Thursday, March 26, 2009

GTMO Guard Turns to Islam

Trying to take my mind off the fact that I'm sick and brain-drained alone at home, I was looking through some articles over the internet, checked my email, the usual. Finally on seeing I had no new messages I logged off of it. I was so frustrated because my computer keeps changing the defaults I set it to. At this point it had set the msn homepage to my default web-browser. What does this have to do with anything, besides me complaining about unimportant minor details of my life? Well actually, because the default was sent to that particular setting I came across this article called "The Guard who Found Islam". Naturally this Caucasian Muslim brother with the large inserted hoop earing caught my attention. Apparently the guard Terry Holdbrooks, who was an Army Specialist, now served in the Guantanamo Bay prison and during his stay he spoke to some of the prisoners. Looking back on his life, Terry had two drug-addict parents and was riddled with tattoos all over his body, and at one point he became an alcoholic before he entered into the army around the beginning of the war in Iraq. Later on as a guardsman when there was nothing or little to do in his shifts he sat down across from the prisoners on the floor, seperated by the bars of the cells, and began to talk. Their conversations entertained his curiosity long enough that not only did he develope a sort of relationship with the prisoners, but he began to question the necessity of his job, and even the necessity or at least the complete credibility of the prison and holding these men as prisoners (of which other guardsmen have seemingly shared the same questions as far back as 2002), but he also began to feel some of his own inner questions arising. He began asking them questions about their religion, and even started ordering in books on arabic and about Islam. One fine day, a conversation led to the shahada, the Testimony of Faith. He slid over a pen and a piece of paper to one of the prisoners he had become accustomed to talking with, Ahmed Errachidi (*who was released in 2007*), and who shared a mutual respect, and asked him to write down what it meant in english as well as the arabic transliteration. He spoke the words and he converted to Islam. May Allah guide him away from his troubled past and give his heart and mind peace in his findings.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Great Women of Islam (Who Were Given the Great News of Paradise)

I am currently reading Great Women in Islam, by Mahmood Ahmad Ghadanfar, revised by Sheikh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, edited by Muhammad Ayub Sapra and Muhammad Farooq, and translated by Jamila Muhammad Qawi.
This book is amazing. I am truly in love with all of these women I read about. They truly are the mothers of Islam with their timeless genuine character and their love for their deen. The utter strength of these women astounds me and I am constantly beaming throughout the entire book. There is sadness however, for their lives do end physically, but they will live in our memory forever. Please, read this book. Mothers, I recommend this for your children, sons and daughters. To any men looking for a wife I recommend you look for their characterstics or a father raising a daughter I suggest you teach them. How can you go wrong? These are the best of women! With the status of women in the world today, it is so refreshing to have such strong and independent women who are still so feminin and the best of companions (independent meaning strong willed but who still cooperate so well with others). This book covers the wives of the prophet in his lifetime, the prophets daughter Fatima, the Um Isa (Maryam/Mary mother of Jesus), the wife of the pharoah who, at a time when the pharoah was slaying all the first born of the hebrews, decided to raise Musa (Moses) and care for him as her own, and whereby was allowed through her nurturing and support, become a prophet, and one of the first women to accept his teachings. I can't cover this whole book and do it justice, it just brings tears to my eyes and I feel so full in my heart. This book makes you want to become a better person, and let's you know you can, from the most humble upbringings. I will share with you excerps from the book and keep you posted. I'm so excited! Really I recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt helpless or alone in the world. Take these women as an example of what you can achieve when you try hard enough. May Allah be pleased with them all, and may Allah be pleased with us in this life and the life to come insha Allah. Ameen.

I Saw A Woman in the Rain

A few days ago on my way home from class one night I waited underneath a canopy roof. The rain poured down the bricks like a river being thrown against the wall. It was a beautiful storm that let us see the wind as it blew and which flickered with light. I saw two elders speaking with one another, a man and a woman, and I heard the words being asked to the professor that perked up my ears as we stood waiting for the storm to end. In hearing those words I turned in their direction and watched the professor leave. A much longer time after, when the storm had not yet ceased and people grew tired of waiting, I walked over to the elderly couple who were dawning their rain gear to forge out into the harshness of the weather. I stood opposite them and spoke up hesitantly, because I had no idea what I was going to say. "Sorry to bother you, but did I hear you ask about a translation of the Qur'an?" I ended up saying. Either intentionally or by accident, she didn't give me a straight answer on the subject. It was dark, but it seemed as though they had stopped smiling when I came over. I then added, "there are many many translations you know, but only one Qur'an, which is in arabic, and you can always go back and check it. If it seems like the translation is wrong or what you are reading does not fit, you know what else you can do to check? "What?" she asked, she probably could have cared less but I like to think she was interested. At least I had her attention now. I reached for the strap on my backpack to take it off and write something down for them , but stopped when I noticed they looked annoyed. I continued. "Do you know what ahadith are?" She didn't know. "They are the words and acts of the prophet Muhammed (saw) when he was alive, dictated by those closest to him. They were recorded through history, and he is the best example of a Muslim and the source Muslims go to for guidance if there is an interpretation or meaning that is unclear in the Qur'an, like...beating women is a big contraversy in the media all the time, whether or not it says in the Qur'an that men are allowed to beat their wives. Some people say yes, some people say no, but if you look at Muhamed (saw) you would know right away that he never "beat his wives" in todays meaning of the term, never got close to it and was upset by it really...". This wasn't going anywhere. She did agree that it was smart to go back to the source, even if she did seem irritated at my presents, and seeing that they were ready to brave the storm, I quickly recommended to them the English translation of the Qur'an I had first read when I came to Islam three years ago (al7amdolillah). The translation is by Ahmed Ali, and gives good footnotes, multiple ways of explaining the interpretations through science, philosophy, history, and does a good job of explaining the concepts derived from the arabic words. The couple smiled and we went our seperate ways, and as I turned my head to see them from afar, they held still, resuming their previous descussion, disregarding whatever it was that I had said. I ran down the hill as the rivers of rain ran with me, streaming and rippling with a snakelike rythm, and the loudness of the rain sent shivers down my spine. You know that the power of Allah is always with you, but on some days you can feel it more than others. I reached my car, soaked to the bone, and drove home through the blinding rain. Today, I returned to my class. I opened the door, returned a smile to the gregorious elderly British man who sits in the corner, took off my backpack, and was eyeing the room for my seat when I saw a hand waving in the air. I turned my eyes in that direction and I saw the elderly woman smiling up at me in the front row. "Oh hello" I said, smiling that she had even acknowledged my existence. Without even returning the greeting, though out of excitement rather than rudeness, she asked me "is this the one you were talking about?". She showed me a book with that beautiful familiar cover-art from the Ahmed Ali's translation of the Qur'an. Green with gold design. I smiled inside and out and nodded, yes that was the one. " have it..." I said slowly while beaming. She smiled explaining that this is the one she had "had all along". Sub7anallah. I smiled and joked, yet with the utmost sincerity, "I guess it was meant to be then, no?" She chuckled and agreed, "I guess it must be"..."Thank You" she added. I returned to my seat, and watched from afar, the elderly woman who was blessed, as I was blessed, on her journey in reading the greatest book in the world. May Allah guide her, and may Allah guide us all. Ameen.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chechnya and Ahmed Kadyrov

As the Chechen resistance battles on against the occupation of Russia and the threat to humanity it imposes every day to innocent civilians all throughout Chechnya, I came across this picture of some Russian officials and Ramzan Kadyrov, the man in the middle of the photograph without a hat. Some of you may know of him. Of Chechen descent, his father Ahmed Kadyrov is known for being a traitor and allying with the Russians in the Chechen-Russian conflict. Ramzan adopted these traits from his father and became even more brutal and more cruel than could be imagined. He's known for his temper and has a quick trigger finger when he doesn't get his way. In one scenario he was seen fighting a man who cut him in a line, so he shot him. Another time someone didn't share his chalk cube in a game of pool, so he shot him. The puppet government put in charge in Chechnya by the Russian government are no more than barbaric brutes given a real country with real people to play with like a doll-house and dolls. As you can imagine he has killed many innocent Chechen civilians under the orders of Putin, the former Prime-minister of Russia, as well as on his own accord. He has received many awards and medals of honour from Putin, and has even been appointed the president of Chechnya, not democratically voted in by the Chechen people of course. The Chechens have their own government secretly underground that continue to fight for the resistance. This real Chechen government, with figures who were elected by the Chechens, is not readily acknowledged by a majority of the rest of the world, and unfortunately Ramzan Kadyrov still has a lot of power in regards to what happens to the Chechen people. My heart and prayers go out to them, may they be protected from the corruption that is the Russian government and military and may the worlds eyes finally be open to the truth. Anyone with a heart and brain could see these people are not terrorists. It is the government of Russia who causes terror beyond belief. If you are one of those people out there who are against the crimes against humanity that Israel causes and are aware of the situations in Palestine and other countries but have not heard of Chechnya, please learn more about Chechnya as it goes through just as much torture and crimes against humanity, and the only way to counter that is to educate yourself and others so it will be stopped.
Some other heartbreaking images I've come across were these plooms of smoke and flashes of streaking light across the night sky in Gaza. Although these photos are of course dating back to the siege in December 2008 they show the entire world that Israel has used WHITE PHOSPHORUS against men women and children in Gaza.

White phosphorus is illegal under international law for the same horrible reasons nerve gas is illegal, which they also used. Many women and children who stayed in the homes during the attack and survived reported seeing smoke come through the doors and windows and in the streets. They thought it was the "regular" tear gas and tried to keep it out as much as possible. But the thing they noticed about this smoke was it was white, and it had a sweet smell to it. They didn't know where the sweet smell was coming from. Later when things had subsided and people gathered something caught their attention. At first it was the children that were seen hopping about, almost as if they were dancing. When they were asked what they were doing they would not respond. Others were seen making these same twitching movements throughout the street and when observed more closely they realized that these people had been exposed to and were suffering the effects of nerve gas. They were experiencing violent convulsions and shaking in agony. Many of them died and others suffered severe and permanent damage to the nervous system. Israel says they used no such thing, but these elements of the sweetness in smell, the colour, and violent shaking all clearly define the effects of nerve gas. On another note, they also deny using white phosphorus when there are photographs and live footage of it being used on civilians. Even if there were no photos or video of this being used, the amount and type of wounds seen rushed into the hospitals in Gaza lead to white phosphorus burns. It baffled the doctors at first. You see, white phosphorus burns. And it is not a regular kind of burn. When white phosphorus makes contact with an object it immediately pulls out the oxygen molecules of the object until it runs out of molecules to react with. Imagine this kind of chemical coming in contact with a person's skin. A natural reaction to sooth a burn victim is to cool the wound with water or ice. In doing so with these victims however, doctors quickly realized that adding water made these victims scream even more in agony, and completely worsened the case of the suffering victim. Adding water means adding more oxygen molecules, and adding more oxygen molecules allows the white phosphorus to burn more, and for a longer period of time, until those molecules get used up. A chemistry teacher told me that one way to perhaps stop the burning is to amputate or freeze with liquid nitrogen, until the limb effected breaks off. This is a nightmare in and of itself. But imagine the men women and children who have burns on their face or eyes or chest or stomach. How to sooth them? There is no answer. There is no soothing and there is no cure. These victims will be burned until the area is unrecognizable, that goes for the face as well. What a complete tragedy that the world stands by watching, with photographs and videotapes while Israel still denies these facts. It is more than heartless. It is more than cruel. It is more than a violation of human rights. It is pretending human rights don't even exist...I can't think of words worse enough to express what Israel gets away with. How can anyone allow this to happen to another human being, let alone do this to another human being. Above you will see some posts about THE GAZA PROJECT I am creating. One sign in particular talks about white phosphorus and a little hand is shown with severe burns...this poor child's wounds are just a fraction of a fraction of the reality of the situation. I chose this image because it is one of the only burn victims I could find that people could possibly stomach enough to look at the sign. It truly breaks my heart and I know it must break yours too. The worlds heart is breaking for Gaza yet we sit with idle hands. The world weeps for Chechnya but we turn the other cheek. We must do something about these crimes. If they go unpunished it's only a matter of time that atrocities like these spread further and further, continually pushing the envelope, until it happens to us. And then where will we be? Please speak out against injustice. Speak out against what is killing our brothers and sisters of this Earth and killing our world. May Allah protect them and us from harm and give us strength to do what is right when the path is clear, Ameen. Jazakallah kheir.