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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.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Study notes: Brief thoughts on Quranic texts [Soorah Al Hijr 15:1-10]



Note: Below is a summary of some thoughts generated upon study of verses from the Qur'an's fifteenth chapter, known as Soorah Al Hijr. The Arabic text is given below, and we have not included translation, except where noted within the article. This encourages the English language reader-if necessary- to read the translation of their choice for themselves. This article is not intended to be an authoritative Tafseer [commentary or explanation], but rather, an example of Tafheem [attempt at understanding] and Tadabbur, pondering upon the Quranic text. This also functions as an edited version  of our 7/2/17  presentation at our weekly Quranic discussion in the Mosque.










[15:1]

الَرَ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ وَقُرْآنٍ مُّبِينٍ

As in many Soowar, we find rather odd letter combinations starting out the verse. Anyone acquainted with the Qur'an and the traditional Tafseer literature will know that there has been many theories expressed as to what these letter combinations [known as Al Muqata'aat] mean, as well as explanations that have been given in unorthodox writings [such as Rashad Khalifa's view that they are actually letters with numerical value [in the Abjad system], with a code that points to the world ending in the year 2280! (ft.1)

The more authoritative Tafaseer will usually have the expression "God knows best the meaning" in connection with Al Muqata'aat. It is the view of this writer that the meaning is actually rather simple and summarized as follows: [1] With only the exception of Soorah Maryam [19:1], the letter combinations [or "initals" if you wish] always precede a mention of something regading the Qur'an itself, and here is no different. "Alif-Laam, Raa, These are the signs of the Scripture, and a reading that is perfectly clear [Qur'aanin Mubeen]" . (2) Therefore, the Muqata'aat are Attention getters, taking our attention to that which follows it, in this case, to the value of the Qur'an itself!

This is not a new speculation, Ibn Katheer in his commentary [Tafseer Al Qur'aan Al 'Adheem] mentions this was an explanation advanced by some scholars in his own time [he died in 1373 CE]. While it is true that he does not appear to endorse this view, the fact that he encountered it does tell us that this is not a novel opinion! In our own times, organiztions of importance are better known by their initials, it is the initials in their name which generate the most and quickest attention. FBI, rather than "Federal Bureau of Investigation", CIA, rather than "Central Intelligence Agency" and so forth.


[15:2-4]

رُّبَمَا يَوَدُّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ لَوْ كَانُواْ مُسْلِمِينَ
ذَرْهُمْ يَأْكُلُواْ وَيَتَمَتَّعُواْ وَيُلْهِهِمُ الأَمَلُ فَسَوْفَ يَعْلَمُونَ
وَمَا أَهْلَكْنَا مِن قَرْيَةٍ إِلاَّ وَلَهَا كِتَابٌ مَّعْلُومٌ


As in many places within this scripture, the term Kuffar [or here Alladheena Kafaroo] does not speak to each and every single Non Muslim, but rather, to what the Qur'an calls "elites" [Al Mala'a] or "The leadership of Kufr" [A-immat al Kufr] [Q 9:12].

The winds of change always, atleast eventually, change in the favor of truth and justice. "Probably, those who reject wish they had been submissive, so let them consume ( Ya'kulu) and enjoy.."

The mission of the Prophets, with almost no exception, is always filled with persecution, slander, killlings, etc, in its initial stages. The Prophets are victims of all the above terrible things, but the tides change over time, in favor of the Prophets.

The term "Known decree" [Kitaabin Ma'loom] shows that when Allah does, in fact, punish a social order, He [Jalla wa 'Alaaa] does so because their crimes are so well known and established that their guilt is beyond doubt.


[15:5]

مَّا تَسْبِقُ مِنْ أُمَّةٍ أَجَلَهَا وَمَا يَسْتَأْخِرُونَ


The Qur'an almost always looks at the big picture. No power can remain longer than God has permitted. This is something shown repeatedly in the Qur'an, and should be an axiomatic truth to a person familiar with the Quranic texts. It is worth noting that the term Ummah, used here, is also used in the Qur'an elsewhere as referring to a single person [as opposed to an entire group. The example of Abraham is in Q 16:120] and even to a time period ( Q 12:45).(FT,2)

[15:6-9]

وَقَالُواْ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِي نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ الذِّكْرُ إِنَّكَ لَمَجْنُونٌ
لَّوْ مَا تَأْتِينَا بِالْمَلائِكَةِ إِن كُنتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ
مَا نُنَزِّلُ الْمَلائِكَةَ إِلاَّ بِالحَقِّ وَمَا كَانُواْ إِذًا مُّنظَرِينَ
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

The Leaders of Rejection//Tyranny [A-Immat al Kufr] are always demanding magic tricks from the Prophets and Messengers of Allah.

The most important issue to remember in this discussion is that the mission and the message of the Prophets are not limited to "religion", but rather, they have social and political implications, Asking for magic tricks is simply a demeaning of the Divine message.

15:8 teaches us that if-in fact- angels would come down, they would not come for the whims of the rejectors, rather, they would come as God's agents of punishment.

15:9 is perhaps the most famous verse in this Soorah. "Indeed, it is We [i.e. Allah] who has sent the Reminder [Adh-Dhikr], and it is We [i.e. Allah] who guard it". It is the most famous ayah in this chapter because it speaks on the status of the Qur'an, and Muslims always quote it to show the textual preservation of the Qur'an.

The context [in particular with verse 6, which also has the word Adh-dhikr] seems to suggest an even deeper meaning, and that is that God's Message has been ever-consistent. The manifestation of God's message may have had differing emphasis depending on time, place and audience, nonethelss it has been consistent in overall point and overall philosophy.

Thus, universally, people of faith find muder to be repulsive, theft to be a criminal act, and have the same overall attitudes on issues relating to social and political order.(ft.3)

This goes along with other Quranic verses, such as "There is no change in the words of Allah" ( Q 6:34).

[15:10]

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ فِي شِيَعِ الأَوَّلِينَ

The thoughts expressed in connection with verse 9 above provides a basis for which to understand this verse, as well as vv 11-15. Just as God's message has been consistent, the response of the leadership of Rejection has, likewise, been consistent. It has consisted of ridicule, slander, and eventually violence at some levels. Yet, God protects His overall message, and has especially done so with the Last of the Scriptures, given to the Last of the Prophets, the Universal Messenger, Muhammad ibn 'Abdullah, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

Notes

(1) Rashad Khalifa (1935-1990), an Egyptian Biochemist, advanced an idea that the entire Quranic corpus was all based on multiples of the number 19, thus, in his view, proving the Divine origin of the Qur'an. However, the text on which he derives his notion (Q 74:30) clearly speaks of Hell, and not the Qur'an. Moreover, it uses feminine pronoun ['Alayhaa] whereas "Qur'an" and words relating to it are masculine pronoun. Khalifa eventually declared himself as a Messenger of God [even signing his letters with the Farsi  term Rasool-e Khuda]. His views on the letter combinations in the Qur'an are to be found in his translation Quran: The Final Testament [1989, Tuscon, Arizona, Islamic Productions, pp613-625].

(2) Shaikh Akram Nadwi explains that the term in Q 12:45, ad-dakara, should be tadhakkara, but here has been changed in addakara because it has the meaning "to make effort to remember". In this case, Joseph's cell-mate, released, took a long time to recall his promise to Joseph to tell the ruler of his status. For more information, see Qur'an 12:42-46.

(3) As an example to prove this assertion, see the Qur'an 17:23-39. The basic moral code of life is given in those verses, a code that-broadly speaking- can be agreed upon by followers of every religion.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Are Muslims going crazy? An attempt to make sense of recent events

The last two weeks, despite it being the month of Ramadan, a time of prayer, fasting, introspection and charity, it seems that the Muslims worldwide  has been set afire! The car and knife attacks in London last week are well known, as well as an incident in which a young man attacked a police officer in Paris, but also we have had the same sort of incidents in places within the Muslim world, such as Kabul, and today we are witnessing the aftermath of attacks on the Iranian Parliament and the shrine of Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini.

The London attack brought to my mind nothing from Muslim history, or even civilization memories of long ago, but rather, a television show produced by FOX. Called simply THE FOLLOWING, it depicts a serial killer named Joe Carrol, a former university professor who focuses on classical literature [in particular the writings of Edgar Allen Poe] who manages, even after his initial capture, to gather, via the internet, numerous followers, hailing from diverse racial and economic backrounds. Throughout the series, any and all excuse was given to fulfill the bloodlust of this figure, and, of course, the series had also exposed in their story line different sets of villains, motivations, organizations, plots and twists.Copy cat killers and desperate personalities seeking fame and glory, as well as political intrigue, also played their parts. ISIS and its likes are precisely the same way, and it would not come as a surprise to this writer that ISIS members are found to have viewed this program and programs like it on a regular basis.

Is it really Islam which motivates killing sprees?

It's important to understand that anyone can make just about any claim as to their own motivations. The French writer Gabriel Meurier aptly observes: " He who excuses himself, accuses himself."

The human mind has great abilities to both see the truth and to hide it, to explain away and to justify, to rationalize bad decisions.  Moreover, as individuals we are extremely complex, full of  paradoxes which we are not always able to understand ourselves or to be adequately understood by others.

As a person who has been studying these subjects for many years, it is my view that it is wrong to simply say "Islam is the cause". The cause[s] vary from place to place and person to person. I think such actions, when taking place in clearly defined war contexts or on the battlefield, is universally understood, even if disliked by some and approved of by others.

However, how does that work in London, Paris, Orlando, and let us not forget, Charleston, South Carolina [where Dylann Roof shot to death nine people in an African American Church in  the hopes of starting a race war]?

In those cases, one cannot simply look at the religion, race or even class of the perpetrator. One can and should look at his stated motivations, but also at what is hidden, what is behind the image. That is mainly the job of sociologists, psychologists and those in similar fields.

What does Islam say about violence?

The first source is, of course, The Qur'an, the Islamic scripture. It is seen as God's word and no other source is seen as superior to it. In it, we read a very long list of basic principles, similar to what Christians call the Ten Commandments (ft.1), and among the directives, we have "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]

In other words, killing is seen as forbidden, and if and when it does happen, from the perspective of Islamic laws, the family of the victim has the right to demand capital punishment, to have financial compensation. Moreover, when capital punishment is applied or sought after, it is not to become a  free for all. This is particularly important in feudalistic societies, where cycles of revenge taking can last generations.

The above Quranic command is also alluded to in 2:178. There, it clearly states that regardless of the status of the victim or the killer, capital punishment remains an option if that is what the victim's family demands. It is worthy of emphasis that the victim's  family has more say on the matter than the state in normative Islamic jurisprudence.

In another place within the scripture the principle has been given that is well known to the Judeo-Christian tradition, "...Whosoever kills a soul..it is like he has killed all of mankind, and if he saves a life, it is as if he has saved all of mankind." [Q 5:32].

In the same verse, as well as in 5:33, we have rather severe options given to deal with murder, as well as creating social chaos in general.

What about Jihad?

The term Jihad simply refers to struggle, and can be used in war and non war contexts. While we don't dispute that it has been used in war contexts, it is worth noting that Jihad as a war cannot be simply launched by anyone. Killing random people on the streets, innocents who have nothing to do with anything, cannot be justified in the name of Islam. Indeed, it seems to us that such actions fall under what is mentioned as "chaos" in 5:33, bringing forth a potential severe punishment from the authorities.

It is clear that the brains behind the acts in Paris, London, Kabul, Egypt, Syria, and other places have in mind spreading chaos. They want people to be afraid. They also seem to want Muslim minorities in Western nations to be in a state of fear, to be viewed with suspicion by the wider society.

It does not matter the religious or ethnic identity of the masterminds, I have no qualms in calling them out as evil, as people who are far away from religion, as folks who are master manipulators with desires for greatness, who serve their own egos rather than serving Allah, the Lord of creation.

Suicide bombings/attacks



This has been almost universally condemned in the Muslim world by Muslim scholars. Countless books, pamphlets, articles, position papers and speeches have been composed by scholars within every sect and orientation within Islam on this subject. In the modern age it is said that the ones who started this particular tactic was not Muslims, but rather Tamil Tiger rebels on the Indian subcontinent. Later, it was picked up by Muslim groups of various places and persuasions, in places such as Lebanon and Palestine.

In legitimate war contexts, all kinds of things can and do happen. Indeed, in the USA and other places we have what are called war movies, either fictionalized or depictions of real historical battles, in which soldiers sacrifice their lives.

Whatever one thinks of this, this is still not the same as what we are continually witnessing. Suicide bombings on Christian Church services in Egypt, or suicide attacks on Shiite worshipers offering prayers in Pakistani mosques, or at nightclubs and the like.

The Qur'an says "and do not take your own hands as to bring forth [your own]  destruction.." (Q 2:195].

An even more clear sentence in the scripture says "And do not kill yourselves." [Q 4:29].

So if both murder and suicide have been condemned in the Qur'an, how about killing one's own self along with innocent others? The answer should be obvious, it is not allowed!

Looking at all of this from the perspective of belief in the texts of Islam

The hadeeth literature, texts which tell of of reports emanating from the Prophet Muhammad, relate to us that the Prophet, upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings, gave several signs as indicators of the coming day of Judgement. It is a day that, the Qur'an says, none should have any doubt about its eventual arrival [ Q 3: 9]. We have discussed many of them in the past (ft.2), but one of them is the emergence of what is called Maseeh id Dajjal, or simply"Dajjal".

Al Maseeh Ad Dajjal is translated usually as "The False Christ" or simply "Anti-Christ". The issues surrounding eschatology are complicated and highly debated, and while others focus on a particular personality to fit the description, this writer looks at it from the term Dajjal. In everyday Arabic, it is used for deceiver, and is often associated with a tyrannical ruler.

In other words, one of the signs of the age close to the Day of Judgement is that great deceptions will take place. Guidance will be lost, not just in religious affairs, but in the social and political arena. People, often damaged by the vices and soul crushing aspects of the modern world, will look for peace and meaning in all the wrong places. Another hadeeth words the situation as "Knowledge will be of low account, ignorance will be abundant" [Yaqillul 'ilmu, wa yaktharul Jahl]. Indeed, we even have a hadeeth which reports the Prophet as saying that killing would be so abundant that neither the killer nor the victim will understand why it is happening!

Dajjalic influences are not simply felt on Non Muslims! It is universally felt. The deceivers fool everyone in different ways and at different areas. The hadeeth literature speaks on social upheavals as well as violent confrontation between groups of powerful entities. The evil influences are widespread, so that today people can kill in the name of religion and in the name of race/ nation alike, as we saw recently with Jeremy Joseph Christian, in Portland, Oregon, expressed pride in killing two men who had come to the defense of Muslim women.(ft.3)


So what can do, if this is the age of great deception

A comprehensive answer cannot be given in this brief composition. The suggestions we have largely come from Islamic teachings themselves, but also from my own views, hopefully shaped in a correct way by Islam itself. These tips are also useful for Non Muslim readers.

[1] Be consistent in prayer: Strive to connect to God in a regular way and on a regular basis.

[2] Be studious: In this age, it is needed to stay informed and educated. Dedicate a part of your budget to the purchase of books [and not simply websites and news channels] on important social, economic and political subjects. If possible, learn another language in addition to your own native tongue. Don't be afraid to stand corrected on a topic you were previously misinformed on.

[3] Have good company and family ties: Spend time outside with your family, seek out mates and company of decent people.

[4] Avoid intoxicants and obsessions with vices: Weaknesses can be easily exploited and themselves be the foundation of becoming a victim.

[5] Be willing to travel: for your own health and sanity, it may become necessary to not only travel, but to move to another place.

This is by no means comprehensive, but nonetheless a good place to start.(ft.4)

Footnotes

[1] Robert Alter, in his Bible commentary and translation The Five Books of Moses ( 2004, New York, W.W. Norton & Company] gives a brief summary of the ten commandments not actually, in the original text, adding up to that number. Nonetheless, it has become a great part of Western thinking and legal foundations.

[2] Among the places we have addressed Judgement day, see "Considering the day of Judgement" at [url] http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2017/02/considering-day-of-judgement-is-it-close.html[/url] , "Judgement day: lessons from the Qur'an and Sunnah" [url] http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2017/04/judgement-day-lessons-from-quran-and.html[/url] and "Signs of Judgement day" at [url] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMMq_mmjUXY[/url].

[3] On a Portland train, Christian was yelling at two women, one of whom was a Muslim. Three men came to the defense of the young ladies, and Christian reacted by repeatedly stabbing all three, two of whom died. Unfortunately, this event, which happened in May, has yet to get the wide attention that it deserves. In court, Christian yelled out, in part, "This is America, get out if you don't like free speech.". A little more information can be found at [url] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/portland-us-murder-train-islamophobic-ramadan-racist-extremist-hate-crime-a7771231.html[/url]

[4] I am compelled here to mention that we must be careful in accepting claims at first glance. That is not only common sense, but it is a Quranic command [Q 49:6]. Many writers associate great deceptions with everything from terms such as the Illuminati to victims brainwashed to do certain actions in a Manchurian Candidate style event. We simply don't know which, if any, of those particular scenarios apply to the overall issues under discussion. We should simply exercise caution in accepting as truth anything that is presented to us, regardless of the source.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Judgement Day: Lessons From The Qur'an And Sunnah

( Note: The following is an edited version of our recent presentation at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam.)

Qiyaamah; a reality



The Day of Judgement is a frequent object of attention in the Qur'an, even a cursory glance at the text will reveal to the reader it's repeated appearance. One of the texts we find is "Our Lord, Indeed, You will gather people together on a day of which exists no doubt. Indeed, Allah does not fail in his promise." [Q 3:9]. Thus, a person claiming to be a Muslim must accept this core Quranic teaching.

Signs that precede Judgement day

The Qur'an does give some indicators, however it's focus is moreso on the event itself. Prophet Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, in one hadeeth does give us the following signs:

Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah [PBUH] said "The conditions of the hour will be [1] Knowledge will be elevated away (yurfa'ul 'Ilm)." Another wording that exists has it that The Prophet said "Knowledge will be diminished" (Yaqillul 'Ilm), meaning that the importance of knowledge will be made low. [2] Abundance of ignorance ( Jahl, in thinking and behaviour). (3) Abundance of Zinaa. (4) Abunance of the consumption of intoxicating agents ( Khamr)." 

[1]  We can understand this as higher education, out of reach for all but those at a social and financial status.

 [2] The disappearance of authentic information, both religious and Non-religious, in that truth no longer matters.

 [3]  The rise of ignorance in both facts and in action. This can also refer to the ignorance as inspired by youthful attitudes, the  rise of a culture that caters to the whims and wishes of the young, devoid of mature consideration. We also see this within the religious realm, in that people speak on Islam with no knowledge of what they are speaking on. We live in an age where ignorance is deemed praiseworthy and education is seen as, at best, odd, and, at worse, dangerous.

[4] Zinaa: Marriage will be seen, in the final age, as a pointless institution. This is increasinglty a global situation, [5] Khamr: This is not simply beer and wine, alcoholic drinks, but narcotics. Marijuana is socially and increasingly becoming legally acceptable.

The hadeeth highlights these things, and while other Prophetic narrations highlight other things, some of which are debated in terms of their strength and veracity, we are to seek lessons from the narration at hand,

Lessons

[1] Stay informed, particularly in Deeni affairs. We have to be connected to the Book of Allah, to Allah himself through righteous conduct. As the Qur'an says "Deen is to be specifically for Allah." [ Q 39:3]. A part of this is to recognize our status, to stay quiet, rather than speak, on issues that we have no knowledge of, The Qur'an says " So ask those who have knowledge, if you don't know." ( Q 16:43, 21:7). Having enough humility to be able to seek out knowledge from knowledgeable persons, as opposed to the do-it-yourself approach.

We have yet another hadeeth in which the Prophet said that in that age, close to thirty decievers will emerge claiming divine guidance, claiming to speak on behalf of God.(ft.1)

Such decievers [Dajjaloon] only gain traction in an environment devoid of knowledge  and filled with ignorance.

The lesson here is particularly important with the Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah, in his manner of connecting with Allah.

[2] In the same hadeeth we have a statement that in that age "Women will be abundant, and men will be minimized" . It is our view that this does not simply refer to population, but rather, to a world where men are constantly under attack, where the responsibility of fathers will be taken away, be it in the name of fighting crime or of feminism. This is a widely held observation of the social condition of African Americans (ft.2). So the lesson is that men have to take responsibility, particularly as fathers, and not fall into the traps out there that seek to prevent this,

[3] Khamr, intoxicating agents, be it alcoholic drinks or recreational drugs, must be totally avoided, because these items cloud the rational thinking. We are to be awake, and not sleep-walk through life.


The Qur'an on the Day of Judgement itself

On that day, the bodily appendiges themselves will be made to testify ( Q 24:24, 36:63-65 among other verses) . It will be a day which will be initiated with a deafening noise, making people totally self-concerned. A frightening moment indeed [Q 80:33-37].

It is on that day that the veils are finally removed from the eyes of those who had rejected (Q 50:22). It is also the day that religious disputed will be solved or addressed directly by God ( Q 35:14 among other places). It is a day that records of one's life are actually read out, it is the day that the verdicts are announced.

While the Qur'an is very detailed on what happens on that day itself, we have yet another hadeeth (reported in Tirmidhee) which summarizes it all in which the Prophet said  that a person will be questioned on how their time as a youth was spent, how they earned and disposed of their wealth, and how they acted upon the knowledge they possessed.

In addition to this, we have another well-known hadeeth, in which the Prophet [peace and blessings be on him] said that very first thing a person will be questioned about is worship ( Tirmidhee).

This hadeeth gives us a clue, it indicates that a life in which even the weak person, with all of his sins and imperfections, still sought out God, it is that seeking out that will be a source of salvation. So the more worship we do, the more aligned to Allah we become.

Predicting The Day Of Judgement

This is a situation more common with Christians than with Muslims(ft.3), an ironic reality because the Bible has Jesus say that God alone knows when it will happen [Mark 13:32]. The added aspect to this is an attempt to "move along" or to force God's hand (ft.4).

The Qur'an addresses this

"The affair of God is coming, so don't (even) imagine that you can speed it up. Glorified is He, and He is the Most High, above what they associate[yushrikoon] with him." ( Q 16:1)

This shows us that such people are guilty of shirk, because they have attempted to make God a push-over, a being that can be manipulated for their own interests. Allah's schedule is His own, how He sets about his business is his own affair. Our reasoning cannot go against the Divine Sunnah.

Protection from Dajjal

The hadeeth literature tells us that the Dajjal [deceiver] will gain near global domination in that age close to the Day of Judgement. Remember that Dajjal means "consistent deceiver". The text gives a description of that figure, but we should remember that this term is also a general concept.

The evidence for this is the already mentioned narration that close to thirty lying  dajjals (dajjaloon kadhdhaboon qareebun min thalatheen)  would emerge.

We are told in atleast two narrations that Soorah Al Kahf, the 18th chapter of the Qur'an, would serve as protection from Dajjal. This shows us that the power of Dajjal will simply be that of influence, suggestion and mental manipulation, and that such influence is countered by getting spiritually prepared for Qiyaamah, by being grounded in the Book of Allah, where Allah's guidance is stronger than other influences.

Tyrannical forces punished by God on the Day of Judgement

The focus of Allah's punishment is felt on the tryannical, those who attained power and sustained power on the backs of the oppressed.

Those who devored 'Ribaa'(ft.5) do not rise except as  those confounded by the touch of Satan [Q 2:275]

Another Quranic text speaks of the oppressive class as "Nay! It [the punishment] will come to them, utterly stun them, with no ability to avert, nor are they given respite." [ Q 21:40]

So Judgement day will see the vindication of truth, but also ultimate justice.

Footnotes
[1] The Arabic text is  text-align: right;">دجالون كذبون قريب من ثلاثين كلهم يزعم انه رسول الله


 [2];There has been a wealth of publications made on this subject, approaching it from different angles. Among the more mature treatments of this, one can refer to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, or even Black Lies, White Lies (1995, New York) by Tony Brown.

 [3] Christian history is replete with Messianic movements which have, at one point in their history, predicted Judgement day and the date of the return of Christ. In fact, a great many of the demoninations which currently exist trace their origin to such trends. American Christianity is particularly prone to these trends, and an entire industry exists in which figures of seemingly dubious intentions and questionable scholarship essentially cash in on these predictions. One such figure who clearly takes advantage of all this in order to gain political power is John Hagee, a southern mega-pastor. One of his publications which uses Biblical themes to support the Israeli policies is CAN AMERICA SURVIVE? 10 PROPHETIC SIGNS THAT WE ARE THE TERMINAL GENERATION [2010, New York]. The return of Christ is deemed contingent upon Christian support of Israel. If Israel does not exist, Christ cannot return. This is the essence of his argument.

[4] One interesting article on this is "Trying to force the Rapture"http://www.rense.com/general67/rap.htm.

 [5] Ribaa is a hotly contested issue within Muslim scholarship. Modern Muslim thought seems to equate it with interest in its totality, loans with usurious rates, or something else entirely. It is worth noting here that Ribaa has the meaning of theft. Our point is that Ribaa can encompass all of the above mentioned examples as well as economic systems/philosophies which are destroying lives and land. It is worth noting that Ribaa can involve individuals as well, and that the Qur'an has taken the position that it is an immoral increase of wealth. The Qur'an seeks to touch the hearts and minds of goodly people to totally give up engaging in Ribaa.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Exploring our age in light of Islamic texts: Friday Khutbah

[Note: The following is an edited version of Khutbah delivered 4/7/17 at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam. The opening Hamd has been omitted, as well as other comments made. It should also be noted here that this Khutbah serves as an introduction to an upcoming lecture called 'Day of Judgement: Lessons from the Qur'an and Sunnah".]

We have indicators in the Islamic primary texts as to the indicators of the approach of Judgement Day. One of the Prophetic narrations [reported by Aby Hurayrah and found in Tirmidhee's collection] has it that those indicators include (1) The man will obey his wife  [literally 'his woman'] و اطاع الرجل امراته   

2] Disregard his mother. (3) Closest to his friend (4) Yet the most distant from his father [Aqsaa Abaahu]. (5) And [the trend of the ] emergence of loud talking in the mosques [places of worship] (Ft.1)

We are emphasising these five items as found in the hadeeth because they show the breakdown of the natural family structure, a situation we are seeing in today's world in the name of the follies of youth and "freedom". 

This does not absolve that there are parents out there who have been horrible to their children or children who have been horrible with their families, however we are simply relating the hadeeth here without fault-finding, putting all of the pieces together. We are looking at the Prophet's words with the hope of finding guidance. 

We should learn from this hadeeth that we have to strengthen our family ties, even if the famiy is Non Muslim or Non Practicing as Muslims! If Parents have made severe mistakes in their treatment of their children, then it becomes incumbent on them to find a way to repair the damage!

The last item mentioned in the narration tells us that loud voices would be heard or emenating from the mosques. THIS shows us that the places of worship have, in the age closest to Qiyaamah, become little more than social clubs, in which people have forgotten the solemn nature of the mosque. The Mosque [Masjid], the house of Allah, particularly the prayer area (musalla) is for prayer, reflection, study, reading the Qur'an, not for gossip!

I find it interesting that the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم placed these five items together. In short, we are called upon to strengthen, to have proper ties, to Allah and to our families [see Qur'an 4:1]. Such ties are necessary if we are to survive and to be sane in the age which is seemigly close to Judgement day. 

Prophet Muhammad is misrepresented in the age near to Judgement Day

Another hadeeth, found in Saheeh Muslim, tells us "The lying decievers will come at you with 'ahadeeth' which neither you nor your ancestors have heard of..." 
ان دجالون كذبون ياتونكم من الاحاديث بمالم تسمعوا انتم ولا اباوكم

THIS informs us that the Muslims will be the victims of great decievers, coming at us with deliberate misrepresentations of the final Prophet.

The Lying Dajjals [Dajjaloon Kadhdhaboon] cannot do that with the Qur'an, because the Qur'an has been protected by God [ see Q 15:9]. This is not only from a faith-based perspective, but from a physical and historical realistic perspective. Since the decievers cannot do that with the Quranic text, which is accessible and very well known, they target hadeeth, which is not as  widely known (ft.2).

This has happened both literally and figuratively. People quote 'hadeeth' or make assertions that portray Prophet Muhammad as stern, fanatical, harsh and rigid. The Prophet ends up being extremly misrepresented. 

Our best weapon against the lying decievers is the Qur'an itself. The evidence for this is that we have atleast two narrations [Muslim and Abu Dawud] that speak of texts from Soorah Al Kahf [chapter 18 of the Qur'an] as protection from Dajjal(ft.3). We read in that Soorah that God deserves praise for not allowing any deviation to be placed within the Quranic scripture [Q 18:1]. So we have to make time to read it, to study it, to memorize it, use its text in our prayers but most importantly to live by it. The Qur'an is not a book for the dead, rather it is a book for the living! 


The hearts of those firmly grounded in the Book of Allah will not have signifigant influence from the deceptions of the decievers [Dajjaloon].

Concluding thoughts

Constant introspection, examining our family ties and our ties with God and with God's revelation is the only way to go in order to find guidance. Complacency will only become the doorway for misguidance. We want to be open to truth. So be regular in worship, in supplication [du'aa] and keep in mind the Prophet's supplication; " O Allah, show us truth as truth, and give us the ability to follow it. Show us Baatil as Baatil, and give us the ability to abstain therefrom."

We should also pray from protection from the 'fitnah' of the deceiver. It does not matter if 'Fitnah' is translated as 'trial' or 'test' or 'tribulation'. We don't want any of it!

Rather, we are to desire guidance for ourselves and our families, not to be deluded.


Footnotes

(1) In Arabic the word for Mosque [Masjid] literally means "place of prostration". It is on a pattern indicating the a noun of place and time ( Ism Zamaan wa Makaan]. We have explained 'masjid' here to include even a broader possibility, and that is that all places of worship, regardless of religious affiliation, in the age nearest to Judgement day, would become nothing more than social clubs in which authentic searching for spirituality would be absent. This writer has in mind Qur'an 22:40 which contains recognition [even though the Qur'an obviously refutes some religious ideas] that places such as monasteries, Churches and Synagogues function as places wherein the congregants are seeking out God.

(2) The evidence for this assertion is that the Qur'an has been widely memorized and acted upon even by lay Muslims throughout history. The science of hadeeth ['Ilm ul hadeeth] is very complex and is full of scholarly disagreements on criterion for judging the authenticity of this or that narration, not to mention the chain of transmission [Sanad]. So while most Muslims have the Qur'an, only the scholarly class have in their personal libraries the many volumes of hadeeth. With the emergence of the internet, all of the traditions have been recorded by many websites and made available, however that does not mean it would be as understood and seen correctly as the Qur'an has. It is the opinion of this author that the scholarly class spend their time in deep research into the sciences of hadeeth, that lay Muslims have in their own libraries and in their hearts Prophetic sayings as found in books such as Riyadhus Saaliheen or Forty Hadeeth, statements that are inspirational and push us towards goodly relations with God and neighbor etc, and that the Qur'an remains the primary source for  religious truths.

(3) I see these narrations as indicative of not necessarily the last ten or the first ten verses of Soorah Al-Kahf as serving as protection from Dajjal. but rather the entire Soorah itself. In the Soorah, we find a number of accounts and morals that provide-if internalized, a proper respect for Allah, faith in Allah, the true state of humanity, and much more. The stories of Moses and the teacher [known as Khidhr], the believers who escape persecution by going to the cave, the parable of the believer and the disbeliever, are among the highlights of the Soorah. In general, the overall message of the Qur'an itself provides both personal and communal protection from the forces of deception. This subject cannot be fully explained adequately in a footnote, nonetheless we hope this provides a desire to study and consider the Qur'an itself, with emphasis on Soorah Al Kahf.