Was Michael Jackson a Muslim?

Probably not. Anyways, moving on to more important matters.

There is a brilliant American magazine called The Atlantic (formerly known as The Atlantic Monthly) that has been around since 1857. The Atlantic published an article recently called ‘What ISIS Really Wants’ by Graeme Woods. This article is fast becoming one of the most talked about and commented about articles of the last few years.

The Atlantic ISIS cover

If you have a spare hour or two, I would urge you to not only read the original article, but to also read some of the responses generated. These articles are collectively fascinating, very well written, and in depth in their analysis of the current crazy situation that is ever changing before our bemused eyes.

All links are provided below. Enjoy!

The Atlantic ISIS image

Original article…

Some responses to the article…

Furthermore, a good and learned friend of mine said the following (in an email), which I found to be very helpful and insightful…

Hisham Hellyer’s article is the better response, in particular his comments on the sanad (chain of transmission) which I also wanted to make, but ended up deleting. He is a good guy, and was studying in Birmingham a few years ago. His comments on the sanad are important to understand, and this is where ISIS and all modern and Wahhabi movements fail, in that they are attempting to engage with 14 centuries of scholarly tradition through the written word alone without the intermediary of people who understand and have internalised the tradition (the sanad). Essentially, what we are witnessing is a Muslim version of the protestant revolt against traditional authority which says: “we have the Quran, we have the hadith, so we don’t need to rely on anyone to interpret the religion for us.”

ISIS, and all Wahhabi movements, are very modern phenomena, despite their appearances. Traditionally, someone who wanted to learn the religion would keep the company of a teacher and would not be permitted to teach until his teacher recognised the appropriate qualities in him and authorised him to teach others. This goes beyond outwardly knowing the facts, but internalising the teachings until Allah opens a door of wisdom to him. Traditional scholars to this day will have a chain (sanad) going back to the Prophet sallAllah ‘alaihi wa sallam. For example my own teacher…has a sanad which extends back to the Prophet sallAllah ‘alaihi wa sallam, through generations of sheikhs. This jars with the modern “democratised” approach, where everyone has some entitlement to be listened to. It demands a little humility which doesn’t really fit in with the tweeting, Facebook using, look at me, listen to me approach of modern man.

Islam is not in the pages of old books, and neither is it on Facebook or twitter or the internet, but in the hearts of the righteous, and this is how it is transmitted – from heart to heart, in other words, the sanad.

ISIS are a very modern democratised perversion of the religion, with an authority established by violence not sanad, and the Atlantic author is one of the few people who have studied their motivations and ideology in depth by actually speaking to their supporters. Yes we need to make it clear that it is a perversion of Islam, as everyone is saying, however we also need to acknowledge that the ISIS ideology is made of the same stuff that normal Islam is made of. This is why three innocent girls decide to go to join them – until we acknowledge that, I don’t think we will be able to defeat them ideologically.


Russell Brand – “In the end it’s between you and God”

I am a big fan of Russell Brand. I particularly liked his recent comments of media portrayals of the Copenhagen shootings (a Muslim killing non-Muslims) versus the Chapel Hill shootings in the States (a non-Muslim killing Muslims), well worth a gander over on YouTube.

I am currently reading his book Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal, which is so far so good. I came across a quote from that book about one way of looking at how we may be connected to God, which I found really interesting, so I thought I would share it with you. Enjoy!

Matt, in spite of spending much of his life skulking about like a menstrual Hell’s Angel, frequently says things that are apposite and profound. Once, when we discussed negativity towards others, he said that we ought imagine that we each have an individual connection with a God or higher power through “a Doc Brown from Back to the Future-style metal helmet” (bear with me) that has an electric tendril that reaches up through the sky, puncturing the ozone layer, into the heavens, past the Milky Way, right into the mind of God. Like them hairdrying plastic mushroom contraptions beneath which elderly ladies sit in hairdressers, but instead of being attached to a plug socket, they are attached to God. When someone, a critic, a teacher or an enemy attacks you, it’s as if they are petulantly disgruntled and dissatisfied with their own connection to the universe and like snitchy little berks, reach over and yank your tendril. We are all connected to an objective higher mind and through that to each other, so why bother jerking around with other people’s connection? It’s a senseless interference. We all do it, but really what’s the point of sniping at our fellows? You may as well go into your garden and holler abuse at a nasturtium. In the end it’s between you and God.

 – Russell Brand, from his book Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal, speaking about his friend Matt Morgan

Two quotes, including one about Muhammad Ali

A quick point before we get to the quotes. My blog address is now https://blogofthebeardedone.wordpress.com/.

Anyways, back to business. Below are two quotes from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. The first one is about Muhammad Ali. The second one is about an old woman who used to clean the mosque of the Prophet (SAW). Both are fairly self explanatory (insha-Allah!). Enjoy!

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf comments about Muhammad Ali…

I have done my own poll of asking people of different nationalities and different countries: who is the most beloved athlete of the 20th century? Almost invariably every person that I have asked, without thinking, has said Muhammad Ali. And I say, “Isn’t it interesting, that a black man, who is a Muslim, and has the name ‘Muhammad’, is the most beloved athlete in the world? Why is that?” The reason I believe is very simple: he embodies, in his own way, certain aspects of the sunnah of his Prophet. Even those who fought the Prophet Muhammad, secretly admired him. They secretly admired him…Muhammad Ali was beautiful, he was beautiful to look at. When he smiled, that smile penetrated the hearts of even people that didn’t like him. He had absolute self-confidence. When he spoke, he spoke with complete certainty. He had no self-doubts. When the microphone was stuck in his face after fighting a very intense fight with Sonny Liston at the age of 22, when most boxers would have eyes so swollen you could not see them, and they would be so dumbed and dazed by being pulverised by the heavyweight champion of the world. When Cassius clay had the microphone put in front of his face, what did he tell the world? And the world was listening. He said “I’m 22 years old, I don’t have a scratch on my face, and I’m beautiful. I talk to God every day, I must be the greatest! I just beat Sonny Liston.” Because all the odds were against him. Muhammad Ali was a winner. He was a winner. Even when he lost, he was a winner. Because we forget that losers can be winners, and the Prophet (SAW) was always winning. When he went to the village of Ta’if and they mocked him, they threw stones at him, they caused his feet to bleed. What did he say in his dua? “O Lord of the oppressed, who will You leave me with? To an enemy that will treat me like that. To some distant person who knows nothing of me. If You are not angry with me, I have no concerns.” That is the dua of the Prophet (SAW), in what appeared to be the lowest point of his mission. His point was: this is all from You and I recognise that, because this is the nature of the struggle. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf commenting on Muhammad Ali

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf comments about an old woman…

The Prophet (SAW) would always occupy people in what benefited them and in what benefited the ummah. He would ask about them. He would ask about news about them: how are they doing, and how is so and so. If somebody was not there, he would say “Where is so and so?” Wallahi, these are teachings for the people. Now we have people who disappear and nobody remembers them. They don’t ask about them. And this is the messenger of Allah, and he had an ummah! I mean, this was like a whole ummah of people (that he was concerned about). There was an old woman who used to clean the masjid. She used to sweep the masjid out. She was a black woman. And one day she died and the companions of the Prophet buried her (without the Prophet being there). And then the Prophet came and he said “Where’s the old woman who used to sweep the masjid?” The companions said “She died ya Rasul-Allah and we buried her.” He said “Why didn’t you tell me she died? Why didn’t you tell me she died so I could go pray on her? What is she insignificant (such that you don’t need to tell me about her death)?” – adapted from a speech by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The amazingly simple message of kindness from Rachel Joy Scott

Rachel Joy Scott was the first of fifteen people killed in the Columbine High School tragedy on April 20, 1999. She was 17 years of age. Immediately after the tragedy, her father Darrell began to speak and used writings and drawings from Rachel’s diaries to illustrate the need for a kinder, more compassionate nation. Today, Darrell and over thirty presenters honor Rachel’s life by reaching the nation with Rachel’s simple but profound message. Her message? It’s one of kindness, of not judging others by their appearance, and trying to see the best in everyone. This is a message that I have blogged about previously and, no doubt, will blog about again and again. Below is the short essay written by Rachel detailing her heart moving message, followed by some words I found on another blog that make the points I wish to make far more eloquently than I ever could. Insha-Allah, may this inspire us all to be better than we are.

The words of Rachel Joy Scott, taken from rachelschallenge.org

My Ethics, My Codes Of Life

Rachel Scott period 5

Ethics vary with environment, circumstances, and culture. In my own life, ethics play a major role. Whether it was because of the way I was raised, the experiences I’ve had, or just my outlook on the world and the way things should be. My biggest aspects of ethics include being honest, compassionate, and looking for the best and beauty in everyone.

I have been told repeatedly that I trust people too easily, but I find that when I put my faith and trust in people when others would not dare to, they almost never betray me. I would hope that people would put that same faith in me. Trust and honesty is an investment you put in people; if you build enough trust in them and show yourself to be honest, they will do the same in you. I value honesty so much, and it is an expectation I have of myself. I will put honesty before the risk of humiliation, before selfishness, and before anything less worthy of the Gospel truth. Even in being honest and trust worthy, I do not come off cold and heartless. Compassion and honesty go hand in hand, if enough of each is put into every situation. I admire those who trust and are trust worthy.

Compassion is the greatest form of love humans have to offer. According to Webster’s Dictionary compassion means a feeling of sympathy for another’s misfortune. My definition of compassion is forgiving, loving, helping, leading, and showing mercy for others. I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that the first and the second and the third impressions can be deceitful of what kind of person someone is. For example, imagine you had just met someone, and you speak with them three times on brief everyday conversations. They come off as a harsh, cruel, stubborn, and ignorant person. You reach your judgment based on just these three encounters. Let me ask you something…did you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from, did they experience love, did they experience hurt, did you look into their soul and not just at their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type,” you have no right to shun them. You have not looked for their beauty, their good. You have not seen the light in their eyes. Look hard enough and you will always find a light, and you can even help it grow, if you don’t walk away from those three impressions first.

I am sure that my codes of life may be very different from yours, but how do you know that trust, compassion, and beauty will not make this world a better place to be in and this life a better one to live? My codes may seem like a fantasy that can never be reached, but test them for yourself, and see the kind of effect they have in the lives of people around you. You just may start a chain reaction.

The following is taken from the blog quotev.com

For those who don’t know Rachel Joy Scott, she was the first victim of the Columbine High School Shooting back in April 20,1999. She was sitting outside of the east entrance on the grass with her friend when two boys, by the names of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harries, came up to them and shot them. Eric shot Rachel at least 4 times before she died. Rachel was a kind and warm hearted to EVERYONE. Rachel’s Challenge is a program that goes to schools and spreads Rachel’s message. Her message? To share kindness to all and to not judge people by their APPEARANCE but by who they are. I wanted to share this message with you all because I felt like it was important. It was needed to be said because Rachel spoke the truth. We do need to spread kindness in this world. Especially in this generation. I don’t know if you noticed but today’s generation, OUR generation is a big mess of cruelty. We need kindness in this world. We need more RACHEL’S. Before I leave and you continue on with this story, let me tell you a story. There was a girl, I believe her name was Amber, she was a new student and she was having a miserable first day. She sat alone in lunch, nobody dared to sit next to her. But Rachel, Rachel Joy Scott, went up to her and asked her if she wanted to sit with her and her friends. Amber being shy responded with a no. You would think Rachel would just leave it alone and not do anything about it. But, she didn’t. She went to her friend and told them to come with her and sit with Amber. They did. Suddenly Amber’s day went from miserable to great. What Rachel didn’t know was that Amber had just lost her mom. Not only was she new to a school, but she was still grieving her mother’s death. Rachel Joy Scott did that. One teenage girl did that. What didn’t mean anything to her, meant everything to Amber. Kindness goes a long way. “PEOPLE WILL NEVER KNOW HOW FAR A LITTLE KINDNESS CAN GO.”

Kings at the doors of beggars

Below is a quote from one of my favourite scholars Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. It is adapted from a lengthy speech, of which the full transcript is available. The quote below is from part of this speech known more commonly as ‘Kings at the doors of beggars‘. The quote is something I believe all Muslims should read, as it speaks of not judging others, which is unfortunately something that many of us do in haste and in excess. Anways, enjoy!

This is really interesting to me…adab (good manners) is the ability to know the place of things and to give things their proper due. So adab is really to be translated as ‘comportment’ or a type of discipline in which you recognise where things belong. Part of recognising where things belong is to recognise where you belong in relation to social hierarchies. One of the things that this (western) culture almost never talks about it, where it talks about civil rights and human rights a great deal, but I don’t think it ever mentions the idea of social rights, which is your right to have equality in society. This is because equality is an “ideal” of democracy: people are equal, but in reality they are not equal. In this culture it is very clear there are social hierarchies and if you fall to the bottom of one of these hierarchies, then woe unto you if you try to crash the party of a higher rank of society. Therefore social rights are never really talked about.

One of the really interesting things about Islam and the Islamic tradition is that it teaches us there is an internal hierarchy known only to God. Therefore Islam challenges you to recognise that everyone outside of yourself may be better than you in the eyes of God. So you have to have comportment with everybody, such that even a person that you might think is lower than you in social standing could actually be higher than you in spiritual standing. This is why, in the history of Islam, you had kings at the doors of beggars. There is no other religion I know of that has that quality where you literally had kings at the door of beggars asking for their prayers.

The other thing that is really interesting is that in this (western) culture you will not get people from Blackhawk or from Los Gattos going to church in East Oakland. It is just not the way society works. Yet in the Muslim world the richest man could pray next to the most impoverished man in the same prayer line, and it has always been like that, and that is something that is really unusual about Islam, in that it creates a true brotherhood.

There is also a recognition in Islam that people have things in the world that Allah has given them that other people lack, but that does not prevent you from seeing this person as essentially equal to you before God and, possibly, according to most of the hadith about rich and poor people, the poor person is probably closer to God than you are. That instils in you a desire to actually be kind to them because you are actually worried that you might upset your Lord by having any contempt or even just simply treating them less than they deserve.

 – adapted from a speech by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Quotes and links

As usual, below are some quotes and links that hopefully you may find useful. Enjoy!



  • Be careful what you focus on, for what you focus on you give power to. – Anon
  • We love ourselves after so many mistakes, so why do we hate others for one or two mistakes they’ve made? – Mufti Ismail Menk
  • Allah has a plan for you. So you are exactly where He wants you to be right now. – Anon
  • Focus more on your character than your reputation. Your reputation is who people think you are, while your character is who you actually are. – Anon
  • You love this dunya (this world) while it has no loyalty to you. – Anon
  • Judge a Muslim woman by what is in her head, not what is on her head. – Anon
  • If you think hijab oppresses women, ask a hijabi to remove her hijab and see the look she gives you. *scary* – Twitter comment from awkwardmuslim
  • The most challenging part of being a Muslim is when you have about 50 Muhammad’s on your phone and you have to figure out which one to call. – Twitter comment from awkwardmuslim
  • If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Book extract – Tina Fey on “me time” for mums from her book Bossypants

It’s Tina Fey book extract time again! The extract below did make me laugh a great deal when I first read it. It is Tina’s advice to all mums out there on what to do when you somehow manage to get some well deserved me time. Practical? Not so sure. Funny? Yup. Anyways, enjoy!

“Me Time”

An expert will tell you, the best thing a mom can do to be a better mom is to carve out a little time for herself. Here are some great “me time” activities you can do:

  • Go to the bathroom a lot.
  • Offer to empty the dishwasher.
  • Take ninety-minute showers. (If you only shower every three or four days, it will be easier to get away with this.)
  • Say you’re going to look for the diaper creme, then go into your child’s room and just stand there until your spouse comes in and curtly says, “What are you doing?”
  • Stand over the sink and eat the rest of your child’s dinner while he or she pulls at your pant leg and asks for it back.
  • Try to establish that you’re the only one in your family allowed to go to the post office.
  • “Sleep when your baby sleeps.” Everyone knows this classic tip, but I say why stop there? Scream when your baby screams. Take Benadryl when your baby takes Benadryl. And walk around pantless when your baby walks around pantless.
  • Read! When your baby is finally down for the night, pick up a juicy book like Eat, Pray, Love or Pride and Prejudice or my personal favorite, Understanding Sleep Disorders: Narcolepsy and Apnea; A Clinical Study. Taking sometime to read each night really taught me how to feign narcolepsy when my husband asked me what my “plan” was for taking down the Christmas tree.

Just implementing four or five of these little techniques will prove restorative and give you the energy you need to not drink until nighttime.

– from the book Bossypants by Tina Fey

Quotes and links (including the worlds best mobile phone!)

As usual, some quotes and some links. Enjoy!


  • Do not feel certain in the reliability of your own opinions. – Sahl bin Hunayf (this is often alternatively translated as ‘Treat your own opinions with suspicion’ or ‘Find fault with your own opinions’)
  • Don’t make excuses for nasty people. You can’t put a flower in an asshole and call it a vase. – Anon
  • There is always more to thank for than there is to complain about. – Anon
  • The less of the world, the freer you live. – Anon
  • What I want to say is that today, what just happened doesn’t have to be used against Islam. Fanaticism is everywhere, but it concerns just a minority of people. The rest are just simple Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims. I think that it’s important to take the long or historical view. If we just focus on current affairs, if we limit our view to today’s news, it’s like things never happened before. It’s important to recall that all this has already occured, it’s already happened with terrorist groups which were not Islamic…The danger would be to say that all Muslims are like that, but I’m convinced that 90% of Muslims feel very uncomfortable today and are ashamed of what’s happened. It’s important not to say, that a Muslim, is “moderate”, if he’s just a citizen like you or me. What does “moderate” mean anyway? Does it mean that Islam is an extremist religion? This is a latent provocation, you see? And it’s very dangerous. We don’t have to paint everybody with the same brush. That’s the danger I think. – Eric Cantona, in an interview with euronews, talking about the Paris Charlie Hebdo incident
  • The words you speak become the house you live in. – Hafiz (14th-century Persian mystic and poet)


Book extract – Tina Fey on “car creepery” from her book Bossypants

Tina Fey is an award winning American writer and actress. She has written a book called Bossypants, which I highly recommend as it is rather funny and insightful, especially from the perspective of a woman living in today’s world. I have no doubt that I will feature further extracts from this book in many future blogs, but to begin with below is an extract about the painful transition from girlhood to womanhood.

As I read this I was a wee bit worried that this is how young girls feel and how they are treated, Perhaps some naivety on my part. In Islam we are instructed to lower our gaze, to not stare and to be respectful of each other. Like many things in Islam, this is easy to theorize but harder to put into practice. Anyways, here is the extract. Enjoy!

WARNING – there are rude words in the extract, so please do not read if easily offended.

When Did You First Know You Were a Woman?

When I was writing the movie Mean Girls — which hopefully is playing on TBS right now! — I went to a workshop taught by Rosalind Wiseman as part of my research. Rosalind wrote the nonfiction book Queen Bees and Wannabes that Mean Girls was based on, and she conducted a lot of self-esteem and bullying workshops with women and girls around the country. She did this particular exercise in a hotel ballroom in Washington, DC, with about two hundred grown women, asking them to write down the moment they first “knew they were a woman.” Meaning, “When did you first feel like a grown woman and not a girl?” We wrote down our answers and shared them, first in pairs, then in larger groups. The group of women was racially and economically diverse, but the answers had a very similar theme. Almost everyone first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them. “I was walking home from ballet and a guy in a car yelled, ‘Lick me!’” “I was babysitting my younger cousins when a guy drove by and yelled, ‘Nice ass.’” There were pretty much zero examples like “I first knew I was a woman when my mother and father took me out to dinner to celebrate my success on the debate team.” It was mostly men yelling shit from cars. Are they a patrol sent out to let girls know they’ve crossed into puberty? If so, it’s working.

I experienced car creepery at thirteen. I was walking home from middle school past a place called the World’s Largest Aquarium — which, legally, I don’t know how they could call it that, because it was obviously an average-sized aquarium. Maybe I should start referring to myself as the World’s Tallest Man and see how that goes? Anyway, I was walking home alone from school and I was wearing a dress. A dude drove by and yelled, “Nice tits.” Embarrassed and enraged, I screamed after him, “Suck my dick.” Sure, it didn’t make any sense, but at least I didn’t hold in my anger.

Thankfully, blessedly, yelling “Suck my dick” is not the moment I really associate with entering womanhood. For me, it was when I bought this kickass white denim suit at the Springfield mall.

Tina colour

I bought it with my own money under the advisement of my cool friend Sandee. I wore it to Senior Awards Night 1988, where it blew people’s minds as I accepted the Sunday School Scholarship. That turned-up collar. The jacket that zipped all the way down the front into a nice fitted shape. The white denim that made my untanned skin look like a color. Just once I’d like to find an Oscars or Emmys dress as rad as this suit.

 – from the book Bossypants by Tina Fey

It all conspires to make you feel absolutely helpless.

Sorry about the rather depressing title for this particular blog post, but it’s a line taken from the recent always excellent Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, which began with a rather cutting analysis of ISIS and the media. The rest of the show is also hilarious, as we all have now come to expect. Below is a link to the latest Wipe, followed by a transcript of some of the ISIS analysis. Enjoy!

Charlie Brooker: We start with ISIS…

BBC News reporter: “Tonight at 10, outrage in Jordan as one of its pilots is burned to death by IS extremists…”

Charlie Brooker: It feels like ISIS is engaged in a kind of sickening game of one-downsmanship with itself, daring itself to produce something more barbaric than the last killing. It’s hard to know really how to even wrap your head around this level of horror, coupled with its total accessibility. Not so long ago we had to fall asleep to experience nightmares. We now live in a world where, at any moment, your phone could buzz in your pocket and it might be someone tweeting a photo of their lunch, or a video of someone dying in agony. Then there’s the question of whether to look or not to look. Spoiler – the sane answer is “not to look”, which isn’t made easy for you. The numb and frightened faces of the victims appear on the front pages of newspapers and in search results. It becomes unavoidable. Not that everyone tries to avoid it. In the Daily Mail, Piers Morgan claimed he was “glad” he watched the video depicting a caged man being burned to death because it helped him understand how evil ISIS can be, which betrays an ASTOUNDING lack of imagination. Fox News meanwhile broadcast an exhaustive spoken word moment-by-moment description of the video from host Shepherd Smith, who watched it so you wouldn’t have to, which you didn’t have to anyway.

Shepherd Smith: We’re not going to show you the video obviously. It’s 23 minutes plus, that video.

Charlie Brooker: And you’ve got to cut to commercials in ten minutes!

Shepherd Smith: I’m going to tell you about it, all of it, every bit of it.

Charlie Brooker: Fox also garnered much criticism for embedding the entire video, uncensored, on their website. It tells you something about America’s stomach for violence really, that while a terrorist snuff video can be carried uncensored, an innocuous report about a nudist beach on the same website comers with black boxes super imposed over the buttocks. Because it’s important to confront the reality of murder, but oh my BLEEP we can’t handle a bum! If ISIS ever started killing people in the nude, Fox is going to have a real editorial dilemma on its hands. Of course, TV news is helplessly, institutionally addicted to relaying eye-popping imagery wherever it comes from and whatever it shows, as this shocking footage of the recent Taiwan air disaster makes clear. As a consequence, the slickly-crafted video output of ISIS has effectively turned swathes of the Western media into an unofficial jihadist propaganda distribution network. It all conspires to make you feel absolutely helpless.

– from Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, first shown 12 Feb 2015