Showing posts with label Atheist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Atheist. Show all posts

Wednesday 7 November 2018

Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Albania

I have been writing about Muslims living in Non Muslim Countries for awhile now. But writing about Albania is really peculiar and interesting specially those who do not the dominating religion of the country. Albania despite having an overwhelming Muslims majority, some 58% of the tonal population, a legacy of its centuries of Ottoman rule, is not a Muslim country. 

In fact Albania is constitutionally a secular country, and as such, "neutral in questions of belief and conscience". The most-commonly practiced religion in Albania is Islam (mainly Sunni or Bektashi), the second-most-commonly practiced religion is Christianity (mainly Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant), however there are also many irreligious Albanians.

Albania has been a predominant Christian country till Islam arrived during the Ottoman period in the 15th century and the majority of Albanians converted to Islam in 16th and 17th centuries. The Muslims were generally Sunnis, however a portion opted to be Bektashi (a Shia-Sufi order). By 19th Muslim Albanians formed around 70% of the overall Balkan Albanian population in the Ottoman Empire with an estimated population of more than a million. In the early 20th century, the decline of Ottoman rule through military defeat in the Balkans was imminent. At this juncture Albanians represented by Ismail Qemali declared Independence from the Ottoman Empire on 28 November 1912 in Vlorë. However, the international recognition of Albanian independence entailed the imposition of a Christian monarch. During World War I, northern, central and south-central Albania came under Austro-Hungarian occupation. In the census of 1916–18 conducted by Austro-Hungarian authorities, the results showed that Muslims in the regions of Dibër, Lumë and Gorë were over 80% of the population.

The experience of World War One, concerns over being partitioned and loss of power made the Muslim Albanian population support Albanian nationalism and the territorial integrity of Albania. Seeing the decline of Muslim hold, an understanding emerged between most Sunni and Bektashi Albanians that religious differences needed to be sidelined for national cohesiveness. From 1920 until 1925 a four-member governing regency council from the four religious denominations [(Sunni, Bektashi, Catholic, Orthodox) was appointed.] Albanian secularist elites pushed for a reform of Islam as the process of Islamic religious institutions were nationalized and the state increasingly imposed its will upon them.

Following the government program of reforms, the Albanian Islamic congress in Tirana decided to deliberate and reform some Islamic traditional practices adopted from the Ottoman period. The measures was a break with the Ottoman Caliphate and to establish local Muslim structures loyal to Albania, banning polygamy, and the mandatory wearing of veil (hijab) by women in public. A new form of prayer was also implemented (standing, instead of the traditional prayer ritual. However, the wearing of the veil in 1937 was banned.

In 1939, Italy invaded Albania. The Italians attempted to gain sympathies of the Muslim Albanians by proposing to build a large mosque in Rome, though the Vatican opposed this measure and nothing came of it in the end. Mussolini's son in law Count Ciano also replaced the leadership of the Sunni Muslim community, which had recognized the Italian regime in Albania with clergy that aligned with Italian interests.

After the World War II, the communists took over Albania and attempted to forge a national identity that transcended and eroded these religious and other differences with the aim of forming a unitary Albanian identity.  Thus the religions like Islam were denounced as foreign and through policy the Muslim way of life and Islamic culture was destroyed.  In 1967 the communist regime declared Albania the only non-religious country in the world, banning all forms of religious practice in public. The Muslims and Christians suffered severe persecution. Friday prayers in a mosque were banned and personal possession of religious literature such as the Quran was forbidden.

Mosques became a target for Albanian communists who saw their continued existence as exerting an ideological presence in the minds of people. In 1967 within the space of seven months the communists destroyed 740 mosques, some of which were prominent and architecturally important like the Kubelie Mosque in Kavajë, the Clock Mosque in Peqin and the two domed mosques in Elbasan dating from the 17th century. Other Islamic buildings were appropriated by the communist state and turned into them into gathering places, sports halls, warehouses, barns, restaurants, cultural centers and cinemas in an attempt to erase those links between religious buildings and people. 

In early 1990, the Communist regime started to collapse and it reluctantly allowed for limited religious expression to reemerge. Thus a Catholic church and the Lead mosque in Shkodër were both the first religious buildings reopened. At that time Azem Hajdari (1963–1998) and Sali Berisha, who later served multiple terms as president and prime minister were prominent leaders in the movement for democratic change and between 1992 - 1997 people part of the Albanian government were mostly of a Muslim background. Areas that had been traditionally Muslim prior to 1967 reemerged in a post-communist context once again mainly as Muslim. From then on, Muslims placed their focus on restoring institutions, religious buildings and Islam as a faith in Albania. Most mosques and some madrassas (schools teaching Islam and Qur'an) destroyed and damaged during the communist era were reconstructed or restored in former locations where they once stood before 1967.

In 1967 it officially declared itself an atheist country. Such association of the country with Islam is unfair to non-Muslim Albanians who, at least in Albania, make up the overwhelming majority of the population. Albania is supposed to be an example of religious tolerance where Islam, Catholic Christianity and Orthodox Christianity, and other religions coexist peacefully. However, at present, The Albanian state is secular, with no declared state religion. In 1992 Albania became the only entirely European member of the OIC, generating intense controversy within Albania due to concerns that Albania might drift from a secular European future. The Albanian government viewed membership in the OIC as being a bridge between the Muslim-Christian worlds and also as having a "civilizing mission" role within the Islamic world due to the Western orientation of Albania.

The Albanian state administers most of the mosques while also viewed as the main representative of Muslims in the country. Due to funding shortages in Albania, around 90% of the budget of the Albanian Muslim community came from foreign sources in the 1990s, though from 2009 after the signing of agreements the Albanian government allocates funding from the state budget to the four main religions to cover administrative and other costs.

The Muslim Community of Albania in its statutes claims authority over all Muslim groups in Albania. As Albanian migrants went abroad financial resources were sent back to fund other reconstruction projects of various Sufi shrines. The Bektashi order in Albania views themselves as the centre of a worldwide movement and have reconnected with various Turkish educational and Iran religious organizations emphasizing their common links, something that other Sufi orders in Albania have done.

As for relations with other Muslims countries, Turkey has been supportive of Albanian geopolitical interests within the Balkans. Turkish brand of Islam now dominates the country’s religious institutions as it is culturally more in step with Albania’s Muslims and less vulnerable to radicalized religious interpretation. Albania has established political and economic ties with Arab countries, in particular with Arab Persian Gulf states who have heavily invested in religious, transport and other infrastructure alongside other facets of the economy in addition to the somewhat limited societal links they share.

Two official holidays are: Bajrami i Madh (Big Bayram, Eid al-Fitr) celebrated at the conclusion of Ramadan and Kurban Bajram (Bayram of the sacrifice) or Bajrami i Vogël (Small Bayram, Eid al-Adha) celebrated on 10 Dhu al-Hijjah. During the month of Ramadan practicing Sunni Muslims fast and 5 nights are held sacred and celebrated. The prophet Muhammad's birthday is also commemorated and the Muslim Community of Albania holds a concert in Tiranë. It is attended by Albanian political and Muslim religious establishment representatives alongside Albanian citizens, many non-practicing Muslims.

Watch a video of Muslims of Albania celebrating the Holy month of Ramadan:
For Shiite Muslims, the Day of Sultan Novruz (Nowruz) on March 22 is an official holiday. Ashura, a day commemorating the massacre at Karbala is also held. A pilgrimage on 20–25 August to Mount Tomorr to commemorate and celebrate the Shi'ite saint Abbas Ali.

Halal slaughter of animals and food is permitted, mainly available in the eateries of large urban centers and becoming popular among people who are practicing Sunni Muslims. Muslim dress is not prohibited in Albania in public areas.Religious Muslim law as with other religious law is not recognized by the Albanian courts. The Sunni Muslim Community of Albania however recognizes nikah or religious Muslim marriage although not many people undertake marriage in this form. During the communist period Muslim Albanians were buried alongside Albanians of other faiths and due to that legacy in contemporary times separate Muslim graveyards are uncommon.

Photo | References: | Main reference Source: Wikipedia (Islam in Albania) | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
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Sunday 28 October 2018

Finding the Ultimate Truth - A Born Atheist finds in Islam

Most of the Muslims or for that matter that of any religion are born with the religion of their parents, myself included in the long list too, and generally do not strive to learn more about our faith of birth. But lately I started wondering what makes it for followers of other faiths to "revert" to Islam. And it was this aim in my mind, I started this blog of mine to know "The Ultimate Decision" of such people leaving their religion of birth behind and entering into the fold of Islam.

I came across many sites, mostly by the Christians, condemning Islam and lamenting that Islam coerces Christians to embrace Islam. I will someday quote some of these sites, which have tried to spread disinformation about Islam by quoting out of context verses of the Holy Qur'an to support their view point - I am amazed at such efforts wherein even the translation of the verses of the Qur'an have been twisted to make a point.

Sometime back, I shared the embracing of Islam by an Atheist who was earlier a born Catholic, which clearly shows that when a born Catholic could not find an answer to his questions in Bible, he chose to be become an Atheist for it did not require of him bondage with any religion. But even after denouncing everything and disbelieving in the existence of God or gods, many atheists find their answers in Islam. [1]

Today I am once again sharing the self confession of an atheist who was born to a Catholic family, but his parents raised him as an atheist for they too did not felt satisfied what Christians believed in.

I came across this video on Facebook and was amazed to listen to this young man's confession of how he has been wondering around in search of truth and how finally found his answers in Islam. This man from Australia looks visibly enlightened and one can understand the glow on his face for he was able to find the truth.

The last portion of the video is really very revealing and motivating. He says that having made the decision to revert to Islam, he wanted God to show him some sign that would be his final push to Islam. He said he sat in a candle lit room, and repeatedly asking for a sign - but was disappointed to find none. And then in desperation when he turned over the next page of Qur'an, there it was: The sign he was waiting for. I wont tell what was the sign, for it will spoil the spell with which one listens to his self confession.

Watch the video below of journey from Atheism to Islam in his own words:

I wish those finding truth and find faults in Islam, see this video and find out for themselves how to reach the truth - not by misguidance but striving to find the truth where it is contained: The Holy Qur'an and not sites which mislead a person to stop them from leaving their original faith and embrace Islam. May Allah always guide us on the straight path, the path of those who were blessed, and not the path of those upon whom the wrath of Allah fell or those who strayed away from the truth. [ Surah Al Fateha ]

Source | References: | 1 |
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Monday 11 June 2018

Journey of a Catholic from an Atheist to Orthodox Church and finally Islam

Faith is the basic foundation of any human being. One may believe in anything or anyone, but the faith solidifies only when one comes to understand the truth and the wisdom behind a faith. Since Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) the large number prophets were chosen by Allah to help people find the truth. But it always so happened that soon after these prophets were gone, their followers became disillusioned and their faith became corrupted. 

This happens when pollution finds its way into one's faith or there are questions that still remained unanswered. That is when the unsatisfactorily leads a person to find answers in other faiths - and mostly such people finally chose Islam as their ultimate faith, for Islam answers all queries and question that saturate one' s mind.

I have already shared personal accounts of a few, and today I am sharing the account of young man Rosario who was a born Catholic, but went astray and became an atheist when his religion of birth could not answer his queries. I came across this account at the Muslim Stories and am sharing  a few excerpts while you may read the complete account from the source reference given at the end of the post.

Dissatisfied with Catholicism, he says he became an atheist. But it still made him more miserable as here too there were no answers. He then took up philosophy which made him more critical and open to the world. He started questioning his faith found him moving from denomination to denomination in search of the “true” Christianity, until he finally ended up in the Greek Orthodox Church. Although not fully content, he thought he had found “true” Christianity at last. However, perhaps still the most difficult doctrine was the fact that Jesus was God. He says he understood the Trinity, but the concept still felt as though it was “forced” on to what the scriptures were actually saying.

And then a friend introduced him to a Muslim and things started to clear up for him. He discussed various issues with the Imam of the masjid for over next 4 - 5 months. He found people around highly intellectual and engaged in philosophy more deeply than the average person. And then decided to read Qur'an, the last of the four holy books. The more he read the translation of the Qur'an, the more he understood that "how personal the Qur’an was — as though it was talking to me directly; it was drastically different than how the Bible was written."

Although he admits that nothing really “moved me” at the time. However, when one day while reading Surah Al-Isra (17th chapter), that’s when he finally felt something. It was ayahs 23-24 which captivated him:
And your Lord has decreed that you not worship except Him, and to parents, good treatment. Whether one or both of them reach old age [while] with you, say not to them [so much as], "uff," and do not repel them but speak to them a noble word.And lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy and say, "My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small."
This really moved him and made him cry for he remembered how his mother went through to take care of him "and how our culture we practiced and lived in made it the standard to be distant from one’s parents and to be disrespectful. It was the first time I realized that respecting one’s parents was essential. It had never dawned on me before. Even though I struggle to do so to this day, it was the Qur’an that made me realize it as a part of my moral duty."

And this reading made him realist that it was Islam that must be his ultimate faith to live his life in truth. He also came to know while reading history of Islam that Spain (Al Andulas) was once under Muslim rule for almost eight hundred years - a country which he originally belonged to.

By that time he had also read the differences between the two mainstream branches of Islam, i.e. Sunni and Shia, he chose to be a Sunni Muslim and 'reverted' to Islam and changed his name to Asadullah Ali Al-Andalusi (Al Andalusi fro his roots with Spain). He faced lot of resistance from his friends and family, specially his mother who had endured prejudice as a Spanish/Puerto Rican immigrant, which is why she had given me an English name and only wanted me to learn to speak English. 

HE then completed his studies and went to Malaysia to learn more about Islam. He is now doing a PhD in Islamic Studies and critiquing ISIS (my thesis is “The Delusional State of ISIS”), showcasing how their understanding of Islam is actually quite liberal and modern.

About Asadullah:
Asadullah Ali Al-Andalusi is a research fellow for Yaqeen Institute and the founder of the Andalusian Project, an independent research platform for counter-Islamophobia studies. He holds degrees in both Western and Islamic Philosophy and is currently pursuing his Ph.D in Islamic Studies. He specializes in topics related to the philosophy of science, atheism,  terrorism, Islamic  political thought and ethics, and other issues surrounding the global Muslim community.  

To read personal accounts of many a celebrity who have reverted to Islam, please visit our page: Embracing Islam: Revert Experiences.

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.

Source: Main Account | About Asadullah Ali Al-Andalusi 

If you like Islam: My Ultimate Decision, and to keep yourself updated on all our latest posts to know more about Islam, follow us on Facebook

Please share this page to your friends and family members through Facebook, WhatsApp or any means on Social Media so that they can also be benefited by it and better understand Islam and the Holy Qur'an - Insha Allah (Allah Willing) you shall be blessed with the best of both worlds.

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