Saturday, April 28, 2007

hispanic muslim day

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center

invites the community to attend their first

Hispanic Muslim Day

"The Pathway to Islam"

Saturday May 12, 2007 starting at 11:00AM to 5:00PM


The Beauty of Family in Islam

By Muhammad Isa Garcia from Argentina

Graduate of Umm Al Qura University in Makkah,

College of Da'wah , Hadith and Tafsir

Followed by

Understanding New Muslims: My experience as an Hispanic Muslim

A panel of Hispanic brothers and sisters discussing their experience in Islam

All lectures will be in English and Spanish

Hosted by:

Imam Abdul Malik Johari


Sheikh Shaker Al Sayyed,

Imam of Dar Al Hijrah

Includes a tour of the mosque and lunch

Be sure to bring your family and friends

For more information please contact

Imam Abdul Malik Johari at 202 345-5233 for Spanish and English

or check out Dar Al Hijrah's Website

Friday, April 27, 2007

amazin' man

So I finally saw The Last King of Scotland today. It is a work of fiction, framed as a memoir by a young Scottish doctor who becomes the personal physician of Idi Amin.

In some ways, the film is very reminiscent of Cry Freedom which focuses on another African leader (in this case, anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko who was played by Denzel Washington). So in both films the viewer gets a peek into the life of an important African figure. In both cases this figure is played by a high-caliber African-American actor (Forrest Whitaker actually won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Idi Amin). Also, in both cases, the story is told through the eyes of a peripherial white character. So in a fairly descriptive sense, one can say that neither film seems very Afrocentric. Less like Hamlet and more like Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead.

The Last King of Scotland also brought back memories of a novelty song I remember hearing on the radio many years ago called Amazin' Man which features Idi Amin as a calypso singer. I didn't think much (or know) about it back then, but Idi Amin is parodied by John Bird, a white English actor so there is something of a "minstrel" vibe to the performance. On the other hand, anyone with the deaths of 300,000 people on their hands is getting off lightly if all they faced was an insulting and insensitive parody.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

orthodox rebels

What follows are brief summaries (largely excerpted from the links given below) of how the four orthodox Sunni Imams related to the government authorities of their day. At the very least, they all experienced a certain amount of tension and in most cases, they endured some serious reprisals at the hand of the state for challenging the authorities.

Imam Abu Hanifa
In the year 146 A.H, Abu Hanifah was sent to prison by Mansur, the leader at the time, after the Imam’s refusal to state that Mansur was the rightful khalifa, as well as refusing the position of presidency of the supreme court in recompense. Whilst in prison Imam Abu Hanifah was thrashed with a stick. Mansur repented and sent the Imam money, only to be refused again. By now Imam Abu Hanifah had become well known and thousands flocked to meet and seek his opinion wherever he went. His imprisonment far from reduced his popularity, and Mansur realised that he would have to treat the Imam carefully, thus he allowed him to teach whilst still in prison. Mansur finally decided to do away with the great Imam and had him poisoned. Abu Hanifah feeling the effects of the poison, bent down in prayer and died in the month on Rajab. News of the Imam’s death reached far and wide, and thousands gathered at the prison. The city Qadi washed his body, and kept repeating "by God you were the greatest faqih and the most pious man of our time....".

Imam Malik
Imam Malik was known for his integrity and peity. He always lived up to his convictions. Neither fear nor favour could ever deflect him from the right path. He was among the members of the glorious society of early Islam who could not be purchased and whose undaunted courage always proved as a guiding star for the freedom fighters.

When he was aged twenty-five, the Caliphate passed into the hands of the Abbasids caliph Mansur who was his colleague. Mansur highly respected him for his deep learning. The Imam however, favoured the Fatimid Nafs Zakriya for the exalted office of the Caliph. When he learned that the people had taken the oath of fealty of Mansur, he said that since Mansur had forced people to do so, the oath was not binding them. He quoted a Tradition of the Prophet (sws) to the effect that a divorce by force is not legal. When Jafar, a cousin of Mansur, was posted as Governor of Medina, he induced the inhabitants of the Holy city to renew their oath of allegiance to Mansur. The Governor forbade him not to publicise his Fatwa in respect of forced divorce. Highly principled and fearless as he was, the defied the Governor’s orders and courageously persisted in his course. This infuriated the Governor, who ordered that the Imam be awarded 70 stripes, as punishment. According, seventy stripes were inflicted on the naked back of the Imam which began to bleed. Mounted on a camel in his bloodstaind clothes, he was paraded through the streets of Medina. This brutality of the Governor failed to cow down or unnerve the noble Imam. Caliph Mansur, when apprised of he matter, punished the Governor and apologised to the Imam.

Imam Muhammad ibn Idris al-Shafi
At the time of Harun ar-Rashid, he had an appointment in Yemen, as a judge in Najran. Sunnis portray that his devotion to justice, even when it meant criticizing the governor, caused him some problems, and he was taken before the Caliph, falsely accused of aiding the Alawis in a revolt. At this time, al Shaybani was the chief justice, and his defense of ash-Shafi'i, coupled with ash-Shafi'i’s own eloquent defense, convinced Harun ar-Rashid to dismiss the charge, and to direct al Shaybani to take ash-Shafi'i to Baghdad. In Baghdad, he developed his first madhab, influnced by the teachings of both Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik. Thus, his work there is known as “al Madhab al Qadim lil Imam as Shafi’i,” or the Old School of ash-Shafi'i.

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal
The case of the persecution faced by Imam Ahmad is different from the previous cases for several reasons. Firstly (and this may just be a result of my own reading choices) but it seems that his suffering is more well-known than the above-mentioned cases. Secondly (and this might explain the first difference) Imam Ahmad's persecution is much more theological than political.

Under the reign of the Caliph at the time, Al-Ma'mun, a "heretical" Mu'tazilite theology become dominant and the religious authorities persecuted the orthodox scholars who disagreed including Imam Ahmad.

For refusing to follow the theology Al-Ma'mun tried to impose, Imam Ahmad was put in irons and was ordered to be delivered into the Caliph's presence. On the way, Imam Ahmad supplicated to Allah to prevent him from meeting Al-Ma’mun. His prayer was answered in the sudden death of al-Ma’mun. Unfortunately, the Inquisition continued into the reign of the next two caliphs and Imam Ahmad endured flogging, imprisonment and exile during this period. But with the death of the Caliph Al-Wathiq and the rise of the new Caliph Al-Mutawakkil, the persecution ended and Imam Ahmad regained some measure of freedom.

The Life of Imam Abu Hanifah by Maida Malik
Imam Malik by Kh. Jamil Ahmad
Wikipedia: Imam Muhammad ibn Idris ash-Shafi`i
Wikipedia: Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal

Monday, April 23, 2007

islam and the passion (for social justice)

On YouTube I found an excerpt from a Coversation between Cornel West and Toni Morrisson which touched on the political implications of Mel Gibson's Passion (among other things). I was also able to find a fuller transcript of the conversation from The Nation's website under the title Blues, Love and Politics. The aspect which I found most intriguing is the distinction West makes between being a "Prophetic Christian" and a "Constantinian Christian" and it made me wonder about whether a similar distinction could be applied to Islam.

MORRISON: [reading] "I am curious about the language of religion, which has become more pronounced in this Administration. Can you comment on the manipulation of religious belief and language for violent ends?"

WEST: That's one of the most dangerous features of our moment, there's no doubt about that. We live in a society in which 96 percent of our fellow citizens believe in God, and 72 percent believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, 71 percent believe that the Book of Revelation has an empirically verifiable potential and 71 percent believe in angels. I don't put that down, I'm a Christian myself, but I'm a different kind of Christian than a lot of these Christians.


WEST: [...] the other side of this thing is that here we are, living in the biggest empire since the Roman Empire. Now the underside of the Roman Empire is the cross; that's why political prisoners were put to death, those who had the courage to act against the powers that be. We're the legatees of Constantinian Christianity, after Christianity was incorporated into the Roman Empire and was the official religion of the Roman Empire, which went on persecuting Jews and others.

Now, you see, I'm a prophetic Christian, I'm not a Constantinian Christian. That's very important. Because I want to raise the question, well, if you're going to talk about Jesus, did you really talk about the empire that put him to death and what the connection is between that empire and the empire that we're a part of now, and what Jesus demands of us in this empire given what he was willing to sacrifice in his own imperial moment? And I say now, Gibson, what have you got to say? But, he says, no, I'm going to give you sadomasochistic voyeurism.

So does this distinction play itself out in Islam? If so, how are the lines drawn?

Some might be tempted to say that the so-called Progressive Muslims are perhaps the analogue of West's "Prophetic Christian" but ironically, a number of those who use this label (like Irshad Manji for instance) are only liberal when it comes to religious issues but are neocons in terms of their politics. And conversely, in the egalitarian face of islamic orthodoxy we have already seen some indication of how orthodox Islam is actually rather progressive, at least in terms of the economic aspects of social justice.

Some might be tempted to say that Sunni Islam is the "Imperial" Islam while Shiism is more the Islam of the persecuted powerless minority. But that would be a little bit too simple.

For example, for a while now I've been meaning to elaborate on the fact that each of the four great imams who established the foundations for orthodox Sunni law had spent some time in prison or otherwise punished by for principled disobedience to the state of their day.

And conversely, within Shiism, Ali Shariati makes the distinction between Red Shi'ism (the religion of martyrdom) vs. Black Shi'ism (the religion of mourning) each with their own attitudes towards monarchy and clerical power. Some Shias focus on Imam Hussein's noble sacrifices in the interests of justice while others, in a Gibson-esque way, choose to emphasize the blood and gore.

I feel like something more detailed should be said, but I think I'll just end up repeating a point I already tried to make clear in ideology and temperament; namely that if some Muslims have a greater concern for social justice than others, they will not be identified merely by ideological labels ("progresive" , "orthodox", "shia" etc.) but on the existential decisions individuals make in their everyday lives.

Other Grenada:
islam needs radicals
sushi revisited: part one
ali shariati

Friday, April 20, 2007

tales of the out and gone

Amiri Baraka is definitely a figure I would like to "wrestle" with more on Planet Grenada. He has contributed much to the world of letters as a major member of the Black Arts Movement. And as an individual he has gone through an interesting series of personal transformations from changing his name, becoming a Black Muslim, a cultural nationalist, a "Third World" Marxist, etc.

NPR: Interview with Amiri Baraka on the occasion of his latest novel, 'Tales of the Out and Gone'.

Planet Grenada:
amiri baraka

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"with liberty, and justice..."

liberty + justice

since when was blindness a good thing?

I know that justice and liberty are distinct, but the previous image of Bush as a vampire reminded me of the powerful Langston Hughes poem:

blind justice


That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

Many summers ago I was sitting on the porch of the house I was living in at the time, having a conversation with some folks about religion. One of the people there was an African-American Bahai and somehow the conversation turned to the question of why Islam seemed appealing to so many Black Americans. His answer, especially coming from a Bahai, really surprised me. He basically said that a history of oppression gave Black people a unique capacity to recognize the truth when we see it. I would question the narrow racialism implied by both examples, but would still suggest that even if it doesn't provide one with special race-based wisdom or insight, a collective history of oppression will at the very least give a person a low tolerance for bs.

Monday, April 16, 2007

death of liberty


robinson opened door for black hispanics

ESPN: Robinson opened door for black Hispanics by Enrique Rojas on how when Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947 he benefited Latinos/Afro-Latinos as well.

see also Grenada: latinos and baseball

Saturday, April 14, 2007

we want to talk right down to earth in a language that everybody here can easily understand

YouTube: Mos Def Reads Malcolm X's Message to the Grassroots as a part of Voices of a People's History of the United States. If you go to "when in the course of human events..." you can find a link to an old Grenada post on the same speech (which points to a page with Malcolm X's actual audio) under the title for the fourth of july.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

just another angry black muslim woman?

Say hello to: Just Another Angry Black Muslim Woman? a blog I recently "found" (although it is over a year old). I'm not sure what to make of the question mark. I really like the blog entires I've seen so far but then again, I don't think I've disliked any of the Black Muslim female blogs I've bumped into... and there aren't that many to begin with so another will still add something distinctive to the blogosphere. Anyway... enjoy.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

a philosophical view of easter

Today I picked my copy of The Cornel West Reader and reread one of the pieces called "A Philosophical View of Easter". In it, West engages in a rather sophisticated explanation of what he means when he says resurrection claims of Christianity are "true". He lays the foundations by giving a thoughtful critique of Hume and what he calls sentential reductionism ("the view that sentences have their evidence for or against their truth or falsity isolated from and independent of other sentences."). And then he questions the empirical foundations of modern science by pointing out that even things like electrons, magnetism and black holes cannot be perceived directly and are mere theoretical constructs which we only have indirect access to.

By the same token, for West, the truth or falsehood of Christianity isn't a matter of whether the tomb was empty the Sunday after the Crucifixion, but is also something indirect. As West puts it:
I am suggesting that the primary test for the "truth value" of particular Christian descriptions and their resurrection claim is their capacity to facilitate the existential appropriate of Jesus Christ. This means that any "true" Christian description makes the Reality of Jesus Christ available, that it promotes and encourages the putting of oneself on the line, going to the edge of life's abyss and finding out whether the Reality of Jesus Christ... can sustain and support, define and develop oneself in one's perennial struggle of becoming a fuller and more faithful self in Christ.

I think this alternative notion of truth is definitely interesting but it seems a bit of a cop out. I sympathize because I think I went through something similar in terms of my own path but in general, if you have to go through a great deal of mental gymnastics in order to justify a certain religious label to yourself, then maybe it is time to think about shopping for a different religious tradition? Just a thought.

Friday, April 06, 2007

the hare club for men

This week's episode of South Park was called Fantastic Easter Special which, while satirizing the Da Vinci Code, attempted to explain the connection between rabbits, eggs and the origins of the Christian Church. Are you ready for the secret?

Grenada and the Da Vinci Code:
holy blood, holy grail
jesus in india
juan cole on the da vinci code

Similarities between the Jesus story and several Pagan religions:
the world's sixteen crucified saviors

Wikipedia: EasterBunny

Thursday, April 05, 2007

radical equations

From the book, Radical Equations:
In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed. This means that we are going to have to learn to think in radical terms. I use the term radical in its original meaning - getting down to and understanding the root cause. It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system. That is easier said than done. But one of the things that has to be faced is, in the process of wanting to change that system, how much have we got to do to find out who we are, where we have come from and where we are going... I am saying as you must say, too, that in order to see where we are going, we not only must remember where we have been, but we must understand where we have been.
-Ella Baker