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Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Cure for Racism

When he was in Makkah, Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) wrote a letter to his loyal assistants in Harlem... from his heart:

"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 utterly speechless 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 Mecca, I have made my seven circuits around the Ka'ba, led by a young Mutawaf named Muhammad, I drank water from the well of the Zam Zam. I ran seven times back and forth between the hills of Mt. Al-Safa and Al-Marwah. I have prayed in the ancient city of Mina, and I have prayed on Mt. Arafat.

"There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blonds to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity 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 aside some 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 to accept 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 was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the actions 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 behaviour, 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 in terms 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 whites of 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 been heaped upon an American Negro? A few nights ago, a man who would be called in America a white man, a United Nations diplomat, an ambassador, a companion of kings, gave me his hotel suite, his bed. Never would I have even thought of dreaming that I would ever be a recipient of such honors - honors that in America would be bestowed upon a King - not a Negro.
"All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of all the Worlds.

Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz" (Malcolm X)

(From the "Autobiography of Malcolm X" with assistance from Alex Haley, the author of ROOTS)

Friday, January 26, 2007

The sin of finding faults in others

Hadith - Bukhari's Book of Manners #313, Ahmad, Ibn Hibban, and Hakim
... 'Abd Allah reported that the Prophet of Allah, upon him be peace, said, "A believer is not a fault-finder and is not abusive, obscene, or course."

Hadith - Bukhari's Book of Manners #329
... Ibn 'Abbas said, "If you wish to mention the faults of your friend, mention your own faults first."
Hadith - Bukhari's Book of Manners #330
... Ibn 'Abbas said on the following verse of the Qur'an, "Nor defame one another" (49:11), "Do not spend your time finding fault with one another."
Hadith - Bukhari's Book of Manners #545
Jubayr ibn Nufayr reported that Mu'adh ibn Jabal said, "If you love someone, do not quarrel with him and do not annoy him. Do not ask others about him, for the one you ask might be his enemy and thus tell you things about him that are not true and thus break you apart."
Hadith - Bukhari's Book of Manners #889 and Ibn Hibban
'Amr ibn al 'As said, "...I am amazed at one who spots an impurity in the eye of another but is unable to detect it in his/her own eye, or who attempts to remove a grudge from another's heart while making no attempt to remove grduges from his/her own heart. I have never blamed anyone for the confidences of mine that they have betrayed. How could I, when already they have given me reason for pause?"
Hadith - Bukhari's Book of Manners #1295
Bilal ibn Sa'd al Ash'ari reported that Mu'awiyah wrote to Abu Darda' "Write to the wrongdoers of Damascus." So he asked, "What do I have to do with the wrongdoers of Damascus? How will I know them?" Abu Darda's son, Bilal said, "I will write to them," which he did. Then Abu Darda' said [to Bilal], "How did you know to whom to write? You could not have known they were wrongdoers unless you were one of them. Begin with yourself!" So he did not address the letter in anyone's name.*
*i.e. he didn't single out a specific person as a wrongdoer, but spoke about wrongdoings in general, to come as a reminder (of Quran and Sunnah) to the people.

Two traveling angels

Keep reading to the bottom of the page -- don't stop at the feet (You'll see).

Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family.

The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion's guest room.

Instead the angels were given a small space in the cold basement.

As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it.

When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied,

"Things aren't always what they seem."

The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife.

After sharing what little food they had the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night's rest.

When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears

Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.

The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel how could you have let this happen?

The first man had everything, yet you helped him, he accused.

The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die.

"Things aren't always what they seem," the older angel replied.

"When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall.

Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn't find it."

"Then last night as we slept in the farmer?s bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead.

Things aren't always what they seem."

Gaza Strip

A film by James Longley

74 minutes | USA | 35mm | 1:1.85 | color | 2002

"Beautiful, heartbreaking, raw and revealing."
Daily Star

* * *

"An unflinchingly honest portrayal of a population under siege.
deserves the
widest possible audience."
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

* * *

"Deserves merit and attention...one of the most important
documentaries of recent times."
Film Threat, Hollywood's Indie Voice

Distributed in North America by
Arab Film Distribution
10035 35th Ave. NE - Seattle, WA 98125
tel. 206 322 0882 / fax. 206 322 4586
info@arabfilm.com www.arabfilm.com


Gaza Strip pushes the viewer headlong into the tumult of the Israeli-
occupied Gaza, examining the lives and views of ordinary

The documentary often sees the world through the eyes of young
people. The central character is Mohammed Hejazi, a 13-year-old
paperboy in Gaza City, one of the young "stone-throwers" who risk
their lives throwing rocks at Israeli tanks across the barbwire
fences. As the newspapers arrive announcing Ariel Sharon's victory
in the Israeli elections, Mohammed offers up tirades against Arafat
and Sharon alike. We also catch glimpses of his inner world: his
sense of hopelessness, his sorrow at the IDF killing of his best
friend, his conception of death.

As the camera floats through the Gaza Strip, we encounter signs of
the occupation everywhere: crowds of Palestinians are making their
way along the beach on foot, donkey carts and tractor trailers when
the Israeli soldiers close the roads. The Palestinians interviewed
as they pass by reveal a common internal conflict, between anger at
the Israeli occupation and the desire to live in peace.

In the Khan Younis refugee camp, Gaza Strip documents an extremely
controversial incident in February, which fell largely through the
cracks of international scrutiny, when the Israeli Defense Forces
used an unidentified, powerful gas during a firefight, hospitalizing
over 200 Palestinians with severe recurrent convulsions.

Inside a Red Cross tent near an Israeli checkpoint, a Palestinian
mother and daughter debate the politics of their situation. As night
falls on their camp, the mother describes how Israeli soldiers came
with bulldozers, leveled their home and destroyed all of their

The eye of the film is usually passive and watchful, sometimes
almost invisible, even in the most intimate settings. When a
Palestinian child is blown up in Rafah, we see the entire process of
his internment, from morgue to mosque to grave, unblinkingly. The
camera moves slowly over a Palestinian neighborhood being strafed by
Israeli machine-gun fire, schoolchildren scattering.

Gaza Strip culminates in a nighttime raid in April, when Israeli
bulldozers stormed into the Khan Younis refugee camp under the cover
of tank and helicopter fire, and destroyed the homes of 450
Palestinians - the first of many such armed incursions into "Area A"
by the IDF.

short synopsis:

In January of 2001, American director James Longley traveled to the
Gaza Strip. His plan was to stay for two weeks to collect
preliminary material for a documentary film on the Palestinian
Intifada. It was during his stay that Ariel Sharon was elected as
Israeli Prime Minister. As violence erupted around him, Longley
threw away his return ticket and filmed for the next three months,
acquiring nearly 75 hours of footage. Gaza Strip, his first feature
documentary, is an extraordinary and painful journey into the lives
of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip struggling with the day-to-day
trials of the Israeli occupation. Filmed in verité style and
without narration, Gaza Strip at last gives voice to a population
largely ignored by mainstream media.

director biography:

James Longley was born in Oregon in 1972 and received a film
education at the University of Rochester and Wesleyan University in
the United States, and the Russian Institute of Cinematography
(VGIK) in Moscow. James received the Student Academy Award from the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for his short
documentary, "Portrait of Boy with Dog," about a boy in a Moscow
orphanage. "Gaza Strip," his first feature documentary, was produced
on location during the spring of 2001.

production credits:

Director | Producer: James Longley

Camera: James Longley

Additional Camera: Abed Shana

Sound: James Longley

Editor: James Longley

Assistant Editor: Afaf Shawwa

Music: James Longley

Production Coordinator (Gaza): Mohammed Mohanna

Translation: Mark Khano
Abed Younis
Sherene Seikaly
Karim Kobeissi
Souad Kirama
Romain De Keralio
Gerard Woldvedt
Mia Lotringer
Rana El-Fil
Afaf Shawwa
Waleed Al Gharaibeh
Degaulle Adili


New York Times
Reviewed by: A.O. Scott

"Hard Life in Gaza, Through 13-Year-Old Eyes"

Like most news reports and television images coming out of the
Middle East these days, "Gaza Strip," an unsparing new documentary
by James Longley, offers little reason for optimism. The film, which
opens today at the Anthology Film Archives in the East Village, was
shot in the winter and spring of 2001, and it provides a grim,
upsetting glimpse at the lives of some of the 1.2 million
Palestinians who live in the crowded cities and refugee camps of

Mr. Longley makes powerful use of the techniques of cinema vérité.
The absence of voice-over narration and talking-head interviews
gives his portrait of daily life under duress a riveting immediacy.

Much of "Gaza Strip" follows Mohammed Hejazi, a 13-year-old
newspaper vendor. This youth, who left school after the second
grade, spends much of his spare time with other boys throwing rocks
at Israeli soldiers, even though his best friend was killed by the
gunfire that is the inevitable response, and his father, who had
spent time in an Israeli prison, once tied his son up to keep him at

Mohammed presents a mixture of hardened cynicism and childish
innocence that is both heartbreaking and unnerving. He is equally
contemptuous of Ariel Sharon, whose election as prime minister takes
place early in the film, of Mr. Sharon's predecessor Ehud Barak and
of Yasir Arafat, and he fluctuates between weary sorrow and
militaristic bravado. ("We want weapons. We don't want food.")

A similar mixture of emotions is expressed by the adults in the
film. Sometimes in the same breath, they give voice to longings for
peaceful coexistence with Israel, to the wish to be left alone and
to the desire to drive the Jews not only out of Gaza but out of the
region altogether.

Mr. Longley's camera does not have to look far to find the sources
of their rage and despair: Israeli bulldozers demolishing houses and
date groves; an absurd traffic jam on the beach after roads have
been closed; emergency rooms full of wounded Palestinians, many of
them children. It is impossible to see these images and remain
unmoved, but the raw intensity of "Gaza Strip" is also a limitation,
since it is purchased by the absence of anything (aside from some
text at the beginning) that would provide some historical or
political context.

Given how polarized discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
have become, this means that audiences will watch through their own
ideological filters. Some will see the film as evidence of the
bottomless cruelty of the Israeli occupation. Others will note the
absence not only of any Israeli perspective, but also of any
discussion of the deadlier forms of Palestinian resistance or the
popularity of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the desperate neighborhoods
of Gaza.

Then again, it is not Mr. Longley's intention to analyze the
conflict, and in the best vérité tradition, there are moments
in "Gaza Strip" that disclose a wrenching human reality deeper and
more basic than any politics. At one point Mohammed muses on death
and the afterlife. His words cut against much of what we have heard
lately about the Muslim view of martyrdom and paradise.

He imagines receiving a stern interrogation from God - "Why did you
throw those rocks?" "Why did you steal?" - after which he will be
sent to heaven or hell, he doesn't know which. After some thought,
he decides that he would be happiest in the solitude of purgatory.
Such is the aspiration of a boy in Gaza.

The Seattle Times
Reviewed by: John Hartl

"Compelling Palestinian Film Benefits From Narrow Focus"

The stares of lost, desperate Palestinian children dominate this
surprisingly personal documentary, which was shot two years ago by
James Longley, an Oregon filmmaker who once studied cinematography
at a Moscow film school.

The images in "Gaza Strip" are often as beautiful as they are
disturbing, suggesting a continuous loop of the final freeze-frame
image from Francois Truffaut's 1959 classic, "The 400 Blows," in
which a young boy accuses the audience with his eyes when he
realizes he is trapped between adult authorities and the ocean.

Not that the sea can't also be a refuge here. As Longley's video
camera dwells on a languorous beach scene, one child describes the
Mediterranean as "so beautiful that you forget yourself." Still, the
waves are part of a border that makes children and older
Palestinians feel trapped, surrounded and ultimately suicidal.

Longley visited the Gaza Strip in January 2001, planning to stay for
a couple of weeks while he researched a film on the Palestinian
intifada. He remained for three months, focusing on an eloquent 13-
year-old newspaper vendor, Mohammed Hejazi, who speaks frankly about
the murder of his best friend, his contempt for Ariel Sharon, his
mistrust of Yasser Arafat ("Arafat is a spy"), and the difference
between this life and nonexistence.

"I think being dead would be easier," he says. He also worries that
he hasn't been a good Muslim and might not end up in Paradise.

What could have turned into propaganda instead becomes a portrait of
one child's understandably pragmatic reactions to extreme
circumstances. When Mohammed's unemployed father tells him not to
get shot in the back and become paralyzed (he's been throwing rocks
at Israeli tanks), he seems less concerned for his son's safety than
he is about whether the boy will be able to continue to provide the
main support for his destitute family.

Longley makes no attempt to present the Israeli viewpoint, to show
Palestinian destructiveness or to provide much in the way of a
historical context. He's simply concerned with the cumulative impact
of living under such conditions. Narrowing its focus so
rigorously, "Gaza Strip" presents a most persuasive vision of hell
on Earth.

Film Threat
Reviewed by: Phil Hall

The Gaza Strip is a fairly tiny place: it is only 28 miles long and
four miles wide. It is also fairly crowded: 1.2 million Palestinians
live here, and roughly one-third of the population reside in refugee
camps. It is also home to 6,000 Israelis who have taken 30% of this
area for themselves, complete with 24/7 security protection courtesy
of the Israeli Defense Forces.

American filmmaker James Longley visited this area in January 2001
with the original plan of staying two weeks. He remained for three
months and the result of his visit was "Gaza Strip," a brutally
effective documentary which provides a very rare glimpse into the
lives of the ordinary Palestinian people who live under Israeli
military occupancy. At a time when the Holy Land is wobbling on the
brink of civil war, "Gaza Strip" provides a tragic overview into the
daily challenge to stay alive in a war zone.

Told without narration and staying clear of any commentary by
Palestinian politicians, "Gaza Strip" begins its focus on a circle
of teenage boys lead by a 13-year-old newspaper street vendor named
Mohammed. These boys are the new fuel in the on-going intifada:
unschooled, angry, living in poverty, responding with crude
slingshots hurling broken bricks at Israeli tanks which fire back
with live ammunition. Mohammed recalls how a young friend was
fatally shot in the head even though he was not involved in an
intifada riot (the slain boy was gathering scrap metal from a buffer
zone between the Palestinians and Americans).

The film then travels throughout the Gaza Strip, offering sequences
which could rival Bunuel or Fellini--with a touch of Costa-Gavras
thrown in. A tranquil beach becomes polluted with automobiles, horse-
drawn carts and pedestrians following the Israeli blockade of a main
road. Helicopters hover in the twilight sky and send rockets into
apartment complexes, illuminating the night with brilliant bursts of
fiery light while explosions shower the streets with chunks and
fragments of destroyed buildings.

Ambulances race furiously through ancient streets, bringing bloody
adults and children into packed emergency rooms. An elderly woman,
sitting in the drafty entrance of a refugee camp tent, tearfully
recalls how the Israeli army bulldozed her house in retaliation for
an attack on an illegal Israeli settlement in a neighboring
town...an attack which the woman played no part in whatsoever.
Victims of toxic gas canisters fired by Israeli troops writhe in
convulsive pain on hospital beds, screaming at the top of their
lungs while family and medical aides try vainly to restrain them. A
child, no more than 10 years old, echoes the sentiments of his
elders by happily chiming to the camera: "We want to beat back the
Jews and kill them off" (and more than a few adults openly and
joyfully share these sentiments with the camera).

As portrayed in this film, the Gaza Strip exists without any sense
of Palestinian autonomy of self-government. No signs of the
Palestinian Authority are anywhere to be seen, and even the youthful
newspaper hawker Mohammed dismisses its leadership with the
breathless comment: "Arafat is a spy -- he's taking it up the ass."
The only leadership present here is medical: the tireless doctors,
nurses, ambulance drivers and emergency medical technicians who face
an endless skein of patients with an extraordinary variety of
gunshot wounds, burns and mutilations from bombs (including, most
horrifically, a dead child who innocently retrieved an Israeli bomb
left as a booby trap in a pair of boxing gloves).

At no time does "Gaza Strip" present any Israelis; aside from the
brief glimpses of military vehicles and the familiar blue-and-white
flag fluttering behind barbed wire enclosures, the Israeli people do
not exist in this film. Also absent from the film is a bit of
balanced history: while Israel took military control of the Gaza
Strip in 1967 following the Six-Day War, Egypt actually annexed the
territory in 1948 in violation of the United Nations partition of
the region and denied the Palestinian people their right to self-
determination. No mention of Egypt's illegal occupation of this area
is cited in this film.

Nonetheless, "Gaza Strip" deserves merit and attention for bringing
the message of the Palestinian people to a camera and microphone.
Nearly all of the current news coverage of the Middle East has
focused on the military and political combatants in this never-
ending conflict. By turning attention on the average people of the
Gaza Strip, this film gives a face and voice to the seething
population with a tragic and bitter story to tell. "Gaza Strip" is
the rare vehicle which gives the Palestinian people (rather than
their failed, double-talking leadership) an opportunity to speak
freely and openly, and that feat in itself makes this one of the
most important documentaries of recent times.

City Pages
Reviewed by: Peter S. Scholtes

The central figure in this riveting documentary, an illiterate
Palestinian paperboy named Mohammed Hejazi, introduces himself to
the camera in the early months of 2001. Like most young Gaza
residents, he has grown up quickly: At age 13, he is the family's
principal breadwinner. He says his father has struggled to find work
since Israel closed the borders last year, after the second uprising
began. The son admits to defying his parents and sneaking out to
chuck stones at Israeli soldiers. He imagines death as a long debate
with God over his sins of rock-throwing and stealing. He weeps over
his best friend, whom he says was shot dead while nicking copper.
Later we watch his cavalier reaction to the news, gleaned from
pictures in the paper, that Sharon has been elected prime
minister. "Egypt would fuck his father," he tells his pals. "And
then Iraq would stand up." It's a tribute to the resilient gaze of
director James Longley that you begin to care about this kid, to
understand how chaos and fear have shaped his worldview. I wonder
what has happened to him since the cameras shut off.

The Village Voice
reviewed by: J. Hoberman

Gaza Strip, a feature-length video by American filmmaker James
Longley, is a documentary to make the stones weep - as shameful as
it is scary. Longley spent three months during the spring of 2001
in Gaza. Ariel Sharon had just won the Israeli election and the
second intifada was now a fact of life.

The location is a chunk of misery: 1.2 million Palestinians penned
up in a 28-by-four-mile slice of nowhere, further diminished by
Israeli security installations and six fortified Jewish settlements.
Longley's principal subject is a 13-year-old newsboy, Mohammed
Hejazi, who is the main support of his family and whose main
recreation is playing chicken with Israeli tanks-a game at which a
number of his friends have already been killed. More than once,
Longley shows hospital ERs filled with horribly wounded children.

No future here: Gaza Strip is even more painful in the knowledge
that current conditions are worse. (Indeed, the tape was press-
screened the morning after Israel liquidated Hamas terrorist Sheik
Salah Shehada by dropping a bomb on his Gaza City apartment, killing
another 14 people-mostly children-in an operation that Sharon
moronically boasted was "one of our major successes.") Necessarily
up on current events, Mohammed and his fellow newsboys are familiar
with Sharon's particular brutishness. They naturally mock and hate
Israeli politicians, albeit with scarcely more respect for the
Palestinian Authority. "Arafat is a spy-he's taking it up the ass!"

Longley keeps his camera close to his subjects, backing off only to
document quotidian atrocities ranging from tanks shelling helpless
civilians to the bulldozing of Arab homes to the Israeli army's
sickening use of an unidentified form of convulsion-causing gas.
Made from the perspective of the
Arab on the street, Gaza Strip includes no footage of Jewish
settlers or Israeli soldiers or even Palestinian security forces.
(Nor is there any sort of historical context explaining the Arab
responsibility for how Gaza got to be what it is.) It would be
convenient to dismiss this as propaganda. But does it really matter
if someone coached young Mohammed's claim that he wants to be a
martyr or his dispassionate anticipation of his own death? "It would
be easier," the kid says, and after seeing the wretched conditions
that the movie documents, who will argue with him?

Anthology Film Archives, which is screening Gaza Strip for a week,
could evoke the full cycle of hatred, futility, and despair by
flanking this nearly unbearable movie with monitors showing the
atrocious aftermath of contemporary Palestinian suicide attacks on
Israeli civilians. To watch Gaza Strip is to watch a ticking time

Happy New Hijra Year

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Al-Jazeerah, January 19, 2007

January 20th marks the first of Moharram, the beginning of the new Hijra year 1428, according to the five-year Islamic calendar announced by the Fiqh Council of North America and endorsed by the Islamic Society of North America.

In a bid to end the controversy over the beginning of the month of Ramadan and Eid celebrations, the Fiqh Council of North America, last August, announced a five-year Islamic calendar based on astronomical calculation abandoning the traditional method of actual sighting of the crescent.

However, the ISNA’s bid to create unity in the American Muslim community did not succeed the first test, when in September last, majority of Islamic centers and mosques in U.S. and Canada refused to adopt ISNA’s Islamic calendar and followed the traditional method of announcing the beginning of the month of Ramadan locally on the basis of sighting of crescent.

In its decision, the Fiqh Council said that Muslims living in North America and Europe face more problems due to starting Ramadan at different timings and celebrating Eids on different days. The issue of Moon sighting is causing problem of discord among Muslims and is a bone of contention all over the Muslim world. Hence the Council, in a bid to save the Ummah this enormous wrangling and bickering over the sighting of the new moon, decided to abandon the traditional method and announced a five-year Hijra calendar on the basis of astronomical calculations.

Probably this is the second time in 1400 years of Islamic history that an attempt is being made to abandon actual moon sighting for the beginning of the new Islamic months. In the 10th century AD a calendar based on astronomical calculations was instituted by the sixth Fatimid caliph Abu Ali Al-Mansur Al-Hakim (985–1021). It is therefore sometimes referred to as the Fatimid or Misr (Egyptian) calendar. The calendar was rejected by the scholars of the time as an unacceptable innovation. According to some historical accounts of the Fatimids in Libya, the Qadi of Barqa was put to death in 953 for observing the fast of Ramadan by sighting the new moon instead of following the astronomical calculations.

It is believed that the Fatimid practice in using astronomical conjunction as the starting point for Ramadan was not due to the complexity of calculating physical sighting but rather to their belief that their doctrines were scientific. Other than the Fatimid practice, there is no evidence that Muslims have ever advocated calculation in lieu of sighting until the 21st century.

Probably, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, Islamic calendar is not followed by the 1.3 billion or so Muslims for their day to day routine. They follow the Gregorian calendar in mundane affairs while Islamic calendar is used in religious matters such as the beginning of the month of Ramadan and Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha.

In 637 AD, 16 years after the Hijra or migration of the Prophet from Mecca to Madina, the second caliph Omer Ben Khattab instituted the new Hijra or Islamic year. The first of Muharram 622 AD, which coincided with the 16 of July 622 AD, began year one of the Islamic era.

The Islamic or Hijra calendar of 12 lunar months is determined by observation of the new moon with no effort by intercalation (addition) or other means to synchronize the lunar year with the solar year.

A lunar month may vary from 29.26 to 29.80 days. The average Lunar month is 29.530588 days or slightly more than 29.5 days. Twelve average Lunar months are equal to 354.3670 days while the solar year is 365.2422 days. Therefore, the Islamic calendar gains ground in relation to the Solar Calendar at the rate of about 11 days a year or about one-year in every 33 years.

Since no effort is made to link the Islamic calendar with solar year the Islamic months do not correspond with particular season. A lunar month is not less than 29 days or more than 30 days. But in solar calendar the days of months vary from 28 to 31.

Like Muslims, Jews followed a calendar based upon naked-eye observation of new moons for more than a thousand years. However, persecution of the Jews under the Roman Emperor Constantius (337-361) in the name of Christianity prevented communication among the Jews about the observed calendar, and forced them to switch to an entirely computed calendar. This forced Rabbi Hillel II to promulgate the fixed computed calendar in 358. Its computations were designed to simulate the practical constraints of the observed calendar (including postponements and intercalations) as closely as possible. The Jews never returned to their original tradition of following a purely lunar calendar determined by eyewitnesses; instead, they continue to determine the new moon calculation.

Two other major world calendars which used lunar dates for religious and cultural festivals are Chinese and Hindu calendars but both are now lunisolar like the Jewish calendar, i.e. synchronized with the solar calendar.

The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar based on calculations of the positions of the Sun and Moon. Months of 29 or 30 days begin on days of astronomical New Moons, with an intercalary month being added every two or three years. Although the Gregorian calendar is used in the Peoples' Republic of China for administrative purposes, the traditional Chinese calendar is used for setting traditional festivals and for timing agricultural activities in the countryside. The Chinese calendar is also used by Chinese communities around the world.

As a result of a calendar reform in A.D. 1957, the National Calendar of India is a formalized lunisolar calendar in which leap years coincide with those of the Gregorian calendar. In addition to establishing a civil calendar, the Calendar Reform Committee set guidelines for religious calendars, which require calculations of the motions of the Sun and Moon. Tabulations of the religious holidays are prepared by the India Meteorological Department and published annually in The Indian Astronomical Ephemeris. Despite the attempt to establish a unified calendar for all of India, many local variations exist. The Gregorian calendar continues in use for administrative purposes, and holidays are still determined according to regional, religious, and ethnic traditions. Most religious holidays occur on specified lunar dates but a few occur on specified solar dates.

The Gregorian calendar regulates the ceremonial cycle of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. The ecclesiastical calendars of Christian churches are based on cycles of movable and immovable feasts. Christmas is the principal immovable feast, with its date set at December 25. Easter is the principal movable feast, and dates of most other movable feasts are determined with respect to Easter.

Now reverting to the ISNA universal calendar; in August 2006, ISNA announced a five-year universal Islamic calendar based on astronomical calculation. ISNA’s criterion for beginning the new month is moon birth before 12:00 Noon GMT. In response to my query, Syed Khalid Shaukat, national coordinator and moon sighting consultant to ISNA, explained that the moon born before 12:00 Noon GMT (say on a Friday) means it is born in every town of the world before Friday begins. It will be about 18 to 30 hours old near International Date Line on the evening of Friday. So, it would be visible somewhere on earth on Friday. In some months, it will be visible in California & Hawaii (Muharram 1428). In some months it will be visible in Alaska (Rabi2 1428). In some months it will be visible in whole North America (Rabi1 1428, Jumada2 1428, Safar 1429, Rabi2 1429). In some months, it will be visible in Hawaii (Rajab 1428). In some months it will only be visible in South America or Polynesian Islands (Dhul-Hijja 1427, Shawwal 1428).

So the practical implication for Muslims in North America is that the new moon for the months of Ramadan, Shawwal and Zel Hijja will not be SEEN in N. America by the calculated ISNA dates for 2006-2011.

ISNA calendar did not attract much attention in the Muslim countries but many mosques and Islamic centers in Europe and North America adopted it. However, ISNA did not succeed in its primary objective of promoting unity in the Muslim community at least outside the Islamic World. According to my research most of the Islamic centers and mosques ignored the ISNA calendar for beginning the month of Ramdan and Eidul Fitr last year and for Eidul Adha earlier this month.

Interestingly, the 56-member states Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in 1997 passed a resolution on a unified Hijra calendar for the beginning of lunar month and the unification of Islamic holidays. However, no Islamic country dared to ignore the tradition of announcing the beginning of the Islamic months through moon sighting committees. Even Saudi Arabia which relies on astronomical calculations for its official lunar calendar relies on the decision of moon sighting committee for religious events.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Executive Editor of the online magazine American Muslim Perspective: www.amperspective.com

Muslim Code of Behaviour

According to Islamic teachings, apart from having the right belief how
important is it for a person to do good deeds? Doing good and having
the right belief go hand in hand in Islam. In fact, doing good in
practice is the proof of having the right belief in the heart. This is
why the Holy Quran speaks of true Muslims very often as "those who
believe and do good deeds". Both the Quran and the Holy Prophet have
told Muslims that the best among them is that person who shows the best
behaviour towards other people.
Please give a list of some of the good qualities a Muslim must try to
acquire. Below we give, in the words of the Holy Quran and the Holy
Prophet Muhammad, the chief qualities a Muslim should display:

"O you who believe! keep your duty to Allah and speak straight, true
words." (Holy Quran 33:70)

"O you who believe, keep your duty to Allah, and be with the truthful
people." (9:119)

"Be maintainers of justice and bearers of true witness for Allah, even
if it (the truth) goes against your own selves or parents or relatives
or someone who is rich or poor." (4:135)
"Serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience." (39:2)

"It is most hateful in the sight of Allah that you say things which you
do not do." (61:3)

"Woe to those who pray but are unmindful of their prayers, who do good
to be seen." (107:4-6)

"You cannot attain to righteousness unless you spend (in charity) out of
those things which you love." (3:91)

"They (the true believers) give food, out of love for Allah, to the
poor, the orphan and the slave, saying: We feed you only for Allah's
pleasure - we desire from you neither reward nor thanks." (76:8-9)

"Do no favour seeking gain." (74:6)

"The servants of the Beneficent (Allah) are those who walk on the earth
in humility." (25:63)

"Do not turn your face away from people in contempt, nor go about in the
land exultingly." (31:18)

"Do not ascribe purity to yourselves. Allah knows best who is
righteous." (53:32)

"Allah loves those who are patient." (3:145)

"Give good news to the patient, who, when a misfortune befalls them,
say: We are Allah's and to Him do we return." (2:155-156)

"Pardon (people) and overlook (their faults). Don't you love that Allah
should forgive you." (24:22)

"(The dutiful are) . . . those who restrain their anger and pardon
people. Allah loves those who do good to others." (3:134)
"Whenever they (true believers) are angry they forgive." (42:37)

"The recompense of evil is punishment like it. But whoever forgives (an
evil committed against himself) and amends (matters), his reward is with
Allah. . . . Whoever is patient and forgives, that is a matter of great
resolution." (42:40, 43)

When the Holy Prophet Muhammad defeated his enemies in Makka and
returned to that city as its conqueror, he forgave them in the
following words:

"No reproof be against you this day; Allah may forgive you, and He is
the most Merciful of those who show mercy." (12:92)
Purity and cleanliness:

"He indeed is successful who purifies himself (in mind and body), and
remembers the name of his Lord, then prays." (87:14-15)

"Purify your garments and shun uncleanness." (74:4-5)

"Don't go near the property of an orphan, except in a goodly way, till
he attains maturity. And fulfil the promise (you make) . . .. Give full
measure when you measure out, and weigh with a true balance." (17:34-35)

"Do not swallow up your property among yourselves by false means, nor
offer it as a bribe to the officials so that you may swallow up other
people's property unlawfully while you know." (2:188)
Goodness and kindness to others:

"Allah commands you to uphold justice and to do good to others and to
give to the relatives." (16:90)

Three degrees of doing good are mentioned here: "justice," which means
returning any good that someone has done you with equal good; "do good
to others," which means taking the initiative in doing good to others;
and "give to the relatives," which means doing good to people
instinctively and naturally just as one does good to one's close

"Do good to others, surely Allah loves those who do good to others."
Consideration and respect for others:

"O you who believe! do not enter houses other than your own until you
have asked permission and greeted the inmates . . . and if it is said to
you, 'Go back', then go back." (24:27-28)

"O you who believe! avoid most of suspicion (against others), for surely
suspicion in some cases is sin; and do not spy (into other people's
affairs), nor let some of you backbite others." (49:12)

"When you are greeted with a greeting, greet with one better than it, or
return it (in the same terms at least)." (4:86)

Speaking of a small number of Muslims facing a big and powerful enemy,
the Quran relates:

"Those to whom men said: people have gathered against you, so fear them;
but this increased their faith, and they said: Allah is sufficient for
us and He is an excellent Guardian." (3:173)

"Eat and drink, but do not be immoderate." (7:31)

"Do not chain your hand to your neck (so that you are mean in
spending), nor stretch it out to the utmost limit (so that you waste
everything)." (17:29)

Regarding the performance of religious duties, the Holy Prophet has
given the following advice:

"Religion is easy, but any one who exerts himself too much in religious
devotions will get overcome by it; so you should just act rightly, and
keep to the mean, and be of good cheer, and ask for Allah's help
morning, evening, and a part of the night." (Bukhari.)

"Be of good cheer." (Holy Prophet in Bukhari.)

"It is an act of charity to meet your fellow with a cheerful face."
(Holy Prophet in Mishkat.)

Finally, we give a verse of the Holy Quran mentioning a number of
qualities a Muslim, man or woman, should try to acquire:

"The truthful men and the truthful women, the patient men and the
patient women, the humble men and the humble women, the charitable men
and the charitable women, the fasting men and the fasting women, the men
who guard their chastity and the women who guard their chastity, the men
who remember Allah much and the women who remember Allah much - for all
these Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward." (33:35)
How does Islam require a Muslim to treat the people around him? The
Holy Quran and the Hadith mention various categories of people that one
has to deal with, and give a great deal of guidance on how to behave
towards them.
Parents and the elderly:

"Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and do good to
parents. If one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say 'Fie'
to them, nor chide them, but speak to them a generous word . . . and
say, My Lord, have mercy on them as they brought me up when I was
little." (17:23-24).

"The Holy Prophet said, It is one of the greatest sins that a man should
curse his parents. Someone said, How can a man curse his own parents? He
said, If a man abuses the father of another, that person will abuse his
parents (in return)." (Report in Bukhari.)
Other Near Relatives:

"Do good to the near relatives." (4:36)

"Give to the near relative his due, and also to the needy and to the
traveller (in need of help). (17:26).
"Do not kill your children for fear of poverty - We (Allah) provide for
them and for you." (17:31)

"A man came to the Holy Prophet and said, `You kiss children but we do
not kiss them'. The Holy Prophet said, `Do I have any control over you
if Allah has taken away mercy from your heart'." (Report in Bukhari.)
Orphans and destitute children:

"Maintain the orphans out of their property and clothe them and give
them a good education. Test them when they reach the age of majority,
and if you find them to be mature, hand over their property to them."

"I and the man who brings up an orphan will be in paradise like this,"
said the Holy Prophet, putting together his forefinger and middle
finger. (Report in Bukhari.)
Poor and needy:

"Righteous is he who . . . gives away wealth out of love for Him to the
near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those
who ask and to set slaves free." (2:177)

"What will make you understand what the uphill road (to success) is? (It
is) to free a slave, or feed at a time of hunger an orphan who is a
relative or the poor man lying in the dust." (90:11-16)

"Have you seen him who goes against religion? That is the one who is
rough to the orphan and does not urge the feeding of the needy."

"(The true believers are those) in whose wealth there is a known right
for the beggar and the destitute." (70:24-25)

"The person who manages things for the widow and the poor is like the
one who strives hard in the way of Allah." (Holy Prophet in Bukhari.)

"Be good to . . . the neighbour belonging to your people and the alien
neighbour." (4:36)

"He is not a believer who fills his stomach while his neighbour is
hungry." (Holy Prophet in Hadith.)

"The angel Gabriel continued to enjoin upon me good treatment of the
neighbour, so much so that I thought he would make him heir to one's
property." (Holy Prophet in Bukhari.)

"They (your wives) are a garment for you, and you are a garment for
them." (2:187)

"Of His (Allah's) signs is that He created spouses for you from
yourselves so that you might find quiet of mind in them, and He put
between you love and compassion." (30:21)

"The best of you are those who are kindest to their wives." (Holy
Prophet in Tirmizi.)

A man related:
"I asked Aishah (Holy Prophet's wife): What did the Prophet do when in
his house? She said, `He served his wife', meaning that he did work for
his wife." (Report in Bukhari.)

"(The true believers) are those who are keepers of their trusts and
covenants." (23:8)

"Trusts" include the duties and the other things with which an employee
is entrusted by his employer; "covenants" include the contract by which
both the employer and the employee are bound.

"Allah says: There are three persons whose opponents I shall be on the
Day of Judgment . . . (the third is) the person who employs a servant
and receives fully the labour due from him, but does not pay his wages."
(Holy Prophet in Bukhari.)

Ans, a companion of the Holy Prophet, related:
"I served the Holy Prophet for ten years, and he never said to me,
`fie', nor did he ever say `Why have you done this', or `Why have you
not done that'." (Report in Bukhari.)

"There is no animal in the earth, nor a bird flying on its two wings,
but they are communities like yourselves (O people)." (6:38)

Someone asked the Holy Prophet, "Is there a reward for us (from Allah)
for doing good to beasts?" He replied:
"In every animal having a liver fresh with life there is a reward."
(Holy Prophet in Mishkat.)

"Be careful of your duty to Allah in the matter of dumb animals; ride
them while they are in a fit condition, and eat them while they are in a
fit condition." (Holy Prophet in Abu Dawud.)

"Whoever tills a field, and birds and beasts eat from it, it is an act
of charity." (Holy Prophet in Musnad of Ahmad.)

Regarding electing and appointing people to positions of authority, the
Quran says:
"Allah commands you to make over trusts (or positions of trust and
authority) to those worthy of them." (4:58)

Some other principles are as follows:

"Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority from among
you; then if you quarrel about anything (with your authorities) refer it
to Allah and the Messenger" (4:59), i.e. settle the disagreement by
means of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet's example.
"Obedience (of authority) is due only in good matters", i.e., orders to
do wrong must not be obeyed. (Holy Prophet in Bukhari.)

The first head of state of the Muslims after the Holy Prophet, the
famous Hazrat Abu Bakr, said in a speech after his election:

"Help me if I am in the right. Correct me if I am in the wrong. Obey me
as long as I obey Allah and His Messenger; in case I disobey Allah and
His Messenger, I have no right to obedience from you."

"The most excellent jihad is to speak the truth in the face of an unjust
ruler." (Holy Prophet in Mishkat.)

"Hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited.
And remember Allah's favour to you when you were enemies, then He united
your hearts, so by His favour you became brethren." (3:103)

"The believers are brethren, so make peace between your brethren . . .
Do not find fault with your own people, nor call one another by (bad)
nick­names." (49:10-12)

"Help one another in good and righteous works, and do not help one
another in sin and aggression." (5:2)

"Do not hate one another and do not be jealous of one another and do not
boycott one another, and be servants of Allah, as brothers; and it is
not lawful for a Muslim to sever his relations with his brother for more
than three days." (Holy Prophet in Bukhari.)

"You will see the believers in their having mercy for one another, and
in their love for one another, and in their kindness towards one
another, like the human body: when one limb is ailing, the whole body
feels it, one part calling out the other with sleeplessness and fever."
(Holy Prophet in Bukhari.)

"None of you has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for
himself." (Holy Prophet in Bukhari.)
Those who abuse Muslims:

"Bear patiently what they (abusers) say." (20:130)

"Disregard their annoying talk." (33:48)
"When you hear Allah's messages disbelieved in and mocked at, sit not
with them until they enter into some other talk." (4:140)

"And if you invite them to guidance, they hear not; and you see them
looking towards you, yet they see not. Take to forgiveness and enjoin
good and turn away from the ignorant." (7:198-199)

"The Messenger of Allah and his Companions used to forgive the idolaters
and the followers of the book (Jews and Christians), as Allah had
commanded them, and they used to show patience on hearing hurtful
words." (Report in Bukhari.)

"Repel evil with what is best, when lo! he between whom and you there is
enmity will be like a warm friend." (41:34)

"Many of the people of the book wish that they could turn you back into
disbelievers after you have believed, out of envy from themselves. . ..
But pardon and forgive." (2:109)

"And you will always find treachery in them, except a few of them. So
pardon them and forgive. Surely Allah loves those who do good to
others." (5:13)

"Allah does not forbid you concerning those people who do not fight you
because of your religion, nor expel you from your homes, that you show
them kindness and deal with them justly.. . . Allah forbids you only
concerning those people who fight you for your religion, and drive you
from your homes and help others to expel you, that you make friends of
them." (60: 8,9)

"Whatever good they (people of other religions) do, they will not be
denied it (by Allah), and Allah knows who the righteous are." (3:115)

"O you who believe, be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with
justice; and do not let the hatred of a people incite you not to act
with justice. Be just; that is nearer to observance of duty." (5:8)

"Call (others) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly
exhortation, and argue with them in the best manner." (16:125)

"Argue not with the people of the Book (Jews, Christians, and other
people having scriptures) except by the best (means), save those of them
who act unjustly. But say: We believe in that which has been revealed to
us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him we
submit." (29:46)

A companion of the Holy Prophet relates:
"A funeral procession passed by the Holy Prophet, and he stood up for
it. People said to him: It was the funeral of a Jew. He said: Was it not
a human life?" (Report in Bukhari.)
Mankind in general:

"Mankind is a single nation." (2:213)

"O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you
into races and families so that you may know each other. The most
honoured of you in Allah's sight are those who best keep their duty."

"We (Allah) have not sent you (O Muhammad) except as a mercy to the
nations." (21:107)

"Speak good words to all people." (2:83)
"Allah commands you that . . . when you judge between people (i.e., of
any race, religion, family, class, etc.), you judge with justice."

Islam's manifesto of Universal brotherhood of human beings

by Abdul Malik Mujahid

>From the Quran

"O Mankind, We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous of you" (Quran 49:13).

Explanation: There are several principles, which this verse presents:
This message is not just for Muslims only because God is addressing all of humanity. While Muslims are one brotherhood, this is part of a larger brotherhood of humanity.
God is telling us that He has created us. Therefore He knows the best about us.
He says that He created us from one man and one woman meaning then that we are all the same.
It also means that all human beings are created through the same process, not in a manner in which some are created with a better mechanism than others.
God is the One who made human beings into different groups and people.
These differences are not wrong, rather a sign from God ("And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors. Verily, in that are indeed signs for those who know" [Quran 30:22]).
Note that no word equivalent to race is used in this ayah or any other verse of the Quran.
Islam, however, limits the purpose of these distinctions to differentiation and knowing each other. This is not meant to be a source of beating each other down with an attitude of ¡my group is better than your group' or false pride as is the case with tribalism, nationalism, colonialism, and racism.
The only source of preference or greatness among human beings is not on a national or group level, but it is at the individual level.
One individual who is (higher in Taqwa), more conscious of his Creator and is staying away from the bad and doing the good is better, no matter what nation, country or caste he is part of. Individual piety is the only thing that makes a person better and greater than the other one.
However, the only criterion of preference, Taqwa, is not measurable by human beings. Indeed God is the One Who knows and is aware of everything so we should leave even this criterion to God to decide instead of human beings judging each other.
These are the deeply embedded ideals of Islam which still bring people to this way of life even though Muslims are not on the best level of Iman today. This is what changed the heart of a racist Malcolm X when he performed Hajj in Makkah. This is the power that brought Muhammad Ali to Islam. This is what still attracts the Untouchables of India towards Islam. This is the theory which convinced noted historian Professor A.J. Toynbee in 1948 to say that: "The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue."
Let's ask ourselves if the Muslim Ummah today, in its individual and collective behavior is striving to adopt and promote these Islamic ideals?

>From the Sunnah
1. Prophet's response to racist comments:
A man once visited the Prophet's mosque in Madinah. There he saw a group of people sitting and discussing their faith together. Among them were Salman (who came from Persia), Suhayb who grew up in the Eastern Roman empire and was regarded as a Greek, and Bilal who was an African. The man then said:
"If the (Madinan) tribes of Aws and Khazraj support Muhammad, they are his people (that is, Arabs like him). But what are these people doing here?"
The Prophet became very angry when this was reported to him. Straightaway, he went to the mosque and summoned people to a Salat. He then addressed them saying:
"O people, know that the Lord and Sustainer is One. Your ancestor is one, your faith is one. The Arabism of anyone of you is not from your mother or father. It is no more than a tongue (language). Whoever speaks Arabic is an Arab." (As quoted in Islam The Natural Way by Abdul Wahid Hamid p. 125)

2. Statement of the universal brotherhood in the last Sermon:
O people, Remember that your Lord is One. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a black has no superiority over white, nor a white has any superiority over black, except by piety and good action (Taqwa). Indeed the best among you is the one with the best character (Taqwa). Listen to me. Did I convey this to you properly? People responded, Yes. O messenger of God, The Prophet then said, then each one of you who is there must convey this to everyone not present. (Excerpt from the Prophet's Last Sermon as in Baihiqi)

3. Don't take pride in ancestry:
The Prophet said: Let people stop boasting about their ancestors. One is only a pious believer or a miserable sinner. All men are sons of Adam, and Adam came from dust (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi).

4. Looking down upon other people will stop you from entering the Jannah:
The Prophet said: Whoever has pride in his heart equal to the weight of an atom shall not enter Paradise. A man inquired about a person who likes to wear beautiful clothes and fine shoes, and he answered: God is beautiful and likes beauty. Then he explained pride means rejecting the truth because of self-esteem and looking down on other people (Muslim).

5. The Prophet condemnation of Arab racial pride:
There are many hadith, which repeatedly strike on the Arab pride of jahiliyyah. Arabs before Islam used to look down upon others specially blacks. The Prophet repeatedly contrasted the believing Africans versus non-believing Arab nobles.
The Prophet said: You should listen to and obey your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian slave whose head looked like a raisin (Bukhari).

Other articles on Islam & Racism

.... And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto Allah ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ....

To love someone for the sake of Allah

To love someone for the sake of Allah is a grand act for which much
merit and many rewards have been promised.

"To love for the sake of Allah" means loving someone, not for worldly
gain, but because he/she is more religious and pious or busy in serving
Muslims and Islam, or because loving him or her is commanded by Allah;
like loving parents.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

"Allah shall ask on the Day of Judgment; ' Where are those who loved for
the sake of my greatness? Today when there is no shade, I shall have
them in my shade.'" [Sahih Muslim]

Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an:

"The Believers are but a single brotherhood."[49:10]

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

"There are three things, that whoever attains, will find the
sweetness of faith: If Allah and his messenger are dearer to him than
anyone else; if he loves a person solely for the sake of Allah; and if
he would hate to return to disbelief (kufr) after Allah has rescued him
from it, as much as he would hate to be thrown into fire."[Agreed upon]

Having love for Allah's pious and good bondsmen is actually an outcome
of one's love for Allah, so it earns the same rewards and merits as the

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was asked:

"When shall come the Day of Judgment?" Our Prophet (pbuh) asked him :
"What preparation have you made for the Day?" The man said,
"Nothing, but I have love for Allah and for his messenger." The Prophet
(pbuh) said: "You shall be (on that Day) with whom you love."

The above saying (hadith) has been quoted by Anas. He said that these
words of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) pleased us as nothing had ever
done. He added: "I have great love for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) - may
he be eternally blessed - and with Abu Bakr and Umar, may Allah be
pleased with them, and because of this love, I shall be in their
company, even though my deeds are not equal to theirs." [Sahih Bukhari]

Allah has commanded Muslims to love one another, to take one another as
friends and brothers and care and help each other, Allah (swt) says in
the Qur'an:

(And hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not
disunited, and remember the favor of Allah on you when you were enemies,
then He united your hearts so by His favor you became brethren; and you
were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it, thus does
Allah make clear to you His communications that you may follow the right

Our love for each other for the sake of Allah implies a willingness to
sacrifice our needs for the sake of our fellow Muslims' needs in a
manner that far outweighs normal sacrifice for the sake of friendship.
This pure love is crucial to maintaining Muslims' faith, if Muslims
don't have strong relations with each other, their faith will
automatically decrease.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said:

"The relationship between believers is like a wall, parts of which
support other parts."[Muslim]

The concept of love for the sake of Allah doesn't recognize nor
permit "friendship" between men and women that is outside of
marriage and familial bonds. However, Muslims wives and husbands shouldl
love each other for the sake of Allah, their children will love them and
love each other for the sake of Allah. This will sure result in strong
family relations and a healthy Muslim community.

A Muslim should not forsake or abandon his brother, Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) said:

"There should be no breaking off of ties, no turning away from one
another, no hating one another. Be brothers, as Allah has commanded

Also Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advised Muslims to show their love for one
another, he said:

"If a man loves his brother in faith, he should tell him that he
loves him."[Abu Dawud]

There are so many sayings of our Prophet (pbuh) showing that having love
for someone for the sake of Allah is an act of great merit, which grants
one the opportunity of doing good in this world and being in exalted
company in the Hereafter.

Hence, one should love good people for the sake of Allah and with the
intent of becoming good oneself and earning Allah's pleasure.

Prophet's Love and Tolerance for Mankind

Dr. Farida Khanam

The Prophet Muhammad is introduced in the Qur’an in these words:

And We have not sent you forth but as a mercy to mankind (21:107).

This shows that his distinctive quality was that he was a blessing incarnate in word and deed.

According to a tradition recorded in the Sahih of Imam Muslim, when his opponents greatly increased their persecution, his Companions asked him to curse them. At this the Prophet replied, "I have not been sent to lay a curse upon men but to be a blessing to them." His opponents continued to treat him and his Companions with injustice and cruelty, but he always prayed for them.

Once he was so badly stoned by his enemies that the blood began to spurt from all over his body. This happened when he went to Ta’if, where the Hijaz aristocracy used to while away their summer days. When he attempted to call them to Islam, instead of listening to his words of wisdom, they set the street urchins upon him, who kept chasing him till nightfall. Even at that point, when he was utterly exhausted and bleeding from head to foot, all he said was: "O my Lord, guide my people along the true path as they are ignorant of the truth."

His heart was filled with intense love for all human kind irrespective of caste, creed, or color. Once he advised his companions to regard all people as their brothers and sisters. He added: "You are all Adam’s offspring and Adam was born of clay."

All this tells us what kind of awareness he wanted to bring about in man. His mission was to bring people abreast of the reality that all men and women, although inhabiting different regions of the world, and seemingly different from one another as regards their color, language, dress, culture, etc., were each other’s blood brothers. Hence a proper relationship will be established between all human beings only if they regard one another as sisters and brothers. Only then will proper feelings of love and respect prevail throughout the world.

According to a hadith (sayings of the Prophet), the Prophet once said, "A true believer is one with whom others feel secure. One who returns love for hatred." The Prophet made it clear that one who would only return love for love was on a lower ethical plane. We should never think it is only if people treat us well, that we should treat them well. We should rather be accustomed to being good to those who are not good to us and to not wronging those who harm us.

The Prophet once borrowed some money from a Jew. After a few days the Jew came to demand payment of his debt. The Prophet told him that at that moment he had nothing to pay him with. The Jew said that he won’t let him go until he had paid him back. And so the Jew stayed there, from morning till night, holding the Prophet captive. At that time the Prophet was the established ruler of Medina and could have easily taken action against him. His Companions naturally wanted to rebuke the man and chase him away. But the Prophet forbade this, saying, "The Lord has forbidden us to wrong anyone." The Jew continued to hold the Prophet captive until the following morning. But with the first light of dawn, the Jew was moved by the Prophet’s tolerance, and he thereupon embraced Islam. In spite of being a rich man, he had detained the Prophet the day before on account of a few pence. But now the Prophet’s noble conduct had had such an impact on him that he was willing to give all his wealth to the Prophet, saying, "Spend it as you please."

According to another hadith, the Prophet once said: "By God, he is not a believer, by God, he is not a believer; by God, he is not a believer, with whom his neighbors are not secure." This hadith shows how much he loved and cared for all human beings. One of the lessons he taught was that we should live among others like flowers, and not like thorns, without giving trouble to anybody.

In another hadith the Prophet said: "If a believer is not able to benefit others, he must at least do them no harm." This shows that to the Prophet the man who becomes useful to others leads his life on a higher plane. But if he fails to do so, he should at least create no trouble for his fellow men. For a man to be a really good servant of God, he must live in this world as a no-problem person. There is no third option.

The Prophet’s own example is testified to by Anas ibn Malik who served the Prophet for ten years. He says that the Prophet never ever rebuked him. "When I did something, he never questioned my manner of doing it; and when I did not do something, he never questioned my failure to do it. He was the most good-natured of all men." Such conduct gained him the respect even of his enemies and his followers stood by him through all kinds of hardship and misfortune. He applied the principles on which his own life was based in equal measure to those who followed his path and to those who had harmed or discountenanced him.I

In the present world, everyone’s thinking, tastes, aptitude, likes and dislikes can never exactly coincide. For many reasons, differences do arise in this world. But then, what is the permanent solution to the problem? The solution lies in tolerance, called i‘raz in Arabic. The Prophet’s entire life served as a perfect example of this principle. According to his wife, ‘A’isha, "He was a personification of the Qur’an."

That is to say, the Prophet molded his own life in accordance with the ideal pattern of life which he presented to others in the form of the Qur’an. He never beat a servant, or a woman, or anyone else. He did, of course, fight for what was right. Yet, when he had to choose between two alternatives, he would take the easier course, provided it involved no sin.’ No one was more careful to avoid sin than he. He never sought revenge—on his own behalf—for any wrong done to him personally. Only if God’s commandments had been broken would he mete out retribution for the sake of God. It was such conduct which gained the Prophet universal respect.

In the early Meccan period when the antagonists far exceeded the Prophet’s companions in number, it often happened that when the Prophet would stand to pray, his detractors would come near him and whistle and clap in order to disturb him, but the Prophet did not even once show his anger at such acts. He always opted for the policy of tolerance and avoidance of confrontation.

When the Prophet migrated to Medina he built the first mosque known as Masjid al-Nabi (Mosque of the Prophet), considered to be the second most sacred mosque in Islam.

One day the Prophet was sitting in the mosque along with his companions. A Bedouin entered the mosque and started urinating. The Companions rushed to catch him and give him a good beating. But the Prophet did not allow them to do so. After the Bedouin had urinated, he asked his companions to bring a bucket of water and wash the place. Afterwards the Prophet called the man and with gentleness and affection explained to him that this was a place of worship and that it should be kept clean.

When the opposition became very strong the Prophet left Mecca for Medina. But his antagonists did not leave him in peace. They began to attack Medina. In this way a state of war prevailed between the Muslims and non-Muslims.

Since the Prophet avoided war at all costs, he strove to bring about a peace agreement between him and the Meccans. After great efforts on his part, the non-Muslims agreed to the finalizing of a 10-year peace treaty, which was drafted and signed at the al-Hudaybiyyah.

While the al-Hudaybiyyah treaty was being drafted, the Meccans indulged in a number of extremely provocative acts. For instance, the agreement mentioned the Prophet’s name as ‘Muhammad the Messenger of God.’ They insisted that the phrase ‘the messenger of God’ should be taken out, and be replaced simply by ‘Muhammad, son of Abdullah’. The Prophet accepted their unreasonable condition and deleted the appellation with his own hands. Similarly, they made the condition that if they could lay their hands on any Muslim they would make him a hostage, but if the Muslims succeeded in detaining any non-Muslim, they would have to set him free. The Prophet even relented on this point. For the restoration of peace in the region, the Prophet accepted a number of such unjustifiable clauses as were added by the enemy. In this way he set the example of peace and tolerance being linked with one another. If we desire peace, we must tolerate many unpleasant things from others. There is no other way to establish peace in society.

Once the Prophet was seated at some place in Medina, along with his companions. During this time a funeral (procession) passed by. On seeing this the Prophet stood up. Seeing the Prophet stand, up, one of his Companion remarked that the funeral was that of a Jew, that is, a non-Muslim. The Prophet replied, ‘Was he not a human being?’

This incident illustrates how an atmosphere of mutual love and compassion can be brought about in the world only when we consciously rise above all insidious demarcation of caste, color and creed. Just as the Prophet did, we too must look at all men as human beings who deserve to be respected at all events.

The Age of the Caliphs

The Rightly-Guided Caliphs Meaning of the Word 'Caliph' The word 'Caliph' is the English form of the Arabic word 'Khalifa,' which is short for Khalifatu Rasulil-lah. The latter expression means Successor to the Messenger of God, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him). The title 'Khalifatu Rasulil-lah'. was first used for Abu Bakr, who was elected head of the Muslim community after the death of the Prophet. The Significance of the Caliphate The mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), like that of the earlier messengers of God, was to call people to the worship of and submission to the One True God. In practice, submission to God means to obey His injunctions as given in the Holy Qur'an and as exemplified by Sunnah (the practice of the Prophet). As successor to the Prophet, the Caliph was the head of the Muslim community and his primary responsibility was to continue in the path of the Prophet. Since religion was perfected and the door of Divine
revelation was closed at the death of the Prophet, the Caliph was to make all laws in accordance with the Qur'an and the Sunnah. He was a ruler over Muslims but not their sovereign since sovereignty belongs to God alone. He was to be obeyed as long as he obeyed God. He was responsible for creating and maintaining conditions under which it would be easy for Muslims to live according to Islamic principles, and to see that justice was done to all. Abu Bakr, at the time he accepted the caliphate, stated his position thus: "The weak among you shall be strong with me until their rights have been vindicated; and the strong among you shall he weak with me until, if the Lord wills, I have taken what is due from them... Obey me as long as I obey God and His Messenger. When I disobey Him and His Prophet, then obey me not." The Rightly-Guided Caliphs (Al-Khulafa-ur-Rashidun) Those Caliphs who truly followed in the Prophet's foot steps are called 'The Rightly-Guided Caliphs'
(Al-Khulafa-ur Rashidun in Arabic). They are the first four Caliphs: Abu Bakr, 'Umar, Uthman and Ali. All four were among thc earliest and closest Companions of the Prophet (peace be on him). They lived simple and righteous lives and strove hard for the religion of God. Their justice was impartial, their treatment of others was kind and merciful, and they were one with the people - the first among equals. After these four, the later Caliphs assumed the manners of kings and emperors and the true spirit of equality of ruler and ruled diminished to a considerable extent in the political life of Muslims. It should be clearly understood that the mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him), and hence that of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, was not political, social or economic reform, although such reforms were a logical consequence of the success of this mission, nor the unity of a nation and the establishment of an empire, although the nation did unite and vast areas came
under one administration, nor the spread of a civilization or culture, although many civilizations and cultures developed, but only to deliver the message of God to all the peoples of the world and to invite them to submit to Him, while being the foremost among those who submitted. What About the Present? The primary responsibility of an Islamic government is still the same as it was in the days of the early Caliphs: to make all laws in accordance with the Qur'an and the Sunnah, to make positive efforts to create and maintain conditions under which it will be possible and easy for Muslims to live an Islamic life, to secure impartial and speedy justice for all, and to strive hard in the path of God. Any government which is committed to such a policy is truly following the message delivered by the Prophet (peace be on him). The First Caliph, Abu Bakr (632-634 A.C.) "If I were to take a friend other than my Lord, I would take Abu Bakr as a friend." (Hadith)
Election to the Caliphate The Prophet's closest Companion, Abu Bakr, was not present when the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) breathed his last in the apartment of his beloved wife of later years, Aisha, Abu Bakr's daughter. When he came to know of the Prophet's passing, Abu Bakr hurried to the house of sorrow. "How blessed was your life and how beatific is your death," he whispered as he kissed the cheek of his beloved friend and master who now was no more. When Abu Bakr came out of the Prophet's apartment and broke the news, disbelief and dismay gripped the community of Muslims in Medina. Muhammad (peace be on him) had been the leader, the guide and the bearer of Divine revelation through whom they had been brought from idolatry and barbarism into the way of God. How could he die? Even Umar, one of the bravest and strongest of the Prophet's Companions, lost his composure and drew his sword and threatened to kill anyone who said that the Prophet was dead. Abu
Bakr gently pushed him aside, ascended the steps of the lectern in the mosque and addressed the people, saying "O people, verily whoever worshipped Muhammad, behold! Muhammad is indeed dead. But whoever worships God, behold! God is alive and will never die." And then he concluded with a verse from the Qur'an: "And Muhammad is but a Messenger. Many Messengers have gone before him; if then he dies or is killed, will you turn back upon your heels?" [3:144] On hearing these words, the people were consoled. Despondency gave place to confidence and tranquility. This critical moment had passed. But the Muslim community was now faced with an extremely serious problem: that of choosing a leader. After some discussion among the Companions of the Prophet who had assembled in order to select a leader, it became apparent that no one was better suited for this responsibility than Abu Bakr. A portion of the speech the First Caliph gave after his election has already been
quoted in the introduction. Abu Bakr's Life Abu Bakr ('The Owner of Camels') was not his real name. He acquired this name later in life because of his great interest in raising camels. His real name was Abdul Ka'aba ('Slave of Ka'aba'), which Muhammad (peace be on him) later changed to Abdullah ('Slave of God'). The Prophet also gave him the title of 'Siddiq' - 'The Testifier to the Truth.' Abu Bakr was a fairly wealthy merchant, and before he embraced Islam, was a respected citizen of Mecca. He was three years younger than Muhammad (peace be on him) and some natural affinity drew them together from earliest child hood. He remained the closest Companion of the Prophet all through the Prophet's life. When Muhammad first invited his closest friends and relatives to Islam, Abu Bakr was among the earliest to accept it. He also persuaded Uthman and Bilal to accept Islam. In the early days of the Prophet's mission, when the handful of Muslims were subjected to relentless
persecution and torture, Abu Bakr bore his full share of hardship. Finally when God's permission came to emigrate from Mecca, he was the one chosen by the Prophet to accompany him on the dangerous journey to Medina. In the numerous battles which took place during the life of the Prophet, Abu Bakr was always by his side. Once, he brought all his belongings to the Prophet, who was raising money for the defense of Medina. The Prophet asked "Abu Bakr, what did you leave for your family?" The reply came: "God and His Prophet." Even before Islam, Abu Bakr was known to be a man of upright character and amiable and compassionate nature. All through his life he was sensitive to human suffering and kind to the poor and helpless. Even though he was wealthy, he lived very simply and spent his money for charity, for freeing slaves and for the cause of Islam. He often spent part of the night in supplication and prayer. He shared with his family a cheerful and affectionate home life.
Abu-Bakr's Caliphate Such, then, was the man upon whom the burden of leadership fell at the most sensitive period in the history of the Muslims. As the news of the Prophet's death spread, a number of tribes rebelled and refused to pay Zakat (poor-due), saying that this was due only to the Prophet (peace be on him). At the same time a number of impostors claimed that the prophethood had passed to them after Muhammad and they raised the standard of revolt. To add to all this, two powerful empires, the Eastern Roman and the Persian, also threatened the new-born Islamic state at Medina. Under these circumstances, many Companions of the Prophet, including Umar, advised Abu Bakr to make concessions to the Zakat evaders, at least for a time. The new Caliph disagreed. He insisted that the Divine Law cannot be divided, that there is no distinction between the obligations of Zakat and Salat (prayer), and that any compromise with the injunctions of God would eventually erode
the foundations of Islam. Umar and others were quick to realize their error of judgment. The revolting tribes attacked Medina but the Muslims were prepared. Abu Bakr himself led the charge, forcing them to retreat. He then made a relentless war on the false claimants to prophethood, most of whom submitted and again professed lslam. The threat from the Roman Empire had actually arisen earlier, during the Prophet's lifetime. The Prophet had organized an army under the command of Usama, the son of a freed slave. The army had not gone far when the Prophet had fallen ill so they stopped. After the death of the Prophet the question was raised whether the army should be sent again or should remain for the defence of Medina. Again Abu Bakr showed a firm determination. He said, "I shall send Usama's army on its way as ordered by the Prophet, even if I am left alone." The final instructions he gave to Usama prescribed a code of conduct in war which remains unsurpassed to this
day. Part of his instructions to the Muslim army were: "Do not be deserters, nor be guilty of disobedience. Do not kill an old man, a woman or a child. Do not injure date palms and do not cut down fruit trees. Do not slaughter any sheep or cows or camels except for food. You will encounter persons who spend their lives in monasteries. Leave them alone and do not molest them." Khalid bin Waleed had been chosen by the Prophet (peace be on him) on several occasions to lead Muslim armies. A man of supreme courage and a born leader, his military genius came to full flower during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr. Throughout Abu Bakr's reign Khalid led his troops from one victory to another against the attacking Romans. Another contribution of Abu Bakr to the cause of Islam was the collection and compilation of the verses of the Qur'an. Abu Bakr died on 21 Jamadi-al Akhir, 13 A.H. (23 August 634 A.C.), at the age of sixty-three, and was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet
(peace be on him). His caliphate had been of a mere twenty-seven months duration. In this brief span, however, Abu Bakr had managed, by the Grace of God, to strengthen and consolidate his community and the state, and to secure the Muslims against the perils which had threatened their existence. The Second Caliph, Umar (634-644 A.C.) "God has placed truth upon Umar's tongue and heart. (Hadith)"
'Umar's Life During his last illness Abu Bakr had conferred with his people, particularly the more eminent among them. After this meeting they chose 'Umar as his successor. 'Umar was born into a respected Quraish family thirteen years after the birth of Muhammad (peace be on him). Umar's family was known for its extensive knowledge of genealogy. When he grew up, 'Umar was proficient in this branch of knowledge as well as in swordsmanship, wrestling and the art of speaking. He also learned to read and write while still a child, a very rare thing in Mecca at that time. 'Umar earned his living as a merchant. His trade took him to many foreign lands and he met all kinds of people. This experience gave him an insight into the affairs and problems of men. 'Umar's personality was dynamic, self-assertive, frank and straight forward. He always spoke whatever was in his mind even if it displeased others. 'Umar was twenty-seven when the Prophet (peace be on him) proclaimed his
mission. The ideas Muhammad was preaching enraged him as much as they did the other notables of Mecca. He was just as bitter against anyone accepting Islam as others among the Quraish. When his slave-girl accepted Islam he beat her until he himself was exhausted and told her, "I have stopped because I am tired, not out of pity for you." The story of his embracing Islam is an interesting one. One day, full of anger against the Prophet, he drew his sword and set out to kill him. A friend met him on the way. When 'Umar told him what he planned to do, his friend informed him that 'Umar's own sister, Fatima, and her husband had also accepted Islam. 'Umar went straight to his sister's house where he found her reading from pages of the Qur'an. He fell upon her and beat her mercilessly. Bruised and bleeding, she told her brother, "Umar, you can do what you like, but you cannot turn our hearts away from Islam." These words produced a strange effect upon 'Umar. What was this faith
that made even weak women so strong of heart? He asked his sister to show him what she had been reading; he was at once moved to the core by the words of the Qur'an and immediately grasped their truth. He went straight to the house where the Prophet was staying and vowed allegiance to him. Umar made no secret of his acceptance of Islam. He gathered the Muslims and offered prayers at the Ka'aba. This boldness and devotion of an influential citizen of Mecca raised the morale of the small community of Muslims. Nonetheless 'Umar was also subjected to privations, and when permission for emigration to Medina came, he also left Mecca. The soundness of 'Umar's judgment, his devotion to the Prophet (peace be on him), his outspokenness and uprightness won for him a trust and confidence from the Prophet which was second only to that given to Abu Bakr. The Prophet gave him the title 'Farooq' which means the 'Separator of Truth from False hood.' During the Caliphate of Abu Bakr,
'Umar was his closest assistant and adviser. When Abu Bakr died, all the people of Medina swore allegiance to 'Umar, and on 23 Jamadi-al-Akhir, 13 A.H., he was proclaimed Caliph. 'Umar's Caliphate After taking charge of his office, 'Umar spoke to the Muslims of Medina:
"...O people, you have some rights on me which you can always claim. One of your rights is that if anyone of you comes to me with a claim, he should leave satisfied. Another of your rights is that you can demand that I take nothing unjustly from the revenues of the State. You can also demand that... I fortify your frontiers and do not put you into danger. It is also your right that if you go to battle I should look after your families as a father would while you are away. "O people, remain conscious of God, forgive me my faults and help me in my task. Assist me in enforcing what is good and forbidding what is evil. Advise me regarding the obligations that have been imposed upon me by God..." The most notable feature of 'Umar's caliphate was the vast expansion of Islam. Apart from Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Palestine and Iran also came under the protection of the Islamic government. But the greatness of 'Umar himself lies in the quality of his rule. He gave a practical meaning
to the Qur'anic injunction: "O you who believe, stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it concerns rich or poor, for God can best protect both." [4:135] Once a woman brought a claim against the Caliph 'Umar. When 'Umar appeared on trial before the judge, the judge stood up as a sign of respect toward him. 'Umar reprimanded him, saying, "This is the first act of injustice you did to this woman!" He insisted that his appointed governors live simple lives, keep no guard at their doors and be accessible to the people at all times, and he himself set the example for them. Many times foreign envoys and messengers sent to him by his generals found him resting under a palm tree or praying in the mosque among the people, and it was difficult for them to distinguish which man was the Caliph. He spent many a watchful night going about the streets of Medina to see whether anyone needed help or
assistance. The general social and moral tone of the Muslim society at that time is well-illustrated by the words of an Egyptian who was sent to spy on the Muslims during their Egyptian campaign. He reported: "I have seen a people, every one of whom loves death more than he loves life. They cultivate humility rather than pride. None is given to material ambitions. Their mode of living is simple... Their commander is their equal. They make no distinction between superior and inferior, between master and slave. When the time of prayer approaches, none remains behind..." 'Umar gave his government an administrative structure. Departments of treasury, army and public revenues were established. Regular salaries were set up for soldiers. A popuation census was held. Elaborate land surveys were conducted to assess equitable taxes. New cities were founded. The areas which came under his rule were divided into provinces and governors were appointed. New roads were laid, canals
were lug and wayside hotels were built. Provision was made for he support of the poor and the needy from public funds. He defined, by precept and by example, the rights and privileges of non-Muslims, an example of which is the following contract with the Christians of Jerusalem: "This is the protection which the servant of God, 'Umar, the Ruler of the Believers has granted to the people of Eiliya [Jerusalem]. The protection is for their lives and properties, their churches and crosses, their sick and healthy and for all their coreligionists. Their churches shall not be used for habitation, nor shall they be demolished, nor shall any injury be done to them or to their compounds, or to their crosses, nor shall their properties be injured in any way. There shall be no compulsion for these people in the matter of religion, nor shall any of them suffer any injury on account of religion... Whatever is written herein is under the covenant of God and the responsibility of His
Messenger, of the Caliphs and of the believers, and shall hold good as long as they pay Jizya [the tax for their defense] imposed on them." Those non-Muslims who took part in defense together with the Muslims were exempted from paying Jizya, and when the Muslims had to retreat from a city whose non-Muslim citizens had paid this tax for their defense, the tax was returned to the non-Muslims. The old, the poor and the disabled of Muslims and non-Muslims alike were provided for from the public treasury and from the Zakat funds. 'Umar's Death In 23 A.H., when Umar returned to Medina from Hajj;, he raised his hands and prayed, "O God! I am advanced in years, my bones are weary, my powers are declining, and the people for whom I am responsible have spread far and wide. Summon me back to Thyself, my lord!" Some time later, when 'Umar went to the mosque to lead a prayer, a Magian named Abu Lulu Feroze, who had a grudge against 'Umar on a personal matter, attacked him with
a dagger and stabbed him several times. Umar reeled and fell to the ground. When he learned that the assassin was a Magian, he sid, "Thank God he is not a Muslim." 'Umar died in the first week of Muharram, 24 A.H., and was buried by the side of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). The Third Caliph, Uthman (644-656 A.C.) "Every Prophet has an assistant, and my assistant will be Uthman."(Hadith) Uthman's Election When 'Umar fell under the assassin's dagger, before he died the people asked him to nominate his successor. 'Umar appointed a committee consisting of six of the ten companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) about whom the Prophet had said, "They are the people of Heaven" - Ali, Uthman, Abdul Rahman, Sa'ad, Al-Zubayr and Talha - to select the next Caliph from among themselves. He also outlined the procedure to be followed if any differences of opinion should arise. Abdul Rahman withdrew his name. He was then authorized by the committee to nominate the
Caliph. After two days of discussion among the candidates and after the opinions of the Muslims in Medina had been ascertained, the choice was finally limited to Uthman and Ali. Abdul Rahman came to the mosque together with other Muslims, and after a brief speech and questioning of the two men, swore allegiance to Uthman. All those present did the same, and Uthman became the third Caliph of Islam in the month of Muharram, 24 A.H. Uthman's Life Uthman bin Affan was born seven years after the Holy Prophet (peace be on him). He belonged to the Omayyad branch of the Quraish tribe. He learned to read and write at an early age, and as a young man became a successful merchant. Even before Islam Uthman had been noted for his truthfulness and integrity. He and Abu Bakr were close friends, and it was Abu Bakr who brought him to Islam when he was thirty-four years of age. Some years later he married the Prophet's second daughter, Ruqayya. In spite of his wealth and position, his
relatives subjected him to torture because he had embraced Islam, and he was forced to emigrate to Abyssinia. Some time later he returned to Mecca but soon migrated to Medina with the other Muslims. In Medina his business again began to flourish and he regained his former prosperity. Uthman's generosity had no limits. On various occasions he spent a great portion of his wealth for the welfare of the Muslims, for charity and for equipping the Muslim armies. That is why he came to be known as 'Ghani' meaning 'Generous.' Uthman's wife, Ruqayya was seriously ill just before the Battle of Badr and he was excused by the Prophet (peace be on him) from participating in the battle. The illness Ruqayya proved fatal, leaving Uthman deeply grieved. The Prophet was moved and offered Uthman the hand of another of his daughters, Kulthum. Because he had the high privilege of having two daughters of the Prophet as wives Uthman was known as 'The Possessor of the Two Lights. ' Uthman
participated in the Battles of Uhud and the Trench. After the encounter of the Trench, the Prophet (peace be on him) determined to perform Hajj and sent Uthman as his emissary to the Quraish in Mecca, who detained him. The episode ended in a treaty with the Meccans known as the Treaty of Hudaibiya. The portrait we have of Uthman is of an unassuming, honest, mild, generous and very kindly man, noted especially for his modesty and his piety. He often spent part of the night in prayer, fasted every second or third day, performed hajj every year, and looked after the needy of the whole community. In spite of his wealth, he lived very simply and slept on bare sand in the courtyard of the Prophet's mosque. Uthman knew the Qur'an from memory and had an intimate knowledge of the context and circumstances relating to each verse. Uthman's Caliphate During Uthman's rule the characteristics of Abu Bakr's and Umar's caliphates - impartial justice for all, mild and humane
policies, striving in the path of God, and the expansion of Islam - continued. Uthman's realm extended in the west to Morocco, in the east to Afghanistan, and in the north to Armenia and Azerbaijan. During his caliphate a navy was organized, administrative divisions of the state were revised, and many public projects were expanded and completed. Uthman sent prominent Companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) as his personal deputies to various provinces to scrutinize the conduct of officials and the condition of the people. Uthman's most notable contribution to the religion of God was the compilation of a complete and authoritative text of the Qur'an. A large number of copies of this text were made and distributed all over the Muslim world. Uthman ruled for twelve years. The first six years were marked by internal peace and tranquility, but during the second half of his caliphate a rebellion arose. The Jews and the Magians, taking advantage of dissatisfaction among
the people, began conspiring against Uthman, and by publicly airing their complaints and grievances, gained so much sympathy that it became difficult to distinguish friend from foe. It may seem surprising that a ruler of such vast territories, whose armies were matchless, was unable to deal with these rebels. If Uthman had wished, the rebellion could have been crushed at the very moment it began. But he was reluctant to be the first to shed the blood of Muslims, however rebellious they might be. He preferred to reason with them, to persuade them with kindness and generosity. He well remembered hearing the Prophet (peace be on him) say, "Once the sword is unsheathed among my followers, it will not be sheathed until the Last Day." The rebels demanded that he abdicate and some of the Companions advised him to do so. He would gladly have followed this course of action, but again he was bound by a solemn pledge he had given to the Prophet. "Perhaps God will clothe you with
a shirt, Uthman" the Prophet had told him once, "and if the people want you to take it off, do not take it off for them." Uthman said to a well-wisher on a day when his house was surrounded by the rebels, "God's Messenger made a covenant with me and I shall show endurance in adhering to it." After a long siege, the rebels broke into Uthman's house and murdered him. When the first assassin's sword struck Uthman, he was reciting the verse, "Verily, God sufficeth thee; He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing" [2:137] Uthman breathed his last on the afternoon of Friday, 17 Dhul Hijja, 35 A.H. (June. (656 A.C.). He was eighty-four years old. The power of tHe rebels was so great that Uthman's body lay unburied until Saturday night when he was buried in his blood-stained clothes, the shroud which befits all martyrs in the cause of God. The Fourth Caliph, Ali (656-661 A.C.) "You [Ali] are my brother in this world and the next." (Hadith)
Ali's Election After Uthman's martyrdom, the office of the caliphate remained unfilled for two or three days. Many people insisted that Ali should take up the office, but he was embarrassed by the fact that the people who pressed him hardest were the rebels, and he therefore declined at first. When the notable Companions of the Prophet (peace be on him) urged him, however, he finally agreed.
Ali's Life Ali bin Abi Talib was the first cousin of the Prophet (peace be on him). More than that, he had grown up in the Prophet's own household, later married his youngest daughter, Fatima, and remained in closest association with him for nearly thirty years. Ali was ten years old when the Divine Message came to Muhammad (peace be on him). One night he saw the Prophet and his wife Khadijah bowing and prostrating. He asked the Prophet about the meaning of their actions. The Prophet told him that they were praying to God Most High and that Ali too should accept Islam. Ali said that he would first like to ask his father about it. He spent a sleepless night, and in the morning he went to the Prophet and said, "When God created me He did not consult my father, so why should I consult my father in order to serve God?" and he accepted the truth of Muhammad's message. When the Divine command came, "And warn thy nearest relatives" [26:214], Muhammad (peace be on him)
invited his relatives for a meal. After it was finished, he addressed them and asked, "Who will join me in the cause of God?" There was utter silence for a while, and then Ali stood up. "I am the youngest of all present here," he said, "My eyes trouble me because they are sore and my legs are thin and weak, but I shall join you and help you in whatever way I can." The assembly broke up in derisive laughter. But during the difficult wars in Mecca, Ali stood by these words and faced all the hardships to which the Muslims were subjected. He slept in the bed of the Prophet when the Quraish planned to murder Muhammad. It was he to whom the Prophet entrusted, when he left Mecca, the valuables which had been given to him for safekeeping, to be returned to their owners. Apart from the expedition of Tabuk, Ali fought in all the early battles of Islam with great distinction, particularly in the expedition of Khaybar. It is said that in the Battle of Uhud he received more than
sixteen wounds. The Prophet (peace be on him) loved Ali dearly and called him by many fond names. Once the Prophet found him sleeping in the dust. He brushed off Ali's clothes and said fondly, "Wake up, Abu Turab (Father of Dust)." The Prophet also gave him the title of 'Asadullah' ('Lion of God'). Ali's humility, austerity, piety, deep knowledge of the Qur'an and his sagacity gave him great distinction among the Prophet's Companions. Abu Bakr, 'Umar and Uthman consulted him frequently during their caliphates. Many times 'Umar had made him his vice-regent at Medina when he was away. Ali was also a great scholar of Arabic literature and pioneered in the field of grammar and rhetoric. His speeches, sermons and letters served for generations afterward as models of literary expression. Many of his wise and epigrammatic sayings have been preserved. Ali thus had a rich and versatile personality. In spite of these attainments he remained a modest and humble man. Once during
his caliphate when he was going about the marketplace, a man stood up in respect and followed him. "Do not do it," said Ali. "Such manners are a temptation for a ruler and a disgrace for the ruled." Ali and his household lived extremely simple and austere lives. Sometimes they even went hungry themselves because of Ali's great generosity, and none who asked for help was ever turned away from his door. His plain, austere style of living did not change even when he was ruler over a vast domain. Ali's Caliphate As mentioned previously, Ali accepted the caliphate very reluctantly. Uthman's murder and the events surrounding it were a symptom, and also became a cause, of civil strife on a large scale. Ali felt that the tragic situation was mainly due to inept governors. He therefore dismissed all the governors who had been appointed by Uthman and appointed new ones. All the governors excepting Muawiya, the governor of Syria, submitted to his orders. Muawiya declined to
obey until Uthman's blood was avenged. The Prophet's widow Aisha also took the position that Ali should first bring the murderers to trial. Due to the chaotic conditions during the last days of Uthman it was very difficult to establish the identity of the murderers, and Ali refused to punish anyone whose guilt was not lawfully proved. Thus a battle between the army of Ali and the supporters of Aisha took place. Aisha later realized her error of judgment and never forgave herself for it. The situation in Hijaz (thc part of Arabia in which Mecca and Medina are located) became so troubled that Ali moved his capital to Iraq. Muawiya now openly rebelled against Ali and a fierce battle was fought between their armies. This battle was inconclusive, and Ali had to accept the de facto government of Muawiya in Syria. However, even though the era of Ali's caliphate was marred by civil strife, he nevertheless introduced a number of reforms, particularly in the levying and
collecting of revenues. It was the fortieth year of Hijra. A fanatical group called Kharijites, consisting of people who had broken away from Ali due to his compromise with Muawiya, claimed that neither Ali, the Caliph, nor Muawiya, the ruler of Syria, nor Amr bin al-Aas, the ruler of Egypt, were worthy of rule. In fact, they went so far as to say that the true caliphate came to an end with 'Umar and that Muslims should live without any ruler over them except God. They vowed to kill all three rulers, and assassins were dispatched in three directions. The assassins who were deputed to kill Muawiya and Amr did not succeed and were captured and executed, but Ibn-e-Muljim, the assassin who was commissioned to kill Ali, accomplished his task. One morning when Ali was absorbed in prayer in a mosque, Ibn-e-Muljim stabbed him with a poisoned sword. On the 20th of Ramadan, 40 A.H., died the last of the Rightly Guided Caliphs of Islam. May God Most High be pleased with them and
grant to them His eternal reward. Conclusion With the death of Ali, the first and most notable phase in the history of Muslim peoples came to an end. All through this period it had been the Book of God and the practices of His Messenger - that is, thc Qur'an and the Sunnah - which had guided the leaders and the led, set the standards of their moral conduct and inspired their actions. It was the time when the ruler and the ruled, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, were uniformly subject to the Divine Law. It was an epoch of freedom and equality, of God-consciousness and humility, of social justice which recognized no privileges, and of an impartial law which accepted no pressure groups or vested interests. After Ali, Muawiya assumed the caliphate and thereafter the caliphate became hereditary, passing from one king to another.

.... And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto Allah ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ....
Allah Hafiz,
Ron Abdul Latif


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