Visit to Kingdom changed my life forever

Visit to Kingdom changed my life forever
Updated 23 May 2012

Visit to Kingdom changed my life forever

Visit to Kingdom changed my life forever

JEDDAH: George Green, a celebrity manager for some of the most prominent names in the world of entertainment in the West, recently visited Saudi Arabia to perform his first Umrah after he embraced Islam a year ago. Coming from a life replete with several vices, such as, alcohol and illicit relationships with women, Green eventually became a Muslim in April 2011. In this interview, he shares with Arab News what brought him to Islam and then how life has changed for the better.

Q: Please tell us about your growing-up years and about your family.
A: I was born in Detroit, Michigan and moved to New York when I was a teen. My grandmother raised me in a single-parent household. Both my parents were young, impressionable and not ready to be parents. My childhood was not bad but confusing. Being a kid and having a dysfunctional family situation with constant fighting, arguing and no father figure was tough for a city kid to deal with. As I grew older, I got involved in street gangs, drugs and crime. That's when the trouble began.

Q: What was your impression of Islam and the Muslims when you were younger?
A: I really never gave much thought about Muslims or Islam earlier because religion wasn't too important. I was just being young and doing things young people do. However, I was fortunate enough to be raised around multiple cultures and nationalities and many of them were Muslims. Growing up I could never recognize what a good example of a Muslim is. I was familiar with Muslims who were into partying, women, drugs, etc. I was ignorant of what the correct way of Deen is.

Q: How did you enter the entertainment industry? Was it a childhood dream?
A: As for my line of work, it actually found me. I had no intention of working in the music industry at all. Earlier, I interned at record labels just to be part of social circles, get free music and party for free. Shortly after graduating from the Auburn University of Montgomery, I worked with several start-up labels and companies, until I landed a position with Roc-A-Fella Records as the assistant national director for marketing, branding, event promotion and tour management. It was here that I honed my skills of developing and marketing artists. My childhood dream was to play professional American baseball, but my injuries did not allow me to pursue that dream.

Q: What attracted you to that lifestyle?
A: As a young black man from an urban environment, the culture was appealing. The flashy cars, money and women were all very welcoming. Every kid from where I come wants to be rich and famous, have lots of women, power and respect.

Q: What kind of people did you work with?
A: I worked with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Some educated and some not. I worked with egotistic people, who have endless amounts of money. I worked with humble, laid-back people, who are easy to work with. There were also co-workers and artists who created problems.

Q: What made you consider entering the fold of Islam?
A: I was living a lifestyle of emptiness — chasing women, doing drugs, drinking, violence and so on. I felt incomplete daily. As I travelled to countries in the Middle East, such as, Dubai, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in 2004, I started to develop a curiosity about Islam that I could not abandon. As any American coming to those Muslim countries, I entered with a preconceived notion of not being welcome. However, I was wrong. I was warmly welcomed and the hospitality in each country was unbelievable. I observed people interacting with each other in the Muslim community and could not resist asking questions about Islam. As my quest for knowledge increased, I began researching and asking more questions. I even spent 15 days in Iraq and Kuwait during Ramadan in 2010. The unity and dedication amazed me. My experience in the Middle East single-handedly helped me see Muslims and Islam in a clear, non-judgmental fashion. When I returned to the US, I was ready to make my leap into Islam. I was a bit fearful initially and apprehensive of how others would view me for my decision to embrace Islam.

Q: How did you feel when you finally took the shahadah?
A: I had been procrastinating for five years before I officially took the shahadah. I was nervous worrying about what my peers, family and friends would think. I saw a dream one day, after which I felt that I must do it now. And I did it, without any reservations.

Q: Could you briefly describe your first year in Islam?
A: I completed my first year as a Muslim on April 30, 2012. It has been rewarding as well as challenging. My first few months as a new Muslim were more than challenging. I was under a lot of pressure because of other Muslims, who were judgmental about everything I did. Everything appeared to be Haram and not many helped me. Brothers and sisters from other countries did not make me feel welcome as a new Muslim and they did not even greet me with Salam. Some said the books I was reading were not good. I was confused and began losing interest. I even stopped going to the mosque for some time.
I was thinking it is hard to be part of a religion, where people treat me as an outsider. Eventually, as time passed I started to go to the mosque again. My faith got stronger and my love for Islam continued to grow as I realized there is a difference between the beautiful religion of Islam and some Muslims, who may not be the best example.

Q: What were your first impressions of Saudi Arabia?
A: My first thoughts were how beautiful the country is and how warm and welcoming its people are. In Madinah, I could not believe I was actually there and seeing the Prophet's (peace be upon him) mosque, something that I had only seen in books. I had the pleasure of being part of a VIP tour through the Canadian Dawah Association (CDA) of the museum, which contains ancient manuscripts, copies of the Qur'an and letters of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
As for the Kaaba, that was an overwhelming feeling. I got emotional and could not believe I was really there. It was a dream come true to lay eyes on the very first worshiping site in the world. It was just an incredible feeling. Performing the Umrah was the most amazing thing that has happened to me besides being a Muslim. The feeling cannot be described in words.

Q: When do you plan to perform Haj?
A: Insha'Allah I hope to perform Haj this November. It all depends on His Will.

Q: How has your trip to the Kingdom impacted you in terms of your outlook of life and your relationship with Allah (SWT)?
A: This trip has changed my life forever. It has given me clarity on what is important in life and what is not. It has brought tranquility and coolness to my heart. I feel I have a stronger connection with Allah (SWT) after this journey. I have become more inspired to spread the message of Islam and peace among others. I have been appointed as the Ambassador of Cultural Exchange for VIP's & Celebrities at the CDA.
Green met several people during his visit here, including the imam of the Prophet's (pbuh) Mosque Sheikh Salah Al-Budair, and Mohammed Abdullah Al-Bishir, Madinah high court judge. Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Hadlaq, director general of the interior ministry's ideological security directorate in Riyadh, also received him.

 


A beginner's guide to Ramadan

A beginner's guide to Ramadan
El Mesaharty Hussien wakes up residents for their pre-dawn meals during the first day of Ramadan in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Updated 06 June 2016

A beginner's guide to Ramadan

A beginner's guide to Ramadan

Millions of Muslims around the world on Monday marked the start of Ramadan, a month of intense prayer, dawn-to-dusk fasting and nightly feasts. Others will begin fasting a day later, Tuesday, due to a moon-sighting methodology that can lead to different countries declaring the start of Ramadan a day or two apart.
Here are some questions and answers about Islam's holiest month:


WHY DO MUSLIMS FAST?

The fast is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate. Ramadan is a time to detach from worldly pleasures and focus on one's inner self.
 It's seen as a way to physically and spiritually purify, refraining from habits such as smoking and caffeine. Muslims often donate to charities during the month and feed the hungry. Many spend more time at mosques during Ramadan and use their downtime to recite the Quran.
 London's new Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, wrote in the Guardian that he plans to use Ramadan to "build bridges" and break bread with Muslims and non-Muslims around the city at synagogues, churches and mosques, though he acknowledged that 19-hour-long fasts during the longer summer days in Europe and forgoing coffee will be challenging.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, along with the Muslim declaration of faith, daily prayer, charity, and performing Haj.


HOW DO MUSLIMS FAST?

Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk for the entire month of Ramadan. A single sip of water or a puff of a cigarette is enough to invalidate the fast.
However, Muslim scholars say it's not enough to just avoid food and drinks during the day. Ramadan is also an exercise in self-restraint. Muslims are encouraged to avoid gossip and arguments. Sexual intercourse between spouses is also forbidden during the daytime fast.
Just before the fast, Muslims have a pre-dawn meal of power foods to get them through the day, the "suhoor." Egyptians eat mashed fava beans called "ful," spiced with cumin and olive oil, while in Lebanon and Syria, popular suhoor food is flatbread with thyme, cheese or yogurt. In Afghanistan, people eat dates and dumplings stuffed with potato and leeks, first steamed, then fried.


HOW DO MUSLIMS BREAK THEIR FAST?

Muslims traditionally break their fast like Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did some 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset. That first sip of water is the most anticipated moment of the day.
After sunset prayers, a large feast known as "iftar" is shared with family and friends. Iftar is a social event as much as it is a gastronomical adventure. Across the Arab world, apricot juices are an iftar staple. In South Asia and Turkey, yogurt-based drinks are popular. 
Every night of Ramadan, mosques and aid organizations set up tents and tables for the public to have free iftar meals.

CAN MUSLIMS BE EXEMPTED FROM FASTING?

Yes. There are exceptions for children, the elderly, those who are ill, women who are pregnant, nursing or menstruating, and people traveling, which can include athletes during tournaments.
 Many Muslims, particularly those living in the United States and Europe, are accepting and welcoming of others around them who aren't observing Ramadan. 
However, non-Muslims or adult Muslims who eat in public during the day can be fined or even jailed in some Mideast countries.
In many predominantly Muslim countries like Indonesia, karaoke bars and nightclubs are closed across much of the country for the month. Restaurants there use curtains to conceal customers who eat during the day.
 And in Egypt, the Dar Al-Ifta, which is the main authority in charge of issuing religious edits, on Monday warned against eating in public, saying this is not an act of "personal freedom, but chaos — an assault on Islam."
 In China, minority Uighur Muslims complain of heavy restrictions by the Communist Party, such as bans on fasting by party members, civil servants, teachers and students during Ramadan, as well as generally enforced bans on children attending mosques, women wearing veils and young men growing beards.

WHAT ARE SOME RAMADAN TRADITIONS?

Typically, the start of the month is welcomed with the greeting of "Ramadan kareem!" Another hallmark of Ramadan is nightly prayer at the mosque among Muslims called "taraweeh. "
Egyptians have the tradition of Ramadan lanterns called the "fanoos," often the centerpiece at an iftar table or seen hanging in window shops and from balconies. In the Arabian Gulf countries, wealthy families hold "majlis" where they open their doors for people to pass by all hours of the night for food, tea, coffee and conversation.
 Increasingly common are Ramadan tents in five-star hotels that offer lavish and pricey meals from sunset to sunrise. While Ramadan is a boon for retailers in the Middle East and South Asia, critics say the holy month is increasingly becoming commercialized. Scholars have also been disturbed by the proliferation of evening television shows during Ramadan. In Pakistan, live game shows give away gifts promoting their sponsors. In the Arab world, month-long soap operas starring Egypt's top actors, rake in millions of dollars in advertising.



HOW DO MUSLIMS MARK THE END OF RAMADAN?

The end of Ramadan is marked by intense worship as Muslims seek to have their prayers answered during "Laylat al-Qadr" or "the Night of Destiny." It is on this night, which falls during the last 10 nights of Ramadan, that Muslims believe that God sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad and revealed the first versus of the Quran. 
The end of Ramadan is celebrated by a three-day holiday called Eid Al-Fitr. Children often receive new clothes, gifts and cash.
 Muslims attend early morning Eid prayers the day after Ramadan. Families usually spend the day at parks and eating — now during the day.


Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah

Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah
Updated 23 September 2015

Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah

Texas teen arrested over homemade clock to visit UN and Makkah
CHICAGO: A Muslim teenager who became an overnight sensation after a Texas teacher mistook his homemade clock for a bomb has been withdrawn from his school, local media reported Tuesday. Ahmed Mohamed, 14, won invitations to the White House, Google and Facebook last week amid a surge of public support for the aspiring inventor who was taken away from school in handcuffs. "Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great," Obama tweeted hours after the story broke. Mohamed's father told the Dallas Morning News that all three of the family's children are being withdrawn from the Irving Independent School District. "These kids aren't going to be happy there," Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed told the paper. The sudden attention, while welcome, has been overwhelming for the family and Ahmed hasn't been eating or sleeping well, his father said. "It's torn the family, and makes us very confused," Mohamed said. Plenty of schools have offered to take Ahmed, but his father thinks a bit of a break is in order. The family will be flying to New York on Wednesday after receiving invitations to meet with dignitaries at the United Nations. They are also trying to get visas to take Ahmed on a pilgrimage to Makkah. "I ask Allah to bless this time," Mohamed said. "After that, we'll see." The son of Sudanese immigrants who live in a Dallas suburb, the young robotics fan brought in a home-made clock to impress a new teacher at MacArthur High School. "It was really sad that she took the wrong impression of it and I got arrested," he told reporters last week. Local police insisted that Mohammed's ethnicity had nothing to do with the decision to arrest him on suspicion of bringing a hoax bomb to school. No charges were laid after it was determined the teen had no malicious intent. Along with the invitation to astronomy night at the White House next month, Mohamed also got a scholarship to NASA's Space Camp invitations to drive NASA's Opportunity rover, tour MIT and intern at Twitter. He posted a picture of himself visiting "amazing projects and people" at Google's science fair on his Twitter account, @IStandWithAhmed, Monday.

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat
Updated 03 October 2014

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

Standing in prayer valid anywhere in Arafat

A large number of pilgrims climb Jabal Al-Rahma in Arafat to pray standing on the mount, following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is the most famous place in Arafat after the Namira Mosque. Located between the seventh and eighth roads east of Arafat, Jabal Al-Rahma is 300 meters long and seven meters high. Some pilgrims wrongly believe that their Haj would not be complete without standing on this mount. During his farewell sermon, the Prophet said: “I stood here and all other places in Arafat are valid for the stand in prayer ritual” during the peak of the pilgrimage.

Human rights
Bandar Al-Aiban, president of the Human Rights Commission, has called on Muslims to get inspired from the message of Haj as well as from the last sermon of the Prophet (pbuh) that contained important principles for the protection of human rights. “What was mentioned in the last sermon represents the first comprehensive document for human rights,” Al-Aiban said. “We have to follow the Prophet’s instructions in that speech including protection of women, respect for blood and honor and fulfillment of trust.”

Sacrificial meat
The Kingdom’s Sacrificial Meat Utilization Project, which is managed by the Islamic Development Bank, enables pilgrims to perform their sacrifices easily during Haj and make use of the meat of sacrificial animals. Since its inception in 1983, the project has utilized and distributed meat of more than 17 million livestock among the poor in Saudi Arabia and 27 other countries. IDB is offering Adhahi coupons this year for SR490 ($131 or 98 euros), which could be purchased from Saudi Post offices,  Al-Rajhi Bank branches,  Al-Amoudi Foreign Exchange, the Association of Charity Gift for Pilgrims, and the Way for Retail Techniques Company.

Violators fined
The Passport Department has imposed fines worth SR6.6 million on violators during this Haj season. It also detained them for a total of 900 days and impounded 31 vehicles, an official statement said Thursday. On Wednesday alone it took punitive action against 40 Saudis and four expatriates for not carrying Haj permits. “The administrative panel will continue its meetings to make spot decisions on violators of Haj regulations,” it added.


Arafat: Merits of the day

Arafat: Merits of the day
Updated 03 October 2014

Arafat: Merits of the day

Arafat: Merits of the day
Allah the Almighty preferred some months to others, some days to others and some nights to others and selected specific times in the year to be seasons of worship and righteous deeds, and in these blessed times the reward for righteous deeds is multiplied and sins are forgiven. One of these blessed times is the Day of Arafat which is the 9th of the month of Dul-Hijjah (the 12th lunar month in the Islamic calendar).
As pilgrims gather in Arafat today for their most important ritual, it is worthwhile to talk about the merits of this blessed day and what we should do on this day to get the great reward from Allah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the days of the month of Dul-Hijjah, which is one of the four sacred months in the Islamic calendar. Allah the Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an: “Verily, the number of the months with Allah is twelve months (in a year), so was it ordained by Allah on the day when He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred.” (Qur’an, 9:36)
The four sacred months in the Islamic calendar are Dul Qada, Dul Hijjah, Muharram and Rajab, and they are the 11th, 12th, 1st and 7th months respectively.
The Day of Arafat is a day in one of the months of Haj as Allah The Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an: “Haj (pilgrimage) is (in) the well-known (lunar year) months” (2:197). The months of Haj (pilgrimage) are Shawwal, Dul Qada and Dul Hijjah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the well-known days that Allah the Almighty praised in the Noble Qur’an: “That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the Name of Allah on appointed days.” (Qur’an, 22:28)
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that those appointed days are the first 10 days of the month of Dul Hijjah.
The Day of Arafat is one of the ten days that Allah The Almighty swore by in the Noble Qur’an, Allah The Almighty says in the Noble Qur’an:” By the ten nights” (Al-Fajr: 2). Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said that the ten nights mean the first ten days of the month of Dul Hijjah.
The Day of Arafat is one of first ten days of the month of Dul Hijjah, and these 10 days are the best days ever in the whole year as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “No other days, in which righteous deeds are beloved by Allah, are better than these days. The Prophet’s companions asked: “Are they even better than jihad in the cause of Allah?” The Prophet replied: ‘Yes, they are, except a man who takes his properties and goes out for jihad and sacrifices his soul and properties for the sake of Allah.”
The day of Arafat is one of the first nine days of the month of Dul Hijjah on which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urged us to observe fasting, and some of the prophet’s wives narrated that he used to observe fasting during the first nine days of the month of Dul Hijjah. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also urged us to observe fasting on the day of Arafat in particular, and when he was asked about fasting on the day of Arafat, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Fasting on the day of Arafat is an expiation for the sins committed in the previous year and the sins will be committed in the next year.” Yet, for those who are performing Haj, they are not recommended to observe fasting on the Day of Arafat.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also urged us to supplicate to Allah on the Day of Arafat as he said: “The best supplication is the supplication on the Day of Arafat.” This of course manifests the great status of the Day of Arafat.
The aforementioned are some of the merits of the day of Arafat. We ask Allah The Almighty to assist us all to avail of the great opportunity of the day of Arafat, forgive our sins and guide us all to his right path.

Courtesy: douralquran.com

Haj exemplifies equality before God

Haj exemplifies equality before God
Updated 03 October 2014

Haj exemplifies equality before God

Haj exemplifies equality before God
Every year, Muslims from all over the world take part in the largest gathering on Earth, the Haj, or pilgrimage to Makkah.
The Haj is a religious obligation that every Muslim must fulfill, if financially and physically able, at least once in his or her lifetime.
During these historic days, white, brown and black people, rich and poor, kings and peasants, men and women, old and young will all stand before God; all brothers and sisters, at the holiest of shrines in the center of the Muslim world, where all will call upon God to accept their good deeds and forgive them. These days represent the zenith of every Muslim’s lifetime.
The Haj resembles the re-enactment of the experiences of the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), whose selfless sacrifice has no parallel in the history of humankind.
The Haj symbolizes the lessons taught by the final Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who stood on the plain of Arafat, proclaimed the completion of his mission and announced the proclamation of God: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam, or submission to God, as your religion.” (Qur’an, 5:3)
This great annual convention of faith demonstrates the concept of equality of mankind, the most profound message of Islam, which allows no superiority on the basis of race, gender or social status. The only preference in the eyes of God is piety as stated in the Qur’an: “The best amongst you in the eyes of God is most righteous.”
During the days of the Haj, Muslims dress in the same simple way, observe the same regulations and say the same prayers at the same time in the same manner, for the same end. There is no royalty and aristocracy, but humility and devotion. These times confirm the commitment of Muslims, all Muslims, to God. It affirms their readiness to leave the material interest for his sake.
The Haj is a reminder of the Grand Assembly on the Day of Judgment when people will stand equal before God waiting for their final destiny, and as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “God does not judge according to your bodies and appearances, but he scans your hearts and looks into your deeds.”
The Qur’an states these ideals really nicely (Qur’an, 49:13): “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other)). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”
While Malcolm X was in Makkah performing his pilgrimage, he wrote to his assistants: “They asked me what about the Haj had impressed me the most... I said, ‘The brotherhood! The people of all races, colors, from all over the world coming together as one! It has proved to me the power of the One God.’ All ate as one, and slept as one. Everything about the pilgrimage atmosphere accented the oneness of man under one God.”
This is what the Haj is all about.

Courtesy: islam.about.com