Friday 27 November 2009

Eid al-Adha 2009: Eid in Charlotte

The Charlotte Observer (27 November 2009) has a gallery of pictures of the Eid prayers that took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA yesterday:

You can view the resy of the pictures here.

Eid al-Adha 2009: Guardian Gallery

The Guardian carries an photo gallery entitled "Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al-Adha":

Palestinian girl dressed in costume stands on the compound known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem after prayers.

Palestinian children ride a ferris wheel at an amusement park at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut.

Muslims pray during Eid al-Adha celebrations in Wuzhong in China's Ningxia autonomous region.

Traditional palace guards of the Emir of Kano in Nigeria ride horses after prayers to mark the first day of Eid al-Adha.

You can see the full gallery here.

Happy Eid al-Adha 2009!

Taqabbala Allahu minna wa minkum
May Allah accept it from you and us

Thursday 26 November 2009

Hajj 2009: Gulf News Gallery has a gallery of photo's from this years hajj:

You can see the full gallery here. Thank's to Crafty Muslimah for the link.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Hajj 2009: Sister Fatima Barkatulla's Experience

Sister Fatima Barkatulla (who also writes for Sisters magazine) has written a beautiful article in the Times (20 November 2009) about her journey to hajj, comparing her experiences to those of El-Hajj Malik al-Shabbaz in his biography.

"Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik! Here I am O God, here I am at Your service! Here I am, You have no partners, here I am!” millions chant in unison. As we taxi down the long, winding highways that meet at the foot of the Sacred Mosque, we crane our necks to catch a glimpse of the Kaaba. It slides into view and our eyes stream with tears. We have come home. Somehow our natural human instincts are bound to this once barren plot of earth an ocean away, where Abraham built the Kaaba — the first place built for the worship of the Creator alone.

Elderly and destitute people, having saved up for haj all their lives, have travelled here from every corner of the Earth. They sit cross-legged; gazing at the Kaaba or napping in between prayer times; as comfortable as if the palace-like building around them, with its gleaming marble floors and ornate lanterns, is their birthright. It is as much theirs as it is the next man’s. No need for intermediaries here, for you are a guest of God. You could have come from a mansion in Mayfair or a Mumbai slum and you would be standing shoulder to shoulder in prayer, one direction, one dress, one human family: all Children of Adam, all equal in the sight of the One God."

You can read the full article here.

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Zain Bhika's Labbaik Nasheed Video

Zain Bhikha's nasheeds are a favourite in my house, especially easy for my children to follow and very pleasant to listen to. I came across this one which I thought was particularly apt for the present time:

Organised Chaos: Handling 2.5 Million Pilgrims

The Independent (23 November 2009) has an article on the Saudi's organisation during hajj:

"He said the Saudi management has improved year by year, and newly rebuilt hajj terminal arrival facilities have vastly alleviated past hassles.

"This is much better than before," when tens of thousands of people would be pushing and shoving in passport and luggage queues.

It is chaos, but altogether pretty efficient, says French consul Christian Nakhle, who has to care for as many as 30,000 pilgrims coming from France.

"We all work 24 hours a day, seven days a week for several weeks," he said.

It is a huge mixing bowl of ethnicities and germs. But Srouji said that of the 5,000 people a day who pass by his camera alone - there are 11 other such stations - so far he has picked up only one person with a feverish temperature.

This year, he has three French-speaking doctors on call full-time, three dedicated motorcycle drivers to get documents and other supplies through impenetrable Mecca traffic, and roll-up mattresses for staff inside Mecca who follow the French hajj groups around full time, but sometimes cannot get back to their hotels.

The motorcycles are crucial, he said. A year ago, a French pilgrim appeared to be having a heart attack. They had to load the man on the back of a motorcycle to get him through the traffic to where a car could take him to hospital."

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Interactive Guide to Hajj

The Guardian has an interactive guide to hajj which takes you through the days of hajj and the rituals involved.

You can access it here.

Muslim pilgrims sit on Jabal an-Noor (the Mountain of Light) in Mecca before the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage, on 23 November 2009. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images.

500 Most Influential Muslims of 2009

The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding based at Georgetown University have just released their publication "The 500 Most Influential
Muslims 2009".

The list was edited by Professor John L. Esposito and Professor Ibrahim Kalin and is an interesting mix of religious, political, humanitarian and royal figures. I don't agree with every entry on the list but it was good to see women on the list (although I am not sure I agree that they should have a seperate section). The document certainly highlights the diversity of the Muslim ummah (community) in any case.

To view the list, click here (PDF)

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Sunday 22 November 2009

Muslims in

I came across the Muslims in England website through Muslimness and found it an engaging mix of articles, interview, inspiration and knowledge with a positive angle:

"We may have names similar to Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza, but our views differ wildly. And it is for these reasons that this website has been created, we aim to show the diversity in the Muslim community. We are a group of Muslims who live in England, from dfferent walks of life. Read how normal Muslims in England live, and finally have the chance to make your own conclusions instead of accepting information from biased media sources."

Recent articles include "Make a change in the community you live in!" and "Effective change does not have to be time-consuming!"

Saturday 21 November 2009

Hajj 2009:

The Times (20 November 2009) has an article on the rituals of hajj:

A global community living out their faith, they represent a tremendous diversity of languages and cultures, social classes and professions: Nigerians and Egyptians, Saudi Arabians and Iranians, Americans and Europeans, Turks, Pakistanis and Indonesians; monarchs, presidents and prime ministers, doctors, lawyers, and engineers; corporate leaders and workers.

Whatever their backgrounds and class, all who participate in the pilgrimage wear simple garments, two seamless white cloths for men and an outfit that entirely covers the body, except face and hands, for women. These coverings symbolise purity as well as the unity and equality of all believers, an equality that transcends class, wealth, privilege, power, nationality, race and colour.

Those who have made the haj describe the incredible experience of two million pilgrims praying together as equals, entering into the divine presence, connecting them to something greater than themselves. Many see this as a symbolic experience preparing them for death, when all humans will eventually come together to meet their creator on the Day of Judgment.

The haj had a transforming effect on the black American activist Malcolm X, whose time on pilgrimage led to a spiritual transformation and a new understanding of human brotherhood. As he explains: “There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colours, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and nonwhite.”

Read the full article here.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on the Rise of Islamophobia

The Independent carries a column by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Monday, 9 November 2009), a woman that whose views on hijab often leave me rather cheesed off (1, 2, 3) and most of whose opinions seem to be the exact opposite of mine. But this time even she seems to have gotten fed up with the level of Islam- and Muslim-bashing meted out by both the right and left-wing:

"I can now better imagine the national mood that led to the internment of the Japanese in the US in 1942, and in both wars to the rounding up of "enemy aliens" in the UK, many of whom were kept in camps on the Isle of Man and were made to suffer for being who they were ethnically and for no other reason. The former Labour minister, Kim Howells, set out his chilling plans this week on how best, or at least better, to confront Islamist terrorism in the UK. Bring back our boys from Afghanistan, a graveyard that swallows all outsiders. Use the resources, men and might of this nation to increase the pressure on British Muslims, watch them, follow them, spy on them.

Go further Howells, why don't you? Perhaps take away our passports so we cannot travel to the sub-continent or North Africa or the Arab countries. Make us wear a green band in the streets. Punish us collectively, all the time, as Martin Amis fervidly imagined in his poetic thought-experiments. Stop us buying mobile phones and computers. Bang up as many Muslims as possible and put them through re-education programmes using old Maoist manuals. Then we will all be really safe."

You can read the full article here.

Arabs and Free Speech: The Doha Debates

The Christian Science Monitor (13 September, 2009) carries an interesting article about The Doha Debates, a programme commisioned by the BBC World Service:

"Through the BBC, The Doha Debates can be seen in some 300 million homes in 200 countries. But its greatest legacy may be in the Middle East, where authoritarian regimes stifle free speech, newspapers are heavily censored, children are raised to obey without question, and school systems reject critical thinking in favor of rote learning.

Amid this smothering environment, The Doha Debates is perhaps the freest public forum for probing tough issues that deeply resonate in the Arab world.

"It offers an opportunity for free speech and expression of an opinion, which is very much in demand and very highly appreciated," said Asaad al-Asaad, an English instructor at Riyadh's Yamamah University, who accompanied his Saudi students to Doha for a taping.

One "legacy" of the show, Ms. Willis said, is "an incredible surge in debating activities in Qatar and the region." This is evident in new debate clubs at high schools and universities across the Middle East, including in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and at a Palestinian university in the Israeli-occupied West Bank."

You can read the whole article here.

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Islam Awareness Week 2009

This year Islam Awareness Week is from 16th to 22nd November 2009 and the theme is "Walk the Talk". This theme is all about recognising our common humanity, celebrating our diversity and respecting each other, and not just paying these ideas lip-service but actually going out of your way to get to know other people who you may not otherwise meet and try to understand each other better.

You can learn more about events arranged for the week by visiitng the IAW website here. There are a series of events arranged around the country including in my neighbourhood as well as a fascinating article about the History of Muslims in Britain which includes information such as:

"Of all the countries of Western Europe Britain has always had a “special relationship” with the Muslim world. Initially, Muslims landed on these Isles as explorers and traders. Trade was so important to King Offa of Mercia, a powerful Anglo-Saxon king of the 8th century famous for building Offa’s dyke, that his coins have the inscription of the declaration of faith of Islam (There is no god but Allah) in Arabic

By the 14th century following the crusades and the introduction of several Muslim cultural traditions into British life, from the paisley to the arch to spices and the very concept of chivalry, the Muslim world was admired and respected for its scholarship and advances in all fields of knowledge. Muslim scholarship such as that of Razi, Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd) formed the backbone of intellectual and scholarly life in Britain."

The website also had resources for schools including a virtual classroom.

Sunday 8 November 2009

MCB Report: Remembering the Brave: The Muslim Contribution to Britain’s Armed Forces

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has published a special report highlighting the long-standing and continued support for the Armed Forces. Remembering the Brave: The Muslim Contribution to Britain’s Armed Forces outlines how Muslims have made a historic contribution to the defence of this nation. The document also covers the current contribution of British Muslims to the UK military. It states:

"The Muslim Council of Britain issues a necessary reminder to British Muslims and society at large of the Muslim community’s enduring contribution to the nation’s Armed Forces.

Amongst the countless First and Second World War memorials around the world are emblazoned Muslim names, which represent the tens of thousands of Muslims who have stood as part of this nation, who fought bravely, and who fell defending this country in corners near
and far all around the world. The poignancy of this should not be lost on any of us, especially Muslims who have now made Britain their home.

While largely forgotten until now, at the time, Muslim sacrifices were acknowledged with gratitude. Wounded Muslim soldiers fighting in France were treated in special hospitals along the south coast in Brighton, Bournemouth and Brockenhurst. Those among them who died received burial rites according to their religion. The first burial in this country of an Indian Muslim soldier who succumbed to wounds received while serving in France took place in the Brook-wood Cemetery in December 1914. Floral tributes were placed on the coffin by local Muslim converts. In 1915 the burial of an Indian Muslim officer took place. At the request of the imam of the Woking Mosque, the local commanding officer detailed fifty soldiers, headed by an officer, to attend the funeral in order to pay military honours to this gallant Indian soldier. Three rounds were discharged and, in a fusion of Muslim practices with British military traditions, the “Last Post” was sounded by the bugle boys. The Chairman of the local Urban Council deemed it ‘an honour to have men who fell as a result of the war buried in the district’.

By the end of the First World War in 1918, India had sent over one million volunteer troops to fight side by side with the British. Muslims were disproportionately involved. They saw action in France and Belgium; in Gallipoli and Salonica; in East Africa; in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia. Over 47,000 were killed and 65,000 were wounded. During the Second World War over 2.5 million men and women from the Indian sub-continent, formed the largest volunteer force ever seen in history. They served in Africa, Burma, Malaya and in the Middle East. Again over 24,000 were killed and 65,000 were wounded. As in the First World War, hundreds of military awards were won. These included thirty Victoria Crosses, the highest award for bravery.

As Remembrance Day approaches our thoughts turn to observance of commemoration of all those members of the British armed forces who lost their lives during the wars. Special services will be held and wreaths laid at war memorials throughout the country and at London’s Cenotaph. But how many of us will be aware of the magnificent role that thousands of Muslims played in those wars? How widely, for instance, is it known that more than 1.3 million Indian soldiers served during the First World War, a large proportion of them, Muslim? That they suffered heavy casualties – 53, 486 died, 64,350 wounded and 3,769 were missing or taken?"

You can dowload the report full (PDF) here.

Rememberance Sunday: Memorial Campaign

For those of you who subscribe to Emel magazine, you will have noticed that this months edition is all about sacrifice of Muslim Soldiers, who gave their lives and their limbs in the name of duty in both the First and Second World Wars. Their website has a short video on the subject here and they are also running a campaign for a Muslim memorial:

"At emel, we believe it is of great significance for our society that history is remembered accurately and fairly. We are therefore calling for a consultation process to find a fitting memorial for the forgotten Muslims who died during the two World Wars.

Whether it should be a national memorial or a series of local memorials in towns that sent large numbers of Muslim men to the front line or a permanent exhibition in one of our nation’s museums is a matter for discussion"

You can sign their petition here.

Rememberance Sunday: Muslims on the Western Front

The Muslim News has an interesting article in it's archives by Jahan Mohmood, an expert on South Asian communities entitled "Stories of Muslim soldiers on the Western Front during WWI" which throws up some amazing statistics highlighting the Muslim presence during the two World Wars:

"When Britain declared war on Germany in 1914, there were only 155,000 personnel in the British Indian Army. By the end of World War I more than 1,300,000 soldiers had volunteered for service. The largest ethnic class to serve Britain were the Punjabi Mussalmans. The majority of these men had come from the cities of Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Attock, Lahore and Rohtak. In addition to the Punjabi contribution there were large numbers of sepoys recruited from the North West Frontier Province. Pashtuns from Peshawar, Kohat, Waziristan and Nowshera had all played a pivotal role in the defence of the British realm.

From 1914 to 1915, 138,000 Indian soldiers were involved on the Western Front; in Europe. With mounting casualties, Indians were despatched to Europe to plug holes in the crumbling Allied line.

By Armistice Day 1918, more than 400,000 Muslims had enlisted, Muslims, Sikhs, Gurkhas and Hindus had all witnessed the horrors of trench warfare on the Western Front as well as the ‘bloody’ campaigns for Mesopotamia and Africa. In total approximately 60,000 men perished, 13,000 medals and 12 Victoria Crosses were awarded to Indians for valour and courage."

You can read the full article here

Remembrance Sunday: In Pictures

Khudadad Khan was born in Dabb Village, Punjab State, Pakistan (close to where my family are from, who also fought in both World Wars) . When war broke out he joined the Army as a Sepoy or Private soldier and served with the 129th (Duke of Connaught’s Own) Baluchis as a machine gunner. In October 1914 his regiment was sent to the front line in France to help exhausted British troops. The Baluchi’s were pushed back by the Germans and all the gunners were killed apart from Khan who was badly wounded. For his bravery in France and his involvement in preventing the German Army reaching vital ports, Khan received the Victoria Cross becoming the first Indian recipient of the highest military award for gallantry in the face of the enemy given to British and Commonwealth forces.

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On 26 April 1915 at Wieltje, Belgium, Jemadar Mir Dast led his platoon with great bravery during the attack, and afterwards collected various parties of the regiment (when no British officers were left) and kept them under his command until the retirement was ordered. He also displayed great courage that day when he helped to carry eight British and Indian officers to safety while exposed to heavy fire. The picture below is from a series of Gallaher Cigarette cards honoring WWI Victoria Cross recipients.

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From left to right: English Muslim World War I Heroes: Gunner Azeez Leadon, Pte Mubarak Ballard, & Gunner Basheer Camp.

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Pathan [Pukhtun] soldiers outside the Pavilion:

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Right at the heart of the Verdun battlefield, and perhaps the main focus of it as well, is the massive Ossuary inaugurated in 1932 to commemorate those who lost their lives in the battle of Verdun. Nearby is a Memorial to Muslim soldiers, overlooking the cemetery below the Ossuary. This was originally a small monolith, but in recent years this relatively small monument has been relocated and placed inside a much grander structure, which was inaugurated on the 25th of June 2006 by Jacques Chirac.

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Remembrance Sunday: Honour Our Muslim Soldiers

Inayat Bunglawala has written a timely article in the Guardian (Thursday 5 November 2009) about the sacrifice Muslim's made in the two world wars:

"Inscribed in marble at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium, are the names of 54,896 soldiers of Britain and the Commonwealth who died in the Ypres Salient in the first world war and whose graves are unknown. The German army had surrounded Ypres on three sides and subjected it to bombardment throughout much of the war as it stood in the path of its plans to occupy the rest of Belgium. Among the dead recorded at the Menin Gate Memorial are Muhammad Aslam, Abdullah Khan, Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Usman and many others with recognisably Muslim names.

Of the 1.3 million Indians who constituted the volunteer force during the first world war, approximately 400,000 were Muslims. [Major Gordon] Corrigan says:

The Punjabi Musselman [Muslim] was regarded as the backbone of the old Indian army, and constituted about a third of the British Indian army. Known for their reliability, they were steady men who could be depended on to carry out any task at hand.

Still, it is to be hoped that knowing a bit more about Muslim contributions to Britain's past war efforts and how even in those times the authorities were aware of the importance of catering for the religious needs of their soldiers can also help us today when any minor accommodation to religious belief seems to be met with howls of outrage from some quarters."

You can read the full article here.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Smiling Muslims on Flickr

I came across a group on Flickr who post some rather sweet pictures under the tag "Smiling Muslims":

You can view more pictures here.

Review of Gary Bunt's "iMuslims"

Ziauddin Sardar has written a review of Gary Bunts book iMuslims in the Independent (Friday, 7 August 2009) which discusses the role and influence of Muslims on the internet:

"The internet has rewired Islam. The web is now at the core of all Muslim communities and performs a central role in Islamic expression. It is being used to reinterpret Islam; and Muslims themselves are being transformed.

But not everything is new. This "Cyber Islamic Environment" has strong historic resonance. The new networks are not unlike traditional networks during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, when religious knowledge evolved as an open-source system. Just like Wikipedia, experts and ordinary people collaborated to develop a consensus on Islamic knowledge.

For example, the scholarship that developed around the collection of sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, hadith, was a collaborative effort. Scholars travelled far and wide, making connections with networks around centres of knowledge, both to collect and transmit versions of hadith. The criteria for evaluating hadith were also a product of collaborative efforts. This "open-source Islamic scholarship", Bunt writes, "was subjected to limitations and restrictions over time". It has now been rediscovered by an internet-savvy generation.

The strongest and most authoritative Islamic voice in cyberspace, Bunt says, is the Qur'an. Online translations and commentaries provide unrestricted access. Most religious institutions, such as Egypt's al-Azhar and Iran's Qom, have a strong web presence with designated sheikhs and ayatollahs responding across the net to petitioners."

You can read the whole article here