Archive for August, 2009

Way of the Prophet, peace be upon him

August 25, 2009

Bismillah. My paternal grandfather’s book on Hadith (Intikhab-e-Hadith) is now out in English, alhamdulillah.

See http://www.islamic-foundation.com for “Way of the Prophet” by Abdul Ghaffar Hasan, Kube publishers, 2009.

Readers are encouraged to buy the book, but not to read it until after Eid since Ramadan should be devoted to the study of the Qur’an. The great Hadith scholars of the past would suspend narrating ahadith during Ramadan and concentrate on the Book of God.

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Introduction to Surah 2 – al-Baqarah (The Cow), by Abdullah Yusuf Ali

August 23, 2009

As the Opening Surah sums up in seven beautiful verses the essence of the Qur’an, so this Surah sums up in 286 verses the whole teaching of the Qur’an. It is a closely reasoned argument.

Summary – It begins (verses 1-29) by classifying men into three broad categories, depending on how they receive God’s message.

This leads to the story of the creation of man, the high destiny intended for him, his fall, and the hope held out to him (2:30-39).

Israel’s story is then told according to their own traditions – what privileges they received and how they abused them (2:40-86), thus illustrating again as a parable the general story of man.

In particular, reference is made to Moses and Jesus and their struggles with an unruly people; how people of the Book played false their own lights and in their pride rejected Muhammad, who came in the true line of Prophets (2:87-121). They falsely laid claim to the virtues of Father Abraham: he was indeed a righteous Imam, but he was the progenitor of Ishmael’s line (Arabs) as well as of Israel’s line, and he with Ishmael built the Ka’bah (the House of God in Mecca) and purified it, thus establishing a common religion, of which Islam is the universal exponent (2:122-141).

The Ka’bah was now to be the centre of universal worship and the symbol of Islamic unity (2:142-167).

The Islamic Ummah (brotherhood) having thus been established with its definite centre and symbol, ordinances are laid out for the social life of the community, with the proviso (2:177) that righteousness does not consist in formalities, but in faith, kindness, prayer, charity, probity, and patience under suffering. The ordinances relate to food and drink, bequests, fasts, jihad, wine and gambling, treatment of orphans and women, etc. (2:168-242).

Lest the subject of jihad should be misunderstood, it is taken up again in the story of Saul, Goliath and David, in contrast to the story of Jesus (2:243-253).

And so the lesson is enforced that true virtue lies in practical deeds of manliness, kindness, and good faith (2:254-283), and God’s nature is called to mind in the sublime Ayah al-Kursi, the Verse of the Throne (2:255).

The Surah ends with an exhortation to Faith, Obedience, a sense of Personal Responsibility, and Prayer (2:284-286).

This is the longest Surah of the Qur’an, and in it occurs the longest verse (2:282).

The name of the Surah is from the Parable of the Heifer in 2:67-71, which illustrates the insufficiency of carping obedience. When faith is lost, people put off obedience with various excuses: even when at last they obey in the letter, they fail in the spirit, which means that they get fossilised and their self-sufficiency prevents them from seeing that spiritually they are not alive but dead. For life is movement, activity, striving, fighting against baser things. And this is the burden of the Surah.

TV programme – Moonsighting discussion

August 16, 2009

Bismillah. We just finished recording this, alhamdulillah.

It will be aired on Islam Channel (Sky 836 or http://www.islamchannel.tv) on Tuesday night God-willing, 18th August 2009, 10-11pm.

Panellists (with a studio audience):

Mohammad Ali (Islam Channel)
Qamar Uddin (ICOP)
Suliman Gani (Tooting Mosque)
Usama Hasan (Tawhid Mosque)

Chair: Ajmal Masroor

A good discussion I thought, more civilised and less heated than in previous years. I hope it will be beneficial in advancing public understanding of the issues involved.

Ramadan, Eid date for UK, 1430 (2009)

August 11, 2009

Bismillah. Please refer to my article, “A simple solution to the moonsighting problem,” first published in Emel magazine in 2007. It is available at the City Circle website (www.thecitycircle.com), under previous blogs – see August 2008. I may update it and post it here later, insha’Allah.

According to that simple methodology, the following are the dates for Ramadan and Eid this year.

First day of Ramadan 1430: Saturday 22 August 2009
(crescent easily visible throughout Australasia and Africa the previous evening)

Eid al-Fitr or first day of Shawwal 1430: Sunday 20 September 2009
(crescent easily visible throughout Southern African the previous evening)

Accordingly, Ramadan in the UK will have 29 days insha’Allah.

It seems that the European Council for Fatwa and Research (www.ecfr.org) has announced 1st Ramadan as 21st August. They seem to be basing this on astronomical conjunction as per Shaykh Ahmad Shakir’s fatwa. This is disappointing and goes against a good fatwa from the 1990’s by Sh. Abdullah al-Juday’, one of the ECFR scholars. In it, he said that hilal-sighting claims about a moon less than 12 hours old would be rejected “because the astronomers agree that a hilal less than 12 hours old cannot be sighted.”

Note that according to Dr. Steve Bell of HMNAO, the world-records for hilal-sightings are roughly 15 hours by naked eye and 12 hours by telescope.

Sh. Sudais at RPM today

August 7, 2009

Bismillah. I am reliably informed that Sh. Sudais will indeed lead the Friday prayers at Regent’s Park Mosque (RPM) today, roughly 1-2pm.

If you wish to attend, it might be advisable to get there by 12, since the sermon may begin before 1 and the mosque may be busier than usual because of today’s guest. A friend who tried to attend sunset prayers with Sh. Sudais on Tuesday at the East London Mosque (ELM) told me that they couldn’t get in: ELM and the London Muslim Centre next door were both packed, the doors were shut and people prayed on the street outside or had to go elsewhere. This means that up to 10,000 worshippers turned up on Tuesday. We had over 1,000 people at our mosque in Leyton at a day’s notice the previous week, although I wasn’t there and haven’t met Sh. Sudais for years.

Any bloggers or journalists interested in what Sh. Sudais has to say in his sermon may wish to send an Arabic-speaker along today. The Times did so in 2005 or 2006 when Sh. Qaradawi led Friday prayers at RPM. The reporter wrote an accurate summary of proceedings, as far as I recall. Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Death Threats to Sayyid al-Qimni, Egyptian historian and thinker

August 4, 2009

Update: 5th August 2009

People have pointed out that Sheikh Ali Gomaa (who is Shaykh al-Azhar, not the Grand Mufti) is against the death penalty for apostates, so he can’t have encouraged killing Qimni.  It seems he may have been asked about Qimni and said that he was an apostate.  This might be insensitive, given what happened to Faraj Fouda & Nagib Mahfuz.

Similarly, it is unlikely that the Muslim Brotherhood would officially call for Qimni’s killing.  It has millions of supporters though, so some of them might have done.  It should also be pointed out that the MB has repeatedly suffered the arrest without charge of some of its members over the years, and this continued recently.  Egyptian society needs greater openness and justice.

The whole situation is actually a good opportunity for Al-Azhar, MB, Sh. Qaradawi and others to calm people down and show some maturity and wisdom, dialogue and engagement rather than rushing to death threats at the slightest whiff of heresy.  Surely the last thing Egypt and Islam need is another Faraj Fouda or Salman Rushdie situation?

With the Name of Allah

The secular, liberal Egyptian historian and thinker Sayyid al-Qimni, son of a traditionalist Azhari sheikh, has had serious death threats issued against him by many (mainly extremist) religious scholars in Egypt since the end of June, as detailed in his Appeal (below) which he describes as ” a distress call to all bodies and individuals, a call to the consciences of every free individual in the world.”

The latest threats to him seem to have been sparked by his being elected to receive the Egyptian State Award for Social Sciences on June 25th.

In particular, it is alleged that those who have declared that he is an apostate and should be killed (perhaps even by ordinary Egyptians, not just by the state) include:

1- The Muslim Brotherhood
2- Al-Azhar Scholars’ Front headed by Yahya Ismail Habloush
3- 5,000 mosque khatibs in their Friday sermons on July 24th
4- Sheikh Ali Gomaa himself (currently still the Shaykh Al-Azhar, as far as I know)

The situation of a polarisation between religious and secular currents in is repeated in different Muslim-majority countries, eg Pakistan, Turkey, North Africa, etc., so this case is symbolic of a much wider and deeper issue, of course.

Whatever we feel about his views (I think he’s too apologetic about the history of Jihad, for example, and he should not ridicule the Islamic practice of constant remembrance of God out of frustration with the religion-exploiters), clearly, the death threats are pathetic, appalling and totally unacceptable.

Now, our FCO and embassy in Cairo has been working with Sheikh Ali Gomaa and Al-Azhar over the last few years, and also recently hosted the charming Rector of Al-Azhar in the UK.  The Archbishop of Canterbury has also been working with Sheikh Gomaa – I was present last year at Cambridge University when they were the two main speakers at a “Common Word” event.  I also took part in the FCO Projecting British Islam delegation to Egypt last year, which is partly why the matter concerns me.

I’m therefore asking for your help in encouraging our friends in the following places to do the right thing in this regard (and praying to God that they do so, if appropriate!): i.e. to investigate the death-threats and to take appropriate steps to promote peaceful dialogue and debate, including between secularists and fundamentalists, believers and non-believers, etc.

1- The FCO, especially the Foreign Secretary
2- Our embassy in Cairo, as well as the embassies there of other influential countries
3- Al-Azhar University and its various affiliated institutions
4- The office of Sheikh Ali Gomaa
5- The Muslim Brotherhood
6- The office of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  Qimni is highly-critical of Qaradawi.  From what I know of Qaradawi, he is at least open and committed to dialogue with others, plus he has a less-hardline position on the alleged death-penalty for apostasy.  Therefore, perhaps he may be able to have a calming influence here.
7- Religious scholars and shaykhs generally, especially those with links to the UK & Egyptian governments and religious circles
8- Lambeth Palace & the office of Dr. Rowan Williams
9- Members of the “Common Word” initiative
10- Human rights organisations & lawyers

I would appreciate your advice, suggestions, help, prayers, etc.  Please publicise this matter and forward it to the relevant people.  I attach pertinent quotes and some weblinks below.


The Arabic Network For Human Rights Information:  Sayyed Alqimni’s Life Is At Stake Amidst An Extremist Campaign. Iftaa Council Declares War Against Free Enlightened Thought.

Abu Aardvark: The secularism debate.

Politics & Religion Blog: Egyptian Reformer Sayyid al-Qimni.

Egyptian Liberal Sayid Al-Qimni & London Islamist Hani Al-Sibai Debate Secularism & Fundamentalism in Arab World.

Sayyid al-Qimni’s blog (in Arabic)

Sayyid al-Qimni is on Facebook also, with that spelling.


This appeal can be found at the Copts’ website as well as at ME Transparent.

(I have edited it for what look like translation errors.  In particular, the Arabic takfir can mean both atonement and excommunication, but clearly the latter is meant throughout this appeal.  Also, salafi means fundamentalist or traditionalist in this context.)

AN APPEAL TO THE WORLD’S CONSCIENCE
From the Egyptian writer and academic researcher of Islamic Affairs, Dr. Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany, who is being exposed to incitements to assassinate him

Qimni photo
In the context of my academic research and practical work I have been able to provide an important set of motion in the stagnant Egyptian situation. I have attempted to make reforms from the inside and worked on the disarmament of those who exploit Islam politically and make it a source of livelihood at the expense of the simple, good people of Egypt. I have therefore created a secular movement that has imposed its presence, although still at a formative stage.

In a free ballot of Egyptian thinkers, I was granted the State Award for Social Sciences, on June 25th 2009. The hard-line radical militant groups considered that the state has adopted this intellectual secular trend officially, infuriating the mentioned group which called on the State to withdraw the prize with the declaration of my defection from Islam and excommunication which means in our country, I could be slain; any citizen is allowed to kill me and be awarded by God in Paradise.

The following parties have participated in the statements of excommunication (takfir), noting that none of them have read a single word of what I wrote, and have not been able to hold a dialogue to discuss my ideas:

1 – Al-Azhar Scholars Front headed by Yahya Ismail Habloush, which issued the first statement of excommunication on July 10, 2009.
2 – The Islamic Group (condemned terrorist group) issued a statement of excommunication on July 10, 2009.
3 – The Muslim Brotherhood hailed the excommunication, and were represented at the parliament by Hamdi Hassan requesting the withdrawal of the award and the declaration of religious-defection and excommunication on July 7, 2009. The Muslim Brotherhood also declared my excommunication on Mohwar Channel on July 11, 2009 and on Al Faraeen Channel on July 13, 2009.
4 – The Salafi (Fundamentalist) Group (condemned terrorist group) dedicated its Internet site named “The Egyptians” for excommunicating me and incitements to kill me, since the date of obtaining the prize until today.
5 – Al Nas channel, which represents the theoretical side of bloody terrorism which declared excommunication and demanded “all citizens who can” to kill me immediately, on July 24 and 25, 2009.
6 – The Hisbah Sheikh Youssef Al Badri in Egypt declared on the channel “ON TV” on July 3, 2009 that I have cursed God and the Prophet Mohammad in my books even though I have challenged him and others to refer to a single text written by me where such claims were made. Due to this proclamation, he has issued an incitement to kill me.
7 – A member of the Al-Azhar scholars, Sheikh Mohammed El Berry, on Mihwar TV Channel on July 11, 2009 announced my excommunication as he also said that he did not read any of my writings since he does not read “garbage”. He repeated the same words on the channel “ON TV” on July 22, 2009
8 – Sheikh Ali Gomaa, the former Chairman of the “State Religious Affairs Advisory Board”, issued a statement declaring my infidelity and calling for slaying me for “insulting the Prophet of Islam, the God of Islam” on July 24, 2009.
9 – The Sheiks of more than 5,000 mosques on Friday prayers on July 24, 2009 declared the incitement to kill me, especially in my hometown, which led to the rampage against my family and relatives, and that could possibly evolve to some serious consequences in the coming weeks.

Due to the above, I call upon the conscience of all humanity in the free world to come to me and my children’s rescue by providing moral support and the condemnation and denunciation of the radical thinking with quick solutions to save us from the danger that is luring around us.  This is a distress call to all bodies and individuals. A call to the consciences of every free individual in the world.

Signed
Sayed Mahmoud El Qemany- Researcher

================================

We, the Liberal Egyptian intellectuals, students, followers, readers and lovers of Dr. Sayed El Qemany call upon the officials to intervene to save our distinguished and respectable intellectual from the threats of radical Islamic movements who continue to incite to murder him, openly and publicly in mosques and on satellite channels, financed by those who exploit religion to serve their political agendas for nothing but their inability to hold a valid and a scientific argument with him and totally lost their minds over his being granted the State Award for Social Sciences, The fact that lead to their predicament that the state has adopted a secular ideology, which is synonymous with heresy and atheism in their ignorant minds.

We also urge the Press Syndicate to address the abuses of the fundamentalist brothers Mahmoud and Gamal Sultan as well as Jamal Abd al-Rahim against Dr. El Qemany inciting the general public to kill him. We call upon the Attorney General as well, to bring to justice those held accountable for incitement to kill an Egyptian citizen whose only crime was to use his mind.

LET’S ALL STAND UP TO THE FUNDAMENTALIST INQUISITION!

El Qemany’s Appeal About Sayyid al-Qimni Qemani text I (English) Qemani text II (English) Qimni – Azhar – Extremism Qimni – Muslim Brotherhood – civil society Qimny on Jihad attitudes

Cover snapshots of Qimni’s books:

Qimni book 1 Qimni book 2 Qimni book 3 Qimni book 4 Qimni book 5 Qimni book 6 Qimni book 7

Sh. Sudais in London

August 2, 2009

Sh. Abdul-Rahman Sudais, one of the Imams at the Ka’bah, will lead the Maghrib (Sunset) prayers at the East London Mosque in Whitechapel this Tuesday 4th Aug insha’Allah.  He will then lead the Isha (Night) prayers at the Darul Ummah in nearby Bigland Street, East London.

His schedule for the rest of the week will be announced there, including Friday prayers on 7th Aug, possibly at the Regent’s Park Mosque.

Last week, he led the Sunset prayers at Al-Tawhid Mosque in Leyton and gave a short talk afterwards in Arabic that was translated into English.  The mosque was packed, naturally.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

War on Want: film screenings

August 2, 2009

Hello everyone,

*LANCASTER – LIVERPOOL – LONDON – YORK*

FREE TICKETS TO THE YES MEN’S NEW HILARIOUS FILM!

War on Want is hosting 6 screenings of the Yes Men Fix the World, during launch week!

The film shows the Yes Men posing as Exxon and Halliburton representatives, presenting shocking and ridiculous solutions to climate change to industry audiences, as well as appearing alongside the governor of Louisiana and the mayor of New Orleans to show how the US government could right the wrongs done to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The result is a hard hitting and hilarious film to inspire even the most politically lethargic into taking action.

We are very excited to be giving away *FREE* tickets to War on Want supporters!

We have 3 pairs of free tickets for *EACH* of the following 6 screenings:

Central London – Sat 8th Aug – 6pm
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=129381191634#/event.php?eid=218265690087

Central London – Sun 9th Aug – 6:15pm
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=129381191634#/event.php?eid=130527466517

Greenwich London – Tue 11th Aug – 8:30pm
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=129381191634#/event.php?eid=109308989283

Lancaster – Tue 11th Aug – 8:30pm
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=129381191634#/event.php?eid=110236143162

Liverpool – Tue 11th Aug – 8:30pm
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2391153004#/event.php?eid=125325723000

York – Tue – 11th Aug – 8:30pm
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2391153004#/event.php?eid=129381191634

For a chance to win *FREE* tickets, see
http://www.waronwant.org/news/events/events/latest-events/16637-the-yes-men-fix-the-world-win-free-cinema-tickets

War on Want will be at each screening with action cards and info about our latest campaigns and how you can get involved.

Hope to see you there!

Nadia Idle
nidle@waronwant.org

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Reflections on Moonsighting

August 2, 2009

1) This is the latest version of a presentation I’ve given at various places around the UK: Reflections on Moonsighting

2) A first-night, 32-hour-old crescent-sighting (plus Venus) from my back garden in London, Muharram 1428 / January 2007 (and hence signalling the start of a new Islamic year) can be seen in this YouTube video.

3) Here is an introductory course on Islamic astronomy, covering Qiblah, prayer times and moonsighting: An Introduction to Islamic Astronomy

4) Here is a presentation on similar subjects by Dr. Steve Bell of HM Nautical Almanac Office, and who is perhaps the UK’s top expert on such astronomical calculations (he also does all the calculations for Websurf and Moonwatch): London_2007Sept08

5) “The Correct Qiblah” – a paper by Kamal Abdali: qibla paper