City of Brass

City of Brass

Ramadan for all

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Ramadan mubarak to everyone! (and I do mean, everyone)

A roundup of Ramadan reactions from around the Islamsphere (aka the Brass Crescent):

Mr. Moo observes that preparing for Ramadan usually involves DATCWDWTDWWAFSWDRAS (no, I’m not spoiling that one for you. Go look :)

Captain Chaos chimes in with a few additional ways of getting Ready for Ramadan. (via Muse at Talk Islam)

At altmuslim.com. Ibrahim Abusharif observes that Ramadan is a season to step outside our cartoon selves.

‘Aqoul hosts a Ramadan Open Thread in their usual witty, cynical fashion.

The London Islamic Network for the Environment invites you to Fast for the Planet. (via Thabet at Talk Islam).

via John of Crossroads Arabia blog, this Washington Post piece on the blend of science and tradition in the moonsighting methodology in Cairo.

And finally, my Ramadan-blogging from last year at old City of Brass might be of some interest.

UPDATE: Don’t miss these hilarious e-cards: “may your Ramadan be devoid of blatant racial profiling”. Also, right here at Beliefnet, we have Ten Tips for Fasting Healthfully and Spiritually, and Eight Ramadan Lessons for All Spiritual Seekers.

ahlan wa sahlan, ya Shehre Ramadan

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Last night at sunset, according to the Fatimid lunar (Hijri) calendar, marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. Today I am observing the first fast.
These are controversial statements, because the majority of muslims adhere to the hadith that each month begins with the visual sighting of the new crescent moon. The Saudi ulema have even issued a fatwa to the effect that astronomical calculations are not valid and that moonsighting is the sole acceptable method. Shayk Hamza Yusuf of the Zaytuna institute concurs, laying out the case for moonsighting in impressive scholarly detail (PDF link). However, in 2006 the Fiqh Council of North America adopted the compromise position that astronomical calculations were indeed valid, especially as a means for ruling out physically-impossible moonsighting reports. Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah wrote a lengthy rebuttal to Shaykh Yusuf, pointing out that the act of witnessing the new moon itself is not an act of worship in and of itself, and is merely a means of telling time. Another thorough and scholarly essay by Dr. Louay Safi notes that the choice is not between moonsighting and calculation, but rather personal testimony and calculation. Further essays and reading material on the debate are available at the Fiqh Council’s website.

In practice, muslims rely on moonsighting by a local religious authority or organization. The specifics of moonsighting vary widely from country to country, meaning that the start of Ramadan might vary by one or two days across the muslim world. This year the general consensus is that Ramadan 1429H begins on Monday, September 1st, though technically in North America the moon will not be physically visible to the eye until September 2nd, so some may elect to begin fasting on Tuesday.

This complexity in method worldwide carries over to the Western muslim community, of course, as muslim immigrants initially tend to adheres to the tradition of their homelands. But there is intense cross-fertilization between muslims in the West – something that occurs nowhere else. Ultimately it boils down to a personal judgement as to which method to use: moonsighting, calculation, or hybrid methods. Who said the gates of ijtihad were closed?

Obama speech word cloud

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I plugged the text of the speech transcript into wordle and got this result:
Obama DNC 08 speech word cloud
The main theme of the speech is clear from the cloud: the promise of America. It’s worth noting that Obama uses that word to refer to an ideal, a description of the American Dream, which put simply is that anyone can succeed here if they work hard. It’s not a mere litany of government handouts, as others have insinuated, but rather an appeal to the idea of America, its immigrant roots, and it’s fundamental character.
And it’s also worth noting that Obama drew a sharp distinction between himself and John McCain, firmly establishing the fundamental case for why Obama-Biden is indeed an agent of change, whereas John McCain would be in all respects a Bush Administration third term. As Obama forcefully said, “change doesn’t come from Washington; change comes to Washington”.

The Obama speech

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Magnificent.

I don’t think even the most cynical observer or committed Republican partisan could watch that speech all the way through and not be moved. It was simple, yet soaring; it was idealistic, but gritty; it was about him, but it was about us.

Some of the highlights (weighted towards the beginning of the speech – I lost interest in note-taking as the speech progressed):

The speech was a moral call to arms: “We are better than the last eight years” and of course, “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Patricularly moving was his description of how his mother, his father, his grandfather, and his grandmother all contributed to him standing on that podium – and yet, he pointed out, his critics will never understand that the campaign isn’t about Obama at all.

And finally, the speech was a ferocious indictment of John McCain’s false claim to being a maverick:

“We are here because we love this country too much to let the next 4 be like the last 8. Eight is enough.”

“What does it say about your judgment if you think George W. Bush was right 90% of the time?”

Though it must be noted that Obama had genuine praise and respect for McCain, saying several times that he believes McCain loves his country, and it’s not that McCain is wrong because he doesn’t care, it’s because he doesn’t know. The quote about “a nation of whiners” hit particularly hard – and spoke volumes.

Still, I did have my quibbles. On oil and energy independence, no mention of the Electric Future alternative. Also, a ten-year timeframe for true energy independence seems an impossible goal, I just can’t take that seriously. Most discomfitting was the stance towards Iran, though the reality is that anything even slightly more nuanced than “stop Iranian nukes at all costs” would have been immediate fodder for the AIPAC/Israel-first lobby. But these are indeed quibbles – at least compared to my more serious disagreements with Obama, but that we can save for later. Tonight was a night of true grandeur, hope, and vision, and it stirred this patriot’s soul.

It’s on.

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