Split the Moon

Rabia Chaudry

Tag: Islam

And It’s Only Wednesday

Doesn't look like it

Doesn’t look like it

A lot has been going on, which is how I will weasel my way out of not blogging any sooner. It’s already COB on the day the State’s response brief to our Motion to Reopen was due and I’ve been strumming my fingers, trying to calm my heart palpitations, all day.  So far, nothing filed. Did they just miss the deadline, after asking for an extension?

But, according to a little bird, today was also the deadline for an MPIA request a friendly force filed with the Baltimore County PD.  Are these things connected?  Anything is possible.

Regardless, you’ve had more than enough time.  Hand it over already, Maryland.

 

ATONEMENT

These are high holy days for both Muslims and Jews.  A fascinating (but understandable if you know the theology) connection between the days we are celebrating is this: both Yom Kippur and Yom Arafat are days of fasting, atonement and forgiveness by God.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Observant Jews undergo a full day and night fast, and many intense hours in prayer and asking for repentance.  The tradition is that God writes the fates of the upcoming year into the “Book of Life” and on Yom Kippur that book, those fates, are sealed. So up until this time, people have a chance to atone for the wrongs they’ve done others and hope their fates get a positive boost in the Book.

Yom Arafat is remarkably similar. It completes the Hajj pilgrimage, which is wrapping up right now in Mecca, and is a day when the millions of pilgrims stand on the plain and mount of Arafat for hours in prayer, asking for forgiveness for their sins.  It is also the tradition to fast on this day for those who are not making the pilgrimage, those of us at home who seek God’s forgiveness and pardon from afar.

A quick aside for those wondering what the heck the Hajj is all about. You may be surprised to know it is will sound incredibly familiar to those who remember their Sunday school lessons.  As the story goes in the Abrahamic traditions, the patriarch and prophet Abraham (AS)* was unable to have children with his wife Sarah (AS).  Sarah allowed him to take another wife Hagar (AS).  Here is where the Judeo-Christian and Islamic stories diverge: in the Islamic tradition, once Hagar had a son Ishmael, Abraham was ordered by God to take her and the child far away and leave them in the remote desert, an order Hagar accepted. In the Judeo-Christian tradition Sarah got jealous and threw them out.  Muslims don’t believe that. We got no haterade for Sarah.  

Two million people, all at once

Two million people, all at once

So Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael out to “Becca”, now known as Mecca, and left them there.  Alone.  He didn’t want to, but he obeyed God’s commands.  The baby started crying, thirsty and hungry. Hagar, frantic but not willing to lay down and just die, began running to  seek a source of water. She ran seven times between the two small hills, Safa and Marwa, before returning to the baby, exhausted.  God, having heard her maternal pleas and grief, sent the angel Gabriel to the baby.  The baby kicked his heel on the earth, in which spot the angel moved the dirt to reveal a spring, called Zamzam, which flows to this day.

Abraham kept returning to visit his wife and son, and when Ishmael got a little older they built a place to worship God, apparently on the same spot Adam first built a house of worship, which is that little iconic square building (the ka’aaba) draped in black fabric that the world sees as a symbol for Mecca.  Its basically empty inside. The tradition about it says that the Throne of God is above this spot, seven heavens above it, but above it nonetheless. And as people go round and round the ka’aaba here on earth, seven heavens above legions of angels also go around and around God’s throne in worship and awe. 

Astronaut Scott is not exactly at seventh heaven level, but still pretty cool

Astronaut Scott is not exactly at seventh heaven level, but still pretty cool

Now, when pilgrims go for Hajj there are a number of rituals they perform, including running between the hills of Safa and Marwa to commemorate Hagar’s search for sustenance, standing in prayer and atonement on the day of Arafat, and at the end paying for the sacrifice of a goat, cow, lamb to commemorate the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son at God’s command. Of course, if you recall, God switched out the son at the last second for an ram, but the point is Abraham was willing to do it for God.  So every Muslim family that can afford to will have an animal slaughtered, keep 1/3 of the meat, give 1/3 to friends and family, and distribute 1/3 to the impoverished.  The day after Arafat is a celebration, Eid, which for us is tomorrow. Basically we dress up, eat a lot, exchange gifts, and in my family, hit up a movie at night. I’m all about the new Johnny Depp movie tomorrow night.  

Ok, back to the other stuff.

We all have things to atone for, none of us are saints. And if you think you have nothing to feel badly for, you may be an arrogant turd. Or Donald Trump. Yes, you may be Donald Trump.

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If you’re wondering what David is talking about above, it’s been a busy week in hating Muslims here in the US.

In case you missed it, presidential candidates are getting a jump start on their Islamophobia platforms this election cycle. In the past week Trump already humored a supporter at a rally who asked when the US could get rid of all the Muslims already (dammit we’ve been here 500 years or so, enough is enough), and Ben Carson declared Islam not compatible with the US Constitution, hence a Muslim president just wouldn’t work for him.  He got a bit of a fundraising boost with that one.

Then there was the arrest of this poor 14 year old kid in Texas for bringing a clock to school, a clock he kept telling his teachers was a clock.  But Muslims with clocks can mean anything, right Bill Maher?

Ahmed is having a bad day

Ahmed is having a bad day

The upside of all of it is that none of this crap went quietly into the night.  There was major disgust, pushback, and ridicule of the bigoted players. Ahmed got invited to the White House and to pretty much any engineering school he wants to go to. Which means we can still win this thing, and I don’t yet have to move with my kids to Indonesia or something.

So that is what David is atoning for in his tweet. My atonement is for telling people to eff off more than I would have liked to on Twitter, and also for letting the last year go by too fast and not having the time I wish I did for my girls.

This may be a good time for a bunch of others to atone. Jay, Urick, Ritz, Mac, Mandy, and the other players who put an innocent 17 year old kid away for life.

Jay, atone for every day that Adnan has lost because of your false testimony.  Thou shall not bear false witness, remember that?  As long as Adnan is in prison, it will be your false testimony keeping him there.

Urick, you racist rat bastard, atone for railroading a young black man through threat of the death penalty into giving false testimony. Atone for using Adnan’s religion to demonize him. Atone for messing with witnesses to undermine Adnan’s defense, atone for preventing Asia from testifying, atone for blocking the truth in a court of justice. If you have a soul that is.

Also the Pope is in town, another good reason to cleanse yourself of your sins.  God, I love this Pope.

 

TRUTH AND JUSTICE

Can I get a witness to the awesomeness, diligence, and fortitude that is Bob Ruff on his Serial Dynasty podcast?  He’s a master interviewer, getting all sorts of people to talk. Most recently he’s done a few remarkable things:

  • Confirm that Don’s alibi/timesheets for the day Hae disappeared were falsified.  This is kind of major, when you consider the possibility of who could have had the opportunity to be in contact with her that day.  At this point numerous general managers and HR of LensCrafters have confirmed Don’s 1/13/99 timesheet to be fake. Thanks BPD for nothing. For not even bothering to confirm this shit sixteen years ago. Oh right, bad evidence.
  • Talked to Mr. E, ie neighbor boy, who basically said none of that trunk pop stuff happened around him, and gave a totally different version of how Adnan allegedly killed Hae according (of course) to Jay: that he went to see her after work at the mall, got in an argument, and killed her in the heat of the moment.  Murder version number….9? I’ve lost count
  • Had a heart to heart with Laura, who was friends with Jay, Jenn, and Adnan, and to whom NONE of Jay’s story made sense because she knew him and Adnan simply were not in a such a relationship, because Adnan would never hurt a fly, and because Jay could easily be railroaded by police. Also, interesting that despite hanging out with these folks constantly, neither Jay or Jenn ever said a peep to her about their involvement in the case or trial. Though Jay did tell others. My guess? He told people who didn’t know Adnan.  People like Laura, who did know Adnan, would have called him out and probably contacted Adnan to figure out what the heck was happening.

Bob has some other really important interviews and information coming up, and thanks to a cease and desist letter from Serial once he topped the iTunes charts (though he was already considering it), he’s re-branding his show. It will now be the Truth and Justice podcast, and he’ll continue (after Adnan’s case) to look at other wrongful convictions, maybe even the ones we at Undisclosed look at. Not sure.

Either way, let’s help him get set up. If you can spare a $20, please do donate to his new podcast: https://www.gofundme.com/truthandjustice

ON A PERSONAL TIP

I have two daughters. My younger one started second grade this year, my eldest started college.  She moved to live with her father, my ex, because his home is closer to her school.  This all happened too fast, and I’ve been just a little out of sorts about it.  By that I mean deeply depressed that my baby is gone, regardless of the fact that I still see her every week.

Note to parents: they grow up so fast you won’t know what hit you.  Its ok to cry. I did quite a bit in the last month.  I still had lots of things I was planning on doing with her and bam, before I knew it her childhood was gone. At this point, sitting her in my lap reading through the entire Nancy Drew series will probably not work.

Do it all while you can, moms and dads out there.  Time is the thing we can never get back.

On a positive note, lest you forget, I have a career that has nothing to do with Adnan’s case.  This year I wrapped up a two year project with the New America Foundation. Next year I am excited and honored to be joining the US Institute for Peace as a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow to research and document the role of interfaith actors in resilience to sectarian violence in two hotbeds:  Pakistan and Myanmar.

My work on countering violent extremism goes on.  I can’t wait until Adnan is home so I can continue it fully.

Also in November of this year the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth will be honoring a number of remarkable people for their work. If you’re in the DC area, believe in sentencing reform for youth offenders, come out and join us.  I am also being honored but seriously, one of these things does not belong:

I am the thing that doesn't belong, an thus honored even moreso

I am the thing that doesn’t belong, an thus honored even moreso

EID MUBARAK

That’s how we greet each other on the Eid holiday, wishing blessings on this day. We give gifts on this occasion, so my gift to readers today are these documents below, a glimpse into the kind of person Adnan is.  When you go through them, think about what he could have been. What Jay and Urick and others took from him. And say a prayer that he gets the chance to have a life again.

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Serial Episode 10: Welcome To Our World

 

Just because the Secretary of State of the US confirms Adnan is an American, doesn't mean the State of MD thinks so

Just because the Secretary of State of the US confirms Adnan is an American, doesn’t mean the State of MD has to buy it. In case you’re wondering Adnan visited Pakistan twice in his life. Once when he was four years old, for a month. And once when he was ten years old, again for a month. We like to radicalize our boys young.

The thing about racism, xenophobia, gender bias, age discrimination, and a host of other prejudices is that unless you’re part of the target group, its very hard to get it. The past few weeks have been gut wrenching as grand juries in the murders of both Eric Garner and Michael Brown returned no indictments against the police officers that killed them.  While the overwhelming and appropriate response has been grief and rage against the systematic brutalization of black men, and the lack of accountability for it, there are the inevitable groups that just don’t get it. They see officers forced to make hard decisions, not institutional racism. They see a series of unconnected unfortunate events, not an epidemic of violent responses by law enforcement towards black men, another manifestation of the brutality that drove slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the extra-judicial lynching of black men by whites in this country – even though none of that was very long ago.

They can’t see what’s before their eyes, no matter how many times and how many ways the people who are affected point it out.  And the saddest and most ironic thing is that even those who suffer prejudice often don’t recognize the bigotry with which they encounter others.

Which brings me to Adnan, and a courtroom full of Muslims who looked as Muslim as Muslims can look. Continue reading

Splitting Moons

*This post first appeared on Patheos on January 17, 2014 

The great thing about writing your first blog post is that you can be assured that almost no one will read it.  Except for your own lonesome self. Repeatedly.  Because it better be perfect for you.

My poor editor waited patiently for near 100 days as I hemmed and hawed over naming this blog.  It didn’t come easy to me, because dammit a permanent title needs to be profound, mysterious, just a little cliched but not too cheesy, and reflect the depths of the blogger’s soul.  Amiright?  So in the end “Split the Moon” won out over such gems as “Rabia’s Jihad”, “The Veiled Aunty, Exotic”, “Life is a Bag of Samosas”, and “No Love Like Cat Love”.  The rich promise of such titles is alluring, but don’t lament, future blog posts will probably cover all these subjects.

For folks who may not get the reference, split the moon refers to a story in the life of the Prophet Muhammad*, to whom doubters had posed a challenge.  They demanded evidence of his Prophethood in miracle form.  It’s narrated that the Prophet pointed to the full moon, which split in two through the permission of God.  Accounts say that after witnessing this, the skeptics accused the Prophet of magic or sorcery, which triggered this Quranic revelation:

“The hour drew nigh and the moon did rend asunder. And if they see a miracle they turn aside and say: Transient magic.” (Quran 54:1-2) 

Of course there are plenty of theories about the event – it was an illusion, there was some sort of celestial interference that made the moon look like two halves, it’s allegorical and not literal.  But with stories of such events, what I’ve come to realize is the actual facts of the matter mean very little. What really happened is insignificant.  The real question is why any story is part of our tradition and what lessons are we supposed to take from it?

I take two lessons from this story: always be prepared to prove your mettle, and even when you do, haters will hate.  What reason was there for the Prophet* to go through the trouble of performing a miracle when it didn’t convince his critics anyway?  His followers already believed in his prophethood.  They weren’t served in any way through the miracle.  The Quran and the character of the Prophet* had already convinced them. The lesson here for me is that regardless of whether heavenly hosts are supporting you, you still have to do your best in this world, walk the talk, even respond to critics, but realize that there will always be critics. And that’s ok.  Do your best and leave the results with God.

So here I am, trying to split many, many moons.  Like everyone else.  It’s both a very short and very long life. Finding purpose, making a difference in the world, paying our dues, raising kids, supporting friends, being someone’s better half, caring for our parents, going above and beyond our responsibilities, living and hoping to die well, being faithful to the Creator and created, just getting through it all with dignity and hope for eternal Grace. These are the miracles of the common man. These are our moons to split, and split them we must.

With this, bismillah.  I plan to write a few times a month, and I can assure you the subject matter will be erratic.  I juggle many moons, from national security to immigration, from fluffy cats to faith, from gender relations to food – like the average internet-addicted person, my attention is on way too many unrelated things.

Here’s to hoping I can keep yours, 600-700 words at a time.

*It’s the tradition of Muslims to say “peace be upon him” after any mention of the Prophet Muhammad. We also send blessings after mentioning any Prophet, including but not limited to Adam, Moses, Abraham, and Jesus, may God be pleased with them all. Muslims, when you read this post and see an asterisk, say it. In your heart or out loud, just say it.  Those of the not-Muslim persuasion can say it too.  Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

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