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Guest Column

On Elections

“It’s not about what the MSA can do for me; it’s about what I can do for the MSA.”
These were a few of the first words I recall hearing during the first RU-MSA elections I attended my freshman year, and ever since, they’ve powerfully shaped my understanding of MSA.

To many of you, MSA holds a dear spot in your heart and a valuable part of your college experience. Whether you attend MSA because you’re trying to destress from college/exams, because you want to make [Muslim] friends, because you want to enrich yourself further with Islam, or because MSA has become your ‘Home Away From Home’ — this MSA has grown to mean something to you.
Many of us love this MSA/this strong community at Rutgers so much that we want to see it continue to thrive, as strong as ever. Then there are many of us that want to go even beyond that… to see this MSA do so much more –
We want to see this MSA host bigger and more meaningful events,
We want to see this MSA become more inclusive and open to those who aren’t sure whether this MSA is or isn’t for them, who may feel judged when coming anywhere close to anything that has to do with MSA, who may want to take a step closer towards Allah and want this MSA to help them,
We want to share the love this MSA has given us with everyone that we can.

And most importantly, many of us want to continue to make this MSA an even better place where others can grow closer to their Islam — something our MSA can only always improve on.

If this MSA has impacted you in any way, and if this MSA is indeed a place where you want to create some lasting impact during your time here at Rutgers, then today is the day you can impact this MSA. On Thursday April 21st, 2016, through a short two hour election from 8pm-10pm, you will be asked to select the people who you think should lead this MSA. The leaders are chosen by the people, and thus, it’s your voice that owns the floor today. You need to do your part to make sure those who are both capable and deserving to lead this MSA are selected. You need to use your voice to nominate all whom you know can take this MSA to new heights. Select those whom you want to see represent our Muslim community.

With all of that said and done, let me ask you – what’s holding you back from doing more in this MSA?

For 3 years, this MSA has meant so much to me. For 3 years, I did everything that I could to help this MSA grow. Now, it’s your turn.

 

–Mujtaba Qureshi

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By Sadia Salman

The Truth About the Truth

I can’t stop thinking about it. The concept of the “truth” is something I’ve struggled to understand for some time now. The truth is the truth is the truth is the truth. It’s simple—but is it really that simple? I think life would be a lot easier if it was, but as experience goes to show, life doesn’t work that way.

I heard a quote by some author—Gustave Flaubert, whoever that is—once that read, “There is no truth, only perception.” And it sounds insightful and philosophical but after having the concept in the back of my mind for some time, I’ve decided I don’t completely believe it. I’d say there is always truth, but it is more often altered by perception. Maybe I just don’t want to admit that everything is perception, but I’d like to believe that there are things I know correctly as truth or things that I can say I’ve perceived correctly. But I digress.

So now we have truth, and perception. There is the truth behind the way someone is, the way something is, why something has happened, etc. Some people might know the truth, and some people might not. Honestly, maybe only Allah (swa) knows the absolute truth. Whatever it is, there is some underlying right and wrong whether we know it or not.  Then there is perception. Someone who knows all the details of the story probably perceives it more correctly than someone who doesn’t know the details. While it’s true that we might perceive something a certain way, it’s not necessarily true that our perception is correct. But it’s easy to fool ourselves into thinking our perception is correct, which is a problem. Not everything is as simple as it seems to people on the outside, and this paves the way for backbiting and gossip. There are so many proofs from the Quran and Hadith that tell us backbiting and gossip are very serious and should be stayed away from:

Behold, you received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of God [Quran 24: 15]

O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin. And do not spy or backbite each other. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his brother when dead? You would detest it. And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is accepting of repentance and Merciful. [Quran 49:12)

The Prophet (Sallallahu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) is also reported to have said: “Shall I tell you about the most evil ones from amongst you?” They said, “Of course.” He said, “Those who go around with Nameemah [gossip]. They make enmity between friends and they seek problems for the innocent.” [Ahmad and al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad]

Ibn Abbas (Radhiallahu `Anhu) said: “Allah’s Messenger (Sallallahu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) was passing by two graves and said, ‘They (the dead laying in these graves) are being tortured not for a major (sin), but in fact, it is a minor (sin). One of them used to carry Nameemah [gossip] and the other didn’t save himself from being soiled by his urine.'” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

Why is gossip regarded so seriously in the eyes of Allah (swa)? He knows best, and it is not up to us to question His wisdom or take it lightly. In my 21 years living this life, it is clear to me that if anything, perhaps gossip is warned against because of the damage it can do to the person being discussed—damage that might not be warranted. Telling your friends in passing about a story you heard might not seem significant in impact, but when the number of people hearing and manipulating that story grows exponentially, it makes all the difference in the world—and you took part in it. The Prophet Salallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam said: “None of you will believe until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.” [Bukhari & Muslim]. So before you get involved in the transmission of a rumor that might ruin someone’s reputation, think about whether it is something you would want people saying about you, if you were in their place. Above all else, remember that not everything you hear from people is true—stories are shaped by perception and agendas and feelings that aren’t always justifiable. Think about what you might not know of the situation, and unless you can verify whatever you’ve heard, keep it to yourself. And even if it is something you can verify, that doesn’t mean you should share it with others. Use your judgment—love for your brother what you love for yourself. Abu Hurairah (Radhiallahu `anhu) reported that the Prophet (Sallallahu `Alayhi Wa Sallam) said: “Whosoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak what is good or be silent.” (Muslim)

From what I’ve seen, it is so easy to spread a juicy, jaw-dropping rumor, and ten times harder to inform people of the truth or clear up that rumor. We experience this everyday living in a world plagued by ignorance regarding our beloved religion. We want so badly for people to let go of the misconceptions and misunderstandings they have of us, and our beliefs and practices, but are we ready to do that for each other?

May Allah protect us from falsehood—backbiting, slander, and malicious gossip—and increase the love we have for our brothers and sisters in Islam, especially the ones in the #MSAfamily.

Back to my musings, I can’t help but wonder how many reputations and relationships have been ruined because of the lies people tell and the rumors that are spread based on false perception. I wonder how many people have been wronged and are fighting to tell their story, but have no voice. I think about all the lies I might have been told in the distance past, and I can’t really say they matter anymore—so will anything now matter five years from now? Probably not. If it won’t matter to us in this life, will we care at all in the next? Do we ever get to find out the truth about all the lies that are told—by people, politicians, professionals, and the like? I don’t know about the next life but I know about this one.

The truth about the truth is that in this life, you don’t always get to know the truth—maybe because it doesn’t concern you, maybe because it’s complicated, maybe because this is part of Allah’s plan—whatever the reason, it is not our place to talk about what we know nothing about.
By Umama Ahmed

 

 

The First and The Last

Then they found one of Our servants whom We blessed with mercy from Us and whom We gave knowledge, a knowledge from Our own. (65) Musa said to him, “May I have your company so that you teach me some of the rightful knowledge you have been given.” (66) He said, “You can never bear with me patiently. (67) And how would you keep patient over something your comprehension cannot grasp?” (68) He (Musa) said, “You will find me patient, if Allah wills, and I shall not disobey any order from you.” (69) He said, “Well, if you follow me, do not ask me about anything unless I myself start telling you about it.” (70) So, they both moved ahead, until when they boarded a boat, he sliced it (by removing one of its planks). He (Musa) said, “Did you slice it to drown its people? In fact, you have done a terrible act.” (71) He said, “Did I not say that you can never bear with me patiently?” (72) He (Musa) said, “Do not hold me punishable for what I forgot, and do not make my course too difficult for me.” (73) So, they moved ahead until when they met a boy, he killed him (the boy). He (Musa) said, “Did you kill an innocent soul while he did not kill anyone? You have committed a heinous act indeed.” (74) He said, “Did I not tell you that you can never bear with me patiently?” (75) He (Musa) said, “If I ask you about something after this, do not allow me your company. You have now reached a point where you have a valid excuse (to part with me) from my own side. “ (76) Then, they moved ahead until they came to the people of a town; they asked its people for food, and they refused to host them. Then, they found there a wall tending to fall down. So he (Khidr) set it right. He (Musa) said, “If you wished, you could have charged a fee for this.” (77) He said, “Here is the point of parting ways between me and you. I shall now explain to you the reality of things about which you could not remain patient. (78) As for the boat, it belonged to some poor people who worked at sea. So I wanted to make it defective, as there was a king across them who used to usurp every boat by force. (79) As for the boy, his parents were believers. We apprehended that he would impose rebellion and infidelity upon them. (80) We, therefore, wished that their Lord would replace him with someone better than him in piety, and more akin to affection. (81) As for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was a treasure beneath it belonging to them, and their father was a pious man. So your Lord willed that they should reach their maturity and dig out their treasure, as a mercy from your Lord. I did not do it on my own accord. This is the reality of things about which you could not remain patient.” (82). [18: 65-82]

   What is knowledge? Take one philosophy course (almost any course) and you will be presented with about 1000+ theories on Epistemology– what knowledge is, how we acquire it, why we acquire it, what we do with it, and what it all means in the grand scheme of things. When I’m in class it seems that there are a plethora of theories, and once we’ve touched based on even one of them, we jump to the next– occasionally come back to some previous ones–accept them or challenge them, and the cycle continues. Let’s not forget the theories that a philosopher might create just to refute a theory he/she doesn’t like. But I love it. I love my philosophy classes and I love that I can learn those 1000+ theories and the fact will always remain- Allah is the first and the last.

“He is the First and the Last and the Ascendant (over all) and the Knower of hidden things, and He is Cognizant of all things.” [57:3]

    Of course as Muslims we have to understand that it is by Allah’s mercy that He has granted us the Qur’an as guidance and so that we can understand the reality of this world. It is also by His mercy that such profound information is clarified in one book. So how can we use the Qur’an to understand Epistemology? To begin, Allah reminds us that only He is the all-aware and all-knowing. Allah describes Himself with many names that are only reserved for Him, especially in regards to knowledge. Even in the case of Khidr (AS), he himself states that the knowledge and wisdom bestowed upon him was all from Allah. It is very clear that as the creation we are limited and He is limitless.

    In philosophy, when we talk about epistemology, it often follows that we also talk about intuitions and beliefs. Why do we hold certain intuitions and are they a reliable source of information? If we have the correct information but come to an incorrect conclusion in virtue of that information, does it still count as having a true belief? Philosophers have tried to tackle these questions by considering certain scenarios, such as the Gettier cases and thought experiments. Gettier cases are hypothetical scenarios that were made to appeal to our understanding of knowledge and true beliefs. A super simplified version of a Gettier Case can be understood in the case that Smith knows that Jones always drives a Ford so Smith believes that Jones owns a Ford. However Jones is currently renting a Ford (unbeknown to Smith) – so would that count as Smith having the justified belief that Jones owns a Ford? Now to put a twist on things, thought experiments also constitute of hypothetical situations that examine how knowledge plays a role in moral judgment which then have consequences that are manifested in action. For example, there is a situation where one must to choose between letting a trolley (train) kill X number of people on a track or purposely killing 1 person to spare the others. There are more versions of this case that consider how varying indirect/direct responsibility for the killing would have an effect on one’s decision. For both Gettier Cases and Thought Experiments, many philosophers have tried to reconcile different theories of beliefs and intuitions to come to some sort of conclusion about knowledge.

   Without going into further discussion about such cases, we can rewind and come back to the story of Musa and Khidr (AS)- to appeal to intuitions and beliefs. Even though Musa (AS) was a prophet, in this event we see how he was bound by his own intuitions, which prevented him from seeing the wisdom behind the actions of Khidr (AS). Again, Musa AS is a prophet and because of that him and his knowledge are still held to a high regard, however even as a noble prophet, Allah is showing us something extremely profound in regards to epistemology. It is He who holds all the knowledge of the seen and unseen and it is He who grants guidance and wisdom to whom He wills. In this case He granted Khidr knowledge and wisdom from Himself, which is the only way that Khidr was able to take the action that he did. This story reflects greatly on the trials that we will face in our life. We as the creation have limited capacities by nature. Nobody will deny this; nobody will deny that humans although the intelligent species- have limited and many times imperfect perception. We are able to make certain moral judgments and filter our own actions accordingly but every so often we will find that what we intuit to be “bad” may actually be beneficial and what we intuit to be “good” may actually be detrimental.  

  Again, this is largely my own reconciliation of what I learn everyday with what Allah tells us in the Qur’an. Of course the Qur’an will always take precedence over anything I learn and if there is any lesson that I would like to share from this reflection, it is that no matter how much knowledge we think we have or how intelligent we think we are, Allah is the most knowledgeable, the most wise, and only He is perfect. Any mistakes that we make are a product of our own imperfections and all success is only from Allah. We must ask Him for guidance especially in times of hardships when our intuitions are playing against us.

P.S. I am also not a Philosopher, but whatever. Who in philosophy even is?

Sources:

  • “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge” – Edmund Gettier, 1963

By Abyaz Uppal  

Helpless Love

A mother’s love is strong
Yet powerless at best
Quenches the thirst for so long
But has no water for the rest

A dreadful inquisition
Who lives and who dies
A mother’s impossible decision
Of tending to which child’s cries

The prayer is always the same
Only a different body to discern
“From God they came,
And to God they will return”

Fluorescent bombs light the night sky
As a mother prepares her final goodbye

–By Ziyad R

Captain America

Drained from an extensive day of babysitting, I was sitting and watching the

Avengers with my 5-year-old nephew. I had actually never seen the movie before

and certainly had no interest to. The only thing that succeeded to reserve my

attention was my nephew’s occasional shrieking and excitement at the appearance

of Captain America. I honestly never believed he was such a great superhero. I mean

what was even so special about him? He, just like any other superhero, was a reason

to give Marvel millions of dollars from the parents of these fascinated children.

So I asked my nephew a simple question…Sweetie, why do you like Captain America

so much? And he gave me an innocent response…“his shield, he’s so strong with his

shield and he can fight his enemy with it, and the best part he doesn’t even get

hurt!”…. and suddenly I made a revelation.

The shield! That’s what makes him so special! It is the sole reason Captain America

is so loved by the nation! With his indestructible shield he’s so amazingly powerful!

He can throw it at his enemies and defeat them in an instant, without any visible

damage to himself.

The analogy is in the shield. For Muslims, our iman, or faith, is inevitably our shield.

The alter ego of Captain America is Steven Rogers, a man who was rejected from the

army due to the single fact that he was too weak and frail to engage in combat with

the enemy. However, as soon as he took the risk to undergo a series of experiments,

he gained unimaginable strength and, to go along with it, an indestructible shield. He

became the Captain America that is known and loved today.

If Muslims take the initiative to step up and learn about their religion and

strengthen their relationship with Allah, they can become their own superhero. It

honestly does not matter how weak you think your iman is, how bad you believe

you are, or how much unforgivable sin you think you have engaged in. As soon as

we, as Muslims, take the leap of faith and seize the opportunity to change our bad

habits, we have put on our shield.

Asking forgiveness for sins we believe we have committed, taking initiatives to start

praying in a timely manner, and changing our mindset to be able to declare that

“Yes! I will change for Allah starting now!” we strengthen our iman and secure our

shield in place. Once we strengthen our faith, no enemy (i.e. Shaytaan) can bring us

down.

What Muslims simply need to remember is that without our iman and without our

Islam we are nothing. We were privileged to be born Muslim and our religion makes

us who we are. So never give up on it because Islam is our shield that undeniably

makes us indestructible.

By Fatima Alam

What does the Qur’an say about violence in the name of God?

We all know that an integral part of offering dawah is clarifying the misconceptions that many NonMuslims  (and sometimes, even Muslims) have about Islam. However, while many of us are enthusiastic about offering dawah and battling through Islamophobia, not many of us are informed of the proofs from the Qur’an that back up the claims we know so well.

Today, the rise of Sheikh Google has made it all too easy for people, with both malignant and benevolent intentions, to arrive at completely misconstrued information about Islam, all backed up by direct quotations from the Qur’an. Like with any text, quotations can’t be lifted from the Qur’an out of context, but in addition to understanding the literary context of an ayah, it’s also important to understand the historical context of it. Knowing when and why an ayah was revealed is a crucial part of understanding its significance. As Muslims, it should be our responsibility to have this knowledge and understanding which is necessary to refute common misunderstandings.

Recently, someone asked me the question we’ve heard time and time again: What does the Qur’an say about violence in the name of Allah? Specifically, this person had been misinformed that Jihad is the practice of Extremists to eliminate “infidels,” who she had been told are Christians. Luckily for me, she had approached me over social media, so it wasn’t obvious right away that I didn’t actually have the exact answer to her question. Of course, I knew that Islam preaches peace and that verses from the Qur’an are misconstrued to show otherwise, but I didn’t actually know these ayahs by heart, and I essentially didn’t have anything except my own word to give to her, when she needed nothing short of Allah’s. So I spent the next couple of days doing research on the topic, and below you’ll find my response. It is my hope that this may prove beneficial to someone else, and that we may effectively become better da’ees.

***

The Qur’an doesn’t teach or advocate violence in the name of Allah. The Qur’an does talk about jihad, but jihad is the arabic word for struggle, specifically, any struggle that a believer undergoes for her/his faith. It can be something daily such as Muslim women wearing hijab or a Muslim working on making sure she/he prays five times a day, or a bigger struggle such as facing discrimination.

Unfortunately, there are a few ayahs from the Qur’an that are repeatedly misquoted by people who want to portray Islam as a violent religion. For example, a common misquotation is:

And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (9:5)

The preceding verses which provide the context here have been conveniently left out and are as follows:

[This is a declaration of] disassociation, from Allah and His Messenger, to those with whom you had made a treaty among the polytheists. So travel freely, [O disbelievers], throughout the land [during] four months but know that you cannot cause failure to Allah and that Allah will disgrace the disbelievers. And [it is] an announcement from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah is disassociated from the disbelievers, and [so is] His Messenger. So if you repent, that is best for you; but if you turn away – then know that you will not cause failure to Allah . And give tidings to those who disbelieve of a painful punishment. Excepted are those with whom you made a treaty among the polytheists and then they have not been deficient toward you in anything or supported anyone against you; so complete for them their treaty until their term [has ended]. Indeed, Allah loves the righteous [who fear Him]. And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah . Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know. How can there be for the polytheists a treaty in the sight of Allah and with His Messenger, except for those with whom you made a treaty at al-Masjid al-Haram? So as long as they are upright toward you, be upright toward them. Indeed, Allah loves the righteous [who fear Him] (9:1-7).

First of all, Islam was revealed among a population of polytheists and idol-worshippers, so there is no mention of Christians here. Secondly, Islam was not welcomed with open arms. Despite the fact that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his companions were peaceful in their spread of Islam, they were persecuted to such an extent that they were forced to leave their city of Makkah and travel to Medina, where they were finally welcomed and eventually Islam began to prosper from there. During this time, there was a treaty between the Muslims and the Pagan Arabs, but the Pagans broke the treaty. These verses were revealed by Allah as a response to the breaking of the treaty, allowing 4 months for amending the treaty, after which those who broke the treaty may be punished. Before calling this out as an act of Islamic violence — I want you to consider that this how the world works, countries make peace treaties, and if either side breaks the treaty, war breaks out. But the verses go on to detail to act with mercy and forgiveness and to continue to treat well those who treated the Muslims well. Even to the point that there is the specific verse, And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then deliver him to his place of safety (9:6), which details that despite it all, if one of the opposers were to even request protection, then the Muslims were obligated by the will of God to protect them. They were only permitted to fight those who would fight them.

Another common verse that people take out of context is:

And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. (2:191)

In context, the verse reads:

Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors. And kill them wherever you overtake them and expel them from wherever they have expelled you, and fitnah is worse than killing. And do not fight them at al-Masjid al- Haram until they fight you there. But if they fight you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers. And if they cease, then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is [acknowledged to be] for Allah . But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors. [Fighting in] the sacred month is for [aggression committed in] the sacred month, and for [all] violations is legal retribution. So whoever has assaulted you, then assault him in the same way that he has assaulted you. And fear Allah and know that Allah is with those who fear Him. (2:190-194)

Here, it is explicitly given that Muslims are only permitted to resort to violence if they are attacked and oppressed first and only to the same extent that they have been attacked, and that even then, they must stop the fighting as soon as the other side stops, regardless of whether or not differences have been settled. All this verse does is give Muslims the ability to stand up for themselves, which is a universally acknowledged right for any people, while also maintaining strict guidelines to be merciful and choose peace whenever possible.

As for your point about “infidels” being Christians, Islam acknowledges both Jews and Christians as “people of the book.” We all believe in one God, and we believe in both the Torah and Bible to be revelations of God, and as Christians see the Torah as the Old Testament and the Bible as the New Testament, Muslims see the Qur’an as the final & complete testament. God tells us clearly, The [Muslim] believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians – all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good – will have their rewards with their Lord. No fear for them, nor will they grieve. (2:62)

–Mahnoor Akhter

***

Again, I hope that this explanation is enlightening, and if there is any good in any of what I have written, it is from Allah alone, and if there is anything incorrect, it is from me, and you have my sincerest apologies in advance.

Seeking the Night

Imagine you are sitting in your cubicle at work, nearing the end of your monotonous shift at your 9 to 5 job. You are thinking of how you will soon join thousands of other commuters during rush hour on the packed freeway. Suddenly, your boss comes up to you and makes you an offer: a really big upcoming contract. He would need you to work through the night for the next 2 weeks, but if you accept to do this work, you’ll receive a 1 million dollar bonus. What would your decision be?

For the vast majority of us, the answer is a no-brainer. We would happily accept the 1 million dollar bonus, even if it meant that we’d get 2 weeks of inadequate sleep. That 1 million dollars would set our life straight in every way possible, so how could we pass up that offer?

What if I were to tell you that in the next 10 nights lies a reward more fulfilling than even a billion dollars? Somewhere hidden in these next 10 nights lies Laylatul Qadr, the Night of Ordainment, the night in which the Angel Gabriel first revealed the Qu’ran to the Prophet Muhammad (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasalam) in the cave of Hira. The significance of this night is explained by the Lord of the Worlds Himself, in the second verse of the 97th chapter of the Qu’ran, as something unimaginable. Allah (Subḥānahu wa ta’alā ) Himself saying that the night is beyond our comprehension is the most powerful testimony that can exist.

Furthermore, to contextualize this, in the next verse, Allah (SWT) says that this night is better than a thousand months. We often hear that actions done on Laylatul Qadr are treated as if they were done for 83 straight years, but this is actually false. Allah (SWT) says that the night is better than a thousand months, not equal to a thousand months. How much better? Only Allah (SWT) knows.

Taking advantage of this night and spending it in the remembrance of Allah is an utmost priority for us. Therefore, to ensure maximum efficiency, here’s a Laylatul Qadr to-do list for the last 10 nights of Ramadan.

  1. Pray Isha and Fajr in the Masjid, so you get the reward for praying the whole night.
  2. Focus in your Taraweeh.
  3. Make du’a. Allah reveals his qadr, or Decree, to the Angels on this night, so this is among the most powerful times to make du’as.
  4. Pray the night prayer in the last third of the night. In the last third of the night, Allah descends to the lowest heaven to listen to the calls of his servants.
  5. Read Qu’ran. Every letter of the Qu’ran you read grants you 10 good deeds. Now imagine that reward on Laylatul Qadr.
  6. Remember Allah with Zikr. Break out that designer tasbeeh of yours and go hard with your SubhanAllahs, Alhamdulillahs, and Allah-u-Akbars.

It may get tough during these 10 nights, especially for those of us who work during the day, but stick to it. On the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, you can make up for all that sleep Insha’Allah, and you can do so with the satisfaction of knowing that you caught the blessings of Laylatul Qadr.

By Taufeeq Ahamed

This is Our MSA

It’s that time of year again–tonight is the MSA shura election. Why should or shouldn’t you accept this position? An anonymous shura/specialty member has speaks up…

Salam everybody,

I’ve been meaning to post about this but I haven’t had the time till now.

Why are our Elections so important?
RUMSA is such an amazing and beautiful organization mashaAllah, but this is only because of the work everyone in the organization (note: Everyone, not [just] our shura) put in together. I will admit, though, that it is the shura that pushes the organization in the direction of where they think/know it should go. It’s the shura that does everything that they can to make sure that They’re doing everything they can to do the best for the organization and for the muslim students at Rutgers. The leaders of this organization thus should be who WE know are best for it. They should be who WE know will do the best. We’ve been in the MSA this entire year; it’s because of this that it’s OUR vote that matters. It’s OUR votes that will shape the entirety of the next year of RU-MSA ’15-’16.

But why should I vote?
Who else knows who in the MSA is capable, besides us? Through out the year, haven’t we seen those who we think/know are capable? That they’re the people who CAN make a difference? We should give them that extra push to step up to the plate. Once again, the MSA in the end is relying on us. It’s up to us to take these capable people and put them up where they need to be.

Why should I accept my nomination?
Haven’t you ever had thoughts on how MSA could’ve done something better? Whether it’s from the kick-off or the Eid Banquet to events that MSA should be doing or other things that MSA needs to do,
There are a hundred and one ways of making a difference in the MSA, but the Shura might be the best place to start. I know you care for the MSA. I know you want to see it become the best that it can be, so be a part of the reason in why it’s going to happen.

But what does it take to be a leader? What if I can’t do it?
Long story short, no one’s truly/actually ready for these leadership positions in the MSA. You grow into it. So if you’re nominated, don’t be scared. If you know someone with potential, nominate them. Allah is the best of planners.

-Anonymous shura/specialty member.

Standing Against Islamophobia at Rutgers

A week ago, it was revealed that the director of Rutgers Hillel, Andrew Getraer, tweeted and retweeted hateful messages about Muslims and Palestinians on his public Twitter account and in direct messages. Among the messages revealed in an article on AlterNet.org, Gertraer supported the false notion that Palestine did not exist before 1967 and wrote that Islam is a huge problem. He also claims that many Muslim students at Rutgers are “Islamist sympathizers.”

In response to these comments, Muslim students submitted op-eds to the Daily Targum condemning the Islamophobic comments and calling on Rutgers to take a stand against Getraer’s racism. The MSA Shura has demanded an apology from Hillel. Still, the Rutgers administration remained silent. This led to the #RUAgainstHate campaign on Twitter that began at 5 PM and is still going strong.

Check out some of the tweets from tonight:

The conversation is still going in the hashtag so be sure to tweet with the hashtag #RUAgainstHate. We can’t let this sort of bigotry go on, especially on our very own campus and when the Rutgers administration won’t say anything for us. If we don’t stand up for ourselves, who will?

15 Thoughts While Watching a Hijab Tutorial

  1. But I don’t have any ninja hijabs!! 1
  2. Wait, what, how’d she do that again? (Repeat approximately 6 times for each step.) 2
  3. What was I supposed to do with this end of my hijab? now-wait-a-minute-o
  4. Great, none of my hijabs are big enough for this style. 4
  5. How on earth am I supposed to pin something that I can’t see? I’m supposed to pin it where? 5
  6. OUCH. I just stabbed myself. ouch
  7. Why doesn’t mine look as nice? 724
  8. Why can’t my face shape be the same as hers? tumblr_mcx5h7co0I1rnvwt1
  9. Am I doing this right? I don’t think I’m doing this right? ClearLook_zps0bfeb28e
  10. How am I supposed to make that many folds? helena bonham carter eyeroll
  11. WAIT…how long is this style going to take me?!? whitney-splash
  12. How many pins is this going to need? tumblr_ljzm5vkQhA1qixleeo1_500
  13. What do you mean this is an everyday look? This is too much effort for me to put in every morning. tired
  14. Woah…does it actually look like it does in the tutorial? 7e26f521ec478af3_hold-up.xxxlarge
  15. Does it actually look nice on me? Can I pull this off? tumblr_m6qzwbRO2t1qfbfds

You definitely can! –Ed

Featured image (c) Muslimah Lifestyle

I Am Racist, and Sexist, and Homophobic, and Ableist, and…

I want you to do a quick exercise with me.

For the next two days, any time you’re tempted to call something “gay” or “retarded” or “OCD” or to call someone “such a Jew” or “such a girl” or “so white,” replace the keyword with “Muslim.”

“Dude, stop looking at me like that, that’s so Muslim.” “Yeah, my mom completely loses her top if we don’t have every inch of our house white on Fridays, she’s, like, Muslim.” “Lol, that brother plays basketball like a Muslim.”

Did any of that kind of hurt your soul a little bit?

We have a responsibility to guard our tongues and hearts against casual -isms. We all know that racism and sexism aren’t dead, but a lot of the time we dismiss the topic because Islam is perfect, and there’s no place for discrimination within it. But a perfect deen does not mean perfect followers of it. Muslims are just as guilty of racism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, cultural appropriation, etc, as everyone else. We’ve got our fair share of domestic violence and we’ve got our friends who dress up as “gypsies” or American Indians to costume parties — which, like, okay, consider this for a moment: Wal-Mart releases an “Islamic costume” and we’re all up in arms. Have we ever considered how wrong it is for people to dress up in “costumes” of other cultures that have faced and still do face discrimination to which we’re so acquainted?

We have to think outside of ourselves. I imagine that you know “retarded” meant “less advanced in physical, mental, or social development” sometime ago. You know it means “very foolish or stupid” now. You realize that there are still people that exist and have feelings that are “less advanced” right? Maybe you aren’t neurodivergent yourself, maybe you don’t know someone who is, but these are still people. How’d you like it if “Muslim” actually did become synonymous with “terrorist”?

How many times do you sarcastically ask “are you blind?” or call New Jersey weather “schizo” or “bipolar”? How often do you hear men and women insult a guy by calling him a “girl” or a “princess”? Just what is so insulting about being a woman? Never think less of someone because of what they might be.

These are real things that people have to deal with every day. And they aren’t always struggles or problems, they’re skin colors and sexes and cultural backgrounds and other forms of personal identity. To hear them used as insults, particularly at individuals to which they don’t even apply, is insulting to everyone to whom they do apply. We use them in our every day language without a second thought, and I think on our ongoing quest to be, y’know, decent people, it’s best for us to try and avoid it.

I’m not saying to google the etymology of every word that comes out of your mouth. I’m not even saying to stop calling things “stupid” or “dumb” or “lame,” because words gain and lose meaning as much as everything else and I’m just as guilty of talking like this. My goal is just to raise a flag somewhere in the back of our heads so that we all consider everything that comes out of our mouths, because the tongue is the sharpest weapon we have. Sometimes you cut yourselves or others without meaning to.

I’ll leave you with this video. It’s funny, and it focuses on white privilege specifically, but it makes a good point.

I’m Serious: Let’s Write a Book

I was thirteen years old when I wrote my first novel.

I was thirteen, I did it in a month, I didn’t have an outline, and, frankly? I scarcely remember how it happened. All I know is I decided on October 31, 2008, that I was going to write a book. And I sat down, and for the next thirty days straight, I wrote it. There’s a physical copy of Sunrise by Heb/a Za/he/er gathering dust on my desk, and a PDF of it on my hard drive (232 pages!), and notebooks filled with my handwriting in my hoarding cabinet, and my parents like to take it all out at parties and show me off.

It’s embarrassing.

Like, okay, the writing a book part isn’t embarrassing — that’s kind of awesome, I know it is. But this isn’t a post about showing off. It’s embarrassing because the main character of Sunrise is nothing like me; his name is Zeal sof Scinka. He is the crown prince of Cipe, a fictional kingdom that I designed with my friends in eighth grade, and works on a backdrop of Medieval England that’s typical for high fantasy, even though all of us are South/east Asian. He has older sisters that could take the throne before him, but don’t because they’re women. He has Father Issues, and his mother is dead. He speaks English, and only English.

His experience of the world, in other words, is basically what the media I tend to consume consider the default: White, male, cisgender, heterosexual protagonist. Upper or middle class. Ambiguous (agnostic?) faith. Orphan. Handsome.

I wrote a book the following year, too, and it has the same problem. Lucas Delth has six sisters and is the most important of all of them, especially since his older brother, Idek, didn’t live past childhood. Luke has a love interest named Aerona, whom he falls in love with on a whirlwind adventure as they try to reach the sky colony of Aerona’s dreams. Aerona is an orphan and from a marginalized race; she’s independent, strong, and a fierce fighter.

Until she meets Luke and after an initial distaste for him, starts to lose things that make her who she is in favor of a poorly cramped in romance.

Ugh. Why, me? Why.

But, uh, yeah, so, I’ve written things, and yes, I have physical copies of them to distribute, but I shy away from showing them to people because I’m twenty years old, and what I liked to read and write about at thirteen and fourteen is very different from what I want to read and write about now: people like me. People outside of the default. People of faith. People of color. People of struggle.

I am, of course, not the only person who wants this, and I wouldn’t have it any other way — because we don’t want to just write, we want to read. And there isn’t any one experience. There are communities among us and things that unite us, but none of them are uniform, no individual is exactly the same as anyone else.

So I have a proposition: Let’s write a book. Let’s make it about all of us, and learn about each other. We are not the default. We are Muslims, we are students, we are daughters and sons and sisters and brothers, and some of us are orphans, and some of us are parents, some of us were born into this deen and some of us weren’t, some of us wavered and found our way back, our skin are different colors and our mouths know different tongues, but we all say la ilaha illallah, and all of us are people, and we all have stories to tell.

We’re the #MuslimsOfRutgers.

And we can totally do this, together.

What do you say?

apologies

by Jaweerya

At fifteen,
I walk into a store with my mother
who wears a blush colored scarf,
and I cling by her side
as she asks the cashier
which aisle carries the paper plates.
When your mother speaks
broken English
you learn to become protective
and memorize the exact places and times
to glue her words together
so they become whole.

When the cashier-
a white, middle aged woman
asked,
“Are you from I-ran?”
I shook my head to say no
which started an avalanche of questions,
“9/11 was just so tragic, but I heard your people celebrated?
How could they?”
“Isn’t Osama just a terrible person?”
“Wait, so you’re really not from I-ran?”
Until my face became the color
of my mother’s scarf,
and finally I said “yes, it’s all terrible. I’m sorry”
and stumbled out the doors.

Today, my 21 year old self wants to travel back
and snatch the sound particles
that created the word “sorry,”
before it can ever reach
the woman’s ears,
ask her why I never heard a white
man apologize-
for colonizing my mother’s land,
parting with arms full of museum keepsakes,
and gifting us complexes
that stench of bleaching creams.
For more than 200 brutal years of
hanging limp Black bodies
off of tree branches.
For tearing children like Emmett Till and
Trayvon Martin
from their mothers soft embraces,
because their only crime was in their skin.
I never caught a white man’s voice stutter or shake
for the Iraq War, and the cracking
open of the ground
so the one million scattered skeletons
could finally rest.
For funding Israel 8 million dollars a day to bulldoze
breathing bodies and flesh,
and to uproot entire family trees.
Never saw a white man avert his eyes down in the slightest shame
for lying to the people of Pakistan
that the vaccinations were for polio,
when in truth,
the needles were extracting DNA.
For the screams that seeped through Guantanamo’s prison cracks,
but never made it to lawyers’ ears.
For driving out the indigenous of America
to barren reservations,
and then erasing their property rights.

White privilege is being able to place
a blanket over every crime.
every inflicted pain.
White privilege is not having one person’s
actions be representative of everyone else’s.
White privilege is not having to say sorry.
There are not enough words,
stories, or poetry
to fill the crevices of our gaping wounds.
The double standard is crippling,
my people need crutches
just to stand and proclaim our faith,
we have bent over so low in shame,
you can almost hear our spines
snapping,
and our children have learned to say
“we are not radicals,”
before learning to say
“we are Muslim”.
How many times must we condemn
what we are not?
How many generations must grow
with accusations strapped to their ankles?
How long before fear stops
smothering us,
before we stop drowning
in our anxieties,
before paranoia
removes its hands from our windpipe?
How long before our lungs
can finally breathe?

Dedicated to Rutgers

by Anonymous

Tired eyes and rustled hair stared at me in the morning
Her mouth pursed in defiance, “Don’t judge”
Eyeliner besmudged.
Pretty, as she always wanted, but I remember
That she had been beautiful once.

I feebly stood before her as
Palaces of lies around me were built
The parties roared on into the night
As I watched my sister wilt.

It was the silence of others that haunted me the most
When she was seen by the world undisguised,
Honor vaporized.
I tried to cloak her from them, for her protection
She thought I was trying to suffocate her.

I lost the match to a sword with
Greek letters inlaid in the hilt
Faceless reapers smiled in victory
As I watched my sister wilt.

Beneath the female, a woman lay broken
But I could not, though I tried, her mend.
Failure of a friend.
If only I had jumped into the abyss with her,
Maybe she would have taken my hand,
Maybe we could have waded out together.

And the more I thought, the more my self
Became overwhelmed with guilt
Nations and empires rose and fell around me
As I watched my sister wilt.

When she looked in the mirror or in her camera lens
Did she see her soul flickering in her stare?
Sallow, crippled, bare.
Dear sister: I did not hate you, I loved you more than anything
The tears I shed for you in the dark, in prayer
The tears I shed for you.
If only you knew the extent of your cruelty
Towards those that only loved you.
Do not stare back at me boldly with those hollow eyes,
eyeliner besmudged—
It is not I who will judge.

Both wisemen and fools say there is no use
In crying over milk that’s been spilt
And so the demons dance around the fire
As I watch my sister wilt.

You Had Me at Hello

Picture this.

It’s the Monday after one of the chillest three-day-weekends you’ve had so far, and you just got out of your last class for the day. Fall’s finally here, so the sun is shining and the temperature’s at the kind of number that means you don’t have to hide your fingers in your sleeves or give stankeye to the girls who complain about how hot they are to the girl in the cotton scarf wrapped firmly around her head. It’s actually pretty nice, and you don’t even have any homework due tonight, so, hey, you’re in a pretty good mood. Thinkin’ about calling up some friends and grabbing some froyo or shooting hoops for a little bit, ‘cause you’re still a little buzzed from that great weekend, you know?

Then you see it.

It’s unmistakable; coming from the distance, a girl with a scarf on her head or a guy with a Muslim Beard™ or just someone you vaguely recognize from MSA. You don’t know their name. You don’t even know if they know yours, or if they’ve ever seen you around, or anything, really, other than the fact that they’re Muslim, and so are you.

It’s coming.

Do I say salaam?

You start to sweat.

You fix yourself up; quickly tuck the baby hairs crawling onto your forehead back in your scarf, run a hand through your hair to straighten it out as you wonder if this person’ll return your gesture, or if you’ll be weird, or if they’ve got earbuds running up their shirt and into their ears and it’s just so extravagantly hidden that you can’t tell and you’ll look stupid.

You’re just about to pass each other.

Your eyes meet. The moment of truth.

You smile, raise your hand to wave, and proclaim, “Asalaamu alaykum!”

They don’t notice and you both walk on by.

Oh. Well. Awkward.

I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been on both ends of this exchange before. The nervous salaam that I’ve been prepping from, like, half a mile away; the unnatural fast walk to get away from it; and the hastily muttered, “Walaykum asalaam,” too. I mean, it’s hard, isn’t it? To wave and smile and greet people you don’t know, and you aren’t about to stop and talk about your day, right, and there’s a good chance you won’t see each other again, given how big Rutgers is, so… why bother?

Al-Bukhaari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawood, al-Nisaa’i, and Ibn Hibbaan narrated from ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Umar, that a man asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, “What is the best thing in Islam?” He said,

Feeding others and giving the greeting of salaam to those whom you know and those whom you do not know.

He ﷺ also said:

You will not enter paradise until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another: spread salaam among you.

Because the Prophet ﷺ told us to. Because it’s how we show love to each other. Because it’s part of our deen!

When I was younger, I used to play a game with my cousins where whenever an adult would pass us by we’d race to say our salaam, and whoever was first got ninety-nine points–everyone else only got one. It was a giggly scramble and it was all in good fun, but somewhere around high school it sank into the back of my mind and I started looking away instead of rushing to grab those ninety-nine points.

Younger me was onto something that I lost in high school, because spreading salaam isn’t just a suggestion. It’s a command. And one of the minor signs of the Day of Judgement is that we’ll stop saying it to strangers, that we’ll save it only for those we already know… But here’s a question: How do you meet new people? How do you make friends or start an interview or pick up the phone?

You say hello.

And what d’you suppose is the most beautiful version of ‘hello’? The one that’s guaranteed to foster brother- and sisterhood in the hearts of the Believers?

Salaam!

So I have a challenge for me and I have a challenge for you. Some of us are in the habit of spreading salaam and some of us aren’t; whoever you are, the next time you see a Muslim walking down the street and you’re not sure whether they’re going to greet you or whether you should greet them, take the initiative. Smile and say “Asalaamu alaykum,” even if you’re with friends and you’re in the middle of a good joke or something–because maybe your friends will turn around, blink, and ask, “Wait, do you know them?”

And you can say, “Nah.”

Or you can say, “Of course.”

Or you can say, “That’s my sister/brother. Duh.”

Cover photo by E.m.n. Islamic Calligraphy.

The Anne Franks of Today

by Azka Mohyuddin

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – I’ve been thinking a lot about this book lately. As a recorded account of the life of a teenager in hiding during the Nazi occupation of Holland, Anne Frank’s diary serves to humanize that horror. It’s living evidence of what happens when a little girl is faced with the “truth” of not having the right to exist. It was within these pages that Anne not only validated her own existence, but gave readers insight into living in a world of non-existence.

But the wisdom and literary genius of a thirteen-year-old is not what’s been on my mind. I am left, instead, wondering what would have happened if this diary was released in real time: imagine a world where one can simply express their thoughts as they come to them… a world with internet. While millions have been inspired by Anne’s account of oppression now, how would they have reacted while it was happening if only they had known? If only they had known.

Too often our inaction against an injustice is written off as excusable because of this ignorance. But turning your face from an issue because you’re afraid of what you might find out is not ignorance; it is an injustice of its own. The people of Gaza have turned to social media to share with the world what is going on as it happens, but the world has chosen not to see. As they pen their experiences not on paper but as characters of a tweet, we look away. The following are some accounts shared on twitter:

Despite all this, the world is silent. So it really begs the question: is it the narrative that compels or the time when it is produced? Is an experience only valid when the world says it is? We have a responsibility as part of the community known as humanity to stand up against injustice—especially when it isn’t easy, because that’s when it counts the most.

Since Israel broke the ceasefire six days ago, the death toll in Palestine has risen to 166, with 1,120 injured, many of them women and children. The United Nations declared on Friday that 77% of those killed in Gaza are civilians, and called for a return to the ceasefire agreement. Despite international pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has refused. Israelis claim that they are simply acting in self-defense, but that argument doesn’t hold much weight when you consider that Israel was the one to strike first. Israel has carried out more than 1,200 air strikes thus far and with the ground invasion from earlier Saturday, the death toll will only increase. These aren’t just numbers caught up between fire; they are all Anne Franks of the region, each of them with their own hopes and aspirations. Aspirations that were cruelly stolen from them for the simple reason of being born in Palestine.

We must be careful how we tread and make sure that we stand on the right side of history; we do not live in the times of ignorance. It is not if only we had known, it is what we did despite knowing. Decades from now when my grandkids learn of this time in their history class, I do not wish for my head to hang in shame when they ask me about it. I will proudly declare how I fought the good fight and stood with the oppressed, not under any political or religious obligations, but under the responsibility of humanity. The people of Gaza are calling upon us to hear their screams, to see their loss, and to feel their pain. We cannot stand on the sidelines of this “conflict” dumb, blind, and numb.

We have the power of a voice but we must make it heard. Use the hashtags #FreePalestine and #GazaUnderAttack among others and spread awareness about these gross human rights violations through social media. Educate people by talking about it in your social circles. Sign this petition to call on the White House to condemn these horrific acts of violence and apartheid. Show solidarity with the people of Palestine by attending protests and rallies in your area. And lastly, sincerely pray for them and all the oppressed in the world. Silence is a form of compliance, speak out.

(RU-MSA will be meeting at New Brunswick on Tuesday, July 15th to head for the United Nations Plaza in NYC for an emergency protest for Gaza, and is part of a global effort to Read for Palestine — scroll to Quran #13 and claim a juz!)

Photo Credit: Wissam Nasser | Al Jazeera

Marriage Is Not an Accomplishment

by Hana Hamdi

As a graduating senior I just wanted to put something out there, and Insha’Allah, you lovely readers will benefit from it in some way. Please read this with an open mind and open heart.

Fist off, I want to inform you the reader a little bit about the current state of our increasingly global society. One out of every three teen relationships is abusive. Sixty percent of kids who grow up in abusive homes will go on to repeat the behavior, becoming either an abuser or a victim of abuse. Eighty-five percent of domestic violence is committed by men, against women, that’s just patriarchy for you.

Now, that means there is a 33.3% chance you will either end up in a violent relationship or you are a product of one. Sounds frightening, and I don’t mean to scare you. I think we can agree these statistics are disturbing. Keep in mind Muslims are not immune to these problems—that’s why we have organizations like the WAFA House. Violence perpetuates itself in many different forms, such as physical, sexual, verbal, financial, and social. I encourage you all to become more educated on issues of violence in the home so we can break the cycle. The Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa sallam never hit any of his wives. He washed his own clothes, and he had a very equitable relationship with all his wives. I think he would be appalled by the prevalence of this issue within the Muslim community. Especially since there are countless ahadith citing his very clear position that men should not beat their wives. Women deserve to be valued as people, and they need to be respected.

Second, I would just like to say in my four years at Rutgers, I noticed many students idealize marriage. I find it very frustrating because it’s dangerous to idealize things. It leads us to have an unrealistic view of what the subject is, in this case marriage. Many of us claim to be “ready” for marriage. That’s all quite admirable, but I don’t think anyone can be ready. Because in order to prevent things like domestic violence and increasingly high divorce rates, we have to learn to be selfless in a selfish society. It takes a lot of giving for a marriage to work out. At the same time, there can’t be one-sided giving because it is not fair that one partner gets burnt out at the expense of the other.

Third, I want to remind us relationships are not about finding your other half. We’re all whole people, Alhamdulilah. You are complete, just the way you are. As children, we never doubt this fact, but as we grow and see our friends in relationships, we often wonder about our rumored “other half”—but that leads us to wasteful daydreaming, desperation, and possibly disappointment.

As someone who witnessed a pretty dreadful marriage end in a worse divorce, I urge you all to re-evaluate what marriage means to you. Marriage is not as much a new beginning as it is hard work, and no amount of studying will make it any easier, therefore it is just that much more challenging. I think we often forget about how hard it is to really be in a permanent relationship with someone, because both partners really have to put in effort to make it work. It’s not about looks. It’s not about sex. It’s not about money. It’s not really about religion (I mean, in Islam everything comes back to religion, but non-religious people get married, so it’s not the point I’m getting at). It’s mostly about steadfastness. Ultimately, it’s about being there for someone no matter what—that means putting our own priorities aside for someone else. It’s not glamorous. It’s hard. Many people do not succeed, and they are abusive because of their selfishness and insecurity leading to broken homes and broken hearts.

Finally, practicing altruism (selflessness/generosity) is not something only necessary for having a good marriage but it is also necessary for improving our relationships with our families, friends, and with people in general. The world needs a little more kindness.

Last thing, don’t be selfless to the point where you are burnt out, and you have no money left and no energy to give—it’s important to take care of yourself too. There is a difference between self-care and being self-centered, so be careful. May Allah subhana wa ta’ala guide us and protect us from our own selfishness and from the violence of others. May He provide us with good partners who challenge us to be better people and to serve Him and His ummah, Ameen.

P.S. I am sorry for generalizing, I just wanted to shed some light on a few issues so we can all grow and become better people. Insha’Allah this was effective in that way.

Statistics from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Judgment: Leave It for the Last Day

by Ibaad Sadiq

Once, there was a father, a son, and a donkey journeying to a distant land. As the father rode on the donkey and the son walked, they came upon a town. The people of the town said, “What is wrong with this father who rides on his donkey comfortably while making his child walk?” So the father made his son sit on the donkey and they continued on their journey until they reached another town. The people of this town said, “What is wrong with this son who rides on his donkey comfortably while making his father walk?” So then the father and the son both decided to walk alongside the donkey until they reached another town. Seeing them, these townspeople said, “What’s the point of having a donkey if they’re not going to use it?” Frustrated, the father and the son both decided to sit on the donkey until they reached yet another town. The people of this town said, “What is wrong with these people, why are they abusing the poor donkey with all of their weight?” Finally the father and the son resolved to carry the donkey until they reached the last town, where the people said, “What the heck is wrong with these people? Who carries a donkey?”

I hated Rutgers MSA. I remember the first time I came to an MSA meeting, it was memorable…but not in a good way. The members were cliquey and unwelcoming to say the least. I remember thinking to myself I definitely did not want to ever be a part of it. Many Muslims on campus don’t want to be part of MSA because they also feel unwelcome and judged. When I asked a sister why she doesn’t come to MSA, she said, “I would come, but I’m not gonna put on a hijab just so I could be accepted by MSA.” I lost count of how many times I heard similar responses over the past few years at Rutgers. Alhamdulillah, I think the situation got better since, but there’s a reason I chose to still write about this.

It seems everyone is worried about getting judged nowadays. I used to think “the judging problem” was uniquely an MSA problem, but then I realized many people don’t go to their local mosques because they feel judged there too. They don’t get involved in Islamic organizations because they feel they’ll be judged, they don’t take Islamic classes because they feel they’ll be judged. Forget that, I learned from many of my non-Muslim friends they have the same issue within their own religions—they feel their “religious” crowds are judgmental.

You know what? It’s true. There are some from the “religious” crowd that are judgmental and some that are unwelcoming. But honestly it’s not just the religious crowd that’s judgmental and unwelcoming—the whole world does it. One time when I attended an academic organization on campus, everyone was in his or her own clique, no one tried to greet or include me. In high school, the popular crowd excludes the not-so-popular crowd, the rich exclude the poor, the jocks exclude the nerds, the list goes on. Actually, as Muslims in American society in a post-9/11 world, we’re judged all the time. And even more recently, the #NoRice crew was judged and labeled by the opposition as exclusively liberal, politically driven, etc. People judge all the time, we need to realize that. I ain’t sayin’ it’s right, just sayin’ it happens in more than only religious organizations. (And we all need to make a conscious effort to make sure we’re not guilty of it.)

But let’s be real, sometimes we think others are judging us, even if they’re not. I think it’s actually a defense mechanism for ourselves to legitimize the freedom we have in our actions—even wrong ones—and that mentality is a huge problem. Sometimes we do something wrong, and because we don’t want to admit it, we push the blame on others. I say this mentality is a huge problem because I’ve seen what it sometimes leads to—justifying wrong. We all sin because we’re human, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying sometimes when we keep pushing the blame on others, we get to the point where we justify our sins and change the law of Allah to make acceptable what we know in the deepest part of our hearts is not right. Wrong is not wrong because me or you said so, it’s because Allah deemed it so.

So cut out the “stop judging me” mentality from your mind. I know sometimes it’s valid, but it doesn’t help you or the community. It’s a self-destructive mentality. It leads to ill feelings towards each other, which divides our Muslim community.

We all need to work together to improve ourselves. It doesn’t matter how bad you think you are, get involved in the Muslim community, and try to sincerely do good. If you make the effort, don’t you think Allah will help you get better? Stop worrying about what others think—you can never please everyone (hence, the donkey story in the beginning)—just try to please Allah, sincerely. Remember, the lone sheep gets eaten by the wolf, and if college isn’t a prime example of that analogy, I don’t know what is. It’s near impossible if you try to be a good Muslim alone, that’s why Allah orders us to do it together. We all have our own problems and our own sins we struggle with, but together, we can overcome all of that.

Times are not getting easier, they’re getting tougher. Our Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa sallam spoke the truth: he said one of the signs of the Last Day is it will be as difficult to hold on to faith as a man holding on to a piece of hot coal. That’s why now more than ever we need to work together to do good. I talked about this when I gave khutbah at the church: When we pray, we all ask for guidance together by saying, “Guide us to the straight path,” and that’s because it takes all of us. The rich, the poor, the pretty, the ugly, the smart, the not-so-smart, the pious, the struggling, we’re all in this together for the sake of Allah. Ain’t no politics, no personal agendas, just the good old-fashioned ideals the Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa sallam envisioned for our ummah—remaining united to help one another please Allah.

I didn’t write this as a member of MSA, I wrote this as a Muslim of Rutgers to the Muslims of Rutgers. My Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa sallam ordered me to call myself a Muslim, and that is who I try to be, one who submits his will peacefully to God. Even though I have another semester here, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to be around because of my senior design project and work, so consider these some parting words, truly from the bottom of my heart.

Oh, and I don’t hate Rutgers MSA anymore.

Hold firmly to the rope of Allah

وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ

“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” [Qur’an 3:103]

After Six Long Years

by Simoni Lu Vanu

This past summer after six long years, I returned to my homeland, Sicily. My family lives and breathes Sicily, and I was raised in a traditional Sicilian home. We usually only travel to visit family, or for school or work. The word “tourist” has a derogatory tone attached to it. This trip was special though because my father had promised to take me to Sicily after I graduated from undergrad.

When I was there, we spent most of the time with family in my village, Alcara Li Fusi (from Arabic Al Qasr, the fortress/citadel). It was great being back with family after not seeing them for a long time and also to be back in the village of my birth. But one thing I made sure we did this time was spend a few days in the capital of Sicily, Palermo, which preserves much of the diverse history of an island conquered by peoples across the Mediterranean region.

Arab traveler, geographer, and poet Ibn Jubayr visited the area at the end of the 12th century and described Palermo:

“The capital is endowed with two gifts, splendor and wealth. It contains all the real and imagined beauty that anyone could wish. Splendor and grace adorn the piazzas and the countryside; the streets and highways are wide, and the eye is dazzled by the beauty of its situation. It is a city full of marvels, with buildings similar to those of Cordoba, built of limestone. A permanent stream of water from four springs runs through the city. There are so many mosques that they are impossible to count. Most of them also serve as schools. The eye is dazzled by all this splendor.”

It will surprise some people reading this article to know Sicily during part of the Middle Ages was like Spain, an Islamic land. Sicily thrived under Arab/Islamic rule first under Tunisian Aghlabid control, then under Egyptian Fatimid control, and finally as the independent Emirate of Sicily under the Kalbid dynasty. In Sicily, there were major improvements and innovations in areas of agriculture, math, science, art, economics, and many more important areas of study, as there were in Spain, Persia, Iraq, Egypt, and other Islamic lands during the Islamic Golden Age. Sicily was also a symbol of multiculturalism and coexistence at the time with thriving Muslim, Eastern Orthodox Christian, Catholic, and Jewish communities, as well as immigrants from across the Mediterranean and beyond.  

Because of my interest in Islamic Sicily, it was essential to visit and explore Palermo, which still preserves some of its Islamic architectural heritage. A couple of the early Norman kings who conquered Sicily after the Emirate period were still accepting of the Muslim and Jewish populations of Sicily. They surrounded themselves with Arab scholars, and continued to build in the Byzantine Greek and Islamic styles which preceded them. Soon however, Christian kings came into power and successfully forced Sicily to become a homogeneously Catholic, Latin-language speaking island, using forced conversations and intolerant policies.

However, many important cultural and architectural traces remain from the Islamic period. Historic masajid and examples of Islamic architecture were incorporated into what are now museums, churches, or palaces. The Sicilian language has words of Arabic origin and in nearby Malta, people speak a language directly descended from Siculo-Arabic. Sicilian food and culture in general is steeped in Arabic cultural influences, among others. Pasta, itself was developed by Arabs in Palermo who had newly introduced Semolina wheat to the island, and this later spread to other lands. At traditional Sicilian weddings, people would congratulate the bride and groom with the word “Salamalicchi” (pronounced Salamalikki) and the Sicilian greeting for hello is “Assabennerica,” which means, “Blessings be upon you.”

Before leaving for Sicily, I searched on zabihah.com for halal food restaurants in Palermo and was disappointed only one halal place, an Afghan restaurant, was listed in a large and multiethnic city like Palermo. But when I walked through the streets of Palermo, there were plenty of halal eateries on main streets. And similarly, my scouring search for a masjid online only yielded information about one main (but relatively small) masjid in a neighborhood in Palermo. When in Palermo, I attended jumu’ah prayer and found a very diverse community. The masjid was started by the Tunisian government, but at least half of the congregants were not Arab. There were Desis (Pakistanis, Indians, and Bangladeshis), Sub-Saharan Africans from East and West Africa, Turks, and Balkan people.  

The khutbah was delivered in Arabic to a congregation half of whom probably do not speak Arabic. In a historically Tunisian-dominated masjid, it made sense the imam would be accustomed to giving a khutbah in Arabic.  

After jumu’ah prayer, I talked to a group of Tunisian uncles who seemed to be active in the masjid community. A couple of them lived in Sicily for 40 years and spoke perfect Italian. I asked them why there weren’t more masajid for such a large community. They told me most of the masajid are not to be found online. They said wherever you are in Sicily, ask Muslims where the closest masjid is, and in Palermo alone there are about 10 (although even smaller than the main one).  

When I returned to the States, I found a Facebook page for the masjid, and I commented on how nice the community was but I also asked why the khutbah was not in Italian, a language more understandable than Arabic to the mainly immigrant congregants. The person in charge of the Facebook page said he was not an organizer of the masjid but justified the Arabic khutbah by saying a masjid should follow in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad salAllahu alayhi wa sallam and deliver the way he did—in Arabic.

Palermo now, even as I love this city, is a fraction of its splendor during the Islamic period. Corruption and colonialism have plagued the city, and it is sad to see the trash, the run-down buildings, and the condition of people living in the ghettos through which I walked. But somehow like everything in Sicily, this does not take away from the beauty of it all.

Flight of the Moors Part 3: Burn All Your Ships

by Saima Usmani

I never thought I would wake up in a convent-turned hotel in Spain to say, “Let’s go to Africa for a day.”

Driving through Spain for a week with my family was certainly an adventure, but a whole chapter of our adventure still lay in Morocco. From Cordoba, the once-booming Islamic Empire’s capital, down to Granada, the Muslim’s last stronghold in Spain, down to Morocco, the flight of the Moors some 600 years ago was being relived by us (without the peril, of course).

We drove four hours, stopping in towns and sea-side restaurants, even further south. In beach-side Tarifa, the southern-most town of Spain and closest to Morocco, we got a chance to ride beautiful Andalusian horses. I rode a horse by myself, which had the tendency to break out into runs, down a mountain, across the beach, and up a mountain after only 5 seconds of Spanish instructions I did not even understand. It was awesome.

Kamran, my cousin’s horse which she so lovingly named
Kamran, my cousin’s horse which she so lovingly named

After Granada fell, Isabella and Ferdinand enacted the Inquisition, which would bring back Christianity to Spain by forcing the remaining Muslims and Jews to convert—or face the consequences. Those who could leave Spain across the water did, but those who didn’t were either washed of their Iman or buried deep in the ground.

The ferry for Morocco leaves Tarifa around eight times a day, and the trip is a little more than an hour at sea. We bought our tickets and set sail, watching Spain recede in the horizon behind us, wondering what it must feel like to leave your home permanently, after being driven out by those that used to be your neighbors. The flight of the Moors was coming to an end; in Morocco they would remain.

Tarifa, Spain, is left behind in sea foam and engine smoke
Tarifa, Spain, is left behind in sea foam and engine smoke
A picture of Medina Ancien
Medina Ancien looming over the sunset

The city we would arrive at was the ancient city of Tangier, what we knew to be a fantastic blend of Afro-Arabic and French culture. We entered the Medina Ancien, the Ancient City, a labyrinth of homes, shops, hotels, and masajid nestled within crumbling walls from the ancient days. After a lot of searching through shady ally ways, we found a small hotel cramped between two narrow roads, Dar Jameel.

The ally way of locked, metal doors one of which was Dar Jameel’s
The ally way of locked, metal doors one of which was Dar Jameel’s

As the manager opened the heavy metal doors, we were awestruck. We found a diamond in the rush. The hotel, a house with three floors, two rooms on each, was like the inside of an Arabian palace. Each room, each hallway, even the bathroom doors made us feel like we were sultans and queens living in the Alhambra’s Nasrid Palaces. We collapsed on the bed wondering how we ended up in a dream palace for only $60 a night.

My cousin and I had an entire floor to ourselves, complete with an elaborately decorated salon/living room.
My cousin and I had an entire floor to ourselves, complete with an elaborately decorated salon/living room.
Sure, stucco was a crown jewel of the Moorish buildings in Spain, but this is the true home of the elaborate carvings.
Sure, stucco was a crown jewel of the Moorish buildings in Spain, but this is the true home of the elaborate carvings.

The next morning, armed with Euros and empty bags, we set upon the souks, the famous Moroccan marketplaces of Tangier. We bought everything from lamps to knock-off Beats by Dre, eating halal McDonald’s and having a grand time. Everyone in the city was extremely friendly, and spoke either French, Arabic or Spanish, which between the four of us we could all communicate in.

The entire Medina Ancien is winding pathways like this. Yes, it was very easy to get lost.
The entire Medina Ancien is winding pathways like this. Yes, it was very easy to get lost.
The souks were filled to the brim with culturally colorful artifacts, at bargainable prices.
The souks were filled to the brim with culturally colorful artifacts, at bargainable prices.

Inside the ancient medinah there was also a historical site known as “Kasbah,” and old Moorish fort that looked out over the Mediterranean and housed a museum. We went, passing by a group of Americans fascinated by a snake charmer, and browsed through the museum. We stopped at an ancient world map when we realized we could not recognize anything on it. It took us a minute, then it dawned on us, the map is up-side down. Captivated, we began to read the small Arabic labels of lands we knew and our own Pakistan. I moved all the way to the left and picked a word in Arabic, reading it slowly. “Ya’juj.”

Chills ran over my entire body and my heart stopped. Ya’juj? On a world map? No one knows where the apocalyptic nation resides—it was impossible that they were here. I read the inscriptions around it. “Ya’juj, Ya’juj, Ya’juj, Ya’juj. Ma’juj, Ma’juj, Ma’juj.” I called my family over and I could tell by our silence we were all a little bit scared. I looked at the snake-like structure that housed the supposed Ya’juj and Ma’juj. It was labeled “Wall of Zulqarnein.”

Ya’juj and Ma’juj tribes scattered all over this wide expanse of land.
Ya’juj and Ma’juj tribes scattered all over this wide expanse of land.

“Oh my god,” I exclaimed. “It’s the Great Wall of China.” China had been so isolated at the time, blocking off invaders along with the rest of the known world that the Middle Easterners did not even know what lay on the other side. The wild guess that beyond the Great Wall lived the Ya’juj Ma’juj was not beyond them. Shaking my head, I moved on.

The view from the top of the Kasbah fort.
The view from the top of the Kasbah fort.

For lunch we wanted to eat at a fancy place. We found a French restaurant perched atop a strip mall, and went inside and got a table. We looked at the menu, a little bit astonished at the prices and how little we understood the French, when Nauman got the attention of the waiter for what looked like a pressing matter. “Is your ‘boef’ (beef) portion grande,” here he made a two foot-long space with his hands, “or petit?” after which he brought his hands about a foot and a half apart.

The waiter’s face fell. Perhaps Nauman’s options had confirmed his fears that the Americans would not like what they were about to hear. “No,” the waiter said as though he was grieving, and put his fingers about an inch apart, “tres, tres, tres, petit.”

Nauman’s face was a sight to see. His disappointment at coming to a halal restaurant that would only give him an inch of beef was eminent, so much so that the waiter was not even surprised when I called him over after our family meeting.

“I am so sorry,” I said in French while my mother failed at holding in her giggles, “but my brother needs…beef that is big.”

The waiter only nodded sadly, and we made a run for it, bursting out in uncontrollable laughter, the four of us, as soon as we left. We looked up and saw the waiters lined up at the windows watching us, which we didn’t understand, but we kept laughing. We ended up eating at a typical pizza-place. And it was exquisite. Amurica! Nauman later said, matter-of-factedly, “I’ve been having a very Mo-rocky day.”

The last ferry to leave Morocco for Spain was at 6:30, and as the time approached we knew we would be running late. So we told my mother specifically, “Ammi, you have to be fast, okay? Put the video camera away.” As we ran in a line out of the decrepit alleyway that housed our palace, Dar Jameel, I chanced a glance behind me. My mother wasn’t there.

The men who sat loafing around the shops had come to know us, and laughingly they pointed back and told us she was still in the alleyway. It turned out that she got distracted by a cute Arab baby and was giving him candy. Facepalming ourselves, we told her to hurry, and laughing hysterically the four of us descended the steps of the Ancient City and ran to the ferry station. One man saw us, pointed at the time, and said we could take it easy, there was still time. The next man saw us, pointed at the time, and said, “What are you doing?! The ferry is about to leave!”

The ferry employees grabbed some of our bags, gave us our tickets in a rush, and what seemed like half of the ferry terminal ran with us to where the ferry was docked. It was literally just about to leave when we approached, and the employees shouted for the crew to halt the departure for us to board the ship. Pink in the face and smiling, we jumped on, and began our voyage back to Spain.

As we we sailed to Spain, in the year 711 CE the first Moorish Muslim army landed with an “Allahu Akbar” on the banks of Gibraltar. They were led by the fearless general Tariq ibn Ziyad, a former slave. The Muslims were terribly outnumbered by the Spaniards, and skepticism was rampant amongst the ranks. And so Ibn Ziyad ordered for all of their ships to be burned. As the fleet rose up in flames, the men looked behind them, knowing there was no way back home.

Tariq ibn Ziyad addressed his men. “Brothers in Islam! We now have the enemy in front of us and the deep sea behind us. We cannot return to our homes, because we have burnt our boats. We shall now either defeat the enemy and win or die a coward’s death by drowning in the sea. Who will follow me?”

Needless to say, the Muslims won the battle, creating the first Muslim settlement on the Iberian peninsula that would precede 800 years of a prosperous Islamic empire.

The trip back to Madrid was quick, and we saw a few beautiful sights along the way as we drove deep through the mountains.

Ronda, an ancient town perched on top of the El Tajo canyon
Ronda, an ancient town perched on top of the El Tajo canyon

It took a little bit of time to adjust to life back home. Nauman missed the delicious freshly squeezed orange juice the Spanish drank every morning. Sunya missed not being judged as she asked the food trucks at NYU for a gyro that was “solo carne” (only meat). I had to lie to my Spanish class telling them that I learned “so much Spanish” during my trip.

It would be a lie to say we weren’t a bit disillusioned by our tours of the remnants of Al-Andalus. If there was one thing to remember, for the entire Muslim Ummah to remember, it’s that we cannot cling to the good parts of our past, the golden days. We have to come to terms with the mistakes that were made, why our Golden Age plummeted—and no, it was not because of “the West.” We have historically been our own enemies, fighting amongst each other and using our wealth to build palaces around us. It is important for us to stop looking behind us, thinking that our past was better than our present and future.

At some point, we simply have to make like the Moors: burn our ships and plough forward.

Saad’s Photo Shop

by Saad Zafar

Often, it seems people walk past such beautiful, breathtaking, even inspiring scenes. This, particularly, was something I came to know as I started out with Macro Photography. I got my first DSLR only last year in March, a used old Canon 350D (2005 model) at that, but it has been extremely fun nonetheless.

Below are just a few assorted works of a library I intend to continue to grow, and though they are still in need of edits and are not the full-sized images, I thought they varied enough to get a small sampling. This world is created so beautiful—the ability to capture and share moments, I hope, will allow us to be more appreciative of that fact. Photography is easy to get into, it’s a very fun art, and though certainly not the only one I want to explore, it is something I have tried my hand at.

On a side-note: We do need photographers and videographers for the MSA, and for the #MuslimsOfRutgers in general. Please reach out to me if you would like to help! We can train you if needed.

Group Work & You: A Survival Guide

by Azka Mohyuddin

The following is a simple guide for those working with others because as we all know… it’s not an easy thing to do sometimes. This advice can be applied to both group work in class and within an organization.

1. Oh no, the dreaded group project/team work…

Regardless of how much it may pain you, it can actually be a blessing in disguise. There is a lot to learn from other people, and this might be your chance to do just that. There’s always a reason why you meet certain people in life, so trust that there is greater wisdom for this and benefit from the experience.

2. There’s always that ONE person! Sherlock would understand.

First, I would just like to say I understand. Know there is someone out there who gets it. It’s difficult to work with other people as is, but certain people make that experience even more unpleasant. However, keep in mind that while you are fully aware of what’s going on in your reality, you’re not aware of others’. Give them a chance, and try to understand their perspective as well—they might surprise you.

3. There are times when conflicts can arise between other members, with you watching it all unfold from the sidelines.

This is a big one. Conflicts are a natural part of working with others, but how you handle them says more about you than it does about the people arguing. There is no need to let the world know. What happens between your team should stay between your team. Would you wish for Allah subhana wa ta’ala to reveal your flaws to everyone? If you wouldn’t like it if it happened to you, don’t make others go through it either.

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Prophet (salAllaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “Allah will cover up on the Day of Resurrection the defects (faults) of the one who covers up the faults of the others in this world.” [Muslim]

4. Speaking of conflicts, sometimes you just don’t see eye to eye…

Disagreements happen. And that’s OKAY! But remember: just because you have different ideas, doesn’t mean it’s better than the others’. Respect your team enough to hear them out and give their ideas some thought. And if you still don’t agree, be patient with them and explain to them why you believe the situation should be handled a certain way. Don’t expect everyone to be on board from the get go, everyone needs time and it is your responsibility to give them that.

5. When your first instinct is to get angry…

Don’t. It’s as simple as that. Nothing good comes out of it, and the situation only escalates. Take the advice of our Prophet Muhammad salAllaahu ’alayhi wa sallam:

Narated By Abu Huraira: A man said to the Prophet, “Advise me! “The Prophet said, “Do not become angry and furious.” The man asked (the same) again and again, and the Prophet said in each case, “Do not become angry and furious.” (Sahih Bukhari)

6. But most importantly, it is very likely you’ll find a friend who makes it all worth it…

 It is fascinating to think about how some things work out. The friend you can’t imagine not being a part of your life would have passed right by you if it hadn’t been for that one group project or that one event organization or that one [insert organization name here] executive board. Difficult experiences bring people together and coming out of them together help form some of our strongest relationships.

Go out there and challenge your comfort zone. Meet new people, learn some necessary lessons, and experience unfamiliar things. You have been given an opportunity in college unlike any other, and it would be your loss to let it slip by. The one thing I can tell you that will help you overcome any and all hurdles is purify your intentions. Not only will you be rewarded for all your sacrifices, but realizing that everything you’re doing is for the sake of Allah alone will help you deal with it a lot better.

‘Umar ibn al-Khattab relates that he heard the Messenger of Allah, salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, say, “Verily actions are by intentions, and for every person is what he intended. So the one whose hijrah was to Allah and His Messenger, then his hijrah was to Allah and His Messenger. And the one whose hijrah was for the world to gain from it, or a woman to marry her, then his hijrah was to what he made hijrah for.” [Agreed upon]

So purify your intentions and trust that Allah subhana wa ta’ala has your back, and nothing will seem too hard to handle Insha’Allah.

Flight of the Moors Part 2: No Victor but Allah

by Saima Usmani

It is hard to believe that just over a month ago I was sitting in a car exchanging processed [halal] beef jerkies with my mother, cousin and brother in a rented van road-tripping through Spain.

Our first stop was Cordoba, where we saw the Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, once the largest masjid of the Muslim world. Now we were going southeast to Granada, the last Muslim stronghold remaining in Islam’s 800-year rule in the Iberian peninsula. Granada is home to the renowned Alhambra, a fortress-palace-garden capital of the once-kingdom, nestled atop a hill overlooking the city.

There was no doubt about the fact that our itinerary had, unbeknownst to us, come to resemble the flight of the Muslims as the Christian armies of Spain pushed them southwards and out of Europe. The Moors flocked to Granada, the last Muslim kingdom, and we did too.

We checked in to a fancy convent-turned-hotel, a chic blend of historical heritage and modern day luxury. The Alhambra was only a ten-minute walk away, a walk that passed us by at least six different halal restaurants.

One of the halal restaurants was this Moroccan place that looked like a typical fast-food eatery when we entered (right down to the “Coca-cola” tables) but revealed a luxuriously decorated, beautiful restaurant further inside. It was strange...but awesome.
One of the halal restaurants was this Moroccan place that looked like a typical fast-food eatery when we entered (right down to the “Coca-cola” tables) but revealed a luxuriously decorated, beautiful restaurant further inside. It was strange…but awesome.

Our first night in the city, I led us to Carrera del Darro, a beautiful street running alongside the river, for an evening walk. However, my incompetence at life rendered us facing the looming, dark, deserted gates of the Alhambra instead. We climbed a dark path painfully uphill, seeing grand edifices rise up in the blackness around us, not knowing what they were. At some point I was so determined to find a way to the Carrera del Darro that I desperately looked for other people that could possibly tell us the way. Soon, a woman alone came walking down the path. I approached her, while my family watched.

“Hi,” I said brightly. “Speak English?”

She nodded, unsmiling.

“Do you know how I can get to Carrera del Darro?”

“I think…that way.”

“Um, actually I think that goes nowhere. Wait, are you French? Russian?”

“Look, I-I have to go.” Still unsmiling, she sped away.

“I think she was kind of mean,” I told my mother later.

“Are you kidding?” my mother said. “You’re a Muslim woman stopping her alone in the middle of the night in a foreign country. She was terrified of you.”

Needless to say, we did not find Carrera del Darro. So instead, we retraced our steps back down the eerie, darkened paths of the Alhambra grounds, but not without taking a few fun pictures first!

Only took us 80 tries to get it right. In Nauman’s defense, it did take a little convincing for him to agree to this.
Only took us 80 tries to get it right. In Nauman’s defense, it did take a little convincing for him to agree to this.

The next day was dedicated to the Alhambra. The Alhambra was the municipal facility, one can say, of the kingdom of Granada. Its walls not only surrounded the Nasrid Palace (the home and offices of the Sultans) but the Alcazaba (the military fortress), a masjid (replaced now by other buildings, of course), and lush gardens now known as “Generalife” (I am not about to get over the strangeness of the name). The Alhambra is built upon a hill overlooking Granada, which was known as Hill Sabika. Just walking through the grounds took a whole day.

The last officially contracted poet of the Muslim sultans of Granada was statesman-assassin Ibn Zamrak. His words on the Alhambra speak for themselves:

The Sabika hill sits like a garland on Granada’s brow,

In which the stars would be entwined,

And the Alhambra (may God preserve it)

Is the ruby set above that garland.

Granada is a bride whose headdress is the Sabika, and whose

jewels and adornments are its flowers.

We trekked through the gardens Generalife (seriously, what sort of name is that?) first.

One part of the gardens, a long courtyard and garden specifically for the guesthouse.
One part of the gardens, a long courtyard and garden specifically for the guesthouse.
There were a lot of these high-up places where you could see the hedges of gardens, parts of the palace and city as its backdrop. 
There were a lot of these high-up places where you could see the hedges of gardens, parts of the palace and city as its backdrop.

There was also a site, a little climb up, called the Water Staircase. It was a set of stone stairs winding up with hand railings of trickling water running downstream. The water was clear and cold, and we even drank some (not because we thought it was clean, which it probably wasn’t, but because we were so excited). 

On our way to the Water Staircase
On our way to the Water Staircase
Inside one of the hallways in the Generalife guesthouse, with Ayat-al-Kursi etched in calligraphy above the archways
Inside one of the hallways in the Generalife guesthouse, with Ayat-al-Kursi etched in calligraphy above the archways

The Alhambra is famous for the intricate calligraphy and mosaic along its walls. Even though a lot of it has wasted away, much has been preserved. The detailed calligraphy, done hundreds of years ago by Moorish masters of Islamic-Moroccan art, is known as stucco. The most common phrase that can be seen, from the houses at Generalife to, as you will see, the walls of the Nasrid Palaces is “Wa Laa Ghaalib Illa-Allah.” This means “There is no Victor but Allah.” It was the motto of the Nasrid dynasty. 

The next part of the Alhambra to see was the Alcazaba, the kingdom of Granada’s army fortress. Less ostentatious and home to no pretty carvings, the Alcazaba was a series of enormous towers and barracks erected at the forefront of the Alhambra. It was a lot of climbing, but the views from the top of the ramparts were worth it.

All of Granada could be seen from the highest watchtower, the Torre de la Vela. In fact, we easily spotted our hotel.
All of Granada could be seen from the highest watchtower, the Torre de la Vela. In fact, we easily spotted our hotel.

Finally, we entered the long-awaited Nasrid Palace, famous for the fine calligraphy in each of its rooms, stucco design seen nowhere else in the world. Each room is so elaborately decorated it makes me wonder how dedicated someone had to be to even finish it (coming from a chronic Professor Calamitous). The decorations are embedded with names of Allah, Qur’anic verses, and poetry. 

A view of one of the many halls in the palace, every inch decorated with either calligraphy, flowery stucco, or tiles. In its prime, all of these designs were painted with vibrant colors, which have since worn away. 
A view of one of the many halls in the palace, every inch decorated with either calligraphy, flowery stucco, or tiles. In its prime, all of these designs were painted with vibrant colors, which have since worn away.
This is just to give a better look at how intricate the designing was. You can spot “Allah” written even within the designs, and remnants of the coloring that once was. 
This is just to give a better look at how intricate the designing was. You can spot “Allah” written even within the designs, and remnants of the coloring that once was.
The windows of the palace are strategically placed to give a hilltop view of the city, which is probably what the father is showing his child on his shoulders.
The windows of the palace are strategically placed to give a hilltop view of the city, which is probably what the father is showing his child on his shoulders.

I was actually able to sneak into parts of the palace that were closed off to visitors, entering the Queen’s private quarters and the make-up rooms, which were considerably smaller and more residential-like than the courts, but no less decorative. My mother kept watch, and gave the signal for when I should return so that the security guards don’t notice.

The stucco outdoes itself in the ceiling decorations. And this is just one of the smaller domes. Imagine this filling up the entirety of an enormous courtroom. 
The stucco outdoes itself in the ceiling decorations. And this is just one of the smaller domes. Imagine this filling up the entirety of an enormous courtroom.
If this doorway is observed carefully, it is easy to read “Wa Laa Ghaalib IllaAllah” written in Arabic across the top and sides of the piece. There is no victor but Allah.
If this doorway is observed carefully, it is easy to read “Wa Laa Ghaalib IllaAllah” written in Arabic across the top and sides of the piece. There is no victor but Allah.

One of the rooms was assumed to be a throne room for Muhammad V of Granada. On the walls were etched an extremely long poem, according to my handheld tour guide device, that praised the palace itself and the king the palace housed. Ibn Zamrak’s words filled the walls as they bestowed compliments upon Muhammad V. 

“…How many a night I passed awake competing with shining stars

In order to praise him by virtue of the pearls of poetry

…He surpassed the full moon in brightness and loftiness

And was satisfied with no friend but perfection

He is the sun which has spread in its beneficence over the earth

And whose light has guided everyone both near and far

He is the salt sea whose waves swell with beneficence

But he is sweet water to every supplicant

…He has good qualities if the garden had their beauty 

Its fresh flowers would never fade

Oh son of the proud kings from the family of Khazraj

Possessing a lineage that is powerful and like the dawn exalted.”

I would make a note of any part of this excerpt that disturbed me, but then I would have to make a note of every line, which would take too long. The motto “There is no Victor but Allah” was befitting for rulers settled after years of conquest and strife. But did they stand by it until the very end? Where were the kings that wielded this chant when the poem above was being etched into the walls of court? Where were the honorable warriors when such luxurious palaces and gardens were being built to satisfy the worldly desires of leaders, who are supposed to live the simplest, Islamically?

That being asked, there was one more question I kept thinking: should we be proud of the Alhambra? Muslims, including myself, flock to places like these and remember our glorious past as a nation, our talents, our contributions to the artistic world, but are these palaces, in Granada, Istanbul, Saudi Arabia, New Delhi, monuments to be proud of? They only mark perhaps the omens of our fall, the fall from which we still suffer. We as an Ummah became so entranced by the spoils of the victorious that we lost our way amongst colorful stucco and pillars of gold. Despite that being said, there is no doubt the Alhambra was a product of pure talent and skill, and still a wonder to behold.

The last king of Granada was Muhammad XII, or Emir Boabdil, the man to hand over Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella of Castille. The Muslims had been besieged for 8 months until internal plots and depleted resources led Boabdil to sign a treaty of surrender. As the last Moorish King of Spain looked back upon his precious palace on his way to the exile, it is said that he burst into tears. 

Boabdil’s mother cut off his weeping. She said, “Don’t weep like a woman for what you couldn’t defend as a man.” Burn. 

Granada fell in January 1942, as Isabella and Ferdinand celebrated. Things were looking up for them: the peninsula was theirs now, the Moors and Jews fleeing for their lives, and an Italian sailor named Christopher sailed west to find them a quicker route to India. 

Don’t miss the final piece, Flight of the Moors: Part 3, for the intercontinental voyage to Morocco.

Why Not to be on the MSA Shura: A Message from an Ex-Shura Member

by Shan Ali

So it’s that time of year again. Somehow an entire year passed us by, preparations for final papers and exams already began (or maybe not) and MSA elections are just around the corner—this Thursday to be exact. Many may wonder, “So what? Do elections even matter?” Let’s take a step back before we answer that question.

Last month at Project Ummah, MSA members gave out over 1000 bags of candy to random Rutgers students. Although I’m not on shura this year, it’s safe to say planning an event that large was not easy. It took days to make all the bags, not to mention all the efforts that went into organizing the barbeque. Some may ask, “Why would you want to spend so much time planning such large events?” And the answer is quite simple. Allah subhana wa ta’ala gave us a trust—and that trust is Islam. Spreading it among the people of Rutgers is how we fill that trust. So it wasn’t much more than mere bags of candy we spread. It was a message: a message to smile, because our Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa salam told us to smile and be happy. Students all over Rutgers received these bags, and from the responses on Twitter it was clear it made their day. Even though they didn’t know the individual giving it to them, they knew it was coming from the #MuslimsOfRutgers. Moments like these  make all the hard work and efforts worth every minute.

After what will be my fifth year at Rutgers, I can safely say no other club does as much as the MSA. It truly is a blessing when you think about it. From the Eid banquet, Road to Revival, Project Ummah, and Islam Awareness Week, to the countless general events, socials (#MSABondFire), community service, tutoring services, and da’wah events (there’s a da’wah table at the DCC next week, btw!), it goes without saying MSA really raised the bar this year, Masha’Allah. In fact, I remember a few years ago, our student advisor told us the MSA had the most programming (events) when compared to every other student organization on campus. Wow. I can only imagine that number increased, both in terms of quantity and quality. And none of this would be possible without a strong group of leaders, the shura and specialty officers.

I’m sure you heard it at some point: don’t be a part of MSA, don’t be on shura, don’t get involved, don’t go to their events, etc. And if you haven’t heard it, you may already have some preconceived perception about what the shura really does. Take it from someone who was on the shura in the past—your perceptions could not be farther from the truth.

Yes, of course being on the shura is not easy, but how often are the good things in life easy? Is it easy to get into medical school? Is it easy to become a successful business owner? How about law? Nursing? Pharmacy? Grad school? PhD? The list goes on. And trust me when I say this, there is no better experience in college than being a part of MSA. You may say I’m biased, and maybe I am…partially. But get this: RU-MSA is one of the largest MSAs in the country, with one of the most diverse student bodies that has over 4,000 Muslims. Can you even begin to imagine the reward that comes with serving not only the Muslim community at Rutgers, but the non-Muslims as well (with IAW, and the like)?

“But I don’t have time…”

Yes, you do. You just choose to waste a lot of it. Let’s be real now. Can any of us say we don’t waste at least 2-3 hours a week (TV, computer, movies, hanging out with friends, avoiding studying, etc.)? Make use of the short amount of time you have in college (because it flies by), and do something that will not only benefit others, but also benefit you by becoming a better person. I’m not saying everyone should jump up to take a leadership role, but start small and help out with a committee or at an event! As one shura member this year said, it’s a way of “getting closer to Allah subhana wa ta’ala and learning to work as a team,” a skill valuable no matter what career path you choose.

“I’m not ready to lead the MSA…”

The beauty of the MSA election process is that it solves this problem. Only people the general public sees as fit for leading the organization will make it onto the shura. If you do not think you are ready to lead, but the general consensus thinks otherwise, maybe you are doubting your capabilities? Trust Allah subhana wa ta’ala, and remember that He is the Best of the Planners.

وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا

“And put thy trust in Allah, for Allah is sufficient as Trustee.” [Qur’an 33:03]

So how does the election process work exactly?

The general members nominate people they feel best to lead the MSA the following year. After a member seconds the nomination, the name goes on a chalkboard. At the end of nominations the board will contain all the nominees. Each member votes for 7 people and after all the votes are tallied, the 7 members with the most votes will become the new shura.

Last, one of the most important things I would like to stress is voting. All members have the responsibility—not just right—to vote. I emphasize responsibility because it is your duty to vote for whomever you think is best to lead this organization. Don’t nominate your friends because you think they are funny and love to goof around. Nominate people that are dedicated, committed members, who will take MSA to even greater heights in the future Insha’Allah. Just as the leaders of MSA have an amanah (trust) to lead this organization with the best of their abilities, so too do the members in voting in their leaders.

Remember, there is no better way to spend your free time than working for the sake of Allah subhana wa ta’ala. While MSA is not the only way, it is definitely one organization that will make your Rutgers experience a memorable one. As one shura member said, “This has been the best experience of my life.”

By the way, the title of this post was a joke. If you only clicked the article because of it, I guess it worked.

Flight of the Moors Part 1: There are no Mosques in Cordoba

by Saima Usmani

My spring break was spent on long drives up-and-down Andalusian Spain’s mountains, running to make intercontinental ferries, and scouring the Spanish countryside armed with maps printed from Zabihah.com. Oh yes, and also failing miserably at living up to my current grade in Spanish 101.

The trip to Spain was my mother’s vacation. She had grown up reading history books about Muslim Spain, Al-Andalus, one of the greatest empires of its time. Lasting from the year 711 to 1492 CE, Muslim rule in Spain was one of the most vibrant and successful Islamic Empires, stretching over almost all of Spain, Portugal and Andorra and parts of southern France. Its capital, Cordoba, was a beacon of education, scientific progress, and enlightenment at its peak. Al-Andalus was also a hub of cultural diversity, as Christians and Jews lived peacefully within its borders, granted internal autonomy. It has since been used as a case study for religious tolerance and cooperation. Unfortunately, the good times did not last, and Al-Andalus weakened due to infighting and the rise of multiple city-states. The Christian forces from the north quickly overrun the Muslims in their weakness, and soon there was not one single Muslim left in the Iberian peninsula, nothing but corpses and vacant masajid.

When my mom first listened to the plans we had made for her trip, she gushed about how we would go and visualize the conquest of Tariq ibn-Ziyad, the first Muslim conqueror to begin the campaign for Islam in Spain. That we would ride the path of victory, see the remnants of our brothers’ and sisters’ domain, drive through Spanish countryside emblazoned with the mark of Islam’s once-greatness. But, as we traced our plans from Madrid, down to Cordoba, down to Granada, and, finally, to Tangier, Morroco, it became clear that we were not to emulate the path of the Moorish Muslim conquistadors; we were going to retrace the harried, frightened retreat of our brothers. We were going to retrace the flight of the Moors.

After realizing this, my mother, my brother, my cousin and I entered Spain overly cautious, with the apprehension and distrust of the enemy returning to their place of defeat.

All this was not necessary of course, the people of Spain were as polite as anyone might be. We rented a car and set off from Madrid, Spain’s capital, headed to Cordoba, the long-lasting capital of Al-Andalus in its time.

Bull cutout
We passed by a lot of these enormous boards of bull-cutouts. I know that around NJ, they put dog cut-outs on lawns to scare away birds. Therefore, it is only common sense that these bulls are placed to scared away dragons.

Cordoba is a small city with winding roads, extremely narrow, paved with stones, sandwiched between colorful buildings. When it was the capital of Al-Andalus, it was the world’s center for artistic, medical, and technological advancement. In fact, it had surpassed Constantinople as Europe’s most populated and prosperous city. Its infamous libraries and universities would later inspire the minds of those who began the European Renaissance.

Cordoba's winding streets
Yes, they expected us to drive cars through this.

Our hotel was a small, shady place walking distance from Cordoba’s biggest attraction: The Grand Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, once the largest masjid of the world. This is what we came to see. As we set out walking, I kept reading out loud the different historical locations we passed on the map. “This up here was once a minaret. It’s now part of that church over there,” I would announce. I would find myself saying, “This was once…is now…” a lot. One disconcerting moment came when a man passing by pointed at us and laughed maniacally, saying something really fast in a language that might have been Spanish, and walked away. We were too confused and shocked to respond. It would be the first and last instance of potential “racism” we would encounter, but seeing as it was our first day, it wasn’t very comforting.

The market gave off a Moroccan souk vibe, except that there were a lot of ice-cream shops serving elaborately decorated ice-cream, warm churros (a Spanish specialty), and fresh waffles.
The market gave off a Moroccan souk vibe, except that there were a lot of ice-cream shops serving elaborately decorated ice-cream, warm churros (a Spanish specialty), and fresh waffles.

As we got closer to the Mosque, shops became cropping up decorated with elaborate middle-eastern souvenirs, Moorish lamps and tiles. We began to see the looming towers of the Grand Mosque from between the shops. The pathways surrounding the Mosque were accented with abundant orange trees. The entrance archway led to an enormous open courtyard, with fountains and trees, surrounded by walls, leading to the entrance to the indoor building.

My brother and I couldn’t help but entertain the idea of our masjid in central Jersey, IIS, having a space this big for the kids to play.
My brother and I couldn’t help but entertain the idea of our masjid in central Jersey, IIS, having a space this big for the kids to play.

We walked around inside, too. Everywhere there were tour groups touring in various languages, and we walked through the Mosque, feeling extremely strange. There were lines of Qur’an, the Shahadah carved into panels, garnished with effigies of Christ, statues of saints, and an overabundance of cherubs. My cousin marveled at how thorough the permeation was. “It’s like they went to each wall and said, oh, let’s stick a cherub here,” she vented. The thing is, the Great Mosque of Cordoba was now the Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. That day, in fact, it had held Sunday Mass in the grand hall built in the center of the once-masjid. I watched a class of little Spanish children and wondered what their teachers were telling them. I looked around at all the happy people, and suddenly felt uncomfortable. All these people were here talking about how they drove out the Muslims, taking pride in their place-of-worship that infidels, us, once used.

Posing awkwardly in front of tour groups. We unsuccessfully tried to eavesdrop in to get some free info, but everybody was speaking in different languages. Why can’t, like, everyone just, like, speak English?
Posing awkwardly in front of tour groups. We unsuccessfully tried to eavesdrop in to get some free info, but everybody was speaking in different languages. Why can’t, like, everyone just, like, speak English?
The ceiling was made in such a way that sunlight could light up the inside of the Mosque-Cathedral, so it wouldn’t get too dark and cold during the day.
The ceiling was made in such a way that sunlight could light up the inside of the Mosque-Cathedral, so it wouldn’t get too dark and cold during the day.
The tablets below had Qur’anic verses and traditional Moorish calligraphy, but the cross seems like it’s asking to be the center of attention.
The tablets below had Qur’anic verses and traditional Moorish calligraphy, but the cross seems like it’s asking to be the center of attention.
More shafts of light coming in through the high windows. Notice how elaborately decorated the ceiling is. It must have been such a pleasure to pray in jama’ah under these arches.
More shafts of light coming in through the high windows. Notice how elaborately decorated the ceiling is. It must have been such a pleasure to pray in jama’ah under these arches.
This was the one portion they left as the original, for tourism purposes. It was blocked off by a gate.
This was the one portion they left as the original, for tourism purposes. It was blocked off by a gate.
This is that wall close-up. People were taking pictures of the beautiful work and I wondered whether they even knew that what they were looking at were words, verses, laden with meaning and purpose.
This is that wall close-up. People were taking pictures of the beautiful work and I wondered whether they even knew that what they were looking at were words, verses, laden with meaning and purpose.
If you look carefully through the opening, an entire room covered wall-to-wall with carved calligraphy and design can be seen. But as usual, the room was completed with an unwieldy statue of a Christian King holding a big, blue egg.
If you look carefully through the opening, an entire room covered wall-to-wall with carved calligraphy and design can be seen. But as usual, the room was completed with an unwieldy statue of a Christian King holding a big, blue egg.
The contrast between the Mosque-Cathedral’s two faces can be seen here alone.
The contrast between the Mosque-Cathedral’s two faces can be seen here alone.

As we were leaving the Grand Mosque, a South Asian uncle stopped me to advertise his halal Pakistani restaurant down the street, if me and my family were interested. I thanked him and then asked whether there was a masjid where we could pray. And, smiling sadly, standing there at the threshold of what was once one of the grandest arenas of Allah’s worship, he said, “There are no mosques in Cordoba.”

We ended the night with poetry. My mother, using her precious iPad (those that mocked the iPad for being useless and unneeded failed to consider the aunty market), pulled up the poem that the Urdu poet Allama Iqbal wrote when he visited Cordoba.

“….An Indian infidel, perhaps, am I, but my fervor and ardor are not lost.
‘Blessings and peace upon the Prophet,’ my heart sings.
‘Blessings and peace upon the Prophet,’ my lips echo.

My song is the song of aspiration, my lute is the serenade of longing,
Every fiber of my being resonates with the refrains of Allah-hoo.

Your beauty, your majesty, personify the graces of the Man of Faith.
You are beautiful and majestic. He, too, is beautiful and majestic.

Your foundations are lasting, your columns countless,
Like the profusion of palms in the plains of Syria.

Your arches, your terraces, shimmer with the light that once flashed in Aiman’s valley
Your soaring minaret, all aglow in the resplendence of Jibraeel’s glory.

The Muslim is destined to last as his Adhan
holds the key to the mysteries of the enduring message of Abraham and Moses.

His world knows no boundaries, his horizon, no frontiers.
Tigris, Danube and Nile: billows of his oceanic expanse.

A combatant, with ‘La Ilah’ as his coat of mail.
Under the shadow of flashing scimitars, ‘La Ilah’ is his protection.

….Stars look upon your precincts as a piece of heaven.
But for centuries, alas, your porch has not resonated with the call of a Mu’adhin.”

Cordoba was once the capital of a province of a vast empire, but over years of infighting over foolish, worldly things, it had weakened to a lonely kingdom of its own. It was no match for the Christian army of Ferdinand III that came from the north. Cordoba fell in 1236 CE.

The Muslims then began to flee southward. And so we jumped in our car and headed southward with them. We drove past hills blanketed with olive trees, while my mother told us about Badar ibn Mughira, the leader of a guerrilla army that used to lodge in the mountains around 1400 CE. He took over after his father’s death, defeating Christian invaders when he was only 15. The army of the Spanish Reconquista, kept at bay by his ferocity, dubbed him the Hawk of the Border.

“Maybe these were the mountains where Badar ibn Mughira and his men would camp.” My mother must have said that at least 9 times during the four hour drive.
“Maybe these were the mountains where Badar ibn Mughira and his men would camp.” My mother must have said that at least 9 times during the four hour drive.

Badar ibn Mughira, like his father before him, only had one goal: defending from the Christian forces the one last Muslim stronghold left in Spain, the great kingdom of Granada.

For a link to Allama Iqbal’s full poem, click here, and keep an eye out for the next Flight of the Moors post!

Myocardial Infarction

Tonight, a lovely guest post on which we can all ponder over and reflect…

Almost everything I have ever started, I had a solid idea and plan of what I was going to accomplish…and that applied to virtually everything.

So when I came to Rutgers, I had a game plan. But then things never do go as you intend them to, right?

It’s a scary thing to realize halfway through a journey, that you forgot your destination. Whatever you were working towards is in reality not what you had in mind. You forgot what your intentions were. For the brief second, you shake loose Shaytan’s grip on you, reality hits you so hard in the face, you lose your breath and feel like your heart might explode.

So you collapse. But do you give up? No. Instead you start to think…what am I doing? Do I want this? Why do I want this? Should I even want this? Where do I go from here? Everything and anything runs through your mind, leaving it all twisted.

Why talk about this? Well. It’s because we all go through this. We were made imperfect so we could make mistakes and seek the forgiveness of the Most Merciful.

A reminder for us all: we need to have one intention and that is, please our Creator to the full extent that we can. I know this is repeated at almost every Khutbah, but not many are blessed to FEEL this message.

There is a very well known quote from Ali radiAllahu anhu:

“Oh, Allah, when I lose my hopes and plans, help me remember that Your love for me is greater than my disappointments, and Your plans for me are better than my dreams.”

In such few words, Ali radiAllahu anhu delivered such a profound message that sometimes is not only hard but almost impossible for us to believe. We feel as if we have no room in our hearts or time in our lives to do so. But He, subhanahu wa ta’ala, warned us over and over about the consequence of believing we don’t have time.

قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ أَتَتْكَ آيَاتُنَا فَنَسِيتَهَا ۖ وَكَذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمَ تُنسَىٰ

“Did Our signs come to you, and you forgot them; and thus will you this Day be forgotten.” [Qur’an 20:126]

Wouldn’t you rather be loved by the All-Mighty than the ones who rely on His Might? The answer should be yes. But why is it so difficult to just be satisfied with the love of God?

I have a reflection on this too (I think too much as you can tell). When we begin to seek approval, love, and belonging amongst the creation, we can find it easily. Our society is structured so that we may find it easily. When we are loved or wanted, the feelings that overcome us are typical. You feel happy…but what happens with time?

That feeling of belonging slowly starts to fade, your decisions don’t seem as good, everything begins to darken including your heart. And this is when you think…what was I doing? What was my intention?

If the intention was to please Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and seek His approval, the love and happiness would only grow day by day. You’d feel indescribable. Because His love and approval are what we were MADE to seek. That is our purpose. And when you lose focus of your purpose, forget your intent, and become lost, you end up attaining something you never wanted.

So what do you do to find this intention and let go of whatever idea you are holding on to?

  1. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has given us free will. WE must go out and self reflect and find what ties us down to this dunya wrongly.
  2. Let it go. Whatever misconception you have about anything and anyone. In order to make room in your heart for Him, it can’t be full of clutter. Don’t be a hoarder.
  3. Read as much Qur’an and pray as much (and on time) as you can. If you want the approval of someone (like a boss), you’d always get to a meeting you’ve schedule with him/her on time…so why delay the five most important meetings of your daily life?
  4. Never ever ever ever ever think you are not good enough. If in this world, and especially in college you feel as if you are judged, talked about, and misunderstood that means nothing. We are not capable of seeing beyond what our minds want to see…but He is all-Knowing. If He Himself states, “Allah will bring a people whom he loves and who love Him…” [Qur’an 5:54], then no rejection of any sort should make you sad.
  5. Try your best to see the best in people. Try it out, give them a chance—even if you are scared and not sure. You can’t possibly seek the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala while being preoccupied doing the opposite of these things.

A Reply from a Brother

An anonymous brother responds to last night’s very popular post, “A Message to Brothers from a Sister.” And, please note, all this competitive energy will be put to good use for the benefit of MSA and Islam Awareness Week (April 7-11). Come to this Thursday night’s IAW-prep meeting (7:30 P.M. at Paul Robeson Cultural Center, Insha’Allah!) to find out details about how you can represent either the Bros/Sis team and help spread the beauty of Islam at the same time! 

  1. What in Jannah does that even mean? Outspoken? It means (according to Google) frank in stating one’s opinions, especially if they are critical or controversial. So a brother thinks you like him because you state your opinion?
  2. Give the brother a chance, who knows?
  3. You repeated the point three times, I think someone besides the brother has a hard time moving on.
  4. To a brother, a like on Facebook is not about who likes it, but how many like it. You are a number on his quest for rule in the kingdom of Facebook.
  5. Chill with the redundancy.
  6. Sometimes manliness comes off as rudeness to those unfamiliar with it.
  7. I love this repetition, it’s like we are running out of points.
  8. Brothers will hold that door only to hear a sister say, “I don’t need no man to hold that door for me.” Fine then, open it yourself while you’re carrying that box.
  9. This is like opening that door, a gentleman goes to a sister and offers to carry the heavy box, and the sister insists she is physically capable of carrying her own box. Fine then, go open that door by yourself too.
  10. Wait so…salaams don’t have that magical power to make people fall in love with you?

I apologize on behalf of the brothers if we were rude at any point, but maybe this will give some insight on how some of us actually think. Hopefully stepping in our shoes will help clear any misunderstandings.

And don’t worry sister, we know you are a creation of Allah.

A Message to Brothers from a Sister

The following is a guest post from an anonymous sister to her brothers in Islam—just a few friendly tips of advice.

  1. Just because a sister is outspoken, do not assume she likes you.
  2. Did I mention she probably does not like you? (deserves to be stated twice)
  3. Please stop being paranoid and move on with your life, it will be better for you and the sister.
  4. Just because she likes your posts on Facebook does not mean she likes you.
  5. Facebook like button: danger! May cause drama for no reason or build wrong ideas in people’s minds.
  6. Also I understand the whole gender relations issue in Islam is a real and important one, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a cruel person to establish a distance from females.
  7. Be cautious, but don’t be cruel/rude.
  8. Holding the door for a sister won’t make the sister fall in love with you. (common courtesy, Bro, have you heard of it? Search it up on Google)
  9. Helping a sister carry boxes won’t lower your iman (well at least…I don’t think it should).
  10. Saying “Asalaamu Alaykum” to a sister is not a sin, nor is replying with “Wa Alaykum Asalaam.” She won’t fall in love with you if you say salaam to her.

Not trying to rant or be rude, but putting my recent frustration out there because a sister can get hurt from a brother’s rude behavior. Remember please, SISTERS ARE ALLAH’S CREATION TOO!

At the end of the day, everything comes down to our intentions, so may Allah help keep our intentions pure. Ameen.

Like One Body: Fighting Against Injustice

I’m sure you heard about President Barchi and the Board of Governors choosing Condoleezza Rice as this year’s commencement speaker and awarding her an honorary degree of law. Some of you may have read Barchi’s email to the students about his choice, the letters to the editor, or commentaries in the Targum detailing students’ opinions of Barchi’s choice.

Some of you may have even heard of the debate RUSA is holding regarding this issue this Thursday night. The debate will involve two sides presenting why Rice was or was not the right choice to be this year’s commencement speaker. At the end of the debate, RUSA will vote on a resolution to withdraw Rice as commencement speaker or not.

This is where YOU come in. We cannot allow Rice to speak at this year’s commencement. To work towards achieving this goal, we must absolutely make sure RUSA’s meeting on Thursday at 7:30 PM in the Students Activities Center is packed with people who are against Rice coming to Rutgers.

You may think you are powerless against the university administration. However, collectively our student voice creates waves and has a massive effect on the higher-ups. The Rutgers faculty are already fighting against this and getting much attention for it. The faculty on both the New Brunswick and Newark campuses issued statements denouncing Rice as commencement speaker. They are extremely against her receiving any sort of honor from Rutgers and cite her inhumane use of her power as justification that Rice should not be awarded an honorary degree or be commencement speaker.

It is time we as students mobilize and join efforts to prevent this outrage from coming true. Students are a force to be reckoned with. Without us and our (parents’) money, this university is nothing. The administration is nothing. Our voices matter, and there is strength in numbers. We need to use our power to stop this injustice.

I’m not a senior at Rutgers, but you can be sure I will not stand by and let the administration go through with their decision to invite Rice as the speaker. This may not be my commencement, but that hardly matters since this issue is so much bigger than that. You don’t have to be a senior to care about injustice or realize Rice is in no way deserving of an honorary degree of law.

This woman is responsible for directing the murder, torture, and destruction of millions of lives. You owe it to them to fight as hard as you can and give it your all in preventing this war criminal from speaking at commencement and receiving an honorary degree. This is not a matter of academic freedom as Barchi may call it. Innocent lives, the majority of whom were Muslim, are not a matter of academic freedom. Rice caused so much damage, it is our duty to ensure she receives no more prestige for her crimes. If she is allowed to be this year’s commencement speaker and receives an honorary degree, it will be a victory for the United States’ imperialistic policies, showing they can get away with their inhumane actions.

Choosing to be idle while thousands of lives have been uprooted due to Rice’s oppressive ideologies is a despicable choice. This woman has zero respect for innocent lives and her time as Secretary of State shows she condones the United States’ warmongering ways. Remaining silent is approving of her actions. Signing online petitions is not enough. Making actual change requires you to exert more effort than that. Our Muslim brothers and sisters died and were tortured as a result of Rice’s policies. The MSA event on Thursday is focused on uniting the ummah at Rutgers, and you can further support the ummah by honoring your Muslim brothers and sisters and demonstrating your disapproval of Rice at the RUSA meeting.

Will you fight against injustice or not?

Confessions of a Senior

It’s my fourth and final year at Rutgers. Yup, The Real World is just around the corner, and I can’t believe it—even though my fate come May 2014 is now ever-so-officially documented on this MSA blog we call Submissions.

In honor of the 2014 graduating class, I share with you 14 of my confessions:

  1. I never tasted a Fat Sandwich, or anything from the Grease Trucks for that matter.
  2. I never went to an RU football game, but I drive by the stadium everyday on my way to class.
  3. I walked from one campus to another once because I hate the bus system that much.
  4. I got bubble tea from Easton Ave probably every week of the semester so far.
  5. I missed the turn for Rutgers Gardens three times in a row.
  6. I never got a parking ticket (Alhamdulillah).
  7. I never took a Rutgers science class.
  8. I enjoyed all my Islam classes and liked the professors who taught them.
  9. I fell for the Mugrat on more than one occasion and genuinely warned my friends about the cover stories.
  10. I don’t like coffee. I went to Gerlanda’s to buy a single pint of milk at least three times.
  11. I didn’t know the LSM existed until a couple months ago.
  12. I blocked exit doors while praying, (that was before the convenient meditation rooms, of course).
  13. I made a really good friend at the Rutgers Student Center bus stop.
  14. I don’t know whether I’m excited or scared for graduation, and I don’t think a line can ever be drawn between those two feelings.

What are your senior (or junior or sophomore or freshman) confessions?

Gay Rights: A Muslim’s Perspective

By: Anonymous

Right off the bat, this is just a personal post. I do not intend to convey any marginalizing sentiment against gay people, nor do I speak for all Muslims/the religion of Islam. I am not out to light the spark for intense debate, because doing such a thing would be social suicide. The following is just an attempt to summarize what I have observed over the past few years, and how my opinion has changed as a result.

As some of you may have already guessed, I am a Muslim. Growing up in an Islamic household, the set of values I was taught did not readily match those of my non-Muslim peers. For instance, I knew we worshiped only one God. I knew that we couldn’t eat pork or drink alcohol, and that we had to pray five times a day.  I was also warned by my dad that the blood of all girls outside my family pulsated with extremely contagious and volatile pathogens, called cooties…and that I was to stay away from them until ready to marry.

I should mention now that this is not another story where a boy, brought up in a religious household, eventually saw the proverbial light that freed him from the “chains of theological doctrine.” While I cannot call myself a “good Muslim,” I do love my religion. I love how, when one does an  honest and sincere study of the faith, they find it replete with teachings of logic, compassion, and mercy. It was not just a set of rules I was forced to follow (though it did feel like it sometimes), but guidelines for those who wanted to live a purposeful life. I pray that the conviction to my faith remains strong, for in times of hardship, it is one of the very few things I can cling to for support.

Anyway, I should also mention that I was blessed to be born in the United States and to have been immersed in cultural diversity. From the schools I went to and the people I’ve met, I was very comfortable with talking to and mingling with those of different religions and ethnic backgrounds. I took pride in the fact that my high school had an annual “Asian Fest,” and that I was able to give a speech in front of my entire 7th grade class about Eid-ul-Fitr, one of Islam’s main holidays.

It wasn’t until after middle school when I was introduced to the idea of same-sex couples. I’ll admit, right off the bat, the idea sounded so strange to me. I grew up taking for granted that the only type of romantic relationship one could have was with someone of the opposite gender. I mean…my dad never mentioned that BOYS had cooties (although my sisters did love to say that to me). While I love my dad to death for all he has done for me and my family, I can honestly say that his words were never really kind when it came to same-sex couples. I guess his sentiment had more to do with his cultural upbringing in India than it did with the true Islamic perspective on the issue.

Like all issues that initially come as a shock, the idea of gay rights had slowly become something I had gotten used to hearing about. I began to open my ears more to pro-gay sentiment in movies and TV shows, and noticed how many of my friends and peers supported the cause. I became more aware of hate crimes committed against gay people, and how gay people had become ostracized by their orthodox families for having such inclinations. Pro-gay sentiment around me soon exploded when I learned about how Tyler Clementi, my classmate since middle school, jumped to his death.

Now, despite all of this, my faith remained strong. I knew gay marriage was forbidden in my religion, and I did not allow any pro-gay sentiment to cripple the conviction I had to sticking with the values I was raised with.

But before I am labeled as a horrible satanic robot, there was a second gut-emotion I felt…one that was invoked by all of the horrible news of anti-gay hate-crimes. I knew this was wrong. I knew that such violence and animosity towards harmless individuals could not, by any civil standard, be justified.

So I began to ask myself…what does my religion say about the way we should treat those who say they’re gay? Do gay Muslims exist? And could this possibly be genetic? Although I had an Islamic upbringing, my knowledge in these matters was very limited.

As I mentioned, I was truly blessed to have grown up in the United States. Being exposed to different ideas and cultures helped craft my outlook into one of tolerance and respect. Going to Rutgers has also helped me in this regard, as it is one of the most diverse schools in the country. It helped that Rutgers was also home to thousands of Muslim students who could help increase my knowledge about the faith I had grown up with.

I learned several things as a result…some of which were new, others of which were common sense. As for the new…I learned that contrary to popular belief, homosexuality is not a genetic trait, but one influenced by several complex social factors. Islamically, I learned that homosexuality was a desire, just like drinking, gambling, and dating. Different people have different desires. This being said, having gay desires is not a sin. Just like how it’s not a sin in Islam to have feelings for someone else or to have a desire to gamble or drink. Because Muslims believe life to be a test, we use our conviction to suppress such desires for God’s sake. Granted however, nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes by acting on tendencies that fill our minds, which explains why there are Muslims out there who have given in to dating, drinking, and homosexuality. But, no matter what the sin is, it is the duty of a Muslim to look to his brother/sister-in-faith with love, and never hostility…because hostility only contributes to the rift that has been created between people of religion and people who proclaim their homosexuality.

I guess all I’m trying to say is that gay people do not deserve to be treated with hostility. In fact…I wish there could be a moratorium on the phrase “gay people.” They’re just people who, as long as they respect others, deserve to be treated with respect.

I’m exhausted. Perhaps I’ve said things that might offend…and perhaps I made no sense at all. If I offended anyone, I’m sorry for doing so. If I didn’t make any sense, I’m sorry for wasting your time.

The Spouse-fier

By: Aslan

"A scientific study of the spouse-fier’s results showed a link between religiosity and perverts and disloyalty. It was found that as a person’s religiosity decreased, his/her pervert habits and disloyalty increased."
“A scientific study of the spouse-fier’s results showed a link between religiosity and perverts and disloyalty. It was found that as a person’s religiosity decreased, his/her pervert habits and disloyalty increased.”

With the rising problem of Muslim divorces, the CPMC has come up with a relationship saving product called the “spouse-fier”.

One satisfied customer said “I dated 500 people and they were all worthless, but then I thought I’d do it the halal way, and bought the spouse-fier, and it got me a perfect person!”

It works by being the super-aunt. It instantly wirelessly communicates with all the aunties in the world, and gets their information in regards to potential spouses. It is even equipped with the truth detector, so it ditches 90% of what all aunts say.

Then it matches the most suitable person with the customer. It even has a special scanner that gives the facial picture of the person as s/he really is, without all the make-up. That has angered many women who were using white wedding cakes as make up, to look white.

To compromise with the aunties who would have suffered large job losses, spouse-fier is also used as part of a marriage assessment centre. It is for people who want the job of a husband or wife.

Obviously the candidates CV is scrutinised to check for a romantic or elegant writing style. Then each spouse candidate is interviewed and given a grilling in cooking techniques of roti and biryani (the food depends on the preferences of the person being sought for marriage, this person is called the “client”).

The candidate is then tested by being given a baby to look after and deal with for 60 mins. This shows patience, caring, and parenting skills. After that, the candidate’s patience and character is tested by slippers being thrown at him/her. Then the picture of what the client will look in 20 years time is shown, to see if the candidate is just a superficial person. Finally the candidate’s loyalty is tested by bringing in a more handsome or beautiful celebrity who says s/he can marry the candidate.

All the while, in this full 8 hours assessment centre, the candidate is observed to see if s/he prays and is religious. After all, a person is responsible for the guidance of the family. The Prophet (SAW) said: “All of you are shepherds and each of you is responsible for his flock. A man is the shepherd of the people of his house and he is responsible. A woman is the shepherd of the house of her husband and she is responsible.” (Bukhari).

A scientific study of the spouse-fier’s results showed a link between religiosity and perverts and disloyalty. It was found that as a person’s religiosity decreased, his/her pervert habits and disloyalty increased.

However CPMC is in the middle of a law suit involving negligence due to its hajjware. Old people did not understand how to operate the “shoot the shaytan” button, so firing went all over the place, injuring millions of people. One angry Muslim commented “this is the work of the free masons, they founded CPMC, have you seen the money they use? Its got the eye of dajjal!”

Check out more by this writer on his blog: http://muslim-lion.blogspot.com/

Letter to Muslims on Campus

Dear Muslims on Campus,

I’m going to make this is as brief as possible. I am as surprised as all of you to know that the NYPD was watching us – man they were living on our campus too! But this isn’t anything new. Big brother has always been watching us, and then we get stereotyped as being these radical Muslims. I know from my own experience, in high school the kid sitting next to me used to cross out my name and write “Saddam Hussein;” we all probably have some sort of story like that, some maybe worse. We think we have a right to cry about the demented view society has of Muslims when, really, we ourselves are partly to blame. I’m not blaming Muslims for what happened recently, but I am referring to the fact that Muslims stick to their own people.

Think about your circle of friends. How much diversity is there? Aside from beard length or opinions of when Asr comes in? People will perceive us how we allow them to perceive us. If we only hang out with Muslim kids what does that achieve? I know many of us went to Islamic schools our whole lives so it’s hard to interact with people who aren’t Muslim. But that should not be an excuse. The Muslim community in general is to blame regardless of what kind of school they went to. We all have to realize the real world isn’t filled with just Muslims.

Ever since the Project Ummah event, I learned that we shouldn’t be afraid of our religion and we should stand up for it when we are persecuted. More importantly, we need to break this stereotype. Engy Abdelqadir said that we as Rutgers students need to be more proactive and engage in non-Muslim oriented events. Some of this does involve interacting with the opposite gender. Oh my gosh fitnah! Let me just mention that we as Muslims should know our boundaries; if a situation comes close to the boundaries of fitnah, we should remove ourselves, but if our intentions are pure then we won’t run into those situations. I’ve come up with 3 ways to easily interact with non-Muslims:

1. Join other clubs. Jump out of your comfort zone. You’ll be surprised what kind of people you meet
2. Perform simple acts of courtesy. Be nice, hold the door open, say thank you, and always smile!
3. Community service. What better way to show that we are good Samaritans than to help out the community?

Let me be honest with you, I’m guilty of not doing all 3 at some point. I remember I worked with this kid on a conference this year and he didn’t do jack. I literally hated his guts, but I still tried to be nice to him; not because that’s the right thing to do, but because I thought what if this one interaction he has with me – a Muslim – sets the precedent for the way he views all Muslims?

Honestly this isn’t hard to do. Look at the petition against NYPD surveillance, there are so many different people standing up for us Muslims-we need to show them who we really are. If we want to break these stereotypes we must realize the only hindrance is ourselves.

I’m no expert. I’m just sharing my thoughts. Please feel free to criticize.

Sincerely,

Anonymous
(I am not saddam -__-)

Rewind

By: Jaweerya Mohammad

History has a way
Of coming back again,
Like the ocean waves
It travels back
And hurdles toward
Land again,
 
The Trail of Tears
Have accumulated,
Forming a river
  That runs eastward,
It drowns the people,
Leaves bodies scattered,
The people forced to leave
Look back
One last time,
Before they say,
‘It’s just like what happened
In Sabra and Shatila’,
 
Olive trees uprooted,
Land razed
Of all that is breathing,
Foreign faces
With foreign tongues
Claim the fruits
Of natives’
Back breaking work,
And filthy money
Is pocketed
Into a filthier agenda,
It’s the same show
That Belgium
Performed on the Congo,
 
The Berlin Wall’s
Been broken down
But another stands tall,
Doubling its height,
It snakes away
Through the West Bank,
Tearing family seams apart,
Devastating damage
Like that of separating
Fish from water,
 
And like the Civi
l Rights Movement
Palestinians fight for justice,
Checkpoints litter the streets,
Hosed down with teargas
If they speak,
Asking for equality
In a land they were born in
Is beyond irony,
 
Airstrikes hit Gaza,
Screams of agony
Vibrate loudly,
Limping bodies
With bloody khafiyas appear,
And amidst them
Are ghosts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
 
These history events
Close and unravel,
Things we claimed
Would never happen again
Have found their way
Into the present,
It is our silence
That has acted
As a time machine
Making history Rewind.
 

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