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The-Alif-Team

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  1. I'm not entirely sure whether Muslims should expend so much effort in trying to prove the scientific merit of the Quran. The quran is, first and foremost, a guide to life - how to conduct yourself, how to increase you standing with Allah and so forth. When Muslims try to interpret ayahs from a scientific point of view, there is a real danger that the primary message is given secondary importance. It is problematic too, from a Dawah point of view. The nature of modern science is such that theories are discounted just as quickly as they arise in the first place. If we interpret a quranic verse to mean X, based on the scientific theory of the day, do we then shift that interpretation when the science shifts too? I haven't watched the videos, and I'm not necessarily trying to say that there are some aspects of the quran which dovetail with modern science. However, we must be careful and pragmatic - especially when trying to present this to non-muslims as 'proof' of our religion. Religion cannot be 'proved' in the same way as the boiling temperature of water, nor can it be scrutinized in the laboratory. When we enter 'their' arena of debate, and subscribe to 'their' theories of validity, our arguments are doomed to fail.
  2. Interesting topic. Essentially, you will do what is right for your children. If you have a belief in the transcendent, and a belief that this life is a stepping stone to an unimaginable Reality, then you would be foolish not to teach and 'indoctrinate' your children accordingly. Dawkins and his ilk would, as per their belief in the totality of our ephemeral existence, teach their children that true reality is only to be found in the physical realm. Is it child abuse to dash a child's hope in something more lasting? Extended further, the morality and ethics they teach would be informed by the prevailing trend and/or their own whim. Would Dawkins, for instance, teach his child that adultery is wrong? He might, of course, think so, but the counter view - which fall under his own axioms of logic - would suggest that adultery is perfectly acceptable, so long as both participants a) consent and are adults. To sumamrise, in a world 'devoid of objectivity', any form of child rearing, and any values you impart to your children, can potentially be seen as indoctrination.
  3. It was really good. Like, really, really good. It had Hajj stuff. Loads of it.
  4. The Hajj Expo is fantastic. Well worth a visit.
  5. http://unity1.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/a-further-clarification-and-retraction/ He hasn't retracted his belief, just clarified a few of the statements he made, and apologised for previous inflamatory staatements. I spoke with Usama Hasan about evolution a few years ago, before the current hullabaloo surrounding his imamship at Masjid Tawheed. Effectively, his reading of science, and of evolution in particular, has led him to believe (perhaps not unreasionably) that evolution does not necessarily contradict Islamic teachings. Having done some (far from exhaustive) research on the topic, I am generally indifferent towards a 'reconcilliation' between Islam and evoltuion. Indifferent because I don't see anything in Islam which specifically teaches against it, nor do I think that it is a particularly important for Muslims to dwell on. That said, a few of my favourite writers (such as Rene Guenon, Gai Eaton etc) were staunchly opposed to the idea of evolution, seeing it as an affront to the unique nature of Adamic creation and as an exercise in reducing all things to the material domain. But in the face of the overwhelming scientific opinion, is such a view really tenable? One thing I would say, however, is that the notion of unguided evoltuion (a series of random fortuitous mutations begining with abiogenesis and ending with human conciousnes) does seem extremely unlikely. Mutations, even from a linguistic point of view, entails something deleterious and abnormal; certainly not beneficial. Scientifically, in the majority of cases, mutations are unfavourable. I think the reason why so many Muslims have a problem with evolution is because it has been hijacked by various 'new atheist' types who are hell bent on presenting it as a 'belief'. The very question "Do you BELIEVE in evolution?" immediately gives rise to the thought that it is competing belief that must be accepted or rejected. Taking the former option would, therefore, lead to the rejection of faith in religion, and specifically Islam. The reality is far more nuanced than that. I have so much more to say on this topic. Later, inshaalah.
  6. I really wanted to hate the documentary. Reading the blurb beforehand, I was convincved that it would be a dispatches-style hatchet job. Misrepresented views with dashings of cut and paste. It wasn't anything of the sort. Granted, the documentary-maker may have used his brother as an avenue by which to launch his media career (although his current job of TREE SURGEON is infinitely cooler), but he did try to present as balanced a view as possible, and let his brother 'speak for himself'. There were no hidden cameras or sleights of hand. He, furthermore, mentioned on numerous occasions how 'likable' the Islam4UK group were, despite their abhorrent and offensive stance on numerous issues. At the end of the day, groups like this exist. They are a marginalised minority, who have sought out an ideology that is rebellious not only towards the western miliue from which they come, but also the 'mainstream' muslim opinion. They will retract, grow older, reevaluate and move on - hopefully towards a traditional Islamic viewpoint. That aside, did anyone else notice how flippant Anjum Chowdary was in 'leading' his group? Noticeably absent in demonstrations, turning up late to talks etc.
  7. Tangential, but whatever... That article hammers home the importance of genuine islamic education in Pakistan, and indeed throughout the Muslim world. It is a well known fact that parents in Pakistan send their less giften children to a madrassah; hoping that the islamic training will lead to a comfortable and respectable job as an Imam. Our Imams, it seems, are those who weren't quite smart enough to study engineering. Very much a case of the blind (mis)leading the blind - and the result is painfully obvious to anybody who has had the misfortune of listening to a sermon in 'the land of the pure'. Yes, this is a gross generalosation. And yes, I am sure there are many aptly qualified imams and scholars in Pakistan, but they are the minority, and the least influential. And another tangent...With regards to shariah, I think it is important for us, as Muslims, to reclaim exactly what shariah is. The term seems to have been hijacked and has become a by-word for "barbaric-islamic-punishment-meted-out-by-evil-people-with beards"; the actual meaning is quite beautiful and profound.
  8. I think the issue here is that some Muslims who attend these classes do so for the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge's sake. It is a matter of prestige and pride; when a debate starts, you don't want to be the one who has nothing to say. It doesn't matter so much whether you implement the knowledge in real life, because your sole intention for achieving that knowledge is realised whenever somebody challenges you to prove that music is Haram. Additionally, it would be interesting to know how many of these classes teach practical actionable knowledge (along the lines of, encouraging people to volunteer in their local community) and how many are just exercies in intellectual naval gazing.
  9. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9053238.stm?ls <-- I have a feeling that it might only be available in the UK. Most of us know Russel Brand (if we do at all) as an whimsical, sex-obsessed and mildly annoying actor/TV personality. But this interview shows a side of Brand which is not only unexpected, but also incredibly profound. It is a welcome and refreshing change from the clichéd and boring celebrity interviews we have become accustomed to. My favorite lines: On why fame is so attractive: "because we are presented with the attractive spectacle of frame, to distract us from the munadaness of our everyday life. It's bread and circuses." On God: "Draw attention not to the shaddow of the wall, but to the light itself" It is 20 minutes long, but well worth a watch.
  10. The ‘offense’ caused by the GZM is entirely a media-orchestrated; nonetheless, you raise a valid point. Clearly, there are myriad ways in which people react to the written and spoken word. What offends some may not offend others; in addition there will always be reactionary individuals, and groups, who are offended by relatively minor and inconsequential events. However hard it is to accurately gauge one’s intentions, it is clear tha some people make statements or draw cartoons with the sole purpose, it seems, to provoke and illicit angry reactions from vulnerable and already maligned groups of people. It is this type of free speech which needs to be restricted. It is all very well and good disagreeing with something or someone, but one should approach that disagreement with the utmost respect, so as to ensure that there is minimal, or no, offence caused. This can only entail a better society. A degree of common-sense has to be employed, and like many laws already in existence, there is no hard and fast set of axioms which one can immediately draw on. Legal formulation is a nuanced and time consuming process. In the UK, angry protestants burn effergies of the Pope in their yearly bonfire’s night celebrations. This is offensive. Writing an article criticising the Pope, is not. Pillorying the prophet in crudely drawn cartoons is offensive, disagreeing with the prophet’s message is not. Yes, this is a singular and subjective opinion, but not entirely unreasonable, unworkable or, I imagine, unpopular.
  11. Western societies see 'Freedom of Speech' as central to their secular democracies. In theory, it allows individuals and the media to hold anyone or anything accountable for his or her actions. It allows a lowly caretaker to condemn the president and protects a cartoonist's right to mock and distastefully pillory the pope. Clearly, there is some good in it; freedom of speech allows for the imposition of checks and balances in societies which would otherwise be ripe for corruption. So long as one isn't physically abusive, he can say what he pleases - and defend his utterances in court if necessary. However, what secular democracies fail to take into consideration is that mental anguish is by far and away more 'hurtful' than physical abuse. Take the following example. If my Mum were to slap me in the face tomorrow, I would certainly be surprised, annoyed and angry. But I would get over it. If, however, my Mum were to tell me: "The-Alif-Team [legally my real name] - I do not love you", I would be emotionally crushed for life. In this instance, a simple 5 word phrase is more hurtful than a slap, a punch and a kick combined (and then some!). I know this is a very simplistic example, and I'm not denying anybody's right to declare dis-love for another human being, but words do hurt. Non-physical actions and hateful invective must be restricted. So in this instance, the right to burn the Quran or the right to depict our prophet as a bear must be curtailed, if only to preserve the feelings of those who will be gravely offended. I recall when the Danish cartoon fiasco started, the prominent ex-Muslim and all round right-wing nut-job, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, held a press conference to 'defend the right to offend'. This is, of course, deeply sinister. In day-to-day life, I go out of my way NOT to offend people, with what I say or how I act. That anybody would actively go out to offend people, and then expect others to defend his right to do so, is something which needs addressing - philosophically, and legally.
  12. I decided against it. Partly because I like the feel of a book, but mostly because I'm pretentious and shallow enough to want people to see the impressive and eclectic collection of books on my self. The Kindle will take that feeling of self smugness away, unfortunately. That aside, I did a quick review of my Amazon wishlist, and found that the vast majority of books I had on there were not available on the Kindle. Free classics are all well and good, but I'm not the type to read The Brothers Grim and Jane Eyre. I imagine I will get it in about 5 years, when it becomes cheap and common-place. I'm very much a later adopter.
  13. I'm not part of any particular Muslim community. I don't attend the mosque regularly enough to be recognised, and feel no urgent need to immerse myself in community going-ons. It would be nice if I could, but my own laziness has prevented me. Despite this, however, I have never felt that my Islam is in jeopardy due to lack of community involvement and see no reason why it should be. If you despise the community so much, it's probably best for you to stay away. That said, the reason for you hating an entire community probably reveals more about your own shortcomings than it does the community's. Most people would happily mingle with people from other communities, let alone their own! Perhaps you need to work on your social skills, or learn to be more accepting of people whose views differ to your own.
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