stockholm syndrome 7

The last issue you raised is the current situation in Saudi Arabia.  I have not followed it closely, but my understanding is that certain countries have tried to put safeguards in place to protect its nationals from the sexual and physical abuse that Gulf countries are notorious for.  Saudi Arabia, to my understanding, has responded by denying work visas for citizens of these countries, which are effectively economic sanctions, considering the remittance income these countries get from their citizens in Saudi Arabia.  We can assume that this is basically accurate, and you will soon see that it doesn’t even matter if it is.

Saudi Arabia, quite simply is not an Islamic “state”.  It is not a “caliphate” or ‘khilafa’.  2 of Islam’s holy lands- Makkah and Madeena- are in it’s borders.  But it is not governed by sharee’ah, or “Islamic law”.  It is a hereditary absolute monarchy.  Domestic and international political goals, Bedouin culture, racial and national pride, foreign interests, and economic interests are all parts of its politics and workings.  Islamis, of course, to be found there, but it is only one factor of many.  So why is it, when most people know or can easily guess that all these factors are at play, that Islam gets blamed for everything that happens in Saudi Arabia?

Ignorant people are of two types:  those who turn away from the truth and those who are simply unaware.  Muslims can fall into one of these categories, and some do.  I anticipate your pointing out of the Muslims who are in clear violation of some of the principles I have summarized.

They are not a proof against Islam; Islam is a proof against them.

Strange Marriage

“You got married in Pakistan?!”
“It’s not the craziest thing I’ve ever done…”

I graduated from Columbia University in 2005, which means I was in NYC on 11 September 2001.  Three years later, I accepted Islam in the very same place.  I finished class in December of 2005, and started looking for a job.  On a whim, I applied to be a substitute teacher in the same school district I had been educated in, and fell in love with it.  Later, in the summer, I got a last minute call from the imam of my masjid, mosque, inviting me to go with him to a conference.  I had nothing to do, so an hour later, we were on our way to Houston.  There I met an older brother who asked me what my job was.  I told him I was looking for a teaching job.  It just so happened he was the founder of a small charter school, and he offered me a job in Weslaco, a small town on the Texas-Mexico border.

But what about the marriage, right?

Well, I ended up renting a house that was next door to its owner, an older brother named Rana from Lahore.  As his renter, we had done business together, and he knew people with whom I had traveled, so he knew me well and trusted me.  Everyone did.  We were a small community in a one-mosque town, all Pakistani except, well, me.  I soon asked him to help me find a wife.  He came back from Pakistan on winter vacation and let me know that there was a family near his home there whose daughter was coming of age.  He asked me if I was interested- I said yes.  Things went back and forth between my future father-in-law and me, via Rana, for a few months.  Finally, he told me that to go further we would all need to meet in person.  He invited me to visit Pakistan with him in the summer of 2006 and I agreed.

Our last conversation in America was that I would either get married right away, engaged for later, or one or both parties would decide they weren’t interested.

I arrived in Pakistan in the middle of a July night.  I walked out of airport to hundreds of pairs of eyes searching for their arriving loved ones, and staring in the meantime at me.  It would be a little easier to stare back at the sun.  Luckily Rana walked up to me out of the crowd.  Allah decreed that me, Rana, his, a driver, and all our suitcases would all fit into a car with no trunk, and there’s no other way we all would have.

Because of the 12-hour time difference, I couldn’t sleep until late morning.  When I finally did, as if on cue, a skinny Pakistani boy woke me up.  It was Fahiim, my future brother-in-law, and he didn’t know a word of English.  I was nearly in a daze, but we managed to communicate by writing because Urdu is written in an adaptation of the Arabic alphabet, which I happened to know.  Between that, hand gestures and a lot of smiles, we both managed to convince the other that we understood what he was saying.

Later, about 6 p.m., I met my future wife’s parents at Rana’s neighbor Saliim’s house.  I thought we were going to do a chit-chat introduction, but it turned out I was already engaged!

Yeah, somewhere between my friend’s departure from Texas and my later arrival in Lahore, they decided that we would get married after all.  Guess that’s how it goes out there.

The only question I was actually asked was, “Is Friday OK for a wedding date?”

Strange Marriage: The Beginning…

By all normal expectations, we shouldn’t have been married. 

In Pakistan and South Asia, there is the issue of caste.  If anyone from there tells you any different, they’re covering it up to fit in.  It is not as all-encompassing in Pakistan as it is in India, but it is very much a part of marriage decisions.  I can prove it.  Go to any Muslim magazine.  Flip to the back.  You’ll see matrimonials.  Read the ads.  You might see, for example, the word “Rajput”.  That’s a caste.  They want to marry someone from their caste.  They only want to marry someone from their caste. 

On top of not being in her caste, or any that I know of, I’m a kalloo, a black.  Anti-dark skin and anti-African racism has the potential to unite the world.  It is one thing that most cultures seem to agree on, including, sickly, dark-skinned people and Africans themselves.  If anyone from anywhere tells you this isn’t true, just go to where they’re from and ask any dark-skinned people or Africans about that.  Or, when you visit a country, compare how many dark-skinned people you see on the street compared to how many you see on TV.  The only ones you’ll see are in the “before” portion of the skin-lightening cream commercials.

And Pakistan is a controversial country to be connected to, to say the least.  A lot of people fear it, or outright hate it.  I remember driving a newly-wed couple from their wedding to a hotel for their honeymoon.

“Are you married, too?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, really?  Where’d you get married?”

“Pakistan.”

Silence…

We really do make an odd-couple.  We’re over a foot apart in height.  I’m black, she’s white.  I’m the far-flung rebel, she’s the goody-goody homebody.  I’m extroverted, she’s introverted.  And our cultures and languages are vastly different.

“Why did you say yes when they asked if you wanted to marry me?”

“I don’t know.”

That’s the answer I always get when I ask, and I believe it.  When she asks me, I can’t come up with anything different.

Life is like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.  Remember those?  You read through a situation and it ends with the character facing two choices: 

Choose A and turn to page X. 

Choose B and turn to page Y. 

Your choice, in turn, leads to two more choices.  But you didn’t know what they’d be until you’d already turned the page to them.

Except in life, you can’t turn back the page.  That choice is never available to you.  You don’t come to the options of consequences of your choice, and decide to go back and pick others.  You can only continue to choose.  And that’s it.  There’s no other way to describe it.

It doesn’t matter why I did what I did, because it’s already done;  but I’ll still try to tell you.  For one, the taste of adventure intrigued me.  I’ve always wanted something different.  There’s always been something about where I am- wherever I am- and who I am- though the most part I love- that I’ve hated.  I’ve always wanted to be different, to do different.  Whenever I look at the road that’s paved for me, I step off it and walk on the grass.  It’s softer on my feet. 

I used to be so filled with rage, and I still am, but no longer consumed by it.  I wanted revenge against the society I was born in.  You know what I hated the most?  Humiliation.  I hated the fact that I was in America because my every second there was a reminder that my ancestors had been dominated, ripped from their lands and history, my history, raped and enslaved.  I hated my own- the European trophy on the grave of my African and Native American ancestors.  I looked around and all I saw was people being abused, and taking it.  It was unfathomable.  Talk about my mama, and I woulda beat you up, but you know what the real insult was?  Telling me what to do.  Who did you think you were that I would obey you?  Who did you think I was?  I will not do what you say, even if it’s what I want to do, for the exact reason that you told me to do it.  I will correct you.  Further, I will humiliate you for your arrogance against me.  I will make you wallow, publicly, in the humiliation you dared to believe I would accept.

I remember once, in 2nd grade, there was an assembly.  So the teacher told us to line up and get ready to go.  I can’t tell you why, but I refused.  She made every threat, but I would not get in line with the rest of the class.  Finally, she turned off the lights and led the class out.  I called her bluff and stayed right there, until the assembly finished and they came back.  Her blunder was that I had no bluff.  There was nothing anyone could do to me, no threat that I could even imagine, that was worse than living with humiliation.  I could endure anything except shame.  Living with the memory of oppression was a worse fate than death.

You know what really used to trip me out?  Watching everybody tripping out on me.  I’d be looking at them taking orders and conforming and I couldn’t believe it.  Couldn’t they see they didn’t have to?  How could they ever want to?  I mean I was there setting the example, fighting for all of us, right in front of their faces.  It hurt me to watch them endure what in my eyes could only be suffering, and I was fundamentally, absolutely bewildered that they couldn’t see the point.  I was really popular, these were my friends.  I was the class clown, class rebel and honor roll student, all at the same time.  Everybody liked me and was probably a little leery of me at the same time.

So everything and everyone feels familiar and utterly foreign to me at the same time.  There’s no crowd I don’t feel lonely in, no people I can consider wholly mine, none who consider me wholly theirs.

That’s probably why I travel, why I’m free.  I have nothing to gain or lose.  I feel like I can do anything.  There’s nothing to hold me back.  I’m always on the outside looking in, and the inside looking out.  It’s not so much that I transcend, it’s that everywhere is the same.  There are just the obligatory adjustments of language, currency, time zone, etc.  Hard times ain’t a hurdle for me.

So that’s why I said yes to the marriage.

Sometimes people say, “I wish I could’ve done that.”  Not about this “strange marriage” but other things I’ve done, like transferring to another university, or studying abroad.  I’m like “Why couldn’t you have?  You could’ve applied as easily as me…”  But it wasn’t the practicalities they were talking about.  It is only now, and I mean at this exact moment as I am writing to you, that I realize what it was really all about.

You can’t dream.

In Sociology, I learned that institutionalization means taking the present reality for granted to the extent that you can’t imagine anything else, even if you don’t like it, even if it feels wrong.

You can’t even picture yourself even trying.

This isn’t what you want, you’re not who you want, but at least you know what’s on the next page.  If you start choosing your own way, you won’t know, and that’s why you don’t choose it.  I don’t blame you, because I’m as scared as you.  But what I’m scared of is what’s on this page, and what I know is on the next one.  What I’m scared of is the way we feel right now.  The reason I take the risk isn’t because I’m stronger than you.  I have no idea what’s gonna happen next and I swear to God that I’m afraid.  But I know it’s our only chance, and that’s why I take it.  I’m not brave-  I’m just less afraid of change than the misery of things staying the same.

And that’s all this story is really about when you think about:  a choice.  One simple choice, and all the choices that were opened or closed to me after it.  Marry the girl or not.  At the same time, so much of that choice was beyond my choosing.  Her father chose Islam over culture and that gave his daughter the choice.  She, in turn, chose yes, which gave me the choice.  There is a verse in the Qur-an which is translated as “and you do not choose except as Allah Chooses”.  Before we choose anything, so much has been chosen before it for us to even be able to.

___

Now I’m gonna ask you a question, the answer to which is a question, that only I can answer.

Ready?

Do you know what my friend just texted me, tonight, right before I started writing this chapter?

“Based on the story i’m reading on the net. have you been back home with your wife yet?”

The answer’s no and yes:  no, I have not taken her to the land of my upbringing;  yes, for we are home wherever we are.  Wherever we arrive, we project an aura, the same aura, from our hearts, and its beams meet itself right at the top of wherever we are, then we bring it down, then it fills the entire space that we are in.  Then we are home, in our love, in our special culture.

Our dream is the only home we have, and by Islam we realize them:  that every person was made to live in peace- wholeness within, unity without.  Every person has the right to inherit that peace, the duty to uphold it, and the responsibility to pass it .  It is only that, truly, that unites my wife and I, across the chasms of culture, background, and personality:  we share the same dream.

Don’t underestimate them:  dreams are the most powerful things in this world. And the most dangerous.  Name anything, and we have more than enough of it.  Maybe they’re being squandered or hoarded, but there’s more than enough water, food, land, oil, everything.  The one thing there isn’t enough of is room for everyone’s dream to come true.  It is for this alone that wars are fought.  This, not money, is the root of all evil, for money is only a means to achieve.  This is the source of every lie- for at all times, every effort is being made to create your dream for you, because your dreams determine your choices.  Everyone wants you to choose as they have chosen, because in life, really, there are only 2 choices:  wake up to your dream one day, or somebody else’s.

Choose wisely.

Black History Month: Bilal ibn Rabah

The Gregorian month February is known (in the United States, at least) as Black History Month.

From the Annals of Black History, we bring you…   Bilal ibn Rabah.

Bilal was an Ethiopian who answered the call to Islam in secret because he was enslaved to a man who opposed the new religion. He never submitted his heart to even the worst torture, until Abu Bakr purchased his freedom, whereupon Umar declared “Abu Bakr, our master, has freed our master.” Bilal would eventually get his revenge against his former oppressor in the battle of Badr.

Bilal was the first Muslim to ever sound the melodious athan, or call to Islamic prayer. When the Muslims conquered Mecca in a bloodless campaign, it was he, who climbed atop the Ka’aba, to which all Muslims pray, with his black feet, and called the world to prayer in Islam’s holiest city.

Edward Blyden, himself a black man, wrote in 1874:
“The eloquent Adzan or Call to Prayer, which to this day summons at the same hours millions of the human race to their devotions, was first uttered by a Negro, Bilal by name, whom Mohammed, in obedience to a dream, appointed the first Muezzin or Crier. And it has been remarked that even Alexander the Great is in Asia an unknown personage by the side of this honoured Negro.” (1)

To this day, you can find Muslims of all races who are proud to name their sons Bilal.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilal_ibn_Rabah_al-Habashi#References

is Islam Arabian? (part I)

“Arabs have a special place in Islam, you know.”

“Islam is Bedouin culture masquerading as a worldview.”

The first quote came from an Arab, unfortunately in the company of non-Muslims.  With some- definitely NOT all- Arab Muslims are going around with this attitude, the second quote doesn’t surprise me.

So, is Islam an Arabic religion?  Was it by the Arabs and for the Arabs, a tool of spreading their political domination and superiority over the globe?

The answer, in English and Spanish, is no.

 

Here is what Allah, His Messenger Muhammad (May Allah’s Blessings and Peace be upon him), and the Messenger’s companions (May Allah Be Pleased with them) had to say about Arab culture and Islam.  It is hoped that this email will clear the misconceptions held and propagated by some Muslims, non-Muslims, critics of Islam, and slanderers of Islam.

*******

 

Refutation of Racial and/or Tribal pride

“O mankind!  We* Have Created you from a male and a female, and Made you into nations in tribes, that you may know one another.  Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is the most righteous of you.”

– Qur-an 49.13

* i.e. the “royal” we of esteem, not plurality

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors.  Verily, in that are indeed signs for people of sound knowledge.”

– Qur-an 30.22

“So when you have accomplished your (Hajj) rituals, remember Allah as you remember your forefathers or with a greater rememberance…”

– Qur-an 2.200

Note:  This refutes a custom the Arabs had introduced into the Hajj (a pilgrimage which precedes Allah’s revelation to Muhammad).  In it, they would spend hours praising their forefathers in poetry and song, an exercise in tribal pride.

“The wandering Arabs are the severest in disbelief and hypocrisy, and most likely to be ignorant of the limits which Allah hath revealed unto His messenger. And Allah is Knower, Wise.

Some of the desert Arabs look upon their payments as a fine, and watch for disasters for you: on them be the disaster of evil: for Allah is He That heareth and knoweth (all things).

But some of the desert Arabs believe in Allah and the Last Day, and look on their payments as pious gifts bringing them nearer to Allah and obtaining the prayers of the Messenger. Aye, indeed they bring them nearer (to Him): soon will Allah admit them to His Mercy: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

– Qur-an 9.97-99

Note:  There’s no special place for Arabs here.

“An Arab has no superiority over a Non-Arab, and a Non-Arab has no superiority over an Arab, and a red man has no superiority over a black man, except in terms of piety”

– Muhammad (May Allah’s Blessings and Peace be upon him)

(Narrated by Imam Ahmad, Volume 5, Page 411)

“Allah Has Taken awah from you the pride of the Period of Ignorance and its pride in forefathers.  (A person is either) a pious believer or a miserable evildoer.  You are the sons of Adam* and Adam came from dust.  Let men give up their pride in their people, for they** are just coals from Hell, or they will become more insignificant before Allah than the dung beetle that rolls up filth with its nose.”

– Muhammad

(Narrated by Abu Dawood in al-Adab, Page 111)

* Peace be upon him

**i.e. the disbelievers and evildoers among them

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah’s Apostle said, “You should listen to and obey, your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin.”

Sahih Bukhari 9:89:256

Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, “Listen and obey (your chief) even if an Ethiopian whose head is like a raisin were made your chief.”

Sahih Bukhari 1:11:662

Narrated Anas bin Malik: The Prophet said to Abu-Dhar, “Listen and obey (your chief) even if he is an Ethiopian with a head like a raisin.”

Sahih Bukhari 1:11:664

When ‘Umar, the future second khalifah (caliph) of the Muslims, heard the Abu Bakr, the future first khalifah, had purchased the freedom of Bilal, an Ethiopian slave, he said “Abu Bakr, our master, has freed our master.”

– Narrated by Muslim

Note: The right to Khilafah (Caliphate) of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar is disputed by Shi’a Muslims.  The Shi’a belief on this matter, in summary, is that ‘Ali was the rightful Khalifah after his death.  Muhammad’s cousin (through his uncle Abu Talib), son-in-law (through his daughter Fatimah), father of his only surviving male bloodline (his grandsons Hasan and Husain), and eventual fourth Khalifah,

However, Abu Bakr was Muhammad’s father-in-law (through ‘Aa-isha).  ‘Umar was also his father-in-law (through Hafsa) and Ali’s son-in-law (through Umm Kulthum, granddaughter of Muhammad through Fatimah).  As such, some Shi’a contend that they are virtuous.  (http://revivingalislaam.blogspot.com/2010/12/umars-marriage-to-umm-kulthum.html).  In addition, and with all due respect to Shi’a points-of-view, their contributions to Islam, humanity, and civilization are matters of nearly universally accepted historical fact.

***

Did You Know?  An Arab Muslim invented Social Security on behalf of a Jewish Man

‘Umar in Al Khattaab, second khalifah of the Muslims, saw an old Jewish man begging from people, so he asked him,

“From which of the People of the Book are you?”

The man replied, “I am a Jew.”

Then ‘Umar took him to the storekeeper of the Treasury (Bayt al-Maal) and told him to give a regular stipend to this man and others like him, enough for them to live off and handle their affairs, saying,

“We are not treating him fairly if we take the tax (jizyah) from him when he is young, then neglect him when he gets old.”

– Abu Yusuf, al-Kharaaj, Page 144

***

Another story of the Sharee’a ruling in Favor of Non-Arabs over Arabs

His (Amr in al-‘Aas, governor of Egypt) son became very upset with the Copt because he had beaten him in a race, so he struck him with his whip, saying, “Take that!  I am the son of the most noble!”  The Copt went straight to Madeenah and complained to the Khalifah, ‘Umar in al Khattaab.  ‘Umar summoned ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas and his son, and gave the whip to the Copt and told him, “Beat the ‘son of the most noble.’”  When he had finished, ‘Umar said to him, “Now beat ‘Amr on his bald head, for his son beat you because of his father’s position.”  The Copt said, “It is enough that I have beaten the one who beat me.”  Then ‘Umar turned to ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas and said,

“O ‘Amr, how could you enslave people whose mothers bore them free?”

***

Refutation of Arab Marriage Customs

“And give to the women (whom you marry) their dowry with a good heart…”

– Qur-an 4.4

Note:  This bans the practice of giving dowries to the fathers of the bride, effectively ending the custom of selling daughters and buying wives against their will.

O ye who believe! It is not lawful for you forcibly to inherit the women (of your deceased kinsmen), nor (that) ye should put constraint upon them that ye may take away a part of that which ye have given them, unless they be guilty of flagrant lewdness. But consort with them in kindness, for if ye hate them it may happen that ye hate a thing wherein Allah hath placed much good.

– Qur-an 4.19

Note:  The Arab custom of widows being inherited by their brother-in-law or other in-laws is banned.

And marry not women whom your fathers married,- except what is past: It was shameful and odious,- an abominable custom indeed.

– Qur-an 4.22

Note:  Another Arab custom is banned.

If any men among you divorce their wives by Zihar (calling them mothers), they cannot be their mothers: None can be their mothers except those who gave them birth. And in fact they use words (both) iniquitous and false: but truly Allah is one that blots out (sins), and forgives (again and again).

But those who divorce their wives by Zihar, then wish to go back on the words they uttered,- (It is ordained that such a one) should free a slave before they touch each other: Thus are ye admonished to perform: and Allah is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do.

And he who findeth not (the wherewithal), let him fast for two successive months before they touch one another; and for him who is unable to do so (the penance is) the feeding of sixty needy ones. This, that ye may put trust in Allah and His messenger. Such are the limits (imposed by Allah); and for disbelievers is a painful doom.

– Qur-an 58.2-4

Note:  The Arab custom of divorcing his wife by saying she was like the back of his mother is condemned, punished and banned.

***

Refutation of Blood Feuds

“O you who believe!  The Law of Equality in Punishment is prescribed for you in the case of murder:

the free for the free,

the slave for the slave,

and the female for the female.

But if the killer is forgiven by the brother (or relatives, etc.) of the killed for blood money, then adhering to it with fairness and payment of the blood-money to the heir should be done in fairness.  This is an alleviation and a mercy from your Lord.  So after this, whoever transgresses the limits (i.e. kills the killer after taking the blood-money), he shall have a painful torment.

And there is a saving of life for you in the Law of Equality in Punishment, O people of understanding, that you may become righteous.”

– Qur-an 2.178-9

Note:  Previously, tribes would retaliate for a murder by murdering any other member of the offending tribe, which would in turn retaliate, starting a vicious cycle of vengeance.  At the time of Allah’s revelation to Muhammad, a blood feud had been running for centuries between two tribes that began with a member of one drinking from the other’s well.

***

Condemning the Arab custom of Female Infanticide and Attitudes towards Females

“And when the female infant is asked:  for what sin was she killed?…

…every soul will know what it has brought (of good and evil).”

– Qur-an 81.8-9, 14

When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief!

He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that which is announced to him. Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust? Now surely evil is what they judge.

– Qur-an 16.58-9

Note:  The Arabs used to dig a hole for the mother to deliver over.  If it was a girl, they would simply bury it in the hole.  This is the amount of shame and inferiority that was attached to females.  There is a narration in which a man once informed Prophet Muhammad that he buried his daughter alive after she was several years old.  It is also reported that a man once told the Prophet that he had buried eight of his daughters alive before Islam.

***

Other Miscellaneous Refutations of Arab Culture and Customs

“And as such do the idols beautify for the idolaters the killing of their children, in order to lead them into their own destruction and confuse them in their religion.  And if Allah Had Willed, they would not have done so.  So leave them alone in their fabrications.

And they say:  “What is in the bellies of these cattle is for our males alone, and forbidden to our females, but if it is born dead, the all have shares therein.”  He Will Punish them for their attribution (of such evils to Himself).  Verily, He Is Wise, Knowing.

– Qur-an 6.137, 139

*******

It’s clear then, that Islam (which is considered by Muslims to be the final revelation of an eternal religion) is NOT Arabian.  It shatters the concept of anybody being a “chosen people” or superior.  Arabs and all others are held clearly to the same standard:  right belief and righteous action.  The best in these are the best in the sight of the Allah, Who Is All-Wise and All-Knowing.

So, why do some Arab Muslims feel that Islam is theirs or that they have some special place in it?

Or, why do some non-Arab Muslims feel that some Arab (particularly “Saudi” Arabians) scholars are the premier (or only) sources of Islamic knowledge and authority?

Ask them.

Really, forward this email and tell me what they say:  danyal.abdullah@gmail.com

I guarantee you that they can not provide one unequivocal statement that comes from an authentic source.  More on those sources later.

P.S.  As a Muslim, I believe in Jesus too, so here’s a Christmas present for you and your friends and colleagues:
The Truth Behind Christmas:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gmdb88_6sjM
The Truth Behind Christmas and New Year’s I:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbB3lgue3oY

The Truth Behind Christmas and New Year’s II:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PG2U-PfwmM4