Common Word, Common Lord

Common Word, Common Lord

Noor Inayat Khan: A Muslim Heroine For Everyone

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

In today’s day and age, there seems to be little patience for context and nuance. Much of the information obtained about truly complex issues is reduced to sound-bytes, headlines, and video clips. This is especially true when it comes to issues related to Islam, Muslims, and the happenings in the Muslim world.

And much of the news coming out the Muslim world today is not good at all.

Worse, much of that terrible news – such as the barbarism of ISIS – gets conflated with Muslims and their faith. Yet, the truth belies the headlines and video clips. There is so much more to the Muslim community, both here and abroad, and there are many, many more good stories about Islam and Muslims than there are bad. They just have to be told.

Enter Unity Productions Foundation, an American not-for-profit media company that seeks to, in the words of co-founder Alex Kronemer, “serve the cause of peace and understanding in part by expanding the narrative about Muslims to American audiences.” On September 9, UPF will air its latest film, “Enemy of the Reich,” to a nationwide audience on PBS. The film is a  “docudrama” about Noor Inayat Khan, a Muslim woman of Indian and American descent who worked as a covert British agent assisting the French resistance against Nazi occupation during World War II.

Driven by deep-rooted Muslim spiritual values, her courageous actions in Nazi-occupied Paris are nothing short of extraordinary. The story of Noor Inayat Khan is truly inspirational, and Ms. Khan is a heroine – a Muslim heroine – that can inspire everyone to greatness. The film is very well done, and it is something the whole family can enjoy.

In an interview for this piece, Executive Producer Alex Kronemer said:

[Co-Executive Producer Michael Wolfe] and I were doing a bit of research and started uncovering several stories of Muslims who did heroic things during World War II.  The more we looked the more we found, such as the Paris Mosque, which hid Jews during the war; the Franco-Muslim Hospital in Paris that sheltered shot down US and British aviators and was awarded a medal from President Eisenhower after the war, the many Algerian Immigrants  who joined there French Resistance, and the fact that the largest volunteer army during World War II were from the Indian subcontinent.  What we found, in fact, was that Muslims did many heroic things during the war on the Allied side, yet few of those stories had been told. 

The release of this film is particularly relevant because, this year is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and as Kronemer said, “including at least one of the Muslim stories…is important at a time when most of what people hear about Muslims focuses on bad guys.”

Yet, as important as telling this story to American audiences is, it is just as important for Muslim audiences as well:

For any one raising Muslim children in America, it is important that they have Muslim heroes and heroines who are relevant to this American society that they are growing up in. There is sometimes a bit of a schizophrenia that our children experience between their Muslim identities and American identities.  This story is one that unites those identities by telling a story of a Muslim woman who did something important to Western History. 

“Enemy of the Reich,” narrated by Academy Award winning actress Helen Mirren,  is a truly amazing documentary, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film. I must confess that, before this film was made, I had no idea who Noor Inayat Khan was. I am blessed to know her now, and I am confident you will as well.

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Indonesia: One Of The Many Places You Can Find True Islam (RNS)

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

While the barbarians of ISIS – and Islamophobes – like to claim that they are the only true Muslims on the earth, reality says something much different. My good friend and Editor-in-Chief of the Religion News Service, Kevin Eckstrom, wrote a beautiful post about Islam in Indonesia, and how this is one of the real faces of Islam, as opposed to the barbarism shown by ISIS:

JAKARTA, Indonesia (RNS) I woke up this morning to the news that the thugs in the Islamic State had beheaded yet another American journalist. Not a great way to wake up.

The name “Islamic State” is unfortunate on a number of levels – the group behind it is neither Islamic nor a state. Sure, they may be Muslims acting in the name of Islam, but the Muslim leaders I’ve met here are clear that it’s not a form of Islam that they recognize, or embrace.

“ISIS is not born from the heart of the Muslim people,” said Kyai al-Hajj Ali Musthafa Ya’qub, the grand mufti of the national mosque of Jakarta, using another acronym for the Islamic State. “Islam is what Allah the exalted says, not what Muslims do.”

Here in the heart of the world’s most populous Muslim nation, you encounter a different vision of Islam than the one most Americans see beamed out of the Middle East. Some would call it moderate, or centrist, and tolerance for other faiths is deeply embedded in its DNA. In a country that is 87 percent Muslim, there’s a surprising amount of room for everyone else.

“We need to change this idea that the Middle East is where we need to look” for what Islam looks like, said Lukman Hakim Saefuddin, the government’s minister of religious affairs.

Which brings us back to this idea of an Islamic state — a concept that has never found much favor in a country that claims more Muslims than any other. To be sure, there are controversial blasphemy laws, and the province of Aceh has implemented Shariah law (more on that in a later post). But the country remains a secular democracy whose founding principles include a “belief in the One and Only
God,” but doesn’t mention the term Allah.

Unlike Pakistan or Iran or Egypt, Islam is not the state religion here. Islam certainly has primacy of place, but it’s one of six officially recognized religions. There’s a sense of “Godly nationalism,” as one scholar put it, where Islam is just one of many claims on a national and individual identity.

“We are Indonesians who happen to be Muslims, not simply Muslims who happen to live in Indonesia,” Saefuddin said. For a man charged with safeguarding the faith of some 200 million Muslims, that’s quite a statement.

He goes on to explain the particular characteristics of Indonesian Islam and society. It is a great read, and it shows that the face that ISIS shows the world is far from the true face of Islam, an example of which is shown in Indonesia. Read the entire post here.

Nothing “Islamic” About ISIS, Part Two: What the “Jizya” Really Means

In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

Last time, we began the conversation about how ISIS and its actions are hardly “Islamic.” Now, we will delve, a little, into the issue of this “tax” that the barbarians of ISIS demanded be paid by Iraqi Christians, called the jizya. The extremist forces of ISIS told Christians that they can either “covert, pay the jizya, or die.” We already explained how this completely violates both the spirit and letter of Islamic teaching. But, this “tax” called the jizya needs some explanation.

Enter Sohaib Sultan, Muslim chaplain at Princeton and personal friend:

ISIS has also given Christians another option if they want to remain in Iraq: to pay jizya. Jizya is a tax that Muslim empires imposed upon non-Muslim constituents in return for military exemption, protection against persecution and considerable religious freedoms. Most Muslim countries today no longer impose jizya on non-Muslims. The change in political order, rise of nation states and assumptions of citizenship today render certain medieval systems incongruent with modern realities and sensibilities. The Quran makes a reference to the jizya system (9:29), but its application is vague and it can very well be argued that such an imposition was only intended to manage troublesome and treacherous religious minorities. This is all to say that ISIS has no basis whatsoever to force Christians in Iraq to pay the jizya let alone the fact that they cannot even be considered a legitimate government by any stretch of the imagination and, therefore, cannot rightfully impose any taxes on anyone.

Sultan referenced verse 9:29, which the extremists use to justify their imposition of this tax, and Islamophobes use to prove Islam’s barbarity. Here is the verse in its entirety:

[And] fight against those who – despite having been vouchsafed revelation [aforetime] – do not [truly] believe either in God or the Last Day, and do not consider forbidden that which God and His Apostle have forbidden,  and do not follow the religion of truth [which God has enjoined upon them] till they [agree to] pay the exemption tax with a willing hand, after having been humbled [in war].

Qur’anic commentator Muhammad Asad makes these notes on this verse:

Lit., “such of those who were vouchsafed revelation [aforetime] as do not believe…”, etc. In accordance with the fundamental principle-observed throughout my interpretation of the Qur’an – that all of its statements and ordinances are mutually complementary and cannot, therefore, be correctly understood unless they are considered as parts of one integral whole, this verse, too must be read in the context of the clear-cut Qur’anic rule that war is permitted only in self-defense (see 2:190-194, and the corresponding notes).

In other words, the above injunction to fight is relevant only in the event of aggression committed against the Muslim community or state, or in the presence of an unmistakable threat to its security: a view which has been shared by that great Islamic thinker, Muhammad `Abduh. Commenting on this verse, he declared: “Fighting has been made obligatory in Islam only for the sake of defending the truth and its followers…. All the campaigns of the Prophet were defensive in character; and so were the wars undertaken by the Companions in the earliest period [of Islam]” (Manar X, 332).

Asad continues:

This, to my mind, is the key-phrase of the above ordinance. The term “apostle” is obviously used here in its generic sense and applies to all the prophets on whose teachings the beliefs of the Jews and the Christians are supposed to be based – in particular, to Moses and (in the case of the Christians) to Jesus as well (Manar X, 333 and 337).

Since, earlier in this sentence, the people alluded to are accused of so grave a sin as willfully refusing to believe in God and the Last Day (i.e., in life after death and man’s individual responsibility for his doings on earth), it is inconceivable that they should subsequently be blamed for comparatively minor offenses against their religious law: consequently, the stress on their “not forbidding that which God and His apostle have forbidden” must refer to something which is as grave, or almost as grave, as disbelief in God.

In the context of an ordinance enjoining war against them, this “something” can mean only one thing-namely, unprovoked aggression: for it is this that has been forbidden by God through all the apostles who were entrusted with conveying His message to man. Thus, the above verse must be understood as a call to the believers to fight against such – and only such  – of the nominal followers of earlier revelation as deny their own professed beliefs by committing aggression against the followers of the Qur’an.

This is his explanation of the jizya tax, which I find convincing and informative:

Sc., “and having become incorporated in the Islamic state”. The term jizyah, rendered by me as “exemption tax”, occurs in the Qur’an only once, but its meaning and purpose have been fully explained in many authentic Traditions. It is intimately bound up with the concept of the Islamic state as an ideological organization: and this is a point which must always be borne in mind if the real purport of this tax is to be understood.

In the Islamic state, every able-bodied Muslim is obliged to take up arms in jihad (i.e., in a just war in God’s cause) whenever the freedom of his faith or the political safety of his community is imperiled: in other words, every able-bodied Muslim is liable to compulsory military service. Since this is, primarily, a religious obligation, non-Muslim citizens, who do not subscribe to the ideology of Islam, cannot in fairness be expected to assume a similar burden. On the other hand, they must be accorded full protection of all their civic rights and of their religious freedom: and it is in order to compensate the Muslim community for this unequal distribution of civic burdens that a special tax is levied on non-Muslim citizens (ahl adh-dhimmah, lit., “covenanted” [or "protected"] people”, i.e., non-Muslims whose safety is statutorily assured by the Muslim community).

Thus, jizyah is no more and no less than an exemption tax in lieu of military service and in compensation for the “covenant of protection” (dhimmah) accorded to such citizens by the Islamic state. (The term itself is derived from the verb jaza, “he rendered [something] as a satisfaction”, or “as a compensation [in lieu of something else]” – cf. Lane II, 422.) No fixed rate has been set either by the Qur’an or by the Prophet for this tax; but from all available Traditions it is evident that it is to be considerably lower than the tax called zakah (“the purifying dues”) to which Muslims are liable and which – because it is a specifically Islamic religious duty – is naturally not to be levied on non-Muslims.

Only such of the non-Muslim citizens who, if they were Muslims, would be expected to serve in the armed forces of the state are liable to the payment of jizyah, provided that they can easily afford it. Accordingly, all non-Muslim citizens whose personal status or condition would automatically free them from the obligation to render military service are statutorily – that is, on the basis of clear-cut ordinances promulgated by the Prophet – exempted from the payment of jizyah: (a) all women, (b) males who have not yet reached full maturity, (c) old men, (d) all sick or crippled men, (e) priests and monks.

All non-Muslim citizens who volunteer for military service are obviously exempted from the payment of jizyah. My rendering of the expression `an yad (lit., “out of hand”) as “with a willing hand”, that is, without reluctance, is based on one of several explanations offered by Zamakhshari in his commentary on the above verse. Rashid Rida’, taking the word yad in its metaphorical significance of “power” or “ability”, relates the phrase can yad to the financial ability of the person liable to the payment of jizyah (see Manar X, 342): an interpretation which is undoubtedly justified in view of the accepted definition of this tax.

So, this is what the jizya is all about, and like Sohaib Sultan mentioned, it is largely moot in today’s day and age. Just because ISIS has the word “Islamic” in its name, it doesn’t mean that anything it does is in line with true Islamic teaching. In fact, everything ISIS does is the total antithesis of what Islam is all about.

Think Muslims Haven’t Condemned ISIS? Think Again

In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Lord

A very common, oft-repeated mantra among pundits and “experts” is that Muslims haven’t roundly condemned the extremism committed in Islam’s name. So many times, we hear people saying, “Where are the Muslim voices in condemnation?” “Why aren’t Muslims speaking up against extremists like ISIS?”

Well, the fact is, Muslims have been speaking out against ISIS and other extremist groups. The problem is, some times, people either don’t know or choose not to know this fact. Enter in this excellent post by Media Matters For America, which documents the round condemnation of ISIS by Muslim groups all across the world:

The Organization Of Islamic Cooperation: The Islamic State Has “Nothing To Do With Islam,” Has Committed Crimes “That Cannot Be Tolerated.” As the Vatican’s internal news source reported, the Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 1.4 billion Muslims in 57 countries around the world, condemned the Islamic State’s persecution of of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq, saying the “forced deportation under the threat of execution” is a “crime that cannot be tolerated.” According to the Vatican:

The Secretary General also distanced Islam from the actions of the militant group known as ISIS, saying they ‘have nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.’ [Vatican Radio, 7/25/14]

Al-Azhar: Islamic State Is Corrupt And “A Danger To Islam.” Lebanese paper The Daily Star reported that Al-Azhar’s Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, Egypt’s highest religious authority, denounced the Islamic State as a threat to Islam and said that the group both violates Sharia law and humanitarian law: “[They] give an opportunity for those who seek to harm us, to destroy us and interfere in our affairs with the [pretext of a] call to fight terrorism.” [The Daily Star, 8/13/14]

Arab League: “Strongly Denounced” The “Crimes Against Humanity” Carried Out By The Islamic State. On August 11, Nabil al-Arabi, the Arab League Chief, denounced acts committed by the Islamic State in Iraq as “crimes against humanity,” demanding that they be brought to justice. According to Al Arabiya News, he said in a statement that he “strongly denounced the crimes, killings, dispossession carried out by the terrorist (ISIS) against civilians and minorities in Iraq that have affected Christians in Mosul and Yazidis.” [Al Arabiya News, 8/11/14]

Turkey’s Top Cleric: Islamic State’s Threats Are “Hugely Damaging,” “Truly Awful.” Turkey’s highest ranking cleric, Mehmet Gormez, decried the Islamic State’s declaration of a “caliphate” and argued that the statements were damaging to the Muslim community, according to Reuters:

“Such declarations have no legitimacy whatsoever,” Mehmet Gormez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the highest religious authority in Turkey, which, although a majority Muslim country, has been a secular state since the 1920s.

“Since the caliphate was abolished … there have been movements that think they can pull together the Muslim world by re-establishing a caliphate, but they have nothing to do with reality, whether from a political or legal perspective.”

Gormez said death threats against non-Muslims made by the group, formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), were hugely damaging.

“The statement made against Christians is truly awful. Islamic scholars need to focus on this (because) an inability to peacefully sustain other faiths and cultures heralds the collapse of a civilization,” he told Reuters in an interview. [Reuters, 7/22/14]

CAIR Repeatedly Condemned The Islamic State As “Un-Islamic And Morally Repugnant.” In a July 7 statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called the terrorist group “un-Islamic and morally repugnant,” noted that the Islamic State’s “human rights abuses on the ground are well-documented,” and called on other Muslim community leaders to speak out against the violence. CAIR reiterated the condemnation of the Islamic State as “both un-Islamic and morally repugnant” on August 11, and on August 21, CAIR once again condemned the group, calling the killing of American journalist James Foley “gruesome and barbaric”:

We strongly condemn this gruesome and barbaric killing as a violation of Islamic beliefs and of universally-accepted international norms mandating the protection of prisoners and journalists during conflicts.

The Geneva Conventions, the Quran – Islam’s revealed text – and the traditions (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad all require that prisoners not be harmed in any way. There can be no excuse or justification for such criminal and bloodthirsty actions.

We also call on those holding Steven Sotloff and other prisoners to immediately release them unharmed so they may return to their loved ones. [Council on American-Islamic Relations, 7/7/14; Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/11/14; Council on American-Islamic Relations, 8/20/14]

The Muslim Council Of Great Britain: “Violence Has No Place In Religion.” The Muslim Council of Great Britain condemned the Islamic State’s actions and expressed that they do not represent Sunni Muslims, according to The Independent. Shuja Shafi, a member of the council also said: “Violence has no place in religion, violence has no religion. It is prohibited for people to present themselves for destruction.” [The Independent, 7/11/14]

The Islamic Society of North America: The Islamic State’s Actions “Are To Be Denounced And Are In No Way Representative Of What Islam Actually Teaches. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) released a statement denouncing the Islamic State “for its attacks on Iraq’s religious minorities and the destruction of their places of worship.” ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid said, “ISIS actions against religious minorities in Iraq violate the Quranic teaching, ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ (Surat al-Baqara 2:256),” adding, “Their actions are to be denounced and are in no way representative of what Islam actually teaches.” [The Islamic Society of North America, 8/9/14]

100 Sunni And Shiite U.K. Imams: The Islamic State Is An “Illegitimate, Vicious Group.” As the Huffington Post reported, 100 Sunni and Shiite Imams from the U.K. came together to produce a video denouncing the Islamic State, releasing a statement that they wanted to “come together to emphasise the importance of unity in the UK and to decree ISIS as an illegitimate, vicious group who do not represent Islam in any way.” (Please see below)

Saudi Arabia’s Highest Religious Authority: Terrorists Like The Islamic State Is The “Number One Enemy Of Islam.” On August 19, Al Jazeera reported that Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, the country’s top religious authority, said that terrorism is anti-Islamic and said that groups like the Islamic State which practice violence are the “number one enemy of Islam”:

Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilisation, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims. [Al Jazeera, 8/19/14]

Muslim Public Affairs Council: Condemned The Islamic State And Called For “Stand Against Extremism.” On August 20, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) released a statement condemning “the barbaric execution of American Journalist James Foley by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).” MPAC urged “all people of conscience to take a stand against extremism” and offered condolences to Foley’s family. MPAC also noted the importance of countering ISIS and other extremist groups by working “to empower the mainstream and relegate extremists to the irrelevance they deserve.” [Muslim Public Affairs Council, 8/20/14]

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So, the next time you hear someone say, “Few Muslim voices have condemned ISIS or any other extremist group,” know that this statement is clearly not true.

Previous Posts

Noor Inayat Khan: A Muslim Heroine For Everyone
In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord In today's day and age, there seems to be little patience for context and nuance. Much of the information obtained about truly complex issues is reduced to sound-bytes, headlines, and video clips. This is especially true w

posted 3:14:49pm Sep. 07, 2014 | read full post »

Indonesia: One Of The Many Places You Can Find True Islam (RNS)
In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord While the barbarians of ISIS - and Islamophobes - like to claim that they are the only true Muslims on the earth, reality says something much different. My good friend and Editor-in-Chief of the Religion News Service, Kevi

posted 4:47:59pm Sep. 04, 2014 | read full post »

Nothing "Islamic" About ISIS, Part Two: What the "Jizya" Really Means
In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord Last time, we began the conversation about how ISIS and its actions are hardly "Islamic." Now, we will delve, a little, into the issue of this "tax" that the barbarians of ISIS demanded be paid by Iraqi Christians, called

posted 11:00:06pm Aug. 25, 2014 | read full post »

Think Muslims Haven't Condemned ISIS? Think Again
In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Lord A very common, oft-repeated mantra among pundits and "experts" is that Muslims haven't roundly condemned the extremism committed in Islam's name. So many times, we hear people saying, "Where are the Muslim voices in condemnation?"

posted 1:33:45pm Aug. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Nothing "Islamic" About ISIS: How Those Barbarians Defame Islam
In the Name of God: The Infinitely Compassionate and Merciful Lord That I condemn ISIS with every cell of my body goes without saying. Their barbarism knows no bounds, and I pray that the Lord brings to an end their reign of terror and inhumanity. The murder of American photojournalist James Fole

posted 3:20:55pm Aug. 20, 2014 | read full post »


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