Saturday, March 29, 2008

Muslim nations condemn Dutch Quran film

AMSTERDAM - MUSLIM nations condemned a film by a Dutch lawmaker that accuses the Koran of inciting violence, as Dutch Muslim leaders urged restraint.
Islam critic Geert Wilders launched his short video on the Internet on Thursday evening. Titled Fitna, an Arabic term sometimes translated as 'strife', it intersperses images of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and Islamist bombings with quotations from the Quran, Islam's holy book.
The film urges Muslims to tear out 'hate-filled' verses from the Quran and starts and ends with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb under his turban, accompanied by the sound of ticking.
The cartoon, first published in Danish newspapers, ignited violent protests around the world and a boycott of Danish products in 2006. Many Muslims regard any depiction of the Prophet as offensive.
'The film is solely intended to incite and provoke unrest and intolerance among people of different religious beliefs and to jeopardise world peace and stability,' the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said on Friday.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon condemned the film as 'offensively anti-Islamic' and said there was 'no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence'.
Iran called the film heinous, blasphemous and anti-Islamic, and Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation and a former Dutch colony, said it was an 'insult to Islam, hidden under the cover of freedom of expression'.
The Saudi Arabian embassy in The Hague said the film was provocative and full of errors and incorrect allegations that could lead to hate towards Muslims, news agency ANP reported.
Dutch Muslim leaders appealed for calm and called on Muslims worldwide not to target Dutch interests. The Netherlands is home to about 1 million Muslims out of a population of 16 million.
'Our call to Muslims abroad is follow our strategy and don't frustrate it with any violent incidents,' Mr Mohammed Rabbae, a Dutch Moroccan leader, told journalists in an Amsterdam mosque.
The Dutch Islamic Federation went to court on Friday to try to stop Mr Wilders from comparing Islam to fascism, saying he incited hatred of Muslims.
'Inflaming hatred'In a survey conducted on Friday, pollster Maurice de Hond found that only 12 per cent of those questioned thought the film represented Islam accurately, but 43 per cent agreed Islam was a serious threat to the Netherlands over the long term.
Mr Wilders has been under heavy guard because of Islamist death threats since the murder of director van Gogh. Support for his anti-immigration Freedom Party rose in anticipation of the film to about 10 per cent of the vote.
The Dutch government has distanced itself from Mr Wilders and tried to prevent the kind of backlash Denmark suffered over the Prophet cartoons.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he was 'proud' of how Dutch Muslim organisations responded to the film but that it was too early to draw conclusions on the international consequences: 'There are reasons for continued alertness.' Dutch exporters association Fenedex said it did not expect a negative impact on Dutch companies in Muslim countries.
There was a small protest by dozens of Islamists in Karachi on Friday, demanding that Pakistan sever diplomatic ties with Denmark and the Netherlands.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation has expressed concern the film could worsen security for foreign forces in Afghanistan, including 1,650 Dutch troops.
Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard objected to the use of his drawing of the Prophet Mohammad, saying it was shown out of context and that he had taken legal action to have it removed.
'I think it is a very primitive film with many generalisations of Muslims. My cartoon aims at terrorists who use interpretations of the Quran and Islam as their spiritual dynamite,' Mr Westergaard said. -- REUTERS

UN's Ban condemns Dutch film as anti-Islamic

(29 March 08)

UNITED NATIONS - UNITED Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon condemned as 'offensively anti-Islamic' a Dutch lawmaker's film that accuses the Quran of inciting violence.
Mr Ban acknowledged efforts by the government of the Netherlands to stop the broadcast of the film, which was launched by Islam critic Geert Wilders over the Internet, and appealed for calm to those 'understandably offended by it'.
'There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence,' Mr Ban said in a statement on Friday. 'The right of free expression is not at stake here.'
The short film, titled Fitna, an Arabic term sometimes translated as 'strife', intersperses images of the Sept 11 attacks on the United States and Islamist bombings with quotations from the Quran.
The film urges Muslims to tear out hate-filled' verses from the Quran and starts and finishes with a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb under his turban, accompanied by the sound of ticking.
Several Muslim countries, including Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia, have also condemned the film.

'Freedom must always be accompanied by social responsibility,' Ban said.
'We must also recognise that the real fault line is not between Muslim and Western societies, as some would have us believe, but between small minorities of extremists, on different sides, with a vested interest in stirring hostility and conflict,' Mr Ban said. -- REUTERS

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Prophet Muhammed: His Sunnah and Hadith

Nawaz A. Raheem
(Daily News)

Sunnah is a behaviourial concept - whether applied to mental or physical acts and denotes not merely a single act as such but in so far as this act is actually repeated or potentially repeatable. A Sunnah is not just a law of behaviour but a normative moral law: the element of moral “ought” is an insuperable part of the meaning of the concept Sunnah.

In its original sense, therefore, Sunnah indicates the doings and Hadith the sayings of the Holy Prophet. Hadith being the narration and record of the Sunnah but containing, in addition various prophetical and historical elements.

According to the view dominant among more recent western scholars, Sunnah denotes the actual practice which, through being long established over successive generations, gains the status of normativeness and become “Sunnah”.

This theory seems to make actual practice - over a period - not only temporarily but also logically prior to the element of normativeness and to make the latter rest on the former.

It is obvious that this view derives its plausibility from the fact that since “Sunnah” is a behaviourial concept, what is actually practised in a society over long period, is considered not only its actual practice but also its normative practice.

This is especially true of strongly cohesive societies like the tribal ones. But surely, these practices could not have been established in the first place unless ab initio they were considered normative.

Six books of collections of Hadith are generally recognized by Ahl - Sunnah. They are collections made by Muhamed ibn Ismail, commonly known as Bukhari (d.256 A.H) Muslim (D 261 A.H) Abu Dawood (d.275 A.H) Tirmidhi (d.279 A.H.) ibn Majah (d.283 A.H) and Nasai (d.303 A.H).
Sunnah and Hadith are the secondary source from which the teachings of Islam are drawn. The content of Prophetic Sunnah did not exist outside the Quranic pronouncement on legal or moral issues. Indeed, the Quran speaks, in more than one place of the “Sunnah” or God that it is unalterable in connection with the moral forces governing the rise and fall of the communities and nations (Holy Quran 33. V 62; 35. V 43).

Here it is only the ideality of the action pattern of one being. Viz God, that is involved. Now the same Quran speaks of the “exemplary” conduct of the Prophet (33.V21). When the word of God calls the prophet’s character “exemplary” and “great” is it difficult to believe that from the very inception the Muslims should not have accepted it as a concept?

There is a prevailing two - fold criticism by the Western scholars, firstly that Sunnah and Hadith are a collection of the behaviour patterns of the Arabs in general - stretching back even to pre - Islamic times. Secondly that a need for recording the doings (Sunnah) and sayings (Hadith) of Holy Prophet may have been felt only after his demise.

Among the modern Western scholars, Ignez Goldziher, the first great perceptive student of the evolution of the Muslim Tradition (although occasionally uncritical of his own assumptions) had maintained the immediately after the advent of the Prophet his practice and conduct had come to constitute the Sunnah for the young Muslim community and the identity of pre - Islamic Arab Sunnah had come to cease. After Goldziher, however, this picture imperceptibly changed.

The Dutch Scholar Snuck Hurgronje, held that Muslims themselves added to the Sunnah of the Prophet until almost all products of Muslim thought and practice, came to be justified as the Sunnah of the Prophet.

Certain other notable authorities like Professor H. Lammens and Dr. D.S. Margoliouth of Oxford came to regard the Sunnah as being entirely the work of the Arabs, both pre Islamic and post - islamic the continuity between the periods having been stressed.

The concept of the Sunnah of the Prophet was both explicitly and implicitly rejected. Joseph Schacht in his “Origins of Mohammedan Jurisprudence’ seeks to maintain that the concept “Sunnah of the Prophet” is a relatively late concept and that for the early generations of the Muslims Sunnah meant the practice of the Muslims themselves.

This development in Western Islamic studies is consequent upon the conceptual confusion with regard to Sunnah.

The reason why these scholars have rejected the concept of Prophetic Sunnah is that they have found that greater part of the content of the Sunnah was the result of the free thinking activity of the early legists of Islam who, by their personal Ijthihad (Judgement) had made a deduction from existing Sunna.

Further, especially in the second and in the third centuries, the whole content of the early Sunnah comes to be verbally attributed to the Prophet himself under the ageis of the concept of the “Sunnah of the Prophet”.

The above assumptions are essentially correct about the development of Sunnah as such and not about the concept of the “Sunnah of the Prophet”.

The Sunnah of the Prophet was a valid and operative concept from the very beginning of Islam and remained so throughout. Indeed, during the life - time of the Prophet, it was perfectly natural for the Muslims to talk about what the Prophet did or said, especially in a public capacity.
The Arabs, who memorised and handed down poetry of their poets, sayings of their soothsayers and statements of their judges and tribal leaders, cannot be expected to fail to notice and narrate the deeds and sayings of one whom they acknowledge as the Prophet of God. Rejection of this natural phenomenon is tantamount to a grave irrationality, a sin against history.

The Sunnah of the Prophet was much too important to be either ignored or neglected. This fact juts out like a restive rock in the religious history of Islam, any religious or historical attempt to deny it is a ridiculous frivolity: the Sunnah of the community is based upon, and has its source only in the Sunnah of the Prophet.

In his book Kitab Al-Kharaj, Abu Yusuf relates that the second Caliph, Umar once wrote that he appointed people in several places to “teach people the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet” (p.8 line 32). It is understood that the Quran was taught as the nucleus of the new Teaching.

But the Quran is obviously not intelligible purely by itself strictly situational as its revelations are. It would be utterly irrational to suppose that the Quran was taught without involving in fact the activity of the Prophet as the central background activity which included policy, commands, decisions etc.

Nothing can give coherence to the Quranic teaching except the actual life of the Prophet and the milieu in which he moved.

It would be a great childishness of twenty-first century to suppose that the people immediately around the Prophet distinguished so radically between the Quran and its exemplification in the Prophet that they retained one and ignored the other.

Totally unacceptable is the view of modern Western Islamic Studies which, gained no doubt from the later Muslim theological discussions themselves, makes the Prophet almost like a playing-record in relation to Divine Revelation.

Quite a different picture emerges from the Quran itself which assigns a unique status to the Holy Prophet when it charges with a ‘heavy responsibility’ (73, V5) and whom it in invariably represents as being excessively conscious of this responsibility (18. V6; 20 V1).

As for the criticism levelled by the Western scholars regarding the need to record Holy Prophet’s Sunnah and Hadith, any diligent student of the Holy Quran will realise that the Holy Book deals generally with the broad principles of religion and in only very rare cases goes into details.
Holy Prophet himself supplied the details, showing in his practices how an injunction may be carried out giving an explanation in words.

For example Zakath (alms) and Prayers are the two important institutions in Islam; yet when they were revealed, no details were supplied.

It was the Holy Prophet who gave details of the service of Zakth while on the moral side, his was the pattern which every Muslim was required to follow (33:v 21). Therefore anyone who embraced Islam stood in need of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah.

During his lifetime itself the transmission of the sayings and practices of the Prophet became necessary. In the early days of Madina, to a deputation who waited upon him, the Prophet concluded his admonitions to them with the words, “Remember this and report it to those whom you have left behind” (Mus: 1:1-i).

In another case too there are similar instruction “Go back to your people and teach them these things” (Bu. 3.25). It is related that when ‘Muadh Ibn Jabal, on being appointed Governor of Yeman by the Holy Prophet, was asked how he would judge cases, his reply was “by the Book of Allah”. Asked what he would do if he did not find a direction in the Holy Book, he replied “by the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah” (Abu D. 23:11).

The Sunnah was therefore recognised as affording guidance in all religious matters during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet.

Abu Huraira tells us that when one of the Ansars (helpers) complained to the Prophet of his inability to remember what he heard from him, the Prophet’s reply was that he should seek the help of his right hand (this refers to the use of pen) (Tirm 39:12). These reports show that while generally the sayings of the Prophet are committed to memory, it was also reduced to writing when there was a need for it.

The popular idea in the West that the need for Sunnah was felt and force of law was given to Hadith after the death of the Holy Prophet is rendered groundless by the facts we have noted above.

European criticism of Sunnah and Hadith has often mixed up with reports met with in the biographies of the Holy Prophet, while all Muslim scholars have recognised that biographies never made an effort to sift truth from error.

The same is true of the early commentaries on the Quran. Speaking of the commentators who confounded Hedith with Jewish and Christian stories, Ibn Khaldun observes “Their books and their reports contain what is bad and what is good and what may be accepted and what should be rejected. Commentaries on the Holy Quran were filled with those stories of theirs” (muqadama: 1, p 481, chap. Ulum Al Quran).

However, one anxiety will trouble many conscientious students of Islam. It is that if it is found impossible to locate and define the historically and specifically Prophetic content of the Sunnah, then the connection between the Prophet and the community would become elusive and the concept “Prophetic Sunnah” would be irrevocably liquidated. But this worry is not real. To begin with, there are number of things which are undeniable historical contents of the Prophetic Sunnah. Prayer, zakat, fasting, pilgrimage etc. with their detailed manner of application, are so prophetic that only an intellectually dishonest person would deny this.

Muhammad is Allah’s Last Messenger, not the ‘founder’ of Islam

21 March 2008

THE Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) name has yet again been in the media as of late due to the republication of the offense Danish cartoon caricatures that continue to be used to taunt Muslims and tarnish the good name of the final messenger (pbuh).

As I watched the recent protests unfold on live television from Muslims around the world in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other nations, I became increasingly irritated with the broadcaster’s commentary. She kept referring to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the ‘founder’ of Islam. And even her interviewees responded in a similar fashion by also referring to him as the ‘founder’ of Islam.

To imply that Muhammad (pbuh) founded Islam or created it is a gross and reprehensible lie that quite often is used by the enemies of Islam to water-down the impact that Muhammad’s (pbuh) prophethood had on the entire world. This world has never seen a greater man, prophet, father, statesman, politician, orator, warrior, commander, friend, teacher or confidant than Muhammad (pbuh).

The simple fact remains that centuries after Muhammad’s (pbuh) death, Islam runs strong with people converting every single day because the message of Allah in the Holy Quran rings true and is enticing to the seekers of all that is good in this world. The founder of Islam is actually Allah Almighty. Allah chose Muhammad (pbuh) to be the final Prophet sent to this world to give both a warning and glad tidings.

Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran:
“Allah knows best with whom to place His Message.” (6:124)
Anyone who reads a biography of Muhammad’s (pbuh) life can see that his prophethood was crystal clear from the time when he was in his mother’s womb until he received his mission at the age of 40.

Muhammad’s (pbuh) mother Amina became a widow before he was even born as her husband died in a trade caravan. Even before his birth, Amina noted that her belly often emitted a light and she knew that her baby would somehow be special. Muhammad’s (pbuh) mother would die when he was six-years old and he would be sent to live with his grandfather until he died and then his uncle Abu Talib. The only thing Muhammad (pbuh) knew was loss as he was made an orphan thrice before he even reached puberty. The signs of Muhammad’s (pbuh) prophethood were always there. Once on a journey with his uncle to a monastery, a Christian monk witnessed a strange event. As Muhammad (pbuh) walked the sun never touched him. He was walking under a shade of which there was no viable source and the monk likened the shape of the shade to the wings of an angel. On the same trip, the monk noticed a mark centered perfectly between Muhammad’s (pbuh) shoulder blades and he told Abu Talib that past prophet’s had the same mark.
To know Muhammad (pbuh) was to love him. He was honest, kind and trustworthy. His profession was as a Shepard tending to his uncle’s flock however Muhammad (pbuh) had a knack as a merchant. He began doing trade work for a wealthy widow named Khadijah. She was so pleased with his success that she asked for his hand in marriage even though she was much older than Muhammad (pbuh), about 15 years. Muhammad (pbuh) was 25 years old and accepted her proposal. He could have most assuredly kicked his feet up and lived off of his wife’s wealth. But that was not his nature. Muhammad (pbuh) often spent days on end in a cave called Hira pondering upon this world and the creation of it. Muhammad (pbuh) did not believe the idols that his clansman worshipped had any power but he knew there was a creator somewhere. Then one night Allah sent the angel Jibreel to tell Muhammad (pbuh) that he was the final messenger (pbuh). Muhammad (pbuh) was so scared at seeing the vision of the angel and feeling his iron-tight embrace as he commanded this:
“READ! In the name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists), has created man from a clot of congealed blood. READ! And your Lord is the most Generous…” (96:1-3)

But soon after the fear subsided, Muhammad (pbuh) stood tall and began delivering Allah’s message to any heart that would openly hear it. Overnight, Muhammad (pbuh) went from a man that was living in the lap of luxury to someone who was abused, beaten, spat upon, ridiculed, humiliated and scorned. Even in death, Muhammad (pbuh) still suffers.

Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran: “And when they see you (O Muhammad), they treat you only in mockery (saying) ‘Is this the one whom Allah has sent as a Messenger?’ ” (25:41)
Countless plots to assassinate Muhammad (pbuh) were undertaken and anyone who followed his mission were either tortured or killed.

But through it all, Muhammad (pbuh) remained steady in delivering the word of Allah to the people and he had Allah with him all along the way. The message of Allah in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of Muhammad (pbuh) cannot be distorted or thwarted in anyway no matter how many cartoons are drawn or lies against Muhammad (pbuh) concocted.

However, the message will continue to grow and attract the intelligence of people who seek the truth with their eyes wide open instead of a mouth open so wide that it swallows whatever is ‘sold’ on TV.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Why Shariah?

by Noah Feldman
(Al Arabiyya)

Last month, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, gave a nuanced, scholarly lecture in London about whether the British legal system should allow non-Christian courts to decide certain matters of family law. Britain has no constitutional separation of church and state. The archbishop noted that “the law of the Church of England is the law of the land” there; indeed, ecclesiastical courts that once handled marriage and divorce are still integrated into the British legal system, deciding matters of church property and doctrine. His tentative suggestion was that, subject to the agreement of all parties and the strict requirement of protecting equal rights for women, it might be a good idea to consider allowing Islamic and Orthodox Jewish courts to handle marriage and divorce.Then all hell broke loose. From politicians across the spectrum to senior church figures and the ubiquitous British tabloids came calls for the leader of the world’s second largest Christian denomination to issue a retraction or even resign. Williams has spent the last couple of years trying to hold together the global Anglican Communion in the face of continuing controversies about ordaining gay priests and recognizing same-sex marriages. Yet little in that contentious battle subjected him to the kind of outcry that his reference to religious courts unleashed. Needless to say, the outrage was not occasioned by Williams’s mention of Orthodox Jewish law. For the purposes of public discussion, it was the word “Shariah” that was radioactive.

In some sense, the outrage about according a degree of official status to Shariah in a Western country should come as no surprise. No legal system has ever had worse press. To many, the word “Shariah” conjures horrors of hands cut off, adulterers stoned and women oppressed. By contrast, who today remembers that the much-loved English common law called for execution as punishment for hundreds of crimes, including theft of any object worth five shillings or more? How many know that until the 18th century, the laws of most European countries authorized torture as an official component of the criminal-justice system? As for sexism, the common law long denied married women any property rights or indeed legal personality apart from their husbands. When the British applied their law to Muslims in place of Shariah, as they did in some colonies, the result was to strip married women of the property that Islamic law had always granted them — hardly progress toward equality of the sexes.In fact, for most of its history, Islamic law offered the most liberal and humane legal principles available anywhere in the world. Today, when we invoke the harsh punishments prescribed by Shariah for a handful of offenses, we rarely acknowledge the high standards of proof necessary for their implementation. Before an adultery conviction can typically be obtained, for example, the accused must confess four times or four adult male witnesses of good character must testify that they directly observed the sex act. The extremes of our own legal system — like life sentences for relatively minor drug crimes, in some cases — are routinely ignored. We neglect to mention the recent vintage of our tentative improvements in family law. It sometimes seems as if we need Shariah as Westerners have long needed Islam: as a canvas on which to project our ideas of the horrible, and as a foil to make us look good.In the Muslim world, on the other hand, the reputation of Shariah has undergone an extraordinary revival in recent years. A century ago, forward-looking Muslims thought of Shariah as outdated, in need of reform or maybe abandonment. Today, 66 percent of Egyptians, 60 percent of Pakistanis and 54 percent of Jordanians say that Shariah should be the only source of legislation in their countries. Islamist political parties, like those associated with the transnational Muslim Brotherhood, make the adoption of Shariah the most prominent plank in their political platforms. And the message resonates. Wherever Islamists have been allowed to run for office in Arabic-speaking countries, they have tended to win almost as many seats as the governments have let them contest. The Islamist movement in its various incarnations — from moderate to radical — is easily the fastest growing and most vital in the Muslim world; the return to Shariah is its calling card.How is it that what so many Westerners see as the most unappealing and premodern aspect of Islam is, to many Muslims, the vibrant, attractive core of a global movement of Islamic revival? The explanation surely must go beyond the oversimplified assumption that Muslims want to use Shariah to reverse feminism and control women — especially since large numbers of women support the Islamists in general and the ideal of Shariah in particular.

Is Shariah the Rule of Law?

One reason for the divergence between Western and Muslim views of Shariah is that we are not all using the word to mean the same thing. Although it is commonplace to use the word “Shariah” and the phrase “Islamic law” interchangeably, this prosaic English translation does not capture the full set of associations that the term “Shariah” conjures for the believer. Shariah, properly understood, is not just a set of legal rules. To believing Muslims, it is something deeper and higher, infused with moral and metaphysical purpose. At its core, Shariah represents the idea that all human beings — and all human governments — are subject to justice under the law.In fact, “Shariah” is not the word traditionally used in Arabic to refer to the processes of Islamic legal reasoning or the rulings produced through it: that word is fiqh, meaning something like Islamic jurisprudence. The word “Shariah” connotes a connection to the divine, a set of unchanging beliefs and principles that order life in accordance with God’s will. Westerners typically imagine that Shariah advocates simply want to use the Koran as their legal code. But the reality is much more complicated. Islamist politicians tend to be very vague about exactly what it would mean for Shariah to be the source for the law of the land — and with good reason, because just adopting such a principle would not determine how the legal system would actually operate.Shariah is best understood as a kind of higher law, albeit one that includes some specific, worldly commands. All Muslims would agree, for example, that it prohibits lending money at interest — though not investments in which risks and returns are shared; and the ban on Muslims drinking alcohol is an example of an unequivocal ritual prohibition, even for liberal interpreters of the faith. Some rules associated with Shariah are undoubtedly old-fashioned and harsh. Men and women are treated unequally, for example, by making it hard for women to initiate divorce without forfeiting alimony. The prohibition on sodomy, though historically often unenforced, makes recognition of same-sex relationships difficult to contemplate. But Shariah also prohibits bribery or special favors in court. It demands equal treatment for rich and poor. It condemns the vigilante-style honor killings that still occur in some Middle Eastern countries. And it protects everyone’s property — including women’s — from being taken from them. Unlike in Iran, where wearing a head scarf is legally mandated and enforced by special religious police, the Islamist view in most other Muslim countries is that the head scarf is one way of implementing the religious duty to dress modestly — a desirable social norm, not an enforceable legal rule. And mandating capital punishment for apostasy is not on the agenda of most elected Islamists. For many Muslims today, living in corrupt autocracies, the call for Shariah is not a call for sexism, obscurantism or savage punishment but for an Islamic version of what the West considers its most prized principle of political justice: the rule of law.

The Sway of the Scholars

To understand Shariah’s deep appeal, we need to ask a crucial question that is rarely addressed in the West: What, in fact, is the system of Islamic law? In his lifetime, the Prophet Muhammad was both the religious and the political leader of the community of Muslim believers. His revelation, the Koran, contained some laws, pertaining especially to ritual matters and inheritance; but it was not primarily a legal book and did not include a lengthy legal code of the kind that can be found in parts of the Hebrew Bible. When the first generation of believers needed guidance on a subject that was not addressed by revelation, they went directly to Muhammad. He either answered of his own accord or, if he was unsure, awaited divine guidance in the form of a new revelation.With the death of Muhammad, divine revelation to the Muslim community stopped. The role of the political-religious leader passed to a series of caliphs (Arabic for “substitute”) who stood in the prophet’s stead. That left the caliph in a tricky position when it came to resolving difficult legal matters. The caliph possessed Muhammad’s authority but not his access to revelation. It also left the community in something of a bind. If the Koran did not speak clearly to a particular question, how was the law to be determined?The answer that developed over the first couple of centuries of Islam was that the Koran could be supplemented by reference to the prophet’s life — his sunna, his path. (The word “sunna” is the source of the designation Sunni — one who follows the prophet’s path.) His actions and words were captured in an oral tradition, beginning presumably with a person who witnessed the action or statement firsthand. Accurate reports had to be distinguished from false ones. But of course even a trustworthy report on a particular situation could not directly resolve most new legal problems that arose later. To address such problems, it was necessary to reason by analogy from one situation to another. There was also the possibility that a communal consensus existed on what to do under particular circumstances, and that, too, was thought to have substantial weight.This fourfold combination — the Koran, the path of the prophet as captured in the collections of reports, analogical reasoning and consensus — amounted to a basis for a legal system. But who would be able to say how these four factors fit together? Indeed, who had the authority to say that these factors and not others formed the sources of the law? The first four caliphs, who knew the prophet personally, might have been able to make this claim for themselves. But after them, the caliphs were faced with a growing group of specialists who asserted that they, collectively, could ascertain the law from the available sources. This self-appointed group came to be known as the scholars — and over the course of a few generations, they got the caliphs to acknowledge them as the guardians of the law. By interpreting a law that originated with God, they gained control over the legal system as it actually existed. That made them, and not the caliphs, into “the heirs of the prophets.”Among the Sunnis, this model took effect very early and persisted until modern times. For the Shiites, who believe that the succession of power followed the prophet’s lineage, the prophet had several successors who claimed extraordinary divine authority. Once they were gone, however, the Shiite scholars came to occupy a role not unlike that of their Sunni counterparts.Under the constitutional theory that the scholars developed to explain the division of labor in the Islamic state, the caliph had paramount responsibility to fulfill the divine injunction to “command the right and prohibit the wrong.” But this was not a task he could accomplish on his own. It required him to delegate responsibility to scholarly judges, who would apply God’s law as they interpreted it. The caliph could promote or fire them as he wished, but he could not dictate legal results: judicial authority came from the caliph, but the law came from the scholars. The caliphs — and eventually the sultans who came to rule once the caliphate lost most of its worldly influence — still had plenty of power. They handled foreign affairs more or less at their discretion. And they could also issue what were effectively administrative regulations — provided these regulations did not contradict what the scholars said Shariah required. The regulations addressed areas where Shariah was silent. They also enabled the state to regulate social conduct without having to put every case before the courts, where convictions would often be impossible to obtain because of the strict standards of proof required for punishment. As a result of these regulations, many legal matters (perhaps most) fell outside the rules given specifically by Shariah. The upshot is that the system of Islamic law as it came to exist allowed a great deal of leeway. That is why today’s advocates of Shariah as the source of law are not actually recommending the adoption of a comprehensive legal code derived from or dictated by Shariah — because nothing so comprehensive has ever existed in Islamic history. To the Islamist politicians who advocate it or for the public that supports it, Shariah generally means something else. It means establishing a legal system in which God’s law sets the ground rules, authorizing and validating everyday laws passed by an elected legislature. In other words, for them, Shariah is expected to function as something like a modern constitution.

The Rights of Humans and the Rights of God

So in contemporary Islamic politics, the call for Shariah does not only or primarily mean mandating the veiling of women or the use of corporal punishment — it has an essential constitutional dimension as well. But what is the particular appeal of placing Shariah above ordinary law?The answer lies in a little-remarked feature of traditional Islamic government: that a state under Shariah was, for more than a thousand years, subject to a version of the rule of law. And as a rule-of-law government, the traditional Islamic state had an advantage that has been lost in the dictatorships and autocratic monarchies that have governed so much of the Muslim world for the last century. Islamic government was legitimate, in the dual sense that it generally respected the individual legal rights of its subjects and was seen by them as doing so. These individual legal rights, known as “the rights of humans” (in contrast to “the rights of God” to such things as ritual obedience), included basic entitlements to life, property and legal process — the protections from arbitrary government oppression sought by people all over the world for centuries.Of course, merely declaring the ruler subject to the law was not enough on its own; the ruler actually had to follow the law. For that, he needed incentives. And as it happened, the system of government gave him a big one, in the form of a balance of power with the scholars. The ruler might be able to use pressure once in a while to get the results he wanted in particular cases. But because the scholars were in charge of the law, and he was not, the ruler could pervert the course of justice only at the high cost of being seen to violate God’s law — thereby undermining the very basis of his rule.In practice, the scholars’ leverage to demand respect for the law came from the fact that the caliphate was not hereditary as of right. That afforded the scholars major influence at the transitional moments when a caliph was being chosen or challenged. On taking office, a new ruler — even one designated by his dead predecessor — had to fend off competing claimants. The first thing he would need was affirmation of the legitimacy of his assumption of power. The scholars were prepared to offer just that, in exchange for the ruler’s promise to follow the law.Once in office, rulers faced the inevitable threat of invasion or a palace coup. The caliph would need the scholars to declare a religious obligation to protect the state in a defensive jihad. Having the scholars on his side in times of crisis was a tremendous asset for the ruler who could be said to follow the law. Even if the ruler was not law-abiding, the scholars still did not spontaneously declare a sitting caliph disqualified. This would have been foolish, especially in view of the fact that the scholars had no armies at their disposal and the sitting caliph did. But their silence could easily be interpreted as an invitation for a challenger to step forward and be validated.The scholars’ insistence that the ruler obey Shariah was motivated largely by their belief that it was God’s will. But it was God’s will as they interpreted it. As a confident, self-defined elite that controlled and administered the law according to well-settled rules, the scholars were agents of stability and predictability — crucial in societies where the transition from one ruler to the next could be disorderly and even violent. And by controlling the law, the scholars could limit the ability of the executive to expropriate the property of private citizens. This, in turn, induced the executive to rely on lawful taxation to raise revenues, which itself forced the rulers to be responsive to their subjects’ concerns. The scholars and their law were thus absolutely essential to the tremendous success that Islamic society enjoyed from its inception into the 19th century. Without Shariah, there would have been no Haroun al-Rashid in Baghdad, no golden age of Muslim Spain, no reign of Suleiman the Magnificent in Istanbul.For generations, Western students of the traditional Islamic constitution have assumed that the scholars could offer no meaningful check on the ruler. As one historian has recently put it, although Shariah functioned as a constitution, “the constitution was not enforceable,” because neither scholars nor subjects could “compel their ruler to observe the law in the exercise of government.” But almost no constitution anywhere in the world enables judges or nongovernmental actors to “compel” the obedience of an executive who controls the means of force. The Supreme Court of the United States has no army behind it. Institutions that lack the power of the sword must use more subtle means to constrain executives. Like the American constitutional balance of powers, the traditional Islamic balance was maintained by words and ideas, and not just by forcible compulsion.So today’s Muslims are not being completely fanciful when they act and speak as though Shariah can structure a constitutional state subject to the rule of law. One big reason that Islamist political parties do so well running on a Shariah platform is that their constituents recognize that Shariah once augured a balanced state in which legal rights were respected.

From Shariah to Despotism

But if Shariah is popular among many Muslims in large part because of its historical association with the rule of law, can it actually do the same work today? Here there is reason for caution and skepticism. The problem is that the traditional Islamic constitution rested on a balance of powers between a ruler subject to law and a class of scholars who interpreted and administered that law. The governments of most contemporary majority-Muslim states, however, have lost these features. Rulers govern as if they were above the law, not subject to it, and the scholars who once wielded so much influence are much reduced in status. If they have judicial posts at all, it is usually as judges in the family-law courts.In only two important instances do scholars today exercise real power, and in both cases we can see a deviation from their traditional role. The first is Iran, where Ayatollah Khomeini, himself a distinguished scholar, assumed executive power and became supreme leader after the 1979 revolution. The result of this configuration, unique in the history of the Islamic world, is that the scholarly ruler had no counterbalance and so became as unjust as any secular ruler with no check on his authority. The other is Saudi Arabia, where the scholars retain a certain degree of power. The unfortunate outcome is that they can slow any government initiative for reform, however minor, but cannot do much to keep the government responsive to its citizens. The oil-rich state does not need to obtain tax revenues from its citizens to operate — and thus has little reason to keep their interests in mind.How the scholars lost their exalted status as keepers of the law is a complex story, but it can be summed up in the adage that partial reforms are sometimes worse than none at all. In the early 19th century, the Ottoman empire responded to military setbacks with an internal reform movement. The most important reform was the attempt to codify Shariah. This Westernizing process, foreign to the Islamic legal tradition, sought to transform Shariah from a body of doctrines and principles to be discovered by the human efforts of the scholars into a set of rules that could be looked up in a book.Once the law existed in codified form, however, the law itself was able to replace the scholars as the source of authority. Codification took from the scholars their all-important claim to have the final say over the content of the law and transferred that power to the state. To placate the scholars, the government kept the Shariah courts running but restricted them to handling family-law matters. This strategy paralleled the British colonial approach of allowing religious courts to handle matters of personal status. Today, in countries as far apart as Kenya and Pakistan, Shariah courts still administer family law — a small subset of their original historical jurisdiction.Codification signaled the death knell for the scholarly class, but it did not destroy the balance of powers on its own. Promulgated in 1876, the Ottoman constitution created a legislature composed of two lawmaking bodies — one elected, one appointed by the sultan. This amounted to the first democratic institution in the Muslim world; had it established itself, it might have popularized the notion that the people represent the ultimate source of legal authority. Then the legislature could have replaced the scholars as the institutional balance to the executive.But that was not to be. Less than a year after the legislature first met, Sultan Abdulhamid II suspended its operation — and for good measure, he suspended the constitution the following year. Yet the sultan did not restore the scholars to the position they once occupied. With the scholars out of the way and no legislature to replace them, the sultan found himself in the position of near-absolute ruler. This arrangement set the pattern for government in the Muslim world after the Ottoman empire fell. Law became a tool of the ruler, not an authority over him. What followed, perhaps unsurprisingly, was dictatorship and other forms of executive dominance — the state of affairs confronted by the Islamists who seek to restore Shariah.

A Democratic Shariah?

The Islamists today, partly out of realism, partly because they are rarely scholars themselves, seem to have little interest in restoring the scholars to their old role as the constitutional balance to the executive. The Islamist movement, like other modern ideologies, seeks to capture the existing state and then transform society through the tools of modern government. Its vision for bringing Shariah to bear therefore incorporates two common features of modern government: the legislature and the constitution.The mainstream Sunni Islamist position, found, for example, in the electoral platforms of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Justice and Development Party in Morocco, is that an elected legislature should draft and pass laws that are consistent with the spirit of Islamic law. On questions where Islamic law does not provide clear direction, the democratically chosen legislature is supposed to use its discretion to adopt laws infused by Islamic values.The result is a profound change in the theoretical structure underlying Islamic law: Shariah is democratized in that its care is given to a popularly elected legislature. In Iraq, for example, where the constitution declares Shariah to be “the source of law,” it is in principle up to the National Assembly to pass laws that reflect its spirit.In case the assembly gets it wrong, however, the Islamists often recommend the judicial review of legislative actions to guarantee that they do not violate Islamic law or values. What is sometimes called a “repugnancy clause,” mandating that a judicial body overturn laws repugnant to Islam, has made its way into several recent constitutions that seek to reconcile Islam and democracy. It may be found, for example, in the Afghan Constitution of 2004 and the Iraqi Constitution of 2005. (I had a small role advising the Iraqi drafters.) Islamic judicial review transforms the highest judicial body of the state into a guarantor of conformity with Islamic law. The high court can then use this power to push for a conservative vision of Islamic law, as in Afghanistan, or for a more moderate version, as in Pakistan.Islamic judicial review puts the court in a position resembling the one that scholars once occupied. Like the scholars, the judges of the reviewing court present their actions as interpretations of Islamic law. But of course the judges engaged in Islamic judicial review are not the scholars but ordinary judges (as in Iraq) or a mix of judges and scholars (as in Afghanistan). In contrast to the traditional arrangement, the judges’ authority comes not from Shariah itself but from a written constitution that gives them the power of judicial review.The modern incarnation of Shariah is nostalgic in its invocation of the rule of law but forward-looking in how it seeks to bring this result about. What the Islamists generally do not acknowledge, though, is that such institutions on their own cannot deliver the rule of law. The executive authority also has to develop a commitment to obeying legal and constitutional judgments. That will take real-world incentives, not just a warm feeling for the values associated with Shariah.How that happens — how an executive administration accustomed to overweening power can be given incentives to subordinate itself to the rule of law — is one of the great mysteries of constitutional development worldwide. Total revolution has an extremely bad track record in recent decades, at least in majority-Muslim states. The revolution that replaced the shah in Iran created an oppressively top-heavy constitutional structure. And the equally revolutionary dreams some entertained for Iraq — dreams of a liberal secular state or of a functioning Islamic democracy — still seem far from fruition.Gradual change therefore increasingly looks like the best of some bad options. And most of today’s political Islamists — the ones running for office in Morocco or Jordan or Egypt and even Iraq — are gradualists. They wish to adapt existing political institutions by infusing them with Islamic values and some modicum of Islamic law. Of course, such parties are also generally hostile to the United States, at least where we have worked against their interests. (Iraq is an obvious exception — many Shiite Islamists there are our close allies.) But this is a separate question from whether they can become a force for promoting the rule of law. It is possible to imagine the electoral success of Islamist parties putting pressure on executives to satisfy the demand for law-based government embodied in Koranic law. This might bring about a transformation of the judiciary, in which judges would come to think of themselves as agents of the law rather than as agents of the state.Something of the sort may slowly be happening in Turkey. The Islamists there are much more liberal than anywhere else in the Muslim world; they do not even advocate the adoption of Shariah (a position that would get their government closed down by the staunchly secular military). Yet their central focus is the rule of law and the expansion of basic rights against the Turkish tradition of state-centered secularism. The courts are under increasing pressure to go along with that vision.Can Shariah provide the necessary resources for such a rethinking of the judicial role? In its essence, Shariah aspires to be a law that applies equally to every human, great or small, ruler or ruled. No one is above it, and everyone at all times is bound by it. But the history of Shariah also shows that the ideals of the rule of law cannot be implemented in a vacuum. For that, a state needs actually effective institutions, which must be reinforced by regular practice and by the recognition of actors within the system that they have more to gain by remaining faithful to its dictates than by deviating from them.The odds of success in the endeavor to deliver the rule of law are never high. Nothing is harder than creating new institutions with the capacity to balance executive dominance — except perhaps avoiding the temptation to overreach once in power. In Iran, the Islamists have discredited their faith among many ordinary people, and a similar process may be under way in Iraq. Still, with all its risks and dangers, the Islamists’ aspiration to renew old ideas of the rule of law while coming to terms with contemporary circumstances is bold and noble — and may represent a path to just and legitimate government in much of the Muslim world.

* Noah Feldman, a contributing writer for the magazine, is a law professor at Harvard University and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This essay is adapted from his book “The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State,” which will be published later this month.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

UAE warns Denmark on cartoon

,ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates yesterday warned Denmark that the republication of a controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers could undermine ties between the two states. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohamed Gargash summoned Denmark’s ambassador, Hans Klingenbeg, and handed him a letter of protest over the cartoon, the official Wam news agency said. “The Emirates... condemns the unwise attitude of the Danish government which failed to stop the reprinting of caricatures slanderous for Islam and Prophet Muhammad,” said Gargash after meeting the non-resident ambassador. “The Danish government could do a lot to put an end to attacks on Islam,” Gargash said, according to Wam, adding that the re-printing of the cartoon could have “negative consequences for bilateral relations.” Gargash insisted that the UAE “rejects any attack against our Islamic heritage. It is also opposed to freedom of opinion serving as a cover to the slandering of our religion and our prophet.” Protests have raged in a number of Muslim countries since 17 Danish dailies on February 13 reprinted a drawing featuring the Prophet Muhammad. The newspapers decided to republish the caricature, originally printed in 2005, a day after police in Denmark foiled a plot to murder the cartoonist.Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has defended the newspapers which reprinted the cartoon, while insisting their aim was not to offend Muslims. “It’s important to explain that the media did not publish these drawings to hurt people’s religious feelings, but because in a democratic regime with a free press, it’s normal to be able to illustrate your story,” Rasmussen said. Several supermarkets in Muslim including the UAE and neighbouring Oman have stopped selling Danish products in protest at the cartoon publication. —AFP

Celebrating the Prophet

Senior Fellow / Director, Centre for Science and Technology, Ikim

Prophet Muhammad’s birthday (Mawlid), on the 12th day of the third month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar (Rabi ul Awwal), is celebrated

THERE is no doubt that the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be blessings and peace, is so dear to Muslims, dearer even than their own selves.

To many who may be deemed to have attained a higher selfhood, he is in fact their identity.

They always hold him in veneration, expressing joy for his presence, not only “once in history” but also “always in their conscious life.”

The unrivalled position he holds in the minds, hearts and lives of Muslims is demonstrated, for instance, in the established tradition among Muslims worldwide to commemorate his birthday (Mawlid), every 12th day of the third month in the Islamic Lunar Calendar (Rabi ul Awwal). This year, it coincides with the 20th day in March.

To the Muslims in Malaysia, it is customary to celebrate such a momentous occasion for a whole month.

The commemoration basically involves gathering people together; reciting parts of the Quran; invoking blessings on him, his family and his companions; delivering speeches about him from various angles and in different modes – such as narrating stories about the Prophet’s birth and signs that accompanied it, reciting poetry praising the Prophet, or on piety, which moves hearts and drives them to do good and work for the Hereafter; giving charity; and serving food and drink.

To the Muslims, the Prophet’s appearance in space and time is Mercy made manifest.

And, to them also, he is the human personification of Truth and Justice – the actual “Straight Path” to be trodden by anyone serious about attaining salvation.

Muhammad Ali al-Tahanawi (d. 1158H) in his well-known and voluminous dictionary of technical terms, the Kashshaf Istilahat al-Funun, conveys it as follows:

“Literally, justice (al-adalah) means being upright or straight (istiqamah). According to the experts in Islamic Law (ahl al-shar), it is the station of restraining oneself from religious prohibitions and is itself of different degrees. The highest station is to remain firm as one is commanded, which is found only in the very person of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him.”

It is the understanding of Muslims also that there is always a strict correspondence between one’s deeds in this world and its resulting reward or punishment on the Day of Reckoning.

As such, Muslim scholars have emphasised with persistence, that one’s ultimate salvation, which refers not to this temporal world but instead to the Hereafter, depends to a great extent on one’s sincere strive to be just, on one’s always following the middle course between extremes of deficiency and excess, on one’s neither transgressing nor falling short of the limit of truth, on one’s remaining firm on the Straight Path.

Indeed, one’s success or failure to cross the very fine eschatological Path (al-sirat), stretched over Hell, is determined by just how one has been – by how resolute and unwavering one has been on the Straight Path in this world, namely, the religion of Islam as exemplified by the Prophet.

Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazzali, the great scholar of Islam of the 6th century of the Hijrah, highlighted the following in his work, Mizan al-Amal.

“Whoever remains right upon the Prophetic Path in this world,” he explains, “will really stand erect on the Path in the Hereafter, for a man dies in the state in which he lived and he will be assembled later on in the manner in which he died.”

In short, to actualise Justice in its totality boils down to one’s returning to the True Religion (din al-haqq), the one verified to be the Straight Path (al-sirat al-mustaqim) as exemplified in the very person of the Perfect Man (al-insan al-kamil), the Last Prophet, Muhammad, may God shower blessings and peace upon him.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What is Islamophobia?

Source: Council on American-Islamic Relations


Islamophobia refers to unfounded fear of and hostility towards Islam. Such fear and hostility leads to discriminations against Muslims, exclusion of Muslims from mainstream political or social process, stereotyping, the presumption of guilt by association, and finally hate crimes. In twenty-first century America, all of these evils are present and in some quarters tolerated. While America has made major progress in racial harmony, there is still a long road ahead of us to reach our destination when all people are judged on the content of their character and neither on the color of their skin or their faith.Islamophobia as a term and as a phenomena gained currency in part due to the popular thesis developed by Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington that argued about an impending clash of civilization between Islam and the West. When 9-11 happened, the people already predisposed to viewing Islam with suspicion jumped on this bandwagon and through a multitude of primarily right wing outlets have been successful in creating a climate of extreme prejudice, suspicion and fear against Muslims. This sentiment has also been aided by many pro-Israeli commentators such as Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, Judith Miller, and Bernard Lewis among many others.Islamophobia has resulted in the general and unquestioned acceptance of the following:Islam is monolithic and cannot adapt to new realities.Islam does not share common values with other major faiths.Islam as a religion is inferior to the West. It is archaic, barbaric and irrational.Islam is a religion of violence and supports terrorism.Islam is a violent political ideology.
[i]As such any criticism by Muslims of American policy towards the Muslim world is dismissed as being “reactionary,” “anti-Semitic” and “irrational.” Mainstream American Muslim organizations are viewed with suspicion and a variety of excuses are put forward for not engaging the American Muslim community.Such biased attitudes are present despite the fact that Muslim contributions played a significant part in developing a civilization in Europe and history books record the first Muslim arrival in America in 1312 when Mansa Abu Bakr traveled from Mali to South America. Of the estimated 10 million African slaves that came to America a significant percentage was Muslim.
[ii] Yet Islam and Muslims remain in Europe and America embedded in stereotypical assumptions and misguided pronouncements regarding beliefs, attitudes and customs.In 2006 the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) conducted a survey of American Muslim voters. Results show that American Muslim voters are young, highly educated, (62 percent have obtained a bachelor degree or higher. This is double the comparable national figure for registered voters), more than half the community is made up of professionals, 43 percent have a household income of $50,000 or higher, seventy eight are married and the community is religiously diverse (31 percent attend a mosque on a weekly basis; 16 percent attend once or twice a month; 27 percent said they seldom or never attend). The largest segment of the respondents said they consider themselves “just Muslims,” avoiding distinctions like Sunni or Shia. Another 36 percent said they are Sunni and 12 percent said they are Shia. Less than half of 1 percent said they are Salafi, while 2 percent said they are Sufi.
[iii]The survey results also show that American Muslims are integrated in American society—89 percent said they vote regularly; 86 percent said they celebrate the Fourth of July; 64 percent said they fly the U.S. flag; 42 percent said they volunteer for institutions serving the public (compared to 29 percent nationwide in 2005). On social and political issues the views of American Muslims are as follows: 84 percent said Muslims should strongly emphasize shared values with Christians and Jews, 82 percent said terrorist attacks harm American Muslims; 77 percent said Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews do; 69 percent believe a just resolution to the Palestinian cause would improve America’s standing in the Muslim world; 66 percent support working toward normalization of relations with Iran; 55 percent are afraid that the War on Terror has become a war on Islam; only 12 percent believe the war in Iraq was a worthwhile effort; and just 10 percent support the use of the military to spread democracy in other countries.
[iv]Despite such integrative attitudes, the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. creates tensions and hinders quicker integration of Muslims. Here are some of the recent results of American public attitude towards Islam and Muslims.The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life Poll in 2004:Almost 4 in 10 Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam, about the same number that have a favorable view.A plurality of Americans (46 percent) believes that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its believers.
[v]ABC News March, 2005 Poll:Four months after 9/11, 14 percent believed mainstream Islam encourages violence; today it’s 34 percent.Today 43 percent think Islam does not teach respect for the beliefs of non-Muslims — up sharply from 22 percent.People who feel they do understand Islam are much more likely to view it positively. Among Americans who feel they do understand the religion, 59 percent call it peaceful and 46 percent think it teaches respect for the beliefs of others.
[vi]CAIR 2005 Poll on American Attitudes Towards Islam and Muslims:The level of knowledge of Islam is virtually unchanged from 2004. Only two percent of survey respondents indicated that they are “very knowledgeable” about the religion.Almost 60 percent said they “are not very knowledgeable” or “not at all knowledgeable” about Islam.Nearly 10 percent said Muslims believe in a moon god.Just a little over one-third of survey respondents reported awareness of Muslim leaders condemning terrorism.A vast majority of Americans said they would change their views about Muslims if Muslims condemn terrorism more strongly, show more concern for Americans or work to improve the status of Muslim women or American image in the Muslim world.
[vii]Cornell University Study:In all, about 44 percent said they believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans.Twenty-six percent said they think that mosques should be closely monitored by U.S. law enforcement agencies.Twenty-nine percent agreed that undercover law enforcement agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations, in order to keep tabs on their activities and fund raising.
[viii]Such public attitude translates into discrimination, exclusion and violence. In 2005, CAIR processed a total of 1,972 civil rights complaints, compared to 1,522 cases reported to CAIR in 2004.
[ix] This constitutes a 29.6 percent increase in the total number of complaints of anti-Muslim harassment, violence and discriminatory treatment from 2004. For the second straight year, the 1,972 reports also marks the highest number of Muslim civil rights complaints ever reported to CAIR in its twelve-year history. In addition, CAIR received 153 reports of anti-Muslim hate crime complaints, an 8.6 percent increase from the 141 complaints received in 2004.The impact of Islamophobia is not only seen in these large increases in complaints of discrimination by Muslims but it can have other consequences that will be very detrimental to the overall society. Muslim youth in the West have grown up being preached ideas of plurality, equality and freedom. When such ideas are not applied towards their own empowerment it can lead to disillusionment, social disorder and in the worst cases irrational violence.Islamophobia also negates one of the greatest strength of America as a multicultural society. The presence of an educated, professional and patriotic class of American Muslims ought to be viewed as a resource and strength as they can greatly aid in improving America’s image in the Muslim world. American Muslims have deep appreciation and love for America just as they have empathy and understanding of the Muslim world. Thus American Muslims can serve as the perfect bridge between America and the Muslim world. To enable this aspiration, American policy makers need to constructively engage American Muslims. American Muslim representation within most policy making circles (congressional or executive) is almost non-existent. Islamophobia prevents meaningful engagement with Muslims as politicians using the calculus of votes and money play it safe by caving into the tyranny of the majority.The way forward is to develop a sense of urgency that Islamophobia ought to be made unacceptable just as racism and anti-Semitism are in America. Islamophobia is already beginning to erode America’s image and culture. Opinion leaders should view Islam, a faith with diversity, internal differences, having much in common with Christianity and Judaism, as distinctly different but not deficient, and as a partner in America’s future.Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism:To appreciate the grave dangers of Islamophobia and anti-Americansim, one must be clear about their essence—what they are and what they are not. A critical study of Islam or Muslims is not Islamophobic. Likewise, a disapproving analysis of American history and government is not anti-American. Contributors to this volume decry the hate directed at a faith community or a people because they happen to be Muslim or American. One can disagree with Islam or with what some Muslims do without having to be hateful. Similarly, one can oppose American policies without hating America as a nation.These demarcations may sound clear and simple, and yet both Islamophobia and anti-Americanism are on the rise. Anti-Muslim feelings in the United States have increased, especially after the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001 (hereafter referred to as 9/11). Between one-fourth and one-third of Americans hold negative views of Islam and Muslims.
[x] Opinion leaders, especially on Internet blogs, talk radio, and cable television are increasingly using harsh language to refer to the Islamic faith. Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, religious leaders often courted by elected officials and politicians, have called Islam “a wicked religion”, the Prophet Muhammad “a terrorist,” and Muslims “worse than Nazis.”A global survey of world public opinion about the United States in November 2005 revealed that uneasy feelings were mutual. In five major Muslim-majority countries, from 51 percent to 79 percent of the respondents expressed unfavorable view of the United States. The survey found that sources of dislike were rooted in opposition to American policies in the Muslim world, particularly the war in Iraq and support for Israel.
[xi]While such views do not necessarily meet our definition of anti-Americanism, evidence shows that Muslims do hold strong negative stereotypes of westerners in general and Americans in particular. A June 2006 Pew Research Center poll found “pluralities in all of the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed associate Westerners with being greedy, arrogant, immoral, selfish and violent. And solid majorities in Jordan, Turkey and Egypt—as well as a plurality of Muslims in Nigeria—view Westerners as being fanatical.
[xii]Beyond agreeing with negative statements about Americans, there is agitation that invokes anti-American feelings. For example, Muslim radicals blame America for most of the Muslim world’s problems, even in areas where America is not even a player. For example, Bin Laden repeatedly held American imperialism responsible for the persecution of Muslims in the Indian state of Assam.Bin Laden’s faulty rationale goes like this: the exercise of American power has left Muslims unable to support vulnerable Muslim minorities, such as those in India. But there is no link between the rise of American power and the persecution of Muslims in Assam. In fact the general weakness of Muslim-majority countries predated the rise of American power in global affairs.The reflective papers contained in Islamophobia and Anti-Americanism: Causes and Remedies shed light on the causes and remedies to Islamophobia and anti-Americanism. Among the questions they attempt to answer are the following: What factors have led to this unfortunate state of affairs? What remedies should be sought to ameliorate prejudice? What is the role of faith leaders in promoting dialogue and tolerance? Can American Muslims bridge the gap of misunderstanding? Most of the following articles suggest that Islamophobia and anti-Americanism are related to one another as well as to politics, policy, the media, and global relations. The contributions draw on American history, religious knowledge, and keen observations of political and historical dynamics.As suggested clearly throughout this volume, charges of Islamophobia and anti-Americanism are often used as tools in what Louay Safi calls the “war of ideas.” John Voll reminds readers that American history is replete with this “old politics”—the practice of dismissing opponents as unpatriotic elements acting outside the national consensus. Voll shows how this resort to politics by intimidation took place since the early days of the American republic. The term McCarthyism was coined to describe the anti-communist hysteria in the 1940s and 1950s. According to a renowned legal scholar, David Cole, targeting of Muslims after 9/11 is a repeat of that history, which included similar draconian executive orders, problematic administrative procedures, constitutionally questionable prosecutions, inquisitive congressional hearings, and fear-driven public discourse—much of which is based on guilt by association.
[xiii]Islamophobia and anti-Americanism have been fueled by real grievances. Unjust American policies cause anti-American feelings, while terrorism stirs up Islamophobia. Asma Afsaruddin points out that the American projection of power (whether direct or by proxy, as in the case of Israel) has harmed Muslims in several countries, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Louis Cantori reports on attending a public meeting in 2004, at which returning members of the American occupation administration in Iraq expressed exhilaration regarding what they saw as successful American imperialism.The United States is looking out for its own interests. But many of the world’s Muslims perceive its policies as increasingly, a leading factor in stifling their progress and denying them genuine political reform. There is no doubt that the American invasion of Iraq has reinforced this perception. The false pretext of weapons of mass destruction used to justify this military endeavor added to the already existing fury in many parts of the Muslim world, where people saw the resulting intervention as a campaign having the broad aim of weakening Muslims.Chip Pitts expounds on another element of American policies that alienate Muslims, arguing that human rights violations fuel anti-American emotions. Chief among the incidents that inflamed the passions of people around the world were the despicable acts of torture at Iraq’s Abu Gharib detention center and other American holding facilities, the legal limbo faced by many Muslims detained by America around the world (including such clearly innocent people as the Canadian citizen Maher Arrar) and who were turned over to other governments to be tortured, and the detention and special registration procedures imposed on thousands of innocent Arab and Muslim immigrants living in America.Every act of terrorism carried out by extremist Muslims pushes Islmophobes to new extremes. None of the contributors to this volume challenges the truthfulness of this statement. Of course, some may point out that one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. But there is no moral justification whatsoever for attacking civilians. Unfortunately, many Muslims feel helpless when it comes to arresting the scourge of terrorism posed by the likes of al-Qaidah because of the political chaos in the Muslim world, which American foreign policy has helped propel for so long.The U.S. has inherited and maintained the status quo of a Muslim world divided by colonial European powers. The U.S. maintains complex sets of bilateral and multilateral relations with Muslim-majority states, which are ruled for the most part by rulers who have marginalized civil society. Yet supporters of this untenable relationship are the most vocal in demanding that Muslims, who are rendered powerless, turn inward and band together in order to uproot terrorists.To state this clearly, it seems contradictory for America to deprive Muslims from governing themselves and then to hold them responsible for mischief that results from them losing control (or genuine sovereignty) over their own lives. Yet Islamic activists across the globe condemned 9/11 in no ambiguous manner. American Muslim leaders and major Islamic centers signed on an anti-terror fatwa (religious opinion) issued by major Muslim jurists.
[xiv] And Muslim public affairs agencies have maintained regular contacts with law enforcement agencies.There is a circular cause and effect relationship between Islamophobia and anti-Americanism. Terrorist attacks against Americans are followed by anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy. This in turn reinforced anti-American sentiment and provokes a new round of terrorist attacks. For those like Shanta Premawardhana, who seeks to promote reconciliation, it is pointless to ask which of the two phenomena began first. Suffice it to say that there is a positive relationship between the two, namely, as Islamophobia increases, anti-Americanism is strengthened and vice versa.Bin Laden’s stretching the line of logic beyond reason and fact in blaming America is clearly anti-American, just as the justification of the War in Iraq on grounds of 9/11 is Islamophobic. In both cases the rationalization of the attacks is made via ideology-based views on history and world affairs assigning responsibility for events not on the basis of linking actors with actions but on grounds that selectively mix geopolitical analyses and visions with ethnic, religious and/or national affiliations.Dialogue and ReformIn practical terms, legitimate grievances must be addressed to dry up the sources of anger. This is not a call for the United States to relinquish its advantageous military and economic positions to appease others. Nor does it mean that governments in Muslim-majority countries should censor speech in order to prove to the American government that they are cracking down on extremism. As Cantori puts it, it means that the American government should work to resolve or, at the very least, refrain from opposing national liberation movements, because this hostility feeds legitimate resentment against it. He cautions, however, that this may not happen so long as the U.S. government is in the grip of those who believe in an imperial America.
[xv]Obstacles and Catalysts for ChangeSerious obstacles limit the chances of a meaningful conversation. Denial is major complicating factor. Claude Selhani shares his experience with a group of Saudi intellectuals who denied that al-Qaidah had a role in 9/11. He reports that they insisted the CIA hatched the attacks to justify the subsequent wars. Such an attitude widens the gap of understanding. Similarly, some Americans deny that Islamophobia exists or that anti-Americanism is related to America’s unjustified militarism and support of oppression. Instead, they claim that Muslims hate America for its freedom and democracy. Public opinion polls in the Muslim world conducted by Western pollsters debunk this Islamophobic myth. The most recent of such surveys was conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes shows that majorities in Morocco, Egypt, Pakistan, and Indonesia, four the heavily populated Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, North African, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, oppose attacks on civilians, support the application of Islamic law in their countries, favor democratic governance, and see value in openness to global exchange.
[xvi]Another impediment is condescending attitudes toward others, which eliminate the prospects of building what Alexander calls the “relationships of trust” necessary for a fruitful engagement. Muslims who speak of America as a sick culture contribute to the reinforcement of mistrust. Members of Congress, like Virgil Goode (R-VA), who objected to the preference of Keith Ellison (D-MN), a fellow legislator, to take his oath on the Qur’an reinforce Muslim fear of exclusionary politics.The media, often the venue transmitting tolerant and intolerant speech, are often accused of promoting stereotypes that feed prejudice. However, media outlets and professionals vary in performance — some are more culturally competent than others. The political and ideological interests feeding them are too diverse; they cannot be lumped together. Hafiz al-Mirazi contends that charges of anti-Americanism against Al-Jazeera are politically motivated and loaded with double standards. He offers the example of its coverage of angry reactions to news about American soldiers flushing the Qur’an down a toilet at the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. American officials accused the satellite television station of hyping anti-American sentiment. This charge, however, was not leveled against Newsweek, the original source of the news. Nor were American television stations criticized for carrying reports of demonstrations against the offensive act.The media should not be censored on account of having some bad players. However, media personnel should be educated so that all false, unsubstantiated, and taken-out-of-context coverage is replaced by treatment based on sourced facts. Besides the media, academia can benefit from such reform. Scholars are entrusted with educating the public about complex issues. When they choose, instead, to justify the acts of their preferred political and religious leaders, they betray the very function of knowledge production with which society has entrusted them.Yet, conservative weblogs along with the often labeled “liberal” entertainment industry tend to reinforce very negative stereotypes about Muslim religious and political groups. Such portrayals may sometimes result from the producers’ own ignorance. Jones, however, contends that the negative labeling of others is usually intended to stigmatize and downgrade them for the purpose of social and political control.Some columnists and “scholars” make use of such labels for the purpose of influencing public opinion and public policy. Neoconservative pundit Frank Gaffney speaks of “moderate Muslims” as “courageous, heroic and often alone.”
[xvii] He wants to have it both ways: to be seen as someone who is only against “Islamists” not “Islam”
[xviii] and to persuade Americans that there are only a few isolated moderate Muslims who could be liked. So in the mind of this Islamophobe, the moderate label is only a convenient cover for his vilification of Muslims.Opinion leaders share some blame. Samer Shehata demonstrates how talk-show hosts and divisive religious leaders may have a vested interest in harsh rhetoric. Extremist speech can be effective in rallying support, and extremists have no incentive to change unless their ways are repudiated. When they are challenged by mainstream leaders, they tend to tone down their rhetoric. Talk-show hosts have even apologized in public when their divisive speech began to threaten their financial support base. In general, such repudiation is rare, and thus divisive opinion leaders shoulder some responsibility for provoking mutually reinforcing cycles of Islamophobia and anti-Americanism.Exploring reconciliation takes the conversation to the group with the highest stakes in this endeavor: American Muslims. Cherrif Bassiouni believes that American Muslims have a great potential of becoming the catalyst for meaningful dialogue, because they are both Muslim and American. While resisting marginalization, they should fight extremism by engaging others constructively and striving to build on the great values of Islam and America. Asma Afsaruddin offers testimony showing that American Muslims are attempting to meet this challenge through their work and personal lives.
[i] See full Islamophobia report by Runnymede Trust, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All. (London, UK, 1997).
[ii] See an extensive account of Muslim slaves in Sylviane A. Diouf Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas (New York: NY, New York University Press, 1998).
[iii] CAIR, American Muslim Voters: A Demographic Profile (Washington, DC, October 24, 2006).
[iv] Ibid.
[ix] CAIR, The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States, 2006.
[x] Such findings are supported by public opinion polls commissioned by CAIR in 2004 and 2005. See CAIR, American Public Opinion about Islam and Muslims (Washington, DC, 2005).[xi]
[xiii] David Cole, “The New McCarthyism: Repeating History in the War on Terrorism,” in Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review Vol. 38, No. 1, 2003, p.1-30.
[xv]Michael Scheuer, former CIA Head of Bin Laden Unit, concurs with this assessment. He used the pseudonym Anonymous in his book Imperial Hubris (Washington, DC: Brassey’s Inc., 2004).
[xvi] PIPA, Muslim Public Opinion on US Policy, Attacks on Civilians and al Qaeda, (Washington, DC, 2007). The poll was conducted in April. See at:
[xvii] Jennifer Harper, “Curtain raised on documentary PBS shelved,” Washington Times, April 25, 2007.
[xviii] Frank Gaffney, “A Film PBS Want Unaired,” Washington Times, April 13, 2007.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dubai to set up Muhammad museum

By Julia Wheeler
BBC News, Dubai
The Gulf emirate of Dubai has said it is to set up the world's first museum dedicated to the Prophet Muhammad.
It aims to shed light on his life in 7th Century Arabia, as well as his legacy for the world's 1.3bn Muslims.
There will also be a wing explaining the Muslim pilgrimage, or Hajj, and another for the other pillars of Islam.
Dubai, more usually known for its burgeoning commerce and tourism, is hoping to provide a bridge between the Islamic world and other countries.
The Prophet Muhammad Museum will be the first project undertaken by the Dubai Authority for Culture and Arts, which was established last week by the emirate in an attempt to widen its global appeal.
'Shining milestone'
Those behind the plans for the new museum say it aims to shed light on the life and legacy of the man Muslims believe is the last messenger of God, as well as introducing the message of eternal love and peace they he gave the world.

In a city which is never shy of using superlatives when it comes to its own ideas, the museum is being described as a "shining milestone" in the history of Dubai.
Home to more than 100 nationalities, Dubai is one of the more tolerant cities in the region, allowing, if not encouraging alcohol to be drunk and skimpy clothing to be worn.
Until now, Dubai has positioned itself as showing what Arabs can achieve commercially.
It has been a self-proclaimed beacon for other Arab states shining a light on what it has shown is possible in a troubled region.
Now though, it is hoping to go one step further, providing not only a bridge between East and West in commercial terms, but also by providing a link between the Islamic world and the rest of the world.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

An Outcry to the Ummah 1 of 4

This is a documentary produced by Hizb ut-Tahrir Denmark about the situation of the Muslim Ummah today. It begins by showing historical footage relating to the destruction of the Islamic Khilafah State and the carving up of our Ummah by the colonialists, and then shows the past 80 years of suffering by the Ummah without her protector the Khaleefah. And finishes with some footage showing the Ummah striving for the return to the Islamic Khilafah System, may Allah (swt) bring it about soon, ameen.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: "It is very close, that different nations will invite one another against you, just as people seated around a platter of food invite one another to consume that food."

Someone asked the Prophet: "Will we be few in number that day?"

The Prophet said: "No you will be many, but you will be like the rubbish of the flood. Allah will extract from the hearts of your enemies their fear and Allah will cast in your hearts wahn."

Someone asked the Prophet: "What does wahn mean?"

The Prophet said: "The love of the dunya (the world) and the dislike (fear) of death."

Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 37, Number 4284

An Outcry to the Ummah 2 of 4

An Outcry to the Ummah 3 of 4

An Outcry to the Ummah 4 of 4

Golden Quran

Nasheed - My Ummah - Sami Yusuf


facebook : Islamic-Quran-Sunnah (English)

facebook : Islam-Quran-Sunnah (Bahasa Melayu)