Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Understanding Qur'anic teachings: an Examination of the Functions of Virtue and Evil

Understanding Qur’anic Teachings: An Examination of the Functions of Virtue and Evil

All of us can identify what we see as manifest evil in our world. Among the top of this, we can name murders, wars, rape, and other crimes. These are all acts which largely fall in the control of individuals. Philosophers would call these actions moral evil. The seemingly destructive worldview of many humans can lead to a loss of faith, in both God and humanity itself.

In a similar vein, natural disasters, such as what we have witnessed recently in Indonesia, can have the same affect. Indeed, many will point to natural disasters to “prove” that God does not exist! Disasters such as tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, are all among the events beyond human abilities to control or direct, and as such philosophers refer to them as examples of natural evil.

God: The Ultimate Source of all events

In a world that largely depicts God and the Devil as equal co-potentials [even though they are perceived as representing polar opposites], it is understandable that there would be some confusion on the place of good and evil. We must admit that both inside and outside the Muslim Ummah, there have always been debates and differences among leading figures and thinkers on these issues.

The Qur’an says: “Praise belongs to Allah, who has created the Heavens and the Earth, and has made darkness and light [wa ja’aladh- dhulumaati wan Noor]. Despite this, the ‘Kuffaar’ ascribe equals to their ‘Rabb’ [Thummal ladheena kafaroo bi-Rabbihim Ya’diloon].” [Q 6:1]

The latter sentence clearly expresses a refutation of the idea of dualism, a Zoroastrian tenant which has influenced other faiths and philosophers. Dualism is the term that is used to explain the notion that God and the Devil both exist as equal co-potentials. The above Qur’anic verse shows that Allah, the most high, is the source of ‘darkness’ [Dhulumaat is actually the plural of ‘dhulm’, which can also mean ‘oppression’] as well as ‘light’. Similarly, in a Soorah that we have all memorized, a text that is recited when seeking protection from Satan [ Saheeh Al-Bukhari, 58:1805, Kitaab at-Tafseer], we are told to say, in part, to seek refuge with Allah “from evil which he has created” [ Min Sharri Maa Khalaq] {Q 113:2].

Struggles with evil are a tool for human development

To understand the Islamic perception on issues of this kind, we must treat the entire Qur’an as a united, coherent text, looking at the whole to understand its parts. The Qur’anic teaching is that God has placed humans in this world to have the role of Khalifah. We are to be stewards in this life that God has given us. Oftentimes, this role requires ‘on the job’ training, in order to be prepared for future challenges, in order to have moral, spiritual, material growth. In addition to this, as Muslims we have to remember these lessons, especially when there has been loss of physical life. This world is only the stepping stone into the next life, an existence that is eternal. Rather than loosing faith, we are to recognize that God alone is Al-‘Aleem [the All-knowing] and Al-Hakeem [The Wise]. “And put all of your trust [in Allah], if you are indeed believers.” [Q 5:23]

[Shamsuddin Waheed is Imam at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam, which has recently re-opened the historic Islamic Center at 722 E. Bancroft Street. More of his writings can be found at]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Questions on Islamic law: Apostasy, in light of Qur'an and Hadeeth

The following is an old post I made on other sites, in response to questions posed about the usual notion that a person who decides to "leave Islam" is to be executed. The question seems to get repeated of late, so below is a brief statement on the subject. Comments are always welcome, thanks and Salaam.

Salaam all,

A] Islam is a faith of utmost intellectual and spiritual conviction. We know this when we have only a cursory look at the Qur'an. Repeatedly, it points to Ayaat [signs] in the creation, even in ourselves, as evidence of Allah's power as well as his being the source of the Qur'an.

[B] Yes, the Qur'an says "No compulsion in the Deen" [Laa Ikraha Fid deen]. The reason for that is "The right guidance is very clear, distinct from confusion or misguidance" [Qad TabayyanaR-Rushdoo min al Ghiyy]. Allah does not need our salaah, fasting, Shahaadah or any of that. We require those things. For our guidance and spiritual salvation. If Allah does not need our 'Ibaadah, then why should we execute someone?

[C] The Prophet [Sall-Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] was, without doubt, the best Daa'ee. As such, there are very few reports in the hadeeth books dealing with the Prophet and "apostasy". Where such reports do exist [if we accept the reports as accurate & complete renderings of the events] we always see it in connection with something else. For example, there's a report that the Prophet executed "apostates" after sending them missionaries, at their request, but the report clearly states that the particular group laid a trap for the Muslim missionaries, killing them and plundering their goods. So, the punishment here was not for apostasy necessarily, but rather for murder.

[D] "Apostasy" was just another word for treason, or rebellion against the authorities. Such is clearly what occurred in the early days of Abu Bakr's rule.

[E] There has been debate for generations about some aspects of all this. For example, a Muslim who recognizes that Allah is One God, and Muhammad is his Prophet, yet prays only on fridays or the 'Eid [which is the case for many today], or, does not pray at all. Many would see such a person as an "apostate". My point being, if a government punishes people for "apostasy", it's going to be very subjective, and in the end accomplish nothing.

[F] Personal conviction and practice is, in the end,the business of the person and God. Unless he or she starts to attack Islam, with the purpose of destroying the UMMAH , we should leave them alone, both as a Muslim state and as individuals.

[G] Because of the logic inherent in Islam, there has historically been very few cases of apostasy. Moreover, in those days, all religious communities saw apostasy as punishable by execution, so it would have been logical for muslims to assume the same, even if never seen or done in their lifetime. It's one of those things people may never really think about because it never happens.

[H] Finally, back to the Qur'an. It tells us "And a party of Ahlil Kitaab asserted among themselves 'proclaim Imaan in that which has been sent to those who believe [meaning, pretend to believe just as Muslims do], in the beginning of the day, and [then proclaim] disbelief [wa akfurooo] in the night, so that hopefully, they [the Muslims] will return back [to Jaahiliyyah, i.e. reject Islam themselves] [La'allahum Yar ji'oon.] "[3:71].

Their plot was simple, this is a reference to Jews here, according to all Mufassireen. They would say the Shahaadah, etc.. and then "give it up", in order to demoralize the naive Muslims, convincing them that Islam was not a worth-while religion. The Qur'an clearly records their plot, something which scholars have acknowledged as well. Such a plot would be unthinkable had the punishment for apostasy [remember, this was in Madinah, where the Prophet was in charge] been the death penalty.

Any reports coming from the time of the Prophet, if we accept as accurate, are clearly with regards to treason, murder etc.. and not because someone was not intellectually convinced that he [Muhammad, 'Alayhis salaatu was salaam] was a Prophet.

Wallaahu A'laam,


Friday, October 22, 2010

Sacred Responsibility

Friday prayer lecture [Khutbah] at Masjid Al-Islam [Toledo, Ohio] on proper religious focus. Also addressed are the Quranic concepts of Judgment Day and death. Well received. Link is below, and comments are always welcome.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The relationship between the Qur'an and the Bible

Video of discussion regarding the Bible and the Qur'an. Subjects include [A] Belief in revealed scriptures. [B] Reasoning behind the sending of numerous scriptures and messengers. [C] Qur'an vis a vis other texts. [D] Historicity of the Bible.

Link to the Podcast is below


If unable to click, then copy/paste the site.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Blessed Ramadan

As we enter the 10th day of the blessed month, let us take advantage of it while we can. Ramadan is the month in which the revelation of the Qur'an commenced, it is, according to Hadeeth narrations, a time of forgiveness, mercy and freedom from Hell. It's a time of deep introspection, and of improving our spiritual condition.

One of its most salient features is the Laylatul Qadr. A period, which we are told, is "better than a thousand months" [Khayrum min alfi shahr]. this expression, which appears in the Qur'an 97:3, denotes a benefit from a certain period that can last a lifetime, or even more than that.

We seek this period in the last ten nights of Ramadan specifically [although many suggest other times, even outside of Ramadan], but we have to be prepared for it. Fasting, charity, good deeds, more prayers and Qur'an reading all prepare ourselves for that opportunity, to have access to spiritual forces that can give us greater faith, confidence, drive in life, and- in addition, God-willing, Paradise.

May Allah allow us to get prepared, forgive our sins, accept our repentance, fasting and acts of worship.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What happened to Islaminview forum?

Many of our readers are also members of the "Islaminview" forum. Its site is Three days ago, the site disappeared! All efforts to contact the host server [] was unsuccessful, and today we found out that ipbfree forums has "disappeared forever". One site explains this further:

"I apologize, but I am legally bound to keep secret why everything is missing. Just know that there is a reason and we at iPBFree no longer have control of the situation. I'm sorry for the damage this has caused. "

I can understand even a falling out, or possible violations. What I can't understand is why no one was given a chance to retrieve any of their data before this happened. I guess the fact that the service was free means no accountability on the part of the company. Sad, sad world when the '**** you' is said to being considerate of others."

Who knows what happened, but it appears that unless someone at IPBFREE is going to recover the date somewhere, our forum, as well as thousands of others, are lost to posterity. This is sad because the discussions, posts and membership is top-notch, ours was a small forum, but one where everyone basically got along, despite religious, ethnic, cultural and class differences. Many people learned about various aspects of Islam there, our forum.

Now we have to decide whether to build another forum or to find some other means of sharing our thoughts, experiences and the like.

Any suggestions, kindly pass them along by posting a comment.

Salaam, Peace.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Death: an Islamic perspective


The end of physical life, be that of our loved ones and even of our selves, is not a pleasant thought. It is a frightening reality that cannot be escaped. At best, it can only be delayed. It is an emotionally draining experience for the survivors of a deceased loved one. It is our intention here to share a summary of Islamic teachings on death, and its aftermath. This is by no means intended to be a comprehensive review of all the texts, nor does this writer claim to be mistake free in his understanding and perceptions of this most sensitive issue.

The ceasing of one existence in exchange for another

The physical body we have and enjoy will at some point cease to exist. The end is determined by God, in his infinite wisdom, and it happens only when it is appropriate for the deceased as well as for family/society surrounding that person[s]. The Qur'an says that it cannot be delayed or advanced, and will eventually catch up with us [Q 4:11, 40:68].

With the end of the physical existence in this material world, another one opens up. Known by many names throughout all cultures, this reality is called the Akhirah ["afterlife"] by Muslims, and indeed this is a designation given throughout the Qur'an. The physical body will not be making that journey into the Akhirah, rather it is the eternal, true essence [Nafs] of the individual that will experience the Akhirah.

The Nafs

The Nafs is the lasting component of the person. As mentioned earlier, it is really eternal. In this regards, it is important to make the following connections that can only be found in the Qur'an, the scripture given to the Prophet Muhammad, Allah's final Prophet and messenger to all mankind, the deliver of "all truth". The Qur'an commands Muslims in the following manner;

"And when afflicted with a calamity, believers say 'surely, we belong to Allah, and to him is our return."[Qur'an 2:156]

In Arabic, the sentence is Inna Lillaahi wa Inna Ilayhi Raaji'oon. This sentence has come to be recited even when losing an item such as keys and when annoyed. Yet, here we are concerned about the Qur'anic command to recite this, to recall this fact, when receiving or thinking about the death of someone else. Why should we recite this statement? Because it serves as a reminder to the survivor[s] that the deceased is in the presence of God, the possession of God. Such knowledge is important because according to the Qur'an:

"What is in your possession will vanish, and what is with Allah is lasting [Baaq]." [Qur'an 16:96]

Thus, while the physical host of the Nafs eventually deteriorates, the Nafs itself, the container of all that made that person unique, the good and the bad, the personality and the jokes, are all "preserved" in the Divine presence. This reminder should give solace and strength to the deceased, and we hope that when it is our turn to expire, we remember these Quranic assertions as well. God knows all the actions, beliefs, attitudes of all in his dominion.

The fate of the Nafs

While some faiths believe in reincarnation or in the migration of souls, Islam views each and every single NAFS as unique, in the same way fingerprints are, and has only one turn in this world.

It is the actions, morals etc..that play the greatest part in determining the fate of the Nafs. To use a scriptural analogy, if the 'scale of deeds' weigh in the best direction, then that person will have quite a pleasant fate, in what we call heaven or paradise. The one whose life has been spent in selfish pursuits, with no consideration for ethics and morals, with little in the form of good deeds to be placed on that scale, then their destination will not be the same as those whose scale weighs very heavy in the good deeds.

Then, he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) heavy,
Will be in a Life of good pleasure and satisfaction.
But he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) light - Will have his home in a (bottomless ) Pit.
And what will explain to thee what this is? (It is) a Fire blazing fiercely!

Qur'an 101:5-11

Descriptions of Heaven and Hell are figurative

The Qur'an repeatedly uses the phraseMathal ["expression", "parable", "similitude"] when describing the soul's fate in Jannah [paradise] or Jahannam [Hell]. References can be found in 2:25-26, 13:35 and very clearly in 47:15.

Moreover, when one thinks about it, the descriptions of paradise as having rivers, houses, springs, are all things we have to work for in this world. God uses such language to describe realities that we have not faced in this world. The same can be said of Hell, universally seen as a blazing fire. A fire is prepared, kindled, by the striking of rocks in the correct manner, by matches or fuel etc...! It is also 'earned'!

Perhaps heaven and hell are descriptions of soul perceptions, "projections" directed by Divine will due to the actions of the said soul.

Theology as a basis for heaven and hell

It should be noted here that the famous John 3:16 text of the Christian text, which basically assigns all non Christians to perdition, has no equivalent in the Qur'an. God created the Muslims and the Non-Muslims, and the Qur'an makes it clear that he cares for and nourishes all, including the Non-Muslims. Indeed, this fact is recited daily [Alhamdulillaahi Rabbil 'aal ameenin prayers.

The Qur'an tells us [ see 2:62, 5:69] that certain non-Muslim religious communities are essentially destined for his good graces. The reason is simple..their basic actions constitute the foundation needed for building a place in Jannah. The above referenced texts assert those prerequisites are belief and good deeds.

Now, it should be noted that this does not mean that the theology held by Christians or Jews are seen as correct according to the Qur'an. It only shows Divine mercy and justice, even in the midst of ideological errors. As I type this article, I am wearing a white shirt, but what if someone mistakenly says its black? Well, I can correct them, but even if they refuse the correction, should I hate that person? Would that be reasonable?

Returning to the criterion for God's paradise for a moment, the Qur'an also says “[God swears ] By the time, surely, humans are in consistent loss, except those who believe, do righteous works, and enjoin mutual [calling to] truth, and mutual [reminders of ] patience: [103:1-3]"

We hope to be among those whose scale is full of good deeds, of faith in Allah, receiving mercy and guidance always. Ameen!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Releases from Arifin Imports

Arifin Imports & Publications is proud to release on sale two of our newest items.

[1] [DVD] "Trees and Oceans, Allah's words". Beautiful, quality recording of a Khutbah that basically explains the awesome message, or philosophy, behind the Qur'anic verse "Say: if the oceans were ink, the oceans would be exhausted, but the words of my Lord would not be finished, even if another ocean were added for its assistance." [18:109]

This DVD also begins with a beautiful recitation from the Qur'an, and is highly suggested as a gift to a New-Muslim, Non Muslim, or just about anyone with an interest in religion, Qur'anic exegesis [Tafseer]. Sale price is $9.95 plus shipping and handling.

[2] Millat Ibrahim

Khutbah at Masjid Al-Islam Toledo Ohio, discusses the position of Abraham in the monotheistic religions, Pilgrimage, importance of traveling to attain spiritual growth and development, and a host of other issues. A clip of this lecture is available on YOUTUBE, at our channel Arifin publications.

This is also available for $9.95 plus shipping and handling. To order, please contact

Arifin Imports & Publications
P O Box 70617
Toledo, Ohio 43607

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Issues of the day

These days it is very common to see aspects of "Islamic law" [Sharee'ah] brought up in media outlets and discussions with anti-Muslim elements [indeed, even among some Muslims on occasion], as a way to embarrass or ridicule the overall message of Islam itself, while at the same time maintain the "superiority" of the "Western' way of doing things.

Islam as religious practice and as a Political ideology are both seen as inherently inflexible, unable to function in modern society.Our intransigence has made us hateful, we are told, of the physical accomplishments of the Non-Muslim world, and manifests itself in "our" women wearing various "Islamic clothing" [everything from the Khimaar to the Niqaab], by 'fanatically' clinging onto five daily prayers, by having 'distinctive' architecture [ take for example the minarets traditionally attached to the Mosques, now made illegal in Switzerland] and eventually this intransigence leads to violence against some innocent third parties.

It is our intention here to present in a condensed form some thoughts on these issues, as well as what we perceive to be the genesis of the above.

Islamic Law vs. "Western" law [democracy/secularism]

Obviously, "law" to a Muslim encompasses a great number of things. It can refer to the prayer format [i.e. Qur'an recitation, prostrations, etc...] to the prohibition of Alcohol and Pork, all the way to the penalties for murder.

We acknowledge that the "democratic" legal tradition can be argued to be lacking when compared to the Islamic law in some respects, after all, with the exception of Murder mentioned above, there are no laws in any Western nation regulating prayer methods and dietary practices yet we have to also admit that the Qur'an does not give direct rulings on every single legal issue. Certainly, it contains prohibitions and punishments regarding theft, murder, embezzlement, etc... and does give some punishments that would be deemed unacceptable in a multicultural, modern world as ours. Cutting the hand of the [perpetual] thief, execution of rapists, a physical penalty for Zinaa are some examples.

The message of the Qur'an, the practice and the spirituality that emanates from the Qur'an, should not be misinterpreted or summarized just in the presence of exemplary punishments. That would be over simplistic. Every legal tradition evolved in a unique set of circumstances, and the presence of exemplary [or 'harsh'] punishments in the legal texts [for Muslims, the ultimate source is the Qur'an itself] only shows that there has to be some remedy available for extreme circumstances. Indeed, this has been historically recognized, in that theft [for example] was only to be punished by cutting the hand when a certain amount was taken, all of which depending on the particular case itself. This is the Muslim scholars approach. Even in the early days, during the reign of the Khalifah 'Umar ibn Al-khattab [d. 644 C.E.], famine swept the Arabian peninsula, so he [the Khalifah] deemed it unjust to punish theft, especially of food items, knowing full well the citizenry was in dire straits. May God be pleased with him, one of the wisest and most fair rulers of all time. The point being the Islamic message need not be seen as "rigid" and inflexible.

Besides, any legal system imposes limitations on what is allowed and what is not. If there were no such limitations in place, the system would be meaningless. So why is it that only the Muslims or their religion is seen as 'rigid'?

Muslims and Islam are sometimes two different things

This author has a "Muslim look" [beard, olive skin complexion], and a while back I was asked by some random guy on the street "why do you kill your women?' He also asked me "why do you force your women to wear all black?" It is true the guy was looking for an argument, but even in such circumstances I tried to be reasonable. Some women wear black as part of their cultural expression, but such choices are not mandated by the Qur'an at all. There is nothing inherently Islamic or Un-Islamic by wearing black. It is a neutral issue, a moot point, as far as the Islamic texts are concerned. This is the answer I provided for the guy, and also for you, our noble reader.

To outsiders, and sometimes even among us, cultural or personal choices are mistaken for Islamic! This has always been the case, and will continue to be the case, as long as humans remain human. Fortunately, we have access to the Qur'an, and in the modern world even access to the canonical works of Hadeeth, Fiqh, etc.. [thanks to the internet, book companies, otherwise such works would only be available to the scholars and specialists], so we can find out rather easily what is authentic according to Islam and what is spurious.

It is commonly assumed that 'honor killings" is sanctioned by Islam. Now, while segments of both Muslim and Non-Muslim societies accept it [ one only need to look at Egyptian Christians who engage in the same], no where in the Qur'an or Hadeeth literature can there be found any justification.

Sexual relationships are a sensitive issue, and the Qur'an advocates that such can be engaged in only within certain confines. It also tells us a legal punishment for those who violate that restriction, but it is apparent that the punishment is only in some extreme circumstances. This is because [A] To even make the charge in an Islamic judicial system, a minimum of four witnesses are required. If such are unavailable [and unless the act is taking place in public, they are never available anyways] then the one who makes the charge will be deemed unreliable as a witness for any future cases, and is open to punishment themselves. Please see Qur'an 24:4 [Ft.1].

[B] The Qur'anic punishment is suppose to be for both parties [provided of course the requirements are met as mentioned above]. The wording of the verse is Az-Zaaniyatu waz Zaaniy 'The woman and the man who has done Zinaa..'[Q 24:2], yet it is often imagined [and indeed, when 'honor killings' take place] that the female alone is to be punished. Besides all of this, there is no death penalty given for this.

So, even when there is guilt, when no evidence is available, legally nothing can be done about it. This is God's wisdom, which allows all the parties/families involved to address the issue internally, one way or the other. There is no need for putting all the dirty laundry out there. This wisdom is applicable anywhere, any place and any time. Alhamdulillaah!

Applying Islamic laws in the West?

There is a great fear that the Muslims in the West are a third column, ready to march on capitals, cutting off heads, whipping and amputating. This fear led the Swiss voters to recently ban minarets on Mosques in their country, even though its purpose is only for architecture. Some posters distributed by the supporters of the law asserted that minarets are ''symbols of Islamic fascism". The specter of fear was waved so much that people actually thought the Muslims in Switzerland were ready to take over and impose Islamic laws, even though the Muslims there are a minority.

Well, despite their fears, Muslims are already conducting themselves on the basis of Islamic laws. Our Marriages, funerals, rituals, fasting, etc.. are all done according to Islam, not according to the whims of voters. But as for the laws mentioned earlier in this post, i.e. for theft, Zinaa, etc.. no Muslim in his or her right mind would dream of such a thing in a Western context, for many, many reasons. The least of those reasons is that even in the traditional sense, Non-Muslims were exempted from Islamic laws anyways. Moreover, there are reasons that Muslims living in the West participate in the legal system prevalent.[ft.2]

Concluding thoughts

There are many elements out there, seeking to publish their views and push their agendas. In a world with so much information readily available, it is important that all people remain informed, educated and well-rounded. Such a position can actually reduce tensions, hatred and violence. Mutual understanding and wisdom in dealing with things are needed more so than armies, intelligence agencies and law enforcement. As the Qur'an says "Do not let hatred of a people towards you swerve you away from justice" [ Q 5:8].


[1] It should be noted that the Quranic verse actually says "and those who throw[Yarmoona] [the public accusation of Zinaa] against Al-Muhsanaat.."[Q 24:4] the latter word means "the goodly women", translated as "The chaste women" by both A.Yusuf 'Ali and the Saheeh international translations, shows that the principle here is 'innocent until proved guilty'.

[2] Please see our "Voting for the first time" at Also of interest is this discussion at the Islaminviewforum site, called "Islam and Corporal punishment" This discussion is still open, to contribute to it, become a member of the forum.