Muslims Need a Mature Debate About Homosexuality

The first same sex weddings became legal in England and Wales last week, but why is it taking so long for Muslims to confront the issue?

I’ve often been asked by Muslims why I report on the gay Muslim community. The question is normally posed in a way that suggests reporting on taboo and controversial subjects are best avoided. This isn’t the right attitude. Sensitive issues should be talked about, because there is normally a group of people who are suffering as a result of it not being discussed. Continue reading

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There’s More to Islam: A Message to Muslims Doubting Their Faith

Recently, an ex-Muslim told me that he knew very little about Islam’s deep, spiritual tradition. And it’s worrying that so many people don’t. It’s one of the reasons why so many people doubt their faith. 

Doubt is a good thing. It enables us to question what we believe and come to stronger convictions about them. Those too scared to doubt can become chained to their views, closed-minded and hostile to those who think differently. Continue reading

Who is Muhammad ﷺ? Personal Reflections on the Prophet of Islam

There are certain people who have walked this earth that demand our attention, deserve to be known, if only because they have directed large swathes of humanity in a new direction. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, is, without doubt, one such person. A cursory glance over the books that have been written about Muhammad from an objective standpoint all indicate his nobility of character, his deep connection with God and the simple life he chose to lead. Continue reading

T.J. Winter/Abdal Hakim Murad on the future of Islam

Unknown-4Tim Winter or Abdal Hakim Murad, as he is known to Muslims, is an academic at Cambridge University, an Islamic scholar and one of Britain’s most influential Muslims. Strangely, and this is something he admits, the majority of British Muslims have never heard of him.

One of the obvious reasons is because he is an intellectual giant, the sophistication of his language makes him largely inaccessible to the masses and his calm and composed voice doesn’t appeal to those who want to hear an angry Imam shout about the evils of the West.  Continue reading

The Boston Bombings show Islamophobia at its worst

Following the deadly explosions near the finishing line of the Boston Marathon yesterday, leaving three people dead and at least 140 injured, the reactions by Muslims, Islamophobes and those who do no fit into those two categories have been highly revealing. Continue reading

Muslim and gay: Islam begins to confront the issue – The Times

A piece I had published on the Times website on 29 November 2012.

For the first time in Islam’s history, a debate about homosexuality is beginning. While homophobia and the persecution of gays may still be rampant in Islamic countries, there are signs of change. LGBT Muslim groups are popping up all over the world, from Lebanon to the UK. Continue reading

Understanding Sharia Law

I was talking to a mature Muslim girl yesterday – who prays regularly, reads the Quran and comes across as a good Muslim – who said to me: “One thing I don’t like [about Islam] is Sharia Law.” What she meant by “Sharia Law” was stoning, lashing and chopping off hands, i.e. the corporal punishments and penal codes. I felt compelled to remind her of something: First, the corporal punishments associated with Islam account for a small percentage of Sharia Law. The majority of Sharia is to do with one’s spirituality, like praying, fasting and giving to charity, the Law also encompasses everything from economics to hygiene. Secondly, Sharia Law is profoundly nuanced: not only is it open to interpretation but it is flexible and able to move with the times. According to academic Scott Kugle, Sharia means a “broad pathway”. Continue reading

All Hype For Palestine But Nothing For Burma

It’s a shame that this could be the first time you’ve heard about the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in Burma. News coverage on the plight of the Rohingya people – described by the U.N. as “one of the most persecuted people in the world” – has been scant, especially since sectarian violence flared in June. Continue reading

The Hidden Secrets Why Muslims Pray

Prayer is often performed in a purely ritualistic and robotic way, this isn’t how it should be.

Timothy Winter, Islamic scholar and academic has described the prayer as having three levels: 1) being a form of worship for beginners 2) a form of purification for the wayfarers and 3) communion with the Divine for the saints. Continue reading

An interview with Diary of A Badman Star, Humza Arshad

Why do you think your act has exploded and become so popular?

To be fair, its probably because of my looks.  You can’t be ugly and famous. I genuinely believe it’s the looks.

But if you want a serious answer, I owe it to God. He’s given me this opportunity. Nothing to do with talent. I’ve been given this… to use my fame and position in a responsible way not just to entertain but to make people smile and hopefully learn something from it.

Its not just Muslims who watch your videos, why do you think it appeals to so many people?

I think people can appreciate the humour and there is a message behind it, a moral behind it, it’s not entertainment there’s an extra added value.

You don’t have to be a Muslim to respect your mum or women or not finding violence as the answer and I think people can relate to that.

Do you feel comedy is the best way to ‘break the ice’ when portraying Islam?

I don’t think comedy is the best way to portray Islam. But its definitely one way to teach morals and values. I’ve tried to provide entertainment with good message, but allow people to learn from it. The most powerful thing is it engages everyone.

I’ve had people from everywhere saying they like my videos: Mexico, Kenya, China, Singapore, Poland…actually I made Poland up. But in America and Pakistan etc you expect a fan base. People from different countries tweeting me saying ‘I really like your video and you’ve got a massive fan base here.’ I’m like: ‘Do you lot even speak English’?

Comedy is so powerful; it’s a great way to engage people.

What is the real message behind your videos and what is your reason for doing it?

What I think I’m capable of is making people laugh and smile. I’m crap at everything else but I can make a fool out of myself. If I get their attention I want to give back. I want to do something positive. For this particular project [diary of a badman], I wanted to give something back and spread a good, positive light on Islam. Most people don’t realize we are normal human beings as well.

We have the same morals and etiquettes as they do. We’re stereotyped. A lot of the Muslim community – especially the youngsters – get led astray but even if one person might get inspired and go out and do his own research then it’s all worth it.

I was in Birmingham and this guy told me he went off the rails and started drugs and joined a gang, and he said when he saw my Diary of a Badman, it touched him so much he wanted to change. Now he is studying law.

I think the most rewarding thing is when people say ‘I watched your video and now I respect Islam’ or ‘thank you for giving me a better picture of Islam’. Even atheists are saying ‘I’m looking into Islam now’. At least a handful of people have reverted because of it.

It’s just that tickle. If you go full on then people will lose interest. You don’t want to feel you’re manipulating them, jut give them a little advice.

Its up to them to make the choice. It doesn’t have to be about converting people. If people are happy with their faith that’s fair enough but go back and treat your mum with more respect at least.

Sorry for such a long answer blad.

Do you ever get any negative reception for your videos?

One thing I’ve learnt is that no matter how hard you try, you can’t please everyone. I’ve had negative feedback . The first mean comment I got, I was really upset, my brother sat me down and said this is how to look at it: ‘you know you’ve made it when you’ve got haters’.

Jay Z is the one of the biggest rappers of all time. [He's got] more fans than most people but then look at how many haters he has. These people must be ugly. As long as I make more people happy, I’ll carry on doing this.

What did that person say to upset you?

I genuinely can’t remember but it was a stupid thing. It’s jealously.

You can take it two ways. You turn a blind eye or use it to motivate you.

People are very quick to judge. They need to look in their own mirror.  We make mistakes. You don’t have the right to say this is wrong. You have just got to ignore it. These people are trying to bring you down. And they are the ones probably cleaning toilets.

Even this 60 year old was saying to me you’re very funny. I genuinely thought it would just appeal to the youth, I’ve got so many young fans but even aunties and uncles. I went to a BBC Asian network charity football event and the amount of old people taking pictures of me. I don’t know if they were like: ‘all the kids are doing it, so lets look cool’!

Have you always wanted to be a comedian?

Yeah definitely. I would do anything for a laugh when I was younger. Don’t want to get into details but… I was such an attention seeker. Always been naughty kid in the family, Chatting too much tutti.

When I was doing GCSE’s I was genuinely dumb. I couldn’t do anything right, one thing I could do is make my friends laugh so I decided to use it as a career.

I don’t see myself doing anything else now. From a little kid, you’re like: I want be a policeman or a fireman or a rocket scientist but from day one I wanted to be an actor.

Unfortunately there are a lot of similarities between me and Badman. Certain things are over exaggerated though.

You’re going to be taking your act Nationwide, with tours across the country, tell me what the motivation was behind this?

Money Init. Cars or something. Might get my mum a new kitchen so she can make less daal.

No, seriously,  I’ve been asked to do this tour for a long time but I’ve been reluctant but its a great way to give back to the fans. But the buzz you get from it will be completely different to just sitting in my room making a video.

Follow me on Twitter: omar_shahid

Ramadan is approaching: Why do Muslims fast?

The month of fasting for Muslims, also known as Ramadan, is looming. But why is it that Muslims fast?

Fasting is a Quranic injunction prescribed upon the believers so that they may attain self restraint (2:183). The idea of discipline is all about taming the human soul and not allowing the evil that often emanates from it to manifest into your daily life.  Fasting is undertaken to do exactly this: to discipline oneself.

Abstaining from food and drink is just one aspect of the fast: Muslims should also abstain from vain talk; raising their voice; using foul language; having sexual relations with their spouse (between dawn till dusk) and becoming angry. It is therefore a fast of the mind, body and soul.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the month in which the Quran was revealed and is therefore held in high esteem amongst Muslims. According to Muslims, the Quran is able to govern a Muslims day to day life with instructions about every matter pertaining to life – it is therefore a holistic and complete book. It advises in 20: 81 “Eat of the good and wholesome things that We have provided for your sustenance, but indulge in no excess therein.” Ironically, Muslims seem to do exactly the opposite of this during Ramadan. Not only do they eat rubbish for both their morning meal (Suhoor) and their evening meal (iftar) but they end up over-eating. Not only is this contrary to Islamic teachings, but it often results in the gaining of weight.

Fasting is about the detoxification of the mind, body and soul after it has become corrupted throughout the course of the year. Fasting helps get rid of the toxins in the body and it also gives the digestive system a break ( a well needed one for some excess-eaters). It is also known that the person who can refrain from eating can stop themselves from indulging in other capricious activities.

Fasting, essentially, is about bettering oneself. It is a time for reflection and contemplation. To look at your character and improve it; to master your ego, and suppress your desires.

Like many other acts of worship, many Muslims treat fasting as a perfunctory ritual. When, in reality, nothing should be done in a perfunctory manner. It is the time, more than ever, to realize your spiritual dimension and return to the fitrah ( a human beings innate nature).