Monday, December 14, 2020

Lessons from Sacred History: Some reflections on Soorah An Noor

 Introduction

 


Islam portrays itself as a faith that is not only for the benefit of all humanity, but as a logical, practical and healthy way of life. The more life experiences emerge, the more this portrayal is found to be true. 

 

Ultimately, what Islam seeks for its adherents is a foundation for moral and spiritual development,  tools to accomplish this. This is a life-long process for most of us, and it is our belief that this is precisely why the Qur'an contains stories, be it in detailed or truncated form. One chapter which illustrates this is is the twenty-forth Soorah, called simply An Noor or "The Light". 

 

Positive conjecture is the healthy, default position to be held by people of faith 

 The Soorah makes allusions to a particular incident in the time of revelation. In brief, the Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam) and a number of others went on an expedition. Among the party was his wife 'Aa'ishaa. There was a point when the Muslim party had left, accidentally leaving her behind. She was discovered by a man (Safwan), the latter, with respect and intelligence, places her on his camel, walks it back to Madinah.


This caused gossip to emerge, a scandal, voiced in whispers, alleging an affair between the wife of the Prophet (referred to traditionally as "Mother of the believers") and Safwan. This Soorah speaks on this in the following words:

لَوۡ لَاۤ اِذۡ سَمِعۡتُمُوۡہُ ظَنَّ الۡمُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ وَ الۡمُؤۡمِنٰتُ بِاَنۡفُسِہِمۡ خَیۡرًا ۙ وَّ قَالُوۡا ہٰذَاۤ اِفۡکٌ مُّبِیۡنٌ

"Why didn't the people of  Imaan (faith), men and women (alike), when they heard it, not have a good thought of their own selves, and assert; "this is clearly false." (Q 24:12).


One of the principles we should learn from this is a principal called Husnudh dhann, or positive conjecture. Essentially, it means to assume the best before assuming the worst. When positive thinking is not present, it is an unstable foundation. Negative assumptions (soo'adh-dhann) as default is a dangerous foundation for a community as well as a family. 

Sooratun Noor has interwoven much spirituality in the discussion about an accusation of that nature, as well as laws and social etiquette.  It goes on to say:

یَعِظُکُمُ اللّٰہُ اَنۡ تَعُوۡدُوۡا لِمِثۡلِہٖۤ اَبَدًا اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ مُّؤۡمِنِیۡنَ

 وَ یُبَیِّنُ اللّٰہُ لَکُمُ الۡاٰیٰتِ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ عَلِیۡمٌ حَکِیۡمٌ

" Allah gives you admonition never to return to this (type of scandalizing), if you have faith, and Allah makes clear for you the signs, Allah is the One who knows, the wise." ( Q 24:17-18)


Prejudice as a reason behind negative assumptions

Muhammad Husayn Haykal's book The Life of Muhammad (    1995, Indianapolis, pp.334-335)              has pointed out two basic reasons behind the spread of the rumor regarding the Prophet's wife and Safwan. The first involves internal family dynamics, whereas the second was political.  Haykal points out the details, in which old tribal conflicts were once again agitated as a result of this, some taking on a sort of cause in order to solve old rivalries. 

The Qur'an focuses upon the political motivations wherein it states " Indeed, those who spread about the lie, are a powerful element ('Usbah) from your midst." (Q 24:11).

اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ جَآءُوۡ بِالۡاِفۡکِ عُصۡبَۃٌ مِّنۡکُمۡ

Prejudice entered into the picture, and this is something we can learn from today! Prejudices ( to "prejudge") are not only based on skin color, ethnicity or language. Indeed, most countries have communities therein which has biases towards others in the same country, sharing the same items listed above. 


Prejudices can come in the same community. The Non-Hijabi sees the Hijabi as fanatical, the latter seeing the former as immoral, the clean shaven views the bearded man as a zealot, the bearded Muslim looks at his clean-shaven counterpart as lacking religious commitment. The Salafi judges the Shiite, etc. 

We are quick to judge those who have even the slightest difference, even in the same community, to make negative assumptions. 


We have to learn to judge on merits and evidence, and avoid jumping to conclusions based on our prejudices. Essentially, Islam asks us to remove prejudices. 


More benefits of the Soorah

The Soorah gives guidance on a  number of issues. 

(1) In terms of accusations of adultery, an entire legal process is placed. Four witnesses (vv.4-8)(ft.1) are required before even an accusation can be made in a legal setting. Otherwise, a person bringing that to the court without this evidence is deemed unreliable and actually to face punishment (v.4). 

(2) It gives us some guidance as to marriage.(vv.32-34)

(3) It gives us some social etiquette, dress code.(vv.27-32)

(4) It gives us the beautiful "Verse of light" (Q 24:35). (ft.2)

Perhaps this is why , when the incident is spoken of, Allah says "Do not think of it as evil for you, nay, it benefits you." (Q 24:11)

 لَا تَحۡسَبُوۡہُ شَرًّا لَّکُمۡ ؕ بَلۡ ہُوَ خَیۡرٌ لَّکُمۡ

May we learn from our sacred history. That is why it is there.

Footnotes

(1)  The scholars have added, based upon Prophetic narrations, that Zinaa (adultery) must be proven via four people witnessing penetration (and no other act). This is a nearly impossible condition. This is necessary to both protect the privacy of people as well as public morals. 


(2) Ayatun Noor has fascinated readers since the Quranic revelation. I have shared some reflections on it at the following link. http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2008/01/divine-illumination-examination-of-ayah.html

Friday, November 6, 2020

The attributes of Civilization series

 


Below you will find the links to a series of Friday Sermons (Khutab), that delves into the Quranic understanding of what constitutes a "civilization"or healthy behavior.


We recommend watching it in order. Discussion, as always, is welcome.


October 23rd, 2020 foundational Khutbah: (#1)

 

https://www.facebook.com/154152348017299/videos/372632497326081

 

Oct 30th, 2020

Imaan and social responsibility (#2)

https://www.facebook.com/154152348017299/videos/413132223045449

 

Nov 5th, 2020

Conclusion


https://www.facebook.com/154152348017299/videos/3263070733792308

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Satan Series

 Note: The following are recordings from our recent Friday Khutbah's in which various aspects of Satan- as depicted in the Qur'an and Hadeeth, are explored. 


[1] Understanding Taaghoot: separating fact from fiction: 

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=323628222309729&ref=watch_permalink

Summary: A foundation for understanding Devilish intentions and interactions, as well as an examination of the importance of Divine protection. 

 

[2] The emergence of Satanic influence

https://www.facebook.com/154152348017299/videos/989328314916485

 Summary: An analysis, based within the Qur'an, of what Satanic influence actually entails, as well as the consequences for heeding his call. This Khutbah is a very important introduction to this subject, for a religious as well as Non religious observer. 

 

(3) Worship and Satanic distractions:

Summary: While worship is a tool for moral and physical development, Satan influences us to be wasteful, irresponsible, and the like. This is a follow up from the 2nd Khutbah. 

https://www.facebook.com/154152348017299/videos/656326395005562 


(4) The Real Jihad: building internal resistance

Summary: Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam) teaches the importance of building one's internal capacity to combat Satan. 


https://www.facebook.com/154152348017299/videos/254047672640131

 

It is recommended to watch these lectures in the above order. Thoughts and feedback are welcome.

 

 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Are Muslims allowed to pray for Non Muslims ?

 Introduction

 


There are a number of issues that, while seemingly academic in the Muslim world, have real life implications in the wider global scene. Among those issues is that of praying for Non Muslims, both alive or dead. A related issue would be the question of giving Zakaat (The mandatory charity) to Non Muslim recipients. 

 

This issue of praying for Non Muslims is raised in the West due to mutual interactions and interests, where there is a greater chance of viewing the other in human terms (as opposed to a limiting label).  Online debates were in full force upon the death of Chadwick Boseman,( star in Black Panther) which saw some Muslims offering their condolences, including using traditional religious expressions such as "From God we come, to him is our return". 


There are texts typically cited in support of the notion that we are forbidden by religion from offering supplication on behalf of Non Muslims. Those texts are examined below.


Prophet Ibrahim 'alayhis salaam (Abraham)

It is not for the Prophet and those who have believed to ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even if they were relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of Hellfire.

 

And the request of forgiveness of Abraham for his father was only because of a promise he had made to him. But when it became apparent to Abraham that his father was an enemy to Allah, he disassociated himself from him. Indeed was Abraham compassionate and patient. (Qur'an 9:113-114, Saheeh International  translation).

 

The above text is from the ninth chapter, which carries, among other names "Al-Baraa-ah", which means "disassociation". The Soorah itself is given during war context, according to all authorities.  A treaty had been entered into between the Muslims and the Makkan opposition, the latter breaking it(ft.1)
The  Makkans were generally related by blood or tribe to The Prophetصَلَّىٰ ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ‎  as well as his followers, yet- at that time- that did not stop them from waging war upon the Muslims . This text reminds the Muslims that in battle context, one must be strong, that emotional manipulation should not be allowed, even from family members, if such members have an agenda against you. 

 

This teaching is given voice elsewhere in the Qur'an:

 "  O you who have believed, indeed, among your wives and your children are enemies to you, so beware of them. But if you pardon and overlook and forgive - then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful." ( Q 64:14, Saheeh international translation).

It should be noted that even though the ninth chapter is given within a war context, it does not address the Mushriks en masse. Q 9:4 asserts that the previously referenced treaty remains in force for those who did not break it, meaning that a strong stance need only be maintained with those who have expressed danger via their actions!
 
Abraham's exampleعَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ - - is given, in that his father had been a clear enemy, taking many actions to actually put Abraham in danger of losing his life. If a parent or another loved one actually takes steps to take your life, at a minimum, one must protect himself from clear and present danger. This is something which is widely understood in the modern world, in that "family" and "friends" can actually be the worse of enemies, for a variety of reasons. (ft.2)


Thus, there is a clear difference between belligerent foes and those in one's family/circle who, while maintaining a differing religious identity, do not have enmity.


Hadeeth reports

Other reports exist in the hadeeth literature which forbids, at some levels or another, invoking God on behalf of Non Muslims. However, the majority of those reports have been declared weak or even fabrications by such luminaries as Shaikh Akram Nadwi. Some of them are outright contrary to the Qur'anic usage, while others clearly do not assert what is claimed in their name.(ft.3) Some have- for example, asserted that it is forbidden to initiate salaam greetings with Non Muslims, and that if initiated by a Non Muslim, the Muslim should respond with "Peace for those who follow guidance."(As salaamu 'ala man it tab'a'a al hudaa) Yet, the Qur'an itself says that one should respond with a similar or better greeting when addressed (Q 4:86), as well as asserting that one should not assume that the one making greeting is not actually a believer (Q 4:94). 


More evidence

The Qur'an calls Allah "The Caretaker of the Universe" (Q 1:2). That shows simply that Allah, the God of the Qur'an, of Muslims, and the world in general, cares for his creation, regardless of their particular label.
The same text allows marriage and consumption of food with huge segments of Non Muslim population ( Q 5:5). Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)  is referred to as a Mercy for all nations (Q 21:107), The Qur'an likewise tells Muslims to keep strong family ties with Non Muslim members ( Q 29:8), and tells us to be just with all, and not allow religious differences to drive us in the opposite direction ( Q 60:8-9).

Conclusion

It should be apparent that there is no harm in making supplication for those who do not believe as we do, be they dead or alive. Of course, Allah's response is his business, and He says he can respond with mercy or punishment, even for those who are deemed as 'evil'. (Q 3:129-130). 
 
It should also be noted here that the Salaat Al Janaazah (funeral prayers) is a rite specific for Muslims. Quranic verses are recited therein, as well as supplications that are made by believing Muslims for believing Muslims, specific to particular Islamic theological assumptions. Thus, it is inappropriate for a Non Muslim to have that sort of funeral, just as it would be likewise a disrespect for a believing Muslim to be given a Christian funeral. This is more a matter of respect for one's religious life and identity, than it is an issue of conflict.(ft.4)


Notes

(1) The details of this are widely available, for which I would recommend The Life of Muhammad by Muhammad Husayn Haykal.
 
 
(2) All relationships have some level of review and renewal. Islam certainly calls for maintaining family ties, even with disbelieving family members, but it is likewise acknowledged in the Qur'an (64:14) that "enmity" can exist in one sense or another. The aforementioned text says to "take caution",  leaving it up to individual evaluation how that takes place. The same can be said for narcissistic, manipulative and jealous individuals outside of blood ties. An interesting article on this subject, by psychotherapist Sharon Martin, can be found at  https://blogs.psychcentral.com/imperfect/2019/10/its-okay-to-cut-ties-with-toxic-family-members/ . 
 
 
(3) The Prophetic tradition of saying "May Allah have mercy on you " (yarhamukumullaah) when a person sneezes is said to be altered when a Non Muslim sneezes to "May Allah guide you and rectify your condition", allegedly because it is forbidden to pray for "mercy" for a Non Muslim. Even supposing that report is true (although not mentioned in the saheehayn), it still is a supplication for the Non Muslim, and, moreover, that wording is also found in the practice of sneezing, i.e.,  The one who sneezes praises God, the one around them respond with the request for mercy for them, and the one who sneezed responds with "May Allah guide you and rectify your condition " (Yahdeekumullaah, wa yuslih baalakum).
 
(4)  It is often asserted that Muslims cannot attend the funerals of Non Muslims, due to the latter having their own religious beliefs contrary to Islam. This has no support from Islamic texts, and would totally destroy mutual respect among family/friends of varying religious labels. This writer has attended many non Muslim funerals, and has never felt any qualms in doing so. On the question of what to do if-in that situation, feeling uncomfortable in the Non Muslim funeral rites (for example, a Catholic funeral in which the mark of the cross (known as "signing") is made, the Muslim can simply don't do that, or any action that they may feel is contrary to Islamic teachings. 
 
These sort of social quagmires exist among Christian and Jewish communities as well, reaching vastly different conclusions. Rabbi Tovia Singer argues that Jews are allowed to pray in Muslim mosques but not even enter into a church https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moRM1YFdvyI  , The Jehovah's Witnesses, likewise,  forbid their members from even entering a Non J.W. worship site. 
 
 



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Sunday School Discussions

 Below are videos from recent Sunday school classes, in which students posed their questions. Each video has a timeline of questions/topics posted in the comment section .


Discussion is welcome.


Q &A session part 1 sept 2020

 

Q & A session part 2 sept 2020 


How was religion made?

 

 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Imaan & Tawakkul: Faith and trust in Allah's plan (FRIDAY KHUTBAH)

 A recent Friday Khutbah which explores the importance of confidence and trust in God, as a means for identifying tools for personal/social refinement, as well as identity building.


This presentation also gives a slightly different look at the famous Quranic verse 49:13 ("O Humanity! Indeed, WE have created you from a male and female, made you into groupings and tribes, so that you will know (and benefit) each other. Indeed, the most honorable of you in God's sight is those among you with the most taqwaa, indeed, Allah is knowledgeable, aware") as a text which shows diversity as being part of the Divine plan.


Imaan &Tawakkul-click here

Unity In Pandemic presentation (Q and A panel session)

 ( Recently we were part of a program called "Unity in Pandemic". In particular, I really enjoyed the panel discussion, in which Ner Temid congregation Rabbi Saford Askerlod and Rev Catherine Greg shared wonderful insights. The entire program (which included presentations by all panelists and musical performances) can be viewed here . )

 

The panel discussion itself can be viewed at the link below. 

 

Unity in pandemic panel discussion part 4