Happy New Year, Happy Ashura
Happy New Islamic Year! Actually this happened five days ago -- I've been so busy writing a sf story about slugs and ramping up on the redesign of the Islamic writers alliance website (almost ready to go live) that I'm late. One of the things I love about the Islamic New Year is that it doesn't start at the Prophet's birth, nor at his death, but at a significant point in the life of the Muslim community -- that is, when they left Mecca and were welcomed into Madinah. On one level, it's marks Prophet Muhammad taking on the role of Prophet-King, ala Solomon or David, the start of the Islamic rule. But on another, it marks the community leaving dangerous times and places to live with people who embraced them, welcomed them, and loved them like family. This movement from dangerous places to safe spaces is something many of us in the American Muslim community relate to and long for. Many immigrantMuslims left countries where freedom of religion, speech, and conscience, etc. are limited. Many in the African American community metaphorically left mainstream society because of experiences of racism and intolerance. Many of us are extremely worried that America is quickly becoming a hostile place, rather than a welcoming one for Muslims. In the spirit of the New Year, I hope and pray that this does not come to pass, and that the US can remain a modern day Madinah for people of all faiths.
Happy Ashura! This is actually 5 days from now, although the first ten days of Muharram are important days for the Shi'ite Muslim community. They ought to be important days for our entire community because they mark a moment in Islamic history that should make every Muslim weep -- the murder of the Prophet's grandson and his companions. The early history of Islam -- the struggles over who was to suceed Prophet Muhammad, and battles over how to implement Islam once the Prophet had passed away -- make me all the more convinced that Islam is not supposed to be a political system, The Qur'an is not a political manifesto but a guidebook for personal morality and spiritual development. Without the Prophet who has access to God, and thus is infalliable in matters of religion (and religion only), there can be very few absolute answers. Most of the Shari'ah as we know it today is a very human, and very flawed, attempt at understanding and applying God's will. What I find absolutely astounding, is that in the day of the Prophet, people questioned him, at one point his followers were on the verge of open rebellion; in the days after his death, a woman stood up and challenged the ruler, Omar, who was arguably one of the Prophet's favorite companions and extremely knoweledgable, and yet, if we challenge the ruling of a scholar from the 14th century, we are accused of being heretical. So far we have fallen. Anyway, if you'd like to know more about Muharram, I highly recommend Sr. Scorpion's blog