Friday, February 13, 2015

Types of Bangladeshi Cricket Fans

The Realist

Looking at our batting averages, Bangladesh cannot really win against any of the big teams. I will just be happy if we don't lost to Afghanistan and Scotland.

The Eternal Optimist

I just feel it. We have the bad results out of the way. Once we thrash Afghanistan, the momentum is with us. We just need to win against one of the big teams. And then three knock out wins. We can definitely do it, insha Allah.

The Fortune Teller

You will see Shakib al Hassan score three centuries. He will definitely score 112 against Australia. We will win against Afghanistan by bowling them 200 all out and chasing it in 43.5 overs. And we will make the quarter finals.

The Pessimist (somewhat related to the Realist)

Is there any point in watching any game of Bangladesh? We can't even win against Ireland nowadays.

The Superstitious

I have noticed whenever I switch on Cricinfo to check the score they lost a wicket. So this time I am staying away from the internet.

The Wannabe TV Analyst

They should send Tamim Iqbal one down. He is protected from the new ball and can build an innings. Nasir Hossain should work on his leg side shots. He has a good off side pickup swivel, but has problem with the footwork in execute his leg glance. He needs to get his eye behind the ball.

The Whitewashed

Did anyone catch Manchester United's latest game? Cricket ... nah, I don't watch that. It's so boring.

The Religious

Ya Allah! I have fasted for three days and prayed twenty rakah nafil namaaz. Please give us a victory. Or at least one century. Ya Allah, if Tamim Iqbal scores 100 today, I will sacrifice one goat. Well, and if the team wins.

The Cynic

It's all fixed, I tell you. They have bought everybody. Every match is fixed.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cricket World Cup 2015 Predictions

So another Cricket World Cup is upon us, starting on Valentine's Day Feb 14, 2015, and ending on March 29, 2015. Since cricket is my favourite sport, here's my predictions of the group stage.

England, Australia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Scotland

It's quite hard to see anyone other than England, Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand qualifying out of this pool - the only interest will be the order of the qualifiers, and whether Bangladesh will manage to lose to Afghanistan or Scotland.

Australia should top this pool. They are - well, they are Australia. They are in good form lately, have won all of their most recent matches and the only concern seem to be Clarke - their captain. Australia has genuine World Cup pedigree, and they are on home soil.

New Zealand should come second in the group. They have batsmen who are in form (actually, in dangerous form), bowlers who bowl with genuine pace and are led by a captain who's probably the best captain in the world at the moment. Expect their batsmen to run up tall scores and their bowlers to pummel the opposition. However, I think Australia has a hold over New Zealand, and will thus beat them in the group match to take the No.1 position in this pool.

Sri Lanka will come in third. They are a bit top heavy, and reliant heavily on a trio of experienced players who may find this World Cup one too many. I am all in favour of having experienced folk play in these high pressure tournaments, but Sri Lanka's younger batsmen have to chip in too, and they are not. Their bowling seems to be missing a genuine threat (see the way Zimbabwe defeated them in the warm up). They will lose to Australia and New Zealand, but will still beat England, so they will come out third.

England will make up the final qualifier out of this group. Their captain is out of form, they have a team of hit and miss players, they play in a more orthodox fashion when the rest of the world has embraced flair, and frankly, England are a boring team. They still have enough quality to outclass the Associates (and Bangladesh), but will lose to the others.

Bangladesh - well, what can I say about my team of no hopers. Frankly, they are the most useless Test team at the moment and I won't be shocked if they manage to lose ALL of their matches. Bowlers are out of form, batsman are out of form - and this seems to be an on going issue. See what I wrote about them in 2004.

Wow. B'desh has won a cricket match. Finally! Yes, it was against Hong Kong, yes, they are amateurs, and yes, we could only score around 220 for 9. But what the hell, we ... BLOODY... WON!!!
Ofcourse the commentators were all praising Hong Kong's pluck, but me thinks sometimes B'desh is underestimated. They are good, just not good enough to knock off the bigger powers, but definitely there ahead of the non-test, and definitely now Zim and Windies are on the same rung. Here's hoping they do tonite to Pak what they way back did in 1999. Ah, one can always dream.

It seems, 11 years on, nothing has changed.

Afghanistan and Scotland make up the pool, and while they have enough pluck, they will need a lot of luck to knock out any of the top 4. For them, a victory or two will be enough to have a good World Cup.

South Africa, West Indies, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Ireland, United Arab Emirates

Now this is the more exiting pool. I can genuinely see South Africa, India and Pakistan easily qualify. The fourth team is going to be interesting. While it seems more or less likely that West Indies will make it, their unpredictability, and the strong performances of Ireland and Zimbabwe in recent times, might point to a shock.

South Africa should top the pool. And when I say should, I mean they probably will. Remember, they only start chocking once the group stages are done. They have batsmen in form, the world's best fast bowler and a dynamic fielding team. The pitches in Australia and New Zealand should suit their style of play. However, they won't win ALL of their matches.

This is an interesting pool because of Pakistan as well. They are completely unpredictable, but they are my dark horses for this tournament. I fully expect Pakistan to beat South Africa, and perhaps India, simply because Misbah is a good captain and Afridi seems to be on fire lately, and they have a decent team. So Pakistan will come in second in the group.

India should qualify third. They have been woefully out of form in Australia, and Rohit Sharma has scored his mandatory big score in between several small ones, and their main batting star is out of form. They will beat all the Associates and West Indies.

West Indies should make the fourth playoff position, but barely. They have the class and quality to beat anyone on their 'day', but their 'day's seem to be getting less and less frequent. They will be lucky to just hold off Ireland and Zimbabwe.

For Ireland and Zimbabwe, the games against each other and the ones against West Indies will be the ones they believe they can win. It will be an upset, but not that much of a shock, if one of them manages to qualify for the group stages in place of West Indies.

UAE - why are you even here?


South Africa vs. England

Pakistan vs. Sri Lanka

India vs. New Zealand

West Indies vs. Australia

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Female Scholars and Female Education in Islam

Here's some images from my new book, Teaching Kids the Holy Quran - Surah 71: Nuh (Noah).

The scholar in my last book was a male character. This time around, I decided I would include the character of a female scholar, because frankly, I feel that is something being ignored in the Muslim community.

I was very happy to see pictures of a workshop (attended by both men and women) at the S. Khadija Centre mosque featuring Dr Ingrid Mattson (on February 6, 2015).

This is in sharp contrast to one leading Islamic academic group in North America, which for the first time featured a female scholar teaching a class, but only to female students. Why? We have multiple examples of female scholars throughout history (starting with our mother Ayesha) teaching classes comprising of both male and female students. Many of us have grown up and attended high schools where we were taught by female teachers. As some of you may know, my mother was a teacher herself.

Now the question is why. Why do we ignore the capabilities of 50% of our population (this is really handicapping us!) and why have we accepted this status quo. It is interesting that one of the names and characters who appears in almost every surah is Prophet Musa (Moses, peace be upon him). He was the manliest of all men, and Allah recounts his story numerous times in the Quran. And he was surrounded by powerful women whom he learnt from and benefitted from. His own mother, his second mother who was the wife of the Pharoah, his sister, and his own wife and her sister.

Some one told me that my book could portray that the only scholarship available for women is religious learning, otherwise they should just stay home and not go to school (in some parts of the world this is the predominant view and people shoot girls going to school). Now I don't of course subscribe to this view - knowledge is the lost property of every believer, said my Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him). And every believer includes both male and female.

A Family Jummah, and Thoughts on the Women's Mosque

So this Friday I was off work, and visiting my parents. It was the time for the Friday (Jummah) prayer, and my dad asked me where I wanted to go.
Now my parents are lucky to live in a place that is quite close to two of the greatest mosques in Toronto. Each one is quite active in the community (fundraising for the local hospitals, for example), has reputed scholars on their roster, and is quite well managed and transparent in accountability. There is, however, one crucial difference. The first mosque has a segregated Jummah, where the main prayer hall is for men only and women pray in the gym or on the second floor (a much smaller space).
The second mosque, or IIT (as it is more popularly known), has a main auditorium doubling as a Jummah prayer space, and there are no barriers or separate sections for the women - everyone prays in the same space. Everyone can equally see the imam and speakers.

So this Friday we went to the IIT - and I realized why I loved coming to this mosque for Jummah as opposed to the other mosque.
The khutbah (speech) was about finding the balance in life. It was a very important, pertinent and difficult topic to speak on, but the soft spoken speaker did full justice to it. He told about how important it is to have a proper work life balance, and spend quality time with our family. He expanded on each person's roles in this - the father, the husband, the mother, the wife, the mistakes we make, the Prophetic examples and so on.
Now it might be a coincidence, but whenever I have attended IIT, most of their main topics for the khutbahs have been about strengthening the bonds of family, relationships, responsibilities in our community and so on. Most of the time the speeches have been very focused, and addressed to the layman, and practical, rather than an esoteric speech about some abstract theoretical concept.
It is just my theory, and I have no facts to back it up, but I think the fact that this is a family prayer space, rather than a men only prayer space, has a lot to do with the culture of a mosque and its community and its imam. You cannot be a misogynist, and give a khutbah making fun of the character of women, when they are RIGHT THERE staring at you in the face. Similarly, you cannot be giving speeches continuously on pie-in-the-sky topics when families are right there, and you know of their problems and you see them as a whole (not just the man) in front of you.
There is another big difference between the two mosques, and it's in the community. The speaker of the other mosque once actually said in a Friday speech not to bring little kids to the mosque. Apparently there's some hadith or other about this. Now I asked him several times on Twitter about this but I have had no response. This actually runs contrary to most of seerah lectures we listen to - about how the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prayed in the mosque while his grand children played there.
When kids are being brought to the mosque, they are relegated to the women's section where they run around and create a chaos (being confined in a small space where they can't even see the imam or the main congregation can make you like that). Whereas, at IIT, I saw people bring their little kids to the Friday prayers. Some sat with their fathers, others with their mothers. I hardly saw any kid misbehave, and people smiled at some little children who were running around oblivious to the prayer.
Now my wife has been to both mosques and she agrees with me as well that the other mosque's community is less accepting as a safe space. First of all, apparently the women's section has these 'aunties' who are self-appointed guardians of purity. They attack any woman they see as less Islamic than them:
"Sister! Your hair is showing!" or "Sister! You should wear some loose clothes!" or "Sister! Pray like this! Not like this!"
Everyone seemed more concerned at the appearance of how Islamic you are rather than leaving you alone.
Whereas the people of IIT in general were much more refined, relaxed, polite, sophisticated and accepting.
Now I am not mentioning the name of the other mosque (if you live here you can guess) as it does a LOT of good work, especially in the community - such as running a food bank, a soup kitchen, inter faith etc. So I don't want this one aspect to distract from their other good work, especially sticking firmly to some fiqh principles such as not using zakat money for the mosque, relying on proper moon sighting than calculations, etc. However, it's not what I would call a family mosque. It's a man's mosque with a woman's section.
Thoughts on the Women's Mosque in California
You may have heard or read about Women's only mosque that is now being run out of an interfaith centre in California. This is what I think about it.
I am happy to see that right now they have made all efforts to stick to orthodox Islamic positions on most fiqh aspects. It's not an inter-gender mixed prayer led by a female - it's a female only prayer service. Yes, there were some concerns on if a Jummah is valid if it's only women, but I leave that for the scholars. Right now there is a concentrated effort to work with the broader Muslim community, and that's nice to see. On another note, if mosques continuously undermine their women congregants, they shouldn't be surprised when women take matters into their own hands.
So for now, I don't have any issues so far, but this is something we can keep an eye on. There are some people who want to use these sort of issues as a wedge issue in the community, and perhaps push their own so-called "progressive agenda", but it would be unfair to comment on the Women's mosque right now because nothing like that has happened yet.
What I would hope, and pray for, is that most mosques take this initiative as a lesson, and rectify themselves, so that rather than fighting over a man's mosque or a woman's mosque, we can make the mosque a family (community) mosque.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Shopping with my toddler son

I am at Walmart with my two-and-half-year old son when he picks up a Thomas toy.

Me: Please put it back. I am not paying for it.

Son: Why?

Me: You already have a lot of Thomas toys.

Son: What if I pay for it?

Me [laughing]: How will you pay for it? You have no money!

Son: I have mommy!