Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Two-thirds of Earth's ecosystems at other words, we're killing the planet (and ourselves)

Two-thirds of Earth's ecosystems at risk: UN
(scroll down to watch the video clip, too)

"A new United Nations report says we are using up our natural resources too fast and are in danger of destroying about two-thirds of the Earth's ecosystems. The Millennium Assessment, released Wednesday, warns that 15 of 24 global ecosystems are in decline and that the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow much worse in the next 50 years. The UN study is a synthesis of the work of about 1,300 researchers from 95 countries. It is being hailed as the most comprehensive survey ever into the natural systems that sustain life on Earth."

As Ronald Wright would say, when we 'progress' to the point where we are self-destructing, it can no longer be called 'progress'. As of late I've really been pondering how great the 'ease' of our civilization really is, given that we now kill more people in wars than ever before, are suffering from diseases our own capitalistic endeavours have created, and are killing the very earth that Allah has set up to sustain our existence.

...Sometimes I feel like walking away from all of a remote mountain in Turkey...where I could milk my goats all day and glorify the Creator of those beautiful mountains (and goats)...

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Muhasibi on Love

"Love is your inclination towards something with your entirety, your preferring it over your self, your soul and your possessions; it entails your conformity to it, both secretly and publicly and it entails knowledge of your shortcomings in your love for it." (Qushayri, 485)

Islamica - Why Tariq Ramadan?

Islamica Magazine is arguably one of the best Islamic magazines out there right now, with top scholars like Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller and Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad contributing to it! I highly recommend subscribing to it.

Why Tariq Ramadan? - By Firas Ahmed

"THE REVOCATION of Tariq Ramadan’s visa by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) came as a surprise to both the Muslim community in America as well as the broader academic establishment. Earlier this summer, Dr. Ramadan was preparing to assume the Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding appointment at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana until DHS determined that he represents a security threat to the United States."
[see link for full article]

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Traveller's Souk - Shaykh Hamza's Book List

Surfing the web I came across
The Traveller's Souk and to my delight, found a post with a list of books Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has either recommended or mentioned in his talks. My eyes watered up! - I've been wanting to do this for a long time, but it's such a pleasant surprise to have it done for you!

Barak Allahu fi kum to the brother that compiled the list and to The Traveller whose blog I found it through.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Wise and the Ignorant...

"The wise strive to attain wisdom, where as the ignorant think they have already found it."
- English Proverb

The Humour of the Blessed One (Allah bless him and give him peace)

The best of creation, our beloved Master Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him abundant peace) had a superb sense of humour.

How did the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) joke? - Courtesy of SunniPath. Purity shining through in every breath and word. Subhan'Allah. Our Rasul, may Allah bless him.

The opposite, and the way to changing -- as is the way of the Muslim, and most notably those who travel the path to Allah.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sufistic Thoughts & Readings - Who is at my door?

Again, from Sufistic Thoughts & Readings (one of my favourite blogs!):

Who is at my door?

He said, "Who is at my door?"
I said, "Your humble servant."
He said, "What business do you have?"
I said, "To greet you, 0 Lord."

He said, "How long will you journey on?"
I said, "Until you stop me."
He said, "How long will you boil in the fire?"
I said, "Until I am pure.

"This is my oath of love.
For the sake of love
I gave up wealth and position."

He said, "You have pleaded your case
but you have no witness."
I said, "My tears are my witness;
the pallor of my face is my proof.'
He said, "Your witness has no credibility;
your eyes are too wet to see."
I said, "By the splendor of your justice
my eyes are clear and faultless."

He said, "What do you seek?"
I said, "To have you as my constant friend."
He said, "What do you want from me?"
I said, "Your abundant grace."

He said, "Who was your companion on the journey?
I said, "The thought of you, 0 King."
He said, "What called you here?"
I said, "The fragrance of your wine."

He said, "What brings you the most fulfillment?"
I said, "The company of the Emperor."
He said, "What do you find there?"
I said, "A hundred miracles."
He said, "Why is the palace deserted?"
I said, "They all fear the thief."
He said, "Who is the thief?"
I said, "The one who keeps me from -you.

He said, "Where is there safety?"
I said, "In service and renunciation."
He said, "What is there to renounce?"
I said, "The hope of salvation."

He said, "Where is there calamity?"
I said, "In the presence of your love."
He said, "How do you benefit from this life?"
I said, "By keeping true to myself

Now it is time for silence.
If I told you about His true essence
You would fly from your self and be gone,
and neither door nor roof could hold you back!

Rumi - In The Arms of The Beloved, Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi

Sufistic Thoughts & Readings - The Lover Who Slept

From Sufistic Thoughts & Readings:

The Lover Who Slept

A lover, tired out by the tears he wept,
Lay in exhaustion on the earth and slept;
When his beloved came and saw him there,
Sunk fast in sleep, at peace, without a care,
She took a pen and in an instant wrote,
Then fastened to his sleeve, a little note.
When he awoke and read her words his pain
(Increased a thousandfold) returned again -
"If you sell silver in the town," he read,
"The market's opened, rouse your sleepy head;
If faith is your concern, pray through the night -
Prostrate yourself until the dawning light;
But if you are a lover, blush with shame;
Sleep is unworthy of the lover's name!
He watches with the wind throughout the day;
He sees the moon rise up and fade away -
But you do neither, though you weep and sigh;
Your love for me looks like an empty lie.
A man who sleeps before death's sleep I call
A lover of himself, and that is all!
You've no idea of love, and may your sleep
Be like your ignorance - prolonged and deep!"

-Shaikh Fariduddin 'Attar

Silence Eternal - Prayers Not Answered

Silence Eternal - Prayers Not Answered

"Call on Me, I will answer your prayer" (40:60)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Beauty contest sets off Muslim debate

First handshaking through a barrier, then women leading prayers, now women in beauty pageants...and apparently on Mal Road in Lahore, a group of girls decided to parade in shorts with the motto "those who don't want to look, don't look, we want our freedom!".

Mass confusion. True freedom is internal. Follow the way of Allah and the Beloved of Allah, our Master Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) and find tranquility of heart. Simple.

From The
Toronto Star - Mar. 14, 2005. 06:52 AM

Beauty contest sets off Muslim debate
Some condemn Miss Canada Pakistan pageant
But not all see it as an affront to Islamic mores


"Swing your hips. I need lots of oomph,'' commands choreographer Sajeev Sharma.

On cue, eight dark-haired beauties struggle to do their best supermodel imitations on a catwalk at an Etobicoke banquet hall.

``Slow, slow ... remember, you'll be wearing evening gowns,'' Sharma tells the women, one of whom will be crowned Miss Canada Pakistan on Saturday.

The pageant, now in its third year, has been the target of hate mail and bomb threats in the past, when it was held under heavy security in Ottawa, and is once again drawing fire.

The cowboy-boot-wearing Sharma, who flew in from Mumbai to choreograph the event, has worked with Bollywood beauty queens such as Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai. He has had a little less than four weeks to transform these Canadian neophytes into glamour queens.

"Most of the girls are feeling very awkward," says Sharma, during a break in rehearsal.

Part of their nervousness may stem from the negative reaction the pageant has drawn from both conservative and moderate Islamic groups in Toronto.

Conservatives say the contest defies Islam's edict requiring public modesty in women, while moderates oppose the pageant on feminist grounds, arguing the contest is a throwback and objectifies women.

A few have spoken out in support of the pageant, saying it is just a fun cultural event that offers an opportunity to dispel the negative stereotypes faced by Pakistani Canadian women.

When Sonia Ahmed, the pageant's Karachi-born co-ordinator, recently appeared on a local Pakistani radio show, she was bombarded by angry callers.

"They basically told me: `You're doing something dirty. Don't do this ... or else.' They have a misconception about the show that it's about showing off flesh. It's not. It's 50 per cent beauty, 50 per cent brains," she says, pointing out that Saturday's contest doesn't include a swimsuit competition.

"We're not saying we don't want women in hijab or we don't respect the religion, but this is the 21st century,'' says Ahmed, 26, who is studying for an accounting designation. ``Women have the freedom to do what they want."

The pageant ``softens the image of Pakistani women," adds last year's winner, Batool Cheema, 21, a part-time ticket agent and student who aspires to work in Canada's foreign service.

``The moment people hear you're Pakistani, they don't want to hear any more. They've got their minds made up. But we're not terrorists, we don't want to bomb people. We're beauty queens," says Cheema, with her blonde-streaked hair and perfectly manicured nails.

While the notion of the beauty contest has become increasingly passé in most Western cultures, Pakistani Canadian women are just beginning to compete, says Ahmed.

Beauty pageants are banned in Pakistan. In 2002, a government minister tried to bar a contestant from wearing the Miss Pakistan sash at the Miss International contest, sparking a diplomatic row. The Press Trust of India quoted Tariq Janjua as saying that 21-year-old expatriate Neelan Noorani's appearance at the pageant in Tokyo was "shameful" and "disgraceful."

Of the 40 women who applied to be in this year's contest, Ahmed picked 13 to compete, some from as far away as Montreal and Halifax.

The upper age limit is 29, though most are teenagers, still in high school. Almost all are Canadian-born and say they entered because it was a chance to connect with their Pakistani heritage. Some defied fathers or uncles to do so.

"I have my values and morals and I'm not compromising them by taking part in this," says 16-year-old Alysha Jamal, her eyes heavy with kohl and rimmed with pink shadow. She wants to become an occupational therapist.

Some hope the contest will lead to bigger things. "My dream is to go to Bollywood," says Shazia Hudda, 16. "People are entitled to their opinions, but they shouldn't push it on everybody."

As the contestants sashay on stage, their mothers watch from a table laden with samosas, potato cutlets, coffee and Timbits. They dismiss opposition to the pageant as narrow-minded.

"This is Canada, not Pakistan,'' says Hudda's mother Shabira, of Pickering. ``That's why we came here, so our kids could have these opportunities.''

"It's not like they're taking their clothes off," adds Bibi Mahmood, of Hamilton.

But Haroon Salamat, head of the TARIC Islamic Centre of Toronto, argues such contests have no place in Islam. "Any exhibition of women's beauty is not permissible," says Salamat.

"External beauty is not something to celebrate on stage. It's for your spouse." And as for the contestants, "if they are Muslims, they would know what the rules (of Islam) are and they should refrain from taking part," he adds.

Ahmed says calls to cancel the pageant are ``intimidation tactics'' and won't deter her from going ahead. In Ottawa, where the event was staged for the past two years, police and security guards were stationed around a one-block perimeter of the venue.

The wife of Pakistan's High Commissioner to Canada, who was slated to be a judge in 2003, pulled out, as did several contestants, because of the protests.

Women can participate in such events only in the company of other women, so having men in the audience is a problem, says Katherine Bullock, spokesperson for the Islamic Society of North America. "Men are not supposed to look at women in a desiring way and anything that creates an environment where that would be happening is wrong," says Bullock, who was raised Anglican but converted to Islam and wears a hijab.

The pageant contradicts Islam's code of morality, says Husain Patel, imam at the Islamic Foundation of Toronto.

"Women are degraded by being paraded in front of hundreds of men who are at liberty to cast their lustful gazes. I would urge my sisters to find better ways to compete against each other."

Others don't object on religious grounds, but they say a beauty pageant is a huge step backward and shows the Pakistani community as being out of touch with modern times.

"I consider myself a Muslim feminist and this bothers me," says Tarek Fatah, host of Muslim Chronicle, a weekly television show. "It trivializes women and objectifies them in a sexual context. As the father of daughters, I'm offended and disappointed."

At the same time Western society is moving away from such contests, Pakistani Canadians are holding one, so "in terms of social development, it's a regression," says Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. As a professor at the University of Waterloo, Elmasry lobbied to get rid of the Miss K-W Oktoberfest pageant a few years ago, for the same reasons.

The executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women calls the pageant a "sad commentary" on Pakistani Canadians. "They pretend it's to do with intelligence and poetry reading and so on ... but come on,'' says Alia Hogben. ``It's a bit silly.''

But supporters say the pageant is a chance to showcase the talent in the local Pakistani community.

"The girl who gets crowned will be an ambassador for the Pakistani community. It boosts self-confidence and opens doors for networking," says Qamar Sadiq, president of the Multicultural Society of Pakistani Canadians, who plans to attend the event.

"It's important that our youth, who will be the leaders of tomorrow, should blend into the mainstream, while still keeping their values, of course."

The pageant sends out a positive message, says Aftab Rizvi, a columnist in Akhbare, a Pakistani newspaper. "It helps to portray a moderate image of Pakistan. When you come to Canada, you can't practise 100 per cent of what you were doing back home. If people are opposed, they don't have to attend. Live and let live."

Back at rehearsal, contestants have their minds on other vital matters.

"No chewing gum,'' Ahmed tells them. ``That's the number one thing. Your mouths will be empty when you come on stage."

Despite the controversy, $75 tickets to the show are selling fast.

Winning the crown was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, gushes Cheema.

"It really spiced up my life,'' she says. ``I felt like a queen for a year."

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Mere Islam - Reflections on Arabic Letters

Mere Islam - Reflections on Arabic Letters

From al-Ahram Weekly, courtesy of Mere Islam.

A Tree Knelt in Praise - A Poem by Shaykh Hamza

A Tree Knelt In Praise
By Hamza Yusuf

I know that I shall never see
A poem that bows quite like our tree
A tree who like us loved to pray
In adoration every day

A tree who humbly knelt in praise
To God and never chose to raise
Itself above the other trees
Instead remained as if on knees

A tree who gave our scholars shade
And never asked that it be paid
A tree whose needles never hurt
But gently fell upon the dirt

A tree whose worth cannot be told
Or ever lent or bought with gold
A tree who showed us all its height
With God by bowing with delight

It taught us all to clearly see
A Garden lies beneath a tree
And then it showed us with a sigh
That trees, like us, must also die

In an age of folly, play and mirth
A tree has died with brow on earth

Jazak Allah Khayr to Omowale whose blog brought this to my attention.

Beautiful Naats - Owais Qadri

Two beautiful naats by Qari Owais Qadri. Jazak Allah Khayr to Shaykh Faraz Rabbani who discovered and shared them, and to the host for hosting them because my own technical capabilities are so limited.

Owais Qadri - Wa Rafaana Laka Zikrak

Owais Qadri - Subha Taiba Main

Enjoy!! :)

Imam Zaid Shakir: The Zaytuna Ruku Tree

For those of you who have not yet come across this:

Imam Zaid Shakir: The Zaytuna Ruku Tree


“I think that I shall never see

A poem as lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray,

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain,

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Women Leading Prayers?

In light of the Progressives' announcement of Amina Wadud leading Friday Prayers this coming Friday...

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani on Women Leading Prayers and the Way of Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) - courtesy of SunniPath.

How far we stray in following our own conjecture. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Establish prayer as you have seen me establish prayer...." -- enough said.


Looking for some nice halal beats? --

Seeker's Digest: Nazim Baksh on Waking Up to Progressive Muslims

Seeker's Digest: Nazim Baksh on Waking Up to Progressive Muslims

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Honour of Blessing the Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace)

Shaykh Abd Allah Siraj al-Din, whom Shaykh Abd al-Rahman al-Shaghouri called "the Pole of Prophetic love of our times," said, "Allah Most High informs all His servants in this verse of the honor of this noble Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and of his noble rank, and of Allah's regard for Him. This is because Allah Himself sends blessings upon this Prophet, as an honoring and ennobling; and Allah's angels send blessings upon this Prophet, to seek the honor of doing so and to acquire blessings (tabarruk) from this, and to be dyed by its lights and drowned in its spiritual secrets. Then, when those of the lowers worlds heard of this, their hearts found intimacy in this, and their resolves (himam) and determinations were stirred towards seeking the honor of sending blessings upon this noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Thus, the tongue of their states--expressing their needs--called, 'O Lord! Grant us permission to attain unto the honor of sending blessings upon this noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) whom the angels have been honored by sending

'O Lord! Grant us permission to attain unto the honor of sending blessings upon this noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) whom the angels have been honored by sending blessings upon.' The Divine Call same, 'O you who believe, send blessings upon him and give peace.'" [Siraj al-Din, al-Salat `ala al-Nabi, 8-9]

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Links Section Added

Assalamu'alaykum wa Rahmatullah,

I've added a 'Links' section to the blog...something I (with my lack of technological savvy) could not have done on my own. More links to come, insha'Allah, in time.

Jazak Allah khayr for the help.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Globe & Mail - Let's not shake on it

Let's not shake on it
Some would call a refusal to shake hands downright rude. Others see it another way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005 Updated at 1:40 PM EST

Imagine, for a moment, that you're on your way to the most important job interview of your life. You've spent the previous two weeks preparing for it, anticipating the questions, memorizing the answers, and figuring out ways to impress your prospective employer.
You're escorted into an empty room and told to wait until the boss arrives.

After a few minutes, the door opens. In walks a tall, welcoming, attractive woman. Your knees starting to wobble. She smiles, approaches you, sticks out her hand, and says: "Hi, nice to finally meet you."

You stand there, frozen, staring at her outstretched hand. The lump in your throat is starting to grow. She's confused, as though she's done something wrong. After a few awkward moments, you finally muster the courage to respond the only way you know how.
"Uhhhh, sorry, I don't shake hands with women."

Offensive? Absurd? Chauvinistic? Welcome to the dilemma that is my life.

As a Muslim, I try to practice my religion to the best of my ability. For me, that includes not shaking hands with women other than those with whom I have a blood relationship. And I'm not alone. Thousands of Canadian Muslims face the same problem. In our schools, community centres, hospitals, places of work -- you name it -- we face the same challenge everyday: To shake or not to shake?

It's not an easy decision. Let's face it, in the West, handshakes have become more than just a formality. An outstretched hand is a cry for attention: "Validate me." "Greet me." "Respect me."

As a journalist, it's particularly difficult to not shake hands. We journos meet new people every day. Shaking hands is a matter of routine. If I don't shake hands with a new contact, for example, they could bear a grudge that would make it difficult to get information from them in the future. It also makes interviewing news sources extremely awkward.
I can already hear you thinking: "This guy's pretty extreme. It's just a handshake. Is he a Wahhabi or something?"

No, I'm not an extremist. And no, I'm not some Saudi-sponsored preacher trying to promote a narrow-minded view of religion. I think women should vote, be elected to office, run large corporations, solve the world's problems, and challenge our male-dominated culture to reclaim their rightful status as an equal half of creation. I think I'm about as laid back as they come.

And yet, I don't shake hands with non-related women. For me, the decision goes back to how I interpret my faith's teachings. That's right, not all "orthodox" Muslims -- you know, the ones with the big, scraggly beards and funny skull caps -- are blind followers. Some of us, maybe even most of us, have thought it through for ourselves. It's one of the advantages of living in the West: In an open-marketplace of ideologies, you don't have time to be a blind follower. You've got to think things through for yourself.

So how does a Canadian Muslim -- born and raised with fully modern, western sensibilities -- arrive at such a seemingly rigid interpretation? It comes down to this: During his lifetime, the Prophet Muhammad, whom Muslims look to as a perfect role model, never shook hands with women he was not related to. He also discouraged his followers from physically touching people they were not related to. So, because the Prophet's life, or sunnah, is a source of legislation in Islam, shaking hands is considered inappropriate.

Now, it would be easy to dismiss the prohibition as out-dated and, as some would argue, in need of reform -- hey, especially when it means you'll get that new job you've always wanted. And yet, as more and more Canadian Muslims begin to re-define their faith, many are choosing to stop shaking hands. They've concluded that being a believer means not picking and choosing which rules to follow.

But the problem is: How do you refuse to shake someone's hand without offending them? And what's more important, following your religion or not offending a stranger? Think about all the times you've had job interviews, met a new client, or were introduced to someone at a party. What would have happened if you didn't shake their hand? Disappointment? Confrontation? Rejection?

Or, as I've come to learn, would it have led to curiosity on the part of the person whose hand you've refused to shake? Would the person want to know more about your religion and ask why you wouldn't shake their hand? And might that, in turn, give you the chance to explain your religion to them, thereby strengthening your own belief? I can't think of a better introduction than that.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiites. He also happens to be democratic; a pluralist and moderate who belongs to the "quietist" school of thought, which says clerics should shun political life.
Our delegation consisted of handful of pilgrims, mostly women. As we sat in the small, undecorated room in his house used for meetings with visitors, I wondered how he would make his entrance. When he arrived, he made a point of greeting all the women one by one, and to my amazement, stuck out his hand for the women to shake. But before they could reach it, he would cover it with his abba -- a tattered, see-through cloak that was thinner than pantyhose.

One by one, he shook their hands through his abba. As I look back on the experience, I think he was making a deliberate point: It's okay to enjoy western ideals, just don't go too far. I think it was his way of bridging the gap between Islam and the West.

Muhammad Athar Lila lives in Toronto where he is a producer at iChannel.

© Copyright 2005 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.