Flashes from the Muslim World

AFGHANISTAN

OIC Urges to Join Peace Process

Afghanistan has witnessed terrorist acts and bombings that go against the teachings of the Islamic Shariah, said Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Zuhair bin Mohammed Al-Idrisi. He said that the first step was the International Ulema Conference on peace and security in Afghanistan, which was just concluded in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and resulted in a call for an end to violence in the country, saying fighting between Muslims was strictly prohibited in Islam. It has been reported that the OIC is following with interest the efforts of Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan, in calling upon the Taliban to engage in peace talks. It urged OIC member states to harness their diplomatic influence to bring all factions in Afghanistan to the negotiating table.

NEPAL

Envoy Impressed by Dates Festival

The Buraidah Dates Festival has a key role to play in the economic future of Saudi Arabia, according to Nepalese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia,Mahendra Prasad Singh Rajput. He added that it was a memorable experience to see so many varieties of dates. Al Qassim region, which hosts the festival in Buraidah every year, is a major center for the growing, buying and selling of dates. Saudi Arabia has the highest number of date palms trees in the world, roughly accounting for 25% of the world date production. Al-Qassim region alone has about eight million date palm trees, the highest of any region in the Kingdom.

BANGLADESH

You are not Alone – OIC tells Rohingyas

A 20-member delegation of the OIC – Organization of Islamic Cooperation – expressed solidarity with the Rohingya refugees when it visited them in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, telling them that they are not alone. Nine members of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States (PUIC) also joined the delegation. The Rohingya shared the horrible experiences and atrocities they had faced at the hands of the army in their homeland, Myanmar, which forced them to take refuge in Bangladesh. The PUIC delegation expressed their firm determination to help in the repatriation process of the Rohingya.

MYANMAR

Genocide – UN Investigation Condemns

Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Kyi, failed to protect Rohingya Muslims from mass-murder orchestrated by the country’s military commander-in- chief and five Generals, who should be prosecuted for genocide, a damning UN report said recently. Her government through their acts and omissions – have contributed to the commission of atrocity crimes, their report said. The UN report detailed a horrifying list of atrocities including murder, enforced disappearance, torture and sexual violence on a massive scale. The investigators said that up to an estimated 10,000 Rohingya had been killed was conservative figure.

MALAYSIA

Show Faith with Fight against Litter

Malaysian pilgrims’ good behavior was praised by authorities from Malaysia and Saudi Arabia for contributing to the success of the cleanliness campaign in this year’s Hajj season. Widely known for their well-behaved and disciplined image worldwide, there were 30,200 Malaysian pilgrims this year who participated in the mass volunteerism during Maashaer between 11, 12 and 13 of DulHijjah. Pilgrims picked up rubbish around their tents and lauded that Malaysian area was the cleanest.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Sheikha Fatima Global Humanitarian Campaign

The Sheikha Fatima Global Humanitarian Campaign has successfully engaged young doctors from Bangladesh and the UAE, enabling them to provide quality diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive services to women and children living in the squalid Rohingya refugee camps of Bangladesh. The campaign in Cox’s Bazar district uses mobile clinics and field hospitals to organize humanitarian volunteer programs to treat women and children. The Sheikha Fatima Humanitarian Campaign has collaborated with Bangladeshi non-profit organization, Hope Foundation for Women and Children, and facilitated free medical services for the Rohingya refugees since December 2017.

 

Mosques around the World

Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Mosque was recently chosen as one of the most impressive contemporary mosques in the world in Leyla Uluhanli’s new book, Mosques Splendors of Islam. The book will be launched in Dubai in November and features an array of international prayer halls.

  • Isfahan: The dome of the 17th century ShaykhLotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran, features pierced windows that enhance the sunburst effect created by the pattern of cobalt blue tile mosaics.
  • Shiraz: The Masjid-i-Nasir Al-Mulk, also known as the Pink Mosque, boasts minarets that draw on European bell-tower designs.
  • Samarkand: The Tilla Kari Mosque and Madrasa in Samarkand was built in the 17th century at the command of a Shaybanid general.
  • Cordoba: The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain, has a dome supported by a ribbed, vaulted structure and was opened in 987.
  • Seville: The Great Mosque of Seville, Spain, has a magnificent minaret known as the ‘Giralda.’ It is topped by the Renaissance bell-tower and a bronze, sculptural weathervane.
  • Baku: Heydar Juma Mosque in Baku, Azerbaijan, has four soaring minarets, while Persian carpets and crystal chandeliers enliven the pristine prayer hall.

Calls for Transparency in Giving

Muslim philanthropists need to set up legally recognized institutions, improve their transparency and start acting like listed businesses if they are to improve their international reputation, said Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Emirati banking Head and Chair of the Abdulla Al-Ghurair Foundation for Education Fund. The Muslim world is very generous but the real challenge is what we donate and how we do it. So that contribution can have more meaningful impact.   Charitable giving is an essential pillar in the Islamic faith and it is estimated that the global Muslim population donated about USD200 billion to charitable causes in 2017. The image of Muslim philanthropy has, however, been damaged by headlines in recent years alleging links between more dubious charities and extremists factions embroiled in conflicts around the world.

Islamic Bank Aim to Boost Lending

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank expects to increase lending in 2018 after boosting its capital, its acting Chief Executive said, adding that the rate of profit growth will slow as the Shariah-compliant bank battles against a sluggish economy. ADIB, the largest Shariah-compliant lender in Abu Dhabi, expects to increase profit in 2018, in single digit percentage terms. Abu Dhabi is re-shaping its economy and consolidating state-owned companies to cope with lower oil prices. Two of Abu Dhabi’s top banks were merged last year to create First Abu Dhabi Bank, while two of its big sovereign wealth-funds were also combined.

SAUDI ARABIA

MINA – Located East of Makkah

Mina is located six kilometers to the east of Makkah, covering a 16.8 kilometer area starting from Makkah’s city center to Muzdalifa. It is known as the Tent City, as it can accommodate more than three million people in more than 100,000 air conditioned tents. It remains uninhabited for the duration of the year, except during the Hajj season.  The Tent City absorbs more than 2.6 million pilgrims annually, making it the largest Tent City in the world. The tents are made of glass fabrics covered with Teflon. The tents are also air-conditioned and climate-resistant. The valley of Mina plays an important role during the annual spiritual Hajj journey and contains the location where pilgrims perform the stoning of the devil in its valley, where the Jamarat Bridge is.

King Fahd Complex for Printing Holy Qur’an

The King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an was established in 1985 by Saudi Arabia to produce and distribute Islamic print and audio publications, as part of the leading role played by the Kingdom in serving Islam and the needs of Muslims worldwide. As the name suggests, the plant prints the Qur’an. It also records recitations in a variety of styles popular across the Islamic world. The complex can print up to thirteen million publications each yearand, to date, has produced more than 327 million copies of Islamic works. The 250,000 square meter facility includes a mosque, administrative and maintenance building, a printing press, warehouses, transport facilities, housing and entertainment facilities, a clinic, a library, restaurants and other services. The complex welcomes more than half a million visitors from around the world each year.

Ihram of the Future

A team of researchers at Umm al-Qura University in the holy city were using nanotechnology to coat the surfaces of the large, flowery carpets used by millions of worshippers who come to the mosque. Nanotech is the study and application of extremely small things –one nanometer is a billionth of a meter. If the technology could be used to keep clothes bacteria-free, then it should be used for the Ihram, the two cloths Muslims wear during pilgrimage. The implications for having an Ihram that is resistant to bacteria are huge. With millions coming to the Kingdom each year and performing the prescribed lesser pilgrimage called Umrah and the annual Hajj, maintaining a healthy environment for worshippers is a key consideration for authorities. As pilgrims arrive from almost every continent on earth, ensuring their health has global consequences. The nanotech developed Ihram cloth by Hamad al Yami, is resistant to bacterial. With thousands of the Ihrams manufactured, the Saudi entrepreneur began selling this new type of Ihram during the Hajj of 2017. Within a year of launching, he had sold 100,000 pieces, which he named Eliaa – the Hebrew name for Al Aqsa mosque. Within three years he predicts five million of them will be wearing his technologically enhanced Ihram.

Islamic Values Call for Dialogue, Peace

The Secretary General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, has declared, at one of the world’s biggest gatherings, that struggle should be replaced by dialogue and understanding based on mutual respect. He stressed that his message was for 1.8 billion Muslims who are committed to a religion that calls for the values of peace and promotes the building of bridges of peace and harmony in all issues. Al-Issa stressed that any religion incompatible with life cannot survive for more than 1,400 years, which is the age of Islam to this day. Islam is still among the most widely-spread religions in terms of geography and growth. Muslims today count about one billion and 800 million people, he said.

Visiting Historical Monuments

Many pilgrims who are still in the Kingdom after the completion of Hajj are reportedly taking the opportunity to visit sites of historical interest in the two Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Makkah is regarded as the heart of the Islamic world and visited by millions of pilgrims every year during Hajj season. Madinah, too, is home to several religions monuments and historic locations The Mosques of Al-Jumma, Quba, Al-Qiblatain, Al-Ijabah, Al-Ghama and Sayed Al-Shuhada are, according to the Saudi Press Agency, the most visited religious landmarks in Madinah.

Hajj Transport in Makkah

Shuttle buses to the holy sites in Makkah were introduced 23 years ago to help Hajj pilgrims get around, increase capacity and reduce traffic. The project is one of the pioneering ideas developed and launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Institute of Hajj and Umrah Research over the years. The shuttle bus center has space for 2,000 buses, while the roads are closed to other traffic and no vehicle can enter without authorization. Pilgrims are transported from Arafat to Muzdalifah in less than 20 minutes and the total trip, including loading and unloading takes less than 50 minutes.

Grand Mufti Praises MWL

Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Asheikh, who is also the Head of the Supreme Council of Scholars, praised the efforts of the Muslim World League (MWL) to unify Muslims, advocate for their cause and protect them, making sure that everyone is aware of the League’s blessed efforts and great achievements. Al-Asheikh said: “The Muslim World League is performing its role to impose the Islamic halal slaughter, by making sure animals are slaughtered according to the halal standards and trusted mechanism.” The MWL works on finalizing the largest center for halal in the world, as part of its headquarters in Makkah.

Kingdom’s First School

Dar al-Tawheed School, in Taif province, can lay claim to be the Kingdom’s first school. It was established in 1943 after King Abdul Aziz ordered the establishment of the school to teach Arabic and Islamic sciences. The school contributed to the advancement of the educational movement during the King Abdul Aziz era and motivated the parents who were not familiar with the school system. Some people were unwilling to send their children to school because they needed them in agriculture or trade, or were afraid to do so. Dar al-Tawheed School was dedicated to students in their second stage of education and developing them in many scientific specializations.

Rising Literacy on its Path

Saudi Arabia celebrated International Literacy Day with a pledge to raise its literacy rate from 94.4% to 100% in the near future. With illiteracy rates cut to below 5.6%, the Kingdom leads many Arab and Asian countries in achieving literacy targets. International Literacy Day was celebrated worldwide under the banner of “Literacy and Skills Development.” Despite Progress, literacy challenges persist, while demands for skilled workers evolve rapidly. The Kingdom leads the UAE, Oman, Lebanon, Libya,Syria, Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq, and many Asian countries in terms of achieving literacy. Today, more than 260 million children and adolescents worldwide are not allowed in school.

Plan to Receive Umrah pilgrims

Jeddah’s King Abdul Aziz International Airport has approved an operational plan for this year’s Umrah season, announcing its preparedness to start receiving pilgrims. More than ten million Umrah pilgrims are expected to come through the airport. The airport is Saudi Arabia’s largest and the first facility to serve pilgrims travelling by air, accounting for 40% of passenger movement in the Kingdom. Pilgrims from Pakistan and India led the list of visitors to the Kingdom, followed by those from Sri Lanka, Jordan and Kuwait.

Makkah – Sharp Increase in Shopping Malls

The holy city of Makkah is set to see a sharp increase in the number of retail malls and outlets to cater for a projected boom of pilgrims making the annual Hajj. They are expected to increase by more than 200% by 2030.  The holy city’s retail sector at present is untapped and offers huge potential for investors. Makkah currently has  a shopping mall supply of 140 sq.mtr.per 1,000 persons – significantly lower than other primary cities considering that the holy city received about 8.5 million international pilgrims in 2017 (6.8 million duringUmrah).

Greatly Concerned by Rohingya Plight

Saudi Arabia is following the plight of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar with great concern, the Kingdom’s UN ambassador told the Human Rights Council. The International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar has documented the burning of entire villages, indiscriminate killing, mass-rape, child abuse, enforced disappearance, and other forms of violence against minorities that amount to genocide,he said. Saudi Arabia recently provided USD50 million to support rehabilitation programs for Rohingya related to education and health, he added.

Interfaith Dialogue is Vital

Interfaith dialogue is essential to combat terrorism, curb extremism and promote peace, a leading Islamic researcher told Arab News. Open discussions between followers of different religions would also correct many common misconceptions about Islam, said Sheikh Ahmed Qassimal-Ghamdi. Dialogue is the only choice for contemporary societies to coexist in a peaceful world. It establishes a legitimate relationship between members of different societies. It also ignites their understanding and openness toward each other. A good example was the recent agreement between the Vatican and the Muslim World League on achieving common objectives, al-Ghamdi said, adding that it will cut off the way to extremism and terrorism. He further said that Saudi Arabia was a unique and distinguished model in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

JORDAN

Steps Up Support of Jerusalemites

The Jordanian government has taken steps to ease the plight of Palestinians living in the country and to bolster the civil defense guards at Al-Aqsa Mosque. WasfiKilani, Director of the Hashemite Fund for Al-Aqsa Mosque, told Arab News that the actions come as part of a combined effort to support Jerusalemites. “We have endeavored to provide administrative support to Jerusalemites by reducing passport fees by a third, and by increasing the number of guards and administrators of the Jordanian Waqfin Al Aqsa Mosque to 1,000,”Kilani said.

LEBANON

Receives MWL’s Secretary-General

Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, received the Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL), Muhammad bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, at Baabda Palace as part of Al Issa’s current visit to Lebanon. The meeting stressed the importance of strengthening spiritual presence to promote peace and harmony between everyone. The Secretary-General then held meetings with the Lebanese Prime Minister,Saad Hariri, discussing bilateral cooperation and coordination.

PARAGUAY

Moves its Embassy back out of Jerusalem

Paraguay announced that it would immediately move its embassy in Israel and back to Tel Aviv, less than four months after opening the new mission. The move presents an embarrassing diplomatic setback for Israel, which had hoped to build on the momentum started by the US, Guatemala and Paraguay which all moved their embassies to Jerusalem in May. One of the most complex components of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the status of Jerusalem. Most countries have maintained their embassies in Tel Aviv so as to not prejudge the outcome of peace talks between Israel and Palestinians.

UNITED KINGDOM

The First Muslim Chaplain to the Military

As the first Muslim chaplain to the British Armed Forces, Imam Asim Hafiz has made it his mission to increase religious understanding in the middle of the conflict, trauma, and destruction, breaking down perceived barriers between Muslims and the military. It is a role that has thrust Hafiz into the spotlight.As the Islamic religious adviser to the Chief  of the Defense Staff at the UK Ministry of Defense and founder of the Armed Forces’ Muslim Association, a service personnel support network, he has faced criticism from his peers along with pubic misconception about his role in an institution that goes to battle against people of a shared faith. The Armed Forces Association was set up in 2009. It provides advice and pastoral support to the 650 Muslims serving in the British Armed Forces. The Armed Forces recognize that Muslims are required to pray at specific times during the day and fast during Ramadan. It provides halal meals in mess facilities and in operational ration packs.

Britain’s Oldest Hajj Tour Operator

Britain’s oldest Hajj tour operator recounts his experience of this trip-of-a-lifetime bringing out the best in people. With the approach of Hajj, it is all systems go at the El Sway travel agency in London. The Egyptian-born travel agency owner is Hamdy El-Sawy. He organized his first Hajj in 1981 for 37 people.They each paid British pounds325 and stayed in university accommodation. Lots of changed since then. This year, he has accompanied 150 pilgrims who have each paid British pounds 6,450/- and are based at the five star Al-Safwah Royal Orchid Hotel. It is the nearest to the Haram (mosque) right next to it. Sometimes his work involves performing quite extraordinary feats. He has frequently witnessed how the spirit of Hajj brings out the best in people. Even after 37 years, El Sawy’s services are as much in demand as ever. He insists on meeting every client face-to-face and holds a get-together a week before departure so people can get to know each other and not feel like they are travelling with strangers.

25,000 Performed Hajj this Year

25,000 is the number of British pilgrims who have performed this year’s annual Hajj pilgrimage. The British deputy consul praised the efforts made by the Kingdom to serve the pilgrims, the Saudi Press Agency reported. Many pilgrims prepare for decades for this journey. Today’s Hajj pilgrim will experience unprecedented comfort compared to those of even just 20 years ago. In the past decade, the Saudi government has pumped billions of dollars into providing modernized services and amenities to accommodate the millions of Muslims who make the annual pilgrimage. But the spirit of Hajj itself remains unchanged, said Rashid Mogradia, CEO of the Council of British Hajjis (CBH).Mogradia, who has completed the Hajj journey five times himself, has joined around 25,000 fellow British this year as he once again traveled to Makkah.

UNITED STATES

Olympic medalist shares her Hajj experience

Muslim American Olympian, Ibtihaj Muhammad, who performed Hajj this year, told Arab News that during her pilgrimage, one of the best experiences was seeing people from different parts of the world unite in devotion to their faith. It is something as a Muslim growing up and living in the United States that you don’t get the opportunity to see. Ibtihaj did not know she was coming to Saudi Arabia for Hajj, She was invited by Dar Al Islam travel agency. “I felt like that it was something Allah called on me to perform Hajj and I was very excited. Once I had arrived to see the Ka’aba for the first time –it is something that you read about it and hear about from your parents – but to see it for the first time for yourself and to see so many pilgrims walking around it was one of the greatest sights I have ever seen.” Ibtihaj Muhammad is a member of the US fencing team. She is best known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the US in the Olympics. She earned bronze at the Games, becoming the first female Muslim American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.

[Compiled by: Syed Nehal Zaheer]