Archive | August 2014

Dawah for Dummies

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Dawah, often defined as preaching to Islam; yet as the Arabic meaning holds it is more of an invitation to understand Islam for those who are yet to know it, yet to accept it. Yet, we mostly as Muslims find ourselves somewhat lost in translation, adopting a “hit and run” approach where we count a revert ‘Shahada’ as the end goal and that’s that. However, if we are to convey the true message of Islam especially in the face of an ever discouraged environment, we may as well adapt to a more holistic strategy of Islam as a lifestyle, as it should be. Now I am no certified ‘da’iah’ preacher, yet the responsibility of marketing myself as a Muslim is beyond self-branding, and I pray that I am not a contradictory ‘fitna’ to the Non-Muslim onlooker.

Perhaps my readers by now have sensed my love for alliteration, the choice of the title serves the double meaning for this article. Firstly, dummies in a US English sense, as in me being a complete beginner to the practices of preaching. So note here without taking the words on the offensive, you the beginner preacher are the –ehm- dummy to the ways of the trade. Through trial and error, and first-hand experience I aim to give a humble incomplete guide to how to confront the reasoning of your Non-Muslim acquaintances in an inviting manner. With a little help from a marketing background, I pray we may be able to learn how to dawah to prospective customers.

For my encounters with curious friends and colleagues about Islam, I find many of their concerns arise from three main points; Women’s rights, animal rights, and diversity in Islam. For a born and raised Muslim, these may seem like givens. But to an apprehensive audience who are bombarded with media suggesting an abusive ritual against all these rights, a clear understanding is in need. I remember a friend of mine referring to Eid Al-Adha as the “sheep murdering bayram”… it did sound harsh, but I genuinely cared for her concern. I tried to explain how the true teachings of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) enforce a clean swift cut where the animal is submitted and unseen by its sheep kind as not to strike fear. I further highlighted the research proven benefits of blood drainage of the meat yet to be eaten. And I even went to further readings on the yet disputed rulings of pre-stunning that is sometimes allowed in a context of “Halal”. As for women rights, it seems essential to differentiate between backward culture and sound Islamic guidance. With all the radical killings and ill-practiced misinterpretation of extremists at the time it is an ongoing effort to prove that Islam is indeed a religion of peace, accepting peaceful diversity and coexistence.

All in all, to the dummy little me I found there are a few “Do’s and Don’t’s” to help with the process, so the ten countdown is as follows:
Don’t Judge: in fact, let go of any feelings of superiority or “kibr” as they may not only ruin your “niyyah” and intentions, but they would also show in a rather uninviting tone.
Don’t take the Offensive: this is not a matter of clearing your name or defending your clan, but rather prove your point as objectively as possible.
Don’t give Excuses for not doing Dawah: you may spread the word in the most unconventional of media, in your own pace in your own context, yet don’t do like me and resist for so long the responsibility of simply showing Islam 101.
Don’t get Lost in Priorities: whilst it is true that the five pillars of Islam are what the building firm and strong, they may not well be the very first thing you should present. The most inspiring of all is Ja’afar ibn Abi-Talib’s speech as he eloquently and concisely presented Islam to the King of Abisinya: “We were an uncivilised people. God sent us an apostle who commanded us to speak the truth, be faithful to our engagements, mindful of the ties of kinship and kindly hospitality, and to refrain from crimes and bloodshed. He forbade us to commit abominations and to speak lies, and to devour the property of orphans, to vilify chaste women. He commanded us to worship God alone and not to associate anything with Him, and he gave us orders about prayer, alms and fasting [enumerating the commands of Islam]. So we believed in him and what he brought to us from Allah; and we follow what he asked us to do and we avoid what he forbade us to do.”
Don’t Lie: it may seem very obvious, yet often we might sugar-coat the truth to appeal to our audience. Big mistake! Learning from the preaching of Abisinya, Ja’afar did not for once confuse the fact that Islam believes in Jesus as the apostle, but not the son of God. Half-truths are worse than lies. You may well try to explain the virtues of the veil to an unassuming free spirited bikini wearer as that it would eliminate sexual harassment altogether, but unless you are keen on sharing the utmost importance of lowering the gaze responsibility on men, you are effectively victim-blaming women; and offering a confusing communication on how veiled women are still harassed and raped.
Do as you Teach, Practice what you Preach: there is nothing more confusing than a non-practicing Muslim; I confess that it is a daily trial to not give mixed messages. Though of course Islam is not Muslims, not imperfect and faulty, but there is a thin line.
Do your Research: relying on your information is one thing, yet as new questions surface you should always try to refer to resources for your message.
Do your Targeting right: for every target audience there is a fair way to handle the positioning. Neighbours differ from colleagues differ from wondering walkers asking about your veil. And build on the base of beliefs for each group, where again the example of Ja’afar when he was asked to recite verses from the Quran he carefully chose Surat-Maryam, touching the heart of the Christian King.
Do keep up to date: try to be proactive to the counter claims and “Halal” hysterias as they arise, showing your side of the story without being rude… simply cursing at the “Daily Mail” is not going to get you anywhere.
Do your After-Sales Support: if God-willing your efforts are blessed with a Muslim convert taking ‘Shahadah’, know that this is just the beginning. Keep actively in touch supporting your new sister through the calamities and trials she will face. Remember, retaining a loyal customer is far more important and rewarding than attracting new ones. And Surat-Abasa is an everlasting reminder of how the Chosen One (PBUH) was advised to attend to the blind revert, rather than invite the leaders of Quraish.

Secondly, and in conclusion, the “dummies” as in the UK English dictionary meaning, of baby soothers, we may well be reminded that teaching our children about Islam is an inviting involving process that starts very early at age, rather than “because I said so” sort of strategy. I pray to teach my son to love Islam as it should be, not merely a culture or an arguable way of the family.

Quarter Life Crisis

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It was first my friend who invented this terminology describing the state of self doubt and evaluation that had come at the age of 25… In an ever escalating environment where 30 had become the new 40 and 25 has become the new 30; we find ourselves struggling to define success so far as well as who we are meant to be. Marriage, career, parenthood,  friendship; collectables in hope to reach our self identity.

However,  we seem to lose ourselves across all these ideals, and somehow clash with reality as we get disenchanted. A stay at home mum feels unfulfilled,  a working mum falls short of her juggling breath,  another prays for children and another has yet to find her soul mate. In recent research it has been proven that gratitude significantly increases happiness levels. How about gratitude to the Most Gracious? Unlikely we are to admit discontent with our fair share of blessings; yet we may be driven by false ambition.

It hit me when one day I asked Google “Who am I meant to be?” Interestingly enough there was an answer for it in an Oprah self-evaluation quiz, and after 5 minutes I knew what I had already known… my need to be “in control” ranked highest, surpasses even the need to be loved or to help… This was a wakeup call! I obsessed too much on a self-centred heroism that I felt strange to a side role of motherhood, I no longer manage my life to my own will but rather to a stronger will and wellbeing of this little person. It can get challenging and frustrating on a daily basis,  and even more so in planning for my future. But then as I talk virtually to myself I realise this focal view of life has got to go. Not that I would lose myself, but rather that I am a new self. It is said the only constant in life is change.

Indeed there is a grander constant that one can rely on firmly; faith. For in Islam, the answer is there and clear, our ultimate goal is worship and our ultimate destination is the hereafter. We lose sight of this priority the more we attach to our worldly selves. Yet thses very beliefs should barrier against depression against adversity, as clear as self purpose can be. It doesn’t mean that I shall not question myself there and then when I fall short of the success I had imagined, but better defined success can mean happiness in the very pursuit of it.

It may seem strange to the expectation of our young age how carefree we ought be, yet in a more sombre note of youth death we find ourselves in a race against time. Paradoxically, our reflection upon death is proven to enhance our gratitude. It is a delicate balance attempting to enjoy the journey, as we keep moving forward to our destination.

Reference to the research
Watkins, Philip C., et al. “Gratitude and happiness: Development of a measure of gratitude, and relationships with subjective well-being.” Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal 31.5 (2003): 431-451.
http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/pdfs/GratitudePDFs/5Watkins-GratitudeHappiness.pdf

Frias, Araceli, et al. “Death and gratitude: Death reflection enhances gratitude.” The Journal of Positive Psychology 6.2 (2011): 154-162.
http://people.hofstra.edu/Jeffrey_J_Froh/spring%202010%20web/Death_and_Gratitude_article.pdf%202.pdf

Annihilation Anniversary

First and foremost, Rabaa was a massacre. If I have for some reason offended your reasoning, you may kindly quit reading on. But for those who may not know me;  or don’t truly wish to fully know me and what I stand for, an introduction is due.

I have never been “Pro-Morsi” per-se, in fact I voted for him only in round two, avoiding the other candidate who had once insulted the demands of the free revolution of 25th Jan adding “give them Bonbons”… pretty much like Antoinette’s “Let them eat cake”! Moreover,  the time Morsi was in office I was first to lash constructive criticism; through a wide group of polarised Egyptians under the name of religion, I hated the fact they chose “people of trust” over “people of expertise” in their cabinet; and watched angrily the violation of freedom of speech and the bloody violence of Itihadeya. I genuinely believed this was beyond poor management;  but as democracy states I thought these 4 years term shall pass… Alas, the people seem to have spoken;  or did they?

The 30th June Revolution seemed too “good” to be true for those who supported it; indeed it was. Again I highlight the fact that I refused to take part in the “Rebel” movement.  It sadly seemed we were back to square ZERO, not “one” but “zero”, falling in the arms of a military rule, perhaps a people backed “coup d’etat”.

Turn back the pages of history to the days of Abdel Nasser, the people was young, romantic and naive… but what about now? I’d like to describe it as a midlife crisis. Somehow all those nostalgic to the days of socialist 60s managed to erase from their memories all incidents of the fascist rule, propaganda media and lack of speech (let alone freedom of it).

Today, the fruits of that polarised nation is most bitter; in the aftermath of an undeniable unjustified massacre of a sit-in dispersed. The throwback comes in three tinted glasses. First, rosey glasses see that Rabaa disperse was a victory for the sovereignty of state, an end to terrorist territory. Let me add that glasses are not rose red, but blood red, justifying murder by numbers. Second, yellow tinted glasses, holding up signs of four fingers, killed, tortured and jailed for it! Seems rather “Hunger Games” scenario only plus one finger. Deluded as some may seem calling for Morsi’s return in a saintly manner, it remains their right to have expressed their views in an arguably peaceful sit-in.

Third and most “objective” in a sense were shades seeing through the critical performance of the Muslim Brotherhood party in government, minus any calls for annihilation. This view has been recently concluded with a Human Rights Watch report, detailing the atrocities of this day in history, this crime against humanity. Over eight hundred protesters killed, as opposed to eight armed officials. Real people, real faces, real families torn and mourn. A mother to be, first time fathers, a young daughter, and friends of friends.

What seems most ironic is the response to the report, the official response. The logic behind it fails to be distinct from that of a three year old in a nursery quarrel. The government denied entry of any HRW staff afterwards, complaining about the biases of the report not showing numbers of soldiers and police killed in this fight on terrorism. Sissi-Supporters picked the hype attacking HRW for their grudge against Egypt whilst failing to report on crimes against humanity in Iraq, Sudan, Gaza, and the U.S. Little do these misinformed supporters know, in an internet age, a quick browse of http://www.hrw.org shows all headlines of objectively monitored human rights threats and violations acrosd the globe; including those by Muslim Brotherhood in power leading up to the crackdown. Denial and personal attack on the report doesn’t seem to bring us to an alternate reality where these people weren’t slaughtered, when this blood wasn’t shed. There is still the question of arms held in the square, which indeed required intervention, arrests and perhaps two sided shootings. The state is ordered self-restrain at all times, yet a 1 to 100 death count does strike a grave imbalance I presume. But in a nation where a judge issues a mass death sentence at court in three minutes, mass murder off court is a given.

In the meantime, the conspiracy theory has taken a whole new level of absurdity; everyone is out to get you, they want to destroy Egypt. Newsflash, the world is far too busy being unjust to a whole load of nations struck with epidemic or apartheid to be concerned with “Omm elDonia”! And at the very same time, you’ll find quotes from the global leaders supporting hard choices when it comes to national security. Mind you, that infamous quote by David Cameron about forgetting human rights in the face of UK’s national security? Never been said, misinterpreted and lost in translation! The guy was talking about a specific incident of using CCTV footage to identify looters and bring them to justice. Besides, this benchmark for brutality is the best excuse for tyranny.

In conclusion, as much as in beginning, Rabaa was and still is a massacre by definition. Beware of the prayer of the oppressed.

#Gaza…

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I have thought about this long and hard;  I choose to remain silent no more… the atrocities of a war just creap into our daily routine that somehow we forget to care. But this is a crime in itself. For many the motive of supporting Gaza is seen as merely a “Muslim issue”; down toning the brave acts of rebellion against the war, and reflecting an underlying accusation of “anti-semitism”.

Let’s face it,  this is NOT just a Muslim brethren issue, it’s a matter of humanity.  As much as I stand firmly against the genocide brewed by ISIS against Christian communities of Iraq. Unfortunately, for some it is about taking sides; forgetting about the sacredness of life. In this polarised support for a cause; I found my Christian Facebook “friend” commenting on the ISIS crimes in a collective hate manner, concluding that ‘this is why ALL Muslims shall end up in Hell’… though it is her freedom of ideology to hold such a belief, it hurts the fact that she has grown with a Muslim community only to be prejudice ever more.

Furthermore, the very agitated world which takes any condemnation of Israel actions as antisemitism is simply misguided. I for one am against Zionist apartheid, the illegal settlements creeping onto free land; saddened by the silence of the UN towards it all, finally merely verbally condemning the shelling of their schools; while their officials genuinely burst into tears from what they have witnessed, grown men scarred with nightmares of bloody chalkboards. At the very same time I respect Jews and disagree with the collective punishment of their community. Many Jews around the world are pro-peace, standing side by side against the atrocities shouting “not in my name”, author Naomi Wolf being one. Yet her patriotism and loyalty are in question by a Rabbi. A British friend of mine put it all too well “this is all OUR mistake (Britain) for handing them over the Palestinian land. We felt too guilty about the Holocaust but only created a new one” and BTW , my friend is not Muslim.

It is a heartbreaking feeling to see and hear of 420 children killed in Gaza; whilst Obama poorly worded grammar blames the same side twice “We believe in Israel’s right to defend its people; on the other hand, Hamas hides rockets too close to homes bringing death to civilians” how on earth is that a contrasting situation?! Mind you I am not pro-Hamas per se; I only believe that a blockaded strip of occupied people just might have a right for resistance! My sympathies with the 7 civilian Israeli victims, and with the 1500 civilian Palestinian victims… numbers say it all, right? War, I wish, is not the answer; and there were times in a close turn of the century when Jerusalem housed the three religions coexisting. It is my frustration that I no longer know how to teach my child about this world, how to make this world a better place. And it is my fear that in such an injustice of the political ground, we lose faith in the peace envoys; we can only prepare ourselves for the most radical of groups… we are creating monsters.

*A prayer for the mothers, the fathers and the orphans