Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: North Central

"North Central" is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw "Fargo" you probably didn't think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary. Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.

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The Inland North
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Quebec: Nation Within Canada

House of Commons Passes Quebec Nation Motion

Forgive me my ignorance, but can someone tell me just what Quebec being called a nation is going to do?
It's all over the news, but I don't get it... what's the whole point of it all? Quebec is now officially 'a nation within a united Canada' - but what does this mean? How does it affect Quebec, and Canada?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Inspiring Teenagers - How Do You Do It?!

The time has come. In my old city, it was something I only speculated about with my wise mentors and friends... I looked at it as something that would occur in the future, after graduation or something. But no, it seems that is not what Allah has planned for me.

The time has come for me to take on the mantle of leadership: My role is that of dealing with the young Muslimahs here in this new city of mine.

It's something I look upon with a mixture of anticipation and dread, of hope and of fear. It's a chance for me to start doing something for this Ummah, however small a thing it may be.

But... what if I fail? What if I make terrible mistakes, horrible blunders - in short, what if I screw up?!
Yes, yes, I know what I'm supposed to do... close my eyes, take a deep breath, and put my trust in Allah. Yet those doubts and fears remain... it's only human, I guess.

Anyway... aside from all the insecurities, I have a bigger question: How am I going to do it?! How do you inspire teenagers? How do you inspire them to dedicate themselves to their religion, to concentrate their efforts on learning about Islam, understanding it, applying it, and then doing whatever they can to help the Muslim Ummah (which needs all the help it can get)?

There's another problem, too. Even though I'm a teenager, I'm on a completely different wavelength than them, and I can't relate to them. The things they're interested in are totally different from my own hobbies and fields of interests.
It's basically boys, gossip, and movies vs. religion, politics, and randomness.

See the difference?

The first time I met the teen girls at the Masjid, I was immediately uncomfortable. First, by the fact that they were teen girls. Sounds weird, I know, seeing as how I'm a teen girl myself. But at home, in my old city, I had only a few friends my age, and I feel infinitely more comfortable around adults, because I practically grew up with them and they're who I grew up hanging out with anyway.

The conversation was awkward, too. Music, movies, boys, and gossiping about girls at school... that's all they talked about. Nothing else. So there I was, sitting against the wall all alone, wishing desperately that I was back home with my beloved mentors discussing something serious.

So that's the big problem... we're totally different from each other. They're typical teenage girls; whereas it seems that I am very atypical indeed. I've no idea how to make them interested in the stuff I am interested in; how to... well, recruit them, as it were.

Then there's also the issue of commitment: from past experiences, I know very well how people will say something, promise to do something - and then not do it at all, their excuses being "I was busy". And the thing is, they are busy... they go to public school, they've got their own friends and lives outside of the masjid and madrasah... whereas I don't, and therefore have plenty of time to dream about fixing up the Ummah, starting with the city I'm in right now.


Really, what am I to do? I know what I want to do, I know how to do what I want to do... but I'll require people to help me out, and that's the problem: how to get those people to help out.

When I posted this on, the responses I got basically said two things: make things fun, and then just wait for them to grow up enough to care.

I get the first point - and it's what we were going to do, anyway - but the second thing frustrates me... I hate waiting, and besides, who's to say that they'll care even when they grow up? Isn't the time to teach them about the important stuff NOW, not later? What if they get distracted later, or forget about Islam until it fades away to something cultural for them? I have seen it happen before, and it's something that scares me to death.
And, of course, how do we know we're even going to live long enough to grow up?

Perhaps the answer IS to just work slowly for now and focus on how fun Islam can be, and then sit and wait...but I find the prospect of having to wait for them to grow up frustrating. I need to be able to do something NOW. I honestly feel like I'm going to go crazy if I can't do anything intellectually stimulating anytime soon...

I need your advice, people!

Your little sister in Islam,

Thursday, November 23, 2006

You are 100% Canuck!

You rock, you are an almighty Canadian through and through. You have proven your worthiness and have won the elite prize of living in a country as awesome as Canada. Yes I know other countries think they are better, but we let them have that cuz we know better than they do, eh?

How Canadian Are You?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Heehee, I'm really getting into these quizzes... :P

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

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The Courtyard

Monday, November 20, 2006

British MP Slams Harper

Carly Weeks, CanWest News Service
Published: Monday, November 20, 2006

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's foreign policy strategy is a joke and is causing Canada to be hated around the world, British politician George Galloway said Monday.

The notorious member of parliament, known for his outspoken views against the Iraq war, said Harper's actions at the APEC summit in Hanoi show he lacks diplomacy skills and doesn't understand Canada's place in the world.
Harper had a difficult time arranging a meeting with the Chinese president, which many experts said was a snub for the government's continued criticism of China's foreign policy.

"The idea of Canada threatening China is absurd," Galloway said at an event sponsored by the Syrian Canadian Club. "The whole point of politics is to talk to each other, even if you hate each other."

Galloway, who used to be a Labour MP, is now a member of the left-wing RESPECT, the Unity Coalition. He is wrapping up a four-day tour of Canada, which included stops in Toronto and Montreal, where he is spreading the message about his opposition to Canada's role in Afghanistan and its relationship with Israel.

Galloway also weighed in on Canada's Liberal leadership contest, saying that "Anyone but Ignatieff" is a common slogan in British politics.

© CanWest News Service 2006


I find that pretty amusing, myself. George Galloway certainly has a way with words, as has been demonstrated numerous times (I'm sure everyone remembers his appearance on SKY TV - or whatever it was - lashing out at Israel while the anchorwoman desperately tried to shut him up); although I wonder - will Stephen Harper care at all? Will he react in any way to Mr. Galloway's comments?
In any case, Harper deserves it. I really, really don't like him, and can only hope that he's somehow kicked out of office sometime soon.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Islam and Environmentalism

Recently, I've started thinking more about the environment. Every day, we hear more about climate change, about forests being destroyed for logging, about wild animals venturing into towns and cities seeking food because their terrority is steadily shrinking as human communities begin to expand... it's so very sad.

Anyway, being me, I couldn't help but start thinking the Islamic viewpoint on all of this... basically, what does Islam have to say about the environment?

I *was* going to write up something about it, but I found this excellent article instead:

Prophet Mohammed: A Pioneer of the Environment
Fransesca De Chatel

“There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift [for which there is great recompense].” [Al-Bukhari, III:513].

The idea of the Prophet Mohammed as a pioneer of environmentalism will initially strike many as strange: indeed, the term “environment” and related concepts like “ecology”, “environmental awareness” and “sustainability”, are modern-day inventions, terms that were formulated in the face of the growing concerns about the contemporary state of the natural world around us.

And yet a closer reading of the hadith, the body of work that recounts significant events in the Prophet’s life, reveals that he was a staunch advocate of environmental protection. One could say he was an “environmentalist avant la lettre”, a pioneer in the domain of conservation, sustainable development and resource management, and one who constantly sought to maintain a harmonious balance between man and nature. From all accounts of his life and deeds, we read that the Prophet had a profound respect for fauna and flora, as well as an almost visceral connection to the four elements, earth, water, fire and air.

He was a strong proponent of the sustainable use and cultivation of land and water, proper treatment of animals, plants and birds, and the equal rights of users. In this context the modernity of the Prophet’s view of the environment and the concepts he introduced to his followers is particularly striking; certain passages of the hadith could easily be mistaken for discussions about contemporary environmental issues.

Three Principles

The Prophet’s environmental philosophy is first of all holistic: it assumes a fundamental link and interdependency between all natural elements and bases its teachings on the premise that if man abuses or exhausts one element, the natural world as a whole will suffer direct consequences. This belief is nowhere formulated in one concise phrase; it is rather an underlying principle that forms the foundation of all the Prophet’s actions and words, a life philosophy that defined him as a person.

The three most important principles of the Prophet’s philosophy of nature are based on the Qur’anic teachings and the concepts of tawhid (unity), khalifa (stewardship) and amana (trust).

Tawhid, the oneness of God, is a cornerstone of the Islamic faith. It recognizes the fact that there is one absolute Creator and that man is responsible to Him for all his actions: “To God belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth, for God encompasses everything [4:126].” The Prophet acknowledges that God's knowledge and power covers everything. Therefore abusing one of his creations, whether it is a living being or a natural resource, is a sin. The Prophet considered all of God’s creations to be equal before God and he believed animals, but also land, forests and watercourses should have rights.

The concepts of khalifa, stewardship, and amana, trust, emerge from the principle of tawhid. The Qur’an explains that mankind holds a privileged position among God’s creations on earth: he is chosen as khalifa, “vice-regent” and carries the responsibility of caring for God’s earthly creations. Each individual is given this task and privilege in the form of God’s trust. But the Qur’an repeatedly warns believers against arrogance: they are no better than other creatures. “No creature is there on earth nor a bird flying with its wings but they are nations like you [6:38]”; “Surely the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater than the creation of man; but most people know not [40:57]”.

The Prophet believed that the universe and the creations in it – animals, plants, water, land – were not created for mankind. Man is allowed to use the resources but he can never own them. Thus while Islam allows land ownership, it has limitations: an owner can, for example, only own land if he uses it; once he ceases to use it, he has to part with his possession.

The Prophet recognized man’s responsibility to God but always maintained humility. Thus he said: “When doomsday comes, if someone has a palm shoot in his hand, he should plant it,” suggesting that even when all hope is lost for mankind, one should sustain nature’s growth. He believed that nature remains a good in itself, even if man does not benefit from it.

Similarly, the Prophet incited believers to share the earth’s resources. He said: “Muslims share alike in three things – water, herbage and fire,” and he considered it a sin to withhold water from the thirsty. “No one can refuse surplus water without sinning against Allah and against man” [Mishkat al Masabih].

The Prophet’s attitude towards sustainable use of land, conservation of water and the treatment of animals is a further illustration of the humility of his environmental philosophy.

Sustainable Use of Land

The earth has been created for me as a mosque and as a means of purification.” [Al-Bukhari I:331] With these words the Prophet emphasizes the sacred nature of earth or soil, not only as a pure entity but also as a purifying agent. This reverence towards soil is also demonstrated in the ritual of tayammum, or “dry wudu” which permits the use of dust in the performance of ritual purification before prayer when water is not available.

The Prophet saw earth as subservient to man, but recognised that it should not be overexploited or abused, and that it had rights, like the trees and wildlife living on it. In order to protect land, forests and wildlife, the Prophet created inviolable zones known as hima and haram, in which resources were to be left untouched. Both are still in use today: haram areas are often drawn up around wells and water sources to protect the groundwater table from over-pumping. Hima applies particularly to wildlife and forestry and usually designates an area of land where grazing and woodcutting are restricted, or where certain animal species are protected.

The Prophet not only encouraged the sustainable use of fertile lands, he also told his followers of the benefits of making unused land productive: planting a tree, sowing a seed and irrigating dry land were all regarded as charitable deeds. “Whoever brings dead land to life, that is, cultivates wasteland, for him is a reward therein.” Thus any person who irrigates a plot of “dead”, or desert land becomes its rightful owner.

Conservation of Water

In the harsh desert environment where the Prophet lived, water was synonymous to life. Water was a gift from God, the source of all life on earth as is testified in the Qur’an: “We made from water every living thing” [21:30]. The Qur’an constantly reminds believers that they are but the guardians of God’s creation on earth and that they should never take this creation for granted: “Consider the water which you drink. Was it you that brought it down from the rain cloud or We? If We had pleased, We could make it bitter” [56:68-70].

Saving water and safeguarding its purity were two important issues for the Prophet: we have seen that his concern about the sustainable use of water led to the creation of haram zones in the vicinity of water sources. But even when water was abundant, he advocated thriftiness: thus he recommended that believers perform wudu no more than three times, even if they were near to a flowing spring or river. The theologian El-Bukhari added: “The men of science disapprove of exaggeration and also of exceeding the number of ablutions of the Prophet.” The Prophet also warned against water pollution by forbidding urination in stagnant water.

The Treatment of Animals:

If anyone wrongfully kills even a sparrow, let alone anything greater, he will face God’s interrogation” [Mishkat al Masabih]. These words reflect the great reverence, respect and love that the Prophet always showed towards animals. He believed that as part of God’s creation, animals should be treated with dignity, and the hadith contains a large collection of traditions, admonitions and stories about his relationship to animals. It shows that he had particular consideration for horses and camels: to him they were valiant companions during journey and battle, and he found great solace and wisdom in their presence as the following tradition reveals: “In the forehead of horses are tied up welfare and bliss until the Day of Resurrection.”

Even in the slaughter of animals, the Prophet showed great gentleness and sensitivity. While he did not practice vegetarianism, the hadiths clearly show that the Prophet was extremely sensitive to the suffering of animals, almost as though he shared their pain viscerally. Thus he recommends using sharp knives and a good method so that the animal can die a quick death with as little pain as possible. He also warned against slaughtering an animal in the presence of other animals, or letting the animal witness the sharpening of blades: to him that was equal to “slaughtering the animal twice” and he emphatically condemned such practices as “abominable”.

It is impossible to do justice to the full scope and significance of Prophet Mohammed’s environmental philosophy in this short article. His holistic view of nature and his understanding of man’s place within the natural world pioneered environmental awareness within the Muslim community.

Sadly, the harmony that the Prophet advocated between man and his environment has today all too often been lost. As we face the effects of pollution and overexploitation, desertification and water scarcity in some parts of the world and floods and violent storms elsewhere, it is perhaps time for the world community as a whole, Muslims, Christians and Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, atheists and agnostics, to take a leaf out of the Prophet’s book and address the current environmental crisis seriously and wisely.


Wasn't that an awesome article? Masha'Allah!

As Muslims, this should impress upon us the importance of taking care of the environment. Don't litter; recycle; ride your bike or take the bus; conserve energy; help save the whales/bears/coral reefs/whatever else you can think of!

So now, go out there and do your part.
May Allah keep us all upon as-Siraatul-Mustaqeem, the Straight Path, and grant us success in this world and in the Hereafter. Ameen!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Behold the Islamic Revolution of (my city’s name)!

Okay, not really. But something like an Islamic Revival is in the works, insha’Allah.

This new city of mine is a relatively small one, with an even smaller Muslim community. When my parents came back from Saudi after my father graduated from the Islamic univeristy, they moved here to be with my grandparents. My dad and some of the local Muslim dudes first rented out a house to serve as a musallah, and then managed to scrape up the funds to buy the place and turn it into a Masjid proper. During that time, they held Islamic duroos and halaqas, and my dad begun a sort of madrasah (Islamic school) for the Muslim kids. Soon after, however, we moved away and the duroos and madrasah stopped and never really started up again. The Muslim community here has spent the last 9 years dormant, just barely keeping the masjid running.

Now that we’re back, we’re planning on changing things for the better, insha’Allah. First, bringing back the madrasah. Only this time it’s going to be more formal, and bigger. Before it was a weekend thing for a bunch of little kids; now it’s going to be held 3 days a week, after school, for 2 hours, for kids up to age 18. My father has set things up already; he held the first class yesterday. Apparently quite a few people have signed up already, al-Hamdulillaah.

After that, we’re planning on having duroos and halaqas again for the adults, and regular programs for the Muslim youth, stuff that’ll be both fun and Islamically educational. We’re pretty much modeling it on the Islamic centre my dad used to run in my old city (which will henceforth be referred to as the Dar).

When it was Ramadan and we went to the Masjid for Taraweeh, I was pretty shocked at what I saw. It was sad, it really was, and I found it shocking because of what I was used to at the Dar. When I told my parents, they said that this was exactly the reason we were here – so that we could change things for the better, insha’Allah.

I can’t wait for things to start getting up and running. I miss my old city like mad, mostly the Dar ‘cuz that’s where I met all my friends, and listened and learnt at the feet of the wise women who were like second mothers to me, and studied Arabic, and pretty much just hung out and had fun… fond memories, indeed.
In the four to five months we’ve been here, I’ve been going crazy. The Masjid has NO regular duroos, no programs for the youth, nothing. It’s dead as a tomb most of the time, except for once a week on Jumu’ah (Fridays). People seem to only wake up during Ramadan, when they stumble in to pray Taraweeh, and then after ‘Eid day, they seem to vanish again.

The thing that I hate is the preparation, and waiting. I can’t *do* anything. I’m the type of person who loves being a part of the action, and it frustrates me to no end having to sit and wait for the adults to finish with all the paper work and setting up and stuff. Gah. What’s worse is that even with the Islamic school getting set up, we’re still going to have wait ‘till more people get to know us and get used to us, before we can start doing the stuff that we used to do at the Dar. Plus there’s stuff like resources (or rather, lack thereof) that’ll make things harder to do here than they were at the Dar. Even though the Dar was a relatively small place and the people who attended weren’t exactly wealthy (mostly working-class people, and several single parents as well), we had enough people that we could arrange regular activities for both adults and youth.
Here, there is a smaller population and even fewer resources, and all this is going to serve to make things even more difficult. Meh.

But al-Hamdulillaah. And insha’Allah, with lots of time and effort, we’ll eventually get something good going. Perhaps not the Islamic Revolution I’ve been dreaming about, but something that will benefit the Muslim community nonetheless.