Articles of Interest, March 17th, 2008

Church: Obama ex-pastor is under unfair attack

Story Highlights

  • The Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s former church criticized the news media Sunday
  • They said his “character is being assassinated in the public sphere”
  • Wright’s former parishioner Barack Obama denounced his sermons
  • Wright used racial epithet in a sentence about Hillary Clinton

Editor’s Note: The following report contains objectionable language.

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Barack Obama and his church’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in a 2005 photograph.

(CNN) — The Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s former church criticized the news media Sunday for coverage of his sermons, saying in a statement that Wright’s “character is being assassinated in the public sphere.”

Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Illinois, defended Wright, saying he “has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe.”

The statement came two days after Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, a longtime friend of Wright and attendee of the church, denounced sermons that have become the subject of recent controversy. Obama called them “inflammatory and appalling.”

“It is an indictment on Dr. Wright’s ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite,” the Rev. Otis Moss III, the current pastor of the church, said in the statement.

“The African-American Church was born out of the crucible of slavery, and the legacy of prophetic African-American preachers since slavery has been and continues to heal broken, marginalized victims of social and economic injustices,” Moss added.

“This is an attack on the legacy of the African-American Church, which led and continues to lead the fight for human rights in America and around the world.”

In the same statement, the Rev. John H. Thomas, the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ — the denomination to which Wright’s church belongs — said the news media were creating a “caricature” of his congregation.

“It’s time for us to say ‘No’ to these attacks and declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends,” Thomas said.

The sermons in question became the subject of scrutiny last week after being highlighted in an ABC News report.

At one December service, Wright argued Clinton’s road to the White House is easier than Obama‘s because of her skin color.

Hillary was not a black boy raised in a single-parent home; Barack was,” Wright says in a video of the sermon posted on YouTube. “Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people. Hillary! Hillary ain’t never been called a ‘nigger!’ Hillary has never had her people defined as a non-person.”

Wright, who retired this year from his post, also says in the video, “Who cares about what a poor black man has to face every day in a country and in a culture controlled by rich white people?”

In denouncing those sermons Friday, Obama defended his 20-year relationship with Wright, saying that the pastor has served him in a spiritual role — not a political one.

  • Let me say this much, anyone who doesn’t think this has gone too far is lacking in the moral department. It should be quite apparent the scorched Earth, divide and conquer plan that is just heating up. The only way to defeat Obama who is the people’s candidate is to scare the hell out of white Americans and divide the country into white and black, red and blue, and use that as a catalyst to keep the status quo, where elections are won not by the majority of Americans but strategic planners, think tanks, and lobbyists. In the end, to make this an issue shows how much work we have yet to go as a nation. Go after politicians for their deeds. We are not trying to elect Rev. Wright or Geraldine Farerro. We are trying to elect either Senators Obama, McCain, or Clinton.

Actress Halle Berry gives birth to baby girl

Story Highlights

  • Actress Halle Berry delivers baby girl
  • Berry says playing mother in recent movie convince her that motherhood was for her
  • No plans to marry baby’s father 32-year-old model Gabriel Aubry

NEW YORK (AP) — Halle Berry doesn’t just play a mom in movies anymore.

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Actress Halle Berry delivered a baby girl Sunday. It is her first child.

The 41-year-old actress had a baby girl Sunday, and “is doing great,” her publicist Meredith O’Sullivan told People.com, the Web site of People magazine. It is her first child.

The father is 32-year-old model Gabriel Aubry. The two met while shooting a Versace ad in Los Angeles two years ago.

Berry told Oprah Winfrey on her show last year that playing a mother in her latest movie, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” helped convince her that motherhood was for her.

“I think it validated that I was meant to be a mother because every day I dealt with the character as a mother and thinking as a mother,” Berry said. “It let me know that I must be a mother.”

Berry won the best-actress Oscar for 2001’s “Monster’s Ball.” She also won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for 1999’s “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge.”

Berry had said she and Aubry don’t plan to marry, but feel fully committed to each other.

  • I like Halle Berry and wish her the best. She’s a great actress and seems like a great person. However, we have to look at the news behind the “news” sometimes. Here we have a well respected international actress with legions of fans and who through her words seemingly promotes having children out of wedlock with no prospect of marriage. I’m not trying to attack Halle, but what I’m criticizing is the society in which we live. Broken families are one of the major root causes for our social ills and it cannot get any better as long as the lack of the promotion of strong families with married parents continues to exist.

Christ Converts To Islam

JERUSALEM—In a surprise announcement with far-reaching theological implications, Jesus Christ The Nazarene, founder of Christianity and spiritual leader of nearly two billion people, revealed Monday that He has converted to “the one true religion” of Islam.

Enlarge Image Christ ConvertsChrist (left) consults with his new spiritual advisor, the Righteous Hassan Abdul al-Aziz.

The controversial announcement has sent shockwaves through religious circles around the globe.

“Allah is the name of the One and Only God,” Christ said. “Allah has 99 beautiful names: He is known as The Gracious, The Merciful, The Beneficent, The Creator, The All-Knowing, The All-Wise, The Lord Of The Universe, The First, The Last and many more. He has revealed Himself unto Me through the holy words of the blessed Qur’an, and I have put My trust and faith in Him.”

As part of His conversion, Christ said He has taken a new name, Isa Ibn Maryam al-Salaam Christ Shabazz.

Christ, 33, is urging Christians worldwide to renounce His former religion of Christianity and join Him in embracing the Muslim way of life.

“People of all nations, in the past, you have heard Me say that whosoever shall believe in Me shall not die, but have eternal life,” Christ said. “But now, I say unto you, forget I ever said that. There is only one holy revelation of Allah, the Qur’an, which was dictated to the Prophet Mohammed, Praise Be Unto Him, by the Archangel Jibreel in the seventh century after I died.”

According to Christ, the beauty and perfection of the Qur’an’s Surahs are without equal in all creation, encompassing and surpassing both the Judaic Torah and the New Testament Gospels of His apostles. The former Christian messiah went on to cite Surah Aal’imraan 3:67, which reads, “This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”

  • Don’t crucify me! It’s satire from “The Onion”, I got it in an email and thought it was funny. Nothing more or less.

Pope: Enough With Slaughters in Iraq

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI issued one of his strongest appeals for peace in Iraq on Sunday, days after the body of the kidnapped Chaldean Catholic archbishop was found near the northern city of Mosul.

The pope also denounced the 5-year-long Iraq war, saying it had provoked the complete breakup of Iraqi civilian life.

“Enough with the slaughters. Enough with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!” Benedict said to applause at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square.

On Thursday, the body of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho was found near Mosul. He had been abducted on Feb. 29.

Benedict has called Rahho’s death an “inhuman act of violence” that offended human dignity.

On Sunday, Benedict praised Rahho for his loyalty to Christ and his refusal to abandon his flock despite many threats and difficulties.

He recalled Rahho’s death as the Catholic Church opens Holy Week, the most solemn week in the liturgical calendar in which the faithful recall the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.

Benedict said Rahho’s dedication to the Catholic Church and his death compelled him to “raise a strong and sorrowful cry” to denounce the violence in Iraq spawned by the war that began five years ago this week.

“At the same time, I make an appeal to the Iraqi people, who for the past five years have borne the consequences of a war that provoked the breakup of their civil and social life,” Benedict said.

Switzerland to sign huge Iran gas deal

Swiss energy giant EGL is set to sign a 25-year deal in Teheran on Monday to buy 5.5 billion cubic meters of Iranian natural gas per year, starting in 2011, for a reported €18 billion.

The South Pars gas field in Iran.
Photo: AP

The contract will be the second largest European gas deal, although EGL spokesman Bogdan Preda told The Jerusalem Post, “We are not releasing the value of the deal.”

In April, the Austrian energy company OMV signed letters of intent with Iran valued at €22 billion to supply Europe with gas, but that contract has yet to be finalized. US officials are closely scrutinizing the legality of the OMV deal.

Swiss journalist Alexander Hasgall told the Post that Switzerland had “neglected the political meaning of the gas contract and invoked the economic argument” to justify the transaction.

Wal-Mart Tweaks Store for Arab-Americans

Wal-Mart Does Homework to Lure Middle Eastern Shoppers in Detroit-Area Store

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Faten Saad knew she wasn’t in a typical Wal-Mart when she saw an end-of-the-aisle display featuring Mamool.Boxes of the date-filled, whole wheat cookie from the Middle East welcomed the 21-year-old Lebanon native into the international aisle of the new Wal-Mart store in this Detroit suburb known as the capital of Arab America. Aisle 3, which also features Eastern European and Hispanic food, represents many of the 550 items geared toward Arab-American shoppers in the store that opened last week.

It might be statistically tiny in a store with more than 150,000 items, but it’s symbolically huge for the world’s largest retailer as it seeks to change from a cost-is-everything monolith to one that customizes its stores to meet neighborhood needs.

Managers say they seek peace with the neighborhood’s merchants — and vow not to undercut them on Middle Eastern specialties. But some experts and observers say Wal-Mart’s well-planned launch in Dearborn is bound to shake up the buying and selling in a community that has long supported its own. Southeastern Michigan is home to an estimated 300,000 people who trace their roots to the Middle East.

Google confident Android will beat iPhones

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., March 15 (UPI) — Google executives say they are confident the company’s forthcoming phones armed with the Android operating system will overtake the U.S. market from the iPhone.

Rich Miner, manager of Google’s mobile platforms group, says the new Android-based mobile phones are more flexible than the proprietary Apple phones since the so-called open system allows applications from other software makers, The Times of London reported Saturday.

Miner said the first Android phones are due out late this year.

“It’s great that people are finally building tools so all of these third-party applications can be built and get out there, (but) there are things I saw people doing with the first version of the Android SDK that it seems like you can’t do with the iPhone — at least at the moment,” Miner said.

The Times said the Android SDK was made available online last November and Google officials say it has already been downloaded more than 750,000 times.

Microsoft and Yahoo met to discuss merger: sources

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Senior executives from Microsoft Corp (NasdaqGS:MSFTNews) and Yahoo Inc (NasdaqGS:YHOONews) met on Monday to discuss Microsoft’s takeover bid for the company, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The meeting was said to be the first since Microsoft made its unsolicited offer for Yahoo, worth nearly $42 billion, on January 31. Yahoo rejected the offer as inadequate last month.

The meeting was not a negotiation and no bankers were present, said one of the sources, who was not authorized to speak about the matter and thus wanted to remain anonymous.

The meeting with Microsoft is part of the company’s strategy to keep all its options open, the people familiar with the matter said.

Yahoo has held talks with News Corp (Other OTC:NWSAF.PKNews) and Time Warner Inc’s (NYSE:TWXNews) AOL, other sources told Reuters earlier.

The session was intended to allow Microsoft to present its vision of a combined company, and Yahoo executives mostly listened, said the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Malawians Defend Polygamy

By Mallick Mnela, IOL Correspondent
 
 
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“Instead of fighting outright evils in the streets such as prostitution and homosexuality; they oppose legitimate ways of enjoying conjugal rights,” said Uthman.

LILONGWE — Malawi’s Muslims and non-Muslims are opposing a campaign by feminist groups to outlaw polygamy, insisting that the practice helps fight some social ills and the spread of AIDS in the Southern African country.”These organisations should fight homosexuality, prostitution and not the legal and legitimate marriage of several wives,” Stewart Chipofya, of the northern Malawi tribe of Tumbuka, told IslamOnline.net.

“It bothers us much when instead of fighting outright evils in the streets such as prostitution and homosexuality; they oppose legitimate ways of enjoying conjugal rights,” agrees Sheikh Mohammad Uthman, Secretary General of the Majlis Ulama Council of Malawi.

“It sounds absurd.”

Why polygamy Is Allowed in Islampolygamy: Norm or Exception?

Feminist organisations are campaigning against polygamy, calling for a law to ban the practice blaming it for the spread of AIDS and domestic violence.

But Muslim and non-Muslims alike disagree.

They believe that polygamy could be particularly helpful in Malawi, where population statistics indicate that females significantly outnumber males.

Chipofya’s tribe, which follows a traditional African religion, accepts polygamy as an alternative to the disproportionatenumber of women compared to men in their community.

Islam sees polygamy as a realistic answer to some social woes like adulterous affairs and lamentable living conditions of a widow or a divorced woman.

Muhammad in the Bible

By: Dr. Jamal Badawi
IslamiCity* –

Those who follow the Apostle, the unlettered Prophet, Whom they find mentioned in their own Scriptures, in the Torah and the Gospel… (Holy Qu’ran: VII – 157; Translation: Yusif Ali)

BIBLE PROPHECIES ABOUT THE ADVENT OF MUHAMMAD

Abraham is widely regarded as the Patriarch of monotheism and the common father of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. Through His second son, Isaac, came all Israelite prophets including such towering figures as Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus. May peace and blessings be upon them all. The advent of these great prophets was in partial fulfillment of God’s promises to bless the nations of earth through the descendents of Abraham (Genesis12:2-3). Such fulfillment is wholeheartedly accepted by Muslims whose faith considers the belief in and respect of all prophets an article of faith.

BLESSINGS OF ISHMAEL AND ISAAC

Was the first born son of Abraham (Ishmael) and his descendants included in God’s covenant and promise? A few verses from the Bible may help shed some light on this question;

  1. Genesis 12:2-3 speaks of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants before any child was born to him.

  2. Genesis 17:4 reiterates God’s promise after the birth of Ishmael and before the birth of Isaac.

  3. In Genesis, ch. 21. Isaac is specifically blessed but Ishmael was also specifically blessed and promised by God to become “a great nation” especially in Genesis 21:13, 18.

  4. According to Deuteronomy 21:15-17 the traditional rights and privileges of the first born son are not to be affected by the social status of his mother (being a “free” woman such as Sarah, Isaac’s mother, or a “Bondwoman” such as Hagar, Ishmael’s mother). This is only consistent with the moral and humanitarian principles of all revealed faiths.

  5. The full legitimacy of Ishmael as Abraham’s son and “seed” and the full legitimacy of his mother, Hagar, as Abraham’s wife are clearly stated in Genesis 21:13 and 16:3. After Jesus, the last Israelite messenger and prophet, it was time that God’s promise to bless Ishmael and his descendants be fulfilled. Less than 600years after Jesus, came the last messenger of God, Muhammad, from the progeny of Abraham through Ishmael. God’s blessing of both of the main branches of Abraham’s family tree was now fullfilled. But are there additional corroborating evidence that the Bible did in fact foretell the advent of prophet Muhammad?

MUHAMMAD: The Prophet Like Unto Moses

Long time after Abraham, God’s promise to send the long-awaited Messenger was repeated this time in Moses’ words.
In Deuteronomy 18:18, Moses spoke of the prophet to be sent by God who is:

  1. From among the Israelite’s “brethren”, a reference to their Ishmaelite cousins as Ishmael was the other son of Abraham who was explicitly promised to become a “great nation”.

  2. A prophet like unto Moses. There were hardly any two prophets ,who were so much alike as Moses and Muhammad. Both were given comprehensive law code of life, both encountered their enemies and were victors in miraculous ways, both were accepted as prophets/statesmen and both migrated following conspiracies to assassinate them. Analogies between Moses and Jesus overlooks not only the above similarities but other crucial ones as well (e.g. the natural birth, family life and death of Moses and Muhammad but not of Jesus, who was regarded by His followers as the Son of God and not exclusively a messenger of God, as Moses and Muhammad were and as Muslim belief Jesus was).

THE AWAITED PROPHET WAS TO COME FROM ARABIA

Deuteronomy 33:1-2 combines references to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. It speaks of God (i.e. God’s revelation) coming from Sinai, rising from Seir (probably the village of Sa’ir near Jerusalem) and shining forth from Paran. According to Genesis 21:21, the wilderness of Paran was the place where Ishmael settled (i.e. Arabia, specifically Mecca).

Indeed the King James version of the Bible mentions the pilgrims passing through the valley of Ba’ca (another name of Mecca) in Psalms 84:4-6.

Isaiah 42:1-13 speaks of the beloved of God. His elect and messenger who will bring down a law to be awaited in the isles and who “shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgement on earth.” Verse 11, connects that awaited one with the descendants of Ke’dar. Who is Ke’dar? According to Genesis 25:13, Ke’dar was the second son of Ishmael, the ancestor of prophet Muhammad.

MUHAMMAD’S MIGRATION FROM MECCA TO MEDINA: PROPHECIED IN THE BIBLE?

Habakkuk 3:3 speaks of God (God’s help) coming from Te’man (an Oasis North of Medina according to J. Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible), and the holy one (coming) from Paran. That holy one who under persecution migrated from Paran (Mecca) to be received enthusiastically in Medina was none but prophet Muhammad.

Indeed the incident of the migration of the prophet and his persecuted followers is vividly described in Isaiah 21:13-17. That section foretold as well about the battle of Badr in which the few ill-armed faithful miraculously defeated the “mighty” men of Ke’dar, who sought to destroy Islam and intimidate their own folks who turned -to Islam.

THE QUR’AN (KORAN) FORETOLD IN THE BIBLE?

For twenty-three years, God’s words (the Qur’an) were truely put into Muhammad’s mouth. He was not the “author” of the Qur’an. The Qur’an was dictated to him by Angel Gabriel who asked Muhammad to simply repeat the words of the Qur’an as he heard them. These words were then committed to memory and to writing by those who hear them during Muhammad’s life time and under his supervision.

Was it a coincidence that the prophet “like unto Moses” from the “brethren” of the Israelites (i.e. from the lshmaelites) was also described as one in whose mouth God will put his words and that he will speak in the name of God, (Deuteronomy 18:18-20). Was it also a coincidence the “Paraclete” that Jesus foretold to come after Him was described as one who “shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak (John 16:13)

Was it another coincidence that Isaiah ties between the messenger connected with Ke’dar and a new song (a scripture in a new language) to be sang unto the Lord (Isaiah 42:10-11). More explicitly, prophesies Isaiah “For with stammering lips, and another tongue, will he speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:11). This latter verse correctly describes the “stammering lips” of Prophet Muhammad reflecting the state of tension and concentration he went through at the time of revelation. Another related point is that the Qur’an was revealed in piece-meals over a span of twenty three years. It is interesting to compare this with Isaiah 28:10 whichspeaks of the same thing.

THAT PROPHET- PARACLETE- MUHAMMAD

Up to the time of Jesus (peace be upon him), the Israelites were still awaiting for that prophet like unto Moses prophecied in Deuteronomy 18:18. When John the Baptist came, they asked him if he was Christ and he said “no”. They asked him if he was Elias and he said “no”. Then, in apparent reference to Deuteronomy 18:18, they asked him “Art thou that Prophet” and he answered, “no”. (John 1: 1 9-2 1).

In the Gospel according to John (Chapters 14, 15, 16) Jesus spoke of the “Paraclete” or comforter who will come after him, who will be sent by Father as another Paraclete, who will teach new things which the contemporaries of Jesus could not bear. While the Paraclete is described as the spirit of truth, (whose meaning resemble Muhammad’s famous title Al-Amin, the trustworthy), he is identified in one verse as the Holy Ghost (John 14:26). Such a designation is however inconsistent with the profile of that Paraclete. In the words of the Dictionary of the Bible, (Ed. J. Mackenzie) “These items, it must be admitted do not give an entirely coherent picture.”

Indeed history tells us that many early Christians understood the Paraclete to be a man and not a spirit. This might explain the followings who responded to some who claimed, without meeting the criteria stipulated by Jesus, to be the awaited “Paraciete”.

It was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was the Paraclete, Comforter, helper, admonisher sent by God after Jesus. He testified of Jesus, taught new things which could not be borne at Jesus’ time, he spoke what he heard (revelation), he dwells with the believers (through his well-preserved teachings). Such teachings will remain forever because he was the last messenger of God, the only Universal Messenger to unite the whole of humanity under God and on the path of PRESERVED truth. He told of many things to come which “came to pass” in the minutest detail meeting, the criterion given by Moses to distinguish between the true prophet and the false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:22). He did reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8-11)

WAS THE SHIFT OF RELIGIOUS LEADERSHIP PROPHESIED?

Following the rejection of the last Israelite prophet, Jesus, it was about time that God’s promise to make Ishmael a great nation be fulfilled (Genesis 21:13, 18)

In Matthew 21:19-21, Jesus spoke of the fruitless fig tree (A Biblical symbol of prophetic heritage) to be cleared after being given a last chance of three years (the duration of Jesus’ ministry) to give fruit. In a later verse in the same chapter, Jesus said: “Therefore, say I unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruit thereof” (Matthew 21:43). That nation of Ishmael’s descendants (the rejected stone in Matthew 21:42) which was victorious against all super-powers of its time as prophesied by Jesus: “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:44).

OUT OF CONTEXT COINCIDENCE?

Is it possible that the numerous prophecies cited here are all individually and combined out of context misinterpretations? Is the opposite true, that such infrequently studied verses fit together consistently and clearly point to the advent of the man who changed the course of human history, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Is it reasonable to conclude that all these prophecies, appearing in different books of the Bible and spoken by various prophets at different times were all coincidence? If this is so here is another strange “coincidence”!

One of the signs of the prophet to come from Paran (Mecca) is that he will come with “ten thousands of saints” (Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV). That was the number of faithful who accompanied Prophet Muhammad to Paran (Mecca) in his victorious, bloodless return to his birthplace to destroy the remaining symbols of idolatry in the Ka’bah.

Says God as quoted by Moses:

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:19)


About the author:Dr. Jamal Badawi was born in Egypt where he completed his undergraduate education. He completed his Ph.D. from the Indiana University and subsequently joined the faculty of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada.

  • For the record, I don’t agree with every detail as far as scriptural exegesis is concerned, but it makes for a great discussion nonetheless.

The Seven Phases of Prophet Muhammad’s Life

By: Javeed Akhter
IslamiCity* –

Traditional scholarship’s divides Prophet Muhammad’s life into Makkan and Madinahn phases. This is chronologically valid and represents the two broad aspects of his life before and after the watershed event of the Migration. It is historically important and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

Additionally I believe Muhammad’s struggle can be naturally divided into seven phases. Each phase brings forth a different aspect of his personality and highlights a different facet of his mission. Studying the Messenger’s mission for its various phases and analyzing its internal dynamics is important as it gives the narrative relevance for today. Since his life is better documented than the lives of other prophets and leaders of major world religions, it is possible to build this analysis on a historical foundation.

The Search for Light in a Period of Darkness: The Seeker of Truth

As his biography (Seera) is recorded we find Prophet Muhammad pondering over societal ills for years. The society he was born in was in a state of moral, religious, economic and social chaos. It is difficult to resist drawing analogies between the seventh century world and the state of the human morality in today’s world at the beginning of the new millennium. The nuclear man-woman two-parent family, as a core unit of society has eroded seriously in the West. Brazen sexual exploitation in the media is commonplace and illicit sex condoned and even accepted. Violence at home, against women, children, and violence in the streets, is frightfully routine. Substance abuse is widespread, with United States as the largest consumer of drugs in the world. Alcoholism is rampant, especially among college students, with only feeble attempts being made to address the problem. African- Americans have been liberated as slaves for a century and a half, yet many are still trapped in an unending cycle of poverty and discrimination, which is in a way a form of economic slavery. Because of a system that allows unrestrained growth of wealth without encouraging proper redistribution, economic disparities and injustices continue to grow at an alarming rate.

There are many excellent characteristics in Western societies, especially in the US that include the freedom of thought, speech and assembly, a tolerant attitude toward eccentricities in human nature and an ambition to be a just and compassionate society. These qualities of the ordinary American however are not always reflected in the policy makers and political leaders.

The unraveling of the moral fabric in today’s society must weigh heavily on the minds of individuals with insight. They can draw personal solace and inspiration from the Prophet’s life. The Arab tribal society of the Seventh century, whose structure was based on greed, debauchery, and violence, was changed in a very short time, by the Prophet, into a society with one of the highest moral standards in history. Compassion, humility, devotion to God and egalitarianism replaced the old well-entrenched tribal attitudes of pride in wealth, family and class and self-centered behavior. Women, for the first time in history, had rights and dignity, and the vulnerable and weak sections of the society were protected. Sexuality was removed from public prurience and became private and wholesome. Wealth was re-circulated so that even the poorest segments of the society were infused with energy and indigence became nearly extinct.

The Warner and Exhorter

During one his meditative trips to a cave near Makkah, Prophet Muhammad receives the revelation. Divine revelation is the reaffirmation of the fact that celestial knowledge is essential in guiding the inherently limited human intellect. The profundity of this realization that he is the recipient of this divine revelation and the enormity of the task ahead overawes him. Initially he shares the message only with his closest family and a few loyal supporters. It is both fascinating and revealing that even the individual who would later be rated as the most influential man in human history had these initial periods of doubt and uncertainty about his mission. It was the reassurance from the Quran and the confidence and support of his wife Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), and his close companions which provided him the support he needs-surely a lesson for us lesser mortals!

The Stoic Optimist

The next facet of his life is of bringing about proactive change by inviting people (Dawa) to Islam. With it comes the inevitable hostility of the entrenched powers in the society. Change is always threatening, and the greater the change, the more threatening it is. This would be true of the change against any established system of practices, whether it be economic, social or behavioral. It would also be true for change in personal behavior like wearing immodest clothing, promiscuity, and consumption of intoxicants. Changing attitudes that valued pride in wealth and country or class and color of the skin over all else would also be difficult. Not surprisingly the struggle for change becomes life threatening. Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had to lay his life on the line and on several occasions the nascent Muslim community faced the possibility of total extinction. Fortitude in the face of adversity is the salient feature of this phase. The patience and stoicism Muhammad displays during this phase has been a source of strength to many a Muslim who has found himself beleaguered by apparently hopeless circumstances

The Pluralistic Leader

The Migration, which marks the beginning of the next phase, involves careful planning and meticulous execution. He demonstrates that self-help and reliance on Allah go together and are both essential for success. With his nomination by the community in Madinah to a position of leadership, he shows another facet of his personality: the capacity to create a truly pluralistic society with equity and dignity for all religious and ethnic groups. In a very short period after the Migration to Madinah, Muhammad proves he is capable of uniting various factions and setting exemplary standards of cooperation between them. He makes a seamless switch from being a person under constant persecution to a leader with a large administrative and judicial responsibility. The “Covenant (Constitution) of Madinah” that lays out the rules of living in a pluralistic society is a document that needs to be studied carefully and implemented to the fullest extent in today’s inescapably multi-religious and multi-cultural world.

The Courageous Yet Reluctant Warrior

After a brief respite, his mission is consumed by the need to fight wars of survival. These three wars in four years, Badr, Uhad and Ahzab, besides posing a physical threat, must have been extremely distracting and demanding of his time and energy. Yet the work of building the community goes on.

It is important to remember that even though faced with very aggressive proponents the Prophet and his followers never initiated or instigated any wars. Muhammad and the Muslims engaged in these battles with great discipline, avoiding injury to the innocent and using only the minimum force needed. Women, children and non-combatants were not to be harmed. When the enemy stopped fighting, he was to be given immediate sanctuary. Striking a blow in anger, even in battle, was prohibited. He uses innovative strategies in the battles, which include the use of the trench as a defense. During the digging of the trench he is an active participant. He consults frequently (Shura) with his companions and follows the majority opinion (Ijma’), even when it sometimes goes against his own judgment.

The Statesman Par Excellence and Teacher

During the next phase, he shows the capacity to compromise and demonstrates the foresight and wisdom to realize that peace, even at seemingly unfavorable terms, is better than hostility. The “Treaty of Hudaybia” also needs to be studied and emulated by all who negotiate with their opponents. The peace dividend, following this treaty with the Quraysh, is huge and results in an exponential increase in the number of Muslims.

This also allows the building of a model and just society that functions in a coherent manner. Wealth is allowed to be accumulated but has to be circulated fairly into even the tiniest capillaries of the community’s economic system. It is an egalitarian society with equity and justice for all, governed by mutual consultation, equality before the law and protection of its most vulnerable members, women, children, orphans, indigents and slaves.

As illustrated by many incidents from this phase of his life, the Prophet proves to be an exemplary statesman. He mediates disputes, defuses potentially explosive situations with ease, allowing the parties to the conflict to walk away as friends and allies. He is unafraid to take risks but is never reckless and compromises for the sake of peace. His emissaries to other nations bring with them a message of cooperation seeking common ground. When he gives a pledge, he always keeps it. If the other party breaks the pledge, he does not flinch from measures that are appropriate to maintain the sanctity of the pledge.

The Compassionate Ruler and Spiritual Leader.

The final phase begins with the conquest of Makkah, which is a demonstration of meticulous planning and the use of overwhelming force to achieve a victory with practically no loss of life on either side of the battle front. The stunning magnanimity and humility shown during victory by Muhammad and his companions is unmatched in history. He is humble in victory, compassionate, and forgiving to even his most intractable opponents.

The final sermon consolidates the social, economic, and moral changes that have been brought about in the society. It is time to prepare for the end.

The anatomy of the mission, its growth and evolution in some ways parallels the various stages of human life itself. These various phases reflect not only the growing sophistication of the message but also the increasing maturity of the audience to whom the message is directed. The audience grows in its understanding of what it would take to bear the burden of passing on the message to posterity. The Prophet’s mission in its most fundamental analysis was to interpret and spread the Quranic ideology. This Quran centered spirituality remains the constant theme through all of the phases of his life. The Quran says about him “Indeed there is for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern” (Quran 33:21). His wife Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) calls him the living embodiment of the Quran. It is this complementary bequest of the Quran and Sunna that is our special blessing.

Over time, many differences based on dogma, politics, personality cults and egos have emerged amongst the followers of Islam. In spite of many heterodox sects, the core messages of Quran, and its realization in the life of the Prophet are alive and potent, and continue to provide spiritual solace, intellectual satisfaction and societal discipline to many making Islam the fastest growing religion in the world.

Javeed Akhter, is the Executive Director of the Chicago based International Strategy and Policy Institute and he is the author of the book “The seven phases of Prophet Muhammad’s Life,”

Click Here to read book review of The seven phases of Prophet Muhammad’s Life

Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., pauses as he speaks during a town hall meeting in Plainfield, Ind., Saturday, March 15, 2008. (AP Photo/Tom Strattman)

Pelosi’s delegate stance boosts Obama

WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it would be damaging to the Democratic party for its leaders to buck the will of national convention delegates picked in primaries and caucuses, a declaration that gives a boost to Sen. Barack Obama.

“If the votes of the superdelegates overturn what’s happened in the elections, it would be harmful to the Democratic party,” Pelosi said in an interview taped Friday for broadcast Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

The California Democrat did not mention either Obama or his rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, by name. But her remarks seemed to suggest she was prepared to cast her ballot at the convention in favor of the candidate who emerges from the primary season with the most pledged delegates.

Many voting for Clinton to boost GOP

For a party that loves to hate the Clintons, Republican voters have cast an awful lot of ballots lately for Senator Hillary Clinton: About 100,000 GOP loyalists voted for her in Ohio, 119,000 in Texas, and about 38,000 in Mississippi, exit polls show.

A sudden change of heart? Hardly.

Since Senator John McCain effectively sewed up the GOP nomination last month, Republicans have begun participating in Democratic primaries specifically to vote for Clinton, a tactic that some voters and local Republican activists think will help their party in November. With every delegate important in the tight Democratic race, this trend could help shape the outcome if it continues in the remaining Democratic primaries open to all voters.

Spurred by conservative talk radio, GOP voters who say they would never back Clinton in a general election are voting for her now for strategic reasons: Some want to prolong her bitter nomination battle with Barack Obama, others believe she would be easier to beat than Obama in the fall, or they simply want to register objections to Obama.

“It’s as simple as, I don’t think McCain can beat Obama if Obama is the Democratic choice,” said Kyle Britt, 49, a Republican-leaning independent from Huntsville, Texas, who voted for Clinton in the March 4 primary. “I do believe Hillary can mobilize enough [anti-Clinton] people to keep her out of office.”

More Election Troubles in Florida, but That Doesn’t Bother the Governor

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — What does Gov. Charlie Crist, the staunchly sunny (and tan) chief executive of Florida, think about the national attention his state’s latest ugly election dispute has drawn?

“It’s good,” Mr. Crist said in an interview last week. “We’re trying to make sure that a huge bloc of Florida voters are not disenfranchised, and I think that’s always a good thing.”

Never mind that those voters are Democrats and Mr. Crist is a Republican who intends to help Senator John McCain of Arizona, his party’s likely presidential nominee, win this largest of swing states. Mr. Crist is the self-proclaimed “people’s governor,” well liked by constituents in both parties and eager to keep it that way.

Mr. Crist’s recent pleas for the Democratic National Committee to seat Florida’s delegates at the nominating convention this summer — a right lost after the state Democratic Party broke national rules by holding the primary before Feb. 5 — undoubtedly help his image as a benevolent centrist.

But Mr. Crist, a career politician 15 months into his first term as governor, may well have other motives.

Polarities Persist in Democratic Race

WASHINGTON (AP) – Something happened to the feel-good, way-cool Democratic presidential contest in the months since a woman and a black man began their path-breaking race for the White House.

By the millions, black voters voted for the black candidate and women voted for the woman. White men seemed torn, by the millions.

Sen. Barack Obama has broken historic barriers, especially among the young, as the first black candidate with a serious chance at the presidency. Voters who might ordinarily balk at a female president have backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in her pioneering effort.

Those gains have not been enough to erase divisions by race, a task perhaps beyond any mortal and any one election, nor lesser ones between the sexes.

For Democrats, Increased Fears of a Long Fight

WASHINGTON — Lacking a clear route to the selection of a Democratic presidential nominee, the party’s uncommitted superdelegates say they are growing increasingly concerned about the risks of a prolonged fight between Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, and perplexed about how to resolve the conflict.

Interviews with dozens of undecided superdelegates — the elected officials and party leaders who could hold the balance of power for the nomination — found them uncertain about who, if anyone, would step in to fill a leadership vacuum and help guide the contest to a conclusion that would not weaken the Democratic ticket in the general election.

Obama Decries Racial Rhetoric

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (AP) – Sen. Barack Obama on Saturday decried “the forces of division” over race that he said are intruding into the Democratic presidential nomination contest. “We have to come together,” he told a town-hall meeting at a high school.

He cited videos of inflammatory sermons given by his pastor that are now being used as political ammunition against him—remarks that Obama has denounced.

“If all I knew were those statements I saw on television, I would be shocked,” Obama said.

Obama suggested that more and more is being made of racial divisions as his contest with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton heats up.

“I noticed over the last several weeks that the forces of division have started to raise their ugly heads again. And I’m not here to cast blame or point fingers because everybody, you know, senses that there’s been this shift,” Obama said.

“It reminds me: We’ve got a tragic history when it comes to race in this country. We’ve got a lot of pent-up anger and bitterness and misunderstanding. … This country wants to move beyond these kinds of things.”

Obama Nets More Delegates Saturday

(Des Moines, Iowa) — Democrat Barack Obama expanded his fragile lead in delegates over rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday, picking up at least seven delegates as Iowa activists took the next step in picking delegates to the national convention.

Half the 14 delegates allocated to John Edwards on the basis of caucus night projections switched Saturday and Obama got most, if not all, of them.

Iowa Democratic Party officials said that with more than 86 percent of the delegates picked, Obama claimed 52 percent of the delegates elected at county conventions on Saturday, compared to 32 percent for Clinton. About 16 percent of the delegates picked at Saturday’s conventions were sticking with Edwards, even though he’s dropped from the race since Iowa held its caucuses in January.

Philippines’ Proud Muslim City

IslamOnline.net & News Agencies

 
Image

The Marawi city is distinguished for the harmonious relations between its Muslim majority and Christian minority. (Reuters

MARAWI CITY — With signs across the city’s pedicabs reading “Gift of Allah” rather than “Gift of Jesus”, the Philippines’ only Muslim city is proud to be different.The ramshackle city of Marawi, which is around 385 miles south of the capital Manila, has many shabbily elegant mosques, Reuters reported on Monday, March 17.

The local bank is running in compliance with Shari`ah and Muslim moral rules are part of the city’s code with women wearing hijab.

The city celebrates hajj or family members’ educational achievements with banners and brassware, ceremonial bolos and swords.

In addition to Christian festivals such as Easter and Christmas, schools in the city get the entire holy fasting month of Ramadan off.

“That was done to assert our identity, to show that we are different,” said Paladan Badron, the city’s acting administrator.

“It’s nice to be a pupil here.”

Marawi is the spiritual center for the Maranao, the most devout of three major Muslim groups in the Philippines.

Muslims make up nearly 8 percent of the total populace in largely Catholic Philippines.

The mineral-rich southern region of Mindanao, Islam’s birthplace in the Philippines, is home to 5 million Muslims.

Distinguished

Alcohol, gambling and karaoke clubs, the beating heart of village life across the largely Catholic country, are banned.

“At home with the family we can do karaoke but we do not allow it in public,” said Camid Gandamra, one of the province’s numerous sultans.

“It might encourage people to go to nightclubs and other places of amusement that are prohibited for our tribe,” said the father of 12, over tea and muffins in his smart city residence.

Gandamra is also secretary of transport and communications in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Marawi city, which overlooks the country’s second-largest lake, is distinguished for the harmonious relations between its Muslim majority and Christian minority.

“To avoid arguments and to avoid further misunderstandings we just plant the cross deep in our hearts,” says Father Teresito Soganub, the city’s priest.

He added that local Muslim leaders always include him in community discussions to represent Catholics, who account for around 1 percent of Marawi’s 160,000 population.

In reciprocation, the 47-year-old priest doesn’t wear a crucifix or a clerical collar and sports a beard out of respect for his Muslim neighbors.

Islam was practiced in the Philippines before the Spanish converted many to Catholicism in the 1500s.

Mindanao remained largely Muslim and its religious balance was tipped in favor of Christianity only due to resettlement programs started during the US colonial period in the early part of the twentieth century and accelerated after World War II.

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