- Isam Meaning
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'Fair Trade' is a concept, a global social movement, whose aim is to help producers of products such as fruit to get a fair price for what they sell and to reduce poverty, support local trade, provide better wages and working conditions. The movement started as a reaction to international trade whose practice was to produce and sell things in bulk and for as low a price as possible.
The methods of mass farming and bulk trade led to them outcompeting the smaller companies and local farms and putting them out of business. International companies would enter a country, buy out all the local farms and produce things in bulk and sell them for a lower price all while paying a meagre wage to workers and putting them in bad working conditions. This meant that local farmers could not sell their products because they were more expensive than the mass produced items and if they wanted to compete with the mass produced items they had to sell their produce for a much lower price or else close down their farms and go out of business. It also meant that people who worked for the large farms suffered more yet still remained poor as they were given a poor and unfair wage.
As so many producers went out of business whole areas became poor and poverty and unemployment became rife. Farmers lost their jobs, their livelihood, their trade and had to sell their ancestral land for a cheap price just to survive. This introduced social and economic problems and the people suffered. Had all the farmers sold their farms and given up, the world would be a very different place today where all farms would be owned by massive corporations and be used only for mass production and there would be no fair competition. Thankfully, conscientious people started to realize that there was more to life than money and bringing down costs and they backed a movement that called for fair trade, better pay, working conditions, social development and social justice.
In order that Fair Trade works it relies heavily on the consumer, the customer - you and me. Instead of selling out to large corporations and buying the cheapest or most commercial products at the super market, we have to be aware of where our money is going and if it will benefit people or harm them. We have a responsibility to know where our money goes and by buying Fair Trade products we are supporting the smaller companies and making sure they are getting a fairer price for their produce and we ensure they remain in business.
Although there are numerous Fair Trade movements that help out small and/or local companies and poorer farmers, the Fair Trade Foundation label is the most well known and is commonly found in many supermarkets around the world so look out for the picture the next time you go shopping. The foundation labels are found on many different types of products such a coffee, tea, fruits, vegetables, sugar, oil, chocolate and non-consumables such as cotton and gold. What the Fair Trade Foundation tries to do, beyond ensuring that the farmers, the producers, get a better deal for their produce, is increase the development of the business and the welfare of their workers. They ensure that a portion of the profits from the sales of Fair Trade produce goes back into the business to buy better machinery to increase yield or to provide better working conditions at the farms so workers are happier, safer and get paid a better wage and are better able to support their families.
So, what of the Islamic perspective?
When our consumer behaviour, the money we pay to buy things, can drive the betterment of other people's lives and increase social justice and decrease poverty, how can we, as Muslims, as human beings with conscience not support our neighbours, brothers in faith and humanity through buying Fair Trade?! Allah says in the holy Quran:
Assalamu alaikum dear brothers and sisters,
It is with heavy heart but with much hope that I have to tell you that Islamic-Dictionary.com is going to be sold soon and it is your right to know this as my loyal visitors and members of the website.
Islamic-Dictionary.com started off in 2004 when we realized that Muslims were increasingly using Arabic, Urdu and Farsi words written with Latin characters in their articles, misusing them in regular discussion and mispronouncing them and no-one was there to tell them the correct meaning of the words or tell them how to correctly spell or pronounce the words. Yes there were some lists of words here and there and there were dictionaries online as well but they were disparate, lacked audio and most importantly they were just lists of words. This prompted the creation of Islamic-Dictionary.com where a person could quickly search for a word and get the meaning, how to write it in its' native language (usually Arabic) and even hear how to pronounce it. The past 8 years we have had close to 10 million searches on the website and alhamdulillah it has been increasingly successful.
A few months ago I was contacted by someone who was interested in buying the site... Yusuf Islam! The artist formly known as Cat Stevens. OMG! This famous nasheed singer had visited the site a few weeks ago and was so impressed that he emailed me so I phoned him up the other day and had a discussion. I didn't believe it was him at first but I soon got him to sing Moon Shadow to prove his identity and it was definitely him!
It has been great running the website and helping the community but now I leave you in the more capable hands of Yusuf and bid you all farewell. Thank you all.
- The Webmaster
Image by Simon Fernandez (CC-BY-SA)
I recently wrote a blog post about the importance of applying real licenses to newly created and shared content. It would have been quite hypocritical of me to call for something and not practice it myself, so Islamic-Dictionary.com has now had a licensing overhaul and we are applying certain Creative Commons licenses to some of the content of the website.
The words "Open Source" are often associated with software development and open source software is software where the source, the underlying code that makes it work and the content can be read by anybody who wishes to look at how things work internally. You can take the source and make changes to improve it and rebuild the application, or a software developer will often reuse and adapt some parts of it into another program. And the words "open source" are often synonymous with "free" but sometimes open source software is not completely free and the details are mentioned in the license - a legal document explaining how the work may be used. There are different software licenses out there that can limit what you can do with the software and the source code, but not all licenses deal with just software. Licenses and the words "open source" can apply to any number of media, including books, articles, pictures, audio, video clips and anything else. In this article I will try to explain some of options available in terms of licensing and making things open source.
In Islam, the majority of religious books and materials are public domain, meaning they are free to distribute, be re-published and sold or incorporated into other works. This is because they tend to be hundreds of years old, the authors are long dead, no publisher has bought the rights to the books and no government inherits the rights for itself. This is a good thing and has meant that books and the knowledge they hold have been continually passed on throughout the ages; nobody has held a monopoly on their distribution and sale and costs have remained low as different publishers have competed with each other.
There is a strong movement in Muslim communities to keep books available and not attach restrictive licenses and high prices to publications. This is so they can benefit the greatest number of people and continue to be republished and spread throughout the community. It is in the spirit of Islam to spread knowledge and learning and applying a premium to religious knowledge is seen as something that restricts the learning of religion and this is not acceptable. The Quran is a great example of a book that is published by different publishers, in different scripts and languages and it is well distributed and cheap to purchase. This is because Muslim scholars have taught that it is wrong to make significant profits from selling the Quran and most publishers of the Quran keep the price low so they make just enough profit to keep the printing press running. Also, derivative works, such as translations or commentaries are often distributed in the same way. And books about the teachings of Islam are sold for low prices so people are able to purchase them too.
Now, when it comes to the modern age of computers, distribution has become very quick and easy. It is possible to download the text of many books or files such as audio clips, video clips and software very quickly and share it. There are numerous websites distributing Islamic books and other files. But there are a few problems that stem mainly from ignorance...
Some of these resources have been uploaded illegally. For example, some nasheed singers like Yusuf Islam, for example, produce audio CDs (and DVDs) with licenses clearly printed on them, but somebody has taken that CD, ripped the audio from it and uploaded the MP3s to the internet and is now distributing the CD for free. This is theft. It is Haram (forbidden) to take things and distribute them against the permission of the author. You have stolen from your fellow brother. As much as we might think it should be free or cheaper, we are not seeing the reality that someone spent a lot of time, effort and money producing, recording, printing and distributing the CDs and wants to recoup some of that expense in order to continue to produce more works. Theft impedes the production of future quality content and can increase its price, so to support a producer and keep prices low you should do the right thing and buy their stuff.
Other problems with the way things are distributed is the format. For example, a lot of books are published in PDF format or as a Microsoft Word document or in proprietary formats or placed on websites under different encodings and in non-intuitive layouts. There are ways of extracting the text from these but sometimes this requires great technical knowledge or it is impossible to do it because they are locked so they cannot be read by another program. This poses a great problem to people who want to redistribute things in a different format as there is a great deal of skilled technical work and quite often they have to resort to repetitive copy-and-paste manual work in order to get things done and the thought of copying-and-pasting text thousands of times stops anyone starting a project.
And the final problem, is that a lot of Muslim works are not distributed with information about their origins or licenses (if any). If you have produced something and put it on the internet it does not make it free - you still hold all the rights to it and legally I have no right to copy, modify or redistribute it without asking permission from you first! If you're going to create something or share it then please have a READ_ME file in the archive or metadata in the file or a disclaimer somewhere about where it can be obtained and under what license it is being distributed. This is important because if I want to use this content in a derivative work, distribute or sell it, I need to know that I have the permission of the author and it is allowed and I am not harming anyone in doing so.
People. If you're going to share something online or offline, please make sure to:
- Clearly state what license the work is published under (the freer the better), and the conditions for its use.
- Clearly state who the author is and where the original book or file can be obtained and how the author may be contacted.
- Distribute files in a high quality or mention how the high quality version can be obtained.
- Distribute the files in a standard open format.
- Spend some time on formatting the content in a logical and consistent way and distributing the content in multiple formats including useful formats such as XML using text encoded in UTF-8.
There are many licenses to choose from to license your work with. Here are a few I recommend with a small explanation. The licences are listed from most permissive to least permissive:
The Creative Commons (CC) Licenses -
- Public Domain: No rights are held by the original author - the work is free to whoever to do whatever they want with it.
- Attribution: Redistribute, modify, share, sell and add a new license to derived works, but any versions must carry the details of the original author and license.
- Attribution-ShareAlike: Same as above, but the CC license must be maintained and no other license must be used.
- Attribution-NonCommercial: Same as above but the work must not be sold. A different license may be applied.
- Attribution-NoDerivatives: You are not allowed to share modified copies of this work, but untouched copies can be shared or even sold as long as the original author is attributed.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: You may modify, redistribute and share this work but not add a new license nor sell it.
- Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives: The most restrictive CC licence. You can't sell, make derivatives or relicense items under this license. You can only share it with the attribution to the original author.
The Creative Commons website has a great tool, a simple form you can complete to choose the most suitable license for your works.
Software licenses -
- MIT license: A software license allowing you to copy, share, sell and use other licenses are long as the MIT license is passed along too.
- The New BSD License: A software license where source code if free to modify and redistribute and sell, as long as the license is maintained.
- The Apache 2 License: A software license where source code is free to modify and redistribute but not to sell. Derivative works can have a different license assigned to them but must retain the original Apache license. Only the new work that is not under the Apache 2 license may be sold.
- GNU GPL: A software license which requires that the software remains free and that derivative works keep the same GNU GPL license.
And if none of these licenses appeal to you, you can create your own license based on one of the above. A lot of businesses that publish open source software license it under two different licenses - a free one for free projects and a pay one for commercial projects that use their source code. Some licenses have a time limit - they run out and become public domain after a set number of years. Some licenses are created for different forms of the same media. For example, some book writers have one license on hard-copy works but distribute the PDF/HTML copy on the internet under a different license. They are still able to sell hard copies in the book shops but people can also download the book for free. Some authors even allow you to translate the book under the same license. Surprisingly, this model works and there are quite a few example of books that are open source and can be bought from the book store and are available in more than one language thanks to volunteers translating the book! Anyway, whatever you decide in the end is your choice but I recommend you choose the least restrictive license you can to benefit the most people.
If you have produced something please share it in the comments. I can also recommend resources and help with finding good content and extracting text from different formats.
A resource shared is many new resources created.
The words Eid Meelad an-Nabi - The birthday of the Prophet Muhammed broken down:
Eid - celebration
Milad - birth/birthday
an (al) - the
Nabi - Prophet
The picture above is one of many large doors that are entrances into the Prophet's mosque (Masjid al-Nabawi) in Madina. The centre emblem says Muhammed Messenger of God. To view more pictures of Madina you can check out our photo gallery.
Fellow Muslim brother or sister - You might think yourself a regular person, an individual, a citizen of your country who just happens to be following the Muslim faith but you may not realize that you bear a large responsibility. You’re more than just a Muslim or a regular citizen, you're an ambassador, a representative for the Muslim religion and all the Muslims of the world. You may not have chosen this position but the raiment of responsibility is placed on your back whether you are religious or not and the only sensible thing you can do is make good of it.
You know that when a Muslim does a bad thing it affects not only themselves but also those around them. As a Muslim person you know this because people, sometimes fellow Muslims, have hurt you as well and you have seen how it affects the community. We can understand that sometimes people can be bad and it's not their faith (or even race or skin colour) that has made them hurt us. We know people can be good or bad. We know that if they had acted upon the teachings of Islam they would not have harmed us as Prophet Muhammed (SAW) taught:
We are taught to be forgiving. But when a Muslim hurts a non-Muslim who has had little exposure to Islam and the Muslims they don't see a single bad person has hurt them; No, they see that a Muslim, a follower of the religion of Islam has harmed them and they take this singular bad experience in collusion with the negative assumptions and propaganda against Islam and the Muslims to be evidence that all or most Muslims are bad people and that Islam instigates such behaviour. Muslims should know that the Prophet Muhammed said:
When you, as a Muslim person, do a bad thing you are not harming yourself and your victim, but you are harming the whole of the Muslim Ummah and especially your fellow brothers and sisters wherever you are. But when you do a good thing, not only do you benefit yourself and others but your righteous deeds improve the image of Islam and the view of the Muslims is raised. A goodly action may swing false and negative perceptions to a more positive attitude, from distrust to trust, from unfriendliness to friendship and from hate to acceptance. It benefits society as a whole when a Muslim does good things. As Muslims, ambassadors of the faith of Islam, we must take the responsibility of being good citizens and doing good deeds.
But the responsibility of being an ambassador is more than just to do good. They must also educate people. He or she must know what they are talking about. They must know their religion and they must also know their guest and their values because not knowing either or both of these can be disastrous to forming a good
relationship. If a person asks you a question about Islam then you are expected to be able to answer it correctly. Saying they don't know the teachings of their own religion, or responding with a personal opinion, or speaking without knowledge, or taking a stand against what your religion teaches is a terrible fault. A Muslim should be expected to know their faith and they also need to be able to make a valid point and stand their ground because not doing so is a personal as well as a public failure in front of others. What comes out of your mouth may misinform or harm more than the person you talked to so you have a responsibility to educate yourself. The Prophet Muhammed taught:
Even more than this, a Muslim is responsible for the actions of his fellow brother. If a person sees his Muslim brother or sister about to wrong another person then they must act to stop them and guide them towards doing the right thing. This is a proactive responsibility of the Muslim ambassador and is known as "Al-Amr bil Ma'roof wal Nahi 'an al-Munkar" - Enjoining good and forbidding evil. Also, if a Muslim sees that his brother needs help his must act to help him. Muslims need to protect, guide and help themselves, their brothers, their community and other people to make the world a better place. The Prophet Muhammed said:
The job of an ambassador is to build bridges between communities and thus must have a good relationship with his own people and with others. An ambassador spreads the ideals of friendship, community, correct understanding, righteousness and promotes integration. An ambassador follows the law and enforces it making sure that no person comes to harm. And an ambassador helps people before they get into trouble and he helps those he sees with a problem. This is the job of a good ambassador and of a good Muslim.
Over the Christmas holidays and into the new year Islamic-Dictionary.com had a poll about Christmas and if the Muslim visitors to the site celebrate it and a total of 357 votes were cast. Here are the results.
You can clearly see that most Muslims do not celebrate Christmas and this might have something to do with the fact that most Muslims who come to the site come from India and Pakistan where Christmas is not part of their customs. In hindsight it would have been a better idea to limit this poll to a western Muslim audience for a more interesting result... perhaps next Christmas.
Christmas is distinctly a Christian celebration to mark the birth of Christ, Jesus (PBUH), who Muslims love and respect as well, but we don't celebrate his birthday. There are numerous reasons why a Muslim would choose not to celebrate it. These include, in no particular order -
- There is no agreement on the actual date of the birth of Christ, and some Christians celebrate it after the new year and some in Spring. Pagan customs and traditions influenced the date chosen to be the 25th of December where once they glorified their pagan gods, now they celebrated the birth of Christ. Muslims actively avoid things associated with paganism and the worship of anything but the one God.
- Over the years the pagan heritage of Christmas was forgotten and replaced with the Christian belief that Jesus was the literal son of God and a demigod being one part of the holy trinity, or being god himself. This made the event about the celebration of a different God than what unitarians (Jewish, Christian or Muslim) could accept. People who believe in one God don't tend to celebrate a religious event of a group who believe in demigods or many gods.
- Christmas is now identified to be a distictly Christian celebration and as such Muslims do not really have a part in it in the same way as Christians do. If the tables were turned, we would not expect Christians to actively celebrate the two Muslim Celebrations or Eids.
- In Islam there are two official Eids or celebrations - Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adhha and all Muslims agree on celebrating these. No other event is celebrated like these two and no other events are officially sanctioned in by the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed.
- The only person the grand majority of Muslims celebrate the birthday of is the Prophet Muhammed (SAW) (but then again not all Muslims believe
it should be celebrated).
- Islam and the Muslims have a distinct identity and the celebration of another religions' event makes us copy other peoples and for a Muslim to celebrate as well could be considered a form of approval for their religion and customs.
I'm sure there are more points to add to that list but let's get on with this blog post. In modern times Christmas has become about spending lots of money, buying large presents and eating lots of food and drinking too much. The social pressure to take part in the glutony is enourmous and the true Christian spirit of the event is quickly ebbing away as even fundamentalist Atheists have taken to celebrating it as it becomes a more secular event. Though it is becoming a more secular event its origins lie in paganism
so it will never be acceptable for the Muslims but there is some leeway.
Muslims in the west are often unsure what to do about Christmas. If their househole is extremely conservative or follow an extreme form of Islam they will actively avoid anything to do with Christmas, including sending Christmas cards or even saying Merry Christmas. Yet Muslims who have a libral background will get involved in everything that Christmas involves save for drinking alcohol and eating swine.
But the majority of Muslims in the west fall between these two extremes. They will avoid parties mainly because of the alcohol (Muslims are not meant to be around while alcohol is being served) but they will receive and send Christmas cards and also reply with Merry Christmas if it is said to them - they do not see their act of neighbourliness and kindness to be against their religion - and they appreciate that it is a joyous time for the people of the country and will be social and joyous as well.
I was recently contacted by a new father of a baby boy and he was wondering about choosing a suitable name for his new son. Quite a lot of emails I get are about the naming of people's new sons and daughters asking what the name means and if it is suitable but this was the first email asking me to suggest a name.
In Islam the naming of a new child is a very important responsibility of the parent. The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) recommended we give our children suitable names, explaining:
Through this blog post I was going to ask you guys to comment with a selection of your favourite boy and girl names and (optionally) explain why you like them.
I can't say I have a favourite name but I'll start off with a few names I like:
Boy's names -
Abdul Wadood - a name that reminds us of God's love
Abdullah - servant of God
Isa - Prophet Jesus - A nice name that doesn't often get used by Muslims as much as it should
Yahya - Prophet John (the baptist) - a reminder of martyrdom
Ilyas - Prophet Elijah
Elyes' - Prophet Elisha - a Prophet few people know about but should
Girl's names -
Jannah - heaven
Ayah - sign/verse from God
Zahraa' - rose
Dhuha - dawn
Noor - light
Maryam - Mary
ps - There's a new poll on the homepage about how you, as a Muslim, celebrate Christmas, if at all.
In the current Middle-Eastern climate of popular "Arab Spring" revolutions, with the people rising up against unjust, despotic and tyrannical dictatorships, understanding who Imam Hussain (AS) is and what happened to him is more important than ever.
"I learnt from Hussain how to achieve victory while being oppressed"
"Imam Hussain's sacrifice is for all groups and communities, an example of the path of righteousness"
Perhaps the most important thing, the thing we hold dear to us after God and our family are our friends, and the influence our friends have on us is not something negligible. There is a lot to consider when we choose our friends as this article will briefly convey.
Humans are naturally social creatures and we tend to try and find other people, groups to belong to - usually people who we share some interests, have things in common or can communicate easily with. This is why lasting friendships tend to lie within racial, cultural, social and religious boundaries, though it is not rare for people to have really good friends who don’t belong to their own community.
When we hear about peer pressure we don't like to admit that we have been affected because we believe we are not so easily influenced, but our friends have a great impact on how we turn out as we get older. Sometimes it's a bad influence and sometimes it's very good but do we pay attention to these things growing up?
If you remember back to your days in school, the people who were friends with "the smokers", for example, and hung around with them, more than likely ended up becoming smokers themselves. As young people, we yearn for acceptance and being liked so we end up doing things that aren't right or good - the feeling of belonging is sometimes stronger than knowing that something is wrong and we tend to forget our stances if all our friends' hold different opinions to us.
This is why, when choosing a friend, it is important to gauge the values of that person before you get sucked into their circle of friends and get negatively influenced and/or hurt. There a number of things to remember when first choosing a friend - what are their values? Are they trustworthy and truthful? do they flaunt the rules, lie, cheat, commit many sins, disrespect their parents, bully or mock other people, backbite, have bad manners and use foul language? Do they respect you and your beliefs and values?
It might seem strange but a lot of people are friends with people who do not respect them or their values and mistreat them. You cannot be true friends with someone who treats you badly and disrespects you so you must break off the friendship. Choose friends who like you for who you are and don't cause you trouble.
More than just being normal friends, a good friend can make you a better person and inspire you to do good things. You can tell a good person had good friends growing up because they do good things and are well mannered. Choose friends who are not only kind to you, but who inspire you to do good things like getting involved with charity, improving your community, increasing your knowledge, remind you of God and pray, and improve your future prospects in this life and the next.
The Prophet Muhammed (SAW) defines a good friend in these words:
A good friend can enter you into the kingdom of heaven and a bad friend can lead you into the fires of hell, so choose your friends wisely.