Friday, August 25, 2006

Egyptian Comic Book Company-AKcomics.com

In the Summer 2006 issue of AUC Today, the alumni magazine of the American University in Cairo, there is a profile of AUC alumnus Ayman Kandeel's company, AKComics.com. It publishes series in Arabic and English, and according to the article, a recent deal with a U.S. distributor may open up the English market dramatically.

I ordered a subscription to all four of the English and Arabic versions of the series, and I've ordered the back issues of the all series. So I'm hoping to report back as soon as I read enough to have something to say.

Has anybody read any of these already? What are your impressions?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Goal of the Muslim Media Review with General Disclaimer

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. All praise is due to God. May God bless and raise His Messenger Muhammad, his family, his companions and those who followed them in righteousness.

May God increase your peace and blessings.

The goals of the Muslim Media Review is to highlight the books, audio and video programs from which Muslims in North American can benefit and information on how people can acquire them.

My general disclaimer is a lot longer.

It's always easier to criticize than actually create. So when I say something negative about a work, understand that you or I probably could not do nearly as well.

I don't represent Islam or Muslims. I got the name "Muslim Media Review" before anyone else. If someone is doing a better job, I have no problem changing my blog's name to something less official sounding. I just think the name will attract people to read it more than "Ayman Fadel's Ramblings", which brings us to the next disclaimer.

Although I honestly, in sha Allah, plan on researching every sentence I put in here, I lack a lot of basic qualifications to do this properly. So please help me by pointing out where I'm going wrong, or if you don't have time, say a short supplication for my guidance.

Currently I don't make any money from the operation of this blog. If I ever do, and I certainly would not mind, I will God willing inform the readers. My first "material benefit" goal is to have authors and publishers who want me to review their materials send me a free copy so I don't spend my own money acquiring them. If you would like to support this blog financially, contact me so that I can send you information on how to do that.

I hope you will benefit from this blog. If you want to add materials or links, please contact me. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Wassalaamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuh (May God's peace, mercy and blessings be upon you.)

Ayman Fadel

Review: The Value of Time by Abd Al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah

The Value of Time by Shaykh `Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghuddah.Translated by Yusra Al-Ghannouchi. 86 pages. First published April 2004/Safar 1425. ISBN 0 9537582 0 6.

It is fitting that this book be the first one the Muslim Media Review presents. I have had the idea for a media review web site, and I've gotten excellent feedback from people on what to do, but I've been lacking in the determination to start. This book provided me with the motivation to get started, and that in itself is a ringing endorsement to the book.

The book is divided into three parts. The first discusses the value of time in the Qur'an and the hadith reports. The second, which is the longest, is collections of excerpts from the biographies of scholars who valued their time, and who, by doing so, achieved much in their lives. The third part is a call to the reader to aim higher and begin working, i.e. to begin to value time more seriously.

The translation is smooth for the most part. The editing is excellent, so that one does not find incorrect spellings or misnumbered pages.

The publisher is Awakening Publications.

It is available on a wide variety of web sites. I purchased my copy from Astrolabe.

One thing that was odd was that the original Arabic book title was not mentioned. I believe the Arabic title is
قيمة الزمن عند العلماء

I purchased it from http://www.furat.com/book_details.cgi?bookid=9346 today. When it arrives, in sha Allah I'll post a notice about the shopping experience.

Last updated April 20, 2006.

Review: Key to Al-Baqarah

Key to al-Baqarah: The Longest Surah of the Qur'an by Khurram Murad. Published by The Islamic Foundation. 1996/1417. ISBN 0 86037 270 7. 36 pp.

This book is a good example of one of the most urgent duties of a Muslim--the attempt to understand the Qur'an. And what I mean by that is that each time we hear an aaya of Qur'an, we should try to discover some new meaning in it. We may not succeed, but with consistent effort and sincere intention, Allah subhanah wa ta'aala allows us to see something that will benefit us in this life and the next.

The book is the author's framework for understanding this chapter of the Qur'an. He does not claim that it is the only way to understand it. For all we know, perhaps today, nine years after the initial publication of the book, the author himself might have a different understanding of the suurah. And I think the author would believe that to be a sign of personal growth.
The author introduces the subject of interacting with the Qur'an. The author mentions some of the characteristics of surat al-Baqara and some of its merits. The author also has a good discussion about the Qur'an came to be arranged in its agreed upon order and the wisdom behind that ordering.

As is so often, in my mind, this introduction is the most valuble part of the book. Based on the principles outlined in the introduction, the author then puts forth his current understanding of the suurah's narrative. He divides the suurah into sections and themes. And he pointed out things about suurat al-Baqarah's meanings which I had never considered.

I purchased the book from Astrolabe.

The author has a book in which he goes into more depth on the topic of how the contemporary Muslim should approach the Qur'an. It is The Way to the Quran. I hope to read that soon and report on it.

Last updated April 20, 2005.

Board Game-Mecca to Medina by Baba Ali

Mecca to Medina (board game) by Baba Ali

I received this product with great excitement, as I and my closest friends are board game enthusiasts. This review is in two parts, one, the “Muslim” content, and, two, the traditional board game criteria of packaging, setup time, ease of play, relative balance of luck and skill, etc.

Patience and Gratitude: An Abridged Translation of `Uddat as-Sabirin wa dhakhirat ash-shakirin

Patience and Gratitude: An Abridged Translation of `Uddat as-sabirin w dhakhirat ash-shakirin by Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (1292-1350 CE) translated by Nasiruddin al-Khattab. Published by Ta-Ha Publishers.1 Wynne Road, London SW9 0BB.

I got my copy at http://store.yahoo.com/talkislam/b3087.html. The service was good.

Ta-Ha Publishers and Nasiruddin al-Khattab are to be congratulated for providing access to English-speaking Muslims to an excellent book with crucial lessons for improving our practice of Islam.

As a translation, the text is smooth and grammatically correct. The abridgement leaves out things like detailed chains of narration, additional supportive narrations and investigations of issues not critical to the central themes.

By investigating the different meanings of patience, a Muslim can look at his/her own state and see what should be changed.

For a biography on Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, you can visit http://www.sunnahonline.com/ilm/seerah/0036.htm.

Last updated August 10, 2005.

The Content of Character: Ethical Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad by Shaikh Al-Amin Ali Mazrui

The Content of Character: Ethical Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad by Shaikh Al-Amin Ali Mazrui, with translation and introduction by Hamza Yusuf and a foreword by Ali Mazrui.

I purchased this book from Astrolabe.

This book was composed by Shaik Al-Amin Ali Mazrui, who was the Chief Cadi of Kenya until 1947, when he passed away. He is the father of the renowned scholar of African civilization and world trends, Ali Mazrui. My first exposure to Professor Ali Mazrui was through his 1986 ground-breaking PBS series, The Africans: A Triple Heritage, which I highly recommend as a way of understanding modern African culturally and from a development perspective. This is a lecture he gave about the topic at Stanford, April 24, 2000.

The text is composed of an introduction, then the Arabic text of 130 hadiith on the right page and the English translation on the left side.

There is a translator’s note afterwards defending the use of non-Sahiih hadiths, both for legal rulings and moral and ethical values. The translator also added short biographies of the main collectors of the hadiith from which the author selected.

The jacket cover has a beautiful design. The book itself is hardcover, with excellent print quality. The presentation befits the words of An-Nabiy, salla Allahu alayhi wa aalihi wa sallam.
The author was extremely successful in selecting texts which address a variety of aspects of behavior, attitudes and habits. By pondering these texts and attempting to implement them in our lives, we can hope to improve as people and Muslims.

The translation reads very well.

Criteria for Evaluating Muslim Children's Media

My intention with the next several blog entries is to present some children’s books. In general, North American “Muslim” children’s books should do the following:

Review: The Meat Eating Vegetarian by Caroline Maryam Ward

The Meat Eating Vegetarian by Caroline Maryam Ward. The Islamic Foundation (2001/1422H). ISBN 0-86037-306-1. 44 pages.

This book is available from Astrolabe (www.astrolabe.com).

This edition is hard cover, with an attractive cover.

The plot line is the attendance of Tasneem, a young British girl of Pakistani origin, in a new elementary school. She makes friends quickly with Lisa and Yvonne. Tasneem invites them to her house for dinner and play when a misunderstanding stemming from Tasneem’s practice of Islam causes the friendship to sour. Thankfully, the observant, caring teacher at the school notices Tasneem’s distress, resolves the misunderstanding and reconciles the three friends.

This book meets all of the five criteria I’ve come up with for a quality Muslim children’s book.

1. I don’t see anything which violates the principles and rules of Islam.
2. The entertainment, for me, lies in the drama of the breakup and reconciliation! Again, parents, let me know what your kids thought.
3. This story showed how a Muslim child encountered difficulty making friends at school but was able to resolve the issue because the other children were basically good. Tasneem learned the value of communicating accurate information about herself to her friends.
4. Well I have to admit that us guys never broke our friendships and reconciled, to my recollection, all within a couple of days! But I think it’s all right.
5. The child learns the definition of halal meat and that Muslim women wear headscarves when out in public and that Muslim girls are not required to wear the scarves.

As a final note, I think many non-Muslims would benefit from reading this book, as it shows that asking questions is better than refraining from asking and then jumping to conclusions. I remember a friend of mine, who would see me carry a prayer mat in my car trunk and pray on it, thought there was something sacred about the prayer mat. He would treat it like a sacred object, neither moving it nor touching it in any way. I finally had to tell him that I used the mat because it’s cleaner than pavement and it prevents grass stains on my clothes, not because it’s a requirement of ritual prayer.

The book is recommended for ages 7-10. I think it'd work better for 9-12, but, again, you parents and teachers let me know.

Last updated August 12, 2006

Review: A Marriage Proposal by Samira Hingoro

A Marriage Proposal by Samira Hingoro

http://www.faithpublications.org/product_info.php?cPath=28&products_id=58

I purchased this book directly from the publisher using the link above. The order was fulfilled properly.

Abu Iman (literally “Father of Iman”) Talib, his wife Ummu Iman (“Mother of Iman”) and their five daughters, Iman (19 years old), Aisha (17), Huda (the vain one), Noor and Maryam (10), evaluate Khaled’s (26 years old) marriage proposal to the eldest daughter, Iman. The author’s overly didactic, ideological voice is Iman. Every other character, who has not achieved Iman’s level of worship, dedication to religious activism and reliance on the direction of the Qur’an and Sunnah, cannot see the obvious fact that the suitor Khaled is unsuitable. When Abu Iman Talib runs into Khaled’s purchasing beer at the local convenience store, he is forced to reject his marriage proposal.

I reacted strongly against this story for the following reasons:

1. Overly rigid gender roles foisted upon the individual members of the American Muslim family.
2. A simplistic resolution to a complex issue. Rather than address the issue by having an honest discussion within the Talib family, the father “catches” Khaled buying a beer.
3. A completely unreasonable portrayal of economic life.
4. The process of marriage proposals does not include speech between the potential spouses.
Muslim women live a Byzantine harem life, with plotting and factions.
5. The perpetuation of the multazim (practicing, literally “restricting oneself”) vs. the “non-practicing” Muslim distinction.
6. Parents appear as idiots, since they can’t actually have an honest discussion with their children.
7. The inaccurate portrayal of the Muslim virtue of hayaa` (shyness, shame, self-consciousness).

Being overly “didactic” (Intended to instruct, morally instructive, inclined to teach or moralize excessively) and “ideological” is an aesthetic criticism which may or may not be a problem for the reader. Far more dangerous is the book’s portrayals of proper roles for Muslim men and women.

Abu Iman has an unspecified career. Every night he is home (i.e. not traveling and not working late) and goes to the masjid or watches a little TV. While there are few descriptions of the family’s living standard, their house appears to be spacious because there’s a living room where guests are hosted and each daughter has a separate bedroom. Ummu Iman works a part-time job (for extra money for her daughters’ marriages). Tell me, how many careers can afford that kind of lifestyle, or more precisely, even if Abu Imran was blessed to be able to make enough money for that lifestyle, how many other Muslims could do so, if the Talib family is to be considered a model for U.S. Muslims? And, I forgot, the girls all attended private Islamic schools.

I grew up with one brother and no cousins around, so perhaps I’m missing something, but should a Byzantine “harem” life be held up as “normal” or, God forbid, “normative” for a North American Muslim family. Iman’s parents don’t tell Iman about the potential suitor before he comes to their home. The mother has a favorite daughter, the one who is most interested in fashion and maintaining her appearance. When Noora discovers that her sister Huda is talking on the telephone with a boy named “Bill” (the evil Anglo-Saxon, no doubt-it would have been better if the name was Ja`far), Iman and Noora “handle” the situation by concealing it from their parents and deciding to pay more attention to Huda by taking her out more. When women get together, they talk about clothing. They’re occupying space and consuming good air.

Even the fiqh issues presented are, in my mind, extremely bad examples. Maryam relayed how an elderly Muslim woman, in front of other people, chastised another Muslim woman for praying while wearing nail polish. Iman instructs her sister that a woman’s wuduu’ is invalid if done while wearing nail polish, and it is improper to embarrass a person. I’m no advocate of nail polish, but could not the author have selected a more important question for the characters to discuss?

The second fiqh issue regarded Iman’s refusal to talk with her suitor. She would insist that he should only talk with Abu Iman, her wali (woman without Muslim relatives does not need wali) (second definition of wali). While that is certainly a permissible way of doing things, it most certainly is not the only way Muslims are permitted to do things.

Iman’s first encounter with Khaled was actually a near car accident. Hijab-wearing Iman took a wide turn and Khaled, in his red, shiny sports car, had to swerve to avoid hitting her. He yells from his car window, “Jesus Christ! Watch where you’re going! Take that thing off your head so you can see, for Christ’s sake!” (pp. 4-5) Her sister Aisha, reading the signs of the dinner invitation to Khaled and his relatives and eavesdropping on Khaled’s aunt’s conversation with Ummu Iman, reveals to her unobservant older sister Iman the real purpose of Khaled’s visit.



[Iman] hoped for someone with whom she could grow spiritually-someone who loves to help people and be active in the masjid. Whatever little she had glimpsed of Khaled seemed contrary to that. The thought of leaving matters to Allah
subhanahu wa ta`ala seemed so comfortable and soothing. (pp. 21-2)
There are several other encounters, each one demonstrating further Khaled’s and Iman’s incompatibility.
Now this suitor Khaled, a successful Chicago attorney, is supposedly motivated by his belief in Iman’s naiveté, thinking that he could mold her into a good corporate wife. Aside from the believability of this presumption, had Khaled spoken with Iman 15 minutes, he would have realized how misguided this belief was.

My objection to this whole marriage proposal is Iman’s pretending like hayaa' and tawakkul prevented her from refusing Khaled from the beginning. It was only when her father decided that the marriage proposal was not suitable that the official “no” was issued.

These supposedly good Muslims, the Talib family, aren’t straightforward enough to facilitate the rejection process. I would much rather know in 15 minutes that the marriage is not going to work out than hang around for 1 day or 1 week or 1 month. These people would have driven me to drink beer!

The story does a good job of encouraging Muslims to consider religion as the primary virtue in a spouse. The story does a poor job of describing what a 19-yr old woman’s plans for marriage might be (or for that matter a 26-year old man) and describing a respectful, honest way of bringing two people together.

If the author would allow me to rewrite her story, let’s change Khaled into a more typical U.S. Muslim professional. He doesn’t drink alchohol. He does his salaat, but will delay it past time for convenience’s sake. He probably drives a Camry (how many can afford a Porsche, but if he can, I say more power to him!). He probably would not yell at a Muslim woman for wearing hijab, although he might have trepidations about her having “rigid” thinking.

In this more realistic situation, you have a conflict between genuine Muslim values:
1. The emphasis on religiosity in choosing a spouse.
2. The other desired qualities of the spouse-well-mannered, hard-working, wealthy (earning enough money to support a family) and attractive.
3. Respect to parents by agreeing with their recommended spouse

Then a dialogue or correspondence between Iman and Khaled could illustrate the difference between the “average/slack” Muslim Khaled and the “multazima/practicing/strict/sincere” Muslima Iman.

Finally, I think the idea that the child Iman is a better Muslim than her parents is not a picture that Muslims should attempt to promote. At age 19, I knew I was perfect, and over the next 15 years I learned things about myself which have changed that opinion. What often seems to a 19-year old, raised on a few texts and inspiring halaqas but no life experience, as weak compromise, is probably a wise way of handling a difficult situation.

For those of you who have read this book, let me know what you think. I feel like the author is well-intentioned, and I hated to write these negative things about the book.

Recommendation: Mosque by David Macaulay

Mosque by David Macaulay

http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/authors/macaulay/author.shtml gives you information about the author.

October • Full-color illustrationsAll Ages • All Grades96 pages • 9 x 12 ISBN 0-618-24034-9 Nonfiction Picture Book

I labelled this entry recommendation rather than review. #1, it's by a mainstream author and mainstream publisher, Houton Mifflin. I enjoyed reading it, and I'm planning to pass it to a friend of mine who likes architecture and works in construction. It's a wonderful gift for anybody with those kinds of interests. I purchased my copy at AlHambra Productions, www.alhambraproductions.com. The link directly to the books is http://www.alhambraproductions.com/shopping/product_details.php?product_id=366&PHPSESSID=ea92981c3291b7dc3f86cee708254271.

http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/authors/macaulay/

There's even an NPR interview with the author.
http://www.here-now.org/shows/2003/11/20031105_5.asp
Forward to 6 minutes, 30 seconds.

The Saudi-US Relations Information Service produced a review: http://www.saudi-us-relations.org/newsletter2004/saudi-relations-interest-08-20.html.

For all you people who love gadgets, I came across a cool site which describes how things work:
http://www.uh.edu/engines/jhlbio.htm

Last updated August 18, 2006.

Review: What Happened to Poetry? (VHS) by Hamza Yusuf

Hamza Yusuf. What Happened to Poetry? VHS Tape: Running Time-48 mins. 2001.

I purchased this tape from www.alhambraproductions.com. This is the direct link to the product. The order was fulfilled properly.

The VHS cassette came in a generic Alhambra Productions cover, and a simple label identifies the tape.

The web site calls this tape “a discourse on the disappearance of poetry.” It’s a very appropriate description, in the sense that Shaikh Hamza is not presenting a historical analysis of the disappearance of poetry nor an in-depth literary study of poetical forms. Rather, he uses the occasion of a conference on Jalaluddin Al-Rumi to discuss certain themes common to many of his talks:

Consumerism as a substitute for truly living
The importance of the student/teacher relationship
God being the only thing really worth talking about and knowing

Shaikh Hamza claims that poetry is incongruous with the “modern” world because it is passionate. The modern world promotes the antithesis of passion, melodrama. This melodrama substitutes for thinking and allows people to ignore the incongruities of our leaders’ agendas and the subtle and not-so-subtle evil consequences of our own behavior.

Specifically for Muslims, this tape might answer questions like: What is Islam’s position on poetry? In other words, should a Muslim speak, hear and learn poems?

For non-Muslims, this tape might provide an insight on how Muslims can relate, through the Qur’an, very well to the high cultures of other civilizations. When Shaikh Hamza reads Fyodor Dostoevsky and Shakespeare, he sees their art as addressing the same concerns as God’s revelation, the Qur’an.

Finally, for those of you who are truly poets (Shaikh Hamza blasted my pretensions away about 10 minutes into the tape!), I believe you’ll enjoy how he talks about his experiences with people who really loved poetry, particularly his own father, who studied with Columbia University’s Mark Van Doren, and his Muslim teachers.

So of course the speaker jumps around, giving you delicious samples but not being able to give you a full serving! Of course this is frustrating for people who don’t like “discourses”, but one must recognize it as a limitation of the medium.

One bad thing about the tape’s production. For three short periods of time, fortunately lasting only seconds, the picture of the speaker at the podium is replaced by stills or footage. I don’t think it was well done.

Finally, the tape did not have the running time printed on it.

Last updated September 4, 2005.

Review: The Seafaring Beggar and Other Tales by Yahiyah Emerick and Reshma Baig

Yahiyah Emerick and Reshma Baig. The Seafaring Beggar and Other Tales. First printed 1998. Published and distributed by International Books & Tapes Supply. ISBN 1-889720-06-2.
I purchased this book from Alhambra Productions, http://www.alhambraproductions.com at this link. As of September 4, 2005, the book is out of stock there. The order was fulfilled properly.

The paperback cover has an attractive design by Tariq Khan.

This volume is a collection of short pieces by the two authors, Yahiyah Emerick and Reshma Baig.

I don’t think you could just hand this book to a child and the child would finish it. As soon as the child hit a story or poem to which he did not relate, he might just put the book down completely. I think that an adult reading stories to children could find the material he/she thinks appropriate and use it.

The quality varies. I liked:

1. “Windows Within Myself” by Reshma-A trip through the protagonist’s negative thinking mind to a more positive outlook.
2. “White Collar Poet” by Yahiya.
3. “Full Circle” by Yahiya-Doing a good deed will never cause you harm!
4. “Power” by Yahiya.
5. “Black Feather Finds His Lord” by Yahiya-Recognizes the universality of the message of Islam.
6. “Quivering Heart” by Yahiya-Nice story of a child being kind to a lost bird.
7. “Hakim and the Special Letter”-A little too dramatic story of the repentance of a highway robber, but I think a child would like it.
8. “Scared” by Reshma Baig-A short piece encouraging us to overcome our fears and take action.
9. “Aslama” by Yahiya. A short piece describing the “Islam” of different creatures.
10. “A Bag of Gems” by Yahiya-The answer to the riddle, “I can make you feel happy and bothered.”
11. “A Cat in Space” by Yahiya-Great for all you cat lovers!
12. “Thief for a Day” by Yahiya-How did a break-in to the author’s car remind him to pay more attention to the Qur’an?
13. “The Seafaring Beggar” by Yahiya. A story teaches the Muslim to persevere and remain thankful, no matter the circumstances.
14. “Flight” by Reshma. Thinking about how the places preserve the memory of our actions should cause us to think before we act!

I disliked:
“Salvation for Certain” by Yahiya-In this short piece, a Muslim student on campus confounds the evangelist and succeeds in bringing people to the masjid to learn more about Islam. I don’t think it’s necessary to distort the message of the genuine Christian evangelist by suggesting he might use offensive language. I remember at Indiana University in Bloomington from 1994-6, crowds would gather for an evangelist, but it was distinctly a circus-like atmosphere. In other words, the students listening were seeking entertainment, not enlightenment.

“The Knock” by Yahiya-In this story, a Muslim who is “passing”, whose wife’s name is Linda, and whose children use Anglo names, Michael and Cindy, thinks that attacks on Muslims by prejudiced people are the result of Muslims’ failure to blend in. Later, a mob attacks his family. Only when he repents to Allah does he find the strength to rescue his family. He realizes that the existence of Muslims prevents the world from burying “itself in the folds of meaningless pleasure, in the arms of blissful ignorance.” My comment-I don’t believe it’s healthy to instill in Muslim readers a fear of mob attacks. Also, while I do believe Muslims should be a voice against hedonism, I’m not sure we’re so effective that we’re attracting counterattacks from the hedonists!

“Prints” by Reshma-This piece tries so hard to put the words together that the meaning just floated past me. Or maybe I just missed it.

Some other comments:
“Black Feather Finds His Lord”-As a historical note, I find it very improbable that American Indians in the Great Plains would have been surprised to see a black man, since Africans were a very significant number from the earliest days of European settlement of the colonies which would eventually become the United States. In addition, Europeans did not settle the Plains for several more centuries, and the Plains territories were in general non-slave holding territories.
Yahiya Emerick also included a piece about how he became a Muslim.

For a “glowing review,” read Sr. Tasleem K. Griffin's review on islamicedfoundation.com.

Last updated September 4, 2005.

Review: From Hiroshima to London by Imam Zaid Shakir

I was riding with a friend in his car, and we listened to a CD by Imam Zaid Shakir entitled "From Hiroshima to London."

This talk is absolutely necessary for U.S. Muslims. The central claim is that until we U.S. citizens can discuss the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and the hijackings/bombings of September 11, 2001 together as acts of politically motivated violence against unarmed and unsuspecting civilians, all our efforts to separate Islam and terrorism in the minds of non-Muslims will be in vain.

The unfortunate thing is I can find no outlet which sells this CD! If I find out where people can buy it, in sha Allah I'll add it to this posting.

For a biography of Imam Zaid Shakir, visit http://www.amalpress.com/index.php?l_dis=our_authors&action=open&id=70.

A reader pointed me to a description of the event where this talk was given:
http://www.zaytuna.org/eventDetails.asp?id=37.

The talk is now available in MP3 format from http://www.zaytuna.org/audio/From%20Hiroshima%20to%20London.mp3.

Review of Bones Episode 2 "The Man in the SUV"

I never intended this blog to review general media items, but I wrote this for another purpose, so I'm putting it up here also.

Bones, Episode #2. “The Man in the SUV” Originally aired: Tuesday September 20, 2005 on FOX Writer: Stephen Nathan Director: Allan Kroeker Guest Stars: Jose Zuniga (Mickey Santana) , Nicholas Massouh (Farid Masruk) , Anne Dudek (Tessa Jankow) , Bahar Soomekh (Sahar Masruk) , Federico Dordei (Ali Ladjavardi) , Said Faraj (Hamid Masruk) , Dave Roberson (Bennett Gibson) , Tracy Howe (Officer Javelona)

Any time I see a dramatic piece concerning violence and Muslims in the U.S., I notice the attempt to appear fair, non-stereotyping and somewhat factual, but more often than not the dramatic piece fails on almost all of these fronts.

Review: Sherman Jackson - Islam and the Blackamerican

Islam and the Black American: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection by Sherman Jackson. Oxford University Press (2005). ISBN 0-19-518081-X. 235 pages. Hardcover.

Review: Living Islam Out Loud-Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur

Living Islam Out Loud: American Muslim Women SpeakEd. Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur

Astrolabe, no.
Suq as-Sunnah, no.
NAIT's Islamic Book Service, no.
MeccaCentric Media, no.

Whatever your feelings about this collection of essays, I think the most disturbing fact is that none of the top Muslim media outlets carries it.

I read this in a few sittings over the course of two days. The essays are gripping. I found myself emotionally swinging between rejection and empathy, pity and admiration, anger and resignation, guilt and complacency, and, most importantly, despair and hope.

Highlights for me include:

Part II entitled "Love", where I read several demotivating essays about American Muslimat's affairs and marraiges. I say demotivating because every relationship done "by the book", the book we collectively created about sexual relationships, is negative. The only positive ones are those which violate our community norms, which I have of course spent my childhood and adult life imbibing and perpetuating. Is it possible to be psychologically healthy growing up Muslim in the United States? Is it better to arrive in the United States as a mature adult? Is it better to have spent one's youth completely ignorant of Islam and learn it as an adult?

"The Muslim in the Mirror" highlighted for me Professor Mohja Kahf's transformation from liberal Muslim to radical Muslim in her encounter with a Muslima whose husband was physically abusing her. And I believe "radical" is a positive term, meaning what we need is something really different from what we've been doing. Another great essay is "Being the Leader I Want to See in the World" by Asra Q. Nomani. Yes, it would be great if the Muslims who worked to fix our dysfunctional practices in the U.S. had the personal and outward piety of Imam Sahnun and Nana Asma'u. Since that situation does not obtain, we have to work on ourselves and at the same time do what we can. Ms. Nomani found a situation where wrong was occurring and nobody was taking responsibility, so she took action.

The absurdity of our hijab discourse was highlighted to me by the stories of Aroosha Zoq Rana and Inas Younis. Aroosha enjoyed singing and performing and had talent. She began to wear hjiab to protect herself from Muslims' criticism of her performances. Inas, already wearing hijab, considered wearing a khimar (face covering) to increase her devotion to God, even though she was struggling to cope with her Islam after her son was diagnosed with autism.

Sarah ElTantawi's article "A Message on the Clearing" returned the focus of my thoughts to what had always been my cental experience of Islam: salaa and reading Qur'an. Yet, throughout the volume, many authors revealed their first experiences of Islam to be scary, rules-oriented and alienating. Sarah's essay describes the Muslim's life as a journey from one clearing through difficult weeds to the next clearing. At each clearing, there is "enough cool water, laughter, and beauty to keep going, onward toward our final meeting with the truth." I think this is a good metaphor. Each of us, in our own spheres of influence, should be pulling the weeds that block a Muslim's path, just like the famous hadith about clearing an obstacle from the road being the least of the branches of belief. We should not be people who block the path of Allah (Al-Sadd `an sabiil Allah).

Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard's essay represented a great attitude-always learning in every situation, never allowing fatigue to be the excuse for giving up.

I liked that many authors identified their personal struggles as the means by which Allah helped them to correct defects in their understanding and practice of Islam.

I felt trepidation when I read phrases like listening to my inner voice, since I honestly don't trust my own voice and I think there are plenty of texts in the Qur'an where disbelievers trusted their own voices.

Is he, then, to whom the evil of his conduct is made alluring, so that he looks upon it as good, (equal to one who is rightly guided)? For Allah leaves to stray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. So let not thy soul go out in (vainly) sighing after them: for Allah knows well all that they do! Quran
35:8.

Oftentimes, on the Day of Judgement, they then confess that they really did know they were wrong. As a history major in school, I found that whole groups of people would trust their own voices as they plunged off cliffs.

I can say this for certain. I did not approve of or support every statement or action of every author. However, I know something is not right in the way I am and the way we collectively live in the U.S., and I think we need to really discuss the issues these authors raise.

Related Links:
http://livingislamoutloud.com/ This site has profiles of the authors.

Featured on Bill Thompson's Eye on Books-http://www.thebookcast.com/bc/bc110105.mp3 Saleemah's interview is at minute 9:45.

Tram Nguyen, the editor of ColorLines, has written a review at http://african-american.families.com/living-islam-out-loud.

Boston Globe Review by Vanessa E. Jones-http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2005/10/18/essays_open_eyes_to_the_diversity_of_american_muslim_women/
National Public Radio Interview on Ed Gordon's News and Notes-
Incidentally, I also looked at
http://onlineislamicstore.com/
None of which carried this book.
By Ayman H Fadel, at 11/20/2005 03:36:57 AM
Salaam 'AlaikumSubhan'Allah, I didn't even know about those other outlets. I rarely buy books online; Kazi is the only one that I know of (excluding the above, which I just learned of, except NoorArt, which I thought was for children's stuff only) that carries a very wide range of books -- from classical to modern conservatives to liberal. If this were three years ago, I'd say Sufi Books would carry it, but it's my understanding that they only carry books from Pir Press now (and the bricks-and-mortar store, which had everything from al Albani to ibn 'Arabi is gone). -- Umm Zaid

Review: Islamic Village Stories by Luqman Nagi

Islamic Village Stories by Luqman Nagi. Goodword Books, New Delhi, India. (2003-4).

This collection is available from Astrolabe (www.astrolabe.com).

The collection comes in a folded box with attractive graphics. The collection includes six hardcover volumes with the following titles:

My Yemeni Village, ISBN 81-7898-220-X. 22 pages
My Hausa Village, ISBN 81-7898-218-8, 22 pages
My Moroccan Village, ISBN 81-7898-219-6, 22 pages
My Palestinian Village, ISBN 81-7898-395-0, 32 pages
My Egyptian Village, ISBN 81-7898-229-3, 32 pages
My Chinese Village, ISBN 81-7898-311-7, 32 pages.

The books are an ethnographic portrayal of life from through the words of boy characters aged 10-14. These include descriptions of the agriculture practiced in the area, crafts, arts, cuisine, festivals and clothing. The author uses ancient civilizations’ artifacts which may be found in the area to discuss those ancient civilizations. The author also mentions some points about when and how the people in that area became predominantly Muslim. If the place is mentioned in the Qur’an, the author includes the reference. There is a glossary of foreign words in the back of each volume. The last page is a simple map of the region. The books’ illustrations are in color and generally well-done.

An illustrative example of the author’s method is My Chinese Village.

My name is Nur Muhammad `Abd al-Hamid and I live in Western China. I am a fourteen-year-old Uyghur Muslim boy, al-Hamdulillah. (p. 5)

Nur Muhammad then describes his language and its greeting phrase, a brief geographical description of his native Uyghuristan, the Uyghurs fighting alongside the Muslims in the 8th century C.E. and eventually adopting Islam over the next two centuries, the nomadic Turkic origins of the Uyghurs, their agricultural products and unique technologies such as the kariz or water canal, the homes’ construction materials and layout, the role of the domesticated yak in Uyghur village life, relations with the nomadic peoples of the region, the market and the infrastructure which supported the caravans traveling between China and Europe, the discovery of archeologists of an ancient written European language called Tocharian once used in the region and a biography of Mahmud al-Kahsghari, and Uyghur living in Baghdad who compiled an encyclopedia of the Turkish peoples in the 11th century C.E.

My purpose in writing this long, difficult sentence was to show how much great information the author was able to put into a surprisingly readable narrative.

This book meets many of the five criteria I’ve come up with for a quality Muslim children’s book.

1. I don’t see anything which violates the principles and rules of Islam.
2. It’s weak on the entertainment value, but it’s great for the children 11-15 who enjoy reading and learning about other places in the world. And honestly, even though I have read college level material about many of these topics, I still learned some things.
3. In general, it avoids alienating the child from the larger North American society because the children the stories take place outside of North America or the United Kingdom, where I assume most of the readers live. Of course, knowing something about the rest of the world in and of itself may alienate the child from the present-day United States, but that can’t be helped!
4. The books would have improved if the child narrators included girls. This is a serious problem.

Besides the geographical, historical and ethnographic information, the reader also learns about how material culture supports the practice of Islam, i.e. the use of wooden slates in learning how to read Qur’an and the varieties of mosque construction, from the Bedouins’ laying out a row of rocks to the elaborate structures in Muslim cities.

Besides the lack of female voice, the biggest problem with these books is their use of Muslim triumphalist language which would make it difficult for them to be used in public schools in the United States or purchased by public libraries here.

For example, after describing village housing construction techniques in Egypt dating to the pre-Christian era, the author writes:

Today, we of course are Muslims, al-Hamdulillah. The days of the pharaohs are buried in the past. We can no longer even imagine worshipping any god other than Allah, Rabb al-`Ameen [sic], the True Diety who sent to us His final Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad , as a mercy to all nations. (p. 10, My Egyptian Village)

Of course we Muslims, and Egyptian Muslims in particular, are thankful for Allah’s guidance away from the worship of humans and objects to the worship of Allah alone. I believe that there are plenty of books which promote pride and identity in Muslim children, and I use these in our masjid’s weekend school. However, there is, in the United States, a large percentage of Muslim children whose only exposure to books portraying a positive image of Muslims like these might be at public schools and public libraries. I would encourage authors and publishers to think beyond the “Muslim” market and produce books which can be accepted in the wider society.

Another problem, as illustrated by the passage above, is inadequate editing. The author includes some Arabic in the drawings, but there are grammatical or syntax errors.

Overall, I do believe the good far outweighs the bad, and in sha Allah the defects can be corrected in future printings or in subsequent editions of this series. Muslim parents can definitely purchase these books for their great educational value.

The author has another book in this series, My Turkish Village, available at http://www.safabooks.com.

P.S. After reading My Chinese Village, I would be remiss if I did not put in a plug for the joint Chinese-Japanese documentaries about the Silk Road, available at Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1586640054/ref=nosim/104-8772461-1239923?n=130.

Last updated July 14, 2006.

Review: Securing the Remembrance

Securing the Remembrance: A Practical Approach towards Memorizing the Quran by Sohail Arif Bengali. Softcover. 64 pages.

Who will benefit from reading this book?
Those who have embarked on the path of memorizing the Qur’an or are considering it.
Those who understood the virtues of memorization and wish to pursue the Qur’an as part of their path to Allah’s pleasure.
The book is a great reminder of the importance of having huffaz in every city where Muslims live. It is a great reminder of the benefits of learning Qur’an. What distinguishes it is its simplicity of style and inclusion of practical suggestions for getting the most benefit out of memorization.

Available from http://www.lulu.com/content/66389.

Last updated August 22, 2006.

Review: The Absolute Essentials of Islam by Faraz Rabbani

The Absolute Essentials of Islam: Faith, Prayer, and the Path of Salvation According to the Hanafi School by Faraz Fareed Rabbani. ISBN 0972835849. 49 pp. Softcover.

One of the saddest things I’ve seen is the misinformation and/or unwisely sequenced information “new” Muslims sometimes endure in the United States. And when I say new, it could be somebody who is the first person in his family to have accepted Islam or someone whose family includes Muslims and who has never learned anything about Islam and wants to learn and practice more. The dangers of misinformation about Islam are obvious-“You must cut yourself off from your non-Muslim spouse or relatives.” “You must dress a certain way.” “You must get married now.” Yet, improperly sequenced information is nearly as dangerous. By this I mean asking a new Muslim to take on too many hardships before he or she is able to do so. If the Muslim does have a “haram” business, don’t ask him to reach for the higher ledge until he’s found some firm footholds in the basics. Don’t talk to him about fana and `irfan before he can at least understand al-Fatiha.

I attended a lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Lang in West Lafayette, IN some years ago. Using chalk, he drew a line dividing the chalkboard in half and said this side is “constrained” by la ilaha illa Allah. He then divided this in half again and said that this quadrant is “constrained” by wa Muhammadun rasuul Allah. All Muslims can agree that these are valid constraints, and of course we would probably add some more regarding the Qur’an, the Last Day, prayer, zakaa, etc. But he went on to say that when we add invalid constraints, such as “Muslims must do hajj every year,” then some people might then not want to be Muslims who, if they had correct information, would be Muslims.

This lengthy introduction is my way of emphasizing the importance of this book. It functions like the “Quick Start Guide” to the newest gadget you have purchased. A new Muslim can take this book and get started with Islam. The book covers basic beliefs and the rituals which become obligatory immediately upon becoming a Muslim. Of course, things are not covered in detail, but the new Muslim could then focus his/her learning efforts in that direction.

Ideally, this book could serve as the outline for a class at a masjid for “new” Muslims.

I purchased this book from http://www.astrolabe.com.

Last updated August 21, 2006.

Muslim Media Review Moves to Blogger.com

My first entry for the Muslim Media Review was in March 2005. I had started the blog using MSN Spaces. This morning, I did a simple test using poplular search engines. The only search engine that referred to material in my blog on MSN spaces was MSN's search engine. I participate in another blogger.com blog, namely Ihsan, and my posts there were showing up on search engines. So I've moved the Muslim Media Review to blogger.com in the hopes of getting more visibility and traffic.