Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Killing Fields of Iraq in Ramadan

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown ~ 28 August 2010 ~ The National, Abu Dhabi

Disgusted. This is the immediate impression upon receiving the news of this past Wednesday’s bombing spree in Iraq. One day after official American combat operations ended in Iraq we receive news that co-ordinated bombing attacks in 10 locations throughout the country claimed the lives of more than 50 people in a matter of hours.

Really? In Ramadan? Each and every target was a Muslim, including the women and children caught in the crossfire. The wounded and maimed were twice that number; each and every one of them Muslim.

These are not foreign combat troops who have invaded a sovereign nation in violation of international law to exploit its natural resources. Each and every one of these people was fasting. Each and every one of these people had plans for iftar that evening with their families.

Where is this taking us? What type of logic is this? To anyone that may still be impressed with such actions, I say: You are an embarrassment.

The Quran is explicit that it is forbidden for one Muslim to kill another; and the punishment for such a crime is damnation.

Islamic scholars have been under pressure to excommunicate any Muslim guilty of taking an innocent life in an act of terrorism. To this point, they have resisted such efforts out of deference to scholarly integrity. You see, to take an innocent life is a heinous crime and major sin that must be atoned for in the hellfire and its perpetrator subjected to capital punishment in this life – and their family to humiliation as an unintended by-product. But you see, none of this entails that the criminal has forsaken belief in God.

However, this is different. There exists a clause in Islamic law that anyone who rejects something necessarily known of the religion becomes a kafir (disbeliever). Anyone who would suppose it permissible to kill another Muslim would, by means of such a belief, put themselves beyond the pale.

This is the reality behind the Prophet’s statement that when two Muslims face off in conflict, one of them killing the other, both of them will be in the hellfire.

When will these ignorant people realise that in Islam, it’s not about winning? It’s about living one’s life in harmony with the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. It’s about making the right choices in the circumstances that have been thrown to you.

Part of that is knowing when to stop. Part of that is knowing how to accept defeat gracefully; without every principle of my faith also becoming a casualty. Truth may be the first casualty of war for a non-Muslim, but not a Muslim. No such war is worth fighting. If I win the battle having sacrificed and desecrated every principle given to me by my Creator (for whom I claim to fight), then I have failed, and I become a victorious loser.

Really? In Ramadan? Is this not enough to demonstrate that in no uncertain terms, terrorism can never be termed “Islamic”?

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Ramadan 2010 Sermons: Week 3.

Shaykh Jihad Brown discusses the Pakistan floods and the imperative of the believing men and women to open their hearts, minds and pockets in this blessed month to come to the plight of their brothers and sisters. The Pakistan floods, he mentions, are as much a test for us, those who have not been afflicted, just as they are for those in Punjab, Sindh and the North-West Frontier.

Listen Here:

Download Here: 27-08-10_Ramadan wk3

Rethinking the Meaning of Muslim Pt.6

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | August 13 2010 | The National, Abu Dhabi

In this series of articles over the summer, we have been treating the three elements that comprise a new way of looking at the identity of the Muslim. We spoke of the Muslim as “stranger-in-the-world”, being in the world yet not “of” the world; how he or she is not bound by affiliations or attachments, but instead, a moral-ethical agent. We spoke of the Muslim as a healer, mending broken relationships and restoring balance to the systems and ecologies that make up our world and society.

The third element that rounds out the calling of the Muslim in the world is the Muslim as educator or teacher. Knowledge and its people are praised throughout the Sacred Text. After the infamous Battle of Badr, prisoners of war were told by the Prophet Mohammed that they could earn their freedom by teaching 10 Muslims to read. Such is the emphasis on learning and teaching in Islam.

Ignorance is a barrier to freedom. A person without understanding of the reality around him is easily cowed by the darkness of what he does not know. He is easily manipulated and unable to chart his own course through the world.

The mission of the Prophet is over and over again described with the motif of bringing people from darkness to light. Ignorance and misinformation, in the way it curtails people’s options and possibilities is akin to the dark. Knowing, on the other hand, is daylight, unobstructed sight.

But there is more to it. Knowledge has become a commodity in our pragmatic utilitarian world. Education has become a business. For the consumer, it is often only a vehicle represented by the certificate or degree denoting that the right configuration of hoops were jumped. It has been reduced to a means toward more valuable, usually material ends.

The commoditisation of knowledge in the Muslim world is one of the factors that aids and abets extremism. Without an intellectual culture, the human being becomes a machine, devoid of meaning. Knowledge, the source of meaning, becomes no more or less important than its pragmatic utility.

In the Islamic conception, knowledge is an end in itself. The state of knowing and active contemplation of reality is a form of worship. The contemplative adoration of the divine presence is one of the highest forms of devotion. It is the state of the Muslim in prayer and is what Muslims are engaged in when they stand at night in the tarawih prayers of Ramadan. Of course people vary in their degrees of access to these vistas of meditation and beholding. It remains a factor of learning, teaching, and discipline.

Knowing, the active form of knowledge, is a fulfilment and completion of being human. The intellect and soul are what distinguish us from animals or inanimate objects. Many are the vegetables walking through life in a heedless daze.

Without knowing we are incomplete. Facilitating knowledge is the vocation and calling of the Muslim in the world. So much of what divides human beings and causes conflict between them is ignorance and misunderstanding. Ignorance is a source of discord in the world and knowledge is a source of healing. Of course, knowledge as healing presupposes the knowledge of the correct uses of what is known.

Abuse, and the abuse of knowledge, is a factor of correct or incorrect teaching and the organic or inorganic nature of the learning process. The emphasis that traditional Islam places on the relationship between the teacher and the student cannot be over-emphasised.

The Prophet famously said: “This material world is forsaken, and everything in it is forsaken; except the contemplation of the Divine Reality, and the teacher and the student.”

Looking into the Core of Ramadan

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | 21 August 2010 | The National, Abu Dhabi

We are all human. At one end of what that statement means, we share a lot in common with the animals. Humans can be bestial, callous, and capricious. But at the other end, human beings have the potential to be angelic – sensitive, enlightened, and caring. Ramadan is here to bring out the latter.

The pangs of hunger and the parchedness of thirst drive home a consciousness of purpose like nothing else.

For thirty days, one is very aware of his or her relationship with God. It is intimate, no one but you and God really knows if you’re actually going without. The meaning of dedication is brought to a visceral level.

Disciplining the soul to distance itself from animal passion lightens its being and lifts it away from the heavy, opaque, materiality of its existence and toward something more ethereal.

The thirty days of Ramadan are divided into thirds. The first third, we are told in the teachings, is “compassion”. The generosity of God in the lessons to be learned and rewards and blessings to be accrued at the opening of this month are without doubt merciful.

But one also learns compassion. It is difficult for anyone, whether they be wealthy or otherwise, not to gain a window, however discrete and temporary, on to the suffering of others.

If Ramadan is observed properly, a sense of gratitude is engendered, followed by a motivation to relieve the suffering of others. Our responsiveness to the plight of the flood victims in neighboring Pakistan is currently serving as a “key performance indicator” of how well we’re observing Ramadan.

This week, we have entered into the second third of the month; the one whose over-arching theme is forgiveness.

The Way of Islam is premised upon forgiveness. The acceptance of the sinner is foundational to the religion itself. The Prophet Mohammed said: “Every child of Adam is given to sin; and the best of those who sin are those who repent.” It is in Ramadan that Allah invites us to find that repentance, and He offers forgiveness in return.

Each and every one of us comes to Ramadan with baggage to atone for and we all hope that Allah will accept us, despite our religious blemishes and spiritual shortcomings.

As such, we ourselves should be forgiving people. We should be accepting and tolerant of the wayward transgressor; disapproving of sin while not shutting out the person afflicted with it.

The objective of Islam is not to make the believer a judgemental person. Remember that it was the Muslims who were the victims of the Inquisition. It would be counter-intuitive for the Muslim to become the inquisitor.

The Way of Islam has something different to offer the world. Instead of a judgemental religion, Islam offers a shift in focus toward the narration of the individual’s personal journey toward spiritual ascent and purification. Islam is about individuals refining themselves, disciplining their appetites, and ridding their egos from the handicaps and shortcomings that retard spiritual progress.

It is from here that Muslims seek to secure an environment that is conducive to spiritual growth. It is from here that Muslims seek a place free of unnecessary obstacles to purification and upward momentum.

Forgiveness abounds in Ramadan and makes its rounds. Let us all see what we can do to be part of that.

Ramadan 2010 Sermons: Week 2

Ramadan series of sermons delivered lately by Shaykh Jihad Hashim Brown in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

To listen: [Running time: approx 40 mins]

To download: 20-08-10 – Ramadan 2

Rethinking the Meaning of Muslim Pt.5

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | August 07 2010 | The National, Abu Dhabi

This statement and others like it inspired generations of Muslim physicians to pursue learning, experimentation, and application in order to locate the cures to illness as well as promote the factors of good health.

From Avicenna to Rhazes, Muslim physicians were actively pursuing medical advancement and perfecting the art of patient care from 610CE onward. The Arabic language, Canon Medicinae of Ibn Sina – written in the 11th Century – was influential in Europe well into the 18th. In the 9th Century, al Rahawi drafted a text in medical ethics; and in 860CE al Tabari was the first to treat pediatrics as an isolated discipline.

Muslim public hospitals, known as bimaristans, were opened as early as 707CE. They were institutions dedicated to caring for the infirm and the complete restoration of health as opposed to merely isolating the sick and diseased from the public, as was the case with most hospices, asylums, or leper houses of the time.

A defining feature of these institutions would be the diversity and egalitarian nature of patient care. Patients of all ethnicities and religious backgrounds were welcomed and received treatment. With separate wards for diverse diseases and specialisations, dispensaries, laboratories, libraries, and outpatient clinics, these bimaristans would engage in advanced surgery and experiment with psychology, the identification of contagious diseases, optometry, cataract removal surgeries, as well as music as a form of treatment.

Islam’s concern for medicine goes all the way to its roots. Whole volumes abound in the classical literature treating the medical concerns and techniques of the Prophet Mohammed. The motif of healing itself is tangibly present throughout the Quran.

The Quran (10:57) informs us, “Mankind, there has come to you an exhortation from your Lord and a healing for what is in the breasts.”And again (Quran, 17:82), “We send down of the Quran that which is a healing and a mercy for the believers.” Regarding the medical usages of honey, the Quran speaks of the bee and how from within it comes a drink of varied colours and healing properties for mankind (Quran, 16:69).

All of these subjects have been treated exhaustively in other literature available to those interested. However, our purpose here is to expand the remit of the healing imperative in Islam to wider applications. We have mentioned earlier that Muslim identity is underscored by three properties; being a stranger-in-the-world, being a healer, and being an educator. In humankind’s role as steward-in-the-earth they are commissioned to maintain the equilibrium of all the ecologies of the world; whether social, natural, or urban (Quran, 55:7-9). The restoration of lost equilibriums is a particular modality of healing.

The Quran intimates that fraternity is an integrated element of the ontology of the believer. When this fraternity breaks down into rifts and divisions, the Muslim is mandated to mend those rifts in relationships (Quran, 49:10). Mending broken relationships is another modality of healing.

At the level of international conflict, resolution by the most peaceful possible means is the implied Quranic preference (Quran, 8:61). This prioritisation of diplomatic resolution is a modality of healing.

Finally, the classical literature of Islam is pre-eminently concerned with identifying types of spiritual illness in the heart and setting about curing them. This is a type of cardiac first response care, in a metaphysical sense.

Here we are on the cusp of Ramadan 2010. It is the month of compassion. It is the month of polishing the heart and illuminating the souls. It is the month of love, family, and fraternity. Let’s see if we can’t make it a month of healing.

Rethinking the Meaning of Muslim Pt. 4

Shaykh Jihad H. Brown | July 17 2010 | The National

Our conversation for the past few weeks has been centred on revisiting the idea of Muslim identity.

The authenticity of such an identity has seemed to slip away into the cracks somewhere between reactionary rigidity and extreme liberalism. It’s stagnant and disingenuous any way you cut it.

For the past 10 years – of villainisation, invasion, “random” airport shake-downs and front-door breakdowns – many Muslims have been gripped by fear that this would lead to their very own Kristallnacht.

This fear has induced many to relinquish any semblance of an original identity that might cause them to be unique in a crowd.

On the other side, another group has proven that they can be as stubborn as mules; and about as intelligent, tenaciously clinging to post-colonial modernist ideology. In a post-modern world it’s about as ingenious or effective as a corpse filled with formaldehyde.

The environment produced by an ambiguous yet menacing “war on terror”, obsessive suspicion and perpetual energy wars have elicited a great deal of media attention and public interest in anything “Muslim”. This has enticed a third group out of the closet.

Having spent the majority of their lives striving to disassociate themselves with Islam, this group has stepped up to carry the liberal man’s burden. These new media darlings will courageously commandeer the discourse on Islam to win the grudging acceptance of the xenophobic hordes that think that Nova Scotia is in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the 1980s, before all this mayhem and confusion and the purple haze of aimlessness that it has produced, Muslims had – by default – developed the identity of “freedom fighter”.

The reputation of Islam was as of yet still relatively untarnished and Muslims everywhere were cast in the role of resistance to clear and present tyranny.

I’m not going to argue with that. The Muslim can be comfortable with the epithet “freedom fighter”. But without higher purposes as a guide, so the saying goes, “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s Sandinista.”

It is these higher purposes that inform the identity and calling of a people that would seek to bring about a better state of affairs in the world.

In what has preceded, we have proposed that the meaning of being Muslim pivots upon three aspects of identity. The Muslim is a stranger (in the world yet not of it), the Muslim is a healer, and the Muslim is a teacher.

A close reading of the prophetic personality of Mohammed bears this out.

Having focused at length on the first of these three, we begin with the second: Islam’s concern for healing.

In what follows we will look at the emphasis that Islam has placed on the medical treatment of the human body through its scientific legacy of medicine. But we will also look at the holistic concern for the healing of body, mind and soul; as well as the mending of rifts in relationships; and the meaning of healing to be found in the restoration of equilibrium to systems of any type and configuration.

Until then, this is Jihad Brown, signing off from Logan International Airport in Boston, and hoping to correspond with you next week from Los Angeles. Peace.