The Holy City of Qom

Qom’s Religious and Historical Significance

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

Although no infallible Imam has been buried in the city of Qom in Iran, but its importance and glory is derived from several aspects and reasons, which are connected to each other. The primary reason behind the holiness of this city is the burial of Lady Fatima Al-Masuma (sa), who is the sister of Imam Ali Al-Redha (a) who is also buried in Iran in city of Mashhad. In addition, there are enormous historical resources about this city in ancient times, pre-Islamic era and post-Islamic era, which indicate that Qom was a place with great importance. Currently, Qom is the home to the largest number of Shia scholars in the world, as the semi – official numbers give the number of 50000 clergymen in his city.

Lady Fatima Al-Masuma

According to Shia there are only 14 infallibles and those infallibles are chosen by God to guide the humanity in their journey, through presenting and delivering the principles, teachings, ordinances and the pillars revelled by Gog. However, there are individuals from the household of Prophet Mohammad, who have fulfilled this role according to their best ability, and gained very high status with the Imams and Shia traditions. Lady Fatima Al-Masuma, is one of those individuals, who have been praised by several Imams, and has been given the nickname ‘Al-Masuma’, which means the infallible. When visiting her Shrine in Qom, a small eulogy is recited, which addresses her in the following way: ‘Peace be upon you, O’ daughter of God’s heir. Peace be upon you, O’ sister of God’s heir. Peace be upon you, O’ aunt of God’s heir’.

In addition, there are numerous narrations by the Imam, recommending to their followers to visit the tomb of this pious woman, who died in desolation and away from her land and home. The story of this lady is: once the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mamun summoned Imam Ali Al-Redha (her brother) to Khorasan, and placed him as his successor, Lady Fatima Al-Masuma decided to travel to Persia and follow her brother. She was very attached to her brother, especially after the death of her father in the prison of Al-Mamun’s father Harun Al-Rashid. According to Shia sources, a year after her brother was summoned to Khorasan, she set off in a caravan alongside 23 members of her Brother’s family and thousands of followers. Unfortunately, the caravan never made it to Khorasan, as it was attacked by enemies of AhlulBayt in a city nearby Qom, name Saveh. Majority of the caravan were killed, wounded and many of them fled to unknown places, and among those who survived the attack, was Lady Fatima Al-Masuma, who asked to be taken to Qom.

The reason she asked for Qom specifically, is due to the fact that Qom was occupied by a Shia majority population, and many Shia scholars, descendants of previous Imams and general Shia groups were stationed in Qom. Therefore, Qom was the obvious and safest place for resting and reinforcement to finish the journey to Khorasan. However, Lady Fatima Al-Masuma became very sick in Qom, and according to other sources, she was poisoned by a woman and died in Qom and was buried in Qom as well.

Fatima Al-Masuma’s impact on Qom

Due to the high numbers of narrations praising the one who visits the tomb of Lady Fatima Al-Masuma and her status in the hearts of Prophet’s holy household, the burial place of this lady became of great significance. The extent of this significance can be identified by the numbers of high status scholars, who moved to the city of Qom, or originated from this city. In addition, these scholars attracted large numbers of pupils and followers as well, which was a great factor in urbanizing this area into an actual important attraction and destination.

As mentioned above, currently the city of Qom holds the highest number of Shia clergymen in the world, and it is considered Shia Islam’s largest religious center. The famous traditional seminaries of Qom were founded by Ayatollah Sheikh Abdul Kareem Al-Haieri and Ayatollah Boroujerdi, who are both buried in Qom. At the present time, majority of Qom’s seminaries are officially ran by the state, as the official system of Iran is (Islamic Republic). In addition, there are many independent schools and seminaries in Qom led by prominent and great scholars, which are not affiliated with the state.

The city of Qom would never be equal to Najaf or Karbala in status and holiness, as the status of those two cities as beyond comprehension, but its religious importance and intellectual centrality has doubled the significance of this city. The Iranian revolution of 1979 and a clergymen led government in Iran, alongside severe oppression against the scholars of Najaf by Saddam Hussein, had an important role in Qom’s intellectual and economic advancement.

America’s Two Party Political System

Preventing Future Economic Growth?

By Amanda C.  (Contributor) 
Edited by Ali Reza

The signs of America’s two party political system are inescapable, and its limitations can sometimes seem overwhelming. Turn on any cable news channel, at any hour, and you’ll hear everything you need to hear about partisan gridlock, about the fierce competition between Democrats and Republicans, about the cutthroat race for power and prestige.

Meanwhile, those who gravitate toward outside voices—voices not easily confined to either of the two major parties—tend to be written off either as extremist or simply as irrelevant. Indeed, while third parties and alternative political candidates abound, most Americans take the view that these are hopeless long shots—important symbolically, perhaps, but not pragmatically.

But is the two party system really in our best interest? That’s a question that goes beyond the Democrat-Republican divide. You may agree wholeheartedly with one of those major parties and still feel as though the zero-sum nature of partisan politics does a disservice to the country—both in terms of ongoing political dialogue and future economic development.

The Downsides of the Two Party Way

Even those who feel pretty comfortable with the two party system will agree that it has its limitations. For one, it forces voters into feeling like there are only a couple of options from which they can choose. In some issues, voters may feel like the two parties are overly similar, excluding alternative views and forcing Americans to pick from a narrow range of options. By contrast, other issues are presented in such black-and-white terms that voters with more nuanced opinions may not know which side to choose, and they may feel like picking either side is settling.

In addition, it can be said that the two party system promotes division. Politicians are intent not just on governing but also on defeating and dismantling the opposition’s party. This leads to competition and to gridlock: People in Washington don’t work together in cooperation because they’re too entrenched in their us-versus-them mentalities.

Two Parties and the Economy

More specific to the economy, there are some drawbacks to having a political system that draws on just two parties. These drawbacks really come back to a central idea, which is that the two party system limits the potential for change. At best, this means that the existing principles for economic growth will grow stagnant over time. At worst, it means that the American economy is stuck in a mode that was never going to work and has little hope of ever changing.

In a multi-party system, there is a greater chance for new ideas to emerge; there are shades of gray and room for development beyond the bipolar, black-and-white view that the two party route encourages. But since the two party system is what we have in the United States, it means that the dialogue is limited, the possibilities are more muted, and new ideas are simply difficult to come by.

The two party system also lends itself to a certain level of corruption, particularly where big campaign donors and lobbying groups are concerned. A lobbying group that wields a great deal of power can easily enough seduce the leadership in both parties, ensuring the status quo or at least limiting discussion to a narrow set of options. Again, stagnation like this can be the enemy of growth, and thus disadvantageous to the economy in general.

In Defense of the Two Party System

It should be said, in closing, that the two party system is not without certain advantages. By representing broad political philosophies, the two party system brings order to the political process. It can be argued that it promotes a stable balance of power, as well. A two party system, for as competitive as it can be, can encourage participation in the process.

Still, for many, the cons will outweigh the pros—and since those cons potentially hamper economic growth, they’re not to be taken lightly.

Business & Trade in Shia Narrations

Business and Trade Principles According to Shia Islam

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

Providing for family and dependents or even one’s self, is the primary goal of all humans, which varies according to each human’s complacency and satisfaction. Therefore, from the beginning of creation until this specific moment and regardless of ideological and political affiliations, the effort to secure a certain mean of financial security is a mutual tendency of all humans. The religion of Islam, Prophet Mohammad and his holy household (pbut) have presented enormous amount of solutions and plans for financial security and earning sustenance in a legitimate and un-proscribed way.

According to an ordinance by Imam Ali(a) to his son Mohammad Ibn Al-Hanafia, he categorizes sustenance and means of living in two parts.

  1. A sustenance (Mean of living) that rushes to you
  2. A sustenance (Mean of living) you have to rush to

Obviously, the first category is the sustenance that is guaranteed by God to all of his creations and subjects, as the Quran states, there isn’t one creation, which its sustenance is not provided by God. The second category has been interpreted by other Imams as pursuit of business and commerce, which has been presented as the primary source of blessed sustenance. Prophet Mohammad has narrated in an ordinance to Imam Ali, ‘sustenance is ten parts, nine of them are in commerce and one part in others ways. Therefore, the importance of trade and commerce in Islam is undeniable, which has urged some western scholars to argue that Islam is a capitalist system, since it praises free trade and circulation of wealth.

Islamic Conditions on Trade & Commerce

To distinguish the difference between the previous and contemporary economic systems and the Islamic system of commerce and economics, Islam has placed several conditions and standards. These conditions and standards are a combined sets of jurisprudential and ethical codes to govern the trading affairs of Muslims, regardless of capital, shares, costs, profits and market variables. In addition, these codes are sufficient to address social equality, wise investment, wealth distribution and transfer among different classes and the legitimate approach to accumulate wealth without confiscating the rights and efforts of others. The primary goal of Islam in urging the believers to invest and adopt trading as a mean of living, is to create a complete and strong socio-financial network that secures a stable, decent and honorable life for the members of society. In addition, the personal aspect of trade and commerce is directly linked to the importance of family and holding its strong bonds to create good members for the society as well.

The conditions and principles to conduct legitimate and proper trade and commerce are:

  • A trader or an investor must gain knowledge in jurisprudence and know the specifics of what is permissible, impermissible, legitimate and illegitimate, to secure a safe and pure sustenance and wealth.
  • Refrain from trading and investing in any product or service that harm humans. (Drugs, Alcohol)
  • Refrain from trading and investing in any product or service that has been prohibited by the Islamic Law (Sharia Law…for example don’t sell alcoholic beverages).
  • Islam prohibits the monopolization of any product or service that is considered a necessity for a specific nation. These products include the primary ingredients of any meal, like flour, salt, fuel and oil.
  • Islamic strictly prohibits bribery in any transaction, which inclusively covers bribery in trade and commerce to gain special rights or favors above other investors and traders.
  • Islam prohibits paying more for a product, although it is not demanded to increase its value in the market.
  • Islam prohibits selling a product under its value to create instability in the market and cause losses for other investors and traders.
  • Islam strictly prohibits misrepresentation. This notion is another type or definition of LYING, which has been identified by the narrations of Prophet Mohammad as the key to all sins and wrongdoings. Therefore, lying in business or any aspect of life is strictly prohibited and impermissible.
  • Islam prohibits financial misconduct in business and trading transactions, which might cause hardships and difficulties for consumers and enables few individuals to accumulate wealth illegitimately.
  • Islam prohibits trading and investing in stolen goods and products.

In addition, there are tens of other conditions and principles for investment and trading, which are the perfect means to protect all sides of any transaction. As mentioned in previous articles, the religion of Islam is a faith, which gives the best rights to all individuals regardless of their faith and affiliations. Therefore, commerce and trading business is not secluded from this notion, which has made the Islamic system as one of the most desired revenue and wealth generating methods in the world. The notion of banning interest accumulations on debts and lending funds, has created an alternative for the current global banking system, which is solely depended on interest and illegitimate business conducts to generate wealth. However, due to the lack of development in the Muslim countries, many scholars and western observers are skeptic about the implementation of the Islamic system of commerce and trade in business transactions. Although, it might be right to argue, why hasn’t Muslims taken any advantage from this system, it must not be forgotten that political instabilities in the Middle East has prevented many development and advancements in the region. The Islamic system has gone even further in securing the rights of all sides in any transactions by offering ethical, moral and social suggestions in trading.

  • Do not ask for discount after the finalization of a transaction.
  • Do not do business in a dark place, where the flaws of your product cannot be seen.
  • Being a silent partner is very recommended if it helps a new or troubled trader.
  • Do not sell something by quantity if it is sold by quality in a specific place.

And there are hundreds of other recommendations and suggestions for traders, investors and consumers which focus on a healthy, honest, fair, and ethical business transactions.

What an At-Home Parent is Really Worth

By Maryam C
Edited by Ali Reza

Stay-at-home parents are rarely given the respect and praise that they deserve. It is a job that is often undervalued and underappreciated. Many people brush it off as staying at home all day and playing with the kids. What could be so hard about that? But in reality, stay-at-home parents take on a wide range of responsibilities every day. They wear many different hats and must always be on their game. After all, the safety and well-being of their children rests in their hands.

Being a stay-at-home parent is not a nine-to-five job. It is an all-the-time job. Full-time employees earn their pay for generally 40 hours a week of work. They may use some personal time to get ahead or finish up, but that is a standard workweek. An at-home parent works far more hours than this per week and does not get a check in hand when it’s all over. Their work and life blend into one another.

Wearing Many Hats

An at-home parent assumes many roles all rolled up into one. On any given day they may act as:

  • Child care provider
  • Chef
  • Housekeeper
  • Nurse
  • Teacher
  • Therapist
  • Event planner
  • Chauffer
  • Accountant
  • Janitor
  • Repairman
  • Laundry operator
  • Writers
  • Programmers

This list is only a fraction of the responsibilities they may take on. Not only are they caring for the children, they are also taking care of the house, pets, finances, and more. They make sure that everyone has what they need for the day and everything is scheduled accordingly. When something is broken or malfunctioning, they either figure out how to fix it or hire someone who can.

At-home parents are constant teachers and therapists for their children, helping them to learn, grow, and expand their minds. Every day presents teachable moments where they can instill basic academics as well as build character and positive values. Their lessons aren’t planned or scripted but rather on the fly.

While at-home parents may not bring in a regular paycheck for their work, they do help to keep costs down. Child Care, be it public or private, can cost hundreds of dollars every month and thousands of dollars per year. Staying at home with children means not having to pay someone else to watch them. Sometimes the amount the parent would bring in by working a traditional job is less than what it would cost them to put their child in daycare while they’re at work. So really it is costing them more to work.

All of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry that they take care of on a daily basis? If these responsibilities were outsourced, the cost would add up. By preparing meals at home, this can reduce the frequency of eating out and keep everyone healthier. In addition, children often catch many germs and viruses at daycare, so keeping them home can decrease illness and therefore medical expenses.

Crunching the Numbers

It is hard to put an exact numerical value on at-home parents. Each person’s situation is different. But many people agree that the work they do is worth a lot. Some even compare it to a six-figure salary. At-home parents choose this career because they love their children and being able to spend so much time with them. In case of Muslim women, it is an ideal type of job too and it is a win win situation.  It is an arrangement that works for their family, their faith, and themselves. They don’t do it for the praise – which is often lacking – but because it is a job they find valuable and meaningful.

At-home parents are priceless. They encompass a multitude of jobs that they learn as they go. There is no formal training or education that prepares you to be a parent and assume all of the responsibilities that go along with it. When it comes down to it, it is not a job that everyone can handle and it takes a special kind of person to dedicate themselves to such a monumental task. So what is an at-home parent really worth? More than we may ever really know.

Separation of Religion and State?

By Amanda C
Edited by Ali Reza

An American Constitutional History

There are several principles on which the United States of America was founded, arguably none more essential than the freedom of worship and religious expression. Many of the nation’s founders came to this land with the express purpose of escaping religious tyranny in Europe, and of finding a place where they could exercise their religious beliefs unencumbered by a state-run church or by entrenched theocracies.

Of course, the notion of America’s religious dimension has always been controversial, with some claiming the land was always intended to be a “Christian nation” while others contend that it is very much a pluralistic land, and all the better because of it. Still others invoke the term “Separation of Church and State” to convey a belief in a more libertarian view—the notion that everyone should worship how they see fit and the government should simply stay out of it.

What the Constitution Says—and What it Doesn’t

All of this raises some interesting questions about America’s religious identity, not the last is that of the Constitution and its perspective on the issue. What does the Constitution tell us about this topic of the “separation of religion and state”?

You might be surprised to know that it doesn’t actually say anything about this, at least not directly. Though the phrase was invoked by many of the Constitution’s framers and its earliest defenders, foremost among them Thomas Jefferson, those words do not appear in the Constitution itself. It is worth noting, however, that Jefferson used the phrase to explain what he felt the Constitution (and specifically the First Amendment) prescribed, and the phrase has also been employed in many Supreme Court rulings.

“Separation of church and state” may not be Constitutional words per se, then, but they are certainly words integral to American political history.

Back to the Bill of Rights

But let’s return to the First Amendment for a moment, which Jefferson believed did teach the separation of church and state, if not in those exact words. If those words are not used, what words are relevant to our understanding of American religious liberty?

For one thing, the First Amendment notes that “no religious test shall ever be required” for anyone to assume public office in the United States. In other words, your religious beliefs are irrelevant to the question of whether you are legally permitted to be a representative of this country at any leadership or governmental level—suggesting that, despite some efforts to prove likewise, the country does not have an official or a state religion in place.

Secular Government and American Ideals

It may also be worth noting that, while the notion of an entirely secular government is important to American history, it is not exclusive to it, nor did it originate on American soil. In fact, it was the philosopher John Locke who essentially created the idea of a government run devoid of any religious inflection or value—and Locke who proved to be a primary influence on American men like Thomas Jefferson.

Though “separation of church and state” is neither explicitly Constitutional nor uniquely American, it has certainly proven influential in this nation’s history, not least through the provisions of the highest court in the land. A Supreme Court Case from 1879, Reynolds v. United States, offered a ruling that cited Jefferson’s famed turn of phrase as a thorough explanation of the “scope and effect” of the First Amendment. Meanwhile, in 1947, Everson v. Board of Education again cited Jefferson’s words, noting that a wall of separation between church and state was intended by the Constitution even if those precise words were not used.

So does America actually have a “separation of church and state”—and if so, what exactly does that phrase mean? It’s clearly fluid and perhaps even a little ambiguous, yet just as surely it is a part of our heritage, a part of what makes America what it is.

The Holy City of Medina

Significance of Holy City of Medina in Shia Islam

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

The original name of this city was Yathrib and its existence dates back to many years before emergence of Islam, as there are numerous historical sources about Medina and its conditions. Medina is currently considered the second holiest city place in Islam as a religion after the holy city of Mecca, as it holds two of the holiest and earliest mosques in Islam (Mosque of the Prophet & Quba Mosque). In addition, Medina is the place, which holds the highest number of holy sites and places in Islamic tradition. The most important site of Medina is the Prophet Mosque (Masjid Al-Nabawi) and the importance of this place is due to the fact that Prophet Mohammad’s house and burial place is there. Yearly, millions of Muslims (Sunni & Shia) from around the world visit this city and pay their respect to the Prophet of Islam, as during the Haj season, it has become a mandatory norm to visit Medina.

Medina to Shia Muslims:

To Shia Muslims, Medina is a place that is linked with a mix of historical glory and calamities forced upon the Prophet and his holy household, especially after the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad. According to Shia sources, after the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad, and the famous events of SAQIFA, where the Caliphate was wrongfully taken from Imam Ali, the first calamity of the holy household took place in Medina. The alleys of Medina witnessed many afflictions, insults and affronts against Imam Ali and his wife, Lady Fatima Al-Zahra. It was in Medina, where the companions of Prophet Mohammad gathered around the house of Imam Ali and burned his door and attacked his house and broke his wife’s rib and caused her miscarriage. Therefore, to Shia Muslims Medina is a place of sorrow and it reminds them of the primary oppression and affliction upon the holy household of Prophet Mohammad.

In addition, although the city of Medina was the birthplace of majority of Shia Imams, it was the place of their martyrdom and their burial place. Four Shia Imams, were buried in the Baqe’e cemetery, alongside many other family members of Prophet Mohammad’s progeny and household. The most important individuals, who are buried in Medina are:

  • Imam Hassan Al-Mujtaba (Shia Islam’s 2nd Imam)
  • Imam Ali Al-Sajjad (Shia Islam’s 4th Imam)
  • Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir (Shia Islam’s 5th Imam)
  • Imam Ja’afar Al-Sadiq (Shia Islam’s 6th Imam)

In addition, there are many other important figures of Islam, who are buried in the Baqe’e cemetery, like:

  • Al-Abbas ibn Abd Al-Mutalib (Prophet Mohammad’s Uncle)
  • Lady Fatima Bint Assad (Imam Ali’s Mother)
  • Lady Um Al-Banin (Wife of Imam Ali and mother of Imam Al-Hassan and Al-Hussein’s half-brothers)
  • Othman Ibn Math’un (Prophet Mohammad’s companion and their first man to be buried in the cemetery)
  • Mohammad Ibn Al-Hanafia (one of Imam Ali’s sons)
  • Ibrahim son of Prophet Mohammad
  • Aqeel Ibn Abi Talib (Imam Ali’s brother)
  • Ismael Ibn Ja’afar Al-Sadiq (Son of Imam Ja’afar Al-Sadiq)
  • Jabir Ibn Abdallah Al-Ansari (One of Prophet Mohammad’s main companions and an important Islamic tradition narrator)
  • Many of Prophet Mohammad’s wives and relatives.

Ever since the capital of the Muslim Empire was transferred to Kufa, the city of Medina lost its political significance and it became a place of worship and intellectual center, where scholars and thinkers from different sects and schools had classes and circles in this city. Therefore, Medina became an important place to Muslims regardless of sectarian divisions, ideological and theological affiliations.

The status of Medina and its historic building and sites, was part of its socio-religious significance, which was abolished by the Wahhabi Sunnis after the control of Al Saud in the Arabian Peninsula. The Wahhabi sect is very hostile toward any notion of glorification and reverence for historical and religious sites, as they consider these places resemblance of idol worshiping and infidelity. The latest demolition of ancient artifacts in Mosul by ISIS fighters, fall under the same ideology and school of thought, as majority of radical and terrorist groups are the followers of the fundamental Wahhabi sect that is adopted by Saudi government. Therefore, many of the historical and religious sites of Medina were demolished by the Wahhabi groups under the supervision of te Saudi regime. The sites and places that were demolished and destructed by these groups were:

  • The shrine of the four Imams in Baqe’e cemetery
  • The shrines of many of Prophet Mohammad’s relatives
  • The shrines and tombs of many Prophet Mohammad’s companions
  • House of Prophet Mohammad
  • Shrine of Hamza (Prophet Mohammad’s uncle)
  • Mosque of Fatime
  • Mosque of Al-Thanaya
  • Mosque of Al-Minaratayn
  • Al-Ma’eda Mosque
  • Al-Ijaba Mosque
  • Thousands of trees in the mosque of Prophet Mohammad
  • Blockage of a water well in the mosque of Prophet Mohammad

There has been many efforts by Islamic scholars and independent organizations to re-build these sites and the shrines of Ahlul-Bayt in Medina, but these efforts haven’t been very effective. Today, Medina is still under the Wahhabi control and according to most visitors and pilgrims, they are insulted and degraded for even standing close to the Prophet’s tomb, or saying Praise of Allah be on his Prophet.

The Holy City of Samarra

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi

125 Kilometers north of Baghdad exists a city that is considered, one of the major points of the Sunni-Tringle in Iraq and its history goes back to 6000 BC. It is the city of Samarra, and the name is derived from the Arabic phrase ‘Surra Man Ra’a’, which translates to ‘who sees it rejoices’. However, the importance of this city to Shia Muslims is due to numerous reasons and historical events that turned this city from a military base into a place that attracts millions of hearts from around the globe.

The city of Samarra as said above is an ancient destination and point of interest, which was the aim of many empires in that region and witnessed several brutal wars and clashes. Nevertheless, the contemporary structure of Samarra is dated back to the Abbasid dynasty and specifically the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mutasem. Al-Mutasem established this city originally as a military camp, along with palaces and all sorts of amenities for his armies. In addition, Al-Mutasem transferred the capital city of the Abbasid Empire from Baghdad to Samarra, which was a much disputed decision, but it was also adopted by Al-Mutasem’s son Al-Mutawakel.

Samarra is the burial place of two Shia Imams, who were both captives and placed under sever house arrest, as the Abbasid Caliphs viewed their presence among the people as an inspiration for revolt and change. Imam Ali Al-Hadi, who is the 10th Imam of Shia Muslims was summoned by Al-Mutawakil to Samarra and placed under house arrest, and ultimately he was assassinated by Al-Mu’tazz Al-Abbasi through poisoning. Imam Al-Hadi was buried in Samarra and according to Shia traditions, the era of Taqiya (Dissimulation) was established by this Imam and therefore, even though Shia Muslims were a sizable group in the Muslim nation, they had very minimal contact with their Imam. This notion was due to the brutal oppression against the Shia Muslims and their presence, by the Abbasid Caliphs and especially the ones during the time of last 4 Imams of Shia Muslims.

Ultimately, during the time of 11th Imam, Imam Hassan Al-Askari who was summoned along with his father to Samarra, the oppression against the Shia Muslims was at its peak. Shia Muslims had very minimal contact with their Imam, and most transactions, teachings, principle and narrations were delivered to Shias through close disciples and agents. The Abbasid Caliph during the time of Imam Al-Askari was Al-Mu’tamid, who had personal hatred toward the holy household of Prophet Mohammad. Al-Mu’tamid considered Imam Al-Askari as his primary enemy, and since he was aware of the Islamic tradition about the birth of the 12th Imam, he knew that keeping Imam Al-Askari under supervision might enable him to prevent the birth of that 12th Imam. Therefore, according to historic sources the circumstance surrounding the birth of Moses and Imam Al-Mahdi, who was born in Samarra were very similar. Prior to Moses birth, there were no pregnancy sign evident on his mother, as the tyrant of that time was killing all new born male children. Prior to the birth of Imam Al-Mahdi, Al-Mu’tamid placed the house of Imam Al-Askari under surveillance and he was waiting for the birth of this 12th Imam. Therefore, according to Shia narrations, Narjis Khatoon (Imam Al-Askari’s wife) had no visible pregnancy sign.

Imam Al-Askari was poisoned and assassinated by Al-Mu’tamid, when his son Imam Al-Mahdi was 5 years old, and he was buried in Samarra as well. Therefore, the holiness of this city was reaffirmed by the burial of a second Imam in that city. After the death of Imam Al-Askari, the 12th Imam, Imam Al-Mahi went into what Shia Muslims call (Minor Occultation) for seven decades.

In addition, to the three mentioned reasons for Samarra’s significance for Shia Muslims, Samarra was the last known place of Imam Al-Mahdi prior to his major occultation, which is still in effect. The Occultation basement, is still present in the city of Samarra and it is visited by millions of visitors from around the world each year.

The Samarra bombing in 2006, which demolished the Al-Askari shrine was the reason behind many sectarian tensions and conflicts. Fortunately, due to the wisdom of Iraq’s religious authority in Najaf led by Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani the sectarian tension was eased and contained and Samarra is gradually regaining its position as an attraction in Iraq’s tourism agenda.

How to be Green: Tips for Conserving Energy at Home

By Amanda C
Edited by Ali Reza

Many things in our homes are powered by electricity. This includes everything from heating and cooling systems and appliances to other devices your family uses. These costs can quickly add up and excessive energy use can be a drain on resources. The good news is that there are many ways in which you and your family can be proactive and conserve energy and also be green helping the environment.

Lighting

  • Turn off lights: When you leave a room, make sure to turn off the lights. Using natural lighting from windows when possible can also help to reduce reliance on overhead lights or lamps.
  • Replace bulbs: Traditional light bulbs are quickly being replaced by compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) which are more energy-efficient and last longer. They still emit the same amount of light, however.
  • Use dimmers or motion sensors: You can have more control over how much energy your lights use by adding dimmer switches. During early morning or evening hours when there is sunlight available you can keep the lights lower. During the night when it is dark out, you can turn them up brighter. Another option is to install motion sensors so that lights automatically turn off when the area is not in use. This can be especially beneficial for outdoor lights.

Heating and Cooling

  • Make use of ceiling fans: Ceiling fans can be a great way to circulate air throughout the room without having to turn on the heating or cooling system. Switch the direction of the blades to run clockwise in the winter and counterclockwise in the summer.
  • Lower thermostat settings: When you’re not home and at night, lower the temperature in your home to conserve energy. Newer systems are programmable and can allow you to set temperature changes at certain times during the day. Using ceiling fans can also help regulate temperature. If you get chilly with lower temperatures, throw on a blanket, sweatshirt, or socks before bumping it up. Also close air vents in rooms that you are not using so that you are not paying to heat or cool them.
  • Add curtains: Curtains can both keep heat in and out. During peak daylight hours they can keep the room cooler by blocking out the sun’s rays. At night they can keep the heat in your home by providing an extra barrier on windows.
  • Seal doors and windows: Make sure that the seals around the edges of the windows and bottoms of the doors are tight to prevent drafts. If you have older windows, consider slowly replacing them with new ones that can provide better insulation. This will help to conserve energy and reduce electricity costs.

Electricity

  • Run full loads: This includes the washer, dryer, and dishwasher. Rather than doing several small loads, wait until you can fill the machine up. If you do have multiple loads to wash or dry, try to do them one right after the other so that the machine does not have to warm up all over again each time.
  • Use power strips: Plug electronics into a power strip so that way you can turn it off when not in use. Even if you have turned the device off, it can still draw power. Remember to unplug the cords for your chargers when you’re not using them as well.
  • Buy energy-efficient appliances: If you are looking to buy or replace your appliances, look for ones that are certified as being energy efficient. They are designed to use less energy while still providing high quality performance. You can also qualify for tax deductions and other discounts if you have energy-efficient appliances.
  • Replace filters: Set a reminder to yourself to check and replace the filter in your heat and air conditioning unit. Not only will this help it to work more effectively, it will also make it more efficient and reduce energy use. As you are cleaning, make sure to dust off the coils to your refrigerator as well.

These are just a few of the ways that you can make a difference and help promote greener living. Being conscientious of your energy use is beneficial not only for the environment but your wallet as well. Once you start implementing simple changes, you will notice the difference.

Learning to Love Running: A Goal-Oriented Activity

By Amanda C. (Contributor)
Edited by Ali Reza

Some people are natural athletes who are drawn to running and sports. Other people learn to love these activities because of the way it makes them feel. Running is a great way to work both your body and your mind. It doesn’t have to be a task that you dread – it can be a fun and relaxing way to stay in shape, clear your mind, and boost your confidence. One of the perks of running is that you are in control; you can go at your own pace and set your own goals.

Start off slowly. During your first run, you may not be able to make it more than a few minutes but that is okay. Your body needs time to adjust and build up endurance. Setting your sights on three miles the first time can leave you feeling defeated when you fall short of this unrealistic goal. Take into consideration your current level of physical activity and what is realistic. Take some time to get your muscles used to running. Start off running shorter distances and alternating with walking. Soon you will see that you can go for longer distances with more ease.

Set short- and long-term goals. Maybe today your goal is to run one block further than you did yesterday. By the end of the week you may want to do a mile. Then maybe a mile in a certain amount of time. Strive to beat your best times and push your distance even further. The only person you are really competing with is yourself. Set goals that you want to achieve, not goals that you think would please others. Track your runs so that you can see your progress.

Another way to stay motivated is to find races to participate in. Start off with a 5k and focus on preparing yourself. Enjoy the invigorating feeling of crossing that finish line and knowing you met your goal. Sign up for other races and set your sights higher. It can be very empowering and satisfying to reach various milestones you have set and realize that you are accomplishing what you have set your mind to.

Make it fun. Running doesn’t have to be boring. Create a playlist of your favorite upbeat songs to stay energized. Choose a path that gives you plenty of things to look at and enjoy the time to yourself. Many people use running as a way to clear their mind, reduce stress, and stay fit. If you enjoy company, call up a friend and have a running buddy to help you stay accountable and on track. You can motivate each other to reach that next goal.

A great thing about running is that you can do it almost anywhere, anytime. Lace up your sneakers and head out. Make running something that you do for yourself. As you start checking goals off of your list, it can inspire you and boost your self-esteem. In time you will begin to see results as your body becomes stronger and leaner, your endurance increases, and you’re running like you never thought you could. Start by taking those first few steps today and before you know it, you’ll be crossing the finish line.

 

Best American Weekend Recipes for a Family on the Go

Here’s a problem that most any family can relate to: Balancing the hectic schedules of family life with the desire to enjoy fellowship around the table—and to observe some semblance of good nutrition, to boot.

For families with a lot of activities, taking time to enjoy a meal together is tough. Tougher still is actually preparing that meal at home, rather than succumbing to the all-too-natural desire to order pizza or pick up some fast food takeout.

But enjoying family dinners is possible, even for families that are always on the move. The trick is to find the right recipes—and, perhaps, to actively cherish time spent preparing meals together.

Your family may have some favorite weeknight recipes of its own, some go-tos that are easy to prepare and enjoyable for everyone in your household. Even so, it never hurts to expand your repertoire and to partake of some new dishes. Consider a few of the options listed below.

Spaghetti and meatballs. This is a classic meal, of course, and has a few different benefits. It’s hearty and filling, and it’s beloved by almost everyone. There are many variants on this family staple, but here’s a recipe that you can complete in just 40 minutes. (Added bonus: The meatballs are baked, not fried!)

Cashew chicken. This dish is an all-time Chinese takeout favorite, but you can enjoy a homemade variation that’s every bit as good! This is a wonderful meal for getting pickier members of your family to enjoy some vegetables, too. Try this 30-minute recipe, and augment it with some mushrooms, celery, carrots, or other veggies of your choice.

Cheeseburger flatbread pizza. Quick questions: Do the people in your family enjoy cheeseburgers? And do they enjoy pizza? If you answered yes to both then this dish is really a no-brainer. Try this version of it, which you can prepare in just 35 minutes. (And it’s a good option for kids who may want to help sprinkle on some ingredients, too.)

Barbecue chicken sandwiches. Speaking of crowd pleasers, everyone likes a good barbecue sandwich, but a lot of barbecue recipes take copious amounts of time to complete. Here is an excellent recipe that you can have ready and on the table in just over 20 minutes’ time!

Tortilla-crusted chicken. This is a wonderful dish for families who want something a little spicy, a little bit Tex-Mex. You can use store-bought salsa, which provides big flavor but doesn’t require a lot of labor. The recipe can be made in 20 minutes or so!

Chipotle bean burritos. Here’s another Mexican-styled dish that you can prepare in under 30 minutes, and with ingredients that are all wonderfully inexpensive. Get some chips and salsa or guacamole to really make your family mealtime a fiesta! The recipe is here.

Maple-glazed salmon. Now here’s a great, lean recipe for families that want a low calorie count as well as big flavor! This salmon dish is served with some delicious vegetables, and it can be made and on the table in just around 25 minutes.

Herb-roasted chicken. Here’s one more for the healthy-and-delicious column—a savory chicken dish that’s offered with a number of yummy veggies. This one can be made in 40 minutes’ time, and is sure to be a hit with everyone!

White chili. Once it starts to get a little cooler outside you may find yourself craving something in the way of a soup, and white chili is something that everyone tends to enjoy. You can prepare it in under an hour, and, with this recipe, you can use chicken or turkey.
Of course, there are plenty of great recipes on the Web, including on Pinterest, for families on the go. Try a couple this week, and see how well your clan likes them. Add some new flavors to your weekly routine, and enjoy time spent together in the kitchen!