ARTICLES

 

 

 

Show support for Muslim Friends

By Levent Akbarut
Glendale News Press, August 12, 2010

 

Wednesday marked the first day of Ramadan. During this month, observing Muslims around the world fast by abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Fasting in Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islamic faith along with belief in the oneness of God and in Muhammad as God's messenger, performing the daily prayers, paying the yearly charity due (Zakat), and performing the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).

 

The command for fasting came from God to Prophet Muhammad the second year in the Islamic calendar, 624 AD.

 

"Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Quran, as a guide to mankind, also clear signs for guidance and judgment between right and wrong. So every one of you who is present at his home during that month should spend it in fasting. But if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period should be made up by days later. God intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties. He wants you to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify your Lord. In that God has guided you; and perchance you shall be grateful."(Al-Quran, 2:183)

 

For Muslims, Ramadan is the month of self-restraint, self-purification and increased spirituality. Not only are they to abstain from worldly pleasures while fasting, but more importantly, they are expected to control their temper, be more charitable, and seek a closer connection with the Creator through additional prayer and reading of the Quran. Moreover, in this month, a fasting person gains more understanding and compassion toward those who face hunger due to their unfortunate circumstances.

 

The Prophet Mohammad said, "When any one of you is observing fasting on a day, he should neither indulge in obscene language nor should he raise his voice; and if anyone reviles him or tries to quarrel with him he should say: 'I am observing fast."

 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said, "If one does not avoid lies and false conduct, God has no need that he should abstain from his food and his drink."

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Because it is a lunar calendar, Ramadan moves forward in the solar calendar by about 11 days every year. Hence a Muslim in his or her lifetime experiences fasting in all seasons. The fast each day begins at dawn and ends at sunset.

To show support for your Muslim friends and colleagues during this month, simply be aware of them fasting and use common sense. No special treatment or accommodations are expected. Do satisfy your natural curiosity, ask questions and learn about the Ramadan fast in your social conversations. This is particularly important today to combat the prevailing misperceptions about Islam and to promote interfaith understanding and fellowship.

To celebrate this month with the members of the local faith community, the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge is holding its fourth annual Ramadan Interfaith Potluck Dinner on Friday, Aug. 20 at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. All are welcome to attend. Please RSVP toinfo@iclcf.org by Aug. 16.

 

The Tragedy at Fort Hood

By Levent Akbarut

11/7/09

 

We Americans are experiencing shock and disbelief as the details unfold about the Fort Hood shootings. Our first concern should center on the innocent victims of this act of mass murder. We should console, pray for, and support the grieving families in every way possible. As a nation we should put politics aside and unite with a single purpose to heal and further advance the values of our country. America is unique among all nations in its ability to respond to tragedy in healthy ways.What happened at Fort Hood follows is one of the biggest fears of the American Muslim community. One deranged person, claiming to be Muslim, single-handedly murders innocent people creating another national tragedy. The ensuing mayhem invites anger and backlash against millions of peace loving and patriotic Americans who are Muslims. National and local American Muslim organizations immediately issued strong condemnation of the event and called for calm. Locally, at the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Friday prayer services on November 6, the Muslim community reiterated the unequivocal condemnation of Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s horrific actions. In a show of unity, the Los Angeles Mayor, LA County Sherriff and LA Police Department all let it be known that they stand with the Muslim community during this tragedy.As our Army’s top officer, General George Casey has eloquently said “Our diversity, not only in our Army, but in our country, is a strength. And as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse,”American Muslims have the responsibility to further define themselves and lead the internal battle against Islamic extremism worldwide. Similar to other people of faith and conscience, American Muslims are inherently opposed to extremist beliefs and vehemently condemn acts of violence. They sometimes, however, do not communicate this as loudly and clearly as they should, thus leading to a false perception of Islam and Muslims. This is further aggravated by agenda-driven, special interest groups. Another factor contributing to this perception problem is that American Muslims, generally speaking, are a quiet and hard working community of first generation immigrants focusing on establishing their American dream. Islamic organizations need to encourage the community at large to get to know the true nature of their peaceful fellow citizens and neighbors who are Muslims.The interfaith community needs to lead the way in fighting religious prejudice. They need to stand against the merchants of hate who disseminate false information about Islam and Muslims and are now having a field day with this heartbreaking event. Authentic American Muslim organizations should be relied upon to seek accurate information.  If we turn on each other or compromise our American principles, then indecency will prevail. Our country needs to focus on long term solutions that will prevent the reoccurrence of these horrible acts of hatred and desperation. This can be achieved if Americans from all faiths and ethnicities come together based on mutual respect and understanding in order to strengthen our bond as a nation. This is an effective and healthy response in the aftermath of such a horrific tragedy.

 

Love Between a Man and Woman is a Divine Gift
By Levent Akbarut
La Canada Valley Sun 2/14/08

 

There is plethora of literature in the Muslim world that covers the topic of love, both contemporary and traditional. Compared to western traditions, love is addressed more comprehensively in Muslim traditions. There are volumes of spiritual poetry that cover the love of God, faith and religious leaders like the Prophet Mohammed. Mawl{amacronl}n{amacronl} Jal{amacronl}l-ad-D{imacronl}n Muhammad R{umacronl}m{imacronl}, known simply as Rumi, is referred to as the “most popular poet in America.” Internationally famous for the topic of love, Rumi’s poetry is just one example among many that has cross-cultural appeal.

Islamic literature is, therefore, not shy whatsoever to delve into the subject of romantic love, the focus of Valentine’s Day “And moreover God has put affection between your hearts. Even if you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have produced that such affection, but God has done it: for God is the Exalted in might, the Wise” (Quran 8:63).

In Islam, the love between a man and a woman is a divine gift. Islam has always looked positively on love, romance and sexuality, seeing it as an important aspect of humanity to be celebrated only within the confines of marriage.

The story of the Prophet Mohammed and his first wife Khadijah is a beautiful tale of love that broke all the rules of Arab tribal society at the time. Muslim columnist Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa has given a beautiful account of the love shared between the prophet and his wife in “A True Love Story” on his blog, www.drhassaballa.com for this Valentine’s Day.

There are many sayings of the Prophet Mohammed that taught men to be more considerate in all matters of romance. One example sums it up by referring to intimacy in marriage as a religious act of Sadaqa, translated as “voluntary act of generosity or kindness,” if there is mutual satisfaction. “Of God’s signs is that God created for you spouses that you might find rest in them, and God ordained between you love and mercy.” [Quran, 30:21]

So romantic love within marriage is celebrated in Islam, and the Valentine’s Day tradition can be a pleasant reminder to rekindle romantic love.

 

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Moved by a Rare, Dutiful Pilgrimage
By Levent Akbarut
Burbank Leader 12/28/07

 

On Dec. 19, Muslims celebrated the occasion of the end of the blessed season of Hajj or Pilgrimage to Mecca.

Hajj is a duty to be performed once in a lifetime, if one is financially and physically able. It’s one of the five pillars of Islam, along with belief in one God, five daily prayers, fasting during the month of Ramadan and almsgiving to the poor.

Performed this year by nearly 2.5 million devotees, Hajj consists of several rituals that symbolize the belief and devotion to one God through commemorating the trials of the Prophet Abraham and his family. The pilgrimage also enables Muslims from all around the world, of different colors, languages, races and ethnicities, to come together in a spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood to worship God. This display of human equality in what is considered the world’s largest religious ceremony is what moved Malcolm X to abandon the racist beliefs of the Nation of Islam and adopt mainstream Islam instead.

Eid-ul-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, is a celebration marking the end of Hajj, which commemorates Abraham’s absolute devotion to God for his willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s orders as a test. Once Abraham demonstrated his devotion, a lamb was substituted as God’s expected mercy. The holiday is a time for family, friendship and goodwill as one of two major Islamic holidays, the other being Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival of feast, commemorating the end of fasting during Ramadan.

Muslims locally congregated at various mosques and locations. At the Los Angeles Convention Center, for example, nearly 4,000 Muslims gathered at 7:30 a.m. for the Eid prayer and sermon.

Several local Muslims have sojourned for Hajj this year. In La Cañada Flintridge, Asdullah Alamdari and Shahzad and Sobia Husnain made their Hajj trip this year. Family and friends will soon be rejoicing their return home for completing this sacred journey of remembrance of and devotion to God

Last year, one of my son’s good friends, Naeem Khan, an 18-year-old Burbank resident and graduate of local Muslim and Catholic schools, was moved to perform Hajj as well.

As Khan reflects, “For one of the first times in my life, I was completely surrounded by people who believed the same concepts as I did. These fellow Muslims were in the same place as I was because they believed in the same religion and were there for the same reason that I was. We all shared a common bond that broke through ethnic, cultural or linguistic barriers. That common bond was faith.”

Echoing Malcolm X’s observations about the human family’s equality and common bond for God when he performed Hajj, Khan observes, “This feeling of unity was one like no other. I had never felt so in sync with other people with whom I had no acquaintance with. Everyone was moving in the same direction, at the same pace, and saying the same words of worship that are said while circumambulating the holy edifice known as the Ka’bah. That feeling of unity brought about a sense of utopia. For the duration of the Hajj, I felt as if I was in a world that was perfect. No conflicts or wars were going on. No suffering was occurring in various countries throughout the world. I felt euphoric, as if everything was serene and nothing was wrong; a feeling I thought I would never be able to experience.”

To recognize and congratulate the local “Hajjis,” the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge will hold a potluck dinner on Jan. 11 at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. The evening will feature keynote speaker Jihad Turk, the interfaith leader and religious director of the Islamic Center of Southern California.

All are welcome to attend. Since seating will be limited, RSVP to info@iclcf.org by Jan. 7.

 

LEVENT AKBARUT is a member of the steering committee for the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge, www.iclcf.org.

 

Muslims Celebrate End of Hajj
By Levent Akbarut
La Canadada Valley Sun 12/27/08

 

On Dec. 19, Muslims celebrated the occasion of the end of the blessed season of hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca.

Hajj, a duty to be performed once in a lifetime if one is financially and physically able, is of the five pillars of Islam, along with belief in one God, five daily prayers, fasting during the month of Ramadan and almsgiving to the poor.

Performed this year by nearly 2.5 million devotees, hajj consists of several rituals that symbolize the belief and devotion to one God through commemorating the trials of the prophet Abraham and his family. The pilgrimage also enables Muslims from all around the world — of different colors, languages, races and ethnicities — to come together in a spirit of universal brotherhood and sisterhood to worship God. This display of human equality in what is considered the world’s largest religious ceremony is what moved Malcolm X to abandon the racist beliefs of the Nation of Islam and adopt mainstream Islam instead.

Eid-ul-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, is a celebration marking the end of hajj which commemorates the prophet Abraham’s absolute devotion to God for his willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s orders as a test. Once Abraham demonstrated his devotion, a lamb was substituted as God’s expected mercy. The holiday is a time for family, friendship and goodwill as one of two major Islamic holidays, the other being Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival of feast, commemorating the end of fasting during Ramadan.

Local Muslims congregated at various mosques and locations. At the Los Angeles Convention Center, for example, nearly 4,000 Muslims gathered at 7:30 a.m. for the Eid prayer and sermon.

La Cañada Flintridge Muslims Asdullah Alamdari and Shahzad and Sobia Husnain made their hajj trip this year. Family and friends will soon be rejoicing their return home for completing this sacred journey of remembrance of and devotion to God.

LEVENT AKBARUT is a member of the steering committee for the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge. 
 

Guest column: Six years of American Muslim Outrage
By Levent Akbarut
La Canada Valley Sun 09/06/07

 

As I look back on the tragedy of 9/11 six years ago, the horror and disbelief that I experienced then remains with me today as an emotionally traumatic event in my life. The outrage for me is twofold. First, as a baby boomer born in the United States, it was the only time that I experienced an attack by a foreign enemy on American soil. Second, as an American Muslim, I was deeply disturbed and offended that a group of extremists despicably committed this criminal act of violence, hijacking the name of Islam.

During the tumultuous days after Sept. 11, 2001, American Muslims not only mourned this tragic event, but also had to deal with the backlash of anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes.

We found ourselves having to explain that Islam in fact condemns such acts of violence, as any other major religion would, that the actions of a few fanatics should not malign an entire faith, and that American Muslims are just as patriotic as their fellow citizens. But out of the ugliness of terrorism in our nation also came some of my most heart-warming moments on a personal level, thanks to the kindness, compassion and understanding of my friends and colleagues who share different faiths. I believe the fair-mindedness and inherent sense of justice that an informed American society can embody will overcome our collective shortcomings.

One part of this mixed bag of post 9/11 experience is a lingering perception that American Muslims have not expressed enough outrage and condemnation about these horrific attacks on our nation. I believe this misperception can be easily corrected as Muslims reach out and engage more with the American society at large. Outreach will give our nation a real opportunity to know its Muslim citizens on a personal level and not rely solely on the sensational headlines of the corporate media outlets.

As a matter of information, I’ll chronicle a mere sampling of what Los Angeles area Muslims have done in response to the tragic events of 9/11.

First, on Sept. 8, 2002, the Islamic Center of Southern California brought together local Muslim leaders and our elected officialsas well as law enforcement officials to mark the first memorial service of 9/11. Here a very special 9/11 memorial quilt, handcrafted by three Muslim women from the Los Angeles area, which displayed the name of every single victim of this tragedy, was signed by the mayor of Los Angeles and dedicated at a special ceremony at Ground Zero in New York City on the first anniversary of the attacks.

Since that first memorial service, the Los Angeles community leaders have gathered in the halls of the Islamic Center every year to remember the 9/11 victims and to honor the community leaders of all faiths who work for peace as one community united in the fight against terrorism on US soil. This past Sunday, at a reception at the Center, the 2007 Interfaith Peace Awards were given to the Rev. George Regas of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Imam Abdul Karim Hassan of Bilal Islamic Center of South Central Los Angeles, and Rabbi Leonard Beerman of Leo Baeck Temple. As part of a two-day 9/11 memorial service, the award ceremony followed a special community service project that brought together various faith communities and corporate sponsors to prepare approximately 1,000 hygiene/first aid kits for the homeless and over 300 backpacks stuffed with school supplies for underprivileged children.

The American Muslim community has expressed its peaceful outrage in a multitude of ways by official Islamic religious decrees, statements of denunciation, and heroic stories of Muslims serving our country’s armed services.

Local Muslims formed the Islamic Congregation of La Cañada Flintridge to help our great city become a beacon of peace and mutual understanding amongst the neighborhood residents and in the greater community. By demonstrating that in one city, diverse faith groups can join together in ethics, community service and citizenship; we are setting a model for the elimination of the scourge of terrorism in the long run. We not only validate the greatness of our country, but as Americans coming together, Jews, Christians and Muslims, we will deliver a crushing defeat to Osama Bin Laden’s hateful ideology and the extremists responsible for 9/11.

Levent Akabarut is a member of the steering committee for the Islamic Congregation of La Canada Flintridge, www.iclcf.org 

 

Letter to the Editor
La Cañada Outlook 08/2/07

 

I was dismayed to read Bob Tanabe’s letter to the editor (“Democratic Presidential Candidates,” July 26). His baseless attacks on Senators Obama and Clinton and on the religion of Islam, in general, smacked of ignorance and xenophobia.

 

First, Obama was not schooled in “the most radical of Islamic doctrines” as a child. This issue was brought up early in his campaign and quickly refuted by journalists who researched his background and discovered that the school he attended in Indonesia at the age of 7 and 8 is simply a public school that serves Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Confucian children, far from being radical.

 

Tanabe demonstrates his lack of knowledge again when he questions Obama’s authenticity as a practicing Christian and demands that he denounce “Allah,” which simply means “God” in Arabic. It’s a term used by Christian and Muslim Arabs alike, and refers to the common God of Abrahamic traditions of monotheism and not some strange deity that only Muslims worship.

 

Tanabe further displays his xenophobia by stating that “it’s one thing to have a radical Muslim in Congress, but another to have one occupying the White House.” The “radical Muslim” he is referring to is Keith Ellison, the recently elected congressman from Minnesota who has a distinguished record of public service and whose family has lived in the U.S. since 1742. But his patriotism is questioned and he is branded as a radical because he happens to be a Muslim.

Tanabe next lays into Hillary Clinton, warning us that she too would sell us out to the “Muslim terrorists if the price was right.” I believe she deserves to be judged based on real issues and polices, not imaginary and unfounded charges.

 

It is wrong to malign any religion based on the actions of a few fanatical individuals who regrettably distort the teachings of their faith to justify their horrific crimes. I suggest Tanabe stop his fear mongering and start educating himself about different religious or political ideologies. He may be surprised to find out that Islam promotes the same universal values of peace, justice and compassion that are advocated by other major religions. He may also be surprised to discover that right here in our wonderful city, there is sizeable Muslim community whose members are patriotic American citizens, Republicans as well as Democrats, who are actively involved in the betterment of their community and their country. (See the website of the Islamic Congregation of La Canada Flintridge at www.iclcf.org).

 

Nahid Ansari
La Cañada Flintridge

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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