VIDEO: Rote or Reason?


If a patient recites the prescription given by his physician instead of practically acting on it, then will he be cured? Do tall buildings get constructed if workmen keep on singing the architect’s plans instead of embarking on the project with the necessary actions? Will you reach your destination if you keep on rehearsing the road map instead of getting into the driving seat, starting the ignition switch, putting the car into gear and stepping on the accelerator? The answer to these questions is an obvious no. It is common sense that things do not get done if we keep on reading the instructions instead of acting on them.

 

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Rote or Reason?


If a patient recites the prescription given by his physician instead of practically acting on it, then will he be cured? Do tall buildings get constructed if workmen keep on singing the architect’s plans instead of embarking on the project with the necessary actions? Will you reach your destination if you keep on rehearsing the road map instead of getting into the driving seat, starting the ignition switch, putting the car into gear and stepping on the accelerator? The answer to these questions is an obvious no. It is common sense that things do not get done if we keep on reading the instructions instead of acting on them. But regrettably, with many Muslims, when it comes to the God-given instruction manual, the opposite is the case. When it comes to the Qur’an, our persuasions are more to do with rote and less to do with reason.

Have a glance at the life of the common believer and you will discover that he has a ceremonial attachment with the Qur’an. Since childhood he is programmed to revere and respect the scripture, not to touch it without ablution, to keep it in a cover of silk and brocade and place it somewhere high above. But what are the actual contents of the Book? What is the meaning behind the words that are to be recited? How do the instructions feature in daily life? Regarding all this, you are likely to receive an excuse of ignorance. A ritualistic association is all that we observe when it comes to Muslims and the Qur’an.

This dire situation is due to the ignorance of the true concept of Ibadah, which spells out what our relationship with our Creator is to be. Ibadah comes from the Arabic Abd lit. Slave. Ibadah means to serve Allah, and to follow His revealed laws in every sphere of life, as stated: “I have only created jinns and human beings that they may serve Me.” (51:56) But as we are unaware of the meaning, and recite ceremoniously, under the impression that a recital devoid of meaning somehow results in a blessing, we end up serving other masters than the One to whom subservience was truly due. Though we may appear religious and profess our devotion, our ignorance and illiteracy pertaining to the meaning of the Qur’an, makes us serve other beings. Thus our Ibadah is devoid of its true spirit.

It is sad but true that a vast majority of us stand up for prayers very regularly but do not comprehend a single word of the instructions being recited during those prayers! Our prayers are thus mechanical and ritualistic, having little or no bearing on our character transformation. Approaching the five daily prayers in a state where the mind does not comprehend the instructions being uttered is also cautioned about: O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say…” (4:43) Therefore to make the five daily prayers meaningful, the need is for us to remedy this situation. Instead of reading the Qur’an in a parrot like fashion, we need to spend time in studying and analysing the Book. So that we know what is it that we utter in our supplications, and recognize the instructions we are to rehearse five times a day and follow in our lives.

Let us be honest. We cannot follow something if we do not understand it. So there is nothing stopping us from freeing ourselves of distraction, to sit down comfortably to go through the entire Book chapter by chapter. The Qur’an requires our time. We would do the same for our favorite paperback novel, or any other book of our interest, so why is it that we do not give time to the Book which is concerned with our day to day lives and upon which our salvation depends? Translations of the Qur’an are plentiful, if one is not conversant with Arabic. Abdulah Yusuf Ali’s poetic version is internationally acclaimed. Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthal follows the Arabic idiom closely. Muhammad Asad’s rendering has focused more on the meanings inherent in classical exegesis and comes with an insightful commentary. So the choice is our own. If we are serious about taking up the Qur’an, then we should choose a translation that appeals to us without worrying too much. Another important activity to facilitate our learning is that of note-taking. Our reading should not be for the purpose of merely ‘finishing’ the book but for learning and knowing its meaning. For this we need to use the pen. We should underline important passages, circle difficult words, and flag up the incomprehensible. Using the pen and making notes on Qur’anic study is thus an inseparable component of any worthwhile engagement with the text for let us not forget that God is He: Who teacheth by the pen,” (96:4)

First published in DAWN, 12th June, 2020

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing 


Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing 

By Kashif Shahzada

Gold is precious. Because it is precious, people seek it. They will pay a price for it and are eager to have it as a possession. Because it is precious, sought after and always has a clientele, fraudsters are also drawn to it. They know full well that if they can deceptively sell worthless things disguised as gold, then they can make a lot of money. Like gold, religion too has popular charm and appeal. Its popularity enables a global following. People seek solace in it, and approach it to find answers to life’s most pressing matters. Entire life’s savings are dedicated for its pilgrimages. Its symbols adorn people’s homes, who go to great lengths to experience the sacred. It is because of this charm that religion also draws the attention of vested interests.

While there are genuine religious guides who offer a transparent exposition of faith and are regarded accordingly in the mainstream, there are also individuals outside the mainstream that take an unfair advantage of the popular appeal of faith and operate mind controlling cults. The phenomenon of cults exists largely in most religions and has been the subject of much academic research in the West.   However in our society, though cults exist profusely given the conducive environment for their formation, little is documented about their salient features.

When time and again we hear stories of how a self styled faith healer exploited the vulnerable or when we hear about youth lured into groups involved in acts of terrorism, what we are witnessing then, is cult phenomenon.

In a society like ours, where laws exists but law enforcement is non existent, the environment is ripe for such wolves in sheep’s clothing to not only mushroom but to thrive and prosper. Cults come in a wide variety and have varying objectives. Some are militant organisations but there are also non violent groups. Some religious but others overtly secular. Irrespective of their varying types, all cults have a common strand that distinguishes them.

Cults operate with hidden agendas. They approach potential recruits in the name of righteousness, but deliberately conceal their inner core on their initial interaction.

A harmless ‘Dars’ at the home of an acquaintance could in fact be an exercise in cult recruitment. Those who do not possess religious literacy – as is the case with most – may attend the lecture and think that the preaching encountered is from God’s Book and emanates from God. But the Qur’an itself fore warns us that everything preached in God’s name is not necessarily coming from God: “There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, “That is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it!” (3:78)

Cult leaders come not only in a pious garb but also with a dramatic stage persona. They enthral audiences, and deliver a performance, which once over, obliges them to return to their real selves albeit back stage. Unknown to many,  they have their hawks in the audience who keep a watchful eye on all, and who will alert the leader to stage an exit when things are not in his favour. The public persona of a cult leader is very different from his real person, which is visible only to those who observe him in private. The ideal prey are the wealthy or the well connected who are ignorant of religious knowledge. Playboys and spoiled brats are a perfect clientele as are middle aged begum sahibs with problems at home and some cash to spare.

Youngsters from dysfunctional families and those who have suffered a personal bereavement are particularly vulnerable to cult recruitment because cult doctrine is designed to temporarily soothe their pain. To grow, cults need not only money but also the talent and connections of members. That is why cults actively recruit for new members. Recruitment begins with misleading advertisements and false claims often spread through word of mouth. However nowadays shares and likes on social media also lend a helping hand.

Endorsements from celebrities is a well known marketing tactic of cults. While some celebrities formally join cults and actively work for them, a public figure who may not know the true colours of the group can also be targeted by the group to elicit words of praise, which are then advertised as a mark of legitimacy. Followers from high ranking officials are prized possessions in cults, because when the time is right their influence will be put to use.

The cult always has two sets of teachings – one for the public, one for the private. Newcomers are not told about the ‘special’ knowledge immediately. It is only when they are initiated and tried over a period of time that the ‘special beliefs’ of the group’s leader will be disclosed. Outsiders thus have no idea at all about what the preacher and his group are all about. Beliefs are deliberately kept vague and often undocumented. What has been documented will undergo revision when lacunae are known, with earlier versions silently withdrawn from circulation. The group leader is reluctant to speak in front of the camera other than his own camera crew with the footage being released after careful editing. Camera shyness is a deliberate ploy to stay clear from public scrutiny and any form of accountability.

A cult environment is one where debate is stifled and critical thinking is discouraged.

The group isn’t out in the public limelight but may operate out of a private residence with no signage or distinguishing marks. Cults aren’t registered bodies that have audited accounts or legal structures. They operate mostly in secrecy and through deception. In present times, the internet and the world wide web is their territory.

Once inside, members are gradually introduced to esoteric interpretations and an elitist mindset which paints everything in black and white. The cult has its own worldview which is the standard for its members. Those who accept the group’s leader and official cult doctrine are the only ones to have salvation, while the rest are destined for hellfire. A distinguishing feature is a vocabulary coined specifically for use within the group. Peer review and academic critique is the hallmark of scholarship. In contrast cult leaders portray themselves to be beyond criticism to their followers. Critical voices are deliberately suppressed and those expressing them are gradually shown the door.  Former members are shunned and existing members are discouraged from keeping any contact citing the contagious ‘impurity’ of the former. Phobia indoctrination is another method to keep followers within the fold. When one is persuaded that something terrible will befall him should he criticise the group leader or leave the group, then this fear is sufficient to make him stay.

Solicitations for funds also do not come immediately but only after one has been fully programmed – within the group’s beliefs. For once the mind is under control, the rest comes easily.

Cult leaders are charismatic personalities albeit with a disturbed upbringing. By probing deep one is likely to discover a criminal past and even a history of mental health problems.

Religious lectures are a common tool for recruitment of new followers. It is impossible to tell if a commentary in a foreign language was in full accord with the original Arabic words of the Holy Book if one is not well versed in Arabic. When one is not in a habit of doing their own study, then he is prone to indoctrination.

The Qur’an cautions us about those who will present falsehood intermixed with truth by exhorting: “And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it].” (2:42). The Quran is replete with the phrase ‘Yasalunaka’ lit. ‘They question thee’ which shows that the Prophet (PBUH) never discouraged questions. It informs believers: “.. if you ask questions about things while the Qur’an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you” (5:101). It identifies that reason is never to be suspended for comprehending the Signs of God is conditional upon the use of one’s ‘Aql’: “We have certainly made clear to you the signs, if you will use reason.” (3:118)

We are not to blindly follow leaders for on the day of judgement: “[And they should consider that] when those who have been followed disassociate themselves from those who followed [them], and they [all] see the punishment, and cut off from them are the ties..” (2:166).

No human is above accountability for not only those to whom the Message of God was delivered but also the Messengers will be called to account: “Then We will surely question those to whom [a message] was sent, and We will surely question the messengers.” (7:6). Coercion by force or through psychological manipulation is ruled out as: “There is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256) There are to be no secret teachings. All is to be preached out in the open and to all mankind as: “..those who hide our revelations and guidance after We have made them clear for people in the Book, they are those on whom is the curse of Allah..” (2:159). The Qur’an immediately disqualifies those who are persistent for monthly ‘Chanda’ by stating: “Follow those who do not ask of you [any] payment, and they are [rightly] guided.” (36:21)

We owe it our well being that before we swallow everything hook line and sinker, that we do not shy away from asking some very basic questions about the group we are being asked to join. If before offering even the most menial of jobs to people we interview them and rigorously do background checks, then why must we not do the same or conduct an investigation even more thorough when we give religious guides the responsibility to come into our lives?

No God-fearing person evades accountability for it is the very trait of the genuinely Godly to be ever prepared to give their account. One who has not wronged anyone is not afraid to answer questions because he has nothing to hide, possesses a clear conscience and has lived an open and transparent life. But the moment you realise that questions are deliberately being avoided, that the group does not want to be filmed or come on record then that is the moment for you to realise that there is more to your dear Shaikh sahab than meets the eye.

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Questions to Ask followers of Mohammad Shaikh / IIPC Canada


INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR FOLLOWERS OF MUHAMMAD SHAIKH / IIPC NOTE, PLEASE DISCUSS THESE QUESTIONS IN A FACE TO FACE MEETING RATHER THAN THROUGH TEXT OR SOCIAL MEDIA CHAT ROOMS.

  1. Muhammad Shaikh has claimed that Essa Ibn Maryam was born by the well of Zamzam and a date tree was growing nearby from which Maryam was commanded to eat dates. How can this claim be true when the well of Zamzam is located in Masjid Al Haram and about it we are told in the Quran 14:37 that no vegetation can grow there as it is a barren valley?
  2. Muhammad Shaikh claims that Essa was born by the sperm of Maryam. How can this be true when in no verse of the Quran is such mentioned and the Arabic words Maryam and Nutfa (sperm) have not come together in a single sentence in any ayah?
  3. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Maryam’s gender was ambiguous at birth be true when Quran 3:39 clearly states that her gender was female?
  4. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that birth of Essa was through Maryam’s self impregnation when in his previous lecture he claimed that Essa was born miraculously without a father? Isn’t this contradictory?
  5. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Bani Ismail do not exist when Quran mention’s offspring of Ismail in 2:128
  6. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Taurat contain Hukm of Allah only be true when other verses identify that it also contains mention of Nabi Al Ummi (7:157), the mention of Muhammad Rasool Allah and those with him (48:29) and also the promise of Allah (9:111)?
  7. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Taurat is not a Book of Allah but is the name of those verses in the Quran that contain a Hukm or commandment be true when in Quran 9:111 we read the mention of Taurat, Injeel and Quran separately? If Taurat is separate from Quran then how can it be said that it is a portion of the Quran and not a separate and distinct Book?
  8. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Taurat not be a Book of Allah be true when Quran 5:44 clearly identifies that it is a Book?
  9. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Muhkamaat are only those verses of Quran which contain a commandment be true when Quran 47:20 identifies that entire Sura is Muhkama and a Sura contains not just commandments but also events / narratives?
  1. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Quran has been revealed on him be true when Quran 26:198 says that Quran is not revealed on any non- Arab?
  2. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that all Muslims are Ahl Al Kitab be true when Quran shows that Ahl Al Kitab believe in Trinity and Divinity of Essa Ibn Maryam and also put Bohtaan Al Azeem / False charge on Maryam. There is no Muslim who believes in Trinity and Divinity of Essa and who puts false charge on Maryam. Can Shaikh identify a single Muslim who has these beliefs?
  3. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that all who were in the ark of Nuh are Israel, when Quran 3:93 identifies Israel as one man and not many men?
  4. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that this Quran which Muslims believe and follow is actually the Book of Moosa be correct when Moosa is mentioned in the Book not in the present tense but the past tense in 19:51, how can someone about whom it is identified that he has passed away be the addressee of the Book?

14. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Allah is a terrorist be correct when Quran says in 7:180 to call Allah by His Asmaa al Husna / Most beautiful names while the word Rahib / translated as terrorist by Shaikh is not among the Asmaa al Husna of Allah in the Quran?

  1. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Bani Israel are blessed till day of judgment be true when Quran mentions them as blessed in the ast but also says that blessing was taken away due to their transgression?
  2. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Quran is actually the Book of Moosa be correct when 46:30 clearly says Quran was revealed after Moosa?
  3. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Quran is the Book of Moosa be true when Quran 6:91 says that the Book given to Moosa was concealed by people, whereas the Quran is printed, published and distributed worldwide and recited all over the planet?
  4. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Quran is the Book of Moosa when 46:12 identifies that Book of Moosa was prior to the Quran?
  5. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Jabbal-E-Noor in Makkah is Tur- E-Sinaa be true when we read in Quran that Tur-E-Sinaa has Olive tree growing on it but Jabbal-E-Noor has no Olive trees?
  6. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Jabbal-E-Noor is Mountain of Moosa be true when he himself stated in his lectures that Mountain of Moosa was demolished and does not exist?
  1. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that all Prophets received same Al Kitab because in 2:213 Al Kitab is in singular be true when he himself interprets Al Kitab as Books in 2:79? How does One Book in 2:213 become Books in 2:79 when the word Al-Kitab in both ayaat is same?
  2. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that all Prophets received one Book Al Kitab, which is the Quran be true when Quran mentions that Prophets before Muhammad have passed away 3:144 and mentions their death e.g. 2:133, 40:34 and speaks of them in the past tense. How can those who have passed away and are dead according to Quran become addressee of the Book?
  3. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that the Book is WAHID as Allah is Wahid be true when we see the words WAHID and AHAD for Allah in the Quran but the Quran does not state anywhere in its verses that KITAB is WAHID or AHAD?
  4. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that the word Al Kitab should be understood in singular as it is singular according to Arabic grammar be true when he himself interprets ISRAEL in a plural sense when it is Singular according to Quran 3:93?
  5. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that ROOH means the essence or understanding of Quran be true when in lecture on Maryam he explains ROOH to be the messenger who gave Maryam her child as a bashar / human being?
  6. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that every individual who submits to any religion is a Muslim of that religion be true when Quran says that unbelievers will desire that they were Muslims? This means unbelievers were not Muslims. So how can an unbeliever be a Muslim when Quran says he desired to be a Muslim?
  7. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Muslims are YAHOOD and NASARA be true when Quran says that YAHOOD and NASAR call themselves as SONS OF ALLAH whereas no Muslim ever calls himself as SON of Allah?
  8. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Maryam is a Dual sex be true when Quran identifies her as one sex i.e. FEMALE sex only?
  9. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Maryam is a hermaphrodite be true when Quran does not contain any word in Arabic which translates as hermaphrodite?
  10. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that SUHUF-IBRAHIM and MOOSA are the earlier pages within the Quran where Ibraheem and MOOSA are mentioned be true when Sura Najam 53:36-39 says that in SUHUF of

Ibraheem and Musa, it is said that “no bearer of burden will bear another s burden” and that “man will have nothing but what he strives for”. And these statements are not found in the earlier pages of Quran e.g. Sura Al Baqara with the mention of Ibraheem and Moosa?

  1. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that just like Allah has above 99 names and attributes His Book also has names and attributes be true when although about Allah’s names Quran says Allah has most beautiful names (Arabic: Asmaa al Husna) in Sura Al Araf 7:180 and Sura Al Hashar 59:22. But there is no verse which mentions that Kitab or Book also has Asmaa and the Arabic words Kitab and Asmaa have not come together in any of the verses?
  2. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Just like Allah is one (WAHID) His Book is also one (Wahid) be true when although we find the word WAHID and AHAD mentioned with Allah e.g. in Sura Baqara 2:163 says “And your God is WAHID.” Sura Ikhlas 112:1 says “Say Allah is AHAD. (One and only).” But there is no verse in the Quran where it is said “Kitab is WAHID”. Or “Kitab is AHAD”?
  3. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim that Allah is teaching him the Quran be true when so many of his statements do not reconcile with what the Qur’an actually says? Does Allah’s teaching also include the recitation of the Quran? Can you produce evidence of Shaikh’s recitation without any mistakes?
  4. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim in his lecture on Hajj that Jamarat in Mecca are the stone idols Laat, Manaat, Uzza be true when he has claimed in his lecture on Kabah Qiblah that Laat Manaat and Uzza are not stone idols but exist in psychology only? How can a man making contradictory statements also be receiving Allah’s revelation. Allah does not contradict as per vers 4:82. Please explain.
  5. How can you claim that only Quran has to be followed when Shaikh himself includes many non Quranic words as part of religion in his lecture on Hajj. Words such as Talbiyya (Labaik Alahuma Labaik) etc are not part of the text of Quran, yet Muslims recite it when performing Hajj. So how can this claim that only that which is within the Quran be a valid claim?
  6. How can Muhammad Shaikh’s claim in his lecture on RIBA that the word JAMAAN in 8:41 means the two accumulations be true when the same word has also occurred in 26:61 for the two groups of Moses and Pharoah that came in sight of each other? Can you explain verse 26:61 by translating the word JAMAAN as per Shaikh’s translation?

The Contradictory Claims of Mohammad Shaikh


The preacher Mohammad Shaikh has gained notoriety for his novel interpretations and unorthodox claims about his own person. This individual who has a small albeit sophisticated and financially well off following in the city of Karachi, has delivered above fifty lectures on What Al Qur’an Says series. The lectures which are recorded and made public by him are in English as well as Urdu. If we also include their Urdu versions then these are more than a hundred lectures each of three hour duration. There are also some lectures which though recorded have not been released while there are versions that were earlier released but have now been cleverly retracted. 

 

Lectures are occasionally edited as well to remove footage which can prove injurious to the speaker. All this is a vast amount of footage that often goes unanalysed and undetected by ordinary followers many of who are busy people who neither have the time to go through such lengthy material nor the language skills and Quranic knowledge to verify the accuracy of the talks.

However going through it all, what is apparent is that Shaikh has made numerous contradictory statements in his lectures. At times he has contradicted his own statements while on other occasions he has contradicted Quranic verses. The existence of these discrepancies expose this individual as a charlatan who to his followers has made claims of receiving Wahi (Revelation) from Allah and who claims Allah teaches the Quran to him, and that it is not Prophet Muhammad but in fact he, who is the addressee of the Quran! To his followers he is the Nabi (Prophet) of the present era, in whose psyche the Messenger of Allah dwells as a reincarnation. When Shaikh is reading and translating the Qur’an, then the followers are prompted that it is not him they are listening to but to Rasul Allah! Once these claims are swallowed hook line and sinker by the followers they are then appealed to dedicate a staggering twenty percent of their annual income otherwise they’ll be shown the door and will qualify themselves for divine wrath! 

What is important to remember among such claims is the formula given by the Quran to ascertain whether a teaching truly originates from Allah. We read in Sura Nisa: 

“Do they not ponder over the Qur’an? If it were from other than Allah, they would indeed have found therein much contradiction!” (4:82)

Hence it is clear from above that what originates from Allah is free from contradiction, while that which is not from Him will have errors. This verse of the Qur’an is the yardstick which should be applied on all claimants like Mohammad Shaikh. If there exist any discrepancies in his lectures and interpretations then by such he will be exposed as a liar who is amassing huge amounts of wealth from his followers by false means. The following is a short sample from a lengthy list. 

 

  1. DATE TREE GROWING IN A BARREN VALLEY?

Muhammad Shaikh claims 

“Zamzam & dates grew where Jesus was born” (lecture Maryam 2008) 

 

CONTRADICTS 

 

Quran 14:37 which identifies that Allah’s House where the well of Zamzam is located is situated in a barren valley: 

 

“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer.” 14:37 

 

  1. Is Mohammad a Prophet? 

 

Muhammad Shaikh says “Mohammad is a Prophet” (lecture on Mohammad 1992) CONTRADICTED BY “No. No he is not a Prophet” (lecture on Mohammad 2004) —— 

 

  1. Jesus: Born miraculously or by a Hermaphrodite? 

 

Muhammad Shaikh claimed 

 

“Jesus born miraculously without male intervention. His birth was by the will of Allah. ” (lecture Essa 1992) 

 

CONTRADICTED BY 

 

“Jesus born of a hermaphrodite” (lecture Maryam 2008) 

 

  1. Is the “Bashar” who receives “Wahi” Muhammad Rasul Allah (s.a.w) or is it Mohammad Shaikh? 

 

Muhammad Shaikh claims to his followers that he is “bashar” of Quran who is receiving revelation but this CONTRADICTS 

 

“Muhammad Rasool Allah is that bashar” (Lecture on Rooh [Eng] 100 min) 

 

  1. Is Mohammad (s.a.w) the last Prophet? 

“No prophet comes after Prophet Mohammad s.a.w” (lecture on Mohammad 1992) 

 

CONTRADICTED BY 

 

“Mohammad is not last Prophet” (lecture on Mohammad 2004) 

 

  1. Is the Messenger (Rasul) only existing in “Nafsiyat” (Psyche)?

 

Muhammad Shaikh claims to his followers that the Messenger is a spiritual being. The “Rasool is not physical but only in your Nafsiyat” CONTRADICTS Quran which says in many verses that the Messenger of Allah was a physical human being. “Allah chooseth from the angels messengers, and (also) from MANKIND. Lo! Allah is Hearer, Seer.” 22:75 Their messengers said to them: “True, we are HUMAN like yourselves…” 14:37 

 

The above is merely the tip of the iceberg. There are many more such contradictions in the record of videos available. Statements that not only go against Qur’an but also against his own person! Their existence is proof that Mohammad Shaikh is a liar who has made false claims of receiving revelation from Allah and made numerous dubious claims of high stations for his own person. But to detect his discrepancies is not an easy task if one is not used to paying attention to hours of video footage and is not a witness to the clever editing that the man undertakes. It is high time the followers of this man see his deceit and open their eyes to his exploitation.

Taking Precautions


Making-up-for-Years-of-Missed-Prayer

The Coronavirus is the writing on the wall. The monster has been unleashed and is everywhere. People are dying, livelihoods have been lost, and our society has come to a standstill under lockdown. Regrettably some in their religious zeal did not pay attention to the clarion call and have added to the misery by organizing get-togethers. The question therefore arises, that as Muslims, is there any guidance available to us to follow in such circumstances? Is it within the spirit of our faith to brave the virus as our fate? When we look into the Qur’an, the clear instruction in the event of any threat to life is to:

Take your precautions.” (Nisa 4:71)

When performance of public prayers posed a threat to the lives of the Children of Israel in Egypt due to the persecution of the Pharaoh, God commanded:

And We inspired to Moses and his brother, “Settle your people in Egypt in houses and make your houses [facing the] qiblah and establish prayer and give good tidings to the believers.” (Yunus 10:87)

So we clearly see that God gave the order to do the prayers at home because doing them in public would bring a risk to life. Thus the guidance for us is that if there is a threat to life in doing prayers in public places then we should instead pray privately in our homes. The Quran repeatedly cautions us that if there is a misfortune, in our life, then it is not due to our fate, but as we live in a world of cause and effect, our fortunes as well as our miseries are a result of our own handiwork. It is our action or inaction that brings about misery. So we shouldn’t blame the likes of ‘luck’ or ‘fate’ when faced with adversity and disaster but we need to take ownership of our actions.

Whatever misfortune happens to you, is because of the things your hands have wrought, and for many (of them) He grants forgiveness. (Shura 42:30)

If it is raining heavily and we don’t do anything about it, there will be flooding everywhere. But if we build dams and reservoirs, then our handiwork can harness the force of nature and prevent the misery caused by flooding. Same is the case with viruses, disease and sickness. If we do not take the precautionary measures, then the misery will befall us. So the important lesson for us is that our actions can prevent miseries. Notably important, a central theme of the Quran is that the entire creation has been subjected to human beings. We can harness the forces of nature. If they are not harnessed and are left to their own devices, they can create havoc. So as Muslims, we are also duty bound by the Quran to harness the forces of nature. The obligation upon Muslims is to study science, to develop their knowledge of science to that level, that the forces of nature don’t overpower them but they overpower the forces of nature.

And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: Behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect.” (Jathiyah 45:13)

As Muslims we have to harness the forces of nature by studying science so that when there is an outbreak like the coronavirus our scientific knowledge is up to the level that we gain mastery over the phenomenon, instead of being at its mercy. This is what our religion teaches us. The Godly, according to the Quran, aren’t those who live a monastic and fatalistic life, but those who truly remember God are the one’s who are engaged in the study of the natural laws governing our physical environment.

Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain! Glory be to Thee; save us then from the chastisement of the fire:” (Aale Imran 3:191).

Thus Islam requires of Muslims to take precautionary measures when there is a threat to their lives, to perform prayers at home when there is a risk for doing so in public, to take ownership of their actions for misery is a consequence of human handiwork, to harness the forces of nature as the entire creation has been subjected to man and to reflect and ponder on the laws governing the heavens and the earth for this is the trait of the righteous. Events like the coronavirus outbreak draw our attention to Quranic guidance. Will we pay heed or continue with mindless religiosity becoming those about whom the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) will complain on the final day:

Then the Messenger will say: “O my Lord! Truly my people took this Qur’an for just foolish nonsense.” (Al Furqan 25:30)

 

 

Why do Muslims testify Muhammad is the Messenger of God?


Q. Why do Muslims testify Muhammad is the Messenger of God? Can’t one say Abraham is a Messenger of God as a declaration of faith?

Ans.

  1. The statement “Abraham is the Messenger of Allah” is a valid statement but one should not stop there only or make it definitive, as such will exclude the Messengers who came after Abraham (pbuh).
  2. However the statement “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” is inclusive as well as definitive as it covers all the Messengers who passed away before him and is testimony to the fact that Muhammad’s messengership will remain till the end of times and no new prophet or Messenger is to come after him.
  3. Belief in Muhammad means belief in all Messengers prior to him and the belief that prophecy has been sealed with him and no new human being will be raised as a prophet or Messenger of God. The moment one testifies that “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” then he is making a declaration of this very fact that Muhammad (pbuh) conveyed to us.
  4. The statement “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” is a basic and fundamental Quranic fact. Disagreement with which immediately qualifies one for disbelief. Those who believe in and acknowledge the statement “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” are Muslims, while those who do not agree to this statement are non believers.
  5. So it is a litmus test for an individual who wishes to embrace Islam whether he or she agrees with this statement? If they do agree that Muhammad is God’s Messenger and make this declaration, they will qualify as Muslims and all the rules of Islam will apply on them including rules pertaining to them being members of the Muslim community . But if an individual clearly says that he/she disagrees with the statement “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”, then he has expressed his disbelief (Arabic:Kufr). Such an individual is not a Muslim and rules of Islam and rules pertaining to the membership of the Muslim community such as funeral prayers, inheritance, etc do not apply on them.

What is meant by making a distinction between the Messengers?


Q. What is meant by making a distinction between the Messengers? If Muslims state that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah then does this mean they are making a distinction between the Messengers?

Ans.

  1. The Quran itself sheds light on what is meant by making a distinction between the Messengers: إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ يَكۡفُرُونَ بِٱللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِۦ وَيُرِيدُونَ أَن يُفَرِّقُواْ بَيۡنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِۦ وَيَقُولُونَ نُؤۡمِنُ بِبَعۡضٍ۬ وَنَڪۡفُرُ بِبَعۡضٍ۬ وَيُرِيدُونَ أَن يَتَّخِذُواْ بَيۡنَ ذَٲلِكَ سَبِيلاً “Surely those who disbelieve in Allah and His Messengers, and wish to make division between Allah and His Messengers, and say, “We believe in some (messengers) and disbelieve in some others” and wish to take a way in between that.” (4:150) Note that in the above verse the statement “We believe in some (messengers) and disbelieve in some others” qualifies the act of divisions between Allah and His Messengers to be the rejection of certain Messengers.
  2. When Muslims believe in Muhammad as the Messenger of Allah then they are not guilty of this sin because it is Muhammad who made them to believe in all the Messengers. By believing in Muhammad, Muslims are in fact believing in all the Messengers without distinction that all were commissioned by Allah and all were worthy of reverence.
  3. The statement “we believe in some (messengers) and disbelieve in some others” applies to those religious groups that openly reject some Messengers of God while claiming belief on others such as the Jews who believe in Moses and the Israelite prophets but reject Jesus and Muhammad, or to the Christians who accept all prophets prior to Jesus but reject Muhammad who was foretold by Jesus. So these are the groups that fall in the category of people who say “we believe in some (messengers) and disbelieve in some others.”
  4. Muslims on the other hand do not say “we believe in some and disbelieve in others”. Rather The Muslim article of faith is in belief on all Messengers of Allah, from Adam till Muhammad. Therefore it is illogical to quote this verse and claim that it refers to Muslims.
  5. By accepting and stating that Muhammad is the Messenger of God one is affirming his belief on all Messengers because it is the revelation of Muhammad that tells him to maintain belief on all Messengers. It should also be noted that the assertion that one should not take the name of Allah and Muhammad in the same sentence is very ridiculous and based on a complete ignorance of the Quran that only those jaundiced.by sheer prejudice are tantamount to swallow . This is so because it is the Quran itself that contains the statement “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” (48:29).
  6. If saying “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” were a wrong act according to their logic then do these people accuse Allah of wrongdoing when it is He Himself who has made this statement? Each and every time one recites the verse of the Quran which mentions “Muhammad is the Messenger of God”, then is he committing an act of polytheism? According.to the warped logic of such deviant individuals this would be so! Such a suggestion of theirs is devoid of wisdom and is based entirely on prejudice. Whenever Muslims repeat the words “Muhammad ur Rasul Allah” whether in the Adhan or in Salat then they do not violate any Quranic injunction and are in fact proclaiming what has already been stated by Allah in the Quran. Denial of this very basic fact is nothing but delusion.

Can Muslims bear witness on Muhammad?


Q. Can Muslims bear witness on Muhammad? Rashad Khalifa and some of his offshoots claim that one cannot be a witness over the Messenger and bear this in testimony. Is such a claim of theirs.consistent.with the Quran?

Ans. No. This claim is opposed to the Quran because in it we clearly read: وَيَقُولُ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ لَسۡتَ مُرۡسَلاً۬‌ۚ قُلۡ ڪَفَىٰ بِٱللَّهِ شَهِيدَۢا بَيۡنِى وَبَيۡنَڪُمۡ وَمَنۡ عِندَهُ ۥ عِلۡمُ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ … The disbelievers say, “You are not a messenger.” Say, “Allah is sufficient as a witness between me and you, and those too (are my witnesses) who have the knowledge of the Book.” (13:43) Therefore as the Quran itself identifies in above ayat that one who has knowledge of the Book is a witness over the Messenger of Allah, the view promoted by such individuals is a clear-cut deviation from Quran.

Is it sinful to recite the Shahada?


Q. Is it sinful to recite “Lā ‘Ilāha ‘Illā Allāh Muĥammadur Rasūlu Allāh”? Rashad Khalifa claimed that Muslims had corrupted the Kalima-e-Shahada by adding the name of Muhammad with the name of God. His followers claim that uttering the statement “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” is an act of Shirk as the name of God and a Messenger of God are in the same sentence. Are these claims in line with the Quran?

Ans.

  1. These claims are not consistent with the Quran. This is so because the words “Lā ‘Ilāha ‘Illā Allāh” (There is no God but Allah) and “Muĥammadur Rasūlu Allāh” are *Quranic* words.
  2. Repeating Quranic phrases does not become an act of “Shirk” (polytheism) because these are simply Quranic statements revealed by God. God does not forbid His own words. See (لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ (47:19) مُّحَمَّدٌ۬ رَّسُولُ ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ (48:29)
  3. There is no verse in the Quran which says that one cannot mention any other name with the name of God. Rather we see numerous examples in the Quran itself where names of Messengers are in the same sentence with God’s name. E.g. In 48:29 we read “Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” and see the mention of Muhammad and God in the same sentence. Doing so does not make Muhammad equal with God in anyway whatsoever.

Therefore in the light of the Quran it is perfectly valid for Muslims to utter the statement “Lā ‘Ilāha ‘Illā Allāh Muĥammadur Rasūlu Allāh” (There is no God except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.) And this does not violate any Quranic injunction.

Gateway to the Qur’an


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The quest for God is a journey, and every journey has a beginning. Before we venture into a new territory, we must pass through the entrance. The gateway has to be known otherwise our excursion is not possible. Many try knocking on doors, but to their dismay, discover that the doors are not opened. This is so because they are at the wrong door. Approach through the right gateway and it is then that you will truly enter into a new realm. As the first Surah or chapter of the Qur’an, Al Fatiha is its gateway. It is the supplication from those on a quest towards God while the rest of the Qur’an is the answer. As the most oft-repeated supplication of the Muslim daily liturgy, Al Fatiha occupies an important place in the life of a believer. Yet, we remain largely ignorant of its true meaning and form a mechanical and ceremonial attachment to this very important petition. Conscious about not reciting the words merely in a parrot like fashion, without having any intellectual connection with the meaning behind the utterance, we must devote time and thought to their study. Believers are to rehearse this petition no less than seventeen times as part of the five daily prayers, but do we know exactly what it is that we implore?

Al Fatiha comes from the triliteral Arabic root fā tā ḥā literally ‘He opened’. From the same comes Miftah or ‘Key’. Al Fatiha, from the same root means ‘The opener’. The title of the chapter signifies its importance as well as its purpose and serves as a befitting preamble to the Islamic scripture. Through this petition, the petitioner seeks access to the realm of God’s guidance. He wants the door to be opened for him, so that he can begin life’s most important journey. Surah Al Fatiha is the key which will open that door.

 The opening line Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;” (1:1) emphasizes that as Our Creator provides for all creation, so should believers also provide nourishment for all under their custody and care, whether humans, plants or animals.

The words Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem rendered commonly as “Most Gracious, Most Merciful;” (1:2) require careful probing. Allah is Ar-Rahmaan, the bestower of continuous and intense Mercy, which is an attribute unique to the Creator in the Qur’an, whereas in the attribute Ar-Raheem, the creation is also included. About the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h) it is said “..to the Believers is he most kind and merciful (Arabic: Raheem).” (9:128). In his footsteps, believers also have to be Raheem towards others.

We are to be conscious that Allah alone is the “Master of the Day of Judgment.” (1:3). Preparation for this day should be our priority for “(It will be) the Day when no soul shall have power (to do) aught for another: For the command, that Day, will be (wholly) with Allah.” (82:19)

In order to prepare for the accountability of that day we have to proclaim: Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.” (1:4) and then correspondingly petition for the required guidance: Show us the straight way,” (1:5) The straight way signifies that the Divine path is linear and not cyclical. We make progress, we do not come back to square one. Moreover, the word Sirat (path) also indicates that there is a journey to be made. We must go on a personal quest to be on “The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray.” (1:6-7) indicating that there are two choices available to us – either walk on guidance, or choose the path to perdition. Who have the In’aam (grace and bounty) of Allah, His Ghadhab (wrath) and are Ad-Dhualeen (misguided)? The rest of the Qur’an is replete with answers to these questions, demanding a careful perusal to the remaining chapters.

The true purpose of every petition is manifest in its meaning as well as the zeal and fervour with which it is proclaimed. Failing this, our efforts will be merely ceremonial in nature and will signify our non-seriousness when we came forth as petitioners.

Al Fatiha is a supplication which should be made with our heart and soul. We should analyse each and every word in this Surah, delve into their etymology and also seek to understand the themes mentioned in it by cross referencing them with other passages in the Qur’an where such are illuminated and amplified. Sura Al Fatiha is our gateway to the realm of Divine guidance, while the rest of the Qur’an gives us the roadmap to that journey. Its study, memorization, and vocalization is mandatory upon every Muslim.

First published in Dawn on 3rd March, 2020

Ignored Truth


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THERE is one irrefutable truth when it comes to life: sooner or later it will be extinguished. It follows from this basic premise that life must be lived in a particular and the best possible manner — for it is short. As the days, weeks, months and years pass, we seldom give any thought to the fact that the moments gone by will never come back. The clock keeps on ticking, and that too at a fairly quick pace; but given that we are mere mortals, it is undeniable that one day it is going to stop altogether.

That eventful day — when we die — is a certainty, but for some unexplained reason we dismiss it. We imagine that death is for others and not for us. We offer our condolences to people when we hear about the demise of their loved one, but hardly reflect on the idea of our own departure from this world.

The ‘here’ and ‘now’ are so attractive to us that we revel in their glory and resist the doom and gloom that is associated with the end of life. Thus we never entertain the thought that one day we too — like everyone else — will leave this earth.

So no matter what our attitude is towards death, there is no denying that it is a certainty. It is an undeniable fact. It is a law. It is the truth. Whether or not we are comfortable thinking about it is immaterial. Each day and every minute takes us towards the certainty called the end of life.

For some unexplained reason we dismiss the inevitability of death.

We pretend as if we are here to live forever and even organise our lives around this lie. Our passions dictate our life’s purpose, making us forget that our present life is but a trial to prepare us for the next realm of existence. Wherever our desires and emotions lead us, it is that point to which we are drawn.

This is one view of life, in which the purpose of living is determined by one’s feelings and desires, and in which the idea of afterlife is rejected.

This mentality is paraphrased multiple times in the Quran, albeit with stern criticism: “And they say: ‘What! when we lie, hidden and lost, in the earth, shall we indeed be in a Creation renewed?’ Nay, they deny the Meeting with their Lord” (32:10).

To this materialistic purpose of life comes the Divine rejoinder: “Say: ‘The Angel of Death, put in charge of you, will (duly) take your souls: then shall ye be brought back to your Lord’” (32:11).

The intellect of ours when working under the rule of our passions deceives us into thinking that this world’s material life is all that there is, and that, apart from physical needs, we do not have any other level of existence; thus are we fixated on worldliness alone.

As we become slaves to our desires, to our wish for fame and fortune and the other usual suspects, we forget that the intellect alone cannot enlighten us when it comes to the ultimate purpose of life. Our passions and prejudices also lead to a clash of interest among individuals, for often one’s desires are at odds with the wants of the other. Thus, a life that is lived in this manner becomes a conflict zone.

Life’s true purpose can be conveyed to us uniquely and precisely by none other than our Creator, for as our Maker, He knows us best and is in the best position to inform us about our welfare. Let us not forget that all other warranties do not originate from the manufacturer.

He is the one who thus announces: “I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me” (51:56).

God’s messengers were sent to earth to convey the true purpose of life and to call on people to establish a connection with their Creator while advocating righteous behaviour towards His creation. They were also tasked to wake us up to the fact that we have short life spans, and that our actual home is in the Hereafter.

The purpose of creation and the inevitability of death was a constant theme in the ‘syllabus’ taught by Allah’s emissaries. They taught the people they were sent to that the world was not a place to be shunned but that one was to live life to the full while keeping the laws and commandments of Allah in front, for it is adherence to such law that develops the human soul and qualifies it for afterlife.

Allah says: “Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve” (2:38).

So here we are, living life to the full. The guidance of Allah is also with us but let us not forget that the clock is ticking. We owe it to ourselves to take up Divine guidance and apply it to our daily lives so that we fulfil life’s true purpose. Ignoring the truth of death will be sheer folly.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2019

Is Music Haraam?


We can observe that in the Qur’an when something or some act is made unlawful, then it is explicitly mentioned. For example, Zina (adultery/fornication) is prohibited by the explicit command:

وَلَا تَقْرَبُوا۟ ٱلزِّنَىٰٓ ۖ إِنَّهُۥ كَانَ فَٰحِشَةً وَسَآءَ سَبِيلًا

“And do not come near adultery. It is immoral, and an evil way.” 17:32

Similarly murder is explicitly forbidden by the words:

وَلَا تَقْتُلُوا۟ ٱلنَّفْسَ ٱلَّتِى حَرَّمَ ٱللَّهُ إِلَّا بِٱلْحَقِّ ۗ “

And do not kill the soul which God has made sacred, except in the course of justice. ” 17:33

Intoxicants and gambling are made unlawful by the words:

يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا ٱلْخَمْرُ وَٱلْمَيْسِرُ وَٱلْأَنصَابُ وَٱلْأَزْلَٰمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنِ فَٱجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

“O you who believe! Intoxicants, gambling, idolatry, and divination are abominations of Satan’s doing. Avoid them, so that you may prosper.” 5:90

So we can observe in the above examples that the style of the Qur’an is that when it makes something totally prohibited then it does not leave it to guess work but explicitly and unequivocally mentions the prohibition. However we do not find a command in the Qur’an that explicitly bans music in all its forms. Instead there is a verse from which scholars have made an inference, that what was described in it can be said about music. The verse in question is Sura 17:64

وَٱسْتَفْزِزْ مَنِ ٱسْتَطَعْتَ مِنْهُم بِصَوْتِكَ وَأَجْلِبْ عَلَيْهِم بِخَيْلِكَ وَرَجِلِكَ وَشَارِكْهُمْ فِى ٱلْأَمْوَٰلِ وَٱلْأَوْلَٰدِ وَعِدْهُمْ ۚ وَمَا يَعِدُهُمُ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنُ إِلَّا غُرُورًا

“And entice whomever of them you can with your voice, and rally against them your cavalry and your infantry, and share with them in wealth and children, and make promises to them.” But Satan promises them nothing but delusion.” 17:64

In the above verse one of Satan’s methods to mislead man from the path of Allah is mentioned as “entice whomever of them you can with your voice (Arabic ‘Saut’. Literally sound)”. Some scholars have inferred the prohibition of all types of music from this verse, terming it to be an act from Shaytan (Satan). However we cannot deduce from this verse that all kinds of music that falls in our ears such as in advertisements or TV news programmes is haraam, for such would mean that every time one turns on the television or hears a ringtone on his or her mobile phone, then he has committed a haraam act. Moreover, Muslim countries ban the likes of explicitly haraam acts like obscenity, pork, usury, alcohol etc but there is not a single Muslim nation that has ever placed a total ban on music.

Also to observe is the fact that there is even natural music, sounds that occur in nature like singing of birds, rainfall, ocean’s breeze all of which are soothing to the senses. If music were forbidden totally, what about such phenomenon e.g. the birds that sing? God has made them and given them their beautiful sound making ability. To imply that the God who made a bird that sings also prohibits singing gives birth to an irreconcilable paradox. In the absence of a clear and unequivocal command which prohibits music it can be conceived that it is that kind of sound which mobilises one to engage in an evil and immoral act, i.e. an act endorsed by Shaytan that would fall within the purview of the verse 17:64. So we must see what is the end for which music and singing is being utilised? Is the musician’s voice calling one to commit a haraam (prohibited) act e.g. commit adultery? Are the lyrics of the song promoting hatred and killing, glorification of drugs or any other haraam acts? If yes, then most certainly listening to such music and lyrics that leads one to wrongdoing and disobedience of Allah should be avoided as indeed such would fall in the remit of the sound of Shaytan that stirs up or excites one to his obedience. However listening to music that is for everyday life’s convenience e.g. bells, watch alarms, mobile ringtone, news bulletin, anthems, songs etc that do not excite us to commit haraam acts would not fall within the phenomenon cautioned about in the said verse. Thus we as Muslims need to have a balanced approach towards music.

Charismatic Coercion


Religion is a complex phenomenon. It is multilayered and diverse. To place religion in a pigeonhole without taking into account its complexities is grossly erroneous. But regrettably many tend to do that and such oversimplification results in distortions. We often hear stories of evil acts committed by those motivated by religious zeal and correspondingly some will point fingers at that faith, blaming it altogether. Our failure to distinguish between the mainstream body of the faith and the tiny fringe responsible for the misdeed will create misunderstandings. Narratives that do exactly that are divisive.

Cults Vs Mainstream Faiths

Many fail to realize that religious groups under the spotlight for vile deeds are mostly founded as religious cults. Headline making groups such as ISIS, The People’s Temple of Disciples of Christ, and Aum Shrinkyo should not be seen as representatives of the mainstream of Islam, Christianity and Buddhism respectively but distinctively as cults in their entirety. Religious cults are high control groups founded by charismatic individuals. They may have broken away from a pre-existing body of believers or be a new religious movement in their own right, whatever the case may be, they are marked by charismatic individuals as founders with an ability to exert undue influence upon their followers to coerce them into an extreme level of loyalty and devotion.

The Modus Operandi of Cults

To legitimize their existence they would be seen denouncing the extant version of the faith in which they grew out from, labeling it as deviant while pitching their group as its genuine version. Their taking on the vocabulary and paraphernalia of the religion within whose matrix they came out from deceives outsiders concerning their true identity.

Appeal to An End of Times Narrative

Cult founders are messianic figures who would propagate an end of times narrative. Claims such as being the reincarnation of a revered historical figure along with self proclaimed honorific titles enable them to sell themselves to a gullible audience as the ‘the promised messiah’, an end of times savior who was foretold by scriptures. Such an awaited saviour is common within the apocryphal texts of majority of world faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but there are also strong scholarly voices dismissing such an idea all together.

Masters of Manipulation

Cult leaders are demagogues. They are masters of manipulation. They display psychopathic tendencies by love-bombing members, making them feel special and needed and then exploiting them later. Their prime stratagem is to remain unaccountable. To evade accountability they will resort to any means, and this is why religious groups should come under statutory regulation in order to prevent individuals with charm and charisma from exploiting the weak and the vulnerable. Without checks and balances, anybody can set up shop, make emotional appeals to a gullible audience, extract money, connections and much more, and then fly off to disappear in far away lands or worse to cause destruction and mayhem.

What distinguishes cults from the mainstream is that unlike the later, they do not disclose all upfront. Their outside persona is meant to attract, enquire and recruit. It is when one is deep within the group that the true face of the cult gets known. This deception is what makes cults anti-social and when espousing violence towards others, their proliferation becomes the subject of law enforcement. When a prospective members makes initial contact then he or she has not got the complete picture of what the group is all about and what it really means to sign yourself up.

Phobia Indoctrination

Once inside, it is not easy to leave as “..cult members are systematically made to be phobic about ever leaving the group. Today’s cults know how to effectively implant vivid negative images deep within members’ unconscious minds, making it impossible for the member to even conceive of ever being happy and successful outside of the group. When the unconscious is programmed to accept negative images, it behaves as though they were true. The unconscious mind is made to contain a substantial image-bank of all the bad things that will occur should anyone ever betray the group.”   (Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control, pp 45)

Cults are on the prowl for those with whom they can identify an organizational fit. Recruiting on campuses and online preying on the lonely and confused. Controlling tactics also include confessions before the group leader. This makes the leader’s grip stronger as then he becomes the confidante of a follower’s private life.

Undue Influence within the Group

Cults offer a utopian worldview that is far removed from reality. Any confusion is masked as questions and criticisms are discouraged. It is emphasized that people outside the group do not understand the absolute truth claimed within the group and debate is stifled. An ‘us verses them’ mindset becomes the order of things resulting in group members psychologically (and at times physically) cutting them selves off from loved one’s. Due to such extreme coercions, a carefully thought out intervention is necessary for the rescue and recovery of those trapped in a mind controlling cult.

Cults do not represent the Mainstream

An entire faith with millions of followers is not blameworthy when adherents acting in its name resort to committing evil, but we need to closely inspect the perpetrators and separate them from the mainstream. Religions have numerous strands within them. Neither do we find only one persuasion within a tradition and nor is one interpretation representative of all. Knowledge of religions and an awareness and appreciation of charismatic cults will enable us to distinguish between the peaceful mainstream and the destructive fringe.

Building Bridges through Religious Tourism


REGRETTABLY, the popular image of Islam in the contemporary world is that of an intolerant faith. This notion is perpetuated by media images of destruction of heritage sites and religious artefacts that are sacred to non-Muslims at the hands of religious militants in conflict zones.

By citing such incidents, critics are able to point fingers at the faith and lay the foundation of the claim that its adherents are belligerent towards expressions of other faiths. This is a common view, particularly in Western circles and it receives credence from incidents like the destruction of Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan and the vandalism of heritage sites in Palmyra, Syria.

It is definitely unfair to accuse the vast majority of Muslims of intolerance due to the acts of a small minority of fanatics. Therefore, it is of great importance for Muslim states to protect and preserve the heritage sites and religious artefacts sacred to other faiths that are found within their lands and demonstrate their commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.

Non-Muslims have lived alongside Muslims for centuries, and their populations and sacred sites still remain in Islamic lands. The vast majority of Muslims are not constantly in a state of war with their non-Muslim citizens. Barring a few skirmishes they have coexisted.

But as the allegation of intolerance is constantly perpetuated, Muslim states need to counter this negative publicity and build bridges with other faiths and cultures and send the clear message that the expressions of non-Muslim faiths and culture within their territories are not only permissible but are also preserved and promoted for the world at large. There are numerous advantages of preserving, protecting and promoting the religious heritage within the boundaries of a Muslim-governed territory.

Firstly, to do so is itself a religious injunction within Islam’s holy scripture, which states: “…Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure. …” (22:40). Thus protecting the places of worship of other faiths is first and foremost a Muslim duty.

Secondly, the Quran also lays emphasis on travelling and seeing through one’s own eyes the ruins of historic nations to have an example before us of the causes of their rise and fall. It states: “Say: Travel through the earth and see what was the end of those before (you): Most of them worshipped others besides Allah” (30:42).

If Muslim rulers do not preserve the ruins and historical structures of non-Muslims then it would not be possible to carry out the aforementioned Quranic injunction. Thus prior to giving thought to any commercial gains of preservation and promotion of religious sites, Muslim rulers should realise that doing such is an Islamic duty which they must carry out.

Then there are economic reasons to preserve the religious heritage that is found within a country. Religious tourism is on the increase globally and is a source of revenue for the locals. Religious tourism also builds bridges between countries as the faithful from neighbouring territories would visit your land to witness what is dear to them, and your country’s image is uplifted when they see that their religious artefacts are well maintained and looked after.

To promote religious sites for a global audience, the decision-makers will have to launch a coherent destination-marketing campaign. It is no use to maintain and preserve heritage sites unless they are showcased at an international level and the world is able to witness examples of Muslim tolerance. The government will first have to provide basic infrastructure to facilitate religious tourism. The sites should be accessible, have functional facilities surrounding the perimeter, be signposted for international tourists and have international-standard accommodation.

Once the infrastructure is in place a destination-marketing campaign should be launched, for otherwise it would be embarrassing to have international guests at your door to witness a heritage site in ruins while lacking even the basic amenities. Therefore the need is to first set one’s own house in order before inviting guests over. What kind of experiences do the heritage sites offer to tourists? Are the experiences boring, bland and emotionless? What type of images will they take back home? Of a heritage site in ruins, no basic facilities around, dusty, rundown and poor neighbourhood? The decision-makers at the helm of affairs need to take such questions into consideration and be cognisant of the fact that they are also competing with other destinations. Therefore it is imperative that the product on offer stands out from the rest.

First Published in DAWN December 28, 2018

Islam Prohibits Marriage with Minors


Faithful Foreigners


 

OUR environment poses considerable challenges to our well-being. While many take this to mean physical wellness, often completely ignored is the impact that environmental influences pose to one’s spiritual health. We are constantly under pressure to conform. Society, family, friends, co-workers, businesses, governments — they all demand that we follow a certain pattern.

So we then eventually give in. In order to be accepted within one’s social circle, people undergo a change. They will let go of that which the environment does not accept and embrace the norms palatable within their circle. People will happily change their beliefs, even their names in the face of hostilities.

Immigration is a major life decision. It is not merely a logistical move to a foreign land, but by it one is also transported to a new set of ideas, beliefs and customs. Foreign migrants are under pressure to assimilate with the host culture. From certain quarters fingers are pointed at the ‘foreign’ faith that has come with the migrant. Social influence poses a considerable challenge to the faith of foreign migrants. It is a challenge that is often overlooked and underestimated.

Participation in interfaith conversations will help remove misconceptions.

As economic migrants people are motivated by the lure of a better standard of living and a comfortable lifestyle. It is the dream of greener pastures in a foreign land that drives them to move house rather than any missionary zeal. As recent arrivals, little do they realise that they have ventured into a territory in which the majority may not be sympathetic towards their foreign culture.

Religious groups that are seeking converts actively target families of foreign migrants. Evangelical preachers, religious cults and new religious movements would knock on people’s doors in migrant conurbations, introduce the household to their doctrines and raise critical questions about the faith that the family has brought with it to the country. Is the family prepared for this? There is also the role of non-believing friends and peers on young impressionable minds. Critical attitudes to the Islamic faith at school and from friends are instrumental in shaping the personality of children.

For Muslims, this issue is increasingly becoming important given the recent rise in hostilities against Islam. As a Muslim family choosing to migrate to a non-Muslim environment it is crucial to be aware of the common arguments against Islam that are posed by those critical to the faith and their responses. Also important is to know the counter-narrative to extremists that often target the young and vulnerable from migrant groups. In most cases, people are unprepared.

When their children face such interrogation, they would not have any choice but to surrender to the one-sided narrative. Subjecting children to an environment where there is constant criticism and hostility to one’s faith is detrimental to their spiritual well-being.

With fragmented communities, the problem is exacerbated. For the Muslim young, university life away from familiar surroundings can also lead them to drift from the faith taught and practised at home and expose them to unsympathetic ideas. Challenges to one’s faith and belief are manifold when living as a foreign immigrant.

Religious duties like the ability to recite the Quran properly, to perform the five daily prayers, to observe fasts during the month of Ramazan, to be able to calculate zakat applicable on one’s assets and to have knowledge of the dietary prohibitions is a basic requirement for every Muslim. No doubt that migrants are capable of this much. But given the hostile environment in which they are now raising their future generations, it is expedient that they also realise that more needs to be done. The Quranic injunction: “O ye who believe! Save yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones. …” (66:6) necessitates that Muslims take appropriate steps to raise their children on revealed guidelines, and caution them against that which is detrimental to their moral well-being.

Thus Muslims living as minorities in non-Muslim lands have a duty to educate the family and prepare it for the times to come. They should always remain a part of their local Muslim community and not distance themselves from it. Their religious learning, regular attendance at the local mosque and interaction with credible Islamic scholars will enable them to negotiate away from environmental pressures. Participation in interfaith conversations and outreach to non-Muslim friends will help remove misconceptions and break down barriers.

Muslim migrants need not jettison their faith or ethnicity to blend in with the wider environment. They should play a full part in society whilst retaining their values. Through their conduct they are to demonstrate the peaceful coexistence enjoined by their faith and make a positive contribution to society.

Published in DAWN, February 23, 2018


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6 Qualities of Tolerant Individuals


Woman_standing_in_front_of_river_with_swans

Tolerance is a special quality. It means getting along with people who are different from us. It is a vital trait for peaceful coexistence and to build cordial and friendly relations between people. Being tolerant requires from us to be patient, understanding and accepting of anything different. People are different from us in so many ways. Some hold different religious beliefs others have different political beliefs. Some are of a different ethnicity others of a different gender. There are different languages, different dresses, different cuisine, even different habits and aspirations. Thus diversity has many facets and is a distinguishing feature of the human condition. Being tolerant of people requires acceptance. When we accept differences then we are not worried or anxious about effacing them. We then realize that the world is not meant to be monolithic, and that diversity is something natural. We will identify as tolerant individuals if we exhibit the following signs:

  1. Embracing diversity. The world, which we dwell in, is diverse. This means that we accept the fact that there are people who are different from us. The moment we accept differences, and realize that diversity is a central feature of humanity, that always was, is and will be, then we find inner peace and contentment, because then we are not seeking to obliterate that which is but natural nor are we then looking down upon or dismissing people who are different from us in any way whatsoever.
  2. Not retorting. At times we are faced with acerbic and bitter people. Whose toxic remarks goad us to a tit for tat reply. But being tolerant of their negativity and by ignoring their hurtful remarks we maintain composure, do not lose our cool and handle difficult situations tactfully.
  3. Forgiving mistakes. People make mistakes all the time. We do not embody perfection. Being tolerant means forgiving people for their misdemeanors and not nitpicking on them constantly.
  4. Worrying about our own neck. We have a very short time on earth. It will be no exaggeration to suggest that the years of our entire life can be counted on our fingertips. This being the case, it would be sheer folly to spend a significant proportion of our time on trivial matters, which are not our remit of accountability. Instead of worrying about the salvation of others our focus should be our own self because ultimately we won’t be questioned about the deeds of anyone except our own.
  5. Respecting people’s rights. To deliberately infringe on their rights means we do not have any regard for their humanity. A sign of our tolerant character is our respect for the rights of individuals.
  6. Practicing tolerance within the family. Tolerance can be cemented in an individual from the home. The home is the place where one learns to be tolerant for intolerance too is picked up from the home and family. The views and attitudes that parents pass on to their children shape their personality. The child also learns from the relationship of his father and mother. If the spouses are intolerant of one another, constantly picking up arguments the child will do the same. Once he walks out of his home, then he will have that same mindset. He will see people as his adversaries just like he saw his parents to be at constant animosity with one another. Therefore it is vital that family life be stable and serene so that parents do not pass on intolerant attitudes to their children.

Learning tolerance from Qur’anic examples. Tolerance is a central theme in Islam’s holy text. God’s chosen emissaries were told that tolerance was a key character trait that enabled one to qualify as a righteous individual (2:256). It was revealed to the Messenger (pbuh) that everyone is responsible for his own conduct and is answerable to God on his own; therefore if people are not receptive to the message then he should not despair (6:34). Under no circumstances are people to be compelled to follow the course of righteousness (10:99). That his job was only to deliver the message, while it rested on God to hold people to account (13:40). This Prophetic standard is in stark contrast to the holier than thou mindset prevailing within many who think that they are on some sort of a divine mission to compel people to “righteousness”. That their version of morality should be enforced, even upon those who wish to follow an alternate course. This is not what is instructed in the Quran. The Qur’anic mandate is about one’s willing acceptance of its injunctions. Only that belief will bear fruit, which is accepted by one’s own volition and not because of pressure. Belief that is forced upon is futile and invalid because it does not motivate us to action.

 

First published in DAWN, 16th June 2017

 

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Islam and Forced Conversion


Badshahi_Mosque_in_the_eveningIslam and Muslims are frequently imparted with heavy criticism for religious freedom issues. Often examples are cited that in Muslim lands, people of other faiths are not freely allowed to profess or proclaim their beliefs, and that people are converted by force. The notion that Islam is a religion of the sword is quite popular among Islam’s critics who often cite it to scare those outside the faith.

Such accusations needs to be evaluated in the light of how the subject of religious coercion has been dealt with in the Qur’an and how it addresses themes related to freedom of religion and belief.

We must keep in mind that the conduct of individuals acting in the name of Islam does not become authoritative until or unless such behaviour is endorsed by the Qur’an. What it is that the Qur’an says is to be considered as Islamic and the practices that are refuted by it are not valid as an Islamic practice, no matter how close an affiliation with Islam the actors claim to have. As the final and absolute authority for all beliefs and practices in Islam rests with the Qur’an, therefore we must discover whether people can be forced to accept Islam, as per the directives and narratives of the Qur’an.

Freedom of belief is a God-given Right 

Living and non-living beings are all programmed and designed to follow a set pattern. They do not defy that set pattern, and do not have a free will to defy their basic nature, human beings, in comparison, are distinct from animals and planets because they have a a free will to choose between right and wrong, and decide on alternate courses in matters of life.

For example, a goat eats only leaves and grass, and not meat, since it is not in its nature to do so. It does not have any freedom of choice, and no matter how hungry it may get, it will not devour meat. But we people, on the other hand, have the power and faculties to ponder on our environment, make choices – choices that may have benefits, or even harms for us. We are not compelled like animals to follow one course of action only. If we are hungry, then given the choice, we can eat vegetables, meat or a combination of both, as it is to our own volition to decide this.

It is because animals do not have a free will, that we do not hold them accountable in any court of law. We will never hear that a Goat was charged with grazing in a pasture that wasn’t its own. It simply grazes where the grass is green, and has no sense of property or ownership of land! But we humans are not like that. We have a free will. We can choose to eat from our land or steal the produce of someone else’s land. We can choose to labour for our bread, or we can choose to steal it. It is because of this free choice that we are held accountable.

As we are given faculties of intellect and a free will we can benefit from our natural surrounding, or distort it and create corruption. The same faculties and free will that we possess and employ in our social, economic or material matters, is also to be used for matters of morality and religious observance. We read in the Qur’an that when Allah sent mankind to earth, it was informed about guidance to lead peaceful lives:

“We said: Go forth from this (state) all; so surely there will come to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.” 2:38

But along with the merits of following the guidance of Allah mankind was also told about the consequences of disobeying such laws:

“And (as to) those who disbelieve in and reject My Ayat (Signs), they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.” 2:39

We have been shown both ways, and have been blessed with the powers to grasp whatever path we wish:

Have We not given him two eyes, and a tongue and two lips, and pointed out to him the two conspicuous ways?” 90:8-10

We have been pointed out the benefits of following the laws of Allah as well as the consequences of going against them. Now it is up to us to choose to accept those laws or become ungrateful. The following verse reminds us of this aspect:

“Surely We have shown him the way: he may be thankful or unthankful.” 76:3

In accepting the laws of Allah, we have to use our own freedom of choice and free will, without any coercion or force applied from outside;

“And say: The truth is from your Sustainer, so let him WHO WILLS, believe, and let him WHO WILLS disbelieve..” 18:29

 

There is No Compulsion in Matters of Faith 

If man accepts the laws of God, then it is for his own benefit and if he goes against them then the consequences will again be upon his own self. The person delivering the message of God is not a custodian over the people, as the Qur’an says:

“Surely We have revealed to you the Book with the truth for all mankind; so whoever follows the right way, it is for his own soul and whoever errs, he errs only to its detriment; and you are not a custodian over them.” 39:41

The Messenger (pbuh) was not permitted by Allah to force people into accepting his message, and the message has to be accepted by one’s own free will and own initiative, as the following verse points out:

“And if your Sustainer had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?” 10:99

The laws of Allah are to be accepted ‘on merit’ and not for any conditions, vested interests or by force. Following or disobeying them is against one’s own self. We have to use our free will to ascertain the benefits of following the law of Allah and accept them willingly without any compulsion on ourselves. The consequences of accepting or rejecting the law have been laid on our own selves. The Qur’an says;

“Indeed there have come to you clear proofs from your Sustainer; whoever will therefore see, it is for his own soul and whoever will be blind, it shall be against himself and I am not a keeper over you.” 6:104

Had Allah willed he would have made us without a free will of our own, but unlike animals we are given the freedom of choice to select our line of action:

And if Allah had pleased, they would not have set up others (with Him) and We have not appointed you a keeper over them, and you are not placed in charge of them.” 6:107

Accepting the message of God requires intellectual analysis of the message and agreement after reasoning and pondering over its validity. Even God does not force people to disown their faculties of reasoning. The Qur’an reminds us this aspect:

Perhaps you will kill yourself with grief because they do not believe. If We please, We should send down upon them a sign from the heaven so that their necks should stoop to it.” 26:3-4

The invitation of Qur’an is based upon evidence of its validity, insight and justification for its laws, therefore the question of forcing someone to accept it, does not arise:

“Say: This is my way: I invite unto Allah upon Insight, I and those who follow me, and glory be to Allah, and I am not from those who associate (with Allah).” 12:108

 

The People Who Compel Others To Their Way of Thinking 

While the Qur’an has stressed that man has been given the intellectual faculty to determine his line of action and is not under compulsion to accept the law of Allah, at the same time it has also identified who those people are who use force and compulsion to make others agree to their point of view. The Pharaoh who epitomizes tyranny, oppression, and disobedience to God’s law has been identified as a person who used to force people to remain in his religion. It is people having the traits of Pharaoh who use compulsion for faith:

“Firaon said: Do you believe in Him before I have given you permission? Surely this is a plot which you have secretly devised in this city, that you may turn out of it its people, but you shall know:” 7:123

It is a Pharonic law to give death to those who change their religion and beliefs as it is he who threatened with capital punishment to Apostates:

“Said he: You believe in him before I give you permission; most surely he is the chief of you who taught you the magic, so you shall know: certainly I will cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and certainly I will crucify you all.” 26:49

To be noted that in the Quran it is the disbelievers and not Muslims who have been identified as the one’s who force people to remain in their faith and it is they who  threaten those who demonstrate disagreement to their doctrines, with dire consequences:

“The chiefs, those who were proud from among his people said: We will most certainly turn you out, O Shu’aib, and (also) those who believe with you, from our town, or you shall come back to our faith. He said: What! though we dislike (it)?” 7:88

“And those who disbelieved said to their Messengers: We will most certainly drive you forth from our land, or else you shall come back into our religion. So their Sustainer revealed to them: Most certainly We will destroy the unjust.” 14:13

Compared to the oppression of the unbelievers, the believers are commanded that even if a person from the opposite camp approaches them for safety then even he is to be given protection:

“And if one of the idolaters seek protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make him attain his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know.” 9:6

 

Islam calls for voluntary conviction and not forced conversion

The question of forcing someone to believe does not arise at all, because the Qur’an identifies ‘Iman’ i.e. belief as something not just professed by the lips, but something which has entered one’s heart deeply, and that is possible only if a person analyses the message through his reason and accepts it willingly:

“The dwellers of the desert say: We believe. Say: You do not believe but say, We submit; and IMAN has not yet entered into your hearts; and if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not diminish aught of your deeds; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 49:14

The above verse establishes that “Iman” is something which is deep rooted into a persons heart. In case a person does not have deep conviction on the Laws of God then that does not comprise “Iman”. Therefore it is not possible to force someone to believe, as then the person would merely declare his verbal agreement while his heart would be not be inclined.

There is No Worldly Punishment for Apostasy in the Qur’an

“He who disbelieves in Allah after his having believed, not he who is compelled while his heart is at rest on account of faith, but he who opens (his) breast to disbelief– on these is the wrath of Allah, and they shall have a grievous chastisement.”

“This is because they love this world’s life more than the hereafter, and because Allah does not guide the unbelieving people.”

“These are they on whose hearts and their hearing and their eyes Allah has set a seal, and these are the heedless ones.”

“No doubt that in the hereafter they will be the losers.” 16:106-109

The above verses clearly inform that the consequences of not agreeing to the law of Allah is deprivation of the benefits that are acquired as a result of following the divine guidance in our lives, and the wrath of Allah is incurred upon those who disbelieve.

The Qur’an proclaims that man has the freedom of choice to accept or reject the permanent values of God. He CANNOT be forced to accept those values, but has the free will to accept them, as the following verse informs:

“There is no compulsion in ‘Deen’ (way of life according to laws of Allah); truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the rebel and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.” 2:256

With the straight path of God having being made distinct, the consequences of not accepting the way of life prescribed by Allah are also identified:

“And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.” 3:85

In case of apostasy, i.e. a situation in which a person believes, and after believing disbelieves in the message of Allah, the consequences of such a state are also made evident to us in the Qur’an:

“How shall Allah guide a people who disbelieved after their believing and (after) they had borne witness that the Messenger was true and clear arguments had come to them; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.” 3:86

For such (apostates) the penalty is the curse of Allah, i.e. deprivation of the benefits that result from following the guidance of Allah:

“(As for) these, their reward is that upon them is the curse of Allah and the angels and of men, all together. Abiding in it; their chastisement shall not be lightened nor shall they be respited.” 3:87-88

But as the Qur’an identifies the consequences of apostasy, it also confirms that there is room forgiveness and the deserters of faith do not qualify for capital punishment at the hands of Muslims. The following verse identifies this aspect:

“Except those who repent after that and amend, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 3:89

Had the punishment for apostasy been prescribed as death then the above verse would not have accommodated the room for amending one’s conduct and repentance, but with the inclusion of a condition of repentance and reform, the Qur’an confirms that worldly punishment for apostates is not death. The following verse is even more clear regarding this aspect:

“Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path.” 4:137

Upon analysis we can clearly see that the above verse establishes that a person does not get the death penalty for apostasy, as it identifies stages where a person believes, then disbelieves, then again believes and after that again disbelieves. Now if we were to assume that the stipulating death were existing, then the verse refutes it clearly, as has identified stages of belief, rejection, then again of belief and of subsequent rejection, as a person who after believing in Islam rejects it would then be qualified for the death penalty at the first instance, and would not have the opportunity to believe one more time again after disbelieving. But as the above verse identifies a state of belief after one has become an apostate, it clearly shows that he has not committed a capital offense.

The above verse is abundantly clear in describing that there is room for a person who out of any reason has turned his back on Islam, to amend his conduct and revert to the guidance of God and rules out the idea that apostates should be put to death.

We Are Free To Choose Our beliefs. We Will Know On The Day of Judgement About The Truth Of Our Choice.

We have seen that the Quran cites freedom of belief for man. We have the free will to choose whatever we believe to be right for ourselves, and no human has the right to stop us by force or compulsion from choosing, professing or observing our faith. But as we have freedom of choice, so shall we be held accountable for our choices. We see that in all times and eras messengers of God and their adherents were compelled to disown their beliefs and rejectors used force and threats against them. On the issue of apostasy, though the act is abhorred in the Qur’an and stated that apostates from Islam will be requited in the hereafter by God himself, believers are not allowed by the Qur’an to compel apostates in any way from their choice. Similarly we see evidence in Qur’an that an apostate has opportunities for repentance even after his denouncing of faith, thereby proving that he is not to be put to death.

Those who use force or oppression to spread their beliefs, or who compel people and do not give them the liberty of changing their belief are identified as rejectors of Allah and not as Muslims. We also see that those who are turned away from the straight path pose no threat to the believers, provided the believers are steadfast on the law of God, therefore apostates do not pose a threat to Islam or Muslims:

“O you who believe! take care of your souls; he who errs cannot hurt you when you are on the right way; to Allah is your return, of all (of you), so He will inform you of what you did.” 5:105

Islam is not to be spread at the point of the sword. The Qur’an is full of rejoinders to this effect. A Muslims duty is to propagate the message of the Qur’an to the best of his or her ability and in propagating that message there is to be no use of force, as the following verse identifies:

“We know best what they say, and you are not one to compel them; therefore remind him by means of the Quran who fears My promise.” 50:45

To spread the message of Qur’an by wisdom and reason and not by force – this is the true practice of the Prophet that every Muslim must emulate.

 

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Social Media: Use it, Don’t Abuse it!


How Islamic marketers can harness the potential of social media without causing offence?

Paper presented at 8th Global Islamic Marketing Conference, Alanya Turkey May 2, 2017

THE SOCIAL REVOLUTION

It would be no exaggeration to say that nowadays many of us spend a significant amount of time every day staring at a small-lit screen on our smartphones. Apart from revealing our anxieties to us, this also tells us that we are in the middle of a social media revolution. The addictive nature of this medium implies that people are really stuck to it, and this poses great opportunities that marketers are ever ready to exploit.

Social media networking is a more recent phenomenon. Just go back a few years and marketing was a different ball game altogether. In those days, say for example, if a small cause related outfit aspired to promote their cause in front of an audience of millions, it would have to do a lot of hard work and require substantial amounts of money.

Imagine that you have a cause close to your heart that you wish to share with others and you are looking for an audience in a city that you intend to visit. To get your message across to the residents of that city you would require physical travel, booking of venue, spending money on print or electronic advertising, payments for billboards, and hoardings for announcing your presence. You would labor hard to woo the local press and do much more. All this would requires mega amount of funds, and energy which individuals, inspired by a charitable cause, often do not have at their disposal.

But that was then, and this is now. Gone are the days when billions would be needed to reach out to people, even across international borders. Now connection with millions of people is merely a few clicks away.

THE FEATURES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

With the social media revolution, a level playing field has been created, and in-roads are being made by smaller organizations that are in-tune with its power. With meaningful messages and a very small investment of time, Islamic marketers can make themselves heard and be responded to by millions across the globe. Social media allows those striving for Muslim causes to not only engage with, but also considerably influence a relevant audience, all with a small handheld device! Harnessed properly, it has the potential to capture hearts and minds. A global phenomenon, with billions of people on it, the absence of any cause-related organization or individual from social media networking will result in oblivion from the public eye. Some prominent features of social media networking include:

  1. Interactivity

Interactivity is at the center of social networking sites. It enables ongoing dialogue rather than monologue and facilitates interaction between users by actively involving them.

  1. Community-led

Social media networking is communal. It allows a number of individuals to be connected virtually, radically diminishing the constraints of time and space and allowing the formation of a community centered on common interests. Thus families, friends, work colleagues, fans, customers all form their own communities engaging in conversations that flow around their connections.

  1. Relatively low cost

In comparison to other traditional forms of marketing, social media provides a relatively low-cost solution to engage with customers in different parts of the world. For organizations that do not boast large budgets, social media is an ideal choice for customer outreach and interaction.

  1. Free speech

Social media is a relatively democratic medium, which facilitates freedom of expression. Initially there was little or no censorship, however legislation is increasingly tightening its grip on social networks regarding what gets posted online. But as it is a network of individuals communicating in real time, who say whatever it is they wish to say, freedom of expression is not that easily curtailed using this medium.

  1. Influential

In recent times social media networking sites facilitated a number of political movements. Through this medium, leaders are able to influence and goad people to action. The Arab spring, the Turkish Military coup and the US elections are prime examples in which social networking sites played a key role in moving people to take action.

  1. Global

According to recent reports, nearly one third of the world’s population or about 2.34 billion people regularly use social media. As of the fourth quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.86 billion monthly active users. Getting on social media truly means going global and marketing across borders.

  1. Addictive

Social networks are habit forming and massively addictive. People spend a lot of time online often to the detriment of other day-to-day tasks. Social media has the propensity to disrupt lives of users. Sites create content that is meant to draw users and advertisers in turn profit from people’s vulnerabilities. Its appeal to emotion and functionality to share information at a deeply personal level draws people to social networking and makes it addictive.

  1. Immediacy

Why wait long on the phone for customer service representative to shuffle you back and forth to another colleague or pay for the ordeal when you can simply tweet your query and get a quick response. Immediacy is one of social media’s greatest features as it allows things to get done quickly.

 TACKLING SOCIAL MEDIA ABUSE

While social media has given an opportunity to smaller organizations and individuals to reach out to massive audiences, it has also attracted unscrupulous elements that exploit its potential for their vested interests. There are many forms of abusive behavior that one encounters online. Prominent of them are:

  1. Online Deceit

It is commonplace to discover fake news, fake social networking accounts and fake followers. There is also identity theft and fraud. Increasingly social networking sites are being used to defraud and lie to people. In contrast to such behavior Muslims marketers are to be honest and truthful in their presentation for such is exhorted to, tremendously in Islam’s holy text, the Qur’an.

“…and speak words of appropriate justice.” (33:70)

“..and avoid false statement.” (22:30)

“So he (the devil) made them fall, through deception…” (7:22)

Acting on these commandments, it is unlawful for a Muslim marketer to engage in any form of deceptive practices using social media networking sites or otherwise.

  1. Plagiarism

Increasingly texts and images are plagiarized from websites and blogs and styled as one’s own creation without giving due credit to the original creator. The online world is rife with copyright violations and plagiarism, especially when committed by individuals who are in jurisdictions where laws do not exist to tackle this theft. Creators spend much time and energy to create intellectual property only to discover later on that someone has stolen their ideas and is now styling it as his own! In contrast the Qur’an counters the problem of stealing other people’s creation when it receives a pledge from believers about not stealing:

“O Prophet, when the believing women come to you pledging to you that they will not associate anything with Allah , nor will they steal..” (60:12)

  1. Hate Speech

One frequently encounters online harassment in the form of cyber bullying and abusive commentary when perusing the likes of micro blogging platforms like Twitter. Also common are incidents of racist, misogynous, defamatory and hateful commentaries online. The Qur’an forbids such when it instructs Muslims against using offensive names:

“..nor insult one another by nicknames. Bad is the name of lewdness after faith” (49:11)

Defamation and slander are clearly forbidden in the divine text:

“Woe to every (kind of) scandal-monger and-backbiter.” (104:1)

“..neither defame one another..” (49:11)

Hate speech is curtailed by instructing that people should speak good words to each other and not words that sow seeds of dissent:

“And tell My servants to say that which is best. Indeed, Satan induces [dissension] among them. Indeed Satan is ever, to mankind, a clear enemy.” (17:53)

  1. Bombardment with unsolicited messages

Many marketers shoot themselves in the foot when they resort to spamming i.e. by repeatedly sending unsolicited messages to users of social networking sites. In contrast, the Qur’an commands Muslims to respect peoples right to privacy and not to enter their space without permission.

“And if you do not find anyone therein, do not enter them until permission has been given you. And if it is said to you, “Go back,” then go back; it is purer for you. And Allah is Knowing of what you do.” (24:28)

Legislation is now increasingly being implemented to counter the misuse of social media, but for Muslims, divine guidance is the check on behavior, which is far more important than worldly legislation. To be embraced willingly rather than being enforced by an external authority, there is plethora of guidance in Islam’s holy text, the Qur’an on acceptable behaviors. Such Qur’anic guidelines relate with social media marketing behaviors and inform Muslim marketers about the parameters within which they are to operate.

A STRATEGIC APPROACH TO SOCIAL MEDIA

As with other marketing media, Muslim marketers should not have a reactionary approach with social media but a planned one. A strategy that identifies organizational capabilities and matches them with market opportunities should be developed, which should then be operationalized.

  1. Research the customer

Muslim marketers should investigate who their target audience is, what are their needs and demographics, the devices they use and the networking sites they subscribe and tailor their content around all of these factors.

  1. Your content should add value

Social media content should not be posted for its own sake but it should add value for the users. It should give some sort of a solution to a problem such that the social media account is seen as a useful tool and resource by the user that helps him or her in daily life.

  1. Use visuals

Images tell more of a story than just text. Communicate visually with your customers by adding good-looking images, and visuals. Images process quickly and people are drawn to them. This way your social media content becomes more responsive than simply posting dry text.

  1. Embrace Diversity

Social media transcends countries and cultures. Islamic marketers should incorporate cultural diversity in their content so that it relates to everyone who is connected with them.

  1. Tell stories

It is vital to avoid technical jargon, complex numbers, facts, figures and statistics that strain the mind. Instead simple yet captivating stories around products and services should be narrated. People have a short attention span on social media and aren’t always geared for straining the minds with complexities but relate more to stories and narratives than numbers and formulae.

  1. Facilitate Sales

Muslim marketers should not have a social media presence to showcase their products and services but it should also facilitate the actual purchase process. They should not hesitate to ask for the sale and give calls to action to the users and the guidance required for making a transaction.

  1. Use video and Audio

Previously videos were the sole domain of video-blogging sites like YouTube, but now almost all social media networks have video featured on them. A more recent phenomenon is the live video feature. Along with text and images, video and audio leave a more lasting impression on customers.

 

  1. Improve Continuously

Social media is a dynamic medium that evolves continuously. Social networking sites keep adding new features. This requires Islamic marketers to keep abreast with the changes and continuously strive to improve their social media presence for their users.

 

CONCLUSION

Social media offers an amazing opportunity to Islamic marketers to connect directly with their customers, engage in real-time conversations, and vitally to hear the perspective of the customer about their organization and its environment. It is vital that Muslims embrace social media marketing with a strong customer focus and a sound marketing strategy. However, while social media brings tremendous and exciting opportunities for Islamic promoters, there are also challenges that the improper or uninformed use of this media poses to their cause. It is expedient that their marketing methodology be informed by God’s guidance and they must ensure that while developing and implementing a social media presence, no divine injunction is violated. Only with such an approach will they qualify as Islamic marketers.

 

REFERENCES

Al-Qur’an: Electronic Mos’haf Project http://quran.ksu.edu.sa

“Nearly One-Third of the World Will Use Social Networks” (E-Marketer, June 30 2016) https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Nearly-One-Third-of-World-Will-Use-Social-Networks-Regularly-This-Year/1014157

Statista: “Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 4th quarter 2016 https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/

“Tackling Nasty Trolls isnt Censorship its Common Sense” (Telegraph, June 25 2016) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/25/tackling-nasty-trolls-isnt-censorship-its-common-sense/

 

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Shopping Mania


THE reason why many of us do not wish to face reality is because it is painful. Reality hurts. It sheds light on areas which we want to keep in the dark.

Like the child who cries and screams because he cannot have his way is offered ice cream to calm him down, we adults too seek objects to soothe our pain. A sweet treat to distract us from the bitterness that is reality.

There used to be alcoholics, but thanks to the more recent emergence of ‘in your face’ capitalism, they have been sent to the back benches by the shopaholics. Their kind gets an inexplicable high by stuffing shopping carts mindlessly. With a condition unique to the wealthier class, they fall prey to the cunning of businessmen who fully exploit their surplus wealth and lack of self-control.


Islam calls for a balanced and moderate approach to consumption.


Lured to mega shopping malls by advertising, they return home with stuffed plastic bags, laughingly dismissing their excess as ‘retail therapy’. But little do they realise that such sugar-coating deludes them. ‘Buy one get one free’, ‘special offers’ and ‘seasonal discounts’ are the baits that lure shopaholics to harm themselves. But we must understand that their behaviour does more than bring harm just to their own person, for their compulsion panders not only to their innate desires and insecurities, it also correspondingly brings misery upon their near and dear ones and the environment at large.

What started off as an occasional misdemeanour slowly transforms into a habitual offence, and a fully mature addiction with special thanks to gigantic stores, credit cards and 24/7 advertising. The creed of capitalism contains no compassion, for its policy is to take no prisoners. There is only one interest that it pursues, and that is profit. It influences us to buy, shop, and hoard aimlessly, paying little attention to the utility and genuine need of things and the side effects of such compulsive behaviour.

Excessive shopping adds to clutter in the home, a strain on our finances, and a usurping of time that could be spent with family and friends. By shopping recklessly and impulsively, we clutter our lives with unnecessary items that add little value to our practical existence and merely occupy space and take up our time. The availability of easy credit makes us overlook the ramifications of impulsive spending and makes us fall headlong into the debt trap.

We need to free up our time and space by reducing our possessions, and make it a rule to buy only that which is necessary. Shopping should be a moderate affair. If it is developing into a serious compulsive habit, then it is time to step on the brakes and take action. Reduce, recycle, reuse should be our daily mantra.

Let us switch off this never-ending soap opera of commercialism for a moment and hearken to the call of Islam for a balanced and moderate approach to consumption. Take some time out to reflect on the Quran and you will discover its exhortations to manage your finances astutely, remain within the budget, save for a rainy day, and check impulsive spending. According to the Holy Book, consuming for the sake of consumption alone is a trait of kufr (disbelief): “…Those who reject Allah will enjoy (this world) and eat as cattle eat…” (47:12). Spendthrifts are not in good company, we are clearly warned: “Verily spendthrifts are brothers of the Evil Ones; and the Evil One is to his Lord (himself) ungrateful” (17:27)

That moderation should be the rule in the spending behaviour of a believer is the glaring rejoinder: “Make not thy hand tied (like a niggard’s) to thy neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach, so that thou become blameworthy and destitute” (17:29).

Moreover, surplus wealth is not meant to be blown away on frivolities but to be shared with those less fortunate: “….They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: “What is beyond your needs” (2:219).

Alms are mandatory and excessive spending is to be curtailed to meet the ideal that wealth: “…may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you…” (59:7)

The addiction of shopping brings temporary happiness, which is short-lived and attached to sadness. If owning material possessions attained happiness, the rich would have always lived very happy lives. But this is definitely not the case. Like others, the rich have their fair share of sorrows. So the formula for happiness definitely lies somewhere else. The discipline of Islam provides a moderate approach to consumption. When followed it results in happiness, harmony and balance.

First published in DAWN dated 21 April 2017

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Man or Beast?


ARE we human or are we simply a species of animals? This question has perplexed many thinkers.

After all, are we not simply glorified animals, some proclaim? Do we not tend to do the same things that animals do? We go to work, earn money to buy food; animals also hunt or gather food. We eat and drink and so do animals. We sleep; animals also need rest. We live in homes or apartments; animals also have their caves and nests. We get married and raise children; animals also breed.

Animals live in packs or herds or flocks; we humans also tend to live with our own kind.

Animals fight other animals; we have been fighting each other since time immemorial. Animals mark territories, and we, as nations also draw our boundaries. So are we really different from animals?

To live a life beyond animal nature, we need guidance.
Depending on one’s worldview, we actually are. We possess what animals do not, and that is free will. Animals do not have a choice; they simply follow what they are designed to do. And because they simply follow their instincts, they are not held accountable for their actions. One has never come across a cow that was sued because it grazed from a pasture that was not its own. You never hear about a monkey getting arrested and jailed because it stole bananas.

No, we never hear about such things. But we do hear about people getting caught for devouring property that did not belong to them. So essentially, this is the difference between man and beast. We humans have free will, due to which we are responsible for our actions.

And because of responsibility there comes accountability. We have a choice to do or not to do something. We can either work hard to make a living or we can take away somebody else’s property by force or deception. Animals, on the other hand, do not have a choice. When they are hungry, they simply take a bite.

Because we have a choice, we need guidance. We need to know the rules. We need to know right from wrong. If we do not observe right and wrong in life, we will behave as animals and create a chaotic society.

The law of the jungle will prevail. Brute force and ‘might is right’ will become the order of the day. To rise to a human level, to live a life beyond animal nature, we require guidance.

We need to know the moral values that are universal, which have the benefit for all of our fellow human beings and which do not lean towards the selfish interest of a select few. We need to know morality which is absolute and permanent and which transcends time and space. Because humans are temporal beings, it is not within them to give such instructions. Only an intelligent guide who is not fixed in time and geographic location can give such guidance. There is only one being like that, and that is God.

Thus it is the Creator’s guidance that we need. The manufacturer is best suited to issue instructions on a machine. As it is the manufacturer who designed the machine, therefore, he is best qualified to inform us how to operate it without malfunction. So we humans need a manufacturer’s guide for living life peacefully.

We have such guidance from the Creator in the form of the Quran; its rules — if followed — keep a check on emotional recklessness. When people follow their impetuous passions, this leads them to declare: ‘my country right or wrong’. In contrast, the Quran cautions: “…And let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. …” (5:8).

Excessive greed goads people to a selfish and hedonistic lifestyle; on the other hand, the Quran gives the ideal: “… It [surplus wealth] may not (merely) make a circuit between the wealthy among you. …” (59:7).

Carnal temptations blur the line between the licit and the illicit, but consult revelation and you find that it proclaims: “Prohibited to you (for marriage) are your mothers, daughters, sisters; father’s sisters, mother’s sisters; brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters. …” (4:23).

Thus by following Quranic guidance, we become fully human and live a life above animal level. But by choosing to ignore divine guidance, people operate “…Like cattle — nay more misguided: for they are heedless (of warning)” (7:179).

Revelation is what keeps a check on our passions, gives rules for peaceful living, and provides the parameters for a just and balanced society. It gives values, which have the benefit for all mankind and not a select few. God’s guidance is available on earth. It is our prerogative to consult it and to abide by it and develop our true human potential.

Published in DAWN 18 November, 2016

Related Audio Talk on Soundcloud Man or Beast?

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A New Life


They come from far and wide. On every means of transport available. By land, air or sea. Some do not even mind going all the way on foot. Young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, black or white, from all categorisations of humanity possible, we find them there. It is a journey for which life’s savings are devoted, for which aspirations are dedicated, and for which supplications are made from one’s heart and soul. But what kind of an event is this for which no advertising budgets are apportioned, yet millions are drawn to it every year? No one is goaded yet the airplanes and the hotels are all full? No material gain is obtained by it, yet people save all their life to spend on the journey? There is no scenery, no entertainment, and no amusement, yet the crowds keep coming. It is a journey involving physical, material and emotional hardship, yet the numbers keep on increasing year by year. What charm is there in dressing up in two sheets of white, in exposing oneself to the hardships of travel, and in facing the dangers of illness, disease, stampedes and even death? The talbiyyah says it all. “Labaik Allahuma Labaik” (I am here O Allah, I am here.) “Labaik Laa Shareeka laka Labaik.” (I am here, no partner do thou have.) “Inna al hamda Wal Naimata laka wal mulk” (Indeed all praise and all bounty and sovereignty belong to thee.) “Laa shareeka lak” (No partner dost thou have.)

This mantra which is on the lips of every pilgrim gives us the essence of the Hajj. That servitude is due to Allah and Him alone and that we hearken His call. That in His worship, we associate no one else. That for Him, we need to make serious efforts in life. That entire praise and sovereignty belong to Him and no one else. The Hajj is a living commentary of the Quranic verse: Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.” (Al Anaam 6:162)

Thus it is this strong belief, which is the powerful driving force for the Hajj. Belief in Allah and His Messenger, an aspiration to have a connection with the Creator and to realise the true purpose of life. It is a journey for which even the preparation is itself an act of Ibadah, yet this is an aspect taken lightly and neglected by many. The intending pilgrims also depend on the assurances of tour operators many of whom have a reputation to disappear in the heat of the action leaving pilgrims stranded with no choice but to tend to themselves. Millions congregating at a unique point and their successive movement is no ordinary feat but one that poses great environmental challenges. The Hajj is a true Jihad, for it takes us out of our comfort zones for the sake of Allah, and teaches us to take on hardships and sufferings entirely for Him. Many can pay lip service, but few take practical action, and it is actions that speak louder than words. The Hajj is an action, it is not a comfortable sermon, but a practical hardship that resonates with the seriousness we have for our faith. The Hajj is a test, for at each and every juncture, we are tested for the development of our patience, our tolerance, our religious knowledge and its application. The Hajj is an antidote to the inflated ego. You leave behind your best dress, your hairstyle will need to go after shaving the head, the riches and comforts that you are used to will not be there for you. You will need to sleep with nothing but the earth below you and above you only skies. You will need to mingle and cooperate with people all all hues and not your preferred one’s only – all this will humble you and annihilate your ego tremendously. Thus the Hajj is about submissiveness to Allah and abandoning haughtiness. The Hajj is an admonishment. The pains and sufferings are also at times a wake up call to the erring that something is not right and reformative action needs to be taken.

There are strong parallels between Hajj and death. The Qur’an repeatedly calls death as a meeting with God, while the Kabah is the House of God. The Hajj therefore is a death and meeting with God and the return from the journey as a Hajji, a spiritual rebirth.

Just like life is a constant struggle and its end has paradise for the righteous, the hardships of Hajj are a trial for us, and its culmination takes us to a new pleasant phase in our life. After the Hajj the believer is no longer anxious and worried about the pettiness of life, but becomes calm and serene having surrendered himself fully to Allah.

First Published in DAWN on 9-9-2016

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Climate Change


Human greed and unabashed materialism has begat a monster, which is ready to devour us. Excessive pollution from consuming fossil fuels is disturbing the balance of our ecosystem and threatening to destroy life on the planet.

The spectre of climate change looms upon us but nobody seems to notice. Switch on to prime time TV in Pakistan and there is hardly a mention about it. Those on the pulpit debate vociferously about trivial matters but this fire which is ravaging to engulf saints and sinners alike is hardly a cause of concern for them. Rulers plan economic growth but do not say what use it will be when the planet is no more. Businessmen ignore the environment, seeking interim profit failing to realise that our actions are like boomerangs. They eventually come back to haunt us one day.

Global warming should be taken very seriously. It is a very real danger that threatens our existence. For the sorry state of the planet no one but we, ourselves are to blame. Each one of us individually for if we do not fall in the category of mass producers responsible for carbon emissions that harm the Earth’s ozone layer we definitely are among the mass consumers who drive such mindless economics.

Many of us also fail to realise that looking after the environment is equally the remit of those who believe in God. Polluting the air, poisoning the rivers, cutting off trees, destroying flora and fauna will not only have repercussions in this world but such will also have an impact on the afterlife of the perpetrators. The Quranic description: “When he turns his back, His aim everywhere is to spread mischief (Arabic: Yufsida) through the earth and destroy crops and cattle. But Allah loveth not mischief (Arabic: Fasaad).” (2:205) warns that destroying the environment is an act of “Fasaad” (disorder, mischief) and is disapproved by God.

Going against the divine edict to reduce waste: .. waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (7:31) we over procure, over consume and waste profusely.

In contrast to the injunction “…Allah…loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (2:222) our towns have a reputation for garbage littered streets and over flowing sewages. Not to mention the havoc created during Eid ul Azha, when the gory mess left on the streets is actually a blatant rebellion of Quranic injunctions to cleanliness.

Who will forget the choking suffocation caused to the elderly and those with respiratory disorders by the smoke enveloping the entire neighbourhood when some residents set fire to their rubbish? Or the agony caused by loud music during a celebration in the middle of the night? Or that of a preacher’s unsolicited sermon from a loudspeaker? It appears that the divine imperative “And do good to…neighbours who are near, neighbours who are strangers..” (4:36) has fallen on deaf ears.

The water we are supplied is unclean, the air we breathe is polluted, the food we eat is adulterated, the sounds we hear are agonizing. Parks and green spaces are disappearing. Shopping has become a weekly ritual for shopaholics seen stuffing groceries in plastic bags rushing to and fro from supermarkets, causing excruciating traffic jams and nervous breakdowns with their mad rush.

Take a look at our society, when it comes to managing the environment at a personal level let us admit unashamedly, we totally fail. We defy the rule revealed in the divine writ: “In order that ye may not transgress (due) balance.” (55:8) with our imbalances while shamelessly flaunting our empty religiosity at every juncture.

This is our life in which we are ever ready to worship materialism. What is it that we have but a mere empty claim to piety and godliness. We need to be educated about green living and how it impacts our future for without having a proper understanding we cannot take action. We need to make incremental changes in our everyday life. Actions like a personal target of planting trees, keeping possessions to the minimum, recycling materials at home and work, reduction of waste, and keeping the environment clean on a regular basis need to be a priority. A commitment to walking for errands instead of driving, opening up windows to make best use of natural sunlight during the day instead of using electricity, and lot more can be easily be done and should be done. Standards and procedures for sustainability at home or work need to be written down and put into action.

Study the Quran and you will discover that care for the environment and welfare of all living beings is a quintessential part of an Islamic lifestyle. Where prayer, fasting and pilgrimage are an Islamic obligation then so are frugal living and an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle.

Published in DAWN

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Believers: Genuine vs Fake


Inept border control procedures and a lenient attitude of rulers towards rogue traders means that our marketplaces are flooded with counterfeit goods. It has become very common to find bags, watches, eyewear, clothing, and all sorts of products having marks and labels of famous brands but which are in fact complete fakes. The popularity of a brand implies that a fake using its name can also be slipped in undetected. Just like rogue traders are having a heyday cashing in on corporate fame and the simplicity of consumers, the situation is not much different when it comes to matters of faith. Alongside genuine teachers there are also pretenders who exploit the faithful. But a failure to distinguish the genuineness and authenticity of the religious teaching one is led towards can have far more drastic consequences than perhaps the discomfort of using counterfeit fashion accessories.

For the total devotion demanded by faith implies that loss of family, friends, health, and wealth can result. Even one’s very life is at stake if one has not got the criterion to ascertain religious authenticity. The possession of such a criterion, one that filters truth from falsehood, right from wrong, the canonical from the apocryphal, is therefore the key to one’s well being.

This beacon which safeguards us from hazards posed by charlatans is none other but the Quran. An attribute of the Quran is “al-Furqan” or “The Criterion between right and wrong”. Where it narrates goodness, it also cautions about badness in all its forms. The archetypes it presents are ahistorical and can be related to any time or era. For that is why it is a guidance.

Numerous type of personalities are mentioned in the Quran that incur God’s displeasure. Some are outright rejecters, some believe in God while associating partners with him. There is one particular category of the disapproved kind which is not easily detectable to the untrained eye because it styles itself as staunch believers in God and claim that its deeds are in the very name of God. The Quran cautions:

وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ ءَامَنَّا بِٱللَّهِ وَبِٱلْيَوْمِ ٱلْءَاخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

“And of the people are some who say, “We believe in Allah and the Last Day,” but they are not believers.” 2:7

Notice that they proclaim to be believers but Allah says they are not believers! This is so because:

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا۟ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

“And when it is said to them, “Do not cause corruption (Arabic: Fasaad) on the earth,” they say, “We are but reformers.” 2:11

One’s claim to “Imaan” (belief in Allah) is immediately dismissed if he resorts to “fasaad” (disorder in the land, damage to life and property) as a pretext of “Islah” (Reform, correction). These verses bring to light that the identity of a believer is not the label he carries but his character. Also clear is the fact that violence was never ordained by God as a method of societal reform.

The Quran also cautions about that kind of a preacher who frequently uses the name of Allah in his speeches:

وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَن يُعْجِبُكَ قَوْلُهُۥ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَيُشْهِدُ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا فِى قَلْبِهِۦ وَهُوَ أَلَدُّ ٱلْخِصَامِ

“And of the people is he whose speech pleases you in worldly life, and he calls Allah to witness as to what is in his heart, yet he is the fiercest of opponents.” 2:204

One may ask what is wrong in citing Allah’s name in speech? The next verse gives the answer:

وَإِذَا تَوَلَّىٰ سَعَىٰ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ لِيُفْسِدَ فِيهَا وَيُهْلِكَ ٱلْحَرْثَ وَٱلنَّسْلَ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْفَسَادَ

“And when he goes away, he strives throughout the land to cause corruption (Arabic: Fasaad) therein and destroy crops and animals. And Allah does not like corruption.” 2:205

So merely using the name of Allah to endorse a speech or merely labelling one’s self as Islamic or merely doing things in the name of Islam does not establish one’s bonafide. It is by virtue of behaviour and not labels that one is to be distinguished. When those who call for reforming society resort to violent means then they are not genuine believers in God but fakes.

If one possesses the peaceful behaviour of a believer as narrated by God in His Book, then and only then does he fit the label. But sadly we see that today the words Islam and Muslim are used carelessly as an appendage to individuals committing even the vilest of deeds. The Quran makes it amply clear that every claim in the name of God is not from God. Every deed meted out in the name of righteousness is not righteous.

We owe it to our well being that we do not take each and everything that is hurled towards us in the name of God to be actually coming from God but to take guidance from the Quran by ourselves and see the type of behaviour it has endorsed and the type that it has resented.

First published in Daily DAWN, dated 12 February, 2016

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Is Apostasy a Cognizable Offense in the Qur’an?


Apostasy is the formal disaffiliation, or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy is an apostate. The Qur’an mentions that deserting the true religion of God is a sin, but it does not stipulate a worldly punishment for this act. There is no imperative given to believers to punish those who are guilty of apostasy and it is for God to judge the individual. The Qur’an goes much further when we study it, and not only is there no imperative issued to believers to take punitive action against apostates, but we also find clear-cut evidence that capital punishment is not possible for this sin. Following is proof to this effect:

(1) Qur’an shows that a person cannot be killed because of apostasy because Allah has given the individual an opportunity to repent and become a believer again.

إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ثُمَّ كَفَرُوا۟ ثُمَّ ءَامَنُوا۟ ثُمَّ كَفَرُوا۟ ثُمَّ ٱزْدَادُوا۟ كُفْرًا لَّمْ يَكُنِ ٱللَّهُ لِيَغْفِرَ لَهُمْ وَلَا لِيَهْدِيَهُمْ سَبِيلًۢا

“Surely (as for) those WHO BELIEVE THEN DISBELIEVE, AGAIN BELIEVE AND AGAIN DISBELIEVE, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path.” 4.137

If for apostasy capital punishment were prescribed, then the above verse would not have mentioned the states of believing in Islam, then leaving it, then AGAIN believing in it, as after disbelieving in the first instance, the culprit would have incurred the punishment, but as we see there is room for repentance, it is clear in showing that in Islam, apostates are not to be killed.

(2) In 3:86-89 apostates are reminded that if they return to the true religion they will be forgiven. If capital punishment were invoked, then how will the apostates be able to return to the true religion and gain forgiveness for their past actions?

كَيْفَ يَهْدِى ٱللَّهُ قَوْمًا كَفَرُوا۟ بَعْدَ إِيمَٰنِهِمْ وَشَهِدُوٓا۟ أَنَّ ٱلرَّسُولَ حَقٌّ وَجَآءَهُمُ ٱلْبَيِّنَٰتُ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ لَا يَهْدِى ٱلْقَوْمَ ٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ

“How will God guide a people who disbelieved after having believed, and had witnessed that the Messenger is true, and the clear proofs had come to them? God does not guide the unjust people.”3:86

أُو۟لَٰٓئِكَ جَزَآؤُهُمْ أَنَّ عَلَيْهِمْ لَعْنَةَ ٱللَّهِ وَٱلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةِ وَٱلنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ

“Those-their penalty is that upon them falls the curse of God, and of the angels, and of all mankind.” 3:87

خَٰلِدِينَ فِيهَا لَا يُخَفَّفُ عَنْهُمُ ٱلْعَذَابُ وَلَا هُمْ يُنظَرُونَ

“Remaining in it eternally, without their punishment being eased from them, and without being reprieved.” 3:88

إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ تَابُوا۟ مِنۢ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ وَأَصْلَحُوا۟ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“Except those who repent afterwards, and reform; for God is Forgiving and Merciful.” 3:89

“Except those WHO REPENT AFTER THAT AND AMEND, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” 3.89

This is clear evidence that they are not to be condemned to death, as otherwise it is meaningless to say that their repentance will be accepted and have a chance to amend.

(3) The Prophet (p) of Islam was ordered not to compel people to join the religion.

The Prophet (p) of Islam is commanded in numerous verses that he is not to use force to win converts:

لَوْ شَآءَ رَبُّكَ لَءَامَنَ مَن فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ كُلُّهُمْ جَمِيعًا ۚ أَفَأَنتَ تُكْرِهُ ٱلنَّاسَ حَتَّىٰ يَكُونُوا۟ مُؤْمِنِينَ

“And if your Sustainer had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; WILL YOU (O MUHAMMED) THEN FORCE MEN TILL THEY BECOME BELIEVERS?” 10.99

As the Prophet (p) followed and practised the Qur’an all his life, he never did such a thing. Forcing people to remain in one’s own belief system (religious or non religious) and killing of apostates means compelling people to be believers.

(4) Threatening to kill apostates is a trait of unbelievers, and not believers, hence law of rejectors of Islam does not become an Islamic law.

Qur’an shows that killing those who desert your beliefs is the behaviour of those who reject God, and not of Muslims and true believers in God. About a tyrant, it is said:

قَالَ ءَامَنتُمْ لَهُۥ قَبْلَ أَنْ ءَاذَنَ لَكُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُۥ لَكَبِيرُكُمُ ٱلَّذِى عَلَّمَكُمُ ٱلسِّحْرَ فَلَسَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ ۚ لَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُم مِّنْ خِلَٰفٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ

“Said he: You believe in him BEFORE I GIVE YOU PERMISSION; most surely he is the chief of you who taught you the magic, so you shall know: CERTAINLY I WILL CUT OFF YOUR HANDS AND YOUR FEET ON OPPOSITE SIDES, AND CERTAINLY I WILL CRUCIFY YOU ALL.” 26.49

As it is a behaviour trait of rejectors of Islam, it is inconceivable to think that death for apostates will be an Islamic law itself.

Conclusion

Thus when we study the Qur’an it becomes clear that every individual is free to believe or disbelieve as per his wish and believers are not under any obligation by any Quranic injunction to compel anyone to remain within Islam. Islam is to be accepted by one’s free will and not through coercion.

Further Reading

Islam and Religious Freedom

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Cults


Gold is precious. Because it is precious, people seek it. They will pay a price for it and are eager to have it as a possession. Because it is precious, sought after and always has a clientele, fraudsters are also drawn to it. They know full well that if they can deceptively sell worthless things disguised as gold, then they can make a lot of money.

Like gold, religion too has popular charm and appeal. Its popularity enables a global following. People seek solace in it, and approach it to find answers to life’s most pressing matters. Entire life’s savings are dedicated for its pilgrimages. Its symbols adorn people’s homes, who go to great lengths to experience the sacred. It is because of this charm that religion also draws the attention of vested interests.

While there are genuine religious guides who offer a transparent exposition of faith and are regarded accordingly in the mainstream, there are also individuals outside the mainstream that take an unfair advantage of the popular appeal of faith and operate mind controlling cults. The phenomenon of cults exists largely in most religions and has been the subject of much academic research in the West.

However in our society, though cults exist profusely given the conducive environment for their formation, little is documented about their salient features.

When time and again we hear stories of how a self styled faith healer exploited the vulnerable or when we hear about youth lured into groups involved in acts of terrorism, what we are witnessing then, is cult phenomenon.

In a society like ours, where laws exists but law enforcement is non existent, the environment is ripe for such wolves in sheep’s clothing to not only mushroom but to thrive and prosper. Cults come in a wide variety and have varying objectives. Some are militant organisations but there are also non violent groups. Some religious but others overtly secular. Irrespective of their varying types, all cults have a common strand that distinguishes them.

Cults operate with hidden agendas. They approach potential recruits in the name of righteousness, but deliberately conceal their inner core on their initial interaction.

A harmless ‘Dars’ at the home of an acquaintance could in fact be an exercise in cult recruitment. Those who do not possess religious literacy – as is the case with most – may attend the lecture and think that the preaching encountered is from God’s Book and emanates from God. But the Qur’an itself fore warns us that everything preached in God’s name is not necessarily coming from God: “There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, “That is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it!” (3:78)

Cult leaders come not only in a pious garb but also with a dramatic stage persona. They enthral audiences, and deliver a performance, which once over, obliges them to return to their real selves albeit back stage. Unknown to many, they have their hawks in the audience who keep a watchful eye on all, and who will alert the leader to stage an exit when things are not in his favour.

The public persona of a cult leader is very different from his real person, which is visible only to those who observe him in private. The ideal prey are the wealthy or the well connected who are ignorant of religious knowledge. Playboys and spoiled brats are a perfect clientele as are middle aged begum sahibs with problems at home and some cash to spare.
Youngsters from dysfunctional families and those who have suffered a personal bereavement are particularly vulnerable to cult recruitment because cult doctrine is designed to temporarily soothe their pain.

To grow, cults need not only money but also the talent and connections of members. That is why cults actively recruit for new members. Recruitment begins with misleading advertisements and false claims often spread through word of mouth. However nowadays shares and likes on social media also lend a helping hand.

Endorsements from celebrities is a well known marketing tactic of cults. While some celebrities formally join cults and actively work for them, a public figure who may not know the true colours of the group can also be targeted by the group to elicit words of praise, which are then advertised as a mark of legitimacy. Followers from high ranking officials are prized possessions in cults, because when the time is right their influence will be put to use.

The cult always has two sets of teachings – one for the public, one for the private. Newcomers are not told about the ‘special’ knowledge immediately. It is only when they are initiated and tried over a period of time that the ‘special beliefs’ of the group’s leader will be disclosed.

Outsiders thus have no idea at all about what the preacher and his group are all about. Beliefs are deliberately kept vague and often undocumented. What has been documented will undergo revision when lacunae are known, with earlier versions silently withdrawn from circulation. The group leader is reluctant to speak in front of the camera other than his own camera crew with the footage being released after careful editing. Camera shyness is a deliberate ploy to stay clear from public scrutiny and any form of accountability.

A cult environment is one where debate is stifled and critical thinking is discouraged. The group isn’t out in the public limelight but may operate out of a private residence with no signage or distinguishing marks. Cults aren’t registered bodies that have audited accounts or legal structures.

They operate mostly in secrecy and through deception. In present times, the internet and the world wide web is their territory. Once inside, members are gradually introduced to esoteric interpretations and an elitist mindset which paints everything in black and white. The cult has its own worldview which is the standard for its members. Those who accept the group’s leader and official cult doctrine are the only ones to have salvation, while the rest are destined for hellfire.

A distinguishing feature is a vocabulary coined specifically for use within the group. Peer review and academic critique is the hallmark of scholarship. In contrast cult leaders portray themselves to be beyond criticism to their followers. Critical voices are deliberately suppressed and those expressing them are gradually shown the door. Former members are shunned and existing members are discouraged from keeping any contact citing the contagious ‘impurity’ of the former.

Phobia indoctrination is another method to keep followers within the fold. When one is persuaded that something terrible will befall him should he criticise the group leader or leave the group, then this fear is sufficient to make him stay.

Solicitations for funds also do not come immediately but only after one has been fully programmed – within the group’s beliefs. For once the mind is under control, the rest comes easily.

Cult leaders are charismatic personalities albeit with a disturbed upbringing. By probing deep one is likely to discover a criminal past and even a history of mental health problems.

Religious lectures are a common tool for recruitment of new followers. It is impossible to tell if a commentary in a foreign language was in full accord with the original Arabic words of the Holy Book if one is not well versed in Arabic. When one is not in a habit of doing their own study, then he is prone to indoctrination.

The Qur’an cautions us about those who will present falsehood intermixed with truth by exhorting: “And do not mix the truth with falsehood or conceal the truth while you know [it].” (2:42). The Quran is replete with the phrase ‘Yasalunaka’ lit. ‘They question thee’ which shows that the Prophet (PBUH) never discouraged questions. It informs believers: “.. if you ask questions about things while the Qur’an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you” (5:101). It identifies that reason is never to be suspended for comprehending the Signs of God is conditional upon the use of one’s ‘Aql’: “We have certainly made clear to you the signs, if you will use reason.” (3:118)

We are not to blindly follow leaders for on the day of judgement: “[And they should consider that] when those who have been followed disassociate themselves from those who followed [them], and they [all] see the punishment, and cut off from them are the ties..” (2:166).

No human is above accountability for not only those to whom the Message of God was delivered but also the Messengers will be called to account: “Then We will surely question those to whom [a message] was sent, and We will surely question the messengers.” (7:6).

Coercion by force or through psychological manipulation is ruled out as: “There is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256) There are to be no secret teachings. All is to be preached out in the open and to all mankind as: “..those who hide our revelations and guidance after We have made them clear for people in the Book, they are those on whom is the curse of Allah..” (2:159).

The Qur’an immediately disqualifies those who are persistent for monthly ‘Chanda’ by stating: “Follow those who do not ask of you [any] payment, and they are [rightly] guided.” (36:21)
We owe it our well being that before we swallow everything hook line and sinker, that we do not shy away from asking some very basic questions about the group we are being asked to join. If before offering even the most menial of jobs to people we interview them and rigorously do background checks, then why must we not do the same or conduct an investigation even more thorough when we give religious guides the responsibility to come into our lives?

No God-fearing person evades accountability for it is the very trait of the genuinely Godly to be ever prepared to give their account. One who has not wronged anyone is not afraid to answer questions because he has nothing to hide, possesses a clear conscience and has lived an open and transparent life. But the moment you realise that questions are deliberately being avoided, that the group does not want to be filmed or come on record then that is the moment for you to realise that there is more to your dear Shaikh sahab than meets the eye.

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The Qur’anic “Torah”


QUESTION

Is it correct that “Taurat” is not the name of a book revealed by Allah but is the title of all those verses in the Qur’an that contain “Hukm Allah”, (Order, command of God) as stated in Al Maida 5:43. Does the Qur’an justify the view that “Taurat” is nothing but the name of all do’s and don’ts internally within the Qur’an?

ANSWER.

Qur’an makes it clear that “Taurat” did not just contain Law, but also events and narratives. The verse in question is as follows:

وَكَيْفَ يُحَكِّمُونَكَ وَعِندَهُمُ التَّوْرَاةُ فِيهَا حُكْمُ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يَتَوَلَّوْنَ مِن بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ ۚ وَمَا أُولَٰئِكَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ

“But how is it that they come to you for judgement while they have the Torah, in which is the judgement of Allah? Then they turn away, [even] after that; but those are not [in fact] believers.” 5:43

Those who maintain the view that “Taurat” is the name of all the do’s and don’ts of the Qur’an refer to the expression in above verse; “.. Torah, in which is the judgement (Arabic: Hukm) of Allah..” and assert that “Taurat” should be defined as all those verses of Qur’an which contain “Hukm Allah” or commandments of God.

However it is not correct to infer from verse 5:43 that all those verses of the Qur’an that are legislative are called as “Taurat”. Such would be a faulty inference which ignores all other verses of the Qur’an whose subject matter is the “Taurat”. We should not form conclusions from one or two words only but bring into inflection all the passages where the topic is discussed. We should identify the complete features of the “Taurat” by analysing its recurrence within the Qur’an. The following points bring to light such features:

1. Taurat did not contain just “Hukm Allah” but also “Wa’ad” (Divine promise):

إِنَّ اللَّهَ اشْتَرَىٰ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ أَنفُسَهُمْ وَأَمْوَالَهُم بِأَنَّ لَهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ ۚ يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَيَقْتُلُونَ وَيُقْتَلُونَ ۖ وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّا فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ وَالْقُرْآنِ ۚ وَمَنْ أَوْفَىٰ بِعَهْدِهِ مِنَ اللَّهِ ۚ فَاسْتَبْشِرُوا بِبَيْعِكُمُ الَّذِي بَايَعْتُم بِهِ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ

“Indeed, Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties [in exchange] for that they will have Paradise. They fight in the cause of Allah , so they kill and are killed. [It is] a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. And who is truer to his covenant than Allah ? So rejoice in your transaction which you have contracted. And it is that which is the great attainment.” 9:111

To be noted:

وَعْدًا عَلَيْهِ حَقًّا فِي التَّوْرَاةِ

“..a true promise [binding] upon Him in the Torah ..”

Above verse clearly says that Taurat contains a promise of Allah. Therefore along with “Hukm Allah”, “wa’ad Allah” is also its feature. Hence the statement that “Taurat” contains ONLY the law (bearing verses in Quran) is proved wrong when we analyse verse 9:111.

2. Taurat cannot be a subset of the Qur’an or just a certain number of verses of the Qur’an because Allah mentioned Taurat separately from Qur’an.

To be noted in 9:111 are the words:

فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ وَالْقُرْآنِ ۚ

“… in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an…”

Note that “Taurat”, “Injeel” and “Qur’an” are mentioned separately in the verse.

If indeed “Taurat” was a component of the Qur’an and not a separate revelation on its own , then it would be meaningless to mention it separately as by the mention of “Qur’an” the “Taurat” which is subsumed within it is also included.

But as Taurat is highlighted distinctly, it shows that it is not a collection of certain verses of the Qur’an but has its own distinct identity.

3. The Quran identifies that along with “Hukm” (commandment) and “Wa’ad” (Divine promise), Taurat also contains “Mathal” (Parable)

Verse 48:29 also identifies the features of the “Taurat”

مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاءُ عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاءُ بَيْنَهُمْ ۖ تَرَاهُمْ رُكَّعًا سُجَّدًا يَبْتَغُونَ فَضْلًا مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانًا ۖ سِيمَاهُمْ فِي وُجُوهِهِم مِّنْ أَثَرِ السُّجُودِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ مَثَلُهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ ۚ

“Muhammad is the messenger of Allah; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Taurat..” 48:29

To be noted that in the above verse, the words:

ذَٰلِكَ مَثَلُهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ ۚ

“..This is their similitude in the Taurat..”

Thus above clearly demonstrates another feature, that the “Taurat” is not restricted to “Hukm Allah” but also contains “Mathal” i.e. simile, or parable.

CONCLUSION
Its is clear from the Qur’an that the “Taurat” contains:

“Hukm” or Commandment as said in 5:43

“Wa’ad” (Promise) as said in 9:111

“Mathal” (Parable or similitude) as said in 48:29

We also see that Taurat is mentioned separately from Qur’an in 9:111.

Therefore in the light of above verses, it is clear that the “Taurat” does not refer to all the do’s and don’ts of the Qur’an, but is a distinct book having more than do’s and dont’s. Taurat was a revelation of Allah which contained laws as well as events such as parables, promises.

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Does 24:33 endorse prostitution?


Q. I read a verse about prostitution of slave girls and it said “..do not compel your maids in to prostitution if they desire chastity”. Does this verse sanction prostitution?

Ans. The full verse in question states:

وَلْيَسْتَعْفِفِ الَّذِينَ لَا يَجِدُونَ نِكَاحًا حَتَّىٰ يُغْنِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ ۗ وَالَّذِينَ يَبْتَغُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِمَّا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ فَكَاتِبُوهُمْ إِنْ عَلِمْتُمْ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا ۖ وَآتُوهُم مِّن مَّالِ اللَّهِ الَّذِي آتَاكُمْ ۚ وَلَا تُكْرِهُوا فَتَيَاتِكُمْ عَلَى الْبِغَاءِ إِنْ أَرَدْنَ تَحَصُّنًا لِّتَبْتَغُوا عَرَضَ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۚ وَمَن يُكْرِههُّنَّ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ مِن بَعْدِ إِكْرَاهِهِنَّ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

024:033 Yusuf Ali Translation
“Let those who find not the wherewithal for marriage keep themselves chaste, until God gives them means out of His grace. And if any of your slaves ask for a deed in writing, give them such a deed if you know any good in them and give them from the wealth of God which He has given you. But force not your slave girls (Arabic: fatayatikum) to prostitution when they desire chastity, in order that ye may make a gain in the goods of this life. But if anyone compels them, yet, after such compulsion, is God, Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful (to them)”

If we analyse this verse then it rules out sexual relations with slave girls because of the following:

(1) Those that cannot marry need to stay chaste.
(2) They are to free those that their right hands possess and certainly not force them to sex or prostitution.
(3) The word “Fatayatikum”, though translated commonly as slave girls, does not mean slave girl but a young girl. E.g. 21:60 the word “Fati” is used for Prophet Ibraheem in the sense of a young man.
(4) The verse also says that if young girls are forced then they are not blameworthy. The preceding clauses exhort against the compulsion and the remission to women in the last phrase in no way grants a right to compel young girls to sex outside of wedlock.

Thus if we read clearly then the verse is speaking against compelling girls to wrong conduct and not enjoining it.

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Finality of Prophethood


بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَٰكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا

Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets; God has knowledge of everything.” 33:40

The verse 33:40 gives us three solid proofs of finality of Prophethood and shows from three different dimensions, the cessation of prophets after Muhammad (p.b.u.h)

(1) End of prophethood by virtue of lineage

The Quran shows that in some instances Prophecy continued in the family. A prophet’s son was also a prophet and prophecy continued among male descendants. E.g. Ibraheem (p.b.u.h) was a Prophet, his sons Ismail (p.b.u.h), Ishaq (p.b.u.h) and Yaqoob (p.b.u.h) were also Prophets. Yusuf (p.b.u.h) was also a Prophet like his father Yaqub (p.b.u.h) and grandfather Ibraheem (p.b.u.h). Zakaria (p.b.u.h) was a Prophet and his son Yahya (p.b.u.h) was also a prophet of Allah. Thus we can see the trend in the Quran for prophet hood continuing among male descendants of a prophet. However after the advent of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) this was not to be the case. The phrase:

مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ

“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men..”

Makes it crystal clear that Muhammad (p.b.u.h) did not have any male offspring, thus continuation of the prophetic office by virtue of lineage has ended. No new prophet as a male descendant of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) can arise after him as he “is not the father of any one of your men..”.

Here it is also important to clarify an important point. Some cults in their Taweel (interpretation) of the verse 33:40 claim that since Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was not an “Abba” i.e. father or forefather therefore he did not exist historically as a person but keeps reincarnating in the person of various individuals such as their cult’s founder. This Taweel of theirs is flawed on many counts. Firstly the expression does not stop at “Muhammad is not an Abba” but continues to “of any of your men..”. Secondly the verse is not a negation of the historical existence of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) but simply a negation of his male lineage. It should be understood that if “A” is not the father or forefather of any man then this does not mean “A” did not exist as a physical human being at a certain point in time. All it means is that “A” does not have sons.

As Muhammad (p.b.u.h) is not the father of any man, therefore the verse makes it clear that the continuation of prophets from father to son has ended.

(2) End of Prophethood by virtue of limited period of commission of a Prophet

The Quran shows that previous prophets were sent for specific time periods, and to specific communities. After one prophet was gone another was sent after him. However in the case of Muhammad (p.b.u.h), he is not sent for a specific era or community only. His era is from the day of his advent to the end of times and he is the Messenger of God to all mankind till the day of judgement. This is apparent in the following expression:

وَلَٰكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ

“..and but he is the Messenger of God..”

This expression will be read in the present tense till the day of judgement, thus Muhammad (p.b.u.h) is the Messenger of God till end of times. Logically, if he “is” and not “was” the Messenger, then no other Messenger or Prophet replaces him or comes after him.

Thus no new prophet or Messenger will arise by virtue of end of period of a Prophet’s era. “..He is the Messenger of God..” shows Muhammad’s era is from the day of his advent till the end of times.

(3) End of Prophethood through the seal of prophets

وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ 

and the seal of the prophets..”

Through Muhammad (p.b.u.h) prophethood has been sealed forever as the seal cannot be broken. The phrase ” Seal of the Prophets ” makes it clear that no new Prophet will come after Muhammad (p.b.u.h). He is the seal of finality of Prophets. “Khaatam” is seal of closure and finality in Quran, and not a stamp of approval for any existing or future Prophet as is wrongly claimed by some cults. The Quran itself explains what is the meaning of “Khatam” or seal.

خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِمْ ۖ وَعَلَىٰ أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

God has set a seal (Arabic: Khatama) on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a covering, and there awaits them a mighty chastisement.” 2:7

..a seal on their hearts and on their hearing..” is not a stamp of approval or attestation, but a seal of closure, i.e. one which terminates or ends the (spiritual) function of one’s heart and hearing. Another verse makes the meaning clearer:

الْيَوْمَ نَخْتِمُ عَلَىٰ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَتُكَلِّمُنَا أَيْدِيهِمْ وَتَشْهَدُ أَرْجُلُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ

“That Day, We will seal (Arabic: NAKHTIMU) over their mouths, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify about what they used to earn.” 36:65

“.. We will seal over their mouths..” shows that when God will “seal” the mouths of disbelievers their hands will speak, thus the meaning of “Khatam” is made clearer. When the mouth has a seal then it is stopped from its function of speaking and the hands take over this function. Thus it is abundantly clear that when an object has a seal then the function of the seal is to end the object. “..We will seal over their mouths..” (2:7) and “God has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing..” (36:65) explain the function of “..seal of the prophets..” (33:40) to end, to stop, to terminate, to cease, the coming of further prophets. The text of the Qur’an in no way warrants “Khatam” to be “a stamp of approval” for any existing or future prophets.

Muhammad (p.b.u.h) is thus the seal of finality of all prophets who were before him and as the seal cannot be broken, no new Prophet is to arise after him.

End Notes

1. Translations are from “The Koran Interpreted: A Translation by A. J. Arberry, Oxford”

2. p.b.u.h is an abbreviation of “peace be upon him”, a mark of respect by Muslims for all Islamic prophets whenever their names are mentioned.

 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

Salat


What is the activity of Salat? What are its exact times? How many Rakahs should be done? Can one read Salat in a non Arabic language? Are there are any special conditions for women and prayers?

Salat is an act of Ibadah (Servitude to Allah), which is ordained by Allah over believers at stated timesi. The Qur’an informs us that the command to establish Salat was given by Allah to all Prophets/Messengers and believers. It is a physical act which involves the body postures of Qiyaam (Standing), Rukuu (Bowing) and Sujood (Prostration) and is performed at specific times of the day. During Salat we ask Allah for guidance (al fatiha) and then recite a sura or ayat as a reply to that request. Thus Salat is a means to recall, memorise, rehearse the guidance of Allah, to praise Him, and to surrender to His will, so that such guidance becomes part of our daily life and we recall it when we are in a situation to practice the guidance. If done properly and in accordance with Qur’anic guidance, Salat develops our minds, bodies and souls, and enables us to truly and completely give submission to our Creator. If there is an act of Ibadah that we have to do everyday, continuously, till the last day of our life, then that act is Salat.

THE METHOD OF SALAT

The Qur’an does not stipulate a step by step procedure of Salat because it is an act of Ibadah that was existing during the time of previous prophets and the Qur’an has retained the same practice. The central place where Salat is preserved is the Kabah, which is the focal point of believers. The Qur’an says that as Allah’s Book is guidance, so is the Kaaba a source of guidance for believers, and instructs us in many verses to believe in its signs:

إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ

The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings.” 3:96

Note that in above verse Kaaba has been termed as the “First House”, and as “guidance for all worlds”. As the Kaaba is the first house and the focal point for guidance believers of all times and eras, till day of judgement, it is there that Salat was practiced in times and eras of all Prophets including Muhammad (p) and Salat continues there even today. We too should take guidance from there as in the Qur’an, Allah commands believers to adopt Musallah (place of Salat) from Maqam Ibraheem at Masjid-al-Haraam (which is the masjid surrounding the first house).

وَإِذْ جَعَلْنَا الْبَيْتَ مَثَابَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَأَمْنًا وَاتَّخِذُوا مِن مَّقَامِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ مُصَلًّى ۖ وَعَهِدْنَا إِلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ أَن طَهِّرَا بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْعَاكِفِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ

And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [a place of] security. And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer. And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], “Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer].” 2:125

Maqam Ibraheem is a place near the Kaaba where the Imam stands to lead the congregational prayer. By observing the actions of the Imam we can earn the complete method of Salat. Following the command of Allah: “..And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer..” we have to pray in the same method and at the same timings that is established at the Musalla at the Haram. Thus the method of Salat that is established inside the Kaaba, the number of Rakaat, the postures, the recitation, the timings, all are to be followed.


THE NUMBER OF RAKAAT

We have seen the Quranic command to take the place of Salat from Maqam Ibraheem. At the Musalla of Maqam Ibraheem, the Rakaat that are performed consist of: two for Fajar, four for Zuhr, Four for Asr, three for Maghrib and four for Isha. There are two Rakaats during Salat ul Jum’a. Funeral Prayer is also performed at Masjid-al-Haraam. Thus in line with the order of Allah, as believers we should perform our prayers exactly in the same method in our local mosques/homes.


THE TIMINGS OF SALAT

The Salat timings that are established at Masjid-al-Haraam are Fajar, Zuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha. Tahajud is also prayed but it is Nafilah and the Tawaaf does not stop. Moreover that there are five prayers in the day is also established by the following verse:

وَأَقِمِ الصَّلَاةَ طَرَفَيِ النَّهَارِ وَزُلَفًا مِّنَ اللَّيْلِ ۚ إِنَّ الْحَسَنَاتِ يُذْهِبْنَ السَّيِّئَاتِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ ذِكْرَىٰ لِلذَّاكِرِينَ

And establish regular prayers at the two ends of the day and at the approaches of the night: For those things, that are good remove those that are evil: Be that the word of remembrance to those who remember (their Lord):

In the above verse the nominative masculine dual noun “tarafay” (at the two ends) and the  accusative masculine plural indefinite noun “Zulafan” (approaches) clearly indicate that during Nahar (day) there are two prayers, while Layl (night) has three or more prayers (Arabic plurals refer to three or more). We also see a confirmation of these timings established at Masjid al Haraam, such that during day light there are two prayers (Zuhr) (Noon) and Asr (Afternoon), while night time has three prayers of Maghrib (Dusk), Isha (Night) and Fajr (Dawn).  Thus the command to take the Musallah (place of Salat) from Maqam Ibraheem is also in confirmation of verse 11:114. We should follow the Salat at five times a day, which are two during day (zuhr and Asr and three during night (maghrib, Isha and Fajr.) The Qur’an also mentions a Nafl prayer called Tahhajud which is to be performed at Night. At Masjid al Haraam the Azaan for Tahajud is also given, but the Tawaf does not stop for a congregation. The congregational prayers which are obligatory are the five prayers. When they are happening, the tawaaf stops and prayer is performed. For Nafl (optional prayers) like Tahajud or Taraweeh or Witr Prayers during Ramadan, the tawaaf around the Kaaba does not stop, indicating that these are optional.


TAHARAH (PURIFICATION) IS A PREREQUISITE FOR SALAT

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قُمْتُمْ إِلَى الصَّلَاةِ فَاغْسِلُوا وُجُوهَكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ إِلَى الْمَرَافِقِ وَامْسَحُوا بِرُءُوسِكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُمْ إِلَى الْكَعْبَيْنِ ۚ وَإِن كُنتُمْ جُنُبًا فَاطَّهَّرُوا ۚ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَىٰ أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنكُم مِّنَ الْغَائِطِ أَوْ لَامَسْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُوا مَاءً فَتَيَمَّمُوا صَعِيدًا طَيِّبًا فَامْسَحُوا بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُم مِّنْهُ ۚ مَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيَجْعَلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّنْ حَرَجٍ وَلَٰكِن يُرِيدُ لِيُطَهِّرَكُمْ وَلِيُتِمَّ نِعْمَتَهُ عَلَيْكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

O ye who believe! when ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces, and your hands (and arms) to the elbows; Rub your heads (with water); and (wash) your feet to the ankles. If ye are in a state of ceremonial impurity, bathe your whole body. But if ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands, Allah doth not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favour to you, that ye may be grateful.” 5:6


We can see in above verse that before performing Salat we need to be in a state of taharah (purification). This is attained by performing ablution by washing the face, arms to the elbows, performing masahaa (wiping) of the head and washing the feet to the ankles. In a state of Janaba (sexual emission) tahara has to be done. This is by bathing the whole body as mentioned in 8:11 (see below). Things which break the ablution are Safar (travel) Maraz (Sickness, vomitting etc), Al Ghaith (breaking wind, extretion/urination) Laamastum Nisaa (Sexual touch of women i.e. Sexual arousal). If any of these acts take place then ablution will have to be performed again. If one is in Junub (i.e. has sexual ejaculation) then the command “fa taharoo” purify yourself applies which is described by taking shower/bathing entire body in 8:11. However if water is not available or if one is travelling or is sick then “tayyamam” (dry ablution) can be done by rubbing against clean earth particles. Also see 4:43.


SALAT SHOULD NOT BE DONE DURING MENSES

We have seen in above verse that the Qur’an says that one of the conditions of Salat for believers is “Taharah” (Purification). It is mandatory that before one performs Salat he or she should be in a state of Tuhoor. For women, this means being in a state when they are not having monthly mensuration cycle, as the Qur’an says:


وَيَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْمَحِيضِ ۖ قُلْ هُوَ أَذًى فَاعْتَزِلُوا النِّسَاءَ فِي الْمَحِيضِ ۖ وَلَا تَقْرَبُوهُنَّ حَتَّىٰ يَطْهُرْنَ ۖ فَإِذَا تَطَهَّرْنَ فَأْتُوهُنَّ مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَكُمُ اللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ التَّوَّابِينَ وَيُحِبُّ الْمُتَطَهِّرِينَ


They ask thee concerning women’s courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean. But when they have purified themselves, ye may approach them in any manner, time, or place ordained for you by Allah. For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” 2:222


The above verse is clear in indicating that women are not having Taharah during monthly cycle. The verse mentions two states (1) “yathurna” (when they are pure) indicating the stage when mensural blood has stopped and (2) “ tatahharna” (When they have purified themselves) this is by taking a bath as stated in 8:11

إِذْ يُغَشِّيكُمُ النُّعَاسَ أَمَنَةً مِّنْهُ وَيُنَزِّلُ عَلَيْكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً لِّيُطَهِّرَكُم بِهِ وَيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمْ رِجْزَ الشَّيْطَانِ وَلِيَرْبِطَ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتَ بِهِ الْأَقْدَامَ


Remember He covered you with a sort of drowsiness, to give you calm as from Himself, and he caused rain to descend on you from heaven, to clean you therewith, to remove from you the stain of Satan, to strengthen your hearts, and to plant your feet firmly therewith.” 8:11


“..rain to descend on you from heaven, to clean you therewith..” shows shower/bathing entire body makes one tahir (purified/clean). When it is said that women are to purify themselves after their monthly courses: “..But when they have purified themselves..” then it is by taking a shower/bath. Thus it can be inferred from above verses that believing women should not perform Salat during mensuration. Once mensuration is finished, then they should take a shower/bath, and then it is permissible for them to perform Salat.

IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING THE QURANIC RECITATION DURING SALAT

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقْرَبُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَنتُمْ سُكَارَىٰ حَتَّىٰ تَعْلَمُوا مَا تَقُولُونَ وَلَا جُنُبًا إِلَّا عَابِرِي سَبِيلٍ حَتَّىٰ تَغْتَسِلُوا ۚ وَإِن كُنتُم مَّرْضَىٰ أَوْ عَلَىٰ سَفَرٍ أَوْ جَاءَ أَحَدٌ مِّنكُم مِّنَ الْغَائِطِ أَوْ لَامَسْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَلَمْ تَجِدُوا مَاءً فَتَيَمَّمُوا صَعِيدًا طَيِّبًا فَامْسَحُوا بِوُجُوهِكُمْ وَأَيْدِيكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَفُوًّا غَفُورًا


O ye who believe! Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say,- nor in a state of ceremonial impurity (Except when travelling on the road), until after washing your whole body. If ye are ill, or on a journey, or one of you cometh from offices of nature, or ye have been in contact with women, and ye find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. For Allah doth blot out sins and forgive again and again.” 4:43

The command “..Approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say.” makes it mandatory on us to understand the meaning of the words of Salat we recite.


PRAYING IN NON-ARABIC LANGUAGES

Salat is to be performed according to the command of Allah i.e. He commands believers to take the Musallah from Maqam Ibrahim near the Kaaba. In accordance with this command we should pray in the language that is the medium at that place i.e. the Arabic language. Salat in non Arabic language is not valid because by doing that (a) we are not following the command of Allah of taking our Salat from Maqam Ibraheem and (b) we are not reciting the actual words that were revealed by Allah which were Arabic words and not non Arabic words. Thus we should familiarise ourselves with the meanings of those Arabic words that we recite in Salat. Also if one were to pray in a language other than Arabic then they cannot lead in prayer those people who do not follow that language. Imagine an Imam reciting words in Turkish, will non Turks be able to join his congregation? As Islam is an international Deen it has one uniform language of the Qur’an, whose standard is to be followed by everyone. We have to understand the Qur’an in its original and recite it in Salat in its original language. Translations do not replace the original. 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

Muslim Women’s Dress


According to the Qur’an, what is a believing woman’s dress code? If a woman wears a head scarf then does she violate any command of Allah, as certain modern-day Quran cults allege? 

A believing women’s dress code is mentioned in two verses of the Qur’an. In Surat Al Ahzaab 33:59 and in Surat An-Noor 24:31. In Al Ahzaab, Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

O Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” 33:59 Pickthall

Whereas in Surat An-Noor, Allah says:

وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ ۖ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَائِهِنَّ أَوْ آبَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَائِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَاءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي إِخْوَانِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِي أَخَوَاتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَائِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُنَّ أَوِ التَّابِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُولِي الْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ أَوِ الطِّفْلِ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا عَلَىٰ عَوْرَاتِ النِّسَاءِ ۖ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ ۚ وَتُوبُوا إِلَى اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment save to their own husbands or fathers or husbands’ fathers, or their sons or their husbands’ sons, or their brothers or their brothers’ sons or sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or male attendants who lack vigour, or children who know naught of women’s nakedness. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And turn unto Allah together, O believers, in order that ye may succeed.” 24:31 Pickthall

The orders pertaining related to the type of garments to wear and the parts of a woman’s body that are to be covered / uncovered are highlighted as follows:

1- Wear Jilbaab

As per the order “..draw their cloaks [ARABIC: JALABEEB, plural of JALABIYYA, JILBAAB] close round them..” 33:59 believing women should wear Jilbaab i.e. a cloak, a gown, which is a loose and long outer garment worn over Kamees that covers entire body and hides the figure and exposes only the head, hands and feet). This type of over garment is also known by the term Abaya.

2- Expose only those parts that the Jilbaab exposes

As per the order “..and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent..” they should uncover only those body parts that are exposed when they observe the order to “..draw their cloaks close round them..” i.e. the head, hands and feet. The rest of the body / figure should not be exposed.

3- Cover the neckline / chest with the Khimaar

As per the order “..and to draw their veils [ARABIC: KHUMUR] over their bosoms…” their Khimaar i.e. scarf or any other covering should cover the region below the neckline and chest area (Juyub) and this part of the body should not be exposed.

The word Khumur in the above verse is plural form of Khimaar which literally means ‘covering’, not specifically head covering but any kind of covering. A headscarf worn by women, as well as men is also called a Khimaar. The order in the verse is not to wear the Khimaar per se but to cover the chest-region with it, as the Khimaar was worn prior to Quranic revelation and is a neccesary dress of people dwelling in Hijaz region owing to extreme heat. The verse shows that women were already wearing the Khimaar, and the order specified that they are to cover the chest with it. Hence if a woman wears a head scarf and she extends it over her neckline in accordance with the commandment in the verse, she has fulfilled the order of Allah.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

12 reasons why Mary was not a Hermaphrodite


The Qur’an leaves no stone unturned regarding the gender of Mary and makes it absolutely clear that she was not a hermaphrodite

Introduction

Jesus Christ is a Messenger of God whose personality is surrounded in controversy. Three world religions hold varying opinions about his person and his birth. On one extreme are some Jews who allege that Mary had produced a child outside of wedlock, while on another  are those among Christians who claim that since Jesus did not have a father, his father is God. The Qur’an sets the record straight regarding such claims, and while defending the chastity of Mary, it identifies that Jesus was created and not procreated by God. Hence the mainstream Islamic view based on the narratives of the Qur’an is that Jesus was born miraculously by the will and power of God and that he is neither the son of God, nor the son of man. Along with defending Mary from human and divine fatherhood for Jesus, the Qur’an also refutes those individuals who in recent times have forwarded some theories negating the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus. One popular view forwarded by such individuals is that Mary was a Hermaphrodite who gave birth to Jesus through some process of self impregnation. This wild and bizarre notion is contrary to the clear cut statements of the Qur’an, as is the view that Jesus had a biological father. Here we demonstrate the origin of this heretical belief and how it goes against some very plain facts of the Qur’an.

The hermaphrodite theory is an Ahmadiyya belief

Writing under the title “Immaculate Conception”, in the April 2004 issue of “Review of Religions”, an Ahmadiyya publication, the author, Moosa Qureshi LLB, while attributing the theory of Hermaphroditism to Maryam, states:

“Nevertheless, the Qur’an does intimate the explanation to the miracle of Jesus (as)’s conception in another enigmatic verse, hitherto perplexing to Muslim scholars: Remember when a woman of Imran said, ‘My Lord, I have vowed to Thee what is in my womb to be dedicated to Thy service. So do Thou accept it of me. Verily, Thou alone art All-Hearing, All-Knowing’. But when she was delivered of it, she said, ‘My Lord, I am delivered of a female,’ – and Allah knew best what she delivered and the male was not like the female – ‘and I have named her Mary, and I commit her and her off-spring to Thy protection from Satan the rejected’. (Ch.3:Vs.36-37). Puzzlingly, Allah does not confirm that the woman of Imran did indeed give birth to a female when she was delivered of Mary(ra). How should we interpret the enigmatic words – and the male was not like the female?”

By alluding to a mere word or two from Quran 3:36-37, the author attempts to build a mountain out of a molehill by concluding that Mary gave birth to Jesus without a father because she was a Hermaphrodite:

“..more convincingly, the mechanism of true hermaphroditism may explain the virgin birth of Jesus(as). This is a congenital condition where external genitalia and internal sex organs have both male and female characteristics. Both ovarian and testicular reproductive tissue is found in a true hermaphrodite, a quality that is still poorly understood. In 1990, a true hermaphrodite rabbit was found to conceive when kept in isolation in laboratory conditions (7). The tenability of autoreproduction in human hermaphrodites has also been affirmed: ‘If it is indeed true that in some (human) hermaphrodites auto-reproduction could be possible with medical intervention, another question may be asked: “Is it possible that such auto-reproduction could, with the greatest rarity, occur without such an intervention?” Indications exist in the mythology of various cultures which mention hermaphroditic reproduction, and there are references to virgin birth in the historical documents of several different societies.’(8) The Qur’an may indeed refer to such a biological condition of a true hermaphrodite when we read, ‘Allah knew best of what she was delivered and the male was not like the female’ (Ch.3:V.37). It is characteristic of the propriety and tactful beauty of the Qur’anic diction, that Allah should thus describe the hypothesised hermaphrodite quality in Mary (ra)…”

Thus according to the aforementioned Ahmadi interpretation, the mechanism of true hermaphroditism explains the virgin birth of Jesus. The view that Allah does not confirm that the woman of Imran did indeed give birth to a female when she was delivered of Mary is also grossly in error, once we explore all the narratives in the Qur’an concerning the subject. When we study the Qur’an it is crystal clear that Mary was not a hermaphodite.

1) The Qur’an does not use any word meaning “Hermaphrodite” within its Arabic text

Very simply, Allah does not term Mary as a Hermaphrodite or a creature of that sort within the Arabic text of the Qur’an. This is a plain fact. In Arabic the word “Mukhanas” is usually used for Hermaphrodites, and it is a fact that this term or any term close to it does not occur anywhere in the Qur’an. Thus the statement “Mary is a Hermaphrodite” is not a Qur’anic statement.

2) Wherever Mary is addressed in the Qur’an, feminine pronouns are used for her and never masculine

It is a grossly misleading to suggest that Allah does not confirm the gender of Maryam. The clear cut evidence of the Qur’an is that she is not dual sex but of the female sex. Throughout the Qur’an, wherever Mary is addressed, feminine pronouns are used which identify her as a female through and through.

يَا مَرْيَمُ اقْنُتِي لِرَبِّكِ وَاسْجُدِي وَارْكَعِي مَعَ الرَّاكِعِينَ

O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer].” 3:43

According to Arabic grammar, in the above verse “oqnutee” (be devoutly obedient) is a 2nd person feminine singular imperative verb, “lirabbiki” (to your Lord) is 2nd person feminine singular possessive pronoun, “wasjudee” (and prostrate) and “warkaAAee” (and bow) are both 2nd person feminine singular imperative verbs with feminine subject pronouns. Thus it is clear that this language identifies Mary as a female. It is evident that wherever Mary is mentioned and addressed in the Qur’an, she is always identified grammatically as a female and never as “dual sex”, thus refuting the view that Allah does not confirm her gender. It should also be noted that in the Qur’an Mary has been called “Bint” (Daughter), “Ukht” (Sister) and “Umm” (Mother) leaving no room for doubt as to her gender.

3) Mary was chosen above “WOMEN” of all worlds, not hermaphrodites / dual sex persons of all worlds.

وَإِذْ قَالَتِ الْمَلَائِكَةُ يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَاكِ وَطَهَّرَكِ وَاصْطَفَاكِ عَلَىٰ نِسَاءِ الْعَالَمِينَ

And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.” 3:42

In the above verse we can clearly see the words “..purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.” which establish that Mary was of the female gender and not dual sex / hermaphrodite. She was chosen above “Nisaa al Alameen” (Women of all worlds) not above the world’s hermaphrodites!

4) Mary questions how can she have a son when no man has touched her. If she could self impregnate then she wouldn’t be asking this question.

قَالَتْ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِي بَشَرٌ ۖ قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ اللَّهُ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. 3:47

A hermaphrodite who is capable of self impregnation would never ask the question “..how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” because from someone who possess male and female reproductive organs and is capable of self impregnation such a question is invalid! Very clearly we see evidence in this verse of Mary being someone requiring a person other than herself for her conception, thus proving that she is not a hermaphrodite.

5) The word “Nabataa” (growth) for Mary does not imply plant like asexual features because in the Qur’an the same word is also used for regular humans.

Proponents of the hermaphrodite theory allude to the word “Nabataa” in 3:38 and draw parallels between Mary and asexual plant organisms who also “grow” to their state.

فَتَقَبَّلَهَا رَبُّهَا بِقَبُولٍ حَسَنٍ وَأَنبَتَهَا نَبَاتًا حَسَنًا وَكَفَّلَهَا زَكَرِيَّا ۖ كُلَّمَا دَخَلَ عَلَيْهَا زَكَرِيَّا الْمِحْرَابَ وَجَدَ عِندَهَا رِزْقًا ۖ قَالَ يَا مَرْيَمُ أَنَّىٰ لَكِ هَٰذَا ۖ قَالَتْ هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَرْزُقُ مَن يَشَاءُ بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ

So her Lord accepted her with good acceptance and caused her to grow [ARABIC: ANBATAA] in a good manner and put her in the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer chamber, he found with her provision. He said, “O Mary, from where is this [coming] to you?” She said, “It is from Allah . Indeed, Allah provides for whom He wills without account.” 3:37

This allusion is once again devoid of substance because the word “Nabataa” is not restricted for Maryam but also used for entire humanity:

وَاللَّهُ أَنبَتَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ نَبَاتًا

And Allah has caused you to grow [ARABIC: ANBATAKUM] from the earth a [progressive] growth [ARABIC NABATAA]. 71:17

In the above verse, the same word “Nabataa” is used for entire humanity. Does it mean entire human race consists of hermaphrodites?! This certainly is not the case. Mary is no asexual plant because of the word “Nabataa”, because the same word has been used in the Qur’an for all humanity as well.

6) If Mary was a Hermaphrodite, capable of self impregnation, then why would Allah send his angel as an external agent to grant her a child?

In Surat Aal-e-Imraan we can see that the angels gave the good news of the birth of a child, while in Surat Maryam, we see that an angel was sent in the form of a human messenger to grant her the child which she conceived:

قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَنَا رَسُولُ رَبِّكِ لِأَهَبَ لَكِ غُلَامًا زَكِيًّا

He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you a pure boy.” 19:19

If indeed Mary was a hermaphrodite, then she would have been capable of self impregnation and two events mentioned in the Qur’an would not be necessary requiring the information of conception of Jesus and the second being the gift of conception. These two events delivered through the agency of angels make it clear that Mary was not a hermaphrodite capable of internal self impregnation but a woman who was to conceive externally. She did conceive Jesus externally, and that was by the will of Allah and through the agency of angels.

7) Jesus addresses Mary as “Mother”, never as “Father”.

If indeed Mary was dual sex, possessing both ovarian and testicular reproductive organs, as is erroneously alleged, then such a feature would make her not only the mother, but also the father of Jesus – however we see in the Qur’an that Jesus addresses Mary only as his mother, and never as his father.

وَبَرًّا بِوَالِدَتِي وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْنِي جَبَّارًا شَقِيًّا

“(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;” 19:32

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَٰهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ

“And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” 5:116

Thus as Jesus addresses Mary as ‘Ummy’ i.e. “My mother”, and never as ‘Abi’ or “my father” and she is mentioned as his “Walida”, the biological mother who gave birth to him, and never as his “walid” or father, therefore the view that she was a dual sex, hermaphrodite possessing motherly and fatherly features is not consistent with the Qur’an.

8) Allah says “He creates what He wills”, shows Jesus was Allah’s creation by his will and command and born without masculine/male intervention

How will Jesus be born? The Qur’an does not say through a hermaphrodite birth but by the will of Allah:

قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ اللَّهُ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

..[The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” 3:47

The answer is very clear. It is Allah who will create Jesus as per His will. When Allah decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. This is how Jesus was conceived. Note how clear the verse is. Allah does not say that Mary will conceive Jesus as a hermaphrodite. No such suggestion is given. The simple and clear cut statement is that Jesus was conceived by the will and order of Allah. This Quranic statement should be the imaan of every Muslim.

9) The masculine pronoun “fihi” or in him’ in sura 66 refers to the unborn Jesus conceived by Mary. Quran explains itself that Jesus was assisted by Ruh al Qudus (the holy spirit).

وَمَرْيَمَ ابْنَتَ عِمْرَانَ الَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِنَا وَصَدَّقَتْ بِكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّهَا وَكُتُبِهِ وَكَانَتْ مِنَ الْقَانِتِينَ

And Maryam (Mary) daughter of Imran, who kept safe her private parts, (i.e., safeguarded) so We breathed in it of Our Spirit, and she sincerely (believed) in the Words of her Lord, and His Books; and she was one of the devout. 66:12 (Dr Ghali)

Like the above Egyptian translator Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali’s translation, many other translators render the masculine pronoun “fihi” literally “in him” to refer to the preceding word “FarjahAA” i.e “her private parts”, while Muhammad Asad, renders it as “We breathed of Our Spirit to that [which was in her womb]..” both these renderings, indicate that in this passage the masculine pronoun refers to the unborn child conceived by Mary.

And We have propounded yet another parable for God-consciousness] in the story of Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb], and who accepted the truth of her Sustainer’s words – and [thus] of His revelations – and was one of the truly devout.” 66:12, Muhammad Asad

Asad comments further on the expression whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb], “into the as yet unborn child (Razi, thus explaining the pronoun fihi)..”

Thus the spirit which was breathed into Mary in 21:91: “whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit..” was ultimately for her unborn male child, “..whereupon We breathed of Our spirit into that [which was in her womb]..” in 66:12.

Numerous other verses of the Qur’an also corroborate the understanding that when God breathed of His spirit into Mary, then it was also received by [the masculine] Jesus who was conceived within the [feminine] Mary:

وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ ۗ

“..We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit…” 2:87

ۚ وَآتَيْنَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَيَّدْنَاهُ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ ۗ

“..to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit…” 2:253

ۚ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ

“..Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him..” 4:171

The above verses clarify that Jesus was strengthened by the holy spirit, and it proceeded from him, thus the expression “fanafakhna feehi min roohina” (so we breathed into him of our spirit) in 66:12 refers to the breathing of spirit into the male Jesus.

Moreover that “feehi” does not refer to Mary is also obvious by the fact that in the verse the words that refer to Mary are all feminine. E.g. “allatee” (she) “ahsanatfarjaha” (she guarded her private parts), “saddaqat” (she proved true), ”rabbiha” (her Lord), ”kanat” (she was). Throughout the Qur’an Mary is identified as a female.

10) Birth of Jesus is like birth of Adam who was not born of a hermaphrodite but by the will of Allah.

Just like Adam was created by order of Allah without a male father similarly, Jesus was created by Allah without a male father – clarifies that Mary is not a hermaphrodite.

إِنَّ مَثَلَ عِيسَىٰ عِندَ اللَّهِ كَمَثَلِ آدَمَ ۖ خَلَقَهُ مِن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

“The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”. And he was.” 3:59

Adam was created by the command “Be”. And he was.”, similarly about Jesus we read:

قَالَتْ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِي بَشَرٌ ۖ قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ اللَّهُ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is! 3:47

Thus both Adam and Jesus were both created by the will of Allah and His command “Kun Fayakun” i.e. “Be, and it is!”, and not through a hermaphrodite parent.

11) If Mary was not a hermaphrodite, then how was Jesus conceived? “..your Lord says, ‘it is easy for me…”

When the news of birth of Yahya (John) was given to Zakaria (Zecharias), he posed the question:

قَالَ رَبِّ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لِي غُلَامٌ وَكَانَتِ امْرَأَتِي عَاقِرًا وَقَدْ بَلَغْتُ مِنَ الْكِبَرِ عِتِيًّا

He said, “My Lord, how will I have a boy when my wife has been barren and I have reached extreme old age?” 19:8

To which the reply was given:

قَالَ كَذَٰلِكَ قَالَ رَبُّكَ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ وَقَدْ خَلَقْتُكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَلَمْ تَكُ شَيْئًا

[An angel] said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, for I created you before, while you were nothing.’ 19:9

When Mary was informed of the birth of Jesus, she posed a question on similar lines and the same answer that was given to Zakaria was repeated to her:

قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ ۖ وَلِنَجْعَلَهُ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَرَحْمَةً مِّنَّا ۚ وَكَانَ أَمْرًا مَّقْضِيًّا

He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed. 19:21

How did Jesus come into the world? The Qur’an is crystal clear without citing any biological process involved: “..your Lord says, It is easy for Me.” This should be our Imaan. Allah is all powerful. He is capable of doing what He wills. It is easy for Allah to cause a birth without a father. We should have Imaan on this without speculating theories.

12) Wrong to conclude that Mary’s gender was not confirmed by Allah in 3:36, because the verse, when translated accurately confirms Mary as a female child

فَلَمَّا وَضَعَتْهَا قَالَتْ رَبِّ إِنِّي وَضَعْتُهَا أُنثَىٰ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا وَضَعَتْ وَلَيْسَ الذَّكَرُ كَالْأُنثَىٰ ۖ وَإِنِّي سَمَّيْتُهَا مَرْيَمَ وَإِنِّي أُعِيذُهَا بِكَ وَذُرِّيَّتَهَا مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ

But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah ].” 3:36 Saheeh International

Translations such as the one cited by the author of the article in “Review of Religions” along with Yusuf Ali, Pickthall and Shakir are inaccurate in their English rendering of the expression “Falamma wadaAAat-ha” in verse 3:36, and due to this inaccuracy, the wrong conclusion that Mary’s gender was not confirmed in the verse is reached. E.g.

“But when she was delivered of it, she said..” Cited by Moosa Qureshi

“And when she was delivered she said..” Pickthall

“When she was delivered, she said..” Yusuf Ali

“So when she brought forth, she said..” M. H. Shakir

We can note that it is not apparent in the above translations as to the gender of the child delivered by the wife of Imran. However once the expression “Falamma wadaAAat-ha” is translated correctly it is clear that the child she delivered was a female child, and this is being confirmed by Allah as the narrator of the expression is Allah in the Qur’an. It is in Saheeh International’s English translation by Umm Muhammad, Aminah Assami that the expression is accurately rendered:

“But when she delivered her, she said..” Saheeh International

Muhsin Khan also translated the pronoun “Haa” accurately as “her” in his translation:

“Then when she delivered her [child Maryam (Mary)], she said…”

Thus the assertion that in verse 3:36, Allah did not confirm the gender of Mary is wrong, as it is Allah Himself who has stated that the wife of Imran had given birth to a female child. It was against the wonderment of Mary’s mother for giving birth to a female and not a male child that Allah said: “And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered..”. In the preceding verse 3:35, we read that Mary’s mother had made a vow to dedicate her unborn child to Allah, expecting a male child, as tasks devoted to those in the cause of Allah such as leading prayers, or receiving prophecy and preaching were reserved for males and not females, she expressed how would her vow would be fulfilled now that the child she had given birth to was female and not male. It was at this that she was informed that Allah knew better what she had delivered indicating that even a female can be dedicated to Allah, and not necessarily a male. We read in later verses that her vow was accepted and Mary grew up to be a righteous woman and a mother of a Prophet, thus she was dedicated to Allah as a female in her own right. The narration also gives us a lesson that in the sight of Allah, gender does not matter. Whether male or female, Allah can select either for his work.

CONCLUSION

It can be concluded from the inflection of the Qur’an:

1. The Qur’an does not use any word which carries the meaning of “Hermaphrodite” for Mary. The statement “Mary is a hermaphprodite” is not to be found in the Qur’an in the original Arabic.

2. Wherever she is mentioned in the Qur’an, she is addressed in feminine gender and never as masculine or dual gender.

3. Feminine pronouns are used for her in accordance with Arabic grammar, thereby making it clear that she is a female.

4. The Qur’an narrates that she was chosen above the “women” of all nations, further confirming she was a woman and not a hermaphrodite.

5. Her question about how she can have a son when no man has touched her indicates she was a woman and not possessing male and female reproductive organs.

6. The word “Nabataa” (growth) in 3:37 does not imply asexual features for Mary because the same term is used for other people as well and because of the fact that Qur’an has overwhelming evidence about Mary’s womanhood.

7. Jesus always addresses her as his mother and never as his father, thereby confirming that she did not have a fatherly biological function.

8. Jesus was conceived by Mary by the will of Allah and through the external agency of Malaika and not through auto-reproduction.

9. It is false to suggest that in 3:36 Allah does not confirm the gender of Mary. In the beginning of the very verse, Allah identifies her feminine gender when He says “So when she delivered HER..”. The pronoun “Her” in this statement of Allah confirms that the child was a female.

Indeed, Allah has purified Mary, she has been purified of all sorts of false allegations that people have subjected her to, whether such allegations be of producing an illegitimate child, a child begotten of God, or the suggestion that she was a hermaphrodite Whenever Qur’anic evidence shall be brought to light about Mary, the fact that Allah has chosen and purified her above women of all the worlds will be manifest to all.

REFERENCES

1. The Review of Religions, April 2004, Vol. 99, Number 4, London, UK

2. Quranic Arabic Corpus – www.corpus.quran.com

3. English Translation of the Qur’an by Umm Muhammad Aminah Assami, Published by Saheeh International, Abul Qasim Publishing, Saudi Arabia

4. English Translation of the Qur’an by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Shaikh Ashraf Publishers, Lahore, Pakistan

5. English Translation of the Qur’an by Mohammad Mahmoud Ghali, Cairo, Egypt

6. Muhammad Asad, Message of the Qur’an, Dar Al Andalus, Gibraltar

 

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Blasphemy laws in the Qur’an


The Qur’an has issued clear guidelines as to how believers are to respond in the face of insults and ridicule

Blasphemy (Greek blaptein, “to injure”, and pheme, “reputation”) signifies etymologically gross irreverence towards any person or thing worthy of exalted esteem.¹ Blasphemy is the use of offensive, and derogatory language and visual representations against personalities revered and held in high esteem in a religion. In the Judeo Christian tradition, blasphemy is a serious sin, which is according to the Hebrew Scriptures a cognizable offense incurring capital punishment. In the book of Leviticus, which is considered an inspired text by both, Jews and Christians it is stated: “Take the blasphemer beyond the confines of the camp; let all those who were listening lay their hands on his head, and let the whole people put him to death by stoning. 15 Tell the Israelites this: The man who curses his God will be held to account for it; 16 he blasphemed the Lord’s name, and he must die. Be he citizen or stranger, he must be stoned by the whole people; death for the blasphemer.” Leviticus 24:14-16 Though very clearly a law enshrined in the Judeo-Christian Scripture, we also see in recent times, that it is the Muslim community which is in the spotlight regarding this subject. Some violent and extreme responses to blasphemy meted out in the name of Islam, make those outside of the faith (as well as many within the faith itself) raise the question, that like the Judeo-Christian Scripture, does the Islamic Scripture too, exhort believers to deliver death to blasphemers?

Blasphemy is not a capital crime in the Qur’an

Without investigating the fact of the matter many make an underlying assumption that whilst responding violently, those who label themselves as Muslims are acting on the tenets of their faith. That what you see on the TV screens and read about in the newspapers concerning so called Islamic acts is the practice of the Qur’an to the last letter. Many are deliberately led to believe as if whatever any individual identifying himself as a Muslim does or believes in, is a result of the religious guidance found in their Book and the authentic teaching of their faith. This actually, is not the case. Behaviour that we witness as “Islamic” behaviour is not necessarily Quranic behaviour. Upon studying the Qur’an we realise that the fringe in the Muslim world that partakes in violent behaviours is neither representative of Qur’anic teachings nor of the vast number of peaceful believers. The Qur’an is not silent about situations when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was insulted and abused by rejecters of his message. It very well does show his behaviour, as to what his response was in such instances. It also gives clear and unambiguous instructions to Muslims as to what their conduct should be when people mock, ridicule or scoff their faith.

God is sufficient against those who mock the Prophet

إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ

“For sufficient are We unto thee against those who scoff.” 15:95

It follows from this verse that if God is indeed sufficient against the scoffers, then there is no room left for believers to respond.

The Prophet [pbuh] never commanded anyone to respond violently in face of insults

The Prophet [pbuh] was commanded by Allah:

وَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَدَعْ أَذَاهُمْ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا

“And obey not [the behests] of the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and heed not their annoyances, but put thy Trust in Allah. For enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. ” 33:48

As Allah commanded the Prophet “and heed not their annoyances..” therefore the Prophet and his true followers did not pay any heed to insults and abuses they received from the rejecters.

True believers in Allah bear the hurts of rejecters with patience, not violence

A statement that believers in Allah gave to rejecters is recorded in the Qur’an as:

وَمَا لَنَا أَلَّا نَتَوَكَّلَ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَقَدْ هَدَانَا سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَلَنَصْبِرَنَّ عَلَىٰ مَا آذَيْتُمُونَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ

“No reason have we why we should not put our trust on Allah. Indeed He Has guided us to the Ways we [follow]. We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust on Allah.” 14:12

The words “..We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us…” make it absolutely clear that true believers do not respond violently to the hurtful things they hear from rejecters but tolerate them with patience.

Believers commanded to be patient in the face of insults

لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا أَذًى كَثِيرًا ۚ وَإِن تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

“Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will hurt you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. ” 3:186

The divine command given to believers as to what to do in the face of abuse as “..if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil…” leaves no room for doubt that true believers do not respond violently when faced with insults and abuse but remain calm and patient.

Believers are forbidden to insult other religions, hence responding violently is ruled out

وَلَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّوا اللَّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance. Thus unto every nation have We made their deed seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return, and He will tell them what they used to do.” 6:108

If believers are commanded by Allah not to even verbally insult deities, then how can they turn physically violent?

We also see in the Qur’an that blasphemy does not carry a capital punishment. Those who commit blasphemy and even plot sedition are given an opportunity by Allah to repent. If capital punishment were invoked and they were to face the death penalty then they would not be able to avail the opportunity for repentance that Allah mentions in 9:74.

يَحْلِفُونَ بِاللَّهِ مَا قَالُوا وَلَقَدْ قَالُوا كَلِمَةَ الْكُفْرِ وَكَفَرُوا بَعْدَ إِسْلَامِهِمْ وَهَمُّوا بِمَا لَمْ يَنَالُوا ۚ وَمَا نَقَمُوا إِلَّا أَنْ أَغْنَاهُمُ اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ مِن فَضْلِهِ ۚ فَإِن يَتُوبُوا يَكُ خَيْرًا لَّهُمْ ۖ وَإِن يَتَوَلَّوْا يُعَذِّبْهُمُ اللَّهُ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۚ وَمَا لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا نَصِيرٍ

“They swear by God that they said nothing (evil), but indeed they uttered blasphemy, and they did it after accepting Islam; and they meditated a plot which they were unable to carry out: this revenge of theirs was (their) only return for the bounty with which God and His Apostle had enriched them! If they repent, it will be best for them; but if they turn back (to their evil ways), God will punish them with a grievous penalty in this life and in the Hereafter: They shall have none on earth to protect or help them.” (9:74)

The expression in above verse: “..If they repent, it will be best for them…” is clear evidence in demonstrating that those guilty of blasphemy, apostasy and sedition are not to face the death penalty as Allah has given them a chance for repentance and amendment of their conduct.

If Muslims are to remain peaceful, then who are the people who respond violently?

A question that immediately comes to the mind is that if indeed the Qur’an calls for calm and restraint in the face of insults and abuse, then why do so many people who identify themselves as staunch believers in Islam behave otherwise? Why do people resort to violence, damage property and attempt to riot? The answer to this is also given in the Qur’an. The reality is that the Qur’an categorises two types of believers. Those who are believers in deed, and those who are believers only by name. It is the latter who resort to violence and destruction in the name of religious reform:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

“Of the people there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day;” but they do not [really] believe. ” 2:8

Whilst refuting the claim of such, the Qur’an also exposes them by virtue of their conduct and behaviour in the world:

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

“When it is said to them: “Make not Fasaad (disorder) on the earth,” they say: “Why, we only Want to reform!” 2:11

Pinpointing the people who go about flaunting their Imaan (belief) to be in fact fake, the above verses also identify their modus operandi to do Fasad (disorder),  assuming it to be a means to Islah (reform from sin). When we come across individuals who make it their mission to “destroy evil and vice”, we see the truthfulness of the above description. These are the type of people who bomb establishments that appear sinful to them and display violent rage in the name of religion. They style themselves as believers, do Fasaad fil Ard (disorder and mischief in the land), without realising that far from acting on Allah’s laws, they are in fact grossly violating them. Hence there are two types of people in the world who would claim to be within the fold of Imaan. Those whose characters are trained on Quranic guidance, who in the face of insults, invective and abuse act patiently and do not resort to a tit-for-tat or violent response. While others are those who, while claiming to be believers, actually defy the divine injunctions. These are the people who resort to violence and destruction and justify their conduct in the name of religion. The fundamental mistake we would make is to accept people by the labels they carry or the claims they make, instead of identifying them by the behaviours they display. Behaviours that go against the teachings of the Qur’an are never a part of Islam and their actors are never its true representatives. Muslims must not forget that the best defence to any insults is the one contained in the Qur’an. Instead of losing control, Muslims must hold fast to Qur’anic guidance in such matters. The Qur’an is Allah’s word and is not silent. Allah is fully aware of what situations come in the life of a believer and He has given remedies in His word. The only response that a true Muslim is to give is the one which the Prophet gave and which is to abide by the teaching contained in the Qur’an.

REFERENCES

¹ Catholic Encyclopedia

 

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A brief guide to the Hajj


Mina

A Brief Guide to the Hajj

The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Makkah which is obligatory on every adult Muslim man or woman who has the health and the wealth to undertake the journey. The Qur’an and Islamic tradition mention the origin of Hajj with Prophet Abraham (PBUH) who was commanded by God to establish his progeny in Makkah and to announce the pilgrimage to mankind. In His footsteps, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also performed the Hajj, thus making it obligatory on every Muslim who has its capacity.

The Hajj is an obligatory act in Islam like other obligatory acts of prayer, fasting, and giving zakat – charity. The purpose of the pilgrimage is remembrance of Allah and to offer complete submission and devotion to Him. The pilgrim commemorates Tauheed – the oneness of God and denounces Shirk – polytheism and idolatry, and offers sacrifice by material, physical as well as spiritual means resulting in a stronger Imaan (belief) and a strong desire to live a virtuous life after the event. The Hajj is a life changing experience. Traditionally, Muslims are known to divide their lives in two parts – one lived prior to the Hajj and the one lived after performing it. The latter is one in which one feels more closer to God and in which he or she become more religiously observant.

Hujjaj

The one who performs the Hajj is called a Hajji (masculine) or Hajjah (feminine), plural form Hujaaj (pilgrims). As Islam is not a tribal religion but one which all humankind is invited towards, Hujaaj from all over the globe join in for the Hajj making it truly an international event incorporating the full diversity of people.

Makkah – the host city of the Hujaaj

Makkah is a sacred city for Muslims and the host to millions of pilgrims each year. It is here that all pilgrims congregate and from this city that they move to various venues to perform the rites of the pilgrimage.

Time Period for Hajj

The Hajj is performed every year in the month of Dhul-Hijjah, the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The actual rituals of the Hajj are performed from the 8th day till the 12th day of the month.

Ihram – The dress code for Hajj

When one intends to perform the Hajj, they have to enter the city of Makkah in a state of Ihram and observe its rules. For men, the Ihram consists of two un sewn sheets of white, while a woman’s Ihram can be any dress that meets the requirements of Islamic modesty.

Whilst in a state of Ihram there are certain duties and obligations laid down on the pilgrim. They are not to fight, engage in sexual intercourse, apply perfume, cut their hair or nails. Hunting and fighting is also forbidden when one has adorned the Ihram.

Meeqat – Entry points into Makkah

The Ihram is worn in any of the Meeqats – which are designated points of entry into Makkah, or if travelling by Air, the pilgrims change in to Ihram prior to entering the Airspace of Makkah.

Masjid al-Haram

Upon arrival, the pilgrims first destination is Masjid Al Haram, the grand Mosque in Makkah which houses the Kabah, the House appointed as a focus point for believers in monotheism of God. At masjid al Haraam, pilgrims perform the tawaf of the Kabah – the cube shaped building which is the direction of prayers for Muslims. Tawaf is performed by circumbulating the Kabah seven times followed by Sayee or running seven times between the adjoining hills of Safa and Marwa.

Mina

On the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah, the pilgrims move to Mina, a city of camps outside Makkah. Here they are camped all night and perform the five daily prayers and make supplications to God while commemorating his messages.

Arafat

On the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah the crowds move to the plains of Arafat, 20 kilometres east of Makkah, where they stay till sunset, and engage in prayers, supplications and reflections, seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness. They perform the shortened and combined noon and afternoon prayers at Masjid Namirah.

Muzdalifa

After sunset at Arafat, the pilgrims next destination is the sand of Muzdalifa, an area between Arafat and Mina. At Muzdalifa, they spend the night under open skies, offer prayers near Mashar al Haram or the sacred monument and collect pebbles for the ritual stoning of Jamarat to be done the next day.

Jamarat

At dawn, the pilgrims leave Muzdalifa and move back towards Mina, from where they visit the jamaraat, which are stone altars symbolizing evil and polytheism. The pilgrims throw seven pebbles at these pillars as a symbolic act of denouncing evil and wrong doing from their lives.

Sacrifice and shaving the hair

On the same day the pilgrims sacrifice an animal and distribute the meat to the poor. After the sacrifice they shave their heads as a sign of a spiritual rebirth. After shaving the pilgrims will then revisit Masjid al Haram to perform the Tawaf of Kabah and Sayee at Safa and Marwa, after which they return to Mina. On the 11th and 12th they repeat the stoning ritual and after which they perform a final farewell Tawaf of the Kabah, marking their departure from Makkah. The Hajj rites are now complete.

After the Hajj – onwards to Madina and Ziyarat

Following the completion of the rites of Hajj, most pilgrims visit the city of Madina, where they perform prayers at Masjid an Nabawi and also visit various historical sites.

Return to their homelands

The pilgrims return to their homelands with a spiritual revival and a new life. Their lives will now be dedicated to God and are to be spent in accordance with His laws.

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Makkah: The Microcosm of the World


MAKKAH: THE MICROCOSM OF THE WORLD

To the unknowing as well as the unconcerned, Makkah may be a city in the desert with some historical importance, but what does come to light once we actually visit the city, is the fact that it is the microcosm of the entire world. To the faithful, humankind’s centrepoint, appointed by God since time immemorial is none else but the city of Makkah. Such an honour mandates that no matter what one’s racial or ethnic background, the journey to Umm al-Quraaa or the ‘Mother of all cities’, as it has been called in the Qur’an – is a yearning of the heart. This longing is pandered to all year around through the Umrah or the lesser pilgramage, but its true fulfilment is found in the Hajj. Every year the city of Makkah is host to millions of people from all walks of life and all hues and colours during the Hajj, an international event of superb magnitude which is obligatory on all Muslims, male or female, who possess the means as well as the ability to perform the journey.

THE ROAD TO MAKKAH

The period of Hajj sees all roads leading to Makkah. Pilgrims make their way through land, sea and air using all available means of transportation. Special Hajj flights are organised for the event by major world Airlines and special Hajj liners sail from distant lands carrying pilgrims by the sea. Such is the ardent desire to be at the city that some even travel on foot. It is not at all uncommon to hear tales of perilous journeys culminating in Makkah by pedestrians from far away lands. This descent into Makkah from all parts of the world is not a new phenomenon, but one which was foretold by God to Prophet Abraham:

And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass.” Qur’an 22:27

Makkah during the Hajj is a global village in its true sense. Pilgrims, whose numbers during the event surpass the population size of many countries, are drawn to the city from every continent on the planet.

HUMANITY AT ITS FULL SPLENDOR

Black or white, young or old, male or female, able bodied or disabled, rich or poor, thus humanity in its full splendour can be witnessed during the Hajj. Even the diversity around fashion which distinguishes one community from the other is quite apparent and was marvelled at by former MTV star presenter Kristiane Backer in her autobiography:

They came from all over the world and I never tired of the variety of faces, colours and outfits. There were women from Mali looking regal and elegant in gorgeous lilac orange, and green robes wearing matching turbans with a strip of fabric hanging down the side. Indonesian women all had white headscarves and white gloves and white headscarves that hung to their breast and were embroidered with lace. The persian women usually wore long black or blue robes with grey chadors that came down below their hips while Morroccans could be recognised by the hoods on their jalabias. Another group of women sported bright yellow veils with blue labels sewn onto them, which indicated that they came from Kerala in India. I also heard German, French, English and American voices.On my wanderings, I came across men from Tajikistan wearing black quilted satin and velvet coats and matching black gold-framed caps. There were other men with palestinian scarves wrapped around their heads, shiny silver black turbans, traditional Arab head dress or small white caps. Many Pakistanis had long henna-dyed beards.” (From MTV to Mecca, pp 314)

Makkah of today is a modern city with all amenities and comforts for travelers from all over the globe. But what remains unchanged is the sublime spirit of the Hajj, which no words can describe and which can only be felt by the heart of the pilgrim.

TRANSFORMATION TO PEACE

The diversity at Hajj is not a mere social phenomenon, but one of immense importance for the wider welfare of humankind. Pilgrims ranging from every possible ethnic background return to their homelands with an increased level of tolerance for their fellow-men who may be different from them. The interaction with people of different race and ethnicity leave no room at all for racism. The pilgrims are in a state of cooperation and display the best of their behavior during the days as they are commanded by Allah:

Hajj is [during] well-known months, so whoever has made Hajj obligatory upon himself therein [by entering the state of ihram], there is [to be for him] no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj. And whatever good you do – Allah knows it. And take provisions, but indeed, the best provision is fear of Allah. And fear Me, O you of understanding.” Qur’an 2:197

Exposure to a diversity of groups makes the visitors to Makkah more tolerant, not only towards those who are present during the pilgrimage, but also those who are absent. American civil rights activist Malcolm X drastically altered his views on race after performing the Hajj. In a letter from the Hajj, he wrote:

”We were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood that my experiences in America had led me to believe never could exist between the white and non-white … what I have seen, and experienced, has forced me to rearrange much of my thought patterns previously held.’‘ (The Autobiography of Malcolm X)

While the world rages with ethnic and national conflicts, each year Makkah demonstrates to us that people can very well intermix despite differences on national, sectarian, and gender lines and peacefully coexist with each other. Words are not sufficient to describe the splendor offered by Makkah. To experience it you will have to visit the city and be there in person.

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Do all deceased Children go to Heaven?


Accountability of children, the weak and the handicapped

Q- A vast majority of people have not read the Qur’an. Even among Muslims, its true knowledge is very rare to find. There are children who do not know who Allah is, or what Islam means. There are many individuals who suffer from mental illness or are born disabled and are not able to follow the Qur’an. Can we imply that such people will not be saved because they have not read Allah’s Book, and are unaware of its teachings?

A- The Quran teaches us that to qualify for punishment, the message of God has to reach that person first. In the conversations that are mentioned in the Quran about the time period or dimension of the hereafter or life after death, it is stated that the unbelievers, who will be in torment, will be questioned:

“The Fire will burn their faces and they will therein grin with their lips displaced. (Allah will ask) Were not My Signs rehearsed to you and ye did but treat them as falsehood?” (23:104-105)

The question, “Were not My Signs rehearsed to you and ye did but treat them as falsehood?” clearly informs us that to qualify for punishment the message of the Qur’an has to reach an individual first, after which it is consciously rejected by him. In case the message has not reached people, or their mental ability is not such that they can comprehend it then they are not held accountable.

Children and those who are disabled will be forgiven by God
The following verses have brought two groups in comparison. One is that which rejected God’s message in a conscious state of mind, the other consists of those who are in such a state that they could not find the means to study God’s guidance or were physically handicapped to ascertain its meaning, we are told:

“When the Angels take the souls of those who die in oppression against their souls they say: “In what (plight) Were ye?” They reply: “Weak and oppressed Were we in the earth.” They say: “Was not the earth of God spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (From evil)?” Such men will find their abode in Hell – What an evil refuge!

Except those who are (really) weak and oppressed – men women and children – who have no means in their power nor (a guide-post) to their way. For these there is hope that God will forgive: For God doth blot out (sins) and forgive again and again.” (4:97-99)

From above we can infer that children who die before the age of consent or those individuals who do not have the ability to receive guidance are not held accountable for their actions. Accountability is for those individuals who while having the means to attain guidance remained ignorant or went against the guidance after gaining knowledge.

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Wasted Salat


First published in DAWN, 06, June, 2014

NEGLECTED PRAYER

THE mosque is full, and not an inch of space is available to set one’s foot inside. The main hall, the courtyard, the lawns, even the entrance and the footpaths are all occupied, making it difficult to squeeze in. This is a common scene a little after noon every Friday.

To the observer it may seem that people are certainly not neglectful of their prayers, but in reality there is more to it than meets the eye. Stop anyone leaving the mosque and ask a few questions about what he just did, and all will be revealed.

Just inquire as to the message of the khutba (sermon) he heard delivered in Arabic, and you will receive an excuse. Ask what instructions were given in the melodic recitation of the Quran by the imam, and you will receive an apology.Probe further and you are likely to hear an honest confession of complete ignorance.

For many people prayer has become a mechanical routine of sorts — one which must be performed irrespective of whether one understands it. In the minds of many, the mere performance of the physical act results in some sort of an increase in spiritual score. But the language employed and the practical change are matters that remain largely unknown.

If our worship is devoid of any intellectual stimulation, why then do we expect a miracle of transformation? Knowledge of the Quranic message is of great importance. For many, religion is not an intellectual choice, but what has been inherited from parents and retained for social conformance.

To follow the crowd, than to be the odd man out, is therefore the tendency. The buck is also passed on to certain ‘experts’, thereby absolving oneself of individual responsibility to acquire knowledge. With the erroneous belief that religion is the purport of the religious and the world of the worldly, duality pervades the conscious through and through. Worship is restricted to the performance of religious rituals, while life is governed elsewhere by one’s own rules. Visits to the mosque thus become a religious duty, but places of work have nothing to do with revealed morality, it is thought.

Such a mindset, though prevalent within many today, is condemned by the Quran. It clearly stipulates that believers should not divide life into two separate religious and non-religious compartments but should “…Enter into Islam completely. …” (2:208). It clarifies that performing one’s prayers is an act of worship, but so is trade and commerce when conducted in line with God’s guidance (4:29). That salat is not the performance of a mindless ritual involving the utterance of mystical mantras but that an act of physical as well as psychological submission to God is manifest in the Quranic order to not approach prayers with a mind befogged (4:43).

Therefore it is vital that believers also make efforts to understand the meaning of Quranic instructions rehearsed during prayers for only then can such instructions be carried out in life. Merely being in the row of those who pray does not grant one any special privilege, for even the munafiqeen (hypocrites) may be standing in the same row (4:142), yet are promised the deepest depths of hell (4:145).

Genuine believers stand in prayer for the purpose of receiving Quranic guidance, and their full presence of mind is needed to understand and feel the instructions. They should be fully conscious of the divine directive to ‘give ear to the Quran and pay heed to obtain mercy’, so that their feelings are also touched by the messages they hear because they fully understand them, and “…whenever the Signs of (Allah) Most Gracious were recited to them, they would fall down in prostration [in] adoration and in tears” (19:58).

On the other hand, during prayer, those who do not take revealed religion seriously are distracted in mind even in the midst of it. The Quran makes it abundantly clear to us that the comprehension of salat is what matters, along with the change it is supposed to bring about in our inner self.

Real neglect of prayers is not restricted to missing their physical performance, but also to remaining ignorant of their meaning and thus to be devoid of the character change. This problem can only be resolved if Muslims make an effort to study the Quran as it ought to be studied, with a view to seek its guidance. For it is the Quran which is recited in the prayer. Sadly, many of us remain ceremoniously associated with the Holy Book to convey blessings to the deceased rather than receive practical instructions for the living, ignoring that it is meant “to warn whoever is alive. …” (36:70).

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A Prophet is chosen by Allah


Q. Deniers of finality of Prophet-hood cite verse 4:69 “whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger, then he is among the company of the Prophets..” to justify the claim of Prophet-hood of their group’s founder. They maintain that their leader obeyed Allah and His Messenger to such an extent and devotion that he too became a Nabi (Prophet) and this was, according to them, in line with what is stated in the verse. Is their claim and understanding consistent with the Qur’an? Does the Qur’an really state that one can become a Nabi merely by obedience to Allah and His Messenger?

A. No. Such beliefs are not justified by the Qur’an, rather refuted by the Book of Allah. The ayah in question is:

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“All who obey Allah and the Messenger are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of Allah of the Prophets (who teach) the sincere (lovers of truth) the witnesses (who testify) and the righteous (who do good): ah! what a beautiful fellowship!” (4:69 Yusuf Ali)

If we ponder over the verse we observe that it does not suggest that anyone who obeys Allah and His Messenger becomes a Nabi (Prophet), but rather that such a person enters in to the companionship of Nabiyeen (Prophets). The Arabic words MA’AL LAZINA an’amalla_hu ‘alaihim lit.“..in the company of those on whom is the favour of Allah..” clearly point to this fact. We further read in Sura 48 that:

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“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah and those with him are strong against the unbelievers while compassionate with each other.” (48:29)

Here wal lazina maahu “those with him” i.e. those who were with Muhammad (PBUH) are identified separately. Those with Muhammad were those who obeyed him, and all of them did not become Prophets by doing so. Sura 4:69 states that those who obey the messenger, do not become Prophets but they simply come in their companionship.The Arabic words of 4:69 WA HASUNA ULA_’IKA RAFIQA lit. “And what a beautiful FELLOWSHIP”, also confirm this fact.

If one were to claim that being in the company of another makes him the same person, then in many places of the Quran we also find: Annalla_ha MA’AL muttaqin lit. “Surely God is WITH THOSE who are Righteous” (2:194) and innalla_ha ma’as sa_birin lit. “Surely God is WITH THOSE those who are patient” (2:153). If maa an nabiyeen” lit. “with the Prophets” makes someone a Prophet, then that would erroneously imply that maa_Allah would make one same as Allah! Such a belief being absolutely contradictory to Qur’an. It can be observed in the Quran that Nabuwah (Prophecy) is not acquired by personal efforts but is bestowed by God of His own will. The recipient of God’s message has no idea at all that it will be bestowed on him a moment prior to its revelation, as the following verses declare:

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“And thus have We inspired in thee (Muhammad) a Spirit of Our command. Thou knewest not what the Book was, nor belief. But We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our bondmen. And lo! thou verily dost guide unto a right path.” (42:52)

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“And thou hadst not expected that the Book would be sent to thee except as a Mercy from thy Lord: therefore lend not thou support in any way to those who reject (Allah’s Message).” (28:86)

“..Thou knewest not what the Book was, nor belief..” and “…”And thou hadst not expected that the Book would be sent to thee except as a Mercy from thy Lord..” clearly show that one on whom God’s revelation is bestowed does not work towards receiving that Message and does not make efforts to become a Prophet or Messenger. Rather Prophecy is a gift of God, and given as per the will of God. As the verse 4:69 clearly says that obedience to Allah and His Rasul results in attaining the fellowship of God’s Prophets and not Prophet-hood, therefore the view that one can become a Prophet by his own efforts is false and contrary to the Qur’an.

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Nikah Muta


Nikah Mut’a (temporary marriage) is it allowed by the Qur’an?

Q. What is the Quranic view on permission of Nikah Mut’a which is a temporary marriage entered for a fixed period of time for the purpose of physical pleasure and in which the partners do not inherit from each other?

A. The Qur’an does not permit that sexual urges should be fulfilled by temporary means. It says that people who do not posses the means to get married should remain chaste, as indicated by the following verse:

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“And let those who do not find the means to marry keep chaste until Allah makes them free from want out of His grace.” (24:33)

Sex is a controllable urge as it is triggered off through our thoughts. This is the reason that believers are enjoined to remain celibate at certain times, e.g. while fasting and during the days of the Hajj or while in state of Ihraam (pilgrim garb). If sex were not controllable, then Allah, who created us, and who knows man’s nature would never demand of us to remain celibate at specific times. Unlike food which no matter how less you try to think about, will over come you as it is a vital need, but sex on the other hand is not like food that if we do not have it we may then acquire a physical deficiency.

People are ordered to keep themselves chaste until marriage. There is no other temporary means to fulfill this urge, says the Quran, while on the other hand we see that in case of food, when the situation is of a grievous nature and there is no access to Halaal (permissible) food, then the Quran says in such a situation, even Haraam (prohibited) food can be consumed:

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“..But whoever is forced [by necessity], neither desiring [it] nor transgressing [its limit], then indeed, your Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.” 6:145

But in the case of sex, we do not find any recommendation for its gratification by a means other than Nikah (marriage), and those who cannot marry are ordered to keep chaste until their circumstances change. The purpose of sex according to Quran is not fulfillment of lust or satisfaction of desires only but it goes far beyond that. Like food, sex is not an end in itself, but it is a means to an end, i.e. procreation of the human species. Just like food is not consumed only for the sake of taste but acquisition of energy is the principle aim for its consumption, similarly sex is not an end in itself but is a means for another higher purpose. The Qur’an enjoins that believers who posses resources to support a family, should establish a permanent relationship of marriage, and assigns numerous rights related to such a bond. No passage of the Qur’an gives the slightest indication of the legitimacy of a temporary bond between couples entered into solely for physical pleasure.

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“And how could you take it (back) while you have gone in unto each other, and they (your wives) have taken from you a firm and strong covenant?” 4:21

In above, the words Meethaqan ghaleeza lit. “strong covenant” rule out the notion of a marriage being a temporary bond but indicate it to be one entered into for a permanent basis. Moreover according to Qur’an, both husband and wife are to inherit from each other, thereby indicating that Nikah is a lifetime commitment and not a temporary affair:

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“And for you is half of what your wives leave if they have no child. But if they have a child, for you is one fourth of what they leave, after any bequest they [may have] made or debt. And for the wives is one fourth if you leave no child. But if you leave a child, then for them is an eighth of what you leave, after any bequest you [may have] made or debt. And if a man or woman leaves neither ascendants nor descendants but has a brother or a sister, then for each one of them is a sixth. But if they are more than two, they share a third, after any bequest which was made or debt, as long as there is no detriment [caused]. [This is] an ordinance from Allah , and Allah is Knowing and Forbearing.” 4:12

As the Qur’an clearly commands those not having the means to get married to keep chaste, and has indicated that marriage is a strong bond between a husband and wife which results in the creation of rights of inheritance  therefore the notion of a temporary marriage for a fixed period of time solely for sexual gratification in which partners do not inherit from each other is against Qur’anic guidelines. In view of this, Nikah Mut’a is not permissible for a believer in Qur’an.

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Graves of Messengers


Is there evidence in the Qur’an to prove that Messengers of Allah were buried in graves upon their demise?

Though the Qur’an does not mention the exact location or time of death of any Messenger, we can infer from its ayat that Messengers were assigned burials by Allah at the time of their death. The following should be analysed to this effect:

The Qur’an terms Messengers of Allah as Bashar (human)

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“Their messengers said to them: “True, we are human like yourselves, but Allah doth grant His grace to such of his servants as He pleases. It is not for us to bring you an authority except as Allah permits. And on Allah let all men of faith put their trust.” 14:11 Yusuf Ali

Messengers are Bashar or human. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is also made to say that he was a Bashar

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“Or you have a house of gold or you ascend into the sky. And [even then], we will not believe in your ascension until you bring down to us a book we may read.” Say, “Exalted is my Lord! Was I ever but a human messenger?” 17:94 Saheeh International

Every Bashar has to die, therefore as Messengers are “Bashar”, they too, die

Muhammad (p) was informed by Allah that as a Bashar he would one day die as no Bashar has been granted permanent life:

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“We granted not to any man before thee permanent life (here): if then thou shouldst die, would they live permanently?” 21:34 Yusuf Ali

Thus like all messengers Muhammad (p) was also to die one day.

The Qur’an declares that Messengers are “Insaan”, and that “Insaan” is given a “Qabar” or grave by Allah

Messengers are from Naas (plural of Insaan, i.e. man, human) in Surat Al Hajj 22:75

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“Allah chooses from the angels messengers and from the people. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Seeing.” 22:75 Sahih International

A messenger has been identified in the Qur’an as Insaan or man, and about Insaan it is clearly stated:

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“Then He causes his death and provides a grave for him.” 80:21 Saheeh International

Thus as Muhammad (p) and messengers before him were Bashar who were not granted immortality but had a limited life span and were to die one day, and as messengers are identified to be from Naas (plural form of Insaan) category, and the law of Allah for Insaan is that He causes his death and provides a grave for him, therefore all Messengers of Allah, including Muhammad (p) were provided graves for their burial at the time of their death.

Though the Qur’an is silent about the location of graves of Prophets/Messengers, this silence in no way suggests a negation of the existence of their graves. It can be inferred from the above Qur’anic ayat that Messengers were “Insaan” and by virtue of being “Insaan” they were granted graves by Allah at the time of their death. 

The Messenger was Human


Is there any evidence in Al-Qur’an to prove that Muhammad (p) was a human being?

The Qur’an classifies messengers in two categories, messengers from humans and messengers from angels

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“Allah chooses from the angels messengers and from the people. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Seeing.” 22:75 Sahih International

It can be seen from above that Allah has selected two kinds of messengers.

(a) From Malaika (Angels)

(b) From Naas (People, human beings)

Malaika are not human beings but Allah’s creation assigned to perform tasks in the realm of Al Ghayb or the unseen.

In the case of Malaika, they are assigned by Allah to perform various tasks, such as taking the soul of a person at the time of his death etc.

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“And He is the subjugator over His servants, and He sends over you guardian-angels until, when death comes to one of you, Our messengers take him, and they do not fail [in their duties].” 6:61 Sahih International

In above ayah, it is Rusul or messengers who give Waffat or completion of death to a person, whereas in Surat An Nahl, the same task is mentioned to be done by Malaika:

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“The ones whom the angels take in death, [being] good and pure; [the angels] will say, “Peace be upon you. Enter Paradise for what you used to do.” 16:34 Saheeh International  

Malaika are beings sent as messengers that belong in the realm of Al Ghayb (the unseen) who perform these tasks, whereas in the case of Naas or human beings, for their guidance Allah has selected a bashar or human to be a recipient of His revelation.

That Muhammad (peace be upon him was such a human being, who was subject to the laws of nature that were applicable for all other humans is evident from numerous Qur’anic ayaat:

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“Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.” 3:144 Saheeh International

The words “So if he was to die or be killed.” indicate that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was also subject to death like messengers who had passed away before him. One who is subject to the law of death is neither immortal, nor an angelical being, but a human being. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is himself made to declare through numerous Quranic ayat that he was a human being with the proviso that he received Wahi or inspiration from Allah.

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Say, “I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your god is one God. So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord – let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone.” 18:110 Saheeh International

In above ayat, the words “I am only a man like you..” issued through Muhammad (peace be upon him) prove that he was a Bashar or human being, like other human beings, who was subject to all the natural laws that human beings are subject to.

As Qur’an identifies that messengers are of two types, angels and human beings (22:75), and as Muhammad (p) is shown to be prone to death (3:144), and as Angels are not prone to death but are the agents to cause death (6:61, 16:34), and as he is himself made to say that he was a human being, therefore it can be concluded from Qur’an that Muhammad (p) was a human being who was selected by Allah as His messenger for other human beings and not from the other category of angelic messengers.

Zamzam and Jesus


Is the well of Zamzam springing water due to the birth of Jesus? Qur’an Sura 19 mentions a rivulet appearing underneath Mary and the mention of dates. Is this rivulet the water of Zamzam and the dates that Mary ate the dates meant for the pilgrims of Makkah?

The Well of Zamzam is a well located within the precincts of Masjid al-haram in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba, the first house appointed for servitude to Allah and the holiest place in Islam. Masjid al-Haram is situated in wadi Ibraheem, which is a place about which we are informed in most clear terms in the Qur’an that no vegetation can grow within its precincts:

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 “O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits: so that they may give thanks.” 14:37

Zamzam well is located in what the Qur’an describes as “a valley without cultivation,“, while the place where Jesus was born was not without cultivation but having vegetation in the form of date-palms:

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And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried (in her anguish): “Ah! would that I had died before this! would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!” 19:23

The words “And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree..” clearly show that Mary was not in “a valley without cultivation”,  which is where the well of Zamzam is located, but in cultivated land:

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But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): “Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; 19:24

This rivulet CANNOT BE the Zamzam water because that well is within the precincts of Masjid Al Haraam which is in a valley without cultivation. We further read in verse 25:

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“And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee.” 19:25

The words ““And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree:..” show that Mary is in a place where there is cultivation and was in proximity to a tree and certainly not in a “valley without cultivation”.

Here some will say that in 14:37 Prophet Ibraheem (PBUH) prayed for “fruits” for his progeny, hence these could be the dates. This view is again contradictory to Qur’an. We have seen that 14:37 identifies Masjid al-Haram’s location in barren land. The fruits that are brought within its vicinity are not grown on location but are imported from elsewhere. This fact is attested by the Qur’an itself:

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“And they say, “If we were to follow the guidance with you, we would be swept from our land.” Have we not established for them a safe sanctuary (Haram Aminan) to which are brought the fruits of all things as provision from Us? But most of them do not know.” 28:57 Saheeh International

“..to which are brought the fruits of all things..” clarifies how the prayer of Ibraheem “..and feed them with fruits:..” was answered. The fruits of Makkah are brought there by trade and not grown in the vicinity of Masjid al-Haram.

The view the rivulet mentioned for Mary is the same as the Zamzam water is clearly against the Qur’an and that the dates mentioned in Sura 19 are dates from Makkah that pilgrims consume. The view is also against common logic, because Zamzam is an underground well, while the source of water mentioned with Mary is not a well but a rivulet.

Reincarnation of Muhammad


Is Muhammad (PBUH), a Messenger of all times? Does he keep reincarnating since day one, in the past, present and the future, appearing in the person and the body of various individuals?

The expression “Messenger of all times” does not find its origin in the Arabic Qur’an. Such a statement being non-existent in the Book is also refuted by numerous Qur’anic Ayaat themselves. When Allah wants us to make something part of our belief then He clearly and unambiguously mentions it in the Qur’an. An expression which does not exist in the Qur’an and which is refuted by it can never constitute Islamic teaching and should not be considered part of one’s Imaan (belief). Neither does the Qur’an call Muhammad (p) a messenger who keeps reincarnating in the person of individuals, nor does it term him in the original Arabic as “the messenger of all times.” Such beliefs are in error and grossly violate many clear cut statements of the Qur’an. Following is proof to the effect.

Proof #1: The Qur’an very clearly mentions that advent of Muhammad was after the departure of Jesus and not before, thus he is God’s messenger for mankind sent after Jesus and not present continuously on earth from the beginning of time:

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And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.” But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, “This is obvious magic.” 61:6

The view that he is a reincarnating messenger of all times is refuted by the wordings “..of a messenger to come after me..” and prove that Muhammad (p) was commissioned after Jesus and not for the time period before Jesus. As he was sent AFTER Jesus, and not before him, therefore the assertion that he is the messenger of all times and present continuously on earth. is contradictory to Qur’an.

Proof # 2: The Qur’an declares that Messengers prior to Muhammad have passed away, thus his time period is after previous prophets / messengers and not before them:

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“Muhammad is no more than a messenger: many Were the messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then Turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.”

The words “..[messengers] that passed away before him…” clearly indicate that Muhammad is not a perpetual time traveler but existed historically after the passing away of various messengers, whom Allah had sent to guide mankind. Thus his time period begins not from “all times” or “day one” but after the passing away of previous messengers and he can not be present during the era of previous messengers.

Proof # 3: The Qur’an declares that Muhammad (p) was also subject to death, like every other messenger before him. One who is subject to death does not reincarnate back on earth after his death but is resurrected at the day of judgement:

In the same verse 3:144 cited above the wordings “..If he died or were slain ..أَفَإِن مَّاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ also prove that Muhammad (p) was a human messenger subject to Allah’s natural law of death, and not an immortal being who keeps reincarnating in all times and eras taking on the person of various individuals.

CONCLUSION

The Qur’an therefore CONTRADICTS the view that Muhammad (p) was present continuously on earth since the beginning of time. He was sent on earth after the passing away of previous messengers and specifically, after Jesus Christ (pbuh). Like other Messengers, Muhammad (pbuh) was also subject to the law of death. It is vital that prior to accepting any belief as Islamic we verify whether such beliefs pass the scrutiny of the Arabic Qur’an. Reincarnation is not an Islamic belief from the Qur’an but one which exists on Hinduism and other polytheistic faiths. The Qur’an refutes this doctrine in numerous passages.

Blind following


Everything Spoken In The Name of God is Not Necessarily From God!

Indeed, the dilemma of faith is that it is taken for granted. Preachers who are deceived, often deceive others, and result in terrible consequences. If only we were to realize that everything spoken in the name of God is not necessarily coming from God. The Qur’an cautions us from such preachers who use God’s name but commit acts never sanctioned by Him.

The faithful seldom check the beliefs they have been tutored to accept, and simply tag along with the status quo. In most faiths, it is the clergy and the priestly class who act as the caretakers and expounders of religion. In Qur’anic terms, is it true that we should blindly consider preachers, religious scholars, the clergy and priest-craft to be the sole authority for the interpretation of the divine message? Are religious authorities to be followed unquestioningly?

Scholars and Priests invent laws in God’s name and oppose from the true path

Though almost every faith accepts the clergy and the priestly class as the arbiters and caretakers of religion, the Qur’an states that the most of them are in fact opponents of the ‘Deen’ given by Allah. This at any rate is what Surah At-Tauba suggests.

O you who believe! Most surely many among the Religious scholars  and the priests eat away the property of mankind falsely, and oppose them from Allah’s way; and (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement. (9:34)

According to these verses, the clergy hinders people from the path of Allah. It invents laws which it falsely attributes to Allah. It brainwashes its followers, ensuring that they unquestioningly accept what they teach. The result is obvious. Perfectly level-headed and rational people can be seen subscribing to ludicrous beliefs masquerading as the divine truth. The Qur’an is unequivocal in its condemnation.

Woe, then, to those who write the book with their hands and then say: This is from Allah, so that they may take for it a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.” (2:79)

Surah Ash-Shoora reminds us about those who invent Shariah-laws which they proceed to impute to Allah and His messenger:

Or have they associates who have prescribed for them any Shariah laws that Allah does not sanction? And were it not for the word of judgment, decision would have certainly been given between them; and surely the unjust shall have a painful punishment. (42:21)

 

Blind following of religious authorities will lead people into hell-fire!

One of the greatest gifts of Allah is the ability to think and reason. We should use this gift wisely and use it well. The Qur’an asks us not to accept anything without verifying it first, no matter how ‘pious’ a source it supposedly comes from.

Do not pursue that whereof you have no knowledge. Verily, the hearing and sight, and the heart, each of these will be asked. (17:36)

The above verse clearly teaches us that we should not accept any information without first examining it with the help of our senses and our minds. Following opinions without first verifying them in the light of the divine code can have unfortunate consequences.

And they shall all come forth before Allah, then the weak shall say to those who were proud: Surely we were your followers, can you therefore avert from us any part of the chastisement of Allah? They would say: If Allah had guided us, we too would have guided you; it is the same to us whether we are impatient (now) or patient, there is no place for us to fly to. (14:21)

The Qur’an points, characteristically, to an interesting irony: followers will disown leaders on the Day of Judgement and vice versa:

When those who were followed shall renounce those who followed (them), and they see the chastisement and their ties are cut asunder. And those who followed shall say: Had there been for us a return, then we would renounce them as they have renounced us. Thus will Allah show them their deeds to be intense regret to them, and they shall not come forth from the fire. (2:166-167)

This holds good equally of both religious leaders and icons (‘great men’).

And they shall say: O our Sustainer! surely we obeyed our leaders and our great men, so they led us astray from the path; O our Sustainer! give them a double punishment and curse them with a great curse. (33:67-68)

One the Last Day, Allah will question us concerning the Qur’an, and it is for this that we have to prepare ourselves. (See 23:66-67, 104, ,25:30, 45:31)

So our ability to reflect is a supreme gift. Let us not allow any individual or group of individuals to take this gift away from us.

 

Those who follow religious preachers without Qur’anic guidance are deceived that they are on the true path!

Let us remind ourselves that there are many religious scholars and that their teachings are quite diverse. And let us ask ourselves if they are teaching the correct ‘Deen’ of Allah. Besides, how can we gauge which one of them is on the right path? In point of fact, we stand forewarned by Allah.

A part has He guided aright and (as for another) part, error is justly their due, surely they took the Shaitans for guardians beside Allah, and they think that they are on guidance! (7:30)

Hence to be a Muslim, one has to know the will of Allah, and if we do not know the will of Allah as expressed in the Qur’an, then how are we to judge who is right and who is wrong? If someone does not use his reason and senses to ascertain the Qur’anic message, then what is he following but the whims and wishes of others?

The Qur’an clearly states that there is no priesthood in the ‘Deen’ and that no room exists for intermediaries between God and mankind. The command to mull over the divine message is not for any special class of people. Allah asks us all to reflect on His Book and seek guidance from it. (See 2:185, 4:82, 38:29, and  47:24)

the Qur’an is very clear. We are not to blindly follow religious authorities but make our own investigation towards the truth. Everything spoken in the name of God is not originating from heaven, state many verses of the Qur’an. We should beware of those who attribute false teachings in God’s name!

 

Reasoning


God Wants You To Use Your Intelligence, Ask Questions And Not Just Follow The Crowd!

Certain religious authorities assert that there is no accommodation for “Aql” i.e. reason or intellect in matters of ‘Deen’. They claim that we should not attempt to understand the divine message or the interpretations of our Ancestors on the basis of reason or rational thought, but should humbly submit to whatever they convey to us. Is it true that the use of “Aql” (reason) is prohibited in matters pertaining to the understanding of the Qur’an? Should we humbly acknowledge and blindly follow that which our ancestors have conveyed to us as “religious truth” without engaging in any rational inquiry?

It is entirely wrong to suggest that reason (“Aql” in Arabic) has no place in the context of Allah’s message and that Islam is merely a matter of blind faith. An appeal to reason is explicitly present in many different verses in the Qur’an. .

Let us start by looking at the following.

Without doubt, the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the deaf, the dumb, who do not use their ‘Aql’ (reason)” (8:22)

If anything, what redeems man in the eyes of Allah is his rational faculty. According to the above verse, it is at any rate what distinguishes him from lower forms of life. It makes him other than a brute

According to an earlier Surah, moral growth is not possible in the absence of the operation of the mind. A mindless existence makes for nothing short of ‘hell’.
There are many a people, both among humankind and the jinns, who lead such a life as makes it obvious that they are meant for hell. (7:179)

As the Qur’an puts it:

They have hearts with which they discern not, and they have eyes with which they see not, and they have ears with which they hear not ; these are as the cattle-nay are worse ; they are the heedless. (7:179)

The point is again highlighted in Surah Al-Furqan

Do you think that most of them hear or use their reason? They are but as the cattle – nay but they are farther astray. (25:44)

At another juncture, the Qur’an speaks of those who are endowed with minds but do not heed them or simply let them atrophy.

They will (further) say: Had we but listened or used our ‘Aql’ (reason), we should not (now) be among the companions of the blazing fire!” (67:10)

Surah Yasin reminds us of the wages of heedlessness and accidie.

And yet Shaitan has led astray of you a great multitude. Did ye not then apply your reason? This is the Hell with which ye were threatened. (36:62-63)

This suggests that the Qur’an is no enemy of reason and in fact regards it as a necessary means of spiritual advancement. In other words, the message of the Qur’an is not to be accepted unquestioningly and uncritically. Man is urged to reflect on and interpret it in the light of his reason. Time and again we are told that thought is of the essence if we hope to engage with the Qur’an.

Will they not ponder over the Qur’an? (4:82)

Is it then that they do not ponder over what is said.. (23:68)

..that they may ponder over its verses.. (38:29)

Do you not then reflect? (6:50)

Thus do We make the verses distinct for a people who reflect. (10:24)

Certainly We have revealed to you a Book in which is your own reminder; what! Will you not then use your reason? (21:10)

We have made the revelations clear to you, if you will use your reason.” (3:118)

Those who lead thoughtless – or morally irresponsible – lives are not among the blessed.

These are they whom Allah  (by His Law of Retribution) has deprived (as a result of their own doing) of the blessings of life and has made them deaf and has blinded their eyes. Will they not then ponder on the Qur’an or there are locks on their hearts.” (47:23-24)

There is no doubt about the appeal to reason of the Qur’an. Interestingly, the messenger of Allah is himself urged not to demand blind obedience from his followers but to exhort them to think and ponder. That indeed is his clarion call.

Say, I exhort you unto one thing.  It is that ‘ye awake, for Allah’s sake by twos and singly. And then, reflect..” (34 : 46) .

Allah demands that men think and use their power of understanding. If they do this, they will be sure to follow the right path. This can be discovered and followed only with the combined help of reason and the revelation contained in the Book of Allah. These sources of guidance complement each other. The words of the messenger attest to this.

Say: This is my way: I invite unto Allah upon conscious insight accessible to reason, I as well as those who follow me, and glory be to Allah, for I am not one of those who associate (others with His laws). (12:108)

While the Qur’an identifies the crucial role of the ratiocinative faculty and intellect, it also points to the fact that people are often deprived of divine guidance because they blindly follow tradition in matters of faith. Faith is more often than not seen to be ‘hereditary’ or what one has received from one’s parents and forbears.

Such faith does not allow for a reasoned understanding of the Qur’anic text. People are also discouraged by their parents and the elders of their community from raising questions concerning religion or religious belief and urge them to follow the established faith unquestioningly This has always served as a barrier between man and the Book of Allah since the givens of a society are usually at odds with the truth.

It is seen that, in matters of religion, people mostly follow the sect or cult into which they were born rather than personally approach the Qur’an for guidance:

And when it is said to them:`Follow what Allah has revealed !’ They say: `Nay ! We will follow what we found our ancestors following.’ What ! Even though their Ancestors were void of wisdom and guidance (2:170)

Most messengers are said to have experienced more or less the same thing.

Such is the response Noah gets.

..Never did we hear such a thing among our Ancestors of old. (23:24)

The same is true in the case of Hud.

..Have you come to us that we may serve Allah alone and leave that which our Ancestors served..? (7:70)

I it also true of Salih and Shoaib.

..Do you forbid us that which our Ancestors served?.. (11:62)

O Shoaib, does your Salat order that we leave of that which our Ancestors served. (11:87)

We see much the same in the response to Abraham’.

They said:`Nay we but found our Ancestors doing thus what we do! (26:74)

Joseph delivers an analogous rebuke.

If not Him you serve nothing but names which you have invented, you and your Ancestors.. (12:40)

The response to Moses and Aaron are no different.

..Never did we hear the like among our Ancestors of old. (28:36)

The experience of the Prophet Mohammed echoes that of the other messengers.

This is just a Man whose intention is to oppose you from that which your Ancestors served.. (34:43)

The Qur’an vehemently opposes the following of a traditional faith and urges people to explore religion on their own using their power of reasoning and intelligence. It advances reasons and evidence for its claims (see 4:174,6:104) and also challenges its opponents to come up with proofs (see 21:24, 27:64, 2:111, 37:157). One of its typical positions is this. Traditional faith, which is also in a way the faith of the establishment, is encouraged by Satan since his chief objective is to keep mankind away from the Qur’an:

When they are told to follow what Allah has revealed, they say:`Nay we shall follow the ways that we found our Ancestors following !’ What ! Even if it is Satan beckoning them to the penalty of the blazing (fire)? ” (31:21)

Instead of seeking guidance from the Book of Allah, the disbelievers insist on copying the ways of their fathers:

What! Have We given them a Book before this to which they are holding fast? (43:21)

Nay! They say:`We found our Ancestors following a certain way and we will guide ourselves by their footsteps. (43:22)

Just in the same manner, whenever We sent a Warner before you to any town, the wealthy ones among them said: Surely we found our Ancestors following a certain way and we will certainly follow in their footsteps. (43:23)

It is interesting that plutocrats are mentioned in this context. This serves to affirm that the preservation of a traditional faith has to do with perpetuating the status quo. This is equated by the Qur’an with stasis or spiritual death.

Then their return is to the blazing fire their return is to the blazing (fire). (37:68)

Surely they found their Ancestors on the wrong path (37:69)

So they (too) rushed down their footsteps. (37:70)

The fire will burn their faces and they will grin therein with their lips displaced. (23:104)

Were not my ayaat (verses) rehearsed to you and you did but treat them as falsehoods? (23:105)

They will say:`Our Sustainer! Our misfortune overwhelmed us and we became a people astray! (23:106)

They will (further) say: Had we but listened or used our ‘Aql’ (reasoning), we should not (now) be among the companions of the blazing fire! (67:10)

What the Qur’an is saying is this. We are responsible and accountable for our own actions, not for ‘history’.

They were a people that have passed away. For them is what they earned and for you is what you earn. And you will not be questioned as to what they did. (2:141)

The ‘ancestral’ theme is not one people should harp upon. The ‘piety’ of one’s forbears is irrelevant. That is part of a cultural tradition which has nothing to do with personal morality. According to the Qur’an, contention on such grounds should be shunned as it only makes for sectarian strife. The Qur’an asks us to refrain from engaging in vain disputes and encourages us instead to quest for knowledge.

Do not pursue that whereof you have no knowledge. Verily, the hearing and sight, and the heart, each of these will be asked. (17:36)

The Qur’an stresses the importance of correct knowledge and advises us to accept and act upon this. All else is dismissed as mere guess work which is far from being a trustworthy guide to action.

..A guess can never take the place of truth.. (53:28)

As rational beings, it is our duty not to stop till we have achieved correct knowledge. To be content with a mere presumption is to disavow rationality.

A person should approach the Qur’an with a receptive mind free from preconceived notions, prejudice and bias. The faculties of reason are to be employed to ascertain the truth. According to the Qur’an, these are essential pre-requisites for an understanding of divine guidance. To those who do not approach it in this way, the Qur’an will necessarily remain closed.

But nay! I bring as evidence the positioning of stars. And most surely it is a very great oath if you only knew. Most surely it is an honored Quran, In a book that is protected. None shall have access to it save those who purify themselves (from false ideologies and pre-conceived notions).  A revelation by the Sustainer of the worlds. (56:75-80)

To sum up, there is no conflict between revelation, i.e.  the Book of Allah and reason: rather they complement each other. The Qur’an asks us to employ our faculties of reason to ascertain its message and to shun ancestral diktat in matters of faith.

 

Sex Slaves


THE ATTACK ON MUSLIMS, YOUR RELIGION ENJOINS SEXUAL SLAVERY

It is the claim of critics that Islam allows sexual relations with slave girls. To lend credence to this claim they allude to certain translations of Qur’anic verses, such as: “… those more favoured are not going to throw back their gifts to those whom their right hands possess…” (16:71 Yusuf Ali) and “Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess..” (4:24 Yusuf Ali) and by pointing to the mention of “those whom your right hands possess” suggest that the expression refers to slaves, thereby sex with slave girls is allowed. But does the original Arabic expression Malakat Aymanikum, commonly rendered in most English translations of the Qur’an as those whom your rights hands possess, really refer to slave girls? This is what needs to be seen. And for this we need to study and explore the Qur’an in detail before conceding to the argument.

WHAT IS THE ARABIC WORD FOR SLAVE?

The Arabic term for slave is Abd for the masculine gender and Ammah for the feminine, and whenever the Qur’an speaks of slaves, it is these terms which are mentioned:

“And if ye are in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto OUR SLAVE (Arabic: AABDINAA)..” 2:23 Pickthal

And when MY SLAVES (ARABIC: IBAADI) ask you (O Muhammad SAW) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed near..” 2:186 Muhsin Khan

We clearly see in the verses cited above that Abd occurs for “slave” in its various derivative forms and with suffixes and pronouns. 2:221 demonstrates the feminine form Ammah along with the masculine, confirming the usage even further:

“And do not marry polytheistic women until they believe. And a believing SLAVE WOMAN (ARABIC: AMMAH) is better than a polytheist, even though she might please you. And do not marry polytheistic men [to your women] until they believe. And a believing SLAVE (ARABIC: ABD) is better than a polytheist, even though he might please you…” 2:221 Saheeh International

Abd and Ammah are the terms for slaves in the Qur’an, on the other hand Qur’anic inflection reveals that the compound Arabic expression Aymanikum which is usually rendered as ‘those whom your right hands posses’, is not for slaves under the possession of the right hand of the slave owner, but refers to the oaths and covenants that people have pledged to undertake. Malakat Aymanikum categorizes those women (and men) who are under the custody and protection of believers by way of a written pledge or agreement. This is absolutely clear in Qur’anic inflection. One need not be an expert in Arabic, but a mere word search can reveal this clear phenomenon:

“Allah does not call you to account for what is vain in YOUR OATHS (ARABIC: AYMANI-KUM), but He calls you to account for the making of deliberate oaths (ARABIC: AYMAN)…..” 5.89 Shakir

“…..and as to THOSE WITH WHOM YOUR RIGHTS HANDS (ARABIC: AYMAN) HAVE RATIFIED AGREEMENTS, give them their portion; surely Allah is a witness over all things. 4.33 Shakir

It should be noted that in above the same term Ayman which is usually cited to insinuate slavery has been used. Can we say that the term means slaves by exploring its inflection in other Qur’anic passages and checking its meaning in Arabic lexicons? Certainly not. Linguistically Ayman is the plural form of Yameen (lit. “right” – directional as well as conceptual). An oath and covenant is also called Yameen as it involves swearing by the (symbolic) ‘right hand’, and it is in this shade of meaning that the word and its plural form occur in the Qur’an. (See Lanes Arabic English Lexicon, pp 3064. Also Qur’an 5.89, 5.108, 16.91, 9.12.)

As the verses cited by critics refer to Malakat Aymanikum (lit. those under rightful authority [of believers] i.e. those under the protection of oath of believers), and not about Ibaad or Aammaat i.e. male or female slaves, the suggestion that these passages ratify slavery and concubinage is invalid.

MARRIAGE WITH MALAKAT AYMANIKUM

With Malakat Aymanikum category of women Nikah [lit., “marriage”], is mandated in the Qur’an and not sex outside of it! we can read this very clearly:

“If any of you have not the means wherewith to wed Al Muhsanaat [lit,. “fortified women”], they may wed believing girls from among those whom your right hands possess: And Allah hath full knowledge about your faith. Ye are one from another: Wed them with the leave of their Ahl [lit., “family”], and give them their dowers, according to what is reasonable: They should be chaste, not lustful, nor taking paramours: when they are taken in wedlock, if they fall into shame, their punishment is half that for Muhsanaat. This (permission) is for those among you who fear sin; but it is better for you that ye practise self-restraint. And Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” 4:25

The command fankihoohunna-bi-ithni ahlihinna [lit., “so marry them with the permission of their family”] shows that Nikah is commanded with Malakat Aymanikum, and not concubinage, as it is wrongly suggested by many. Also we see that the term Muhsanaat (lit., “fortified women”) in above verse which is often wrongly translated as “free believing women” which again is suggestive of slavery, is in fact from the Arabic word Hisn or “a fort”, a term that signifies fortification in the physical as well as in the sense of being protected and honoured. Fortified women, would thus be, those who are having a good and protective upbringing in a morally strong household than an upbringing in a sinful environment. Malakat Aymanikum on the other hand include women who were formerly nonbelievers, but have abandoned their sinful past and converted to Islam, by virtue, their non Muslim husbands are no longer lawful for them. When such female converts migrate to the community of believers living in their custody and protection, then Muslim men can marry such emigrant women once the women have dissolved their marriages with their former husbands:

“O you who have believed, when the believing women come to you as emigrants, examine them. Allah is most knowing as to their faith. And if you know them to be believers, then do not return them to the disbelievers; they are not lawful [wives] for them, nor are they lawful [husbands] for them. But give the disbelievers what they have spent. And there is no blame upon you if you marry them when you have given them their due compensation. And hold not to marriage bonds with disbelieving women, but ask for what you have spent and let them ask for what they have spent. That is the judgement of Allah ; He judges between you. And Allah is Knowing and Wise.” Sahih International 60:10

Thus the command “..And there is no blame upon you if you marry them when you have given them their due compensation…” shows that a believer may marry such a woman, who was formerly a nonbeliever but has now converted to Islam and migrated to the Muslim community. If she leaves her husband and comes in the custody of community of believers she falls in the category of those under the rightful authority of believers. Believers can, if they wish marry such emigrants who were previously married provided they pay their former husbands some amount for the dissolution of their marriage. References in Sura Nisa about “those under your right hands possession” as per contemporary interpretation, are not for slave-girls, but for Muslim converts who have migrated in Imaan (belief) and to the custody and protection of believers and have left their unbelieving husbands.

THE QUR’AN ALLOWS ONLY NIKAH FOR SEXUAL RELATIONS, THUS CONCUBINAGE IS RULED OUT

Here we stress that only Nikah is the permissible manner of sexual gratification in the Qur’an. Apart from Nikah, no other method is endorsed nor prescribed. Zinaa (fornication and adultery) is a very serious matter in the Qur’an whose repeated offender is destined for hell-fire according to 25:68-71:

“And those who do not invoke with Allah another deity or kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed], except by right, and do not commit Zinaa [unlawful sexual intercourse]. And whoever should do that will meet a penalty.” 25:68

“Multiplied for him is the punishment on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide therein humiliated” 25:69

“Except for those who repent, believe and do righteous work. For them Allah will replace their evil deeds with good. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.” 25:70

It is clear from the Qur’an that having sex with anyone outside of marriage is tantamount to Zinaa and is a flagrant violation of Qur’anic law which qualifies one to sure shot punishment on the day of judgement, unless one repents of it in his or her lifetime and amends behavior  Sexual slavery and concubinage in which sexual relations are outside of the bond of marriage, is thus prohibited for believers.

Bismillah


If you were to purchase a copy of the Qur’an from a bookshop and browse through its pages, you will discover that out if its one hundred and fourteen chapters, all, except one, begin with the words “Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem”. Is this Arabic statement which means ‘In the Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful’, and is often transliterated in abbreviated form as Bismillah, a part of the Qur’an? Were “Bismillahs” originally revealed by God before every sura (chapter)?

You can note that in the printed Qur’ans, individual chapters begin with the Bismillah, however you will also notice that when it comes to numbering the verses, in the printed Quran, the Bismillahs before every Sura are not numbered as verses as such.

Almost all printed Qur’ans in the Muslim world (barring a few by heretical sects such as the International Community of Submitters) do not number Bismillahs before all chapters as a verse and a revealed part of that Sura.

Why is this so? Are the Bismillahs before every chapter a part of the Qur’an? If they are, then why are they not numbered as a verse? Suppose that every Bismillah was revealed before a sura and was a part of that chapter, then in that case Surat Al Baqara, the second chapter of the Qur’an should have two hundred and eighty-seven verses and not two hundred and eighty-six, as we usually observe in the printed text.

The answer is in understanding what exactly is the phenomenon that is the Qur’an. Is it the printed word or is it the spoken word?

We need to understand that when we refer to the phenomenon known as the Qur’an, then in fact we are not referring to the Qur’an as a printed Book. What you hold in your hand that you have obtained from the book shop or library or even downloaded from the internet is the printed text of the Qur’an, and not the Qur’an itself. There is a difference between the two and this is what I would like to highlight in this reflection.

What is the Qur’an?

The word Qur’an is a proper noun in Arabic and is derived from the triliteral root qāf rā hamza (ق ر أ). The third person masculine singular past perfect form of this root, which is the form used to determine meanings of a root and its derivatives is  qara-a (قَرَأَ) which means  he read or recited. From the same root, the imperative اقْرَأْ Iqr’aa  is formed. The noun Qur’an is from the same root and means Reading (Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon pp 2502).

These inflections of the root and the meaning of the word itself clarifies what is the phenomenon called the Qur’an. It is the reading or the orally proclaimed word, and not the printed book on paper. Apart from the linguistic meaning, we also see internal evidence within the Qur’an that identify it to be ‘a reading’ or ‘spoken recital’ and not a book printed on paper.

وَلَوْ نَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ كِتَابًا فِي قِرْطَاسٍ فَلَمَسُوهُ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ لَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ

And if We had been sending down upon you a Book on paper, so they touched it with their hands, the ones who have disbelieved would indeed have said, “Decidedly this is nothing except evident sorcery.” (6:3, Dr Ghali)

So according to above, it is clear that God did not reveal the book on paper. Rather it was revealed on the heart of a man:

وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

And lo! it is a revelation of the Lord of the Worlds,

عَلَىٰ قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ

Upon thy heart, that thou mayst be (one) of the warners, (26:192, 194 Pickthall)

It was revealed on the heart of a man, who recited it to other men around him, all of whom memorised what they heard.

بَلْ هُوَ آيَاتٌ بَيِّنَاتٌ فِي صُدُورِ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ ۚ وَمَا يَجْحَدُ بِآيَاتِنَا إِلَّا الظَّالِمُونَ

But it is clear revelations in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge, and none deny Our revelations save wrong-doers. (29:49 Pickthall)

Thus it is the spoken word that came first, which was then recorded on paper, and it is the spoken word, or the reading which is what the Qur’an is. It is the memorized and recited Qur’an which is the authority on the printed Qur’an and not vice versa. If there are any printing errors, then the Huffaz (memorisers) point them out for rectification to the publisher. Qur’an publishing houses the world over, generally do not circulate a printed Qur’an, unless it is proof read and certified by a Hafiz i.e. a memoriser of the Qur’an. Any copies with transcription errors are withdrawn from circulation upon intimation by a Hafiz.

Ad-Dhikr – The Remembrance

God’s claim for preservation is also of Dhikr or the remembrance (of the Quran), and it is illogical to conceive that what is printed on paper is preserved by God, because with time, paper withers away and can also have transcription errors on it.

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

Surely We, Ever We, have been sending down the Remembrance, and surely We are indeed Preservers of it. (15:9, Dr. Ghali)

Therefore it is through the Huffaz that the Qur’an has come down to us and it is in their hearts that it is preserved. It follows that what is memorised and recited i.e. the remembered and the spoken Qur’an in its original Arabic is what is actually the word of God.

Bismillah is never recited loudly to mark begining of a chapter at Masjid Al Haraam

As it is the spoken Qur’an which is the authority on the printed Qur’an, we should see whether the Bismillahs are recited in spoken form before Qur’anic recitation. Doing so, you will observe that during an oral recitation, the Bismillah’s are never recited as part of the Qur’anic recital by a Qari (reciter) during the Salat (five daily prayer). The best way to verify this is to observe the Qur’anic recitation during prayers held at Masjid Al Haraam (the sacred mosque), in Makkah during Taraveeh prayers – the daily night prayers in the month of Ramadan in which the entire Qur’an is recited from memory.

One can observe that during these prayers, when the Qari finishes a sura, he does not recite the Bismillah loudly prior to starting a new Sura. This shows that the Bismillah before every Sura that one finds in the printed Qur’an, are not part of the recited Qur’an, and to be kept in mind that the Qur’an is the reading, and its remembrance is what is vouchsafed by God.

Thus Bismillahs before every Sura were not revealed by God, but were placed in printed versions when the spoken word was recorded on paper or other material to indicate beginning of a new chapter. There are other such bifurcations of the printed text also done to facilitate the recitation and memorization. Such as dividing the entire Qur’an into thirty equal Juz or portions. We can see through internal Qur’anic evidence that its revelation was as Suras or Ayaat (Signs, verses), but never as Juz. The practice of dividing the Book into thirty portions being done to facilitate reading the entire text in thirty days of the month.

The Bismillah occurs only once in the Qur’an

However, while understanding that the Bismillah before every sura was not revealed by God, it is also worthy to note that it does occur internally within the Qur’anic text on a single occasion, and indicates that the wordings  “Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem” are indeed revealed words.

The statement of Queen Saba to her counsel upon receiving a letter from Prophet Suleman is narrated in sura twenty seven:

قَالَتْ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ إِنِّي أُلْقِيَ إِلَيَّ كِتَابٌ كَرِيمٌ

She said, “O you chiefs, surely an honorable book has been cast to me.

إِنَّهُ مِن سُلَيْمَانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Surely it is from Sulayman, (Solomon) and surely it is in The Name of Allah, The All-Merciful, The Ever-Merciful. (27:29, 30 Dr. Ghali)

Thus we can observe in above that Bismillahs were not revealed each and every time before the revelation of a new sura as this is not prevailing in the spoken Qur’an. We can also see that within the spoken text is sura twenty-seven within which the wordings of the Bismillah occur. Thus its wordings are a part of the Qur’an only by virtue of a single occurrence.

Kitab of Suleman

The Kitab or writing that Suleman sent to Queen Saba in Sura twenty seven is self explanatory in the same chapter as a Kitab i.e. writing or letter. It was not the Qur’an that Suleman had sent but a written message to the Queen. Kitab in the said verse is in its generic sense, and not as the specific Al Kitab. The following are reasonst:

(i) Suleman himself says that the writing was his, and not from Allah.
اذْهَب بِّكِتَابِي هَٰذَا فَأَلْقِهْ إِلَيْهِمْ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَانظُرْ مَاذَا يَرْجِعُونَ

“Go with this my letter and throw it down unto them; then turn away and see what (answer) they return.” 27:28 Pickthal

The words “Ithhab bikitabee hatha.”, meaning “Go with this my letter..” are clearly showing that it is Suleman’s Kitab that was sent to Saba and not Allah’s Kitab.

(ii) Supposing it was the Qur’an that Suleman had sent to Queen Saba, and supposing the Qur’an were to begin with Bismillah as a revealed verse before the Suras, then Queen Saba should identify that the Book sent from Suleman is the Qur’an by first reading the Bismillah to her counsel, followed by the opening verse of a Sura, if indeed Bismillahs before Suras are also revealed verses.

But notice that she does not read Alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameen after Bismi Allahi arrahmani arraheem to her counsel. In fact her next statements make it crystal clear as to what it was that she received from Suleman:

قَالَتْ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ إِنِّي أُلْقِيَ إِلَيَّ كِتَابٌ كَرِيمٌ

(The Queen of Sheba) said (when she received the letter): O chieftains! Lo! there hath been thrown unto me a noble letter. 27:29, Pickthall

إِنَّهُ مِن سُلَيْمَانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

“Lo! it is from Solomon, and lo! it is: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful;” 27:30 Pickthall

أَلَّا تَعْلُوا عَلَيَّ وَأْتُونِي مُسْلِمِينَ

Exalt not yourselves against me, but come unto me as those who surrender. 27:31 Pickthall

We see from above that the Kitab or writing of Suleman in its entirety is:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; Exalt not yourselves against me, but come unto me as those who surrender.

It is this written message that King Suleman sent through the Hoopoe bird and not the entire Book of God. As Suleman himself identifies by the Arabic word “Kitabee” that it is his Kitab that is to be sent to Queen Saba, therefore it is not the Qur’an referred in 27:30. As after reading the Bismillah the Queen identifies the next line of Suleman’s writing to be the invitation to embrace Islam and not a beginning verse of a Sura, therefore this also proves that it is not the entire Qur’an which is mentioned in 27:30 but just the letter of Suleman. The word Kitab is used in the said verse in its generic sense of a written message, i.e. a letter or communique.

Reading Bismillah is an etiquette of Qur’anic recitation and inscription, distinct from the revealed text.

Bismillahs before every chapter of the Qur’an are not revealed verses or a revealed part of those chapters. When Muslims recite the Qur’an then they begin the recitation with Bismillah because of the order given in Sura 96:1

اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ

Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth. 96:1, Pickthall

Thus when a believer is to begin the reading of the Qur’an or any of its passages then one is to do it “bi-ismi rabbik” literally “With the Name of your Lord”. This is the Qur’anic etiquette to begin Qur’anic recitation and is in obedience to the order in Surat Al Alaq 96:1. However this does not mean that a Bismillah that one reads prior to a Sura or passage is the first verse revealed in a Sura. The first verse of a Sura is the text that occurs after the Bismillah, e.g. 1:1 is “Alhamdu lillahi rabbi alAAalameen”, 2:1 is “Alif-lam-meem”, 3:1 is “Alif-lam-meem” and so on and so forth. Reciting a Bismillah before Quran reading or to print it to demarcate sura-chapters is simply an etiquette or rule given in the Qur’an that a believer is to observe.  Similarly another such rule is given in Surat An-Nahl 16:98:
فَإِذَا قَرَأْتَ الْقُرْآنَ فَاسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ

And when thou recitest the Qur’an, seek refuge in Allah from Satan the outcast. 16:98 Pickthall

Thus in obedience to the order in 16:98, one can recite the words “audhu billah mina ‘sh-shaytani ‘r-rajeem” lit. “I seek refuge in God from Satan, the stoned”, followed by b-ismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm.  However once again it must be emphasized that these words are simply etiquette for reciting Quranic text and their utterance prior to reciting the Qur’an does not make them the first revealed verse of any Sura. These are simply  words a human being utters in response to the divine command prior to reciting divine words. The human proclamation is distinct from God’s words. This is the reason that one never hears Bismillah before a Sura and Audobillah in the audible recitation of the Imam when he leads the Salat (Prayers) in congregation during prayers held at night such as the Maghrib (Sunset), Isha (Night), or Fajr (Dawn) prayers. The entre text of the Qur’an is what one can hear and observe during the Qiyam ul Layl (Ramadan Night) Prayers in Masjid Al Haram in Makkah. In that recitation the first verses of Suras are never “Bismillahs”.

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Coach Analysis: Pakistan Vs Korea, FIH World Hockey League, Johor, Malaysia


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Pakistan lost to Korea 4-3 even though they were in lead in the first half. The defeat against Korea was a big upset for Pakistan hockey at World Hockey League, Johor Bahu, Malaysia. With this defeat Pakistan are out of the medals race and will not feature among the first three teams on the podium that will qualify for the 2014 World Cup. In order to qualify for the World Cup, the only chance Pakistan now have, is to win the Asia Cup in September. If it doesn’t then it will be first time in the history of Pakistan hockey that it did not compete in the World Cup, even though it has won the trophy a record four times. The salient features of the PAK vs Korea game were:

GAME STARTS

34 minutes remaining – KOR attack from left wing.

31 minutes remaining – KOR once again from left. Korean seem to have attacking strategy.

31 minutes remaining – M Imran gives stray pass, intercepted by KOR attacker.

30 minutes remaining – GOAL! PAK RW Waqas scores. Quick counter attack. First time passing, direct hit from top of circle. Score 1-0.

28 minutes remaining – PAK GK makes save in front of goal mouth, but PC awarded. Goes wide.

27 minutes remaining – KOR penetration from LW.

25 minutes remaining – LH Aamir receives from LB Imran. Moves in round circles and makes stray hit, though plenty of support was available.

24 minutes remaining – Good move from right by PAK. First time short passes between RH and RW.

RW Waqas centres to top of circle, found by CF who takes shot at goal from top of the circle but KOR GK saves.

KOR captain injured. Taken off pitch! A blow to KOR.

22 minutes remaining – KOR launch quick counter attack. Penetrate circle. M Imran blocks and dribbles to clear confidently.

PAK defender grabs KOR player by shirt. Umpire warns. Shouldn’t do this in front of umpire, maybe subtle! Shows inexperience.

20 minutes remaining – Fareed Ahmed is CH. Tauseeq comes in as RH.

19 minutes remaining – Beautiful goal from PAK. Quick interchanging from right to left. First time sweep from top of circle by Tauseeq catches keeper by surprise!

Shakeel Abbasi rotating from right wing to left wing.

4 minutes remaining – GOAL! KOR score on a PC indirect. Deflection goes b/w feet of keeper and last man. score 2-1

33 seconds remaining – KOR mount pressure to equalise before end of 1st half. Gain PC. Foiled. PAK Lucky to survive.

HALF TIME. PAK 2 KOR 1

First half summary: KOR keep more possession in opposing half and make more circle penetrations than Pakistan. Shows their aggressive strategy in this game. A thoroughly entertaining first half.

2ND HALF

34 minutes remaining – PAK start 2nd half with possession but lose it when RH tauseeq makes a wild stray hit!

33 minutes remaining – PAK gain possession but lose it again with stray aerial to left wing.

32 minutes remaining – GOAL! High drama! Poor clearance by PAK defender finds KOR forward’s stick in top right of circle who sweeps and deflection goes in goal. Goal awarded to KOR. But PAK protest results in umpire disallowing goal! KOR demand referral. Goal re-awarded to KOR! Score 2-2!

29 minutes remaining – Shafqat Rasool blind hit in 25.

27 minutes remaining – GOAL! PAK score on PS. PAK attempt hits KOR defender’s feet on the line as GK is afar and umpire blows whistle for penalty stroke. Shakeel Abbasi’s well executed flick finds the top right net! PAK 3, KOR 2.

27 minutes remaining – KOR players crowd up as PAK attempts to penetrate. PAK right trio attempts to dribble past crowd! Inexperience.

23 minutes remaining – GOAL! KOR score on PC. KOR penetrate from RW to win PC. Carpet push to Keeper’s left foot. Keeper and post man didn’t move! Score 3 all.

22 minutes remaining – GOAL! KOR score field goal. Short passes from left flank. One handed pass from KOR attacker at deep left is deflected in goal. KOR now leading 3-4.

17 minutes remaining – PAK miss penalty stroke! PS awarded to PAK due to deliberate stick obstruction on Zubair’s attempt at goal. Shakeel Abbasi misses. Flicks to left of Keeper, hip height. Keeper saves with left glove. PAK in dire straits!

16 minutes remaining – Fine run from RW by Abbasi, penetrates circle but fails to find support.

15 minutes remaining – PC, first of the game to PAK as KOR defender deliberately blocks RW in 25. Imran’s sweep goes wide.

13 minutes remaining – Another PC awarded to PAK as GK obstructs the ball. Indirect goes wide! Its not just PAK’s day today!

10 minutes remaining – M Rizwan indecisive with the ball in LW.

10 minutes remaining – Tauseeq gets green card and is sent off. PAK down to 10 men.

9 minutes remaining – KOR miss open net chance! Another excellent move by KOR.

7 minutes remaining – Counter attack by PAK. Shafqat Rasool’s sprint in RW and centre hits KOR defender’s foot in D. PC awarded and indirect is foiled by KOR defence. PAK demanding referral. Umpire says he can’t give one as there is a power blackout in the video umpire’s room!

Game restarted with bully.

Game ends. FINAL SCORE KOR 4, PAK 3.

Main points

The game that PAK displayed in the first half was not seen in the second. PAK started the second half defensively instead of mounting more attacks and increase the goal margin. Korea capitalized on this and equalized, and even managed to take the lead. Had PAK continued the fast attacking pace it began the first half with, and netted in more goals the task would have been difficult for KOR. Haseem Khan was well marked, and couldn’t do much. When the forward line is not moving with unison, then there isn’t much individual runs and sprints can do when a team is losing. The need is for the entire forward line to surge in attack. Losing a penalty stroke, not converting penalty corners, not taking advantage of scoring opportunities all contributed to our loss.

In hockey, time is of the essence. If a team manages to utilise its time appropriately, goes early into the lead, keeps scoring, then the opposition has a tall order in front of it. Score a few goals and then go defensive, will leave you to face the full brunt of the opposition’s attack and if you are not good enough at defending then this could prove costly. This is what has happened to PAK.

Coach Analysis: Pakistan Vs South Africa, FIH World Hockey League, Johor, Malaysia


Pakistan-vs-South-Africa-London-Olympics-2012-Hockey-Match-Live

Today’s game against South Africa was a do or die situation for Pakistan. We proved our worth playing fast attacking hockey defeating South Africa 6-2. Centre forward Abdul Haseem Khan, whose paternal Uncle, Hanif Khan happens to be the coach of this squad scored a superb hat-trick. Goalkeeper Imran Butt, who played both halves, brought off some fine saves, foiling all except one of South Africa’s penalty corner strikes. Victory is a team effort in hockey. When every player does his job well, the results are encouraging.

Pakistan are now in the quarter final and will meet Korea, and let us not forget that an encounter with the Koreans has always been a tough nut to crack.

Strengths

1. The Pakistani management finally came to their senses and fielded keeper Imran Butt right from the start instead of bringing him in the second half. This decision should continue in the quarter final, although I noticed that Butt was hurt during the game. I hope his injury is not serious enough to make him unavailable for the crucial game with Korea and further games. He is a fine keeper and personally I know him to be one with an attitude and passion.

2. Pakistan made inroads using both wings. The left wing was key in penetrating the South African defence, and a number of goals were scored on crosses from the left. Moves from the right wing, involving short passes were also instrumental in securing goals.

3. Fast, attacking hockey was seen right from the start, and as I have stressed earlier, it is this momentum that needs to continue. Our strategy should be all out attack, even if we are winning by a high margin as attack is the best form of defence. Forward line is playing better than midfield or defence so its their show. Traditionally, we are not known to be good at defending, so we should capitalise on our strengths.

4. The sixth goal scored from Inside right angle was a classic example of first time goal shooting. Shakeel Abbasi dribbled past defenders, entered the circle and took a first-time shot at goal to score, sending a rasping shot to the keepers right foot. First time shooting should be the priority instead of unnecessary dribbling or hanging on to the ball, when one is inside the D.

Weaknesses

1. There are still many weaknesses in defence and midfield. The same symptoms of midfielders hanging on the ball, going in circles once in possession, moving horizontally without passing to anyone and making stray passes were once again visible.

2. In the second half a very serious blunder was made by a Pakistani defender, when a South African forward snatched the ball from his hands in the 25 area, entered the circle, took a shot at goal but found the keeper’s pads. If a goal were scored on that one, then it would have been very embarrassing. This was mainly due to the defender not making a quick and instant decision to release a pass. A symptom seen often in our defenders as well as midfielders.

3. With a three goal lead Pakistan started the second half playing defensively. For the first 15 minutes of the second half, South Africans were aggressive, while we were passive. It was after the fifteen minutes of the second half that we started attacking play again and completed the tally to six goals. The team should not at any point in time play defensive, but go all out on attack.

4. Pakistani full backs Imran and Ateeq were occasionally making horizontal passes to each other in deep defence. I do not know whether this was an energy saving or time wasting tactic or if they were looking for space to pass the ball into, but the tactic was poorly executed as possession was lost by them on a number of occasions without getting the ball past the half line!

5. South African forward line did not move in cohesion, but did manage to make a few dangerous penetrations on players’ individual skill and effort. This shows that our defenders are not coordinating with each other properly about marking and were seen bewildered on a few occasions.

Recommended

The game against Korea will be a test of not only skill, but also fitness. The Koreans are not in the habit of playing an open game in the first half, but the entire eleven players play defensively, saving their energy reserves while draining the opposition. In the second half, they go on full attack while the opposition is all worn out from the first half’s exertion. In this regard Pakistan will have to utilize the rolling substitution rule effectively and make sure that player’s energies are conserved. They will need to rely on the forward line and play attacking hockey in all seventy minutes of the game. Much will also depend on GK Imran Butt, whose saves can have a definite positive impact on the final result, but eventually all eyes are on Shakeel Abbasi, Haseem Khan, Muhammad Waqas, Muhammad Zubair and Shafqat Rasool all of whom need to penetrate Korean defences using quick short passes, and body dodges and take first time shots at goal.

Coach Analysis: Pakistan Vs England, FIH World Hockey League, Johor, Malaysia


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Though the match ended in a 2-2 draw, I think that Pakistan’s performance against England today was an improvement from its opening encounter against Malaysia. True that England took the lead and Pakistan had to come back to equalize, but one must take into account that England are ranked number four, while Pakistan number five in world hockey. England fielded star players Ashley Jackson, and Barry Middleton upfront while seasoned defenders Adam Dixon and Richard Smith were also in the squad. England GK George Pinner was a decisive factor in the result as he stood like a mountain between the Pakistani attack and the English goal. Were it not for Pinner, the result would have definitely been in Pakistan’s favour.

Strengths
1. PAK GK Imran Butt who was substituted in the second half for Imran Shah was simply superb under the bar. He saved a direct penalty flick and then brought off an immediate reactionary save off the rebound, which is indeed quite extraordinary. Pad work was also consistent. ImranB should now feature as the first choice GK for Pakistan instead of ImranS.

2. Pakistan’s forward line was in attacking mode right from the start. This is a good sign and should continue. Attack is the best form of defence, and an early lead or a high margin in the first half combined with solid possession in the second is what wins games. At no stage in this tournament can Pakistan afford to be defensive.

3. Short passes were seen as a penetration tactic. Forward line moving in cohesion, and making short exchanges to beat the opposing England defence was visible, though not consistently. In future games short passes by pushes rather than long hits should be emphasized.

Weaknesses
1. Centre half was not visible as a link between defence and attack and as a schemer or distributor of the ball.

2. Defenders have been poor at marking opponents. Midfielders were also absent to support defenders in deep defence. On a number of occasions England’s wingers were able to send crosses, which passed easily in front of the Pakistani goal, not picked up by defenders and luckily not finding English sticks as connections. Pakistani midfielders or inside forwards should retreat in deep defence when their team is under attack and not leave their full backs without support.

3. It is noticeable that occasionally Pakistani midfielders suddenly come to a stop while they are moving with the ball and then start to run horizontally across the pitch leaving their positions. This breaks the momentum of a move and should be checked. Once the ball is with a mid fielder, he should release it at the earliest to the forward line, and not hang on it for a long period of time. It was observed that midfielders were simply unable to get the ball outside their own half and to the wingers or inside forwards on many occasions.

4. Pakistani midfielders were seen making some very basic mistakes such as not passing accurately to their team mates and poor stopping, all signs that their skills are not honed properly.

5. Forward line missed a lot of scoring opportunities. On a number of occasions shots at goal from top of the circle were off mark or saved by the GK. Goal scoring is an area were we need improvement, though, as I said, credit should also be given to England GK George Pinner.

6. Out of the four penalty corners gained in today’s game, Pakistan converted two. Once again Muhammad Imran’s carpet push was seen as a consistent tactic. Though it has a lot of power, if he uses this continuously, opposing teams will pick it up in their video analysis, hence some variation in penalty corner routines is needed.

7. Full width of the pitch is under utilized by Pakistan. Wingers should be harnessed, and should be instrumental in the attacking formation along with inside forwards.

Pakistan are in a do or die stage of the tournament. The time for coaching or changing habits is not during an important event but prior to it in coaching camps. Still, management needs to revisit the game in a video session and take on learning points. If all goes well, then expect fast, attacking hockey from Pakistan in the next match featuring short passes and artistic stick work.

Coach Analysis: Pakistan Vs Malaysia, FIH World Hockey league (Men’s), Johor, Malaysia


Pakistan-vs-Malaysia-Hockey-Live-Azlan-Shah-Cup-2013

Pakistan are very lucky not to lose their first match of the tournament today. In a hotly contested game, Pakistan conceded four goals and then came back into the game to draw against a team which not only had a home ground advantage but was fiercely aggressive right from the start. Though quite a few scoring opportunities were also missed by Pakistan, otherwise we could have won the game. A staggering eleven penalty corners were gained but only two were capitalized. This speaks volumes of the team’s penalty corner preparation.

Though historically, Malaysia have been rated lowly against Pakistan – which is a better side on paper, it should not have been taken lightly given the tournament is being held on their home soil and they are desperate for a World Cup final berth.

The 4-4 draw with Malaysia is a wake up call to the Pakistani team management for future games and should take the entire squad to video analysis of the game, observing team strengths, weaknesses and learning points.

Strengths

1. There were very few strengths that could be observed in the Pakistani side. We did not play the pattern we are used to play and which is our hall mark. As I said, we are very lucky we managed a draw, and if the game were against stronger European sides, instead of Malaysia it would have been impossible to close the four goal lead gap in the second half. That we came back after conceding four goals may indicate fighting spirit, but still does not compensate for the overall performance.

Weaknesses

1. Malaysia’s game plan appeared to be an all out attack, and they did not relax or become defensive at any point in time, even when they were winning with a lead of four goals. Against this, Pakistan woke up from slumber only in the second half. They did equalize, but missed a lot of opportunities.

2. Missing from the game were short passes and coordinated moves by the forward line. Aggression was visible only in the second half when the need to equalize became crucial and we did not play fast, aggressive attacking hockey right from the beginning, which we should have.

3. There was too much gap between players in the forward line, making it difficult for inside forwards to pass to wingers or centre forward, all of who were very far away from each other and had a wall of Malay defence between them.

When an inside forward is moving with the ball then he needs a fellow player running close to him so he can release the ball when trapped by on coming defenders and not be left on his own or penetrate the defence through quick short passes.

4. There were eleven penalty corners awarded to Pakistan, quite a few at referrals, but the finishing at these remained very poor with only two being converted with a direct push and one indirectly and one resulting in a penalty stroke. If there was a penalty corner specialist in the team, then the matter would have been very different. After Sohail Abbas’ retirement, Imran Warsi was an imminent replacement as a penalty corner specialist, but he is nowhere to be seen in Pakistan’s domestic or selection stages and relaxes in lowly rated Russian leagues!

There was no variation in penalty corner drills, and both Muhammad Imran and Ateeq attempting to score each time using a direct carpet push was read and anticipated by the Malay defence. When a penalty corner tactic is repeatedly used, the defending goal keeper can read this and anticipate the save, thus it is vital that tactics are varied.

Malaysian keeper Kumar is a seasoned player trained by none other but Pakistan’s very own Shahid Ali Khan.

It was also observed that Pakistan changed the penalty corner injector repeatedly four to five times, showing their penalty corner routine lacked consistency or planning.

5. Midfield passing was also poor, with Tauseeq wasting quite a few balls instead of landing them first time to the forward line. A habit consistently observed among Pakistani midfielders is that of stalling. when they are on the move, they suddenly stop, then look around and scan who to pass the ball to. This totally destroys the rhythm of the game and allows defenders to regroup.

6. Goalkeeping was poor, and it was not understood why reserve goalkeeper Imran Shah was fielded instead of the first choice Imran Butt. Interestingly Shah was substituted late into the second half when Pakistan were four goals down!

7. The Pakistani defenders and midfielders allowed Malaysian attackers too much free space, and Pakistan forward line was not called back to support defence. Malay forward line could eaisily move up and down with the ball in Pakistani defence. The need is for inside forwards to fall back and assist the midfielders and defenders when a team is under duress. Pakistani defenders were also slow in recovery after going ahead to take penalty corners, which the Malay’s exploited on quite a few occasions.

8. Like other departments, goal scoring remained poor. Quite a few open net chances were missed. It was also observed that Pakistani attackers upon penetrating the circle would not be taking a shot at goal but were looking to either manufacture a penalty corner or pass to a fellow player who was already well guarded by Malay defence.An attacker’s first priority when he enters the opposing circle is to make an attempt at scoring a goal instead of fiddling with the ball inside the circle!

Conclusion

With little or no short passing and major reliance on on individual runs and stick work elimination, the resulting equalizer is indeed surprising. If such performance were to continue then I have a feeling, that this tournament will not be very encouraging for Pakistan when it faces other teams.

Taurat of the Qur’an Vs Torah of the Bible


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A common perception is that wherever one reads references to Taurat in the Qur’an, then it implies that the author is referring to the Torah of the Old Testament, which is considered sacred by Jews and Christians. However a careful reading and comparison of the Qur’an and the Bible reveals a different picture.

We can see that in the Bible it is Aaron who prompted the Hebrews to worship the Golden Calf. Reading Exodus chapter 32 in its entirety makes it clear that Aaron confesses to be the one who took the gold of the people, threw it in the fire, out of which came the golden calf:

“So I [Aaron] told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave ME [Aaron] the gold, and I [Aaron] threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” [Exodus 32:24]

The speaker in the above is none else but Aaron.

We read in Deutronomy 9:20-21 that God sought to punish Aaron, but Moses intervened:

“And the Lord was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him, but at that time I prayed for Aaron too. 21 Also I took that sinful thing of yours, the calf you had made, and burned it in the fire.” Deut 9:20-21

Thus according to the Bible it is Aaron, the brother of Moses who is the instigator of the sin of idol worship.

In comparison, the Qur’an absolves “Haroon” (Aaron) the brother of Moses of any type of idolatory. The Qur’anic account is that it was an individual titled “As-Samiri” (lit. “the story teller”) who confesses to take the gold of the people and out of it make the calf and not Aaron:

They said: “We broke not the promise to thee, as far as lay in our power: but we were made to carry the weight of the ornaments of the (whole) people, and we threw them (into the fire), and that was what the Samiri suggested.” Quran 20:87

And he [SAMIRI] extracted for them [the statue of] a calf which had a lowing sound, and they said, “This is your god and the god of Moses, but he forgot.” Qur’an 20:88

While demonstrating the identity of the maker of the calf to be the individual known as Samiri, the Qur’an also shows that instead of co-operating with the act of idolatry as depicted in Exodus 32, Aaron had in fact spoken against the act:

And Aaron had already told them before [the return of Moses], “O my people, you are only being tested by it, and indeed, your Lord is the Most Merciful, so follow me and obey my order.” Qur’an 20:90

As the Old Testament account alleges Aaron to take the jewellery to make the calf, while the Quranic account suggests it wasn’t Aaron, but Samiri the story teller, and as the Qur’an shows that Aaron had spoken against idol worship and not participated in it, therefore both the accounts i.e. the Quranic account and Hebrew Torah account  cannot logically be from the same Author.

We can therefore conclude from the above example that the Qur’anic Taurat is not the same as the Hebrew Torah. The author of the Qur’an is not endorsing a text whose accounts differ radically from its own.

 

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Why Islamic Marketing is about Principles and not Profits


WHY ISLAMIC MARKETING IS ABOUT PRINCIPLES AND NOT PROFITS?

A PRACTITIONER’S PERSPECTIVE

By

KASHIF SHAHZADA

Presentation for Special Session of 4th Global Islamic Marketing Conference, Istanbul, Turkey 29-30 May, 2013

 

THE BURDEN OF BUSINESS

Business has left a heavy burden on society. Nowhere is this true but in the times we live in. Business was meant to create wealth, trade in goods and services, provide employment and contribute to the betterment of society, but is this truly so? Just look around yourself and ask this question. Businesses, whether small or large engage in activities that harm people as well as the planet. There is a stark difference in what they claim to be and what they really are. What you read or see about business in advertisements, or PR releases and what they actually do behind the scenes is not the same. As outside observers, academics and students merely skim the surface of the business world, but if you are practically in business, it is then that the harsh reality of the business world will be dawned on you. Step into the business world practically, and it is then you will see what it is all about. Don’t just see the glossy advertisements!

WHEN MARKETING IS ALL ABOUT PROFIT?

Marketing is basic to business. It is not the domain of Marketing departments, but in fact is what business is there to do. From knowing customer needs, to making goods and services to fulfilling demand. From financing and pricing to distribution and delivery. From employing people, to running the shops where customers interact. Managing the supply chain from A to Z. Each and everything that a business does falls within the domain of marketing. It does all this to pursue its main goal of profit. This is the crux of the matter and the line of thinking among most business owners out there. They do whatever they do in order to make profit. And this mind set is also officially documented. According to the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Marketing is defined as “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably. It follows from this definition that satisfying customers needs for profit is central to marketing and thus will be the entire focus of a business.

To pursue profit, businesses will often resort to all possible means. Tax evasion, forming cartels, environmental pollution, even racism and slavery. The list is endless. Some are even formed for the very purposes of colonizing other countries, and engage in warfare. In fact there are businesses, very large in size, that would go bust if there were peace on earth! Imagine what they wouldn’t do to ensure that the fire of conflict is always kept kindled!

But times, they are changing. Today’s customers are now a complex phenomenon. Customer needs come in a wide variety of choices and are as diverse as customers themselves. What type of customer requirements should a business fulfill is determined by a business often in conjunction with the legal or ethical framework governing it. With new technologies like social media and Internet, business conduct is within the knowledge of consumers within seconds, and news of misdeeds can spread all over the globe like wildfire. Now businesses also need to convince customers that they are ethical entities. Their offerings are healthy, beneficial and non exploitative. There is a movement for fair trade and green business in the world. This is good news, specially for Muslim owned businesses, because the values that such customers require are pre-existing in the Islamic revelation.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONVENTIONAL AND ISLAMIC MARKETING

While customer needs are the centre-point of conventional marketing, it is argued that in Islamic marketing it is not the customer, but the Creator whose good pleasure is sought by the marketer first and foremost. Thus profit maximization is not the ultimate goal of trade in Islam (Al Serhan, 2011). Islamic marketers are those marketers that apply the principles of Islam to the marketing function rather than pursue profit maximization by any means possible.

Islam is called Ad-Deen in the Qur’an (3:19), a term which is loosely translated as religion or faith. However these English counterparts do not convey the full essence of the word. Deen encompasses every sphere of human activity, whereas some may argue that religion is concerned mostly with matters like dogma, creed, ceremony, worship and festivals and may think that going to one’s place of work is a non-religious act and going to a place of worship for an observance, a religious one, in Islam there is no distinction between the two. When a believer conducts his business or profession under the guidelines revealed by God, then his economic affairs are an act of Ibadah (Servitude, worship). Deen Al Islam is concerned with not only the spiritual life and salvation of its adherents but also their worldly and economic affairs. It has a finely tuned set of rules governing all aspects of life (Al Serhan 2011) How a believer buys and sells goods and services is also within the domain of Deen Al Islam. How wealth is managed, and acquired and shared with others, the Qur’an is not silent about such matters, but discusses them at great length. Thus all actions undertaken by Muslims are acts of worship (AlSerhan, 2011).

MANAGING THE MARKETING PROCESS IN THE LIGHT OF ISLAMIC VALUES

If marketing involves the management of 7 Ps, namely product, price, promotion, place, people, processes and physical evidence. (Wilson & Gilligan, 2005) and Islam applies to all spheres of human life, including economics, then it should be made clear what type of products are within the remit of Islamic marketing? How are they to be priced? What type of promotion is to be pursued? How are goods and services to be distributed? Are there any rules governing the role of people involved in the marketing function by what processes and in the acceptable physical environments? Let us explore some orders revealed in the Quran and then see their application on the marketing process:

INNOVATE

The Quran orders believers to study the workings of the physical word around them. Not only the physical world, but also the cosmos, as all have been created for a purpose. Forces of nature are to be harnessed and for this their constant study is required.

“And He has subjected to you, as from Him, all that is in the heavens and on earth: Behold, in that are Signs indeed for those who reflect.” 45:13

Thus the believers are described as those who do not sit idle but:

“.. reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth..” 3:191

This shows that believers are supposed to be scientists and innovators. They are not to be content on the status quo of knowledge, but strive to make new discoveries and inventions which have benefit and utility for mankind.

TRADE BY MUTUAL CONSENT

O you who believe! Eat not up your property among yourselves unjustly except it be a trade amongst you, by mutual consent. And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allah is Most Merciful to you. 4:29

Trade should be by mutual consent. Situations where the consent of either party is not gained or is manipulated by some manner would not constitute a permissible transaction. Consumption of property without other people’s consent is prohibited. This is a widely encompassing rule and covers a lot of areas like theft, fraud, deception, robbery etc.

FULFILL CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS

“And fulfill [every] covenant. Indeed, the covenant is ever [that about which one will be] questioned.” 17:34

It is absolutely vital that contractual obligations made by a Muslim business are met, whether such contracts are made with customers or suppliers. As the verse points out, meeting one’s contracts is a matter inquired about in the here after.

DEAL JUSTLY

“Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are due and when you judge between people to judge with justice. Excellent is that which Allah instructs you. Indeed, Allah is ever Hearing and Seeing.” 4:58

Justice and fairness has to be in each and every sphere of business activity. A Muslim business has to deal justly with suppliers, with employees, with customers and with shareholders as well as the public at large.

SUPPLY HALAL AND TAYYAB

A business operated on Islamic principles supplies what is Halaal (lawful) to consume and not Haraam (Unlawful). Obviously an Islamic business cannot run a pub or a casino, as such is prohibited in God’s revelation. The utility and benefit of products and services that are supplied also needs to be considered. Products have to be Tayyab. This is an important point to understand. The Qur’an requires of believers to consume that which is not only Halal but also Tayyab. The Arabic word Tayyab is contrasted in the Qur’an with Khabees:

“As for the good (TAYYAB) land, its vegetation cometh forth by permission of its Lord; while as for that which is bad (KHABEES), only the useless cometh forth (from it). Thus do We recount the Signs for people who give thanks.” 7:58

Thus in above, Tayyab is something productive and beneficial, while Khabees is what is useless. This explains that Muslims should market those products and services that fall in the category of being Tayyab and have utility and benefit for the consumer, without being futile or harmful.

We must note that in certain religious circles a lot of emphasis is laid on a product being Halal, but not on whether it is Tayyab. But to be kept in mind that Quranic order is for consuming Tayyab, and not just Halal. We may ask, is meat of inferior quality, though prepared through Halal slaughter method qualifies itself as being Tayyab?

DO NOT REDUCE WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

A business should provide its customers what it has paid for and not deprive them in any manner:

“And O my people, give full measure and weight in justice and do not deprive the people of their due and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption.” 11:85

“Give just measure, and cause no loss (to others by fraud). 26:181

Thus honest and transparent transactions should be the hallmark of Islamic marketers

DO NOT COMMIT FRAUD

“Woe unto the defrauders: Those who when they take the measure from mankind demand it full, But if they measure unto them or weight for them, they cause them loss.” 83:1-3

In an Islamic business, fraud should not exist in any stage in the business processes. Whether dealing with suppliers, internal customers (employees), external customers, shareholders or the public.

DO NOT BRIBE

“And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].” 2:188

An Islamic marketer will not engage in bribery.

DO NOT STEAL

“..that they will not steal..” 60:12

Theft is a broad term. It involves taking away what belongs to others without their knowledge. All forms of theft are thus prohibited.

DO NOT WASTE

“..But waste not by excess: for Allah loveth not the wasters.” 6:141

Waste is not just of inventory. Waste of space and time along with materials is also what clogs up supply chains, reduces profit margins and causes inconvenience to stakeholders. Quranic rules require that waste be eliminated from business operations.

DELIVER WHAT YOU CLAIM

“O you who believe! why do you say that which you do not do?” 61:2

A business making tall claims but not delivering on them can never be called an Islamic business, as believers only promise what they can deliver and never more.

HIRE STAFF THAT IS CAPABLE, TRUSTWORTHY AND DIVERSE

Indeed, the best one you can hire is the strong and the trustworthy.” 28:26

The word “Qavi” and “Ameen” occur in the above verse. “Ameen” is trustworthy, while “Qavi” is having strength and capability. It is not enough to hire staff that is honest, it should also be capable of doing the job. Diversity is a key theme in the Quran, which does not favour any racial or ethnic group but considers all mankind as a single community.

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” 30:22

Thus a Islamic business should also employ a diverse workforce. The above principles are applicable on business processes as follows:

1. PRODUCT

A product is anything that can be offered to customers to satisfy a want or need. Hence products are what customers receive in return for a payment. Applying Islamic principles on products, we realise that they need to be innovative, Halaal (permissible), and Tayyab (beneficial, healthy, useful). As waste and environmental harm is prohibited. They should be beneficial and useful for for all mankind and not cater to the needs or lavishness of a few only. It is vital that products are genuine and original and not fake.

Scientific innovation has to be at the heart of any Islamic business organisation. scientific research and innovation used to be a regular feature in the Islamic world, and we have record of quite a few inventions attributed to Muslims. This also shows that Islamic marketing is not about Muslims consuming what others have produced, but for them to be at the forefront of latest innovative production methods.

2. PRICE

Price is the amount that a customer has to pay in order to receive a product or service. A central theme in the Quran is that the resources of the world are meant for all mankind. No group is to be deprived of the earth’s resources as God has created it for all.

O mankind! worship your Lord, Who hath created you and those before you, so that ye may ward off (evil).” 2:21

“Who hath appointed the earth a resting-place for you, and the sky a canopy; and causeth water to pour down from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you. And do not set up rivals to Allah when ye know (better).” 2:22

In the above we see earth’s “fruits as food for you.” are for all mankind, thus any arrangement which deprives any member of the human race from the earth’s resources is against the spirit of the Qur’an. This leads us to the principle that when pricing products, it should be ensured that products are within the reach of all consumers and not so high so as to exclude any category. The producer is allowed to demand the compensation of his labour only, and nothing in excess:

And that man hath only that for which he maketh effort.” 53:39

Thus Quranic principles impacting on the pricing of goods and services require pricing in a fair and just manner, and allow for remuneration of labour put in by business owners and employees.

3. PLACE

Distribution involves making a product available in the right place, at the right time and in the right quantity, while keeping storage, inventory and distribution costs to an acceptable level.

Islamic principles require that distribution should not be wasteful, not cause environmental pollution. Illegal and unethical distribution activities like hoarding, smuggling, fraudulent pricing practices like under invoicing, and other corrupt means of business such as bribery are all prohibited for a business working on Islamic principles. Strict adherence to contractual obligations with one’s dealers and agents is mandatory according to Qur’anic law.

4. PROMOTION

Promotion is the manner in which a business conveys to customers what it does and what it offers. There are numerous Islamic principles that apply on promotion, and their application makes it mandatory for a business to be honest and upfront when advertising itself. Fraudulent advertising or promotion with deceptive claims are thus prohibited. Advertising should not be excessive, and should not be unsolicited or invade on people’s privacy. There should be no sexism and stereotyping.

5. PEOPLE

A business governed by Islamic principles employs a workforce that is knowledgeable, capable, trustworthy and diverse. The workers are never to be oppressed but always granted their due rights, as Zulm (oppression) is never allowed by God. Welfare of employees is thus a key component of Islamic marketing.

6. PHYSICAL EVIDENCE

There are also certain ethos that need to be considered when designing the premises of your business or wherever customers come into contact with your product and service. Husn (beauty) and Zeenah (adornment) being emphasized in the Qur’an require that the premises be aesthetic along with being functional.

“Say: Who hath forbidden the adornment of Allah which He hath brought forth for His bondmen, and the good things of His providing? Say: Such, on the Day of Resurrection, will be only for those who believed during the life of the world. Thus do we detail Our revelations for people who have knowledge.” 7:32

There should be no wastefulness or excess. Accessibility is vital, as Quran teaches that all mankind should benefit from earth’s produce, therefore disabled, elderly and other customers who face any form of mobility issues should not be barred but be able to easily access a business premises governed by Islamic principles. The doors of the business should be open to all, and all segments should be welcomed.

7. PROCESS MANAGEMENT

A business run on Islamic principles does not rely on slave labour in any part of its supply chain. It has to ensure that supply chain management from outsourced factories does not rely on labour acquired from victims of human trafficking and slavery, for slavery has been forbidden by the Qur’an in clear terms:

It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given the Scripture and wisdom and the prophet hood that he should afterwards have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah.” 3:79

All procurement should be inclusive and transparent. Smaller traders should be given a chance to supply into the supply chain and larger businesses should not be allowed to have a monopoly. Working conditions in outsourced factories should be humane, and not pressurized to cut corners in order to meet orders of larger customers. Given the Qur’an command “and do not waste”, it is vital that waste, whether it is of material, of time or of space should be eliminated from the operations of the business. A business truly run on Islamic principles will have a smooth work flow, without bottlenecks. Customers should not be made to suffer or be left stranded but serviced quickly.

CONCLUSION – LAW, ETHICS AND REVELATION

When it comes to business transactions, there are two categories. Transactions that are legal, and one’s that are not. Some are legal, but not ethical, such that although there is no law barring such a business, people do not consider it to be the right thing to do. Ethics and legislation both have one thing in common. Both are man-made. Laws are what parliament or government decides upon, while ethics is what society considers as acceptable. To be noted that ethical norms and legislation are not permanent. A law of today can be repealed by a legislative body of tomorrow. Similarly, what is ethical in one society is not necessarily in the other.

Many equate the word ethics with religion, however the etymology of the word gives a different picture (Albuquerque, 2010). Moreover, ethics also vary with time. In the past it was considered unethical for women to go out to work, but not today. So we see that both, ethics and legal rules vary according to time and space. Both are a product of the human mind, and do not claim perfection.

This is where Islamic marketing comes in uniquely. Muslims believe that the rules to govern business in Islam are not the product of human minds, but are revealed by God. As such they are not restricted to time or space. Believers of one generation are to follow the same God given rules as believers of a previous era. These rules are applicable in any society and within any given time or era. Since God is the one who has given these rules, they are permanent and immutable as the definitive guide to human behaviour.

Preview: Why Islamic Marketing Is About Principles And Not Profits?


Profit maximization or service to God?

The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines Marketing as “the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.” It follows from this definition that the customer is central to marketing. It is the customer’s requirements that determine the entire focus of a business. However customer needs come in a wide variety of choices and are as diverse as customers themselves. What type of customer requirements should a business fulfil is determined by a business often in conjunction with the legal or ethical framework governing it. While customer needs are the centre-point of conventional marketing, in Islamic marketing it is not the customer, but the Creator whose good pleasure is sought by the Marketer first and foremost. Thus profit maximization is not the ultimate goal of trade in Islam (Al Serhan, 2011).

Islamic marketers are those marketers that apply the principles of Islam to the marketing function rather than pursue profit maximization by any means possible.

Law, Ethics and Revelation

When it comes to business transactions, there are two categories. Transactions that are legal, and one’s that are not. Some are legal, but not ethical, such that although there is no law barring such a business, people do not consider it to be the right thing to do. Ethics and legislation both have one thing in common. Both are man-made. Laws are what parliament
or government decides upon, while ethics is what society considers as acceptable. To be noted that ethical norms and legislation are not permanent. A law of today can be repealed by a legislative body of tomorrow. Similarly, what is ethical in one society is not necessarily
in the other.

Many equate the word ethics with religion, however the etymology of the word gives a different picture (Albuquerque, 2010). Moreover, ethics also vary with time. In the past it was considered unethical for women to go out to work, but not today. So we see that both, ethics and legal rules vary according to time and space. Both are a product of the human mind, and do not claim perfection.

This is where Islamic marketing comes in uniquely. Muslims believe that the rules to govern business in Islam are not the product of human minds, but are revealed by God. As such they are not restricted to time or space. Believers of one generation are to follow the same God given rules as believers of a previous era. These rules are applicable in any society and within any given time or era. Since God is the one who has given these rules, they are permanent and immutable as the definitive guide to human behaviour. Islam is called Ad-Deen in the Qur’an (3:19), a term which is loosely translated as religion or faith. However these English counterparts do not convey the full essence of the word. Deen encompasses every sphere of human activity, whereas some may argue that religion is concerned mostly with matters like dogma, creed, ceremony, worship and festivals. Whereas some may think that going to one’s place of work is a non-religious act and going to a place of worship for an observance a religious one, in Islam there is no distinction between the two. When a believer conducts his business or profession under the guidelines
revealed by God, then his economic affairs are an act of Ibadah (Servitude, worship).
Deen Al Islam is concerned with not only the spiritual life and salvation of its adherents but also their worldly and economic affairs. It has a finely tuned set of rules governing all aspects of life (Al Serhan ) How a believers buy and sells goods and services is also within the domain of Deen Al Islam. How wealth is managed, and acquired and shared with others, the Qur’an is not silent about such matters, but discusses them at great length. Thus all actions undertaken by Muslims are acts of worship (AlSerhan, 2011)

The Islamic marketing mix

If marketing involves the management of 7 Ps, namely product, price, promotion, place, people, processes and physical evidence. (Wilson & Gilligan, 2005) and Islam applies to all spheres of human life, including economics, then it should be made clear what type of products are within the remit of Islamic marketing? How are they to be priced? What type of
promotion is to be pursued? How are goods and services to be distributed? Are there any rules governing the role of people involved in the marketing function by what processes and in the acceptable physical environments? Answers to such and Qur’anic guidelines that apply on the marketing mix, need to be seen before affiliating any marketing project with Islam.

I will be speaking on WHY ISLAMIC MARKETING IS ABOUT PRINCIPLES AND NOT PROFITS? at the 4th Global Islamic Marketing Conference (GIMC4): “Visionary Marketers Building a Better World”, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, 29-30 May 2013.

KASHIF SHAHZADA

From MTV to Mecca Launched in Pakistan


Kristiane Backer is a former celebrity VJ famous for her work with MTV. She is also a prominent European Muslim having embraced Islam in 1995. I met up with her in London last year and among other things, we decided that I would help her market her autobiography, From MTV to Mecca in Pakistan. Thus plans were made to have Kristiane speak at the Karachi Literature Festival and to set up a stand for her book. Though she couldn’t feature at the Festival on this occasion, we managed to set up a display for the book through the auspices of Oxford University Press.

To be very honest, I was not expecting a major response, and thought that this would be an ordinary affair, where we just raise brand awareness, then pack up and go home, but my estimations were proved wrong when in all the three days of the event [February 15-16-17, 2013], her stand received major, and I mean major attention from people from all walks of life who visited us.

We were kept very busy due to the substantial sales we made, the media coverage, the comments and requests we received from visitors, and the expression of interest from book distributors present on the occasion. Quite a lot of people we spoke to wanted to see Kristiane as a speaker and meet her in person. Authors, keynote speakers, and dignitaries also recorded their comments and gave kudos.

Kristiane’s story is different from the faith narrative that is popular in Pakistan. For hers is a frank account of someone who was outside the faith and culture of Islam, who joined it of her own accord and who does not find any conflict in maintaining her European roots as well as Muslim identity.

Her journey as a top presenter in the world of show biz to one as a practising Muslim gives profound insights into the contemporary state of affairs in Europe and the Muslim world. There is praise for various aspects of the faith but there is also a critique of the faithful. There is mention of the world of celebrities and pop culture and there are reflections on travels in the Muslim world. But central to it all is her struggle in life as a woman and her search for God. Pakistan also features prominently in her story as according to her, it was after her visits to the country and upon meeting Pakistani Cricketer, Imran Khan, that she became interested in Islam.

I viewed this event as a means to test market her book for Pakistani readers and can confidently convey that it has the potential to be a best seller, provided it is marketed properly and to the right target market. The event was also proof that the vast number of Pakistanis are not extreme in matters of faith but embrace diversity of views and love intellectual discussion and debate.

From MTV to Mecca should be available at all major Pakistani bookshops very soon, and I hope that for the next literature festival, Kristiane can be with us, here in Pakistan, Insha’Allah.

31st December, 2012


A REFLECTION ON NEW YEAR’S EVE

While many in most parts of the world are celebrating, I write from Karachi, the world’s second largest city and the commercial capital of Pakistan which offers very little to celebrate. If there is any pressing matter, it is indeed just one – the safety and security of citizens. Never before have we witnessed lawlessness to such an extent and never before has crime engulfed the city in such great proportions as far as I can remember.

People have their own scapegoats. Some blame democracy, some religion. Quite a few in and outside Pakistan think that every bullet fired is because of religion. But they forget that religious denominations such as those that exist in our country also exist in other countries without engaging in blood sheds such as the one’s that we witness. Why is it that the same groups are thriving peacefully in those nations but are blameworthy in ours? The answer is that it is not really religion that is to blame here but absence of law enforcement. When any group, whether religious or secular is not checked by the reign of law then it has a tendency to mutate into a monstrosity. Law and legislation and its just application is what keep such in check and ensures that they operate within acceptable boundaries and the rights of all citizens are respected. The key to a tolerant society is a framework of justice within which all religions, ethnic groups, political affiliations are to operate and coexist with each other. When people know that what they are doing is against the law and fear getting penalized, it is then that they will refrain themselves from practising intolerance of any kind – whether religious, political, ethnic or of any other variety.

Justice for all, even if the case is in favour of one’s enemies – this is the fundamental principle of the Qur’an [5:8], which if not adhered to will result in disintegration of society [42:42].

Where is justice and the rule of law in our society? If it isn’t there, then why isn’t it there and what needs to be done to bring law and justice back into society? This is what people need to discover.

This is the most important question that needs to be answered in Pakistan in 2013.

Historical Accuracy


Only Allah’s version of history is perfect

Do not enter into debates about what the world regards as ‘history’. What is cited as ‘history’ is actually his-story. Believe me you will feel very relieved once you get the heavy burden of ‘history’ off your back.

Just think about it. It is not possible to compile a history that is complete and unbiased because those who are writing it are often not eye witnesses, and write from hearsay. Moreover, recorders of history are often commissioned by certain employers to give their version, making their preferred heroes and villains rather than what actually happened.

For history to be accurate and comprehensive, it should be recorded by one who is all-seeing and all-knowing and who narrates only the truth. As such attributes befit no being except Allah, therefore His version of events (the Qur’an) is the accurate history and which must be accepted above man-made accounts. Do not subject man-made history over the Qur’an, instead it has to be the other way around.

The Qur’an is not narrating events of previous generations for no sake at all, but is actually elucidating the moral principles for rise and fall of people of all times and all eras. Its events guide us to Sunnat Allah, the practice of Allah which never changes:

“[This is] the established way of Allah with those who passed on before; and you will not find in the way of Allah any change.” 33:62

“[Due to] arrogance in the land and plotting of evil; but the evil plot does not encompass except its own people. Then do they await except the way of the former peoples? But you will never find in the way of Allah any change, and you will never find in the way of Allah any alteration.” 35:43

“..you will never find in the way of Allah any change, and you will never find in the way of Allah any alteration.” is sending us a message very loud and clear that what happened to previous generations, if we act in the same manner, the same will happen to us! This is the crux of the matter. Because it is you and I who are in the firing line!

Live in the present, take guidance from the Qur’an for the present day and age that you reside in. Do not get stuck in the past. The Qur’an is not speaking of dead and buried generations when it cites them. It is narrating to you traits that may very well be in you. You could very well be the Pharaoh, Haman or Qaroon of this day and age instead of following the examples of Moosa, Essa and Muhammad (PBUT).

“And if the Truth had followed their desires, verily the heavens and the earth and whosoever is therein had been corrupted. Nay, We have brought them their Reminder, but from their Reminder they now turn away.” 23:71

The Book contains your own reminder and of no one else. You have been turning away from your facing own self all along your life. You thought the Qur’an was all about tales of the ancient, whereas it was actually about you!

Its high time you laid the past to rest and saw how the Qur’an related to your own person in your present.

Mu’min and Muslim


Every Mumin is a Muslim but every Muslim is not necessarily a Mumin. By the term Mumin a person who has firm inner belief is meant and by the term Muslim we mean a submitter, i.e. someone who resigns His will to Allah, who agrees that there is Allah and He has given guidance to mankind. However he may not be practising those rules in his life, e.g. he is drinking alcohol, dating, earning by illegitimate means etc, but verbally says and knows all this is wrong. He merely surrenders. This is the first stage. But when a person becomes a Mumin or a convinced believer, then this is the stage where he moves from initial submission. He also starts acting on the rules and practices the laws of Allah in his life. He is a Muslim i.e. a submitter as well as a Mumin i.e. convinced believer and an actor. A Muslim who does not act on the rules is however on the first stage, and Imaan has not entered his heart. This will happen when he starts practising the rules.

This point is made evident by the Qur’an,

The bedouins say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not [yet] believed; but say [instead], ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered your hearts. And if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not deprive you from your deeds of anything. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” 49:14

In this verse the distinction between state of Muslim and state of Mu’min is made clear. Merely saying “We have believed.” is not enough to qualify as a believer but simply qualifies one as a Submitter (Muslim). It is when one starts acting on the rules, i.e. shows obedience to Allah and His messenger that they qualify as a Mumin. All commandments in the Quran are addressed to Al Ladhina Amanoo i.e. ‘those who have believed’, because it is in this state that one actually puts in practice the rules they resign to.

This can be demonstrated through a worldly example. When a personal shows a willingness to the aims and objectives of an institution has made an application to join it, he is a submitter or a Muslim to that institution. At this point has has submitted an application to join which indicates his willingness, and agreement. Once he joins, and gets trained and practices the knowledge, he is a firm and convinced believer in the rules and skills that the institution imparts on him. His practice of the rules is proof oh his belief or imaan on the institutional rules. Thus he is now progressed to another level as a Mumin i.e. a firmly convinced believer of that institution, while also retaining his initial status as an applicant who had shown his willingness to submit to the institution. On the other hand a person who has made an application, got admission, but never learned or practices what was taught in the institute, can he be equal to the latter category? Unless he is obedient to the curriculum he is not qualified to be a believer. His increase in knowledge and practise will be proof of his conviction.

That is why a believer (Mumin) is always also a submitter (Muslim), but a submitter is not necessarily always a believer, as he may not have progressed forward as showed in Qur’an 49:13.

Islam (Submission) and Iman (inner belief) are two different things. The fact that people have submitted to the commands of Allah does not mean they have belief in Allah in their hearts. Their submission can be for a variety of reasons, could be out of fear, to make friends or allies, to be acceptable in society or to marry a girl. All this is outwardly. Imaan – however is entirely different and is concerned with the qalb (heart) of a person and is between man and God.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

Dhikr Allah


The word Dhikr is Arabic for “Remembrance”. Qur’an identifies that Dhikr or “Remembrance” is the memorization and recitation of the Book of Allah:

ذَٰلِكَ نَتْلُوهُ عَلَيْكَ مِنَ الْآيَاتِ وَالذِّكْرِ الْحَكِيمِ

“This We recite to you of the signs and the Wise Remembrance.” 3:58

This verse shows that (a) it is Qur’an which is Dhikr of Allah, and (b) it is a recitation. Another ayah identifies Dhikr:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

“Surely We, Ever We, have been sending down the Remembrance, and surely We are indeed Preservers of it.” 15:9

This verse shows that Dhikr is revealed by Allah. In other words the rememberance of the Qur’an, and the fact that it will be preserved by Allah in human memory in all times.

Some people think that Dhikr of Allah is done by chanting the names of Allah a certain number of times. However along with identifying what is Dhikr, Qur’an also shows how it is to be done, as this verse shows:

فَاذْكُرُوا اللَّهَ كَذِكْرِكُمْ آبَاءَكُمْ أَوْ أَشَدَّ ذِكْرًا

“..then remember Allah like the remembrance of your fathers or (even) with stronger fervor in remembrance.” 2:200

The command given about Dhikr Allah is that it should be done as we do the remembrance of our fathers and ancestors or even greater than that.  We do not merely chant the names of our ancestors gone by over and over again on beads when we remember them, but remember them by recalling their deeds, and events of their life. In the same manner we have to remember Allah not just by chanting His name over and over again but by reciting His commandments, and the events that He has described in His Book. in other words we remember Allah by remembering His words i.e. the Qur’anic ayaat.

If we remember Allah in this manner, i.e. by remembering Quranic verses, orders and events, and specially those that relate to our life and the problems we face (keeping in mind that Qur’an has all guidance for any matters effecting our personal lives), the result will be as described in the following verse:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ- أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction.” 13:28

So if you want tranquility in your hearts, then believe in the Qur’an, study and memorise its verses, specially those that relate to the problems in your life, and remember and recite them often. By doing this you will be engaging in Dhikr Allah as instructed by Allah Himself, in His Book and attain satisfaction in your heart.

 

Muslim Response To The Blasphemous Film


A film depicting the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) in an offensive manner and which has been described as “a bigoted piece of poison calculated to inflame the Muslim world” has been circulated and its worldwide response has been in the form of protests and contempt across Muslim societies. Some of these protests have turned violent and outsiders to the faith are asking questions as to why a mere film can cause violence and resentment?

An assumption underlying this appraisal is that whilst responding violently, those who label themselves as Muslims are acting on the tenets of their faith. That what you see on the TV screens and read about in the newspapers is a practice of the Qur’an to the last letter. Many are deliberately led to believe as if whatever the world’s Muslims do and believe in, is a result of the religious guidance found in their Book and the authentic teaching of their faith.

This actually, is not the case.

Behaviour that you witness as “Islamic” behaviour is not necessarily Quranic behaviour. Upon studying the Qur’an you will realise that the fringe in the Muslim world that partakes in violent protests is neither representative of Qur’anic teachings nor of the vast number of peaceful believers.

In fact it is not religion that motivates such violence but politics. Almost all violent protests will see the involvement, not of ordinary Muslims who go about their normal daily routines, but by hardcore activists of religio-political groups, in whom along with a faithful zeal is also cultivated a deep rooted resentment of all things American. It is not the love of the Prophet, but a hatred of the United States that is instrumental in rousing such sentiments, for Prophetic teachings never command believers to act in a violent and disorderly manner.

It should also be borne in mind that elections are close by in many Muslim societies and political groups see situation created by the release of the film as an opportunity to test their street power. What better opportunity do they have by which under the cover of religion they can appear heroic? How else can they gain anti-American credentials that are so much needed to safeguard their vote bank?

Thus it is not religion, and to be specific religious teaching in the Qur’an, that is motivating people to act violent and disorderly, but it is largely politics and social deprivation that is orchestrating the violence. To be taken into account is the fact that due to corrupt and inept governments in Muslim societies there already exists much frustration and anger among the masses. When unemployment is high, there is deprivation, inflation is sky rocketing and you have a large and angry young population, then it is no rocket science to fathom that a protest of this category is bound to snowball into violence. People are frustrated and need an outlet, and politics has provided them a target and a means to vent that anger. The fuel is already there and all it needs is a match!

Here it is also important to bring on record what exactly is the Islamic ruling on such a matter as that which has come about as a result of the inflammatory film?

The Qur’an is not silent about situations when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was insulted and abused by rejecters of his message. It very well does show his behaviour, as to what his response was in such instances. It also gives clear and unambiguous instructions to Muslims as to what their conduct should be when people mock, ridicule or scoff their faith.

(1) God is sufficient against those who mock the Prophet

إِنَّا كَفَيْنَاكَ الْمُسْتَهْزِئِينَ

“For sufficient are We unto thee against those who scoff.” 15:95

It follows from this verse that if God is indeed sufficient against the scoffers, then there is no room left for believers to respond.

(2) The Prophet never commanded anyone to respond violently in face of insults

The Prophet was commanded by Allah:

وَلَا تُطِعِ الْكَافِرِينَ وَالْمُنَافِقِينَ وَدَعْ أَذَاهُمْ وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا

“And obey not [the behests] of the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and heed not their annoyances, but put thy Trust in Allah. For enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. ” 33:48

As Allah commanded the Prophet “and heed not their annoyances..” therefore the Prophet and his true followers did not pay any heed to insults and abuses they received from the rejecters.

(3) True believers in Allah bear the hurts of rejecters with patience, not violence

A statement that believers in Allah gave to rejecters is recorded in the Qur’an as:

وَمَا لَنَا أَلَّا نَتَوَكَّلَ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَقَدْ هَدَانَا سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَلَنَصْبِرَنَّ عَلَىٰ مَا آذَيْتُمُونَا ۚ وَعَلَى اللَّهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ

“No reason have we why we should not put our trust on Allah. Indeed He Has guided us to the Ways we [follow]. We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust on Allah.” 14:12

The words “..We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us…” make it absolutely clear that true believers do not respond violently to the hurtful things they hear from rejecters but tolerate them with patience.

(4) Believers commanded to be patient in the face of insults

لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا أَذًى كَثِيرًا ۚ وَإِن تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

“Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will hurt you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. ” 3:186

The divine command given to believers as to what to do in the face of abuse as “..if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil…” leaves no room for doubt that true believers do not respond violently when faced with insults and abuse but remain calm and patient.

(5) Believers are forbidden to insult other religions, hence responding violently is ruled out.

وَلَا تَسُبُّوا الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ فَيَسُبُّوا اللَّهَ عَدْوًا بِغَيْرِ عِلْمٍ ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ زَيَّنَّا لِكُلِّ أُمَّةٍ عَمَلَهُمْ ثُمَّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِم مَّرْجِعُهُمْ فَيُنَبِّئُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

“Revile not those unto whom they pray beside Allah lest they wrongfully
revile Allah through ignorance. Thus unto every nation have We made their deed seem fair. Then unto their Lord is their return, and He will tell them what they used to do.” 6:108

If believers are commanded by Allah not to even verbally insult deities, then how can they turn physically violent?

A question that immediately comes to the mind is that if indeed the Qur’an calls for calm and restraint in the face of insults and abuse, then why do so many people who identify themselves as staunch believers in Islam behave otherwise? Why do people resort to violence, damage property and attempt to riot? The answer to this is also given in the Qur’an. The reality is that the Qur’an categorises two types of believers. Those who are believers in deed, and those who are believers only by name. It is the latter who resort to violence and destruction in the name of religious reform:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

“Of the people there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day;” but they do not [really] believe. ” 2:8

Whilst refuting the claim of such, the Qur’an also exposes them by virtue of their conduct and behaviour in the world:

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ

“When it is said to them: “Make not Fasaad (disorder) on the earth,” they say: “Why, we only Want to reform!” 2:11

Pinpointing the people who go about flaunting their Imaan (belief) to be in fact fake, the above verses also identify their modus operandi to do Fasad (disorder),  assuming it to be a means to Islah (reform from sin). When we come across individuals who make it their mission to “destroy evil and vice”, we see the truthfulness of the above description. These are the type of people who bomb establishments that appear sinful to them and display violent rage in the name of religion. They style themselves as believers, do Fasaad fil Ard (disorder and mischief in the land), without realising that far from acting on Allah’s laws, they are in fact grossly violating them.

Hence there are two types of people in the world who would claim to be within the fold of Imaan. Those whose characters are trained on Quranic guidance, who in the face of insults, invectives and abuse act patiently and do not resort to a tit-for-tat or violent response.

While others are those who, while claiming to be believers, actually defy the divine injunctions. These are the people who resort to violence and destruction and justify their conduct in the name of religion.

The fundamental mistake we would make is to accept people by the labels they carry or the claims they make, instead of identifying them by the behaviours they display. Behaviours that go against the teachings of the Qur’an are never a part of Islam and their actors are never its true representatives.

Indeed the film is contemptuous, and vulgar but we must not forget that the best defence to any attempted character assassination of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is the one contained in the Qur’an. Instead of losing control, we must hold fast to Qur’anic guidance in such matters. The Qur’an is Allah’s word and is not silent. Allah is fully aware of what situations come in the life of a believer and He has given remedies in His word. The only response that a true Muslim is to give is the one which the Prophet gave and which is to abide by the teaching contained in the Qur’an.

Australia deliver Coup de Grace to Pakistan and walk into the semis of London 2012 Olympic Games Men’s Hockey Competition


Australia demolished Pakistan by 7 goals to nil thus putting an end to the hopes and aspirations of Pakistan hockey fans and fraternity. Australia have now qualified for the semi final while Pakistan will have to content for the the 5th and 6th position play offs. It was estimated that in a do or die game like this, Pakistan would go all out on attack right from the beginning and not worry too much on defence, but surprisingly the Team Management decision not to field three main strikers Rehan Butt, Haseem Khan and Shakeel Abbasi in the first 15 minutes of the game proved to be fatal. The game plan to start defensively in this decisive game caused irreparable damage to Pakistan as it could not withstand the Australian charges and conceded 2 goals in the first 10 minutes of the match. This 2 goal margin was doubled in the same half, a margin that had immense psychological impact on the boys. The second half saw three more Australian goals, sinking Pakistani hearts even deeper.

The management should have realised what a demoralising effect a high margin lead in the first half would have on the boys. When a team is a goal down, then its efforts should be to reduce the margin immediately and not go on the defensive, and allow the opposition further attacks. An equaliser expiates the demoralising effect on the team and brings hope back into the game. But against this, Pakistan team management decided to play defensive even though two goals had been scored against them making the team sitting ducks to the Australian hawks. The management realised the mistake in the later period of the first half and fielded Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi, but at a time when we were losing with a big margin. Star forward Haseem, however was nowhere to be seen on the pitch, except in the middle of the second half. Captain Sohail Abbas too was kept on and off the pitch resulting in an inconsistent defensive pattern. Why in a crucial match like this, Pakistan started without their three main attackers, and why the captain who is the leader and inspiration to the team was kept off the pitch? Answers to these vital questions can only come from the team manager and coach. The management also decided to play zonal defense instead of man-to-man marking and this was also instrumental in giving an edge to the fast paced Australian attack, as they would frequently change positions with each other and not have anyone to mark them. It appeared that the entire match was an Australia versus Goalkeeper Imran Shah affair who was kept busy between the posts and along with conceding 7 goals, also managed to save quite a few attempts. Shah, who was also hurt during the first half had his own limitations and one must not put the blame on one person. He is a young keeper with a lot of talent, and had a lot on his shoulders in this Olympics.

With this defeat, Pakistan are out of the medal race, however there are still games that need to be played and the team should retain its composure for the play offs. Pakistan did not come into the tournament as favourites, and the result is not beyond expectations. Now we must salvage what remains and at least try to win the remaining play off games and improve our world rankings.

If there is someone to carry ultimate responsibility for Pakistan’s overall performance in this tournament as well as in world hockey over the years, then it is those running the Pakistan Hockey Federation, and after this tournament the Federation set up definitely needs a overhall. It is expedient that after the Olympics, the Pakistan Hockey structure as well as the national governing body and its subsidiary associations are reformed to regain our lost glory.

Senior players Sohail Abbas, Waseem Ahmed, Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi will definitely need to call it a day after their lengthy careers. In Forwards Haseem Khan, Shafqat Rasool, and Rizwan Bhutta we have a talented lot. Midfielder Rasheed Mahmood, and defender Muhammad Irfan have shown extraordinary skill in this tournament. Goalkeeper Imran Shah needs some coaching, but he has the spark and reflexes to make into a world class keeper. The residue of the Olympics squad does show promise for the future, but we need a good administrative structure of hockey in the country to develop the sport at domestic and international level. The coach and team manager who takes up after the Olympics needs to be an indigenous one instead of an imported option. He should be retained for a period long enough to produce concrete results.

Pakistan To face Australia in a Do or Die Encounter


Pakistan turned the tables in the last five minutes of the match to register a 5-4 victory over South Africa and are now to face Australia in their last and decisive pool match of the London Olympics.

It was a fast paced game, in which Pakistan were down 4 goals to 3 till the final 10 minutes of the second half, and it appeared as if South Africa will win the game and send Pakistan out of the medal race. But captain Sohail Abbas equalised by netting an aerial penalty corner flick, while center half Waseem Ahmed made the lead one up a minute and a half before close of play, keeping hopes alive for a semi final berth.

The four goals conceded by Pakistan against South Africa were a result of poor goalkeeping and lack of alertness by defenders, who were probably feeling the effects of exertion during earlier games. Goalkeeper Imran Shah displayed some inexperience on his part when he kicked a stray ball to the top of the circle in the hands of the South African forward whose back hand drive sounded the boards. The very basics of goalkeeping state that a clearance always has to be towards the side lines and never vertically towards the top of the circle, as the risk of the ball falling into the hands of opposing players is high in this way. During penalty corner defence, Shah was standing too close to the goal line to the result that South African flickers attempt went into the goal after deflecting his pads. Were he positioned a step or two ahead, he would have covered more goal area and the ball would have deflected off his pads and away from the danger zone. It has been observed that Shah, no doubt a brilliant keeper, has to fine tune his skills a bit, and perhaps Salman Akbar who is more experienced and has a tall stature more suited to defending penalty corners and penalty strokes should have been in this Olympic squad.

But now the time has come for Pakistan not to look back, but to look ahead. We have to do whatever we can with whatever we have got.

Australia is the tournament favourite, the world champion and currently ranked number one in the world of hockey. In Richard Charlesoworth they have one of the finest coaches in the world. Facing such a solid team will not be an easy task as it is one which requires planning and not just prayer. The pressure will be more on Australia given their credentials and expectations, therefore Pakistan should go all out into the match without worry and play an open and free flowing attacking game. If they win then it will be a surprise as they are up against the world number one side and if they lose then it was expected. On the other hand, Australia will be under tremendous pressure because they have drawn with Great Britain in their last pool match and are now equal with Pakistan and Great Britain with four points each. Great Britain will face Spain, and cannot afford to lose, while the same is true for Australia who desperately need a win to make it to the semi final. Therefore this pressure is what Pakistan should capitalise on. Jamie Dwyer is the ace Australian forward who will need to be well marked and disturbed throughout the game. The Australians are known for their set pieces and counter attacks, therefore a quick recovery to defend counter attacks following penalty corners is needed as it has been seen that most goals scored against Pakistan in this tournament have been a matter of surprise and lethargic defensive tactics.

Gone are the days when defence was the domain of defenders only. In such a do or die encounter, the entire team will have to be in defence and likewise in attack. Goalkeeper Imran Shah can make or break the game. If Shah performs outstandingly, then this could be the catalyst that Pakistan needs. Thus this has to be an all out total effort for Pakistan to defeat Australia and for this, the team should prepare itself mentally. Psychological preparation for such crucial games is vital, but sadly an area often ignored in sporting circles of Pakistan. In comparison other world ranked teams are known to have a sports psychologist as part of the contingent in major tournaments.

Pakistan need to play a free flowing and attacking game, with attack as its main tactic of offence as well as defence. Center half Waseem should play up front in the role of a schemer and distributor of the ball. Much will also depend on Sohail Abbas’ penalty corner conversion, as it is now that he is showing his true form having exceeded his own world record of highest numbers of goals.

Physical fitness is paramount for this tournament as games have barely 24 hours rest in this tournament. For this Pakistan should make full use of rolling substitution rule and take advantage of its complete bench strength, giving players short periods of rest and recovery instead of wearing them out full seventy minutes in the energy sapping astro turf. Forward line cannot afford to miss any scoring opportunities. Victory is not the result of an individual event but the combined result of numerous factors. To win, Pakistan need to excel in every area of the game – from goalkeeping to goal scoring.

Team GB Defeat Pakistan 4-1


What Caused Pakistan to lose 4-1 To Great Britain in London 2012 Olympics Hockey?

Great Britain consolidated their position at the London 2012 men’s hockey competition with a 4-1 victory over Pakistan in front a cheering home crowd at the River bank Arena. Two goals from James Tindall and Jonty Clarke in the first half and two more by Ashley Jackson in the second half shattered Pakistan’s hopes for top honours in the pool. Pakistan’s consolation goal came in the dying moments of the game with a Sohail Abbas penalty corner conversion. This loss diminishes Pakistan’s chances for a semi final berth, who now need to win the remaining of their pool games against South Africa and World Champions Australia.

Britain certainly had an edge over Pakistan in this game as they had home ground advantage and are the hosts of the Olympic games. Team GB is quite an experienced side with six players in the squad – midfielders Rob Moore, Ben Hawes, Glen Kirkham and strikers James Tindall, Jonty Clarke and Barry Middleton having more than 200 caps each, while Pakistan have a number of youngsters in the team from the junior side. GB players have a good understanding with each other as they have been playing together since a number of years, but Pakistani players have been in and out of the squad over the years. Even the captain, Sohail Abbas did not know whether he would get a place in the final Olympics squad or be the captain. In Jason Lee, GB have a team manager who has been on the job for more than five years, unlike Pakistan who had fired Dutch coach Van Den Heuvel four months before the Olympics.

Team GB’s passing was precise, with players knowing what to do immediately when in possession. It seemed their set pieces were well versed for the game. Against this, Pakistani forwards had to wonder what to do next when they had the ball.

Pakistani team management’s decision to lay more emphasis on defensive play has been the main cause of their unsatisfactory performance in this tournament. A point also shared by a number of former Olympians. Hasan Sardar, speaking to a private TV channel diagonosed the team’s short comings as lack of short passes and combined moves, which have been the hall mark of Pakistan hockey in the past, while Olympian Shahnaz Shaikh retorted on PTV Sports that by playing with only three strikers we set ourselves a formidable challenge to penetrate the crowded defence of Great Britain.

It is the third pool game and we are witnessing the same trend. The Pakistani forward line is playing without combination to gain territory and penetrate opposition defences and their tactics are mostly individual runs and and one on one attempts to dribble past defenders. If this trend continues, then there is not much hope left for the green-shirts. It is not the players who are to blame for any loss, but the team management at whose behest the team adopts a formation and attempts to put it into action. Indeed, on trial in this tournament is not just the Pakistan hockey team but also the people responsible for its selection and coaching.

 

 

A Glimmer of Hope for Pakistan, as they Down Argentina 2-0 in London 2012 Olympics Hockey


By Kashif Shahzada

Defying the pundits once again, Pakistan defeated Argentina by two goals to none in their second pool match of the 2012 London Olympics Men’s Hockey competition. In a hotly contested affair, both teams played fast attacking hockey and made frequent inroads into each other’s defences. Pakistan drew first blood in the 30th minute when defender Muhammad Imran scored from a direct penalty corner drag flick.

The second goal also came off a penalty corner strike when Captain Sohail Abbas’ powerful drag flick found the left post in the 44th minute of the second half. Though Pakistani forwards displayed occasional cohesion and short passes, overall they featured at an individual level, making fast runs whenever finding spaces and attempting to pierce the Argentinian defence with individual stick work. During the game forwards missed quite a few scoring chances, and it were the penalty corner strikers who saved the day.

Tough Times Ahead

Whether this strategy of individual play by the Pakistani forward line will prove to be effective against packed defences of stronger sides like Great Britain and Australia remains to be seen, and perhaps the need is for team manager Akhtar Rasool and coach Khawaja Junaid to revise this trend and add mid field support to the forward line, so that attackers are not left to their own devices to penetrate the defence but move in trios.

Change in Penalty Corner Tactics

This game also saw a variation in Pakistan’s penalty corner routine with Muhammad Imran taking the first strike instead of Sohail Abbas.

Overall, the green shirts played well and were a treat to watch. It must be said that it is the Pakistani defenders to whom much of the credit goes for keeping the Argentinian attackers at bay and often saving in the last moments. Full back Muhammad Irfan and half back Rasheed Mahmood proved to be a strong barricade for the Argentinian forward line. Goalkeeper Imran Shah was particularly in form under the bar, magnificently saving two Argentina penalty corner strikes, and foiling numerous field goal attempts, however there were a few very serious fumbles by the defence line, to which stronger sides will not show any mercy.

The Game Has entered a Crucial Stage

With this win, Pakistan now have four points from two games and as Great Britain’s match against South Africa earlier in the day resulted in a draw, there is a glimmer of hope for Pakistan to make it to the semi final stages. But Great Britain who have home advantage and World Champions Australia will prove to be strong adversaries. Republic of South Africa, though lowly rated in world rankings should not be taken lightly as well. It is vital that our team management reviews videos of their opponents in the tournament and chalks out a workable game plan for these important encounters. More manpower is needed in attack.

Lacking in Attack, Pakistan Draw Their Opening Encounter With Spain in 2012 Olympics Hockey


An unexpected Result

If past results and current world rankings are any measure of performance, then certainly Pakistan’s 1-1 draw with Spain in their opening encounter of the 2012 Olympics, Men’s Hockey Competition at the River Bank Arena, London is indeed a surprising improvement. Pakistan, a country currently ranked eighth in World Hockey drawing to fifth ranked silver medallist of Beijing 2008 Olympic games, Spain is beyond expectations for the green shirts, who are lowly rated for this tournament.

A Lot of Missing and No Combined Moves

However comparing Pakistan’s playing style in her halcyon days with today’s encounter makes her performance below par. Pakistan missed many open net chances of scoring, and here we must give due credit to Francisco Cortes, the experienced Spanish keeper who was exceptional under the bar, and the catalyst for keeping the result the way it was. True that Pakistan missed many chances, but defenders Imran and Irfan also deserve mention for foiling numerous Spanish attacks, and manning their defence zones properly otherwise the score may very well have been different.

The match started at a fast pace with Spain dominating the proceedings in the first five minutes of the first half. Pakistan managed to break this Spanish surge when Shakeel Abbasi made an individual run on the left flank, dodged past Spanish defence, penetrated the circle and won a penalty corner, which Sohail Abbas’s aerial flick hit the post, deflecting off the keeper’s gloves. Sohail’s other penalty corner flick was also miraculously saved by the Spanish keeper’s flat end of the stick.

Little or No Midfield Support

Throughout the game, Pakistan lacked midfield play and support to the forward line. The tactic seemed to be to get the ball to forwards directly from defence, sans any midfield support. A lot of aerial passes were also seen from Pakistani defenders to their forward line and it must be said that this tactic was not very successful as most of the inroads and attacks on goal came when mid field support was present to attackers.

The centre half was played by experienced Waseem Ahmed, who kept low key instead of performing the pivotal link role that is reminiscent of Pakistani centre halves. It is hoped that team manager Akhtar Rasool who himself was a great centre half of the past will rectify this for future games. It is vital that the forward line moves in cohesion with mid field players and does not depend on individual runs and elimination skills. When Spain launched an attack, then it could be seen that they had no less than five players in the attacking formation, and in comparison, only two or three Pakistani forwards could be seen in attacking mode.

Five Forwards Instead of Three

This feature of using three attackers is something adopted from Dutch coaches and is not the original style of attack that is distinctive to Pakistan. We must revert to our original style and add more punch in our attack.

The second half saw Rehan Butt, who did not feature in the first half, score off a pass from center forward Haseem Khan, but Pakistan hadn’t even finished celebrating their opening goal that the score was equalised immediately as Spain launched a quick counter attack and the green defence was caught off guard. Goalkeeper Imran Shah who had made a number of excellent saves off deflections from Spanish crosses was unable to close the gap between his legs and Pau Quemada’s reverse strike from the top of the circle passed in between his legs resulting in the Spanish equalizer. The remaining game was an arduous struggle between the two teams, each unable to score till the end. Some dramatic moments were also seen in the game when Umpire Nigel Igoo of New Zealand awarded a goal to Spain but it was over turned by the referral umpire. The quality of umpiring in this encounter at least was quite interesting. The game saw some heated moments too as two Pakistani and one spanish player were shown green cards. Spanish captain Santiago Freixa had to be taken off the pitch when he hurt his arm after a collision with a Pakistani defender.

Tough Times Ahead

Pakistan’s next encounter with Argentina will not be an easy ride, as the Argentinians recently beat the green shirts in the Sultan Azlan Shah tournament few weeks before the Olympics and that defeat will definitely give them an edge. The need for Pakistan is to play fast attacking hockey relying on short passes rather than individual brilliance and have more manpower in the forward line who can pass to each other and move the ball around if stuck, creating more opportunities for penetration and scoring. Variation in penalty corners should also be tried.

Match Reports on Pakistan Games held at London 2012 Olympics Men’s Hockey


2012 London Olympics are under way. Insha Allah, I will be writing match reports for Pakistan Hockey team’s encounters as I view them live on PTV Sports. It is also Ramadan, so its a bit hectic. But I shall do my best to submit the reports in good time.

Here I would like to add that this Olympics has a special significance for me, as the guy leading Pakistan Hockey is my old team mate and school buddy Sohail Abbas. Who also happens to be the current world record holder for highest number of goals in hockey. 345 to be exact. The team is lowly rated, but the pace with which the game is played nowadays we never know as upsets can and do occur.

Hockey fans, and specially fans of Pakistan hockey get ready and bookmark this website.

Location of Masjid Al Haraam


Numerous individuals and groups styling themselves as “Quran Alone”, “Quraniyoon”, “Quranists”, “Submitters”,  and by other labels who claim to believe and follow the Qur’an only, offer novel interpretations and understandings. Among these are often contradictory and grammatically errant views related to the identity of Masjid Al Haraam, the Sacred Mosque, in Makkah which is the centre-point of Muslims all over the world and Islam’s holiest site.

I have been often asked to demonstrate from the Qur’an where Masjid Al Haraam is situated, due to the confusion spread by such viewpoints.

Here I demonstrate the geographical location of the Sacred Mosque by virtue of the Qur’an itself, so that those who study the Book, specially new reverts / converts to Islam are not misled by such individual’s faulty and errant line of reasoning.

Where is Al Masjid Al Haraam situated? Can we identify its geographical location from the verses of the Qur’an? Yes – we very well can. It is located in the city of Makkah, as identified very clearly by Qur’an itself in Surah Al Fatah:

“And it is He Who has restrained their hands from you and your hands from them IN THE MIDST OF MAKKAH, after that He gave you the victory over them. And Allah sees well all that ye do.” 48:24

The above identifies that rejecters who were in the middle of Makkah were having a conflict with the believers. Now the opposition of these same people, who are residents of Makkah is identified in the next verse:

‎”They [THE REJECTERS IN THE MIDST OF MAKKAH] are the ones who denied Revelation AND HINDERED YOU FROM THE SACRED MOSQUE and the sacrificial animals, detained from reaching their place of sacrifice. Had there not been believing men and believing women whom ye did not know that ye were trampling down and on whose account a crime would have accrued to you without (your) knowledge, ((Allah) would have allowed you to force your way, but He held back your hands) that He may admit to His Mercy whom He will. If they had been apart, We should certainly have punished the Unbelievers among them with a grievous Punishment.” 48:25

As the above verses indicate that rejecters in the midst of Makkah hindered Believers from the Sacred Mosque, therefore the Masjid is situated in the city of Makkah. Reading the verses together makes the geographical location of the Masjid absolutely clear and we can infer solely from the text of the Qur’an about the location of Al Masjid Al Haraam to be in Makkah. This being the case, why do people argue to the contrary? The reason that we find opposition to Makkah, Hajj, Salah and Masjid Al Haraam is because of the Qur’anic prophecies about individuals who will, in all times, oppose the system ordained by Allah and in one way or the other attack the House of Allah and its practices. We read about such people in Sura Al Hajj:

“As to those who have rejected (Allah), and would keep back (men) from the Way of Allah, and from the Sacred Mosque, which We have made (open) to (all) men – equal is the dweller there and the visitor from the country – and any whose purpose therein is profanity or wrong-doing – them will We cause to taste of a most Grievous Penalty.” 22:25

There will always be individuals who in the words of the Qur’an “would keep back (men) from the Sacred Mosque..” Such are misled, as they mislead from the path of Allah and for the opposition that they give to Al Masjid Al Haraam theirs is a grievous punishment that awaits them in this world as well as the next.

As true believers, we must identify the above characteristic and safeguard ourselves.

 

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Is it Sinful To Take The Shahadah?


INTRODUCTION: New converts to Islam often take the Shahadah when they embrace the faith to mark their formal admission into the fold of Islam. This is usually by uttering the words “I bear witness there is no God besides Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger.” The Shahadah is also part of the Azaan –  the call to Prayer and is included in the wordings of the Salah, the Islamic daily prayer.

However in recent times some deviant sects are opposing converts from this practice by falsely claiming that such is an act of Shirk (polytheism). They argue that it is sinful to take the name of Allah and Muhammad in the same sentence, and that no one should be mentioned alongside the name of God. Furthermore their claim is that a believer cannot ‘bear witness’ on the messenger. Such are ridiculous claims and have no basis at all in the Qur’an. This is demonstrated briefly as per following.

1. The Qur’an itself shows that Believers bear witness over the messenger:

 

“They who disbelieve say: Thou art no messenger [of Allah]. Say: Allah, and whosoever hath knowledge of the Scripture, is sufficient witness between me and you.” 13:42

The words “..whosoever hath knowledge of the Scripture, is sufficient witness between me and you…” makes it clear that those who have knowledge of the Book are witnesses over the messenger, hence nullifying the claim of those that it is sinful to be a witness on the messenger.

2. “Laa Illah Iallah” and “Muhammad Ar Rasool Allah” are Qur’anic words

37:35

لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ

48:29

مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ

If mention of these words together is shirk, then God mentions them in His Book. Is he also guilty of Shirk according to those who propose such nonsensical ideas?

3. By bearing witness over Muhammad, one by default bears witness and acknowledges ALL messengers, because it is through Muhammad that all messengers prior to him are introduced to believers.

 

“And those who believe and do good works and believe in that which is revealed unto Muhammad – and it is the truth from their Lord – He riddeth them of their ill-deeds and improveth their state.” 47:2

The words “..that which is revealed unto Muhammad – and it is the truth from their Lord ..” shows that it is through Muhammad that truth is known, and this includes the truth of all previous messengers as well:

“Messengers indeed have been denied before thee, and they were patient under the denial and the persecution till Our succour reached them. There is none to alter the decisions of Allah. Already there hath reached thee of the tidings of the messengers [We sent before].” 6:34

The words “..Already there hath reached thee of the tidings of the messengers..” shows that it is through Muhammad that messengers before him are known to us. Therefore acknowledging Muhammad is the messenger of Allah is in fact acknowledging all messengers before him, and not excluding them as some ignorant people suggest. It is ONLY through Muhammad’s revelation that messengers true personality is revealed, making it compulsory to acknowledge him as the source of their true knowledge.

4. There is no verse in the Qur’an which says do not “mention” anyone besides God. What it says is do not “call” anyone besides God:

“And cry not, beside Allah, unto that which cannot profit thee nor hurt thee, for if thou didst so then wert thou of the wrong-doers.” 10:106 Pickthall

The word in above verse is ‘Tad’uu’ which is from ‘Du’a’ and means ‘to call’, ‘to invoke’, ‘to pray’ or ‘to supplicate to’. For ‘mention’, the word used in the Qur’an is ‘Dhikr’. Whenever Qur’an issues the command ‘do not call any besides Allah’ it always uses the words derived from ‘Dua’, and never ‘Dhikr’. Sadly some are twisting these words, and not retaining them in the original. How devious of them to do this. They are playing with fire!

There is a difference between mentioning anyone and calling anyone. God Himself mentions messengers alongside His name in the Qur’an. To say otherwise is contradictory to Qur’an.

5. The theory that the Shahada with the name of Muhammad is an act of polytheism was promoted by the (late) Rashad Khalifa and his offshoots. A number of people are simply copying his ideas and using them in argumentation to assert their superiority over Muslims to deride them that they are committing Shirk while the latter are not. The fact of the matter is that it is they who are guilty of distorting words and instead of using accurate meanings they use English words to confuse and mislead people, especially new converts.

CONCLUSION: New converts to Islam are assured that they have not committed any blasphemy or act of polytheism by making the statement of the Shahadah. The words are perfectly correct and in line with Qur’anic wordings. They should dismiss the falsehood spread by deviant sects and check whether what they are told is really based on the original text of the Qur’an or not. This belief is not of their own discovery. They are simply copy and pasting things from websites of the followers of the man, Rashad Khalifa and his offshoot and splinter groups. Playing with words has been prophesied in the Qur’an and a warning has been given to those who engage in such activity:

 

“And lo! there is a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture. And they say: It is from Allah, when it is not from Allah; and they speak a lie concerning Allah knowingly.” 3:78

We should identify those who distort the translations of the Qur’an and confirm the prophecy in the above verse about “..a party of them who distort the Scripture with their tongues, that ye may think that what they say is from the Scripture, when it is not from the Scripture.” Such people are amongst us who are playing with Quranic words and we should beware of them and their deviations.

 

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Islamic Marketing


Though the discipline has been documented in academic circles relatively recently (Alserhan 2009), Islamic marketing has been around since ever Muslims have under taken consumption and promotional activity in the light of the teachings of their faith. To many, Islamic marketing is concerned with marketing of goods and services to Islamic communities as an untapped and viable market segment, while to others Islamic marketing involves marketing of such products and services that are considered as “Halaal” (permissible) Few also see Islamic marketing as the branding and packaging of conventional goods and services using “Islamic” or “Arabic” symbols. Such is the interest in the field that even those organisations that are considered secular in nature, and are owned by non Muslims have also jumped the boat to have their share of the “Islamic” dollar (Sandikci, 2011).

However,  though its academic study is new, Islamic marketing is not really a new phenomenon , but one which has existed since ever Muslims, put into practice the teachings of the Qur’an within the sphere of their economic and corresponding social lives. Marketing is no longer the domain of Marketing departments, but an activity at the heart and soul of the organisation (Kotler 1999), hence Islamic marketing is not a niche but at the heart of the organisation.

Islamic marketing is a holistic activity, not restricted to marketing to Muslim consumers only but to all consumers as Islam does not bar Muslims from trading with non Muslims. Similarly, branding with Arabic text, images and symbols is not reminiscent of Islamic branding but as the Qur’an says that all human languages and colours are among the signs of Allah, such can be done is every mode of communication of the target consumer.

The diversity of beliefs and cultures within the global Islamic community mandates that a stereotypical approach to Islamic marketing and more specifically branding be discouraged.

The ethical and moral dilemmas that Marketers face in contemporary times, and how Islamic marketing in the light of Qur’anic guidance binds Muslim marketers to ethics in business needs to be explored. The importance of the Qur’an as a text of guidance for the Muslims and its application in all spheres of human activity is key in this regard.

Social uplift and community regeneration through Islamic Marketing should be  brought into the limelight through examples and best practice, and it should be emphasized that Islamic marketing is not at all about increasing profits, but also concerns community welfare. In essence, the dynamic nature of Islamic marketing gives birth to the Islamic organisation, which as a social business exists to solve problems faced by communities and works towards providing material as well as spiritual needs of consumers.

Kashif Shahzada will be delivering a lecture on the topic of “Islamic Marketing: Marketing to Muslims or Marketing in the light of Qur’anic Guidance?” at the 2nd Global Islamic Marketing Conference (GIMC): “Putting Ethics Back into Business”, to be held in Abu Dhabi from 16th to 18th January 2012.

Plural Marriages: The Muslim Welfare System


Introduction

Imagine a country devastated by war. Men of fighting age are killed, leaving behind women and orphans. State resources have been depleted. There is poverty and misery everywhere. Where lies the relief for the weak and vulnerable, the women, children, and the elderly? Forget about the state. Islam has what no state system of the world can ever deliver. Plural marriages. Yes. Islam allows polygamy i.e. plural marriages. Polygyny is where a man has plural wives, while polyandry is where a woman has more than one husband. Both fall under the term polygamy. When Islam allows polygamy, then it is actually polygyny that is permitted. In other words, a Muslim man may have more than one wife at the same time, or up to four, to be exact.

Plural marriages are no laughing matter, but actually a relief for society of its social hardships and burdens if done properly and in the spirit of the Qur’an.  Marriage according to the Quran, is between two consenting adults, who on account of their belief and circumstances decide to live as husband and wife. Purpose of marriage is to find love, tranquillity and fulfilment and to procreate and live as a family. Monogamy is the norm in the Qur’an, but under extenuating circumstances, polygyny is recommended. We read: 

And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice]. (4:3) Saheeh International

The words “..But if you fear that you will not be just, then [only] one..” indicate that polygny is conditional to justice. If a man cannot treat wives equitably, then he is ordered to be monogamous.

Besides as it is a man’s duty to support his wife, therefore polygyny is conditional upon a man’s economic status. Only if he can afford to marry more than one woman, should he do so. So its not for everyone, but for special occasions only.

Polygyny in Quran is not for fulfilling the lustful intentions of men, but to provide shelter & support to destitute women. Its benefits are numerous. Some are listed here:

  1. Polygyny enables wealth creation. As the members in a household increase, aggregate earning of family increases.
  2. Polygyny reduces poverty. A wealthy man will marry poor women thus they get food and shelter.
  3. Polygyny creates wealth succession. If a penniless poor woman stays single all her life and dies, then she leaves no inheritance but if a man marries her then through Quranic law of inheritance, she has a right in her husbands property, which then goes to her children or siblings after her demise. This way wealth is not only created but also passed on.
  4. Polygyny saves from perversion. It is a scientific fact that men due to testosterone have a higher sex drive than women.Instead of meeting their needs illicitly, polygyny allows men to fulfill within the bond of marriage. On the other hand poverty stricken women are also saved from prostitution.
  5. Polygyny provides childcare and permits women to go to work. A sister wife can look after the kids, while other wives work.
  6. Polygyny provides companionship social, economic and psychological support is provided to sister wives through their joint family.
  7. Polygyny provides natural support system for the elderly as Quran orders believers to financially support their elderly parents.Thus children from polygynous marriages will support their elderly parents and not leave them at the mercy of state pension.
  8. Polygyny maintains social equilibrium in society. Because in society majority are poor and minority are rich. Polygyny applies only to the rich, as Quran makes it a prerequisite on a man to financially support a woman he wishes to marry otherwise he should be monogamous or keep himself chaste until he has the means to marry.

Conclusion

Through this Quranic law, the rich minority is able to share wealth as well as emotional support with the vast poorer majority. Through plural marriages there is equity and just distribution of wealth, increased productivity by more working members in household, increase in manpower by larger families, reduced crime because of harnessing male testosterone and aggression. A young workforce brought by larger families and childcare provided by sister wives and natural elderly care by children when they grow up.

I do acknowledge that there are wrong doings with this practice as well, but in this case I am highlighting the practical benefits of plural marriage if it is done in the light of Qur’anic guidance. We should not cite the example of people failing in relationships when their judgements are of their own, and not from the Qur’an.

Thus I would argue that polygyny is beneficial for society. Due to these facts, observations, I rest my case and conclude that Quranic law of polygyny which involves wealthy men to marry from poor and destitute orphaned women whom they are duty bound to financially support and share in wealth and love has immense benefits for society in all times. It is the duty of Muslims to promote the correct concept and purpose of marriage and the benefits this commandment of Allah has for society at large. How true is the Qur’an:

And We send down of the Qur’an that which is healing and mercy for the believers, but it does not increase the wrongdoers except in loss. (17:82) Saheeh International

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Have You Been Dialling The Wrong Number?


Instead of Asking People, Why Not Try Asking God Directly If He is There?

We often come across people who curiously ask us: “Where is God?” The problem with such an approach is that though they are asking the right question, it is misdirected. Why ask the creation to tell you about the Supreme Creator? Can’t God speak for Himself? If He is really there, then He is quite capable of communicating with His creation. So instead of asking self proclaimed middle-men about God, you owe it to yourself to get a direct appointment. God can answer you Himself in a manner that is specific to you.

People think that God is somewhere very distant, but the Qur’an teaches that He is very near:

“And when My servants ask you concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” (2:186)

In fact He is nearer to us than our jugular vein:

“And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein. ” (50:16)

If the words of God spoken in the first person in the Qur’an: “I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me…” are true, and if God is really that close to us that He knows our inner most thoughts, then then it follows that you should address God directly for a sign or guidance. If He is really there, then He will show you the proofs about His existence.

So instead of asking intermediaries about God, for a change why not ask God directly, one on one?  If you are serious, then all you have to do is ask.

Just Try And See!

Why not try it now, and see for yourself, at this very moment in time. Ask God for His guidance and see if you receive a sign in your life. Just repeat the words of the prayer below and see what happens:

“It is You we serve and You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path!” (1:5-6)

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BLOGGING THE QUR’AN: “Won’t the camel wander while he prays?”


Won’t the camel wander while he prays?

Kashif Shahzada vs Madeleine Bunting

Excerpts from The Guardian Debate

Blogging The Qur’an

MADELEINE BUNTING:

Well, I knew that some of this blog was getting hard to follow – for example the discussion about how many days it took to create the world – but it was Zia’s reference to “complaining athletics” which had me completely stumped.

I read and re-read his paragraph, thinking what on earth have I been missing here. Athletics in the Qur’an. And then I realised it was a typo. Phew. But it was a serious point and one I will ponder because it hit something very raw in me. I have no problem at all with people who are very critical of belief but I find certain types of derision and ridicule very upsetting. I’m not talking about Jerry Springer style entertainment; to me, there’s a choice involved and I would probably not choose to see it. Neither, have I lost my sense of humour, I find the gentle wry commentary on Christ’s life by Monty Python wonderfully entertaining. But there is a combination of arrogance, certainty and ridicule which makes my blood boil. It makes me very angry.

So I found Zia’s definition of kufr as those who “consistently and perpetually deride those communities who believe in God” useful. However, I am still not sure that my reaction of such intense anger is appropriate or quite why I feel it so intensely so I would be interested in people’s comments and I will continue to think it over. My hunch is that my reaction is rooted in having met many, many very humble believers whose lives have been sustained and inspired by their faith in a myriad of small ways; mocking how they have made sense of their lives is a form of cruelty and intolerance – and one we see increasingly with the New Atheism riding an extraordinarily successful wave of popularity.

Moving on, I was very glad jammyfool picked up on DPavett’s point that “secular states show that you can live without religion”. Jammyfool is right that DPavett is just too fast in that assessment; we still don’t know. Like jammyfool, I think we are still living off a Christian legacy in western Europe; I’m struck by the fact that people with a strong social conscience (not, of course, all of them) often are the offspring of deeply religious parents. They have absorbed an ethical system and while they may have stripped out belief, much of it has persisted in the way they live their lives.

What is also interesting (in what is I admit a highly anecdotal, personal survey) that that post Christian generation have not always been very successful in transmitting their ethical framework to their children. So you could argue that the post Christian legacy is slowly fading, and concepts such as self-sacrifice are likely to just become increasingly incomprehensible. When I interviewed Robert Putnam, the US social scientist, he admitted he ponders the same question. His interest is how religion generates social capital, and he just can’t predict whether social capital will develop new mechanisms for self reproduction once religion is stripped out.

Finally, I thought Zia answered my points about fatalism really well. I very much enjoyed his explanation of how “fortitude and endurance derived from faith becomes an active, hopeful and liberating aid”. He seems to explain with great subtlety that tension between accepting fate and freeing oneself from it and how faith can be the “middle way” between the two (I agree with the blogger who points out that the similarity with Buddhism’s emphasis on the Middle Path is striking).

And I found fascinating Zia’s next point that it is exactly this type of relationship between otherwise quite distinct attributes which is key. For example, he writes virtue and pursuit of knowledge need to be linked, and concludes with a wonderful saying, “Pray and tie your camel.” That really left me puzzled, surely it should be the other way round.. won’t the camel wander while he prays?

___________________________________

KASHIF SHAHZADA:

Ms Bunting states:

“So I found Zia’s definition of kufr as those who “consistently and perpetually deride those communities who believe in God” useful. However, I am still not sure that my reaction of such intense anger is appropriate or quite why I feel it so intensely so I would be interested in people’s comments and I will continue to think it over.”

“Kufr” (rejection, concealment, covering up) is derived the triliteral root Ka-Fa-Ra which means “he became a rejector of, or a denier of”.

The term “Kufr” or “Rejection” in its various derivative forms in Qur’anic usage is in its generic sense, and wherever the word occurs, it does not imply or refer to “Non Muslims”.
E.g Prophet Abraham and his companions say in 60:4 that they have “rejected” the belief of their persecuters (Kafarna – Bikum). Similarly, in (26:19) the Pharoah, called Moses a “Kaafir” i.e. rejector, as Moses had rejected the belief system of his.

So as Abraham’s followers who are believers say that they reject polytheism and the word “Kafar” is used for that act of theirs and as Moses who is a believer and a Prophet had committed “Kufr” of the tyranny of the Pharoah, this demonstrates that “Kafir”, “Kufr” etc are not terms synonymous with “Non Muslims”, but are *acts* and *actions* by human beings.

Believers in the Qur’an are “Kaafirs” i.e. rejectors of idealogies opposing the Qur’an. Similarly those who uphold such ideologies, when they are faced with the Qur’anic message, and they consciously reject it, then they become “Kaafirs” of the Qur’an.
It is very common nowadays for some people to label all non Muslims as “Kaafir”. Not only is this grammatically wrong, this view is not supported by the Qur’an itself.

Somebody who has never heard about the Qur’anic message, is not conscious of its teachings is not a “Kaafir”, but in Qur’anic terminology a “Jaahil” (ignorant of the message) or a “Ghaafil” (unaware of the message) person.

For to qualify for “Kufr”, one needs to be clear about and be consciously aware of the message first. When the message has not even reached somebody, then he or she cannot be called a “rejector” or an “acceptor” of that message. It is only when one has *knowledge* of the message – that he or she qualifies for acceptance or rejection.

The Qur’an repeatedly says that people: “…reject the truth AFTER it was made clear to them….” (c.f. 2:109, 47:25 etc)

When the Qur’an uses the term “Kaafir” to those who reject the Qur’an itself, then it also qualifies their traits further that they do this, when the message is clear to them, and they don’t just stop at merely rejecting the message, BUT ALSO actively oppose people from it as well (c.f. 47:1), and if that is not enough, they also PERSECUTE those who uphold the message (33:58) , and cause them mental, physical as well as material injury (63:7-8).

It is on the basis of this intolerant behaviour and persecution that such are condemned. Cross referencing verses related to “Kaafir”, “Kufr” and analysing the behaviour pattern inherent in it makes this abundantly clear and clears the misconception that the Qur’an is intolerant towards or condemns people of all faiths.

It is a consistent theme of the Qur’an, that before holding any community accountable, the Divine message is first and foremost delivered to its people – and it is THEN that retribution comes in case of rejection and immorality and NEVER before hand. God of the Qur’an is not an unjust God, who holds people responsible for not observing a law, when people do not even now what that law is all about!

(6:131) “And so it is that thy Sustainer would never destroy a community’ for its wrongdoing so long as its people are still unaware.”

The Qur’an very clearly states that those people who were weak on earth and for some reason were not able to receive the message, e.g. many are mentally handicapped, and not have the faculties to comprehend the Qur’an, or young children who die before reaching an age of consent or those resding in such localities were the message has not reached them – such people will not be held accountable by God.

(4: 98) But excepted shall be the truly helpless – be they men or women or children – who cannot bring forth any strength and have not been shown the right way:

(4: 99) as for them, God may well efface their sin – for God is indeed an absolver of sins, much-forgiving.

That “Kaafir” is a person who actively knows the message and then consciously rejects it, should also explain those passages where it is said that God has set a seal on their hearts. Many people misunderstand this (because they do not cross reference themes and passages, but are selective in their reading) to mean as if non believers or non Muslims have their hearts sealed by God – this is not so.
God is not acting arbitrarily and without reason in the Qur’an. Whenever certain people are condemned IT IS ALWAYS ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR BEHAVIOUR that this condemnation is narrated.

We see in the Qur’an that human choices and actions COME FIRST, and based on those choices and an ACT OF GOD occurs. Because people consciously reject the message, and choose to persistently behave in an immoral way, that is why a consequence of their repeated wrongdoing is sealing of their hearts, and it is not the case that their fate was sealed by God beforehand.

The type of actions we do in life, that type of results we get. Actions come first, results afterwards.

And we have the free will to choose whatever actions we want in life, says the Qur’an.

(18:29) And say: “The truth [has now come] from your Sustainer: let, then, him who wills, believe in it, and let him who wills, reject it.”

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BLOGGING THE QUR’AN: “A week with the Qur’an”


A week with the Qur’an

 

Kashif Shahzada vs Madeleine Bunting

Excerpts from The Guardian Debate

Blogging The Qur’an

 

MADELEINE BUNTING: I’m feeling a bit like a groupie. I watch the film, I write a blog, I chair a debate at the IslamExpo event last weekend: all on the Qur’an.

I thought the Channel 4 documentary, The Qur’an, was television at its old-fashioned best: meticulously balanced, profoundly thought provoking and beautifully filmed. The shots and commentary of the sharia court in Palestine was a wonderful way to subvert the anxiety and hysteria on the issue in the UK. The crowded shabby office and its handling of routine matters of family life illustrated how a lot of sharia in some countries is pretty mundane. No hand-chopping in sight.

But nor did the documentary avoid the really awful expressions of Islam which are chilling. The learned scholar who told us that more women should be genitally mutilated in the west so that there is less promiscuity. And there was footage of a terrified girl having the operation itself. It just is not enough for Ajmal Masroor in his otherwise very sensible and shrewd comments to conclude that genital mutilation is an African custom (he is, of course, not African).

Masroor’s comment provoked an issue which has been troubling me for a while. Every time something problematic crops up – such as genital mutilation or honour killing – Muslims have a tendency to dismiss it as non-Islamic and “cultural” or pre-Islamic. But my question is: many of these countries have experienced Islam for a millennium, how come the faith has failed to eradicate these brutal cultural traditions? Islam, we are told, gives women remarkable rights, but the reality is that across the Muslim world, women don’t experience precisely these rights. Why has Islam made such a bad job of eradicating that pre-Islamic past?

Now, on to the debate. Unlike many of the other sessions at IslamExpo, this was a very learned debate about spiritual faith, not about politics or power and foreign policy. The Guardian-sponsored debate was entitled “How to understand the Qur’an?” What was remarkable is how the vast hall was almost full – more than 1,000 people – to hear Tariq Ramadan, Sarah Joseph and Professor Abdel Haleem join Zia Sardar to discuss how people should read the Qur’an.

It is Professor Haleem’s translation that I am using so it was good to meet the great man himself. His message was clear: make sure you have the right translation. It was a point also made again and again in the television documentary. Some Saudi translations specify real intolerance for Islam and Judaism in a way unsupported by older translations and many other contemporary ones.

But it was Ramadan’s approach to the Qur’an which really helped clarify a few things. I will be offering only a rough paraphrase but Ramadan’s analysis broke down into three components. First, he said the Qur’an is a call. It is an invitation to a dialogue. Come, it is saying.

Second, it offers stories of the Qur’an and you project onto these stories your own experiences of life. It is your own emotional history and understanding which brings these stories to life – so it amounts to another form of dialogue.

Finally, it describes the way – the rules for life and society. But be wary, said Ramadan of making these up on your own. These require a lot of knowledge; they require caution and time and must be worked out collectively amongst those learned and skilled in such things.

So Ramadan seemed to offer a way of accommodating a very democratic – everyone read this book – approach with an emphasis on tradition in its interpretation of the rules by which people and societies should order their lives. These are issues we have looked at repeatedly in the last six months: who has the authority to interpet the Qur’an? Here was a complex answer: all believers can enter the dialogue, but the “way” is collective, a pooling of knowledge. Not the individual making it up as they go along.

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KASHIF SHAHZADA:

Ms Bunting stated:

“…. But my question is: many of these countries have experienced Islam for a millennium, how come the faith has failed to eradicate these brutal cultural traditions?”

That these societies have experienced Islam (the true religion based on the Qur’an) is an assumption. One experiences Islam, not through cultural osmosis or by inherting the faith from ancestors, but through personal effort (see 29:69), thought and reflection (47:24), a personal study of the Qur’an (54:17)and a life of action based on its inspiration (6:19).

This is stated in not one, but numerous Qur’anic verses, and it is by passing through this very process that one truly experiences Islam. One is not a Muslim merely by being born or brought up in a community that labels itself as Islamic, but one attains the status of a Submitter (a Muslim) through conscious and willing submission to the Qur’an and a life of action based on its teachings (see 2:128).

Ms Bunting says that many of these countries have experienced Islam, but she didn’t identify which “Islam” have they experienced, or whether what these countries have experienced throughout these centuries really is Islam, or is something very different but using the label of Islam to justify itself.

When she really is able to prove that the socieites she is critical of have experienced Islam based on the Qur’an for a millenium and not an adulterated form of the faith, and yet remain unchanged, then her question would be valid. However, as she falls short of proving that these societies are truly Islamic i.e. based on Qur’an as supreme law and social order, her question ” how come the faith has failed to eradicate these brutal cultural traditions?” is out of mark.

Ms Bunting observed:

“So Ramadan seemed to offer a way of accommodating a very democratic – everyone read this book – approach with an emphasis on tradition in its interpretation …”

Did Ramadan cite any Qur’anic verses as evidence to back up his view or is this his personal opinion?

Does the Book say anywhere within its contents that it is in need of tradition for its interpretation? A book that claims perfection in need of material agreed upon as inconsistent by all? Ramadan’s offer of “…everyone read this book – approach with an emphasis on tradition in its interpretation..” is not at all democratic and accomodating because there is not single body of tradition which is common to all schools of thoughts, and if one chooses a particular version, imeediately he or she is at loggerheads with the version of the opposing sect. Not only that, tradition fails to amplify each and every verses of the Qur’an, for if that were the case, the commentators of numerous sects and scholls of thoughts would not have written their huge volumes of Qur’anic exegesis but would have found the tradition as a sufficient source of Qur’anic commentary.

The fact of the matter is that the Qur’an is not in need of either the tradition or the Judeo Christian texts for its exegesis, and I would turn the tables and put these texts BELOW the Qur’an and keep these AS SUBORDINATE to what Qur’an says. We have to study the Qur’an in the light of the Qur’an itself, and tradition/bible should be subjected to that Qur’anic understanding. If it is consistent to the Qur’an then we can accept it, but if it is not, then we reject the tradition and accept the Qur’an.

The Qur’an comes first and acts as its own commentary. No other book is an aid to or is equal to the Qur’an.

As a Muslim, I would consider the view that God’s book is in need of man’s book for its explanation otherwise it is redundant, to be blasphemy of the higest order.
Ms Bunting stresses:

“These are issues we have looked at repeatedly in the last six months: who has the authority to interpet the Qur’an? Here was a complex answer: all believers can enter the dialogue, but the “way” is collective, a pooling of knowledge. Not the individual making it up as they go along.”

Does the Book mention Who is its Teacher? Yes. It very well does:

“(God) Most Gracious. It is HE who teaches the Qur’an.” 55:1-2

“Nay! It is FOR US to explain it (the Qur’an).” 75:19

“Surely, it is UPON US to guide” 92:12

It is very clear in above and many other verses that GOD IS THE TEACHER of the Qur’an and ONLY HE has the authority to reveal and inspire it to whom HE wills.

People like Ramadan should be asked: Where exactly have you read within the pages of the Book that a committee of ‘specialists’ and ‘experts’ should pool knowledge and claim to be the authorities to interpret the text??

The Qur’an is meant for NAAS which is the Arabic word for HUMANKIND. And humanity is an all inclusive term and encompasses ALL and leaves NONE.

“Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an was revealed, as GUIDANCE FOR HUMANKIND…” (2:185)

Every human being, whether black or white, rich or poor, scholar or layman, man or woman can understand, be inspired by and practice the Qur’an, but ONLY if he or she wants to.

 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

BLOGGING THE QUR’AN: “What’s the message for other faiths?”


What’s the message for other faiths?

 

Kashif Shahzada vs Madeleine Bunting

Excerpts from The Guardian Debate

Blogging The Qur’an

MADELEINE BUNTING:
These verses contain a statement of religious tolerance which is more far reaching than anything you will find in the Bible. I was lost from the start on these verses (al-Baqara 40-141). I presumed that God is addressing Jews, but his request that they believe in the message and do not disbelieve it – is that an exhortation to become more devout Jews or a request that they become Muslims? I know that might be a daft reading of the verses but it’s not clear to me. Then we run through in a succinct summary a series of Old Testament stories of the Jews – Moses, the escape from Egypt and the parting of the sea. What is the purpose here?

What was very clear – and it was a relief to feel I understood something – was verse 62: Muslims, Jews, Christians – all will have their rewards from God. Even a monotheistic sect, the Sabians, would have rewards from God. What all these believers must do is believe in God, the last day and do good. This is a statement of religious tolerance which is more far reaching than anything you will find in the Bible, and very impressive; I begin to understand why Karen Armstrong maintains that the great strength of Islam is its recognition of plurality and tolerance of other religions. It’s a point which sadly is often obscured today; perhaps you can reflect here about the relationship between Muslims and Jews?

Also, I find some of the detail about parts of the cow striking a body to bring it to life (verse 73) pretty strange. In its time, it would perhaps have made sense but what are we to make of such references now?

_______________________________

 

KASHIF SHAHZADA:

Ms Bunting stated:

“…What was very clear – and it was a relief to feel I understood something – was verse 62: Muslims, Jews, Christians – all will have their rewards from God….. What all these believers must do is believe in God, the last day and do good…”

When the Qur’an stresses reward for belief in God (Allah), then it is belief in the Qur’anic God that is required, and not belief in the concepts or attributes concerning God that prevail in other Scriptures / faiths that will provide salvation.

This is so because reading in later passages one discovers that the Qur’an corrects Judeo/Christian attributions to God, and admonishes those who maintain such beliefs.

E.g. Compare:

Exodus 31:17 vs Qur’an 50:38

Isiah 20:2-3 vs Qur’an 7:28

Judges 1:19 vs Qur’an 3:47

Genesis 21:1-2 vs Qur’an 6:102

In 1 John 5:7 God is one in three in a trinity, and belief in the trinity is widespread in Christiandom, specially the Catholic Church. In contrast the Qur’an in 5:76 as well as many other passages is strict in emphasising the oneness of God and refutes the notion that He is part of a trinity, and even warns those who believe in the trinity of dire consequences of maintaining this belief.
It is wrong to conclude from an isolated reading of 2:62 that acc. to Qur’an any Christian / Jew etc can attain salvation just because he/she believes in God as per his/her own scriptural depiction of God, but what is required of him / her is a correction of belief and acceptance of Qur’anic position regarding God. Acc. to Qur’an, God is not a trinity (see 4:171), He does not beget children (112:3), Jesus is not co-equal to God, but is subservient to Him, and was neither killed not crucified (see 4:157, 5:72).

How can it be said that the Qur’an assures salvation for a Christian who maintains beliefs that the Qur’an refutes and admonishes about? Cross referencing of verses reveals that if a christian abandons such traditional christian beliefs and accepts the Qur’anic viewpoint, it is then that he/she will have reward in the hereafter, and not otherwise. That is why we find in a later verse:

“If then they believe AS YOU (i.e. Qur’anic Believers) BELIEVE in Him, then they are indeed on Guidance…” Qur’an 2:137

WOULD YOU LIKE TO DISCUSS THE ABOVE OR ANY OTHER TOPIC WITH THE AUTHOR THROUGH LIVE CHAT? SCHEDULE A MEETING USING THIS FORM.

BLOGGING THE QUR’AN: “Aren’t these verses contradictory?”


Aren’t these verses contradictory?

 

Kashif Shahzada vs Madeleine Bunting

Excerpts from The Guardian Debate

Blogging The Qur’an

MADELEINE BUNTING:One of these verses could stand as a manifesto for contemporary religious tolerance; the next seems to be saying we should all become Muslim

I thought verse 148 was amazing. Perhaps one of the most remarkable I am likely to read in the Qur’an. The way I interpret it – and it is admirably clear, it seems to me – is that every community may have its own traditions and rituals, but focus on doing good and God will bring you together.

The emphasis is unequivocal and even the language drives it home – race to do good; ultimately we will find the unity across different religious belief. The problem is that no sooner had I read this verse which could stand as a manifesto for contemporary religious tolerance, than we plunged into the next verse which seemed a complete contradiction. Aren’t verses 149 and 150 saying that you should become Muslims – whatever religious faith you had before? _________________________________

KASHIF SHAHZADA: Ms Bunting wrote: “I thought verse 148 was amazing. Perhaps one of the most remarkable I am likely to read in the Qur’an. The way I interpret it – and it is admirably clear, it seems to me – is that every community may have its own traditions and rituals, but focus on doing good and God will bring you together.” No. There is no contradiction b/w 2:148 and later verses. 2:148 does not give divine endorsement to the traditions and rituals of *every* community. It merely states:

“And each one hath a goal toward which he turneth..” v 148 Pickthall

We all have a direction in life that we are moving towards. Our actions, whether good or bad are constantly being requited – whatever direction we choose in life, God will turn us to it, i.e. we will get the resultant of the action that we chose to do. If we choose to do good deeds in life, we get good reward, and if we do bad, we get “punishment” for our actions. It is not God who wronged us if we choose the later; it is we ourselves who are to blame, as we chose the path willingly. Numerous passages of the Qur’an state that this law of requital is in place in the physical sphere as well as moral sphere of our lives. E.g. if we do physical fitness work every morning and eat healthy diet (good) we get better health (positive result), while if we maintain an unhealthy lifestyle, and eat junk food, you’ll discover your health is failing (“punishment” because of your action). Similarly, if you choose to be greedy, oppressive and unjust in life, you will get the wage for being such a person, whilst if you practiced kindness, charity and righteousness, then you will get the reward and you will also be in the company of those who had similar traits. Hence, acc. to Qur’an (see 2:281, 3:25, 3:56-57 etc) every action that we do produces a result and is shaping our body and soul, and we will be getting the result of the goal to which turned in life. This is what is meant by “And each one hath a goal toward which he turneth..”. The Qur’an describes that various paths that people choose in life, and also gives the results of those paths – but it does not endorse all of them. Which path is acceptable to God in the Qur’an? This we can read about in other passages of the Book. As 2:148 does not give Qur’anic sanction to the beliefs and practices of *all* communities, it is wrong to conclude that it is contradicting other Qur’anic passages that give divine approval for one particular belief and action. _________________________

RESPONSES

FATIMA MARTIN: I can’t remember whether Zia ever made it clear at the beginning of this whole project that the Qur’an was never meant to be the sole guidance for the believer. Allah states clearly that we have to read it and interpret it in conjunction with the example of the prophet’s life. This of course is not an easy task, only the seriously interested will take the time to read the prophet’s biographies and hadith collections. Even then, all his actions need to be understood taking into consideration the time and culture he lived in. For example people might interpret the fact that he allowed the killing of the men of the Jewish tribe of the Bani Qurayza in Medina as horrendous and barbarian. This was the third Jewish tribe in Medina that betrayed the prophet. All three tribes had sworn allegiance to the prophet and later betrayed him. Twice the prophet showed mercy and let the Jews leave Medina, only for them to make trouble for him from outside. The third time he asked the Muslim allies of the Jews to decide their fate, and their leader insisted on the just punishment. He would have nothing to do with mercy. The Jews knew that by betraying their allegiance they risked their lives. When their plot failed they were executed, as were all the men of other tribes at that time, no matter what religion, who committed treason. We now know that allowing this harsh punishment the prophet in fact avoided a much bigger bloodbath when he entered Mekka later on, and the Meccans surrendered without battle, finally accepting the strength of the prophet and his followers. If you come across what seem like contradictions in the Qur’an, see how the prophet dealt with them, but be sure that you know the spirit behind his actions and decisions. __________________________

KASHIF SHAHZADA: If the Qur’an is God’s word, and the traditions are the word of men containing various grades of authenticity, then it is logical that the former has superiority over the latter. To those who believe and accept the Qur’an as the perfect and complete Book, originating from Allah, any traditions / narrations, attributed to any pious person and originating from any source whether they are from the Judeo Christian Scriptures or from any other compilation e.g. ahadith need to be studied in the light of Qur’an, and not the other way around, because (a ) Qur’an does not say anywhere within its pages that it is in need of other books for its exegesis, and on the contrary states that: “Is it not sufficient for them that We have sent down to you The Book which is recited over them?…” [29:51] b) Scholars of ALL schools of thoughts themselves admit that traditions are human compilations and are not free from discrepancy and agree to them containing aspects of errancy, hence the variation in various versions and compilations, therefore what identifies itself to be perfect and free from errancy (the Qur’an) is not dependent on what shows itself to contain the weak and inauthentic (ahadith). Even the compilers of the said reports rejected thousands before sifting a few for their compilations. So by their own admission these books are not perfect, why then must we subject the perfect Qur’an to the imperfect? Should it not be the other way around, i.e. that the Qur’an comes first. We see what the Qur’an says about a subject and then in its light see other sources. (c) The Qur’an warns us against mixing truth with falsehood (2:46). In other words, truth should be kept pure and pristine and not intermingled with the slightest element of what is unauthentic. And it is God’s word that determines what is authentic from inauthentic, and is the “furqan (criterion to judge right from wrong) and not human words, because by default they (humans) are liable to err, while God isn’t. In view of this, the Qur’an, which claims to be free from error (4:82), calls itself a clear guide (43:2) and a distinct light and beacon that shows the truth (14:1) is not to be made subservient to human reports like suggested above. It should be the other way around i.e. it is those reports that are to be made subservient to the Qur’an, and it is the Qur’an that is to act as a judge on their authenticity. Not only is this approach illogical, it is blatantly against numerous Qur’anic directives on the subject. The story cited above is also not correct. It goes against the person and character of the Prophet as mentioned in numerous Qur’anic verses. The Prophet acted upon the Qur’an all his life, and it is Qur’anic directives that he implemented, and the Qur’an nowhere commands him to do what is suggested in the earlier comment. (More on fighting and war can be discussed when the subject comes under discussion later). In short, the best Prophetic biography is the Qur’an itself. The deed, action and personality of the Prophets as reported by the Qur’an is their actual and authentic biography, and acts as the criterion and judge on reports concerning them in other sources. That is why in Sura 13, those who have Qur’anic knowledge have been called as witnesses over the character of the Prophet:

“…Say: ‘ (as a witness over my messenger ship)…sufficient between me and you is God and whoever has KNOWLEDGE OF THE BOOK.” 13:43

In the above, knowledge of The Book – one Book is required in order to qualify to give shahada (testimony) to the Prophet. Why just *one Book* is mentioned, why not numerous others, as has been suggested earlier. The truth is that if one were to consider the Qur’an as immutable and perfect, then one should not blindly accept any and every religious tale attributed to Islam and its Prophet that is hurled towards us, but we need to check its authenticity in the Qur’an first – if it tallies with the Qur’an, then it can be considered, if not, then it can’t be accepted at the expense of the Qur’an. Accepting a tradition that is against the Qur’an means one rejects the Qur’an, and rejecting the Qur’an is KUFR, i.e. rejection of God and qualifies one for his displeasure.

“…if they were to come together to bring something similar to this Qur’an, they can not bring anything similar to it, even if they backed up each other with help and support!” (17:88)

In Islam, the ONLY BOOK that has absolute and final authority is the Qur’an – No other source, whether a human scholar or writing is co-equal to the Qur’an, all else is subservient to it. ______________________

“MISKATONICUNIVERSITY” Kashif, there are Muslims who refuse to recognise the authority of the hadiths or the biographies of Mohammed, but it leaves them in a bit of a bind. The Quran is not capable of explaining itself – it’s too contradictory. For instance, what would the Islamic position on alcohol be without an external timeline to give the verses some order? _______________________________

KASHIF SHAHZADA: MiskatonicUniversity asked: “The Quran is not capable of explaining itself – it’s too contradictory. For instance, what would the Islamic position on alcohol be without an external timeline to give the verses some order?” Your assertion that the Qur’an is contradictory requires specific proof and reference. Among the many unique attributes of the Book is that it is free from “ikhtilaaf” i.e. conflict. We read in Sura 4:

“Do they not do “Taddabur” (pondering, analysis, reflection) on the Qur’an? If it were from other than God, THEY WOULD HAVE FOUND THEREIN, MUCH CONTRADICTION!” [4:82]

The Book claims to be internally consistent, and invites critical analysis of its contents to verify this. If it were a shoddy job, such a claim dare not be made. However, we can se in 4:82 that internal consistency will be apparent when one engages in “Taddabur” of the Qur’an i.e. a deep study, reflection and analysis of the text, and not a hasty and superficial study. So this is what is internally within the Book, i.e. it is free from contradiction. But you just suggested otherwise, and also made a comment about it, without furnishing exact citations from the text. Therefore, I would request you to cite the specific passage references pertaining to alcohol that deem to be contradictory and the translation (s) which you referred to for their study, so we can analyse whether 4:82 is right, or whether you are right. ______________________________ “MISKATONICUNIVERSITY”:

These are two of the verses about intoxicating liquor produced from dates and grapes – which one is correct?

SHAKIR: They ask you about intoxicants and games of chance. Say: In both of them there is a great sin and means of profit for men, and their sin is greater than their profit. And they ask you as to what they should spend. Say: What you can spare. Thus does Allah make clear to you the communications, that you may ponder SHAKIR: And of the fruits of the palms and the grapes– you obtain from them intoxication and goodly provision; most surely there is a sign in this for a people who ponder.

There are others of course, for instance, how many days did it take Allah to create the world? Was it six (7:54, 10:3, 11:7, and 25:59) or eight (41:9-12)? Clue: neither, more like 4.5 billion years for the earth, and 14 billion years for the universe.

_______________________

KASHIF SHAHZADA: 1) Intoxicants According to [2:219] intoxicants have both – a sinful as well as a profitable aspect. The Qur’an doesn’t prohibit consumption or use of intoxicants in total, what it bars is the ‘sin’ in them (see 7:33 about prohibition of ‘ithm i.e. sin’). It is undisputable that alcohol contributes to crimes and is a source of damage to society if used recreationally, and it is this aspect which is sinful. However there is also profit from it to society in its medicinal and industrial usage, and this is what is referred to in the verse statement ‘profit for mankind’. [16:67] on the other hand talks about ‘extracting intoxicants’, and not about consuming the sinful aspect. For believers, this extraction is for its utilitarian i.e. profitable use not for Sinful purpose You may perhaps be unaware that the word Alcohol itself is an Arabic word and Muslim chemists have done quite a lot of work on the subject in the past. As the Qur’an does not bar the use of intoxicants in totality, but bifurcates between its negative and postive aspects, in 2:219 hence it is not in conflict with 16:67 where extraction of intoxicants is mentioned which in the context of believers can very well be for profitable usage, and not sinful one. (2) Creation of heavens and earth In Arabic, the word “Yaum” is not used for a 24 hour day, but for a ‘period’ of time or eon. Hence the verses you reffered to do not talk about 24 hour days as calculated by human beings, but periods according to God’s own measure. As 7:54, 10:3, 11:7, and 25:59 talk about the creation of SAMAWAT WAL ARD i.e entire heavens and earth in six periods, while the subject matter of 41:9-12 is not the creation of ‘SAMAWAT WAL ARD’ but of other seperate events, therefore there is no contradiction between these verses. There would have been had [41:9-12] talked of the same event as the later set you quoted, but as these speak of seperate events and objects, hence there is no contradiction, and the claim of the Qur’an in being free from conflict remains valid.

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BLOGGING THE QUR’AN: “Breaking down a wall of misunderstanding”


Kashif Shahzada vs Madeleine Bunting

Excerpts from The Guardian Debate

Blogging The Qur’an


MADELEINE BUNTING:
At a recent conference, I was sitting between a cabinet minister and a senior economist when they fell into conversation about their summer reading – the Qur’an. Both had been horrified by what they had read.

They fall into a long tradition of western incomprehension at this holy book. In part this is because it is measured up against implicit assumptions about faith, sacred texts which are rooted – however distantly – in the familiar biblical tradition. My first tip to any western reader is forget characters, forget stories: the Bible may be full of them – Abraham, Isaac, Daniel, David, Joseph, Jesus, Mary – but the Qur’an is not. It is a detailed description of the nature of God alongside instructions for every aspect of human existence. To put it crudely, think self-help manual rather than an anthology of of short stories.

There are characters and stories in Islam – most obviously, the life of the prophet – but they are not in the Qur’an. They are in the sayings of the prophet (hadith) and his life story, both of which are much revered by Muslims.

There are other obviously intimidating characteristics. The book works on repetition, the structure is spiral rather than linear, and it takes a while to notice how material is repeated and juxtaposed to form different patterns – like a kaleidoscope. There are moments of poetry and rich imagery, but I still balked at the suggestion that this is the most beautifully written book of all time because it is the word of God.

But the incomprehension at this book runs even more deeply. Perhaps the hardest process of intercultural communication is in reading the sacred text of another culture; take a look at Buddhist scriptures, full of references to lotus flowers, and the enormity of the cultural leap required is also immediately apparent. It requires a teacher conversant with the etymology of the original language and the cultural traditions of the historical context to begin to make sense of them. And they have to be very patient with their audience who inevitably bring their own unspoken cultural assumptions with them. Another faith’s sacred text encapsulates a whole worldview – and that is the hardest thing for any outsider to grasp.

So it was a brave project for Ziauddin Sardar to take on. It was also honest of him to confess in his introduction, that neither was a he traditional scholar nor did he speak Arabic, the original language of the Qur’an. That prompted a fascinating exchange because as one contributor, Abdullah al-Hasan, made clear, he regarded Sardar as having no right or authority to explain his understanding of the Qur’an. Al-Hasan argued that without years of study in a recognised Islamic institution and a full training in classical Arabic, you could not venture to interpret this book. Sardar’s retort was sharp: to his mind, the Muslim world was crippled intellectually and politically by exactly this impasse over the Qur’an. Its interpretation was jealously guarded by a group of institutions with a mindset dating from the eighth century while millions of young Muslims with unprecedented access to education were cut off from debating and thinking about the book which determined so much of their lives.

The fallout from this global cultural war within Islam is that there are precious few Muslims who are familiar enough with a western mindset and confident of their Islamic credentials to explain their book. The nature of the Qur’an and how it is to be understood is the single biggest obstacle between the west and Islam. Muslims want the book to be given proper respect while westerners, at best, find it utterly baffling.

Sardar and those blogging have helped me understand several key things. The first is that the Qur’anic emphasis on pluralism is quite simply astonishing. The tolerance and respect for the monotheistic traditions of Judaism and Christianity was extraordinary for its day and in sharp contrast to the exclusive claims of both the Old and New Testaments. No wonder that modern translations of the Qur’an are busily re-writing or even cutting some of these verses – they would re-write the politics of the Middle East if they were taken literally.

Sardar argues that the Qur’an has to be reinterpreted for every generation. Every word of it may be timeless, eternal truth, he claims, but every verse must be analysed and scrutinised according to the times to yield the appropriate insight and wisdom; reason is a crucial tool with which to unlock the teachings of the Qur’an. It’s a defence of the Qur’an which provides for both the belief in the book as the literal word of God as well as a room for more liberal interpretations on issues such as homosexuality or the hijab. But it sometimes seemed like a high wire act as Sardar tried to explain certain verses.

Some of my concerns about the Qur’an remain, for example, the gender bias against women. I accept that Islam was well ahead of Christianity for centuries in terms of recognising women’s property rights and acknowledgment of women’s sexuality (such as the right to be sexually satisfied) but still the Qur’an seems to be framed in a patriarchal culture. This debate cropped up over a verse in which women were compared to fields; it seemed like a prescription for female passivity but our Muslim bloggers wouldn’t have it and the discussion rumbled on as they tried to explain to me the hidden wisdom of the analogy.

What it confirmed for me was that the Qur’an was a text of its time and reflected the cultural assumptions of seventh century Arabs. It also undoubtedly represents a breakthrough text in human ethical understanding – alongside those from other cultures. But for Muslims such a matter of fact assessment is inconceivable because it strikes at the heart of their belief that this is a book written by God for all time. I would hope one can agree to differ, but I now understand much better how very difficult that can be.

_______________________________________________

KASHIF SHAHZADA

Madeline Bunting says that a cabinet minister and a senior economist had been horrified upon reading the Qur’an. What exactly was it that they found horrifying, she doesn’t say?

Was the minister uncomfortable with the exhortation to extend justice to all, even one’s own enemies (4:135, 5:8) that didn’t go down well with the a certain government policy of supporting dictatorial regimes and bombing civilian populations in foreign lands?

Or was it the injunction to ensure a just and equitable distribution of wealth, so that resources of the land “do not remain in the hands of only the wealthy among you…” (59:7), that horrified the senior economist, as it went against granting privileges to the rich at the expense of the poor? So what exactly was it?

She may be right in suggesting that many in the west (or even the east for that matter) are at loggerheads with Qur’anic values.

After all the Qur’an is calling them to change, to mend their ways, to give up racism and policies based around regional and national interests, to extend justice and equity to all, to keep a check on their personal and carnal pleasures and share their wealth with the unfortunate for the sake of God, all this is definitely what they don’t want to do.

So why wouldn’t they express their horror at such a text, which asks them to move out of their comfort zone. Why wouldn’t they treat it as a ‘summer read’, instead of a serious manual for life mandatory for a sincere quest for truth?

Ms Bunting is not correct in generalizing that there is a long tradition about western incomprehension of the Qur’an. I am sure she knows that there are many in the West who find the Qur’an perfectly comprehensible! I am not talking of immigrants or 2nd generation believers, but native, westerners, who have studied the book of their own accord and appreciate it on its own merit. E.g.

“Quran takes the responsibility of man prosperity alone. I hope it will not be too late that time which I can unite all the scholars of all the countries together and establish a monotone society based on principles of Quran only which will guide people to prosperity.” Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1721)
“Everything made so much sense. This is the beauty of the Qur’an; it asks you to reflect and reason… When I read the Qur’an further, it talked about prayer, kindness and charity. I was not a Muslim yet, but I felt the only answer for me was the Qur’an and Allah had sent it to me.” (Yusuf Islam [Cat Stevens], British pop star)

Does Ms Bunting consider such individuals as Westerners or does the ‘West’ consist only of those that she mentions?

She claims to balk at the suggestion that the Qur’an is the most beautifully written book of all time because it is the word of God. Well, if it is God’s handiwork, then it won’t be second best will it then? First believe that it is from God, then the appreciation to beauty will come naturally. But there are many non Muslim individuals, who although do not consider the Qur’an to be of divine origin, yet appreciate and wonder at its marvel.

She suggests that incomprehension at this book runs even more deeply and recommends qualifications in foreign culture and language for a better grasp of the text, but what will she say to the fact that many outsiders to the faith have very well grasped the essence of its message, and that too without the qualifications suggested by Ms Bunting. Is not the actual existence of such individuals and their growing number in the west a living rebuttal to the claim of Qur’an’s incomprehension??

She also makes the fantastic claim about omission of verses on tolerance:

“No wonder that modern translations of the Qur’an are busily re-writing or even cutting some of these verses – they would re-write the politics of the Middle East if they were taken literally.”

This is really news to me! What a strange comment. Which modern translation has omitted any verse or verses on tolerance or pluralism from the Book. Can Bunting give names / references of publishers? Such a fantastic claim warrants at least some evidence, but none is given! Her claim makes the impression as if some editing and cutting is being done in modern translations of the Qur’an, a phenomenon commonplace within the Judeo-Christian tradition whereby not just verses, but entire passages were omitted and deleted from the Bible! I believe, Ms Bunting owes it to her readers to supply at least any reference to omission of verses on tolerance with any modern Qur’an translation.

She expresses her concern about the Qur’an being in a frame of patriarchy but the culture and society in which Ms Bunting is resident at present, would she say that it is matriarchal? Regarding her understanding of the verse on fields, it is obvious that reading the verse in its entire context makes it abundantly clear that the subject matter relates to sexual encounter, and woman’s likeness to that of the field should be seen in sexual terms i.e. she is the source through which another human being comes into the world, just like a field is the source responsible for producing forth living organisms. It is highly unfortunate that Qur’anic reflection of this ever important and natural state for women is viewed by Bunting as a passive act, whereas it is actually active in every sense.

It is natural for women to bear children just like it is natural for a cultivated land to produce crop – whether anyone agrees or disagrees with this simple fact won’t change anything! Indeed the Qur’an is true in its statement that women are like a tilth, i.e. they have child bearing capacity. This is a fact, that can’t be denied at all.
She considers the Qur’an to be: “.. a text of its time”. Indeed the Qur’an is a text of its time, but its timeframe is not 7th century Arabia, but day one of human existence. Since ever humankind has existed or will exist, Qur’anic era is in place with its values providing the divine guiding light. The problem with most critics of the Qur’an is the very motivation with which they approach the book. What is the purpose? Why do they wish to study the text?

Is it to explore its truthfulness? Or is it to find a reflection of their own likes and dislikes? I think, the type of motivation one has, that type of results he or she will get in the end.

“..He causes many to err by it and many He leads aright by it! but He does not cause to err by it (any) except the transgressors…” 2:26

Antisemitism


Evidence From The Qur’an to demonstrate that It Does Not Support Racial Discrimination

By Kashif Shahzada

ISLAM is the religion of peace, tolerance and social justice. It promotes humankind as one community and shuns racism and bigotry. But sadly some misguided elements portray it negatively and their wrong portrayal if not challenged results in creating stereotypes and prejudices.

It is vital that Muslims speak up and encounter criticisms and negative portrayals, whether they are from non-Muslim critics of Islam, or distorted and selective readings from extremists and fanatical elements within their own communities who abuse religious texts for their own vile ends .

In present times, it is the duty of Muslims who uphold the Qur’an and understand its message to reach out to communities for building bridges, creating an atmosphere of tolerance and peaceful understanding, for this has been their original tradition. They need to present their positions properly and in an authentic manner backed by evidence and proof.

Among numerous accusations that have been labeled against Islam and Muslims nowadays, and which can create negative sentiments within communities are the wrong notions that it promotes antisemitism and bigotry against people of Jewish background.

While there are differences in the theology of Judaism and Islam, there is nothing in the belief system of the Qur’an that is antagonistic to those of Jewish ethnicity.

This false claim is not only without any basis from the text of the Qur’an, but also defies logic and common sense.

It is a fact that beliefs and ideas can change, but we are not able to change our ethnic and racial features. Features, which we did not choose of our own accord but were bestowed to us from the Creator.

If the ethnicity of human beings is not of their own making but the Creator is responsible for it, it is illogical to believe that the Creator would despise or be prejudiced against something of His own doing. But sadly, this is what some people would want us to believe.

That firstly God made people of different races, and then some he chose while others of His own handiwork he despises. Such contradictory views about the Divine certainly do not have their origin in the Qur’an, which furthers the equality of opportunity of all humankind.

Every member of the human race has equal opportunity to receive divine blessings, and no racial group or tribal lineage has a preferential treatment.

Racist trends wherever they may originate from, whether aimed at blacks or whites, at Arabs or Jews, face a firm challenge from the revelation of Islam.

Although all types of racism deserve confrontation and encounter, the type under discussion here will be one which is aimed at people who are of Jewish ethnicity. Like Arabs, Jews also are an ethnic group, and not a religious one only.

Prejudice and discrimination against people who are racially of Jewish descent, does not have its origin with Islam and Muslims, who in their halcyon days have provided complete religious freedom and tolerance to Jewish communities, but its roots are more historical, centered around the Christian Gospel narratives and in the last century, Europe has been its main epicenter.

However, due to the conflict in the Middle East, Islam and Muslims have also been dragged into antisemitic discourses, and at times references are made to the Qur’an which is claimed by critics and some misguided proponents to contain antisemitic citations.

In this article, we will be discussing the subject from a purely scriptural viewpoint and analyse the Qur’anic position on race and racism and explore whether the text supports claims of antisemitism.

It is hoped that this humble attempt will remove misconceptions and bring focus and attention to the textual evidence of the Qur’an to foster peaceful dialogue and understanding between communities.

The Equality of All Races and Tribes Before God

The Qur’an does not advocate the superiority of one particular race or tribe over another; neither does it maintain the inferiority of any of them.

Considered by many to be an Arabic book, whose principle addressees are Arabs, it may come as a surprise that there is not a single direct address to Arabs in the Book, and almost all direct addresses are generic to humanity.

Within the Qur’anic text one can come across God addressing the reader in the second person as ‘O Mankind!’, ‘O Believers!’, ‘O People of the Book!’ etc, but never will we come across the address ‘O Arabs!’.

Why is that? If the Qur’an is an Arabic Book, and the Arabs are supposed to be its recipients, why are they missing from it?

Why does the Qur’an not contain anything in praise of the Arabs? The answer is in the fact that the Arabs did not write the Qur’an, but its source and origin is God who does not favour any one racial group or tribe, but promotes the welfare of all. We read:

“O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” 49:13

All nations and tribes have been made by God to recognize each other. If God has made, them, then it is illogical to conclude that any one of them would be despised by him. Why would He despise someone whom He has made? The above verse refutes the view that any tribe or nation is inferior. We also read about people’s varying languages and colours:

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” 30:22

To be noted that according to above, every language and ethnicity is among Ayaat ullah i.e. Signs of God. Thus, no language and no ethnicity is superior over the other and each has its own unique purpose and function.

Arabic speakers are not holier than non Arabs, and whites have no claim of superiority over blacks and vice versa. Each and every race and ethno linguistic group is equal before God, as all have been termed in the Qur’an as God’s Signs.

If all languages and ethnicities are among the signs of God, then why would He term anyone to be less holy? This verse, too, refutes the view that Qur’an favours or disfavours any particular ethno-linguistic group. Thus we can clearly observe the Quranic stance on racism. Just by these two verses it has been ruled out.

Moreover, the Qur’an repeatedly addresses all mankind as one Ummah i.e. one nation or community and in one instance, the very purpose of creation is described as humanity becoming one nation:

“If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. Except those on whom thy Lord hath bestowed His Mercy: and for this did He create them..” 11:118-119

If this is the position of the Qur’an, namely that all humanity is to be one, that all languages and races are signs of God, and that every nation and tribe has been made just to recognize each other then how can it be said that the Qur’an discriminates against one group of people i.e. people of the Jewish race?

Distorted Readings Are Creating Divisions

Actually, the problem lies in not approaching the text of the Qur’an holistically. Any reading of the text which ignores the context and inflection of verses and is cherry picked to prove a point, or is presented in an emotionally vouched