Islam prohibits marriage with minors


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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Is Apostasy a Cognizable Offense in the Qur’an?


Apostasy is the formal disaffiliation, or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is an apostate. The Qur’an mentions that deserting the true religion of God is a sin, but it does not stipulate a worldly punishment for this act. There is no imperative given to believers to punish those who are guilty of apostasy and it is for God to judge the individual. The Qur’an goes much further when we study it, and not only is there no imperative issued to believers to take punitive action against apostates, but we also find clear-cut evidence that capital punishment is not possible for this sin. Following is proof to this effect:

(1) Qur’an shows that a person cannot be killed because of apostasy because Allah has given the individual an opportunity to repent and become a believer again.

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ثُمَّ كَفَرُوا۟ ثُمَّ ءَامَنُوا۟ ثُمَّ كَفَرُوا۟ ثُمَّ ٱزْدَادُوا۟ كُفْرًا لَّمْ يَكُنِ ٱللَّهُ لِيَغْفِرَ لَهُمْ وَلَا لِيَهْدِيَهُمْ سَبِيلًۢا

“Surely (as for) those WHO BELIEVE THEN DISBELIEVE, AGAIN BELIEVE AND AGAIN DISBELIEVE, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path.” 4.137

If for apostasy capital punishment were prescribed, then the above verse would not have mentioned the states of believing in Islam, then leaving it, then AGAIN believing in it, as after disbelieving in the first instance, the culprit would have incurred the punishment, but as we see there is room for repentance, it is clear in showing that in Islam, apostates are not to be killed.

(2) In 3:86-89 apostates are reminded that if they return to the true religion they will be forgiven. If capital punishment were invoked, then how will the apostates be able to return to the true religion and gain forgiveness for their past actions?

كَيْفَ يَهْدِى ٱللَّهُ قَوْمًا كَفَرُوا۟ بَعْدَ إِيمَٰنِهِمْ وَشَهِدُوٓا۟ أَنَّ ٱلرَّسُولَ حَقٌّ وَجَآءَهُمُ ٱلْبَيِّنَٰتُ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ

“How will God guide a people who disbelieved after having believed, and had witnessed that the Messenger is true, and the clear proofs had come to them? God does not guide the unjust people.”3:86

أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ جَزَآؤُهُمْ أَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ لَعْنَةَ ٱللَّهِ وَٱلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةِ وَٱلنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ

“Those-their penalty is that upon them falls the curse of God, and of the angels, and of all mankind.” 3:87

خَٰلِدِينَ فِيهَا لَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ ٱلْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ

“Remaining in it eternally, without their punishment being eased from them, and without being reprieved.” 3:88

إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ تَابُوا۟ مِنۢ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ وَأَصْلَحُوا۟ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“Except those who repent afterwards, and reform; for God is Forgiving and Merciful.” 3:89

“Except those WHO REPENT AFTER THAT AND AMEND, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 3.89

This is clear evidence that they are not to be condemned to death, as otherwise it is meaningless to say that their repentance will be accepted and have a chance to amend.

(3) The Prophet (p) of Islam was ordered not to compel people to join the religion.

The Prophet (p) of Islam is commanded in numerous verses that he is not to use force to win converts:

لَوْ شَآءَ رَبُّكَ لَءَامَنَ مَن فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ كُلُّهُمْ جَمِيعًا ۚ أَفَأَنتَ تُكْرِهُ ٱلنَّاسَ حَتَّىٰ يَكُونُوا۟ مُؤْمِنِينَ

“And if your Sustainer had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; WILL YOU (O MUHAMMED) THEN FORCE MEN TILL THEY BECOME BELIEVERS?” 10.99

As the Prophet (p) followed and practised the Qur’an all his life, he never did such a thing. Forcing people to remain in one’s own belief system (religious or non religious) and killing of apostates means compelling people to be believers.

(4) Threatening to kill apostates is a trait of unbelievers, and not believers, hence law of rejectors of Islam does not become an Islamic law.

Qur’an shows that killing those who desert your beliefs is the behaviour of those who reject God, and not of Muslims and true believers in God. About a tyrant, it is said:

قَالَ ءَامَنتُمْ لَهُۥ قَبْلَ أَنْ ءَاذَنَ لَكُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُۥ لَكَبِيرُكُمُ ٱلَّذِى عَلَّمَكُمُ ٱلسِّحْرَ فَلَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ ۚ لَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُم مِّنْ خِلَٰفٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ

“Said he: You believe in him BEFORE I GIVE YOU PERMISSION; most surely he is the chief of you who taught you the magic, so you shall know: CERTAINLY I WILL CUT OFF YOUR HANDS AND YOUR FEET ON OPPOSITE SIDES, AND CERTAINLY I WILL CRUCIFY YOU ALL.” 26.49

As it is a behaviour trait of rejectors of Islam, it is inconceivable to think that death for apostates will be an Islamic law itself.

Conclusion

Thus when we study the Qur’an it becomes clear that every individual is free to believe or disbelieve as per his wish and believers are not under any obligation by any Quranic injunction to compel anyone to remain within Islam. Islam is to be accepted by one’s free will and not through coercion.

Further Reading

Islam and Religious Freedom

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Cults


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Makkah: The Microcosm of the World


MAKKAH: THE MICROCOSM OF THE WORLD

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

THE ROAD TO MAKKAH

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

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

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

HUMANITY AT ITS FULL SPLENDOR

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

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

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

TRANSFORMATION TO PEACE

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

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

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

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

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

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Graves of Messengers


Is there evidence in the Qur’an to prove that Messengers of Allah were buried in graves upon their demise?

Though the Qur’an does not mention the exact location or time of death of any Messenger, we can infer from its ayat that Messengers were assigned burials by Allah at the time of their death. The following should be analysed to this effect:

The Qur’an terms Messengers of Allah as Bashar (human)

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“Their messengers said to them: “True, we are human like yourselves, but Allah doth grant His grace to such of his servants as He pleases. It is not for us to bring you an authority except as Allah permits. And on Allah let all men of faith put their trust.” 14:11 Yusuf Ali

Messengers are Bashar or human. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is also made to say that he was a Bashar

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“Or you have a house of gold or you ascend into the sky. And [even then], we will not believe in your ascension until you bring down to us a book we may read.” Say, “Exalted is my Lord! Was I ever but a human messenger?” 17:94 Saheeh International

Every Bashar has to die, therefore as Messengers are “Bashar”, they too, die

Muhammad (p) was informed by Allah that as a Bashar he would one day die as no Bashar has been granted permanent life:

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“We granted not to any man before thee permanent life (here): if then thou shouldst die, would they live permanently?” 21:34 Yusuf Ali

Thus like all messengers Muhammad (p) was also to die one day.

The Qur’an declares that Messengers are “Insaan”, and that “Insaan” is given a “Qabar” or grave by Allah

Messengers are from Naas (plural of Insaan, i.e. man, human) in Surat Al Hajj 22:75

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“Allah chooses from the angels messengers and from the people. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Seeing.” 22:75 Sahih International

A messenger has been identified in the Qur’an as Insaan or man, and about Insaan it is clearly stated:

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“Then He causes his death and provides a grave for him.” 80:21 Saheeh International

Thus as Muhammad (p) and messengers before him were Bashar who were not granted immortality but had a limited life span and were to die one day, and as messengers are identified to be from Naas (plural form of Insaan) category, and the law of Allah for Insaan is that He causes his death and provides a grave for him, therefore all Messengers of Allah, including Muhammad (p) were provided graves for their burial at the time of their death.

Though the Qur’an is silent about the location of graves of Prophets/Messengers, this silence in no way suggests a negation of the existence of their graves. It can be inferred from the above Qur’anic ayat that Messengers were “Insaan” and by virtue of being “Insaan” they were granted graves by Allah at the time of their death. 

Reincarnation of Muhammad


Is Muhammad (PBUH), a Messenger of all times? Does he keep reincarnating since day one, in the past, present and the future, appearing in the person and the body of various individuals?

The expression “Messenger of all times” does not find its origin in the Arabic Qur’an. Such a statement being non-existent in the Book is also refuted by numerous Qur’anic Ayaat themselves. When Allah wants us to make something part of our belief then He clearly and unambiguously mentions it in the Qur’an. An expression which does not exist in the Qur’an and which is refuted by it can never constitute Islamic teaching and should not be considered part of one’s Imaan (belief). Neither does the Qur’an call Muhammad (p) a messenger who keeps reincarnating in the person of individuals, nor does it term him in the original Arabic as “the messenger of all times.” Such beliefs are in error and grossly violate many clear cut statements of the Qur’an. Following is proof to the effect.

Proof #1: The Qur’an very clearly mentions that advent of Muhammad was after the departure of Jesus and not before, thus he is God’s messenger for mankind sent after Jesus and not present continuously on earth from the beginning of time:

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And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.” But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, “This is obvious magic.” 61:6

The view that he is a reincarnating messenger of all times is refuted by the wordings “..of a messenger to come after me..” and prove that Muhammad (p) was commissioned after Jesus and not for the time period before Jesus. As he was sent AFTER Jesus, and not before him, therefore the assertion that he is the messenger of all times and present continuously on earth. is contradictory to Qur’an.

Proof # 2: The Qur’an declares that Messengers prior to Muhammad have passed away, thus his time period is after previous prophets / messengers and not before them:

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“Muhammad is no more than a messenger: many Were the messengers 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 Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.”

The words “..[messengers] that passed away before him…” clearly indicate that Muhammad is not a perpetual time traveler but existed historically after the passing away of various messengers, whom Allah had sent to guide mankind. Thus his time period begins not from “all times” or “day one” but after the passing away of previous messengers and he can not be present during the era of previous messengers.

Proof # 3: The Qur’an declares that Muhammad (p) was also subject to death, like every other messenger before him. One who is subject to death does not reincarnate back on earth after his death but is resurrected at the day of judgement:

In the same verse 3:144 cited above the wordings “..If he died or were slain ..أَفَإِن مَّاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ also prove that Muhammad (p) was a human messenger subject to Allah’s natural law of death, and not an immortal being who keeps reincarnating in all times and eras taking on the person of various individuals.

CONCLUSION

The Qur’an therefore CONTRADICTS the view that Muhammad (p) was present continuously on earth since the beginning of time. He was sent on earth after the passing away of previous messengers and specifically, after Jesus Christ (pbuh). Like other Messengers, Muhammad (pbuh) was also subject to the law of death. It is vital that prior to accepting any belief as Islamic we verify whether such beliefs pass the scrutiny of the Arabic Qur’an. Reincarnation is not an Islamic belief from the Qur’an but one which exists on Hinduism and other polytheistic faiths. The Qur’an refutes this doctrine in numerous passages.

Bismillah


If you were to purchase a copy of the Qur’an from a bookshop and browse through its pages, you will discover that out if its one hundred and fourteen chapters, all, except one, begin with the words “Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem”. Is this Arabic statement which means ‘In the Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful’, and is often transliterated in abbreviated form as Bismillah, a part of the Qur’an? Were “Bismillahs” originally revealed by God before every sura (chapter)?

You can note that in the printed Qur’ans, individual chapters begin with the Bismillah, however you will also notice that when it comes to numbering the verses, in the printed Quran, the Bismillahs before every Sura are not numbered as verses as such.

Almost all printed Qur’ans in the Muslim world (barring a few by heretical sects such as the International Community of Submitters) do not number Bismillahs before all chapters as a verse and a revealed part of that Sura.

Why is this so? Are the Bismillahs before every chapter a part of the Qur’an? If they are, then why are they not numbered as a verse? Suppose that every Bismillah was revealed before a sura and was a part of that chapter, then in that case Surat Al Baqara, the second chapter of the Qur’an should have two hundred and eighty-seven verses and not two hundred and eighty-six, as we usually observe in the printed text.

The answer is in understanding what exactly is the phenomenon that is the Qur’an. Is it the printed word or is it the spoken word?

We need to understand that when we refer to the phenomenon known as the Qur’an, then in fact we are not referring to the Qur’an as a printed Book. What you hold in your hand that you have obtained from the book shop or library or even downloaded from the internet is the printed text of the Qur’an, and not the Qur’an itself. There is a difference between the two and this is what I would like to highlight in this reflection.

What is the Qur’an?

The word Qur’an is a proper noun in Arabic and is derived from the triliteral root qāf rā hamza (ق ر أ). The third person masculine singular past perfect form of this root, which is the form used to determine meanings of a root and its derivatives is  qara-a (قَرَأَ) which means  he read or recited. From the same root, the imperative اقْرَأْ Iqr’aa  is formed. The noun Qur’an is from the same root and means Reading (Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon pp 2502).

These inflections of the root and the meaning of the word itself clarifies what is the phenomenon called the Qur’an. It is the reading or the orally proclaimed word, and not the printed book on paper. Apart from the linguistic meaning, we also see internal evidence within the Qur’an that identify it to be ‘a reading’ or ‘spoken recital’ and not a book printed on paper.

وَلَوْ نَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ كِتَابًا فِي قِرْطَاسٍ فَلَمَسُوهُ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ لَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ

And if We had been sending down upon you a Book on paper, so they touched it with their hands, the ones who have disbelieved would indeed have said, “Decidedly this is nothing except evident sorcery.” (6:3, Dr Ghali)

So according to above, it is clear that God did not reveal the book on paper. Rather it was revealed on the heart of a man:

وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

And lo! it is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds,

عَلَىٰ قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ

Upon thy heart, that thou mayst be (one) of the warners, (26:192, 194 Pickthall)

It was revealed on the heart of a man, who recited it to other men around him, all of whom memorised what they heard.

بَلْ هُوَ آيَاتٌ بَيِّنَاتٌ فِي صُدُورِ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ ۚ وَمَا يَجْحَدُ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَّا الظَّالِمُونَ

But it is clear revelations in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge, and none deny Our revelations save wrong-doers. (29:49 Pickthall)

Thus it is the spoken word that came first, which was then recorded on paper, and it is the spoken word, or the reading which is what the Qur’an is. It is the memorized and recited Qur’an which is the authority on the printed Qur’an and not vice versa. If there are any printing errors, then the Huffaz (memorisers) point them out for rectification to the publisher. Qur’an publishing houses the world over, generally do not circulate a printed Qur’an, unless it is proof read and certified by a Hafiz i.e. a memoriser of the Qur’an. Any copies with transcription errors are withdrawn from circulation upon intimation by a Hafiz.

Ad-Dhikr – The Remembrance

God’s claim for preservation is also of Dhikr or the remembrance (of the Quran), and it is illogical to conceive that what is printed on paper is preserved by God, because with time, paper withers away and can also have transcription errors on it.

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

Surely We, Ever We, have been sending down the Remembrance, and surely We are indeed Preservers of it. (15:9, Dr. Ghali)

Therefore it is through the Huffaz that the Qur’an has come down to us and it is in their hearts that it is preserved. It follows that what is memorised and recited i.e. the remembered and the spoken Qur’an in its original Arabic is what is actually the word of God.

Bismillah is never recited loudly to mark begining of a chapter at Masjid Al Haraam

As it is the spoken Qur’an which is the authority on the printed Qur’an, we should see whether the Bismillahs are recited in spoken form before Qur’anic recitation. Doing so, you will observe that during an oral recitation, the Bismillah’s are never recited as part of the Qur’anic recital by a Qari (reciter) during the Salat (five daily prayer). The best way to verify this is to observe the Qur’anic recitation during prayers held at Masjid Al Haraam (the sacred mosque), in Makkah during Taraveeh prayers – the daily night prayers in the month of Ramadan in which the entire Qur’an is recited from memory.

One can observe that during these prayers, when the Qari finishes a sura, he does not recite the Bismillah loudly prior to starting a new Sura. This shows that the Bismillah before every Sura that one finds in the printed Qur’an, are not part of the recited Qur’an, and to be kept in mind that the Qur’an is the reading, and its remembrance is what is vouchsafed by God.

Thus Bismillahs before every Sura were not revealed by God, but were placed in printed versions when the spoken word was recorded on paper or other material to indicate beginning of a new chapter. There are other such bifurcations of the printed text also done to facilitate the recitation and memorization. Such as dividing the entire Qur’an into thirty equal Juz or portions. We can see through internal Qur’anic evidence that its revelation was as Suras or Ayaat (Signs, verses), but never as Juz. The practice of dividing the Book into thirty portions being done to facilitate reading the entire text in thirty days of the month.

The Bismillah occurs only once in the Qur’an

However, while understanding that the Bismillah before every sura was not revealed by God, it is also worthy to note that it does occur internally within the Qur’anic text on a single occasion, and indicates that the wordings  “Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem” are indeed revealed words.

The statement of Queen Saba to her counsel upon receiving a letter from Prophet Suleman is narrated in sura twenty seven:

قَالَتْ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ إِنِّي أُلْقِيَ إِلَيَّ كِتَابٌ كَرِيمٌ

She said, “O you chiefs, surely an honorable book has been cast to me.

إِنَّهُ مِن سُلَيْمَانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Surely it is from Sulayman, (Solomon) and surely it is in The Name of Allah, The All-Merciful, The Ever-Merciful. (27:29, 30 Dr. Ghali)

Thus we can observe in above that Bismillahs were not revealed each and every time before the revelation of a new sura as this is not prevailing in the spoken Qur’an. We can also see that within the spoken text is sura twenty-seven within which the wordings of the Bismillah occur. Thus its wordings are a part of the Qur’an only by virtue of a single occurrence.

Kitab of Suleman

The Kitab or writing that Suleman sent to Queen Saba in Sura twenty seven is self explanatory in the same chapter as a Kitab i.e. writing or letter. It was not the Qur’an that Suleman had sent but a written message to the Queen. Kitab in the said verse is in its generic sense, and not as the specific Al Kitab. The following are reasonst:

(i) Suleman himself says that the writing was his, and not from Allah.
اذْهَب بِّكِتَابِي هَٰذَا فَأَلْقِهْ إِلَيْهِمْ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا يَرْجِعُونَ

“Go with this my letter and throw it down unto them; then turn away and see what (answer) they return.” 27:28 Pickthal

The words “Ithhab bikitabee hatha.”, meaning “Go with this my letter..” are clearly showing that it is Suleman’s Kitab that was sent to Saba and not Allah’s Kitab.

(ii) Supposing it was the Qur’an that Suleman had sent to Queen Saba, and supposing the Qur’an were to begin with Bismillah as a revealed verse before the Suras, then Queen Saba should identify that the Book sent from Suleman is the Qur’an by first reading the Bismillah to her counsel, followed by the opening verse of a Sura, if indeed Bismillahs before Suras are also revealed verses.

But notice that she does not read Alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameen after Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem to her counsel. In fact her next statements make it crystal clear as to what it was that she received from Suleman:

قَالَتْ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ إِنِّي أُلْقِيَ إِلَيَّ كِتَابٌ كَرِيمٌ

(The Queen of Sheba) said (when she received the letter): O chieftains! Lo! there hath been thrown unto me a noble letter. 27:29, Pickthall

إِنَّهُ مِن سُلَيْمَانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

“Lo! it is from Solomon, and lo! it is: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful;” 27:30 Pickthall

أَلَّا تَعْلُوا عَلَيَّ وَأْتُونِي مُسْلِمِينَ

Exalt not yourselves against me, but come unto me as those who surrender. 27:31 Pickthall

We see from above that the Kitab or writing of Suleman in its entirety is:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; Exalt not yourselves against me, but come unto me as those who surrender.

It is this written message that King Suleman sent through the Hoopoe bird and not the entire Book of God. As Suleman himself identifies by the Arabic word “Kitabee” that it is his Kitab that is to be sent to Queen Saba, therefore it is not the Qur’an referred in 27:30. As after reading the Bismillah the Queen identifies the next line of Suleman’s writing to be the invitation to embrace Islam and not a beginning verse of a Sura, therefore this also proves that it is not the entire Qur’an which is mentioned in 27:30 but just the letter of Suleman. The word Kitab is used in the said verse in its generic sense of a written message, i.e. a letter or communique.

Reading Bismillah is an etiquette of Qur’anic recitation and inscription, distinct from the revealed text.

Bismillahs before every chapter of the Qur’an are not revealed verses or a revealed part of those chapters. When Muslims recite the Qur’an then they begin the recitation with Bismillah because of the order given in Sura 96:1

اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ

Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth. 96:1, Pickthall

Thus when a believer is to begin the reading of the Qur’an or any of its passages then one is to do it “bi-ismi rabbik” literally “With the Name of your Lord”. This is the Qur’anic etiquette to begin Qur’anic recitation and is in obedience to the order in Surat Al Alaq 96:1. However this does not mean that a Bismillah that one reads prior to a Sura or passage is the first verse revealed in a Sura. The first verse of a Sura is the text that occurs after the Bismillah, e.g. 1:1 is “Alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameen”, 2:1 is “Alif-lam-meem”, 3:1 is “Alif-lam-meem” and so on and so forth. Reciting a Bismillah before Quran reading or to print it to demarcate sura-chapters is simply an etiquette or rule given in the Qur’an that a believer is to observe.  Similarly another such rule is given in Surat An-Nahl 16:98:
فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ

And when thou recitest the Qur’an, seek refuge in Allah from Satan the outcast. 16:98 Pickthall

Thus in obedience to the order in 16:98, one can recite the words “audhu billah mina ‘sh-shaytani ‘r-rajeem” lit. “I seek refuge in God from Satan, the stoned”, followed by b-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm.  However once again it must be emphasized that these words are simply etiquette for reciting Quranic text and their utterance prior to reciting the Qur’an does not make them the first revealed verse of any Sura. These are simply  words a human being utters in response to the divine command prior to reciting divine words. The human proclamation is distinct from God’s words. This is the reason that one never hears Bismillah before a Sura and Audobillah in the audible recitation of the Imam when he leads the Salat (Prayers) in congregation during prayers held at night such as the Maghrib (Sunset), Isha (Night), or Fajr (Dawn) prayers. The entre text of the Qur’an is what one can hear and observe during the Qiyam ul Layl (Ramadan Night) Prayers in Masjid Al Haram in Makkah. In that recitation the first verses of Suras are never “Bismillahs”.

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Mu’min and Muslim


Every Mumin is a Muslim but every Muslim is not necessarily a Mumin. By the term Mumin a person who has firm inner belief is meant and by the term Muslim we mean a submitter, i.e. someone who resigns His will to Allah, who agrees that there is Allah and He has given guidance to mankind. However he may not be practising those rules in his life, e.g. he is drinking alcohol, dating, earning by illegitimate means etc, but verbally says and knows all this is wrong. He merely surrenders. This is the first stage. But when a person becomes a Mumin or a convinced believer, then this is the stage where he moves from initial submission. He also starts acting on the rules and practices the laws of Allah in his life. He is a Muslim i.e. a submitter as well as a Mumin i.e. convinced believer and an actor. A Muslim who does not act on the rules is however on the first stage, and Imaan has not entered his heart. This will happen when he starts practising the rules.

This point is made evident by the Qur’an,

The bedouins say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not [yet] believed; but say [instead], ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered your hearts. And if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not deprive you from your deeds of anything. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” 49:14

In this verse the distinction between state of Muslim and state of Mu’min is made clear. Merely saying “We have believed.” is not enough to qualify as a believer but simply qualifies one as a Submitter (Muslim). It is when one starts acting on the rules, i.e. shows obedience to Allah and His messenger that they qualify as a Mumin. All commandments in the Quran are addressed to Al Ladhina Amanoo i.e. ‘those who have believed’, because it is in this state that one actually puts in practice the rules they resign to.

This can be demonstrated through a worldly example. When a personal shows a willingness to the aims and objectives of an institution has made an application to join it, he is a submitter or a Muslim to that institution. At this point has has submitted an application to join which indicates his willingness, and agreement. Once he joins, and gets trained and practices the knowledge, he is a firm and convinced believer in the rules and skills that the institution imparts on him. His practice of the rules is proof oh his belief or imaan on the institutional rules. Thus he is now progressed to another level as a Mumin i.e. a firmly convinced believer of that institution, while also retaining his initial status as an applicant who had shown his willingness to submit to the institution. On the other hand a person who has made an application, got admission, but never learned or practices what was taught in the institute, can he be equal to the latter category? Unless he is obedient to the curriculum he is not qualified to be a believer. His increase in knowledge and practise will be proof of his conviction.

That is why a believer (Mumin) is always also a submitter (Muslim), but a submitter is not necessarily always a believer, as he may not have progressed forward as showed in Qur’an 49:13.

Islam (Submission) and Iman (inner belief) are two different things. The fact that people have submitted to the commands of Allah does not mean they have belief in Allah in their hearts. Their submission can be for a variety of reasons, could be out of fear, to make friends or allies, to be acceptable in society or to marry a girl. All this is outwardly. Imaan – however is entirely different and is concerned with the qalb (heart) of a person and is between man and God.

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Location of Masjid Al Haraam


Numerous individuals and groups styling themselves as “Quran Alone”, “Quraniyoon”, “Quranists”, “Submitters”,  and by other labels who claim to believe and follow the Qur’an only, offer novel interpretations and understandings. Among these are often contradictory and grammatically errant views related to the identity of Masjid Al Haraam, the Sacred Mosque, in Makkah which is the centre-point of Muslims all over the world and Islam’s holiest site.

I have been often asked to demonstrate from the Qur’an where Masjid Al Haraam is situated, due to the confusion spread by such viewpoints.

Here I demonstrate the geographical location of the Sacred Mosque by virtue of the Qur’an itself, so that those who study the Book, specially new reverts / converts to Islam are not misled by such individual’s faulty and errant line of reasoning.

Where is Al Masjid Al Haraam situated? Can we identify its geographical location from the verses of the Qur’an? Yes – we very well can. It is located in the city of Makkah, as identified very clearly by Qur’an itself in Surah Al Fatah:

“And it is He Who has restrained their hands from you and your hands from them IN THE MIDST OF MAKKAH, after that He gave you the victory over them. And Allah sees well all that ye do.” 48:24

The above identifies that rejecters who were in the middle of Makkah were having a conflict with the believers. Now the opposition of these same people, who are residents of Makkah is identified in the next verse:

‎”They [THE REJECTERS IN THE MIDST OF MAKKAH] are the ones who denied Revelation AND HINDERED YOU FROM THE SACRED MOSQUE and the sacrificial animals, detained from reaching their place of sacrifice. Had there not been believing men and believing women whom ye did not know that ye were trampling down and on whose account a crime would have accrued to you without (your) knowledge, ((Allah) would have allowed you to force your way, but He held back your hands) that He may admit to His Mercy whom He will. If they had been apart, We should certainly have punished the Unbelievers among them with a grievous Punishment.” 48:25

As the above verses indicate that rejecters in the midst of Makkah hindered Believers from the Sacred Mosque, therefore the Masjid is situated in the city of Makkah. Reading the verses together makes the geographical location of the Masjid absolutely clear and we can infer solely from the text of the Qur’an about the location of Al Masjid Al Haraam to be in Makkah. This being the case, why do people argue to the contrary? The reason that we find opposition to Makkah, Hajj, Salah and Masjid Al Haraam is because of the Qur’anic prophecies about individuals who will, in all times, oppose the system ordained by Allah and in one way or the other attack the House of Allah and its practices. We read about such people in Sura Al Hajj:

“As to those who have rejected (Allah), and would keep back (men) from the Way of Allah, and from the Sacred Mosque, which We have made (open) to (all) men – equal is the dweller there and the visitor from the country – and any whose purpose therein is profanity or wrong-doing – them will We cause to taste of a most Grievous Penalty.” 22:25

There will always be individuals who in the words of the Qur’an “would keep back (men) from the Sacred Mosque..” Such are misled, as they mislead from the path of Allah and for the opposition that they give to Al Masjid Al Haraam theirs is a grievous punishment that awaits them in this world as well as the next.

As true believers, we must identify the above characteristic and safeguard ourselves.

 

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Is it Sinful To Take The Shahadah?


INTRODUCTION: New converts to Islam often take the Shahadah when they embrace the faith to mark their formal admission into the fold of Islam. This is usually by uttering the words “I bear witness there is no God besides Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger.” The Shahadah is also part of the Azaan –  the call to Prayer and is included in the wordings of the Salah, the Islamic daily prayer.

However in recent times some deviant sects are opposing converts from this practice by falsely claiming that such is an act of Shirk (polytheism). They argue that it is sinful to take the name of Allah and Muhammad in the same sentence, and that no one should be mentioned alongside the name of God. Furthermore their claim is that a believer cannot ‘bear witness’ on the messenger. Such are ridiculous claims and have no basis at all in the Qur’an. This is demonstrated briefly as per following.

1. The Qur’an itself shows that Believers bear witness over the messenger:

 

“They who disbelieve say: Thou art no messenger [of Allah]. Say: Allah, and whosoever hath knowledge of the Scripture, is sufficient witness between me and you.” 13:42

The words “..whosoever hath knowledge of the Scripture, is sufficient witness between me and you…” makes it clear that those who have knowledge of the Book are witnesses over the messenger, hence nullifying the claim of those that it is sinful to be a witness on the messenger.

2. “Laa Illah Iallah” and “Muhammad Ar Rasool Allah” are Qur’anic words

37:35

لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ

48:29

مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ

If mention of these words together is shirk, then God mentions them in His Book. Is he also guilty of Shirk according to those who propose such nonsensical ideas?

3. By bearing witness over Muhammad, one by default bears witness and acknowledges ALL messengers, because it is through Muhammad that all messengers prior to him are introduced to believers.

 

“And those who believe and do good works and believe in that which is revealed unto Muhammad – and it is the truth from their Lord – He riddeth them of their ill-deeds and improveth their state.” 47:2

The words “..that which is revealed unto Muhammad – and it is the truth from their Lord ..” shows that it is through Muhammad that truth is known, and this includes the truth of all previous messengers as well:

“Messengers indeed have been denied before thee, and they were patient under the denial and the persecution till Our succour reached them. There is none to alter the decisions of Allah. Already there hath reached thee of the tidings of the messengers [We sent before].” 6:34

The words “..Already there hath reached thee of the tidings of the messengers..” shows that it is through Muhammad that messengers before him are known to us. Therefore acknowledging Muhammad is the messenger of Allah is in fact acknowledging all messengers before him, and not excluding them as some ignorant people suggest. It is ONLY through Muhammad’s revelation that messengers true personality is revealed, making it compulsory to acknowledge him as the source of their true knowledge.

4. There is no verse in the Qur’an which says do not “mention” anyone besides God. What it says is do not “call” anyone besides God:

“And cry not, beside Allah, unto that which cannot profit thee nor hurt thee, for if thou didst so then wert thou of the wrong-doers.” 10:106 Pickthall

The word in above verse is ‘Tad’uu’ which is from ‘Du’a’ and means ‘to call’, ‘to invoke’, ‘to pray’ or ‘to supplicate to’. For ‘mention’, the word used in the Qur’an is ‘Dhikr’. Whenever Qur’an issues the command ‘do not call any besides Allah’ it always uses the words derived from ‘Dua’, and never ‘Dhikr’. Sadly some are twisting these words, and not retaining them in the original. How devious of them to do this. They are playing with fire!

There is a difference between mentioning anyone and calling anyone. God Himself mentions messengers alongside His name in the Qur’an. To say otherwise is contradictory to Qur’an.

5. The theory that the Shahada with the name of Muhammad is an act of polytheism was promoted by the (late) Rashad Khalifa and his offshoots. A number of people are simply copying his ideas and using them in argumentation to assert their superiority over Muslims to deride them that they are committing Shirk while the latter are not. The fact of the matter is that it is they who are guilty of distorting words and instead of using accurate meanings they use English words to confuse and mislead people, especially new converts.

CONCLUSION: New converts to Islam are assured that they have not committed any blasphemy or act of polytheism by making the statement of the Shahadah. The words are perfectly correct and in line with Qur’anic wordings. They should dismiss the falsehood spread by deviant sects and check whether what they are told is really based on the original text of the Qur’an or not. This belief is not of their own discovery. They are simply copy and pasting things from websites of the followers of the man, Rashad Khalifa and his offshoot and splinter groups. Playing with words has been prophesied in the Qur’an and a warning has been given to those who engage in such activity:

 

“And lo! there is a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture. And they say: It is from Allah, when it is not from Allah; and they speak a lie concerning Allah knowingly.” 3:78

We should identify those who distort the translations of the Qur’an and confirm the prophecy in the above verse about “..a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture.” Such people are amongst us who are playing with Quranic words and we should beware of them and their deviations.

 

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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

 

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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.

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

The Dilemma Of Faith


When Faith Becomes A Hurdle in Our Search For Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENMITY TOWARDS REASON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAITH AS A TOOL FOR OPPRESSION

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

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

AN ALTERNATE VIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRODUCE YOUR PROOF!

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

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

But demands evidence and proof from its opponents as well:

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

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

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

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

A CALL TO ACTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

The choice is yours.

Reincarnation


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOBODY LIVES FOREVER, EVERYONE HAS TO DIE

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

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

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

PROPHETS OF ALLAH ARE NOT IMMORTAL BUT DIE LIKE OTHER HUMANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE DEAD CANNOT COMMUNICATE WITH THE LIVING

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

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

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

REFERENCES

Encyclopedia Britannica

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.

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