Islam prohibits marriage with minors


Faithful Foreigners


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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Social Media: Use it, Don’t Abuse it!


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

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

THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION

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

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

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

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

THE FEATURES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

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

  1. Interactivity

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

  1. Community-led

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

  1. Relatively low cost

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

  1. Free speech

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

  1. Influential

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

  1. Global

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

  1. Addictive

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

  1. Immediacy

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

 TACKLING SOCIAL MEDIA ABUSE

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

  1. Online Deceit

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Plagiarism

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

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

  1. Hate Speech

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

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

Defamation and slander are clearly forbidden in the divine text:

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

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

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

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

  1. Bombardment with unsolicited messages

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

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

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

A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO SOCIAL MEDIA

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

  1. Research the customer

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

  1. Your content should add value

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

  1. Use visuals

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

  1. Embrace Diversity

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

  1. Tell stories

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

  1. Facilitate Sales

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

  1. Use video and Audio

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

 

  1. Improve Continuously

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

 

CONCLUSION

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

 

REFERENCES

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

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

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

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

 

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Shopping Mania


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

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

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


Islam calls for a balanced and moderate approach to consumption.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First published in DAWN dated 21 April 2017

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A New Life


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

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

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

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

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

First Published in DAWN on 9-9-2016

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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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The Qur’anic “Torah”


QUESTION

Is it correct that “Taurat” is not the name of a book revealed by Allah but is the title of all those verses in the Qur’an that contain “Hukm Allah”, (Order, command of God) as stated in Al Maida 5:43. Does the Qur’an justify the view that “Taurat” is nothing but the name of all do’s and don’ts internally within the Qur’an?

ANSWER.

Qur’an makes it clear that “Taurat” did not just contain Law, but also events and narratives. The verse in question is as follows:

وَكَيْفَ يُحَكِّمُونَكَ وَعِندَهُمُ التَّوْرَاةُ فِيهَا حُكْمُ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يَتَوَلَّوْنَ مِن بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ ۚ وَمَا أُولَٰئِكَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“But how is it that they come to you for judgement while they have the Torah, in which is the judgement of Allah? Then they turn away, [even] after that; but those are not [in fact] believers.” 5:43

Those who maintain the view that “Taurat” is the name of all the do’s and don’ts of the Qur’an refer to the expression in above verse; “.. Torah, in which is the judgement (Arabic: Hukm) of Allah..” and assert that “Taurat” should be defined as all those verses of Qur’an which contain “Hukm Allah” or commandments of God.

However it is not correct to infer from verse 5:43 that all those verses of the Qur’an that are legislative are called as “Taurat”. Such would be a faulty inference which ignores all other verses of the Qur’an whose subject matter is the “Taurat”. We should not form conclusions from one or two words only but bring into inflection all the passages where the topic is discussed. We should identify the complete features of the “Taurat” by analysing its recurrence within the Qur’an. The following points bring to light such features:

1. Taurat did not contain just “Hukm Allah” but also “Wa’ad” (Divine promise):

إِنَّ اللَّهَ اشْتَرَىٰ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُم بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ ۚ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَيَقْتُلُونَ وَيُقْتَلُونَ ۖ وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّا فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ وَالْقُرْآنِ ۚ وَمَنْ أَوْفَىٰ بِعَهْدِهِ مِنَ اللَّهِ ۚ فَاسْتَبْشِرُوا بِبَيْعِكُمُ الَّذِي بَايَعْتُم بِهِ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

“Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah , so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah ? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment.” 9:111

To be noted:

وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّا فِي التَّوْرَاةِ

“..a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah ..”

Above verse clearly says that Taurat contains a promise of Allah. Therefore along with “Hukm Allah”, “wa’ad Allah” is also its feature. Hence the statement that “Taurat” contains ONLY the law (bearing verses in Quran) is proved wrong when we analyse verse 9:111.

2. Taurat cannot be a subset of the Qur’an or just a certain number of verses of the Qur’an because Allah mentioned Taurat separately from Qur’an.

To be noted in 9:111 are the words:

فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ وَالْقُرْآنِ ۚ

“… in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an…”

Note that “Taurat”, “Injeel” and “Qur’an” are mentioned separately in the verse.

If indeed “Taurat” was a component of the Qur’an and not a separate revelation on its own , then it would be meaningless to mention it separately as by the mention of “Qur’an” the “Taurat” which is subsumed within it is also included.

But as Taurat is highlighted distinctly, it shows that it is not a collection of certain verses of the Qur’an but has its own distinct identity.

3. The Quran identifies that along with “Hukm” (commandment) and “Wa’ad” (Divine promise), Taurat also contains “Mathal” (Parable)

Verse 48:29 also identifies the features of the “Taurat”

مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاءُ عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاءُ بَيْنَهُمْ ۖ تَرَاهُمْ رُكَّعًا سُجَّدًا يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلًا مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانًا ۖ سِيمَاهُمْ فِي وُجُوهِهِم مِّنْ أَثَرِ السُّجُودِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ مَثَلُهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ ۚ

“Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Taurat..” 48:29

To be noted that in the above verse, the words:

ذَٰلِكَ مَثَلُهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ ۚ

“..This is their similitude in the Taurat..”

Thus above clearly demonstrates another feature, that the “Taurat” is not restricted to “Hukm Allah” but also contains “Mathal” i.e. simile, or parable.

CONCLUSION
Its is clear from the Qur’an that the “Taurat” contains:

“Hukm” or Commandment as said in 5:43

“Wa’ad” (Promise) as said in 9:111

“Mathal” (Parable or similitude) as said in 48:29

We also see that Taurat is mentioned separately from Qur’an in 9:111.

Therefore in the light of above verses, it is clear that the “Taurat” does not refer to all the do’s and don’ts of the Qur’an, but is a distinct book having more than do’s and dont’s. Taurat was a revelation of Allah which contained laws as well as events such as parables, promises.

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Believing Woman’s Dress


According to the Qur’an, what is a believing woman’s dress code? If a woman wears a head scarf then does she violate any command of Allah, as certain modern-day Quran cults allege? 

A believing women’s dress code is mentioned in two verses of the Qur’an. In Surat Al Ahzaab 33:59 and in Surat An-Noor 24:31. In Al Ahzaab, Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” 33:59 Pickthall

Whereas in Surat An-Noor, Allah says:

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ ۖ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ ۖ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ ۚ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.” 24:31 Pickthall

The orders pertaining related to the type of garments to wear and the parts of a woman’s body that are to be covered / uncovered are highlighted as follows:

1- Wear Jilbaab

As per the order “..draw their cloaks [ARABIC: JALABEEB, plural of JALABIYYA, JILBAAB] close round them..” 33:59 believing women should wear Jilbaab i.e. a cloak, a gown, which is a loose and long outer garment worn over Kamees that covers entire body and hides the figure and exposes only the head, hands and feet). This type of over garment is also known by the term Abaya.

2- Expose only those parts that the Jilbaab exposes

As per the order “..and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent..” they should uncover only those body parts that are exposed when they observe the order to “..draw their cloaks close round them..” i.e. the head, hands and feet. The rest of the body / figure should not be exposed.

3- Cover the neckline / chest with the Khimaar

As per the order “..and to draw their veils [ARABIC: KHUMUR] over their bosoms…” their Khimaar i.e. scarf or any other covering should cover the region below the neckline and chest area (Juyub) and this part of the body should not be exposed.

The word Khumur in the above verse is plural form of Khimaar which literally means ‘covering’, not specifically head covering but any kind of covering. A headscarf worn by women, as well as men is also called a Khimaar. The order in the verse is not to wear the Khimaar per se but to cover the chest-region with it, as the Khimaar was worn prior to Quranic revelation and is a neccesary dress of people dwelling in Hijaz region owing to extreme heat. The verse shows that women were already wearing the Khimaar, and the order specified that they are to cover the chest with it. Hence if a woman wears a head scarf and she extends it over her neckline in accordance with the commandment in the verse, she has fulfilled the order of Allah.

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12 reasons why Mary was not a Hermaphrodite


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

Introduction

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

The hermaphrodite theory is an Ahmadiyya belief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

يَا مَرْيَمُ اقْنُتِي لِرَبِّكِ وَاسْجُدِي وَارْكَعِي مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

وَاللَّهُ أَنبَتَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ نَبَاتًا

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

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

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

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

قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَنَا رَسُولُ رَبِّكِ لِأَهَبَ لَكِ غُلَامًا زَكِيًّا

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

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

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

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

وَبَرًّا بِوَالِدَتِي وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْنِي جَبَّارًا شَقِيًّا

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ ۗ

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

ۚ وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ ۗ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To which the reply was given:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFERENCES

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Blasphemy laws in the Qur’an


The Qur’an has issued clear guidelines as to how believers are to respond in the face of insults and ridicule

Blasphemy (Greek blaptein, “to injure”, and pheme, “reputation”) signifies etymologically gross irreverence towards any person or thing worthy of exalted esteem.¹ Blasphemy is the use of offensive, and derogatory language and visual representations against personalities revered and held in high esteem in a religion. In the Judeo Christian tradition, blasphemy is a serious sin, which is according to the Hebrew Scriptures a cognizable offense incurring capital punishment. In the book of Leviticus, which is considered an inspired text by both, Jews and Christians it is stated: “Take the blasphemer beyond the confines of the camp; let all those who were listening lay their hands on his head, and let the whole people put him to death by stoning. 15 Tell the Israelites this: The man who curses his God will be held to account for it; 16 he blasphemed the Lord’s name, and he must die. Be he citizen or stranger, he must be stoned by the whole people; death for the blasphemer.” Leviticus 24:14-16 Though very clearly a law enshrined in the Judeo-Christian Scripture, we also see in recent times, that it is the Muslim community which is in the spotlight regarding this subject. Some violent and extreme responses to blasphemy meted out in the name of Islam, make those outside of the faith (as well as many within the faith itself) raise the question, that like the Judeo-Christian Scripture, does the Islamic Scripture too, exhort believers to deliver death to blasphemers?

Blasphemy is not a capital crime in the Qur’an

Without investigating the fact of the matter many make an underlying assumption that whilst responding violently, those who label themselves as Muslims are acting on the tenets of their faith. That what you see on the TV screens and read about in the newspapers concerning so called Islamic acts is the practice of the Qur’an to the last letter. Many are deliberately led to believe as if whatever any individual identifying himself as a Muslim does or believes in, is a result of the religious guidance found in their Book and the authentic teaching of their faith. This actually, is not the case. Behaviour that we witness as “Islamic” behaviour is not necessarily Quranic behaviour. Upon studying the Qur’an we realise that the fringe in the Muslim world that partakes in violent behaviours is neither representative of Qur’anic teachings nor of the vast number of peaceful believers. The Qur’an is not silent about situations when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was insulted and abused by rejecters of his message. It very well does show his behaviour, as to what his response was in such instances. It also gives clear and unambiguous instructions to Muslims as to what their conduct should be when people mock, ridicule or scoff their faith.

God is sufficient against those who mock the Prophet

إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ

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

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

The Prophet [pbuh] never commanded anyone to respond violently in face of insults

The Prophet [pbuh] was commanded by Allah:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Believers commanded to be patient in the face of insults

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

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

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

Believers are forbidden to insult other religions, hence responding violently is ruled out

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

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

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

We also see in the Qur’an that blasphemy does not carry a capital punishment. Those who commit blasphemy and even plot sedition are given an opportunity by Allah to repent. If capital punishment were invoked and they were to face the death penalty then they would not be able to avail the opportunity for repentance that Allah mentions in 9:74.

يَحْلِفُونَ بِاللَّهِ مَا قَالُوا وَلَقَدْ قَالُوا كَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ وَكَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِسْلَامِهِمْ وَهَمُّوا بِمَا لَمْ يَنَالُوا ۚ وَمَا نَقَمُوا إِلَّا أَنْ أَغْنَاهُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ ۚ فَإِن يَتُوبُوا يَكُ خَيْرًا لَّهُمْ ۖ وَإِن يَتَوَلَّوْا يُعَذِّبْهُمُ اللَّهُ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۚ وَمَا لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ

“They swear by God that they said nothing (evil), but indeed they uttered blasphemy, and they did it after accepting Islam; and they meditated a plot which they were unable to carry out: this revenge of theirs was (their) only return for the bounty with which God and His Apostle had enriched them! If they repent, it will be best for them; but if they turn back (to their evil ways), God will punish them with a grievous penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: They shall have none on earth to protect or help them.” (9:74)

The expression in above verse: “..If they repent, it will be best for them…” is clear evidence in demonstrating that those guilty of blasphemy, apostasy and sedition are not to face the death penalty as Allah has given them a chance for repentance and amendment of their conduct.

If Muslims are to remain peaceful, then who are the people who respond violently?

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

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

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

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

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

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

Pinpointing the people who go about flaunting their Imaan (belief) to be in fact fake, the above verses also identify their modus operandi to do Fasad (disorder),  assuming it to be a means to Islah (reform from sin). When we come across individuals who make it their mission to “destroy evil and vice”, we see the truthfulness of the above description. These are the type of people who bomb establishments that appear sinful to them and display violent rage in the name of religion. They style themselves as believers, do Fasaad fil Ard (disorder and mischief in the land), without realising that far from acting on Allah’s laws, they are in fact grossly violating them. Hence there are two types of people in the world who would claim to be within the fold of Imaan. Those whose characters are trained on Quranic guidance, who in the face of insults, invective and abuse act patiently and do not resort to a tit-for-tat or violent response. While others are those who, while claiming to be believers, actually defy the divine injunctions. These are the people who resort to violence and destruction and justify their conduct in the name of religion. The fundamental mistake we would make is to accept people by the labels they carry or the claims they make, instead of identifying them by the behaviours they display. Behaviours that go against the teachings of the Qur’an are never a part of Islam and their actors are never its true representatives. Muslims must not forget that the best defence to any insults is the one contained in the Qur’an. Instead of losing control, Muslims must hold fast to Qur’anic guidance in such matters. The Qur’an is Allah’s word and is not silent. Allah is fully aware of what situations come in the life of a believer and He has given remedies in His word. The only response that a true Muslim is to give is the one which the Prophet gave and which is to abide by the teaching contained in the Qur’an.

REFERENCES

¹ Catholic Encyclopedia

 

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Do children go to heaven upon death?


Accountability of children, the weak and the handicapped

Q- A vast majority of people have not read the Qur’an. Even among Muslims, its true knowledge is very rare to find. There are children who do not know who Allah is, or what Islam means. There are many individuals who suffer from mental illness or are born disabled and are not able to follow the Qur’an. Can we imply that such people will not be saved because they have not read Allah’s Book, and are unaware of its teachings?

A- The Quran teaches us that to qualify for punishment, the message of God has to reach that person first. In the conversations that are mentioned in the Quran about the time period or dimension of the hereafter or life after death, it is stated that the unbelievers, who will be in torment, will be questioned:

“The Fire will burn their faces and they will therein grin with their lips displaced. (Allah will ask) Were not My Signs rehearsed to you and ye did but treat them as falsehood?” (23:104-105)

The question, “Were not My Signs rehearsed to you and ye did but treat them as falsehood?” clearly informs us that to qualify for punishment the message of the Qur’an has to reach an individual first, after which it is consciously rejected by him. In case the message has not reached people, or their mental ability is not such that they can comprehend it then they are not held accountable.

Children and those who are disabled will be forgiven by God
The following verses have brought two groups in comparison. One is that which rejected God’s message in a conscious state of mind, the other consists of those who are in such a state that they could not find the means to study God’s guidance or were physically handicapped to ascertain its meaning, we are told:

“When the Angels take the souls of those who die in oppression against their souls they say: “In what (plight) Were ye?” They reply: “Weak and oppressed Were we in the earth.” They say: “Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (From evil)?” Such men will find their abode in Hell – What an evil refuge!

Except those who are (really) weak and oppressed – men women and children – who have no means in their power nor (a guide-post) to their way. For these there is hope that God will forgive: For God doth blot out (sins) and forgive again and again.” (4:97-99)

From above we can infer that children who die before the age of consent or those individuals who do not have the ability to receive guidance are not held accountable for their actions. Accountability is for those individuals who while having the means to attain guidance remained ignorant or went against the guidance after gaining knowledge.

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Wasted Salat


First published in DAWN, 06, June, 2014

NEGLECTED PRAYER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Prophet is chosen by Allah


Q. Deniers of finality of Prophet-hood cite verse 4:69 “whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, then he is among the company of the Prophets..” to justify the claim of Prophet-hood of their group’s founder. They maintain that their leader obeyed Allah and His Messenger to such an extent and devotion that he too became a Nabi (Prophet) and this was, according to them, in line with what is stated in the verse. Is their claim and understanding consistent with the Qur’an? Does the Qur’an really state that one can become a Nabi merely by obedience to Allah and His Messenger?

A. No. Such beliefs are not justified by the Qur’an, rather refuted by the Book of Allah. The ayah in question is:

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“All who obey Allah and the Messenger are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of Allah of the Prophets (who teach) the sincere (lovers of truth) the witnesses (who testify) and the righteous (who do good): ah! what a beautiful fellowship!” (4:69 Yusuf Ali)

If we ponder over the verse we observe that it does not suggest that anyone who obeys Allah and His Messenger becomes a Nabi (Prophet), but rather that such a person enters in to the companionship of Nabiyeen (Prophets). The Arabic words MA’AL LAZINA an’amalla_hu ‘alaihim lit.“..in the company of those on whom is the favour of Allah..” clearly point to this fact. We further read in Sura 48 that:

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“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and those with him are strong against the unbelievers while compassionate with each other.” (48:29)

Here wal lazina maahu “those with him” i.e. those who were with Muhammad (PBUH) are identified separately. Those with Muhammad were those who obeyed him, and all of them did not become Prophets by doing so. Sura 4:69 states that those who obey the messenger, do not become Prophets but they simply come in their companionship.The Arabic words of 4:69 WA HASUNA ULA_’IKA RAFIQA lit. “And what a beautiful FELLOWSHIP”, also confirm this fact.

If one were to claim that being in the company of another makes him the same person, then in many places of the Quran we also find: Annalla_ha MA’AL muttaqin lit. “Surely God is WITH THOSE who are Righteous” (2:194) and innalla_ha ma’as sa_birin lit. “Surely God is WITH THOSE those who are patient” (2:153). If maa an nabiyeen” lit. “with the Prophets” makes someone a Prophet, then that would erroneously imply that maa_Allah would make one same as Allah! Such a belief being absolutely contradictory to Qur’an. It can be observed in the Quran that Nabuwah (Prophecy) is not acquired by personal efforts but is bestowed by God of His own will. The recipient of God’s message has no idea at all that it will be bestowed on him a moment prior to its revelation, as the following verses declare:

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“And thus have We inspired in thee (Muhammad) a Spirit of Our command. Thou knewest not what the Book was, nor belief. 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.” (42:52)

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“And thou hadst not expected that the Book would be sent to thee except as a Mercy from thy Lord: therefore lend not thou support in any way to those who reject (Allah’s Message).” (28:86)

“..Thou knewest not what the Book was, nor belief..” and “…”And thou hadst not expected that the Book would be sent to thee except as a Mercy from thy Lord..” clearly show that one on whom God’s revelation is bestowed does not work towards receiving that Message and does not make efforts to become a Prophet or Messenger. Rather Prophecy is a gift of God, and given as per the will of God. As the verse 4:69 clearly says that obedience to Allah and His Rasul results in attaining the fellowship of God’s Prophets and not Prophet-hood, therefore the view that one can become a Prophet by his own efforts is false and contrary to the Qur’an.

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Nikah Muta


Nikah Mut’a (temporary marriage) is it allowed by the Qur’an?

Q. What is the Quranic view on permission of Nikah Mut’a which is a temporary marriage entered for a fixed period of time for the purpose of physical pleasure and in which the partners do not inherit from each other?

A. The Qur’an does not permit that sexual urges should be fulfilled by temporary means. It says that people who do not posses the means to get married should remain chaste, as indicated by the following verse:

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“And let those who do not find the means to marry keep chaste until Allah makes them free from want out of His grace.” (24:33)

Sex is a controllable urge as it is triggered off through our thoughts. This is the reason that believers are enjoined to remain celibate at certain times, e.g. while fasting and during the days of the Hajj or while in state of Ihraam (pilgrim garb). If sex were not controllable, then Allah, who created us, and who knows man’s nature would never demand of us to remain celibate at specific times. Unlike food which no matter how less you try to think about, will over come you as it is a vital need, but sex on the other hand is not like food that if we do not have it we may then acquire a physical deficiency.

People are ordered to keep themselves chaste until marriage. There is no other temporary means to fulfill this urge, says the Quran, while on the other hand we see that in case of food, when the situation is of a grievous nature and there is no access to Halaal (permissible) food, then the Quran says in such a situation, even Haraam (prohibited) food can be consumed:

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“..But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], then indeed, your Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.” 6:145

But in the case of sex, we do not find any recommendation for its gratification by a means other than Nikah (marriage), and those who cannot marry are ordered to keep chaste until their circumstances change. The purpose of sex according to Quran is not fulfillment of lust or satisfaction of desires only but it goes far beyond that. Like food, sex is not an end in itself, but it is a means to an end, i.e. procreation of the human species. Just like food is not consumed only for the sake of taste but acquisition of energy is the principle aim for its consumption, similarly sex is not an end in itself but is a means for another higher purpose. The Qur’an enjoins that believers who posses resources to support a family, should establish a permanent relationship of marriage, and assigns numerous rights related to such a bond. No passage of the Qur’an gives the slightest indication of the legitimacy of a temporary bond between couples entered into solely for physical pleasure.

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“And how could you take it (back) while you have gone in unto each other, and they (your wives) have taken from you a firm and strong covenant?” 4:21

In above, the words Meethaqan ghaleeza lit. “strong covenant” rule out the notion of a marriage being a temporary bond but indicate it to be one entered into for a permanent basis. Moreover according to Qur’an, both husband and wife are to inherit from each other, thereby indicating that Nikah is a lifetime commitment and not a temporary affair:

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“And for you is half of what your wives leave if they have no child. But if they have a child, for you is one fourth of what they leave, after any bequest they [may have] made or debt. And for the wives is one fourth if you leave no child. But if you leave a child, then for them is an eighth of what you leave, after any bequest you [may have] made or debt. And if a man or woman leaves neither ascendants nor descendants but has a brother or a sister, then for each one of them is a sixth. But if they are more than two, they share a third, after any bequest which was made or debt, as long as there is no detriment [caused]. [This is] an ordinance from Allah , and Allah is Knowing and Forbearing.” 4:12

As the Qur’an clearly commands those not having the means to get married to keep chaste, and has indicated that marriage is a strong bond between a husband and wife which results in the creation of rights of inheritance  therefore the notion of a temporary marriage for a fixed period of time solely for sexual gratification in which partners do not inherit from each other is against Qur’anic guidelines. In view of this, Nikah Mut’a is not permissible for a believer in Qur’an.

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The Messenger (pbuh) was a human being


Is there any evidence in Al-Qur’an to prove that Muhammad (p) was a human being?

The Qur’an classifies messengers in two categories, messengers from humans and messengers from angels

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

It can be seen from above that Allah has selected two kinds of messengers.

(a) From Malaika (Angels)

(b) From Naas (People, human beings)

Malaika are not human beings but Allah’s creation assigned to perform tasks in the realm of Al Ghayb or the unseen.

In the case of Malaika, they are assigned by Allah to perform various tasks, such as taking the soul of a person at the time of his death etc.

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“And He is the subjugator over His servants, and He sends over you guardian-angels until, when death comes to one of you, Our messengers take him, and they do not fail [in their duties].” 6:61 Sahih International

In above ayah, it is Rusul or messengers who give Waffat or completion of death to a person, whereas in Surat An Nahl, the same task is mentioned to be done by Malaika:

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“The ones whom the angels take in death, [being] good and pure; [the angels] will say, “Peace be upon you. Enter Paradise for what you used to do.” 16:34 Saheeh International  

Malaika are beings sent as messengers that belong in the realm of Al Ghayb (the unseen) who perform these tasks, whereas in the case of Naas or human beings, for their guidance Allah has selected a bashar or human to be a recipient of His revelation.

That Muhammad (peace be upon him was such a human being, who was subject to the laws of nature that were applicable for all other humans is evident from numerous Qur’anic ayaat:

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“Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.” 3:144 Saheeh International

The words “So if he was to die or be killed.” indicate that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was also subject to death like messengers who had passed away before him. One who is subject to the law of death is neither immortal, nor an angelical being, but a human being. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is himself made to declare through numerous Quranic ayat that he was a human being with the proviso that he received Wahi or inspiration from Allah.

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Say, “I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your god is one God. So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.” 18:110 Saheeh International

In above ayat, the words “I am only a man like you..” issued through Muhammad (peace be upon him) prove that he was a Bashar or human being, like other human beings, who was subject to all the natural laws that human beings are subject to.

As Qur’an identifies that messengers are of two types, angels and human beings (22:75), and as Muhammad (p) is shown to be prone to death (3:144), and as Angels are not prone to death but are the agents to cause death (6:61, 16:34), and as he is himself made to say that he was a human being, therefore it can be concluded from Qur’an that Muhammad (p) was a human being who was selected by Allah as His messenger for other human beings and not from the other category of angelic messengers.

Zamzam and Jesus


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:

3_144

“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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Taurat of the Qur’an Vs Torah of the Bible


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A common perception is that wherever one reads references to Taurat in the Qur’an, then it implies that the author is referring to the Torah of the Old Testament, which is considered sacred by Jews and Christians. However a careful reading and comparison of the Qur’an and the Bible reveals a different picture.

We can see that in the Bible it is Aaron who prompted the Hebrews to worship the Golden Calf. Reading Exodus chapter 32 in its entirety makes it clear that Aaron confesses to be the one who took the gold of the people, threw it in the fire, out of which came the golden calf:

“So I [Aaron] told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave ME [Aaron] the gold, and I [Aaron] threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” [Exodus 32:24]

The speaker in the above is none else but Aaron.

We read in Deutronomy 9:20-21 that God sought to punish Aaron, but Moses intervened:

“And the Lord was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too. 21 Also I took that sinful thing of yours, the calf you had made, and burned it in the fire.” Deut 9:20-21

Thus according to the Bible it is Aaron, the brother of Moses who is the instigator of the sin of idol worship.

In comparison, the Qur’an absolves “Haroon” (Aaron) the brother of Moses of any type of idolatory. The Qur’anic account is that it was an individual titled “As-Samiri” (lit. “the story teller”) who confesses to take the gold of the people and out of it make the calf and not Aaron:

They said: “We broke not the promise to thee, as far as lay in our power: but we were made to carry the weight of the ornaments of the (whole) people, and we threw them (into the fire), and that was what the Samiri suggested.” Quran 20:87

And he [SAMIRI] extracted for them [the statue of] a calf which had a lowing sound, and they said, “This is your god and the god of Moses, but he forgot.” Qur’an 20:88

While demonstrating the identity of the maker of the calf to be the individual known as Samiri, the Qur’an also shows that instead of co-operating with the act of idolatry as depicted in Exodus 32, Aaron had in fact spoken against the act:

And Aaron had already told them before [the return of Moses], “O my people, you are only being tested by it, and indeed, your Lord is the Most Merciful, so follow me and obey my order.” Qur’an 20:90

As the Old Testament account alleges Aaron to take the jewellery to make the calf, while the Quranic account suggests it wasn’t Aaron, but Samiri the story teller, and as the Qur’an shows that Aaron had spoken against idol worship and not participated in it, therefore both the accounts i.e. the Quranic account and Hebrew Torah account  cannot logically be from the same Author.

We can therefore conclude from the above example that the Qur’anic Taurat is not the same as the Hebrew Torah. The author of the Qur’an is not endorsing a text whose accounts differ radically from its own.

 

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Dhikr Allah


The word Dhikr is Arabic for “Remembrance”. Qur’an identifies that Dhikr or “Remembrance” is the memorization and recitation of the Book of Allah:

ذَٰلِكَ نَتْلُوهُ عَلَيْكَ مِنَ الْآيَاتِ وَالذِّكْرِ الْحَكِيمِ

“This We recite to you of the signs and the Wise Remembrance.” 3:58

This verse shows that (a) it is Qur’an which is Dhikr of Allah, and (b) it is a recitation. Another ayah identifies Dhikr:

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

This verse shows that Dhikr is revealed by Allah. In other words the rememberance of the Qur’an, and the fact that it will be preserved by Allah in human memory in all times.

Some people think that Dhikr of Allah is done by chanting the names of Allah a certain number of times. However along with identifying what is Dhikr, Qur’an also shows how it is to be done, as this verse shows:

فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ كَذِكْرِكُمْ آبَاءَكُمْ أَوْ أَشَدَّ ذِكْرًا

“..then remember Allah like the remembrance of your fathers or (even) with stronger fervor in remembrance.” 2:200

The command given about Dhikr Allah is that it should be done as we do the remembrance of our fathers and ancestors or even greater than that.  We do not merely chant the names of our ancestors gone by over and over again on beads when we remember them, but remember them by recalling their deeds, and events of their life. In the same manner we have to remember Allah not just by chanting His name over and over again but by reciting His commandments, and the events that He has described in His Book. in other words we remember Allah by remembering His words i.e. the Qur’anic ayaat.

If we remember Allah in this manner, i.e. by remembering Quranic verses, orders and events, and specially those that relate to our life and the problems we face (keeping in mind that Qur’an has all guidance for any matters effecting our personal lives), the result will be as described in the following verse:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ- أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.” 13:28

So if you want tranquility in your hearts, then believe in the Qur’an, study and memorise its verses, specially those that relate to the problems in your life, and remember and recite them often. By doing this you will be engaging in Dhikr Allah as instructed by Allah Himself, in His Book and attain satisfaction in your heart.

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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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Islamic Marketing


Though the discipline has been documented in academic circles relatively recently (Alserhan 2009), Islamic marketing has been around since ever Muslims have under taken consumption and promotional activity in the light of the teachings of their faith. To many, Islamic marketing is concerned with marketing of goods and services to Islamic communities as an untapped and viable market segment, while to others Islamic marketing involves marketing of such products and services that are considered as “Halaal” (permissible) Few also see Islamic marketing as the branding and packaging of conventional goods and services using “Islamic” or “Arabic” symbols. Such is the interest in the field that even those organisations that are considered secular in nature, and are owned by non Muslims have also jumped the boat to have their share of the “Islamic” dollar (Sandikci, 2011).

However,  though its academic study is new, Islamic marketing is not really a new phenomenon , but one which has existed since ever Muslims, put into practice the teachings of the Qur’an within the sphere of their economic and corresponding social lives. Marketing is no longer the domain of Marketing departments, but an activity at the heart and soul of the organisation (Kotler 1999), hence Islamic marketing is not a niche but at the heart of the organisation.

Islamic marketing is a holistic activity, not restricted to marketing to Muslim consumers only but to all consumers as Islam does not bar Muslims from trading with non Muslims. Similarly, branding with Arabic text, images and symbols is not reminiscent of Islamic branding but as the Qur’an says that all human languages and colours are among the signs of Allah, such can be done is every mode of communication of the target consumer.

The diversity of beliefs and cultures within the global Islamic community mandates that a stereotypical approach to Islamic marketing and more specifically branding be discouraged.

The ethical and moral dilemmas that Marketers face in contemporary times, and how Islamic marketing in the light of Qur’anic guidance binds Muslim marketers to ethics in business needs to be explored. The importance of the Qur’an as a text of guidance for the Muslims and its application in all spheres of human activity is key in this regard.

Social uplift and community regeneration through Islamic Marketing should be  brought into the limelight through examples and best practice, and it should be emphasized that Islamic marketing is not at all about increasing profits, but also concerns community welfare. In essence, the dynamic nature of Islamic marketing gives birth to the Islamic organisation, which as a social business exists to solve problems faced by communities and works towards providing material as well as spiritual needs of consumers.

Kashif Shahzada will be delivering a lecture on the topic of “Islamic Marketing: Marketing to Muslims or Marketing in the light of Qur’anic Guidance?” at the 2nd Global Islamic Marketing Conference (GIMC): “Putting Ethics Back into Business”, to be held in Abu Dhabi from 16th to 18th January 2012.

Plural Marriages: The Muslim Welfare System


Introduction

Imagine a country devastated by war. Men of fighting age are killed, leaving behind women and orphans. State resources have been depleted. There is poverty and misery everywhere. Where lies the relief for the weak and vulnerable, the women, children, and the elderly? Forget about the state. Islam has what no state system of the world can ever deliver. Plural marriages. Yes. Islam allows polygamy i.e. plural marriages. Polygyny is where a man has plural wives, while polyandry is where a woman has more than one husband. Both fall under the term polygamy. When Islam allows polygamy, then it is actually polygyny that is permitted. In other words, a Muslim man may have more than one wife at the same time, or up to four, to be exact.

Plural marriages are no laughing matter, but actually a relief for society of its social hardships and burdens if done properly and in the spirit of the Qur’an.  Marriage according to the Quran, is between two consenting adults, who on account of their belief and circumstances decide to live as husband and wife. Purpose of marriage is to find love, tranquillity and fulfilment and to procreate and live as a family. Monogamy is the norm in the Qur’an, but under extenuating circumstances, polygyny is recommended. We read: 

And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. (4:3) Saheeh International

The words “..But if you fear that you will not be just, then [only] one..” indicate that polygny is conditional to justice. If a man cannot treat wives equitably, then he is ordered to be monogamous.

Besides as it is a man’s duty to support his wife, therefore polygyny is conditional upon a man’s economic status. Only if he can afford to marry more than one woman, should he do so. So its not for everyone, but for special occasions only.

Polygyny in Quran is not for fulfilling the lustful intentions of men, but to provide shelter & support to destitute women. Its benefits are numerous. Some are listed here:

  1. Polygyny enables wealth creation. As the members in a household increase, aggregate earning of family increases.
  2. Polygyny reduces poverty. A wealthy man will marry poor women thus they get food and shelter.
  3. Polygyny creates wealth succession. If a penniless poor woman stays single all her life and dies, then she leaves no inheritance but if a man marries her then through Quranic law of inheritance, she has a right in her husbands property, which then goes to her children or siblings after her demise. This way wealth is not only created but also passed on.
  4. Polygyny saves from perversion. It is a scientific fact that men due to testosterone have a higher sex drive than women.Instead of meeting their needs illicitly, polygyny allows men to fulfill within the bond of marriage. On the other hand poverty stricken women are also saved from prostitution.
  5. Polygyny provides childcare and permits women to go to work. A sister wife can look after the kids, while other wives work.
  6. Polygyny provides companionship social, economic and psychological support is provided to sister wives through their joint family.
  7. Polygyny provides natural support system for the elderly as Quran orders believers to financially support their elderly parents.Thus children from polygynous marriages will support their elderly parents and not leave them at the mercy of state pension.
  8. Polygyny maintains social equilibrium in society. Because in society majority are poor and minority are rich. Polygyny applies only to the rich, as Quran makes it a prerequisite on a man to financially support a woman he wishes to marry otherwise he should be monogamous or keep himself chaste until he has the means to marry.

Conclusion

Through this Quranic law, the rich minority is able to share wealth as well as emotional support with the vast poorer majority. Through plural marriages there is equity and just distribution of wealth, increased productivity by more working members in household, increase in manpower by larger families, reduced crime because of harnessing male testosterone and aggression. A young workforce brought by larger families and childcare provided by sister wives and natural elderly care by children when they grow up.

I do acknowledge that there are wrong doings with this practice as well, but in this case I am highlighting the practical benefits of plural marriage if it is done in the light of Qur’anic guidance. We should not cite the example of people failing in relationships when their judgements are of their own, and not from the Qur’an.

Thus I would argue that polygyny is beneficial for society. Due to these facts, observations, I rest my case and conclude that Quranic law of polygyny which involves wealthy men to marry from poor and destitute orphaned women whom they are duty bound to financially support and share in wealth and love has immense benefits for society in all times. It is the duty of Muslims to promote the correct concept and purpose of marriage and the benefits this commandment of Allah has for society at large. How true is the Qur’an:

And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss. (17:82) Saheeh International

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Have You Been Dialling The Wrong Number?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just Try And See!

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

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

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Muslims & FE


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

Ladies and gentlemen,

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

Assalamu-alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatahu”

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

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

The Language Barrier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nourishment Of The Body, But Destruction Of The Soul

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

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

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

No division between the worldly and the religious

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Muslim Community & FE Colleges

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

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

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

Diet

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

Washing Facilities

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

Dress Code & Modesty

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

Socialization – Alcohol  & Clubs

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

Time table adjustment for the festival of Eid

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

Space for Prayer

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

Counselling & Support

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

Dialogue & Encounter

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

In Conclusion

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

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

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

Kashif Shahzada

The Dilemma Of Faith


When Faith Becomes A Hurdle in Our Search For Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENMITY TOWARDS REASON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAITH AS A TOOL FOR OPPRESSION

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

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

AN ALTERNATE VIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRODUCE YOUR PROOF!

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

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

But demands evidence and proof from its opponents as well:

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

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

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

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

A CALL TO ACTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

The choice is yours.

Free will


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

INTRODUCTION

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

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

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

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

THE FREEDOM TO DO AS WE WILL

The following verses inform us clearly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE ARE FREE TO ACT, BUT OUR ACTIONS PRODUCE RESULTS

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

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

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

ALL ACTIONS ARE REWARDED OR PUNISHED ACCORDING TO THEIR NATURE

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

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

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

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

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

37.38 Most surely you will taste the painful punishment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1) Those who are transgressors (fasiqoon):

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

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

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

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

(3) Those who disobey God and His messenger:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) Those who follow their desires:

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

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

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

CONCLUSION

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

 

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Reincarnation


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOBODY LIVES FOREVER, EVERYONE HAS TO DIE

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

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

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

PROPHETS OF ALLAH ARE NOT IMMORTAL BUT DIE LIKE OTHER HUMANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE DEAD CANNOT COMMUNICATE WITH THE LIVING

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

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

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

REFERENCES

Encyclopedia Britannica

Belief As A Precursor To Change


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

BELIEF: THE MAIN CAUSE OF SUFFERING

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

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

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

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

 

BELIEF IN MATERIALISM VS BELIEF IN LIFE AFTER DEATH

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

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

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

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

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

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


YOU CAN MAKE A CHANGE, BUT ONLY IF YOU BELIEVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s think and reflect.

 

 

Christmas From A Muslim Viewpoint


“WHAT BUSINESS DO YOU HAVE to comment on festivals that belong to other people’s religion? And that too on the very day that it is being celebrated?” People can very well ask. Well, in the times we live in, it would be sheer folly not to do so. There are numerous reasons for this. The festival in question is celebrated by adherents of the world’s largest faith, while we are the second largest – if ticking of census forms is any measure. Christianity is estimated to be the world’s largest religion, and Islam occupies second place. In view of this, the relationships between two of the greatest religions of the world are certainly of importance to the planet.

Secondly, Islam and Christianity have a special relationship with each other. The central figure in Christianity also happens to be one of the mightiest messengers of God in Islam. The Qur’an happens to be the only non Christian religious scripture that contains narratives on the birth, message and finale of Christ, his mother as well as his disciples. In view of this, it would not be wrong to suggest that Christians do not have a monopoly on Christ. We Muslims have equal right to comment on any commemorations in his name.

Therefore, any religious perspective coming from the Muslims on Christmas should not necessarily be seen as a critique of the common Christian version but an expression of their own religious beliefs. It is very important to understand this.

The Nature Of Inter-Religious Expression

People upon hearing views that are different from their own, on themes that they believe in, sometimes feel that their version is being criticised. As all religions do not say one and the same thing and do not promote the same ideas on the divine, and because one encounters diversity in its full form during the course of religious dialogue, therefore, the expression of divergent religious belief from one group is not necessarily a critique of the other, but simply an expression of what one in his or her own tradition believes in.

So when a Muslim perspective on Christmas is being conveyed, it is what it is, i.e. what Muslims believe about Christmas, and nothing more and nothing less. So no need to worry too much on this one!

The Season For The Birth Of Jesus

On to the subject. Why Christmas matters? It matters to majority of Christians, as they believe that it is the day that Christ was born (although there is a minority that doesn’t). And the day for this is the twenty fifth of December every year. According to them, Christ came into the world during  a winter in Bethlehem.

Well, on the other hand Muslims allude to both Qur’anic as well as Biblical narratives on the subject, to say that this is not the case. In the Qur’an, we read about the birth of Jesus:

The pains of labor drove her (Mary) to the trunk of a date-palm. She exclaimed: “Oh, if only I had died before this time and was something discarded and forgotten!” A voice called out to her from under her: “Do not grieve. Your Lord has placed a small stream at your feet. Shake the trunk of the palm toward you, and fresh, ripe dates will drop down to you. Eat and drink, and delight your eyes. ‘” 19:23-25

Important indicator about the season for Jesus’ birth is given in the expression, fresh, ripe dates will drop down to you. When do we have the season for fruiting of dates ? Is it the winter of December? Not at all. It is in the heat of summer. So according to the Qur’an, Jesus was born not in winter, but in summer!

Biblical evidence also points to the fact that Jesus was born when the climate was warmer, and not at the peak of december’s wintery season:

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Luke 2:7-8

The shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks at the time of Jesus’ birth. Late December in the middle of the night is not a comfortable time for the sheep to be out and about in the freezing cold, don’t you think?

In the same chapter, it can be seen that Jesus’ parents travelled to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census:

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed….. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:). To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.” Luke 2:1-6

It is very unlikely that they made their Journey during winter when temperatures were below freezing and roads were poor condition.

All this leads to the fact that the time period of Jesus’ birth was not December, but according to the Qur’an it was certainly summer, as this is when dates are ripened, and according to the Bible it was much warmer. So here it is. The Muslim viewpoint. Jesus was not born in December, which means that Christmas day is not Christ’s birthday!

“Listen mate, are you telling me that I got it all wrong?” Our Christian friend asks. “Well, I am not saying you got it wrong. I am merely saying what I believe, just that you know where I’m coming from, so we know each other’s positions and can learn to live together!”. “Does that means you’re not gonna come to my Christmas party?”, he asks again. The Muslim replies, “Now I didn’t say that! I may very well be there, but make sure you have some non alcoholic cola and halaal pie there. And I certainly won’t stand under a mistle toe, when your granny is around!”

Participating In Christmas Festivities

Humour apart, I was once asked by a college manager in England who was organising a Christmas event for her students it is alright to invite Muslim students? This is a very important question. Especially for communities that are mixed, diverse and multifaith.

Whether people of different faiths can join in the celebrations of faiths that are different from their own?

My reply to her was in a yes and a no.

Yes, they can in the sense as observers, to learn about communities, to understand what people believe in and why they do so.

The answer would be a no, if the organisers expect students of other faiths to join and participate in religious ceremonies or to partake in activities that go against their own traditions.

But I would strongly recommend that in faith celebrations people of other faiths and beliefs are invited as well, because not doing so will isolate communities from each other.

When Muslims celebrate Eid, they too should invite people of other faiths to their celebrations, but it would certainly not be expected of their Christian, Hindu, Sikh or Jewish friends to do the ablution and perform the prayer as they do. Non Muslims are simply there to share pleasantries and as observers. Also it should be ensured that food that meets the religious dietary needs of the guests is served. It wouldn’t go down very well if one were to invite Hindus or Buddhists who are vegetarians and serve them halal beef kebabs!

So a very strong yes to the invitation, a yes to careful pre-event preparations, but definitely a no to the religious participation bit.

There we are. It’s Christmas. We say to all who are celebrating it: have a good time. Spend time with your family. Think of the poor, and share with them too.

And remember, go easy on the dessert as it’s a tough job to loose those extra pounds gained during the festivities!

We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

European Muslims At Crossroads


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

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

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


Historical roots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The ball is in your court

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The hurdle between the Qur’an and the Muslim community

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

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

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

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


Time to revisit the basics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tackling violent extremism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Leaves Of Autumn


The falling leaves of autumn. You notice them as you walk along the pathways. Blown away by gusty winds, some red, some yellow, some dry, some crisp – all heralding the moment of change and signaling to us that its time to seek a new beginning.  As autumn is the season marking the periodic change in the natural world, it seems that it is also a period of change throughout human history.

From the discovery of Americas by Christopher Columbus to the Russian revolution to the unification of East and West Germany in recent times, many eventful occasions have marked the season throughout history.October seems to be a time of revolution.

It seems as if human actions correlate with the natural world around them. They too, are in the habit of discarding the old and experimenting with the new. It may not come as a surprise, but human history seems like one great long autumn. People create one set of beliefs and its corresponding social structure, discover that it doesn’t work, then throw it away and experiment with another one.Out with the old, and in with the new. Just like leaves in autumn.

First came Autocrats claiming divine sanction, then came Theocracies, Capitalism glorified material gains albeit in the hands of a select few, Communism protested, but it too failed, now the flame of Democracy is dwindling, and God knows what will it be replaced by. How long this trial and error by humanity will continue, you never know.  But the cost has been quite high for the games that people play.

But still – change is the theme of the season. Change is all around, the only constant, and so is it a central theme in Divine guidance, in the Qur’an, the Divine Book of Islam.  Changing your self towards a new you – a new person that has shed his or her old habits and reformed themselves by Divine guiding light. However, the change that is spoken of in relation to human beings, is not one that is brought about coercively, but one that that we bring within us, by our own choice. It is the change within, the change of heart that is initiated by our own volition and personal reflection. This type of change, even God Almighty does not bring about, until or unless you want it:

“That is because God would never change His favour that He conferred on a people until they changed what was within themselves; and that God is All-hearing, All-knowing.” 8:53

He won’t force you to walk His paths, He hasn’t pre-programmed you to follow your nature, but has bestowed you with a free will – it is the free will which you must use to your benefit, and it is the free will that separates you from animals and beasts, all of whom simply follow their preordained nature, and are not held accountable in any court of law for their behavior. You on the other hand are free to exercise your choice, and it is this choice and decision-making ability which lays responsibility on your shoulders and holds you accountable for your actions. So you will have to change your self but by your own self. God does lend a helping hand in the form of signs and signals, guides and guide maps, but the destination is of your own choice. You have to bring this change upon yourself voluntarily.


LOOK INTO THE MIRROR

As we become conscious of our personal responsibility towards change, we are also conscious about those who consider it their divine mission to change the world. You frequently stumble upon such people who unfortunately see it as their divine duty to change the entire world to their own way of thinking. They teach and preach, plan and execute, mobilise and manoeuvre, under the guise of their conceited belief and the arrogant conviction of its superiority. They set out to change the world, at times on a secular campaign while on other occasions embark on a “Godly” mission to impose on others a consensus about beliefs that they see fit by themselves and patterns that are pleasing to their own eyes. Quick to point out mistakes in other people, it is rare that you observe them in self reproach and personal accountability. Making a wanton display of their unholy claims, they make the house of prayer into a den of thieves (Mark 21:13). They come to you in holy garbs claiming to take the speck out of your eye,’ but fail to see the plank in their own eye? (Luke 6:42). Unaware and careless of their personal responsibility, they set out to change the world, but can the blind lead the blind?

The divine injunctions have never stipulated that it is one’s duty to transform the world. One is accountable to transform no one but his or her own self:

“O believers, look after your own souls. He who is astray cannot hurt you, if you are rightly guided. Unto God shall you return, all together, and He will tell you what you were doing.” 5:105

This is so as on the hereafter he or she will be questioned about nobody’s but his or her own conduct:

“Every one of them shall come to Him upon the Day of Resurrection, all alone.” 19:95

While it is true that Divine injunctions call for sharing of Divine peace and eternal bliss but never enjoin conquest of diverse beliefs that exist in the world as per Divine plan:

“And if thy Lord had willed, whoever is in the earth would have believed, all of them, all together. Wouldst thou then constrain the people, until they are believers?” 10:99

So talking about change – it is our own that we need to worry about and no one else’s salvation. Whenever we point a finger at someone, three fingers point back at us. It is our own neck that we need to worry about. Look your own self in the mirror. It is all about you and nobody else.


PREPARATION FOR TIMES TO COME

The falling leaves of autumn signal a moment of change towards the new, but the chilly winds of the season also indicate the dark and cold winter to come. Autumn marks the transition from summer into winter. It is a signal for tougher times ahead, for which one must be prepared. We see in the natural world that plants and animals prepare for this in advance by storing fuel and preserving fuel through hibernation.

This is all natural for them. After all they are simply following the course they have been programmed to act on. But we on the other hand need to learn and be educated about preparing for the morrow. Reflect on what you do today, and what will be its bearing in times to come, is the rejoinder in the Qur’an:

“O ye who believe! Fear God, and let every soul look to what (provision) He has sent forth for the morrow. Yea, fear God: for God is well-acquainted with (all) that ye do.” 59:18

Your now is important, as the clock of life never waits for anybody, Its batteries do not need recharging and simply keep going. What you do now, will impact your tomorrow. So now is the most important part of your life. We can’t stop the clock of life.

It won’t wait for anybody. Just look at your own life. Your childhood, your youth, your adult life, Doesn’t it all seem just like yesterday. Aren’t we constantly travelling towards our end? Is not each and everyday of our life bringing us closer to that ultimate reality called death?


DEATH IS A FACT OF LIFE

Yes death. A taboo for many. Rarely do you think about it. But it is a fact, just as you are, your existence is. Do you remember attending the funeral of a near or dear one? Remember the wailing and the grief? Do you recall leaning over the face of the dead person? How white it was, how frightening, still and lifeless?

Now imagine yourself in the same situation, because one day this will certainly be you. It is an undeniable reality. A fact. The same will happen to us all. What is born, it must die. The important question is what have we done about it? Are you prepared for death? Should it come tomorrow? Today? Ask yourself. Are you ready to face death? Do you want more time? Time is short. The clock is ticking. What are you doing about it?

If our worldly material life is all that there is, then life as it is can be very boring, don’t you think? What about the wonder and the mystery of afterlife, the hope of carrying on beyond the material body, and joy of meeting those who have left us?

Also, and more importantly, if there is no afterlife, no accountability after death, no heaven for the righteous and no punishment for the wicked, then that would mean that the tyrants and oppressors of the world got away with it scot free! They looted and plundered, maimed and murdered, became beyond the reach of law and justice, mightily took away what belonged to others, and enjoyed the spoils all their life, and now that they are dead, no body will hold them to account?

It is this type of mentality, that denies the accountability of afterlife which poses a danger for humanity and it is against such ideologues that Divine emissaries taught their followers to seek God’s refuge and proclaim:

Moses said: “I have indeed called upon my Lord and your Lord (for protection) from every arrogant one who believes not in the Day of Account!” 40:27

Refuge with God must be sought from them because such people believe that the material life is all that there is and if they can be above the law and acquire power and influence then their personal interest is supreme at the expense of others.  With such an outlook of life, they disdain not in doing horrible things, acting criminally and hurting others. All of this is so because in their hearts there is no belief in accountability of their actions in life after death:

And they say: “What is there but our life in this world? We shall die and we live, and nothing but time can destroy us.” But of that they have no knowledge: they merely conjecture. 40:24

If you are not prepared for death and accountability in after life, then tough times are ahead for you. Just like in autumn one needs to prepare for the long dark winter, one needs to prepare for the day when he or she will be held accountable for his or her actions. We need to shed our old past that was devoid of divine inspiration and change ourselves to make way for the new.

Change is happening all around you this autumn. Go out. Take a walk in the park. The leaves of autumn are falling. They glorify their Lord and offer Him complete submission.

Hearken to their message of change.

Turning Points In Life That Lead To God


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Life is a journey. We are but travelers. But there is a road that is less traveled, a path less trodden. Pointers to that road come in our life but many tend to ignore them.Consciously or subconsciously we follow paths in life, make choices and pursue ends. We keep on moving with the same old routines, the same common milestones until suddenly we are at the cross roads.

Make full use of the cross roads, read the signs properly and you will reach a pleasing destination. On the other hand, close your eyes to the rejoinders, ignore the signs and keep on moving in your self inflicted pride then there is no question about you getting lost. This is not a simple journey, but a journey of far greater importance – one more momentous, one where the slightest wrong turn can have dire consequences.

We all come across turning points in life. These are major events or incidents that act as catalysts leading to the cross roads.

A turning point is an occasion that makes us reflect on life itself, on its meaning and purpose. We question not only ourselves, but the day to day status quos that we often embroil ourselves in. They make us think, reset our priorities, change course or step on the brakes.

LAST RESORT IN TIMES OF DISTRESS

But turning points do not occur randomly. They always follow an eventful occurrence. Trials and tribulations that are a cause of distress. The illness of a near or dear one. A near death experience. The loss of someone very close. Or an escape from some sort of a calamity. Events of this sort, where we feel helpless and powerless to do what we want to do, to attain what we hope to attain.

When all the people we know, when all the wealth we have isn’t of any use. When we desperately turn to the people around us for help, but are forsaken by all, hear no for an answer from all quarters and our pleading is of no use. When there is no hope, no joy. When all is about to be lost and our hopes and desires about to be shattered. When we finally acknowledge how weak and powerless we are. It is then, that we finally turn, in such a state of humiliation, we turn to a Higher Being for help:

Say: “Who is it that delivereth you from the dark recesses of land and sea, when ye call upon Him in humility and silent terror: ‘If He only delivers us from these (dangers), (we vow) we shall truly show our gratitude’?”6:63

Say “It is God that delivereth you from these and all (other) distresses: and yet ye worship false gods!”6:64

We plead Him, beg Him, fall down on our knees, cry and moan. In humiliation and humbleness imploring for one last chance. A last chance, which if we are granted then we vow to lead a righteous life, to turn over a new leaf solely for His sake, live according to His will and plan.  We pray in solitude:“Oh God! Please, please don’t let this happen! Please change things for me! I promise to turn over a new leaf, it will be a new start for me, if I am granted this prayer… I will do what you will…just save me from this distress!” It is supplications like these that emanate from the depths of our heart and shudder our very being. This is the inner feeling of every human being, says the Qur’an:

“When trouble toucheth man, He crieth unto Us (in all postures)- lying down on his side, or sitting, or standing…” 10:12

When we are in pain and suffering, and there is no hope in sight, when everyone has abandoned our requests, then as a last final resort we turn to God for help. Yes, we very well do. Each and everyone of us, no matter whether we are religious or not, no matter how staunch one may be in his or her disbelief, at that crucial moment, that vital juncture, when they are powerless and helpless to prevent what is about to befall, they too turn to the One who they had ignored and ridiculed, all their life, begging Him for one last chance, promising Him to turn over a new leaf, if only the peril and danger that is in their life is removed:

Say: “Think ye to yourselves, if there come upon you the wrath of God, or the Hour (that ye dread), would ye then call upon other than God? – (reply) if ye are truthful! 6:40

“Nay, – On Him would ye call, and if it be His will, He would remove (the distress) which occasioned your call upon Him, and ye would forget (the false gods) which ye join with Him!”6:41

This is man, any and every man. He implores God as a final resort when all else fails! While pain and distress is an occasion for a new beginning, a signal for change of course, a time to take action, a search for a remedy, sadly, most people forget this episode when the affliction is removed and return to their old usual ways:

“But when he delivereth them, behold! they transgress insolently through the earth in defiance of right! O mankind! your insolence is against your own souls, – an enjoyment of the life of the present: in the end, to Us is your return, and We shall show you the truth of all that ye did.”10:23

They ignore God, they forget that they had prayed and their prayer was answered. God had done His job, but did they do theirs!

Therefore, we need to learn from our distress. Analyse what we are doing, whether it is right or wrong and learn from our mistakes. An event that leads us to a turning point where we focus on God is a blessing in disguise and an opportunity of a lifetime.


THE TURNING POINT – AN OPPORTUNITY

Our afflictions and miseries also prove to be blessings in disguise, for such is the situation when we are granted an opportunity to avail the turning point in life. It occurs when we, in times of trouble, helplessness and despair turn to God for help – as a last resort, praying to Him to remove our afflictions and making a commitment in return to lead a righteous life:

“And indeed We will make them taste of the Penalty of this (life) prior to the supreme Penalty, in order that they may (repent and) return.”32:21

If you ask them, people will say they know God. They may have read about Him, have some sort of a conception about His person, grasped from the environment, or even made up by their imagination – an All powerful, Supreme Being with whom all things are possible, not the helpless humankind they observe daily, but someone quite capable of doing what He wills to do. However, the praise and reverence in a ceremony, or the theology of a seminary do not necessarily bring a person more closer to God, than a deeply personal and distressful call in times of trial and tribulation:

“And ye have no good thing but is from God: and moreover, when ye are touched by distress, unto Him ye cry with groans;” 16:54

It is in these situations, that a being who was for us, merely a concept in books, or a subject of spoken words and conversation, is now a reality, for we are calling on Him to remove our afflictions in a very real and intense way and waiting to see if someone is really ‘up there’ to answer us. Distressful occasions can be an opportunity of a lifetime, for you then focus your attention to God, His power and His majesty. You make a commitment with Him in your heart and wait and watch. When God’s mercy is bestowed, it is then time for you to be true to your word, and follow in His paths:

“Your Lord knows very well what is in your hearts if you are righteous, for He is All-forgiving to those who are penitent.”17:25

This is an opportunity for you, to go on the path that very few have chosen, and about which God has revealed His messages in all times and eras:

“Whenever We sent a prophet to a town, We took up its people in suffering and adversity, in order that they might learn humility.” 7:94

Your past can be forgiven. You can be healed of the excesses you committed, and regain your health, but for that you will have to follow the given advice and make changes in your life:

Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. 39:53

LAST MINUTE SUBMISSION OF NO USE

If we have made contact with God, acknowledged His existence and seek his guidance, then the time to re-evaluate our priorities is now. Now is the time to be serious about who we are, where we come from and where are we going, and how God relates to us? What use is going to a doctor at the last stages of the illness? The time to seek remedy is before the disease spreads to a stage in which it cannot be curbed. Will it be of any benefit if one were to surrender to the doctor’s prescription when the end is near? Certainly not. The time for medical help was in the early stages of the disease, not in the final one.

Similarly, God’s guidance is our healing from the ills we incur and the mistakes we have committed in the past – it reforms ourselves from the ill effects of past mistakes, and strengthens us for times to come. The time to surrender to God is now, and not at the last moment of our life. Do we think that we can commit excesses, waste, destroy, loot and plunder, act immorally in all sorts of ways, lie, cheat, deceive and oppress while ignoring God, and then at the last moment of our life, or at the time of death the repentance from our wrong doings will save us from the effects of our past actions?

“Turn ye to our Lord (in repentance) and bow to His (Will), before the Penalty comes on you: after that ye shall not be helped.”39:54

“And follow the best of (the courses) revealed to you from your Lord, before the Penalty comes on you – of a sudden while ye perceive not! 39:55

Turn to God now; follow His guidance, now – and not when the water has risen above your head.We should not allow iniquity to further itself, before it takes up our entire being, and hardens our heart, we need to address it and reform ourselves of its impact.

The Qur’an gets the point across about last minute soul saving techniques. All his life, the Pharaoh was a tyrannical ruler, but when he realised that the end was near and that his power was of no use, it was then that he submitted to God; but that last minute acknowledgement was of no use:

“We took the Children of Israel across the sea: Pharaoh and his hosts followed them in insolence and spite. At length, when overwhelmed with the flood, he said: “I believe that there is no god except Him Whom the Children of Israel believe in: I am of those who submit (to God in Islam).”10:90

(It was said to him): “Ah now! – But a little while before, wast thou in rebellion! – and thou didst mischief (and violence)!” 10:91

“This day shall We save thee in the body, that thou mayest be a sign to those who come after thee! but verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our Signs!”10:92

The Pharaoh’s last minute acknowledgement was not accepted. Will taking a pill save you when you are at your death bed and the cancer has spread terminally?

A CALL TO ACTION

Well then? Have you thought about the afflictions in your life? Did you turn to God for help, implore Him and beseech Him to remove your period of trial? What did you vow in return? He did His bit, have you done yours yet?

“When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.”2:186

He listens to you, but you also need to listen to Him. He will improve your condition if you do:

“But those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and believe in the (Revelation) sent down to Muhammad – for it is the Truth from their Lord, – He will remove from them their ills and improve their condition.” 47:2

So here we are. Into the second stage of Ramadan. First ten days gone. The month of mercy is still here. Nights of guidance and revelation still on.

But it begs the question in terms of the road less traveled; where are you now, and where do you want to be?

The choice is yours.

24 Reasons To Study The Qur’an


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. A REVELATION FROM GOD

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

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


2. THE TRUTH

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


3. GOD’S SPEECH IN THE FIRST PERSON

“When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.” 2:186

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


4. ADDRESSED DIRECTLY TO YOU

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

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

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

“Into whatever form He pleased He constituted you.

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

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


5. CONTAINS ITS OWN EXEGESIS

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

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


6. GOD IS ITS TEACHER

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

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


7. PRESERVATION VOUCHSAFED BY GOD

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

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


8. INIMITABLE

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

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


9. CLEAR AND PLAIN

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

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

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


10. EASY TO UNDERSTAND

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

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


11. FOR ALL HUMANKIND

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

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


12. THE CRITERION TO DETERMINE RIGHT FROM WRONG

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

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


13. FREE FROM DISCREPANCY

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

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


14. FOR ALL TIMES AND GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATIONS

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

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


15. HAS ALL THINGS NECESSARY FOR GUIDANCE

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

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

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

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


16. PROMOTES PEACE

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


17. A SOLACE TO THE SUFFERING

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


18. REMOVES YOUR ILLS AND IMPROVES YOUR CONDITION

“But those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and believe in the (Revelation) sent down to Muhammad – for it is the Truth from their Lord,- He will remove from them their ills and improve their condition.” 47:2


19. CONSISTENT WITH NATURAL PHENOMENA

“Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for people of understanding, Those who remember God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): “Our Lord! Not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.” 3:190-191

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

20. PROPHECY ABOUT CONQUEST OF SPACE BY MAN

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


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

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

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


22. IT WILL AMAZE YOU

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

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


23. IT WILL BRING YOU OUT FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT

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


24. IT WILL TOUCH YOUR HEART

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

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


A REFLECTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newcomers To The Qur’an


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

Widespread ignorance

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

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

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

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

To the newbie

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

 “(God) Most Gracious!” 

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

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

Obtain a copy of the Qur’an for personal study

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

How is the Qur’an structured?

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

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

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

A Surah which We have revealed…” 24:1

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

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

Checking References

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

Getting used to it

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

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

 

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

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