Dr. Ahmad Sakr returns to his Lord
by Dr. Tasneema Ghazi
IQRA’ International Education Foundation
It is with heavy-heart and tear-filled eyes that the IQRA’ team has to relay the news of the passing of our beloved friend and longtime associate, Dr. Ahmad Sakr. So many beautiful memories of Dr. Sakr and his family pass through my eyes as I think of his time with us as well as the important and inspirational role he played in the founding of many Islamic institutions and centers, such as the first Islamic college in the United States, the American Islamic College of Chicago, the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council, and the Muslim Students Association. In fact, his academic background in nutritional health compelled him to write the first guide to Halal and Haram food products in America, a very valuable tool in those days when the Muslim community was still quite small. The guide was kept close by Muslims making a trip to the grocery stores.
Dr. Sakr’s selfless and continuous travels in establishing Islamic centers, Islamic schools and Da’wah institutes had always impressed me, all the more so since we often ran in to each other at different airports around the nation and Canada. He was regularly invited to help fundraise for different community projects and he did so without compensation. He happily accepted his role in serving communities around the country and beyond.
Dr. Sakr was so involved in offering his sage advice and guidance to individuals facing personal problems, be the Muslim or non-Muslim. Often people would call him about their personal and family problems. I remember the telephone in his Chicago home constantly ringing and Dr. Sakr once having two different phones in his hands trying to comfort two different individuals!
Dr. Sakr’s wife and companion, Mrs. Zuhar Sakr, and children have supported him through the years in his great work. May Allah bless them all!
Once during Fifth International Islamic Education Conference in South Africa many elders of the community mentioned Dr. Sakr as being the inspiration behind all of their work in community building. This is how far-reaching his influence was. He was a man who motivated young Muslims around the world to help build their community.
All of us at IQRA’ are going to miss him dearly. We pray that Allah grant him the highest station in Jannah and give patience to our Sister Zuhar and their family to endure this loss.
“Few hearts are selected to love This song cannot be played on every instrument”
Such was the heart of dear brother, Ahmad Sakr – very special and very generous.
By Dr. Tasneema Ghazi
My seven years old thinker-daughter said this to me in 1973. We had just moved from Harvard to San Diego where my husband got a teaching job at the university.
We bought our first house in the United States and decided to settle in this lovely land instead of returning to India. America was home now; and it has been ever since.
We all sat down and talked about the history and the significance of this special national holiday for all Americans, both recent immigrants and longstanding natives. We reckoned that Thanksgiving is not holiday centered on religious beliefs, like Christmas or Easter, but it is a national holiday where the citizens of this great nation together offer thanks to their Creator for giving them this land of bounty and keeping it thriving and prosperous.
If anything we can even find in the origins of Thanksgiving the very Islamic principles of migration for the sake of faith, as well as helping those in need. This Pilgrims fled their native England rather than compromise their beliefs. They struggled for existence in the first years of their life in the Plymouth Colony, and if it weren’t for the assistance of the indigenous Wampanoag people the Old World immigrants would not have survived. Does such a story ring a bell with Muslims?
Thanksgiving is about offering thanks to Allah (SWT) for bestowing His grace and blessings upon all of us living in this country. For our first Thanksgiving we invited our dear friend Qiaser Jahan, a graduate student from Pakistan, and Mr. Bari whose grandfather had migrated to California from Punjab in the early 1900. Dr. and Mrs. Dill, both professors at the university also joined us in the celebrations.
We decided that our first Thanksgiving would be in typical American-style, complete with turkey, corn, green beans, pumpkin pie and of course gravy. In the center of the table was a tray with the sign “Prophet Muhammad’s favorite Foods.” This tray contained olives, bread, finely sliced meat, watermelon etc. Dr. Dill offered the du’a before the meal and everyone enjoyed the delicious food.
Since then we have celebrated this most American holiday every year. Sometimes we cooked the turkey on Thanksgiving Day, while at other times it was on a Friday or Saturday, depending on the schedules of family members and guests over the long weekend. In Chicago we once invited a number of visiting poets from India and Pakistan who were in town for a poetry symposium and they asked for a turkey dinner. I prepared the dinner along with a roasted leg of lamb – Indian style. My daughter invited a dozen of her friends from University of Chicago International House. The guest poets sat on the dining table and spread the traditional dastarkhwan/sofrah on our living room floor for the rest of us. The joy of meeting with family and friends and having warm get together was so very important, and it continues to be so.
Parliament of the World Religions 2015
IQRA’ participated in the 2015 Parliament of the World Religions held in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 15-19. Thanks to relentless commitments of its organizers and Chairman of the Board of Trustee, Imam Malik Mujahid the event was a great success full of hope and enthusiasm for the common good of humanity and safety of our dear planet.
IQRA’s Chairman, Dr. Abidullah Ghazi addressed the audience in two sessions. In the first session he presented the universal position of Islam and talked about the Tawhid, Oneness of God and that we believe as Qur’an says Allah is The Lord of all worlds and Muhammad saw is Mercy to all creations of Allah swt. Dr. Ghazi also talked about the beliefs of the Muslims that every human being belongs to the human family through Adam As and Hawwa RA. We are all brothers and sisters, one big family.
Dr. Ghazi’s talk started an interesting discussion among the curious audience. He summarized by saying that “Muslims are Interfaith community.”
In the second session Dr. Ghazi shared IQRA”s unique experience of developing and implementing an integrated program of Madrasah education in Singapore. Citing the history of education in Islam he emphasized the fact that separation of ‘ILM, (Knowledge) between the secular and sacred was never the trend in educating Muslim children. The focus of education in Islam had always been the acquisition of knowledge of the Deen of Allah swt and also the knowledge of the things created by Allah swt. This holistic and integrated approach to knowledge acquisition is only Islamic approach and must be revived in our schools and Madaris.
Dr. Ghazi presented the successful model of Singapore /IQRA’ Madrasah curriculum and teachers’ training (human resource development) to be adopted by all full time Islamic schools and Madaris.
Dr. Ghazis’ presentation made the audience thinking about the importance of a unifying approach to curriculum development and methods of teachings.
Dr. Ghazi also chaired two other sessions during the conference.
IQRA’s Book Service Director, Mr. Shahab Khan was represented IQRA’ in the Conference. He remained busy sharing with the conference guests IQRA’s many projects and its unique publications. He related to everyone the story of IARA’s unique pioneering work in the field of education for children, especially Muslim children. Mr. Salman Ghazi, Director of IQRA’ India also attended the conference and shared IQRA” India’s work and services to the community.
“SHOULDER TO SHOULDER”
A Movement to bring Unity
By Dr. Tasneema K. Ghazi
I was filled with hope and exhilaration when I heard the news that a group of young Muslims from the famed indian university Jamia Millia Islamia (New Delhi) are working to bring understanding and unity between Sunni and Shi’i Muslims.
Growing up in India during the 1950s and 1960s I had never heard of tensions between these two communities, at least not in the scale we see in modern times. My cousin married into a Shi’i family, our favorite tutor Mustafa Saheb was Shi’i. I remember “Aapa jaan,” our primary school principal, with such love and affection. My mother’s best friend was Shi’i and we loved her and her entire family.
Reading about unspeakable atrocities committed by ISIS, the Asad regime and all the other players in the tragic civil war, it breaks my heart even further to see for the first time the foul element of fanatic sectarianism being thrown into the mix. The brutality that Muslims have committed on each other and on Yazidis and Christians has reached such a level that it will take generations to wash way resentment and antagonism. Centuries it took to build harmonious inter-communal life have been have been swept away.
Therefore, it gave me a ray of hope to read about the efforts of these young people in New Delhi working to establish a community of Muslims who pray, live and work together in peace.
The group is called “Shoulder To Shoulder.” They arranged joint Sunni-Shi’i Eid ul-Fitr prayers in at the univeristy’s mosque. It is an initiative conceived by a group of friends in Jamia Nagar in the face of growing hostility between the two sects of Islam. More than 10, 000 Shi’i and Sunni Muslims offered their Eid ul-Fitr prayers together.
The group intends to make joint prayer a permanent feature in every city in near future. Their second big event was the celebration of Eid ul-Adha prayer in the city of Lucknow. Shi’is and Sunnis prayed Eid ul-Adha together at the Imambara Sibtainabad Lawn, one of the main centers of Shi’i Islam in Lucknow. This even again proved to be a great success and recieved support from Indians of all walks of life. People from Grand Ayatollah Al-Sayyid Ali Sistani to All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat extended support for the event.
“Shoulder To Shoulder” plans to take their initiative forward. In the words of one of the organizer, “We plan to take this forward. From salah/namaz to other humanitarian gestures, we will bridge the gap between the wo sects until both sects are shoulder to shoulder.”
On the same note, a group of Sunni and Shi’i Muslims in the Greater Chicago region have formed the Shia-Sunni Unity Council (SSUC), and they have been working together since 2013 in order to establish harmony and cooperation between the two most important denominations of Islam. The following points are the stated objectives of SSUC:
- Promoting mutual understanding between mainstream Sunnis and Shias with respect to differences, and building on common ground.
- Promoting joint religious, educational and social activities.
- Promoting peaceful co-existence of the two communities by mitigating derogatory behavior.
Let us pledge that during this month Muharram we will all do our job together to bring peace and harmony between Shi’is and Sunnis, between Muslims of all stripes, between Muslims and non-Muslims, and between all of humanity.
START OFF THE SCHOOL YEAR WITH IQRA’S PROGRAM OF ISLAMIC STUDIES
IQRA’s core curriculum embraces all the constituent elements of what has traditionally been labeled “Islamic Studies.” This means that its syllabus encompasses the study of the Qur’an, Aqidah, Akhlaq, Fiqh, Sirat un-Nabi, Ulum ul-Hadith, Islamic history and the Arabic language. Furthermore, each of these subjects is taught in separate grade levels (Pre-K to 12) at the appropriate level of understanding. This is an extremely important point, because it’s commonplace for Islamic Studies classes to be taught using books that are not only contextually unsuitable for 21st century Muslim children living in the West, but written far above the readability of a particular age-level, thereby preventing students from digesting and connecting with the goals of instruction. IQRA’s textbooks and workbooks are written and edited by professionally-trained educators who apply uniform readability grids to the instructional material and this allows students to fully absorb and appreciate a lesson’s goal. (more…)
On Women and Islam
By Fethullah Gülen
The Qur’an invites people to form a family life and points out many wisdoms and benefits of marriage. “And Allah has given you wives of your own kind, and has given you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and has made provision of good things for you. Is it then in vanity that they believe and in the grace of Allah that they disbelieve?” (16:72).
The Qur’an views marriage as a serious commitment on the part of the husband and wife; it is a covenant between the husband and wife. It speaks of the rights of the husband and the wife. “If you wish to divorce one wife and marry another, do not take from her the dowry you have given her, even if it be a talent of gold. Is it appropriate to take this by making up reasons for divorce and intentionally sinning? How can you take it back when you have lain with each other and put your heads on the same pillow and entered into a firm contract? That would be improper and grossly unjust” (4:20-21).