City of Brass

City of Brass

Saudis propose to relocate the Prophet’s (saw) tomb from Masjid al-Nabawi

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Big Bin: photo set on Flickr

The above photo of the Mecca clock tower, or as I like to call it, “Big Bin”, was during my hajj a few years ago. It is part of my general observations of the “Meccahattan”-ization of the holiest place in Islam, the way that the Saudi religious authorities are utterly obliterating the historical wealth of architecture and history that is the birthright of every Muslim in favor of a soulless, capitalist, cynical and ideological crusade* to remake the holy city into their vision of a Salafist Las Vegas.

If I am harsh, it is because I am bitter about what has been lost already. But I was clearly not cynical enough – this news came as a shock even to me.

One of Islam’s most revered holy sites – the tomb of the Prophet Mohamed – could be destroyed and his body removed to an anonymous grave under plans which threaten to spark discord across the Muslim world.

[..]

the consultation document for the al-Nabawi mosque in Medina, by the leading Saudi academic Dr Ali bin Abdulaziz al-Shabal of Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, has been circulated to the Committee of the Presidency of the Two Mosques.

Several pages of the consultation document have just been published in the presidency’s journal. They call for the destruction of the rooms surrounding the tomb – used by the Prophet’s wives and daughters, and venerated by the Shia because of their association with his youngest daughter, Fatima.

The document also calls for the Green Dome, which covers the tomb and these living quarters, to be removed, and the ultimate removal of the Prophet’s body to a nearby cemetery.

The al-Baqi cemetery already contains the bodies of many of the Prophet’s family, including his father who was removed there in the 1970s, Dr Alawi said. In 1924 all the grave markers were removed, so pilgrims would not know who was buried there, and so be unable to pray to them.

full story here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/saudis-risk-new-muslim-division-with-proposal-to-move-mohameds-tomb-9705120.html

Perhaps we need a million muslim march on Mecca. Muslims across the world must condemn, or be complicit in their silence.

UPDATE: a comprehensive and lengthy theological discussion that refutes the Wahabbi assertion that building structures over graves is somehow shirk.

*yes, I chose that word deliberately.

Post-Ramadan reflections

posted by Aziz Poonawalla
Surah Ar-Ra'd, verse 28: Verily in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation

Surah Ar-Ra’d, verse 28: Verily in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation

Welcome back, readers :) My apologies for being so AWOL from blogging. This past Ramadan I had genuinely been able to ramp up my ibadat and one of the ways I achieved that was by letting go of digital distractions. A month later, the spiritual boost appears to have faded enough that I am reverting back to my old habits :)

This Ramadan was incredibly insightful for me. Some of the things I did fervent dua for actually came to pass, which reinforces my faith in a tangible way. I felt like Allah was listening, I truly had a connection to the divine by such immersion in the rhythms of Ramadan to the exclusion of all else. It helped that I currently have the career flexibility for such immersion; the last week I basically did nothing but pray, sleep, and attend masjid. Were I working a 9-5 job like most people, that would not have been possible. I don’t think that such immersion is necessary for a meaningful spiritual experience, but I do think that when our lives here in Dunya offer us an opportunity, we should take it.

However, despite praying two juz of Qur’an a day during Ramadan, I’ve only completed 2 since it ended. This is a serious failing and self-disappointment. I also have not undertaken the effort yet to ramp up Qur’an with my daughter, who has made amazing progress when I am consistent. I am resolving today to at least be consistent for her, and then also for myself. The Qur’an tells us that by reciting, the heart finds consolation from its torments – and by allowing the Qur’an’s presence in my routine t lapse, I am feeling the lack of that consolation and greater impact from those torments. So I must resolve to re-learn the lesson of Ramadan.

It is nice to eat lunch again, though :)

Tweeting the Qur’an #ttQuran

posted by Aziz Poonawalla
Surah Ar-Ra'd, verse 28: Verily in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation

Surah Ar-Ra’d, verse 28: Verily in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation

My friend Hussein Rashid launched the idea of Tweeting the Qur’an a few years ago and the idea has steadily caught on, and even attracted press attention.

To participate, just tweet an excerpt from the Qur’an that moved you and include the hashtag #ttQuran. Here are the general guidelines:

  1. Anyone is welcome. You do not have to be Muslim.
  2. The point is to provide greater access to the Qur’an, so please tweet in English, regardless of the language you read in. Multiple language tweets are welcome.
  3. You should tweet verses that appeal to you each night, not the entire juz’. Some of you may wish to do the whole juz’, but the idea is that we find comfort in the word of God, and we approach it and understand differently every time we come to it. Each night, there are certain verses that will have more power/resonance. Simply tweet those
  4. Include chapter and verse numbers using “Arabic” numerals, eg. 1:1, 33:72, etc.
  5. Some verses may be too long for 140 characters. Split the tweet. Summarize. As you will, but make sure you make it clear what you are doing, and include the verse number
  6. You should feel free to offer commentary on why you chose that verse. If you know some tafsir, please include as well, if relevant.
  7. Tags: please include #ttQuran .
  8. You do not need to commit to reading/Tweeting every night. However, when you do Tweet, please make sure you are on the same juz as everyone else.

Related: the Qur’an is the foundation of ibadat in Ramadan.

The Criterion: reading the Qur’an is the foundation of ibadat in Ramadan

posted by Aziz Poonawalla
Surah Ar-Ra'd, verse 28: Verily in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation

Surah Ar-Ra’d, verse 28: Verily in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation

Ramadan is one-third over. Unlike past years, I’ve not written as much about my observances this year because I’ve been dedicated to improving my ibadat (worship). I completely concur with my friend Shahed Amanullah’s concerns that Ramadan is beginning to see the same commercialization and mainstreaming that afflicts the Christmas season for Christians. Shahed asks how we as Muslims in the west might avoid losing sight of the spiritual significance of Ramadan, and I think the best answer is to turn to the fundamentals. Specifically, the Holy Qur’an.

This year, I intend to recite the complete Qur’an twice during Ramadan, which is a substantial challenge for me since one juz (chapter) takes me between 30-45 minutes to recite. Recitation of Qur’an is particularly laudable during Ramadan, as this was the month in which the Qur’an was revealed to mankind:

شَهْرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلْقُرْءَانُ هُدًى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَٰتٍ مِّنَ ٱلْهُدَىٰ وَٱلْفُرْقَانِ

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong) [2:185]

Note the word, “Furqan” (criterion, or discernment) – the Qur’an refers to itself as the Criterion numerous times and there is an entire surah (Al-Furqan, [25:1-77]) that discusses its purpose as such. The Qur’an tells us that it is the guidebook and the template for a Muslim to have a virtuous life that will reap rewards in the hereafter rather than the mundane world. Certainly the interpretation of the Qur’an varies between Muslims, but we all share the source text in Arabic as a starting point, and there is no substitute for reconnecting to the text by reading it in the original Arabic as was divinely intended. When I recite the Qur’an, I do not do so for the purpose of interpreting the text, but as a purely devotional act, reciting the very words of the Divine aloud, embracing the poetic rhythm of the words themselves.

You do not need to understand the Qur’an or interpret it, for the spiritual benefit of reciting it to accrue to you. But as I have devoted my time to the Qur’an thus far, I have noticed that there is a peace that descends upon my soul during tilawat, a state of mind where the concerns about the material world, stress and conflict, fears and angst, all drop away. The Qur’an itself verifies this:

ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ أَلَا بِذِكْرِ ٱللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ ٱلْقُلُوبُ

Verily, in the remembrance of Allah does the heart find consolation [13:28]

If Ramadan is the month in which we are tasked as Muslims to put aside our concerns for the material world – literally, by fasting – then the Qur’an is how our hearts find consolation and reassurance from those material concerns. The Qur’an is the fundamental element of ibadat that grounds all our myriad Muslim identities and communities onto common ground – not necessarily what the Qur’an says, but rather what it represents. Unlike communal prayer, reading the Qur’an is not a social act of worship but an intensely private one, the epitome of seeing a personal connection to Allah. Ultimately, religion is about finding a connection to the Divine and the Qur’an is the purest expression of that connection for the Muslim. The Qur’an truly is the foundation of our ibadat during Ramadan.

Related: some posts of mine from previous years about Ramadan: Ramadan as a meditation on nothingness (essence vs existence), Ramadan as the month of Jihad, and the paradox of time in Ramadan. Also in a more lighthearted vein: fasting in the sky (scraper) and the devil’s iftaar :)

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The above photo of the Mecca clock tower, or as I like to call it, "Big Bin", was during my hajj a few years ago. It is part of my general observations of the "Meccahattan"-ization of the holiest place in Islam, the way that the Saudi religious authorities are utterly obliterating the historical wea

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