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Blessed Festival of Sacrifice

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

fedwaI am rewriting a blog I wrote for Eid ul-Adha, or Festival of Sacrifice.  September 24, 2015 is a special day for Muslims all around the world. Eid ul-Adha is one of the major Muslim holidays. It comes right after the fifth pillar of Islam called the Hajj or pilgrimage. The Hajj commemorates the life and trials of Prophet Abraham’s family, upon them peace and blessings. Once in a lifetime, every adult Muslim who has the physical and financial ability is required to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah, home of the Ka’bah, which Muslims believe was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, upon them be peace.

I made the trip last year and this year, my brother Kennedy is experiencing the special event.

The Hajj pilgrimage is an extremely communal event as over two million Muslims, men and women of varied ethnicities and nationalities, dressed in simple white clothing symbolizing the equality of all people, perform identical rituals.

Eid ul-Adha celebrations are similar to Eid ul-Fitr with the addition of sacrificing a lamb, goat or cow to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, who Muslims believe was miraculously replaced by a lamb, similar to the Biblical story.

Jeewan Chanicka explained Abraham’s sacrifice in his Hajj reminders with the following words:

But it wasn’t his son that was slaughtered. It was his attachment. It was his attachment to anything that could compete with his love for God. And the beauty of such a sacrifice is this: Once you let go of your attachment, what you love is given back to you– in a purer, better form. So let us ask ourselves during these beautiful days of sacrifice, which attachments do we need to slaughter?

People share the meat of the animal with the poor and needy, relatives and friends.

The day begins with a special congregational prayer followed by a short sermon. People are dressed in their best clothing, and children traditionally receive new clothing as well as other gifts. Food, holiday congratulations, and festivities such as rides, balloons, and other fun activities for children follow the prayers. The holiday lasts for four days during which people usually visit or invite each other.

In conclusion, I want to share Rumi’s Eid al-Adha Poem.

BISMILLAH! (In the name of God!)

It’s a habit of yours to walk slowly.
You hold a grudge for years.
With such heaviness, how can you be modest?
With such attachments, do you expect to arrive anywhere?

Be wide as the air to learn a secret.
Right now you’re equal portions clay
and water, thick mud.

Abraham learned how the sun and moon and the stars all set.
He said, No longer will I try to assign partners for God.

You are so weak. Give up to grace.
The ocean takes care of each wave
till it gets to shore.

You need more help than you know.
You’re trying to live your life in open scaffolding.

Say Bismillah, In the name God,
As the priest does with knife when he offers an animal.

Bismillah your old self
to find your real name.
– Jalaluddin Rumi

I wish everyone in all places at all times a blessed Eid Mubarak. May God accept your good deeds and all your efforts during the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah (the name of the month in the Muslim lunar calendar).

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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© Copyright Fedwa Wazwaz, All rights reserved.

Chattanooga Killings: Motive Unknown

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

But they have no knowledge therein.
They follow nothing but conjecture;
and conjecture avails nothing against Truth.

(Quran 53:28)

fedwaOn July 16, 2015, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez killed five U.S. service members in a shooting rampage in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The 24-year-old gunman, joked that he was just an “Arabian redneck,” was smoking marijuana with friends and struggled to stay devout to Islamic teachings.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, immediately condemned the deadly attack in Tennessee.

In a statement, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said:

“We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible. Such inexcusable acts of violence must be repudiated by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. The American Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens in offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured and in rejecting anyone who would harm our nation’s safety and security. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy.”

Likewise, the Minnesota chapter of CAIR responded immediately as well.  Executive Board Member Sakinah Mujahid who is a 13 year veteran of the US Army said:

“We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible. Such inexcusable acts of violence must be repudiated by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. The American Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens in offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured and in rejecting anyone who would harm our nation’s safety and security. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy.”

Initial theories on the possible motive behind the Chattanooga killings appear to be just pure conjecture or guesswork.

In an effort to fill in the gaps while reinforcing the stereotypes that inform our world view, people espouse these speculative theories to create a sense of control or to separate themselves from the horrible crime as far as possible.

Some non-Muslims indicate normal Islamic teachings as a possible motive for the crime, while some Muslims are pointing to some of his unIslamic behavior.

Islamic teachings did not radicalize him.  Many Muslims believe in the teachings that the world is a prison, meaning – be patient as when one is in a physical prison – you accept it and seek God’s help to be patient.  Deal with life’s hardships and don’t expect utopia.  Not all Muslims who believe that go shooting people.  I believe that.  It teaches one to expect hardships in life.  i discussed this Islamic teaching in a blog on Lessons on Power and Oppression from Moses.  From the blog, here is a clarification of what life is a prison means:

He[Moses] had completely nothing with him, and fully exhausted himself – to the very depth of his body and soul in pursuit of survival.  It is not an easy experience – but in that state – what does he do?

Some would commit suicide, others go on shooting rampage, and others on drugs to numb their feelings or escape from the pain, fear and a whole new reality.  He just experienced and accepted the event.  He surrendered to the new reality he was in as this is where God brought him to.  Then, in a state of dire need and exhaustion, he saw two women who had a need.  Instead, of being absorbed with his need and his near starvation and exhaustion, he got up and approached them, asked a clarifying question, then addressed their need.  He asked them for nothing in return.  He made no assumptions or ugly accusations about their standing with their flock instead of a male relative.  Afterwards, he turned to God and put forth his prayer asking for “whatever good that You bestow on me.”

Life is a prison is about surrendering to God’s will and facing hardships with faith.

Likewise, I know many Muslims who engage in unIslamic behaviors, like drugs, drinking and even go to strip joints, etc.,  That doesn’t mean they are going to shoot people as well.  Some of them would go out of their way to help people.  They are human beings struggling with human problems in their lives like most humans do in various parts of their lives.  Some of them turned their lives around.  We read such stories all the time.  Here is a recent story on StoryCorps here.

There is no clear predictor for what turns a person to engage in violence.   A 2008 UK study showed no identifiable pattern to “radicalization.”  In the document, Rethinking Radicalization from the Brennan Center for Justice:

An in-depth empirical study by the UK’s security service MI5 found that “there is no single pathway to extremism,” and that all those studied “had taken strikingly different journeys to violent extremist activity.”

The point is – we are just conjecturing and sensationalizing a feel good story.

Simply put, the motive for the Chattanooga killings is unknown.

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US.  She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email info@engagemn.com.)

© Copyright Fedwa Wazwaz, All rights reserved.

Blessed Festival of Fast Breaking

Blessed Festival of Fast Breaking

Eid Al-Fitr, or Festival of Fast Breaking comes right after a pillar of Islam called the Sawm in the Holy month of Ramadan.  The day begins with a special congregational prayer followed by a short sermon.  People are dressed in their best clothing, and children traditionally receive new clothing as well as other gifts.  Food, holiday congratulations, and festivities such as rides, balloons, and other fun activities for children follow the prayers.  The holiday lasts for three days during which people usually visit or invite each other.

Eid Mubarak or Blessed Return!  May God, Mighty and Majestic accept all of our good deeds and efforts during the month of Ramadan.  May God grant us His enabling grace to take the lessons and reflections with us throughout our lives so that we may benefit and receive benefit.  May God increase us to be more conscious of Him and grateful for all the blessings that are too numerous to count.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Muslim community opens 4th Islamic center in St. Cloud

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400In 2013, the Islamic Center of St. Cloud proposed a plan to build a mosque in a residential area near Clearwater Road, only to withdraw its application after strong public resistance to the proposal.

Last Friday, however, Islamic Center of St. Cloud President Mohayadin Mohamed explained how the lost battle became a blessing in disguise: The Islamic center recently purchased a church in the city that embodies nearly everything the center sought in the failed plan — and at a lower price.

In April, the former Good News Assembly of God church at 712-17th Ave. S was converted into a mosque and classrooms for the growing Muslim population in the city. The building is the former Garfield Elementary School. The site is St. Cloud’s fourth mosque; others are located on Fifth Avenue South, Fourth Avenue South and Third Street North.

Randy Adams, former pastor of Good News Assembly of God, congratulated the leaders of the Islamic center for the purchase.

“They were easy to work with,” Adams said. “They were good people. We wish them the best.”

The 46,640-square-foot facility — which consists of 20 classrooms, seven offices, a cafeteria and a space that can hold up to 400 parishioners — cost the center $850,000.

“After the city rejected the plan to build a mosque, we were looking for another option,” Mohamed said. “But we found this place … a better place than the one rejected.”

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

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Let’s Talk About Islam – With Honesty

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

fedwaI advocate for a holistic approach toward life. By holistic, I mean that when we talk about everything from medicine to education, we include a view of all aspects of ourselves as people, including our spiritual selves. If we engage only one layer and neglect or encourage people to divorce other parts of who they are – we don’t allow for people to fully express themselves, which leads to all kinds of social ills and hardships in our communities.

Honest discussions on faith allow us to holistically challenge the voices of extremism that flourish in the internet. This is also an important step if we are going to build a strong foundation for coexistence.

If faith remains a topic that can be shut down and treated superficially without understanding nuances and without being engaged with respectfully, then accusations against it cannot be countered in a meaningful way. I grew by the many mistakes I made online and in person communicating what I truly felt. Through this dialog, I was challenged many, many times to search aspects of my faith, that had had it remained unchallenged in a meaningful way, I would have never come to a greater understanding of some, and shed other views that I now feel were very much in error.

Quite a few accuse Muslims and Islam of trying to take over America….that Muslims say one thing but secretly are planning another. People who have a hatred and fear of Islam (such as Dutch MP Geert Wilders) are asked to brief our elected representatives in Congress in closed hearings and forums. Muslims cannot engage in a debate that is framed in a way that limits their ability to respond and their ability to engage in meaningful dialogue beyond polemics.

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