Flashes from the Muslim World

INDIA

Jamat-e-Islami to adopt 1,000 riot-hit families

Jamat-e-Islami Hind has decided to adopt 1,000 families, displaced from five villages of riot-hit areas of Uttar Pradesh state. The organization will try to rehabilitate the families immediately. The Secretary of the Jamat said that they will also focus on communal harmony and create a good atmosphere in the riot-hit areas and will strive for building good mutual relationships between Muslims and Hindus. The Jamat relief camp consists of a team of five medical specialists and a mobile hospital equipped with all necessary machinery and facilities for treatment.

Believe it or not! Centenarian Indian Hajis

Believe it or not, at a time when younger people are becoming victims of even minor infections, three Indian pilgrims above the age of 100 have arrived for Haj and performed their Haj, and they were in perfect shape and health. All these three pilgrims were well-oriented with Haj rituals. The Indian medical mission was visiting them on a regular basis to check their health conditions

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan publishers make book fair debut

Publishers from Afghanistan, a country torn by three decades of conflict, are, for the first time, showcasing their books at the industry’s biggest meet-up which concluded in Germany recently. One of the owners of the biggest publishing companies said that he represented his country’s about 60 publishers at the Frankfurt Book Fair. He showed to the exhibitors that his country is back on the publishing map. He said that business had improved with more people going to school and having a thirst for reading. Afghanistan is probably best known on the international literary stage through the 2003 best seller “The Kite Runner,” by Kabul born, US-based, writer, Khaled Huosseini.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Haj Expo in Sharjah

Intricately designed fabrics from Makkah and Madinah have gone on display at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization. The event is entitled “Draping the Holy Places,” using religious textiles from Makkah and Madinah. This collection is part of our continuing mission to showcase artifacts and provide educational opportunities that throw light on Islamic culture and promote Islamic viewpoints on art, science, culture and history to an international audience, said the museum’s Executive Director. “During the exhibition period, the spiritual journey to Makkah will be brought into focus and visitors will have the opportunity to experience the magnificent rituals of the Haj. Through this exhibition we also hope to highlight the importance and potential of our museum collections in educating visitors about our Islamic faith,” he said.

SAUDI ARABIA

Rusty lock of Holy Ka’aba changed after 30 years

The General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques has announced that the lock of the Ka’aba was changed after officials washing the Ka’aba noticed that it was rusty. The lock was made 30 years ago. The new lock was handed over to the senior “Sadin,” the Ka’aba’s key-keeper. All affairs of the Ka’aba, such as the washing, changing the Kiswa, the lock of the other affairs are usually notified by the Royal Court to the Sadin.

Kiswa embroidery a Makkah-factory secret

More than 200 men had labored in a factory for eight months to produce the gold-embroidered, black-dyed Kiswa, a silk cover for the Ka’aba. The ornate protective covering produced at the Makkah factory was draped over the Ka’aba on the 9th of Dul Hijjah, which, this year, corresponded to 14th October. The stitching of Islamic calligraphy in gold threads onto the silk is a skill that has been passed on from generation to generation. Today, the 658 square meter coverings is made of 670 kg of high quality silk imported from Italy and Switzerland, said the factory’s general manager. The old Kiswa is usually cut into pieces and is distributed to dignitaries and religious organizations. Recipients regard the fragments as heirlooms.

Free Qur’an App: “Recite it Right”

A new Qur’an application to help people read the holy book correctly is now available at the Apple App Store. The application called “Recite it Right,” was developed by the Qur’an Recital and Memorization Society in Jeddah and launched recently by Minister of Islamic Affairs Endowments, Call and Guidance. The chief of the society in Jeddah said Apple was cooperative and welcomed the software. It is now available free at the company’s app store, to be used on the iPad, iPhone, and iMac computer. Any person can use the software. He said the software lets users recite a section of the Qur’an, which is then sent to the society’s website, where a teacher reviews the recital and offers advice. The user receives feedback within about 30 minutes. The software is available only in Arabic

Officials learning Urdu

Saudi authorities providing Haj services are learning foreign languages and Urdu in particular to better serve foreign pilgrims. Urdu is the most used language in Haj operations as a large number of pilgrims come from South Asian countries. Taibah University in Madinah is conducting regular language courses for officials involved in Haj operations for the sixth consecutive year. Urdu is a priority language even though English, French, Persian and Turkish are also being taught to bridge the gap between ethnic groups and Saudi officials.

Exhibition documents pilgrims’ trip 100 years ago

In a unique initiative, Dar al Hikmah College, a women’s educational institution, has organized an exhibition of rare photographs titled “Pilgrims to Makkah in 1908,” documenting the condition of Egyptian pilgrims coming to Makkah and Madinah. The pictures were taken in 1908. The pictures show the many details of the Haj journey that started from Egypt and ended in the holy places documenting the various stages and rituals of the Haj. These pictures throw fascinating light on the Haj season of those times.

Pilgrim reduction to continue for two years

Saudi Arabia will continue to slash the number of domestic and foreign pilgrims for two more years until the ongoing Mataf area around the Holy Ka’aba expansion project is completed to ensure the safety of pilgrims, a senior official said. The Mataf project is carried out in three phases. This year, they will complete one-third of the project while the remaining two phases will be completed in the next two years. The project aims at increasing the Mataf’s capacity from 48,000 to 130,000 pilgrims per hour. The Haram expansion, which is taking place concurrently, will hike the Grand Mosque’s capacity to two million worshippers.

Madinah named most economically prosperous city

Madinah is one of the most prosperous Saudi cities, with numerous investment opportunities that have contributed to the growth of its trade, industry, tourism, and agricultural products. Madinah’s religious status has made it one of the most prominent tourist cities thanks to the high volume of visitors and pilgrims, in addition to its natural and mineral wealth. This has helped in fostering a commercial atmosphere, especially with regards to demand on consumer products.

A massive change for Mina in 30 years

The tent city of Mina remains deserted throughout the year. It comes to life only during the five days of each Haj season. Situated twelve kilometers outside Makkah, it was in this city that Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) spent the night before he set out to carry out an order by God to slaughter his son. Mina is a small city located inside a valley. As far as the eye can see, tents cover every open space during the Haj season. This city is often referred to as the tent city. In the last two years, the city underwent a massive change with the government investing billions of Riyal into many infrastructural projects. The Haj train added a new dimension to the city. For the first time, pilgrims find it is nothing short of wonderment to see trains whizzing by on the elevated tracks in the tent city.

KSA has 9.2 million expatriates

There are 9.2 million expatriate workers in the Kingdom, with around 42% employed in both the public and private sectors, according to a new study. About 86% of expatriate workers earn salaries of less than SR 2, 000 per month.  Saudi Arabia ranks fourth in having the largest number of foreign manpower worldwide, according to a study published by the Population Division of the United Nations. The United States ranked first as the most popular destination for expatriates with 45.8 million foreigners, followed by Russia at 11 million, Germany at 9.8 million, Saudi Arabia at 9.1 million and the United Arab Emirates at 7.8 million.

PALESTINE

Loses billions to financial sanctions

The Palestinian economy is losing out on a potential USD3.4 billion a year due to Israeli restrictions on the West Bank, the World Bank said in a report. The Palestinians could expand their struggling economy by a third and slash their budget deficit in half if Israel allowed them to use 61% of West Bank territory that is largely off limits, the World Bank said. More than half the land in the West Bank, much of it agricultural and resource rich, is inaccessible to Palestinians, said the World Bank.

TURKEY

30,000 French Muslims perform Haj every year

The Haj operations in Paris had been streamlined to enable pilgrims to experience a hassle free journey through their agents in France. It is reported that around 30,000 French pilgrims come for Haj every year and another 19,000 come for Umrah throughout the year. Saudi Arabia is an important trade partner for France and we hope to  strengthen our bilateral trade for the benefit of the two countries.

FRANCE

4,500 new Muslims from Europe perform Haj

A total of 16,875 million Euro was paid by 4,500 pilgrims of European nationalities who performed Haj as new Muslims. They all have started off on their new journey toward Islam, turning their backs on their previous lives.  The Organization of the Islamic Community in Europe made extensive efforts to contain all European Muslims under its umbrella as much as it could. The state of affairs of Islam seems depressing today, because of mistakes that some Muslims commit and attacks from the Western media. Still, the Organization pleads with all Muslims in Europe not to underestimate the charity works being done and calls for accepting the faith.

UNITED KINGDOM

First Englishman to record his Haj experience

The first Englishman to perform Haj and record his experience is believed to be Joseph Pitts of Exeter (1663-1739), and the first British woman was Lady Evelyn Cobbold (1867-1963). Though Pitts was probably not really the first British Muslim to perform Haj, he was the first to write an account in English, of the pilgrimage. Born in Exeter, Joseph Pitts had a basic education before going to sea as a boy. However, on his first voyage in 1678, his small fishing boat was captured off the coast of Spain by an Algerian corsair vessel. Its Muslim captain turned out to be a Dutchman and its first mate an Englishman. Pitts converted to Islam, then performed Haj and spent about four months in the Holy City before going to Madinah. He covers almost every element of the religion and manners including the first-ever description in English of the holy sites of Makkah and Madinah. Lady Evelyn Cobbold, Mayfair socialite, owner of an estate in the Scottish Highlands, was also the first British-born female Muslim convert to record her pilgrimage to Makkah.

Tears for my departed father on Arafat

A British diplomat here could barely hold back his tears as he recounted praying for his recently departed father on the plains of Arafat in the just concluded Haj. The British Consul-General and his family are among 18,400 pilgrims from the United Kingdom at the annual pilgrimage this year’s Haj. The Consul General said that parents’ main responsibility is to teach their children about Islam. “To me, the best way to teach them about Islam is to bring them here,” he said. At the Haj, they see Islam in action: let them see it, feel it, touch it. He criticized those who hurt others in the name of Islam. “I say, you hear about people who pretend to be there in the name of Islam, who undertake violence in the name of Islam, but if you want to see the real Islam look at this – young and old, rich and poor, Asian and American, all wearing the same clothes. This is the real Islam and these are the real Muslims,” he said.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Celebrating Eid al-Adha

Muslims in the United States celebrated Eid al-Adha with religious fervor. While it was a time for family festivities and community gathering for many, it was also a time for “meaty decisions” – where, and how, should one offer the sacrifice of the animals? Should they get a cow, goat or lamb? In the United States, 50% people send money home and have their animals slaughtered there. If we want our children to learn and carry out the spirit of Eid to the next generation, it is important that they see and participate in the sacrifice of animals here at home. The American farmers too are now realizing that raising goats is big business. In 2008, you could buy a goat for USD35. The same goat now sells at least USD200. Eid al-Adha meat is a big business – a few minutes of web-surfing showed hundreds of sites where you can order a mountain goat, a red goat, a black and white cow and much more. You have the meat delivered to your door steps or to hundreds of cities in your home tow.