Happy Ramadan al-kareem

1. When we want to make contribution, there always be obstacle. Call it a cause or what, something meaningful will always be difficult. We need a supportive environment and supportive companion.

2. Ramadan Kareem is coming soon. It is the time that we can make choice either to follow our nafs or find the correct purpose that we will choose to pursue. The basic motivation for nafs is survival. Therefore, it has to conduct itself on reactive basis. On the other hand, the total opposite is aql; the rational domain in decision-making.

3. Ramadan is the month to sanction nafs and to promote aql in order to conquer ruh (spirit). Refraining self from sinful behaviour and promoting good self-behaviour are the essence of fasting in Ramadan.

4. Contribution is encouraged in Ramadan. It gives us the sense of meaning like never before. Remember, no man is so poor as to have nothing worth giving. Even little gesture like smiling is considered as sadaqah. Even if you know how to read, find someone who can’t. If you’ve food, find those who starve and if you are happy, seek out some one who is not. Each one of us can do a little to bring some portion of misery to an end.

5. We relish news on donation by the government minister, forgetting that we ourselves can become a hero too, in a small way. Make contribution to the extend that the right hand didn’t even know what the left hand delivered.

Happy Ramadan al-Kareem.

Guardian’s Commentary On Imam Muda

Malaysia’s latest reality television star is brimming with boyish charm, quiet confidence and stage presence. Crowned last Friday, Muhammad Asyraf Mohd Ridzuan is no run-of-the-mill entertainer. He is Malaysia’s next top imam.

Over 10 weeks, the 26-year-old ousted nine others in the reality TV programme Imam Muda, or “Young Imam”, to clinch the coveted prize of a job at a prestigious Malaysian mosque, an all-expenses-paid pilgrimage to Mecca and a scholarship to al-Madinah International University in Saudi Arabia.

Oozing the same razzmatazz appeal as Britain’s ‘The X Factor’, Imam Muda is the brainchild of the Muslim lifestyle cable channel Astro Oasis and JAWI, a branch of the state’s Islamic affairs department.

Instead of the song and dance routine though, contenders face weekly challenges such as performing the Islamic ritual of cleansing two unclaimed corpses, preaching to young delinquents hauled in after a police raid and counselling unwed pregnant girls at a woman’s shelter.

Chosen from a pool of over 1000 applicants, 10 aspiring imams were housed in a mosque hostel with no access to the outside world for a period of three months as they underwent training in public speaking, Qu’ran recitation and Islamic doctrines.

The show’s creator Izelan Basar hopes that Imam Muda will make Islam more appealing to the nation’s young Muslims by portraying it as a religion that is relevant to modern times.

To this end, its producers were guided by feedback from a survey about the type of imams that the young wanted at their mosques.

Izelan summarises its target audience’s views thus: “They said, ‘We want someone who can talk on the same wavelength, who can be one of us, an imam who can play football, can talk about the World Cup, can talk about the environment and UFOs, for example'”.

Judging from its official Facebook page which has garnered nearly 65,000 fans as I write this, the show is a runaway hit. Thousands who tuned in to last Friday’s finale would have been delighted to find out that season two is scheduled for next year.

Yet Imam Muda’s success at capturing the imagination of the Muslim masses has a darker side. The TV phenomenon feeds into a public fascination with charismatic clerics, who have not always been good news for Malaysia.

One in particular, Ashaari Mohammad, sticks like a sore thumb in Malaysia’s post-independence history.

In the late 80s and early 90s, the enigmatic preacher headed the Islamic revivalist group known as al-Arqam which boasts a following of some 10,000 Muslims. With Ashaari fashioning himself as a messianic figure, al-Arqam began to look like a cultish movement.

Alarmed at his increasing popularity, the government reacted by banning the organisation in 1994. Ten years later, it detained Ashaari under the internal security act and subsequently restricted his movements in a bid to stem his influence.

Though there’s no suggestion Asyraf will turn into another Ashaari, the show’s emphasis on personalities is cause for concern. Imam Muda seeks commodified clerics (“ideal sons-in-law” as Izelan describes the contestants) and rewards the well-rounded individual rather than the theology. Doesn’t this make Imam Muda complicit in the Islamic sin of shirk, or idol worship?

Finally, the public voting system that has come to define most reality shows is markedly absent in Imam Muda. Elimination is left to the discretion of Hasan Mahmud, a former grand imam of Malaysia’s national mosque.

Yet surely such a major national decision should not depend on the whims of one man, even if he is a respectable cleric. If Imam Muda is to be the de facto way for Malaysians to decide their next top imams, then the people must decide – with the caveat that they should be encouraged to look critically at the candidates, and see beyond the charisma. In any case, the last thing the Muslim world needs is another unelected leader.
(By: Nazry Bahrawi / guardian.co.uk)

Muslims and Their Struggle

How to embrace modernity?

Muslim world has been colonized since the 19th century. In the post-colonial days, there is a continuous struggle between Muslim secular-nationalists, Islamic modernists, scholars and contemporary radical extremist.There are differences and tensions between the Muslim world and the modern West based on how best Muslim should embrace modernity represented by the West. And this lead to the second problem:

‘Moderate’ vs. ‘extremist’
American media uses the term moderate Muslim to indicate a Muslim who is either pro-western in her politics or is being self-critical in her discourse. Muslims do not like using this term because it indicates that they don’t practice religion fully. For moderate Muslims, ijtihad is the preferred method of choice for social and political change and military jihad the last option. For militant Muslims, military jihad is the first option and ijtihad is not an option at all. (Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Professor of Political Science, Michigan).

‘cleric/ulama’ vs ‘nasionalist’ leadership
The controversy over cleric/ulama vs. nasionalist leadership has taken place indirectly by comparing Iran and PAS vs UMNO. The comparison, like it or not, has taking place amid perceived acceptance within PAS. As a result of the above-mentioned differences, the end result is divided loyalty which is ‘state’ vs. ‘pan-Islamism’ loyalty

Eid in China

Since Pemegang Mohor Besar Raja-Raja had already announced that Eidul Fitr would be celebrated tomorrow then let’s fast for another day before the final celebration begins.

Perhaps the caption above would have reminded us that Muslims all over the world are celebrating Eidul Fitr together irrespective of their race and color, in the true spirit of Muslim Ummah.

Muslims As Americans

The serendipitous occurrence of this year’s Thanksgiving holiday on the same evening as the Muslim Eid-ul-Adha is a festive occasion to reflect on the place of Islam in American collective consciousness and on Muslims as Americans.

On the same evening that millions of Americans gather around their Thanksgiving dinner to celebrate this most American of holidays, even more millions of Muslims around the globe, including the growing number of American Muslims, will do the same — celebrating as well one of the most definitive moments of their faith — Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son for his God.

This holiday celebration comes soon after the tragic incident at Fort Hood, when the atrocious act of a mass murderer put Islam and Muslims under some pressure to either denounce or defend their faith.

The psychotic act of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, MD, a Muslim American military psychiatrist at Fort Hood who went on a rampage killing 13 U.S. soldiers and wounding 30 others, has prompted two diametrically opposed reactions.

On one side are people who say that Islam and Islam alone is inherently violent and by extension Muslims are constitutionally driven to murder, while on the other are apologetic Muslims who argue their faith is peaceful and benevolent — unrelated to criminal acts such as Hasan’s.

The fact is that Maj. Hasan and Osama bin Laden have as much claim on Islam as do Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Persian poet Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, who is the best-selling poet in America. Islam is an abstraction and any Muslim, saintly or satanic, detested or beloved, can and does have a claim on it — and Islam is not the only world religion with this proclivity for good and evil.

The distinguished New York Times columnist David Brooks, one of the most consistently militant warriors in his take on American involvements in Afghanistan and Iraq, Islam and Islam alone to task for having a diabolic roughness on its fringes. But even if so, Islam is not alone in this failure to curtail murderous instincts.

The same Hinduism that produced Mahatma Gandhi and his non-violent theory of civil disobedience has also produced Hindu fundamentalists who sliced and skewered pregnant Muslim women alive in Gujarat.

The same Christianity that produced Saint Francis of Assisi and Mother Theresa also produced children’s crusades and Spanish conquistadors who burned native Americans alive 13 at a time (according to the 16th-century Spanish Dominican priest, Bartolomé de las Casas) in honor of the Twelve Apostles and Jesus Christ. It also produced American Seung-Hui Cho who killed 32 students and himself at Virginia Tech and American John Wayne Gacy, Jr., who raped and murdered 33 young men and boys in Chicago, Illinois, in the 1970s.

The same Judaism that produced Martin Buber, Emanuel Levinas, or Primo Levi also produced the Stern Gang, Meir Kahane and Baruch Goldstein.

But the knee jerk reaction of blaming Islam and Muslims, in general, or looking for delusional links to “al Qaeda,” for the horrific murders at Fort Hood points to something far more fundamental, overdue, and urgent — namely something of a psychological barrier for Americans to accept the Islamic component of their own society, culture, and history.

To avoid singling out Islam as diabolical, it is imperative for Americans to come to terms with the collectively repressed fact that by far the most important social uprising of their 20th century — namely the civil rights movement of the 1960s — is not as exclusively a Christian phenomenon as it is made out to be: The towering figure of a Muslim revolutionary named Malcolm X is of great importance in the history of that movement.

It took a whole generation of Americans to accept the fact that Jewish civil rights activists were instrumental in many measures of the success that was achieved in the 1960s. It is long overdue for Americans also to recognize that Malcolm X was equally, if not more, important to the civil rights movement.

The way the history of the civil rights movement is mostly remembered now, an overwhelming role is assigned to the Southern Baptist genealogy of Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm X is delegated to a radical fringe — portrayed as more of a menace and a hindrance than a positive force in the civil rights movement.

But without the simultaneous presence of Malcolm X as a Muslim revolutionary, the Southern Baptist pacifism of Martin Luther King Jr. would not have been as formidable a force.

Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were the yin and yang of the civil rights movement — ennobling anger and vision coming together in hopes of realizing the dream of equality.

For more than three decades now, I have taught generations of American students who come to college having scarce read a word about Malcolm X, and yet everything about Martin Luther King Jr.

Until Americans come to terms with the fact that they are deeply indebted to a Muslim revolutionary for the fruits of the civil rights movement they enjoy today, Islam and Muslims will continue to be seen as archetypically alien and an everlasting danger to American lives and liberties.

Americans are Christians, Jews, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, and anything else in between — but Americans are also Muslims, millions of them, and Islam has now become integral to what the distinguished American sociologist Robert Bellah termed our “civil religion.”

It is only apt that this particular Thanksgiving, Americans think about Eid-ul-Adha, as precious to Muslim-Americans as the occasion that has gathered us all “at the table.” Let’s make room for Muslims “at the table” because — to quote Langston Hughes — they “too, sing America.”

Thanks to Hamid Dabashi. A Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.

Clash of Civilization?

It needs some courage to discuss openly without bias about sensitive issue like converting to another religion such as Islam in the Western world when the society at large is looking with skepticism and terrorize its follower for the suppositious reason known to many as Islamophobia. Like it or not, many have converted to Islam. Here is the story