Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Muharram 1 / 2– Ulil Amr, Bayat and Voting

Here is my first entry for this Muharram – your feedback/thoughts/reaction, etc., is welcome and appreciated.

O my Allah make me attend to Your cause, sincerely, in every respect following in Husain’s footsteps in this world and the Hereafter – ( allahumma ja’lnee I’ndaka wajeehan bil husayne fiddunyaa wal aaakherate) – Ziyarat Ashura

Muharram 1 / 2– Ulil Amr, Bayat and Voting

One of the major reasons or events that lead to the events at Karbala was related to the concept of Ulil Amr.

In Qur’an, 4:59, it says “O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger and “ulil amr” – those who are authorized to command from among you.” From hadith in which the Holy Prophet (saw) explained this verse, we know the ulil amr are those appointed by Allah swt, particularly the Imams (sa) of the Ahlulbayt (sa). It is necessary for everyone to seek out for themselves the truth of who are “ those who are authorized to command from among you.”

Imam ‘Ali (as) and Imam Hasan (as) did not recognize anyone as ulil amr other than themselves. Even though they may not have had political rule at any or every time, they believed that they had religious authority over mankind as per Qur’an 4:59, according to the pronouncement of the Prophet (saw) by the command of Allah swt. So they continued to guide people as the religious leaders of the Ummah.

Yazid son of Muawiyah was well-known as a tyrant, and a corrupt ruler. He demanded bayat (oath of allegiance) from Imam Husain (as). He wanted Imam Husain (as) to swear fealty to him as ulil amr. Imam Husain (as) was obliged to refuse because it would be a lie against the appointment and commandment of God to do so, because Yazid was a tyrant, and because if he did so, then the people forever after would be permanently confused as to the real Islam by this recognizing and giving Islamic authority to one furthest from Islam.

It is very clear that an oath of allegiance (bayat) is a serious matter because it indicates support of someone’s agendas and practices. Particularly in the case of Imam Husain (as), to whom believers looked for guidance, giving an oath of allegiance would signal to the common people a direction to go. If Imam (as) is designated by Allah swt as ulil amr, then it is not something Imam (as) or anyone else can give away. None of the Imams (sa) did so, at the cost of their lives for the generations following Husain (as), and not only Husain (as) was faced with this conflict, but it was a source of conflict for the Imams (as) who succeeded him as well.

Given the importance associated with bayat, I think it is wise for us today to examine the concept of voting carefully. A vote is perhaps not as strong as bayat, because it may indicate support rather than allegiance, but that difference may be a minor or even an imagined one, as by voting for someone we are in essence giving them allegiance for their “rule” in whatever office they run for. We may later take that allegiance away, so a vote may be less permanent than bayat.

However, a vote can have lasting and far-reaching consequences. It is known that many Muslims voted for George W. Bush in his first presidential election. In that term, the president entered the U.S. into war in Afghanistan and Iraq, took away numerous civil liberties in the name of security, and committed many more injustices. The president could try to claim that U.S. Muslims supported his actions because they had voted for him.

A vote for a political candidate, like bayat, is a very serious matter and should not be taken lightly. The vote of a Muslim for a candidate should not be for someone who is less than worthy for the position, even if no worthy candidate is apparent. It is possible we could be held to account for whom who gave our votes and allegiances.

There are other kinds of voting besides voting for candidates, and that is voting on issues. In that realm it would seem we as Muslims have a duty to vote for whatever is in line with Islam and against whatever is contrary to Islam. When I say whatever is in line with Islam, I mean that which observes people’s rights and does not oppress, that which would be in accordance with true Islam.

The modern dilemma is that democracy is taken as the gold standard of the day, but democracy is not the way of Allah swt. Since the time of Adam (as), Allah swt has appointed leaders and their successors, and the leaders announced their successors in accordance with the will of Allah swt. Democracy is preached as a process that helps ensure good leaders, but in practice it does nothing of the sort. A king who inherits his rule is no less likely to be judged as a quality ruler than someone voted in by the people.

Today many, many Muslims have in essence given their bayat to democracy. This is one of the greatest tragedies and mistakes of the modern era. But we owe our bayat only to Allah swt, the Prophet (saw) and ulil amr. The Qur’an itself tells us so (4:59). We cannot give bayat to both democracy and to the way of Allah swt, for they are not the same way. Either our allegiance, our minds, our hearts, our souls, our lives are given and dedicated to the way of Allah swt or to another way.

Imam Husain (as) and 72 honorable souls with him gave their lives for Allah swt’s way. They gave their lives that we may be able today to find that way and follow it rather than it being lost to Yazid’s horrible way. If we do not take the task to find the right path and adhere to it entirely, then we belittle and refuse their sacrifice. If we do not give our allegiance to those worthy of ulil amr, those bestowed that rank by Allah swt, then we turn away from the right path. And giving allegiance is not a matter of word only. To the contrary, allegiance by word only is no allegiance at all - it is hypocrisy.

The crux of our duty thus lies in investigating and determining who Allah swt has appointed as ulil amr even in this age and then dedicating every aspect of our lives to obeying Allah swt, the Prophet (saw) and ulil amr. Obedience to whomever is ulil amr would never in any way contradict Allah swt or the Prophet (saw), because obedience to one and to all is the same. One cannot obey Allah swt without obeying the Prophet (saw), and one cannot obey Allah swt without obeying ulil amr.
This is the essence of what I think Karbala is about, both in the era of Imam Husain (as) and in today’s era. This is why I think Karbala is commemorated every year with great fervor amongst the Shia. There is no doubt that love and allegiance, and thus bayat, are closely connected matters.

It is not the way of Allah swt to call for allegiance by us to someone who is not worthy and deserving of our love. True bayat requires that we love the one to whom we give our allegiance, because without the love the bayat is incomplete. Obedience to Allah swt absent the love of Allah swt is incomplete; obedience to the Prophet (saw) absent the love of the Prophet (saw) is incomplete, and obedience to ulil amr (as) absent the love of ulil amr is also incomplete.

If we love someone, then we feel joy at his joys and pain and at his pains and we take care to add joy to his joy and avoid adding pain to his pain. We take care to remember and appreciate whatever he has done for us, and we try to do good for him as well. The Qur’an says that those martyred in the way of Allah swt are not dead, they only appear so to us. But whether someone is alive or not alive, love can continue. If someone is alive today and then not alive tomorrow, we do not love him today and then stop loving him tomorrow. If we ever truly loved someone when he was alive, then we continue to love him when he is no longer with us.

The followers of the right path transcend time. It does not matter if we did not meet someone personally. If Imam Husain (as) was ulil amr of his time, then he is worthy of our love and allegiance even today, just as the ulil amr of our age is still worthy. To do respect of either of them, we have to be devoted to both because their authority is the same authority, their religion is the same religion, their path is the same path.

As a community we need to take care not to separate things from their roots. Whatever we do to commemorate Karbala, that commemoration is not for its own sake. That commemoration has its roots in love, in bayat, in ulil amr. We have duties to fulfill that go far beyond shedding tears, and if we shed tears only and forget the rest we have forgotten everything.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Quartet Meme

Mom and I saw Glory Road tonight. It is formulaic in the sense that it is similar to lots of those sports movies - Coach Carter, Miracle, etc. - which are all good, by the way. It is a nice movie worth watching. It is about the first NCAA team of mostly black players and the coach who fielded them. In their first season at a school no one had heard of they went on to the biggest upset ever in NCAA to win the national title.

We had suicide prevention training this afternoon for teachers at school. A fellow talked about his own son who killed himself. They taught the warning signs and how to respond, etc. He showed that the Bible had no verses condemning all suicides to hell. I've seen people try to commit suicide and known someone who succeeded and had thoughts when I was an emotional teenager. It is one of the most tragic things to have someone in such a state of mind that they decide to that and actually succeed. They have no opportunity left, and the people they live behind have the worst kind of pieces to pick up after. I read the police blotter and know that many people check into motels to kill themselves, but youth usually do it at home. Colorado has the 7th highest suicide rate in the nation as the mountain states as a whole are higher than the rest of the country put together. No one knows why for sure. And you really cannot stop someone who has decided that is what they are going to do - it is out of your hands.

I am very grateful for what Islam gave me in life because I honestly believe I could never find myself in that state (insha'allah) knowing what I know and having what I have through Islam by the grace of God.

Work has been fine but very busy and tiring. The new Problem Solving class so far is a success, so I am happy for that.

The meme:
Four Jobs I’ve Had in My Life

1) Broadmoor Hotel Laundry - the worst one by far - horrible working conditions
2) night shift assembly line packing computer stuff - "interesting" people
3) Mcdonald's and a Mexican restaurant at the mall - definitely work at the mall for fast food - better pace and better hours
4) everything teaching - public school, charter school, tutoring, Sylvan Learning Center, madressa, etc. - that's what I do

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over, and Have

1) Thunderheart - I love this movie, always have, but can't really say why. Maybe it just speaks to my native blood.
2) Lord of the Rings trilogy - Takes a lot of time to watch over and over, but these are just fantastic.
3) The Saint - The Saint books are terrible reads, but the movie was fun.
4) Star Trek IV - Always loved Star Trek, especially as a kid when most of fantasies were in Star Trek and I had tons of Star Trek books, figures, etc. Very enjoyable movie.

Four Places I Have Lived

1) Colorado Springs - born, raised, native for three generations.
2) Fort Collins (college) - loved campus, the rest of town was just okay.
3) Troy, NY (summer college internship) - dead place.
4) Knoxville, TN (summer college internship) - way too humid.

Four TV Shows I Love To Watch

1) Mythbusters - I get tired of the reruns but new ones are fun.
2) House - I didn't want to watch it, accidentally did and found I liked it.
3) Nova - I love good documentaries especially about science/archaeology, etc.
4) Sherlock Holmes - the good ones with Jeremy Brett - I have all the DVD's.

Four Places I Have Been On Vacation

1) Four Corners - our most common vacation place that's not just a few hours away. Part of me could live there.
2) Yellowstone - I was 5 but I still remember mud volcanoes, bald eagles and moose, and of course Old Faithful.
3) Southern California / Florida - all kinda the same to me, the standard family vacations, went a few times.
4) Colorado mountains- camping - did some neat things like ghost towning, gem hunting, snowshoeing, etc.

Four Websites I Visit Daily

1) bloglines and then the updated blogs in my list
2) naseeb
3) local news page
4) the district webpage - I have to go through it to enter attendance/grades

Four Favorite Foods

1) good ice cream
2) spaghetti
3) mom's cheese enchiladas
4) a good salad bar

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now

1) I like being here at home
2) Vancouver
3) Karbala
4) some isolated self-sustaining, quiet beautiful place

Monday, January 23, 2006

Eid e Mubahila

From ziaraat.com newsletter - not sure I'll have time to write my own piece at this time....

Historical perspective of Eid-e-Mubahila
Najran was a fertile land located in the Northern mountainous region of Yemen about 20 Kms from Sanaa. About 40,000 Christians inhabited the land divided into 73 small towns. They were idol worshipers historically just like the Arabs but a priest named Femeon, a constructor by profession, preached Christianity in the area of Najran and soon all the population converted to Christianity and Najran became a powerful center of activities of Christians. They also constructed a church and named it 'Kaba-e-Najran'. They prayed and offered various offerings there which resulted in an annual income of about two hundred thousand Dinars which was used for the priest who lived and studied there.

After the conquest of Makkah when Islam started spreading rapidly and the warring groups came under the flag of Islam, the Holy Prophet(sawaw) starting sending emissaries to the tribes who had not yet accepted Islam. In 10 A.H. a similar message was sent to the Christians of Najran and they were offered either to accept the teachings of Islam or live in the protection of Muslims and give 'Jazia' - a kind of fee for protection services. When the Bishop of Najran received this message, he invited all the scholars and influential people of Najran and asked them to think and find a solution to this situation. This news spread rapidly among the masses and some people got infuriated as well but the Bishop of Najran pacified them and advised them to be mindful of the military might of the Islamic regime and try to find a peaceful solution.

Christian mission heads to Madina
After deliberations, it was finally decided to send a mission to Madina and have a dialog with the Muslims. A 14 member deligation headed by Aqib Saidawar and Abu Harisa started off for Makkah. Abu Harisa was considered as the greatest Bishop and scholar of the Christian world at that time and Aqib Saidawar was the biggest strategist and negotiator of the time. When the delegation reached Madina, the people got impressed by their lavish dressing and pomp and show since it was the first time that a mission had arrived in such a manner.

When they entered the Masjid-e-Nabawi, the Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) looked at the precious stones, gold and silk clothes that they were wearing and turned away his face and did not pay any attention to them. After a while when no one noticed their pomp and show, they got out of the Masjid-e-Nabawi and met Hazrat Usman and Ubaid-ur-Rehman outside and asked them as to why they were invited by the Muslims and then treated in this manner. Hazrat Usman mentioned that he did not have a clue about that but if they consult Imam Ali(a.s.), he would be able to tell them what was going on. They took the delegation with them and arrived at the house of Imam Ali(a.s.) and mentioned about the whole incidence to him. Imam Ali(a.s.) said to the delegation that they were wearing dresses of silk and ornaments of gold which depicted their superior mentality and that they should take them off and dress simply. Only then the Prophet(sawaw) would allow them to visit him and entertain them. When they followed the instructions of Imam Ali(a.s.), they were allowed to visit the Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) after the Prayers of Asar and have discussions with him.

Proposal of Mubahila
After exchange of views on several issues, the delegation did not seem to be willing to accept the observations about the incorrect beliefs of Christianity and the logical explanations proving the incorrectness of their beliefs. At that time Allah(swt) send down the famous Ayat-e-Mubahila of the Quran:

Glorious Quran Chapter 3 Verse 61:

And unto him who disputeth with thee therein after the knowledge hath come unto thee, Say ! ( O' Our Apostle Muhammad ! ) ( Unto them ) come ye, let us summon our sons, and ( ye summon ) your sons, and ( we summon ) our women and ( ye ) your women, and ( we summon ) ourselves and then let us invoke the curse of God on the liars !

Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) recited this Ayat and invited them for Mubahila - praying to God(swt) to destroy and banish the liars.

Mubahila became necessary since the Christian delegation was adamant to accept the truth. After some hesitations the delegations asked to be given one day to reconsider their options and then accepted to have the Mubahila after two days. In their consultations among themselves, the grand Bishop Abu Harisa told his companions that if tomorrow, Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) brings his companions and his tribesmen and military might with him for Mubahila then they should accept the challenge without fear but if he brings only the members of his family, then never accept the challenge.

Whom did the Prophet(sawaw) take with him
The Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) selected a place close to Madina for the Mubahila which was then cleaned and prepared by Hazrat Salman Farsi(r.a.) and the next day the Christian delegation reached the designated place. A number of muhajirren and ansaar also gathered at the site. The Holy Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) took with him Imam Hasan(a.s.), Imam Hussain(a.s.), Bibi Fatima(s.a.) and Imam Ali(a.s.) and headed towards the site in a manner that Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) was leading the group holding Imam Hasan(a.s.) and Imam Hussain(a.s.) and Bibi Fatima(s.a.) was behind him and Imam Ali(a.s.) was behind Bibi Fatima(s.a.).

Saad bin Abi Waqas relates that when the Ayat-e-Mubahila was sent down, Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) called Imam Ali(a.s.), Bibi Fatima(s.a.), Imam Hasan(a.s.) and Imam Hussain(a.s.) and said "O my Allah(swt), these are my Ahl-e-Bait" . (Sahih Muslim, Vol.2, Page 287).

Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) sat down under a tree with these weighty personalities and said that when I pray to God, you all should say 'Ameen'. When the Christian delegation saw a woman, two children and only one man with the Prophet(sawaw), they got scared and worried and Abu Harisa chanted "O my christian friends, I am seeing such bright faces that if they pray that God move this mountain from its place then the mountain will be moved. I warn you, do not have Mubahila with them or you all will be destroyed and banished."

The Christian delegation was still amazed and frightened when the brother of Abu Harisa, Karz ibn-e-Alqama stated that "O my fellows, it appears that Mohammad(sawaw) is the same last apostle and prophet that has been mentioned in our sacred books. We should not have Mubahila with them because anyone who had Mubahila with the prophets in the past as well was destroyed. Look around you and observe that the signs of your destruction are appearing." When they looked around, they observed that the entire atmosphere had changed and it appeared that a furious storm is in offing.

Result of the Mubahila
Witnessing this, they backed off from the contest and requested that their friendship be accepted. Prophet Mohammad(sawaw) accepted their request and asked Imam Ali(a.s.) to write the agreement according to which they Najran tribes accepted to pay 'Jazia' and live under the protection of the Muslims.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Think you know Pike? Guess again

Part of the series celebrating 200 years since the "discovery" of Pikes Peak by "American" explorer Zebulon Pike - interesting history - of particular interest to Colorado Springs folks since the majestic mountain graces our skyline.


In the 200 years since Zebulon Pike explored this region, historians have struggled over whether to label him as hapless or heroic.

This, after all, was a man who slogged through snow without socks in a failed attempt to climb the peak towering over the Plains, yet survived a frigid winter without losing men to death or defection. Pike was an ambitious and obedient soldier, but when he was captured by the Spanish, he surrendered without a fight.

History lovers still debate Pike’s abilities and accomplishments as an explorer, but they agree on this: He was an excellent spy.

But just whom was he spying for?

Pike’s adventure was spurred by the Louisiana Purchase, the same land deal that launched Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their trek to the Pacific. President Thomas Jefferson bought 820,000 acres in the West from the French in 1803, and he and others were eager to explore the new lands.

Jefferson handpicked Lewis to be his eyes and ears in the territory, but Pike got his travel papers from a man who turned out to be one of the great scoundrels in U.S. history.

James Wilkinson, commanding general of the Army, first tapped Pike to explore the upper Mississippi River and find the source of the waterway in 1805. Pike returned 8½ months later with “disappointingly meager” results, according to a National Park Service account. He produced no accurate maps and failed on his mission to persuade prominent American Indian leaders to meet with U.S. military leaders.

Still, less than three months later, Wilkinson had another job for the 27-year-old soldier, and this was the one that sent him to the Rockies.

Pike’s journey has to be seen in the context of the suspicion and hostility between the United States and Spain over the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase.

“The thing from today’s perspective . . . is he was right in the middle of a Cold War,” Pioneers Museum Director Matt Mayberry said. “We could have gone to war at any moment with Spain over what was the definition of the Louisiana Purchase.”

Before Pike left on July 15, 1806, he and Wilkinson discussed that he might be caught while wandering so close to Spanish territory. They even laid out a plan of how Pike would say he was lost and allow Spanish troops to escort him and his men through their land, an event that would “gratify our most sanguine expectations,” according to a letter from Pike.

Pike headed west with one civilian doctor and 23 military men from the St. Louis area with few skills. In his journal Pike wrote that he served as “astronomer, surveyor, commanding officer, clerk, spy, guide and hunter.”

For the first three months, they meandered through present-day Kansas and Nebraska. In October, they reached the Arkansas River, where Pike sent some men downstream and took the majority northwest to find the source of the Red River.

Spanish troops sent out an expedition to find Pike almost as soon as he began the journey. A National Park Service history notes that while Lewis and Clark would have been concerned their mission would be compromised by such attention, Pike reported with pride that he was being hunted.

He was not to be found for three more months, though — months when the men endured a rugged winter. Pike spotted the peak that would be named after him on Nov. 15, when starvation and frostbite were setting in.

In the midst of this misery, one member of Pike’s party made a strange move. Dr. John Robinson left, supposedly to collect a debt near Santa Fe. Not surprisingly, he was quickly found by the Spanish, who sent out patrols.

This, said Colorado Historical Society chief historian Modupe Labode, seems a sign that Pike wanted to be caught. The Spanish took him and his men into custody in February.

As the group was escorted to Santa Fe, Pike made mental notes of the placement of forts and the size of the garrisons. He had long meetings with priests along the way to gather information. Pike even worked on biographical sketches of Spanish military officers.

After Spanish authorities in Chihuahua determined Pike had ulterior motives, they grabbed his papers and ordered him to stop taking notes. He kept scribbling, though, and hid notes in empty gun barrels as the group was escorted across Texas to the United States.

Pike’s journals were mundane in his description of American lands and showed little imagination, Labode and others said. The confiscated journals were forgotten until 1907, when Mexico returned them to the United States.

But Pike perked up during his detour through Spanish territory. His writings on the trip home chronicled the people of New Spain, natural resources and military arrangements. The National Park Service describes his work as “the first adequate report on the Spanish provinces of North America ever brought back to the United States.”

“That he was able to make fairly extensive notes and keep them hidden and return with them intact, that was incredible,” said David Heidler, an author and history professor at Colorado State University-Pueblo. “In terms of informing the (American) government of things they wouldn’t have known about otherwise, it was a pearl without price.”

By the time Pike was released on July 1, 1807, his commanding officer, Wilkinson, was on trial for treason. The exact nature of the Burr-Wilkinson Conspiracy has never been determined.

Some historians think Wilkinson and Vice President Aaron Burr wanted to separate the Louisiana Territory from the rest of the country by force. Others say they wanted to raise a private army, invade Mexico and overthrow the Spanish. Still others think it might have been a benign mission to encourage commerce with the Spanish.

Both were tried and acquitted. It was learned later, however, that Wilkinson had sworn allegiance to Spain and was on its payroll.

Pike was linked to the conspiracy because of his relationship with Wilkinson — his loyalty remained long after Wilkinson was no longer his commander, Heidler said. Pike was never accused of being a part of it, though, and was cleared. He died in the War of 1812.

“I really do think he was following orders, and he interpreted following orders very literally,” Labode said.

No examination of Pike’s life is complete without considering his journeys through Spanish lands, where he might have done his best work.

As an explorer, Heidler argued, Pike was a conundrum of failure — someone who drew inaccurate maps and got badly lost but kept the loyalty and confidence of his men. But as a soldier doing reconnaissance in a foreign country, he did a good job of gathering information and relaying it to his government.

Mayberry called Pike “the explorer most of us would be” — a man who made mistakes and seemed generally dumbfounded by the West.

“I think that Pike was touchable in a way Lewis and Clark never were to me,” he said. “Certainly he should be remembered because of what he did, even his failures had a significant impact on American history.”

Then, asked whether Pike was an explorer or a spy, Mayberry considered the question, smiled and replied:

“I think Pike would say, ‘Absolutely, I was a spy.’”


636-0184 or ed.sealover@gazette.com

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Cat calls 911 to help owner, police say

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Police aren't sure how else to explain it. But when an officer walked into an apartment Thursday night to answer a 911 call, an orange-and-tan striped cat was lying by a telephone on the living room floor. The cat's owner, Gary Rosheisen, was on the ground near his bed having fallen out of his wheelchair.

Rosheisen said his cat, Tommy, must have hit the right buttons to call 911.

"I know it sounds kind of weird," Officer Patrick Daugherty said, unsuccessfully searching for some other explanation.

Rosheisen said he couldn't get up because of pain from osteoporosis and ministrokes that disrupt his balance. He also wasn't wearing his medical-alert necklace and couldn't reach a cord above his pillow that alerts paramedics that he needs help.

Daugherty said police received a 911 call from Rosheisen's apartment, but there was no one on the phone. Police called back to make sure everything was OK, and when no one answered, they decided to check things out.

That's when Daugherty found Tommy next to the phone.

Rosheisen got the cat three years ago to help lower his blood pressure. He tried to train him to call 911, unsure if the training ever stuck.

The phone in the living room is always on the floor, and there are 12 small buttons - including a speed dial for 911 right above the button for the speaker phone.

"He's my hero," Rosheisen said.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Beautiful and Powerful Words of Imam Sadiq (as)

Do not covet anything avariciously; for if you ignore it, it will come to you anyway, if it is destined to be yours. Then you would find ease in your heart with Allah swt, praise for leaving it.

But you will be blamed for your haste in (instead) seeking it, for not trusting Him, and for not being content with the decree. Allah swt created this world the same as a shadow: when you chase it, it tires you out and you can never catch up with it. If you leave it alone, it follows you inexorably, and gives you not cause for fatigue.

Imam Sadiq (as), Lantern of the Path