SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- A thorough perusal of all the traditions on the life of Lady Fatima (peace be upon her) turns up surprisingly little by way of significant events in which she participated, sermons she delivered, or even words of wisdom or admonition she may have uttered. This dearth of reports raises the question: If Lady Fatima holds true claim to the status Muslims ascribe to her, why do we not see more traditions transmitted from and about her?
I scoured several primary sources like Bihar al-Anwar, al-Manaqib, and Kashf al-Ghummah, secondary sources like Muntaha al-Amaal, and numerous biographical works, searching all the while for the kinds of sermons and admonitions I have come to expect from the Prophet and Imams (peace be upon them). I found there are many traditions about her conception and birth, her marriage and her death. There are numerous traditions extolling her praises. There is mention of a few important incidents such as the division of labor between her and Imam Ali and the ordainment of what has come to be calledtasbih al-zahra or "the invocation of Lady Fatima." And there is little else.
This odd silence led me to examine what we know about other women in Islamic history. According to a famous tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) said, "The best women among humankind are four: Mary, daughter of Imran, Khadija, daughter of Khuwaylid, Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, and Asiya, daughter of Muzahim." (Manaqib al-Abi Talib) The mention of Lady Mary made in the Qur'an is limited to narrations of her miraculous birth (Qur'an 3:35-36), some incidents in the temple, some with the Prophet Zakaria (3:37 and 3:42-43), and the immaculate conception of the Prophet Jesus (19:16-33). Likewise, our knowledge of Lady Khadija is largely limited to her marriage to the Prophet, the birth of Fatima, and her largesse in backing the incipient Islamic movement. Similarly, the Qur'an mentions Lady Asiya only at the time when she finds the baby Moses (28:8-9) and at her execution at the hands of her megalomaniac husband, the Pharaoh of Egypt (66:11).
Other significant personalities such as Sara and Hagar, the wives of the Prophet Abraham, only give a cameo appearance when the angels come to tell them of the miraculous births of their respective sons, Isaac and Ishmael (11:71-73 and 51:29-30). Even the life of a person as important as Lady Zainab (peace be upon her) remains largely unknown to us aside from her role in the aftermath of Karbala.
The question is why? Why are we not told more about these women? Does the Qur'an not call Lady Mary and Lady Asiya "models for the faithful?" Is Lady Fatima not "The Mistress of all Women?" How can we be expected to learn from, and emulate, them if we do not know how they lived and what they taught?
This question is all the more poignant in the current era when we are accustomed to heroines who led their nations' armies to battle and victory like Joan of Arc; who revolutionized the institution of nursing like Florence Nightingale; who rose from rags to riches to influential trendsetter like Oprah Winfrey; who are outspoken, powerful, and even masculine like Margaret Thatcher and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Modern heroines enter the public arena and work side by side with men – even superseding them at times – to make their marks on human history. Why then are Muslim heroines so seemingly reclusive and silent?
We might begin to discover the answer to this conundrum in a tradition narrated in Kashf al-Ghummah: It is reported that Imam Ali said, "We were with the Messenger of God when he asked, 'Tell me what is best for women?' None of us was able to answer him until we dispersed. Then I came home to Fatima and informed her of what the Messenger of God asked us…so she said, 'I know the answer. It is best for women not to see men and for men not to see them.' So I returned to the Messenger of God and said, 'O Messenger of God, you asked us what is best for women. It is best for women not to see men and for men not to see them.' He asked, 'Who told you this, for you did not know it when you were with me [earlier]?' I replied, 'Fatima.' This pleased the Messenger of God, and he said, 'Fatima is of my flesh.'"
This tradition should not be misconstrued as an excuse to enforce a Taliban-style exclusion of women from the public arena. Our jurists (mujtahids), to whom we look for the legal rulings concerning, among other things, male-female interaction, have determined that Islamic law allows women to leave their homes and participate in public life within certain parameters. This tradition does, on the other hand, highlight a virtue to which Muslim women should aspire: to minimize their interactions with unrelated men in the public sphere and to participate in public life only to the extent that necessity dictates. It is in the private sphere of the home, family, and among female friends that a woman can fully realize her social potential while remaining chaste and out of harm's way.
A tradition that encourages its women to favor the private sphere over the public sphere will naturally produce heroines who make their mark in a quiet, private way. A tradition that has relieved women of the burden of warfare will not nurture a Joan of Arc in its ranks. A tradition that values the qualities that distinguish women from men will not foster power-mongering, masculine women. A tradition that values chastity as a supreme virtue will not give rise to models and actresses, who must by the nature of their work, place themselves on display.
That is not to say that the Islamic tradition produces weak women. To be private, quiet, chaste, and feminine – contrary to what feminist-influenced Western culture would have us believe – does not in any way imply weakness of character. In fact, history has shown us repeatedly that these same private women, when circumstances have demanded, have had the courage, the eloquence, and the sagacity to change the course of history.
When Moses' serpent devoured all the other snakes, and even the magicians fell prostrate before the God who had given him such power, Pharaoh refused to concede defeat. At that point, Lady Asiya had the courage to stand up to him, renounce him and his world, and die the death of a martyr (Qur'an 66:11).
When Lady Mary was chosen for her chastity to give birth miraculously to Jesus, she braved the malicious slander of her Jewish townspeople who accused her of fornication. She did not even speak a word in her own defense; rather, she trusted in God and simply pointed to her new-born son who defended her from his cradle (18:27-33).
Lady Khadija did not have to live a public life to realize the integrity of her husband and the truth of the religion he brought. Thus, she willingly placed all of her sizeable assets at the disposal of the Prophet to be used to further the cause.
When a handful of the Prophet's companions decided to flout the Prophet's appointment of Ali as his successor, and then proceeded to press every denizen of Medina into allegiance to their ill-chosen and ill-suited candidate, and when they added insult to injury by usurping the land of Fadak from Lady Fatima after her father had given it to her, she is reported to have made one final stand. She donned her head covering and veil, wrapped herself in a cloak, and, surrounded by her female servants, entered the council of men. She had a curtain hung before herself to shield herself from their gazes. Then, she commenced to extemporaneously berate, with fearlessness and eloquence rivaled only by Imam Ali, those companions who had abandoned her father and his successor. In the course of this oration, she said the following:
"When [my father] was pitted against brutish men: the wolfish Arabs and the refractory People of the Book [about whom God says,] 'Every time they fanned the flames of war, God extinguished them', or when the devil flashed a horn or the venomous pagans bore their fangs, [the Messenger of God] hurled his brother [Ali] into their gaping jaws. Ali never remitted until he had destroyed them and extinguished their embers with his sword, exhausting himself for the sake of God, striving for the cause of God, in the proximity of the Messenger of God, a leader of the friends of God; ever ready, with pure intent, always striving, always struggling. All the while, you were living in comfort, in ease, in pleasure, and security. You lay in wait for some misfortune to befall us. You impatiently awaited the news [of the Prophet's demise]. You turned your backs on the fight and fled from the battlefield." (Balaghat al-Nisa)
Lady Zainab, following the lead of her mother Lady Fatima and grandmother Lady Khadija, led a life focused around the private sphere. However, when she and the other captives of Karbala were summoned to the courts of Ubaydullah ibn Ziyad and Yazid, she confronted them with the ferocity and stunning eloquence of her father and mother. She shook the very foundations of Yazid's empire and neutralized any political advantage he had hoped to gain through the murder of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him).
There is another lesson to be drawn from the dearth of traditions of and about Lady Fatima, a lesson that speaks to both men and women. There is a tendency to judge the virtue of people by their outward acts. We deem those who fight bravely, who deliver heart-rending speeches, who help the poor, and who launch revolutions, to be good without consideration for their intentions and motives. We place more emphasis on the act than on the actor.
In stark contrast, Imam Ali says, "The doer of good is better than his good deed." (Nahjul Balagha, saying #32) God's evaluation of a deed is not based on the superficial criteria upon which we must depend. He sees not only the deed, but the intention behind it as well. To him, the intention is more important than the deed itself. This is the meaning of this quotation from Imam Ali.
We must carry this message over to the subject of Lady Fatima, the other women we have mentioned here, and all people whose outward role seems to be less than we would expect it to be. We are not in a position to judge anyone's station before God by his outward contribution to the Islamic cause. One's relationship to God is something known only to God. All we can do is evaluate outward deeds according to the standards God has placed at our disposal. Thus, we need not be surprised by the apparently small outward contribution Lady Fatima may have made to the Islamic cause. Rather, it is safe to assume that she fulfilled whatever duties God consigned to her in the best possible way, even though she must have done this far from the public gaze. For this reason, we see that the Prophet and Imams extol her as the "Mistress of all Women", as one who was spoken to by Gabriel (al-Muhaddathah), as one whose pleasure and anger are in absolute synch with the pleasure and anger of the Prophet of God, and as one of the infallible members of the household of the Prophet whom God purified thoroughly (33:33).
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The oppression dealt to the highest ranked woman in Islam has been carried out by a dual force. Following the death of her father and God's Last Messenger (peace be upon him and his progeny), the sect of the hypocrites usurped her entitlement to Fadak and carried out an attack on the home of Lady Fatima (peace be upon her). However, the historical context of these individuals allows observers to accept their actions because they complement their previous animosity towards the Prophet Muhammad and his family. When it came to many of the so-called "companions" of the Prophet, no effort was made to conceal their blatant hatred towards the Prophet's Family despite a divine decree establishing love for the Prophet and His family as compulsory. "Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it (the deliverance of the Message) but love for my near relatives." (42:23)
Indeed, we remember the sacrifice and loyalty of Imam Hassan (peace be upon him) and the revolutionary martyrdom of Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) in the forsaken fields of Karbala. Rarely, if ever, do we consider: how were these individuals cultivated into men of God? Is it not because their mother was the leading woman of the worlds? Lady Fatima al-Zahra (peace be upon her) is the greatest symbol and most perfect emblem of politeness and humanity, chastity and piety, and bravery and forbearance in the Path of God.
The Holy Prophet refused to allow the marriage of Lady Fatima to occur in the absence of a Divine decree, and when he was asked to explain, He stated, "Maryam was the lady of the women of her time, but my daughter Fatimah is the lady of the whole world's women, from the first to the last." (The World's Most Outstanding Lady: Fatima az-Zahra) The status and rank of Lady Fatima was so lofty and safeguarded that the only possible companion for her would be the Commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (peace be upon him). Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (peace be upon him) explains why the name Fatima was given to the highest ranking woman of Islam, "Because she and her followers (Shiites) are protected from Hell. [And] Had Amir Al-Mu'mineen not married her, no man on Earth from Adam on would have been suitable for her until the Day of Rising." (Fatima the Gracious)
Lady Fatima's life and death were so exalted and sublime in virtue and piety that all lessons of life and grandeur should be taken from her. Lady Fatima is a source of guidance for all Muslims, and her attributes mirror those of her father and her husband and her sons and grandsons. The status afforded to her is recognized by all Muslims, and even those who stood against her and in direct violation of God praised her qualities. Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, has narrated many of the virtues of Lady Fatima, and these traditions are prominently featured in the books of the other Islamic sects. For example, Aisha narrated, "I have not seen a person more similar to the Prophet's appearance, conduct, guidance, and speech, whether sitting or standing, than Fatima." (Mustadrak al-Hakim)
In the current state of the Muslim world, and the advent of various sorts of spiritual diseases among Muslims, the personality of Lady Fatima is increasingly becoming a refuge for those who remain sincerely believing and hold true the Prophetic Mission. As Muslims continue to seek out happiness, contentedness, and true love towards God, we must return to the root of such traits, and these characteristics are manifested in the Prophet Muhammad and his Purified Family. In particular, Lady Fatima stands as the eternal symbol of worship, an emblem of sincere love towards God, and an exalted example of patience and charity.
Through the school of Fatima, we can learn to cultivate our own selves into Muslims who have earned the honor of being labeled as true followers (Shias). By studying the life of the most perfect woman in Islam, individuals begin to construct for themselves a life of independence, guidance, and direction because she emphasized these values and beliefs through her devotion and love for Islam.
While the life of Lady Fatima is an example for all Muslims, she is the unequivocal role model for all women regardless of their religion or creed. Like her mother Lady Khadija, Lady Fatima presented the first chance for women to built an Islamic character and free them from the binds of ignorance and inferiority. Who other than Lady Fatima has taught women how to preserve their honor and purity? Was it not Lady Fatima who showed the world how to rise against oppression, usurpation, and injustice? Was it not Lady Fatima who personified charity and mercy towards the destitute by giving away her meals and clothing to others while knowing this would cause hardship on her?
The worship and piety of Lady Fatima is rivaled by no one before her or after her. Imam Hassan said, "On Friday night, I saw my mother standing in her arch of prayer. She was continuously kneeling and performing prostration till the dawn broke. I would hear her pray for the faithful men and women, but she did not at all pray for herself. I said, 'O mother, why did you not pray for yourself like you prayed for others?' She replied, 'My son, first the neighbor, and then your own house.'" Indeed, Lady Fatima was worshipping and praying during the night, but she even prayed for other people before herself.
The lessons drawn from Lady Fatima's life are innumerable and illustrious. She continued the Prophetic legacy of struggling in the way of God. While her struggles were not in the battlefield, her Jihad has been registered in history as an inimitable legacy of a woman. Furthermore, she planted the seeds of resistance against the tyranny of the usurpers and their misguided adherents. The school of Fatima is the true school of Islam and the perfect guidance for Muslims, because it rejects oppression and upholds the traditions, values, and original teachings of the Pure Prophet of Islam.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The Divine and Godly personalities are known and recognized in this world, and they are mentioned on the tongues of the people, but their fame is not just limited to the four walls of this physical realm. Instead, their recognition is far greater and widespread in the spiritual realm and in the heavens. The near angels and other celestial beings remember these personalities much more and much more often than human beings do. In this regard, the Farsi poet Mohtashim Kashani has said about Imam Hussain (peace be upon him), "Although in the spiritual realm there is no concept of sorrow or tribulation, but even the Divine angels have their heads bowed in remembrance of Hussain's tragedy."
Lady Zainab (peace be upon her) is famous in this world for her courage, patience, perseverance, unshakeable faith in the face of tragedy and grief, firm belief, and unmatched sacrifice and dedication. However, the remembrance of her sacrifice and patience occurs among the residents of God's heavens, the celestial beings, and the near angels as well. The bravery and determination of the daughter of the Commander of the Faithful (peace be upon him) has left even the heavenly angels in awe.
The remembrance of this great lady's bravery and determination is indeed much more commonplace on the tongues of the heavenly beings. In this regard, we mention the following anecdote:
Akhund Mullah Muhammad Baqir al-Birjandi, who was a respected scholar in the previous century and the author of many important works, narrates from his colleague Sayyid Asadullah Isfehani, who attended the lectures of Mirza Hasan Shirazi with him. Sayyid Asadullah had a dream in which he saw the Imam of Our Time (may Allah hasten his reappearance). The Imam told him, "Every year on the anniversary of my aunt Zainab's martyrdom, the angels hold a mourning ceremony, in which they recite the sermon which she delivered in Kufa, and they cry and weep profusely over her."
This true dream, which Sayyid Jaleel al-Qadr has narrated himself from Akhund Birjandi, is a testament to the status and position of Lady Zainab. It reveals to us that even among the residents of the heavens, the respect for Lady Zainab is so great that they host a mourning ceremony for her martyrdom.
Secondly, it teaches us that this Majlis for Lady Zainab is so important that the Twelfth Imam himself is in attendance.
Thirdly, Lady Zainab's sermon which she delivered in Kufa is recited during this ceremony. That is a testament to this sermon's significance.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Annette Morales-Rodriguez, distraught over her inability to give her boyfriend a son, had already pretended to have two miscarriages and was faking a third pregnancy when she settled on a sinister plan to abduct another Hispanic woman, carve the child from her womb and pass it off as her own.
She followed through last year and ended up killing not only 23-year-old Maritza Ramirez-Cruz, but also Ramirez-Cruz’s full-term son as well. On Thursday, Morales-Rodriguez will be sentenced to prison for life. The only unknown is whether the judge will allow for the possibility of parole. Wisconsin doesn’t have the death penalty.
Prosecutor Mark Williams declined to say what sentence he would seek.
“The facts speak for themselves,” he said. “It was a horrible crime. I’m going to hope she’s punished proportionately for that crime.”
Morales-Rodriguez’s attorneys didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Morales-Rodriguez, 34, was convicted of two counts of first-degree intentional homicide, one for Ramirez-Cruz and one for the fetus. She didn’t testify during her trial, and her defence attorneys, who didn’t deny that she attacked Ramirez-Cruz, didn’t call any witnesses.
Instead, defence attorneys argued that the slayings were reckless but not intentional, because Morales-Rodriguez didn’t mean for the victims to die. They urged jurors to convict her of the lesser charge of first-degree reckless homicide, which carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
After less than two hours of deliberation, the jury returned guilty verdicts on the original charges.
A key piece of evidence during the trial was a videotaped police interview in which Morales-Rodriguez described her attack on the young mother. She admitted luring Ramirez-Cruz to her home, bludgeoning and choking her into unconsciousness, and then using a small blade to carve out the fetus.
In a 911 call played for jurors, she told a dispatcher that she had just given birth to a baby who wasn’t breathing.
In the ensuing investigation and autopsy, a medical examiner found evidence that the baby wasn’t the product of a natural birth. A subsequent examination verified Morales-Rodriguez hadn’t given birth.
Police later found the victim’s disembowelled body in Morales-Rodriguez’s basement.
In the recording, she sits at a desk in a small interrogation room, sobbing and sniffling and occasionally covering her face with her hands. Her voice is generally unwavering, but she pauses frequently and sighs heavily.
She sat in silence throughout the three days of testimony. She kept her head down and eyes open as she listened through headphones to an interpreter translating English into Spanish. - www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) - After 53 years of revolution, Cubans are increasingly exasperated by the restrictions imposed on them by the country's change-averse communist regime.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, recent modest economic reforms, activism is growing as the government's opponents overcome their fear of arrest and take to the streets.
But it is not easy. Today, even the church-based Ladies in White - a group of female relatives of imprisoned activists - say they are routinely spied on and arrested.
This year they achieved brief international notoriety when they were prevented from meeting Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the island, but for the most part their activities are carried out under the ever-present threat of harassment and intimidation by Cuba's internal security police.
Nevertheless, inspired by the Arab Spring, the Ladies are determined to keep up their protests, sensing that the regime's grip on power is fading and that sooner rather than later it will be forced to give way.
But what is it like to live in such a pervasive culture of surveillance and fear? People & Power sent an independent undercover journalist to find out. He has asked us not to reveal his identity because he may wish to visit Cuba again in the future, but in the article below he describes what it was like to make the film and the many difficulties facing the activists he met.
Following the 2011 economic reforms announced by the Cuban government for the 52nd anniversary of the country's revolution, there was widespread speculation about the possibility of comparable political reforms that would end the persecution of dissidents and the Communist Party's grip on power.
But it took a courageous Cuban journalist to make an insightful current affairs programme about it. Today, that journalist, Ivan Hernandez, is in hiding.
My first ever attempt to meet up with Ivan in a Havana bar, back in September 2011, failed for fear of being arrested by the political police on his tail.
I was on a tourist visa and aware that any encounter with political dissidents could mean immediate expulsion from the country and a permanent ban from returning.
To Fidel Castro, Ivan is a "counter-revolutionary" working for the American right-wing Cuban lobby. In reality, Ivan is just an independent freelance journalist, albeit one with a very critical view of the Cuban Revolution.
But in 2003, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiring against the government and publishing "false information". He was sent to a high security compound, isolated in an individual cell and deprived of contact with anyone other than his guards for months on end. His crime was merely to write reports about how difficult life was for the ordinary Cuban.
In 2011, Ivan was freed as a gesture of good will on the part of Fidel Castro towards Pope Benedict, ahead of his 2012 visit to Cuba. The released prisoners were given the option of leaving the island. Most of them did. But not Ivan.
"This is my country," he told me when I asked him about his decision, "why would I leave? This is my calling, my mission - to tell the truth. Life is terrible here. There's a US blockade against Cuba, and inside Cuba there's a blockade of the government against the people."
I was impressed by Ivan's determination. I thought that following him undercover as we contacted other political dissidents and victims of state-sponsored violence could illustrate what it is like to be critical of Fidel Castro in Cuba today.
Ivan liked the idea and we worked out a way to make it happen without being arrested. First, the programme had to be anonymous to protect everybody connected with me in Cuba who was unaware of what I was doing. We feared reprisals against my landlord for renting out a room to me, or my friends and colleagues who live and work in Cuba. Any suspicion against them could end their careers and seriously affect their daily lives.
From the start, Ivan warned me that one-out-of-every-five Cubans is suspected of being a police informer and that few people can be absolutely trusted. He said we needed to film with mini hidden cameras and concoct a plausible cover story for me, the foreigner in the team.
In successive trips we took cameras into Cuba without raising any suspicions and in May 2012 we started shooting. The very first challenge was to portray the lives of dissidents under surveillance without being detected. We decided that giving the activists cameras to record their own video diaries was the best option.
We established a security protocol by which if the dissident with the camera did not report back to one of us within a specified period of time, we had to assume that he had been detained. We had a network of pre-determined "safe houses" and arrangements to call each other using public phones at a given time.
I taught Ivan some counter-surveillance techniques learned by covering other conflicts but he was well used to this himself.
Filming with Berta Soller, the leader of the Ladies in White protest movement, was one of our first tasks. Aware that her apartment was under constant surveillance we used a key-fob camera to get shots as we walked up to her building, although as it turned out, our work was made easier by the fact that too many policemen and "local informers" could be persuaded to look the other way for $5.
We managed to film five interviews without being followed. Then we took the decision to meet Antonio Rodiles, a 40-year-old with a degree in Physics who had left Cuba for work and had chosen to return to defy the government's censorship from within.
In 2010, Antonio founded Estado de SATS, or State of SATS. "SATS" is a Scandinavian word that refers to the instant just before the actor has to face the audience or the runner hears the bang. The moment of greatest concentration, the adrenaline rush that precedes an explosion. State of SATS is "an initiative of young artists, intellectuals and professionals in search of a better reality". The best known work of SATS are the film-debates, produced in Antonio's own home, that circulate with great success on Cuba's alternative information networks.
But Antonio's home was surrounded by CCTV cameras. Once inside the house, we went to check the backyard, which overlooks the sea, and as we were unpacking Antonio pointed out the CCTV cameras that could possibly be filming us.
"Come on, I'll show you." We followed him and filmed him pointing at the cameras. We had to assume from that point on that we might have been spotted. But we filmed the interview anyway and left looking over our shoulders. Once in the car, we decided to lay low for a day.
Our next mission was rather ambitious: to attempt to film a one-man protest against the government in Revolution Square. Ivan had advanced knowledge of the event through a contact and we had a couple of days to plan it.
We assigned a second crew, two European-looking Cubans, to film in the area in the guise of tourists at the time the protest was to take place. I would be covering the opposite end of the square to film the protest from afar. The protester, a rickshaw driver, had not even started holding up a sign that said "Down with Repression", when three policemen surrounded and handcuffed him.
I caught the moment on camera, but my colleagues, who were supposed to be closer to the action, were nowhere to be seen. I just did not know what had happened to them.
The police saw me. I turned off the camera. One of the agents who had just arrested the protester came up to me and grabbed the camera. He started flicking through the images, thinking they were stills. He could not see anything wrong but questioned me for 10 minutes, then warned me "be careful with what you film" and let me go.
I walked away from the square pretty fast. An hour later I met Ivan. Our second crew had been detained. That night, my landlord got a call from state security inquiring about me. He came to tell me with a worried look on his face. "What’s going on?" I bluffed my way out of it, but when he left, I took all my belongings and drove for two hours out of Havana.
Ivan continued filming on his own until July 22. That day, Oswaldo Paya, one of the most prominent dissidents, was killed in a car crash that his daughter claimed was "not an accident".
Ivan and I met. He wanted to film the funeral. He said it could turn into a demonstration. Knowing that I was now suspected we realised that if I went there after what happened, we risked losing everything we had filmed. So Ivan volunteered.
"I'll go and film it. I'll send you the footage in two weeks." He left in a hurry. I did not have time to even shake his hand.
Two weeks later, I got the footage from a colleague who had gone to Cuba as a tourist to pick it up. I emailed Ivan to confirm that I had received it. But he did not reply. His phone was permanently "out of range". I can only assume he is still in hiding.
Then on November 8, Antonio Rodiles, one of our main interviewees, was arrested and detained. This film, which will probably go to air as Antonio is in a cell for daring to speak his mind, will no doubt confirm the government's suspicions of him - but like all the dissidents we spoke to in our film, he would not have had it any other way. Only by speaking out, they say, will Cubans bring change to their country.
There are some indications that Cuba may decide to allow emigration from January next year. Perhaps it is a sign that the government is finally acknowledging that economic reforms need to be followed by deep political reforms and a transition to democracy.
For the sake of Ivan, Berta Soller, Antonio and all the other dissidents, one can only hope so.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The Holy Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him and his progeny) said: "In the event that Ali would not have been created, there would have been no one worthy to be Fatima's spouse."
A Marriage Made in Heaven
The extraordinary virtues of Lady Fatima (peace be upon her) on one hand, her blood relations with the Prophet on the other hand, and the nobility of her family furthermore, caused many of the high-ranking supporters of the Prophet to propose to her; but all heard negative answers. Each time, the Prophet would usually answer them, saying: "Her matter is in the hands of her Lord."
The strangest case was the proposal of Abdul Rahman ibn Awf. A rich man who, by the customs of Age of Ignorance, looked at everything through the viewing window of materialism, he visualized a heavy dowry as a sign of the woman's personal status and the superior position of the husband. He came to see the Prophet, saying: "If you will give Fatima to me in marriage, I will make her a dower of one hundred camels with loads of precious material from Egypt, along with 10000 Dinars in gold!"
The Prophet was so displeased with this meaningless proposal that he took a handful of gravel and threw it towards Abdul Rahman and said: "You thought that I was a servant of money and wealth that you are expressing pride in your money and wealth!" (Tezkerat al-Khawas)
Indeed, in Lady Fatima's marriage proposal Islamic examples must be defined, the customs of ignorance suppressed, and the standards of Islamic values made clear.
The people were speaking of these very things when suddenly it was heard everywhere that the Prophet wished to give his only daughter to Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon him) in marriage. Imam Ali did not have access to worldly wealth and possessions, nor did he possess any of the standards of the Age of Ignorance; rather, instead he was from head to toe full of faith and real Islamic values. Indeed, this blessed historical marriage was a heavenly revelation, because the Prophet himself said: "An angel of God came to me and told me that God sends you greetings and says: 'I have made Fatima the wife of Ali ibn Abi Talib in the highest heavens already, so you should also marry her to him on earth.'" (Dhakair al-Abqa)
When Imam Ali went to the Prophet with his marriage proposal for Lady Fatima, his face was red with shyness. When the Prophet saw him, he became cheerful and smiled, asking him why he had come. But Imam Ali, because of the imposing presence of the Prophet, could not put forth his wish and, as such, remained silent.
Aware of Imam Ali's intentions, the Prophet said: "Maybe you have come for marriage proposal of Fatima?" He replied: "Yes, I have come for that very purpose." The Prophet said: "Ali, before you, other men had come for proposal of Fatima. Whenever I informed Fatima of this matter, she would not show her approval. Right now, let me inform her of this conversation."
It is true that the marriage was heavenly and must take place. But especially because of the high status of Lady Fatima, and to demonstrate the respect and freedom of women in choosing their husbands, it was necessary that the Prophet of Islam should not go ahead in this matter without the consent of Lady Fatima.
When the Prophet described the virtues of Imam Ali for his daughter, he said: "I wish to make you the wife of the best of God's creation. What is your opinion?" Lady Fatima, who was submerged in shyness and modesty, lowered her head saying nothing and denying nothing. The Prophet raised his head and spoke this historical sentence, which is a proof for Islamic jurists today in relation to the marriage of previously unmarried girls: "God is the Greatest! Her silence is the proof of her agreement."
Following these events, the marriage contract was concluded by the Holy Prophet.
Lady Fatima's Dowry
It is without doubt that the marriage of the Best of Men in the world with the Princess of the World's Women must in every way be an example – one for all centuries and ages. Therefore, the Prophet turned to Imam Ali and asked: "Do you have something to stipulate as your wife's dowry?" He replied: "May my parents be your sacrifice, as you well know, my belongings consist of nothing more than my sword, armor, and a camel." The Prophet said: "That is right. Your sword is needed during battles with the enemies of Islam. And you must water your palm orchards with your camel and also use it on journeys. Therefore, you may only stipulate your armor as your wife's dowry – and I give in my daughter Fatima to you against this very armor." (Ihqaq al-Haq)
This is one side of the story, but on the other side we read in narrations that Lady Fatima asked her father to make her dowry her ability to intercede for the wrongdoers of the nation on the Day of Resurrection. This request was granted, and Gabriel revealed this command to the Prophet from Heaven. (Akhbaru Duwal)
The materialistic simplicity and spiritual magnificence of Lady Fatima's dowry is an example for all of humanity. It is an example of how incorrect values must be torn down and replaced with pure values, of the custom of faithful men and women, and of the way of life for the true leaders of God's servants.
Lady Fatima's Trousseau
For much of society throughout time, the dowry, trousseau, and wedding ceremony have been the three expensive formalities placed before families, with the traces of its rain of adversity remaining with the couple until the end of their lives. Sometimes verbal disputes or bloody fights have arisen as a result of these matters. In the end, whatever wealth we may have is wasted because of our imitations of one another and our tasteless, childish rivalry.
To this day, traces of those ignorant thoughts are not rare in those who speak of Islam. Yet this dowry in itself – the trousseau of the Lady of Islam – must be a model for all. This might be surprising, but the Prophet ordered that Imam Ali's armor be sold and the money brought to him, which amounted to about 500 dirham.
The Prophet divided this money into three parts: one part he gave to Bilal to buy a nice scented perfume and the other two parts were put aside for buying clothes and household goods. It is clear how simple and cheap these goods must have been, to have been bought with such an insignificant amount of money. In historical records, it has been written that the trousseau bought with this money consisted of 18 items, of which the most important are listed below:
One large scarf for four dirham
One piece of dress material for one dirham
One bed made of wood and palm leaves
Four pillows of sheep skin filled with a sweet smelling grass called Azkhar
One woolen curtain
One hand mill
One leather water-skin
One copper wash-tub
One large container for milking
One large green-colored earthen pitcher
These things accounted for most of the trousseau of the Lady of the Women of the Universe.
The Wedding Ceremony
This ceremony took place for the establishment of a family, by which an important part of Islam's history was changed, and by which the pure successors of the Prophet would all come into existence. The Prophet executed such a program that his enemies became jealous and his friends became proud! His actions urge others to ponder and even act upon it.
Lady Umm Salamah and Lady Umm Ayman – two virtuous women of Islam and had great affection for the noble Lady Fatima Zahra – came to the Prophet of Islam and said: "O honorable Prophet of God! Indeed, if Khadija (peace be upon her) were alive, she would really be happy with the convening of Fatima's wedding ceremony, isn't that so?"
Tears came into the eyes of the Messenger of God upon hearing the name of that devoted Lady, and he began remembering all of the kindness and generosity of Khadija, saying: "Where can a woman be found like Khadija? Those days when all of the people denied me, she confirmed me, placing all of her wealth and life in my hands for spreading of God's religion. She was the very lady whom God ordered me to inform that an emerald castle will be granted to her in the exalted Heavens."
When she heard this, Umm Salamah said: "O Messenger of God, may my parents be your sacrifice! Whatever you say about Khadija is the truth, but at any rate, she welcomed God's invitation and has rushed to the vicinity of His Mercy. Hopefully, God will house her in the best place in Heaven. But, the matter for which we have come to your blessed presence is something else, and that being this: your brother and cousin, Ali, wishes you to permit him to take his wife Fatima to his home, and in this way bring order to his life."
The Prophet asked: "Why didn't Ali bring this proposal to me himself?" Umm Salamah replied: "Shyness and modesty prevented him." Here, the Prophet told Umm Ayman: "Go and tell him to come here."
Imam Ali came and sat before the Prophet, but his head was lowered out of shyness. The Prophet said: "Do you wish to take your wife home?" While his head was still lowered, Imam Ali said: "Yes, may my parents be your sacrifice."
What is interesting to note is that, contrary to what is usual among those people who worship opulence and who begin planning months ahead of this ceremony, the Prophet happily said: "I will arrange for it either tonight or tomorrow night." Right then he gave the orders to arrange for the preparation of a very simple celebration that was full of spirituality and holiness.
As for the formalities of this heavenly celebration and its ceremonies, it was conducted so simply and without trouble that hearing about it is quite astonishing for us these days.
Imam Ali said: "A bit of the money from the armor I had sold previously had been given to Umm Salamah for safekeeping, and during the nuptial ceremony, the Prophet took ten dirham from her and gave it to me, saying: 'Buy some oil, dates, and kashk with this money.' I did this. Then the Prophet himself rolled up his sleeves and mixed these things together with his own hands, preparing a meal and serving the people with this very food.
"Then he said, 'O Ali, invite whomever you wish.' I left for the mosque where many companions of the Prophet were gathered. I said, 'Answer the Prophet's invitation.' They arose and headed together towards the Prophet. I told the Prophet that they were a large crowd; he covered the food with a sheet and said: 'Show them in, ten at a time', and so I did. The people kept going in, eating, and leaving, all the while the food seemed unabated. In all, seven hundred men and women ate from that (date and yogurt) dish with the Prophet's blessing."
At the end of the ceremony, when all of the people had returned to their homes and the house became empty, the Prophet of Islam placed Lady Fatima on his left side and Imam Ali on his right and wished them good luck by spraying a bit of sacred saliva from his mouth on both Lady Fatima and Imam Ali and prayed for them, saying: "O Allah! They are of me, and I am of them. O Lord! Just as you removed every kind of filth and impurity from me, also remove it from them, rendering them pure." Then he said: "Get up and go home. May God bless both of you." (Tarikh al-Zahra)
Those who seek the material world and the weak believers who are under the influence of the material world's sparkle, who see a family's respect, honor, status, blessings and grandeur of the wedding ceremony in backbreaking, oppressive formalities and luxurious objects should examine this example and learn a lesson. They should see and gain inspiration from this event that is a lesson in humanity, and is the substance of the happiness of all boys and girls. Learn about and act upon the Islamic teachings in a practical way, as seen in the events of the proposal, dowry, trousseau, and wedding of Lady Fatima Zahra in the annals of history.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Islamic Insights
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — First lady Michelle Obama said her husband remains anchored by the same values he brought to the White House nearly four years ago, on a night devoted as much to tearing down Republican nominee Mitt Romney, as building up President Barack Obama and his record.
Democrats’ message on Tuesday, the first day of the Democratic National Convention, was two-pronged and crystal clear. The evening’s speeches both sought to extol the president’s accomplishments and cast him as empathetic, while at the same time looking to deconstruct Romney and cast him as an impossibly worse choice for president.
The evening’s top-billed speakers embodied the dual purposes of Tuesday’s programming. Michelle Obama said her husband was the “same man” he was before the White House, in a speech designed to put a softer edge on the president’s case for re-election. And keynote speaker Julian Castro said Romney would diminish opportunities for voters if elected, in a speech that also weaved in the personal story of the San Antonio mayor, whom party leaders regard as a rising star.
"I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – no, it reveals who you are," Michelle Obama said in her prime-time speech. "So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren’t political – they’re personal. Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles ... Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it."
And the first lady brought the crowd to their feet in closing: "I know from experience that if I truly want to leave a better world for my daughters, and all our sons and daughters ... then we must work like never before, and we must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward…my husband, our president, President Barack Obama."
Mrs. Obama's speech capped hours’ worth of speeches in Charlotte, but stood in contrast against most of the day’s earlier speakers, many of whom offered sharp criticism of Romney. So strong were the attacks on the Republican nominee, that it seemed as though many of the efforts to build up Obama were secondary to disparaging Romney.
A spokeswoman for the GOP presidential nominee, Andrea Saul, said late Tueseday evening in response: "On the first night of President Obama’s convention, not a single speaker uttered the words ‘Americans are better off than they were four years ago.’ Instead, there was a night full of tributes to government as the solution to every problem, even going as far as to say that ‘government is the only thing that we all belong to."
Though much of his speech focused on overcoming the difficulties associated with being a poor Latino in Texas as a child, the middle of Castro’s speech took aim at Romney in a way that was similar to those addresses.
"Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better, that somehow the rest of us will too. Folks, we’ve heard that before. First they called it 'trickle-down.' Then they called it 'supply-side.' Now it’s 'Romney-Ryan.' Or is it 'Ryan-Romney'?" Castro said. "Either way, their theory's been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price. Mitt Romney just doesn’t get it.”
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As if to clarify the evening's theme, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said: "We understand that progress is a choice. Job creation is a choice. Whether we move forward or back, this too is a choice. And that is what this election is all about."
Other attacks on Romney sought to exploit Obama’s current advantages over his Republican opponents among women and Latinos, two crucial voting blocs which could sway the outcome of the election.
Texas Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said Romney had “embraced the racial profiling policies of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio” by way of praising Arizona’s controversial immigration law as a “model.”
And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has clashed publicly with the Bain Capital co-founder by contending that there were years in which Romney paid no taxes, excoriated the GOP nominee as opaque and undeserving of trust.
(Reid's charge prompted a response from Romney spokesman Ryan Williams: "Harry Reid has once again shown that he is completely detached from reality. Senator Reid’s comments tonight are absolutely false and are another attempt to distract from President Obama’s abysmal economic record.")
The tone of the first night of the Democratic convention seemed more aggressively negative toward Romney than much of the Republican-led criticism of Obama last week in Tampa. It was an emphasis in keeping with Democrats’ effort to turn the election into a choice – in which they try to make Romney seem like a worse pick than Romney – rather than a referendum on Obama’s record after almost four years in office.
The first day of the Democratic convention was also an exercise in energizing the party’s core constituencies. Among the speakers on Tuesday were the leaders of the AFL-CIO and SEIU, two of the nation’s largest labor groups, the president of the pro-abortion rights group NARAL, and speakers like openly gay Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, who praised Obama’s actions to expand gay rights.
Those strides toward building up Obama were certainly part of the programming on Tuesday night, and the achievements most frequently emphasized included the president’s signature health care overhaul law and the bailout of the auto industry in particular.
“Facts are facts: No president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Great Depression inherited a worse economy, bigger job losses or deeper problems from his predecessor,” said O’Malley, the first prime-time speaker of the evening. “But President Obama is moving America forward, not back.”
On Wednesday, Democrats will formally name Obama their candidate re-election after a highly-anticipated nominating speech by former President Bill Clinton.
Obama himself will travel to Charlotte on Wednesday, joining Vice President Joe Biden who made it to the convention city this afternoon. Both men will speak outdoors on Thursday at Charlotte’s Bank of America stadium, the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and a potentially raucous atmosphere the president’s campaign hopes will recapture the imagery of Obama’s 2008 outdoor acceptance speech in Denver.—www.shafaqna.com/English