THE NEWS IS JUST A STRING OF UNRELATED WORDS

Dream Big

We do find ourselves in such a sad, sorry state of affairs. Last night my family and I watched the terrible news of the Catholic cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris burning down to ruin, consumed by dancing orange flames that were destroying one of the most iconic and visited buildings in the world, all live in ultra HD. However, we only seemed to have one thought that was collectively going round and round in our minds. The four of us sat there thinking that if this is a deliberate act, if this is the work of one person, then please Lord, please don’t let be a Muslim.

Aside from this tragedy there have been other things happening. The chronicles of Trump continue unabated, Islamophobia continues to rise and rise, the aftermath of Christchurch still ripples through the news, the futility of Brexit continues roil the UK as it is extended ad infinitum, America is in the throes of its most contentious debate about immigration in recent memory, Ilhan Omar continues to be demonised completely out of context, and so much more.

In my own futile attempt to better understand this ever-changing and always-expanding cultural zeitgeist, here are some quotes that I have collated recently. All said subject matters are covered. Will these quotes shed new light on the ongoing craziness? I doubt it, but they just might. Either way, enjoy…


Brexit is short for “brain exit,” the official word for when everything that makes sense goes out the window, and everyone is just stupid all the time. – John Oliver, Apr 2019

Trump is the Republican id personified, driven to express the impulses and desires of conservative politics in their basest form. That dynamic has been on clear display for the past few days, as the president of the United States leads a campaign of racist demagoguery against Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali-American Democrat and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress…It is easy to tie these attacks to Trump’s history of anti-Muslim rhetoric. But anti-Muslim prejudice was common in Republican politics before he stepped on the political stage with his “birther” charges against President Barack Obama…Trump has simply brought this rhetoric to the bully pulpit of the American presidency. He has taken everything coursing through the last 20 years of Republican politics and made it explicit. It now has an official seal of approval. And if Omar is a target, it has little to do with what she said and everything to do with who she is: A black Muslim woman — and an immigrant — whose very person disrupts the exclusionary ideal of a white Christian America. – Jamelle Bouie, Apr 2019

The essence of Islamophobia in America today is the belief that Muslims are inherently disloyal or un-American: that their religion is incompatible with “American values,” and that Islamic theology necessarily pushes individual Muslims to support terrorism or commit terrorist acts themselves. – Zack Beauchamp, Apr 2019

The Age of Trump is an age whose signature feature isn’t populism or nationalism or any other –ism widely attached to the president. It’s the attempted annihilation of shame…In days bygone, the prescribed method for avoiding shame was behaving well. Or, if it couldn’t be avoided, feeling deep remorse and performing some sort of penance. By contrast, the Trumpian method for avoiding shame is not giving a damn. Spurious bone-spur draft deferment? Shrug. Fraudulent business and charitable practices? Snigger. Outrageous personal invective? Sneer. Inhumane treatment of children at the border? Snarl. Hush-money payoffs to porn-star and centerfold mistresses? Stud! – Bret Stephens, Apr 2019

Actor Jim Carrey got into a twitter feud this week with the granddaughter of Benito Mussolini, because that’s just the kind of thing that happens now and we all have to accept it. News at this point is just a string of unrelated words, like ‘Elon Musk Releases Harambe Rap.’ Or this actual headline I read today, ‘Disabled Chicken Who Survived Weasel Attack Learning To Walk Thanks To Custom Wheelchair.’ Guys, just eat the chicken. – Colin Jost, Apr 2019, from the TV show Saturday Night Live

Things are not in good shape…The whole country is going through some sort of spiritual and emotional crisis. College mental health facilities are swamped, suicide rates are spiking, the president’s repulsive behavior is tolerated or even celebrated by tens of millions of Americans. At the root of it all is the following problem: We’ve created a culture based on lies…No wonder it’s so hard to be a young adult today. No wonder our society is fragmenting. We’ve taken the lies of hyper-individualism and we’ve made them the unspoken assumptions that govern how we live. We talk a lot about the political revolution we need. The cultural revolution is more important. – David Brooks, Apr 2019

Because apparently people are so quick to take offence these days, you have some people who say things like “Everyone’s offended at everything these days.” And in response you think “It’s because you’re hearing from different people that you didn’t have to hear from 10 or 15 years ago, people who now have a platform that they never used to have. And so what you’re actually saying is ‘Years ago I didn’t have to listen to any objections to what I’ve said, and now I’ve got to listen to some objections, and because of that I’ve got to think about what I’ve said, and I’ve got to justify what I’ve said.'” – Richard Osman, Apr 2019, from the TV show Frankie Boyle’s New World Order

I think we’ve got to a really dangerous position where, now, if someone like me who is anti-racist and anti-racism, is in a debate, there is this is need to put me on against a racist, as if racism is like a legitimate opinion. If we were talking about rape, if we were talking about the problem of rape, you wouldn’t have me on TV with a pro-rape activist. You just wouldn’t! You would accept that pro-rape is not a legitimate stance. But when it comes to racism, pro-racism now apparently is so normalised that I find myself having to debate people who are openly and overtly racist. And I think it’s really worrying because it does send a message that these two positions are equal, and we are just having a healthy debate. – Afua Hirsch, Apr 2019, from the TV show Frankie Boyle’s New World Order

Believe it or not, I don’t actually enjoy having to explain that black people are human beings, that the kinds of black kids likely to fall into violent crime come almost exclusively from a very particular set of circumstances, obviously. And those circumstances are the same as the white lads in Glasgow or Liverpool who are likely to fall into violent crime. I don’t enjoy having to explain in the 21st century that simply you being black is not a predeterminant of your behaviour or your future or your aptitude. – Akala, Apr 2019

In the Black Lives Matters era so many white folks do feel judged, first and foremost by their white skin, that so often these days they’re saying why should I give a damn about the content of my Presidents character? In other words, it’s you progressive people who are violating that whole civil rights covenant that you fought, or your people fought so hard to get my people to adopt. So there’s a turning of the tables these days…There are a lot of young men today who are feeling humiliated, and that’s a big word I know, the h-bomb, humiliated by all of the changes that are happening in society, that they feel is being imposed on them. For example, the kind of culture of casual cruelty, and sometimes not so casual cruelty that we’re living in today, means people like me who were once thought to be marginalized but now effectively have these great platforms in our culture, if we continue to tell white men “You’re an idiot, you’re stupid, you have your head up your ass, you’re the exemplars of white privilege, of white supremacy, of white fragility…” The point of course being that that kind of bullying is going to strip people of dignity, regardless of what privilege they come from. So don’t be surprised when the people who are being shamed, blamed, and gamed, don’t follow your rules. Don’t be surprised when you get backlash. – Irshad Manji, Mar 2019, from the TV show Real Time With Bill Maher

Every single day people like me are subject to a media onslaught. Every single day we are demonised, both by the people who make our laws and by the people who have significant influence over public opinion. And when I say “we”, I don’t just mean Muslims. Because it’s not just Muslims who are losing their lives at the hands of far-right nationalism. It’s Jews and Sikhs and black people. Because when fascism comes to call, it usually doesn’t care what shade of “different” you are. All it knows is that you are different, and it does not like you for it. My fury and my pain is not lessened when a Jewish person is killed, or when a Hindu person is killed. We share a common humanity and that is sufficient for us to feel rage and pain. And it is evident that very many people do feel a sense of shared humanity with those targeted in attacks. Those emotions are not specific to people of colour, or to religious minorities. – Masuma Rahim, Mar 2019

If our politics is becoming less rational, crueller and more divisive, this rule of public life is partly to blame: the more disgracefully you behave, the bigger the platform the media will give you. If you are caught lying, cheating, boasting or behaving like an idiot, you’ll be flooded with invitations to appear on current affairs programmes. If you play straight, don’t expect the phone to ring. In an age of 24-hour news, declining ratings and intense competition, the commodity in greatest demand is noise. Never mind the content, never mind the facts: all that now counts is impact. A loudmouthed buffoon, already the object of public outrage, is a far more bankable asset than someone who knows what they’re talking about. So the biggest platforms are populated by blusterers and braggarts. The media is the mirror in which we see ourselves. With every glance, our self-image subtly changes…On both sides of the Atlantic, the unscrupulous, duplicitous and preposterous are brought to the fore, as programme-makers seek to generate noise. Malicious clowns are invited to discuss issues of the utmost complexity. Ludicrous twerps are sought out and lionised. – George Monbiot, Mar 2019

Pity poor political journalists like me trying to make sense of the situation — sometimes I think you may as well ask a random bloke down the pub…Right now, your guess is probably as good as mine. – Sophy Ridge, Mar 2019, referring to Brexit negotiations

Fox News almost seems to racially profile truth, as if all truth is bad. – Nick Pemberton, Jan 2019

Trump hangs on only because he knows the ruling class has no moral authority anymore. Enough whining about the truth. If you want people to believe the truth, give them an education, or better yet, a roof over their heads. Until that happens, expect the scapegoating of immigrants and all the lies behind it to ring true. And the biggest crime will not be the lie that brought us over the edge, but the condition created that fostered a society where truth did not matter anymore. There are more desperate needs here so when a man like Trump says he can help we do not ask him if he is telling the truth, we only ask how we get to somewhere, anywhere better. – Nick Pemberton, Jan 2019

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Ramadhaan 2019 – Some Useful Resources

Kaba pic

We are nearly at the start of the month of Shabaan (moonsighting.com), which means the month of Ramadhaan is just around the corner. Preparations for this blessed month should ideally begin now.

For me this month is an intense spiritual period where we Muslims step up a gear, where we try to be a better version of ourselves compared to the previous 11 lunar months. I remember reading Ramadhaan being described as ‘high altitude training for the soul.’ In our fast-paced world of hyper-consumption, Ramadhaan is a welcome chance to practise restraint. Ramadhaan is the opposite of indulgence and as such it is a month where we can engage in self-reflection and mental self-flagellation, and hopefully emerge some thirty days later a better person, less prone to excess, less rapacious. Hopefully.

This is the month where we use the power of fasting to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. This month is when we Muslims try to rebalance our spirituality, in order to gain further insight into our faith, a concept best expressed by the Muslim caliph Imam Ali:

Conquer your lustful desires and your wisdom will be perfected. – Imam Ali

With this intention, I am hoping the following list of resources and quotes can insha-Allah (God willing) help us all to make the most of this holy month, myself most definitely included…


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 make the best of this blessed month, and to prepare ourselves for the main event of Ramadhaan.


Islamic lectures…

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

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


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: http://www.qib.la/.


Files…

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

Complete Guide To Ramadhan

Laylatul-Qadr – guide

Ramadhaan checklist

Ramadhaan preparation pack

Ramadhaan Ashra Duas


OVERALL…

Know that you only get out of Ramadhaan what you are willing to put in. Therefore please make time to read the articles and listen to the lectures highlighted above, before Ramadhaan begins.

To hopefully inspire us all further, here are some 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

What motivates you? What makes you tick? This is what our Prophet (SAW) called niyah (intention). What is your intention? What is your niyah? What do you want when you’re doing something? What’s your intention for fasting? What is your intention for giving money? Once you begin to address the essence of your own being, you can begin to understand who you are, and that’s why self-knowledge is foundational in our religion. If you don’t know who you are, you’re certainly not going to know whose you are. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The most common question I get from people of different faiths has to be why we fast. Many people answer this question with a response, “to feel how the poor feel when they have nothing to eat.” Personally, I think that since fasting in Ramadan is not that difficult, it is almost an insult to claim that it is to feel the poor’s hunger. The hunger they feel is much greater, especially since they may not know when their next meal will come. Fasting is a means to gain something called Taqwa. Taqwa is an Arabic word that means many things, such as being aware that Allah (our word for God) has full knowledge of your actions and intentions. In Islam, Allah has knowledge of everything we do and even think. Fasting is more than abstaining from food and drink. It is understanding that Allah has full knowledge. And because of this, we must navigate through the world with caution of our actions and intentions – to be good to our fellow human beings and to yourself. All of our deeds and intentions should be virtuous and for the sake of Allah. Ramadan is an opportune time to be able to reflect and be more aware of this. – Dr Magda Abdelfattah, May 2018, from an interview in the Wisconsin Muslim Journal

Religious fasting traditions — from Ramadan (Islam) to Ekadasi (Hinduism) to Yom Kippur (Judaism) and Lent (Christianity) — are meant to unburden believers from day-to-day compulsions, drawing them closer to their conscience…Ramadan is a month-long spiritual odyssey that is meant to rejuvenate us, both physically and morally. It enables us to detach from worldly pleasures to invest our time in intense prayer, charity and spiritual discipline and focus on our deeds, thoughts and actions…The fast is a reminder of the fragility of the human life and is meant to foster a relationship with God…It teaches us about patience, self-restraint, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to God. The act of fasting for spiritual prowess makes us conscious, not just of our food habits, but of our thoughts, behaviour and interactions throughout the day. Ramadan helps us hone our patience because, by refraining from consumption throughout the day, we learn the benefit of refraining from gratifying each of our desires in the moment. – Moin Qazi