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September 2008 • Ramadan 1429pdfd

Shaykha Bahiyyah Quṭbiyyah of Meknas: A Sign of Allah in Our Times

_DSC7094Born 1326/1908 in the city of Meknās in Morocco, Shaykha Bahiyyah bint  Hāshim al-Quṭbiyyah al-Filāliyyah was one of the rare scholarly giants who still remained from the previous generation who was a great inspiration for men and women alike.

She memorized Qurʾān at the age of 14 at the hands of al-Qāḍī Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Ismāʿīlī al-ʿAlawī and studied the various Islamic sciences with the renowned scholars of her region. She made Ḥajj at age 18 where she studied with scholars of the Ḥijāz. In 1374/1955 she traveled to Tunisia where she studied for 5 years at the renowned Zaytūnah University, being the only woman there at the time. There she was the student of the great scholar of the 20th century Shaykh al-Islām al-Ṭāhir ibn ʿĀshūr (d. 1393/1973) and received Ijāzah from him. After graduating with distinction, she was requested to stay there but she chose to return to her own country. Continue reading

Reviewing Dr. Nasr’s ISLAM: Religion, History and Civilization

51uPP-duy1L._AC_UL320_SR210,320_ISLAM: Religion, History and Civilization by Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr is an introductory work to the religion, culture, history and intellectual thought of the Islamic world by a noted contemporary Muslim scholar who is no stranger to Muslim communities in the West. Although written for a layperson in an easy language and well-arranged in logical chapters, at the same time, it remains extremely well-written and eloquent, with some passages that particularly stand out for their clarity and beauty of expression. His discussions on the origin of man, the Muslim view of the cosmos, the central role of religion in Muslim life, and the relation between Islām, Īmān and Iḥsān are nothing short of brilliant.

On the role of the Qurʾān in Muslim life, for instance, he writes, “In a sense, the soul of the Muslim is woven of verses and expressions drawn from the Qurʾān. . . Every legitimate action begins with a bismillah and ends with an alhamdulillah, while the attitude toward the future is always conditioned by the awareness of inshaAllah, for all depends on the Divine Will.”

The wisdom of the varied experiences of the Prophet Muḥammad is also beautifully stated: “His extraordinary life included almost every possible human experience, which he was able to sanctify and integrate into the Islamic perspective. He experienced poverty, oppression, and cruelty as well as power and dominion. He tasted great love as well as the tragedy of the death of his beloved wife Khadījah and his only son. He lived in great simplicity, yet ruled over a whole cosmic sector. He lived with a single wife much older than he was until the age of fifty and then contracted many marriages in his later years . . .”

For Islamic communities, it remains mostly, but not entirely, true to orthodox perspectives on Islamic thought. Some will cringe at the constant reference to minority and non-Sunni perspectives in every section, as well as the endorsement of certain non-orthodox religious practices as well as mystical beliefs. These inclusions serve to over-inflate the significance of these minority beliefs and practices in the actual Muslim world. His discussions on Tawḥīd and the Divine Essence are also colored by his philosophical inclinations. Perhaps that is to be expected of any academic scholar let alone someone with the background of Dr Nasr.

Overall, our group found it to be a great book for those generally interested in a deeper and more intellectual look at the world of Islām beyond the basics. For those, however, who are more serious in their interest in Islām as a faith and religion, a work that presents the basic beliefs and practices of Islām in a more coherent and uniform fashion would be better served.

Abu Zayd

Our book club meets weekly on Tuesday evenings at the Islamic Learning Center in Jersey City, NJ. Follow our Facebook group or email us to join.

Statement from the Director of Religious Programming, Masjid al-Wali

abuzayd3I am both honored and humbled to be part of the Masjid al-Wali project. The idea for a dedicated place of worship for Muslims in Edison was sparked by the suggestion of my Shaykh and guide of almost 40 years, Maulana Muḥammad Yusuf Islahi of India. Over the past year, we have witnessed such strides in the progress and growth of this project, which can only be described as blessed and nothing short of miraculous.

At this foundational juncture in our community, I would share with you an image that always remains in my mind, an image that can provide inspiration and direction to any growing community.

In the dusty plains of Mina in ancient Arabia, an astute businessman observed a scene which remained forever etched in his mind. He saw a single man come out of his tent, look towards the sun and begin going through a series of motions. A woman came out of the tent shortly after him, and began doing the same. Then a young boy came out of the tent and followed them in the same.

That man was our Prophet Muḥammad, peace be upon him. That woman was our mother Khadijah. And that boy was our Imam Ali. They were praying to Allah. At that moment, they were the only believers.

This moving portrait was one of the very first public expressions of our Islamic faith. This is in fact where our public story begins. Our tradition began with a man, a woman and a child. Let every Islamic community and institution remember that.

My years of experience and study have inspired me to an absolute, unreserved appreciation for the Majestic words of the Creator that are in the Qurʾān and the never-failing ocean of wisdom that is in the life-legacy of the Prophet, peace be upon him. These two treasures are our salvation, and I seek to share that love and appreciation with others.

I will be broadly committed to the following:

  • Evidence-based religious practice
  • Education and basic literacy in our Islamic faith-tradition
  • Tolerance and respect for differences within broad guidelines
  • Ethnic diversity that demonstrates the true brotherhood of Islam
  • Reviving the concept of Muslim unity that puts the ummah above other interests
  • The inclusion of our sisters as equal partners
  • Prioritizing the youth in all our programs

I know that I am utterly lacking in the qualifications for this task, but at the same time, I am confident that under the direction of my esteemed mentor Dr Hatem El-Haj and the sincere support of each and every member of the community, we can succeed at building a model society that will augment and support existing institutions in the Muslim community, as well as provide leadership and guidance to others.

I invite all of you to embark on this journey of character-building and community-building.

Dr. Abu Zayd

March 2015

Biography of Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Mubārakpūrī

In anticipation of our upcoming meeting with one of the great living scholars of ḥadīth  in India, I am releasing a brief biography. I ask Allah to grant us immense barakah in this upcoming tour.

NJ Tour Mubarakpuri

Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿUbaydullah Mubārakpūrī

Born in the Indian city of Mubārakpūr, Azamghar district in UP state in 1354H, Shaykh ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Mubārakpūrī is a graduate of the esteemed Raḥmāniyyah Seminary who studied under the renowned scholars of India, starting with his father Maulānā ʿUbaydullah b. Muḥammad Raḥmānī Mubārakpūrī author of the popular 9-volume commentary on the ḥadīth work Mishkāt al-Maṣābīḥ entitled Mirʿāt al-Mafātīḥ. His maternal uncle and father-in-law ʿAbd al-Ṣamad b. Muḥammad Akbar was the most distinguished student of the great ḥadīth scholar Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. ʿAbd al-Raḥīm Mubārakpūrī, well-known author of the best commentary on Tirmidhī entitled Tuḥfat al-Aḥwadhī. His paternal grandfather ʿAllāmah Abul-Hudā ʿAbd al-Salām Mubārakpūrī was also a great scholar who authored a biography on Imām Bukhārī. Continue reading

A Tribute to a Fallen Ameer

10509548_10152168573720493_2772613801793832251_n5 Life Lessons I Learned From My Brother Mostafa Khalifa

Since hearing the tragic news, like many others I have been besides myself. The tears just won’t stop, the chest just won’t expand and the heaviness just isn’t going away. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much in my life, and I never realized how much I loved him.

Mostafa Khalifa, an incredible community leader, pioneer and mentor, succumbed to an illness at the prime of his life and passed away this week, in the last few days of the holy month of Ramadan. He touched so many lives, as was made clear by the largest funeral procession ever witnessed by many of us in our lifetimes. There are sure to be many stories, but I would like to share just one: how his life touched mine, and what I learned from him. Some of this I have never shared with anyone, but now I feel compelled.

Continue reading