Friday, August 24, 2018

Prophet Ibrahim: Migration and Resettlement


My Khutbah at MT-Dundas

Prophet Ibrahim was an "Ummah" (Nation) unto himself because he embodied all of the qualities of a nation that aligns with a godly vision: contentment with God's decree; upright in righteousness, sincere in worship of One Creator; grateful for God's bounties and guided to the straight path. He was shaped by an unshakeable faith, strengthened by a keen sense of observation and critical thinking.

One of the hallmarks of this "Friend of God" is his constant turning to God in supplication, many of which are beautifully recorded in the Qur'an. Among them is the supplication he made when, after a long and arduous journey across the desert, he left his infant son and wife Hajar in an uncultivated land (Becca, Mecca), with no vegetation and no one in sight. It was an incredible challenge for him, and for her. When he turned to leave, she naturally inquired whether he would leave them there alone. He did not answer. She persisted in her questioning, and when he did not answer again she asked if this was a command from God. He nodded in the affirmative, upon which she said that if it was God's command, He will take care of them.

Such was the faith of the mother of a nation whose roots were planted in this incredible moment of trust in God. Prophet Ibrahim, filled with emotion then turned himself to his Lord who had never abandoned him and, raising his hands to the heavens, he entreated God: "Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley, near Your Sacred House, our Lord, so that they may establish the prayer. So make the hearts of people incline towards them, and provide for them from the fruits that may thank You." (Chapter 14:37)

The prayer is not only remarkable in its sincerity and forthrightness, but also in framing for later generations a mindset that would guide entire communities towards a culture of hospitality and embracing of others.

The migration and resettlement of Hajar and Ismaeel, and the above prayer of Ibrahim give us cause to reflect on the challenges of being uprooted from a place called home and to be taken to an unfamiliar place, with no friends nor support structure.

The incredible mass movements of people across the world today, uprooted by violence, wars or persecution – from Syria, Burma, Yemen, Palestine and elsewhere reminds us of the challenge that Hajar faced – no food, water, vegetation and no one in sight; with an infant son who depends on her for survival.

In our countries, we have embraced refugees who have come from these places; we have also forgotten their plight and their struggle for survival. In a short documentary aired by CBC Television entitled "Sedra" the female teenager named Sedra has to fight for survival even as she lives in an affluent Canadian society – her father is elderly and ill, her mother suffers from dementia and all of her siblings have been displaced by war.

Ibrahim's supplication for God to "incline the hearts of men toward them" is crucial. We live at a time when there is much misunderstanding and mistrust of the 'Other", especially by those who are afraid that their culture, values and societal benefits may be negatively impacted by the arrival of the refugee. The rise of the far-right to address this perceived threat is concerning; Abraham's prayer is a spiritual strategy that cannot be ignored, but must also be followed by concrete action to build awareness through conversation, education and cultural interaction.

Hajar's proactive efforts to find help after Ibrahim leaves is an act of courage and determination that is enshrined in one of the main rituals of the Hajj – the Sa'ee – walking/partly running between the hills of Safa and Marwa. This act of determination and resilience was rewarded with the gushing of water from beneath the infant's feet: water in a desert that attracted and inclined people to settle and make the valley their home, and eventually a Mecca for the world.

Prophet Ibrahim was a Friend of God; his life, his family's loyalty to God and his willingness to surrender to God became the basis of one of the most remarkable events in human history – the annual Hajj – a microcosm of life itself with its themes of departure, struggle, arrival and return.

This is why Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was keen on transforming the pagan innovations back to the purity of Ibrahim, and to restore the House of God (the Ka'bah) to its place of dignity, free from false deities. May God enable us to undertake this pilgrimage in honor of the legacy of these great prophets and make it a source of deep reflection on the lessons of life.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Je Suis Muhammad - Farhad Khadim

Neither Charlie Hebdo nor the extremists who murdered twelve journalists and staff at Charlie Hebdo are my heroes.

Both stand at the extremes of civil society: one by deliberately provoking the sensitivities of a marginalized community and stoking tensions, the other by betraying the values of that community through the most heinous of crimes - murder.

Je Suis Muhammad -

My hero is Muhammad, the target of Charlie Hebdo's often vicious attacks and the one who has taught me that one should not reciprocate harm with more harm.

Through his practice of forgiveness and patience, and the Qur'anic directive of which he was the living example, I have learnt that if you show the moral high ground and repel evil with "that which is better", even your sworn enemy will become your best friend.

He has taught me through his numerous dialogues with his enemies that one can win with patience and good character.

The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo did not know him and could therefore be excused for their act of insensitivity.

The extremists who committed murder also did not know him. Had they known him as they claimed, they would have followed his example and engaged Charlie Hebdo in a dialogue as The Prophet did with the worst of his enemies.

Many of them left their arrogance behind and became his loyal followers because they saw in him a beautiful
model of piety, compassion and integrity that was unmatched.

Had the extremists known his character, they would have remembered how he forgave the young Mistah for engaging in the scandal of Aisha , the pious wife. And he would have ordered the execution of Wahshi and Hind for killing the lion of Islam, Hamza his beloved uncle and for Hind's attempt at eating his heart. But he forgave both.

Had they studied his Sunnah, they would have realized that despite the wars he was forced to fight, he limited his engagements only to those who took up arms against his cause, and never for personal revenge. Even when he entered Makkah victorious, his head was bowed in humility.

Because they don't know him they have betrayed him in the worst possible manner - by tarnishing the beautiful message of peace, justice, compassion and generosity that he was the embodiment of.

To those who eulogize Charlie Hebdo - how long will you remain in your arrogance by condoning the bullying of a marginalized people? How long will you continue to defy common sense and civility by perpetuating ridicule on the beloved leader of 1.6 billion Muslims? How long will you seek to caricature him under the pretext of free speech? Hind, Abu Sufyan, Khalid bin Walid... even Umar, had their sights set on destroying him. Yet, he overcame them not with swords nor war but with his gentle nature, forgiveness and the message of truth.

To you we say as Muhammad said: "if you feel no shame, do as you wish."

All affairs return to God and he will judge between us and you.


Monday, March 04, 2013

The Passing of Br. Zahid Ali

Br. Zahid Ali, former Treasurer of IIT and community worker, passed away at Ajax Pickering hospital on Saturday, March 2. He was a good brother, always smiling and ever vigilant over financial matters of the organization. He battled many health difficulties with patience and a great sense of humor. I have learnt the following from his life:


  1. Bear your difficulties with dignity. He never complained and never made anyone feel burdened by his challenging circumstances. Instead of asking for help, he offered help to others.
  2. Do anything you are assigned with excellence. Br. Zahid spent extra time ensuring that all records of the organization were up to date.
  3. Family Matters. Br. Zahid was always the first to arrive and set up his fundraising table, and then the first to leave the premises after a meeting/event to return home to his family. His love, commitment, sacrifice and hard work towards his family were exceptional.
  4. Don't get caught up with ideals only; be a realist. Br. Zahid was not shy of asking the tough questions. He was pragmatic and a realist, never taking things that matter for granted.
  5. Death does not wait for us to mend fences. Br. Zahid had the good sense and the humility to deal with issues in a mature way, never allowing operational issues of the organization get into the way of his relationship with people. 
May Allah reward him; multiply his good deeds and forgive him for his mistakes. May Allah grant his family the comfort and patience to deal with his loss as a decree of Allah and a mercy for him.







Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Old Questions about Identity and Belonging





June 8, 2012



It is Friday and as I make my way into main hall of the downtown mosque for the third Jumu'ah, I breathe a sigh of relief. Br. Muneeb Nasir was giving the khutbah. As a khateeb myself, I don't always have the opportunity to listen to well-articulated and relevant khutbahs given by the few khateebs like Muneeb. He is always well-prepared, his soft voice sometimes slowly rising when he wishes to emphasise an important point.



Today he was speaking about living the Islamic principles of responsibility: to God, to oneself and to one's community.



Using the recent shooting at the Toronto Eaton Centre as a backdrop, he urged members of the congregation to take responsibility and become pro-active with their youth, before it is too late. He identified one such pro-active effort with the Somali community at Dixon Rd., Big Brothers and Sisters and Olive Tree Foundation as a model of engaging community members and service providers, youth and religious leaders to make a difference. By engaging a high school student with an elementary school student in a mentor relationship, the objective is to mitigate any negative influences young students may have.



Br. Muneeb ended his khutbah on a positive note and a tearful story: that of Wafa Dabbagh, the first Muslim woman to wear the Hijab in the Canadian military. She passed away this week after a battle with cancer; the remarkable thing about her, Br. Muneeb reminded the congregation, is that she gave a perspective about trials and tribulations that was totally aligned to the Islamic principles: i,e, to look at whatever has befallen you as a "gift" from God, because He tests those whom He loves.



It was what happened after the prayer that caught many by surprise. A man from the front lines of the congregation got up and started lambasting the khateeb for 'praising a Muslim woman who is in the Canadian Military", obviously with reference to his extremist views about the incompatibility of being a Muslim and serving the Canadian military. "If she was here," he said ominously, referring to the deceased sister, "I would have slaughtered her!" His words were certainly appalling, but it was his audacity to articulate them in such a manner, in a Canadian Mosque, that was so repugnant.



He was immediately shouted down by the congregation, and had no choice but to take his tirade outside where he found a few sympathetic ears. The Imam of the mosque, Dr. Tantawy Attia immediately denounced the disturbance and reminded the congregation that such behaviour cannot be condoned.



The incident raises some of the old questions about citizenship, belonging, and the difficulty that some Muslims have reconciling being Muslim with participating in the institutions of their country such as the military which are seen as being complicit in the death and destruction of thousands of Muslims in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.



A young man from Afghanistan engaged in conversation with me afterward. His dilemma was the same - he voiced his disgust at the prospect of a Muslim involved in the military, responsible for killing women and children in Afghanistan. I asked him if he was a Canadian. He said he was a Muslim first. I asked him why he immigrated to Canada. He said that he is using it as a stepping stone for other opportunities.



In his answers lie one of the most fundamental issues that Muslims in Canada must face: that of identity and belonging, and finding the right compromise between one's loyalty to faith and to one's country.



As I reminded the young man from Afghanistan, he has options if he views Canada as an imperial power alongside the US in destroying Muslim lands and people. He can engage in meaningful discussion and action about Canada's role in war and peacemaking, while respecting his place as a Canadian citizen with all its rights and obligations, or he can choose to leave Canada and find loyalty to another country of his choice. But he can't eat his cake and have it too.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Travesty of Justice

A Travesty of Justice

She sits
In the darkest corner
Of the room
Shadows concealing
Once-beautiful features
Bloodshot eyes
Darting, Fearful
of yet another assault
Crouched, ready to strike again
Defend whatever dignity still resides

Ears inundated
with empty pontificating
Sermons of law and order
Of citizens' rights
And the limits of self-defence
Every Charter, every Code
Turned upside down, inside out
Meaningless
Violated
As her inside
Screams for justice
Voice lost in the noise
Of modern life

Fists clenched, knuckles white
Eyes deeply sunken, fixed gaze
Tell a story
go back deep
In the recesses of history
Envy of her time
Every suitor, anticipating
Every compatriot, proud
Now reduced to shadows
Enduring the voices of mischief
The impotence of the good
And the judges of the high courts
Have now closed their books
Gathered their things
As the verdict is returned
Guilty as charged.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tears of my Beloved

Tears of my Beloved

by

Farhad Khadim



I undertook a journey

Back in time

To meet my Beloved

To tell him of my hurt

Of the wounds they inflict on him

The lies they tell; the hatred they feel

Of the rage inside me

When they hurl insults at him.



I found him in the Lighted City

Between two mountain tracts

He was sitting

In the shade of his mosque

Serene and composed

A playful smile on his face

A King with no throne

A Master with no servant

Alone with His Lord

The weapon of his choice


 
"Assalaamu Alaika! Ya Rasulallah"

He raised his sublime face

As I approached

Stood up and embraced me

My heart melted as

Time stood still

And the distance of centuries

Disappeared

As if they were a fleeting moment

The moment lingered for centuries

And a strange feeling of peace

Engulfed me

Like the early morning fog

That fills the mountain pass.



Do they know me, he asked

His words soft and steady

Have you told them

Of Quraish and its leaders

Steeped in arrogance and disbelief

Their disdain for Bilal

And the freedom he sought?


 

Do they know of Khadija, Fatima and Khansaa

And the lovely Aisha in whose lap I lay my head

When the call came for me to return?



Have they seen the Ka'bah

Free of idols?

Restored to the purity

of Abraham's time?



Have they heard of Khalid, Ali and Umar

And the gracious AbuBakr

Whose heart was made of gold?



Have they heard of Taif

And the bands of men

Who answered my call

With stones and sticks?



Do they know of my refuge

Within the garden's walls

And the curiosity of Addas

Who embraced my call?



Have they heard of Mu'tim

And his chivalrous stand

Against Quraish

While he was one of them?



I shifted my feet

As my Beloved looked at me

With pity in his eyes and kindness on his face

I knew that I had let him down

Failed to speak of him

Let the world know of

The man who came as a Mercy



And what is my Ummah doing, he inquired

When they throw insults at me?



My eyes lit up, now is the time

To tell him of our courage, our loyalty



We march, I said, in hundreds of thousands

Chant slogans in your defence

We take to the streets and vent our outrage

At the ridicule they’ve heaped on you

We care not for their lives, nor their innocence

They are all one, united in torment!



The Prophet lowered his head

A veil of sadness crossed his face

I looked into his eyes, filled with tears

And knew that I had made a terrible mistake



My brother, he said

This is not the way

I have endured worse

At the hands of Quraysh

And the hypocrites have plotted

Day and night

To make me fail in my resolve



Go tell my people

That kindness and compassion

Conquers

That their love for me is best displayed

When they tell the world about me

When they walk in my footsteps

Living like I did

In their hours of sleep and wake

When knowledge of me

Reaches every household

And the words of the Qur'an

Are recited ever so softly at dawn


 
When Addas and Mu'tim

Will rise again

To witness and to protect

And when my prayer at Taif

Is on the lips of everyone:



"O Allah! I complain to You

of my weakness, my scarcity of resources

and the humiliation I have been subjected to by the people.

O Most Merciful of those who are merciful.

O Lord of the weak and my Lord too.

To whom have you entrusted me?

To a distant person who receives me with hostility?

Or to an enemy to whom you have granted authority over my affair?

So long as You are not angry with me, I do not care.

Your favor is of a more expansive relief to me.

I seek refuge in the light of Your Face by which all darkness is dispelled

and every affair of this world and the next is set right,

lest Your anger or Your displeasure descends upon me.

I desire Your pleasure and satisfaction until You are pleased.

There is no power and no might except by You."

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Exchange Program with IIUM

On May 1, 2012 I led a group of 13 adult students from the Islamic Institute of Toronto (www.islam.ca) for a two-week exchange program with the International Islamic University of Malaysia (www.iium.edu.my). It was one of the most rewarding experiences. While it is impossible to detail the entire two-week trip, a few thoughts on the trip will give some insight in what was clearly one of the most fulfilling experiences for the group.

The objectives were simple: To provide an opportunity for expanding of horizons, understanding of cultures and enrichment of experiences through travel and study in an Islamic environment.

The organizers of IIUM did an amazing job at providing accommodation, an interesting education program and fantastic touring opportunities that allowed us to experience the transformation that has has made Malaysia one of the top south-east Asian countries, and a contender among developing countries in the world. IIUM is a world-class university, and its integration of Islamic knowledge coupled with Islamic adab amongst its students make it a unique learning environment. As Dr. Abdul-Aziz Berghout, the Deputy Rector at IIUM remarked at our closing session, it is the sense of mission that IIUM provides its students that is critical to the achievement of its objectives as an Islamic University.

Our group listened to presentations by some of the top scholars at IIUM, including Dr. Abdullah al-Ahsan, Dr. Abdur Rahim, Dr. Kamal Hassan, Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, Dr. Benaouda BenSaeed, Dato Sri Sanussi Junid (former President of IIUM) and Dr. Ariff Osman. We also visited the newly built Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at its Kuantan Campus, and observed first-hand a model of study that incorporated free dental and medical service to the public. We participated in a special forum on the Hizmet model of education at the Advanced Institute of Islamic Sciences with Dr. Osman Bakar, Dr. Hashim Kamali, Dr. Ali Unsal and Dr. Saim Kayadibi.

It seems as if our itinerary was deliberately set up in such as way that every day revealed more beauty than the day before - in the architecture of its mosques, the natural and built environment, the wildlife (monkeys and more monkeys!), the university's progress, the shopping centres, the cuisine and the amazingly kind-hearted people we met every day. Langkawi island was one of the highlights of the trip - an island paradise with the Kilim Geoforest that preserves the natural environment.

Special recognition should be given to Siti Aisiyah bin Ibrahim and her staff (Fitri, Syamimi, Khairul and Ana) for an impressive program and for fostering an atmosphere of genuine fraternity. We are indebted to them for giving us an opportunity of a lifetime.

We are looking forward for students of IIUm to visit IIT in June...and although we will be unable to reciprocate at the same level we are confident that the students will find their stay in Canada rewarding.




















Friday, December 09, 2011

Muslims in the West - between sexual promiscuity and domestic violence

Muslims in the West - between sexual promiscuity and domestic violence




The manner of reporting on the Shafia trial currently underway in Kingston gives the impression that for Muslims there are only two alternatives to consider when it comes to navigating the moral divide in a modern Canadian context: either succumb to an extreme reaction by resorting to violence, or resign yourself to the fact that children who grow up in a modern, western society such as Canada must be given absolute freedom to indulge in the "normal" activities that every Canadian teenager is involved in.



This includes pre-marital sex, public display of nudity and the freedom to come and go at any time without any restrictions.



The majority of Muslims will reject either, as they are both extreme positions that do no good to society in the long-term.



A practical solution lies somewhere in between, and satisfies both the need for effective parenting as well as upholding a moral code that is not only unique to Islam, but shared by many Canadians of various faiths (and even some with no religious affiliation).



It is a no-brainer that domestic violence should be unequivocally rejected. Those who justify it in the name of religion have sadly missed the spirit of marital and familial relations as espoused in Islam - that mercy and compassion are the twin foundations of a happy union, and that coercion dampens the spirit and produces nothing but rebellion in the end.



It is equally preposterous to suggest that because Muslims have migrated to a western society, they must give up the legitimate moral codes that the faith imposes, and 'suck up" to a new reality, one that normalizes religious taboos such as pre-marital sex, nudity and other immoral behaviour.



There are thousands of Canadians of faiths other than Islam who prohibit their children from engaging in some of the aforementioned activities. There are thousands of Canadians who impose curfews on their teenage sons and daughters, withhold monetary assistance because of the unbecoming activities they are engaged in and seek professional help for their children when they come to the realization that their lives are taking a path down to nowhere.



In short, not all Canadians are so totally removed from the choices that their children make in life that they have no care whether they become drug addicts or social outcasts.



Muslims must learn to navigate the new reality of living in a western society by bringing all their resources to bear in the upbringing of their children through a combination of good parenting, the provision of opportunities and alternatives and the realization that cultural norms and values may not be the same they have been accustomed to.

They must also accept that this new reality imposes on impressionable minds a tremendous pressure to conform and that the result of their efforts may not bear the fruit they have desired. This latter fact is especially important, because a sound understanding of the challenges that youth face will inform a measured approach to any solution contemplated for behavior that is viewed as "rebellious" or abhorrent.



As we remember all the victims of domestic violence everywhere, we must pledge to ourselves never to condone, approve or remain silent. We must also pledge not to be distracted by the bi-polar views of journalists who seem to be on a mission to "expose" Islamic teachings and the Muslim practice, and often end up conflating extreme views without any regard for the nuances often inherent in these complex issues.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

No Place for Honor Killing in Islam

No place for honor killing in Islam
There is nothing honorable in any killing, period.
That should be the message of religious leaders and educators as the trial for the so called 'honor killings' continue in Kingston, and as Canadians remember the victims of a brutal massacre in Montreal on December 6, 1989.
A key pillar upon which our society is built is to recognize the presumed innocence of those who have been arraigned for trial.

Yet, regardless of the outcome of the current trial, refusing to acknowledge that a social problem exists within our societies is a disservice of past and future victims of these heinous crimes.
It is also a disservice to a faith that has honored women, and has restored their sense of dignity as human beings long before the modern understanding of universal human rights.
Too many lives have been brutally snuffed out on the pretext of "honor killing" for it to be ignored.
It is time that community leaders set the record straight. No faith, from the strictly monotheistic to the most liberal, has endorsed killing as a way to restore a family's honor.
It is a brutal practice, steeped in the cultural backwaters of highly patriarchal societies, where men arrogate unto themselves the protection of a family's honor, often times their women being the victims of their delusional acts of murder.
As the prosecution rests its case this week in a Kingston Courtroom, many will unfortunately link the suspects' religion with the act of murder. Journalists such as the Toronto Star's Rosie di Manno, have sadly used the case as a de-facto indictment of Islam itself, ignoring the fact that one of the highest ideals of the Islamic faith is the sanctity and preservation of life.
Islam has categorically prohibited the taking of life, and is unequivocal about the sanctity of life in both of its primary sources of legislation – the Qur'an and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad.
Although this fact has been repeated ad infinitum by Muslim scholars and preachers, it is necessary to continue sending this message, as the Qur'an declares "remind them, for verily a reminder benefits the community of believers".
The Prophet's own example is one of compassion, patience and forbearance when events did not unfold as he wished. The constant persecution by his own people for thirteen long years in Makkah did not elicit from him even the slightest hint of retribution. The Qur'anic directive is clear: "do not take the life that God has sanctified, except in the due course of justice".
"Honor" Killings is a misnomer, and sadly a burden thrust upon an entire faith community because of the ignorance of a few.
We must combat it with the most effective means possible, first by refusing to ignore that it exists and then through an integrated curriculum in our schools, mosques and institutions that is based on exploring the higher objectives of Islam (maqaasid), the primary one being the preservation of life.
By doing so we will be following the Qur'anic methodology of dispelling myths, correcting cultural practices that are inconsistent with the Islamic worldview and ushering in revolutionary social constructs that challenge the 7th century's skewed vision of social hierarchy, where women were considered disposable assets.
One of the most compelling verses of the Qur'an is found in one of the short chapters towards the end of the Qur'an. The verse challenges Arab society to look at the cultural practice of the infanticide of girls, a practice based on the pre-Islamic Arabs' erroneous view that the birth of a girl-child was a sign of disgrace
"…and when the girl-child will be asked (on the day of Reckoning)…for what crime

was she killed?"
Muslim leaders today must muster the courage to repeat this verse in the context of today's "honor" killings, challenging the perpetrators to concede that such an act is neither human nor religious, and stands against everything that Islam and indeed any other faith advocates.

We must not allow those like DiManno to perpetuate the hate we see around us, nor allow ourselves to feel victimized by the constant negative outbursts of people who will not stop at using every opportunity to demonize Islam. To become obsessed by their agendas will detract from the urgent work we have to ensure that we rise to the challenges facing us in this 21st century.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reflections on the murder of Aqsa Parvez

In the Name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful

The following is taken from my khutbah at Masjid Toronto on December 14, 2007

The murder of Aqsa Parvez, allegedly of strangulation by her father is a tragic event that has consumed me for the past few days. I have had conversations about the tragedy with my family, especially with my two teenage daughters. We have come to the conclusion that this tragedy is not about religion per se, not about the hijaab as is so widely referenced in the media, but about a cultural gulf that exists among families whose misreading of Islamic values coupled with horrendous parenting skills create a deadly combination of ignorance and anger that more often than not result in the kind of crime we have seen in Aqsa'a case.

Three issues can be identified and addressed just by a cursory glance at the facts of the case:

1. Religion and Identity
2. Parenting
3. Immigration

Religion and Identity:

All religions, and even civilized nations, have some limits to the extent of one's actions. Every civilized nation has certain values that it promotes and that defines it. So too with Islam. These values are universal across the Muslim faith, established by either Qur'anic revelation or prophetic example and expounded by authentic scholars over the centuries. Over time they become manifestations of the faith itself, and no serious believer will doubt their veracity or usefulness. Over time, sometimes these values become misunderstood, both in their intent and application and become subsumed, or even distorted by cultural norms and practices that have evolved in particular places and times.

The enforcement of these values and prescriptions in Islam like prayer, charity, modest attire etc. is largely dependent on a disposition to accept them, nurtured and developed by example, education, training and spirituality. When an individual reaches the stage where he/she accepts these values wholeheartedly and without coercion, he/she becomes a symbol of the Islamic identity. A rejection of one or all of these values, barring a rejection of God's Oneness, is not apostasy, and therefore must be understood as a phase in life that one may eventually conquer.

to be continued....

Friday, December 22, 2006

Abraham-Friend of God

The declaration of Ibrahim (AS) is a manifestation that his entire life is a dedication to his Creator: "verily my prayers, my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, lord of all the worlds."

What has distinguished Abraham to be elevated to the level of "friend of god"? What qualities does Abraham possess that we must emulate if we want to elevate our own lives?

- Unwavering Faith in God

- Full trust and confidence in God

- A Soft Heart

Friday, December 15, 2006

Khutbah Summary

Friday, December 15, 2006.

My Khutbah at IIT last week:

Using the tragic incident of a mother committing suicide with her two-year old son in Scarborough, I focused on the following points:

1. Depression is a common mental illness in our community, affecting Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

2. When an incident like this occurs, the immediate reaction among some Muslims is to comment on its illegality. We need to go beyond this to discover the root causes and to address it.

3. A relevant question is how can Muslims insure themselves against succumbing to depression? The answer is by building a strong spiritual, mental and physical foundation for our lives.

4. Faith in Allah; Trust in his decree; Understanding that He will test us and knowing that He will not test us beyond our capacity; A Close Relationship with Him; How He provides an Exit for us if we fear Him; hope in His mercy etc. are all foundational principles to strengthen our spiritual and mental states.

5. At another level, a failure of our community is to identify and support thoe who are at risk. Support begins at home, with the immediate and extended family. Community support is also crucial, but often hampered by a lack of trust - people are afraid that their stories will be told over and over again. The Prophet's(SAW) advice to Abu Umaama is indicative not only of the spiritual cure he gave to him in form of a Du'a, but also that he (SAW) was able to discern Abu Umaaah's worry and was available for his support.

6. Addressing and eliminating the cause of problems, rather than hoping in vain that it will go away. It could be an abusive spouse; illness in the family; financial worry etc. Seeking professional help, and presuading one to seek professional help is critical.

For today's khutbah, I will speak about the Beauty and Limitations of Language

I will approach it from the point of view that Language is the primary but not the only means of communication; diversity in language is a sign from Allah and a benefit; and that all creatures have been given a means of communication: e.g. the ant during the time of Suleiman (AS). How must language be used? What constiutes the 'best Language or speech" and what constitutes the worst of speech? Testimony of faith; Remembrance of Allah; Truth in the face of tyranny; Words of advice, comfort and reconciliation; Invitation to the Truth etc. as opposed to disbelief; ingratitude; false testimony; slander, lies and gossip etc. I will use the khutbah to comment on some modern modes of communication (E-mail; instant messaging) and how many Muslims have normalized abhorrent language.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Zidane and the Muslim Ummah

I am not a soccer fan, but I was drawn to watch the last half of the World Cup match between Italy and France on Sunday, July 9. Part of the magnetic pull was Zidane, a player whom I had read about briefly and whose profile seemd so unique that I sat down to watch him play his last game, a great soccer player who exemplified the best in sportsmanship, civility and citizenship. What I ended up doing was making an analogy between him and billion or so Muslims who subscribe to the same faith that he does.

Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants to France, rose to prominence in the soccer world despite the many obstacles in his way. He came to be loved by the French, in fact, to be considered quintessentially French. He proudly bore the hopes and dreams of his nation on his shoulders, delivered well when he won the World Cup for France in 1998. He is often spoken of in terms of endearment, lovingly called Zissou by his French coutrymen, respected by colleagues and opponents alike for his civility and restraint.

In this World Cup he carried France from a lacklustre performance to the finals against Italy. This was to be his last match before retirement, and France was proudly holding its breath for a sendoff that would have honoured his distingushed career as a soccer great. Instead, the world was shocked when towards the end of the game, Zidane, apparently after trading some words with another Italian player, turned, took two steps forward and head-butted him in the chest, sending him falling backwards to the ground.

I was shocked and alarmed. Shocked at his conduct in such a public space and alarmed at what the implications would be. I felt betrayed by this great man, who I never knew, yet whom I felt drawn to after reading about him. I immediately thought that he must have been provoked, something disgusting must have been said to him to react in such a manner. At the same time, I felt that in respect to his own self and his legacy, and to the millions of people who regard him in high esteem, he should have shown restraint, no matter how ugly the remarks were.

It was then that it occured to me that what I had just witnessed was a microcosm of the Muslim Ummah, played out in a soccer field before the eyes of the whole world. For me Zidane was the Muslim Ummah, with past glory and achievement crowning his forehead, leading his people to victory, achievement and a respectable place among nations. His opponents were bent on striking him down, and one in particular, the monster Materrazi was an embodiment of the monstrous powers who are bent on occupying, provoking and stereotyping the Muslim Ummah.

And like the Ummah today, the provocation was too much for him. He snapped and did something uncharacteristic because he felt victimized. Perhaps he was called a "dirty terrorist" as some report, or his sister was called by some degrading name as others report. Whatever it was, he lost all sense of where he was, his legacy, his future and the difference he could have made to the game, and fell victim to the deliberate provocative assaults on his person.

I see his reaction as anologous to the protests, flag burnings and other emotional outbursts committed by Muslims against others who may have deliberately provoked them.

Like Zidane, we shock the world when we do things uncharacteristic of our faith and legacy, and we betray those who see in us a ray of hope for civilization.

Like Zidane, the Muslim Ummah has suffered provocations and deliberate attempts to tarnish its image, despite the crowning achievements and inherent goodness of teh Ummah. And like Zidane, we snap when we cannot take it any more.

Like Zidane's suffering of an alleged abuse, we also suffer the abuse of the desecration of our holy symbols, occupation of our lands, colonization, genocide and murder of innocent civilians. And like him, the temptation is to turn our back on history, our legacy of patience and restraint and to lash out without considering whether our actions are ethical or strategic.

Like him, will the Ummah get red-carded into oblivion, leaving behind a great legacy and squandering our opportunities to make a difference for humanity's future?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Friend's Death

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Today I learnt that a good friemd of mine, Husaam Meshmesha passed away under tragic circumstances in Calgary.

Hussam's young son had strayed onto the frozen lake at a camp retreat, and Hussam, most likely fearing that the ice would break, rushed to pull back his child. He was successful in saving the child's life, but unfortunately he himslef fell into the frozen lake and did not survive.

I learnt about this incident two weeks after the fact, and only by a chhance opening of a CAIR-CAN e-mail. I was understandably shocked when I recognized his name.

I remember another incident, more than twenty years ago, in Guyana when we were out picnicking on the Linden Highway with the GIT-Georgetown Branch. One of my close friends, Haseeb, then only 19, drowned. He had left his bag with me to keep as he went swimming in the lake.

His sister Zam, and Auntie Nesha were visibly troubled when no one could locate him, and after several tries a diver brought up his body from the lake. It was one of the worst experiences for me.

May Allah grant them both Jannah and envelop them with his Mercy.

Farhad

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Apostasy Saga

Re: Dying to know about Islamic reality - Ted Byfield
Letter to the Editor

The issues and questions you raise are perfectly understandable, and you are right that Canadian Muslims need to do more to explain the faith to others.

From a Canadian Muslim's perspective, it is unfair to evaluate Canadian Muslims presence here in light of events that are happening around the world, especially when those events are moved by geo-political realities. It is quite possible, that more than the desire to fulfill what is perceived to be a code of Shariah, Afghanis are bent on proving that the "liberation" from the Taliban does not necessarily mean "liberation" from Islam, in defiance to the "West".

From a purely Shariah perspective, there are differing opinions regarding apostasy and other such issues. See the recent dialogue on www.islamonline.net by Dr. Jamal Badawi for an exposition.

In fact, many modern-day Islamic scholars have categorically ruled out death for apostasy simply because of one's change of faith; rather such harsh punishments only accrue in the event that apostasy is followed by sedition and acts of war against the state, in which case treason is considered. See www.islam.ca for links to relevant articles on this.

There is no single verse in the Qur'an directing believers to kill the apostate; rather the fate of an apostate is left for God to decide in the hereafter.

Rest assured that Canadian Muslims are erudite and enlightened, and will make full use of the tools of Ijtihad to promote dignity, freedom and liberty for the individual. Our faith demands this from us, and whether Muslims remain a minority or achieve a majority (far-fetched as that may be), we will remain true to the legacy of intellectual inquiry that is a hallmark of the Islamic civilization.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Muslim's Code of Conduct

The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him ) is reported to have said:
Nine Things My Lord Has Commanded me:

1. Fear of God in private and in public;
  • Taqwa is the Jewel in the Crown of Faith

  • An acute awareness that God is with You

  • A sense of security and confidence

  • An effective check against the whispers of the Devil

  • True Taqwa is oblivious to the distinction between secret and open; public or private

  • “Be conscious of Allah wherever you are”
2. Justice, whether in anger or in calmness;
  • Justice is the distinction of a Believer

  • Justice in any situation, regardless of who the perpetrators and or victims are

  • Anger has the tendency to blind justice

  • Justice even in anger is trait not usually seen in common men

  • Justice is not only the domain of the authorities

  • Justice is demanded and can be achieved in even mundane and/or trivial maters
3. Moderation in both poverty and affluence;
  • Moderation is the way of the believer

  • Moderation in everything, not only in spending – even in prayer!

  • Moderation in spending is emphasised here as in Surah Furqan as a trait of the Servants of the Beneficient

  • Moderation in affluence is a challenge since the tendency is to spend without consideration.
4. That I should join hand with those who break away from me;
  • Social relationships are predicated upon a mutual acceptance between two people

  • When one party refuses this relationship and breaks away, the relationship is strained.

  • A Believer seeks to mend this relationship by striving to reach out

  • A difficult challenge, often ignored, but one that is rewarding.

  • Sincerity and consistency without aggression are key to mending relations

5. And give to those who deprive me;
  • The believer knows that it is only Allah who gives and withholds

  • Giving to one who has previously deprived you is built upon the above principle

  • Such giving cleans the soul of any inclination for revenge and has the potential to build trust

  • The preceding three principles are reflected in the verses: “Good and evil are not equal. Repel evil with that which is better…”


6. And forgive those who wrong me;
  • Forgiveness for wrongs committed against you takes a special kind of faith

  • One motivation is that as Allah forgives, so must His servants if they wish to receive His Forgiveness

  • The prayer of ‘Isa (peace be upon him) is a poignant example of this (if You punish them, they are Your servants; but if you forgive them then you are the Most Forgiving, Merciful)

7. And that my silence should be meditation;
  • The last three principles speak about the inner state

  • In a world full of noise and activity, silence is a welcome retreat

  • Even silence can be constructive – meditation on the beauty of Allah’s creation and the Power behind it all

8. And my words remembrance of God;
  • The hadith: “whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should either speak something good or be quiet…” is relevant.

  • Words that bring remembrance of God, invite to God, enjoin good, advise, encourage and motivate towards obedience are the best kind of speech

  • Foul words, words of ridicule and insult, of arrogance and haughtiness, of disobedience and idle talk are the worst kind of speech

9. And to take lesson from my observation. 
  • Observation is integral to analysis, experimentation and conclusions

  • Observation not limited to events and outwardly things

  • Observations include ethics, mannerisms, nature, methods etc.

  • Observation without heeding the lessons is like partaking of a meal without enjoyment

May God Almighty make this a code of conduct for all of us!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Breaking the Chains

Breaking the Chains: The Shahaada of Bilal ibn Rabah

Muslim Scholars have maintained that the Shahaada, the testimony of faith, is emancipation from servitude to men to the worship of God alone.

The testimony begins with a negation of all false gods and affirms that the only One worthy of worship is Allah, Creator and Sustainer.

The testimony is liberating. It liberates one from all forms of psychological bondage; from all forms of ancient or cultural baggage and establishes a new paradigm for those who profess it with deep conviction. It also shatters the illusion of power that some hold over others and dispels the myth that lesser men may be beholden to their “benefactors” for the rest of their lives. It restores dignity to the human soul and embellishes it with a radiance of faith that cannot be extinguished.

Bilal Ibn Rabah is a powerful symbol of such liberation. A slave of Abyssinian origin, he was tied to Umayyah ibn Khalaf in slavery. His strength and loyalty were great assets to the Makkan chieftain, until the day when his heart received the message of Islam.

The testimony of faith was an inner revolution for him. Now he knew who the real Master is, and that the men who hold sway over his life are mere mortals, even despised because of their rejection of the truth.

The Shahada that he pronounced liberated him even before Abu Bakr bought him his freedom, for when Umayyah came to know of his Islam, and subsequently tortured him to recant his faith, his gaze was firmly fixed to the One above, and his only pronouncement was “Ahad, Ahad”.

It is this specific aspect of the Shahada, the emancipation from bondage, that is relevant to us today.

The bondage that we speak about is not the one that Bilal experienced; nor is it the one that the idolators of Makkah were subjected to in the form of idols made of stone or wood.

In keeping with our times, these demi- gods have become more sophisticated and more difficult to identify, let alone defeat.

Like Bilal ibn Rabah, when we become convinced of the truth of the Shahaada, false gods will become manifest to us and we will immediately reject them.

Whether they are our own unrestrained carnal pleasures, or some misguided concept of divinity; whether they are in the realm of "hawaa", or in the time consuming rush of modernity, we give our body and souls to these gods, sometimes unwittingly.

Bilal has shown us that acceptance of the truth may come at a cost - in his case the brutal reaction of a man with a beastly nature. But this brutality pales in comparison with the sweetness that Tawhid brings, and freedom of the soul to seek its Maker.

Let the Shahada emancipate us..one slave at a time.












Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Kind of Homecoming

A Kind of Homecoming

A few days ago while performing the midday prayers, it suddenly dawned to me that I am returning to God Almighty, and that this return can be likened to a kind of homecoming.

Those of us who have had the privilege to live in close families, surrounded by love and affection would know that a long absence from home elicits in us a sense of nostalgia – longing to return home, to be in familiar surroundings, to experience the sights, sounds and smells that defined our presence there.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Half of Your Faith

Half of Your Faith
Monday 22 August 2005, by Tariq RAMADAN Printable version
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


How many men and women prepare themselves to live as a couple, as a family?


Some think about it, others are already committed to it. We hear of stories... and one is sometimes moved by the expectations and hopes of some, and sometimes saddened by the painful life experiences of others. Perhaps you are also, sisters and brothers, preparing yourselves to engage in this life experience of marriage, known as half of your faith. Or perhaps you have already started sharing your life with someone. In this, your expectations, thank God, were more than met but sometimes doubts have emerged. This... is not what you had expected.

Brothers and sisters, nothing should be idealized.


The perfect husband or the perfect wife only exists in your dreams. God has given you, as He has given others, noble qualities and intelligence. God has given you, as He has given others, faults and deficiencies. Perfection is not given to you or any human being.

It is not enough to share the same faith, the same principles and the same hopes to make an ideal couple. How many young couples have been under the illusion that their future life will be harmonious as if being Muslim was enough for a successful marriage? As if their union was based solely on the meeting of two worlds founded on the same principles that one respects or on the rules which one applies.

This illusion, which yesterday promised a small earthly paradise, today makes life a difficult struggle How many speak about "the principles of marriage in Islam" and actually live the reality of a torn, ravaged and frustrated existence?

Today, more than ever, living as a married couple has become a real challenge. Around us, men and women meet and leave each other in a modern society in which they confuse freedom and the absence of accountability as love and flexibility.

Living as a couple is not without its challenges - preparing yourself, learning and constantly trying to reach out to the other with patience, depth and tenderness. Although it is true that the principles of Islam bring you together, or will bring you together, you must remember each day that the person with whom you share your life comes with his or her own history, wounds, sensitivities and hopes. Learn to listen, to understand, to observe, to accompany.


Living as a couple is the greatest of tests: a test of patience, of attention, of the ability to listen for unspoken words, of self-control, of mending one’s faults, of healing the wounds. In each of these tests, there are two parties. It isn’t easy. A meaningful effort has to be grounded in the deepest sense of spirituality, a jihad, in the most intense meaning of the term. The jihad of love which reminds that feelings have to be taken care of. They are maintained, deepened, rooted through your shared challenges and your patience

Patience and attention to the hearts, in a couple, will lead them towards the light, God willing. Remember, brothers and sisters, the last of the Prophets (peace be on him), an example for eternity, so attentive, so tender, and so patient. He did not only remind the Umma of principles, he enlightened with his presence, his listening, and his love.

Before being the mother of his children, his wife was a woman, his spouse, a person he discovered each day, a person whom he accompanied and who accompanied him; subject of his attention, a testimony of his love. He knew the meaning of silence, the power of a touch, the complicity of a shared glance, the pleasure in a smile, and the kindness found in being attentive.

There are those who idealize the other so much they never really see their partners and those who leave each other too quickly without taking the time to know each other. We are reminded of the principles Islam, its depth, its spirituality, its essence. Living as a couple, forming a relationship, being patient in adversity, loving to the extent of enduring, grounding by way of reforming is an initiation to spirituality. Knowing how to be one with God assures greater comfort in being together as two. A challenge, a test, far from the ideal, close to reality.

Sisters and brothers, you must prepare yourselves to live one of the most beautiful tests of life. It requires all from you, your heart, your conscience, and your efforts. The road is long. One must learn to demand, to share, and to forgive...indefinitely.

Of the things permitted by God, divorce is the most detested. Living as a couple is difficult: remember that your wife is woman before being the mother of your children; remember that your husband is a man before being the father of your children. Know how to live as a couple, within your family...in front of God and in front of your children.

This meeting place, these efforts will result in a sense of protection: They are your garments and you are their garments. Know how to be patient, learn how to be affectionate, offer forgiveness, and you will attain the spirituality of the protected, the proximity of the ones that are close. Faith then becomes your source of light and "his or her" presence, becomes your source of protection; the test of your heart, the energy of your love, half of your faith.

I pray to God that this love be the school of your efforts and the light of your patience.