Opinion: This is not our Islam (Kingston Whig-Standard)

By Sikander Hashmi

Earlier this year, a Kingston Muslim mother was at her son’s hockey game when she was handed a booklet. She took a look and what she found left her very upset.

The booklet was actually a horrible attempt at proselytizing to Muslims in the form of a comic strip, filled with mockery of Islamic teachings and negative stereotypes about Muslims. It certainly didn’t bring her any closer to converting to Christianity. I mentioned this in a sermon at the Islamic Centre of Kingston. There were no protests and no violence.

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Opinion: 9/11 – Muslims have faced an increasing level of violence (The Montreal Gazette)

By Sikander Hashmi, Special to The Gazette
September 11, 2012

Eleven years ago today, I headed to my room after attending classes at North America’s oldest Islamic seminary, in Cornwall, Ont. I switched on the radio, as I usually would, to listen to the morning news. What I heard changed my world.

It was a day of shock and bewilderment. That night, our principal unequivocally condemned the attacks, sending a clear message to students that the attacks were unacceptable according to the teachings of our faith.

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Article: Improving social services for Muslims must be a priority

From the Islamic Society of Kingston’s newsletter, The Bond (May 2012)

For most Canadian Muslims, Winnipeg may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about solutions to serious challenges facing a growing number of Muslims today.

But that’s where a group of 30 Muslim community leaders, imams, social service providers and activists gathered at the end of April for a four-day training course on counselling Muslims in North America, organized by the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA) based in Winnipeg. ISSA is one of the leaders in the effort to help Canadian Muslims cope with issues facing them and their families.

Since imams are often the first point of contact for those in need of help yet often have zero training in providing social services, this was an outstanding opportunity for them to meet professionals, share experiences and acquire important skills to help them in providing adequate care. Although many imams wanted to attend, most could not do so due to a lack of willingness on the part of their mosque’s management to fund their trip as the cause wasn’t considered worthy enough.

To their credit, the ISK executive did not hesitate in supporting and funding my participation in this course, alhamdulillah.

When I arrived for my flight out of Toronto, I met two other imams also on their way to Winnipeg for the course. Sadly, out of the 30 participants, we were the only three mosque leaders in attendance.

The training course began immediately after our arrival on the afternoon of Friday, April 27 and lasted until just before our return flights on Monday, April 30, with very few breaks in between. Even with such a packed schedule, there were much left to be learned and many discussions to be had. Yet, the excellent mix of very experienced and knowledgeable speakers and engaged attendees provided an intellectually stimulating and enjoyable experience.

Major themes included the etiquettes and manners of providing services in a compassionate and professional manner, addressing domestic violence (especially from a religious perspective), dealing with cases of sexual abuse, providing spiritual counsel, pre-emptive measures against and possible solutions for marital discord, and the causes and treatments for addictions.

Most presenters linked their messages with Islamic concepts, which enriched the content and will assist participants in providing solutions that are grounded in the values and teachings of our faith.

Hearing about the types of issues facing Muslim communities was depressing and very concerning.

For example, participants were told that there is a rise in mutual physical and psychological violence – sometimes severe – in Muslim communities. Domestic violence is resulting in more deaths than we’d like to believe. The presence of domestic violence is having a severe impact on children, as the majority of children in the juvenile delinquency system come from homes where this violence. There is a rise in cases of incest, which are sometimes mutual, even between siblings. Sexual abuse is an unfortunate reality, yet cases are rarely reported and when they are, victims are often encouraged to remain silent. Pornography is an addiction that is rampant, even in the Muslim community, yet people are not seeking treatment for it. It’s ripping homes apart, as men develop unrealistic expectations and eventually lose interest in their wives. More women are turning to porn, many times to find ways to satisfy their husbands. Young children are accessing porn on their mobile devices and developing addictions at an early age.  Sexual dysfunction is one of the top reasons for divorce, with marriages not consummated for years in some marriages. Temporary marriages (which are not permissible according to Sunnis) are on the rise on campuses, in which girls are getting pregnant and the boys are walking away after two or three months.

These are just some of the realities faced by many Muslims across North America, yet these issues are rarely addressed. We must realize that these are not problems that affect other people, rather they are our problems and we must deal with them.

Our communities must start tackling the lack of social services designed to serve the needs of Muslims and make this a major priority. All Muslims deserve timely and quality care from social service providers who are sensitive to their needs.

My participation in the training course organized by ISSA in Winnipeg was a great first step. The training I received proved useful within days of my return, alhamdulillah.

Yet, there is much more to be done. Here are some suggestions to get us started:

  • Start talking about these issues. The more we discuss them, the more importance we will give them.
  • Arrange for professionals to organize educational sessions on the issues facing our communities.
  • Provide support, financial and otherwise, to organizations such as ISSA, so that they can offer help to more people and expand their services.
  • Encourage young members of our communities to become social workers and therapists.
  • Offer training to imams and community leaders to help them address issues professionally and effectively.
  • Seek help if we ever find ourselves in such situations, either as victims or as perpetrators. We cannot find solutions and bring positive change without being proactive.

May Allah help those currently experiencing difficulties, may He protect us and may He grant us lives filled with faith, peace and health. Ameen.

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Article: When our foreheads meet the ground

From the Islamic Society of Kingston’s newsletter, The Bond (February 2012)

Every day, for a few seconds at a time, we place our foreheads on the ground. When we offer all five prayers of the day, we prostrate before Allah at least 34 times.

Those moments often go by with us quickly uttering praises for our Lord in Arabic while our mind is preoccupied with other thoughts. Before we know it, we’re done with our prayer and it’s time to get on with our lives and all the important things we need to get done.

Yet, the time spent in sujood (prostration) is one of the most valuable parts of our day because it’s the time when we have the most intimate connection established with Allah.

The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said:

“A slave becomes nearest to his Rubb (Lord) when he is in prostration. So increase supplications in prostrations.” [Reported by Muslim]

For true believers seeking the love of Allah, this is the absolute best position to be in. As the believer yearns for Allah, He spreads His love to the servant who has placed himself in a position of submission. In fact, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) recommended making frequent sujood:

“Prostrate much because there is no Muslim that prostrates to God except that God raises him one degree in Paradise by it and forgives for him a sin.” [Reported by Ahmad]

The act of prostrating before Allah by placing one’s forehead on the ground carries special significance. Sujood is not just another ritual in prayer, but rather, it signifies humility and complete submission to Allah.

To some, it may appear to be degrading. Why should one have to place the head, the highest part of the body and home to the prized human intellect – the most sophisticated creation on earth, on the same ground that is trampled upon by lowly feet and shoes?

For the believer though, the act of humbling oneself before Allah leads to elevation in every positive way, including respect and honour in this world and in Paradise in the Hereafter. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“Whoever humbles himself before Allah, Allah will elevate him.” [Reported by Muslim]

Humbling ourselves before Allah in prayer, upwards of 34 times a day, should serve as an ample reminder to us that we are very limited, in every imaginable way. We often like to think we are quite smart, wise, intelligent and powerful. Yet, the reality is that all of our combined strengths are nothing compared to all that which Allah posses. Even when we are very confident about our choices, opinions and understanding of issues, we must realize that we may very well be wrong.

Allah has given us the great gift of intellect, but when compared to His all-encompassing knowledge and wisdom, ours is of no match. Thus, no matter what the situation, we must always turn to Him in humility and repentance for the misdeeds we have done and even those we may have committed without even realizing it.

There is no better time or method for doing this than the act of sujood. So the next time we pray, let’s not only prostrate our bodies in front of Allah, but let’s also submit our intellect, our ego and our desires in front of Allah.

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Article: Safeguarding the Fajr Prayer

The days are getting warmer and longer, the grass is getting greener and the nights are getting shorter.

And with the passing of each day, the Fajr and Isha prayers take a step towards each other, until the longest day of the year in the June. That’s when we’ll be offering Isha at its latest time of the year and Fajr at its earliest time (5:21 am and 10:47 pm respectively, in Kingston).

For many of us, this change creates havoc for our sleep and many times, our Fajr prayer ends up being sacrificed, which is troubling because the Fajr prayer holds special importance.

Allah, the Exalted, says in the Qur’an:

“So establish the Prayer after the declining of the sun (from its zenith, for Zuhr and then `Asr) to the dusk of night (Maghrib and then `Isha) and the (Qur’anic) recitation of Fajr.  Indeed, the (Qur’anic) recitation of Fajr is witnessed.” [Quran 17:78]

We learn from authentically transmitted ahadith that it is the angels that witness the recitation of the Fajr prayers.

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “There are angels who take turns in visiting you by night and by day, and they all assemble at the dawn (Fajr) and the afternoon (`Asr) prayers. Those who have spent the night with you, ascend to the heaven and their Rubb (Lord), who knows better about them, asks: ‘In what condition did you leave My slaves?’ They reply: ‘We left them while they were performing Salat and we went to them while they were performing Salat.’” [Reported by Bukhari and Muslim]

The importance of the Fajr prayer is also highlighted by the fact that its observance, along with that of the `Asr prayer (in addition to the observance of all the other obligatory prayers), is specifically mentioned as a means of protection against hellfire and entry into Paradise.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

“Whoever prays al-Bardaan (the two cooler prayers, meaning Fajr and `Asr) will enter Paradise.” [Reported by Bukhari and Muslim]

Also:

“Whoever performs the Salat (prayer) before the rising of the sun (Fajr) and before its setting (‘Asr), will not enter the Hell.” [Reported by Muslim]

The observance of Fajr prayer is also a source of Allah’s protection. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

He who offers the dawn (Fajr) prayers will come under the Protection of Allah. O son of Adam! Beware, lest Allah should call you to account in any respect from (for withdrawing) His Protection.” [Reported by Muslim]

Finally, the observance of the `Isha and Fajr prayers in congregation carries special merit – the reward of offering prayer for the entire night.

So then, what can we do to ensure we offer the Fajr prayer on time (before sunrise)?

Here are some tips:

  • Head to bed immediately after `Isha prayer. Before doing so, recite the dua`a of sleeping (Allahumma bis mika amootu wa aHya), ayat-al-kursi (verse 255 of surat al-Baqarah) and surahs al-Ikhlas, al-Falaq, and an-Naas.
  • Nap in the afternoon or evening if you’re having trouble getting enough sleep.
  • Set multiple alarms on clocks and mobile phones, each one set for five minutes later than the previous one, and keep them out-of-reach so that they cannot be turned off without stepping out of bed.
  • Resolve that you will not hit the snooze button and that you will resist the temptation to sleep for “a few more minutes.”
  • Consider missing Fajr prayer a “big deal” and if that happens, force yourself to get up, make wudhu (ablution) and pray as soon as you remember.
  • Feel regret for missing it and promise yourself to keep trying your utmost to wake up on time.
  • Go to bed with the sincere intention of offering Fajr prayer in the morning.
  • Finally, seek Allah’s assistance in granting you peaceful sleep and the ability to wake up for Fajr.


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