Faithful Foreigners


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OUR environment poses considerable challenges to our well-being. While many take this to mean physical wellness, often completely ignored is the impact that environmental influences pose to one’s spiritual health. We are constantly under pressure to conform. Society, family, friends, co-workers, businesses, governments — they all demand that we follow a certain pattern.

So we then eventually give in. In order to be accepted within one’s social circle, people undergo a change. They will let go of that which the environment does not accept and embrace the norms palatable within their circle. People will happily change their beliefs, even their names in the face of hostilities.

Immigration is a major life decision. It is not merely a logistical move to a foreign land, but by it one is also transported to a new set of ideas, beliefs and customs. Foreign migrants are under pressure to assimilate with the host culture. From certain quarters fingers are pointed at the ‘foreign’ faith that has come with the migrant. Social influence poses a considerable challenge to the faith of foreign migrants. It is a challenge that is often overlooked and underestimated.

Participation in interfaith conversations will help remove misconceptions.

As economic migrants people are motivated by the lure of a better standard of living and a comfortable lifestyle. It is the dream of greener pastures in a foreign land that drives them to move house rather than any missionary zeal. As recent arrivals, little do they realise that they have ventured into a territory in which the majority may not be sympathetic towards their foreign culture.

Religious groups that are seeking converts actively target families of foreign migrants. Evangelical preachers, religious cults and new religious movements would knock on people’s doors in migrant conurbations, introduce the household to their doctrines and raise critical questions about the faith that the family has brought with it to the country. Is the family prepared for this? There is also the role of non-believing friends and peers on young impressionable minds. Critical attitudes to the Islamic faith at school and from friends are instrumental in shaping the personality of children.

For Muslims, this issue is increasingly becoming important given the recent rise in hostilities against Islam. As a Muslim family choosing to migrate to a non-Muslim environment it is crucial to be aware of the common arguments against Islam that are posed by those critical to the faith and their responses. Also important is to know the counter-narrative to extremists that often target the young and vulnerable from migrant groups. In most cases, people are unprepared.

When their children face such interrogation, they would not have any choice but to surrender to the one-sided narrative. Subjecting children to an environment where there is constant criticism and hostility to one’s faith is detrimental to their spiritual well-being.

With fragmented communities, the problem is exacerbated. For the Muslim young, university life away from familiar surroundings can also lead them to drift from the faith taught and practised at home and expose them to unsympathetic ideas. Challenges to one’s faith and belief are manifold when living as a foreign immigrant.

Religious duties like the ability to recite the Quran properly, to perform the five daily prayers, to observe fasts during the month of Ramazan, to be able to calculate zakat applicable on one’s assets and to have knowledge of the dietary prohibitions is a basic requirement for every Muslim. No doubt that migrants are capable of this much. But given the hostile environment in which they are now raising their future generations, it is expedient that they also realise that more needs to be done. The Quranic injunction: “O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones. …” (66:6) necessitates that Muslims take appropriate steps to raise their children on revealed guidelines, and caution them against that which is detrimental to their moral well-being.

Thus Muslims living as minorities in non-Muslim lands have a duty to educate the family and prepare it for the times to come. They should always remain a part of their local Muslim community and not distance themselves from it. Their religious learning, regular attendance at the local mosque and interaction with credible Islamic scholars will enable them to negotiate away from environmental pressures. Participation in interfaith conversations and outreach to non-Muslim friends will help remove misconceptions and break down barriers.

Muslim migrants need not jettison their faith or ethnicity to blend in with the wider environment. They should play a full part in society whilst retaining their values. Through their conduct they are to demonstrate the peaceful coexistence enjoined by their faith and make a positive contribution to society.

Published in DAWN, February 23, 2018


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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

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Wasted Salat


First published in DAWN, 06, June, 2014

NEGLECTED PRAYER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Have You Been Dialling The Wrong Number?


Instead of Asking People, Why Not Try Asking God Directly If He is There?

We often come across people who curiously ask us: “Where is God?” The problem with such an approach is that though they are asking the right question, it is misdirected. Why ask the creation to tell you about the Supreme Creator? Can’t God speak for Himself? If He is really there, then He is quite capable of communicating with His creation. So instead of asking self proclaimed middle-men about God, you owe it to yourself to get a direct appointment. God can answer you Himself in a manner that is specific to you.

People think that God is somewhere very distant, but the Qur’an teaches that He is very near:

“And when My servants ask you concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” (2:186)

In fact He is nearer to us than our jugular vein:

“And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein. ” (50:16)

If the words of God spoken in the first person in the Qur’an: “I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me…” are true, and if God is really that close to us that He knows our inner most thoughts, then then it follows that you should address God directly for a sign or guidance. If He is really there, then He will show you the proofs about His existence.

So instead of asking intermediaries about God, for a change why not ask God directly, one on one?  If you are serious, then all you have to do is ask.

Just Try And See!

Why not try it now, and see for yourself, at this very moment in time. Ask God for His guidance and see if you receive a sign in your life. Just repeat the words of the prayer below and see what happens:

“It is You we serve and You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path!” (1:5-6)

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Antisemitism


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

By Kashif Shahzada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Equality of All Races and Tribes Before God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distorted Readings Are Creating Divisions

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

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

Condemnation of Beliefs and Behaviours, And Not of Ethnic Origins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criticism of Yahoodi Beliefs and Behavior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parents


Relations that Muslims must maintain with their elderly and aging parents

AT TIMES our relationships with our elderly and aging parents can be challenging. It is quite common nowadays for people to send their parents to an old home at that period in life rather than bear them constant company. But what relations are Muslim sons and daughters to maintain with their parents, specially when they are in old age?

In what matters are they not supposed to obey them? Generally what opinion have people held concerning their parents and ancestors when the message of God was delivered to them?What should be believers’ relationship with their parents in case they are not sympathetic to Islam and are unbelievers?

The answers to such and many other questions are provided in the Qur’an as guidance for all humanity. The Qur’an provides a clear criterion to believers for establishing a relationship with their parents whether they be believers or unbelievers. This article explores such issues in the light of Ayaat (verses) dealing with this subject.

WHEN YOUR PARENTS ARE OLD

Believers are instructed about the sort of behavior that they are to maintain with their parents, especially when parents have reached old age:

“And your Sustainer has decreed that you will serve none but Him, and that you be good towards parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them (even) ‘fie’ nor rebuke them but address them with terms of honor.” (17:23)

“And out of kindness lower to them the wing of humility and say: ’O My Sustainer, Bestow on them your mercy even as they cherished me in childhood.” (17:24)

In the above verse believers are restrained from even saying ’fie’ i.e. a meager word of protest to their parents as people who are harsh on their parents and rebuke them are described as:

“And (there is one) who says to his parents ‘Fie’ on you! Do you hold out the promise to me that I shall be raised up, even though generations have passed before me?’ And they too seek God’s aid (and say) ‘Woe to you! Believe! For the promise of God is true.’ But he says: ‘This is nothing but tales of the ancients!’ (46:17)

“Such are they against whom is proved the sentence among the previous generations of Jinn (hidden persons) and mankind, that have passed away; for they are those in loss.” (46:18)

SUPPORT YOUR PARENTS FINANCIALLY

Believers are also commanded to spend on their parents from their resources as they cherished them in childhood:

“They ask you what they should spend. Say: ‘Whatever you spend that is good, is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers. And whatever you do that is good, God has its knowledge.” (2:215)

DO NOT TREAT YOUR MOTHER HARSHLY

It is obligatory for believers to provide for their parents when they are in need and not to desert them in an old home. Furthermore they cannot impose any hardships on them. In the Qur’an, Jesus Christ is cited as an example to emulate in this regard:

(Jesus said) “And He has made me kind to my mother and not overbearing or miserable.” (19:32)

WHEN YOU SHOULD NOT OBEY THEM

While maintaining good behavior with their parents, the believers are instructed not to obey their parents in certain situations:

“And We have enjoined on Man concerning his parents: In travail upon travail did his mother bear him and his weaning is in two-years: Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: To Me is your goal.” (31:14)

“But if they strive with you to associate with Me that which you have no knowledge, then obey them not; Yet bear them company in this life in a recognized manner. And follow the way of those who turn to Me. In the end the return of you all is to Me, and I will tell you the truth of all you did.” (31:15)

You are not to obey our parents if they suggest ’Shirk’ i.e. association with God, yet bear them company in a just manner.

DO NOT BLINDLY ADHERE TO YOUR PARENT’S FAITH

Usually people maintain those beliefs in their lives which they have inherited from their parents and ancestors. Seldom do they analyze the inherited belief and faith by way of reason or evaluate it critically. A person calls himself a Muslim usually because he was born to parents who labeled themselves as such. It is rare to find a person to analyze his parent’s beliefs to see whether their version of Islam conforms to the Qur’an or not.

Similarly a person may label himself as a Christian, rarely on account of an informed reading of the Christian scriptures, but more due to the Christian faith that he has inherited from parents. This is the common trend in all religions. Majority of people are religious by birth and not necessarily by choice. People seldom follow a religion after its study and critical analysis, but lean more towards what parents hold to be true, as that is the easy path and a more comfortable identity for them.

As religious beliefs are spread mostly from generation to generation and held in veneration due to the emotional attachment and bonding that children have with their parents, it is not uncommon for people to take the faith of their ancestors to be the whole truth under the assumption that their elders and loved ones could not be wrong.

The Qur’an is against such an approach towards religion. According to it, the inherited faith has always caused a barrier in accepting the truth as the beliefs of ancestors are mostly at variance with the message of God. We read that in all times the foremost reaction of people, when the truth and reality of God is made evident to them is that they found their fathers following something else and they will stick to their ancestral beliefs. The excuse that people give when they are told to follow Qur’an is the same and they prefer the blind following of the sect or denomination which they received from their parents rather than personally consult the Qur’an for guidance:

“And when it is said to them: ‘Follow what God has revealed !’ They say: ‘Nay! We will follow what we found our fathers following.’ What! Even though their fathers were void of wisdom and guidance?” (2:170)

The faith of ancestors has always been a barrier in accepting the truth and God’s messengers were repeatedly given the same argument.

Response to Prophet Noah

“….Never did we hear such a thing among our fathers of old.” (23:24)

Response to Prophet Hud:

“…Have you come to us that we may serve God alone and leave that which our fathers served…?” (7:70)

Response to Prophet Salih:

“…..Do you forbid us that which our fathers served ? ….” (11:62)

Response to Prophet Shoaib:

” O Shoaib, does your Salat order that we leave of that which our fathers served…..” (11:87)

Answer to Prophet Abraham’s question:

“They said: ‘Nay we but found our fathers doing thus what we do!” (26:74)

Prophet Joseph’s reminder:

“If not Him you serve nothing but names which you have named, you and your fathers….” (12:40)

Response to Moses and Aaron:

“…Never did we hear the like among our fathers of old! ” (28:36)

Reaction to Muhammed:

“…This is just a Man whose intention is to oppose you from that which your fathers served…” (34:43)

It can be observed from above that the Qur’an strongly opposes the blind following of the faith of parents and ancestors.

It invites people to use their reasoning ability and intelligence in ascertaining the truth.[i] The Qur’an not only provides evidence for its claims[ii] but also asks its opponents to provide sufficient proofs.[iii] Blind following of ancestors involves a person to accept their beliefs without question or sufficient proof. The blind submission to ancestral beliefs is encouraged by Satan as his chief objective is to keep people away from the Qur’an:

“When they are told to follow what God has revealed, they say: ‘Nay we shall follow the ways that we found our fathers following! ‘What ! Even if it is Satan beckoning them to the penalty of the blazing (fire)?” (31:21)

Instead of taking guidance for all matters requiring guidance from the Book of God, people insist upon copying the ways of their fathers.

” What! Have We given them a Book before this to which they are holding fast?” (43:21)

“Nay! They say: ‘We found our fathers following a certain way and we will guide ourselves by their footsteps.” (43:22)

“Just in the same manner, whenever We sent a Warner before you to any town, the wealthy ones among them said: ‘Surely we found our fathers following a certain way and we will certainly follow in their footsteps.” (43:23)

By following the faith of their ancestors people get involved in worshiping those names and heroes which exist in their ancestral traditions and don’t serve God alone. Joseph also faced a similar situation and he reminded:

“If not Him you serve nothing but names which you have named, you and your fathers, for which God has revealed no authority: The government is for none but God; He has ordered that you be subservient to none but Him, that is the established judgment but most of mankind do not know.” (12:40)

IF YOU BLINDLY FOLLOWED YOUR PARENTS

It is essential once we have the opportunity in this lifetime that we use our reasoning and the evidence available to us in analyzing the faith that we have inherited from our parents, whether it can justified as the truth. In case we are not doing this exercise but are blindly following our fathers then our end has been foretold:

“Then their return is to the blazing (fire).” (37:68)

“Surely they found their fathers on the wrong path.” (37:69)

“So they (too) rushed down their footsteps.” (37:70)

God will question on the last day:

“The fire will burn their faces and they will grin therein with their lips displaced.” (23:104)

“Were not my signs rehearsed to you and you did but treat them as falsehoods?”(23:105)

“They will say: ‘Our Sustainer! Our misfortune overwhelmed us and we became a people astray!” (23:106)

People will further admit on that day:

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

RELATIONSHIP WITH UNBELIEVING PARENTS

To a believer, the cause of God is what matters the most. Believers cannot give preference to their parents, children, relatives, careers etc. over the cause of God. The following verse reminds us:

“Say: ‘If it be that your fathers, or your sons, or your brothers, or your mates, or your relatives; the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline; or the buildings in which you delight–are dearer to you than God and his Messenger and the striving in his way;–Then wait, until God brings about his decision: and God guides not the Dissolute.” (9:24)

If parents and relatives hold such beliefs and actions that are against the teachings of the Qur’an , then they are not to be taken into intimate ranks:

“O Believers! Take not as protectors your fathers or your brothers if they love disbelief (Kufr) above belief (Eimaan). If any of you do so then they are from the oppressors.” (9:23)

In such a situation were parents are unbelievers, believers should strive to share God’s message with them and in case they do not respond positively and are harsh and aggressive, then bear such aggression with patience and should not retaliate harshly themselves.

Misbehaving would mean taking a stand on a person’s own ego, rather than following the guidance of God. The example of Abraham is to be followed when dealing with unbelieving and aggressive parents:

“And remember in The Book, Abraham; He was a true Prophet.” (19:41)

“When he said to his father; ‘O my father why serve that which hears not sees not and can profit you nothing?” (19:42)

“O my father! To me has come knowledge that has not reached you: So follow me. I will guide you to a way that is even and straight.” (19:43)

“O my father serve not Satan, for Satan is a rebel against (God) Most gracious.” (19:44)

“O my father! I fear that a penalty from (God) Most Gracious afflict you, so that you become to Satan, a friend.” (19:45)

To Abraham’s invitation his father responded in negative:

“(The father) replied: ‘Do you hate my gods O Abraham? If you forbear not, I will indeed stone you! Now get away from me for a long while! ” (19:46)

Abraham did not reply in a harsh manner to his father’s threat:

“(Abraham) Said: ’Peace be on you: I will pray to my sustainer for your forgiveness, for He is to me most gracious.” (19:47)

Imaan or belief is the ultimate cornerstone in the life of a believer and Qur’an describes them as not having affection or love for those who oppose the way of life prescribed by God even if they are their parents and near relatives:

“You will not find any people who believe in God and the Last day, loving those who oppose God and His Messenger even though they were their fathers or their brothers, or their kindred. For such He has written ‘Eimaan’ (belief) in their hearts and has strengthened them with a spirit from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever. God well pleased with them and they with Him. They are the Party of God. Surely it is the Party of God that will prosper.” (58:22)

RIGHTEOUS PARENTS OF NO HELP

Even if our parents are genuinely righteous in the sight of God, even then they can be of no help to us on the last day. Each and every one of us is responsible for our own actions.[iv] How much we follow the guidance of God in our lives that we ourselves have to face.

The instance of Noah is evident in this regard as he being a messenger of God could not save his own son:

“And Noah called upon his Sustainer, and said: ’O my Sustainer, surely my son is of my family and your promise is true and you are the most just of judges !” (11:45)

We are responsible and accountable for our own actions, what our parents and ancestors did , we will not be questioned about them:

“That was a Nation that has passed away. For them is what they earned and for you is what you earn. And you will not be questioned as to what they did.” (2:141)

A REMINDER ABOUT THE HEREAFTER

People are reminded about the day when parents and children will be of no help to each other. In this life we are responsible for our own beliefs and actions and have been provided with the faculty of reasoning and the free will to choose our course.

It is our own duty to seek the truth and follow the guidance, rather than blindly follow our parents and ancestors. On the last day we cannot put the blame on our parents for the results of our actions.

“O Mankind! Do your duty to your Sustainer, and fear a day when no father can avail ought for his son, nor a son avail aught for his father, Surely the promise of God is true: Let not then this present life deceive you, nor let the chief deceiver deceive you about God.” (31:33)


[i] See 38:29, 47:24, 43:3, 21:10

[ii]See 4:174, 6:104

[iii] See 21:24, 27:64, 2:111, 37:157

[iv] See 53:38, 35:18

 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

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

Muslim Renessiance


If Islam Is So Great, Then Why Are Muslims In Dire Straits?

ANSWERS TO SOME COMMON CRITICISMS

Critics often pose an innocent question to the faithful. “You people of faith blow your own trumpet. You claim that your religion is the best that there is, and that it has the solution to the problems of humanity. Then why is it that we see those who claim to be believers in dire straits, struggling for basics of life?”

They raise the question that: “after all, there are many Muslim countries in the world, where people may say that their religion is Islam and where they identify with the belief, and may even claim to have experienced Islam for a millennium, how come the faith has failed to eradicate their social ills and make societal advancements?” I believe the questioners have raised a valid point which needs addressing.

Justify Yourself

If we claim that ours is the best, then how do we justify our own backwardness? After all, the Muslims are not leading the world in science and technology, their countries are not having a good record of human rights and democratic freedoms, in fact tales of cultural oppression and backwardness are abound in the press concerning them. Then what right do we as Muslims have to say we have the panacea to all ills?

The Logical Fallacy of Backwardness of ‘Muslims’

However, there is a fundamental flaw in the argument. And that flaw is based on an assumption. The outsider thinks that those who label themselves as ‘Muslims’ are perfectly ‘Islamic’ in their conduct.

That whatever happens in their societies and environments is a result of Islam being put into practice. This is the grave error that they commit. That these societies have experienced Islam (the true religion based on the Qur’an) is an assumption. One experiences Islam, not through cultural osmosis or by inheriting the faith from ancestors, but through personal effort (see Qur’an 29:69), thought and reflection (47:24), a personal study of the Qur’an (54:17) and a life of action based on its inspiration (6:19).

The Authority For All Things Islamic

The authority for what is Islamic to what is not lies with the Qur’an, which is the word of God and the actual divine injunctions given to believers. Until or unless Qur’anic injunctions are put into practice in society, any claims of it being an Islamic one do not warrant any serious response. This is stated in not one, but numerous Qur’anic verses, and it is by passing through this very process that one truly experiences Islam. One is not a Muslim merely by being born into a Muslim community or being raised up in a community that labels itself as Islamic, but one attains the status of a Submitter (which is what the word Muslim means) through conscious and willing submission to the Qur’an and a life of action based on its teachings (see 2:128).

Critics are quick to say that many of these societies have experienced Islam, but they fail to pin point which “Islam” have they experienced, or whether what these countries have experienced throughout these centuries really is Islam, or is something very different but using the label of Islam to justify itself. When critics are able to prove that the societies they bring as evidence of Muslim backwardness have experienced Islam based on the Qur’an for a millennium and not an adulterated form of the faith, and yet remain unchanged, then their assertion would be valid. However, as they fall short of proving that these societies are truly Islamic i.e. based on Qur’an as supreme law and social order, their question about the faith being failed to eradicate social ills is out of mark.

Superficial Criticism

But the critic won’t stop just there. He expresses his dissatisfaction on Islam’s holy text. Some even go to the extent of declaring that they had been horrified upon reading it, but what exactly was it that they found horrifying, they don’t say. Are they uncomfortable with the exhortation to extend justice to all, even one’s own enemies (4:135, 5:8) that didn’t go down well with their own agenda? Or was it the injunction to ensure a just and equitable distribution of wealth, so that resources of the land “do not remain in the hands of only the wealthy among you…” (59:7), that horrified them, as it went against granting privileges to the rich at the expense of the poor? So what exactly was it?

But we need to agree on one point with the critics, where they suggest that  many in the West (or even the East for that matter) are at loggerheads with Qur’anic values. After all the Qur’an is calling them to change, to mend their ways, to give up racism and policies based around regional and national interests, to extend justice and equity to all, to keep a check on their personal and carnal pleasures and share their wealth with the unfortunate for the sake of God, all this is definitely what they don’t want to do.

So why wouldn’t they express their horror at such a text, which asks them to move out of their comfort zone. Why wouldn’t they treat it as a ‘foreign’ ideology’, instead of a serious manual for reform of life mandatory for a sincere quest for truth? Indeed righteousness is a foreign element in the mind of the malicious!

Islam is not a foreign import, but a part and parcel of Western Society

And they are definitely not correct in generalizing that there is a long tradition about Western incomprehension of the Qur’an. I am sure that people are aware that there are many in the West who find the Qur’an perfectly comprehensible! I am not talking of immigrants or second  generation believers, but native, Westerners, who have studied the book of their own accord and appreciate it on its own merit. E.g.

“Quran takes the responsibility of man prosperity alone. I hope it will not be too late that time which I can unite all the scholars of all the countries together and establish a monotone society based on principles of Quran only which will guide people to prosperity.” Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1721)


“Everything made so much sense. This is the beauty of the Qur’an; it asks you to reflect and reason… When I read the Qur’an further, it talked about prayer, kindness and charity. I was not a Muslim yet, but I felt the only answer for me was the Qur’an and Allah had sent it to me.” (Yusuf Islam [Cat Stevens], British pop star)

Do people accept such individuals as Westerners? Some claim that they find Islam to be foreign an incomprehensible, and one whose study requires qualifications in foreign culture and language for a better grasp of the text, but what will they say to the fact that many outsiders to the faith have very well grasped the essence of its message, and that too without the qualifications suggested? Is not the actual existence of such individuals and their growing number in the west a living rebuttal to the claim of Qur’an’s incomprehension?

They expresses their concern about the Qur’an being in a frame of patriarchy but the culture and society in which they live themselves, would they say that it is matriarchal? They consider the Qur’an to be an old and outdated text, a product of its  its time. Indeed the Qur’an is a text of its time, but its time frame is not 7th century Arabia, but day one of human existence. Since ever humankind has existed or will exist, Qur’anic era is in place with its values providing the divine guiding light. The problem with most critics of the Qur’an is the very motivation with which they approach the book. What is the purpose? Why do they wish to study the text? Is it to explore its truthfulness? Or is it to find a reflection of their own likes and dislikes?

I think, the type of motivation one has, that type of results he or she will get in the end.

“..He causes many to err by it and many He leads aright by it! but He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors…” 2:26

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

Cordial Relations Between Faith Communities


During the course of interfaith dialogue some participants assert that Islam advocates intolerance of other faiths, and that Muslims are not permitted to be friendly with non believers. Some even point out references from religious texts to support their view. Sadly, a few of those who label themselves as Muslim also agree to this and maintain a view that non believers should be shunned and despised, and Muslims should not forge cordial ties with them but should be in a constant state of animosity.

Particularly, references are made towards those of Jewish and Christian tradition and the objection is raised that Muslims are advised in their holy scripture not to: “…take the Jews and Christians as allies … Anyone who takes them as an ally becomes one of them.”? (5:51)”.

If believers are not to form alliances with Jews and Christians, then how can communal harmony be built in environments where diverse faiths reside and share the same spaces? Imagine a school where children of Jewish, Islamic and Christian backgrounds come together to study, are Muslims supposed to shun their Jewish and Christan classmates, and not seek their friendship?

What about the sports team where Muslims, Jews and Christians play together? If such a view were put into practice in letter and spirit, then what would be the outcome for the Muslim community but becoming ostracized from the rest of the members of society. Sadly, this is what some misguided individuals would want us to believe. This serious misconception and errant view is the result of complete ignorance of the Qur’an and lack of understanding of Arabic language. The verse in question which is often cherry picked to ‘prove’ the intolerant behavior of Muslims is not interpreted and understood properly and distorted readings are what cause such misconceptions.

In reality the verse in question (5:51) states that believers should not take Jews and Christians as Aulia. The Arabic word Aulia is the plural form of Wali and its precise meaning is more than just ‘friend’ or ‘ally’, but the term carries the meaning of “guardian”, “manager of affairs”, “protector”, and “caretaker”. (C.F. Lane’s Arabic English Lexicon, pp. 3080).

E.g. A parent is a Wali i.e. a guardian, or manager of affairs and maintenance of his child. For ‘friend’ or ‘ally’, the words Khaleel (see 25:28 & 17:73) and Sadeeq (see 24:61) have occurred in the Qur’an. There is a difference between being friends with someone and in living as a dependent under someone’s guardianship or protection, whereby the guardian controls the material as well as spiritual needs of the dependent. But why is it that the Qur’an exhorts believers not to be under the guardianship of Jews and Christians?

Because some Jews and Christians have been identified in the Qur’an to display certain characteristics that are detrimental to the spiritual well being of believers, e.g. they will not show tolerance towards the religion of believers, but will strive to convert them to their own religion. They consider salvation to be their exclusive right, destine only themselves to paradise and condemn the rest of mankind to hellfire (see 2:111), consider only themselves as the son’s and beloved one’s of God (see 5:18), and do not have any accommodation for anyone else, even for each other (see 2:113). The believers are therefore warned that with such a mentality such individuals will not rest until they convert others to their own belief:

“And never will the Jews and the Christians be satisfied with you until you follow their religion..” (2:120)

“And they say: ‘Become Jew or Christian, and it is then that you will be guided aright!…” (2:135)

Therefore, in such a situation where believers do not have the freedom to maintain their own beliefs, and were they are under the constant barrage to convert, they should not remain under the guardianship of such individuals who do not allow them personal freedom and from whom they are under the strain of proselytism and demands for conversion. I am sure that people  will feel uncomfortable in such an environment, where “Hot Gospellers” and “Bible Thumpers” rest not until they convert people to their own point of view and will see the wisdom behind the Qur’anic advice of not remaining dependent and subservient in such a passionate evangelical or rabbinical atmosphere.

The Qur’an forbids believers to seek guardianship and protection of those who are aggressive and intolerant towards their faith. As for those who do not show aggression and intolerance towards believers, the Qur’anic advice is for good and just relations as stated:

“God forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loveth those who are just.” (60:8)

Deal kindly and justly with Jews and Christians who are non hostile to you. This is God’s instruction to the Muslim community. There is ample textual evidence for this case.

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The Dilemma Of Faith


When Faith Becomes A Hurdle in Our Search For Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENMITY TOWARDS REASON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAITH AS A TOOL FOR OPPRESSION

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

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

AN ALTERNATE VIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRODUCE YOUR PROOF!

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

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

But demands evidence and proof from its opponents as well:

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

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

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

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

A CALL TO ACTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

The choice is yours.

Free will


DO WE HAVE FREEDOM OF CHOICE OR IS EVERYTHING WE DO PREDETERMINED IN OUR FATE?

INTRODUCTION

Has God pre-determined the fate of people? Is all the good or bad happening to us in life pre-written for us in our fate? Belief in predestination is advocated in many faiths, and some people even claim that it is a central belief of Islam. Critics often raise the query upon reading certain phrases in the Qur’an, claiming that according to them, belief in fate and destiny is furthered. E.g. The expression “Then GOD leaves to go astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills” occurs in numerous locations, and by just taking this portion people reach the conclusion that God’s will is acting arbitrality on people, and He has decided beforehand who will attain salvation and who will have eternal damnation.

So rigid is this belief, that many (specially in the East) wholeheartedly surrender to the notion, and any outcome, or result is attributed to Divine will. When driving a car, if met by an accident, people proclaim that what could they do, it was God’s will that their car got smashed! Was God behind the driving seat, they do not mention. People even get into the habit of remaining in misery and ignominy, because they feel that its all a part of the Divine plan and no matter what they do they cannot change their circumstances, hence give up the struggle to change. Their own actions and efforts are meaningless; because only that will happen that God has willed, say the faithful.

That people do not have any free will of their own and rather, everything that they do is not a result of their own intention and choice but was divinely ordained for them in their ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’. Such beliefs on predestination are found in almost all faiths, e.g. Karma in Buddhism, Kismet in Hinduism, Qadar in Sufism, and more. By this belief, people think that no matter what they do, they can not change their ‘destiny’, and should instead accept their circumstances as they are.

However, what is the Muslim position regarding this matter? Let us see what does the Quran say whether we have the free will to choose our line of action or is everything we do pre-planned for us?

THE FREEDOM TO DO AS WE WILL

The following verses inform us clearly:

18:29 Say: The truth is from your Lord : Let him who will believe and let him who will reject (it)

Above verse clearly states that, to accept or reject the truth rests on a persons free will.

76:4 We have shown him the way, whether he be grateful or ungrateful.

73:19-Verily this is an Admonition: therefore whoso will let him take a (straight) path to his Lord!

25:57 Say: No reward do I ask of you for it but this: that each one who will may take a (straight) Path to his Lord.

The above verses clearly establish that human beings do have the free will to choose either way, or any path of action according to his own discretion. God further informs;

29:69 And those who strive in Our (cause) – We will certainly guide them to our Paths: For verily God is with those who do right.

Had our fate already been decided or sealed, God would have never mentioned that man is to strive in His cause, as it would have been meaningless to strive and struggle for something which has already been decided. Hence by informing that to strive in His cause we would be guided to His ways it is confirmed that it is our struggle and action that will lead us to the path and pleasure of God and not what has been pre destined for us in our ‘fate’. We are further reminded:

39:7 If ye reject (God) Truly God hath no need of you; but he liketh not ingratitude from his servants: if ye are grateful He is pleased with you. No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another. In the end to your Lord is your Return when He will tell you the truth of all that ye did (in this life). for He knoweth well all that is in (men’s) hearts.

If our fate was already decided, God would have never said; “…but he liketh not ingratitude from his servants..” As it would not be fitting to say that a certain action is not liked by God when it is God himself who has written that action for man in that persons fate !

Again we are reminded that to take guidance of God rests upon a persons free will and choice, and he is not under any compulsion, but it is entirely up to him whether he chooses God’s guidance or not. God informs us through His messenger:

80:11 By no means (should it be so)! For it is indeed a Message of instruction:

80:12 Therefore let whoso will keep it in remembrance.

Finally God in clear terms informs us that you have the freedom to act according to your choice, but your actions are under the supervision of God’s laws of requital.

40:41 “…….Do what ye will: verily He seeth (clearly) all that ye do.”

God gives you the freedom to work as you will. The above verses are proof that you have the freedom of choice when it comes to selecting the path of God and you are not under any pre ordained compulsion or any state of helplessness that what ever you are doing is not because of your will but was already decided in your ‘fate’. You very much have the freedom to chose the path you wish and use your free will in chalking out a line of action for yourself.

WE ARE FREE TO ACT, BUT OUR ACTIONS PRODUCE RESULTS

Every action you do produces a result. An action consistent with the laws of God produces a good result and working against those laws produces a negative result.

You have been given the free will to chose as you wish, but it is not in your hands to change the results of the actions you did , i.e. you have the freedom to eat very dangerous toxic substance or poison, and as a result you can die. You did that act of your own free will, but it is not in the scope of your will to change the result of that action, i.e. it is not possible that you consume poison and as a result get very good health, instead of dying or harming your physical condition. Whatever law God has framed for that poisonous substance, you will get the results of that law. The type of act you do, that type of result you will get;

53.31 And God’s is what is in the heavens and what is in the earth, that He may reward those who do evil according to what they do, and (that) He may reward those who do good with goodness.

ALL ACTIONS ARE REWARDED OR PUNISHED ACCORDING TO THEIR NATURE

45.22 And God created the heavens and the earth with truth and that every soul may be rewarded for what it has earned and they shall not be wronged.

If you do an act consistent or in consistent with the laws of God, you will get its result on your self. You cannot transfer the results of your wrong doings to anyone else. You have to pay for what you did. You have to carry your own weight Some other person can not be held accountable for what you did.

45.15 Whoever does good, it is for his own soul, and whoever does evil, it is against himself; then you shall be brought back to your– Lord.

The type of results you get is not because God had already decided your fate and you had no say in it and were helpless. The results you get depend on the actions and deeds you do.

27:90 And if any do evil their faces will be thrown headlong into the Fire: “Do ye receive a reward other than that which ye have earned by your deeds?

37.38 Most surely you will taste the painful punishment.

37.39 And you shall not be rewarded except (for) what you did.

If your actions and deeds where not consistent to the laws and commandments of God, you will get the results for those deeds as God has ordained:

52:13 That Day shall they be thrust down to the Fire of Hell irresistibly.

52:14 This: it will be said: Is the Fire – which ye were wont to deny!

52:15 Is this then a fake or is it ye that do not see?

52:16 Burn ye therein: the same is it to you whether ye bear it with patience or not: Ye but receive the recompense of your (own) deeds.

If your actions were consistent and in accordance with God’s laws you will get their results likewise;

52:17 As to the Righteous they will be in Gardens and in Happiness

52:18 Enjoying the (Bliss) which their Lord hath bestowed on them and their Lord shall deliver them from the Penalty of the Fire.

52:19 (To them will be said:) “Eat and drink ye with profit and health because of your deeds.

Each and every action will be recompensed and rewarded. Whether it is done by a man or a woman:

3:196 So their Lord answered their prayers, saying, `I will suffer not the work of any worker from among you, whether male or female, to be lost. You are from one another….

You will most certainly be held accountable for the type of actions you chose to do, and the blame is definitely not on God.

7:147 I shall soon turn away from My Signs those who behave proudly in the land in an unjust manner; and even if they see all the Signs, they will not believe therein; and if they see the way of righteousness, they will not adapt it as their way; but if they see the way of error, they will adopt it as their way. That is because they treated our signs as lies and were heedless of them.

7:148 And those who reject Our Signs and the meeting of the Hereafter – their works are vain. Can they expect to be rewarded for anything except for what they do ?

If you chose to behave in the manner described in the above verse, then you will be turned away from the signs of God according to the law of God which is expressed as His will. You are to blame yourself for this as you chose to behave in this manner by your free will. It is you yourself who is responsible for the negative results you get for your actions and God is not to be blamed. He reminds in clear terms;

10:45 Certainly, God wrongs not men at all; it is they who wrong their own souls.

The following verses are more specific in informing that in case you do an act inconsistent with God’s law because of that you will be held accountable, and it is not God who is to blame:

16:33 Do they wait until the angels come to them or there comes the Command of thy Lord ? So did those who went before them. But God wronged them not :nay they wronged their own souls.

16:34 But the evil results of their deeds overtook them and that very (Wrath) at which they had scoffed hemmed them in.

You are yourself responsible for your actions, and in case you do wrong then the blame is on you, not on God, as the verse reminds;

41.46 Whoever does good, it is for his own soul, and whoever does evil, it is against it; and your Lord is not in the least unjust to his servants.

GOD’S WILL IS NOT ARBITRARY BUT ACCORDING TO PRECISE LAWS

God has expressed His will as His laws. His laws are ordained and in action in the physical universe, i.e. in the phenomena of nature as well as in the form of His guidance for Mankind contained in Al-Quran, which governs human affairs, and which also is unchangeable and permanent. Now the will of God is expressed in the Quran, but God has given us the free will to either accept those laws and derive the benefit from them in this world as well as the next life. Or go against those laws and suffer the consequences again in this world as well as the next. On one hand the Quran gives us the description and results of following the commandments of God, while on the other it also describes what would be the consequences of going against them. Both ways, if we select the path of God, or reject it, the results have been defined. Remember, the will of God is manifested by His permanent laws in the physical universe as well as human affairs.

It is the law of God which is permanent and fixed, not the fate of mankind. If man follows the commands of God he will get the results as ordained in law, if he goes against them he will again get the results as in God’s law. Man has been given the free will to select either way. Follow the commandments or go against them. In both ways the results will be produced accordingly, and those results cannot be changed. Now I’ll give examples of this from general science as well as Quranic verses

God has ordained the law for fire that if we put our hand in it, our hand will get burned. The burning properties of fire are ordained as a law by God. It isn’t possible that we put our hand in fire and get the result as if we had placed it in a cool place. Our burned hand will not get healed unless we treat it with medicine, and apply another law of God in the form of healing properties of the medicine. Putting our hand in the fire was an act which we committed by ourselves. It was our job to know and be aware that fire can burn, and in case we didn’t, then it is our own fault, and not the consequences of our fate.

Coming to the portion of the verse which is causing confusion:

14.4 ….Then GOD leaves to go astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the Mighty, the Wise.

Now who are the people who are astray and what are their characteristics, this is abundantly clarified in the Quran at many places. Some verses that define those who are astray according to the law (will) of God are given below. Do note, if you have the qualities as mentioned in those verses then you are also astray according to God’s laws.

THE TYPE OF BEHAVIOUR IN PEOPLE THAT MAKES THEM GO ASTRAY?

(1) Those who are transgressors (fasiqoon):

2.26 Surely God is not ashamed to set forth any parable– (that of) a gnat or any thing above that; then as for those who believe, they know that it is the truth from their Lord, and as for those who disbelieve, they say: What is it that God means by this parable: He causes many to err by it and many He leads aright by it! but He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors

(2) Those who take shayateen (satans) as friends and protectors:

7:30 Some He hath guided: Others have (by their choice) deserved the loss of their way; in that they took the devils in preference to God for their friends and protectors and think that they receive guidance.

22:4 About the (Evil One) it is decreed that whoever turns to him for friendship him will he lead astray and he will guide him to the Penalty of the Fire.

(3) Those who disobey God and His messenger:

33:36 …. and whoever disobeys God and His Messenger, he surely STRAYS off a manifest straying.

(4) Those who are oppressors and are unjust (zalimun):

14.27 God confirms those who believe with the sure word in this world’s life and in the hereafter, and God causes the unjust to go astray, and God does what He pleases.

(5) Those who do not use their faculties of reasoning and listening to analyze the message of God:

25.44 Or do you think that most of them do hear or use their reasoning? They are nothing but as cattle; nay, they are straying farther off from the path.

(6) Those who follow the opinions of their chiefs and great men instead of the message of God

33.67 And they shall say: O our Lord! surely we obeyed our leaders and our great men, so they led us astray from the path;

(7) Those who are blind and heedless to the message of God:

17:72 But those who were blind in this world will be blind in the hereafter and most astray from the Path.

(8) Those who follow the opinions of the people who are in a majority:

6.116 And if you obey most of those in the earth, they will lead you astray from God’s way; they follow but conjecture and they only lie.

(9) Those who follow their desires:

6.56 Say: I am forbidden to serve those whom you call upon besides God. Say: I do not follow your desires. for then indeed I should have gone astray and I should not be of those who go aright.

The above verses describe who are those people who are led astray. Anyone who has above mentioned qualities manifested in him (or her) is astray according to the law of God. Compare above with what Quran says about who are the people who will get God’s guidance? See these verses 39:18 , 13:27 , 6:125 etc.

Above verses are clear in establishing that man has the freedom of choice to select right or wrong in his life. He will be rewarded according to the type of actions he does. God is not to be blamed for his wrong doings but he is to blame himself. People are led astray not because God wants them to go astray but by choosing those qualities for themselves which God has termed to be of those who are astray from his path. Their free selection of those qualities e.g. transgression, disobedience, following desires, not using reasoning and intellect in ascertaining the truth etc is what is making them astray and not God.

CONCLUSION

It will be apparent from engaging into a deep study of the Quran and by cross referencing its verses that it does not require belief in fatalism nor in predestination, but only in pre-measurement; that is to say the fixity of the laws and the intelligence to follow them. Human beings have the free will to follow whatever course of action that they have decided to choose for themselves, however the results of their actions will be in accordance with the laws that have been measured for such actions. If they suffer, then it is because of their own choices, and they should not put the blame for their misgivings on God.

 

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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

God In The Bible And The Qur’an


Is Salvation Guaranteed To All Believers In God?

Belief in God is a fundamental precept in almost all religions. It is not at all uncommon to come across individuals who express their belief in a Supreme Creator and an Omnipotent God. The adherents of Christianity, Judaism and Islam too claim to believe and worship one God and cite a common heritage. It is quite common these days, particularly during interfaith conversations to claim that the Abrahamic faiths profess to believe in the same Creator. While it is true that all of them claim to supplicate to the One being, they are at odds with each other to the exact nature and attributes of the Divine. In this brief article, I would like to demonstrate this aspect on the basis of textual citations from the religious scriptures of these religions.

Cherry Picking Words Out Of Context

A common trend among many is to pick certain Qur’anic words within verses and claim on their basis that one can be a Jew, Christian, Muslim or of any religion whatsoever and all he or she has to do in order to attain salvation is to be a believer in God and practice righteousness according to their own faith. Many people claim if one is a Christian or Jew, then Islam does not call upon them to rectify their belief, but if they were to remain on their faith while professing belief in God, then they are qualified for salvation. Such individuals often cite some Qur’anic passages (or words within those passages) to support their view.

Do Religions Preach The Same Concept Of God?

While I am not going to discuss the means of salvation or the concept thereof, I would like to briefly address this notion. Referring to some verses like Sura 2:62, 5:69 etc, people often claim that as long as they believe in God, they are going to paradise, and they do not need to change their beliefs or practices much.

In Qur’anic terms it is true that belief in God is the quintessential part of Divine acceptability but which God exactly is it that people are supposed to believe in? The adherent replies: “Why, Is there not just one God, that we all believe in commonly?” True again, that there is one God, but who exactly is He? What are His attributes? If we say that God is someone, who in fact He is not, then are we portraying God in the right manner? A study of world scriptures reveals that all the religions are at odds in their descriptions of God and His nature and ascribed purpose of man. What is it that makes God who He really is? This is not common between various faiths, and as a case in point I will cite texts from Judaism, Christianity and Islam to prove my point. In verse 5:69, which is often quoted to justify salvation for all faiths that believe in God, it is stated:

“Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians, whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good– They shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.” 5:69

The important part of this verse is: “..whoever believes in Allah…” as when the Qur’an stresses that a person should believe in Allah, then it is not referring to the concepts of God existing in other religions e.g. the Biblical God Jehovah but referring to Allah of the Qur’an. We can observe by comparative study that the attributes of Allah that occur within the Qur’an are not common to other religious texts, therefore, when the Qur’an promises salvation to believers who believe in God by the statement: “..whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good– they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.” then it is certainly referring to its own concept of God i.e. Allah, the One revealed within its Ayaat, with all His divine attributes and laws as described through His own words. The Qur’anic invitation for belief in Allah does not lend support to belief in the Biblical concept of God, whom the bulk of Judaism and Christendom claim to have faith upon, because Qur’anic Allah and Biblical Jehovah are two very different and distinct personalities (which I shall demonstrate later).

In view of this, the verse calls for any one who believes in Allah (with all his attributes and personality mentioned in the Qur’an, and not any other book) and the last day (once again the concept of Yaum ul akhira or the last day as mentioned in the Qur’an) and performs Amal Al-Salih (Lit. reformatory acts) of the Qur’an, then they should have no fear nor shall they grieve, no matter whether they are coming from a Christian background, Jewish background, whether they were Sabeans before or even if they are born to Muslim parents. If they read in the Qur’an concerning belief in Allah, then it is the Qur’anic Allah that they are to believe in, and not a God that is at variance with the Qur’an.

It should also be noted that such a belief is not something, which one can merely proclaim by oral admittance, but it is arrived at by using our reason and intellect and it isn’t what one inherits from ancestors. Belief in Qur’anic values (Imaan) is something that occurs after examination of evidence and proof, and is not blind faith. The Qur’an is a Book, which not only gives proof for its claims but also asks its challengers to produce their evidence. It invites the people to analyse its message using their faculties of intellect and reason to ascertain its truthfulness.

Following are verses from the Bible and the Qur’an which identify the personality of God, and give us a comparative view to see the difference between Biblical concept of God, and Allah mentioned in the Qur’an and enable us to confirm that the Qur’anic invitation to Allah is distinct from the Biblical version of God.

Does God need rest and refreshment?

” . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and WAS REFRESHED.” EXODUS 31:17

What does the Qur’an say?

“And certainly We created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six periods AND THERE TOUCHED US NOT ANY FATIGUE.” 50:38

Is God a Trinity?

“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one. ” The first Epistle of John 5:7

In contrast, the Qur’an refutes this belief for God:

“They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy) verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.” 5:76

Does God have Wives?

The Bible does not even spare God from illicit sexual aspersions being ascribed to Him: In the case of the conception of Jesus Christ, the Bible says that God Almighty arranged for Mary to conceive Jesus by the intervention of the Holy Ghost:

“The Holy Ghost shall COME UPON thee (the question is, how?) and the power of the most High shall OVERSHADOW thee (again, how?).” LUKE 1:35

Whereas in the case of Isaac, his conception took place in the womb of Sarah by the direct intervention of God himself¹, as recorded in the Bible:

“And the Lord VISITED Sarah, as he had PROMISED and FULFILLED what he had SPOKEN. And Sarah CONCEIVED.. ” GENESIS 21:1-2

“..not according to the covenant that I cut with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which covenant of Mine they broke, although I WAS A HUSBAND TO THEM, says Jehovah.” Jer 31:32

What does the Qur’an say?

“The Originator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have a son when He has NO CONSORT, and He has created everything and has knowledge of all things?” 6:102

Does God have Children?

Yes according to the Bible:

“When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they came in to any of them they chose.” Genesis 6:1-6:2

“I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.” Psalm 2:7

No according to the Qur’an:

“He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: no son has He begotten, nor has He a partner in His dominion: it is He who created all things, and ordered them in due proportions.” 25:2

Does God order His prophets to walk naked in public!

“At the same time spake the Lord by I-sa’iah, the son of A’moz, saying,Go and LOOSE THE SACKCLOTH FROM OFF THY LOINS, and put off thy shoe from thy foot. And he did so, WALKING NAKED and barefoot. And the Lord said, like as my servant ISAIAH hath walked NAKED and barefoot three years..” ISAIAH 20:2-3

In comparison, Allah in the Qur’an says the opposite:

“Say: “Nay Allah never commands what is SHAMEFUL: do ye say of Allah what ye know not?” 7:28

Does God sanction slavery?

“Ye, shall take them (the slaves) as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them (the slaves) for a possession, they shall be, your BONDMEN (slaves) for ever..” LEVITICUS 25:46

What does the Qur’an say?

No man has the right to make others subservient to his laws, even though he may occupy the status of Prophethood.

“It is not meet for a mortal that Allah should give him the Book and the wisdom and Prophethood, then he should say to mankind: Be my slaves rather than Allah’s; but rather (he would say): Be Rabaniyoon (sustenance providers) because of your teaching the Book and your studying (it yourselves).” 3:79

Does God deceive people?

JEREMIAH DECEIVED BY GOD (?):

“O Lord, thou hast DECEIVED me, and I was DECEIVED: thou art stronger than I and hast PREVAILED: I am in derision daily, everyone mocketh me. JEREMIAH 20:7

What does the Qur’an say?

It is the devil who deceives people, not God!

“He (Satan) gives them promises and excites vain desires in them; and the Shaitan does not promise them but TO DECIEVE.” 4:120

Bible on God being omnipotent

“And the Lord was with Judah, and he drove out the inhabitants of the mountain, but COULD NOT drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had Chariots OF IRON.” JUDGES 1:19

What does the Qur’an say?

“..when He has decreed a matter, He only says to it, Be, and it is.” 3:47

Scriptural Variation In The Attributes Of God

It should be clear from the above inflection of Biblical and Quranic passages that the concept of God given in the two scriptures varies greatly. The concept of God that the Bible promotes is not the same as that which the Qur’an has given. In 5:69 people are invited to believe in the Qur’anic concept of Allah, and who ever does that then, they have nothing to fear for the consequences of their actions. The point to consider is that when Allah requires belief in Him, then it means in all His qualities and attributes as mentioned in the Qur’an and not any other book.

The attributes of Allah as described in the Qur’an are not to be found in any other scripture, and a Jew, Christian or any person coming from any faith background if and when he believes in the qualities of Allah as mentioned in the Qur’an, then it can be said that he has nothing to fear or grieve in Quranic terms. That is why at another place in the Qur’an it is said:

“If then they believe as you believe in Him, they are indeed on Guidance, and if they turn back, then they are only in great opposition, so Allah will suffice you against them, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing.” 2:137

The portion of the verse “If then they believe as you believe in Him, they are indeed on Guidance..” clearly establishes that people are required to have that belief on Allah, the Muslims are required to believe i.e. the one which is mentioned in the Qur’an, for that is the belief acceptable to Allah.

To state that the Islam endorses a person of any religion just because he or she believes in God, and that to as per his or her own concept or preferred scripture instead of the attributes of God as described in the Qur’an is to take cherry pick merely words out of the Book and ignore the entire context discussed in numerous passages. Such a tendency has been forewarned:

“There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, “That is from God,” but it is not from God: It is they who tell a lie against God, and (well) they know it!” 3:78

As the Qur’an corrects and refutes the attributes ascribed to God by adherents of Judaism, Christianity as well as other faiths, therefore it is not correct to suggest that it is content with the monotheism of such believers.

REFERENCES

¹Ahmed Deedat, 1992, Combat Kit Against Bible Thumpers, IPCI, Durban, South Africa

 

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Belief As A Precursor To Change

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BELIEF: THE MAIN CAUSE OF SUFFERING

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

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

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

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

 

BELIEF IN MATERIALISM VS BELIEF IN LIFE AFTER DEATH

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

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

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

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

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

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


YOU CAN MAKE A CHANGE, BUT ONLY IF YOU BELIEVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s make this New Year a year of significant change. While setting goals and objectives about our health, wealth, relationships and personal happiness and other private pursuits, let us not forget that we also need to pay attention to the fact that we are part of a wider human fraternity, and they too need something that we at times posses. It could be cash to spare, things to give, but it can also be spare time to volunteer to the sacred cause that aims to ameliorate suffering.

But as mentioned above, this external change cannot come about until or unless we have an internal change within us, until or unless we change our beliefs – beliefs about our own selves, about our fellow human beings and also about why we are here, what we are supposed to do and where we are supposed to go, and most importantly, belief about the Divine.

So it is the New Year. I ‘m sure you may have set yourself resolutions and desire change in many areas of your life.  But I’d like you to reflect on your own personal beliefs as well. Why not review them and see where there is a need for improvement.

Let’s think and reflect.

 

 

European Muslims At Crossroads

There is a silent storm that is emerging in Europe. It is somewhat audible now and if counter measures are not taken, it is likely to cause significant damage. The storm is the rising xenophobia and its epicenter is the Muslim community of Europe.


How Muslims in Europe can tackle Islamophobia and also counter extremism within their ranks? There is a silent storm that is emerging in Europe. It is somewhat audible now and if counter measures are not taken, it is likely to cause significant damage. The storm is the rising xenophobia and its epicenter is the Muslim community of Europe.

The Swiss have recently passed a vote to ban minarets in their country. Denmark and the Netherlands have also had their fair share of anti-Muslim controversies. In the United Kingdom, the British National Party, which is openly against the presence of Muslims in Britain is making inroads and has even gained a seat in the European parliament. The French ban on religious dress in public educational institutions has made headlines. It seems like there is a sudden resurgence of religious intolerance in Europe.

Mind you that this sort of thinking is not new. It has been around since medieval times. Muslims and their religion have been portrayed negatively in Europe in the past.


Historical roots

Evidence to the effect is available when we study the translations of the Qur’an, the sacred scripture of Muslims that were done by medieval scholars in Europe, who do not make it a secret, as to the intention behind their work.

“…one of the first English translations commonplace in the English speaking world was that of George Sale, which is said to have been based on a latin translation by Maraci in 1689 with the Arabic Text and quotations from various Arabic Commentaries, carefully selected and garbled, so as to give the worst possible impression of Islam to Europe. Maracci was a learned man, and there is no pretence about the object he had in view viz.. to discredit Islam by an elaborate show of quotations from Muslim authorities themselves. Maracci was himself a Confessor to Pope Innocent XI; his work is dedicated to the holy Roman Emperor Leopold I; and he introduces it by an introductory volume containing what he calls a Refutation of the Quran.  Considering that Maracci’s object was to discredit Islam in the eyes of Europe, it is remarkable that Sale’s translation should be looked upon as a standard translation in the English speaking world.” (Preface to an English Interpretation of the Holy Qur’an by A Yusuf Ali).

While translations of the Qur’an were deliberately distorted to malign Islam in Europe, it is also known that prominent institutions, such as Oxford University had Islamic studies as part of their teaching curriculum for hundreds of years but without the involvement of any Muslims at all!

In other words for hundreds of years, Islam was taught in Europe, not by those who believed in it, but by those who rejected the faith!

What type of an image the European masses would receive in such a situation shouldn’t be surprising. We should ask: If it would be strange to have a faculty on Women’s studies without women, it is equally strange to have a faculty of Islamic studies without Muslims!

Sadly, this is how some Europeans have known the Qur’an and Islam – not through an objective analysis, but through the works of those whose aim and intention was clearly to malign the faith, and it is no surprise that prejudices are deep rooted.

It is equally tragic, that the trend continues nowadays, the European public impression about Islam is being shaped by the right wing politicians, press, media, and even by extremists within the Muslim community, who in no way are representative of the moderate but silent majority.

If such are the motives, then we shouldn’t be surprised by the impressions that their work creates in the minds of common people.


The ball is in your court

The duty lies on the shoulder of the Muslim community residing in European lands, to have a dialogue with their European friends and colleagues, to remove misconceptions and increase understanding. If it does not then there will remain a vacuum, which will be filled by vile elements. So dialogue is the need of the hour in these turbulent times.

What should be done to remedy this situation? A lot can be done. But my emphasis is foremost on one aspect.

I believe that the presence and longevity of Muslims in Europe is dependent strongly on their link with the Qur’an. For as long as European Muslims take the Qur’an as their guide, instead of religious opinions that are contrary to it and apply its principles to their situation, their peace and sustenance will not be disturbed, for this is a divine promise.

Well, it may sound strange, but are not the Muslims already living their lives on the precepts of their holy book? To an outsider this may appear so, but a closer look at the community will reveal that this is far from the truth. Beliefs and practices that are prevailing within the community are in fact in no way endorsed or advocated by the Qur’an.

All those practices and habits which gain media attention and about which hue and cry is made are in fact anti-Qur’anic. Subjects like forced marriages, compulsory veiling, intolerance towards other faiths, partaking in violence on religious grounds, suicide bombers and all the other bad stuff that you hear about are not Qur’anic edicts but their source and origin lie elsewhere.

Muslims needs to re-educate themselves first and foremost by the Qur’an, as sadly they are not. A fresh look at the Qur’an to extrapolate guidance relevant to their circumstances is the need of the hour instead of looking at static interpretations of the past.

The outsider remains unaware that Muslims of today are in the habit of a ceremonial association with the Qur’an, and assume that all that they hear about the community in the press and media is probably the teaching of their holy book.


The hurdle between the Qur’an and the Muslim community

The actual case is that most Muslims in Europe may be able to recite the Qur’an in Arabic, but its meaning and teachings bear little relevance in their day to day lives. For decisions it is not the divine book that they turn to but to self styled religious ‘experts’.  (A large proportion of European Muslims are from non Arabic backgrounds), many of whom are foreign imports from far distant lands.

When people in the Muslim community face religious dilemmas, they are in the habit of consulting such imams and scholars of various sects and schools of thoughts which have gained a foot hold in the community and it is rare to find a common Muslim being told by them to directly consult the Qur’an for their problem.

The Qur’an is deliberately kept as a means for blessing in spiritual terms, whose mere chanting is sufficient. But apply it in contemporary or religious matters of the common Muslim – this, the imams are reluctant to do so, because they have been advocating that the book is not for the common man, but for ‘experts’ only. ‘Let the ‘experts’ do the thinking and the common man blindly follow them’, so it is said!

The common Muslim is in fact discouraged from reading and studying the Qur’an by such ‘experts’, who instead have their own voluminous books and fatwas which the laity is to consult. Hence, the Qur’an is being restrained from the minds of the commoner, and a mere ceremonial and non intellectual reverence is prevailing.


Time to revisit the basics

The study and contemplation was not the sole remit of religious ‘experts’, but was the duty of each and every Muslim. The simple and clear injunctions are addressed to each and every one of them, to put into practice in their everyday lives, irrespective of their geographical location or time-dimension.

The Qur’an calls for each successive generation to engage with it, and discourages from blind imitation of the thinking of the past.

“A Book which We have revealed unto you, which is full of blessing, that they may ponder over its verses and that people of core take heed.” 38:29

Do they not ponder over the Qur’an, or are their hearts locked up by them?” 47:24

The call is for each addressee of the Qur’an to understand it in view of the circumstances that he or she dwells in and apply the guidance in their own relative situation. The Qur’anic principles are immutable, but people’s level of knowledge and circumstances keep changing and are not static. Therefore the interpretations of a past generation are not necessarily a standard for successive generations, as each generation will have to understand and apply the Qur’an for their own situation. Hence the Qur’an becomes a dynamic text applicable in all times and eras. It is also worthy to note that mimicking the wisdom of the previous generations is detested in the holy book:

“And when it is said to them follow what God has revealed, they say: ‘Nay! We will follow what we found our ancestors to follow!’ What! Even if their ancestors were devoid of guidance and lacked wisdom?” 2:170

Whether the matters be of personal nature like modesty, dietary prescriptions, gender roles, to religious practices like prayers, fasting, pilgrimage and charity, or of a wider public interaction like education, health, arts, social conduct, peacemaking, social and economic justice and community relations, Islam’s revelation has ample guidance for such and many more matters.

The intellectual affinity with the Qur’an is not there in the community. The need is for them to study the book as they would study an academic text to pass exams at school or college, making notes, marking pages, underlining texts and pondering deep on the meanings. What is the Qur’anic position on contemporary issues should be known to them.


Tackling violent extremism

Once they are educated by the Qur’an then they empower themselves with knowledge and can be in a position to counter the wrong portrayal which is promoted by right wing politicians, and also (sadly) by extremists within the Muslim community itself. The Qur’an is the anti-dote to this intolerance.

Extremism and religious fanaticism is a result of a stage by stage process. Before a person becomes fanatical, he or she undergoes gradual steps, which may involve reading certain types of literature and keeping the company of certain types of individuals, which fashion the person into his final radicalized form.

Qur’anic education is the best way to counter radicalization and prevention of violent extremism. Once the common European Muslims are educated about the contents of their divine scripture, they will then be in a position to know what is Islamic and what is not, and even if radicals attempt to instill their propaganda, Qur’anic concepts of peace and tolerance will act as a shield.

If certain elements approach the youth of the community with a particular narrative for conducting violent acts in the name of religion, then the empowered community will be able to tackle them and counter their arguments immediately, as through first hand Qur’anic knowledge they will already know what the true tenets of their belief are and that extremists are distorting the faith for their vile ends.

Hence the community will be able to tackle extremism and nip it in the bud before it gets out of hand. In this manner, Qur’anic education serves numours purposes. It is not only an antidote to Islamophobia and a means of community reform, but also the shield against extremist tendencies.

Such intellectual counter extremism measures initiated from within the Muslim community will also demonstrate to the wider European public that the conduct of mainstream European Muslims is not drawn from extremists or fanatical clerics, and they will be able to distinguish between the real Islam of the Qur’an and the false pretenses of religious exploiters.

Therefore the need of the hour is for a mass awareness campaign for the importance of Qur’anic education.

European Muslims should be able to quote chapter and verse directly from the book to demonstrate that it is a part and parcel of their value system to work towards the establishment of a society that is free from war, poverty, ignorance, superstition, fanaticism, discrimination, oppression, despondency and injustice, and one that flourishes with peace, prosperity, rationality, scientific achievement, equality, knowledge, tranquility and fairness in all segments.

This is the same Qur’an, about which a famous European once said:

“I hope the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all the countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of Qur’an which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness.” Napolean Bonaparte (Correspondance de Napoléon Ier Tome V pièce n° 4287 du 17/07/1799)

It is only the Qur’an which can save European Muslims, who have in the past faced genocides in these very European lands and had their entire populations wiped out. If Andalusia, Cordoba and Grenada were in the distant past, the events in Bosnia and Kosovo are only yesterday. The clarion call is sounding one more time and European Muslims needs to pay heed.

Their only hope is to go back to the original, reform themselves by it and counter those who deceptively portray the true Islamic identity.

European Muslims are at the cross roads. Turbulent times are coming ahead. However the challenges are also an opportunity to reshape the community which needs to wake up to the call of the Qur’an. The time has come for them to take the lead and instead of cultivating religious identities  through ancestral tradition, human conjecture, religious charlatans, extremist groups or cultural practices of their ethnic communities, they need to mould their character through Islam’s original source and Revelation, the Qur’an. For it alone can help them:

“And We reveal in the Qur’an that which is healing and a mercy to the believers…” 17:82

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

Turning Points In Life That Lead To God

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.


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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.

24 Reasons To Study The Qur’an


Are you someone born and brought up in a Muslim household, who accepts by default, that the Qur’an is a Divine text? Or someone not-so-sympathetic, someone who was told a lot of negative things about the Book and now you harbour such views yourself. Or simply in search of the truth – a common voyager without any strong affiliations. In any case, you owe it to yourself to know what the Book is all about. Compare what people claim it to be to what you find it to be yourself, of your own personal study and without any external influence or coercion whatsoever.

Make up your own mind, my friend, form your own conclusions! Don’t just follow the crowd! Don’t blindly listen to those who praise it, and on the other hand don’t pay heed to its critics unquestioningly, but weigh and consider your options.

Something is not true just because our parents lovingly taught it to us, or we embraced it from our society. Truth stands on its own two feet, can fight for itself and is not dependent on anyone for its existence. So what we have been tutored to accept does not necessarily mean, is the truth. We have to labour for the truth, and arrive at it objectively.

I am sure you will agree with me that it is not honest and wise to form an opinion about something without really knowing what it is. How would you feel if someone who never met you, who never came across credible evidence about your real personality, suddenly starts your character assassination in front of other people?

Same holds true for the Qur’an. We shouldn’t form an opinion about its origin, message and features without ever bothering to check it up ourselves. But sadly, many people do that. They hold views that they have been ‘programmed’ to accept from their peers and environment, such rarely being an outcome of their personal investigation.

So for your curiosity and interest, in this blog, I would like to discuss with you some of the claims of the Book, with a desire that you will perhaps examine these claims of your own effort and then make an informed decision about their validity.

The salient feature of these claims is that they originate internally, within the Qur’anic text itself. In other words you are going to read about what the Qur’an claims to be by itself, and not what people say what it is.

Mind you these are claims, whether they are true or not, you owe it to yourself to confirm. Here are a few of them.

1. A REVELATION FROM GOD

“The revelation of this Book is from God, Exalted in Power, Full of Knowledge.” 41:2

Very clearly, in non ambiguous terms, the Book claims to be Divine Revelation.


2. THE TRUTH

“That which We have revealed to thee of the Book is the Truth…” 35:31


3. GOD’S SPEECH IN THE FIRST PERSON

“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

A reflection. Who is the speaker in the above statement?


4. ADDRESSED DIRECTLY TO YOU

When reading the Book you discover that it is addressed to you, i.e. the Reader with the Speaker claiming to be God and addressing you directly at this very point in time:

O Man! What has beguiled you from your Lord, the Gracious one.”

“Who created you, then made you complete, then made you symmetrical?”

“Into whatever form He pleased He constituted you.

“Nay! But you give the lie to the judgment day.” 82:6-9

In the above, the “you” is “Al Insaan”, i.e the Human being and he is being addressed directly. God is speaking to you right at this very moment when you read the Qur’an!


5. CONTAINS ITS OWN EXEGESIS

“And no question do they bring to thee but We reveal to thee the truth and the best explanation (thereof).” 25:33

“A Book, whereof the verses are explained in detail;- a Qur’an in Arabic, for people who understand.” 41:3


6. GOD IS ITS TEACHER

“(God) Most Gracious! It is He Who has taught the Qur’an.” 55:1-2

“Nay more, it is for Us to explain it (and make it clear).” 75:16-19


7. PRESERVATION VOUCHSAFED BY GOD

We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).” 15:9

“Those who reject the Message when it comes to them (are not hidden from Us). And indeed it is a Book of exalted power. No falsehood can approach it from before or behind it: It is sent down by One Full of Wisdom, Worthy of all Praise.” 41:41-42


8. INIMITABLE

Say: “If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support. 17:88

“This Qur’an is not such as can be produced by other than God…” 10:37


9. CLEAR AND PLAIN

“By the Book that makes things clear.” 43:2

“…We have made plain to you the Signs, if ye have wisdom.” 3:118

The Book claims to be clear and plain and not confusing.


10. EASY TO UNDERSTAND

“And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?” 54:17, 22, 32 & 40

The Speaker claims that He has made the Qur’an easy.


11. FOR ALL HUMANKIND

“Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind,…” 2:185

Not sent as a guide to Arabs or Pakistanis but to humankind. It is for everyone who falls within humanity.


12. THE CRITERION TO DETERMINE RIGHT FROM WRONG

We all have our own standards and judgments for accepting or rejecting things. On the other hand the Qur’an also has standards. In its pages, we find that while identifying the right conduct, the wrong behavior is also highlighted so people can amend themselves. Continuing the same verse cited above, another of the Qur’an’s attributes occurs i.e. Al Furqan which means The criterion or judgment between right and wrong:

“Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong)…” 2:185


13. FREE FROM DISCREPANCY

“Do they not consider the Qur’an (with care)? Had it been from other Than God, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.” 4:82

A very clear cut statement. That the Book has no internal conflict and is consistent with itself. And also states the nature of what is not coming from God.


14. FOR ALL TIMES AND GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS

“Verily this is no less than a Message to (all) the Worlds!” 81:27

“Zikr un Lil Alameen” – a remembrance to the Worlds. Notice that the literal meaning of Alameen is “Worlds” (in plural). Does it mean that the Qur’an is a guide to mankind beyond the boundaries of this world as well? Strange, is it not? We are just dwelling on planet earth at present, the moment we conquer outer space and make habitations on other planets, it is then that this claim will really be put to the test.


15. HAS ALL THINGS NECESSARY FOR GUIDANCE

“..and We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything, and a guidance and mercy and good news for those who submit.” 16:89

“Is it not enough for them that We have revealed to you the Book which is recited to them? Most surely there is mercy in this and a reminder for a people who believe.” 29:51

“Say: ‘Shall I seek for judge other than God? – when He it is Who hath sent unto you the Book, explained in detail?” 6:114

“…Nothing have we omitted from the Book…” 6:38


16. PROMOTES PEACE

“…There hath come to you from God a (new) light and a perspicuous Book, Wherewith God guideth all who seek His good pleasure to ways of peace and safety…” 5:15-16 17.


17. A SOLACE TO THE SUFFERING

“We send down (stage by stage) in the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe…” 17:82


18. REMOVES YOUR ILLS AND IMPROVES YOUR CONDITION

“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


19. CONSISTENT WITH NATURAL PHENOMENA

“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 contemplate the creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): “Our Lord! Not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.” 3:190-191

The Qur’an is calling to study the natural world. Would it do so if it were not consistent with it?

20. PROPHECY ABOUT CONQUEST OF SPACE BY MAN

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


21. PROPHECY ABOUT LIFE IN OUTER SPACE AND ITS CONTACT WITH HUMANITY

“And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and what He has spread forth in both of them of living beings; and when He pleases He is all-powerful to gather them together.” 42:29

Here it foretells us that there are living beings in both – heavens as well as earth and one day they can join together! Time will tell.


22. IT WILL AMAZE YOU

“Say: It has been revealed to me that a party of the jinn listened, and they said: Surely we have heard an amazing Quran!” 72:1

Aren’t you amazed by what you have read so far?


23. IT WILL BRING YOU OUT FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT

“A. L. R. A Book which We have revealed unto thee, in order that thou mightest lead mankind out of the depths of darkness into light – by the leave of their Lord – to the Way of (Him) the Exalted in power, worthy of all praise!” 14:1


24. IT WILL TOUCH YOUR HEART

“And when they listen to the revelation… thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth…” 5:82

“…Whenever the Signs of (God) Most Gracious were rehearsed to them, they would fall down in prostrate adoration and in tears.” 19:58


A REFLECTION

So here you are. Two dozen claims. Quite a long list. You hold in your hand a Book that claims to be from the Almighty Creator, claims to be perfect, free from discrepancy, incorruptible and perfectly preserved, claims to provide Divine guidance for your day to day living, wherever you may be, and in whatever time frame you may exist, is easy and comprehensible, but will be revealed on you according to situation and spiritual development.

These are some really unique claims worth investigating, don’t you think. Ever come across any other religious Scripture that has within its pages such direct claims?

To the Muslim reader. As I said earlier, you need to take up the Book by yourself. You have tarried long enough with your ignorance. It is your own job to know the reality, not the job of your local Imam or your mother or father or brother or your in-laws to do it for you for that matter. You don’t know the Book and your non Muslim friend doesn’t know it either. What makes you special then?

So have you got your copy of the Qur’an ready? Have you started to read the meanings and make notes and pointers? 

Now to the skeptic. It is very easy to attempt to disprove the Qur’an. All you have to do is come forward with the proof to nullify these claims.

E.g. in 2:23-24 it states that no one will be able to produce a Surah similar to the Qur’an. All you have to do to prove that the Qur’an is wrong is to meet this challenge.

Or in 4:82 it states that there is no discrepancy in the Book – you just need to come forward with one contradiction to prove your case.

The Qur’an not only offers claims, but also provides numerous tests for its authentication. Above are a few claims – why not work at them, because if they are indeed true, and you are in the habit of falsifying them without credible reason then it is your neck on the day of account.

I have presented to you an alternate view, then one which perhaps is known to you. But I won’t ask you to believe everything just like that. It is not within my domain to make you believe or accept a certain viewpoint.

Nobody can convince anyone. We need to arrive at the truth about things at our own pace, and as a result of our own labour and reflection. Therefore what will be stated is for your personal investigation and analytical study. So the ball is in your court. Go to your Qur’an and start studying. 

Newcomers To The Qur’an

This series of Blogs that I intend to write during the ongoing month of Ramadhan are meant for newcomers to the Qur’an. This does not necessarily mean non Muslims, but also includes those who may be born into Islamic households.


This series of Blogs that I intend to write during the ongoing month of Ramadhan are meant for newcomers to the Qur’an. This   does not necessarily mean non Muslims, but also includes those who may be born into Islamic households.

Widespread ignorance

Non Muslims aside, many of those who style themselves as Muslims are unaware of the nature, purpose and application of the Qur’an – sadly due to the prevailing tendency in a vast majority of Muslim societies to recite the Qur’an in Arabic without understanding, and considering the mere chanting of words to be a blissful act – without any engagement with the meaning behind the words. There is also widespread ignorance about the message of the Qur’an because of a general lack of literacy and education within the Muslim community.

If you happen to take a walk in the crowded street in a Muslim country and stop someone in his tracks and ask; “…excuse me sir, do you know what does the Qur’an say about..?” or “Could you please quote me chapter or verse?”, and chances are that you will receive a blank stare, a nodding of the head, or you could very well be signposted to ‘an expert’ for such matters.

Therefore, I am not differentiating between Muslim and non Muslim readers, but simply categorizing my audience as newcomers to the Qur’an – those who have never come across the Qur’an before or might have in a rudimentary manner, be they of any background, any faith and I assume no prior experience or expertise.

As long as they can communicate in English, these blogs are for their benefit.

To the newbie

So to the newbie, I’d like to address you directly, for it is for you that I endeavor and labour during this blessed month. But my intention is not to preach or proselytize. And also please don’t feel patronized by being labeled as a newcomer; because I think in the process, I too will be learning something new, so this exercise is for my own benefit as well as yours. We are all learners, and learners we shall remain, for it is God who is the ultimate teacher:

 “(God) Most Gracious!” 

 “It is He Who has taught the Qur’an.” 55:1-2

I take a strong exception to those who proudly label themselves as experts of the Qur’an. No body can be an expert of God’s Book. They could master the books that they have written, but if God’s Book is the fountainhead of divine and perfect knowledge, then it follows from this basic premise that the imperfect human mind cannot logically be a master of infinite divine knowledge. The finite cannot master the infinite. That’s illogical. We all receive according to our situation and capacity.

Obtain a copy of the Qur’an for personal study

If you don’t posses one already, then I would request you to obtain a translation of the Qur’an when you read these blogs, because I will be quoting extensively from the Book, and as this exercise is meant to stimulate discussion for Qur’anic understanding, it would be practical and convenient to have your own copy nearby. There are many translations available. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, that I carry on my person, Pickthall which is old English, but literally close to the Arabic, Arberry which is also close to the original Arabic, Asad’s voluminous version with commentary, and many more. Go to any good bookstore, and under the Religion section, choose the one which is an easy read. Alternatively you can browse the web for translated versions, but I prefer the real book in hand.

How is the Qur’an structured?

Once you have your own copy handy, have a look at the contents. After the translator’s forward or any other opening remarks, you will come across the contents. Chapters will be labeled as Suras. There are a total of 114 Suras in the Qur’an. The first one is Sura Al Fatiha (The Opener), and the last (No. 114) is Surah-An-Naas (The People).

The longest Sura is Sura No. 2, Al Baqara (The Cow), containing 286 verses, while the shortest is Sura No. 108, Al Kawthar (The Abundance) with only three verses.

Division of the Qur’an is initially in Suras or Chapters, and the Suras are then further divided into Ayaat or Signs, (verses to some). This division is not man-made, but claimed by the divine author in the Book internally. We find internal references to Suras and Ayaat within the text itself. E.g.

A Surah which We have revealed…” 24:1

 “These are the Ayaat of the Qur’an..” 27:1

So Suras are chapters and statements or verses within them are the Ayaat, and this arrangement is claimed by the Author of the text itself, and not done by the publishers.

Checking References

If you open up the first Sura or Al Fatiha, you will note that it has seven Ayaat or seven verses. Each ayah is usually numbered in a translation. For brevity, I won’t be quoting the full name of the chapter, but simply cite the chapter number, followed by a colon and then the verse number. Therefore If I quote to you 2:185, then this means chapter number 2, which is Al Baqara, and verse number 185. Usually, most translations have chapter number on the top of every page, so just open up the page and look up where it says what number it is. Just look up Al Baqara, or Sura 2, and then look for verse number 185. Also have a pencil at hand to scribble notes and references on the pages of your personal copy itself. They act as useful signposts when revisiting a topic.

Getting used to it

Why don’t you do an exercise right now? Check up these references in your own Qur’an and see what they say: 54:17, 22, 32, and 40. You’ll be amazed with the discovery.

This exercise will help you browse the Qur’an and enable you to look up easily what is written where. So please have your Qur’an ready, for I’m sure, that a profound revelation awaits you in the coming days.

 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

Ramadan: The Month of The Qur’an


The month of Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. In this month Muslims all over the world observe a fast from dawn till dusk.  They refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations at God’s instructions. It is a month in which religious zeal is at an increase, mosques are filled with the faithful, supplications are abound, charity is also distributed; – it is a  sacred month in all its glory.

It is a month of reform, a month of reflection, a month of discipline, a month of alms giving, and a month of thankfulness. But most importantly, it is a month of revelation. Yes, that is right; Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an – God’s communication to humankind. We read in chapter 2, verse 185 of the Qur’an:

شَہۡرُ رَمَضَانَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أُنزِلَ فِيهِ ٱلۡقُرۡءَانُ هُدً۬ى لِّلنَّاسِ وَبَيِّنَـٰتٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلۡهُدَىٰ وَٱلۡفُرۡقَانِ‌ۚ فَمَن شَہِدَ مِنكُمُ ٱلشَّہۡرَ فَلۡيَصُمۡهُ‌ۖ

“Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong)…” (2:185)

From East to West, North to South, people of all hues, of all backgrounds, engage with the Qur’an in this month. Some do so ceremoniously, while others approach it intelligently. It is the practice of the Muslim community to recite the entire Qur’an at night in congregations during this month. This practice is prevailing at Al Masjid Al Haraam, the Sacred Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia and in other mosques all over the world. The faithful, fast during the day, and stand for prayer by night, reciting and listening to the entire Qur’an, from the first to the last chapter and strive to go through the entire Book till the end of the month.

From the first day of fasting, the faithful join in for daily nightly endeavors known as Qiyaam Al Layl or Salat Al Taraweeh which is the special nightly prayer in which the Qur’an is recited from start to end. They also reflect on the meaning of Qur’anic revelation and explore selected Qur’anic themes, as they occur during the course of  daily readings.  These reflections reveal new insights to us and inspire us to study the book of our own accord. As Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an, newcomers to the Quran will find the month a useful starting point to browse through the Book just for these four weeks, for starters.

If not out of reverence, then perhaps out of curiosity.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.