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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.