New Age Islam
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Current Affairs ( 21 Aug 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Is Islam a Political Ideology: New Age Islam’s Selection from World Press, 22 August 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

22 August 2015

Killing For The Caliph: Is Islam A Political Ideology?

By Qays Arthur

Sunni-Shia Dialogue: What’s Feasible

By Muhamad Ali

The Bravenhearts of Wadi Al Nasera, Syria

By Franklin Lamb

Nigeria: Women's Position In Islam

By Imam Murtada Gusau

Literature for Humanity

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

A Human Rights Call for Peace

By Günal Kurşun

Prague Springs to Intolerance

By Jan Čulík


Killing For The Caliph: Is Islam A Political Ideology?

By Qays Arthur

August 20, 2015

“And it is not the word of an accursed Satan.

where then are you going?

It is naught but a Reminder unto all beings,

for whosoever of you who would go straight;

but will you shall not, unless God wills, the Lord of all Being.” (Quran 81: 25 – 29 – Arberry translation)


Some people think it’s a good idea to travel to Syria or Iraq to “establish the caliphate”. Some go, while others approve but don’t go themselves. Still others prefer to disapprove in ignorance of the details. If you think killing to “establish the caliphate” is a good idea, or even if you just wonder why Sunni Ulema do not “put more emphasis” on the caliphate then please read on.

What makes a Caliphate so Special?

In Islam we do not have a papacy or theocracies. There is no “holy governance” or “holy political system” that has been laid out by the Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Talk of “the Islamic political system” is, in my view, a reaction to the complex political systems and ideologies that developed outside the Muslim world. While Muslims are certainly free to develop such ideologies and systems, it will not do to claim that Allah, Most High, has already done so for us. That is both intellectually dishonest and lazy.

Modern political systems have arisen from Europe with her innovation of the modern nation state. There is no such thing as an Islamic political system just as there is no such thing as an Islamic sewage system (though such types of systems may be as necessary as they are dirty).

Allah, Most High, did not reveal political or other mundane systems. He has “revealed” or “sent down” “guidance for the God-fearing” (Quran 2:2). The Quran and Sunna contain principles, rituals and some rules that provide broad guidance in all matters of life not excluding politics or waste disposal. But the purpose is Taqwa (God-fearing-ness) not worldly power or dominance. Jurists, not ideologues or politicians, seek out, preserve, and perpetuate that broad guidance in every age.

With the output of such jurists any leader who rules with taqwa can be a good leader for Muslims. He may use elements of capitalism, socialism, any other “ism”, or come up with something new – it matters not as long as that broad guidance is accounted for.

So when Allah speaks of those who “do not rule by what Allah has revealed” (Quran 5: verses 44, 45, and 49) he refers to the guidance and provisions contained in His scriptures (see Tabari and Ibn Kathir) not to fantastic notions involving a “perfect political system”. Sunni Muslim politics have always been about making the best of what we have. Unlike extreme leftists and Khawarij we don’t believe that Paradise is meant to occur on earth through men exercising power over other men. Revelation, Enlightenment or not, will always oppose that proposition.

Rather, revelation guides and restricts the political ideologies of men and their lust for, among other things, power.

Where is the Proof?

So if you think Islam is a political ideology or that it has a distinct ideology you need to bring proof. Where is this ideology found? If your answer is the Quran then you obviously do not know what a political ideology is and should probably be thinking about other matters. The fact is we have no classical books of political ideology in a modern sense. Indeed that is not even possible – classical texts directly addressing a modern phenomenon. We do have a few specialized works of Jurisprudence, such as Al-Tarsusi’s “Tuhfa al-Turk”, written to guide rulers. Yet those texts are not ideological in nature and do not define political systems. They are legal in nature and define certain aspects of state conduct in terms of legal procedure.

If such distinctions mean nothing to you then isn’t it probably too soon for you to be drawing conclusions about such things when the result could mean the difference between life and death for you and others?

The reality is that a caliph is just a political leader. If he is pious that will be reflected in his means and methods, and if he is not then that will likewise be reflected. Just because a leader is called “caliph” does not make him holy or good, and the fact that he is called something else does not make him unholy or evil.

We have had only four rightly guided caliphs in succession in our history. After that initial period caliphs have not enjoyed good reputations – the rule for them was corruption, the exception was uprightness – as predicted by the Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace). For that reason the Ulema have historically distanced themselves from “the gates of the rulers”.

What makes you think your man is different, the fact that he venerates the Book of Allah and chops off limbs? Al-Hajjaj did that as well.

So Where are you Going?

This is not to say that the Sharia does not address politics and the caliphate. Indeed it does. What I am asking you to question is the degree of importance and priority that should be accorded to such matters. And what I am pointing out is that acting for political causes, Islamic or otherwise, should not be undertaken lightly and in ignorance. That is especially true if such acting involves the use of force or the possibility of violence.

And so I would like to point out that travelling to “establish a caliphate”, as holy or noble as it may sound, is nothing more than travelling for a political purpose – you are helping someone who is seeking power attain it. If you are going to kill Muslims or anyone else to bring that about then what you are doing is travelling to kill in order to help someone attain or maintain political power. That is the reality. A caliph is a ruler not some kind of messiah. So ask yourself what would a ruler have to demonstrate in order to be worth your killing people for him? Is claiming the title of caliph enough?

Let me end with this which is not from any of our books but just a point of reflection from myself. Note the verses I quoted at the beginning where Allah speaks about the nature of His revelation. He says that it is not the “word of an accursed Satan” rather it is only “a Reminder unto all beings, for whosoever of you who would go straight”.

Musailama the Liar was an accursed devil with a false revelation. And what was his primary concern when he met the Messenger of God (Allah bless him and grant him peace) at Medina? Check the Hadith in Bukhari and then check Imam Ibn Hajr’s commentary on the matter and you will find the answer.

It Was The Caliphate.

So be warned because whether it was Musailama and his band, the Khawarij, the Shi’a, or now “the Dawla”, when the caliphate becomes your primary concern you are most likely not among those “who would go straight”.

That is, in part, why Sunni Ulema don’t emphasize the caliphate more and that is why we would do well to pay more attention to the things they do emphasize such as Taqwa.

We ask Allah, Most High, for guidance and protection and success is only through Him, the High, the Mighty.


Sunni-Shia Dialogue: What’s Feasible

By Muhamad Ali

August 21 2015

One of the strategic issues raised at the recent 47th congress (muktamar)of the nation’s largest modernist Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah, was the enhancement of Sunni-Shia dialogue.

The Sunni-Shia crisis is almost as old as Islam itself, occurring right after the death of Prophet Muhammad. The conflict continues to resurface in parts of the Middle East and even in Sampang, Madura in East Java from 2011 onward, albeit on a much smaller and local scale. These tensions, both abroad and at home, have led Muhammadiyah leaders, scholars and activists to address the issue by advocating “internal” dialogues.

According to scholars on Islam such as Robin Bush and Budhy-Munawar Rachman, the official positions of Muhammadiyah and Nahdat ul Ulema (NU) toward the Sunni-Shia tension are generally “conservative”. But the same findings also reveal diverse opinions within the leadership and membership of these two largest Islamic organizations toward religious minorities like Christians, Ahmadis and Shiites.

The congress in Makassar, South Sulawesi, revealed at least three positions among Muhammadiyah leaders and members concerning Sunni-Shia relations. The first position holds that Muhammadiyah is a Sunni movement, which many define as the People of the Sunnah, the Tradition of the Prophet, and the Community of Early Muslims.

The Shiites are meanwhile labelled the People of Heresy (ahl al-Bid’ah). Hence Muhammadiyah is regarded also as a counter-ideology to the Shiites who do not recognize the three caliphs and accept the leadership of only Ali ibn Abi Thalib, the prophet’s son-in-law and cousin.

In Makassar, several leaders and members opposed any attempt at bridging the Sunni-Shiite theologies. Some firmly believe that Shi’ism is a dangerous belief that deserves no dialogue although the call to create an Islamic brotherhood (Ukhuwwah) remains crucial. Others asked the congress to take an official position on whether Muhammadiyah regards the Shiites as “Islamic” or not, in order to end confusion among the grass roots. Yet there are hardly any positions that portray the Shiites as kafir (non-believers) although there are charges of heresy (Bid’ah).

The second position maintains that Muhammadiyah is a Sunni movement, but recognizes that the Shia and the Sunni are both Muslim communities sharing commonalities and differences. Although they are aware of different sects within the Shia movement, they also identify extremist Shiites as well as extremist Sunnis that they consider should be “moderated”.

Many, including the elected secretary general Abdul Mu’ti, contended that the dialogue should not be about deciding who is religiously right or wrong, but about creating mutual recognition and understanding between the competing and conflicting sects.

The third position believes that Shiites and Sunnis are Muslims, but asserts that Muhammadiyah is neither, because the organization is a new, modern organization that emerged in the East Indies in 1912 very long after the Sunni-Shia split in seventh century Arabia.

Former chairman Ahmad Syafii Maarif maintained that the Muhammadiyah should firmly remain above the divisions of the sects of early Islam. For him, returning to the Koran as the main form of guidance would decrease one’s tendency to be sectarian and intolerant of religious and social differences.

The most recent former chairman M. Din Syamsuddin reiterated that both the Sunni and the Shia recognize the same God and the same prophet. He contends that a Sunni could learn about, and take lessons from, Shi’ism without being a Shiite in order to bridge the cognitive gap and increase cooperation.

The scholar Azyumardi Azra, who attended the congress, asserted that the Sunni-Shiite conflict was an old and regional Middle Eastern conflict that should not become a Muslim conflict in Indonesia. Muslims in Indonesia should lead the Muslim world in demonstrating moderation and modernization, he said.

There is broad awareness that tension and conflicts in the Middle East and in Indonesia are not basically theological or religious.

Addressing the tension, however, requires religious and non-religious measures. Muhammadiyah should improve its socio-religious and intellectual roles in cultivating tolerance, moderation and collaboration across faiths and nations.

The diverse positions regarding Sunni-Shiite relations can be taken into consideration as to what specific aspects demand special attention. These could include theological, ritual, social, political and cultural aspects, as well as international relations.

Muslims generally differentiate between belief and social interaction, claiming that they have to be firm or exclusive in the former and flexible and inclusive in the latter. But life is more complex.

There are often intersections between faith and social interaction, such as in the building of houses of worship, international financial support for propagation, mixed marriages of Sunni-Shiite couples, educational interaction and cooperation, and political tension and differences — such as among the Wahhabi Saudis, the Sunni Egyptians, the Yemenis, Shiite Iranians and Lebanese.

Therefore, Muhammadiyah, including the newly elected leaders, could commission the translation of books and publications that promote mutual understanding among Muslims, and between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Muhammadiyah should invite the national and local governments, national and local leaders, scholars and activists to take part in this dialogue. The Muhammadiyah preachers should conduct propagation or Da’wah with knowledge and wisdom, providing good examples, and effective debates and dialogue, as explicitly stated in the Koran.

Dialogue, instead of the language of conflict, should be popularized internationally, nationally and locally. The classical tradition of face-to-face discussion including silatulfikr (reconnecting the minds) should be continued and promoted at other levels.

All activities and programs should be inclusive and benefit members and non-members from all walks of life regardless of faith and sectarian divisions. The 2015 congress is a historic moment in dealing with this old sectarian conflict by advancing dialogue in the broadest sense of the word.

If Muhammadiyah, the NU and other Islamic organizations in Indonesia emphasize the middle-path positions as inspired by the Koran, then ideally there should be no more obstacles to dialogue and cooperation among those who identify themselves as Muslims in Indonesia as well as among all the people and civilizations around the world.

Muhamad Ali is associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of California, Riverside, and heads the special branch of Muhammadiyah in the US.


The Brave hearts Of Wadi Al Nasara, Syria

By Franklin Lamb

08 August, 2015

Wadi Al Nasera, (Valley of the Christians), Syria: Wadi al Nasera (Valley of the Christians) encompasses approximately 40 picturesque Christian hamlets in western Syria, located amidst the green plush rolling hills between Homs and the Lebanese border. Thirty of its villages are Christian, four are mainly populated by Alawi Muslims and one, Al Qalaa (aka Hosn village), just under the Crak des Chevaliers medieval fortress, was Sunni Muslim. It was literally pulverized by heavy and sustained government forces aerial bombardment once it became a supply base in 2013 for rebels inside the medieval crusader fortress.

I spent the past week visiting some of the oldest Wadi al Nasara Christian villages which include Marmarita, Al-Hwash , Zweitina, Muzina, Nasra, Mqaabra, al Mishtiaya, Blat,Tanurin, Anaz, Joir al-Afes, Hab Nimra, `Ash al-Shuha, `Amar al-Husn, `Ayn al-Barda, `Ayn al-Ajuzi, `Ayn al-Ghara, Kafra, Mashta Aazar, Al-Qllatia, Kayma, Masraa, Muklous, Bahzina, Joineyat, Al-Talla, Daghla, Amar, Mishtayeh and Rabah, agrees with many who come to Wadi al Nasera (Valley of the Christians) that the valley is most beautiful and welcoming area of Syria or of anyplace in the Middle East that he has visited. Its people who include Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics and Armenian Orthodox among others, add to its splendour. Some visitors come repeatedly, others annually for summer holidays or to experience one or more of the valleys seasonal cultural festivals that makes this part of Syria a major tourist attraction.

Nonetheless, Wadi Nasera has suffered much, as has most of Syria from the continuing conflict and the devastating loss of loved ones from terrorist acts. For a variety of reasons, the proportion of Christians in the Middle East has contracted from around 20 percent at the start of the 20th century to around 5 percent currently. Less than 1 percent of the world’s more than 2 billion Christians currently live in the Middle East, and it is likely that number will decrease even further.

From the very start of the current conflict, history and religion have fueled passions on both sides in Syria. This has become more pronounced as the conflict drags on, turning bloodier and more vicious by the month. The main target of the most sectarian-minded rebels isn’t Christians, but rather Alawites, the minority group who make up about 12% of Syria’s population, about the same as Christians until recently. The Alawites are a heterodox sect that branched off from Islam, and are considered by Muslim Takfiri extremists more heretical than Christians.

Approximately one quarter of the Christian valley’s population have been forced to flee as refugees, according to Roman Catholic Priest, Father Hanna Salloum, owner of the Al Wadi Hotel in the village of Mishtayeh, who generously gave this observer his time and insights into have life has been like for Wadi al Nasara over the past few years. Soon the places of those who fled the valley were taken by other arriving refugees who correctly believed they would be welcomed in the Valley of the Christians. Father Salloum, a devout Christian and Syrian nationalist, insisted that all the rooms in his large 5-star hotel be made available without charge to refugees fleeing Homs and elsewhere. Arriving Christians, Muslims or non-believers were given shelter gratis on a first come first served basis. For more than one year his hotel was a teeming home to his countryman until jihadists were expelled from their stronghold less than two kilometres from his Al Wadi Hotel. Father Hanna Salloum is my kind of Christian.

According to an aide to His Beatitude, Kyrios Youhanna X, formerly, Youhanna X Yaziji, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East, who briefed this observer on 8/4/2015 at the 6th century monastery of St. George, before the current crisis there were approximately 1.2 million Christians in Syria. Today there are estimated to be fewer than 400,000. The population of Wadi Nasera was reduced by approximately 20% during 2012-2013, many fleeing to Christian areas of nearby Lebanon as well as internally. This main exodus followed the early 2012 arrival of al Qaeda affiliated militants including Jund al Sham. The jihadists occupied the medieval fortress, Crac des Chevaliers which towers above the southern entrance to the Wadi, until the Syrian Army was able to evict them in March of 2014. Villages below were regularly targeted by jihadist snipers and mortars as well as middle of the night terrorists slipping down from Krac des Chevaliers fortress, sometimes using tunnels, to slit throats of unsuspecting villagers. This observer has repeatedly heard from residents of Wadi Nasera that while every house has a light weapon, such as an AK-47, the terrorists were heavily armed with a variety of weapons and it was difficult to overpower them when they attacked. Recently, the population of Wadi al Nasera has swollen by more than 150,000, mainly Christians, who view the Wadi as among the safest places in Syria.

I do not believe the current suffering and atrocities being committed against Christians in Syria will not break the will of Al Wadi Nasera, the Valley of the Christians. Rather, it will fortify their resolution and beliefs in the New Testament. And I agree with the sages whom I have met among this close-knit, vital, highly educated, large family community that the future of the Christians in this great country and beyond is with the Muslims. This has been the case since the advent of Islam and its movement into this region 600 years after the arrival of Christianity. Historically, local Christian communities have sometimes welcomed Muslim ‘overlords’ when they freed them from the oppressive rule of Constantinople or Rome. In many places in Syria the two groups continue to reach out to each other. Even many rebel extremists, to the dismay of sceptics, claim that “personally” they don’t have anything against Christians.

Neither massive emigration of Christians to the West nor establishing a Christian state is a long term solution to the current conflict. Throughout history invaders have arrived here, they have committed unspeakable atrocities, ruled for a period and disappeared while the Christian community has endured, prospered relatively and, in a sense, prevailed over the invaders. To wit, the Ottoman Turks, who ruled Syria from 1516 until World War I, relegated Christians to a second-class citizen status. Christians were allowed to practice their religion and govern themselves in matters that didn’t concern Muslims. But they were also required to pay special taxes to Constantinople, and there were plenty of restrictions on them when it came to interactions with Muslims. Wahhabism, the ascetic and harshly conservative form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia, is even tougher on Christians. And many others seeking hegemony have passed through this country—the Byzantines, Tamerlane, the Mongols, Mamluks, the Persians. Their likes have failed to subjugate the Christians of Wadi al Nasera.

Among the factors unifying the residents of Wadi al Nasera is the presence of a group of Nuns who operated an orphanage at Mar Takla monastery in Ma’loula to the south. The group of Greek Orthodox nuns was kidnapped in December of 2013 and held for three months by Jabhat al and before being released three month later in a prisoner exchange. Their new temporary home is St. George Monastery across from Krac de Chaveliers. This observer was honoured to spend time with this charming, passionate, energetic, group of sisters on 8/4/2015 and we discussed many subjects. I was happy to share with Mother Superior, Pelagia Sayyaf, head of the Mar Takla monastery in Maaloula and her sisters recently acquired updated information about restoration work being done to their orphanage in preparation for their early return. One of the Nuns asked me about the condition of their large kitchen. By chance, two weeks ago I took a special interest, and some photos which I shared with the Nuns, of the kitchen where I painted some doors. The reason was that as a wannbe chef, I could not fail to examine their 6 foot by maybe 4 foot steel stove which has two large ovens and eight cooking rounds on its surface. They were happy to learn it was in excellent shape and that volunteers had cleaned up the large kitchen. They seem unconcerned that the roof of the kitchen had been hit by a rebel mortar as was no more. The sisters want to return to Ma’loula as soon as possible and hopefully before the end of August. They promise to return regularly to St George Monastery in Wadi al Nasara and stay connected with their new family.

To paraphrase the words of a teacher this observer crossed paths with on 8/5/2015 at the Amigo grocery store on the main street of the village of al-Mishtayeh near, the Al Wadi Hotel at the base of Krac Des Chevaliers, ‘We shall fight for our freedom and fight for our faith. Many may die on the battlefield but no one surrenders. We are the defenders of faiths, ours and others; we will die or be free.”

Franklin Lamb is a visiting Professor of International Law at the Faculty of Law, Damascus University and volunteers with the Sabra-Shatila Scholarship Program (


Nigeria: Women's Position in Islam

By Imam Murtada Gusau

21 AUS2015

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful All praise is due to Allah, we praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our own evils and our own bad deeds.

Anyone who is guided by Allah, he is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him.

I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad, (SAW), is His servant, and His Messenger.

My Respect Brothers and Sisters, A great deal of published materials is now available on this subject. I do not wish to repeat more of the same. I think that the debate on women's position in Islam is now over. The time has come to examine, in a practical manner, how the Muslimahs (Muslim women) can contribute to the betterment of the Ummah as mother, wife, and daughter and as active member of the Muslim community. The question is not what her role is; the urgent issue is how best she can discharge that role.

General There is now some consensus among Muslims that the role of our women is both important and wide ranging in the modern world. There is also growing consensus and confidence that it is now possible for Muslim women to remain good Muslimahs (Muslim women) and be able to discharge most of the duties and cope with most of the demands made on them by the present day society. At no time in Muslim history except during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that the role of Muslim women has been of greater importance than it is today. On a local level this role has been greater in some Muslim countries at different times in history but never a greater global demand was made on the Muslim women. This applies to the ordinary Muslim women, the professional and educated Muslim women, the rich Muslim women including princesses and Sheikhas and the influential Muslim women in politics, teaching, and business or as wives of influential Muslims. Now let us examine some situations and make some recommendations and action plans. There is no single panacea for the many problems facing Muslims but that should not deter us from looking for solutions and for relying on Allah's (SWT) help.

Muslim Women's Identity Religious and cultural identity distinguishes one people from another. One of the great strengths of western culture is that it gives western dress some distinct identity to western woman, whether she is in bikini, skirt, trouser or dress. Muslim women vary in their style of dressing depending on the part of the world they live, but there are still two Islamic rules that promote and sustain their common identity. It is the HIJAB and the modesty of their dress as prescribed by their religion that achieves this. HIJAB can truly be said to be the identifying symbol of the world wide Muslim Women. It is sad and very degrading to see so many educated Muslim women not wearing HIJAB and adopting the vulgar western dress. HIJAB is the pre-requisite to fulfill the requirements of modesty of dress required by Allah (SWT) from all Muslim Women.

HIJAB and a modest style of Islamic dress represent female modesty and respectability and assert Muslim women's dignity and self-esteem in a public manner. Western dress often symbolises a permissible lifestyle and an invitation to sexual and other harassments. Therefore every Muslim woman must feel proud in wearing HIJAB and must pay special attention to modesty of dress and ornament in public.

Muslim women were given an exalted status and many rights by Islam fourteen hundred and thirty six years ago. Some of these rights have been granted to Western women after a great deal of struggle only recently. The question now arises as to what the modern Muslim Woman is doing to express her gratitude to Allah (SWT) for His favours to her. A question can be posed to every Muslim woman, 'don't ask what Islam can do for you; ask what you can do for Islam?' In dressing themselves in an Islamic manner Muslim woman is not only following Allah's (SWT) Commandments but is also expressing gratitude to her Creator. Therefore she must feel pride and pleasure in dressing strictly according to the Islamic code. Some Muslim women think that western dress and haircut makes them advanced and progressive. In fact this is untrue. Muslim women who adopt this western dress code and show-off hair look totally out of place. Contrary to popular belief majority of people in the West don't think much of these women.

Not only in Islam, even in Christianity and Judaism there is a command to wear HIJAB

It was reported that, the Women around Jesus (May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) veiled themselves according to the practice of women around the earlier Prophets. Their garments were loose and covered their bodies completely, and they wore scarves which covered their hair. In Genesis 24:64-5:

"And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel, and said to the servant, 'Who is the man yonder, walking in the field to meet us?' The Servant said it is my master.' So she took her veil and covered herself."

Also Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:

"But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonours her head - it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil."

Some may argue that it was the general custom of those times to be completely veiled. However, that is not the case. In both Rome and Greece, whose cultures dominated the region; the popular dress was quite short and revealed the arms, legs and chest. Only religious women in Palestine, following Jewish tradition, covered themselves modestly.

According to Rabbi Dr. Menachem M. Brayer, professor of Biblical Literature at Yeshiva University, it was customary that Jewish women went out in Public with a head - covering which, sometimes, even covered the whole face, leaving only one eye free. (See the Jewish woman in Rabbinic Literature, P.239)

He further stated that:

"During the Tannaitic period, the Jewish woman's failure to cover her head was considered an affront to her modesty. When her head was uncovered she might be fined four hundred zuzim for this offence". (Ibid., P. 139)

The famous early Christian theologian, St. Tertullian (d. 220 CE), in his famous treatise, 'On The veiling of Virgins', wrote:

"Young women, you wear your veils out on the streets, so you should wear them in the church; you wear them when you are among strangers, then wear them among your brothers... "

Among the Canon laws of the Catholic Church until today, there is a law that requires women to cover their heads in Church. (See Clara M. Henning, "Canon Law and the Battle of sexes", in Religion and Sexism, P. 272)

Christian denominations, such as the Amish and the Mennonites for example, keep their women veiled and in Hijab to the present day.

In the Noble Qur'an, in Surah (Chapter) al-Ahzaab, 33:59, the reason for veiling/Hijab is given. Allah states that it makes the believing women known in the society and provides protection for them from possible social harm, like rape etc.

Education and Training of Muslim Women Every Muslim Woman should aim to obtain the highest possible education including advanced education and training in the professions commensurate with her abilities. This is over and above her thorough education and study of Qur'an, Hadith, Muslim literature, culture, history and on-going involvement with Muslim current affairs. Every type of education and training is permissible for the Muslim woman unless it is manifestly haram or may expose her to undignified and unlawful situations. However, certain professions are more suitable and desirable for women. These are teaching, law, accountancy, journalism, information technology, medical science specializing in women and children, research based careers such as scientist, consultants. Those who cannot pursue higher education for any reason must undergo some vocational or skill training. These can include typing, word-processing, nursing, tailoring and hundreds of other Halal occupations and hobbies for which suitable skill training is available. Education is no longer the privilege of the few. Those Muslims who still propagate that women do not need education are wrong and backward and they misunderstood Islam.

Muslim Women's Role As Wife and Mother The Muslim woman's role and duties as wife and mother have not changed at all in the last fourteen hundred and thirty six years. Both Qur'an and Hadith are very clear about the sanctity of this role. Islam attaches greater importance to the role of a Muslim woman as wife and particularly as mother compared to all her other roles. Indeed her role as a career woman even when she is well educated and qualified cannot take priority over her role as mother while her children are young. A great deal of careful planning, understanding and compromise is essential as there may arise situations where important decisions and choices must be made when children and careers clash. The golden rule for the Muslim woman here is to follow Islam in the bringing up of her children rather than continue with her career. In many cases it may be possible for some women to combine part time work or to work from home. For accountants, lawyers, writers, journalists, computer specialists, home workers and members of some other professions it may be possible to work from home. It is not an ideal solution but a preferable course for those women who must keep intellectually busy or need to earn some extra money when their children are young. It should be noted that the duty of imparting early religious education to her children and instilling in them Islamic values and pride in being Muslims rests to a large extent on Muslim mothers.

Once children are grown, the Muslim woman can go back to her job or career after a refresher course or re-training.

Muslim Women Vs. Local Community and Social Activities Muslims are now fortunate to have mosques and institutions for the teaching of Qur'an and Islam everywhere in the world. Plenty of books, teaching aids are also available. There are also trainings and other group activities going on all the time. It is important for Muslim women of all ages to actively involve themselves in these activities and to play a role suitable to their education and availability. Educated Muslim women should help their less educated sisters. Those who have more time should profitably employ it on local social work, teaching, lecturing, counseling, and fund raising. All this makes for a vibrant and well adjusted community.

Muslim Women's Role outside Home a Muslim woman's conduct outside her home is reflection on her faith and virtue, her family and on Islam. It cannot be overemphasised that once outside home she is the very embodiment of 'living Islam'. She must distinguish between Halal and Haram, right and wrong, proper and improper in accordance with the teachings of Islam and not the dictates of custom or fashion. The Muslim woman as sister, daughter, wife and mother closely holds her family together and instils in them high standards of character and behaviour by her own example.

A Practical Way of Enhancing Local Muslim Unity and Social Contact I would like to mention here one of the ways of enhancing local unity, social contact and sharing of ideas and problems that has been successfully working with excellent results in a part of Nigeria. The idea originated from two local women that between ten to twenty Muslim families should get together regularly once every month. They got together twelve families who gathered, for the first few months, taking turns in each other's houses. Each family cooked some food and brought it to the designated house. All members of the family got together. The gathering was on the last Saturday of each month between 7 to 10 pm. Food was shared. The separate male and female groups discussed current problems, education, community matters and bringing up of children. Children made friends and shared their school and sports news and experiences. They also discussed religion and other subjects. Brief talks were given on important issues by different persons and followed by discussions. Such was the initial success of this activity that this group has now obtained, through the generosity of a local charity, the regular use of a public hall once a month. This hall has space for lectures, games and some sports facilities. The cost of the hall is negligible. We believe Muslims everywhere should organise such a get-together. There could be many groups in the same locality. The social, cultural and other benefits are enormous compared to the time and effort expended. Ideally the groups should be minimum ten and maximum twenty. Once the group is formed and started someone on its behalf can contact the local council for the use of a hall, a youth or recreation centre. Local charitable organisations may also help. We think it is a wonderful idea for gaining educational, social and religious benefits on a regular basis.

Conclusion My emphasis on education and training of Muslim Women is not a license to ignore her Tarbiyah in family management and acquisition of skills for running her home. It must remaining the first priority in all homes. Education and training should enhance a Muslim Woman's ability to manage her home, children and extended family much better than an uneducated person. Education up to O level/Matriculation with an extended syllabus for religious education must be made compulsory for all young men and women in all Muslim communities. It has been estimated by some researchers that the literacy level of the Jews is ninety-six percent while that of the Ummah is no more than twenty-five percent. This gap is alarming!

Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Raaji'uun. We are from Allah and unto Him we return.

With a heavy heart and deep sense of loss that I commiserate with Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigerian supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), His Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III Mni, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi, the Emir of Bauchi Alhaji Ridwan Suleiman Adamu, the Governors of Borno and Bauchi states and the good and peace-loving people of Borno, Bauchi and Misau on the demise of the royal father, the Emir of Misau, Late Alhaji Muhammadu Manga III, who died Monday, August 17, 2015 at the age of 78, after a protracted illness. And the regrettable and sudden death of the Deputy Governor of Borno state, His Excellency, Late Alhaji Zannah Umar Mustapha, which occurred on Saturday, August 15, 2015 in Yola, Adamawa State. Their deaths are not only losses to their people and families, but also to the entire Muslim Ummah and Nigerians in general.

I pray that Almighty Allah will comfort the Sultan, the Shehu of Borno, the Emir of Bauchi, the Governors of Bauchi and Borno, the people of Borno and Bauchi states, the entire Muslim Ummah and all the Nigerians for the irreplaceable death. And I pray that Allah the Most High grant the Emir and deputy governor peaceful and eternal rest.

I pray that Almighty Allah, in His infinite Mercy, will forgive their shortcomings and failings, and grant them Jannat ul Firdaus.

O Allah, give us the fortitude, power and strength to bear the irreparable and irreplaceable loses, Ameen.

O Allah, please help us to develop the talents and skills you have given us. Help us to manage the resources of money, time and opportunity that you have placed in our trust, to bring benefit beyond our families and ourselves to humankind as a whole.

O Allah let us be part of a huge collective effort to raise the Ummah to that high status we enjoyed under your beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his illustrious companions.

O Allah, help our president, Muhammadu Buhari and all our state Governors and all our leaders in their efforts and good intentions to restore this our dear, great and blessed country to the right direction.

O Allah, help the National Security Adviser, Maj. General Babagana Monguno and our Service Chiefs and all the security agents, give them the knowledge, power and wisdom to overcome all the security problems bedevilling our dear country, Ameen.

This Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Thul-Qi'dah 6, 1436 A.H. (August 21, 2015), by Imam Murtada Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu'at Mosque, Okene, Kogi State Nigeria.


Literature for Humanity

By Aijaz Zaka Syed

21 August 2015

A recently launched Indian television channel, Epic TV, stands out for its preoccupation with and celebration of the past. From historical dramas such as The Twentieth Wife, shining the light on the saga of Mughal emperor Jahangir and queen Noor Jahan, to Hindu mythological epics and from the lost recipes like the delectable ‘Ash’ from the Dastarkhwan of the Nizam of Hyderabad to the evolution of Ganga-Jamuni culture and cuisine, it offers distinctly different fare.

What has had truly hooked me though is the series that filmmaker Anurag Basu (of Barfi fame) has done based on Rabindranath Tagore’s novels and short stories. Like most Indians, I read Tagore’s Gitanjali, for which he was awarded the Nobel prize for literature, and his popular short story ‘Kabuliwala’ in English.

However, my Bengali friends familiar with the great man’s vast oeuvre insist that one must read him in the language he originally wrote to appreciate his versatile genius and immense range. Which is true for all great literature, I guess. The essence and fragrance of the original is often lost in translation. Who can capture the singular magic of Homer, Rumi, Shakespeare, Saadi or Ghalib?

However, not all of us can master all the beautiful languages created by God in all their magnificence. And it would be a shame if we remained deprived of living and experiencing a particular culture and civilization and the best of literature produced by it merely because we are unfamiliar with a particular language.

This is where the often underrated and unacknowledged role of translators comes in. We are all immensely indebted to them. For, without their diligence, dedication and toiling of years, many of us wouldn’t know or experience the joy of Iqbal’s sublime, soul-stirring poetry, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Homer’s Odyssey and sheer brilliance of Shakespearean wit and wisdom.

So while it is true that a lot of the original beauty is lost in translation, we are a great deal richer as a result of our efforts to arm ourselves with the wisdom and experience passed down over the ages. For these great works of world literature are our collective heritage and legacy.

Tagore’s vast repertoire of fiction and poetry certainly belongs in that hallowed category. For, like all great literature, it celebrates universal values of peace, humanism and tolerance.

Above all, like that of his less fortunate and less rewarded fellow traveler Premchand, Tagore’s fiction is firmly rooted in an Indian reality. It is fashioned out of the warm earthiness of a South Asian experience. Yet it celebrates values that are prized and cherished by all cultures and humanity at large. This is why it appeals to and touches a chord in all of us.

Look at the fantastic and heart-warming story of Kabuliwala, for instance. It celebrates like nothing else does Tagore’s belief in humanity and generosity of spirit.

The inimitable Balraj Sahni immortalized the character of the Afghan dry fruit seller Rahmat Khan in the celluloid adaptation of Tagore’s most popular work, portraying the simplicity, honesty and subtle shades of a homesick Pathan fallen on hard times with characteristic, understated brilliance.

Apart from the innate beauty and universality of Tagore’s Kabuliwala, what makes it truly special is the fact that he wrote it at a time when the tensions between Hindus and Muslims were at their peak, especially in Bengal and Calcutta, following the partition of Bengal along communal lines in 1905. It needed courage to tell an unconventional story as Kabuliwala and tell it with such conviction and force.

The middle-aged Rahmat Khan befriends and falls in love with a little Bengali girl, Mini, while hawking his wares in Calcutta. With her guileless innocence and playfulness, she reminds him of his own daughter, Amina, far away in Kabul. Mini’s mother is instinctively suspicious of all strangers and foreigners, like most of us are. Adding to her fears and paranoia about Rahmat Khan are the prevalent popular stereotypes and prejudices about Muslims in general in the communally divided Bengal.

Beyond the immediate vexing question of the Hindu-Muslim equation, Kabuliwala also teaches us that all humanity is one family and that love conquers all distinctions and barriers of borders, colors and creed. Ostensibly, there was little that was common between the rustic Pathan from the distant Afghanistan and the little Bengali Hindu girl in Calcutta. Yet they managed to establish a strong and enduring bond of friendship, selfless love and humanity.

Then fate intervenes when following an altercation with a customer an agitated Rahmat stabs him and is jailed for 10 years. On the day of his release, the first thing Rahmat does is pay a visit to Mini who is now all grown up. Indeed, she is about to get married.

When Mini fails to recognize him, initially, Rahmat is heartbroken. He realizes that his own daughter Amina would be as old as Mini and might not recognize him. He longs to go home to his daughter and family. Mini’s father spares some money out of his daughter’s dowry to force it on the proud Pathan, persuading him to go home.

If Rahmat Khan and Mini could do it, why couldn’t the two major communities of the subcontinent, Hindus and Muslims do so? After all, they have built and shared so much, not to mention a synthetic culture, over a thousand years of coexistence.

Today, as the gulf between the Hindus and Muslims on the one hand and between India and Pakistan on the other is at its widest, there is a need to promote, more than ever, the writings of greats such as Tagore and Premchand. And more writers have to follow their shining example to tell stories that celebrate the collective of humanity in all its hues and vibrant complexity to create a better world. A better world is possible.


A Human Rights Call for Peace

By Günal Kurşun

August 20, 2015

On Wednesday, in collaboration with the Human Rights Joint Platform (İHOP), several national human rights groups, including the Turkish branch of the Helsinki Citizens' Association (HYD), the Human Rights Agenda Association (IHGD), the Human Rights Association (İHD), the Human Rights Research Association (IHAD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), issued a joint declaration, urging parties back to the negotiating table and calling for a farewell to arms in search of a solution to the Kurdish question.

In a press release, the human rights groups said hopes for a possible solution to the delicate Kurdish problem were encouraged by the ceasefire of 2013. During May and June of 2013, the committee of wise men, a "task group" formed as part of the solution process, came to a point where they noted that problem is rooted in the system itself, which has to be changed. However, we've recently experienced an atmosphere of violence that began in July 2015, just after the election.

The declaration states that all security-based problems during this period must be solved in accordance with universal standards of law and fundamental principles of human rights.

“The starting point of this solution and its basis must be dialogue and negotiation. Formats can be different, but it is essential that speeches, discussion and agreement must form the first pillar, instead of an immediate turn to guns and violence. Peaceful procedures and mechanisms should be established by utilizing world experience, while the participation of women must be guaranteed,” the release read.

In my opinion, all media, political parties and all parts of society should ultimately be careful not to use discriminatory language leading to hate speech. All parties must be focused on peace instead of war. However, at least psychologically, we are experiencing an atmosphere of civil war at the moment. Dozens from both sides are dying every day.

We know that this is not Turkey's war. This is a specific person's own war to survive. This war was planned meticulously and applied deliberately in order to solidify positions. As the results of the June election did not satisfy him, there will be an early election to change the composition of Parliament.

I believe that the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) will again be in Parliament, after having again passed the electoral threshold. Then, there will be a coalition and the president will fall back into his constitutionally impartial and symbolic position. Until then, it is essential to survive, as more than 500 people have died since the resumption of the clashes. I don't think that any type of “seat protection” can justify 500 souls within the last month.

At this time last year, I said during a meeting of İHOP that hard days are coming for human rights defenders in Turkey, and that the standards of democracy and human rights in the country are still so fragile that they cannot be taken for granted.

I'm so sad to see that I was right, but I'm optimistically looking forward to the restoration of peace. Human rights groups in Turkey are in a more difficult position than ever. Maintaining objectivity, emphasizing and criticizing all without taking sides, and using constructive and productive language will again be the starting point. We know that the main violator of human rights is again the state, but it is not the only abuser. Violence from armed opposition groups is also reprehensible, as we've seen lately.

To tell you the truth, as Twitter phenomenon Fuat Avni described months ago, I'm afraid it will be worse in the coming days, as he is now predicting an even worse vision of Turkey.


Prague Springs to Intolerance

By Jan Čulík


The Czech Republic, a country that regards itself as intrinsically democratic and tolerant, is in the grips of a strong wave of anti-refugee and anti-Islamic hysteria. Motivated by fear of the unknown and fanned by openly racist media, the darkening mood has encouraged surprisingly extreme discourse on social networks like Facebook.

A certain amount of fear is perhaps understandable. After the deportation of a large German minority from Czechoslovakia in 1945 and after 40 years of communism, Central European countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia or Hungary are highly homogeneous and predominantly white. Historically, the Czechs and the Slovaks defined their nationality in terms of language, meaning that if you did not speak Czech or Slovak you were an alien, not to be accepted or trusted.

Xenophobia and racism tend to be strongest where people have never met foreigners or persons of another skin colour. But the intensity of the venom directed at immigrants — of whom there are very few in the Czech Republic — in public discourse is staggering.

The Czech Republic recently decided to accept 15 sick Syrian children for treatment in Czech hospitals. Remarkably, in an Internet poll attached to a newspaper article reporting on the story, 83 percent of readers disagreed with the decision.

Those few dozen refugees who occasionally stray onto Czech territory while trying to reach Germany are now being rounded by up Czech police, handcuffed, and incarcerated in immigrant detention centres in Bělá pod Bezdězem and Vyšní Lhoty. Their money and mobile telephones are systematically confiscated.

Several hundred refugees are currently being held, and in a recent riot, many demanded that they be released and allowed to continue their journey to Germany, where they have relatives. The Czech government maintains that it has the right to arrest them and send them back to the first European country by which they originally entered the EU. This usually means Greece or Italy, countries that can hardly cope with an overwhelming influx of refugees and desperately need other EU countries to take on some of the burden.

In a promising development, a Czech court decreed that the government has no legal basis for imprisoning and holding refugees, and released an Iranian refugee and his family from incarceration. But the Czech Home Office does not regard the Iranian case as a precedent and continues to detain the remaining refugees, although a few have been released in the past few days and allowed to continue to Germany. A handful of members of pro-immigration NGOs recently demonstratedin Bělá in support of the refugees. Some refugees in Bělá complain that they are not being given sufficient food in the detention centre and are undernourished.

In a TV interview with the widely read tabloid newspaper Blesk, Czech President Miloš Zeman told refugees that if they did not like the Czech Republic’s handling of their situation, they should leave: “No one has invited you,” he said. Paradoxically, to leave is exactly what these refugees would like to — but cannot — do. Zeman expressed satisfaction that riot police was mobilized against the refugees in Bělá, advocating that more force be used against them.

Basic Instinct

“Some people might regard what I am saying as an appeal to the basest human instincts, but it is the same attitude as that of the Hungarians and of the British Prime Minister David Cameron,” he added. Zeman was elected President in a direct election two and a half years ago on what, at the time, seemed like a left-wing ticket, but has recently started to make increasingly populist, authoritarian and right-wing statements.

On August 17, several hundred Czech academics made a public appeal, demanding that politicians and the media drop the current anti-immigration discourse. Jiří Ovčáček, the spokesperson of President Zeman, rejected the appeal as divisive and elitist.

Commentators have pointed out that the current anti-refugee hysteria is a symptom of a major change of values in the post-communist Czech Republic over the past two years or so. While in the 1990s or 2000s life in the Czech Republic was not perfect, the country was at least pretending that it was aiming to become a Western democracy. Corruption may have been a problem, but it was more or less hidden and whenever it came into the open, it created a scandal.

The situation seems to have changed. The media are no longer bothered by scandalous behaviour and politicians flaunt political positions they would have been ashamed of in the past. It is perhaps not surprising in a country where the finance minister’s post is held by Andrej Babiš, one of the most powerful Czech oligarchs, who owns two national newspapers and whose private business receives contracts from his own Ministry. Similar indifference now seems to apply to issues like racism. The phenomenon was succinctly summed up in a recent cartoon: In 2013, a beer-bellied “ordinary Czech” would have said, “I am not a racist, but…” and then he would badmouth non-whites; in 2015, the same “ordinary Czech” says, “I am a racist. So what?”

…The current fear and loathing directed at foreigners and refugees is remarkable, in particular since there are only a few hundred refugees in the Czech Republic.

Social media and the internet have greatly contributed to the legitimization of views that, until recently, would have been regarded as intolerable. A young woman’s recent post on Facebook — in language that would be considered to be from the extreme fringe in other Western countries — is typical of the new national mood: “Our peculiar ethno-cultural microcosm is very precious to us and we mean to protect it jealously. Our grandfathers paid for it with their blood, and we’re sure as hell not going to share it with uninvited guests. After all, our historical experience teaches us that only enemies come uninvited. Kindly mind your own business and stop meddling with our affairs, maybe?”


In the same vein, much intolerance also been aired by a highly popular Czech language website Parlamentní listy (“Parliamentary Newsletter” — the name is a misnomer, the website has nothing to do with Czech Parliament, it is a purely commercial venture). The site prides itself on being “absolutely open to all views,” but its editorial policy is based on a confrontation of emotional, extreme, usually unsubstantiated, often paranoid opinions.

The website has 600,000 individual readers per month and politicians kowtow to it. Its business model is based on whipping up the emotions of a frustrated contingent of the Czech public, and it publishes widely read-articles likening refugees to “invaders.”

Statements that all refugees and “darkies” should be executed, drowned or sent to gas chambers are regular features on the debating fora of major Czech newspapers and on Facebook. When a boat near the Libyan shore capsized last week and more than 200 refugees drowned, one of the Czech readers reacted by commenting: “Swim harder, darkie. See whether you can reach Europe.” Isolated verbal and physical attacks on dark-skinned people or on people wearing headscarves have also taken place.

Activists led by Martin Konvička, a lecturer at the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, have founded an organization called “We do not want Islam in the Czech Republic” and presented an anti-immigration petition signed by 140,000 people to the Czech Parliament in June. Konvička and his followers argue that Islam is a criminal, murderous “ideology” that should be outlawed. In an interview, President Zeman publicly agreed with Konvička, who has now turned his organization into a political party called “The Anti-Islamic Bloc” and plans to run in the upcoming elections.

In a widely watched video interview, Czech TV interviewer Martin Veselvoský confronted Konvička about a number of highly inflammatory statements he had made on Facebook, including a call for “concentration camps” for Muslims. Konvička was evasive and said that these statements were “only made on Facebook.”

Last month, Konvička’s activists and other extreme-right-wingers staged an anti-refugee demonstration in Prague to which they brought gallows and nooses and threatened the “pro-refugee” government and liberal citizens. No one has been charged for this: The Czech police carried out an assessment and said that bringing gallows and nooses to a demonstration does not constitute a criminal offence. Most Czechs do not speak foreign languages and thus cannot compare what the local media tells them with what is really going on abroad. Nevertheless, even in this context, the current fear and loathing directed at foreigners and refugees is remarkable, in particular since there are only a few hundred refugees in the Czech Republic and most of those who make it across the border do not even want to stay.

Jan Čulík works as Senior Lecturer in Czech Studies at the University of Glasgow. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Czech-language cultural and political internet daily Britské listy (