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Quranic word of the day: 1. Al-Fatihah

Word: Al-Fatihah

Pronounciation: Ul-Faah*-Tih-Huh

Translation: 'The First One' or 'The Beginning'.

Explanation: Al-Fatihah is the name of the first chapter of the Quran (this chapter has many other names though). Imam Bukhari** (r) says this chapter is called 'The Beginning' because Allah (aw) has placed it at the beginning of the Quran and the beginning of all prayers.

*Bold text indicates stressed syllable.

**As mentioned in Tafsir Ibn Kathir.

Muslim. Humble. Thankful (poem)

I am a native of Kashan
My days are not so bad.
I own a loaf of bread, a bit of intelligence, a tiny bit of taste.
I possess a mother better than the leaves of trees.
Friends, better than the water of a running brook.

And a God who is this near:
Within these carnations, beneath that tall pine tree,
Hovering above the awareness of water, above the Law of Foliage.

Poem by Sohrab Sepehri.

Photo by Hamed Masoumi.

Islam's message, written in our blood

"A message written in our blood is one that people read." -Muhammad Qutb in his book, How Do We Call People?, in regards to courage in the face of oppression.

He mentions how the early Muslims in Makkah called people to Islam but never fought back when they were attacked, tortured and even murdered.

Photo by nyki m.

Sohrab's poem about the empty train of politics

I saw things on the face of Earth:

I saw a child, that was smelling the Moon.
I saw a door-less cage in which, brilliance was flapping its wings.
I saw a ladder on which, love ascended to the roof of heaven.
I saw a woman, who was pounding light in a mortar.
Lunch on their table was bread, was vegetables, was the distance of dew, was the hot bowl of affection.

I saw a lamb, that was eating a kite.
I saw a donkey, who understood hay.
In the meadow of 'advice' I saw a cow, satiated.

I saw a train, that was carrying brilliance.
I saw a train, that was carrying knowledge and so torrential it went.
I saw a train, that was carrying politics (and so empty it went.)
I saw a train, that was carrying seeds of lotus and the song of canaries.

And an air plane, which on that height of thousands of feet,
the soil through its windows was visible:
the topknot of hoopoes,
The spots on butterfly's wings,
The reflection of a frog in a pond


From The Footsteps of Water by Sohrab Sepehri, a Shi'i Muslim Iranian poet*. It is a reply to people who take life and facts too seriously. He calls for people to be humble and to respect and love nature.

*quranclub is a Sunni blog, but we respect and admire inspiration regardless of the source.

Michael Jackson died Muslim

According to the British newspaper, the Telegraph, Michael Jackson took Shahada in Los Angeles before he died.


Sayyid Qutb on eating

"I never ate a good meal without thinking I was stealing it from those who have nothing to eat." -Sayyid Qutb, Arab literary critic, social and political reformer, and Muslim da'ee.

Photo: Sayyid Qutb in prison.

Discussing French Niqab ban with a Jewish friend

Due to the recent press the country of France is giving the Burqa (they make no distinction between the face veil or niqab and the burqa, a long garment that covers a woman's entire body including the face), and Muslim women in general, many of my non-Muslim friends are wondering what American Muslims think about it all.

Below is a conversation about this topic that I had with a Jewish friend of mine. I believe she was coming from a sincere place, but at the same time, her assumptions are unfair.

Friend: What do you think of this? I see that you do not wear a burqa, do you feel they are oppressive at all? http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_france_sarkozy_burqa

Me: I heard about this and was saddened. It's unfair and unnecessary. If France can find no one intimidating these women into wearing the burqa, why can't they accept that it's their decision? Why would the burqa be oppressive? Because it's black (sometimes)? So I guess only the "little black dress" is ok (read: non-oppressive) for women to wear? It's nonsensical to think that grown women, every where, won't decide what they can and will wear and not wear. Would a feminist dare tell another woman what she should be wearing and why? These ladies cover their bodies & faces to be protected, to be modest, to be an observer, to please God. And for a few other reasons, I'm sure.

If you think about it, why on Earth would the burqa be oppressive at all? Muslim women who cover their faces do not put themselves in positions where they'd be at a disadvantage, where they'd be potentially oppressed. There are no burka'ed women in pie eating contests, there are no burka'ed women in lipstick commercials, etc. you get the gist. These are the only types of situation where the burqa might be seen as a hindrance.

Is fabric oppressive?

When people ask about the burqa possibly being oppressive, it almost doesn't make sense to me. Where's the oppressor? Are the questioners really trying to get at a Muslim women's father or husband or brother who they believe forces her to wear a burqa? Are they asking her to name her oppressor? Or do they think that Muslim women choose to oppress themselves?
In some ways, covering one's face during daily (public) activities is a challenge in Western countries, but obviously the benefits outweigh the negatives for these women or else it wouldn't happen this often and this consistently. All the niqabs/hijab outfits I've worn have allowed me to see clearly, speak clearly, and hear clearly. And if my attire is coupled with a belief and strong desire to please God, there is no oppression present. Just success and a private joy at doing something so that God may be pleased with me.

I just re-read my first note and think there will be some misunderstanding about my "to be an observer" comment. To me, it's a good thing to be an Observer of Life; it means you are Conscious and Aware (just ask Eckhart Tolle) though I know there is a negative connotation of that phrase floating around in lingo. To be an observer, in this sense, ... Read Moremeans you are not objectified because of your beauty or sexuality. You are up in the mix with the added bonus of not being preyed upon or taken advantage of (by anyone). It's almost like you get a chance to watch life unfold as if lust, jealousy, and greed were not tangible things in the world, they were simply ideas muffled and blurry on shelves somewhere. Awesome. :)

Friend:
It wasn't the fabric or the color. I understand wearing clothes that are not form fitting and covering a woman's hair. Judaism has these same beliefs. We also don't wear bright colors or things that would attract attention if we walked into a room. There is no need for gaudiness when a woman respects herself. However, I do believe a woman should be allowed to express herself through her outside appearance, which includes her beauty. A burqa covers everything. Not to mention, black is just hot to wear in the heat, which is why many people would choose to wear lighter colors in the summer.

In your picture it looks like you are expressing yourself through your purple shirt and blue hijab. Do you feel like you are not being modest by showing your face and using color to express your likes and feelings? Yes, we as women have a lot of power over the way men feel and it is our obligation to aid them in leading a G-d fearing lifestyle, but they need to take some responsibility as well.

Me:
Friend, you are making a key assumption here. The main reason any Muslima covers her body is because: God Said So. All other reasons/explanations are secondary to that. You said 'men should take some responsibility' which is true and Islam incorporates that, but it's almost irrelevant because the main reason a women covers is not in order for men to be less tempted.
In answer to your question about my clothes in the picture, I am being modest, yes, because the fabric that covers all of my body (excluding face, hands, and sometimes feet) is loose and opaque as Quran and sunnah dictate.

Colors really are not the issue here, or else most of the Muslims indigent to the African continent and the Indian subcontinent would be in quite the pickle. One reason why Islam works for millions of people and hundreds of cultures is because it allows for diversity and expression. Neither color nor fabric nor style is designated by Islam. The condition for attire is to be loose, opaque,
and not excessive (as if to show off wealth). Here's something interesting: It is completely OK for a Muslim woman to look neat, presentable, clean, and thus, attractive. If God wanted women to look atrocious maybe he would have mandated that women forgo brushing their teeth and that they create puffiness under their eyes. He didn't do this though, instead in His wisdom, He gave open guidelines. Wearing a burqa or covering the face is something that is optional. It's giving more than what's required, going the extra mile, and if it's done for any other reason than the Creator, than it is done in vain. I pray that Allah reward these women immensely for their choice; I advocate for women to do what they think is right and good.

I agree, along with burka'ed women, that a women should be able to express herself, the only difference is the notion of a proper time and place for such (physical) expression. It is OK if you don't agree; bigotry and prejudice occur only when a person negatively labels
and/or bashes a person who's beliefs they don't agree with for one reason or another.

AND!, though a Muslim women's dress is outlined by God, there is extreme emphasis in the Quran on a _man's behavior_; not just guidelines, but straight up commands. The concept of "lowering your gaze" is often more strictly enforced on men then covering is for women in Islam and in Muslim communities. It's just the media that makes Americans think otherwise.

The 'lower your gaze' verse I like best can be found here: Chapter 24, Verse 30, "Tell the believing men to lower their gaze (a command) and to be mindful of their chastity (another command): [36] this will be most con­ducive to their purity – verily, God is aware of all that they do (a warning)."
In Islam men are not suppose to oggle women, covered or otherwise. They are not even supposed to approach a woman to make unnecessary small talk if he is not related to her.

I hope that cleared some things up. I had more to say but wow, I've said so much already...lol


She hasn't replied yet. Maybe she will, maybe she won't.

Sheikh ibn Taymiyyah Man of God (part 2) by Dr. Ahmed al-Raysoni

Even though Ibn Taymiyyah reached lofty heights regarding his knowledge and acts of devotion, he remained humble; demolishing his self worth, denying himself [any status].

Ibn al-Qayyim said, “Many a times Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah would say, ‘I am nothing, and nothing [good] has come from me.’ If any one praised him to his face he would say, ‘By Allāh until now I am renewing my Islām at every moment and I have failed to enter into Islām properly.’

He used to sing, “I am poor, the son of a poor man. And that was the state of my father and grandfather.’”

Ibn al-Qayyim said, “I heard the Sheikh of Islām, Allāh sanctify his soul, say, “The one cognizant of Allāh does not assume he has a right over anyone, nor does he fancy himself better than others. For that reason, he does not ask others, does not burden them, nor does he harm others.’”

[Source and the rest of the article at: Suhaib Webb]

Volcanic blast makes a hole in the clouds

Volcanoes have always interested me. Not just because they look awesome, but also because they remind me of Allah AW's limitless power.

The picture is a recent one published by NASA of the Sarychev Peak Eruption that happened on June 12, 2009 in Japan Russia. Click picture to enlarge.

Kindness

"You forgave people's rudeness, even though you could easily retaliate, because you wanted it to be absolution for your sins on the Day of Judgment."*

*From The Life and Death of Sayyid Qutb by Salah Abdulfatah Al-Khalidi. Sayyid Qutb dedicated one of his books, The Signs of Qiyamah in the Quran, to his father, and wrote that about him.

Allah AW's absolute power

God is kind because He chose to be, not because we humans deserve it:

'Surely, in disbelief are they who say that God is the Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary) . Say (O Muhammad): "Who then has the least power against God, if He were to destroy the Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), his mother, and all those who are on the earth together?" And to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them. He creates what He wills. And God is Able to do all things.' [Quran, 5:17]

Look up a word in 5 of the best Arabic language dictionaries using one box

I have been using Baheth.info for months as my main tool for looking up Arabic words. It looks up words in these dictionaries: Lisaan Al-Arab (لسان العرب), Maqayees Al-Lugha (مقاييس اللغة), As-Sahah Fil Lugha (الصحاح في اللغة), Al-Qamoos Al-Muheet (القاموس المحيط) and Al-'Abab Az-Zakhir (العباب الزاخر).

Arabic dictionaries work differently from English ones. They need getting used to. It is normal to get a 50-page result by searching for a single word. Most complex words do not have their own entries. If you want to find the meaning of the word Mahmood, you'll find it explained in the entry for Hamd, which is the base word. Baheth.info makes a good job of highlighting the search word, making Arabic word lookup easier than ever.

One thing I like about Arabic dictionaries (except for the Munjid dictionary that was written by Christians) is that they refer to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah in most of their entries. This is not due to religious bias. The Quran's writing defines good Arabic writing. Arabic linguists have considered the Quran their reference point since linguistics became a science, which I heard happened a century after revelation.

One of the amazing things about Baheth.info is that the user can type in Latin characters (i.e. use an English keyboard). The box will suggest the Arabic spelling. For example writing ilm returns a suggestion for the word 'علم' in Arabic.



It also has its own Arabic keyboard that the user can access by clicking the keyboard icon in the above picture.

Fee qalbee, a blog about memorizing the Quran

Fee qalbee, which means 'in my heart' in Arabic, is a new blog with a lot of useful advice on memorizing the Holy Quran.

I looked at some of their articles and mashAllah, it was obvious that the content came from a Quran memorization pro.

This is what their about page says:
Fee Qalbee’ : A unique blog that seeks to inspire muslim women to memorise Al Qur’aan. Utilising textual, audio & visual information, our aim is to instill the love & ambition within each muslimah to make tahfeedhul Qur’aan an integral part of her spiritual quest to gain His Divine Pleasure.

In addition to this, we seek to provide a global support network for muslimahs worldwide, to share their experiences, challenges, memories & advice on memorizing Al Qur’aan.
The blog is maintained by someone who goes by the name Rayhaanah and describes herself as "Haafidhah. Student of Knowledge. Mentor. Teacher. Motivational speaker."

Photo by Capture Queen.

Alawfa.com, a Quran search engine

Today while looking for a Quran search engine I found Alawfa.com. It is an Arabic search engine for the Quran, hadith and Islamic sciences.

It is not very developed as it doesn't highlight the search word in the results.

If your computer can't type in Arabic use Arabic-Keyboard.org's keyboard to type with your curser. After which you can copy the text and paste it into Alawfa.com's search box.

The best way to lose weight, according to Prophet Muhammad's advice

If you are Muslim and you are able, it is worth it to give the Quranic diet a try

If you want to lose weight, go on a Quranic diet. Which means get most of your calories from meat, dairy, and fruit. Use olive oil and honey. Avoid sugar, white flour, and other processed foods. Don't eat grains or nuts if you can avoid them, because these are mentioned very little in the Quran. Meat is mentioned 100 times, while grains are mentioned only 7 times.

The Quranic diet is very similar to the recently popular paleolithic diet. It focuses on natural hunter-gatherer foods, the foods that our earliest ancestors enjoyed, which is mostly meat and fruit.

According to Why We Get Fat, the most scientific nutrition book written in recent history, the most important reason why people get fat is because of eating foods containing sugar and flour. The reason is that while humans cannot eat too much meat (because eating too much meat triggers human disgust responses), they can eat a lot more than they need of simple carbohydrates like sugar and flour because they do not trigger disgust responses.

Additionally, when we eat too much fat and protein, our bodies have mechanisms for throwing the unnecessary amounts we eat out. But our bodies have no such mechanism for getting rid of extra carbohydrates. When we eat too much carbohydrates, they get stored in our bodies as fat. They do not get thrown out. And this is the simple reason behind why we get fat.

Therefore a meat & fruit focused diet is a great way of keeping your weight in check. Note that fruit juice is fattening as well, you should eat the whole fruit, because fruit juice is a lot more concentrated in sugars than whole fruit. A glass of orange juice contains the concentrated sugars found in 10 oranges. You don't normally sit down and eat ten oranges (I hope).

Another important concept is not eating too much. This was the original focus of this article. Prophet Muhammad SAW says:
"Let people fill one third of their stomach with food, one third with drink and one third with nothing."*
People who are used to a non-Quranic diet can't imagine not eating until they feel full. The reason is what I mentioned above; bread and sugar do not trigger our satiation responses. Our bodies want to get infinite amounts of bread and sugar. But if you are on the Quranic diet, you will feel satiated earlier thanks to all the protein and fat found in meat, olives, and olive oil.

If you have read things opposite to what I recommend, please be aware that nutritional science is one of the least scientific branches of the sciences. The most important thing at the end of the day is the effect of your diet on you. If you are Muslim and you are able, it is worth it to give the Quranic diet a try.

*Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1381), Ibn Maajah (3349); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah (2265).

Men see bikini-clad women as objects, psychologists say

New research shows that, in men, the brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions light up when viewing images of women in bikinis.

The research was presented this week by Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"This is just the first study which was focused on the idea that men of a certain age view sex as a highly desirable goal, and if you present them with a provocative woman, then that will tend to prime goal-related responses," she told CNN.

[Source and the rest of the article: CNN via Hegab Rehab]

Father, when will we ever relax?

Asked Abdullah, the son of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. He was one of the greatest revivers of the Sunnah and a role model for all Muslims. He looked his son in the eye and said, “With the first step we take into Jannah.”

From: Abi, when will we ever relax?

Free Islamic art series: Falling leaves from Suratul An'am

A beautiful verse that speaks of Allah's awareness of everything; "And with Him are the keys of the Ghaib (all that is hidden), none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in (or on) the earth and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record."

I took the picture of the verse from Tajweed Quran. The picture might not be that usable, but it is still nice to look at and think of the verse.

We don't own the picture, so we can't say you can use it however you like. The owner of the original version is lakewentworth on Flickr. You can use it on your blog provided that you mention the Flickr owner. You don't have to mention us.

Make $5000 a month? The Google Biz Kit scams


Today I was sent an email about whether this Google Biz Kit thing was legit. This is what I found out.

There are many of these sites. They claim that by 'posting links on Google' (a very silly sounding statement), after using their kit, one can make thousands of dollars per month. They call their kits the Google Biz Kit or Google Home Business Kit.

The following is a screen shot of one of their bogus sites (dailytribunes[dot]com) which tries to look like a legit news site. It is a site that hosts one and only one article. I don't deny that at first glance even I thought it was legit. (Click picture to enlarge)


The following are articles from sites that have researched this particular scam:
First photo from Reviewopedia.

Islam in one word

"Islam in one word is freedom. Islam creates freedom by taking lordship from corruptable human lords, and human desires, and giving it to a just and merciful King; God." -Muhammad Qutb.

Photo by Pink Sherbet on Flickr.

Prayer

"Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays."

Photo: Hajs on Mount Arafat. I don't know the source.

Memorizing Quran and running

It must have been 8th grade when I decided to memorize as much as I could, as fast as I could. I was a student at an Islamic School. Our Quran teacher would assign us a group of ayat to memorize until the entire surah was committed to memory.

Pretty soon I decided not to limit myself in the amount that my teacher assigned, because I realized that no matter the size of the ayat, by the time I had reached the end of the last one assigned, I felt as if I couldn't possibly memorize anymore. A part of me acknowledged that this didn't make sense; last week the teacher assigned 5 medium sized ayat and this week he assigned 3 short ayat, yet it took me the same amount of time to memorize and both times when I was near finished my mind was screaming, "Thank goodness! I can't possible commit any more than this to memory".

I remember hearing a story about a seasoned athlete and his trainer. The trainer would clock the number of miles his athlete ran, but he wouldn't tell him the distance, rather he'd ask, "how do you feel?" If the trainer had said, "Wow! You just ran 3 miles in two minutes" the athlete would suddenly feel tired or at least think that it was enough running for that day and throw in the towel.

To me this concept ties in with the ayah in Suratul Baqarah: God does not burden a human being more than s/he is able to bear (286). It's only our minds that make us believe the opposite. If we strongly believe that we have the power and strength to do something (anything!), then "Tada!". We can do it.

I've learned that there are certain mental constructs that every Muslim should ensconce into their brains. The first is the ayah above; keep in mind that at any given time Allah is giving you an opportunity to be successful, not an opportunity for failure. I'd like to share a few more of these constructs...but I'll save them for another post, inshAllah.

Sweet hadith

"It is a fine thing when a believer praises and thanks God if good comes to him, and praises God and shows endurance if smitten by affliction. The believer is rewarded for (every good action), even for the morsel he raises to his wife's mouth." -Prophet Muhammad SAW. Reported by Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 537Add Image.

Who is the weakest person?

The weakest man is the one who is able to correct his moral defects, but doesn't take action. -Ali bin Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him)

Free Islamic art: Prophet Muhammad SAW's name

Something I made in Photoshop. The Prophet Muhammad's beautiful name on a scenic sky. Click on the picture to see the original size. You are free to use this image wherever you like.

Don't be the man on the street

"The Muslims who created Islam's success in Madinah had heard Islam's call and entered it. They had purified their intentions for it, and had become vigilant guards defending it from its enemies. They weren't just excited mobs; people today's media calls "the man on the street".

The man on the street is someone whose features are indistinguishable, who doesn't have independent opinions, and who lacks a stable intellectual or spiritual direction.

Or he is the Im'Ah (yes-men, i.e. people of unquestioning obedience) that the Prophet (sallAllahu alaihi wa sallam) mentions in his saying;

Don't be Im'Ah, people who say; "If people do good, so will we. And if they do evil, so will we". Rather, keep your integrity and do not transgress whether people do good or bad. [Reported by Turmudhi]
The man on the street is the person whose mind the media creates by its various broadcasting outlets. And later, it asks him for his opinion, an opinion that was created by the media in the first place.

Islam cannot be helped by this person. Islam's success comes from people who give themselves up for its cause, whose intentions are purely directly toward Allah."
-Written by Muhammad Qutb in his book, Kaifa Nad'un Nasa.

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