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Misbah is Arabic for “lamp,” a symbol of illumination

Misbah Spring 2008

Volume 1, Issue 1

Princeton’s First Magazine Exploring Islam and the Muslim World


Misbah Magazine
Exploring Islam and the Muslim World

Babur Khwaja ‘09

Joy N. Karugu ‘09

Wasim Shiliwala ‘09

Waqas Jawaid ‘10

Nabil Abdurehman ’11
Humayra Ali GS
M. Jehangir Amjad ’10
George Hatke GS
Celene Marie Ayat Lizzio ’08
Faraz Khan
Intisar Rabb GS
Fethi Mübin Ramazanoğlu GS
Misbah Magazine explores the ideas,
history and development of Muslims and Islam in the
world. It is offered free of charge to all students, faculty
and staff of Princeton University. All questions about
donations and off-campus subscription and advertising rates
should be directed to

Views expressed in Misbah Magazine do not necessarily

reflect those of the editors, sponsors, trustees or of
Princeton University. Letters to the editor can be directed to and may be edited for length and

Printing of this journal is made possible by

generous grants from the following sources:

Office of the Dean of Religious Life

Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts
Princeton University Center for Human Values Undergraduate Forum The front and back covers feature the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.
Princeton University Council of the Humanities Photos by Timothy Neesam and Rafael Schwemmer, respectively. The above photo,
Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies by Seccad Yazicioglu, shows the mosque’s interior. Calligraphy by Said Bak.

Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World


Photo by Mohamed Somji.

Editor’s Note 2

The Decline of Muslims in the Sciences 3

Zia’s Destructive Legacy 4

Katrina: Continuing Lessons for the Muslim

and American Communities 6

‘Modern’ Visions of Islam: At the Junctures of

Humanism, Pragmatism and Scriptural Authority 12

A Translation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz 13

Of Traders and Tribesmen:

The Hadramawt Region of Eastern Yemen 14

“Blessed are the Peacemakers” 17

A Pearl in Mawaraunnahr 19

A Call for Understanding 21

Princeton University - Spring 2008


Editor’s Note
Welcome to the first issue of Misbah Magazine. After
months of planning, our staff has created the first
magazine at Princeton University dedicated to promoting
an intellectual discourse on the ideas, debates and cultures
relevant to Islam and the Muslim world. Misbah is an
Arabic word that translates to “lamp,” and we hope
similarly to provide illumination. We intend to explore
the Muslim world by engaging in intellectual debates,
presenting diverse art forms and analyzing historical
legacies. We hope to achieve this goal with articles, poetry
and photography that explore a broad range of subject
matter. As this magazine is intended primarily for a
Princeton University audience, we attempt to present our
ideas through a lens that recognizes Islam’s relations with
other cultures and traditions.
This first issue offers a range of articles and artwork. The
feature article by George Hatke GS examines the trade
diaspora that grew from the Hadramawt region of Yemen,
analyzing how the diaspora affected social dynamics and
the spread of religion. Not to focus exclusively on politics
and history, an article by Humayra Ali GS examines the
legacy of scientific achievement in Muslim civilizations
and explores the causes of the decline in scientific
innovation in Muslim societies today. Each article
presents a different realm to explore.
No discussion on Muslim civilization would be
complete without some reference to its art. This issue
presents poetry and photography from around the
world. Maryam Wasif Khan ’08 has translated works of
a Pakistani poet from Urdu to English, and our staff has
assembled pictures of historically significant sites from
around the Muslim world.
Given the variant forces and movements within the
Muslim world, this magazine can provide a means for
Princeton and the broader community to engage in
issues that are relevant today. This discussion can only
be enhanced if more people participate in it. We plan to
release our second issue in the Fall of 2008, and we invite
anyone of any belief to submit articles or artwork.

Yours truly, The Mezquita of Córdoba, Spain. Photo by Félix Gutiérrez.

Babur Khwaja ‘09


Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World


The Decline of Muslims

in the Sciences
By Humayra Ali GS
It is a historical fact that the Muslim world once made re- system that came about after the founding of the Nizamiyya
markable scientific contributions to the world at large. Over Madrasa in Baghdad in the 11th century favored the study of
a thousand years ago, Muslims introduced modern experi- theology and law rather than natural sciences as suggested by
mental science—new methods of experimentation, observa- others. It is claimed that traditionally the orthodox Ash’ari
tion, and measurement—placing far greater emphasis on school of theology held such a view. This idea was also chal-
experimental science than had the Greeks. From Al-Khwariz- lenged since the study of natural sciences was performed
mi’s invention of algebra, to Ibn al-Haytham’s introduction of independently by different instructors, in different institu-
the laws of the reflection and refraction of light and illumi- tions. So it is not that the teaching of science did not prevail
nating the principles of inertia long before Issac Newton, to at that time, but rather that scientific research institutions did
Ibn Sina’s Canon of Medicine—a 318-page medical textbook not flourish as a result of their dependence on the prosperity
that served the basis for medical teaching in Europe and the of the Islamic states and the effect of these states economic
Middle East for hundreds of years—all bear testimony to the decline—whereas the Madrasas were sustained by funds
phenomenal scientific work and spirit brought about by the from the people in authority and endowments from pious
Muslims in the early and high Middle-Ages up until the 16th and wealthy individuals. (4) Conflicts between Sunni and
century. A part of this period is better known as the Golden Shia Muslims, in addition to the invasions by Crusaders and
Age of Islamic Science. Mongols on Islamic lands during the 11th and 13th centuries
Unfortunately, however, there has been a shocking decline also contributed to the decline of Islamic science. Invasions
in the involvement of Muslims in the scientific arena since the by the Mongols caused the destruction of Muslim libraries,
16th century and up through the present day. Despite the observatories, medical hospitals and educational institutions.
fact that Muslims comprise roughly one fifth of the world’s These annihilations ultimately destroyed Baghdad, the Ab-
population, today only a miniscule fraction of scientific pub- basid capital and intellectual centre in 1258. Again, this can
lications are made by the Muslim world in comparison to the tie back to factor (1), that the economy of the Islamic world
United States and the countries of Europe. decreased a great deal after the invasions of the Crusaders and
Many theories emerged as to why there is such a diminished Mongols—rendering scientific progress rather stagnant.
interest in the realm of science in the Muslim world. Some of If indeed the most viable factor that contributed to the
these factors include: (1) The decline of economic prosperity impediment of scientific growth in the Muslim world is the
and affluence in Islamic states after the 15th century, which decline of prosperity in Islamic states after the 15th century,
doomed the flourishing of science. This idea has been exten- then there still remains some hope; because fortunately, today,
sively studied in Ibn Khaldun’s (a famous historian’s) Muqad- a good part of the Islamic world is blessed with both human
dimah, the first volume of his book on universal history. He and natural resources. It seems that the Muslim world will
observed that as economies suffer, the marketplace or the depend heavily upon the successful utilization of its man-
demand for scientific professions decreased as a result. When power and natural resources in order to bring about a fruitful
cities like Baghdad, Cordoba, al-Qairawan, al-Basra, and al- economy that will reinitiate the importance of research and
Kufa became prosperous in the early centuries of Islam, civili- development and recreate the scientific infrastructure needed
zation was established and as a consequence both science and to sustain a job market for the growth of scientific professions.
scientists flourished in these areas. On the contrary, when Furthermore, an economic co-operation and prudent collabo-
prosperity and civilization faded in those cities, the affluence ration between Islamic states that have a wealth of researchers
of science and its profession decreased as well. (2) From the and states that are rich in natural resources is critical. Not
19th century, some have suggested that this decline of Islamic only must the Muslim world today devote itself whole-
science can be attributed to the negative views of Muslim heartedly to the study of science, but it also needs to do so at
theologians towards the progress in science and scholasticism, a high level of proficiency. Otherwise, we will surely fail to
though this idea has been challenged and dismissed by many revive our lost legacy, a glorious past.
scholars. There was no one religious authority that controlled
the entire educational system; so the educational system was Humayra Ali is a sixth-year graduate student in the Molecular
free from dominance of orthodox influences. (3) The Madrasa Biology Department at Princeton University.

Princeton University - Spring 2008


Zia’s Destructive Legacy

By M. Jehangir Amjad ‘10
Religion and ethnicity are arguably the two most significant case, was put into practice by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was
ideological forces that have molded the Indian Sub-continent then overthrown by General Muhammad Zia ul Haq who
into the form in which it finds itself today. It is not surprising responded with a Category A response. The ideological
that ethnic issues find themselves at the forefront in modern- similarities between Aurangzeb and General Zia’s rule are
day India and Pakistan, considering the vast diversity found illustrated in the chart, adapted from Akbar S. Ahmed’s
across the region. Religion, on the other hand, has always renowned book Islam, Ethnicity and Leadership in Pakistan.
been a shaky fault-line. Ever since the advent of Islam in As a direct consequence of the orthodox Sunni Islamic
the Sub-continent, brought about by the conquest of Sindh mindset and policies of Aurangzeb, the Hindus, other
by Mohammed bin Qasim in the early 8th century CE, the non-Muslim communities, Muslims with non-orthodox
people of the region have braced a topsy-turvy ride along the Sunni leanings and liberal minded conciliatory Muslims
religious fault-line. The divide itself, separating Islam and felt alienated and downgraded to the status of second-class
Hinduism, remained blurred for many centuries only to be citizens. Aurangzeb was most severe towards the Hindus
replaced by periods of clear demarcation and bitterness on and at his death it was clear that the religious divide in the
both sides. Sub-continent was severely deepened. Sir Jadunath Sankar
In the Indian Sub-continent Islam faced its most unique wrote in A Short History of Aurangzeb 1618-1707: “Schools
challenge: Hinduism. Unlike Christianity and Judaism, of Hindu learning were broken up by him, Hindu places of
Hinduism was an entirely disparate brand of religious worship were demolished, Hindu fairs were forbidden, the
ideology and shared little in common with orthodox Islamic Hindu population was subjected to special fiscal burdens in
principles. Muslims never became a numerically superior addition to being made to bear a public badge of inferiority;
community in the Sub-continent, but when they became the and the service of the State was closed to them.” This
ruling class in the region, a great theological challenge arose. deliberate alienation of the numeric majority of the Sub-
This change occurred during the conquests of Mahmud of continent kick-started the demise of the Mughal Empire and
Ghanzi in the 11th century CE. India and Hinduism were eventually paved the way for partition along religious lines.
unexplored horizons for Muslim rulers and scholars alike. Singh further observed: “The detailed study of this long and
Therefore, with the exception of Abu Raihan Muhammad strenuous reign of fifty years drives one truth home into our
Alberuni (973-1048 CE), Muslim scholars and rulers were minds. If India is ever to be the home of a nation able to keep
unaware of the theological challenges and difficulties in peace within and guard the frontiers, develop the economic
governance that were to become apparent as soon as the resources of the country and promote art and science, then
Islamic conquests of the Sub-continent began to consolidate. both Hinduism and Islam must die and be born again.”
This is because unlike Christianity and Judaism, Hinduism’s Of course, both Islam and Hinduism were not reborn and
philosophical approach was entirely disparate from Islam an India free of internal religious strife and prosperous in
and entirely alien to Muslim scholars. Therefore, there was terms of the arts, economy and scholarship was never again
no consensus about the best approach towards dealing with
Hindus and Hinduism. The response, thus, hovered between
orthodox, legal, and formal [Category A] on the one hand
and unorthodox, syncretic, and informal [Category B] on the
other. Mughal Emperors Akbar, Jehangir, and Shah Jehan put
Category B into practice and achieved peace in the region
and experienced periods of artistic, economic and intellectual
growth. This was all undone by Aurangzeb who replaced
Category B with Category A. This dichotomy of policies
remained fact up until partition in 1947.
It was unexpected that a 96 percent Muslim majority
Pakistan would continue to experience this dichotomy of
policies that were an answer to challenges posed to Islam by
Hinduism. But it realized itself in modern-day Pakistan as
well, only with socialism and Western liberalism replacing
Hinduism. The choice of responses to this new threat were The Badshahi Masjid, Lahore, Pakistan. Photo by Jawad Zakariya.
similar to Category A and Category B. Category B, in this
Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World
Comparing Aurangzeb and Zia
Aurangzeb General Zia ul Haq

1. Orthodox, legalistic Islam 1. Orthodox, formal Islam, prays five times daily, visits holy
2. Emphasis on ummah, Muslim community places in Saudi Arabia regularly
3. Discouraged art (singing, music etc) 2. Ummah supreme over ethnicity
4. Supported clergy/ulema 3. Culture defined by Islam
5. Outward signs of orthodoxy: rejected silk clothes and gold 4. National Assembly called Majlis-e-Shoora (Ideally good
vessels, the Nawroz-the Persian new year, the solar year Muslims)
6. Patron of Fatwa-i-Alamgiri, the most comprehensive digest 5. Personally austere; Abstains from alcohol; Public meetings
of Muslim jurisprudence ever compiled formal, protocol (wears military or national costume)
7. Favorite reading: the Qur’an 6. Personal and ideological fan of Alama Maududi-a
8. Wished for Muslim society to revert to orthodox mold renowned orthodox Pan-Islamist religious scholar
thus drawing boundaries 7. Heroes: Prophet Muhammad and Muslim generals
8. Wishes to draw boundaries firmly around Islam

a realistic possibility. Aurangzeb, ironically, dealt the most Islamization and the subjugation of women and dissent,”
venomous death blow to the Mughal Empire himself and notes Atlantic Monthly contributing editor Christopher
eventually made way for the British domination of the Sub- Hitchens. Among some of the other problems that survive
continent to be followed by partition in 1947. to this day are the absolute control of all affairs of the State
Zia ul Haq did not have Hindus to alienate. He controlled by the Pakistan Army, the bitter ethnic divide and alienation
a 96 percent Muslim populace but still managed to rekindle that was felt by non-Punjabi Pakistanis due to the rejection
a battle between orthodox Sunni Islam and Western liberal of their ethnic and cultural practices by Zia and the ideology
minded Muslims. Only this time, those targeted included of Pan-Islamism and the brutal destruction of the political
Shia Muslims and ordinary Pakistanis whose daily lives were process, media and other forms of popular expression. In the
influenced by Hindu customs. Zia’s adventure in Afghanistan words of Rasul Bakhsh Rais, a former Professor of Pakistan
endeared him to Islamists all over the world, but he managed Studies at Columbia University, “Political polarization,
to leave behind a culture that threatened the very existence strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism, ethnic conflict in
of Pakistan itself. The millions of Afghan refugees from the Sindh and distortion of the 1973 constitution are the legacy
decade of internal and external warfare who were welcomed of Zia’s military rule.”
but not effectively documented by Zia are now a cause of
major tension within the country. Micro-economically, the
Afghanistan adventure diverted resources and capital away
from development and welfare projects to the military which
absorbed all economic aid from the United States and Saudi
Arabia. The hundreds of thousands of militant jihadis inspired
by Zia’s orthodox version of Sunni Islam returned home,
loaded with immense quantities of arsenal and a great sense of
motivation to ‘help’ Pakistanis revert back to the glorious days
of the Caliphate. It was only during and after the Zia era that
the Shia-Sunni divide in the country became wide enough to
bring about open confrontation. The Klashnekoff became a
public symbol and an entirely new militant era in Pakistan’s
history was born. Mujahideen in Peshawar, Pakistan. Uncredited photo from 1982.
Just like Aurangzeb, Zia’s legacy continues to haunt
Pakistanis to this day, twenty years down the line. His brand The similarities between Aurangzeb and Zia are striking
of Islamization is still being preached and the generations both in terms of their thinking and implementation of
of Pakistanis who grew up and were educated to think like policies as well as in their outcomes. There is no doubt that
orthodox Sunni Muslims are now carrying the torch forward. the situation of Mughal India at the time of Aurangzeb was
Even after a return to parliamentary democracy, there are different from that of Pakistan under the rule of Zia. This
numerous political parties that owe their popularity and difference was largely due to the absence of a majority Hindu
monetary survival to the legacy of Zia: “The Jamaat-i-Islami population in modern-day Pakistan. But, the underlying
party, which is the counterpart to the fundamentalist wing fact that I have tried to highlight here is the similar use of
of the Afghan resistance, still campaigns for his version of the orthodox brand of Sunni Islam by both rulers and the
Princeton University - Spring 2008
similar outcomes with respect to their situations and enemies. the masses remain in check even if they do not align with
Although not even twenty years have passed since Zia ul his outlook on Islam. Unfortunately, just like the Mughal
Haq’s death in office in 1988, the immediate legacy he has Empire, the problems left behind by Zia are numerous and
left behind suggests nothing but a pattern similar to that transcend many facets of the society. The future only promises
of the post-Aurangzeb Mughal Empire. Economic decline, to further widen the gaps cracked open by Zia, leading to an
an immensely powerful and interventionist yet corrupt eventual break-up of Pakistan along ethnic lines (reminiscent
military, stagnation in the fields of arts, sciences and the of the partition of the Sub-continent along religious lines).
humanities and a widening religious gap leading to isolation Any diversion from this replay of history should be treated
and violence and a feeling of deprivation and alienation as an anomaly and would, most definitely, be against the
among minority ethnicities are all similar legacies to that of run of play. It will be a violation of the pattern that has been
Aurangzeb. History has surely returned to haunt Pakistan characteristic of Islam in the Sub-continent since Mahmud’s
and the future looks extremely bleak. Zia has unleashed a raids in India in the early 11th century.
brand of Islam that is not only unpopular with the masses
but is also incompatible with slightly differing religious or M. Jehangir Amjad, a sophomore at Princeton University, hails
ideological views. By brutally exterminating Bhutto and any from Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
other dissenting views, Zia and his legacy have ensured that

Katrina: Continuing Lessons

for the Muslim and American
By Intisar Rabb GS

Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the roads blocked, schools closed, and more. It remains a
coastal areas of Lousiana and Missisippi, the national humanitarian disaster; does everyone still recognize it?
memory of the dire situation it left behind has dimmed. The hope is that this renewed printing will help serve as a
The economy, education, health care, and yes, Iraq, are all reminder to stop the light that Katrina shed from dimming or
important issues to top the ongoing presidential campaigns. her victims from receding back into invisibility.
But where, one wonders, are the myriad other issues that
Katrina left behind and that still plague communities on the BEFORE KATRINA: THE INVISIBLE PROBLEM
Gulf coast and beyond? These are matters that continue to Ralph Ellison was either prescient or invisible. How did he
face every American in general and every Muslim American develop a character who spoke as if he were an inhabitant
in particular; Katrina and her aftermath should jostle the of New Orleans 58 years before Katrina? The protagonist of
consciousness of both. Lest we forget, in the face of the Ellison’s famous work of fiction remarked:
racism, poverty, and inequality that Katrina brought to the “I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those
fore, we might look to both American democratic and Islamic who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your
ideals for reminders to not only remember but also to do. Hollywoodmovie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of
The following article was written not long after Katrina hit, flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said
but its message is—unfortunately—as true and urgent today to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because
as it was then. In 2005, there were thousands of people people refuse to see me.”1
displaced, most roads blocked, countless schools closed, and Katrina forced the world to see the poor people of
billions in infrastructure and personal belongings lost. It Louisiana and Mississippi. It forced them to see what those
was a humanitarian disaster, and everyone recognized it. In attuned to America’s socio-political and economic realities
2008, while there has been some progress made by those already knew: economic disparities of an unacceptable
who returned to Louisiana and Mississippi and others who nature persist in America. They afflict the Black population
commendably lent their help, thousands remain displaced, disproportionately.2 They also relegate too many Whites,

Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World

Latinos and others to a life of squalor. For these people, there Emergency Management Agency, Congress, the Senate,
is no way out. Indeed, no one sees them. state governors and city planners. Others have highlighted
Most policy and opinion leaders refuse to acknowledge this their shortcomings in the wake of Katrina. Instead, our
ongoing humanitarian crisis in a meaningful way. Every now institutional inquiry focuses on the four most important
and again, a politician or media pundit will raise a hue and lessons that emerge from the government’s lackluster response.
cry about one Black child whom the system failed or identify The first lesson is: we have a problem. The problem has been
one depressed town. They passively assert that “more needs to outlined above: fellow human beings, often from Black or
be done,” and occasionally call upon Congress to act. other minority communities, live in deplorable conditions.
They fail to realize (or acknowledge) that one Black child or The second lesson is: band-aids don’t work. We pump
one Black town merely represents larger, systemic phenomena. billions of dollars into solving a problem once disasters occur,
Case in point: the Katrina aftermath. Politicians and pundits but an influx of money to relieve disaster fails to address the
raised the hue and cry but the government responded with heart of the matter: the prior status quo. This is bad policy.
an anemic form of disaster relief that hardly addressed the Not only is it costly, but disasters like Katrina underscore the
emergency, much less the underlying problems of the region. extent to which a policy of ignoring domestic problems leaves
The fact is that post-hoc public band-aids in the form of us underprepared and overwhelmed.
disaster relief do not address the greater predicament that On a human level, the disaster band-aid policy also costs
threatens America’s social and democratic fabric. Neither do residents anguish, pain, and death. Monetarily, disaster relief
diluted measures crafted in response to the occasional public costs the government billions of dollars, far more than useful
outcry. Where are the effective civil rights legislation, fair pre-emptive strikes such as building adequate infrastructure
and affordable housing measures, small business incentive for everyone (rather than just the select few) and ensuring
programs, public welfare and social security plans, educational that city dwellers (rather than those who fled the city) have at
reforms, and healthcare initiatives? If such programs survive least enough resources to prepare to evacuate when their lives
the politics that postdate the campaign promises, what are threatened.
becomes of such proposals in practice? Did the affirmative Instead, the government expends our resources abroad
action of the past few decades level the structurally uneven before taking care of problems at home. Now that disaster
playing field that slavery’s 300 years left behind? Is no child finally forced it to face some domestic problems, the
left behind? What ever happened to the national healthcare government should realize that its policies merely exacerbate
plan? What ever happened to the social security overhaul? existing problems. Simply put: disaster relief band-aids do not
What of implementation, oversight, accountability? stick. They cover the wound so long as it is visible and fall off
What does all this have to do with Katrina? Some view when the public eye turns back to its previous affairs.
Katrina as a “natural” disaster that has nothing to do This brings me to the third lesson: the injuries still exist.
with social or policy issues. To the contrary, the response After applying the band-aid, we think the problems have
to Katrina has everything to do with race and poverty in disappeared, but more often than not, we have merely
America, everything to do with the promises of equality and made them invisible. Reconstruction efforts may strengthen
democracy, everything to do with community. In short, our levies, but they do not give poor residents jobs; address the
leaders’ approach to national crises highlights serious issues failing local educational system; ensure individual mobility,
that continue to exist while at the same time creating new liberty or safety; offer healthcare; guarantee housing or
ones. Katrina dredges up these problems from the mud of prevent predatory lending and home foreclosures; or provide
invisibility. opportunities for a better life. Rather, disaster relief policy
After Katrina, most of those left homeless, stranded or dying aims to return the city and its residents to the status quo, with
on the side of the road, were Black. This is no coincidence, for perhaps a few nominal improvements to infrastructure. Once
their plight began with slavery and since then many remain the aid is delivered, the job is “done.” We can then return
“poor and powerless.”3 Yet, how is it that these freedmen’s to “our” lives. For many, that will mean again being poor,
children continue to live in deplorable conditions in a country disenfranchised, invisible. So the predicament persists. And
whose GDP is the largest in the world? More important still, that takes us to lesson four: we still have a problem.
how is it that no one sees them? Just after Katrina, they were
visible. Here, I focus on one question: How do we keep them AFTER KATRINA: IT AIN’T OVER, EVEN AFTER THE
in sight? FAT LADY SINGS
After slavery, after Jim Crow, after integration, America
KATRINA & THE INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSE: has yet to achieve the promise of equality. Lamenting the
DISASTER RELIEF same situation, Cornel West wrote that Charlie Parker sang
For starters, we can assess the response to a formerly the blues because it was either do that or kill somebody.4 But
invisible problem on an institutional level. To that end, we Charlie Parker’s song is nothing like that of the fat lady who
need not reiterate the failures of President Bush, the Federal signals the end of dramatized operatic fiction. For we are

Princeton University - Spring 2008

dealing with reality. In reality, even if Charlie
Parker sings, it still ain’t over. It won’t be over
until everyone lives (not has the theoretical,
constitutionally-guaranteed opportunity to live,
but lives) the decent life that the Bill of Rights
and the Constitution, religious and humanistic
mores, democratic and humanitarian norms
promise. That project requires an ongoing effort
to identify, concern ourselves with, and address
problems—even the sort that are invisible to the
public eye until disaster strikes.
If Katrina tells us nothing else, it tells us that
we must constantly work to ensure justice,
even in “invisible” arenas. From Katrina, we
learn the outcome of attempts to address the
problem of slavery. America’s elite thought they
achieved justice by abolishing legal slavery.
But then they noticed disparities in the ways
Blacks were treated vis-à-vis whites under the The 9th Ward in New Orleans. Photo by Gail Williams.
Jim Crow regime of segregation. Then they thought they had
segregation, not all that much changed. Notwithstanding all
achieved justice and equality with the “separate but equal”
the advances in race relations, the parallels of 1927 Louisiana
doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson.5 But a belated realization of
and 2005 Louisiana are striking. Reality on the ground says
years of injustice, unequal opportunity, disparate resources,
that a regime of nonsegregation does not ensure integration,
and routine exclusion of Blacks finally drove the Supreme
and even if it did, integration does not ensure equality or
Court to declare in Brown v. Board of Education that separate
was “inherently unequal.”6 Then they thought they had
For all our progress and all our success, what of the people
achieved justice and equality with “integration” or at least
who lack opportunity, who cannot speak of generations of
nonsegregation. Now we’ve got it!
entrenched wealth and Ivy League legacies, who can barely
But it is the same old story all over again—both in terms of
make a living, who cannot access proper education, who are
slavery’s legacy and also quite literally. The Great Mississippi
caught in a cycle of poverty-fomenting violence and drug-
Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood prior to
pushing, who are stuck in Louisiana when Katrina hits?
Katrina, and it devastated Louisiana along with six other
states. Then, as now, the disaster took its greatest toll on the
most impoverished people: Blacks, who were sometimes
forced at gunpoint to repair the levees. Then, disaster relief
Katrina invokes needs that range from the immediate to
housing efforts came in the form of refugee camps, the
the long term and that implicate Americans in general and
conditions of which were so horrible that Herbert Hoover
Muslim Americans in particular. On a general plane, each
asked the media to overlook reports that detailed those
American can urge the government to address America’s
deplorable conditions. He promised in exchange to effect
problems at the policy level. On a particular plane, Muslim
reforms for Blacks after the election. He failed to make good
Americans should urge each other and fellow Americans to
on his promise.
address America’s problems at the community level.
Historians and analysts credit these events with spurring on
As for policy proposals, avoiding Katrina-like situations
the voting rights movement of the time, the shift in Southern
demands a paradigm shift. For times of crisis, our government
Black allegiance from the Republican to the Democratic party,
should transform its ineffective, debilitating, and costly
and providing the spark for New Deal proposals for more
band-aid approach into a clear-eyed, forward-looking,
government services. They also credit these events with major
humanitarian, ends-based, democratic approach that
demographic shifts such as the Blacks’ Great Migration to the
recognizes problems and addresses them before they turn into
North and a great deal of Black cultural output. Examples
disaster. In essence, they must be proactive.
of the latter include folksongs and blues music such as those
Such an approach is clear-eyed and forward-looking insofar
by Bessie Smith and “When the Levee Breaks,” by Memphis
as it constantly monitors the welfare of its citizens. This
Minnie (If it keeps on raining, levee’s goin’ to break / And the
will enable the government to take comparatively small and
water gonna come in, have no place to stay … I works on the
inexpensive steps now to avert infinitely more expensive
levee mama both night and day / I ain’t got nobody, keep the
disaster later.
water away). That spoke of the days of segregation. But after
It is humanitarian because it seeks to ensure that every

Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World

human enjoys a decent standard of living along with a Ramadan has [long since] passed [the month of fasting that
measure of safety and security. If we truly believe in the equal began in September 2007], but hopefully, it leaves behind its
value of human life, and each individual’s right to pursue imprint on the Muslim conscience. Ramadan is the annual
liberty and happiness, we must work to reasonably ensure that reminder to Muslims to be conscious of the invisible. God
those words ring true not only for those who already have says in the Qur’an that he prescribed fasting on Muslims so
access to Washington’s package of rights and entitlements, but that they might learn consciousness (2:183). Consciousness of
also for the invisibles. what? The immediate suggestion is God of the unseen world,
The approach is ends-based inasmuch as it measures success which automatically devolves to a consciousness of the things
in terms of success itself, not in the empty promise of a with which God is concerned in the world in which we live,
hypothetical opportunity for success. including the unseen invisibles. Like that consciousness about
Finally, it is democratic because full civic participation and a which W.E.B. Dubois speaks with respect to Black Americans,
sense of community can only occur once people’s basic needs this is a double-consciousness. It stems from the “twoness”
are met, once they receive adequate schooling, once they live of the spiritual and corporal aspects of the human, which are
in safe communities, and once they know that they have a say virtually inseparable.9
in their own governance. In any community, the problem of For Muslims, the first aspect of that consciousness partially
one member is the problem of every member. Focusing on takes the form of certain beliefs—beliefs in a compassionate
the most vulnerable members is like paying attention to the God who wants justice, in an afterlife in which each will
canary in the mine; its faltering lungs signal to the miners that be evaluated according to their deeds and in prophets who
the air has been contaminated. The community would do well deliver that message. The second aspect entails a heavy
to address its problems rather than live with pollutants that community component that is always concerned with
will take their inevitable toll on everyone.7 justice, not for Muslims, but for human beings. The Qur’an
Advocating a paradigm shift cannot itself create one. The emphasizes this imperative for justice over and over again.
government is a slow-moving machine for which policy It calls upon Muslims to stand up for justice, in its deepest
changes are difficult, and even when they occur, can take sense, even if it be against themselves (4:135, 6:152).
decades to transform reality. But to acknowledge the difficulty It also promotes a form of distributive justice by repeatedly
of demanding democracy is not to minimize the need for calling for Muslims to make contributions that ensure the
doing so. In fact, it means that much more responsibility falls welfare of their neighbors. For example, the Qur’an always
on average citizens to keep Katrina’s invisibles visible to the pairs prayer (a focus on the divine and spiritual for personal
policy world and to average citizens, that is, to each other. welfare) with charity (a focus on the corporeal and communal
This is what it means to say that, “[d]emocracy is never a for public welfare). Particularly during Ramadan, Muslims are
thing done … [but] always something that a nation must be encouraged to pray more and to be more generous. The days
doing.”8 It takes conscious citizens to do democracy. of fasting serve as a reminder of those who may be hungry all
the time. As such, Ramadan functions as an annual reminder
WHIRLWIND OF COMPASSION: COMMUNITY to be conscious of the invisibles and to do something to
CONSCIOUSNESS improve their situation.
Here is where the Muslim American contribution comes in. The Qur’an says:
It is not righteousness that you turn your faces to the East or
the West, but righteousness [describes] one who believes in God
and the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, and the Prophets; [who]
gives of their resources, for the love of God, to relatives, orphans,
the indigent, travelers, to those who request it and to those
in bondage; [who] stand in prayer and give in charity; those
who fulfill their promises when they enter into agreements and
those who are patient in adversity, disaster, and in the midst of
tribulation. Those are the people of truth, and those are the ones
who are conscious (2:177).
Quite obviously, America is not an Islamic country, nor
does it aspire to be. My point here is that Islam builds into
its practice constant reminders for Muslim adherents to
be conscious of the invisibles. This value coincides with
fundamental American democratic and constitutional
values. To the extent that it does, Muslim Americans should
draw upon their own inspirations to be at the forefront of
promoting positive American values.
Communities destroyed. Photo by Greg Hounslow.

Princeton University - Spring 2008

It is worth mentioning that the Muslim Black American shelter, food, clothing or financial and moral support to those
combines attributes that render her contribution even who need it. Some have contributed to the Adopt a Katrina
more valuable, for she possesses a triple-consciousness. She Family project.14 Islamic Relief International has turned its
is Muslim, Black and American. As such, like other Black generally international focus inward to address some short-
Americans of faith, her makeup inspires the capacity for term and long-term humanitarian and reconstruction needs
God-consciousness, human self-consciousness, and Black after Katrina;15 it also has a number of ongoing programs
consciousness. There is the Black American double-vision for feeding the homeless and providing health services to the
that comes from seeing themselves not only as they are, needy.
but through the gaze of others who look upon them with a Doctors can provide medical services to the poor for free or
mixture of “amused contempt and pity.”10 Combined with the at reduced cost. An example of this is the University Muslim
other traits, these multiple elements push the Black American Medical Association (UMMA) Community Clinic16 in Los
Muslim to have a constant regard for the invisibles and a Angeles, or the IMAN17 Health Clinic Initiative.
passion for justice. Educators, college students and professionals can take
Indeed often, the Black American Muslim, her family and on a student in poor or mediocre schools to provide
community members are themselves invisible, even as some of mentoring, college-counseling, and to help ensure that the
her Muslim brethren garner visibility by gravitating towards student receives a good education. An outstanding example
a certain iteration of the American dream and, in the process, of an organization dedicated to focusing on our youth is
forgetting their own doubleconsciousness. The Blackamerican Brotherhood/ Sister Sol18 in New York. Community members
Muslim does not have that luxury. He is a minority on all can join efforts like those of the Islamic Networks Group19
fronts, cannot shed his identity, cannot easily reach visibility, based in San Francisco to provide educational resources to
certainly not on a community scale. In this regard, the Black local schools or the Muslim Public Service Network,20 both of
American Muslim himself often represents the passenger which promote civic engagement in public institutions.
on the bottom deck of the boat, the Muslim canary. With Social workers can redouble their efforts to help address
one eye on the canary and the other on God, the American problems of domestic violence and children living in bad
Muslim community has internal impetuses to constantly situations. Bait ul Salaam21 in Atlanta is an organization
urge itself and its wider American community to see its own that provides homes for battered women. Those who live or
invisibles. work in the cities can help address the drug problems that
What are some concrete ways in which this can take form? run rampant there through donating or helping to replicate
In the aftermath of Katrina, there are several projects to which the work of community organizations. An example of one
Muslims can contribute and encourage contributions. Here, I outstanding drug recovery program of this type is I Can’t, We
do not limit these suggestions to victims of Katrina, as those Can in Baltimore.22
in need of such services reside in every state. Nor do I limit Entrepreneurs and businessman can contribute to the efforts
these suggestions to the obvious form of giving: monetary of community-oriented non-profit ventures, small business
donations. For this is not the sole scope of giving that Islam start-ups, and job-training initiatives aimed at economic
encourages or society requires . Rather, I point to a range of empowerment and viability. GraceLine products aim at
measures with respect to the visibly urgent needs after Katrina facilitating such economic empowerment.
that may help bring the needs of other invisible pockets to the Lawyers have and can continue to provide legal services to
fore. the multitude of cases that have arisen after Katrina and that
In addition to the reminder provided by Ramadan annually existed before Katrina. For example, some of the most urgent
and prescribed prayers daily, Muslims can join together with needs involve criminal defense, to addresses situations in
others peoples of faith in the mosque, church, and synagogue, which prisoners have been displaced, have been improperly
to pray and work to help those in crisis situations in their held in prison, have suffered Abu Ghraib-type prison abuse,
local communities. This is the type of work in which The or simply were never afforded adequate or effective legal
Mosque Cares11 organization in Chicago has been engaging counsel. The Justice Center (and its Louisiana Capital
for decades. Assistance Center)23 has been working to address these issues,
Community members and community organizations can as has the newly reformed Orleans Public Defender Service
contribute to efforts to address the root causes of suffering in under the guidance of Harvard law professor Ronald Sullivan,
the inner city by creating and promoting dynamic community a ten-year veteran of the D.C. Public Defender Service. As I
programs as alternatives to difficulty and hopelessness. The have discovered, there is plenty that can be done remotely.
Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)12 in Chicago Community leaders should reign in the consciousness of the
takes this as its mission, as should be duplicated in every city. community in a way that moves toward publicly articulating
The Jamestown Project13based in Cambridge, MA promotes shared American values, demanding policy action against
such efforts on the scholarly and policy arenas. Community ignoring (or worse, discriminating against) the invisibles, and
members or mosques can adopt a family to provide lodging, contributing to or building projects like those listed here.

Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World

Community leaders and members alike should seek out the articles/15163.html.
4 Cornel West, “Exiles from a City and from a Nation,” The Observer (September 11,
invisibles to help address their problems; they should not wait 2005 available at,6903,1567247,00.
for a crisis mode or for disaster to strike to discover the plight html.
of their neighbors. 5 163 US 537 (1896).
6 347 US 483 (1954).
7 Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres have expanded on the notion of the miner’s canary in
CONCLUSION (THOUGH IT STILL AIN’T OVER) their book, The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy
(Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press, 2002). The Prophet Muhammad
I have tried here to examine some of the problems that is said to have related a parable with a similar message. He compared people to passengers
Katrina brought to light just three years ago. Katrina revealed on a boat; a hole anywhere on the boat will affect all, whether on the lower deck or the
that America has very ineffective and costly policies for upper deck.
8 Archibald McIeish, quoted in Paul Taylor, Stepanie Robinson, Eddie Glaude, & Ronald
handling its problems. America ignores or fails to see its Sullivan, Jr., While Democracy Sleeps: A White Paper on Democratic Citizenship in the
problems until it reaches a crisis point. Rather than post-hoc United States (New Haven, CT: The Jamestown Project, 2005).
efforts to address past wrongs or disasters, America would do 9 W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (new ed., New York: Dover Publications,
1994) p.2.
much better to see its problems and address them in advance. 10 Ibid.
This is a goal that American citizens should urge. Yet, we 11
cannot expect overnight results. As such, Americans have a 13
duty to act as the community members and democrats they 14
are to ensure the values of humanity and democracy. These 15
policy and community projects are ones in which Muslim 17
Americans have a great role to play. They should draw upon 18
their internal mechanisms for consciousness of the invisible to 19
promote better communities and a better America at the local 21
and policy levels. In this way, we might, just might, finally 22
achieve the promise of democracy and equality.
Otherwise, the specter of invisibility persists. Ralph Ellison
was not prescient; he was explaining problems that were
extant then; and that exist now. Will they continue to exist
in the future? The answer to that question depends on what
we take from the memory of Katrina. For all the havoc she
wreaked, Katrina at least gave us a means to see the invisible
man. We must not forget her lessons to
us all.

Intisar Rabb holds a JD from Yale Law

School and is currently a PhD candidate
for studies in comparative American and
Islamic law at Princeton University.

Originally printed in the Winter 2006

issue of Islamica Magazine as “Hurricane
Katrina: Lessons for the Muslim and
American Communities.” Reprinted with
permission of the publisher of Islamica


1 Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man (1947), prologue.

2 According to US Census Bureau 2004 statistics, Black
households had the lowest median income ($30,134)
and the highest poverty rate (24.7%). C. DeNavas-Walt,
B. Protor and C.H. Lee, Income, Poverty and Health
Coverage in the United States: 2004, U.S. Census Bureau
(August 2005).
3 Christopher Morris, “In New Orleans, Once Again,
the Irony of Southern History,” History News Network
(September 3, 2005), available at
Whole neighborhoods underwater. Photo by Greg Hounslow.

Princeton University - Spring 2008


‘Modern’ Visions of Islam:

At the Junctures of Humanism,
Pragmatism and Scriptural Authority
By Celene Marie Ayat Lizzio’08
As a community accustomed to seeing itself in relation to with heritage comes with its challenges; more frequently than
‘the other’, and as a community often seen by ‘the other’ as not a contentious plurality of opinion reverberates, tensions
occupying a liminal space between modernity and the ancient are drawn, positions etched out, contentions bubble and fuse,
world, Muslim societies and their global diasporas are wres- and objectivity perchance takes momentary respite on the
tling for definition in politics, discourse and livelihood vis-à- sideline.
vis numerous competing interest-poles. There are demands for Approaching religious landscapes in this manner, we see
a progressive reconciliation of monotheistic universality with a continuity of events, countless divisions, alliances, battles
pluralistic societies; there are seemingly irreconcilable ques- for authority, and conflicts to establish acceptable modes of
tions of ethics, not to mention religious rhetoric informing worship, governance and other processes of law, still eluding
violent political allegiances and law being exercised in coun- our best efforts to define them. Rather than being gloomy,
terproductive or unjust manners; there are interests arising the value in looking at religion from this perspective is in
from power politics and geo-political alliances involving land confirming that the religious landscape is discursive, often
and resources; there are demands to comply to standards set contentious, and that social traditions and ‘Truth’ are most of-
forth by international governing institutions; there are pres- ten built upon dialogic argumentation, rather than ubiquitous
sures from civil strife and concerns for securing property and agreement. Emerging from this continuity is the legacy of
sustenance. In the midst of such circumstances, Muslims are today and the vision that no religion is defined independently
navigating variant interpretations of foundational texts and of the individuals who were there, subjected to desire, to bias,
negotiating religious practices through conflicting claims to wrestling with practical circumstances, and interpreting and
authority. re-interpreting the pages of communal histories to frame con-
As such tensions of interest come to fruition, they demand ceptions of reality. With such a dynamic at play it is natural
that the contemporary Muslim body-politic do two things: 1) to expect integral ruptures in how vested parties negotiate
Distinguish the time-bound and pragmatic needs of its living community allegiances. Extending this proposition, there are
framework, needs which must be met to maintain relevance figures articulating a dubiously coherent and at times overly
for followers, and 2) Discern precisely how the universal val- prescriptive Islam, figures who maintain self-interests and
ues and ethical frame of reference that the community takes individual visions against greater communal sentiments. The
to be its foundation can still triumph any in-the-moment Muslim community is well served when those who do not
pragmatism, i.e. there is a marked need for the Muslim com-
munity to preserve a sense of continuity with its heritages
while at the same time accommodating a long list of demands
for flexibility and in the face of ever-changing social realities.
Today, in a spirit of reinterpretation and re-evaluation of
sacred texts, there are Muslims adamantly vouching that no
contradictions of interest exist between ‘liberal values’ and
their religious counterparts, or arguing that ‘pure Islam’ is not
inherently at odds with precepts of human rights, and actively
pursuing these lines of thought through public diplomacy,
activism or academia. Other groups of Muslims argue that
secular liberal precepts pose a danger to Islamic societies, and
the best forms of governance for Muslims can and should be
derived wholly from the foundational religious texts. Coalesc-
ing around these two general orientations are multifarious
opinions vying for bargaining power. With history as a testa-
ment, preserving community and maintaining a continuity Arabic calligraphy from Seville, Spain. Photo by Tiffany Tong GS.

Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World

concur with unjust prescriptions and elitist visions exercise Amidst the undeniable push for renewed commitments to
their bargaining power on public forums. After all, religion piety, and amidst salient yet diverse aspirations for self-de-
and other value systems do not come to be defined indepen- termination, we may readily agree with the premise: “Islamic
dently from human articulation and our communal on-going discourse is dynamic, fluid, and ever-transforming, within the
efforts define sound theology from invention, good from evil, parameters of a highly political ongoing project of producing
right from wrong, and other such inevitable binaries. ‘orthodoxy’ through the interminable reinterpretation and
Indeed, across the territorial expanse that has at one time or re-evaluation of texts and practices” (G.P. Makris, Islam in the
another been sway to Muslim influence, many of the consid- Middle East, 2007:201). Indeed, even a neophyte soon finds
erations that I have mentioned in one way or another occupy out that to be Muslim does not just imply the willing sub-
notable positions in discourse, polemics and dialectics. The scription to God’s moral order, but frequently entails sifting
contemporary Muslim discourses recalled above are not lim- through a host of other considerations deeply rooted in the
ited in scope to the present moment, nor are they simply reac- domain of the political.
tions to ‘modernity’ on our contemporary terms. As Patricia
Crone, Michael Cook, Muhammad Qasim Zaman, and other Celene Marie Ayat Lizzio is a senior majoring in Near Eastern
prominent Islamic scholars have shown, most often intra- Studies at Princeton University. She is also an undergraduate
Muslim discourses reflect, dare I say, ‘fundamental’ dynamics fellow at Princeton’s Center for the Study of Religion and at the
having reflections in, or traceable to the very beginnings or Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination in the Woodrow
antecedents of the religious polity, and with it the beginnings Wilson School.
of Muslim theology, law, governance, and social institutions.

Close Tum Miray Paas Raho

Translated by Maryam Wasif Khan ‘08 By Faiz Ahmed Faiz (from Urdu)

Stay close to me, Tum miray paas raho

my killer, my lover. Stay close, Mairay qaatil, mairay dildar, miray paas raho
when the night walks Jis gharri raat chalay
drunk with the blood of the skies Aasmaanon ka lahoo pee kai syaah raat chalay
bearing the balm of musk, diamond crusted Marhum-e-mushq liyay, nishtar-e-almas liyay
arrows, Bain karti hui, hansti hui, gaati niklay
lamenting, laughing, singing Dard kai kaasni paazaib bajaati niklay.
with the bells of the azure anklets of pain.
Jis gharri seenon mein doobay huay dil
When hearts stifled by the breast Aasteenon mein nahaan haathon ki rah
gaze at the trails left by wandering hands bathed in sleeves taknay lagein.
bearing desire Aas liyay

and the wine in its cup Aur bachon kai bilaknay ki tarhaan qulqul-e-mai
whimpers, perverse and unfulfilled like a child. Behr-e-naasoodgi machlay tu manai na manay

When resolution unwinds. Jab koi baat banai na banay

When speech falters. Jab na koi baat chalay
When the night walks Jis gharri raat chalay
mourning in solitude. Jis gharri maatmi, sunsaan raat chalay

Stay close, Paas raho

my killer, my lover. Mairay qaatil, miray dildaar,
Stay close to me. mairay paas raho.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984), a Pakistani, was among the most celebrated Urdu poets of his time.

Maryam Wasif Khan is a senior in the Comparative Literature Department at Princeton University.

Princeton University - Spring 2008


Of Traders and Tribesmen:

The Hadramawt Region of Eastern Yemen
By George Hatke GS
Ask the average man on the street what he knows about It was at this time that the Shafi‘i school took root as the
the Hadramawt and chances are, if he has heard of it at all, madhhab par excellence of the Hadramawt. Hadrami sea
he will immediately associate it with the Bin Ladens, a Saudi trade brought the Shafi‘i madhhab to the Swahili Coast and
family of Hadrami origin. An arid region of wadis and towns Southeast Asia, where it remains the predominant school
of multi-storied mud-brick houses stretching across the today. After the Rasulids’ successors, the Tahirids (1454-1517
eastern two-thirds of Yemen as far as the Omani border, the CE), lost the interior of the Hadramawt to the Kathirid tribe
Hadramawt makes up most of what was once the People’s by the latter half of the fifteenth century, Tarim, located in
Democratic Republic of Yemen—South Yemen in Western the center of the Hadramawt, emerged as a center of scholar-
parlance. Though the Bin Ladens are now inextricably linked ship not just locally but for the Indian Ocean as a whole. It
with one particularly infamous family member, their wealth boasts no fewer than 360 mosques and its wealthy families
is the product of the same history of migration and entrepre- still possess large manuscript libraries. Though the neighbor-
neurship which has characterized the Hadrami diaspora for ing city of Say’un, which the Kathirid Dynasty (1395-1967
centuries. This history is one not of terrorism but of trade, CE) established as its capital, often sought to outdo it as the
scholarship, and cosmopolitanism spanning the entire width chief Hadrami center of learning, Tarim’s reputation remains
of the Indian Ocean and linking such cities as Aden, Hydera- undiminished. Its Dar al-Mustafa school continues to attract
bad, and Jakarta in a maritime network. students from throughout the Islamic world and beyond.
The Hadramawt has always been a meeting place of differ- However, though Hadramis remained actively involved
ent cultures. It was linked with the rest of the ancient world with sea trade throughout the Middle Ages, it was not until
by land and sea, and exported its famous frankincense by the sixteenth century that they began settling permanently
both routes. With the coming of Islam many sayyids took up in the port cities of the Indian Ocean. This region would
residence in the region, teaching Islam and gaining notoriety henceforth be their mahjar, or place of emigration. By
as holy men. Under the rule of the Rasulid Dynasty of Yemen the twentieth century Hadrami communities had been
(1228-1454 CE) Sufism became popular, and many Hadra- established in Egypt, the Sudan, the Hijaz, the Swahili Coast,
mis were drawn to the teachings of Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240 CE). Madagascar, the Arabian Gulf, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia,

The seaport at the Hadrami city of Al-Mukalla. Photo by Grete Howard.

Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World

Singapore, Brunei, and Indonesia. retired to the Hadramawt only to become embroiled in
One early luminary of the Hadrami mahjar was the scholar decades-old tribal feuds. Their wealth was often resented by
‘Abd al-Qadir b. Shaykh al-‘Aydarus (d. 1628 CE). The son the have-nots of Hadrami society. There were disparities in
of an immigrant Hadrami father and an Indian mother, wealth even between those who had spent time abroad, a phe-
he wrote a history of the Indian Ocean region in the tenth nomenon that reflects the differences in emigration patterns
Islamic century (17th century CE), hence the book’s title according to region. Emigrants from the Wadi Daw’an in
Tarikh al-Nur al-Safir ‘an Akhbar al-Qarn al-‘Ashir (History the western Hadramawt typically went to East Africa, where
of the Travelling Light, Concerning the Events of the Tenth they worked as peddlers in cities like Mombasa and Zanzi-
Century). Though a child of the diaspora, al-‘Aydarus still felt bar. Those from the Upper Hadramawt, by contrast, went to
a special affinity for the homeland of his father, and notes that Southeast Asia and struck it rich as business-owners. Clearly,
many of the Hadramis whose stories he records went back fortune shined on some more than others.
there to live out their final days. This sense of genealogical British intervention did little to calm intertribal disputes.
connection to the Hadrami homeland, and indeed the desire Though Great Britain had acquired the port of Aden as early
to die and be buried there, was what gave the Hadrami mah- as 1839 it was not until the 1870s that they established
jar its cohesiveness. Such ties allowed Hadramis to survive as contact with the interior regions of the Hadramawt and
a distinct community over the centuries, no matter how well began signing so-called “protection treaties” with local rulers.
they were assimilated to the foreign societies in which they The end result was the formation of the Aden Protectorate,
lived. which covered most of the Hadramawt by the mid-twentieth
Of course there were other factors that tied Hadramis in the century. The guiding principal behind these treaties was
mahjar to the homeland. Since very few Hadrami women that, in return for arms and money, these rulers—of whom
ventured abroad, Hadrami men who settled in India or there were no fewer than ninety—would not initiate relations
Southeast Asia usually took local wives, and the children of with any foreign power except Great Britain. Though the
these marriages, known as muwallidin, grew up eating local
food, wearing local dress, and often speaking better Hindi,
Tamil, Malay, Bahasa Indonesia, or Chinese than Arabic. In
an attempt to better acquaint them with Arabic and with
Hadrami ways, as well as to instill in them a pride in their
roots, many muwallidin were sent back to the Hadramawt by
their fathers for their education, but while there they fre-
quently felt very much out of place in their sarongs and their
taste for spicy Indian or Southeast Asian cuisine.
Once the Qu‘ayti tribe captured the port cities of Mukalla
in 1858 and Shihr in 1866, their Kathirid rivals were left
landlocked and, while this never stopped the flow of Had-
rami emigrants from the interior, it gave the Qu‘aytis greater
opportunities to participate in Indian Ocean trade. For years
the Qu‘ayti sultans commanded the armies of the nizam of
Hyderabad, and many spent most of their time in India,
marrying Indian women and becoming very Indianized in the
process. Even women living in Qu‘ayti territory were fond
of wearing their hair in the Indian style, parting it down the
center instead of plaiting it.
Some Hadramis who lived—and married—abroad also
had a Hadrami wife waiting for them when they periodically
went back to the Hadramawt to visit. At times, however,
years might pass when such hapless women did not see their
husbands, and in some (albeit rare) cases a woman would not
see or hear from her husband for as many as forty years. The
dichotomy between mahjar and homeland in the Hadramis’
Indian Ocean diaspora thus placed some at a disadvantage.
The clash between cosmopolitanism and parochialism
was also played out in the incessant feuds that raged in the
Hadramawt. Well into the twentieth century, many wealthy
returnees from the mahjar, having made their fortune abroad,
A community in the Hadramawt. Photo by Jon Bowen.

Princeton University - Spring 2008

British managed to keep the Turks out of the Hadramawt these ideas further, and three years later issued a fatwa repudi-
by this means, they also left the Hadrami interior isolated ating the sayyids’ interpretation of kafa’a. Though al-Surkatti
while foreigners were allowed to monopolize businesses in was met with much hostility from the sayyids and eventually
Aden. The influx of wealth acquired by Hadramis in the returned to the Hijaz, some of his Hadrami followers founded
mahjar did not remedy the situation either, as much of it the Jam‘iyyat al-Islah wa’l-Irshad (Association of Reform and
went into the wasteful construction of palaces in cities like Guidance), a charitable organization which built hostels for
Tarim and Say’un. Some wealthy Hadramis even had cars orphans, widows, and the handicapped as well as clubs and
imported, though these had to be disassembled on the coast libraries. Though open to all Muslims, the organization spe-
and then transported piecemeal on camelback. Even when cifically barred sayyids from serving as directors.
reassembled, cars were of little use in the roadless Hadramawt In the Hadramawt itself, different solutions were found for
except as a status symbol for the elite. social inequalities. After Great Britain withdrew from the
In a region like the Hadramawt where every tribesman region in 1967, an independent Marxist state known as the
carried a rifle, tribal feuds often made for difficult living People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen was formed out of
conditions, and cases in which families were stuck in their what had been the Aden Protectorate. The rhetoric of class
tower-houses for decades were not unheard of as late as the replaced that of genealogy, and while this naturally served to
twentieth century. Already weakened by competition with undermine sayyid influence, one of the leading revolutionar-
imported Southeast Asian rice, Hadrami agriculture suffered ies at the time, Faysal al-‘Attas, was from a well-known sayyid
further as a result of local warfare. At times the fighting family. Some members of the Indonesian Communist Party
between tribes became so intense that farmers had to build were also of Hadrami sayyid background. But if traders and
protective mud-brick walls along the pathways linking towns tribesmen had been the key components of Hadrami society
to fields out of fear of getting hit in the crossfire. Those farm- in previous centuries, a new model was found in the Qarami-
ers who did make it to their fields in safety often found their ta. A radical Isma‘ili movement which established what was
date-palms already destroyed by their rivals’ having poured intended as a utopian society in eastern Arabia in 899 and
kerosene on them. gradually shed its Islamic trappings to the point of eradicating
But inter-tribal jealousies were not the only problem faced religion from public life, the Qaramita advocated a communal
by Hadramis. As in any society in which wealth is unevenly sharing of resources, and were upheld by the South Yemeni
distributed, the elite dominated social life, and since Hadra- regime as Arabian proto-socialists. (Conspicuously absent
mis placed great emphasis on genealogical descent as a guide from South Yemeni state dogma, however, was any reference
to social interactions, members of the elite who also happened to the fact that the Qaramita also advocated the indiscrimi-
to be sayyids enjoyed numerous privileges denied to others. nate sharing of women, with no regard to Islamic marriage
In both the Hadramawt and the Hadrami mahjar, sayyids fre- laws. Needless to say, this latter feature of Qarmati society
quently insisted on occupying the first two rows in mosques never caught on in South Yemen even among the most ardent
at prayer-time. They also led processions through towns dur- of Marxists!)
ing major religious events, and when greeted by non-sayyids Marxism had overall little impact on the Hadrami popula-
they would expect to have their right hand kissed. In South- tion, though. Islam has always played a central role in Hadra-
east Asia sayyids insisted on occupying positions of leadership mi life, and continues to do so today, nearly two decades after
in social organizations within the Hadrami community. In the unification of the two Yemens in 1990. The nationaliza-
addition, sayyids viewed genealogical credentials as the basis tion of the economies of the countries of the Indian Ocean
for kafa’a (compatability) in marriage. Thus, while there was has undermined the role of Hadramis in local businesses,
nothing to prevent a sayyid man from marrying a non-sayyid but the descendants of Hadrami immigrants, particularly in
woman, a woman of sayyid origin was strictly prohibited Southeast Asia, remain active in trade and construction. The
from marrying a non-sayyid man. Even after generations of Hadramawt itself has not fared quite as well. Like the rest of
intermarriage with local women, sayyids of Hadrami origin in Yemen it lacks the abundant oil reserves of other regions of
Southeast Asia still rigidly adhered to these standards. the Arabian Peninsula, which is why its cities have not under-
But as early as the 1880s, many Hadramis in Southeast gone the radical modernization witnessed by Riyadh or Abu
Asia were expressing discontent with this state of affairs. Dhabi. In many ways the cosmopolitanism of the Hadrami
Non-sayyids who had acquired wealth through business or mahjar never did mesh well with the traditions of the conser-
construction were particularly resentful of having to defer vative Hadramawt. Yet it is this same conservative attitude
to sayyids. During this time the influence of egalitarian that has allowed the region to retain its old character, the likes
ideals promulgated by such Islamic modernists as Muham- of which other parts of Arabia have long since lost.
mad ‘Abduh and Muhammad Rashid Rida began to be felt
throughout the Hadrami mahjar. Arriving in Batavia (pres- George Hatke is a fifth-year graduate student in the Near
ent-day Jakarta) in 1912, Ahmad Muhammmad al-Surkatti, Eastern Studies Department at Princeton University.
a Sudanese shaykh educated in the Hijaz, helped disseminate

Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World


“Blessed are the Peacemakers”

By Faraz Khan
In the name of God who created the heavens and the earth the name of religion and/or God. Here I would like to point
and all that is within them. Glory to Him, we are unable to out that no war is holy. No crime committed by a religious or
praise Him in accordance with His praise. Thus, we accept nonreligious person is above the justice of God. Foul behavior
our shortcomings and ask God for compassion, forgiveness has no religion, no scripture, no temple, and no prophets.
and grace. Those who engage in such criminal behaviour are charlatans,
God mentions in the Holy Qur’an: “O people, we have wolves in sheep’s clothing.
created you from a male and a female, and then we made you Any crime committed in the name of God or freedom
into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.” does not exonerate any individual from their evil action. The
49:13 prophet Muhammad said, “God does not look at your faces
Islamic tradition is very clear about the human family in and physical bodies but rather he looks at your hearts and
that we all come from Adam and Eve. God tells us in the actions.” For this reason, believers should come forward with
Qur’an that he created us to know one another. Our differ- exemplary behavior.
ences in language, color, ethnicity and culture are a sign from It certainly takes courage and a deep conviction in one’s own
God that we should connect with each other, not harbor way of life to reach out to others. But this reaching out may
suspicion and hatred for one another: “If God had willed, He also help in clarifying various religious positions. For example,
would have made you one community but things are as they a Muslim or a member of any religious community who
are to test you in what He has given you. So compete with makes the news by committing evil deeds does not represent
each other in good.” 5:48 his or her religion. Yet people may confuse an individual’s
In addition, God mentions that He would have made us misbehavior as representing the entire religious teaching of
into a monolithic community, but it is a test and part of His a tradition. Hence, a dialogue is crucial to better understand
grand plan to observe our actions : “If God did not enable and appreciate people of other faiths.
some men to keep back others, hermitages, synagogues, My first encounter with interfaith discussion was about
chapels and mosques where the name of God is mentioned five years ago with Paul Heck, a former fellow at Princeton
would have been demolished.” 22:40 University. In his talk, he casually asserted that many religious
Muslims believe that many religious teachings of the earlier people claim to possess the whole truth. He then followed
prophets were preserved by various religions. As long as the by stating that we need to be humble before making such
source of the teaching is God, harmony and justice will exist strident claims. His words left me a bit confused. How could
in these teachings. I be “humble” when I believe that, as a Muslim, I do possess
As God commands the believers to say, “We believe in what the truth?
has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to you; God tells us in the Qur’an that “Those who strive for our
our God and your God is one.” 29:46 sake, we shall guide them to our paths. Surely, God is with
One may ask then why there would be a need for interfaith those who do good.” There are many paths to God. Those
dialogue; if we are on the truth, why spend time learning who accompanied Abraham went on his path to God. Those
other than the truth? Should we not protect our faith by iso- who followed Moses took on his path. Those who loved and
lating ourselves from other ideas? became disciples of Jesus took his way. And those who fol-
Let us look into the lives of the people of God for guidance. lowed the prophet Muhammad are on the path to God.
Indeed, the prophet Muhammad welcomed dialogue and God is the truth (al-Haqq) and calls us to become people of
he welcomed the Christians of Najran and allowed them to the truth. To quote Gregg Mast, president of the New Bruns-
stay and pray in the mosque of Medina. He never compelled wick Theological Seminary, “We don’t possess the truth but
people to become Muslim. God says to the believers in the the truth possesses us.”
Qur’an, “There is no compulsion in religion.” Islam requires Dialogue is what brings us closer, as in the words of Rabbi
that one become a believer by his or her own volition. Reed of Rutgers University Hillel, “How good it is when
Religion is a matter of conviction of the heart and mind. It brothers (referring to the children of Ishmael and Isaac) come
is a commitment to do good work based on shared values to together.” There is an active dailogue between Muslim and
uplift human experiences. In essence, we have an obligation Jewish students at Princeton University, thanks to the efforts
to humanity based on our belief in God. of Muslim and Jewish students and the leadership of the
Unfortunately, some people have the perception that former Princeton chaplain Khalid Latif and Rabbi Julie Roth,
religion teaches prejudice, intolerance, and division, and, as executive Director of the Princeton Center for Jewish Life/
proof, they mention all the wars and crimes committed in Hillel. These are commendable efforts that need community
Princeton University - Spring 2008
support. in his sight as children of Adam. God in his infinite wisdom
In this time when people are vilifying and demonizing the did not make us a monolithic community. Consequently, it is
other, it is urgently necessary to have a dialogue to rid our- incumbent upon us that we keep the dialogue open and genu-
selves of stereotypes and misinformation. Unless we commit inely try to understand our brothers and sisters in humanity.
to an active dialogue between our various religious traditions, We must accept and welcome diversity in our ranks. A person
suspicion will fill the void. Rev. John Larson, campus pastor who is sincere to God will also be sincere to people and vice
for the Lutheran Campus Ministry at Rutgers, mentioned versa.
in an interfaith discussion after the tragic events of Sept. 11, In conclusion, what kind of world would we like to leave
2001 that a local imam said it was the responsibility of Mus- behind for our children? A place full of suspicion, insult,
lims to reach out to and educate their non-Muslim friends, prejudice and hate or a place full of love, understanding, com-
neighbors and coworkers about Islam. But as this responsibili- passion and justice? Let us work together and let our actions
ty has not been adequately shouldered thus far by the Muslim speak louder than our words. For surely, we are at a shortage
community, the result of such neglect is that Islamophobia of people who can contribute to peace, love and understand-
is on a rise. Regrettably, the latest surveys show that many ing. As our prophet Jesus Christ mentioned, “Blessed are the
Americans believe that Islam endorses violence and hatred. peacemakers.”
Today, the world is in pandemonium because the luna- Be peacemakers, contributors and callers to God. Let us
tics have seized the cockpit and taken us further away from pray and recognize the bonds that unite us and let not our
dialogue and mutual understanding. Due to the urgency of differences divide us. Amen.
this call, we must not be passive in pursuing tolerance and
understanding. American Muslims must take a lead in bridge- Faraz Khan is a regular khatib (speaker) at the New Brunswick
building and fostering a respect for human rights and social Islamic Center. He frequently lectures at local mosques and college
justice. Certainly, God is not prejudiced, and we are all equal campuses on issues related to Islam and Muslims.

The Al-Hakim Mosque in Cairo, Egypt. Photo by Sarah Dajani ‘09.

Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World


A pearl in Mawaraunnahr
By Fethi Mübin Ramazanoğlu GS
If you were to rank the centers of the Islamic World The region around Bukhara has been inhabited for many
throughout the centuries, which cities would be at the top of centuries, but the city itself was established around 5000
your list? Probably you would start with Mecca and Medina, BCE. Due to its position on the Silk Road, it has been an im-
and continue with Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo. If you portant cultural and economic center throughout its history.
wanted to add a bit of a western source, maybe you would As a major city in the Iranian sphere of culture, it was not left
add Granada or Cordoba. These would all be fine choices, unnoticed in the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, and legend con-
but, now, I would like to draw your attention to one of those nects its history to the killing of the Iranian prince Siavush.
cities which was perhaps never as brilliant as the aforemen- Bukhara was conquered by Ubaydullah bin Ziyad in 54
tioned ones, but yet has a unique signature in our history. A AH/673 CE and was quickly Islamized during the 2nd cen-
city which, as it has usually been in the shadow of a nearby tury AH/8th century CE. The following centuries marked
giant, deserves to be mentioned first as one of the “secondary” Bukhara as a major cultural, educational and economic
cities: Bukhara. center under the rule of various dynasties, most notably the
Bukhara is a city located in the historical region of Tran- Samanids. It was a highly cosmopolitan city containing ele-
soxiana, the region between the rivers of Amu Darya (Oxus) ments from Iranian, Turkic, Arab and even Chinese cultures.
and Syr Darya (Jaxartes) in today’s Uzbekistan, and known in Destruction was not alien to Bukhara since it was burnt
Arabic as Mawaraunnahr,. If it was not for a single figure, the down at various times due to the common use of timber as a
famous hadith scholar Imam Bukhari, probably many of us building material, and it was again fire, not the armies, that
would not even know that Bukhara existed. Even though it is devastated the city shortly after its fall to the Mongols on 4
currently on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, very few Dhul-Hijja 616 AH/10 February 1220 CE. Bukhara quickly
of us have probably ever planned to visit Bukhara one day. recovered from the Mongol invasion, but there were massacres
Perhaps one reason for this is the fact that it was overshad- and looting on various occasions afterwards. Most notably,
owed by Samarkand: Amin Maalouf probably never thought the city population was almost totally killed in 671 AH/1221
of naming his celebrated novel after Bukhara. Enough said CE by Ilkhanids and there was even a period when Bukhara
about the bad luck of Bukhara, let us talk about its merits. was uninhabited. Even after a century, in 733 AH/1332 CE,

Samanid architecture in Bukhara. Uncredited photo.

Princeton University - Spring 2008


The courtyard of the Kalon Mosque, Bukhara. Photo by Alan Cordova.

the famous traveler Ibn Batuta narrates that the masjids, ma- the fifth most populous city in Uzbekistan. Nevertheless, it
drasas and the bazaars of the city were in ruins. is not the number of people or the gross domestic product
Revitalization came in the following centuries and Bukhara of a city that attracts us to it, rather it is the important role it
once again became a major center for various Turkic dynas- has played throughout Islamic history and the connection we
ties. Uzbek control started in the 10th century AH/16th cen- should all thus feel with it.
tury CE and continued until the Russian invasion. Bukhara
was one of the strongholds of the resistance against Russian Fethi Mübin Ramazanoğlu, from Turkey, is a graduate student
invasion both during the Czarist and the early Soviet eras, in the Physics Department at Princeton Unversity.
but Russians attained the final victory in 1345 AH/1926 CE.
This era added a Russian element to the multicultural charac-
ter of the city. Nevertheless, Bukhara partially maintained its
status as a living Islamic center as it was home to one of the
only two madrasas in the region during the Soviet era.
The city of Bukhara and its province are the birth place of
two legendary figures in the history of Islam: the compiler of
the famous hadith collection Imam Bukhari (d.256 AH/870
CE) and the world renowned philosopher and physician Ibn
Sina (Avicenna b.428 AH/1037 CE). Another prominent fig-
ure from the area is Baha-ud Din Naqshband Bukhari (d.791
AH/1389 CE), who is the founder of the Naqshabandi sufi
order which has influenced millions of followers all around
the world, and continues to exist today. These preeminent
scholars were not only born in Bukhara, but also educated
there at least through their teens. This fact alone shows the
high quality of the education and the high level of scholarship
fostered in the city through a six-century period.
Today, Bukhara is still an important historical and cultural
city. Many ancient masjids and madrasas, as well as the tomb
of Baha-ud Din Naqshband, are in the city, but in terms of
population and economic influence, it has even stronger rivals
than its long time fellow Samarkand: currently Bukhara is Kalian Minaret, Bukhara. Photo by Dave Rawlinson.

Misbah - Exploring Islam and the Muslim World


A Call for Understanding

By Nabil Abdurehman ‘11
I remember where I was the morning of September 11, a law that firmly prohibits any defamation of its royal family,
2001; I was in seventh grade, sitting at my desk in home- punishable by two years in jail - but wait, isn’t this hypocrisy
room. My teacher carted in a TV and changed the channel on Spain’s part, to preach free speech but to practice other-
to CBS, which was replaying the footage of the towers being wise? With cases like this, is it difficult to see how tensions are
hit. A little while later, after the teacher returned the TV and increasing between Islam and the West?
re-entered the classroom, she looked at me (I must have still But what is Islam, and what does it teach? It is because
been groggy) and asked if anyone had said anything to me, there are so many different possible answers to this question
presumably about me in connection with the attacks. Puzzled that there is much confusion and misunderstanding about
how, in my mind, anyone could connect me in Tennessee the religion. Traditional Islam isn’t what Elijah Muhammad
with the destruction of buildings which I’d never heard of or Louis Farrakhan teach in the so-called Nation of Islam,
before in New York, I replied to the contrary, curious of the which promotes racism and attributes to God anthropomor-
consequences that would result from that indelible day in phic characteristics. It’s also not represented by the extremists
American history. who falsely claim that traditional Islam allows suicide bomb-
My sophomore year at school in AP European History, I ings (on the contrary, these are prohibited for several differ-
remember the section we spent covering Islam, the entire ent reasons). Muslims believe that nothing deserves to be
half page of it. How is it that in a history book with over worshiped except for God (the Arabic for God is “Allah,” a
1000 pages, only a little more than half a page of text was contraction of “the” and “God,” emphasizing the monotheism
devoted to the Muslim influence in Europe? They ruled in at the core of Islam). We believe that God is not a human,
Spain for over 700 years, yet I don’t remember any mention a body, a shape, a color, an image, nor does God in any way
of this being given except for their final ousting in 1492 from whatsoever resemble anything in creation. A famous saying
Grenada, shortly before Christopher Columbus’s expeditions goes, Whatever you imagine in your mind, God is other than
to the West were financed by the monarchy. What do we that.
make then of Lady Macbeth, who says, “Here’s the smell of An understanding of the basic tenets of Islam is becom-
the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this ing more and more crucial, especially since this religion, the
little hand. Oh, Oh, Oh!” “Oh” indeed, as during this time world’s fastest growing one, is receiving an unprecedented
Europeans, let’s say, less than emphasized the importance of amount of worldwide attention, and with that, scrutiny. As
bathing and cleanliness; James Loewen mentions in one of his long as there are extremists, everyone is in danger, especially
books how some of the explorers who came to America and mainstream Muslims who are being blamed for the misguided
lived in the woods smelled so bad, the animals were repelled acts of a very small number of deviants. Don’t forget, Mus-
by their scent and the Native Americans attempted to show lims died in the World Trade Center, too. People, Muslim
them how to bathe. Compare this to the Muslim practice of and non-Muslim, need to learn more about Islam, for all our
performing ablution every day before prayers, and the detailed sakes.
rules distinguishing between what is filthy versus pure, so that
a certain degree of cleanliness is mandated by the religion. Nabil Abdurehman is a freshman and prospective math major
This quote of Shakespeare’s indicates that, at least in some re- from Memphis, TN.
spects, Western society held Muslim culture as a sort of model
to which their own was compared. Islam’s immutable ideals
are still held as a foil to the West’s changing values, but in a
light far more critical than curious or inquisitive. And recently
Islam has come under an increasing number of attacks for its
beliefs and practices.
Among the most blatant of these attacks were the cartoons
claiming to depict the Prophet Muhammad published by
Danish newspapers under the guise of free speech. Of course,
when Muslims were being denounced and insulted as barbar-
ic, it was not the wisest move to mob and attack different em-
bassies, but it is understandable how they could be so deeply
insulted by such a violation of their beliefs. I mean, Spain has

Princeton University - Spring 2008

Spring 2008