Shaykh Daoud’s Blog

Archive for September 2009

No Surrender! Or, My Team Is Better Than Yours, Jimmy!

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A week ago today, 27 September, 2009, on 20 September the Sunday newspapers were rather taken with an incident in the breakfast room of the Bounty House Hotel near Aintree racecourse, Liverpool, that took place on 20 March “when comments were made about religion” (according to the write-up in The Mail on Sunday).

I agree, in fact I do not see anything to disagree, with the writer of that newspaper’s Second Leader where it was stated,

“Prosecutions in this country have now become so selective that many have begun to wonder what the law is for.

Is it designed to protect the peace, well-being and property of the people of this country?

Or is it instead intended to enforce the ideas and beliefs of a self-regarding and dogmatic elite?

It is hard to comment on the detail of the case brought against an Aintree couple, Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, since both prosecution and defence seem reluctant to speak about it.

But there is something disturbing about the fact that charges have been brought at all.

The alleged offence involved a conversation in a small private hotel, in which the Vogelenzangs are said to have criticised the Muslim religion.

The Public Order Act of 1986, invoked here, was specifically passed to control public processions and assemblies, to punish the stirring up of racial hatred and to bring peace to football grounds.

The Crime and Disorder Act of 1998, also invoked, was similarly intended to prevent racial harassment.

First, Islam is not a race, but a religion – a set of ideas with which all are free to disagree.

Secondly, the breakfast-room of a guest house, while not wholly private, is clearly not the sort of location the framers of the Public Order Act had in mind…”.

If you don’t like what you’re hearing, walk away graciously

As yet we are in the dark about what was said, who said it first, in what manner it was said, and who reacted to it and how. We can only speculate that something was mentioned in such a way that the parties got upset, and the Muslim one went and sneaked to the police.

The write-up mentioned stated further,

“Although the facts are disputed, it is thought that during the conversation the couple were challenged over their Christian beliefs.

It is understood that they suggested that Mohammed, the founder of Islam, was a warlord and that traditional Muslim dress for women was a form of bondage.

They deny, however, that their comments were threatening and argue that they had every right to defend and explain their beliefs…

…a number of guests staying at the hotel… were [sic] having breakfast on March 20 when comments were made about religion.

One of those involved was the Muslim woman [who made the complaint to the police], who was staying at the hotel while she received treatment at a hospital nearby…

Neil Addison, a prominent criminal barrister and expert in religious law, said,… ‘If someone is in a discussion and they don’t like what they are hearing, they can walk away’.”

Quite. And that applies both to the Christian couple, and the Muslim woman, But especially to the Muslim woman, because the adab of the Sunnah demands that she should have done precisely that. It turns out that she is a convert, or “revert” as far too many inaccurately and pretentiously claim to be. Clearly her husband, or whoever is supposed to be teaching her the niceties of Islamic etiquette, failed adequately to deal with this one.

It is to be found in certain Quranic verses, thus making it an Order from the Almighty:

wa-sbir ‘ala ma yaqoulouna wa-hjurhum hajran jamila. Wa dharni wa-l mukadhdhibin… (“And have patience with what they say, and part company from them graciously. And leave Me to those who cry lies…”) [Q, Al Muzammil, 73:10].

wa qul li ‘ibadi yaqoulu-llati hiya ahsan; inna-sh shaytana yanzaghu baynahum; inna-sh shaytana kana li-l insani ‘aduwwan mubina (“Say to My servants that they should say that which is best, for Satan will sow dissensions among them; truly Satan is a clear enemy to mankind.”) [Q, Al Isra, 17:53].

wa la tujadilou ahla-l kitabi illa bi-llati hiya ahsan; illa-lladhina zalamou minhum… (“And do not dispute with the People of the Book except with something that is better; unless it is with those of them who inflict injury…”) [Q, Al ‘Ankabout, 29:46].

Politics, Religion, and Women

During my time in The Service, it was still an unwritten rule (sternly brought home to new subalterns by the Adjutant and the PMC) that there were three subjects that were not, under any circumstances whatsoever, to be discussed in the Officers’ Mess.

These were Politics, Religion, and Women (or Sex).

The reasoning being that each of these was so individually sensitive and close to one’s heart that brother officers would be easily offended, leading to heated arguments and bitter recriminations, possibly making effective collaboration unworkable – or, as in an older time, leading to duels and fatalities, or blood feuds.

Therefore, everybody was required to tread delicately around these subjects, should one of them come up, en passant, which it frequently did. And so, for fear of the PMC, we conformed; and in the process were socialised into the adab of avoiding topics that would get under the skin of the other fellow and provoke upsets that would hamstring working together… or simply getting along.

Then, of course, there’s the other etiquette. If you have to bring up the subject, whichever it may be – and it’s unavoidable sometimes for reasons of necessity or duty – there’s the right way and the wrong way of doing so: the sensitive and the insensitive, the mannerly and the unmannerly, in other words.

Outside The Service, this might apply less and less to matters of women (or sex) and politics. However, religion is still for many, figuratively the spark for a bar-room brawl. And so, until you have the measure of the person, or persons, you are discussing with it’s certainly better to err on the side of delicacy. It would be better, for example, to choose your words carefully and enunciate clearly what you really mean to say and not leave a stamping ground for ambiguities.

If, like Lt Gen William G. Boykin US Army, you wish to accuse Osman Atto of Somalia of being only interested in money, you’re likely to provoke confusion about your true sentiments if you cap Atto’s statement on CNN that “Allah will protect me” with “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol”. Which is what duly happened, and General Boykin was taken as referring to Allah and not to Mammon, which he said was not at all what he was trying to do.

So, say what you mean, politely and unambiguously. And choose your words, and the occasion for expressing them, carefully. A sloppy choice of verbiage may actually produce the opposite response from the one that you desire, as the American general found out.

Religious affiliation is not a tribal thing, to be defended against the opposing lot. If it’s a true faith, it doesn’t need your machismo to protect it. All will be revealed on that Last Day. Anyway, it’s your path that you are treading to that ultimate horizon. The others have theirs – even if they ostensibly follow the same religion as you. Each path is individual. Li kulli ja’alna minkum shir’atan wa minhaja (to each of you We have appointed a path and an open road)(Q, Al Maidah, 5:48).

Forestalling Thought

Preaching at the other fellow may not, in fact, be the best way of conveying your message. More often than not, the most effective proselytizing is your personal conduct, your way of life, doing good things, having a cheerful countenance, and chatting to people normally. Ad Dinu-l mu’amalat (the religion is [life] transactions)(hadith). It is not in sloganising, certainly not by reference to texts that the other person may not consider legitimate authorities.

Perhaps, thinking about slogans, we should bear in mind that the Gaelic original means ‘a war cry’? Then there’s Lenin’s gloss on it. “A slogan,” he wrote in The Two Tactics of Social Democracy, “is a means of forestalling thought.”

They also produce, frequently, a violent reaction. “À la lanterne, les aristos!” would get people lynched. “Popery and wooden shoes!” would start a riot.

Then there’s such a thing as leading with one’s chin, or trailing one’s coat; just as suicide actually happens, so does ‘assisted dying’. You would be seriously ill-advised to call out phrases of the “No Surrender!” or “Good King Billy!” nature, or whistle Lillibulero, The Sash, or Derry’s Walls, in the Creggan or down the Short Strand, or The Kevin Barry in the Shankill, or “Up the Hibs!” in the vicinity of Ibrox Park (even though the Hibernians is an Edinburgh team).

The responses to solecisms in this regard may well vary wildly depending on where you are.

It may not matter that much, for most of the year, if, living in Shepherd’s Bush, you wore a Tottenham jersey rather than a QPR one. I would, however, not recommend a Rangers’ shirt near Parkhead.

Thinking about the allusions of these last comments, religion is not a football team, for which you have ostentatiously to show your membership and correct local affiliation. It is not a gang whose colours you have to wear and whose territory you have to defend.

This need to show that Manchester United is better than Manchester City in religion, is all too often expressed by people who don’t have a very clear idea about the faith either that they have to uphold against the other fellow or the one they have decided to attack.

What they do know is frequently some garbled confection either peddled by the priest, imam, minister, rabbi, swami, or (insert here other relevant designation of choice), or churned around in those people’s minds after not having paid too close attention in the first place. We have entered here the realm of Volksreligiosität – folk religiosity, which is all too often little better than superstition.

It is not only Christians who don’t read the New Testament with an open and enquiring mind to find what Christ actually is supposed to have said and done rather than what St Paul or some other editor or commentator said he said and did… and what he really meant by what he said and did when he said it and did it. And sometimes they even tell us what he really actually meant to say and do (but somehow left out or forgot), but that it is they who are miraculously in possession of this arcane knowledge.

Muslims are just as closed minded, in flagrant refutation of the many verses addressing “ouli-l albab” (those possessed of minds) and “al tafakkaroun” (those who reflect). Also, there’s a new breed of imams and shaykhs in the land who presume to speak for the Almighty and tell you (and He) what He is going to do. I thought we’d got rid of that sort back in the 17th Century, and shipped them off to Massachusetts and Connecticut. It seems they’re making a comeback in a Wahhabi or Deobandi persona.

Worryingly, the numbers of Muslims living in this a proclaimed Christian country whose “overarching public culture”, to quote Chief Rabbi Sacks, “is that of the Church of England” who have read the Bible or the Book of Common Prayer is pitifully small. And yet they will address, perhaps pontificate even is not too strong a word, with a spurious authority on Christianity.

To these I would recommend the Authorised or King James Version of The Bible (as it’s a great piece of literature in its own right and which is such an important element in the British culture), and the Book of Common Prayer (definitely in the 1662 version for the same reason).

An Exchange of Ignorances

Yet many of this ill-equipped coterie consider that they are empowered to engage in da’wah to this community whose scriptures are, literally, a closed book to them.

This equally applies to Christians who would missionise with Muslims. Few have attempted to read the Quran, or a biography of the Prophet. And of those that have, all too often the translation that they have used or the biography they have attempted has been from a recommendation of some Christian missionary or evangelical body.

These in their turn have not been chosen for their elucidation and accessibility, but almost all of them for the negativity that they appear to shine on their target.

And many recommend that people should approach Muslims through swatting up on some such crib notes as “How to Talk to Muslims”; meaning, of course, how to try and convert Muslims to their particular Christian heresy.

It would be more honest if these notes would tell the truth about what the New Testament actually says about Christ, and not rely on Cyrus I. Scofield’s Reference Bible that has given rise to such egregious Christian heresies as Premillennial Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism.

To such I would strongly urge that they read two books before they launch in on their Muslim. The author of neither work is a Muslim, so you needn’t worry about being offered a parti pris text.

Arthur Arberry’s The Koran Interpreted is perhaps the most accurate of those currently available. As he was professor of Arabic at Cambridge University, one can rely on his choice of words and phrases as being pretty close to the meaning of the Arabic text. Also, as he used contemporary English, there isn’t the distraction of allusions to the 17th Century text of the King James Bible, which some Christians find impertinent.

The other work is The Life of Muhammad by Karen Armstrong. Ms Armstrong is a former nun, and a well-known writer on religious matters. Her Life is probably one of the most readable, and every bit as accurate as that by Dr Martin Lings.

There is a well-known verse in the Quran that states la ikraha fi-d din, qad tabayyana-r rushdu mina-l ghayyi… (there is no compulsion in the religion; walking in the right path is clearly distinct from wandering astray…)(Q, Al Baqarah, 2:256). The first statement of this verse has led certain modern scholars, like Dr Roger Boase, to cite it as evidence that Islam is inherently pluralistic and tolerant.

Logically with the second element we would have to presuppose that the distinction between the right way and the wrong way is abundantly clear to the viewer. This may not always be the case.

Time was when the night sky was not affected by light pollution from the cities, and the stargazer could see the abundance of celestial bodies. That has become so difficult in the south-east corner of the United Kingdom, that a true view with the naked eye of the sun’s disc disappearing below the horizon (necessary for maghrib) is well-nigh impossible.

The allusion we have in the verse is sitting on a mountain or cliff top in a certain light and a certain clear air and being able to see a pathway and follow it with one’s eyes for mile after mile, watching it distinctly crossing a peat bog and traversing a fast stream. The light and the air aren’t always like that, and so the dangerous bits may not be that evident.

It is the purpose of da’wah to enable the clarity, not to further obscure or obfuscate: to remove the obstacles to clear vision, even where these may be one’s own behaviour. That requires a certain humility.

It is certainly militated against by the arrogant assumption that the baggage that was brought into this milieu is the true and only Islam or Christianity. It almost certainly isn’t. It is a further arrogance to assume that there is no Islam or Christianity here before your version arrived, and thus it has no vernacular expression. This thinking belongs to the ghayy, not to the rushd. Get rid of it, and get rid of its professors.

Open your eyes, and then open them again. This is what Terry Pratchett called the Third Sight: the ability to see things (and oneself) as they really are.

Those who are living in the British Isles, many of whom claim to be “British Muslims” (but their criteria for making this, in too many cases, escapes me), are inhabiting a special part of the globe.

It was known to the ancients as “the blessed isles” – na h-eileanan àighe or na h-innsean sona – and to Shaykhu-l Akbar Muhyiuddin ibn ‘Arabi of Murcia as ‘Arin. If you give it time to work, it will help you to find the via bona, the Good Path, and walk in it, or as the Patriarch said, “interrogate de semitis antiquis quae sit via bona et ambulate in ea” (ask after the old paths where is the good way and walk in it) (OT, Jeremiah, 6:16). So stop shouting at each other, and let the Blessed Isles do their work.

We are all beset by a great trouble, and that is the activities and beliefs of the partisans of a militant secularism who inhabit most of the reaches of government and the means of the administration of society. Given their scope they will destroy belief, freedom, and morality, all in the diabolical name of building their perfect society to be inhabited by their perfect man.

These must be resisted, and one must resist them on behalf of others as well. So, where we learn of a Christian who has been pilloried or sanctioned for wearing some “ostentatious religious symbol” (as the atheistic French republic terms them) Muslims must come to their defence. Where a Christian is punished for inviting a patient to pray with her, we must protest on her behalf. This is our duty: it has its own reward and we must look for nothing in return.

The only “No Surrender!”, the only “No pasaran!”, we should be getting involved in is against secularism and unbelief (which is its necessary outcome), not in trying to score points off other believers – even if you believe their faith is wrong or incomplete. The Almighty knows. Let Him sought it out. Our job is to clear the air so that His Creation can see the Good Path.

© D Rosser-Owen 2009 All Rights Reserved

Written by David Rosser Owen

September 27, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Id – An Asian Festival, and the Breakfast Charity

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Some years ago, the London Borough of Hammersmith – before “…and Fulham” got tacked on the end, in the days when it was run by Labour and the Town Hall was flogged to a shell company and rented back by the borough – presumably trying to be “inclusive”, “multicultural”, and generally helpful issued a wall calendar.

This informative accessory listed all the holidays and events that were of significance to the residents. Among these was the End of Ramadan, which was described as “Id – An Asian Festival”.

Now “Id – An Asian Festival” is coming round again. But when?

The Shariah is quite clear that the beginning and ending of the lunar months are determined by the local sighting with the naked eye of the birth of the crescent moon. This is very practical, as it allows for a great precision – within the range of a matter of a couple of minutes, something that is not possible with a solar calendar – anywhere in the world even with minimum technology.

It is meant to be local. The argument for centralising it is specious. In any case it would only make sense if this were consistently advanced for a Meccan calendar, on the basis that the annual Hajj pilgrimage takes place there during the month of Dhu-l Hijjah. Yet people are claiming that a sighting by any Muslim country should be followed. This is clearly ridiculous, as a lower school geography lesson would show.

Even the Meccan suggestion would be absurd by John Harrison’s work on Longitude. In fact the Islamic calendar is self-correcting for the fara’id of the Hajj don’t begin until the 3rd of Dhu-l Hijjah and so any variations world-wide of the beginnings of the months would be compensated for.

As the month of Ramadan is drawing to its close, once again, people are turning their minds to the celebrating of “Id – An Asian Festival”. The month can be only 29 or 30 days long. So those who started the Fast on the 21st or 22nd of August, when the moon couldn’t possibly be seen in the UK, will have to finish on Friday, 18th, or Saturday, 19th September when the month is still viable according to the local sighting – Friday being the 27th of Ramadan.

As the Crescent Watch website shows, the birth of the new crescent cannot be seen in the UK conceivably until Sunday evening, 20th September, and then only for three minutes with visual aids like telescopes or binoculars.

The new crescent can only be seen with the naked eye in London around 1914 hrs on Monday, 21st September, for about 15 minutes. This is authoritatively according to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich. Thus the most likely date of “Id – An Asian Festival” is Tuesday, 22 September, although it could be the day before, if it were to be sighted in the West Country.

So, what will people do? Break the month when it’s still viable because they unwisely followed a foreign sighting for its beginning, or fast 32 days to get its ending by the local means?

Another confusion concerns the Breakfast Charity, or Sadaqatu-l Fitr. This is not the Purifying Due (Zakah) that is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and must be paid to one of eight qualified recipient categories according to set percentages at the due date. Nor should it be sat upon by the authorities and doled out during the year. The Breakfast Charity is meant so that the poor and disadvantaged of the parish (muqim) can also enjoy the Festival.

It is a levy of one Sa’ Baghdadi (2.335 Kgs) per person who can afford it payable in the staple foodstuff of the area, according to the Shafi’ite Rite. Other madh’habs allow the use of money instead. But, by a fatwa of the Malaysian mufti Shaykh Shamsuddin Ramli, its monetary value can be substituted also by followers of the Shafi’ite School.

This year, where bread flour (the agreed staple in the UK) is around £1.22p per 1.5 Kgs, that would work out at £1.90p approximately per person. Anything above this should be counted as simple sadaqah, or charity.

Zakah is different, and still liable after Ramadan.

© D Rosser-Owen 2009 All Rights Reserved

Written by David Rosser Owen

September 13, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized