Observed Trends in the Muslim Blogosphere

Originally posted at MuslimMatters.org

With the Brass Crescent Awards coming to a close, and the launch of the new Muslims Bloggers Directory, I feel it’s a good time to take a closer look at the world of Muslim blogging.

I’ve had the honour of working on several online initiatives alongside MuslimMatters these past couple of years. In particular, the website Ijtema.net, which, since its launch back in 2007, has aimed to promote the ‘best of the Muslim blogosphere’.

Our initial approach to achieve this goal was to act as a type of human filter of the Islaminet: our team of editors would link to Muslim-authored content that we found interesting, in the hope that our readers would too. I guess that they did, as we were nominated for a BCA last year under the category “Best Group Blog” – though we were beaten by some unknown entity called “MuslimMatters.org”. Anyone ever heard of them?

However, as the number of Muslim blogs we followed became greater and greater, and the spare time of our editors became less and less, we knew we could not sustain our efforts for much longer. We decided to close the site, albeit temporarily, and focus on a new, hopefully more efficient strategy.

That eventually led to the launch of the Muslim Bloggers Directory – a freely accessible, categorised collection of links to Muslim blogs, vlogs, and other multimedia channels, with a custom search engine allowing visitors to search through the actual content of listed sites.

Continue reading

Names of Allah – Forgiveness 2 | Ramadan Series

(Continuing from part 2)

Combinations with Al-Ghafūr

As we mentioned earlier, the Name Al-Ghafūr occurs paired with Ar-Rahīm 72 times. It occurs with Al-Halīm 6 times, with Al-’Afūww 4 times, with Al-’Azīz twice and with Al-Wadūd once. Each of those pairings has a meaning worth pondering over. Here, we look at the last one. The Arabic language has about 10 verbs to describe love and ‘wadd’ means compassionate, caring and nurturing love (not sensual). Wadūd is the fa’ūl form again, describing one to does this to a perfect level. So when Allah says in Surah Al-Burūj that he is Ghafūr-ul-Wadūd, He is telling us that He covers our sins and protects us from their consequences out of His love for us. There is a tradition that says Allah is more loving to us than a mother who lost her baby in the heat of battle and then found her child crying in the battlefield.

Al-Afūww

The Name Al-Afūww (الْعَفُوّ) comes from the root word ‘afa in Arabic which means to erase or wipe out. It is also in the al-fa’ūl form: Al-Afūww is the One who perfects erasing or One who blots out completely. The word ‘afa is stronger in this meaning than gha-fa-ra. Allah SWT blots out sins completely; by His nature He continually accepts repentance and wipes out our sins.

Occurrences in Qur’an and Sunnah:

This name occurs just 5 times in the Qur’an, 4 times paired with Al-Ghafūr and once with Al-Qadīr.

Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah Ash-Shura concerning this Attribute of His:

وَهُوَ الَّذِي يَقْبَلُ التَّوْبَةَ عَنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَعْفُو عَنِ السَّيِّئَاتِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ
And He it is Who accepts repentance from His servants and pardons the evil deeds and He knows what you do (42:25)

وَمَا أَصَابَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَن كَثِيرٍ
And whatever affliction befalls you, it is on account of what your hands have wrought, and (yet) He pardons most (of your faults).(42:30)

And finally, we have with us a concise and short dua’ meant specifically for the last ten days of Ramadan and especially for Layl-at-ul-Qadr. Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, said: “I asked the Messenger of Allah (saws)  O Messenger of Allah, if I knew which night is Layl-at-al-Qadr, what should I say during it?” And he instructed her to say 1:

اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوّ تُحِبُّ الْعَفُوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي

Allahuma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa ‘afu ‘anni
O Allah You are the Most Forgiving; You love to forgive so forgive us.

Through this dua’ we are seeking tawassul through both a Name and an Attribute.

This (probably) forms the conclusion of this series. Ijtema.net will be back after ‘Eid inshaAllah.
We ask Allah to cleanse us and purify us of our sins in this blessed part of the blessed month of Ramadan and we ask Him to admit us into Jannat-ul-Firdaus out of His Mercy. Ameen.

Update: MuslimMatters has another excellent post on this Name and dua’.

(Links to Part 1 and Part 2)



Footnotes:
1. This is related by Ahmed, Ibn Majah, and Tirmidhi, who called it saḥīḥ.
A variant of this dua goes  اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّكَ عَفُوّ كَرِيمٌ تُحِبُّ الْعَفُوَ فَاعْفُ عَنِّي Allahuma innaka ‘afuwwun karimun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa ‘afu ‘anni

References:

1. Aqeedah 102: Light upon Light. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, AlMaghrib Institute. Chicago 2008.
2. Zekr

Names of Allah – Forgiveness 1 | Ramadan Series

An Editor feature entry written for Ijtema readers (if you’re using a feed reader and the Arabic/Unicode text doesn’t display properly please click on the entry link to continue reading on the Ijtema website)

Continuing with the (sorry, much delayed) Part 2 of the Ramadan Names of Allah series here on Ijtema (Part 1 here), we take a look at Names pertaining to forgiveness. We focus on Al-Ghafūr and Al-’Afūww, and briefly point out related Names. Jumping right in ..

Al-Ghafūr

This name is derived from the root word gha-fa-ra (غـفـر) which can be roughly translated in the verb form as covering or concealing for protection. It would be a disservice to simply translate this as “forgive.” In this context, Allah SWT is the one who covers our sins and protects us from their consequences.  The Name Al-Ghafūr is of the al-fa’ūl structure; a verb in this form means one who does the act to a perfect level. It describes the quality of the act.

A related name Al-Ghaffar is derived from the same root word but whose morphology refers to quantity: one who continually and infinitely does the verb. Allah, Al-Ghafūr and Al-Ghaffar, continually covers and conceals our evil deeds. At the opposite end, Allah SWT is also Ash-Shakūr: He gives us more than we deserve when we do good deeds.

This word is different from another word in Arabic which means to cover: sa-ta-ra (سـتـر), and which forms the root of another of Allah’s Names: As-Sittīr. Allah loves to cover and hide our faults and sins from those around us, and doesn’t like us to publicize our sins to the world 1.

Combination of Names

The name Al-Ghafūr occurs a whopping 91 times in the Qur’an, and appears paired with the name Ar-Rahīm 72 times (غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ – Ghafūr-ur-Rahīm). This combination of names is something most of us (including myself until quite recently) unfortunately pay little attention to.

Each Name has a unique meaning of majesty and perfection but the combination of two (or more!) names gives rise to yet another unique meaning. Allah SWT has chosen to place these Names together for a reason, and we should ponder over it. For example, from the combination Ghafūr-ur-Rahīm we learn Allah covers our sins because He is Merciful and Compassionate. And one of the things that makes Him Merciful and Compassionate is that He protects us from the consequences of our sins! (Look over Part 1 for all the other rich meanings this phrase may take)

The classical scholar Imam Ibn-ul-Qayyim wrote on the concept of combining Names (the translation of which is):

“And when two Names or Attributes occur together, yet another characteristic is formed, and this would not be present were the Names separate. Examples of this are الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيد (Al-Ghani-ul-Hamīd) and الْعَفُوًّا قَدِير (Al-Afūww-ul-Qadīr) and الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيم (Al-’Azīz-ul-Hakīm). So His self-sufficiency (ghinā) is an attribute of perfection, as is His ḥamd, and the combination of ghinā and ḥamd is yet another perfection … “

Let’s take a brief look at each of the three examples Imam Ibn-ul-Qayyim gave: Al-Ghani-ul-Hamīd combines self-sufficiency and being one worthy of praise. So Allah SWT is driving home the point that He is self-sufficient even without our praise! Al-Afūww-ul-Qadīr combines Power and Forgiveness: Allah SWT is all-Powerful and can do as He pleases, yet He chooses to forgive us. The last one Al-’Azīz-ul-Hakīm combines Power and Strength with Justness, Wisdom and Power to Legislate. With human beings, power has the ability (and usually does) corrupt. but Allah SWT is beyond that: despite His Power He is Just and Wise.

(Continued in part 3)
(Part 1 here)



Footnotes:
1. Ya’lā ibn Umayyah (ra) narrated that the Prophet (saws) said that Allah is verily Al-Hayyiy (which implies bashfulness) and As-Sittīr (which implies concealing the sins). He loves modesty and the concealment of faults. [Ahmad, Abu Dāwūd and An-Nasa’i.]References:
1. Aqeedah 102: Light upon Light. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, AlMaghrib Institute. Chicago 2008.

Names of Allah – Mercy | Ramadan Series

An Editor feature entry written for Ijtema readers (if you’re using a feed reader and the Arabic/Unicode text doesn’t display properly please click on the entry link to continue reading on the Ijtema website)

This Ramaḍan, inshaAllah, we will post a series of articles on the Names of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) loosely themed with the topics of Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation 1.

One of the most effective ways of increasing imān (or faith) is to study the Names of Attributes of Allah. This knowledge is the spiritual food of our soul and gives life to the heart. Each Name and Attribute nourishes a kind of consciousness and humility in man and their study leads us to constantly better our actions. Allah loves to be praised; this is the best way to praise Him. Allah says in the Qur’an in Surah al-A’rāf:

وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا

The most beautiful names belong to Allah: so call on Him by them (7:180)

The commandment to learn in the Qur’an (‘ilamu) is usually followed by Allah’s Names and Attributes. In Surah al-Hashr Allah tells us not to be of those who forget Allah (59:19), and then a few verses later there is a stream of almost 20 Names! (59:22-24)

We see that we can take our dua to a higher level by acquainting ourselves with the Names and Attributes that Allah has chosen to describe Himself with (and those that the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) described Him with), invoking Him by those Names, and connecting His Name or Attribute to something we are thanking Him for or asking Him for.

Names relating to Mercy

The primary Names of Allah specifically dealing with Mercy are Ar-Raḥmān and Ar-Raḥīm. These two names frequently occur together in the Qur’an. They are both derived from the same root word raḥmah which means mercy and also has elements of sympathy, kindness, gentleness, compassion and love intertwined with it. As with all the Names of Allah, these are Names of majesty and perfection. Allah SWT therefore manifests these qualities to the most perfect level with His Creation. Ar-Raḥmān signifies a flood of mercy that covers us and is endless.

Examples of His Mercy

It has been narrated to us 2 that the mercy we see in this world which He put among His Creation is just a hundredth of all His Mercy, including for example the mercy and love a mother has for her child (human and otherwise). The other 99 parts are for the Day of Judgment and the Hereafter, when He provides shade for the believers, makes their accounting easy, and admits them to Jannah.

Allah SWT says in a hadith Qudsi 3 that His Mercy comes before and prevails over His Anger. We take refuge in His Mercy from His Wrath. Further, in the Qur’an in Surah az-Zumar Allah says

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
Say: O my servants! who have acted extravagantly against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allah; surely Allah forgives the faults altogether; surely He is the Forgiving the Merciful (39:53)

In another hadith narrated to us 4 the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said that no man’s good deeds are alone enough to get him admitted into Paradise. The Companions, understandably surprised, asked him “Not even you O Messenger of Allah?” and he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) replied not even me except if Allah covers and shelters me with His Mercy and Forgiveness. So it is only by the Mercy of Allah that we will enter Paradise. Our deeds are a tool to get close to Allah to a place where we can be hopeful of His Mercy. We ask Allah to grant all of us the highest level of Paradise with the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم).

What’s the difference?

The two Names have a subtle difference in meaning. Some scholars have said that Ar-Raḥmān denotes a general kind of Mercy that Allah SWT has for his entire Creation, for example his Mercy in creating us and blessing us with vision, hands, feet, eyes, tongues etc. He alternates Day and Night, provides for His Creation and gives them guidance. The name Ar-Raḥīm denotes the special Mercy that Allah reserves for the believers (e.g. Surah al-Aḥzāb and Surah at-Tawbah [5]). It is through this kind of Mercy that the believers will have shade under His Throne on a day where there is no other shade available: The Day of Judgment. When we feel this kind of Mercy we come closer to Allah SWT. The greatest manifestation of His Mercy is the pleasure and happiness His Creation gets when we see Him in the Hereafter.
Other scholars, among them Imam Ibnul Qayyim, were of the opinion that Ar-Raḥmān meant the existence of the attribute of Mercy in Allah, and Ar-Raḥīm its application and effects.

Other names and conclusion

Some other Names of Allah that are related to His Mercy (with rough translations) are Al-Karīm (the Generous), Al-Halīm (the Forbearing), Al-Barr (the Generous), Al-Jawwād (the Bestower of Good), Ar-Rauf (the Kind) and Al-Wahhāb (the Bestower).

Let us invoke and do tawassul (draw closer to (Allah)) by the beautiful Names of Allah. The next time we say ‘Bismillah-ir-Rahmān-ir-Raḥīm’ let the rich meanings of these words flood our mind with their diverse applicability.

Next week, inshaAllah, we will take a look at the names Al-Ghafūr and Al-’Afūw.

(Links to Part 2 and Part 3)

Footnotes:

1 This is based on a hadith by the Companion Salman al-Farsi which divides the month of Ramaḍan into thirds, of Mercy, Forgiveness and emancipation from Hellfire. I’m aware this hadith is weak, but we’re not using it to derive a ruling of any sort. It’s just a convenient way of organizing the posts :) (and nothing more)
Opinions and a study of this hadith can be found here and here .

2 Saḥīḥ Muslim 4944.

3 Saḥīḥ Bukhari 6872, 6899, 6999 and Saḥīḥ Muslim 4939, 4941

4 Saḥīḥ Bukhari 5637 and Saḥīḥ Muslim 2861

5 Al-Qur’an 33:43 وَكَانَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَحِيمًا … Interpretation: … and He is Merciful to the believers.

References:
1. Aqeedah 102: Light upon Light. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, AlMaghrib Institute. Chicago 2008.

2. “Explanation to the Beautiful and Perfect Names of Allah”, Shaykh Abū ‘Abdu-r-Raḥmān Nāsir as-Sa’dī, April 2008, Daar-us-Sunnah, Birmingham

3. “Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim” Lecture by Shaykh Ibrahim Dremali
4. “The Seven Oft-repeated Verses”. Shaykh Salman al-Oadah

Not Another Marriage Topic!

“Yes, another marriage topic!” says our own iMuslim. She’s sharing an interesting idea from a friend, to help ease the “Is it a yes? Is it a no?” confusion in the marriage proposal hunt!

Now, how we do it in my community, is that after some initial discussion between parents and go-betweens over the phone, the guy and his family comes round to visit the girl and her family. After munching on samosas and tea for anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour, the girl and the guy usually get to spend some time with one another to ask questions. Depending on the family and their customs, they may sit alone in an open part of the house, or sit in the corner while their family pretends not to listen in.

After this interview period, the guy goes back to his family, there may be some more samosa munching, but usually the boys family goes home soon after.

What follows is usually an agonising wait while the guys family makes their decision. It might be a day. It might be a week. They may never respond (yes, it happens! How rude?). True, it is only agonising if the girl is actually interested else, who cares, right? Anyway, this whole waiting period usually results in unnecessary stress for the girls family, which may lead to squabbling and other unpleasantness.

But, there is another way, my friends.

Islam Expo News

As I mentioned the week before last, I planned to represent Ijtema.net at the Emerald Lounge, which took place last Sunday evening at the Islam Expo in London. I was greatly looking forward to promoting our little site, and maybe meeting some of the readers; I even printed off signs, and everything. Look:

ijtema_stand.jpg

Unfortunately, when the time came for me to do my ‘thang’, I did not actually end up spending much time at the Ijtema table, due to urgent and unforeseen circumstances. So anyone who was actually interested in taking up my offer of “free publicity” may have been let down. If you are reading (which would be a miracle), I am sorry!

However, the night was not a complete waste of time. I finally met our Arts Editor, Teakster – though how he chose to introduce himself is a story best left untold (let’s just say that this is his punishment for embarrassing me in public!). He was this >< close to being sacked by yours truly – but after he was named Best Artist at the Emerald Arts Competition, I was reminded how fortunate we are to have him on the Ijtema team, and all was forgiven. Alhamdulillah! Congratulations once again, bro!

Anyway, to make up for my poor networking skills, I’d appreciate it if the existing readers would take the time to inform their friends and family of Ijtema.net – especially to ask them to subscribe to our content, either via RSS, or via e-mail (for those who are still grappling with the whole “feed” thing).

Speaking of which, we will soon be publishing a super guide to RSS feeds – just as soon as we fix a bug in our template, insha’Allah.

That’s all the news I have for now… if you have any photos or stories from the Expo, please get in touch – we’d love to share them!

Wa’salam

iMuslim

Ijtema.net @ Islam Expo

Just a quick message to tell the readers that I will be representing Ijtema.net at the Islam Expo this weekend, in London, insha’Allah.

More specifically, we will have a stand at the Emerald Lounge, which will be open from 6.45 pm onwards, on Sunday evening. The organiser, brother Rooful, informs me that for a small fee of 10 (which covers the catering) you can attend the Emerald Network event without having to book tickets for the entire Expo.

For those of you in the UK, I hope to see you there, insha’Allah!

A Complete Beginner’s Guide to RSS

Anyone who spends any time reading news or blogs on the Internet must have seen the term RSS thrown around, or seen this ubiquitous little icon: feed-icon-14x14

And yet, many are still unaware what RSS means, what it does, and why you should be taking advantage of it. It’s simple, fun, and can save you a lot of time in your daily dallying on the wonderful world of the Internet.

Continue reading