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Terrorism in India: Is it a Muslim Monopoly?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 02 August 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

By Dr Javed Jamil

Recently, some of the statements made by Congress Muslims made headlines. These statements that apparently sought to link the creation of Muslim terrorist outfits to anti-Muslim riots were dismissed by Congress and widely criticized in media.

The trend in recent years has been that while the Hindutva lobbies and the media try to project all terrorist violence as Muslim, some Muslim leaders and mediamen behave as if a Muslim cannot be a terrorist at all. Both are extreme positions that need to be dismissed with the contempt they deserve. The truth is that while the majority of terrorism related violence in India in last 40 years has been non-Muslim, some terrorist attacks might have been perpetrated by Muslims. But If we count the deaths in terrorist attacks allegedly by Muslim outfits, these do no cross 1500. These include all the major attacks including the serial Mumbai attacks after Babri Masjid demolition and 26/11 attack in Mumbai.

The following is the list of famous attacks that have been attributed to Muslims:

Terrorist attacks in Mumbai include:

·  12 March 1993 - Series of 13 bombs go off, killing 257
·   6 December 2002 - Bomb goes off in a bus in Ghatkopar, killing 2
·   27 January 2003 - Bomb goes off on a bicycle in Vile Parle, killing 1
·  14 March 2003 - Bomb goes off in a train in Mulund, killing 10
·   28 July 2003 - Bomb goes off in a bus in Ghatkopar, killing 4
·   25 August 2003 - Two Bombs go off in cars near the Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar, killing 50
·  11 July 2006 - Series of seven bombs go off in trains, killing 209
·   26 November 2008 to 29 November 2008 - Coordinated series of attacks, killing at least 172.
·  13 July 2011 - Three coordinated bomb explosions at different locations, killing 26

Terrorist attacks elsewhere in Maharashtra

·  13 February 2010 - a bomb explosion at the German Bakery in Pune killed fourteen people, and injured at least 60 more
·  1 August 2012 - four bomb explosion at various locations on JM Road, Pune injured 1 person

29 October 2005 Delhi bombings

Three explosions went off in the Indian capital of New Delhi on 29 October 2005, which killed more than 60 people and injured at least 200 others. The high number of casualties made the bombings the deadliest attack in India in 2005. It was followed by 5 bomb blasts on 13 September 2008.

2001 Attack on Indian parliament

Terrorists on 13 December 2001 attacked the Parliament of India, resulting in a 45-minute gun battle in which 9 policemen and parliament staff were killed. All five terrorists were also killed by the security forces and were identified as Pakistani nationals.

Uttar Pradesh

2005 Ayodhya attacks

Following the two-hour gunfight between Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists based in Pakistan and Indian police, in which six terrorists were killed, opposition parties called for a nationwide strike with the country's leaders condemning the attack, believed to have been masterminded by Dawood Ibrahim.

2010 Varanasi blasts

On 7 December 2010, another blast occurred in Varanasi, that killed immediately a toddler, and set off a stampede in which 20 people, including four foreigners, were injured.  

2006 Varanasi blasts

A series of blasts occurred across the Hindu holy city of Varanasi on 7 March 2006. Fifteen people are reported to have been killed and as many as 101 others were injured.

Karnataka

2008 Bangalore serial blasts occurred on 25 July 2008 in Bangalore, India. A series of nine bombs exploded in which two people were killed and 20 injured. According to the Bangalore City Police, the blasts were caused by low-intensity crude bombs triggered by timers.

2010 Bangalore stadium bombing occurred on 17 April 2010 in M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, India. Two bombs exploded in a heavily packed Cricket stadium in which fifteen people were injured. A third bomb was found and diffused outside the stadium

Major Bombings

September 13, 2008: Serial blasts in Delhi killed at least 24 people and injured more than 100.

May 2008: Eight serial blasts rock Jaipur in a span of 12 minutes leaving 65 dead and over 150 injured.

August 2007: 30 dead, 60 hurt in Hyderabad 'terror' strike.

September 2006: 30 dead and 100 hurt in twin blasts at a mosque in Malegaon.

July 2006: Seven bombs on Mumbai's trains kill over 200 and injure 700 others.
October 2005: Three bombs placed in busy New Delhi markets a day before Diwali kill 62 people and injure hundreds.

August 2003: Two taxis packed with explosives blow up outside a Mumbai tourist attraction and a busy market, killing 52 and wounding more than 100.

September 24, 2002: Militants with guns and explosives attack the Akshardham Hindu temple in the western state of Gujarat, 31 killed, More than 80 injured.

March 1993: Mumbai serial bombings kill 257 people and injure more than 1,100.

As can be seen, the number of deaths in all these attacks does not cross 1500. Now let’s have a look at the other terrorist attacks in the country.

Deaths related to Naxalite violence

Period
Civilians
Security forces
Insurgents
Total per period
1989–2001
1,610
432
1,007
3,049[79]
2002
382
100
141
623[80]
2003
410
105
216
731[80]
2004
466
100
87
653[80]
2005
524
153
225
902[81]
2006
521
157
274
952[81]
2007
460
236
141
837[81]
2008
399
221
214[82]
834[83]
2009
586
317
217
1,120[84]
2010
713
285
171
1,169[85]
2011
275
128
199
602[86]
2012
144
104
116
364[87]
TOTAL
6,432
2,312
2,965
11,709


Based on the above displayed statistics, it can be determined that more than 11,700 people have been killed since the start of the insurgency in 1980, of which more than half died in the last ten years. The unofficial figures put the toll several times higher.

In the violence related to Sikhs, several hundreds have been killed by Sikh militants. In Hindu-Sikh riots following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, more than 10000 Sikhs died.

Then there are killings related to ULFA. According to a Wikipedia report, .” In the past two decades some 18,000 people have died in the clash between the rebels and the security forces.

So it can be seen that the violence involving Sikhs, Naxalites and ULFA has killed more than 40000 people in last 30 years.

Hindu violence is not confined to India. In Sri Lanka, more than 60000 people have died in Tamil related violence.

In Nepal, Maoist violence has also killed hundreds.

There are people who try to argue that Naxalites, Maoists and ULFA activists are not religion-inspired. But the truth remains that they are all Hindus according to demographic records. And violence is violence, whether related to communal sentiments or to any other cause. Violence in the name of religion cannot be described as more condemnable than that related to any other ideology. Violence has to be condemned in proportion to the casualties it causes. Moreover, the killers of Sikhs in Delhi riots and those of Muslims in various riots have been the hardcore believers in Hindu scriptures. This does not in any way mean that Hinduism or any other religion is responsible for such violence. This shows that mutual hatred often leads people to indulge in violent attacks against one another. The majority communities or powerful groups anywhere in the world routinely indulge in riots or the government forces act on their behalf. The weaker communities and groups resort to terrorism and other forms of hit and run strategies.

In my previous article on riots, I have already shown that the number of Muslims killed in riots in India is at least three times the number of Hindus killed.

Link of Terrorism with Riots

While it will be wrong to assume that the anti-Muslim riots and Babri Masjid demolition were the only factors responsible for the rise of some alleged Muslim terrorist organizations, it will be totally out of place as well to dismiss this factor altogether. Some analysts have argued that “terrorists” are the product of a certain mindset. They may be partially right. But it is also right that such a mindset needs fuel to prosper, and events like Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat riots multiplied with a widespread feeling of discrimination provide sufficient fuel for that purpose to be achieved. While on one hand, terrorism, in fact violence of all hues and colours, whoever the culprits, whoever the victims, whatever the place, has to be condemned in no uncertain  terms, on the other hand, all the factors related to the rise of terrorism of any colour have to be addressed if it is to be controlled. The role of the precipitating factors, the media in fanning hatred, the politicians, community leaders and executives, the military and the police – all have to be analysed. On top of tem, all communities have to be socioeconomically empowered and all kinds of discrimination have to be eradicated. Only then we can hope of a lasting peace.

[Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”. He can be contacted at doctorforu123@yahoo.com or 91-8130340339]

Remembering Prof. Obaid Siddiqi (1932-2013): A personal tribute from a Student

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

Prof. Obaid Siddiqi was a Renaissance man and father of modern Indian biology.

By Sukant Khurana

It is very rare that individuals are institutions in themselves. Such individuals are genuine visionaries who start a wave, who create a school of thought and like a banyan tree keep extending inspiring branches through offshoots much beyond when they are gone. The late Obaid Siddiqi, who many rightly consider the father of modern Indian biology and the last of the giants of the South Asian science scene, was one such rare individual. While risking the shallow deification of the late protagonist of this article, I write this piece, hoping that a few people would understand that it is not the person but the vision that this is a personal tribute to and they would strive to pick up the torch where the last generation left it.

Obaid Siddiqi, who strove to transform the life sciences in South Asia recently died of a freak road accident. True to his dream of a peaceful, considerate, educated and scientific society, his family decided to not press charges on the young careless driver that hit him, as it would ruin his career and education.

My article is far from a perfect tribute to my first scientific mentor as it deals solely with my personal interactions with him in order to bring forth his ideas that continue to inspire me, instead of details of his tremendously long list of achievements or his interactions with hundreds of other very well accomplished students that continue to contribute to science and society world over. The greatest biologist that South Asian soil has sprung so far, Obaid Siddiqi, despised personal publicity and his motto was simply to just do your job quietly without worrying about the results. There again I am deviating from what Obaid would have liked. I hope to ruffle some feathers of a subcontinent that is indifferent to the true heroes of madre vatan but worships cinema stars, religious demagogues, politicians and sport icons. By madre vatan, instead of simply India, I speak in the same sense as Obaid did about the land, culture and people of the whole of Indian Subcontinent and not religiously and ethnically divided feudal leftover remnants. He was not nostalgic about some group in antiquity dominating the whole land but had a vision of the future - of people united by common cultural threads, yet celebrating their diversity, irrespective of past petty differences. Over one lunch, he quoted poet Kaifi Azmi (I am paraphrasing because of an imperfect recollection of a 12 year old conversation) that even though he was born in a slave British India and had to live through a divided subcontinent, he would love to die in a united, truly secular and a socialist one.

Obaid Siddiqi (January 7th, 1932-July 26th, 2013) was my first scientific mentor, who worked solely for the love of science, for whom lab was a temple, a prayer, a lifetime of commitment and not a business or a mere profession. His scientific career spanned from a study that led to the first ever fine mapping of a gene that eventually contributed to Guido Pontecorvo’s Nobel winning work, to an important finding on the nature of codons that eventually increased our understanding of protein synthesis, insights into bacterial gene exchange, to synaptic vesicle recycling mutant that now enables several neuroscientists a spatiotemporal control over neuronal activity, to the first exploration of the genetic basis of taste and smell. He founded the first biology unit at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, National Center for Biological Sciences, was the president of Indian academy of Sciences for several years, played an important role in various national and international institutions, including the international effort of The Third World Academy of Sciences to get the developing world on a global scientific map. The list is long so I will only talk of my personal interaction that started in the July of 2000 and continued till few days before his tragic death.

He belonged to a rare and now globally endangered breed of true passionate gentleman scientists. His contributions are many, but his most personally dear achievements are two: preparing successive generations of scientists from South Asia and in his personal capacity humbly fighting for progressive and enlightened values. He had a clear vision of an ideal scientist when I met him. Looking at his career it is clear that that the vision had evolved and had undergone several iterations as he had evaluated science and its role in the society, putting his and others’ conduct under the microscope. While the vision had evolved over time, the vigorous flame to transform the subcontinent remained ever constant. When Obaid could have the choice of setting up a lab in United States, at the height of his career in 1962 he decided to pack up and take the perilous journey of establishing molecular biology in India. His perspective on the role of scientist in Indian society evolved out of a lifetime of constant struggle involving both extrospection and introspection. His vision of a scientist was a creative and objective person who apart from his individual scientific success had a contract with the society from which he emanated. A scientist did not exist in contrast to or as a parasite on the society by merely practicing science for self-promotion. This wise perspective of his was by no means meant as any criticism of basic or applied science in simple black and white terms, but a very healthy questioning of what is sustainable, reverberating the immediate and future needs of the developing world. He asked how could rigorous science be used as a tool for social change.

One such way for him was to train the next generation of scientists, educating them in scientific method through real scientific experience. His idea was that even if most such trainees do not do science for living later on, they can take back this training to their everyday lives and thus act as catalyst for rational thought in society. He individually trained several short-term visitors of any age group, from teenagers to grey haired college readers. This was not a task handed down to graduate students. Only a handful of such trainees panned out, when one thinks in terms of the cost benefit analysis of the productivity of his lab. I once persisted in arguing with him over several days on this topic of loss of lab productivity due to inundation of short-term visitors. My point was that when the visitors learn to do experiments well enough they were ready to leave and Obaid was not getting anything out of them. He said it was neither about cost benefit analysis as other labs do nor about what he got out of it. He believed that if he could get a small number to become future scientists or even spread scientific thinking, that will be his small contribution to the society. I understood the message of training people selflessly but it took me several years to fully embrace it, when with the help of friends, breaking outside the university programs, I initiated something of the sort in Austin, Texas towards the end of my doctoral studies. Obaid did not hide his feelings when he found out that his lesson had rubbed on to one of his students.

In his last two decades of his life, his obsessions were two fundamental issues of behavioral neuroscience that have been completely sidetracked by the majority in the mad march for quick publications. He wondered what an appropriate measure of a behavioral response is, if one singular measure should be used at all. He understood that almost all neuroscience labs are throwing away most of the information by taking one single measure of a response at a fixed time. He also asked if one could really break out of strictly associative way of thinking about higher learning. He called sensory pre-exposure as Thorpean conditioning to respect few pioneering but rather inconclusive experiments done by William H. Thorpe of Cambridge in middle of the last century. From what Obaid contributed to it, it should truly be called Obaidian. He was just too humble to acknowledge his intellectual contributions and hence he deferred the contribution to others, although his ideas were significantly different, not just in details but in the overall concept. His perspective on familiarity without association with any explicit reward or punishment is a novel way of understanding many aspects of complex learning. I will write extensively (and I hope others to do the same) about those ideas later as they reflect a new way of thinking about learning and memory but I hope that in near future, I can find time to write about at least the essence of that unfinished big question and our common interest in South Asian transformation. I have been thinking something on the lines of “Metamorphosis of life and cultural psyche”, incorporating not only his vision but of few others along with mine on two seemingly superficially unrelated topics. Metamorphosis alludes to love of Hegel’s philosophy and the concept of transformation and also to the drastic change in life forms, especially invertebrates from the larval to the adult stage. I preferred metamorphosis to his truly South Asian analogy, where he used to say that fruit fly is like a “Brahmin”, having two lives and it remembers lessons from the first stage in the second stage too. The broader philosophical idea beyond neuroscience is to explore complete transformation without losing the lessons of the past in both individual and societal context, quite the opposite of destroying everything to build something new. This complete transformation was what Obaid was master of, taking what existed, howsoever crumbling and picking the best out of that to create something new and vibrant.

Unlike every other student in his lab, who worked either on the behavior and molecular biology of olfaction or what he had humbly called as Thorpean conditioning, when I stubbornly persisted, he let me explore associative conditioning. Decision to let me pursue that, I can only speculate would have been painful, as I understood the philosophical underpinnings of his thought but sought to do exactly the opposite. It takes a truly educated man in the Aristotelian sense to nurture two contradictory currents under the same roof and he did with strongest possible support. Over several years of interaction we were realizing that the two points of view might likely converge and are really not opposite ends of the spectrum. I speculate that there are likely going to be interesting differences at the cellular levels but there are going to be more similarities than differences at the neural network level. It is sad that Obaid will not be with us at the finish line of that idea but if it were not for him, we would not have even started exploring these questions, I surely would not have. I would be studying extremophile microorganisms.

He loved discussing science to the point that few hours before I was leaving his lab on my last day in Bangalore, the discussion was on experiments to address concerns about the possibility of elements of associativity in Thorpean conditioning. I reminded him that I was leaving, thinking that he had forgotten the date. He knew the date and time very well but said that experiments did not end with his lab and he was not concerned about the specifics of where I were to address these questions. He said wherever I go I must carry on with the science. He said “It is the question that counts”. It was always the questions, not the rat race of publications, grants, awards and prestige that mattered for Obaid. His message of “carry on” with the mission remains etched in my memory.

Despite his ideological differences with successive Indian governments where he stood for far more progressive egalitarian ideals than the regimes, very similar to his long-time friend and collaborator Seymour Benzer, his stature in the scientific world as unquestionably India’s most prominent biologist gave him the ear of the power-elites in Delhi. They could neither swallow him nor spit him out, so to speak. Finding few exceptional people who could sympathize with his mission of science, he created enough legroom to bring about change. Unlike everyone else in his position, who exploited such opportunities to create their own fiefdoms, Obaid tirelessly worked to build responsible democratically accountable structures of science and technology. His stature made him change the Indian science by setting new waves in motion although failing to completely overhaul it, given that for every honest man in India there are ten thousand opportunists and for every true scientist there are scores of bureaucrats. Understanding the need of a person with vision, Obaid used to frequently complain about Homi Bhabha’s untimely death. As Bhabha had both the intellectual authority and the ear of Nehru, according to Obaid, after Bhabha’s death the task was left midway, with no one there to pick the torch. In a very different style, without any fanfare at all and without such proximity to power as Bhabha, Obaid did carry forward the task in very significant way, something he never took the credit for.

When the moment called he did more than simply training students or setting science policy for the better of the society. He gave lectures in late 90s and early 2000 against how religious forces had brought in astronomy into official course work. Over last two years’ interactions he was concerned about how many central Universities had gone down the drain due to political interventions. He also complained about ills of research institutions suddenly expanding without retaining standards of quality. His social contract did not end just at higher scientific education alone either. Right from writing educational books for underprivileged mid-school kids in Hindi for free, to fighting several plagues of Indian bureaucracy, alongside running the most prestigious lab in South Asia, he somehow managed to retain the curiosity of a ten year old and humility of a graduate student just approaching his graduation exam. Being ever so judicious in his own spending, he bestowed many of his personal resources for the right causes, giving away books to students when he knew they were not going to be returned. I vividly remember his evening talk in a small Bangalore college at a horribly lit and annoyingly buggy room on the topic of human evolution. His eyes lit up when he was inspiring students to pursue science after undergraduate studies. This happened just a few days after a well-publicized talk attended by the who’s who of the Indian science at IISc. While both talks were par excellence, his enthusiasm was clearly many times more for the one in the small dingy room of that rather unknown college. Not just enthusiasm, we in the lab knew he had labored several times more for the undergraduate audience, toiling for months in advance to read up the current status of the field. How could he ever miss the opportunity of finding new recruits for science and for the transformation of South Asia?

Sukant Khurana
His interests ranged from classical music, history, visual arts, to several sports. Apart from hundreds of email exchanges over years on our common interest on olfaction and learning, my conversations with him on excavations of megalithic pottery in South India, population genetics of migration from South to South East Asia, people-to-people contact amongst citizens of different countries of South Asia, remain some of my cherished intellectual interactions. I have not met another renaissance man of his equal despite having worked amongst several big names of the science and art world. He was truly the last of the league of Meghnad Saha, Homi Bhabha, CV Raman from India, with none comparable in sight in the near future. What we are left with are now career politicians heading different institutions, universities, and science and biotechnology departments. He will be missed a lot. Although he is not with us anymore to provide new directions in science, fight for right policies and protest when needed but his vision and scientific inspirations live on through several students. In the end all I can say is through hundreds of young scientists you have trained and thousands you have inspired, dear OS, your scientific dreams and vision of a modern South Asia would “carry on”.

[Sukant Khurana, Ph.D., is a New York based neuroscientist and artist, currently working at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He had the privilege to work on olfaction, learning and memory under the guidance of Prof. Obaid Siddiqi from 2000 to 2003. His works can be seen at www.brainnart.com. Follow him on twitter @brainnart. He can be contacted at sukantkhurana@gmail.com]

SAUDI ARABIA: Lessons learned from our neighbours

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

In an era where Saudi youth are travelling the world and are being exposed to new things, the appeal of pedantry ideas is rapidly losing ground

By Tariq A. Al Maeena

As we watch events unfold in neighbouring Egypt, we have become aware of one thing. The politicisation of Islam in everyday government does not necessarily represent the will of all the people. The marriage of religion and politics under the current climate in societies where minorities exist can often lead to turbulent relationships.

Not long after the first Gulf war, a western journalist asked me which direction I thought we in Saudi Arabia would be moving. My answer was quick and short. I told him that going with the prevalent culture and mindset at the time, I felt that we in the kingdom had one foot pushing firmly on the gas pedal, and the other jamming the brake pedal with equal force. “But that’s not going to get you anywhere fast!” he countered.

And for more than a decade or so since that conversation, I believed that my answer of so many years ago had held up credibly in view of the events that had followed. The Gulf war spawned a new breed of rejectionists who became bolder and more vocal in spreading their brand of extremist values and beliefs upon Saudi society. Many Saudis still recollect the harsh and often insipid atmosphere of the 90’s where anything out of the ordinary was instantly targeted as the work of mischief or the ‘white devil’, where innovation and imagination were stifled as being idle and fruitless pastimes, and where one’s interpretation of faith almost had to do a complete makeover time and time again?

There were sermons on anything and everything, and from just about any quarter deeming themselves learned in theology. And they attacked just about every phase of our day to day living. There were objections from different sectors to satellite television, to mobile phones, to the internet, to the presence of women in the business community, to the way we chose to dress or the activities we chose to fritter our time on.

Misusing religion

Even what we read or listened to came under their scrutiny. Whether we chose to teach our children English, or afford our daughters physical education was not a matter of choice. It was fought bitterly and opposed. All in the name of religion! There were also so many mixed signals from the business community and the public sector that often rendered us into a state of delusional schizophrenia. And during that period, to many it was agony in existence.

There were many who used their positions of influence and authority to manipulate their perception of a healthy society through their own narrow-minded views. The ruling by a cleric judge in granting a divorce to a lady whose husband chose to introduce satellite television in their home was but one example of such intolerance and injustice. The persistent and personal attacks on a Shura member in that decade from hard-line theologians and their supporters were another. All he wanted to do was to table the issue of driving for women in front of the Shura Council.

Today, the message from the government is loud and clear. We cannot afford to be held hostage to archaic ideas if we are to forge ourselves into a success as a nation. All of us be we men or women have a responsibility towards making this a better place. That is by no means something that contradicts the spirit of Islam.

Resistance to change

And while the government has indeed established rules and laws to help move this process forward, there still exists resistance from some quarters against this nation moving forward. Be they individuals or groups, these people are alarmed at the incremental progress that we have come to witness in the last few years.

As we look around us, it has dawned on many Saudis that those intolerant ideas have led us to noticeably lag among the regional GCC countries. One cannot help but admire the amazing transformation in the UAE, from a barren desert just a short while back to a mixture of world class cities in less than a decade. All this was happening while we in Saudi Arabia were bogged down debating whether to allow women to drive!

In an era where our youth are growing fast and savvy, the appeal of such pedantry ideas is rapidly losing ground. They have seen the world, and they want to be a part of its growth. They are willing to work hard and toil for this nation. But they also want to be free from the shackles that curtail their effectivity. They have also come to understand from recent events how the marriage of religion and politics has become purely a game of power grabbing and nothing more.

The presence of extreme ideologies that tend to curb our imagination and snuff our spirit still exists within some individuals, who disdainfully hold up the banner of damnation against anything that does not conform to their values.

But they must gradually be made irrelevant, for else they do all of us a great harm. It is time to take the foot off the brakes, floor the gas pedal and move forward.

[Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena.]

(Courtesy: Gulf News)

A Jew and a Muslim?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in , ,

L.A.-based NewGround wants to show we can all get along

By Jonah Lowenfeld

Most Jews and Muslims rarely talk — really talk — to one another. This is as true in the United States as elsewhere, a stark reality despite our nation’s vast diversity and the ability of so many different peoples to coexist. It is true also in Los Angeles, a city of strong ethnic identities, long drives and even longer cultural memories.

Indeed, even here, the few encounters among Muslims and Jews often feel like head-on collisions: Protests and counter-protests — many triggered by events in and around Israel — are usually the most visible interactions, but they’re hardly the only instances of tension.

Some recent examples: In June 2012, Pamela Geller, a New York-based Jewish blogger and co-founder of Stop the Islamization of America, an organization classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, was barred at the last minute from speaking inside the headquarters of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — but not before local Muslim groups reportedly threatened to protest outside the Wilshire Boulevard building.

In 2010, 11 Muslim students repeatedly heckled and interrupted Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren while he was speaking at UC Irvine, until the students were finally removed from the room. They were arrested, cited for disturbing a public event, and, the following year, 10 were convicted in a jury trial and sentenced to perform community service.

Also in 2010, young supporters of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, who attended a fundraiser at the Shangri La Hotel in Santa Monica, sued the hotel owner for violating their civil rights and allegedly saying, “I don’t want ... any Jews in my pool.” In 2012 a jury awarded damages to the FIDF plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the incident.

In 2006, leaders of the city’s most prominent Jewish organizations opposed giving a Los Angeles County humanitarian award to Dr. Maher Hathout, who is among the local Muslim community’s most respected leaders, on grounds that he had once maligned Israel as a “racist, apartheid state.”

And each spring, the debate over what constitutes free speech at California universities is reignited on every campus that holds a so-called “Israel Apartheid Week” or considers a resolution to boycott companies doing business in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Although students are the ones speaking out on campuses — on both sides — often they are being coached and encouraged by much larger Jewish and Muslim organizations.

Within the Jewish community, even the simple act of acknowledging the shared humanity of Muslims and Jews can be perilous. In 2012, when the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip escalated into battle, Rabbi Sharon Brous, spiritual leader of IKAR, expressed sympathy for both Israelis and Palestinians in a message to her congregants and was immediately, fiercely and publicly attacked for doing so by Rabbi Daniel Gordis of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. Gordis argued that when Israel is at war, Jews should express support only for the Jewish state. Hardliners in the Muslim community similarly silence moderate voices on their side, as well.

And yet, as in Israel, Jews and Muslims in Southern California often live, if not side by side, then just down the road from one another. So it is not surprising that those few who attempt to cross the chasm separating these faiths and peoples often find that Muslims and Jews share not just the same neighborhoods, but many of the same values.

Enter NewGround, an L.A. group that has made its mission to bridge the gap. For the past five years, this emerging organization has been housed at the epicenter of the city — in Los Angeles City Hall — where it has been creating encounters among young Muslims and Jews. Its tactic is to prioritize conversation over solutions, active listening over public statements, allowing for honest exchange instead of superficial agreement.

NewGround already has forged deep relationships within its ever-expanding, carefully nurtured community of Muslims and Jews. And while differing views may continue to persist, NewGround’s training allows participants to acknowledge the conflict taking place half a world away without letting it limit all discussions here.

“NewGround was founded precisely to overcome the tendency for international conflict to disrupt relationships locally,” Rabbi Sarah Bassin, the group’s executive director, said. “We treat conflict as an inherent part of this relationship, as it is part of all relationships.”

Each year, NewGround trains a group of fellows from the Jewish and Muslim communities who spend months together before beginning to talk about hot-button topics like Zionism or the movement known as BDS, which seeks to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. Those topics are raised during the second of two weekend retreats, toward the end of the 10-month program, by which time the fellows have learned crucial new communication skills and covered the (not entirely safe) subject of religion. The delay can, at least initially, be frustrating for those who came to the program specifically to talk to their counterparts about Israel.

“I didn’t trust the process; I thought it was a waste of time,” Eliana Kaya, a fellow from NewGround’s third cohort in 2010, said in an interview. She is now executive coordinator at reGeneration, a nonprofit that supports the progressive Waldorf method of education for Israelis and Palestinians. “I would go up [to the leaders] at the end of every session and say, ‘Yala, when are we going to get to the real stuff?’ ”

Shukry Cattan, a member of the most recent fellowship class, also wondered about the program’s structure. “There was all this buildup, and, for me, I kept thinking, ‘OK, what is this? Why are we waiting to the end?’ ” said Cattan, who is of Palestinian descent. “I thought the conversation was going to happen sooner.”

But Kaya, a practicing Jew, and Cattan, the son of a Christian mother and a Muslim father, both came to see the value of having relationships with the other members of their cohort in place before beginning such a difficult conversation.

“When it actually did happen, I understood the process,” Cattan said. “Having built that relationship with people and having seen each other — not even as Jews and Muslims — but people who have lives and stories to share, hearing people’s perspectives and each other’s very difficult experiences with the conflict — you couldn’t just walk away and dismiss that person’s story because you knew that person.”

Already, more than 100 Jewish and Muslim professionals, most in their 20s and 30s, have graduated from NewGround’s yearlong, intensive and innovative fellowship program, which teaches communication skills, builds friendships and gives members of each faith a window into the beliefs, practices and politics of the other. For its efforts, NewGround has received accolades and awards from the Jewish, Muslim and interfaith communities, and groups in other American cities have begun attempts to adapt the NewGround model for their own Muslim and Jewish communities.

As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan nears its Aug. 7 close, the world is closely watching the first meetings between Palestinian and Israeli peace negotiators in more than two years. Yet regardless of what happens on the international stage, there’s also hope in what’s happening on the ground here in Los Angeles, where NewGround is building a foundation for open, ongoing communication between adversaries.

The members of NewGround’s 2013 young professionals fellowship cohort pose for a picture after receiving their certificates of recognition and appreciation from the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission. Photo by http://cbacarellaphoto.com/

There are precedents, to be sure. In the 1990s, leaders of L.A.’s Muslim and Jewish communities met regularly under an umbrella known as the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue. Since 2006, a group of progressive Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders have convened under the aegis of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative, for meetings and events.

NewGround is itself the outgrowth of a partnership formed in the post-9/11 early 2000s between two L.A.-based nonprofits, the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), whose leaders first hoped to convene other Jewish and Muslim leaders, but had little success. Rather than turn away in failure, they turned to younger Jews and Muslims — tomorrow’s leaders.

“The idea was, younger people want to come together,” recalled Brie Loskota, managing director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California. Loskota worked as an outside consultant for the founding partners from around 2004-05; neither Jewish nor Muslim, she collaborated with two other women, one Jewish and one Muslim, to research existing programs of Muslim-Jewish engagement — a small and still-developing field — to figure out what worked.

A nationwide survey helped inform the basic structure for NewGround, Loskota said. As a veteran of inter-group dialogue in Los Angeles, she also helped link the group with the city’s Human Relations Commission.

“Young people want to understand who this other community is, they want to figure out how to have productive relationships, and they want to do something to help make Los Angeles better,” Loskota said. “And they also want to talk about Israel/Palestine. They don’t want to shy away from it, and they don’t want to pretend that it isn’t an issue.”

Nevertheless, NewGround’s launch in 2007 — at City Hall — was met with a great deal of skepticism. A cover story in this newspaper about the program in January of that year included reactions to the joint venture from Jewish leaders; most were negative, with one denouncing MPAC as “radical haters of Israel.”

Even NewGround’s supporters weren’t initially entirely sold on its viability.

“Really? You’re going to find Muslims and Jews who are going to commit to meet with each other twice a month over 10 months?” Malka Fenyvesi, a consultant with a master’s degree in conflict analysis and resolution, recalled hearing at the time. She was hired in 2006 as the Jewish half of a facilitating team that would guide NewGround fellows’ discussions. “Who’s going to do that?”

Fenyvesi moved from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles for the job, while her counterpart, Aziza Hasan, a Muslim who had spent part of her childhood in Jordan, moved here from Kansas to be a co-facilitator. Hasan also remembers the initial skepticism.

“At other people’s events, or even at our launch event, we were definitely among people who believe in NewGround or interfaith dialogue,” Hasan said this spring during a conversation at the NewGround offices on the 21st floor of City Hall. Yet even among supporters, she said, “There were plenty of people who looked me straight in the face and said, ‘You’re naïve, you know. Just give it up. Go find a real job.’ ”

But the project got national attention even from its early days. In 2009, for example, radio host Krista Tippett featured NewGround on her nationally broadcast American Public Media show.

From Left: NewGround Executive Director Rabbi Sarah Bassin and Program Director Aziza Hasan at Los Angeles City Hall.
Then, in late 2010 and early 2011, with PJA in the process of merging with the national group Jewish Funds for Justice, NewGround’s supporters decided to spin off from MPAC and PJA; by July 2011, NewGround’s board of trustees had made it fully independent and brought in Bassin, newly ordained by the Reform Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), as executive director.

NewGround’s most recent cohort of young professionals graduated last month and included 24 Jews and Muslims who spent nearly a year learning about one another’s religions; they visited both synagogues and mosques, and they learned how to talk to one another. They are the fifth such group, all facilitated by Hasan and Fenyvesi.

NewGround’s process is very deliberate, and it’s only about two-thirds of the way into the program, after the fellows have become skillful and sensitive “intentional listeners,” that Fenyvesi and Hasan allow the conversation to turn to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Johanna Solomon, a doctoral candidate in Political Science at UC Irvine, has spent the past two years studying the impact of NewGround’s fellowship. What NewGround does, Solomon says, is improve the fellows’ impressions of self-efficacy — their ability to speak effectively about the subject — in statistically significant ways. “To me, the real benefit of NewGround, as well as other types of programs like this,” she said, “is that it empowers the moderates.

“The fellows really feel like they know enough and have enough skills to go out and have difficult conversations about what’s going on,” Solomon said.

NewGround also has become more than just a fellowship program, now producing public events, such as a Jewish-Muslim storytelling event each fall and an annual Jewish-Muslim iftar — a break-fast ceremonial meal during Ramadan.

Alumni fellows are also advancing the group’s mission with their own projects. Two run a two-day exchange including seventh- and eighth-graders from Sinai Temple’s Sinai Akiba Academy in Westwood and New Horizons, an Islamic school in Pasadena. Another NewGround alum has launched a joint text study group to examine Quranic and Hebrew biblical texts, and six alumni from the most recent fellowship have created a reading group for Muslims and Jews. More is in the works.

As she leads NewGround, Bassin has built her network, as well. She is one of just eight fellows receiving support from the Joshua Venture Group, a nonprofit that helps Jewish social entrepreneurs develop skills to grow their organizations; she is also a member of the ROI Community, a network founded by philanthropist Lynn Schusterman to support Jewish activists.

And NewGround has also won accolades beyond the Jewish world. In May, Bassin and Hasan — who earlier this year took on the additional role of director of programs for NewGround — traveled together to Qatar as invited presenters at the 10th Doha Conference for Interfaith Dialogue. Also this year, NewGround set up a program for Jewish and Muslim high school students, MAJIC (Muslims and Jews Inspiring Change) that adapts the fellowship’s curriculum for younger participants. The program was named faith-based organization of the year by California Gov. Jerry Brown.

Maintaining dialogue between Muslims and Jews can take a lot of effort. Sometimes it works for a while, and then falls apart, as did Abraham’s Vision, a program that brought together high-school-age Jews and Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area and greater New York City. Abraham’s Vision also brought together college students from both faiths from all over the United States with Israeli and Palestinian students. Yet, it recently shut down after 10 years.

“Conflict transformation work is exhausting, and not enough people in the communities with whom we worked supported it,” Aaron Hahn Tapper, one of the group’s co-executive directors, wrote in an e-mail. Tapper is also a Jewish Studies professor at University of San Francisco.

But there is hope — the desire to create dialogue appears to be on the upswing in recent years, and the venues for such interfaith dialogue are increasing in number.

In 2012, 250 Jewish and Muslim organizations participated in the fifth annual Weekend of Twinning organized by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU); still more are expected to engage with that program this November, when the theme is: Standing Up for the Other.

“It’s about Muslims speaking out against anti-Semitism, it’s about Muslims speaking out against Holocaust denial, and it’s about Jews speaking out against Islamophobia,” Rabbi Marc Schneier, FFEU’s founder and president, said. “It’s not about conversation. It’s not about talk.”

These days, without the imprint of MPAC (which some Jews see as too critical of Israel) and PJA (which some Jews see as too progressive), NewGround can be judged entirely on its own. And by focusing on creating local relationships among participants — before broaching the subject of the Middle East — NewGround fellows is hoping to become more resilient than participants in earlier efforts.

For NewGround Fellows, the most significant unit of measurement is not the principle but the personal story.

On a Friday night in May, Kadin Henningsen, a member of NewGround’s most recent fellowship class, led services at Beth Chayim Chadashim in West Los Angeles. During the service, he told stories he had heard from two other fellows over the course of the fellowship.

Deborah Tehrani, a self-described traditional Sephardic Jew, was right outside the Frank Sinatra cafeteria at Hebrew University in 2002 when a hidden bomb exploded, killing nine people.

“Eleven years later,” Henningsen told his fellow congregants, “she still asks: ‘Why would anyone want to kill me? They don’t even know me.’ ”

Henningsen also retold a story Cattan had related during the second NewGround retreat. Cattan’s mother was born and raised in Jerusalem. His mother’s family fled to Jordan in 1948, and, in 2010, Cattan returned to the place where her family’s house was.

While Cattan was there, an Israeli police officer approached and asked why. Cattan explained he was looking for his mother’s house.

“The officer said, ‘Can’t you see it’s gone?’ ” Henningsen told the congregants. “‘Go away; you don’t belong here.’ ”

For Henningsen, the two stories shared the same theme: In Israel and the territories it occupies, two distinct peoples lay claim to a single land, each telling the other — in more and less violent ways — that they do not belong.

However, Tehrani, who works at HUC-JIR and said she is “very passionate about Israel,” said her motivation for sharing the story of her brush with Palestinian terrorism was to counter claims made by another fellow, a Palestinian Muslim.

“He said something to the effect of, ‘I think I have the most at stake here out of anyone else in this room,’ ” Tehrani recalled. “I said, just, ‘No, no you don’t.’”

Tehrani shared her story with reluctance, she said. “I didn’t want someone to be sympathetic just because I went through something so violent.” Like many of the fellows, Tehrani said she was struggling with the question of whether, as American Jews and Muslims, they have the right to talk about the issue at all.

But Tehrani ultimately concluded that she had as much right as her Palestinian co-participant to engage in the conversation.

“Everybody’s allowed a perspective,” she said. “Everybody can share their feelings. The conflict has no boundaries.”

To be sure, to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — sensitively, intelligently — is one thing; to achieve peace is another.

Nobody can say whether NewGround or any program like it ultimately can impact the situation in the Middle East — now or ever — any more than they can predict whether current attempts at peace talks can yield results. In the 20 years since the signing of the Oslo accords, nobody has gone broke betting against Israelis’ and Palestinians’ ability to come to a peaceful settlement.

Phillip L. Hammack, an associate professor of psychology at UC Santa Cruz, has written about the short- and long-term impacts of U.S.-based peace education programs working with Israeli, Palestinian and other youth, like Seeds of Peace in Maine and Hands of Peace in suburban Chicago.

“These types of programs do show considerable effectiveness in the short term at getting individuals to challenge the stereotypes and prejudices they hold about the other,” Hammack wrote in an e-mail. “They humanize members of the rival group. However, studies (including my own) that have followed people over time show that the effects do not hold as long as the larger political reality remains unchanged.”

Still, in the weeks after the final meeting of his NewGround fellowship cohort, Cattan, who works at the UCLA Labor Center, said he believes that what Jewish- and Muslim-Americans say matters in the Middle East.

“It makes a difference,” Cattan said. “I think our voices here in the U.S. are heard very loudly in the Middle East — on both ends. Whether you are a Jewish-American or a Palestinian-American, what you say here resonates there. And it’s important to know what Jewish Americans think and feel and believe about the region.”

Further, as Bassin points out, part of what NewGround brings to Los Angeles has nothing to do with what happens in the land she now calls Israel/Palestine.

“Because the focus is local, alumni experience real progress when they help Muslim and Jewish institutions build new partnerships,” she said. “That does not have to be interrupted when there’s fighting in the Middle East.”

(Courtesy: JewishJournal.com)

The Fiqh of Sadaqat al-Fitr

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

By Mufti Faraz ibn Adam

The great Hanafi faqih (jurist) Imam Ibn al-Humam mentions: “Sadaqat al-Fitr is compulsory upon every free Muslim.” (Sharh Fath al-Qadir, 2:285)

The Evidence

All the scholars base their opinion on the following ahadith:

‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) narrates, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) enjoined the payment of onesa’ of dates or one sa’ of barley as Zakat al-Fitr on every Muslim slave or free, male or female, young or old, and he ordered that it be paid before the people went out to offer the ‘Id prayer.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:409)

‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) narrates, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) declared the payment of Sadaqat al-Fitr as obligatory; it purifies the fasting person from any indecent act or speech, and is a source of feeding the poor. If one pays Sadaqat al-Fitr before the salah (i.e. the ‘Id prayer), it is considered an accepted charity, if he pays it after the salah, it is considered an ordinary charity.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, p. 263)

There are many similar narrations establishing the same ruling.

The Pre-Requisites of Sadaqat al-Fitr Being Compulsory

Islam: According to the four schools of thought (madhahib), being a Muslim is a pre-requisite. (Sharh Fath al-Qadir, 2:286)

Free (not being enslaved): All the scholars agree that a slave will not be obliged to dispense of Sadaqat al-Fitr. (Ibid.)

Possessing the quantum (nisab) for Sadaqat al-Fitr: This condition is deduced from the hadith: “Sadaqat isn’t compulsory except for he who is well-off.” (Musnad Ahmad, 10:7)

What is meant by quantum (nisab) is: that threshold of wealth one must have for Sadaqat al-Fitr to be compulsory. If somebody possesses less than that amount, he will not be obliged to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr.

The Hanafi madhhab is solitary in specifying a set quantum. According to the Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali madhahib, one who possesses surplus provisions for the night and day of ‘Id for himself and his dependants, will be obliged to discharge Sadaqat al-Fitr. (Mawahib al-Jalil, 3:257;Mughni al-Muhtaj, 1:594; al-Mughni, 4:301)

The specifying of a quantum is based upon the fact that in many places, Sadaqat al-Fitr has been termed as Zakat al-Fitr. For example, the narration of ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar in Sahih al-Bukhari has the wording Zakat al-Fitr. Also, the report of Abu Sa’id al-Khudri in Sahih Muslimbears the same terminology. Hence, by way of analogy and the alluded meaning (isharah an-nass), we can conclude that Sadaqat al-Fitr enjoys the same threshold and quantum as that of Zakat.

In principle, there are three types of quanta (nisab) in the Hanafi madhhab, each quantum results in different rulings.

That which obligates Zakat: to possess assets of a productive nature equivalent to the value of 612.36 g of silver.

In this quantum, it is a requirement that the wealth one possesses has the capacity to grow and develop (numuw). Zakat is only compulsory in that asset which is of a productive nature; the asset has the capacity to increase. For example, in the animals which are regarded as zakatable, namely camels, cows and sheep, they grow and increase in reality by reproduction. These assets in reality are of a productive nature, it is witnessed by the eye. Hence, Zakat is obligatory on them. Another form of assets being of a productive nature is innately (hukman); in such assets, the actual asset doesn’t multiply or increase, but it inherently possesses the characteristic of being productive; they have the potential to result in a profitable return. Thus, gold and silver fall under this category, likewise cash.

The second type of quantum is to possess any asset beyond ones necessities equivalent to the value of 612.36 g of silver. One who has this will be liable for the following rulings:

• Sadaqat al-Fitr becomes compulsory
• The receiving of Zakat is impermissible
• Animal sacrifice (udhiyyah) becomes compulsory
• The financial maintenance of one’s family becomes obligatory

For this quantum, it isn’t necessary to possess wealth which is of a productive nature, nor is it necessary to be trading in a commodity. Likewise it isn’t a condition to possess these commodities for a full lunar year, unlike the first quantum. Whoever possesses this quantum will not be obliged to discharge Zakat, however, he will have to dispense of Sadaqat al-Fitr.

The final quantum is to be in possession of one day’s provision. According to some, it is to possess 50 dirhams (153.09 g of silver). This quantum results in:

• The impermissiblity of begging
• The permissibility of receiving Zakat

In addition, the possessor of this quantum will not be obliged to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr, nor will he have to perform animal sacrifice in the days of Hajj. (Ashraf al-Hidayah, 3:161)

In short, according to the Hanafi madhhab, for Sadaqat al-Fitr to be obligatory, one must possess any asset surplus of one’s basic needs which are equivalent to the value of 612.36 g of silver.

Who Has to Pay

According to the four schools of fiqh, one will have to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr on behalf of himself and his minor dependants when the above conditions are met.

Imam al-Haskafi mentions that a Muslim who meets all the above criteria is required to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr for himself and on behalf of his minor children who do not possess the required quantum. The same ruling applies for those suffering from dementia. (al-Durr al-Mukhtar, p.140)

If one’s children who haven’t reached the age of puberty possess the quantum, it will be permissible for their guardian to dispense of Sadaqat al-Fitr from their wealth. (Fatawa al-Hindiyyah, 1:211)

A husband will not be responsible to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr on behalf of his wife, nor his mature children. The reason being is that Sadaqat al-Fitr is compulsory on behalf of those whom you have complete guardianship (wilayah) and complete financial maintenance. So as the man has complete guardianship over his minor children and he is totally responsible for all their maintenance, he will be obliged to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr on their behalf. However, a man doesn’t have complete guardianship over his wife nor is he responsible for every form of maintenance. As for guardianship and custody, a husband only has custody over his wife in terms of marriage related rights. Likewise, a husband is duty bound to financially maintain his wife in relation to the usual expenditure, clothing, food and shelter. A husband will not be required to pay for anything beyond that.

Similarly, a man doesn’t hold complete guardianship over his mature children; they are regarded as adults. Plus, the father isn’t obliged to maintain these children financially. Thus, the two elements inducing the obligation of Sadaqat al-Fitr are deficient, so Sadaqat al-Fitr will not be compulsory on the husband on behalf of his wife, nor the father on behalf of his children.

Having said this, it will be permissible for a husband to discharge of Sadaqat al-Fitr on behalf of his wife. Equally a father can pay on behalf of his mature children. (Sharh Fath al-Qadir, 2:289-290)

A woman who has the quantum will be obliged to pay the Sadaqat al-Fitr herself, irrespective whether she is married or not. (Imdad al-Fatawa, 2:110)

Mature children who are in possession of the quantum will also be responsible to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr for themselves.

A point worthy of mentioning here is that a male isn’t responsible to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr on behalf of his parents, minor siblings or his relatives. However, if he did dispense of Sadaqat al-Fitr on their behalf, it will be permissible. (al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu, 2:903)

In conclusion, every male and female is responsible to give Sadaqat al-Fitr when they are eligible to do so.

What to Give

Islam is way of life which can be practised in all eras and all locations. Many injunctions are based on simple and common articles. For example, the calendar is based on the sighting of the moon, salah is centred on the positioning of the sun, fasting is founded on dawn and dusk, the sentence of an adulterer is executed by stoning. Likewise, the valuation of many monetary advancements within the Islamic code of law, revolve around simple grain and cereal widely available in the markets.

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him) said, “We would give Zakat al-Fitr on behalf of every minor and adult, the free and enslaved in the era of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) one sa’ of foodstuff or one sa’ of cheese or one sa’ of barley or one sa’of dates or one sa’ of raisins. (Sahih Muslim, 2:106)

‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) instructed us to give Sadaqat al-Fitr of one sa’ of dates or one sa’of barley. ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar mentions that the Sahabah later gave two mud (½ sa’) of wheat in place of dates and barley. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:411)

Shaykh Bashar Bakri Arrabi in his annotation of the great Hanafi work al-Lubab states one sa’equates to 3.2 kg. This is supported by various other texts and commentaries. Thus, ½ sa’ is equivalent to 1.632 kg. (al-Lubab fi ‘l-Sharh al-Kitab, p.169)

Based on the aforementioned ahadith, Imam al-Kasani mentions one should give:

• 1 sa’ of barley or
• 1 sa’ of dates or
• ½ sa’ of wheat or
• 1 sa’ raisins
(Bada’i al-Sana’i, 2:540)

Imam Ibn al-Humam has mentioned that for everything besides wheat one should give 1 sa’and for wheat he should give ½ sa’. He endorsed that this view is shared by Mu’awiyah, Ta’us, Sa’id Ibn Musayyab, Ibn Zubayr, Sa’id Ibn Jubayr and many other prominent individuals. (Sharh Fath al-Qadir, 2:228)

It is permissible to give the value of the above in cash, instead of the actual grain. However, according to Imam Muhammad al-Shaybani, only the value of wheat should be considered (not the value of barley or dates). (Radd al-Muhtar, 3:322)

By virtue of the inferred meaning (dalalah an-nass), the scholars have pointed out that the goal of Sadaqat al-Fitr is to enrich the poor and suffice their need. This enriching and sufficing is easily done with cash and other commodities. Thus, it will be permissible to give anything which has a value to it. Again, one will give whatever values to 1.6 kg of wheat. (al-Fiqh al-Islami wa Adillatuhu, 2:909-910; Bada’i al-Sana’i, 2:543)

So, it is permissible to give the authentically narrated items in their respected quantities or to give the value of 1.6 kg of wheat.

When calculating the price of wheat, one will consider the price and value of the area they dwell in.

Ibn Nujaym al-Misri states “Commodities will be evaluated in the city or areas there are in.” (al-Bahr al-Ra’iq, 2:400)

The Time of Dispensing Sadaqat al-Fitr

The dispensing of Sadaqat al-Fitr becomes compulsory upon an individual with the break of dawn on the day of ‘Id [al-Fitr, the 1st of Shawwal]. (Bada’i al-Sana’i, 2:544)

It is recommended to pay the Sadaqat al-Fitr before attending the place where ‘Id salah will be performed. (Sharh Fath al-Qadir, 2:305)

It is permissible to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr prior to the day of ‘Id. ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar said, “People used to give Sadaqat al-Fitr a day or two before the ‘Id. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 1:411)

In today’s climate, it is better and preferable to pay the Sadaqat al-Fitr many days in advance. The whole idea of Sadaqat al-Fitr is to benefit and suffice the poor on the day of ‘Id. Discharging of it prior to the ‘Id salah in the masjid or musallah, as it is common practice in the west, defeats the purpose and objective of Sadaqat al-Fitr. Hence, once should ideally pay the Sadaqah in adequate time so it can reach those who are worthy of it in due time. (Kitab al-Fatawa, 3:362)

If somebody failed to pay Sadaqat al-Fitr prior to the ‘Id salah, it will be permissible to discharge of it afterwards. Although to delay it is discouraged and disliked. (Nur al-Idah, p.162)

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “If one pays Sadaqat al-Fitr before thesalah, it is considered an accepted charity, if he pays it after the salah, it is considered an ordinary charity.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, p. 263)

There is dispute amongst the classical scholars with regards to exactly how many days in advance can Sadaqat al-Fitr be paid. The preferred view is that it will be permissible to pay even before the onset of Ramadan. However, to discharge of it in the month of Ramadan is the most preferred course of action, as all the scholars agree to this. (Kitab al-Fatawa, 3:363)

The Recipients of Sadaqat al-Fitr

The scholars are unanimous that the recipients of Sadaqat al-Fitr are identical to that of Zakat. This is based on the following verse:

“Zakat expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [Zakat] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveller – an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” (Surat al-Tawbah v. 60)

The verse contains eight types of people:

Poor (fuqara’): They are those people who do not own in excess of their personal needs any type of wealth that is equal to the value of nisab (612.36 g of silver).

Needy (masakin): According to some scholars, they are those whose economic status is worse than the poor (fuqara’). The difference is a technical difference, but the principle is that neither of them possess in excess of their personal needs any type of wealth that is equal to the value of nisab.

Zakat collectors (‘amilin alayha): This refers to those individuals commissioned by the head of the Islamic government to collect Zakat. This isn’t applicable today.

Those whose hearts are being reconciled (mu’allafah al-qulub): This was an avenue to dispense your Zakat in during the early days of Islam. The Zakat money would be given to three types of people:

• Those disbelievers from whom it was perceived that by giving this donation, they would embrace Islam.
• To the leaders of the disbelievers in order to save the believers from their evil.
• To those who have just accepted Islam. This payment would be made to elevate their spirits.

According to the Hanafi scholars, this avenue is now abrogated. (Sharh Fath al-Qadir, 2:265)

Emancipating slaves (fi ‘l-riqab): Zakat money can be used to purchase a slave from his master in order to set him free. Again, this is inapplicable.

Debtors (al-gharimin): This is regarding a person who despite having assets at his disposal, he is overwhelmed with debt and the debt exceeds the value of his assets.

Those in the cause of Allah (fi sabil Allah): According to the majority of scholars, this refers to and is restricted to only those people who are engaged in Jihad (military struggle).

Travellers (ibn al-sabil): This refers to those travellers who are in a desperate situation and have no access to their personal money. Money nowadays can be wired across the globe in a matter of minutes, hence, one who has the ability to receive his money, will not be allowed to take Zakat or Sadaqat al-Fitr.

Currently, only the poor, needy, debtor, the Mujahidin and the travellers are eligible to receiving Zakat and Sadaqat al-Fitr.

(Courtesy: IlmGate.org)

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