A Christian dedicating his time to the Qu’ran? Find out why!

We’ve not long finished the month of Ramadan – a holy month for Muslims across the globe which marks the start of the the period in which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) received the Holy Qur’an from God Himself. This period is obviously one of reflection and unity for the billions of Muslims across the globe. Yet this month was not just a time of great community for Muslims both in the UK, but in fact the many diverse faith communities in multifaith Britain. Despite some terrible tragedies here in the UK which have recently taken place during Ramadan itself, I was delighted to attend a number of interfaith/community gatherings and witness the heartwarming sense of love, unity, community and friendship amongst Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

What’s more, in the run up to Ramadan itself, I was honoured to meet a brother who was making a particularly curious stance of unity. You see, whilst many Muslims will spend the month of Ramadan reading the Qur’an, this gentleman was on an exploratory mission of the Qur’an teaching others about its values and content. OK. You might say. Seems normal… But wait for this: he’s a Christian. Although far from a stranger to this book, Julian Bond launched his blog “How to Read the Qur’an” to get to grips with Islamophobic rhetoric out there and spread a message of peace and unity.

“A Christian!?” many may say, perplexed. Well yes, the Qur’an is not off limits! Anyone can read it! But why? Well, here’s what Julian says about why he’s been reading and teaching others about how to read the Qur’an:

I will be writing and posting a series of blogs during Ramadan 2017… to encourage people to read it and, particularly, to help them not misread it. I have been treated as an ‘honorary Muslim’ for years and welcomed into all kinds of Muslim-only/majority spaces where I have sometimes been the only Christian present.

I have read the Qur’an many times since 2000, in a number of different translations. I have been a habitual reader of it… I know that I have read it more and am more familiar with it than a lot of Muslims… I have even had people attempting to ‘convert’ me when they have read less of the Qur’an in an accessible tongue than I have…

What really fires me up is Islamophobes and extremists who choose the most extreme, and wrong, readings of the Qur’an, when a proper reading of the Qur’an highlights that they are completely off the ‘straight path’…

Julian’s message is one we should all take head of: it is only by learning about other faiths and cultures that we can built unity, dispel myths, counteract hate speech and broaden our own minds. You see, “How to Read the Qur’an” isn’t a proselytising mission -it’s an educational mission which reveals a lot about not just Islam but interfaith relations themselves.

For Muslims, Jews, Christians, those of all faiths and none: take a look, read, comment like and share your thoughts! And for Muslims: learn about another faith. Pick up a copy of the Torah or New Testament. Learn about your colleagues and neighbours and you’ll find out you’ve got more in common than you realise. As Jo Cox said – as was remembered during the Great Get Together in the month of Ramadan itself:

“…we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Peace, salam shalom! ♡

Credits, acknowledgments and further information:

Thank you to brother Julian Bond for taking the time to meet with me and for being such a great Muslim ally! It was lovely to meet you and hear about your inspiring work. I wish you all the best in your current and future initiatives.

Find out more about Julian Bond – follow him on Twitter!

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Julian Bond currently leads the Methodist Church’s grant team and is involved in a range of interfaith activities both online and offline, working with a local dialogue group in Leighton Buzzard (London) and occasionally organising dialogue events at Abrar House. Also volunteering at St Ethelburga’s (the Centre for Reconciliation and Peace), Julian was previous Director of the Christian Muslim Forum for nine years, where he edited the Ethical Witness Guidelines and led its leadership programme. Julian also spent two years on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christian-Muslim Initiative.

Image credits: Heidi Lalci (CC) (featured image), Julian Bond (C)

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12 Simple principles to build peace in your community

If you switch on the TV news, open the newspaper or click onto a popular news website, there’s always news about a terrorist attack, war, ongoing conflict and a general lack of peace amongst different groups of people. In an increasingly globalised world, we should understand each other better, stand ever more united and strive for peace. Sadly, the truth is quite the opposite. There’s conflict in Israel/Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, all over the world in fact…

As individuals and citizens, how do we deal with this? How does this relate to us? How can we make positive changes to enable us to live in peace? Well, I’m not an expert in diplomacy or international relations and this is a blog not a thesis, so I’m not going to go into the deep depths of peace keeping and international politics, but I’d just like to reflect on a key few principles that we can follow to help make the world a better place. Inspired by a recent conference I went to on terrorism and peace building last March hosted by Uniting for Peace including President Vijay Mehta’s piece on “Ten Ways to Stop Terrorism”, here’s my take on community peace building.

Now, you may be thinking: “How can we honestly make a difference?” Well the reality is that change really does start at home folks! If we build strong united communities, we can fight hate crime, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and take a stand against divisive politics. These are real issues which work their way up from the bottom. If we fight toxic narratives, common misconceptions and negative stereotypes, the media and politicians lose their power to drive communities apart, scapegoat groups and divide people. Ultimately, that’s where conflict starts and that’s what war is – a lack of peace, tolerance, understanding, compassion and ability to live alongside others…

Rule #1: Treat others the way you wish to be treated

The good old Golden Rule says it all: empathy, tolerance and peace. This principle teaches you to love yourself and love others. It spans cultures and faiths and is a universal age old concept which can’t fail! For information on the golden rule across various faiths see here.

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Rule #2: Listen to hear what others have to say, not to speak

Engage in dialogue with an open mind and the real will to listen to others. Only then will you be able to understand each other and build bridges. Change cannot happen and peace cannot be established if people are unable to communicate with others; to listen to their experiences and views and show empathy, understanding and compassion.

-Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.- --Stephen R. Covey (1).jpg

Rule #3: Accept difference of opinion

We all have different opinions and we may not all agree on the same things. Building compromise and mutual understanding is incredibly important. Sometimes we simply need to agree to disagree and recognise that there are different beliefs and forms of expression other than our own.

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Rule #4: Do not fight violence with violence 

Violence is never the answer. Peace can only be brought through free will, dialogue, empathy and forgiveness. Do not stoop to same level as someone who is violent and therefore continue the vicious cycle. This does not change anything.

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Rule #5: Fight extremism in all its forms

Do not categorise terrorism as a religious phenomena and single out or stereotype certain groups of people. Extremism is a human “disease” which can take many forms. All forms of extremism and hatred must be fought in unity as a community or else further division and conflict will arise.

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Rule #6: Accept that identity is fluid 

Any one person can have multiple aspects to their identity. Identity comprises many elements such as nationality, cultural-linguistic origin, age and religious beliefs. Identity can and does change, taking on many new forms and means of personal expression as we learn new languages, move home, adopt new beliefs, marry into a different tradition and experience life! Do not put people into a box. Avoid categorising people according to an us vs. them narrative and remember: we are all singular individuals with unique experiences. Such approaches and narratives are highly divisive and unproductive.

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Rule #7:  Avoid stereotypes 

Take people for the individuals they are. Avoid misconceptions, stereotypes and toxic narratives and get to know a person instead. This will avoid offence, misunderstandings and ultimately help you to create a real bond with others based on true understanding, empathy and trust. After all, no one likes to be judged – especially from the outside.

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Rule #8: Approach the media with skepticism

Don’t just believe everything you see on the TV, in the newspapers or on the internet. Think objectively for yourself. Get to know the people and facts behind any story and don’t fall for media scapegoating. Stand united.

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Rule #9: Be careful of the language you use

Your choice of language, alongside tone of voice and intonation all convey a message. Make sure that that message is positive. Be mindful of the language you use, avoiding anything with misogynistic, racist, Islamophobic, homophobic or anti-Semitic overtones. Do not underestimate the power of language – for better or for worse! And remember, it’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it.

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Rule #10: Let go of the past

You can’t move on if you’re stuck in the past. Learn lessons but also learn to move forward for the greater good. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you agree with everything, it means you’re able to move on without grudges and resentment. Only in this way can communities heal and move forward together.

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Rule #11: Stand up for others – not just your own community

If we only fight prejudice and injustice against our own friends, family and community groups then we ultimately fail to protect the wider community and society as a whole. Discrimination, bigotry and prejudice know no boundaries. For a community to live in peace and harmony, everyone’s rights and freedoms must be respected.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Je (1).jpg

Rule #12: Celebrate diversity: learn about and actively engage with those different to you

Learn about other communities, religions, nationalities and people. If you don’t learn about others, you’ll never understand them and therefore miss out on the opportunity to build bonds, friendships and common goals and interests. If you don’t know your neighbours, then how can you come together as a united community? Learn about other people and have fun. After all, diversity is what makes the world so interesting!

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So, there you have it. 12 simple principles to follow from the ground up to make the world a little more harmonious, understanding, tolerant and ultimately peaceful. Never think you can’t make a difference – you really can!

Salam!

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If you think violent jihad is the answer, read on…

Dear brothers and sisters,

Assalam aleykum,

I’m writing to you in light of the suspected terrorist attack on a German Christmas market last night just six days before Christmas – a time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus, whom we refer to as Prophet Jesus/Issa (pbuh); a kind, modest, preacher from Palestine born to Mary/Mariam who taught us to love and have mercy on one another, to worship God, to undertake good deeds and to repel evil.

If you’re sympathetic to ISIS and the concept of waging ‘holy war’ you may see nothing wrong with this event. You witness the atrocities in Syria, you saw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, you hear about sisters being harassed and you feel injustice. You feel you need to ‘seek revenge’ and ‘fight back’. You see it as your blessed honourable duty to fight in the way of Allah through bloodshed. Oh, how I pity you….

When the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) fled Saudi Arabia in his early years of prophethood he sought refuge in Ethiopia amongst Christians. When the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) established a government in Medina, the constitution comprised a multifaith community where Jews, Christians and Muslims alike could live in peace. The Prophet’s own family included Christians – none of whom he ‘forced’ to convert to Islam or despised. When we think of the wonderful beautiful names of Allah (SWT) we are reminded of such beautiful qualities and the lessons and teachings which accompany them as part of Islam: kindness, patience, generosity, truth, justice, modesty, compassion, mercy, wisdom and understanding. Amongst the 99 names of Allah revealed by Allah (SWT) in the Qur’an itself, are 15 names in particular which I’d like to draw your attention to with a relevant teaching from a Qur’anic verse or hadith:

  1. Ar Rahman (الرحمن)  – The All Merciful: Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to people.” (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
  2. Ar Rahim (الرحيم) – The Most Merciful: Be merciful to others and you will receive mercy. Forgive others and Allah will forgive you.” (Sahih Ahmad)
  3. As Salam (السلام) – Peace and Blessing: “O You who believe! Enter absolutely into peace [Islam].” (2:208)
  4. Al Ghaffaar (الغفار) – The Ever Forgiving: “Show forgiveness, enjoin in what is good, and turn away from the ignorant.” (7:199)
  5. Al ‘Adl (العدل) – The Utterly Just: “God does not love corruption.” (2:205)
  6. Al Latif (اللطيف) – The Subtly Kind: “He who is deprived of kindness is deprived of goodness” (Sahih Muslim)
  7. Al Ghafur (الغفور) – The All Forgiving: “The reward of the evil is the evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon God.” (42:40)
  8. Al Karim (الكريم) – The Bountiful, the Generous “[…] But whatever thing you spend [in His cause] – He will compensate it; and He is the best of providers.” (34:39)
  9. Al Hakim (الحكيم) – The Wise: “Invite to the way of  your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching […]” (16:125)
  10. Al Wadud (الودود) – The Loving, the Kind One: “Those who believe and do good deeds – the Gracious God will create love in their hearts.” (19:97)
  11. Al Muhyi (المحيي) – The Giver of Life: “[…] and do not kill a soul that God has made sacrosanct, save lawfully.” (6:151)
  12. Al Barr (البر) – The Most Kind and Righteous: “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.” (Muslim)
  13. Ar Ra’uf (الرؤوف) – The Compassionate, the All Pitying: “And good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with that which is best. And lo, he between whom and thyself was enmity will become as though he were a warm friend.  But none is granted it save those who are steadfast; and none is granted it save those who possess a large share of good.” (41:35-36)
  14. An Nur (النور) – The Light: “O Allah! Make for me Light in my heart, Light in my vision, Light in my hearing, Light on my right, Light on my left, Light above me, Light under me, Light in front of me, Light behind me, Light in my hair, Light in my skin, Light in my flesh, Light in my blood, and Light in my bones. O Allah Grant me Light!” [Tirmidhi]
  15. As Sabur (الصبور) – The Timeless, The Patient: “Those who spend (in Allah’s cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress their anger, and who pardon men, verily, Allah loves the al-Muhsinum (the good-doers).” (3:134)

Please enlighten me and explain how by controlling one’s anger, being just, truthfulhonest and resorting to self-defence only when required in time of necessity (always excluding women, children and animals and not even harming a plant!) as Islam teaches, one is permitted and even obliged to carry out bombings, shootings and other acts of violence against unarmed innocent civilians? Such acts can only be described as terrorism and are completely forbidden.

Have you no respect for your fellow brothers and sisters in faith: Jews and Christians (The People of The Book) – forgetting that Allah permits marriage amongst Christian/Jewish sisters and Muslim brothers? Have you no respect for your brothers and sisters in humanity and Allah’s Creation? He created each and everyone of us the way HE intended.

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Perhaps I need to remind you of these key points:

  • Sectarianism, racism, (overt) nationalismgreed and corruption are haram [forbidden] and have caused endless suffering within and amongst Muslim nations: “And hold fastAll together, by the rope Which Allah (stretches out for you), and be not divided among yourselves” (3:103).
  • Millions of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis and Yemenis (the list of nations goes on) – innocent victims and your brothers and sisters in Islam – have fled and are continuing to flee war, violence, torture and persecution or what’s more: continue to remain trapped in their own country where they are subject to ongoing bombing, famine and starvation due to repugnant violence, intolerant extremism, abhorrent politics and relentless military campaigns by the likes of ISIS, Al Qaeda and “Muslim” dictators/regimes who are harming even innocent babies and children.
  • For those of you enjoying your freedom in Europe, do you not think that ‘biting the hand that feeds you’ is sheer hypocrisy? Islamophobia is wrong, racial abuse is wrong, wars are wrong – no one is denying that but if you hate Europe so much, why are you here? Oh the irony of hating democracy when Allah himself has given us free will, stating: “There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned” (2:256)….
  • The more you commit terrorist atrocities, the more likely Muslims in the ‘West’ risk facing potential Islamophobic attacks. You risk making life harder for Muslim communities in non-Muslim majority nations. Fortunately, there are many many non-Muslims out there that have educated themselves on Islam, shown tolerance, understanding, compassion and stand united in solidarity against such hatred and inhumanity, refusing to be beaten down and divided as a society.

Finally and most simply of all: Islam isn’t dogma. Islam is spirituality, peace and a way of life. If you’re not in tune with that, then it’s all pointless. Picture this: how can you violently shoot others one minute, then pray in subdued peaceful silence in tune with Allah the next? I must therefore ask: who is Allah to you? I suggest you review Allah’s 99 names and the Qur’an and look at the bigger picture…

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Credits:

Images: Brian Jeffery Beggerly (feature image), Anuradha SenguptaBengin Ahmad

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True Islam – an insight into the global peace campaign with Salaam Bhatti

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Image credit: Mayesha K

Back in June, I dedicated a post to the True Islam campaign entitled: True Islam – 11 reasons why ISIS does not represent Islam – detailing the 11 points of the worldwide campaign which dispels common misconceptions of Islam and gives an insight into the true peaceful mission of Islam.

I’ve since been fortunate to have been put in touch with Salaam Bhatti who works on the True Islam campaign in order to get a greater insight into the campaign itself.

Here’s what Salaam has to say about the campaign: its origins, success and future.

Assalam aleykum. Thank you for taking the time to speak about the True Islam campaign.

The True Islam campaign is about teaching the true values of Islam centred on peace, tolerance and human rights. How, when and why the campaign was set up? 

The campaign launched after the San Bernardino massacre, where two Muslim extremists killed 14 and injured 22 people.  President Obama called for a unified effort from the Muslim community to battle elements of extremism within our communities and the True Islam campaign does exactly that by educating away extremism.

Could you summarise for people unfamiliar with the True Islam campaign what it’s addressing in particular?

There are extremist groups which use Islam to spread their terror for their geopolitical goals. They brainwash disaffected youth by using Islamic terminology and convince them that these are Islam’s true teachings. We took 11 of these points and present in easy to understand terms what Islam’s true teachings are about topics like jihad, women’s rights, freedom of speech, etc. This way, Muslims and non-Muslims can know how true Islam is separate and apart from extremism.

What is your role? Could you explain how you became involved?

I serve as a spokesperson for the campaign and work on the social media arm of our campaign. I became involved because my friends and I did not want Islam’s narrative to always be a battle against extremism and we wanted to help our country out. Through this campaign, we not only combat extremism, but we also let everyone know Islam’s other beautiful teachings.

There are 11 points in the campaign. Which issue(s)/misconception(s) do you believe are the most prominent and most at need of addressing? Why? Where do you believe this originates from?

The points about jihad and women’s equality are two I hold very dear. Many erroneously think that jihad is a violent battle with non-Muslims. Jihad and violence became popularly linked through Maududi, a cleric who is celebrated in extremist circles. Jihad is not a violent concept. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who Ahmadi Muslims believe to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, defended Islam when it was accused of being a religion spread by the sword by saying, “The sword it wields cuts its own throat before reaching others.” Women’s rights are also important. Many forget the state of women when Prophet Muhammad (sa) was born. They were treated as less than animals.  But Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) teachings raised the status of women so high that paradise lay at their feet. Unfortunately, now we see in the very homeland of Prophet Muhammad (sa) that women cannot drive cars and we see women in general being subjugated in many ways throughout the world. We need to stop killing each other for different beliefs and we need to stop depriving our mothers of equal rights.

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Image credit: Ahmed Alper

Where does Sharia law and Islamic guidelines fit in with the True Islam concept of secularism and Islam? Could you explain more about this?

Sharia is a way of life and a code of laws for Muslims only. The popular notion of an “Islamic state” is incorrect because the Quran does not prescribe a political system. The Quran calls for mutual consultation and justice on every level. The Quran and Prophet Muhammad (sa) also teach that we should obey those in authority and to be loyal to our country of residence.  Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) example as leader of Medina showed a pluralistic government and not an Islamic state. If we don’t like our nation, Allah reminds us that the Earth is vast and we can move anywhere else.  Separation of religion and state is very important so we do not end up treating others as “less than”.  Many “religious” states in today’s world have done just that and one only needs to read Human Rights Watch to see the gross injustices occurring against minority groups. So, to nip all this in the bud, Islam is very clear that there is no religious-based political system.

Why do you believe there is so much Islamophobia and Islamic extremism nowadays?

When we did not know about math, we went to class and learned from a math teacher.  When we did not know about science, we went to class and learned from a science teacher. But with 60% of Americans not knowing a Muslim and there being no class to learn about Islam, we see fear based on ignorance. Additionally, there’s a failure in Muslim leadership. This failure results in Muslims not knowing about Islam’s own teachings, which leads to feelings of no unity, which can lead to an identity crisis, extremist thought, etc.

The True Islam campaign is a global campaign originating in the USA. How receptive have people been on the ground? What’s the situation like for everyday American Muslims?

As American Muslims, we launched this campaign so that American Muslims could be connected much closer to their faith and so that our national security would improve once people could differentiate Islamic teachings from extremist ways. It has been well-received from many different people, especially due to our active social media presence.

There is a rise in Islamophobia across the nation. Whereas American Muslims focus on spending time with family and friends, paying bills and mortgages, and enjoying life, there’s an additional concern of worry whether oneself or a family member could be a target of threats or violence. However, it is very important that we do not give into this fear, it is important that we open the doors to our mosques wider than ever so we can educate this extremism away. Extremists want us to be afraid so that we grow resentful to our nation and ultimately join their cause.  We’re better than that.

What has the response been from the local and global Islamic community regarding your campaign?

Before we launched the campaign, we sent a letter to over 2000 mosques, imams, and Muslim organizations in America to join the initiative pre-launch and received no responses.

How have non-Muslims responded to your campaign?

Non-Muslims are impressed with the campaign. It is presented at many venues across the nation throughout the year, universities, interfaith events, and open mosque programs.  The clear, concise language briefly and efficiently explains core Islamic concepts and non-Muslims (as well as Muslims) have enjoyed that.

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Image credit: Azlan DuPree

On the website, visitors can see who has endorsed the campaign and its 11 points. Could you tell us a bit more about who’s backed the campaign?

People of all backgrounds, Muslim and non-Muslim, politicians, faith leaders, and others have endorsed this campaign. For 15 years, rhetoric against Islam has been widespread. Many are annoyed and sick of this because it is a false narrative of Islam. This is why so many people are stepping up to endorse this campaign and spread the word about it.

How can “everyday Muslims” educate both Muslims and non-Muslims and work towards establishing peace? What practical steps can people take? What methods has your community in particular found to be productive, engaging and well received?

The best way to educate others about Islam is by our actions and the best action to take is to follow Prophet Muhammad (sa)’s model. We should show patience in adversity, firm resolve during our struggles, and kindness to God’s creation. The True Islam campaign has found it very helpful to disarm internet trolls not by fighting back, but answering in clear terms the issues they present. We have also invited all to mosques across the nation. There was a local politician from York, Pennsylvania who said insulting things about Islam in a voicemail to a church and on social media.  We invited him to a mosque during Ramadan and, in his meetings with Muslims, he was awestruck by Muslims, admitted his error, and now endorses the True Islam campaign.

What’s the future of the campaign? Are there any particular upcoming developments?

We just launched a nationwide event called “Coffee, Cake, and True Islam” where we invite people to chat in a friendly environment, like a coffee shop, about Islam’s true teachings. This is a chance for Muslims and non-Muslims to meet and talk with Muslims to learn what Islam actually teaches.

Do you have a message for Muslims and non-Muslims out there?

Education will erase extremism. It worked for Prophet Muhammad (sa) when he taught his people that extremist ways of killing girls, ruthless bloodshed, and women’s subjugation was not right.  It will work again today.  We cannot let hate divide us. Let us educate away extremism and start by endorsing the points at TrueIslam.com.

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Image credit: Ikhlasul Amal

Jazak Allah. Thank you for your participation!

So, check out the campaign and endorse the 11 points here!

You can also check out the campaign via social media on Facebook and Twitter.

Salam!

Credits and Acknowledgements:

I’d like to thank Salaam for taking the time to be interviewed and to wish him and the rest of the True Islam team the very best in the future with their campaign.

Feature image: Jona Nalder

 

Daraya, Symbol of Non-Violent Revolution and Self-Determination, Falls to the Syrian Regime

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Daraya: “[…] peaceful protests were subjected to violent repression. Flowers were met with bullets, protesters were rounded up en masse and detained.” Photo credit: Non-violent protests with protesters holding roses in Baniyas, May 6th 2011 – Syrian Freedom (CC BY 2.0)

By Leila Al Shami

Four years following its liberation, the predominantly agricultural town of Daraya, strategically located near Syrian capital, Damascus, has fallen to the regime. A deal was reached to evacuate the 4,000-8,000 civilians remaining there, out of a pre-uprising population of 300,000. The local fighters who defended their town so courageously will go to Idlib and join the resistance there.

The Daraya residents being evacuated know that they may never return to their homes. Photos circulated on social media showed people gathered at the graves of loved ones to say goodbye. Fears abound of a plan to cleanse opposition strongholds permanently, and in previous evacuation deals—even those carried out under UN auspices—many were detained by the regime, never to be seen again.

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But Daraya’s residents are desperate. A few days ago a group of women published a open letter to the world. They described the horrific conditions in the town. A regime-imposed siege, ongoing for 1,368 days, had blocked the entry of food and medical supplies. People were starving. They described the daily regime assault which has seen over 9,000 barrel bombs dropped on the town, as well as internationally prohibited poisonous gas and napalm. The hospital had been targeted and was out of operation. Agricultural land, the sole source of food, had been deliberately burned and destroyed. The women called on the international community to take action to end the violence and lift the siege. This letter followed months of protests held by women and children with the same demands. The first, and only, aid convoy to reach the town entered in June 2016. It contained medicine, mosquito nets and baby formula, but no food. ‘We can’t take medicine on an empty stomach,’ read a banner at a protest soon after.

Those who leave Daraya leave as heroes. Daraya is an iconic town for Syrian revolutionaries. It’s been a centre for the development of the thought and practice of non-violent resistance and has inspired civil disobedience across the country. And despite the horrific repression inflicted on the town, it’s had remarkable success in practicing local, autonomous self-organization. Revolutionary activist Razan Zeitouneh, who was herself kidnapped in 2013, said: “Daraya was a star before the revolution and a star during. What the young men and women of the city built took immense efforts and resulted in a small exemplary model for the future of Syria, the one we dream of. The activism in the city never ceased to amaze us for a minute… In Daraya, the signs calling for co-existence continued to be held high even when the entire country was falling into despair following every new massacre.”

In 2011, when the uprising began, a local coordination committee quickly emerged to organize anti-regime protests. The committee emphasized the importance of non-violent struggle and handed out leaflets calling for a democratic Syria and for equality between all religious and ethnic groups. As church bells rang in solidarity, protesters marched holding flowers, and handed bottles of water to the security forces sent to shoot them. ‘The army and people are one,’ they chanted.

One of those involved with the local coordination committee was a 26-year-old tailor called Ghiyath Matar. He earned the nickname ‘Little Gandhi’ for his commitment to peaceful resistance. Ghiyath was arrested by security forces on September6, 2011. A few days later his mutilated corpse was returned to his family and pregnant wife. In one of his last Facebook posts, Ghiyath said: “We chose non-violence not from cowardice or weakness, but out of moral conviction; we don’t want to reach victory by having destroyed the country.”

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Daraya

The principles of non-violent resistance that influenced Daraya’s youth had a history in the town. Unusually for Syria, a police state that ruthlessly suppresses independent organization, a group of young men and women aged between 15 and 25 established the Daraya Youth Group in 1998. They had been studying Quran under the religious scholar Abdul Akram Al Saqqa. Al Saqqa promoted social and political freedom and encouraged free thinking amongst his students. Because of his liberal views he was controversial amongst the Syrian ulema (religious authorities). He called for women to choose their own husbands and argued that women’s education was more important than whether or not they wore the veil. He introduced students to the work of Jawdat Said, an Islamist scholar who promoted non-violent thought and practice through the Quranic traditions as well as the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Al Saqqa’s work attracted the attention of the authorities and he was imprisoned in 2003 and 2011, but under his mentorship, the Daraya Youth Group organized actions such as cleaning the streets of their town, boycotting American products, and risky campaigns against bribery and corruption. In 2002 they demonstrated against the Israeli invasion of Jenin refugee camp and in 2003 they organized protests without government permission against the US invasion of Iraq. This activity led to the arrest of 24 members of the group. A few were released soon after, but the majority were sentenced to between three and four years in prison.

The peaceful protests were subjected to violent repression. Flowers were met with bullets, protesters were rounded up en masse and detained. In August 2012, following intense shelling, Syrian army troops stormed the town and committed one of the regime’s worst massacres. Some 400 men, women and children lost their lives in execution-style killings. Those attempting to flee were hunted down and shot. The bodies of the dead littered the streets or were thrown into mass graves.

In a scene that would be endlessly repeated, some Western commentators sought to exonerate the regime from wrongdoing. The celebrated journalist Robert Fisk visited Daraya shortly after the massacre, embedded with regime troops. He reported that the situation was the result of a Free Army hostage-taking and a prisoner exchange gone wrong, quoting sources saying that victims were relatives of government employees. Daraya’s local coordination committee issued a strong condemnation of Fisk’s report. They had never heard of the prisoner exchange story, questioned whether interviewees would be free to speak the truth in the presence of regime soldiers, and criticized Fisk for not meeting with opposition activists. Meanwhile, the American war reporter Janine Di Giovani also entered Daraya—without regime support—a few days after the massacre, and gave a harrowing account in her excellent book ‘The Morning They Came for Us’.

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Daraya: the spirit of the Syrian revolution, and the heartbeat of every rebel

Daraya was liberated by local rebels in November 2012. As the state withdrew, residents set up a Local Council to run the town’s affairs. One of those involved was anarchist Omar Aziz, who encouraged revolutionary Syrians to organize their communities independently from the Assadist state, and work towards advancing a social revolution.

Despite enormous challenges, Daraya’s local council has had remarkable success. It has established numerous offices to provide services to civilians, including media services, legal services and public relations (they maintain an excellent website). A relief office runs a soup kitchen which began providing three meals a day, although this frequency was reduced due to the siege. The council also tried to build self-sufficiency, growing beans, spinach and wheat. A medical office supervises the field hospital which provides for the sick and wounded. A services office is responsible for opening alternative roads when the main ones are inaccessible due to airstrikes or collapsed buildings.

The local council also aimed to unify civil and military efforts. Daraya is one of the few communities where the local Free Army brigade is part of the council’s organizational structure and subject to civil administrative control. Revolutionary women set up the Enab Baladi magazine to discuss events happening in their community and Syria more broadly and promote civil disobedience. Activists built anunderground library so residents could continue their education.

The people of Daraya have paid a heavy price for their dream of freedom. For four years they defended their autonomy from the Assadist state and kept going despite the bombing, despite the starvation siege. Their struggle will continue to be remembered and honoured by Syrian revolutionaries everywhere.

Leila Al Shami is a British Syrian who has been involved in human rights and social justice struggles in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East since 2000. She is the co-author of “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War” with Robin Yassin-Kassab, and a contributor to “Khiyana-Daesh, the Left and the Unmaking of the Syrian Revolution”. A version of this story was originally published on her blog.

Credits:

Re-shared from Global Voices (26/08/2016)

Additional imagery taken from Leila’s original article and blog

Feature image: Poo.243 (Flickr)

The Islamic call for justice and peace (part 2): 30 hadith from the life of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)

In my last post, I included 30 citations from the Qur’an looking at peace, compassion, mercy and justice. In part two, I am now going to finish this series by looking at the second textual source of Islam: the hadith. These are the collections of the sayings, behaviour and teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) as an exemplary guide of the core messages of the Qur’an. So here is an outline of the teachings of peacemaking, just ruling, honesty, kindness, charity and non-violence.

1. The best jihad is a word of truth in front of a tyrannical ruler.

2. ‘Assist your brother or sister Muslim, whether he be an oppressor or an oppressed.’ ‘But how shall we do it when someone is an oppressor?’ Muhammad said, ‘Assisting an oppressor is by forbidding and withholding that person from oppression.’

3. Truly God instructs me to be humble and lowly and not proud, and no one should oppress others.

4. Faith is a restraint against all violence, let no Mu’min [believer] commit violence.

5. Deal gently with the people, and be not harsh; cheer them and condemn them not.

6. Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.

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Image credit: Fahrurrazy Halil

7. Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to people.

8. The proud will not enter paradise, nor a violent speaker.

9. Someone said to the Prophet, ‘Pray to God against the idolators and curse them.’ The Prophet replied, ‘I have been sent to show mercy and have not been sent to curse.’

10. All God’s creatures are His family; and he or she is the most beloved of God who tries to do most good to God’s creatures.

11. The best of people is one from whom good accrues to humanity.

12. What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of a human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the wrongs of the injured.

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Image credit: BRQ Network

13. Anyone of you who sees wrong, let him undo it with his hand; and if he cannot, then let him speak against it with his tongue, and if he cannot do this either, then (let him abhor it) with his heart, and this is the least of faith.

14. The most beloved in the sight of God, on the day of resurrection, and the nearest to Him, in regard to position, shall be the just leader; and the most hateful of men in the sight of God on the day of resurrection, and the farthest removed form Him, shall be the tyrannical leader.

15. God is gentle and loves gentleness.

16. There is a Sadaqa [charitable gift] to be given for every joint of the human body; and for every day on which the sun rises there is a reward of a Sadaqa  for the one who establishes justice among people.

17. You will not enter Paradise until you believe and you will not believe until you love each other. Shall I show you something that, if you did, you would love each other? Spread peace between yourselves.

18. You should show courtesy and be cordial with each other, so that nobody should consider himself superior to another nor do him harm.

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Image credit: Mary Quite Contrary

19. Do not turn away a poor man…even if all you can give is half a date. If you love the poor and bring them near you… God will bring you near Him on the Day of Resurrection.

20. Avoid cruelty and injustice…and guard yourselves against miserliness, for this has ruined nations who lived before you.

21. Seven kinds of people will be sheltered under the shade of God on the Day of Judgement…They are: a just ruler, a young man who passed his youth in the worship and service of God…,one whose heart is attached to the mosque…,two people who love each other for the sake of God…,a man who is invited to sin…but declines, saying ‘I fear God’…,one who spends his charity in secret, without making a show…and one who remembers God in solitude so that his eyes overflow.

22. Make your character good for the people.

23. It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than than to make a mistake in punishing.

24. None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.

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Image credit: Hamed Saber

25. There is a reward for kindness to every living thing.

26. The worst of guardians is a cruel ruler. Beware of becoming one of them.

27. The most hated person in the sight of Allah is the most quarrelsome person.

28. Whoever forsakes his brother for a year, it is as if he has shed his blood.

29. A true believer does not taunt or curse or abuse or talk indecently.

30. To administer justice between two people is charity.

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Image credit: Jonah Bettio

So, that is the concluding part of this brief two part series aimed at giving a core outline of Islam contrary to ISIS ideology, Islamophobic discourse and mass media rhetoric. To be a true Muslim, you must believe in mercy, justice, honesty, truth and and peace and strive to act in accordance with these values in your daily life. Once again – ISIS does not represent Islam!

Salam!

Credits/further information:

Feature image: Steve Browne and John Verkleir

The Threshold Society (2001) ‘A Collection of Hadith on Non-Violence, Peace and Mercy

For a further more extensive list of websites consulted, click here

The Islamic call for justice and peace (part 1): 30 citations from the Qur’an

When Muslims meet, they are obliged to great each other with the words “Assaalam aleykum” (peace be upon you). Such greeting is a reminder not simply of being a believer (Muslim) but of the essence of Islam itself through the blessings and duties that come with being a Muslim. Salam (peace) is the essence of Islam – peace in obeying God, being at peace with your spiritual needs and with family, friends, neighbours through mutual rights and responsibilities. In  obeying Allah’s command’s to give charity, be kindtruthful, forgiving, merciful, to avoid greed and not transgress limits and all that harms one’s soul and community, we can find peace. Alongside peace itself is justice when we are just towards others, Allah is just towards us. We live in a just society and we find peace. This is the essence of Islam.

I’d like to give a brief insight into the call for justice and peace within Islamic scripture. In this article, the focus is the primary textual source of Islam: the Qur’an. Here are 30 citations from the Qur’an which highlight the importance of and call for justice and peace.

  1. Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds and establish prayer and give zakah [obligatory charity] will have their reward with their Lord, and there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. (2:2 77)

2. Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors. (2:190)

3. And when he goes away, he strives throughout the land to cause corruption therein and destroy crops and animals. And Allah does not like corruption. (2: 205)

4. They ask you, [O Muhammad], what they should spend. Say, “Whatever you spend on good is [to be] for parents and relatives and orphans and the needy and the traveler. And whatever you do of good – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.” (2: 215)

5. Those who disbelieve in the signs of Allah and kill the prophets without right and kill those who order justice from among the people – give them tidings of a painful punishment. (3:21)

6. Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And Allah is Free of need and Forbearing. (2:263)

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Image credit: Ahmad Naufal

7. And let there be [arising] from you a nation inviting to [all that is] good, enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong, and those will be the successful. (3: 104)

8. O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah , even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (4:135)

9. Allah will say, “This is the Day [of Judgement] when the truthful will benefit from their truthfulness.” For them are gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever, Allah being pleased with them, and they with Him. That is the great attainment. (5:119)

10. And the weighing [of deeds] that Day will be the truth. So those whose scales are heavy – it is they who will be the successful. (7:8)

11. Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded. (16:90)

12. O you who have believed, fear Allah and speak words of appropriate justice. (33:70)

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Image credit: Phalinn Ooi

13. And O my people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption. (11:85)

14. O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do. (5:80)

15. They who believe and do not mix their belief with injustice– those will have security, and they are [rightly] guided. (6:82)

16. By which Allah guides those who pursue His pleasure to the ways of peace and brings them out from darknesses into the light, by His permission, and guides them to a straight path. (5:16)

17. And do not make [your oath by] Allah an excuse against being righteous and fearing Allah and making peace among people. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing. (2: 224)

18. And Allah invites to the Home of Peace [Heaven]and guides whom He wills to a straight path (10:25)

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Image credit: Bryan se

19. And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace […] (25:63)

20. And if they incline to peace, then incline to it [also] and rely upon Allah. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Knowing. (8:61)

21. These are the verses of Allah . We recite them to you, [O Muhammad], in truth; and Allah wants no injustice to the worlds. (3:108)

22. But when He saves them, at once they commit injustice upon the earth without right. O mankind, your injustice is only against yourselves, [being merely] the enjoyment of worldly life. Then to Us is your return, and We will inform you of what you used to do. (10:23)

23. And establish weight in justice and do not make deficient the balance. (55:9)

24. And among those We created is a community which guides by truth and thereby establishes justice. (7:181)

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Image credit: Nunzia Bushra

25. O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is  Knowing and Acquainted. (49:13)

26. It is that of which Allah gives good tidings to His servants who believe and do righteous deeds. Say, [O Muhammad], “I do not ask you for this message any payment [but] only good will through kinship.” And whoever commits a good deed – We will increase for him good therein. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Appreciative. (42:23)

27. Indeed, We have made that which is on the earth adornment for it that We may test them [as to] which of them is best in deed. (18:7)

28. Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous. (2:177)

29. And give the relative his right, and [also] the poor and the traveler, and do not spend wastefully. (17:26)

30. Who spend [in the cause of Allah ] during ease and hardship and who restrain anger and who pardon the people – and Allah loves the doers of good; […] (3:134)

So, once again – a short and sweet very brief insight into Islam but I hope to have highlighted the command to be just, to look after one another and to leave in peace.

Salam!

Credits/further information:

Feature image: doBot

Quranic citations: Sahih International translation of the Qur’an (see here)

True Islam – 11 reasons why ISIS does not represent Islam

The other week I found a website called True Islam which teaches about justice, peace and human rights as part of Islamic teaching. I’ve written previous posts about Islamophobia given the current climate of ISIS, Islamic extremism, Islamophobic attacks and media scaremongering but I’d like to share the following information for non-Muslim readers to give more specific insight into how and why ISIS does not represent Islam and how and why true Islam is one of peace and not extremism! Here are the key points.

1. Islam rejects all forms of terrorism

True Islam rejects all acts of terrorism. The Holy Quran forbids Muslims from creating disorder in the world: “Do not go about committing iniquity in the earth and causing disorder” (29:37); “They seek to create disorder, and Allah loves not those who create disorder” (5:65); “Seek not to create disorder in the earth. Verily, God loves not those who seek to create disorder” (28:78).

2. Non-violent jihad is of the self and pen

True Islam recognizes that jihad means to struggle and strive in good works to attain nearness to God. True Islam teaches that violent jihad has no place in today’s world. The Holy Quran declares, “…whosoever killed a person…it shall be as if he had killed all mankind” (5:33). The Holy Quran explicitly places equal value on all human life.

3. Islam believes in the equality, education and empowerment of women

True Islam recognizes the practical equity and spiritual equality of men and women. The Holy Quran declares, “But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter heaven…” (4:125). According to true Islam, the most important goal and greatest objective of a human being is to attain righteousness and nearness to God—and both men and women have equal capacities in achieving this goal.

4. Islam advocates freedom of religion and speech

True Islam teaches that every human being has the right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion without the threat of coercion or punishment. This understanding stems directly from the Holy Quran, which clearly declares, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:257).

In response to those who insult or deride Islam, i.e. commit “blasphemy,” true Islam advocates complete restraint, just as the Holy Quran prescribes: “And the servants of the Gracious God are those who walk on the earth in a dignified manner, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!’” (25:64). Moreover, the Holy Quran addresses blasphemy on five separate occasions but never permits any worldly punishment for it. Accordingly, true Islam opposes the current anti-blasphemy laws in Muslim-majority countries.

5. Islam does not impose Islamic law and allows for minority rights

In Arabic, Shariah simply means “a path” and refers to the rules and customs that guide Muslim life in aspects ranging from daily prayers to familial and financial matters. The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa never imposed Islamic Shariah on non-Muslims. On the contrary, as the de facto ruler of Arabia, he settled disputes between Arab citizens according to their individual faiths—offering them a choice between the Jewish law, Islamic Shariah, or secular arbitration. Therefore, Islamic precedent ensures a strict separation of mosque and state, especially with matters pertaining to non-Muslim minorities.

6. Islam teaches loyalty to your country of residence (but not extreme nationalism)

True Islam requires a Muslim’s loyalty and obedience to their respective country of residence and laws. The Holy Quran states, “O ye who believe, obey Allah and obey the Prophet and obey those in authority from among you” (4:60). This verse demonstrates that a Muslim’s obedience and loyalty to the government is required, regardless of the faith of those in power. In this respect, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa declared, “You should listen to and obey your ruler, even if you [despise him]” (Bukhari). Likewise, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa instructed that obedience to the government is a religious duty: “Whoso obeys the ruler obeys me, and whoso disobeys the ruler disobeys me” (Muslim).

7. Islam encompasses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

True Islam values all human life, recognizing universal human rights as a fundamental tenet of Islam. True Islam emphasizes that mankind’s equality derives from man sharing a Single Creator and rejects any notion of racial or ethnic superiority. The Holy Quran states, “O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and we have made you tribes and subtribes that you may know one another. Verily the most honorable among you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely Allah is All Knowing, All Aware” (49:14). Therefore, true Islam rejects any concept of inequality in mankind, and instead encompasses the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

8. Quranic verses cannot be used in contradiction to each other and lying is forbidden

Extremists, attempting to exploit Islam, argue that so-called ‘violent’ verses abrogate any Quranic verses advocating peace. For example, they argue that verse 9:5, “And when the forbidden months have passed, kill the idolaters wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush …” abrogates 2:257 “There is no compulsion in religion.” However, 9:5 refers to actions Muslims are permitted to take in self-defense when attacked while 2:257 demonstrates that under no circumstance are Muslims ever allowed to compel their faith on others. No contradiction or abrogation exists.

Extremists—Muslims and non-Muslims alike—also argue that Islam permits treachery (“taqiyya”). But this belief is utterly false. The Holy Quran states, “And confound not truth with falsehood nor hide the truth, knowingly” (2:43), and “Therefore follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do” (4:136). The Holy Prophet Muhammadsa also instructed Muslims, “It is obligatory for you to tell the truth” (Muslim). This demonstrates that deception and lying are incompatible with Islam.

9. Islam teaches that believing in and submitting to (the One and Only) God (Allah) and doing good righteous deeds is the key to salvation

True Islam recognizes that the right to decide who goes to heaven and who goes to hell is one that is exclusive to God. Human beings—Muslims or otherwise—cannot make this decision. Likewise, the Holy Quran states, “As to those who believe…verily, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Surely, Allah watches over all things” (22:18).

The Holy Quran is likewise clear that God’s grace and mercy are His most powerful attributes: “God replied, I will inflict My punishment on whom I will; but My mercy encompasses all things” (7:157). Therefore, true Islam recognize that ultimately, God’s mercy will encompass all human beings, regardless of their faith. Indeed, true Islam teaches that if mercy were not one of the attributes of God, no one would be delivered.

10. Islam believes in the need for united Muslim leadership

True Islam believes in unified spiritual leadership to peacefully guide Muslims. This understanding stems directly from the Holy Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s example. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an implores Muslims to promote peace by remaining united, “Hold fast, all together, by the rope of Allah and be not divided; and remember the favour of Allah which He bestowed upon you when you were enemies and He united your hearts in love, so that by His grace you became as brothers; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire and He saved you from it.” (3:104)

11. Islam wholly rejects the idea of a violent bloody Messiah

True Islam rejects the concept of a bloody Messiah. The Holy Quran states that any “Messenger is only responsible for the clear conveying of the Message” (29:19). This verse demonstrates that each prophet is sent to simply convey a message and cannot resort to force.

So that was a very brief guide to true Islamic teachings, which as you can see are totally different to what ISIS preaches, follows and teaches. For more information check out the True Islam website.

Salam!

Credits:

Text, video and images: True Islam

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Trolls, Tweets and Terrorism

lookout-for-trolls-1316342.jpgBefore setting up my social media accounts and blog, I’d heard all about online trolls. Generally the notion is this: don’t feed the trolls. Islamically, it’s best to keep out of stupid debates/arguments and avoid people who are simply out to make fun of and insult you and your beliefs.

Well, it seems that Islam, and whats more a Muslim on social media fighting for good, is a problem for certain people. “We all knew that!” I hear you say. Well, I’d previously experienced it on Facebook (where I generally keep out of things for such reasons) but today I was subject to two rather malicious/ignorant trolling attacks on Twitter – the terms/relation of: terrorists (Al Qaeda etc.), violence, rapists,being sick” with being Muslim all came up… Trolling, online abuse and hate crime is a sad yet real issue. People need to be aware of it and of how they can report it. Let’s have a look at the work of today’s trolls.

Troll  number 1: A Twitter member tweeting about rapists and refugees in Germany (with a clear and un-apologetic anti-Islam agenda)

I have since blocked the person (and have also been blocked myself) so I do not have access to all of the tweets but the worst words were something along these lines:

When the nationalists and Europeans [gather force] get ready to leave the UK…prepare for war […] traitor…

Troll number 2: A journalist with their own website focussing on the rights of disabled people

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The main thing that strikes me is the utter shameful hypocrisy, bad manners and immaturity (not to mention bad spelling!): these trolls themselves are the ones posing as “the good cop” – “fighting for rights of various people” or “fighting against injustice”. But here’s the thing – how can you be “fighting for justice” when you mock, ridicule and insult individuals and their religion? Whats more to that, you specifically go out of your way to target them by tweeting and inboxing them. A little sad me thinks…They attack you for your apparent “ignorance” regarding your own faith, world events/history and apparent “inability to rationalise” by the sounds of it, yet their words, behaviour, mannerisms, demeanor and “knowledge” speak of nothing but ignorance itself. 

Human rights defenders don’t mock, ridicule or insult – they fight for justice. In this case, how can you claim to be fighting for rights for the disabled or speaking out against so-called “rape” attacks by “refugees”? I will not go into that as that is another story. I am not an apologist as was claimed – I am anti-stereotypes and prefer facts and objective reporting especially as there have been proven false claims yet I would condemn any rape attack. So you claim to speak out, yet you mock and insult young women and other Muslims online?  No, you are simply trolls and I urge people to report abuse. Just as one must report suspicious terrorist activity online, one must report trolls. Social media should be a safe online platform for responsible teenagers and adults – not children (literally or figuratively). Where have simple manners gone in today’s world? Grown adults should know better and be setting an example to young people. 

Well the trolls will not win:

  • Report and block abuse on the platform itself e.g. Facebook, Twitter etc.
  • Do not engage in ridiculous debates – their hearts are blind, their ears are deaf, their eyes are wide shut, their minds are closed – they will never understand. Don’t even reply. You may think you can help them or have a rational conversation but you are the one who will end up getting abuse
  • Always remain polite and respectful – don’t let yourself down by stooping to their level
  • Keep safe online regarding your personal information and privacy settings (do not reveal personal information!)
  • If you are young – you MUST talk to your parents to report abuse, bullying and discus internet safety. Ask your college ICT department for tips for online safety and remember – you shouldn’t be using social media if you are underage!
  • Report online abuse/hate crime to relevant networks/organisations and authorities – see the following for more information: Stand Up To Hate Citizens Advice and both True Vision and (specifically for Muslims) the The Islamic Human Rights Commission to send a report online (UK)

Haters gonna hate as they say. Keep on raising your voice for good – keep on tweeting, blogging and posting and say TA TA TO THE TROLLS when they crawl out of their caves to attack!

Salam! 🙂

Image credits:

Cover image: clement127 (Flickr) (CC)

FreeImages.com/Fons Reijsbergen

 

Christians and Muslims – brothers of Abraham

A major segment of the world’s population has just celebrated Christmas – the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus on 25th December. Meanwhile, Muslims have just celebrated Mawlid – the birth of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) – which this year fell on December 24th (Christmas Eve). These two figures are pinnacles of the two faiths but how many people know that Muslims also recognise Jesus (Issa) as part of their faithIslam is the only other religion to officially recognise Jesus’ coming and to include recognition of him as a requisite of faith. Muslims love Jesus!

Very little stands between these two faiths. Both Christianity and Islam teach about belief in God – following Him and doing good deeds but what else do the two faiths share? Let’s have a look using scripture from both faiths. Putting differences within faiths aside and using an overview of “standardised beliefs” and scriptural references, here’s a brief guide (in no particular order) to some of the major similarities and differences between the two faithstwo brothers within the same Abrahamic family.

Similarities

  1. God is the sole Creator of the Universe

“The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” (Isiah, 40: 28)

“Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.” (Qur’an, 112: 1-4)

2. The importance of charity

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs, 19: 17)

“Those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and establish regular prayers and regular charity, will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.” (Qur’an, 2: 277)

3. Prostration during prayer

“And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.” (Numbers, 20: 6)

“O ye who believe! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that ye may prosper.” (Qur’an, 22: 77)

4. Washing before prayer (ablution)

“So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped.” (Samuel II, 12: 20)

“O ye who believe! When ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles.” (Qur’an, 5: 6)

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5. Modesty in behaviour and clothing

“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewellery, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” (Peter I, 3: 3-4)

“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them […]. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms […] and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.” (Qur’an, 24: 30-31)

“Every religion has its characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is modesty.” (al-Muwatta)

6. Head coverings for women

“For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.” (Corinthians I, 11: 16)

“And tell the believing women to […] draw their veils over their bosoms.” (Qur’an, 24: 31)

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7.  The Torah/Bible and their teachings and prophets

Note: Muslims believe in Jesus’ teachings but not the book of the New Testament as such is known today. Muslims believe in the Torah (Old Testament) as a book from God but not as a primary text.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua, 1: 8-9)

“We have sent thee inspiration as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him; We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David, We gave the Psalms. Of some messengers We have already told thee the story; of others We have not; ― and to Moses Allah spoke direct.” (Qur’an, 4: 163-4)

“[…] his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary. […] Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel.” (Qur’an, 3: 45-8)

8. The importance of marriage and sex within marriage

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, […] orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5: 19-21)

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (Corinthians I, 7:2 )

“[…] (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time― when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues. If anyone rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).” (Qur’an, 5: 5)

9. Fasting/sacrifice

“That your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew, 6: 18)

“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that ye may (learn) self-restraint. (Fasting) for a fixed number of days; […] it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.” (Qur’an, 2: 183-4)

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As you can see there’s lots of references in the Qur’an to past Christian teachings and prophets. So, what are the main differences and what exactly do they entail?

Differences

  1. Jesus

Christians believe Jesus is divine/the Son of God whereas according to Islam, God is One and has never appeared in human form. In Islam, Jesus is a prophet just like Moses, Abraham and Mohammed (pbut).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John, 3: 16)

“[…] Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, […]: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One Allah: glory be to him: (for Exalted is He) above having a son. […] Christ disdaineth not to serve and worship Allah […].” (Qur’an, 4: 171-2)

2. The Holy Spirit – completing the concept of the Trinity

As outlined – Christians believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew, 28: 19)

Muslims however believe that  there is no Trinity. It is believed that according to the Bible: “spirit” refers to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) – the last prophet of Islam who brought the Qur’an (last scripture):

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you unto all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me.” (John, 16: 12-14)

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3. The Passion of the Christ

Christians believe in Christ’s death and  resurrection:

“And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.” (Luke, 23: 33)

“With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus […].” (Acts, 4: 33)

According to Islam, Jesus was not crucified on the cross and was not resurrected (however Jesus will return):

“And (then unbelievers) plotted and planned, and Allah too planned, and the best of planners is Allah. Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject Faith, to the Day of Resurrection; then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.” (Qur’an, 3: 54-5)

4. Original sin

The concept of original sin in Christianity does not exist in Islam. In Christianity, Eve is the one who was tempted by the Devil and all human beings are all born sinful:

“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.” (Genesis, 3: 17)

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm, 51: 5)

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans, 5: 12)

In Islam, Adam and Eve were both equally guilty of sinning but each human is born sinless and pure. You then become responsible for your own deeds – good and bad.

 “But as soon as the two had tasted [the fruit] of the tree, they became conscious of their nakedness […].” (Qur’an, 7: 22)

“Who receives guidance, receives it for his own benefit: who goes astray does so to his own loss: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another…” (Qur’an, 17: 15)

5. The Devil

In Christianity the Devil (Satan) is a fallen angel whereas in Islam, the Devil (Shaytan) is not a fallen angel but a jinn (made of fire) who refused to bow down to Adam with the Angels according to God’s command. In Islam, angels have no free will so cannot disobey God.

“He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’” (Luke, 10: 18)

“(Iblis) said: “I am better than he: Thou createdst me from fire, and him Thou createdst from clay.” (Qur’an, 38: 76)

So, as you can see, there are a few major differences but these stem on differences on the same topic/issue – not completely different concepts. There are far more similarities. Early Muslims  sought refuge from an Ethiopian Christian king and when asked about Jesus and Mary, the king was astonished. Check out the video clip from the film “The Message” (Akkad, 1976) detailing such event:

Today, there are many Muslim-Christian interfaith families through marriage between Muslim men and Christian women. The relation between the two faiths is a vast topic but I wanted to give a brief outline and highlight the important relation between the two faiths. When building bridges, you focus on similarities rather than differences. When “otherising” you focus on the “strange” and “different“. Christians and Muslims are all part of the same Abrahamic family and in times of hardship and discrimination we should stick together not divide amongst ourselves.

Salam!

For further information:

Qur’an online and further information

Bible online

Image credits:

Free Images.com (Creative Commons)