Ads and Donations

I had three donation links on the sidebar of the main weblog page. Amazon Honor was never used and hence has been removed. The Paypal button fared a little better but with the last donation 8 months ago, I have decided to remove the Paypal button as well. The only donation link now is for donating money directly to Dreamhost for my webhosting bill.

I also installed Google text ads on the individual entry pages as well as the main page a few months ago. The result has been a trickle of money, not much but still useful for the webhosting bill. However, the ads on the main page haven’t even netted $1. Therefore, I have removed the ads on the main page.

I link to books I read in the sidebar as well as review some of those books in individual posts. All the Amazon links for these books are part of the Amazon Associates program which means that I get a small referral fee if you follow the link and buy that book. There is no cost to you, so I suggest if you get interested in a book you see here, please do follow the link to buy it.

I have not accumulated enough fees through this program to be paid by Amazon yet, but I am going to keep using it. In fact, I have expanded my use of the Amazon Associates program with the new sideblog showing the movies I have watched recently or am thinking of watching. The movie sideblog links to the DVD version as our chances of going to the theater in the near future are nil.

The sideblogs list the books and movies but their reviews have been in posts on the blog. I have modified the sideblogs such that there is a link to my review post with each movie or book. I hope that feature would prove useful to some readers.

Muslim Tolerance and Kafirs

Yasmine of Rambling Monologues has a moving post about the intolerance displayed by some Muslims. You should read her whole post, but here is the conclusion.

I write this because I hate the word “kaffir,” and I hate how it comes so easily to some Muslims even as it makes me flinch, and I hate that we contemptuously turn away the very same people we accuse of not understanding us, without giving them a fair chance to know who we are, without granting them credit for making the beautiful effort of shared human spirit and outreach that we ourselves as Muslims rarely make a point of with other communities. Who the hell are we to be critical then, when we accuse others of stereotyping us and disliking us and being ignorant of who we are, of the vastness of our humanity and traditions, and of what Islam in its pure beauty truly stands for? And I guess what I’m really just trying to figure out is –

When did we ourselves become so damn self-righteous and judgmental?

I agree with Yasmine about the (ab)use of the word “Kaffir.”

And here are some suggestions to fellow Muslims (and others):

  • Do not call anyone “Kafir.”
  • Do not call anyone atheist or non-Muslim just because they don’t agree with your opinion on evolution.
  • Respect others’ faith.
  • Do not try to debate Islam’s “superiority” over someone’s religion.
  • Treat Pakistani Christians/Hindus (or other minorities) with respect (replace your own country and minority here).
  • Don’t be quick to judge anyone, whether they are Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, atheist, or of some other religion.
  • Socialize with a diverse set of people with different backgrounds and religious beliefs. Don’t be proud of your habit of staying within your own religious circle.
  • Don’t caricaturize other religions.
  • If you criticize the Bible using textual analysis, be prepared to use (or at least let others use) similar tools for the Quran.

Any more suggestions?

Muslims, Misogyny and Parenting

It is an unfortunate fact today that the Muslim community, barring some exceptions, is misogynist. There are lots of individual Muslims who are against gender discrimination, but collectively we still have a long way to go.

As a man, I am not directly affected by such issues and I haven’t done much to change things for the better (other than may be posting about it on this blog and talking to Muslims I know about it). However, now I am the parent of a cute little girl. Hence, I’ll be confronted with this problem soon. In fact, I have encountered some mild versions even now. For example, a number of people wished or prayed for us to have a baby boy. I always had a big argument with them. I would have been equally happy with either a boy or a girl, but my heart desired a girl. Then, there are the comments about Muslim girls having it tough in this American society (as if Muslim boys are free to do whatever). Also, someone mentioned that it is a good idea to send a girl to an Islamic school since she’ll learn Islam and get into the habit of wearing hijab there. I don’t see Muslim parents as much concerned about the dress of their sons.

Discussing these thoughts of mine with Amber, it was interesting for us to discover that we were not alone. Maryam of A Dervish’s Dua has similar concerns.

while I am willing for myself to ‘deal with’ aspects of patriarchy in Muslim community life (negotiate space), I do not want that for my daughter. I do not want to raise her believing that Islam teaches she is a second class citizen.

Let me get this straight off the bat. I strongly believe that at its core Islam is an egalitarian faith which views man and woman as complimentary partners and that each person has the same fundamental duty to respond to God’s will regardless of their gender. I believe that Islam teaches that all human beings are equal and can only be distinguished by piety.

However, I also recognise that Islam has been culturally manifested in very patriarchal fashions and that these manifestations claim to be representing “true” Islam. Islamic law in particular has often codified patriarchal readings of Islam into a canon of orthodoxy that is difficult to question without challenging some fundamental ideas of who gets to speak authoritatively “for” Islam.

I think that the Qur’an and the Prophet, God love him, recognised the limitations of the societal structures of the period into which the Muhammadan expression of Islam first dawned (including notions of masculinity and femininity) but as Farid Esack has written elsewhere. But I also believe there is an underlying ethic of equity which transcends —- is more real —- than the cultural clothing which Islam wears at any one time period.

Therefore I remain a Muslim trying to seek out those egalitarian readings wherever I may find them. But now that I have had a baby – and a baby girl at that – I want more for my daughter than what is currently on offer in the Muslim community. I want her to be valued and cherished as a human being, not relegated to second class because she is female. I want her to play a vital and active role in her faith community, not stand on the side-lines as a marginalised spectator. I want her to have access to all the resources, facilities, opportunities that a brother might have. I want her to have a voice that is equal to any Muslim man who is her peer in knowledge, wisdom and piety.

Will I be able to give that to her? At the moment I think not and so I am starting to flirt with the idea of leaving the ummah so that my daughter might have more than I can give her from within it. It is not an easy decision, as one of the most fundamental ideas in Islam is the communion in community.

I know that I will not leave Islam, for my soul belongs to Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate. The Prophet Muhammad, God love him, will always be my Prophet. But the Muslim community, I am sensing, is a dangerous place to be for a sensitive soul. I want to protect my daughter’s fledgling wings, until she is strong enough to fly in the face of patriarchy. I have tried and worry that I may not be, and in failing then I fail my daughter. I so long for community, and I have good and close friends who are Muslims who I cherish. But I am starting to think that I have no place in the institutionalised religious community.

We are thinking along the same lines as Maryam. While we will still socialize with some Muslim friends, we plan stay away from the local conservative Muslim community (for example, my college MSA). Also, we have no plans of sending Michelle either to an Islamic school or to the Sunday lessons at the mosque.

RELATED: A new group weblog focusing on Islam and women.

Pearl Harbor Day

Is it Pearl Harbor Day today? Or is it my birthday? I turn 34 right around this time (11:15am Pakistan Standard Time).

Instead of posting photos of me as a toddler, I’ll use my birthday as an excuse to post more pictures of Michelle (with me, of course).

22 minutes old Trying to keep her hands off her face Day 7: Likes the rocking chair
Us watching her weblog Trying to get her on her stomach See the look on Michelle's face
First time bottle-feeding Trying cheek to cheek Michelle and me
Last Day in Piscataway At a Rest Area Looking at each other
Eid Afternoon Can hold her head now She likes to face outward
Michelle and me Michelle not smiling Laughter rings our home

And Happy Hannukah too.

Segregated Blogging

Via Sister Soljah, I found a post on a blog titled Blogging: an Islamic perspective. I was intrigued.

The blogger divides all blogs into 3 categories: personal, topical, and a mix of the two. His criticism is directed at personal blogs.

For starters, all bloggers know that since their blogs are public, their entries are accessible by anyone and everyone. As such, every blogger (but specifically a Muslim one) should be extremely cautious about what he/she is divulging in the blog entries. Many times, the contents of a single entry don’t seem to be of much concern, but when read collectively with past entries, they can provide an entire profile on the personality, character, and even physical traits of a person.

This is a regular concern for everyone with a blog. He gives it an “Islamic” touch later.

Islam, with its emphasis on modesty and its cautious approach to gender interaction, strongly discourages members of the opposite sex from openly divulging their personality, character, and physical traits (among other things) to each other.

The old interaction between genders bugaboo!

Originally, when the concept of distant communication in real-time was non-existent, the prohibitions that were laid down were for physical, face-to-face contact. However, the advent of telephones, the Internet, SMS, digital cameras, and e-mail, has made it possible to have unhindered communication and interaction without any physical contact whatsoever. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between the two forms of communication (in terms of actual presence vs. distant) from a religious ruling point of view. Therefore, the entire concept of modesty, “lowering the gaze”, and “covering ones self properly” must be extended to all forms of contact. Thus, they must be applied in a holistic sense, to all our actions, and not only to physical interaction.

The author is stretching his logic too thin in my opinion. Interaction on the web is not the same as in real life, though some of the same norms do (or should) apply.

Similarly, bloggers must be careful about what they write, lest they divulge traits about themselves that they should otherwise not be making known to the opposite gender, while at the same time, leading the readers into sin by hooking them on to reading on and learning more about the things they really don’t need to know, and shouldn’t know. Some devoted readers even end up forming an affectionate, emotional attachment with the author.

The fact that the above is in fact possible has proven itself time and time again, with bloggers receiving marriage proposals and other suggestive comments through various means such as e-mail, the comments box on their blogs, etc. It is highly unlikely that a stranger would send off a marriage proposal unless he/she was able to get to know the author well enough to feel comfortable in taking such a step.

I guess he hasn’t read my post regarding commenters looking for marriage.

And is he saying that anything that leads to marriage proposals is banned in Islam? Where would that leave society?

As long as the readers of the personal journal can’t communicate with the author, it is a one-way communication. However, the negative aspects of personal journals are multiplied when a mechanism is made available for readers to leave comments for and interact with the author and with others, without any restrictions. As witnessed on some blogs, the ability to leave comments on the blog (either in the form of a ‘comments’ link after each post or a ‘shout’ box) can lead to unhindered communication between members of the opposite gender.

He comes out against blog commenting. Big surprise!

With the Islamic principles of modesty as a backdrop, it must be made clear that cross-gender interaction is permissible when needed, for as much as it is needed. Anything beyond that is impermissible.

May be TypeKey can provide the commenter’s gender as well which will allow bloggers to block comments from those of the opposite gender, just like spam.

In the end, he provides some alternatives to personal blogs.

As an alternative, one can have a private blog on one’s own computer. As well, a gender-specific Yahoo! group can be created for members of the same gender to post their entries. Some blogging sites allow for password-protected entries, through which one can restrict and limit who can read the entries. Soon, some Islamic sites may begin brother- and sister-only blogging services, Insha-Allah.

Great! First, our college MSA came up with separate mailing lists for guys and girls. Now, he wants to create gender-segregated blogging.

10 + Michelle

It’s been exactly 10 years since “I” became “We”. On December 1, 1994 in Wah Cantt, Pakistan, Amber and I got married. That day, we thought we knew what love was. But we weren’t really aware of the bond between two persons who spend their lives together. Since then, our love has grown considerably; we trust each other completely; and respect is definitely part of the equation. We have found out every idiosyncratic and mundane thing about each other.

There have obviously been ups and downs. There were compromises to make. There were also the difficult times when we lived in different states: Amber in Jersey and I in Georgia.

Overall, these have been a magnificent 10 years. The icing on the cake, so to speak, was provided during this last year with the birth of our daughter Michelle.

Last year, I posted photographs from the day of our wedding to our 9th anniversary. This year, the theme of the photographs is the “icing.”

Michelle is 8 days old Eid Morning
Going to an Eid party Thanksgiving Day

Tonight, we are planning to go for dinner at a South African restaurant.

UPDATE: The ostrich was great. I heartily recommend 10 Degrees South.

Zakat for Muslims Only?

My post asking for charity recommendations elicited a few questions about Zakat (the obligatory Muslim charity). I was told that Zakat is only to be given to Muslims.

I had heard something like that before, but I decided to look it up this time around as I couldn’t understand any reason for such a prohibition. Interestingly and expectedly, I found nothing in the Quran which could be construed as a prohibition on giving Zakat to non-Muslims. Here are the only relevant Quranic verses I found.

Quran 2:273: (Charity is) for those in need, who, in Allah’s cause are restricted (from travel), and cannot move about in the land, seeking (For trade or work): the ignorant man thinks, because of their modesty, that they are free from want. Thou shalt know them by their (Unfailing) mark: They beg not importunately from all the sundry. And whatever of good ye give, be assured Allah knoweth it well.

Quran 9:60: Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of Allah; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by Allah, and Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.

I also didn’t find anything in the hadith collections I searched, though it is possible I might have missed something there.

If I remember correctly, most scholars forbid giving Zakat to non-Muslims. Among the four major schools of Sunni jurisprudence, Hanbali, Shafi and Maliki scholars are in that camp. I am not so sure about Hanafis, though some online scholars forbid it.

Looking at the Salafi Islam Q&A

It is not permissible to give zakaah on one’s wealth or crops, or Zakaat al-Fitr, to kaafirs, even if they are poor, or wayfarers, or debtors, and if one who gives zakaah to them, that is not counted as zakaah.

It is permissible to give regular charity – not obligatory charity (i.e., zakaah) to poor kaafirs, and to exhange gifts and with them and treat them well to soften their hearts towards Islam, so long as they have not carried out any hostile actions against the Muslims, which would disallow that.

Another Q&A at the same site gives some more details and a somewhat torturous interpretation of a hadith. Islam Q&A also prohibits giving Zakat to the Shia.

Not to be left behind, Al-Islam.org, which is a Twelver Shia website, prohibits giving Zakat to anyone other than the Shia.

It is necessary that the person to whom Zakat is paid is a Shi’ah Ithna’ashari. If, therefore, one pays Zakat to a person under the impression that he is a Shi’ah, and it transpires later that he is not a Shi’ah, one should pay Zakat again.

Moiz Amjad provides some sanity.

If you closely observe all the heads enlisted in the Qur’an [9:60 above — ZA], you shall see that for none of these heads does the Qur’an make it essential that the person to whom these funds are given should be a Muslim. For example, the Qur’an could have easily specified that the Zaka’h funds should be spent on the poor and the needy Muslims. On the contrary, however, we see that the poor and the needy, irrespective of their religious affiliations, are eligible to receive these funds. The same is the case of more or less all the other heads.

And that is why I don’t discriminate on the basis of religion when giving Zakat.