Saturday, November 27, 2004

A license to kill: Religious extremes and so-called blasphemy laws

Bangladesh Ahmadi Muslims
Love For All, Hatred For None

In general blasphemy described as consisting in speaking evil of the Deity with impious purpose to derogate from the divine majesty and to alienate the minds of others from love and reverence of God."

By Kazi Anwarul Masud

Should the world dread the possibility of the rise of religious intolerance? Should we read into the Bush victory a not so insignificant role played by the Christian Right which appears to have blended well with the prominent shade of the Republican Party's conservative wing epitomizing the values of economic individualism, Social Darwinism, and nationalism?

Historian Bernard Lewis and his critical essays on Islam are read with messianic devotion. Samuel Huntington, credited with providing a credible explanation of global turbulence in terms of clash of civilizations, is now being adulated as a great native son for his enquiry into the hybridization of the US mainland due to the "invasion and settlement" of large number of Spanish speaking people from the south whose language and culture are distinct from those of mainstream Americans.

Transnationalism, an inevitable phenomenon of globalization, is now treated with suspicion in the West despite having the power to define, in the words of Ziauddin Sardar, "freedom, progress and civil behavior, law, tradition and community; what is real and what it means to be human. The non-western civilizations have simply to accept these definitions or be defined out of existence."

This phobic suspicion of anything remotely different from the core politico-cultural practices is of course a result of 9/11, but now translated as intrusion into the privacy of groups of people, citizens and aliens alike, totally repugnant to the liberal values hitherto espoused and practiced by the West.

This intrusion has been particularly pre-eminent in the lives of people practicing religions not followed by the majority in the West. Scholars have generally believed that religions have too often been used to "justify the violation of human rights, in part through the hierarchical and selective use of role ethics and postponement of temporal justice to divine judgment."

It has been argued that the ethic of reciprocity demands religious tolerance. In Christianity, for example, the concept has been defined in one of the gospels as: "Therefore all things ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."

If a Christian considers his religious ethic of reciprocity is of paramount importance, then he would want people of other beliefs to enjoy freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and other freedoms enumerated for example, in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other documents.

However, it is to be acknowledged that religious freedom is one of the most complicated matters in the whole of human rights law and practice. It comprises an assortment of related rights and entitlements such as freedom from discrimination because of one's religion, freedom to live in a society that does not give preference to any particular religion over others, and freedom to enjoy civic respect for one's religion.

Thomas Hobbes, who was one of the first modern Western thinkers to provide secular justification of the state that marked a departure in English philosophy from the religious emphasis of scholasticism, observed that people being fearful and predatory must submit to the absolute supremacy of the state in both secular and religious matters for self-preservation.

Since the world we live in is far from the Kantian world federation of perpetual peace, where actions of any sort are neither taken from a sense of duty nor dictated by reason and often are performed for expediency, absolute freedom of speech and expression on religious matters had to be circumscribed at that time in history.

Thus in the British criminal law the crime of blasphemous libel was developed mainly during the 18th century to protect the Anglican version of Christianity but exempted other religion or beliefs. That is why the British court did not entertain a blasphemy case leveled by British Muslims against Salman Rushdie for his The Satanic Verses because Rushdie's irreverence was not recognized as a crime in British law.

Are to assume that the Western paranoid suspicion has come to such a stage where the decimation of the Taliban (albeit totally justifiable), the removal of Saddam Hussein, and the current debate on taming the Iranians would not be enough to safeguard not only the Western way of life but also their religion?

That it might be necessary to invoke inquisitional methods including implementing blasphemy laws where they exist and legislating such laws where they do not? According to Black's Law Dictionary blasphemy is "any oral or written reproach maliciously cast upon God, His name, attributes or religion.

In general blasphemy described as consisting in speaking evil of the Deity with impious purpose to derogate from the divine majesty and to alienate the minds of others from love and reverence of God."

Though blasphemy law in England was enacted to protect the Anglican version of Christianity, its application has been rare. Americans too feel uncomfortable by the idea of punishing someone for blasphemy. It runs counter to the freedom of religion and freedom of expression, both guaranteed in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

The US Supreme Court never had to decide on a blasphemy case. But in 1952 it ruled on a similar matter. Justice Tom Clark observed: "It is not the business of government in our nation to suppress real or imagined attacks upon particular religious doctrine." Gradually, state courts found prosecution of blasphemy cases unconstitutional or unenforceable. No prosecution for blasphemy has taken place in the US since 1971.

It would perhaps be instructive if the impact of blasphemy laws in neighboring countries were discussed. In the Indian sub-continent the British enacted the blasphemy laws to protect minority Muslims from possible attacks from majority Hindus.

After the creation of Pakistan, as the Muslims became the majority community there was no reason to keep the laws in the statute book. But instead of abolition, the laws were made more stringent. Legislation undertaken during 1980-1991 (life imprisonment was replaced by mandatory death penalty) made the Muslims more intolerant towards non-Muslims.

From 1948-79 eleven cases of blasphemy were registered. Only three cases of blasphemy were reported during 1979-86. Forty-four were filed during 1987-99. In 2000 fifty-two cases were registered out of which forty-three were against Muslims and nine were against non-Muslims.

This shows that the Muslims against fellow Muslims to settle old scores are abusing the laws more blatantly. Jurists have raised questions as to whether a non-Muslim can be sentenced to death as he is already a "kafir" (non-believer) and not a "murtad" (a person who repudiates Islam after embracing it).

Without delving into the complexities of the Islamic laws on this issue, one can safely make the observation that the blasphemy laws and their stringent applications have not raised the image of Pakistan in the world as a tolerant Muslim country. The UN Commission on Human Rights, referring to Pakistani blasphemy laws, observed: "When religious discrimination is inscribed in laws and imbedded in societal structures, this often lads to victimisation of minorities as well as killings and assassinations."

The UN Commission reminded Pakistan that the laws over the years have resulted in religious intolerance and violence against Christians, Hindus and members of the Ahmadiyya community.

The commission further reminded Pakistan of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Pakistan which held that the mere use of the laws was an abuse since the laws were inherently bad legislation, the language of the laws were ambiguous, the objectives were dubious, and the laws lacked the protection of guarantee against misuse.

The UN Commission called upon Pakistan to repeal all discriminatory laws including the blasphemy laws and ratify human rights treaties that it has not yet ratified.

We in Bangladesh should be cautious about the dangers of religious extremism in view of the on-going agitation by an extremist Islamic group to declare the Ahmadiyyas in Bangladesh as non-Muslims. Amnesty International head Irene Khan has expressed her grave concern over this continuing agitation.

She reportedly viewed Bangladesh as a fractured society, one group trying to adorn the country with democracy and modernity while the other in bent upon taking the country along the path of religious intolerance.

Our caution needs to be redoubled due to the mistaken belief in some parts of the West that the convulsions in the Islamic world are because of its intolerance of the House of the Unbelief -- Christendom -- a competing world religion and a distinct civilization; little realizing that the convulsions could have been caused by the struggle between monotheistic Islamists and the moderate Muslim elements to capture the soul of the Islamic world.

It would, therefore, be unwise to give the impression that there is an incipient movement of neo-Islamic conservatives at a time when the world is experiencing raging turbulence of clash of civilizations. We have to continue our efforts to convince the world that an acceptable level of religious freedom exists in Bangladesh.

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a former Bangladesh Secretary and Ambassador.
The Daily Star, Sunday, November 28, 2004

Black Friday: A Shopper's Search for Inner Truths?

searching for a bargain
Love For All, Hatred For None

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and thank God I’ve been able to avoid and survive a very strange and quirky American ritual. It's known as Black Friday.

A day when the "Almighty Dollar" rules over common sense. Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, is historically one of the busiest retail shopping days of the year. It marks the official beginning to the Christmas shopping season.

The "black" in the name comes from the standard accounting practice of using red ink to denote negative values (i.e., losses) and black ink to denote positive values (profits). Black Friday is the day when retailers traditionally get back "in the black" after operating "in the red" for the previous months. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

And while national economic growth has been steady, people continue to lose their jobs at a rate that should have an impact on holiday spending. I wonder if Black Friday has more to do with the damage all that shopping does to our bank accounts?

Yet, as I scanned newspapers across America, it was evident that there was nothing, including the lack of money, to keep shoppers away from those bargains.

Last year's Black Friday saw $7.3 billion in sales, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers and the U.S. Commerce Department. For some retailers, holiday sales make up as much as 80 percent of the year's revenue. The National Retail Federation projects total holiday retail sales will increase 4.5 percent compared to last year.

Those wild and crazy newspaper editors responsible for goofy headlines traditionally have a field day on Black Friday. They focus on witty and silly headlines that describe this ritual. Here’s a small sample I found:

Holiday Hoards Hit Stores Early; Throngs Sleepwalk to Sales; Come and Get It; Ready, Set, Shop; Shop ‘til You Drop; Black Friday Rakes in the Green for Retailers; Thrill of the Hunt; Get Set…Shop!; It’s In the Bag; Traditional Insanity; A Shopper’s dream and Shopping Outside the Box.”

And how do you do the “Black Friday Hustle?” For those in need of exercise how about signing up for the “Black Friday Marathon?” This is some good stuff. One editor, who was apparently tired of the redundant use of Black Friday came up with this little quip: “Shoppers enjoying “White Friday.”

Whatever the headline the storylines accompanied by the traditional photo ops of shoppers hanging outside of shopping centers like zombies…in case you haven’t noticed, demented zombies are always to be found heading for the shopping malls in horror movies. I’ve always wondered why?

Now, while everyone is partying and jumping for job with a lot of loose money to spend during this season of joy, there always has to be some mean spirited grinch inventing new ways to steal our joy.

This year the “meanie award” has to go to those insidious little creeps who managed to apparently glue the locks on dozens of the biggest retailers in Lafayette, La, preventing managers from opening up promptly on lucrative "Black Friday." Hundreds of shoppers, some of whom arrived before dawn, were forced to wait outside Barnes & Noble, Old Navy and other stores while managers summoned locksmiths.

At least 200 locks on dozens of businesses were glued, including main entrances, rear doors and employee entrances, locksmith Garan Wilson said. Wilson's first job at about 5 a.m. Friday was to make his way to the front door lock at Old Navy by pushing through about 500 shoppers waiting outside, he said.

"I found about a half a tube of glue stuck inside," he said.

Kevin Vizena, head locksmith for Pop-A-Lock in Lafayette, said the vandals squirted the glue deep inside the keyholes, forcing him to drill holes and remove the locks from the doors.

The "doorbusters," those who show up at dawn for early-bird sales were not to be stopped by this little prank.

But big party goes on in America, as evident by the many hotels, motels seeking to turn a profit offer a special “Black Friday” package for you shop-til-you-droppers. One of the best offers I found in Denver, Colorado offered a “Turkey Raid Buffet”. Full from a second round of tryptophan, they’ll send you off to bed for a good night’s rest for the 6 a.m. shuttle over to Cherry Creek Shopping Mall , where the “Early Bird Gets the Deal” sales begin at 7 a.m.

And Black Friday apparently is raking in the green for retailers. As a result of the buying frenzy, Americans spent $8 Billion dollars in one day…wow! The figure represents 10.8 percent more than last year.

It may all be a little crazy to some who don’t participate in the frenzy but the relationship between shoppers and retailers is a love affair that is as one editor wrote: “Early Bird Shoppers Discover inner truths.”


Sunday, November 21, 2004

My Eid Sermon: We are a family.

Love For All, Hatred For None

The Prophet constantly prayed, O Allah ! Grant me the ability to perceive things as they really are.

This kind of reflection is ever the more significant today for people of faith, especially as Muslim Americans.

At a time when we face the worst anti-Islamic propaganda and Islamophobia is running rampant.

Look not at the “I”, but at the “me” Look not at the I, but at the community.

What is “my” role in a troubled world at a difficult time? What is your role in the Jama’at (community)? There is a dire need for introspection, honest self-evaluation and self-criticism and a concerted effort to bridge the gap between values and actions, ideals and realities, sloganizing and activism, past glory and a viable future.

We cannot inspire others to higher values of peace, equality, love and justice if we ourselves do not embody these inwardly and practically in our lives.

We need to align our lives with our highest values and behave in ways that we believe all will need to behave in order to create the world we want to live in. All change begins with us, and remember: Allah will not change your condition unless you change yourselves.

“You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin good and forbid evil and believe in Allah.” Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil change societies, shape them and make them distinctive.

Islam teaches us that we are to carry out His commands for the welfare and benefit of all of existence. Such a role relies heavily on the interpersonal conduct, behavior, character and morality of each and every individual Muslim, in essence, the "quality" of each personality.

This is one of the foremost responsibilities of Muslims, following the example of the Prophet, to model good human relations. Each human personality is unique.

The Qur'an expounds in very clear terms a distinct concept of individual growth and development. A human being is body and soul, matter and spirit. It is the unique balance between these that makes humans uniquely what we are, and according to Islamic belief, the highest of all created beings..."Surely, We have created man in the best make" [Qur'an 95:5].

Surah Al Imran (3:135). The translation reads: "Those, who spend in prosperity and adversity, and those who suppress anger, and pardon men; and Allah loves those who do good"

In his Eid Sermon early today, Hazoor, ayyadahullahu ta’ala binasrihil-‘aziz, once again reminds all Muslims of their responsibility and duty to avoid self-centeredness and the tendency not to forgive the other person’s fault.

This is how, Hazoor, ayyadahullahu ta’ala binasrihil-‘aziz, said, family quarrels ensue and even squabbles with strangers can instigate.

In this environment of intolerance the responsibility upon the Ahmadi Muslim is to abide by the teachings of Islam and as stated in the Quranic verse: and those who suppress anger, and pardon men; and Allah loves those who do good"

It is also stated in verse 200 of Surah Al A’raf (7:200)
Do thou ever forebear, O Prophet! and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.

As Muslims we are urged to restrain one’s temper and seek forgiveness for the one who has angered you. If this does not work and someone or persons continue to anger you, then it is better to remove yourself from the situation.

Some say that by suppressing anger and walking away, you allow the perpetrator of the crime to “get away” with his abuse and oppressive behavior, but we are reminded in the Holy Quran, Surah Al Shura (42:41) "Remember that the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and thereby brings about an improvement, his reward is with Allah. Surely, He loves not the wrongdoers."

It is better to forgive if there is hope of reformation; otherwise punishment has to be given for misdeed committed. Bur it is important to remember that not everyone who is wronged can retaliate and one has to resort to the law of the land that can deal with the matter.

Today, Hazoor, ayyadahullahu ta’ala binasrihil-‘aziz, called on members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to avoid the “Satantic Circle” of arguing and fighting with such hatred that it does damage to the dignity of the Jama’at.

He strongly urged every Ahmadi to exercise patience and restraint and to use the system of our Community, the Nizam e Jama’at to resolve disputes.

In a previous sermon, he said people who are disciplined for an offence are often verbose about the virtue of forgiveness, failing to notice that it is indeed also Allah’s command to punish a wrong.

As ever elucidating the subject further with ahadith Hazoor, ayyadahullahu ta’ala binasrihil-‘aziz, related that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings on him) said that the greatest excellence was to overlook and pardon one who mistreats you and that the more a man forgives the more Allah raises his station.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) greatly enjoined to pardon the mistakes of one’s employees. Once he was displeased with Hadhrat Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) who had, after displaying remarkable patience to a reproachful man, had eventually responded to him.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings on him) said as long as Hadhrat Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) was silent Allah’s angels was keeping an eye on him but once he responded Satan came in.

Hadhrat Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) said that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) did not ever retaliate to personal mistreatment.

He also most magnanimously pardoned the man whose assault on his daughter had caused her a miscarriage and eventual death. After the fall of Mecca, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) also famously forgave Hind, the once vicious wife of Abu Safyan, who had committed incredible brutalities against Muslims.

Hazoor, ayyadahullahu ta’ala binasrihil-‘aziz, said each episode of pardon and forgiveness in the blessed life of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) surpasses the other. Today, each Ahmadi must adhere to his teachings.

Next Hazoor, ayyadahullahu ta’ala binasrihil-‘aziz, recounted a few examples of forgiveness from the life of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) on how he would totally forgive blunders made by people who worked for him and how he was resolutely fair-minded and honourable even when dealing with his staunch enemies.

By his example, we are enjoined to control one’s anger and forgive, to adopt taqwa (righteousness), The Pormised Messiah (alaihissalaam) wrote: ‘The reformation of each community primarily begins with good manners.’

Let us resolve at this time in our lives to be among those who exhibit great fortitude, who adhere to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an, who follow the Sunnah and who mould themselves according to the wishes of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace).

Living a positive, meaningful and effective life requires living to our full potential and manifesting the cardinal virtues in our daily lives as social beings. The Cardinal Virtues/ al-Ma’roof – (Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil) are those principles of social living that are universally acknowledged and globally applicable.

The Ancient Greek philosopher, Plato suggested that the cardinal virtues are wisdom, courage, self-control and justice. Each one should pursue a life of Integrity.

People of Integrity are Character-Driven

Therefore, they are motivated by commitment, not convenience. They are encouraged by the common good, not only personal gain. They make decisions based on principles, not on expediency. They continue when challenges/problems arise, rather than quit. They do right then feel good; rather than doing right when it makes them feel good.

Doing your best at being your best leads to the best results, for as Allah poses the rhetorical question in the Qur'an [Qur'an 55:60] ... [55:61] Is the reward of goodness anything but goodness?

Times are not really bad

We live in a time when academic standards are high and moral standards are low; where people are more likely to demand their rights than fulfill their responsibilities; where the age is made the scapegoat for lack of individual character.

“Don’t let yourself be victimized by the age you live in. It is not the time that will bring us down any more than its society. There is a tendency today to absolve individuals of moral responsibility and treat them as victims of social circumstance. You buy that and you pay with your soul. What limits people is a lack of character.” [Author, Tom Robinson]

Remember that...fashions do change, beauty fades, wealth becomes depleted, friends and fame come and go; but of lasting value are acts that emanate from sincere hearts, acts that reflect integrity and good character .."As you do so shall you benefit" [Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)]

Your spiritual journey during this month has ended and we are always saddened at the passing of a good friend and indeed the fast has been a good friend.

This 30 day journey has been an awesome exercise in pursuit of Divine blessing, Divine approval and an attempt at manifesting the best of ethical values and moral practices, don’t let it end today. Don’t walk out that door today without a pledge to make this day a start of a new day in your life.

A day of reformation and reconciliation with self…a day to forge ahead and be a better person in the world. A better Muslim in the family. A better Muslim in the Jama’at. What can I do today to better serve Islam?
You have the power to free one's yourself from the shackles of those basic animal tendencies within our selves.

So as our friend, Ramadhan moves on, we need to perpetuate the positive spirit we have imbibed and continue on the spiritual journey towards fulfillment and excellence. May Allah make this Ramadhan for each and everyone of you here today a source of spiritual change and strengthen your lives.

Today, let us pray for our nation and those young soldiers who give their lives for this nation, let us remember the Muslim Ummah, peace, progress and prosperity of the world; our brothers and sisters in Bangladesh, the prisoners of conscience, the martyrs, the sick, the needy, the helpless, the homeless, the unemployed, and lastly, remember those who are seeking the truth…may Allah the Almighty help them to enhance faith, belief and understanding to accept Ahmadiyyat.


Prayer Times For 6 Million Cities Worldwide


Cover up the faults of others

Love For All, Hatred For None

He who covers up [the faults of] a Muslim, God shall cover up his faults in this world and the next.

Disclosing other people's secrets leads to social discord and at times to animosity. Therefore, it is considered a vice and has been condemned in a large number of traditions.

This vice may take various forms, one of which is to recount to someone the derogatory remarks made about him by another individual, thus creating discord and hostility between them.

Another form is to recount to someone in power and authority something that another may have said or done against him, thus inciting him to the detriment of the victim.

In general, the vice of creating conflict and discord among people and stirring up hostility between individuals can take various forms, and disclosing people's secrets is one of its forms.

The opposite of this vice is the virtue of working to create good feeling, harmony, and love amongst people, which is a quality of great value. In opposition to the vice of revealing other people's secrets is the virtue of guarding their secrets and concealing them.

Exposing sins lead to humiliation and embarrassment, which ceases the possibility that the sinner might someday regret his mistake, seek forgiveness from Allah and purify his soul from sins because one of the things that prevent one from committing sins is the fear of humiliation.

However, if the sinner knows that the people are already aware of his sins, then he does not experience the shame and distraction which he used to feel before and this might encourage him to commit sins openly!
Secondly, when sins are repeatedly mentioned in gatherings, etc. the fear of committing sins vanishes from the people's hearts.

We are opposed to those in this society enjoy talking about their sins, enjoy making personal confessions regarding old sins…they say as a means for personal therapy and freedom. We are opposed to this type of therapy.

We are opposed because the sin will become easy on people's tongue and gradually he, who does not feel any shame in mentioning the sin, will not find it difficult to even commit the sin.

How many times have we heard people say: “I’m saved, now I can share with others how I defeated drugs by confronting drugs…as a result of such public discussions, drug usage increases instead of decreasing…This is how, sins spread in the society!

So, if someone becomes aware of his brother's sins and realizes that nobody except him has seen him committing the sin, then he should keep the sin a secret. He should not encourage people towards sins by exposing his faults.

Allah, the Almighty, has not only condemned committing sins in the Qur’an but He has also condemned those people who mention sins in public.

The Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: "My entire nation is safe, except al-Mujahirin (those who boast of their sins). Among the Mujaharah is that a man commits an (evil) act, and wakes up in the morning while Allah has kept his (sin) a secret, he says: "O Fulan! Last night I did this and that." He goes to sleep while Allah has kept his (sin) a secret but he wakes up in the morning and uncovers what Allah has kept a secret!" [Saheeh al-Bukharee]

The Holy Qur’an says [24:20] “Those, who love that indecency should spread among the believers, will have a painful punishment in this world and the Hereafter. And Allah knows and you know not.” meaning, those who like to see evil talk about them (the believers) appear. [Tafseer Ibn Katheer]

Allah says in Surah an-Nisa: [4:149] Allah likes not the uttering of unseemly speech in public, except on the part of one who is being wronged. Verily, Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
Ibn Abbas (radiyallahu anhu) commented on this verse, "Allah does not like that anyone should invoke Him against anyone else, unless one was wronged. In this case, Allah allows one to invoke Him against whoever wronged him…Yet, it is better for one if he observes patience." [Tafseer Ibn Katheer]

Today sins have become widespread in the society because we have forgotten the teachings of Allah's Messenger (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam), who discouraged people from revealing one's mistakes and sins as well as others. As a result, people have lost the fear of committing not only minor sins but even major sins - Moreover, we find people proudly attributing sins to themselves!

Today, there are also many novel channels through which sins are propagated in the society; like such book, magazines and television programs that mention the crimes of others, illicit acts, and immorality under the name of creating awareness among the people.

These programs which are meant to help people to be aware of and fight crimes are in reality, helping the crime to spread fast in the society! Crimes, which were previously unknown to people have become common offense.

In any case, all the various forms of 'ifsad bayn al-nas (corrupting mutual relations between people) are considered sins and condemned in many Quranic verses and traditions.

We have to be kind to each other: Allah's Apostle (peace be upon him) said: Aisha, verily Allah is kind and He loves kindness and confers upon kindness. Kindness is not to be found in anything but that it adds to its beauty and it is not withdrawn from anything but it makes it defective. Sahih muslim: Book 31, Number 6274.

A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He neither oppresses him nor humiliates him nor looks down upon him. The piety is here, (and while saying so) he pointed towards his chest thrice. It is a serious evil for a Muslim that he should look down upon his brother Muslim. All things of a Muslim are inviolable for his brother in faith; his blood, his wealth and his honor. Sahih Muslim Book 31, Number 6219.

Qur’an says: “and speak to men kindly and observe prayer, (Baqarah 84) A kind word and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And Allah is Self-Sufficient, Forbearing. (Baqarah 264). ‘A Muslim is brother of another Muslim. He does not wrong him, or insult him or humiliate him.’ (Muslim), and ‘The thing which will make the majority of people enter paradise is fear of Allah and good manner.’ (Tirmidhi).

From among the teachings of Allah's Messenger (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) is to keep sins a secret matter. If someone commits a sinful act which is against the Commandments of Allah, or is against the moral character, or is such an act that may cause harm to one's honor, then he should keep it a secret and seek forgiveness from Allah in the darkness of night.

Abdullah Ibn Masoud (radiyallahu anhu) related, 'A man came to the Prophet and said: 'O Messenger of Allah! I have mingled with a woman in the far side of al-Medina, and I fulfilled my desire. So, here am I, judge me according to what you decide.' Umar Ibn al-Khattab (radiyallahu anhu) then said: 'Allah had kept your secret, why did not you keep your secret?' [Sharh Muslim]

Similarly, if one becomes aware of somebody else's sin, he should keep it a secret. Allah's Messenger (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) said: “he who covers a Muslim (meaning his mistakes and shortcomings), Allah will cover him in the Dunya and the Hereafter…”[Muslim]

Abdullah Ibn Umar (radiyallahu anhu) related, "The Messenger of Allah (salallahu alaihe wa-sallam) once rose above the podium and then said with a loud voice, "O those who have embraced Islam only with their tongue, while Eemaan has not yet entered their hears, neither harm Muslims, nor mock them, nor try to expose their mistakes, for he who follows (searches for) the errors of his brother, Allah will follow his errors, and he whom Allah follows his errors, He will expose him even if he was in the middle of his home." [Saheeh al-Jamee]

Qur’an says: “and speak to men kindly and observe prayer.” Ahmadi Muslims should avoid the practice of labeling people as sinners, said Hazur in his sermon today. Allah says that the righteous servants are kind and merciful to others. Allah knows the faults of everyone and he covers those faults.

We need to focus on self. Focus on our own weaknesses and turn to God seeking repentance and forgiveness. If Allah were to put us to account for our sins today, we would all be destroyed but He covers our sins with the shadow of His Mercy.

And our last words are All praise is due to Almighty Allah, Lord of all the worlds. O’ Allah we seek your protection in this world and the next. We beg you to cover our weaknesses and grant us sanctity from our fears. Ameen!


Tuesday, November 16, 2004

My friend, Adell

Adell Crump
Love For All, Hatred For None

I don’t have many friends, only God knows why. It isn’t that I don’t like people because I do, but friendship is something that for me is light years beyond the point of “…you are my friend because I like you.”

A good friend, in my humble opinion, is someone you love and care for because of his love for you. A love that is never stated and never marginalized by repeated military like declarations at birthdays, or whenever you meet.

I have such a friend, his name is Adell Crump.

Now, to set the stage for my journey with Adell Crump, we must delve into the wonderful world of friendship. What do others, the philosophers, great men and women, what do they say about friendship?

The answer is easy for me because I have this big old impressive book – The New Dictionary of Thoughts. If I don’t know something in this crazy world, it’s the “good book” that has quick definitions and answers for me on a myriad of subjects.

Its not a holy book like the Torah, Bible, Holy Qur’an, Zabur, or Suhufi Ibrahim…of course I’ve been taught to recognize the truth of all sacred scriptures. The Dictionary of Thoughts, which I found in a thrift shop, just looks like a holy book, but I know it doesn’t qualify for sacred scripture status.

In 1955, the authors said this about the book: “…a cyclopedia of quotations, from the best authors of the world, both ancient and modern, alphabetically arranged by subjects. Furthermore, the authors make this prolific thought pondering statement:

“In this twentieth century, with the radio and the improvements in modern publishing greatly enlarging the field for speakers and writers, it is more valuable from the purely practical point of view than ever before.”

So, there it is folks! Do I need to say anymore about my quasi-holy book, “The New Dictionary of Thoughts.” You can simply refer to it in quiet, spiritual-like reverence, as the village idiot’s cyclopedia. A good book with good definitions. Amen!

After sniffing the old book smell, the pages flipped open (akin to something in the Twilight Zone) these are just a few of the many quotations on friendship. There are a whole bunch on friendship and just a few for hatred.

“A friend should be one in whose understanding and virtue we can equally confide, and whose opinion we can value at once for its justness and its sincerity.” -- Robert Hall

“By friendship you mean the greatest love, the greatest usefulness, the most open communication, the noblest sufferings, the severest truth, the heartiest counsel, and the greatest union of minds of which brave men and women are capable.” – Jeremy Taylor

“A true friend is the gift of God, and he only who made hearts can untie them.” – South

Okie dokie, that’s enough for now, if you want more go out and find your own cyclopedia. Although, I believe there are only a few like mine left on earth.

Now, before boredom begins to creep into this story, let me tell you about my friend, Adell.

First of all, let’s be clear about one thing…Adell is not perfect and he certainly isn’t a saint, if you don’t believe me ask his wife, Rose. She is the saint who will be given a special seat in paradise for putting up with the very strange behavior of a creative Adell.

You see, Adell is an artist. And he isn’t just any old goofy artist who spends his life painting stuff that ultimately finds its final home in a thrift shop galleria. He is an artist who has a gift from God that has caused him to take on the crazed look of a madman. It goes with the occupation for anyone who knows anything about the creative soul.

Adell isn’t a madman in the sense that we may have to lock him up tonite, but he is madly in love with his creator, who endowed this brother with a love for that which is created by man. He is a lover of God.

If you don’t understand just take a look at what he has created with love, affection and compassion beginning with his family.

It was his mother, who found his wife. God is truly wonderful, now I understand why they say “paradise lies at the feet of all mothers.” She is simply his Rose. Any other name would have been the wrong name for Rose Crump.

Through the many years of marriage, pain and suffering, love and contentious relations, they have survived with patience, trust and a strong belief Almighty God. Somewhere along the way, they took time to bring seven wonderful (I believe…I stopped counting at five) children into this world.

The love story is legend in the Crump family archives and oral history with some variations and embellishment as time moves along, but somehow truth always manifest itself in history.

Adell’s mamma found Rosemary Crump in a Waukegan factory. Mrs. Crump knew her quirky son was not the man to be left on his own when it comes to making a big decision about a woman. I tried to tell you he wasn’t perfect.

It was a mother’s love for her son. It was the best gift she could give to a son that she knew was destined for greatness. This story is so good I should write a book about it and have Adell work on the illustrations (let’s talk later, Adell).

Rosemary walked into his life and she almost walked out because Adell just couldn’t grasp what his mother saw to be divine. But as it is that God protects the ignorant, children, the elderly and wayward artists who can’t see beyond the canvas.

Now, let me make this a little clearer to those who still haven’t understood this beautiful love story. Adell’s mother somehow knew Adell was stuck on himself. This isn’t a bad thing, as some might think. He is totally consumed by his work. It’s a passion and a love affair that has nothing to do with how he feels about relationships. It’s a different world. It is a a weird world of creativity, free expression, color, shapes, illusions, perspectives and things that only he sees in his world. Some might think that he’s on drugs, but the man is a borderline saint. He doesn’t booze, smoke, nor is he a dope head, although he can be a little dopey.

Rose walked into his life with some fear and trepidation for the brother’s behavior but somehow she fell in love with him. Adell isn’t a bad looking guy. In his youth, he thought he was cool and maybe a little cute. Some would say that in his youth he resembled a young Muhammad Ali. It could be that his killer smile touched Rose’s heart, she won’t tell and he doesn’t have a clue.

It certainly wasn’t money. Rose was working in a factory making big bucks back in the day. She could buy and sale the penniless Adell, who was a struggling artist. As an art student at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, Adell sold Rose on the idea that he was going to be a big time artist. At that point, you would have thought she would have hit that door running and screaming: “Feet don’t fail me now.”

But Rose, ever so humble and loving, didn’t run and the rest is history. Adell did distinguish in the field of art as a graduate of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He paid for his own education by working odd jobs and he was mentored in the art of sign painting by the renowned African American sign painter, Ed McAllister, who operated the only black owned sign painting business in Lake County.

His hard work as a student was a blessing that led to a permanent job with Dickens Design Group, a package design specialty firm in Chicago. In the American spirit of hard work and dedication, Adell focused on his work and rose through the ranks to become a vice president of the firm.

The world of package design is something that is so abstract to the average consumer who is the focus of the creativity of an artist seeking to catch your fleeting attention with a colorful and useful package that literally jumps on a shelf and into your shopping basket.

To understand this world just take a quick stroll through any major grocery store without any intent to make a purchase. As you walk along the aisles, take notice how your eyes are drawn to certain packaged goods. What is it that causes you to stop and pick up an item for closer examination?

You may have picked up a package designed by Adell Crump. You have entered the world of the package designer who uses colors, designs and shapes of plastic containers and seemingly innocent packages to entice the consumer. Adell and others in the world of package design agonize and have sleepless nights over packages that we take for granted and at the end of a day toss with ease into the nearest garbage container.

The package designer is an artist/magician who dibble and dabble in a creative process that involves the environment, safety and ultimately how to help sell a product. Adell’s designs were of the highest quality and some of his designs are still found on everyday products in the supermarket.

But of course, Adell’s journey and celebration of life was to take him far beyond the world of package design. As a humble soul from a very poor rural background in Newport, Arkansas, Adell settled in Lake County, close to Chicago where he and his wife built a lovely home in Beach Park.

With his talent in a variety of art medias, Adell founded his own design firm, Crump Designs. He takes on a variety of projects including one of my personal favorites for the Head Start program in Lake County. Using animal characters, inspired by his grandchildren, Adell created several large wall murals with a colorful menagerie of animals. Children and visitors walking through the facility find themselves in the midst of these beautiful, lifelike animals that convey a feeling of learning in a safe environment.

While all of his contemporary accomplishments are captivating, his story took a downward turn when Adell was diagnosed wikth Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer of the lymph system. It was a crushing blow to family and friends. How could it be that an Almighty God would allow the precious life of someone we all loved so dearly to slip away from this world?

While family and friends shed tears, Adell refused to give in to the doctor’s prognosis and instructions to “go home and prepare for death.” Adell sought relief and recovery through prayer and those prayers were answered. He completely recovered and returned to his daily family responsibilities, along with longer fishing trips much to the distress of friends who are completely baffled by his uncanny fishing ability.

The Adell Crump story continues to move on as his work gains national attention. It was a simple city sticker design for the first African American Mayor of North Chicago (located 40 milies north of Chicago) that brought him more attention and notoriety. Mayor Bette Thomas, was catapulted to the national scene, after a decale designed by Adell featured the colorful and outspoken mayor with the American flag as a backdrop.

Adell, in his innocence as an artist, had no idea that the political fall-out from the design would result in national coverage by the media. The historical city sticker was blasted by local politicians who said it was an abuse of authority by the mayor. The entire story, plus images of Adell’s work, was carried by national newspapers including a prominent feature in Jet Magazine (Sept. 8, 2003).

It’s ironic that the black magazine is published by a man most admired in Adell’s collection of great African Americans, none other than John H. Johnson. Adell also had the honor of once being featured in Johnson’s Ebony Magazine’s “Speaking of People” section as a designer at Dickens.

As one of his many friends and admirers, you can’t help but wonder what his legacy will be in life. I really believe one day the world will discover the work of Adell Crump after he is long gone. It is the way of life for the artist. We fail to appreciate the talent that God has give us through the artist, until he his no longer with us. I celebrate the life of Adell Crump today. He is a special person in the life of his wife, family and many, many grandchildren who will one day tell others about Adell from their own personal and loving perspectives.

I believe what distinguishes Adell from others is not only his talent but his good, righteous qualities, a sense of responsibility along with a profound love and fear of Almighty God.

I’m honored to be his friend!


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The victory of Ramadhan: A time for reflection.

As we near the end of Ramadhan…We continue to seek Almighty Allah’s forgiveness.

Sunday marks the end of the Holy Month of Ramadhan. It is a victory for those who have been engaged in prayer, reading the Holy Qur'an and content with the remembrance of Allah. It is a victory for those who begin their day with the intention to fast and close the day in remembrance of Allah by stating:

“O Allah, for Thee I kept the Fast and upon Thee I have faith and I am breaking the Fast with the provisions provided by Thee.”

It is a time of healing and seeking relief by simply focusing on the favors that Almighty Allah has bestowed on humankind through his grace and turning to Him for forgiveness.

We are not perfect beings and human beings are bound to make mistakes as it says, “to err is human and to forgive is divine.”

There is not a day that goes by that we are not challenged by our satan within to fall into error, to sin, to make small or major mistakes that cause us to reel and rock in despair sometimes to the point of becoming ill with short or long term depressive behavior.

But we should not despair because the Qur’an teaches that Allah is a Judge and He also punishes, but Allah is not bound to punish. The justice of Allah, according to Qur’an is that Allah does not and will not inflict undue punishment on any person. He will not ignore the good of any person. But if He wishes to forgive any sinner, He has full freedom to do that. His mercy is unlimited and His love is infinite.

There are many verses in the Qur’an and sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallallaho alaihe wasallam -peace be upon him- on the love, mercy and forgiveness of Allah.

In one of the prayers that the Prophet taught, he said, “O Allah, You are most Forgiving One, You love to forgive, so forgive me.”(reported by al-Trimidhi and Ibn Majah). We need Allah’s mercy and forgiveness all the time.

There is a remedy for sin but you seek it by repenting, seeking forgiveness and being remorseful by turning to Him. The Promised Messiah (a.s.) says: “This means that if they do evil in conformity with the demands of their ego, or an evil thought arises in their minds and they seek remedy through repentance and seeking forgiveness, God forgives them. If they stumble repeatedly and are remorseful each time and repent, the remorse and repentance wash out the stain of their sin.”

The Holy Qur’an states: “Whoso does evil or wrongs his soul, and then asks forgiveness of Allah, will find Allah Most Forgiving, Ever Merciful.” (4:111)

Almighty Allah’s only request is that you turn to Him… seeking His forgiveness – astaghfirhu! While you sit wondering what has happened to you as a result of your own choices in life and then you sit thinking or scheming how to get out of a problem, you forget to turn towards Him. You made those mistakes, yet a loving God continues to reach out to you with a remedy. A cure for what ails you, but nothing can happen without you first accepting, understanding and turning towards God for help.

And he says in the Holy Qur'an: “O my servants who have committed excesses against their own soul; despair not of the Mercy of Allah, surely Allah forgives all sins. Verily he is Most Forgiving, Merciful.” (39:54)

Thus does the Holy Qur'an reveal to us a message of hope. A message that should lift every spirit that there is a remedy to sin and we should not despair and become despondent as we grapple with those sins in daily life. We have a wonderful loving God who says, “ (My) forgiveness is Oft-returning with mercy—( Inna-hu Kana tawwaba)

The attribute, Al-Tawwab used in the Surah, translates as: “He who is oft-returning.” This name of Allah is mentioned in the Qur’an about 11 times. Allah accepts the repentance of those who sincerely repent and turn to him. The word “tawwab” gives the sense of “oft-returning” which means that Allah again and again accepts the repentance. We make sins and mistakes then we repent, He accepts our repentance. Then again we commit sins and make mistakes and when we repent, He again very kindly accepts us and gives us another chance.

Seeking Allah’s forgiveness is paramount for anyone who is troubled by his sins and his inability to overcome the modus operandi (A method of operating or functioning). We become entrenched and isolated by our egos and embarrassed by our mistakes, misdeeds or whatever you want to call sins.

What we all have to do is to get back to the basics during the remaining days of Ramadhan. Look forward to each and every day of this fast as if it were your last day on earth – who knows it may be! Do not despair if you have made a mess of the fast, so far…turn towards Him, purify your heart and accept with a passionate belief that you are a believer who repents and seeks forgiveness from Almighty Allah.

If we say we love Allah, now is the time to reach out and call his name. Seek forgiveness from Allah. Seek His forgiveness and cry out to him, express the pain that you feel honestly and openly through prayer.

The Promised Messiah (a.s.) has given us further insight into the meaning of Istighfaar or to ask Almighty Allah in all humility and remorsefulness to cover our sins and safeguard us against natural weaknesses and bestow on us “…power from His power, and knowledge from His knowledge, and light from his light.”

As a creature created by God, He has never become separate from humankind. And we are reminded in the Holy Qur’an that it is God who has created us and “Allah is He, save Whom none is worthy of worship, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining (2:256)…”

It is only God who sustains us in the good and the bad times. It is only God who we pray to five times a day as we supplicate: Iyaka na abudu wa Iyyaka nastaeen -- “Thee alone do we worship and thee alone do we implore for help.”

We should be joyful today. At the end of Ramadhan, we take a deep breath and ponder over His Grace. We should be joyful and full of hope knowing that our Lord is Gracious, very Merciful, very Benevolent and Bountiful.

And we conclude with this prayer:

“O Lord, our devotions and actions are nothing but we have perfect faith and hope in Thee that thou will deal with us with Mercy, Grace and Favor. We pray that Thou will forgive our wrongs and make us enter the Paradise of Thy Pleasure through thy Grace. O Lord, enable us to always be Grateful and Thankful servants and praise Thee.”

Ramadhan Mubarak, Hasan

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Spiritual Duty of Man: Righteousness

Love For All, Hatred For None

The Promised Messiah (alaihissalaam) says: “The spiritual duty of man is to walk along all the ways of righteousness. They are the attractive features of spiritual beauty.

It is obvious that to be mindful of the trusts of God Almighty, and to fulfill all the covenants of faith, and to employ all faculties and limbs both overt, like eyes and ears and hands and feet and others like them, and those that are covert, like the mind and other faculties and qualities, on their proper occasions and to restrain them from coming into action on improper occasions, and to be warned against the subtle attacks of vice and to be mindful of the rights of one's fellow beings is the way of perfecting one's spiritual beauty.

“God Almighty has in the Holy Quran designated righteousness as a garment. The garment of righteousness is an expression of the Holy Quran (7:27). This is an indication that spiritual beauty and spiritual ornament are achieved through righteousness. This means that one must be mindful even of the smallest details of the Divine trusts and covenants and also of all the trusts and covenants of one's fellow beings, as far as it may be possible.” ( Zameema Braheen Ahmadiyyah, pp. 51-52 ) .

A sure sign of hypocrisy is breaking a promise. Thus whoever promised another of good thing and did not fulfill it, then he would have a quality of hypocrisy.
We have to be very watchful over our trusts, especially those that have been proclaimed in the name of Almighty Allah. It is Allah who is witness to everything we do.

Imam Bukhari reported that the prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) said, "A man form the children of Israel, asked someone to lend him a thousand dinars until a set date. Someone lent him the money, and when the time came that man wanted to pay it off. He went out to the sea to go to the lender, but could not find a ship; thus, he took a piece of wood and drilled a hole through it, then he put in it a thousand dinar and threw it in the sea. The lender came out in another sea shore to find the log before him, and he took it as a fire wood to his family and when he sawed it, he found his money in it". Because of his eagerness to payoff the debt on time, Allah (S.W.T.) has helped him in directing the money to its owner.

Another sign of hypocrisy is the betrayal when entrusted, and not returning this trust to which it belongs to or using it without permission given from the owner. Allah (S.W.T.) has commanded us in surat An-Nisa’, (Verse 59), “Verily, Allah commands yo to ‘give over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice.”

Trusts are of many types. It may be in the form of money and in the form of rights. There are some Muslims who are conscious about money trusts, but are not conscious about the rights and duties that Allah trust every one of us with. Thus, yourself is a trust given to you by Allah. Your wealth, which you gather is a trust, entrusted to you by Allah, the time that you made use of is also a trust, again your health, your youth, your mind, your hearing, and your vision, are all trusts to you from Allah.

Also your wife and children are a trust entrusted to you by Allah. Also your community is a trust entrusted to you by Allah. And the most important trust is the deen of Allah that entrusted you with. So let us be ware from the betraying all of these trusts or the loss of them, surely Allah will question us, on that, on the day of Judgment.

The preservation of covenants and trusts lies in observing Allah’s rights in them. And to follow the commands of Allah in all of them. Allah (S.W.T.) has praised the believers in surat Al-Mu’minoun, “And who are watchful of their trusts and covenants.”

And if you say you are believers then you must honor the commands of the Holy Qur’an which clearly states: O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority among you. And if you differ in anything refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you are believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is best and most commendable in the end.” (Surah Al-Nisa v. 60)

462.Hadhrat Abu Ayyub Ansaari (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "It is not lawful for a Muslim to sever his ties with another Muslim for more than three days, in such a way that when they meet, the one who turns his face one way and the one other turns his face the other way.The better of these two is the one who makes Salaam first." (Bukhari, Muslim).

May Allah, the Almighty, enable us to act upon our covenants and may Allah help us to fulfil and discharge our obligations and trusts. Ameen.


Thursday, October 28, 2004

The "real" father of Pentecostalism?

One of the most influential centers in early Pentecostal history was THE CITY OF ZION, Illinois, USA, founded in 1900 by Dr. John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907).

Although, Dowie himself did not accept the Spirit-baptism with tongues theology, he is called "the father of healing revivalism in America" (Harrell, All Things Are Possible, p. 13).

Dr. John Alexander Dowie

His latter days miracle theology helped pave the way for Pentecostalism, and Pentecostal theology did quickly permeate his institutions even before his death. Many influential Pentecostal leaders came out of his movement.

His magazine, Leaves of Healing, had a worldwide distribution and a vast influence. Dowie taught that healing is promised in the atonement and insisted that those who sought faith healing give up all medical care. He viewed druggists and physicians as instruments of the devil.

When his own daughter was severely burned after accidentally knocking over an alcohol lamp, he banished one of his followers for trying to alleviate her pain with Vaseline. He refused to allow her any medical treatment and she died in that condition. Many others who came to his faith cure homes died of their illnesses without any medical attention. In 1895 he was charged with manslaughter and neglect by the city of Chicago and convicted, but the higher courts ruled that the conviction was unconstitutional.

He required that his followers give up the use of all pork products. He ruled his City of Zion with an iron hand and was noted for financial irresponsibility and a love for personal luxury. In 1901 he claimed that he was Elijah the Restorer, and in 1904 he "told his followers to anticipate the full restoration of apostolic Christianity and revealed that he had been divinely commissioned as the first apostle of a renewed end-times church" (Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, p. 249).

In the last few years of his life he was accused of sexual irregularities, he suffered a crippling stroke, and his Zion City was declared bankrupt. For six months before his death he lay in a state of total despondency.

In spite of Dowie's heretical doctrines and unscriptural ministry, he prepared the way for Charles Parham and his equally unscriptural Pentecostalism. The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements notes that many of the most famous Pentecostal evangelists went out from Zion (p. 368) and dozens of Parham's followers at Zion joined the Assemblies of God at its formation in 1914.

In fact, three of the original eight members of the AOG general council were from Zion City (p. 370). Those who arose from Zion City to become influential in the Pentecostal movement included F.F. Bosworth, John Lake, J. Rosewell Flower, Daniel Opperman, Cyrus Fockler, Fred Vogler, Marie Burgess Brown, William Piper, F.A. Graves, Lemuel Hall, Martha Robinson, Gordon Lindsay, and Raymond Richey. Influential Assemblies of God minister Gordon Lindsay, editor of Voice of Healing, wrote Dowie's biography and gave him credit for influencing "a host of men of faith who have had powerful ministries," referring to generations of Pentecostal preachers.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The funny thing about my nightmares

Love For All, Hatred For None

Dreaming is an act of pure imagination, attesting in all men a creative power, which if it were available in waking, would make every man a Dante or a Shakespeare. -- Hedge

Since childhood my imagination has been out of control and drives me to have some of the most vivid and colorful nightmares. It happens when I sleep. It happens when I dream at a time when I’m in touch with my soul.

The dreams are full of color – reds, orange…an incredible range of colors that are vibrant but the colors also give way to darkness with shadows and creepy landscapes with things that go bump in the night..they are my extraordinary nightmares.

As a child they were vexing and caused me to hate the night. The nightmare experience would leave me exhausted before taking off for school. What was amazing is that I could remember and replay the nightmares in my mind. It was similar to watching black and white movie reruns. They were short, powerful and a little frightening that would intimidate me by nightfall.

As an adult, the dreams and nightmares continue, but I’m not afraid. I simply have a better understanding of myself and my strange world of dreams and nightmares. I don’t have a meltdown after some of these bizarre nightmares and there isn’t a need for therapy at my age. I still have my moments but I don’t fear the night.

I now understand that as a creative person my imagination continues to flow, even when I’m asleep. Instead of acting out of fear, my dreams and nightmares have been very revealing and provide the impetus for creativity that knows no bounds.

“Use your imagination,” I can hear it in my mind. “Use your imagination to open doors and create...for your imagination is a gift from God.”


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Holy Month of Ramadhan: A Sermon

Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul-Masih V, Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, delivered today’s (October 15, 2004) Friday Sermon on the blessings of the holy month of Ramadan in light of the fact that it commences in Britain and North America tomorrow.

Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad,
Supreme Head of the Worldwide
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
Love For All,
Hatred For None

He began by reciting verses 184 -186 of Surah Al Baqarah and elucidated the sacred aspects of Ramadan. Huzur (as he is referred to by Ahmadi Muslims) said that indeed this month is replete with blessings with numerous opportunities to gather divine grace therefore it is a desolate time for satanic inclinations.

Indeed Ramadan’s blessings are for those who purify themselves and worship of Allah, practicing all His commandments and shunning all His prohibitions. Huzur said taqwa is to avoid sin; just as one takes cover behind a shield, fasting, when done with sincerity, protects one from satanic tendencies. Once one enters this sphere of protection during Ramadan, one ought to endeavor and stay within its confines through out the rest of the year.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) said that some deeds have an equal reward some have ten-folds reward while some have seven-hundred-folds reward. However, Allah Himself is the reward for those who fast, and this is a limitless reward.

He enjoined that a person, who does not take advantage of the blessings of Ramadan, is ruined and if one fasts in a state of Iman (having faith), and does "mohasiba e nafs” (critically analyses the condition of self), all their previous sins are forgiven.

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) said that Allah has made fasting an obligation and he had established it in his life, therefore, one who fasts in a state of Iman is as pure as a newborn baby.

He likened fasting to a fortress protecting us against sins, however, when one engages in falsehood and backbiting, it is as if one tears down this protective shield.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) enjoined that eating less when linked with worship of God heightens one’s spirituality and facilitates severing ties with worldliness and enhancing communion with Allah.

Huzur stressed the significance of the revelation of the Holy Quran with Ramadan and related that angel Gabriel used to repeat all the revealed portions of the Holy Quran to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him) during Ramadan.

Huzur enjoined additional recitation of the Holy Quran in Ramadan, reading its translation and wherever possible, arrangements should be made for its Dars (lesson).

Huzur explained the Divine leniency in fasting for those who are unwell and the traveller and pointed out the directive to make up the fasts at another time. He also spoke on the payment of fidya (compensation) as an additional virtue. However, for those whose health does not ever allow them to fast fidya is prescribed.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) explained that the rationale behind payment of fidya is seeking capacity and strength to fast from Allah. He enjoined that the objective of fasting is to seek Allah’s pleasure therefore one must not act wilfully and fast when unwell and during travelling. Salvation come Allah’s grace and not by force of what one does.

Hazur prayed that we may all be able to fast purely for Allah's sake without any excuse, advance on the paths of virtues, win the love of Allah, and then continue to progress in taqwa throughout the year after Ramadan is over.

This translation was obtained from website.


Sunday, October 17, 2004

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah and Mahdi
Love For All, Hatred For None

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadhan

Love For All, Hatred For None

Fasting is another form of worship found universally in the world religions. Although there are vast differences regarding the mode of fasting and the conditions applied to it, the central idea of fasting is present everywhere. Where it is not mentioned clearly, it is likely that it may gradually have either been discontinued or have petered out through gradual decay in practice.

The case of Buddha is an interesting example. He started his quest for truth with a severe form of fasting, but later on it is said that he abandoned this practice because it had adversely effected his health. In view of this one can understand why he discontinued, but this does not in any way indicate that he had ceased to believe in fasting. Perhaps that is why some Buddhists, here and there, still observe some form of fasting.

Fasting in Islam is a highly developed institution, and needs to be studied in depth. There are two types of injunctions with regards to fasting. One relates to obligatory fasting and the other to optional. Obligatory fasting is further divided into two categories:
There is one full month in every year in which fasting is prescribed for Muslims all over the world. As the month is a lunar month, so it keeps changing around the year in relation to the solar months. This creates a universal balance for the worshippers. Sometimes the fasting in winter months is easy as far as the days go, in comparison to the long winter nights, while during the summer months the days become long and exacting. As the lunar months keep rotating around the year, so Muslims in all parts of the world have some periods of easy fasting and some of arduous fasting.

Fasting in Islam begins everywhere at the first appearance of dawn, and ends with sunset. During this period one is expected to abstain from all food and drink completely. It is not just physical hunger and thirst that constitute the Muslim fast, but the nights prior to the beginning of the fast acquire a far more important character and play a central role in the institution of fasting. The Muslims wake up many hours before dawn for individual prayer and the remembrance of God. Also the Holy Quran is recited in every Muslim house much more than in ordinary days. A greater part of the night is thus spent in spiritual exercises which make upso the very essence of fasting.

During the day, apart from restraining from food and water, all is Muslims are particularly exhorted from vain talk, quarrels and fights, or from any such occupation as is below the dignity of a true believer. No indulgence in carnal pleasure is allowed; even husband and wife during the day lead separate lives, except for the formal human relationship common to all people.

In Islam, alms-giving and care for the destitute is so highly emphasised that it becomes part of a Muslim's daily life. However when it comes to Ramadhan, the month of fasting, Muslims are required to redouble their efforts in this field. It is reported of the Holy Prophet that spending in the cause of the poor was a routine daily practice with him which has been likened unto a breeze, never ceasing to bring comfort and solace to the needy. However during Ramadhan, the reporters of the Ahadith -- the sayings of the Holy Prophet (sa)-- remind us that the breeze seemed to pick up speed and began to blow like strong winds. Alms-giving and care for the destitute are so highly emphasised, that in no period during the year do Muslims engage in such philanthropic purposes as they do during the month of Ramadhan.
Other obligatory fasting is most often related to the condoning of sins by God. This also includes violation of the obligatory fasts.

The optional fasting is so well promoted that it becomes a part of the righteous Muslim's way of life. Although a majority of Muslims do not go beyond the month of obligatory fasting, some keep fasts now and then particularly when in trouble. As it is expected that the prayers offered in fasting are more productive, some people keep extra fasts to ward off their problems, but some do it only for the sake of winning Allah's special favours. There no limit to this, except that the founder of Islam strongly discouraged those who had vowed to fast continuously for their whole life. When the Holy Prophet (sa) came to learn of one such case, he disapproved of the practice and censured the man for attempting to achieve liberation as if by forcing his will upon . He told the person concerned that: 'Just by putting yourself to trouble or discomfort, not only will you be unable to please God, but you may even earn His displeasure.' He pointed out that over emphasis on austerity is likely to make one negligent towards one's wife and children, kith and kin, friends etc.

The Holy Prophet (sa) reminded him specifically of his responsibilities in the area of human relationship: 'Do your duty to God as well as the creation of God equitably' was the advice. To some, after their insistent petulant begging, he permitted optional fasts only in the style of David, peace be upon him. The Holy Founder of Islam told them that it was the practice of David to fast one day and abstain from doing so the next. Throughout his life, after he made this vow, he kept the fast on alternate days. So the Holy Prophet (sa) said 'I can only permit you that much and no more.'

The institution of fasting is extremely important because it cultivates the believer in almost every area of his spiritual life. Among other things, he learns through personal experience about what hunger, poverty, loneliness and discomforts mean to the less fortunate sections of society. Abstention from even such practices during the month of Ramadhan as are permissible in everyday life plays a constructive role in refining the human character.

An excerpt from An Elementary Study of Islam, Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, 1996 Islam International Publications LTD.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Dissed by Bill Cosby, the Comedian

Bill Cosby, Comedian
Love For All, Hatred For None

WAUKEGAN — City officials knew about it for nearly a month, and various members of the community knew the secret as word started to leak out in the last week.

On top of that, early arrivals to Tuesday's unveiling of the Genesee Theatre's opening act could see the name through the thin blue tarp covering the marquee.

But there was still a stir in the noontime crowd of around 200 when the tarp was pulled down to reveal words the city has awaited for at least two years: "Opening night — December 3 — Bill Cosby."

"There isn't a bigger name," said Mayor Richard Hyde, moments after tugging down the cover with former mayor Bill Durkin and state legislators Terry Link and Eddie Washington.

Cosby, the multiple Emmy and Grammy winner who staged two sold-out shows this week at the Rosemont Theater, is scheduled to open the revitalized 1927 stage house with two performances. While showtimes and prices have yet to be announced, officials did say tickets will go on sale Oct. 22 at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster via phone and the Internet.

…and there it was in bold headlines, right before my eyes – I couldn’t believe it. After so many years of being haunted by the man who almost caused me years of therapy and grief, Bill Cosby is now coming to Waukegan, my hometown, my village, my abode, my safe haven…will this hell for me ever stop?

This Cosby nightmare of mine started many, many years ago when he was a virtually unknown comedian with a few comedy albums out that I was naturally drawn to. Cosby’s humor was funny and he soon became my favorite comedian. I would tell friends, “you’ve got to listen to this brother, he’s really funny.”

It was during my years as a reporter with the local newspaper, The News Sun, that fate would bring me together with Mr. Cosby. He was booked for a one-night show at Libertyville High School and I was the reporter assigned to cover the event. It was to be a glorious assignment for me, more glorious than my first banner headline when the Waukegan school superintendent dropped dead at his surprise party.

It’s been more than 30 years since that fateful assignment. I don’t remember much about his performance, but I do remember how Cosby dissed me. It may very well be the worst dis of my life, since he was a black hero to me.

After his show, I nervously approached Cosby, who towered over me, and politely asked for a quick interview. Cosby shot back at me: “I don’t give interviews to the press.”

Quickly recovering from his response, I replied: “Mr. Cosby, I really need this interview. I’m the only black journalist at my newspaper and this interview would really be a feather in my cap.” I asked him to reconsider but he simply shot me a “take a hike” frown and he walked away from me.

I just stood there, a blank reporter’s pad in hand and nothing to take back to my editor. I’ve never forgotten the look on his face. It completely devastated me. And as the late and great black journalist Lu Palmer would say: “It’s enough to make a Negro turn black.”

For me, it was a good learning lesson in life. Entertainers are usually not who we think they are in real life. I had created a persona that only existed in my mind. Bill Cosby is simply an entertainer, a comedian…not someone who would evoke profound thoughts from his rantings and ravings as a comedian and now an old man who makes pronouncements about poor black folks.

I’ve watched Bill Cosby for years from a distance. He is not my favorite entertainer. I’m not amused by his animated and emotional attempts to marginalize the plight of poor folks in America. Yet, I cannot ignore the fact that he has put his money where his mouth is by constantly giving to philanthropic causes to help folks to help themselves.

Now, will I make the trek to the multi-million dollar Genesee Theatre in Waukegan…I don’t think so. Bill Cosby may have dissed me once, but I won’t give brotherman the chance to do it again!