Artists Show Us What It Means To Be Muslim Through Art

This Eid al-Adha, we assigned our graphics team to create work that shows us what being Muslim means to them. The outcome was simply iconic.

Artists Show Us What It Means To Be Muslim Through Art

This Eid al-Adha, we assigned our graphics team to create work that shows us what being Muslim means to them. The outcome was simply iconic.

By

Muslim
Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

This Eid al-Adha, Muslim is celebrating through art. One of the goals of this publication is to create a community of Muslims no matter how you practice. One of the beauties of Islam is that each person has their own path to strengthening their deen. Faith isn’t linear and everyone experiences being muslim differently, so we asked our Graphics team what being Muslim means to them. This showcase is a taste of our loving community – we hope that you enjoy!


Art - Merna Ahmed

My name is Merna Ahmed. I am 20 years old, and a Photography and Design student. In my free time, I like making jewelry and rewatching sitcoms like Parks and Recreation or New Girl!

When I think of being Muslim, I think of the community aspect and how I bond with other Muslims because of our shared experiences. In those moments of bonding, the community feels like a safe and comfortable place, although I think it is important to acknowledge the experiences of my brothers and sisters who experience colorism and racism within our own community. In a religion that is already marginalised and subjected to hate by the masses, we in the Muslim community should not add to that by discriminating and hating amongst ourselves. The main beauty of Islam is that it is not exclusive to one race. Islam does not equal race, which is why it is important we have these conversations about colorism and racism, to be reminded that our community should be a safe and comfortable place for everyone.

IG: @artbymerna

 

Art - Tasneem Sarkez

I’m Tasneem Sarkez and I’m 18. I’m a multimedia artist who will be an incoming student at New York University. 

When thinking about what it means to be Muslim, the first thing I thought about were the family values I was raised with. I think there are ancestral, cultural understandings that are unique to each family, yet all share themes of nurturing a collectivist community in and outside of our family. In this piece I used symbols of strength, weakness, and family photos, to demonstrate how coming to terms with what it means to be family is an up and down process – but eventually you learn the importance of treating everyone, family or not, with respect.

IG: @min3youni/@z3kras

 

My name is Hamza Shahid and I am an incoming Life Sciences student at McMaster University. I love doing calligraphy and taking photos in my spare time!

For this piece, I turned to Islamic art and poetry for inspiration. Islamic art from South Asia frequently employs nature as symbols of paradise. Islamic poetry, in the same way, makes reference to flowers and gardens in connection to Jannat. I chose two lines from the Urdu poem Jawab-e-Shikwa, written by the acclaimed Allama Iqbal (RA), which complements his earlier poem named Shikwa. Jawab-e-Shikwa is written as Allah’s reply in response to the complaints of a disheartened, angry believer (from Shikwa). The lines I chose translate to the following: “The gardener should not be upset seeing the garden’s state. Branches will shine through from amongst the bunches of buds.” I likened the strokes of calligraphy to the branches Iqbal speaks of, the flowers eventually coming into bloom. As a Muslim, Iqbal’s words show me how the beauty and importance of our Imaan make themselves apparent in ways we may not see ourselves. While your proverbial tree may not be laden with flowers yet, there is no tree – nor its flowers, or buds – without its simple, barren branches.

IG: @hamzsha

 

Art - Noor Ali

My name is Noor Ali and I’m a Design Engineering student at Imperial College London.

The beauty of being Muslim is being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s a note passed down from our Creator to our beloved Prophet (saw) that we now pass to each other. The Shahadah is a unifying oath; a perfect fit for every hand that reaches for it, no matter how uniquely formed they may be. When we truly believe this message, sent by Allah (swt), it is not only His warmth and love that surrounds us, but that of the entire Muslim ummah too.

IG: @illustratedbynoor

 

My name is Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman and I’m from Malaysia!! I am a Graphic Communication student at the University of Plymouth, with a lot of love for typography and editorial design.

There are over 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. One cannot simply pin point what being a Muslim is, and I find that beautiful and interesting. I wanted to focus on the fact that being a Muslim isn’t just one thing and it can be defined in many ways, depending on your perspective. I took the prompt literally, and illustrated in a way which defines the word ‘Mmuslim’. At the end of the day, all of us Muslims believe that there is only one god and Muhammad (SAW) is his messenger. 

IG: @hedzlynn.mareesya

Art - Umaima Haseeb

My name is Umaima Haseeb. I am 20 years old and am currently a senior at the University of Central Florida, studying to attend medical school, InshAllah. 

The biggest inspirations for this drawing were simple: yellow, my favorite color, and sunflowers, my favorite flower. But, under the surface, the color yellow reminds me of happiness and tranquility, just as Islam does. It’s also a self portrait and represents my relationship with Islam and the hijab. Although I don’t wear it anymore, I always cherish that time in my life as it brought me closer to my religion.

IG: @umaimmaa / @umaimadraws

 

Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

My name is Shayma and I am a 22 year old digital artist based in New York City. I enjoy film and TV as much as I do illustrating and I hope to continue creating art in Muslim spaces. 

My piece is a visual representation of my relationship with my hijab. I’ve worn the hijab for more than a decade and it’s grown with me and taught me many lessons, like how not be afraid to show what I believe in, what loyalty is, and how to protect myself and my spirit. Over the years, I’ve been asked about a million times, “Why do you wear that?” and I always give the same answer: “When was the last time you loved something so much you dedicated yourself to it every day?” 

IG: @shaymaalshiri

 

Art - Tirzah Khan

Salaam! My name is Tirzah Khan and I’m a senior at University of Maryland, Baltimore County studying information systems and psychology. I’m passionate about activism and passion fruit bubble tea.

This piece, titled “فقير / Beggar,” is an illustration of the room in my family’s house where we pray, and I wanted to portray my deep sense of comfort when entering that room and prostrating on the prayer rug, asking for Allah to grant me whatever will fill my life with good. That’s what being Muslim means to me – trusting that Allah knows what is best for me before I can even begin to ask for it myself, and trusting that whatever is good for me will reach me when He wills it to. And if you’re picking up some Animal Crossing vibes, it was unintentional but absolutely not unwelcome!

IG: @bytirzah

 

Art - Ameena Muhammad

Hi! My name is Ameena Muhammad, and I am a Texan graphic design student/wannabe illustrator studying in Toronto. 

Surface level, being Muslim means community, comfort, and faith. But for my personal meaning, I’m still trying to get a grasp who I am, and my religion comes with that. This piece includes me in three styles of dress; each projecting different ideas of who I may be. Physical change is my most tangible route of making some sense of myself, but oftentimes to others is the sole piece of evidence to evaluate how “Muslim” I really am. To me, being Muslim means that regardless of how I grow and change, there is a part of my inner weaving that will always remain the same. Each person’s experience with Islam is distinct and internal, and not something that can be grasped through biased, external judgement.

IG: @uhhhmeena/@ameena__m

 

Eid al-Adha 101: All You Need To Know About The Muslim Holiday

Here is all you need to know about Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Adha 101: All You Need To Know About The Muslim Holiday

Here is all you need to know about Eid al-Adha.

By

Mareena Emran
Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

On the night of July 30th, Muslims worldwide will celebrate Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday celebrated in the Islamic calendar. Although the celebration will be a little unconventional this year due to the ongoing pandemic, many still hope to give back to their communities, spend time with loved ones while also devoting their time to commemorating the meaning of the holiday.

The Story Behind Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha, or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is an Islamic holiday honoring the story of Ibrahim’s (Abraham) act of obedience to Allah’s command of sacrificing his own son, Ismael. Although Ibrahim was hesitant at first, Ismael reassured his father to obey Allah’s request. 

Shaytan (the Devil) made many attempts to stray Ibrahim away from his task, but Ibrahim stayed on track by pelting stones at Shaytan, an action that was adopted into the holy pilgrimage of Hajj. 

Before Ibrahim had the chance to slaughter his son, Allah replaced the body of Ismael with a sheep, pleased with Ibrahim’s devotion and dedication to following his command. 

What happens leading up to Eid al-Adha?

Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar, Dhul Hijjah. Dhul Hijjah is also the month in which Muslims perform the holy pilgrimage of Hajj.

 

 

Millions of Muslims travel to Mecca to complete specific rituals over the course of three days, which include circumambulating the Kaaba, praying together at Mount Arafat, and stoning pillars that symbolize the devil.

This year, due to the pandemic, the Hajj has been scaled down to only around 1,000 pilgrims, compared to the roughly 2.5 million pilgrims of recent years. Reports from Saudi Arabia also state that, in order to minimise any potential health risks, and alongside stricter hygiene protocols, the decision has been made to prevent pilgrims over the age of 65 and foreign nationals to partake in the Hajj – it is understood that these unprecedented steps would be a first in the Kingdom’s history. 

However, Dhul Hijjah isn’t only significant for the Hajj. The first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah are also said to be the most important days of the entire year, as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said, “there are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than on these 10 days.” Muslims who are not performing Hajj are advised to take advantage of this special time by reading and reciting the Quran, performing dhikr, donating to charity, and most importantly, praying all five daily prayers.

 

 

How is Eid al-Adha Celebrated?

Eid al-Adha is celebrated similarly to Eid Al-Fitr, with families attending prayer together, dressing in new clothes and with the giving of gifts – but what differs between the two celebrations is the act of qurbani.

Qurbani is the symbolic act of slaughtering a goat or sheep in commemoration of Ibrahim’s sacrifice. The meat is then divided into three – the first part goes to the needy, the second part is kept for the house, and the third part is given to extended family and close friends.

Due to this year’s social distancing guidelines, many families will be streaming Eid prayers live from their local mosques, but may still have the opportunity to perform qurbani if their area allows.

From the @Muslim family to yours, we wish you a safe and blessed Eid ul-Adha!

Plant-Based Diet, Islam And Eid: What’s The Deal?

What does Islam say about a plant-based diet as a life choice? We explore how Muslims with a plant-based diet navigate Eid celebration.

Plant-Based Diet, Islam And Eid: What’s The Deal?

What does Islam say about a plant-based diet as a life choice? We explore how Muslims with a plant-based diet navigate Eid celebration.

By

Mohamed Alagteaa
Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

Disclaimer: every article expressed in our opinions section is that of the writer.

If there’s a word that could describe the world right now, it might be “conscious.”
We are living through a cultural shift of how we, as humans collectively, aspire to live and be. This means a reexamination of how we work, travel, communicate, eat and all social pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that builds the picture of the society we aspire to live in. 

As usual, driving these winds of change are millennial and Gen-Z Muslims who are pushing towards a more comprehensively sustainable lifestyle – and one that might include a plant-based diet. 

Debates around changing our food habits are intense, but what’s undeniable are the overall benefits that switching to plant-based can have on our health and wellbeing, as well as for planet Earth – a winning combination of some of the most pressing concerns of young people today

Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, may lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels and help treat chronic diseases. These are just some of the reasons that pushed Sara Zayed, a writer and medical assistant, to change her lifestyle after her father passed away.

“My father passed away several years ago of a heart attack, and as a plant-based diet is the only diet that has been shown to reverse heart disease, it’s more important to me than ever to prioritize quality nutrition,” she said. 

Zayed uses Instagram to educate her followers on plant-based nutrition and what she calls “lifestyle medicine.” She also emphasizes how abandoning her old eating behaviors is rooted in upholding her commitment to Allah saying, “ Our bodies are an amanah (trust)… It’s our responsibility to take care of our bodies and treat them with respect so that we can live up to our potential as Muslims. I don’t believe it is Islamic to live a lifestyle that encourages the development of chronic disease.”


 

Islam and a plant-based lifestyle

So, what does Islam say about a plant-based diet as a life choice? Seemingly, nothing.

There are no apparent mentions in the Quran or Sunnah regarding  a solely plant-based lifestyle. According to many scholars, it is neither forbidden nor advised, and since it does not harm you or others, it is your choice.

However, it is one thing to not eat a specific food because of your preferences, or because you disagree with its production practices, and another to believe it is actually unislamic or haraam (forbidden). 

As societies move forward and people become more vigilant about how and what they eat,  the future of food could drastically change, and legislation would need to adapt. There might be a law that prohibits the production and consumption of meat, on health and environmental grounds. Here, a predicament is presented, because the Quran permits the consumption of meat as Surah al-Naḥl, verse 5 suggest:

 

“And cattle has He created for you, in which there is warmth and [other] uses, and whereof you eat.” – Quran 16:5

 

 

Most might imagine the prospect of a legalized ban on the consumption of meat as  impossible, but it opens a space of discussion on nuanced perspectives regarding our way of living as a Muslim society now and in the future.

Some people maybe conflicted with Islam and its permissibility with eating meat knowing that the Quran and Hadiths reveal many examples that paint a picture of mercy and compassion to animals. 

In a Hadith, Abu Umama said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Anyone who shows mercy, even to an animal meant for slaughtering, will be shown mercy by Allah on the Day of Rising.”

It is important to understand that while meat consumption is allowed in Islam, animal welfare is demanded. There are guidelines that must be followed to consider meat halal, which also tend to inflict minimal pain such as the need for the slaughter to be quick and made in one attempt.  The animal must also be fed, watered and comforted as well.

The meat we find in shops and supermarkets is not produced in such a way. We know of the cruel and inhumane practices the food and beverage industry use to provide the demand for meat and animal related products. So, can we as Muslims consciously eat meat and other products with total disregard to their production methods? 


What about Eid?

These types of discussions also involve one of the holiest occasions Muslims celebrate – Eid al-Adha. Each year, Muslims across the globe commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s  willingness to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismael, in obedience to Allah’s command, by sacrificing an animal. Most scholars believe the practice is a Sunnah, a tradition that should be observed by those who are able, while others deem it as obligatory.

Muslim who wish to follow a plant-based or environmentally conscious diet are faced with the challenge of navigateing a special event engraved in the Muslim identity. Some call for abandoning the sacrifice entirely and focusing instead on the festive celebration, giving of charity and spiritual reflection. 

In his essayAn Islamic Perspective Against Animal Sacrifice,” Shahid ‘Ali Muttaqi describes the purpose of Eid as an inner spiritual state that does not involve animal sacrifice, stressing the need to contextualize the event. Muttaqi argues that the sacrifice was not established by Allah but was adopted by Muslims at that time in an attempt to transform the slaughter of animals for food, which was a survival necessity back then, into a spiritual ceremony. 

Muttaqi believes that since meat is not a necessity for survival for most people in our time, neither is the Eid sacrifice. Others, however, call for a different approach to deal with this problem. Zayed, for example, believes we need to determine what an appropriate equivalent would be for the community, and how to implement it, but “this is not to say to abolish the practice,” she affirms.

 

Not Our Culture

Beyond the religious lens, there is also apprehension towards the change presented by the concept of refraining from certain traditional foods, which is the idea that vegetarianism, veganism and plant-based diets are a western construct that must be fought to uphold our cultural identity.  

Shahed Ezaydi, believes there is some truth to that, saying “I do think the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles have definitely been co-opted by the West, so other cultures may be reluctant to buy into it.” 

Ezaydi has been a vegetarian for over a year and didn’t face many difficulties in changing her lifestyle as her friends were supportive of her choice, mainly because of the widely known environmental impact meat production and consumption has on the planet. Just last year, a United Nations report suggested  that adhering to a plant-based diet could help fight global climate change. 

The real challenge for Ezaydi was at home. “My parents straight up laughed at me… I think they thought I was going through some phase.”

Elaf Alsharif,  a 21-year old vegan from Libya, shares a similar experience when facing her family about the decision to remove animal products from her diet. “My mom hated me going vegan, she would tell me every day that I would die of a vitamin deficiency,” she says. The two, however, stayed true to their own convictions and learned to adapt to each other.   When describing her mother’s stance now, Alsharif says, “She’s actually supportive now and has started making vegan meals. She even looks up new recipes and gets excited to try them on me.”

More than ever, our personal choices hold so much power in introducing new ways of living. It is  evident that we are moving towards uncharted territories with unprecedented possibilities. These possibilities demand our examination with new ideas and fresh perspectives, but also with firm beliefs and strong convictions. The balance between the two, and the respect required to have unconventional conversations is the key to exploring new realities where the Muslim identity might reside.

READ MORE: What Celebrating Eid Under Quarantine Looks Like

Black Lives Matter Protests Aren’t Over, And They Won’t Be Anytime Soon

Media may have died down with covering protests, but they're still happening, and they're still relevant.

Black Lives Matter Protests Aren’t Over, And They Won’t Be Anytime Soon

Media may have died down with covering protests, but they’re still happening, and they’re still relevant.

By

Nawal Qadir
Photo of activist Alaa Massri protesting in Florida.

Following George Floyd’s murder in May, cities across America erupted in protests, calling for an end to a system that singles out and brutalizes Black people, indigenous people, and people of color. In the weeks following, these protests garnered multinational media attention, with major news networks constantly reporting on the “dangerous and destructive tactics” of many cities. 

 

 

As the protests continued week after week, however, they fell out of major network news. But even without the constant media attention, protesters are still going, and they’re getting more dangerous for protesters. 

In the recent weeks, videos emerged on social media of protesters in Los Angeles, CA being violently beaten by LAPD, namely one of a man in a wheelchair being thrown to the ground. These types of violent encounters have been shrouding these protests since the beginning, but they’ve increased exponentially since mass media’s attention has been turned in other directions. 

“The LAPD has been rebuked for the same tactics so many times before…that their continued use [of force] ‘indicates an intentional refusal to preserve the constitutional rights’ of protesters,” says a recent LA Times article that investigates the LAPD’s long history of brutality.

But the brutality faced by LA’s protesters pales in comparison to that of Portland, Oregon. 

Portland, like many other American cities, has been protesting every night since May 29, but two weeks ago marked the arrival of federal officers in the city. These officers, sent into the city by The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on order of President Trump, have been dressed in camouflage and tactical gear, armed with tear gas, and arresting protesters nightly. 

Protesters have since reported, and recorded videos of, federal agents throwing protesters into unmarked vans, presumably arresting them. 

Portland’s mayor Ted Wheeler has said that the federal agents aren’t welcome in the city, and was recently tear-gassed alongside protesters in a rally Wednesday night. 

Much like Portland’s own mayor demonstrated, the people aren’t backing down. They’ve continued to take to the streets, night after night, with mother’s forming walls around protesting bodies and chanting the words “Feds stay clear. Moms are here.” 

These are just two examples of the continuing protests, but they’ve been happening all over the country – like New York City, who protested even in the middle of pouring rain. While it may seem pointless, given the lack of attention surrounding them, the continued protests despite the increasing danger towards protesters themselves is the people, very loudly, letting government officials know that they won’t stand for small bills of reformed action. People want systemic change and they won’t stop until they get, regardless of media attention.

READ MORE: Who Is Stealing From Whom? Contextualizing The Protests

7 Of The Most Phenomenal Women In Islamic History

We listed prominent and phenomenal Muslim women from Islamic history that set inspiring examples for young people today.

7 Of The Most Phenomenal Women In Islamic History

We listed prominent and phenomenal Muslim women from Islamic history that set inspiring examples for young people today.

By

Hafsa Chughtai
Art - 1001 Inventions archive

Unlike the general assumptions regarding the status of women in Islam, Muslim women are known to be some of the most powerful and distinguished characters in history. Islam describes women to be integral parts of their fathers, husbands, and children’s faith. However, they are not only referred to as mothers or daughters of some of the most important men in Islam but also as the influential figures that they were. 

Muslim women worked alongside men to leave their marks on different spheres of life and oftentimes changing the course of history. Besides playing a significant part in the emergence of Islam, women in Islamic history made name for themselves as some successful educationists, scholars, and rulers too. 


 

Here are 7 Muslim women who might be forgotten over the centuries but are inspiring examples for young people today:

 

Sumayyah bint Khabbat:

One of the first women to convert to Islam, Sumayyah bint Khabbat was also the first Muslim woman to become a martyr. 

She along with her husband and son started following the message of Islam at the time when Muslims were brutally being slaughtered by those in authoritative positions. Sumayyah was a dark-colored woman and belonged to a social class that was captured to be slaves. Having no tribal protection, she was killed by the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) uncle upon refusing to refute her Muslim identity.

Sumayyah bint Khabbat died before Islam spread. However, she contributed to the community with her utmost courage and became a model of strength for the Muslim men and women to come after her.

 

Rābia al-Adawīyya: 

One of the most influential Sufis (mystics) in the Muslim culture, also known as Rabia Basri, belonged to a very poor family in southern Iraq. She spent a significant part of her early life as a slave before her master set her free so she could practice her devotion to Sufism. 

She is recognized to be the one who introduced the Sufi school of  “Divine Love.” This school focused on loving Allah for His own sake, rather than out of fear of His wrath or hope for reward. Most of Rabia Basri’s life is narrated by others as she did not leave behind any written works of her own. 

 

Fatima al-Fihriyya:

This Muslim woman from the 9th century built the first university in the world.

Fatima al-Firhiyya moved with her family from Tunisia to Fez, Morocco. Growing up in a well-educated household, she studied Islamic law and Hadith. After Fatima and her sister inherited a considerable amount of money from their father, they built a large mosque in their city. That mosque was also a formal madrassa and welcomed students from all over the world to study science, Islam, astrology, languages, mathematics, and a couple more subjects.

Known today as The University of Al Quaraouiyine, it is the oldest running educational institute. It was also the first school to award degrees based on different levels of studies.

 

Arwa al-Sulayhi:

Arwa al-Sulayhi was the longest-reigning queen of Yemen. At first, she co-ruled with her first two husbands but went forward to achieve one of the most unique positions in Islam. 

Arwa al-Sulayhi was known for her great memory and was well-versed in Qur’an, hadith, and poetry. Her reign was characterized by several architectural projects and the advancement of Yemen’s infrastructure, as well as its increased alliance with the rest of the Muslim world. 

She might as well be the greatest example of a completely independent Muslim queen. How powerful is that?

 

Razia Sultana:

Razia Sultana was the only female to sit on the Sultan’s throne in Delhi. She was also possibly one of the most powerful females from the Indian subcontinent. 

Razia’s ascent to the throne was unusual not only due to being a woman but also because it was the general public who supported the idea of her rule. However, her short reign was later overthrown when two of her close officers conspired with Turkic opposition. 

Though her rule was short lived, tales of her brave and resilient personality have inspired people for centuries. An eighteenth-century historian, Farishta writes “…Razia, though a woman, had a man’s head and heart and was better than 20 such sons.”

 

Sayyida al-Hurra:

Sayyida al-Hurra, which is more of a title than a name (somewhat meaning an independent noble lady) was a ruler of Tétouan, Morocco. According to historians, she was also the last one to legitimately hold the title of al-Hurra (queen). After the death of her husband, she married the king of Morocco but refused to leave her city which also makes the first and only time a Morrocan king married away from the capital.

 

Kösem Sultan:

Also known as Mahpeykar Sultan was the wife of the Ottoman Sultan Ahmed I and the mother of Sultan Murad IV and Sultan Ibrahim. She is the second most influential female figure from the Ottoman Empire after Hurrem Sultan, the wife of Sultan Suleyman.

According to some contemporary sources Kösem was the most powerful of the Sultan’s advisors. The Sultan never refused anything to her given how deeply both of them were in love. 

She is also known to have contributed a lot towards Islam during the time she was handling the matters of the empire.

READ MORE: Five Influential Muslim Philosophers You Need To Know

What Does Islam Say About Astrology?

Kaiser Aslam, the Muslim Chaplain at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in New Jersey, tells us about astrology in Islam.

What Does Islam Say About Astrology?

Kaiser Aslam, the Muslim Chaplain at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in New Jersey, tells us about astrology in Islam.

By

Syeda Khaula Saad

 

From apps like Co-Star and The Pattern that tell you about your personality based on the time you were born, to daily horoscopes in your favorite publication that dictate “what Gossip Girl character you are” based on your zodiac sign, astrology seems to be everywhere. And whether or not you believe in the validity of the practice, it can be a lot of fun to take part in. 

But oftentimes, Muslims who are even slightly interested in astrology or what their horoscope might be are scolded by older generations for participating in something they deem is completely incompatible with Islam. You might have even heard an elder go as far as to say that it was Shirk. But Kaiser Aslam, the Muslim Chaplain at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in New Jersey, doesn’t completely agree.

He says that one of the first things that needs to be recognized is that in the past, astrology and astronomy were actually the same field. 

“We have so many scholars of our past that actually wrote books on astrology, but they were commenting just as much on astronomy as they were on astrology,” Chaplain Aslam tells Muslim. “It’s not until maybe like 400 or 500 years ago that these two fields shift. So almost no one is in disagreement that Islam has a lot to do with astronomy.” 

Think about the very core of Islamic traditions and how we determine our holidays and prayer times.  “So much of our tradition has to do with looking at the moon, right?” Chaplain Aslam jokingly refers to the “moon wars” Muslims get into every Eid as one of the only setbacks of following a lunar calendar. At its foundation, though, the lunar calendar is unique because it does not require a central government or authority figure. This, in turn, empowers the idea of a local community coming together to make sense of it, as we see happens every Eid. “I think that’s a lot to do with the ideas of astrology … it takes away governmental or human authority figures and places it literally to the universe,” Chaplain Aslam says. “And who’s the one who made the universe? Allah SWT.”

 

Astronomy plays a very important role in Islam and spirituality in general, as it usually meant looking at celestial objects and how amazing they are and relating it to the grandeur of God, Chaplain Aslam explains. “Eventually that started getting into ‘So well, what can we do with them?’ That’s where the big debate is,” he says. “It’s not whether it’s an appropriate field in and of itself [but rather], ‘what are they used to do?’”

This is where astrology comes in and thus, the biggest controversy with the practice. 

While some people look at horoscopes as a fun way to see how close your personality traits match up with their zodiac signs, other people attempt to use this as a way of determining their life decisions. But so long as we don’t give too much power to our horoscopes in our decision-making, we should be fine. 

“We can appreciate things sometimes without seeing them as sources of guidance, where if you start going, … ‘My friends can only be the same Zodiac sign as me’ or like, ‘It’ll determine whether I say yes or no to having a relationship with someone or marrying someone,’ I think we’ve crossed the boundary.” Chaplain Aslam says. When you start subjugating all of your life’s choices to your star sign, that’s when you get into some really questionable territory. “Because at the end of the day, you’re actually supplanting a basic Islamic principle, which is that the people are based on their character,” he says. 

But this doesn’t mean you should denounce astrology completely. 

“We’re living in a weird moment within Islamic discourse, it’s a reactionary movement that we see, where things like horoscopes have [come] and we’re like, ‘that’s not Islam in any way, shape or form’,” Chaplain Aslam says. “But when we do that, when we turn the other way completely, we actually take away the nuance [of texts].” Whether people realize it or not, there are many traditions within Islam that play into a similar line of thinking as astrology. 

READ MORE: This Scholar Made A Twitter Thread On Jinn And Muslims Are Shook

Ilm-al-Nujum, or “science of the stars” is an older Islamic school of thought that encouraged believers to think about signs within nature and the universe as having a higher spiritual purpose. And these beliefs have spilled out into Islamic practices that you don’t even have to check smaller sects to find. Muslims believe Ramadan to be the most virtuous month. This has everything to do with the phases of the moon. When there is an eclipse, Muslims congregate for the Salat-ul-Kusuf prayer, which is essentially an appreciation of an astrological phenomenon. Muslims also look for signs around them for life decisions more often than one might think. The entire basis of the Istikhara is to ask Allah to give you guidance on a decision, and to provide that guidance by providing the Istishara, or the signs that may lead you to the right path. This isn’t far off from people looking to stars for guidance. 

“When you do just look up at the stars …they point you towards God,” Chaplain Aslam says. “I think that can be said about astrology in general … because astrology has that … same idea that you’re not as in control as you think you are.” He explains that one of the basic premises of astrology is that there are things that are beyond your control that end up determining things about you like your personality traits. This doesn’t drift far from the “nurture/nature” debate. 

Astrology just seems to suggest a very huge nature component. Chaplain Aslam says that we as Muslims can appreciate that there are many aspects of who we are that we didn’t have any way of controlling — but that shouldn’t paralyze us. Instead, it should just make us focus more on the aspects of our personalities we can control. 

“I think that’s that balanced approach where we appreciate it up until it rubs up against one of our religious traditions, which is when we start measuring people’s worth based on their astrological sign,” Chaplain Aslam says. “But if we use it to be like, ‘Can I understand myself a little bit better so that I can focus on the things I can and cannot change?’ that might be a positive thing because you’re learning to understand yourself more.”

Human Rights Workers In Kabul Killed As Afghan Conflicts Continues

To some, this ramping cycle of death and destruction has led to an Orientalist view that death is somehow brushed off as commonplace in Afghanistan.

Human Rights Workers In Kabul Killed As Afghan Conflicts Continues

To some, this ramping cycle of death and destruction has led to an Orientalist view that death is somehow brushed off as commonplace in Afghanistan.

By

Ali M Latifi
Photo - Liu Heung Shing/AP

 

Kabul, Afghanistan – Fatima Khalil, 24, was on her way to work at Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) when the car she was traveling in exploded. Unknown to Khalil, a donor liaison officer at the AIHRC, and her driver, Jawid Folad, someone had attached a “sticky” bomb to their vehicle.

Both were killed in the blast. 

The attack is the latest in a month-long spur of violence in the capital that has cut through several generations. From mothers and children in a maternity clinic to worshippers and well-known mullahs in two mosques to the human rights workers, the last few weeks have shattered any remaining illusions of security in Kabul.

With each attack come harshly-worded government condemnations and promises of investigations, but the results (if any) seem to never be made public. In fact, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the NGO that ran the maternity that came under attack last month, cited that lack of information as the basis for their decision to close the maternity clinic.

“A month after the horrifying event, we know very little; the attack remains unclaimed,” MSF said of the decision to shutter the clinic after four years and more than 16,000 deliveries in 2019 alone.

Each of these attacks took place in well-known, crowded areas of Kabul, leading to further questions about how the nation’s capital can remain so insecure 20 years after the US-led invasion that brought billions of dollars in foreign aid with it.

Each attack has not only lowered the bar for how brazen and horrific the targets of violence in the country can get, but also begs the question of where exactly people can feel shielded from the conflict.

A clinic full of mothers and children in one of the city’s least-developed, overcrowded and under-served neighborhoods is no longer safe. Mosques where some of the nation’s most well-known mullahs preach are no longer safe. The car of a young human rights worker who had just returned from studying abroad is no longer safe. 

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There are more than 30,000 recorded cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), while thousands more go undocumented as they suffer silently at home. This also comes at a time when Public Health officials have been caught on video taking an $80,000 bribe and the Kabul government tries to fight off reports that 32 ventilators meant for Afghan patients were smuggled and sold across the Durand Line.

Taken as a whole, all of these elements show the devastating state of life in Afghanistan at a time when the Kabul government and the Taliban prepare for impending face-to-face talks as part of a February peace deal brokered between Washington and the armed group.

A day after the attack on Khalil and Folad, the human rights workers, clusters of young men and women sit and discuss what this all means.

 The talks go from how human rights workers, who were standing up against abuses of civilians by both the government and armed groups, could be targeted to the nature of martyrdom and what it means to die in an explosion.

“I just wonder how she felt, was she in pain,” a friend of Khalil’s who works for the government asks over and over again.

As they come and go, the 20 and 30-somethings, regardless of their religiosity, greet each other with a phrase often heard coming from the mouths of their elders in times of mourning: “We are all on this road,” they say.

Death is inevitable, but in Afghanistan that inevitability hangs overhead like an omnipresent phantasm.

“We could be killed walking down the street. We could be killed for going to the mosque. We could be killed at work, it’s something we accept by living here,” a photographer who grew up in neighboring Iran can be heard saying. 

To some, this ramping cycle of death and destruction has led to an Orientalist view that death, even violent death, is somehow brushed off as commonplace in Afghanistan. A modern interpolation of that bone chilling bon mot from the United States’ last failed war in Vietnam, “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does the Westerner … Life is not important.”

But seeing the devastated families and friends crying in agony or holding on to any fleeting memory and memento and the hundreds of online tributes and statements of shock and disbelief, including from strangers, after each incident, that hawkish trope is easily dismantled.

The people of Afghanistan certainly value life and lament the loss of it, but now the question is what the belligerents in the conflict, from the government in Kabul — and their backers in the US and Europe — to the armed groups — commonly believed to be aided and abetted in Pakistan and Iran — will do to finally protect human life in a country that has seen far too much conflict.

Five Influential Muslim Philosophers You Need To Know

Muslim philosophers, inspired by their enormous exposure to new knowledge, set to work on a vast project: interpreting all previous world philosophies through the lens of Islamic revelation.

Five Influential Muslim Philosophers You Need To Know

Muslim philosophers, inspired by their enormous exposure to new knowledge, set to work on a vast project: interpreting all previous world philosophies through the lens of Islamic revelation.

By

Sameed Shariq

 

The Golden Age of Islam – typically around the 8th to 13th centuries – saw Muslims lead the world in science, culture and the arts. Due to expansion under the Abbasids, Muslims were the first to have access to discoveries of the natural world across cultures. 

Muslim philosophers, inspired by their enormous exposure to new knowledge, set to work on a vast project: interpreting all previous world philosophies through the lens of Islamic revelation. In this effort, they hoped to determine the relationship between spirituality and reason, thus integrating the two into a single coherent system which made sense of the natural world and man’s place in it.

Here are five of the most influential Islamic philosophers who embarked on this quest to understand reality:

Al-Farabi (872 – 950)

Al Farabi’s writings pertained to science, cosmology, mathematics and musical theory alongside philosophy. Diverse fields of study were common among the Philosophers, who believed acquiring all sorts of knowledge was an essential part of their quest to understand the nature of the universe. 

In his consideration of the Aristotelian concept of a ‘First Cause’, which describes a perfectly beautiful, indivisible initiator of the universe, Al-Farabi found a logical basis for Tawhid (the Islamic principal of the oneness of God). Through his commentaries of Aristotle, he preserved the original Greek texts for future generations and influenced prominent philosophers like Ibn Sina.

 

Ibn Sina (980 – 1037)

While often hailed as the father of early modern medicine, Ibn Sina also published a great number of highly influential philosophical works. His commentaries of Aristotle were critical – one example of which sees him reproach inductive reasoning as a means of defining a fact. Instead of solely drawing on one’s experiences to infer a truth, Ibn Sina proposed a method of examination and experimentation. Thus, an early form of the scientific method was born. 

Ibn Sina also followed Al-Farabi’s lead to comment on the question of being and the existence of God. He distinguished between existence and essence to develop an understanding of the soul. Through his ‘Proof of the Truthful’, Ibn Sina argued that God’s existence was necessary as there would need to be an agent-cause that imparts existence to an essence. Historian of philosophy Peter Adamson describes this as one of the most important medieval arguments for God’s existence.

 

Al-Ghazali (1058 – 1111)

Sufi Imam and jurist Al-Ghazali preferred to think of himself as more of a theologian and mystic than a philosopher. His inclusion in this list is important, however, because even though he sought to refute past philosophers’ rationalisation of the Divine through logic, he also utilised their methods of reasoning to do so. 

Through his ‘Incoherence of the Philosophers’, Ghazali claimed that by using the Greeks’ philosophies of metaphysics as the foundations for their own, philosophers like Ibn Sina had committed heresy. Ghazali claimed that ideas such as God’s existence being necessary were contradictory to revelation. It was not natural laws that governed causation, Ghazali said, but God’s rational will that enables the universe to operate in a way that we are able to make sense of and decipher rules for; Godis not fixed by these rules, so attempting to prove His existence through them is futile. 

Ghazali’s argumentation was widely celebrated and marked a major shift against the rationalisation of revelation in the Islamic world. 

 

Ibn Rushd (1126 – 1198)

Ibn Rushd was a highly proficient judge, physician and philosopher from Cordoba, Spain. By his time, the mainstream of Muslim thinking had shifted firmly away from Aristotelianism to Ghazali’s Asharite school of thought. Despite a valiant effort to defend the pursuit of philosophy in his systematic rebuke of Ghazali, Ibn Rushd’s ‘Incoherence of the Incoherence’ didn’t hold much clout with his co-religionists by the end of his life. 

In fact, his philosophical works survived not in Arabic but in Hebrew and Latin translations that ultimately earned him fame in the West. There, he became known as ‘The Commentator,’ the immensely important guide to the teachings of Aristotle.

 

Ibn Khaldun (1332 – 1406)

A venerated Islamic scholar, social scientist and historian, Ibn Khaldun is credited as the pioneer of the philosophy of history. By approaching history empirically and treating sources critically, Ibn Khaldun developed a method for historiography that refuted myths and falsehood. His most famous work, ‘Muqaddimah,’ identified critical issues made by his fellow historians and proposed a scientific method to the field that is practiced in varying forms to this day. 

These Muslim Philosophers form a cornerstone of our Islamic intellectual and cultural heritage. The pursuit of knowledge should be celebrated, especially where it serves to develop our relationship with our spirituality. Within Islamic philosophy we find questions which underpin our most fundamental beliefs as Muslims. Questions that ask us to think critically and innovatively, to strive for truth and understand our world and ourselves. It is imperative that we face them and continue to ponder reality and spirituality through the lenses they provide

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