City of Brass

City of Brass

Ramadan Pearls 01 – criterion

posted by Aziz Poonawalla
Qur'an 2:185

Qur’an 2:185

It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was first bestowed from on High as a guidance unto Man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as a Criterion by which to discern the true from the false; Hence, whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it; but he that is ill, or on a journey shall instead fast for the same number of other days. Allah wills that you shall have ease, and does not will you to suffer hardship; but He desires that you complete the number of days required, and that you extol Allah for his having guided you aright, and that you render your thanks unto Him.


(translation, with thanks to Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’an)



Why orthodox muslims should celebrate the gay marriage ruling

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The news that the Supreme Court has struck down barriers to same-sex marriage nationwide is truly a victory for civil rights. While homosexuals haven’t faced the same sustained, institutionalized violent terrorism that black Americans suffered, they have suffered a more quiet form of oppression in recent decades of denial and humiliation and insult, often deprived basic human compassion and dignity. The ruling by SCOTUS does not achieve true equality under the law for gay people – they still can be legally discriminated against in housing, employment, and other facets of life that we would absolutely not accept as a society today were that same discrimination applied towards women or black people. This was a battle, but the civil rights campaign continues.


Muslims may look askance at the ruling and ask, how is this good? Isn’t this a legitimization of something that we consider morally wrong? The answer to that is simple: America is one extreme, and ISIS another. In one place, morality is not legislated for anyone, so that everyone has freedom to define their own culture, religion, life, values – and that freedom just became a little bit more universal today. In the other, morality is absolutely legislated down to the smallest detail, where even the slightest deviation is punished severely and brutally.

The simple truth is that if today one group can be discriminated against, tomorrow another can. We Muslim Americans as a community must always seek to preserve civil rights for others, and in so doing, preserve them for ourselves.


Just as the fight isn’t over for gay people, neither do we have all the equality we deserve. Remember Park 51? What about the Murfreesboro Mosque? Or opposition to the mosque project in Redmond, WA? Or the NYPD spying on Muslims? I’ve written about all of these things before and the common theme is this: freedom isn’t guaranteed by the constitution or the law. It’s only guaranteed by our neighbors. So, we must be good neighbors and fight for our neighbors rights – and they will fight for ours. No one group can do it alone.


Gay people today won the right to marry. We as muslims can have whatever opinion we like about that – but our morality and values are defined by what we do, not by what others do. Gay people, Jews, Black people – all of us are in this together. It’s one fight, not many.

Related: the best solution would be to get the State out of the business of defining marriage entirely.


Ramadan is coming – the Muslim remembers

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

house aziz

In about a week, I move from Wisconsin to Los Angeles, so I will no longer be the Sheikh in the North beyond the Wall. However, even moving to (LA) Kings’ Landing doesn’t stop Ramadan.

“Oh, my sweet summer child,” Old Nan said quietly, “what do you know of hunger?
Hunger is for Ramadan, my little lord, when the fasts last a hundred hours
long and the crescent moon hides in the southern sky. Hunger is for the long
zawwal, when the sun shows its face for days at a time, and little children
are born and live and do iftar all in darkness while the pious grow gaunt and
hungry, and the moonsighters move through the woods”

Yes, Ramadan is coming. When will it actually arrive? the debate is unending, but roughly, in 2 weeks.


Has Lindsay Lohan converted to Islam?

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Short answer: probably not.

Lindsay Lohan was recently spotted carrying a copy of the Qur’an as she left a children’s daycare where she’s serving her court-ordered sentence of community service. As the article at The Daily Mall helpfully points out, Lohan also had posted a picture of a verse from the Qur’an to her Instagram account (specifically, 20:114 – “Oh Allah! increase me in my knowledge!”) and then deleted it. Naturally, and predictably – even by Lohan herself – this is causing a round of “has Lindsay converted to Islam” rumors, which serves the purpose of adding some intrigue to the otherwise unremarkable fact of Lohan’s court-ordered community service, and perhaps a dash of mystique?


Carrying a copy of the Qur’an does not make you muslim, of course. To be a muslim, you have to recite the Shahada with sincerity, and then make some attempt to live your life according to Islamic principles (however you interpret them). It is certainly possible that Lohan has embraced Islam and is following its precepts to the best of her ability and inclination.

It’s more likely however that the Qur’an is increasingly seen as an “exotic” text, supplanting Scientology and Kabbalah as the trendy-but-edgy source of spiritualism among ultraclass elite celebrities.The angle by which Lohan carried the Qur’an – ensuring that it was clearly visible – may (or may not) imply she was hoping it would be noticed.


I hope that she does read the Qur’an, and draws inspiration from it in some way. If that leads to a conversion, then thats great, if thats the right thing for her. But there’s nothing more to this than simply, “Lindsay Lohan wants to read the Qur’an” – and that’s something anyone can do, and may gain benefit from, as long as they approach it with an open mind of discovery and inquiry rather than any preconceived agendas.

(Related – which other celebrities have or haven’t converted to Islam? and, of course, Jack Sparrow was a muslim.. as is Santa Claus.)

Previous Posts

Ramadan Pearls 04 - angels
He who has fasted for Allah, the Glorious and Mighty, and is in the discomfort of heat and struck by thirst, will have his face wiped and be given the good news by a thousand angels whom Allah has entrusted to him until he breaks his fast; at ...

posted 8:16:29am Jul. 03, 2015 | read full post »

ibadat in Ramadan - process as piety
There are a lot of articles written during Ramadan about what Ramadan means, about what we as Muslims should be "getting out" of Ramadan, what the benefits of Ramadan should be. But I think that these sorts of articles miss the point of ibadat. ...

posted 10:20:36am Jul. 02, 2015 | read full post »

Ramadan Pearls 03 - mystery
Know that the goal in fasting is for the veil of appetite and anger to be lifted from the heart's eye so that the heart may see the mystery of the dominion of heaven and earth. (The Easy Roads of Sayf al-Din, as translated by William Chittick ...

posted 8:57:01am Jul. 01, 2015 | read full post »

Ramadan Pearls 02 - non-existence
Fasting leads to non-existence, for, after all, the joys are there. God is with those who patiently persevere (2:249) (Jalaluddin Rumi, compilation The Essential Rumi) ...

posted 8:47:33am Jun. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Ramadan Pearls 01 - criterion
It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur'an was first bestowed from on High as a guidance unto Man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as a ...

posted 3:36:22pm Jun. 28, 2015 | read full post »


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