Monday 27 February 2012

Muslims Recognised in the UK New Year Honours

Elham Asaad Buaras writes for the Muslim News about the 18 Muslim men and women that were honoured in the new years list in 2012:

"Eighteen members of the Muslim community were recognised in the Queen’s New Year Honours. One CBE, 5 OBEs and 12 MBEs will be handed to British Muslims for their varying contributions to society.

Gynaecologist Dr Tahir Ahmed Mahmood is the highest decorated member of the Muslim community this year; he is to be made a CBE for his service women’s health.

Professor Mohamed El-Gomati, who has been a Professor of Electronics at the University of York since 1997, is to be made an OBE.

Mohammad Habeebullah has also been awarded an OBE for his services to the community in Greater Manchester. Habeebullah, 60, worked for Rochdale council for 29 years. As a part of his work he set up various other community projects. Habeebullah’s work helped Rochdale council achieve various national awards such as RIBA commendation award for helping to set up Sparth Community Centre and the AMA award for launching Castleton Water Activities Group.

Durdana Ansari of Queens Walk, South Ruislip, was “shocked” and “overwhelmed” to learn of her inclusion in the in the honours, for her services to Muslim women in the UK. The Pakistan born journalist, who led a successful Muslim women’s charity project, is to be made an OBE.

Saki Chowdhury, an outreach worker at Surestart Longsight Children’s Centre, run by The Big Life (TBL) group, has been appointed MBE. The mother of three has volunteered in her local community for the past 30 years and began her work with children and families in Longsight 10 years ago volunteering at the Children’s Centre - which supports over 1000 parents and carers to access services each year - before becoming employed as an outreach worker which she continues to do today.

Staffordshire University’s Equality and Diversity officer Hifsa Haroon Iqbal has been has been awarded an MBE. The honour was awarded in recognition for services to community cohesion in Staffordshire."

The Full List


Dr Tahir Ahmed Mahmood, for services women’s health

Zahoor Ahmed, chm, Gifts Internat for services to internet trade.
Durdana Ansari for services to Muslim women in the UK.
Prof Mohamed El-Gomati, prof of electronics, Univ of York, for services to science. Mohammad Habeebullah for services to the community in Gtr Manchester.
Amin Mohamed Mawji for services to public and voluntary service.

Akram Zaman, JP, pres, protocol for service to community in Northants.
Al’adin Maherali for service to Voluntary Sector and to Business.
Anwer Ibrahim Issa Ismail Patel, md, Cohens Chemist Group, for service community pharmacy. Bajloor Rashid, restaurateur and pres, Bangladesh Caterers Association for services to Bangladeshi catering.
Mohammad Bhatti for service to local govt and to the community.
Dr Syed Nayyer Abbas Abidi for service to black and minority ethnic community.
Hanif Mohammad Raja for service to inter-faith relations, Scotland.
Hifsa Haroon Iqbal, DL for service to community cohesion in Staffs.
Mohamed Foiz Uddin for service to community cohesion.
Mohammed Akram, JP for service to Brit Pakistani community in Scotland.
Mohammed Saeed Moughal for service to community in Birmingham.
Sayeeda Chowdhury, outreach worker, Longsight Sure Start children’s centre, Manchester for service to children and families.

You can see the original full article here.

German Muslims Show Solidarity with Threatened Catholic churches

Ruby Russell writes for ENI News (10 January 2012) about Muslims in Germany who have been undertaking dialogue with the Catholic Church about three churches in their town which may have to close:

"Three Catholic churches in the west German region of North-Rhine Westphalia that may have to close this month have received a show of solidarity from the local Muslim community.

Muhammed Al, chairman of the Merkez Mosque Association, wrote to Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck, head of the Essen diocese, on behalf of local Muslims last fall about the three Catholic churches in the town of Duisberg. "We emphasized our long years of cooperation with the parishes and the importance of the churches in the area. We said this should be seen not just from a financial perspective, but also a cultural and social perspective [including] for the sake of interfaith and cultural dialogue," Al said in an interview.

Since the foundation of the Merkez Mosque in 1984, Duisburg's Muslim and Catholic communities have been in close dialogue. The congregations hold regular events where they learn about each other's faiths and pray together. They also cooperate on social projects and hold a joint harvest festival each year. In 2008, the Catholic parishes spoke to their congregation to encourage acceptance among locals for the construction of a new mosque, which is Germany's largest. "Interfaith and intercultural dialogue promotes mutual awareness and does away with a great many prejudices," said Al. "People approach each other through dialogue and get to know each other's unfamiliar prayers and traditions."

You can read the full, original article here.

Islamic Finance as a Way to Alleviate Poverty?

Tasnim Nazeer writes for Muslim Matters (21 February 2012) about how Islamic finance is alleviating poverty:

"Islamic microfinance is becoming an increasingly popular mechanism for alleviating poverty, especially in developing countries around the world. The Islamic finance industry as a whole is expected to reach over $2 billion dollars in 2012 and is a continually growing sector due to its ethical principles and prohibition of riba (interest).

The concept of Islamic microfinance adheres to the principles of Islam and is a form of socially responsible investing. Investors who use their wealth for Islamic microfinance projects only involve themselves in halal projects which benefit the community at large. Such projects include zakat, which is charity based, or trade and industry projects to develop a country's economy.

At a time when poverty is still prevalent around the world, there is no better solution than opting for funding which can provide benefits to a poverty-stricken community and help to rebuild economies.

Islamic microfinance gives the investor a chance to get involved in worthwhile projects which could essentially play a significant role in targeting poverty and alleviating it in many countries around the world. Islamic microfinance primarily relies upon the provision of financial services to the poor or developing regions which are subject to certain conditions laid down by Islamic jurisprudence. It represents the merging of two growing sectors: microfinance and the Islamic finance industry.

It has the potential to not only be the solution for an increased demand to help the poor but also to combine the Islamic socially responsible principles of caring for the less fortunate with microfinance's ability to provide financial access to the poor.

Unleashing this potential could be the key to providing financial stability to millions of less privileged people who currently reject microfinance products that do not comply with Islamic law."

You can read the full original article here.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Reflections on Black History Month

Imam Zaid writes at New Islam Directions (15 February 2012) about the importance of Black History Month for Muslims in Reflections on Black History Month:

Black History Month should be of interest to every Muslim, especially in America. It is estimated that upwards to 20% of the Africans enslaved in the Americas were Muslim. In some areas, such as the coast of the Carolinas, Georgia, and parts of Virginia, the percentages of Muslims in the slave population may have approached 40%. The fact that the search of a random African American, Alex Haley, for his roots led him to a Muslim village in West Africa is indicative of the widespread Muslim presence among the enslaved population here in the Americas.

In identifying with those African Muslims, we must not allow ourselves to forget that they were part of a greater community, a community which has evolved to almost fifty million African Americans. The struggle of that community, its pain, perseverance, triumphs, and defeats, cannot be separated from the struggle of its Muslim members. If we as Muslims are moved by the suffering of our coreligionists who were exposed to the dehumanizing cruelties of a vicious system, we should similarly be moved by the plight of their non-Muslim African brothers and sisters who suffered the same injustices.

African American Muslims have a particular responsibility in addressing such racism. In beginning to do so, we can take our lead from our formerly enslaved brothers. Despite their lack of freedom, many of them were never “owned.” This fact is strikingly clear in their increasingly widespread biographies. Individuals such as Ayyub bin Sulayman (Job Ben Solomon), Ibrahim Abdul-Rahman, and Yarrow Mamout, to name a few, did not allow the ravages of chattel slavery to rob them of their dignity, honor, or their human worth.

You can read the full article here.

What I’m Learning and Loving in the Quran

Peggy Fletcher Stack writes for the Salt Lake Tribune (27 January 2012) about her attempt to read the Quran entitled "What I’m learning and loving in the Quran":

"Every year during the Islamic 30-day holy month (which begins in July this year), in addition to fasting from dawn to dusk, millions of Muslims read the entire 600-page Quran. That’s a mere 20 pages a day, but I couldn’t do it.

It’s not that the book is boring or hard to read. In fact, I find it fascinating.

I was moved by the volume’s approach to forgiveness, including these verses in Quran 3:135-136: “Those who, when they have committed illegal sexual intercourse or wronged themselves with evil, remember Allah [God] and ask forgiveness for their sins — and none can forgive but Allah — and do not persist in what [wrong] they have done, while they know.”

I was amazed to learn how many of the familiar figures from Jewish and Christian texts make appearances in this Muslim scripture — Adam, Abraham, Noah, David, Moses, Mary, Jesus and more.

I was intrigued by the role Satan plays. He is an evil figure who tempts humans but takes no bows for winning any souls to his side.

On Judgment Day, according to Quran 14:22, Satan will say to those who choose to follow him: “Verily, Allah promised you a promise of truth. And I too promised you, but I betrayed you. I had no authority over you except that I called you, and you responded to me. So blame me not, but blame yourselves.”

Despite popular misperceptions about forced conversions, the Quran 2:256 says, “There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path.”

You can read the full article here.

Why the Prophet Muhammad Is So Beloved to Muslims

Imam Sohaib Sultan, Muslim Life Coordinator and Chaplain of Princeton University writes for the Huffington Post (17 February 2012) about why Muslims love the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) so very much:

"After several years of persecution and little success in preaching the word of God to his own people in the ancient city of Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad decided to take his message and teachings to the people of Ta'if, an agricultural city southeast of Mecca. The Prophet's Meccan persecutors sent word to their allies in advance of Muhammad's arrival in order to thwart his mission and turn the people against him. As the Prophet entered the precincts of the city of Ta'if, much to his bewilderment, he was met with sticks and stones as the people tried to drive him out. The Prophet ran for his life, bloodied and bruised like never before, finally finding safety and taking refuge in a vineyard. He turned his face to the heavens, admitting his weakness and asking God for strength to carry on. The Archangel Gabriel appeared with the angels of the surrounding mountains and asked the Prophet if he would allow them to crush the city of Ta'if for the way its inhabitants treated him. The Prophet, instead, asked for the people to be forgiven and prayed that future generations would be rightly guided. After this, God revealed in the Qur'an about the Messenger, "And, We have not sent you except as a mercy to the worlds."

This mercy really comes to define the way and path of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet's wife, Lady Ayesha, recalled after his passing that he would always be the first to greet his family with peace upon entering the home; constantly serve the members of his household with tasks and chores without complaint; and, he would mend his own clothes and repairs his own shoes. The Prophet would playfully rub the children's heads and encouraged his grandchildren to ride his back like a horse. A smile would come upon his face and he would stand up to greet his beloved daughter Lady Fatimah, the only child of his seven children to live longer than he, when she would come in his presence.

The Prophet's relationship with his community was similar. His companions would say that when he spoke to them they would feel like they were the most beloved to him, and he would direct his full attention to them when they spoke to him. The Prophet preferred to sit and eat with the poor and weak, and he would always be the first to visit the sick and depressed. He showed as much concern for his closest friends as he did for the African woman who swept the floor of the Prophet's Mosque. And, he taught his followers to also resemble this mercy, teaching them to share their food with others even if it was half a date; to remove harm from the path even if it was a small branch; to smile and give cheer even on a bad day; and, to smell nice and clean even if resources were little.

But, it was, perhaps, his way with rude and hostile people that really exemplified the Prophet's mercy. Early on in Muhammad's advent as a Prophet, a woman would throw her garbage on him every time he would pass by her place. One day the woman did not come out, so the Prophet became concerned and inquired about her. Learning that she had become ill, he went to visit her and offered comforting words. Once a Bedouin entered the sacred precincts of the Prophet's mosque when he was with some of his companions and began urinating and defiling the space. The companions immediately rose to physically confront the Bedouin, but the Prophet stood in their way and calmed them down. He asked his companions to wash the mess that was made and took the Bedouin aside to talk to him. He spoke of the sacredness of a worship space and spoke well to the Bedouin until the man exclaimed, "May God have mercy on you and I, and no one else!" The Prophet laughed upon hearing this, and replied, "You have limited something that is immeasurably vast," teaching him that God's mercy envelops all beings.

In the West, the Prophet Muhammad is often portrayed only as a warrior who led and fought in battles. The Prophet was indeed a warrior who defended his community with the courage of a lion. But, it is also true that the Prophet practiced the highest ethics in war by avoiding the killing of innocents, prohibiting torture and mutilation, the poisoning of wells, cutting down fruit-bearing trees, and so on. Even on the battlefield, the Prophet practiced restraint and patience at every turn.

The Prophet's mercy extended to the universe around him. He taught his companions to protect birds; he even consoled grieved animals; and showed endearing concern for the trees and plant life. The Prophet always took little from the earth and taught his followers to preserve water even if they were near a running river.

So, why is the Prophet Muhammad so beloved? It is because, for Muslims and for anyone who comes to know him with love, the Prophet exemplified the life of compassion toward all that was around him. And, even when he was offended and harmed, he showed his followers how to find inner peace with God, to live with grace and dignity under pressure. For this and more, this month we celebrate his birth, life, and legacy. Peace and blessings be upon the Messenger Muhammad, the great teacher of truth and wisdom."

You cn find the original article here.

Interfaith Feast: Muslims and Jews in Utah

The Salt Lake Tribune (27 January) carries an article on some interfaith cooking and dining entitled "Utah Muslims and Jews to feast on food, friendship":

"Muslim and Jewish chefs will work side by side next week to whip up a religious-themed feast as a symbol of mutual friendship and awareness.

There will be matzo, signifying the hurried Jewish flight from Egypt, and chana chaat, traditionally eaten to break the daily fasts of Islam’s Ramadan. Add to that honey cake, served during Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and halva, a nut-butter sweet used in Muslim and Jewish cuisines.

The event, “Cooking Together,” is co-sponsored by the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake and Congregation Kol Ami as an effort to build bridges of understanding. It is part of February’s Interfaith Month, which features many religious gatherings and events.

“There is so much controversy that gets built up between people, especially these two groups,” says Kol Ami Rabbi Ilana Schwartzman. “We want to mitigate that by bringing people together at their basic level, which is their need to eat. It’s a way to recognize our common humanity.”
So many of these recipes have been tenderly passed down from one generation to the next, she says. “Sharing them is about sharing love with each other.”
It is the second event for these faith groups.

Last October, the two met at the synagogue during Sukkot, a Jewish holiday that emphasizes hospitality and welcoming strangers to their homes. Participants sat under or near the sukkah, an outdoor structure that is meant to symbolize the temporary huts where Jews lived during their Exodus from Egypt.

The rabbi and imam set the example for the gathered Jews and Muslims by dining, talking and learning from one another. There was a scavenger hunt, singing and games for Muslim and Jewish children, while the adults toured the synagogue’s sanctuary and listened to an introduction about Islam."

You can find the full article here.

Islamic Outreach: Gain Peace, Chicago

The New York Times (23 February 2012) carries an article on Gain Peace, an Islamic outreach organization based in Chicago:

"Gain Peace, an Islamic outreach organization based in Chicago, spent $40,000 in December to counter negative portrayals and produce two television ads intended to promote Islam as a just faith. The spots, which will run through March in the Chicago area on Fox, CNN and TNT, depict friendly Muslim students and professionals and display a phone number and a Web site for more information.

“This is an election year and in the Republican primaries and elsewhere, generally we have seen more discrimination, hate and misunderstanding about Muslims,” said Sabeel Ahmed, director of Gain Peace. “We wanted to take it up a notch.”

During a political engagement workshop for immigrants on the near West Side early this month, Ahmed Rehab, the head of a Muslim advocacy group, urged attendees to fight attacks on Islam with accurate information about the Muslim faith.

Gain Peace, which produced the television ads, is part of the Islamic Circle of North America, an Islamic education organization based in Queens, N.Y., accused by conservative groups of extolling terrorism.

Mr. Redfield, of the University of Illinois at Springfield, said he thought the Muslim groups were smart to combat anti-Muslim rhetoric. “In politics, if you don’t define yourself someone else will,” he said. “They have to be proactive in terms of trying to neutralize ignorance and willful manipulation of negative opinion.”

You can read the full article here.

Brigham Young University Museum of Art: Beauty and Belief

The Brigham Young University Museum of Art is hosting an exhibit called "Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture" showcasing 250 works from 10 countries making it the biggest exhibit the museum has ever held.

The Salt Lake Tribune and The Deseret both cover the exhibition;

Salt Lake Tribune (25 February 2012): In what’s being hailed as the first time a Mormon institution has sponsored a traveling exhibition of Islamic art, “Beauty and Belief: Crossing Bridges with the Arts of Islamic Culture” has opened at Brigham Young University. The 250 works represent art from 10 countries and dozens of institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the British Museum.

The Deseret (23 February 2012): Like stepping back in time, visitors to a new exhibit walk through the art and culture of Islam. Works from as long ago as the seventh century, from 10 nations and more than 40 private donors have been brought together to create an atmosphere of "Beauty and Belief." Visitors pass from one area of the exhibit to another through arches or bridges.

Each room has different colors, signifying different ideas, like light, which leads to knowledge. The exhibit, which stretches over 16,000 square feet, features masterworks from the al-Sabah Collection at Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyya in Kuwait, unique manuscripts from the Royal Library in Morocco and works from collections across the United States.

“When we have an occasion, we can bring people together, so we can understand each other and we are in one world, and we live together and this friendship is very important," said His Excellency Mohamed Rachad Bouhlal, Moroccan ambassador to the U.S. He says people better understand the Islamic culture by seeing the art, seeing what the artists have done and the message the pieces convey.

Saturday 4 February 2012

NYT Books: Love Inssh'Allah

The New York Times ( January 2012) has a review of Love Insh'Allah a new anthology edited by Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi (Lifting Veil on Love and Islam):

The two editors, Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi, sought to create a book that dispelled the stereotype of Muslim women as mute and oppressed. They gathered 24 portraits of private lives that expose a group in some cases kept literally veiled, yet that also illustrate that American Muslim women grapple with universal issues.

“We are thought of as being submissive and given in marriage to big, bearded men,” said Ms. Mattu, 39, an international development consultant, “while the reality is that a majority of American Muslim women are creative, funny, intelligent and opinionated.”

You can read the full review here.

British Museums Hajj Exhibition: Media Coverage

The media has been covering the British Museum's newest exhibition Hajj: Journey to the heart of Islam, quite extensively:

The Guardian - Prejudices about Islam will be shaken by this show
Like Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Sikhs and secularists, some Muslims have undoubtedly been violent and intolerant, but the new exhibition at the British Museum – Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam – is a timely reminder that this is not the whole story. The hajj is one of the five essential practices of Islam; when they make the pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims ritually act out the central principles of their faith. Equating religion with "belief" is a modern western aberration. Like swimming or driving, religious knowledge is practically acquired. You learn only by doing. The ancient rituals of the hajj, which Arabs performed for centuries before Islam, have helped pilgrims to form habits of heart and mind that – pace the western stereotype – are non-violent and inclusive.

Daily Mail (26 January 2012) - Mysteries of the hajj revealed as British Museum opens exhibition on Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca
"A major exhibition devoted to the annual pilgrimage to Mecca aims to lift the veil on a ritual that has remained a mystery to many in the non-Muslim world.
'Hajj: journey at the heart of Islam' has arrived at the British Museum and curators hope an insight into the historical and spiritual journey will draw in both Muslims as well as non-Muslims.
I think what the exhibition does is to talk about the one facet of Islam we don't know much about and that it's very much about peace"

Financial Times (27 January 2012) - Pilgrims’ Progress
The British Museum’s new exhibition on the Hajj is the most complete such enterprise yet undertaken. In a story that stretches from ancient beginnings to modernity, many of the rituals are unchanging, even if the infrastructure surrounding the trip has transformed dramatically. What was once a perilous voyage with serious risk of illness or loss of life is today administered by specialist travel agents who offer packages with visas and vaccinations included. It is just as well: annual visitors are estimated to top the 3m mark in the next few years. It is a testament both to the enduring hold of the Islamic faith and to the ability of this remarkable event to adapt with the times.
The historical section of the show is a tale of progress forged by continuing devotion (and serves as a corrective to the western assumption that modernity and secularism go hand in hand). There are fabulous accounts of the journey that are, if nothing else, important documents of sociology. The pilgrims of the 19th century, for example, were the first to notice the disparity between their modest surrounds and the wealth, and growing imperial ambitions, of western powers.

Wall Street Journal (27 January 2012): The British Museum's Pilgrimage
A clearer understanding of Islam has become an urgent priority for the West. And this may very well be the closest guide to experiencing one of its central rituals—and, as the exhibition demonstrates, ideas of community, trade and shared knowledge—that any non-Muslim will be able to obtain, since the Hajj itself is reserved for the faithful.
As the exhibition shows, the practicalities of organizing the Hajj are astounding. While the manuscripts and etchings of the 19th century had already identified it as a marvel, the development of first steamships, and then the railways and air travel, made it what Mr. MacGregor calls "on a planetary scale, one of the more remarkable things humans do." A timeline on one wall points out that, while there were around 30,000 pilgrims in the early 1930s, almost three million people now visit Mecca for the Hajj each year.

The Telegraph (04 February 2012) - Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam, British Museum, review
The first thing confronting you as you step up beneath the old reading room dome is an extraordinary aerial photograph of the Ka’aba, the sanctuary in the centre of Mecca, surrounded by perfect concentric circles formed by hundreds of thousands of praying pilgrims, filling not just the immediate courtyard, but the surrounding terraces and vast squares. It looks at first disconcertingly like some huge piece of devotional performance art – if I can say that without being remotely offensive. And at the same time it brings home the fact that with its emphasis on unitary oneness, Islamic art is in essence abstract.
Among many intriguing exhibits, my favourite was an exercise book containing the Hajj diary of a London schoolgirl, written in a rounded girlish hand: “words cannot describe the emotions that are created when one looks at the Ka’aba, such a simple object structurally yet so majestic and awe-inspiring it is difficult to take your eyes off it.”
The sentiments are Islamic, the means of expression a product of the British education system. If this was Britain’s contribution to the vast culture of the Hajj, it made one feel oddly proud.

British Museum: Hajj Journey to the Heart of Islam

The British Museum has an exhibition called Hajj journey to the heart of Islam. The exhibition is on from 26 January to 15 April 2012 and explores British Muslims hajj experiences. There is a page for people's stories:

"I was privileged to make the Hajj of 2011. The moment you enter the Harem Mosque and first lay eyes on the Ka’ba feels like the day you are truly born of life, your soul, heart and eyes soften and ease to the glorious sight. It’s incredible, so many Muslim around the globe pray towards and visualise this point before ever making the journey, now I have returned home I think it is testament to the faith."

"The highlight of my Hajj was to walk with millions of people wearing the same piece of simple cloth, saying same words here I am at thy service oh Lord, here I am, submitting ourselves to Allah. It was very uplifting to be united with people from all walks of life from all over the world as one umah (community) all for the sake of God Almighty. That sudden feeling of Joy once I completed all rituals of Hajj gave me the feeling I was reborn clean of sins and hoping that my Hajj has been accepted."

"I made my Umra 7 years ago and to this day the memories send shivers down my spine. It was magical; more magical than Disneyland!! Words alone can't explain the uplifting and exhilarating feeling rippling through myself! My favourite part was when we set foot inside the Haram and my siblings and I were going to lay eyes on the Ka'ba for the first time. We kept our eyes on the ground and only when we reached the courtyard did we look up. Wow. Gobsmacked. Amazing. I could only hear the birds singing and the general hum of people praying; I'd zoned out and no word in the entire dictionary will come close to describing how I felt. Pure, pure serenity :) The overall experience is very humbling. As I'm writing this, I'm smiling."

As well as hajj stories, the exhibition promises "beautiful objects, including historical and contemporary art, textiles and manuscripts". You can visit the websit to book tickets here.

image source

Hajj certificate (detail). 17th–18th century AD. Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art Khalili Family Trust (image source)

Huffington Post: The Last Sermon of the Prophet Muhammad

Imam Abdullah Antepli, the Muslim Chaplain at Duke University writes for the Huffington Post (2 February 2012) on the Prophet's (PBUH) last sermon, describing it as "earliest declarations of human rights in written history":

"For those who can drop their 21st century cultural baggage and read this sermon in its own historical context, one can't help but admire it as one of the earliest declarations of human rights in written history. Almost everything he says in this prophetic sermon was almost unheard of and inconceivable prior to the arrival of Islam. The prophet of Islam addresses some of the core universal values in a society where those values are long forgotten and violated in a systemic basis. The prophet didn't only say but transformed his society, in a very short period of time, remarkably in all the values and lessons that he talks about.

All human beings are equal, racial supremacy is unacceptable, women have rights, socio-economic inequality is despicable and should be fought against and so on. In twenty three years he united a deeply divided and polarized Arabian peninsula, stopped the ongoing bloodshed, restored the dignity of women, minimized the gap between the poor and the rich and more. In his lifetime former slaves become governors of provinces and generals. Centuries old, deeply rooted primitive patriarchal and oppressive cultural practices were wiped out, racism and tribalism were defeated. There is hardly any other religious figure who has been as successful both in religious terms as well as in secular terms as Muhammad.

In this sermon of Muhammad, Muslims find their deep commitment to the universal human values such as sacredness of life and property, equality, justice, peace and more. Upon these high universal values, the religion of Islam was built."

You can read a translation of the semon and the full article here.

Liam Neeson on Islam

Independent Film and Cinema (25 January) quotes an interview with Liam Neeson in which he shares his thoughts on Islam:

"He famously played a cleric in Cal, and was named after a priest, but Liam Neeson has admitted he is now considering converting to Islam.

The Ballymena raised star has told one British newspaper that Islamic prayer "got into his spirit" while filming in Turkish city Istanbul.

He said: "The Call to Prayer happens five times a day and for the first week it drives you crazy, and then it just gets into your spirit and it's the most beautiful, beautiful thing.

"There are 4,000 mosques in the city. Some are just stunning and it really makes me think about becoming a Muslim."

You can read the full article here.

image source