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.

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?

 

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

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?

 

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

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.