WE NEED TO PRESS THE RESTART BUTTON

Tower Fire

As always we live in strange days indeed, especially if you are Muslim. No sooner had we seen Muslims play the role of mass murderers in Manchester and London, we now find them playing the roles of innocent victims and heroes at Grenfell Tower in London.

The first victim from this horrific inferno in Kensington was named as Mohammed Alhajali, a 23 year old Syrian refugee. Many of the victims named so far (30 and counting) were Muslim, and many of the families who have lost their homes and their entire belongings were also Muslim.

The Muslim world is currently in the second half of the month of Ramadhaan, a month of patience, where you try your damnedest to control your anger, to keep your emotions in check. I find it gut-wrenchingly difficult to do that whilst watching the carnage on my TV screen. Allah only knows how hard it must be for the families involved. Hearts all over the world have gone out to the victims of this tragedy. The heat of the fire may have been felt a few blocks away, but the after-effects are still being felt throughout the world. Only today we had scenes of local residents storming the local town hall chanting ‘We want justice’. This one is definitely not over.

The fire in the tower block was also a chilling reminder of scenes from the 9/11 tragedy: bellowing black smoke, raging out of control fires, distressed onlookers, exhausted fire fighters, trapped victims calling for help from windows, and people jumping out of windows to avoid the heat. Except this time many victims were Muslim and many of those trying to help were Muslims coming back from their nightly Ramadhaan prayers. Another 9/11 effect has emerged from conspiracy theorists asking why this tower block in London has not fallen despite burning for well over 24 hours, yet the tower blocks in New York fell within just a few hours. Not really sure how to respond to such stupidity.

Tower Looking
Local residents watch as Grenfell Tower is engulfed by fire.

The government, essentially a bunch of very rich white people, has called for a full inquiry into why some very poor people (many non-white) needlessly lost their lives in one of the most affluent areas on planet earth. We wait with baited breath to read the white washed findings. And whilst legal phrases like ‘corporate manslaughter’ are being bandied across the media landscape, here is the rapper Akala giving his reasons and analysis as to what happened and why:

Despite the fact that Muslims are currently seen in a sympathetic light due to this fire (even Piers Morgan had some nice words to say about us on morning TV), racism and Islamophobia continue to dramatically increase in the western world. Allah alone knows just how much of it there is out there right now, and it only seems to be getting worse. I myself am subject to it at the moment but, with the help and patience provided to me by Allah, I am hoping it will be okay in the end.

To add to the confusion surrounding how people think of Muslims, over in America we have Trump accusing the Qataris of funding terrorists and then a few weeks later selling them $12 billion of weapons. I wish that Trump, who John Oliver recently described as “a walking logical paradox”, would make his mind up. One minute he’s trying to ban Muslims from coming to America, the next minute he’s in Saudi dancing with a sword.

Another incident in the States that is causing me much annoyance is the recent shooting where a middle aged white guy named James Hodgkinson opened fire on a group of Republican congressmen as they played baseball on the outskirts of Washington. As per usual, no mention of the word ‘terrorist’ due to the light hue of the shooter. Must. Remain. Calm. It is Ramadhaan after all.

In order to counter this rising Islamophobia and the messy portrayal of Muslims in the media please find below proof, as if any more proof were needed, that what happened in Manchester and London has nothing to do with Islam.

Whilst it is always better to read the full articles, below we have quotes from three articles, one featuring Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, another brilliantly listing why Muslims hate extremists more than non-Muslims, and the third asking why the recent shooting in America is not deemed a terrorist act. I know these quotes are a lot but I hope you read them as I feel they add much needed nuance to all the mis-dis-information swirling around out there…


Britain Needs To Reset Relations With Its Muslims, Insists Warsi

Mark Townsend, 11 Jun 2017, theguardian.com

When things go wrong with an iPhone or a coffee machine, pressing the restart button is usually a good, safe place to start. Right now, Britain’s relationship with her Muslims is within that frozen, overloaded, splurging episode – we need to press the button. – Sayeeda Warsi

There are far more Muslim doctors in Britain than terrorists, yet the community is not defined by the reputation of its daily life-savers, it’s defined by the reputation of ad hoc life-takers. – Sayeeda Warsi

The Muslim community might be seen as the enemy within now, but it’s only the latest in a long list of others that have been seen as such, starting with Catholics, Jews, blacks, the Irish, the miners, socialists. We’re just the latest in a long line. – Sayeeda Warsi


Why British Muslims Hate Extremism More Than You Do

Aaliyah Hussain, 06 Jun 2017, huffingtonpost.co.uk

Let’s get one thing straight – British Muslims hate terrorism and extremism as much British non-Muslims, if not more, and we talk about it a lot more.

Firstly, we are just as likely to be caught up in a terrorist incident as non-Muslims, and so are no less afraid of terrorist attacks and no less horrified by them.

We are more likely to be part of the medical teams that help save lives of victims, as we make up a large proportion of NHS workers.

However, we are the ones who are blamed for being ‘part of the problem’, as this is how the government presents the issue. What they don’t say is that we are also the victims of terrorism, and to a much larger extent than non-Muslims.

It is our children that are being targeted for recruitment, to blow themselves up, to fight and die in wars abroad, to commit crimes that will end up in their death or incarceration.

It is our children who are being treated like criminals at younger and younger ages, by teachers, social workers and the culture of mistrust and paranoia fostered by the PREVENT programme.

British Muslims are much more likely than non-Muslims to be affected by terrorism abroad; we have relatives living in places facing far worse terrorist attacks, on a much more regular basis and bigger scale.

What many people don’t realise it that 95% of people killed by ‘Islamic’ extremists are Muslim. So how is it conceivable that we are somehow ok with it? We are more scared, more sad and more angry.

Not only are we victims of ‘Islamic’ extremism at home and abroad, but we also have to contend with racism and right-wing extremism on our doorstep. It is our faith that has been conflated to such an extent with terrorism that now identifying as a Muslim comes laden with stigma and fear of being discriminated against, or worse, accused of being an apologist for terrorism.

We are the ones who feel the full force of a racist backlash each time a terrorist attack happens. We are the ones who are made to feel guilty, on the defensive, anxious that our children will be picked on in the playground, or that our colleagues are whispering behind our backs. We are the ones who are abused, sworn at, spat at, pushed, punched, kicked, beaten and even killed on British streets. Our homes and places of worship are petrol-bombed and have faeces posted through their doors.

These acts are no more a universal British problem than terrorism is a Muslim problem. So please understand this – we are even more gutted than you are when a terror attack happens. We don’t just have the fear of terrorism, but the fear of collective punishment as well.

We are as British as you so are please feel our pain, and not make us the enemy. We have a common enemy, one that is hard to fight, and it is scary. But we are even more scared than you.


Why Didn’t Donald Trump Call The White Man Who Shot Congressman Steve Scalise In Virginia A Terrorist?

James Moore, 16 Jun 2017, independent.co.uk

Trump repeatedly criticised Obama for failing to use the phrase ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, yet today he was reticent to use the term ‘terrorist’ for politically motivated violence. The truth is that James Hodgkinson had a lot in common with Isis-inspired terrorists. – James Moore

Everyone knows that you only need to scratch someone with a Middle Eastern background to find the terrorist lurking within. That’s why it’s necessary to ban them from travelling to the US, and the judges need to realise that. Unless they hold Saudi passports. The Saudis are our friends, you see. – James Moore

What is notable about the lamentable James Hodgkinson is just how similar elements in his background are to some of the Isis-inspired terrorists who have perpetrated attacks on the West in recent months, and also to some of those on the opposite side of the political divide who have done the same. Like them, he was a misfit. A man with a record of petty criminality, and of domestic violence: a feature strikingly common to those engaging in terrorism, or whatever kind. – James Moore

President Trump repeatedly criticised former President Obama for failing to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”. Yet he seems strangely reluctant to use the term “terrorist” when the perpetrators of politically motivated violence are white, regardless of whether they are on the left or the right. I’m not seeking to downplay the threat posed by Islamist-related political violence. I abhor it, and its apologists. I think we are too tolerant of those that fund the ideology that gives birth to it, and entirely too keen to distribute weapons to some of those who quietly support it around the Middle East. I’d simply point out that it is not the only form of political violence at large in the world today. So why is Donald Trump – and often the media too – so quick to label some people terrorists, and to tar millions of entirely innocent people with the same brush in the process, but strangely reluctant to do it with others? – James Moore

ENOUGH HAS BEEN ENOUGH FOR FAR TOO LONG NOW

London Police

Armed police on Borough High Street in London last night

I was originally intending to do a blog post about how Islam is portrayed in the media, especially after the horrors of the recent Manchester bombing by one Salman Abedi. I was hoping to highlight how this whole blood soaked issue is far more complex than the digital soundbites that are so prevalent all across Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. That was my intention. But then the attack in London happened.

In the late hours of Saturday 03rd June 2017 a white van deliberately mounted the pavement at London Bridge and ploughed into several pedestrians. The van then carried on to nearby Borough Market, where three Muslim men emerged from it and, armed with large knives, went running around the area killing indiscriminately. As I write this seven people, not including the three men, were reported dead. What happened to the men who brought this carnage to the streets of central London was that police officers shot them dead on those very streets. Within just a few hours the act had been officially declared by the Metropolitan Police as a terrorist incident.

As events still unfurl, as facts still disseminate, here are a few thoughts I would like to make…

Theresa May is 100% correct…

In the early hours of Sunday morning British Prime Minister Theresa May, emerging from an emergency COBRA meeting, made the following statement, which is worth watching in full:

We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are. – Theresa May

This evil ideology is all about division…

May quite rightly pointed out that recent terror attacks are motivated by “the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism.”

That last point regarding sectarianism is scarily true, as recently pointed out by journalist Robert Fisk in a recent Independent article. In the article Fisk says the purpose of Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia “is simple: to prepare the Sunni Muslims of the Middle East for war against the Shia Muslims. With help from Israel, of course.” It’s not just Trump and his cohorts who want to see this war (war does indeed equal big profits) but it’s also what ISIS desire.

This evil ideology really is a perversion of Islam…

May goes on to say that this ideology is one “that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy, and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth. Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time.”

She continues to say that the only real way to defeat this twisted ideology is “to turn people’s minds away from this violence and make them understand that our values, pluralistic British values, are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.”

I am happy to have those “difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations…”

She also made the following statement: “While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations.”

I personally have yet to meet one Muslim who espouses such hateful views as ISIS. Having said that, there do seem to be plenty who harbour these views (three of them were shot dead last night). I know in my heart that, if confronted by such an ideology, I would be more than confident in having the required “difficult and often embarrassing” conversation.

If I could have a conversation with the three men who did what they did I would ask them if they achieved what they were hoping for. Did they increase the status of Islam in the right direction? Are they now surrounded by the 72 virgins their evil twisted masters promised would be waiting for them?

We are all enemies of this enemy…

She ends her statement by saying: “It is time to say enough is enough…We must come together. We must pull together. And united we will take on and defeat our enemies.”

Those last two words are very interesting. The three men rampaging through London streets were all of our enemies. When they mounted the pavement they would not have cared if the group being mowed down were all Muslim. They were not asking anyone before stabbing them to clarify what religion they were. They were just killing as they saw fit. Muslims and non-Muslims alike are therefore equally at risk. They consider most Muslims in the West to be non-Muslims because we vote and we are immersed in the culture of the West.

I shall ignore the fact that most of these jihadi-wannabees are more than happy to claim benefits from the wretched British government they wish to overthrow, they are more than happy to send their kids to school, they are more than happy to use the full services of the NHS, and they are more than happy to push the limits of free speech offered to them by British law.

As I’ve said before, hate comes in different shapes and sizes…

Before anyone cries “false equivalency” I am in no way trying to justify or equate the actions of last night by deferring attention to other groups. However, it should be said that hate is everywhere and it does indeed come in all different shapes and sizes (as I mentioned in my last blog post). Just to give one example, check out these disturbing pictures from a recent pro-Nazi rally in America, where there seems to be a real right wing storm brewing all thanks to Trump.

This really happened…

If you go on YouTube and type in ‘false flag’ and filter it to ‘Today’, you will see there are already plenty of opinions that say this is indeed a false flag operation, i.e. the government did this for some nefarious reason. My wife was telling me there are many Muslims on her Facebook feed who agree to this notion by suggesting Theresa May planned this event just before the election in order to get more votes.

Let me categorically say that this happened and no amount of self-denial will distract from the fact that three Muslim men murdered several innocent people, all in the name of Islam. We Muslims need to move away from conspiracy theories and deal with the truth. Maybe our weakness for conspiracy theories is a reason why some of us so easily fall prey to these twisted ideologies.

This really isn’t about Islam…

For those wanting to blame Islam itself, I would argue that Islam is a victim in all of this (how can a victim also be the perpetrator?). A good example of how such a conversation goes down took place on Friday evening, a day before these attacks, when American talk show host and atheist Bill Maher, on his talk show Real Time, again strongly inferred that the terrorist threat we all face in the west comes from Islam itself, which apparently has some form of death spiral built into its ideology. Thank Allah that author and journalist Rebecca Traister was there to counter this narrative. Traister responded thusly, implying that the fundamentalist threat applies to more than just Muslims and Islam:

The threat is human beings who have an impulse toward oppression, violence, and bias, and who look to all kinds of fundamentalist religions to offer them a framework to justify it. – Rebecca Traister

I would add to this the views of journalist Thaslima Begum who in a recent article made the following points about ISIS and the people they kill:

How many Muslims do Isis, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and others need to kill for us to realise that perhaps Islam isn’t the problem?…There will be no one minute silence to pay tribute to the victims of Isis’s latest murder rampage. No “I heart Baghdad” captions or #JesuisKabul hashtags. But the atrocities that struck both of these cities are just as devastating as the attack that recently took place in Manchester…This week’s latest terror attacks remind us that most of Isis’s victims in fact belong to the religion it claims to represent. It is important to note that the vast majority of Muslims not only condemn Isis but bear the brunt of its brutality. There is a sad irony in how the group which has the largest number of victims of terrorism are often blamed for it. – Thaslima Begum, independent.co.uk, 01 Jun 2017

Us Brits have seen this all before…

For those of old enough, cast your minds back just a few decades. Back then Britain was also under terrorist threats, but these threats emanated from Ireland under the guise of the IRA. Back then the British populace was smart enough to realise that not all Irish people were terrorists, not all Catholics were twisted, and Catholicism itself was not the root cause of the issues.

Many British families back then new Irish people, or lived next door to Irish people, or were part Irish, or had Irish people in their families. Is this modern wave of terrorism not similar? Replace Irish with Muslim and Catholicism with Islam.

Most Brits at least work with or know a Muslim. And what about Muslim icons like Mo Farah, Amir Khan, and London mayor Sadiq Khan? Surely there is enough of Islam and Muslims in modern British society to remind us that ‘we’ (the majority) are not the problem, instead it is ‘them’ (the twisted minority) who are.

Let Riz Ahmed rap some sense into this…

I was originally going to blog about this Riz Ahmed rap, and I think I still will as it seems more poignant than ever. Ahmed is no stranger to openly speaking about politics. Just last month Time magazine put Ahmed on its cover, listing him as one of the one hundred most influential people currently alive. High praise indeed.

Riz Ahmed Time

Anyways, I will end this lengthy blog post with the always brilliant Riz Ahmed listing the subtle complexities involved in this dark and murderous issue…

In these sour times
Please allow me to vouch for mine
Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme
Hey yo I’m losing my religion to tomorrow’s headlines
Guantanamo – sorry bro?
Nah, nothing, it’s fine

And in this post 7/7
Why they calling it that?
They’re trying to link it to New York
Like we’re all under attack from the same big bad guy
But it’s taking the mick
Because the truth is Al Qaeda hardly even exists
There ain’t no super villain planning these attacks from some base
The truth is so much scarier and harder to face
See, there’s thousands of angry young men that are lost
Sidelined in the economy, a marginal cost
They think there’s no point in putting ballots up in the box
They got no place in this system, and no faith in its cogs
They’re easy targets, that be getting brainwashed by these knobs
Who say that spilling innocent blood is pleasing a God
Well, it sounds good when you don’t see no justice or jobs
The gas bills are piling up, but all the oil’s getting robbed
So David’s taking out Goliath, and his wife and his dog
Segregated, castrated, now we see who’s on top!
So see, it ain’t religious faith that’s causing these crimes
It’s losing faith in democratic free market designs
It’s no coincidence that bombers came from ghettos up north
And the way that Bush and Blair talked gave a lost boy a cause
Then double standards get ’em angered, both at home and abroad
There’s a monopoly on pens that’s why they forge their own swords
They’re misguided, turned violent, strapped themselves up with bombs
But they’re still cowards, ’cause they ain’t here when the backlash is on

So in these sour times
Please allow me to vouch for mine
Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme
Hey yo I’m losing my religion to tomorrow’s headlines
Abu Ghraib – sorry mate?
Nah, nothing, it’s fine

So all the mans that wanna say that my religion has to change
That we’re stuck in a bygone age
It’s time to set the vinyl straight
Don’t you think it’s kind of strange that all this terror outrage
These last gasp castaways
These bastards that will blast away
Turned up in the last decade?
When Islam has been the way for millions
From back in the day?
Instead of thinking that we’re crazed
Investigate just what it says
Fast, help the poor, and pray
Go Mecca, be steadfast in faith
That’s the basics, that’s the base
So how did we get here today?
Well, interpretations always change
Today, they’re read with rage
Been jihad-ened up
Desperation’s kinda fucked
Makes you use a book of peace as weapons in Iraq
So listen, terrorism isn’t caused by religion or an old school vision of Islam
It’s against the Qur’an, it’s a new innovation caused by mash-up situations
That’s what makes them turn to arms
The problem is modern and it’s all local factors
Dictatorships, injustices and wars cause fatwa’s

So in these sour times
Please allow me to vouch for mine
Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme
Hey yo I’m losing my religion to tomorrow’s headlines
But it’s fine

THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF HATE…

Sun Manchester

Hate comes in many different shapes, sizes, colours, and beliefs. We have a Libyan Muslim killing 22 at a pop concert in Manchester. We have ISIS killers shooting 28 Coptic Christians in Egypt. We have another ISIS rampage in the Philippines killing at least 19. We have the US admitting that an air strike on Mosul in March 2017 killed well over 100 civilians. Just a few days ago another US-led air strike, this time in Syria, killed at least 35. Whilst this list is by no means endless, we now also have 2 people stabbed to death in Oregon, Portland, in America.

Whilst on a commuter train, these non-Muslim men came to the defence of 2 Muslim women, one wearing a hijab, who were being verbally abused by a white supremacist, who is now being referred to by authorities as a ‘domestic terrorist’ with ‘extremist ideologies’.

It can be seen from the above videos that hate does indeed take many forms. Arguably the most news worthy of these recent incidents was the suicide bombing in Manchester. When 22 year old Salman Abedi decided to blow himself up at an Ariana Grande concert, an unfortunately repetitive news cycle was kicked into motion, a cycle we have gone through after bombings in London and attacks in Paris.

Sadiq Manchester

During a memorial for the victims of the deadly Manchester attack, Muslim man Sadiq Patel comforts Jewish woman Renee Rachel Black, who broke down next to a floral tribute in Albert Square on May 24, 2017.

It goes a little like this: horrific incident occurs where a Muslim kills many, queue outrage at the Muslim community at large, some cry out for all Muslims to condemn the incident, some Muslims do whilst others resist and say they should not as they did not do this, etc.

Whilst this issue of condemning is something I have written about previously, in order to shed some more hopefully objective light on this media cycle, please find below links to 2 articles, one from a Muslim and one from a Christian, that detail why perhaps we (the larger Muslim population) should not feel an urge to condemn something that we find just as horrific as non-Muslims. Whilst I have selected certain quotes from these article, both are worth reading in full.


Don’t Ask Muslims To Condemn Terror: Our Outrage At Atrocities Ought To Be A Given

Daila Mogahed, nydailynews.com, 24 May 2017

I cannot begin to fathom the motivation behind this monstrous violence, but because of my faith and the color of my skin, many suspect me of condoning it…

Anyone with an internet connection and a search engine will find that Muslims have and continue to condemn terrorism. Muslims have issued thousands of public statements, held conferences, seminars, lectures, workshops, created organizations, penned op-eds, written books, taken out full-page ads, held rallies, created television series and even developed video games, all to condemn terrorism.

There isn’t a mode of communication through which Muslims have not tried to communicate to the world their disgust with terrorism in their name.

But is this a reasonable expectation?

…As we mourn the loss of Saffie and the others murdered, let us not allow our pain to be exploited in the service of prejudice.


Why We Must Never Hate Islam, Or Muslims, Because Of The Violence Of Its Fake Followers

Shaun King, nydailynews.com, 23 May 2017

We must always resist the urge to throw an entire race of people under the bus…It’s an easy temptation to oversimplify our emotions into dangerous generalizations, but we must resist such urges…

We should all be upset at what happened in Manchester, but what happened there is no excuse to slide into Islamophobia. Whoever did this is no more a Muslim than those who lynched African Americans during Jim Crow were Christians. Wearing the garb of a faith no more makes you a follower of that faith than me wearing a Steph Curry jersey makes me a Golden State Warrior.

From the beginning of time, people have perverted religions to justify the worst possible behaviors imaginable. This man who decided to blow himself up at the exit doors of the concert venue just as families exited was not a Muslim.

Suicide itself is forbidden in Islam. Well over a billion Muslims believe this. Murder, doubly so of innocent women and children, is forbidden in Islam. This is commonly understood and peacefully observed by everyday Muslims all over the world. These terrible, ignorant violent betrayers of Islam who blow themselves up in the names of causing such carnage are not Muslims. Their acts are fundamentally un-Islamic. They not only violate the letter of Qur’an, but violate the spirit of it as well.

This bastardization of Islam is not unique. One of the early ships in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was actually known as the “Good Ship Jesus.” The very people who were capturing, chaining, then selling human beings for a life of slavery saw absolutely no conflict of interest between such actions with their Christianity. Early leaders of the KKK, including those who lynched black bodies, were regularly deacons and church leaders. I’ve literally been called n—-r on Twitter by actual people who describe their Christian faith in their social media bio.

Of all the friends I have, none are more consistently warm, peaceful, supportive, and kind than my Muslim friends. They are actual Muslims, though. In a day and age of fake news and fake politicians, perhaps nothing is more dangerous than fake Muslims and Christians — who cloak themselves in the accouterments of religion but do so for the asinine and insincere reasons.

It’s sad that this must be said, but you must find a way to be angry at what happened in Manchester without hating Islam and its more than 1.5 billion adherents. Blaming all of Islam for what this idiot, or for what the few hundred other idiots like him have done, is not just simple, it’s both dumb and dangerous. You are better than that.

RAMADHAAN 2017 – SOME USEFUL RESOURCES

Kaba pic

We are nearly at the end of the month of Shabaan (moonsighting.com), which means Ramadhaan is just around the corner. Preparations for Ramadhaan should therefore ideally begin now. With this intention, I am hoping the list of resources below can help us all to make the most of this blessed month, insha-Allah…


Information about the month of Shabaan…

Please see the following PDF file about the month of Shabaan, from the excellent book The Best Of Times by Muhammad Khan. Please read this in order to get the best out of this blessed month.


Islamic lectures…

An excellent lecture about Ramadhaan is one called Preparing For Ramadan by Shaykh Zahir Mahmood (scroll down the page please in order to get to this particular lecture).

Another excellent lecture is from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf called Ramadan Advice.


Useful websites…

A useful website with loads of really good practical hints and tips is http://productivemuslim.com.

I came across a really good website where if you type in a post code it will show you the qibla direction from that place: http://www.qib.la/.


Useful files…

Four files that will insha–Allah provide some good information:

Complete Guide To Ramadhan

Laylatul-Qadr – guide

Ramadhaan checklist

Ramadhaan preparation pack


OVERALL…

Know that you will only get out of Ramadhaan what you are willing to put in. Therefore please make time to read the Shabaan article, to read the pdf files and the Word doc, and to listen to the lectures before Ramadhaan begins.

To hopefully inspire further, here are 4 quotes related to Ramadhaan and fasting:

We have become like gerbils in the dunya, chasing after things…The job of the dunya is to make you unstable…the more you become immersed in this dunya, the more you become invested in this dunya, then the more unstable you become…Some scholars have said that jahiliya is to see something and to perceive it as something else, that this is ignorance…in Islam true knowledge is to perceive something as it really is, as best you can…people who immerse themselves in this dunya have immersed themselves in a lie, and they are getting played like a piano on Sunday school, and that is why they are not stable…this dunya calls you to become people who are completely insecure with themselves…Fasting and Ramadhaan call us to be stable. – adapted from a speech by Imam Suhaib Webb

Ramadan is not a temporary increase of religious practice. It is a glimpse of what you are capable of doing every day. – Shaykh Abdul Jabbar

The less fasts certain people keep during Ramadhaan, the more eager they seem to be to celebrate Eid. – Anon

This month of Ramadan is about asking “Where is your heart?” Is your heart with God? Is your heart with your own ego? Is your heart with your lust? Is your heart with your passion? Is your heart with your greed? Is your heart with your pride? Is your heart with your envy? Is it with your resentment? Is it with your desire for revenge? “Where is your heart?” That is the question this month is asking us: “Where is your heart?” And this time that we have been given, a few days of reflection, this is the time when you can actually go into yourself, and dig into yourself and ask that question: “Where is your heart?” Because as Sayyidina Ali said “A man lies hidden under his tongue”, because the tongue expresses what is in the heart…“Whoever loves a thing does much remembrance of it”. If you love Allah, God is on your tongue. If you love the world, the world is on your tongue. That is the question: “Where is your heart?” This is the time to return to God, to give the heart back to the One who possesses the heart… – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from a speech entitled Ramadan Advice

3 COMEDIANS AND A GOVERNOR WALK INTO A BLOG POST…

Teenage Cancer Trust concerts 2015 - London

The very few regular readers of this blog may note that I am a huge fan of the stand-up Frankie Boyle. Boyle is arguably one of the finest satirists and comedians in Britain, so much so that the Independent newspaper recently referred to him as “Britain’s biggest cynic”, going on to add:

Boyle’s tireless cynicism and blistering takedowns have left few unscathed. The Glaswegian writer is well known for his assiduously outrageous, dark and acerbic sense of humour which tightrope walks the fine line between funny and offensive. – Maya Oppenheim, Apr 2017, Independent

In an interview with Max Keiser, on the news channel RT, Boyle commented on how the general population of Britain needs to be at a certain level of stupidity in order for the minority rich to continue getting richer at the expense of the majority poor:

You need a really stupid population. The banks cannot really rip people off like they have done and continue to do if those people have any information. So you don’t just need a stupid population, you need a really stupid population. You need 50 million people a week watching a dancing dog, people who just sit there eating junk food watching TV. That is what you need if you want to get away with this. – Frankie Boyle, adapted from an interview with Max Keiser

When Boyle talks of people “watching a dancing dog” he is referring to the TV program Britain’s Got Talent, a show I generally do not like, so much so that I end up berating anyone else who watches it. However, having said all that, my family and I were having lunch one weekend and this show happened to be on (clearly I was not in charge of the TV remote at the time). The usual display of the untalented were being paraded one after the untalented other, until out walked on stage a comedian by the name of Daliso Chaponda. Chaponda, originally from Malawi, did about 5 minutes and ended up getting a well-deserved standing ovation all round. If you watch the clip further below you will see why.

Another comedian I recently came across that really impressed was the Indian comic Vir Das who appeared recently on Conan O’Briens self-titled TV show. As with Chaponda, I am sure you will agree that Das is a comedian that looks likely to have a bright future in the comedy world.

The third comedian featured below is a Christian from the American south. Jeremy McLellan is a stand up whose brand of liberal-advocacy humour finds him playing both Muslim festivals as well as Libertarian conferences. A recent Vice article said about McLellan that:

Muslims love him. Trump supporters want to kill him. That’s South Carolina comic Jeremy McLellan’s schtick. With more than 100,000 followers on Facebook, McLellan has become a staple at Muslim festivals and events around North America. – Samar Warsi, vice.com

Watch the short video below and you will see why a typical Trump support would want him killed.

The final video I would like to draw attention to features an interview between Trevor Noah and the Governor of Ohio John Kasich. Kasich, one of the few good ones in American politics, makes some interesting points about faith, community, and how we need to get out of our silo thinking. Again, an interesting interview that is well worth listening to.

As usual, I have transcribed my favourite quotes from each clip. Enjoy!


Daliso Chaponda on Britain’s Got Talent…

I am from Africa. I moved here ten years ago. And immediately I moved here, I heard a lot of British people talking about the financial crisis, the recession. I’m from Africa. What are you maniacs talking about?! You call that a crisis? If that’s a crisis, where’s UNICEF? Where is Bono? I have not seen one Save The UK Concert. You can tell me it’s a financial crisis when there are planes flying over Birmingham tossing fish and chips out of the window. It will be a financial crisis when there are ads on television saying, ‘This chav has to walk five miles a day to get a bottle of WKD Blue’ And 100%, you have got a financial crisis when India starts opening call centers here. Can you imagine some poor guy in Mumbai calls his bank and ends up talking to a Brummie? – Daliso Chaponda


Vir Das on Conan…

Everybody is complaining too much. You have to work this out, guys. Everybody is like “Man, we didn’t choose this guy. Now we gotta live with him? We didn’t vote for this guy. Now we gotta live with him?” To you Americans that’s your president. To most Indians that’s a marriage. That’s what Donald Trump is, he’s your arranged marriage. Because in the most literal sense, your parents picked this guy out for you. – Vir Das

There is religious phobia because I believe the world is changing and religion can’t keep up. I feel like we need to update every major religion in the world. Just take every religion and give it to the company Apple. Every 6 months Apple can update and relaunch the religion to the world. How nice would that be? That’s what we need. We need Islam 6S. We need Jesus Pro. You would slow terrorism down. Can you imagine how much you would slow terrorism down if every time some nutjob wanted to commit a jihad, you first had to sign a new online agreement with Apple. So first you have to get a jihad ID. Then you have to synch all your bombs and your devices to the same jihad ID. Except that one bomb didn’t work with the old version of iTunes and now you have to download the new version of iTunes. And you are all set to go up to heaven and get 72 virgins but your iCloud only holds 6 virgins, so now you have to upgrade. – Vir Das

You don’t appreciate your American luxury. I went to your supermarket the other day. You have an aisle for cereal. An aisle for cereal. You’re complaining about a president, you have an aisle for cereal. It is 60 feet by 10 feet. That’s 600 square feet. In Bombay that’s a school. – Vir Das


Jeremy McLellan…

I think that more the purpose of comedy is to make people feel like they’re not going crazy, to make people feel like they’re not as alienated, even though they’re being oppressed, even though they’re being mistreated or misunderstood, that there is someone who understands them, that is trying to understand them, that is trying to address their concerns and laugh at the world and at the ridiculousness of their situation. And I think that no matter what situation you find yourself in comedy can help you do that. It can make you feel less lonely, it can make you feel like somebody’s trying to understand you. – Jeremy McLellan

I love Uber because Uber is not just a corporation. Uber is also a sign of peace, it’s also a sign of religious coexistence, because Uber is an app that was invented by a Jew so that when a Christian gets too drunk he can call a Muslim to come pick him up and take him home. It all works out very very perfectly. – Jeremy McLellan

I’ll get messages from people saying that I should not do a show because “You can’t trust Muslims.” And I’m like “Okay, why can’t I trust Muslims?” And they’re like “Because they’re allowed to lie about whether they’re Muslim.” That’s true, people say that, like ‘taqiyya’ or whatever. They’re like “They’re allowed to lie about whether they’re Muslim.” And I’m like “Really?” And they’re like “Yeah!” And I’m like “Are you Muslim?” And they’re like “No.” And I’m like “How do I know? Maybe you’re…” – Jeremy McLellan

(For a very interesting article on taqiyya please see Playing The Taqiyya Card – Evading Intelligent Debate By Calling All Muslims Liars)


Trevor Noah

John Kasich on the Daily Show…

And this is part of the problem. It’s almost like rooting for a sports team. You wear your uniform and you’re always for your team regardless…But this is part of the problem we have in the country. Everybody’s sort of dividing themselves. If you’re a liberal, you read liberal editorials, you watch liberal television, you go to the Huffington Post. If you’re a conservative, you do conservative television, you do Rush Limbaugh and conservative editorials. So people are all locked in these silos and we only consume what we want. Frankly, we’re all affected by it. Think about Facebook. Put something up there I don’t like, I unfriend you. I mean, we’re to the point where people are not listening to each other and being able to hear what you have to say and show you a little respect…It’s throughout our culture now. We have become so self-absorbed and we’re not willing to put our hearts with others. And we have to get this back. – John Kasich

We live in a society today where you want a bumper sticker solution or you take a pill and everything’s gonna be great, immediate. This problem in this country of growing divisions has been going on for decades. Decades. And we’re not gonna pull out of this overnight. – John Kasich

Getting together with common humanity can allow us to begin to talk to one another again…We need to drive the change up to solve problems in this country and recapture our culture…People need to live a life a little bigger than themselves, that we all have to help one another. – John Kasich

I do want to talk, just for a second, about faith. And I’ll tell you why I say that. I think sometimes people in religion have given religion a bad reputation. Let me tell you what religion is for me. Religion is: honor God because that gives me humility; and secondly, love my neighbor, connect me with my community, put me in somebody else’s shoes, learn to help somebody get up, and live a life bigger than myself. That to me is what religion is about. And if you’re a humanist and you want to change the world, I’m all for you. But let’s not throw out the fact that values matter and that we have a responsibility for what we have been given. And that gets back to the issue of no one’s better than anybody else. Because I believe in the eyes of the Big Guy, we’re all equal. And we all have talents and we need to use it to change and heal this world. – John Kasich

I ain’t that great a guy. I just do the best I can. Wake up the next day and do a little bit better. – John Kasich

HASAN MINHAJ – “LET THE MAN PUTT PUTT! KEEP HIM DISTRACTED!”

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Hasan Minhaj is arguably the most famous Muslim stand-up comedian on the planet. His stand-up prowess has seen preform all over the world, as can be seen in the brilliant documentary Stand Up Planet. He has also been a senior correspondent on the American satirical program The Daily Show for a few years now, with many of these videos available on YouTube.

As a stand-up Minhaj is very, very clever, always on the edge of the here-and-now of politics and culture, and is never afraid to speak his mind by telling it like he wants to. Take for example the following quote that manages to relate 9/11 with the election victory of Trump:

For the past 15 years, I’ve been blamed for 9/11. White Americans are now responsible for 11/9. – Hasan Minhaj

Another example of Minhaj being brutally honest came on the 15th of June in 2016, when Minhaj was the comedy speaker at the annual Radio And Television Correspondents’ Association dinner. His speech was around 23 minutes long, and the last 5 minutes have a ferocious honesty about them that clearly left the whole room silent and speechless.

As good as the RTCA is, it is still however the lesser cousin of the bigger, bolder, and brasher White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, an annual event that is traditionally attended by the then sitting president. The last time a president missed the WHCA dinner was way back in 1981, when Ronald Reagan was recovering from an assassination attempt (a good enough reason I guess). Since 1981, however, every president has attended this annual event. They’ve sat there and politely smiled as some comedian or other makes fun of them for around 25 minutes.

As I’ve said, no president since 1981 has missed this event. Until now! Trump openly refused to attend this event weeks in advance, instead holding a rally of his own on the same night amongst his faithful in, erm, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Arguably the main reason for Trump deciding not to attend, other than his incredibly thin orange skin, was the announcement that the comedy speaker on the night would be none other than the Muslim son of an immigrant Hasan Minhaj.

The entire 25 minute speech, well worth watching in full, is shown below, along with a transcript of my favourite lines. Overall, Minhaj has received universal praise for the speech (he did receive an almost rock star like standing ovation at the end of it), but there are some who don’t seem to care for it:

Following the speech from Minhaj below is a clip from the Daily Show where host Trevor Noah and Minhaj talk of the ‘triumphant’ effect (or perhaps lack thereof) of Minhaj’s attempt at fully taking down the Donald.

Finally, another event that took place the same night was comedian Samantha Bee’s Not The White House Correspondent’s Dinner which, just like the speech given by Minhaj, is well worth watching. Anways, as always, enjoy!


Hasan Minhaj speaking at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, 29 Apr 2017, at the Washington Hilton…

This administration loves deleting history faster than Anthony Weiner when he hears footsteps. – Hasan Minhaj

The leader of our country is not here. And that’s because he lives in Moscow, and it’s a very long flight. It would be hard for Vlad to make it. Vlad can’t just make it on a Saturday. It’s a Saturday! – Hasan Minhaj

I get why Donald Trump didn’t want to be roasted tonight. By the looks of him, he’s been roasting nonstop for the past 70 years. Historically, the president usually performs at the Correspondents’ Dinner. But I think I speak for all of us when I say he’s done far too much bombing this month. Now, a lot of people in the media say that Donald Trump goes golfing too much. You guys are always like, “He goes golfing too much!” Which raises a very important question: why do you care? Do you want to know what he’s not doing when he’s golfing? Being president! Let the man putt putt! Keep him distracted! Teach him how to play badminton. Tell him he has a great body for bobsledding. Play him Tic-Tac-Toe. The longer you keep him distracted, the longer we’re not at war with North Korea. – Hasan Minhaj

Frederick Douglass isn’t here, and that’s because he’s dead. Someone please tell the president. – Hasan Minhaj

Jeff Sessions couldn’t be here tonight. He was busy doing a pre-Civil War re-enactment. On his R.S.V.P. he just wrote, “no.” Just no! Which happens to be his second favorite n-word. – Hasan Minhaj

It is 2017, and we are living in the golden age of lying. Now’s the time to be a liar, and Donald Trump is liar in chief. – Hasan Minhaj

We’re living in this strange time where trust is more important than truth. And supporters of President Trump trust him. – Hasan Minhaj

It was all fun and games with Obama, right? You were covering an adult who could speak English. And now you’re covering President Trump, so you have to take your game to a whole new level. It’s like if a bunch of stripper cops had to solve a real-life murder. – Hasan Minhaj

Fox News is here. I’m amazed you guys even showed up. How are you here in public? It’s hard to trust you guys when you backed a man like Bill O’Reilly for years. But it finally happened: Bill O’Reilly has been fired. But then you gave him a $25 million severance package, making it the only package he won’t force a woman to touch. – Hasan Minhaj

MSNBC…you’re turning into conspiracy theorists every night. You’re like, “the Russians hacked our elections! The Russians hacked our elections!” Meanwhile, everybody in Latin America and the Middle East is like, “Ohhh! A foreign government tampered with your elections? What is that like? Do tell, MSNBC!” – Hasan Minhaj

I don’t have a solution on how to win back trust. I don’t. But in the age of Trump, I know that you guys [journalists] have to be more perfect now more than ever, because you are how the president gets his news. Not from advisors, not from experts, not from intelligence agencies–you guys. So that’s why you gotta be on your A game. You gotta be twice as good. You can’t make any mistakes. Because when one of you messes up, he blames your entire group. And now you know what it feels like to be a minority. And I can see some of you guys complaining–like, what? I gotta work twice as hard for half the credit? Remember: you’re a minority…And then, when you actually manage to do great work, you get hit with the most condescending line in the English language: “Hey, you’re actually one of the good ones.” Then you have to smile and say “thank you.” Kind of sucks, doesn’t it? – Hasan Minhaj


Hasan Minhaj and Trevor Noah on the Daily Show, discussing the WHCA dinner…

MUHAMMAD: THE BELOVED OF GOD AND GOODLY EXAMPLE

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The brilliant comedian Trevor Noah, presenter of the American satire program The Daily Show, recently said:

There are some people who make religion look bad. That is what Muslims are struggling from all over the world. – Trevor Noah

One does not have to look too far to come across stories of Muslims behaving badly, in ways that would make the Prophet Muhammad feel ashamed. Over the past few years I have openly blogged about how Muslims need to change their behaviour, of how they need to stop making their religion look so very bad. I have also tried to blog positively about Islam, be it through links to scholarly lectures or stand-up comedy clips, or quoting from various books and articles.

Two such positive blog posts have involved quotes from biographies of the Prophet Muhammad. The first (indeed my very first blog post) quoted from the book The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography by Barnaby Rogerson. More recently I quoted from Tariq Ramadan’s excellent book The Messenger: The Meanings Of The Life Of Muhammad.

I guess you could say this is the third blog post in this unofficial series, as it features a lengthy extract from the book Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction by the esteemed scholar and academic Professor Jonathan Brown. Brown’s book, whilst concise, covers many aspects of the life of the Prophet, which is why it is well worth reading. It begins with the following:

As the founder of Islam, Muhammad is one of the most influential figures in history…for the past fourteen centuries, Muhammad has been the intimate companion of the believers. In the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, he lies buried in the earth behind an ornately wrought grill. Muslim pilgrims grasp furtively at the metal bars, hoping to inch closer to their Prophet. Their words ring out: ‘May God’s peace and blessings be upon you, O Messenger of God!’, an Egyptian man cries out to the grave. An elderly Indian man in a wheelchair struggles vainly with the guards and family members; he calls out to God to take his life here and let him be buried in Medina, ‘the City of the Messenger of God’. One man mutters emotively, ‘I am here, O Messenger of God. Are you proud of me? I am one of your followers…’.
…His image is inscribed in the hearts of the believers by the spirit of faith and bonds of community. He is a light kindled in a Muslim’s heart from a young age through family and education, regardless of the tremendous diversity of Muslim cultures and lifestyles. Like all light, the Prophet’s indispensability is only realized when it is gone, and Muslims’ need for it only heard when someone reaches to take it away. – Jonathan Brown, from the Preface of his book Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction

The book goes on to describe various details of the life and times of the Prophet, as well as a look at what he means in the modern world. The main quote presented below is generally very positive, similar in many ways to the ‘hero’ quote from Barnaby Rogerson. There is however one crucial difference: Brown’s quote ends with reference to incidents where the Prophet ordered certain satirists to be assassinated.

Without going into historical details and analysing the fog of 7th century tribal warfare, what I would say is that each religion has to deal with its own harsh realities at any given time. In our world today Hinduism has to deal with the negative effects of the caste system, Christianity has to deal with child abuse allegations amongst clergy, Judaism has to deal with oppression of Palestinians, and Islam has to deal with groups like ISIS (and many other issues too numerous to mention).

Islam in its infancy had to deal with the issues it had to deal with, and propaganda at wartime was one such issue. The Prophet Muhammad dealt with this issue in the way he thought best. Let it always be stated that the truth can indeed leave a bitter aftertaste. Despite this the quote below overall is a good, honest overview of the character of the Prophet Muhammad. In the light of that endeavour, I hope you enjoy!


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Muhammad: The Beloved of God and Goodly Example

One Muslim woman in Medina lost her father, husband, and brother in the Battle of Uhud. Yet when the army returned from the field, she broke into tears of joyous relief to see the Prophet alive and well. She had boundless love for the man whom God had singled out with His words: ‘Indeed God and His angels send mercy down upon the Prophet. O you who believe, send your blessings and bountiful peace upon him!’ (Quran 33:56).

To his followers, Muhammad was ‘The Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets’ (Quran 33:40). He was the font of blessings and sole point of contact with the divine. God commanded the Muslims to obey His Messenger Muhammad, for he was ‘possessed of an awesome character’ and ‘a goodly exemplar’ for the Muslims (Quran 68:4, 33:21). Muhammad’s teachings, words, and behaviour were a living implementation and illustration of the Quran’s teachings. As his wife Aisha said, ‘His character was the Quran.’ Muhammad’s precedent and the totality of his lifestyle became known as his Sunnah, which Muslims believed was inspired by God – a veritable second revelation. As Muhammad once said, ‘I was given the Quran and its like along with it.’

Who was this leader whom the Muslims loved so dearly that they prized him above their own parents and children? Who was this man whom they venerated so clearly that they imitated his every action, how he ate, slept, and dressed (later people would remark to the Muslims that ‘your prophet has taught you everything, even how to defecate’)?

Muhammad was of medium height and build, with olive skin and shoulder-length, jet-black hair, which he often wore in two braids. He had a beard long enough that it could be seen upon his cheeks from behind him, and he had a slight gap between his top front teeth. He owned only two pairs of clothing, long blouses pulled on over the head, and a cloak to protect him from the cold. Although he was often presented with ornate robes as gifts, he gave them away to his followers. Like everyone in the desert, the Prophet covered his head with a turban, either black or green. He wore a simple ring with the inscription ‘Muhammad the Messenger of God’. Like his Arab people, he wore kohl around his eyes.

It was Muhammad who taught the Muslims how to perform their five daily prayers, when to begin and end their fasts, and how to undertake the various rites of pilgrimage to Mecca. In such rituals and practices, Muhammad preferred to adhere to the ways of the People of the Book unless God ordered some change. His Companions followed the Sunnah obsessively. Later, when Umar bin al-Khattab was leading the Muslims in their circumambulation of the Kaba, he stopped to kiss the black stone as Muhammad had taught him. ‘I know you are but a rock that cannot hurt or harm me’, he scoffed at the stone, ‘and I would not kiss you if I had not seen this done by the Messenger of God.’

In Muslim tradition, the devotion that Muslims should feel towards Muhammad is seen as a reflection of the magnanimity of his character. Even Abu Sufyan could only admit that ‘I have never seen someone who was as loved as Muhammad was by his Companions.’ To be near him, to hear him speak, was to draw near to the bridge between the divine and the earthly realm. Muhammad’s person was so imbued with baraka, or blessing, that to touch him felt like brief contact with God’s grace. Companions would fight over the water left over from Muhammad’s ablutions, collect his hairs and fingernail clippings. ‘Abdallah bin al-Zubayr, the first Muslim born in Medina, once even tasted some of the Prophet’s blood after he had been bled when sick.

Muhammad was infinitely wise, always aware of the virtuous course of action as a father, a friend, a judge, and a leader of men. ‘I have been sent’, he said, ‘to complete the virtues of character.’ He said that God had granted him ‘encompassing words (jawami’ al-kalam)’, or the ability to speak profound truths succinctly. ‘The best of affairs are those of moderation’, he said one day; ‘Happy is the man who heeds the lessons learned by others’, he said on another.

Arabs respected courage and wise council, and Muhammad exemplified both. He fought in nine battles during his career, always sharing the risks taken by his men. But he also knew the central importance of alliances, even with unbelievers.

His mercy and patience were inexhaustible. When a coarse Bedouin came to Medina from the desert and began relieving himself in the mosque courtyard, Muhammad’s Companions wanted to kill him for his disrespect. Muhammad told them to let the man finish. He then told the Bedouin, ‘The mosque is for praying.’ When he was injured at Uhud, the Muslims urged Muhammad to curse the Meccans. He replied, ‘Truly I was not sent to curse, but rather to call people to religion and as a mercy. O God! They are my people, but they know not.’

Muhammad was incredibly charitable in his judgement of other Muslims’ sincerity. His close Companion Usama bin Zayd killed a man in battle despite the fact that right before he swung his sword the man had cried out ‘There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is His messenger’– presumably becoming Muslim to save his skin. But the Prophet rebuked Usama: ‘Did you split open his heart [to know what he truly believed]?’, Muhammad asked.

Muhammad was exceptionally frugal and pious. He never ate his fill of bread or meat without sharing it with others. ‘Food for one will suffice for two’, he said, ‘and food for two will suffice for three’. When Aisha was asked how he acted at home, she said, ‘He was a man like any other, he would delouse his clothing, milk his own sheep and tend to his own needs.’

Muhammad always mentioned God in his every action. When he ate, he would pray, for example, ‘Praise be to God who feeds us and gives us drink and has made us among those who submit to Him.’ He prayed for at least a third of every night, and fasted every Monday and Thursday. This despite the fact that God had revealed to him that he was guaranteed paradise. When a Muslim asked Muhammad why he continued to worship and fast so frequently, Muhammad replied, ‘Should I not be a grateful servant of God?’ But Muhammad was attentive that he did not set too difficult a standard for his followers; in any new situation, he would always take the easiest option if it was not a sin.

The fear of God and concern for his community weighed heavily upon Muhammad, but he was a man of exceptional good humour. One of his Companions said that he had ‘never seen anyone smile as much as the Messenger of God’. Although he instructed his followers, ‘Do not lie even if you’re joking’, Muhammad was not above a hearty laugh. When Ali had a spat with his wife, Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, and fell asleep outside his house in the dust, Muhammad named him Abu Turab, the ‘Father of Dust’, a nickname that stuck.

Muhammad never spared himself criticism. A man who was riding next to the Prophet during a campaign accidentally struck Muhammad’s foot, and the pain led Muhammad to strike the man’s leg with his whip. The next day, the Prophet sought the man out to apologize and compensate him with eighty camels. But if Muhammad felt that someone was belittling him in his capacity as God’s Messenger, he was uncompromising in his response. When a man accused Muhammad of nepotism when he ruled in favour of his cousin al-Zubayr in a matter of splitting irrigation water, Muhammad stripped the man of all his water rights.

Muhammad’s authority amongst the Muslims was two-fold: that of a political leader and that of a religious guide. Although Muhammad was ultimately the decision-maker in Medina’s political and judicial affairs, as we have seen, he consulted with his advisors such as Umar and frequently yielded to their council.

As a religious leader, however, Muhammad brooked no dissent. To break with his delivery of God’s message and definition of Islam was to leave the Muslim community – the testimony of faith said to become a Muslim was ‘There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.’ A Medinan man named Abu Amir had been a hanif following the religion of Abraham before Muhammad’s arrival in the city. But Abu Amir accused Muhammad of adulterating the Abrahamic faith, to which Muhammad replied, ‘No, I have renewed it pure and white.’ As a result, Abu Amir was exiled from Medina and eventually joined the Meccans. The Quran reminded the Muslims that ‘It is not for a believing man or woman that they should have any choice in a matter when God and His Messenger have decided it’ (Quran 33:36).

Insulting or attacking the person of the Prophet was an attack on the core of Islam and Muslim identity. Within Medina, Muhammad was merciful. After the Prophet was wounded at Uhud, the arch-hypocrite ‘Abdallah bin Ubayy had claimed that no true prophet could be injured in battle. When Umar and other Companions wanted to kill the hypocrite for his calumny, Muhammad responded that he did not want anyone to say that Muhammad kills his own Companions. Even the Jews who mocked the Prophet within Medina were left unmolested.

Satirical poetry, however, was a political weapon. In Arabia, poets were the propagandists in times of conflict. A Medinan poet named Ka’b al-Ashraf joined the Meccans after the Battle of Badr and later composed vicious satires of Muhammad. Muhammad ordered his followers to find and assassinate him. Later, the Prophet also ordered the assassination of a female poet from a desert tribe who was slandering him in verse.

– Jonathan Brown, from Chapter 1 of his book Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction, pages 36-41