We have music (anasheed). We have art. We have movies. We have food. We have clothing. We have comedy. We have intense spiritual leaders and religious institutes with high standards. We have religious conferences that hundreds, if not thousands, attend regularly. We have a pretty big chunk of the World Wide Web that’s all ours. We even have a political system (Let’s-Sit-Around-And-Argue-Over-Random-Useless-Points-For-Hours-On-End-Without-Any-Conclusion-ism) that is unintentionally implemented in most of our masaajid!
Does anybody realize how rockingly awesomely cool that is?
This post is dedicated to all those things which make up the very cool (if somewhat dysfunctional at times) sub-culture of Western Muslims… you’ll notice that I’ve only got a few things listed under each category, and am leaving out a lot of big names, but that’s because I’m being biased here and going with what I know and like. Please don’t hate on me for that.
Anasheed have become a staple in the audio diet of those of us who like to bob our heads to a tune that’s halaal. Over the years, various munshideen have established themselves and many of their songs have become classics. (There are of course a lot more nasheed artists than the ones I’ve listed below, but these are just a few of my favorites.)
■ Dawud Wharnsby Ali. I grew up listening to “The Veil,” “The Everything Song,” “Sunshine, Dust, and the Messenger,” “Madinatun-Nabi.” I’m sure loads of you have also experienced moments where someone will mention the name of a song, and suddenly everybody will be either humming the tune or singing in chorus! (If you don’t, then I guess that’s just me!)
■ Yusuf Islam. “Alif is for Allah” and “Afghanistan, Land of Islam” were – and still are! – amongst my favorites. Zain Bhikha’s anasheed collections are also enjoyed in my household.
■ Ahmad Bukhatir. His nasheed “Last Breath” has probably made as many rounds online as the hujjaaj have around the Ka’bah.
■ Random Jihad anasheed. A bit politically incorrect, perhaps, but admit it – who hasn’t blasted a CD of Jihadi anasheed in their car and pumped their fists to the sound of gunfire and grenades in the background? My personal favorites: Idhrib Yaa Asad al-Fallujah and Sabran Yaa Baghdad.
■ Arabic calligraphy is the first thing that jumps to mind. The cool thing is how it’s evolved – no longer just in black and white, and on parchment paper, but in different styles and colors and through different mediums. “Aerosol Arabic” and Izzy Mo are two Muslim artists whom I think are pretty well known.
■ Architecture. There are so many beautiful masaajid in North America and the U.K.! Although many are based on the traditional structures we find in the Muslim world, they also have a unique flavor of their own.
■ Computer graphics. Muslim computer geeks rock. Without them, we wouldn’t have Islamic wallpapers, screensavers, avatars, website backgrounds, hordes of Islamic lectures available for download, and more!
■ Comics. I discovered NaseehaMan, rahmatAllah ‘alayh, after he passed away. May Allah reward him immensely for his hilarious 100% halaal comic strips!
■ The Adam’s World series! Who can resist a series of fun and educational videos about a little green Muslim puppet dude? Although it has its faults, overall these movies are great… I still love watching them!
■ Astrolabe Productions has created and sells a bunch of animated feature films, including The Boy and the King, The Lion of ‘Ain Jaloot, Sultan Muhammad al-Fatih, the Adventures of Salaam series, and much more! Though they aren’t perfect, they’re something for Muslim kids, at least… and they represent the evolution of Muslim media, something which can only get better (insha’Allah)!
■ Phatwah Factory and HijabMan are, like, pioneers in the funny-Muslim-T-shirt biz! Khalifah Klothing has some pretty cool stuff, too.
■ There are zillions of hijab stores online – CanadianMuslimah, IslamicBoutique, and ShukrOnline are just a few of the ones I know about. There are even designer abaayas and hijaabs!
■ Baba Ali from Ummah Films! The Reminder series has become one of the greatest on-line Muslim hits ever, mostly with the younger generation but surprisingly, even with the older ones!
■ Allah Made Me Funny comedy tour. Azhar Usman and Preacher Moss are the best, in my opinion.
■ Maniac Muslim aka Hamza Moin. Good stuff all around.
■ Aman Ali. He’s an up-and-coming comedian, “specializing” in desi comedy… and you got to admit, when it comes to desis, we never run out of material!
Islamic Educational Institutes
Masha’Allah, today we have so many Islamic institutes in the West which teach the traditional sciences of the Deen, as well as approaching Islamic issues from a unique perspective – and best of all, being taught by those who are qualified to do so!
■ Al-Maghrib Institute – The shuyookh we know and love: Muhammad al-Shareef, Yasir Qadhi, Yaser Birjas, Waleed Basyouni, and many more!
■ Al-Kauthar Institute – with Sheikh Tawfique Choudhury
■ Arees Institute – with Sheikh Isam Rajab
■ American Open University – Founded by Jaafar Sheikh Idris
■ Islamic Online University – a recent initiative by Sheikh Bilal Philips
■ CAIR and CAIR-CAN: The Council on American-Islamic Relations is a much beleaguered organizations whom many of us love to hate… but may Allah reward them for their efforts, ameen!
■ ISNA: Islamic Society of North America. No comment on them from me.
■ CIC: Canadian Islamic Congress. Good intentions, but… yah, I’ll leave it at that.
■ Texas Da’wah Convention: The legendary conference that I hope I’ll be able to attend one day, insha’Allah!
■ Annual ISNA conference.
■ Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference.
Of course there are many more conferences organized throughout the year and in different locations, but these are the ones that seem to be the most popular.
Disclaimer: I’m not necessarily endorsing the conferences or everything that happens during them… *cough*
Without a doubt, the Muslim presence in the blogosphere has increased exponentially since… well, since even before I discovered it! Muslims from all over the world, with vastly different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints have been sharing their thoughts, criticisms, analyses, and more; stirring up debates, flamewars, and even spurring action in real life.
I was going to mention those blogs which are extremely popular and which I read myself, but that’s what blogrolls are for.
■ Halaal meat shops and corner stores. Where there’s always a funny smell, an auntie or uncle manning the counter, snacks you won’t find anywhere else in the country, and many interesting discoveries to be made.
■ Masjid uncles and aunties. Much as we complain about them, you also got to love them. Imagine how boring it would be if we didn’t have them around to criticize our every word and move, or running after the kids yelling at them in Urdu/ Arabic/
■ Scratchy sound systems. One thing you can always expect with Muslims: you’ll usually miss out on large chunks of khutbahs and halaqahs because you either go temporarily deaf from the screech of static in the beginning of the lecture, or you won’t hear a word because some genius forgot to turn the speakers on.
■ Sunday Schools. Oh, those good old days of spending hours in the masjid basement, either freezing your butt off or feeling ready to pass out from the heat as the auntie/ uncle grills you on the Arabic alphabet or drones on about how if you don’t listen to your parents, you’re going to burn in Hell. (But don’t forget the really amazing teachers out there also – may Allah reward them!)
■ Islamic bookstores and libraries. SubhanAllah, we really do have a lot available when it comes to books! It shows, too – any place with a decent sized Muslim population is bound to have a store or two that sells Islamic books, which are snapped up by those eager to expand their private library at home. As for public Islamic libraries, I don’t know how common they are, although in my old city my dad started one up as part of our Islamic centre. Al-Hamdulillaah, it’s a success! (Library fines and all; and no, we don’t give Fee Sabilillaah discounts).