"Working in finance is straightforward enough in a Muslim country, where prayer breaks are typical and holidays like Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, are built into the calendar. But Muslim bankers in the United States have fewer resources. Many don’t have dedicated prayer rooms at work, and leaving the office to attend Friday prayers at a mosque can mean shuffling duties to a co-worker.
“We have a concept called law of necessity,” said Rushdi Siddiqui, global head of Islamic finance at Thomson Reuters. “You have to, at one level, abide by the laws of the land that you happen to reside in, whether it’s the formal laws or the unwritten laws.”
Perhaps the biggest impediment to greater participation by Muslims on Wall Street is that, by some readings, the Koran prohibits riba, or interest. Some Islamic scholars have interpreted the ban to be more inclusive of modern finance, and a subgenre of Sharia-compliant financial transactions, known as sukuk, has tried to bridge the gap. "
DAKAR, Senegal — Islamists who control northern Mali have publicly amputated the hand of a man they accused of robbery, continuing an increasingly harsh application of what the vast region’s new masters consider sacred law.
The amputation took place Wednesday morning in the small town of Ansongo, just downriver from the provincial capital, Gao, which is under the rule of an Islamist group, splintered off from Al Qaeda, called the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or Mujao. It was confirmed by a Mujao spokesman in Gao in a telephone interview, and by the Malian government in a statement later from Bamako, the capital.
A witness in Ansongo said that the accused man’s hand was “placed on a sort of table,” in front of dozens of spectators, in the town’s main square. Then, “a gentleman with a sort of cutlass” — the witness described him as “an Arab” — swung hard, and sliced off the man’s hand, the witness said. “He cut it. There was a lot of blood.”
“He held up the man’s hand for the people, like a sort of trophy,” the witness, a local teacher, said Thursday in a telephone interview from Ansongo. “He said, ‘God is great.’ It was barbaric.”
He requested anonymity because he said it was dangerous to speak even over the telephone about what was going on in the town.
A spokesman for Mujao in Gao, Aliou Mahamar Touré, said Thursday by telephone: “They cut off the hand of a robber at Ansongo. Yes, yes, they did this. He was a thief. He stole. God has told us to cut off the hands of thieves. It’s in the Koran.”
Just 11 days ago, in the desert town of Aguelhok, Islamist allies of Mujao publicly stoned to death a young couple accused of having children outside wedlock. The stoning and now the amputation appear to signal an acceleration of the Islamists’ determination to apply Shariah law to the territory they conquered from the Malian government in March and April. Already, the Islamists have driven nearly 400,000 people to flee northern Mali and have spurred calls for a regional intervention force.
“The extremists who are occupying northern Mali have cut off the hand of an inhabitant of Ansongo, adding a new ignoble act to the long list of atrocities they have inflicted on the people,” the Malian government said in a statement from Bamako. “The actions of the terrorists and drug traffickers, cloaked in a false veil of religion, reinforce the inevitability of military action.”
In recent days, young people in Gao have resisted the harsh punishments, blocking Mujao’s plan to amputate a robbery suspect publicly in the town by descending into the streets to protest.
The teacher argued that the Islamists chose to carry out the punishment at Ansongo “because it didn’t come off at Gao.”
He said, “At Gao there were difficulties.”
But Mr. Touré, the Mujao spokesman, denied that there was any connection between the forestalled amputation in Gao and its application in Ansongo, and he vowed to continue enforcing what he called religious law.
“Even at Gao, there are robbers whose hands we still want to cut, God willing,” Mr. Touré said.
The teacher said the amputee in Ansongo, who was accused of stealing cattle, did not cry out. Many spectators had approved, he said, because of the prevalence of theft in the region, for which he blamed nomadic Tuareg tribesmen. Other witnesses could not be reached; cellphone connections there are minimal.
“There were a lot of spectators,” he said. Afterward the victim was taken to a local health center, he said. “As an intellectual, I didn’t appreciate this. These are ignoble, terrorist methods.”
New approach to Islamic learning
August 31, 2012 by Akhtar Saeed Siddiqi
IF we wish to understand the true meaning of Islam and its application in a modern context, we have to opt for a new approach that might be termed the three-dimensional approach or 3D approach.
The three dimensions are: (1) the surrounding universe (the cosmos and its physical phenomena, system and revelations along with its social and human context); (2) the textual/ scriptural deliberations revealed to the prophets and messengers and the modes of their implementation at various times; and (3) the contemporary human intellect combining the heart and mind.
This is the core message I could extract from a recently published book, Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation written by Dr Tariq Ramadan, a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford.
The first two dimensions are described by Dr Ramadan as two separate revelations. The signs (ayat), either in the cosmos or in revealed scriptures/texts, both quite autonomously reveal their meaning to human intelligence. Adding human intelligence to the two revelations, the 3D approach establishes an autonomous and mutually collaborative status for each dimension and has the potential to fundamentally change our traditional perception of Islamic learning.
The conventional paradigm of Islamic learning reflects a one-dimensional approach that presents the image of divine revelation as consisting only of predefined orders. Humanity is placed at the receiving end and has no role except to receive, believe in and obey readymade revealed orders.
The conventional paradigm may be called the paradigm of divine commands and human obedience, and almost all the religious sciences in Islam during the mediaeval period of Muslim history developed under the impact of this conventional paradigm.
The same paradigm eventually nurtured religious dogmatism in Muslim societies and bestowed a special position on textual scholars (ulama/fuqaha) as the sole interpreters of divine commands mentioned in textual sources. Although some space was occasionally created by textual scholars for the expansion of religious law through the exercise of methodological reasoning (ijtihad), such efforts always remained minor adjustments responding to a pressing need or to difficulty in the exact implementation of the inherited traditional religious law.In almost all Muslim societies today, religious authority and legitimacy are still theoretically held by textual scholars while the implementation of religious law itself has practically shrunk or become almost non-existent, at least in the major areas of contemporary practical life. This has resulted in the decline of the applied religious ethics of Islam and has transformed it into a defensive, passive, behind-the-times and isolated ethics.
The 3D approach puts the real onus on human intelligence and its capacity to discern meaning. It makes every human being individually, and all of humanity collectively, responsible (mukallaf), demanding that they read and understand the meaningful phenomenal signs and indications (al-ayat ul-kauniyah) that humans, as intellectual animals, face almost everywhere in the open book of the universe. The same approach demands that humans reflect on the descriptive formulations (al-ayat ul-bayyinat) mentioned in the revealed scriptural sources.
The specific reflections involving human intelligence may rightly be called, in the words of Dr Ramadan, mirror reading. This mirror reading establishes a new relationship of humankind with divine revelation, either in scriptural sources or in the book of the cosmos that, through this new approach, should not be perceived as merely consisting of predefined commands which are to be blindly obeyed. Instead, it will involve human creative, analytical and critical capacity during the process of searching for the truth through studying the context of the surrounding cosmos, including its social and human context.
The role of revealed narratives in this process therefore would be to economise human intellectual effort through providing guidance (huda) and corrective reminders (dhikr), uplifting the human conscience (taqwa/tazkiyah) and, finally, showing man the right path (sirat-i-mustaqim). Hence, through this 3D approach, a new paradigm of Islamic learning develops that, against the conventional dogmatic attitudes, must initiate and promote intellectual activism.
This new paradigm may be called the paradigm of human curiosity in search of truth and of voluntary human obedience and wilful surrender to its demands and obligations that is the real sprit behind the meaning of the terms ‘iman’ and ‘islam’.
The 3D approach may potentially change the centre of gravity of religious authority and legitimacy from textual scholars to scientists who, at the same time, should also be well-versed in revealed textual sources. However, during the transitory period until scientists of such calibre can be produced, the gap may be filled by combined councils of both types of specialists in various areas of knowledge without assigning any privileged or sacred position to either group.
Meanwhile, this approach may change the conventional make-up of Islamic religious thought, which had veneered or glossed over inner content during the mediaeval ages, and should eventually enable Muslims to liberate themselves from the narrow bounds of national, regional, pan-Islamic or binary approaches such as dividing the globe into two territories of war and peace (darul harb and darul Islam).
Through this radically reformed approach, Muslims in a pluralistic and global scenario would be able to develop a visionary, committed and open ethics that would be able to question the world, its order, its achievements and its lapses and then be able to devise concrete modalities to transform the fundamentals of the applied ethics of global human society.
The writer is the former dean of the faculty of Islamic Studies at Karachi University.
THE Islamic State has visibly attracted young Muslims from all over the world to its violent movement to build a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. But here’s what’s less visible — the online backlash against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, by young Muslims declaring their opposition to rule by Islamic law, or Shariah, and even proudly avowing their atheism. Nadia Oweidat, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, who tracks how Arab youths use the Internet, says the phenomenon “is mushrooming — the brutality of the Islamic State is exacerbating the issue and even pushing some young Muslims away from Islam.”
Raising Questions Within Islam After France Shooting
CAIRO — Islamist extremists behead Western journalists in Syria, massacre thousands of Iraqis, murder 132 Pakistani schoolchildren, kill a Canadian soldier and take hostage cafe patrons in Australia. Now, two gunmen have massacred a dozen people in the office of a Paris newspaper.
The rash of horrific attacks in the name of Islam is spurring an anguished debate among Muslims here in the heart of the Islamic world about why their religion appears cited so often as a cause for violence and bloodshed.
The majority of scholars and the faithful say Islam is no more inherently violent than other religions. But some Muslims — most notably the president of Egypt — argue that the contemporary understanding of their religion is infected with justifications for violence, requiring the government and its official clerics to correct the teaching of Islam.
Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:29 am Post subject: What His Highness the Aga Khan as said...
What Hazar Imam has said regarding Freedom and licence, and of the need to understand and not to compromise our Tariquah and values.. Imam also confirms we must all carry (share), Farmans for all the Jamats. farmans excerpts below. (emphasis supplied in this conteext)
“Freedom is tending to become a licence. That is not acceptable. The abuse of freedom is the misuse of freedom. And therefore, I think we have to be very careful that we understand the ethics of our faith, abide by the ethics of our faith, and explain to the others that we have our own ethics. We do not ask them to share all our ethics, nor should they ask us to share all theirs, particularly when we find the principles of life are clearly different amongst various peoples, various governments, etc. My Jamat well knows that from My point of view, I have not made compromises, and I will not make compromises, because I consider it is up to the rest of the world to look upon us, and I hope, understand and value our systems.
This is a time of new freedoms, but it is also one in which new choices must be made wisely. In exercising freedom and making choices, our institutions must be guided, as they have been in the past by the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace of Allah be upon Him) and the tradition of our Tariqah, which is the tradition of Hazrat Ali: a thinking Islam and spiritual Islam: an Islam that teaches compassion, tolerance and the dignity of man, Allah's noblest creation..
And while society may change, the basic ethics don't change. The ethics of remembering Din and Duniya, the ethics of civil dignity, of making sure that society lives in a dignified manner, that freedom is there, but that it is not abused, because freedom can be abused, and we have to have the wisdom, as Muslims not to let freedom be abused. And therefore, we have to make value judgments of the societies in which we live, we have to remain solid and stable on the ethical principles of Shia Ismaili Islam. And I want to say this very precisely to My Jamat today because the Jamat is so international in front of Me and you will be able to carry these messages forwards.
I would like also that you seek to remain united, that your presence in jamatkhana should be regular and that you should avoid the confusion which is sometimes made between freedom and licence. What I mean by that is that the personal self discipline of the Jamat, the individual self discipline of the individual within the Jamat is in a small Jamat, as dispersed as this in Europe, a fundamental matter for the future
…. freedom has a concomitant necessity which is individual responsibility, a sense of direction and a sense of direction which each individual must find for himself or herself in their lives. That sense of direction is perhaps the single most important factor to enable you to benefit in the most extreme, in the most substantial manner of western education. This is a commitment which is a personal commitment. Your families cannot take it for you, your friends cannot take it for you, only each one of you individually can take that commitment, and I hope that My Jamat will have the wisdom and the personal courage to make that commitment and to remain constant to that commitment.
In a world where quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms there is risk that the essential value system of Islam will be eroded, or even threatened with disappearance. Political situations with a theological overlay are also causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so amongst different faiths. Are certain societies, indulging in excesses of freedom, such, that freedom risks becoming licence? Should individuals and families not have the right to dignity, and therefore the right to privacy? Where we can build bridges with other Tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.”
Posted: Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:35 am Post subject: Aa Khan on press responsibilities & Freedom...
What His Highness the Aga LKhan has said. In the context also of the terror attacks and killing France and other countries
"Frankly, this so-called freedom of the press has reached a state of such license that virtually anything can be printed."
His Highness the Aga Khan's 1989 India Today Interview (India)
"A free press is not simply a press free to criticise as an end in itself. In many developed countries, freedom of the press has often come to mean license to behave irresponsibly. It is a contradiction, but nevertheless, a practical requirement, that in developing countries, with the youngest media and press traditions, newspapers and their journalists must, in the national and universal interest, behave substantially more responsibly than their counterpart in the West."
His Highness the Aga Khan's 1977 National Press Club Reception address (Dacca, Bangladesh)
"The third of the media challenges I would discuss today is the need to balance concerns about press freedom with a greater emphasis on press responsibility. In my view, we are sometimes too preoccupied with the rights of the press as an independent social critic -- and we pay too little attention to the obligations of the press as an influential social leader.
"Too often, the press seems to be caught up with that obsessive individualism which seems so rampant in our world, an expectation that we must make our way in life through a sort of meritocratic free-for-all, ignoring those who are hurt in the process and those who are left behind. Too often, we join in the celebration of success for its own sake, regardless of the means by which it was achieved or its impact on society. Too often the media spotlight overlooks the corrupt or manipulative methodology and dramatises the triumphant result. Too often, the right of an individual or the right of a publication to unfettered self-expression is enshrined as the most sacred of all values -- independent of its impact on social or moral standards.
"One of the most familiar of Western political values is expressed in the phrase: 'Freedom of the Press'. I believe that Press Freedom, properly understood, is a universal human right. But we must be careful about how we define it and that it does not isolate the press from the rest of the social order. What is originally meant -- and properly still means for me -- is that the press should be free from the control or constraint of governments, and strong enough to resist all forms of intimidation. Why is this precept so important? Because the health of any government should depend on public evaluation of its work. Not even the most enlightened government can do this for itself. And only if a pluralistic press is allowed to report freely about any government, will the public be able to hold their governments accountable.
"The problem comes, of course, when Freedom of the Press is stretched beyond this meaning and used to shield the press -- not just from government interference, but from any sense of social accountability. And that is when press liberty turns into press license. Just as press freedom is a means for holding governments accountable, so must the press itself be held accountable for the way it does its work. Accountable to whom? To the political leaders of the moment? Never. To the larger community and the cultures that comprise it? Always -- provided we see the community not as a mere majority of the moment, but as an organic, pluralistic entity. A most remarkable thing in our experience is that the larger community has invariably demanded better forms of journalism. Despite their relative lack of formal education, the first readers of the Nation [newspaper in Kenya] sought something well beyond what the colonial press had given them....
"Our journalistic code -- a set of explicit written standards about editorial goals and practices -- was submitted to our shareholders for their deliberation and approval because we want our shareholders to feel involved and responsible, not just for the Nation's financial success but also for its moral success. They are, after all, the ultimate stewards, not only of the Nation's corporate body, but also of its journalistic soul.
"In short, we have pursued a concept of Press Freedom which not only means Freedom 'from' but also Freedom 'to' -- not just Freedom from improper governmental constraints but also Freedom to advance the common purposes which give meaning to our lives. Such a sense of social accountability is not an easy thing to achieve. It must begin with those into whose care the institutions of the press have been entrusted, our editors and proprietors. Those who are in charge must really be in charge. Freedom of the Press does not mean the right of any journalist to write and to publish anything he or she wants to say. It is not acceptable for a reporter to cry 'censorship' when an editor or a publisher questions his accuracy or his judgement. Nor is it acceptable for editors, managers and proprietors to slip their solemn responsibilities by invoking the same line of defence. They may sometimes say they don't want to 'meddle' with the contents of their publications. This is a weak and dangerous excuse. And too often that comment really disguises an abdication of moral responsibility. This abdication is particularly troubling when it is used by proprietors or editors to mask their personal quest for financial gain or political influence -- or to sustain divisive sectarian agendas. For in the final analysis, the press and those who manage it must also be held accountable to the collective judgements of the community.
"Responsible journalists and managers will not want to shield themselves from such judgements. To the contrary, they will eagerly seek them out. They will want to know what thoughtful readers are saying and how responsible advertisers are thinking. They will talk constantly with scholars and religious leaders, with artists and business leaders, with scientists and labour leaders, with educators and community leaders -- and yes, with politicians and diplomats and governmental leaders as well. And through such continuing interaction they will develop and refine their sense of how the larger community can best be served."
His Highness the Aga Khan's 1986 Commonwealth Press Union Conference Keynote Address (Cape Town, South Africa)
"Let me insist again, however, on one important point. When newspaper people acknowledge the shortcomings of the press, this does not mean that they care any less about the freedom of the press. In fact the reason press leaders talk so much about press responsibility is that they care so deeply about press freedom. Or to put it another way, they strive to preserve press liberty by ensuring that it does not turn into press license.
"This central concern is one that Conrad Black, among others, sees as the particular responsibility of the newspaper proprietor or publisher. Black elaborates on the publisher's role as follows:
"'To maintain standards of fair reporting and consistency of opinion, to support the journalists when they are unfairly attacked, to prevent any faction from hijacking the newspaper, to order retractions when they are required and deserved, and to help give the newspaper a personality. (And he concludes,) non-interventionist newspaper proprietors encourage irresponsible journalism by their abdication.'
"I have never been a 'non-interventionist publisher.' And I do not propose to become one. A principal shareholder's role, it seems to me, is to be sure that the company's key positions are in the best possible hands, that the ideals and standards of the newspaper are clearly and thoughtfully articulated, and that sufficient resources are available so that a truly professional staff can be properly hired, properly trained, properly equipped, and properly supported. If publishers can achieve those goals, then they will surely have good reason to be proud of their publications."
His Highness the Aga Khan's 1997 Nation Press and Building Opening Ceremony address (Nairobi, Kenya)
"'Freedom of the Press' are four of the most commonly used and misused words in the English language, but here in Kenya their meaning was given true substance by the late President's personal commitment to the independence of the media. I state this today, as I was privileged to experience the depth of his conviction on this matter, and because I feel I have a personal, unequivocal commitment to uphold what the father of Kenya upheld so ardently himself. History is unjust, or at least very often incomplete in recording the work and thoughts of great men; this must not be the case with regard to Mzee's exceptional strength and courage in defending this important foundation of democracy.
"Today, Kenya is one of the countries of the developing world that has the strongest tradition of a free press. It has an unusually large number of qualified and competent editors and journalists. As the owner of a substantial newspaper organisation here for many years, it is right that I should also recall the admiration and respect I feel for the way in which His Excellency President Moi, his ministers and the people of Kenya have continued to uphold this tradition of a free, responsible press."
His Highness the Aga Khan's 1981 address to the International Press Institute, 30th General Assembly (Nairobi, Kenya)
Stefan Aust / Erich Follath: Again, this whole affair was misused by radical Islamists. They added caricatures much more offensive than the original ones to incite the masses.
Aga Khan: But I am told that there was an internal debate between the editors of that [Danish] publication and they actually knew what they were doing. They took a risk and somebody should have said to them, why get into that situation? Now we are talking about civility, which is a completely different concept. If we are talking about civility in a pluralist society, then how do you develop that notion of civility, particularly where there is ignorance? And that's the thing that's worrying. And that's why I get frustrated when I see these situations that go on and on and on. Because I'm not willing to believe that they are all inspired by evil intent.
Stefan Aust / Erich Follath: Provocative, sad and distasteful. But the freedom of the press is one of the highest values in our democracy. We have to balance one thing against the other and we will allow non-believers to express even outrageous opinions.
Aga Khan: I think that you are now referring to one of the most difficult problems that we have and I don't know the answer. The industrialised West is highly secularised; the Muslim world is much less secularised and that stems largely from the nature of the faith of Islam, which you know and I know has an intrinsic meshing with everyday life. And that is a scenario where people of goodwill need to think very, very carefully.
His Highness the Aga Khan's 2006 Spiegel Online Interview (2nd), Stefan Aust and Erich Follath, 'Islam Is a Faith of Reason' (Berlin, Germany)
"Recent studies from the Freedom House organisation report that media freedom is increasingly threatened globally. For every nation that moves forward in terms of press freedom, two nations are said to be slipping backward. Media freedom requires continuing vigilance. But here let me sound a word of caution. Freedom, in any area of human activity, does not mean the moral license to abuse that freedom. It would be a sad thing if the people of Africa in the name of freedom, were expected to welcome the worst of media practices, whether they are home-grown or imported."
His Highness the Aga Khan's 2010 Address to the Conference Marking Nation Media Group's 50th Anniversary, 'Media and the African Promise' (Nairobi, Kenya)
Don Cyao: When I look at the Western perceptions of freedom, which we value highly, I sometimes think we interpret it as the whole world should be free to be like us. Is that how we are seen from the other perspectives?
Aga Khan: I think that's certainly one aspect -- the feeling that the societies of the industrialised world are always right, and therefore what they get right should be the norm for everybody else. I think there are areas where we don't agree with that.
We think freedom is important, of course. But we think that freedom really is not something that one has to take in the absolute. There is abuse of freedom. And when freedom is abused, what does it become?
Don Cyao: License, I guess.
Aga Khan: Exactly. And that's where parts of our world say 'Stop!'
That boundary between freedom and the abuse of freedom is something which is driven by so many different notions of thought, faith, society, the whole thing....
Don Cyao: In Canada I think some of our success is the comfortable tolerance of letting people set different standards for themselves. So, yes, some people may choose license and other people choose some realistic guidelines, if you like, to exercise their freedom. Is that what you see as the goal for the broader society, or is it a little different from that?
Aga Khan: Well I think it's difficult to impose a firm line. But I think that when you look at history, the history of humankind, you will find that when freedoms have become license, society tends to disaggregate. And I think that what we're seeing in the Western world is that very issue on the table, and a reversal. I think there is a reversal under way.
Freedom doesn't mean that if you want to abuse that freedom, whatever it is, you legitimise or impose that on others.
His Highness the Aga Khan's 2008 Vancouver Sun Interview with Don Cayo (Vancouver, Canada)
"A pluralist commitment is rooted in the essential unity of the human race. Does the Holy Qur'an not say that mankind is descended from 'a single soul?' In an increasingly cosmopolitan world, it is essential that we live by a 'cosmopolitan ethic,' one that addresses the age-old need to balance the particular and the universal, to honour both human rights and social duties, to advance personal freedom and to accept human responsibility."
His Highness the Aga Khan's 2014 88th Stephen A. Ogden, Jr. '60 Memorial Lecture, Brown University (Providence, USA)
As they went on their rampage, the men who killed 12 people in Paris this week yelled that they had “avenged the prophet.” They follow in the path of other terrorists who have bombed newspaper offices, stabbed a filmmaker and killed writers and translators, all to mete out what they believe is the proper Koranic punishment for blasphemy. But in fact, the Koran prescribes no punishment for blasphemy. Like so many of the most fanatical and violent aspects of Islamic terrorism today, the idea that Islam requires that insults against the prophet Muhammad be met with violence is a creation of politicians and clerics to serve a political agenda.
One holy book is deeply concerned with blasphemy: the Bible. In the Old Testament, blasphemy and blasphemers are condemned and prescribed harsh punishment. The best-known passage on this is Leviticus 24:16 : “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.”
By contrast, the word blasphemy appears nowhere in the Koran. (Nor, incidentally, does the Koran anywhere forbid creating images of Muhammad, though there are commentaries and traditions — “hadith” — that do, to guard against idol worship.) Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has pointed out that “there are more than 200 verses in the Koran, which reveal that the contemporaries of the prophets repeatedly perpetrated the same act, which is now called ‘blasphemy or abuse of the Prophet’ . . . but nowhere does the Koran prescribe the punishment of lashes, or death, or any other physical punishment.” On several occasions, Muhammad treated people who ridiculed him and his teachings with understanding and kindness. “In Islam,” Khan says, “blasphemy is a subject of intellectual discussion rather than a subject of physical punishment.”
Somebody forgot to tell the terrorists. But the gruesome and bloody belief the jihadis have adopted is all too common in the Muslim world, even among so-called moderate Muslims — that blasphemy and apostasy are grievous crimes against Islam and should be punished fiercely. Many Muslim-majority countries have laws against blasphemy and apostasy — and in some places, they are enforced.
Pakistan is now the poster child for the anti-blasphemy campaign gone wild. In March, at least 14 people were on death row in that country, and 19 were serving life sentences, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The owner of the country’s largest media group has been sentenced to 26 years in prison because one of his channels broadcast a devotional song about Muhammad’s daughter while reenacting a wedding. (Really.) And Pakistan is not alone. Bangladesh, Malaysia, Egypt, Turkey and Sudan have all used blasphemy laws to jail and harass people. In moderate Indonesia, 120 people have been detained for this reason since 2003. Saudi Arabia forbids the practice of any religion other than its own Wahhabi version of Islam.
The Pakistani case is instructive, because its extreme version of anti-blasphemy law is relatively recent and a product of politics. Mohammed Zia ul-Haq, Pakistan’s president during the late 1970s and 1980s, wanted to marginalize the democratic and liberal opposition, and he embraced Islamic fundamentalists, no matter how extreme. He passed a series of laws Islamizing Pakistan, including a law that recommended the death penalty or life imprisonment for insulting Muhammad in any way.
When governments try to curry favor with fanatics, eventually the fanatics take the law into their own hands. In Pakistan, jihadis have killed dozens of people whom they accuse of blasphemy, including a brave politician, Salmaan Taseer, who dared to call the blasphemy law a “black law.”
We should fight the Paris terrorists. But we should also fight the source of the problem. It’s not enough for Muslim leaders to condemn people who kill those they consider as blasphemers if their own governments endorse the idea of punishing blasphemy at the very same time. The U.S. religious freedom commission and the U.N. Human Rights Committee have both declared that blasphemy laws violate universal human rights because they violate freedom of speech and expression. They are correct.
In Muslim-majority countries, no one dares to dial back these laws. In Western countries, no one confronts allies on these issues. But blasphemy is not a purely domestic matter, of concern only to those who worry about countries’ internal affairs. It now sits on the bloody crossroad between radical Islamists and Western societies. It cannot be avoided anymore. Western politicians, Muslim leaders and intellectuals everywhere should point out that blasphemy is something that does not exist in the Koran and should not exist in the modern world.
Still, this religious nationalism is guided by religious law — Shariah — that includes clauses about punishing blasphemy as a deadly sin. It is thus of vital importance that Muslim scholars courageously, even audaciously, address this issue today. They can begin by acknowledging that, while Shariah is rooted in the divine, the overwhelming majority of its injunctions are man-made, partly reflecting the values and needs of the seventh to 12th centuries — when no part of the world was liberal, and other religions, such as Christianity, also considered blasphemy a capital crime.
The only source in Islamic law that all Muslims accept indisputably is the Quran. And, conspicuously, the Quran decrees no earthly punishment for blasphemy — or for apostasy (abandonment or renunciation of the faith), a related concept. Nor, for that matter, does the Quran command stoning, female circumcision or a ban on fine arts. All these doctrinal innovations, as it were, were brought into the literature of Islam as medieval scholars interpreted it, according to the norms of their time and milieu.
Tellingly, severe punishments for blasphemy and apostasy appeared when increasingly despotic Muslim empires needed to find a religious justification to eliminate political opponents.
What is the focus of a feminist Islamic theologian's work? And what is the best way to deal with controversial Koran verses in the modern day? Claudia Mende talked to Maha El-Kaisy-Friemuth, professor of Islamic Religious Studies at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
Professor El-Kaisy, how do you see your task as an Islamic theologian at a German university?
Maha El-Kaisy-Friemuth: At the new departments of Islamic theology in Germany, we have the great opportunity to build up a reform-oriented Islam. That's not an entirely new project, of course, and we don't want to reinvent the normative foundations of Islam. But what we urgently need right now is a reform within Islam, so that Islam can speak to our modern situation with its present-day problems.
What do you mean by that?
El-Kaisy-Friemuth: By a reform of Islam I mean a process similar to that which occurred during the Christian Reformation. That's how we understand our scholarly work at the Department of Islamic Religious Studies (DIRS) in Erlangen. We don't reject what the ulema, the traditional legal scholars, have said about the Koran and Islam over the centuries, but we do try to think beyond that and formulate new statements for the present day.
A BRITISH man has been released from prison in Saudi Arabia for possessing alcohol - but do you know the laws in the Gulf state.
Saudi Arabia is a country whose sole constitution is based on the Quran - the religious text of Islam.
If people in SA find themselves in a legal pickle, it's down to each individual judge to interpret the laws as there's no official written rules.
In general, if the act committed is suspected to be 'haram' - something which might lead a person astray from Islamic faith - then suspicion alone is enough for a ruling.
Did you know it's not okay to take pictures of people on the street in Saudi Arabia? And what do you think they'd do if you had a glass of champagne on a flight into the country?
Express.co.uk have looked into the dos and do nots in Saudi Arabia - and it's a comprehensive list.
Having porn on your phone, tablet or computer could land you in seriously hot water if you touched down in Saudi Arabia. Even illustrations of scantily dressed people, especially women, is banned.
Guess what? Customs officials can and will scan your phone for any pictures they deem to be inappropriate and then confiscate your equipment.
Banned: Taking pictures of buildings
You're on holiday so you're going to snap pictures all the time, right? WRONG. Photographing government buildings, military installations, and palaces is not allowed.
One should also avoid photographing local people - especially Saudi Arabian men without their permission - and don't point a camera in the direction of women.
Banned: Eating, drinking or smoking in public
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is a whole four weeks of fasting. Therefore it's forbidden to eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours during the month of Ramadan.
Banned: Sausage sandwiches
Talking of eating and drinking, don't expect to tuck into a full English breakfast every morning with a side of bacon, sausages and black budding. Importing pork products is forbidden, therefore making pork a banned substance.
Banned: Wearing anything red on Valentine’s Day
It been reported that flower shops and gift shops are prohibited from selling red roses, anything heart-shaped or red for that matter on Valentine's Day. The rule was decided by the 'Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice' (CPVPV) It's thought the 'holiday' is not an Islamic occasion and it may lead people astray.
Banned: Going to the cinema
If you want to see the latest James Bond movie in SA you actually have to leave the country - why not make a weekend of it? It's thought cinemas are breading grounds for men and women to mingle unsupervised, This could lead to immoral actions outside the realm of marriage.
Many SAs take the short trip to Bahrain to watch movies.
Banned: Learning a musical instrument at school
The piano always looks good on a person's CV but if you want to learn as a child it has to be private tutorials. Music lessons are forbidden in public forums and therefore, if you want to learn, it has to be done 'underground'.
Banned: Going to the gym if you're a woman
If you're worried about your muffin top as a woman you want to hope you've got a flight of stairs in your house to run up and down. Private gyms for women WERE allowed to operate until recently when the Religious Police closed them down.
Banned: Worshipping any religion other than Islam
Believing in any other religion than Islam is frowned upon by Saudi Arabian officials. In fact, it's against the law for non-Muslims to worship in public - and you won't find a Church in the whole country. If anyone converts from Islam or abandons religion they face the death penalty.
Banned: Driving, only if you're a woman
Fancy a drive as a woman? Sure thing - as long as it's in the desert or inside private compounds, you're all good. If you need to go anywhere else, however, you'll have to get a driver because women are banned from driving.
It's thought it may cause women to leave their houses more often than they need to - possibly for uncouth reasons.
Banned: Having a drink on the aeroplane en route to Saudi Arabia
Do not arrive in Saudi Arabia under the influence of alcohol - and definitely do not have a drink on the plane. Penalties for the possession of, or trade in alcohol are severe, and both result in prison sentences.
Both in the modern period and historically, Salafism has been associated with autodidacticism and an assertion that Islam’s scriptures are clear and accessible to ordinary Muslims without the mediation of the ulema. Indeed, Salafi writings often confirm this impression. In contrast, however, both in the pre-modern and modern settings, in both their writings and lessons, leading scholars associated with Salafism have insisted on the need for the Muslim laity to turn to a scholarly class to offer accurate understandings of their religion. This article investigates this apparent tension, arguing that what seem to be Salafi anticlericalism or calls for a democratization of interpretation are rhetorical tactics employed in debates with mainstream Sunni ulema rather than substantive prescriptions.
The ulema’s monopoly over interpreting Islamic law and dogma has been threatened in the modern period. In great part this has come at the hands of lay Muslim intellectuals, who have both pointed out the political and scholarly failings of the ulema class and offered themselves as alternative voices of authority. The traditional ulema have responded to these overwhelmingly liberal and often secularizing intellectual reformers by invoking the example of Salafi barbarism, which is reviled by both lay intellectuals and mainstream ulema alike. Citing the supposed anticlericalism endemic in Salafism, mainstream ulema point to the dangers of leaving Islam’s scriptures unguarded and unmediated. Indeed, Shāh Ismāʿil al-Shahīd, al-Sindī, al-Khujandī, al-Albānī and others, have all stated very explicitly that Islam is not difficult to understand and that everyday Muslims can absorb its teachings with the immediacy of the early Muslim forefathers. But is this really a call for the democratization of interpretation, regardless of the deluge of interpretive chaos that would follow? Do these scholars really hold that Islam needs no guardian class?
What I hope this article has demonstrated is that this egalitarian strain in Salafism is not a clear and consistent position. Rather, it is the product of a discourse tradition that holds claims of formalized hermeneutic authority in great suspicion while simultaneously acknowledging the need for the control it provides. All the above proto-Salafi and Salafi scholars have consistently maintained that the masses of the Muslims are unqualified to approach the scriptural sources of Islam in any authoritative way. Moreover, like their mainstream Sunni opponents, Salafis have affirmed that ‘the layperson has no legal school’. His school is whatever a qualified local scholar says it is.
To understand statements like that of Shāh Ismāʿīl al-Shahīd, that ‘to comprehend the Quran and ḥadīths does not require much learning’, we must remember that they arose as a rhetorical parry in the enduring debate between the iconoclastic, proto-Salafi school of thought in Sunni Islam and the Sunni mainstream. For proto-Salafi and Salafi polemicists, arguing that ordinary Muslims stood directly before Islam’s scriptures just as the Companions had was a move essential to undermining the rigid authority of the madhhabs, which underpinned the ritual and legal practices rejected by Salafis. Arguing that the Muslim masses were innately competent and needed no guardian class to understand their religion was the most effective means to neutralize the appeals to authority made by mainstream Sunni scholars, even if all ulema, even Salafi ones, knew this claim was false.
SHARJAH 5th November 2015 (WAM) -- American University of Sharjah AUS Professor Dr. Joseph Lumbard along with other Muslim scholars has recently launched The Study Quran a new translation of the meanings and commentary or Tafseer of the Holy Quran.
Created over a span of 10 years under the direction of Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr a world-renowned authority on Islamic thought The Study Quran is described as "accurate accessible and reliable in how it renders the sacred text."
Prominent Islamic scholar and cofounder of Zaytuna College Hamza Yusuf said "This is perhaps the most important work done on the Islamic faith in the English language to date." He added "We owe a great debt to Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr one of the intellectual giants of our time and his team for bringing this labour of love to fruition."
Dr. Lumbard Assistant Professor in the Department of Arabic and Translation Studies at AUS said "As Muslims it is our responsibility and our right to speak for and present our tradition to the West. As the first verse-by-verse commentary on the Quran in any European language The Study Quran has the potential to significantly alter the reception and understanding of the Quran in the West. The Study Quran provides much more than a verse-by-verse commentary that helps readers Muslim and non-Muslim alike better understand the text it also highlights the history of interpretation which can then be applied to understand the various schools of Islam."
Dr. Lumbard along with general editors Caner K. Dagli and Maria Massi Dakake and assistant editor Mohammed Rustom created the translation of the meanings and commentary of Quran.
With over 2000 pages The Study Quran published by HarperOne represents "a work of extraordinary significance that helps the general reader appreciate the rich and multilayered ways in which Muslim scholars have dynamically engaged with their Holy Book" writes Ali Asani of Harvard University.
The book provides an insightful general introduction that helps orient readers on the origins of the Quran. Each chapter has its own introduction with a summary of content and other background information. The commentary covers the entire translation of the meanings and discusses questions of rituals theology law ethics metaphysics the spiritual life and other topics. The book also includes 15 companion essays from various scholars around the world who offer insight on all aspects of the Quran.
Saudi Arabia says 47 executed on terror charges, including Shi'ite cleric
Saudi Arabia executed 47 people on Saturday for terrorism, mostly suspected al Qaeda members but also a prominent Shi'ite Muslim cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, Interior Ministry said in a statement broadcast on state television.
The conservative Islamic kingdom, which usually executes people by public beheading, detained thousands of militant Islamists after a series of al Qaeda attacks from 2003-06 that killed hundreds, and has convicted hundreds of them.
However, it also detained hundreds of members of its Shi'ite minority after protests from 2011-13, during which several policemen were killed in shooting and petrol bomb attacks. Several of he Shi'ites have been sentenced to death.
Saudi Arabia's main regional rival, Shi'ite Iran, has warned that executing Nimr "would cost Saudi Arabia dearly".
The Interior Ministry statement began with Koranic verses justifying the use of execution and state television showed footage of the aftermath of al Qaeda attacks in the last decade. Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh appeared on television soon after to describe the executions as just.
The executions are Saudi Arabia's first in 2016. At least 157 people were put to death last year, a big increase from the 90 people killed in 2014.
Saudi Arabia’s execution of the Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr could escalate tensions in the Muslim world even further. In the Shiite theocracy Iran, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Sunday that Saudi Arabia, which is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, would face “divine vengeance” for the killing of the outspoken cleric, which was part of a mass execution of 47 men. Sheikh Nimr had advocated for greater political rights for Shiites in Saudi Arabia and surrounding countries. Saudi Arabia had accused him of inciting violence against the state.
Here is a primer on the basic differences between Sunni and Shia Islam.
MHI made the following Farman on the application of intellect with respect to the interpretation of faith and not to anchor it to a given time in the past.
"The identification with a tradition of interpretation of Islam and its intellectual strength is a guiding principle. Part of the Muslim world is going precisely in the opposite direction of obscurantist, narrow-minded, blinkered attitudes which are anchored in past times, and which in my view would mean the ultimate disappearance of much of the Ummah, because they will face either a form of marginalization from the modern world, or they will adopt the modern world and forget their traditional values. This is not the interpretation of Islam that I will ever wish to see in our Jamat."
Aiglemont, July 8, 1999
The article below highlights whats happening in Saudi Arabia with their rigid interpretation anchored in the past.
"Thankfully, it worked out O.K. It was the first time for me, but I knew what to do. How? Every single young Saudi guy watches porn. I’m not joking. I mean all of them. Afterward, I told her that it was my first time. She said she didn’t believe me. I didn’t want to say I learned everything from porn, but she probably guessed.
This kind of thing goes on a lot in private in my country. There are young people who have sex before marriage, drink or use drugs and don’t care about religion. I grew up with religion all around me, and I’m still Muslim, but I don’t believe that Islam is like this. Sure, we broke the law, but I didn’t feel guilty. I was actually happy, as if I could do this every day. I was like: ‘‘Screw the police. I don’t give a damn.’’ She felt the same way. She hated the police, too."
To kmaherali: Ya Ali Madad.
Your post are getting Spicer.Indeed a true article.
I read recently at latest hot destination of Saudis is Morroco.THEY just go there for one purpose. Many pious n horny Saudi use services of Mullah who act likeva pimp to conduct
Mutah Nikah,one visitor has mullah as escort to conduct the Nikah.
All these act happening with Mullah carrying holy book n beads.They are shame on the Ummah.
Learn about the Quran, the central sacred text of Islam, through an exploration of the rich diversity of roles and interpretations in Muslim societies.
What you'll learn
•An introduction to the place of the Quran in Muslim cultures
•Major themes of the Quran
•The historical and cultural contexts of the Quran
•Interpretive skills that enable a more nuanced reading of the Quran
•Diverse approaches Muslims have adopted to engaging with Quranic texts, including issues in contemporary interpretation
Meet the instructor
Professor of Indo-Muslim Religion and Cultures Harvard University
Carla Power is an American journalist, author and professed secular humanist. She recently wrote If the Oceans were Ink: An unlikely friendship and a journey to the heart of the Quran, a memoir of her year spent reading and debating the Quran with Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, who lives in England. The Islamic Monthly’s Souheila Al-Jadda recently spoke with her about her work and its impact on her life and worldview.
ISTANBUL — THE Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins today and with it the long hours of fasting by hundreds of millions of Muslims. The daylong fast during the lunar month in which we Muslims believe that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a way for Muslims to show their devotion to God, and, some say, to understand the suffering of those who have no choice but to go without food.
The Ramadan fast is not easy. From sunrise to sunset, Muslims are not supposed to eat, drink or smoke, and abstain from sex. For hours, they dream about a sip of water or a bite of bread. Then comes the iftar, which means “breakfast,” but which is often a heavy dinner with family and friends. Then come a few hours of freedom from deprivation, until the sunrise, when the next day’s fast begins.
Muslims around the world observe this 1,400-year-old practice, from the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, where it originated, to Scandinavia, where the latitude has forced some scholars to issue fatwas to accommodate the Quran’s prescription to fast from dawn until dusk.
But no matter where they are, Muslims should be able to fast according to the dictates of their conscience. Unfortunately, some authoritarian governments violate this fundamental freedom. Some ban the Ramadan fast, while others impose it.
The former problem is acute in China, especially in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, which is heavily populated by Uighurs, a Muslim people of Turkic origin. In the past few years, the Communist government there has forbidden civil servants, students and teachers to fast. The government has said it institutes the ban for health reasons and says that it faces threats from Muslim extremists. But the ban only makes Uighurs feel persecuted and alienated from their government, helping, if anything, the small strain of extremists among them who call for armed resistance.
On the other side of the authoritarian coin, various Muslim governments, from Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states to Iran and Pakistan, impose the Ramadan fast by law. Under these rules, eating or drinking in public during the holy month may mean deportation, a fine or even jail. In many other countries, even if fasting is not enforced by law it is compelled by social pressure. So people — both religious minorities and Muslims who choose not to fast — must appear as if they are fasting, even if they are not.
This religious authoritarianism is senseless and self-defeating. Fasting during Ramadan is an act of worship intended for God. It is meaningful only when it is driven by a genuine will to obey God’s commandments — not the laws of the state or the vigilantism of society. The latter does not nurture true piety, it only nurtures fakeness and hypocrisy. That is why the Quran says there should be “no compulsion in religion” — and no compulsion in fasting, either.
Moreover, according to Islamic jurisprudence, not everybody is supposed to fast. Non-Muslims are not obliged at all. Even among Muslims, the Quran exempts those “who are ill, or on a journey.” It even exempts those “who can fast only with extreme difficulty,” and tells them to feed a needy person instead. “God wants ease for you, not hardship,” the scripture says.
Yet many Muslims choose hardship. During Ramadan last year, more than a thousand people died in Pakistan from dehydration under extreme heat, despite calls from some more flexible clerics to cease fasting. Even those who did decide to give up the fast because they were in danger still could drink water only in private because of the social pressure they faced — a big problem for people who lived on the street.
Even the most rigid Muslim clerics accept that not everybody is obliged to fast during Ramadan. Yet many still support laws that ban public eating and drinking in order to respect the holy month and people who observe it. They should reconsider, though, whether they are really bringing any respect to Islam by imposing its practices. Would we Muslims feel respected if others imposed their proscriptions on us? Should Muslims in India be required to stop eating beef because it offends the sensibilities of Hindus, as a senior member of the country’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party argued last year? Should the Uighurs respect the Chinese Communist Party’s distaste for “superstition,” and stop practicing their faith?
Respect is an admirable trait, but it cannot be imposed by law. It also should not be the basis for dictating the norms of a majority on minorities or individuals.
What is the ideal Muslim approach to Ramadan? My city, Istanbul, offers a good model. Here, we have no laws governing Ramadan. Many people decide to fast, many people decide not to fast. The latter can enjoy restaurants and cafes during the day, and some perhaps even enjoy bars at night, even though Islamic law prohibits alcohol. The pious, meanwhile, fast for the right reason: They are not forced to stay thirsty and hungry by the government. They freely decide to do so out of their sincere faith in God.
Communities of the Qur’an Conference: Ismaili Engagements with the Qur’an
The Communities of the Qur’an conference brings together eminent scholars and practitioners of various Islamic traditions to discuss and deliberate each traditions' respective interpretations of Qur'anic verses. It comes in the wake of increased sectarian violence in the Middle East, renewed military intervention in the region and a rise in Islamophobia. This conference-–the first of its kind-– places rich, diverse and at times opposing interpretations of the Qur’an, in direct conversation with one another. Video recordings of the presentations are available below.
Ismaili Engagements with the Qur’an: the Ismaili Khojas of South Asia
Ali Asani, PhD
Director of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program
Professor of Indo-Muslim Religions and Cultures
Arctic Ramadan: fasting in land of midnight sun comes with a challenge
In Canada’s Arctic, summers are marked by a bright light that bathes the treeless tundra for more than 20 hours a day.
For some, it’s a welcome change from the unrelenting darkness of winter. But for the small but growing Muslim community of Iqaluit, Nunavut, life in the land of the midnight sun poses a singular challenge during the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims typically fast from sunrise to sunset.
“I haven’t fainted once,” said 29-year-old Abdul Karim, one of the few in the city who has fastidiously timed his Ramadan fast to the Arctic sun since moving from Ottawa in 2011. This year that means eating at about 1.30am before the sun rises and breaking his fast at about 11pm when the sun sets.
“The only reason to stop would be if it hurts my health,” Karim said. Pointing to his sizable frame, he laughed as he added: “But looking at my condition, I don’t think fasting will hurt me.”
As the end of Ramadan draws near for Muslims around the world, much of the holy month’s focus on community work, prayer and reflection has been a constant in communities around the world. But in Iqaluit and the other Muslim communities that dot the Arctic, the long days have forced a shift in how the element of fasting is approached.
Most in Iqaluit adhere to the timetable followed by Muslims in Ottawa, some 1,300 miles south of the city – a nod to the advice of Muslim scholars who have said Muslims in the far north should observe Ramadan using the timetable of Mecca or the nearest Muslim city.
It still means fasting for some 18 hours a day, said Atif Jilani, who moved to Iqaluit from Toronto a little over a year ago. “It’s long days, but more manageable.”
Many in the 100-strong community break their fast together, gathering in the city’s brand new mosque – completed in February amid temperatures that dropped as low as -50C with windchill – for nightly potluck suppers. As they tuck into traditional meals such as dates, and goat or lamb curries, the sun shines brightly through the windows.
It’s a scene that plays out across Canada’s northernmost mosques during Ramadan, as Muslim communities wrestle with the country’s unique geography.
The 300 or so Muslims in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, have several options when it comes to fasting during Ramadan, said Nazim Awan, president of the Yellowknife Islamic Centre, with exceptions made for those who are pregnant or ill.
“There might be some superhumans who want to fast for 23 hours, but the other option is to follow the intent and spirit of fasting by following nearby cities, or they can follow the times of Mecca and Medina.”
In recent years, much of the community has opted to follow the Ramadan timetable of Edmonton, in Alberta. Some, such as Awan – a father of two young kids, including a 12-year-old who recently started fasting – follow the timings of Mecca. He hopes to encourage his son with the more manageable timetable of about 15 hours of fasting as compared with about 18 hours in Edmonton. “If I fast Yellowknife or Edmonton times, my son might say, Papa, you are really insane, what are you doing?” he said.
Faced with the impossibility of following the local movements of the sun, the 100 or so Muslims in Inuvik, a small town that sits 125 miles north of the Arctic circle, have also been following Edmonton’s timetable. “We currently have 24 hours a day of sun,” said Ahmad Alkhalaf. “There’s no sunrise or sunset.”
The adherence to Edmonton’s schedule was already in place in 2001 when he moved from Toronto to the small northern community of 3,500 people. “My first Ramadan here was in December. There’s no sun at that time; it’s dark all day and night. So we used Edmonton time.”
At times, it can be psychologically challenging to follow the clock rather than what is happening outside, Alkhalaf said. “You’re supposed to break your fast when it’s dusk, and we eat when the sun is out. It’s not usual to have iftar [the meal breaking the fast] when the sun is up,” he said.
In Inuvik, where much of the population is Inuit, the Muslim community has sought to strike a balance between Ramadan and the local culture and traditions. The iftar meal includes dates and rich curries – as well as local game such as reindeer, prepared in accordance with Islamic law. “We make a soup or curry it – we make a biryani, but instead of using beef, we use reindeer.”
In Iqaluit, as the Muslim community prepares to mark the end of Ramadan, some reflect that this year’s timing – stretching across some of the longest days of the year – has made this year one of the more challenging of recent years.
It’s particularly true for those like Karim who have determinedly followed the local sunrise and sunset. But his efforts will be rewarded years from now, said Karim, thanks to the lunar calendar. Ramadan will eventually fall during winter, which in Iqaluit sees the sun rise and set within a few hours each day. “I’ll follow those hours too,” he said with a laugh. “Oh yes, definitely.”
From Monday 4 July, Guardian Cities is devoting a week to exploring all things Canada. Get involved on Twitter and Facebook and share your thoughts with #GuardianCanada
A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam. Then the Death Threats Began.
JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — For most of his adult life, Ahmed Qassim al-Ghamdi worked among the bearded enforcers of Saudi Arabia. He was a dedicated employee of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice — known abroad as the religious police — serving with the front-line troops protecting the Islamic kingdom from Westernization, secularism and anything but the most conservative Islamic practices.
Some of that resembled ordinary police work: busting drug dealers and bootleggers in a country that bans alcohol. But the men of “the Commission,” as Saudis call it, spent most of their time maintaining the puritanical public norms that set Saudi Arabia apart not only from the West, but from most of the Muslim world.
A key offense was ikhtilat, or unauthorized mixing between men and women. The kingdom’s clerics warn that it could lead to fornication, adultery, broken homes, children born of unmarried couples and full-blown societal collapse.
For years, Mr. Ghamdi stuck with the program and was eventually put in charge of the Commission for the region of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Then he had a reckoning and began to question the rules. So he turned to the Quran and the stories of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, considered the exemplars of Islamic conduct. What he found was striking and life altering: There had been plenty of mixing among the first generation of Muslims, and no one had seemed to mind.
So he spoke out. In articles and television appearances, he argued that much of what Saudis practiced as religion was in fact Arabian cultural practices that had been mixed up with their faith.
There was no need to close shops for prayer, he said, nor to bar women from driving, as Saudi Arabia does. At the time of the Prophet, women rode around on camels, which he said was far more provocative than veiled women piloting S.U.V.s.
He even said that while women should conceal their bodies, they needed to cover their faces only if they chose to do so. And to demonstrate the depth of his own conviction, Mr. Ghamdi went on television with his wife, Jawahir, who smiled to the camera, her face bare and adorned with a dusting of makeup.
It was like a bomb inside the kingdom’s religious establishment, threatening the social order that granted prominence to the sheikhs and made them the arbiters of right and wrong in all aspects of life. He threatened their control.
Mr. Ghamdi’s colleagues at work refused to speak to him. Angry calls poured into his cellphone and anonymous death threats hit him on Twitter. Prominent sheikhs took to the airwaves to denounce him as an ignorant upstart who should be punished, tried — and even tortured.
A Lesson for Newt Gingrich: What Shariah Is (and Isn’t)
FORTUNATELY, no one is going to follow Newt Gingrich’s unconstitutional and un-American plan for an inquisition to “test every person here who is of a Muslim background” and deport the ones who “believe in Shariah.” Even Mr. Gingrich himself, a day after suggesting this policy in the wake of the terrorist attack in Nice, France, conceded that such a plan was impossible. But his proposal is a reminder of a persistent and inexcusable misunderstanding of what Shariah is, both in theory and in practice.
Put simply, for believing Muslims, Shariah is the ideal realization of divine justice — a higher law reflecting God’s will.
Muslims have a wide range of different beliefs about what Shariah requires in practice. And all agree that humans are imperfect interpreters of God’s will. But to ask a faithful Muslim if he or she “believes in” Shariah is essentially to ask if he or she accepts God’s word. In effect, Mr. Gingrich was proposing to deport all Muslims who consider themselves religious believers.
Extracts from MHI's interview on his role as the interpreter of faith
Q. As Imam of your sect, you are also an interpretor of the Quran for your followers, but on the other hand, you are a man with a modern education and background. How do you reconcile these two aspects on subject like women's rights, family planning and other related matters?
A. As Imam of the Ismaili sect, I am in a position to adapt the teachings of the Quran to the modern condition. On the question of modernity the issue is essentially whether one is affecting the fundamental moral fabric of society or whether one is affecting the fundamentals of religious practice. As long as these two aspects are safeguarded the rest can be subject to adjustment.
Q. Since your followers are dispersed all over the world, does it mean that on issues like family planning, your stand would vary from country to country?
A. We would have to accept the fact that this is not entirely under the control of the Imam. Since in many countries it is subject to legislation and if legislation is passed it has to be complied with.
Q. But in cases where you are free, where there is no legislation, would you offer any kind of guidance?
A. No, I would not issue a firman (order). But what I would hope, is that in all issues like that, it is the general understanding of the objectives which is of key importance. In India, you are faced with this problem and my interpretation is that it is an issue where you are more effective in directing yourself towards the minds of the people involved. After that individual will choose and he will choose within the laws of his land. Within the concept of morality and of practice. To issue a formal directive would be impossible internationally because that is one issue in which there have been contradictory views. My approach is to say basically, we are concerned about explaining to people the realities of society.
Beyond the Qur’an: Early Ismaili Ta’wil and the Secrets of the Prophets par David Hollenberg (Septembre 2016)
Hollenberg (David), Qur’an Early Ismaili Ta’wil and the Secrets of the Prophets, Columbia, University of South Carolina Press, 2016, 192 p. ISBN 978-1-61117-678-0
David Hollenberg is an assistant professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Oregon. He has authored articles on Ismailism and is the coeditor of The Yemeni Manuscript Tradition. Hollenberg is the founder of the Yemen Manuscripts Digitization Initiative, a collective of scholars and librarians devoted to preserving the manuscripts of Yemen.
Ismailism, one of the three major branches of Shiism, is best known for ta’wil, an esoteric, allegorizing scriptural exegesis. Beyond the Qur’an: Early Ismaili Ta’wil and the Secrets of the Prophets is the first book-length study of this interpretive genre. Analyzing sources composed by tenth-century Ismaili missionaries in light of social-science theories of cognition and sectarianism, David Hollenberg argues that the missionaries used ta’wil to instill in acolytes a set of symbolic patterns, forms, and "logics." This shared symbolic world bound the community together as it created a gulf between community members and those outside the movement. Hollenberg thus situates ta’wil socially, as an interpretive practice that sustained a community of believers.
An important aspect of ta’wil is its unconventional objects of interpretation. Ismaili missionaries mixed Qur’an exegesis with interpretation of Torah, Gospels, Greek philosophy, and symbols such as the Christian Cross and Eucharist, as well as Jewish festivals. Previously scholars have speculated that this extra-Qur’anic ta’wil was intended to convert Jews and Christians to Ismailism. Hollenberg, departing from this view, argues that such interpretations were, like Ismaili interpretations of the Qur’an, intended for an Ismaili audience, many of whom converted to the movement from other branches of Shiism.
Hollenberg argues that through exegesis of these unconventional sources, the missionaries demonstrated that their imam alone could strip the external husk from all manner of sources and show the initiates reality in its pure, unmediated form, an imaginal world to which they alone had access. They also fulfilled the promise that their imam would teach them the secrets behind all religions, a sign that the initial stage of the end of days had commenced.
Beyond the Qur’an contributes to our understanding of early Ismaili doctrine, Fatimid rhetoric, and, more broadly, the use of esoteric literatures in the history of religion.
The joke below highlights what it means to anchor the interpretation to 1400 years before and the consequences!
The great preacher Zakir Naik got into a cab in London. He curtly asked the cabbie :
_'' Brother, Please Turn Off the radio because as decreed by holy Q'uran, I must not listen to music because in the time of the prophet there was no music, especially Western Music, which is the Music Of The Infidel......''_
The cab driver Politely Switched Off the radio, stopped the cab and opened the door.
Zakir questioned him :
'' Brother, What are you doing.....???? ''
*The Cabbie Answered Politely :*
_" In the time of the prophet there were_ :
_No Plane Hijacks,_
_No West Invented Loud Speakers in Mosques that woke Up newly born, Elderly And The Sick At Unearthly Hours,_
_No Suicide Attacks,
_No AK 56,_
_ONLY '' PEACE '' Everywhere..._
It’s possible a new bill on child marriage could come before the Parliament and the battle could resume. Still, the activism against the bill provided a valuable lesson. One of the most effective ways to address the scourge of statutory rape and child marriage in Turkey — and perhaps the broader Muslim world — may be to use Islamic arguments to show why they are inhumane and ill suited for today’s day and age.
The misogynists often justify their positions by referring to archaic interpretations of Islam, which is why we must work to revoke their monopoly on interpreting religion. Islam must be a part of the solution. The way forward is to emphasize that while Islam has eternal values, Islamic laws also in part reflect the norms of medieval societies — and as times change, laws should, too.
What is the trouble with Islam? Why are there so many angry Muslims in the world who loathe the West? Why do self-declared Islamic states impose harsh laws that oppress minorities, women and “apostates”? Why are there terrorists who kill in the name of Allah?
Many in the West have been asking these kinds of questions for decades. Answers have varied from claiming that there is no problem within Islam today, which is too defensive, to asserting that Islam itself is a huge problem for the world, which is unfair and prejudiced. Luckily, more informed observers offered more objective answers: The Islamic civilization, once the world’s most enlightened, has lately been going through an acute crisis with severe consequences.
One of the prominent minds of the past century, the British historian Arnold Toynbee, also pondered the crisis of Islam, in a largely forgotten 1948 essay, “Islam, the West, and the Future.” The Islamic world has been in a crisis since the 19th century, Toynbee wrote, because it was outperformed, defeated and even besieged by Western powers. Islam, a religion that has always been proud of its earthly success, was now “facing the West with her back to the wall,” causing stress, anger and turmoil among Muslims.
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