Category Archives: CaveInscriptions

The moderate Muslim

Peace,

the word Muslim is heavily politicised and racialized. Calling yourself a Muslim in a post 9/11 world, makes life difficult to say the least. Academics, Governments, Institutions, Think Tanks as well as the general non-Muslim public all give the label a meaning, which serves their particular interests.

Such as the terms “moderate Muslim”, “good Muslim” or “modern Muslim”, describing those who fit a certain profile, everyone who then doesn’t conform is a “bad Muslim” or a “puritanical extremist”.  This phraseology is colonial in nature  it has been used by orientalist scholars to describe those who collaborated with colonial rule, it’s been used in describing Dr. Martin Luther King as the good, peaceful black activist and Malcolm X as the bad, radical black activist.

This classical form of divide and conquer is used to play us off against each other. Muslims that engage in that narrative of good vs. bad should remember that people who hate you don’t care about what you call yourself, in the words of Pamela Geller: “What’s the difference? Today’s moderate is tomorrow’s mass murderer.

Part of that same good vs. bad narrative is also that the solution to extremism is following a certain branch of Islam. The UK government plays on this with its PREVENT Agenda funding those Muslim organisations that fits their profile to further their idea of what a good Muslim looks like and who one is and who isn’t. The moniker “moderate Muslim” also carries the implication that the moderate Muslim isn’t a real Muslim that those who read the scriptures and really believe in all of what it says are necessarily radical extremists. We don’t talk about moderate Christians, moderate Hindus or Buddhists for example in our day to day conversations.

Moderation however is indeed an important factor in the religion, but we need to get rid of the moderate/extreme Muslim binary in our language to categorise people who seemingly fit a certain profile. I have met people of all kinds of sects, religions and people of no religion who display arrogance and close mindedness and we see, hear and read of mankind as a whole committing violence and atrocities. We see violence everywhere and from everyone, sometimes for seemingly good reasons, sometimes for bad, sometimes for banal reasons and sometimes for very complex reasons that are often just glossed over in the mainstream media.

Life is a crucible. I do believe that people are inherently good, that we are born on the Fitrah, the God given natural inclination to do and be good. It is our environment, our experiences and trials in life, that changes the way we act. We do however have the capacity as humans to choose what we do. As Muslims we believe that this life is a test, a test of how we respond to the trials and tribulations we are faced with and what choices we take and that is where moderation comes into play.

#bemore

Be more moderate

Peace,

without tooting my own horn it seems to come easy to me to at least come across as relatively moderate, maybe I am really just good at censoring the extreme dark side of my being which may or may not exist, God knows. Moderation is an ambiguous word, what does it actually mean?

According to the merriam-webster dictionary it is:

  1. avoiding extremes of behavior or expression
  2. tending toward the mean or average amount or dimension
  3. professing or characterized by political or social beliefs that are not extreme
  4. limited in scope or effect
  5. not expensive
  6. of a color :  of medium lightness and medium chroma

Moderation is a word which, as can be derived from its definition, is dependent on the existing of two extremes, a scope or scale from which one can deduce what the mean, average or moderate is. Still it often lies in the eye of the beholder to judge what the extremes are and where the mid point lies.

Islam, as a way of life, places a lot of importance on moderation, in the Quran Allah (swt.) describes us as the nation of the middle.

“Thus, We have made you a justly balanced community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you.” [Quran 2:143]

Moderation in all things and balance is something we have striven towards for centuries, it is innate. Over 17 times a day we as Muslims ask God to guide us to the straight path, the path from which the Prophet (saw.) informed us devils in whatever form would try to swerve us from calling us to their paths left and right.

Ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, drew a line with his hand and he said, “This is the straight path of Allah.” Then the Prophet drew lines to the right and left and he said, “These are other paths and there are no other paths but that a devil is upon it calling to its way.” Then the Prophet recited the verse, “Verily, this is the straight path, so follow it and do not follow other paths.” (6:153)

The Arabic language holds a number of words which can be translated to mean moderation or balance one in particular is Al-wasitiyyah. The Arabic dictionary, Lisan al Arab by Ibn Manzur defines it such that:

Every praiseworthy characteristic has two blameworthy poles. Generosity is the middle between miserliness and extravagance. Courage is the middle between cowardice and recklessness. Humanity has been commanded to avoid every such blameworthy trait.[Lisan al-Arab 15/209]

‘Adl is often also translated as moderation, but has the primary meaning of justice. Literally meaning to divide in exactly two equal parts so that there is no disparity between them, thereby creating balance between the rights of two parties for example.

“And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance. That you not transgress within the balance. And establish weight in justice and do not make deficient the balance.”
[Quran 55:7-9]

The ayah above shows how justice is tied in with balance, just as Allah (swt.) created balance in the world, He demands from us to establish balance and justice in our interactions with the world.

Like all things however that is difficult, it is easier to seek revenge than justice. It is easier to eat junk food, than to eat a balanced diet. It is easier to seclude ourselves than to intermingle and deal with society. That balance in life. That work, social, spiritual life balance is what we all seek and what I still constantly fight with despite my outward appearance of moderation and the companions of the Prophet (saw.) also had to learn that.

 “You have a duty to your Lord, you have a duty to your body, and you have a duty to your family, so you should give each one its rights.” [Bukhari: Sahih]

Therefore let’s try to be more moderate and balanced and just in everything we do. May Allah (swt.) make it easy for us.

#bemore

Entry XII : 365 Project

Peace!

Time is relative, in hindsight however it passes relatively quickly. Another year has passed, and while that is the case here and in most of the world, taking the Hijri calendar into account we’re already a third into the year. While not celebrating the new year as such, it does serve me well in taking account of myself, to make Muhasaba, to re-evaluate where I am heading and make slight adjustments here and there.

That is what my 365project is going to be about. There are a whole slew of things that I want to accomplish this year, but most overall it is to be productive and to constantly improve and regularly take account of where I am and what I need to do to arrive at where I want to be at the end  of the year. Change however rarely happens overnight. I am under no illusion that I won’t fail, failing is a given. I’ve already tried this a couple of months ago. I am human, we fail at things, we make mistakes, what we do afterwards however is what counts, we try to learn and progress from them.

So within the online space this year I just want to produce blogs, essays, poems, videos and posters whether good or bad I’ll post them, trying to keep myself productive and to improve. Yes, there will be days, where I just can’t be bothered or where life becomes extra tough, but I will try my absolute best to produce something creative every single day of this year.

Rather than starting from scratch, I will start again where I left off. Meaning that while I will post on this blog everyday of this year from today as part of postaday 2017 and my vlogging will continue as normal, the project in its totality will start on the 13th of this month. So follow me on this blog, on my instagram and my YouTube Channel to see how I am getting on! Thank you 🙂

Abdur-Rahman

 

Courage to be different

Peace!

We are different, that is a fact of life. You and I, are different. The way we look, the way we were brought up, our experiences, our likes and dislikes, our beliefs and opinions are different.

Yes, there may be quite a lot of similarities between you and me, we may have been friends for the past 15 years, you might have grown up in the same city as me, our parents may have similar backgrounds and may indeed be friends, we may have gone to the same Qur’an school when we were kids, and I may have moved to the same country as you did, you may even be interested in a lot of the same things that I am too or you may be my blood sibling and still we are different. You aren’t me and I’m not you and that is perfect, we may learn a lot from each other. God created us, you and I, to be different.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another…” [Qur’an 48:13]

Still, as a child you don’t really set out to think about what makes you different from everyone else, you just want to have fun like all the other kids do too. I grew up as a black Muslim in Germany, a minority in a minority.

My whole class knew that I was a Muslim, I didn’t hide it and my being black was not something I could really hide. They knew when I was fasting and what Ramadan was, I showed them how we pray during a visit to the mosque, I chose to play a Nasheed (Religious Song) when we gave a small presentation on our favourite music and gave a presentation about a river that was the namesake of the country my mother was born in and my father had roots in. My mother would make sure to tell my best friends mother not to feed me any meat when I stayed over at their little farm during the summer and we’d play Zelda, Mario Party or tag the whole day.

I have been quite privileged in the way that I have been brought up, that my parents are both academics/professionals and knowledgeable in the religion, for me to grow to be comfortable in my being different and still I sometimes hesitate. Hesitate, to speak out and take a stand, to break the silence. In such a moment of hesitation and inaction, I might as well have been dead.

 “Sometimes I feel like my city is a graveyard.“  
[Suli Breaks]

In his video The Graveyard, Suli Breaks expresses how we might as well be the walking dead, as we sacrifice our happiness for our salaries. The imagery of a city as a Graveyard is powerful, signifying the death of society, stagnation and truly painful silence permeating through each crook and cranny of the ruins of our city.

While the rows of gravestones tell the stories of those that have passed, their voices have died. Their words however still reach us, because they refused to be silenced. Still, we too often choose to ignore them, when empathy is lost, xenophobia rises, injustice and aggression is left unopposed, problems swept under the rug and conversations stifled. Resulting in exclusion and segregation or expression.

Expression in a hostile environment however requires a lot of courage. Courage to break the silence, to express yourself and stand up for yourself, your rights, your thoughts, your aspirations, your dreams and those of others around you. By being different and confident with yourself, the image that you project of yourself will invigorate the dead around you and inspire them to help break down the wall of silence.

Being humble, ascetic and conscious doesn’t mean staying silent at all times. It means choosing the right time to be silent and when to speak up and so while the Prophet (saw.) said:

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good things or keep silent.” [Muslim: Sahih]

The hadith often becoming our go-to narration to tell someone to shut up. Keeping silent, here is predicated on not actually having anything good to say, that is to engage in speech which we would regret later. When acts of injustice are however carried out, that is when our silence makes us complicit as Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” [Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story]

We need to speak up. The Qur’an also says:

“Allah does not like the public mention of evil except by one who has been wronged. And ever is Allah Hearing and Knowing.” [Quran 4:148]

In our journey to emulate the noble characteristics that Allah (swt.) describes Himself with, we also have to listen and yes we have to be silent at times to get to know and fully understand the situation of those who are oppressed to be able to express it.

Will we face opposition? Yes, absolutely we will, but we will face hate whether we speak out about our grievances or not, whether we integrate or assimilate or not. Experiences of racism, xenophobia and of injustice of whatever kind whether from our teachers and classmates,  or even parents can shatter self-confidence and scratch at our self-esteem, our sense of self-worth and our self body-image.

That is why it is so important that one, we have the courage to be different and proud of it and second, to know that we are not the only ones alive in this graveyard that there are others that are different too, who are not just stuck in the work/eat/sleep cycle and are trying to break down that wall with you. While our expression alone may at times cause us to be isolated within the status quo, it needs the courage of the one, to shatter the silence of the many.

 

#bemore

Be more courageous

Peace be with you!

Malcolm X once famously said, “If you don’t stand up for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Finding the courage however to do that is hard. It is hard to stand up for that something you believe in, to put yourself behind an idea. An idea that may cost you your livelihood, your job, your financial security, your family, friends and indeed your life.

Exactly that however is what Allah (swt.) asks of us, as  He (swt.) records the advice that our Prophet Luqman (as.) gave to his son in the Qur’an.

“O my son establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong and be patient over what befalls you. Indeed all that is of the matter requiring determination (courage)”

[Quran 31:17]

Remember that trepidation you felt, when you established the prayer in a public place? That fear-excitement cocktail of adrenaline rushing through your body, the creeping thoughts of what the passerby might think?

As you stand up for the prayer wherever you are, you stand up for Allah, for your right to exercise your Belief. This fundamental act, will give you the courage to stand up for what is right, for truth and justice and against what is wrong.

Courage according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Courage comes from the heart, quite literally, the word coeur in French meaning heart from the Latin Cor.

Our heart is in constant flux, it continuously pumps blood in and out and on a spiritual, metaphysical level it also keeps changing. Khushoo, Taqwa, Iman, our intentions all of these according to our tradition are within our heart and increase and decrease constantly with the situations that we are faced with daily.

As in the story of Moses (as.) when his mother was about to see him again for the first time, since letting go of him to save him from the infanticide of Pharaoh’s oppressive regime. She was about to call out to him and thereby put him and herself in danger of being killed, Allah (swt.) describes her heart in that moment as Fuad. Fuad is a heart, that if taken literally is on fire, overwhelmed with emotions ( of love, anger, fear, grief, stress, excitement etc.). In that moment only God was able to stop her calling out to him, by strengthening her heart to its normal state, Qalb.

However, in our daily lives we will also be confronted with situations where our hearts turn into Fuad and we will have to choose whether we act on what our Fuad tells us, or what would be the right thing to do in that situation, because Allah (swt.) will asks us about our choices in that moment.

“Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart (Fuad)- about all those [one] will be questioned.”

[Quran 17:36]

Courage, is acting righteously despite the emotions that grip our heart. It inspires us as Ibn Al-Qayyim (rah.) said,“ to have a sense of self-esteem, to emphasize high and noble manners and to make it a part of our natural disposition. It also encourages us to exert ourselves to be generous, which is in essence, true courage and it leads to strong will and self-determination. It encourages us to distance ourselves from our ardent lowly desires, to control our anger, and to be forbearing, because by such, we can control our temper, take it by its reins and curb our violent and destructive behaviour, just as the Prophet (saw.) said: “The strong believer is not the one who can wrestle his opponent to the ground, but rather the strong one is the one who can control himself when he gets angry.”

This is genuine courage and it is the sole trait that the slave utilizes to conquer his opponent.

Courage, is standing up to an oppressive system, a tyrant, husband, parents, family member, friends, strangers and the hardest of all yourself, despite the fear, despite the quite possible repercussions, and being patient with those repercussions, that befall you.

Plucking up the courage needed is hard, I know. How often have I stayed silent when I should have said something or tried to ignore those less fortunate than me. It is however something that can be trained by testing and expanding our boundaries.

Where and what are your boundaries? Is a lack of knowledge the reason you did not speak up? Then educate yourself on how to intervene, take part in Bystander education programs, such as the Intervention Initiative. Is it your physical ability? Then start your journey in getting more active. Put yourself in situations that require a certain degree of courage often, such as prayer in public or standing up for your siblings and it will get easier to be courageous and to be confident doing so.

Finally remember that Allah (swt.) is in control of our hearts, He is the changer of our hearts, and so as the Prophet (saw.) prayed “O Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion”, pray for Him to grant us courage in all of our affairs.

Be more courageous, because in a time where hijabs are being ripped off of our sisters, where women are being sexually harassed left, right and center,  where racism and xenophobia is normalised in our society, we can not stay silent in the face of injustice anymore.

Peace.

#bemore

1. Read.Me

Peace,

I love to read and can spend hours just reading whether that’s a book, I’m currently reading Angela Davis: Autobiography ( There’s a film is in production), Fanfiction (Yes, yes I do),  Blogs or articles. I often come across words spun together so well that they can inform, inspire or provoke, evoke sadness or laughter, and would like with these weekly posts to create a collection of those.

Read.Me will hopefully be a weekly reading digest published every Friday. These recommendations will be split up into English and German and will only contain those reads that actually interest me. So without further ado, a bit late, a mashup of this week’s and last week’s reads.

Lies.DE

Lies: “Die” Sharia gibt es nicht: “Wären Sie so freundlich und würden mir ein Exemplar der Scharia zukommen lassen, vorzugsweise als PDF-Datei?” |  „Der Niqab ist ein ziemlich unpraktisches Kleidungsstück, um damit eine Bank zu überfallen“ | Deutsch-iranischer Frauenfußball | Islamischer Feminismus: Die Arbeit im Stillen |  “Die Mutter deiner Sprache ist jene, die den Weg deiner Wurzeln zeichnet, dich zurückbringt und auf den fruchtbaren Boden deiner Her- und Ankunft zieht und rückleitet.” | Lost im Grundgesetz |

Read.EN

Read:  The Guardian view on UN peacekeeping: “Failures and abuses by ‘blue helmets’ show the need for coordinated improvements” | The death of neoliberalism and the crisis in western politics | The way Muslim women in France are treated is “paternalistic”. | Why we wear the burkini:  no one should be prevented from being able to enjoy the beach, the beach is a human right: “On the 24th of April 1960 125 black people on the biloxi beach were left broken and bloodied, when white vigilantes showed up with clubs and chains and tire irons while Police stood aside.” | From a Same-Sex Attracted Muslim: “Do people think they shall be left to say, “We believe” and they shall not be tried?” | Meet Generation M: the young, affluent Muslims changing the world | Angela Merkel and Marine Le Pen: one of them will shape Europe’s future | Rio Paralympics and Channel 4: telling a new story about disability |