Saturday, December 25, 2010

AMIK's Christmas Special

Note: The Following is a fictional story which should serve as a framework for a little Christmas Dawah

Twas the night before Christmas, all was still

Down the road came my good friend Bill

And I will not rhyme anymore as it is hurting my head trying to think up a way to make the entire conversation rhyme!

Bill: Merry Christmas, Ismail.

Me: How are you, Bill?

Bill: I am fine on this festive eve, will you not wish me Merry Christmas

Me: Sorry my friend, I do not believe in Christmas. Can I ask you a question though?

Bill: Go ahead

Me: Why do you celebrate Christmas? What is so special about this day?

Bill: It is the day our Lord and Savior Jesus was born?

Me: before we get into the Lord issue, you sure he was born on this day?

Bill: Yes, why do you ask?

Me: Because according to Biblical data, he was born in Summer.

Bill: It is Summer

Me: Not in the Nothern hemisphere

Bill: Oh yeah, you are right about that, you sure about this?

Me: Yes, researchers point out that Jesus was born in May, but you do not need to take my word for it, just google it

Bill: I will, but then how did 25 December become known as Christmas day?

Me: Historians differ over the exact reason, they do agree that it is on this day the sun reversed its southward retreat and due to that some ancient pagan religions used to worship the birth of the Sun-God on this day. Some argue that over time, it became known as the day the Son of God was born, but others regard it as an unrelated coincidence.

Bill: Very interesting, so if people know this, why is Christmas still such a big deal?

Me: Because it has been commercialized. It is the time of the year in which businesses make the most money and in order to keep this up, they need to keep Christmas special. This is why a lot of money is spend on Christmas movies, special tv shows, decorations and that annoying jingle bells song that plays in all the shops. ;)

Bill: Haha, the song is annoying but Christmas is such a beautiful time of the year in which families gather and enjoy the festive spirirt.

Me: Sadly, it is also the time of the year in which the most car accidents, intoxication and fornication occur.

Bill: That is true, so.....don't you Mozlems celebrate any holidays at all?

Me: We celebrate the two Eids, which are the Day of Ramadan and the third day of the Hajj

Bill: oh yes, you did tell me about fasting in Ramadan and the Hajj before. Thats the journey Malcolm X made, right?

Me: The same one. :)

Bill: Well that was educational, but I'm curious now as to why you know so much about Jesus

Me: Well, we Muslims believe that Jesus was the prophet of God who came with the same message as Muhammad, Moses, Abraham and all the other prophets, which is that we should worship God alone. Sadly, over time pagan beliefs crept into Christianity, most dominantly is the belief in a begotten son a God which we regard as blasphemous. In order to find out when and how the followers of Jesus started worshipping him, I studied the history of Christianity and the Bible.

Bill: And that is how you discovered all this, very impressive. You know, we have been friends for a while but I we never got down to discussing our religious differences before. Today has been quite interesting, but now I need to get going. Maybe I'll research the history of your religion and bring you some facts that you did not know next time. ;)

Me: Please go ahead and do so, although I studied my own religion's history before studying others. In fact, here are some DVDs and books to get you started.

Bill: Thank you, Ismail. I won't say Merry Christmas to you again, so......happy holidays!

Me: Enjoy your holidays too, hope you find it spiritually uplifting. May God guide us both to what pleases him.

Bill: Amen

Inshaa Allah, such conversations could open the door to Bill becoming Bilal. Or we could just avoid the whole conversation, wish him Merry Christmas and let him continue living a life involved in Shirk while we face the consequences for avoiding our duty of Dawah.

Allah knows best.

Did you understand the affair of Tawheed?

Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah would teach this book from cover to cover. And once he would finish the book, he would go back to the beginning and he would start it all over again. And when this happened on a number of occasions, his students asked that another book be started, that they had learned this affair of at-Tawheed. They wanted to continue on to another affair.

The shaikh, willing to test them and their understanding, set up a test for them. And he said to them that on such and such day there will be no dars (lesson) because he had to travel to see someone who had fornicated with his own mother. And his students were astonished and surprised. That was clear by the voices they made.

When [the shaikh] returned, the students asked as to what happened to this individual. Shaikhul-Islaam said it was not as he had explained - that he had commited fornication with his own mother - but rather a man was commiting shirk by slaughtering a small animal in the name of other than Allaah.

When he explained this, the astonishment from his students left them. They were no longer astonished. So the astonishment that was present when they heard a man was commiting fornication with his own mother was great. But when they heard of someone commiting shirk with a small animal, the astonishment was absent, as though this action [shirk] was less serious than the former action [fornication with his mother].

Shaikhul-Islaam, through this test, knew that his students did not understand this affair of at-Tawheed, and he began the book all over again.

This story was taken from here.

Lesson: Shirk is the greatest and the only unforgivable sin if you die upon it. Let us not treat it lightly. Too often we Muslims are guilty of getting upset if we see homosexuality, intoxication or immorality, yet we don't show the same level of anger at acts of Shirk. This shows that we have not yet realized how severe a sin it is.

Remember, in general sins,we are either oppressing ourselves or other people, but with Shirk we are giving Allah's rights to other than Allah, and what can be a greater sin than that!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Of Wa-Hubbies and Conspiracies

There seems to be an obsession with conspiracy theories among young Muslims these days. For some strange reason, Muslims seem to look for secret messages in almost everything. From cartoons to people's names, nothing is innocent and all seem to be part of a secret plot of some underworld organization.

From an Islamic perspective, it is not proper for Muslims to dwell on conspiracy theories. Islam teaches us to focus our efforts on Ilm-Naafi - knowledge that benefits us and not to get involved in Laghw - useless discussions. For the most part, conspiracy theories are useless discussions in which we can not prove the conspiracy to be true or not, and even if you can, the information gained can seldom help you gain closeness to Allah or benefit you in anyway. Conspiracy theories in general fall into the category of Laghw and waste precious time that could be spent in more beneficial activities.

I have identified a few reasons why Muslims seem to be obsessed with conspiracy theories:

1. To find somebody else to blame for our mistakes:

Some Muslims don't want to accept the fact that we are in the situation we are in because of our disobedience of Allah or deviation from the straight path. Such Muslims tend to look for a scapegoat to blame for their mistakes, and conspiracy theories provide enough of these. If you look at the people who tend to be obsessed with conspiracy theories, many of them are generally not knowledgable or practicing Muslims. It is not uncommon to find Muslims discussing how the Jews or Illuminati are cause of all their problems, yet missing a salah due to the discussion.

Solution: The Qur'an does not teach us to blame others for our problems. It teaches us to strive to please Allah and then He will assist us in solving our problems. So it would be better to utilize our time to watch Islamic lectures instead of a conspiracy documentary, and to pray and strive to implement our knowledge than to sit around discussing who was behind an earthquake or flood and how they caused it.

2. Boredom, not utilizing time properly

Many Muslims try to find ways to kill time. As if time needs killing. You'd think with all the problems in our lives, our own sins and weaknesses, we'd have a lot more important things to do than kill time. Sadly many Muslims suffer from boredom and thus browse YouTube for something to kill time. It is during these moments in which they wanted to kill ten minutes, that they discover a conspiracy theory video which ends up eating up hours and sometimes days of their lives as they watch, rewatch, discuss and obsess over it.

Solution: Utilize your time properly and wisely. There is so much that we need to do that we really should not have time to kill. If you are bored and decide to surf YouTube, you rather spend your time watching Islamic lectures or if you need to relax, a
Nasheed video. Just don't give Shaytaan a chance to trap you into an obsession that can waste hours of precious time.

3. lack of understanding of the religion

Some Muslims are sincere and trying to practice their religion, but due to ignorance they mistake conspiracy theory videos for Islamic videos. I often find Islamic DVD stalls stocked with almost only conspiracy theory videos, most of them by Non-Muslims too. This shows a lack of understanding as to what is Islamic knowledge and also what is beneficial knowledge.

Solution: Consult scholars and learn from them what constitutes beneficial knowledge. Oh, and make sure the islamic DVDs you buy are really Islamic.

I am sure there are many other reasons why Muslims love conspiracy theories, maybe someone else can help me understand this obsession.

Some of these conspiracy theories can be very funny, take a look at the following examples:

1. Coca Cola backwards is Laa Muhammad, Laa Makkah which means No Muhamammad, No Makkah.

This one circulates a lot via email and it seems that many Muslims seem to believe it. (Why else would they forward the email) yet it is extremely illogical. Why would someone when naming a Soft Drink, try and decide what is No Muhammad, No Makkah backwards with the backwards word being Arabic and the forward word being English? Furthermore, even if you squint and twist the letters, you still can't see it. The closest you get is maybe Li Muhammad, Li Makkah, meaning for Muhammad, For Makkah, which makes me wonder why conspiracy theories are never pro-Muslim or positive?

Looking at words backwards to find secret messages can be very dangerous as then one can find hidden messages in good words like god and live. In fact, one can even deduce that Godzilla is a Muslim's pet as Godzilla backwards is Alliz dog.

2. Zakumi is named after a tree in Hell

Before the World Cup occurred, I heard during a Jumah lecture that one of the reasons the World Cup is Haraam is because its mascot is named after a tree in Hellfire, Shajaratuz-Zaqqum. Firstly, Zaqqum and Zakumi are not the same word. Secondly, nobody names their mascot after a tree in Hell in any language, I doubt the people who named him even know Arabic or what Zaqqum is. Finally, Zakumi means SA2010, that is all it means, No hidden messages, no hidden agendas.....except to sell more Wolrd Cup merchandise.

3. Pokemon means Poke Imaan

Firstly, Pokemon means pocket monsters. Secondly, what does poke Imaan mean? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? and finally how do you poke Imaan if it does not have a Facebook account?

Can splitting a name really expose hidden messages? If thats the case, let us look at the word Wahhabi and I'll so you how easy it is to invent a conspiracy theory and get caught up in it. Note the following is fictional humor:

Wahhabi is actually two words Wa and Hubby, Wa is the Arabic for 'and' while hubby is English slang for husband, so wahhabies actualy means 'and husbands' this is because the Wahabbi movement is actually a cover for polygamous Muslim men wanting to take multiple wives. This also explains why many Westerners dislike wa-hubbies, because they are anti-polygamy!

So what do we learn from this? Lets not waste our lives looking at words backwards, or splitting names to find secret messages. Let us focus our brain power on learning, understanding and implementing Islam our lives. This will be more beneficial for us in this world and the Afterlife.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: A Way of Life

Zain Bhikha is a household name in my family so it is no surprise that I bought a copy of his latest CD as soon as it was released. By 'as soon as', I mean I went to the Al-Ansar bookstore and asked them if they have the new CD, they said they did not know it was out. Two days later I walked into the shop and they took out a copy for me as soon as they saw me. It had just arrived. :)

So now after a month of listening to it, I decided to do a little review for those who are not sure if they should purchase it.

The CD is entitled "A Way of Life" after the first track which is a new version of the Golden Oldie from Zain's ancient album "Children of Heaven". New versions of old songs is the common theme in this CD and it was much needed, these old songs have great messages yet I noticed that when the new generation listens to them, they find it too slow and the tunes outdated.

Clearly, Zain realized this too and over the past three CDs, he has taken some of his best old songs and made them relevant again. "A Way of Life" offers 14 songs, 11 with drum versions as well, making it altogether 25 tracks. Compared to "1415: The beginning" which featured mostly mature themed songs aimed at the youth, "A Way of life" is clearly aimed primarily at children.

Here is my review of the songs:

1) A Way of Life: 5 Stars

The new version of A Way of Life is faster and sung by some children (as are many of the tracks on this CD). I like the fact that Zain is using more children in his CDs, my kids love listening to songs sung by other children and so do we as it has a unique innocence to it that makes it more enjoyable.

2) 25 Prophets: 5 Stars

I prefer the drum version of this song, but either way it is a brilliant new song which makes it so easy for children to memorize the names of 25 prophets (No Yusha though) and has a very nice tone. I heard this song before at the Peace Conference in Mumbai 2007 and in "Enjoying Islam with Zain and Dawud" on PEACE TV. Great educational track.

3) When I Grow Up: 4 Stars

This song is definitely for kids by kids. Some cute children sing about what they will be when they grow up (teacher, Doctor, Mummy and most importantly, the best Muslims they can be), children will love this song as will parents, the youth might skip it though as they won't find it relevant to themselves unless they love kids.

4) Although I never saw his face: 4 Stars

This song starts of slow, and sounds like the old version at first, then it picks up speed and is really a very beautiful song describing the Prophet (pbuh). Once you get passed the slow start, it is a beautiful moving song which increases your love for the prophet (pbuh).

5) Turn to Allah: 4 Stars

Another old classic from Yusuf Islam's "A is for Allah" album, the new version is sung by children and sounds beautiful. Another fun song for kids.

6) Muslim School Anthem: 5 Stars

A reworking of "Children of Heaven"s song "Pretoria Muslim School Anthem", the new version is edited to not be restricted to any specific school and contains general lyrics sung very beautifully by a young girl. My favortie track on this CD, even though it is one of the only tracks without a drum version.

7) Give thanks to Allah: 4 Stars

A new version of a song so old that many people did not know Zain Bhikha sung it and a rumor went around that Michael Jackson converted to Islam and recorded it, which I find hilarious. This new version is fun but very short, I think its the shortest track on the CD.

8) I am a Muslim: 5 Stars

Another golden oldie now sung by little kids. It is one of my favorite tracks on this CD and I love the fact that Zain changed the wording of the final segment about death. The old version had him singing about death as if his time was up, the new version has the kids singing about death occuring someday and we know not when Allah will call us home. A good change that made this song even better.

9) Welcome O Ramadaan: 3 Stars

The second song not to have a drum version, but honestly I can not make up any real difference between this and the old version except the sound quality. Not that the old version is bad, it is still a beautiful song that we hear every Ramadaan, it is just the only song which I can't really hear any significant change in.

10) Eid-un Sa-Eid: 5 Stars

One of the best new versions of an old song on this CD, especially the drum version. This was already one of his most famous songs, but this new version is awesome, it is faster paced, features children singing joyfully with Zain and just creates a great atmosphere for Eid. The video is beautiful too, watch it here.

11) Salaamun Salaam: 5 Stars

The third track not to have a drum version and it does not need one. This is a very famous song, the PEACE TV theme song. This song is so old I can not recall which album it is from, I think it was sung by Zain on the "A is for Allah" album by Yusuf Islam. Anyway, this version is a bit faster, better quality with a beautiful chorus of children singing in the background.

12) Which of Allah's favors can we deny: 4 stars

Another old song recorded again with better quality and a faster tune. Really nice track with a great message.

13) Forever: 5 Stars

This is definitely going to be the hit track of this CD, expect to hear it all the time on Radio. It is a touching love song about the love between parents and their children sung beautifully by Zain and his young son Muhammad. The video too is very beautiful, watch is here.

14) Spread the word: 5 Stars

A new faster version of the song from the "Our World" album. I love this new version even more than the old one. It has a nice tune to it and a beautiful message about the importance of Dawah.

Overall: 9 out of 10

This is a great addition to any Nasheed collection for parents and children. However those who were hoping for another mature themed album like 1415 might be disappointed as this CD is clearly aimed at children. I like the fact that Zain is producing CDs for both the youth and children. For me, this is my favorite CD of his after 1415: The Beginning, and it is the only CD of his in which I love all the tracks and don't skip any of them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I'm back...inshaa Allah

After many months of being too busy or having writer's block. I am back inshaa Allah.

Having just completed the Hajj and read many new books, etc. I have a lot to digest and share, so inshaa Allah over the next few months expect a overload of articles by me, here and on Muslim Matters.

My Hajj reflections will be covered exclusively on Muslim Matters in a four or five part series. While my other random stuff will be posted here.

So stay tuned!