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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

November 28, 2002

Islamic condemnations of terrorism.

Many have accused Muslims of being "silent" in the face of terrorism. Though examples abound in the blogsphere, where it is practically conventional wisdom that Muslims consent by virtue of their supposed silence (examples: SDB, Porphyrogenitus, Brian). This stereotype also penetrates deeply into traditional media, with William F Buckley's essay "Are we owed an apology?" being a prominent example[1].

From, is this comprehensive list of links and resources on Islamic perspectives against terrorism (hirabah), essays by prominent Islamic intellectuals and clerics condemning terrorism, statements by muslim leaders, and even a section on muslim military personnel.

In addition to these, there is also this statement condemning 9-11 by the leaders of the American Muslim Alliance, the American Muslim Council, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, the Muslim American Society, the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Muslim Alliance in North America, and American Muslims for Jerusalem. Almost all of the country's 7 million muslims are represented by these groups.

And, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia condemned the 9-11 attacks as well.

In general, though, islamic condemnnation of terrorism is dull news here in America's media. Here in Houston, the various Islamic groups had "open Mosque" days and other community-peace programmes after 9-11, which drew mild interest at best. Later, a firebrand gave a anti-Semtic speech at a local campus and it made headlines. One firebrand x 10,000 media points = a score of 10,000. 100 peaceful muslims x 1 media point = a score of 100. AltMuslim has a nice roundup of other community outreach efforts by Muslims during Ramadan, but again, this is not a winnable PR battle (another reason I don't think it's worth the effort, counter to SDB's opinion).

[1] Muslims do NOT owe anyone an apology for 9-11.

permalink | posted by Shi'a Pundit

November 27, 2002

what consent to infer from the media's silence?.

Steven has another post supporting my thesis that tribalist misogynistic impulses are often wrapped in religion to lend them legitimacy.

Throughout history, what has been the one way that Brute A can impress Brute B? (def. impress: scare off, intimidate, keep from stealing your grain or winning the election) The easiest route is to beat on your women. Instant respect!

But, when religions came along, and said things like "women are people", this caused some initial concern among these boneheads, because they until then had never really dealth with a coherent and intellectual response to their straightforward Hulk Smash! attitude. The response was ingenious, simply assert that "women are people" REALLY means "women are chattel" and now, you can use the entire infrastructure of religion as just another club! It's a far better club, in fact, because no matter how big and striong a Brute you are, your victims fear God more than they fear you.

Steven agrees with me. But he doesn't know it yet.

When Steven writes, however:

But to remain apathetically silent is to consent to let the extremists speak on behalf of Islam collectively and to characterize the struggle as being against all of Islam. To stay silent is to permit the extremists to control how Islam is perceived by the non-Muslims of the world.

then we rae emphatically NOT in agreement. He is talking about Muslims. But let me assure him and you that as a Muslim, I don't really CARE how Islam is perceived by non-Muslims. I care how Islam is perceived by Muslims.

And just because he thinks Muslims are silent doesn't mean they are. In fact they have strong voices, and there is a level of debate raging in the Islamic world that is completely missed by insulated commentators in the US. This point was eloquently made in an interview with Stephen Schwartz, in National Review Online:

Leading Muslims outside the U.S. denounce Wahhabism, and many denounced the atrocity of 9/11. Unfortunately, however, most of U.S. media is completely incompetent in finding, listening to, or understanding these voices. U.S. media does not interview anti-Wahhabi sheikhs or imams or muftis in the Islamic world. U.S. media paid no attention when the head of Bosnian Islamic scholars, Mustafa efendija Ceric, preached eloquently against terrorism. U.S. media did not notice when an Albanian daily - in a country with a Muslim majority - hailed the U.S. action in Afghanistan last year with the headline "Nobody Veils the Statue of Liberty's Face." Nobody in the U.S. media has followed up on reports by myself and others showing that Kosovar Albanian Muslims would like to fight for the West in Iraq. Worse, U.S. media has reported very little of the mobilization of 70 million Indonesian Muslims against extremism in the aftermath of the Bali horror.

U.S. media listens to the so-called "Arab street," which is essentially irrelevant, filled as it is with yelling loiterers, or engages in polling
exercises asking loaded questions. This, of course, reinforces the view of Muslims as unanimous haters of the West and America. To understand the struggle of the world's traditional Muslims against Wahhabism, you have to get away from the "Arab street" and meaningless people wandering around. You have to sit down with serious Islamic clerics and thinkers and dialogue
with them in a way they understand and respect.

(this article was posted to the UNMEDIA mailing list. You can browse and search the list archives without subscribing.). I know I reproduced the same text below in my Falsafat post but it's so important (and again relevant) that it was necessary.

Steven usually links to BBC and ABC News as his primary source of information about news and world events. Therefore it's not surprising that he perceives a raging silence. That silence is the media's journalistic ethos, though, not the moral clarity of the majority of the world's muslims.

In fact, the effort that Muslims would have to make in order to get media coverage to satisfy the opinion of Steven and others like him who rely exclusively on western media for information about the Islamic world, would be wasted. Positive coverage lasts only as long as the next tragedy. That energy would be better spent - and is being better spent - inwards.

And, silence is not consent. If it were, the date rapists (another species of Brute A) will have won. Sometimes, silence means, "no time for inane talk. Busy actually fixing the problem"

UPDATE: via the indispensable alt.muslim, an article in Sify News that mentions that the fatwa was condemned by much larger Muslim groups in Nigeria:

Zamfara's deputy governor Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi said late Monday in a speech to religious leaders in the Zamfara State capital Gusau which was rebroadcast on state radio, "Like Salman Rushdie, the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed.

"It is binding on all Muslims wherever they are to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty," he said.

But Lateef Adegbite, general secretary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, distanced his influential body from the fatwa, refusing to immediately endorse it. He told AFP that the council would study the ruling, but would also take into account that Daniel is a Christian, does not live or work in Zamfara and that her paper had apologised.

By the way, the givernor of Zamfara state who issued the fatwa stated that "Islam prescribes the death penalty on anybody, no matter his faith, who insults the Prophet." This is wrong. He actually claimed a Qur'anic basis, which is a pure fabrication.

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November 26, 2002

Falsafat II: Peak of Eloquence.

This is the second post in my falsafat (philosophy) series. The first part serves as an index to the Ideofact blog's ongoing review of Qutb's Social Justice in Islam, one of the core ideologies of extremist Islam.

Ideofact has comprehensively analyzed how Qutb's ideas (which are just distilled versions of Maudoodi and Wahab) are not only internally contradictory but flout the entire history of Islam and discard the theologic traditions of the past 1400 years. It is supreme understatement to say that Qutb has been discredited, and Ideofact is hardly alone. In fact, throughout the Arab world and the greater Muslim sphere, Qutb (and Wahab) have been attacked with great effect by prominent Islamic thinkers, intellectuals, and clerics. Unfortunately, this repudiation of extremism is completely ignored by the Western media. This point has been made effectively in an interview with Stephen Schwartz at National Review Online (via Bin Gregory, and posted to UNMEDIA list) :

Leading Muslims outside the U.S. denounce Wahhabism, and many denounced the atrocity of 9/11. Unfortunately, however, most of U.S. media is completely incompetent in finding, listening to, or understanding these voices. U.S. media does not interview anti-Wahhabi sheikhs or imams or muftis in the Islamic world. U.S. media paid no attention when the head of Bosnian Islamic scholars, Mustafa efendija Ceric, preached eloquently against terrorism. U.S. media did not notice when an Albanian daily — in a country with a Muslim majority — hailed the U.S. action in Afghanistan last year with the headline "Nobody Veils the Statue of Liberty's Face." Nobody in the U.S. media has followed up on reports by myself and others showing that Kosovar Albanian Muslims would like to fight for the West in Iraq. Worse, U.S. media has reported very little of the mobilization of 70 million Indonesian Muslims against extremism in the aftermath of the Bali horror.

U.S. media listens to the so-called "Arab street," which is essentially irrelevant, filled as it is with yelling loiterers, or engages in polling exercises asking loaded questions. This, of course, reinforces the view of Muslims as unanimous haters of the West and America. To understand the struggle of the world's traditional Muslims against Wahhabism, you have to get away from the "Arab street" and meaningless people wandering around. You have to sit down with serious Islamic clerics and thinkers and dialogue with them in a way they understand and respect.

The failure of the Western media to avoid being blinded to moderate majorities by the allure of extremist minorities is the reason why normal Muslims like myself and Bin Gregory are routinely challenged to "justify" our religion, or why we have now been labeled "moderate muslims" (to distinguish from muslims, who are understood to be fanatic nutjobs. CW is cruel.).

Peak of Eloquence But it is not enough to denounce harmful ideologies like Qutbism and Wahabism. A strong alternative must be presented simultaneously, otherwise there is no net progress towards solutions. Towards that end, having dismissed Qutb in part 1, I intend to present an alternative here in part 2. That alternative is Nahjul Balagha ("Peak of Eloquence"), written by of Amirul Mumineen Ali ibn Talib AS[1]. Ali AS was the chosen successor of the Prophet Muhamad SAW. This book is a collection of his sermons and is essential reading. The book is available from Amazon, but the full text is also available online.

Before understanding this book, though, it is hepful to gain a sense of who Ali AS was. There is an essay posted to Shiapundit on the character of Ali AS, and also provides a general biography and the nature of his relationship with the Prophet SAW.

The value of the sermons is that they give an accurate and in-depth view at the moral code within Islam, as exemplified by the example of Ali AS. This is a clear window into the core of Islam as practiced by its first male convert[2], undistorted by the Wahabis and the Qutbis and the attached cruft of their self-serving hadith and fundamentalist interpretations. Shi'a such as myself revere Ali as the only person of the Prophet's SAW companions who had the Prophet's permission and authority to interpret the Qur'an. Muhammad SAW himself said that "I am the city of Knowledge, and Ali is the Gate." But the value of Ali's example need not be restricted to Shi'a alone. Ali AS is acknowledged as the Fourth Caliph to Sunnis as well and embracing the ideals that Ali AS personified is an embrace of core Islamic values.

But Nahjul Balagha is about more than character. It also lays the framework for a rationalist approach to theology. The great Shi'a jurist Imam Jafa al-Sadiq[3] - who actually mentored the Sunni founders of the dominant Sunni schools of thought - laid the foundation for Islamic rationalist philosophy, emphasising the importance of al-Aql (Reason) as the primary faculty of mankind. The great works of Ikhwan us-Safa and Dai'm al-Islam are almost completely unknown to Western armchair analysts of Islam, but are central to the core of true Islamic theologic philosophy (the very word philosophy comes from the Arabic word, "falsafat").

It is beyond my ability to "review" Peak of Eloquence, any more than I could review the Bible or the Qur'an. But the authenticity of every word spoken by Ali AS in these sermons is an absolute. Contrast this to the compilations of hadith (sayings) of the Prophet SAW, notably Bukhari and Muslim, which were accumulated without any real regard for authenticity. Unfortunately, the bulk of Muslim believers accord higher status to these flawed compilations of hadith than they do to Nahjul Balagha. It is beyond the scope of this article to examine Bukhari and Muslim in this piece, but I have previously blogged about some minor but highly illustrative examples of the absurdity of the claim to authenticity for these books. Some of the flaws in these compilations, in fact, have given ammunition to Wahabists as they sought to discredit all prior Islamic theology and establish the dominance of their interpretation.

Peak of Eloquence remains the single clearest example of living Islam that Muslims can both agree on and aspire to.

[1] I am using transliterated honorifics that are traditionally applied to Ali AS and Muhammad SAW. SAW is for "sallalahu aleyhi walehi" which translated roughly to "Peace be upon him". Often, you see "PBUH" appended to the Prophet SAW instead of SAW, but I personally find this distasteful for much teh same reasons that I don't like translations of the Qur'an. AS is for "alayhi-salaam" which is similar.
[2] The wife of the Prophet was the first convert to Islam. Ali AS was the second. For many long years, the three of them were the only Muslims in the world, until the Message began to spread. For an epic telling of the early origins of Islam, I highly recommend the movie, The Message.
[3] Direct descendant of Ali AS and Ali's son, Imam Husain AS (who was martyred by the Caliph Yazid LA at Karbala, in modern-day Iraq).

permalink | posted by Shi'a Pundit

November 25, 2002

The Seerat of Amir'al mu'mineen.

It was the month of Ramadaan. The streets of Kufa were still hot from the day's unbearable heat. A musafir (traveler) was walking through the streets. His clothes had a thin layer of sand, his amamat was worn low on his forehead against the harsh rays of the sun, his shoes worn out from the long walk. Hungry for food and tired, his eyes caught the tall and beautiful minaret of the masjid. He quickened his pace towards the masjid, entered, and said Salaam. Straining his eyes, he saw a lonely figure inside and his ears picked up the low hum of prayers filling every corner of the masjid. The musafir knew in his heart that he was in the presence of a very saintly man, a Wali of Allah Ta'ala.

The musafir laid his masallah near the mehrab and prayed namaaz. He saw the Wali unlock a wooden chest, take out a handful of food and eat it. The musafir having not eaten anything all day, went closer to the Wali and asked, "Saheb, I have had nothing to eat since yesterday. Please give me something to eat." The quiet, peaceful voice of the Wali replied, "Brother, I do not have anything that you would like to eat." The musafir insisted, "I just saw you eat a handful of something. You look like a pious, good muslim and yet you refuse to give me food." Upon the musafir's insistence, the Wali opened up the wooden chest and gave the musafir some food to eat. The hungry man grabbed the handful and put it in his mouth. Suddenly he was choking on the dry and tasteless food. He could not swallow it. He looked at the man, his eyes filled with tears of pain. "Brother, what did you give me to eat?" The Wali replied, "That was the dry flour of jav (a kind of grain)."

"Saheb, flour is very cheap in this part of the country. Why do you keep it locked? Is it that you are afraid of thieves?" questioned the unknowing musafir. The Wali answered, "I know flour is cheap and I am not afraid of the thieves either. I keep this chest locked because when I am not around my sons mix butter and sugar in it. You look very hungry. Go the house of Hasan (AS) and Husain (AS). During the month of Ramadaan, they serve many varieties of food to those who are fasting and hungry. Go join them and delight yourself in the company of good people and delicious food." The musafir folded his masallah, took the directions to the house, and then went to join in the festivities.

Hundreds of people were gathered together at the home of Maulana Hasan (AS) and Maulana Husain (AS), all seated and enjoying delicious food. As the musafir entered the courtyard, two very tall, handsome men approached and invited him to dinner. The musafir sat and ate his fill. As he was leaving the house, Hasan (AS) and Husain (AS) stopped him and said "We've been watching you and have seen that your face is sad, and your eyes have tears in them. Do you have a family somewhere? Are they also hungry? If so, we have plenty of food. Please bring them here to eat or take some food for them."

The musafir answered, "Maula, I have no family. I am a poor man, but I saw a man praying at the masjid, his clothes are old and he is eating dry flour. While eating the delicious food in your home, I was thinking of him and crying. If you give me some food, I will take it to him." Maulana Husain (AS) put his right hand on the musafir's shoulder and said, "Brother, the man you saw in the masjid praying is the Allah's Wali, Mohammad Rasulallah's (SA) Wasi, and our beloved father Ameerul Mumineen Ali (AS). The delicious food you just ate is all provided by him."

Ali (AS) was the cousin of Mohammad Rasulallah (SA). He was born on the 13th of Rajab in the Ka'aba in Mecca. When his mother came to the Ka'aba, she felt weighed down before the Holy structure and prayed humbly to Allah. No sooner had she raised her head from supplication, then the wall of the sacred House split by a solemn miracle. She entered the Ka'aba and the portion returned to its normal position. Some who witnessed the event flocked at the gate of the Sacred House which was lodged and tried to open it, but in vain. They then decided to give up, considering the miraculous nature of the event and the Divine will in action. The news of the this miraculous incident spread like wildfire in Mecca.

Maulana Ali (AS) was born within the Ka'aba with his eyes closed and his body in humble prostration before Almighty God. His mother stayed in the Ka'aba for three days and as the fourth day approached, she stepped out, carrying her gem in her arms. To her great surprise she found the Holy Prophet (SA) awaiting to receive the newly-born child in his anxious arms.

Maulana Ali (AS) was brought up under the care and affection of Rasulallah (SA). As Ali (AS) says, "The Holy Prophet (SA) brought me up in his own arms and fed me with his own morsel. I followed him wherever he went like a baby camel following its mother. Each day I learned a new aspect of his noble person and I would accept it an follow it as a command." (from Nahjul-Balagha)

Ten years in the company of the Holy Prophet (SA) had kept him so close and inseparable that he was one with him in character, knowledge, self-sacrifice, forbearance, bravery, kindness, generosity, and eloquence[1]. From his very infancy, prayed along with the Mohammad Rasulallah (SA). Maulana Ali (AS) always accompanied the Holy Prophet (SA) to help and protect him from his enemies.

Mohammad Rasulallah (SA) has said of Ali (AS):

"O Ali (AS) you are my brother in this world and the hereafter."

"I am the City of Knowledge and Ali (AS) is the gate." ("Ana madinat-ul-ilm wa Ali-yun baaboha")

"For whom I was your leader, Ali (AS) is your leader also." ("Man kuntu Maula, fa-haza Ali-yun Maula")[2]

Maulana Ali (AS) had the qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint; his wisdom still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings; and very antagonist in the combats of the tongue or of the sword, was subdued by his eloquence and valor. From the first hour of his mission to the last rites of his funeral, Ali (AS), was never forsaken by a generous friend, whom he delighted to name his brother.

Under divine instruction, Rasulallah (SA) arranged the marriage of his beloved daughter Fatimah (AS) to Ali (AS), though others vainly tried for her hand. Among their children, Imam Hasan (AS), Imam Husain (AS), Maulatena Zainab (AS) and Maulatena Umme Kulsum (AS) have each left their mark on the history of the world.

While offering his prayers in the Masjid at Kufa (Iraq) on the 19th of Ramadan, Maulana Ali (AS) was struck by a poison sword of an enemy. He passed away 2 days later on the 21st of Ramadan and was buried in Najaf-ul-Ashraf. He was born in the house of God in Masjid-al-Haram and martyred in the house of God in Masjid-al-Kufa. The lion of God, the most brave-hearted and gentle Mumin that ever lived, Mushkil-Kusha, Ali (AS) began his glorious life with devotion to Allah and Rasulallah (SA) and ended it in the service of Islam.

"And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead; nay, they are alive but you do not perceive."(Al-Qur'an 11:154)

[1] The Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library has an comprehensively documented site devoted to the recorded event of Eid e Ghadir Khum.
[2] Recorded by numerous Sunni sources (isnad).

This essay was originally written by my close friend, Zakir H.

permalink | posted by Shi'a Pundit

November 21, 2002

lanat upon the hirabists.

The people of Israel are in shock and pain today. A suicide bomber killed 11 people - mostly children - on a crowded bus during the morning rush hour in Jerusalem.

The military wing of the militant Hamas movement, Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, has claimed responsibility for the attack and named the suicide bomber as Na'il Azmi Abu al-Hal, Hezbollah's al-Manar television station reported, according to Reuters.
"Such operations must go on," Abdul Aziz Rantissi told the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera, adding that the "vast majority" of Palestinians supported them.

Lanat upon Na'il Azmi Abu al-Hal. Lanat upon the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades. Lanat upon Abdul Aziz Rantissi.

As Almighty Allah revealed in the holy Qur'an,

We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. Those who wage war against Allah and His prophet, kill the believers and plunder their property shall be disgraced in this world, and for them is a dreadful doom in the hereafter. (5:32-33)

When innocent children are slain, it is indeed as if the whole of mankind are slain[1]. And those who perpetrated, those who planned, those who approved, those who conceived, and those who justify this act of harabah will indeed face a dreadful doom in the hereafter.

The Palestinians are truly oppressed and suffering. They face true injustice, and rectifying that injustice is the only way that the Middle East will ever achieve peace. But the path to achieving Palestinian goals MUST be in accordance with the morality of the Qur'an:

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. (2:190)

Jihad will always succeed. Harabah will always fail.

[1] Mohammed al-Dura will welcome the innocents to heaven, as the cohort of the victims of injustice grows. Palestinian or Israeili, Heaven is enriched, and the world grows poorer, for their departure.

permalink | posted by Shi'a Pundit

in the Name of Allah, most Beneficient, most Merciful.

It pleases me to note that the total number of unique visitors to this site has reached 786, on 17th Ramadan 1423H.

I would also like to thank the following people who have been kind enough to link to this site:

fellow Muslims
Where is Raed? (salam pax)
Bin Gregory Productions

other friends
Ideofact (Bill Allison)
Noli Irritare Leones (Lynn)
Libertarian Samizdat
Ibidem (jesus gil)
On the Third Hand (Kathy Kinsley)
Sassafras Log
Lazy Sunday Afternoon (Sarah)

and many visitors from this Metafilter thread.

Thank you all. If I have missed anyone, please leave a link in the coments.

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November 11, 2002

animated biography of Muhammad (SAW).

AICN reports that an animated biography of the Prophet Muhammad SAW is in the works, with the actual animation and CGI embellishment to be done by RichCrest Animation in Burbank CA. There's a detailed look at the project as well as background historical material. The producer, Badr International Corporation[1], has plans to introduce further topics of Islam as well beyond this project once it is completed:

It is Company’s vision to become the major provider of high quality Islamic animated stories, episodes, and series for distribution to Islamic countries and people worldwide. Such stories will be produced in Arabic, English and other significant languages in the Muslim world.
The Company’s primary mission is to convey knowledge and cultural values through the medium of animation in an entertainment format, targeted to the entire family as a single audience.

I note that the intended targets for marketing of the movie is to an Islamic audience as well as an American one. The impact at home doesn't interest me as much as the foreign - is the goal here to try to "reprogram" the masses towards moderate Islam, by using the moral lessons and example for humanity that was Muhamad SAW? Or just to be a Disneyfied package of history like Liberty's Kids? Perhaps I am reading too much into it - or it could be a combination of identifying a market niche and performing an experiment in social engineering .

The MessageThe definitive project in film to narrate the early history of Islam was the powerful movie, The Message (1976). The director, Moustapha Akkad, actually shot each scene twice, with different sets of actors for the English version and the Arabic version, because he felt that subtitles would mar the film. Anthony Quinn played Hamza in the English version. Akkad also introduced the cinematic equivalent of the Islamic tradition of not representing the Prophet SAW visually, by framing scenes involving Muhammad SAW from his point of view. Thus, when other characters address the Prophet SAW, they are actually addressing the viewer of the movie. Some scenes had the Prophet SAW off-screen, and Akkad used a haunting musical theme to indicate Muhammad's presence. Muhammad's SAW spoken words are never heard by the audience but are heard by the other characters. The net effect is to convincingly establish the presence of the Prophet SAW but yet never actually violate the tradition against representation. It's partly a brilliant statement about perception and cue within movies in general as well as a merely functional device to circumvent offense. I consider Akkad's use of this device to be the opposite of Jar Jar Binks - rather than visualize an artificial person, the character has enormous impact upon the film and the mportance of the character is underscored, by their absence (visually speaking. But in cues from other actors and the music, the character exists. With even more realism than the jarring artifice of a CGI construct).

To say that there was controversy surrounding the making and release of The Message would be an enormous understatement :) But the film was vetted by established Islamic scholars, notably those at Al-Azhar University in Cairo [2], and garnered enormous acclaim. The video is worth purchasing for the appended "maing-of" documentary alone.

However, while I purchased a copy of The Message for my family, it bore the marks of having been "sanitized" to reflect a cohesive vision of the early history that probably was decided by calculated compromise rather than historical accuracy. While I don't seriously expect the political machinations that gave rise to the Shi'a-Sunni schism to be highlighted (what purpose would it serve, except for disunity?), it's still somewhat jarring to be see certain personalities portrayed in ways opposite to what you've been taught. I have a feeling that this animated version will also bear the same marks, but I cannot fault them for it. The core message of that early history is the story of Muhammad SAW, and the details of the supporting players are not the main narrative. How Islam came into being, the environment that preceded it, the principles that it was founded on (which any denizen of the West would easily recognize), these are what is important. I highly recommend The Message to non-Muslims and I cautiously recommend it to Muslims.

The animated film adopts Akkad's pioneering approach to non-representation, by also using camera point-of-view and thematic music to convey the presence of the Prophet without direct portrayal:

William Kidd has created a thrilling epic score that illuminates this most important moment and man in history. Mr. Kidd helped solve on of the film’s greatest challenges. According to tradition, the Prophet (pbuh) is not physically portrayed in the film. How then does the filmmaker convey his presence in a powerful way? Cinematically, Mr. Rich used the camera’s point-of-view to indicate the comings and goings of the Prophet (pbuh). But this technique is completely brought to life by an unforgettable melody created by Mr. Kidd. The effect is stirring.

To be honest, I am not sure how I feel about this. The problem is that by using entertainment media as a vehicle, the message is inherently commercialized. That's not necessarily bad, but it does undermine the authority of the film. It's easier to dismiss something because it's a movie than if it were, say, a book or even a play. A variant of this "dismis-by-association" theme is what makes it so difficult for Japanese anime to gain any kind of foothold in the movie industry here in the US, because the primary reaction of most adults is, "it's a cartoon". The concept that animation can be used for adult-oriented information (I'm using "adult" in its more general sense, not merely a pornographic context) is one that is dofficult for most adults.

The movie The Message had impact because it was live actors. I think that animation might be the wrong vehicle for this kind of project. But of course, I am highly interested in how it turns out, and I do want to see the outcome.

There is an interesting and moving anecdote related to the making of the film, related to the voice actor for the role of Muhammad's SAW uncle, Abu Talib.

Early on in the casting it became clear that the voice of Abu Talib would be crucial. Though not an adherent to Islam, Abu Talib was a loving uncle to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). His was the responsibility to support his nephew but also to lead, placate, and sometimes stand up to his peers of Quarysh. The voice needed strength, majesty, but also kindness and a gentle quality. It was found in Eli Allem, a veteran actor of stage and screen. With each recording session it became clear that Eli was creating a unique and powerful performance. Finally, his job was done. On the day after his final recording session, he passed away.

[1]It is interesting to note that the company is named after the Battle of Badr, in which Muhammad's followers defended themselves against a Meccan army three times larger. Badr was the first great victory of Islam in its struggle to survive the machinations and entrenched power brokers of pre-Islamic Arabia.
[2] Most assuredly, these Islamic scholars and authorities were not contacted by Osama bin Laden for validation of his religious interpretations. Most likely because it would have been pointless.

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November 5, 2002

Ramadan has begun.

O Allah! This is the month of Ramadan in which descended the Qur'an as a guide to mankind and a criterion to separate truth from falsehood. O Allah! Bless us in the month of Ramadan, and give us Your help and accept our ibadat, for You have power over all things.

There is no god but Allah. We seek Your forgiveness. O Allah! Grant us Paradise and save us from Hellfire.

Ramadan mubarak, and remember my family and myself in your duas.

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November 1, 2002

sorry to disappoint you...

...but wrapping a believer in pigskin does not prevent them entry to heaven.

The reason that these murderers are not going to heaven is because they killed innocent men, women and children. They were engaged in harabah, not jihad.

Wrapping them in pigskin to "prevent" them from entering Heaven implicitly gives credence to the idea that these murderers were engaging in jihad, and had performed an act worthy of admittance to Paradise.

Overall, wrapping the bodies in pigskin is a stupid and foolish action, because all it has done is lend "comfort" to the terrorists, by giving weight to their arguments.

And people wonder why the voice of moderate Islam isn't heard?

permalink | posted by Shi'a Pundit

Jews are NOT apes and pigs.

I was unsurprised to read in NRO's The Corner the entry by Kathryn Jean-Lopez about the MEMRI "analysis" which purports to demonstrate that the Qur'an calls Jews "apes and pigs".

The verse she is referring to is 5:60 - while I do not deny that the verse has been deliberately misused to justify calling Jews "apes and pigs" - it has nothing to do with Jews. This is a group of ayats that are a kind of dialouge. It is confusing to follow but here is the general gist:

5:57 - (addressing Muslims) - do not choose as *guardians* (actual word
used) those people who follow earlier Revelations but not Islam (ie, Jews
and Christians), and people who are outright disbelievers (in Allah). The
issue of Guardian goes back to 5:55, which has an extensive history in and
of itself, as relates to Ali.

5:58 - Some ignorant Jews and Christians mock you (as a muslim) and your
Azaan (call to prayer) because they do not understand what you are doing
(they do not see it as a form of worship). This should not dissuade you from
doing your actions (duties to Allah).

(personal comment: I have been ridiculed while praying in parking lots. My
wife and I used to go to movies before Baby arrived, and sometimes the
only time we could catch a show was right around sunset. So we would do our
obligatory prayers in the parking lot. To be honest, we are reluctant to do that
nowadays, but this verse demands that we persevere despite that paranoia)

5:59 - addressing Jews and Christians - "is the only reason you hate us
(Muslims) because we believe in Allah, and the revelations that came before
(which you also believe in)? Is this because most of you do not follow your
own scriptures as well as we follow them (the same scriptures) ?

at this point the Muslim understands that they are inheritors to the same
scriptures that Jews and Christians follow. However, they are a target of
ridicule by some in these groups for adherence to these scriptures.

5:60 - addressing Muslims again - Do you want to know who is worse (than
such ignorant Jews and Christians. Note, not ALL, see 5:58)? Those who are
worse are those who Allah has cursed, had wrath upon, had damned to be apes
and swine.. etc . these are far, far worse than Jews or Christians (who mock
the azaan, etc.)

5:61 - The group that is discussed in 5:60 is here revealed to be those who
say (on the surface) I believe in Allah but who actually do not, and seek to
cause dissent and turmoil within the community of believers.

Clearly, the average Jew or Christian who follows their own scriptures, or
who at least does not ridicule Muslim belief, is clearly not the target of
5:59, let alone 5:60.

5:61 is taken by Sunnis to be generally aimed at evil people. Shi'a consider
it aimed at very specific groups of Muslims who subverted the Prophet's
wishes, especially against Ali. This entire section has very little to do
with Jews and Christians per se and has everything to do with the internal
struggles of the followers of the religion against the Hypocrites. These
Hypocrites were a significant threat to Islam at the outset, and saw the
best way to destroy it by trojaning it and working at cross purposes from

Verse 4:91 also has been used by detractors of Islam and by politically-motivated psychotics like OBL. It is commonly represented as enjoining the believer to "kill all the infidels".

But for a full contextual understanding, it is necessary to read 4:88 onwards to 4:91. Also note that 4:91 has been short-quoted by critics, the full verse is:

"Ye will find others who desire that they should have security from you, and
security from their own folk. So often as they are returned to hostility
they are plunged therein. If they keep not aloof from you nor offer you
peace nor hold their hands, then take them and kill them wherever ye find
them. Against such We have given you clear warrant."

This is clearly referring to people who keep attacking you, in which case you are
justified in waging war out of defense.

Verse 4:91 itself has no justification for global war against infidels, it is self-contained in discussing other groups who just wont leave you alone. But the entire thread from 4:88 up to 4:91 is worth reading for even more subtlety.

I also sent this explanation to John Derbyshire,whom I consider honorable in distinguishing the misuses of Islam by evil people like OBL from the inherent message of Islam itself. MEMRI and Mrs. Lopez have failed to make such a distinction.

permalink | posted by Shi'a Pundit


Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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