Archive for February, 2011

BBC News – Sufism returns to Afghanistan after years of repression

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Sufi people are now re-emerging after years of persecution

Several years ago I was given a copy of a movie called “Sofie du Afghanistan.” It was a film, made in the 1950’s by a French director documenting Sufi groups and some practices in this now war torn country. The film concentrated on several orders and was entirely in French. Several things about the film struck me but two that were outstanding were the commonality that I could see in our orders, separated by time and space, and the modernity of the Afghani cities that served as the backdrop of the film. This was pre-war Afghanistan. And by that I not only mean the present conflict but the Soviet invasion and the rule of the Taliban as well.

Today Sufi circles are in danger of bombings and killings by the brutal ultra conservative Taliban forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. In addition, salafi influences such as are found in the Tabliqi schools impinge harshly on many Sufi groups, endangering lives and preservation of the practices.

Misunderstanding of Sufism has abounded for centuries (you can read about it in “Mystical Dimensions of Islam” by Annemarie Schimmel and other sources) but never has it’s repression been so widely propagated in an atmosphere where people have resorted to the illegal violence of murdering innocent men, women and children in the course of their religious observances. The recent bombings in Lahore, Ajmer, Karachi and elsewhere are a clear indication that Sufism is a target of the Taliban.

The following article appeared from the BBC – hopefully this is an indication that, in Afghanistan at least, there is a resurgence of the Sufi groups that were documented in the French film and, also hopefully, a spreading distaste for the kind of barbaric heinous tactics perpetrated by the ignorant Taliban members.

Sufism returns to Afghanistan after years of repression

By Dawood Azami BBC World Service bureau editor, Kabul

Sufism attaches much significance to the concept of tolerance

As the Afghan government and its international allies intensify efforts to bring the conflict to an end, the role and influence of mystics is being sought to help bring the Taliban into talks on a political solution.Sufism or Islamic mysticism was once suppressed by the Taliban, but the sect is recovering its place in the country and its millions of followers are once more emerging from the shadows.

Sufis have considerable influence in both rural and urban settings – they are an effective popular force to bring change into society – and people consider them as disinterested mediators in disputes.

”The influence of Sufis will be very significant in bringing peace and tranquillity,” says Sayed Mahmood Gailani, a Sufi master.

”There are a few people with Sufi backgrounds who are involved in the peace process. But there hasn’t been any concerted effort to give the Sufis a systematic and prominent role in it.”

Sufism in Afghanistan is considered an integral part of Islam. People in general respect Sufis for their learning and believe they possess “karamat” – a miraculous spiritual power that enables Sufi masters to perform acts of generosity and bestow blessings.

Ziyarats – Sufi shrines – are popular pilgrimage sites all over the country.

In addition to Afghanistan, Sufi orders have millions of followers in both Pakistan and India too.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the following armed resistance by the mujahideen resulted in the arrival of thousands of Middle Eastern fighters and the introduction of foreign ideologies including Wahabism.

Wahabism insists on a literal interpretation of Islam and sees Sufism and its ideas as anathema. This created tension between Sufis and Ulamas (religious scholars) in some parts of the country.

But it was during the Taliban’s rule (1996-2001) when many Sufis were driven underground.

A number were initially part of the Taliban movement but gradually people influenced by the Wahabi ideology became more prominent. Sufis were silenced.

Some Sufis, especially members of the Chishtiyya Sufi Order which considers music to be an effective route to reach Allah, were prosecuted.

“The Taliban invaded Sufi gatherings, humiliated and beat up many of them and their musical instruments were smashed,” said Afghan Culture Minister Sayed Makhdoom Rahin, who has a Sufi background.

”Sufis are free to hold their ceremonies once again with the same old exuberance denied to them by the Taliban.”

‘Home of saints’

Given the respect and influence Sufis enjoy among the local population, their involvement at the grass roots level could help the peace process in war-torn Afghanistan.

Although Taliban members come from various backgrounds, some have great respect for Sufis and are even followers of Sufism.

“Influential and knowledgeable Sufis can persuade a large number of Taliban to lay down their arms and can also provide guarantees to the Taliban about their safety and peaceful future,” a Sufi leader, Ahmad Shah Maududi, said.

”But we need to be careful and vigilant because many so-called Sufis have exploited and fooled ordinary people in the garb of Sufism.”

Sufism has been part of Afghanistan almost as long as Islam itself – more than 1,300 years. Afghanistan is commonly called “the home of Sufi saints”. The mystics have been an integral part of the life of the people for centuries.

The word Sufism is derived from “suf”, the Arabic wood for wool, and refers to woollen robes worn by early ascetics.

Sufis seek to achieve communion with God during mystic moments of union brought about by various methods, including meditation, Zikr (reciting the names of God and other sacred phrases), dancing, hymn singing, music and physical gyrations.

Sufis maintain that human beings are creatures of Allah and they should be served and respected.

”Tolerance, kindness and love to all and malice towards none are the virtues of Sufis,” says Maulana Obaidullah Nahrkarizi, a prominent Afghan Sufi master from Kandahar province.

”This is the solution to the nation’s trauma and battle of the past 30 years”.

Sufi shrines can be seen all over Afghanistan

Many Afghan cities are among the most important centres of Sufism. Herat is called “the soil of Sufi saints” while Ghazni is known as “the place of Sufi saints”.

Some of the greatest Sufi sages of the Muslim world originated from Afghanistan. They refined their insights in the country’s lush plains and hidden valleys – and spread their message of peace and love to other parts of the world.

The intensely personal poetry of Sufis has been expressed in Dari, Persian and Pashto, the main languages spoken in Afghanistan.

There are several prominent Sufis in contemporary Afghanistan including Ali Hujwiri, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti and Jalaluddin Balkhi Rumi – founder of the famous Mawlawiya (the Order of Whirling Dervishes).

Another famous Sufi is Pir Roshan, the founder of the Roshaniya Sufi Order, now known as Arzan Shahi – which has a big following in India.

Three Sufi orders are prominent in Afghanistan today – Naqshbandiya founded in Bokhara (Uzbekistan), Qadiriya founded in Baghdad and Chishtiya originated at Chisht-e-Sharif in the western province of Herat.

Their continued growth is arguably a major bonus in Afghanistan’s continuing search for peace.

via BBC News – Sufism returns to Afghanistan after years of repression.


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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

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A mystical journey of peace progresses – The Times of India

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

via A mystical journey of peace progresses – The Times of India.

HYDERABAD: The pitch for peace was possibly never more melodious, more devotional. At the Aman Ki Asha concert held at the beautifully-lit Chowmahalla Palace here on Saturday, it was the magic of Sufi and the message of love that reverberated in the 200-year-old monument even as citizens who thronged the venue swayed gently, clapped and prayed for `aman’. Setting the score for the mystic evening were two immensely talented artistes, Rekha Bharadwaj and the `mehman’ from Lahore Sanam Marvi.

That the concert was a much-awaited event was evident from the long queues that had formed outside the Chowmahalla Palace entrance much before the concert started. “I have come here not only for my love for Sufi music but also because I do believe that music can break barriers and bring about peace,” said a hopeful homemaker, Anita Dhawan, a resident of Lakdi-ka-pul, as she stood in the queue eagerly awaiting to embark on the musical journey of peace.

Many left the first World Cup match between India and Bangladesh to make it for the concert, which they felt was their way of expressing faith in the peace process. “The message of peace is more important than the match. So we decided to come here,” said cricket buff R Suneesh of Deloitte.

In tune with the concept of `atithi devo bhava’, Sanam Marvi was invited to perform first. The petite looking 25-year-old surprised everybody with her robust voice, the melodious tunes transcending the listeners to another level.

Performing a string of Sufi numbers, Marvi had the audience in a trance with her rendition of Amir Khusrau’s `Chaap tilak sab cheeni mose naina milaike’ or even Punjabi Sufi poet Bulle Shah’s `Tere ishq nachaya’. Marvi, looking stunning in a mustard kurta and green salwar, went on to perform another `kalam’ by Bulle Shah `Main Janu mera maula jaane’, which had the audience clapping, cheering on the young singer, who had made her debut in India only last year at the Sufi music festival Jahan-e-Khusrau. And it was her `Parchan Shaal Pavaar’, a duet she has originally performed with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, that had Hyderabadis break into `wah wahs’, admiring the singer’s mesmerising voice that held their attention for a good one hour, when Rekha Bharadwaj made an entry.

The two singers from two sides of the borders melted the boundaries in seconds as they teamed up for a rocking jugalbandi of `Damadam mast kalandar’. The duo set the stage on fire as Bharadwaj’s husky, earthy voice with an unmistakable tinkle, blended with Marvi’s powerful voice. If peace was the message of the evening, it was `tehzeeb’ which both Indians and Pakistanis are famous for, that was the clear tone. If Rekha Bharadwaj greeted her Pakistani concert partner with `main dil se tumhara saath doongi (I will accompany you with my heart), Marvi sat in the audience to clap and cheer as Bharadwaj performed, who incidentally dedicated her first Sufi number `Tere Ishq Mein’ to Marvi.

With lyrics by Gulzar and composed by Vishal Bharadwaj, `Tere Ishq Mein’ is from Rekha Bharadwaj’s first album `Ishqa Ishqa’ released in 2004. As she moved gently on the stage, swaying to the beats in her black dress with white sequins created by Nikhil (of Nikhil-Shantanu), Bharadwaj took time off singing to thank the `Aman ki Asha’ initiative of The Times of India and Jang group to give artistes like her an opportunity to be part of the peace process. She went on to give her tribute to acclaimed late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with `Tere bin nai lagda dil mera’, after performing the title track of `Ishqa Ishqa’. And of course, the crowds did not let go of her without getting `Raat ke dhaai baje’ (Kaminey) and `Sasural genda phool’ ( Delhi 6) among her other hit numbers.

The setting of the evening could not have been better. Washed in many hues was the Chowmahalla monument, standing tall and bright, and providing the perfect background to the performing artistes were the glittering chandeliers that date back to the Nizam’s time. If the palace is famously known to be a synthesis of many architectural styles, on Saturday evening it saw two diverse styles of Sufi performances but with a common message __ of love and peace.

“But then even Hyderabad reflects the message of `Aman ki Asha’. There are so many communities from different religions coexisting here,” said Priyanka and Mohnish Shah, an IT couple living in Secunderabad.

Watching the magical performances from a huge distance was the full moon, shining bright on both the countries represented on stage in a mystic evening.

Local News | Reform theologian: Islam, other U.S. faiths share common values | Seattle Times Newspaper

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

Tariq Ramadan

From Local News | Reform theologian: Islam, other U.S. faiths share common values | Seattle Times Newspaper.

By Aziz Junejo

Special to The Seattle Times

Tariq Ramadan, long denied entry to U.S., spoke Feb. 5 in Seattle.

Two weeks ago, theologian, philosopher and renowned academic Tariq Ramadan visited Seattle, and I was honored to be granted a rare interview with him. Ramadan was here for a speaking engagement at Seattle University’s School of Theology during its Spiritualty Book Festival.

Born in Switzerland, Ramadan is the grandson of the founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, a nonviolent organization that operates largely in Arab states and advocates that all aspects of life, including government, be ordered according to the Quran. His encouragement of reforms and democracy, particularly in the Middle East and the Muslim countries of North Africa, has made him an inspiration to Muslims worldwide.

However his fame as a Muslim academic has caused him some difficulties. In 2004, citing the “ideological exclusion provision” of the U.S. Patriot Act, the United States banned him from entering the country.

His case was taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union, and after years of legal challenges, the ban was lifted by the Obama administration in January 2010 after the courts ruled the government had not made a convincing case for excluding him.

Described as one of the foremost voices for reformation of Muslims’ approach to their faith through place and time, Ramadan spoke to a standing-room-only, interfaith crowd at Seattle University’s Campion Hall.

Despite the recent protests in Egypt, he stayed focused on his topic, to encourage an integrative approach to citizenship in the West and promote interfaith dialogue that moves beyond tolerance to true acceptance.

Ramadan believes people in pluralistic societies such as ours must have knowledge of many faiths, appreciate individual differences and focus on our common, core values.

He encourages Muslims to think critically, and he says they need to have a better understanding of their own religion, as well as a deeper understanding of the Western environment. As a creative intellectual, he has spent his life exploring Islamic teachings and principles to determine what’s universal.

Islam’s traditions of tolerance, dignity and respect are traits he feels we all share in the West. He says it is incumbent upon Muslims to impart these qualities to the societies in which they live.

Ramadan believes misunderstanding of Islamic principles has nurtured suspicion in the West, both among Muslims and against Muslims, suspicion that causes divisive debates and even Islamophobia.

He encourages Muslims in the United States to identify themselves as Americans by nationality and as Muslims by religion. Muslims can be both fully Western and fully Muslim while sharing universal ethics and values, he says.

The inclusiveness of all people in society is actually a hallmark of Islamic teaching; Muslims believe God has created us “as nations and tribes, that you may know each other” (Quran 49:13), not despise one another.

Like all other citizens, Muslim Americans have chosen this home; a free, multicultural and multireligious society. We all have much to offer each other. By sharing of our common traditions, we benefit and contribute to our society.

Ramadan calls Islam an American religion, just as are Christianity and Judaism. Understanding Islam’s values and ethics in the U.S. will invite genuine interest, respect and dialogue, he says.

Further, Ramadan says, the portrayal of Islam in the media must not inhibit Muslims. He encourages Muslims to dispel irrational fears by being proactive within our society and a visible force for peace.

Muslims must act as “witnesses” to their own message and be open to self-examination and even criticism in order to improve conditions while displaying the courage to stand for what they believe.

Muslims are not victims and must be courageous by practicing Islam in a thoroughly contemporary manner, he says. They need to be viewed as thoughtful contributors to society — as responsible citizens.

Ramadan feels America represents a place where Muslims and all religions can flourish and live in harmony while raising their voices together for justice, dignity and mutual respect.

Aziz Junejo is host of “Focus on Islam,” a weekly cable-television show, and a frequent speaker on Islam. Readers may send feedback to

Khutbah – 02/18/2011 – Zakat: Purification of wealth, heart and soul

Friday, February 18th, 2011

bismillahir rahmanir raheem

Allah (SWT) says in Quran Sharif

fa- ‘in taabo wa- aqaamo as-salaah wa- ‘aataw az- zakaah fa- ‘ikhwaan -kum fe ad- den wa- nufasil al- ‘aayaat li- qawm ya’lamon

But if they repent, establish prayer, and give Zakah, then they are your brothers in religion, in this way We make Our revelations clear for people of understanding

This is part of Surah At-tauba (repentance) it is talking to the mushrikun at the Kabah and it gives them instructions on their repentance.

Three things repent, establish prayers and pay Zakat.

This was the pronouncement! It was not enough for them to repent. They MUST establish the Salah and they MUST give Zakah in order to be considered within the brotherhood of Islam.

In Bukhari and Muslim, Jaabir ibn Abdillaah, radi Allaahu ‘anhu, said,

“I pledged allegiance to the Prophet – sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam – in that I would establish the Salah, undertake the giving of Zakah, and that I would give Naseeha (advice) to every Muslim.”

The root of the word Zakah means to purify. Other meanings are to thrive, to grow, just righteous, fit. So we look deeply then into the meaning of this third pillar. Much more deeply than the simple paying of money, which out of generosity would in itself be cleansing our hearts.

Allah made Zakah compulsory on the wealth of a believer as a test of their sincerity. But you know the fine print here is that in following this test we are also reaping a great reward. The reward of purifying our hearts and wealth and our lives. The believer has full conviction that it is Fard and they know Zakah is the third pillar of Islam. It is a pillar of Islam- not a virtuous option – without which a believer’s Deen will collapse.

The believer delivers his Zakah with an open heart, thanking and praising Allah for His bounty. And, the believer continues to thank Allah ta’ala for the very Tawfeeq of being able to perform his duty.

Physically we clean our bodies daily through bathing and through wuzu, but through Zakah we bath our heart, cleansing and purifying it.

Have you ever seen someone run out of the Masjid immediately after Salah. In fact, the Imam may just barely have said salaam, and they are already in the incline to take off (you may have seen it at Jumu’ah prayers). When we see someone in such haste, we know that there is some affair that pre-occupied the brother or sister and that it is indeed a weighty matter.

But now let’s ask the question, who amongst us would jump like that because they delayed the paying of a voluntary Sadaqah? Who? It is the most God-fearing person who would do so, Rasul Allah (saw).

In Saheeh Bukhari, Uqbah – radi Allaahu ‘anhu – narrates,

“I offered the ‘Asr prayer behind the Prophet at Medina. When he had finished the prayer with Taslim, he got up hurriedly and went out by crossing the rows of the people to one of the dwellings of his wives. The people got scared at his speed. The Prophet came back and found the people surprised at his haste and said to them, ‘I remembered a piece of gold lying in my house and I disliked for it to divert my attention from Allah’s worship, so I have ordered it to be distributed (in charity).’”

Allah ta’ala teaches us the virtue of Zakah:

khudh min amwaal -him sadaqah tutahhir -hum wa- tuzakke -him bi- -haa wa- salli ‘alay -him ‘inna salawaat -ka sakan la – hum wa- ‘allaah same’ ‘alem

Take from their wealth a charity by which it purifies them and causes them increase. and pray on their behalf. truly your prayers are a source of security for them: and Allah is one who hears and knows.

Allah (SWT) is clearly spelling out the zakah purifies us and causes increase in us.

How does Zakah and charity cleanse someone?

  1. It bathes their heart from the disease of hypocrisy and doubt. Remember that this was one of the things mentioned as part of the repentance of the polytheists. And at the most basic level we are cleansed because we are simply doing what Allah (SWT) has commanded us to do. We are being obedient servants of Allah (SWT)
  2. It bathes the heart from the disease of stinginess.
  3. It bathes the remaining wealth with barakah.
  4. It bathes the good character of the one giving and increases his or her wealth.

As Rasul Allah – sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam – said,

“Charity never decreases wealth.”

After the death of Rasul Allah, sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, the Ummah was faced with more adversaries. There were some who claimed prophethood, there were huge tribes awaiting to fight the Muslims, and then, to a lesser degree, there were tribes who still professed to be Muslim, but they just had a ‘problem’ with giving Zakah.

The Ummah needed to take action. The seemingly unanimous opinion of the Sahabah was to just leave the we-are-Muslim-minus-Zakah people, and focus on the armies. But Abu Bakr, radi Allaahu ‘anhu, disagreed.

“I swear by Allah,” said Abu Bakr, “I shall go to war and fight anyone who attempts to separate Salah from Zakah!”

Upon hearing this, Umar, radi Allaahu ‘anhu, commented,

“By Allah, at the moment when I saw that Allah had opened the heart of Abu Bakr to this, I knew that it was the truth.”

In these words we see the depth of the meaning of Zaka to these very very close companions of Rasul Allah (saw)

“If I win a million dollars I’ll give half to the Masjid!” Ever heard that dua before? Allah ta’ala teaches us that the nature of humans is to attach themselves to coins of gold and silver. In fact, they pray day and night for it. In their prayers, they promise that, if they are indeed blessed with the wealth, they will be unselfish with that gift. When the test befalls them, they turn their backs.

wa- min -hum man ‘aahada ‘allaah la- ‘in ‘aataa -naa min fadl -hi la- nasaddaqanna wa- la- nakonanna min as- saaliheen

And among them are those who made a covenant with Allah, (saying), “If He should give us from His bounty, we will surely spend in charity, and we will surely be among the righteous.”

fa- lammaa ‘aataa -hum min fadl -hi bakhilo bi- -hi wa- tawallaw wa- hum mu’ridun

But when He did bestow of His bounty they became stingy, turned back from their covenant and became evasive.

fa- aqaba -hum nifaaq(an) fe qulob -him ‘ilaa yawm yalqawna -hu bi- maa akhlafo ‘allaah maa wa’ado -hu wa- bi- maa kaano yakdhibon

So He penalized them with hypocrisy in their hearts until the Day they will meet Him – because they failed Allah in what they promised Him and because they (habitually) used to lie

So He penalized them with hypocrisy in their hearts until the Day they will meet Him – because they failed Allah in what they promised Him and because they (habitually) used to lie

Allah (swt) returns the hypocrisy into the hearts of those that promise generosity when they have been given of His bounty and then refuse. It is exactly the opposite of what happens when we do purify our hearts and our wealth with Zakah.

Yayha ibn Mu’adh, rahimahullaah, commented

“I have always been amazed at someone who has wealth yet is stingy. His Lord, who gave the wealth to him, requests that he loan part of it to Him and the stingy man says, ‘no’.”

Zakah is an obligation connected to wealth. When someone delays the paying of Zakah, that obligation directly chains to the individuals neck. In order for them to repent, they must give what Allah made obligatory upon them.

Rasul Allah, sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, taught us that when a people hoard wealth and do not give the Zakah, they will be afflicted with a famine.

“There was never a people that refused to give Zakah except that Allah afflicted them with famine.”

He, sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, warned us of stinginess because of the destruction it brings. “Beware of stinginess for verily those who came before you were destroyed because of it.”

Part 2

Zakah and Sadakah not only cleanse our hearts and our deen but also cause increase and purify the balance of what we have.

Abdullaah ibn Mas’ood, radi Allahu ‘anhu, said,

“Store your wealth where no worms will eat, where it cannot be reached by thieves. Store it in Sadaqah.”

The general principle of Zakah is that it is to be given to the needy of the locality in which it was paid in the first place. As Rasul Allah, sal Allaahu alayhi wa sallam, instructed Mu’adh when he sent him to Yemen,

“If they obey you in that (in the Shahadah and then the Salah), then let them know Allah has made obligatory upon them Zakah in their wealth to be taken from their rich and to be given to their needy.”

Keyword: ‘their’ needy; the needy of the community in which the wealth was earned.

What it takes from us is to get out there and find out how we can make a difference in our communities. As our communities grow stronger, we will have the strength to assist communities all around the world. When governments have a budget surplus (doesn’t happen too often), interest groups fight tooth and nail arguing who gets the money. But with Zakah, Allah ta’ala divided it Himself. No human has a say in giving Zakah money to other then those to whom Allah included.

Now, the commonly known recipients of Zakah are the poor and needy. However, I want to bring your

A word of caution: Zakah money is not to go towards paying off vain debts. Indeed, it is an amazingly powerful thing for one’s community members to be out of debt. When they are out of debt, they become active contributors in the community and everyone benefits. To Allah belongs all praise.

And remember, those of you with children or those of you who will have children, insha’allah – you worry about them and their deen. You worry about them growing up in this culture, in the midst of the over abundance and the stinginess. They learn most from their parents, they learn by seeing what you do and what you say. They see very clearly when you do one thing and say another. So be of those that keep the pillars for their sake. Show them your actions, your Zakat, explain to them what it is and why you do it and you will be teaching them a great lesson.

qad aflah.a al- mu’minon
alladhena hum fe s.alaahte -him khaashi’on
wa- ‘alladhena hum ‘an al- laghwe mu’rid.on
wa- ‘alladhena hum li- az- zakaah faa’ilon

successful are the believers
Those who are humble in their prayers
And those who turn away from vain speech
And those who are observant of Zakah

Ameen wa allahu alim.