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Assalam u Alaikum.

On behalf of the people and Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, I extend warm greetings to our Muslim brothers and sisters on this most auspicious occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr. May Allah continue to shower you, your families and our nation, with blessings of love, harmony, wisdom, and prosperity.

Over the past holy month of Ramadan, the month of fasting, the Muslim community would have demonstrated great discipline and sacrifice, as prescribed by the five pillars of Islam, the other four pillars being belief, worship, charitable donations and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Ramadan marks the anniversary of the Quran being revealed to Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon Him). It is said that part of Ramadan’s purpose is to feel the hunger that the poor face every day; to appreciate the sorrow of the sick, and to review our lives and get closer to Allah. It is a call for introspection, moving beyond the shallowness of daily routines to seek inner truth and peace.

This is a valuable lesson for us all, as there is much that we can learn from each other, if we allow ourselves the spiritual and emotional space to put aside our differences, and instead interact from the level of heart.

It is my hope that your example of sacrifice, devotion, attention to family values, belief and kindness makes a positive impact on all our citizens; by opening a window to the beauty of the human spirit.

The contribution of the Muslim community to national development has been, and continues to be, invaluable to the growth of our country. I commend you on the selfless service you perform for all citizens of our beloved nation.

Today, as our national community shares with you the radiant joy of the Eid celebrations, it is my wish and prayer that the blessings of Allah light your way and lead you to happiness and peace.

There is perhaps no better time than during our national days of observance to express our thanks to God for the blessings He has bestowed to our homes and our country – especially the blessing of our unique harmony in diversity.

And as we reach deeper within ourselves, in search of balancing our physical needs and spiritual goals, we must always keep our hearts open to understanding that, though different, we all stand equally in the sight of God. Religion must seek to unite rather than divide peoples and nations.

The celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr becomes all the more meaningful as its message of unity, brotherhood, peace, and forgiveness becomes a lived reality.

At this time of celebration, let us remember that it is by working together, holding hands in a spirit of unity and, building on the firm foundations laid by all our ancestors, that we will make Trinidad and Tobago a place where there is peace and prosperity for all.

May the blessings of Allah fill your life with happiness and open all the doors of success now and always.

Eid Mubarak

Message from His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona, O.R.T.T., SC, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on the Occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr 2015

The Muslim community in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and the world are today giving special thanks to Allah for having given them the will, the sustenance and the endurance to observe fast and dutifully pray during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Some of our Muslim brothers and sisters may even feel a deep sense of nostalgia and sadness that the special observances, benefits and personal introspection triggered by this Holy Month of Ramadan, have come to an end. We must not feel this way. The utility of prayer and personal introspection continues unabated.

Prayers remain the unbreakable telephone line to God and we as a nation and as individuals must not deny the beneficence of a loving God or indulge in irreverence by trivialising the worth and power of prayer. One important feature of Ramadan is the celebration of the power of prayer and fasting, the solace it brings and the comfort it shrouds us with. Ramadan teaches us the virtue of tolerance and mutual respect. It hastens in us the need to collectively and individually establish a more equitable, just and caring society. Islam teaches us that we are all one in the eyes of Allah; that our neighbour is our friend and brother and that we must always adhere to a philosophy of humanity. Islam speaks to the need in all of us for pure intentions and wise actions.

Islam is not terrorism and this world of ours must recognise that the true message of Islam is   one rooted in love, tolerance, compassion and brotherhood for all.  I cannot help but repeat that telling admonition of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet of Mercy, which is a road map for good, decent and honest living, “He who abstains from food and drink during the period of fasting, but does not restrain himself from uttering a falsehood, starves himself to no purpose”. The Holy Month of Ramadan, therefore, speaks to the responsibility of us all in Trinidad and Tobago to engage the truth at all times, to live by it and that the truth must never be a matter of convenience.

In passing, it is significant that today is also recognised as Nelson Mandela International Day, honouring Nelson Mandela, the architect of sustainable peace and harmony in a new South Africa. His simple philosophy was one grounded in the bedrock of Islamic philosophy, not dissimilar to other religions- one of forgiveness, mercy, truth and reconciliation.

My fervent desire is that both the Holy Month of Ramadan and Eid-el-Fitr serve to remind the national community that aggression, anti-social conduct and indiscipline have no place in  the tapestry of our Republic as we embrace and respect each other’s differences, be they in religion, race, political preferences or culture. The celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr therefore reminds us that the personal search for peace, calm and harmony in our lives begins and ends with Allah.

My family and I send our heartfelt greetings specifically to all our Muslin Brothers and Sisters and the nation as a whole. Eid Mubarak!

Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State - Reported in
SPIEGEL

Aloof. Polite. Cajoling. Extremely attentive. Restrained. Dishonest. Inscrutable. Malicious. The rebels from northern Syria, remembering encounters with him months later, recall completely different facets of the man. But they agree on one thing: "We never knew exactly who we were sitting across from."

In fact, not even those who shot and killed him after a brief firefight in the town of Tal Rifaat on a January morning in 2014 knew the true identity of the tall man in his late fifties. They were unaware that they had killed the strategic head of the group calling itself "Islamic State" (IS). The fact that this could have happened at all was the result of a rare but fatal miscalculation by the brilliant planner. The local rebels placed the body into a refrigerator, in which they intended to bury him. Only later, when they realized how important the man was, did they lift his body out again.

Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi was the real name of the Iraqi, whose bony features were softened by a white beard. But no one knew him by that name. Even his best-known pseudonym, Haji Bakr, wasn't widely known. But that was precisely part of the plan. The former colonel in the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein's air defense force had been secretly pulling the strings at IS for years. Former members of the group had repeatedly mentioned him as one of its leading figures. Still, it was never clear what exactly his role was.

But when the architect of the Islamic State died, he left something behind that he had intended to keep strictly confidential: the blueprint for this state. It is a folder full of handwritten organizational charts, lists and schedules, which describe how a country can be gradually subjugated. SPIEGEL has gained exclusive access to the 31 pages, some consisting of several pages pasted together. They reveal a multilayered composition and directives for action, some already tested and others newly devised for the anarchical situation in Syria's rebel-held territories. In a sense, the documents are the source code of the most successful terrorist army in recent history.

Until now, much of the information about IS has come from fighters who had defected and data sets from the IS internal administration seized in Baghdad. But none of this offered an explanation for the group's meteoric rise to prominence, before air strikes in the late summer of 2014 put a stop to its triumphal march.

For the first time, the Haji Bakr documents now make it possible to reach conclusions on how the IS leadership is organized and what role former officials in the government of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein play in it. Above all, however, they show how the takeover in northern Syria was planned, making the group's later advances into Iraq possible in the first place. In addition, months of research undertaken by SPIEGEL in Syria, as well as other newly discovered records, exclusive to SPIEGEL, show that Haji Bakr's instructions were carried out meticulously.

Bakr's documents were long hidden in a tiny addition to a house in embattled northern Syria. Reports of their existence were first made by an eyewitness who had seen them in Haji Bakr's house shortly after his death. In April 2014, a single page from the file was smuggled to Turkey, where SPIEGEL was able to examine it for the first time. It only became possible to reach Tal Rifaat to evaluate the entire set of handwritten papers in November 2014.

Read More


From The Nation by Juan Cole:

Under its new king, Salman, Saudi Arabia is fighting four major struggles to reshape the Middle East. The common denominator is a quest for neighbors that will not challenge the Saudi monarchy or make alternative claims on religious and temporal authority, especially on a populist basis. The Saudi government is more pragmatic than usually recognized, and it can abide left-of-center nationalist regimes as long as they do not denounce Riyadh. But political Islam scares the geriatric royal family to no end if it is not under their control.

The Saudi intervention in Yemen, and its organization of key members of the Arab League into a coalition to support that military move, is unusually adventurous for the royal family, which likes to work behind the scenes and more subtly. The muscular character of the intervention is a sign of how frightened Riyadh is of the instability in Yemen. There, the tribal Houthi movement of Zaidi Shiites has allied with military units loyal to deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh to topple the government of Saleh’s successor, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Houthis have pledged to topple the Saudi throne; they chant “death to America” and have friendly relations with Iran. Nothing could be more threatening to the Saudis than a grassroots populist movement of this militant sort, and that it springs from a Shiite population makes it worse. The Saud dynasty is allied at home with the Wahhabi movement, which typically views Shiite Muslims as worse idolators than Hindus. Still, the late King Abdullah appointed two Shiites to his national Advisory Council, the embryonic Saudi parliament, and deployed the Ismaili Shiites of Najran against Yemen. It is not Shiite Islam that is the red line for the kingdom, but populist movements that talk dirty about the Saudi monarchy.

Another worry for King Salman, as for the United States, is that the Houthis’ attempt to rule all of Yemen despite being from a minority community (Zaidis are about a third of Yemen’s population) will create a power vacuum in the Sunni south of the country. There, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has long been active, with between 400 and 2,000 fighters. In 2011–12, AQAP attempted to take territory in Abyan province, but was defeated by the Yemeni army.

READ MORE

Salaam All

Quran 4:163: "We have sent you inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him: we sent inspiration to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms." 

The Psalms are sacred SONGS and POEMS.

When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reached the City of Madina from Mecca with his best friend Abu Bakr, the Muslims played music and sang the famous Islamic song "Talaa El-Badru Alayna" which means "The full moon has come upon us."

Music can minister to minds diseased, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the brain, and with its sweet oblivious antidote, cleanse the full bosom of all perilous stuff that weighs upon the heart. --William Shakespeare

In a study, 272 premature babies were exposed to different kinds of music—either lullabies sung by parents or instruments played by a music therapist—three times a week while recovering in a neonatal ICU. Though all the musical forms improved the babies’ functioning, the parental singing had the greatest impact and also reduced the stress of the parents who sang.

Music can prevent anxiety-induced increases in heart rate and systolic blood pressure, and decrease cortisol levels—all biological markers of stress. In one study, researchers found that patients receiving surgery for hernia repair who listened to music after surgery experienced decreased plasma cortisol levels and required significantly less morphine to manage their pain. In another study involving surgery patients, the stress reducing effects of music were more powerful than the effect of an orally-administered anxiolytic drug.

Music has a unique ability to help with pain management. It has the potential to augment immune response systems. The promise of music as medicine is that it’s natural and it’s cheap and it doesn’t have the unwanted side effects that many pharmaceutical products do.

Music enjoyment elicits dopamine release, and dopamine release has been tied to motivation, which in turn is implicated in learning and memory.

Music has the capacity to capture attention, lift spirits, generate emotion, change or regulate mood, evoke memories, increase work output, reduce inhibitions, and encourage rhythmic movement – all of which have potential applications in sport and exercise.

This song by Sami Yusuf, The Gift of Love, will definitely remove the perilous stuff that weighs upon the heart. Especially in these perilous times.

Shamal...Am praising the beauty of Godly music...not the rubbish that is played in mini-buses or those annoying carts at decibels that can only originate from the minds of Jezebels. Am not telling you to watch something called by the name "music" where "singers" grab their groins or curse or half naked women use sex to sell their "Songs"...this is NOT music but grotesque sounds from Satan.
Salaam All

Long after the poetic juice of "Scripture My Hopes" had left Za's tongue at last week's event at the MYO, many people have met me and offered words of praise.

That's IMPACT...that's what ART can do...leave a deep imprint upon the memory.

So let's revisit the rationale for using ART to further the cause of theology, the cause of God. To do DAWAH (invitation to faith).

Art plays an enormous variety of roles in human life—evoking emotion, expressing grief, praising, celebrating. Poetry, in a deeper, unabstracted sense, holds the capacity to open up and encounter a material world; it invites reintegration of aspects of our humanity often severed and hints at meaning we had not imagined.

Art, in such a venture as DAWAH, is not simply a means of putting a beautiful gloss on our already-settled theology. Poetry is no mere analgesic prop for a theological lesson more purely articulated.

While art and theology have often held a tenuous relationship many people are now recognizing that our neglect of the arts has been to our own detriment.

For those with artistic sympathies or a sense of theological protectiveness, this new interest in communication can feel much like playing host at a party where certain guests are best kept from mingling too much—a no-nonsense mother-in-law, for instance, and one’s eccentric aunt. Too much interaction seems only to spoil both parties.

Far rarer are conversations that are at once both theologically sound and respectfully in tune with the integrity of the arts.
 
We have to think and re-think how we use the arts for dawah. The phrase ‘thinking and re-thinking’ here could easily be misunderstood as narrowly intellectualism—as if theology were ideally performed by pure minds, disembodied and detached from all practical interests, passions and commitments…

But theology as the pursuit of wisdom, though undoubtedly intellectual, is integrally related to action, and indeed to every aspect of our humanity. This means that the best theology is no more abstract than the arts itself.

The arts indeed offer a language in venues where more “traditional” theological language has been tuned out. Artistic Beauty is a powerful phenomenon...it is luminous and monumental.

The arts have a unique role in presenting the promises of God to a world in dire need of a promise that moves beyond abstraction. Thankfully, mercifully, the ways in which God’s love approach us—mind, soul, body, senses—are as multivalent as the Quranic news God has given us to profess. Theology through the arts has a remarkable ability to remind us that being human is a sacred reality. We have the incredible gift of imagination from a God who shows us precisely what that means in beautiful poetry.

This is a challenge to the Muslim leaders, the Muslim community to do the following:
1. Make the next Eid-ul-Fitr an artistic explosion.
2. Have "Poetry Evenings" across the country where Iqbal, Rumi, Sa'di, Hafiz are recited. Poems by these amazing poets will teach the young generation how to be better humans.

........................A part of a poem by Muhammad ibn al-Hasan an-Niffari................
If you cast off your fault
you will cast off your ignorance.

If you recall your fault
you will forget your Lord.


MEANING: A reminder to us that obsessing on faults, imperfections, or sins keeps us cut off from the Divine. The proper approach is not to linger on one's personal or spiritual failures; that simply strengthens the illusory walls between the individual awareness and the Eternal. No, one must see those "faults" clearly, and seeing them clearly no longer cling to them, allowing them to simply fall away without self-condemnation.

We define ourselves by our faults, and create spiritual separation through self-condemnation. When we let them simply fall, the walls we imagined separating ourselves from the Eternal show themselves to have never been. "Ignorance" finally disappears and we we have all along been standing in the presence of the Divine.
..................................................
Let's get our young people doing calligraphy and poetry....and other art forms. Let the mosques come alive with their vibrancy.

Shamal...Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.

Dr Glenville Ashby, Contributor

Raging anti-Islamic sentiments have reached a new high with the terrorist assaults in Canada, France and Nigeria. Not surprisingly, countless billboards have plastered subways with damning statements such as, '19,250 Deadly Islamic Attacks since 9/11 and counting. This is not Islamophobia; it's Islamorealism!'

But how truthful are these claims against Muslims?

Read more ....


ISIL DOES NOT REPRESENT ISLAM

It is deeply abhorrent that the terrorists and thugs who have captured parts of Iraq and Syria can manufacture any claim to Islam to cover any of their actions. They have brought a savage and barbaric violence to the world that is totally against what Islam stands for. No one should give this gang of psychopaths any sense of religious respect. They have no standing in Islam and their leader has absolutely no claim to the revered title of Caliph.
It is worth remembering that the gang of extremists which is now called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil), started as one of the more violent groups in the Iraqi civil war just over ten years ago, changing both its name and allegiance several times as it moved in and out of alliance with Al Qaida and its chief, Ayman Al Zawahiri. After 2012 it spotted the opportunity of the growing mayhem in Syria, where it took advantage of the war to achieve modest success, and then returned to Iraq to exploit the weakness of the Al Maliki government. When Ibrahim Al Badri took over command of the group in 2010 he promptly changed his name to the more Islamically resonant Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, and later adding the tribal additions of Al Hussaini Al Qurayshi. All these glorious inventions are designed to fool people into thinking that he has some kind of extra-religious status: Abu Bakr is the name of the first Caliph, Baghdad was the long-time capital of the medieval caliphs, and using Al Hussain and Al Quraysh is designed to manufacture Al Badri’s tribal links to the Prophet (PBUH).
The reality is frighteningly different. This thug’s followers have committed some of the more obscene acts that humanity has witnessed in many years:

* Beheading hundreds of captured government officials
* Execution of thousands of captured fighters and civilians
* Crucifixion of nine men, one of whom survived
* Burying alive tens of their opponents and their families
* Torture of many and gross kinds
* Kidnapping hundreds of women
* Distributing captured women among Isil fighters as slaves
* Seeking forced conversion to Islam of non-Muslims
* Destruction and looting of millennium-old Muslim and non-Muslim religious sites

One of the more extreme images circulating is that of a six to seven-year-old Australian boy proudly holding up the severed head of a dead Syrian soldier. The boy is believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq with his father when he left Sydney to join Isil, and who then found it right to post this image on Twitter with the appalling words “That’s my boy!”. It is profoundly offensive that this self-appointed warlord can seek to be Caliph of all Islam. The title Caliph is an integral part of early Islam as the direct successors to the Prophet took on the task of heading both the new Islamic state and the religion. But many centuries later the civil and religious roles were split and the last Caliph to be widely recognised by the majority of Islam was the last Ottoman Sultan Abdul Majeed II. By then the role of caliph was to be a largely symbolic central focus of Islam and all religious authority had moved to the scholars and preachers. It is ludicrous for a war criminal out of the Iraqi civil war to make any sort of claim to the caliphate. Islam has thrived for centuries and has an outstanding record of achievements. It has no place for someone who measures his success by the number of victims he beheads or crucifies.

As published in Gulf News
http://gulfnews.com/opinions/editorials/isil-terrorists-do-not-represent-islam-1.1373601

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