Bargaining from a position of moral clarity


ramadanThat’s what Tariq Ramadan says should be the attitude of Muslims in the West and anything less than that is unacceptable.

The leaders of ISNA can boast a proud record of service to American Muslims, for which they must be thanked and congratulated. The annual ISNA convention is an important gathering, featuring a multiplicity of participants and a broad cross-section of activities. In recent years, however, the political positions taken by the organization’s leadership have not always been clear-cut. Though it is essential, I believe, to remain open to dialogue with the authorities, it is likewise essential that positions of principle must be maintained, re-affirmed and defended. Not simply for the good of the Muslims, but in the name of the contribution of American Muslims to their society. Criticism of the domestic policy of the current administration, like those that preceded it, is a moral obligation. Summary arrests, arbitrary prison terms, inhuman psychological torture and solitary confinement, the shadowy role of informers and the deeply troubling and unacceptable methods used by the FBI, which has provoked young people to engage in extremist actions, must be unconditionally condemned. Not in the name of Islam, but in the name of the values proclaimed by the United States. However, the ISNA leadership is too often silent, as if paralyzed by fear. It fares no better with respect to American foreign policy. Its silence over American support for the outlaw and inhuman policies of Israel cannot be justified, even less so after attending an iftar organized by the White House during which President Obama defended Israel while the Israeli ambassador tweeted his delight! We cannot be forever silent: what kind of active and responsible citizenship does the ISNA leadership offer young American Muslims? What kind of example? That of silent, fearful sycophants–or of free, public-spirited citizens who, while defending the values of human dignity and justice, serve their country in the most sincere and critical way? That of the unconditional loyalty of the timorous, or the critical loyalty of free individuals? To attend the ISNA convention would be to endorse their silence.

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GAZA…..again


It should come as no surprise the Israeli government is on another blood lust for Palestinian land and souls.  Gaza, the open air prison that rivals Guantanamo Bay is being relentlessly bombarded because of Hamas rockets fired on Israel.

Israelis look at a crater caused by a rocket outside a shop in Ashdod, on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, Wednesday, July 9, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israelis look at a crater caused by a rocket outside a shop in Ashdod, on the second day of Operation Protective Edge, Wednesday, July 9, 2014 (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Since this latest “provocation” by Hamas a total of ONE Israeli has been killed and that AFTER the Israeli retaliatory strikes whereas scores of Palestinians have been killed or murdered.  Numbers are irrelevant and there are no equivalences…..you don’t slaughter innocents in retaliation…unless you’re the Israeli government.

What’s newsworthy and drawn me to post is the latest attempt at a cease fire advocated by Hamas.  Here are the “terms

First – Opening all the crossing with the Gaza Strip.

Second – Opening Rafah crossing, the link between Gaza and Egypt, on a permanent basis, 24 hours per day with international guarantees it will not be closed.

Third – A maritime corridor to Gaza.

Fourth – Allowing residents of the Gaza Strip to pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Fifth – Israel will release the prisoners who were freed as part of the “Shalit” deal, and Israel will abide by the previous agreement reached by prisoners and the Israel Prison Service with Egyptian mediation in 2012.

 

Hold your breath if you think Israel will accede to these conditions; they are too busy trying to acquire the land they want Palestinians to leave with threats of military invasion of Gaza if they don’t go.

Gaza after an Israeli strike on July 8, 2014

Gaza after an Israeli strike on July 8, 2014

And if you’re counting on the Americans to broker peace there forget that one too.  Obama’s shameless pandering to the Israelis was no more evident than at the “iftar” meal he held for Muslims at the White House earlier this week, where the Israeli ambassador to America was also present.  There Obama asserted there is  justification on the part of Israel for its slaughter because of the destruction being rained down upon it by Hamas rockets. Hardly…The Israeli Ambassador, Ron Dermer, was delighted by Obama’s stand, tweeting,

.@WhiteHouse for Iftar dinner. Appreciate strong statement there by President Obama about Israel’s right to defend itself.

— Amb. Ron Dermer (@AmbDermer) July 15, 2014

As in your face as one can get; being invited to a party being held for someone else and then humiliating them the honorees, but that’s Israel.  That’s what they’ve been doing and allowed to do for decades. It was bad enough to get get Tariq Ramadan to write

It was supposed to be an evening where the American President showed respect to a religious community, to the millions of American Muslims who have been fasting during the sacred month of Ramadan.

It was supposed to be a political expression of respect. It ended up being a political instrumentalisation of (voluntarily) trapped Muslim leaders listening to President Obama justify the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians, declaring Israel has the right to defend itself. One wonders what is the relationship between the Iftar celebration and Israel ? What is the US administration’s implicit-explicit intention in putting the Muslim leaders in such an embarrassing situation? To test their loyalty or rather their capacity to compromise or betray? They obviously remained silent.

The Israeli ambassador, Mr. Ron Dermer, also invited (why?), was actually the first to speak. One must remember what he said about Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims : Palestinians have “a cultural tendency towards belligerency” that is “deeply embedded in the culture of the Arab world and its foremost religion”. This is the man who was invited to celebrate Iftar with the Muslims meanwhile his Government is destroying Gaza. From the White House he tweeted, triumphantly : “@WhiteHouse for Iftar dinner. Appreciate strong statement there by President Obama about Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Obviously Muslim leaders didn’t tweet. It was enough of an honor for them to be invited to the White House and to have met the President. An honor, truly, dear Muslim leaders? Ordinary Muslims (and proponents of justice and dignity from other religions) in the US and around the world, as well as Palestinians, might think differently.

That just about sums it up.

 

 

Music and Islam


I’m a big fan of Tariq Ramadan who has done a commendable job of incorporating his very Western personality into his Islamic way of life and I have often quoted him here at Miscellany101.wordpress.com.   He wrote a piece indirectly about music, more directly about Yousuf Islam and there are several points he made that resonated with me which I wanted to share here.

For Muslim women and men around the world, his story embodies a powerful lesson. We hear of “Islamic chants” (anacheeds) that are supposedly “Islamic” because they express religious themes, or because they employ no instruments, or because they are based on traditional or Qur’anic texts. In this light, only such chants are permissible (halal) in Islam, the only form of creativity recognized. There are indeed scholars who hold such a position, but it is far from unanimous. In To Be a European Muslim (written in 1996) I dealt with these views and took a clear position on music in Islam. Not only is it permitted, but Muslim women and men must also reconcile themselves with art, with creativity, and with the imagination in all its dimensions. Guided by their ethical bearings, they must not allow themselves to be enchained by the adjective “Islamic” that ends up isolating them, suffocating them, and depriving them of their creative energy in the universe of art, of music, painting, sculpture and literature. Muslims are constantly justifying themselves; they feel obliged to describe everything as “Islamic” to satisfy and to conform to the norm. But our ethical concerns must not force upon us an obsession with the norms of “licit” and “illicit” (halal and haram).

Seen in this light, any song, any form of artistic expression that celebrates humanity, love, justice, the quest for meaning, and peace is, in fact, in full conformity with Muslim ethics and needs no further qualifiers. Meaning, hopes and human edification are to be felt and to be lived; they have no need of a normative framework that bridles and ultimately annihilates them. The expression of ultimate ethical causes in art transcends the narrow limitations of specific ways of belonging, and brings together the universal quality of all that is most precious to humans, who can feel themselves uplifted, broadened, vibrating, becoming more human, more peaceful; who can feel themselves being regenerated by a voice, a hand, a pen or a brush. Music can be a prayer, a painting a path, a song a story: as long as art speaks to mankind of its heart, its wounds, its hopes, tears, smiles and aspirations, it forms the universal language of humankind and can bring about by way of imagination, emotion and the heart what no dialogue of reason or of civilizations can hope to offer.

EGYPT – A CALL IT IS TIME FOR THE CIVIL SOCIETY TO SPEAK OUT


Tariq Ramadan

The situation in Egypt is serious and the future seems bleak. Anything can happen. Although the specter of civil war is not yet a reality, one must consider all scenarios and act accordingly. It seems that the Power (both civilians and military) are divided on the strategy to be adopted. Some want to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood and their organization, others want to impose conditions of survival without power, thus maintaining the illusion of a pluralistic and democratic future. All are reducing their opponents as only the “Muslim Brotherhood”, demonizing and calling them “terrorists” and “extremists.” Repression increases radicalization and justifies, a posteriori, the repression itself. A vicious cycle that we have seen in the modern history of Egypt.

Opponents to the coup, and among them the Muslim Brotherhood, have been rallying peacefully and they continue to demonstrate despite the state of emergency. Resistance, for several weeks, was non-violent and should remain so despite the provocations of military and police whose strategies are known. Mass executions or targeted, bribe of offenders (known as the baltaguiyya) to push them to attack the demonstrators, with, in addition, the increase in fires Coptic churches in order to widen the sectarian divide and feed bills (Sadat and Mubarak had used the same strategy).

While these protests continue to be peaceful, civil society – all tendencies – opposed to violence and military, must mobilize and form a united front around common, clear, bold but realistic position . A national coalition to be formed with women and men of the civil society – secular, Islamist, Copts, women, young activists – who are willing to open channels of dialogue with the authorities and asked:

egyptian protest

1. End of repression 2. The release of political prisoners, leaders and members of political parties, which would result, in fact, with the end of demonstrations 3. Determining the steps that should bring back the political process to the civilians, based on a negotiated political agenda and future elections.

REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Civil society must now speak out and refuse false rhetoric that spreads around that the Army is only opposed to Islamists. What is at stake is the democratic future of Egypt and it will never be positive with the Army in control. Actors of the civil society should indulge in self criticism (for their failure) and, at the same time, work together to overcome the crisis. Being a passive, non-violent observer of violence is, indeed, to make the indirect choice of violence.

 

Look what we have here


Islamophobes really need to read and listen to what American Muslims say about their religion instead of relying on what some other Islamophobe says about it.  (Peter King are you listening?) I was directed to this rather extraordinary website by the excellent website The American Muslim.  Apostasy and Islam was put together by a Muslim American academic Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq, whose main purpose was to authentically refute  the notion that Islam condemns killing Muslims who convert to another religion.  That assertion has been one of the main cries of Islamophobes who claim that Islam, contrary to the religious texts, is not a religion of freedom but of coercion, force and fear.  Farooq will have none of that…having compiled 100 sources that directly refute the claim.  Take a look

As presented in excerpts from numerous sources below, and links to works available online, there is no worldly punishment solely for apostasy [i.e., changing of one’s faith/religion] mentioned in the Qur’an. ……

…..there is no hadith confirming punishment or retribution solely for apostasy. In every single case, where punishment has been meted out, riddah involved treason or rebellion. The following is an example of how the Prophet dealt with solely apostasy.

A bedouin gave the Pledge of allegiance to Allah’s Apostle for Islam. Then the bedouin got fever at Medina, came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Cancel my Pledge,” But Allah’s Apostle refused. Then he came to him (again) and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Cancel my Pledge.” But the Prophet refused Then he came to him (again) and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Cancel my Pledge.” But the Prophet refused. The bedouin finally went out (of Medina) whereupon Allah’s Apostle said, “Medina is like a pair of bellows (furnace): It expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good. [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, #318]

Notably, as Dr. M. E. Subhani explained in his book: “This was an open case of apostasy. But the Prophet neither punished the Bedouin nor asked anyone to do it. He allowed him to leave Madina. Nobody harmed him.”

Or there is this

Some people accepted Islam during the period of Umar bin Abdul Aziz, who is called the fifth rightful caliph of Islam. All these people renounced Islam sometimes later. Maimoon bin Mahran the governor of the area wrote to the caliph about these people. In reply Umar bin Abdul Aziz ordered him to release those people and asked him to re-impose jizya on them. [Musannaf Abdur Razzaq, pp. 171-10, cited in M. E. Subhani,Apostasy in Islam (New Delhi, India: Global Media Publications, 2005), pp. 23-24. Abdur Razzaq ibn Humama (d. 211 AH). This is the earliest musannaf (a hadith collection arranged in topical chapters) work in existence.]

From Egypt, which just recently elected an “Islamist” president comes this pronouncement

“The Islamic Research Department of Al-Azhar University has called the penalty for apostasy as null and void and has said that the ways of repentance are open for the whole life. … So an apostate can repent over his mistake anytime during his life and there would be no fixed period for it.” [Al-Alamul Islami, the weekly organ of Rabita Alam al-Islami, 23rd August 2002, quoted in Dr. M. E. Subhani, Global Media Publications, 2005, p. 25]

From one of the sons of the dreaded Muslim Brotherhood, the much maligned organization that is pointed to in order to show extremism, comes this tidbit from Tariq Ramadan

I have been criticised about this in many countries. My view is the same as that of Sufyan Al-Thawri, an 8th-century scholar of Islam, who argued that the Koran does not prescribe death for someone because he or she is changing religion. Neither did the Prophet himself ever perform such an act. Many around the Prophet changed religions. But he never did anything against them. There was an early Muslim, Ubaydallah ibn Jahsh, who went with the first emigrants from Mecca to Abyssinia. He converted to Christianity and stayed, but remained close to Muslims. He divorced his wife, but he was not killed.” [Interview: Tariq Ramadan]

From the equally maligned American Islamic organization CAIR comes this

Islamic scholars say the original rulings on apostasy were similar to those for treasonous acts in legal systems worldwide and do not apply to an individual’s choice of religion. Islam advocates both freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, a position supported by verses in the Quran, Islam’s revealed text … ‘Religious decisions should be matters of personal choice, not a cause for state intervention. Faith imposed by force is not true belief, but coercion. Islam has no need to compel belief in its divine truth. As the Quran states: ‘Truth stands out clear from error. Therefore, whoever rejects evil and believes in God has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks.’ (2:256)

Finally, Muslims living in America have this to say about apostasy in Islam and what if anything should be the punishment

…the Qur’an is the definitive clear authority for protecting the rights of an individual in expressing himself in faith and supercedes any of the distorted interpretations of the hadiths in question. Executing a person because of conversion to another faith contradicts the Qur’an, the ultimate source of Shari’ah.” [The Ruling on Apostasy]-(Muhammad Hanooti)

The Quran states categorically and unequivocally, there shall be no coercion in matters of faith. (2:256). This cornerstone tenet of Islamic faith is violated when an individual is put on trial for converting away from Islam. This verse, very clearly teaches that faith is a personal matter between the individual and God. (Islamic Center of Long Island, New York)

Discussions of Islamic law by non-Muslims (and, all too often, by Muslims as well) suffer from confusion between the concepts of apostasy and treason. The majority view is that the death penalty applies only to treason during wartime, including providing aid and comfort to the enemy, rather than mere conversion. According to the Constitution [Article III, section 3], treason consists only ‘in levying war against [the United States], or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.’ That Muhammad shared this view can be seen in the fact that he never executed apostates except when they made war or propaganda against the Muslims. (Dr. Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad President/Director, Minaret of Freedom Institute, Maryland, USA

 

One could go on and on, but the evidence is there on the printed page for all to see and it clearly dispels the notions put forth by Islamophobes that people in the West should be fearful for their lives if they leave the Islamic religion.  Surely there are some who believe that but there is no substantive textual evidence that justifies killing someone because they have stopped being Muslim.  This literature is vast, authentic and easily available.  One should ask the question why is it not mentioned by the detractors of Islam; what else is it they don’t want you to really know about the religion of Islam?

The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree


This is what the father, Said Ramadan, taught the son

Muslims have ignored the task which should be their specific concern, namely love of God and the strengthening of the ties of love among people for His sake.  If a person should succeed in this task he would have set the firmest foundation in the depths of soul, sown the seed for every flourishing virtue and established an impregnable fortress against most external threats and tests.

The word “love” which people have so misused and abused, is that mighty word which distinguishes the followers of the Prophets and on which their societies were built.  It is the ‘elixir’ which binds these followers to goodness, creating a true bond which even makes suffering seem sweet in its pursuit.  By the same token it  has fashioned the ties that bind them together – ties of soul over and above the intellect, ties which are not subverted by differences of opinion.  These ties are above materialistic interests and are not swayed by any particular passing whim.

and this is what the son internalized and remembers of  his father

I remember still his presence and his silence. The long silences lodged deep in mind and memory ; the thoughts that were often bitter. The keen eye and piercing gaze that bore his warmth, his kindness and his tears ; that carried his determination, his commitment and anger as well. How often I attempted, as a child, to read the look in the powerful, suggestive and questioning eyes that accompanied his words to my heart. Those same words awakened me, troubled and shook me. I was not alone. Everyone who met him experienced his power. He had penetrated to the heart of things, and expected others to do the same. And yet he did so with compassion, with intelligence, for he feared causing harm, causing hurt. Behind his hesitancy lay his kindness, and often his awkwardness.

Early on, I learned at his side how the world feeds on lies, rumors and scandal mongering. When men lose morality they return to the jungle and become wolves. Around him were many such men ; men who fought and sullied him for political gain, men who turned their backs on him for professional gain and men who betrayed him for financial gain. So much was said, written and lied about him : that he’d met men whom he’d never seen, heard words that had never been spoken, had been involved in secret plots he never dreamed of. In my memory echo the words of one of his traveling companions : “He could have been a millionaire, not by flattering kings, but by simply agreeing to keep silent. He refused ; he spoke the truth and spoke it again and again, before God, without fear of loosing everything.”

I remember a story that my elder brother Aymen retold what seemed like a thousand times, a story that always brought tears to my eyes. He was fifteen years old when he heard it, in the course of a journey that found him and our father in the presence of wealthy princes : “The money that you wish to give me is placed in the palm of my hand ; as for myself, by God’s command, I only work for that which is deposited in and reaches men’s hearts…” Despite his material difficulties, he rejected the exorbitant amounts of money he was offered, and did so in the name of his faith in God, of his devotion to the truth and of his love for justice. Aymen has never forgotten ; it shaped him and he passed it on.

My father learned everything from the man who gave him so much, offered him so much and who, from a very early age, trained and protected him. On that subject he was inexhaustible. Hasan al-Banna, through his total devotion to God and His teachings, brought light to his heart and showed him the way to commitment. To those who criticized al-Banna without ever having met or heard him, or those who had simply read him, my father explained how much spirituality, love, fraternity and humility he had learnt at his side. For hours on end, he could summon up from memory the events and instants that had left their mark on him when he was just like his son ; and when he was respectfully known throughout Egypt as “little Hasan al-Banna,” or the “little Guide.” His master’s profound faith, his devotion and his intelligence, his knowledge, open-mindedness and kindness were the qualities that sprang to mind whenever his name was mentioned.

How often father spoke of his mentor’s unyielding commitment to the struggle against colonialism and injustice and for the sake of Islam. But Hasan al-Banna’s determination never justified violence, which he rejected just as he rejected the idea of “an Islamic revolution.” The only exception was Palestine. Here, al-Banna’s message was clear : armed resistance was the only way to foil the plans of the Irgun terrorists and to confront the Zionist colonizers. Father had learned from Hasan al-Banna, as he put it one day, “to put my forehead to the ground.” For the true meaning of prayer is to give meaning, in humility, to an entire life. At his feet he learned love for God, patience, painstaking work, the value of education and of solidarity. Finally, he learned to give everything. After the assassination of his master, in 1949, he integrated what he had learned and sacrificed everything in order to give voice to the liberating message of Islam. History is written by the mighty ; the worst calumnies were uttered about Imam Hasan al-Banna. Never did he cease to write, and to speak the truths that had nurtured him. But the despots’ love of power brought only death, bloodshed and torture.

He had just turned twenty when al-Banna named him editor of his magazine, al-Shihab. Then he volunteered for service in Palestine, at age twenty-one, fighting to defend Jerusalem. In 1948, at twenty-two, he went to Pakistan where he was approached about assuming the post of Secretary General of the World Islamic Congress. But his determination terrified the “diplomats.” He stayed on in Pakistan for several months, participating in debates about constitutional questions and producing a weekly radio program on Islam and the Muslim world that brought him wide popularity among young people and intellectuals.

Returning to Egypt, he threw himself into a campaign for social and political reform, traveling across the country, giving lectures, and chairing meetings. In 1952, he launched a monthly magazine modeled on al-Shihab, called al-Muslimun , for which some of the greatest Muslim scholars were to write and which would be distributed from Morocco to Indonesia in both Arabic and English. But Hasan al-Banna, well before his assassination, had given his followers a stern warning : the road will be long, and its mileposts will be pain, sadness and adversity. He knew, as did all those who accompanied him, that they would endure lies, humiliation, torture, exile and death. For him it was to be exile. Nasser had deceived him and his colleagues, jailed them, executed them. In 1954 he was forced to leave Egypt, not to return until August 8,1995, in his coffin : forty-one years of exile, suffering, commitment and sacrifice for God and justice—and against dictatorship and hypocrisy. Exile is the ultimate condition of faith. His path was a long one, the hardships and the sorrows manifold and unending. First in Palestine where he was named General Secretary of the World Islamic Congress of Jerusalem before being banned from the city by Glubb Pasha, himself following American orders. Then, in Damascus were he relaunched al-Muslimun with Mustafa al-Siba’i, and soon after, to Lebanon, before arriving in Geneva in 1958. In 1959 he obtained his Doctorate in Cologne, and published his thesis under the title ‘Islamic Law : its Scope and Equity’ in which he presented a synthesis of the fundamental positions of Hasan al-Banna on the subject of the Shari’a, law, political organization and religious pluralism. It was an essential book, the first of its kind in a European language, to posit Islam as a universal reference. It reflected is author’s conviction and determination and at the same time a clear-cut and unmistakable commitment to open mindedness—and never once the slightest acceptance of violence.

IN 1961 he founded the Islamic Centre of Geneva with the support and participation of Muhammad Natsir, Muhammad Asad, Muhammad Hamidullah, Zafar Ahmad Ansari and Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi—outstanding figures and faithful brothers in the same struggle. This Islamic centre was to be a model for others like it in Munich, London, Washington and, more generally, throughout the West. Its aim was to provide immigrant Muslims in Europe or the USA stay connected with their religion and to find a place of welcome and reflection. The Centre would likewise be a hub of activity for the presentation of Islam, for a publication program, and for analysis of current issues—all without external constraint. The Geneva Centre published numerous books and facsimiles in Arabic, English, French and German, and re-launched al-Muslimun, which ceased publication in 1967. Meanwhile he planned the creation of the Muslim World League, whose first statutes he drafted. His commitment was total ; the Saudi funds he received via the League, which was at that time opposed to the Nasser regime, came with no particular conditions, commitment or obligation of political silence. When, at the end of the 1960s, the Muslim World League, which had by them come under much more direct Saudi influence, made its financial support conditional, insisting that it would take over the Islamic Centre and its activities, he refused. Then in 1971, all funding was cut off. He had never doubted that the road he must travel would be long and hard ; such was the cost of independent thought and action. Many came to know and appreciate him during those years. He traveled to many countries—speaking publicly in Malaysia, staying for protracted periods in England, Austria or in the USA, creating links as he went, introducing his profound, analytical thought with its underpinning of spirituality and love. Even such a luminary as Mawdudi thanked him for awakening him from his unconsciousness ; Muhammad Asad was grateful to him for having brought him to know, or rather to feel profoundly the thought of Hasan al-Banna. Malek Shabbaz (Malcolm X) heard in the kitchen of the Islamic Centre of Geneva that no race is chosen and that no Arab, no more than a black person, is superior to his white brother, except by piety. Malcolm X took the lesson to heart so deeply that his last written words, at the eve of his death in February 1965, were addressed to my father. Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) paid him numerous visits in his London hostel ; later he would tell me how much he remembered Said Ramadan’s fine intelligence, calling him “so sweet a man.” In 1993, in a meeting at Geneva Airport, the scholar Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi showed him all the signs of infinite respect. When I visited him years later in Lucknow, India, the site of the Nadwat al-‘Ulama’, al-Nadwi recalled with deep emotion one of his visits and the memories that it had left him. In exile, far from his own, exposed to political and financial harassment, and assailed by problems large and small, he worried and tormented his mind while keeping intact the essential : a deep faith and sense of fraternity, the eyes of tenderness and the highest standards of behavior.

His room : piles of documents and magazines ; here a telephone, there a radio and a television set, stacks of books, opened or annotated. The world was at his fingertips. Whoever stepped into his universe could not but be struck by a story, a past, a life, by sadness and solitude, by the multitude of memories alongside an incomparable grasp of current events. He maintained constant contact—that of emotional involvement—with the most distant lands. He knew almost everything that was going on in Tajikistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. He kept track of developments in Washington, Los Angeles, Harlem, London, Munich, Paris, Karachi and Geneva. His horizon seethed with information. He suffered so much and with such intensity in that room of his, from the state of the world, from the lies and the massacres, the prison sentences and the torture. His political intuition was breathtaking ; it was easy to understand why he was feared.

But analysis of current events was not enough for him. Everything interested him, from technology and medicine to science and ecology. He knew what was needed for a thoroughgoing reform in Islam. His curiosity, always alert, always lucid, knew no limits. He had traveled the world ; henceforth the world would come into his room. Where once there had been crowds, scholars, presidents and kings, now only observation, analysis and deep sadness remained. In his solitude, though, there was the Qur’an ; and in his isolation, there were invocations mingled with tears. He gave his children symbolic names, names from the history of persecution and boundless determination. A thread of complicity connected him with each one of us ; we held his undivided attention, shared the sensitivity of our relationship with him, and his love. With Aymen, it was his success and wounds ; with Bilal, his potential and his heartbreak ; with Yasser, his presence, his generous devotion and his patience ; with Arwa, his complicity and silences ; with Hani, his commitment and his determination. He convinced each of us to believe in our own qualities. He reminded each of us that he had given us the best of mothers, she who is, with all the qualities of her heart, his most precious gift.

After more than forty years in exile, after an entire life lived for God, faith and justice, he knew that his last hour had come. In night’s darkest hours he spoke again and again of love, fraternity and affection. A few months before returning to God, he told me, with all the power of his sad, tearful gaze : “Our problem is one of spirituality. If a man comes to speak to me about reform in the Muslim world, about political strategy and geopolitical schemes, my first question to him would be whether he performed the dawn prayer (fajr) on time.” He had a keen eye for the agitation in each of us, including my own. He reminded not to forget the essentials, to be close to God in order to know how to be close to men. After an entire lifetime of struggle, his hair turned grey by time, he reminded me : “Power is not our objective ; we have nothing to do with it. Our goal is love of the Creator, the fraternity and justice of Islam. This is our message to dictators.” Late at night, in that famous room, he spoke of himself. The link with God is the path, spirituality, the light of the road. One day as he looked back upon his life, he told me : “Our ethical behavior, our awareness of good and evil is weapon used against us by despots, lovers of titles, power and money. They do what we cannot do ; they lie as we cannot lie ; they betray as we cannot betray and kill as we cannot kill. Our accountability before God is, in their eyes, our weakness. This apparent weakness is our real strength.”

That strength gave him energy until the very last. He remained deeply faithful to the message. To him I owe the understanding that to speak of God means, above all else, to speak of love, of the heart and fraternity. To him I owe the knowledge that solitude with God is better than neglect with men. To him I owe the feeling that deep sadness can never exhaust one’s faith in God. His generosity, his kindness and his knowledge were his most precious gifts. I thank God for giving me the gift of this father, at whose side I discovered that faith is love. Love of God and men in the face of trial and adversity. Hasan al-Banna taught us : “Be like a fruit tree. If they attack you with stones, respond with fruits.” How well he had learned the lesson, then made it his own in the most intimate sense of the word. Observer of the world, far from the crowd, in the solitude of his room, after years of combat without respite for the sake of God, against treachery and corruption, his words drew their energy from the Sources and from the rabbaniyya (the essential link with the Creator). He never ceased speaking about God, about the heart and about the intimacy of this Presence. He had learnt the essential, and he summoned people directly to the essential.

Now he lies at rest next to the one who taught him the way, Hasan al-Banna. May God have mercy on them. He had returned from exile only in death for despots fear the words of the living. But the silence of the dead is fraught with meaning, just like the supplications of those who suffer injustice : bitter words, but words of truth. Thus the Prophet (pbuh) has commanded us : “We are from God and to Him is our return.” on Friday August 4 1995, just before dusk, God called to him a man. A man, a son, a husband, a brother, a father-in-law, a grandfather, my father. The sole merit of those who remain will be to testify, day after day, their faithfulness to his memory and teaching. To love God, to respond to His call, walk side by side with men, to live and learn how to die, to live in order to learn how to die, whatever the obstacles and whatever the cost. Said Ramadan spent 41 years, almost an entire lifetime, in exile. What remains are his words, his vision and his determination. This life is not Life.

May God receive him in His mercy, forgive him his sins and open for him the gates of Peace in the company of the Prophets, the pious and the just.

May God make me for my children the father my father was for me.

Two generations and more drilled with the theme of love and devotion to God first and to one another and the rest of humanity under the banner of Islam.  That’s not a theme, love, that we commonly hear associated by corporate media with Islam, but it is an authentic one, practiced by Tariq Ramadan and his father before him and his grandfather before him. It is consistently practiced by Muslims like the Ramadan family all over the world and its face needs to be seen more often, internalized and passed on to more and more people.

The Ramadan Chronicles



An explanation of “jihad” that you might not see or hear from corporate media.