Monthly Archives: November 2009

Honoring the Dove

Leila Abu-Saba, the Dove: Rest in peace

Leila Abu-Saba, the Dove: Rest in peace

I recently came across the personal blog of an extraordinary woman named Leila Abu-Saba. Her blog is titled Dove’s Eye View. Leila passed away last year after a five-year battle with breast cancer. She left behind a husband and two young sons. She was only three years older than me.

Upon returning from her family home in Lebanon a year ago while living with metastatic breast cancer, Leila wrote:

“So please, friend, bless what you have and let go of fear for the future. Today is the only day you have got. You are breathing. Enjoy your breath. You are alive. Enjoy your life. You have a daughter and parents. Love them. Bless everybody who comes across your path. And the work? Whatever. Bless your work, too. Bless your town, your bills, your possessions. You are lucky to be here for all of it. If some of it gets taken away, well fine, something else will take its place. You are an amazing confluence of billions of variables and nobody else is having your life right this minute.

Enjoy! And don’t worry about hope. Just breathe and appreciate your breath. Everything arises from that.”

I also want in particular to point readers to Leila’s post titled “Forgiveness“.

If it surprises you that I am honoring someone who was not Muslim and linking to her site from IslamicSearch.com, it should not. Islam is not a myopic religion that cares only for its own adherents. Muslims must honor and respect goodness and decency wherever it is found.

Because I don’t know whether or how long Leila’s blog will remain online, I am reprinting her “Forgiveness” post here, with the hope that her family does not mind:

APRIL 11, 2008

Forgiveness

How do you forgive a wrong? and why bother? someone asked in the previous post. Herewith an essay, an attempt, at describing why and how I go about practicing forgiveness.

Forgive:

1. To excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon.
2. To renounce anger or resentment against.
3. To absolve from payment of (a debt, for example).

If someone has done something you think is absolutely wrong, and you harbor anger and resentment, your feelings will cause you harm. Does repressed resentment cause illness? I don’t have scientific data for it, but resentment causes all kinds of emotional problems, and those can cause illness. People in physical crisis are often asked to practice forgiving old angers and resentments as part of gaining peace of mind, which contributes to healing.

You could try to forgive your enemies out of a sense of duty or moral righteousness: “to be a good person, I must forgive this criminal.” But many of us might question why? Why bother with this charade?

If you only forgive in order to feel that you are doing the right thing, you won’t get the benefit of forgiveness. It will be a kind of performance, a fake, an act in the sense of doing something that is not felt sincerely, in order to please or entertain others.

In forgiving, you renounce anger or resentment against someone else. The act of forgiveness, genuine forgiveness, causes a change in the forgiver. Try it. Personally, I have felt a physical release from practicing forgiveness. I also feel emotional relief.

Judy in comments below asks how are we to forgive (for instance) Israelis who cause such suffering to Palestinians in Gaza today? Perhaps an Israeli suffering from the aftereffects of a bombing may ask the same – how to forgive Palestinians who cause his neighbors pain?

This question matters a great deal to me, because I am struggling with metastatic cancer to my liver, and believe that forgiving my enemies will help me heal. My father died in September of 2006, just after the Israeli attack on Lebanon. This war seemed to accelerate his final illness, which proceeded with terrifying rapidity.

The barrage of cluster bombs Israel left upon the fields and mountainsides of South Lebanon has felt like an unforgivable sin to me. Somehow the seeding of the land of Lebanon with a million pellets of death has appeared the most insurmountable obstacle to forgiving and moving on. I associate it with the whole horror of that war and my father’s sudden decline and death. The land of Lebanon was poisoned, my father died of poison/cancer, and now here I am fighting innumerable tiny lesions in my liver, like mirrors of the cluster bombs embedded into my organs. Some things feel unforgivable; for me, this is one.

Here is how I can forgive. First of all, it’s not me alone. My ego wants to be right. I will not truly forgive of my own unaided will, so I ask that some larger force – whatever you want to call it – help me forgive.

Second, I consider that the persons who ordered and carried out the attacks on Lebanon act out of fear and error. They possess a constellation of ideas about conflict, and about Lebanon and its people, that are simply in error. Those erroneous ideas lead them to harbor fears for their own destruction and that of their people (the Israelis). So, driven by fear and error, these military and political leaders ordered this action which I find so terrible.

Have I ever acted rashly, driven by my own fear and mistaken ideas? Yes. I have never caused so much harm (I hope). I have never killed anyone or caused such destruction. But it’s only a matter of degree. I have harbored terrible fears, terrible prejudices, enormous mistakes in judgment or perception that have driven me to irrational behavior. I can forgive myself for such errors (with difficulty). I know I am only human.

Next, I observe people around me, some of whom I love dearly, who also harbor fears that lead them to say or condone actions I cannot accept. Let’s give the example of a hypothetical relative (nobody in real life, I assure you), who harbors fears and resentments left over from a terrible mugging on a city street. That person may say things against ethnic or social groups that I cannot accept. I do not accept that person’s words or ideas; however I can see how their ideas are shaped by their fears and their history. So I let it go. I forgive them their mistakes. (This example is entirely fictional by the way)

It is not too far to move from forgiving a beloved relative or friend for her/his failings, to forgiving a stranger. If I think I cannot do it, then I imagine my small child. If he is seized with a terrifying fear of some teacher, and expresses hatred for that teacher, and the desire to spear her with his Star Wars light saber, I don’t reject my child for this. I try to understand what is driving his fears; at the same time I attempt not to cater to the emotional storm. Let it pass. I can forgive my child for his unskillful reaction to his fear of a teacher.

In forgiving the stranger who has caused so much harm, I also have to stop arguing with myself: but they SHOULD know better. They SHOULD NOT be so fearful, violent, willing to kill for retribution, and so forth.

My job is to give up anger and resentment. I can only do this when I can see the other for the flawed, frightened human being he is – my alter ego.

My enemy is my mirror. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I trespass against others and need forgiveness. So must I forgive others for their trespasses. It all goes around and around. The cycle of forgiveness is the only way to break the cycle of violence.

And by the way, it never helps me to say “but he needs to say he’s sorry first.” Or, “he has to change before I can forgive him.” This makes my power to forgive conditional upon somebody else’s behavior. I always have the power to forgive. The other party has no power to keep me from forgiveness.

Now if I am trying to forgive somebody who continues to do things that harm me, I don’t continue to put myself in the way of that harm. I take what measures I can to protect myself, or remove myself from that person’s orbit. Forgiveness does not mean allowing myself to be beaten if I can help it.

“Resist not evil” is a kind of Zen concept. Make yourself like water and flow around and away. Fighting evil directly just gives it power. It doesn’t really have power. Let it dissolve in your indifference, move around and away from the appearance of evil as if you are a running stream flowing around a rock and down to the sea. The rock will wear away one day; meanwhile you can keep flowing.

Islamic Website Awards

Nominations for the Islamic Website Awards are invited

Nominations for the Islamic Website Awards are invited

2Muslims.com used to give gold, silver and bronze awards to quality Islamic websites, but for some reason they discontinued it in 2007.

I think it’s time to restart an Islamic website awards program. IslamicSearch.com will be giving a monthly award to one selected Islamic website. For now the award will consist of recognition only, but in the future I would like to add a cash prize, Insha’Allah. I would need sponsors for that and I invite any interested parties to contact me, or comment on this post.

I would also like to invite readers to submit your choices for the best Islamic website in any of the following categories:

    • Quran
    • General Islamic website or portal
    • Islamic knowledge, including Fiqh, Sunnah, Aqeedah, etc.
    • Islamic discussion forums
    • Da’wah and information for Muslim converts
    • Islamic social network
    • Muslim blog
    • Muslim marriage or matchmaking website
    • Islamic advice or questions-and-answers
    • News about Islam and the Muslim world
    • Best new Islamic website (for sites created in this calendar year)

Did I miss any categories? Please let me know.

The first award will be given at the end of December Insha’Allah.

Cannot recommend the Ummah1 Forum

The Ummah1.com Ning network, also found at http://ummah1.ning.com, was founded last year, and I was one of the early members, having joined in January 2009.  The website grew to almost 3,000 members, predominantly African-American, but also with a scattering of members of other ethnicities and nationalities. Members share personal photos and Islamic videos, make friends, and discuss Islamic issues through the forum.

At first I enjoyed my time on the site and made frequent use of the forum. I also connected with a few old friends who happened to join the site.

However, the forum on Ummah1 is unmoderated, and in recent months it has become an acrimonious and unhealthy place. Three “anti-Sunnah” activists, one of whom masks his identity, have become dominant players on the forum. They bill themselves as “Quran only” adherents, denying the relevance or importance of the Sunnah in Islam, and referring to the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as “fairy tales.” They are aggressive in trying to silence or belittle anyone who stands for both Quran and Sunnah.

Alhamdulillah there are several rightly-guided Muslims who have opposed them, but the point is that every single discussion devolves into a debate or argument over this same issue.

On a different end of the extremist spectrum, there is one very active member who is highly anti-American (despite being an American himself) and often makes vitriolic and extreme statements.

In response to this state of affairs, I sent the following message to brother Bilal:

“Brother Bilal, wa alaykum as-salam. Thank you for adding your voice and clarifying your position. Brother, I know your intentions are good in wanting this site to be “inclusive” of people of all ways of thinking. However, I can tell you from many years of experience on the internet that if the forum is not moderated, the constant acrimony and divisiveness will make it unpalatable to most people.

It’s a fact there are certain people with corrupt ideologies and hidden agendas who frequent Islamic forums and attempt to confuse and divide the Muslims. It’s vital to the health of the forum that these people be weeded out.

You have stated that you accept the Quran as the word of Allah and the final revelation, and you accept Muhammad (pbuh) as the Messenger, and you accept his recorded authentic Sunnah and sound Hadith. The great majority of Muslims around the world agree with you on this matter. I suggest that this should be confirmed as the ideological foundation of the website, and the common ground that you propose, and those who do not agree with this position are free to go elsewhere. There are many debate-oriented forums created just to discuss such issues.

It’s not because I am unable to answer these corrupt individuals. I am very familiar with their ideologies, which have been promulgated in the West by the false prophet Rashad Khalifa and others, for many years. I just don’t care to spend my time arguing the same points over and over with someone who is not really interested in learning, but is only here to sow seeds of misguidance. I’m also not comfortable merely ignoring them, because I worry that some Muslims (for example new converts who may not have an extensive Islamic education) may fall for their lies.

Leave the Muslims on this forum free to discuss issues such as taqwa and imaan, da’wah, the pillars of Islam, family and marriage issues, gender relations, current affairs, the media, the struggle to practice Islam in this day and age, fiqh, tafseer of Quran, sunnah, and any other issues that may concern them.

Let us discuss these issues in a peaceful and constructive atmosphere, without this constant fitnah being sown by those who deny the validity of the Sunnah and other basic components of Islam.”

However, as of this writing (November 2009) no action has been taken to moderate the forum. Because of this, I do not recommend the Ummah1.com website, and I am much less active there. I particularly feel it is an unhealthy place for new Muslims or those who have little Islamic knowledge, as they may be misguided by some of these anti-Islamic activists. At the least they will find the forum to be an unhelpful and disappointing experience.

In my next post Insha’Allah I’ll take a look at an Islamic forum that is healthy and operating the way it should.

New Zawaj.com Sneak Preview

New Zawaj.com logo

New Zawaj.com logo

The redevelopment of the Zawaj.com Muslim Matrimonials website is coming along, and  as a special treat only for readers of IslamicSearch.com, here’s a preview of the new website. That second link is a test site only, so don’t bookmark that URL. What do you think of the new look? This is one of my websites, so I am quite naturally biased, but I like it.

I think it’s quite lovely, though the search box at top center needs a little work, and there’s a bit of wasted space in the bottom right of the Featured Post area. But the content is fascinating and presents a unique spectrum of Islamic articles and features. I’m looking forward to the official debut of the new website.

Invitation to Web Developers

I would like to invite interested web developers to collaborate with me in building this Islamic search engine. In return I will offer a generous percentage of revenues for a fixed period of time, Insha’Allah.

I’m looking for a qualified web development company that can help with the following:

  1. Developing a filter that will utilize search feeds from popular engines like Google and Yahoo, but filter out inappropriate content and anti-Islamic websites.
  2. Developing search technology that will give greater weight in searches to selected Islamic websites that provide authentic Islamic information.
  3. Developing image search technology that will filter out unIslamic images.
  4. Developing revenue streams for IslamicSearch.com.

IslamicSearch.com receives steady and consistent type-in traffic from people looking for exactly this kind of service. In addition, I own and operate several large Islamic websites that can deliver strong traffic, both Muslims and non-Muslims. I hope to capitalize on this and offer these people a quality service that will meet their needs Insha’Allah.

IslamicSearch.com Islamic Search Engine

As-salamu alaykum and welcome to IslamicSearch.com, a newly created Islamic search engine. I’ve just gotten started and building this search engine will be an ongoing process Insha’Allah.

After one too many experiences searching for Islamic information on the web and finding anti-Islamic websites, or searching for Islamic images and finding images that demean and mock Muslims, I decided it was time for a search engine that would would focus on websites providing legitimate, authentic Islamic information, and positive Islamic images.

The search engine will also allow searches of the broader world wide web, but will filter out inappropriate websites, allowing the Muslim to search with confidence and comfort. It will be a “halal search engine” that parents can allow their children to use without worry.

I’m just getting started, so be patient and check back soon for updates. Jazakum Allah khayr.