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!


The Leaves of Healing, A weekly paper for the extension of the Kingdom of God
Dr. John Alexander Dowie's international newspaper, published from Zion, IL USA
Love For All, Hatred For None

The Fate of a False Prophet unfolds a classical tale where truth was successful against falsehood with all its false promises and false claims.

The prayer-duel between Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (who fulfilled the predictions regarding the Second Advent of Jesus) and Dr. Dowie, was not a casual contest between two unknown claimants.

It was a great media event in the USA from 1902 to 1907. The tragic death of Dr. Dowie from acute paralysis in 1907, proved beyond doubt that Divine Hand had intervened in favor of Islam and it was but a fit ending for the erroneous Christian doctrine of the God-head of Jesus.

It was a great sign for the Americans who witnessed this miracle with awe and reverence. It is, therefore, only fit and proper that God-fearing and righteous among the people of this country, take heed and listen to the call of Ahmad, the Promised Messiah; so that the blessings of the Al-Mighty should be with them forever.

Sheikh Mubarak Ahmad Feb. 18, 1985
For more information: Fate of a False Prophet: John Alexander Dowie

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Fight Poverty in America

No Room For Poverty
Love For All, Hatred For None

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

The worldwide Ahmadiyya
Muslim Community offers a clear presentation of Islamic wisdom, philosophy, morals and spirituality as derived from the Holy Qur'an and the practice (Sunnah) of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace
and blessings of Allah be on him). Some Ahmadis',

like the late Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (who served as the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan; President of the 17th General Assembly of U.N.O.; President and Judge of the International Court of Justice, at the Hague), and Dr. Abdus Salam (the Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1979), have also been recognized by the world community for their outstanding services and achievements.
Love For All, Hatred For None

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam is a religious organization, international in its scope, with branches in over 174 countries in Africa, North America, South America, Asia, Australia, and Europe.

At present, its total membership exceeds 200 million worldwide, and the numbers are increasing day by day. This is the most dynamic denomination of Islam in modern history.

The Ahmadiyya Movement was established in 1889 by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) in a small and remote village, Qadian, in the Punjab, India. He claimed to be the expected reformer of the latter days, the Awaited One of the world community of religions (The Mahdi and Messiah).

The Movement he started is an embodiment of the benevolent message of Islam -- peace, universal brotherhood, and submission to the Will of God -- in its pristine purity. Hadhrat Ahmad proclaimed Islam as the religion of man: "The religion of the people of the right path" (98:6)

With this conviction, the Ahmadiyya Movement, within a century, has reached the corners of the Earth. Wherever the Movement is established, it endeavors to exert a constructive influence of Islam through social projects, educational institutes, health services, Islamic publications and construction of mosques, despite being bitterly persecuted in some countries.

Ahmadi Muslims have earned the distinction of being a law-abiding, peaceful, persevering and benevolent community.

The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam was created under divine guidance with the objective to rejuvenate Islamic moral and spiritual values. It encourages interfaith dialogue, and diligently defends Islam and tries to correct misunderstandings about Islam in the West.

It advocates peace, tolerance, love and understanding among followers of different faiths. It firmly believes in and acts upon the Qur'anic teaching: "There is no compulsion in religion." (2:257) It strongly rejects violence and terrorism in any form and for any reason.

The Movement offers a clear presentation of Islamic wisdom, philosophy, morals and spirituality as derived from the Holy Qur'an and the practice (Sunnah) of the Holy Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Some Ahmadis', like the late Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (who served as the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan; President of the 17th General Assembly of U.N.O.; President and Judge of the International Court of Justice, at the Hague), and Dr. Abdus Salam (the Nobel Laureate in Physics in 1979), have also been recognized by the world community for their outstanding services and achievements.

After the demise of its founder, the Ahmadiyya Movement has been headed by his elected successors -- Khalifas. The present Head of the Movement, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, was elected in 2003. His official title is Khalifatul Massih V.

Khalifatul-Masih V

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

Ramadhan: A time for spiritual reflection

Assalamu ‘alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

(2:184) O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.

Throughout our lives we’ve picked up habits – some good, some bad. Those habits that we’ve adopted, not consciously, but through subtle habitual practices from childhood to wherever you are in life creates perceptions that may or may not be true.

How many times have you had someone walk up to you with knowing eyes and say, “I’ve heard about you, or I’ve been told you were like this, or I expect you to act in such a manner from what I’ve heard about you.”

Think about it. These accumulated habits are like a heavy chain wrapped around our necks that follows us throughout life. Some of the links in our chain are light and veryreflective of goodness and then there are the bad habits, which drag us down by their heavy and troublesome weight.

In a world, increasingly amoral, perception is considered reality. How one appears to the world (friends, family and coworkers) has overtaken the substance of who we really are. In many instances, social barriers and annoying stigmas are created as the result of how you are perceived by others.

Take the case of a man who was known by all to be thief in his past. Because he was a thief and his habits indicated that he was a thief, people could only assume that he was a thief. Yet, somehow by the Grace of God, he turned towards God and a moral transformation took place in his life, but most people continued to think of him as a thief. Their perception of him because of his past was a reality.

Impressions, whether real or fake, are given more credence than they deserve. Though name, image and reputation are what we perceive of people, character is the essence of the “real self”. Islam teaches us that Taqwa is in reality character development coupled with God-consciousness – a fear and love of God.

Character is not only the face in the mirror, but the real person behind the face. Character evolves from conscience; is sustained by conscience and is developed, piece by piece, with every thought, with every choice, and maintained with consistency and determination. Throughout life, a believer is taught that if he or she is obedient and complies with the laws of Allah, anything is possible:

[5:9] O ye who believe! be steadfast in the cause of ALLAH, bearing witness in equity; and let not a people's enmity incite you to act otherwise than with justice. Be always just. That is nearer to righteousness. And fear ALLAH. Surely, ALLAH is Aware of what you do.

[7:27] O children of Adam, WE have indeed send down to you raiment to cover you nakedness and to be a means of adornment; but the raiment of righteousness - that is the best. That is of the commandments of ALLAH, that they may remember.

The pursuance of piety begins by making our reputation a reflection of our character. In many people, reputation precedes the character and there is a distinction to be made ...

  • Reputation is what you lead others to believe you are, character is what you really are
  • Reputation may be reflected in the combination of your name and your image, character is the essence of your being
  • Reputation is the wrapping, character the content
  • Reputation is the outer reflection, character the inner reality
  • Reputation is made in a moment, character is built in a life time
  • Reputation may be reflected in what people write about you on your tombstone, character is what angels report about you to Allah.

The renowned philosopher, Aristotle, once said; “You are what you repeatedly do.”

Habits are conditioned responses, formed through repetition, until the actions or reactions become second nature; they end up as unconscious behavior, automatic reactions in a particular situation; (eg. The way you sign your name, cigarette smoking after a meal...) It was the English writer, Shakespeare, who said: “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”

Thinking in a particular pattern creates a mental path, the mental path affects our attitude and our behavior, and these reflect our personality and character. In other words, our thoughts affect our attitudes, which affect our actions, which determine our habits, which reflect our character, which could determine our destiny. The Roman poet Naso Ovid rightly said, “habits eventually become character.”

According to Islam, habits are classified as virtues or vices, as repeated actions that are in conformity with or contrary to the rules of morality. Virtuous character emanates from good habits and good habits emanate from resisting negative temptations. Good habits, unfortunately, seem so much easier to give up than bad habits.

Bad habits are like a comfortable bed; easy to get into but difficult to get out of. The chain of bad habits are generally too light to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. Remember though, that every habit; whether good or bad, is acquired and can be developed or disowned.

Habits decrease or disappear by abstaining from exercising them and then replacing them. In the words of Roman orator, Cicero, “consuetudo consuetudine vincitur - habit is overcome/ conquered by habit.”

Ramadhan is an ideal training period for filtering out bad habits and developing virtuous character. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said: “There comes to you the blessed month of Ramadhan, a month in which Allah has made fasting obligatory on those who are able; whosoever denies himself of the benefits of that month denies himself many virtues.”

[2:184] O ye who believe ! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard against evil.

It has been said that one who fasts during Ramadhan in a state of belief (Iman) and whilst sincerely appraising oneself will have all their past sins forgiven. At this time in his life, a believer should assess and consider which bad points to shun and which virtues to adopt.

As we undertake the physical and spiritual responsibility of fasting in the blessed month of Ramadhan, we reflect on the words of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who said: “Your practice of faith will not be correct unless your actions are correct, and your actions will not be considered correct unless your heart is correct.”

Now, let us this blessed month as a chance to better ourselves spiritually, morally and increase our knowledge. This month let us all strive do the Taravih prayers incongregation with utmost sincerity.

Ramadhan Mubarak, Hasan

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Seeking Allah's Forgiveness

Friday Sermon, November 22, 2002

“When the help of Allah and victory comes. And you see the people entering the religion of Allah in troops. Then Glorify thy Lord with His praise and seek His forgiveness. Surely He is Oft-returning with mercy.”

At the time the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallallaho alaihe wasallam, had been promised victory and the assurance was given by Almighty Allah that victory would always be there for the Muslims as long as they believe in Allah and obey Him, Allah desires that the prophet should glorify Him, thank him and seek His forgiveness.

From this verse we can conclude that Allah is saying that when we win something or make accomplishments in life we should in happiness and gratitude turn towards Him and praise Him. And even more important, we should also think of His mercy on us. He continues to help us even when we make mistakes. So we seek His forgiveness – astaghfirhu!

Even at the time of victory, we are reminded that Almighty Allah’s forgiveness is Oft-returning with mercy—( Inna-hu Kana tawwaba)

Therein is our Khutba for today…Almighty Allah’s forgiveness. We have passed the halfway mark for 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. When you walk out of the mission house today 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.”


Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Yusef Lateef: An American Muslim’s journey through Black History

Dr. Yusef Lateef

What has enriched his life is not only his love for music, but his evolution as a man, a father, a Muslim. It is a path he continues to follow today. “Music was always a vocation…a way to make an honest living, but Islam is my life. -- yusef lateef, 2004

If you can imagine in your wildest dreams being dropped in a time machine and catapulted through history as the years whirled by giving you a glimpse into the life of one of America’s foremost and greatest musician.

It would be the opportunity of a lifetime. Yet, a somber and attentive audience chanced upon such an occasion in Milwaukee this past weekend, as the legendary Yusef Lateef, a virtuoso musician, composer, arranger, educator, and author opened a window into his life. It was to be an eloquent and graceful personal glimpse into the world of a gentle giant with a love for the music but his passion has always been education and a spiritual quest to grow closer to God.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Milwaukee, in celebration of Black History Month, honored and paid tribute to Dr. Yusef A. Lateef, who accepted Islam and became a member of the Ahmadiyya Community in 1948. The program booklet was graced with one of his many album covers, but this one was special: “Yusef Lateef’s Detroit.” Above the youthful image of Lateef was the community’s welcome message: “Milwaukee welcomes Yusef Lateef with love.”

The audience at the Park Lawn YMCA was soon to have a special treat after he was introduced Lateef made a correction in the program biography regarding his Christian name. “I was born William Emanuel Huddleston, not William Evans,” he said softly.

Before the curtain would drop on this historical moment, the audience would be inspired, motivated and mesmerized by an 84-year-old man who has traveled the world. He took an $80 alto sax and his music to earn a decent living for his family, but it would be faith and his thirst for education to “pursue knowledge, even though it be in China. To pursue knowledge from the cradle to the grave,” were the words and beliefs he absorbed as a Muslim.

Lateef has devoted the greater part of his life to education. Although he was playing music, making recordings, he pursued higher education and after 10 years, Lateef was awarded his Bachelor’s Degree in Music in 1969 and his Master’s Degree in Music Education in 1970. He is a Five Colleges professor at the retired from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, from which he was awarded a Ph.D. in Education in 1975. His doctoral dissertation was entitled "An Overview of Western and Islamic Education."

From August 1981 until August 1985, Lateef was a senior research Fellow at the Center for Nigerian Cultural Studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, where he did research into the Fulani flute.

As he shared his experiences in West Africa, Lateef, the story teller would push a pause button in his memory bank, rewind as if he missed a memorable note. “Oh yes, yes…there was much dignity to that job.” And with that, he would push the play button and the audience would move on to the next melodic riff in a colorful life.

He was once asked, Why did you journey to Africa?

”I did research there at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria into the Fulani flute, which is called the sarewa. I did that and I also taught research methodology to Nigerian cultural offices. I had a third duty. I interacted with the drama and African musicians formulating convocational plays and things of that nature. In fact, we were invited to a festival of nations in Bulgaria and we took a play that was put together called Queen Amina, based on the real life queen who lived in northern Nigeria about three hundred years ago. I spent four years in Africa.”

Again the pause button: “We were asked to play in an international music festival in Sophia, Bulgaria, an experience I will never forget. You know that was during the time of communism. The government would pick up drunks on the streets and lock them up for the night. I remember visiting a mosque in Bulgaria, but they wouldn’t let me pray there. As I walked in to say my prayers, people began to whisper, “no, you can’t do that here.”

Hit the play button, again: “In Nigeria We put on Queen Amina and there was a chorus in the background to express the feelings that we are trying to project to the audience when Queen Amina was assassinated and I had given them a minor chord to articulate and it evolved from a minor chord into a chordal chord each rehearsal and so I just let it stay that way because that was expressing grief to them. I learned about attitudes in terms of what kinds of sounds can express feelings, which I found to be quite different than I had found here in America.”

Although he is a highly acclaimed Grammy award winning icon in the music world and a man of many awards and educational accomplishments, his journey through time always begins with a young boy in Detroit absorbing the many sounds of life, love and spirituality hanging around two intersecting streets, Russell and Elliott.

With a shy look, Lateef tells the story about his Detroit Album, “You know,” he said, shuffling and moving around as if the words he searched for were going to emerge on the monitor in his mind. “People think that Russell and Elliott is a number about two friends of mine. It’s about two streets in my neighborhood.”

The pause button is once again pushed, rewind and Lateef reminisces about a neighborhood and school that no longer exist, except in his memory vault. “I can remember so many things about that neighborhood. I remember passing this church where you could hear the soulful, spiritual notes that would pour out on the street.” At this point, he began to softly hum those notes, not to the audience, but himself, as he revisited life at Russell and Elliott.

The audience, once again, is captivated and held spellbound as the beauty of Lateef resonates with the consistent message in the embodiment of his life - his spiritual, physical and emotional self began to merge as one.

Throughout this journey his voice was steady, soft and the rich words flowed with kindness and a love for everything around him. “I was a person who always honored those with grey hair. I loved my mother and father. I carried a Bible with me when I was on the road playing music.”

It was in Detroit’s that Lateef discovered his musical gift from God. Music would become a passion, a vocation he would say later, but not his life. He was already proficient on the alto saxophone (with the help of his father, he purchased his first sax for $80) while in high school and at the age of 18 he began touring professionally with swing bands led by Hartley Toots, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Herbie Fields and eventually Lucky Millender. In 1949 he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra.

Throughout his musical career, he would become known as the master of reed instruments. It was Lateef who first introduced The oboe, as a member of Yusef Lateef’s performing instrument collection in 1959. Lateef has recorded with musicians such as Miles Davis, Kenny Barron, and Cannonball Adderly, to name a few.

Mr. Lateef has made over forty recordings that can be found on Prestige, Riverside, Impulse, Atlantic, and his own label, YAL Records. He is the first American musician to win the Downbeat Magazine award for oboe and in 1987 he received the Grammy award for "Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony" (Atlantic Records).

A music critic writing about Lateef and his musical reed style said: “Yusef was bringing a whole new sound to reed instruments and to the music world. His approach was uniquely his own. He really was skirting the edges of World Music. This was long before World Music was coined as a popular category. Plus, there was that shocking way he played Oboe. From the start, Yusef just didn’t sound like any other reedman I had ever heard. His approach and style has remained uniquely his own for the past several decades.”

During the question and answer period, the ever so patient Lateef, took time to repeat what he has repeated so often in regards to his music that he does not play Jazz He told the audience that one day he looked in the dictionary for Webster’s take on the word Jazz. He was appalled at what he read. “ there were meanings listed under Jazz like 'nonsense' and 'animation' and some references I can’t even repeat before this audience.”

Consequently, Lateef said he re-labeled his music Autophysiopsychic meaning music that comes from the mental, physical and spiritual self.” Throughout his musical life, Lateef has struggled with that distasteful word – Jazz. The New York Library Research Department on Music wrote: While producers, promoters, retailers, listeners, and indeed many artists, have no interest in facing the marketing difficulties and inconvenience likely to result from a name change, many artists feel quite strongly about this matter. Among those who have lectured and written on the topic is Yusef Lateef. Following is a statement from this master musician and educator.

“Yusef Lateef's appearance in this journal, or in any other medium (written, audio-visual, etc.) does in no way imply that he is a jazz musician, nor is his music jazz. He is a musician, composer and educator. His music may be referred to as autophysiopsychic music.”

As Lateef continues to move through his life, it is learned that he was introduced to Islam in 1947 through friends who had joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, eventually he accepted Islam as his faith along with the Muslim name, Yusef Lateef.

While much of his accomplishments and historical notes in history refer to his music, it is his faith that unveils a deep appreciation for the creator. A continuing quest that reveals a sensitive, god-fearing believer, who has a profound love for Allah. Yet, throughout the many interviews and references to Lateef’s history, there is almost nothing that delves into his rich life as a Muslim.

The astonishing success of his music life has not brought in millions of dollars because as he said, “My generation was all about the music. We played for the love of the music. Today’s artist understand PR and marketing and as you can see they make money.”

What has enriched his life is not only his love for music, but his evolution as a man, a father, a Muslim. It is a path he continues to follow today. “Music was always a vocation…a way to make an honest living, but Islam is my life.

Dizzy Gillepsie makes an interesting observation about musicians who were converts to Islam. He said: “beboppers expressed a preference for religions other than Christianity may be considered only a half-truth, because most black musicians, including those from the bebop era, received their initial exposure and influence in music through the black church.

“And it remained with them throughout their lives. For social and religious reasons, a large number of modern jazz musicians did begin to turn toward Islam during the forties, a movement completely in line with the idea of freedom of religion. Rudy Powell, from Edgar Hayes’s band, became one of the first jazz musicians I knew to accept Islam; he became an Ahmadiyya Muslim. Other musicians followed, it seemed to me, for social rather religious reasons, if you can separate the two.”

Lateef told the audience how he was introduced to Islam by a fellow musician and how he met other Muslims, missionaries and appreciated the universality of Islam. He described a mosque in Chicago, and how he began to read Islamic literature.

“It said through prayer and deeds one’s natural tendencies are directed to the proper channels. The only virtue is in your actions — that’s what Islam teaches. And it spoke about respect of parents and of neighbors, and I already believed those things from my Christian upbringing.”

Lateef was influenced by Talib Ahmad Dawoud who played a major role in introducing musicians to Islam and Ahmadiyyat. While in Chicago, he introduced Lateef to the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam.

One of the first and most well-known converts to Islam in the jazz community was Art Blakey. Blakey came to Islam after traveling to Africa to study religion and philosophy. In the late 1940s, Blakey was especially devoted to his new religion. His house was a center for Islamic meetings, according to Lateef, who attended these meetings after he converted in 1948.

“I started going to the meetings, and I said, “I better try this.” I thought I ought to change my name, and the reason I did was because Lateef means gentle and amiable, and Yusef means Joseph after the prophet Joseph. And Abdul Lateef means a servant of the gentle and amiable, a servant of God — that’s one of God’s attributes, gentle and amiable. And I said, “That’s something for me to try to live up to.”

The journey with Lateef came to an end with his simple explanation regarding the difference between faith and his music. A writer once asked him, It must never get boring being Yusef Lateef.

He replied: Well, if I keep at it. Life itself is an interesting thing. Life included thinking and it is such a pleasure to think of new ways to do things and to express yourself. That is the beauty that you feel and that you see through observation of nature for example. So you try to express some type of beauty through your music. I am sure that it is a privilege and it is a gift to be alive and try to offer something to culture. You said it, I am enjoying it. We don't know how long we will have this opportunity and so I am enjoying it. It is exciting.

When the soul looks out of its body, it should see only beauty in its path. These are the sights we must hold in mind, in order to move to a higher place. Time after time in our heats and soul we find love. No static, no pain – so pure, so happy to be alive. Waves of love consume us. We find no hatred – just love for all. – an extract from A SYLOGISM by Yusef Lateef.

Dedicated to my friend, Yusef Lateef
-- Hasan

(My youngest son was named...Yusef Ibn Hakeem)

Yusef Lateef...

a genius and a man of peace!
Love For All, Hatred For None

Monday, October 11, 2004

Dowie's Zion: A haven for African-Americans?

Zion sign

James Brister was a rare anomaly as an 1881 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania dental school. He was the first African American to graduate from the university. At that time, The School of Dental Medicine was only three years old and its first graduating class numbered only 53 students including students from around the country, Europe and South America.

James Brister was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on November 7, 1858. His father, a dentist, practiced his profes­sion in that city for over 50 years. The son was graduated from the Institute for Colored Youths (a Quaker institution in Philadelphia), at the age of 18.

Black Zion Policeman

The following year he entered the Dental Department of the University of Pennsylvania from which he obtained his degree in 1881. He began the practice of dentistry in Delaware. He was a member of the Republican State Executive Committee of Delaware for two years. In 1896 he was married, and with his wife, joined Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church in 1900 and followed him to the new city 42 miles north of Chicago – Zion, Illinois.

He was a member of the City Council of Zion City for three years, and continued to be active in civic affairs in Dowie’s theocratic government. He also served as a member of the Board of Education
. Historical account taken from John J. Halsey's, A HISTORY OF LAKE COUNTY ILLINOIS.)

Brister was one of many African Americans who somehow came across Dowie’s “Leaves of Healing” publication and became convinced that he would lead them to the Promised Land.

Brister eventually opened his dentist practice in Zion (Dowie would not allow medical doctors in Zion, but dentist were not considered to be physicians of the body).

During this period African Americans began to migrate to Zion including Frank and Louise Hartfield. Frank's grandparents were slaves in Nashville, Tennessee. Louise (Woodson) Hartfield, Ruth's paternal grand­mother, escaped from slavery through the Underground Railroad through Ohio. She settled in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. That is where Mrs. Hicks' mother was born. Her mother moved from Canada to Chicago where she became involved in the Dowie movement. Joe Hartfield was the first black male born in Zion, Illinois.

William Elliott was also among the first African Americans in Zion. Mr. Elliott had served in the Union Army and had rescued his wife from slavery.

Theories abound as to why early African Americans were swayed by the powerful message of Dowie’s unique brand of Christianity. To answer the question we must take a look at the political and racial dynamics that were being played out in America.

America was recovering from the bitter and bloody civil war that left a nation divided and there was the continuing question of what to do about the colored race? According to US Census records in 1880 the population of the United States was 50,155,783. The then known black population was listed at 6,580,793 or 13.1 percent.

Although the law had emancipated African Americans, white Americans continued to abuse and deny basic rights guaranteed to blacks under the constitution.

At the same time, southern states enacted “Jim Crow” segregation laws designed to discriminate and stop the black vote. There were horrific lynchings and murders of African Americans throughout the nation with the rise of the Klu Klux Klan.

African Americans were dismayed and many delivered sermons from the pulpit that stirred and rallied blacks:

“On these points the friends of the black men are substantially united. But when all these things have been secured, what do we propose to do then, in order to promote the highest welfare of the race, what does the law of Christ require, what does the Providence of God indicate as the ultimate purpose of our efforts, and as the final position which the colored race will occupy in the land?

“To accomplish this, those who adopt the theory would gradually break up all separate organizations for the colored people, and in the churches, schools, colleges and associations of all kinds, educational and religious as well as political, merge them in the surrounding mass of the whites. Such persons would have no separate colored schools, seminaries or associations or churches. “

Courtesy of the Library of Congress: The duty which the colored people owe to themselves. : A sermon delivered at Metzerott hall, Washington, D.C., November 17, 1867, by Rev. Dr. Boynton.

African Americans continued to cling to Christianity despite the fact that many of the worst perpetrators of crimes against blacks were Christians. It was in this chaos and racial ugliness that Dr. John A. Dowie preached a doctrine of equality for all and love for all people of color.

Dowie’s message had a special appeal to African Americans. While Many clergy within religious denominations actively promoted the idea that all Christians were equal in the sight of God, a message that provided hope and sustenance to former slaves and freedmen.

Dowie’s evangelicalism needs to be understood not only as a religious movement, but also as a social movement. As such, it was an integral part of a broader organizational revolution that transformed nineteenth-century American society.

Dowie’s message had a special appeal for many Americans who were searching for the non-traditional in a sea of new organizations--religious sects and denominations, voluntary societies of various sorts, and political parties--to give needed structure and direction to their lives.

For African Americans the destruction of their lives led to traditional churches and religious organizations that were separate and distinct from the mainstream white-based faiths.

The evangelicals, like Dowie, were busy during this period grinding out printed pamphlets, booklets that could reach the masses throughout the nation’s fertile ground for believer’s searching for something to believe in again.

Religious recruitment was intense by Dowie’s brand of Christianity had a unique attraction in faith healing which was designed to draw people through the miracle of personal testimony and the power of the printing press. It didn’t take long for the message to spread to African Americans who were converted to a new relationship with God.

Dowie’s brand of Christianity also brought African Americans into a new and powerful institutional fabric that provided them with personal discipline, a sense of fellowship, and channeled their benevolent obligations in appropriate directions.

Dowie took a strong stance on racial relations as recorded in author Philip L. Cook’s book, “Zion City Illinois: Twentieth Century Utopia.”

“The General Overseer of the Christian Catholic Church wanted it understood that his idea for society was one of Christian brotherhood. In a sermon in June, 19m, the preacher said: "the lie that the African race is, per se-that is, in itself, and of God's ordination-an inferior race, has got to be taken back by every South­ern man and woman, and every Northern man and woman, for it is contrary to God's word, and contrary to facts."

“When Senator Ben Tillman took exception to the visit of Booker T. Washington to the White House in 1901, Dowie, preaching in the Chicago Auditorium, vigorously denounced the Southern politician and said that he should be expelled from the Senate. When he asked all those who agreed with him to stand, an estimated five thousand did so. As a remedy for the race conflict, the preacher prescribed a national compulsory system of education that would be free for every child in the nation.

“The Zion press made it a point to publicize the frequent Negro lynchings at the turn of the century. Over twenty-five hundred lynchings, mainly in the South, and mostly of blacks, occurred between 1884 and 1900. In 1901 alone, one hundred blacks were lynched. The Zion press also noted, approvingly, blacks who were successful in enterprise. Memorial Day and the Fourth of July were occasions for speeches on the rights of blacks. The Declaration of Independence was examined and analyzed as to the concepts of "freedom" and "equality."

Although the black migration was a mere trickle to Zion in 1901, it is estimated that more than 200 African Americans took up residence in Zion. A visitor to Zion, John M. Allison, who was a black deputy sheriff in Hennipen County, Minnesota, made the following observation about Dowie:

“I consider President Roosevelt a very brave man, but...I call Dr. Dowie the most courageous man on earth today.” – Zion Banner, 1904.

Dowie’s progress views on race and the marriages of blacks to whites were not held by most of his followers but no one openly stood up and castigated him for his views. As one writer said: “As far as Dowie is concerned there is only one race, the human race.”

Today, in Zion, descendants of the Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church, now known as the Community Church of Christ, continue to wield power and influence in city politics. And for the first time, an African American, Laine Harrison, was overwhelmingly elected mayor. His great-great grandparents migrated to Zion as followers of Dowie. And according to Laine, his grandparents also helped to found the Booker T. Washington Club at 2103 Gabriel Avenue, now occupied by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. It is registered as a Lake County Historical Site.


The Starting Point Is Kindness

For some Muslims, harshness has become the starting point and is resorted to very quickly by some as opposed to being something employed after all else has actually been tried in an attempt to guide others to the correct path.

The fact is that we have too often experienced that those who apply harshness while leap to conclusions and tactics based upon untruths, rumuors or running gossip without always first looking closely at the circumstances of the individuals they apply that harshness towards.

Moreover, although claiming to want to correct and guide others, we find that they often never use the approach of kindness or courtesy of actual personal contact or generosity such as a call or a visit or a friendly meeting to deal with the issue in question.

Many relationships have been damaged and suspicion sewn due to the harsh approach. Our approach as Ahmadis should be that when dealing with with Muslims, the starting point, should be even if astray, or in error, is gentleness and kindness to what some may consider a fault.

Also keep in mind that the error, sin or deviation in question is often only in the perception of others when it may not in fact be the absolute case. More dangerous is that the drive to lambaste or condemn often stems from what amounts to a difference of opinion on a given matter where there is indeed room to differ.

Instead, what usually happens is that rumors get spread and backbiting becomes the order of the day. When good people are attacked and vilified, it is very discouraging to others and demoralizing to the community! Ironically it could be that after such treatment is shown to be clearly unjust, it still leads to the residual effect of creating distrust and disdain of those who initiated such actions and any good they attempt is rejected or negated and relationships get tarnished.

How sad is the resultant build-up of animosity between various family factions in the community pushes those who are not really involved to take sides in disputes and an "You are either with us or against us" attitude develops that poisons relations in the community often over matters that most really have no idea about in detail.

Before treating a Muslim with harshness as to the consequences and justice of such action. The intent should be to guide one's brother or sister in faith for the sake of Allah. We must remember that the foundation of dealing with other Muslims in general is one of employing kindness, having patience and overlooking of faults, while harshness and sternness are the exception and not the rule.

Among the Qualities of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam, are Mercy and Kindness, Allah addresses His Messenger and reminds him and the believer of the favor that He has made his heart and words soft for his Ummah, those who follow his command and refrain from what he prohibits. And by the mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently... meaning, who would have made you this kind if it was not Allah’s mercy for you and them?

And by the mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently... means, "with Allah's mercy you became this kind." Al-Hassan Al-Basri said that this indeed is the description of the behavior that Allah sent Muhammad with.

This aayah is similar to Allah's statement, Verily there has come unto you a Messenger from among yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He is anxious over you (to be rightly guided, to repent to Allah); for the believers he is full of pity, kind, and merciful (9:127) And had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you; (5:159) The severe person is he who utters harsh words and "harsh-hearted" is the person who heart is hard.

Had this been the Prophet's behavior, "they would have scattered from around you." However Allah gathered them and made you kind and soft with them, so that their hearts congregate around you." 'Abdullah Ibn 'Amr (radiallahu 'anhu) said that he read the description of the Messenger of Allah in previous Books, "He is not severe, harsh, obscene in the marketplace or dealing evil for evil. Rather he forgives and pardons." [Fathul-Bari 8:449]

Verily there has come unto you a Messenger from among yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He is eager for you; for the believers he is full of pity, kind and merciful. But if they turn away say: "Allah is sufficient for me. There is no God but He, in Him I put my trust and He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne. [At-Tawbah 128 - 129]

This is similar to His other statement: And be kind and humble to the believers who follow you. Then if they disobey you, say: "I am innocent of what you do." And put your Trust in Allah the All-Mighty, the Most Merciful. [26:215 - 217]

The true Muslim is sincere towards Allah his Book, His Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and to the leaders and the masses of the Muslims as is stated in the hadeeth: The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, "Religion is sincerity." We asked, 'To Whom?' He said, "To Allah (by obeying Him attributing to Him what He deserves and performing jihad for His sake); to His Book (by reading it, understanding it and applying it to one's daily life); to His Prophet (by respecting him greatly and fighting on his behalf both in his lifetime and after his death, and by following his sunnah); to the rulers of the Muslims (by helping them in their task of leading Muslims to the right path and alerting them if they are heedless); and to their common folk (by being merciful towards them). [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim)

It is no surprise, then, that the Muslim should be sincere towards his brothers and not cheat them or mislead them. Sincerity in this sense is one of the most basic principles of Islam which the first believers pledge to adhere to when they gave allegiance to the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam).

This is confirmed by the statement of Jarir Ibn Abdullah; "I gave allegiance to the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and pledged to observe regular prayer, to pay zakat and to be sincere towards every Muslim." (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) "

In the hadeeth quoted above, we see that the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) summed up Islam in one word -- sincerity is the central foundation of the faith. For without sincerity a man's faith is invalid and his Islam is worthless. This is the meaning of the hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam): None of you truly believes until he likes for his brother what he likes for himself (Al-Bukhaari and Muslim)

This is impossible to achieve unless one loves one's brother with all sincerity. No doubt this level of love for one's brother is very difficult to attain, but it is not impossible as long as one is constantly aware that liking for one's brother what one likes for oneself is one of the conditions of faith, and that religion is sincerity. Indeed it is the natural attitude of the sincere Muslim who truly understands Islam" - The Ideal Muslim pp 142

Abu Hurairah (radiallahu 'anhu) used to say: The believer is the mirror of his brother. If he sees any fault in him he corrects it. [Al-Bukhaari in Al-Adab al-Mufrad] Abu Hurairah reports from the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam): The believer is the mirror of his brother. The believer is the brother of a believer: he protects him from ruin and guards his back. [Al-Bukhaari in Al-Adab al-Mufrad]

A man should help his brother whether he is a wrongdoer or is wronged. If he is a wrongdoer then he should stop him, and if he is wronged he should defend him. [Muslim] "The true Muslim does not forsake his brother, whether he is a wrongdoer or is wronged. Islam teaches him to like for his brother what he likes for himself: as long as he would not like for himself to be a wrongdoer or to do wrong, then he would not like this for his brother either.

So if his brother is wronged, he stands by him, supports him and defends him, and if he is a wrongdoer he stands by him and stops him from doing wrong. This is indeed true sincerity and true kindness. The true Muslim who is adhering to the teachings and values of his religion is kind to his brothers and is good-natured and easy-going towards them. In this he is following the guidance of Islam which encourages good characteristics.

The Muslim sees a clear picture of the Prophet's character (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) in his life which is full of kindness, gentleness, honor and good manners. He was never known to use obscene language or to curse or insult a Muslim". The true Muslim does not gossip of backbite about his brothers and friends, or backbite against them. he knows that gossip is haraam as the Qur'aan says; Nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay you would abhor it. But fear Allah; for Allah is Oft-Returning, All-Merciful [49:12]

The true Muslim who is infused with Islamic teachings and manners will be horrified by the depiction given in the Qur'aan of one who gossips as being like the one who eats the flesh of his dead brother. This will deter him from gossiping and if he is guilty of this sin, he will hasten to repent sincerely. He will restrain his tongue and speak only good of his brother, remembering the words of the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam): Do you know what gossip is? They said "Allah and His Messenger know best." He said, "It is saying about your brother something which he dislikes," He was asked, "What do you think if what I say about my brother is true?" He said, "If it is true then you have gossiped about him, and if it is not true then you have slandered him." [Muslim] The true Muslim avoids the sin of gossiping directly or indirectly, abhorring the idea of being one who eats the flesh of his dead brother and fearing lest his tongue leads him to Hell."

Gossip is a bad characteristic which does not befit a real man. Rather it is a feature of cowards who look like men, those who gossip to people about their brothers and friends, then when they meet them they smile warmly and make a display of friendship. Hence, the true Muslim should be furthest removed from gossip and fickleness, because Islam has taught him to be a real man, to be straightforward and to fear Allah in all his words and deeds.

It has made him thoroughly despise hypocrisy and fickleness. The two-faced person is regarded as being one of the worst people in the sight of Allah, as the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: You will find among the worst people in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection, the one who is two-faced, who approaches some people in one way and others in another." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim, et al]"

, the Exalted, says: "...who repress anger, and who pardon men; verily, Allah loves Al-Muhsinun (the good-doers)." (3:134) "Show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the foolish (i.e., don't punish them)." (7:199) "The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal.

Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e., Allah orders the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly) then verily he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend. But none is granted it (the above quality) except those who are patient - and none is granted it except the owner of the great portion (of happiness in the Hereafter, i.e., Jannah and of a high moral character) in this world." (41:34,35) "And verily, whosoever shows patience and forgives that would truly be from the things recommended by Allah." (42:43) 632. Ibn `Abbas (May Allah be pleased with them) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said to Ashaj Abdul-Qais (May Allah be pleased with him), "You possess two qualities that Allah loves. These are clemency and tolerance." [Muslim].

Commentary: This Hadeeth teaches us to adopt a patient, mild and discreet attitude towards others. Moreover, there is a provision for praising somebody in his presence, provided there is no likelihood of his being conceited. The Hadeeth also provides inspiration for the cultivation of good habits. 633. `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, "Allah is Forbearer (Rafeeq) and loves forbearance (rifq) in all matters." [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

Commentary: Mildness also brings human beings closer to one another, and on this count, Allah likes it very much. 634. `Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: The Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said, "Allah is Forbearer and He loves forbearance, and rewards for forbearance while He does not reward severity, and does not give for any thing besides it (forbearance)." [Muslim]

Commentary: Mildness is the opposite of harshness. Allah enjoins softness and dislikes stiffness in human relations. Allah assures of reward for gentle behavior in society, not for unkindness or anything like that.

Commentary: To be soft-spoken is such a quality that by virtue of which a man is not only endeared to people but also to Allah. And by being bereft of it, he not only becomes a contempt incarnate in the eyes of people but also with Allah.

May Allah forgive us for sins and excesses against our soul and verily He is the Generous Provider of Success and all praise is His.