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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Opportunity for Da'wah during Christmas !

Christmas holidays come and go each year with a lot of shopping, hustle and bustle, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, decorations and lights. The Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. In this article, we will address the following questions relying mostly on quotations from the Holy Qur`aan:

What are the origins of Christianity?
Was Jesus born without a father?
Is Jesus a son of God?
Did Jesus speak as a baby?
Was he crucified?

THE ORIGINS OF CHRISTIANITY

Historical facts reveal that Jesus did not use the word Christianity. He and his followers used to worship in the temple which other Israelites used. The message of Jesus was to call people back to the religion of Abraham and Moses from which they had gone astray. After the disappearance of Jesus, Paul declared that belief in Jesus sufficed for salvation. The Jewish scholars of that time called the followers of prophet Jesus the misguided sect of Nazarene or Galilaens. In 43 C.E., when Paul and Barnabas went to Antioch to preach, they were ridiculed and were called Christians by the masses. The ones who were called Christians felt that if they are being given a name in reference to Jesus, there is nothing wrong in accepting it. A present day analogy may be the case of Muslims being called Mohammedans in the West and Muslims giving in to the name.

PAUL ALTERED THE MESSAGE

At the beginning, Paul was a staunch opponent of prophet Jesus and remained so for many ears after his ascension. When he did join the followers of Jesus later on, he initiated many alterations in the teachings of Jesus in hopes of winning over the Gentiles (non-Jewish people). He introduced the following concepts into Christianity:

1. the concept of Jesus as son of God;
2. Jesus died on the cross to wash eternal sins of Adam's children through his blood
3. the Law of Torah was renounced. He eliminated all regulations concerning food and abrogated the injunctions of circumcision.

The real followers of Jesus opposed these blatant misrepresentations of the message of Jesus. Their struggle to reject the notion of Divinity of Jesus continued for about two hundred years. Since these alterations were very appealing to the Gentiles, the true believers were unable to
stop the misguidance.

In 325 C.E., a council of Christian leaders met at Nicaea and officiated Paul's beliefs as their religion. Roman Empire declared Paul's religion as the religion of the State and all those books which denied these beliefs were banned. In 367 C.E., the State announced a list of books
acceptable to it and fifteen years later, a council held under the presidency of Pope Damasius gave its approval to these books. At the end of the fifth century, Pope Galasius published a list of unauthorized books (Apocryphal) to further conform with Paul's religion of Christianity.

JESUS BORN WITHOUT A FATHER

The true story of Jesus' birth from Mary is told in the Holy Qur`aan. We are told that he was born without a father by the command of God. Mary was single and a chaste woman.
21:91 And (remember) her who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and We made her and her son a Sign for all peoples.
19:16 Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East.
19:17 She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them: then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.
19:18 She said: "I seek refuge from thee to (God) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear God."
19:19 He said: "Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son."
19:20 She said: "How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?"
19:21 He said: "So (it will be): thy Lord saith, `That is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us': it is a matter (so) decreed."
19:22 So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place.
19:23 And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: she cried (in her anguish): "Ah! would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!"
19:24 But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): "Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee;
19:25 "And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee.
19:26 "So eat and drink and cool (thine) eyes. And if thou dost see any man, say, `I have vowed a fast to (God) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.' "

JESUS SPOKE AS A BABY

19:27 At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: "O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought!
19:28 "O sister of Aaron! thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!"
19:29 But she pointed to the babe. They said: "How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?"
19:30 He said: "I am indeed a servant of God: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet;
19:31 "And He hath made me Blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live;
19:32 "(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;
19:33 "So Peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the Day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"!
19:34 Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute.
19:35 It is not befitting to (the majesty of) God that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it, "Be," and it is.
19:36 Verily, God is my Lord and your Lord: Him therefore serve ye: this is a Way that is straight.
19:37 But the sects differ among themselves: and woe to the Unbelievers because of the (coming) Judgment of a momentous Day!

HE BEGETS NOT!

We note that the Holy Qur`aan refers to Jesus as 'Jesus ibn Maryam', i.e., Jesus son of Mary. It is in contrast to the common usage in which children are referred to by their father's name and not by their mother's name. He (Jesus) is not a son of God. The following chapter from the Holy Qur`aan explains the position of Islam in absolute terms: SAY: "God is Unique!! God, the Source [of everything]. He has not fathered anyone nor was He fathered, and there is nothing comparable to Him!" (Chapter 112)

JESUS WAS NOT CRUCIFIED

The Holy Qur`aan also rejects the claim that Jesus was killed on the cross.
4:157 That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God"; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain)knowledge, but only conjecture to follow for of a surety they killed him not.
4:158 Nay, God raised him up unto Himself; and God is Exalted in Power, Wise.
4:159 And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness against them.

Based on the statements of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu 'alaihi w Sallam.), muslims believe that Prophet Jesus will return to earth at a time when Muslims will be in a dire need of a leader. He will not initiate a new religion but rather obey the Holy Qur`aan and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu 'alaihi w Sallam) and lead Muslims to victory over the disbelievers.
We hope that this short essay will help our readers understand the origins of Christianity and Islam's position on Jesus. We encourage everyone to read the Holy Qur`aan to obtain a better understanding of Jesus and Islam. The Holy Qur`aan also gives a detailed account of the mission and lives of "Jewish" prophets like Abraham and Moses. Altogether, twenty-five prophets are mentioned by name in the Qur`aan.

References:
1. Manual of Dawah for Islamic Workers, The Islamic Circle of North America, 166-26 89th Avenue, Jamaica, NY 11432. (718)657-4090
2. The Message, monthly magazine by ICNA, December 1993 issue is devoted fully to the Christianity.

Muslim youth forge own path in America

By Barbara Brotman Tribune staff reporter Published December 23, 2004

Maheen Sheikh, a 21-year-old junior, rushed into the Loyola University
Muslim Students' Association mosque, tied a scarf around her head and
faced Mecca to pray. Just then the secular interrupted the divine, in
the form of her ringing cell phone. "No way!" she said into the phone.
"Oh, my God. . . . Guess who I talked to?" Islam, meet Verizon.
The future of Islam in America? Part of it is here.
The children of Muslim immigrants who began coming to this country in
larger numbers in the 1970s are going to college. Born in America or
brought here when they were young, they are defining what it means to be a
Muslim American. The guys with their baggy jeans and cell phones
downloaded with Biggie and Jay-Z, the girls with their head scarves tucked
into hoodies and sometimes a cell phone stuck inside making a kind of
Islamic hands-free phone, the other girls with their uncovered hair up in
ponytails--they are all making a way of Muslim life that is distinctly
theirs.
Their Islam is not necessarily their parents' Islam. Many are pursuing
what they call a "pure" Islam, separate from the cultural traditions
their parents brought with them. They are negotiating the sometimes
complex path between Muslim faith and American culture. Is it acceptable to
watch MTV? To listen to music? At what point does makeup cross the
modesty line? How much should they avoid contact between men and women?
That issue flared into an angry conflict in the fall over who would get to
use the MSA's lounge.
Is America the land of opportunity, temptation or both? These are part
of larger questions that pit the American value of freedom of choice
against the Muslim tradition of conforming to divine law and take into
account all the permutations in between.
The students are at a stage of life when American culture is most at
odds with Islam. They are at college, and not drinking. They are at
college, and not dating. They are living a faith whose name means
"submission," in a country founded on revolt. They are making their way with so
many individual variations that you can't really say what they, as a
group, are doing.

Except that it starts with Islam. Religion over culture
Shaheen Baig, 22, president of the Loyola Muslim Students' Association,
called the first meeting to order inside the mosque, or masjid, the
only one in Illinois run by students. In a little-girl voice but with
adult confidence, Shaheen, a pre-med senior majoring in biology with minors
in psychology and women's studies, ran through the coming events. There
would be the start-of-the-year picnic, inshallah. After that would be
Islam Awareness Week.
"Do y'all have a big fundraiser?" asked a young woman from Houston,
establishing the reach of Islam throughout the U.S. with a single word.
For some students, college has brought their first encounters with
substantial numbers of other Muslims. "I didn't know many Muslims in high
school. When I started college, it was kind of culture shock," said
Shaheen, of Park Ridge. At Maine South High School, she was the only student
who wore hijab, the term for modest Muslim dress that has come to refer
to the head scarf. "I felt really special. Then I came here, and there
were so many people like me."
Loyola's Muslim student population, which numbers about 350, is not
monolithic. The MSA, which has 300 members, has a core of active students;
about 75 consistently attend Friday prayer. For others, the Muslim
group is not a regular part of their college life. College MSAs tend to
attract students who are more religious. There are many young Muslims
following less traditional paths. "It's very difficult to talk about a
single type," said Shabana Mir, an Indiana University doctoral candidate in
education policy who has researched Muslim students at several
colleges."I came across people who identified very strongly as religious and at
the same time might have had girlfriends and boyfriends, consumed
alcohol and attended nightclubs. At the other spectrum, there were those who
didn't go near a nightclub, didn't drink a drop of alcohol and observed
very strict forms of religiosity. "And in between, there is a whole
range now being termed as moderate Muslims," she said.
The Loyola MSA students are children of immigrants from India, Pakistan
and the Middle East. They are among the estimated 6 million to 8
million Muslims in the U.S., about a third of whom are African-Americans. By
the year 2020, according to one estimate, there will be more than 13
million American Muslims. In their Muslim homelands, the students'
parents absorbed Islam in the air around them. They prayed the way everyone
around them prayed without asking why.
Their children are asking why.

They are American, Shaheen pointed out: "Here, in school, kids are
taught to ask questions." They want to pray. But they want explanations.
What is the purpose of prayer? Why do Muslims begin prayer by raising
their hands to their shoulders, palms up, then swooping them down to right
in front of their bellies?
They respect their elders to a degree non-Muslim parents can only
imagine. But many say they want to shed their parents' cultural baggage and
follow what they consider pure Islam, unadulterated by ethnic
traditions. Culture is man-made and thus can have bad aspects, they say, like a
denigration of women that female MSA members say is found nowhere in
Islam.
Buoyed by Muslim pride and free of their parents' needs to survive in
an unfamiliar country, they proclaim their Muslim identity with Muslim
Gear skirts and green wristbands declaring Muslim unity. "Our parents
want to embrace American culture; they don't want to give offense," said
Nuha Hasan, 21, of Justice, a senior majoring in psychology. "But now
we want to embrace our religion."
Most of their parents have reacted to their piety with pride. But for
Mohammed Shaazuddin's mother, pride is mixed with concern. "She's afraid
I'm going to start going extremist," said Mohammed, 18, an intense-eyed
freshman psychology major whom everyone calls Shaaz. At their Morton
Grove home, his mother, Dr. Sameena Zieuddin, a physician at Oak Forest
Hospital, said she is impressed by her son's generation's Islamic
learning. "For some reason, the children are more religious here," she said.
"I think it's good. We were just blindly following. . . . They have
more knowledge." She just wants to be sure her son has enough time to
study secular subjects. And she doesn't think young Muslims should "take it
too far and become completely separate. They have to tolerate other
religions."
For Hassan Ali, 19, Islamic study has led to tension between him and
his father. His father prays with a group that believes there are Islamic
saints. But Hassan says Islam rejects the idea of intermediaries
between people and Allah, and he will not pray with that group. "I follow the
Koran strictly," said Hassan, of Romeoville, a sophomore majoring in
political science. "I'm pretty harsh. He does get bugged out, but then he
says, `All right, whatever you want.' At the end of the day, we're
still father and son."
Marcia Hermansen, a professor of Islamic studies at Loyola who has been
the MSA's faculty adviser since 1998, is wary of young Muslims' pursuit
of "pure Islam." "It can be a little harsh, rigid, defensive," she
said.
The idea of an Islam that floats above culture is attractive because
the students don't have their parents' foreign cultural identities and
yet don't feel entirely accepted in America, she said. But there is no
such thing as culture-free Islam, Hermansen said; everywhere Islam took
root, it was influenced by the local culture.
Embracing a strong Muslim identity is a way students can assert their
dignity, she said, the way young African-Americans did in the black
power movement. It is also a form of classic American youth rebellion. "It
gives them a chance to trump their parents: `I know Islam better,
you're practicing cultural Islam,'" she said.
A few years ago, Hermansen, who is Muslim, saw the pursuit of "identity
Islam" ushering in a trend toward narrow-mindedness on college
campuses. "Quite a number of Muslim youth in America are becoming rigidly
conservative and condemnatory of their peers (Muslim and non-Muslim), their
parents, and all who are not within a narrow ideological band,"
Hermansen wrote in a 2002 paper. But Hermansen, who is on sabbatical but in
Chicago this year, thinks that trend has eased at Loyola. And she has
changed too; she is now impressed with the positive aspects of students'
focus on their Islamic identity. "It's not a shallow identity marker;
it's a much deeper dimension for a person's humanity," she said.
Question of open-mindedness
The students have plenty of non-Muslim activities. Arwa Hammad, 20, of
Alsip, is active in the MSA, but also in Habitat for Humanity, Unite
for Sight, Colleges Against Cancer and the Minority Association of
Pre-Health Students. When they aren't praying, the MSA members are often
talking about friends, clothes and tests.
Sukaina Hussain, 19, a sophomore from Skokie, gets miffed when people
expect her to be living in some kind of segregated Muslim world. "People
are surprised how Western I can be," she said. "I watch `Friends' on
TV. I watch `The Apprentice.'" "I watch `Gilmore Girls.' I watch MTV,"
added Mehnaaz Ahmed, 19, of Skokie, a sophomore who works at an Express
store on weekends. "I watch TRL." Sukaina hesitated about MTV's "Total
Request Live," however, which features music videos and celebrity
interviews. "That's getting into a non-Muslim area," she said. "That's not
appropriate." She turned to Mehnaaz. "I'm not saying you're bad," she
said hastily.
But Farah Khan, 19, a sophomore from Lincolnwood majoring in biology,
thinks many members of the Loyola MSA are quick to condemn others.
"People here have a lot of judgment," she said. "The way you dress, the way
you talk, what you talk about." She wears hijab and considers herself
profoundly devoted to Islam. But she finds the atmosphere at the Loyola
MSA so harsh that she is thinking of transferring to another school
where she might find a more open-minded Muslim group. "One of my friends
at UIC wears hijab and also has an eyebrow piercing. And she likes punk
music. If she were to come in here, people would really freak out," she
said.
Since leaving high school, she has met Muslims she never knew existed.
Some have strayed into alcohol; others have tried drugs. "I realized
that Muslims are normal. They make mistakes," she said. "I'm willing to
forgive people's pasts if they're nice people. Since I started college,
I guess I've become more open-minded." She doesn't think the Loyola
MSA is open-minded. Last year, Farah made a friend who was in three of
her classes. They talked, which seemed only natural. Except the friend
was male. MSA tongues started wagging. "People were like, `Well, I heard
that this, this and this.' I would say, `How could you get that out of
just me talking to him?'"
The issue of separating men and women to prevent temptation became part
of a dispute this fall involving the MSA lounge. The Loyola MSA has a
men's prayer area, a women's prayer area with a small sofa and a lounge
with two larger sofas, a coffee table and a work table. Muslim men and
women pray separately to minimize distractions and promote modesty. But
the lounge is not a prayer area, so it fell into a gray zone. It was
usually occupied by men.
One day in the fall, Farah and about 10 other female members of the
Islam Awareness Week dinner decorating committee sat in the lounge to use
the coffee table while painting the centerpieces. Some of the guys
asked them to move. "They said, `You can sit here this time, but next time,
don't,'" Farah said. "I just found it very rude. I said, `You can't
tell us when to sit here.'" "I was, like, is this kindergarten? Are we
going to talk about cooties?"
E-mails flew as word spread. "This is war," one woman declared. There
were skirmishes. Women suspected men of stretching out to sleep just to
keep them out. Some women sat in the lounge deliberately to anger the
men. To some of the women, called sisters in Islam, it was a line in the
sand. "Some girls were like, `If we're stepped on now, they're going to
step on us more,'" said Noor Ali, 20, of Bloomingdale, a senior with
wide, calm eyes who serves as the sisters' representative.
To other women, it was more important to keep men and women separate
inside a mosque. "In the house of Allah, there is supposed to be no
intermingling," said Arwa Hammad, a junior majoring in psychology. To the
men, it was a matter of maintaining separation in a limited space, said
Umair Jabbar, 21, a junior majoring in sociology who lives on the
Northwest Side.
"At any time of day, there are more brothers here than sisters," he
said. It wasn't fair for large numbers of men to have to retreat to the
men's prayer area so a couple of women could sit in the lounge, he said.
To Noor, a psychology major, the conflict illustrated the problem with
culture. "Culture always conflicts with religion," she said. "You tell
the guys, `Islam treats the sexes equally.' And they say, `Yeah, but
it's always been this way.'"
The MSA board, which includes men and women, called an open meeting.
They listened to a tape of a Muslim scholar speaking about modesty. At
the end, the group decided that women should not sit in the lounge unless
there was a special meeting or event. The women were given a small
table so they wouldn't have to do their homework on the floor. The men
promised to speak more quietly to avoid disturbing women praying. And in
response to women who said they felt the men were staring at them as they
walked past the lounge, the men turned the sofas to face the other way.
Farah, who said she didn't know about the meeting, was dismayed at the
whole conflict. "The issue isn't where we sit, but respect," she said.
"Our religion says to respect each other. Everyone is being
hypocritical now. I mean, inside the masjid, this is going on--how ironic is
that?" Shaheen said the board is considering a solution that may satisfy
everyone--remodeling the mosque to expand the women's prayer area and
eliminate the lounge. Fliers announcing the new rules were posted on the
walls. Below the request that students respect board members, someone had
written in green marker, "Respect all members."
Prayer is joy
Behind the curtain of the women's area, freshman Tayyaba Ahmad, 18, of
Morton Grove, who has an infectious grin and a tendency to call people
"dude," stood. She swept her hands up, then down. (The reason for that
movement, she has been taught, is that the worshiper is first pushing
the world away, then pulling the awareness of God directly to her
center.) Then she spent five minutes in prayer, silently reciting Arabic
praises of God and requests for God's guidance, following a precisely
choreographed performance of bows and prostrations.
The Loyola students pray unselfconsciously, moving seamlessly from talk
about midterms to prayer and back to the Chips Ahoy cookies on the
table. Prayer is a five-times-daily encounter with God, Tayyaba said, a way
of staying aware of God at all times: "You're always thinking, `I've
got to pray soon.' If you're in class, you think, `I've got to make sure
I wash up for prayer.'" And the body movements, she said, meld the
physical and inner worlds. By putting their heads lower than their hearts,
Muslims are lowering their pride and elevating their hearts to God.
Maheen Sheikh sometimes prays in the car, which is something of a feat.
"I'll just bend down a little," she explained.
There are Muslims who don't pray, although it is one of the five
pillars of the religion. But for those who do, it is a powerful habit. "You
know what's weird? Once you start, you can't stop," said Maheen, who
lives off-campus. "You feel so guilty. The nighttime prayer--if I don't
pray and I go to bed, I will have a bad dream."
Prayer is both obligation and reward. "When you pray, you feel happy,"
said Hassan Khan, 19, a brawny sophomore biology major who lives on the
Northwest Side. "There is nothing more pleasurable than prayer." Prayer
is Tayyaba's greatest joy. "Every time I come here, when I'm standing,
when I'm in prayer, I thank God," she said. "I get my time with my Lord
in peace; no one bothers me. I'm so happy."
Even less religious students can find themselves drawn to it. Shaheena
Khan, 20, a chemistry major from the Northwest Side, grew up with
little religion. But when she started visiting the Loyola MSA this year, she
was captivated. "I love Friday prayer," she said. "It's a meditative
state. It really works for curbing your desires, so you're not angry and
vengeful. It's kind of like Buddhism."
Surrounded by temptation
An American college campus is home to the classic extracurricular
interests of young men and women--music, dating, parties and beer. Islam
questions or prohibits all of them. Never will Muslims feel more different
than at college, said Loyola's Marcia Hermansen. "Once you're married
and settled down, the differences aren't as extreme. Married people are
married people. . . . You're probably not going out to bars much," she
said.
Samer Obid, 20, a sophomore business major who has the cool grin and
fluid moves of the rap world he loves, sees temptation all around.
Non-Muslim students invite him to go out drinking, to go to parties, to
dances. Early in the school year, he accepted an invitation to hear a band
play, only to find that young men and women were dancing together. He
stood on the side. Samer, who was born in Syria and lives in an
off-campus apartment, considers the MSA his safeguard. "I've been, like,
pressured lots of times," he said. "That's why I stay with all the brothers.
These are my road dogs."
Lena Ismail, 20, a junior and an economics major from Orland Park,
encountered drinking for the first time in her life at a Loyola dorm during
her freshman year. She had graduated from the all-girls Al-Aqsa School
in Bridgeview. "I didn't know what a drunk person looked like," she
said. "I was, like, why are they acting like that? But after a while, I
caught on. "My floor was wild, but they were really nice," she said. "It
was so fun. I miss it so much."
The Muslim prohibition on drinking is clear. Music, however, is another
story. There is no decisive prohibition on music, leaving Muslims to
interpret the Islamic attitude in various ways. Saim Jabbar, 18, of the
Northwest Side, a freshman majoring in biology and Umair's younger
brother, takes the strictest view. "If you listen to music, it's going to be
stuck in your head when it comes time to pray," he said. "You'll be
thinking about music, not facing God."
Hassan Ali not only listens to music but produces hip-hop, which some
Muslims find more acceptable, along with rap, because they often don't
use wind or string instruments. Hassan makes no such distinctions. He
figures that since the prophet never forbade it, any music is fine.
Tayyaba can see both sides. She considers music a universal human art but
believes there is "nothing too beneficial in it." So it is an art she no
longer experiences."After learning that it's not the greatest thing, .
. . I don't listen any more to music," she said. Mohammed Shaazuddin is
struggling with the question. "I'm going to be honest; I listen to
music," he confessed. "Soft rock, alternative, Linkin Park. . . . I really
see the reason music is prohibited, but I'm sort of in transition as
far as making up my mind."
As for dating, the Loyola MSA members agree that it is forbidden
because it can lead to premarital sex. Shaaz considers dating dangerous. "I
just feel if I started doing things like that, I'll fall into a lot of
bad things, things like alcohol and drugs," he said. The proper Islamic
protocol, students say, is for a young man to ask his parents to
contact a young woman's parents and arrange an introduction.
Not rebelling but exploring
Senior Rumaisa Ansari loves Descartes. The 23-year-old business
management major from Evanston got so excited talking about the French
philosopher, about whom she wrote a seven-page paper, that she rocked forward
on her toes as if she were about to take off running. "He was saying,
`Who created me? Where did I come from?' He was doubting his own
creation," she said. The doubt fascinated her. "In Islam, my parents taught
me, you cannot question God," she said. "Descartes, he was questioning."
As a Muslim, she will not question the Koran or God. But that leaves
pretty much everything else. "I want to see other perspectives, how other
people take it," she said. "I like to debate, to argue. "What I study,
philosophy, history, sociology, all the liberal arts--it makes you
think. . . . I'm not rebelling; I'm exploring." Unlike most MSA members,
Rumaisa was not raised in America. She came to this country with her
family from Pakistan five years ago. And since then, she said, she has
changed. She leaned forward, grinning, practically dancing. "Now I'm
thinking, as they say, outside of the box."
`Just you and God'
How to explain the beauty of Ramadan, the holy month of daytime fasting
that arrived about the same time as midterms? Sitting in the mosque,
Noor Ali talked about people who change their lives during Ramadan. They
stop listening to music. They avoid worldly things. Even if they don't
usually pray, they pray. She couldn't wait.
Noor thought about putting on hijab for years. She tried it when she
was 16 and three months later took it off, to her mother's dismay. Noor
told her she couldn't understand why the prophet would ask women to do
something so hard. While attending Rockford College two years ago, she
thought about it again. She wondered what her non-Muslim friends would
think. Plus she had a wedding coming up and wanted to do something
special with her long hair. Then one day during Friday prayers, something
happened. "For one second--one second--I forgot everything," Noor said.
The doubts disappeared. She couldn't even remember what they had been.
She kept her veil on after prayers. She kept it on that afternoon, which
she spent home alone pacing in front of a mirror. She has kept it on in
public ever since. She feels touched by God. "Before it happened, I was
thinking, `Oh, is that ever going to happen to me?' It's like when you
fall in love." Noor's friends watched as she became more religious and
they were inspired. "I said, `I want to do that," Arwa Hammad said.
"It's almost like you feel jealous," agreed Asma Mustafa, 20, a
pre-pharmacy junior from Oak Lawn.
Pious Muslims "talk about how great they feel, this sense of goodness,
this sense of peace and purity you can't get anywhere else," Arwa said.
"It's just you and God. You say, `I can do that. I want to feel that.'"
Some of the MSA women feel no need to cover their hair. But the
question of putting on hijab weighs on others. "I think about it all the
time," Lena Ismail said. Women who cover describe hijab as both an
expression and a practice of devotion. It changes them, enveloping them in a
constant reminder of their Muslim identity and their relationship with
God.
In a college application essay, Farah Khan explained hijab in terms of
the movie "The Matrix." Just as there were two realities in the
movie--a happy but fake world and a real but horrific one--Muslim women who
wear hijab experience a different reality than those who do not. "Hijab
creates a world of its own, with its own rules and regulations, as well
as a certain mindset that comes with wearing it," she wrote. "Not only
does having it on change how one looks and how others think of them,
but it changes the way one thinks of oneself."
One afternoon during Ramadan, Noor sat on the MSA mosque floor. "I
think I'm going through something," she said. "I can't sleep. Sometimes you
feel like you're nothing and you haven't done anything good for God. If
I die tonight, what am I going to say to God?"
Perfect place for Islam
This is my country
And I love it to death
I guess that's why you can say
I'm always breathin down its neck
--Samer Obid, rap lyrics
America may not be perfect. Women get tired of explaining why they do,
or don't, wear hijab. Many of the MSA members don't agree with U.S.
policy in the Middle East and the Muslim world. And the prevalence of sex
in entertainment can make it hard to choose a movie. "The only thing I
don't like about America is that they use the female body to sell
things," said Hassan Khan. But America, say the students, is just about the
perfect place for Islam.
"America is the coolest place," Tayyaba said. "You have Muslims from
all over the world. But in America, you're Muslim. That's what unites
you." In America, Islam is free from the deadly battles Muslims are
fighting among themselves in other countries, said Hassan Ali, who ended up
free to pray differently than his father. "Sunni versus Shia--it's
insane," he said in disgust. "And what's the fight over? Something that
happened . . . years ago."
In America, he said, Muslims undertake serious study of the Koran's
content instead of just memorizing the words. He considers rote
memorization "an insult to the Koran." And in America, he added, he is free to
say so. "If I were in Pakistan, I wouldn't mention that opinion," he
said.

In America, inside the Loyola MSA mosque, Tayyaba checked the time on
her cell phone. She smiled. "I have to pray now," she said.

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune

WHEN DID WE START LIVING THIS UNREALITY?

AN ESSAY BY RAVEN

Driving to my grandfather’s house for a family gathering, thinking over
my day’s schedule, ideas flashing here and there, I started thinking
deeply. When did we get so dedicated to life? When did we become so
hooked to our jobs and studies? When did we get so distant from our religion
and our national traditions? Why can we remember the name of an actor
in a good movie so well, and not remember the names of the ten people
the prophet assured to go to paradise? Some people spend all their spare
time nagging over who is prettier, Jennifer Anniston or Cameron Diaz.
Others, with nothing better to do, fight over whether Ronaldo or David
Beckham is richer. Not to mention those who undermine you for not
knowing enough details and gossip about movie stars, sitcom actors, and
Italian footballers.

I passed my old school and smiled, recalling the days we spent there
getting into all kinds of mischief. It was a great school and it directed
us to our different paths in life. But now we are in the real world,
that’s if it’s still called the real world? I prefer calling it the
“unreal” world. I don’t believe we are living a reality at all. Muslims
detested everywhere; certain Arabs strengthening the negative stereotypes
that the World’s nations already have of us; distrust spreading between
the deepest and closest friends; people not believing in true love
anymore; the religious police force partly made up of ex-prisoners;
teenagers running after lust and forgetting there was something called
“romance;” people taking rappers, rock stars, soccer players, and actors as
their role models; these composing only part of the unreality we now live
in. You also see people gazing in awe at someone playing a musical
instrument, wishing they had half his or her talent, forgetting that this
person might never go to heaven.

These days it’s almost impossible to find anyone wanting to walk in
the footsteps of Omar or Abu Bakr, the great Caliphs of the Muslim
nation. You see people reading magazines and Stephen King novels, never
thinking of reading a biography of one of the prophet’s companions. You see
more and more people with funky haircuts, but no 21st century Malcolm
Xs walking around. You see more and more people in malls, and less and
less people in mosques.

Another important question arises: Why are some people so fake? If
Ramadan comes, they hurry to Makkah and aim to finish the Quran before the
month ends. A week after that, they make reservations to spend their
Hajj vacation in Beirut. We are also becoming more and more
materialistic. Judging a person on unreasonable criteria like whether or not he owns
a new Mercedes (foolishly nicknamed “Viagra”), whether he is covered
from head to toe with Diesel, Armani, and other designer’s clothes, and
whether he spends his summers in LA, Paris, and Geneva.

Why is life becoming so important to us?? Parents are planning their
children’s careers when they are in grade school, and not caring much
about whether or not they are sending a positive and well-mannered
individual into the world. You see more and more young ones disrespecting
their parents, and many teenagers that hate their dads and moms. We also
have a new generation of nanny-raised children. These are children that
spend 90% of their time with maids because their mothers are too busy
with social gatherings, talking on the phone, and shopping; these
children are being raised with no morals, no goals, and nothing that makes
them strive to make a difference.

Still other questions pop up like: Why can’t some families gather
except when there is something like a death or a major car accident in the
family? Why does it take the death of a loved one to make us remember
that there is heaven, hell, and the hereafter? All these issues delineate
the unreality we now live in. But in my case, I want OUT. I want to
exit this crooked matrix and enter a world where truth prevails, a world
where religion is spread by virtue and good treatment, not force, where
you are respected whoever you are and whatever you do, a utopia where
your friends are still your friends, even when you aren’t there, a world
where you can always lay your head on your pillow and never think of
tomorrow, a place with no negative consequences and no back-stabbing.
So, does anyone wish to join me?


The Christmas story through Islamic eyes

BY BILL TAMMEUS
Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - One reason the Christmas story engages so many hearts is that
it portrays a God of surprises.

God, for instance, assumes human form - and as a baby, no less. But not
a royal baby. No, it's a child born to poor, wandering parents. And not
in a cosmopolitan population center but in a small village of the Roman
Empire's hinterlands.
This unpredictability is why I like to reread the birth narratives in
the New Testament. But I also have found it enlightening to read the
story as it's told in the Quran, the holy book of Islam, which considers
Jesus a major prophet.
Because I'm Christian, I don't go to the Quran looking for confirmation
of what my own tradition teaches about Christ. Rather, I go to find
fresh wording and unfamiliar ways of understanding what theologians call
the "Christ event."
In a similar way, earlier this year I suggested in a column that even
though the man who introduced yoga to America had quite a different
theology than I do, his new, posthumously published book, ``The Second
Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You,'' contains
insights that can help Christians see their faith in fresh ways.
Islam, unlike Christianity, does not consider Jesus divine. In that way
it shares common ground with Judaism. But unlike much of Judaism, which
tends to see Jesus as an interesting if misguided man, Islam honors him
as a great prophet who called people to love - and submit to - the one
God.
So I know the Quran will not tell the orthodox Christian story. But I
find it worth reading, nonetheless.
Here, in prose form (the translation by A. Yusuf Ali is done in poetry
style), is part of what it says in Surah (or chapter) 3:
"Behold! The angels said: `O Mary! God hath chosen thee and purified
thee - chosen thee above the women of all nations.'''
Which is pretty much what the New Testament says. Of special interest
here is the idea that God is the initiator of the action. The theme that
God first chooses us is embedded in both Judaism and Christianity.
After the angels in the Quran story urge Mary to "worship the Lord
devoutly," they say, "O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from
Him; his name will be Christ Jesus, held in honor in this world and the
Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God."
Again, there is much resonance with New Testament, including the
opening passage of the Gospel of John, which describes Christ as the "Word"
of God.
But the Quran also gives fresh wording about how Christ will be honored
both in this world and the next. The New Testament story of his
suffering and crucifixion complicates the Quran's prophecy that he will be
held in honor in this world, at least during his time on Earth. But the
Quran nonetheless points to the high esteem in which Islam holds Jesus by
saying he'd be honored in heaven by those closest to God.
The Quran continues describing the baby to whom Mary will give birth:
"He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall
be (of the company) of the righteous." This passage brings to Christian
minds the story of 12-year-old Jesus in the temple at Jerusalem
conferring with - and impressing - religious teachers. But the phrase "in
childhood and in maturity" is new to Christian ears and carries many levels
of meaning.
In the Quran, as in the New Testament, Mary asks how she is to have a
son since she is not married and, as the Quran bluntly puts it, "no man
hath touched me." The Quranic angels assure her that God will arrange
things and then they describe the work Jesus will do for God.
Next comes a passage in which Islam separates itself decisively from
Christianity. It says that "the similitude of Jesus before God is as that
of Adam; he created him from dust, then said to him: `Be'; and he was."
The implication is clear. For Islam, Jesus, as Ali says in a footnote
on this verse, is not "God or the son of God or anything more than a
man."
Still, in that verse, we see a god who creates in precisely the same
way the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, says God creates: by
speaking.
The point is that we need not agree with the theology contained in the
sacred books of other faiths to learn from them and to have them shed
new light on our own. What a nice Christmas gift.
---
ABOUT THE WRITER
Bill Tammeus is a columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write
to him at: The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo.
64108-1413. Or e-mail him at tammeus@kcstar.com.

Christmas in the Muslim world this year

Abdul Malik Mujahid

Christmas is not a Muslim holiday, therefore, Muslim countries do not
celebrate it. Muslims in the United States often request that their
children not attend Christmas functions at school because the belief of
Jesus, peace be upon him, being the son of God runs directly against the
core Muslim belief.

However, in a world where Muslims and Christians both are present, how
should Muslims react? The Prophet of God, peace and blessings be upon
him, was faced with this question when he established the first peace
sanctuary of Madinah, where the majority of the people were not Muslims.
Here is what he said about the Christians of Najran (Yaman): "Najran
has the protection of God and the pledges of Muhammad, the Prophet, to
protect their (the Christians') lives, faith, land, property, those who
are absent and those who are present, and their clan and allies. They
need not change anything of their past customs. No right of theirs or
their religion shall be altered. No church leader, monk or church guard
shall be removed from his position."
It was this historical commitment towards people of other faiths that
formed the ideals of Islam regarding other faith groups in their midst,
whether they were Christian, Jews, Sun worshipers, or Hindus. The
Prophet even allowed a Christian delegation to celebrate their religious
services in the very Mosque of the Prophet according to classic historians
Ibn Hisham and Ibn Sa'd. In the current context of American aggression
in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it has been difficult
for Muslim minorities in the US and for Christian minorities in the
Muslim world. Here are some things which Muslims can do in Muslim countries
to help Christian minorities enjoy their holidays in the best possible
manner:

Give Christian employees an extended holiday break:

Muslim businesses can extend a day off to Christian workers on
Christmas day at least, if not longer. Just as some Muslims in the US have
successfully gotten days off from work and school on Eid-ul-Fitr and
Eid-ul-Adha, Christians in Muslim countries should get the same on their
holidays. Many Muslim countries, like Pakistan, already do this.

Reassuring Christian Neighbors:

In countries where there has been recent conflict between Christians
and Muslims, for example, in Nigeria and Indonesia, the Muslim leadership
can take measures in their communities to make the Christian minority
feel more comfortable in their days of happiness.

A gesture of neighborly duty:

Although security is a government matter, and in many Muslim countries
governments are providing extra police to churches, it will be a good
gesture on the part of Muslim neighbors to offer their time to volunteer
for the security of churches during Christmas time. This is especially
important in places like Iraq and Pakistan, where, since the American
bombing and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, churches have been
targets of terrorism.

Muslim and Christian minorities in India:

In India, where Muslims and Christians are both minorities, Christians
have been vocal in supporting the Muslim community during the horrific
murders and crimes against the community in the state of Gujurat in
2002. This Christmas, a large number of Indian churches will be fearful
about the ongoing compaigns of Hindu militants and self-professed
fascists in that part of India. It is critical that Muslims in India support
Christians during their holiday season.
Historically, when Muslims have held state power, they have, for the
most part, worked hard to protect the rights of non-Muslims in their
midst, from idol-worshipping Hindus, to fire-worshipping Zorastrians.
Christians, who are described in the Quran as "People of the Book", hold a
special place as a faith community from the Abrahamic tradition.
Protecting religious freedom has not been the Muslim state’s tactic of
appeasement. Rather, it is an order from God, and a practice of our beloved
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, who once said,
"Whoever hurts a non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim society hurts me."
It is critical for Muslims to remember that a person is not considered
a Muslim unless they believe in Jesus (Islamic and Christian View of
Jesus). This love for this noble Prophet ties us to the Christian
community in a special way. Although the history of relations between Muslims
and Christians has not always been good, it is important to remember
that Muslims always stood for a society where the rights of all
individuals are not only tolerated, but respected and protected.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Malcolm X writes from Mecca

The following is Malcolm X's (al-Hajj, Malik al-Shabazz) letter to his assistants in Harlem during his pilgrimage to Makkah in April of 1964:

Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient holy land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the holy scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterlyspeechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.I have been blessed to visit the holy city of Makkah; I have made my seven circuits around the Ka'aba, led by a young Mutawwaf (guide) named Muhammad; I drank water from the well of the Zamzam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of mount al-Safa and al-Marwa. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on mount Arafat. There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. Theywere of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit ofunity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white.America needs to understand Islam, because this is the one religion that erases from its society the race problem. Throughout my travels in the Muslim world, I have met, talked to, and even eaten with people who in America would have been considered white - but the white attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam. I have never before seen sincere and true brotherhood practiced by all colors together, irrespective of their color.You may be shocked by these words coming from me. But on this pilgrimage, what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought-patterns previously held, and to toss asidesome of my previous conclusions. This was not too difficult for me. Despite my firm convictions, I have always been a man who tries to face facts, and toaccept the reality of life as new experience and new knowledge unfolds it. I have always kept an open mind, which is necessary to the flexibility that must go hand in hand with every form of intelligent search for truth.During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug -while praying to the same God - with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin wasthe whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana. We were truly all the same (brothers) - because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior,and the white from their attitude.I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man - and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others interms of their "differences" in color.With racism plaguing America like an incurable cancer, the so-called"Christian" white American heart should be more receptive to a proven solution to such a destructive problem. Perhaps it could be in time to save America from imminent disaster - the same destruction brought upon Germany by racism that eventually destroyed the Germans themselves.Each hour here in the holy land enables me to have greater spiritual insights into what is happening in America between black and white. The American Negro never can be blamed for his racial animosities - he is only reacting to four hundred years of the conscious racism of the American whites. But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whitesof the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth -the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to. Never have I been so highly honored. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy. Who would believe the blessings that have beenheaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would becalled in America a white man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, acompanion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed.Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be arecipient of such honors - honors that in America would be bestowed upona King - not a Negro.All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.
Sincerely, al-Hajj, Malik al-Shabazz (Malcolm X)

Christmas - A Celebration of Capitalism

I Invite you to read the following article with an open mind:
Christmas - A Celebration of Capitalism

On the eve of the mid-winter Christian festival of Christmas, the new leader of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, bemoaned the decline of religion in Britain and urged that 'morality' guide life in Britain:
"We are still, in this country, at sea over what concrete moral content we want to see in our children's education . . . Family continuity is rare,conventional religious practice is minimal, shared public activity unusual.
"Christian clergymen regularly vent their frustration at the decay of thefamily unit and the decline in religious practice in Western Capitalist societies. The frustration is no doubt borne out of the fact that about half of the UK population say they have no religious affiliation and that only avery small minority attend Church. Peter Brierley, the leading expert onchurch attendance in Britain, suggested that Christian life will be all butdead in 40 years with less than 0.5% of the population attending a churchservice. A recent survey showed that a staggering 14 % of the UK populationdid not even know who Jesus [Isa (as)] was.
While December 25 was a celebration of the Christian Trinity of, "TheFather, The Son and The Holy Ghost" it has been conveniently superseded by the Secular Trinity of escapism, consumerism and materialism. This is notall that surprising given that Christmas was instituted in place of the popular Roman pagan festival, the "Day of the Invincible Sun (Des SolInvictus)", at the winter solstice. Christmas is therefore an apt time of celebration not only for Christians, but also for agnostics, atheists and secular pagans alike.
The domination of the Capitalist ideology around the globe has meant that Christmas has become yet another outlet for materialism. Western societies plagued by spiritual and political voids have made Christmas yet another opportunity to anaesthetise the masses with desire for the inconsequential,materialism and greed. The anaesthetised masses forget about the firebrigade dispute, the starving Ethiopians and the impending butchery of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Now is not the time to dwell on these issues. Now is the time for treating oneself and ones loved ones. So food, booze, party clothes, CDs and DVDs arebought in a month long shopping fest. The Family Welfare Association estimates that a family on average income spends £564 on trimmings (food,drink and decorations) on Christmas day alone. According to Switch, the debit card company, each person spends on average £862 around this period.Britain notches up £10 billion worth of debt on a credit-card bonanza.
In Britain, Christmas is supposedly a heart-warming festival that brings an atmosphere of cheer and goodwill in a climate that is harsh at the best oftimes. And these are not the best of times. Western liberal values have left three million children in the UK living a life of poverty. There are morethan 200,000 crack cocaine addicts, with moves afoot to introduce drugtesting for ten-year-olds. Street crime, murder and rape continue to be onthe increase as freedom goes on the rampage. Thousands have lost their jobs in the pension's industry while the pension schemes themselves have been shown to be nothing more than a scam. It turns out that people will have to work until they are seventy-years-old and still retire to a life of poverty.The elderly are dumped in care homes for Christmas by children who have become obsessed with Capitalist values that know no humanity. Western societies have turned into jungles of wild animals in which the strong devour the weak and man degenerates to the level of the animal. People in Western societies make the issue of attaining as much physical enjoyment as possible their only concern. The Capitalist ideology considers this as thepeak of happiness, despite the fact that these societies know not even the slightest taste of happiness.
In this climate, Christmas has become no more than an unholy celebration for the Trinity of Secularism. The Church believes in secularism- i.e. the creed of detaching "religion" from life, a creed that is a compromise between two contradictory ideas; the idea which the clergy used to call for in Medieval times, namely the submission of everything in this life to "religion", i.e.Christianity and the idea which some thinkers and philosophers called for,namely the denial of the existence of a Creator. Western societies are built on the idea of the detachment of "religion" from life - a compromise solution between these two sides. A compromise solution is conceivable between two similar views where there is some disparity, but it is inconceivable to exist between two contradictory views. Either there is a Creator who created man, the universe and life or there is no Creator andaccordingly religion would not be detached from worldly life but ratherwould be rejected from it completely.
The Church accepted that the affairs of life be "rendered unto Caesar" and that God be relegated to Sunday if that. The Psalms, Romans and Corinthiansmay be the recognised text for the Sunday sermon but Machiavelli, Rousseauand Hobbs are the required text for the rest of the week, for both parishioner and preacher alike.Therefore mankind became arrogant enough as worshippers at the altar of Capitalism to believe that they were in the best position to determine the shape - not only of their own lives - but also the direction of the whole society. They set initial limits but introduced all kinds of freedoms as aprecursor to the evolving society. The state would not set laws in stone to govern human existence - human organisation was deemed an elastic model thatchanges according to the needs of the people. So it was only natural for Christmas, which has its origins in Roman paganism, to become a mere outlet for the celebration of the Capitalist way of life.
Islam, on the other hand, is built on the decisive rational evidence that there is a Creator Who created man, the universe and life, and that this Creator has prescribed a system for man to follow in this life and He willaccount him after death on his adherence to this system. Islam organised the instincts and needs of man in a way that ensures their satisfaction. However, this was not done at the expense of some over others, or by suppressing or setting others loose, or setting all of them loose. Instead,Islam has coordinated all of them and satisfied them through a precise system that produces delight and comfort for man and prevents him from lapsing to the level of the animal.
The celebration of Christmas and the Christian New Year are part of the Western culture that is imposed on Muslims so that Muslims accept Christian worships and rituals, believe in the equality of Islam and Christianity and thereby reduce Islam to mere spiritualistic rituals conducted in the placesof worship and a few pages in books of history. This is the vision espousedby Western politicians for Muslims when they call for a "European Islam":"As British Muslims-and their European counterparts-become more and more integrated into the fabric of our democracies, we may over time see the emergence of a distinctly European Islam" [Jack Straw, UK Foreign Secretary,Prospect Magazine, October 2002]
The mid-winter Christian festival of Christmas is yet another opportunity to encourage Muslims in the West to bow down at the altar of the Capitalist way of life. While Muslim children in schools are bombarded with nativity plays,Christmas carols and myths about Santa Claus and his reindeers, officeworkers are encouraged to exchange Christmas gifts and drown their sorrows with alcohol at Christmas parties. In the whole atmosphere of festivities some Muslims feel obliged to extend Christmas greetings to their neighbours,to exchange gifts, to attend Christmas parties and even to erect Christmas trees in their houses.
The celebration of Christmas or any of the holidays and occasions of theKuffar is certainly Haram in Islam. Muslims are not permitted to celebrate them at all since it is considered an imitation of the Kuffar. Imitating theKuffar in any of their religious affairs or in any gesture that distinguishes them is forbidden.

Al-Bukhari narrated in his Sahih that Abu Said Al-Khudri (ra) reported thatthe Messenger of Allah (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:?? ??? ???? ?????? ?? ????? ??? ???? ???? ???? ???: ((?????? ??? ?? ???????? ????? ????? ??????? ????? ??? ?? ????? ??? ?? ????????? ????: ?? ???????? ?????? ????????? ???: ????)) [???? ??????? ? 3269? ????? ?2669]"You will indeed follow the ways of those before you, hand span by handspan, and an arms length after another. Even if they enter into a lizard's hole, you will follow them."We asked, "Is it the Jews and the Christians" He (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam)replied, "Who else!"

This hadith condemns the imitation of the Jews and the Christians. It is an evidence for the prohibition of imitating the Jews and the Christians intheir religious occasions, symbols or any matter related to their belief.Celebrating Christmas is an act of imitation that is forbidden in Islam. TheMessenger (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) warned us against it.

At-Tirmidhi narrated that Ibn Abbas (ra) reported that the Prophet(Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:?? ??? ???? ?? ???? ???: ((??? ??? ?? ???? ??????? ?? ?????? ??????? ???????????)) [???? ??????? ?2695]"He is not one of us who imitates other than us. Do not imitate the Jews or the Christians."

At-Tabarani and Abu Dawud narrated that Ibn Umar and Hudhaifah (ra) reported that the Prophet (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:?? ????? ??? ???? ???? ????: ((?? ???? ???? ??? ????)) [???? ??? ???? ?4031?????? ?5093]"Whoever imitates a people, he is one of them."

Furthermore, there are many Islamic evidences that forbid the Muslims from having holidays other than Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha. Al-Baihaqi reported in his Sunan that Anas bin Malik (ra) said: "When the Prophet (SallalahuAlaihi Wasallam) came to Madinah, the people had two holidays from the days of Jahilliyah." He (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) said:( ???? ???? ????? ?????? ????? ?? ???????? ??? ?????? ???? ???? ????? ?????: ??? ????? ???? ????? ) ???? ????? ????"When I came to you, you had two days which you used to celebrate in Jahilliyah. Allah (Subhanahu wa ta'ala) has replaced them for you withbetter days, the days of slaughter (Adha) and the day of Fitr."

Also Imam Ahmad in his Musnad reported that Uqbah bin Amir (ra) reported the Prophet (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) to have said: ??? ???? ???? ????? ????? ??????? ????? ??? ???????"The day of Fitr and days of Tashriq are our holidays, the people of Islam."

These evidences are clear in forbidding the Muslims to have any Eid other than what Allah (Subhanahu wa ta'ala) prescribed for them. Thus, they arenot allowed to participate in or celebrate the holidays of the Kuffar andnor are they allowed to attend them, even if invited.
It is incumbent on Muslims living in the West to maintain and preserve their pristine Islamic identity from the clutches of the Capitalist ideology and its depraved values and ideals. While Capitalists drown their sorrows ingallons of alcohol this Christmas, Muslims must hold fast to Islam whilesimultaneously taking the intellectual high ground by rejecting and refuting the tenets of Capitalism and challenging its advocates.

'Ali ibn Abi Talib

The Fourth Caliph of Islam


Closeness to the Prophet
Ali grew up under the loving care of the Prophet. This gave him a deep insight into the basic realities of life and faith. The Holy Prophet once said of him, "I am the city of knowledge and Ali is its gate."
Ali's love for the Holy Prophet was unbounded. The night on which the Prophet left for Medina, his house was surrounded by blood-thirsty men. Drawn swords flashed all around. They were ready to cut to pieces the man who came out of the house. The Holy Prophet asked Ali to lie in his bed while he himself left un-noticed. Ali gladly jumped in the bed and slept calmly the whole night. Death hovered around the house but Ali did not care for it. He was happy that he had helped save the Prophet's life.
In the morning when the Quraish found themselves out-witted, they were mad with fury. Some of them suggested that Ali be made to pay with his life for his part in the game. Ali faced the threat with such cool courage that the Quraish had to leave him alone.
The Holy Prophet had deposits of the people with him. With all their opposition to him, the Meccans knew of no other man whom they could trust. The Prophet had to return their deposits of the people before he left for Yathrib. He handed these to Ali, to be carefully given back to the depositors. Ali stayed at Mecca for three more days. He returned the people's deposits and then set off to Medina to join the Prophet.
Ali had a very close blood tie with the Holy Prophet. But the Prophet wanted to bring him still closer. So he gave away his daughter, Fatima, to him in marriage. She was his youngest daughter and the most dearly loved of all. Ali realised the honor done to him. He married no other wife as long as Fatima lived. Hasan and Husain were the sons of Ali and Fatima. The Holy Prophet loved them like his own sons.
In 9A.H., the Holy Prophet prepared to lead an expedition against Syria. This was the well-known expedition of Tabuk. He decided to leave Ali in charge of Medina during his absence. This gave the hypocrites an opportunity to take ill of Ali.
"The Holy Prophet does not want Ali to be with him," they said.
The report reached the Holy Prophet. He at once called Ali and said, "O Ali, do you not like that you should have the same relationship with me as Aaron had with Moses?" These words of the Prophet silenced the hypocrites.
In the year 9A.H., took place the first Haj of Islam. By this time, Allah had forbidden the idolaters to enter the Kaaba. The fact had to be made known to the people gathered for the Haj. According to Arab practice, this could be done only by the Holy Prophet himself or by some close relative of his. The Holy Prophet chose Ali for the job. He gave Ali his own she-camel, Qaswa. Ali road on Qaswa and read out to the crowd the commandment of Allah.
During the last illness of the Prophet, Ali was constantly by the sick bed. When the Prophet passed away it was Ali, assisted by his uncle Abbas, who performed the last rites. Ali was one of the scribes of the Revelations. Letters sent out by the Holy Prophet were also written by him.
Ali was one of the ten men who got from the Prophet the good news of Paradise.
The three Caliphs before Ali depended much on Ali's advice. Omar used to say, "Ali is the best judge among us." More than once, when Omar had to leave Medina, he left Ali in the capital as his deputy. In fact Omar considered Ali the fittest peson to carry on his work. If he did not nominate him successor, it was because he felt sure of his election by the people.
In the early years of Othman's caliphate, Ali continued to have an effective voice in shaping state policy. It was only in the later years that the Old Caliph allowed himself to be led by his kinsmen.

Participation in Battles
Ali was the hero of many a battle fought in the lifetime of the Prophet. When the exception of Tabuk, he joined all battles and expeditions.
In the battle of Badr, Ali's sword did real wonders. According to Arab practice, three of the bravest warriors of the Quraish came out for single combat. Ali killed two of them. This struck terror in the heart of the enemy.
On the battlefield of Ohud, Ali stood bravely by the side of the Prophet. This battle was lost due to the mistake of the Muslim archers who had left the pass undefended. Disorder and panic spread in Muslim ranks. People took to flight. The rumor spread that the Messenger of Allah had been killed. In the midst of all this confusion, Ali was one of those who clung to the Prophet. The enemy had dug a deep pit and covered it with twigs and grass. The Prophet fell down in the pit. It was Ali who, with the help of Abu Bakr and Talha, pulled him out. The wounds received by the Holy Prophet were washed and dressed by Ali and Fatima. Ali himself received seventeen wounds in this battle.
In the fifth year of Hijrah, all enemies of Islam joined hands. They led a huge army against Medina. The Holy Prophet defended the city by digging a deep and wide trench around it. But one day Abdwood, a warrior of all-Arabia fame, jumped across the trench on horseback. No one dared to go near him. At last Ali came out to give him a fight.
"Remember, Ali," said the Holy Prophet, "it is Abdwood."
"Yes, Oh Messenger of Allah, I know it," replied Ali.
In a few minutes Ali threw down his huge rival and cut off his head.
The Banu Quraiza Jews of Medina forced the Holy Prophet to take police action against them. Ali played the leading role in it. He surrounded the Jewish stronghold and overpowered the Jews and said this prayer in the courtyard of the fortress.
The Jews had a chain of strong forts at Khaibar. These were a source of an ever-present threat to the Muslims. The Holy Prophet led an army to deal with this threat. The Jews put up a stiff fight. But their several forts fell one after another. However, 'Qumus' proved to be the strongest Jewish fort. Its commander, Marhab, beat back all attacks. At last the Holy Prophet said, "Tomorrow I am going to give the standard to a man who is loved by Allah and His Prophet and who loves Allah and His Prophet. Allah will grant him victory."
All were eager to know who the fortunate man would be. The next morning Ali was granted the standard. Ali slew Marhab and his brother and took the fort.
It was Ali who wrote the treaty of Hudaibiyya. The Holy Prophet dictated its terms and Ali wrote them down. The Quraish agents objected to the words "Prophet of Allah," being written with the name of the Holy Prophet. They wanted instead the words "Muhammad bin Abdullah." The Holy Prophet agreed to the change. But Ali refused to rub out the words "Prophet of Allah." The Holy Prophet had to rub off these words with his own hand.
When the Prophet marched into Mecca victoriously, Ali was holding the standard of Islam.
In the battle of Hunain, the Ohud confusion was repeated for a while. But Ali was among those who stood firm by the side of the Prophet.

Ali's Election
There was no Caliph of Islam for three days after Othman's murder. Medina was completely in the grip of the rioters. Ghafqi, the ring leader of the Egyptian rioters, led prayers in the Prophet's Mosque. Most of the Companions had left Medina during the dark days of the holocaust. The few who remained felt absolutley helpless. They sat in their homes and allowed the rioters to have their way.
The rioters proposed Ali's name for the Caliphate. They requested him to become the Caliph. Ali refused at first. But someone had to bring life back to normal. Things in the capital were in a bad way. Ali had talks with those of the Companions who were still in Medina. They said that he should come forward to serve the people. So Ali agreed to take upon himself the responsibility of guiding the affairs of the Muslims. He consented to become the fourth Caliph of Islam.
All came to the Prophet's Mosque to receive the pledge of loyalty. Malik Ushtar was the first to take the pledge. He was followed by other people.
Talha and Zubair, the two noted Companions, were in Medina at the time. They were among the six electors nominated by Omar, Ali wanted to make sure that they were with him. So he sent for them.
"If either one of you wants to be the Caliph," said Ali when they came, "I am ready to pledge loyalty to him."
They both refused to carry this burden.
"Then pledge loyalty to me," said Ali.
Zubair kept quiet but Talha showed unwillingness. At this time Malik Ushtar drew his sword. "Pledge loyalty," he said, "or I will strike off your heads."
Both of them took the pledge.
Saad bin Waqaas was called next. He too, was one of the six electors.
"Have no fears about me," he assured Ali. "When other people have taken the pledge, I will also do it."
Next came the turn of Abdullah bin Omar. His answer was the same as Saad's.
"There must be someone to stand surety for you," said Ali.
"I have no surety to offer," was the reply.
Malik Ushtar stood up and shouted, "Hand him over to me. I will strike off his head."
"No, no," said Ali, "I stand surety for him."
Some of the leading Ansar also did not pledge loyalty to Ali. Members of the Omayyad family all fled to Syria. They took away with them the blood-stained shirt of the late Caliph and the chopped fingers of his wife, Naila.

The First Address

After becoming Caliph, Ali gave his first address. It was eloquent and forceful. In it Ali said: "Area around the Kaaba is sacred. Allah commands the Muslims to live as brothers. A Muslims is he who does not hurt anyone with his word or deed. Fear Allah in your dealings with other men. On the Day of Judgement you will have to answer for your dealings, even with animals. Obey Allah, the Almighty. Do not cast aside His commandments. Do good and keep away from evil."
Ali knew full well that difficult time lay ahead. The forces of lawlessness had been unleashed. It would require tireless work, great patience and much tact to restore law and order. Ali hoped to accomplish the task with the co-operation of his people.

Ali Faces a Dilemma
As soon as the address was over, a party of Companions met Ali, Talha and Zubair among them.
"You are now the Caliph," the deputation said. "Your first duty is to enforce the law of Shari'ah. So punish the murderers of Othman. It was on this understanding that we pledged loyalty to you."
"I will not let Othman's death go un-avenged," Ali assured the deputation, "but you must wait. Conditions are not normal yet. The rioters are still powerful in Medina. We are in their grip. My own position is shaky. So please wait. As soon as conditions allow, I will do my duty."
The answer did not satisfy all. Some thought that Ali was trying to evade the issue. Others thought he was sincere in what he said. Some insisted that people must take the matter in their own hands. If Ali was unable to punish the murderers of Othman, they themselves must do it.
The rioters got to know of what was going on. They felt sure that Ali would punish them if things returned to normal. They saw their only hope in a state of continued unrest. For this they had only to play off one party against the other. Immediately they started the game. They began sowing misunderstanding everywhere. Their aim was to keep the leaders of public opinion divided. In this alone lay their safety and their future.
Soon after entering upon his office, Ali began to feel the terrible weight of the difficulties that beset his path. The rioters supported his cause. They had marched on Medina to make him the Caliph. But they had used a method of which he did not approve. He felt sure that he must punish them. For this he needed the united support of the Companions and all his officers. Of that support he was not very sure. He had to wait and watch. There were people - some of them very honest - who misunderstood this policy of delay. They wanted quick action. They had seen quick action being taken in the days of Abu Bakr and Omar. They did not realize how different the conditions were now.
This was the dilemma that faced Ali. His keen sense of justice demanded firm and quick action; his shaky position forbade it. Ali saw no answer to this dilemma.

Ali Sets About His Task
Ali honestly believed that Othman's troubles were due to the men who had gathered around him. Wild ambitions of the Banu Omayya family were the real cause of what had happened. They had taken undue advantage of the honest old man, Othman. They had used him as their tool, jumped into power and misused that power. It was they who had earned a bad name for the late good Caliph. The tragic death of Othman and the prevailing un-rest could all be traced to the doings of these men. They had to go or things would not come back to normal. Ali made up his ind to strike at the root of all the trouble.
So Ali's first act as Caliph was to dismiss all provincial Governors. He appointed new men in their place. Ibn Abbas and Mughira bin Shaaba were among Ali's staunchest friends. They advised him against hasty action.
"Get from all the Governors the oath of loyatly first," they pleaded. "When you are firm in the saddle, then do what you want. If you dismiss them now, they may refuse to accept you as Caliph. Othman's murder can be made an easy excsue for this. Under cover of this excuse, they may take up arms against you."
Ali did not listen to this advice. He did not believe that expediency should be allowed to stay the hand of justice. Mughira bin Shaaba got displeased. He warned the new Caliph that his hasty action was likely to land him in difficulties. Then he left Medina and came to Mecca.

Cold Reception for New Governors
Ali's governors set out to take charge of their duties. But none of them had a smooth sailing. Egypt seemed to be the foremost supporter of Ali. But when the new governor reached there, he found things very different. Some of the people accepted him. But there was a strong group which demanded quick punishment for the murderers of Othman. If that was not done, they said, the would have nothing to do with the new Caliph and his governor. There was another group of people who made a counter demand. They demanded that the murderers of the late Caliph should not be punished at all.
The new governor of Basra faced a similar difficulty. One group of people stood for the rioters and the other was against them.
The Governor designate of Kufa was still on his way when he met a strong party of powerful men from that city.
"You better go back," they said. "The people of Kufa will not accept you in place of Abu Musa Ashari. Do not risk your life."
The threat so cowed down the poor governor-designate that he tamely came back to Madina.
When the governor-designate of Syria reached Tabuk, he found his way blocked by Muawia's soldiers. He showed them the letter or appointment.
"If you have been appointed by Othman," they said, "you are welcome. But if you have been sent by someone else, you better go back."
The poor governor-designate had to return to Medina.
The new governor of Yemen took over without any difficulty. But his predecessor had left the public treasury empty.

Ali Takes Action
Kufa and Syria were the two provinces which had openly flouted the new Caliph's authority. Ali sent messengers to the Governors of both the provinces. He asked them to explain things.
Abu Musa Ashari, the Governor of Kufa, sent a satisfactory reply. He assured the Caliph of his loyalty. He further said that he had got from the people the pledge of loyalty for the new Caliph.
In his letter to Muawia, Ali had said, "Pledge loyalty to me or get ready to fight."
Muawia sent a very clever outspoken man to deliver his letter of reply. Ali opened the letter. All the letter said was, "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful." This amazed Ali.
"What does Muawia mean by this?" he asked the messenger.
The man stood up and said, "Gentlemen, when I left Syria, there were fifty thousand veterans weeping for Othman. Their beards were wet with tears. They have sworn to punish the murders of the late Caliph. They will not sheathe their swords until they have taken the revenge."
One of the men sitting by Ali stood up and said, "O Syrian messenger, do you mean to overawe us with your Syrian army? By Allah, Othman's shirt is not the shirt of Propjet Joseph. Nor is Muawia's sorrow for him the sorrow of Prophet Jacob. If people mourn Othman in Syria, there are men in Iraq who speak ill of him."
The words of the messenger hurt Ali and he exclaimed, "O Allah! You well know that I have nothing to do with Othman's murder. By Allah, his murders have escaped."
Muawia's reply gave Ali a broad hint about the intentions of the Syrian Governor. He was not going to give in without a fight. So Ali started preparations for the coming fight. Hasan, Ali's eldest son, was against bloodshed. He begged his father to give up the Caliphate rather than start a civil war. "At long last," he went on, "people wiill have to accept your leadership." However, Ali did not agree with these views of his son.
The impending clash between Ali and Muawia caused un-easiness in Medina. All knew how powerful and tactful the Syrian Governor was. Bringing him to his knees was going to be a very tough job. Before long an army was ready to fight those who did not accept the authority of the Caliph.

Battle of the Camel
Before Ali could deal with Muawia, he had to face another danger. Aisha, a widow of the Holy Prophet, turned against him.
Aisha was gone for Haj when Othman was slain. On her way back, she got the horrible news of his murder. She went back to Mecca. Here she addressed a public gathering. She told people how cruel it was on the part of the rioters to have killed the Caliph in cold blood, in the holy city of the Prophet. She appealed to them to avenge the death of the late Caliph.
Hundreds of men came out at Aisha's call. The Governor of Mecca was one of them. In the meantime, Talha and Zubair also reached Medina. They told Aisha what they had seen at Medina. They urged upon her the need for quick action against the rioters and assured her of their support. They also advised her to go to Basra, to win more support for her couse. Abdullah bin Omar was also in Mecca at the time. People tried to win him over for Aisha's cause. But the pious Abdullah refused to be dragged into the civil war.
Aisha set out to Basra at the head of a big force. More people joined her on the way. By the time she reached Basra, there were three thousand men under her flag.
The Governor of Basra sent men to find out the object of her visit. She told them she had come to tell people of their duty toward the late Caliph. Then the messengers came to Talha and Zubair and put them the same question.
"We are out to avenge the death of Othman," they replied.
"But you have pledged loyalty to Ali," the messengers added.
"The pledge was taken at the point of the sword," the two leaders said. "All the same, we must have kept the pledge if Ali had avenged Othman's death, or even if he had allowed us to do that."
The Governor of Basra decided to oppose Aisha, till help came from Ali. He came out of the city with an army and got ready to fight. The two armies stood face to face. Before the fighting began, Aisha made a stirring appeal to the feelings of the opposing army. She spoke of Othman's cold-blooded murder and explained the need for revenge. Such was the force of her speech that half the army of the Governor walked over to Aisha's side.
The fighting began. It went on till evening and restarted the next day. By midday the two sides made peace. They agreed to send a man to Medina. The man was to find out if Talha and Zubair had pledged loyalty to Ali of their own free-will, or under duress. In the former case, Aisha's army was to go back. In the latter case, the governor was to give up Basra. The Chief Judge of Basra was the person chosen to go to Medina and find out true facts. His report was to be accepted by the parties.
So Kaab bin Thaur, the Chief Judge of Basra, went to Medina. He reached the city on a Friday. He made straight for the Prophet's Mosque. Taking his stand before the people he said, "O People, I have been sent by the people of Basra. I have come all the way to find out if Talha and Zubair gave their pledge of their own free-will or whether it was taken by force."
"By Allah!" replied Usama bin Zaid, "it was taken at the point of the sword."
Usama's statement was supported by a number of other notable Companions. The Chief Judge of Basra was satisfied that the statement of Talha and Zubair was correct.

Aisha Occupies Basra
Ali came to know of the happenings in Basra. He wrote to the Governor not to give in.
"Even if Talha and Zubaid were forced to pledge loyalty," he said in his letter, "force was used to sow differences among them."
In the meantime the Chief Judge of Basra had come back. He confirmed what Talha and Zubair had said. The Governor ws asked by Talha and Zubair to honour his word and give up the city. But by now the Governor had received orders to the contrary. He put his duty to the Caliph above his word and fought to defend the city. However, he was defeated and taken prisoner.
Basra was occupied on the 4th of Rabi-ul-Akhir, 36 A.H.. Immediately Talha and Zubair began a search for people who had taken part in the rising against Othman. Hundreds of men were rounded up and interrogated. Scores of them were arrested and tried. Many were found guilty and killed. Basra found itself in the grip of a virtual reign of terror.
After occupying Basra, Aisha, Talha and Zubair addressed a long letter to different parts of the Muslim world. The letter described how heavily Allah's hand had fallen on the murderers of Othman in Basra.

Companions Speak Back to Ali
Happenings at Basra disturbed Ali. For the time being, he had to leave Muawia alone. He had to set things right in Iraq first. A clash with Aisha could not be helped. He called upon the people of Medina to gather under his flag, but the response was poor. For most of the Companions the very thought was unbearable. How could they cross swords with the Prophet's widow? Saad bin Waqqas, the conqueror of Iran, said, "O Commander of the Faithful, I want a sword that may separate Muslims from non-Muslims. If you give me that sword, I will fight by your side. If you do not have that sword, please excuse me."
"I request you in the name of Allah," said Abdullah bin Omar, "not to force on me a thing which my heart dislikes."
"The Prophet of Allah ordered me," spoke back Muhammad bin Muslima, "to use my sword as long as the battle was against non-believers. He bade me break it to pieces when the fight against Muslims began. I have alreday broken my sword to pieces."
"Please excuse me from this duty" exclaimed Usama bin Zaid. "I have taken an oath not to fight against a man who says 'There is no diety except Allah.'"
When Ushtar came to know of what these Companions had said, he asked Ali to put them in prison.
"No," replied Ali, "I do not want to force them against their will."

Toward the end of Rabi-ul-Awwal, 36 A.H., Ali set out to Iraq. He hoped to be in Basra before his rivals reached that city. But the journey was too long and the time was too short to permit this. At Dhi Qar, he learnt that Basra has been occupied by Aisha. So he halted there.
Ali had sent several messages to Abu Musa Ashari, the Governor of Kufa, asking for help. Abu Musa had a strong dread of civil war. He hated the sight of Muslims flying at another's throats. He wanted to stay out of the quarrel. The people of Kufa also listened to his advice. They decided not to take sides in the battle between Aisha and Ali.
At last Ali sent his eldest son, Hasan, to Kufa. When he reached there, Abu Musa was addressing a gathering in the Jami mosque. He was making a strong plea for keeping out of the civil war. After he had finished, Hasan jumped onto the stage. He explained to the people how his father was the rightful Caliph, how Talha and Zubair had gone back on their word, and how it was the duty of the people to help their Caliph fight against injustice.
The speech had an immediate effect. A leading man of Kufa stood up and said, "O people of Kufa, our Governor is right in what he says. But the integrity of the State is also a necessity. Without it, there can be no surety of peace and justice. Ali has been elected Caliph. He calls upon you to help him fight injustice. You must help him as best as you can."
The appeal was followed by similar appeals by other leading men of Kufa. There was a stir among the people. Soon about nine thousand men marched off to join Ali. Ali assured these men that he would do all in his power to avoid bloodshed. Even if fighting became unavoidable, he would limit it as much as he could.
The assurance went a long way toward winning over the people of Kufa for the Caliph's cause. This greatly added to his power and prestige. Ali could not look to the coming trial of strength with confidence.

Peace Talks Fail
Reaching Basra, Ali sent a man to Aisha to clear away the misunderstanding she and her supporters had.
"What is it that you people really want?" the man asked them.
"We want nothing but the well-being of Muslims," they rplied. "This is not possible until the death of Othman has been avenged."
"The demangd for revenge is very just," Ali's envoy went on. "But how can you lay hands on the mischief-mongers, without first making the hands of the Caliph strong? You have had experience of this. You began punishing the rioters of Basra. But you found yourselfs helpeless in the case of Harqus bin Zubair. You wanted to slay him, but six thousand men rose to defend the culprit. You had to let him go. If necessity can drive you to overlook the crime of one man, how can you blame anything on Ali? If you really want to end trouble, gather under the banner of the Caliph. Do not plunge the people into civil war. It is a question for the whole people. I hope you love peace and order rather then general suffering and bloodshed."
Aisha, Talha and Zubair were moved by the appeal.
"If Ali is really keen to avenge Othman's death," they declared, "our differences can be easily settled."
They envoy brought back hopeful news for the Caliph. With the envoy also came some men of Basra. They wanted to make sure that Ali was not going to treat them like a fallen enemy. Ali assured them that they had nothing to fear.
The hope of peace brightened. But in the army of Ali there were Abdullah bin Saba and his henchmen. Peace was fatal to them. They were very much disturbed by what Ali had said after the envoy's return to Basra.
"O people," he had said, "the greatest favour Allah did to you was unity. Unity made you strong and great. The enemies of Islam did not like this. They have made a bid to shatter out unity. Beware of them. Tomorrow we will march to Basra with a peaceful aim. Those who took any part in Othman's murder should part company with us."
Abdullah bin Saba and his men were taken aback at this declaration. They met in secret council.
"Ali is going to avenge Othman's death," they whispered to one another. "He now says what Talha, Zubair and Aisha say. We must do something about it."
On the following day, Ali marched off to Basra. Talha and Zubair came out of the city with their army. The two armies lay facing each other for three days. Peace talks were going on. On the third day, the top leaders of both sides had a face-to-face talk. Ali rode forward on his horce. From the other side came Talha and Zubair on their horses. They stood face to face, the necks of their horses touching.
"Am I not your brother?" said Ali, addressing the two. "Is not the blood of a Muslim sacred to another Muslim?"
"But you took part in the rising against Othman," retorted Talha.
"I curse the murderers of Othman," went on Ali. "O Talha! did you not pledge loyalty to me?"
"Yes, but at the point of the sword," Talha spoke back.
"Do you remember, O Zubair," said Ali, now addressing the second man, "that the Prophet of Allah, one day asked you if you loved me. You said 'Yes'. Thereupon the Prophet of Allah fortold that one day you would fight me for nothing."
"Certainly!" replied Zubair, "I now recall the words of the Prophet of Allah."
After this conversation the three men went back to their camps. The conversation had brought their hearts closer to one another. Each one had been set thinking seriously about the grim outcome of the civil war. The general feeling was the peace was not clearly in sight.
Ali went back to his camp very satisfied. He felt almost sure that bloodshed had been averted. He gave strict orders that no one should shoot even a single arrow. At night he prayed to Allah to save the Muslims the horrors of the civil war.

Battle at Last
The night came on. The two armies lay in sound sleep. But Abdullah bin Saba and his henchmen set up the whole night. This was their last chance. They must not let it slip by.
It was still dark when the clang of steel rent the air. There was a sudden uproar. Saba and his men had made a sudden attack on Aisha's army! Soon a full-dress batte was in full swing.
Talha and Zubair were startled by the uproar.
"What is this all about?" they asked.
"Ali's army had made a night attack," came the reply.
"Alas!" they exclaimed, "Ali could not be stopped from shedding the blood of Muslims. We had this fear all the time."
Ali got equally startled by the suddin outburst of din.
"What is the matter?" he asked.
"Talha and Zubair have taken us by surprise," replied the followers of Saba.
"Alas!" said Ali, "these gentlemen could not be stopped from killing Muslims, I had this fear all the time."
The fighting soon grew fierce. Muslims flew at the throats of Muslims. Hundreds fell on each side. Talha fell fighting. Zubair fled from the battlefield. The main army of Aisha melted away but stiff fighting still raged round her camel. She sat in a howdah on the camel and directed the fight. A huge crowd of devoted Muslims fought desparately for the honour of the Prophet's widow. One after another seventy men held the nose-string of the camel and laid down their lives.
Ali's heart bled at the sight. Precious lives of Muslims were being lost for nothing. At last the Caliph ordered one of his men to cut the hind legs of the camel. He did it. The beast fell on the forelegs and down came the howdah. With this ended the fighting.
Aisha was taken out of the howday, with all the respect due to her. She was unhurt. Ali went to her and said, "How do you do, mother!"
"Perfectly all right," replied Aisha. "May Allah forgive your mistake!"
"And may He forgive your mistake too!" said Ali.
Ali made a round of the battlefield. Scores of well-known Companions lay in the dust. About ten thousand men from both sides had lost their lives. Among the killed were some of the best sons of Islam. Ali felt deeply moved. He did not allow his men to take possession of the booty. The whole of it was collected. The people of Basra were told to take back their belongings from the Caliph.
After fleeing the field of battle Zubair was on his way to Mecca. He stopped in a valley to say his prayer. When busy in prayer, he was slain by a man named Amr bin Jarmoz. Jarmoz brought Zubair's arms to Ali. He hoped to get a reward for slaying the Caliph's rival. But, in place of reward, he got a stern rebuke.
"I saw the owner of this sword fight for the Prophet of Allah several times," said Ali. "I give his murderer the news of hellfire."
When Aisha had rested in Basra some days, Ali sent her to Medina. He sent her brother, Muhammad Abu Bakr, with her. As she was about to leave, a number of men gathered around her camel. She addressed them and said, "My children, do not blame one another. By Allah, there is no enmity between me and Ali. It was a mere family squabble. I consider ali a good man."
To this Ali replied, "She is perfectly right. Our differences were just a family affair. She occupies a very high place in the Faith. Both here and in the world to come, she is the honoured wife of the Prophet of Allah." Ali went many miles to see of Aisha.
Ali now set about restoring order in Basra. The city had been up in arms against the Caliph. But Ali declared a genearl amnesty. He gave a stirring address in the Jami mosque telling people to be mindful of their duty to Allah. He took the pledge of loyalty from the people and appointed Abdullah bin Abbas as Governor of Basra.
Some leading men of Banu Omayya were in Basra when the city fell. The ill-famed Marwan was also among them. These men went int hiding. The Caliph came to know about them but he gave them the benefit of the general amnesty. In time they escaped to Syria and joined Muawia.

The Battle of Siffin
Ali turned his attention to Muawia. With the exception of Syria, the whole empire had now accepted Ali as Caliph. But the fourth Caliph did not go back to Medina. In place of Medina, he made Kufa his capital. He did this for two reasons. In the first place, he had here a very large following. Secondly, the public treasuries of Iraq were over-flowing with revenues. They could easily supply the means of war against a rich provice like Syria.

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