Prisoners & Victims of Conscience in History

March 27, 2015

Shia Muslims

By Hussein Al-Rumaithi In 1961 when Amnesty International was founded by Peter Benenson to draw attention toward human rights abuses and mobilize international attention toward this matter to put pressure on states and government to end these violations. Rights of women, children, slavery, human rights and prisoner of conscience were among the primary focuses of this organization. However, this noble cause has failed to address the historic aspects of these violations to numerous reasons, which include political sensitivities and complexities. Therefore, as a result some of the oldest violations in these aspects have been marginalized and sidelined, which has minimized the effectuality of such organizations in some parts of the world. When it comes of human rights violations and prisoners of conscience and persecutions based on belief and right of expression, Shia Muslims can be identified as the first victims of such violations and atrocities. Regardless of the sectarian and theological division that segregates Shia Muslims from rest of the Islamic world, the rationales behind oppressing this large minority are beyond apprehension and tolerance. The first type of oppression against Shia Muslims began through verbal labeling and decrying, which was the notion of identifying the Shia Muslims as infidels and REJECTORS (Rafidha). Assigning such a demeaning label to Shia Muslims was a preparation for physical elimination and persecution, which lasted centuries and resulted in displacement, death and imprisonment of millions.

Persecution Based on Assumption and Allegation

Modern political accusations, which are used to penalize and persecute an individual or a specific group are not as modern as we think they are, a historical facts indicate they have used in the past to eliminate groups and individuals. During the time of Muawiya Ibn Abi Sufyan, governor of Syria during the time of third Caliph Othman Ibn Affan, and later on raged a war against Imam Ali, these political accusations were used to eliminate and persecute the followers of Imam Ali. When this man became the Caliph of Muslim and established what is today considered as the Islamic Empire, he formed an entire force to pursue, find, imprison, torture and kill the followers of Imam Ali and Shia Muslims. History books mention that Muawiya ordered his forces to arrest people based on assumption or even a fabricated accusation, and persecute them. Therefore, what is considered as human rights and freedom of expression in modern day definitions was oppressed and banned during the era of this man. During the time of Hajjaj Al-Thaqafi, the notorious governor of Iraq during Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan (The Umayyad Caliph), Shia Muslims and their leaders were arrested and punished only for being Shia and followers of Imam Ali. Sunni and Shia traditions narrate incidents and events, where this man arrested entire tribes and killed them due to their belief, and how this man pursued the leaders of Shia communities and humiliate them and killed them in cold blood. History is filled with events and incidents that mark the earliest cases of human rights violations and prisoners of conscience, who were penalized for their belief and religious affiliation. Therefore, if modern human rights organizations and groups are serious about gaining credibility among oppressed populations, they should consider acknowledging these historic grievance and condemn them to certify these types of violations through all times. Political tendencies and complexities have existed and will remain, as means of legitimacy and survival justify the methodologies of states. However, acknowledging a specific violation whether historical or contemporary shall not create sectarian tensions and instability, as there is no intention to blame these atrocities on an entire sect or religion.  

Shia Muslims & Notion of Idealism vs. Realism

March 26, 2015

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi Shia Muslims present themselves as one of the biggest oppressed minorities on the face of this planet, as they have been the victims of extinction, marginalization, elimination and discrimination at its most brutal forms. In addition, oppression and grievance have been part of a Shia Muslim’s individualistic nature, which has made him/her adaptive to some of the most unbearable conditions and calamities. However, there has been numerous attempts by various Shia groups to refine and improve the conditions of their fellow Shia Muslims throughout the course of history. These attempts were either unsuccessful or depraved from their goals, and no improvement was resulted from their success, which in some cases ended up being catastrophic for Shia Muslims as well. Therefore, some scholars and observer (Muslims & Non-Muslims) are presenting the notion that Shia Muslims are following an idealist approach, which is costing them much more than what it is worth, and no outcome is even guaranteed.

Are Shia Muslims idealists?

Generally speaking, idealism is the notion of understanding and presenting the world as it might or should be, or in another term the opposite of pragmatic presentation of the world. However, according to Shia Islam the world is divided by evil and good, and the power of will and intellect enables humans to distinguish between the two, through the help of guidance (messengers). Therefore, the world is capable of being all good, and noble values and norms are able to prevail regardless of evil’s power and superiority. However, to accomplish a state of tranquility and prosperity requires patience, diligence, missionary efforts and establishment of inner societies based on noble values to be used as examples and models. Nevertheless, one of the notions that differentiates Shia Islam with any majority of other beliefs, is the rejection of ‘purpose justifies the mean’, which is used to legitimize many actions and policies for a specific cause. Therefore, it is technically right to claim Shia Muslims are idealists, as they have stuck to their values and goals of a utopian like society, when reality indicates accomplishing such a society is next to impossible.

Are Shia Muslims Realists?

Although it would be correct to consider the Shia Muslims as idealists throughout their struggle ever since their emergence as an independent sect in the Islamic world, their ability to cope and adapt to the political realities of their time is respectable. Shia Muslims have been able to accept their role in their societies and acknowledge their inferiority, as an oppressed and marginalized group. Therefore, they have adopted numerous methods of assure their survival and continuity through a set of political and religious means to evade extinction and further elimination.
  • Taqiya: this term translates as ‘dissimulation’ in English, and its meaning is, the notion of someone hiding his/her belief if he/she faces dangers like physical elimination or sever bodily harm. This mean has been presented by Shia Imams, as a method to ensure the safety of Shia Muslims in societies with Sunni majority, as Shias were persecuted and punished for their belief.
  • Tribal coalitions: This type of conduct was feasible in places where there were sizable Shia population, but they still needed some sort of protection. Therefore, creating a policy of collective security and protection, was done through tribal coalitions. This type of coalition secured the stability for Sunni tribes, as their regions was not going to be raided by the regimes, and it enabled Shia tribes to use their coalition as a mean of deterrence in the face of tyrants and regimes.
  • Migration: Although this method was affiliated with great amount of sorrow and grievances, as migrating to remote places was an indirect mean of marginalization, but it ensured the survival of many Shia Muslims. There are large numbers of Shia migrators to modern day Lebanon, Persia, Yemen and North Africa, as the regimes were persecuting Shia Muslims for their belief.
These are the three major methodologies that were adopted by Shia Muslims to ensure survival and security, which have been successful, as currently Shia Muslims are totaling up to 250 million in the Islamic world. Therefore, realism was the doctrine adopted by Shia Muslims to cope with their situation and deal with their conflicts, as they acknowledged their weaknesses and their inability to fight and challenge the state. However, this mixture of doctrines that was adopted by Shia Muslims can be identified as an extra weakness as well. Unfortunately, Shia Muslims were never able to unite and establish an entity for themselves to protect their existence, as they were afraid to show their presence and gatherings, fearing they would be identified and persecuted. This notion has even affected their jurisprudential rulings. For example, the Friday Prayer is one of the symbols of Muslim unity and power exposure, but fearing that conducting the Friday Prayers would gather the Shias in one place is not a safe move, many scholars and even late Imams, placed this worship as an un-obligatory deed.

Muslims & Contemporary Challenges

February 26, 2015

By Hussein Al-Rumaithi The modern era has brought challenges upon all humans on the face of this planet, which makes the humanity in a constant state of examination and struggle to assure survival. The notion of survival is not necessary referred to physical existence or distinction, not does it exclude it from the picture. Humanity is facing challenges from a wide range of aspects like, poverty, stability, tolerance, civility and ultimately intellectual struggle to determine the best method that assures overcoming these challenges. However, Muslims in modern era are faced with same challenges, but the difference lays in the nature of the struggles they have to fight against, as they are the subjected to more focus and heavier responsibilities. The current status of Muslims is linked to numerous variable and facts that are ranging from social, historical, political, cultural and mainly intellectual, dating back to centuries ago until present day. Nevertheless, acknowledging the struggles and addressing them needs thorough dissection and apprehension, which will lead to the ultimate state of prosperity and tranquility. Muslims can keep blaming the whole world for the calamities, and they can present different cases of conspiracy theories that will not change a single thing about their condition. However, by realizing the fact that change and advancement is entirely associated to their will and ability, Muslims shall be able to face the challenges and struggles of today’s era and learn from them. They Holy Quran, the narrations of Prophet Mohammad and his holy household are full of encouragements and guidelines to face challenges and learning from them and passing the details of that experience to future generations. Therefore, it would be beneficial to identify some of the challenges and categorize their priority to address them accordingly.

Intellectual Challenges

Knowledge, intellect and comprehension are directly linked to the notion of gaining, wealth accumulation and advancement. Past civilizations have been able to transfer their legacy through a precise system of, comprehension, application, capitalization and recording, which enabled them to secure a place for themselves in the future. Even though some civilizations have not survived until present day, but their legacy is still evident and applied until this day, which makes their presence indirectly undeniable. The Islamic world was superior in numerous fields that included science, education, engineering, astronomy, medicine and even finance, which helped Muslims become one of the strongest nations history has even known. However, corrupt political policies and miscalculated tendencies for expansion and conquer led them to lose the centrality and mandate they had once upon a time. In addition, there are many more factors that stopped the superiority of Muslims after a Golden era of advancement and innovation. However, the current state of inferiority that Muslims are experiencing is linked to lack of will and efforts and not the effectuality of ideology as some might argue. The availability of knowledge, intellect, science and all the necessities for advancement are still available for Muslims, whether in their literature or in what other civilizations have developed. Therefore, the possibility of social and intellectual reform is always available if Muslims realize its necessity. There are numerous verses and narrations that encourage Muslims to seek knowledge from anywhere and anyone and use it to benefit themselves and others, which puts the notion of responsibility on their burdens.

Social Challenges

Due to the unsuccessfulness of overcoming the intellectual challenges, Muslims are facing a wide range of social challenges and struggles, which brings whole new levels of hardships. By reading the history of Islam and the way Prophet Mohammad introduced it in the Arabian Peninsula, any observer would agree that Prophet Mohammad’s primary goal was intellectual advancement and ultimately social reform. The Arabian Peninsula was among the worst of regions if compared to that era’s civilizations and nations, which includes the Persians, Romans, Egyptians and other empires. Therefore, the way Prophet Mohammad transformed that society and brought it out of its state, is without doubt magnificent and unbelievable. Prophet Mohammad, introduced notions such as, gender equality, justice, respect and ethic codes in a society that buried its females and raided one another for survival. He introduced those values in a society that had only 17 literates in the whole Arabian Peninsula and things like swords, harshness and philistinism were considered as virtues. Therefore, if Mohammad was able to change that society and transform it to one of the greatest civilizations, then it should not be impossible to use the same methods Prophet Mohammad used and apply them in modern day. The current state of social conducts that is leading the Muslim societies has catastrophic in many ways, which has made it harder form Muslims to introduce their religion to the outside world, and make it adaptable. Unfortunately, the social status of Muslims in the current time is directly associated with their personal interpretation of religious fundamentals and definition. Therefore, majority of their social norms and conducts are sought to be Islamic in nature, which is far from reality. The cruel tribal codes and status of women in the society are part of this ongoing struggle to overcome the social challenges of modern era. In addition, the remaining notion of social fabric that is present in Muslims societies is linked to ethnic, tribal, sectarian and historical alliances, which is being governed by a systematic approach led by the states. Even the religious aspect of the social relations in the Muslims societies is not as strong as decades ago, as sectarian tensions have ravished such relations. Therefore, Muslims are faced with an excellent opportunity to revamp and revive their social system, through a system that will prevent occurrence of future grievances. The current political turmoil in the Muslim World has damaged the social foundation of many societies, and made the remaining very fragile. As a result, Muslims and Arabs in general have gotten to a point where tactical maneuvers are not sufficient anymore, and they is a tendency to minimize loss of lives as much as possible. Therefore, Muslims will be physiologically and socially ready for finding a solution of their social struggles to have a stable and secure future. TO BE CONTINUED.

Greatest Shia Scholars of All Time

February 26, 2015

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi The uniqueness of Shia traditional seminaries and schools of thoughts lays in the independence and continuous innovation being presented to the world, throughout history. Majority of people tend to think of Shia seminaries and religious schools as a place of radicalization, where the only subjects being taught are Quran and history of Prophet’s life. Many observers, who have visited the Shia seminaries in Najaf, Karbala and Qom have been shocked by the level of intellect and thoroughness, which these schools operate by. The numerous types of subjects and majors that are taught in the seminaries are limited to jurisprudence, Quran, Hadith and history. Students in Shia seminaries study the different philosophical schools of the west and the east, mathematics, science, biology and physics, which help the scholars understand the contemporary challenges of each era precisely and extract religious rulings according to the circumstances of modern age. Therefore, we tend to see some religious rulings and Fatwas have been changes according to time and position, which mandates different variables of their own. However, after the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, the Shia community have introduced many great scholars, who have been very influential domestically and globally. These scholars developed and delivered new methods of discretion and interpretation, which has helped Shias and even other sects to understand their religion in a more effective approach.

  1. Sheikh Al-Tusi. His full name is Abu Ja’afar Mohammad Ibn Al-Hassan Al-Tusi, who was born in 996 in modern day Iran. He moved to Baghdad for the purpose of finishing his religious studies under the supervision of scholars like the Great Sheik Al-Mufid and Sayed Al-Murtatha. When Sheikh Al-Tusi realized that Baghdad was not a safe place anymore, due to political instabilities and conflicts, he moved to Najaf and established the seminary (Hawza) of Najaf, which is still active until present day. He is considered one of greatest scholars of Shia Islam and his books and opinions are being taught until this day by scholars. He mastered numerous subjects like, jurisprudence, philosophy, mathematics, theology and medicine.
  2. Sheik Al-Mufid. Sheikh Al-Mufid was born in a small town north of Baghdad named, Ukbara in 948. He migrated to Baghdad and studies alongside the prominent Shia Scholar Sheikh Al-Saduq. He is considered one of the forefathers of philosophical theology, and wrote numerous books in different subjects, which are considered very important resources for Islamic studies. Sheikh Al-Mufid lived during the Golden era of Islamic history and taught some of the Shia Islam’s most prominent Shia scholars.
  3. Sheikh Al-Saduq. Sheikh Al-Saduq is considered one of earliest scholars of Shia Islam during the beginning stages of Imam Al-Mahdi’s occultation. His full name is: Abu Ja’afar Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Babawaih Al-Qummi and he was born in 923, in the city of Qom, which was considered a center for religious studies and intellectual work. He is regarded as the father of Shia jurisprudence and tradition, which makes him an important part of legitimizing many narrations and traditions of Shia Imams.
  4. Mohammad Ibn Ya’qub Al-Kulayni. Born in modern day Iran in 941, during the minor occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, Sheikh Al-Kulayni is considered one of the main tradition and narrations compilers of Shia history. He is the author of “Kitab Al-Kafi”, which is the main book of “Hadith” narrations for Shia Muslims and many of Islamic beliefs and pillars are based on the narrations stated in his book.
  5. Baha’a Al-Din Mohammad Ibn Hussain Al-Amili. He is also known as Sheikh Al-Bahae’e, who was born on February 18th of 1547 in the Amil mount of modern Southern Lebanon. Sheikh Al-Bahae’e is known to be a scholar in jurisprudence, Islamic traditions, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and architecture, and he was also a prominent poet. He migrated to the city of Isfahan during the Safavid era, who ruled Iran for a long time, and Shiekh Al-Bahae’e is considered the founder of Isfahan’s religious school of jurisprudence and philosophy. He wrote 100 books and commentaries in Arabic and Persian, which are being used as primary resources in Islamic studies, and some of the most fascinating architectural and engineering wonders of Islamic era were built by him. From these wonders the famous “Naqshe Jahan Square”, “Charbagh Avenue” and “Manar Jonban” in Isfahan can be mentioned. The Manar Jonban are the famous shaking minarets, which are shakable by hand, without any destruction.
  6. Mohammad Ibn Al-Hassan Al-Hurr Al-Amili. He is known as Al-Hurr Al-Amili, who was born on April 26th 1624 in Amil mount region of Southern Lebanon. He studied under the wing of his father, who was a prominent Shia scholar and other Shias scholars of that era, which enabled him to receive a permission to teach and transmit narrations. He is one of the authors of Shia Muslims great “Four Books” which is known as “Wasa’el Al-Shia” that has thousands of narrations from the Prophet and his holy household.
  7. Mohammad Baqir Al-Majlisi. His known as Allamah Al-Majlisi, who was born in the city of Isfahan, Iran in 1616. Allamah Al-Majlisi is considered one of the greatest Shia scholars after Sheikh Al-Tusi and Sheikh Al-Saduq, as his legacy is beyond the notion of jurisprudence and Islamic traditions. Allamah Al-Majlisi lived in the era of Saffavid dynasty, and held numerous official and unofficial positions, which transformed the era of traditional Shia seminary into a politically active institution, but with total independence from the political foundation. Allamah Al-Majlisi, studies under the wing of famous Mulla Sadra and other prominent Shia scholars, and he gathered the largest amount of narrations and traditions in Shia history in a book called: “Bihar Al-Anwar”, which translates to “Oceans of Lights”.
  8. Al-Muhaqqiq Al-Karaki. The term ‘Muhaqqiq” is an Arabic word, which means the “researcher” and this name was given to Al-Karaki due to his extensive and precise work in Islamic sciences and intellectual subjects. Muhaqqia Al-Karaki was born in southern Lebanon and studies under the wing of numerous prominent Islamic scholars. Ultimately he travelled to Iran during the Saffavid era and was welcomed by the King and assumed the post of Grand Jurist of Iran. Muhaqqiq Al-Karaki was the first Shia scholar who assumed such a position, and his opinions and intellectual works are taught and examined until this day in Shia seminaries.
  9. The Great Sheikh Murtadha Al-Ansari. He is also referred to as the Great Sheikh. Sheikh Al-Ansari was born in modern day Iran in Dezful, which is located in Khuzestan province in 1803. He started his studies in his hometown and then migrated to Iraq and resided in the city of Najaf. He studies under the wing of some of the most knowledgeable scholars of Shia Islam, like Ayatollah Mohammad Hassan Al-Najafi, Mirza Ahmad Al-Naraqi and Kashif Al-Gheta’a. After the death of his primary teacher, Sheikh Al-Najafi, who was the highest religious authority of Shia Muslims, he assumed that positions based on the suggestion of Sheikh Al-Najafi. His intellectual and jurisprudential work is considered as an essential part of seminary studies, which is one of the main pillars for any individual to become a jurist. Sheikh Al-Ansari’s pupils are considered among the greatest Shia scholars of all times, who include the Great Mirza Al-Shirazi (Tobacco Revolution) and Mohammad Kadhem Al-Khorasani, who wrote another religious book that is being taught until this day in Shia seminaries.
  10. Mirza Mohammad Hassan Al-Shirazi (The great Miraza Al-Shirazi). Mirza Al-Shirazi is considered one of the greatest scholars of Shia Islam, who actually used his religious authority to advert a political policy during the Qajar era. He transferred the Shi’s seminary from the city of Najaf to the city of Samara. The city of Samara is known to have a Sunni majority population, but Mirza Al-Shirazi was known for his tolerant and co-existential conduct toward other Islamic sects. Many of the modern day era scholars of Shia Islam are considered to be the followers of his school, and hundreds of Shia scholars have graduated from under his wing and his pupil’s classes.
  11. Sayed Abul Qasim Al-Khoie. Sayed Al-Khoie is considered one of the greatest modern Shia scholars who had thousands of pupils and his legacy is believed to be continuous for many future decades. He was born in Khoi, Iran, and he migrated to Iraq and attended the lectures of great prominent Shia scholars like, Sheikh Al-Nae’eni, Al-Kompani, Thia al-Deel Al-Iraqi, Mirza Ali Al-Qadhi and other Shia scholars. He assumed the highest religious authority for Shia Muslims after the death of Sayed Mohsin Al-Hakeem and taught thousands of scholars and jurists, who are still alive in present day.
  12. Sayed Mohammad Ibn Mahdi Al-Shirazi. Sayed Al-Shirazi’s legacy is without doubt beyond religious and Islamic studies and subjects, as this Shia scholar has written over one thousand books in a wide range of subjects. He wrote in politics, philosophy, management, sociology, psychology, ethics, history, finance, economic and many other matters that affected the lives of people. In addition, he has written the largest series of jurisprudential series in the history of Shia Islam, which is more than 135 volumes. He presented modern political theories for Islamic governance, which based on pluralism and democracy. Sayed Al-Shirazi was believer in the foundation of institutions and organized efforts, which he thought would be more effective for introducing Islam. He is considered the first Shia scholar to call for taking advantage of mass media production means, and his followers established the first Shia TV network in 2001.
There are hundreds of other scholars, who have enriched the Islamic history with their work, which many Muslims even are not aware of, but these scholars have impacted the Shia schools of thought in numerous ways, which is evident until present day.

Journey of a Muslim Convert to Shia Islam

February 20, 2015


This entry below is a contributed content written by brother in faith Robert Silva who is a revert to Shia Islam. The author's views below are entirely his  and may not reflect the views of Shia Wisdom. 
By Revert Brother Robert Silva
Jafar-Residi Today is the last day of Rabi Al-Thani, and it is my privilege to share my thoughts on Islam, and especially my own journey to the Deen of Allah (swt). Anything Good I May Say Comes From Allah (swt), and the Mistakes Are My Own. A brief bit of background on me: I was raised Roman Catholic.  I attended Catholic school as a child but went on to public high school.  There was no particular emphasis on religion in my home growing up. My mother took us to church, and although sometimes he went, my father's beliefs remain a mystery to me.  He seemed to be at best mixed in his views.  As I got older, I explored other belief systems and religions.  I read and explored Buddhism and  especially the Zen school.  I felt that these still left a lot of unanswered questions for me.  I came back to Christianity at the age of 25.  I couldn't explain exactly why, but there felt to be some sort of a pull, although I had rejected as man-made many of the practices and beliefs of the Catholic Church.  I began attending weekly services at a small Episcopal church near where I grew up.  I remained there for several years.  I was active in the church and found myself believing that I had a call to vocation.  I began the discernment process and started down the road to becoming a priest.   I can say that they draw toward the Protestant expression of Christianity was very much impacted by a growing dissatisfaction toward emphasis on man-made rules, rituals, and traditions.  I began to read the Bible intensively and I set out to live my life based upon the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him).  The more I read, the more clearly the message seemed to be that there is one God who alone deserves the worship of humanity and that we have a responsibility to keep His commandments, as well as a responsibility to feed and clothe the needy.  The further I went, I found thinking that confused me.  I could not get past the notion of vicarious atonement (why would God have to become human and die in order to forgive man's sins?  If God is all powerful, there is no need of that.) I also could not understand the doctrine of a trinity.  How could there be one God but three distinct “Gods” at the same time? I would later discover a simple and beautiful answer to that which I will share now:  

Surat Al-'Ikhlāş (The Sincerity)

English Tafsir (translation): Pickthall Say He is Allah the One! Allah Eternally besought by all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable to Him. The more I became exposed to the Qur'an and the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the more drawn I was toward this belief system of simplicity in its message.  The more I read and learned, the more I came to understand that it is all encompassing and that the message of Islam seemed to be built upon prior revelation and earlier beliefs.  As I compared the teachings of Islam to the teachings of Jesus (pbuh), I found that they were not contradictory at all.  In fact they seemed to come from the same source.  Where things diverged was when it got into the stories of the crucifixion and resurrection.  I later found a direct response to this in Qur'an, where Allah (swt) directly says not to refer to the trinity and that Jesus himself was never crucified.  For the purposes of this discussion, I cannot explore that path further, as it will certainly take a great deal of time and citation; however I can say that Surah Maryam (Mary) speaks on this matter clearly, and clearly states that the Prophets sent to the chosen people of Israel from the time of Abraham to Jesus, peace be upon them all, to the final Prophet and Messenger to humanity, Muhammad (pbuh) came from the same God and with the same message: there is no god but Allah.  This understanding of Qur'an as being the last revelation to humankind was essential to me.  As I read the English rendering of it and pondered it's meaning, I found that it confirmed that the source of the revelations was the same.  The Torah of the Jews and the Gospel of the Christians came from the same source.  The progressive revelation was made only to correct where humanity had gotten it wrong and either corrupted the text or innovated in practice.  This began to make so much more sense with the concerns that plagued me about why the practices of christians as a whole were so divergent from the teachings of Jesus (pbuh). Before I go further, I need to clarify a few important terms and points.  The first point is why Muslims use the word Allah for God.  One of the most important things to mention about Islam is the simple profession of faith that there is nothing worthy of worship beside Allah (swt) and that Muhammad (pbuh) is the Prophet and Messenger of Allah.  Unlike the word for deity in other languages, Allah is the perfected Arabic word for God.  It cannot be pluralized and it has no gender.  In English, the word “God” could be used to denote the God of Christians, Jews, and Muslims, or it could be referring to pagan deities.  In English, the word “god” can be pluralized and can also have gender.  Arabic also has the word “ilah,” which is the equivalent of the English word “god.”  It is important to know that Arab Jews and Christians also use the word Allah.  After using the word Allah, often you will see (swt); this stands for Subhanau wa ta'ala, which in English is Glorified and Exalted be He. Another peculiarity of a writing by a Muslim is the fact that anytime the name or office of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is mentioned, it is followed by (pbuh), which means Peace be upon him.  It is incumbent on the Muslims to say this whenever the Prophet (pbuh) is mentioned.  This is true of all Prophets, including the Biblical Prophets from Adam to Jesus (peace be upon them all). So what then is Islam?  Having touched on my journey toward it, I suppose it is important to explain what Islam is in the first place.  Islam is the obedience and submission to Allah (swt) in peace and sincerity.  Simply speaking, it is living our lives as our Maker intended for us to.  This leads to an interesting point with the word Muslim.  Unlike in English, where we add the suffix “er” to an action in describing one who does said action (for example one who travels is called a traveller), in Arabic, the prefix “mu” is done to accomplish the same thing.  So like traveller, one who travels, roughly rendered in Arabic would be musafir.  This is important because one can say “I'm Catholic” or “I'm Protestant,” but this is a label for their identity based on a number of factors, of course including belief.  Islam is different because in order to be a Muslim, you have to do what is required of you according to the commandments of Allah (swt).  This to be a Muslim, one needs to do Islam. Another key point in understanding Islam and Muslims is that Islam is not a religion in the sense that English speakers understand the word.  The word religion is the closest fit to the Arabic word “deen.”  It does not completely render the meaning of the word, however.  Deen is a complete way of life.  Our Deen is not based upon what we believe alone, but that we combine correct action in accordance with the sources of Islam: Qur'an and Sunnah.  Now it is important to point out that different schools of Islamic thought differ on the Sunnah.  Although I originally came to Islam through the Sunni Hanafi school.  Since then, I have become a follower of the Ja'fari (also known as Twelver Shi'a) school.  Ultimately, I prefer to simply call myself a Muslim. I do have to  digress for a moment to discuss what led me to the Twelver school of Islam.  So what was it that drew me to the school of Ahul Al Bayt?  I have tried many times to explain this, but it is difficult to explain. Before I started the process of trying to attend seminary, a priest who was a friend of mine, Reverend Mark Galloway said to me “If God wants you, He'll get you.”  Those words were uncannily accurate.  I went through a year of “discernment” to determine whether or not I believed that I was being called to the priesthood.  Toward the end of that year, I remember vividly praying and being in a state of intense emotion to the point of tears and begging God to guide me.  Alhamdulillah, He did.  Not long after, I was reading a Norton Anthology of literature and it included the (translated) verses of Qur'an that I mentioned earlier, which dealt with `Isa ibn Maryam (pbuh) and Maryam (as). I had not sought these out, but rather had stumbled upon them.  Truth be told I was just leafing through the book and came across them. As a person who does not believe in coincidence, I was now paying attention.  I began to investigate and came across many excellent websites that made the case for Islam very powerfully.  Unfortunately these sites also warned against the Shi'a and argued that the belief of the Shi'a was kufr and that the Shi'a were a deviated sect. At that point, I did not investigate further, but I went down the road of the Hanafi school of thought.  I practiced fairly strictly for a time, but lapsed a bit.  I am sad to say that I had been lax in my prayers and had not attended Jumah in some time.  In 2014, Alhamdulillah, I did attend Friday prayers and again, I was stricken by the masterful work of Allah (SWT) I had been lax for a while and randomly went back.  I was completely unaware of what I would learn next.  What I learned was that Ramadan would start the next Saturday.  I made resolution to fast Ramadan (2014/1435) was my first successful Ramadan alhamdulillah. During that time, I felt a huge urge to read about the Shi'a and I began to do so.  I was still somewhat on the fence, but I came across so many arguments that made sense, whether it be about the succession to the Prophet (PBUH) or the concept of the Imamate, whether about things like combining prayers, or making salat on a turbah, it all made so much more sense.  In addition to this Islam seemed to be easier to practice.  Indeed it was not intended to bring hardship to believers.  Properly understood, everything in the Shi'a theology and practice was completely compatible with my understanding as a Hanafi (which I was at the time).  The proverbial icing on the cake was when I learned that Imam Ja'far al Sadiq was Abu Hanifa's teacher, subhanallah!  I also read teachings from Shi'a Ulema that said the Sunni were Muslims, but more in the exoteric sense only.  The Shi'a taught that one does not declare takfir on a Muslim, and yet the loudest voices from the Salafi and hardline Sunni brothers was that the Shi'a were kafir.  Auzubillah!  I also began to consider how many wildly unislamic movements and militants came from the Salafi influenced climate that has dominated the Muslim world since the rise of the house of Saud.  How many militant Shi'a movements are there? None that I am aware of.  All of them fight in defense almost exclusively.  As an American I was taught that Hezbollah were terrorists, and yet when did they fight?  Only when provoked as in Lebanon. I feel that in His infinite love and mercy, Allah (SWT) always answered my du'a for guidance.  He guided me to credible and reasonable writings on Shi'a Islam and the more I read, most especially the Lantern of the Path by Imam Sadiq (AS) I felt that this could not be anything but truth. As I had mentioned earlier, the sources of Islamic law is the Qur'an and the Sunnah.  The Qur'an is the recitation of revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  It is important to note that the Qur'an is only in Arabic.  Any translation to another language is no longer Qur'an.  It is called Tafsir.  This is important because it protects the text from being manipulated or from errors in translation and copying.  Even a cursory study of the history of the Bible reveals very surprising and worrisome facts about centuries of accumulated errors in translation and copying.  Qur'an as it is now is the same as when it was revealed 1435 years ago.  Viewed in that light and considering that Qur'an was revealed as a guidance to humanity, that it was sent to confirm what was right in the scripture of the People of the Book and to correct what was erroneous, it was compelling to me when I realized that the  word Bible is Koine Greek for “the book.”  Incidentally the Qur'an refers to the believers in previous scripture as “People of the Book.” Although I cannot explore interfaith relations as well as I would like to for the purposes of this discussion, it is important to note that Muslims hold the scripture of the Christians and Jews in high esteem and believe that it too was sent from the same God.  We believe in it as it was revealed to them and we believe that there is no contradiction between the original revelation and Qur'an.  In light of that, irrespective of the horrors in the world today, we believe that all religion belongs to Allah (swt) and that there can be no compulsion in religion.  Just as Jesus (pbuh) said: judge not lest ye be judged, so too does Islam say that the only one worthy of judging is the only God worthy of worship.  In light of the common source of revelation, it is important to point out that the story of Creation is essentially the same, although there are key distinctions.  Unlike the Jewish and Christian texts that put God in the creation as he walks the Garden looking for Adam, and unlike the Jewish and Christian texts that allege that the devil is a fallen angel, Qur'an says very clearly that Adam (pbuh) is deceived by the whisperings of the rebellions Jinn Iblis, who never had the power to make him sin, only the guile to lead him astray.  The Qur'an affirms that nothing happens unless it is willed to happen by Allah (swt) and that our finite human intellect cannot comprehend the plans of Allah (swt) much less His nature.  Key distinctions, however from the Jewish and Christian texts is that the creation of the universe happened in six periods.  For a better understanding of this, I would like to refer to the following article, which I believe demonstrates a reasonable reconciliation between science and faith.  The following article is called Creation in Six Days and is written by Harun Yahya.  It can be found on www.miraclesofthequran.com.  It is worth mentioning that brother Yahya and I do not agree on all things.  Indeed, he takes many positions with which I disagree, but the reconciliation of scientific inquiry and revealed scripture was among many things that drew me to Islam and led me to conclude that it is without a doubt the truth.  Following is a brief excerpt from the article by Harun Yahya.

CREATION IN SIX DAYS

Your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then settled Himself firmly on the Throne... (Qur'an, 7:54) One example of the harmony between the Qur'an and modern science is the subject of the age of the universe. Cosmologists estimate the age of the universe as 16-17 billion years. The Qur'an states that the entire universe was created in six days. These two time frames, which may seem contradictory, are actually surprisingly compatible. In fact, both these figures concerning the age of the universe are correct. In other words, the universe was created in six days, as revealed in the Qur'an, and this period corresponds to 16-17 billion years in the way that we experience time. In 1915 Einstein proposed that time was relative, that the passage of time altered according to space, the speed of the person travelling and the force of gravity at that moment. Bearing in mind these differences in the passage of time, the period of time in which the universe was created as revealed in seven different verses of the Qur'an is actually highly compatible with scientists' estimations. The six-day period revealed in the Qur'an can be thought of as six periods. Because, taking into account the relativity of time, a "day" refers only to a 24-hour period experienced on Earth under current conditions. Elsewhere in the universe, however, at another time and under other conditions, a "day" could refer to a much longer period of time. Indeed, the word "ayyamin" in the period of six days (sittati ayyamin) in these verses (Qur'an 32:4, 10:3, 11:7, 25:59, 57:4, 50:38, and 7:54) means not only "days," but also "age, period, moment, term." In the first period of the universe, the passage of time took place much faster than that with which we are familiar today. The reason for this is that, at the moment of the Big Bang, our universe was compressed into a very small point. The expansion of the universe and increase in its volume ever since the moment of that explosion has extended the borders of the universe to millions of light years. Indeed, the stretching of space ever since that moment has had very important ramifications for universal time. The energy at the moment of the Big Bang slowed down the flow of time 1012 (one million million) times. When the universe was created the speed of universal time was higher up to a million million times, as time is experienced today. In other words, a million million minutes on Earth is the equivalent of just one minute in universal time. When a six-day period of time is calculated according to the relativity of time, it equates to six million million (six trillion) days. That is because universal time flows a million million times faster than time on Earth. Calculated in terms of years, 6 trillion days equates to approximately 16.427 billion years. This is within the estimated range for the age of the universe. 6,000,000,000,000 days/365.25 = 16.427104723 billion years
Allah, there is no god but Him, the Living, the Self-Sustaining. He is not subject to drowsiness or sleep. Everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them but they cannot grasp any of His knowledge save what He wills. His Footstool encompasses the heavens and the earth and their preservation does not tire Him. He is the Most High, the Magnificent. (Qur’an, 2:255)
On the other hand, each of the six days of creation equates to very different periods, as we perceive time. The reason for this is that the speed of the passage of time declines in proportion to the expansion of the universe. Ever since the Big Bang, as the size of the universe doubled, so the passage of time halved. As the universe grew, the speed at which the universe doubled increasingly slowed down. This rate of expansion is a scientific fact acknowledged the world over and described in the text book The Fundamentals of Physical Cosmology. When we calculate every day of creation in terms of Earth time, the following situation emerges:
  • Looked at from the moment when time began, the first day of creation (first phase) lasted 24 hours. This period, however, is the equivalent of 8 billion years in Earth terms.
  • The second day of creation (second phase) lasted 24 hours. This, however, lasted half as long, in our terms, as the preceding day, in other words 4 billion years.
  • The third day (third phase) lasted half as long as the second day, in other words 2 billion years.
  • The fourth day (fourth phase) lasted 1 billion years.
  • The fifth day (fifth phase) lasted 500 million years.
  • And the sixth day (sixth phase) lasted 250 million years.
  • Conclusion: When the six days of creation, in other words the six phases, are added together in Earth terms, the resulting figure is 15 billion 750 million years. This figure displays an enormous parallel with modern-day estimations.
This conclusion is one of the facts revealed by 21st century science. Science has once again confirmed a fact revealed in the Qur'an 1,400 years ago. This harmony between the Qur'an and science is one of the miraculous proofs that the Qur'an is the revelation of Allah, the Creator, the Omniscient. I cite this article because I believe that Islam is the only way of life that encourages both belief and reason.  Muslims are commanded to use reason and intellect.  We are not told to simply take things on blind faith, but rather encouraged to explore and learn more about them.  There should never be a debate about creation versus evolution, because if the same God can create, then surely that same God allows for his creatures to evolve and to change.  In fact Surah 59:24 confirms exactly that.  Below is the English rendering of that verse by Yusuf Ali: He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or Colours). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. As I have attempted to explain, the source of all revelation is the same and there is no contradiction between belief and science.  Science, we must remember is the product of fallible and finite human constructs.  Although great progress has been made, we must never make human achievement as a deity unto itself.  Likewise, we must never discount reason and intellect.  As for the Sunnah as the second source of Islamic law, I found that sufficient evidence could be found from Sunni sources to prove the succession of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS).  In addition to this, I found that certain historical figures and sahaba were not as pious as I had been led to believe.  Frankly, the more I learned about Mu'awiya and Yazid, the more shocked I was.  How could we say these men were holy simply because they were in close proximity to the Prophet (PBUH)? The answer to the issue with the misconceptions that my Sunni brothers followed could be found in the quintessential Sunni source, Sahih al Bukhari: Saeed Ibn Al Musayeb said his father said, the Prophet said, "Some of my companions (Sahaba) will go to a river in Paradise, but they will be taken away, so I will call on God, "My companions (Sahaba)," but I will be told, "You do not know what they did after you. They turned back on their heel" When I considered that, I felt that though there were righteous and pious companions, without a doubt, we cannot accept all of them without a critical consideration of their lives.  Under similar scrutiny, all Shi'a beliefs about the Ahul Al Bayt were absolutely consistent with the Qur'an and plain reason.  Whether this be the record of their pious lives, or the notion of intercession (remember the Imams (AS) were all martyred.  In light of what I had learned, I had no doubt to the best form of Islam and the most reliable examples.  We do not follow the Imams (AS); we follow the Prophet (PBUH) through the sterling example of and the wise teachings of the Imams (AS), all of which is absolutely consisent with the Holy Qur'an.

Why Most of Shia Imams are Buried in Iraq?

February 19, 2015

Iraq & Shi’a Muslims

By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi When the name IRAQ is mentioned majority of people tend to think of ancient Mesopotamia, Babylon Gardens, Hammurabi’s code of laws, the Akkadians and many historical realities, which chose this place to exist. However, there are other notions that are revived every time the name of Iraq is mentioned, which distort the image of this beautiful nation and its long history of tolerance and diversity that accepted numerous ethnic and religious groups alongside each other. The one fact that makes Iraq a unique place with all its minorities and different ethnicities, is its majority population, and their acceptance of others along with their continuous struggle against tyrants and regimes. Iraq’s majority population are Shi’a Muslims, and it has been like that for centuries, which gives this groups a historical depth and root within the sociological foundation of this country. However, the majority of Iraq’s population wasn’t always the Shi’as, and there are numerous historical, political and religious aspects, which caused this demographic transformation. The actual map of this nation has been subjected to many changes throughout history, but there were always political and geographical facts that mandated certain realities upon this part of the world that could not exclude specific parts.

Iraq of Basra & Iraq of Kufa

The southern city of Basra was founded in 636 as an encampment for Arab for tribesmen and armies of the Islamic state, and gradually it became a civilized position due to its location, which was near the Persian Gulf. Throughout the Islamic history Basra witnessed numerous battle and confrontations, and was the host to the first Islamic civil war, which was raged by Ayesha (wife of the Prophet) against Imam Ali (the rightful Caliph of Prophet Mohammad, SAWS). Kufa, which is located in central Iraq was founded in 637, and it was founded as a military camp and command center during the Caliphate of Omar Ibn Khattab. However, Kufa came to be known for its Arab tribes, who were loyal to Imam Ali, which was considered a hub for Shi’a Muslims. When Imam Ali became the Caliph, he transferred his capital from Medina to Kufa, and chose this city as the center of his Caliphate. During this era, many of the followers of Imam Ali migrated to this country and resided in different parts of this land, and Iraq officially became to be known as the center for Shi’a Muslims. This was a huge factor for later Sunni dynasties to assign their most brutal governors for Kufa and Basra, since they had realized, these places (Basra and Kufa) would become the spark locations revolts and uprisings.

Shi’a Imams & Iraq

  • Imam Ali (a): Imam Ali moved the capital city of Muslim Empire from Medina and Kufa as mentioned above, which was a huge factor in many of his followers migrating to this place. In addition, the centrality of place made Iraq a strategic place politically, socially and militarily, since it was close to Persia, which was the newly conquered nation under the Muslim’s rule. It was close to the Levant and it was considered as central defence location against possible Roman invasion from the north. Ultimately, Imam Ali was assassinated in Kufa, while he was praying and he was buried in modern day city of Najaf, which was the outskirts of Kufa during that time.
  • Imam Al-Hussein (a): Imam Al-Hussein, who is the third Imam of Shi’a Muslims came to Iraq after the ruler of his time, Yazid Ibn Muawiya, who was known for his corruption and was hated by majority of Muslims, decided to either assassinate him or force him to give allegiance. Therefore, Imam Al-Hussein decided to leave Medina and go to Mecca for Haj, which later he found out that Yazid would not hesitate in violating the holiness of Mecca for the purpose of killing him. Finally, Imam Al-Hussein left Mecca for Iraq after he received thousands of invitations from dignitaries of Kufa. Prior to his arrival, the army of Yazid surrounded Imam Al-Hussein in a place called vally of Karbala, which is modern day city of Karbala. In a historic battle, Yazid’s army, which exceeded thirty thousand troops stood against Imam Al-Hussein and his seventy two companions. The battle of Karbala represented the victory of blood over sword, and how a small group are glorified through their ultimate sacrifice, and how a large group are doomed and cursed in history for carrying the most vicious crime in history of mankind. Imam Al-Hussein and his companions were slaughtered in Karbala and later on they were buried in that location. Karbala became the aim for all Shi’a Muslims from all over the world, and visiting the shrine of Imam Al-Hussein became the ultimate goal of each Shi’a Muslim, which gave Iraq as a country and Shi’a Muslims in this country an extra importance.
  • Imam Al-Kadhem (a): Imam Al-Kadhem is the seventh imam of Shi’a Muslims, and he is known for spending the lengthiest time in the prisons of the Abbasid dynasty under the rule of Harun Al-Abbasi. Imam Al-Kadhem was exiled from Medina, his birth city and brought to Baghdad, by the order of Harun. Harun’s strategy was keeping the Imam of Shi’a Muslims under his supervision would prevent any attempt for revolt and uprising, since the Shi’as were afraid for the life of their leader. Finally, Harun could not accept the presence of Al-Kadhem anymore and ordered his assassination by poison, while he was in prison. He was buried in Baghdad, and the area around his shrine became a a destination for Shi’as from around the world.
  • Imam Al-Jawad (a): He is the ninth Imam of Shi’a Muslims and the shortest-lived Imam. Al-Jawad is the grandson of Imam Al-Kadhem and after the death of his father, Imam Al-Redha, who was assassinated by Al-Mammoun (son of Harun) in Iran, he was summoned to stay in Baghdad. After a while he was allowed to go back to Medina and he devoted his life to education and helping the needy. When Al-Mammoun passed away, the next Abbasid king (Al-Mu’tasem) summoned him to Baghdad again, and forced him to stay there. Al-Mammoun had forced Imam Al-Jawad to marry his daughter, and later on  Al-Mu’tasem ueged Imam Al-Jawad’s wife, Um Al-Fathl (daughter of Al-Mammoun) to poison the Imam and end his life. Imam Al-Jawad was buried next to his grandfather, Imam Al-Kadhem in Baghdad and Shi’a Muslims around the world had another reason for visiting this holy site in Baghdad.
  • Imam Al-Hadi (a): He is the tenth Imam of Shi’a Muslims and the son of Imam Al-Jawad. During the era of Mutawakkil Al-Abbasi, the governor of Medina sent a letter to Mutawakkil and explained the popularity of the Imam and how the people were gathered around him. Mutawakkil feared that such a notion would encourage uprising and unrest against his survival, therefore, he ordered his governor in Medina to exile the Imam to Samara, which was the new capital of the Abbasids. Mutawakkil placed the Imam under house arrest and limited his access to the outside world, and only few people were allowed to see the Imam and interact with him. Mutawakkil tried to assassinate the Imam, but his fear of unrest and angering the Shi’a Muslims prevented him. Ultimately the next Abbasid king, Al-Mu’taz decided to assassinate Al-Hadi and end his life, since even though Al-Hadi was under house arrest, his popularity was growing even among the army leaders. Therefore, Al-Mu’taz ordered his guards to poison Imam Al-Hadi and bury him in Samara as well. Samara became another destination for Shi’a Muslims and the list of Shi’a holy sites expanded, and Samara was added to Najaf, Karbala and Baghdad.
  • Imam Al-Askari (a): Imam Al-Askari is the eleventh Imam of Shi’a Muslims and son of Imam Al-Hadi and father of last Imam of Shi’a Muslims, who is in occultation, Imam Al-Mahdi. Imam Al-Askari almost spent his entire life under house arrest, which many Shi’a scholars consider this era a preparation for the occultation of Imam Al-Mahdi, since Imam Al-Askari was preparing the Shi’a Muslims for the notion of not being able to see their Imam. Al-Askari spent majority of his life in Samara, and his daily life activities were limited to minimal and interaction with the outside world was only possible under the supervision of guards. The criticism of Imam Al-Askari against the Al-Mu’tamid (the Abbasid King) and the corruption of his officials very worried about the impact of such statements. Al-Mu’tamid was known for favoritism and corruption during his reign, which made him one the worst rulers of the Abbasid dynasty. Finally, Al-Mu’tamid got to a point, where he could not accept the existence of Imam Al-Askari, and house arrest was not sufficient anymore. Therefore, he ordered his guards to poison Imam Al-Askari and bury him beside his father, Imam Al-Hadi in Samara. Imam Al-Askari’s burial in Samara made the number of Shi’a Imams buried in Iraqi a total number of six Imams, which is the highest number any other country has.
  • Imam Al-Mahdi (a): He is the last of Imams in Shi’a Islam, and currently he is in occultation, which it shall end at the end of time, when the world is filled with oppression and tyranny. Imam Al-Mahdi’s return would restore order and hope in the world and end all calamities for humans. However, his birth in Samara (Iraq) and his occultation from the same place, gave Iraq an added importance for Shi’a Muslims. Shi’a Muslims also believe that Imam Al-Mahdi will choose the city of Kufa as the capital city of Muslim world. Therefore, Iraq is the future command center for Imam Al-Mahdi and the ultimate destination for all Muslims to come and visit.
The enormous amount of importance that Iraq has in Shi’a literature is unlike any other place on the face of this planet. This is why, we witness many of the Salafi groups, who are the back bone of all terrorist groups are eager to kill as many as Iraqi Shi’a Muslims in Iraq, and cause as much pain and destruction in this country. Regardless, of who believes in what, the importance of Iraq as a strategic location has been identified by all sides and groups, which has cost Iraq and its people a high price.

Integration and Being Part of the Western Society

January 20, 2015

Shia Muslims in the West

By: Dr. Hussein Al-Rumaithi The issue of integrating the Muslim communities within the societies in the west has been a hot topic for a long period of time, especially every time there is an event, which involves Muslims. Whether a terrorist attack or a case of domestic violence or even a social media statement, it could trigger the debate about integration and if Muslims are able to be part of western societies. Addressing this issue would require a set of preliminary refutation arguments and a set of affirmation arguments, which will clarify the notion of integrating Muslims within the societies they live in. This article would assert the fact that Muslims and specially Shias have been active members of society in the west, and the issue to integration is an illusion, which has been created by the media. Nevertheless, the real issue that makes this notion still an issue for deliberation is acceptance rather than integration. In addition, the political conflicts of the Islamic world have overshadowed much of the impressions and conceptions about Muslims in the west, which makes it very hard for majority of westerners to find an alternate view about Muslims rather than the one shown by the media.

What does it mean to live in a western society?

Prior to addressing the issue of integration and whether Muslims have been able to adapt to the life style in the west, we must clarify the definition of a western life style, and what it means to be a western citizen. As a person who lived in couple of totalitarian states, I must admit that the picture drawn for me about the west included nothing but negative aspects and attributes. Social meltdowns, absolute sexuality without any consideration for morals and ethics, and mainly the west was portrayed as a place where a human loses his/her faith. However, after coming to North America and witnessing the life style of this continent, I realized numerous facts and realities, which made me think about the real meaning of the phrase “western life style” and whether it really exists. A western society and specifically North American societies embody to major aspects, which are often viewed as one, whereas they are completely separate and independent of each other.
  • Western System
  • Western way of life
The notion of a western system is what distinguishes a western country from rest of the world. The laws and legislations that govern a western state are the real defining aspect of a western society, rather than the life style that is adopted by the majority. Therefore, the lifestyle that has been affected by the western system is being portrayed as what the west is really about. For instance, instead of stating the west has laws and rules, which protect the rights of humans, we tend to say, western citizens respect the rights of others and prioritize human rights. Even thought, the second statement is often accurate, but it is an illustrative statement and not a definitive one. Therefore, we tend to generalize our interpretation of a western society based on the way the citizens of the west do things, and not the way the west has systematized its societies. Therefore, to describe what it means to live in a western society, it would be accurate to state the following:
  • No one is above reproach when it comes to the law and constitution.
  • Laws and regulations of the state are enforced, with zero tolerance.
  • Everyone is considered equal according to the constitution.
  • Violating the laws and regulations has its retributions and sanctions.
  • Protecting and valuing the life of humans is the main priority of the state.
  • Political definitions like sovereignty, national security and national unity are considered sacred, and any attempt to bluster and threaten these aspects is considered a major crime.
Therefore, I would define a western society by these definitions and not the way western citizens live and adopt values, which means any person regardless of faith, ethnicity, race and background, who chooses to abide by these definitions has adapted him/herself by the western values, and he/she is an active and member of a western society. The unnoticed fact is that western societies consist many minorities and majorities, which identify themselves by labels that are separate from their national identity. The national identity is a unifying aspect, which enables all citizens to declare themselves as Americans or Canadians or any other nationality. Beyond the national identity, each group is able to identify itself in the way it desires, which can be African-American, Latino-American, Arab-Canadian, Italian-Canadian or any other way they desire to be identified. However, by adopting such identities and labels, it means that person practices the values and the traditions associated by his/her identity, which might be viewed as strange, uncommon, conservative, radical and etc. Conclusively, by defining the meaning of living in a western society, Muslims who abide by the laws and legislations of their western countries have integrated themselves fully within their societies, but have chosen to identify themselves as Muslims, which includes practicing specific sets of values and norms, just like any other group residing in the west.

Muslims in the West

The rogue elements are a reality, which exists in any group regardless of background and faith. Therefore, putting forward the concept of integration is equivalent to wrong generalization against any specific group. Muslims have been in the west for a long period of time, and they have attributed in many ways to the societies they have lived in. Muslims in Europe and North America have been able to assert their place as effective members of the society by abiding by the laws and rules of the western states, and they have integrated themselves through education, professions, cultural exchange, matrimonial relations, social interaction and many other means.  There are many Muslim legislatures and politicians active in the west that are equally concerned about the safety and interest of their societies like any other citizen. There are numerous wealthy Muslim businessmen and women that are part of the economic wheel of their societies, and have employed hundreds if not thousands of individuals. Therefore, I can proudly state that not only we have integrated into our societies, we have been part of the evolvement and the advancement of our societies in the west.

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