CLICK HERE FOR THOUSANDS OF FREE BLOGGER TEMPLATES »

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Some pictures, Hajj

The Ka'bah
Roof of Masjid Al-Haram,Tahajjud prayers
Outside of Masjid Al-Haram, site of the Ka'bah
After Friday prayer: Look at that diverse crowd
Outside of the hotel, Friday prayer crowd






An American Imam's first Hajj

[Note: The following was an article about my recent Hajj -pilgrimage to Makkah-published at onislam.net.]

An American Imam’s First Hajj

(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
By Shamsuddin Waheed
Wednesday, 28 November 2012 00:00
The main purpose of Hajj is to create awareness, a consciousness that is to influence the remainder of one’s life.
I was blessed to perform the Hajj (pilgrimage) this year.
It was my first time to go on Hajj, and I would like to share my experience of this blessed journey for the benefit of readers who have not yet performed this important pillar of Islam.
Arriving in Madinah
My visit to Madinah was very special.
We were blessed to stay in a hotel right across the street from Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the sacred mosque of the Prophet). Visiting Madinah and the Prophet’s mosque is not part of the Hajj rites, but is a highly recommended thing to do.
The mosque has a peaceful feeling at all times; it has a unique atmosphere. The Prophet is reported to have said:
"The prayer in my mosque (Al-Madinah mosque) is better than one thousand prayers in any other mosque with the exception of Al-Haram mosque (in Makkah), and a prayer in Al-Haram mosque is better than one hundred thousand prayers." (Ahmad)
I found peace at the Prophet’s mosque, despite the crowds of people doing the same thing I was trying to do!
It is ideal for private prayer, contemplation and reflection. One feature that can be found there is regular teaching circles (halaqas) taking place in languages as diverse as Urdu, French and even Russian, in addition of course to Arabic.
In Makkah
Pilgrimage to Makkah is not only associated with the importance of the city in Prophet Muhammad's life, but the main rites date back to Prophet Abraham’s era, and all Muslims follow his message of tawheed (monotheism) until today.
These are the rites that I was enthusiastically doing in Makkah:
Circumambulating around the Ka’bah (Tawaf)
When I arrived in Makkah, mainly to the Haram mosque, the first sight of the Ka’bah was overwhelming.
When I first arrived and had the opportunity to do ‘Umrah, and while doing Tawaf (circumambulation around the Ka’bah seven rounds), I pondered on the importance of the famous hadith in which the Prophet is reported to have said:
"Whoever performs Hajj for Allah's pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife and does not do evil or sins then he will return [after Hajj free from all sins] as if he were born anew." (Al-Bukhari)
There, I acquainted with pilgrims from every nation imaginable and from places previously unknown to me. It occurred to me that Hajj is the ritual of unity and diversity. Different groups with different colors and languages were reciting the Quran and some supplicating in their languages. In turn, I started to recite my favorite supplication:
{Our Lord! Bestow on us what is good in this world, and also what is good in the next life, and protect us from the punishment of the hellfire.} (Al-Baqarah 2: 201)
The main purpose of Hajj is to create awareness, a consciousness that is to influence the remainder of one’s life. One’s entire orientation is to be as Prophet Abraham, peace be upon him, totally for God and Divine morals/ethics.
Performing Sa’i
the lesson is that of striving, that faith must include personal effort in order to accomplish what needs to be done
The next important act is the brisk walking between the two hills of Safa and Marwa seven times, an act known as Sa’i. It commemorates the struggle that Prophet Abraham’s wife, Hagar, went through with her infant son Ishmael, alone in the desert searching for water.
As the tradition goes, she ran back and forth seven times, and the last time Zamzam water gushed forth under the feet of her baby. That place is known as the well of Zamzam.
It seems that the lesson is that of striving, that faith must include personal effort in order to accomplish what needs to be done, be it at a spiritual or worldly level. Indeed, the Quran testifies to this in saying:
{Surely, God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is inside themselves.} (Ar-Ra’d 13: 11)
Going to the City of Tents
A few days later, we went to Mina, also known as “tent city”. There are no rites held in that place, the pilgrim only prays and socializes, and cares for others. The climax of it all is the day of ‘Arafah, when the pilgrim goes to mount ‘Arafat, spending the whole day there connecting to God. It was really a humbling experience.
The Hajj is ‘Arafah
On the day of ‘Arafah, I was amazed by the masses of pilgrims directing towards ‘Arafat. Here, there are no specific rituals. I was on my own, praying and doing spiritual actions and supplications till the time of Maghreb (sunset). It was a powerful day, and I now understood why the Prophet said:
"Hajj is ‘Arafah." (Al-Hakim)
Stoning the Devil
The next important aspect of Hajj is the symbolic stoning of Satan. We do this for three days, confronting Satanic challenges directly. I actually found this to be the easiest rite of Hajj, as the Saudi authorities have made a highway of sorts around the three pillars that are stoned.
It is difficult to put all of one’s experiences and observations of hajj in one article. Every pilgrim will have a different struggle, and encounter lessons unique to him/her.
It is our advice that as soon as one is able to make Hajj answer the call of God, and allow it to direct your future life and perceptions.

 http://www.onislam.net/english/reading-islam/living-islam/personal-stories/in-their-own-words/460202-my-journey-to-hajj.html

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Defending the Prophet: methodology of Qur'an and Sunnah






A movie depicting the 'controversial' sides of the life of the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] has prompted protests at US embassies in some areas of the Muslim world, and even has resulted in the tragic and unjustified killing of the US envoy to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

That this 'movie' [which I watched, a very cheesy collection of disparate images and themes] trailer is an attempt to provoke Muslims to react emotionally is obvious when we consider the 'mystery' [as BBC words it] surrounding those who produced it. Indeed, the logistics of making "Innocence of Muslims" sounds like some sort of really badly prepared James Bond film. It is also a bit suspicious that the film would only recently be translated into Arabic and that, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attack, in the middle of a fierce presidential contest, increased tensions between Iran and Israel, in the midst of what is going on in Syria, that this intellectual suicide of a production would be promoted within Muslim media outlets.

Yet, the heart of the issue is not the motivations of Sam Bacile or whatever made up names he and his associates [or whatever agencies/organizations they are involved with]. The issue is not what they say, because they have always been speaking against the Prophet, against the Qur'an and and Islam. That is apparent throughout the Qur'an itself, which actually quotes some of those insults. Rather, the core issue lies within us, US, the followers of Islam!

Self-control

The love Muslims have for the Messenger of Allah is apparent to anyone even slightly familiar with Islam.This has been briefly outlined in our comments on Soorah Al-Kauthar [[url] http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2008/04/al-kauthar-legacy-of-prophet_03.html/[url]]. Yet, we cannot allow our love to be used and manipulated for political or ideological purposes. To use an analogy, if an African American is called "The N word", a violent response would not be acceptable. The recipient of the insult who responds with violence will not be let off by the legal system just because his feelings were hurt, even if pushed into it by way of instigation.

Allah says in the Qur'an " O you who have faith! Be those who consistently stand before God, witnesses for justice [and fair play]. Do not allow the opposition of another people to direct you in any way other than that of justice [and fair play]. Be just, as [the doing of ] justice is the closest [act that displays] piety. God is aware of what you do. God's promise, to those with faith, and who conduct themselves as doers of good/ those who reconcile, is [Divine] forgiveness/protection, and a magnificent reward." [Q 5:8-9].

The Prophet was called names, many of which are recorded in the Qur'an. Among those names and insults are "Crazy" [Majnoon], "Soothsayer"  [Kaahin],  "an ear:" [Udhunun][ft.1], yet, not only does the Qur'an stay silent in terms of some violent response, it speaks of the Prophet's congenial nature in general, and of overlooking and forgiving those who, out of hatred and jealousy, seek to provoke [ 9:128 and 2:109].

We need to be reminded of the Qur'anic description of believers. Among the characteristics, we have it that when ignorant people address us, we are to say 'peace' and leave them alone [Q 25:63].


Evidence is key to addressing controversy

The best source of evidence, or material for which to prove one's case Islamically, or when referencing the Prophet, is the Qur'an itself.We are told, in Arabic, wa jaahidhum bihi Jihaadan Kabeeran. "and make Jihad with it [i.e. Qur'an], and a mighty Jihad it is." [Q 25:52].

The Qur'an needs to become central in our explanations, because it is the most important source in Islam! It contains all we need in order to combat, intellectually, those whose hearts are filled with hatred.

Prophet's actions as related in the Hadeeth literature

In Madinah, where he was in control, there was present therein enemies, of all stripes. One narration [Saheeh Al-Bukhari 78:38] states that while with his wife, the youthful and spirited 'A'ishaa, May Allah be pleased with her, enemies came to him and said, to his face "Die"! Yet, he, the head of state, did not respond. When his wife made a response out of emotion, he told her "be gentle!" [Mahlan].

Moreover, it is well known, even to the anti-Islamic forces, that when the Prophet, upon whom be peace and blessings, overcame his enemies in their own capital [Makkah], he issued an amnesty, one which even extended to those who brutally killed his uncle!

Such a man would not give approval to attacks on innocent parties.

Concluding thoughts:

This "Innocence of Muslims" production has raised an issue with the true age of 'A'ishaa at the time of marriage. It is popularly assumed that the marriage took place at six, and its consummation at nine. Before analyzing this, it's important to remember that in the hadeeth literature to a great extent and to a lesser on the books of Tareekh and Fiqh, we find quotes and statements that are often devoid of any context, leaving the reader to just muddle through. Now, this narration about her age, which may be something as simple as misstating two numbers on the part of a narrator, has been examined by a number of writers, particularly in English and Urdu, from many angles, found to be untrue in light of other hadeeths and historical facts. For this writer, I think its sufficient to note that the Seerah literature says that A'ishaa had been engaged before her engagement and subsequent marriage to the Prophet, i.e. in the time before Islam, to one Jubair ibn Mut'im. Marriages were not something to just discard like unwanted food, and 'child marriage' was not a habit of the Arabs. The point being is that two engagements by the age of at least 6, that would be untenable to say the least! Moreover, while the hadeeth and seerah literature tell us many of the objections raised against the Prophet, the issue of 'A'ishaa and his marriage to her is not mentioned, meaning, had the opponents, contemporary to the Prophet,  been able to say something about it, they would have, but there is no record of them ever doing so! Indeed, it is only a modern controversy, with the advent of Orientalist writers [many of whose pioneering scholars were Christian clergy] in the last century, that has made his marriage with her an issue at all!

If this line of reasoning is not convincing, let us turn to the Qur'an. It speaks of 'age of marriage' [Balaagh an Nikaah]. The verse [ 4:6] referenced deals specifically with property, being turned over by guardians of wards when they reach Balaagh an Nikaah. That is certainly not at six or nine years of age, for males or females, in any society!

We do not say this in consideration of Western sensitivities. Indeed, it's diverse even now, with legal marriageable ages varying from 16-21, while just a century or two before marriages at younger ages were not uncommon. We say these things in investigation of truth, of shining light wherein no light had been present before.

A Muslim's moral compass is the word of Allah, over culture, habits or any other source. This includes how we deal with others, and our perception of Allah's messenger, the final Prophet, a mercy to all nations.

Footnotes
[1] "He is an ear", is recorded in Qur'an 9:61. Al Fat-h al Qadeer [Imam Shawkanee] says that they used this expression to denote their view that the Prophet was naive, unable to distinguish between truth and falsehood."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Concluding the month of RAMADAN:some thoughts on the benefits of the fasting month

In beginning this article, it is necessary to share the Prophetic tradition that beautifully describes some of the benefits of Ramadan. It reads " This is a month, the first part of which brings the mercy of Allah, the middle part bringing Allah's forgiveness, the last part bringing emancipation from hellfire." [Saheeh Al-Bukhari]

As this month comes to an end, we would like to share some thoughts on other benefits, or perhaps lessons is a better expression, on this blessed occasion.

[1] Gratitude.

The Qur'an speaks repeatedly of gratitude. Indeed, it is one of the real signs of a believer. From the Quranic viewpoint as well as the usage given in the Arabic language [the language of the Qur'an], Kaafir has the meaning of one who is ungrateful, who covers up the fact that he or she has been given something [in this case, by God]. Here, we wish to share just one small sentence from the Islamic scripture. "And recall the favors of God to you..." [ Q 3:82].

It is our view that the first thing to be grateful to Allah for is [A] Having access to Islam. Even if we are not good Muslims all the time, nonetheless we have access to the Qur'an, to Muhammad's example , may Allah's peace and blessings be on him. Thus, the Qur'an says " They consider it a favor to you that they have accepted Islam. Say, "Do not consider your Islam a favor to me. Rather, Allah has conferred favor upon you that He has guided you to the faith, if you should be truthful."[ Q 49:17, Saheeh international translation].

[B] Be grateful for all that you have. Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] says to assert "praise belongs to Allah, in every situation". Knowing this is overused, nonetheless we have the famous saying about the man who complained about not having shoes, until he met a man who had no feet!

[2] Discipline:

Fasting, in a way, is an exercise in self-control. If we can do that in Ramadan, we can do that all the time. Cigarettes are a perfect example. While we do admit that among the Muslim jurists [Fuqahaa'] there are differences of opinion as to whether smoking is Halaal or Haraam, nonetheless all hands admit its overall harm. Giving it up in the fasting period can teach us to give it up totally!

[3] Laylatul Qadr

"Laylatul Qadr[ft.1] is more beneficial than a thousand months" says the Qur'an [97:3]. The religious aspect of it we are to observe, search for it during the last ten nights of Ramadan. We search for it via extra prayers, Qur'anic reading and recitation, spending the nights in remembrance and contemplation on Allah. There is also the social manifestation of Laylatul Qadr, in the sense that it can be life changing. The Laylatul Qadr can be the climax of the fasting month, in which we have decided to abandon sin, bad habits and the like [as described above when speaking on smoking], which, in turn, invites more of a Godly, spiritual presence in our lives. " The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter" Q 97:4, Saheeh international translation].

[4] Forgiveness

As cited above, forgiveness is a quality of this month, as narrated in the hadeeth literature. If we are seeking God's forgiveness in this month, expecting and hoping for his forgiveness, we can also forgive others! In addition to this, there is also the aspect of self-forgiveness. We can be hard on ourselves, whereas God does not wish that. Forgiveness can be a means to move forward, both mentally and spiritually!

There is a Prophetic supplication which teaches us to say "O Allah, make my reckoning an easy reckoning". The hadeeth goes further to say this means that we hope for no questions to be asked of us by God on the day of resurrection, but even if we omit this particular part of the narrative, there is a lesson in this Du'a! If we want God to be easy with us, we should be easy with others. Stop attacking so much, being critical and argumentative with others. Smile more, accept people where they are more, display forgiveness in action!

In this regards, we wish to conclude by sharing another Prophetic supplication, traditionally called the "leader in prayers seeking forgiveness" [Sayyid ul Istighfaar]. The entire supplication reads " O Allah, you are my Lord, none is to be worshiped except you. You created me, I am your servant and I am faithful to my covenant and promises to you as much as I can. I seek refuge with you from all the evil I have done, I acknowledge before you all the blessings you have bestowed on me, as well as my sin, so forgive me, none forgives [sins] except you." 

We would like to emphasis the line " ..I am faithful to my covenant..as much as I can." In this Du'a, the Prophet teaches us to pray to Allah acknowledging that we are not perfect, that we have weaknesses and faults. Nonetheless, we ask for Divine forgiveness.

So, seek Maghfirah from God, bestow Maghfirah on one another, and upon one's own self. 


Footnotes

[1] Laylatul Qadr is usually translated "night of power" or "destiny". We prefer the rendering "Night of decree or measure", with preference to the latter word.The overwhelming majority of Mufassireen [Qur'an commentators] give, in their explanation of Soorah Al Qadr [#97], the religious ritual aspect of Laylatul Qadr. The social manifestation of it should also be given, which we have done here in this article. It is also important to remember that Allah began the revelation to the Prophet Muhammad in the month of Ramadan, on a blessed night. The Qur'an itself served as a genesis for great social change, not only for the immediate companions of the Prophet, or even just the Arabian peninsula, rather, for all mankind. Countless benefits and blessings were bestowed when Qur'an came into the picture. And God knows best.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Benefitting from Ramadan



“O believers! Fasting is ordained on you, as it was ordained on those before you, so that perhaps {La’alla] you will grow in Taqwaa.” [Qur’an 2:183]



Once again, we are blessed to experience another Ramadan. The process of Qur’anic revelation started in this month, so obviously Qur’an reading/study and fasting have an intimate connection. The devils are chained up, metaphorically speaking, in this blessed month. Our awareness of Allah, of right and wrong, indeed of our own selves, increases as we decrease our indulgences of eating, drinking and sex. Yet, we have to admit, our goal, to grow in Taqwaa [dedication, awareness of Allah] may not work! This is precisely why the Quranic verse above uses the word “perhaps” [La’alla], and, just as with prayers, we have to stay consistent with fasting.



We are not angels, sinless or fault free. If that was the Divine plan, Allah could have arranged that. However, Allah gives us Ramadan as a chance for cleansing, self-examination and self-improvement. This is why various hadiths speak of the importance of abstaining from backbiting and gossip during Ramadan. It’s a physical fast, looking for spiritual and character results. Family dinners and the like are all to be secondary to the overall goal of fasting, the goal of Taqwaa. May Allah accept our fasting, and may we benefit from it.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Questioning Divinity: Can God's existence be proven? A Muslim's perspective

Questioning Divinity: Can God's existence be proven? A Muslim's perspective

The Qur'an contains several verses ["Ayaat", literally "signs", the singular being 'ayah'] asking us to consider the existence of God. Examples of which are given below.

Universal order and majesty as evidence

"And of his signs is the creation of the heavens and the Earth, variations in your languages and [skin] colors. Surely, in that are signs [ayaat] for the knowledgeable." [Qur'an 30:22]


Here, the Qur'an has made an assumption- that those with knowledge ['Aalimeen] can see the structure and deliberate craftsmanship, the master artistry, present in the Universe, indeed, in the human species. We come in different shapes, sizes, skin colors and speak different languages, yet we are of the same species, capable of the same potentials.

"Surely, in the creation of the heavens and the Earth...[these] are signs for people of understanding, those who ponder upon Allah, standing, sitting, reclining on their sides, and contemplate regarding the creation.."Our Lord, you have not created [all] this in vanity [Baatil][Ft.1]. Glorified is you, so protect us from the punishment of [hell]fire." [Q 3:190-191]


To use an analogy, the automobile has conponents for the use of the driver and passengers. It takes fuel, water, and a variety of other things for its maintenance. It has a steering wheel, tires, and seats for the driver and passengers. We can accept that the automobile has been manufactured, and, likewise, humans have been manufactured.

The Soul's knowlewdge

Philosophers, theologians, and lay people alike have been discussing these issues for countless generations. These discussions are found among figures of all races, religions, creeds and denominations. The fact that these issues still come up in a post-Darwinian world is itself an evidence that somewhere in the human being, buried within the conscious, there exists an awareness of the Divine. One writer calls this the god gene. [ft.2].

The Qur'an phraes this situation in the following manner:
" Behold, your Lord drew forth from the children of Adam- from their loins, their descendants, and they testified internally [to the query] '' Am I not your Lord?" , they responsed 'yes, we do testify', otherwise [i.e. had the testimony not taken place] [you would have grounds ] to say on the day of standing " We were not informed of this." [Q 7:712] [ft.3]


What about Evolution?

A detailed answer to this is beyond the scope and intent of this article, but nonetheless we will summarize our thoughts in the following manner:

[A] The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin's influencial work, and to a greater extent the so called period of enlightenment, [roughly the 17th and 18th centuries] are all products of a rebellion against a suffocating religious and intellectual culture, at the time headed by the Roman Catholic Church. In those days, the church [and even its Protestant step children] taught the Bible was to be understood in a literal way! If the text says the world is 5,000 years old,[Ft.4] then that was the reality, in their teaching. So, in light of such circumstances, it is understandable that data would be interpreted in a way which removes God from the equation entirely!

[B] Muslims and Christians have in common the fact that Evolution is disputed, some believing in it and others reconciling their scripture to the widely accepted idea. With Muslims, however, evolution does not prove too much of an issue, because the Qur'an gives few details on the beginnings of man, and it certainly does not give a date of the age of the planet.

[C] Even pre-supposing the validity of the idea of Evolution, the Qur'an itself identifies God by the word Ar Rabb, which carries, as one of its meanings, "Evolver"[ft.5]. Indeed, one meaning is "that which raises a thing to its perfection". Evolution, in a physical, mental and social fashion, certainly takes place for us all. Regardless, at least from the Qur'anic standpoint, none of this negates the presence of God. [Ft.6]

Conclusion

We hope these few words have been thought provoking, if nothing else. As always, any mistakes come from the author, and anything of benefit comes, in the end, from God Almighty, from his guidance and grace, wa Bilaaahit Tawfeeq.

Footnotes

[1] Baatil has a number of meanings and implications, both in Arabic and within the Qur'an. It can mean vanity, lies, falsehood, weakess, and even refer to something ridiculous!

[2] Geneticist Dean Hamer first coined the term and theory, after conducting a variety of behavioural genetic, neurobiological and pscychological studies. While admittedly he does not seem to endorse belief in God, he does assert that physiological arrangements create mystical experiences. He advances this notion in The God Gene: how faith is hardwired into our genes.

[3] Also of interest is Qur'an 7:173-174. The latter verse says that God relates this account so that "perhaps they will return [to their testimony and acknowledge the facts as such]" [La'allahum Yarji'oon].

[4] Some Christian writers still advance a literal reading of the Biblical creation story, arguing that 5,000 years is the right age of the Earth! See Is the Bible without any Errors? by Rick Deighton [2011, Search for the Truth publications, Nampa, ID].

[5] Imam W.Deen Mohammed [1933-2008] renders Rabb as "Guardian-Evolver, Cherisher and Sustainer".

[6] As stated before, evolution is debated widely in both the Christian and Muslim religious communities. Some writers from both groups [The Christian ones are generally called "Creationists"] assert that Evolution is nothing more than brainwashing of the masses in order to have them reject God and accept domination. This is asserted in the many works of the Turkish writer Harun Yahya. We need to mention here that there are extreme Atheists, who make it their mission to ridicule belief and believers at every oppurtunity, even making a "chocolate Jesus" to sell, to melt, as a way to provoke reponses and propagate their beliefs. The Skeptics Society publishes Skeptic magazine, in which examples of this radicalism can be seen for any observer.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Muslim's rights on other Muslims: examining the Hadeeth

Abu Hurairah [R.A.] reports the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] as saying: The Muslim has, as a right {Haqq}, six [things]: [1] When you meet him, greet him [i.e. As salaamu 'alaikum], [2] When he invites you, accept his invitation, [3] When he asks advise, give it, [4] When he sneezes and praises Allah, say "Allah have mercy on you", [5] Visit him when he is ill, [6] When he dies, follow his funeral procession. [Saheeh Muslim]
Salaam greetings

Throughout all Muslim cultures and sects, the common demoninator is the greeting of As salaamu 'alaikum ["Peace be upon you"]! This is not something that was started with the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom we pray for peace and the choicest of blessings. Rather, this can be accurately described as the Sunnah of the messengers and teachers of old as well.

When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.'[ Luke 10:5, NIV]

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them,
" Peace be with you."[Luke 24:36


A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said,
" Peace be with you ! "[John 20:26]

Accepting invitation

Ideally, every Muslim is to be equal to each other socially. There should be no problems with the rich dining with the poor and vice versa. Indeed, if one were to read any biography of Prophet Muhammad, we find that he even accepted dinner invitations from slaves!

Advice

Again referencing Saheeh Muslim, the Prophet is reported to have stated that religion itself is advice! To give advice is to show care, warmth and consideration. This principle is not limited to telling someone where to buy a car and the like, but can also extend to correcting that person's theological views! This particular angle of understanding this hadeeth has application in many areas of the world, but especially so in the United States, and among Muslim inmates. By seeing even the followers of pseudo-Islamic or heretical movements as also bethren, deserving advice and guidance, and not condemnation or hatred, we can be more affective and we can diminish confrontations. Here, we have in mind people such as those in the Nation of Islam[NOI], led by Minister Louis Farrakhan. Surely, their God concept and ideas surrounding the Prophethood are at variance with the Qur'an, yet, they call themselves Muslims, they believe in the Qur'an and have respect for the Prophet Muhammad. If we view them as brothers, needing advice and correction via the Qur'an, we build a lasting relation with them. Indeed, in our experience, advice and understanding is a much better weapon than yelling "Kaafir" and the like. This is also the Prophet's practice, as seen in the following Qur'anic verse:

And it was by God's grace that thou [O Prophet] didst deal gently with thy followers, for if thou hadst been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee. Parden them, and pray that they be forgiven.." [Q 3:159, Muhammad Asad translation]
Saying 'YarhamukumUllaah'

The person who sneezes is to praise Allah [i.e. by saying Alhamdulillaah] because their heart has stopped, yet they still live. The Muslim nearby hearing this says "May Allah have mercy on you". Indeed, to wish for Rahmah on another is to also invite Rahmah on yourself.

Visiting when ill

The worldview taught by Islam is one of fraternity, love and brotherhood. To visit the ill gives heart to them, and strengthens bonds. This is, in the end, the desire of Allah.

And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided. [Qur'an 3:103, Saheeh International translation]

Funeral [Janaazah]

The Funeral rites in Islam are very simple. Indeed, if the deceased is absent or in a far away location, it is still possibe to fulfill the last right they hold on you, by offering Salaat al Janaazah! In the Salaat al Janaazah, at least according to the Prophetic Sunnah, one prays [Du'aa] for both the deceased and the community in general.

Thus, the rights [Huqooq] Muslims have on each other are powerful, they are to create a bond that is to not be broken. The rights of Muslims to each other is a concept that should never be abandoned nor neglected.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Islamic perspective on world events: a glance at Syria

Introduction

Those who know me well know that I am a student at heart. I love learning, and strive to keep informed on the subjects of interest to me, and especially so on events in the Muslim world. This is natural, after all, Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] is reported to have said that those who do not care about the affairs of Muslims is not of us. To strive to know all sides of the argument is not only common sense, it is also in keeping with the texts of the Qur'an and Sunnah. A rather comical example of the benefits of such an approach is an occasion when this writer attended the Dead Seas Scrolls exhibit. The program also included a Biblical history presentation. Anyways, a Church group was behind me, and their leader began asking me questions about the scrolls, mistaking me for a tour guide. I in turn provided the answers, me, a Muslim!

Thus, I am always surprised when people, especially Muslims, allow prejudices to get in the way of truth and justice, and blindly accept whatever is told in the media.

Syria: case in point

Without doubt, something is amiss there. The "Arab spring" inspired, in the Syrian context, both peaceful and non peaceful actions designed to show dissatisfaction with the Assad regime. This much can be agreed to by all hands.

It's obvious that Syria is a strategic piece of real estate, that it has close ties with Iran, Hezbollah and [until recently] Hamas, and that these [and other] circumstances have prompted parties both inside and outside the Middle East to insert themselves in the conflict, shaping to bend it to their own advantage. This is easy to do actually when one considers that the Assad family has been ruling Syria since 1970, and are themselves from the minority 'Alawi sect, whereas the majority of Syrians are Sunni Muslims.

When emotions and prejudices get in the picture, truth and the spirit of reconciliation of disputing parties gets sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Take as a perfect example a recent New York Times article [ Friday June 15th, 2011, page A15 " Syrian liberators, armed with plastic" by C.J. Chivers] showing how the opposition released a video announcing the formation of "a special forces brigade", wearing masks, banners surrounding their filming site, and armed with- get this- toy guns!  As if that wasn't bad enough, what is even more disturbing is the following paragraph from the same article

[quote] This week, The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, published photographs of a so called ghost unit, loyal to Mr Assad and accused of systematically killing Syrian civilians..Two images showed a purported member with a large semi automatic pistol. The weapon was later determined by the newspaper Al Bawaba in Jordan to be a blank-firing replica of an Israeli-made Desert Eagle pistol.[/quote]

Our main point

We have to exercise a bit of dilligence when watching TV, the news, or reading the paper. This goes for issues in Egypt, Syria, religion, politics, even lay people. We have to understand that there is, in the midst of so called black and white, much grey. We have to be fair and honest, especially in issues dealing with life and death. Muslims in particular need to learn these lessons, about each other and about Non Muslims alike. As an example, there is a wide perception that Muslims are discriminated against in the United States, but the truth is very different. Yes, there are problems, but freedom of religion is a constitutional right, and is supported by the government and local political/social culture. In fact, Muslims are more free to practice Islam here than even in areas of Dar ul Islam.

Here are some relevant Quranic verses in relation to these issues, wa Billlaahit Tawfeeq!

" O believers! When a "Faasiq" [an immoral person who breaks the normal rules of behavior] comes with any information, investigate it, lest you bring harm to a people unknowingly and become regretful afterwards." [Al-Qur'an 49:6]


" O you who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity, and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is the closest to being God-conscious. And be conscious of God, verily, God is aware of all that you do." [Qur'an 5:8, Muhammad Asad translation]
 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Advise for Muslim Prisoners

Introduction

Working for the better part of three years inside various correctional institutions as "the Muslim Chaplain", one thing we can say is that the Muslim community therein can be just as diverse and complex as any Masjid in the United States! Moreover, in doing this job, working with the brothers, as well as through consulting with others in the country who are likewise working in this field, it seems necessary to address certain issues in a way that will prove to be a benefit for our brothers. We have kept in mind the Prophetic maxim "Religion is sincere advise" [ Saheeh Muslim].

I'm a Muslim, so now what??

The faith is spreading rapidly in the prison system. The two main reasons are [a] the availability of Islamic literature, allowing readers to make educated decisions. [b] positive interactions with Muslim inmates, i.e. being impressed with the prayer regimentation, etc..

You, my dear brother in Islam, will notice that there is a great deal of diversity in the Muslim population inside, finding everything from the orthodox sects to groups such as the Moorish Science followers [who even have a 'different Qur'an'][ft.1], all of whom are claiming to be on the straight path. Confusion and perhaps a bit of disappointment is natural in these circumstances. Our advise is as follows:

[1] Be firm in the theological conviction that God is alone in worship, and that Muhammad was indeed his messenger!

[2] Make sure to structure your life, while serving your time, in accord with the spiritual necessities prescribed within the religion, such as daily prayers [Salaah], the fasting in Ramadan [Siyaam], and avoiding all together pork products.

[3] Evaluate all religious and theological claims with the Qur'an. To do that, you must be a consistent reader of the sacred text! This is especially important, as you will encounter many opinions written in books, tracts and by word of mouth. This function of the Qur'an, as a filter for religious truth and keeping out unsubstantiated assertions, is given within the Qur'an itself [see Q 25:1]

[4] Keep away from individuals and groups who clearly are out to create trouble by engaging in endless arguments, madh-hab disputations, and the like. Indeed, the Qur'an itself warns "Fitnah[ft.2] is worse than killing [ft.3]" [Q 2:191]


Released: know that Islam on the outside is different than that which was learned on the inside

There is an abundance of literature floating around the prison system, with attractive Arabic titles and seemingly giving all the right references to the Qur'an and Sunnah, yet many of these books are written for another time, place and context. Reading these books for years, upon release some of the brothers feel disappointed at the local Muslims ["On the streets"], seeking to argue down the Imams as those who are committing Bid'aah, "watering down" the faith, etc..[ft.4].

What happens next is sad, either the brothers stay away from Mosques, embracing an Un-Islamic life, or end up abandoning Islam all together! Of course, this is also in a worldly context, which we shall briefly touch upon.

Some more advise

[A] Before release, work hard to improve your condition. Get a GED, any training available that increases one's skills and abilities to get a job. Improve one's academic situation as well. Remember Malcolm X [Al Hajj Malik Al Shabazz], who copied the whole dictionary to improve his vocabulary, grammar and knowledge. Extend this advise to religion as well. Regularly read the Qur'an, and in particular a good biography of God's model for us, Muhammad [Peace be upon him]. We highly recommend The Life of Muhammad by Muhammad Husayn Haykal. The Sunnah is best exemplified in looking at the Prophet's life in context, rather than isolated quotes here and there!

[B] Upon release, stick to your local Masjid and all activities therein.

[C] Set worldly goals, such as job, housing, marriage.

[D] Do not associate with any people who engage in the activities leading to your imprisonment in the first place. In any way, shape or form, stay away from such. This means the alcohol, the drugs, the gangs, and we will go so far as to even add things such as cigarettes, the music and the style of dressing. Have the desire to be pure.

Wa Billaahit Tawfeeq

Footnotes

[1] The Moorish Science Temple of America have what they call The Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple. It's not the Qur'an, rather it is, mostly, material from the work The Acquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ by Levi Dowling.

[2] Fitnah has different meanings and usages, both in Arabic and within the Qur'an. This writer has done extensive research into the term, published in essay form in The Language of Revelation: Classical Arabic language instruction and exercises with Qur'aan commentary [pp.221-226], available from Arifin Imports, PO Box 70617, Toledo, Oh 43607, www.arifinimports.com. Here, in this verse, the meaning is that of anarchy. Ibn Katheer [Tafseer Al Qur'aan al 'Adheem, volume 2 pg 105 Aleppo edition] suggests that Al Fitnah here means idolatry. Allah knows best!!

[3] Indeed, this is a wise Qur'anic assertion, for we all will die, but the greater death is that of a society in which chaos and hatred abound.

[4] This writer recalls an incident in which, while delivering a lecture at the Mosque, a visitor comes, challenges whether we are really in fact Muslims and our Mosque is really an authentic Mosque because women were present. This stems from the questioner's reading of materials printed in an area of the world where, by local custom, women are not allowed to attend the Mosques. The questioner admitted that it was, in fact, his first time in a Mosque, since he had "just been released". The irony in this is that women fully participated in both communal prayers and public life, centered at the Mosque, in the time of the Prophet Muhammad in Madinah, and that neither the Qur'an or hadeeth literature outlaw women's participation therein!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Qur'an: a Scripture that is to be Examined in aFull Manner




“So [know that] Allah is the exalted, King, the Ultimate reality. And be not in haste with the Qur’an while it is coming to you. And say “O My Lord, increase my knowledge.” [Qur’an 20:114]

The Qur’an [the word itself being a verbal noun, denoting something that is put together piece by piece, and part by part] is a Divine revelation, given to the Prophet Muhammad over a twenty-three year period. It is arguably the most widely read, memorized, and studied religious text in the world. Often, we assert that the Qur’an is ever relevant, examining its contents in light of current realities, one could make a mistake in saying it came in our own period, rather than fourteen centuries ago!

The verse above, which also adorns one of the walls outside at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam, is a striking example of that situation. God is the one who is above and beyond any of our limiting conceptualizations. He is that ‘ultimate reality’ [or Al-Haqq, as the original Arabic wording states] which has ‘always’ existed, that has no beginning nor ending. This Divine source of truth and light sends down to mankind guidance in the form of scripture, prophets and messengers. The verse is telling us, via the lips and mouth of God’s messenger and Last Prophet [Muhammad, peace and blessings be on him] that the process of revelation should not be sought after in a hurried fashion. It is also telling us that random quotes and sentences, citing them in order to win arguments or to make points, is inappropriate when dealing with most things, but especially so with the words of God! Thus, we read “And be not in haste…and say: “O My Lord, increase my knowledge.”

The latter supplication is a prayer that has become a part of the Muslim liturgy and tradition. It decorates the entrances to universities, classrooms and even Mosques. Surely, it is understandable that this has occurred. Yet, as we can see, its focus is not limited to secular knowledge. Indeed, we could easily apply the message of the entire verse to our interactions with others, other religions, politicians and their statements, our friends and foes alike. Anyone can take a random quote or statement and apply some meaning not intended by the speaker, and this has happened in many quarters with the Qur’an itself! Yet, God wants us to see the entire picture, to make decisions and judgments based on complete information, rather than one piece of something. This style of presentation is found throughout the Qur’an. Another verse that is relevant is “O believers! When a ‘Faasiq’ {an immoral person who breaks the rules of normal behavior] comes to you with information, investigate it before acting upon it, lest you harm a people unknowingly and afterwards have regrets. [Q 49:6]

Let us take this Qur’an in a full way, even for those not believing in it. At least know the whole story.

[ Shamsuddin Waheed is Imam at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam, 722 East Bancroft street, Toledo Ohio 43604.]

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Muhammad the Prophet of Islam: Dispelling Some Misconceptions

As we compose this brief article, Muslims worldwide are celebrating the birthday of Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah. Although specific details of the celebration vary from one nation to another, the Mawlud ur Rasool holiday includes poetic compositions, processions, dinners, exchange of gifts, Mosque attendance and special food for the poor.

It is important to note that Islamic religious texts [i.e. Qur’an and Prophetic narrations] do not lend any direct support for holding celebrations commemorating the Prophet’s birth, but at the same time we have to admit that we find little problem with it, in the sense that it gives an opportunity to share, especially with the youth and with those unacquainted with Islam, the Prophet’s legacy and teachings. [Ft-1 and 2]

As such, we have taken advantage of Mawlud to correct some misconceptions about the Noble Messenger of Allah, upon whom we ask God’s peace and blessings. It is also worth noting that some misconceptions and outright lies are generally propagated either by Christian missionaries of various sects or by Orientalist writers, whose agendas are obvious. Below, we present thoughts on some of those wrong ideas.

[1] Muhammad was obsessed with women

Arguably the leading accusation, this idea is presented as an alleged contrast with Christian ‘moralists’ who uphold the celibacy of Jesus Christ versus the polygamy practiced by the Messenger. What seems to get ignored when this charge is brought up is that the institute of polygamy was [and arguably still is in parts of today’s world] a means to seal political and family alliances, as a way to unite peoples and heal hostilities. In addition to this, in times of war when men would fall on the battlefield, polygamy was a means of social welfare for widows and children. The Prophet’s marriages, taking place after the death of his beloved Khadijah, must be viewed in this light. [ft.3]

[2] Blood thirsty killer

This is very far from the truth. His congenial nature was well known even before the Qur’anic revelation. When the revelation did come, he and his growing number of followers suffered persecution, and the enemy did not stop when the Prophet migrated to Madinah. Rather, they continued their plotting and their attacks. It was only in response to these that fighting for survival was finally ordered [Q 2:190]. In this regards, we must also understand that the Qur’an says “and if they [the enemy] sue for peace- then you [O Muslims] must also sue for peace, and place your trust in God, He is the Hearer, the Knower.” {Q 8:61]

[3] Relations between Muhammad and the Jewish tribes

In Madinah, when the Prophet moved there, he made treaties with the Jewish tribes there, as well as in other places, Yet, as the history books tell us, these groups, motivated by ethnic prejudices and jealousy, not only broke their treaties, they even were involved in plots to kill the Prophet! The details are beyond the scope of our article, but we refer the reader to “The life of Muhammad” by Muhammad Husayn Haykal, pp 271-283.

How should Muhammad be viewed?

His son in law and the eventual fourth Khalifah of the Muslim community after his [i.e. the Prophet’s] death, ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib, is reported to have observed:

“He treated the [material] world disdainfully and regarded it low. He held it contemptible and hated it. He conveyed from Allah the pleas [against committing sin], counseled his people as a warner, called towards paradise as a conveyer of good tidings.” [Nahjal Balaaghah, page 71]

His wife ‘A’ishaa bint Abi Bakr says “His character was the Qur’an.” [ Saheeh Al-Bukhari ]


His student and relative Ibn ‘Abbas says “Allah’s messenger, Sall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, was the most generous of people in charity…” [Saheeh Muslim]


“And We [Allah] have sent you [O Muhammad] to be nothing more except as a mercy to all nations.” [Qur’an 21:107]


Final advice

Allah Almighty preserved the Qur’an, and has said therein that the Prophet was a model “for any who hopes in Allah, the final day, and remember Allah often.” [Q 33:21]. The Qur’an has preserved just about all of the details we, as lay people, would need about the Prophet. His struggles with faith and family, marriages and leadership, even his internal thoughts are often found therein. So, for us lay people who do not have the time, patience or ability to shift through materials determining what is authentic and what is not, we need only look at the Qur’an. Look at the ‘say verses’. Look at the earliest Soorahs, which are mostly found in the last sections of the text, and you will find a man who was quite normal, who is sufficient for believers as a practical guide.

Footnotes

[1] In Al Maulud Fil Islaam: Innovation and true belief according to Qur’an and Sunna and the scholars of Islam, the author, Shaikh Hisham Kabbani, attempts to extract religious texts to justify the traditional observances of the Prophet’s birthday, yet at the beginning of his treatise he does admit “ ..other celebrations, like Mawlid, the Prophet’s birthday-peace be upon him-are neither obligatory nor forbidden.” [pg 1, Haqqani Islamic foundation, Fenton, Michigan, 1994 edition]

[2] We have attempted to be fair with regards to the issue of celebrating the Prophet’s birthday. After all, it has become a part of Muslim culture, and as long as there is no danger of idolatry, it can be a good opportunity to pass along Islamic knowledge. There are some extremes among Muslims on issues like this. Saudi Arabia is probably the only Muslim nation that does not have the Prophet’s birthday as a national holiday, and scholars from the Salafi Manhaj regularly preach against it. The opposite side of that coin is that of many Muslims who not only celebrate his birthday, but who have rather odd supernatural beliefs about him, such as his actually not being human, but having been created out of light [the Noor –e Muhammad as expressed in Urdu], that he actually joins certain groups when they pray. This personality cult and exaggerated status of a man is just the sort of thing that Islam stands against, and it is under these circumstances that we understand full well the reluctance of some authorities to allow such celebrations. It is also worth sharing that there are some among the Muslim ranks who reject ‘traditional Islam’ including the ‘Eids, and obviously Mawlud, yet the same people, in our experience at least, have no qualms issuing greetings for Christmas, St. Valentine day, and even Halloween!

[3] For the Islamic teaching on polygamy, see our “Polygamy and societal norms” at shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What the HELL is wrong with American politics?

It is apparent to our readers that the subject of this article is one that is very different from our usual subject matter. Adding the word HELL, in capital letters, attempts to convey the seriousness and the utter amazement at the situation.

It's election time again, folks, and we certainly expect to see mudslinging thrown by every candidate and their respective political foes. It's the norm, something that all American voters seem to anticipate. Yet, to this humble observer, some of the recent statements out there on the campaign trail has really, as the expression goes, 'taken the cake.'

Take for example Newt Gingrich's making fun of Mitt Romney for being able to speak French. Where else but America could one politician be critical of another politician for having the ability to speak a foreign language?! Perhaps Gingrich's attack was meant to show that Romney [ a Mormon] had opportunities beyond that of average people, that his abilities to speak French are just a manifestation of that 'out of touch with the people' argument.

Even within the elite, educated and connected personalities in the nation, there exists a xenophobia of massive proportions. Whatever one thinks of Romney's politics, or any of the other candidates trying to get the Republican nomination this round, why would anyone even consider using knowledge of a language as a liability? The answer goes back to a serious issue or problem within both the elites and, to a lesser extent, in the public sphere, fear and paranoia, especially of outsiders and outside influence.

If that didn't take the cake, here's another one. Rick Perry, another illustrious choice, asserted recently that Turkey is ruled by "Islamic terrorists", that its laws oppress women [I guess the secularists having women wearing Hijab banned from Turkish colleges and government buildings was in fact liberating, right?], that it condones honor killings [which, is in fact, actually illegal in Turkey as well as against Islamic teachings]. He even says "I think Turkey has got to decide whether they want to be a country that projects those Western values that America is all about. "

As if Turkey is under some sort of moral or legal obligation to "project Western values" [whatever that means]. It reeks of arrogance and false assumptions.

I am not speaking about Muslims or Islam per se in this article, rather, my intention is to ask the question and hope to get an answer, "what is wrong with this picture?" Especially in a world of almost universal INTERNET access, how is it that our leaders and those vying for the position can not only be dishonest and rabble rousing, but actually ignorant and quite stupid? How can we even take them seriously? Why do we tolerate it?

All comments are welcome. Please note that this post is NOT an endorsement of any party or candidate, it is just a query voiced to you all, noble readers.