CLICK HERE FOR THOUSANDS OF FREE BLOGGER TEMPLATES »

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spreading Islam efficiently: thoughts on Da’wah work

The Arabic word we use to describe efforts at propagating Islam is called “Da’wah”, it is a verbal noun that basically means “Call”. The word Du’aa, in which we invoke Allah, comes from the same root. We can make Du’aa in the usual manner, with outward palms raised, in the direction of our faces, reciting a particular invocation from the Qur’an and Sunnah, yet we can say that a good wish, such as “I hope so and so will be okay” is a Du’aa, because Allah hears the Du’aa, and can know our intentions and thoughts even when others cannot see them. Basically, in Du’aa we can offer it actively [as described above] or passively [as described in the latter portion of the above paragraph.]. Spreading Islam can also fall under these two categories.

Active Da’wah

By viewing Da’wah as a public relations or marketing campaign, there can be so much more potential for success. This would obviously entail organization, indeed, employing or utilizing the talents of professionals. Any business, political or cultural association will have only certain members out there as the ‘media face’, the folks who appear at press conferences, who will compose opinions for newspapers, speak at events. In this age of instant communications and visual stimulation, these sorts of actions are very important. So, to act in an efficient manner, Da’wah workers should have the following qualities. [A] Dedication to Islam. [B] Dress and speak well. With the latter, it may be prudent to practice or compose what will be said before going out to work. [C] Knowledge of the Islamic sources, as well as the local culture, politics, religions, and the like.

Now, it must be admitted that many times, our Imams do not fit these descriptions. They may have piety and have committed to memory many texts of the Qur’an and Hadeeth, but they have these ‘issues’ that are best not aired to new people. Therefore, it is prudent that the Imam-in many cases, depending on the local situation- stick to leading prayers and teaching, and not have such a public role. After all, as good as someone is, we all have talents and weaknesses. Such is life, and there is nothing to be ashamed of here.

If Da’wah workers are actually ‘going to the streets’ then they are to be armed with quality, but easy to read, Islamic materials that they are prepared to give away. Please don’t expect to give some regular Joe-Blow a copy of Saheeh Al-Bukhari on the first encounter.



Passive Da’wah

This is the sort of ‘calling’ that can be done by everyone, regardless of knowledge level, speaking abilities and the like. This “passive Da’wah” was often times exactly what attracted interest in Islam. From the Prophet’s character [as given in many reports] to the scruples exercised by Muslim traders in such diverse places as West Africa, India and Indonesia, ‘passive’ propagation of Islam left a lasting impression, which changed the lives of millions for generations to come. If our personalities are shaped by Islam, our actions regulated by Islam, that will go a long way. As an Imam, I have heard countless stories from people as to how interactions with Muslim co workers, students, business partners or relatives influenced their own decision to investigate the Deen. In “passive Da’wah”, every Muslim should have the ability to answer some basic questions about the fundamentals of Islam, preferably by answering with “The Qur’an says such and such” or “The Prophet said such and such”. Every Muslim should also have on his or her person some literature, just in case someone asks. Keep in mind that Allah gives guidance to who he wants, not who we want. Nonetheless, efforts on our parts will gain some blessing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Abraham: father of all nations, a goodly model


There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him..[Qur'an 60:4]

'Eid Ul-Ad-haa, Imams and orators worldwide undoubtedly mentioned the story of the sacrifice, as given in scripture, wherein Abraham was ready to take the life of his son in response to a vision interpreted to have been from God. Another theme usually explored is when he left his son and Hagar [Hajar] in the desert to fend for themselves. This particular narrative has it that during the process of searching for water for her infant son, Hagar ran bath and forth seven times, and at the end, almost in a miracle fashion, the well appears. Indeed, Muslims re enact this event during the Hajj [Pilgrimage] at the Safa and Marwa trails [which has now been included in the complex of the Masjid Al-Haraam], the well itself still giving water, known as ZamZam water.[Ft.1]

Yet, there is something to be said of other aspects of the life of Abraham, who is called in the scripture of the Jews and the Christians "father of all nations" [ Genesis 17:5].

Origins of Abraham

Called Ibrahim in Arabic, tradition has it that he was born in Southern Iraq, although there does exist other places, in Northern Iraq, Turkey and even Sicily. Regardless of where he was born, eventually he found his ways to such diverse places as Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia. Sites in all those places, not the least of which is the Ka'bah at Makkah, are associated with him.

Is there a lesson in these sites?

The Qur'an tells us a very interesting observation, one which should be associated with Abraham, but also with seekers of truth and guidance in all times, places and among all peoples.

"Have they not traveled in the land so that their hearts will come to understand, or that their ears will come to hear?"[ Qur'an 22:46]


Travel is very important, for the sake of religious or spiritual knowledge. This is something that seems to have been universally recognized, when we notice adherents of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, going forth from country to country to study with respected spiritual figures. Reading books, or even studying at a local university, are all wonderful acts, acts which can produce blessings and appropriate information, but nothing can beat leaving the comforts of one's home and family for the sake of attaining knowledge.

The journey itself is a learning experience, be it meeting interesting people at airports, or having some time in isolation while in transit to deeply contemplate the pressing concerns of the body, soul and mind.

Whatever one thinks of Abraham, the towering figure in the three monotheistic traditions, this aspect of his existence cannot be denied. This is, of course, especially true for the Muslim, the reader of the Qur'an.

This author has done, and continues to, much traveling, and the above mentioned Quranic verse is very true. Many times we cannot process the information or insight someone gives us [or that we read in a book, magazine or website] until we have the same, or a similar experience, or a set of experiences.

So, on this occasion of 'Eid ul-Ad-haa[ft.2], let us try to emulate the goodly model present in Ibrahim ['Alayhis salaam]. Attain whatever knowledge we can from our scholars, books and websites. But always be prepared to learn something from one's one experiences, or the experiences of other people. There is much insight to be gained from travels of this nature.

Role of the Qur'an

The word Qur'an itself means a reading, a recital. It has the sense of "something put together piece by piece, part by part." This is a very appropriate name, as it was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad [Sall-Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] slowly, over a period of twenty-three years.

The Qur'an serves many roles, but for the sake of this article, we want to emphasis that it serves as a guide to make its reader a bit more sophisticated, well-rounded, knowledgeable. It is an undeniable fact that it can be speaking of theology for several verses, and then turn to a completely different subject such as war or marriage.

Those with broad knowledge in various fields, who have lived and traveled in many places, learning languages and cultures alien to their native backround, can appreciate such a guide as the Qur'an.

In issues not addressed in the Qur'an, God allows us to figure it out on our own, we can access some guidance or precedent in the reliable sources about the Prophet Muhammad [the last Prophet, and universal messenger], we can access guidance [or perhaps assistance is a better word] from our collectives experiences present in our culture, our personal reading of the situation [as well as our reading of the goal of religion] to ascertain the proper way to proceed.

In any case, all of that comes from having a broad experience, an open mind, open ears and open heart.

The Qur'an is very suitable for our guidance because we, like the last book of Allah itself, have been put together piece by piece, part by part. We are born as babies and absorb everything while growing up. Our parents and societies give us the foundation and much assistance, but there are times when we will have to learn lessons on our own, because our own mistakes will teach us how to act in the future. Our own actions will be suitable to serve as precedent, and each time that occurs, as far as the Qur'an goes, we can come to appreciate, nay, understand, texts better. It will grow in meaning for us.



Endnotes

[1] This author has examined in great detail the Qur'anic presentation of Abraham's story of the sacrifice in the work The Languuge of Revelation [pg. 237 "Abraham"]. To obtain, go to www.arifinimports.com

[2] The significance of the 'Eid-Ul Ad-haa occasion has been addressed in a lecture and Q & A session called "The story and sacrifice", available for free at www.esnips.com/web/shamsuddinwsStuff.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Enhancement: the goal of Islam

"The best of you in [the days of] Islam is also the best of you in the days of ignorance" [Hadeeth, related in Bukhari, Al Adab al Mufrad 7: 71:129]


There is a great emphasis on change in today's world. It's a powerful word that everyone uses. The winning slogan in [then] Presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign was his assertion "Don't tell me we can't change."

For those who have a distrust of Islam and Muslims, change is something to fear. They assert that when people accept Islam, they "change" into candidates for violence. At the very least, when dietary practices, dress and even names are altered by Muslim converts, these folks express fears even about those changes. I can recall reading online a statement that all who accept Islam freely "must have mental problems."

Muslim writers and leaders often adopt quite the opposite approach. They are quick to say "Actions must change." This or that "must change"!

Certainly all of this is in the eye of the beholder. We hope to examine a bit the foundation of Islamic practice, as found in four of the five pillars [ the first pillar will not be examined in this post, however we do recommend reading Shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2008/10/only-one-god-forgotten-aspects-of.html]

The best of you in Islam was also the best during the period without Islam

The Hadeeth quoted at the beginning of this post shows us that Islam is not [by necessity, anyways] about change. It is about enhancement. Its distinguishing characteristics are the pillars of Islamic practice, and it will be seen that all of them serve to emphasis- in some fashion or another- various morals, ethics and practical benefit, they are not without meaning.


Salaah
Offered a minimum of five times daily [dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening], it is described by the Qur'an itself as having the ability to "restrain from hateful, shameful activity" [Q 29:45]. Apparently, a person who offers the Salaah with full awareness and consciousness will be less likely to enter into activities that are illicit, immoral or otherwise harmful. There is no coercion involved here. No fear of the police or of vigilantes. The person's awareness of God is enhanced by connecting with the Divine reality by the method of Salaah, a connection or awareness not easily dismissed or forgotten. In addition to this, there are some other benefits as well;

[A] Discipline: Salaah is to be observed at stated times, if offered at other times, it is considered "late" and not having the same merit or blessing as when performed at the stated times. If a Muslim can have the discipline to offer prayers five times daily, which also involves physical preparations [i.e. being in a clean state and making Wudoo' [ablution] beforehand], then he or she can have the discipline for any secular pursuit in life as well. A Muslim conscious of praying "on time" will also be "on time" for work, completing study/work tasks in a timely manner.

[B] Education: In Salaah, we mainly recite the Qur'an. This is very powerful, especially in congregation [Jamaa'ah][ft.1], when the prayer leader [Imam] recites texts that may be unfamiliar to the ones praying behind him. The Qur'an speaks to many subjects, and actually integrates seemingly unrelated subjects, so the prayers act as a sort of learning session, making the Musalli [the one praying] learn, become more well rounded. This is especially true of the Taraweeh prayers, offered in the evenings during Ramadan, wherein the entire Qur'an is often recited.[ft.2]

[C] Feeling of brotherhood

Much like the Hajj, Salaah is an equalizer. Rich and poor, black and White, all standing shoulder to shoulder, performing the same actions, reciting the same texts, the same rituals in the same language. In fact, there are several narrations in the Hadeeth literature which has the Prophet Muhammad instructing that there should be no gap between the praying people, because Satan can take advantage of that. Meaning, it's something that brings people close, whereas Satan seeks to divide.

Zakaah


The spiritual an societal benefits of paying 2 1/2% of one's wealth are obvious.

The offerings given for the sake of God are [meant] only for the poor and the needy, and those who are in charge thereof, and those whose hearts are to be won over, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage, and [for] those who are over burdened with debts, and [for every struggle] in God's cause, and [for] the wayfarer: [this is] an ordinance from God - and God is all-knowing, wise.[ Q 9:60, Muhammad Asad translation]


In an Islamic society, this can be collected as a tax and distributed according to he guidelines of the above Qur'anic text. In a Non-Muslim society, the Zakaah is usually given to Mosques or organizations who then distribute it according to the guidelines of the above verse. I believe it's especially meaningful to pay Zakaat while living in a Non-Muslim environment, because it makes the Muslim think, contemplate on who and what is most deserving of these funds.

Zakaah has the meaning of purification. Islam teaches that all personal wealth, even when legally and morally acquired, has a societal due. Hoarding is something not looked on favorably in the spiritual realm. The Bible reports Jesus, upon whom be peace, as saying
Sell your posessions and give to the poor…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.“ Luke 12:22-34.


The distribution of Zakaah goes a long way in combating starvation, famine and the like. In addition to this, Zakaah funds can be used to address societal needs as well, such as education. Resources dedicated to this purpose are generally given the name Sadaqah Jareeyah [perpetual charity].

Funds that exceed the minimum requirements, called Sadaqah, are also given during times not generally considered. The Qur'an gives a "remedy" to personal transgressions by engaging one's wealth in Sadaqah. Below is a verse speaking about Dhihaar, a divorce practice observed by the Pre-Islamic Arabs in which a woman was denied both marital rights as well as the right to seek another marriage, leaving her in a limbo. Now, the Qur'an outlawed this practice, and gives the following guidelines to those Muslims who had done this.

And those [men] who pronounced Dhihaar to their wives and recant their declaration, they must [A] Free a captive before touching each other. This is what you are admonished to do, and Allah is aware of your actions. So, those who do not find [the means to free a captive] should [B] Fast two months before touching each other. Those unable to do that should [C] feed sixty poor people [Sitteena Miskeena]..."{ Q 58:3-4}


Thus, Islam joins personal salvation with societal development and assistance.

Siyaam-Fasting

The Qur'an [2:183-185] tells Muslims to fast in the daylight hours of the lunar month of Ramadan. Fasting encourages us to be more conscious of the struggles others face to even eat once a day, thus, encouraging us to be charitable and distribute food to the needy.

Fasting is also a discipline building exercise. It should teach us to give up excess waste, junk food, cigarettes, vain talk, and strengthen personal morals. All of this and more can be found in the Quranic statement regarding the purpose of fasting, given in the words La'allakum Tattaqoon [So that perhaps you will gain Taqwa. Q 2:185]. The word La'alla shows us that there is a possibility of failure in accomplishing this goal, which is why we are to fast again and again. The Qur'an mandates the Ramadan fast, but we can also engage in voluntary fasting, to build up our morals, and above all the main thrust of Taqwa, to become closer to God.


Hajj



This is the last, and arguably a conditional pillar of Islamic practice, in the sense that one is obligated to make the pilgrimage to the site of the Ka'bah, built by Abraham and his son for the purpose of worshiping God, when financial and physical means are available. The Ka'bah is located in Makkah, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

During Hajj, we are once again made equals. The White seamless wraps, called the Ihram, does not allow that one's financial or education status be recognized. The King and the pauper both endure the same struggles, performing the same rituals, and each learning something, be it about others and their needs, or of a personal nature, that they were suppose to learn. This is why we have a tradition in Islam, attributed to no greater a figure than the Prophet Muhammad himself, upon whom be peace and blessings, that a successful Hajj [pilgrimage] wipes out prior sins, a person is renewed, pure as if a new born baby.

A recent study shows that returning pilgrims are 22% more likely to see Non-Muslims as equals, twice as likely to condemn terrorism, and 8% more likely to hope their daughters would adopt professional careers. [ "Muslim pilgrimage; a journey towards Tolerance?" Think; the magazine of Case Western Reserve University, Fall/Winter 2009 edition, page 18]

Conclusion

The foundation of Islamic practice is one that places emphasis on personal development, enlightenment, charity, sobriety and every other good characteristic. Islam is wrongly associated with violence and criminal activity. The recent death of a Detroit Imam, Luqman Abdullah, and the arrest of several of his supporters has once again brought the idea that Islam and criminality are linked to the public. One charge alleges that Abdullah gave legitimacy to theft, on the grounds that as long as they prayed and the thefts "benefits Islam", it was legitimate. Given the public works and reputation of the deceased Abdullah, the charges are very suspect, but nonetheless in terms of what Islam teaches, it's pillars hold up people's hearts and minds to always be conscious of Allah, of one's personal responsibilities and societal responsibilities.

Islam is a tool from God that can enlighten all who wish it, who actively seek it. This does not mean we will become monks, nor does it require that we give up enjoyment in life or comforts. It simply means that we train, that we refine the goodness that is present in the hearts of all humanity, utilize that goodness, apply it in both a systematic and random manner. Random acts of violence can become random acts of kindness.


Footnotes

[1] Congregational prayers are highly preferred, especially the obligatory ones, which can be done in a Mosque or with a group anywhere. One Hadeeth describes it as being "twenty-seven times greater than prayer alone." [ Bukhari, 10:30]

[2] The Shi'ah Muslims do not follow this practice, instead, their tradition places emphasis on individual prayer at night [in contrast to communal]. They do, however, gather together in Mosques to read the Qur'an together in the nights of the Ramadan month.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Arifin Imports and Publications





It is my pleasure to formally announce the opening of Arifin Imports & Publications. Our mission is to provide quality items relating to the teachings of Islam, Muslim culture and history, while being faithful to the text of the Qur'an and Sunnah and addressing realities in a Non-Muslim or Western environment.

To that end, our products include lectures available on CD and DVD, as well as books. Our library is continuously expanding. We will endeavor to provide only quality items, which will quench the intellectual and spiritual thirst. Wholesale orders are also accepted. To be added to our mailing list or for a physical list of products, please send a request to admin@arifinimports.com.

Prices are very reasonable, payments are accepted through both credit cards, Pay Pal, as well as check/ money order for your convenience. The link to the site is below:

http://www.arifinimports.com

In addition to this, we also have a You Tube channel, Arifin Publications, with several free lectures and clips from presentations/lectures:

Our mailing address is below:

Arifin Imports & Publications
P O Box 70617
Toledo, Ohio 43607
419-246-9697

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The guidance of religion vs. personal whims


Islam is a faith that asserts itself, in very clear and strong language, to be a faith that is completely detailed [Qur'an 6:114]. The last verse revealed to the Prophet Muhammad himself, Sall-Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, asserts that Islam has been chosen, perfected, and completed by God himself, in the time of his final Prophet [Q 5:3]. This completion becomes evident even in the midst of the existence of Muslim sects, in the sense that despite our [minor] differences, our essentials are identical, as well as having the same book, prayers, charity, pilgrimage, etc.

Since Islam was perfected in the time of the Final Prophet, essentially it means that if we really believe, then we have to accept as Halaal [lawful] what is given in clear terms as Halaal in the Qur'an and Prophetic example [Usawtun Hasana] and to avoid that which is clearly given as Haraam[unlawful] according to the Qur'an and Prophetic model.



In this regards, it is important to remember Allah's statements;

''And obey Allah, and the messenger, so that perhaps you will receive mercy." [Q 3:132]


Whosoever obeys the messenger [Muhammad], obeys Allah. Therefore, if any turn back, We [Allah] have not sent you as a watcher over them." [Q 4:80]



To call one's self a Muslim, one is to have confidence in all the contents of Divine revelation as useful, beneficial and blessed. To replace something that is clearly supported or endorsed by the Qur'an and the Prophet for a tradition or idea whose roots lie in another faith or thinking pattern is almost tantamount to rejecting Islam itself,as if to say that particular idea is superior to the contents of the Qur'an and Prophetic model! We seek God's protection from that!

Islam: a realistic faith


In a world where individuality is the name of the game, religion has been reduced, in many ways, to the following forms.[A] Ethnic or racial identifier. [B] A series of personal rituals and beliefs designed to bring about personal satisfaction, a contentment that is comparable to the euphoric feelings brought about by drug use.

In addition to this, we must mention "interpreting for one's self." Often this slogan, which has its roots in Western religious culture from the times the Bible was not allowed to be translated, so that when it became available people wanted to 'understand' for themselves, which in itself is not a problem at all. However, it does become a problem to interpret in such a way that clarity is replaced with ambiguity, leaving the doors open for all sorts of vices as well as incorporating foreign concepts into one's practice and understanding of Islam.

Take for example the Quranic allowance for physical fighting. Many verses from the Qur'an speak to this, but for the sake of space only one will be quoted here;

Fighting is ordered for you, and you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows, and you do not know .[ Q 2:216)

Other verses that speak to this reality, and the conditions for it, can be found in 22:39,40, 2:190,9:41,61:11-14 and many other references.

We fear that some Muslims are actually embarrassed by these verses, perhaps due to inferiority complexes, brought about by arguments of the Christian missionaries, who continually assert that Jesus Christ was passive, even in the face of great opposition, and that such a position is better in the sights of God[Ft.1]. Another reason for such a view is that contemporary figures who avoided a response by the hand have been touted in the Modern world as having made their particular causes successful. This argument is weak at best, as it can be argued that their successes are perceived and not real. The Dalai Lama comes to mind here.

If something as clear as fighting [when necessary]as given in the Qur'an can be rejected by interpretative gymnastics, where do we stop? Will the Qur'an be used to give legitimacy to the idea that Jesus is God? Will we have to hear, all of the sudden, that there are in fact many gods?

These examples are actually becoming real in our times! One example is that of Alcohol. The Qur'an calls it " a product of Satan's work"[ Q 5:90], that it has benefit, but "its sin outweighs its benefits."[ Q 2:219]. We are also told " so, abstain from it [alcohol and gambling] so that perhaps you will be successful." [latter part of Q 5:90]! Yet, believe it or not, many "Muslims" today actually assert that Alcoholic consumption is Halaal because the word Haraam is not used in the above referenced Qur'anic Ayaat!!!


Allah's Deen is serious business. It should not be interpreted by whims. Meaning, if a person drinks, well, that's a weakness that has to be addressed. But that does not require that one engage in dishonesty by claiming the text says "yes" when it clearly says "No".

We don't call for violence or extremism. Nay, we are calling for intellectual honesty. If Islam says such and such is legitimate, then that's the way it is. If Islam says that such and such is immoral, is wrong, well, that's what that is!

No one is perfect, all of us have faults and weaknesses. Why try to change the guidance of Allah, rather than looking at ourselves and changing in accordance with the guidance of Allah?

"And who is worse than one who has as a god his passions." Q 45:23.


Footnotes

#1= The following polemical article was composed by a Christian missionary, as a means to show their view that Islam is inherently violent, while Christianity is inherently peaceful. http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Arlandson/sword.htm. In any case, while the Gospels portray Jesus as passive, it also portrays him as taking rather drastic actions, such as overturning the money changers tables in the temple [ Matthew 12:12-13] and asserting that he has "come with a sword" [Matthew 10:34].

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Problems in your Masjid? thoughts on the Mosque in Islam and Western society




The Mosque in the West

It should be noted, first and foremost, that the role of the Masjid [Mosque] in the Western context is very different from that in the Muslim world. In the Muslim world, the mosque is simply a place of prayer.Some Mosques will have funeral services, and of course students may take it as a quiet refuge to study, but essentially it ends at that.


In the United states, the Mosque has these roles and much more. It serves as a symbol of Muslim presence and culture, as the picture above shows. It is of the Shah Jahan Masjid in Woking [Surrey], United Kingdom. Marriages are performed, as well as various social gatherings, dinners, counseling, community work, political organizing, and so much more.

In short, the role of the Mosque in the West is the same as that of the Church. The Imam gives advice, marriage counseling, plays a role in local politics, in the same manner as the Pastor of the local Church. It's not an issue of right or wrong, this is just a reality.


Problems in the Masjid

In the Muslim world, the Mosque is basically on every corner. Generally speaking, it is also maintained and controlled by Government ministries, so the 'average' person has no role or responsibility in the Mosque. He [and almost never 'she'] will attend Friday prayers, and perhaps some of the daily prayers, in Jama'ah at the local mosque, and leave it at that.


Sectarianism in Mosques does exist, however it's very limited and varies from nation to nation. In places such as Pakistan, where the Sunni/Shi'ah divide is multiplied by sub-divisions, political and personality issues, attending the Mosque can be actually dangerous, as repeated bombings of Mosques, prayer gatherings and funerals show.

In places such as the United states, sectarianism is further complicated by class and ethnic divisions, which is dealt with two broad solutions..

[A] In small towns, Muslims of all sects and ethnic backgrounds will worship in the same mosque.They will offer friday prayers at the most convenient location.

[B] Muslims of the same sect or group, such as Shi'ah, Salafi, upon having sufficient numbers, will form their own mosques. Now, while Muslims outside of these groups are welcome, it is understood that this particular mosque is dominated by one school or ethnic group.


What next?

In the two 'solutions' given above, at some point problems, both on an individual and communal level, develop. It is unavoidable. When people of various thinking patterns, understanding of religion, as well as having different personalities, are enclosed in small spaces, feelings get hurt. Resentments form. Sometimes there are power struggles. Such problems are almost unheard of in the Muslim world, but they are an unfortunate reality in the Western context. Such problems exist even among followers of the same sect or same ethnic group. All of us think 'our way' is the correct model of Islamic practice and theology!


At some point, it becomes necessary for us as individuals to figure out what is beneficial to us in terms of our Islamic practice and spirituality. If we go to places where we don't feel comfortable for reasons, such as those mentioned in this text, we can easily find another Mosque. Another solution can be to limit one's participation to friday prayers only [after all, Friday prayers are obligatory according to the Qur'an 62:9] and avoid the politics. Sometimes, our boards and Imams need some perspective. Give them advice.

Religion is sincere advice [or sincerity, Naseehah in Arabic], [for the cause of] Allah, to the messenger, to the leaders of the Muslims and to the general public. [Sahih Al-Bukhari, 2:42]





Remember that the entire Earth is a Mosque [Sahih Al-Bukhari,8:56], prayers can be conducted anywhere that is clean and reasonable. We living in the West, especially having children, use our Mosques not only for prayers, but as cultural hubs, as sanctuaries and the like. So, just leaving it is not easy. Deep contemplation is required, as well as knowing the situation of other Mosques, before making such decisions. Seek Allah's guidance, and he will give you direction.Consider all options.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Ramadan Al-Mubaarak: thoughts on the fasting month


The above Arabic title stems from the traditional greeting "Blessed Ramadan" [Ramadan Mubaarak]. Certainly even the most non-observant Muslim finds the month of Ramadan to be one of great joy, laughter and family gatherings. Perhaps its cultural impact can be compared to the feelings Americans, even Non-Christians, have during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

We are always questioned by our colleagues on the type of fasting, the motivations behind it, and finally "How can you do it?". It is seen as an exercise in futility,unnecessary hardship and outright ridiculous by many people. It is my hope to share some useful information on this institution found in Islam.


Fasting

We abstain from food, drink and sexual contact during the daylight for a month-long period. This is an obligation on every Muslim, with exceptions for the ill, those who cannot survive without consuming something [such as diabetics], and a few others. The Qur'an gives the following command regarding the fast [called Siyaam in Arabic] as well as the reason behind its legislation;

O you who believe, fasting is ordained for you, as it was on those before you, so that perhaps you will become [more] God-respecting [La'allakoom Tattaqoon][2:183]


The focus is on Taqwaa, a word that is very hard to translate with just one or two English semi-equivalents. It is usually rendered as piety, however as a word, piety is very limiting. Taqwaa carries the meaning of respect, fear, duty, responsibilities, and caution.

Fasting is a very private form of worship, in the sense that a person can easily hide the fact he is not fasting, and just as equally hide the fact that he is fasting.

So, we see why the fasting has been ordained.


The traditional practices

In order to be able to function through the day, we are encouraged to have a meal before dawn, when the fasting officially starts. This breakfast is called Suhoor [Sehri in Urdu]. At sunset, when the fasting period ends, a snack of dates [or some other fruits and vegetables] precedes the dinner. Eating dates is not an obligation, but it has entered our practice on the basis of the Prophet Muhammad's manner of breaking the fast. The dinner itself is usually called Iftar.


As the Qur'an's first revelation to the Prophet [upon whom be peace] occurred in Ramadan , we also generally make it our business to read the entire Qur'an in the month. Besides that, people offer prayers more, and give more in charity.


Effect of fasting

One must understand that fasting in Ramadan is not for diet reasons, to follow some hype, rather the motivations are spiritual. Reading the Qur'an while fasting makes us re-examine our lives in light of what God instructs us. We are to avoid even those things we knowingly engage in, such as gossip, arguments, backbiting, immoral surroundings [that can be found in Television, Music etc..] lust and the like.

Fasting with consciousness makes the person a better human being. It also makes him spiritually stronger, which can influence the physical strength as well, even though the intake of food/drink has been limited. Muslim history is full of victories on the battlefield happening during that month.

That is what I want this year, to be able to gain from reading the Qur'an while fasting, to strengthen morals and get rid of any vices. To engage in an honest self-assessment. May Allah give us all the same. Ameen!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The words of Allah are inexhaustible



“Say: If the sea were ink for [writing] the words of my Lord, surely the sea would be depleted before the words of My Lord would be depleted, even if we brought [another sea] like it for its aid.” {Qur’an 18:109}

This verse, along with a similarly worded statement in 31:27, which speaks of seven oceans being depleted before Allah’s words would become exhausted, is among the most beautiful expressions found in the Qur’an. Certainly there are many lessons that can be taken from this text, but for the sake of this brief composition we hope to focus on this; everyone and everything in creation is a ‘word of Allah’!

Every ‘word’ has a unique set of characteristics, just as every single hand has finger patterns that cannot be found in another person [i.e. fingerprints]. In this sense, no single ‘word’ has superiority over another. All of them come together to express the power, existence, and grandeur of the Sustainer of the universe. Perhaps a better analogy would be that of a book, any document or position paper. Many people become intrigued with the number of times a single word or phrase appears therein, while overlooking the clear intent or message the author attempts to convey throughout the entire text. Such an approach does a bit of a disservice to the text as well as its composer.
In saying that all humans, prophets and non-prophets, Muslim and Non-Muslim, and that all things in the creation, the trees, the animals, the sun, the moon, are ‘words of Allah’, it becomes important to qualify this assertion. To accomplish this, we have to examine the context in which the Qur’anic text under discussion is given. Immediately after the verse under discussion, we read

“Say [O Prophet!]: I am a man similar to yourselves [the only real difference being] inspiration has come to me, that your object of worship is really [suppose to be] the one [and only deity] [Ilaahukum, ilaahun waahidun.]].[Q 18:110]



While the ‘words’ in the form of prophets and scripture has ceased ‘writing’ [as the Qur’an itself is the final scripture, and its recipient Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah is the final prophet], the ‘words’ in the form of personal spiritual strength, intuitive knowledge, teachers and the like will continue throughout time. After all, we ask Allah’s guidance every day in Salaah. We do not invoke him in a vacuum, nor is he absent from the word [Na’oodhoo Billaah!] If such was the case, prayers and supplications would be useless.


“Allah does not communicate with man, except by inspiration [wahy], or from behind a barrier [Hijaaban] or by sending a messenger, to convey to him what he [Allah] wills. Surely, he is the most high, the wise” [Q 42:51].





Thus, the communication from Allah is continuous, and comes in various ways. In the same vein, we come to understand the phrases “spirit” and “word” [4:171 etc...] in reference to Jesus Christ. Christians hold the view that he, upon whom be peace, was ‘the word of God’ in a sense that he was unique, leading to the supposition that he was Divine. It is true that the Qur’an has dealt with that idea repeatedly, but the use of the phrase “a word from him” shows us that Allah seeks to convey, in a polite and subtle manner, the fact that while he was indeed unique in many ways, he was still a creation of Allah, not sharing divinity. To put all one’s eggs in one basket, or in this case, one word, and then exaggerating the position of that word, is quite damaging spiritually. A person’s religion or spiritual life becomes dependent on an individual or a set of individuals, which can lead to exploitation, fraud, and even mental slavery! So, when dealing with the idea that Jesus [or anyone else] is Divine, remember that the position of Jesus in the sight of Allah is similar to that of Adam. He had no physical parents as far as we understand, but that does not make him divine! It makes him an object created by Allah.


The Qur’an is the word of Allah, having the final say on all theological and spiritual issues [Q 25:1]. Its very nature is such that reading it always provides some new insight or guidance, regardless of the number of times it has been read in the past. It is the ultimate scripture in many ways, not just because it is the final book. It is suitable for a guide for all people, at all times and situations. It is because of the Qur’an that we come to understand the position of ‘words’ in this world.

Such realizations give spiritual freedom, and allow us to be able to call a spade a spade. It creates a basis for making better decisions in all parts of life, to be just and fair not only to our selves, but indeed to all others as well, regardless of their religious label or skin color. May Allah make us able to read and understand his words correctly, and to translate those words into practical results! Ameen!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are Muslims really collective ostrichs?


{ft.1}

Introduction

Thursday evening I received a telephone call from a Muslim brother in another location. He expressed indignation at the recent arrest of four Muslim men in the state of New York for an alleged plot to shoot down planes and attack a Jewish Synagogue.

His concerns were, in essence, two-fold. [A] Our Masaajid [Mosques] are not speaking about a rise in violent extremism among members of the Muslim community. In his words "we only talk about the Qur'an and the Sunnah?" [B] Islam is spreading among people who have issues with modern life, 'anti-american folks' as he termed it. In addressing point B, It is sufficient to note both from personal experience as well as statistics that Islam is being embraced, more and more, by a comfortable middle-class. One example of a stable person embracing Islam has already been discussed . Certainly, one does not need to have a bias towards America to embrace Islam.


Do we really ignore the rise of violence prone extremism?


The answer to this is a resounding NO! Blogs, webforums, books, position papers and lectures produced by Muslims are all full of various conclusions on this phenomenon.This writer has personally sat in the audience of many Friday Khateebs delivering the khutbah addressing this problem, usually from a religious viewpoint, all calling for an end to religiously inspired violence.

I told the brother that perhaps at his Masjid the issue is not discussed because the Imams there do not see it as relevant to the needs of their particular audience. Moreover, an audience does not want to hear about negative issues every Friday at the Masjid from the Imam or Khateeb. It can be argued that the Friday Jumu'ah Khutbah should keep these sort of issues, if discussed at all, to a very limited few minutes, leaving the issue to be discussed in a more appropriate setting.{Ft.2}

So, Yes we are discussing this problem. The level of discourse will of course vary from one group to another, and the proposes solutions will also vary. Most of us always assert that the solution is a "return to the Qur'an and Sunnah", some say we have to become 'modern', but nonetheless the problem of religiously-inspired violence is on the radar.

Just what is the solution?

In the context of the broader Muslim world, if we want events such as suicide bombings to end, more justice and opportunities must be forthcoming from the elites. Poverty and oppression is the daily experience of many people, especially in Palestine. Such circumstance will naturally produce reactions. Just attacking the symptoms will not due, the causes must be addressed, with an interest in fair play. Occupation of many Muslim lands by foreign armies, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan, must also end, and allow for a truly independent government to be formed, one which will address the heightened tensions in their society.

It is worth noting that there will always be "crazies" out there, but in terms of addressing the root causes, they will have to be marginalized while the root causes are examined and addressed.


The latest plot

Returning to the Bronx arrests, I have to express my doubts as to exactly how serious was the threat. After all, we all know the expression about the boy who cried wolf. Take, for instance, the following paragraph from Friday's newspaper.

According to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday night, federal officials had been aware of the plot for almost a year and had an informant working with the crew. The FBI arranged for the alleged plotters to receive a non-functioning missile and bogus C-4 explosives. [USA Today, 5/22/09, page 3A '4 held without bail in chilling plot']

Does it really take one year for an attack on a place of worship? For the government to 'arrange' for them to take possession of these items seems a bit like entrapment. Moreover, the Imam of a Mosque attended by some of the alleged plotters occasionally was quoted in the same article as asserting that they were "poor and needy". Do poor and needy people have the time, interest, money or training to acquire, store and use these devices? Moreover, what benefit would they have gained for such an insane and immoral attack?

Certainly we don't know all the facts, but nonetheless I think these are legitimate concerns. Fear is a motivator, and on the surface, this appears to be one of those occasions. Perhaps it is conceivable that one or two individuals among them spoke of their frustrations [they were all convicted of crimes in the past] which led to their entrapment. Below is another article explaining a similar view.

Yet Another Bogus ‘Terror’ Plot
by Robert Dreyfuss

By now it's maddeningly familiar. A scary terrorist plot is announced. Then it's revealed that the suspects are a hapless bunch of ne'er-do-wells or run-of-the-mill thugs without the slightest connection to any terrorists at all, never mind to Al Qaeda. And finally, the last piece of the puzzle: The entire plot is revealed to have been cooked up by a scummy government agent-provocateur.

I've seen this movie before.

In this case, the alleged perps -- Onta Williams, James Cromitie, David Williams, and Laguerre Payen -- were losers, ex-cons, drug addicts. Al Qaeda they're not. Without the assistance of the agent who entrapped them, they would never have dreamed of committing political violence, nor would they have had the slightest idea about where to acquire plastic explosives or a Stinger missile. That didn't stop prosecutors from acting as if they'd captured Osama bin Laden himself. Noted the Los Angeles Times:

Prosecutors called it the latest in a string of homegrown terrorism plots hatched after Sept. 11. "It's hard to envision a more chilling plot," Assistant U.S. Atty. Eric Snyder said in court Thursday. He described all four suspects as "eager to bring death to Jews."

Actually, it's hard to imagine a stupider, less competent, and less important plot. The four losers were ensnared by a creepy FBI agent who hung around the mosque in upstate New York until he found what he was looking for. Here's the New York Times account:

Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad, the imam at the mosque where the authorities say the confidential informant first encountered the men, said none of the men were active in the mosque. ...

Mr. Cromitie was there last June, and he met a stranger.

He had no way of knowing that the stranger's path to the mosque began in 2002, when he was arrested on federal charges of identity theft. He was sentenced to five years' probation, and became a confidential informant for the F.B.I. He began showing up at the mosque in Newburgh around 2007, Mr. Muhammad said.

The stranger's behavior aroused the imam's suspicions. He invited other worshipers to meals, and spoke of violence and jihad, so the imam said he steered clear of him.

"There was just something fishy about him," Mr. Muhammad said. Members "believed he was a government agent."

Mr. Muhammad said members of his congregation told him the man he believed was the informant offered at least one of them a substantial amount of money to join his "team."

So a creepy thug buttonholes people at a mosque foaming at the mouth about violence and jihad? This is law enforcement? Just imagine if someone did this at a local church, or some synagogue. And the imam says the people "believed he was a government agent."

Preying on these losers -- none of whom were apparently actual Muslims -- the "confidential informant" orchestrated the acquisition of a disabled Stinger missile to shoot down military planes and cooked up a wild scheme about attacking a Jewish center in the Bronx.

But according to a Los Angeles Times report, it is even more pathetic:

The only one of the four suspects who appears to have aroused any suspicion was Payen, a Haitian native who attended the Newburgh mosque. Assistant imam Hamid Rashada said his dishevelment and odd behavior disturbed some members, said the assistant imam, Hamid Rashada.

When Payen appeared in court, defense attorney Marilyn Reader described him as "intellectually challenged" and on medication for schizophrenia. The Associated Press said that when he was asked if he understood the proceedings, Payen replied: "Sort of."

Despite the pompous statements from New York Mayor Bloomberg and other politicians, including Representative Peter King, the whole story is bogus.

The four losers may have been inclined to violence, and they may have harbored a virulent strain of anti-Semitism. But it seems that the informant whipped up their violent tendencies and their hatred of Jews, cooked up the plot, incited them, arranged their purchase of weapons, and then had them busted. To ensure that it made headlines, the creepy informant claimed to be representing a Pakistani extremist group, Jaish-e Muhammad, a bona fide terrorist organization. He wasn't, of course.

It is disgusting and outrageous that the FBI is sending provocateurs into mosques.
The headlines reinforce the very fear that Dick Cheney is trying to stir up. The story strengthens the narrative that the "homeland" is under attack. It's not. As I've written repeatedly, since 9/11 not a single American has even been punched in the nose by an angry Muslim, as far as I can tell.

Plot after plot -- the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge! bombing the New York Subways! taking down the Sears Tower! bombing the Prudential building in Newark! -- proved to be utter nonsense.


Robert Dreyfuss is a contributing editor to The Nation magazine, and the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Metropolitan).

Copyright © 2009 The Nation -- distributed by Agence Global



In any case, I hope this case will be watched carefully.

Footnotes

[1] One word for Ostrich in Arabic is Dhaaleem. The Ostrich bird puts his head in the sand, as shown above, so the name Dhaaleem implies a self-oppression or self-delusion.

[2] The Friday prayer's main purpose, according to the Qur'an, is "the remembrance of Allah" [Q 62:9]. Some argue that we should keep to a religious theme in the khutbah and avoid politics and the like all together. However, this position seems at variance with the practice of both the Prophet and early Khulafaa', who had no problems using it as an opportunity to share non-religious information of societal consequence. Many scholars say this is precisely why we traditionally divide the Khutbah into two parts, the latter part being used to discuss societal or communal concerns.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Label wars: the image of Muslims


Although an on-going issue, the recent developments in Swat valley in NorthWest Pakistan, in which there is a state of actual war between the government and the "Taleban" [an issue far beyond the scope of this particular post] has once again brought into focus a more subtle conflict; the assumptions automatically made when certain labels are used when it comes to anything relating to Islam or Muslims.

Take for instance Miss Irshad Manji. An open lesbian of Indian backround, she is tauted as a "Muslim reformer" or "liberal". In her book The trouble with Islam, she expresses her feelings that parts of the Qur'an are not really from God, that the Prophet Muhammad [Peace be upon him] was a violent warlord, she has said publically that she does not observe daily prayers, yet she is tauted as "modern" "forward looking" in additon to "Muslim"! It is as if this is the image many would like to adopt as the acceptable Muslim!


So, if someone like Ms. Manji is an acceptable Muslim, an example for all to follow, then it stands to reason that anything else, such as daily prayers, attempting to live according to the values and guidelines found in the Qur'an and Uswah Hasanah [goodly model] of the Prophet Muhammad, God's last prophet and universal messenger, are all examples of "radicalism" "extremist" and 'fundamentalist thinking. A person who does not frequent the bars on Friday night, abstains from alcohol and casinos is a potential terrorist, a radical whose behaviour must be observed carefully by law enforcement agencies. A woman who dresses in a modest fashion must be oppressed, another victim of Radical Islam. One Muslim sister was asked while at a barber shop if she 'Liked' Islam! As if she would never want to, out of sheer conviction, be an observant Muslim!


It is very strange that all that is antithetical to Islam is promoted by those with certain social, financial and political motivations as the ideal for Muslim progress, both societal and as individuals, and that we should, in essence, be cultural Muslims, whose only practices should be avoiding eating pork, attending 'Eid prayers only [and having a Budweiser afterwards! ] and politically apathetic.



The struggle

We have briefly outlined the broad details of the label wars. The battle is taking place on websites, newspapers, books and op-ed pages. The goal is the minds and hearts of the Muslims everywhere, of all sects, races and educational backrounds.

I agree that there is an internal struggle within the Muslim Ummah in terms of defining extremism. I agree that many people have differing views on what extent one practice takes place over another, and on how we should live and conduct ourselves in society. This blog post here http://ibnatalhidayah.blogspot.com/2009/05/balance.html is a very good perspective on how to be a Muslim while at the same time maintaining equilibrium.

But none of that means we should just ignore the basic values given in religion. Certainly, those who intentionally and unregrettably preach ideals and conduct themselves in terms that are clearly outside of Islamic teachings should not be imposed upon us as models for "progressive" "reformist" Islam.

The basic values are outlined in the Qur'an. It was not sent to sit on the shelves and decorate the walls of our houses. It is a guide, something that is to be read again and again [which is clearly implied in the name Al-Qur'an itself]. There is a difference between honest disagreements in terms of its understanding and application versus deliberate attempts to make Muslims ignorant of their religion, to turn us into cultural Muslims only, having little or no connection to its teachings, practices or values.

Don't be a victim in the label war. Be armed with faith, practice and knowledge. Arm one's self with the actual, practical values of Islam. That is the best approach in handling this. This is the advice to our Muslim readers.

To our non-Muslim readers, we would like to remind you that Muslims are humans as well, with different perspectives, mental and social abilities. We may or may not represent the best of what Islam teaches. Therefore, do not judge Islam on what you hear or see from Muslims in the news, or from what they want you to hear.Judge on the basis of the logic and teaching found in the text, mainly the Qur'an. Do not read isolated verses. Seriously read it, examine the context of whatever desired texts in order to have a better perspective on the message. At the very least, it is our hope that such reading will allow the reader to ignore the label war all together, to not be fooled by oversimplistic assertions.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Multifaith council of Northwest Ohio's dinner






Held at the Congregation B'nai Israel in neighboring Sylvania, about 300 guests attended, and included tables and presenters from the Muslim community, Christians of various sects, Sikhs, Jains, Hindus and a variety of other religious groups.

It was a very warm environment and enlightening experience, I learned much from discussions with the various leaders.

Now, describing the pictures a bit, from top left is myself giving comments and benediction, the sanctuary of the Synagogue, the flame at the top of the picture is symbolic of God speaking to Moses [ Musa 'Alayhis salaam]. Bottom left, with Miss Ann, one of the organizers, and at the bottom right, with our friends and activists Ahmed Kadri and wife Amirah.


The guest speaker was Peter Adriance, an NGO liason for the U.S.Bahais, who spoke on the relationship between religious communities and efforts for environmental causes.


There is more I could say, but don't know where to begin. Needless to say, these sort of events are good ways to learn about others, but also to share information about Islam. We show ourselves as humans, and not fanatical monsters. That goes a long way.

Peace.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Christian/Muslim identity? thoughts on Rev.Ann Holmes Redding





The Reverend Ann Holmes Redding was recently fired from her post of two decades as an Episcopal minister. Certainly this was not unexpected, due to the fact that for the last three years or so, she has been a practicing Muslim, having taken her Shahaadah [declaration of faith, which acknowledges God's oneness and Muhammad as God's messenger and Last Prophet], and saw no conflict between Christianity and Islam. She is quoted as saying " When I took my shahada, I said there's no God but God and that Mohammed is God's prophet or messenger. Neither of those statements, neither part of that confession or profession denies anything about Christianity." [ http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/04/02/muslim.minister.defrocked/#cnnSTCText].

Sister Redding is to be commended for standing for her principles and her beliefs. It is also understandable that the Episcopal Church would take the step of removing her status as a minister, and it seems they did so in a respectful way. They referred to her as a person of "great integrity".


Dual identity?

Although I must admit to a bit of confusion, it seems as if Sister Redding's approach to religion is one that combines elements of both traditional Christianity and Islam [as popularly understood] in forming her thoughts and practices. Until her sacking, she still conducted services at the Church, while she also observed the Muslim prayers [Salaah] at a local Mosque [see image above].

I also must confess ignorance as to whether or not she holds any of the views that are considered "orthodox" within Christendom, i.e. the divinity of Christ, the blood atonement, etc..! Regardless of her understanding of these controversial theological issues, her acceptance of Islam while maintaining a link to her Christian heritage does bring in mind questions as to whether dual identity in religion is acceptable, which this post seeks to address. It is my hope that the thoughts expressed in this post will generate much discussion and dialogue, as well as investigation into Islamic texts and theology by our Non-Muslim friends. We will avoid speaking from a Christian perspective, as a Muslim I would certainly be unqualified to do that. Rather, we will attempt to address these issues from a Qur'anic-bases perspective.


Islam: the path of Jesus and Muhammad

The name Islam or Al-Islam ["The Islam"] is not a proper noun, at least from the Quranic context. It is a Gerund [Masdar] in Arabic grammar. This means that is more of a description, rather than a proper noun. As a word, it means "surrender" or "submission" to God. This word Islam is very unique, as the linguistic meaning is not tied up in the personality or religion of a particular people [unlike "Christianity" which revolves around Christ, "Judaism" around the Jewish tribes, "Buddhism" around the Buddha, and so forth]. In the Bible itself, as it is today, we can still find Islam being taught therein. This may sound strange to both Christians and Muslims, but we would like to offer the following Biblical texts as examples of Jesus Christ teaching Islam. All Biblical quotes below are from the New International Version {NIV] Study Bible. [Zondervan, 2002 Grand Rapids, Michigan]

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked "Teacher, what good things must I do to get eternal life?". "Why do you ask me about what is good?". Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good, if you want to enter life, obey the commandments." 'Which ones, the man inquired. Jesus replied "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself. Matt. 19:16-19.


The same source says that he was asked about the greatest commandment in the law. the response was "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all of your soul, and all of your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it 'love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." [Matt. 22: 36-40]


The commandments are a list of things to do and things to avoid. In other words, it's a list of actions that constitute Islam ["Submission"] and what falls outside of it! In this regards, it is very clear that Jesus [peace be upon him] taught Islam and was himself a "Muslim" [One who was submissive to God]!


The popular understanding of the words "Islam" and "Muslim" identifies with the followers of Muhammad and the Qur'an alone. However, the Qur'an itself shows us that there has never been any religion in God's sight other than Islam [ Q 3:19], and that an integral part of being a Muslim is to believe in all of the messengers of God without distinction [Q 2:285]{Ft.#1].

The issue of a 'dual identity' becomes mute if one understands the Biblical Jesus as one who taught submission to God. It becomes mute when we understand that Muhammad himself was teaching submission to God. The religion is the same one, albeit expressed in differing terms. One Hadeeth attributed to the Prophet Muhammad [Peace be upon him] himself states that the prophets are all from the same father, only having different mothers.[ [Sunan Abî Dâwûd (4324) and Musnad Ahmad (8902)].


Is there a difference between 'Biblical Islam' and 'Qur'anic Islam'?

To approach this question, it is important to know that most, if not all, of the various traditions within the bulk of Christianity [or popular Christianity] has little resemblance to anything Jesus said or did. Countless books, essays and position papers have been published by both Non-Muslim and Muslim writers on various topics. The Qur'an itself takes the position that the scripture of the Jews and Christians themselves have been subject to intense editing, to the point where it becomes almost unrecognizable as a book from God [Q 2:79]. In such circumstances, we have to say that the Bible we have today gives glimpses of what can be termed 'Biblical Islam' but ends at that. So much other material has been placed therein that the average person has no ability to distinguish what is indeed from "the presence of God" and what is not.


Despite that, the Qur'an has repeatedly told us that the Christians [and other people of religious traditions and scripture] will be rewarded twice [Q 28:52-54] meaning that God looks at their actions, intentions and faith, blesses them for it, and gives a double blessing by that person accepting and conforming to the Islam that is found in the Qur'an and preached by the Prophet Muhammad. When we see figures such as our sister Redding, the following beautiful Quranic passage comes to mind.

And when they hear the revelation sent to the messenger [Muhammad, meaning the Qur'an sent to him], you see their eyes with tears, for they recognize truth from their lord. They say "Our Lord, We believe, so write us down as among the witnesses.' And why should we not believe in God, in the truth which has come to us, as we hope that Our Lord will allow us to enter the company of righteous people. And so, God rewarded them with Gardens, with rivers flowing underneath, to dwell in it for eternity. And this is the reward of those who do good. Q 5:83-85



The Qur'anic Islam is one which is from God without any corruptions therein. The Book of Allah itself serves as the main item by which we distinguish corruption from Divine truth. The Qur'anic Islam is perfected [Q 5:3] and completed in the time of the Messenger himself, meaning there will be no other scripture from God, nor a prophet after the Prophet Muhammad. That boat has sailed, and while it is true that communication and guidance can still come in some ways, in terms of world prophets and scriptures, that will not happen again. The Qur'an is the final say on the position of Christ and all the other theological questions that continue to haunt Christendom. Sister Redding seems to have found that, and we hope that God blesses her as a result, and bless us with guidance, mercy and love. We don't have to label ourselves with various adjectives and hyphenated names. Jesus did not call himself a "Christian". If he were to accept any label, it would be as a submitter to God, or in Arabic, Muslim.

Footnote
#1= The meaning of Islam, Muslim, Kaafir and the Qur'anic style have all been addressed by this writer in essays published in The language of revelation. For details, contact the author.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Tolerance and Religious conviction: some thoughts on mutual respect

This has been a subject that has been on my mind for a while, but have until now found it difficult to put in words. In the United States, as well as in other nations of the world where followers of varying faiths live with each other,key words such as 'tolerance' and mutual respect would seem to be common sense, a practical reality that must be observed, leaving differences to be addressed at their proper venues.

Yet, among our most active religious leaders, we find that sometimes their statements, especially in the presence of 'the other' is vary lacking, and outright worthy of condemnation. This problem can be named with a very common title, the Foot-in mouth disease. Statements can be made which cause great hurt, and the speaker can be heedless. This is a clear symptom of the disease.

Recently I attended a funeral, the deceased being an elderly woman, the mother of several children, one of whom being a Muslim. She was not a Muslim, and from what I have been told, was not a participant in 'organized religion', but nonetheless was given a traditional, largely Christian funeral. The [Muslim] son was one of many family members to speak, and he made a passing remark about his mother's character being such, that her guidance and encouragement actually pushed him [the son] to 'the path I am on'. Any honest observer listening to his brief comments would easily testify that there was no proselytizing of Islam involved. His comments were about his mother and the relationship they enjoyed.

Later in the funeral program, the pastor officiating the funeral stood at the podium and said

This young man says he's a Mooz-lim [sic], but Jesus is for them as well.Jesus is the only path to the Father.


The family was very upset, the Muslims were obviously offended, not to mention the Muslim family members [the grandchildren of the deceased].


Certainly this caused many people to confront the Reverend, who was unapologetic.I am not faulting him for believing what he believes, as that is his right as a human being, but there is a time and a place for everything, and to choose a funeral for expressing such views was inappropriate, to say the least.


What Venues are appropriate?

Conversations with friends, visiting houses of worship or study group gatherings, wherein exchanges, learning and debating may be appropriate, are all good places to start. With the advent of the INTERNET, this is much easier, as a person can join several religious forums, where every conceivable issue can be discussed in a safe, inexpensive and private manner.

To a conscious Muslim, this advice is nothing new. This certainly falls under the category expressed by the Qur'an in the following words;

Call to your Lord's path with wisdom and articulate reminders. [Q 16:105]

Insulting people or debating them at funerals, weddings and the like do not correspond with wisdom!~

Advice to Muslims

To those of us who have an Islamic appearance [Kufi, Beard, Hijaab], know that you stand out in your workplace, when you catch the train, conducting your normal routine. You have to always be conscious of this, and attempt to always act in a friendly manner. Even if you feel mistrust on the part of others, recall the Prophet Muhammad. One disbeliever used to throw trash on a path he knew the Prophet [upon whom be peace] would walk down, on regular basis, but when this person became ill, the Prophet visited and checked up on him. This changed the man's attitude completely.


You will sometimes encounter people who wish to 'save your souls for Christ' or for some other motives or movements. They may even make you their target market, especially if you are from a Middle Eastern or South Asian background. They may visit your home, hoping to share their beliefs, and may even leave you literature in Arabic or Urdu. Others will be very ignorant, hurling insults, while others will approach you with genuine questions about your religion. In all these scenarios, the following is given as advice:

[1] Be calm, yet strong and assertive.

[2] Know your Deen before answering any questions. It is also always important to memorize and quote from Islamic texts, the most important being from the Qur'an, in dispelling any misinformation or just for the sake of sharing information.

[3] When possible, always have some literature handy, in your car, planner or purse. This will be helpful for those you are speaking with, for their future reference. The following pamphlets are available free. These brief works are straight to the point, with understandable language and Qur'anic references.

The timeless religion
http://islaminviewforum.com/index.php?act=Attach&type=post&id=537
Women in Islam
http://islaminviewforum.com/index.php?act=Attach&type=post&id=842
[The author's blog is modernmuslimwoman.com]

An introduction to the Qur'an
http://islaminviewforum.com/index.php?act=Attach&type=post&id=379
[4] Refer your listener to the local Mosque, and be sure that Mosque has relevant programs available. If not, take the initiative and start such a program, having qualified speakers and teachers.

And Allah knows best.