Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sudanese Muslims Want First-Grade Teacher Executed!

Several thousand Muslims stood in protest yesterday in Sudan. They weren't protesting the AIDS crisis so prevalent in their country. They weren't even protesting the armed conflict in Darfur which is rising up child soldiers and sending many families into refugee camps. No, this protest was about a first-grade teacher.

Gillian Gibbons, a British woman, was sentenced to 15 days in jail and deportation for allowing her 7 year-old class to name a teddy bear "Muhammad". The protesters of yesterday, wearing the Muslim color of green, thought the sentence was not stringent enough. They claim she has insulted the Prophet Muhammad of the Muslim religion.

The crowd shouted obscenities such as "No tolerance!", "Execution!" and "Kill her!"

This is of course unbelievable to many Westerns. America especially has been bombarded with messages of tolerance, peace, and unity when it comes to Muslims. We have been urged not to profile at the airport and not to fear the religion of Islam. Even during so much turbulence in the world today, we hear shaky voices saying that Islam is a religion of peace. As I have grown in tolerance and have been made to feel bad about my (seemingly understandable) fears of this religion, it is disappointing that they have not been growing in tolerance for the West.

Gibbons is not a Muslim. How could she know anything about insulting the Prophet? That is a fair question. Her intention was not to be disrespectful. As an outsider in a Muslim country I'm sure she took extreme steps to be respectful and proper at all times. Her innocence seems obvious and the anger on her seems misdirected. Perhaps Muslims of Sudan are angry at the West for our religion, our politics, and our concern for the serious atrocities taking place in Sudan right now. Gibbons will leave the country with her life, but will the burning anger of the area fall on someone else?

1 comment:

Haji 'Abdullah bin Abdurahman al-Qadiri al-Chisti al-Athloni said...

Giving without reserve

It is with reticence that I write this. I do not wish to place myself on the moral high ground, or to sermonise anyone. This chapter tries to show the truth and importance of dreaming of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet). These words seek to confirm that ours is a Prophet of Mercy, a Witness, and a Bearer of Good Tidings. It also aims to portray the consequence of da’waat in the Masjid al-Haram. It is moreover meant as a method of encouragement for our children to some day continue with the Prophetic Tradition of raising an orphan for the sake of Allah, The One of Unbounded Grace. So that they may by this means know that there is more to life than just prayer and fasting. And that they should give of themselves unreservedly. That they might through it also, temper their adhkaar with compassion.

We were asleep at the Mashrabiyya Hotel in Khalid bin Walid Street in Shubayka, Makkah al-Mukarramah when, by the Mercy of Allah, I had the most beautiful dream. I saw myself standing in the holy presence of our Truthful Prophet Muhammad (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet). The appearance of the Holy Messenger of Allah matched scriptural records.
Our Prophet (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) was spotlessly dressed in white robes and a white turban. I stared aghast. Our Prophet (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) stood about two meters away and faced me directly. Someone so unimaginably holy, so indescribably handsome, one will not come across. I do not have the words with which to suitably portray this most wonderful man, the Seal of the Prophets (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet).
I reached for my turban, embarrassed for not wearing it.
“Leave it,” I said to myself. “You are in the Company of the Prize of creation.”
Brilliance shone from our Guided Prophet (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet). Our Prophet (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) smiled at me. The smile radiated light. I stood alert, too humbled to speak. I wished that the dream would last forever. The heavenly smile lasted between ten and fifteen minutes, it felt like.

Alhamdu-lillaah. I had never considered myself deserving of such an enormous honour. This was a spiritual experience of the first magnitude. “What does that smile mean?” I asked myself over and over again. I stared at the House of Allah for extended periods, contemplating its meaning.

Deep in thought, I barely noticed the usually persuasive central-African women selling bird-seed as I walked back and forth from the Masjid al-Haram. I was hardly aware of the Turkish female who was dealing in steel daggers at the side of the street. Two men eagerly collecting on behalf of Bosnian refugees also failed to draw my attention. I half-heard a Pakistani lad calling out the price of bottled perfume to prospective customers alongside the road. Malaysian girls trading informally with scarves only just caught my eye.

“Unless you receive the sort of treatment that a host bestows on a guest, don’t ever think that, because you have performed the ziyaarah of the Bait-ullaah, you’ve been the guest of Allah,” my father had once counselled me.
A similar comment from my uncle, Haji Suleiman, I had further recollected. He had said to me: “Die persoon was Makkah toe – vra vir hom wat het hy gekry.” This rendered into English, says: “The person has been to Mecca – ask him what he had received [there].”
I considered his observation a bit harsh then, but now the force of his remark was bearing home on me. He knew what he was talking about. For “’Ammie Haji” it had happened very quickly. Aged twenty-five on his first Haj in 1949, Haji Suleiman had landed inside the Holy Ka’aba when someone lifted him head-high and tossed him over the 2.25 metre high threshold of the Bait-ullaah. “Did you not get hurt?” I inquired further. “No!” he responded excitedly. “I was young and fit and had landed on my feet,” he continued proudly. Once over the doorsill, he did not have too far to fall, as the inside floor was 2.2 meters above the ground.
’Ammie Haji performed two cycles of discretionary salawaat once inside. Till his dying day, he wondered who had done him the good turn.

Every Muslim who had walked on the holy soil had the potential for such an experience, I realised. Such incidents might have been more prevalent than was ordinarily heard of, I thought. I had for a long time suspected that at least some pilgrims who repeatedly visited the Holy Land, apart from drawing from its built-in holiness, did not preclude themselves from offerings of this nature. It would be silly to think that parallels could not be drawn with Madinah in occurrences of this kind. It would also have been reasonable to expect wondrous incidents of this nature to occur in Jerusalem, the City of the Farthest Mosque, as the major Middle Eastern religions agreed on the sanctity of this city. Thinking that this sort of happening was in any way unique to myself, was ludicrous.

Part of my da'waat in the Holy Mosque in Mecca, was to ask Allah, The One Who Makes Clear to us His signs so that we may be grateful, to Grant to ourselves the opportunity and blessings of raising an orphan for His sake.

Having the money with which to afford to go on Haj has always been its first consideration. There were many people who had performed the Holy Pilgrimage more often than I. With regard to my parting from the Holy City, though, I had received a fascinating send-off.

My wife and I had, over a number of years, tried to adopt a baby by applying at several local agencies, and were given all sorts of excuses which disqualified, and sometimes discouraged us. Reasons given were that we were not married according to South African law, that few babies from local Muslim parents came up for adoption, and the fact that we have children of our own. We were also faced with, what was to my mind, the worse aspect of the South African race laws. These regulations and those administering it, in this case, the social workers, prescribed that a ‘brown’ orphaned child had to be matched with ‘brown’ adoptive parents. A ‘yellow’ baby could only be placed with prospective ‘yellow’ adoptive parents, a ‘white’ orphan could not be raised by ‘black’ adoptive parents, and so on. They played dominoes with human lives. Some social workers were more ready to read the ‘race act’ than others.
In an interview and in response to a question on whether we would mind adopting a child from a ‘lower rung’ of the colour scale, I told them that “a nice green one would do.”
A jab to my ribs from my wife quickly halted the acid flow down the sides of my mouth. Stirring the ire of our then masters by criticising their political beliefs would not help, she meant. “When the white boss tells a joke, and regardless of its lack of humour – laugh!” she chided me later.
Race inequalities existing at the time ensured that hundreds of black orphans went begging in more ways than one. It virtually excluded us from adopting a child. No orphans that matched our race and blood mix were on offer and they weren’t likely to easily present themselves for adoption, we were told. My wife is of Indian (as in “Indian” from India, as opposed to “American” Indian) stock and I am of (well) mixed blood.

On the morning of Wednesday, 1st June 1994, just three days after arriving back home from Haj, we received a telephone call from Melanie Van Emmenes of the Child Welfare Society. She explained that a five-month old girl had come up for adoption. The baby had earlier undergone successful abdominal surgery and she asked whether we would adopt the child. We jumped at the chance.

A rush of adrenaline replaced the after-effects of travel. We were rejuvenated. Capetonians usually visit local pilgrims before departure and also on their arrival back home. We excused ourselves from the few visitors and asked my mother-in-law to host them in our absence. My wife and I immediately went to the Adoption Centre in Eden Road, Claremont. We signed the necessary papers.

Afterwards, we told our children that we were about to receive an addition to the family. We plodded through a maze of red tape in order to legalise the process. (My wife and I had to marry in court because Muslim marriages were not recognised then, believe it or not). A few days later, my wife, brother and I collected the petite infant from a foster-mother in Newfields Estate. I shall never forget the joyous feeling when I first carried the frail waif past the front door. Her name is Makkia. We named her after the great city from which we had just returned.

Taking her into our home is one of the better things that we have done. Makkia has added a marvellous dimension to our lives. She is part of our life’s-work. I shall always be grateful to the people who had assisted us with the adoption.

Raising an orphan means giving from the innermost recesses of one’s heart. Adoption springs from the soul of the adoptive parent. When a child is orphaned, we cry. God cries more.

The meaning behind the glowing smile from our Trustworthy Prophet Muhammad (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) had played itself out in the most delightful way. My dream shows our Prophet’s level of awareness and highlights his profound love for orphans and how kindly he looks on raising an orphan. It demonstrates that raising an orphan is an immensity before God. In our Prophet (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) we have a beautiful pattern of conduct. Our Affectionate Prophet Muhammad (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet), also, had raised an orphan. Like a lamp that spreads light, the Messenger of Allah (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) invites to the Grace of Allah by His leave. Our Divinely-inspired Prophet is the first of the God-fearing. No person is better than him. Our Prophet Muhammad (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) is the leader of the prophets. He is without sin. Our Prophet (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) is faultless and the foremost of those who submit to the Will of Allah. An exemplar to those who worship God, our Kind-hearted Prophet Muhammad (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) is the beacon of the pious. He is an inspiration to those who are thankful to God and the leader of those who remember Allah. How should I express gratitude to the Holy Messenger of Allah (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet) for his kind intervention? I am unworthy of untying the thongs of our Prophet’s sandals.

May Allah, The One Who Befriends the righteous, Send His Richest Peace and Blessings Upon our Holy Prophet Muhammad and On his family and companions, as much and as often as Allah Wills.

Allah, The One Who Is Sufficient For those who put their trust in Him, Had Granted our want through the barakah of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (May Allah Convey Peace and Blessings upon the Holy Prophet).

I’ve been fairly constant about wearing a turban during ’ibaadah since.

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