Monday, March 29, 2010

The IOU and Me

In early 2007, I had recently gotten married and was searching for authentic Islamic sources for my wife and I. I started watching PEACE TV and got interested in the lectures of Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips.

I also had the habit of buying any book I found written by Ibn Taymiyyah (RA. During this time I came across a book called "Ibn Taymiyyah's essay on the Jinn" translated and edited by Dr Abu Amueenah Bilal Philips. On the back cover of the book was a link to the Islamic Online University (IOU).

I joined the IOU that week (its free!) and took up the only available course "The dawah training course" as the website had recently opened up. That was a new beginning for me. Through modules consisting of PDF notes, audio and video lectures and MCQ (multiple choice question) tests, as well as assignments, I began to re-study Islam and change many of my opinions.

During this time, I started talking to Dr Bilal Philips about many of our differences and my doubts in his content. He was the first teacher who could answer my questions in a manner that satisfied my intellect and never stopped me from asking questions or questioning his opinions and I developed a deep admiration for him. That year in November, I journeyed to Mumbai, India for the first time to attend the Peace Conference and meet this amazing man.

The conference was amazing and I met many other amazing people before I got to meet the Shaykh, including Shaykh Salem Al-Amry, Zain Bhikha, Yusuf Estes, Iesa Washington and Musa Cerantonio amongst others. Finally, on the eight night of the conference I managed to sneak past the guards long enough to greet and introduce myself to Dr Bilal, he then told them to let me into the VIP area and I had the honor that night of dining with the Shuyukh and meeting Dr Zakir Naik! I sat with Dr Bilal Philips and Shaykh Hussein Yee and had dinner with them. Two nights later, I once again had dinner in the VIP area with Dr Bilal Philips.

During this trip, I bought at least ten books written by Dr Bilal and read all of them, including Fundamentals of Tawheed, Evolution of Fiqh and Tafseer Surah Hujarat. It was one of the most memorable and life-changing journeys of my life.

Since 2007, gradualy the IOU introduced more free courses and I did as many as I could. As of now, I have completed almost ten courses through the IOU including Foundations of Islamic Studies, Usool Tafseer, Usool Hadith, Fiqh of Fasting to name a few. I owe a lot of my knowledge to Dr Bilal Philips and his IOU and I ask Allah to reward them all greatly.

My relationship with the IOU did not stop there however, as the university grew, they needed more staff, in 2008 I found myself taking up a voluntary post to assist in facilitating the courses. The university grew so fast that today, there are over 13000 students studying the free short courses on the IOU, Alhamdulillah.

In 2009, I went to India once again, this time to Chennai to teach in a new school that Dr Bilal Philips had founded, the Al-Fajr International School. I stayed in India for two months before returning. Even though I enjoyed the job and loved the children I met there, and really appreciated the time I spent in Dr Bilal's company, I found the living conditions in Chennai difficult for myself and my family so I returned to South Africa.

In 2010, a new chapter begins in the IOU. Dr Bilal Philips has introduced the first ever tution-free BA in Islamic Studies course online. Alhamdulillah, he has hired me as a Tutorial Assistant for this course, I will be assisting and tutoring the students in the fields of Arabic, Fiqh and Aqeedah. It is an exciting new initiative and I am grateful to Allah for allowing me to be part of something so big and important.

As of today, close to 800 students have registered for the first semester in the IOU's BAIS program. I ask Allah to make the IOU a great success, to use it to change the lives of millions and revive the correct understanding of His deen, to reward Dr Bilal for all his hard work, as well as all those involved in this and all other important Islamic projects.

Few points about Hijab

Hijab is a topic people shy away from and don't want to talk about, out of fear of being unpopular. The only topic more controversial to talk about to women than Hijab is polygamy, but that is for another article.

Anyway, here are a few short pointers on Hijab:

1) Hijab is compulsory for both men and women in front of members of the opposite gender whom they can marry. (that includes your cousins)

2) Area of Hijab for women, minimum is to cover everything except their face and hands. (yes, some scholars say face as well, but I'm talking minimum, agreed upon, etc)

3) Area of Hijab for men is whatever is between their navel and their knees (not including navel or knees), men are also prohibited from wearing pure silk, jewelry (except a ring) and shaving their beards

4) Both men and women must lower their gaze if they feel desire when they see a member of the opposite sex.

5) Both men and women must NOT wear tight-fitting or transparent clothing

6) Both men and women must NOT wear sexually attractive clothing or talk, act in a sexy manner

7) That is between people you can marry. In front of your brothers, father, other women, etc, a woman only has to cover from her bosom to her knees

8) Between husband and wife, all the above rules do not apply, its No-Holds-barred!..except two but thats a different topic.

9) The above rules apply on Facebook as well, in your profile and album pics

10) Many women find wearing Hijab difficult, try your best, do it for Allah and don't worry about what people say.

11) Your hijab is NOT hijab if: 1) You backbite people who don't wear it
2) You beautify your face and Hijab enough to turn men's heads
3) You are a muscled up guy wearing a tight fitting shirt
4) Your hair, neck or bra straps are showing!
5) You flirt around despite wearing hijab

12) Lowering your gaze is difficult, let us make it easy for each other by dressing appropriately.

13) If you fulfill the above conditions and the opposite sex still gazes at you with lust, you have done your duty, they must learn to do theirs, which is lower their gaze (I know men who look at Niqabis' eyes and how beautiful they are)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dawah: You missed a spot!

A few days ago, I was in a bookstore doing some research and I overheard some guys discussing the existence of God. It was clear that one was an atheist and the other was a struggling Christian.

“Do you believe in God or not?” demanded the atheist customer, “and which book do you recommend to prove that God does not exist?”

“I can’t recommend a book since I don’t exactly not believe in God,” the Christian salesman stammered, “I can’t say that I believe in God or not, although I believe much of what is in the Bible.”

The two men went back and forth with the atheist pressuring the salesman into taking a stance, meanwhile, I went back to reading my book. Then an elderly lady came and took a book from the table in front of me, I offered her my seat but she declined but commented that she liked my thobe (she didn’t use that word, just said that shirt thing you’re wearing) and asked me where I got it from. I told her I got it from Dubai, she then went on her way and I returned to my book.

After I had finished reading, while I was driving home, my heart was suddenly filled with regret. “You missed a spot!” I told myself, two good Dawah opportunities presented themselves to me but I did not take advantage of them because I was too busy with my book!

How many times do we pass by these opportunities to share our views and beliefs with others? Generally, I try my best never to miss a Dawah opportunity. If I am sitting on a train, bus or aeroplane, then you should expect the person seated next to me to receive a dose of Dawah.

Islam is a universal message and as carriers of this message, we are duty-bound to share the message of Islam with everyone we meet. If the right occasion presents itself to you, do not hesitate to share the message of Islam with anyone. Do not repeat my mistake, seize every opportunity and spread the word of Islam!

Crossposted from Muslim Matters

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just an update - IOU, Muslim Matters and more

I haven't updated my blog in a while because I have been very busy with the Islamic Online University (IOU) setting up their BAIS program which I am officially a Tutorial Assistant in. I would like to thank Dr Bilal Philips for this opportunity to be a part of this incrediblely creative method of imparting Islamic knowledge. If you don't know what the IOU is, check it out! Over fifteen free short courses in different Islamic topics and know the Full BAIS online tution free. Please check it out and do not let this opportunity to gain Islamic knowledge pass you by.

I am also very busy with Deenclass Durban, currently serving as a substitute Arabic teacher but will soon insha Allah have my own Arabic classes as well as monthly Youth workshop so stay tuned for that!

As of late I have been posting most of my articles on Muslim since they receive a much larger readership than this blog. So for now I won't be posting many articles here unless I find an article of mine too controversial for a big blog. ;)

Here is a nice article to read by MJ Khan about the arrivals about which I said in my latest Jumah lecture, "The Arrivals is a bunch of crap and we should not waste our time with it as we have more important things to learn from"

My Radio lecture series (Friday 9am - radio Al-Ansar)is going extremely well, I don't have it up online but you can download or listen to the youth program we had on Radio Al-Ansar with myself, MJ Khan, Fatima Asmal, Zain Bhikha, Baba Ali and more here.