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   Conferences / The Eleventh General Conference: Towards a Civilized Project for the
                         Renaissance of the Muslim
The Family Structure

The Family Structure
Amatullah Sharif
Secretary of Masjid Muhammad
Washington - U.S.A.
With Allah's Name, the Merciful Benefactor, the Merciful Redeemer
Praise be to Allah, the Guardian Evolver, Cherisher and Sustainer of all the
Worlds. We seek His assistance, we seek His forgiveness and we put our complete
faith and trust in Him. I bear witness that there is nothing or no one worthy of
worship except Allah, the One and Only, and I bear witness that Prophet
Muhammad (SAW) is His Servant, Messenger and the Seal of the Prophets. The
Prayers and Peace be upon the Prophet, upon His Family, His Companions and
upon His Followers. Ameen.
To our distinguished and honorable host, the esteemed President Hosni
Mubarak, President of Egypt, to the Ministry of Public Trusts, President of the
Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, Dr. Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq and to our
honorable Muslims. I give you all sincere greetings. Assalaamu Alaikum wa
Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu.
It is indeed an honor to present this paper. At first I thought, may be they
had someone else in mind, then I remembered that Allah says in the Qur'an, "Then
which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?" And I certainly do not wish to
deny any of Allah's favors. I am very thankful and grateful to Allah for making us
Muslim, Believers in Al-Islam, particularly Muslims in America of African descent.
The greatest blessing and mercy of all has been the knowledge of Al Islam, the
Qur'an, Laa illaha illalah, Muhammadan Rasulullah and the Prophet's Sunnah.
We are indeed very blessed.
Ever since I learned as a child that Egypt is the cradle of civilization,
Insha'Allah, I knew that I had to visit this great land one day.
Towards A Concerted Effort For The Enhancement
Of The Islamic World
Muslim Americans Of African Descent
Today, African Americans are choosing Al Islam over Christianity in large
numbers and are struggling with learning the Qur'an, the Book of the Muslims and
with Islamic life, which is not easy living as a minority Christian country. But the
idea is to keep focused on Al Islam, take the good from all levels of knowledge,
eschewing the negative ideology of the Western world and let Al Islam develop our
good behavior and conduct. Al Islam awakens the consciousness of man and
transforms him from any type of condition he falls into. Whether it be a slave in the
depths of America or a Christian in the heights of religions institutions.
Muslims in America, have witnessed and experienced the transforming
miracle of Al Islam in a people who were kidnapped from their original lands,
brought to America and taken out of their natural identity. The purpose was to
have free labour to build a country that benefited the few. Yet when the call of
Al Islam came, they heard it, accepted and turned to their Rabb, submitting to His
Reverting To Al Islam
It was only 30 years ago that I reverted to Al-Islam. Muslim Americans of
African descent often use the word "revert" because of social conditions and
circumstances when our ancestors were kidnapped and put into slavery some 140
years ago. They were taken out of their Islamic lands in Africa, stripped barren of
their Islamic knowledge and inculcated with western ideology giving them
Christianity as a way of life while they were slave. This was a huge test from Allah
(SWT). However, the nucleus of Al Islam, the germinating seed, remained in the
nature as psyche of the African who was made a slave to man. And as he rose up
against the inhumane treatment and forces against him, he became extremely
dissatisfied with his condition, and prayed to God (SWT) to relieve him of this
oppression. Allah (SWT), in His infinite mercy and wisdom, called our descendants
once again to Al-Islam. We recall an old spiritual song during slavery, "Give Me
That Old Time Religion". We found out that the old time religion was, in actuality,
Al-Islam. The kernel of the original seeds remained within our forefathers. Then as
the former descendants of Mali, Senegal, Nigeria. Niger, Mauritania, Chad, etc.
began to rise up out of their oppressive state they were called back to that old time
religion, that was stripped from their mind, but not from their heart and soul.
"And that there might grow out of you a community of people who invite unto
all that is good and enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is
wrong; it is they, who shall attain to a happy state" Surah 3, Ayat 104,
Muhammad Asad Translation.
This very quiet and very subtle call set about the freedom from the shackles
of slavery. And as they begin to recognize the mercy, trust and justice of Allah,
today their children and descendants in America number at least 5 million and
growing. There are over 8 million Muslims in America. Alhamdullilahi Rabbil
Alamin. So today, we see, after some 60 years or more, Muslim Americans of
African descent taking Shahadatain, performing salat five times a day, paying
zakat, fasting the holy month of Ramadhan, and making the pilgrimage to the Holy
City, Mecca, thus joining the universal ranks of the 1.5 billion Muslims world wide.
Evolution Of Islam In America
One may ask how did the call of Al-Islam reach the Americans of African
descent? In a recent talk by Imam W. Deen Mohammed with the Grand Mufti of
Syria, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed described just how it came about with
Allah's Mercy.
"...Our beginning goes back to 1931 in the city of Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
The blacks of Detroit, Michigan were very poor, culturally deprived and strong in
faith of Christianity. However, that Christianity was not a Christianity of logic or a
Christianity that educated those people, but a Christianity of faith in Jesus Christ
And a man came among us, my parents in Detroit, and he said he was from
Mecca. He was a peddler who sold yard goods, silk goods in the streets. And he
would tell the blacks that he would meet, if they would be inclined to listen. He
would tell them that you are nor really from this land, that your people came from
the Muslim lands." As they began to listen to him as he spoke to their egos that had
been crushed and devastated by slavery and segregation in the states, he told them
that they were black and better than Caucasians, and that they were Muslims by
One of the people who listened and followed W. D. Fard or W. F.
Muhammad was Imam Mohammad's father, Elijah Mohammed... Fard told him to
call himself Elijah Mohammed then later when Imam Mohammed was born in
1933 and his birth certificate shows he has his father's last name, Elijah
Mohammed and his mother's name was Clara Evans, and his name was recorded
as Warith Deen Mohammed. Before leaving the U.S. after staying in Detroit for
three years, this man named Fard advised Elijah and Clara Mohammed to take
good care of Imam Mohammed and that he would some day be a help to his father
and to him in this work. In describing this history, Imam Mohammed stated
What he gave us as Islam proved not to be Islam. But he made our hearts
to love Islam, to love Allah, to love Muhammad and to love the Muslims of the world.
And he caused our hearts to love the Quran and he caused our minds to want to one
day read the Quran and know it for ourselves".
As a result of the leadership of Imam W. Deen Mohammed in America, and
his following the dictates and guidelines of Islam established in the Qur'an and
Sunnah of our Prophet (SAWS) Muslims in America have moved naturally into a
position of increasing influence and leadership in the society. Under his leadership
and the leadership of other dedicated Muslims, there has been a resurgence of
Al-Islam in America.
We Muslims in America of African descent had to learn the principle
foundations to build a strong society after being separated from our families in
Africa and further separated from families during slavery. Today, Muslims in
America are conforming their behavior to Al Islam, heavily emphasizing the
importance of establishing a model Islamic community life. We are promoting the
preservation of strong families as well as the responsibilities to respect and protect
Muslim women.
The Foundation Of Family
Structure: Marriage
The family structure of Muslims in the West is the same as our counterparts
in the East. Allah (SWT) created men and women so that they can provide
company and love one another, as well as to live in peace and harmony. He created
us to procreate and raise children giving them the best direction, a good care and a
good environment. Marriage provides the proponents of family life, ties of kinship,
which is a unifying force that unites humanity and ultimately enhances civilization.
Since Allah (SWT) has put love and compassion between men and women,
this natural inclination of the male to the female and the female to the male finds
normal and healthy expansion and expression through the institution of marriage.
This should naturally develop into a love for the children, a love for the family
relationship and an unselfish love for the whole of humanity. Therefore, we see the
home or family life as being a training ground of love and service to humanity.
Marriage is ordained from Allah:
"And among His signs is this, He created for you mates from among
yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and
mercy between your hearts. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect." H. Q. 30:21
"Marry those among you who are single, or the virtuous ones among your
slaves; male or female: If they are in poverty, Allah will give them means out of His
grace for Allah encompasses all, and He knoweth all things". HQ 24:32.
Marriage In Al Islam
Marriage in Al-Islam is very different from that generally practiced in the
West, especially in terms of courtship. In Al Islam there is no courtship as defined
in western culture. An unmarried man or woman should not look upon each other
with passionate gazes. However, nature is not evil, and natural urges should be
guarded with modesty, being used only in their God given context... Celibacy is
more unnatural and un-Islamic.
"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to
display of their adornment only that which is apparent and to draw their veils over
their bosom, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers
or husband's father,... Quran 24:31.
The Importance Of Choosing A Good Mate
It is important to choose a mate for marriage very carefully.
In America circumstances are very different from many other parts of the
world. Many people are from broken homes and have been raised by single
parents. Many simply get their marriage ideas from the mass media or from
popular culture. While each culture has its way of choosing a mate, we know that if
we follow the guidelines of the Qur'an and the teachings of our Prophet (PBUH)
one can make good choices and decisions. If one selects a mate for their taqwa,
their God consciousness, this would lead to more successful marriages with fewer
divorces. We see in the Muslim Ummah, many couples married for many years and
they serve as examples to the younger generation. When we are more selective in
choosing our lifetime partners, Insha'Allah, we will fare much better than if we
make random selections or choose a spouse based on our lower desires.
Having A Good Relationship With In-Laws
Having good relationships with mothers and fathers in-law enhances the prospects
of a successful marriage. Marriage brings about the union of two families and
whenever a problem arises, consultation with both families can serve to alleviate
the problems between family members.
Marriage is a serious contract between the husband and wife and Allah
(SWT) tell us that men are the "maintainers and protectors of women". Marriage,
therefore, involves rights and obligations, which go hand in hand. These rights and
obligations are to be seen as mutual responsibilities of the husband and wife.
"Let the man of means spend according to his means; and the man who
resources are restricted, let him spend according to what Allah has given him. Allah
puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. After difficulty, Allah
will soon grant relief". Holy Quran 15:7
Thus, when the woman is maintained properly, this relief frees her mind.
She does not worry about how she will feed, clothe and shelter the children for she
knows whatever the family needs, her husband will provide her within his means,
with no hesitation. However, in the West, it may take two salaries to maintain a
family at a certain economic level, but the Muslim man does not want this situation.
Sometimes the wife may decide to go outside to work. The purpose may be to help
take care of the family, however women are expected to put the children first
before career and ambition and social image. The best social image of a woman
with children is success at home with her children.
One can only imagine how Hajjar felt when she ran out of provisions for her
son Ismail (AS). Although she trusted her husband Ibrahim (AS) when he heard
the call of Allah by putting them out into the desert, nonetheless, she despaired a
bit when her baby had no water to drink. So in her desperation, she ran to and fro
at the site now known as Safa and Marwah imploring Allah's mercy until He
blessed them with water from under the heels of her son, Ismail. This blessing from
Allah shows us that when we trust Allah completely He always shows His mercy.
One of the examples in Hajjar's story is that Allah is the giver of all provisions, It
confirms His absolute greatness, for who could produce or where could water
appear in a deserted area if it was not from Allah and Allah alone? It is virtually
impossible. Further, Zam Zam has never dried up and still runs today. Only the
Creator of the heavens and the earth could produce such a blessing. This too, shows
that the mercy of Allah is so bounteous and vast He provides whenever, wherever,
and for whomever He pleases. The Well of Zam Zam has quenched the first of
millions of pilgrims yearly. Allah is ever Akbar and generous and His bounties are
In today's modern world, in the West, divorce rates are at an all time high.
It takes the good efforts of both man and woman to make a good marriage work.
There are rights and obligations towards each other and in order to have a strong
marriage bond and relationship there must be mutual respect, kindness, patience,
tolerance, covering of faults, honesty, trust, self restraint, compassion, forgiveness
and understanding. These ideals of behavior with one another can bring about a
strong relationship. But not only do they apply to husband and wife, these ideals
should also apply to children, business partners, neighbors and friends. Allah tells
us in the Qur'an,
"And as for the Believers, both men and women, they are close unto one
another, they all enjoin the doing of what is right and forbid the doing of what is
wrong, and are constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues and pay heed unto
Allah and His Messenger HQ 9-71.
Relationships between men and women are very important and it is
necessary to guard against abuse. The social life of the Community depends upon
the good relationships between men and women, mother and father, parents and
It is essential that women know their rights; theyre given rights ordained
by Allah. "And they (women) have rights similar to those of men" HQ 2:228. Many
times women suffer in silence because they are not aware of basic and fundamental
rights afforded from Qur'an and Hadith. No way of life is as protective of the
woman as is Al Islam, for it is a way of life that is just. Therefore, men should never
be unjust to their wives at any stage of marriage. While marriage practices vary
from culture to culture, some Muslim men's concept of marriage is that it is a type
of prison and he is the controller of the keys. Some men feel that they are the
masters of women that obedience to the husband is unconditional and divorce is an
unforgivable sin. In today's view, this can be seen as a type of slavery. Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH) said, "Among things permitted in Al-Islam, the most hated by
Allah is divorce. Although Al Islam generally discourages divorce, there are times
when divorce is preferable, e.g. apostasy, desertion, etc. In addition, in the
American society polygamy is not permitted which could lessen divorce. Islamic
ideals would certainly help prevent certain problems seen in America.
When the marriage dissolves, there is an impact upon the innocent children.
The emotional and psychological trauma can follow them for the rest of their lives.
Divorce can brings chaos, confusion and danger to healthy community life. The
factors that lead up to divorce usually start with mutually destructive arguing,
which weakens the relationship. Partners may take each other for granted leading
to bitter attitudes and the withholding of love and affection. Romance then begins
to fade away leaving acrimony and animosity in its place. Then it goes on to utter
deterioration and soon the couple moves into separate bedrooms. The break up is
then accelerated and then one moves out and establishes a separate household.
Reconciliation is usually unsuccessful by relatives when one has it in his mind to
follow through with divorce proceedings. Divorce in America is made very easy,
often leaving the commitment for marriage less important and relatively weak.
Al Islam as in all factors of life gives us the proper balance in marriage and shows
us the proper importance of this very crucial institution.
Saving The Marriage
It is therefore recommended that when the signs of saving a marriage are
known, it is important to be intelligent and rational rather than being hardheaded
and unyielding. One can avoid using hurtful and ugly language. We should restrain
ourselves from name-calling, which can cause deep hurt.
It is necessary to be mindful of Allah (SWT) in the home, which can
strengthen the marriage. If one quarrels, he or she should make up. Counseling is
advisable which can help weed out problems. It is necessary to do all that can
appropriately be done to save a marriage. In American society the rate of divorce is
alarming. For example, in 1986, 9.6 people per thousand got divorced for a total of
1,159,000 people. In Illinois, in 1991, 96,000 weddings took place and 46,511
divorces for a ratio of roughly 2 to 1. Believe it or not, this is typical for the rest of
the country.
While in some cases, it may be necessary to get a divorce; it does not
necessarily make a persons situation better. However, in America there are
institutions and organizations established to assist and share light and guidance to
those married or soon to be married couples in an effort to alter destructive trends
that lead to broken homes and families.
For the Muslim Ummah it is Al Islam and its support system that we turn to
in order to battle against the family destroying cancer of divorce.
Social Welfare System In The West
The social system of the West has caused some men to perform miserably in
terms of maintaining his family. The over dependence upon the Welfare system to
give resources to a woman with children has caused abuse of the system itself. Men
leave the household so the woman can receive money, and then the amount she
receives is predicated on the number of children she has. If he returns to the
household but does not earn enough to support the entire family, often the family
will nevertheless become ineligible to receive assistance at all.
Sometimes women will bear many children to receive more money, often not
being married to the men who father their children. This welfare system is now
being revamped and reformed and women are now getting off of the system and
entering into the work force. The welfare system encouraged them to look for
handouts and have a welfare mentality all because of the men who are
maintainers and protectors failed in their responsibility.
The welfare system is intended to assist those unfortunate men and women
who need help and it is not a bad concept, particularly for the elderly, disabled,
injured, etc. However, the abuses that have occurred from those men not facing
their fundamental responsibility to their wives and children is paramount and has
caused resentment and contempt from the taxpayers who pay the bills.
Incidentally, it is perceived that most welfare recipients in America are African
Americans. This is not true. Because of the population demographics, Caucasians
are the largest single group on the welfare rolls in America.
Erosion Of Morals In America.
Marriage is an honorable and safety measure for men and women. Allah has
told us that we are garments for each other. Muslim men and women should live
together in kindness and solve their problems through mutual consultation.
Violence, hatred and dishonesty are not valid options in Islamic marital affairs.
America boasts of its civilization and the freedom women enjoy, while
chiding the East for what is called subjugating their women folk for lower status in
society. However, we see in America, young girls as early as 10 and 11 years old
involved in clandestine love affairs with boys of their own age groups or even older.
It is not uncommon to find in public schools, colleges, training schools and some
religious institutions youth involved in homosexuality activities.
We have witnessed young boys and girls as young as 11, 12, 13, beat and
curse their mothers and fathers, unbelievably abusing the womb that bore them
and in many instances, young teenagers, killing their parents and then going to
their schools and killing their classmates.
Large numbers of abortions are performed in the West annually and babies.
Are disposed of by young girls while even at their high school proms. They are
disposing of unlike the Arabs of pre-Islamic centuries who killed girl babies only,
these babies that are discarded are boys and girls.
Millions of women in America have turned to prostitution as a way of life or
career and now you can find married women, who, thinking they have nothing to
do in the daytime, begin frequenting call girl houses. And the U.S. just went though
the unfortunate marital indiscretion of the President of the United States of
America. These events are cited because they show the erosion of America's morals
while much of these things are no longer looked upon as a tragedy.
Focus On Al-Islam
Even though these social abuses may be rare in Muslim countries, it is vital
for the Islamic world to guard against these horrors by staying focused on the
importance of the religion. If these trends continue in America, they will surely lead
to a breakdown of human behavior and day-to-day life. In order to battle against
these negative forces, the enlightened Islamic leadership in America has come to see
and to promote the importance of forging alliances with other faith groups who
share our moral concerns for the future of our country.
Childrens Rights
When husband and wife come together to procreate, the child has a right to
be cared for, to be given a good environment and a good name. The child has a
right to be educated, guided and directed to make the best decisions for his future.
Islam is the child's birthright and the parents have an obligation to help
them reach their greatest potential and to be whatever Allah Has designed for them
to be. They are a trust and a loan from Allah and not a possession, for no one is
guaranteed life forever here on earth and sometimes children precede their parents
in death.
They have a right to live and to be born into this world. In Arabia, before
the coming of Al Islam, the birth of a female child was regarded as a great
misfortune and a shame. Fathers who were very cruel and ignorant buried the
daughters alive. Allah tells us in the Qur'an:
"When news is brought to one of them of the birth of a female child, his face
darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his
people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain it on sufferance and
contempt or bury it in the dust? Ah! What an evil choice they decide on Quran 16-
However, it is the Muslim woman who has been created by Allah to be first
teacher and becomes a nurturing responsible mother. This encourages respect for
authority and for adults. Mother and father are in authority over the child. She is
careful of what enters the mind of her children from the mass media and takes
precautions to safe guard her family as best as she can. At the birth of their
newborn child, the mother says Al Fatihah, with the Name of Allah, Most Gracious,
Most Compassionate to the end, in the ears of the child. When she's nursing the
child or caring for it, she should recite verses from Qur'an so that the child hears
the Qur'an in the Arabic language. Letting the newborn hear his first words of
Allah, his creator. Making salat is something he will have to do all of his life and
which will help keep him on the right path. As the child grows older his mind will
be groomed right and the intellectual curiosities will be awakened and helped along
for she is the teacher.
Allah says in the Holy Qur'an, "And do good unto thy parents. Should one
of them, or both, attain to old age in thy care never say a word of disdain to them
or scold them, but always speak unto them with reverent speech and spread over
the humbly the wings of thy tenderness and say:
"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". 7:24.
When Al Islam was established, it did a lot to change the reprehensible
treatment of women. Qur'anic guidelines" gave women an independent and equal
legal and spiritual identity, advising them that men and women were created from
the same soul. She is responsible for the same moral obligation that is incumbent
upon all Muslims and she is encouraged to make salat and attend prayer services at
the Masjid.
When a woman married, her mahr was given directly to her and was not
seen as a bride price where her father would enjoy the fruits. There are many
instances where women's rights were clearly shown in the Qur'an regarding her
maintenance in case of divorce. The limit on the amount of women a husband could
have in a polygamous marriage also served to strengthen the rights of women. So
we see that women were not meant to be seen as subservient and inferior to man in
society. In the area of inheritance the Qur'an serves to give her dignity, self worth
and a higher level of respect and self-esteem. To enable both men and women to
achieve their full potential, Al Islam provides a social framework and seeks to
establish a healthy moral atmosphere. A Muslim woman regardless of her marital
status, is fully capable of owning, buying, selling and inheritance.
"From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for
men and a share for women, hether the property be small or large - a determinate
share". HQ 4:7.
The Qur'an spells out who receive the shares, how much the shares should
be and then who should receive any part of the estate after the major sharers. Prior
to Al Islam women were not given the right to inherit. Wives, daughter, mothers
and sisters were unable to inherit thus Al Islam improved their situation greatly.
The Qur'an gives some details on the requirements for making a will. It
instructs that the will should not only be made in writing with witnesses but also
the law of inheritance includes specific distributions or shares that are to be given
to family members in a determined priority.
There are twelve shares defined as follows: (1) husband (2) wife; (3) father ;
(4) true grandfather ; (5) mother ; (6) true grandmother; (7) daughter; (8) son's
daughter; (9) full sister; (10) consanguine sister; (11) uterine brother; and (12)
uterine sister.
It is important that for the Muslim Ummah to keep focused on Al Islam
whether it is in the Islamic World or the Western World, because religion is
sincerity. The life of religion is defined in these terms
"A Community of people worshiping Allah". The family life is the first
community. No family member should grow rich while his other members
are poor and not try to encourage them or to bring them into some
development or growth". Imam W. Deen Mohammed.
The Muslim Americans of African descendant were a people whose behavior
was conditioned from the experience of slavery where the family was destroyed.
These experiences did away with family cohesiveness. Some African American
leaders were also responsible for the problems. Many told them of how to get jobs
and positions of power, but never told them to build up the family structure, the
importance of shaping up the family life, get rid of bad habits, to be and live
No. It was the transforming miracle of Al Islam. Prophet Muhammad (SAS)
encouraged Muslims to accept responsibility to grow strong families. Today, we see
Muslim American families praying, growing and developing together. We see the
Muslim Ummah inviting their fellow man to the Message of Truth, Al Islam. We
see businesses, educational institutions, and Islamic organizations established in
America and growing by leaps and bounds. In all areas and phases of communal,
societal and national life, the Muslim Ummah is growing towards a concerted effort
for the enhancement of the Islamic World.

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A. Yusuf Ali Translation
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Muhammad Assad Translation
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Sayyed Sulaiman Nadwi, Translated by
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S.M. Madani, 1982 Adam
Publishers & Distributors
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Interviews with Imam W. Deen
Mohammed, 1988.
Evolution of a Community
The Muhammad Group
WDM Publications, 1995
Muslim Women's League,
California September, 1995.
Passport to a Happy Marriage
Imam Abdul Alim Bashir, January,
The Journal of Islamic Law
Irshad Abdal Haqq, Esq.
Managing Editor, Vol. 3 No. 1,
Spring/Summer, 1998.
Status of Women in Islam
Saleem Kayani, Islamic Series No.12,
IFTA Office.
Imam W. Deen Mohammad
History of the Nation of Islam,
Damascus, Syria February, 1419/1999

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