By: Nabila Ikram Detroit, MI
Over 3,000 Muslim athletes and officials are said to be present at the Olympics taking place in London this year. As in every Olympic game, there are a couple of significant aspects of this year’s events.
The first and foremost, is the mere fact that the games are taking place during Ramadan. All the athletes are managing their time in different ways. For example, some athletes are continuing to fast, such as those on the Moroccan team. Others, such as the Egyptian team, have been advised by religious counselors that they are exempt due to the fact that they are traveling and in a foreign land. Yet, others plan on giving to charity enough for 60 needy people to make up for their voluntary missing of their fasts. The organizers of the Olympics have also been accommodating athletes by providing snack packs to the athletes that include items such as dates.
Another significant attribute of this year’s games is the continued involvement of Muslim women. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei have sent female athletes to the Olympics for the first time ever. The women faced incredible political and social difficulties as they fought for the honor to represent themselves and their nations. For example, Wojdan Shaherkani, 16, who competed in Judo was labeled the “Prostitute of the Olympics” by ultra-conservatives in her home country of Saudi Arabia.
Many of the athletes wore hijab, or the headscarf, and modest clothing, which in itself was a challenge for some women as their home countries required them to wear traditional attire, while the Olympics Committee required them not to. Therefore, after much discussion, a compromise had been made between the two to allow athletes to continue wearing the scarf or modest attire, but with some modifications to meet sport safety and other rules. Regardless of the obstacles, the women made it to the games and although most did not last long, their efforts and appearances were noted by the international community and have begun to pave the way for future female athletes.
The diversity of the games in which Muslims, males and females, are competing range from track, swimming, rifle competition, weightlifting, and many other areas.
The BBC has been covering the Olympics in much detail. The website has a comprehensive list of all the participating countries with profiles of their athletes and Olympic-related stories. Visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/olympics/2012/countries/
By: Noor Salahuddin Chicago, IL
Surah Furqaan in Quran – e – Majeed is the 25th surah (chapter) with 77 ayaat (verses). Furqaan means the “criterion” or the “standard”, and the meaning of this word is to distinguish between good and bad. In this surah, Allah taala (the Greatest) helps us distinguish between the two so we may become better at judging our own actions.
And the servants of the Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth Hawna, and when the foolish address them they say; "Salama (peace).'' And those who spend the night in worship of their Lord, prostrate and standing. And those who say: "Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily, its torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment. Hell is described as an evil abode and as a place to rest in. And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor stingy, but are in a just balance between them [Surah alFurqaan 25:63-67]. Allah taala dislikes extremes in anything and that is evident in this ayah. What is meant here by Hawn is serenity and dignity, as the Messenger of Allah said: When you come to the prayer, do not come rushing in haste. Come calmly and with tranquility, and whatever you catch up with, pray, and whatever you miss, make it up.
These are the attributes of the believing servants of Allah, those who walk on the earth Hawna, meaning that they walk with dignity and humility, not with arrogance and pride; similar to the Ayah: And walk not on the earth with conceit and arrogance... [17:37]. One should always be humble and fear Allah, as we are reminded in this ayah.
As mentioned, these people do not walk with conceit or arrogance or pride. This does not mean that they should walk like sick people, making a show of their humility, but rather that they should not be overbearing. It is said that the Prophet Adam used to walk as if he was coming downhill, and as if the earth were folded up beneath him.
Moving on to the next part, and when the foolish address them they say: “Salama”). If the ignorant people insult them with bad words, they should not respond in kind, but they forgive and overlook, and say nothing but good words. This is what the Messenger of Allah did: the more ignorant the people, the more patient he would be. This is as Allah says: And when they hear Al-Laghw (evil or vain talk), they withdraw from it [28:55]. Allah rewards patience and perseverance and this ayah reminds us that we must not lose patience or hope in times of adversity.
Then Allah says that their nights are the best of nights, as He says: And those who spend the night in worship of their Lord, prostrate and standing. This means worshipping and obeying Him. This is like the Ayat: They used to sleep but little by night. And in the hours before dawn, they were asking for forgiveness [51:17-18]. Their sides forsake their beds... [32:16]. Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the mercy of his Lord... [39:9].
Allah says: And those who say: "Our Lord! Avert from us the torment of Hell. Verily, its torment is ever an inseparable punishment” meaning, ever-present and never ending. Al-Hasan said concerning the Ayah, Verily, its torment is ever an inseparable, permanent punishment. Everything that strikes the son of Adam, and then disappears, does not constitute an inseparable, permanent punishment. The inseparable, permanent punishment is that which lasts as long as heaven and earth.
This was also the view of Sulayman At-Taymi: Evil indeed it is as an abode and as a place to rest in, meaning how evil it looks as a place to dwell and how evil it is as a place to rest.
And those who, when they spend, are neither extravagant nor stingy... The best Muslims are not extravagant, spending more than they need, nor are they miserly towards their families, not spending enough on their needs. But they follow the best and fairest way.
The best of matters are those which are moderate, neither one extreme nor the other, but are in a just balance between them. This is like the Ayah, And let not your hand be tied to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach. [17:29]
Source: Tafseer Ibn Kathir
By: Dr. Azeez Ibrahim ISPU Fellow
Earlier this year British Prime Minister David Cameron criticised “state multiculturalism” for encouraging people of different cultures, including Muslims, to live separate lives. While this does not in itself sound harmful, the speech went on to suggest that it was time for “less passive tolerance” and “more active, muscular
liberalism”when dealing with extremism – either advertently or inadvertently linking extremism with culture. His target seemed to be community-based counterterrorism programmes, which he felt were accepting government funding but doing little to prevent extremism.
Community-based counterterrorism, however, has a proven track record in preventing terrorist incidents, with the communities themselves being the first to condemn criminal activity in their desire for peace. For example, Muslim communities in the United States have helped foil close to a third of Al Qaeda-related terror plots since 11 September 2001. Likewise in the UK, Muslim activists have worked for many years to cooperate with police, empowering their communities and helping shape the debate against extremism within them. Rather than seeing British Islam as a political and security problem – undermining civil and religious liberties – the British government should view it instead in the context of diverse cultural expressions within its stated policy goal of promoting community cohesion. Much of Britain is profoundly ethnically segregated with different communities leading parallel lives, as Paul
Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Youth and Community Work at the University of Huddersfield, notes in his 2010 article, “Failed and Friendless: The UK’s ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’
Instead of winning hearts and minds, some government initiatives have led to a significant growth in surveillance of Muslim communities. It is deeply offensive to British Muslims to know their mosques are being spied upon by intelligence agents who consider Muslims the “enemy”, which has the opposite effect of achieving social cohesion by focusing on Muslims and antagonizing the very communities they are trying to win over. One approach has been to fund new organisations and promote them as the voice of contemporary, mainstream British Islam. Successful community programmes, such as Channel – which works with at-risk youth – and those which priorities work with Muslim women and children, may continue to be an effective alternative to isolation and disaffection amongst British
A survey in 2009 on the attitudes of British Muslims showed they identified strongly with the UK and had a high regard for its institutions, including higher education. If this respect is to continue, then attention must be paid by the discerning public to the standard of contemporary scholarship regarding multiculturalism, which is not always academic or impartial, and the prevalence of harmful terminology in popular media and culture. The British people are continually being warned about the threat of Islam, "Islamic extremism", "Islamic radicalization", and the lack of cultural integration from a variety of sources: the media, right-wing think tanks and sometimes even the government. According to the University of Exeter's European Muslim Research Centre, “these reductionist and populist portrayals of Muslims
in Britain don't do our society any credit. Politicians need to be braver – and reject cheap votes for real political engagement.”
Negative terminology is being steadily countered by work at many different levels. For example, cultural programmes, funded either directly or indirectly by the UK government, are empowering Muslim voices calling for understanding, integration and harmony through the Muslim press, Arabic-language television programmes, which at the same time are strengthening links with non-governmental organisations, and building religious and educational initiatives. A positive sign of Muslim participation in political power is that the
number of Muslim Members of Parliament in Britain continues to rise, with eight Muslims elected to the British Parliament in the 2010 election, including three women. For example, incumbent Shahid Malik, who lost his seat but remains an active participant in British-Muslim dialogue, has emphasized that the perpetrators of the June 2007 attack should be described by the media as “criminals”, not “Muslims”. It is this important distinction and its accompanying attitude that must be encouraged as the British government moves to defuse the Islamophobic undertones of the debate on and violent extremism.
Dr. Azeez Ibrahim is a fellow and member of the board of directors at the Institute of Social Policy and Understanding and a former research scholar at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and world fellow at Yale.
This article was published in Common Ground News Service on November 15, 2011.