City of Brass

City of Brass

The Hezbollah death shrine

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, one of my Beliefnet neighbors, issues a call to muslims and especially Shi’a muslims to denounce the shrine to Hezbollah leader Imag Mugniyah in southern Lebanon:

The children crowd forward around the glass case, eager for a glimpse
of the martyr’s bloodstained clothes. His belt is here, and the shoes
he died in, scarred with shrapnel. The battered desk where he planned
military operations still has his box of pencils on it, his in-box, his
cellphone.
[…]
A fake skeleton stands upright in a torn uniform and helmet beneath the
legend, “The invincible Israeli soldier.” There are captured Israeli
tanks jutting up from the ground at odd angles, their hatches burned
and broken. As visitors crowd from one display to another, a soundtrack
blares overhead, mixing the sounds of bombs and machine-gun fire with
mournful operatic voices and warlike speeches.

This is indeed a pretty creepy monument to martyrdom, and it can’t be good psychologically, for the children who are taken to see it by their parents. Then again, being bombed all summer by a ferocious air assault can’t be particularly good for them either. I see this sort of thing as a symptom of the tumult and war that has wracked the region. It’s sad, but it’s also inevitable. Rabbi Hirschfield points to this anecdote of a father and son visiting the death shrine as particularly troubling:

“I came here to teach my kids the culture of resistance,” said a
visitor who gave his name only as Ahmed, as he stood with his wife and
two children. “I want them to see what the enemy is doing to us, and
what we can do to fight them, because this enemy is not merciful.”

but if I judge that man based on his words, not having lived his life and losing family and loved ones to a pointless war that he in all probability has, then I am very arrogant indeed. If Ahmed is wrong (as I think he is), that Israel is not his enemy and is indeed merciful, then it is incumbent upon Israel to prove him wrong. It was Israel’s policy towards Lebanon that has pushed Ahmed into Hizbollah’s calculating and opportunistic embrace. It’s easy for me to sit here thousands of miles away and judge Ahmed on my moral scale, but is that in accordance with the ethos of Ramadan? I think instead we must extend him compassion, and understand that his presence there speaks volumes about his situation, not necessarily his character.

As far as denouncing it goes, six years after 9-11 I think it’s rather sad that muslims in the United States are still being called onto the carpet to answer for everything that their co-religionists abroad do. Once one muslim (adjective) – American (noun) starts down that road, we will all have to, from liberal muslim bloggers like me to ordinary working class Somali taxi-drivers in Minneapolis. With respect, I decline.

let’s not do lunch

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I linked this yesterday but it’s so awesome I just have to mention it again – hilarious Ramadan e-cards:

ram_01.jpgThere’s more, but that one’s my favorite.

(via TalkIslam)

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?

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