City of Brass

City of Brass

and the light shineth in the darkness

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Andin their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Lawthat had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidanceand light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: aguidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. (al-Maaida, 5:46)

On this day, I pray salawat for the Prophet Jesus AS, and pay my respects to my Abrahamic cousins in faith who revere him. I also think that this day is the high tide for the season, which is one that spans religious boundaries and has come to mean goodwill and fellowship for all, irrespective of creed. I am not a cynic about Christmas, finding even value in the commercialism (as a symptom of the underlying human emotions of love and cheer).


Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee– chosen thee above the women of all nations. (al-Imran, 3:42)

Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of aWord from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held inhonour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) thosenearest to Allah; (al-Imran 3:45)

Jesus was indeed a light unto mankind. In many ways, in fact, Christmas is all about Light, spiritually and literally. This season, we are all aglow, from within and also recipients of light from above. I think it fitting, therefore, to share the following segment from Northern Exposure,


Enjoy this clip. It is worth your time. And Merry Christmas, everyone!


5th Annual Brass Crescent Awards Winners

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

On behalf of both and City of Brass,
we’d like to thank the nearly 1000 people who voted in the Fifth Annual
Brass Crescent Awards. Voting was very close in most categories, and we
would like to be the first to congratulate our winners and Honorable
Mentions, as well as extend our thanks to all the nominees and voters
for helping make this celebration of the Islamsphere a success. We also
would like to thank everyone (including the nominees) who linked to us
and helped publicize the Brass Crescent Awards.

The winners in each category are as follows:


BEST BLOG: Tariq Nelson

BEST DESIGN: The Manrilla Blog (Marc Manley)

BEST FEMALE BLOG: The Muslimah (Umm Layth)

BEST GROUP BLOG: Muslim Matters

BEST HUMOR BLOG: Maniac Muslim (Hamzah Moin)

BEST NEW BLOG: Lucky Fatima

BEST NON-MUSLIM BLOG: Informed Comment (Juan Cole)


BEST POST OR SERIES: Female, Muslim, and Mutant (Broken Mystic)

BEST WRITER: Rickshaw Diaries (Baraka)

BEST ASIAN BLOG: Islam in China (Wang Daiyu)

BEST SOUTH ASIAN BLOG: Teeth Maestro (Awab Alvi)

BEST EUROPEAN BLOG: Indigo Jo (Matthew Smith)

BEST MIDEAST BLOG: Black Iris (Naseem Tarawneh)


Check out the official Brass Crescent Awards website for the runner-up Honorable Mentions in each category, as well as category descriptions.

We also would like to thank our judges’ panel:

and a special thanks to our sponsor, Kube Publishing.

This was a great year for the Awards and we look forward to a great year of blogging ahead, for next year’s Awards!


The Hajj hoax

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

It seems that there was no plot against the Hajj after all, according to Saudi authorities:

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Interior has denied reports published in a
Washington-based online newspaper that Saudi officials had launched a
massive crackdown on Al-Qaeda terrorists who were allegedly planning to
attack pilgrims participating in this year’s Haj.

The Middle East Times — a sister publication of the Washington Times
which is owned by News World Communications — carried the report on
Dec. 16 quoting unnamed US intelligence officials.

The report said the Saudi government’s operation followed alerts that Al-Qaeda planned to launch a bloody assault on pilgrims.


Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior,
described the report as “incorrect.” “We didn’t launch any huge
counterterrorism operation,” he said, adding that there was no
intelligence of an attack targeting the pilgrims.

I find this denial believable because it would have been good PR had it been true. The original report was in the Middle East Times, which until now I hadn’t realized is a sister publication of the Washington Times, a conservative political newspaper with poor credibility that I usually ignore.

Thank god it wasn’t true. Still, it’s foolish to think that there might not be one in the future.

(via John)


infantilizing the Ummah

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

This article in the Economist takes an interesting and detailed look at the religious practices of South Asia’s Sufi muslims. There is a large amount of syncretism between Hinduism and Islam in the region, as there is between Islam and and Christianity in the Balkans and between Islam and Confucian thought in western China. What is notable about South Asian Sufism however is the explosion in art and architecture that it has spurred, particularly in teh building of large tombs for venerated saints.

As the article points out, the practice of building these tombs is at odds with conservative orthdoxy (notably salafist doctrines like Wahhabism). Muslims of that persuasion have characterized these tombs as expressions in shirk (idolatry), and that is the same general argument used by the Saudi religious authorities to justify their systematic obliteration of Mecca’s historical legacy.


In other words, the argument is that those muslims who build these tombs are replacing Allah with the people buried within. They are, in the view of salafists in general and Wahhbis in particular, rejecting the basic oath of a muslim (there is no God but God) and praying to these mortal men instead for intercession. What they do not see is that the act of building a tomb is an expression of love, not for the deceased to replace God but to thak them for helping the muslim strengthen their faith. These people to whom tombs are built range from minor saints like Hafiz Iqbal to great martyrs of the faith like Imam Husain AS. Without exception, these great people showed muslims the true path towards the light of Islam, not away from it.

Personally, I find it deeply offensive to reductively characterize the beliefs of a third of the world’s muslims as shirk simply because they build tombs. To argue that the simple expression of love in building a tomb and engaging in ziyarat (remembrance) is necessarily equivalent to the blasphemy of the Khawarij is to infantilize muslims rather than treat them as brothers in faith. This is a condescending argument, in many ways analogous to the colonial attitude that justified so much misery and outright destruction of heritage and culture, for “their own sake”.


That condescension is not limited to, nor even a necessary feature of, Wahabism. Rather it is a general human tendency, to rationalize our own actions by declaring the actions of others inferior, thereby to avoid the hardest thing of all, to engage in critical self-examination .I don’t think any of us is truly capable of engaging ourselves critically, which is why it is important that we maintain diversity within Islam, so that we may provide a healthy check and balance to each other, and thus keep us all moving forward. But if we were all to be the same, then we would be all the more easily led astray.

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