Bali

The recent bombing in Bali is terribly unsettling, coming as it does a few months before my departure for Malaysia. As horrific as it is, though, it doesn’t change my plans, and I don’t think it will be a “first step” on the road to something more terrible, God willing. Eric Boehlert of Salon.com has an interview with “Robert Hefner, a Boston University professor, Indonesia expert and author of “Civil Islam.”” Boehlert has reported well on Islam in the past; his article on CAIR in particular was very good. The interview with Prof. Hefner is worth reading; he argues that “in terms of moral authority for these groups [radicals] to sell their arguments to a small fringe of the Muslim community, [the bombing] has been a serious setback.”

Anyone looking for English-language news out of Indonesia about Bali should have a look at Joe Friend’s weblog, so many islands, so little time, direct to you from Bandung.

Also in the news, though regrettably not (yet?) online, is an article by Alex Alexiev in the 10/28 issue of the National Review. “The End of an Alliance” lays out very clearly the role of the Saudi government in spreading wahhabi heresy worldwide, and the tremendous destructive effect that has had. Unlike others who have picked up on the Saudi connection, he doesn’t conclude that Islam is the enemy, but rather that the US has to more effectively engage and support traditional Islamic institutions to counter Saudi influence. And of course turn off the spigot of money flowing out around the world. Alexiev figures the cash flow at $4 billion a year, in the excerpt available here.

Mawlid from Malaysia

Mawlid in Malaysia

I was browsing through my site stats and noticed that somebody had found my site by googling for “Nasheed and Mawlid from Malaysia”. Now that is a visitor I don’t want to disappoint! So I’ve collected what I could find on the subject:

Alhamdulillah, recitation of praise on the Prophet (saws) is regularly practiced in Malaysia, on the traditionally observed day of his birth, 12 Rabi ul-Awwal, as it is in all muslim countries except one; and at any other happy occassion, such as the shaving of the newborn child’s head. If we have cause for happiness, is it not fitting to praise God and His Messenger for it? There are many books of songs, poetry and supplication that are widely read throughout the muslim world wherever the bid’a-shouters haven’t penetrated too deeply. Among the more famous are Mawlid Diba’i, Mawlid Barzanji, Dala’il Khayrat and Qasidah Burdah. There are of course more. It hasn’t always been easy getting copies of these works in the US, but thankfully they are becoming more and more available.

A wonderful CD of Mawlid Diba’i was produced by the Mawlid Project in Malaysia. It is available for sale here. It originally was available with a book of translation and Arabic for a higher price, but I think now only CDs are left. The production quality is very good.

A recitation of Dala’il Khayrat on cassette is available here. I had the privilege to hear the Shaykh recite, and it was by far the most powerful recitation of Qur’an I have heard. The cassettes, unfortunately, are recited in a more dry and unemotional style. So for a non-Arabic speaker like myself, it was less captivating. An English translation of the Dala’il is available from Shaykha Aisha Bewley’s website. I have not yet found Dala’il Khayrat in print, though I’ve been told it exists.

The Qasidah Al-Burda of Imam Busiri is being released as a 3-CD box set with a book. Produced by Hamza Yusuf, with calligraphy by Muhammad Zakariyya. [!] I can’t wait to get a copy, but I haven’t seen it for sale in the US yet, only in UK. Soon InshaAllah. An appreciation of the Qasidah, as well as selective translations from other qasaaid, is available at Iqra Islamic Publications, a very nice website of the ba’alawi tariqa.

Br. Muhammad Sajad Noshahi’s Homepage, Dedicated to the importance of Dala’il ul Khayrat, Qasidah Burdah & Salawat ala Rasul, has a terrific listing of audio sources. Now that I’ve found his site, I don’t think I have any more to write. It looks like he’s got it all in there. Thank you Br. Sajad!

Islam and the Race Question

by Paul Hardy, Ph.D

Found at the excellent website of Mas’ud Ahmed Khan.

This is an excellent article outlining the concept of race in Islam. It primarily focuses on the beautiful Ayat of Quran 49:13:

“O Humankind! We have created you from male and female and have made you into peoples (shu‘ub) and tribes (qaba’il) that you may know one another; truly, the noblest (akram) among you before God are the most pious (atqa) among yourselves; indeed, is God the All-knowing, the All-seeing.”

Also discussed in the article is the following incident related in hadith:

when some disagreement occurred between Abu Dharr and Bilal, the former said to the latter: “You son of a black woman!” The Messenger of God—on him be blessing and peace—was displeased by Abu Dharr’s comment and he rebuked him by saying: “That is too much, Abu Dharr. He who has a white mother has no advantage which makes him better than the son of a black mother.” The Prophet’s rebuke deeply affected Abu Dharr and he immediately threw himself to the ground, swearing that he would not raise it until Bilal had put his foot over his head.

Ma’ashallah, Quran and Hadith are our sources, but there is no way to fully understand the topic without the elucidation of scholars. So go read the article! I can’t figure out how to link directly to the article, so, from the front page, click Misc. Articles and scroll to the very bottom, Heading 4, Other.

Ma’ashallah, while Islam is indeed free from the awful racial concepts we find persisting in the states, Islamic societies are not entirely colorblind. In India and Malaysia, at least, fair skin is generally considered an attractive attribute, the way large eyes or high cheekbones or some other physical characteristic may be. When I first encountered this attitude, it was a little off-putting, since here it is un-PC to consider skin tone at all when assessing a person. But I’ve come to understand it. It doesn’t function much differently than preferring curly hair to straight or a sturdy frame to a thin one. Nobody would dream of thinking less of somebody’s capabilities or individual nature based on it.

And God knows best…

Update

I came home to see Omar Al-Faruq on the front cover of my free copy of Time Magazine. OK, so that explains the embassy closings. That article is serious bad news, except for the fact they caught him. Really, the arrest of Faruq is a perfect example of the war on terrorism done right. Authorities got a lead, they followed it up, they cooperated with the local authorities, they checked his background, they nailed him. Good job, gentlemen. Police work at it’s best.
Contrast that to the denial of visas to 150 honor students from Malaysia. How do you ask a country to make dozens of arrests on your behalf and share intelligence information, then turn around and stiff the best and brightest young people from that country? Supicion should have some grounds. Were the students even in the Muslim Students Association, never mind anything more insidious? Where is the discretion, the individual assessment, the case-by-case examination? Bin who? Denied. Mahathir is playing it cool though. They’ll probably just transfer the kids to Canada.

Malaysian students abroad spent RM6

Malaysian students abroad spent RM6 billion this year. That’s almost USD 2 Billion, the great majority of which is spent in the USA. That’s quite an expenditure that US colleges and universities undeniably benefit from. The University of Michigan charges upwards of three times in-state tuition to international students. Why then, did the US Consulate not renew visas for 150 Malay students coming back from visits home? The Malaysian government has been very co-operative in the War on Terror, arresting scores of suspected jihadis back home and affirming the US’s right to prosecute the war. Some goodwill all that cooperation gets. Add to that the humiliating embassy closures on Sept. 11 for unspecified threats and it all gets maddening. Maybe I’m just selfish – everytime Malaysia gets in the news, I know I’ll receive that much more scrutiny next time I cross customs.

The Big Move

The Big Move

Time is moving quickly. The exact date is constantly morphing, but March is a late as it could be, and it could be as early as December. Suddenly, dozens of tasks are popping up. Everything from the hugely obvious (finishing that thesis) to the easily overlooked (laminate those birth certificates) are now time critical.

So many things are nearly impossible to make educated decisions about: is it more economical to buy consumer good X here and have it shipped, or save the freight and buy it there? How much does a nice queen sized bed cost in Kota Samarahan, anyway?

One thing is for sure: I’ll be driving a Proton! Other vehicles are on the market, but the tariffs are skyhigh. It’s the right thing to do anyway. Here I am, a foreigner coming to work over there as a guest. What would it look like to drive a Buick? I’ve been assured by friends that nobody would think twice about my choice of a ride, but I’m not so sure. I’m from Detroit after all. I may drive a Honda with impunity through Flint, but I’m white. If I was a Japanese on a work visa, I’d sure as hell drive a chevy.

Not that I approve of auto patriotism here in the states. It’s more or less meaningless these days. (Malaysia’s a bit different: the Proton is a state industry, at least for the time being.) Over here, we’ve gone from the Big Three to the Big Two And A Half, at best. John Deere tractors have Mitsubishi parts.

[!]

Yes! John Deere! I couldn’t believe it either. Your apple pies are probably baked with New Zealand apples, too. The Traderists have already won, I think the saying goes. But I’m not complaining. If it’s a global economy, with global capital and global companies, I might as well be a global citizen. December. Or maybe March.