Monthly Archives: April 2009
How Rafael Nadal finally took down Roger Federer.
Rafael NadalRemember in the early 2000s when men’s tennis became close to unwatchable—booming serves, points that were over before you blinked, synthetic rackets blasting serves 130 miles an hour? With Rafael Nadal dethroning five-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer on Sunday, that broad caricature of the men’s game no longer applies. In men’s tennis, defense now reigns supreme.
Federer, of course, has not won 12 Grand Slam titles with his serve alone. He, too, has used his superior service return and all-around defensive skills to dominate more traditional power players like Andy Roddick. When he faces Nadal, however, Federer’s all-court genius is stymied. Federer relied on his monstrous first serve to help abate the enormous pressure in the fifth set. (You can watch the whole remarkable set here.) He served consecutive aces from deuce after the match’s third rain delay, at 2-2, then hit his way out of trouble again at 15-40 and 5-5. Every other player would have been demoralized after squandering these break opportunities. Not Nadal. He simply adjusted his underwear, broke Federer for the fourth time in the match, and served out the championship, winning 9-7 in the fifth.
Nadal’s game hinges on defensive pressure—so long as he’s able to get the ball back in play, he always seems to have an advantage. Despite an improved first serve, which he hits consistently and at a higher percentage than Federer, it was Nadal’s stubbornness—refusing to ever concede a point—that gave him the edge in the fifth set. In a game where he didn’t end up breaking, at 5-5, 15-15, Nadal showed why he now looks impossible to beat. Federer hit a well-placed serve down the middle at 126 mph. The point should have been over, but Nadal somehow reached and returned the ball with reasonable depth. Federer then whipped a wicked approach shot into the corner, seemingly winning the point for a second time. Instead, he was met by a nasty, dipping forehand pass that he couldn’t return. Against any other player, either of Federer’s shots might’ve been good enough; against Nadal, he needed to win the point three times.
Sunday’s match, by contrast, was the most utopian spectacle in tennis’ recent history. The inevitable changing of the guard talk shouldn’t overshadow that the 26-year-old Federer played brilliantly after a shaky two opening sets, most memorably hitting an ungodly backhand pass in the fourth-set tiebreaker that saved championship point. For another, Sunday’s match illustrated the striking similarities in the top players’ games. Nadal and Federer (and to a lesser extent, Novak Djokovic) wear their opponents down by forcing errors, weaving together finesse and power and spraying winners from places on the court that other players can’t reach. When everybody—even Nadal on occasion—can serve at 125 mph, such abilities are what distinguish those two from the more traditional power players like James Blake and the 155-mph-serving Roddick, both of whom fared poorly at the French and Wimbledon.
This year’s results aren’t a sign that power no longer matters in the men’s game; one look at Nadal’s arms would dispel any such notion. It’s more that power in tennis today is largely manifested defensively; thanks to high-tech rackets and weight training, the best players can now hit shots on the run with incredible pace, depth, and spin, immediately placing them back on the offensive. Nadal, in particular, is turning the supposed disadvantage of bad court position into an outdated theory for lesser players.
In men’s tennis, there’s no better way to get your opponent out of position than with a well-struck, well-placed serve. Nadal showed at Wimbledon that other players’ best serves aren’t good enough. He leads the men’s game in return games won in 2008, breaking his opponents’ serve 36 percent of the time, or roughly twice a set. After him come Nikolay Davydenko and Novak Djokovic, the Nos. 4 and 3 players in the world, respectively. Federer is tied for sixth in return games won, which may reflect his greater ease in holding his own serve—if you never get broken, you don’t need to break your opponent as often—but may also reflect unaccustomed troubles with his defensive game. In Sunday’s match, he had plenty of break opportunities in the first two sets but was unable to convert. In the fifth set, when he needed a break to win his sixth straight Wimbledon, Federer couldn’t put consistent pressure on Nadal’s serve.
By winning the French Open and Wimbledon consecutively, Nadal has confirmed that in today’s game, unrelenting defense can win major titles. For Nadal to cement his position at the top, though, he’ll have to prove that his grinding style won’t destroy his body. The very brilliance that makes for such remarkable tennis may also—so the current fear goes—shorten the 22-year-old’s career. Roddick, with his booming serve, might conceivably outlast Nadal and become competitive once again. Federer, too, with his reliable serve, power forehand, and remarkable ability to stay healthy, may still be able to remain at a high level until he’s 30, or at least until he breaks Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles. So long as Nadal is still standing, though, it’ll be a long slog for everyone else. Big servers take note: You’ll need to win every point three times.
Absolutely ridiculous how good Rafa is becoming. 2009 highlights below
(warning: very very weird music in the video…kinda freaked me out at first)
1. “We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents; in pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth” (46:15).
2. “Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honor. And out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: ‘My Lord! bestow on them Thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood’ “(17:23-24).
3. “We have enjoined on man and woman kindness to parents; but if they (either of them) strive (to force) thee to join with Me anything of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not'” (29:8).
4. “We have enjoined on man and woman (to be good) to his/her parents; show gratitude to Me and to thy parents; to Me is (thy final) Goal. If they (parents) strive to make thee join in worship with Me things of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not; yet bear them company in this life with justice (and consideration) and follow the way of those who turn to Me (in love)” (31:14-15).
1. The Prophet Muhammad said, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him: Your Heaven lies under the feet of your mother (Ahmad, Nasai).
2. A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim).
3. Abu Usaid Saidi said: We were once sitting with Rasulullah when a man from the tribe of Salmah came and said to him: O Messenger of Allah! do my parents have rights over me even after they have died? And Rasulullah said: Yes. You must pray to Allah to bless them with His Forgiveness and Mercy, fulfill the promises they made to anyone, and respect their relations and their friends (Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah).
4. Abdullah ibn Amr related that the Messenger of Allah said: The major sins are to believe that Allah has partners, to disobey one’s parents, to commit murder, and to bear false witness (Bukhari, Muslim).
5. It is narrated by Asma bint Abu Bakr that during the treaty of Hudaibiyah, her mother, who was then pagan, came to see her from Makkah. Asma informed the Messenger of Allah of her arrival and also that she needed help. He said: Be good to your mother (Bukhari, Muslim).
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear brother in Islam, we would like to thank you for your very interesting question and the great confidence you place in us. We implore Allah Almighty to help us serve His cause and render our work for His Sake.
Marriage in Islam is intended to cater to multiple purposes which include, above all, spiritual tranquility and peace, and cooperation and partnership in fulfilling the divine mandate. Islam – being a natural way of life – takes into account all of genuine human instincts such as physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, et cetera.
Although fulfilling one’s physical needs in a decent manner is one of the main purposes of marriage, it is not the sole one. According to the clear statement of the Qur’an, tranquility and peace through a successful union is considered the primary objective of marriage: (Among His signs is that He created for you spouses of your own kind in order that you may repose to them in tranquility and He instilled in your hearts love and affection for one another; verily, in these are signs for those who reflect (on the nature of the reality).) (Ar-Rum 30: 21).
In another place, Allah refers to the relationship between males and females in terms of partnership for achieving goodness and fulfilling the divine mandate for their lives. (The believers, males and females, are partners of one another; they shall jointly enjoin all that is good and counsel against all that is evil.) (At-Tawbah 9: 71)
Responding to the question in point, the eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, states:
Just as Islam aims at rearing a righteous individual, being the cornerstone in the social structure of the nation, it also seeks to establish a sound family, the prime and essential factor in building a good society. It is never disputed that marriage – that unites a man and a woman in solemn matrimony – is the foundation that gives rise to the family. There is no way a real or proper family could ever exist out of wedlock, the way that has been legislated by Allah, Exalted be He.
Perverted ideas opposing the institution of marriage:
Throughout the ages, humanity has come to learn of ideas and trends that oppose the idea of marriage. In Persia (now Iran), before the advent of Islam, there emerged Mani’s philosophy, which claimed that the world abounds in evil, that it should be exterminated and that prohibiting marriage is the fastest way to effect this goal.
Under the banner of Christianity appeared extreme monasticism that denounces life, calls to getting incarcerated in monasteries and prohibiting marriage, because woman, they held, is a cause of temptation and a devil incarnate. Venturing near her is in itself a sin that corrupts a soul and alienates one from Heaven.
In modern times, there exist in the West pessimists who totally condemned woman, describing her as a serpent, with a soft touch but deadly venom. They further claim that marriage offers her the golden opportunity to place man under her thumb and shackle him with responsibilities. So why should man, out of his own free will, choose to place those chains around his neck though he was born free?
Unfortunately, some of our contemporary Muslim youth have been fallen prey to those perverted ideas, and thereupon decided to refrain from marriage that entails endless responsibilities, obligations and restrictions. They, on the other hand, wish to live their entire lives as children shouldering no responsibilities. If overcome by desire or the call of their instincts, vicious adultery will certainly quench their thirst in lieu of lawful marriage.
The objectives of marriage in Islam:
a) According to the divine laws and norms, nothing can ever perform its duty single-handedly. Allah meant everything to be in need of another of its kind, so that one would complement the other. In the field of electricity, positive and negative poles need to be in contact so as to induce an electric current, which in turn, yields light, heat, motion, etc. Likewise, electrons and protons should be in contact inside an atom. In plants, pollen grain carrying male gametes fertilize a flower’s stigma to produce more plants, fruits and seeds. Male and female animals have to be in contact in order to reproduce. The Glorious Qur’an highlights this universal law in the following two verses: (And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect.) (Adh-Dhariyat 51: 49) (Glory be to Him Who created all the sexual pairs, of that which the earth groweth, and of themselves, and of that which they know not.) (Ya-Sin 36: 36) In response to this law, Allah, Exalted be He, has legislated a sublime tradition for a man and a woman to be united in such a way as befits the lofty status of human beings, namely through marriage.
Allah, Exalted be He, has inculcated in a man’s heart a longing for a woman, and in a woman’s heart a longing for a man. Each of them is driven by a far more exigent need than hunger or thirst. Each of them senses a definite emptiness in his or her life that can only be filled with their union, according to the divine laws, namely via marriage. Only then does stability replace confusion and reassurance does replace anxiety. Each of them finds in the other serenity, love and mercy that light their lives and enrich their souls. The following is one of Allah’s glaring signs in our universe, which the Glorious Qur’an points to: (Among His signs is that He created for you spouses of your own kind in order that you may repose to them in tranquility and He instilled in your hearts love and affection for one another; verily, in these are signs for those who reflect (on the nature of the reality).) (Ar-Rum 30: 21)
b) Reproduction is the natural outcome of marriage. It serves to prolong man’s existence, thanks to the pious progeny that succeeds him. This is thus one of Allah’s bounties which He grants man saying, (And Allah hath given you wives of your own kind, and hath given you, from your wives, sons and grandsons, and hath made provision of good things for you. Is it then in vanity that they believe and in the grace of Allah that they disbelieve?) (An-Nahl 16: 72)
It is also for this reason that Prophet Zakariyyah (Zachariah, peace be upon him) supplicated to Allah saying: (And Zachariah, when he cried unto his Lord: My Lord! Leave me not childless, though Thou art the best of inheritors,) (Al-Anbiya’ 21: 89) and (Lo! I fear my kinsfolk after me, since my wife is barren. Oh, give me from Thy presence a successor. Who shall inherit of me and inherit (also) of the house of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, acceptable (unto Thee).) (Maryam 19: 5-6) Similarly, Ibrahim (Abraham), the father of the Prophets (peace be upon him), prayed to Allah saying: (My Lord! Vouchsafe me of the righteous. So We gave him tidings of a gentle son.) (As-Saffat 37: 100-101) and (Praise be to Allah Who hath given me, in my old age, Ishmael and Isaac! Lo! My Lord is indeed the Nearer of Prayer.) (Ibrahim 14: 29) The Glorious Qur’an describes the servants of Allah, the Most Gracious, as such: (And who say: Our Lord! Vouchsafe us comfort of our wives and of our offspring.) (Al-Furqan 25: 74)
It is due to reproduction that the nation grows and multiplies, makes use of its potential and manages to combat its enemies. Few would suspect the fact that multitudes and masses of people are to be reckoned with when considering world power. Allah narrates what Prophet Shu`ayb (peace be upon him) told his people saying, (And remember, when ye were but few, how He did multiply you.) (Al-A`raf 7: 86) Further, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) says, “Get married (and reproduce) for I will boast of your large numbers in front of other nations (on Judgment Day) and do not lapse into Christians’ monasticism.” (Reported by al-Bayhaqi on the authority of Abu Umamah, and it is mentioned in al-Jami` as-Sahih)
Reproduction serves to preserve the entire human species all around the globe until the point when life comes to an end. Allah, Exalted be He, says, (O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women.) (An-Nisa’ 4: 1) and (O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made `you nations and tribes that ye may know one another.) (Al-Hujurat 49: 13)
c) Marriage consummates one’s faith, spares one looking at other women, enables one to preserve his chastity and offers one a lawful means to satisfy his sexual desire. Adultery is, therefore, no longer an option. That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke of marriage saying, “It spares one looking at what one should not, or lapsing in adultery.” He (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “If Allah grants a Muslim a righteous wife, this helps him preserve half of his religion (faith). He should, therefore, fear Allah as regards the other half.” (Reported by At-Tabarani and Al-Hakim, and Al-Mundhri states in At-Targhib that it is an authentic hadith with a good chain of narrators)
d) Not only does marriage help a Muslim preserve his faith, it is also the indispensable pillar of worldly happiness which Islam encourages its followers to enjoy so that nothing would distract them from the ultimate goal of uplifting their souls and attaining high degrees of spirituality. Imam Muslim reports that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The whole world is pleasure, and the best pleasure of the world is the righteous woman.” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is also reported to have said: “Four things bring one joy: a righteous wife, a spacious house, a pious neighbor and a comfortable riding animal.” (Reported by Al-Hakim, Abu-Nu`aym and Al-Bayhaqi)
e) Marriage is the sole means of establishing a family, the nucleus of society. No respectable human society could ever exist, if not based on the family. Shaded by the close relations of motherhood, fatherhood as well as parent-child and siblings relations, warm feelings of love, altruism, mercy, care and cooperation are instilled in a Muslim.
f) Social relations are bolstered with the aid of marriage, whereby scope of family expands including his in-laws and his children’s aunts and uncles. That way feelings of amity, love and social closeness extend to include more and more people. Allah meant relations by marriage to be just as strong as kinship relations. Allah, Exalted be He, says, (And He it is Who hath created man from water, and hath appointed for him kindred by blood and kindred by marriage; for thy Lord is ever Powerful.) (Al-Furqan: 54)
g) Marriage matures a man’s character through the responsibilities he has to shoulder, as a husband and a father, and similarly matures a woman’s character through the responsibilities she has to shoulder, as a wife and a mother. As we have just explained, many men refrain from marriage simply because they wish to live as grown-up children with no ties to bind them, no house to unite them or responsibilities they are to undertake. Such people are not fit to live; they are good for nothing. Marriage is thus a strong commitment and a shared responsibility between a man and a woman since their first day together.
Allah, Exalted be He, says, (And they (women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in kindness, and men are a degree above them. Allah is Mighty, Wise.) (Al-Baqarah 2: 228) (Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath men the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded.) (An-Nisa’ 4: 34)
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Everyone of you is a guardian and responsible for those in his charge; the man, in his home, is a guardian and responsible for his household; the woman, concerning her husband’s property, is a guardian and responsible for what she is entrusted with.” (Agreed upon hadith) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “Man would be committing a huge sin if he were to ruin whomever he supports.” (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Al-Hakim and Al-Bayhaqi on the authority of Ibn `Umar) The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) further noted, “Allah shall ask every guardian about what he has been entrusted with, whether he preserved or ruined it.” (Reported by An-Nasa’i and Ibn Hibban on the authority of Anas) He (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “One’s spouse is entitled to certain rights.” (Agreed upon Hadith, reported on the authority of Ibn `Umar)
h) Having got married, a man can focus on perfecting his work, reassured that there is someone back home who disposes of his affairs, preserves his money and takes care of his children. He can thus do his job properly. This stands in sharp contrast to another whose mind is preoccupied and who is torn apart between his work and home, his job and the burden of securing his food and clothes back home.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia
TWO years ago, Sheik Adil Kalbani dreamed that he had become an imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city.
Waking up, he dismissed the dream as a temptation to vanity. Although he is known for his fine voice, Sheik Adil is black, and the son of a poor immigrant from the Persian Gulf. Leading prayers at the Grand Mosque is an extraordinary honor, usually reserved for pure-blooded Arabs from the Saudi heartland.
So he was taken aback when the phone rang last September and a voice told him thatKing Abdullah had chosen him as the first black man to lead prayers in Mecca. Days later Sheik Adil’s unmistakably African features and his deep baritone voice, echoing musically through the Grand Mosque, were broadcast by satellite TV to hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.
Since then, Sheik Adil has been half-jokingly dubbed the “Saudi Obama.” Prominent imams are celebrities in this deeply religious country, and many have hailed his selection as more evidence of King Abdullah’s cautious efforts to move Saudi Arabia toward greater openness and tolerance in the past few years.
“The king is trying to tell everybody that he wants to rule this land as one nation, with no racism and no segregation,” said Sheik Adil, a heavyset and long-bearded man of 49 who has been an imam at a Riyadh mosque for 20 years. “Any qualified individual, no matter what his color, no matter where from, will have a chance to be a leader, for his good and his country’s good.”
Officially, it was his skill at reciting the Koran that won him the position, which he carries out — like the Grand Mosque’s eight other prayer leaders — only during the holy month of Ramadan. But the racial significance of the king’s gesture was unmistakable.
Sheik Adil, like most Saudis, is quick to caution that any racism here is not the fault of Islam, which preaches egalitarianism. The Prophet Muhammad himself, who founded the religion here 1,400 years ago, had black companions.
“Our Islamic history has so many famous black people,” said the imam, as he sat leaning his arm on a cushion in the reception room of his home. “It is not like the West.”
It is also true that Saudi Arabia is far more ethnically diverse than most Westerners realize. Saudis with Malaysian or African features are a common sight along the kingdom’s west coast, the descendants of pilgrims who came here over the centuries and ended up staying. Many have prospered and even attained high positions through links to the royal family. Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the United States, is the son of Prince Sultan and a dark-skinned concubine from southern Saudi Arabia.
But slavery was practiced here too, and was abolished only in 1962. Many traditional Arabs from Nejd, the central Saudi heartland, used to refer to all outsiders as “tarsh al bahr” — vomit from the sea. People of African descent still face some discrimination, as do most immigrants, even from other Arab countries. Many Saudis complain that the kingdom is still far too dominated by Nejd, the homeland of the royal family. There are nonracial forms of discrimination too, and many Shiite Muslims, a substantial minority, say they are not treated fairly.
“The prophet told us that social classes will remain, because of human nature,” Sheik Adil said gravely. “These are part of the pre-Islamic practices that persist.”
BLACK skin is not the only social obstacle Sheik Adil has overcome. His father came to Saudi Arabia in the 1950s from Ras al Khaima, in what is now the United Arab Emirates, and obtained a job as a low-level government clerk. The family had little money, and after finishing high school, Adil took a job with Saudi Arabian Airlines while attending night classes at King Saud University.
Only later did he study religion, laboriously memorizing the Koran and studying Islamic jurisprudence. In 1984 he passed the government exam to become an imam, and worked briefly at the mosque in the Riyadh airport. Four years later he won a more prominent position as the imam of the King Khalid mosque, a tall white building that is not far from one of the Intelligence Ministry’s offices.
Theologically, Sheik Adil reflects the general evolution of Saudi thinking over the last two decades. During the 1980s he met Osama bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam, a leader of the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He initially sympathized with their radical position and anger toward the West. Later, he said, he began to find their views narrow, especially after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Now he speaks warmly of King Abdullah’s new initiatives, which include efforts to moderate the power of the hard-line religious establishment and to modernize Saudi Arabia’s judiciary and educational establishment. He reads Al Watan, a liberal newspaper.
“Some people in this country want everyone to be a carbon copy,” Sheik Adil said. “This is not my way of thinking. You can learn from the person who is willing to criticize, to give a different point of view.”
His life, like that of most imams, follows a rigid routine: he leads prayers five times a day at the mosque, then walks across the parking lot to his home, which he shares with two wives and 12 children. On Fridays, he gives a sermon as well.
HE expected it to continue that way for the rest of his life. Then in early September he woke up to hear his cellphone and land line, both ringing continuously. Stirring from bed, he heard the administrator of the Grand Mosque leaving a message. He picked up one of the phones, and heard the news that the king had selected him.
Two days later he walked into a grand reception room where he was greeted by Prince Khalid al-Faisal, the governor of Mecca Province. Sheik Adil tried to introduce himself, but the prince cut him off with a smile: “You are known,” he said.
Next, Sheik Adil was led to a table where he sat with King Abdullah and other ministers. He was too shy to address the king directly, but as he left the room he thanked him and kissed him on the nose, a traditional sign of deference.
Remembering the moment, Sheik Adil smiled and went silent. Then he pulled out his laptop and showed a visitor a YouTube clip of him reciting the Koran at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
“To recite before thousands of people, this is no problem for me,” he said. “But the place, its holiness, is so different from praying anywhere else. In that shrine, there are kings, presidents and ordinary people, all being led in prayer by you as imam. It gives you a feeling of honor, and a fear of almighty God.”