Flashes from the Muslim World

INDIA

Islamic Architecture in Historic Bidar, Karnataka

The historic Bidar in the federal state of Karnataka, in India, now finds itself on the world map of heritage tourism as it figures in the 2014 World Monuments Watch list released by the World Monuments Fund (WMF), a New York based NGO working for the protection of monuments. Madrasa Mahmud Gawan in Bidar, a university of repute in the 15th Century, still reverberates with sounds of teaching and reminds us that learning is at the core of the Islamic tradition. Anyone who visits this site will seemingly get bowled over by the sheer magnitude and grace of this once great abode of learning. Though Bidar is adorned with a plethora of monuments and sights, they have remained unknown to the outside world. Now that Bidar has arrived on the world map of heritage tourism, the state government has initiated efforts to take up promotional activities on a large scale.

MALAYSIA

Islamic Endowments Set

Malaysia’s Islamic endowments may soon move from mostly donated real estate to share and bond funds led by external managers to produce better returns. The endowments, known as Awqaf in Malaysia, operate social projects such as hospitals, mosques and schools with donations received from Muslims usually in the form of real estate. They are run by the religious bodies of each state, but poor financial returns and a lack of economic efficiency prompted a government review of Malaysia’s Awqaf last year.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Dubai to Host World Peace Conference

‘The Dubai International Peace Convention is a perfect opportunity to illustrate Islam’s teachings of peace,’ said Hamad bin Al Sheikh Ahmed Al Shaibani, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for World Peace and Chairman of the Dubai International Peace Convention. Al Maktoum Award for World Peace will be announced during the ceremony. The USD 1.5 million award is the world’s richest prize for outstanding humanitarian work. The award aims to promote a message of peace, moderation, coexistence and dialogue. It will honor deserving individuals and organizations from around the world for exemplary contributions to world harmony and interfaith dialogue.

KUWAIT

Bank of Kuwait to Convert to Islamic Banking

The Commercial Bank of Kuwait, the Gulf state’s fifth largest lender by assets, said a majority of shareholders had approved a plan to convert the bank into a full fledged Islamic lender. KUNA reported. The decision does not take immediate effect – it is just a first step in a legal process involving several studies and approvals. The bank also said it had received approval to raise 120 million dinars through the sale of subordinated bonds to help in its expansion plans.

OMAN

Extends Curbs on Expats

Oman said it would extend curbs on the hiring of foreign workers in construction and housekeeping as part of efforts to save more jobs for local citizens and limit outflows of money from the economy. Omanis are spending billions of dollars on infrastructure projects to diversify its economy beyond oil, and it seems unlikely to starve these projects of labour. Expats in Oman rose to 1.53 million in February, from1.47 million registered a year earlier, government data shows. By contrast, there were just 184,485 Omani citizens working in the private sector in February, the country’s total population including foreigners is estimated at four million.

SAUDI ARABIA

Preachers told to Keep Friday Sermons Short

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment and Guidance has urged preachers to keep their Friday sermons short and concise and is considering taking legal action against preachers who discuss controversial topics. Boring sermons make worshippers inattentive and defeat the purpose of attracting people to faith. The ministry is also taking measures to introduce online connectivity initiatives with preachers after the study found that three quarters of worshippers do not have any direct contact with their local Imam in spite of the fact that more than half of all topics discussed social issues.

Translation of Friday Sermons Urged

Public pressure has been mounting to provide translation of Friday sermons in different languages spoken by non-Arab expatriates in the Kingdom, especially in English, Urdu, Malayalam and Tagalog, to help them understand the sermon’s message and learn about Islam. The former Director-General of the Da’wah Office urged Muslim expatriates to make use of their stay in the Kingdom to learn Arabic, the language of the Holy Qur’an. ‘There is a big demand for Arabic language courses,’ he pointed out. Arabic is the sixth most popular language in the world. He further stressed the need to promote Arabic language to spread Islamic culture and civilization.

Spreading False News on Islam

A leading Islamic scholar, and a winner of the King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies, has slammed orientalists in the West for spreading false information about the religion. The Sheikh who specializes in Hadith studies said that their false and misleading works are now called research but have no valid arguments. He was speaking at a workshop organized by Lajna Ilmiya, a Riyadh-based body formed by graduates from Darul Uloom Deobond, the renowned Islamic seminary in India. He urged Islamic teachers to preach righteousness and truth. If we had followed the Qur’an and Hadith in our education, the misleading gossip of the enemies of Islam would not have influenced many of us.

Jeddah Needs 60 More Mosques

Jeddah needs about 60 new mosques over the next five years to keep pace with the growing population in certain areas, a government official said recently. There are only 1,600 mosques in the city. Many areas and neighborhoods have no mosques to serve worshippers. The minister also instructed to upgrade the performance of Imams on Fridays, and to encourage them to use their sermons to focus on family values. Due to its important geographical locations, as the gateway to the two holy mosques, Jeddah is especially important in disseminating the teachings of Islam.

Pilgrim Claims to have World’s Smallest Qur’an

A Pakistani pilgrim, Kafeel Ahmed, claims that he owns the world’s smallest Qur’an, which is less than 2.5 centimeters. Pakistan’s National Museum has categorized the book as the smallest copy on the planet. The Qur’an has some damaged pages. Several museums and collectors of rare books were willing to buy the book at any price, but he refuses to part with it. It is a family heirloom. He is currently striving to register it as the smallest Qur’an in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Islamic Studies to be Revamped

A nine-year plan has been devised to integrate Islamic education into the national curriculum through digital and revised teaching strategies. The goal, aimed at giving pupils a more rounded education, will foster teacher development through setting up vocational education teams to exchange expertise among Islamic studies teachers. Teaching Islamic studies more effectively requires teachers to form special educational strategies conducive to legislative sciences.

Vendors to Acquire 287 Stalls

Vendors will be able to acquire temporary stalls in the central area surrounding the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, sources at the Madinah Municipality have said. The Mayor of the Prophet’s Mosque said 287 stalls will be made available in the first phase at three locations within the central area. These are Manakha one and two Al-Saqifah. The number of stalls will be increased in upcoming phases.

Have Hijacked Islam

Extremist voices and groups have hijacked Islam and misappropriated the right to speak on its behalf, according to Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General. In his address at the inaugural session of Arab Summit held in Kuwait, he stressed that, in actual fact, Islam with its established values and aspirations and with its advocacy of justice, equality, concord, coexistence and mutuality, is totally unrelated to them and to their ideologies and what they call for.

The King Faisal International Prize

The King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam for this year 2014 (1435H) has been awarded to Shaikh Dr. Ahmed Abou Bakr Lemu, Nigeria Chairman, Council of Trustees, Islamic Relief Commission. Dr. Ahmed is a composed intellectual, a devout Muslim, and an advocate of moderation and open-mindedness. He is a member of several international Islamic organizations worldwide. His efforts toward education, development and call to Islam are evident from his hundreds of lectures, seminars, and classes.

OIC System to Help Muslims

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) plans to work out a system to help Muslims facing wars and natural disasters across the world. This was disclosed by Iyad Madani, OIC Secretary-General, during a speech at the first meeting of the OIC Humanitarian Council in Jeddah. He said that Muslim humanitarian organizations need greater staff training, capacity building and better coordination of administrative and field efforts to save lives. Madani said that attempts were being made to help Muslims in Central Africa, with the aid of Cheikh Tidiane Gadio who was acting as an OIC envoy it the region.

Saudi Woman Wins Three Gold Medals

A Saudi woman won three gold medals at the Geneva International Exhibitions for Inventors, which is an outstanding achievement, Sabq Newswire said. Ghaida Al Sulami, a lecturer at the College of Nursing in Umm Al Qura University won the medals in a joint collaboration with a team from King Abdullah Medical City (KAMC). Her project was concerned with the invention of an electronic screen for communicating with patients in intensive care units. She also won two gold medals from the Portuguese and Roman Wings. The Geneva Exhibition of Inventions 2014 brought together more than 1,000 inventors, representing some 54 countries.

Collector Tells Story of Missing Coin

Saeed Al Ghamdi, an elderly man, who loves to collect old currencies and coins and has a shop in Souk Al-Sawarikh in Jeddah, said he never expected that anyone would steal his treasure and make off with it. He said a young Saudi couple came to his shop asking for valuable coins. Later, he was surprised to discover that an Abbasid era coin, valued at SR7,000, was missing. He was even more surprised when the young man returned the coin to him after a few days and begged his pardon for the crime. “We took the coin to sell it so we could have enough money to travel abroad,” he said. The couple had even found a good offer for the coin, but then their conscience struck them and they decided to return it, the man told the coin-collector. Al-Ghamdi continued, “I forgave them, considering their good intention and decided to gift them the coin instead.” He said that it was a valuable coin which was prevalent during the time of King Abdul Aziz.

PALESTINE

Opens New Mosque in Israeli Arab Village

The President of Russia’s republic of Chechnya has inaugurated a new USD 10 million mosque in an Arab village in Israel. The village’s mayor says Chechnya donated USD 6 million for the mosque. He says some villagers trace their ancestry to 16th century Chechnya and the Caucus region. The mosque was built in the Ottoman Turkish style, the favored architectural style in Chechnya. It features four minarets, making it the only mosque of its kind in Israel. Abu Ghosh, near Jerusalem, enjoys good ties with its Jewish neighbors and is a popular culinary destination for Israelis.

FRANCE

Paris Haj Expo Opens

The King Abdul Aziz Public Library (KAPL) has geared up efforts to open a Haj Expo in Paris, highlighting the Haj rites, ongoing expansion in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah and disseminating information on the impact of Haj on Muslims the world over. The organizers are also encouraged by the huge success of the Haj Expo in London last year. A guide-book on the Expo published in French contains articles on the history and development of Haj and its cultural and religious impact on the life of Muslims the world over. A special website will supply information in five world languages about Haj.

UNITED KINGDOM

Pak Child Breaks Cambridge Record

Pakistani prodigy, Haris Manzur, has broken the 800-year-old record of Cambridge University, UK, by becoming the youngest ever child to have passed his ‘O’ Levels examination successfully at a tender age of nine years. The youngster from Rawalpindi cleared the exam of ‘O’ Levels (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) in his first attempt. Usually 14-year-olds sit for the ‘O’ Levels exams all over the world. This achievement is the first of its kind in the history of the Cambridge University. Haris explained that he studied eight hours daily, ate well and slept well. He wants to become a medical doctor and aspires to serve humanity at large.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Arabic Calligraphy Flourishing in the West

Even non-Muslims can’t help but fall madly in love with the beautiful Islamic culture and let it be part of their lives. After all, this great faith has so much enriching to offer to the world. And one such person keen to make it happen is Josh Berer, an impassioned American calligrapher whose heart and soul simply beats for Arabic calligraphy. He believes that the Arabic script, of all scripts brought into being, is, by far, the most flexible, versatile and capable of the greatest degree of creativity one can ever think of. Berer’s childhood was quite different from that of his friends. Thanks to his mother who is a professor of Islamic Art History, he grew up surrounded by Islamic calligraphy and other splendid arts of Muslim world ceramics, textiles, etc. Asked about his future plans to execute, he replied that his future plan is to complete the training in Istanbul first and foremost. He is working with a group of calligraphers in America to create an organization to help spread calligraphy teaching in America, and help more people learn calligraphy. “I would like to see that organization grow and spread in future years,” he said.

NYPD Disbands Surveillance Unit

Muslim groups and civil liberties advocates applauded the decision by New York Police Department officials to disband a controversial unit that tracked the daily lives of Muslims as part of efforts to detect terror threats, but said there were concerns about whether other problematic practices remained in place. Muslims hailed the NYPD move, a small step but one that will ease tensions. In a statement, Mayor, Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, called the move a critical step forward in easing tensions between the police and the communities they serve, so that our cops and citizens can help one another go after the real bad guys.

[COMPILED BY: SYED NEHAL ZAHEER]