Sunday, October 17, 2010

Documentary on Muslim Cemetary Controversy in Sidney, NY

It was this article, posted on the widely-read Huffington Post, that brought the story of the Muslim cemetary controversy in Sidney, NY to the national spotlight, with the headline:

Weeks later, with increasing attention from major newspapers around the country and growing outrage, Bob McCarthy (the town supervisor) and his cronies could no longer ignore the spotlight.  

Just days before a local town board meeting, they announced all legal actions against the cemetary were suspended. 

On October 14th, the town of Sidney held a board meeting where McCarthy and other town officials convened to discuss the matter.  Over 150 people turned out for the meeting; reporters from the local and national press were present.  Most of the town was clearly in favor of the Muslims.

When questions were demanded from Mr.Ermeti (the town attorney) and Bob McCarthy by the townsfolk, he gave dismissive replies, became visibly frustrated, and abruptly closed the meeting.

Jessica Vecchione, an award winning filmmaker, produced a short 20-minute documentary of the meeting, featuring interviews with townsfolk and key figures in the ongoing dispute.

The video can also be viewed at:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Limits of Tolerance

The building of the proposed "Cordoba Institute" community center at Ground Zero in downtown NYC, appears to be a controversy that is getting more polarized over time.  And it's not going away.

Almost every major American media news outlet, prominent blogs online, message boards, and the mainstream political discourse is chiming in.  The feedback is often heated, emotional and sometimes extreme.

Yursil has a good post at the "Mind, Body, Soul" blog, on the ongoing Ground Zero mosque issue.  


Sunday, July 11, 2010

The holy months of 1431


Long has it been since I've blogged. Neglect has its consequences, but as Sha'ban 1431 approaches, perhaps new openings may come from better places.

As Rajab 1431 leaves this world, Lokman Hoja - the vekil of my Sheykh - is saying:

"Rajab is the month of Allah, as holy Prophet (as) is saying....we must keep our holy days and months, holy...(realize) that once it has passed, it will never come back again..."

Looking back on my earlier writing on "Rajab, Ramadan and Tolkien," I feel a sense of remorse that yet again, heedlessness had its hold on me. Yet, I also have hope and gratitude. Fortunately I was able to celebrate two holy days this Rajab at the Osmanli Dergah in Sidney Center, NY.

Two holy days which I never knew existed, nor how to pay the proper respect to, until recently.

1) Laylat-Ragh'aib (commemorating the conception of the holy Prophet)

2) Laylat-Mir'aj (the night of the ascension)

Prior to 1431/2010, sure - I'd come across information about the Mir'aj, it's a huge tenet of Islamic belief. But other than learning 'fiqh aspects' of the holy day and isolated exhortations at Jumah, how would it come alive and have meaning?

In years past, the month of Allah would come and go - and I'd grasp at straws, struggling to regard it as more than just a religious platitude. Even invoking the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a desperate metaphor to give it some spirit !

This year I took part in what Yursil once called, the circles of dignity, and made zikr with those who are closer to Allah and His Beloved (as).

Most Muslims don't even know what Ragh'aib is. Years ago, I came across it via superficial readings of Shaykh Abdul Qadir Jilani (ra) , yet it was something I ignored - foolishly - out of a suspicion that it may not be an authentic part of our traditions.

But in parts of the world where traditions are still kept alive - even if they are not religious - Ragh'aib is commemorated. And yet many Muslims will continue to bicker in their ignorance, finding excuses for themselves NOT to remember holy days and holy months.

Sha'ban, the month of the Prophet (as), approaches. And with it, comes Barat - the night of Accountability. Will we honor it when it comes?

Sheykh Abdul Kerim Kibrisi Hazretleri is saying, in a sohbet:

"Week after week, year after year I am saying, Sheykh Mawlana is saying and we are going to say. The holy days and the holy nights are approaching. In these nights take it seriously. Take it seriously! It's only five nights a year, not ten. There are three hundred and sixty five days in a year and there are only five nights that are very holy. You cannot keep up with that? What kind of faith you have then? Where is your faith?"

Sha'ban Mubarak to everyone!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On the Response to Umar Lee on Sh Hamza Yusuf


There's been an interesting discussion started by Umar Lee entitled "Rand Institute Muslims," in reference to the American think-tank that outlined a strategy on how to make Islam "more civil and democratic." (

It's beginning to cause a stir (, which is bordering on the personal.

One detailed response to the Umar Lee post, already broadcasted by, has come from Indigo Jo ( , where he describes his motivations to respond:

"I have shied away from "debating" Umar over his ramblings about "masculinity" the last couple of years, but when I see these same attitudes paired with slander of scholars, I cannot continue to keep quiet."

It is good that people are not choosing silence anymore, in light of ongoing events.

This is my original comment on Indigo Jo's response, which he has not yet published:


An interesting topic, with perhaps more issues raised than can be handled in one blogpost.

While Umar Lee may have gone overboard in casting Hamza Yusuf as the king of 'RAND Muslims,' I think he raises some valid issues.

It's important for Muslims to remember, that any leader we have in these times is not above questioning. There are traditions from Rasulullah that warn about leaders in the end of times appearing to be knowledgeable, but in reality are `asaghir ("little ones") who are the worst hypocrits.

These are real prophecies, not to be dismissed or overlooked while we consult our Maliki and Shafi'i manuals of fiqh on obscure matters. We should ask ourselves why the stalwarts among the `ulema are deemphasizing these aspects of the deen, in favor of efforts to canonize and bring an ecclesiastical framework to Islamic knowledge.

The reason why this should be a cause for concern, and a vital discussion for us, lies in the nature of leadership itself. For example, Malcolm X may not have been a scholar or faqih, but he led by his example in standing up for the truth, even when it was bitter and politically inconvenient. And his efforts, galvanized many Muslims in America against obvious injustices. The authorities feared his agitations would bring about an uprising, and he was assassinated while speaking the truth to power. Many still remember his example today, and became Muslim through him.

There is historical precedent for this kind of an uprising against injustice - from Salahuddin Ayubi (ra). And many others who we may come to know, once we truly learn about our history.

Your response to Umar Lee, while methodical and in my opinion, with good adab (manners), has a kind of finality to it, that smacks of the Salafi/Wahabi refutations. I feel this should not be about defending Hamza Yusuf, despite our love for what he's done. It should raise further questions.

It was from Hamza Yusuf that I learned, that Imam Shafi'i (ra) used to make a du'a before engaging in debate, that Allah place the truth on the opponent's tongue, so that he would be able to accept it.

We should respect Umar Lee's opinions, and not sweep our dirty laundry under the carpet in the name of 'defending our scholars.'

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Reflections on `Ashura


Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him and his father) that he was asked about fasting the Day of `Ashura [10th of Muharram]. He said, I did not see the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him) fast a day while more avid to seek its virtue than this day, meaning the Day of `Ashura . [Bukhari (2006), and Muslim (1132)].

Tirmidhi relates that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to a man, If you want to fast a month after Ramadan, then fast Muharram, for it has a day in which Allah forgave an entire people, and He turns to others in repentance in. [Tirmidhi (841)]

It amazes me how, when I've made paltry efforts to remind people about Muharram and `Ashura, many Muslims aren't sure how to react to it.

Before taking bayat with my sheykh, I too was heedless. Sure, I'd know "objectively" that Muharram was one of the holy months mentioned by Allah , that Ashura is its 10th day and it is Sunnat to fast on it and a day before or after.

These facts I gathered on Muharram and `Ashura from SunniPath, Zaytuna and other sources online, swirled around in my mind, albeit incoherently. I sort of knew that it'd be good to do these things, but actually performing them was a minor jihad!

Perhaps an obstacle that taints the spirit of `Ashura for most Sunni Muslims, is what it has become associated with. The ignorant and baseless practices that some of our ummah perform in the name of commemorating Imam Husayn's sacrifice, in effect, have given a bad name to this holy Day (radhi Allahu anhu).

I saw this blemish in action, when chatting with a close friend online. No matter how much I told him that celebrating Muharram and `Ashura was very much a part of our traditions, he wanted nothing to do with it. His "exemplar" was the Saudi-Wahhabi paradigm, of which he is gradually weaning off from, insha'Allah Rahman.

According to our sheykh, Tuesday was yaum-e-Ashura. I made intention to hold firmly to the fast, and I hope Allah will accept whatever I did good in it. Alhamdulillah, I made it to the dergah safe, having broken my fast on the road trip upstate.

After some zikr, we had an energetic hadra, masha'Allah. In our holding each other's hands, forming a circle and exclaiming loud remembrances of our Lord, it felt as though the remnants of our evil selves were being stomped on. The sheykh and his chosen murids were leading us all the way. But no matter how exalted we may have momentarily felt, our feet were firm on the ground, thanks to our sheykh.

Then we had sohbet, where Sheykh offered us all some tea, and a special dessert (picture and caption taken from someone more devoted than myself - Yasin, of

Our sheykh also told us about the momentous events that occured in history on the day of `Ashura. It is the day on which the ship of Noah (as) landed on top of a mountain. On the tenth day, Ashura, we prepare the delicious desert A┼čure in keeping with the Ottoman tradition. The sweet is also known as Noah’s Pudding and is made with dried fruit and beans. The story goes: when Noah’s ship settled on the top of the mountain, the surviving believers gathered the remaining rations and prepared them into Ashure.

It is also known that Moses (as) fasted on this day to commemorate Allah saving him and his people, and drowned Pharoah and his people.

One of the murids asked sheykh what the greater wisdom was behind the sacrifice of Imam Husayn (ra), knowing that he was plunging himself to certain death. Our sheykh was measured in his response, as if not wanting to say so much, and then stated that it was destiny. Sheykh mentioned that some older companions of holy Prophet - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallim - advised him not to go. Even Imam Hasan (ra) did the same. But Imam Husayn (ra) chose to go inspite of all this. Our sheykh said that there are higher stations for Imam Husayn (ra) because of it.

We were also told about lost Sunnats of Ashura, including giving in charity, rubbing the head of an orphan in kindness and to take care of orphans, to wear kohl/surmak (?) on the eye.

Being here in dergah in the midst of all this, alhamdulillah, made it feel like a holy Day was upon us. If Allah forgave an entire people on this day, I pray that He forgave me of my many evils and sins.

Monday, December 29, 2008

On Muharram 1, 1430 AH

Bismillahir-Rahman ar-Rahim,

On Muharram 1, 1430 A.H.

By the grace of Allah and His beloveds, I once again feel the need to type my thoughts.

As of sunset on 12/28/08, we entered into 1430 A.H.. One thousand, four hundred and
thirty years since the momentous event of Allah's Messenger - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallim -
migrating to the city of safety - Madinah.

Where is our refuge, today?

In the past 2 months alone, a constant barrage of "doom and gloom" news permeated
the media. For those of us who observe daily events with discernment, it is clear we
are ALL enmeshed in an economic crisis that is still unraveling.

Most of us are so intensely drugged by these media outlets; so, we could not
avoid noticing the decline:

- Stock markets slide, with historic losses

- Banks and major industries seek government bailouts

- Countries declaring bankruptcy

- Unusual extremes of weather

- Hunger a real possibility in lands of prosperity

- Bloodshed and strife, where might prevails

In the midst of all these trials - which are still going on and WORSENING, at the time
of this writing - our heedlessness still makes the wealthier of us wonder, what will happen
on the night of Dec 31, 2008? Who will go to Times Square and watch the ball come down?
Who will be with me on that night, and make me happy to ring in the new year?

There is no "happy new year" greeting that can be said with an iota of sincerity.
Our Sheykh is saying, that major fitan (tribulations) are headed our way.

The question still stands - where can safety be found today?

Many sayings of our holy Prophet - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallim - warn us of
the Last Day. Our Sheykh keeps warning us of the trials therein; of which the Dajjal
is only a part, will be immense and unprecedented in human history.

There is a sound tradition (paraphrased here) where Ali ibn Abi Talib (ra) asked
the holy Prophet - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallim - on what can be done when the trials come?

The advice given by Rasulullah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallim - was 'Kitab-ullah'
(the book of Allah - ie. the holy Qur'an).

But who will be our exemplars in this endeavor, to help us LIVE this knowledge we absorb?
Where do we discover the living Sunnat right before our very eyes, especially
in these trying times? To whom do we give our ALLEGIANCE?

It can only be - to the true inheritors of the Prophets.

Where can we find them?

A hadith qudsi clearly states, that if we walk to our Lord, then He runs to us.
And the book of our Lord states - to obey the messenger of Allah, will grant us His love,
and promised safety. Everlasting success, in this life AND the next. No fear, and no grief.

In this Muharram, may we all run to the true inheritors of our holy Prophet
- alayhi salat was salam. And may Allah subhana wa ta'ala assist us in finding them,
loving them and serving them. Amin.

Please spare a moment for me in your du'as.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Notes from Prison - 3

(3rd part in this ongoing series: more pearls from Alija Izetbegovic's treasure chest, 'Notes from Prison, 1983-1988)

-They were not Arabs, but they wrote in the Arabic language: Abu Nives, one of the greatest poets of Arab poetry, was Persian. Ibn el Mustafa, also a Persian, was the author of the most beautiful Arab prose (second century after Hijra). Sibenshi, the famous systemizer of Arab grammar, Ibn Sinna and the great scientist El-Birouni were also Persians. Ibn Rumi was of Greek origin, as well as the geographer Jakub, while Ibn-Kufi (Spanish chronicler), Ibn Hazm (theologian and writer) and Ibn Kuzman (great poet) were of Visigoth origin [Francesco Gabrielli, The History of Arab Literature, p.11]

In the first centuries of Islam, the predominance of Arabic language was absolute. The only exception to it was the Persian national reaffirmation movement in the tenth and eleventh centuries, first in poetry and then in prose. The complete separation of Persian literature from Arab happened only recently. The predominance of the Arabic language was everywhere due to the predominance of the Qur'an in spiritual life.

-Considering the relationships between the Arab-Muslim and Spanish-Catholic communities in the medeival Spain, Ortega Y Gasset said: "It is a real shame that the relationships that existed between these two communities have not yet come to light. We must admit that our Arabists (scientists who study the Arab world), led by Ribero, have made some important steps in the attempt to get a clearer picture of the way the Moors and the Spanish lived together. However, unless this issue is approached from deeper layers, it will not be possible to read much further."

Gasset believes that lack of knowledge or poor knowledge also characterized the relationship between Europe and Islam in general - "ignorance of the fact is one of the big realities of the history of the West" (Gasset in his preface to Ibn Hazm's Dove's Necklace)

-With the exception of the Mayan culture, ended by forceful death, all other cultures in history died gradually as a consequence of aging, the slowing down of life rhythm, some kind of sclerosis, that is, of internal changes. This process can be followed most clearly in Roman civilization, where the invasion of barbarians was just a coup de grace for an organism that had been in the state of agony for two centuries. The Arab civilization was not an exception to this rule. It is up to historians to establish what this culture suffered from, to examine the causes of its decline, in which colonial subjugation was not the reason for its fall but rather a consequence of its internal descent. Anyway, does the Qur'an not say: "Verily, never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls)" [Qur'an 13:11]. It could be said that this rule has the power of natural law in the life peoples and their movement through history.