Worshipping in the last 10 nights of Ramadhan with Knowledge

Ramadan Checkup
The Need for Knowledge

By Ibn Abee Omar Available at: http://www.islamonline.net/English/In_Depth/Religious_Files/last10daysoframadan/2008/09/article01.shtml

As the last ten nights are now upon us, it is time to re-evaluate how far we have come. Two-thirds of the month have already passed and will not return. However, we still have enough time to make a final push in this month, to maximize the benefit that we can attain, and draw closer to Allah the Almighty.

One of the main goals of our fasting is the inculcation of taqwa (piety), (O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become pious [people of Taqwa].) (Al-Baqarah 2:133)

`Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) defined taqwa as follows: “Taqwa is to fear the Most Exalted One, work upon His revelation, become content and ascetic and always prepare for the departure from this life.”

Taqwa means to be constantly aware of Almighty Allah and to worship Him with love, fear, and hope. Taqwa is also one of the main objectives of the revelation of the Qur’an, and our fasting is not complete without reciting it. There is a triangle of virtue formed with taqwa in this month: the revelation of Quran and fasting in this month.

The main purpose of fasting is to give us constant awareness and fear of Almighty Allah, as well as protection against evil. It is something that becomes ingrained in our minds at all times.

Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an:(And march forth in the way (which leads to) forgiveness from your Lord, and for Paradise as wide as are the heavens and the earth, prepared for the people of Taqwa.) (Aal `Imran 3: 133)

Allah the Almighty has prepared paradise specifically for pious people. The beginning of the ayah is an encouragement to action; to have taqwa does not mean idleness, it means constant activity. Ramadan trains us for this. It teaches us to be consistent in worship, to fast every day, to go to the masjid every night, to retrain ourselves to be mindful of what we say, watch, and do.

If we cannot derive spiritual benefit during the month of Ramadan, then in what other month can we find benefit? If we are lazy to do good deeds now, then when will we do them? If we compare Ramadan to the rest of the year, we will see that our worship increases on a daily basis. This is training us to establish a regiment of worship, and focus – both mentally and physically – to sustain us throughout the rest of the year. This is also similar to what we often see in our work place when we have training every year or two. In the context of the work place, if we do not increase our knowledge or skills, we could lose your license or certification.

Ramadan has shown us what we are capable of doing when we push ourselves, and this is what we have experienced up to this point. Then, in the last ten nights we receive yet another push. Allah the Almighty says: (Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.) (Al-Qadr 97: 1-5). The theme of this surah is devotion in worship.

In the last ten days of Ramadan, there is Laylat Al-Qadr (The Night of Power). Whoever prays during these nights, believing in it, and hoping for its reward from Almighty Allah, He will forgive all his previous sins. Whoever misses this night and deprives himself of its good, has only himself to blame. Laylat Al-Qadr is one of the last ten nights, and in some narrations one of the last ten odd nights. Of its signs is that it is not too hot, or too cold, and the heat of the sun is not intense.

These signs show that we should be devoted in worship throughout the ten nights, and not just one. For this reason, the signs that show Laylat Al-Qadr are towards the end of the night, and not before. Almighty Allah did not specify its order among the ten nights so that people may exert their utmost efforts throughout all the ten days in worship. This is similar to the hour on Fridays when prayers (du`aa’ are accepted), performing optional night prayer, reciting the Glorious Qur’an and doing righteous deeds.

In the last ten nights – the best and most blessed nights of the year – we push ourselves even more than we did during the first twenty. It is like Allah the Almighty is showing us what our real potential is to worship Him. After all, this is the purpose of our creation: (And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone).) (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

Part of this worship is knowing how to worship Allah the Almighty properly. For example, a person who has knowledge of Ramadan and Laylat Al-Qadr will know that it is hidden, and will understand the reasons why this is so. In this way, the person will know when to seek it, whereas someone without knowledge will simply come to the masjid on the twenty-seventh night only and do one night of worship. Only the person with knowledge can maximize his efforts in worshipping Almighty Allah, and obtain the reward. Such a person knows that the twenty-seventh night is not a lottery jackpot, but a culmination and bonus for the one who has persisted in doing good deeds.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) told us that Allah the Almighty says, “My servant does not draw close to Me with anything as he does by carrying out what I have made obligatory upon him. My servant continues draw closer to me by performing optional deeds such that I love him, and when I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his sight by which he sees, his hand with which he strikes, and his leg with which he walks. Were he to ask of Me I would surely give him and were he to ask Me for refuge I would surely grant it to him.”

A person cannot expect to not be constant in the five daily prayers and then receive eighty-three years worth of rewards from one night alone. Similarly, a person cannot skip fasting in Ramadan, and then fast six days of Shawwal thinking he will have a whole year’s worth of fasting recorded for him.

Allah the Almighty says, (Is one who is obedient to Allah, prostrating himself or standing (in prayer) during the hours of the night, fearing the Hereafter and hoping for the Mercy of his Lord (like one who disbelieves)? Say: “Are those who know equal to those who know not?” It is only men of understanding who will remember (i.e. get a lesson from Allah’s Signs and Verses). (Az-Zumar 39:9). So, here Allah the Almighty gives two examples –a worshipper with another person who does not worship, and then couples it with one who knows and one who does not. Indeed, both of these go hand in hand. It is only when we combine the two that we can reach the highest stages of worship and attain success in this life and the Hereafter.

Knowledge cannot be attained without devotion, and devotion is not complete without knowledge. As Ramadan inculcates taqwa, one of the descriptions Allah the Almighty gives to those who practice it is: (Verily, those who are pious, when an evil thought comes to them from Satan), they remember (Allah), and (indeed) they then see (aright).) ( Al-A`raf 7: 201)

One example of this could be, for example, the trial of Dajjal, as only the knowledgeable and pious will be able to see through his plots while those who are ignorant will be misled. In this context, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When Allah desires good for someone, He gives him understanding of religion.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

Every Ramadan we make plans to improve ourselves as Muslims, but those plans do not always come to fruition later because the surge of faith that we have now is severely lacking outside this blessed month. Part of the reason is because the devils are locked up during this month, so to repel the devils we need knowledge. Ramadan specifically is a period of worship. It is a time when families come together, make du`aa ’together, break their fast together, and eat suhoor together. Families pray together more, and they read Qur’an. These are all acts that bring family members closer to each other, and in turn they also draw closer to Allah the Almighty.

These acts cannot be sustained until a person tastes the sweetness of faith, and that will not come until they are grounded in knowledge. This is how our belief increases, and we draw closer to Almighty Allah in this way, because when a person worships with knowledge, he worships with humbleness and firm belief. We need activities to keep our faith on the increase. Specifically, we need to seek knowledge, especially in the west where we are faced with attacks from every direction.

Just wishing is not enough. If there is a thirst for knowledge and learning the religion, then why are we not taking advantage of the opportunity? How many people want to memorize Quran, but how many of those same people are willing to give a few hours of their time every week to review and memorize with a teacher? It is not that these questions are unimportant, but they lack insight. We need to ask about the ruling on seeking knowledge of the religion which is obligatory upon every Muslim. Knowledge is obligatory on everyone no matter what field they are involved in; for example, you must learn the fiqh of business, and riba, before going into business or finance so that you do not fall into what is prohibited. If you have wealth, you must learn the fiqh of zakah . Every Muslim must know the rulings of wudu’ and prayer. A man must know, for example, what is obligatory upon him in regards to taking care of his wife and children

`Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “Whoever has six qualities will leave no path to Paradise and be away from the Fire, but [he] will have taken it. They are, 1. He knows Allah and obeys Him, 2. He knows the devil and disobeys him, 3. He knows the truth and follows it, 4. He knows falsehood and stays away from it, 5. He knows life and avoids it and 6. He knows the Hereafter and seeks it.”

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was commanded in the Qura’n to seek knowledge. We are only asked to increase our knowledge. He (peace and blessings be upon him) also used to supplicate Allah the Almighty to grant him beneficial knowledge, and he would seek refuge from knowledge that did not benefit.

Allah the Almighty says: (But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what has been sent down to you (Muhammad SAW) and what was sent down before you, and those who perform As-Salah (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakah and believe in Allah and in the Last Day, it is they to whom We shall give a great reward.) (An-Nisaa’ 4: 162)

Knowledge is the Key to Establishing Endless Acts of Charity

Everyone wants to leave a legacy. This is a universal human value that we all share. Even the disbelievers share this goal with us. Almost every person has a goal of making some contribution to their family or society and being remembered for it. However, only the believer will see the benefits of this after death. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “When a servant (of Allah) dies, his (good) deeds will cease, except for three (kinds of deeds): A charity with continuous effect, a kind of knowledge from which people draw benefit, and a good son who prays to Allah for him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

If we do not do this, we are like the rest of humanity and will be at a loss. This is the default situation of man, the base case scenario; he is at a loss. (By Time, Verily Man is at a loss. Except those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and recommended one another to the truth, and recommended one another to patience.) (Al-`Asr 103: 1-3)

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “Indeed, this world, with all it contains, is cursed, except for the remembrance of Allah and what follows it from deeds that are pleasing to Allah, scholars (of religion) and seekers of knowledge.” (Tirmidhi). The problem is that we become content with what we have, and if we look at the example of our righteous predecessors, none of them were ever content. We must take advantage and change our lives right now. There is no time to make intentions and resolve to do better. Such thinking does not exist in the workplace so why do we expect it to exist with Allah the Almighty? We must take concrete action to better ourselves and our communities.

It is only Satan who misleads us and encourages us to be lazy, and he will keep making us procrastinate so much so that the only time we gain any real knowledge is after our death. `Abdullah ibn ‘Awn said, “Those who were before us would leave for this life what remained with them after taking care of their Hereafter. You, on the other hand, leave for your Hereafter what remains after taking care of your life.”

We have a disease in our hearts when we say “faith is in the heart” or “faith is only on the inside.” This is nothing more than a feeble excuse and a trick! We all quote the hadith “actions are by intentions” as proof for this, but it is actually proof against us. It says actions are by intention – the action comes first and then the intention of the action is judged. To merely make an intention without an action is of no benefit, especially when there is nothing preventing us from doing the action.

We cannot simply intend to establish Islamic institutions, or establish classes, seek knowledge, or teach our children about Islam. We must put it into action because when we put it into action, then we can leave a lasting legacy of that knowledge to those around us. It does not necessarily mean that you must produce some academic work, but it means to impact someone around you in a positive manner, such that, in sha’ Allah, you will benefit from your action after your death.

Tying it All Together – Example of Worshipping with Knowledge

Imam Ahmad recorded from `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her), that she said, “O Messenger of Allah! If I find Laylat Al-Qadr what should I say?” He replied, “Say: ‘Allahumma innaka ‘Affu, tuhibbul ‘afwa, fa’fu’annee’ (O Allah! Verily, You are the Oft-Pardoning, You love to pardon, so pardon me).” (Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i). It is recommended that we supplicate with this as we seek the blessed night that the Quran was revealed in. Have we pondered over its meanings?

Al-’Affu is one of the Majestic Names of Almighty Allah. Linguistically, it means to pardon. ‘Aafiyah is Allah’s defense of His servant from disease, tribulation, fears, doubts, and so on. This name occurs in the Qu’ran five times, once with the Name al-Qadir, and the rest with Al-Ghaffur. Al-Ghaffur also means to wipe away a person’s sins. Combined with Al-`Affu it means that Almighty Allah overlooks and pardons a person’s sin, and then wipes it completely away. Why would this name be coupled with Al-Qadir? Al-Qadir is the One who is powerful, able to do all things, the One with the right and power to punish His slaves for sinning. What does this have to do with neglecting one’s sins?

In our interpersonal relationships, sometimes we are compelled to forgive each other for things that have been done to us. It may be because of a favor someone has done for us, or pressure from someone. By combining Al-`Affu with Al-Qadir, Allah the Almighty is telling us that He has all power and every right to punish us for our sins; however, He (out of His Mercy) has chosen to forgive us and pardon us. May Allah the Almighty let us all live to see Laylat Al-Qadr this year, and benefit from it, and be amongst His righteous and knowledgeable worshippers.

Best Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN
DURHAM, UK

Light entertainment in Ramadhan.

Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Malaysia Independence Day, 31st August 1957

The struggle to search for independence began in 1511 and took more than 446 years. It ended with the declaration of national independence on 31st August 1957. On that day, YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj poignantly read out the Proclamation of Independence of Malaya.

Transcript of YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman’s speech as follows:

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies, People of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu.

I am indeed proud that on this, the greatest day in Malaya’s history it falls to my lot to proclaim the formal independence of this country. Today as new page is turned, and Malaya steps forward to take her rightful place as a free and independent partner in the great comity of nations – a new nation is born and though we fully realize that difficulties and problems lie ahead, we are confident that, with the blessing of God, these difficulties will be overcome and that today’s events, down the avenues of history, will be our inspiration and our guide. It is therefore with a feeling of particular solemnity that we have listened to the eloquent words of His Royal Highness and in particular to the moving message he has conveyed from Her Majesty the Queen. We are indeed honored that Her Majesty should have deputed her own uncle, His Royal Highness, to be with us on this occasion particularly when we remember that he is no stranger to this land: We recall too with pleasure his previous visit to Malaya and happy recollections of his stay have remained with us.

His Royal Highness has spoken in moving words of the past associations of our two countries. We in Malaya have a long history, but we do not lightly forget old relationships.

For many years past our fortunes have been linked with those of Great Britain and we recall in particular the comradeship of two world wars. We remember too the products of our association; justice before the law, the legacy of an efficient public service and the highest standard of living in Asia. We shall therefore always remember with gratitude the assistance which we have received from Great Britain down our long path to nationhood; an assistance which culminated today with the proclamation of Malaya’s independence.

But the long-standing friendship between our countries does not cease with independence: Rather it takes on a new form. As you have heard in the gracious message from Her Majesty the Queen, Malaya will henceforward take her place in the great Commonwealth of Independent Nations whose members are found in all parts of the world, and as an equal partner in that great association. We in this country will do all in our power to promote its well-being in the interests of mankind in general and in the particular service of world peace.

Thus today a new chapter opens in our relationship with Britain; our colonial status has given place to full equality but we are confident that, fortified by old associations, and linked by old memories, our ties with Britain will grow ever stronger and more durable.

British will ever find in us her best friend, and it is a source of much gratification to my government that British civil servants will continue to serve in this country to assist us in the solution of the many problems which independence will present.

But while we think of the past, we look forward in faith and hope to the future; from henceforth we are masters of our destiny, and the welfare of this beloved land is our own responsibility: Let no one think we have reached the end of the road: Independence is indeed a milestone, but it is only the threshold to high endeavor — the creation of a new and sovereign state. At this solemn moment therefore I call upon you all to dedicate yourselves to the service of the new Malaya: To work and strive with hand and brain to create a new nation, inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty — a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world.

High confidence has been reposed in us; let us unitedly face the challenge of the years.

And so with remembrance for the past, and with confidence in the future, under the providence of God, we shall succeed.

PROCLAMATION OF INDEPENDENCE: IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE COMPASSIONATE, THE MERCIFUL. PRAISE BE TO GOD, THE LORD OF THE UNIVERSE AND MAY THE BLESSINGS AND PEACE OF GOD UPON HIS messengers. Whereas the time has now arrived when the people of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu will assume the status of a free independent and sovereign nation among the nations of the World.

AND WHEREAS by an agreement styled the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957, between Her Majesty the Queen and Their Highness the Rulers of the Malay states it was agreed that the Malay states of lohore, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Trengganu and Perak and the former Settlements of Malacca and Penang should as from the 31st day of August, 1957, be formed into a new Federation of States by the name of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu.

AND WHEREAS it was further agreed between the parties to the said agreement that the Settlements of Malacca and Penang aforesaid should as from the said date cease to form part of Her Majesty’s dominions and that Her Majesty should cease to exercise any sovereignty over them.

AND WHEREAS it was further agreed by the parties aforesaid that the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1948, and all other agreements subsisting between Her Majesty the Queen and Their Highness the Rulers or anyone of them immediately before the said date should be revoked as from that date and that all powers and jurisdiction of Her Majesty or of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in or in respects of the Settlements aforesaid or the Malay States or the Federation as a whole should come to an end.

AND WHEREAS effect has been given in the Federation of Malaya Agreement, 1957, by Her Majesty the Queen, Their Highnesses the Rulers, the Parliament of the United Kingdom and Legislatures of the Federation and of the Malay States.

AND WHEREAS a constitution for the government of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu has been established as the supreme law thereof.

AND WHEREAS by the federal constitution aforesaid provision is made to safeguard the rights and prerogatives of Their Highness the Rulers and the fundamental rights and liberties of the people and to provide for the peaceful and orderly advancement of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu as a constitutional monarchy based on parliamentary democracy.

And whereas the federal constitution aforesaid having been approved by an Ordinance of the Federal Legislatures, by the Enactments of the Malay states and by resolutions of the legislatures of Malacca and Penang has come into force on the 31st day of August, 1957, aforesaid.

Now in the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful, I, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halimshah, prime minister of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, with the concurrence and approval of Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Malay States do hereby proclaim and declare on behalf of the people of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu that as from the 31st day of August, 1957 the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu comprising the states of Lohore, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Trengganu, Perak, Malacca and Penang is and with God’s blessing shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent state founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.

To all fellow Malaysian, Merdeka, merdeka, merdeka.

Best Regards
ZULKIFLI HASAN
DURHAM, UK

  • Milan, Italy

    UK university companies eye Mideast investors

    UK university companies eye Mideast investors

    by Shane McGinley Available at: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/595577-uk-university-companies-eye-mideast-investors

    The Dubai-based arm of a UK investment firm is targeting Middle East investors to fund spin-off companies and new technology developed in British universities, Arabian Business has learnt.

    Envestors is a London-based investment firm which partners entrepreneurs seeking funds with suitable investors who have cash available to inject in new ventures. It was recently acquired by rival Braveheart Investment Group, which specialises in funding news technology, companies and inventions developed in British universities.

    Braveheart is aiming to target investors in the UAE to fund these new university developed companies and technology, the head of the Dubai-based arm of Envestors told Arabian Business.

    Best Regards
    ZULKIFLI HASAN
    DURHAM, UK

  • London Transport Museum

    Miracle of Ramadhan: My Ramadhan Article Edition

    MIRACLE OF RAMADHAN AND FASTING

    By Zulkifli Hasan

    1.0 Introduction

    Ramadhan is the greatest month and the best time for self-regulation and self-training. There are numerous benefits to those who are fasting during Ramadhan either from spiritual or physical perspectives. The positive effects of Ramadhan and fasting have not only been mentioned in al Quran and al Sunnah but also by many scientific researches. In fact, there are few institutions that were established to promote fasting as a way to prevent and heal diseases such as “Fasting Center International Incorporation” in the United States of America. This brief article attempts to highlight several interesting findings about Ramadhan and Fasting effects from 4 different perspectives namely economic, health and sciences, psychological and social point of views.

    2.0 Miracle of Ramadhan and Fasting

    2.1 Economic Perspective
    According to the study undertaken by the University of New Hampshire led by Iranian-born finance Professor Ahmad Etebari, stocks in largely Muslim nations outperform during the month of Ramadhan. It is found that on average, stock returns are 9 times higher during Ramadhan than other times of year. The phenomenon is called the “Ramadan Effect.”
    Between the stock markets of Bahrain, Oman, Turkey, Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, the report identified a trend of considerably higher returns during Ramadhan as compared to other months. The study found that the average returns for the 15 countries from the database of 1989 to 2007 were 38% during the month of Ramadhan as compared to an average of 4.3% during ordinary months. The research reveals that that the social cohesion and institutional feelings attains during Ramadhan help influence the investments behavior.

    2.2 Health and Science Perspective
    In 1994 the first International Congress on “Health and Ramadhan”, held in Casablanca, entered 50 research papers from all over the world from Muslim and non-Muslim researchers who have done extensive studies on the medical ethics of fasting. The congress made recommendations that Ramadhan fasting is an ideal method for treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin diabetes, obesity and essential hypertension.
    Allan Cott, in his famous book “Why Fast”, states that fasting has the effects to clean out the body, to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and to let the body health itself. Another interesting finding refers to the ability of fasting habit to slow the aging process based on a research conducted by Dr. Yuri Nikolayev, Moscow scientist and dietician/nutritionist. This finding is supported with another research by Dr. Alvenia M. Fulton, by which his experiment indicates that fasting is the ladies best beautifier, brings grace charm and poise, normalizes female functions and reshapes the body contour.

    2.3 Psychological Perspective
    As regard to psychological point of view, it is empirically proven that fasting can bring positive effects to psychological and mental health. At this point, Dr. Sabah al-Baqir from Medical Faculty of University of King Saud reveals that fasting will generate specific hormone which may relieve tension and to make a person to feel better physically and mentally.

    2.4 Social Perspective

    2.4.1 Crime Rate
    I believe that this is phenomenal in many jurisdictions all over the world. According to the statistic produced by the Iranian Police Department, the Iran’s overall crime rate and murder rate have declined during the holy month of Ramadhan. There has been a 32% decline in homicides and the overall crime rate has dropped significantly. It is worth noting that the homicide rate in Iran is six murders per day and Iran stands 50th in the world in the homicide rate.

    2.4.2 Family Institutions
    Ramadhan is the best time for family and social gathering. The Maktoob Research in UAE conducted a survey on the opinions of 6,128 adult Muslims from across the Arab world about Ramadhan. The survey reveals that 96% of Muslim Arabs observing the fasting month and it is also found that 86% of those surveyed tend to observe iftar as a good opportunity for family gatherings. This finding indirectly indicates that fasting during Ramadhan can strengthen the family institutions and community as well as provide best opportunity for the unity of the ummah.

    2.4.3 Generosity
    Considering to numerous hadith on the rewards and benefits of sadaqah (charity) during the month of Ramadhan, it is observed that the willingness and efforts for charity and donation are significantly increased. According to Lung Transplantation Research Center, National Research Institute of TB and Lung Disease, Tehran, Iran, organ shortage is the most significant problem that they face for the activities of trans¬plantation systems. In this regard, they carried out a survey on the Muslims’ behavior during holy month of Ramadan pertaining to organs donation in Iran. Interestingly, the survey reveals that the number of applications for organs donation in Ramadhan increase to 154% as compared to other months with a total of 11528 organ donations as opposed to 4538 applications in the previous month. This phenomenon indicates that Ramadhan seems to provide a great opportunity to promote organs donation across the Muslim world.

    3.0 Conclusion

    Ramadhan is the greatest and best month of the year. It is one of the blessings of Allah to the Muslim that He enables us to fast in Ramadhan. The blessed month of Ramadhan and ibadah of fasting not only offer us with great rewards from Allah but also with so many benefits either from economic or health and science, psychological or social perspectives. With this priceless opportunity from Allah to us, it is hoped that we can keep the spirit of month of Ramadhan not only during this blessed month but at all times and throughout the year. InsyaAllah.

    Best Regards
    ZULKIFLI HASAN
    DURHAM, UK

  • With Yvonne Ridley, award-winning journalist, former Taliban captive and convert to Islam.

  • Bahrain Regulator May Limit Scholars’ Role: Islamic Finance

    Bahrain Regulator May Limit Scholars’ Role: Islamic Finance

    By Dana El Baltaji Available at:http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-08-09/bahrain-regulator-may-limit-scholars-role-islamic-finance.html

    Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) — A Bahrain-based agency is proposing new rules for religious scholars involved in the $1 trillion Islamic finance market, aiming to reduce the risk of conflicts of interest or improper disclosure.

    The guidelines may address whether Shariah scholars can own shares in the institutions they serve and how many advisory boards they join, said Mohamad Nedal Alchaar, secretary-general of the Accounting & Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, whose standards have been adopted in countries including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

    “There’s a potential case for conflict of interest, and a case of information leakage or perhaps competition impact,” Alchaar said in an Aug. 5 telephone interview in Kuala Lumpur. “We wanted to address the concerns in an unbiased manner. When the guideline is published it will be a bold move and it may cause a stir.”

    The proposals underline concern that Islamic financial products, designed to comply with Shariah law to be acceptable to devout Muslims, may be overseen by scholars who have a financial interest in their issuance. Global standards are still developing in the industry, whose assets are forecast by the Kuala Lumpur-based Islamic Financial Services Board to almost triple to $2.8 trillion by 2015.

    AAOIFI, which has 200 members, sets accounting and auditing standards that are used in Bahrain, the Dubai International Financial Centre, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Sudan and Syria, according to its website. The agency said its guidelines have also been used to help frame policy in Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

    Financial Fatwas

    Fatwas, the judgment of a scholar based on his interpretation of Shariah law, are essential for products to be vetted and offered by financial institutions to Muslims. Islamic law restricts investors to transactions based on the exchange of assets rather than money alone because interest payments are banned.

    Chicago-based Failaka Advisors LLC, an advisory company which monitors and publishes data on Islamic funds, lists 253 practicing scholars worldwide in its 2008 report. The top 10 include Sheikh Nizam Yaquby of Bahrain, Mohammad Daud Bakar of Malaysia, Pakistan’s Muhammad Taqi Usmani, Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah of Syria, and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Elgari, it said.

    Yaquby serves on the Islamic boards of 52 institutions including New York-based Citigroup Inc. and London-based HSBC Holdings Plc. Bakar advises firms such as Paris-based BNP Paribas SA, according to the data. Credit Suisse Group AG of Zurich and Standard & Poor’s are among 31 firms that seek advice from Elgari, the report shows. Yaquby didn’t respond to an e- mail request for an interview and Mohammad Daud Bakar said he couldn’t respond to questions immediately.

    Scholar Shortage

    The Bahrain-based agency also plans to address concerns that scholars’ private companies receive preferential treatment from banks they advise, Alchaar said.

    The Islamic finance industry is “increasingly scrutinizing the role of scholars, and questioning what the best practice should be,” Omar Shaikh, a board member of the Glasgow-based Islamic Finance Council U.K., said in May. “As the industry is beginning to work toward critical mass, scholars may need to tweak their roles at financial institutions.”

    Financial institutions can’t find enough scholars to accommodate the demand for new Shariah-compliant products, Khalid Howladar, a Dubai-based senior analyst at Moody’s Investors Service, wrote in a report in May.

    “The shortage of top Islamic finance scholars means that a small group of reputable individuals are a key factor in the Shariah compliance process,” he wrote. “This concentration creates a bottleneck when demand is high, and puts them and their offices under considerable pressure to deliver their approvals quickly.”

    Fewer Sales

    The spread between the average yield on Islamic bonds and the London interbank offered rate was 3.89 percentage points at the end of last week, down from 4.67 points at the start of the year, according to the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai U.S. Dollar Sukuk Index.

    The yield on Malaysia’s 3.928 percent dollar-denominated Islamic note due June 2015 fell five basis points to 2.85 percent as of 5:30 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur, according to prices from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

    Global sales of Islamic notes so far in 2010 total $7.9 billion, 28 percent less than in the same period of 2009.

    Sitting on Boards

    The shortage of scholars is also hampering the industry’s ability to develop global standards, Mohamed Ma’sum Billah, a scholar in Selangor, Malaysia, said in an e-mailed response to questions on Aug. 6. He sits on the board of the Cheshire-based International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation in the U.K., an association that represents insurers globally, and estimates the shortage to be “about 30 percent.”

    “As per the quality of scholars with accurate knowledge of the issues, the shortage is more than 80 percent,” said Billah, who owns shares in several institutions he advises. “A Shariah scholar shouldn’t be barred from sitting on boards as long as one is prepared to offer effective time, effort and knowledge,”

    See also other articles: AAOIFI to perform temporary watchdog role and Islamic finance body to overhaul scholar rules

    Best Regards
    ZULKIFLI HASAN
    DURHAM, UK

  • With my family at International Islamic University Malaysia

    Islamic Bank looks to move on after £20m bail-out

    Islamic Bank looks to move on after £20m bail-out
    Available at: http://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/53743-islamic-bank-looks-to-move-on-after-20m-bail-out.html?news_section=19009

    SHAREHOLDERS in Islamic Bank of Britain , the UK’s only stand-alone Sharia compliant retail bank, will be hoping for a chance in fortunes after backing a £20m bail-out from the bank’s founding shareholder.

    The capital injection, courtesy of Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB), will allow Birmingham-based IBB to realise product development plans including the growth of its Islamic mortgage alternative, the Home Purchase Plan.

    To coincide with the bail-out and the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadhan, IBB has launched two new products – a 3.99% fixed rental rate product until January 2012 and a variable rental rate product at 4.99%.

    IBB said it was hoping the injection would reinforce its position as the pioneer of Sharia compliant banking. It also said that in the face of the challenging economic conditions, it had successfully grown its deposits, assets and customers every year since its launch in September 2004.

    In its 2009 financial statements, the bank reported customer deposits of more than £186m, customer financing at £46m and nearly 50,000 customers.

    Commenting on the investment, Sultan Choudhury, Commercial Director, IBB, said, “IBB already offers the largest range of Sharia compliant products and services in the UK. With a fresh injection of capital we are well placed to grow the business through our Home Purchase Plan products.

    “The products will offer peace of mind for customers, both financially and spiritually, which is especially important in the holy month of Ramadhan.”

    QIIB is listed on the Qatar Exchange and regulated by the Qatar Central Bank. It has assets in excess of £3bn and in 2009 reported annual reported profits of £95m.

    Best Regards
    ZULKIFLI HASAN
    DURHAM, UK

  • European Central Bank, Frankfurt, Germany

    New Islam: A Project without a Caliphate

    New Islam: A Project without a Caliphate

    By Dr. Rafiq Habib Available at: http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1265890488202&pagename=Zone-English-Living_Shariah%2FLSELayout

    The conflict between Western domination and the Islamic Movement involves numerous entwined battles and implied confrontations that reveal the reality of the problem and the reality of the differences between the Islamic project on one hand and the Western project on the other.

    At the heart of the battle between globalization as a Western project and the Islamic civilization project, the issue of the Islamic Caliphate gets caught in the crossfire. Although an Islamic Caliphate does not currently exist, it is there in all the battles between the West and the Islamic Movement, in all the battles of secularism with the Islamic project, and in all the battles of the ruling regimes and secular elites against the Islamic Movement. It could be argued that Islamic political unity represents the essence of the battle. Consequently, the idea is besieged by all parties who are hostile to the Islamic project, or against it, in order to diminish the status of political unity of the Ummah in the Islamic discourse and remove it as an essential maxim of the Islamic Movement.

    The maxim of an Islamic Caliphate and a United Islamic State represents the dream of millions of Muslims; it is the banner that brings together all Arab and Muslim countries, and the most prominent title of the rising history of the Islamic Ummah. This maxim is strong enough to gather the Ummah, unite its orientation, and motivate it to realize its own unity. Therefore, this maxim has been besieged and the Islamic Movement has been put under pressure to express this maxim only implicitly in its discourse. Moreover, the maxim itself is considered to be hostile to the existing territorial nation-state.

    The West and the Memories of History

    In the collective Western mind, the idea of restoring the United Islamic State represents a project to create a superpower that would implicitly challenge Western countries and the United States of America, which is the only superpower in the world today. The West believes that once the United Islamic State is established, its domination over the world shall cease, because the United Islamic State shall separate the West from the rest of the world and occupy the heart of the world. By default, the United Islamic State would put an end to the West as a superpower and, more importantly, to the role of Western civilization as the dominant advanced civilization.

    Only after breaking the Ottoman Empire was the West able to control the Arab and Muslim region and then the entire world, because to rule the entire world they had to occupy the Arab and Islamic region
    Globalization, the dream of Western hegemonic liberalism on the world, shall end if the United Islamic State comes to being, because the Islamic civilization would dominate an important part of the world. If this happens, there will be another competitor to Western civilization and a barrier that would prevent its control over the world.

    The dream of a United Islamic State is a repeat of the history of the West with the Islamic State in its various phases. The West was unable to achieve global control and dominion until the Islamic Caliphate fell, because this Caliphate was the last global cultural challenge to Western nations.

    Only after breaking the Ottoman Empire was the West able to control the Arab and Muslim region and then the entire world, because to rule the entire world they had to occupy the Arab and Islamic region, which is at the heart of the world both geographically and culturally. This is one manifestation of the ‘middle nation’ concept: it is the heart at the middle of the world, the area in which the colonial powers realize their hegemony and domination, and the region that causes the fall and defeat of these powers.

    On the other hand, if the heart of the world becomes free and if the ‘middle nation’ is liberated and able to build its unity and civilization, the entire world would follow suit. The State of the Muslim civilization frees the world, while the State of Western civilization colonizes it. This is the contrast and irony, which renders the covert war on the idea of the Islamic State the essence of the current battle and future confrontations.

    In light of the above, the West has been doing its best to contain the Islamic Movement within its borders, facing it with its entire might, and trying to besiege its ideals. Western countries can be divided into those hostile to the Islamic Movement and those which besiege it territorially and nationally. This has created the idea of merging the Islamic Movement into the political process to be a part of the competing political trends within the framework of the territorial nation-state and to ensure its compliance with the conditions of working therein.

    Israel and Islamic Unity

    In the same vein, the objective of the Western Zionist project is to create an occupying Israeli state in Palestine to prevent the unity of the Muslim Ummah and divide it into territorial nation-states. The occupying Israeli state was planted in the area to prevent the establishment of the United Islamic State more than anything else. In contrast, the establishment of the United Islamic State would end the Zionist project and its representative state, Israel, which would then be an occupier of part of the land of the United Islamic State. Therefore, it would not be able to survive or protect its hostile project.

    The survival of the Zionist entity, then, is important for the protection of the Western project and hegemony in the region. It is also important to prevent the establishment of the United Islamic State, which would put an end to this imperial colonial project.

    Territorial Nation-State and the Islamic State

    People were happy about what seemed to them like independence, but the truth was different. Colonization left its colonial territorial nation-state and handed it over to local leaders
    It was not by coincidence that Western colonizers departed from the states that they built in our countries, quite the opposite as this was the peak of their victory. Ironically enough, the so-called ‘era of independence’ was not independence at all, but rather a perpetuation of colonization. Western colonization dominated most of the Arab and Muslim countries, fragmented the Caliphate, and established and governed territorial nation-states. The national liberation movement that began in the mid-twentieth century expelled the occupying forces, but the territorial nation-state built by colonization remained. The only change was that Western occupiers were replaced by national leaders. People were happy about what seemed to them like independence, but the truth was different. Colonization left its colonial territorial nation-state and handed it over to local leaders. In this way, the colonial project continued with local hands and the concept of territorial nation-state was confirmed, and thereby ending all the dreams of building the United Islamic State.

    Hence, this territorial nation-state became the symbol of independence. However, it is a fake independence: it is independence from the foreign ruler, but a submission to a foreign model of state. When the feelings of independence from military occupation overwhelmed the liberated people, it was rather easy to pass the more dangerous occupation, that is, the occupation of the Western territorial nation-state model of Arab and Islamic countries to become the type of country that prevents Islamic unity and protects Western interests in the region.

    The Zionist state is not the only state that protects Western interests and prevents the unity of the Ummah; the territorial nation-state model also protects Western interests, prevents the establishment of Islamic unity, makes the local rulers guardians of Western hegemony, and maintains a barrier between the Muslim Ummah and Western powers, which is a new type of local colonialism. Although the ruling regimes are local elites, they rule through a colonial state model that has been devised to colonize the Ummah and impose Western hegemony on it.

    The essence of the Western political project is the territorial nation-state that adopts the Western political idea. Therefore, the concept of territorial nation-states is an integral part of the Western project. In other words, Western hegemony of the region shall remain as long as territorial nation-states remain in Arab and Muslim countries, in the same way that the establishment of the United Islamic State is sufficient to end such hegemony.

    Ruling Regimes of Territorial Nation-States

    These ruling regimes have been fighting the battle of Western countries by proxy and doing their best to prevent the establishment of Islamic unity
    The position of the ruling regimes towards the Islamic Movement is clear; they believe that it goes beyond the borders and ideology of the state and beyond the boundaries of nationalism and territorialism. Therefore, these regimes wage war on the Islamic Movement or limit it within the framework of the territorial national political domain. The ruling regimes in Arab and Muslim countries try to prevent any trans-national connection, solidarity, or alliance of the Islamic Movement. This is because the more the Islamic Movement strengthens the unity of the Ummah, the more able it becomes to bring the dream of the United Islamic State into reality. Moreover, merely talking about Islamic unity has now become sufficient to lead to confrontation between the Islamic Movement and the ruling regimes.

    The ruling regimes have become an integral part of the idea of the state they govern. Regardless of the nature and performance of the ruling regimes, they have become the heirs of the territorial nation-state concept and their destiny and survival have become associated with the survival of the territorial national idea. These ruling regimes have been fighting the battle of Western countries by proxy and doing their best to prevent the establishment of Islamic unity. These regimes, then, are local colonizers or agents of Western colonization because they have become the first bulwark against the project of the United Islamic State.

    Ruling Regimes against Islamic Unity

    The entire discourse of the secular regimes with respect to the Islamic Movement tries to put a siege to the idea of Islamic unity and the global aspect of the Islamic project. Most of the attack is directed to the internationalization of the Islamic Project and Movement. Therefore, the media tries to restrict this idea and portray it as if it breaches and goes beyond the concept of national belonging. This battle has been going on for decades in an attempt to impose nationalism, in its territorial national sense, on the discourse of the Islamic Movement so that the relative weight of the maxim of Islamic unity fades, and the political discourse of the Islamic Movement transforms to the rather narrow national framework.

    Once again it becomes clear that the idea of merging the Islamic Movement into political life means that the Islamic Movement should abandon the idea of Islamic unity or the global dimension of its project. In this way, the Islamic Movement is put under pressure to turn into a national Islamic Movement that works within the framework of restricted territorial nationalism and whose objectives and ends are limited to the territorial national domain. This is a continuous process designed to isolate the Islamic Movement from the idea of Islamic unity and the maxim of an Islamic Caliphate. Moreover, the adoption of the idea of a Caliphate is enough to declare war on the Islamic Movement.

    The Islamic scene now has such trends or entities that adopt the Islamic project without the project of a United Islamic State. This represents the most important success of Western countries and the process of the siege of the Islamic Movement
    The carrot offered to the Islamic Movement is to abandon the idea of Islamic unity, while the stick is the blockade, security strikes, and turning the confrontation into an international war. This is confirmed by the strange sensitivity towards any mention of an international entity of the Islamic Movement. It has become unable to work on an international level, although its project is global in the final analysis: it is the project of creating a global state that represents the entire Islamic Ummah.

    One of the results of the severe siege on the idea of the United Islamic State is the emergence of those who adopt the idea of the Islamic project without the idea of the Islamic Caliphate or State, because the maxim of the Islamic State itself implies a United Islamic State, that is, the state of the Islamic Caliphate. Therefore, the Islamic scene now has such trends or entities that adopt the Islamic project without the project of a United Islamic State. This represents the most important success of Western countries and the process of the siege of the Islamic Movement: the journey to make a territorial national Islamic Movement has commenced. It has within it the seeds of a Western project through its territorial national trend and in this way it shall become eligible to play the role of the local colonizer or the agent of the West. It will then receive the territorial nation-states established by colonial powers and ruled by unjust and corrupt local regimes. However, these old regimes have expired and the Western requirement now is to create new regimes to lead and preserve the territorial nation-state and prevent the establishment of any form of Islamic unity or the establishment of the United Islamic State.

    The New Islam

    The West has been looking for an Islam that protects the territorial nation-state and prevents the establishment of the United Islamic State. But this would be an artificial, cloned form of Islam. This will be the ultimate victory of the West when it reaches an Islamic formula it can support because it is based on preventing any attempt to establish the United Islamic State and, at the same time, has an Islamic title that renders it more popular than the current ruling regimes. This Islamic title shall provide it with popular support that will reinforce its position in office. Then the Islamist shall be the protector of the territorial nation-state after he has given up the dream of Islamic unity.

    The United Islamic State is not only a dream, but a symbol of the political unity of the Ummah. It is the first step to its renaissance, because the strength of this Ummah lies in its unity, through which it can rise up. Thus, dispensing with the objective of the unity of the Ummah means giving up the goal of the renaissance, and in its place the creation of the new Islamist who protects the Western project in the region, prevents the establishment of the United Islamic State, and turns the Islamic project into a territorial national one based on nationalism and partisanship like the new Palestinian who is being prepared to protect the security of the Israeli occupation.

    What is Islam without an Islamic State? What is the Islamic project without an Islamic Caliphate? This is the issue and the essence of the conflict with the dominant Western civilization. The West will end up victorious if the Islamic project is besieged from within by territorial nationalism. The only way for the Islamic project to win this battle is to go out of the siege of territorial nationalism and declare the dream of its Ummah to restore the United Islamic State.

    Best Regards
    ZULKIFLI HASAN
    DURHAM, UK

  • Statue of Liberty, New York