CLICK HERE FOR THOUSANDS OF FREE BLOGGER TEMPLATES »

Monday, September 11, 2017

Study Notes: Accepting God's will: Refections upon Soorah Al Hijr ( 15: 80-90)

( Note: The following is an edited version of my reflections on a handful of Quranic verses. Previously, we have looked at vv. 70-80, which can be found here . The English translation has not been included, unless otherwise stated. This allows the reader to consult the translation of their choice. The Arabic text has been included, and, as always, discussion is welcome.]


[ Q 15:80]

As found in the previous article, we have a brief gloss of the regions Madyan and Hijr. The famed Zamakhshari has suggested ( as quoted by Muhammad Asad) that "Messengers" is a reference to not only the Prophet Saaleh, but rather to his followers, suggesting that the followers of the Prophet Saaleh [and perhaps, by the followers of all Prophets] have a Prophetic mission themselves.


[ Q 15: 81-84]









It is generally imagined that Prophets are figures speaking to primitive societies, however the words of the Qur'an point towards the opposite conclusion. We are talking about highly advanced, materially rich, cultures. We should also consider connecting these verses to the Sodom and Gommorah situation, in the sense that both had the same issues of moral decay.

Q 15:72 states that Sodom and Gomorrah existed in a drunken condition, blindly wandering. Now, in v.82, we see that these groups would ignore Allah's signs and exist "feeling secure" because their homes were built in seemingly solid places such as mountains. However, that did not save them!

This is a lesson that we in the developed world need to learn. As we compose these words, the USA is facing Hurricanes in our southern regions. Indeed, it has to be admitted that those of us living in the USA and in other highly developed nations perceive ourselves as largely immune to the disasters, both natural and man-made, that other societies face on a regular basis. The feeling of complacency, in the face of eventualities as well as in the face of social and moral injustices, can very well be the seeds that plant our eventual destruction.

We are not advocating a negative view on everything, only that we keep our eyes open, and our hearts firmly planted within Allah's guidance.


[Q 15:85]

Haqq has a plethora of meanings and implications, here, it is best to render it as "Purpose". In another verse, Allah says "And We ( i.e. Allah) have not created the sky and the earth and what is between them for play" [Q 21:16].

The One who created the universe for Haqq, will, likewise, end it all in Haqq. The ending is the "hour" of Judgement. That day is also called The Last Day [Yawm Al Aakhir]. Because the beginning and ending all exists within God's purposes, we are told "So forgive with gracious forgiveness" (Saheeh International translation).

This last sentence in the verse is clear enough, yet Tafseer Al Jalalayn asserts that it is abrogated by "The verse of the sword", which reads, as translated by Saheeh International  : "And when the inviolable months have passed, then kill the polytheists whereever you find them and beseige them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush.." ( Q 9:5)

We find this assertion to be unsupported by the context, moreover, the assertion is a violation of well known principles. Q 9:5 is clearly in a certain war context at a certain place and time. Indeed, all one really needs to do is read the contex [Starting from 9:1 and ending in 9:10]. In other words, verses regarding war are at a particular place and moment, specific to that, whereas the principle of graciousness, humility, forgiveness and kindness are general and timeless.

The general principle, when and where general situations are applicable, have nothing to do with war and fimness during periods of imposed conflict.

Throughout the Qur'an, we read statements such as "and when the ignorant address you, say "peace"" [Q 25:63].

Therefore, we cannot agree with the claim that this text has been abrogated. We question the entire basis for the claim that any verse of the Qur'an has been abrogated(ft.1)


[Q 15:86]




Al Khallaq means the ever-Creating. It is different from Al-Khaaliq {The Creator}. The former shows us that God is constantly at work in creating!

This is an important nuance because as scripture readers, we tend to think of Allah as only acting in the past, whereas the fact of the matter is is that Allah is still and will always be at work in the universe He runs.  The importance of Ayatul Kursiyy  ( Q 2:255) is highlighted in such a discussion. If God is simply a historical figure, a being who worked in the past, the presence of Ayatul Kursiyy in the Qur'an would be pointless, as would the numberous Prophetic traditions encouraging us to regularly recite that text!


[Q 15:87]



"Seven oft repeated" is universally understood to refer to Soorah Al-Faatihah. That chapter, the Qur'an's opening words, is recited several times daily in Muslim prayers.

It is signifigant to this writer that all Muslim demoninations without exception agree that Al-Faatihah is necessary for the daily prayers, even though there is no verse which directly says that one must recite it in the prayers.(Ft.2)


[ Q 15:88-90]








This is directed to Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, moreso than anyone else. In essence, it says to him to never be tempted to give up your faith and the company of those sincere in their faith, because God has already given you so much. The material or worldly trappings in the hands of the disbelievers should not dissuade you.

Other Quranic texts tell the Prophet, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, the same message. In particular, many of the texts in the Juz 'Amma section . I would recommend reading some of those Soorahs, such as Ad Duhaa ( chapter 93), Inshiraah ( chapter 94) and Al Kawthar (chapter 108).

Verse 90 is more difficult to grapple, and that difficulty is reflected in the different interpretations found in the books of Tafseer.

If connected with vv.91-92, the context seems to be a warning, just as warning is found in general in the story of Lot's people and the Madyan and Hijr above, to not pick and choose what one accepts of Divine Revelation.

The Qur'an states "..and those firmly grounded in knowledge assert 'We believe in it, all of what is from the presence of our Lord.." ( Q 3:7).

In today's world, we have trends which attempt to carve up the scripture, both figuratevly and literally. We have writers and lecturers, of Muslim family backround, asserting that Muhammad made up parts of the Qur'an in order to justify genocide and to have women!

We have "Muslims" who esentially reject what the Qur'an says on race relations, who attempt to use the Scripture to justify racism, hatred, misogny, and immoral behaviour.

The Qur'an can never have textual corruption (called Tahreef in the literature) but it can have distortions based upon a copy/paste approach. This is done by extremist groups all the time among Muslim ranks, but it is also done diverse groups as Islamophobes ( folks with an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims) and liberal voices in the Muslim community.

I think it is better for people to admit that they have weaknesses rather than to justify the unjustifiable in Islam. It would be more honest.

In any case, there are other interpretations of verse 90 [and the verses following it] that could be the correct understanding. For now, we share our views above and conclude with the reminder that at the end, only Allah knows best.


Conclusion

The world and life therein can be a confusing place. The diversity of personalities, cultures, egos and agendas can bring people to a state of loss, of feeling lost. The Qur'an comes along to help us on life's journey, but in order for it to really be effective, one must reflect on it in a continous manner, regularly studying it, reciting it, and acting upon it.

This should not be done in a superficial way, nor should it be dogmatic, in the sense that the text gets manipulated to suit our whims.

In our previous article, we looked at the story of Lot, how the people there were "wandering about blindly, in a drunken state". In this article here, we read how Allah says that another group felt that they were secure from any catastrophe because their homes were built within mountains.

We should consider taking the above sentiments further, not just in social analysis, but within our own circles or existence of life. Are we walking blindly or acting drunk in our lives and in our thinking? Are we oblivious to realities? Are we painting the doors while the house is on fire?

May Allah show us truth as truth, and give us the ability to follow it, and falsehood as falsehood, and give us the ability to abstain therefrom.


Footnotes

[1] For more on the question of abrogation [known as Naskh] go to this link .

[2] We have a number of Prophetic Ahadeeth which tell us that Al-Faatihah is to be included in prayers. All the groupings, despite their many theological and methodological differences, accept that Al-Faatihah is needed to be included in their prayers. The necessity for Al-Faatihah in worship is also accepted by most of those who reject Hadeeth as a source of Islamic understanding, known widely as Quranites or "Quran alone". Thus, one can find the writings and videos of Rashad Khalifa, one of the most well-known proponents of a hadeeth-free understanding of Islam, advocating that Al-Faatihah be recited in prayers.

Al-Faatihah is known as Umm Al Qur'an, the essence of the Qur'an. It is the perfect text for worship, and logically we should be able to see why the Prophet Muhammad said that any prayer in which that Soorah was not included was "Incomplete" ghayr Tamaam. The source of this hadeeth is Saheeh Muslim.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Study Notes: Soorah Al Hijr [ 15: 70-80]. The implications of the story of Lot [Luut عليه السلام]

[ Note: The following is an edited version of some reflections on ten verses from the Qur'an. Originally, these notes were prepared for a weekly Quranic discussion I participate in, however I have decided to share them here, with the hopes of generating discussion and thinking. Also please note that unless otherwise seen in the text, the English translation has not been included. This will influence the reader to check the translation of their choice. The Arabic text is included.]


Some backround

This particular section deals with the story of Prophet Lot, known as Luutعليه السلام  in Arabic. The immediate context preceding the verses in question tell us that Lot's own household contained contrasting elements therein, as do all families. While Lot is connected to Allah, his wife is counted as being among the 'criminal class' [15:58-60]. Eventually, God's angelic messengers conveys notice to Abrahamعليه السلام ,  Lot's uncle,  that Sodom and Gommorah will be destroyed. The Qur'an says elsewhere ( Q 7:80-81 among other places) that the society engaged in intimate activity that cannot be deemed natural .

This particular issue is a deeply sensitive and potentially divisive one in today's world. I think it is important to see all of this in connection to what is repeatedly stated in these verses, and that is the title "The Family of Lot " [Aal Luut]. Lot is the family patriarch, the caring, wise and loving father and perhaps grandfather that we all have in our family units, seeking to preserve the morals of those under his care. Lot recognizes that wild behavior is something which leads to disastorous consequences ( Q 15: 61-64).

Lot advocates that the thinking of his family and followers be upon correct or healthy boundaries. He tells them to neither long for the social ties with those engaged in destructive behavior, nor even be in their company. In our age, the wise parent may instruct his child to stay away from certain other children because of their behavior, and the same parent may put restrictions [or even remove] the television or the cell phone when such devices of entertainment are found to be detrimental to the oveall development of his child [15: 65-66].

The society, probably more in particular the elites in power [called Al Mala' throughout the Quranic narrations], had places restrictions on Lot. In a sense, he seemed to have been a character that they wanted to silence, to be under house arrest. Lot  has some "guests" [who are actually these angelic messengers mentioned earlier] . These guests were threatened with attack, and the text implies that they were even threatened with rape! Lot makes a final appeal to any Taqwaaa [reverence for God Almighty] as well as any sense of social propriety, but alas, his pleas fall upon deaf ears. [Q 15: 67-69]

But as we come to know, attempts to restrict or suppress the truth eventually come to naught! Truth cannot be defeated( 15:70) . The Qur'an says "And say: Truth has come, and falsehood vanishes. Indeed, falsehood is, by it's nature, a vanishing [thing]' [Q 17:81]

[15:71]


In his comments, the translator Yusuf Ali righly points out that this language is the language of a family patriarch, an older man trying to push atleast a little bit in a different direction.
Thus, "My daughters" are not literal, nor is he seeking to sacrifice the women in his society to be raped, as sometimes thought by some critical readers. Perhaps marriage between men and women was a dying institute, as it is in our society today, and sought, out of desperation, to revive it.

[15:72]



The social order of  Sodom and Gomorrah was blinding and intoxicating. The verse uses the term  لفي to denote the intensity of this condition. 

It is very difficult for those affected by such conditions to see the reality of their existence. 

Prophets and Scripture comes forth in order to open up the eyes and to have foundations for proper thinking. I see the Prophet Muhammad's   صلى الله عليه وسلم   supplication as particularly relevant here in the sense that one not only invokes Allah but it also provides a philosophical foundation for acting in the real world.


His prayer is "O Allah, show us truth as truth, and give us the ability to follow it, and show us falsehood [Baatil] as falsehood, and give us the ability to abstain therefrom." 

[ 15: 73-74]


Sayhah is also translated as "scream", and seems to denote a general overturning of the social order.


[15:75]




The translator Muhammad Asad, quoting Imam Razi and the famed grammarian and commentator Zamakhshari, points out in his note that Mutawassim means " One who applies his mind to the study of the outward appearance of a thing with the view to understand it's real nature and inner characterstics".

This is a deeply important verse here. When connected to 15:72, we can see that the argument is that a society of blinded, drunken (in their thinking and actions) human beings brings forth their own destruction. God says here that such societies should be studied, and this is precisely what social scientists, archaeologists, and related fields do. This also occurs with intelligent figures interested in the betterment of their own societies. One need only look at the libraries of such figures as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X.  The latter, in his autobiography, mentions the many books he studied, they include histories, political theory, philiosophy, and more. 

The Qur'an is not a book that encourages blind faith. In fact, it points to the sciences, to certain fields and disciplines that would be deemed by many today as non religious! The guidance of God tells us that we should take lessons from the mistakes of past societies. It has been my observation that those who are deeply influenced by the Qur'an, personalities whom I know personally and others whom I have not interacted with, are people who are not limited to the Qur'an. Their interests are expansive, usually to include history, the physical world, science,  and the fate of civilizations. This does not mean that they all reach the same conclusions on all subjects, or that their conclusions are always correct. However, it does indicate that they are pondering deeply upon the words of Allah, which makes them look at the other important subjects. 

I would dare take this further to say that those who claim to study the Qur'an and yet have no interest in these [and other related] subjects, have in fact not studied the Qur'an properly! Perhaps a better way of saying that is that their "studies" are actually superficial at best. The need to study these other important fields is particularly acute in our Imams, scholars and speakers, especially the famous ones or those up and coming! 

There is no need for us to become like many who are referred to as Biblical fundamentalists, people who read and study only  the [translations of] Bible. Such reading may be a nice pious exercise, however the results can be very problematic, and we don't want to follow in the same mistakes.


[15: 76]


The location of Sodom and Gommorah is well known, as was known at the time of the revelation. God lets such remmants exist in order to be a lesson for future generations. Yet. today, at the site, it is not taken seriously. Indeed, it is now a swimming attraction today.


[15: 77]


Believers do take the warnings and signs of past civilizational failures seriously.

[15: 78-80] 






Madyan is in NorthWest Arabia, to whom a Prophet named Shu'ayb      عليه السلام   was sent.

Hijr is said to be between the Hijaz [Western Arabia, where Makkah and Madinah are located] and Syria. To them, a Prophet named Saaleh  عليه السلام         was sent forth.

Zamakhshari [as quoted by Muhammad Asad] suggests that the term "Messengers" here means Saaleh and his followers. This would suggest that the followers of Prophets likewise have a Prophetic mission.



These observations are not meant to be dogmatic, but rather to point out that the Quranic treatment of subjects are very nuanced. Indeed, even with the Sodom and Gomorrah story, we should be able to see that the prevalence of sexual relations outside of the norm is only a sympton of a deeper illness. We should also be able to see that the Qur'an advocates a serious study and search for solutions to the issues we face in today's world.

Wallaahu A'laam

Wa Billaahit Tawfeeq














Sunday, September 3, 2017

Eid Ul Ad-haa Khutbah: Toledo 2017

[Note: The following is an edited version of my Khutbah (sermon) delivered at the United Eid prayers held Friday, September 1st, 2017. An article on this year's prayer service can be found at https://www.toledoblade.com/Religion/2017/09/01/Area-Muslims-gather-in-unified-prayer-for-Eid-al-Adha]

 Praise belongs to Allah, who has directed us towards repentance, which we could never have obtained, except by his bounty. O servants of Allah, I advise you as myself, to have reverence for God, indeed, it is those with reverence [Taqwaaa] who attain felicity. الحمد لله الذي دلنا على التوبة التي لم نفد ها الا من فضله
اصيكم و نفسي بتقوى الله فقد فاز المتقون

Why are we here?


We are here today, in recollection of an important series of events and teachings, teachings that have had a global impact. These teachings and events center around the person of Abraham [Ibrahim, 'alayhis salaam] . He is a man of God, and the Quranic narrative [Q 6:74-79] tells us of his search to understand the reality that is God. The narrative is given in stages. He sees a heavenly body [Kawkaab] and says "This is My Lord", but it disappears. He sees the moon and proclaims "This is My Lord" but it disappears. He sees the sun and says "This is My Lord, [in fact] This is the greatest", yet, once again, it disappears. 

Abraham then says " Indeed, I turn my entire being to Him who is the origin of the heavens and the Earth, and I do not worship any others besides Allah"

Understanding that God is not captured within the physical, that He is beyond the physical and is actually the source of the physical, this understanding allows him to become connected to Allah.

That connection allows him to keep firm throughout the challenges that he would find  in life.

The Sacrifice

The Qur'an tells us that he had a vision, and within this vision, he understands it as a command to sacrifice his son. The Qur'an says [37:103] that both father and son submitted to that and that when the sacrifice was near happening, God calls out to Abraham "Indeed, you have fulfilled your vision" [Q 37:104]. The willingness to sacrifice for God's will, that is why we are here today. To learn from the patriarch, from that personality rightly called in the Judeo-Christian tradition as "father of many nations". As people who seek to follow the Divine ethos, as exemplified through Prophets, ending with the final Prophet [Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam], we need to learn not only to sacrifice an animal for the benefit of the poor, we need to be willing to sacrifice our time, resources, for the right causes.

The Qur'an ( Q 22:37) reminds us that the blood of sacrifice does not reach God, nor the meat, rather, it is your collective reverence. Yanaaluhut Taqwaaa minkum. Thus, we return to the sentence in which we began this Khutbah, "I advise you and myself, to have Taqwaaa of Allah, Indeed, it is those with Taqwaaa who attain felicity". May we be closer to Him who is The Most High, may He accept our prayers, fasting and any good that we do.


Second part

This gathering also coincides with the Hajj, pilgrimage to the site associated with Abraham and his family.  At Hajj, we find unity in a tapestry of diverse colors, languages, backrounds and religious orientations. They gather together in obedience to Allah. We pray for them and likewise always ask any pilgrims we know to offer prayers on our behalf. The key point is that despite their differences, they join together in expression of their love of Allah. The Qur'an says "And whosoever obeys Allah and His Messenger achieve a mighty achievement".

We pray that the pilgrims today find their Hajj to be acceptable and successful, and that any future pilgrimages we do are acceptable in God's sight as well. May we take the most valuable lessons from the Hajj and the Ka'bah, in what these things represent. The lesson of replacing wrong concepts for proper thinking, abandoning vice and embracing that which God wants us to embrace, dropping trends as our models, but rather taking for role models Prophets such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad the seal of the Prophets ['alayhimus salaam], taking them as models to do what they did, to become like them in their obedience and nearness to Allah.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Racism: a spiritual disease: thoughts on the Alt-Right movement under the lense of the Qur'an

Introduction


The United States of America has been facing alot of soul-searching as of late. Barely six months into the rise of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, a number of scandals, mostly political in nature, have emerged. These scandals, firings, accusations and disputes fueled by Mr.Trump's excessive use of Twitter have now played there way into yet another situation, the reinvigoration of the White Nationalist movement, commonly now called the Alt-Right! 


All of our readers are certainly aware of what has occured last week in Charlottesville, Virginia. The city's decision to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee had attracted the attention of both White Nationalists types [Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis and their likes] and those who are concerned about the emergence of the Alt-Right. Clashes erupted between the groups, and in one encounter, a supporter of the Alt-right ( James Fields, Jr)
drove his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protestors, injuring 19, and killing one young woman ( Heather Heyer).

As I was traveling last week, I didn't get a chance to share thoughts on this tragedy right away. The subsequent comments from Mr.Trump added more fuel to the fire, and the ultimate ending of the political drama remains to be seen, however there were a number of things I did notice, which-along with other reasons- have prompted me to have a fresh look at the Qur'an on certain topics, some of  which we share below.

Blood and Soil

The sincere and essentially good people who work and hope for the public good eventually earn the wrath of what scripture calls Hypocrites. It is seemingly a universal phenomenon, which would explain why we find hypocrisy and it's holders in the Qur'an, the Bible, and the  writings and stories associated with the great teachers and philosophers. 

One of the slogans shouted by the Alt-Right at their rallies is "Blood and Soil". It is a Nazi-era slogan. As disturbing as that is, it does tell us the thinking of these types of people, regardless of their skin color, religious label or political party [as there types appear in every group]. It tells us that they think everything of value is to be their property exclusively, that they oppose oppurtunities for others outside of their group, that they think their color or their family name or their passport is enough of a qualification for dominion! Thus, we find the same sorts of people in opposition to government programs meant to assist those with low or no income. They oppose positive reforms in the MEDICADE and health care, they oppose welfare and they oppose public housing! 


One of the statements in the Qur'an informs us "They [i.e. the hypocrites] say : Spend not for those with the Messenger of God [Muhammad] , until they leave.." ( Q 63:7).

The hyporites in Muhammad's time ( upon whom be peace) had the same mentality as the hypocrites today. They hoped to make their perceived opponent leave the town [in this case, Madinah], that way they can grab the power they believe is really theirs. 

It is a strange situation for a white nationalist movement to emerge. They have had power in this country, and much of the world, for generations. The African-American population is, at most, 15%. 

Despite this, the hypocrites see themselves as under threat, and they will turn to the language an rhetoric of race, color and nation in order to bring support to their lust for power. 

This is not restricted to one group of hypocrites, this seems to be a repeated pattern of behaviour, in both the bigger social realm and in more private, smaller arenas.

The Qur'an goes on to say " Yet, to God belongs the treasures of the Heavens and the Earth, however, the hypocrites do not understand this." ( Q 63:7). 

The operative term here is that they "do not understand this" (Laa Yafqahoon). This tells us that the hypocrites's thinking, their world view, is very limited. It is petty and small-minded! They think small.

Returning to the action of James Fields, Jr, which has received public praise from some in that movement. He was willing to kill many people, and perhaps himself sacrifice his freedom and his very life, for protecting a statue dedicated to a rebellion which lost the war over 152 years ago!

Similarly, Neo-Nazis in an American context  often wear Nazi- Germany era uniforms, armbands, and engage in Nazi military salutes, yet the only Nazi state in history [Under Adolph Hitler] lost the war, leading to the occupation and decimation of Germany, and it's main ideologue, Hitler, killed himself rather than live in a world in which he was defeated!

So these types are glorifying an evil past, a past that led to defeat and ruin. It reveals serious cognitive problems, and, from a religious perspective, souls which are deeply troubled, in need of repair.

Other characteristics mentioned in the Qur'an

* They have no firm or true commitments, they simply jump on the bandwagon they deem successful ( Q 9:42)
* They want credit for work they did not do, and are often well-spoken ( Q 9:44-47)
* Have a history of trouble making associated with them, and yet see themselves as clever ( 9:48-50)
*Often already have goodly amounts of money and power ( 9:55, 75, 77)
* Little or none spirituality in their lives, always complaining ( 9:78-79)
* Truly Narcissistic in their thinking ( 9:57-58)

Do not the above characteristics describe situation of those who are now using the language of race and nation?  It gives us glimpses into the hearts of such people, particularly among those with some amounts of power and authority.

You will not replace us

In connection to the situation faced by Prophet Muhammad, we read " They [i.e. the hypocrites] are saying: " If we return to the town, the most honorable [i.e. superior, Al-a'azzu] will expel the inferior [Adhilla] from it." [Q 63:8]

So the hypocrites see themselves as better than those outside of their own circle, be it a circle of race, nation, or ideology! They think only for their own collective glory. This seems to explain the other slogan chanted by the Alt-right in Charlottesville. They chanted "You will not replace us". 

Media commentators have said that this slogan was directed at the Jews, and, like the previously referenced cry, is a Nazi-era expression. 

Yet, in the Charlottesville clashes, we saw that perhaps a majority of people protesting against the Alt-right were themselves white! I think that this is a good sign that while the nation is no doubt in serious and trying times, a goodly number of people, of all races and backrounds, recognize that bowing down to the petty-minded and provincial racists will spell disaster for the future. Thus, it is the view of this writer that the true object of that slogan is not simply Jewish people, but rather the wider American public [who reject these bygone deadly ideas].

The hypocrites see themselves as deserving of glory, respect, honor and appreciation ['Izzah]. They desire, to use an analogy, the pay, respect, and title of an important figure, yet have neither done the work, study, or even have the genuine desire that is a natural association with authentic efforts! 

There is a difference between a medical doctor, trained to be a suregon, and a person who has done nothing more than search for a YOUTUBE video on surgeries! The latter cannot be respected as a suregon, simply because he has not conducted the necessary preliminaries to wear such a label.

God says " Honor [Al'Izzah] is the domain of God, His Messenger, and the people of faith, however, the hypocrites do not know this." ( Q 63:8)

Allah gives light and respect to whomsoever he wishes, but we see that His Sunnah [pattern] is to give to the deserving, the sincere and the hard-working. 

The rhetoric of inferiority and superiority, hatred and scapegoating, can only go so far. It has a limited shelf-life. 


Concluding thoughts

This has not been an attempt to gain converts to Islam or even to propagate the Qur'an, rather this composition is a very limited attempt on my part to record thoughts on the societal discussions currently taking place. I do hope that it inspires the reader to see the language of race as indicitive of spiritual diseases that need to be addressed. I also hope that the reader can ponder on those in their own circles, to see who and what is healthy to maintain in their own lives. Scripture warns us to stay away from both the characteristics which breed hypocrisy as well as those who are hypocrites. Yet, it is not all doom and gloom. The Qur'an itself ( 9:66) says that there is an oppurtunity to reform. 

People can change if God puts it into their hearts to change, and if they recognize that there is a problem and seek to rectify it.  I have been blessed to meet many such people, people who had terrible thinking and even terrible actions in their past life, whose encounter with something better directed them to reform. The most important issue to address is that of correct thinking. If our thinking, our worldview or life philosophy is largely correct and healthy, our actions will likewise be a reflection of that. Yes, we can and will make mistakes, even if our foundational roots are sound, however those mistakes would be turned into virtures, in the sense that we seek to learn from them. 

It can be said that we are speaking from a prejudiced viewpoint, with our exclusive references to the Qur'an as an authoritative source, but for those who don't believe in it as a text from The Divine Source, atleast consider that wisdom, guidance, help, can be found even in unexpected sources, thus, it is prudent to think about what it says.







Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Thinking properly: a view from the Qur'an

"Do you not see how God presents a parable : a wholesome concept (Kalimatan Tayyibatan) is like a wholesome/healthy  tree (Shajaratin Tayyibatin), firmly planted in its roots, yet it's branches reaches out to the sky. It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the permission of it's Lord. God sets forth parables (Amthaal) for people's [benefit] so that perhaps they will engage in thinking. And the parable of a repugnant concept [ Kalimatin Khabeethatin] is that of a repugnant tree, torn out of the land, having no stability." ( Qur'an 14:24-26)

The Importance of a Correct Foundation

The Qur'an has not come forth in order to make us blind or mindless followers, rather it has come in order to create a solid or positive foundation upon which to develop further. "Indeed, We (Allah) have made it a pure recitation, in order that perhaps you will use your minds." (Q 12:2).

Yet, what is that thinking supposed to be built upon? How are we supposed to identify what constitutes Kalimah Tayyibah, as mentioned in the above-mentioned Quranic text? The attributes of a wholesome concept is Firmness, Far Reaching and having a widely felt positive impact. Thus, Allah says "..firmly planted in its roots, yet branching out to the sky, it brings fruit at all times, by the permission of its Lord"

The Muffasiroon generally assert that the expression Kalimah Tayyibah in verse 14:24 is a reference to the confession of faith in the One and Only God and that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger. If we do adopt that view, the implication would be that when this Shahaadah becomes the core of the believer, that it belongs to you [as opposed to simply an inherited religious formula] your life and your thinking will get better and better.

A person who is firm upon the teaching that God alone deserves worship and that God has inserted his mercy and will into the collective life of man [by sending forth messengers, ending with the Quranic revelation to Muhammad, upon whom be peace] won't be stuck in incorrect thinking, If they are stuck in incorrect thinking, and yet  still claiming to be believers, than the implication is that they have serious deficiencies in their foundational roots, despite their claims to the contrary. The Qur'an informs us:  "They seek to deceive Allah, and those who hold to [real] faith, yet, they deceived themselves, but perceive not. In their hearts is an illness, and God has [as a consequence of their own acts] increased that illness, for them is a terrible penalty, for they are lying." { Q 2: 9-10}

Believers can sometimes make mistakes and hold onto wrong concepts, yet, like the flu, in time the sincere ones recover and head towards that which is correct. "And whosoever obeys Allah and his Messenger have achieved a mighty achievement" { Q 33:71}.

Yet, in all honesty, we are reading the term Kalimah Tayyibah as referring to more than the Shahaadah. We understand this to refer to the foundations of correct thinking, that wholesome concepts are identified by the attributes of stability, positive impact, and far reaching.

Look at the benefits trees bring. There are countless variety of trees worldwide, all of which having different types of benefit. Allah presents to us that lasting ideas are like those fruits that the healthy trees are producing!


We see this in both religious and non religious contexts. We see this in Prophet Jesus as well as Prophet Muhammad, peace be on them both, but also in the great social reformers and minds such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and Malcolm X [Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz].
Repugnant concepts are not long-lasting

The parable continues by telling us of the  repugnant tree [Shajarah Khabeethah]. The Repugnant concept is compared to such a tree. It is a waste of soil. It produces nothing except headache and worry. It is always on the warpath.

Wrong thinking and wrong concepts are like that, even though initially it looks attractive. Consider Eugenics, as well as Fascism and Nazism. These three very related and intertwined pseudo-scientific ideologies attracted the love of millions, including highly educated people. They held political power in important nations [notably Germany under Adolph Hitler  and Italy under Benito Mussolini ] . Yet, the ultimate fruit from those ideas was racial hatred, wars, genocidal actions [perpetrated against the Jews in concentration camps, leading to the death of an estimated six million in those camps] and dictatorship. Today, even in the places where these destructive ideas were given birth, these ideas have, at best, followers on the fringes. They are, by and large, seen for what they were, terrible ideas that are best forgotten rather than remembered (ft.1) .


Believers have to always be on guard to protect their core

In light of the realities of confusion and misguidance, Muslims in particular, but people in general, have to be on guard to protect themselves from being upon or following repugnant concepts, regardless if the source of it's preaching is from the Imam's podium on Fridays or from the office of political leaders!

For Muslims, aids in protection include, but are not limited to, praying, fasting, regular Qur'an study, the company of goodly persons and strong family. For Non Muslims, the same formula can be applied.  For all their faults, both Dr King and Mahatma Gandhi  [Non Muslims]  were deeply spiritual people, dedicated to certain principles obtained largely from seeking out Divine guidance.This is a reality that should not be denied simply due to religious label!

In today's world, we see a rise of narcissism, of racism, scapegoating and stereotyping of peoples. Most disturbing, modern culture seems to glorify all the repugnant behavior that is ultimately destructive. Ignorance is not only tolerated, it is preached, and knowledge, even the seeking of knowledge, is seen as an oddity{ft.2}.

More than ever, we have to seek to be connected to God, we have to divorce ourselves, even if only in a limited way, from a destructive world, particularly from entertainment which is not wholesome, from people who seek to use and abuse, and from vices which can be used against us or work against us.

Wonderful ways of maintaining some levels of protection include simple things like going to the park, exercise, staying off one's mobile phone/computer sometimes, praying not only in the places of worship but also outside, goodly company on family and intimate level, and of course, travel.

Particularly for Americans, who traditionally have been reluctant to leave North America, it is important to see the world. Travel opens up one's mind to new and better things, to see how others live and think. The Qur'an speaks highly of travel { 12:105, 22:46, 45:3, among other places}.

I would dare say that traveling is embedded into the religious tapestry of Islam. After all, we are all obligated to make Hajj, where one sees the many nationalities and peoples created by Allah on this Earth.

Allah ends this particular exposition in these powerful words:


'Allah is establishing those with faith with the firmly established expression [Al Qawl Ath-Thaabit], in this life and the Hereafter: Allah lets stray the oppressive, and Allah does what He wills." { Q 14: 27}



Footnotes

[1] In many European nations, open support for Fascism and Nazism are deemed criminal offenses, even things such as doing Nazi salutes and the like.


[2] This writer has in mind many of the entertainment programs such as The Fox production It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The protagonists are narcissistic bar owners, drifting from one relationship to another, using people and seeking out a quick road to riches in the process. It glorifies, in many of it's episodes, ignorant behavior and thinking. However, this is not the only program which does this. This is found in much of entertainment today. 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Common Christian Concerns regarding Islam (CCCI)

Introduction

We live in an age of false news and deliberate misrepresentations. So much information, facts and half-truths are in wide distribution via all media outlets regarding any possible subject of importance. With this in mind, we seek to address, in particular, the concerns that members of the Christian community have regarding Islamic beliefs, doctrines, and Muslims in general.

This brief article is not intended as a polemical device, nor is it sugar coating the facts. It is intended for educational purposes only, to foster proper understanding by sharing correct information. It is intended to form a basis for discussion between members of the two respective religious communities, and is composed with the supplication of Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him) in mind, in which he prays : "O God, show us truth as truth, and give us the ability to follow it, and show us falsehood (FT.1) as falsehood, and give us the ability to abstain from it."


What is Islam?

The term "Islam" itself is a word, a verbal noun, that means "submission to God". The one who does the act of "submission" is called a "Muslim". Notice that both of these terms are rather generic. These terms denote action, something which is far superior to a particular label. Labels have been associated with particular places and personalities, Christianity after the personage of Christ, Buddhism after the Buddha, Judaism after the Jewish tribes and so forth. Our argument, based upon the Qur'an itself, is that it is the action which is important to God. Thus, it says "Verily, the deen (Ft. 2) in God's sight is Islam" (Qur'an 3:18).


The Bible and the Qur'an

The term Bible means " a collection of books". It can also be rendered "a library". It is a collection of writings that were by and large never intended by their respective writers to be placed in a single text, and it is quite doubtful that they viewed their writings as "scripture". In any case, it has acquired a sacredness for Christians, highlighted by the text which reads "all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." ( 2 Timothy 3:16, NIV).

The Qur'an is viewed by Muslims as God's own words. It is only God's words. The word Qur'an is a verbal noun, meaning "the recitation" or "the reading". One definition is "something that is to be repeatedly read". It was sent to Muhammad The Prophet over a twenty-three year period via the Angel Gabriel. It's texts are used in prayers (Ft.3) and is the main source of Islamic theology and practices.

In terms of how the Qur'an perceives the Bible, three points should be made [1] God did sent forth messages to various messengers. Among them are persons such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and the others, God's peace be on them all. The Qur'an says: " Say: We believe in God, in what has been sent to us, and in what has been sent to Abraham, Ishmael, Issac, Jacob and the tribes, in that given to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between them, and we belong to him as those submissive." (Q 3:84).   [2] While Muslims accept, on the basis of the above Quranic verse [as well as other verses] that God has sent teaching to these figures, and hold these persons in great reverence, the Qur'anic position is that interpolations, misunderstandings and outright misrepresentations have taken place, falsely attributed to the blessed personalities such as Jesus. Some of these things have been minor, and some quite major. This has also affected the Bible itself as a text. This is quite understandable when we consider that "Bible" itself is a collection of various writings, the authors often themselves being unknown. This is the overall conclusion of the scholars of Biblical textual criticism, and is increasingly being recognized by Christian religious leaders themselves. Even in the widely read English translation known as THE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION STUDY BIBLE [NIV] we read, in the preface to the book of Numbers " It is not necessary ...to claim that Numbers came from Moses' hand complete and in final form. Portions of the book were probably added by scribes or editors from later periods of Israel's history."( Ft. 4). The same source tells us of another purported source of history, that being the book of Joshua, that it was not put into writing till 800 years after the events it is supposed to be recording. (pg.288, NIV, 2002 edition).

We have to ask ourselves how a text  written almost a millennium  after the event be seen as an authoritative source?

[3] The Quranic assessment is that in light of all of this confusion, the Qur'an comes along to address the most important of points of contention [Q 27:76].  For Muslims, the Qur'an is primary source, and whatever theological teachings that go against that, it is ultimately rejected, whereas whatever goes along with it, is accepted as the probable truth! Even with that said, one will find that in general, worldwide, Muslims will treat the Bible, should they encounter it, with respect. Indeed, many Muslims find Western Christian's treatment of their text as strange, things such as throwing the book around, leaving it on the floor, writing in it, even reading it in the bathrooms.


Jesus

Muslims revere Jesus as the Messiah, as one sent by God Almighty to correct certain attitudes that the Jews of his age had. This subject has been dealt with in greater detail by this writer at http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2008/01/jesus-in-islam.html . For the moment, we can summarize by saying that while Muslims accept Jesus, upon whom be peace, he is not seen as God incarnate! Moreover, the metaphorical language ascribed to Jesus in the Bible as "God's son", is not used by the Qur'an or by Muslims because we seek to avoid any language which can cause confusion on God concept.

Violence

The emergence of political insurgencies in various places within the Muslim world has created the image of Islam as an inherently violent religion, ready to explode at any moment. The issue of political rebellions and terrorist groups is something beyond this article, for the simple fact that each place has it's own unique set of circumstances and historical backround. In terms of Islam as a religion, the notion that it promotes murder and mayhem is totally false.

Thus, the Qur'an says:  "And do not kill the soul, which God has eternally forbidden [Harrama], except in justice. And whoso is killed unjustly, God has given his heirs authority, [yet even then], so do not be excessive in the retribution, as he [the heir] is assisted [legally]" [Q 17: 33]".
The issues of violence in the name of religion, as well as the related issues of Jihad, have been addressed in greater detail in the panel discussion Responses To Violence In The Abrahamic Traditions  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUjTm7infHI and more briefly in Spotlight On Religious Violence here.


Muhammad The Prophet



Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah, may peace be upon him,  was born in 570 C.E. in the city of Makkah, on the Arabian peninsula. Known for his exceptional honesty and trustworthiness, he received the revelation of Qur'an over a period of twenty-three years, beginning at the age of forty. He faced war, attempts on his life, the persecution of himself, family and followers. His teachings include things found revolutionary in Arabian society, such as the forbidding of female infanticide, that women are to have inheritance rights, that a life of discipline and abstinence from thing such as alcohol, intoxicants, gambling. He also was able to create a brotherhood between various peoples and classes. In his final speech, he said "There is no virtue of Arab over a Non Arab, or a white over a black, or a black over white. The only criterion for virtue is in reverence for God." 

The words of Muhammad are recorded in sources known as the literature of Hadeeth. It is important to note that they do not have the same value as the Qur'an, and that our scholars have long recognized that there are misunderstandings and fabrications in that genre that have to be pointed out. In addition to this, even accurately recorded reports in the hadeeth literature may not be always a full report, meaning that the context in which a statement was made or an action done may not be present in the particular report.

The broad details of The Prophet's life are well known and established in light of history. His battles, his marriages, his birth and death place, treaties, his particular mode of worship and the like. His merciful attitudes, his personality, all are well known. Theologically, he is seen as God's universal messenger, a Prophet who completes the process of Prophethood. He is also seen as a fulfillment of predictions made before his advent. The Bible itself reports Jesus as saying that one would come after him to "speak all truth" (John 14:26). Rather than seeing this as a vague  "holy spirit of inspiration", our reasoning is that Muhammad fits this description more than any other historical figure. Jesus's ministry was only three years, some say 6 1/2 years. He was never one who addressed political or military affairs, and barely -if we take the canonical Gospels as evidence- addressed social ills on a wide scale. Muhammad, however, did, and his successes are well recorded in the Qur'an and in historical memory.

The Qur'an depicts Muhammad as a mercy to mankind {Q 21:107} and all reports surrounding him need to be seen in that overall light. Moreover, the particular reports about particular incidents or statements, one needs to consult specialists in the subject. There is much about him and about what is attributed to him which is beyond this particular article, our suggestion would be to conduct a serious study on him. A wonderful work is The Life of Muhammad by Muhammad Husayn Haykal.


Who are Muslims ethnically?


Muslims currently make up 1/5th of the human population. The Arab world is only 20 % of the Muslim world population, so that would make Arab speakers a minority in the Muslim world. Indeed, the biggest population of Muslims in the African continent is not an Arabic-speaking nation, but rather Nigeria!

The world's largest Muslim population is Indonesia [261 million], located in South East Asia. Muslims are composed of many cultures, languages, and historical diversity.

Islam has- from it's primary sources, addressed racism in a firm way, which, in my view, has contributed to it's wide acceptance.

In an American context, it's a bit harder to quantify the number of Muslims. A 2016 estimate puts the number around 3 million [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_the_United_States], however there are also estimates that go as high as six or seven million Muslims in the United States. 

Ethnically, it is said that 25% of American Muslims are from Asia, typically the Indian Subcontinent [India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh], whereas 24% of American Muslims are said to be African-American, and Arabs constitute 18% of American Muslims. http://muslimgirl.com/25021/majority-race-muslim-community/

Islam in the black experience has a profound and fascinating history. Figures such as Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali need no introduction.


Basic values of Islam

The basic values of Islam are also those shared by the Christian and Jewish traditions. The Qur'an says:

 Your Lord has decreed: (i) Do not worship any but Him (ii) Be good to your parents; and should both or any one of them attain old age with you, do not say to them even "fie" neither chide them, but speak to them with respect,  and be humble and tender to them and say: "Lord, show mercy to them as they nurtured me when I was small." Your Lord is best aware of what is in your hearts. If you are righteous, He will indeed forgive those who relent and revert (to serving Allah).(iii) Give to the near of kin his due, and also to the needy and the wayfarer. (iv) Do not squander your wealth wastefully, for those who squander wastefully are Satan's brothers, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord. And when you must turn away from them - (that is, from the destitute, the near of kin, the needy, and the wayfarer) - in pursuit of God's Mercy which you expect to receive, then speak to them kindly.Do not keep your hand fastened to your neck nor outspread it, altogether outspread, for you will be left sitting rebuked, destitute.Certainly Your Lord makes plentiful the provision of whomsoever He wills and straitens it for whomsoever He wills. He is well-aware and is fully observant of all that relates to His servants. ( Q 17:23-30)

Footnotes

[1] The word translated as "falsehood" here is الباطل   Baatil. It carries a wide shade of meaning, including that which is ridiculous or valueless.



[2] Deen is usually translated as 'religion', however the usage in Quranic language is much greater than our typical understanding of constitutes religion. It is with regret that modern Arabic uses deen as 'religion' [with the plural being adyaan, which never appears in the Qur'an]. It is interesting that Urdu, which has the word 'deen', nonetheless does not use this term, but rather the term mazhab
[Arabic :  madh-hab], a term which, even in it's original Arabic, seems to better fit the modern understanding of what constitutes 'religion'.

[3] The core text for Muslim worship is Soorah Al- Faatihah, the first chapter of the Qur'an.

[4] Zondervan, NIV STUDY BIBLE (Grand Rapids, 2000) page 185.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Study notes : Soorah Al Hijr [Qur'an 15:10-30]

[ Note: The following are some reflections on texts from the fifteenth Soorah of the Qur'an. We have examined the first ten verses, available at http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2017/07/study-notes-brief-thoughts-on-quranic.html. The English translation has not been given, unless otherwise stated, allowing the reader to look up the translation of their choice.]




[15:10]


وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ فِي شِيَعِ الأَوَّلِينَ

As stated in our previous article, just as God's message has been ever consistent, the response of the leadership of rejection [A-immah al Kufr] has, likewise, been consistent. Ever demanding of what amounts to little more than magic tricks, diminishing the real import of the Divine imperative.


[15: 11-15]

وَمَا يَأْتِيهِم مِّن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ كَانُواْ بِهِ يَسْتَهْزِؤُونَ
كَذَلِكَ نَسْلُكُهُ فِي قُلُوبِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ
لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِهِ وَقَدْ خَلَتْ سُنَّةُ الأَوَّلِينَ
وَلَوْ فَتَحْنَا عَلَيْهِم بَابًا مِّنَ السَّمَاء فَظَلُّواْ فِيهِ يَعْرُجُونَ
لَقَالُواْ إِنَّمَا سُكِّرَتْ أَبْصَارُنَا بَلْ نَحْنُ قَوْمٌ مَّسْحُورُونَ

If one were to read other places within the Qur'an or even the Christian Bible ( Matthew 16:1, Luke 11:16], this basic pattern is the same.

Notice here in verse 12 that the "hearts of the criminals" is said to have been corrupted, so that they cannot and will not change. This assertion has been given repeatedly in the Qur'an [see 2: 7-17 for a clear series of examples]. It is important to remember that "Mujrimeen" [Criminals] and Kaafireen [Rejectors] are terms referring to the same reality. In other words, these are synonymous expressions, and are referring to the A-immah al Kufr. They reject the signs of Allah with all sorts of excuses.

[15:16-18]

وَلَقَدْ جَعَلْنَا فِي السَّمَاء بُرُوجًا وَزَيَّنَّاهَا لِلنَّاظِرِينَ
وَحَفِظْنَاهَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْطَانٍ رَّجِيمٍ

إِلاَّ مَنِ اسْتَرَقَ السَّمْعَ فَأَتْبَعَهُ شِهَابٌ مُّبِينٌ
There are similar passages in the Qur'an. One example reads: " The Adorned Sky, adorned with heavenly bodies [Kawaakib]...rebellious devils  being unable to get a full hearing of Al Mala' Al A'laa ( high assembly), chased away by a burning flame." ( Q 37:6-10).

It is popularly imagined that these verses are referring to Shayateen being chased away from the gathering of angels in an heavenly assembly by a comet.

Looking at context, and after many years of pondering upon these set of Ayaat, this writer is of the view that the text is not talking about the sky, but rather, about the Qur'an itself!

In other words, criminally minded folks, be they with a "Muslim" name or a "Non Muslim" name, with wrong-headed interpretations of the Qur'an eventually gets discovered, and any success they have will be short lived.

It does not matter if those engaged in wrongful or deliberate misrepresentations are from the Khawaarij( ft.1) of old or their modern day manifestations in the form of ISIS, or if they are from the Right-wing bigots posting video commentary, they eventually become discovered and their misrepresentation will not hold long term traction.

It is interesting to note here that The Prophet Muhammad Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam is reported to have said "My Ummah will not agree upon that which is misguidance". [Tirmidhee]

In other words, while elements of deviance and disagreement will always be in the Muslim community, as with any community, the core principles and teachings are all agreed upon. For Muslims, that agreement is manifested in things from the same prayer, same scripture, same pillars, and so forth.

If the vast majority are saying, for example, that the sex slavery reportedly practiced by ISIS is incorrect, and that terrorism is contrary to religious ethics, that should be an evidence that it is the vast majority got it right!

[15:19-20]


وَالأَرْضَ مَدَدْنَاهَا وَأَلْقَيْنَا فِيهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَأَنبَتْنَا فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ مَّوْزُونٍ

وَجَعَلْنَا لَكُمْ فِيهَا مَعَايِشَ وَمَن لَّسْتُمْ لَهُ بِرَازِقِينَ



The Qur'an is from the one who has made the Earth, and provides for all. Allah's provision reaches all things. We invite a reader to go to a zoo, or to a community garden, and have the custodians explain the processes of farming and gardening, the reader will reach the conclusion that God provides for all.

Revelation is often connected to the natural world.

"The Merciful [God], Teacher of the Qur'an, He created humanity, He taught man articulate expression. The Sun and The Moon operate on a course predetermined." [Q 55:1-5]

"Read! In the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clot, Read, and your Lord is the Most Generous, Who teaches by means of the Pen, teaches man what he did not know." [Q 96:1-5]

[15:21-24]

وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلاَّ عِندَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ وَمَا نُنَزِّلُهُ إِلاَّ بِقَدَرٍ مَّعْلُومٍ
وَأَرْسَلْنَا الرِّيَاحَ لَوَاقِحَ فَأَنزَلْنَا مِنَ السَّمَاء مَاء فَأَسْقَيْنَاكُمُوهُ وَمَا أَنتُمْ لَهُ 
بِخَازِنِينَ
وَإنَّا لَنَحْنُ نُحْيِي وَنُمِيتُ وَنَحْنُ الْوَارِثُونَ
وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْنَا الْمُسْتَقْدِمِينَ مِنكُمْ وَلَقَدْ عَلِمْنَا الْمُسْتَأْخِرِينَ 



The source of the Qur'an, as well as for provison of all, is God, The All-Knowing.

The Qur'an functions as a clarifier [See Q 27:76 for example] and does so particularly on issues relating to God concept [see Q 2:255, 24:35, and 112:1-4], contrasting to the views of some religions, which depict God in language suggesting 'resting' [Genesis 2:2] or that God is the knower of headlines, not small details [ such as in the Hindu sect Brahman Kumaris]

[!5:25]

وَإِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ يَحْشُرُهُمْ إِنَّهُ حَكِيمٌ عَلِيمٌ

An obvious reference to the day of Judgement. It is important to note here that this is a fundamental Islamic teaching. If one denies that there will be a time in which one is held accountable before Allah, that person has a defective understanding of the faith.

[15:26-27]

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الإِنسَانَ مِن صَلْصَالٍ مِّنْ حَمَإٍ مَّسْنُونٍ
وَالْجَآنَّ خَلَقْنَاهُ مِن قَبْلُ مِن نَّارِ السَّمُومِ

The Nation of Islam [NOI] uses these verses, as well as some other texts [although they tend to use Biblical allusions more] to support a racist interpretation.

Their belief system includes a story that Whites were created by an evil Black Scientist named Yacub. In essence, according to them, Whites are actually Non Human!(Ft.2)

"And Indeed, We [Allah] have created humanity from Salsaal, from Hamaa-in Masnoon."

Salsaal: "Dried clay that emits a sound when struck". The Qur'an translator and commentator Muhammad Asad takes this to mean "an allusion to articulate speech..as well as the brittleness of his existence." [The Message of the Qur'an, 1980, Gibraltar]

Hamaa: "dark or black clay". This is found in Tafseer Al Jalalayn(ft.3]  as well as other Tafaseer.

Masnoon: "Shaped into human form, hollowed out"(ft.4)

Here, we have some matter-of-fact descriptions of human creation. Other verses highlight other items, such as blood and water.

These verses should not be read in a racial or racist way! Indeed, the Qur'an (Q 30:22) says that the different colors and languages exist by God's will, as evidence of his power and artistry, and Q 49:13, the most famous Quranic passage on issues involving race and tribe, says that his making people as different groupings allow for learning!

In other words, the interaction between the different human societies or sub-societies benefit all involved. Be it in food, music, clothing, any field.

It is also important to share the observation that those who seek racial division and advocate hatred based on color, language and the like, are people who have been influenced by devilish influences. It is the view and experience of this writer that such voices are power seeking, power hungry, irrational beings at their core, not in need of hatred, but of spiritual reformation.

Verse 27 tells us briefly about the creation of the Jinn, in contrast to that of humankind. It is imagined that Jinn are equal to Genies, made famous by legends and of course Disney movies. It is impossible to verify one way or the other most of those tales, so it is important to stick as much as possible to what is contained in the Qur'an and authentic Sunnah.

"Jinn" basically means "hidden". It is a life form or force whose reality we cannot fully grasp. It's nature is fiery, in contrast to the "pottery type" of nature humans have!

[15:28-30]
وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِّن صَلْصَالٍ مِّنْ حَمَإٍ مَّسْنُونٍ
فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِي فَقَعُواْ لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ
فَسَجَدَ الْمَلآئِكَةُ كُلُّهُمْ أَجْمَعُونَ

Iblees is made from the fire, he is a Jinn creature. He saw himself as superior to Adam, which is why he refuses to prostrate to Adam even though ordered by God to do so [15:30].

Iblees is not an angel, he was in angelic company, but he was a Jinn. Verse 29 tells us Allah breathed into Adam "My spirit", a referece to the breath of life.

Iblees-in a sense- is the first racist. The Quranic narrative is so strong, and here, looking at vv.26-27 before, it seems an even stronger evidence is being provided to show that those playing racial or nationalistic politics are actually playing from Satan's own playbook!

It is important not to fall into those traps. The Prophet said that among the signs of the nearing of Judgement day, one would find "Knowledge in low estimation, and an abundance of ignorance." (Yaqillul 'ilmu wa yaktharul Jahl].

The "Ignorance" spoken of in the Qur'an and Ahadeeth has many aspects. A good way to begin to understand what the texts speak of is to consider the age that preceded the Prophet's emergence on the Arabian peninsula. Idolatry and tribal wars, but also racism and tribalism [which Muslims call traditionally 'Asabiyyah].

The presence of the Prophet -upon whom be peace and blessings- as well as the Quranic revelation-did much to remove those diseases from the hearts of the Arabians of that time. "Muslims" should not have those issues anymore, but unfortunately we do!

Racism of all types exists, and is manifested in varying ways. Sometimes it is those proclaiming to be victims of racism that are, in fact, the biggest promoters of it!

If such folks claim an allegience to Islam, it is important for them to look inward rather than always playing the victim card. It is important to have one's faith and confidence in Allah and in Allah's words, above the calls of others. Islam is a faith that requires not only outward submission, but internal conformity to the Divine Imperatives!





Footnotes

[1] The Kharijies were an early extremist trend which emerged in Southern Iraq, roughly the same location ISIS as a movement came from. They were famous for their views that they alone possessed religious truth, and launched a bloody campaign for power. One of their members even killed the Prophet's own cousin, 'Ali ibn Abi Taalib, while the latter was praying in a Kufa, Iraq  Mosque [661 CE].

[2] It is possible that Elijah Muhammad [who records the Yacub account in his Message to the Blackman] meant for the account to be a dramatized social commentary, nonetheless, it has become a doctrinal teaching that still finds expression in today's NOI led by Minister Louis Farrakhan.

While it seems to this writer that Farrakhan has tried to distance himself from that rhetoric of the past, nonetheless commentaries on it still appears from time to time, composed by such persons as the late Tynetta Muhammad and Jabril Muhammad,  in his weekly publication, The Final Call. 

[3] Tafseer Al Jalalayn is a brief classical commentary, by two scholars carrying the same first name {Jalaluddin Al Mahalli in 1459 and his student Jalaluddin As Suyooti, his student, completing it is 1505}. The edition we have consulted is 2007, Damasus, Darul Kalam At-Teeb.

[4] Tafseer wa Bayaanu Kalimaat Al Qur'an, by the famed Egyptian scholar, Shaikh Hasanayn Muhammad Makhlouf (d. 1990]. The edition consulted is 2006, Amman, Daar Usaama.