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Monday, December 26, 2016

Are there limits in giving and accepting opinions? Thoughts on Shaykh Hamza Yusuf's controversial statements

" O Mankind! Indeed, We ( i.e. Allah) created you from a single male and a single female, made you into nations and tribes So that you will know ( and benefit) from each other. Indeed, the most noble of you- in the sight of God- are those with the most reverence, Indeed, Allah is the All-knowing, All-Aware." ( Q 49:13)


The yearly Revival of the Islamic spirit [RIS] conference attracts thousands to Toronto from all over North America. While previous events have been the source of some controversy, this year's RIS has generated-within only two days- perhaps the biggest firestorm to date-  universal discussion and arguments between Muslims. It has opened wounds and disputes on social media.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf - in the course of an interview with Mehdi Hasan, made some controversial statements about issues ranging from Black Lives Matter movement [BLM], Police shootings, and seemingly equated The Muslim Brotherhood [Al Ikhwan Al Muslimoon] with ISIS. At one point, he asserted that the biggest problem faced by African Americans was the breakdown of the family. This particular assertion has been the object of the greatest amount of criticism on social media. ( 1)

This post is not intended to be a rehash of what he said. From many angles, Muslim leaders as well as average people have been composing posts, articles, videos and tweets on Twitter either defending or attacking him, and of course this has also opened the door for sectarian and racist minded folks to preach their divisive messages.

Another well known personality, Imam Suhaib Webb [who is White American]- sharing the stage at the RIS event, felt compelled to compose a lengthy refutation of Sh.Yusuf on his Facebook page.



Subsequently, Sh. Yusuf delivered a speech yesterday  apologizing for any "miscommunication" and at length explained precisely what he meant.(2)

I listened to that speech twice, and while I have my own reaction to his comments, it raised for me the question of whether or not individuals "of privilege"  are allowed to speak on subjects that they themselves seemingly have not experienced.

In essence, the majority of refutations against him argue that because he is white, he is automatically unqualified to speak on affairs involving African Americans. His critics acknowledge that both his family and himself have been deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement, that he has been a defender of African American causes, and most critics even acknowledge that he is not personally a holder of any racist views, nonetheless, they assert, his white skin prevents him from having any understanding of these issues or any useful advice!



Race as a criterion for judgement

Let's change around the dynamics a bit. A White  patient is in the hospital with a medical situation that requires immediate, emergency treatment. That patient discovers that his doctor is African-American!

The White patient's refusal of treatment at the hands of his Black doctor would rightfully be seen as stupid, and an indicator of racist beliefs. This scenario is not a conjured, hypothetical situation. This has happened many times, per discussions with three African-American doctors I know. I'm sure that our readers will likewise know of similar situations in their professional lives, where services have been declined, even needed ones such as medical treatment, until a Non Black individual( or whatever desired)  would turn up to provide the needed service.



Refutations of views- be they political, social, religious, etc. should not be based upon skin color. A believer in God is to know that God created all the colors and all the languages intentionally. The Prophet of Islam, Muhammad [ Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] is known to have said that there is no virtue in being one thing or another. The Prophet in his final address also said that "all of them are from Adam, and Adam was from dust."

 Truth should be the criterion for judgement

We can simply use another word rather than truth, as that sounds too religious. We can use the word facts, or the word data.

It does not bother me that anyone's viewpoints are debated, rejected and refuted. That is a part of anyone's life, especially a person serving any public capacity. In many respects, scholars, scientists, and academics make their careers by analyzing and dissecting arguments of other figures.

A person's usage of data, their interpretation of evidence, that is what should be addressed. It should never get personal, never hit under the belt with foul language and name-calling.

Moreover, if we are serving any public capacity, we should be open to accepting knowledge, regardless of the source. The Prophet is reported to have said that knowledge is the lost property of a believer. He also is reported to have said that one should seek knowledge even into China.

In cooking, music, clothing styles, humans have always taken from each other, deleting and adding as they see fit. This creates the diversity of life that makes life so interesting.

A person- even if they are seemingly on the outside, can be a vessel for good advice and guidance. That is the way Allah made things.

To assert that  guidance is restricted  to one's racial or ethnic [or even madh-hab!] grouping  is nothing short of adopting a Chosen people mentality. Moreover, it acts as a barrier from receiving God's blessings, simply because one does not like the packaging. The Qur'an ( 2:91, among other verses) indicates that there were Jews who rejected Muhammad as God's Prophet only because of Muhammad's ethnicity.

The Prophet's supplication is quite succinct in the lesson it conveys. He prays "O Allah, show us truth as truth, and give us the ability to follow it. And show us falsehood as falsehood, and give us the ability to abstain therefrom."

So the issue should not be the packaging of the message. The issue should be deciphering what is truthful and beneficial, distinguishing it from what is vain and useless.

Endnotes

(1) Sh.Hamza Yusuf's initial interview can be found here. [url] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tjV64JMv-I[/url]

(2) His second speech, which included an apology, can be viewed here. [url] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2jB_GpY9jo[/url]





Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump presidency: thoughts on the immediate and distant future

We begin this composition with a confession, and that is-simply put- that we never imagined that the Trump campaign was little more than a bad joke that had no chance of success due to the numerous accusations, outright racism and clear personality problems that are displayed in his recorded statements and behavior.

The success of the Trump campaign has essentially blindsided all of us, it has negated all the predictions of the pundits and it feels like we are now living in a parallel universe that Science Fiction programs such as Star Trek and Fringe have displayed, a world that is very similar to the world we know and are accustomed to, yet filled with glaring examples of differences, enough to make one panic and desire a quick escape.


Why is Donald Trump so troubling?



His entire platform has been one insult after another. However, our focus is not simply on this. His campaign has been one which tells the voters what they want to hear, however upon close examination there is actually no substance at all behind his rhetoric.


Whether it is call for  building a wall between Mexico and the Southern United States [which he asserts that he will make Mexico pay for], threatening Muslims, insulting African Americans, or an unclear plan to strengthen the US economy, any of these things, which are well documented, should be sufficient enough to find his election to this nation's highest office to be a frightening turn of events.

The following link has a good summary of why this is a terrible development. http://reverbpress.com/politics/seven-reasons-donald-trump-make-terrible-president/

If he's so bad, then why was he elected to the highest office?

The answer to this is even more troubling. Despite Trump's many issues in terms of not having any substantive plans and his crass statements regarding women, the handicapped, immigrants, minorities and the like, he has been successful. Those things did not work against him, rather, they worked for him.

I recall an interview I heard on NPR, the one being interviewed was a Gay Latino from New York. He thought of Donald Trump as a personal success story, narrating about the latter's homes, wealth and all the trappings of success he already displayed.

A succinct article in The Guardian [ Anti-Intellectualism taking over the US] explains this very well. This is increasingly becoming a culture that places no value on education [except of course in the practical fields such as Engineering].

Education is more than a piece of paper or the ability to count numbers and decipher symbols . Education is meant to instill respect for certain values and to nurture- at the least- a foundation for understanding the world around the student.

Yet, despite the presence of universities and the Internet, ignorance of even basic facts still is the prevalent situation. An economics professor doing work while taking a flight was pulled off a plane and interrogated by authorities. Apparently, he was mistaken for an Arab and his work notebook's contents "strange writings" was simply math equations. [ https://www.rawstory.com/2016/05/penn-professor-booted-from-plane-after-passenger-identified-him-as-a-terrorist-for-doing-math/#.Vy6cfuYVTDw.facebook].

This utter ignorance and dismay for personal and communal growth breeds irrational fear and unsubstantiated beliefs, particularly for the "other". African Americans have long been the victims of this thread of thinking, and are thus generally more understanding of this side of America!


The other unspoken reason that Mr. Trump has now become our president is that the demographics  are rapidly changing from the White Anglo Saxon Protestant equation. There is a great deal of growth of Non-White communities, and this of course translates into political and economic changes, not to even mention the social impact.

Indeed, the demographer William H.Frey in his book Diversity Explosion predicts that after 2040, whites will no longer be the majority population in this country. This is a future that is not pleasant to think about for many Americans.

We have ignored Mrs. Hillary Rodham-Clinton up to this point. Many analysts have explained her failure to win the Oval office due to the E-mail scandal or a frustration with the system in general. It is the view of this writer that those issues are only a minor part of it. In other words, it would not have even mattered if Jesus Christ himself was the candidate of the Democratic party, the chance to stem the social changes and to express deeply-held sentiments was simply too much to pass up.

What should Muslim do?

Since the issue of Muslims' religion and presence in this country was a campaign issue for President-elect Trump, it seems prudent to direct this to Muslims, however, this is equally valid for all Americans who feel that we have now entered seriously dangerous political territory and fear for the future of this nation!

Our response to this should include, but not be limited to:

[1] Coalition building: This means more than an occasional dinner. Muslims-particularly the leadership, have to become better involved in their local communities and become stewards of universal justice, which is itself a Quranic command [Q 4: 135]. This means that -for example- when a person is unjustly killed by law enforcement, Muslims have to be there standing for what is right. This means greater civil involvement.

[2] Become deeply involved in other parties: Currently this nation is dominated by a two party system. While other parties do exist, they have little to no influence at all. We have to join the voices of those seeking real change, and not simply hope our few dollars to entrenched politicians will produce results on our limited interests. Our interests must be bigger than Palestine, Hijaab and holidays.

As a whole, disaffected Americans can take a lesson from other nations such as India [the most populous Democratic nation as it likes to call itself]. It has about eight big active parties such as AITC and INC, but arguable hundreds of smaller ones.

We don't have to limit ourselves to this two party system. We have to think bigger and in longer terms.

[3] For Muslims, to do more to  have  our voices heard. Write to the local newspaper when stories are published. Become educated enough to answer questions on Islam. Share the Qur'an or Islamic materials with people, refer them to the mosque or to accurate websites.

[4] Americans, both Muslim and Non Muslim alike, should be encouraged to travel, in order to broaden their horizons and perspectives. This is also a Quranic teaching [ Q 29:20 is just one example]. Keep a valid passport at all times.

I hope this brief article generates much discussion and deep thinking. After all, this is the time to be rational and calm. Actions born out of frustrations and anger almost never produce a positive outcome.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Standing upon Correct Deen

[ Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah 11/4/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]

"So stand your entire being to correct Deen, the holistic nature that God has placed in humanity. [Let there be] No altering of Divine creation, that is the standard Deen , but most people don't know." [Q 30:30]فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ


All the words in this short ayah deserve examination, such as the command "Aqim" ["Stand"] and the term Wajhak [literally 'your face', bur explained here as 'your entire being'], however, a brief explanation before reaching our core subject is -simply- to stand for the correct deen with your entire being. This is firstly directed towards Muhammad The Prophet   صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم       .

This verse tells us the characteristics of correct deen "The holistic nature that God has placed in humanity." Muhammad- upon whom be peace and blessings- is being directed towards that which is realistic, holistic, healthy pattern of thinking and acting. This is called Fitrah.


Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم is being directed towards this by Allah ['Azza wa Jall] because the society around him was in a state of darkness. That era is called the days of ignorance or the age of ignorance [Ayyam ul Jaahiliyyah or 'Asr al Jaahiliyyah] for a reason. That era's title is not an exaggeration. We are not simply making reference to the worship of false gods. Rather, Arabia before Islam influenced them had little value to female children. They practiced female infanticide. The social order was so steeped in tribal thinking that a stray camel entering the domain  of another group led to decades of warfare.

In a sense, all of God's prophets and messengers faced these sorts of things within their environment. So Allah summons Prophet Muhammad, who actually personifies a universal summons [because he is the only universal messenger] to abandon that baggage which holds him back, and which holds his society [and humanity in general] back!


No altering of Divine Creation

Allah has allowed differences to exist as a means to keep life interesting and vibrant, yet he has placed limitations on how far those differences can go. A Black Man and a White Woman can produce beautiful children together, however a man cannot mate with a microphone!

All rational people can see the benefit of caring for the poor and underprivileged and all rational people can view murder, theft and its like as wrong. This is what the Qur'an calls Standard Deen [deen ul Qayyim]. This is also deen ul fitrah. A framework for a healthy, vibrant and sound mind, body, soul and society.

Islam or submission to God is to penetrate all areas of existence. This is not to occur by force, contrary to the views of many pundits, because force is contrary to all the previously mentioned positive states!

Muslim responsibility

We have to ask ourselves if we are upon the standard, correct deen. We have to ask ourselves if we can better or how can we better align to the Qur'an and Sunnah.

We pray to be of those who better respond to the call of Allah and his messenger, as this is a call that gives meaning and purpose to life [Q 8:24].


But most people don't know

The verse reads "...That is standard Deen, but most people don't know." [Q 30:30]. In the same Soorah, we read:

Allah's promise, Allah does not fail in his promise, but most people don't know. They know the outer shell of life [Dhaahiran min al hayaat ad dunya], and about 'Al-Akhirah', they are heedless." [Q 30:6-7].وَعْدَ اللَّهِ لَا يُخْلِفُ اللَّهُ وَعْدَهُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
 يَعْلَمُونَ ظَاهِرًا مِّنَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ عَنِ الْآخِرَةِ هُمْ غَافِلُونَ


Having access to Allah's Qur'an and access to the knowledge of how the Prophet's message transformed the hearts and minds of his society should be sufficient as a basis to ourselves become transformed, to become better, to discard the thinking and mentality of the days of ignorance!


We recently shared what distinguished Muhammad the genuine Prophet from Musaylima the false claimant by looking at the letters exchanged between the two [ see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_f_MjGQ6_XI] .

Musaylima appealed, as we learn from the letters, only to the strands of ignorance, jealousy and desire, whereas Muhammad -Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam- appealed only to Allah.

Prophet Muhammad calls us to Allah, to Deenul Fitrah, so we pray to be on that path, following light rather than groping around in darkness.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Some of our activities, scheduling a lecture/presentation

It has come to my attention that it is important to document activities in the wider community. To that end, below please see some of the pictures below.


January 2014 Clergy breakfast

Presentation at Park United Church on Prophet Muhammad



Park United Church: Muslims and Christians discussing Prophet Muhammad.

Lecture at Lourdes University


Catholic-Islamic dialogue at Islamic Center Perrysburg, Ohio

Spirituality session at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam

UMAT 2016 Iftar, explaining Ramadan to a packed room of politicians and community leaders.

2014 Fundraising banquet with the other Toledo Imams

Invocation at funeral of Toledo Mayor Michael Collins


How to request a presentation

Our focus is interfaith discussion, Islamic propagation [Da'wah], social reform, as well as academic presentations.

Email us at Waheed79@yahoo.com for dates and honorariums.







Saturday, October 15, 2016

Virtues of Friday: Surprising observations from the Qur'an and Sunnah

[ The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah delivered 10/14/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]

Judgement day

The Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] is reported to have said "And the hour [i.e. judgement] will not be established except on Friday." [Saheeh Muslim].

There are many other ahadeeth which outline the virtues of Friday, such as one which states that Allah accepting the supplication of a supplicant on this day, about it being the leading day in God's sight [ Inna Yaumal Jumu'ati Sayyidul Ayyami wa A'athamuhaa 'IndaLLaah], and we are even told in the hadeeth literature in at least two narrations that Adam was created on a Friday!

Why do we have all of this emphasis on Friday [Yawmul Jumu'ah]? The answer to this is found in the Qur'anic command

O Believers! When the call is made for Friday prayers, rush forth to the remembrance of Allah, and leave off trade. That is best for you, if you do but know." [Q 62:9].

Thus, remembering Allah, being reminded via the Adhaan, Khutbah, prayer and Qur'an references the speaker inevitably makes, all of this has the power to transform!

"And the remembrance of Allah is the greatest [source of inspiration and power], and Allah knows what you manufacture." [Q 29:45]

So the experience of Jumu'ah is supposed to be empowering!

Empowerment to do what?

What should experience of Jumu'ah empower us to do? We have to return to the first hadeeth mentioned. "The hour of Judgment will be established on the day of Jumu'ah."

At foremost, Jumu'ah reminds us of the reality of standing before Allah. Sir Francis Bacon said "Knowledge is power".

Knowledge is itself power, knowledge or awareness of being in the future standing in the presence of God.

Another benefit would be empowerment in thinking. Allah's reminders create a transformed thinking, mentality, worldview!

In every single way, authentic Islam as presented in the Qur'an and the life of Allah's Messenger promotes balance, healthy interactions and community feeling.

The one reminded of Allah should be reminded to abandon the terrible ways of thinking and acting that included misogyny, sexism, racism and xenophobia.

The reminders of Allah even are displayed in the small areas of the Prophetic Sunan that are emphasized on Fridays. The Friday 'Sunan' [plural of Sunnah] include bathing before Jumu'ah, dressing in nice clothing, cutting nails. Before the start of the Khutbah, we engage in personal reflections on Allah, reading the Qur'an, and even after the congregational prayers, we pray two Rak'ahs.

So we have in these -both great and small- expressions of authentic spirituality.

Being reminded about Allah has an impact on the here and now.

"[Believers are ] those when afflicted by calamity, say :"Indeed, we belong to Allah, and to him is our return". It is such people that have on them blessings [salawaat] from their Lord, and mercy [as well]. and it is they who have received guidance." [ Q 2: 156-157]

So while we are to take Friday prayers seriously, we should take the deen seriously in general. Use the Qur'an as it is supposed to be used, to examine but also to reform one's own actions and worldview. The opportunity to become serious exists so long as you have life.

Standing in prayer [Qiyaam] and Standing before Allah [Qiyaamah]



In Salaah, we recite Al-Faatihah, the first Quranic chapter. In that Soorah's recitation, we pray not only for religious guidance, but we pray that which produces Ni'mah [grace, bounties] in the real world, and avoiding that which produces Divine anger and takes us away from that Ni'mah!

We begin our Salaah by Qiyaam. We are standing as the first act of the prayer. That act of Qiyaam should remind us standing before Allah on judgement day, known as Yawmul Qiyaamah, the day of standing or resurrection.

"Our Lord, Verily, You are the Gatherer of Mankind on a day in which there is no doubt. Indeed, Allah does not fail in his promise." [Q 3:9]

So Prayer, be it on Fridays or other days, should inspire us to become more aligned with what is authentic and healthy, which in turn will court Divine Mercy.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Organized Spirituality: lessons from Abraham post-Eid

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a Friday Khutbah 9/16/16 at Toledo Masjid. The opening Hamd has been omitted, as has much of the Quranic and hadeeth quotes in Arabic.]


Building, not destroying

During the 'Eid ul Ad-haa, which just passed, our speakers usually focus on the willingness of Abraham [Ibrahim, 'alayhis salaam] to sacrifice his son because he saw that as being God's command. Indeed, the entire holiday centers around that premise.

However, there is yet another aspect we should ponder upon.

"And when Abraham raised the foundations of the House, and Ishmael as well [they prayed]: Our Lord, accept from us, surely, You are the All-Hearing, All-Knowing." [Q 2:127].

Abraham and his son [Ismaa'il, 'alayhis salaam] are associated here with building, and not destroying! They built [or re-built] the Ka'bah. That place is described as Baytul 'Ateeq or the ancient house, Baytun Naas which means the house for all people, and the Qur'an describes it as "a blessing and a guidance for all nations" [Q 3:96].


So Abraham and his son built something, and building something takes planning, thinking, mapping out appropriate strategies,

For a home, we have to plan our finances, and all of this takes time, patience. This is what Abraham [upon whom be peace] and his son did! This 'house' outlived them.

At every moment, thousands and often millions are circling the Ka'bah, reciting the Talbiyah, calling upon Allah, often in the very words used by Abraham himself "Our Lord, accept from us, Surely, You are the All-Hearing, All-Knowing."Rabbana Taqqabbal Minna, Innaka Antas Samee'ul 'Aleem.

So being organized and strategic in our religious priorities, indeed within all aspects of our lives, is arguably the most important lesson for us to take.

Going for job interview requires having prepared a resume', appropriate clothes and language.

So what about prayer [Du'aa]? When you make du'aa, you should think about who and what to make du'aa for.Ahadeeth. Take lessons from Soorah al Faatihah and from the other obligatory aspects of the Salaah as to what or who we should pray for. When we offer salaah, particularly alone, think about the meanings of what is to be recited.
Take some lessons from the supplications present in the Qur'an and Sunnah.

What can we do or how can we benefit in our lives from what we are to recite in prayer, and how can we build upon that to create something wonderful and lasting as Abraham did?

The Ka'bah and Abraham's station

About the Ka'bah, Allah says "In it are clear signs and Abraham's station." [Q 3:96]. This teaches us that the Ka'bah is a blessed symbol and is itself a testimony to Abraham's position [Maqaam Ibrahim] with Allah. It is a symbol or a goal we can work to, and the important term here is "work". Work wisely, work sincerely, for Allah, not for ego or fame or wealth. To go against the philosophy of Abraham is actually to show foolishness [Q 3:109]. May Allah accept from us.


The Ka'bah as Qiblah and at Hajj

The great symbol called the Ka'bah becomes the focus during Hajj. In addition to this, it is the Qiblah, the direction we are to face during worship.

Allah says to the Prophet: " We [Allah] see you [O Muhammad] turning your face to the sky,,," [Q 2:144].

Before the revelation of the above statement, it is said that the Qiblah faced by the Muslims was that which was associated with the Prophets of old, i.e. Jerusalem. Here, we are told the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] was facing the sky. The exact meaning of this is a debated point among the Mufassiroon.

Let us consider this as a possible meaning: after years of persecution in Makkah itself [the enemy capital] - The Prophet is now in stable Madinah, and he sees the need to become better focused, to be oriented correctly and to be organized spiritually.
God answers that concern by directing him not towards the sky, but rather to that symbol constructed by the great Patriarch, Abraham. 

So the Ka'bah is our Qiblah because it focuses us. It's very existence encourages us to build, to build or to fortify our hearts, to fill our minds with useful information, to build in this world, to add, not to destroy!

The Prophet Muhammad [upon whom be peace and blessings] said that if you see the world ending around you while your planting a tree, continue to plant that tree!

So let us be intelligent in our lives, and intelligent in our Islam. Let us be like Abraham, willing to  obey Allah even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Qur'an: serious business for believers and a challenge to those who reject [part two] Q 11:13-20

[ Note: The following is a continuation of some reflections on the eleventh chapter of the Qur'an, beginning here from verse 13 and ending with 20. For part one see http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2016/09/quran-serious-business-for-believers.html]

[Q 11:13] As previously noted, the nature of the Qur'an is so sublime that none can match it or overtake it. There have been attempts ever since the Quranic revelation came to answer its challenges but all have failed to gain any traction. Indeed, the Quranic revelation is the foundation upon which Arabic language sciences formed and flourished. One Arabic Christian poet write:

" I drank from the Nile [river] water, the Shaykh of rivers, it is comparable to tasting the water of Paradise [Maa al Kawthar], a river blessed since ancient times that is [still] sweet, however, it is not comparable to the water of my country." [Eliya Abu al Maadi] [Ft.#1]

The language and style of the poet's composition is clearly Quranic, but also it's motifs. Al Kawthar is a chapter title of the Qur'an, and the traditions say that it is the name of a pond in Paradise, that Prophet Muhammad himself offers such drink from it, that those who drink it will never be thirsty again.[ft.2]

In any case, here- as elsewhere- the Qur'an confidently proclaims that if the opponents can produce something like it [in order to prove that Qur'an is not from Allah], go ahead and try.

In recent years there has been a couple of attempts to answer the Quranic challenge by missionaries. They published a particular book, in Arabic, however they have attempted to market it in the Non Arabic speaking Muslim world.

Why have they done that? Because there is obviously a language gap which they try to take advantage of. However even then, the work, called Al Kitaab al Furqaan, is rightly and widely seen as a foolish production which takes some Islamic  sentences , mixes it up with insulting insinuations and awkwardly composed arguments.[ft.3]

The Qur'an, sent to an illiterate society, memorized and recited daily by millions, stands the tests of time.

[14-15] They have challenged the Qur'an because they seek worldly benefit. In another ayah, we read of such people when Allah says "Do you make your wealth by lying about it?" [Q 56:79]. Their challenge will take them no where.

[16] Except, of course, Hell.

[17] Qur'an is serious business. It is not a game. It is a guidance for those with Taqwaaa, and to play with it is to invite trouble.

[18-20] Those who play with the Qur'an and with the Divine message are not the average Joe-Blow walking down the street. Rather, they are the powers that be, forces that have financial and political interests.

It is important to note that when the Qur'an uses terms such as Kufr, they are synonymous with oppression, the usurpation of the rights of others, with having a destructive mindset.




Conclusion

The historical accounts, the morals, and the emphatic aspects of the Qur'an need to be examined, particularly in today's world. The Quranic discourse needs to be a force of influence, calling us to God and to being able to properly identify what is wholesome and what is it's opposite.

Don't take our word for it. Have a look at it for yourself. Think about what you read, and do so deeply. This Book only benefits those who have a healthy or a sincere mindset. It is for the hard worker, not the intellectually lazy.

[Ft.1] The Arabic text of this quotation is given here.

و شربت ما ء النيل شيخ الانهر فكانني قد ذقت ماء الكوثر نهر .تبارك من قديم العصر عذب ، و ولكن لا كماء بلادي ( ايليا ابو الماضي )



[Ft.2] For more on Soorat al Kawthar, see http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2008/04/al-kauthar-legacy-of-prophet_03.html [Al Kauthar: Legacy of the Prophet].

[3] The Furqaan work was allegedly written by two anonymous writers and 'translated' by Anis Shoroosh. The latter, a Christian of Palestinian extraction, has for many years engaged in polemics with Muslims, the most famous examples being his debates with the late Ahmed Deedat and Dr. Shabbir Ally of Canada. In recent years he has lost credibility in Evangelical circles, least of all due to an arrest for fraud and arson in Florida in 2008.




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Qur'an: serious business for believers and a challenge to those who reject [ Reflections on Q 11:10-20] [Part one]

I seek refuge with Allah from Satan,The Rejected Enemy. In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate. The Most Merciful.

Introduction

Weekly, I do a presentation  [perhaps a discussion is a better term] on a handful of Quranic verses. Preparing for this occasion is a recurring process, it allows me to make Tadabbur or deep reflections on the Qur'anic text in general. This reflecting process should never be seen as completed or finished, after all, the text is of Divine Origin and will always have new and fresh relevance as time advances.

Below are some thoughts on ten verses from Soorah Huud. We have generally not shared the translation of all the verses because this will encourage the reader to have a look for themselves. We have only shared translation as where deemed necessary. Unless otherwise stated, the translation is that of this writer.


[Q 11:9-10] These two verses can be read in connection with verse 9. God gives provision, even to the Kuffarr. The Kuffar reject theological points such as the hereafter and resurrection day, but they also are extremely ungrateful to Allah. In fact, for the Kaafir, they think nothing comes from God at all.        


















[Q 11:11] Believers have a different attitude: "..Those who persevere [Sabaroo] and have righteous conduct.." the Imaan [faith] of believers has taught them Sabr and Shukr, to be able to persevere and have  gratitude. Thus, the Muslims recite Al-Faatihah daily in their prayers, in which they recite "Praise belongs to Allah, The Caretaker of The Universe." [Q 1:2]. In addition, many other expressions of praise and thanks to God are found throughout the Qur'an and the Sunnah. This is to develop a deep sense of gratitude within us. 



[Q 11:12-13] The charge that Muhammad-Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, simply made up the claim of revelation is addressed here in a powerful way. That accusation is likewise addressed in other places. They would ask the Prophet to "edit", to change around what was given to him. In a sense, they wanted the Qur'an to suffer the same fate as previous scripture [Q 2:79 and 4:46]. It is relevant here to share the statement : "Among the Jews are those who distort words from their places." [Q 4:46].




These objectors wanted the Prophet Muhammad ['alayhis salaatu was salaam] to act like they have acted. Allah [Soobhaanahu wa ta'alaa] warned the Prophet that had he indeed done that, he would face severe punishment [Q 69:44-47].




Thus, the Qur'an only contains what God wants it to contain. The words of Muhammad are recorded in secondary sources [the Hadeeth corpus] and are themselves subjected to careful examination, which is why even within traditional modes of interpretation, there still exists much debate as to what is authentically from the mouth of Allah's Messenger.This is something that is not from modern times as sometimes imagined, rather, this is from almost the beginning of Muslim history. This is the science of Hadeeth ['ilm ul hadeeth] which seeks to differentiate as much as possible the authentic from the spurious. In terms of the Qur'an, the opposition is given a challenge to forge Ten chapters or units that are similar or that can outdo the power and the majesty of the Quranic revelation. 
  








The truth of the matter is that nothing can outdo or outmatch the Qur'an, particularly in Arabic . This is something recognized even by Non Muslim Arabic writers and has been throughout the ages.  Moreover, The Qur'an became the basis of the organization and structure of Arabic as a literary and scientific language. Non Muslim writers end up having to imitate not only the Quranic style of delivery but also themes and concepts from the sacred text.


















                                                  

                               
وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَا الإِنْسَانَ مِنَّا رَحْمَةً ثُمَّ نَزَعْنَاهَا مِنْهُ إِنَّهُ لَيَئُوسٌ كَفُورٌ




وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَاهُ نَعْمَاء بَعْدَ ضَرَّاء مَسَّتْهُ لَيَقُولَنَّ ذَهَبَ السَّيِّئَاتُ عَنِّي إِنَّهُ لَفَرِحٌ فَخُورٌ
 لاَّ الَّذِينَ صَبَرُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّالِحَاتِ أُوْلَـئِكَ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ كَبِيرٌ
 فَلَعَلَّكَ تَارِكٌ بَعْضَ مَا يُوحَى إِلَيْكَ وَضَآئِقٌ بِهِ صَدْرُكَ أَن يَقُولُواْ لَوْلاَ أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ كَنزٌ أَوْ جَاء مَعَهُ مَلَكٌ إِنَّمَا أَنتَ نَذِيرٌ وَاللّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَكِيلٌ
 مْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِّثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ














Sunday, September 4, 2016

Losing control: an Islamic perspective

[ Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah given 9/216 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam.]

Opening remarks

All of us want to feel in control. We want to control our time, income flow, even health, and many of us can become obsessive over these things. However, we should ask what happens if and when we that control is removed?

All religions seek to give guidance to their adherents on issues of losing control, particularly at death. These religions have a particular viewpoint on what happens after death and gives inspirational slogans for those experiencing it as well as those loved ones around that person. This situation is not the only time when control is lost. What about experiencing the loss of a job, social standing, marriage, heart disease or cancer, non life threatening, but beyond the control of a person. What does religion say to these matters?

Look at Prophet Muhammad

We have to look at Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, because Allah made him the model whose struggles provide first hand a deep perspective on these things. We have to pay particular attention to what Allah [Soobhaanahu wa ta'alaa] told his Prophet when he [i.e. The Prophet] was facing things seemingly beyond his ability to handle.

"Say: I have no power for myself to bring neither harm nor benefit, expect as God wills.." [Q 10:43]. Think of that. Recall when the Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] went to Ta'if, the leaders sent a youthful mob to stone him. It is said that the Prophet's shoes were overflowing with blood. The Prophet had no control there. A man can fight maybe one or two persons, yet he would be practically helpless against a mob. Allah tells him to say that he only operates within the limits given to him, and repeatedly in the Qur'an, Allah tells the Prophet to state this in public.

The Prophet was successful

Look at the Prophet. Despite years of all those things, he never became hateful or despondent or bitter. When he overcame the enemy in their capital [Makkah], he issued a general amnesty which extended even to the leadership which had led the charge against him for so many years.

This attitude and thinking are centered within the Divine Reality, the Prophet was blessed to see big picture, and that made him triumphant, even from a worldly perspective.

The whole of the Quranic message is a message of acknowledging limited control


The entirety of the revelation is a reminder that God is in ultimate control, however there are two verses which I would like particularly highlight.

"Whatever We [Allah] cancels of signs, or makes forgotten, We [i..e Allah] replace it something better or [atleast] comparable." [Q 2:106]
مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِّنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا  
If God's plan is that we face one loss or another, be it in occupation, marriage, death of loved ones, the Sunnah of Allah is that eventually healing comes with a better situation. Thus, the verse ends "Don't you know that truly Allah is powerful over all.?" [Q 2:106]

This sentiment is strengthened in the next ayah:
أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللّهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَمَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلاَ نَصِيرٍ
"Don't you know that to Allah belongs the dominion of the Heavens and the Earth, and that other than him you have none to give you protection [Walee] nor any to give you victory [Naseer]?" [Q 2:107]

So don't lose your mind or your balance when things happen, because it is all in the hands of Allah anyways. Have confidence that Allah will take care of you. That does not mean a defeatist mentality.

You do your best to secure your income and and happiness by your own efforts, by your own sweat you seek your own rights. Seek to improve your health by proper diet and exercise. Yet, remember that these things can be taken away, yet Allah says that he replaces them.

In terms of death, it is not an accident. It happens at the right time for all parties concerned. Similarly, the giving or removing of power, wealth, prestige, all occur by the decree of God when it is best for all.

Remember that, and be guided. Or, we should say, remember that, because that is an indicator of proper guidance.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Is being a full-time Muslim easier said than done?

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a  Friday Khutbah given July 22, 2016 at The Islamic Center of Greater Toledo[ICGT] in Perrysburg, Ohio. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]


Introduction



This week I gave a lecture entitled "Towards becoming Full time Muslims" [url] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6V_aAxmp0J0[/url] . As the title suggests, we explored some practical ways to become stronger in our submission to Allah Almighty. One of the reactions to this presentation was, in essence, that it is easier said than done.

Events both here and overseas have influenced me to ponder upon that response. In particular, the political discourse we are seeing in recent days is very concerning. Thus, it is understandable that there would be difficulty to become "full time Muslims".

Observing the reports on the attack in the French city of Nice', the attacker, a reported drinker and even consumer of Pork, was said to have been "radicalized". Evidence of this so called radicalization was his weeks worth of beard growth [url] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/18/nice-attack-premeditated-mohamed-lahouaiej-bouhlel-beard-prosecutor[/url].

Politicians have in recent days called for Sharee'ah to be banned [not even knowing the meaning of this term] and its practitioners deported.

So the argument that these forces are making is that the stronger Muslim you become, the more dangerous to society you become.



Islam is not an identity

It is important to remember that Islam is mot an "identity". Rather it is the title or the summary of that guidance which came forth through all the Prophets and Messengers of God. We must remember that almost all of the Prophets experienced character assassination, jealous foes, scapegoating and other pressures, all designed to prevent a fuller manifestation of God's guidance in society.


So know that these pressures are going to be there, just as they were in the lives of the Prophets [upon whom be peace]. Yet, these pressures should only make us better qualified.

Pressure is character building

When you jog, lift weights, or play sports or do some other exercises, you will experience some level of discomfort. You will feel sore during and afterwards, perhaps for quite a bit of time, and look and smell bad. However, it is worth it.

So we look at the Prophets to give us guidance in terms of dealing with those pressures as well as predicting the future.

Ibrahim [The Prophet Abraham 'alayhis salaam] is a good example of this. He doesn't seek to be domineering, he only preaches Tauheed [recognizing that Allah is one and alone in deserving worship] and seeks to make his audience think. He says "Do you not use your minds?" [Afala Ta'qiloon]. His foes respond by saying "Burn him" [Harriquhu].

Opponents of Truth are intellectually bankrupt

The foes of Abraham were intellectually bankrupt. Abraham was a Prophet that embodies logic, wisdom and even research. His foes find this threatening. They cannot respond to his logic, so they respond by gaining up, rabble-rousing, violence.

Look at Allah's Divine Hand at work. "We Decreed: O Fire! Be cool and peaceful for Abraham"[ Q 21:70].

So Abraham as a person went from being a potential victim of lynching to a miraculous saving of his life, which also means that his message was saved. The fire of hate was put out.
The evidence is strengthened by the fact that the three monotheistic religions[Judaism, Christianity and Islam]  see themselves as connected to Abraham. They are all called "The Abrahamic religions" [Al Adyaan Al Ibrahimiyyah].

So don't let outside forces stop you from getting closer to Allah, from being better and more committed Muslims. We pray for Allah's mercy, guidance, forgiveness, and stronger hearts planted with Imaan.

Muslims who work with the wider public have greater responsibilities

Many of us are people who deal with the wider public in some fashion. It is upon such folks a bigger responsibility of being full-time Muslims in a way that is seen by the public.

Firstly, this means that Islamic ethics must be displayed, particularly in financial matters. That also means we cannot be shy as Muslims.

Look at Prophet Muhammad [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam]. There was a lady who used to harass him by dumping trash in places where she knew he would walk. When she fell ill, he took care of her. When he ['alayhis salaatu was salaam] left Makkah for Madinah, he made sure to give back wealth that had been entrusted to him to its rightful owners.

Those of us in public should also be prepared to answer queries at all times. Keep Islamic pamphlets or literature in your offices, suitcase, bag, purse and car. Invite them to the Mosque. Have more open houses and be welcoming and invite the hard questions.

We have to be like Abraham. A mob wanted to burn him, yet Allah gave him immunity from that- and now-thousands of years later, the majority of humans see themselves as connected to him.

Indeed, in the Judeo-Christian tradition his name is known to mean "father of many nations" or "father of all nation", depending on which Bible translation [in English] you read.

 We have to be strong, confident and closer to Allah.

God is not an intellectual point. God is real, and is active in the world of man. Allah be with you all, [Allah Ma'kum Jamee'an].



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Towards becoming Full-time Muslims

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a Friday Khutbah delivered 7/15/16 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]


Working Hard

A person experiencing financial difficulties will attempt to address their situation in the best way available. Such a person, upon finding a full-time job, one that comes with certain perks and benefits, will accept that job, feel grateful for that job and will put in extra time and work, using their abilities to solve any problems that are work-related.

There is an obvious difference between full-time work and part time work. When we put in part time work, we will only get part time results. When we are serious in our work, we will get fulfilling results.

Allah states "Say: Indeed, my prayers, devotional acts, life and death are all for Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe. He has no partner..." [Q 6:163].

So being a Muslim is a full-time job. That's simply an undeniable reality. In today's world, we often have to differentiate between "full time parents" and "weekend fathers" or "holiday mothers". Absentee parents will come to regret their neglect as time moves forward. The same applies to being a Muslim.

We cannot be Ramadan Muslims or Friday Muslims or Holiday Muslims and then expect to have the same results as experienced by the Prophet  and his early followers. 

If our Islam is anything other than full time, we will always be sad, unstable, bitter and non progressive. The most important criterion for "progress" is of the spiritual/mental/moral type. Too many of us are part-time workers expecting full-time benefits!

Islam for ourselves and families

Too many of us have limited our Islam to easy things such as abstaining from pork and the Salaam greetings. A limited "Islam" of that nature, one that is only occasional and ignoring family, we risk destroying our children's spiritual foundation. We risk becoming a "gray community", one which does not even last a single generation.

Workable strategies for becoming full-time Muslims

There are many methods by which we can become full time Muslims, but any methodology must include these elements.

[1] Examining issues of Halaal and Haraam in your life. Look at everything, from relationships to income, even to entertainment.

[2] Consider one's own physical environment. If you are not offering five daily prayers, obviously that has to start, but what about the areas in which you pray? Is the area in which you offer salaah clean? Are there reminders of Allah in those areas, such as Allah's name or quotations from the Qur'an? "And the places of prayer [Masaajid] are for Allah, so do not call with Allah anyone else." [Q 72:18].

This may sound superficial, but our surroundings have influences over our moods. So consider this with regards to the places of prayer in your own home.

[3] Are your friends believers? Are they healthy [spiritually] or are they toxic? If they are toxic, resentful professional complainers, it would be best to avoid spending much time with them.

[4] If your friends/company are healthy, yet they are non Muslim or nominal Muslims. You should share Islam with them by inviting them to the mosque, by living Islam yourself, by answering their queries.

[5] If your relationship is Haraam [Islamically forbidden], the solution is to either marry or to part company if they are not marriage material.

There is a disproportionate gap in numbers between the genders in our community. We have many single brothers and not enough sisters.We need marriage between Muslims, for Muslim children to be able to form friendships with other Muslims.

All of these are needed things to address in our quest to become full-time Muslims.

This deen is guidance, but if we are unwilling to act upon it, 'guidance' and "Islam" becomes nothing more than phrases on paper, useless slogans.

May Allah protect our Imaan, increase us in our zeal for his cause, and bestow on us forgiveness, mercy and guidance. Ameen!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Keeping the feeling of Ramadan alive

[ Note: The following is an edited version of a Friday Khutbah given July 8, 2016 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd as well as much of the Arabic textual quotations have been omitted.]

Introduction

Ramadan, the month of fasting, worship and introspection, has left us. It was that month that we are told in the traditions that the demons [Shayateen] are locked away, even though we are forced to admit that their mouths were still active. The month of Ramadan has passed us, and now the Shayateen are out in full force. We are to ask ourselves "how can we  keep the spirit of Ramadan alive"?

Fasting outside of Ramadan


To answer this question, we have to refer to Allah's Messenger [ Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam]. His normative practice was to fast six days of Shawwal, the month which comes after Ramadan [Sittu min shawwal]. Scholars differ as to whether those six days need to be observed consecutively  or by simply picking days out of the month, either way, we have here, from the Prophetic Sunnah, an option. He also used to be consistent in fasting twice a week [Mondays and Thursdays].

Fasting is an obvious way to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive. There are other things as well that help in these regards.


Taraweeh transformed into Tahajjud

In the evenings, we were praying Salaat At-Taraweeeh.  We can keep that alive by praying Salaat At-Tahajjud. The Tahajjud prayers are offered in the same basic format as Taraweeh, a fact that has led a minority of Muslim thinkers to the conclusion that they are in fact the same prayer, albeit with different names, Taraweeh  being simply an encouragement for the masses. Most importantly, Tahajjud is a prayer which is referred to in the Qur'an itself [ Q 17:79, 73:1-6].

Most of us have very tight schedules, so how can we pray Tahajjud when we struggle to offer the five obligatory prayers? My recommendation is to offer the Salaat at Tahajjud once a week, on the night that precedes your day off work.

The goal is Allah

Islam is a faith that has many checks and balances. The overall goal is Allah, but Allah has made us all to carry some responsibilities and the manner in which we carry out those responsibilities is also a form of worship, a means by which we seek to connect to the Almighty. Working to sustain our families and to have communal safety or correcting our wrong ideas or thinking, all of this are characteristics of faith.

Many of us were disturbed this Ramadan by news from all over the Islamic world and even from the events taking place in our society today. Even news from Madinah, the site of the Prophet's tomb itself, was that which caused disturbance in our hearts.  We may have had to be defensive, especially those among us who are well-known to the press and the masses. In addition, we have had to deal with internal political issues.  So it can be reasonably said that most of faced a difficult month. However, by recognizing this, we can atleast be in a better position to deal with it in future Ramadans.

Qur'an reading

Allah says "Indeed, We have sent it as a Pure recitation, so that perhaps you will use your mind." [Q 12:2].  He also says "Do they not deeply consider this Qur'an" [Afala Yatadabbarun ul Qur'aan [Q 4:82].

While it is true that Allah has began sending the Qur'an in Ramadan, we are not to restrict our reading of it simply during the fasting month. We are to make Tadabbur of it, consider its contents deeply and with thought, for our own growth.

Ramadan should have only intensified what we as Muslims are already doing. If we have not been strong in our practice, then we need to change that, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. 

We want to leave Ramadan stronger than when we entered into it. We want to be mature, competent, closer to God. May Allah strengthen our hearts upon this deen.


What does Submission entail?

Islam is not about massaging our egos, nor is it about personality worship. It is about surrendering all to the will of Allah [Soobhaanahu wa ta'alaaa]. Believers are to submit to that which has been decreed by God and his Prophet.

That 'submission' entails giving up false ideologies, destructive behavior, Baatil of every type. Look at Bilqees, the queen of Sheba. She is guided, by the efforts of Solomon [Sulaymaan 'alayhis salaam] and she asserts "Indeed, I have done wrong to my own soul, and I have submitted with Solomon to Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe." [Q 27:44] .
إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي وَأَسْلَمْتُ مَعَ سُلَيْمَانَ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
'Submission" to God is never negative. When you respond to Allah you become a better person. When  you get better in your submission, you become a better human being.

Submission often comes before understanding

Many people feel that they need to understand all of the wisdom of God before surrendering to him. There are radical feminists today who not only rebel against Hijaab, but  who take drastic measures to counter both Christian and Muslim morality. One such group of misguided young women went to a Russian Church and stripped naked, yelling slogans, during Church services a few years ago [ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-macdougall/pussy-riot-russian-orthodox-church-its-complicated_b_3397674.html]. The same people did a similar move outside a mosque in Tunis, the Tunisian capital .

So such people, even if they have Muslim names, don;t see the value in God's moral system. There is a wisdom and reason[s] behind the commands in the Qur'an regarding dress. Even if we cannot see the wisdom, we still have to submit. After all, you don't tell your children why they can't swim to the deep end of the water or to not play with electricity. They have to obey, even without understanding.

Thus, we should always strive to obey God, even when we don't understand.

What is the wisdom of offering five daily prayers? Why not two, or twenty? Why pray a certain number of Rak'ahs for each Salaah? Just because we don't always know, that doesn't mean we are not to obey. Believers hear and obey Allah.

So let us be believers, who hear and obey Allah [SWT].



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Forgiveness of Ramadan: Reflections on the second part of the fasting month



[Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday Khutbah at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam on July 17th, 2016 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted.]

Ramadan quickly ending

As hard as it is to imagine, we are nearly half-way finished with Ramadan. There is a hadeeth of the Prophet, in which he divides the month into three parts, each part consisting of ten days. The first ten days are mercy, the second forgiveness, and the third emancipation from Hell-fire. The initial entry into Ramadan itself, for a believer, is in itself a mercy from God. The second part [forgiveness] is where we want to focus. All religions teach their adherents to seek out Allah's forgiveness, and indeed, the Qur'an and the Sunnah are filled with such pleas. Another approach to take in this regards  is ourselves being forgiving towards each other.

This is also found throughout the Qur'an, Ahadeeth, and the teachings of other faith traditions. Thus, while Ramadan is certainly a personal journey, it is experienced in a wide community of fellow travelers. The travelers all share a bus, a train or an airplane, but upon leaving that mode of transport will go to different places and varied interests.

Forgiveness of others is important because holding onto anger, bitterness and resentfulness can be quite damaging. Most importantly, these things can become ever-consuming and limits spiritual growth, even if knowledge is present.

Look at the Prophet Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam. He entered Makkah, the enemy capital, after years of persecution, war, slander, assassination attempts and the murder of his family members and followers. One would imagine that he would at least have some individuals executed. However, he declared an amnesty, one which even extended to those responsible for the death and mutilation of his uncle, Hamza. The Prophet did not hold on to that bitterness.

How can we apply this Sunnah today? It's easy to apply the Sunnah associated with things such as dress and beard, and even the Sunan associated with worship, but how can we repeat the actions of the Prophet here? By avoiding being overly judgemental, critical and argumentative. Be more accepting, forgiving and tolerant.

Self-Forgiveness

Another aspect worth exploring is self-forgiveness. We can be very hard on ourselves. Well, we all have baggage in life, and the past cannot be changed.  We can only hope to do better in the future.

Many of us take a very wrong approach. We declare ourselves absolved of sins and dedicate ourselves to be judges over other people's sins and issues. Yet we have to look at the Prophet's statement. He says : "Among the pleasant aspects of Islam is to leave that which has no meaning for him.


This is shorthand for the American expression "mind your own business". This is not simply for protecting an individual's right to privacy, even though we admit that such teaching is found throughout the Qur'an and Sunnah [ Soorat an Noor and Soorat al Hujuraat for example] , it is a teaching useful for our own spiritual state. We need to address our own issues and conditions. May this month be a period wherein we can accomplish that.

Demons are locked away yet their mouths are still at work

The demons [Shayateen], we are told, are locked up in the month of Ramadan.  While it is understood that their bodies are locked up, yet their voices are still heard.  Indeed, Allah says in the Qur'an that the Kuffar seek to blow out God's light with their mouths.

So this Ramadan, we have to recognize that there are voices out there who seek to call us, distract us away from Allah, from self-reflection and improvement. They want us to be stagnant, weak and always on the defensive. The strong among us will only be slightly affected by these voices. There are those among us who are affected in a great way by these voices, and these are the weak among us. If we are affected, we have to ask why, we have to ask where our weaknesses are. Ramadan should be the time when we are asking these tough questions. We need more prayer, more reflection [Tadabbur] on the Qur'anic verses. We need to be serious in finding the spiritual truths that are relevant to us, and learn to act upon those truths, as taught by the Prophet [peace and blessings be upon him]


Speaking without knowledge

Many people today speak on subjects without having even an elementary knowledge of that subject. Among them are the majority of our media pundits and politicians. Speaking without knowledge is very dangerous. Thus, the Qur'an repeatedly says "And do not speak about Allah what you do not know" as well as "So ask the people of knowledge if you don't know."


If we really don't know, there is no shame in being silent or asking those who do have information on that subject. We live in a culture that asserts that all opinions are equal and valued, but this is simply a Cultural lie!

We cannot take scientific opinions from a factory worker, simply because they have not studied or mastered this branch of knowledge. Common sense would tell us that we would trust a scientist when teaching on his field, rather than someone who has not taken the time to even a minimum of information. Let this Ramadan be a time of the removal of all self-delusions, when we can become, by hard work, a people that deserve Allah's paradise.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A brief Quranic overview of History, Civilization and Priorities: Soorah Yuunus [10:10-20]

دَعْوَاهُمْ فِيهَا سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّـهُمَّ وَتَحِيَّتُهُمْ فِيهَا سَلَامٌ ۚ وَآخِرُ‌ دَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّـهِ رَ‌بِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿١٠ وَلَوْ يُعَجِّلُ اللَّـهُ لِلنَّاسِ الشَّرَّ‌ اسْتِعْجَالَهُم بِالْخَيْرِ‌ لَقُضِيَ إِلَيْهِمْ أَجَلُهُمْ ۖ فَنَذَرُ‌ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْ‌جُونَ لِقَاءَنَا فِي طُغْيَانِهِمْ يَعْمَهُونَ ﴿١١ وَإِذَا مَسَّ الْإِنسَانَ الضُّرُّ‌ دَعَانَا لِجَنبِهِ أَوْ قَاعِدًا أَوْ قَائِمًا فَلَمَّا كَشَفْنَا عَنْهُ ضُرَّ‌هُ مَرَّ‌ كَأَن لَّمْ يَدْعُنَا إِلَىٰ ضُرٍّ‌ مَّسَّهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْمُسْرِ‌فِينَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٢ وَلَقَدْ أَهْلَكْنَا الْقُرُ‌ونَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَمَّا ظَلَمُوا ۙ وَجَاءَتْهُمْ رُ‌سُلُهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَمَا كَانُوا لِيُؤْمِنُوا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْقَوْمَ الْمُجْرِ‌مِينَ ﴿١٣ ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ خَلَائِفَ فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ لِنَنظُرَ‌ كَيْفَ تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٤


وَإِذَا تُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ ۙ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْ‌جُونَ لِقَاءَنَا ائْتِ بِقُرْ‌آنٍ غَيْرِ‌ هَـٰذَا أَوْ بَدِّلْهُ ۚ قُلْ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أُبَدِّلَهُ مِن تِلْقَاءِ نَفْسِي ۖ إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلَّا مَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ ۖ إِنِّي أَخَافُ إِنْ عَصَيْتُ رَ‌بِّي عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ ﴿١٥ قُل لَّوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ مَا تَلَوْتُهُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَا أَدْرَ‌اكُم بِهِ ۖ فَقَدْ لَبِثْتُ فِيكُمْ عُمُرً‌ا مِّن قَبْلِهِ ۚ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ ﴿١٦ فَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَ‌ىٰ عَلَى اللَّـهِ كَذِبًا أَوْ كَذَّبَ بِآيَاتِهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الْمُجْرِ‌مُونَ ﴿١٧ وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ مَا لَا يَضُرُّ‌هُمْ وَلَا يَنفَعُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِندَ اللَّـهِ ۚ قُلْ أَتُنَبِّئُونَ اللَّـهَ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِ‌كُونَ ﴿١٨ وَمَا كَانَ النَّاسُ إِلَّا أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَاخْتَلَفُوا ۚ وَلَوْلَا كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِن رَّ‌بِّكَ لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ فِيمَا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ ﴿١٩ وَيَقُولُونَ لَوْلَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَةٌ مِّن رَّ‌بِّهِ ۖ فَقُلْ إِنَّمَا الْغَيْبُ لِلَّـهِ فَانتَظِرُ‌وا إِنِّي مَعَكُم مِّنَ الْمُنتَظِرِ‌ينَ ﴿٢٠


This entire Soorah is very interesting, and while our focus is on ten verses, it is important to note that some of the themes preceding the above-mentioned texts include:  [1] Addressing the false charges made by the Kuffar [blinded rejectors] regarding God's choosing certain humans to function as his messengers. These same people believe in everything from Angels to Aliens, so why would it be so hard to see a normal man, such as Muhammad, as his Prophet? [2] The functions of the universe [which includes Prophets] all point to an all wise and powerful God .[3] Just as the physical universe exists, paradise and likewise exist, made by that same God.

This brief analysis omits translating all the aforementioned texts except when deemed necessary. 

"Their call therein [i.e. the paradise, garden] will be 'glorified is you, O Allah, and their greeting therein is 'peace' [salaam], and their last statement is 'praise be to Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe."[Q 10:10]

We begin by seeing that Paradise [described in the Qur'an by many words, the main one being Jannah, which means garden] is a place of rest and contentment. For those who remember the guidance of Allah, their reward is this paradise. 

In addition to this, let us note here that this verse gives us some of the traditional practices among Muslim writers and scholars, such as ending their speeches with "And the last of our summons is praise be to Allah, the Caretaker of the Universe." 

"And if God were to hasten to people the bad [sharr] as He hastens to them their benefit [Khayr], their term would have ended, yet We [Allah] leave those who do not have hope in meeting with us [God] in their transgression, wandering about blindly. And yet when am injury [durr] touches man, he calls to God, laying down, sitting and standing [as well]. Yet [again] when We [God] removes his affliction, he acts as if he never called to Allah to remove the injury touching him. Thus the actions of the Musrifeen seem pleasant [to themselves]" [VV. 11-12]


Allah gives a long lease on life, and the consequences of one's bad actions/beliefs/attitudes are typically not felt immediately. For the Musrifeen, those who are in the habit of being wasteful, God only exists [if God exists at all for them], to fulfill their own lusts. When they have their need met, they run away from Allah. This happens in our lives as well, long lost friends and relatives calling when they want money and the like. 

[VV.13-14]  The character of such folks is abusive, they are eventually destroyed because they are criminal [Mujrimeeen]  in nature. This is not simply a reference to someone convicted of a crime in modern society. The Qur'an looks at the big picture. It is talking on a civilization level. 

The Roman, Greek,&  Egyptian empires were great civilizations, yet they were eventually destroyed. Their artifacts, as well as much of their history, is recorded and available for all to see. 

The fate of those who are narcissists in their dealings, in their societal ethics, is that they are eventually swept away. The relics of the past are left behind, per God's will, in  order to serve as physical reminders- as lessons for the future generations. 

[VV.15-16]  The "criminal" types have been heedless of Allah, and they actually want to see the revelation change to suit their whims. The Prophet Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, cannot and will not do such a thing. Indeed, Q 69:44-47 tells us that he would face Divine punishment if he would attempt such a venture.

Thus we believe Allah's Deen is perfect, Allah's Qur'an is perfect, and unchangeable. Our understanding can evolve, yet it is we-if we are truly believers- that have to change to conform to Allah's deen, and not vice versa. 

[V.17] The description as "criminals" once again appears in connection to those wanting to change around Allah's guidance. They are doing what is described as "the most unjust" [Adhlamu] of acts, and lying on the Divine. 

Such types, be they in political power or within cults, they don't succeed. David Koresh and Jim Jones were men of power and authority, but no one seeks to follow their "Sunnah" today.  

[V.18] In context, the meaning here can seemingly be expanded from that given in traditional discourse. "And they worship other than God those which neither gives benefit nor harm, and assert 'these are our intercessors [Shafaa'unaa] with God." 

So we can understand another layer of meaning in terms of intercession as being the Intercession [Shafaa'ah] and the Intercessor [Shaafi'i] of political and social trends, as well as being represented by the cult figures cited earlier. 

These trends and political decisions are used to filter or dictate what is "divine guidance".  Indeed, in today's world, homosexual behavior [condemned in both Bible and Qur'an] is tolerated, if not directly promoted in the religious world. Meaningless slogans and rhetoric are used to obfuscate truth and justice, and these are signs of a criminally inclined leadership and social culture. 

It is a way of saying that we know better than God. Thus, we have the response "Say: Do you inform God of something that he does not know about in the heavens and the Earth?"

Allah made his deen and his laws. He knows all and should not be diminished in our eyes. Thus, "Glory be his, he is above what the Mushriks associate with him."


So so far we have seen many appellations used to describe the situation of those who would destroy not only others, but their own souls. 

In an environment of confusion, it is natural to seek out guidance, and often the first step is knowing one;s own roots. The Qur'an acknowledges here that the Mujrimeen exercise some control, even over the processes of gaining information, and seeks to empower the reader by taking them to mankind's beginnings.


[V.19] Tafseer Jalalayn interprets "And Mankind was one Ummah" as meaning "upon one deen, i.e.  Islam".

So Islam is not founded with Muhammad and the Qur'an, it was primordial. Sociologist Rodney Stark, [himself a critic of Islamic teachings] refers to what the Qur'an says here [" And mankind was one Ummah, then they differed.."] as "early trends towards monotheism are reversed and lush polytheism is reasserted.."[Ft.1]

"Then they differed". They got caught up in the cults, in following what is popular, even though it is quite harmful. They got caught up in Shirk in one form or another. Shirk is more than worshipping an idol, it is the removal of God's guidance to the extent that not only is God outright denied, he is seen as giving irrelevant rules. 

God says here that had not a decree [Kalimah] came before, the judgement would automatically be made. The majority of Mufassiroon assert that this refers to Allah's statement "And We [Allah] punish them not until We raise a messenger." { Q 17:15].

Imam Shawkanee [Fat-hul Qadeer] phrases as "None is taken to account until evidence [hujjah] comes."

So even though people do shirk by ignoring and ridiculing God, taking his presence as a joke and his regulations as a toy, they still have access to Divine Mercy till they are able to access and act according to the truth.

The truth is not necessarily in books or sermons. One's own healthy soul can often recognize what is right, even though social trends say the opposite. 

[V.20] Even though Allah is telling us things that are to generate personal and societal reform, the criminally minded are still looking to him for magic tricks. We are to know that Allah is above and beyond that.

Conclusion

We began by looking for and hoping for Paradise, a place where we will have peace and serenity. We have to begin, as a species, in today's world, to think about how to create Jannah here. We begin by seeking out God, obeying him, repenting our bad actions and wrong thinking as influenced by the criminals that influence us, be they politicians, cult leaders, musicians or Hollywood. The Qur'an almost always looks to the big picture, by asking us to use our minds and be students of important subjects such as history  and likewise, Islam, the deen completed and perfected with the coming of the Final Prophet, has within it all the elements we need to overcome despotic influence, to create human beings who are enlightened, tolerant, easy-going and full of mercy, wanting to live right and desiring never to bring harm to the environment or other human beings. This is not a pipe-dream or simply rhetoric. Prophet Muhammad proved this within his life, A people of debauchery reformed, almost completely. 

May Allah make us benefit from the Qur'an, make it for us a leader, a source of light, knowledge and mercy. Ameen!

Notes

[1] See DISCOVERING GOD: THE ORIGINS OF THE GREAT RELIGIONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF BELIEF [ PG.10, 2007, Harper-Collins publishers]