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Curtailed haj compounds Saudi economic woes

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 30 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Anuj Chopra

Vacant religious sites. Abandoned pilgrim tents. Lifeless hotels. A stunning emptiness -- and fears of economic ruin -- haunt the usually bustling city of Mecca after Saudi authorities curtailed the haj pilgrimage over coronavirus.

Islam's holiest city usually hosts millions of pilgrims for the annual rite, but the kingdom has barred overseas visitors from this year's event, scheduled for late July.

The haj and the lesser umrah pilgrimage together rake in some $12 billion, keeping the economy humming in Mecca, home to two million people and marble-bedecked skyscrapers towering over Islam's most sacred sites.

A construction boom in recent years has added shopping malls, apartments and luxury hotels, some offering spectacular views of the sacred Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure in the Grand Mosque towards which Muslims around the world pray. 

But most premises have lain empty since the pandemic reached the kingdom.

The virus, which hit Mecca hard, has also battered pilgrimage-reliant businesses that support hundreds of thousands of jobs, from travel agents to street barbers and souvenir shops.

Many have reported sweeping layoffs, pay cuts or delayed salaries.

"Zero sales, zero income," said Ahmed Attia, a 39-year-old Egyptian who works for a travel agency in the city.

"We're not used to seeing Mecca empty. It feels like a dead city. It's devastating for Mecca."

A tsunami of cancellations has also battered overseas haj operators who organize travel logistics for pilgrims, many of whom invest their life savings in the five-day ritual.

Saudi authorities had already in March suspended the umrah pilgrimage, which can be performed at any time.

Then, in a hugely sensitive but long-awaited decision, they said they would only allow around 1,000 pilgrims already present in the kingdom to perform the haj.

That is a tiny fraction of the 2.5 million pilgrims who attended last year.

"It will be a symbolic event, a photo-op that allows the kingdom to say 'we didn't cancel the hajj as many expected'," said a South Asian official in contact with haj authorities.

Saudi Arabia has stressed that the watered-down haj will be open to people of various nationalities.

But the selection process for the few spots is expected to be hotly contested, as some Mecca residents expect to be given priority over outsiders.

"I have gone to haj before and hopefully this year, with God's will, I will be among the first pilgrims," said Marwan Abdulrahman, a Saudi living in Mecca.

Many feared the pilgrimage, which packs colossal crowds into small religious sites, could have been a massive source of contagion.

The novel coronavirus has hit the kingdom with the highest number of cases in the Gulf -- more than 178,000 confirmed infections including 1,511 deaths.

But scaling the pilgrimage back will deepen the kingdom's economic slump, analysts say.

The move follows a sharp downturn in oil prices and coronavirus-led losses, which triggered austerity measures including the tripling of a value added tax and cuts to civil servants' allowances.

The haj decision "does compound Saudi Arabia's economic difficulties", Richard Robinson, a Middle East analyst at Oxford Analytica, told AFP.

On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund warned the kingdom's GDP will shrink by 6.8 percent this year -- its worst performance since the 1980s oil glut.

The Saudi Binladen construction group, a bellwether known for vast mega-projects, has missed salary payments for thousands of workers in recent months, according to a source close to the company and employees complaining on social media.

The Arabic hashtag "Delays in Binladen salaries" has gained traction as the slowdown impacts the firm behind a series of critical projects, including a $15 billion skyscraper hotel complex that towers over Mecca's Grand Mosque.

The company is seeking to charter a number of private jets to send many of its laid-off South Asian labourers home, according to the source.

The company did not respond to a request for comment.

The downturn has also disrupted Riyadh's ambitious plans to build a tourism industry from scratch, a cornerstone of the Vision 2030 reform programme to reduce the kingdom's reliance on oil.

"The government has singled out tourism as a key area for growth under its diversification strategy, and the loss of haj revenues could set the sector back through lost investment or bankruptcies," said Robinson.

The kingdom began offering tourist visas for the first time last September in moves to open up one of the last frontiers of global tourism.

"While Saudis are looking to diversify tourism revenues beyond religious tourism, their efforts still build from the haj," said Kristin Diwan of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

"Not having it at this time of disruption in oil markets is a blow."

(Courtesy: AFP)

Send foreign Tablighi Jamaat members home, appeals Islamic Federation in Tamil Nadu

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 26 June 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: The Federation of Tamil Nadu Muslim organizations and political parties have vehemently appealed to the state government for release 129 foreign Tabligi Jamat (TJ) members lodged in Puzhal Central Prison complex here.

The Tamil Nadu government has designated the Juvenile prison within Puzhal jail for the detention of 129 foreign TJ members who have violated Visa regulations.

These are 53 citizens from Indonesia, 17 from Malaysia, 14 from Bangladesh, 14 from Thailand, 13 from Myanmar, 8 from Ethiopia, 5 from France, 3 from Cameroon, 1 from Congo, 1 from Belgium.

Addressing an online press conference, the Islamic Federation has asked the Tamil Nadu government to drop all cases against the foreign TJ members and set them free from the illegal dentation and send them to their respective countries. 

The online press conference was addressed by the Islamic Federation's President and Jamathul Ulama Council President, Moulana P.A Haja Moinudeen Hazrath, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi President M.H.Jawahirullah, SDPI President Nellai Mubarak, Coordinators M Manzoor Khasifi, Alhaj M Basheer Ahmed and others.

There were 129 foreign TJ members including 12 women belonging to 9 different countries who were arrested by Tamil Nadu police from the various places of the state following the discovery of coronavirus linkage with TJ members and Nizamuddin Markaz world conference in New Delhi.

The Madras High Court and its subsidiary courts granted bail to 98 TJ members arrested in 12 cases. Similarly, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court granted bail to other 31 foreign TJ members.

All these foreign TJ members who were earlier put up at Saidapet sub jail but after being given bail, were shifted to Juvenile prison within the Puzhal Central jail complex.

This included 31 foreign TJ members who were arrested from the Southern districts of Tamil Nadu and their bail plea was heard by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court.

While granting bail to 31 TJ members on June 12, 2020, the Madurai Bench of Madras High court stated that it is not fair to detain them in the Special Camp within Puzhal Prison complex and the government should consider keeping them in any other good place.
The court further stated that “these people have served maximum sentences for violation of Visa rules and there is no proof that these people have spread Coronavirus. In such a situation, if the petitioners execute appropriate affidavits expressing their regret for having violated the visa conditions, proceedings against them shall be concluded by filing final reports recording the same,” the court said.

The Islamic Federation Based on the judgment of the Madurai Bench of Madras High court held a online press conference where it said; “It is contempt of the Judgment given by the Madurai Bench of Madras High court to illegally keep 31 foreign TJ members in Puzhal prison, whose case have been closed and have been acquitted and absolved of all cases against them.”

“Further, those 98 people including 8 women who have got bail from court but their cases are still not disposed of and are still kept in detention even more than 60 days of their arrests are illegal.”

The Islamic federation appealed to the state government to drop all pending cases against the remaining 98 foreign nationals and stop their illegal detention in Puzhal prison complex and house them in some better place.

A member of Islamic Federation and President Manithaneya Makkal Katchi, M H Jawahirullah pointed out that the central government has given clear guidelines about these special camps as to how they should function.

Frist, such a detention center should not be located within the prison complex which is not in this case. Second, the food for such detainees should be prepared in a separate Kitchen but in this case, foreign TJ members are served food meant for the prisoners of Puzhal Jail. Third, the guidelines say the detention place should have proper ventilation for air and sunlight but that’s not there in this detention center, M H Jawahirullah said.

He added; “the Juvenile prison within Puzhal jail can accommodate only 30 to 40 persons but there are 129 TJ members cramped in an inhuman condition in such detention center that too at the times Covid crisis is huge violation of social distancing norms begs human attention.”

The MMK leader demanded that Tamil Nadu government should house these foreign TJ members in a ‘near human’ conditions and suggested keeping them at Jamia Qasmiya Arabic College in Washermanpet locality, till they are sent to their respective countries.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com] 

Opinion: Has Coronavirus Changed the Veil Debate in Europe

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , , , , , , ,

Will Face-mask Modify the Veil Debate in Europe?

By Dr. Irfan Raja

Throughout the world, governments can easily sell and buy two slogans: “Public interest” and “For Your Safety”. And, exactly that is what European democracies are doing now for public safety against the Coronavirus. 

In a similar bid, the French President Macron Emmanuel introduced a Coronavirus safety face mask to French public as “National pride” because it is 100% made in France.   

Hang on a minute! Is not the same France that once banned face veil for only a handful of Muslim women including French reverts? But at that time in the best interest of French society, it was revealed to the public that Muslim women face veil is a “Symbol of oppression”, “Health risk” and a “Threat” and even it could be a “National shame” because it is outdated and misfit for a modern secular society. 

Fair enough! I do remember the day in 2006, I was a MA journalism student at the University of Leeds. Like many other students and academics, I was shocked to know that the British parliamentarian Jack Straw had provoked anger and outrage among the British Muslim community by saying that “Visible statement of separation and difference”, was actually one of the former students union presidents. 
I found that the University of Leeds, students banned him “in protest at what they said were his anti-libertarian policies”. 

Since then, never ending veil debate has started, people have written Ph.D. thesis and thousands of newspaper and journal articles, books, manuscripts, hold public discussions and debates, delivered lectures and made documentaries, films and produced teasing caricatures. 

More worryingly, European newspapers and broadcasters ran disgraceful campaigns to demonized Muslim veil wearing women 24/7 to an extent that countries including France banned it. 

My own research on veil shows how British Conservative and Liberal broadsheets and tabloids published a series of articles, editorials, features and comments pieces on the veil that made it a “national debate” bigger than Britain’s illegal wars and climate change. 

The press perceives the veil as a clash between Muslims and non-Muslims and presents it as a “terror threat”. Besides, several leading European parliamentarians have made it a regular habit to attack the veil that is an easy way of getting media publicity. 

Today, the veil is a talk of the town. Still, the majority of the people are confused and ill-informed on this subject.  Thomas Sealy raised an important question: “Is there a difference between the niqab and a face mask?” 

So what is that so special in a piece of cloth which makes it a “National pride”? Obviously, if it fits into government policy it’s a pride otherwise veil can be regarded as a “Shame” and “Outdated”. 

So if the veil is an outdated practice and a terror threat, then why France is driving the entire nation to adopt it? In the words of George Orwell, the veil is a perfect example of “Double Speak”. 

In France, it is prohibited for a Muslim women to cover the face but she will also be fined for not wearing a face mask -- Is it forcing a Muslim woman not to wear a veil is nothing less than a mental torture and abusive?.    

Pity though, how a piece of cloth fosters divisions in Coronavirus crisis? It is mainly because Muslims are easy targets as Richard Adams summed it: “Hijab ban attempt is ‘racism dressed up as liberalism”.  

When James McAuley, Washington Post, Paris correspondent posted an article, along a comment, “On the ironies of mask requirements in the country that brought you burka ban” via The Washington Post article: “France mandates masks to control the coronavirus. Burqas remain banned”.  

Within minutes, a thread @Washingtonpost started that turned Twitter into a battleground between supporters and opponents of veil wearing women. Everyone seems to be a scholar of Islam, a usual practice during Muslims related discussions and debates. But, how many Twitter warriors have read a chapter of the holy Qur’an An-Nisa to understand what exactly veil is?  

Veiled Women Image in British Press 

Mostly, the western media portrays veil wearing women as “oppressed” and “backward”. The conservative press support ban on veil while the liberal press suggests that women should be free to decide. 

But, is the West really concerned about oppressed women? Because many European countries have treated the veil wearing Muslim women as badly as the oppressed ones elsewhere.

That is banning Muslim women wearing burka and bracketing them as “letterboxes” and “bank-robbers”. These are thoughts of the British PM Boris Johnson, so what can you expect from others? 

Now compare French and Taliban views of Muslim women veil. Are they any different? Both did the same that is forced women to adopt their way of wearing, French banned veil wearing and the Taliban made it mandatory. 

Isn’t the politics of veil?  Because if the west truly value women freedom it should not force them to wear or not to wear but rather give women a choice. 

But it’s all politics, Katharine Viner equated, “Feminism as imperialism” and unknotted false claims of the western leaders, especially George W. Bush who “bombed Afghanistan to liberate women from burkas” then used the same logic to bomb Iraq because he did not bear the pain of Iraqi women in suffering. 

Viner raised a logical point that women sufferings are everywhere, so “To justify another war. Where next? China because of its anti-girl one-child policy? India because of widow-burning outrages? Britain because of its criminally low rape conviction rate?” 

Janine Rich disclosed the popular western discourse on Islam and Muslims as of the “Oppressed Muslim Women”. For decades, Western powers are successfully using it to legalize their attacks on Muslim countries. Too often, sections of the western media push the debates on Muslim women using “oppression” as fascination.

Rich argues that “The complex discourses surrounding women in the Islamic world have a long and deeply political history, and this narrative has been renewed and re-utilized numerous times to garner widespread public support for Western military intervention in the Middle East”. 

What the western media and polity missed to share with their public at home is that Muslim women's rights and duties are far more in order as described in al-Qur’an. Moreover, the Afghan women were allowed to vote long before the European women. 

Truth has always been there but the real issue is people don’t want it because sometimes it contradicts with their self-designed way of life.    

Perhaps, a best-concluded sentence would be that it is the apolitical weapon of Europe that shows nothing but “Double Standards”. One rule for a minority and the other rule for the elites. 

If the European democracy has reached to such lower level then Europe must rethink and revisit its ideas of human rights and personal freedoms. 

What is Still Misunderstood in Europe? 

Underneath the thread of French Macron argued that we Europeans are embracing face masks to save lives. Of course, any sensible person would agree with this argument, but what exactly is that Islam says about the veil? What does it require from a believer? What is the wisdom behind its teachings? What are their impacts and relevance to modern societies?   

Going back to Life-saving argument, remember that Islam talks about life after death that is everlasting and perpetual, so why would anyone risk an everlasting loss?  

Dr. Irfan Raja
They should disregard a modest practice only because a fraction of conservative Europeans don’t like it? Think if someone demands to ban drinking, smoking and drug use because it all kills and cost NHS £2.7 billion each year. Does veil cost anything to the NHS?

The irony is that we take what we like and leave what we don’t like. Think about Christianity, Judaism, and other religions that preach modesty- So why Europe is so worried about a Muslim woman only? After all, it is just a piece of cloth, isn’t it? 

[Dr. Irfan Raja is academic, analyst and activist based in the U.K., masters of arts in international journalism at the University of Leeds, holds a Ph.D. at the University of Huddersfield. He can be reached at irfan.journalist@gmail.com] 

(Courtesy: Daily Sabah)
 

विदेशी तब्लीगी जमाअत के लोगों की रिहाई के लिए इम्पार का गृह सचिव को पत्र

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , , ,

मद्रास हाई कोर्ट के आदेश के बाद आने वाली बाधा को गृह मंत्रालय से दूर करने की अपील 

नयी दिल्ली: इंसानी बुनियादों पर विदेशी तबलीगी जमात के लोगों को छोड़ने के लिए भारत सरकार के होम सेक्रेट्री अजय कुमार भल्ला को इंडियन मुस्लिम फॉर प्रोग्रेस एंड रिफॉर्म्स (IMPAR) की ओर से एक पत्र लिखा गया है, जिसमें करोना को लेकर भारत सरकार की कोशिशों की प्रशंसा करते हुए कहा गया है कि भारत सरकार ने अर्थव्यवस्था को बूस्ट करने के लिए जो कदम उठाए हैं वह सराहनीय हैं। साथ ही साथ इस पूरी महामारी में सरकार की ओर से जो कदम आम जनता के हितों की रक्षा में लिए उठाये जा रहे हैं इम्पार उसकी प्रशंसा करता है।  

पत्र में भारत सरकार के गृह सचिव का ध्यान आकर्षित करते हुए कहा गया है कि चेन्नई तमिलनाडु में फंसी 12 महिलाओं सहित 125 विदेशी तबलीगी जमात के लोगों की रिहाई को लेकर आप से अपील करते हैं। पत्र में कहा गया है कि माननीय न्यायालय द्वारा उनकी रिहाई का आदेश दिया गया है लेकिन राज्य के वरिष्ठ पुलिस और जेल अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि MHA ने इस दिशा में आदेश जारी कर रखा है। जब तक गृह मंत्रालय आदेश वापस नहीं लेता है तब तक यह संभव नहीं है। अहम बात यह है कि उन्होंने किसी भी वीजा की शर्तों का उल्लंघन नहीं किया है या किसी भी ऐसी गतिविधियों में लिप्त नहीं थे जो FIR में उल्लिखित हैं क्यों कि इन्हीं बिंदुओं पर एचसी ने संज्ञान लिया है। 
पत्र में कहा गया है कि अच्छी बात यह है कि देश के किसी भी राज्य में इस तरह का कोई सवाल उत्पन्न नहीं हुआ और तबलीगी जमात के लोगों को न्यायालय से न्याय मिलने के बाद उन्हें उनके देश भेज दिया गया लेकिन चेन्नई तमिलनाडु में जो परेशानी आ रही है उसको लेकर के इम्पार चिंतित है और सरकार से अपील करती है कि सरकार तत्काल प्रभाव से कार्यवाही कर के उनको न्याय दिलाये। इम्पार इस मामले को मानवीय आधार पर उठाते हुये राज्य के अधिकारियों को आवश्यक निर्देश जारी करने के लिए गृह मंत्रालय की ओर देख रहा है, क्योंकि कोविड-19 के अचानक प्रकोप में इनकी थोड़ी सी गलतियों की इनको बड़ी सजा मिल चुकी है। 

इम्पार ने कहा है कि यह बताना उचित होगा कि तब्लीगी जमात के लोग अपनी यात्रा के दौरान या मस्जिदों में रहने के दौरान, किसी भी उपदेशात्मक गतिविधियों में लिप्त नहीं थे, क्योंकि मामले की सुनवाई के दौरान ऐसी कोई रिपोर्ट प्रस्तुत नहीं की गई थी। किसी की धार्मिक, सांस्कृतिक प्रथाओं के अवलोकन की इस प्रक्रिया को उपदेश के रूप में नहीं माना जा सकता है और न ही उन्हें जारी किए गए वीजा की शर्तों के उल्लंघन का आरोपी बनाया जा सकता है। अहम बात यह है कि मद्रास के माननीय हाई कोर्ट ने व्यक्तिगत सुरक्षा बांड पर ही उनको राहत दी है।  

Health: Islam's injunction toward personal hygiene

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

By Summer R. Ahmad

Islam lays great emphasis on physical cleanliness; it goes so far as to say that our inner spiritual cleanliness cannot be attained without outer cleanliness. Muslims are admonished to purify their outer being to establish inner purity, as our outward cleanliness helps open the doors of spirituality.

In fact, purifying oneself, excellence in personal hygiene and cleanliness of oneself and one’s surroundings are held to such a high standard in Islam that the Holy Prophet of Islam (s.a.w.) has said that “Cleanliness is half of the faith.” Again, in Surah Baqarah (2:223): “Allah loves those who turn to Him and loves those who keep themselves clean.”

Nearly 1,500 years ago, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) taught Muslims a way to purify themselves with a method called Wudhu (ablution) prior to performing each of their five daily prayers. He said, “The key to Paradise is salat (prayer), and the key to salat is ablution.”
One part of the Wudhu, which Muslims were taught by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), was to use the toilet and clean themselves with water. To do so, the use of a simple method for cleaning oneself after using the toilet with a vessel filled with water has been used by Muslims across the world for centuries. Thus, in Muslim homes and mosques and in Islamic countries, one will enter the bathroom and find the lota or vessel in every bathroom stall, filled with water for one to use after using the bathroom, so that the high standards of outward cleanliness in Islam can be fulfilled any time after one uses the bathroom.

How can one clean using a vessel like a lota as the Musims do? It is very simple. Today in stores we are able to find plant watering containers or neti pots/neti lotas. One should choose a vessel with a shorter spout to make it easier to use.

Fill the watering can with warm water. After using the toilet, pick up the watering can by the handle with the right hand and use it to pour the water on one’s backside while one is still seated at the toilet. Using one’s left hand clean the soiled area. Do not touch the skin with the spout of the watering vessel.

Put the water vessel down. If one prefers, one can dry the wet area of the skin with a small amount of toilet paper. As always, wash hands with warm water and soap. In this way, less toilet paper, if any, is used.

Thus, Islam upholds cleanliness as a very essential requirement in the path to purifying oneself. The use of a water vessel is an excellent and effective method to clean oneself after using the toilet that has been taught to Muslims.

[Summer R. Ahmad lives in Columbia and holds a Ph.D. in Medical Radiation Physics.]

(Courtesy: Missourian)

Coronavirus Impact: No Hajj pilgrimage for international pilgrims in 2020

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , , , ,

Millions of pilgrims from all over the world will not be able to reach Makkah while reciting the hymn of Hajj (Labbaik)

By Dr. Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi

At the beginning of the month of Dhu al-Qaeda, the Saudi government has announced that only limited number of people from different countries living in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to perform Hajj this year (1441-2020) with all precautionary measures for their safety and integrity. The decision has come under the current pandemic situation. So, Zuyoof-ur-Rehman (Hajj Pilgrims) from all over the world will not be able to perform Hajj in 2020.

Like Salah, Fasting and Zakat, Hajj is an important pillar of Islam. It is obligatory once in a lifetime for every person to whom Allah has given so much wealth that he can travel from his home to Makkah and can bear the expenses of his family till his return. Allaah says: “Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah,- those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures" (Surah Al-Imran 97)

The restriction on performing Umrah since March and the non-performance of Hajj by pilgrims from abroad this year would have cost the Saudi government and the Saudi people billions of riyals. For the past few years, about 2.5 to 3 million pilgrims have been performing the Hajj, and the number of those performing Umrah in Ramadan is much higher. The Saudi government has lifted the three-month lockdown across the country due to the corona epidemic, even lifted the ban on sports from June 21, although the Masjid Al-Haram (Mecca) has not yet been opened to the public.

The Ka'bah (House of Allah), located in the middle of the Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah, is the first house established by Allah on earth for mankind. “Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah - bessing and guidance for the worlds.” (Surah Al-Imran, verse 96) And this is the Qiblah of Muslims till the Day of Judgment. It was first built by angels before the birth of Adam (peace be upon him). The construction by Hazrat Adam (PBUH) and Hazrat Sheesh (AS) is also mentioned in some books. About four thousand years ago, Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) along with his son Hazrat Ismail (AS) rebuilt the Kaaba. The construction of the house by Hazrat Ibrahim (peace be upon him) is of special importance which has been mentioned in the Holy Quran وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ (Surat al-Baqarah: 127) And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ismail, [saying], "Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.

The greatness of this holy house can be gauged from the fact that Allah Almighty has made the Ka'bah, which is a very sacred house, a source of peace for the people, ie, as long as the Ka'bah remains honorable, the Hour will not come. Before the last hour, the House of Allah will be lifted, as the divine command says: جَعَلَ اللَّهُ الْكَعْبَةَ الْبَيْتَ الْحَرَامَ قِيَامًا لِلنَّاسِ (Allah has made the Ka'bah, the Sacred House, standing for the people.)
With the construction of Baitullah about four thousand years ago, Allah Almighty ordered Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) to announce Hajj among the people. Therefore, Allah Almighty conveyed the proclamation of Hazrat Ibrahim (as) not only to the living people of that time but also all the souls in the spirit world heard this voice. The person who said Labbaik in response to this proclamation was destined to visit the House of Allah. Hajj has been performed ever since the time of Hazrat Ibrahim (as) and even in the time of Jahiliyyah people continued to perform Hajj. Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) considered the occasion of Hajj as an opportunity in the life of Makkah and invited the delegations from outside to Islam. Therefore, by meeting the delegations during the days of Hajj, the land of Madinah was paved for Islam. And he migrated to Madinah with his companions. When Mecca was conquered in 8 AH, Baitullah was cleansed of all idols. Hajj became obligatory in 9 AH. He sent Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq as Amir al-Hajjaj and Hajj was performed according to Islamic law. In 10 AH, the Holy Prophet (SAW) performed the first and last Hajj of his glorious life (Hajjatul Widaa) with about one lakh twenty four thousand companions. Since then, Hajj has been performed every year according to the teachings of the Holy Prophet. The number of pilgrims has sometimes reached three million. Baitullah Sharif, which is a very sacred place of worship and a sacred house, is covered with a garment for its external adornment. The process of shrouding the Ka'bah continues in the same way as that of Hazrat Ishmael (as).

Just as Tawaaf of Bait-ul-Allah (House of Kaaba) is performed in the world, there is the house of Allah in the heavens which is called Bait-ul-Ma'mour, the angels do tawaaf it all the time. Concerning this house, Allaah says in the Holy Qur'aan: وَالْبَيْتِ الْمَعْمُورِ (Surat at-Tur, verse 4) And [by] the frequented House. When the Holy Prophet (SAW) was taken to Bait-ul-Ma'mour on the night of Ascension, the Holy Prophet (SAW) asked Gabriel (AS) what is this? Hazrat Gabriel said that this is Bait-ul-Ma’amour, everyday, seventy thousand angels do tawaaf it daily, then their turn will not come again till the Day of Resurrection. This hadith is found in the famous books of hadith.  According to the narration of Tabari, Bait-ul-Ma'mour is in the sky just above Bait-ul-Allah (the Ka'bah).

The months of Hajj have been started. The whole month of Shawwal has come to an end and Dhu al-Qaeda has begun. But this year, millions of pilgrims from all over the world will not be able to reach Mecca while reciting the hymn of Hajj. Millions of pilgrims used to leave the worldly ornaments and adornments to pay homage to the fifth most important pillar of Islam and reach the holy shrines (Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah) in love of Allah. They used to associate themselves with the great sacrifices of Hazrat Ibrahim (AS) and Hazrat Ishmael (AS). This is why Hajj is called romantic worship because every action of the Hajj drips madness and madness. Hajj is a very significant act of worship in the sense that it consists of three aspects at the same time, spiritual, financial and physical. This feature is not found in any other form of worship. The special importance of this fifth pillar of Islam "Hajj" has been mentioned in the Qur'an and Hadith. Thus, on one occasion, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: Whoever performs Hajj merely for the sake of Allaah and does not commit any vain thing or sin during it, he returns (cleansed) as on the day of birth from the womb. (pure). (Bukhari and Muslim)

Tawaf, Umrah and Hajj of this holy house have been performed since the existence of this world and this process will continue till the Baitullah is taken to the heavens before the Day of Resurrection. Of course, in some cases the performance of Hajj had been stopped. But it is clear from hadith mentioned in Sahih Bukhari and other books, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Hour will not come until the Hajj to the House of Allaah is stopped.” Stopping Hajj or stopping the pilgrims is not a good sign in any case, for whatever reason. May Allah protect us all, Amen.

[Dr.  Mohammad Najeeb Qasmi is an Islamic scholar. He can be reached on his Mobile # 0091-7017905326 or contacted on his email at najeebqasmi@gmail.com. His WhatsApp No. is 00966-508237446]

Hajj 2020 for only limited number of pilgrims of different nationalities: Saudi govt

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 23 June 2020 | Posted in , , ,

IMO News Service 

The government of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently made an official statement saying that Hajj 2020 will only be open to a limited number of pilgrims of different nationalities who are already living in the Kingdom. There will be no pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia this year. The decision is being seen to be wise and pragmatic keeping in view the current Coronavirus pandemic.


Reclaiming Rumi: How Islam was erased from the Persian

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 22 June 2020 | Posted in , , , ,

A new online campaign, “Rumi Was Muslim”, seeks to rectify the whitewashing and mistranslations of the renowned 13th-century Persian poet and Muslim scholar.

By Sahar Esfandiari

Founded by researchers and translators Sharghzadeh and Zirrar, the Rumi Was Muslim platform seeks to rectify inaccurately translated and wrongfully attributed work relating to the 13th-century Persian poet Mowlana Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi.

In recent years, Rumi has become a household name in the West, and work attributed to his name has received unparalleled recognition in popular culture. Rumi was even named the best-selling poet in the US in 2014.

Work attributed to the 13th-century Muslim scholar and poet is frequently quoted in the media by celebrities and public figures, such as Ivanka Trump. Even Drake is thought to be a big fan, while Beyonce named one of her daughters after him.

The issue with the mainstream circulation of the quotes attributed to Rumi is that they are often inaccurately translated from Persian and interpreted in a way which removes any trace of Rumi's Islamic faith, as well as any cultural references to the Muslim world.

Sharghzadeh, a Detroit-based graduate of The University of Michigan and co-founder of Rumi Was Muslim told The New Arab that "many of Rumi's most famous works have been translated from Western scholars to remove any mention of Islam, and often embedded with orientalist tropes."


Context and history surrounding the poet's work, which are both linked closely with his identity as a Muslim, are often absent entirely, and add to further misinterpretation. The post below shows a widely quoted verse attributed to Rumi.

Placed side by side with a new translation from Sharghzadeh, who also runs the page persianpoetics, the absence of religious terminology such as "kafir" is evident, as well as the inclusion of the word "caravan," a term that could be accused of evoking orientalist stereotypes of the East. 

'Rumi Was Muslim'

After some time discussing these issues between them as friends, the founders launched the Rumi Was Muslim project as a long term campaign on Instagram and through a website with two primary aims in mind. 

"We made Rumi Was Muslim a movement with two goals, firstly to increase public awareness about misleading or fabricated Rumi quotes that circulate on the internet," Sharghzadeh told The New Arab. 

"Secondly, we want to produce our own, accurate translations of poems by Rumi and other Muslim poets. At the moment, translations of Persian poetry are either highly technical, academic translations that are not accessible to the average reader, or 'pop translations' or renderings by people like Coleman Barks," he said.

The Rumi Was Muslim campaign seeks to bridge the gap between these two bodies of interpretation.


According to the founders, they hope to produce translations that are academic in accuracy and research but remain accessible to English-speaking audiences through availability to a wide audience.

In addition to their own translations, the Rumi Was Muslim platform also promotes books translated by esteemed literary scholars such as Jawid Mojaddedi and Ibrahim Gamard, whose work is considered to be accurate and does not erase historical context.

The most widely printed translations of Rumi's work are linked to Coleman Barks, an American poet who does not read Persian or Arabic but re- interpreted nineteenth century translations of Rumi for a mass US audience.

It is often these translations which make it to the mainstream media and are quoted in popular culture.

Whitewashing Rumi

Today in the West, Rumi is usually referred to as a 'mystic,' 'spiritual' and sometimes 'Sufi,' but rarely described as Muslim. 

"Mowlana is universal, but he didn't emerge in a vacuum, he was Muslim, and his universality should be understood within the context of the Islamic tradition. It's a form of cultural theft and Islamophobic erasure to downplay his Islamic identity," explains Sharghzadeh.

In the modern-day context, where mainstream representations of Islam and Muslims in film, TV, and literature are either absent or overwhelming negative, erasure of Islam from Rumi's poetry is particularly problematic - it lends itself to the "good" West vs. "bad" East orientalist stereotypes.

As far as literary accuracy is concerned, erasure of religious context can also detract from the original meaning of the poet's work.

"We should not forget that Rumi's writing isn't just love poetry, his works are part of our religious canon, just like any other important book in the Islamic tradition," says Sharghzadeh.

In a Q&A video posted on the platform, the founders explain that translating a piece of poetry from Rumi takes significant time and dedication, which makes it particularly alarming to see social media accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers post quotes which are not sourced or attributed correctly.

These quotes are at best inaccurate, and at worst entirely fictitious.

On the platform, Zirrar and Sharghzadeh say the quote above cannot be traced to an original Rumi work. Going forward, the pair hope to continue with the campaign and raise more awareness about the issues surrounding Rumi's work.

At the moment the campaign remains online, but they hope that in the future they can extend the Rumi Was Muslim to the wider publishing world.

[Sahar Esfandiari is a British-Iranian writer focused on the Middle East and its diaspora. She tweets @saharesfandiari]

(Courtesy: The New Arab

"Visit My Masjid" Programme gets a warm response in Tamil Nadu

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 11 March 2020 | Posted in , , , , , ,

By Syed Ali Mujtaba

Chennai: In wake of discretion of mosques and killing of ‘Imam’ at the recent riots in Delhi, some Muslims in ‘Vaniyambadi,’ a town about 200 km from Chennai, organized a ‘Visit My Masjid’ programme at Masjid-e-Khaderpet on  Sunday, March 1, 2020.

This was done to strengthen inter-faith relations and build a constituency of peace and communal harmony among the people of different faiths in Vaniyambadi, one of the hubs of leather exports at Tirupattur District in Tamil Nadu.

It was for the first time a mosque’s door was opened to people belonging to different faiths. More than 400 non-Muslim brothers and sisters visited Masjid-e-Khaderpet under the "Visit My Masjid" programme. 
They were curious non-Muslims visitors from all walks of life such as students, professionals, politicians and businessmen etc. They were welcomed with open arms by the volunteers, trustees and committee members of the Khaderpet mosque. 

They were taken to the different portions of the mosque and volunteers explained to them about the rituals and concepts of Islam. The explanation started with the water tank (Hauz) where the visitors were told about the way a Muslim perform ‘Wuzhu’ (ablution) before saying the prayers. This was to convey the message of importance of cleanliness in Islam.

Some visitors showed great interest in learning the way of performing the ‘Wuzhu’ and few tried to clean their hands and legs, nose and mouth in the Islamic way of ablution.

The visitors were them taken to the place from where the ‘Azhan’ call for prayer, was given. The Arabic words of ‘Azhan’ were translated and its meaning was explained to the guests.

This was followed by the explanation on the timings and names of daily five time prayers. They were also explained why the timings vary in hours. The guests were then taken to the prayer hall of the mosque. They were explained about the architectural features of the prayer hall like ‘Mihrab’, ‘Minbar’ etc.

They were explained about the ways of prayers in the mosque are performed.  How lining up or ‘Saf Bandi’ in prayer is being done. How “Khutba” or sermon in congregation prayers like on Friday prayers is made. The visitors were also told about the importance of “Imam” in leading the prayers.

Placards were at display in few places of the mosque to help the visitors understand the concepts of Islam and the way Muslim pray in a mosque to add clarity to ‘Visit My Masjid’ programme.
The visitors were then taken to nearby the graveyard or ‘Qabrastan.’ They were explained about the way funeral prayer is performed and how burial is done.  The visitors were also explained about the concept of ‘Aaqirath’ or life after death in Islam.

They visitors very much appreciated the "Visit My Masjid" programme.  They were impressed by the way they were welcomed and treated in the mosque. They gave their feedback in a form and also recorded their experience on video camera about their enhanced knowledge and understanding about Islam and its teachings.

The SIO Vaniyambadi Unit and members of the Masjid-e-Khaderpet deserve special thanks to initiate such a peace loving concept of "Visit My Masjid" programme. The organizers can be contacted at 9500359571 and 8148989402.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com]

OPINION: The rise of the new Indian Muslim woman

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 14 February 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

Muslim women are challenging both the conservative Muslim clergy and the Hindu Right’s politics of polarisation

By Zakia Soman

In recent years, we have seen the emergence of a new Muslim woman. She is bold and articulate. She is not willing to be confined to the four walls of her home and wants to participate in the democratic discourse taking place in the country. Importantly, she does not trust the orthodox clergy to represent her. She is aware of her rights as a citizen and as a Muslim within her religion. She does not tolerate violation of her rights by anyone.

Ordinary women led the democratic movement against triple talaq, and they are now protesting against a discriminatory and unjust law that makes religion the basis of citizenship. Muslim women are proudly saying that we are Indians and we are Muslims. Several petitioners against triple talaq invoked gender equality provisions based on the Constitution. Women are yet again seeking to uphold the Constitution by protesting the religion-based Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which is seen in conjunction with a possible National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Women are challenging the long-established tradition of all-male clergy claiming leadership of the Indian Muslim community. Women are also challenging the rightist politics of religious polarisation. They are building a new narrative invoking democratic values of justice, equality and secularism enshrined in the Constitution. This is refreshingly different from the calls to protect the Shariat and Islam commonly attributed to the Muslim leadership.

Census and other official data suggest that Muslims have consistently slid into backwardness and poverty since Independence. They have been treated as votebanks by seemingly secular political parties. There has been not much done towards genuine welfare and participation in democratic spaces. Muslims live in ghettoes with low education levels, without formal jobs, without access to government facilities on credit and health care provisions. Only four in 100 Muslims are graduates, and merely 13% hold salaried jobs. People have been paying the price for the communal politics practised by different political parties in collaboration with the conservative ulema. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) accuses the Congress of politics of appeasement, but thrives on religious polarisation to build its own vote bank.
The image of a conservative religious male as spokesperson of the country’s largest minority has been hugely problematic not just for Muslims but for India’s democracy. It has helped build a perception that Muslims are different from the rest of Indians. It has furthered the stereotype of a community given to religious fundamentalism and a separate identity. This perception has brought about a distance between Muslims and those from other faiths. Communal riots have been a persistent feature in our polity. It has helped the right-wing politics of hate and division as witnessed in the brutal incidents of mob lynching in the name of gau raksha (cow protection). It has divided our plural society.

It has been difficult for ordinary Muslims to cast-off the stranglehold of the clergy, which has consistently enjoyed political patronage. The absence of a democratic leadership within the community has contributed further to the problem. Rightist politics has hugely benefitted from this phenomenon. But women’s democratic leadership can possibly change things.

Muslim women have always been caught between political considerations and personal marginalisation. They have suffered in matters as such triple talaq and polygamy, owing to patriarchal misinterpretations of religion. The Shah Bano episode is just one example of Muslim women being denied their rights under the family law. It is shocking that this was done in the name of secularism. Between 1986 and now, things have changed for the better. A new voice has been taking shape, particularly in the present decade. It has been a voice seeking mutual respect, harmony and justice for all. But the political parties and the clergy have been unmindful, even dismissive, of this voice. The Congress does not want to anger the ulema and the BJP benefits from demonising the Muslim. It is an ode to our democracy that fellow citizens are welcoming this voice.

Women’s voice has been gaining strength and finding support within the community as well. The movement against triple talaq received huge support from the wider public. The nightly debates on TV channels saw women bravely taking on the ulema who were all arguing for perpetuating the patriarchal status quo. They have always stonewalled any effort to reform Muslim personal law. The women openly questioned their understanding of religion, and spoke eloquently about the Koran and the gender justice principles contained in it.

The Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid declared that there was no threat to Muslims when the CAA was passed. Many among the ulema said that there was no cause for concern. But ordinary women sensed the threat to their citizenship from the combination of the CAA and NRC.

They asserted their Indianness by joining the protests led by students in different parts of the country. Muslim women protesting alongside fellow compatriots waving the national flag is a wonderful and patriotic image. It is a celebration of India’s diversity and pluralism. The political class will have to rethink its politics if this collaboration of citizens from diverse backgrounds continues. This can have lasting consequences for our multi-faith, multicultural democracy.

[Zakia Soman is Co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. She is based at Mumbai, Maharashtra, and can be contacted at zakiasoman@gmail.com]

Nigeria to hold first international Halal expo in June

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 05 February 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , , ,


IMO News Service

Nigeria will hold its first international Halal expo in June this year. The Muslim trade fair will be organized from June 8 to 10 at the Abuja Trade and Convention Centre, under the joint collaboration of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) and Abuja Trade Centre.

About 200 exhibitors and 50,000 visitors from various countries are expected to attend the African nation’s first ever halal expo. Among the major highlights of the halal expo include networking opportunities with global halal industries, and creating a platform to boost halal tourism, encourage big volume exports and tapping into the over 2 trillion USD halal market.
“Major Halal countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Iran, Thailand, Korea and others in West Africa are likely to participate at the halal expo,” the ACCI press release said.

The term “Halal” essentially means adhering to Islamic laws pertaining to food and other consumer durables. The Halal industry currently spans across pharmaceuticals, personal care, cosmetics, food service, food processing and logistics industries. The halal industry has further expanded into lifestyle offerings as well including Halal travel and hospitality services. Other areas are Islamic Finance interest-free market catering to the Muslim consumers worldwide.

The fight of Egypt’s Dar al-Ifta against extremism, Islamophobia

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 04 February 2020 | Posted in , , , , ,

Dar al-Ifta’s observatory of takfiri fatwas offers a comprehensive system to confront extremism and its endeavours to spread sectarian strife.

By Nader Aboul Foutouh

Cairo: To make it difficult for religious extremists to attract young people, Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s institution for religious edicts — fatwas — established two observatories to combat “takfiri” fatwas and extremist opinions and to monitor Islamophobia, which can adversely affect communities abroad.

In an interview with The Arab Weekly, Egyptian Grand Mufti Shawky Allam, head of the General Secretariat of Fatwa Authorities Worldwide, said the challenge of confronting extremism must consider the diversity of extremist forms of exploitation of Islam and politics.

Allam said the Dar al-Ifta seeks to have better control over and correct terminology used in the media by extremist groups. It has asked the term “political Islam” be replaced with “political Islamist groups” following the transformation of Islam by those groups into a political tool based on extremist perceptions aimed at destroying the foundations of the state.

He said Dar al-Ifta’s observatory of takfiri fatwas continually monitors and following up on takfiri discourse in print, audio-visual and digital media. The observatory quickly responds to inaccuracies and misleading claims. It publishes correct content and interpretations of the faith by communicating in 18 foreign languages.

Dar al-Ifta uses the same strategies and means used by extremist groups to establish a presence in social media. It has 8.6 million Facebook followers after upgrading the page through publication of clear and concise fatwas, instead of the previous long-winded explanations. 
The Egyptian official institution has begun a publication in English called Insight to counter Dabiq and Roumieh magazines published by the Islamic State (ISIS). Dar al-Ifta also created an animation and video graphic unit to publish digital art and content in cyberspace because those art forms can cross language barriers.

Allam said he considers that given the chaos prevailing in the field of fatwas and given the existence of contradictory fatwas around the world, coordination among fatwa-issuing bodies worldwide has become imperative. The goal is to consolidate moderate views, correct misconceptions and promote global stability and peaceful co-existence.

Allam said he is keen on addressing all kinds of issues concerning fatwas, even those related to the most basic details of daily life, to prevent the average citizen from being manipulated by extremists. In 2019, it issued about 1.1 million fatwas that have had great effect on Muslims everywhere.

He added that political Islam groups, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, sowed seeds of religious extremism and provided ISIS with the ideological background and cover for dividing the Muslim Ummah and branding Muslim societies as godless, especially following the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood political project, which was based on false Islamic precepts, wrong moral values and false and hollow slogans.

Dar al-Ifta’s observatory of takfiri fatwas was founded five years ago to restrict religious extremism and explain its causes and contexts. Allam said the observatory offers a comprehensive system to confront extremism and its endeavours to spread sectarian strife.

It continuously monitors the hard-line fatwas issued by extremist groups, analyses them based on a solid scientific approach and responds to them in comprehensive detailed reports. Since its creation, the observatory has issued more than 500 reports.

The observatory has monitored more than 5,500 fatwas worldwide, most of which were deemed to give incorrect or misleading opinions about the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Islam; 70% of the fatwas prohibited Muslims from dealing with non-Muslims and 20% of them strongly advised against it.

Allam stressed the need to renovate religious discourse to keep pace with the times and achieve the purposes of Islamic law without violating its constants or disregarding known solid part of religion. The new discourse must be built on avoidance of conflict and promoting moderation, away from fanaticism and hatred.

The Committee of Religious Affairs and Endowments of the Egyptian parliament is preparing draft bills seeking to turn Dar al-Ifta into a full-fledged international religious body and to restrict public issuance of fatwas to scholars with the specialised competencies to do so.

Allam pointed out that Dar al-Ifta works globally to prevent distortion of the image of Islam through its Observatory of Islamophobia. The observatory was established to monitor Islamophobia and counter errant perceptions about Islam and Muslims in non-Muslim countries.

Its efforts include sending Dar al-Ifta scholars on lecture tours around the world, keeping close communication links with Muslim communities, training imams of Islamic centres and establishing training programmes in jurisprudence to prepare a new generation of enlightened preachers able to address and interact with younger generations.

Cairo has hosted the General Secretariat of Fatwa Authorities Worldwide since its establishment in 2015. The body aims to be an umbrella organisation for fatwa and religious advisory bodies and institutions to coordinate efforts in a disciplined and organised fashion and contribute to correcting distorted images and concepts of Islam.

(Courtesy: The Arab Weekly)

There is more to Muslim women than headscarves and World Hijab Day should show that

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 03 February 2020 | Posted in , , , , ,

By Mariam Khan

The start of February marked World Hijab Day, (WHD) but it was met with an array of mixed feelings from many. Founded by American Muslim woman Nazma Khan in 2013, WHD aims to "foster religious tolerance and understanding by inviting women, including non-hijabi Muslims as well as non-Muslims, to experience wearing the hijab for one day." For some, it gives them the chance to experience what it's like to be a Muslim woman for one single day. 

"I'm excited that there's a day for women to wear a hijab with pure pride because I am wearing mine for my first time," one Twitter user, who recently started wearing the hijab, said.

Thought out, well-intentioned and with a deep focus on attempting to dismantle prejudice around the Muslim female identity, the simplicity and easiness with which WHD bends to treat the hijab – as only a prop worn by Muslim women – encourages a sense of uneasiness among many.

WHD advocates the idea that someone should have to step into an identity, as if it's a costume, for just a single day to understand racism, Islamophobia, prejudice, and the micro-aggressions Muslim women face.   

This process leads us to believe that Muslim women are too much of 'the other' and can't be believed, empathised with or acknowledged without non-Muslims playing dress up for a day with their clothes.

The day acts as a feel-good exercise for all those who participate as if their singular day of allyship somehow now gives them immunity or an excuse to be blind to the daily struggles of Muslim women.

The main controversy is that the gaze is removed from Muslims once again, and instead allows others to centre their understanding of who Muslim women are, and how they perceive the way Muslim women dress and practice.

WHD intended to visibly showcase Muslim sisters around the world by centring the non-Muslim and non-hijabi voices. Bur Muslim women's identity and choices are yet again being vetted and approved by those who don't necessarily understand their hijab or faith.

"I think the day, while obviously well-intentioned, might cause more harm than good to Muslim women... The idea of understanding the experiences of a Muslim woman through wearing the headscarf erases the identity of Muslim women," says Fatima, who wears the hijab.

"Wearing the headscarf for the day would not allow any person to experience the complexity of being a Muslim person, rather it reinforces harmful ideas of Muslim women [only being viewed through] what they wear." 

The World Hijab Day website says: "World Hijab Day [is] in recognition of millions of Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab and live a life of modesty." Growing up, the definition of what it meant to be a Muslim woman for many was limited to women who only wear the hijab – but this understanding has since evolved.

The words hijab and headscarf are conflated. Hijab in Arabic means barrier, it can be practiced in many ways outside of wearing a headscarf and is part of the wider context of modesty in Islam. Hijab in Islam considers the wider concept of the way you walk, talk, think and conduct yourself with integrity and dignity in this world.

The words hijab and headscarf have become intertwined in the West in the modern-day commercial and monolithic understanding of who Muslim women are because by defining Muslim women in a set way, they can be controlled and stereotyped.

These hollow narratives have become so prominent and impressed upon society that they have arguably affected the way Muslim women talk about their identity.
"There's so much that the hijab represents in our communities that isn't necessarily properly explored," one passionate Muslim female tells.

"The binary of forced hijab vs chosen hijab is so reductive. The discussion we should be having (certainly ones driven and led by Muslim women) are so much more complex than this."

Those who don't wear a hijab often feel rejected by the Muslim female identity, because this identity has been created in the reflection and dominated mostly by women who wear a headscarf, and this is important to acknowledge on such a day.   

Hijab for many is an important aspect of faith, but it is not the sixth pillar of Islam even if the patriarchy would like to believe it is.

Many visibly Muslim women in the West face gendered Islamophobia because of their choice to wear the hijab. The WHD website mentions examples of discrimination against hijabi women including; the hijabi pregnant woman attacked in Australia, the Muslim teenager disqualified from a race in Ohio, USA and a woman who had her ribs broken in an attack in the UK. But this all brings us back to the purpose of World Hijab Day.

How can someone know the plight of being a visibly Muslim woman by adopting an identity for a day and then walking away from it? Why can't empathy and understanding be built without co-opting an identity or by simply listening to Muslim women who have faced this abuse? Where were all the women who wore headscarves in support of World Hijab Day when the pregnant woman was being attacked or the teenage Muslim girl was being removed from her race? Did they speak up then, because their allyship would have meant more in those moments than on a day like WHD?

In the fight against racism, Islamophobia and abuse against Muslim women, instead of demanding we be accepted as we are, we are yet again asking for approval and acceptance through non-Muslims and non-hijabis, making this entire notion flawed.

Within the celebration of the hijab, we should not overlook the women who are told they have no choice in wearing the hijab, like those women in Iran who fight for their rights and protest for the choice to dress how they want to. Or the women around the world in countries like France, Belgium, the UK and others who face discrimination for the choice they make to cover up.

Both wearing the hijab and not wearing the hijab should be the singular choice of women, and understanding this without being reductive of the Muslim female identity or centring those outside of this identity to seek acceptance is degrading.

The intention of the WHD movement, in it's generosity towards non-Muslims and non-hijabs, has oversimplified the Muslim female identity and reduced it to a gimmick and a garment – something the mainstream media constantly already does.

World Hijab Day is a wonderful concept but it needs to adopt more nuanced intentions and goals for WHD 2021.

[Mariam Khan is a British writer and activist. She is the editor of It's Not About the Burqa, an anthology of essays by Muslim women. She tweets at @helloiammariam]

Circumcision opposes Female Genital Mutilation

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 01 February 2020 | Posted in , , , , , , ,

By Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Eleven years ago, one community in Muslim Sudan decided to follow WHO recommendations and abandon the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Since then, Tuti Island, a community of 21,000 residents located where the White Nile and Blue Nile rivers merge, has set the example for more than 1000 communities in Sudan that have abandoned FGM, which has no health benefits and violates the human rights of 200 million women and girls in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

“FGM contravenes the essence and the objectives of Islamic law, which are to protect the welfare of the family, dignity, wealth, health and mental capability of individuals and the community,” said Sheikh Rashid Ali Omar, Kenya’s deputy chief kadhi [a judge in the Muslim court system] at a news conference called to broadcast Muslim leaders’ anti-FGM stance.

FGM has been legally banned in Kenya since 2011. But FGM is still practiced widely in Africa. Just this week police in Egypt arrested the parents and aunt of a 14-year-old girl who died while undergoing female genital mutilation. The doctor who performed the FGM was also held.

FGM was banned in Egypt in 2008, but the country still has one of the highest rates of FGM in the world. According to the UN children's agency, Unicef, 87% of girls and women aged 15 to 49 years in Egypt have undergone FGM, with 50% of Egyptians believing it "is a religious requirement” although it is not.

FGM, although widespread in limited geographic areas, is opposed by the majority of Muslim scholars (ulema). Of the four schools of Sha'aria only the Shafii school of law, declares FGM wajib, or obligatory. In contrast, the other three Sunni schools, plus the Shia schools, consider FGM sunnah-recommended but not required.

FGM is not circumcision, but it is rather female genital mutilation, and comparing it to circumcision is a slander of both Islam and Judaism.

Christianity, Islam and Judaism all teach that circumcision was practiced by Prophet Abraham, who is revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims to this day.

However, Christians do not believe circumcision is still a required observance. But, even during Medieval times, Christian governments never prohibited ritual circumcision for Jews and Muslims living under their rule.

Equally, Jews and Muslims never tried to force Christians to circumcise their children. Only pagan governments like the Greeks and the Romans, or anti-religious secular governments like Communist Russia, have forbidden ritual circumcision of males. These governments are led by people who believe that their own humanistic, rational philosophy is on a much higher level than what has been taught by traditional religions, which they do not believe in.
This is part of a larger dilemma facing left-wing parties in Europe, which often struggle to balance their stated commitment to minority rights, with a pushy, self-righteous, secularist agenda that is perceived as intolerant by most members of minority religious groups.

It is totally false to compare the custom of female genital mutilation to the religious practice of male circumcision. First, while there are great medical benefits from removal of the foreskin of a male, especially in reducing the spread of HIV and other sexually spread diseases, there is no medical benefit at all to a female from the removal of her clitoris and labia.

In Africa, Jewish and Muslim men have much lower rates of AIDS than uncircumcised Christian men. A recent discovery is that uncircumcised men harbor more bacteria around the head of the penis than do circumcised men, and the mix of microbial species is decidedly different in the two groups. These changes in microbial numbers and diversity may explain why circumcised men are less likely to get infected with HIV.

Second, there is no evidence that female genital mutilation promotes chastity and preserves a woman's virtue. Having a considerate, loving and faithful husband does much more to promote a woman's virtue than female genital mutilation.

Third, male circumcision is a religious requirement. Female genital mutilation is only a tribal custom, originating in sub Sahara Africa, which is now being spread by Muslim religious extremists to Asia and the West as part of a reaction against the rising rate of girls going to high school and woman going to work outside the home.

Finally, and most important of all, male circumcision is derived from the God inspired practice of Prophet Abraham and Prophet Muhammad. “Abu al- Malih ibn Usama’s father relates that the Prophet said: ‘Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honor for women.’” (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75)

And God said to Abraham (Genesis 17:7): “I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you... (8-12)

“And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding, and I will be their God. And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

“You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old,” (Genesis 17: 7-12a)

And Allah ordered Prophet Muhammad to follow the religion of Abraham/Ibrahim. When Allah said (Qur'an 16:123) "Then We inspired you: 'Follow the religion of Ibrahim, the upright in Faith'."

And part of the religion of Ibrahim is, as is evident from the verses cited above, to practice circumcision. Abraham was an old man when he circumcised himself, thus becoming a good example that one is never to old to do God's will.

According to a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad said: "Prophet Ibrahim circumcised himself when he was eighty years old and he circumcised himself with an axe." (Related by Bukhari, Muslim & Ahmad)

Prophet Muhammad himself selected the 7th day after birth to circumcise his own grandsons. Abdullah Ibn Jabir and Aisha both said: "The Prophet performed the Aqiqah of al-Hasan and al-Hussein (the prophets grandsons) circumcising them on the 7th. Day." (Al-Bayhaq & Tabarani)

Thus, for Jews circumcision is a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac and their descendants for all future generations.

For Muslims it is a sign of their close connection to Abraham which is also celebrated each year during the annual Hajj ceremonies. For both Muslims and Jews circumcision is a sign that one who submits to God's commandments and covenant cannot expect a life without some pain and suffering. But when endured for the right reasons pain and suffering always lead eventually to great spiritual benefits.

Female genital mutilation is the exact opposite of circumcision both medically and religiously.

[Rabbi Allen S. Maller is a Reform Rabbi and Muslim Jew based in USA. His works can be seen on his website at www.rabbimaller.com. Rabbi Maller’s book ‘Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms: One Rabbi's Reflections on the Profound Connectedness between Islam and Judaism’ (31 articles by Rabbi Maller first published by Islamic web sites) is for sale ($15) on Amazon and Morebooks. He can be reached at malleraj@aol.com]

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