.

"Can you see what valuable services you have offered to arrogance?" Imam Khomeini asks and then gives Montazeri the following advice in his letter:

1. Change your advisors or "bureau."
2. Because you are "gullible" and "provoked easily," stay out of political matters.
3. Stop ridiculing scholars truly committed to Islam.
4. Don't be a "mouthpiece" of the oppressors.

Imam Khomeini: “Muslims must think about training, controlling, and correcting the leaders....They must use advice or warnings to wake them up from their expensive sleep which is killing them and the interests of the Islamic nation. They must not be unaware of the danger of the hypocrites and those who work for the arrogant powers of the world."

For those willing to take on such leaders, I also have a tip: Get a thick skin.

Recently, I questioned a popular American Islamic scholar on Facebook for supporting the Western-backed Syrian opposition.

I got called a "lunatic" by him.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Reviving Student Activism

A speaker we invited to our tiny college in suburban Chicago 15 years ago--radical human rights activist Lynne Stewart--is now a political prisoner in a U.S. penitentiary, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I consider activities put on by most of today's Muslim students organizations child's play.

Looking for Islamically-oriented things to do with my kids, I was disappointed, to say the least, when I read about the events planned by our local university’s Muslim Students Association (MSA) as well others (with a few exceptions) around the country.

Here's a sample: food fest, cake-a-thon, Iron Chef, ice skating, t-shirt designing.

Whatever happened to student activism?

MSA celebrates its fiftieth anniversary on college campuses this month but not only has it not matured to mirror the overwhelming problems, challenges and conspiracies facing Muslims (and others) on and off campus, it has seriously regressed in the quality of its activities post-9/11.

Muslim students (as well as their older counterparts, for that matter) need to reacquaint themselves with the job they have been assigned by God to do as members of the Islamic Ummah: establish social justice on earth. That means while MSAs should continue to help students build brotherhood/sisterhood through wholesome activities, provide religious teachings, and serve as a home away from home, it should all be done while keeping in mind that the group's ultimate responsibility is to struggle for peace and justice for all.

Quran: “We sent Our Messengers with clear evidence, and sent with them the Book and the Balance so that people would maintain justice….” (Quran 57:25)

Unfortunately, those responsible for planning, executing and profiting from global oppression realize this mandate on the Muslims better than most Muslims do themselves. That's why as the ruling elite continues to spread imperialism, globalism and capitalism around the world, it tries to keep the Muslim population in check through ravaging wars and incitement of sectarianism overseas and scare tactics at home.

Those in power are paying particular attention to Muslim youth between the ages of 15 and 24, who make up an estimated 20% of the world's Muslim population. That's because as recent history shows (1960s Anti-War and Civil Rights movements, Islamic Awakening, Occupy movements), youth are powerful agents of change.

Imam Ali: “Surely the heart of the youth is like the uncultivated ground – it will accept whatever you throw upon it [and that is what will grow from it].”

Hence, Western governments, their intelligence agencies and police departments have been monitoring, infiltrating, censoring and sabotaging Muslim students groups throughout North America (as well as Britain and other countries with oppressive foreign policies) under the guise of preventing homegrown terrorism.

The goal is not to ferret out potential Muslim terrorist. As Thomas Galati, New York Police Department's chief of the Intelligence Division revealed under oath in August 2012, not one criminal lead was obtained through its surveillance program of Muslim mosques, student groups and businesses during his six-year tenure, according to news reports.

The point then is to terrorize the Muslims into becoming apolitical and silent.

And it's worked like a charm.

"Muslim students are by and large taking this lying down," according to Roshan Muhammad Salih, documentary filmmaker of British State Spies on Muslims.

“We’re now getting reports from families who are saying, you can’t go to school at this campus, or if you do go to school at this campus, you cannot get involved in the MSA or the SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine],” Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ was reported as saying in the media. “[Parents are saying] ‘don’t rock the boat, just graduate.’

The silence continues because Muslim leaders and organizations in general have failed to guide people on how to peacefully, legally and successfully persevere in their duties of speaking out against oppression and striving towards establishing social justice while navigating this environment. Instead, by spreading news about the spying operations without offering counter strategies, they are adding to the fear and deafening silence.

Students in the MSA at Hunter College in New York, for example, reportedly put up a sign in 2011 asking their members to, "Please Refrain from Political Convos in the MSA," with an arrow pointing to a newspaper article revealing the NYPD's secret surveillance program.

Students currently attending undergraduate programs grew up for the most part in a post 9/11 Islamophobic world, and before we can expect more political and social activism out of them they need to be intellectually awakened. This can be accomplished by involving them in discussions of substantial social, economic, political and environmental issues and allowing them to come up with just solutions based on the Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (S).

The Prophet's (S) own grandsons (sons of Fatima, one of the four perfect women of all times) Imams Hasan and Hussain, whom he called the Chiefs of the Youth of Paradise, should serve as role models and their methods of problem-solving studied in detail.

In one anecdote, for example, while still young the two came across an elderly man who was performing his ablutions incorrectly. To come up with a solution on how to correct their elder while still abiding by Islamic law, ethics and manners, the two huddled and came up with a plan.

Their solution: to pretend to engage in a contest as to who performs his ablution better and asking the man to be judge. He immediately realized his mistake and came away impressed by their gentle method of correction.

One Islamic organization, the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, is working on creating an online platform that will allow Muslims and non-Muslims around the world to come together virtually to solve global problems through this Islamic concept of shura, or consultation.

Members will be encouraged to engage their minds in learning about important issues and discussing and debating possible strategies and solutions before voting on courses of action they think best reflect the teachings of the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (S). Indeed, this will be a good fit for MSAs who are already involved in online voting projects, such as last month's "Design Your Donation" t-shirt competition, albeit more in par with their social and political responsibilities.

In sum, as Sayyid Hasan Islami wrote in Imam Khomeini, Ethics and Politics: "The universe is a university while the prophets, awliyā’ and those trained by them are the teachers and the rest of mankind are students, and they ought to be students."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mind Control

"(Gaaaasp) Are those drones?!" my 11-year-old daughter asked as a formation of fighter jets flicked on giant screens while the national anthem played before a girls college basketball game we attended last month.

Whether it's through sporting events, politics, news or even entertainment (like NBC's reality show "Stars Earn Stripes"), we are constantly being bombarded by pro-war propaganda, paving the way for continued American imperialistic military engagements around the world  (of late: Afghanistan, Chad, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Turkey, Uganda and Yemen).

Recent news that such psychological indoctrination is getting cranked up a few decibels indicates more of the same is in the pipeline.

According to the latest U.S. Army field manual released publicly in January, public relations (which has always been a part of the military) will now be front and center. New "Inform and Influence Activities" have been added to traditional war responsibilities to keep not only troops and Americans aware of what is going but also to brainwash foreign audiences' into supporting U.S military exploits (like the ever expanding War on Terror) in their own lands by working through fifth columnists.

Already, the military-industrial-complex has co-opted mass media--one of the most powerful tools used to manipulate the masses--throughout Muslim lands. Two glaring examples are Western puppet Qatar's Al-Jazeera (Former Al-Jazeera Germany correspondent Aktham Suliman: "We at Al-Jazeera were always proud to say: 'We're financed by Qatar, but the state never interferes with our reporting.' Now we suddenly find ourselves in a situation in which our reporting is precisely aligned with Qatari foreign policy.") and Pakistan's Geo News, which was launched by the help of former U.S. Navy officer David Hazinski of Intelligent Media Consultants.

Indeed, more journalists are being prepared to continue this work. USAID Pakistan and National Geographic Society last fall sponsored a "photo camp" for 15 young aspiring journalists from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which is, ironically, the target of most U.S. drone strikes in that country.

"This USAID-funded photo camp is yet another expression of the United States' commitment to ensuring that the citizens of Pakistan are well informed about the events and policies that affect their daily lives," according to Jock Conly, USAID Mission Director.

Muslims as well as all others struggling to free themselves from imperialist rule must protect themselves from manipulation by: tuning them out.

God: “O Believers, if an unrighteous person comes to you with information, you should verify it or else you might inflict harm on a people in ignorance and then end up regretting what you have done.” (Quran 49: 6)

A study of Islamic history reveals how destructive false propaganda can be in society, especially when it comes from the mouth of "Muslims."

Muawiya, who vehemently opposed the rule of fourth caliph Ali, spread so many lies about Ali from the pulpits that when Ali was martyred in a mosque, people asked: "What was Ali doing in a mosque?" (Even today imperialist/Zionist influence over mosques can be heard loud and clear when imams laud U.S. military operations in Libya and pray for Western-backed rebels in Syria.)

To win the war of words, Muslims must take the lead in countering the lies with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

"Ultimately, all media is propaganda, and that's not necessarily a bad thing as long as the propaganda corresponds with the truth," says Roshan Muhammad Salih, former head of news in London for Tehran-based Press TV.  After Press TV was censored off the air in Europe, America and the Middle East last month, Iran announced it will launch three of its own telecom satellites in the next five years.

In America, Imam Abdul Alim Musa of Masjid Al-Islam in Washington is doing his part by heading the Islamic Institute of Counter Zionist American Psychological Warfare and urging people to promote truth, peace and justice by calling others to God, performing righteous deeds and cultivating friendships with fellow Americans.

"We do not call you to any kind of physical or military confrontation in America," Musa says. "We only ask that you stand up for justice and fair play."

In fact, even one person can make a difference in the battle for truth. While Muawiya succeeded in spreading lies about Ali, when Muawiya's son Yazid tried to do the same against Ali's son Hussain (who gave up his life fighting against the oppression of Yazid), Zainab, daughter of Ali, single-handedly countered the lies by exposing the truth, which has been passed down and inspired people of conscience from generation to generation.

Zainab to the oppressors: "O you deceivers!...You have done that which could tear down the skies, open the earth, and make the mountains vanish...Indeed you have done the ugliest, the most grievous and gruesome deed!"

Friday, February 8, 2013

Power of Women

European imperialists realized hundreds of years ago what eludes too many of us even today: Women are the most powerful and influential element in society.

That's why colonizers invading new lands and worried about local resistance focused their energies immediately on breaking in the native women, whose natural identities were systematically stripped and replaced with a psychology that accepted economic exploitation by the new masters and taught her children to do the same for generations to come.

Willie Lynch, a successful West Indies slaveowner:

The female "is the most important factor for good economics," Lynch told a gathering of slaveowners in Virginia in 1712. "When in complete submission, she will train her offspring in the early years to submit to labor when they become of age. This is a perfect situation of sound sleep [no worries about slave rebellions] and economics."

Indeed, modern-day imperialists continue this "breaking process" of women around the world albeit through more sophisticated means, whether it be Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson's secular schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan (Mortenson: “If we educate a boy, we educate an individual. But if we can educate a girl, we educate a community.”), the newly founded Malala Fund for the education of girls (in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, who was purportedly shot in the head by the Taliban for promoting female education), or the NeXXt Scholars program that then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rolled out last year "to provide women from Muslim countries with a 'world-class' education."

So the question is: Are most of us operating under the Willie Lynch program? Do we continue to raise generation after generation of laborers who keep the capitalistic system running eventhough it oppresses us and others?

God has given us clear instructions on how we're supposed to educate and train our kids, and it involves much more than ensuring they become valedictorians, get into prestigious colleges and land high-paying jobs. Scholars say women have not been given prophethood because each one of us is tasked to do the same job inside the house as prophets do out in society.

God: "God did confer a great favor on the believers when he sent among them an apostle from among themselves rehearsing unto them the signs of God, purifying them and instructing them in scripture and wisdom, while before that, they had been in manifest error.” (Quran 13: 164)

Hence, the goal of a well-rounded education should be to produce sound human beings who have developed mental and spiritual powers that help them move towards moral perfection within themselves and social justice in their communities.

"Education is indeed very important, but the significance of... a balanced personality must not be overlooked," says educator Tahera Kassamali. "The world is producing a generation that knows a lot but is greatly deficient in moral and spiritual values."

Consider this: When we visited relatives recently, the mother didn't ask her children to come out of their rooms to meet us even though we were guests from overseas.

"They're working on school projects," she had explained matter-of-factly.

Prophet Muhammad (S) told his Companions that he was baree (far) from such parents of latter times because they would emphasize secular education but neglect religious and moral edification.

The good news is that if imperialists have implanted a Willie Lynch chip inside women, women can deactivate it through knowledge, awareness and virtues.

We have superb examples of women throughout history who raised their children by example (gulp!) to be intelligent, upright and compassionate people who use their knowledge and skills to not only make a living but also oppose systems of oppression and struggle for the establishment of peace and justice on earth.

Fatima, one of the four perfect women of all times and mother of Imams Hasan and Hussain and Zainab, is one whom Islamic thinker Allama Iqbal praises in his poetry:

The character, the essential purity
Of holy children from their mothers come.
She was the harvest of the well‐sown field
Of self‐surrender, to all mothers she
The perfect pattern, Fatima the chaste.

Imam Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, repeatedly emphasized the important role mothers play in the correct education of children and betterment of society:

"Respected ladies!  You are responsible for the upbringing of the children; you have the duty of nurturing virtuous children in your care to hand over to society.  We all have this duty, but it is in your care that they receive a better upbringing.  A mother’s lap is the best school for a child.  You can train your children so that one day they make the country flourish. You can train children to uphold the aims of the prophets!"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Moderate Muslims

I-Spy-Tahir-Qadri became a popular car game during our stay in Pakistan last month when posters of the Islamic scholar suddenly cropped up all over the city of Lahore.

"There he is!" my daughters, who'd seen him plenty lecturing on TV at my parents' place, would cry out after spotting one of the thousands of banners tacked behind rikshaws, plastered on billboards or hung from walls to announce the return of Qadri, a lawyer, politician and scholar. He had hitherto been in self-imposed exile in Canada for seven years after receiving death threats from terrorists who he had condemned.

Qadri is the latest religious figure to enter the political scene in the Muslim world ahead of elections. Like their compatriots in other countries, the Pakistani people are awakening to a newfound desire for self-determination, with many turning to Islam anew to help create a peaceful and just society, one finally free from Western control and its accompanying government tyranny and corruption, rampant poverty, out-of-control terrorism and shortages in public utilities, such as gas, electricity, and water.

But, Muslims, beware: What you see is not always what you get!

The fact is, imperialists who have been making fat profits from the natural and labor resources of Muslim lands for centuries are not going to go away that easy.

In fact, they are two steps ahead.

Aware for years of renewed interest in the political dimensions of Islam (victories of the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, the Islamic Salvation Front in Algerian elections in 1991 and Hamas at the polls in Palestine in 2006), imperialist countries like the United States have been cultivating relationships around the globe with "moderate Muslims" (to  replace the historic role of dictators) as those who "advance U.S. interests and values abroad," according to the 2007 Rand report entitled Building Moderate Muslim Networks. Indeed, moderates have risen to prominence in countries like Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt and now Pakistan.

God: "These are the people who buy the life of this world at the price of the Hereafter: their penalty shall not be lightened nor shall they be helped." (Quran 2:86)

"The problem with us Muslims is we are so emotional when it comes to the name Islam so any one, any party that has Islam in it, it's like masha Allah, we have to go with it," observed Hesham Tallawi, TV host of Current Issues, last month. "No, some people are using the name Islam because it many Arab and Muslim countries."

These moderate Muslims are being plucked from academia, clergy, community activist circles, women's groups and the journalism profession. After "ensuring that their activities converge with long-term U.S. strategic goals," they are funded and channeled into leadership positions in Muslim countries to help sustain imperialism, capitalism and globalization through the spread of "liberal Western democracy" They must espouse nonsectarian legal codes and modern interpetations of women's rights while at the same time demonstrate "opposition to concepts of the Islamic state" in the form implemented in Iran, the report says.

"I am not in favor of a theocracy," Qadri, who is founder of the international NGO Minhaj-ul-Quran and supported a military coup by Pakistan's Gen. Pervez Musharraf in 1999, told a reporter from Britain's Channel 4 News on January 16. "I am in favor of democracy and constitutionalism."

While Qadri's sudden and well-funded catapult into Pakistan's political arena (much like previous Western-backed velvet or color revolutions around the world) sends alarm bells ringing,  his repeated praise of European "democracies" during his long march and his reluctance to criticize the decades-long U.S. role in the destabalization of Pakistan (no mention of historical Western support and funding of extremist groups now terrorizing Pakistan in his 450-page Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings) is telling.

This is what he was quoted as saying in the New York Times this week: “I can’t say that Pakistan will become America or Canada in a couple of years. But we want a reflection of America, to put the process on track.”

Muslims struggling for Islamic self-determination must be careful of dubious characters in religious trappings, as history shows such figures have duped Muslims in the past, misleading them just as they approached the mouth of victory.

During the Battle of Siffin, Ali, husband of Fatima (one of the four perfect women of all times), nearly defeated the army of Muawiya until Muawiya's soldiers hoisted copies of the Quran on their spears as a last resort.

When Abdullah ibn Abbas saw this, he commented: "The battle is over; the treachery has begun."

Thank God, Qadri wasn't the only scholar who stole the limelight this week.

A peaceful, indigenous movement for social justice under the banner of Islam (and not "democracy") emerged on the global political scene from within Pakistan under the leadership of a lesser-known cleric by the name of Raja Nasir Abbas. He grabbed the hearts and minds of people all over the world when he refused to bury the bodies of nearly 100 people--martyred in last week's bombings in the city of Quetta--as a protest against the continued terrorism and targeted killings of Shiites in Pakistan.

This "Lion of Pakistan," as he is now affectionately being called, organized a sit-in (duplicated in cities around the world in sympathy and support) to demand that incompetent government officials be fired and security promised.

Balochistan's provincial government was dismissed Monday.

On Thursday Qadri called off his protests after the federal government agreed to give his movement a say in appointing a caretaker prime minister ahead of elections later this year. The settlement did not, however, force the immediate resignation of the thoroughly corrupt President Asif Zardari and his officials.

Instead, Qadri and Zardari's information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira embraced in front of the crowd and declared the agreement "a victory for democracy."

Indeed, as Pakistani poet Allama Iqbal wrote:

Ajab teri siasat, Ajab tera nizaam
Hussain say bhee marasim, Yazeed ko bhee salaam

Strange is your politics, odd is your system,
Having relations with Hussain, while giving salutations to Yazeed

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Our Driver Mohammad Yasin

Too many of our conversations revolve around the driver, I complained to my husband last month while visiting family in Pakistan, but now that I'm back home I find myself blogging about you-know-who.

"Is the driver here yet?" we would ask one another first thing every morning. Mohammad Yasin, a fifth-grade passed, husky man and father of four who lived in a nearby village, wound up as our driver (long story) for our three-week stay in Lahore. He was perpetually late.

Throughout the day: "Where is Mohammad Yasin?!" (Sleeping in the car with the seat reclined all the way down.)  "Mohammad Yasin sent back his veggies and lentils (from his lunch plate)." "Mohammad Yasin says he wants to go home (mid-day)."

Me in the car: "Mohammad Yasin, slow down!!!" "Mohammad Yasin, please don't smoke in the car!" "Mohammad Yasin, no talking on the phone while driving (especially in LOUD Punjabi)!"

At first, it was Mohammad Yasin's poor work ethics and offensive personal habits that irritated me. But soon I realized his presence was bothersome for a more significant reason.

As Mohammad Yasin chauffeured us around, he was a constant reminder of the disparity between the rich and poor in this world as well as my gluttonous role in perpetuating it.

Wearing his faded yellow "Los Angeles" jacket, Mohammad Yasin drove us to overpriced boutiques (I didn't have the time or nerves to deal with unreliable tailors.), where one child's outfit cost more than his month's salary.

During meal times, he was given Rs. 150 to eat from a street vendor while we ate at M.M. Alam Road's finest restaurants.

And while his family usually went without dessert (as he told me when I asked which sweets his children like), we frequently asked him to stop by Gourmet bakery for patay- or gajar-ka-halwa (pumpkin or carrot dessert) anytime our stash at home went low.

While God allows people to freely consume in accordance to their income levels, honor, respect, status, age, etc., he also strictly warns against israf or extravagance (considered the thirty-second Greater sin), which is defined as wasting or spending more than is necessary.

With so many people like Mohammad Yasin (and others in even more dire straits all around us on the streets of Pakistan), I realized how over-the-top our "normal" level of spending and consumption really is.

God: “…and eat and drink and be not extravagant; surely He does not love the extravagant.” (Quran 7:31)

"Anything that is in our custody--time, resources, sustenance, children, skills--that God has given us, we should be careful in the use of the blessings of God," Dr. Syed Abbas Naqvi instructed in a recent Friday sermon.

“Do you think if God has bestowed someone with wealth, it is because he is His beloved?" asked Imam Jafar Sadiq, great grandson of Fatima (one of the four perfect women of all times).

"And if He has given less to someone it is because he is low? No! It is not so. Whatever wealth is there, it all belongs to God. God gives it to whomsoever He wishes as a trust and He has permitted the trustee to eat, drink, wear clothes, marry, and ride from it, (but) in moderation. If he has excess he must distribute it among the poor and fulfill their needs. Then whoever follows the Divine commands, whatever he has eaten, drunk, worn, married and riden in moderation, all this is lawful for him, and if he does not act upon it, everything is haram (unlawful).”

Among the most superb examples of someone who lived (and not just talked or blogged) about justice and balance in this world was Ali, husband of Fatima.

A man went to see him on Eid holiday and saw that a tightly sealed bag was brought before Ali, the caliph of the time, and assumed it contained jewels. But when Ali opened the bag, it contained dried pieces of bread, which he softened with water.

The man asked Ali why he painstakingly sealed food that even a beggar would not care to steal. Ali smiled and said: "I keep it sealed because my children try to substitute softer bread, containing oil or butter in it."

The man asked, "Has God prohibited you to eat better kind of food?"

Ali replied: "No, but I want to eat the kind of food which the poorest of this realm can afford at least once a day. I shall improve it after I have improved their standards of life. I want to live, feel and suffer like them."

Although we never came close to foregoing fineries like Ali used to, after three weeks of togetherness our family had moved from irritation to guilt to some sort of compassion for Mohammad Yasin.

My eleven-year-old started nudging me in the backseat and whispering: "Be nice to him, Umma!" whenever I chided him for not slowing down for speed bumps.

My husband once suggested we get him a separate table inside a restaurant.

Even I developed a soft spot for Mohammad Yasin, and found myself sharing my pomegranates, including my favorite sweet bedana (seedless) ones, with him.

"You don't have to," Mohammad Yasin said, taken aback as I handed him the bag from the backseat.

Yes, I do.