ONLY IN DEATH

They were never to be reunited in life, but the cartoon by Alaa Allagtaimagines how political prisoner Fares Baroud and his mother are united after death. Israeli occupied denied family meetings for Fares Baroud since 2007; her mother Raya Obeid kept hoping until her death at age in 85 at May 2017 that she could still see her. Her dying wish was that she could hug him for one more time. Fares died on February 6th after imprisonment 28 years, aged 51. He had been captive of the Israeli occupation since March 23rd 1991 and for four straight years 2012-16 he had been held in complete isolation. His health had been broken by the captivity and made possibly worse by claimed medical negligence on part of the Israeli occupation authorities; it has been alleged that e wouldn’t have received further treatment after part of his liver and a blood vessel were removed in November 2018. PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi commented on Baroud’s death that: Israel is “fully responsible for the untimely death of Faris Baroud and the inhumane treatment he was subjected to for nearly three decades. It is high time for Israel’s brutality against Palestinian prisoners, illegally imprisoned inside Israeli territory, to be thoroughly and independently investigated.”
(Source / 08.02.2019) 

MIDNIGHT HORROR IN GAZA

MIDNIGHT HORROR IN GAZA - Rana, Nada and Huda

MIDNIGHT HORROR IN GAZA – Rana, Nada and Huda

“Mom, do they bomb residential buildings?, asked one of my daughters in fear. And my response again came in the form of a lie: “No, habibti. They don’t. Don’t be scared.” I stroked her cheek to reassure her. 

As a parent, what can I do? I wasn’t sure if there would be other buildings whose residents would receive horrifying calls in the middle of the night to evacuate and run for their lives. It happened before in the bloody 2014 aggression when a thirteen story building was evacuated and leveled to the ground by F-16 missiles. In a matter of seconds, over 50 families lost their homes and all their possessions. 

The narrow streets of Gaza are packed with apartment buildings with no space dividing them in many places. This was the case with Al-Yazji building which was targeted by an F-16 with at least two rockets on November 14, 2018. 

As I walked down that street every day, I was unaware that this building would soon day be a target of Israeli F-16s. It was four in the morning and the escalation was in full swing. 

November 14, 2018, I was in bed in a useless attempt to sleep. Two hours passed without any aerial shelling giving me a sense of temporary yet cautionary calm. My kids managed to sleep until they all suddenly flung out of their beds when they heard the huge explosions.  The target was Al-Yazgi building. I remember that it had a kindergarten and used to see kids being led by their teachers off and on the bus and parents coming to pick their kids up. I also remember a store that sold fancy decorative ornaments and a women’s clothes shop beside it.

Now as I go down that same street, the area is cordoned off for debris removal works. It’s not easy to clear off a six-story building that housed at least six families and other institutions with all the furniture, appliances, equipment, etc… 

I’ve learned that is life precarious, but to just have  your whole life turned upside down because another human being decided to bomb your home suddenly is too extreme to fathom. 

After losing so many loved ones, over and over in a repeated vicious cycle of Israeli occupation tyranny and aggression, what is the choice for the Palestinian people? Just as the sun keeps shining every morning, we will go on living. We will continue to call for a life of freedom and dignity. We will continue to call for our legitimate rights to live as other humans around the globe do. We may not live to see the change, but at least when our children look back, they will know that all our efforts paid off in the end.

(Source / 02.02.2019) 

‘My mother died proud of me’: Palestinian prisoners share their stories

Palestinian Prisoners Parade in London on April 16th 2016

  By Ramzy Baroud

150 Palestinian prisoners were wounded when Israeli Prison Service officers stormed the Ofer military prison near Ramallah on January 21. A day later, thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank and Gaza rallied in support of the prisoners who, in response to Israeli repression, staged a mass hunger strike.

The latest ordeal was instigated by the Israeli government when Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan declared on January 2 that the ‘party is over’, meaning that Israel will ‘worsen’ already horrific conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

According to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group, Addameer, there are nearly 5,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including 230 children and 54 women. 481 prisoners are held without trial, governed by an unlawful Israeli practice known as ‘administrative detention.’

One certainly does take the Israeli minister’s comments seriously, despite the fact that the conditions under which thousands of Palestinians are held in Israeli jails – which itself is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention – are already at a stage that can only be described as inhumane – they fail the minimum standards of international and humanitarian laws.

Palestinian prisoners are amply able to describe Israeli prison conditions, having experienced every form of physical and psychological torture, and spent years, sometimes decades, fending for their humanity every hour of every day.

Three freed Palestinian prisoners shared their stories, with the hope that the world would understand the true context of Erdan’s latest ‘plan’ and the ongoing crackdowns on Palestinian prisoners in Ofer and elsewhere.

‘They detained my family’

Shadi Farah was merely 12 when he was arrested from his home in the Palestinian city of Jerusalem. He was accused of trying to kill Israeli soldiers with a knife they found at his house.

I was arrested on 30 December 2015, when I was only 12-years-old and was released on 29 November 2018. At the time, I was the youngest Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails.

My interrogation took place in the Maskoubiah prison in Jerusalem, specifically in Cell No. 4. After days of physical torture, sleep deprivation and severe beating, they imprisoned my whole family – my mom and dad and sisters and brothers. They told me that my family was held captive because of me and they would only be released if I confessed to my crimes. They swore at me with profanities I cannot repeat. They threatened to do unspeakable things to my mom and sisters.

After each torture session, I would return to my cell so desperate to sleep. But then soldiers would wake me up by slapping my face, kicking me with their boots and punching me in the stomach.

I love my family, and when they used to prevent them from visiting me, it broke my heart.

‘I Was Tortured in Cell #9’

Wafa’ Samir Ibrahim al-Bis was born in the Jablaiya refugee camp in Gaza. She was 16-years-old when she was detained on May 20, 2005. She was sentenced to 12-years in prison after being convicted of attempting to carry out a suicide mission targeting Israeli soldiers. She was released in 2011 in a prisoner swap between the Palestinian Resistance and Israel.

I was only 16 when I decided to wear an explosive belt and blow myself up among Israeli occupation soldiers. It was all I could do to avenge Mohammed al-Durrah. When I saw him huddling by his father’s side, as soldiers showered them both with bullets, I felt powerless. That poor child. But I was arrested, and those who helped me train for my mission were killed three months after my detention.

I was tortured for years inside the infamous Cell #9, a torture chamber they designated for people like me. I was hanged from the ceiling and beaten. They put a black bag on my head as they beat and interrogated me for many hours and days. They released dogs and mice in my cell. I couldn’t sleep for days at a time. They stripped me naked and left me like that for days on end. They didn’t allow me to meet with a lawyer or even receive visits from the Red Cross.

They had me sleep on an old, dirty mattress that was as hard as nails. I was in solitary confinement for two years. I felt like I was buried alive. Once they hanged me for three days nonstop. I screamed as loud as I could, but no one would untie me.

When I was in the Ramleh prison, I felt so lonely. Then one day, I saw a little cat walking among the cells, so I kept throwing her food so that she would be my friend. Eventually, she started coming inside my cell and would stay with me for hours. When the guards discovered that she was keeping me company, they slit her throat in front of me. I cried for her more than I cried for my own fate.

A few days later, I asked the guard for a cup of tea. She came back and said, “stick your hand out to grab the cup”. I did, but instead she poured boiling water on my hand. Third-degree burns have scarred my hand to this day. I need help treating my hand. I cry for Israa’ Ja’abis, whose whole body has been burned yet she remains in an Israeli jail.

I often think of all the women prisoners I left behind.

‘My mother died proud of me’

Fuad Qassim al-Razam was born in the Palestinian city of Jerusalem. He spent 31 years in prison.

I have experienced both psychological and physical torture in Israeli jails, which forced me to confess to things I did and didn’t do.

The first phase of detention is usually the most difficult because the torture is most intense and the methods are most brutal. I was denied food and sleep and I was left hanging from the ceiling for hours. At times I was left standing in the rain, naked, tied to a pole, with a bag on my head. I would be left in that condition the whole day, while occasionally getting punched, kicked and hit with sticks by soldiers.

I was forbidden from seeing my family for years, and when I was finally allowed to see my mother, she was dying. An ambulance brought her to Beir Al-Saba’ prison, and I was taken in shackles to see her. She was in terrible health and could no longer speak. I remember the tubes coming out of her hands and nose. Her arms were bruised and blue from where the needles entered her frail skin.

I knew it would be the last time I would ever see her, so I read some Quran to her before they took me back to my cell. She died 20 days later. I know she was proud of me. When I was released, I was not allowed to read verses from the Quran by her grave as I was deported to Gaza immediately after the prisoner exchange in 2011.

One day I will visit her grave.

(Source / 26.01.2019)

THE GENESIS OF A PALESTINIAN ACTIVIST

  By Lucinda Cohen (Article from October 2017) 

ghassan with his parents

When I met Ghassan Najjar, in the WestBank village of Burin, I gained the impression of speaking with a young man considerably older than the 26-year-old before me. As he pointed out during our conversation, under Israeli occupation children have to grow upfast. It was in 2000 when Ghassan, aged 10, first came into contact with the Israelioccupiers. He was helping his father, Zidan, and other members of his family in their apple orchard on a ridge overlooking the village when they were attacked by a group of armed men from the nearby Brakha settlement who wanted the land for themselves. They shot Ghassan’s cousin in the leg while Israeli soldiers looked on.

Following a number of similar settler attacks the army prohibited Zidan from accessing his orchard, so he obtained a court ruling that confirmed his right to work on his land. However, the army promptly invalidated the ruling by declaring the land to be a closed military zone, after which the 1,500 apple trees and a well were destroyed. Zidan and hisfamily were barred from entry permanently. It was during that time that the army also seized 65 dunams (16 acres) of land What’s left of the apple orchard on top of a hill near Brakha belonging to Ghassan’s mother.

hill near brakha

It was unsurprising, then, that by the age of 15, Ghassan and other local boys would throw stones at the sight of soldiers for which he was arrested and charged. Ghassan was sentenced to six months in the juvenile section of HaSharon Prison in northern Israel [contravening the Third Geneva Convention, Article 4, which states: “protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein].

Four years later, Ghassan was charged again, this time accused of subversive activities against the Israeli state. For organising community events, such as flying kites decorated with Palestinian flags, and taking part in demonstrations to support local farmers experiencing settler attacks and land seizures, Ghassan was sentenced to one year and eight months in Megiddo Prison, again in northern Israel.

So when Israeli soldiers, using tear gas and stun bombs, attacked Burin Boys School on 26 August 2014(1), Ghassan, together with other villagers did not hesitate to rally in support of the teachers and pupils. Aged 24, Ghassan was the youngest in the group. The scene on their arrival was of Israeli soldiers surrounding the headmaster, Ibrahim Amur and his senior staff while the terrified pupils were locked in their classrooms with their teachers. Ibrahim, his senior teachers and the villagers told the soldiers to leave. They were ignored. “One soldier shouted to me that I  was a ‘son of a bitch’,” Ghassan told me, “but I ignored him. Then I saw him, together with some of the other soldiers, move in to arrest Ibrahim. Instinctively, I pushed the soldier away and then ran off. But the soldiers had no problems in identifying me.”

headmaster of burin boys school

The wheels were thus set in motion for Ghassan’s third prison sentence. 
That night, soldiers visited the homes of his brother, Abdullah, and his cousin, Zaid, who were not accused of any offence. Both young men were badly beaten and brought to Ghassan at his home where he lived with his parents. There they were ordered never to see Ghassan again.

 
Next, the soldiers set about vandalising the family home while shouting threats and insults at Ghassan’s elderly parents, after which they took him to a military post in nearby Huwwara. There, he was beaten so badly that he lost consciousness and was rushed to a hospital in Israel, near Tel Aviv where he Ghassan’s home after soldiers’ visit remained for two weeks. Because of laws prohibiting Palestinians living in the West Bank from freely entering Israel,his parents and other family members were not allowed to visit him. “On being discharged from hospital,” continued Ghassan, “I was taken to an interrogation centre in Israel near Petah Tikva which is run by Shin Bet [the internal Israeli intelligence services] and it was here I received the worst treatment. They wanted to break me, but didn’t succeed.” For two months, Ghassan was kept in isolation in a windowless basement cell measuring about 2m x 1.5m. “There was an electric light on continuously. I lost all track of time, not knowing whether it was day or night.”

ghassan's home

The interrogations started. Ghassan told me the officials wanted to know names of friends and associates. He described how he was seated in a chair with his hands tied behind his back for one to two days, allowed to visit the bathroom for five minutes every 6 hours. On other occasions he was laid handcuffed to a bed with his arms and legs outstretched. Despite the stifling heat, he was often refused permission to shower. Still in custody, Ghassan spent the next 14 months in Megiddo Prison. Here, the prisoners were divided into blocks of 120 prisoners according to their political affiliation. Ghassan’s block was for members of the Peoples’ Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Every block contained cells, each holding ten prisoners and equipped with electric rings for cooking. “The daily routine at Megiddo was crushing,” said Ghassan. “Prisoners remained in their cells during the day except for two hours in the morning and evening when they walked up and down corridors. Ten prisoners a day from each block were allowed to play sport for an hour, which they took turns in doing.” Prisoners received 400 shekels (£86) a month from the Palestinian Authority for food either from the canteen, run at a profit by the Israeli company Dadash(2), or from a shop for prisoners to prepare themselves. The canteen was expensive and the food inadequate and of poor quality: “For breakfast we would be given a single egg and a packet of crisps which cost ten shekels (£2.17).” So prisoners prepared their own meals.
However, it is the prison guards that give Megiddo its bad reputation. “We were subjected constantly to taunts, threats and beatings by prison guards. They would attack us at whim and pump tear gas into our cells, causing us virtually to suffocate in the crowded, enclosed space, then waiting for 3 minutes or so before providing oxygen. I was put into solitary confinement on about 14 occasions. I believe the prison authorities disliked me because I initiated classes for my cellmates in Palestinian history and  literacy. For them education was a threat.”

About a month into his detention at Megiddo, Ghassan first met his lawyer. Six months later, his mother received permission to visit her son, assisted by the Red Cross. From then on she could visit him quite regularly, although his father, aged over 70, who had also been imprisoned by the Israelis on a number of occasions, had to wait longer and subsequently was only permitted visits every 6-7 months.
After Megiddo, Ghassan was transferred to a punishment prison, Hadarim, also in northern Israel where he spent two weeks in isolation. Ghassan believes it was because he threatened to go on hunger strike that he was moved quickly to Gilbo’a Prison (again in northern Israel) where he stayed for a year until his release.
It was while he was at Gilbo’a, 18 months after his arrest, that Ghassan’s trial finally took place at Salem Military Court. “I was accused of attacking the soldier at the boys’ school and of subversive activity,” he explained.

ravshatz

iers

The District Army Commander gave evidence as well as the ‘ravshatz’ [security officer] from Yitzhar (another violent(3) religious settlement overlooking Burin) who had not been present at the school. He alleged Ghassan had attacked him on a number of  occasions previously.  Ghassan said it was on account of the ravshatz’s allegations that he was sentenced to 26 months and ordered to pay 7,000 shekels (approximately £1,520) to the soldier he pushed. The family paid the fine, against Ghassan’s wishes.

The ravshatz from Yitzhar talking to soldiers Ghassan described Gilbo’a as “a place of learning, a school for change rather than a place for becoming embittered.” Prisoners of all political persuasions, except for Hamas, lived together in one unit. They set up a daily routine consisting of classes, two hours reading, written tasks and sport in addition to preparing meals and watching TV. There were courses in Palestinian history, culture and crafts, economics and the his tory of colonisation and liberation struggles of other countries. Prisoners taught each other and Ghassan proudly showed me the certificate he was awarded for teaching Palestinian history. Similarly, students were awarded  diplomas for courses they had attended.

ghassan diplome
ghassan diplome1

“It was through the education I received in Gilbo’a that I learnt not all Jews were Zionists,” he explained, “and that my anger against our treatment by the Israelis and the Occupation should not be directed against all Jews, many of whom oppose what is happening to us.” It was also in Gilbo’a that Ghassan first went on hunger strike as an act of solidarity with Bilal Kayed, a Palestinian activist(4) who,  after spending 14 years in Israeli prisons, on the day of his release was imprisoned again without charge.

notebook

Disobedience tactics accompanied the initial call for Bilal’s release: “In every cell during morning roll call, prisoners would give Bilal Kayed’s name instead of their own.” The hunger strike started on 17 July 2015. “The evening before, we had received the coded message ‘Freedom awaits you’, meaning the strike would commence the following day,” explained Ghassan.

Ghassan said that within days of starting the strike, he and another prisoner were put in isolation – a small windowless cell where the temperature often rose to 45oC which  made his skin peel. On the sixteenth day, guards took away his underwear. He had no right to a shower during the 21 days of his strike. Most of the hunger strikers in Gilbo’a ended their action at 8.00pm on 7 August, following instructions from the unit organiser. However, Israeli officials forbade him from seeing Ghassan who was given the news of the strike’s end by a prison guard. Ghassan, therefore, refused to stop, adding that he would stop drinking water too. The strike organiser was called promptly to his cell.

Recovery following the strike was hard: the prison authorities did not provide salt and the prisoners were given cold water to drink, which they could not digest. Ghassan described how they resorted to drinking warm water from the bathroom.
Ghassan was released in September 2016 and returned home to a big celebration. But there were restrictions: for six months, he could only to walk in the streets around his house in the outskirts of Burin. However, this did not deter him from resuming his rôle as a community worker and activist. The Bilal Al-Najjar community centre which Ghassan had founded in 2007 was vandalised by Israeli soldiers in 2009 and 2010 and totally trashed in July 2013. Ten volunteers were beaten and twenty arrested. So since his release Ghassan has had to start afresh. He has formed the Target Association for Rural Development-Burin which holds classes, meetings and lectures, mainly for young people. With friends, he has also created a permaculture centre. In July 2017, despite personal threats he resurrected the kite festival attended by crowds of children and young people from the village and elsewhere. During the afternoon, soldiers and settlers appeared on a nearby hillside, exploding grenades(5).

community center

Bilal al Najjar Community Centre after army raid

kites3

“Aren’t you worried about being arrested again?” I asked Ghassan. He replied in his customary defiant manner: “I’m not afraid of arrest. Nothing will stop me from dedicating my life to fighting for a free Palestine. If I’m sent to prison again, so be it.”

(1) The school continues to be attacked by soldiers and settlers from Yitzhar, the last time being on 28 December 2017. See https://english.palinfo.com/news/2017/12/28/Student-injured-in- Burin-town-during-attack-by-settlers-and-soldiers See videos of settler attacks on https://972mag.com/watch-settlers-attack-palestinian-school-harass-students/126864/

(2) See an article by John Space of 20 April 2013 published in Palestine Monitor in which he describes how Israel is breaking international law (The Third Geneva Convention) by hiring a private company to run prison canteens: http://www.palestinemonitor.org/details.php?id=muq5pva3608yoq4z2f3ub

(3) Witnessed by the writer of this article during repeated visits to Burin.

(4) Kayed began his strike when he was placed under administrative detention without charge or trial on June 15, the day he was supposed to be released after serving more than 14 years for his affiliation with the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/08/pressure-mounts-israel-release-bilal-kayed- 160802071641071.html

(5) See the short film ‘Occupied Skies’ made about the festival in 2017 by Woody Morris and Daniel Easterman

Empowering Muslim women

muslima

By A.Z.

Prophet Muhammad PBUH said, “Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every believer.” [Ibn Majah]

It is clear from this hadith that the believing men and women are required to seek knowledge.

We have to capitalize on the potential of our valuable women; we should assist and support them in their pursuit for excellence in their careers and in their studies.

Prophet Muhammad PBUH said, “The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife.” [Abu Dawud]

Our Muslim women are contributing and achieving in many valuable ways, we have to encourage, support and help them in achieving more. The more our women achieve and excel, the more our Ummah (Muslim nation) will be revived. Our women are not only half of our Ummah, they are also the mothers who shape future generations. Prophet Mohammad PBUH valued them and gave them a special status.

Women now have higher IQ Scores than men, as researchers confirm. Women are a precious gift to humanity and a source of kindness and compassion. Prophet Muhammad PBUH said: “Your Heaven lies under the feet of your mother.” (Ahmad, Nasai).

A man came to the Prophet PBUH and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship?’ The Prophet PBUH said, ‘Your mother.’ The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet PBUH said, ‘Then your mother.’ The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet PBUH said, ‘Then your mother.’ The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet PBUH said, ‘Then your father.’ (Bukhari, Muslim). There are many more verses and hadith confirming the value of mothers in Islam.

Our empowered Muslim women have played an important role in the Arab Spring. They have been at the forefront in the fight for justice and freedom. There are more and more brilliant Muslim women whose contributions can shape the future. Here are some bright and promising examples of Muslim women today:

Aisha Mustafa is a young Muslim lady who creates next-generation Quantum Space Propulsion Systems, thus reinventing space travel.

Azza Abdel Hamid Faiad, is a 16 year old Muslim young lady who has worked out how to turn used plastic into biofuels.

Ms. Hayat Sindi is a Saudi Scientist who is changing the world, she has helped develop a life saving tool that is the size of a stamp and costs just a penny, which helps detect disease by analysing body fluids.

And here is Ms. Manal Alsharif, whose courage and struggle against the Saudi regime’s unislamic treatment of women has inspired many. She is one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Another one of the 100 most influential people in the world, is Ms. Samira Ibrahim who challenged the tyrannical Supreme Council of Armed Forces, aka Mubarak’s generals who are also considered America’s closest ally in the new Egypt when she was mistreated by their thugs because of her brave stance for freedom and justice.

Dr. Reshma Khan is another brilliant example showing the universality of the message of Islam, she is a Muslim doctor who opened a free clinic for the poor of South Carolina. As Muslims, we should help all, Muslims and non Muslims.

Prophet Mohammad PBUH said: “A believer is like rain, wherever he goes, he brings goodness.”

Allah confirms in the Quran, that men and women were created from a single soul, thus emphasizing the equality and appreciation that Islam has for women.

“He (God) it is who did create you from a single soul and therefrom did create his mate, that he might dwell with her (in love)…” [Noble Quran 7:189]

“Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him will We give a new life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to their actions.” [Noble Quran 16:97, see also 4:124]

Abu Sa’id al-Khudri said that the Messenger of Allah PBUH, said, “No one has three daughters or three sisters and is good to them but that he will enter the Garden (paradise).”

Musa ibn ‘Ali reported that the Prophet PBUH said, “Shall I show you the greatest sadaqa (or one of the greatest forms of sadaqa)?” He replied, “Yes, indeed, Messenger of Allah!” He went on, “To provide for your daughter when she is returned to you and you are her sole source of provision.” Sadaqa means charity.

A moment of introspection, have you supported and empowered the women in your life? Have you helped your sister reach her full potential? Have you helped your wife make her dreams come true? Have you helped your mother and taken some of her responsibilities off her shoulders? Do you treat women with the level of respect and appreciation that Islam requires? Have you reached out to do more for the women in your community?

To learn more, you get free ebooks for muslims or non-muslims or new muslims in many languages from the Conveying Islamic Message Society’s website:

http://www.islamic-message.net/cims/default.aspx

Capsules of Faith: Work hard for Allah and take the Initiative

Capsules of Faith

By A.Z.,

You can work for Allah in different ways: through your career, your voluntary work, your activism in defence of justice and humanity.

The follower, Oqba Ibn Nafea worked for Allah for 43 years. He established the city of Qirawan and was one of the pioneers who introduced Islam to North Africa.

Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) forgave his enemies

Oqba Ibn Nafea’s father was a staunch enemy of Islam and Muslims but the Prophet forgave him. The mercy of the Prophet (peace be upon him) even extended to those who brutally killed and then mutilated the body of his uncle Hamzah.

Quran 41:34 “Good and evil are not alike. Repel evil with what is better. Then he, between whom and you there was hatred, will become as though he was a bosom friend.”

The Prophet’s act of forgiveness touched Oqba’s father’s heart so deeply, that he dedicated his son Oqba to Allah. He sent his son to be raised by an important companion of the Prophet PBUH. An important lesson to be learnt here is that if you committed a sin, don’t despair. Instead, do good deeds that outweigh your sin and ask for forgiveness.

The Messenger of Allah PBUH said: “Fear Allah wherever you may be, trail a bad deed with a good deed and it will wipe it out, and treat the people with good character.” [at-Tirmidhi stated as Hadith Hasan]

Excellence and hard work are important Islamic values

Oqba Ibn Nafea worked for the cause of Allah throughout his life. He discovered his talents and utilized them in service of his cause. He became an expert on North Africa. His father put him on the right path. We should find ways of putting children and youngsters in our circle of influence on the right path, through excellent education and by being good role models.

Are you going to inspire your children and those in your circle of influence to dedicate their lives and work for justice, humanity and Islam? Are you doing all you can do to change the world by being the best influence possible on those around you? Are you inspiring and motivating others? Are you praising and appreciating those who are trying to leave a positive impact, no matter how small? Women have a special place in Islam. Are you acknowledging, praising and motivating the wonderful women in your life and making them feel appreciated?

It may be that the early trials are not always very fruitful, but without the early trials we wouldn’t have great achievements. Pioneers are always appreciated because they lay down the foundations of what will later become great successes.

Take the initiative, be creative and take calculated risks!

Are you a pioneer? Do you always take the initiative? Or are you passive and just follow the crowd? Taking risks if necessary is something commendable, but taking unnecessary risks and making impulsive decisions are attributes that can be counterproductive.

Pioneers are not afraid of failure. They understand that failure is part of the process. They understand that learning from failure is an essential part of building success.

Thomas Alva Edison said:“I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Don’t be afraid to try and don’t give up easily.

Change direction or change career if necessary

If you came to the realization that you are leading your life on the wrong path, you can stop and change your path. It might mean making sacrifices, but you have to be strong enough to lead your life, not let your life lead you.

Islam is not just rituals, it is a way of life.

Are you truly ready to join the path of Allah? Some people think that praying, fasting, paying zakat, wearing the hijab, hajjare enough. Rituals of worship are not everything in Islam. Islam is much deeper. What have you done for humanity? What have you done for science and knowledge? What kind of activism have you participated in? What injustice have you opposed or prevented? What have you done to raise awareness about the plight of innocents around the world? What voluntary work have you done? What have you done for your community or for your neighbourhood?

Your role is bigger than just looking after your family

Your role in Islam extends far beyond your duty towards your family and friends. You have a responsibility towards the progress and advancement of humanity. You have a duty to stand up for justice against Muslim and non Muslim oppressors. You have a duty to spread goodness and solidarity to all people of conscience, whether Muslim or non Muslim. You have a duty to enjoin good and oppose evil in every field of life.

You may really want to work for Allah, supporting justice and humanity, but don’t know how to. You have to take the initiative and discover your talents and find the appropriate channels that will help you work in the most effective way for the cause. Just don’t sit and wait and be a bystander. Get involved!

Quran 6:160: “Whoever comes [on the Day of Judgement] with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof [to his credit], and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged”.

Quran 13:22: “And those who are patient, seeking the countenance of their Lord, and establish prayer and spend from what We have provided for them secretly and publicly and prevent evil with good – those will have the good consequence of [this] home”

This article is adapted from Dr. Amr Khaled’s lecture. Dr. Amr Khaled is an Egyptian televangelist. His work influenced Arab youth and has contributed to the calls for change in the Middle East.

Creative Activism

By A.Z.

Creative activists can be described as: ‘These are the changemakers. People who turn their ideas into action. A Creative Activist is any individual or organization who uses media, the arts, and technology to create awareness of important issues in the world and affect positive change.’

I would disagree with the description above, simply because creative activists don’t limit their creativity to using arts, media and technology to create awareness. They also use ingenuity and originality to convey their message, to a sometimes unwilling and skeptical audience.

Nick Darken wrote, commenting on this video that is worth watching: ‘‘The Return of Dictator Ben Ali’ saw one huge, imposing portrait of the former dictator reinstated in a square in newly freed Tunisia. The response was emotional. As the crowd tore down the poster in anger, the message underneath reminded people to use their vote at the upcoming elections as only half the population were expected to turn out.”

Some creative volunteers found another way to raise awareness about Israel’s apartheid policies, on the streets of New York City. The BDS movement provides a prime example of creativity and spontaneity. Attendees of the Israel Jazz Festival in NYC at the Guggenheim were treated to free water bottles labeled “Israel” on one side and the words “Apartheid since 1948” on the other.

Syrian Activist Ammar Allani is quoted as saying:

“And while they (governments/authorities) can claim supremacy in force, finance and media ownership, the one thing they definitely cannot offer is creativity, freedom and innovation. That is why the young generation is using these specific tools to alter the rules of the game, leaving the regimes unable to keep pace, at least in terms of winning the audience.

In one instance, hundreds of young protestors took to the streets raising blank signs, dozens of white boards with absolutely nothing written on them, yet the security forces were exasperated by that and started shooting and beating people. For everyone watching, including some supporters of the regime, it was really silly and stupid; it was a classic example of creativity winning over force.

Take Kafranbel for instance, this is a very small village in Syria, unknown even to the average Syrian and located in a province ironically called “the forgotten cities”, these people grow olives, and recently ideas!
Every week, a few dozens of the Kafranbel inhabitants brainstorm and create the most incredibly creative and powerful punch lines, they write them on paper panels, go to the grove, photograph themselves with a phone and upload the images to Facebook, as simple as this may seem, it is literarily revolutionizing the nation.
Just to share with you some of these punch lines:

– We demand that school uniforms include a helmet, body armor and gas mask.
– Forgive me my love; I mentioned your name in the interrogation.
– Only in Syria, to get to heaven… just cross the street.”

Marianne Torres, an inspiring American activist, told me of her own small victory:

“We learned that Madeline Albright was coming to Eastern Washington University in Cheney. I was still mightily outraged about Albright’s words and continued “service” in the American government so I just decided that if no one else could do anything to expose her crimes, I would.

I had a t-shirt made with her infamous quote on the back “500,000 Iraqi children killed by U.S. sanctions. Madeleine Albright says, ‘…The price — we think the price is worth it.’, wrote up the quote and other ugliness from her on a handout and passed them out at her speaking engagement and then did a double sided sheet with William Blum’s piece on her on one side and the absurd list of embargoed items on the other side, and passed them out both outside, and inside the auditorium. Most people didn’t read my shirt, but assumed the flyer was something from the University, so a whole lot of people sat and read the awful truth before she spoke.

Imagine my surprise when people who were excited to see this woman asked me if they could buy a t-shirt like mine! They obviously had not actually read it but assumed I was there in support of her. I’m sure they changed their mind after they read the paper I handed to them – and several hundred others.”

We all have our own creative side. Have you found and explored yours? Have you thought of new ways to help the cause? Do you have any ideas that can help serve justice, humanity and peace in the world? Shouldn’t you use your creativity to fulfill your Islamic duty to enjoin good and forbid evil?

Capsules of faith: Stay positive! Faith is strength!

Faith

By A.Z.

Have you ever wished for something so much, worked hard to get it, prayed for God to give it you, but never received it?

“It may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allâh knows but you do not know” Quran 2:126.

Was your dua/prayer not answered?

Maybe you were not given what you wanted, only to be given something better?

Sometimes you may feel that Allah (S.W.T) didn’t give you the things that you wished for, but couldn’t it have been that you might be blessed by not having those things?

You might even come to know why you were not given those things or maybe you will never know.

Abu Hanifa’s life was full of things that he wished for, but not given. He was the grandson of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (R.A) and his mother was the Princess of Persia. His maternal grandfather was Yazdegard, the King of Persia. His aunt was the mother of believers, Sayeda Aisha (R.A). He was one of the 7 jurists who laid down the foundations of Islamic jurisprudence. This diversity and wealth of his background could have contributed to him being such an extraordinary person. Diversity, tolerance and equality are values entrenched in Islam.

Both of his parents were killed in the conflict that erupted at the time of the Caliphate of Ali (R.A). Sometimes, we are subjected to trials and tribulations, but these ordeals could be meant to benefit us in ways we are not aware of.

This is stated in the Holy Quran,“O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness, that ye may take away part of the dower ye have given them – except where they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If ye take a dislike to them it maybe that ye dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good” 4:19.

After the loss of his parents, Abu Hanifa was raised by his aunt, Sayeda Aisha (R.A.), who had not been blessed with any children of her own. Indeed, Allah (S.W.T) had given Abu Hanifa a very privileged upbringing by one of the greatest and most revered ladies in Islam. Almost one third of hadiths (sayings of the Prophet pbuh) and Islamic jurisprudence comes from Sayeda Aisha (R.A). She raised Abu Hanifa to become one of the most prominent intellectual figures in Islamic history, whose influence extends to this day on Muslim jurisprudence.

If you always wished for something and did everything you could to get it but you were unsuccessful, it might mean that Allah (S.W.T) wants something better for you. You can still keep trying but keep in mind that your effort will not be wasted as Allah (S.W.T) will either give you what you want or better Insha’allah.

Don’t feel demoralised!

Keep trying!

Never lose hope!

Always remember that your efforts will be rewarded Insha’allah. We are rewarded according to our intentions and to our efforts in pursuing them. If we are not granted success, we will still be rewarded for our efforts and intentions Insha’allah.

The Holy Quran states,“As to those who believe and work righteousness, verily we shall not suffer to perish the reward of any who do a (single) righteous deed” 18:30.

Abu Hanifa recognised Allah’s (S.W.T) blessings on him when he acknowledged that Sayeda Aisha (R.A.) had been a better mother than all mothers he has encountered in his life.

Sometimes, we overlook the blessings we have. We take what we have for granted. Maybe it is time that we look around us with a fresh perspective and see all the blessings we have in a new light. It is time to be thankful to all those who make our life meaningful. It is time to show your appreciation and gratitude.
The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said:“He has not thanked Allah (S.W.T) who has not thanked people.”

Abu Hanifa once said to Sayeda Aisha (R.A.), “I hope to be like my grandfather, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (R.A)”.

She replied by saying, “If you want to achieve prominence in life, you can do it by pursuing knowledge and science. If you want to succeed in the afterlife, you can do it by pursuing knowledge and science. And if you want to succeed in both life and afterlife, you can still do it by pursuing knowledge and science”.

Islam commands us to seek knowledge, science and progress. For a lot of people that seek knowledge, it is only limited to acquiring a degree.

The importance of learning and science in Islam

Islam encourages us to pursue knowledge, intellect and contribute to human progress through thinking, writing and working towards breakthroughs in every field. Seeking knowledge and intellect is a way of life in Islam. It is something that we all should do in every possible way. The first word in Quran is Iqra which means read or recite. Isn’t this a clear message from God that Islam is about learning?

We as Muslims are weak because we have abandoned the core Islamic principle of seeking knowledge and science. We now think that the only learning we need to do is that which leads to a degree that qualifies for a job.

We have to read and learn about everything around us: politics, history, art, etc. We have to form our views on a solid foundation of independent thinking and objectivity.

We have to be knowledgeable and well read. We have to strive to reach the limits of intellect. A nation can only progress when values of learning, knowledge and science are sanctified and upheld.

Indeed a nation will decline once these values are ignored and demoted.

May Allah (S.W.T) guide us in seeking that knowledge.

This article is based on Dr. Amr Khaled’s lecture:

How Duaa Works – Khutbah by Nouman Ali Khan

Capsules of faith: Good manners in Islam

By A.Z.

The Prophet (PBUH) said: “I was sent to complete the good manners.”

There are important points that we can draw from such a small Hadith. Good manners are essential in this world and the hereafter. We need to work hard to change ourselves and personify the good manners of Islam.

But why are good manners of such prominence in Islam?

The Prophet could have said that he was sent to teach us to worship Allah. He could have said he was sent to teach us to work for progress and humanity. He could have said he was sent to start a revival and enlightenment. He could have said that he was sent to teach us that our mission is to work for the development and the progress of this world.

He said that he was sent to complete good manners, because good manners are a prerequisite for success, revival, enlightenment, progress, social cohesion, tolerance, peace, justice, development, successful nation building etc. Good manners are even necessary for worship, as we will discuss later. This is because you cannot achieve progress, justice, enlightenment and all the aforementioned values without a foundation of good manners, ethics and morality.

Muslims should use the best of manners in their everyday activities with Muslims and non Muslims, at work, at school, in public places, in fact everywhere.

If our morals are right, everything else will follow. If we want to reform the world we cannot start without ethics and morality. The first step in implementing reform is strengthening our own values of morality, solidarity and humanity.

Quran (3:159) “It is by Allah’s mercy that you are gentle to them, had you been harsh and hardhearted, surely they would have dispersed from around you. Therefore, excuse them; Plead for forgiveness for them and consult them in the affairs.”

The Quran confirms that the Prophet PBUH was gentle and considerate. His good manners, high standards of ethics and morality are what drew people towards him and Islam.

Did Islam spread by the sword?

There were no Muslim armies that marched from Arabia to Indonesia, which is now the largest Muslim country in the world population wise, it was only the good manners of the Muslim merchants which impressed Indonesians and drove them to appreciating Islam. It was all because of the honesty, integrity and professionalism of these Muslim traders.

If you are unscrupulous, you really need to reconsider your position. You need to be a role model for others through your behaviour, your credibility, your excellence and your professionalism. It was the good manners of those Muslim merchants that opened the hearts and minds of Indonesians to Islam.

You can do dawah all day long, but people are not going to believe you unless your manners, attitude and morality are up to scratch. You have to be actively contributing to society in every possible way in order to gain the respect of Muslims and non Muslims.

The Prophet encouraged entrepreneurship, hard work and innovation. At home the Prophet used to do chores and help his family. Helping your mother or your wife at home will make you more of a man. These are the manners of Islam.

If Muslims fully embrace the values of Islam, e.g. excellence in science and knowledge, excellence in all fields of work, excellence in voluntary and charity work, excellence in personal and family relations, non Muslims will be able to appreciate Islam more and consequently Islamophobia will recede.

Muslims have to contribute more and excel in every field

You cannot expect people to respect you unless you earn this respect. If you are willingly unemployed or mediocre in your work (or in any field of your life), you have to know that you are not a doing what you should do as a good Muslim. The Prophet said: A believer is like rain, wherever he goes he brings goodness and benefits (to Muslims and non Muslims).

On the authority of Anas, may God be pleased with him, who narrated that the Prophet, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, said: “None of you (truly) has faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”

Do you apply this hadith in your relationships with others? Do you care about your Muslim and non Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity who suffer from hunger and war in other parts of the world?

Do you apply this hadith when dealing with family members, friends and all those around you?

Good manners lead to justice and justice leads to progress and prosperity

I think that ethics and good manners lead to justice. Justice is essential for progress, prosperity and the development of any society. Thus good manners are part of the infrastructure that leads to a strong economy and an advanced society. No progress can be made without justice, ethics and good manners.

There are Muslims who do their prayers, go to do Hajj and Umrah every year (as if there aren’t millions of people suffering from hunger around the world in dire need of food and medical supplies, who this money would be better spent on), but some of those Muslims mistreat others and defy Islamic ethics and good manners in every possible way.

Acts of worship are meaningless unless you apply good manners to every aspect of your behavior. Salah, fasting and hajj are invalid if good manners are not upheld. The acts of worship are like training for us to strengthen our good manners.

Quran Surah 29:45 says: ‘Recite what is sent of the Book by inspiration to thee, and establish regular Prayer: for Prayer restrains from shameful and unjust deeds; and remembrance of Allah is the greatest (thing in life) without doubt. And Allah knows the (deeds) that ye do.’

From this verse it can be seen that if your prayers don’t prevent you from shameful, unjust deeds and bad morals, your prayers are invalid.

Narrated Aisha, Allah have mercy on her: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said: “Indeed, the believer will attain by his good character the rank of one who is steadfast in fasting and praying.”
[Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 41, Number 4780]

The Prophet said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)”

Quran 2:197 says: ”For Hajj are the months well known. If any one undertakes that duty therein, Let there be no obscenity, nor wickedness, nor wrangling in the Hajj. And whatever good ye do, (be sure) Allah knoweth it. And take a provision (With you) for the journey, but the best of provisions is right conduct. So fear Me, o ye that are wise.”

Hajj should be like a boot camp, training Muslims to adhere to good manners, especially as Hajj is a stressful experience, where millions of people are cramped in Mecca.

There will be no justice, enlightenment and renaissance without morals. We need to spread good manners if we truly want an Islamic revival. We always like to choose the easy path, we use Islamic language and we fast, pray and go to hajj, but some of us fail miserably in understanding the essence and benefits of these acts of worship. Inner Jihad is our struggle to reach and spread the good manners of Islam. This is a core Islamic value and is essential for the acceptance of our acts of worship.

The Prophet coined it very well when he said: “There is no faith in him who is not trustworthy and there is no religion in him who does not respect his covenant”.

The Messenger of God, may blessings and peace be on him and his family, said, “God is gentle and loves gentleness in all things.” And, “Gentleness never enters into anything without embellishing it, and it is never taken out of anything without disgracing it.”

Please take the time to reflect, perhaps you need to change yourself. Maybe it is time that you decide to inspire and empower others to seek good manners, maybe you can start a project or even a Facebook group to promote good manners in Islam, to think, learn and spread the message.

This article is based on Amr Khaled’s lecture

Amr Khaled is an Egyptian televangelist voted one of the world’s most influential people by Time Magazine in 2007. His work influenced Arab youth and has contributed to the calls for change in the Middle East

Bishops Against Israel

By A.Z.

Some time ago, Pope Benedict XVI and Middle East Bishops were demanding that Israel accept U.N. resolutions, calling for an end to its occupation of Arab lands.

In a communiqué at the end of their two-week meeting, the bishops demanded that Israel accept United Nations’ resolutions, calling for an end to its occupation of Arab lands and told Israel it shouldn’t use the Bible to justify injustices against the Palestinians.

The Church is standing up against Israeli injustices, while our Mosque leaders are busy wasting our time, at every Friday prayer with irrelevant speeches on marginal repetitive issues.

In Islam, Mosques are not only a place of worship, they are a place where knowledge, science, debate and community issues are addressed.

Mosques should function more or less like a University, where people learn to achieve excellence in science, intellect, business, social cohesion and all other fields.

The pursuit of knowledge, science, excellence, tolerance and social cohesion, are cardinal parts of the role of the mosque.

Speak to your Mosque committee, ask them what have they done to fulfil their Islamic duty towards Muslims and Britain in the following areas:

  1. Fighting extremism and promoting tolerance.
    2. Providing educational programmes, encouraging Muslim youth to achieve excellence and success in the fields of science, business, art etc.
    3. Fighting racism.
    4. Political awareness and political activism.
    5. Enhancing Muslims integration in British society.
    6. Media engagement
    7. Fighting anti social behaviour and crime.
    8. Fighting Islamophobia and negative stereotypes.
    9. Having a fair representation of women and youth on the committee.
    10. Holding open days for non-Muslims, to promote a positive picture of Islam.

Mosques need to address these issues, because that’s what Mosques should do. The Mosque should be an educational establishment, that enlightens the wider community with tolerance, progress, partnership and excellence.

Read more: http://www.mpacuk.org/story/141110/bishops-against-israel.html#ixzz1CkX93Jdf