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SACRED TIME – THE NIGHT OF MAJESTY – LAYLAT AL-QADR

July 31, 2013

Bismillah

SACRED TIME – THE NIGHT OF MAJESTY

Laylat al-Qadr is a special night mentioned in the Qur’an, with a whole chapter devoted to it. The name means, “The Night of: Power, Destiny, Decree, Predestination, Fate, Majesty, Honour, Glory, Value.” It is the greatest night of the Islamic year.  The short Qur’anic chapter (no. 97) reads as follows:

Truly, We have sent it down in the Night of Majesty. 

And what will tell you what is the Night of Majesty? 

The Night of Majesty is better than a thousand months! 

The angels and the Spirit descend in it, by the permission of their Lord, along with every command. 

Peace! … It is, until the rise of Dawn.

The Night of Majesty is thus a night of intense spirituality and peace: The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, taught, “Whoever stands in prayer during The Night of Majesty, motivated by faith and seeking reward from God, their past and future sins will be forgiven.” [Bukhari & Muslim have “past sins”; other authentic hadiths add “and future sins”]

“It” in the first verse is masculine, and refers to the Qur’an but generates a sense of awe for it by not naming it.  The previous surah is precisely “Recite!” (Iqra’, no. 96), so the openings of these two surahs correspond.  “It” in the last verse is feminine, and refers to the night.

The Prophet, peace be upon him, once spent the entire month of Ramadan in I’tikaf (retreat or seclusion in the mosque) in order to find this night.  Traditionally, this night is said to fall on one of the odd nights during the last ten of Ramadan, i.e. the 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th nights.  Ibn Hazm argued that the last 10 ten nights depend on whether Ramadan has 29 or 30 days, something not usually known in advance: if Ramadan has 29 days, then the odd nights of the last 10 are the 20th, 22nd, 24th, 26th and 28th, so one should seek for it throughout the last ten nights, not just the odd ones. The commentators further disagree as to whether this special night is on a fixed date every year, or whether it changes from year to year.  The most popular traditional date for the night is the 27th – it is said that the Qur’an indicates this because the 27th word in the above surah is hiya (“It”), referring to the night itself.  Other views are that it occurs on the first or last night of Ramadan, or the 17th or 19th.  Some authorities (eg Ibn Mas’ud) insisted that it may fall on any night of the year. [cf. Tafsir Ibn Kathir for all these views]

But what does it mean to say that it is “better than a thousand months!”?  Traditional commentators often point that, taken literally, this equates to 83 years 4 months, a longer-than-average human lifetime.  Thus, this night’s worship is better than a lifetime of devotion. 

Other commentators, say that the phrase “a thousand months” is metaphorical; it is a bit like saying in English, “It is better than a million years!”  Eg Imam Qurtubi says that it means “better than all of time” (khayrun min al-dahri kullihi).  In other words, it is “better than forever” or “better than eternity” – the Night of Majesty is a search for eternity, for timelessness, for the connection with God that transcends all space and time.  No wonder, then, that this precious night is associated with the angels, with the Cosmic Spirit that permeates all of creation and with the outer and inner peace that we all crave and seek.

 

A Prayer

Ayesha, the Prophet’s honoured wife, asked him what prayer to say on this night.  He taught her the following words, that have been repeated billions of times by Muslims since, all of whom who learnt it via the Prophet’s wife from him:

Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbu l-‘afwa fa’fu ‘anni

“Dear God, truly: You are Forgiving; You love Forgiveness: so please Forgive me!”

 

Poetry – William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower.

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

 

Poetry – Auguries of Innocence Ramadanified

To break your fast with a wholesome date

And recite noble verses of Light.

Seek Infinity in your unfolding Fate

And Eternity in one Night!

Usama Hasan, with apologies to William Blake

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Seeking Rahma

July 31, 2013

Bismillah. A wonderful article by Hafsa. On Portia’s “mercy seasons justice”: God is never unjust, ie we expect Justice at minimum from God; at maximum, we hope for Mercy, Forgiveness and Love from God. We are also required to be fair and just (minimum), forgiving, loving and merciful (maximum) – “God commands justice and kindness” (Q. 16:90). The Prophets were known for these qualities, as were the first two Caliphs of Islam: Abu Bakr for mercy, ‘Umar for justice.

The Olive

 It’s that wonderful time of year again for seeking Rahma. Ramadhan, the month of mercy and forgiveness. Rahma– what a beautiful word, concept and feeling! It conveys mercy, compassion, favour, tenderness and more, all in one word. In its intensive form it gives us the two names of God that are repeated most often by muslims, Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem. Names that constantly remind us that creation and life itself are a mercy. The famous passage Al-Rahman from the Quran is a sweeping and awe-inspiring description of the perfect balance and rhythm of creation, every aspect of its existence permeated by the essence of rahma.

 From the same root word we have also Rahm, literally meaning womb and also implying the concept of having relationships. In Arabic etymology the connections between words and concepts that come from the same root word are particularly strong, and in this…

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Light upon Light – the Mystical Symbolism of the Olive

July 31, 2013

The Olive

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

Light upon Light – the Mystical Symbolism of the Olive

Olive Tree

by Usama Hasan

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

1. Light upon Light

Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.

The Parable of His Light is as if there were a Niche and within it a Lamp:

The Lamp enclosed in Glass: the glass as it were a brilliant star:

Lit from a blessed Tree, an Olive, neither of the east nor of the west,

Whose oil is well-nigh luminous, though fire scarce touched it:

Light upon Light! Allah guides whom He will to His Light:

Allah sets forth Parables for humanity: and Allah knows all things.[1]

As Abdullah Yusuf Ali says, the above Qur’anic verse contains,

This glorious parable of Light, which contains layer upon layer of transcendental truth about spiritual mysteries. No notes can do adequate justice to its full meaning. Volumes have been…

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Tackling extremism in UK universities and mosques

March 3, 2013

Bismillah.  The recent cases of the “Birmingham terrorist trio”, one of whom was a university graduate, and the resurfacing of underlying problems at City University, both from the end of February 2013, as well as that of four young men from Luton pleading guilty to terrorism on 1st March, show that the problems of extremism and terrorism amongst British Muslims still persist.  Note that the men from Birmingham and Luton were all influenced by Anwar Awlaki, who lived for a while in the UK, c. 2002-3.  Campus connections to extremism and terrorism are well-documented, and the two “Undercover Mosque” programmes on Channel 4 embarrasingly exposed the same problems in a small number of UK mosques, although some of these mosques were, worryingly, major ones in London and Birmingham.

These problems continue to need to be tackled by Muslims themselves, as well as by others.  A good start would be for Muslims to stop being in denial about the small number of would-be terrorists in their midst, whose crazy actions could lead to catastrophe in this country.  Conspiracy theories must end, given the overwhelming evidence against such people, including their own “martyrdom videos” and guilty pleas, and the well-documented details of their plots, e.g. photos of unexploded bomb material from the failed 21/7 attacks and the police’s secret footage of the liquid-bomb plotters’ “bomb factory” in Forest Road, Walthamstow, screened some years ago on BBC Panorama.

Another step would be open, honest discussion about the underlying, extremist, Islamist ideology that underpins, justifies and legitimises Al-Qaeda-linked terrorism in the minds of its proponents.

Below is a relevant and, I hope, useful article reproduced from the end of 2009, i.e. just over 3 years ago.  A slightly-edited version of it was published in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph on 31st December 2009, within a week of the failed attack by the “underpants bomber” Mutallab on Christmas Day, 2009.  (Mutallab had earlier served for a year as President of the UCL Islamic Society.)  The article has never been published online before.

Following publication of this piece, a leading UK salafi scholar criticised me for it after the next Friday prayers that I led at Al-Tawhid Mosque in January 2010.  (It later turned out that Mutallab had named him as one of his major religious influences, although there is no proof that this cleric knew about the underwear-bomber’s terrorist plans.) Since most of the speakers banned from university campuses over the last few years and exposed in the mosques have been of a salafi background (with a significant number also from extremist Deobandi backgrounds), he said that I should not criticise “our brothers in creed” (ikhwanuna fi l-‘aqidah).  Of course, I did not accept this sectarian suggestion to avoid opposing people preaching hatred and extremism on the grounds that they pay lip-service to the “creed of the Companions and the Salaf” whilst having almost no sense of the latter’s spirituality: as Imam Ibn al-Qayyim stated, all the early Sufis such as Hasan Basri, Junayd, Ma’ruf, Sari and Bistami were also amongst the generations and followers of the Salaf.

Tackling Extremism on UK Campuses

Usama Hasan

(an edited version of this was published in the print edition of the Daily Telegraph on 31st December 2009, within a week of the failed attack by the “underpants bomber” Mutallab on Christmas Day of that year)

 

Students’ Islamic societies on UK campuses are dominated by fundamentalist ideas and overly-politicised interpretations of Islam.  During the 80’s and 90’s, when I spent eight years as a student at three of this country’s leading universities, serving as Islamic society president at each, I saw at close hand, and took part in, the radical activism myself. The energy was partly provided by events overseas: the Islamist revolution in Iran; the Afghan jihad against the Soviets; the Israeli invasion of Lebanon; the first Palestinian intifada; the first US-led war against Saddam; the wars in Bosnia and Chechnya. Countless Friday sermons on UK campuses, mirroring those around the world, were devoted to reinforcing the idea that all these events proved that there was a worldwide conspiracy of godless infidels (non-Muslims of all faiths and none) against Islam and Muslims everywhere.  Meanwhile, events that challenged this melodramatic worldview, such as the long and brutal Iran-Iraq war or the vicious civil war amongst the Afghan mujahedin groups after their victory over the communists, were conveniently ignored.

 

University students have a long history of radical, political activism around the world, and this is not wrong in itself.  One thinks of the French student revolts, or the brave student dissidents in Tianamen Square and Tehran.  And fundamentalism, by which I mean the reading of scripture out of context and failing to apply its universal and timeless principles faithfully to modernity, infects many religions.  But whilst those students and graduates from British universities who went off to Afghanistan and Bosnia for military training and action in the early 90’s were arguably participating in just causes, those involved in terrorist plots since 9/11, such as Umar Abdulmutallab, have lost their moral bearings completely, under the influence of Al-Qaeda and its apologists worldwide.  Part of the solution to this problem should involve providing safe alternatives to young men with an understandable desire for military training and adventure, perhaps involving the British armed forces and their reserves.

 

Alternative theological and intellectual narratives also need to be provided.  In my time on campus, there was intense rivalry between different fundamentalist factions, but all the Islamist groups agreed on the objective of a single, worldwide caliphate, governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic law or Sharia, and most of them were opposed to any form of democracy or secularism.  Vehement rhetoric against “the West” was commonplace.  Liberal and rational interpretations of Islam, inspired by Averroes, Ibn Khaldun or Iqbal were rarely heard.  The promotion of authentic Sufism on campus will help, but true religious experience will never be apolitical, so it is a question of balancing faith, politics and spirituality.

 

But the problem is not all about theory and politics: social realities have a major impact.  With traditional, devout Muslim societies being teetotal and gender-segregated and some religious authorities prohibiting music, many believers find it difficult to integrate, since British student social life is based around the bar and often seems to be a “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” culture.  In the face of this, it is easy for believers to withdraw into cult-like social circles that reinforce a narrow worldview.  Many bodies provide advice to students regarding alcohol, drugs and sex, of course – greater cultural awareness is the key here.

 

Promoting more individual and social cohesion and balance is not easy.  A firmer emphasis at university on “higher education” of the whole person may help, such as termly meetings with mentors who help with students’ personal and social development; schemes like these are already in place at many universities, and Muslim chaplains could play an important role here.  A stronger sense of the student body, such as your batch or cohort studying the same subject, may also provide a safety-net for would-be terrorists.  Other countries seem to have a stronger tradition of this approach compared to Britain.

 

Increased interaction amongst different student communities and the open exchange of ideas are paramount.  Muslim-Jewish relations on campus are especially important: they have been poor historically, largely because of the Israeli-Arab conflict which continues to provoke religious and political extremism on both sides.  In this respect, work like that of the Lokahi Foundation and the Coexistence Trust, who organise joint campus tours by Muslim and Jewish leaders and role-models, deserves to be supported and expanded.

 

European Parliament Resolution on Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma

September 14, 2012

Bismillah. Received from Burma Campaign UK.

Persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma

PE493.587

European Parliament resolution of 13 September 2012 on the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma/Myanmar (2012/2784(RSP))

The European Parliament,

– having regard to its previous resolutions on Burma/Myanmar, and in particular that of 20 April 2012[1],

– having regard to the progress report of 7 March 2012 by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar,

– having regard to the Council conclusions of 23 April 2012 on Burma/Myanmar,

– having regard to the statement of 13 June 2012 by the spokesperson of High Representative Catherine Ashton on the crisis in northern Rakhine State in Burma/Myanmar,

– having regard to the exchange of views on the Rohingya issue which took place in its Subcommittee on Human Rights on 11 July 2012,

– having regard to the statement of 9 August 2012 by Commissioner Georgieva on humanitarian access to the Rohingya and other affected communities,

– having regard to the statement of 17 August 2012 by the ASEAN foreign ministers on the recent developments in Rakhine State,

– having regard to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees of 1951 and the protocol thereto of 1967,

– having regard to Articles 18 to 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948,

– having regard to Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) of 1966,

– having regard to the decisions allowing Burma/Myanmar to host the Southeast Asian Games in 2013 and to chair ASEAN in 2014,

– having regard to Rules 122(5) and 110(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A. whereas since the new government of President Thein Sein took office in March 2011, it has taken numerous steps to expand civil liberties in the country, the majority of political prisoners have been released, with a number being elected to the Parliament in byelections, preliminary ceasefires have come into force with most armed ethnic groups, and many political dissidents have returned from exile in the hope of reconciliation;

B. whereas, however, discrimination against the Rohingya minority has intensified;

C. whereas on 28 May 2012 the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman set off a chain of deadly clashes between the majority Rakhine Buddhist population and the minority Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine State;

D. whereas in the following days communal violence spread between the two communities, disproportionately involving Rakhine mobs and security forces targeting Rohingya, leaving dozens of people dead, thousands of homes destroyed and over 70 000 people internally displaced; whereas on 10 June 2012 a state of emergency was declared in six townships of Rakhine State;

E. whereas President Thein Sein had initially expressed the view that the only solution for the Rohingya was either to send them to refugee camps with UNHCR support or to resettle them in other countries;

F. whereas the Rohingya, many of whom have been settled in Rakhine State for centuries, have not been recognised as one of Burma/Myanmar’s 135 national groups, and have thus been denied citizenship rights under the 1982 Citizenship Law, are perceived by many Burmese to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and have been subject to systematic and severe discrimination, including restrictions in areas such as freedom of movement, marriage, education, healthcare and employment, as well as land confiscation, forced labour, arbitrary arrest and harassment by the authorities;

G. whereas in the face of persistent persecution an estimated 1 million Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring countries over the years; whereas 300 000 have fled to Bangladesh alone, in which country their long-term situation remains unresolved, while the Bangladeshi authorities have recently instructed the international humanitarian NGOs which provide basic heath and nutrition services to unregistered refugees as well as to the local population in Cox’s Bazar district to suspend their activities, and are now reportedly pushing Rohingya asylum seekers back;

H. whereas the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has allocated EUR 10 million to support for Rohingya refugees and the local host population in Bangladesh in 2012;

I. whereas on 17 August 2012 the Burmese government appointed an independent Investigation Commission, consisting of 27 representatives of civil society and political and religious organisations, to inquire into the causes of the outbreak of sectarian violence and make suggestions;

1. Is alarmed at the continuing ethnic violence in western Burma, which has caused large numbers of deaths and injuries, destruction of property and displacement of local populations, and expresses its concern that these intercommunal clashes may put at risk the transition to democracy in Burma/Myanmar;

2. Calls on all parties to exercise restraint, and urges the Burmese authorities to stop arbitrary arrests of Rohingya, to provide information on the whereabouts of the hundreds of people detained since security operations in Rakhine State began in June 2012, and to immediately release those arbitrarily arrested;

3. Calls on the government of Burma/Myanmar, as a matter of urgency, to allow the UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs, as well as journalists and diplomats, unhindered access to all areas of Rakhine State, guarantee unrestricted access to humanitarian aid for all affected populations, and ensure that displaced Rohingya enjoy freedom of movement and are permitted to return to their place of residence once it is safe for them to do so;

4. Welcomes the creation of the independent Investigation Commission, but regrets the absence of a Rohingya representative;

5. Calls on the government of Burma/Myanmar to bring the perpetrators of the violent clashes and other related abuses in Rakhine State to justice, and to rein in the extremist groups who are instigating communal hatred, propagating threats against humanitarian and international agencies, and advocating expulsion or permanent segregation of the two communities;

6. Calls on the EEAS to support the Burmese government by all possible means in its efforts to stabilise the situation, implement programmes promoting reconciliation, design a broader socio-economic development plan for Rakhine State, and continue Burma/Myanmar’s progress towards democracy;

7. Expresses its appreciation for those Burmese citizens who have raised their voice in support of the Muslim minority and a pluralist society, and calls on the political forces to take a clear stand in that sense; believes that an inclusive dialogue with local communities could be an important element in terms of attenuating the numerous ethnic problems in Burma/Myanmar;

8. Insists that the Rohingya minority cannot be left out of the newly developing openness for a multicultural Burma/Myanmar, and calls on the government to amend the 1982 citizenship law so as to bring it into line with international human rights standards and its obligations under Article 7 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, with a view to granting citizens’ rights to the Rohingya and other stateless minorities, as well as ensuring equal treatment for all Burmese citizens, thus ending discriminatory practices;

9. Is concerned at the arrest of 14 international aid workers during the unrest, and calls for the immediate release of the five who are still in prison;

10. Urges the Burmese government to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the country to conduct an independent investigation into the abuses in Rakhine State; calls on the OHCHR to establish an office in Burma/Myanmar with a full protection, promotion, and technical assistance mandate, as well as sub-offices in states around the country, including Rakhine State;

11. Encourages the Burmese government to continue implementing its democratic reforms, to establish the rule of law, and to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular freedom of expression and assembly (including on the internet);

12. Urges all countries in the region to come to the aid of refugees from Burma/Myanmar and to support the Burmese government in finding equitable solutions for the underlying causes;

13. Urges Bangladesh, in particular, to continue its acceptance of present donor support and any additional support measures, and to allow the humanitarian aid organisations to continue their work in the country, especially in the light of the events in Rakhine State and the resultant additional flows of refugees in dire need of basic care;

14. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Governments and Parliaments of Burma/Myanmar and of Bangladesh, the EU High Representative, the Commission, the Governments and Parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of ASEAN, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, the UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Myanmar, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and the UN Human Rights Council.

[1] Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0142.

Usama Hasan, https://unity1.wordpress.com

UK dawn (fajr) observation

September 10, 2012

Bismillah. From Usamah Ward:

Assalamu ‘alaikum.

September can be a good month for astronomical observations, it often has warm clear nights. Last year I spent a few good nights looking at the night sky with friends, but this year I thought I’d try to observe the start of dawn. Last Saturday morning (8 Sep 2012) was a perfect opportunity; there was no cloud within view (according to weather charts, the nearest cloud in the direction of dawn was over Scandinavia), and it was not cold.

I originally intended to drive to Walton-on-the-Naze, but that is a long way to go from London on my own; instead I drove to Leysdown-on-Sea. This is a good location I can reach in an hour, it is dark enough to see the Milky Way, it has a clear view of the north-east to east horizon over the sea, and due to its closeness has a strong relevance to London.I arrived early (3.30 AM), as it is important to allow one’s eyes to accustom to the dark. Dawn was to be expected in a direction between 050º and 060º, and was helpfully framed by The Plough to my left, and a brilliant Venus to my right which had already risen in the east and now cast a long reflection over the water.

The other advantage of arriving early was an opportunity to survey the night sky with my binoculars, with Orion above the horizon quite south of east, the waning moon shining brightly above and to the right of Venus, accompanied by Jupiter to its left, and the Pleiades somewhat above.

At the start of astronomical twilight (sun’s altitude at 18º, about 4.22 AM)) I could see no sign of dawn; indeed, I had to wait some 20 minutes. The appearance and spreading of the light of dawn I would have called for 4.45 AM, which is about the middle of astronomical twilight (15º), though some may have called it a few minutes earlier – as you’ll know, it’s not a precise moment by any means! I have to say that given the conditions I had thought I might see it a little earlier.

It is important to emphasise that this proves nothing; it is one person’s observation on one night. My attempt to photograph what I saw was, not surprisingly, a dismal failure, due the the limitations of my camera and my abilities!

However, the more we try to observe dawn, the more likely we will be able to devise meaningful timetables.For record, it is my view that:

1) Timetables that give ‘to the minute’ times for Fajr and Isha are inherently misleading, as all the evidence of science and people’s observations suggests the times vary considerably depending on atmospheric conditions. At best, they are a helpful average.

2) Angles determined by observations carried out at significantly different latitudes cannot be assumed to be valid for the UK.3) Much work needs to be done *by* Muslims in the UK *for* Muslims in the UK, partly to ensure we understand the Fiqh correctly, partly to grasp the latest scientific understanding of the phenomenon of dawn, but mostly to establish as much observational data as possible.

Usamah K Ward

Usama Hasan, https://unity1.wordpress.com

Dirac’s visual representation of electron spin

August 27, 2012

Bismillah. Received from Sabbir Rahman:

Assalamu `alaikum,

I just came across this superb YouTube video which beautifully demonstrates Dirac’s ‘visual metaphor’ for the spin of the electron (note that being a spin-half particle, the electron has to rotate through 720 degrees before it returns to its original position):

Some of you may recall that in my own model, electrons are described as rapidly rotating (Kerr) black holes, the singularity of which, when ‘blown up’, has the topology of a “double torus” (where ‘torus’=surface of a doughnut). In particular, the electron is formed from the rotating gravitational collapse of neutrinos, which become trapped in bounded orbits wrapping around the toroidal singularity.

Now these orbits wrap around the torus once in each rotation, but the curious thing is that each time an orbit crosses the inside of the ring (which occurs once in each revolution), the direction of time for the neutrino flips sign (from the perspective of an external observer, that is – the neutrino itself would be blissfully unaware of this). Thus, after completing two orbits of the electron’s ring singularity, each bounded neutrino returns to its original position both in space _and_ time, having spent half of the time travelling forwards in time and half of the time travelling backwards in time!

If you watch from 1:13 minutes into the YouTube video, where the dancer is rotating a cube in her hand, you can see a very precise analogy of what this neutrino motion looks like – imagine that every time the dancer’s arm is above her elbow that time is passing in the forward direction, and every time her arm is below the elbow that time us passing in the negative direction. I would even recommend that you try doing this yourself, to get a good feel for how this works – and perhaps get an idea of why, if indeed elementary particles like electrons, quarks and neutrinos, are indeed topological objects, they must be spinorial. If they had integer spin, then spacetime would get into a horribly tangle mess every time once of these elementary particles rotated.

From 2:02 minutes into the video, you can see how this works – although the electron seems to tangle up space horifically after the first 360 degree rotation, it miraculously untangles space again after a further 360 degree rotation – both mind-boggling and beautiful, I hope you will agree!

Best wishes,
Sabbir.

Is settler violence terrorism?

August 22, 2012

Bismillah. An important development:

Brookings scholar Natan Sachs and Foreign Affairs managing editor Jonathan Tepperman held a media conference call today, August 22, on the arrest of seven Israeli settlers for reportedly attempting to lynch several Palestinian youths, and the State Department’s designation of settler violence as terrorism.

In the September/October issue of “Foreign Affairs,” Sachs and Daniel Byman, who is also at Brookings, write that confronting settler terrorism is a “clear moral and political imperative” for the Israeli government and that not doing so could imperil any hope of peace with the Palestinians.

“Whenever extremist settlers destroy Palestinian property or deface a mosque, they strengthen Palestinian radicals at the expense of moderates, undermining support for an agreement and delaying a possible accord. Meanwhile, each time Israeli leaders cave in to the demands of radical settlers, it vindicates their tactics and encourages ever more brazen behavior, deepening the government’s paralysis. In other words, Israeli violence in the West Bank both undermines the ability of Israel to implement a potential deal with the Palestinians and raises questions about whether it can enforce its own laws at home.”

Eat, Fast and Live Longer – BBC Horizon programme

August 10, 2012

Bismillah. Received from Farrukh Younus, with thanks.

7/8/12

Wow! Just watched the Horizon episode entitled ‘Eat, Fast and Live Longer’ where the presenter underwent different types of fasting. Some highlights:

After a 4-day fast, with just water and a cup-a-soup a day, while huge benefits to his health were observed, he opined, “The biggest problem with prolonged fasting is me … Despite knowing all the wonderful benefits, I just can’t bring myself to do it.”

Regarding alternate-day fasting with just one meal at lunch time on the fast day. “As long as you stick to your calorie goals on the fast day you can eat whatever you want on the feed days.”

On the effect on the brain, “Sporadic bouts of hunger trigger new neurones to grow … Fasting stresses your brain matter the way exercise stresses your muscles … Hunger makes you sharper.”

After 5 weeks, on a ‘5 days normal eating and 2 day fasting diet’ he lost a stone in weight and his body fat gell from 27% to below 20%.

IGF-1 is a major risk factor for various types of cancers. Both the 3.5-day fasting and 5 week fasting dropped his IGF-1 by 50%! And his blood sugar levels dropped to 90 (normal).

For those in the UK, I strongly encourage watching the show on the BBC iPlayer: it’s a long one hour but very informative:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01lxyzc/Horizon_20122013_Eat_Fast_and_Live_Longer/

And briefly, in Islam, a continuous fast is actually prohibited. However, along with Ramadan, it is recommended to fast any 3 days each month [or 2 days per week, usually Monday and Thursday – U.H.]. While the fasting in the show above include drinking water throughout and eating a single main meal on the fasting days, I can’t help but see a parallel in the advice.

Finally, what struck me in the earlier part of the show was a comment made: that people in poor countries die from a lack of food while people in richer countries die from too much food. May we all find a better balance of food consumption both for improved health as well as continued enjoyment, amen.

Islamic teachings about looking after orphans

August 5, 2012

Bismillah. These also apply to orphans who are fostered or adopted, of course. This is written in the hope that it will be of benefit to individuals, charities and other agencies that help orphans.

One of the inspirations to do this was recently meeting an elderly Somali-Yemeni woman in London who is fostering two Afghani orphans with the help of the UK welfare state.

ISLAMIC TEACHINGS ABOUT ORPHANS

Did He not find you orphaned, and give you shelter? … So as for the orphan, do not oppress! (Qur’an 93: 6 & 9)

Piety is not to face east or west in prayer, but piety is to have faith in God … and to spend of your wealth, out of love for God and despite your love of wealth, on relatives, orphans, the needy and others … (Qur’an 2:177)

The righteous, they give food, out of love for God and despite their love of food, to the needy, the orphan and the prisoner. (Qur’an 76:8)

The following are sound (sahih) traditions, except where indicated, recorded in Imam Bukhari’s al-Adab al-Mufrad, nos. 131-140, in chapters about orphans.

“One who strives on behalf of the widow and the needy is like the one who fights in the path of God, or fasts by day and stands in prayer by night.” – The Prophet, peace be upon him. [1]

“Whoever is tested with young daughters [including orphans] and shows kindness to them: they will be a barrier between him or her and the Fire.” – The Prophet, peace be upon him. [1]

“I and the one who takes care of an orphan will be like these two in the Garden.” – The Prophet, peace be upon him, indicating with his forefinger and middle finger. [2]

Abdullah, son of Omar, Companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), would not eat without one or more orphans sharing his meal.

An orphan used to eat at mealtimes with Abdullah, son of Omar, Companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Once, he arrived late and the food had all been eaten, so Abdullah brought him some porridge with honey. [3]

“The best of homes are those where an orphan is shown kindness. The worst of homes are those where an orphan is shown cruelty.” – attributed to The Prophet, peace be upon him. [4]

“Be to an orphan like a merciful father or mother.” – Dawud [5]

A man asked Ibn Sirin [5], “How should I treat an orphan under my care?” He replied, “Exactly as you treat your own child.”

NOTES

[1] Also in Sahih al-Bukhari & Sahih Muslim.

[2] Also in Sahih al-Bukhari.

[3] Narration weak; meaning sound.

[4] Narration weak; meaning sound. Also in Sunan Ibn Majah.

[5] A disciple of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him).