Book Signing at ISNA


In the Name of the Beautiful, Kind Precious Beloved Lord

God willing, I will be signing copies of my book, Noble Brother: The Story of the Prophet Muhammad in Poetry, at the Soundvision booth at the Annual Conference of the Islamic Society of North America in Rosemont, IL. This will take place Saturday July 2, 2011 from 6-7:30 PM. Hope to see you there!

Noble Brother Praised by Award-Winning Blogger Zaki Hasan


In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

Thanks be to the Precious Beloved, Noble Brother was praised by Award-Winning Muslim blogger Zaki Hasan. The review is reproduced below:

A few months ago, my friend Hesham Hassaballa sent me a review copy of his new book, Noble Brother, which tells the story of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad entirely in verse, and I’d meant to post my thoughts much sooner, but given the chatter this week about the OC hate rally video, wherein protesters shouted hateful invective at Muslims about their most revered figure, the timing seems oddly apropos. Hesham (whose writing I previously linked to in last summer’s legendary “Park51″ post) takes a subject that’s intimately familiar to most Muslims and virtually unknown to most non-Muslims, and with his unique, creative approach makes it palatable to both, revealing fresh insights that will enlighten both constituencies.

In both the depth of its message and the breadth of its content (including an appendix that provides some very welcome background and historical context on the events discussed), Noble Brother confidently wrests the conversation about Prophet Muhammad and his integral role in everyday Muslims’ lives back from the minority of folks who violently freak out over political cartoons or South Park episodes. Instead, it highlights the traits of humanity, humility, and compassion that serve as exemplars for a billion-plus people all over the world. Whether Muslim or non-Muslim, this is a book that’s very worthy of a read. If interested, you can purchase a copy here (and be sure to check out Hesham’s always-insightful blog here).

Illume Magazine Calls Noble Brother “Poetically Prophetic”


In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

Thanks be to the Lord God of the Beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Noble Brother has received another great review. Illume Magazine, the award-winning Muslim news magazine, called Noble Brother “poetically prophetic” and “admirable attempt to distill and disseminate the story of Prophet Muhammad through poetic verse.” The full review is posted below:

 

In summing up the book, Muslim blogger Aziz Poonawalla put it best: ”This is not a book to be read in one sitting, but to be savored in small pieces at a time.”

I totally agree with that.

Noble Brother is an admirable attempt to distill and disseminate the story of Prophet Muhammad through poetic verse. For anyone who’s ever struggled to get through the myriad of thick, sometimes dense, books detailing the life of one of the world’s most influential people, it would probably be refreshing to pick up a copy of this light paperback– 54 pages, plus 30 pages for notes. For those who are familiar with the tradition, it will be an easy read. For those just getting to know the Prophet, the notes will offer some necessary clarifications to accompany this glimpse at
his life.

Hassabala is a capable writer, confidently plucking words and placing them within alarger puzzle that details the most significant events of the Prophet’s existence. A medical doctor, writer and blogger based in Chicago, Hassabala is clearly passionate about the subject matter. As traditional poets before him, he pays tribute to a man he clearly loves and respects.

”A sacred union was ordained from Above
Two souls joined in dignity and love
A child was conceived by the blessed pair
But father passed away before he could see his hei”

The poetry isn’t sophisticated and yet its simplicity makes it accessible to a variety of readers, even those like me who aren’t used to reading in rhyming couplets (and who can easily tire of the style).

In fact, I kept thinking this book would be great for Muslim middle school and high school students who’d like something a bit quick and easy to get through on the life of the Prophet. Islamic school teachers, take note!

”The darkness of the times suffocated his heart
And the stench of iniquity pushed him far apart
And so he would forsake warm home and loving spouse
To contemplate on mount and in cave, in view of Holy House

And while the tempo varies little, at times making the reading feel a bit sluggish, gems found along the way brighten up the whole and make reading on worthwhile.

”And it came once upon a powerful night
When, in the blink of an eye, darkness turned to light
And one who was alone on mount and in cave
Felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, and this message it gave:
‘Read!”’

It’s about time that Western Muslim writers contribute a variety of texts and treatises exploring Islamic history and thought, through all manners of story-telling. As many activists, artists and appraisers of culture have remarked, if we don’t tell our own stories, others will tell them for us – often with far less poetic spirit.

Is There An Antidote For Anti-Muslim Rhetoric?


In the Name of God, the Kind, the Beautiful

The summer of 2010 has seen tremendous anti-Muslim rhetoric, fervor, and disinformation. By twisting the truth about Islam and Muslims, a relatively small number of anti-Muslim ideologues have managed to take over the discourse and create a truly hostile environment for American Muslims. This is being borne out in the numerous mosque fights that have sprung up across the country, with the grandest example being the non-controversy that became the controversial “Ground Zero Mosque,” or as comedian Jon Stewart likes to call it, the “Community Center of Death.”

The root cause of all this hostility is ignorance and misinformation. Americans are still woefully misinformed about Islam. According to a recent Pew Research Poll, 65% of Americans know either “some” or “not very much” about Islam. One in four Americans know “nothing at all.” This void in knowledge is fertile ground into which Islamophobes can plant their seeds of misinformation. Yet, I cannot blame my fellow non-Muslim Americans for this lack of knowledge about Islam. Many Americans know very little about even their own faiths.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released the US Religious Knowledge Survey detailing Americans’ knowledge about religion. And it does not look pretty. According to the survey, more than four-in-ten Catholics in the United States (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ. About half of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity. Roughly four-in-ten Jews (43%) do not recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish.

This puts Americans’ lack of knowledge about Islam in perspective. Nevertheless, ignorance is our real enemy in this struggle against the forces of hatred and division, and the more ignorance there is, the stronger the hand of those who seek to marginalize the American Muslim community. What can Muslims do about this? “Work harder,” is the inevitable answer. “Work harder at educating the American public about Islam.”

Yet, even that is becoming more and more difficult to do. People are being told not to trust what Muslims say because they are all practicing “taqiyya.” The recent declaration of Faisal Shahzad that when he took an oath of allegiance to the United States, he “did not mean it” does not help to dispel this falsehood. Moreover, there are moves to change American textbooks, which have been deemed by some to be too “pro-Muslim.” So, what are we to do?

More engagement, on both a personal and national level, needs to be undertaken. American Muslims all live somewhere, and that “somewhere” has neighbors. American Muslims need to know their neighbors on an intimate, personal level. Exchange gifts, go to block parties, coach softball teams, become Neighborhood Watch block captains – that is the best way to teach about Islam, by showing what “real live Islam” looks like. Yes, public service announcements highlighting the role of Muslim 9/11 first responders do help in a big way. Yes, more credible, honest Muslim spokespeople in the mainstream media help. But, local engagement is the key.

In addition, Muslims must enter into the field of the arts in droves: writing books, producing television shows, and making films. Muslims have already made great strides: the wonderful work of Unity Productions Foundation, Azhar Usman, Wajahat Ali, and G. Willow Wilson are excellent examples. I am also trying to contribute to this effort with my forthcoming book, Noble Brother, which is the story of the Prophet Muhammad told entirely in poetry. Each one of us has a talent, and we should try to use that talent to contribute to the American Muslim story.

Moreover, Muslims should start promoting themselves a little more on a local level. I was speaking to a Muslim producer of a local Chicago TV network news affiliate, and she told me that a great way to increase the number of positive stories about Muslims in the media is to self-promote. More of us should be the “local experts” on Islam and the American Muslim story and share this expertise with their local news media.

We should all have Press Kits ready for distribution. If we are doing something positive, such as running a marathon for a good cause or donating to a free clinic, we should send out a press release. Foment good relationships with local print and broadcast reporters. This is already being done all across the country, but we need more of it. We all know that American Muslims contribute positively to the country’s well being every single day; more of our neighbors should know about it as well.

This is not an easy task, not in the least. But, it is essential. It is not necessary that every non-Muslim American become experts at Islam; many are not even expert in their own faiths. But what is necessary is that we are all familiar enough with each other – our likes, our dislikes, our hopes, our dreams – that when we see images of pedophile priests or “Islamic” suicide bombers, we say to ourselves, “I know that is not the reality, because my neighbor is not like that. And I believe my neighbor more than I believe what’s on the TV.” And we will all the better for it.