Jesse Curtis Morton: August 20, 2012 (A Ramadan Reflection: From the Chest to Sham, Taqwa is the Heart of All Affairs)
All praise is due to Allah who commanded the Muslims to fast during Ramadan. He (Ta’ala) said,
“O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed for you as was prescribed for those before you that you became al-muttaqun (2:183)
And may the peace and mercy and Allah’s blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) who received the Quran in the holy month and warned the Muslim community when he said:
“Recite the Quran and act upon it ..and don’t eat or profit from it”
As another Ramadan has passed us by, Al-hamdollillah, it is important for us to reflect upon whether we have recognized its purpose and improved our Taqwa by becoming people that embody the Quranic message in our actions; or whether we have merely abstained from food and drink while devouring the Quranic essence, and thereby its true objective.
Taqwa is a difficult word to define. It is usually translated as ‘God-fearing’ or ‘pious,’ but perhaps the best definition was given by Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (radiya Allahu anhu), who was asked to define it and responded with a question: “When you walk down a forest path covered in thorns, what do you do?” he asked his questioner. “You lift up your clothes, move very slow and take your steps carefully“, he [the questioner] responded, and Umar (radiya Allahu anhu) simply stated,”That, my friend, is Taqwa.”
And it is unfortunate that in this age Ramadan has largely lost its connection to the purpose of instilling Taqwa. Instead, in many ways, Ramadan has been turned into an occasion for festivity and entertainment, not unlike the way Christians have distorted their celebration of Christmas so that it is commercialized and void of spiritual purpose. Neglecting the purposes of acts of worship in Islam is a primary reason for the Muslim Ummah’s present degradation, and this Ramadan was significant in that several events in the heart of the Muslim world should have allowed us to recognize that our material and physical circumstances are largely a direct reflection of the state of the heart inside our chests.
The most prominent events are those occurring in Syria, an area destined to play a crucial role in any Islamic revival for its import is included in many ahaadith and isolated in many books of Fiqh as the home of the Taifa Mansoora, the Fustaat (flag) at the end of times where the Abdaal (righteous) gather, help to make Bay’aah to the Mahdi and eventually aid Issa Ibn Maryam (alaihissalaam) in fighting the antichrist. For example, the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said,
“Syria will be conquered, and when you are given a choice of places to settle, go to a city called Damascus for it will be the Fustaat (Fustaat here means city) of the Muslims during the wars of Fitnah and the place of assembly.“
Thus, its condition resembles the condition of the entire Ummah, and this is as Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said,
“You see the believers as regards their being merciful among themselves and showing love among themselves and being kind among themselves resembling one body. So, if a part of the body is ill then the whole body suffers from sleeplessness and fever.“
And a proper conception of Islam helps us to understand that our personal conditions are connected to the condition of the global Muslim community altogether and that the condition of any given Muslim community is, at the same time, a direct reflection of the condition of Islam and Muslims across the world. It is for this reason that the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) admonished the companions saying,
“He who is not concerned with the general affairs of the Muslims is not one of us.“
Unfortunately, it is a lack of adhering to the path of Islam and [a lack of] trekking in a manner of caution and Taqwa that has caused the body of Muslims to suffer from sleeplessness and fever. And today we exist just as the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) described when he said:
“The nations will call other nations to stand against you as the eaters call each other to eat from the food in front of them on a large wooden plate.”
A person asked the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam),”Will that be because we will be few in number?”
The Prophet replied,”No, You will be great in number, but you will be rubbish like the rubbish of the flood water. And certainly Allah will remove from the hearts of your enemies fear of you and will throw Wahan in your hearts.”
A person asked, “What is ‘Wahan,’ O Messenger of Allah?”
The Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) replied, “Wahan is to love the world and hate death.“
And Syria is a perfect sample of the Ummah’s general existence. Despite having a dominant Sunni population, a deviant Alawite minority has ruled the post colonialist nation through a dictatorship managed mostly by a single family. That authoritarian dictatorship has maintained for over four decades, largely due to the rubbish associated with a preponderant Arab racism and post-sykes-picot nationalism united against all manifestations of Islam as a complete socio-political, economic order.
It is a common circumstance all over the Muslim world, but where critics attribute blame to the external coalition of nations conspiring to feast on the Muslim world’s natural resources and civilization, the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) placed blame on the internal condition of the Muslims themselves. The tremors shaking the heart of the Arab world are proportionate to an Islamic Awakening over a generation, and perhaps the most evident lesson about “Taqwa” to take from this Ramadan, is the connection between the state of our spiritual selves and the general physical reality of Muslims everywhere.
The prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) stated,
“Beware! There is a piece of flesh in the body, if it becomes reformed, the whole body becomes reformed, but if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted and that [piece] is the heart.”
Today both the hearts of the individual believer and the identity in the heart of the Muslim world face all sorts of dialectical rupturing and everywhere glimpses exist of an ascendant Islamic identity which is also in accord with what the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said, “As you are so are the rulers above you.“ That being said, it becomes apparent that the solution to our contemporary situation is, first and foremost, a spiritual one and Ramadan serves as a continuous annual reminder of the connection between the spiritual and material realms.
This has always been the case. When the Tatars were pushed from Damascus by successful battle during Ramadan in 702 A.H, physical victory was a result of Ibn Taymia’s cleansing the beliefs of the Muslims with texts like his Aqeedahtu Hamawiyaa, written for the people of Hama, a town besieged by the Assad regime today.
Similarly, At-Tabari recorded in his classic work An History that when the Muslims first conquered Syria under Umar Ibn Al Khattab, Heraclius, the Roman emperor asked a Byzantine who had been a prisoner of the Muslims about their condition. The man replied,
“I shall tell you, and it will be as if you are looking at them. They are horseman during the day and monks at night. In the areas they rule, they do not eat except that they pay for it, and they do not enter a house except with a greeting of peace. They stand up to those who fight them until they destroy them.”
Heraclius could only reply, “If you have spoken the truth, they will indeed inherit the land on which I stand.” Surely, their foundation was Taqwa and we remain, as Imam Malik once suggested, “Verily the only thing that will rectify the ends of this Ummah, is what rectified its beginning.”
As we push forward after Ramadan, let us remember that Taqwa is the foundation of all we do. That it is manifested in the heart and that our physical condition is dependent on the state of our spiritual selves.
It was for this reason that the noble Shaykh Nassarudeen Al-Albani adopted the Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen’s statement: “Establish the Islamic state in your hearts, and Allah will make it a reality,” even though he disagreed with them. Allah’s Messenger (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) constantly emphasized such principles. He said, “Straighten your rows (three times) and Allaah will bring together your ranks or Allaah will put differences into your hearts,” and he (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) informed us that, “A believer to another believer is like a building whose different part enforce each other.”
Today, we Muslims are being tested severely, and our current circumstances tell of potential revival, but it is evident the hearts are tainted by foreign desires. Allah has told us that “Allah has not made for man two hearts inside his body” (33.4). Taqwa is the spiritual garb of the heart that beats for Islam and Muslims, so let us cultivate it wherever we are and recognize that such efforts can only help to bring victory to the Muslims at large.
As individuals and collectives, Allah is testing our hearts. It is as the Prophet (salAllahu alaihi wassallam) said,
“Trials and tribulations will be presented to the hearts, as a reed mat is interwoven stick by stick. Any heart which absorbs these trials will have a black mark put in it. However, any heart that rejects them will have a white mark put in it. The result is that hearts will be of two kinds: one white like a white stone, which will not be harmed by trials as long as the heavens and earth endure; and the other dark and rusty, like an over-turned vessel; not able to recognize the good, nor reject evil, but rather being absorbed with its desires.”
As an Ummah we are increasingly passing these tests and have witnessed some purification. As a result, a new middle east is formulating in the heart of the Muslim world and circumstances, like those unfolding in Syria, present numerous opportunities to connect the degree of material success to adherence upon the path of Taqwa as outlined by Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, for Taqwa fixates the hearts upon the Quran and sunnah and other superficial displays of Islam absent such a foundation only lead to further sleeplessness and disorder.
Brothers and sisters should use the affairs unfolding in Syria to connect to the global Ummah and to call to adherence to these principles.
The great scholar Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah stated that:
“There are four matters, that when their limits are transgressed harden the heart: food, sleep, speech and sexual intercourse. A body afflicted by disease does not derive nourishment from admonishment or exhortation. Whoever desires to purify his heart then let him give preference to Allah over his base desires.”
Ramadan forces the Muslim to restrain all four of these base desires but only those able to connect refraining from them during the holy month to the cultivation of Taqwa thereafter will cleanse their condition and benefit from the trial. In the same way, the historic trials unfolding in the communities of Muslims across the globe will only produce benefit where they stand upon a foundation of Taqwa that manifests action upon the Quranic path. It is a failure to recognize the purpose behind acts of worship in Islam that makes us those that eat and sell the divine message just like the nations before us. May Allah make us al-Muttaqun.
Younes Abdullah Muhammad
Jesse Curtis Morton #79274-083 FCI Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution P.O. Box 759 Minersville, PA 17954 USA
My name is Shaker. I am also known as Sawad Al-Madany because I was born in the Holy City of Medina. Please can you remember these names for me, because I hardly can anymore.
Here, they call me 239. In fact, I call myself 239. It feels so strange to witness my name slipping away from me. I can’t do anything about it.
I wonder how long it is going to take for all of us here in Guantánamo to slip away from the world’s memory?
I have not lost hope. No, I have not! Or have I? I am not sure. But I am still writing: is this not a sign of hope?
Yes, we have lost years of our lives here – and some (three times as many as have been convicted) have actually died.
We have lost our sanity, our health, our humanity and our dignity. Yes, we seem to have lost everything.
But I believe we are gradually rediscovering hope and, with hope, we will relocate our lives and everything else that is meaningful.
Meanwhile our tormentors are losing everything and, the more they lose, the more they torment us. I can’t describe what they are doing. The world must hasten to compel the US government to solve this dilemma before it is too late. Candles cannot burn forever.
BismIllaah ir-Rahmaan ir-Rahiim,
As the month of Ramadaan is now half past, I thought I might mention how we have been granted a brief reprieve from the Islamophobic and authoritarian staff in regards to our ability to pray with one another. You see, normally the Muslims at this particular Gitmo North facility are banned from praying together. We can only pray individually.
The staff who run Gitmo North have claimed that Islaamic congregational prayer will lead to radicalism. They say that whoever is leading the prayer will become an influential religious figure and somehow convince all of the other Muslims in the federal prison system to become terrorists. Thus, they banned congregational prayer.
Really, they just hate Islaam and wanted to punish Muslims for their beliefs, but they will not explicitly say that on paper. However, they have cited the fact that Islaam is the fasted growing religion in the prisons as a reason to ban group prayer, and they have also equated Islaam in general with radicalism.
A brother has informed me that one of the reasons a Muslim inmate was transferred to Gitmo North, was because he was radicalizing a prison in Michigan. As evidence, they cited the fact that prior to his arrival, only five prisoners were listed as Muslims. However, by the time he left, there were forty individuals identifying themselves as Muslims.
There was another man who arrived at Gitmo North, so the intelligence officer, Henry Rivas, told him that he should watch out, because the people here were going to try to convert him to their religion. This man was formerly a member of a religious group called the Black Israelites. A few months after arriving, he did, in fact, become Muslim, al-hamdu Lillaah, but he told us about what Rivas said to him prior to his conversion.
At the other Gitmo North facility, the one in Terre Haute, Indiana, prisoners are allowed to pray together, because a federal court told the prison that they were violating U.S. law by banning the Muslims at Gitmo North from praying together. However, at my facility, the ban continues, because technically the injunction only applies to the Terre Haute facility under American law. So, despite the fact that the facilities are exactly the same and that the law applies to the whole country, not just one pocket here or there, Gitmo North staff continue to ban us from prayer, even though they know it is against U.S. law.
Anyway, in Ramadaan, Gitmo North staff have apparently concluded that it is safe to let us pray together. Somehow the radicalization aura which is supposedly emitted from us when we pray together does not work during the Islaamic holy month devoted to fasting and worship, so they the ban is lifted. It is an amazing blessing which we all take advantage of. Normally, we can only pray together under the fear of disciplinary action.
I hope that the Muslims will reflect on this, and on the difficulty their brothers are enduring with regard to their prayers, and that they will not let their freedom pass them by without their taking advantage of this opportunity. Please keep us in your prayers, and raise awareness of this unjust policy.
Abu Talhah al-Amriiki
Guantanamo North, U.S.A.
16 Ramadaan, 1434
‘It is Because of Our Hearts that We have Come to Syria’: The Case of Oum Usama & The Myth of “Recruitment”
On Wednesday 17 July Dutch authorities arrested a young Muslim woman, Oum Usama, a Dutch National of Somali origins in the small city of Zoetermeer, just sixteen kilometers east of Hague. Following two days of detention and interrogation, Oum Usama was arraigned at court on Friday 19 July where the presiding judge extended her detention for an additional two weeks, during which the state must decide how to precede.
According to a statement by Nicolette Stoel speaking on behalf of the Public Prosecutor’s office in The Hague, Oum Usama has since been transferred to an unknown location where she is being held incommunicado.
“The woman [Oum Usama] was arrested and has been remanded for two weeks while an investigation is underway… At this stage she is only allowed contact with her lawyer.”
The reason for her arrest and subsequent detainment stems from allegations that she “recruited” other Dutch nationals to travel abroad to take part in the conflict which has been raging in Syria for the past three years.
As it is not, as of yet, illegal for Dutch citizens to travel to Syria, the government is largely ineffectual at prohibiting travel to that country by any legal apparatus currently at the judicial system’s disposal. The inability to inhibit movement of Dutch Muslims and the resulting impotence has caused the State to instead focus on those who they can prosecute: the “recruiters”. Read the rest of this entry »
The 28 year old Dutch citizen, Lahsan Aacuk, faces two or more years in a Moroccan prison while he awaits sentencing to take place on August 1st.
Currently hunger-striking since May in protest against inhumane treatment along with 24 other detainees, Lahsan is accused of recruiting fighters for the jihad in Syria.
His Moroccan compatriots have been convicted of similar Syria-related charges as some have recently returned from the war-torn country while others have been deported back to Morocco by Spain or Turkey and are now facing extensive sentences.
On Tuesday, April 16 Lahsan Aacuk was abducted in broad daylight by Moroccan intelligence services [DST] while visiting his sick mother in the At Tawaabil district of Tetouane in northern Morocco.
“I opened the door, and they jumped on me, men in civilian clothes. I was blindfolded, pushed into a van and taken to a police station in Casablanca for questioning. ‘We know many of you,’ they said. ‘We work with the AIVD.’ If I did not talk, they would abduct my brother. And they would claim that I am from Al Qaeda. I would be charged with the attacks in Boston and also prosecuted for recruiting fighters for the conflict Mali.”
It was later discovered that he was being held and further interrogated in the notorious Salé 2 prison.
“I’m blindfolded, tied to a chair, kicked and beaten with sticks,” said Aacuk in a telephone interview with the Volkskrant in June. “They want to link me to Al-Qaeda.”
He was later arraigned on vague charges of terrorism and it is expected to be found guilty of such charges.
Like many of the 4 million Moroccans that live abroad, Lahsan holds dual citizenship from both his native country and from the country he resides in, the Netherlands.
For nearly two months after his disappearance Moroccan authorities rejected claims of holding any Dutchman in custody and denied Dutch consular visits for the tortured man. It was not until June that prison authorities were finally presented with Lahsan’s papers indicating his Dutch citizenship.
Lahsan was not only disturbed by the interrogation methods, but also by the proximal presence of Dutch intelligence.
“Among the papers of the [Moroccan] interrogators was a Dutch paper with the logo of the AIVD. I also got a lot of questions about my Dutch friends and Dutch Syria-goers. It is strange that so many Moroccans want to know about the Netherlands. “
Although the GSIS refused to comment on its role in the recent interrogations, the AIVD states in it annual report that “cooperation between national and international organizations is necessary for the protection of Dutch interests.”
Last month Lahsan’s lawyer, Michiel Pestman, filed a complaint with the Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk claiming AIVD ‘wrongdoing’ against Lahsan.
The question of AIVD involvement is further complicated by its accusations that a grassroots Dutch-Moroccan prisoner rights organisation by the name of Behind Bars, may be involved with recruiting foreign fighters to Syria, the same organisation that Lahsan has been active in while living in Amsterdam.
Dutch intelligence and its alleged cooperation in the questioning of Moroccan prisoners is centered on a controversial theory of socialisation. “These [advocacy] movements have created an environment where like-minded people meet and where radical ideas have been able to develop into jihadist ideas. Group dynamics has led to rapid radicalization of many individuals,” claims a recent AIVD report.
The theory explains why an organisation like Behind Bars can be deemed guilty of conspiracy by merely providing a space to marginalised minorities to discuss politically adverse ideology.
The allegations come after a series of successful and high profile campaigns by Dutch-Moroccans demanding the end of human rights abuses and arbitrary detention in their home country. Past campaigns have highlighted graphic and grotesque interrogation methods leaked to global media by prisoner testimonies, much to the chagrin of Moroccan authorities.
Paolo de Mas, an expert on Moroccan affairs, explains that Moroccan intelligence has been closely surveilling the Moroccan diaspora for their participation in demonstrations critical of Moroccan domestic policies and is actively asserting its intelligence muscle as it it feels threatened by dissidents living abroad.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Moroccan government has conducted mass arrests on the populations activists and salafists since the first Casablanca bombings in 2003. Mere suspicion of connections to terrorism or subversive activities are enough to warrant indefinite detention and torture. HRW claims that majority of such detainees are convicted and sentenced after unfair trials.
My message and will to the blessed muslim nation Oh honorable brothers! Oh Muslims in all parts of the world!
Surely the US government has found in my imprisonment an opportunity;
an opportunity to defile the honour of a Muslim, snatching away his dignity and respect. They’ve placed me under siege, not only physically, but also psychologically.
I’ve been placed in isolation. I’ve been forbidden contact with any Arabic speakers. Days, weeks, months pass and there’s no one I can talk to, and no one to talk to me.
I’ve been deprived of everything inside my cell even media players or a radio. If it wasn’t for the recitation of the Quran, I would have had many physiological problems. In this oppressive siege, cameras are included throughout my cell. They monitor me continuously throughout the day, they even watch me washing my private parts during bathing and using the toilet. They don’t stop there, they exploit my blindness to achieve their vile objectives, for they frisk me by stripping off my clothes, just as I was born, and look at my private parts, front and rear.
What do they search for? Drugs and explosives? This happens before and after every visit. This is so shameful, it makes me prefer the earth to split in half and swallow me whole over their filthy actions. But as I said, to them this is an opportunity they seized to defile the dignity of a Muslim and his honor on this earth. I am also prevented from performing Jumu’a prayers, Eid and any contact with other Muslims! All of this is forbidden to me! They give me false justifications and they make up null excuses.
The prison wardens neglect my personal condition e.g. haircuts and nail-cutting for months. They also force me to wash my underwear. I soak, wash, rinse and hang it, I find it hard! Moreover, I feel the danger of this situation. For surely, they will kill me… they will! Especially now that I’m separated from the world. No one sees what they add in my food, my drink! They could use a slow method to kill me, they could poison my food or medicine or inject me with something. They could drug me with something which would kill me or drive me crazy.
My brothers, if they kill me – which they will – escort my Janazah, and deliver my corpse to my fam- ily. But never forget my blood, never forsake it! Instead take revenge upon them for me in the most severest and violent of manners! And remember that a brother of yours spoke the truth and was killed in the path of Allah.
These few words are my testament to you.
Wassalamu Alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh