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

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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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 and distorted language is not valid. We need to study the Qur’an carefully, paying special attention to the theme under study in all locations and passages of the book, and once we have this holistic view, only then can we come to the conclusion about the Qur’anic position pertaining to a subject.

Sadly, in popular discourse this is not the case. People quote the Qur’an out of context, using distorted translations and cherry pick words adding popular connotations to them, resulting in misguiding the masses. When the Qur’an has itself ruled against racism, then would it become racist itself and discriminate against people of Jewish ethnicity? That is certainly not the case.

Condemnation of Beliefs and Behaviours, And Not of Ethnic Origins

It should be understood that the personalities of the Qur’an are not tribal or geographical but atemporal and archetypal. When it addresses people, then it is not people of a particular ethnicity or nationality that are being addressed, but the behavior and traits inherent in them.

The principle addressee of the Qur’an is Al-Insan (the human being), and he in turn has been described to posses certain distinctive behavior patterns and personality traits. The human being can choose to become a Momin (believer), a Muslim (Submitter), a Salih (Reformer), and so on but he could also willingly be a Munafiq (hypocrite), a Kafir (Rejecter), a Zalim (oppressor) and so on.

When the Qur’an addresses or describes Munafiqeen (Hypocrites), then this does not mean that we are reading about certain individuals that dwelled in seventh century Arabia only, but what we are studying is the atemporal and ahistorical behavior and personality of those among human beings who have chosen to have a hypocritical stance towards God, and it is their behavior that is under discussion, and not their national or ethnic affiliation.

That is why the Qur’an is said to contain Zikrukum i.e. your own mention:

“Verily We have revealed to you a Book – in it is your own mention (Zikr-ukum). Will you not then use your reason?” 21:10

We are mentioned in the Book by virtue of our beliefs, behaviours and traits and not by our ethnicities, nationalities or tribal affiliations.

In the same manner the Qur’anic terms Yahood, Hood and HadooJew in commonly available translations, though the lexical meaning is much deeper, also depict a particular manner in which certain human beings have chosen to behave in relation to God, His messages and mankind. which are usually translated loosely as

Just like when we read about a Momin or a Muslim in the Qur’an, we are not necessarily reading about a Pakistani or a Tunisian, but about behavior and psychology of certain individuals who may be living in any time and location, when we read Qur’anic reprimands concerning Yahood, then this does not mean that it is speaking against our contemporaries of Semitic origin or people of Israeli nationality, but against particular beliefs, behaviors and mentality that can be found in human beings residing in any time, era and locality.

Therefore it is extremely important that a distinction be made between the ethnic or racial affiliation of an individual, and the beliefs and character traits under discussion.

Criticism of Yahoodi Beliefs and Behavior

There are reprimands issued about Yahood in the Qur’an. But these are not aimed at people who do not contain the said characteristics – no matter what labels they are known by in the world. God of the Qur’an is not an unjust God, punishing people for sins they never committed.

It is only if the conscious behavior is inherent in them, that they are the target of this condemnation. But what exactly is this behavior that the Qur’an condemns?

The sins include: presenting falsehood as the truth, corrupting God’s message, willingly and knowingly disobeying God, and taunting people in religion (see 4:62, 6:146), falsely claiming to be God’s representatives, falsely presenting themselves as custodians of God’s religion, but in reality opposing people from God’s path, while cheating them of their wealth (5:41, 62:6), engaging in such wrongdoing, yet considering salvation and divine pleasure to be their exclusive right (2:111, 2:120, 2:113, 5:18), introducing blasphemous teachings, serving scholars instead of God (9:31).

More serious are their crimes against humanity in spreading hate and showing animosity towards those who hold a view different from their own (5:82) and kindling fires of conflict, instead of working towards peace among mankind:

“…whenever they kindle the fire of war, God extinguishes it. And they strive to do corruption on the earth, and God loves not the corrupters.” 5:64

It is such war mongering bigots and religious extremists who posses the above traits that the Qur’an condemns. Individuals, who display the said extremist tendencies can exist in any time, era or locality.

Even within certain communities that may label themselves as Muslim, we find individuals with the said traits and this is not particular to religious group or nation.

However if such individuals desist from the above cited extremist behavior, amend conduct and return to the moderate and balanced lifestyle of the Qur’an, then they have an opportunity to win back God’s good pleasure:

“But those among them (The Yahood) who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practise regular charity and believe in God and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.” 4:162

What type of behavior do human beings choose to do, why they do what they are doing and what will be the consequences of those actions – this is in essence to be seen whilst undertaking a study of the Qur’an.

We will find utility in the Qur’an upon relating its narratives within our own self and in our own lives, to weigh truthfulness in its descriptions, for this is the very purpose for its revelation.

The Qur’an is Also Critical of Some Muslims, Does it Make it An Islamophobic Text?

Those who claim that Islam’s holy book is prejudiced against people of Jewish origin overlook the fact that the book also contains negative references about certain type of Muslims.

It is critical of those who visit Mosques yet are devoid of guidance (see 9:19), it is also speaking against those Muslims who although have the Qur’an in their homes, yet remain heedless to its application (25:30) and also those Muslims who although perform the daily prayers five times a day, yet are heedless of its true spirit (107:4-7).

Does this mean that each and every person who goes for Salat (the Muslim prayer in the Mosque) or has a Qur’an in his home is in the line of fire? Or that God is condemning people of Arab, or Turkish origin? Certainly not, to say that because the Qur’an is against the behavior and practice of those who apply the label of Muslim on themselves, therefore it is anti-Muslim is to demonstrate one’s own narrow mindedness about the subject.

Such critics repeatedly retort about negative references for Jews in the Qur’an, but are silent about the exact behaviour that makes individuals deplorable within the text.

Pointing to behavior or being critical of religious beliefs of anyone does not mean being racist or anti Semitic. Racism is specific to the ethnicity of an individual, and ethnicity is unchangeable, while beliefs and behaviours on the other hand can be modified.

Qur’anic teachings are aimed at the beliefs and actions of people and are never concerned with their ethnicity. The problem is that due to cultural programming when people come across citations from the Qur’an they think that probably it is speaking about the behavior of Saudis when it speaks of believers or Americans when it talks of unbelievers.

That is not at all the case. What the Qur’an discusses is behavior and actions – conduct – good and bad, and not tribes or nations.

If a person born in a particular country has that behavior within himself, which the Qur’an condemns then he is in the line of fire – as is a sinner dwelling in any other part of the world for that matter, and is not saved just because he carries a certain label or adheres to a particular dogma or creed or belongs to a nationality.

He is condemned because of his actions, and nothing else. That a person, on account of actions will be recompensed, is the central theme of the Qur’an:

“On that day men shall come forth in sundry bodies that they may be shown their works.” “So. he who has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it.” “And he who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.” (99:6-8)

In worldly terms, a man may style himself as a very pious Muslim, but if he has the behavior and personality in his character that is representative of the people that the Qur’an terms as Yahood, and displays such character traits in life, then he is merely deceiving himself that he is a Muslim – his actions show who he really is.

Our actions denote the personality types we are, and not how we may wish to style ourselves. Mr Smith, the habitual thief is not really Mr Smith, but in reality he is Mr Thief, because his actions show his real identity.

Similarly, when the Qur’an speaks of Yahood, then it is talking about people who possess the character traits of Yahood and not necessarily somebody of Jewish lineage, who may or may not have those characteristics. The law of God is equally applicable on all. Goodness, whether done by any person – of any belief or identity whatsoever will be rewarded – while wrongdoing, done by any individuals of any colour, creed or caste will be chastised. Our actions are our true identities.

In Conclusion

We have clearly seen that the Qur’an does not support the view that any one race or ethnic group is superior or inferior to another. This being the case, people of Jewish ethnicity are not the target for Qur’anic reprimands, but only people who have the Yahoodi behavior and traits that it is critical of, and such behavior can be manifested in a person belonging to any racial group, tribe or nationality and is not solely present in people of Semitic origin.

The only criterion of acceptance before God is righteous deeds and moral conduct, which can be adopted and displayed by any person of any ethno-linguistic group in any time, era or geographical location.

The exhortations of the Qur’an are towards the behavior within individuals and not towards racial groups.

Furthermore, it is only if unacceptable traits are inherent within people that they are reprimanded. When the traits and immoral behavior is not inherent within a person then he is not the addressee of those reprimands, and to conclude as such would be logically flawed.

Antisemitism or any other form of racial and ethnic discrimination is un-Islamic given the clear cut injunctions of the Qur’an. To insist that the Qur’an supports racial discrimination against people of Semitic origin is not to present the true picture in its entirety.

The Qur’an contains negative references against the immorality inherent in people and is critical of religious beliefs and does not condemn people on account of their ethnicity. It also mentions Yahood who are moral and good according to its criterion.

Therefore to conclude that it is an antisemitic text is unwarranted and unfounded.

The Hiatus On Haiti


 

RECENTLY Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake. The sheer destruction caused by this calamity mandated that the entire international community get together to help those affected. Charitable organizations, governmental aid agencies, and relief groups of all types were mobilized for relief operations.

While humanitarian aid poured in from all quarters, one prominent and very senior faith leader from neighboring United States startled everyone by his comments and observations on the tragic event. Reverend Pat Roberson, one of the most famous American televangelists in a TV interview was of the view that the earthquake in Haiti was due to Haitians being a cursed nation!

According to him, when the French had occupied the country, the locals sought to get rid of them by making a pact with the devil, that if he were to aid them in getting rid of the French colonialists they would serve him! According to Robertson, because the Haitians had revolted against the French occupiers and sought the aid of the Devil, this is why God has chosen to send such a devastating earthquake their way. This alleged devilish pact came into being in the year 1888. This interesting observation by a Christian leader of the most highest caliber makes one wonder, whether the majority of Haitians who since then have converted to Christianity have in fact become cursed!

If we were to believe Pat Robertson, then this would be the logical conclusion. He claims that Haitians vowed to serve the devil, and we see that since a century or so the Christian population of Haiti has increased manifolds. Is Pat Robertson in a way pointing a finger at people who adopted his own faith? But we can also see an interesting point here. The people who made the alleged pact, are not the one’s who were struck by this calamity. Those very individuals, assuming that they did enter into such an unholy alliance, are long dead and buried, and the effected of the earthquake are not those very people, but people who were born many many years after them. In fact the Christian Bishop of the city was also killed! Was he also cursed?

In the mind of people like Robertson God punished not the perpetrators of sin, but those who were innocent of the blasphemy. If indeed someone deserved divine wrath, then it should have been those individuals who uttered such blasphemies from their lips, and not the frail and weak men, women and children whose poverty and illiteracy features them not to have a faintest idea about the two hundred year historical past of their country.

But Robertson maintains that these very poor and weak people were condemned by God for deeds of their ancestors! This is the type of God that famous televangelists would have people to believe in, one who didn’t send an earth quake to the actual people who made the pact with the devil, but sent it on generations who came long after them, who were not even there at the time of the pact!

Perhaps the influence on the Reverend came from the Christian idea of the original sin. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and because of them every human child ever to come on earth will be tainted with sin! The Haitian forefathers entered a pact, and now their generations are suffering! The problem in accepting this view is that it not only goes against common sense, and principles of justice, but also against the scriptures that the Reverend would swear by.

Common sense and the principles of justice dictate that it is the offender who needs to be penalized and not his descendents who have not committed the offense. There is no court of law in the entire world that would punish someone’s great grandchild for an offense that he i.e. the great grand father committed. In the same way, we read in the Judeo Christian scriptures that the individual committing sin, deserves punishment and not his or her children who are innocent of the act.

“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Ezekiel 18:20

But sadly, some twisted concepts of retribution are abounding among many faith leaders, who instead of healing wounds add salt to them. No wonder, people in the United States are turning away from this type of religion, which casts doubts on the person of God Almighty Himself and where the concept of justice is stretched to one’s wildest imaginations!

Mosques in Haiti remain unscathed by the earthquake

From a Muslim point of view I would also like to clarify those notions such as the one forwarded by Reverend Pat Robertson are not befitting the majesty of God. God Almighty promotes justice. He does not punish those who are not guilty of sin, but only the perpetrators thereof. Moreover, He is merciful and allows people to seek forgiveness, for which wrong conduct of their past life is effaced, provided they sincerely turn in repentance. In the words of the Qur’an:

“Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” 39:53

The people of Haiti have suffered. They need relief. Both in material as well as spiritual terms. Along with material relief for the distressed, the Muslim duty is also to give Dawah to the suffering people, for in distress and hardship, the suffering heart turns to God for solace and comfort.

Interestingly, while numerous buildings and structures, including many Churches and places of worship were demolished by the earth quake, all the mosques in Haiti remained untouched and later became places of refuge for the survivors as is evident from this post event video footage.

Is there a message in this unusual phenomenon? Does God want the survivors in Haiti to go to the mosques and come into contact with the Qur’an for relief and solace?

“…for without doubt in the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction.” 13:28

Mosques unscathed while other places reduced to rubble in a strong earth quake. Is this a coincidence or is there meaning behind this strange occurrence? I will leave you to contemplate on this yourself. 

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