Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Zakaat: Reflections on its application in the Western world

(1)  Zakaat as inescapable religious obligation



The payment of Zakaat, often rendered as " poor dues" certainly is a religious obligation. It is placed as among the five pillars of Islam. The reason for this is apparent only by glancing the opening pages of the Qur'an, which reads " A.L.M. This is the scripture, about which there is no doubt, a guide for those who possess taqwaa, who have faith in the Unseen realities, establish prayers, and spend out of what WE (i.e., God) has provided for them." (Q 2:1-3).


Similarly, we have hundreds of places throughout the Qur'an which places the obligation of daily prayers alongside payment of Zakaat. Denial of its primary presence in Islam is deemed sufficient by many scholars as a rejection of the Islamic faith in totality, and a number of Quranic verses have expressed condemnation for those who do not pay it (Q 3:180, 41:6-7, 9:34-35 among others).


(2) How is it usually paid?



The schools of jurisprudence are in agreement that a minimum of 2.5 % of yearly wealth is to be given in Zakaat. Traditionally, most prefer to pay this in the month of Ramadan. This is different from the charity mandated by the Sunnah to be paid before the 'Eid prayers, which is known as sadaqatul Fitr or Zakaatul Fitr.


(3) To whom it is given?

In many Muslim countries, it is collected as a tax from one's pay, or deducted yearly from one's savings account. The government then distributes those funds to those it finds eligible. Still, other Muslim nations do not regulate or exercise control over Zakaat funds, leaving it to the discretion of individual believers or mosques/religious organizations.


While there are small discussions as to who is eligible to receive it, the following texts provide the general recipient list:


 Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect [zakah] and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah and for the [stranded] traveler - an obligation [imposed] by Allah. And Allah is Knowing and Wise." (Q 9:60 Saheeh International translation)

 

 "It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing." ( Q 2:177 Yusuf Ali translation)


The inspiration to help others, as integrated into the Muslim faith and culture, has won praise from friend and foe alike. It has functioned as a live saving institution.

There are a number of points raised in these two Quranic verses, insofar as their applicability in today's world, particularly in a Western context, which we will address in due course. We hope to show that the religion of Islam is indeed versatile, having the ingredients necessary to give concrete guidance that reflects our current realities. It is necessary to deal with the following questions.


(4) Can Non -Muslims receive zakaat funds?

Generally, the scholars assert that Non-Muslims are ineligible to receive Zakaat, but rather, the non obligatory, discretionary charity (sadaqa). This understanding makes sense in a context of supporting local needs first, a concept that is globally understood. After all, U.S. citizens pay taxes to the United States government, not to Canada.


However, a literal and careful reading of the Qur'an does not specify a religious identity of recipients. Moreover, the term rendered as "bringing hearts together" (Al-Mu'allaf al Quluubuhum) above has been understood, even in the Prophet's time, as either giving funds to those who would be persecuted as a result of accepting the religion (who would otherwise not accept it because of those fears) or at least for generating good will within the non-Muslim community. 


Thus, it is our view that any on the above list of zakat recipients are eligible, regardless of religious label.


(5) Can Mosques and institutions receive zakaat


It is the view of the majority of scholars and schools of jurisprudence that Mosques and religious institutions are not eligible to receive zakaat. The Hanafi school is particularly vocal in these regards. (ft.#1)


This ruling makes sense in a Muslim world context, where the mosques are funded either by the government, rich individuals, or religious institutions.


In the West, the mosques function as not only the places of worship, but of learning, government, social, political and propagation sites. Thus, it is our view that mosques and religious institutions are eligible to receive zakaat.


This argument has a plethora of evidence, summarized as follows.  (1) The Quranic verse 9:60 clearly states that those "employed to collect" are eligible to receive, and in a Western context it is the mosques who collect zakaat and distribute it to those individuals in need. (2)  Q 2:195, among other verses, commands to "spend in the cause of Allah", which has been understood as struggle and even propagation. Mosques function as both centers of propagation and struggle to uphold Islamic values. (3) The Qur'an (Q 9:17) also commands the believers to maintain the mosques(ft.#2).  In a Western environment, governments do not support places of worship, therefore the local Muslim community-out of necessity- should support the mosque they worship in financially.


(6) Can charity of any kind be given to a mosque or religious organization not our own?


Both online and in person, we have seen this scenario, in both the Muslim world and the West. A real- life example, which I read on a fatwa website, can be summarized as follows:  A Sunni gets a job in Iraq, being a majority Shiite country. He prays in the Shiite mosques, and encounters charitable organizations set up to support the poor, widows and orphans, people suffering as a result of the constant warfare Iraq has faced. The Sunni posits the question if it is legitimate to support those charitable organizations. The website responds that it is not legitimate, because they are Shiites, and it is not permissible to give strength to incorrect theology ('Aqeedah).


Similarly, we have seen those who will pray in a mosque that does not necessarily subscribe to their particular understanding of the faith, they will frequent that mosque on a regular basis, yet proclaim it is forbidden to give financial support to that institution.

We find this reasoning to be deeply flawed. Simple logic would dictate that if a place is good enough to pray in on a regular basis, and its facilities such as parking lot, restrooms and prayer halls are utilized, that even a token payment is necessary. 


(7) The emancipation of those help captive (Ar Riqaab)


Both Quranic verses cited above in #3 uses the term Riqaab, referring to those who are slaves. Slavery no longer exists as a legally and socially recognized institution, so how should we understand this today? How can the Quranic assertion to free Ar Riqaab be applied in today's world?

It is our view that it is best applied to pay for education, for minor children as well as university students in nations where fees are prohibitive or where students end up in exploitative, ribaa based loan programs.    


(8) Who are the Yataamaa (sing.Yateem)?

Obviously, this term is typically used to refer to children with no parents, i.e. orphans. It certainly has this application, yet in the West we find that there are -by and large- organizations created, both public and private, to take care of such children, there is the foster care system and adoptions available.

While the pros and cons of these initiatives can be disputed, we are looking at the meaning of the term "Yateem", which also appears in Arabic, Urdu and Bahasa Melayu. In Arabic, the basic meaning is "one who is alone, without support".


Therefore, it is our view that Zakaat should be given to adults and minors alike who find themselves, in the West, isolated, struggling both financially and spiritually, until more permanent solutions are found for such individuals.


(9) When to pay Zakaat?

Traditionally, the obligatory zakaat (called Zakaat al maal) was paid once a year, usually in the month of Ramadan. It is our view that a more efficient way to meet the obligation is to pay it more often. Those organizations, mosques and the like entrusted to distribute those funds would then be empowered to do much more in terms of supporting those in need within the community. 


The Qur'an gives us a clue when it says that the due is due on the day of harvest (Q 6:141).  Therefore, it is our suggestion that 2 .5 percent be given, for example, on a monthly basis, via automatic deduction from one's bank account, in much the same way that the majority of our bills are now paid. Another idea could be to simply take the cash once a month, the first Friday of the month, to the mosque and pay it then. A reminder can be made in one's cell phone calendar to make such a payment. One could simply pay with cash or a check.





This is more efficient, even in small amounts, because it allows the mosque or organization to be able to rely on those funds, rather than a random occurrence. Islam promotes stability in all aspects of life and religious practice.


(10) How to pay Zakaat?


The above deals with this question somewhat. The monthly suggestion is based off of the trend in today's financial culture, yet we are also aware of salaries usually being dispersed on a weekly or 15 day basis. There is also the self-employed, who may earn profit on a daily basis.


Applications (apps) are now widely available to help in calculating zakaat amounts. In addition, one need not pay it to an organization. If you know those who are struggling and fit the categories mentioned above, you can give directly to such persons. 


However one does it, it needs to be done, and done on a consistent basis.


         

Footnote

(1) In many mosques, including my own, funds meant for maintenance and those meant for the needy are kept separately, in keeping not only with Hanafi Fiqh but transparency as well. It is our argument above that Zakaat can be used for mosque maintenance as well. 


(2) On my first visit to Saudi Arabia I was struck by the fact that this Quranic text decorated most mosque entrances. Subsequent visits to the Kingdom have revealed that this is no longer the case, nonetheless it is a good reminder of our obligations, and perhaps should be adopted globally as a necessary text to decorate the mosques.






Friday, April 15, 2022

Interfaith Interactions as a believing Muslim

Introduction


For a number of years now, in addition to being active in Muslim community, I have also been involved in what is often called the interfaith movement. On the official level, this has involved attending events in places of worship other than those of my own religion, being an audience member at programs, ceremonies and panels, as well as a speaker in these programs.  


On an unofficial level, this has led to the cultivation of many sincere friendships, growth in knowledge and experiences, opening of doors which otherwise would be inaccessible, and a host of other benefits. The purpose of these few words is to address some of the concerns that from time to time are expressed by fellow Muslims, who, like others outside of the Muslim community, perceive a religious threat. 


Motivations


It is certainly the case that many enter into these activities with certain agendas in mind, and, like anything else, sincere intentions can be subjected to manipulation by others. My general motivations are summarized as follows (a) Improving my own knowledge of other faith traditions and perceptions on mutual topics of interest. (b) Presenting a Muslim voice, perspective in arenas wherein we would typically be absent. (c) Working with others to address shared social needs. 


The interfaith circles are ideal for the three items mentioned above. We cannot control the actions, beliefs or intentions of others, even within the shared (Islamic) religious space. We can only do our own part, in accordance with our own conscious. The Qur'an says simply "For us is our actions, and for you your actions" (Q 2:139 et al)


Towards understanding realities

The Islamic faith has been consistent in telling its followers to be diligent in acquiring information. The Prophet Muhammad (Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam) has remarked that seeking knowledge is an obligation (fareedah) upon every Muslim. The Qur'an itself (Q 49:13) asserts that one of the reasons that God has created different racial and tribal groups is that they "get to know" one another. This refers to the enrichment process generated by observing and appreciating the differences as well as commonalities.


The Qur'an clearly advocates both travel and the study of the universe, history and the like (Q 6:11, 41:53, etc.). This process extends a bit further insofar as interactions with those outside of traditional comfort zones.


Having a presence


Despite the historical, economic and social importance of Muslims on a global scale, we have little to no representation in arenas such as media, politics, and society. Moreover, it is often the case that when there is representation there is a great deal of disservice because of lack of qualifications, language barriers and the like. 


If we don't speak for ourselves, share our beliefs and perceptions, others will, and this will cause a huge amount of disservice to the community.


Can we work with non-Muslims?


The Qur'an allows marriage and social relations with Non-Muslims (Q 5:5) and advocates that we be just with them (Q 60:7-9) as a general principle. If we are allowed those, certainly we are allowed to work with them in areas of mutual interest.


The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself in an early part of his life (before nabuwwah) had worked with others in a collective effort to address poverty, known as Hulful Fudool. In Madinah, where he had some measure of political (and moral) authority, he made treaties of defense with both Jewish and pagan forces. The Makkan opposition violated the treaty of Hudaybiyah by attacking non-Muslim forces allied with the Prophet. The Muslims responded to this with a march on Makkah, leading to its peaceful surrender.


Issues of food and housing deprivation, social justice, economic disparities, are very common in our society, and faith-based communities have always been expected to pick up the slack when government initiatives and organizations fail. Thus, it is only common sense that religious communities have levels of cooperation to address these shared social problems.


The Qur'an has praised the "steep path" of delivering emancipation to those held on bondage, feeding the poor, and supporting those who are isolated and unable to help themselves (Q 90:11-18). 


Similarly, the Qur'an has told us directly to compete in being beneficial, that God will be the one to bring us together (Q 2:148). It even says that in terms of religious disputes that Allah will address those clearly on the day of Judgement (Q 45:17). 


(Grand Imam of Al Azhar Shaikh Ahmed El-Tayeb meets with Pope Francis)


(Pope Paul John II meets with Imam W.Deen Mohammed)


Does such work contradict religious truth claims?  




While it is understandable that many would feel that involvement in such work dilutes faith, I actually see it as helping to increase my faith in the essential truths of Islam. It helps in understanding the views of others and the logic of certain principles/teachings found within Islam.


For religious and political leadership, I think such work is vital, if for no other reason than learning and interacting with the leaders and scholars of other faiths, which forces us to learn correct information on their perspectives, as well as them learning ours. 


Entering a house of worship outside of your own tradition

For Muslims, I don't see any strong evidence that this is prohibited. It is certainly inappropriate for Muslims to participate in religious rites which contradict the very core of our faith, but in terms of attending other houses of worship, be it for social or other occasions, there is no text which prohibits this.


Some Christian based movements have this sort of thinking, such as the Jehovah Witnesses. Their faith forbids entering into places of worship other than their own sites (called Kingdom Halls) and are deeply against any sort of work with those outside of their ranks. 


Such attitudes, while perhaps regrettable, have to be respected. Indeed, interfaith dialogues are not for everybody. We all have our comfort zones and perspectives on matters of faith and life, and compulsion should never even be considered in these regards.

As a Muslim, I am comfortable in such work, for the reasons that have been articulated above, and I pray to be an agent of positive change and education.





                                                                                 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Just what is allowed and not allowed in Islam? Addressing some commonly asked questions

               Just what is allowed in Islam? Addressing some commonly asked questions

Islamic doctrine asserts that Islam- surrender to God's will- has come forth through all messengers, finding its completion and perfection with the coming of the final scripture (Qur'an) to the final Prophet (Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam).  In many ways, the Prophet Muhammad is like the Prophet Moses, upon both be peace, in that both have comprehensive legal systems associated with their teachings. It is the desire to obey Allah Almighty that has inspired the development of such systems. In these regards, we differ from Christianity, which largely has focused upon personal salvation, attainable through belief in the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.


This article does not seek to go into detail regarding legal issues, rather it will address commonly asked questions that center on issues such as dress, gender interaction, and cultural expressions. It should be noted that the premise of this article centers around two Quranic assertions, important verses which we have tended to marginalize insofar as understanding and applying Islam is concerned.


One of those verses reads:  " Say: My Lord has only consistently forbidden (harrama) immoral actions (Al-Fawaahisha), what is open as well as what is hidden (batan), sin and transgressions unjustly, that you associate with Allah that which He has sent down no authority, and that you speak about Allah what you do not know." (Q 7:33).

 

This shows us that God is not petty! The above text shows a general principle that Allah has prioritized that certain actions and attitudes are to be avoided, as they cause social and personal chaos. We have repeatedly presented as examples intoxicants, gambling, and the like, as contemporary problems that, if removed, would greatly benefit social stability.



The contrast is given in the text which borders the above citation, in which Almighty Allah asserts: " Say: Who has consistently forbidden (harrama) the attractive (items of) God (zeenatullah), which He has produced for his servants, and wholesome (tayyibaat) items from his provision? Say: they are for those who have faith (alladheena Aamanoo) in this life, and exclusively for them on the day of standing. Thus, We (Allah) does clarify signs for a people of knowledge." (Q 7:32)

 

Whatever is goodly, attractive and wholesome, that which benefits the physical, spiritual and social health of a person, this is welcomed by Allah! It is created by God for us to benefit from. If the two Quranic verses are remembered, in general we should have no problems in living by the religion of Islam.

 

It should be noted that cultural and personal tastes will naturally vary, so that factors in how we accept and judge things. Information on certain subjects will likewise has variance. Our judgements of what is lawful and what is lawful from a religious angle should likewise have evidence from the religious texts.


DRESS



Q1What is the dress code for Muslim women?

Islam teaches that in public, modest dress should be observed. Practically this means the hair and body. The Quranic texts assert that the reason for this dress code is to be viewed with respect (24:31), a means of protection from harassment and the like ( 33:59). A hadeeth of the Prophet further states that in public, only the hands, face and feet should be visible (Sunan Abu Dawud 4104).


Any cultural or personal style is acceptable from an Islamic perspective so long as the above requirements are met, and indeed, we find great diversity amongst Muslims in dress fashion. 


Q2 What is the dress code for men?


There is no text which directly addresses this, however there is consensus among the scholars that clothing should not be revealing, that the area between the navel and knees be covered. Many countries have laws against men going shirtless in public, and that is certainly a part of typical Muslim thinking as well. 


Q3 Do men have to wear headgear?



To our knowledge, there is nothing in the Qur'an or hadeeth literature which commands this. However, the literature does say the Prophet covered his hair, and certainly the head-coverings found in the Arab world offer protection from the weather elements. The covering of the head for men was considered (and in some places is still considered) good manners, and there has been scholars who historically considered abandonment of it to be an act of transgression (fisq). 


Moreover, there are also scholars, in particular of the Hanafi school of thought, who assert that it is preferable (mustahab) to offer prayers with a covered head. 


Yet, it is our view that the head coverings, as found in different forms throughout the Muslim world, is a cultural symbol, with little bearing on one's Islamic observance.


Q4 Are Suits and ties allowed?



There is no convincing evidence that the suit and tie is forbidden. The West has culture just as the East does, and as long as the requirements mentioned in Q2 are met, it should be fine.


Some have argued that the tie in particular is a symbol of the Christian cross, however there is no convincing proof of this. Others have taken the tie as a symbol of Western colonialism and is thusly frowned upon in places such as Iran. If one is convinced of the latter as an argument, then it is simply a matter of choice and preference, rather than religious mandate.


Q5 Pants above the ankles?



In the time of the Prophet, dragging one's garment (called isbaal in Arabic) was a way of showing off, a display of arrogance, and it is this attitude which was condemned by the Prophet. This explanation is almost universally recognized among Muslims, which is why generally full-length pants and garments are abundant.  Thus, we see no problem in this, if there is no arrogant display taking place. 


Q6 Can Muslim men wear gold and silk?

Although not mentioned in the Qur'an, it is forbidden by the Prophet in the hadeeth literature. In normal circumstances, men are the ones conducting business and activities in public life, and the wearing of gold and silk, especially in excessive fashion, can generate jealousy and even crime. Thus, we view it as forbidden (haraam), and best for Muslims to avoid.


Gender interaction


Q7 Is handshaking between the genders allowed?




In many Muslim cultures, particularly in the Middle East, South and Central Asia, it is inappropriate to have any physical contact with the opposite sex outside of one's family. 

Moreover, in the Shafi'ee school (dominant in Far East Asia), even a small touch, such as from a handshake, annuls one's ablution (Wudoo').  So, from a practical perspective, depending on one's surroundings, it may best be avoided, to prevent socially awkward situations.


There is no direct hadeeth on this issue, and the report usually cited to forbid handshaking between members of the opposite sex is disputed both in its content (matn) and its transmission (Isnaad).


In the West, as well as the professional world, it is deemed impolite to refuse a handshake. Moreover, as mentioned above, the report usually cited in order to forbid it is seriously disputed. Thus, it is our view that there's no problem with shaking hands. Those who take the Shafi'ee position (that even an accidental touch annuls one's Wudoo, as distinct from the other madhaahib who assert that it is sexual intercourse which renders purity void) find themselves at hardships in certain situations such as in Makkah and Madinah during Hajj time, when the crowds always push people towards each other. Some Shafi'ee scholars, as a result, take the position of the other schools just in that occasion.


Islam is a practical, easy faith, and it is not necessary for us to make it harder. Therefore, our advice is contingent upon location and context. In an of itself, we see handshaking as okay, this is also the fatwa from Al Azhar university, but one must be cognizant of local realities, which may demand NO handshakes or those in which handshakes would be required. 


Q8 Can a Muslim woman propose marriage to a man?


There is no problem with this.  Indeed, Khadijah (Radee Allahu 'Anhaa) did this very thing with Muhammad, a younger man, before the Prophethood.  


Q9 Is a guardian (wali) needed for a woman in marriage?


In three of the four Sunni schools yes, but in the Hanafi school it is not a requirement when the woman is deemed mature and intelligent (Baalighah Raashidah). The presence of a guardian is to look for the best interests of the female, who usually marries young and without life experiences. A woman with maturity and intelligence is free to conduct her life as she sees fit, so long as in keeping with Islamic values. Thus, the Hanafi view (as articulated in the Mukhtasar of Al Qudoori) is very logical.


Q10 Can there ever be communication/interaction between men and women?


Religiously, this is not a problem, however, this also depends upon the cultural surroundings. One must be cognizant of this, regardless of one's religious views. In any case, there is much evidence from the sources that show that interaction of this level is not a problem. Indeed, the Prophet's wife, Sayyidah 'Aa'ishaa, led an army (the battle of Jamal). There had to be communication between her and the commanders. She herself is a major source of hadeeth transmission, that would have to be communicated to men! These examples should be sufficient from a religious perspective.


Q11 What evidence is required from an Islamic perspective to prove adultery (Zinaa)?


The requirements are very strict, four witnesses (see Q 24:4,13) must see actual intercourse (dukhool). Other actions do not count as "zinaa". 

There is great wisdom in this, in that it limits false accusations to be leveled, and also allows for any potential issues to be resolved with the involved parties, rather than making a public spectacle.


Q12 Does a woman's voice constitute 'Awrah (something to be hidden)?


There is no evidence for that from the Qur'an or Sunnah. 


Cultural expressions


Q13 Is Music lawful?




There have been many authorities which consider it to be forbidden (Haraam), on the basis of some reports in the hadeeth literature, as well as an interpretation of the term Lahwil Hadeeth which appears in the Qur'an (31:6). However, the reports have been disputed since almost the very beginning of the Muslim intellectual history. Great scholars such as Imam Al Ghazali (see Ihyaa Uloom id deen )have praised the value of music, and the Quranic text mentioned above has no actual relation to music.


It is our view that immoral music is what is forbidden, as it encourages social disorder. This is the view of many great scholars and finds articulation by Shaikh Yusuf Al Qaradawi in his work Al Halaal wal Haraam Fil Islaam. 


Q 14 Can holidays other than the two Eids be observed by Muslims?


This depends on the nature of the occasion. Most occasions are secular in nature, and involve needed family and social interaction, which is encouraged by Islam. It is our view that holidays and occasions such as birthdays, national holidays, anniversaries, are not problematic at all. 


It can be argued that Christmas is a problem, but it is one easily solved. This question is particularly relevant for Muslims who have converted to Islam from a Christian background. One can join one's family in the social aspect (dinners for example), but not the religious aspect (church communion and the like). Simply skip the religious aspect, if there are any present.


Q15 What about Tattoos?


Some people get tattoos of their spouse's names, and other decorations. It is our understanding that such actions are haraam because they permanently alter one's body from its natural form. More importantly, scholars have given- as evidence for declaring it to be haraam, the Quranic assertion "Do not alter God's creation" (Q 30:30).


If one already has tattoos, it is in the past. However, we advise all readers not to get more tattoos. 


Q16 Can widows remarry?

In some cultures, this is frowned upon, however, there is nothing in the Qur'an or Sunnah which forbids it. Indeed, the Prophet Muhammad Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam himself married widows.


                                                  

Friday, December 10, 2021

Towards Honest self-inventory: an Islamic perspective (Friday Khutbah)

 (Note: The following is an edited version of the Friday prayer service sermon conducted 12/10/21 at Masjid Ibrahim, Las Vegas, Nevada. The opening words of praise for God (hamd) have been omitted.)



Allah has created us to be different



The Friday prayer sermons from the last two weeks have dealt broadly with the subject of self-enrichment, and have posited the argument that Allah has created us to embody differences, not just in language and skin color, but personalities, interests, tastes, habits and the like. (ft.1)  


Similarly, we have looked at Abu Bakr and 'Umar b. Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with them. Abu Bakr was known to be very gentle and soft-hearted, whereas 'Umar was known to have a tough personality, yet, when they became the leaders of the Muslims after the death of the Prophet ( Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam), they made contributions that led to the growth of the community, despite their unique traits.


A beautiful recollection of 'Umar

Years after he became Muslim, 'Umar recalled two incidents which made him laugh and cry respectively. One was an occasion in which he had done acts of worship to dates, a food item widely available in the middle east. Later on, upon getting hungry, he consumed these dates. This story has been shared often at our Sunday School classes, using the analogy of worship of a cereal box(ft.2). 


The reason he worshiped the dates is because that was the social norm at that time in the Arab peninsula. He sincerely believed these practices were legitimate. It should be noted that idolatry (shirk) takes on many forms globally, worship of food stuff being one of them.


The above made him laugh, but what made him cry? He recalled a time in which he had buried his baby daughter alive. This was also a practice common among the Arabs of that time. Upon honest reflection, he cried at this incident.


Exposure to Islam, as taught to him by no greater a figure than the Prophet Muhammad, caused him to engage in honest self-inventory. This did not diminish his courage, intelligence and strength. Islam made him look at himself, at his own actions, despite those actions having been the norm in Jaahili times, nonetheless it shows that he corrected himself. 


Islam advocates retaining and cultivating positive traits, and limiting, if not eliminating, negative ones. The ultimate source of judging such things is Divine guidance. "Blessed is He who has sent forth the Criterion (al-Furqaan) upon his servant, so it may serve as a warning to all nations." (Q 25:1)

تَبٰرَکَ الَّذِیۡ نَزَّلَ الۡفُرۡقَانَ عَلٰی عَبۡدِہٖ لِیَکُوۡنَ لِلۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ نَذِیۡرَا

What is Islam? Second section


Islam is more than a list of allowances and prohibitions. It is the summary of Divine guidance as conveyed to all the Prophets and messengers globally, and, as a side note, not restricted to one particular section of humanity. 


It is Allah's deen which should be the most important source of worldview. This does not negate unique identity, tastes and the like, as God has created us to be unique. Once we make Divine guidance, and not necessarily social or family expectations, the ultimate source, life becomes easier.


This does not mean we become angels or saints, but it means that Allah's deen, known as Islam, provides an unmatched safety net. Thus, the Qur'an says "and Allah invites towards a peaceful abode."( 10:25)وَ اللّٰہُ یَدۡعُوۡۤا اِلٰی دَارِ السَّلٰمِ


Allah wants stability and happiness for us. Allah's guidance is for our security in this life! 


It is imperative that we incorporate Islam into our lives and our worldviews. There are some simple things we can do, such as read Qur'an, even if just a little, once a week, be consistent in daily prayers, avoid the prohibited actions and items, all of which are clear, stay away from intoxicants of any kind, regardless of their legality, surround yourself with positivity, be clean and organized.


Footnotes

(1) The Friday prayer service sermons referenced are "self -diagnosis and enrichment" part one. found here and part two, found here


(2) Masjid Ibrahim offers quality Islamic education for children 6 and up. For more information, please contact the Masjid office at (702) 395-7013 or Masjidibrahimimam@gmail.com.



Thursday, December 2, 2021

A deep dive into false ideas regarding Islam: with a focus on the Abrahamic ties

 

Introduction


Public discourse on any subject will always be subject to misunderstandings and intentional distortions, but   when it comes to religious affairs, this is even more problematic, because religion can be intertwined with identity and culture, thus, sensitivities and emotions become involved, without the benefit of patience and deep thought.


The Qur'an (39:3)   teaches that religion is supposed to be specifically for God. It also teaches that faith should be backed by rational arguments and evidence (22:46, 46:26, 12:1, et al).


It is with those teachings in mind that we present A deep dive into false ideas regarding Islam: with a focus on the Abrahamic ties, to function as a clarification and a reference to those in particular that are associated with the Abrahamic faiths, to address wrong and often ignorant assertions made from such quarters about the religion of Islam, some of those notions having existed for centuries, but with the advent of mass communication, made much easier with the internet and social media, have the capacity to spread further and be taken as credible, simply because of marketing.  


Below, we take a look at some of the leading false ideas that are to be found in the public discourse:


Islam is for Arabs (only)


This particular assertion is made by those who can concede that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was indeed a Prophet of God yet find his message (risaalah) relevant only to the Arabs. Such an idea comes from the assertion that Muhammad was the "founder" of Islam, and that because the scripture (Qur'an) is in Arabic, it is therefore Arab-centric with no value to the wider world.




Such a view contradicts the religious teachings   as well as historical realities regarding the Muslim community globally. (ft.1)

The Qur'an refers to Muhammad as "The seal of the Prophets" (33:40), a "mercy to all nations" (21:107) as well as a Messenger "sufficient for all people" (34:28). These references should suffice in terms of how the Prophet is portrayed insofar as his potential audience. 


Moreover, the Islamic scripture speaks very eloquently on humanity's diversity as evidence of Divine power, wisdom, and as a means for mutual growth (Q 30:22, 49:13), and the Prophet to whom it was given has himself shown clearly that racism and "chosen people" concept have no place in faith. Although there are many statements made by him recorded, his words in his famous final speech (khutbat al widaa') provide a powerful message. He has stated " An Arab carries no virtue over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab, nor a white over a black, (the only criterion being) piety."



What about Ishmael and Isaac?



Another notion widespread, in particular among Jews and Christians, is that Islam functions as a religious rebellion, generated by the feud between the sons of Abraham, itself being an extension of the feud between their respective mothers (Sarah and Hagar).

This notion is further given fuel by the fact that while Judaism (and by extension Christianity) asserts that the identity of the sacrificed son is Isaac (the progenitor of the Jews) while Islam teaches that the son here would be none other than Ishmael (the progenitor of the Arabs).


While it is true that there is a difference in the identification of the particular son (ft.2), as well as the fact that the Bible (Gen.16:12) uses disrespectful language regarding Ishmael, it should be noted that the Qur'an never does the same thing to Isaac!


Isaac is viewed with reverence by Muslims, he is given in the Qur'an as one of the carriers of the Divine message (37:112 among other places), and the invocation of peace is recited by Muslims when he is referenced. 


This is also strong proof that Islam is not a tribalistic faith, nor is it centered in Arab nationalism.



Qur'an vis-a vis Bible





Seven Quranic texts are often cited by missionaries of various denominations as proof that the Qur'an is relatively useless when it comes to matters spoken of in the Judeo-Christian dispensation. Islam does teach that God has sent forth communication and even scriptures before the advent of the Qur'an to Prophet Muhammad (see the Qur'an 2:1-5, 3:1-3, among other places), however it also teaches that the Qur'an itself functions as a clarification of matters that are present in the Judeo-Christian discourse (Q 27:76).  It also sees itself as a "guardian" insofar as preserving essential truths as conveyed in the past (Q 5:48).  It portrays itself as the "best narration" (Q 39:23) and the ultimate criteria for judgement (Q 25:1).


A summary of the cited texts is given below, along with a thorough yet succinct explanation.


[1] Q 5:43. This verse requires a simple reading of verses 41-42 which precede it. The context shows the insincerity of the party approaching Prophet Muhammad for a legal ruling. It is here a bit of sarcasm when it reads " And how do they come to you (O Muhammad) for judgement, while they possess the law, therein being God's judgement, then, they turn away after a while, and they are not of those who possess faith."


[2] Q 5:44. The "Law" possessed light and guidance. Remember that the particular aspect of "law" (here being "Taurah") that is referred to is the law of retribution, mentioned in Q 5:45 as something which appears not only in the Qur'an, but in the "law" which came before. 


[3] Q 5:46-47: "Injeel" means "Good news", being the Arabic rendering of what is called in English "Gospel". It does NOT reference an actual book, let alone the largely anonymous collections of "Gospels" that came into circulation after the time of Jesus. Jesus did not carry a book with him called "The Gospel", on the contrary, he represented and embodied that "good news". Therefore, his "followers" should conduct themselves in that light. In any case, the very next verse (5:48) tells us that now we have a scripture of Divine Origin, given to the global messenger, that safeguards the core truths that were conveyed before. It is worth mentioning here that Islam teaches that God's guidance was conveyed to peoples all over the world, not limited to a semitic context, and that we have limited information currently on the history (and even identities) of them. (Q 13:7, 40:78).


[4] Q 5:66-68. They did not, in fact, stick to Divine guidance, however, with the Qur'anic revelation to Muhammad, the chance for that guidance emerges once again. 


Modern scholarship has confirmed what has been hinted at in the Qur'an (2:79) regarding the editing process of the Bible, not only in theological points, but even in texts which seemingly are innocuous. (ft.3)



Some important examples of differences 


One must keep in mind that the Qur'an is for the benefit of all God-aware human beings (Q 2:1), and a thorough reading of its contents and language will show that its general message and application can fit in any time, place and cultural context. We have chosen below some examples to illustrate the Quranic logic vis a vis the rituals and laws that are associated with the Bible or with the faiths tied to it.


[1] Sabbath: The Bible gives two different reasons for its observance: that God "rested" after the creation of the universe (Gen.2:2) and as an act of gratitude to God for liberation (of the Jews) from Egypt (Deut.5:15). (ft.4). 


In Islam, there is no concept of God having to "rest", even as a metaphorical expression! The Qur'an says directly "God, none deserves worship except him, the self-subsisting, the eternal, slumber does not overtake him, nor does sleep." (Q 2:255). 


Thus, the theological assumptions present in the Biblical language have no equivalent in the Qur'an, thus, that assumption is rejected, and no need for Muslims to observe the Sabbath. Moreover, the other reason given, as an act of gratitude, at best, is for that immediate audience, not for all of humanity.


[2] Divorce: Allowed in the Mosaic dispensation (Deut.24:1), it is said to have been forbidden by Jesus, allowed only in cases of adultery (Matthew 19:9). If the Biblical text can be taken as authoritative, it becomes apparent that divorce was too easy and too lax in Jesus' time and insofar as his audience, so he seeks to stop the abuse of the Mosaic allowance.  


Islam, as a faith for all mankind, not only allows divorce, but it also gives us regulations on it. There's an entire chapter called "Divorce" (Soorah at Talaq, 65). This is logical, in that the bulk of mankind would not necessarily face the same issues as faced by the audience of Jesus in his time.


[3] Alcoholic Consumption:  While the Bible writers have expressed language ranging from praise of it (Psalm 104:15, Ecclesiastes 9:7) to condemnation of drunken behavior (Proverbs 20:1), nonetheless it has been generally allowed in most strands of Judaism and Christianity. 


The Qur'an, given to humanity as a guide to safety and maximum benefit, has decreed that it is totally forbidden. The Qur'an simply states that the harms of alcohol outweigh its benefit (2:219. also see 5:90)


Footnotes


(1) The Arab world only constitutes 20 % of Muslims globally. They are a minority in the Muslim world, the largest nation of Muslims being Indonesia, as well as half of the African continent. Moreover, "Islam" is an Arabic word which means "surrender to God", and according to the Qur'an, submission to God has been taught by the authentic prophets and teachers of the past, in both semitic and non-semitic societies. As for faith as presented in the Bible and Qur'an, refer to the paragraph "Islam: The path of Jesus and Muhammad" in the following article. Click here


(2) There are several issues present that need to be looked at. {I} The older son of Abraham, Ishmael-the progenitor of the Arabs- would be the logical son for the sacrifice. {II} While the Bible (Gen.22) certainly names Isaac (the younger son) as to be the sacrifice, it incorrectly calls him "Your only son", which, at no time, was ever the case! The Biblical wording absolutely suggests the motivations of tribal prestige, which is totally absent from the Qur'an. It is also relevant here to mention that the covenant, often spoken of by missionaries with Biblical citations, has a totally different expression than the Quranic language. In Q 2:124, we read that God tells Abraham that he will make him a leader of global impact ("Imaaman"), Abraham asks if this extends to his descendants, to which he is told "My covenant extends not to the oppressive". Thus, Islam teaches that neither tribe or bloodlines (real or imagined) carry any weight insofar as ties with God are concerned.


(3) It has been convincingly argued, for example, that Mark's Gospel was written in Rome (and not Palestine) by citing Mark 10:12, which allows a woman to seek out divorce. Such an allowance occurred under Roman law, but not in Jewish law, which is exclusively with the man! See Barton, John A HISTORY OF THE BIBLE: THE BOOK & ITS FAITHS, Penguin books, 2019, pg.297. Many authorities, similarly, have been able to detect that the famous story of the adulteress spared by Jesus with the words "let he who is sinless cast the first stone" to be a later interpolation. See Bart D.Ehram, MISQUOTING JESUS: THE STORY BEHIND WHO CHANGED THE BIBLE AND WHY, HarperSanFrancisco, New York, 2005, pp.63-66. Even the famous "Lord's prayer", the most recited supplication in Christendom, has been dismissed as wrongly attributed to Jesus later on. See John Shelby Spong BIBLICAL LITERALISM: A GENTILE HERESY. Harper One, New York, 2016, pp.135-137. This is just the tip of the iceberg. 


(4)  Genesis 2:2 is rendered as "ceased" in the JPS translation ( TANAKH THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, pg.4, New York, 1988) but has a note that allows for "rested". Robert Alter has also used the same word in his translation (THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES, New York, W.W.Norton &  Company, 2004, pg.20).  While this text has different understandings among Jews and Christians respectively, Islam does not allow for even this sort of language to be used. Thus, the theological importance of the Quranic text 2:255. which is famously called the verse of the throne (Ayatul Kursiyy). A brief examination of that text can be found here
































































































































































Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Sacred spaces/ Holy places Panel discussion video

 Salaam.


Please see below panel discussion from the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada's forum on the subject "Sacred spaces/Holy places".


Timestamps of speakers are below:


15:36 Candace Kant/Pagan

25:38 Rabbi Sanford Askelrad/Judaism

36:37 Imam Shamsuddin Waheed/Islam

44:22 Upinder Singh/ Sikh

55:13 Doug Hedger/ CLDS

1:00:04 Q and A session


Holy places panel click here



The Qur'an with Christian Commentary: A critical review

 Below are some videos we have done which briefly explores some of the topics explained in the book "The Quran With Christian Commentary: A Guide To Understanding The Scripture Of Islam" by Gordon Nickel. 




A critical review part one

Briefly explores the assertion of  "versions" of the Qur'an. A practical, easily understood demonstration of how this is an incorrect notion is given.


Part 1


A critical review part two

Explores the idea that the Qur'an indirectly advocates the worship of Muhammad. The blog article referenced in the video can be found here


Part two video


A critical review part three

A detailed reply to the notion shared in the work that Islam advocates blanket killing of Non Muslims.


Part 3


While this work and subject matter may seem trivial or unimportant to some, it is my view that such publications, aimed at Christian readers who maybe inclined to investigate Islamic teachings, does a disservice by disseminating factually incorrect ideas about the faith, and it hampers both education and relations between faith communities. I have NO problem with a person adhering to their faith and their claims of religious truths, however, it is a serious calamity when ideas about "the other" is faulty. 


We recommend to all Non Muslim readers who are interested in the Qur'an to actually read the Qur'an for themselves. There are a number of good translations and commentaries available in English. One need not rely upon works produced by Orientalists or Christian missionary publishing houses.


A Critical Review part four


The work has suggested that Muslims in fact worship an entity different from the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. It has indicated that this is shown by a sort of indifference that the "Islamic God" has vis-a vis the Loving gentle nature of God in Christianity. Numerous Quranic verses are shared on this topic.


Part four