Many flavours of Qasida Burdah

Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you) dear readers,

We are almost at the end of Sha’ban and Ramadan almost any day now! (O Allah give us life to meet Ramadan!!) -surely the excitement, anticipation and preparation grows every hour. But still a few days left where the focus is also on sending salawat upon the prophet (peace be upon him), so as promised here is continuing the clips of the many flavours of the Burdah, as a way to introduce the diversity of the musical tradition in Islam. Please see last post for introduction to the Burdah

 

A recent version of a classical/traditional style of singing it using only voice. The burdah starts at about sec 24 mark…it’s only a small part of it of course. I love the collage of images in the video, and a translation of the lyrics is given in English.

 

This given in a Yemeni style, it opens with a famous verse in the Quran, where God commands the believers to send prayers upon His chosen messenger (peace be upon him). Quran 33:56-

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Transliteration

Inna Allaha wamalaikatahu yusalloonaAAala annabiyyi ya ayyuha allatheenaamanoo salloo AAalayhi wasallimoo tasleema

English interpretation by Shakir – Surely Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe! call for (Divine) blessings on him and salute him with a (becoming) salutation.
This a traditional way it is sung in India and Pakistan. Part of it is sung in Urdu, being the translation of the Arabic into Urdu

 

This by the famous ‘Fez singers’ – a traditional group of singers in Morocco, who have been singing in this style for centuries…the style is handed down father to son and so on. This is the version I listen to the most :)

 

Something more colourful, a recent version by Pakistani artist, Maya Khan…very soothing to hear it from a female voice. She intersperses prayers in Urdu as well.

 

This is a version in Arabic, English and Turkish sung by a Turkish choir – it is actually a rendition by the well known nasheed artist Mahar Zain

 

And a very popular video in the Muslim world, by Turkish artist Mesut Kurtis. He too is singing a part of the Burdah. The video depicts a scene from the past – seafaring traders… a scene that must have been quite common in the Muslim world a few centuries ago.

 

There are more, but that will give you a taste to its popularity. To end, a long version with a video showing clips from an old movie of the life of the blessed beloved, peace be upon him. I am not sure which film it is, but it may be ‘The Message’ (?). As per Muslim rules, the prophet (peace be upon him) and his close family members are not shown on screen in person. Where he is, is always inferred by the scene.

 

“Maula ya salli wasallim da’iman a’badan, ala habeebika khairi khalki kulli himi” (=O God send your blessings and peace forever and ceaselessly, upon your beloved the best of creation that ever was)

The month of Sha’ban and Qasida Burdah

Assalamu alaikum, peace be upon you my dear readers,

With the new moon reported last week, we have entered the month of Sha’ban, the 8th month in the Islamic calendar and the month preceeding the month of months- Ramadan, whose arrival all Muslims around the world are counting the days to eagerly. We make the du’a (=supplication, a prayer) “O Allah grant us to meet Ramadan” (meaning ‘prolong our life so we can meet Ramadan’) since roughly about the 3rd month of the year, i.e., during the six months before Ramadan. The rest of the year, i.e., the six months following Ramadan, we make the du’a “O Allah accept all our worship during Ramadan (our fasting and special salat=prayers, charity and hosting family and friends and so on). This was the habit of the prophet Muhammed (peace and blessing of God be upon him) and of his companions (God be pleased with them all) and so we follow his example in this as we try to in every other aspect of our lives. So you can imagine now that Ramadan is almost around the corner, the frequency with which Muslims make this prayer increases exponentially :)

The month of Sha’ban is sandwiched between Ramadan and Rajab, which is the month we just exited. Rajab is considered one of the four sacred months. These four months were a  time when warring was forbidden in the Arabian peninsula since before the time of the prophet (peace and blessing of God be upon him) and Islam upheld that tradition. The other three months are the 11th, 12th and 1st months of the year, traditionally the time when the pilgrims for the Hajj pilgrimage would be traveling to Mecca, perform the pilgrimage (which happens in the 12th month) and return. You can imagine, had tribal war been allowed during that time, the pilgrimage would not happen – hence the importance of them being ‘sacred’. Rajab stands alone and therefore is given a great deal of importance.

Ramadan is actually not one of the four ‘sacred’ months. It is however one of the holiest of the year, and unlike the other four, whose sacredness predates the time of the beloved messenger (peace be upon him), its status as the month of fasting was instituted by the messenger (peace be upon him). It is the month in which the Quran was first revealed. More on Ramadan in the coming weeks inshaAllah (God willing). There is so much information available online on Ramadan, I am not sure I need to write a post. Here is a good link gathering a lot of information in one place (I haven’t read all the information there, but the site is generally reliable).

It is said that Rajab is the month of God, Sha’ban the month of the messenger of God (peace be upon him) and Ramadan the month of his community! Rajab is generally a time Muslims spend a lot of time in reflection and ‘returning’ to God, then in the month of Sha’ban there is an emphasis on sending prayers upon Muhammed. We call this salawat and I gathered some types of salawat in this post. Of course ‘salawat’ can be done without any music, and done alone as many of us do.

In that post, I introduced some forms of salawat. Here I want to introduce a ‘salawat’ so famous in the Muslim world, I doubt there are many Muslims who have not heard it. They may not know what they heard (such is the sad state of Muslims divorce from their tradition and heritage – due to a large part to a catastrophic period of colonial subjugation – but I am digressing), but they would have heard it! It has been rendered into every musical form contained in the vastly diverse Muslim world, sung in so many different languages in so many corners of the world. It is the famous ‘Qasida Burdah’

Qasida (=elegiac/laudatory poem) Burdah, or ‘The poem of the cloak’ was written by a great scholar – Imam Buseeri (raheemahullah alai = God have mercy upon him), who lived in Egypt in the 13th century CE which would be 6th century AH (=After Hijri). The real name of the publication is “Al-Kawakib Al-Durriyya Fi Madh Khayr Al-Bariyya” (=The Brilliant Stars in Praising the Best of Mankind), but the poem has come to be most known as simply ‘Al-Burdah’ (=the cloak) or the ‘Qasida Burdah’. I could go on a long time about both Imam Busiri and Qasida Burdah, but I will limit myself to telling you about why the poem’s popular name is what it is. It is said Imam Busiri suffered a grave illness and was paralyzed for a long time. No doctors could cure him. He wrote this poem as way of praying to God, by praising the beloved of God, His final messenger, Muhammed (upon whom be God’s peace and blessing). One night he saw the prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) appear to him in a dream and convey his pleasure with the poem – the blessed prophet took his cloak and put it on Imam Busiri. The next day Imam Busiri (rah) was miraculously cured and his paralysis lifted. Hence the naming of the poem by the populace, and the name that stuck. Beautiful detail about Qasid Burdah can be found here and audio of the recitation of it in entirety with translation.  I will quote a few sentences from there below;

It reached unsurpassed fame, where it was taught, copied, distributed, recited, transcribed on mosque walls, memorized, commented on, studied, and considered required reading by countless scholars. The Burda was engraved on the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, where it adorned the walls for centuries before being erased by people who could not comprehend it. There is still one line left that has not been removed: “He is the beloved, whose intercession is hoped for….to overrun every terrible horror” (on the day of resurrection)

The poem is usually given as ~300 lines arranged in 10 sections, and each verse ends with the letter ‘meem’. In Arabic poetic forms this is called a ‘meemiya’. I want to collect several renderings of Qasida Burdah to introduce the variety in the Muslim world, but this post is too long already. And I have just found a wonderful interview online with the author of the best English translation of Qasida Burdah currently available, and a person I am honored to say I have studied briefly with.

So below is an interview with and a recent ‘recital’ of the Burdah by the western world’s well known scholar Sheikh Abdul Hakim Murad, also known as Dr. Tim Winter, professor of Islamic studies at Cambridge University (and one of my favouritest scholars – such a purely scholarly soul in every sense of the word. If you ever have the time youtube one of his talks, I promise you, you won’t be bored!). He sings in an ‘olde English’ style I grew up with and love. I don’t know the technical term for it though.

In this interview, he beautifully explains the traditional Muslim civilization’s celebration of poetry and the qasida tradition as well as the metaphysical realities to do with Quranic recitation.

And his rendition of it in ‘olde English’, which I love

Stay tuned for future posts with other renditions of the Qasida Burdah ‘bi ithnillahi ta’ala’ (= with the permission of God, the most high).

God’s blessing be with you.

Spring in Vancouver

There are those who are said to *know* God, who we call ‘a’rifeen-billah’ (=those who *know* God). Of course it is not possible to ever *know* God according to Muslim theology, at least not in this realm (what will happen in the next realm Muslim theologians prefer not to talk about as it delves into the area of speculative knowledge. It is preferable to stay within the bounds of logical and revealed knowledge). Because to say one knows means one has encompassed a complete meaning and if something can be encompassed that would logically imply that something has been bounded or a limited. Now if something were bound or limited it would not be completely able, for its ability would be limited. And that whose ability is limited cannot be Divine. Because the definition of Divine naturally implies no limitation. The Divine is not limited or bound in anyway, the power of the Divine is not limited or encompassed by anything. Completely able, the unsustained sustainer of all…the uncaused cause, the Divine is not like the creation, for, in whatever way you like to ponder upon whatever part of the creation, you will come across a limit in it. So we say, the Creator is not like the creation. Things are often ‘known’ by their opposites… so pondering upon the creation gives us a *glimpse* in to the Creator. So when I say *know* I say it with these caveats in place.

The ‘knowledge’ the a’rifeen-billah have is yet only a minutae of knowledge, that too a gift from the Divine, and an atom in comparison to infinity…

So it is said by the a’rifeen-billah that were the human heart to be unveiled to the true nature of Divine beauty, it would burst out of sheer ecstasy! These beautiful spring days in Vancouver, it is easy to understand why it is so said…for surely the beauty we are blessed to witness all around us takes our breath away. If so much can be unveiled in such a short time that is so breathtaking, then who can even imagine the Divine, who is ‘Al-Jamal’!

Al-Jamal means ‘The Beautiful’, it is one of the *names* or attributes of God, and the attributes of Allah (=God, Allah is preferred by Muslims to use as a term as it is devoid of gender-connotations, exalted be God from such) are of the same nature as Allah’s essence – meaning they are unlimited and unsustained but sustain all. So then imagine that Beauty! The Beautiful! Subhahanallah (=Glory be to God)

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Peace be with you my dear readers, and may you also be blessed to witness great beauty in your lives

University of Karueein – oldest university in the world

Dear Readers, Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

It was a dream come true to set foot inside the famed Karueein, the oldest continually operating university in the world (Guinness, UNESCO). I will use the English form of the Arabic name, as that is more familiar to me, Al-Qarawiyyin. It was founded in 859 CE, which would be 244 AH (hijri calendar), so 234 years after the death of the blessed beloved Muhammed (peace be upon him).

It was built by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri. And what a lady she must have been. She was wealthy and endowed her wealth to build this institution. It is said, such was her piety, that she continuously fasted for the duration of the building of the institution. Indeed, as per a classical Islamic understanding of success…her intention and good deed was surely accepted by God, for it has been rewarded by the benchmark of divine acceptance – longevity! She is given the affectionate title, Al-Fihriyya – Allah be well pleased with her!

From the ‘1001 inventions exhibit’ – fatima

 

We entered the mosque of the Qarawiyyin through one of its 14 gates. In the old Muslim world (and indeed to this day, though it remains as only a slight shadow of its glorious past), mosques were a center for learning and community. Education was free in the Muslim world, the Sultan supporting the scholars, or more frequently, their work would be supported by rich endowments, called ‘waqf’ in Arabic. Awqaf (plural of waqf) would be established by wealthy families, so that scholars would be supported and could work independently from state sponsorship – ensuring free thinking. So scholars would stay behind after one of the canonical prayers and stand at a pillar of the mosque (rarely there would be chairs on raised daises – you can still see some in old Turkish mosques) and give a lecture. Anyone who wanted to was free to listen or go. One can imagine serious students keeping a timetable of talks times and scurrying from mosque pillar to mosque pillar! As well as busy merchants, housewives etc. wandering in and out catching a talk here and there as they go about their daily business.

So the mosque is an essential part of the University. The university complex grew around it, and included many amazingly beautiful dormitories (another post inshaAllah) and buildings. The mosque is not used as a lecture hall anymore, though we were treated to a glimpse of the past…when the imam came by, he sat down on the carpet by a pillar, we sat in a circle around him and he gave us a mini lecture on the history of the Qarawiyyin. Beautiful, simple, and easy – devoid of all the trappings of a modern classroom. The teacher is fully exposed and the student has full access to him. What a teacher one has to be to take this place confidently!

Before stepping into those hallowed halls of the Qarawiyyin mosque we stopped to imagine the footsteps that must have gone over the same door-sill we were stepping over; the Qarawiyyin was famed for studies in theology, jurisprudence , philosophy, mathematics , astronomy, geography and languages. It was open to students of all faiths. Maimonides, one of the most famous of the Jewish scholars (well worth looking into the Jewish golden age of scholarship that flourished in Muslim Spain in the past – a strong proof that the present Muslim-Jewish conflict has little precedent historically, as well as negating the orientalists assertion that Islam is an intolerant faith. Please look at this link from jewishhistory.org) was said to have studied there. Indeed there was a rich caravan of scholars going to and fro between the Maghreb (Muslim lands in North West Africa) and Andalucia (Muslim kingdom in Spain) in those days, a bit like scholarship travel between Canada and the USA of today if I may. Here is an excerpt about other famous scholars at the Qarawiyyin, source here

Pioneer scholars include Ibn Maymun (Maimonids, (1135-1204) who was taught at Al-Qarawiyyin by Abdul Arab Ibn Muwashah. The famous Al-Idrissi (d.1166 CE) is said to have settled in Fes for considerable time suggesting that he must have worked or studied at Al-Qarawiyyin. Sources also list a number of peers such as Ibn Al-‘Arabi (1165-1240 CE), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1395 CE), Ibn Al-Khatib, Alpetragius, Al-Bitruji, Ibn Harazim, and Ibn Wazzan are said to have all taught in Al-Qarawiyyin[7].Some historic accounts also spoke of Ibn Zuhr (d.1131 CE) spending a great deal of time travelling between Andalusia, Fes, and Marrakech.

Among Christian witnesses of the contribution of Al-Qarawiyyin is Gerbert of Aurillac (930-1003), famously known as Pope Sylvester II, and who is credited with introducing the use of zero and Arabic numerals to Europe, studied at Al-Qarawiyyin[8] . More recently the Belgian Nichola Louvain settled in Fes in 1540 and studied Arabic at Al-Qarawayyin, to be followed later by the Deutch Mathematician Golius who also studied Arabic there

N.B. – Al-Idrissi is the famous cartographer, whose maps contributed greatly to the Portugese and Spanish naval conquests. The world-map as he drew it, had what is now considered North, at the South. That is, Europe appears below Africa! This was the order of the world-view pre-Renaissance apparently. He was commissioned to do this by the Norman king of Sicily at the time, Roger. His finished product, ‘Al-kitab Al-Rujari’ (=Roger’s book). Source here

Ibn Khaldun, for those not familiar, wrote one of the most comprehensive world-histories…it is a masterful compendium of global events and civilizational analyses. Still studied to this day in the Muslim world.

I will stop myself going on about the scholarship there (this junior scientist finds it very easy to indulge in long digressions on this topic) and post pictures below. They are mostly of the mosque…where we were privileged to join several congregations and then just ‘hang-out’.

 

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Inside where the mihrab (=prayer niche) is. The mihrab is a distinguishing characteristic of a mosque, it faces to Mecca and is where the Imam stands to recite. The hollow niche acts to echo his voice so the congregation can hear him. The niche was a few degrees ‘off’ from the direction of Mecca…but to me that only spoke to how old the mosque is and I was amazed they could calculate the direction to so close to accuracy ~1200 years ago!

 

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sacred space still echoing the purity of lost knowledge…

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One of the functions of the ‘work’ on the ceiling it was found recently was that the angles created prevent the formation of cobwebs… sorry about the poor focus

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Courtyard, that features the fountains to make ‘wudu’ (=lumination, mandatory washing prior to entering the salat or prayer)

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One of two sundials found in the courtyard…this one must have been touched up with the numerals (?). The sundials were used to calculate the times for the canonical prayers -which are based upon the position of the sun in the sky

 

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Second sundial…unfortunately I am not able to read the Arabic around it yet…it is most likely Quranic ayat (=verses, literally ‘signs). In the center portion is ‘Allah’ right on top, below that ‘Muhammed’ and the four circles on either side have the names of the first four ‘rightly guided’ caliphs of Islam, ‘Abu Bakr’, ‘Umar’, ‘Uthman’ and ‘Ali’ (God be pleased with all of them)

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One of the two fountains in the courtyard is under this beautiful and intricately decorated roof. Truly breathtaking to make the ‘wudu’ under…

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Finally, the doors being opened by the beautifully dignified caretaker…what a feeling when those giant ancient wooden doors swing open and we step over the sill. A feeling of awe and being deeply honored to enter.

 

Moulay Idriss (raheemahullah alai = Allah’s mercy be upon him)

Assalamu alaikum (=peace be upon you) dear readers,

Good ‘adab’ ( =manners/etiquette) on a rihla (= journey for purpose of learning, often used for spiritual journey) entails that the first places in a new country one visits are purposefully chosen.  We chose to begin as far as practically possible, with visiting ‘Moulay Idriss’, the ‘founder’ of what is modern day Morocco and the spiritual father of the land. There is a mosque by his burial site as well as the town where he is buried is also called ‘moulay Idriss’. We stopped here on our way to the ancient city of Fez, Al-Faas in Arabic, one of the great spiritual capitals of the maghreb (=literally ‘west’, meaning the western Muslim world…the lands that would comprise Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Southern Spain of today)

Moulay Idriss was the great-great-grandson of the prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him). We were treated to a masterful narration of his story on our bus-ride to the city by Sh. Mokhtar, which I will not be able to recapitulate. However to summarize, during the tumultuous time of the khalif Ali (karamallahu wajha = Allah ennoble his face) and the years after, there was deep discord and division as to who would become the ruler. By this time, the capital had moved to modern day Iraq and the rule of the Muslim world had entered a dynastic period with the first Umayyad dynasty established.

Dynastic rule is not something Muslims are comfortable with and that was the case at that time as well. [The preferred Muslim system of rule has often been described as ‘meritocracy’ as opposed to ‘democrasy’ or ‘monarchy’]. So not surprisingly, in Medina, there was a movement to bring rule back to descendants of the prophet (peace be upon him) not simply due to lineage, but because they embodied the truest spirit of ascetisicm and ability to rule justly. In other words most ‘taking after the prophet’ (peace be upon him). The people of Medina swore allegiance to ‘Muhammed nafsul zakkiya’ (Muhammed the ‘pure souled’), the brother of Moulay Idriss. One of those who pledged allegiance was Ja’far al Mansur, who went on to found the Abbasid dynasty at the fall of the Umayyad dynasty, and then turn against the family of Muhammed nafsul zakkiya. Muhammed nafsul zakkiya was killed in 145 AH (after hijri, 762 CE), and many of his family members captured.

Moulay Idriss escaped and was taken by his ‘servant’ (there is no modern day equivalent, but you could think of this as his ‘valet’ in the old English meaning of the word perhaps), Moulay Rashid to the maghreb. [BTW ‘moulay’ in Arabic can be used to mean both ‘master’ and ‘servant’, or ‘guardian’ as well as ‘ward’…translators of Arabic texts need to be careful of terms like this that they don’t make mistakes in translation. A digression worth the mention as the Orientalists have done plenty damage in bringing knowledge of the Muslim world to Europe by making several mistakes like this the past 200-300 years]. Moulay Rashid had family ties in the maghreb, his mother being a Berber tribeswoman, and news of Islam had already spread as far as the Berber tribes which had for the most part already converted to Islam.

Therefore when Moulay Idriss arrived in the maghreb, he was welcomed with open arms as a great teacher by the Berber tribes, who gave him leadership and pledged allegiance to him. He founded a capital in what is now the town of Moulay Idriss and ruled there for a short 3 years. The caliphs in Baghdad, afraid of his popularity and rapidly growing influence, had him assassinated by means of a spy they sent to the maghreb. His wife, the lady Kinza, was 7 months pregnant at the time. In Muslim history, much is written about the nobility and wisdom of the lady Kinza. The boy born to her was named ‘Idriss’ as well. A prodigal child, he was carefully looked after by Moulay Rashid until at a very young age (perhaps early teenhood), all the tribes pledged allegiance to him as their leader. Idriss the second, moved the capital to Fez (Al-Faas), a project begun by his father. He lived a short time, dying in his thirties, but accomplished a great deal during that period. A master orator, leader, scholar, he memorized the Quran at a young age of course, and was a saintly person.

To get back to the tale of his father, Moulay Idriss the first is buried in the town bearing his name. It is a very picturesque town high up in the mountains (chosen for it’s strategic location) close to what used to be a Roman outpost. The mosque adjoining the compound of his tomb is stunning. We joined the congregation for the noon prayer there, and spent some time wondering around the town after. Only Muslims are allowed into the mosque complex though as it is a very sacred space. In the short time we spent there, we witnessed many beautiful experiences which I unfortunately cannot include in this medium. And perhaps on hindsight it is wiser to keep the space free from tourist cameras and the like. Some pictures I am able to share are below.

There was a very peaceful feel to the whole place. It bore the traces of people who had come to find rest, and found it, over the centuries. While we were there, a group of ‘munshid’ (=those who sing ‘nasheed’, which are often poems in praise of the prophet peace be upon him) came by, sat down on the carpet and started a beautiful harmonious chanting of a poem famous throughout the Muslim world; ‘qaseeda Burdah’.  [It is a long poem (depending on style of reading/singing, can take upto 4 hours), a nice documentary on it here and partial (?) meaning in English here. – one of my have-to-blog-on in the series of ‘music in Islam’ – inshaAllah. There is a rendition of it in a very ‘olde English’ style of singing performed by Sheikh Tim Winter of Cambridge – one of the greatest scholars in the Muslim English speaking world today, well worth the listen!]

Also to note, the love and reverence the people of the maghreb have for the family of Muhammed, peace be upon him is deep and ancient. Morocco is a sunni country and many in the world today unfortunately have the impression the Sunni world is divorced from the love of the prophet (peace be upon him) and of his beloved family. This is not true, and has never been the case. It was nice to witness such deep love, unspoilt by all the modern woes, in this beautiful spot…that still bears the marks of the saintly and revered person buried there, a descendant of our beloved Muhammed (peace be upon him) who had that great noble bearing which is a mark of those of his family, peace be upon him.

I will end with a short clip of the Burdah, sung in a very old Moroccan style

Peace be with you all.

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A glimpse into the little mosque inside the compound…

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Collecting water from the fountain in the courtyard, and ‘hanging out’ there… a scene that must have played out for centuries

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One of the doors in the compound. My attempt to read the inscription on the two rows, it is in the ‘maghrebi’ script – outer row ‘Al-ghani Allah’ (God is The Rich, or God is the one who is self sufficient, independent of needs) is repeated, inner row ‘Ash-Shaafi, Al-ghafur’ is repeated. Both are names of Allah, Ash-Shaafi means ‘The Healer’ (all healing comes from God, God is the source of all healing) and Al-ghafur means ‘The Forgiver’ (God is the only One whose forgiveness is sought, or God is the one who forgives all)

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Town street with food stalls lining it

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Tagines being prepared for lunch :)

 

And a clip from the Burdah…if you visit me, you may hear it playing often :)

Peace and blessing be with you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mihrab of Lele sakeena masjid

Assalamu alaikum dear readers,  peace be with you,

Alhamdulillah the sights and history of this land have left me stunned. It has been a life changing ‘rihla’ (=spiritual journey) indeed.

A rihla is a part of traditional or classical muslim scholarship.  The student travels with the teacher, and gains from the teacher’s knowledge not just from lessons delivered during the journey, but by also observing the ‘adab’ (=manners/comportment/etiquette) of the teacher. Adab is a huge part of Islamic classical civilization and still preserved thankfully among scholars (at least if not to some extent in society). Lack of adab a sure way to tell a false teacher from a good one, as well as a false student from a sincere one.

On this rihla I am blessed with the company of a many shuyukh, among them my beloved sheikha (=female scholar, Islam has always had a great tradition of female scholarship). Here is a snippet of the many blessings I’ve partaken of due to her blessed companionship. She is reading the very ornate caligraphay in the mihrab (=niche, the essential part of a mosque, that denotes the direction of salah and historically was built to echo and thus magnify the voice of the imam so the congregation would hear…i.e., pre – microphone days). And being a hafidha-ul-quran (=one who has memorized the Quran,  a great honor in the Islamic tradition), could tell immediately which chapter it is. The translation is below video

Sura Tawba, verse 18 ( interpretation of the Arabic by Pickthall).

He only shall tend Allah’s sanctuaries who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due and feareth none save Allah. For such (only) is it possible that they can be of the rightly guided.

Lele sekeena

Assalamu alaikum dear readers,  peace be with you

Alhamdulillah (=thanks and praise be to God) I am in Morocco. We had the pleasure and blessing of spending time in this amazing mosque in Rabat. It is a fairly new masjid (=mosque) built by the sister of the previous king.

Beautifully designed and a gem of ‘maghrebi’ style architecture.  Maghreb means ‘west’ and is the Muslim name for Morocco, as it is historically the western most part of the Muslim world.
Maghreb is also the name of the prayer at sunset, since the sun sets in the west! We joined the congregation for the noon prayer, ‘dhuhr’.

Here are some pictures… the masjid is aptly named, lele meaning something like lady and sakeena meaning tranquility,  calmness, serenity…

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Pictures don’t do it justice, we were very blessed to visit there. I hope you will be able to one day too.

Peace be upon you all.

Let us be truthful

The chapel hill murders were an act of terrorism. Let us be clear about that. The fact that mainstream media says so little about it is appalling. The fact that these three bright young inspiring people needlessly lost their lives is tragic and it is chilling.

To quote the ‘hits home sarcasm’ of Imam Zaid, a beloved American Muslim leader and teacher;

“Many are complaining of the lack of media coverage around this event. The sad fact is that the mainstream media that recently brought us “I am Charlie” has no interest in humanizing Muslims. The deceased were too full of life and positive energy to meet the stereotype of the evil, sneaky, not to be trusted Muslim. Why provide free humanizing coverage to the adherents of an evil ideology, hellbent on taking over the country. The smiles, vitality and genuine concern for others exhibited by the deceased will likely be dismissed asTaqiyya, self-serving deception.”

Please watch this video – this is what the vast majority of American and Canadian Muslims are like…these beautiful, hopeful, inspiring, courageous, proactive souls who are true assets to all around them. It is a great loss to the community and a wake-up call that Islamophobia is alive and well. Saluting Deah’s sister for her incredible resilience and her great generous heart to do this.

I will end with quoting another impressive young American Muslim, Hareem Mannan, who writes in her article “Blood on the Leaves: The Chapel Hill murders” published on VirtualMosque.com.

Should I call them and tell them not to go out today? My mother and sister, the two most important people in my life, my best friends, who just stepped out into the 32 degree outdoors that feels infinitely colder today? Will college campuses and malls in this country ever provide the type of safety for my mother and sister, both dressed in hijabs (headscarves), visible symbols of the Islamic faith, require? Is this the world that I will have to live in– one where I will spend the rest of my life worrying if my mom and my sister, myself and my friends, will make it home?

Or is this just about a parking spot, about a man who, as the New York Times described it, was involved in an altercation that was just a “lethal escalation of a neighborhood parking dispute”. Is this about questioning, as CNN puts it, “what role, if any, the victims’ faith played?” Is this about the fact that it literally took an international concerted effort on social media to even get this story to media stations, who still swiftly paint it with subtle pro-white, anti-Muslim propaganda?

Or is this about the fact that I am Yusor Abu-Salha. My sister is Razan Abu-Salha, and my fiance is Deah Barakat. We each carry their story with us, in our siblings, in our daily lives as American Muslims, and furthermore in our efforts to balance activism with school and deen (religion) withdunya (worldly affairs), to get married and play basketball and be with friends and cherish our parents, just as they did. Today I mourn the loss of such excellent human beings, and tomorrow I will don my hijab (headscarf) with a melancholy pride. And it will feel a little heavier, a little more difficult to wear, and as each of these Islamophobic tragedies adds to its gravity, I pray I never have to choose between hijab and life. I pray I never see the day I am not capable of bearing its growing responsibility. And I pray for the safety of all my Muslim brothers and sisters imprisoned by twisted perceptions of their religious beliefs in this land: the land of the “free”, home of the scared.

Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha will never be forgotten. Let their legacies be that of phenomenal human beings, beautiful people who touched the lives of so many through their selfless character and glowing personalities. Put their names down in our Muslim American history books; tell your kids about them: about these stunning human beings, victims of a war that most of the population pretend isn’t being fought every single day, martyrs in every right. Let them make du’a (supplication) with you every night that they are in the company with the very first victims of this senseless war against believers of this faith, Yasir and Sumayyah (may Allah be pleased with them), more than 1400 years ago– may Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) allow them to join their ranks in Paradise.

Let their deaths not be in vain. Let them be the seeds they tried to bury that, instead, gave fruit to a revolution. Demand a re-visitation of the narrative that brands brown men killing over the loss of their countries, families, and homes as terrorism, and white men killing over parking spaces as just that. Demand a re-visitation of the narrative that causes our belief system or varied level of melanin to detract not only from our right to thrive, but also our right to survive. And bring the world to its feet: let everyone come to the realization that this was not about a parking space.

It was never about a parking space.

Please also read this article by Philip Gourevitch in the NewYorker. “The Chapel Hill Massacre Blues”

I have no words to say so I am sharing quotes. Perhaps I will save my energy for action and leave the words to others for now. But I have grown up in a country at war and racial conflict. I know it can take a mountain to move people’s minds…or it can take just a moment of true sincerity. Take a moment to think about what is happened and what is going on here. Let us be truthful, the whole story needs to be acknowledged.

We pray that people have access to sound knowledge, increase in wisdom, self-awareness and self-control and are able to be true.

Here is a charity page that Deah Barakat had set up. This dental school student was raising money for Syrian refugees in Turkey so he could provide dental care for them. http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/syrian-dental-relief/206249

Here is a petition that I pray you will sign

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/declare-chapel-hill-shooting-3-innocent-muslim-american-students-terrorist-attack/HGfXFYH3

And here is a link where you can participate in a joint recitations/readings of the Quran, that we will do for the victims

Ending with a picture that I find beloved. Allah forgive all their sins and grant them the highest paradise, strengthen their families and give them fortitude during this difficult time.

As we say when we hear of any death; Inna lillaahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon…. from God we come and to Him we return

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‘Salawat’ – a musical tradition in Islam

Assalamu alaikum dear readers, peace be with you,

There is a great musical tradition in Islam, one that the West knows little of. One that spans a multitude of styles, genres and ages. From the deep rhythm of African drums to the mournful haunting melodies of Central Asia to the lyrically joyful sounds of the Indonesian percussion to the complex soothing majesty of the middle eastern Oud, Santoor and Violin, there has been a wealth of musicality in the Muslim world. Most of these classical traditions revolve around ‘salawat’ (=sending prayers upon the prophet, peace be upon him), and many are the lengthy poems and odes sung in every part of the world in praise of Muhammed, the beloved messenger (peace be upon him, his family and his followers). I will hope to collect a few of these genres together soon to give you a glimpse into this rich tradition.

There is a difference of opinion among Muslims as to the permissibility of Muslic in Islam. Islam is more commonly understood as a way of life among its adherents rather than a religion (see this post where I detail this better) and therefore everything in life has a law attached to it. The default state of everything is that it is permissible and only exceptions are forbidden. This is the classical scholarly understanding. The burden of proof always falls on rendering something invalid rather than the other way around. However I am sure all my Muslim readers would have come across the so called ‘haram police’ at least once in their life. These are the self-righteous self-appointed ‘scholars’ who would have you think that everything was forbidden and the burden of proof was on rendering validity (yet another symptom of the disease of lack of sound knowledge of Islam among Muslims nowadays). These people suck the joy out of life, and that is rather strange that they claim it is Islamic, when we know that the prophet (peace be upon him) was one of the most positive cheerful kind gentle accommodating of people, always smiling and always benevolent.

For myself, I have never found in my practice of Islam, anything except for joy, and that ever present sense of deep peace, which especially is strengthening during those difficult times that this life is bound to be peppered with.

So as to the permissibility of Music – the strictest opinion is that only using the human voice is allowed, the next lenient one is that the voice and percussion (some specify exactly which type of drum) is allowed, the next lenient one is that any instrument is allowed. However for all of the above, there is a consensus that the lyrics/message of the music must be ‘sound/wholesome/good/halal’. In other words ludity, lyrics that encourage impermissible actions, disturb the heart (e.g., violence, ugliness) etc. are to be absent in order for it to be allowable to partaken in.

About this difference in opinion – what is important to note is that scholarly difference of opinion is always respected and one may choose the opinion that suits one. One may disagree with another Muslim’s stance but one is not allowed to impose one’s way on the other. The latter point should be underlined, such is the sad state of lack of Islamic knowledge among Muslims these days that many do not know this principle, and a lot of unnecessary argumentation and much worse ensues. There are a vast number of issues upon which opinions differ in the Muslim’s life, and this is not a problem or should not be.

Music affects different people in different ways.  I have always found it healing and spiritually very uplifting. Someone once told me that ‘music is mathematics in motion’. This makes perfect sense to me. I have always adored mathematics…it is as they say ‘the language to understand the divine’ – of course mathematics will only lead us to a glimpse of divine truths, as a complete understanding of the divine is not possible in this lifetime given the limitations of our brain, and only God knows if it will ever be possible!

After all, while we all know that there is a concept called ‘infinite’ do we really *know* what that means? So can we really ever comprehend an infinite being? In mathematics it is proven that any number divided by infinity equals zero, and thus we say that anything or anyone compared to God, who is infinite, equals nothing! Hence the deeply spiritual person’s moving to a state of being devoid of  ‘ego’ (a good way to recognize a true teacher from a false one). This is why we also emphasize the oneness of God.. Mathematically, one (as in the absolute ‘one’..here I am talking about the concept of singularity) is the only number that cannot be divided…were it to be divided, it would not be one, and were it capable of being divided, then it would by definition have a limit, and what is limited is not infinite and hence cannot be God. These are some brief points to note on why mathematics has always been a cherished science in the Muslim world, and why Muslim scholars of old have recognized the power of music, being that ‘mathematics in motion’.

In the Islamic Golden age (when Algebra was invented) Muslim art always used geometrical patterns for that same reason – using pattern work to symbolize eternity and using the mathematical ratios of sides to symbolize the oneness of God. So that one who looks upon this pattern work is transported ‘out of the body, freeing the mind so as to catch a glimpse’…thereby making art a means to ‘know’ God, so to Islamic music has sought to transcend or elevate the limits of human consciousness.

That long preamble done, I wanted to share with you a piece from the ‘Firdous ensemble’. A very unique group of musicians who are blending different musical genres to produce what to me is a marvelous rendition of classical Islamic musical works. They are based in modern day Spain and strive to bring back to life the spirit of old Andalusia. A spirit some have argued this fractured world of the so called ‘clash of civilizations’ is much in need of rekindling. A place and time when people of different faiths, cultures and ideas lived and worked side by side, in what some historians have called was ‘the closest thing to paradise created on earth’.

So here is the Firdous ensemble. They are singing in praise of the prophet (peace be upon him)

They combine traditional and modern elements, even incorporating some celtic fiddle work in certain pieces! It’s best enjoyed with headphones. You can youtube more of their work, here are two clips I particularly like-

1. Salawat Dimashqiyya –

salawat = sending prayers upon the prophet (peace be upon him) and Dimashqiyya = from Damascus. It must be an ancient piece, or perhaps it is their name for it. I will translate what I can for your enjoyment and better appreciation below;

Begins with recitation from Quran, Surah 49, ayat 13 and Surah 33, ayat 56

49:13
(Quran 49:13) Sahih International Interpretation

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.

33:56
(Quran 33:56) Sahih International Interpretation

Indeed, Allah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels [ask Him to do so]. O you who have believed, ask [ Allah to confer] blessing upon him and ask [ Allah to grant him] peace.

@min 2:24 various salawat in Arabic…

refrain – “la ilaaha illallaah” = there is no God but God

@min 5.56 – singing in turkish (?)

@min 6.14 chorus –

“hasbi rabbi jallalah, maafi qalbi ghairullah = sufficient is my Lord, the majestic, for me, there is none in my heart except God/

“nur Muhammed sallallah, la ilaaha illallah” = The light of Muhamed (peace and blessing be upon him), there is no God but God.

refrain – “la ilaaha illallaah” = there is no God but God

end – “Muhammed rasullullah” = Muhammed is the messenger of God.

A recitation of the opening chapter of the Quran, Al-Fatiha = ‘the opening’ is given at the end as is often customary.

2. Madha Morisco – Morisco was the name give to Muslims who lived in Spain after the Reconqista. The video has subtitles and and an explanation. This one I find rather poignant, as there is some reason to believe I may have partially descended from the Moriscoes. Perhaps this geneticist should sequence her genome to find out! Enjoy :)

Muslim condemnations of terrorism

Dear readers, Assalamu alaikum (peace be with you)

I had hoped I could move on from the terrible Charlie Hebdo attack, at least on this blog, which was never intended to be political, but tonight a question posed to me by a close friend has prompted this post. She asked me where the Muslim voice is in condemning the massacre. I explained as best as I could, trying not to get emotional as I outlined the very apparent bias in Western mainstream media re the Muslim voice in general, never mind when it matters the most.

As expected, when I got home and googled it, I found that it was only obscure or hardly major media giants that carried the condemnations. I am therefore going to compile them, whatever I can find at least, here. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

First – with great thanks to a brave and honest soul, my job has been mostly done by Katie Halper at alternet.org. The way she begins her piece says a lot. Please read the rest of the article here, It is descriptively titled ’45 examples of muslim outrage about charlie hebdo attack that fox news missed’

Every time an extremist who is Muslim commits an act of terrorism, people ask where the moderate Muslim voices condemning violence are. (Interestingly, as a Jew, I don’t usually get asked to condemn extremism when it is perpetuated by Jewish fundamentalists like Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29 praying Muslims do death, and injured 125, at the Cave of the Patriarchs, or Yigal Amir, who killed Israeli Prime MinisterYitzhak Rabin.) And the same thing is happening following this week’s deplorable, pathetic, and tragic killing of 12 people at the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Here is another amazing link, by http://www.judaism-islam.com where they too have compiled condemnations. It’s also a very informative website generally
They have even categorized the condemnations by country, by organization and by prominent individuals. From the website:

The majority of Muslim nations have overwhelmingly condemned the terror attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. Only 7 countries with a Muslim majority over 10,000,000 failed to condemn the attack (Bangladesh, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Yemen), every other nation was unanimous in their condemnation. – See more at: http://www.judaism-islam.com/muslim-reaction-to-the-charlie-hebdo-massacre/#clerics

Well, it doesn’t take much general knowledge to surmise that the 7 countries that have been silent are pretty well embroiled in their own troubles currently to say anything about anything going on in the world. Those are some of the poorest countries in the world.

There doesn’t seem much more to compile after those above. The LA times carries this article where they even note the leader of Hizbollah condemned the attacks! And also noted that Ayatollah Khatami of Iran said

“Islam does not approve of killing innocent people, whether in Paris, or in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan,” according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

The Spectator carried this piece, allowing ordinary Muslims to air their views.

I can go on, but I think the point is made. Of all the so called ‘Muslim’ terror organizations out there, one of the most deranged and cruel in my opinion is Boko Haram. I pray they will be stopped in their mad scourge and relentless brutality. But had it not been for the figure from Judaism-Islam below, even I too would have not had what they recently did in my immediate memory. But look at the image below…and let’s take a moment to be honest with ourselves as to what this says about the ‘politics of media’.

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Finally, for those of you who don’t know – presumably many don’t as hardly any media covered this. Sometime ago, many major religious figures in the Muslim world wrote an open letter to Baghdadi, the one who calls himself the leader of a new Islamic state, the leader of ISIS. In it, they give scholarly proofs as to why his position, ideology and method is not within the fold of Islam and obviously condemned in the strongest possible terms. It is an open letter hosted at www.lettertobaghdadi.com. I am a proud signatory of the letter, and join hundreds of others.

Here is the executive summary

Executive Summary
1- It is forbidden in Islam to issue fatwas without all the necessary learning requirements. Even then fatwas must follow Islamic legal theory as defined in the Classical texts. It is also forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur’an and Hadith teach related to that matter. In other words, there are strict subjective and objective prerequisites for fatwas, and one cannot ‘cherry-pick’ Qur’anic verses for legal arguments without considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.

2- It is forbidden in Islam to issue legal rulings about anything without mastery of the Arabic language.

3- It is forbidden in Islam to oversimplify Shari’ah matters and ignore established Islamic sciences.

4- It is permissible in Islam [for scholars] to differ on any matter, except those fundamentals of religion that all Muslims must know.

5- It is forbidden in Islam to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings.

6- It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent.

7- It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.

8- Jihad in Islam is defensive war. It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose and without the right rules of conduct.

9- It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief.

10- It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any ‘People of the Scripture’.

11- It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.

12- The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.

13- It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.

14- It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.

15- It is forbidden in Islam to deny children their rights.

16- It is forbidden in Islam to enact legal punishments (hudud) without following the correct procedures that ensure justice and mercy.

17- It is forbidden in Islam to torture people.

18- It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.

19- It is forbidden in Islam to attribute evil acts to God .

20- It is forbidden in Islam to destroy the graves and shrines of Prophets and Companions.

21- Armed insurrection is forbidden in Islam for any reason other than clear disbelief by the ruler and not allowing people to pray.

22- It is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without consensus from all Muslims.

23- Loyalty to one’s nation is permissible in Islam.

24- After the death of the Prophet , Islam does not require anyone to emigrate anywhere.

Here is the complete letter. Pages 18-23 colate signatures from leaders all across the Muslim world.

english-v14

Please take a moment to forward this post to anyone who may have that same question please.

I leave you with wishes of peace and may God protect us all from darkness. Remember the Muslim is not allowed to be sad :), so keep smiling….it’s sunnah!

“keep smiling, it’s sunnah” is a favourite Muslim slogan. It comes from the saying of the prophet (peace be upon him) who was always smiling and taught us to smile, teaching us that ‘a smile is charity’

I’ll end with another story about the abuse he (peace be upon him) faced in his lifetime. When he was living in Mecca, a woman who hated him (I think it was his own aunt but I am not sure) would heap garbage and filth at his doorstep every morning. One morning on opening his door and noticing no dirt there, he was surprised. He asked after her well being, and finding that she was sick he visited her to inquire after her health! – Sallallaahu ala Muhammed (O God, send your peace and blessings upon Muhammed)

Peace be with you all my dear readers, Assalamu alaium