7 tips to avoid bloating and heaviness after breaking your Ramadan fast


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“..Eat and drink, but be not excessive..” Qur’an 7:31

Many people find it very difficult to remain hungry for long and the moment the Adhan is given for Maghrib they resort to binging at Iftar time. This scene is commonplace in communal Iftar dinners where there is an abundance of food.

The result of this no holds barred approach can be devastating on the human body. There is indigestion and heartburn, bloating and heaviness. After binging at maghrib people do not feel like getting up for their prayers. Not only do they binge at Iftar, after they have done maghrib prayers they have another session, this time with heavy dinner variety meals.

Due to such binges people feel bloated, heavy and sick. They feel sleepy when its time for Isha and either miss Isha prayers or perform them half asleep. People often complain that instead of losing weight they have actually put on weight despite a month of fasting. Little do they realize that the items that are standard on a Ramadan menu like Samosas, Pakoras, Jalebis, etc are all high carbohydrate and high calorie foods, whose carefree helpings add to our weight.

Thus there is a need to not only plan the type and quality of our meals at Ramadan but also their quantity and timing. The following tips should remedy the situation by tackling the aforementioned imbalances.

#1. Do Iftar with only dates and water. Break your fast just by a few dates and a drink of water and nothing else. The Quran informs us that when Mary was in pain and hardship Allah ordered her to consume dates and drink spring water. So consuming dates and drinking water after a period of hardship does carry Quranic wisdom. Eat the dates and drink the water during the time of azan. Once the Adhan is over, then get up from the food table, go and perform your Maghrib prayers.

#2. Only snack between Maghrib and Isha
After Maghrib prayers do not help yourself to your dinner yet but instead take a light snack meal. For example a Samosa or two with a cup of tea. If you eat your main dinner now, you will feel heavy and will not be able to concentrate on your prayers. So after Maghrib eat only a light snack and not a meal with full stomach. With a half empty stomach go for performing Isha prayers.

#3- Have a light dinner after Isha Once you have performed your Isha prayers, now you should have your dinner or main meal of the day. Eat your dinner but in a balanced manner paying attention to portion sizes. You will not feel the urge to binge because your hunger pangs due to fasting would have subsided due to the dates and snacks.

#4. Take Yogurt at Suhoor Before Fajr eat a light meal like fruits and yogurt at Suhoor time. Don’t forget the Yogurt as it will help control the thirst all day long during the fast.

#5. Eat Quranic foods. Avoid deep fried items like Jalebis, Pakoras, Biryani, Qorma. Also avoid refined carbohydrates like Naan bread, Pasta, White Rice, Sugar etc. Allah has specifically mentioned the following foods in the Quran, so if you are able to you should incorporate these in your Ramadan diet in raw and pure form.

  1. Olive oil
  2. Olives
  3. Figs
  4. Milk
  5. Honey

Ensure that the above Quranic foods are on your kitchen table throughout Ramadan.

#6. Count Calories. Ensure that all the four meals you consume do not cross your daily calorie limit. Eg if you are supposed to consume 2000 calories a day then plan your meals accordingly.

#7. Consume foods that are planned. Avoid eating eating haphazardly and without a meal plan. If you stick to a preplanned meals you will be able to have control over your body.

In-Sha-Allah if you observe these tips you will have a balanced fasting period with controllable thirst and hunger and remain healthy and strong during Ramadan.

Can we force people to accept Islam?


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INTRODUCTION

Islam and Muslims frequently come in the press and are imparted with heavy criticism for religious freedom issues. Often examples are cited that in Muslim lands, people of other faiths are not freely allowed to profess or proclaim their beliefs and the notion that Islam is to be spread by the sword was in the past and is still popularized by its critics to scare those outside the faith. It is not within the scope of this article to present or comment on human rights matters in those countries that label themselves as Islamic or where the majority of population is Muslim. What I aim to present here is how the subject has been dealt with in the Qur’an and how the book addresses themes related to freedom of religion and belief.

To be kept in mind that what it is that the Qur’an says is to be considered as Islamic and the practices that are refuted by it are not valid as an Islamic practice, no matter how close an affiliation with Islam the actors claim to have. The authority for all beliefs and practices in Islam rests with the Qur’an. Therefore, dear readers, let us discover whether people can be forced to accept Islam, as per the directives and narratives of the Qur’an?

FREEDOM OF BELIEF IS A GOD GIVEN RIGHT

Animals, plants, insects, and non human living beings are all programmed and designed to follow a set pattern. They do not defy that set pattern, and do not have a free will to defy their basic nature, human beings, in comparison, are given the free will to choose between right and wrong, and decide on alternate courses in matters of life.

For example, a goat eats only leaves and grass, and not meat, since it is not in its nature to do so. It does not have any freedom of choice, and no matter how hungry it may get, it will not devour meat. But we people, on the other hand, have the power and faculties to ponder on our environment, make choices – choices that may have benefits, or even harms for us. We are not compelled like animals to follow one course of action only. If we are hungry, then given the choice, we can eat vegetables, meat or a combination of both, as it is to our own volition to decide this.

It is because animals do not have a free will, that we do not hold them accountable in any court of law. Ever heard if any goat or sheep was charged with grazing in a pasture that wasn’t their own? The poor thing, when hungry, simply graze where the grass is green, and has no sense of property or ownership of land! But we humans are not like that. We have a free will. We can choose to labour for our bread, or we can choose to steal it. It is because of this free choice that we are held accountable.

As we are given faculties of intellect and free will we can benefit from our natural surrounding, or distort it and create corruption. The same faculties and free will that we posses and employ in our social, economic or material matters, is also to be used for matters of morality and religious observance. We read in the Qur’an that when Allah sent mankind to earth, they were informed that they would get his guidance to lead peaceful lives:

“We said: Go forth from this (state) all; so surely there will come to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.” 2:38

But along with the merits of following the laws of Allah – which includes laws relating to the physical world as well as those pertaining to social and economic spheres – mankind was also told about the consequences of disobeying such laws:

“And (as to) those who disbelieve in and reject My Ayat (Signs), they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.” 2:39

Mankind has been shown both ways, and has been blessed with the powers to grasp whatever path it wishes:

“Have We not given him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips, and pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways?” 90:8-10

Man has been pointed out the benefits of following the laws of Allah and the consequences of going against them It is up to him to choose to accept the laws of Allah or become ungrateful. The following verse reminds us of this aspect:

“Surely We have shown him the way: he may be thankful or unthankful.” 76:3

In accepting the laws of Allah, we have to use our own freedom of choice and free will, without any coercion or force applied from outside;

“And say: The truth is from your Sustainer, so let him WHO WILLS, believe, and let him WHO WILLS disbelieve..” 18:29

NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION BY MESSENGERS OF GOD AND THEIR FOLLOWERS

If man accepts the laws of God, then it is for his own benefit and if he goes against them then the consequences will again be upon his own self. The person delivering the message of God is not a custodian over the people, as the Qur’an says:

“Surely We have revealed to you the Book with the truth for all mankind; so whoever follows the right way, it is for his own soul and whoever errs, he errs only to its detriment; and you are not a custodian over them.” 39:41

The messenger of God cannot force people to accept the laws of Allah. He is not allowed by Allah to force people into accepting his message, and the message has to be accepted by one’s own free will and own initiative, as the following verse points out:

“And if your Sustainer had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?” 10:99

The laws of Allah are to be accepted ’on merit’ and not for any conditions, vested interests or by force. Following or disobeying them is against one’s own self. We have to use our free will to ascertain the benefits of following the law of Allah and accept them willingly without any compulsion on ourselves. The consequences of accepting or rejecting the law have been laid on our own selves. The Qur’an says;

“Indeed there have come to you clear proofs from your Sustainer; whoever will therefore see, it is for his own soul and whoever will be blind, it shall be against himself and I am not a keeper over you.” 6:104

Had Allah willed he would have made us without a free will of our own, but unlike animals we are given the freedom of choice to select our line of action:

“And if Allah had pleased, they would not have set up others (with Him) and We have not appointed you a keeper over them, and you are not placed in charge of them.” 6:107

Accepting the message of God requires intellectual analysis of the message and agreement after reasoning and pondering over its validity. Even God does not force people to disown their faculties of reasoning and stoop to considering supernatural feats. The Qur’an reminds us this aspect:

“Perhaps you will kill yourself with grief because they do not believe. If We please, We should send down upon them a sign from the heaven so that their necks should stoop to it.” 26:3-4

The invitation of Qur’an is based upon evidence of its validity, insight and justification for its laws, therefore the question of forcing someone to accept it, does not arise:

“Say: This is my way: I invite unto Allah upon Insight, I and those who follow me, and glory be to Allah, and I am not from those who associate (with Allah).” 12:108

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO FORCE OTHERS TO THEIR WAY OF THINKING?

While the Qur’an has stressed that man has been given the intellectual faculty to determine his line of action and is not under compulsion to accept the law of Allah, at the same time it has also identified who those people are who use force and compulsion to make others agree to their point of view. The Pharaoh who epitomizes tyranny, oppression, and disobedience to God’s law has been identified as a person who used to force people to remain in his religion. It is people having the traits of Pharaoh who use compulsion for faith:

“Firaon said: Do you believe in Him before I have given you permission? Surely this is a plot which you have secretly devised in this city, that you may turn out of it its people, but you shall know:” 7:123

It is a Pharonic law to give death to those who change their religion and beliefs as it is he who threatened with capital punishment if people changed their beliefs:

“Said he: You believe in him before I give you permission; most surely he is the chief of you who taught you the magic, so you shall know: certainly I will cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and certainly I will crucify you all.” 26:49

To be noted that in the Quran it is the UNBELIEVERS and not Muslims who have been identified as forcing people to remain in their faith and threatening those who demonstrate disagreement to their doctrines, with dire consequences:

The chiefs, those who were proud from among his people said: We will most certainly turn you out, O Shu’aib, and (also) those who believe with you, from our town, or you shall come back to our faith. He said: What! though we dislike (it)?” 7:88

“And those who disbelieved said to their Messengers: We will most certainly drive you forth from our land, or else you shall come back into our religion. So their Sustainer revealed to them: Most certainly We will destroy the unjust.” 14:13

Compared to the oppression of the unbelievers, the believers are commanded that even if a person from the opposite camp approaches them for safety then even he is to be given protection:

“And if one of the idolaters seek protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make him attain his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know.” 9:6

BELIEF IN ISLAM IS BY VOLUNTARY CONVICTION, AND NOT FORCED CONVERSION

The question of forcing someone to believe does not arise at all, because the Qur’an identifies ‘Iman’ i.e. belief as something not just professed by the lips, but something which has entered one’s heart deeply, and that is possible only if a person analyses the message through his reason and accepts it willingly:

“The dwellers of the desert say: We believe. Say: You do not believe but say, We submit; and IMAN has not yet entered into your hearts; and if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not diminish aught of your deeds; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 49:14

The above verse establishes that “Iman” is something which is deep rooted into a persons heart. In case a person does not have deep conviction on the Laws of God then that does not comprise “Iman”. Therefore it is not possible to force someone to believe, as then the person would merely declare his verbal agreement while his heart would be not be inclined.

PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY

“He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief– on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement.”

“This is because they love this world’s life more than the hereafter, and because Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.”

“These are they on whose hearts and their hearing and their eyes Allah has set a seal, and these are the heedless ones.”

“No doubt that in the hereafter they will be the losers.” 16:106-109

The above verses clearly inform that the consequences of not agreeing to the law of Allah is deprivation of the benefits that are acquired as a result of following the divine guidance in our lives, and the wrath of Allah is incurred upon those who disbelieve.

The Qur’an proclaims that man has the freedom of choice to accept or reject the permanent values of God. He CANNOT be forced to accept those values, but has the free will to accept them, as the following verse informs:

“There is no compulsion in ‘Deen’ (way of life according to laws of Allah); truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the rebel and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” 2:256

With the straight path of God having being made distinct, the consequences of not accepting the way of life prescribed by Allah are also identified:

“And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.” 3:85

In case of apostasy, i.e. a situation in which a person believes, and after believing disbelieves in the message of Allah, the consequences of such a state are also made evident to us in the Qur’an:

“How shall Allah guide a people who disbelieved after their believing and (after) they had borne witness that the Messenger was true and clear arguments had come to them; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.” 3:86

For such (apostates) the penalty is the curse of Allah, i.e. deprivation of the benefits that result from following the guidance of Allah:

“(As for) these, their reward is that upon them is the curse of Allah and the angels and of men, all together. Abiding in it; their chastisement shall not be lightened nor shall they be respited.” 3:87-88

But as the Qur’an identifies the consequences of apostasy, it also confirms that there is room forgiveness and the deserters of faith do not qualify for capital punishment at the hands of Muslims. The following verse identifies this aspect:

“Except those who repent after that and amend, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 3:89

Had the punishment for apostasy been prescribed as death then the above verse would not have accommodated the room for amending one’s conduct and repentance, but with the inclusion of a condition of repentance and reform, the Qur’an confirms that worldly punishment for apostates is not death. The following verse is even more clear regarding this aspect:

“Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path.” 4:137

Upon analysis we can clearly see that the above verse establishes that a person does not get the death penalty for apostasy, as it identifies stages where a person believes, then disbelieves, then again believes and after that again disbelieves. Now if we were to assume that the stipulating death were existing, then the verse refutes it clearly, as has identified stages of belief, rejection, then again of belief and of subsequent rejection, as a person who after believing in Islam rejects it would then be qualified for the death penalty at the first instance, and would not have the opportunity to believe one more time again after disbelieving. But as the above verse identifies a state of belief after one has become an apostate, it clearly shows that he has not committed a capital offense.

The above verse is abundantly clear in describing that there is room for a person who out of any reason has turned his back on Islam, to amend his conduct and revert to the guidance of God and rules out the idea that apostates should be put to death.

CONCLUSION

We have seen that the Quran cites freedom of belief for man. We have the free will to choose whatever we believe to be right for ourselves, and no human has the right to stop us by force or compulsion from choosing, professing or observing our faith. But as we have freedom of choice, so shall we be held accountable for our choices. We see that in all times and eras messengers of God and their adherents were compelled to disown their beliefs and rejectors used force and threats against them. On the issue of apostasy, though the act is abhorred in the Qur’an and stated that apostates from Islam will be requited in the hereafter by God himself, believers are not allowed by the Qur’an to compel apostates in any way from their choice. Similarly we see evidence in Qur’an that an apostate has opportunities for repentance even after his denouncing of faith, thereby proving that he is not to be put to death.

Those who use force or oppression to spread their beliefs, or who compel people and do not give them the liberty of changing their belief are identified as rejectors of Allah and not as Muslims. We also see that those who are turned away from the straight path pose no threat to the believers, provided the believers are steadfast on the law of God, therefore apostates do not pose a threat to Islam or Muslims:

“O you who believe! take care of your souls; he who errs cannot hurt you when you are on the right way; to Allah is your return, of all (of you), so He will inform you of what you did.” 5:105

Islam is not to be spread at the point of the sword. The Qur’an is full of rejoinders to this effect. A Muslims duty is to propagate the message of the Qur’an to the best of his or her ability and in propagating that message there is to be no use of force, as the following verse identifies:

“We know best what they say, and you are not one to compel them; therefore remind him by means of the Quran who fears My promise.” 50:45

To spread the message of Qur’an by wisdom and reason and not by force – this is the true practice of the Prophet that every Muslim must emulate.

Social Media: Use it, Don’t Abuse it!


How Islamic marketers can harness the potential of social media without causing offence?

Paper presented at 8th Global Islamic Marketing Conference, Alanya Turkey May 2, 2017

THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION

It would be no exaggeration to say that nowadays many of us spend a significant amount of time every day staring at a small-lit screen on our smartphones. Apart from revealing our anxieties to us, this also tells us that we are in the middle of a social media revolution. The addictive nature of this medium implies that people are really stuck to it, and this poses great opportunities that marketers are ever ready to exploit.

Social media networking is a more recent phenomenon. Just go back a few years and marketing was a different ball game altogether. In those days, say for example, if a small cause related outfit aspired to promote their cause in front of an audience of millions, it would have to do a lot of hard work and require substantial amounts of money.

Imagine that you have a cause close to your heart that you wish to share with others and you are looking for an audience in a city that you intend to visit. To get your message across to the residents of that city you would require physical travel, booking of venue, spending money on print or electronic advertising, payments for billboards, and hoardings for announcing your presence. You would labor hard to woo the local press and do much more. All this would requires mega amount of funds, and energy which individuals, inspired by a charitable cause, often do not have at their disposal.

But that was then, and this is now. Gone are the days when billions would be needed to reach out to people, even across international borders. Now connection with millions of people is merely a few clicks away.

THE FEATURES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

With the social media revolution, a level playing field has been created, and in-roads are being made by smaller organizations that are in-tune with its power. With meaningful messages and a very small investment of time, Islamic marketers can make themselves heard and be responded to by millions across the globe. Social media allows those striving for Muslim causes to not only engage with, but also considerably influence a relevant audience, all with a small handheld device! Harnessed properly, it has the potential to capture hearts and minds. A global phenomenon, with billions of people on it, the absence of any cause-related organization or individual from social media networking will result in oblivion from the public eye. Some prominent features of social media networking include:

  1. Interactivity

Interactivity is at the center of social networking sites. It enables ongoing dialogue rather than monologue and facilitates interaction between users by actively involving them.

  1. Community-led

Social media networking is communal. It allows a number of individuals to be connected virtually, radically diminishing the constraints of time and space and allowing the formation of a community centered on common interests. Thus families, friends, work colleagues, fans, customers all form their own communities engaging in conversations that flow around their connections.

  1. Relatively low cost

In comparison to other traditional forms of marketing, social media provides a relatively low-cost solution to engage with customers in different parts of the world. For organizations that do not boast large budgets, social media is an ideal choice for customer outreach and interaction.

  1. Free speech

Social media is a relatively democratic medium, which facilitates freedom of expression. Initially there was little or no censorship, however legislation is increasingly tightening its grip on social networks regarding what gets posted online. But as it is a network of individuals communicating in real time, who say whatever it is they wish to say, freedom of expression is not that easily curtailed using this medium.

  1. Influential

In recent times social media networking sites facilitated a number of political movements. Through this medium, leaders are able to influence and goad people to action. The Arab spring, the Turkish Military coup and the US elections are prime examples in which social networking sites played a key role in moving people to take action.

  1. Global

According to recent reports, nearly one third of the world’s population or about 2.34 billion people regularly use social media. As of the fourth quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.86 billion monthly active users. Getting on social media truly means going global and marketing across borders.

  1. Addictive

Social networks are habit forming and massively addictive. People spend a lot of time online often to the detriment of other day-to-day tasks. Social media has the propensity to disrupt lives of users. Sites create content that is meant to draw users and advertisers in turn profit from people’s vulnerabilities. Its appeal to emotion and functionality to share information at a deeply personal level draws people to social networking and makes it addictive.

  1. Immediacy

Why wait long on the phone for customer service representative to shuffle you back and forth to another colleague or pay for the ordeal when you can simply tweet your query and get a quick response. Immediacy is one of social media’s greatest features as it allows things to get done quickly.

 TACKLING SOCIAL MEDIA ABUSE

While social media has given an opportunity to smaller organizations and individuals to reach out to massive audiences, it has also attracted unscrupulous elements that exploit its potential for their vested interests. There are many forms of abusive behavior that one encounters online. Prominent of them are:

  1. Online Deceit

It is commonplace to discover fake news, fake social networking accounts and fake followers. There is also identity theft and fraud. Increasingly social networking sites are being used to defraud and lie to people. In contrast to such behavior Muslims marketers are to be honest and truthful in their presentation for such is exhorted to, tremendously in Islam’s holy text, the Qur’an.

“…and speak words of appropriate justice.” (33:70)

“..and avoid false statement.” (22:30)

“So he (the devil) made them fall, through deception…” (7:22)

Acting on these commandments, it is unlawful for a Muslim marketer to engage in any form of deceptive practices using social media networking sites or otherwise.

  1. Plagiarism

Increasingly texts and images are plagiarized from websites and blogs and styled as one’s own creation without giving due credit to the original creator. The online world is rife with copyright violations and plagiarism, especially when committed by individuals who are in jurisdictions where laws do not exist to tackle this theft. Creators spend much time and energy to create intellectual property only to discover later on that someone has stolen their ideas and is now styling it as his own! In contrast the Qur’an counters the problem of stealing other people’s creation when it receives a pledge from believers about not stealing:

“O Prophet, when the believing women come to you pledging to you that they will not associate anything with Allah , nor will they steal..” (60:12)

  1. Hate Speech

One frequently encounters online harassment in the form of cyber bullying and abusive commentary when perusing the likes of micro blogging platforms like Twitter. Also common are incidents of racist, misogynous, defamatory and hateful commentaries online. The Qur’an forbids such when it instructs Muslims against using offensive names:

“..nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith” (49:11)

Defamation and slander are clearly forbidden in the divine text:

“Woe to every (kind of) scandal-monger and-backbiter.” (104:1)

“..neither defame one another..” (49:11)

Hate speech is curtailed by instructing that people should speak good words to each other and not words that sow seeds of dissent:

“And tell My servants to say that which is best. Indeed, Satan induces [dissension] among them. Indeed Satan is ever, to mankind, a clear enemy.” (17:53)

  1. Bombardment with unsolicited messages

Many marketers shoot themselves in the foot when they resort to spamming i.e. by repeatedly sending unsolicited messages to users of social networking sites. In contrast, the Qur’an commands Muslims to respect peoples right to privacy and not to enter their space without permission.

“And if you do not find anyone therein, do not enter them until permission has been given you. And if it is said to you, “Go back,” then go back; it is purer for you. And Allah is Knowing of what you do.” (24:28)

Legislation is now increasingly being implemented to counter the misuse of social media, but for Muslims, divine guidance is the check on behavior, which is far more important than worldly legislation. To be embraced willingly rather than being enforced by an external authority, there is plethora of guidance in Islam’s holy text, the Qur’an on acceptable behaviors. Such Qur’anic guidelines relate with social media marketing behaviors and inform Muslim marketers about the parameters within which they are to operate.

A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO SOCIAL MEDIA

As with other marketing media, Muslim marketers should not have a reactionary approach with social media but a planned one. A strategy that identifies organizational capabilities and matches them with market opportunities should be developed, which should then be operationalized.

  1. Research the customer

Muslim marketers should investigate who their target audience is, what are their needs and demographics, the devices they use and the networking sites they subscribe and tailor their content around all of these factors.

  1. Your content should add value

Social media content should not be posted for its own sake but it should add value for the users. It should give some sort of a solution to a problem such that the social media account is seen as a useful tool and resource by the user that helps him or her in daily life.

  1. Use visuals

Images tell more of a story than just text. Communicate visually with your customers by adding good-looking images, and visuals. Images process quickly and people are drawn to them. This way your social media content becomes more responsive than simply posting dry text.

  1. Embrace Diversity

Social media transcends countries and cultures. Islamic marketers should incorporate cultural diversity in their content so that it relates to everyone who is connected with them.

  1. Tell stories

It is vital to avoid technical jargon, complex numbers, facts, figures and statistics that strain the mind. Instead simple yet captivating stories around products and services should be narrated. People have a short attention span on social media and aren’t always geared for straining the minds with complexities but relate more to stories and narratives than numbers and formulae.

  1. Facilitate Sales

Muslim marketers should not have a social media presence to showcase their products and services but it should also facilitate the actual purchase process. They should not hesitate to ask for the sale and give calls to action to the users and the guidance required for making a transaction.

  1. Use video and Audio

Previously videos were the sole domain of video-blogging sites like YouTube, but now almost all social media networks have video featured on them. A more recent phenomenon is the live video feature. Along with text and images, video and audio leave a more lasting impression on customers.

 

  1. Improve Continuously

Social media is a dynamic medium that evolves continuously. Social networking sites keep adding new features. This requires Islamic marketers to keep abreast with the changes and continuously strive to improve their social media presence for their users.

 

CONCLUSION

Social media offers an amazing opportunity to Islamic marketers to connect directly with their customers, engage in real-time conversations, and vitally to hear the perspective of the customer about their organization and its environment. It is vital that Muslims embrace social media marketing with a strong customer focus and a sound marketing strategy. However, while social media brings tremendous and exciting opportunities for Islamic promoters, there are also challenges that the improper or uninformed use of this media poses to their cause. It is expedient that their marketing methodology be informed by God’s guidance and they must ensure that while developing and implementing a social media presence, no divine injunction is violated. Only with such an approach will they qualify as Islamic marketers.

 

REFERENCES

Al-Qur’an: Electronic Mos’haf Project http://quran.ksu.edu.sa

“Nearly One-Third of the World Will Use Social Networks” (E-Marketer, June 30 2016) https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Nearly-One-Third-of-World-Will-Use-Social-Networks-Regularly-This-Year/1014157

Statista: “Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 4th quarter 2016 https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/

“Tackling Nasty Trolls isnt Censorship its Common Sense” (Telegraph, June 25 2016) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/25/tackling-nasty-trolls-isnt-censorship-its-common-sense/

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kashif Shahzada MBA, MCIM, DipM, Chartered Marketer is a consultant with a specialism in working with faith communities. He is the chief executive of Natmark, a consulting firm based in Karachi, Pakistan. He blogs at KashifShahzada.com Twitter @KashifShahzada

Shopping Mania


THE reason why many of us do not wish to face reality is because it is painful. Reality hurts. It sheds light on areas which we want to keep in the dark.

Like the child who cries and screams because he cannot have his way is offered ice cream to calm him down, we adults too seek objects to soothe our pain. A sweet treat to distract us from the bitterness that is reality.

There used to be alcoholics, but thanks to the more recent emergence of ‘in your face’ capitalism, they have been sent to the back benches by the shopaholics. Their kind gets an inexplicable high by stuffing shopping carts mindlessly. With a condition unique to the wealthier class, they fall prey to the cunning of businessmen who fully exploit their surplus wealth and lack of self-control.


Islam calls for a balanced and moderate approach to consumption.


Lured to mega shopping malls by advertising, they return home with stuffed plastic bags, laughingly dismissing their excess as ‘retail therapy’. But little do they realise that such sugar-coating deludes them. ‘Buy one get one free’, ‘special offers’ and ‘seasonal discounts’ are the baits that lure shopaholics to harm themselves. But we must understand that their behaviour does more than bring harm just to their own person, for their compulsion panders not only to their innate desires and insecurities, it also correspondingly brings misery upon their near and dear ones and the environment at large.

What started off as an occasional misdemeanour slowly transforms into a habitual offence, and a fully mature addiction with special thanks to gigantic stores, credit cards and 24/7 advertising. The creed of capitalism contains no compassion, for its policy is to take no prisoners. There is only one interest that it pursues, and that is profit. It influences us to buy, shop, and hoard aimlessly, paying little attention to the utility and genuine need of things and the side effects of such compulsive behaviour.

Excessive shopping adds to clutter in the home, a strain on our finances, and a usurping of time that could be spent with family and friends. By shopping recklessly and impulsively, we clutter our lives with unnecessary items that add little value to our practical existence and merely occupy space and take up our time. The availability of easy credit makes us overlook the ramifications of impulsive spending and makes us fall headlong into the debt trap.

We need to free up our time and space by reducing our possessions, and make it a rule to buy only that which is necessary. Shopping should be a moderate affair. If it is developing into a serious compulsive habit, then it is time to step on the brakes and take action. Reduce, recycle, reuse should be our daily mantra.

Let us switch off this never-ending soap opera of commercialism for a moment and hearken to the call of Islam for a balanced and moderate approach to consumption. Take some time out to reflect on the Quran and you will discover its exhortations to manage your finances astutely, remain within the budget, save for a rainy day, and check impulsive spending. According to the Holy Book, consuming for the sake of consumption alone is a trait of kufr (disbelief): “…Those who reject Allah will enjoy (this world) and eat as cattle eat…” (47:12). Spendthrifts are not in good company, we are clearly warned: “Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful” (17:27)

That moderation should be the rule in the spending behaviour of a believer is the glaring rejoinder: “Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard’s) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute” (17:29).

Moreover, surplus wealth is not meant to be blown away on frivolities but to be shared with those less fortunate: “….They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs” (2:219).

Alms are mandatory and excessive spending is to be curtailed to meet the ideal that wealth: “…may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you…” (59:7)

The addiction of shopping brings temporary happiness, which is short-lived and attached to sadness. If owning material possessions attained happiness, the rich would have always lived very happy lives. But this is definitely not the case. Like others, the rich have their fair share of sorrows. So the formula for happiness definitely lies somewhere else. The discipline of Islam provides a moderate approach to consumption. When followed it results in happiness, harmony and balance.

First published in DAWN dated 21 April 2017

8th Global Islamic Marketing Conference, Alanya, Turkey


ISLAMIC MARKETING 1

Man or Beast?


ARE we human or are we simply a species of animals? This question has perplexed many thinkers.

After all, are we not simply glorified animals, some proclaim? Do we not tend to do the same things that animals do? We go to work, earn money to buy food; animals also hunt or gather food. We eat and drink and so do animals. We sleep; animals also need rest. We live in homes or apartments; animals also have their caves and nests. We get married and raise children; animals also breed.

Animals live in packs or herds or flocks; we humans also tend to live with our own kind.

Animals fight other animals; we have been fighting each other since time immemorial. Animals mark territories, and we, as nations also draw our boundaries. So are we really different from animals?

To live a life beyond animal nature, we need guidance.
Depending on one’s worldview, we actually are. We possess what animals do not, and that is free will. Animals do not have a choice; they simply follow what they are designed to do. And because they simply follow their instincts, they are not held accountable for their actions. One has never come across a cow that was sued because it grazed from a pasture that was not its own. You never hear about a monkey getting arrested and jailed because it stole bananas.

No, we never hear about such things. But we do hear about people getting caught for devouring property that did not belong to them. So essentially, this is the difference between man and beast. We humans have free will, due to which we are responsible for our actions.

And because of responsibility there comes accountability. We have a choice to do or not to do something. We can either work hard to make a living or we can take away somebody else’s property by force or deception. Animals, on the other hand, do not have a choice. When they are hungry, they simply take a bite.

Because we have a choice, we need guidance. We need to know the rules. We need to know right from wrong. If we do not observe right and wrong in life, we will behave as animals and create a chaotic society.

The law of the jungle will prevail. Brute force and ‘might is right’ will become the order of the day. To rise to a human level, to live a life beyond animal nature, we require guidance.

We need to know the moral values that are universal, which have the benefit for all of our fellow human beings and which do not lean towards the selfish interest of a select few. We need to know morality which is absolute and permanent and which transcends time and space. Because humans are temporal beings, it is not within them to give such instructions. Only an intelligent guide who is not fixed in time and geographic location can give such guidance. There is only one being like that, and that is God.

Thus it is the Creator’s guidance that we need. The manufacturer is best suited to issue instructions on a machine. As it is the manufacturer who designed the machine, therefore, he is best qualified to inform us how to operate it without malfunction. So we humans need a manufacturer’s guide for living life peacefully.

We have such guidance from the Creator in the form of the Quran; its rules — if followed — keep a check on emotional recklessness. When people follow their impetuous passions, this leads them to declare: ‘my country right or wrong’. In contrast, the Quran cautions: “…And let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. …” (5:8).

Excessive greed goads people to a selfish and hedonistic lifestyle; on the other hand, the Quran gives the ideal: “… It [surplus wealth] may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you. …” (59:7).

Carnal temptations blur the line between the licit and the illicit, but consult revelation and you find that it proclaims: “Prohibited to you (for marriage) are your mothers, daughters, sisters; father’s sisters, mother’s sisters; brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters. …” (4:23).

Thus by following Quranic guidance, we become fully human and live a life above animal level. But by choosing to ignore divine guidance, people operate “…Like cattle — nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning)” (7:179).

Revelation is what keeps a check on our passions, gives rules for peaceful living, and provides the parameters for a just and balanced society. It gives values, which have the benefit for all mankind and not a select few. God’s guidance is available on earth. It is our prerogative to consult it and to abide by it and develop our true human potential.

Published in DAWN 18 November, 2016

Related Audio Talk on Soundcloud Man or Beast?

 

A New Life


They come from far and wide. On every means of transport available. By land, air or sea. Some do not even mind going all the way on foot. Young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, black or white, from all categorisations of humanity possible, we find them there. It is a journey for which life’s savings are devoted, for which aspirations are dedicated, and for which supplications are made from one’s heart and soul. But what kind of an event is this for which no advertising budgets are apportioned, yet millions are drawn to it every year? No one is goaded yet the airplanes and the hotels are all full? No material gain is obtained by it, yet people save all their life to spend on the journey? There is no scenery, no entertainment, and no amusement, yet the crowds keep coming. It is a journey involving physical, material and emotional hardship, yet the numbers keep on increasing year by year. What charm is there in dressing up in two sheets of white, in exposing oneself to the hardships of travel, and in facing the dangers of illness, disease, stampedes and even death? The talbiyyah says it all. “Labaik Allahuma Labaik” (I am here O Allah, I am here.) “Labaik Laa Shareeka laka Labaik.” (I am here, no partner do thou have.) “Inna al hamda Wal Naimata laka wal mulk” (Indeed all praise and all bounty and sovereignty belong to thee.) “Laa shareeka lak” (No partner dost thou have.)

This mantra which is on the lips of every pilgrim gives us the essence of the Hajj. That servitude is due to Allah and Him alone and that we hearken His call. That in His worship, we associate no one else. That for Him, we need to make serious efforts in life. That entire praise and sovereignty belong to Him and no one else. The Hajj is a living commentary of the Quranic verse: Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.” (Al Anaam 6:162)

Thus it is this strong belief, which is the powerful driving force for the Hajj. Belief in Allah and His Messenger, an aspiration to have a connection with the Creator and to realise the true purpose of life. It is a journey for which even the preparation is itself an act of Ibadah, yet this is an aspect taken lightly and neglected by many. The intending pilgrims also depend on the assurances of tour operators many of whom have a reputation to disappear in the heat of the action leaving pilgrims stranded with no choice but to tend to themselves. Millions congregating at a unique point and their successive movement is no ordinary feat but one that poses great environmental challenges. The Hajj is a true Jihad, for it takes us out of our comfort zones for the sake of Allah, and teaches us to take on hardships and sufferings entirely for Him. Many can pay lip service, but few take practical action, and it is actions that speak louder than words. The Hajj is an action, it is not a comfortable sermon, but a practical hardship that resonates with the seriousness we have for our faith. The Hajj is a test, for at each and every juncture, we are tested for the development of our patience, our tolerance, our religious knowledge and its application. The Hajj is an antidote to the inflated ego. You leave behind your best dress, your hairstyle will need to go after shaving the head, the riches and comforts that you are used to will not be there for you. You will need to sleep with nothing but the earth below you and above you only skies. You will need to mingle and cooperate with people all all hues and not your preferred one’s only – all this will humble you and annihilate your ego tremendously. Thus the Hajj is about submissiveness to Allah and abandoning haughtiness. The Hajj is an admonishment. The pains and sufferings are also at times a wake up call to the erring that something is not right and reformative action needs to be taken.

There are strong parallels between Hajj and death. The Qur’an repeatedly calls death as a meeting with God, while the Kabah is the House of God. The Hajj therefore is a death and meeting with God and the return from the journey as a Hajji, a spiritual rebirth.

Just like life is a constant struggle and its end has paradise for the righteous, the hardships of Hajj are a trial for us, and its culmination takes us to a new pleasant phase in our life. After the Hajj the believer is no longer anxious and worried about the pettiness of life, but becomes calm and serene having surrendered himself fully to Allah.

First Published in DAWN on 9-9-2016

Climate Change


Human greed and unabashed materialism has begat a monster, which is ready to devour us. Excessive pollution from consuming fossil fuels is disturbing the balance of our ecosystem and threatening to destroy life on the planet.

The spectre of climate change looms upon us but nobody seems to notice. Switch on to prime time TV in Pakistan and there is hardly a mention about it. Those on the pulpit debate vociferously about trivial matters but this fire which is ravaging to engulf saints and sinners alike is hardly a cause of concern for them. Rulers plan economic growth but do not say what use it will be when the planet is no more. Businessmen ignore the environment, seeking interim profit failing to realise that our actions are like boomerangs. They eventually come back to haunt us one day.

Global warming should be taken very seriously. It is a very real danger that threatens our existence. For the sorry state of the planet no one but we, ourselves are to blame. Each one of us individually for if we do not fall in the category of mass producers responsible for carbon emissions that harm the Earth’s ozone layer we definitely are among the mass consumers who drive such mindless economics.

Many of us also fail to realise that looking after the environment is equally the remit of those who believe in God. Polluting the air, poisoning the rivers, cutting off trees, destroying flora and fauna will not only have repercussions in this world but such will also have an impact on the afterlife of the perpetrators. The Quranic description: “When he turns his back, His aim everywhere is to spread mischief (Arabic: Yufsida) through the earth and destroy crops and cattle. But Allah loveth not mischief (Arabic: Fasaad).” (2:205) warns that destroying the environment is an act of “Fasaad” (disorder, mischief) and is disapproved by God.

Going against the divine edict to reduce waste: .. waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (7:31) we over procure, over consume and waste profusely.

In contrast to the injunction “…Allah…loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (2:222) our towns have a reputation for garbage littered streets and over flowing sewages. Not to mention the havoc created during Eid ul Azha, when the gory mess left on the streets is actually a blatant rebellion of Quranic injunctions to cleanliness.

Who will forget the choking suffocation caused to the elderly and those with respiratory disorders by the smoke enveloping the entire neighbourhood when some residents set fire to their rubbish? Or the agony caused by loud music during a celebration in the middle of the night? Or that of a preacher’s unsolicited sermon from a loudspeaker? It appears that the divine imperative “And do good to…neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers..” (4:36) has fallen on deaf ears.

The water we are supplied is unclean, the air we breathe is polluted, the food we eat is adulterated, the sounds we hear are agonizing. Parks and green spaces are disappearing. Shopping has become a weekly ritual for shopaholics seen stuffing groceries in plastic bags rushing to and fro from supermarkets, causing excruciating traffic jams and nervous breakdowns with their mad rush.

Take a look at our society, when it comes to managing the environment at a personal level let us admit unashamedly, we totally fail. We defy the rule revealed in the divine writ: “In order that ye may not transgress (due) balance.” (55:8) with our imbalances while shamelessly flaunting our empty religiosity at every juncture.

This is our life in which we are ever ready to worship materialism. What is it that we have but a mere empty claim to piety and godliness. We need to be educated about green living and how it impacts our future for without having a proper understanding we cannot take action. We need to make incremental changes in our everyday life. Actions like a personal target of planting trees, keeping possessions to the minimum, recycling materials at home and work, reduction of waste, and keeping the environment clean on a regular basis need to be a priority. A commitment to walking for errands instead of driving, opening up windows to make best use of natural sunlight during the day instead of using electricity, and lot more can be easily be done and should be done. Standards and procedures for sustainability at home or work need to be written down and put into action.

Study the Quran and you will discover that care for the environment and welfare of all living beings is a quintessential part of an Islamic lifestyle. Where prayer, fasting and pilgrimage are an Islamic obligation then so are frugal living and an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle.

Published in DAWN

 

Believers: Genuine vs Fake


Inept border control procedures and a lenient attitude of rulers towards rogue traders means that our marketplaces are flooded with counterfeit goods. It has become very common to find bags, watches, eyewear, clothing, and all sorts of products having marks and labels of famous brands but which are in fact complete fakes. The popularity of a brand implies that a fake using its name can also be slipped in undetected. Just like rogue traders are having a heyday cashing in on corporate fame and the simplicity of consumers, the situation is not much different when it comes to matters of faith. Alongside genuine teachers there are also pretenders who exploit the faithful. But a failure to distinguish the genuineness and authenticity of the religious teaching one is led towards can have far more drastic consequences than perhaps the discomfort of using counterfeit fashion accessories.

For the total devotion demanded by faith implies that loss of family, friends, health, and wealth can result. Even one’s very life is at stake if one has not got the criterion to ascertain religious authenticity. The possession of such a criterion, one that filters truth from falsehood, right from wrong, the canonical from the apocryphal, is therefore the key to one’s well being.

This beacon which safeguards us from hazards posed by charlatans is none other but the Quran. An attribute of the Quran is “al-Furqan” or “The Criterion between right and wrong”. Where it narrates goodness, it also cautions about badness in all its forms. The archetypes it presents are ahistorical and can be related to any time or era. For that is why it is a guidance.

Numerous type of personalities are mentioned in the Quran that incur God’s displeasure. Some are outright rejecters, some believe in God while associating partners with him. There is one particular category of the disapproved kind which is not easily detectable to the untrained eye because it styles itself as staunch believers in God and claim that its deeds are in the very name of God. The Quran cautions:

وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ ءَامَنَّا بِٱللَّهِ وَبِٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْءَاخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

“And of the people are some who say, “We believe in Allah and the Last Day,” but they are not believers.” 2:7

Notice that they proclaim to be believers but Allah says they are not believers! This is so because:

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا۟ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

“And when it is said to them, “Do not cause corruption (Arabic: Fasaad) on the earth,” they say, “We are but reformers.” 2:11

One’s claim to “Imaan” (belief in Allah) is immediately dismissed if he resorts to “fasaad” (disorder in the land, damage to life and property) as a pretext of “Islah” (Reform, correction). These verses bring to light that the identity of a believer is not the label he carries but his character. Also clear is the fact that violence was never ordained by God as a method of societal reform.

The Quran also cautions about that kind of a preacher who frequently uses the name of Allah in his speeches:

وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَن يُعْجِبُكَ قَوْلُهُۥ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَيُشْهِدُ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا فِى قَلْبِهِۦ وَهُوَ أَلَدُّ ٱلْخِصَامِ

“And of the people is he whose speech pleases you in worldly life, and he calls Allah to witness as to what is in his heart, yet he is the fiercest of opponents.” 2:204

One may ask what is wrong in citing Allah’s name in speech? The next verse gives the answer:

وَإِذَا تَوَلَّىٰ سَعَىٰ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ لِيُفْسِدَ فِيهَا وَيُهْلِكَ ٱلْحَرْثَ وَٱلنَّسْلَ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْفَسَادَ

“And when he goes away, he strives throughout the land to cause corruption (Arabic: Fasaad) therein and destroy crops and animals. And Allah does not like corruption.” 2:205

So merely using the name of Allah to endorse a speech or merely labelling one’s self as Islamic or merely doing things in the name of Islam does not establish one’s bonafide. It is by virtue of behaviour and not labels that one is to be distinguished. When those who call for reforming society resort to violent means then they are not genuine believers in God but fakes.

If one possesses the peaceful behaviour of a believer as narrated by God in His Book, then and only then does he fit the label. But sadly we see that today the words Islam and Muslim are used carelessly as an appendage to individuals committing even the vilest of deeds. The Quran makes it amply clear that every claim in the name of God is not from God. Every deed meted out in the name of righteousness is not righteous.

We owe it to our well being that we do not take each and everything that is hurled towards us in the name of God to be actually coming from God but to take guidance from the Quran by ourselves and see the type of behaviour it has endorsed and the type that it has resented.

First published in Daily DAWN, dated 12 February, 2016

Cults


Gold is precious. Because it is precious, people seek it. They will pay a price for it and are eager to have it as a possession. Because it is precious, sought after and always has a clientele, fraudsters are also drawn to it. They know full well that if they can deceptively sell worthless things disguised as gold, then they can make a lot of money.

Like gold, religion too has popular charm and appeal. Its popularity enables a global following. People seek solace in it, and approach it to find answers to life’s most pressing matters. Entire life’s savings are dedicated for its pilgrimages. Its symbols adorn people’s homes, who go to great lengths to experience the sacred. It is because of this charm that religion also draws the attention of vested interests.

While there are genuine religious guides who offer a transparent exposition of faith and are regarded accordingly in the mainstream, there are also individuals outside the mainstream that take an unfair advantage of the popular appeal of faith and operate mind controlling cults. The phenomenon of cults exists largely in most religions and has been the subject of much academic research in the West.

However in our society, though cults exist profusely given the conducive environment for their formation, little is documented about their salient features.

When time and again we hear stories of how a self styled faith healer exploited the vulnerable or when we hear about youth lured into groups involved in acts of terrorism, what we are witnessing then, is cult phenomenon.

In a society like ours, where laws exists but law enforcement is non existent, the environment is ripe for such wolves in sheep’s clothing to not only mushroom but to thrive and prosper. Cults come in a wide variety and have varying objectives. Some are militant organisations but there are also non violent groups. Some religious but others overtly secular. Irrespective of their varying types, all cults have a common strand that distinguishes them.

Cults operate with hidden agendas. They approach potential recruits in the name of righteousness, but deliberately conceal their inner core on their initial interaction.

A harmless ‘Dars’ at the home of an acquaintance could in fact be an exercise in cult recruitment. Those who do not possess religious literacy – as is the case with most – may attend the lecture and think that the preaching encountered is from God’s Book and emanates from God. But the Qur’an itself fore warns us that everything preached in God’s name is not necessarily coming from God: “There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, “That is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it!” (3:78)

Cult leaders come not only in a pious garb but also with a dramatic stage persona. They enthral audiences, and deliver a performance, which once over, obliges them to return to their real selves albeit back stage. Unknown to many, they have their hawks in the audience who keep a watchful eye on all, and who will alert the leader to stage an exit when things are not in his favour.

The public persona of a cult leader is very different from his real person, which is visible only to those who observe him in private. The ideal prey are the wealthy or the well connected who are ignorant of religious knowledge. Playboys and spoiled brats are a perfect clientele as are middle aged begum sahibs with problems at home and some cash to spare.
Youngsters from dysfunctional families and those who have suffered a personal bereavement are particularly vulnerable to cult recruitment because cult doctrine is designed to temporarily soothe their pain.

To grow, cults need not only money but also the talent and connections of members. That is why cults actively recruit for new members. Recruitment begins with misleading advertisements and false claims often spread through word of mouth. However nowadays shares and likes on social media also lend a helping hand.

Endorsements from celebrities is a well known marketing tactic of cults. While some celebrities formally join cults and actively work for them, a public figure who may not know the true colours of the group can also be targeted by the group to elicit words of praise, which are then advertised as a mark of legitimacy. Followers from high ranking officials are prized possessions in cults, because when the time is right their influence will be put to use.

The cult always has two sets of teachings – one for the public, one for the private. Newcomers are not told about the ‘special’ knowledge immediately. It is only when they are initiated and tried over a period of time that the ‘special beliefs’ of the group’s leader will be disclosed.

Outsiders thus have no idea at all about what the preacher and his group are all about. Beliefs are deliberately kept vague and often undocumented. What has been documented will undergo revision when lacunae are known, with earlier versions silently withdrawn from circulation. The group leader is reluctant to speak in front of the camera other than his own camera crew with the footage being released after careful editing. Camera shyness is a deliberate ploy to stay clear from public scrutiny and any form of accountability.

A cult environment is one where debate is stifled and critical thinking is discouraged. The group isn’t out in the public limelight but may operate out of a private residence with no signage or distinguishing marks. Cults aren’t registered bodies that have audited accounts or legal structures.

They operate mostly in secrecy and through deception. In present times, the internet and the world wide web is their territory. Once inside, members are gradually introduced to esoteric interpretations and an elitist mindset which paints everything in black and white. The cult has its own worldview which is the standard for its members. Those who accept the group’s leader and official cult doctrine are the only ones to have salvation, while the rest are destined for hellfire.

A distinguishing feature is a vocabulary coined specifically for use within the group. Peer review and academic critique is the hallmark of scholarship. In contrast cult leaders portray themselves to be beyond criticism to their followers. Critical voices are deliberately suppressed and those expressing them are gradually shown the door. Former members are shunned and existing members are discouraged from keeping any contact citing the contagious ‘impurity’ of the former.

Phobia indoctrination is another method to keep followers within the fold. When one is persuaded that something terrible will befall him should he criticise the group leader or leave the group, then this fear is sufficient to make him stay.

Solicitations for funds also do not come immediately but only after one has been fully programmed – within the group’s beliefs. For once the mind is under control, the rest comes easily.

Cult leaders are charismatic personalities albeit with a disturbed upbringing. By probing deep one is likely to discover a criminal past and even a history of mental health problems.

Religious lectures are a common tool for recruitment of new followers. It is impossible to tell if a commentary in a foreign language was in full accord with the original Arabic words of the Holy Book if one is not well versed in Arabic. When one is not in a habit of doing their own study, then he is prone to indoctrination.

The Qur’an cautions us about those who will present falsehood intermixed with truth by exhorting: “And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it].” (2:42). The Quran is replete with the phrase ‘Yasalunaka’ lit. ‘They question thee’ which shows that the Prophet (PBUH) never discouraged questions. It informs believers: “.. if you ask questions about things while the Qur’an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you” (5:101). It identifies that reason is never to be suspended for comprehending the Signs of God is conditional upon the use of one’s ‘Aql’: “We have certainly made clear to you the signs, if you will use reason.” (3:118)

We are not to blindly follow leaders for on the day of judgement: “[And they should consider that] when those who have been followed disassociate themselves from those who followed [them], and they [all] see the punishment, and cut off from them are the ties..” (2:166).

No human is above accountability for not only those to whom the Message of God was delivered but also the Messengers will be called to account: “Then We will surely question those to whom [a message] was sent, and We will surely question the messengers.” (7:6).

Coercion by force or through psychological manipulation is ruled out as: “There is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256) There are to be no secret teachings. All is to be preached out in the open and to all mankind as: “..those who hide our revelations and guidance after We have made them clear for people in the Book, they are those on whom is the curse of Allah..” (2:159).

The Qur’an immediately disqualifies those who are persistent for monthly ‘Chanda’ by stating: “Follow those who do not ask of you [any] payment, and they are [rightly] guided.” (36:21)
We owe it our well being that before we swallow everything hook line and sinker, that we do not shy away from asking some very basic questions about the group we are being asked to join. If before offering even the most menial of jobs to people we interview them and rigorously do background checks, then why must we not do the same or conduct an investigation even more thorough when we give religious guides the responsibility to come into our lives?

No God-fearing person evades accountability for it is the very trait of the genuinely Godly to be ever prepared to give their account. One who has not wronged anyone is not afraid to answer questions because he has nothing to hide, possesses a clear conscience and has lived an open and transparent life. But the moment you realise that questions are deliberately being avoided, that the group does not want to be filmed or come on record then that is the moment for you to realise that there is more to your dear Shaikh sahab than meets the eye.

Finality of Prophethood


بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَٰكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا

Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets; God has knowledge of everything.” 33:40

The verse 33:40 gives us three solid proofs of finality of Prophethood and shows from three different dimensions, the cessation of prophets after Muhammad (p.b.u.h)

(1) End of prophethood by virtue of lineage

The Quran shows that in some instances Prophecy continued in the family. A prophet’s son was also a prophet and prophecy continued among male descendants. E.g. Ibraheem (p.b.u.h) was a Prophet, his sons Ismail (p.b.u.h), Ishaq (p.b.u.h) and Yaqoob (p.b.u.h) were also Prophets. Yusuf (p.b.u.h) was also a Prophet like his father Yaqub (p.b.u.h) and grandfather Ibraheem (p.b.u.h). Zakaria (p.b.u.h) was a Prophet and his son Yahya (p.b.u.h) was also a prophet of Allah. Thus we can see the trend in the Quran for prophet hood continuing among male descendants of a prophet. However after the advent of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) this was not to be the case. The phrase:

مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ

“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men..”

Makes it crystal clear that Muhammad (p.b.u.h) did not have any male offspring, thus continuation of the prophetic office by virtue of lineage has ended. No new prophet as a male descendant of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) can arise after him as he “is not the father of any one of your men..”.

Here it is also important to clarify an important point. Some cults in their Taweel (interpretation) of the verse 33:40 claim that since Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was not an “Abba” i.e. father or forefather therefore he did not exist historically as a person but keeps reincarnating in the person of various individuals such as their cult’s founder. This Taweel of theirs is flawed on many counts. Firstly the expression does not stop at “Muhammad is not an Abba” but continues to “of any of your men..”. Secondly the verse is not a negation of the historical existence of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) but simply a negation of his male lineage. It should be understood that if “A” is not the father or forefather of any man then this does not mean “A” did not exist as a physical human being at a certain point in time. All it means is that “A” does not have sons.

As Muhammad (p.b.u.h) is not the father of any man, therefore the verse makes it clear that the continuation of prophets from father to son has ended.

(2) End of Prophethood by virtue of limited period of commission of a Prophet

The Quran shows that previous prophets were sent for specific time periods, and to specific communities. After one prophet was gone another was sent after him. However in the case of Muhammad (p.b.u.h), he is not sent for a specific era or community only. His era is from the day of his advent to the end of times and he is the Messenger of God to all mankind till the day of judgement. This is apparent in the following expression:

وَلَٰكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ

“..and but he is the Messenger of God..”

This expression will be read in the present tense till the day of judgement, thus Muhammad (p.b.u.h) is the Messenger of God till end of times. Logically, if he “is” and not “was” the Messenger, then no other Messenger or Prophet replaces him or comes after him.

Thus no new prophet or Messenger will arise by virtue of end of period of a Prophet’s era. “..He is the Messenger of God..” shows Muhammad’s era is from the day of his advent till the end of times.

(3) End of Prophethood through the seal of prophets

وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ 

and the seal of the prophets..”

Through Muhammad (p.b.u.h) prophethood has been sealed forever as the seal cannot be broken. The phrase ” Seal of the Prophets ” makes it clear that no new Prophet will come after Muhammad (p.b.u.h). He is the seal of finality of Prophets. “Khaatam” is seal of closure and finality in Quran, and not a stamp of approval for any existing or future Prophet as is wrongly claimed by some cults. The Quran itself explains what is the meaning of “Khatam” or seal.

خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِمْ ۖ وَعَلَىٰ أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

God has set a seal (Arabic: Khatama) on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a covering, and there awaits them a mighty chastisement.” 2:7

..a seal on their hearts and on their hearing..” is not a stamp of approval or attestation, but a seal of closure, i.e. one which terminates or ends the (spiritual) function of one’s heart and hearing. Another verse makes the meaning clearer:

الْيَوْمَ نَخْتِمُ عَلَىٰ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَتُكَلِّمُنَا أَيْدِيهِمْ وَتَشْهَدُ أَرْجُلُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ

“That Day, We will seal (Arabic: NAKHTIMU) over their mouths, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify about what they used to earn.” 36:65

“.. We will seal over their mouths..” shows that when God will “seal” the mouths of disbelievers their hands will speak, thus the meaning of “Khatam” is made clearer. When the mouth has a seal then it is stopped from its function of speaking and the hands take over this function. Thus it is abundantly clear that when an object has a seal then the function of the seal is to end the object. “..We will seal over their mouths..” (2:7) and “God has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing..” (36:65) explain the function of “..seal of the prophets..” (33:40) to end, to stop, to terminate, to cease, the coming of further prophets. The text of the Qur’an in no way warrants “Khatam” to be “a stamp of approval” for any existing or future prophets.

Muhammad (p.b.u.h) is thus the seal of finality of all prophets who were before him and as the seal cannot be broken, no new Prophet is to arise after him.

End Notes

1. Translations are from “The Koran Interpreted: A Translation by A. J. Arberry, Oxford”

2. p.b.u.h is an abbreviation of “peace be upon him”, a mark of respect by Muslims for all Islamic prophets whenever their names are mentioned.

12 reasons why Mary was not a Hermaphrodite


The Qur’an leaves no stone unturned regarding the gender of Mary and makes it absolutely clear that she was not a hermaphrodite

Introduction

Jesus Christ is a Messenger of God whose personality is surrounded in controversy. Three world religions hold varying opinions about his person and his birth. On one extreme are some Jews who allege that Mary had produced a child outside of wedlock, while on another  are those among Christians who claim that since Jesus did not have a father, his father is God. The Qur’an sets the record straight regarding such claims, and while defending the chastity of Mary, it identifies that Jesus was created and not procreated by God. Hence the mainstream Islamic view based on the narratives of the Qur’an is that Jesus was born miraculously by the will and power of God and that he is neither the son of God, nor the son of man. Along with defending Mary from human and divine fatherhood for Jesus, the Qur’an also refutes those individuals who in recent times have forwarded some theories negating the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus. One popular view forwarded by such individuals is that Mary was a Hermaphrodite who gave birth to Jesus through some process of self impregnation. This wild and bizarre notion is contrary to the clear cut statements of the Qur’an, as is the view that Jesus had a biological father. Here we demonstrate the origin of this heretical belief and how it goes against some very plain facts of the Qur’an.

The hermaphrodite theory is an Ahmadiyya belief

Writing under the title “Immaculate Conception”, in the April 2004 issue of “Review of Religions”, an Ahmadiyya publication, the author, Moosa Qureshi LLB, while attributing the theory of Hermaphroditism to Maryam, states:

“Nevertheless, the Qur’an does intimate the explanation to the miracle of Jesus (as)’s conception in another enigmatic verse, hitherto perplexing to Muslim scholars: Remember when a woman of Imran said, ‘My Lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do Thou accept it of me. Verily, Thou alone art All-Hearing, All-Knowing’. But when she was delivered of it, she said, ‘My Lord, I am delivered of a female,’ – and Allah knew best what she delivered and the male was not like the female – ‘and I have named her Mary, and I commit her and her off-spring to Thy protection from Satan the rejected’. (Ch.3:Vs.36-37). Puzzlingly, Allah does not confirm that the woman of Imran did indeed give birth to a female when she was delivered of Mary(ra). How should we interpret the enigmatic words – and the male was not like the female?”

By alluding to a mere word or two from Quran 3:36-37, the author attempts to build a mountain out of a molehill by concluding that Mary gave birth to Jesus without a father because she was a Hermaphrodite:

“..more convincingly, the mechanism of true hermaphroditism may explain the virgin birth of Jesus(as). This is a congenital condition where external genitalia and internal sex organs have both male and female characteristics. Both ovarian and testicular reproductive tissue is found in a true hermaphrodite, a quality that is still poorly understood. In 1990, a true hermaphrodite rabbit was found to conceive when kept in isolation in laboratory conditions (7). The tenability of autoreproduction in human hermaphrodites has also been affirmed: ‘If it is indeed true that in some (human) hermaphrodites auto-reproduction could be possible with medical intervention, another question may be asked: “Is it possible that such auto-reproduction could, with the greatest rarity, occur without such an intervention?” Indications exist in the mythology of various cultures which mention hermaphroditic reproduction, and there are references to virgin birth in the historical documents of several different societies.’(8) The Qur’an may indeed refer to such a biological condition of a true hermaphrodite when we read, ‘Allah knew best of what she was delivered and the male was not like the female’ (Ch.3:V.37). It is characteristic of the propriety and tactful beauty of the Qur’anic diction, that Allah should thus describe the hypothesised hermaphrodite quality in Mary (ra)…”

Thus according to the aforementioned Ahmadi interpretation, the mechanism of true hermaphroditism explains the virgin birth of Jesus. The view that Allah does not confirm that the woman of Imran did indeed give birth to a female when she was delivered of Mary is also grossly in error, once we explore all the narratives in the Qur’an concerning the subject. When we study the Qur’an it is crystal clear that Mary was not a hermaphodite.

1) The Qur’an does not use any word meaning “Hermaphrodite” within its Arabic text

Very simply, Allah does not term Mary as a Hermaphrodite or a creature of that sort within the Arabic text of the Qur’an. This is a plain fact. In Arabic the word “Mukhanas” is usually used for Hermaphrodites, and it is a fact that this term or any term close to it does not occur anywhere in the Qur’an. Thus the statement “Mary is a Hermaphrodite” is not a Qur’anic statement.

2) Wherever Mary is addressed in the Qur’an, feminine pronouns are used for her and never masculine

It is a grossly misleading to suggest that Allah does not confirm the gender of Maryam. The clear cut evidence of the Qur’an is that she is not dual sex but of the female sex. Throughout the Qur’an, wherever Mary is addressed, feminine pronouns are used which identify her as a female through and through.

يَا مَرْيَمُ اقْنُتِي لِرَبِّكِ وَاسْجُدِي وَارْكَعِي مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ

O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer].” 3:43

According to Arabic grammar, in the above verse “oqnutee” (be devoutly obedient) is a 2nd person feminine singular imperative verb, “lirabbiki” (to your Lord) is 2nd person feminine singular possessive pronoun, “wasjudee” (and prostrate) and “warkaAAee” (and bow) are both 2nd person feminine singular imperative verbs with feminine subject pronouns. Thus it is clear that this language identifies Mary as a female. It is evident that wherever Mary is mentioned and addressed in the Qur’an, she is always identified grammatically as a female and never as “dual sex”, thus refuting the view that Allah does not confirm her gender. It should also be noted that in the Qur’an Mary has been called “Bint” (Daughter), “Ukht” (Sister) and “Umm” (Mother) leaving no room for doubt as to her gender.

3) Mary was chosen above “WOMEN” of all worlds, not hermaphrodites / dual sex persons of all worlds.

وَإِذْ قَالَتِ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَاكِ وَطَهَّرَكِ وَاصْطَفَاكِ عَلَىٰ نِسَاءِ الْعَالَمِينَ

And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.” 3:42

In the above verse we can clearly see the words “..purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.” which establish that Mary was of the female gender and not dual sex / hermaphrodite. She was chosen above “Nisaa al Alameen” (Women of all worlds) not above the world’s hermaphrodites!

4) Mary questions how can she have a son when no man has touched her. If she could self impregnate then she wouldn’t be asking this question.

قَالَتْ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِي بَشَرٌ ۖ قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ اللَّهُ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. 3:47

A hermaphrodite who is capable of self impregnation would never ask the question “..how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” because from someone who possess male and female reproductive organs and is capable of self impregnation such a question is invalid! Very clearly we see evidence in this verse of Mary being someone requiring a person other than herself for her conception, thus proving that she is not a hermaphrodite.

5) The word “Nabataa” (growth) for Mary does not imply plant like asexual features because in the Qur’an the same word is also used for regular humans.

Proponents of the hermaphrodite theory allude to the word “Nabataa” in 3:38 and draw parallels between Mary and asexual plant organisms who also “grow” to their state.

فَتَقَبَّلَهَا رَبُّهَا بِقَبُولٍ حَسَنٍ وَأَنبَتَهَا نَبَاتًا حَسَنًا وَكَفَّلَهَا زَكَرِيَّا ۖ كُلَّمَا دَخَلَ عَلَيْهَا زَكَرِيَّا الْمِحْرَابَ وَجَدَ عِندَهَا رِزْقًا ۖ قَالَ يَا مَرْيَمُ أَنَّىٰ لَكِ هَٰذَا ۖ قَالَتْ هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow [ARABIC: ANBATAA] in a good manner and put her in the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, “O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?” She said, “It is from Allah . Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account.” 3:37

This allusion is once again devoid of substance because the word “Nabataa” is not restricted for Maryam but also used for entire humanity:

وَاللَّهُ أَنبَتَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ نَبَاتًا

And Allah has caused you to grow [ARABIC: ANBATAKUM] from the earth a [progressive] growth [ARABIC NABATAA]. 71:17

In the above verse, the same word “Nabataa” is used for entire humanity. Does it mean entire human race consists of hermaphrodites?! This certainly is not the case. Mary is no asexual plant because of the word “Nabataa”, because the same word has been used in the Qur’an for all humanity as well.

6) If Mary was a Hermaphrodite, capable of self impregnation, then why would Allah send his angel as an external agent to grant her a child?

In Surat Aal-e-Imraan we can see that the angels gave the good news of the birth of a child, while in Surat Maryam, we see that an angel was sent in the form of a human messenger to grant her the child which she conceived:

قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَنَا رَسُولُ رَبِّكِ لِأَهَبَ لَكِ غُلَامًا زَكِيًّا

He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you a pure boy.” 19:19

If indeed Mary was a hermaphrodite, then she would have been capable of self impregnation and two events mentioned in the Qur’an would not be necessary requiring the information of conception of Jesus and the second being the gift of conception. These two events delivered through the agency of angels make it clear that Mary was not a hermaphrodite capable of internal self impregnation but a woman who was to conceive externally. She did conceive Jesus externally, and that was by the will of Allah and through the agency of angels.

7) Jesus addresses Mary as “Mother”, never as “Father”.

If indeed Mary was dual sex, possessing both ovarian and testicular reproductive organs, as is erroneously alleged, then such a feature would make her not only the mother, but also the father of Jesus – however we see in the Qur’an that Jesus addresses Mary only as his mother, and never as his father.

وَبَرًّا بِوَالِدَتِي وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْنِي جَبَّارًا شَقِيًّا

“(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;” 19:32

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَٰهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ

“And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” 5:116

Thus as Jesus addresses Mary as ‘Ummy’ i.e. “My mother”, and never as ‘Abi’ or “my father” and she is mentioned as his “Walida”, the biological mother who gave birth to him, and never as his “walid” or father, therefore the view that she was a dual sex, hermaphrodite possessing motherly and fatherly features is not consistent with the Qur’an.

8) Allah says “He creates what He wills”, shows Jesus was Allah’s creation by his will and command and born without masculine/male intervention

How will Jesus be born? The Qur’an does not say through a hermaphrodite birth but by the will of Allah:

قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ اللَّهُ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

..[The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” 3:47

The answer is very clear. It is Allah who will create Jesus as per His will. When Allah decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. This is how Jesus was conceived. Note how clear the verse is. Allah does not say that Mary will conceive Jesus as a hermaphrodite. No such suggestion is given. The simple and clear cut statement is that Jesus was conceived by the will and order of Allah. This Quranic statement should be the imaan of every Muslim.

9) The masculine pronoun “fihi” or in him’ in sura 66 refers to the unborn Jesus conceived by Mary. Quran explains itself that Jesus was assisted by Ruh al Qudus (the holy spirit).

وَمَرْيَمَ ابْنَتَ عِمْرَانَ الَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِنَا وَصَدَّقَتْ بِكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّهَا وَكُتُبِهِ وَكَانَتْ مِنَ الْقَانِتِينَ

And Maryam (Mary) daughter of Imran, who kept safe her private parts, (i.e., safeguarded) so We breathed in it of Our Spirit, and she sincerely (believed) in the Words of her Lord, and His Books; and she was one of the devout. 66:12 (Dr Ghali)

Like the above Egyptian translator Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali’s translation, many other translators render the masculine pronoun “fihi” literally “in him” to refer to the preceding word “FarjahAA” i.e “her private parts”, while Muhammad Asad, renders it as “We breathed of Our Spirit to that [which was in her womb]..” both these renderings, indicate that in this passage the masculine pronoun refers to the unborn child conceived by Mary.

And We have propounded yet another parable for God-consciousness] in the story of Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb], and who accepted the truth of her Sustainer’s words – and [thus] of His revelations – and was one of the truly devout.” 66:12, Muhammad Asad

Asad comments further on the expression whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb], “into the as yet unborn child (Razi, thus explaining the pronoun fihi)..”

Thus the spirit which was breathed into Mary in 21:91: “whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit..” was ultimately for her unborn male child, “..whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb]..” in 66:12.

Numerous other verses of the Qur’an also corroborate the understanding that when God breathed of His spirit into Mary, then it was also received by [the masculine] Jesus who was conceived within the [feminine] Mary:

وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ ۗ

“..We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit…” 2:87

ۚ وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ ۗ

“..to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit…” 2:253

ۚ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ

“..Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him..” 4:171

The above verses clarify that Jesus was strengthened by the holy spirit, and it proceeded from him, thus the expression “fanafakhna feehi min roohina” (so we breathed into him of our spirit) in 66:12 refers to the breathing of spirit into the male Jesus.

Moreover that “feehi” does not refer to Mary is also obvious by the fact that in the verse the words that refer to Mary are all feminine. E.g. “allatee” (she) “ahsanatfarjaha” (she guarded her private parts), “saddaqat” (she proved true), ”rabbiha” (her Lord), ”kanat” (she was). Throughout the Qur’an Mary is identified as a female.

10) Birth of Jesus is like birth of Adam who was not born of a hermaphrodite but by the will of Allah.

Just like Adam was created by order of Allah without a male father similarly, Jesus was created by Allah without a male father – clarifies that Mary is not a hermaphrodite.

إِنَّ مَثَلَ عِيسَىٰ عِندَ اللَّهِ كَمَثَلِ آدَمَ ۖ خَلَقَهُ مِن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

“The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”. And he was.” 3:59

Adam was created by the command “Be”. And he was.”, similarly about Jesus we read:

قَالَتْ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِي بَشَرٌ ۖ قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ اللَّهُ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is! 3:47

Thus both Adam and Jesus were both created by the will of Allah and His command “Kun Fayakun” i.e. “Be, and it is!”, and not through a hermaphrodite parent.

11) If Mary was not a hermaphrodite, then how was Jesus conceived? “..your Lord says, ‘it is easy for me…”

When the news of birth of Yahya (John) was given to Zakaria (Zecharias), he posed the question:

قَالَ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي غُلَامٌ وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا وَقَدْ بَلَغْتُ مِنَ الْكِبَرِ عِتِيًّا

He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when my wife has been barren and I have reached extreme old age?” 19:8

To which the reply was given:

قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ رَبُّكَ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ وَقَدْ خَلَقْتُكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَلَمْ تَكُ شَيْئًا

[An angel] said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, for I created you before, while you were nothing.’ 19:9

When Mary was informed of the birth of Jesus, she posed a question on similar lines and the same answer that was given to Zakaria was repeated to her:

قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ ۖ وَلِنَجْعَلَهُ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَرَحْمَةً مِّنَّا ۚ وَكَانَ أَمْرًا مَّقْضِيًّا

He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed. 19:21

How did Jesus come into the world? The Qur’an is crystal clear without citing any biological process involved: “..your Lord says, It is easy for Me.” This should be our Imaan. Allah is all powerful. He is capable of doing what He wills. It is easy for Allah to cause a birth without a father. We should have Imaan on this without speculating theories.

12) Wrong to conclude that Mary’s gender was not confirmed by Allah in 3:36, because the verse, when translated accurately confirms Mary as a female child

فَلَمَّا وَضَعَتْهَا قَالَتْ رَبِّ إِنِّي وَضَعْتُهَا أُنثَىٰ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا وَضَعَتْ وَلَيْسَ الذَّكَرُ كَالْأُنثَىٰ ۖ وَإِنِّي سَمَّيْتُهَا مَرْيَمَ وَإِنِّي أُعِيذُهَا بِكَ وَذُرِّيَّتَهَا مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ

But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah ].” 3:36 Saheeh International

Translations such as the one cited by the author of the article in “Review of Religions” along with Yusuf Ali, Pickthall and Shakir are inaccurate in their English rendering of the expression “Falamma wadaAAat-ha” in verse 3:36, and due to this inaccuracy, the wrong conclusion that Mary’s gender was not confirmed in the verse is reached. E.g.

“But when she was delivered of it, she said..” Cited by Moosa Qureshi

“And when she was delivered she said..” Pickthall

“When she was delivered, she said..” Yusuf Ali

“So when she brought forth, she said..” M. H. Shakir

We can note that it is not apparent in the above translations as to the gender of the child delivered by the wife of Imran. However once the expression “Falamma wadaAAat-ha” is translated correctly it is clear that the child she delivered was a female child, and this is being confirmed by Allah as the narrator of the expression is Allah in the Qur’an. It is in Saheeh International’s English translation by Umm Muhammad, Aminah Assami that the expression is accurately rendered:

“But when she delivered her, she said..” Saheeh International

Muhsin Khan also translated the pronoun “Haa” accurately as “her” in his translation:

“Then when she delivered her [child Maryam (Mary)], she said…”

Thus the assertion that in verse 3:36, Allah did not confirm the gender of Mary is wrong, as it is Allah Himself who has stated that the wife of Imran had given birth to a female child. It was against the wonderment of Mary’s mother for giving birth to a female and not a male child that Allah said: “And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered..”. In the preceding verse 3:35, we read that Mary’s mother had made a vow to dedicate her unborn child to Allah, expecting a male child, as tasks devoted to those in the cause of Allah such as leading prayers, or receiving prophecy and preaching were reserved for males and not females, she expressed how would her vow would be fulfilled now that the child she had given birth to was female and not male. It was at this that she was informed that Allah knew better what she had delivered indicating that even a female can be dedicated to Allah, and not necessarily a male. We read in later verses that her vow was accepted and Mary grew up to be a righteous woman and a mother of a Prophet, thus she was dedicated to Allah as a female in her own right. The narration also gives us a lesson that in the sight of Allah, gender does not matter. Whether male or female, Allah can select either for his work.

CONCLUSION

It can be concluded from the inflection of the Qur’an:

1. The Qur’an does not use any word which carries the meaning of “Hermaphrodite” for Mary. The statement “Mary is a hermaphprodite” is not to be found in the Qur’an in the original Arabic.

2. Wherever she is mentioned in the Qur’an, she is addressed in feminine gender and never as masculine or dual gender.

3. Feminine pronouns are used for her in accordance with Arabic grammar, thereby making it clear that she is a female.

4. The Qur’an narrates that she was chosen above the “women” of all nations, further confirming she was a woman and not a hermaphrodite.

5. Her question about how she can have a son when no man has touched her indicates she was a woman and not possessing male and female reproductive organs.

6. The word “Nabataa” (growth) in 3:37 does not imply asexual features for Mary because the same term is used for other people as well and because of the fact that Qur’an has overwhelming evidence about Mary’s womanhood.

7. Jesus always addresses her as his mother and never as his father, thereby confirming that she did not have a fatherly biological function.

8. Jesus was conceived by Mary by the will of Allah and through the external agency of Malaika and not through auto-reproduction.

9. It is false to suggest that in 3:36 Allah does not confirm the gender of Mary. In the beginning of the very verse, Allah identifies her feminine gender when He says “So when she delivered HER..”. The pronoun “Her” in this statement of Allah confirms that the child was a female.

Indeed, Allah has purified Mary, she has been purified of all sorts of false allegations that people have subjected her to, whether such allegations be of producing an illegitimate child, a child begotten of God, or the suggestion that she was a hermaphrodite Whenever Qur’anic evidence shall be brought to light about Mary, the fact that Allah has chosen and purified her above women of all the worlds will be manifest to all.

REFERENCES

1. The Review of Religions, April 2004, Vol. 99, Number 4, London, UK

2. Quranic Arabic Corpus – www.corpus.quran.com

3. English Translation of the Qur’an by Umm Muhammad Aminah Assami, Published by Saheeh International, Abul Qasim Publishing, Saudi Arabia

4. English Translation of the Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Shaikh Ashraf Publishers, Lahore, Pakistan

5. English Translation of the Qur’an by Mohammad Mahmoud Ghali, Cairo, Egypt

6. Muhammad Asad, Message of the Qur’an, Dar Al Andalus, Gibraltar

A brief guide to the Hajj


Mina

A Brief Guide to the Hajj

The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Makkah which is obligatory on every adult Muslim man or woman who has the health and the wealth to undertake the journey. The Qur’an and Islamic tradition mention the origin of Hajj with Prophet Abraham (PBUH) who was commanded by God to establish his progeny in Makkah and to announce the pilgrimage to mankind. In His footsteps, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also performed the Hajj, thus making it obligatory on every Muslim who has its capacity.

The Hajj is an obligatory act in Islam like other obligatory acts of prayer, fasting, and giving zakat – charity. The purpose of the pilgrimage is remembrance of Allah and to offer complete submission and devotion to Him. The pilgrim commemorates Tauheed – the oneness of God and denounces Shirk – polytheism and idolatry, and offers sacrifice by material, physical as well as spiritual means resulting in a stronger Imaan (belief) and a strong desire to live a virtuous life after the event. The Hajj is a life changing experience. Traditionally, Muslims are known to divide their lives in two parts – one lived prior to the Hajj and the one lived after performing it. The latter is one in which one feels more closer to God and in which he or she become more religiously observant.

Hujjaj

The one who performs the Hajj is called a Hajji (masculine) or Hajjah (feminine), plural form Hujaaj (pilgrims). As Islam is not a tribal religion but one which all humankind is invited towards, Hujaaj from all over the globe join in for the Hajj making it truly an international event incorporating the full diversity of people.

Makkah – the host city of the Hujaaj

Makkah is a sacred city for Muslims and the host to millions of pilgrims each year. It is here that all pilgrims congregate and from this city that they move to various venues to perform the rites of the pilgrimage.

Time Period for Hajj

The Hajj is performed every year in the month of Dhul-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The actual rituals of the Hajj are performed from the 8th day till the 12th day of the month.

Ihram – The dress code for Hajj

When one intends to perform the Hajj, they have to enter the city of Makkah in a state of Ihram and observe its rules. For men, the Ihram consists of two un sewn sheets of white, while a woman’s Ihram can be any dress that meets the requirements of Islamic modesty.

Whilst in a state of Ihram there are certain duties and obligations laid down on the pilgrim. They are not to fight, engage in sexual intercourse, apply perfume, cut their hair or nails. Hunting and fighting is also forbidden when one has adorned the Ihram.

Meeqat – Entry points into Makkah

The Ihram is worn in any of the Meeqats – which are designated points of entry into Makkah, or if travelling by Air, the pilgrims change in to Ihram prior to entering the Airspace of Makkah.

Masjid al-Haram

Upon arrival, the pilgrims first destination is Masjid Al Haram, the grand Mosque in Makkah which houses the Kabah, the House appointed as a focus point for believers in monotheism of God. At masjid al Haraam, pilgrims perform the tawaf of the Kabah – the cube shaped building which is the direction of prayers for Muslims. Tawaf is performed by circumbulating the Kabah seven times followed by Sayee or running seven times between the adjoining hills of Safa and Marwa.

Mina

On the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah, the pilgrims move to Mina, a city of camps outside Makkah. Here they are camped all night and perform the five daily prayers and make supplications to God while commemorating his messages.

Arafat

On the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah the crowds move to the plains of Arafat, 20 kilometres east of Makkah, where they stay till sunset, and engage in prayers, supplications and reflections, seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness. They perform the shortened and combined noon and afternoon prayers at Masjid Namirah.

Muzdalifa

After sunset at Arafat, the pilgrims next destination is the sand of Muzdalifa, an area between Arafat and Mina. At Muzdalifa, they spend the night under open skies, offer prayers near Mashar al Haram or the sacred monument and collect pebbles for the ritual stoning of Jamarat to be done the next day.

Jamarat

At dawn, the pilgrims leave Muzdalifa and move back towards Mina, from where they visit the jamaraat, which are stone altars symbolizing evil and polytheism. The pilgrims throw seven pebbles at these pillars as a symbolic act of denouncing evil and wrong doing from their lives.

Sacrifice and shaving the hair

On the same day the pilgrims sacrifice an animal and distribute the meat to the poor. After the sacrifice they shave their heads as a sign of a spiritual rebirth. After shaving the pilgrims will then revisit Masjid al Haram to perform the Tawaf of Kabah and Sayee at Safa and Marwa, after which they return to Mina. On the 11th and 12th they repeat the stoning ritual and after which they perform a final farewell Tawaf of the Kabah, marking their departure from Makkah. The Hajj rites are now complete.

After the Hajj – onwards to Madina and Ziyarat

Following the completion of the rites of Hajj, most pilgrims visit the city of Madina, where they perform prayers at Masjid an Nabawi and also visit various historical sites.

Return to their homelands

The pilgrims return to their homelands with a spiritual revival and a new life. Their lives will now be dedicated to God and are to be spent in accordance with His laws.

Makkah: The Microcosm of the World


MAKKAH: THE MICROCOSM OF THE WORLD

To the unknowing as well as the unconcerned, Makkah may be a city in the desert with some historical importance, but what does come to light once we actually visit the city, is the fact that it is the microcosm of the entire world. To the faithful, humankind’s centrepoint, appointed by God since time immemorial is none else but the city of Makkah. Such an honour mandates that no matter what one’s racial or ethnic background, the journey to Umm al-Quraaa or the ‘Mother of all cities’, as it has been called in the Qur’an – is a yearning of the heart. This longing is pandered to all year around through the Umrah or the lesser pilgramage, but its true fulfilment is found in the Hajj. Every year the city of Makkah is host to millions of people from all walks of life and all hues and colours during the Hajj, an international event of superb magnitude which is obligatory on all Muslims, male or female, who possess the means as well as the ability to perform the journey.

THE ROAD TO MAKKAH

The period of Hajj sees all roads leading to Makkah. Pilgrims make their way through land, sea and air using all available means of transportation. Special Hajj flights are organised for the event by major world Airlines and special Hajj liners sail from distant lands carrying pilgrims by the sea. Such is the ardent desire to be at the city that some even travel on foot. It is not at all uncommon to hear tales of perilous journeys culminating in Makkah by pedestrians from far away lands. This descent into Makkah from all parts of the world is not a new phenomenon, but one which was foretold by God to Prophet Abraham:

And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.” Qur’an 22:27

Makkah during the Hajj is a global village in its true sense. Pilgrims, whose numbers during the event surpass the population size of many countries, are drawn to the city from every continent on the planet.

HUMANITY AT ITS FULL SPLENDOR

Black or white, young or old, male or female, able bodied or disabled, rich or poor, thus humanity in its full splendour can be witnessed during the Hajj. Even the diversity around fashion which distinguishes one community from the other is quite apparent and was marvelled at by former MTV star presenter Kristiane Backer in her autobiography:

They came from all over the world and I never tired of the variety of faces, colours and outfits. There were women from Mali looking regal and elegant in gorgeous lilac orange, and green robes wearing matching turbans with a strip of fabric hanging down the side. Indonesian women all had white headscarves and white gloves and white headscarves that hung to their breast and were embroidered with lace. The persian women usually wore long black or blue robes with grey chadors that came down below their hips while Morroccans could be recognised by the hoods on their jalabias. Another group of women sported bright yellow veils with blue labels sewn onto them, which indicated that they came from Kerala in India. I also heard German, French, English and American voices.On my wanderings, I came across men from Tajikistan wearing black quilted satin and velvet coats and matching black gold-framed caps. There were other men with palestinian scarves wrapped around their heads, shiny silver black turbans, traditional Arab head dress or small white caps. Many Pakistanis had long henna-dyed beards.” (From MTV to Mecca, pp 314)

Makkah of today is a modern city with all amenities and comforts for travelers from all over the globe. But what remains unchanged is the sublime spirit of the Hajj, which no words can describe and which can only be felt by the heart of the pilgrim.

TRANSFORMATION TO PEACE

The diversity at Hajj is not a mere social phenomenon, but one of immense importance for the wider welfare of humankind. Pilgrims ranging from every possible ethnic background return to their homelands with an increased level of tolerance for their fellow-men who may be different from them. The interaction with people of different race and ethnicity leave no room at all for racism. The pilgrims are in a state of cooperation and display the best of their behavior during the days as they are commanded by Allah:

Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do – Allah knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And fear Me, O you of understanding.” Qur’an 2:197

Exposure to a diversity of groups makes the visitors to Makkah more tolerant, not only towards those who are present during the pilgrimage, but also those who are absent. American civil rights activist Malcolm X drastically altered his views on race after performing the Hajj. In a letter from the Hajj, he wrote:

”We were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white … what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held.’‘ (The Autobiography of Malcolm X)

While the world rages with ethnic and national conflicts, each year Makkah demonstrates to us that people can very well intermix despite differences on national, sectarian, and gender lines and peacefully coexist with each other. Words are not sufficient to describe the splendor offered by Makkah. To experience it you will have to visit the city and be there in person.

Wasted Salat


First published in DAWN, 06, June, 2014

NEGLECTED PRAYER

THE mosque is full, and not an inch of space is available to set one’s foot inside. The main hall, the courtyard, the lawns, even the entrance and the footpaths are all occupied, making it difficult to squeeze in. This is a common scene a little after noon every Friday.

To the observer it may seem that people are certainly not neglectful of their prayers, but in reality there is more to it than meets the eye. Stop anyone leaving the mosque and ask a few questions about what he just did, and all will be revealed.

Just inquire as to the message of the khutba (sermon) he heard delivered in Arabic, and you will receive an excuse. Ask what instructions were given in the melodic recitation of the Quran by the imam, and you will receive an apology.Probe further and you are likely to hear an honest confession of complete ignorance.

For many people prayer has become a mechanical routine of sorts — one which must be performed irrespective of whether one understands it. In the minds of many, the mere performance of the physical act results in some sort of an increase in spiritual score. But the language employed and the practical change are matters that remain largely unknown.

If our worship is devoid of any intellectual stimulation, why then do we expect a miracle of transformation? Knowledge of the Quranic message is of great importance. For many, religion is not an intellectual choice, but what has been inherited from parents and retained for social conformance.

To follow the crowd, than to be the odd man out, is therefore the tendency. The buck is also passed on to certain ‘experts’, thereby absolving oneself of individual responsibility to acquire knowledge. With the erroneous belief that religion is the purport of the religious and the world of the worldly, duality pervades the conscious through and through. Worship is restricted to the performance of religious rituals, while life is governed elsewhere by one’s own rules. Visits to the mosque thus become a religious duty, but places of work have nothing to do with revealed morality, it is thought.

Such a mindset, though prevalent within many today, is condemned by the Quran. It clearly stipulates that believers should not divide life into two separate religious and non-religious compartments but should “…Enter into Islam completely. …” (2:208). It clarifies that performing one’s prayers is an act of worship, but so is trade and commerce when conducted in line with God’s guidance (4:29). That salat is not the performance of a mindless ritual involving the utterance of mystical mantras but that an act of physical as well as psychological submission to God is manifest in the Quranic order to not approach prayers with a mind befogged (4:43).

Therefore it is vital that believers also make efforts to understand the meaning of Quranic instructions rehearsed during prayers for only then can such instructions be carried out in life. Merely being in the row of those who pray does not grant one any special privilege, for even the munafiqeen (hypocrites) may be standing in the same row (4:142), yet are promised the deepest depths of hell (4:145).

Genuine believers stand in prayer for the purpose of receiving Quranic guidance, and their full presence of mind is needed to understand and feel the instructions. They should be fully conscious of the divine directive to ‘give ear to the Quran and pay heed to obtain mercy’, so that their feelings are also touched by the messages they hear because they fully understand them, and “…whenever the Signs of (Allah) Most Gracious were recited to them, they would fall down in prostration [in] adoration and in tears” (19:58).

On the other hand, during prayer, those who do not take revealed religion seriously are distracted in mind even in the midst of it. The Quran makes it abundantly clear to us that the comprehension of salat is what matters, along with the change it is supposed to bring about in our inner self.

Real neglect of prayers is not restricted to missing their physical performance, but also to remaining ignorant of their meaning and thus to be devoid of the character change. This problem can only be resolved if Muslims make an effort to study the Quran as it ought to be studied, with a view to seek its guidance. For it is the Quran which is recited in the prayer. Sadly, many of us remain ceremoniously associated with the Holy Book to convey blessings to the deceased rather than receive practical instructions for the living, ignoring that it is meant “to warn whoever is alive. …” (36:70).

Zamzam and Jesus


Is the well of Zamzam springing water due to the birth of Jesus? Qur’an Sura 19 mentions a rivulet appearing underneath Mary and the mention of dates. Is this rivulet the water of Zamzam and the dates that Mary ate the dates meant for the pilgrims of Makkah?

The Well of Zamzam is a well located within the precincts of Masjid al-haram in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba, the first house appointed for servitude to Allah and the holiest place in Islam. Masjid al-Haram is situated in wadi Ibraheem, which is a place about which we are informed in most clear terms in the Qur’an that no vegetation can grow within its precincts:

14_37

 “O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits: so that they may give thanks.” 14:37

Zamzam well is located in what the Qur’an describes as “a valley without cultivation,“, while the place where Jesus was born was not without cultivation but having vegetation in the form of date-palms:

19_23

And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried (in her anguish): “Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!” 19:23

The words “And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree..” clearly show that Mary was not in “a valley without cultivation”,  which is where the well of Zamzam is located, but in cultivated land:

19_24

But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): “Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; 19:24

This rivulet CANNOT BE the Zamzam water because that well is within the precincts of Masjid Al Haraam which is in a valley without cultivation. We further read in verse 25:

19_25

“And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee.” 19:25

The words ““And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree:..” show that Mary is in a place where there is cultivation and was in proximity to a tree and certainly not in a “valley without cultivation”.

Here some will say that in 14:37 Prophet Ibraheem (PBUH) prayed for “fruits” for his progeny, hence these could be the dates. This view is again contradictory to Qur’an. We have seen that 14:37 identifies Masjid al-Haram’s location in barren land. The fruits that are brought within its vicinity are not grown on location but are imported from elsewhere. This fact is attested by the Qur’an itself:

28_57

“And they say, “If we were to follow the guidance with you, we would be swept from our land.” Have we not established for them a safe sanctuary (Haram Aminan) to which are brought the fruits of all things as provision from Us? But most of them do not know.” 28:57 Saheeh International

“..to which are brought the fruits of all things..” clarifies how the prayer of Ibraheem “..and feed them with fruits:..” was answered. The fruits of Makkah are brought there by trade and not grown in the vicinity of Masjid al-Haram.

The view the rivulet mentioned for Mary is the same as the Zamzam water is clearly against the Qur’an and that the dates mentioned in Sura 19 are dates from Makkah that pilgrims consume. The view is also against common logic, because Zamzam is an underground well, while the source of water mentioned with Mary is not a well but a rivulet.

Sex Slaves


THE ATTACK ON MUSLIMS, YOUR RELIGION ENJOINS SEXUAL SLAVERY

It is the claim of critics that Islam allows sexual relations with slave girls. To lend credence to this claim they allude to certain translations of Qur’anic verses, such as: “… those more favoured are not going to throw back their gifts to those whom their right hands possess…” (16:71 Yusuf Ali) and “Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess..” (4:24 Yusuf Ali) and by pointing to the mention of “those whom your right hands possess” suggest that the expression refers to slaves, thereby sex with slave girls is allowed. But does the original Arabic expression Malakat Aymanikum, commonly rendered in most English translations of the Qur’an as those whom your rights hands possess, really refer to slave girls? This is what needs to be seen. And for this we need to study and explore the Qur’an in detail before conceding to the argument.

WHAT IS THE ARABIC WORD FOR SLAVE?

The Arabic term for slave is Abd for the masculine gender and Ammah for the feminine, and whenever the Qur’an speaks of slaves, it is these terms which are mentioned:

“And if ye are in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto OUR SLAVE (Arabic: AABDINAA)..” 2:23 Pickthal

And when MY SLAVES (ARABIC: IBAADI) ask you (O Muhammad SAW) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near..” 2:186 Muhsin Khan

We clearly see in the verses cited above that Abd occurs for “slave” in its various derivative forms and with suffixes and pronouns. 2:221 demonstrates the feminine form Ammah along with the masculine, confirming the usage even further:

“And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing SLAVE WOMAN (ARABIC: AMMAH) is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing SLAVE (ARABIC: ABD) is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you…” 2:221 Saheeh International

Abd and Ammah are the terms for slaves in the Qur’an, on the other hand Qur’anic inflection reveals that the compound Arabic expression Aymanikum which is usually rendered as ‘those whom your right hands posses’, is not for slaves under the possession of the right hand of the slave owner, but refers to the oaths and covenants that people have pledged to undertake. Malakat Aymanikum categorizes those women (and men) who are under the custody and protection of believers by way of a written pledge or agreement. This is absolutely clear in Qur’anic inflection. One need not be an expert in Arabic, but a mere word search can reveal this clear phenomenon:

“Allah does not call you to account for what is vain in YOUR OATHS (ARABIC: AYMANI-KUM), but He calls you to account for the making of deliberate oaths (ARABIC: AYMAN)…..” 5.89 Shakir

“…..and as to THOSE WITH WHOM YOUR RIGHTS HANDS (ARABIC: AYMAN) HAVE RATIFIED AGREEMENTS, give them their portion; surely Allah is a witness over all things. 4.33 Shakir

It should be noted that in above the same term Ayman which is usually cited to insinuate slavery has been used. Can we say that the term means slaves by exploring its inflection in other Qur’anic passages and checking its meaning in Arabic lexicons? Certainly not. Linguistically Ayman is the plural form of Yameen (lit. “right” – directional as well as conceptual). An oath and covenant is also called Yameen as it involves swearing by the (symbolic) ‘right hand’, and it is in this shade of meaning that the word and its plural form occur in the Qur’an. (See Lanes Arabic English Lexicon, pp 3064. Also Qur’an 5.89, 5.108, 16.91, 9.12.)

As the verses cited by critics refer to Malakat Aymanikum (lit. those under rightful authority [of believers] i.e. those under the protection of oath of believers), and not about Ibaad or Aammaat i.e. male or female slaves, the suggestion that these passages ratify slavery and concubinage is invalid.

MARRIAGE WITH MALAKAT AYMANIKUM

With Malakat Aymanikum category of women Nikah [lit., “marriage”], is mandated in the Qur’an and not sex outside of it! we can read this very clearly:

“If any of you have not the means wherewith to wed Al Muhsanaat [lit,. “fortified women”], they may wed believing girls from among those whom your right hands possess: And Allah hath full knowledge about your faith. Ye are one from another: Wed them with the leave of their Ahl [lit., “family”], and give them their dowers, according to what is reasonable: They should be chaste, not lustful, nor taking paramours: when they are taken in wedlock, if they fall into shame, their punishment is half that for Muhsanaat. This (permission) is for those among you who fear sin; but it is better for you that ye practise self-restraint. And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” 4:25

The command fankihoohunna-bi-ithni ahlihinna [lit., “so marry them with the permission of their family”] shows that Nikah is commanded with Malakat Aymanikum, and not concubinage, as it is wrongly suggested by many. Also we see that the term Muhsanaat (lit., “fortified women”) in above verse which is often wrongly translated as “free believing women” which again is suggestive of slavery, is in fact from the Arabic word Hisn or “a fort”, a term that signifies fortification in the physical as well as in the sense of being protected and honoured. Fortified women, would thus be, those who are having a good and protective upbringing in a morally strong household than an upbringing in a sinful environment. Malakat Aymanikum on the other hand include women who were formerly nonbelievers, but have abandoned their sinful past and converted to Islam, by virtue, their non Muslim husbands are no longer lawful for them. When such female converts migrate to the community of believers living in their custody and protection, then Muslim men can marry such emigrant women once the women have dissolved their marriages with their former husbands:

“O you who have believed, when the believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them. Allah is most knowing as to their faith. And if you know them to be believers, then do not return them to the disbelievers; they are not lawful [wives] for them, nor are they lawful [husbands] for them. But give the disbelievers what they have spent. And there is no blame upon you if you marry them when you have given them their due compensation. And hold not to marriage bonds with disbelieving women, but ask for what you have spent and let them ask for what they have spent. That is the judgement of Allah ; He judges between you. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” Sahih International 60:10

Thus the command “..And there is no blame upon you if you marry them when you have given them their due compensation…” shows that a believer may marry such a woman, who was formerly a nonbeliever but has now converted to Islam and migrated to the Muslim community. If she leaves her husband and comes in the custody of community of believers she falls in the category of those under the rightful authority of believers. Believers can, if they wish marry such emigrants who were previously married provided they pay their former husbands some amount for the dissolution of their marriage. References in Sura Nisa about “those under your right hands possession” as per contemporary interpretation, are not for slave-girls, but for Muslim converts who have migrated in Imaan (belief) and to the custody and protection of believers and have left their unbelieving husbands.

THE QUR’AN ALLOWS ONLY NIKAH FOR SEXUAL RELATIONS, THUS CONCUBINAGE IS RULED OUT

Here we stress that only Nikah is the permissible manner of sexual gratification in the Qur’an. Apart from Nikah, no other method is endorsed nor prescribed. Zinaa (fornication and adultery) is a very serious matter in the Qur’an whose repeated offender is destined for hell-fire according to 25:68-71:

“And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit Zinaa [unlawful sexual intercourse]. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty.” 25:68

“Multiplied for him is the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein humiliated” 25:69

“Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” 25:70

It is clear from the Qur’an that having sex with anyone outside of marriage is tantamount to Zinaa and is a flagrant violation of Qur’anic law which qualifies one to sure shot punishment on the day of judgement, unless one repents of it in his or her lifetime and amends behavior  Sexual slavery and concubinage in which sexual relations are outside of the bond of marriage, is thus prohibited for believers.

Islamic Marketing


THE BURDEN OF BUSINESS

Business has left a heavy burden on society. Nowhere is this true but in the times we live in. Business was meant to create wealth, trade in goods and services, provide employment and contribute to the betterment of society, but is this truly so? Just look around yourself and ask this question. Businesses, whether small or large engage in activities that harm people as well as the planet. There is a stark difference in what they claim to be and what they really are. What you read or see about business in advertisements, or PR releases and what they actually do behind the scenes is not the same. As outside observers, academics and students merely skim the surface of the business world, but if you are practically in business, it is then that the harsh reality of the business world will be dawned on you. Step into the business world practically, and it is then you will see what it is all about. Don’t just see the glossy advertisements!

WHEN MARKETING IS ALL ABOUT PROFIT?

Marketing is basic to business. It is not the domain of Marketing departments, but in fact is what business is there to do. From knowing customer needs, to making goods and services to fulfilling demand. From financing and pricing to distribution and delivery. From employing people, to running the shops where customers interact. Managing the supply chain from A to Z. Each and everything that a business does falls within the domain of marketing. It does all this to pursue its main goal of profit. This is the crux of the matter and the line of thinking among most business owners out there. They do whatever they do in order to make profit. And this mind set is also officially documented. According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Marketing is defined as “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. It follows from this definition that satisfying customers needs for profit is central to marketing and thus will be the entire focus of a business.

To pursue profit, businesses will often resort to all possible means. Tax evasion, forming cartels, environmental pollution, even racism and slavery. The list is endless. Some are even formed for the very purposes of colonizing other countries, and engage in warfare. In fact there are businesses, very large in size, that would go bust if there were peace on earth! Imagine what they wouldn’t do to ensure that the fire of conflict is always kept kindled!

But times, they are changing. Today’s customers are now a complex phenomenon. Customer needs come in a wide variety of choices and are as diverse as customers themselves. What type of customer requirements should a business fulfill is determined by a business often in conjunction with the legal or ethical framework governing it. With new technologies like social media and Internet, business conduct is within the knowledge of consumers within seconds, and news of misdeeds can spread all over the globe like wildfire. Now businesses also need to convince customers that they are ethical entities. Their offerings are healthy, beneficial and non exploitative. There is a movement for fair trade and green business in the world. This is good news, specially for Muslim owned businesses, because the values that such customers require are pre-existing in the Islamic revelation.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONVENTIONAL AND ISLAMIC MARKETING

While customer needs are the centre-point of conventional marketing, it is argued that in Islamic marketing it is not the customer, but the Creator whose good pleasure is sought by the marketer first and foremost. Thus profit maximization is not the ultimate goal of trade in Islam (Al Serhan, 2011). Islamic marketers are those marketers that apply the principles of Islam to the marketing function rather than pursue profit maximization by any means possible.

Islam is called Ad-Deen in the Qur’an (3:19), a term which is loosely translated as religion or faith. However these English counterparts do not convey the full essence of the word. Deen encompasses every sphere of human activity, whereas some may argue that religion is concerned mostly with matters like dogma, creed, ceremony, worship and festivals and may think that going to one’s place of work is a non-religious act and going to a place of worship for an observance, a religious one, in Islam there is no distinction between the two. When a believer conducts his business or profession under the guidelines revealed by God, then his economic affairs are an act of Ibadah (Servitude, worship). Deen Al Islam is concerned with not only the spiritual life and salvation of its adherents but also their worldly and economic affairs. It has a finely tuned set of rules governing all aspects of life (Al Serhan 2011) How a believer buys and sells goods and services is also within the domain of Deen Al Islam. How wealth is managed, and acquired and shared with others, the Qur’an is not silent about such matters, but discusses them at great length. Thus all actions undertaken by Muslims are acts of worship (AlSerhan, 2011).

MANAGING THE MARKETING PROCESS IN THE LIGHT OF ISLAMIC VALUES

If marketing involves the management of 7 Ps, namely product, price, promotion, place, people, processes and physical evidence. (Wilson & Gilligan, 2005) and Islam applies to all spheres of human life, including economics, then it should be made clear what type of products are within the remit of Islamic marketing? How are they to be priced? What type of promotion is to be pursued? How are goods and services to be distributed? Are there any rules governing the role of people involved in the marketing function by what processes and in the acceptable physical environments? Let us explore some orders revealed in the Quran and then see their application on the marketing process:

INNOVATE

The Quran orders believers to study the workings of the physical word around them. Not only the physical world, but also the cosmos, as all have been created for a purpose. Forces of nature are to be harnessed and for this their constant study is required.

“And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: Behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect.” 45:13

Thus the believers are described as those who do not sit idle but:

“.. reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth..” 3:191

This shows that believers are supposed to be scientists and innovators. They are not to be content on the status quo of knowledge, but strive to make new discoveries and inventions which have benefit and utility for mankind.

TRADE BY MUTUAL CONSENT

O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly except it be a trade amongst you, by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you. 4:29

Trade should be by mutual consent. Situations where the consent of either party is not gained or is manipulated by some manner would not constitute a permissible transaction. Consumption of property without other people’s consent is prohibited. This is a widely encompassing rule and covers a lot of areas like theft, fraud, deception, robbery etc.

FULFILL CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS

“And fulfill [every] covenant. Indeed, the covenant is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.” 17:34

It is absolutely vital that contractual obligations made by a Muslim business are met, whether such contracts are made with customers or suppliers. As the verse points out, meeting one’s contracts is a matter inquired about in the here after.

DEAL JUSTLY

“Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Excellent is that which Allah instructs you. Indeed, Allah is ever Hearing and Seeing.” 4:58

Justice and fairness has to be in each and every sphere of business activity. A Muslim business has to deal justly with suppliers, with employees, with customers and with shareholders as well as the public at large.

SUPPLY HALAL AND TAYYAB

A business operated on Islamic principles supplies what is Halaal (lawful) to consume and not Haraam (Unlawful). Obviously an Islamic business cannot run a pub or a casino, as such is prohibited in God’s revelation. The utility and benefit of products and services that are supplied also needs to be considered. Products have to be Tayyab. This is an important point to understand. The Qur’an requires of believers to consume that which is not only Halal but also Tayyab. The Arabic word Tayyab is contrasted in the Qur’an with Khabees:

“As for the good (TAYYAB) land, its vegetation cometh forth by permission of its Lord; while as for that which is bad (KHABEES), only the useless cometh forth (from it). Thus do We recount the Signs for people who give thanks.” 7:58

Thus in above, Tayyab is something productive and beneficial, while Khabees is what is useless. This explains that Muslims should market those products and services that fall in the category of being Tayyab and have utility and benefit for the consumer, without being futile or harmful.

We must note that in certain religious circles a lot of emphasis is laid on a product being Halal, but not on whether it is Tayyab. But to be kept in mind that Quranic order is for consuming Tayyab, and not just Halal. We may ask, is meat of inferior quality, though prepared through Halal slaughter method qualifies itself as being Tayyab?

DO NOT REDUCE WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

A business should provide its customers what it has paid for and not deprive them in any manner:

“And O my people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” 11:85

“Give just measure, and cause no loss (to others by fraud). 26:181

Thus honest and transparent transactions should be the hallmark of Islamic marketers

DO NOT COMMIT FRAUD

“Woe unto the defrauders: Those who when they take the measure from mankind demand it full, But if they measure unto them or weight for them, they cause them loss.” 83:1-3

In an Islamic business, fraud should not exist in any stage in the business processes. Whether dealing with suppliers, internal customers (employees), external customers, shareholders or the public.

DO NOT BRIBE

“And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].” 2:188

An Islamic marketer will not engage in bribery.

DO NOT STEAL

“..that they will not steal..” 60:12

Theft is a broad term. It involves taking away what belongs to others without their knowledge. All forms of theft are thus prohibited.

DO NOT WASTE

“..But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.” 6:141

Waste is not just of inventory. Waste of space and time along with materials is also what clogs up supply chains, reduces profit margins and causes inconvenience to stakeholders. Quranic rules require that waste be eliminated from business operations.

DELIVER WHAT YOU CLAIM

“O you who believe! why do you say that which you do not do?” 61:2

A business making tall claims but not delivering on them can never be called an Islamic business, as believers only promise what they can deliver and never more.

HIRE STAFF THAT IS CAPABLE, TRUSTWORTHY AND DIVERSE

Indeed, the best one you can hire is the strong and the trustworthy.” 28:26

The word “Qavi” and “Ameen” occur in the above verse. “Ameen” is trustworthy, while “Qavi” is having strength and capability. It is not enough to hire staff that is honest, it should also be capable of doing the job. Diversity is a key theme in the Quran, which does not favour any racial or ethnic group but considers all mankind as a single community.

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” 30:22

Thus a Islamic business should also employ a diverse workforce. The above principles are applicable on business processes as follows:

1. PRODUCT

A product is anything that can be offered to customers to satisfy a want or need. Hence products are what customers receive in return for a payment. Applying Islamic principles on products, we realise that they need to be innovative, Halaal (permissible), and Tayyab (beneficial, healthy, useful). As waste and environmental harm is prohibited. They should be beneficial and useful for for all mankind and not cater to the needs or lavishness of a few only. It is vital that products are genuine and original and not fake.

Scientific innovation has to be at the heart of any Islamic business organisation. scientific research and innovation used to be a regular feature in the Islamic world, and we have record of quite a few inventions attributed to Muslims. This also shows that Islamic marketing is not about Muslims consuming what others have produced, but for them to be at the forefront of latest innovative production methods.

2. PRICE

Price is the amount that a customer has to pay in order to receive a product or service. A central theme in the Quran is that the resources of the world are meant for all mankind. No group is to be deprived of the earth’s resources as God has created it for all.

O mankind! worship your Lord, Who hath created you and those before you, so that ye may ward off (evil).” 2:21

“Who hath appointed the earth a resting-place for you, and the sky a canopy; and causeth water to pour down from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you. And do not set up rivals to Allah when ye know (better).” 2:22

In the above we see earth’s “fruits as food for you.” are for all mankind, thus any arrangement which deprives any member of the human race from the earth’s resources is against the spirit of the Qur’an. This leads us to the principle that when pricing products, it should be ensured that products are within the reach of all consumers and not so high so as to exclude any category. The producer is allowed to demand the compensation of his labour only, and nothing in excess:

And that man hath only that for which he maketh effort.” 53:39

Thus Quranic principles impacting on the pricing of goods and services require pricing in a fair and just manner, and allow for remuneration of labour put in by business owners and employees.

3. PLACE

Distribution involves making a product available in the right place, at the right time and in the right quantity, while keeping storage, inventory and distribution costs to an acceptable level.

Islamic principles require that distribution should not be wasteful, not cause environmental pollution. Illegal and unethical distribution activities like hoarding, smuggling, fraudulent pricing practices like under invoicing, and other corrupt means of business such as bribery are all prohibited for a business working on Islamic principles. Strict adherence to contractual obligations with one’s dealers and agents is mandatory according to Qur’anic law.

4. PROMOTION

Promotion is the manner in which a business conveys to customers what it does and what it offers. There are numerous Islamic principles that apply on promotion, and their application makes it mandatory for a business to be honest and upfront when advertising itself. Fraudulent advertising or promotion with deceptive claims are thus prohibited. Advertising should not be excessive, and should not be unsolicited or invade on people’s privacy. There should be no sexism and stereotyping.

5. PEOPLE

A business governed by Islamic principles employs a workforce that is knowledgeable, capable, trustworthy and diverse. The workers are never to be oppressed but always granted their due rights, as Zulm (oppression) is never allowed by God. Welfare of employees is thus a key component of Islamic marketing.

6. PHYSICAL EVIDENCE

There are also certain ethos that need to be considered when designing the premises of your business or wherever customers come into contact with your product and service. Husn (beauty) and Zeenah (adornment) being emphasized in the Qur’an require that the premises be aesthetic along with being functional.

“Say: Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing? Say: Such, on the Day of Resurrection, will be only for those who believed during the life of the world. Thus do we detail Our revelations for people who have knowledge.” 7:32

There should be no wastefulness or excess. Accessibility is vital, as Quran teaches that all mankind should benefit from earth’s produce, therefore disabled, elderly and other customers who face any form of mobility issues should not be barred but be able to easily access a business premises governed by Islamic principles. The doors of the business should be open to all, and all segments should be welcomed.

7. PROCESS MANAGEMENT

A business run on Islamic principles does not rely on slave labour in any part of its supply chain. It has to ensure that supply chain management from outsourced factories does not rely on labour acquired from victims of human trafficking and slavery, for slavery has been forbidden by the Qur’an in clear terms:

It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given the Scripture and wisdom and the prophet hood that he should afterwards have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah.” 3:79

All procurement should be inclusive and transparent. Smaller traders should be given a chance to supply into the supply chain and larger businesses should not be allowed to have a monopoly. Working conditions in outsourced factories should be humane, and not pressurized to cut corners in order to meet orders of larger customers. Given the Qur’an command “and do not waste”, it is vital that waste, whether it is of material, of time or of space should be eliminated from the operations of the business. A business truly run on Islamic principles will have a smooth work flow, without bottlenecks. Customers should not be made to suffer or be left stranded but serviced quickly.

CONCLUSION – LAW, ETHICS AND REVELATION

When it comes to business transactions, there are two categories. Transactions that are legal, and one’s that are not. Some are legal, but not ethical, such that although there is no law barring such a business, people do not consider it to be the right thing to do. Ethics and legislation both have one thing in common. Both are man-made. Laws are what parliament or government decides upon, while ethics is what society considers as acceptable. To be noted that ethical norms and legislation are not permanent. A law of today can be repealed by a legislative body of tomorrow. Similarly, what is ethical in one society is not necessarily in the other.

Many equate the word ethics with religion, however the etymology of the word gives a different picture (Albuquerque, 2010). Moreover, ethics also vary with time. In the past it was considered unethical for women to go out to work, but not today. So we see that both, ethics and legal rules vary according to time and space. Both are a product of the human mind, and do not claim perfection.

This is where Islamic marketing comes in uniquely. Muslims believe that the rules to govern business in Islam are not the product of human minds, but are revealed by God. As such they are not restricted to time or space. Believers of one generation are to follow the same God given rules as believers of a previous era. These rules are applicable in any society and within any given time or era. Since God is the one who has given these rules, they are permanent and immutable as the definitive guide to human behaviour.

Muslim Response To The Blasphemous Film


A film depicting the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) in an offensive manner and which has been described as “a bigoted piece of poison calculated to inflame the Muslim world” has been circulated and its worldwide response has been in the form of protests and contempt across Muslim societies. Some of these protests have turned violent and outsiders to the faith are asking questions as to why a mere film can cause violence and resentment?

An assumption underlying this appraisal is that whilst responding violently, those who label themselves as Muslims are acting on the tenets of their faith. That what you see on the TV screens and read about in the newspapers is a practice of the Qur’an to the last letter. Many are deliberately led to believe as if whatever the world’s Muslims do and believe in, is a result of the religious guidance found in their Book and the authentic teaching of their faith.

This actually, is not the case.

Behaviour that you witness as “Islamic” behaviour is not necessarily Quranic behaviour. Upon studying the Qur’an you will realise that the fringe in the Muslim world that partakes in violent protests is neither representative of Qur’anic teachings nor of the vast number of peaceful believers.

In fact it is not religion that motivates such violence but politics. Almost all violent protests will see the involvement, not of ordinary Muslims who go about their normal daily routines, but by hardcore activists of religio-political groups, in whom along with a faithful zeal is also cultivated a deep rooted resentment of all things American. It is not the love of the Prophet, but a hatred of the United States that is instrumental in rousing such sentiments, for Prophetic teachings never command believers to act in a violent and disorderly manner.

It should also be borne in mind that elections are close by in many Muslim societies and political groups see situation created by the release of the film as an opportunity to test their street power. What better opportunity do they have by which under the cover of religion they can appear heroic? How else can they gain anti-American credentials that are so much needed to safeguard their vote bank?

Thus it is not religion, and to be specific religious teaching in the Qur’an, that is motivating people to act violent and disorderly, but it is largely politics and social deprivation that is orchestrating the violence. To be taken into account is the fact that due to corrupt and inept governments in Muslim societies there already exists much frustration and anger among the masses. When unemployment is high, there is deprivation, inflation is sky rocketing and you have a large and angry young population, then it is no rocket science to fathom that a protest of this category is bound to snowball into violence. People are frustrated and need an outlet, and politics has provided them a target and a means to vent that anger. The fuel is already there and all it needs is a match!

Here it is also important to bring on record what exactly is the Islamic ruling on such a matter as that which has come about as a result of the inflammatory film?

The Qur’an is not silent about situations when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was insulted and abused by rejecters of his message. It very well does show his behaviour, as to what his response was in such instances. It also gives clear and unambiguous instructions to Muslims as to what their conduct should be when people mock, ridicule or scoff their faith.

(1) God is sufficient against those who mock the Prophet

إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ

“For sufficient are We unto thee against those who scoff.” 15:95

It follows from this verse that if God is indeed sufficient against the scoffers, then there is no room left for believers to respond.

(2) The Prophet never commanded anyone to respond violently in face of insults

The Prophet was commanded by Allah:

وَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَدَعْ أَذَاهُمْ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا

“And obey not [the behests] of the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and heed not their annoyances, but put thy Trust in Allah. For enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. ” 33:48

As Allah commanded the Prophet “and heed not their annoyances..” therefore the Prophet and his true followers did not pay any heed to insults and abuses they received from the rejecters.

(3) True believers in Allah bear the hurts of rejecters with patience, not violence

A statement that believers in Allah gave to rejecters is recorded in the Qur’an as:

وَمَا لَنَا أَلَّا نَتَوَكَّلَ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَقَدْ هَدَانَا سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَلَنَصْبِرَنَّ عَلَىٰ مَا آذَيْتُمُونَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ

“No reason have we why we should not put our trust on Allah. Indeed He Has guided us to the Ways we [follow]. We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust on Allah.” 14:12

The words “..We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us…” make it absolutely clear that true believers do not respond violently to the hurtful things they hear from rejecters but tolerate them with patience.

(4) Believers commanded to be patient in the face of insults

لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا أَذًى كَثِيرًا ۚ وَإِن تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

“Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will hurt you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. ” 3:186

The divine command given to believers as to what to do in the face of abuse as “..if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil…” leaves no room for doubt that true believers do not respond violently when faced with insults and abuse but remain calm and patient.

(5) Believers are forbidden to insult other religions, hence responding violently is ruled out.

وَلَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّوا اللَّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully
revile Allah through ignorance. Thus unto every nation have We made their deed seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return, and He will tell them what they used to do.” 6:108

If believers are commanded by Allah not to even verbally insult deities, then how can they turn physically violent?

A question that immediately comes to the mind is that if indeed the Qur’an calls for calm and restraint in the face of insults and abuse, then why do so many people who identify themselves as staunch believers in Islam behave otherwise? Why do people resort to violence, damage property and attempt to riot? The answer to this is also given in the Qur’an. The reality is that the Qur’an categorises two types of believers. Those who are believers in deed, and those who are believers only by name. It is the latter who resort to violence and destruction in the name of religious reform:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

“Of the people there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day;” but they do not [really] believe. ” 2:8

Whilst refuting the claim of such, the Qur’an also exposes them by virtue of their conduct and behaviour in the world:

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

“When it is said to them: “Make not Fasaad (disorder) on the earth,” they say: “Why, we only Want to reform!” 2:11

Pinpointing the people who go about flaunting their Imaan (belief) to be in fact fake, the above verses also identify their modus operandi to do Fasad (disorder),  assuming it to be a means to Islah (reform from sin). When we come across individuals who make it their mission to “destroy evil and vice”, we see the truthfulness of the above description. These are the type of people who bomb establishments that appear sinful to them and display violent rage in the name of religion. They style themselves as believers, do Fasaad fil Ard (disorder and mischief in the land), without realising that far from acting on Allah’s laws, they are in fact grossly violating them.

Hence there are two types of people in the world who would claim to be within the fold of Imaan. Those whose characters are trained on Quranic guidance, who in the face of insults, invectives and abuse act patiently and do not resort to a tit-for-tat or violent response.

While others are those who, while claiming to be believers, actually defy the divine injunctions. These are the people who resort to violence and destruction and justify their conduct in the name of religion.

The fundamental mistake we would make is to accept people by the labels they carry or the claims they make, instead of identifying them by the behaviours they display. Behaviours that go against the teachings of the Qur’an are never a part of Islam and their actors are never its true representatives.

Indeed the film is contemptuous, and vulgar but we must not forget that the best defence to any attempted character assassination of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one contained in the Qur’an. Instead of losing control, we must hold fast to Qur’anic guidance in such matters. The Qur’an is Allah’s word and is not silent. Allah is fully aware of what situations come in the life of a believer and He has given remedies in His word. The only response that a true Muslim is to give is the one which the Prophet gave and which is to abide by the teaching contained in the Qur’an.

Antisemitism


Evidence From The Qur’an to demonstrate that It Does Not Support Racial Discrimination

By Kashif Shahzada

ISLAM is the religion of peace, tolerance and social justice. It promotes humankind as one community and shuns racism and bigotry. But sadly some misguided elements portray it negatively and their wrong portrayal if not challenged results in creating stereotypes and prejudices.

It is vital that Muslims speak up and encounter criticisms and negative portrayals, whether they are from non-Muslim critics of Islam, or distorted and selective readings from extremists and fanatical elements within their own communities who abuse religious texts for their own vile ends .

In present times, it is the duty of Muslims who uphold the Qur’an and understand its message to reach out to communities for building bridges, creating an atmosphere of tolerance and peaceful understanding, for this has been their original tradition. They need to present their positions properly and in an authentic manner backed by evidence and proof.

Among numerous accusations that have been labeled against Islam and Muslims nowadays, and which can create negative sentiments within communities are the wrong notions that it promotes antisemitism and bigotry against people of Jewish background.

While there are differences in the theology of Judaism and Islam, there is nothing in the belief system of the Qur’an that is antagonistic to those of Jewish ethnicity.

This false claim is not only without any basis from the text of the Qur’an, but also defies logic and common sense.

It is a fact that beliefs and ideas can change, but we are not able to change our ethnic and racial features. Features, which we did not choose of our own accord but were bestowed to us from the Creator.

If the ethnicity of human beings is not of their own making but the Creator is responsible for it, it is illogical to believe that the Creator would despise or be prejudiced against something of His own doing. But sadly, this is what some people would want us to believe.

That firstly God made people of different races, and then some he chose while others of His own handiwork he despises. Such contradictory views about the Divine certainly do not have their origin in the Qur’an, which furthers the equality of opportunity of all humankind.

Every member of the human race has equal opportunity to receive divine blessings, and no racial group or tribal lineage has a preferential treatment.

Racist trends wherever they may originate from, whether aimed at blacks or whites, at Arabs or Jews, face a firm challenge from the revelation of Islam.

Although all types of racism deserve confrontation and encounter, the type under discussion here will be one which is aimed at people who are of Jewish ethnicity. Like Arabs, Jews also are an ethnic group, and not a religious one only.

Prejudice and discrimination against people who are racially of Jewish descent, does not have its origin with Islam and Muslims, who in their halcyon days have provided complete religious freedom and tolerance to Jewish communities, but its roots are more historical, centered around the Christian Gospel narratives and in the last century, Europe has been its main epicenter.

However, due to the conflict in the Middle East, Islam and Muslims have also been dragged into antisemitic discourses, and at times references are made to the Qur’an which is claimed by critics and some misguided proponents to contain antisemitic citations.

In this article, we will be discussing the subject from a purely scriptural viewpoint and analyse the Qur’anic position on race and racism and explore whether the text supports claims of antisemitism.

It is hoped that this humble attempt will remove misconceptions and bring focus and attention to the textual evidence of the Qur’an to foster peaceful dialogue and understanding between communities.

The Equality of All Races and Tribes Before God

The Qur’an does not advocate the superiority of one particular race or tribe over another; neither does it maintain the inferiority of any of them.

Considered by many to be an Arabic book, whose principle addressees are Arabs, it may come as a surprise that there is not a single direct address to Arabs in the Book, and almost all direct addresses are generic to humanity.

Within the Qur’anic text one can come across God addressing the reader in the second person as ‘O Mankind!’, ‘O Believers!’, ‘O People of the Book!’ etc, but never will we come across the address ‘O Arabs!’.

Why is that? If the Qur’an is an Arabic Book, and the Arabs are supposed to be its recipients, why are they missing from it?

Why does the Qur’an not contain anything in praise of the Arabs? The answer is in the fact that the Arabs did not write the Qur’an, but its source and origin is God who does not favour any one racial group or tribe, but promotes the welfare of all. We read:

“O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” 49:13

All nations and tribes have been made by God to recognize each other. If God has made, them, then it is illogical to conclude that any one of them would be despised by him. Why would He despise someone whom He has made? The above verse refutes the view that any tribe or nation is inferior. We also read about people’s varying languages and colours:

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” 30:22

To be noted that according to above, every language and ethnicity is among Ayaat ullah i.e. Signs of God. Thus, no language and no ethnicity is superior over the other and each has its own unique purpose and function.

Arabic speakers are not holier than non Arabs, and whites have no claim of superiority over blacks and vice versa. Each and every race and ethno linguistic group is equal before God, as all have been termed in the Qur’an as God’s Signs.

If all languages and ethnicities are among the signs of God, then why would He term anyone to be less holy? This verse, too, refutes the view that Qur’an favours or disfavours any particular ethno-linguistic group. Thus we can clearly observe the Quranic stance on racism. Just by these two verses it has been ruled out.

Moreover, the Qur’an repeatedly addresses all mankind as one Ummah i.e. one nation or community and in one instance, the very purpose of creation is described as humanity becoming one nation:

“If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. Except those on whom thy Lord hath bestowed His Mercy: and for this did He create them..” 11:118-119

If this is the position of the Qur’an, namely that all humanity is to be one, that all languages and races are signs of God, and that every nation and tribe has been made just to recognize each other then how can it be said that the Qur’an discriminates against one group of people i.e. people of the Jewish race?

Distorted Readings Are Creating Divisions

Actually, the problem lies in not approaching the text of the Qur’an holistically. Any reading of the text which ignores the context and inflection of verses and is cherry picked to prove a point, or is presented in an emotionally vouched and distorted language is not valid. We need to study the Qur’an carefully, paying special attention to the theme under study in all locations and passages of the book, and once we have this holistic view, only then can we come to the conclusion about the Qur’anic position pertaining to a subject.

Sadly, in popular discourse this is not the case. People quote the Qur’an out of context, using distorted translations and cherry pick words adding popular connotations to them, resulting in misguiding the masses. When the Qur’an has itself ruled against racism, then would it become racist itself and discriminate against people of Jewish ethnicity? That is certainly not the case.

Condemnation of Beliefs and Behaviours, And Not of Ethnic Origins

It should be understood that the personalities of the Qur’an are not tribal or geographical but atemporal and archetypal. When it addresses people, then it is not people of a particular ethnicity or nationality that are being addressed, but the behavior and traits inherent in them.

The principle addressee of the Qur’an is Al-Insan (the human being), and he in turn has been described to posses certain distinctive behavior patterns and personality traits. The human being can choose to become a Momin (believer), a Muslim (Submitter), a Salih (Reformer), and so on but he could also willingly be a Munafiq (hypocrite), a Kafir (Rejecter), a Zalim (oppressor) and so on.

When the Qur’an addresses or describes Munafiqeen (Hypocrites), then this does not mean that we are reading about certain individuals that dwelled in seventh century Arabia only, but what we are studying is the atemporal and ahistorical behavior and personality of those among human beings who have chosen to have a hypocritical stance towards God, and it is their behavior that is under discussion, and not their national or ethnic affiliation.

That is why the Qur’an is said to contain Zikrukum i.e. your own mention:

“Verily We have revealed to you a Book – in it is your own mention (Zikr-ukum). Will you not then use your reason?” 21:10

We are mentioned in the Book by virtue of our beliefs, behaviours and traits and not by our ethnicities, nationalities or tribal affiliations.

In the same manner the Qur’anic terms Yahood, Hood and HadooJew in commonly available translations, though the lexical meaning is much deeper, also depict a particular manner in which certain human beings have chosen to behave in relation to God, His messages and mankind. which are usually translated loosely as

Just like when we read about a Momin or a Muslim in the Qur’an, we are not necessarily reading about a Pakistani or a Tunisian, but about behavior and psychology of certain individuals who may be living in any time and location, when we read Qur’anic reprimands concerning Yahood, then this does not mean that it is speaking against our contemporaries of Semitic origin or people of Israeli nationality, but against particular beliefs, behaviors and mentality that can be found in human beings residing in any time, era and locality.

Therefore it is extremely important that a distinction be made between the ethnic or racial affiliation of an individual, and the beliefs and character traits under discussion.

Criticism of Yahoodi Beliefs and Behavior

There are reprimands issued about Yahood in the Qur’an. But these are not aimed at people who do not contain the said characteristics – no matter what labels they are known by in the world. God of the Qur’an is not an unjust God, punishing people for sins they never committed.

It is only if the conscious behavior is inherent in them, that they are the target of this condemnation. But what exactly is this behavior that the Qur’an condemns?

The sins include: presenting falsehood as the truth, corrupting God’s message, willingly and knowingly disobeying God, and taunting people in religion (see 4:62, 6:146), falsely claiming to be God’s representatives, falsely presenting themselves as custodians of God’s religion, but in reality opposing people from God’s path, while cheating them of their wealth (5:41, 62:6), engaging in such wrongdoing, yet considering salvation and divine pleasure to be their exclusive right (2:111, 2:120, 2:113, 5:18), introducing blasphemous teachings, serving scholars instead of God (9:31).

More serious are their crimes against humanity in spreading hate and showing animosity towards those who hold a view different from their own (5:82) and kindling fires of conflict, instead of working towards peace among mankind:

“…whenever they kindle the fire of war, God extinguishes it. And they strive to do corruption on the earth, and God loves not the corrupters.” 5:64

It is such war mongering bigots and religious extremists who posses the above traits that the Qur’an condemns. Individuals, who display the said extremist tendencies can exist in any time, era or locality.

Even within certain communities that may label themselves as Muslim, we find individuals with the said traits and this is not particular to religious group or nation.

However if such individuals desist from the above cited extremist behavior, amend conduct and return to the moderate and balanced lifestyle of the Qur’an, then they have an opportunity to win back God’s good pleasure:

“But those among them (The Yahood) who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practise regular charity and believe in God and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.” 4:162

What type of behavior do human beings choose to do, why they do what they are doing and what will be the consequences of those actions – this is in essence to be seen whilst undertaking a study of the Qur’an.

We will find utility in the Qur’an upon relating its narratives within our own self and in our own lives, to weigh truthfulness in its descriptions, for this is the very purpose for its revelation.

The Qur’an is Also Critical of Some Muslims, Does it Make it An Islamophobic Text?

Those who claim that Islam’s holy book is prejudiced against people of Jewish origin overlook the fact that the book also contains negative references about certain type of Muslims.

It is critical of those who visit Mosques yet are devoid of guidance (see 9:19), it is also speaking against those Muslims who although have the Qur’an in their homes, yet remain heedless to its application (25:30) and also those Muslims who although perform the daily prayers five times a day, yet are heedless of its true spirit (107:4-7).

Does this mean that each and every person who goes for Salat (the Muslim prayer in the Mosque) or has a Qur’an in his home is in the line of fire? Or that God is condemning people of Arab, or Turkish origin? Certainly not, to say that because the Qur’an is against the behavior and practice of those who apply the label of Muslim on themselves, therefore it is anti-Muslim is to demonstrate one’s own narrow mindedness about the subject.

Such critics repeatedly retort about negative references for Jews in the Qur’an, but are silent about the exact behaviour that makes individuals deplorable within the text.

Pointing to behavior or being critical of religious beliefs of anyone does not mean being racist or anti Semitic. Racism is specific to the ethnicity of an individual, and ethnicity is unchangeable, while beliefs and behaviours on the other hand can be modified.

Qur’anic teachings are aimed at the beliefs and actions of people and are never concerned with their ethnicity. The problem is that due to cultural programming when people come across citations from the Qur’an they think that probably it is speaking about the behavior of Saudis when it speaks of believers or Americans when it talks of unbelievers.

That is not at all the case. What the Qur’an discusses is behavior and actions – conduct – good and bad, and not tribes or nations.

If a person born in a particular country has that behavior within himself, which the Qur’an condemns then he is in the line of fire – as is a sinner dwelling in any other part of the world for that matter, and is not saved just because he carries a certain label or adheres to a particular dogma or creed or belongs to a nationality.

He is condemned because of his actions, and nothing else. That a person, on account of actions will be recompensed, is the central theme of the Qur’an:

“On that day men shall come forth in sundry bodies that they may be shown their works.” “So. he who has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it.” “And he who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.” (99:6-8)

In worldly terms, a man may style himself as a very pious Muslim, but if he has the behavior and personality in his character that is representative of the people that the Qur’an terms as Yahood, and displays such character traits in life, then he is merely deceiving himself that he is a Muslim – his actions show who he really is.

Our actions denote the personality types we are, and not how we may wish to style ourselves. Mr Smith, the habitual thief is not really Mr Smith, but in reality he is Mr Thief, because his actions show his real identity.

Similarly, when the Qur’an speaks of Yahood, then it is talking about people who possess the character traits of Yahood and not necessarily somebody of Jewish lineage, who may or may not have those characteristics. The law of God is equally applicable on all. Goodness, whether done by any person – of any belief or identity whatsoever will be rewarded – while wrongdoing, done by any individuals of any colour, creed or caste will be chastised. Our actions are our true identities.

In Conclusion

We have clearly seen that the Qur’an does not support the view that any one race or ethnic group is superior or inferior to another. This being the case, people of Jewish ethnicity are not the target for Qur’anic reprimands, but only people who have the Yahoodi behavior and traits that it is critical of, and such behavior can be manifested in a person belonging to any racial group, tribe or nationality and is not solely present in people of Semitic origin.

The only criterion of acceptance before God is righteous deeds and moral conduct, which can be adopted and displayed by any person of any ethno-linguistic group in any time, era or geographical location.

The exhortations of the Qur’an are towards the behavior within individuals and not towards racial groups.

Furthermore, it is only if unacceptable traits are inherent within people that they are reprimanded. When the traits and immoral behavior is not inherent within a person then he is not the addressee of those reprimands, and to conclude as such would be logically flawed.

Antisemitism or any other form of racial and ethnic discrimination is un-Islamic given the clear cut injunctions of the Qur’an. To insist that the Qur’an supports racial discrimination against people of Semitic origin is not to present the true picture in its entirety.

The Qur’an contains negative references against the immorality inherent in people and is critical of religious beliefs and does not condemn people on account of their ethnicity. It also mentions Yahood who are moral and good according to its criterion.

Therefore to conclude that it is an antisemitic text is unwarranted and unfounded.

Muslims & FE


Speech delivered at “Change & Growth”, Chaplaincy in Further Education Annual Conference held in York, UK, July 2006.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I begin my speech, I would like to extend the universal greeting of peace to all of you.

Assalamu-alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatahu”

No! Don’t be upset, I didn’t cast a spell on any one of you, nor did I attempt to mesmerise or hypnotise anybody. The words I just uttered were in Arabic, and they simply mean May the peace and the mercy and blessing of God be on you. As most of the people present here are from a Christian background, they may know, that we read in the Gospels, when Jesus used to meet his disciples, he used to address them: “Shalom Alaikum”, which is the same as “Salaam Alaikum” in Arabic. Salaam and Shalom mean the same thing, “peace”. So you can relax now!

Coming to the topic, my presentation will cover two aspects. First I would like to demonstrate the meaning of certain terms from a Muslim perspective. Second, I would like to highlight some practical faith and related needs of Muslim learners in Colleges of Further Education.

The Language Barrier

As the title of the presentation is not of my own choice, but was suggested to me by the conference organisers, and looking at the vocabulary concerned, I deemed it important that the subject be addressed in precise and specific terms. This is so, because words mean different things to different people. Language, if kept vague, undefined and unqualified, can result in misunderstanding and miscommunication. One of the reasons of the prevailing misunderstandings between Muslims and other communities is language.

Terms that have a specific meaning and understanding are seldom defined in discourse, and instead inaccurate connotations are attached to them with an implied meaning, which is then popularized, resulting in creating misconceptions.

Take for example, the Arabic word Jihad, which will commonly evoke the meaning of “Holy War”, because it is this meaning which is (very wrongly) attached to this term in contemporary discourse, ignoring the fact that the word simply carries the basic linguistic  meaning of striving or making an effort for anything. e.g. striving or making an effort to pass your exams at college is your Jihad to pass exams.

On the other hand for War, the original word in Arabic is Harab, and Holy in Arabic is Muqaddas.  The accurate rendering of “The Holy War”, (a concept non existent in the Qur’an) is Al Harab al Muqadas, and not Jihad, as is erroneously mentioned in certain circles.

When we look at the terms Spirit and Spiritual, their notions may mean differently to different people, depending on their respective cultures, beliefs, faith, or linguistic patterns. To some it may mean simply being a good and moral person, to others Spirituality implies following a mystical tradition instead of organised religion. Maybe some may think that spiritual development has a connection with Spiritualists and has something to do with attending séances and recalling the spirit of the dead!

So in order to avoid confusion, it is vital, that first of all, we define what we mean by a term before building a structure upon it.

The difference between Nafs (Soul) and Rooh (Spirit)

In contemporary usage, Spirit is understood as the ethereal part of the human being, i.e. the ghost dwelling within the body, the human soul. However in the Qur’an, Spirit or its Arabic equivalent Rooh is not used in this meaning. Rooh is distinct from Nafs (the human soul), and it is not something that we already possess like the soul and the body, but is given to human beings as inspiration from God:

“And thus have We inspired in thee a Spirit (Rooh) of Our command. Thou knewest not what the Scripture was, nor what the Faith. But We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our bondmen. And lo! thou verily dost guide unto a right path.” 42:51

We can see in the above verse that Rooh is concerned with imparting divine guidance to the human being and is the vehicle of revelation. Prior to its reception Scripture and faith remained unknown, and it is the light by which these are understood. By exploring all those verses where the term Rooh has occurred, one discovers that according to Qur’anic usage Spirit is not the human soul, but is distinct from it as the Spirit of revelation, and is the essence of God’s guidance to mankind.

The Qur’an teaches that the human being is not just a material entity consisting of the physical body, but is a combination of body and soul. It is the Nafs i.e. the soul which is the real driver of the body. On top of that we also possess Aql (Intelligence) and Hawa (emotions).

If the soul does not drive the body in the light of the guidance of the Spirit, then it can be overpowered by emotions and then utilises intelligence in their service.

Nourishment Of The Body, But Destruction Of The Soul

The physical body develops and attains nourishment by observing physical laws, while the Nafs develops by observing moral laws. For example consider the case that when someone consumes food that is legally purchased from a shop, and the same amount is stolen and then consumed, the material energy and taste to the body will be the same in both situations. Food, whether it is legally obtained or stolen gives the same amount of material benefit to the body. However the soul will be harmed if the consumed food is stolen, as it is acquired by virtue of breaking a moral law.

It is the Nafs whose development is the focus of Rooh. A Nafs which works without the aid of the guidance imparted by the Spirit will operate under the influence of emotions and focus itself on the body, but with the guidance of the Spirit it realises its true potential and maintains a balance between the needs of the body and demands of the soul.

The references to Rooh in the Qur’an are for God’s Spirit, and not the human spirit. I’d like to clarify again that human beings already posses a Nafs, or the Self, in latent form while the spirit is sent by God to guide the develop it.

No division between the worldly and the religious

It is also worth mentioning that the Qur’an enjoins upon a Muslim to learn and apply both  physical laws, as well as moral laws, as the body is not distinct from the self, but is related to it:

“Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for people of understanding.”

“Those who remember God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and reflect on the creation in the heavens and the earth…”3:190-191

In the above we see that those who remember God, are also engaged in the study of the material universe, hence “Spiritual” is not separate from the “Worldy”, for it is how one functions in the material world that the Spirit gives guidance for.

If the term spiritual development in FE Colleges were to be retained then by it the Muslim would mean the development of the Nafs (soul) through guidance provided by the Rooh (Spirit) found in revelation.

Colleges of Further education may very well equip learners to know ways and means of meeting the needs of the human body, but what provision is there for the development of the souls that are housed within those bodies? Are educational institutions merely ‘factories’ that have an ‘assembly’ line of students to impart them with skills on how to make money and send them out the door? What about the values that those learners are to acquire to implement in their practical life? Such questions definitely deserve our attention.

The Muslim Community & FE Colleges

The British Muslim community is the second largest faith group in the UK with approximately six million adherents. However it would be wrong to suggest that the community has one set of beliefs or dispositions as there is a wide variety of diverse beliefs and practices that are being observed within the community. Apart from religious diversity, the community is also diverse in terms of ethnicity.

From a demographic angle, about a third of the population is under the age of sixteen and a half a million learners in the British education system are Muslims. This poses a challenge to educational institutions that are ill equipped to meet the needs of learners from this group. In an FE context, where learners often come from disadvantaged communities, the Muslim community is a prime target group, as it is often highlighted with poor socio economic conditions, inner city residences, highest rate of ill health, and a high unemployment rate.

Although (as mentioned earlier) there exist a wide variety of diverse views, opinions and practices within the Muslim community, a college is likely to get the following generic requests in order to meet the needs of learners. By addressing these needs the college will facilitate the take up of education from this group.

Diet

Muslim learners will almost certainly require catering facilities in accordance with their beliefs which demand. A diet in which alcohol and pork is restricted, and meat which is from poultry or cattle slaughtered by severing the jugular. Colleges need to make adjustment to their canteen menus to accommodate Muslim Halaal food requirements.

Washing Facilities

Toilets in FE colleges need to be equipped with adequate washing facilities, such as water containers in the WC, as Muslim learners are required to wash after attending the toilet, and do ablution before prayers.

Dress Code & Modesty

Provision for private cubicles for showers in changing rooms need to be made, as Muslim learners may feel uncomfortable from using such changing rooms where there are communal showers, due to total nudity in such settings not being approved in their faith.

Socialization – Alcohol  & Clubs

It should be borne in mind that the Islamic faith does not allow consumption of alcohol for recreational use, and carefree intermixing of opposite sexes (outside the bond of marriage), hence any social or enrichment activities planned by the college where students are required to visit Dance Clubs, or Public houses will be inappropriate for practicing Muslims.

Time table adjustment for the festival of Eid

Muslims celebrate two major festivals in a year. Eid ul Fitr which marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and after two months of Eid al FitrEid al Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah. Muslims celebrate these two festivals with traditional fervour. Both these Eids are occasions as important to them, as Easter and Christmas are to Christians and in Muslim countries, days on which these events fall are official public holidays. Colleges which are having significant populations of Muslim learners may get the request for time off for students to celebrate these festivals, and timetable adjustments may need to be made. occurs

Space for Prayer

There are five daily prayers and one congregational prayer on a Friday that practicing Muslims observe regularly. For the purpose, a prayer room in the college is certainly a necessity. A multi-faith prayer room with neutral décor on the pattern of Airport chaplaincies would be sufficient to meet this need rather than a dedicated room for the faith.

Counselling & Support

For dealing with issues related to counselling and bereavement, it is important that staff members with the proper professional as well as theological training be inducted to give support to students undergoing a crises point in their life. There is also the need for well spoken and culturally aware faith leaders to maintain a link with the college to give advice and support to students when required.

Dialogue & Encounter

For many, an FE experience provides an opportunity for interaction with people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs which may perhaps not exist in their own locality. It is vital that FE colleges encourage a structured approach to interfaith dialogue, so that students can appreciate the diversity within campus, which reflects the diverse communities in wider society.

In Conclusion

It is vital that colleges realize the changing demographic patterns of Britain and appreciate that for many among the Muslim community Faith is part of public identity. Given recent trends of immigration and influx of ESOL students who may be more religiously observant than local learners, and the non availability of faith provision in FE colleges as against schools, colleges need to be better equipped to provide multi faith student support.

It is equally important to realize that faith communities act as hubs of information and exchange, and colleges by maintaining a link with such, have an opportunity to promote their services to an unrealized potential. Faith leaders acting as influencers and gatekeeper in the community can endorse the ‘offerings’ of colleges.

The youth from the Muslim community, and particularly inner city dwellers have a tendency to pursue education at an FE college and it should be born in mind that although no fixed set of beliefs and practices exist, the community may appear to be more visibly observant in practical and day to day matters of faith, hence having an impact on the educational institutions that they go to. FE colleges are ideally placed for the social, economic as well as the moral uplift of the community, and for the purpose adjustments should be made to accommodate the faith needs of this community, which does not see any separation of the religious from the secular. In the end I would like to thank the organisers here for inviting me as a panelist at the conference. I will welcome questions and comments from the audience.

Kashif Shahzada

The Labour Of Love


DID you know what the real measure of love is? Sacrifice. Yes, that’s true.  You can claim your love as much as you like, blow your own trumpet as loud as possible but its real measure, its factual test occurs when you make or do not make a sacrifice for the beloved.

What is it that you are willing to sacrifice; willing to give up; willing to let go for your love is what measures your commitment and devotion. The greater the sacrifice, the stronger the devotion. It is a prerogative of devotion that sacrifices should be made.

Devotion of any variety, worldly or romantic, to a cause or to a preoccupation, even to an art or a profession – all are equally demanding of sacrifices from us.

We make all sorts of sacrifices as a measure of our dedication. We sacrifice our time, or leisure, our wealth, our energies, all in the pursuit of our devotion.

Love Supreme

But these are all passions of a lesser type. Have you ever wondered about ultimate love? One which is sacred, and supreme? The type of love, which is above all, and which demands our complete seriousness and full conviction.

As I am writing as a Muslim author you would have guessed it right.

I am talking about no other love, but the love of God. We come across a lot of people who would not hesitate to say that they love God. Which religious person would dare to utter that God’s love is not what he seeks.

Ask any preacher or priest, one who makes religion his day and night preoccupation, whether he loves God, and his instant reply followed by a frown will be, “Why, of course I do!”. You see, this type of lip service, anybody and everybody can do.

It is all very easy to say that we love God with all our heart and all our soul, but as I asked earlier, what is the measure of your love? What proof can we give, not to other people, but most vitally to our own persons, that we love God?

The answer in this instance is also – sacrifice. God’s love, like any other love, also demands a sacrifice from us. As divine love is supreme, so should be the sacrifice. As it is the ultimate form of love, so should we be ready to make the ultimate sacrifice as its measure.

People think that paying money in charity suffices as a monetary sacrifice in the name of God, but do you really think a few leftover pennies are a measure for a love as great as God’s love?

Facing the temporary hardships of a pilgrimage or the austerity of a discipline, even the blood of goat or sheep and in some cases even human blood has been offered as a way to attain nearness to the divine and redemption.

But are these really ultimate sacrifices in nature, or merely short-cuts of our own making?

If the hand offends us, then should we cut it off? If the eye offends us, then shall we pluck it out? Is the hand responsible for the sin, or the eye? Do we gamble because we have too much money in the bank? The answer is of course in negative.

Neither is the eye responsible, nor the hands, and it isn’t the existence of surplus money that makes gambling addicts destroy their lives.

The real culprit is the ‘person’ possessing the organs and the material possessions. The problem is in the thoughts and feelings of the person possessing it that takes the step towards games of chance.

Yes, it is the “you”. The person in charge behind the physical body and the material possessions that is too blame. And if sacrifices need to be made, then it is of your psyche, the ‘you’ as a ‘person’ is what needs to be fixed. This is the crux of the matter.

People do not do anything about their ‘person’.  They don’t want to change it, but are ready to get rid of what can be readily jettisoned. While in fact the sacrifice that is needed is of their “self”, the “person” controlling their human machine, and not their physical possessions.

The False Belief Of Committing Suicide In God’s Name

If the love of God is supreme, then it demands that we make the supreme sacrifice, and be ready to give away our personality in place for a new one. It is not truncating your life that is demanded.

Suicide would be an easy way out. In fact suicide is not the ultimate sacrifice because it prevents us from the hardship of life and is in fact fleeing from responsibility and discipline.

Those who are deceived into believing that suicide or “martyrdom” as it is sugar coated to make the concept more palatable is a way to reach the divine are in fact in a hurry to go to paradise.

They are deceived into thinking it to be a short cut to salvation. If it is easier to just take your own life and land yourself in heaven instantly and be entertained with wine and women, then why undergo the hardship to mortify and train the self?

Why be a good and moral person, and follow the discipline of character building all your life, when your past sins can be forgiven and you reach the ultimate abode by merely taking your own life?

This is type of logic that advocates of suicide as a means for salvation use to dupe their followers into accepting it as a means for attaining salvation. But can we say that a quick and easy shortcut become the ultimate form of sacrifice? The Qur’an forbids us from taking our own lives:

“..and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction..” (2:195)

“..Whoso doeth that (commit suicide) through aggression and injustice, we shall cast him into Fire, and that is ever easy for God.” (4:30)

We see very clearly that suicide has been declared an act of aggression and injustice against one’s own self and its punishment is grievous. If such is the case, then how can it be claimed that suicide missions are the ultimate forms of sacrifice acceptable in Islam?

The same goes for those who claim that God sacrificed his only ‘begotten son’, and merely believing in his death will land one in the hedonism of paradise.

This again is also far from truth. Because if ever God were to sacrifice His own son, then that would not be the ultimate love on his part. He should have offered and sacrificed Himself for His creation and not someone else.

If I love you, then for your sake I should offer what is irreplaceable, and that can only be my own self. Why offer you something that can be sired over and over again? That wouldn’t count as an ultimate offering would it? Secondly, believing in the ‘son’ of God and thinking that one has made the ultimate sacrifice for the love of God by such a faith is yet again another short cut to salvation.

What ever happened to the personality, the character you possess? Why not sacrifice that to God and take responsibility for your own deeds, instead of passing the buck to ‘the son’ of God? You commit the crime but the son pays the price! And you think by believing in this you have made the ultimate sacrifice for God’s love? You haven’t moved an inch, my friend.

I hope that my readers will agree that committing suicide or killing somebody else is not the ultimate sacrifice that one can make. These are in no way replacements for the sacrifice of our own person, i.e. the persons that we are and in the manner we behave and act. What is needed is to be out with the old personality of sin, and in with the new personality of righteousness.

A greater and more dedicated form of devotion comes from the entire life lived in a morally upright manner and in accordance with divine directives.

Killing The Self

Love of God demands that we sacrifice the “self” i.e. ‘kill’ the personality that we possess and in its place develop a new personality that is based on God’s guidance. Such would be the true sacrifice. The life that one is living, is it being lived by one’s own standards or by God’s standards.

If the former, then no sacrifice has been made, irrespective of the number of pilgrimages made, the creeds you profess, the blood spilled or coins donated in charity.

We read in the Qur’an that Moses demanded such self mortification from his people to attain divine pleasure:

“And remember Moses said to his people: “O my people! Ye have indeed wronged yourselves by your worship of the calf: So turn (in repentance) to your Maker, and kill your ‘Nafs’ (the self, the personality, the psyche); that will be better for you in the sight of your Maker.” Then He turned towards you (in forgiveness): For He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” (2:54)

When your ego is subdued and your inner arrogance, greed and pride is no longer upright before divine directives, it is then that the self has been killed. The realization and rejection of false belief and turning towards the truth of God is the first step.

Making God The Priority In Your Life

In the words of the Qur’an, until or unless you declare from all your heart and all your soul:

“Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for God, the Cherisher of the Worlds.” (6:162)

Till then, your claim that God is what you love the most has no meaning. The Qur’an warns those who purport to love God, and gives a yardstick against which to measure that devotion:

“Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight – are dearer to you than God, or His Apostle, or the striving in His cause; – then wait until God brings about His decision: and God guides not the rebellious.” (9:24)

Next time you think you love God, then ask yourself, what sacrifices have you made for Him? Is God getting mere lip service from you, while you live your life as per your own wishes and give more importance to other considerations?

Are family, friends, career and homes dearer to you than God and the striving in his cause? If yes, then you have not made the ultimate sacrifice and your claim to love God the most is of no value at all. If you claim that it is God that you love the most, then ask your self, have I made the ultimate sacrifice for God?

Have I truly sacrificed myself and surrendered my will to His will?

After all is sacrifice not the true labour of love?

 

The Dilemma Of Faith


When Faith Becomes A Hurdle in Our Search For Truth

The journey to search the truth is not a smooth ride. There are hurdles on the way, strong winds, narrow paths and sharp turns. A rather perilous journey.

The problem you are most likely to face when you go about this journey is the sheer number of spokespersons you meet who attempt to define God for you. You are likely to be overwhelmed by these self proclaimed ‘divine’ emissaries, all of whom are ever ready with a new trick up their sleeve to lure you into conversion. The world is full of them. In every street and town, every nook and corner, seers, ‘holy’ men, preachers, sages, priests, and mystics, some claiming to be born again, some reincarnated, others even ‘eternally existing’ ready with their salesmanship, their eyes preying on you with delight.

These claimants to divine knowledge will, if you lend them an ear, send you in directions very different from each other. To one, the Lord came down to earth as a man, while the other finds such a notion sacrilegious. It is a part and parcel of true religion to devote oneself to an idol and image says one of them, while such would be a blasphemy of the highest order according to the other.

As many people you speak to, as many confusing views you are likely to come across consolidating the idea that all religions do not preach one and the same thing and that if you were to choose one path, you are very unlikely to end up on the same road as the others. Therefore, you as the traveler in search of truth will definitely encounter contradictory views about God and His religion from such self styled specialists, each unique and different in his or her own way.

Despite their uniqueness, there will be one common strand among them all. One commonality that pervades their differing and often opposing views – all of them will ultimately resort to faith, should they face rational questioning.

Faith i.e. belief without proof or evidence is what sustains their religiosity, when cornered by your logical inquiry. No evidence, no logic, no proof to convey any credibility, but just faith – blind faith on their sales pitch.

And faith is what you must ultimately have if you wish to join their cult and taste the spiritual fruits that they find so sweet. Reason and rational thinking, proof and evidence, have no room in their house of faith, for these are for worldly matters. For higher and spiritual ends, one needs an ‘inner sight’, and a very different way of looking, so they proclaim.

Adherents hold on to their beliefs, not because they are convinced to the satisfaction of their intelligence about their efficacy, or have some sort of proof or evidence to substantiate their beliefs but because they ultimately have ‘faith’ in them, and so should you. Their invitation to you is an invitation to faith, i.e. to blind acceptance without any evidence to substantiate their claims.

ENMITY TOWARDS REASON

Since time immemorial advocates of faith have spoken against arriving at truths by way of reason and intellect:

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”—Martin Luther, Table Talks in 1569.

Champions of faith can be seen holding reason in contempt. To them spiritual matters are related to the ‘inner’ soul of the human being, and have nothing to do with our rational capabilities. There is no room for reason and intellect in religious matters.

They can be very adamant in their own world of inconsistencies and contradictions in creed and dogma, for which they have one answer that solves all the problems – that one word answer is faith.

It is faith that makes you believe that God is All Powerful and at the same time also believe that He:

“ … made heaven and  earth, and on the seventh day HE RESTED, AND WAS REFRESHED.” (Exodus 31:17).

It is faith in action when you acknowledge Divine Omnipotence and at the same time also accept that the Lord:

“..could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley because they had CHARIOTS OF IRON.” (Judges 1:19).

It is on account of faith that you proclaim that God is the source of all goodness and compassion, but also bewilder yourself (and others) by quoting the Lord:

“..I make peace and CREATE EVIL..” Isaiah 45:7.

It is none other but faith that makes you champion the cause of modesty and look down upon impropriety but at the same time make you accept that God’s prophet:

“…hath walked NAKED and barefoot three years..” (Isaiah 20:3-4).

It is due to difficulties such as the above that make the faithful declare:

“Whoever wants to be a Christian must be intent on silencing the voice of reason” —Martin Luther, “Sermons on the Gospel of St. John,” in Works, Vol. 23, p. 99.

To many, when they come across such difficulties, religion becomes a very bitter pill to swallow, and it is only when the architects of religion sweeten the pill with faith that it becomes palatable.

It is inconsistencies like these that contribute to a wholesale rejection of religion. Incomplete and faulty ideas about God and religion breed atheism. Religiosity is kept outwardly merely to please near and dear ones and to stick to social norms and accepted behaviors, but inwardly religious beliefs are held in contempt. The moment, those social pressures are no more and you are allowed to think for yourself, you find no reason to openly reject the belief system based on contradictory attributes.

FAITH AS A TOOL FOR OPPRESSION

While faith is a part and parcel of religious traditions, it is not the domain of the strictly religious only. Those who inwardly realize the weakness of faith, may outwardly use it as a secular ploy to maintain status quos and keep subjects under control and in subjugation. In such cases, vested interests declare that it is a grave sin to debate, to reason and inquire on official doctrines. Authorities imposed on you have a ‘divine’ warrant, so they say, and questioning them implies questioning God Himself.

Faith can very well be a tool for oppression when concocted in God’s name by vested interests merely to engineer their power over the masses. It is extremely useful to stifle dissent and lend credence to an otherwise illegitimate occupation.

AN ALTERNATE VIEW

Blind faith – whether you hold fast to it voluntarily, or one which is imposed on you, can it satisfy your intellectual quest for the ultimate truth? After all, if God is the one who made you, gave you your body and your mind, then will He prevent you from using your reasoning abilities? Why must we not use the mind to know about His matters?

When the intellect is paralysed and there is no room left for logical discussion, it is then that faith comes into play and matures itself. It is also when we close our minds and leave all matters to a blind adherence and trust without evidence or proof that the quest for the truth comes to a halt.

While certain faith leaders speak against reason to know spiritual matters, in contrast we also come across an alternate view. A view which presents religion in rational terms and which advocates the full use of your senses to decipher the truth. In this viewpoint you are not discouraged from using your intellect, but are in fact encouraged to ask questions and probe matters deeply.

This view is to be found nowhere but in the Qur’an. According to it, in attempting to know the truth, ‘Aql’ (reasoning) is to be employed:

“Certainly We have revealed to you a Book in which is your own reminder; what! Will you not then use your reason?” (21:10)

“We have made the revelations clear to you, if you will use your reason.” (3:118)

Truth will be known to you if you employ your Aql (Reason), while those who find thinking tedious are described as the denizens of hell:

“They will (further) say: Had we but listened or used our ‘Aql’ (reason), we should not (now) be among the companions of the blazing fire!” (67:10)

Such is the importance of being rational for religious matters, says the Qur’an. So much so that you can end up in hell fire if you paralyse your reasoning faculties. It is clear, therefore, that the Qur’an is no enemy of reason and does not regard it as a hindrance to your spiritual advancement.

PRODUCE YOUR PROOF!

According to the Qur’an, claims need verification prior to acceptance. Its general principle is that whenever people make a claim, demand proof from them. There is absolutely no room for blind faith in the Qur’an. It offers not only proofs, arguments and falsification tests for its own validity:

“O mankind! verily there hath come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: For We have sent unto you a light (that is) manifest.” 4:174

But demands evidence and proof from its opponents as well:

Or, Who originates creation, then repeats it, and who gives you sustenance from heaven and earth? (Can there be another) god besides God? Say, “Bring forth your proof, if ye are telling the truth!” 27:64

It also declares that those who have deviated from serving the one true God and fallen into false worship do not have any proof for their claims, and this indicates the Qur’anic attitude towards blind faith, namely that it is unacceptable:

“Or have they taken for worship (other) gods besides him? Say, “Bring your convincing proof: this is the Message of those with me and the Message of those before me.” But most of them know not the Truth, and so turn away.” 21:24

There is one religion, which in contrast to others does not resort to emotional or blind faith for itself, but calls for an intellectual inquiry to ascertain its truthfulness, presents proofs for its claims and demands proof from those who doubt its message.

A CALL TO ACTION

Have you ever come across a situation when you were prevented from asking questions? When you were told about the ‘blessings’ and ‘merits’ of such blind faith, and were advised against rational inquiry about conventional dogma?

Did you ever wonder why must you be forewarned not to employ reasoning and rationality for spiritual matters? Will you be uncovering some secret that people do not want you to know? Are they afraid that your questioning and reasoning ability will expose some flaw or weakness in their claims?

Did you realize that blind and emotional acceptance of doctrines can very well make you obstinate and narrow minded and that it is against your very nature not to think and reflect.

You are free to think, to reflect, to ponder and contemplate. You need to labour for the truth and use your entire being for the purpose, the body, the heart as well as the mind, for all are gifts from God.

“Say: ‘This is my way: I invite unto Allah upon conscious insight accessible to reason, I as well as those who follow me, and glory be to Allah, for I am not one of those who associate (others with His laws).” (12:108)

What will it be then, a blind faith that is narrow and restrictive, or a rational belief that is liberating and creative?

The choice is yours.

Reincarnation


Reincarnation is the belief that the human soul, upon the death of the human body, comes back to earth in another body or form. Also referred as ‘transmigration of souls’ this doctrine is a central tenet in many South Asian and East Asian religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism as well as ancient Middle Eastern religions. Due to the amalgamation of religious communities, this concept also crept into some Islamic nomenclature, specifically within the Sufi tradition. It is not uncommon to hear from those who subscribe to Sufism about the spirits of pious individuals as well as prophets who have passed away to be reincarnating in the earth and in some cases reappearing in front of the living and communicating with them.

Belief in reincarnation compels many people to claim that they have had ‘visitations’ from spirits. Some religiously believe that their dead still roam the earth and even eat food and thus they leave offerings to their spirits.

However prior to endorsing the belief in reincarnation as an Islamic concept, it is vital that we refer to the Qur’an to see if it has sanctioned the view. This being the case, then what exactly is the Qur’anic position on the spirit or souls of the dead? Do the dead come back to visit their relatives? What of saints, prophets and pious individuals? Are their souls on earth, appearing to us only in special circumstances? When we visit grave yards or tombs, then can their dwellers hear us or respond to us in any way? The Qur’an is not at all silent on this matter, but gives ample guidance.

ALL OF US UNDERGO THE STAGES OF CREATION, BIRTH, LIFE, DEATH AND THEN RESURRECTION 

“It is He Who gave you life, will cause you to die, and will again give you life: Truly man is a most ungrateful creature!” 22:66

In the above three states are mentioned. Life, death and then afterlife. There is no reincarnation mentioned.

“It is God Who has created you: further, He has provided for your sustenance; then He will cause you to die; and again He will give you life. Are there any of your (false) “Partners” who can do any single one of these things? Glory to Him! and high is He above the partners they attribute (to him)!” 30.40

In the above, once again we see three stages. Creation, death and then resurrection. There is no mentioned of the dead returning to earth.

“It is He Who has created you from dust then from a sperm-drop, then from a leech-like clot; then does he get you out (into the light) as a child: then lets you (grow and) reach your age of full strength; then lets you become old, – though of you there are some who die before; – and lets you reach a Term appointed; in order that ye may learn wisdom.” 40:67

The complete life span is mentioned. Stages of creation, life on earth and then death.

“Say: “It is God Who gives you life, then gives you death; then He will gather you together for the Day of Judgment about which there is no doubt”: But most men do not understand.” 45.26

It cannot be more clearer, that after death, people do not return or remain on earth but as the verse says: “God … gives you life, THEN gives you death; THEN He will gather you together for the Day of Judgment..”. Life followed by death, followed by judgment. This is the sequence all of us go through.

“From the (earth) did We create you, and into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you out once again.” 20.55

Same sequence is stated in above verse. Creation from earth, death and burial into it, and then the resurrection.

“Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay);” 23.12

“Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed;” 23.13

“Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (foetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. So blessed be God, the best to create!” 23:14

“After that, at length ye will die” 23:15

“Then, on the Day of Judgment, will ye be raised up.” 23:16

The words “After that, at length ye will die…Then, on the Day of Judgment, will ye be raised up.” are crystal clear in informing us about the direction we are going. Life is linear, traveling forward, not cyclical. We are not going around in circles, i.e. having birth on earth and then rebirth or reincarnation, but are born, live our life, are given death move forward and then receive our account and dwell in heaven or hell.

“He is the irresistible, (watching) from above over His worshippers, and He sets guardians over you. At length, when death approaches one of you, Our angels take his soul, and they never fail in their duty.” 6:61

“Then are men returned unto God, their protector, the (only) reality: Is not His the command? and He is the swiftest in taking account.” 6:62

If the angels are appointed by God to take the soul of a person and they never fail in their duty, then can it be said that someone escaped from their clutches and is still roaming around? Very clearly we see that according to the Qur’an, death is inevitable and upon it, we are transported to another realm, and don’t have the power to remain on earth.

NOBODY LIVES FOREVER, EVERYONE HAS TO DIE

“Every soul shall have a taste of death: And only on the Day of Judgment shall you be paid your full recompense.” 3.185

“Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial. To Us must ye return.” 21:35

“Wherever ye are, death will find you out, even if ye are in towers built up strong and high!” 4:78

PROPHETS OF ALLAH ARE NOT IMMORTAL BUT DIE LIKE OTHER HUMANS

Some Quranic narrations concerning the mortality of Prophets/messengers are as follows: Jacob (p)

“Were ye witnesses when death appeared before Jacob? Behold, he said to his sons: “What will ye worship after me?” They said: “We shall worship Thy God and the God of thy fathers, of Abraham, Isma’il and Isaac, – the one (True) God: To Him we bow (in Islam).” 2:133

Jacob, a Prophet, and descendant of Prophets is mentioned to narrate his final hours. Joseph (p)

“And to you there came Joseph in times gone by, with Clear Signs, but ye ceased not to doubt of the (Mission) for which he had come: At length, when he died, ye said: ‘No apostle will God send after him.’ thus doth God leave to stray such as transgress and live in doubt.” 40.34

The statement in the above verse “…At length, when he died” demonstrate that Joseph, a Prophet of God, received death. Yahya (p)

“So Peace on him the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life (again)!” 19.15

“.. the day he was born, the day that he dies, and the day that he will be raised up to life..” mention the same stages for Yahya, a Prophet, that all of us are to undergo. Prophets are born, they die and then they are resurrected. We see the same for Jesus: Jesus (p)

“So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!” 19.33

Birth, death and resurrection of Jesus is mentioned. Muhammed (p)

“We granted not to any man before thee permanent life (here): if then thou shouldst die, would they live permanently?” 21.34

God addresses Muhammed (p) directly,  “..if then thou shouldst die, would they live permanently?” His mortality is again mentioned:

“Muhammad is no more than an apostle: many Were the apostle that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then Turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to God; but God (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.” 3.144

“..If he died or were slain..” is proof that Muhammad (p) is also subject to the same law that messengers prior to him were. The above Qur’anic narrations clearly demonstrate that Prophets, also undergo the same law like the rest of human beings. They too are born, live life on earth, receive death, and then will be resurrected on the day of judgment.

THE DEAD DO NOT COME BACK TO EARTH FROM THE REALM OF SOULS

“It is God that takes the souls (of men) at death; and those that die not (He takes) during their sleep: those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back (from returning to life), but the rest He sends (to their bodies) for a term appointed verily in this are Signs for those who reflect.” 39.42

“..those on whom He has passed the decree of death, He keeps back (from returning to life)..” shows that after death we don’t come back.

“But to no soul will God grant respite when the time appointed (for it) has come; and God is well acquainted with (all) that ye do.” 63:11

“..but to no soul will God grant respite when the time appointed (for it) has come..” indicates that we have only one chance for righteousness. Once we are alive and well on earth, is our opportunity to practice righteousness, as after death we won’t get another opportunity.

“Until when death comes to one of them he says: “O my Lord! send me back (to life) -In order that I may work righteousness in the things I neglected. By no means! It is but a word he says.”- Before them is a Partition till the Day they are raised up.” (23:99-100)

In the above verse, the cry of the evil soul “… my Lord! send me back (to life) -In order that I may work righteousness…” proves that souls of evil persons do not roam the earth, as otherwise they would not be asking to be sent back. The statement “..before them is a Partition till the Day they are raised up..” further proves that between the realm of souls and the realm of human beings, there is a barrier that cannot be crossed.   The life we have is all that there is. We won’t get a second chance!

“And follow the best that has been revealed to you from your Lord before there comes to you the punishment all of a sudden while you do not even perceive; Lest a soul should say: O woe to me! for what I fell short of my duty to Allah, and most surely I was of those who laughed to scorn; Or it should say: Had Allah guided me, I would certainly have been of those who guard (against evil);Or it should say when it sees the punishment: were there only a returning for me, I should be of the doers of good.” (39:55-58)

The acknowledgment of the evil doer in the words “…were there only a returning for me, I should be of the doers of good…” makes it clear that he had only one lifespan, hence beliefs in reincarnation or spirits returning back to earth to haunt its denizens are totally ruled out by the Qur’an!

THE DEAD CANNOT COMMUNICATE WITH THE LIVING

“Neither are the living and the dead alike. Surely Allah makes whom He pleases hear, and you cannot make those to hear who are (buried) in the graves.” (35:22)

The statement that “…you cannot make those to hear who are (buried) in the graves.” cannot be more explicit in refuting those who claim to be in communication with the dead and claim to implore them at their graves and tombs.

By the above inflection of verses, we can conclude that once we die, then we don’t come back. Our souls are diligently taken by God’s angels and we then face judgment for the actions that we did on earth. All human beings undergo the same process. Even Prophets are no exception to this law. They too, are born, they die and on the day of judgment will be resurrected again. Souls of the wicked do not come back to earth, for they are not permitted by God, neither do those dead and buried communicate with the living or hear their cries. All mortals will go through the same process.

REFERENCES

Encyclopedia Britannica

Belief As A Precursor To Change


COUGHS AND COLDS, aches and pains, bills to pay and hungry mouths to feed – this is how the majority of humanity would have greeted the new decade.  While some of us celebrated the end of 2009 with zeal, fervor and enthusiasm, sang songs and partied all night, with New Year’s Day not bringing on hardship greater than the hoary head from last night’s hangover, the bulk of humanity, our fellow human beings, did not have much to revel about.

At the beginning of the new decade, they still struggle for their survival and long for the basic necessities of life, which many of us take for granted in our privileged environments. What is a necessity for us is in fact still a luxury for them.

A new decade has begun, and it’s a decade unparalleled in history, as it is a time when we posses the most advanced technologies, the cleverest of brains, enjoy luxuries and wealth, are armed with the most sophisticated weapons, have made tremendous scientific and economic progress, but even though humanity owns such amazing strengths and capabilities, the vast majority still longs for the basics.

War, disease, poverty, illiteracy, intolerance and persecution, injustice and tyranny – all monsters of our own making, are still rampaging and devouring humanity in the so called age of advancement and progress.

We may well ask why this is so. Why, despite of all the progress, we haven’t been able to solve the most basic of problems of humankind? We don’t lack resources, we don’t lack intelligence and know-how, then why are we still unable to solve these problems?

I believe that the answer to such questions can be summed up in one word – belief.

Belief is what matters. What type of beliefs do you have about life, about yourself, about the purpose of existence? The type of beliefs you have, that type of behaviors you will display.

Our beliefs are the precursors to change. If one believes that he is not ill, then no matter what, he is very unlikely to go to seek medical advice of his own personal volition. It is only when their belief changes, that they take action.

If one believes that he cannot learn a new skill, then he never will. To make a change, the first thing he has to do is change his belief from believing he can’t to believing he can.

The type of beliefs we hold, that type of performance we give. If our beliefs are narrow and restrictive, then so are our performances. On the other hand, when our beliefs are not defeatist and narrow, when we believe in the unseen potential, and when we believe that we can make a difference, when we believe that something is indeed wrong, it is then that we seek remedies and make efforts to change our situations.

So belief is what comes first. It is beliefs that are the drivers of change.

 

BELIEF: THE MAIN CAUSE OF SUFFERING

When we see people who are evil, resort to tyranny and oppression, who enslave others and amass wealth and pursue personal pleasures at their expense, then we are really witnessing their beliefs in action. If you believe that you will not be held accountable in any afterlife for the actions you committed in this world, and that this material existence is all that there is, then why should you worry about helping those in pain and suffering? Why not just amass as much wealth, power and pleasure as possible and enjoy it all till the last breath?

You can also resort to unjust behaviour if you hold the (twisted) belief that your evil actions are in fact endorsed by a Higher Being, and it is in His name that you do whatever you do. In such an instance, your errant beliefs are yet again the cause of sorrow for many others.

On the other hand, if you firmly believe that the material plane is not the only level of existence, that you shall certainly have to give your account in life after death, and that the welfare of all humanity, irrespective of colour, creed, and caste is your remit, then you will not be concerned in amassing worldly pleasures, but will also make it your vocation to do that which will assist you in your journey in the after world.

So we can observe that how important belief is. Positive belief results in positive action, while negative or twisted beliefs impact accordingly.

 

BELIEF IN MATERIALISM VS BELIEF IN LIFE AFTER DEATH

A mindset which is inward and narrow, which concerns only itself, and cares less about others, which makes one indulge in pleasures while others suffer hardships and the basic necessities of life, such a mentality is representative of the belief that material life is all that there is, that our human organisms dwell only within our physical bodies, and are sent into oblivion upon death, and that there is no afterlife. That what people do in life, its consequences and repercussions are restricted only to their earthly tenure.  The Qur’an describes this mindset as follows:

“If thou dost marvel (at their want of faith), strange is their saying: “When we are (actually) dust, shall we indeed then be in a creation renewed?” They are those who deny their Lord! They are those round whose necks will be yokes (of servitude): they will be Companions of the Fire, to dwell therein (for aye)!” 13:5

And this being the case, their entire efforts are for their personal well being, or for their immediate group and not for all humankind. They and their group strive to live life as comfortably as possible, as in their worldview of survival of the fittest, the pursuit of the material and worldly is the ultimate.

In contrast to the materialistic concept of life, there is another view of life, another set of beliefs, in which this worldly life, and our material existence is not all that there is. In that belief, our actions and choices travel with us beyond death, and we fully bear consequences and repercussions of those choices in our journey. Therefore, in such a belief, pursuit of the material is not all that one has to strive for, but also for the spiritual.

In this worldview, care and concern for our fellow human beings is of paramount importance, and compassion for the suffering humanity is what motivates them to act for their welfare, because in such a belief the view is:

“.. that which is for the good of mankind remains on the earth…” 13:17


YOU CAN MAKE A CHANGE, BUT ONLY IF YOU BELIEVE

Many of us tend to think that they have had a tough life. We have our own standards to judge our hardships, and look at things from our own narrow perspective, always making comparisons with those above us, but rarely with those below.

I also believe that the people who I am addressing right at this very point in time, (my readers) are a group distinct from the vast majority of unfortunate people that I just referred to in the beginning and a group that can make a positive change for those in hardship.

You might say that I’m generalising here and might be guilty of assuming the privileged status of my readers, but I assure you that by addressing you on your computer screens, I am certainly not assuming anything.

If you think that you have had it tough in life, think again. If you can read this blog online, then you very well are somebody privileged above many others. In fact you are someone possessing what the bulk of humanity does not posses, i.e. the ability to understand and communicate in English, and access the internet, and even the spare time for some leisurely reading.

By reading this blog of mine, you convey to me the proof that you are able to read and understand English, and most probably accessed this article online, hence posses technology  along with communication skills and also have spare time at your hand. All of this makes you distinct from the vast majority of people, who don’t speak English, are not online and have more things to worry about than leisurely pursuits.

This I believe is sufficient to categorise you among the privileged classes, and this also means that you are the person I was looking for, because what I want to draw your attention towards in this blog is something important and if you grasp it and decide to act upon it, then I believe that we can make this world a better place than yesterday.

You and I have within our ability to make a change, and change is what we need, not only around us, but also within us, for it is internal change that catalyses change externally. This point is emphasised amply in the Qur’an:

“..Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change what is within their souls…” 13:11

So let’s make this New Year a year of significant change. While setting goals and objectives about our health, wealth, relationships and personal happiness and other private pursuits, let us not forget that we also need to pay attention to the fact that we are part of a wider human fraternity, and they too need something that we at times posses. It could be cash to spare, things to give, but it can also be spare time to volunteer to the sacred cause that aims to ameliorate suffering.

But as mentioned above, this external change cannot come about until or unless we have an internal change within us, until or unless we change our beliefs – beliefs about our own selves, about our fellow human beings and also about why we are here, what we are supposed to do and where we are supposed to go, and most importantly, belief about the Divine.

So it is the New Year. I ‘m sure you may have set yourself resolutions and desire change in many areas of your life.  But I’d like you to reflect on your own personal beliefs as well. Why not review them and see where there is a need for improvement.

Let’s think and reflect.

 

 

Christmas From A Muslim Viewpoint


“WHAT BUSINESS DO YOU HAVE to comment on festivals that belong to other people’s religion? And that too on the very day that it is being celebrated?” People can very well ask. Well, in the times we live in, it would be sheer folly not to do so. There are numerous reasons for this. The festival in question is celebrated by adherents of the world’s largest faith, while we are the second largest – if ticking of census forms is any measure. Christianity is estimated to be the world’s largest religion, and Islam occupies second place. In view of this, the relationships between two of the greatest religions of the world are certainly of importance to the planet.

Secondly, Islam and Christianity have a special relationship with each other. The central figure in Christianity also happens to be one of the mightiest messengers of God in Islam. The Qur’an happens to be the only non Christian religious scripture that contains narratives on the birth, message and finale of Christ, his mother as well as his disciples. In view of this, it would not be wrong to suggest that Christians do not have a monopoly on Christ. We Muslims have equal right to comment on any commemorations in his name.

Therefore, any religious perspective coming from the Muslims on Christmas should not necessarily be seen as a critique of the common Christian version but an expression of their own religious beliefs. It is very important to understand this.

The Nature Of Inter-Religious Expression

People upon hearing views that are different from their own, on themes that they believe in, sometimes feel that their version is being criticised. As all religions do not say one and the same thing and do not promote the same ideas on the divine, and because one encounters diversity in its full form during the course of religious dialogue, therefore, the expression of divergent religious belief from one group is not necessarily a critique of the other, but simply an expression of what one in his or her own tradition believes in.

So when a Muslim perspective on Christmas is being conveyed, it is what it is, i.e. what Muslims believe about Christmas, and nothing more and nothing less. So no need to worry too much on this one!

The Season For The Birth Of Jesus

On to the subject. Why Christmas matters? It matters to majority of Christians, as they believe that it is the day that Christ was born (although there is a minority that doesn’t). And the day for this is the twenty fifth of December every year. According to them, Christ came into the world during  a winter in Bethlehem.

Well, on the other hand Muslims allude to both Qur’anic as well as Biblical narratives on the subject, to say that this is not the case. In the Qur’an, we read about the birth of Jesus:

The pains of labor drove her (Mary) to the trunk of a date-palm. She exclaimed: “Oh, if only I had died before this time and was something discarded and forgotten!” A voice called out to her from under her: “Do not grieve. Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm toward you, and fresh, ripe dates will drop down to you. Eat and drink, and delight your eyes. ‘” 19:23-25

Important indicator about the season for Jesus’ birth is given in the expression, fresh, ripe dates will drop down to you. When do we have the season for fruiting of dates ? Is it the winter of December? Not at all. It is in the heat of summer. So according to the Qur’an, Jesus was born not in winter, but in summer!

Biblical evidence also points to the fact that Jesus was born when the climate was warmer, and not at the peak of december’s wintery season:

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Luke 2:7-8

The shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks at the time of Jesus’ birth. Late December in the middle of the night is not a comfortable time for the sheep to be out and about in the freezing cold, don’t you think?

In the same chapter, it can be seen that Jesus’ parents travelled to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census:

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed….. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” Luke 2:1-6

It is very unlikely that they made their Journey during winter when temperatures were below freezing and roads were poor condition.

All this leads to the fact that the time period of Jesus’ birth was not December, but according to the Qur’an it was certainly summer, as this is when dates are ripened, and according to the Bible it was much warmer. So here it is. The Muslim viewpoint. Jesus was not born in December, which means that Christmas day is not Christ’s birthday!

“Listen mate, are you telling me that I got it all wrong?” Our Christian friend asks. “Well, I am not saying you got it wrong. I am merely saying what I believe, just that you know where I’m coming from, so we know each other’s positions and can learn to live together!”. “Does that means you’re not gonna come to my Christmas party?”, he asks again. The Muslim replies, “Now I didn’t say that! I may very well be there, but make sure you have some non alcoholic cola and halaal pie there. And I certainly won’t stand under a mistle toe, when your granny is around!”

Participating In Christmas Festivities

Humour apart, I was once asked by a college manager in England who was organising a Christmas event for her students it is alright to invite Muslim students? This is a very important question. Especially for communities that are mixed, diverse and multifaith.

Whether people of different faiths can join in the celebrations of faiths that are different from their own?

My reply to her was in a yes and a no.

Yes, they can in the sense as observers, to learn about communities, to understand what people believe in and why they do so.

The answer would be a no, if the organisers expect students of other faiths to join and participate in religious ceremonies or to partake in activities that go against their own traditions.

But I would strongly recommend that in faith celebrations people of other faiths and beliefs are invited as well, because not doing so will isolate communities from each other.

When Muslims celebrate Eid, they too should invite people of other faiths to their celebrations, but it would certainly not be expected of their Christian, Hindu, Sikh or Jewish friends to do the ablution and perform the prayer as they do. Non Muslims are simply there to share pleasantries and as observers. Also it should be ensured that food that meets the religious dietary needs of the guests is served. It wouldn’t go down very well if one were to invite Hindus or Buddhists who are vegetarians and serve them halal beef kebabs!

So a very strong yes to the invitation, a yes to careful pre-event preparations, but definitely a no to the religious participation bit.

There we are. It’s Christmas. We say to all who are celebrating it: have a good time. Spend time with your family. Think of the poor, and share with them too.

And remember, go easy on the dessert as it’s a tough job to loose those extra pounds gained during the festivities!

We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Leaves Of Autumn


The falling leaves of autumn. You notice them as you walk along the pathways. Blown away by gusty winds, some red, some yellow, some dry, some crisp – all heralding the moment of change and signaling to us that its time to seek a new beginning.  As autumn is the season marking the periodic change in the natural world, it seems that it is also a period of change throughout human history.

From the discovery of Americas by Christopher Columbus to the Russian revolution to the unification of East and West Germany in recent times, many eventful occasions have marked the season throughout history.October seems to be a time of revolution.

It seems as if human actions correlate with the natural world around them. They too, are in the habit of discarding the old and experimenting with the new. It may not come as a surprise, but human history seems like one great long autumn. People create one set of beliefs and its corresponding social structure, discover that it doesn’t work, then throw it away and experiment with another one.Out with the old, and in with the new. Just like leaves in autumn.

First came Autocrats claiming divine sanction, then came Theocracies, Capitalism glorified material gains albeit in the hands of a select few, Communism protested, but it too failed, now the flame of Democracy is dwindling, and God knows what will it be replaced by. How long this trial and error by humanity will continue, you never know.  But the cost has been quite high for the games that people play.

But still – change is the theme of the season. Change is all around, the only constant, and so is it a central theme in Divine guidance, in the Qur’an, the Divine Book of Islam.  Changing your self towards a new you – a new person that has shed his or her old habits and reformed themselves by Divine guiding light. However, the change that is spoken of in relation to human beings, is not one that is brought about coercively, but one that that we bring within us, by our own choice. It is the change within, the change of heart that is initiated by our own volition and personal reflection. This type of change, even God Almighty does not bring about, until or unless you want it:

“That is because God would never change His favour that He conferred on a people until they changed what was within themselves; and that God is All-hearing, All-knowing.” 8:53

He won’t force you to walk His paths, He hasn’t pre-programmed you to follow your nature, but has bestowed you with a free will – it is the free will which you must use to your benefit, and it is the free will that separates you from animals and beasts, all of whom simply follow their preordained nature, and are not held accountable in any court of law for their behavior. You on the other hand are free to exercise your choice, and it is this choice and decision-making ability which lays responsibility on your shoulders and holds you accountable for your actions. So you will have to change your self but by your own self. God does lend a helping hand in the form of signs and signals, guides and guide maps, but the destination is of your own choice. You have to bring this change upon yourself voluntarily.


LOOK INTO THE MIRROR

As we become conscious of our personal responsibility towards change, we are also conscious about those who consider it their divine mission to change the world. You frequently stumble upon such people who unfortunately see it as their divine duty to change the entire world to their own way of thinking. They teach and preach, plan and execute, mobilise and manoeuvre, under the guise of their conceited belief and the arrogant conviction of its superiority. They set out to change the world, at times on a secular campaign while on other occasions embark on a “Godly” mission to impose on others a consensus about beliefs that they see fit by themselves and patterns that are pleasing to their own eyes. Quick to point out mistakes in other people, it is rare that you observe them in self reproach and personal accountability. Making a wanton display of their unholy claims, they make the house of prayer into a den of thieves (Mark 21:13). They come to you in holy garbs claiming to take the speck out of your eye,’ but fail to see the plank in their own eye? (Luke 6:42). Unaware and careless of their personal responsibility, they set out to change the world, but can the blind lead the blind?

The divine injunctions have never stipulated that it is one’s duty to transform the world. One is accountable to transform no one but his or her own self:

“O believers, look after your own souls. He who is astray cannot hurt you, if you are rightly guided. Unto God shall you return, all together, and He will tell you what you were doing.” 5:105

This is so as on the hereafter he or she will be questioned about nobody’s but his or her own conduct:

“Every one of them shall come to Him upon the Day of Resurrection, all alone.” 19:95

While it is true that Divine injunctions call for sharing of Divine peace and eternal bliss but never enjoin conquest of diverse beliefs that exist in the world as per Divine plan:

“And if thy Lord had willed, whoever is in the earth would have believed, all of them, all together. Wouldst thou then constrain the people, until they are believers?” 10:99

So talking about change – it is our own that we need to worry about and no one else’s salvation. Whenever we point a finger at someone, three fingers point back at us. It is our own neck that we need to worry about. Look your own self in the mirror. It is all about you and nobody else.


PREPARATION FOR TIMES TO COME

The falling leaves of autumn signal a moment of change towards the new, but the chilly winds of the season also indicate the dark and cold winter to come. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter. It is a signal for tougher times ahead, for which one must be prepared. We see in the natural world that plants and animals prepare for this in advance by storing fuel and preserving fuel through hibernation.

This is all natural for them. After all they are simply following the course they have been programmed to act on. But we on the other hand need to learn and be educated about preparing for the morrow. Reflect on what you do today, and what will be its bearing in times to come, is the rejoinder in the Qur’an:

“O ye who believe! Fear God, and let every soul look to what (provision) He has sent forth for the morrow. Yea, fear God: for God is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do.” 59:18

Your now is important, as the clock of life never waits for anybody, Its batteries do not need recharging and simply keep going. What you do now, will impact your tomorrow. So now is the most important part of your life. We can’t stop the clock of life.

It won’t wait for anybody. Just look at your own life. Your childhood, your youth, your adult life, Doesn’t it all seem just like yesterday. Aren’t we constantly travelling towards our end? Is not each and everyday of our life bringing us closer to that ultimate reality called death?


DEATH IS A FACT OF LIFE

Yes death. A taboo for many. Rarely do you think about it. But it is a fact, just as you are, your existence is. Do you remember attending the funeral of a near or dear one? Remember the wailing and the grief? Do you recall leaning over the face of the dead person? How white it was, how frightening, still and lifeless?

Now imagine yourself in the same situation, because one day this will certainly be you. It is an undeniable reality. A fact. The same will happen to us all. What is born, it must die. The important question is what have we done about it? Are you prepared for death? Should it come tomorrow? Today? Ask yourself. Are you ready to face death? Do you want more time? Time is short. The clock is ticking. What are you doing about it?

If our worldly material life is all that there is, then life as it is can be very boring, don’t you think? What about the wonder and the mystery of afterlife, the hope of carrying on beyond the material body, and joy of meeting those who have left us?

Also, and more importantly, if there is no afterlife, no accountability after death, no heaven for the righteous and no punishment for the wicked, then that would mean that the tyrants and oppressors of the world got away with it scot free! They looted and plundered, maimed and murdered, became beyond the reach of law and justice, mightily took away what belonged to others, and enjoyed the spoils all their life, and now that they are dead, no body will hold them to account?

It is this type of mentality, that denies the accountability of afterlife which poses a danger for humanity and it is against such ideologues that Divine emissaries taught their followers to seek God’s refuge and proclaim:

Moses said: “I have indeed called upon my Lord and your Lord (for protection) from every arrogant one who believes not in the Day of Account!” 40:27

Refuge with God must be sought from them because such people believe that the material life is all that there is and if they can be above the law and acquire power and influence then their personal interest is supreme at the expense of others.  With such an outlook of life, they disdain not in doing horrible things, acting criminally and hurting others. All of this is so because in their hearts there is no belief in accountability of their actions in life after death:

And they say: “What is there but our life in this world? We shall die and we live, and nothing but time can destroy us.” But of that they have no knowledge: they merely conjecture. 40:24

If you are not prepared for death and accountability in after life, then tough times are ahead for you. Just like in autumn one needs to prepare for the long dark winter, one needs to prepare for the day when he or she will be held accountable for his or her actions. We need to shed our old past that was devoid of divine inspiration and change ourselves to make way for the new.

Change is happening all around you this autumn. Go out. Take a walk in the park. The leaves of autumn are falling. They glorify their Lord and offer Him complete submission.

Hearken to their message of change.

Turning Points In Life That Lead To God


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Life is a journey. We are but travelers. But there is a road that is less traveled, a path less trodden. Pointers to that road come in our life but many tend to ignore them.Consciously or subconsciously we follow paths in life, make choices and pursue ends. We keep on moving with the same old routines, the same common milestones until suddenly we are at the cross roads.

Make full use of the cross roads, read the signs properly and you will reach a pleasing destination. On the other hand, close your eyes to the rejoinders, ignore the signs and keep on moving in your self inflicted pride then there is no question about you getting lost. This is not a simple journey, but a journey of far greater importance – one more momentous, one where the slightest wrong turn can have dire consequences.

We all come across turning points in life. These are major events or incidents that act as catalysts leading to the cross roads.

A turning point is an occasion that makes us reflect on life itself, on its meaning and purpose. We question not only ourselves, but the day to day status quos that we often embroil ourselves in. They make us think, reset our priorities, change course or step on the brakes.

LAST RESORT IN TIMES OF DISTRESS

But turning points do not occur randomly. They always follow an eventful occurrence. Trials and tribulations that are a cause of distress. The illness of a near or dear one. A near death experience. The loss of someone very close. Or an escape from some sort of a calamity. Events of this sort, where we feel helpless and powerless to do what we want to do, to attain what we hope to attain.

When all the people we know, when all the wealth we have isn’t of any use. When we desperately turn to the people around us for help, but are forsaken by all, hear no for an answer from all quarters and our pleading is of no use. When there is no hope, no joy. When all is about to be lost and our hopes and desires about to be shattered. When we finally acknowledge how weak and powerless we are. It is then, that we finally turn, in such a state of humiliation, we turn to a Higher Being for help:

Say: “Who is it that delivereth you from the dark recesses of land and sea, when ye call upon Him in humility and silent terror: ‘If He only delivers us from these (dangers), (we vow) we shall truly show our gratitude’?”6:63

Say “It is God that delivereth you from these and all (other) distresses: and yet ye worship false gods!”6:64

We plead Him, beg Him, fall down on our knees, cry and moan. In humiliation and humbleness imploring for one last chance. A last chance, which if we are granted then we vow to lead a righteous life, to turn over a new leaf solely for His sake, live according to His will and plan.  We pray in solitude:“Oh God! Please, please don’t let this happen! Please change things for me! I promise to turn over a new leaf, it will be a new start for me, if I am granted this prayer… I will do what you will…just save me from this distress!” It is supplications like these that emanate from the depths of our heart and shudder our very being. This is the inner feeling of every human being, says the Qur’an:

“When trouble toucheth man, He crieth unto Us (in all postures)- lying down on his side, or sitting, or standing…” 10:12

When we are in pain and suffering, and there is no hope in sight, when everyone has abandoned our requests, then as a last final resort we turn to God for help. Yes, we very well do. Each and everyone of us, no matter whether we are religious or not, no matter how staunch one may be in his or her disbelief, at that crucial moment, that vital juncture, when they are powerless and helpless to prevent what is about to befall, they too turn to the One who they had ignored and ridiculed, all their life, begging Him for one last chance, promising Him to turn over a new leaf, if only the peril and danger that is in their life is removed:

Say: “Think ye to yourselves, if there come upon you the wrath of God, or the Hour (that ye dread), would ye then call upon other than God? – (reply) if ye are truthful! 6:40

“Nay, – On Him would ye call, and if it be His will, He would remove (the distress) which occasioned your call upon Him, and ye would forget (the false gods) which ye join with Him!”6:41

This is man, any and every man. He implores God as a final resort when all else fails! While pain and distress is an occasion for a new beginning, a signal for change of course, a time to take action, a search for a remedy, sadly, most people forget this episode when the affliction is removed and return to their old usual ways:

“But when he delivereth them, behold! they transgress insolently through the earth in defiance of right! O mankind! your insolence is against your own souls, – an enjoyment of the life of the present: in the end, to Us is your return, and We shall show you the truth of all that ye did.”10:23

They ignore God, they forget that they had prayed and their prayer was answered. God had done His job, but did they do theirs!

Therefore, we need to learn from our distress. Analyse what we are doing, whether it is right or wrong and learn from our mistakes. An event that leads us to a turning point where we focus on God is a blessing in disguise and an opportunity of a lifetime.


THE TURNING POINT – AN OPPORTUNITY

Our afflictions and miseries also prove to be blessings in disguise, for such is the situation when we are granted an opportunity to avail the turning point in life. It occurs when we, in times of trouble, helplessness and despair turn to God for help – as a last resort, praying to Him to remove our afflictions and making a commitment in return to lead a righteous life:

“And indeed We will make them taste of the Penalty of this (life) prior to the supreme Penalty, in order that they may (repent and) return.”32:21

If you ask them, people will say they know God. They may have read about Him, have some sort of a conception about His person, grasped from the environment, or even made up by their imagination – an All powerful, Supreme Being with whom all things are possible, not the helpless humankind they observe daily, but someone quite capable of doing what He wills to do. However, the praise and reverence in a ceremony, or the theology of a seminary do not necessarily bring a person more closer to God, than a deeply personal and distressful call in times of trial and tribulation:

“And ye have no good thing but is from God: and moreover, when ye are touched by distress, unto Him ye cry with groans;” 16:54

It is in these situations, that a being who was for us, merely a concept in books, or a subject of spoken words and conversation, is now a reality, for we are calling on Him to remove our afflictions in a very real and intense way and waiting to see if someone is really ‘up there’ to answer us. Distressful occasions can be an opportunity of a lifetime, for you then focus your attention to God, His power and His majesty. You make a commitment with Him in your heart and wait and watch. When God’s mercy is bestowed, it is then time for you to be true to your word, and follow in His paths:

“Your Lord knows very well what is in your hearts if you are righteous, for He is All-forgiving to those who are penitent.”17:25

This is an opportunity for you, to go on the path that very few have chosen, and about which God has revealed His messages in all times and eras:

“Whenever We sent a prophet to a town, We took up its people in suffering and adversity, in order that they might learn humility.” 7:94

Your past can be forgiven. You can be healed of the excesses you committed, and regain your health, but for that you will have to follow the given advice and make changes in your life:

Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. 39:53

LAST MINUTE SUBMISSION OF NO USE

If we have made contact with God, acknowledged His existence and seek his guidance, then the time to re-evaluate our priorities is now. Now is the time to be serious about who we are, where we come from and where are we going, and how God relates to us? What use is going to a doctor at the last stages of the illness? The time to seek remedy is before the disease spreads to a stage in which it cannot be curbed. Will it be of any benefit if one were to surrender to the doctor’s prescription when the end is near? Certainly not. The time for medical help was in the early stages of the disease, not in the final one.

Similarly, God’s guidance is our healing from the ills we incur and the mistakes we have committed in the past – it reforms ourselves from the ill effects of past mistakes, and strengthens us for times to come. The time to surrender to God is now, and not at the last moment of our life. Do we think that we can commit excesses, waste, destroy, loot and plunder, act immorally in all sorts of ways, lie, cheat, deceive and oppress while ignoring God, and then at the last moment of our life, or at the time of death the repentance from our wrong doings will save us from the effects of our past actions?

“Turn ye to our Lord (in repentance) and bow to His (Will), before the Penalty comes on you: after that ye shall not be helped.”39:54

“And follow the best of (the courses) revealed to you from your Lord, before the Penalty comes on you – of a sudden while ye perceive not! 39:55

Turn to God now; follow His guidance, now – and not when the water has risen above your head.We should not allow iniquity to further itself, before it takes up our entire being, and hardens our heart, we need to address it and reform ourselves of its impact.

The Qur’an gets the point across about last minute soul saving techniques. All his life, the Pharaoh was a tyrannical ruler, but when he realised that the end was near and that his power was of no use, it was then that he submitted to God; but that last minute acknowledgement was of no use:

“We took the Children of Israel across the sea: Pharaoh and his hosts followed them in insolence and spite. At length, when overwhelmed with the flood, he said: “I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to God in Islam).”10:90

(It was said to him): “Ah now! – But a little while before, wast thou in rebellion! – and thou didst mischief (and violence)!” 10:91

“This day shall We save thee in the body, that thou mayest be a sign to those who come after thee! but verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our Signs!”10:92

The Pharaoh’s last minute acknowledgement was not accepted. Will taking a pill save you when you are at your death bed and the cancer has spread terminally?

A CALL TO ACTION

Well then? Have you thought about the afflictions in your life? Did you turn to God for help, implore Him and beseech Him to remove your period of trial? What did you vow in return? He did His bit, have you done yours yet?

“When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.”2:186

He listens to you, but you also need to listen to Him. He will improve your condition if you do:

“But those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and believe in the (Revelation) sent down to Muhammad – for it is the Truth from their Lord, – He will remove from them their ills and improve their condition.” 47:2

So here we are. Into the second stage of Ramadan. First ten days gone. The month of mercy is still here. Nights of guidance and revelation still on.

But it begs the question in terms of the road less traveled; where are you now, and where do you want to be?

The choice is yours.