Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year, New Plans, New Self


By: Ahmad AlsawiI

10 Tips for Self-Revival

Take the initiative. Change is a verb. You have to first change to see the change.
"And that human can have nothing but what he does (good or bad), and that his deeds will be seen." (An-Najm 53:39-40)"Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves." (Ar-Ra'ad 13:11)

Don't procrastinate. Start from this moment.The companion Abdullah Ibn Omar (Allah be pleased with him) used to say, "When the evening comes, do not wait for the morning; and when the morning comes, do not wait for the evening." - Collected by Al-Bukhari

Start with baby steps and achievable goals.The Prophet said to his companions, "Is it difficult for any of you to recite one third of the Quran in one night?" This suggestion was difficult for them so they said, "Who among us has the power to do so, O Allah's Apostle?" Allah Apostle replied, "'Allah (the) One, the Self-Sufficient Master Whom all creatures need.' (Surat Al-Ikhlas 112 verse one to the end) is equal to one third of the Quran." - Collected by Al-BukhariThe Prophet said, "Is one amongst you powerless to get one thousand virtues every day." Amongst those who had been sitting there, one asked, "How one amongst us can get one thousand virtues every day?" He said, "Recite sub-hana Allah " one hundred times for (by reciting them) one thousand virtues are recorded (to your credit) and one thousand vices are removed." - Collected by Muslim

Be consistent. A small step a day, but for everyday.A'isha reported Allah's Messenger as saying, "The acts most pleasing to Allah are those which are done continuously, even if they are small." And when A'isha did any act she did it continuously." - Collected by Muslim

Make sure you are changing towards the right direction.

Have a support group for your change.

Be patient.The above three tips are mentioned in Surah Al-A'sr 103."By (the Token of) Time (through the Ages), Verily Man is in loss, Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy." (A'sr 103)

Never give up. If you trip, start again"Allah accepts only the repentance of those who do evil in ignorance and foolishness and repent soon afterwards; it is they to whom Allah will forgive and Allah is Ever AllÆKnower, AllÆWise." (An-Nisa 4:17)The Prophet said, "All children of Adam are sinners, and the best sinners are those who repent." - Collected by Al-Termithi

Keep your eyes on the prize - achievement, triumphant, and satisfaction"Verily this is the supreme achievement! For the like of this let all strive, who wish to strive." (As-Saffat 37:60-61)

Always ask Allah for helpAllah's Prophet used to say, "O Allah! I seek refuge with You from incapacity and laziness, from cowardice and geriatric old age, and I seek refuge with You from the afflictions of life and death, and I seek refuge with You from the punishment of the grave." - Collected by Al-Bukhari

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Explaining Islam


By: Charles Le Gai Eaton

So hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of God.(Quran 3:103)No compulsion in religion! Truth stands clear from error, and he who rejects false deities and believes in God has grasped a firm handhold which will never break.(Quran 2:256)
The task should become easier with the passage of time. It becomes more difficult. Explaining Islam in all its dimensions to westerners, whether Christian, semi-Christian or agnostic, involves crossing a minefield. Misunderstandings, together with ancient fears and prejudices, lie just beneath the surface, ready to explode on contact, and I have learned over the years to watch where I place my feet. The task becomes more difficult for two reasons: firstly because of an increasing realisation that my Faith, like any major religion, has something in common with the breadth of the human world itself with all its ambiguities and subtleties; secondly because contemporary western culture is immensely complex both in its origins and in its character. Every generalisation that one tries to make is soon blown apart.
Brought up as an agnostic, I have been Muslim for some fifty years, long enough to feel at home in the religion, but this does not alter the fact that I am a westerner and cannot entirely escape my early conditioning. Asked once by a young Muslim in America if I did not find this dual identity painful, I told him that I regarded it as a privilege comparable, perhaps, to being bilingual. Only those who have, in some measure, escaped from their European or American identity can know how suffocating this culture is. The term "political correctness" is of recent invention, but in fact the western mentality has always been subject to comparable restraints in one form or another. The orthodoxies of one generation may be turned upside down by the next, but the pressures to accept what all "right-thinking" people believe at a particular moment in history remain the same. When someone who has little interest in religion asks me why they should take an interest in Islam, my answer is: "To sample a different perspective and enjoy a breath of fresh air."
Whether in confrontation or in cautious dialogue, Muslims and Christians have faced each other and been obliged to deal with each other for the past thirteen centuries, and the very existence of Islam has had a profound influence on the changing patterns of western civilization. This civilization is commonly described as Judaeo-Christian in origin, but there is a third strand in the monotheistic "rope of God", the rope grasped by those who desire a good life and a good exit from this life: Islam. The three religions lay claim to a common ancestor, the prophet and patriarch Abraham, the first "monotheist" in the strict sense of the term. They are three facets of this adherence to an undiluted awareness of the divine unity and singularity. What they have in common outweighs their differences, but the intertwining of the three strands is fascinating and often illuminating. Jews, when they are able to put aside the politics of confrontation, usually feel closer to Muslims than to Christians and understand them better. Christians, since the Bible includes the Jewish scriptures, cannot escape from the Judaic tradition however savagely they may have condemned the Jews for rejecting Jesus. Muslims, in their turn, regard their Faith as the culmination of this triple revelation, while the Quran suggests a preference for the Christians.
In the chapter of the Quran called Ya Sin there is a parable usually taken to refer to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad: "The people of the city when those sent (by God) came to them when We sent to them two, and they rejected them, so We reinforced them with a third, who said: 'See! We have been sent to you.' They (the people of the city) said: 'You are only mortals like ourselves. The Most Merciful one has revealed nothing. You are liars!'" This theme of rejection recurs constantly in the Quran because it has been a constant factor in human history and in human nature, which is drawn simultaneously in two different directions-towards two magnetic poles-the Light and the dark.
The term "Muslim" (with a capital letter) is properly applied only to those who follow the message of the Quran, but, when it takes the lower case, it has a far more universal meaning. In the first place, everyone and everything is muslim in the sense that all, knowingly or unknowingly, are subject to the Divine Will and cannot escape from it. The rock that falls by the force of gravity is muslim; so are the birds and the beasts of the field, so too is humankind as a whole. All submit to the will of their creator. Secondly, those who choose to obey guidance from above are muslim in a higher sense. When, in the Quran, the followers of Jesus confess, "We are muslims", they cannot have meant that they followed a messenger as yet unborn. There is, then, Islam as a recognisable religion, there is islam as the faith and practice of all who believe in God and, finally, there is the islam of creation as such. Nothing that enjoys the light of existence is self-sufficient. Everything depends upon the source from which it came and to which it will return when creation is wrapped up and submits to its own end.

Excerpted from the book "Remembering God" by Charles Le Gai Eaton.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

John the Baptist: a Prophet of Islam.


"Then Zecheriah prayed to his Lord: 'O Lord! Grant me from Yourself out of Your grace the gift of a goodly offspring, for indeed You alone heed all Prayers. As he stood praying in the sanctuary, the angels called out ."

By: Sound Vision * -

Amongst the 25 Prophets mentioned by God in the Quran, one name is Prophet John (peace be upon him). In Arabic, his name is Yahya. He is also a Prophet who figures prominently in Christianity, where he is known as John the Baptist. His story in the Christian tradition is described in Luke 1:5-22.
In Islam, belief in all of Allah's (God) Prophets is a fundamental article of faith. A person who denies belief in any of the Prophets, be it Jesus (peace be upon him) Moses (peace be upon him), or any of the others leaves the fold of Islam.

His miraculous birth
Prophet Jesus was not the only Prophet who was born miraculously. By miraculous, we mean outside of the normal process of human reproduction Allah has ordained which requires a man and a woman to conceive a child. In the case of Jesus, this meant being born of a mother but no father.
But Prophet Adam' (peace be upon him) birth was even more miraculous in this sense since he was created with no mother or father. Similarly, Hawwa or Eve (may Allah be pleased with her) was created from a man, her husband, and no parents.
The birth of Prophet John is miraculous because he is the offspring of a barren mother and an elderly father. His father, it should be noted, was also a Prophet named Zecheriah or Zakaraya.
"'Zecheriah, We bring you the good news of the birth of a son whose name shall be John, one whose namesake We never created before.' He said: 'My Lord! How can I have a child when my wife is barren and I have reached an extremely old age?' He answered: 'So shall it be.' Your Lord says: 'It is easy for Me', and then added: 'For beyond doubt, I created you earlier when you were nothing' (Quran 19:7-9).
"Zecheriah exclaimed: 'My Lord! How shall I have a son when old age has overtaken me and my wife is barren?' He said: 'Thus shall it be; Allah does what He wills'" (Quran 3:40).
With the birth of John, Allah granted Zecheriah his desire for an heir.
"And We bestowed favor upon Zecheriah, when he cried to his Lord: 'Lord! Leave me not solitary [without any issue]. You are the best Inheritor.' So We accepted his prayer and bestowed upon him John, and We made his wife fit (to bear a child). Verily they hastened in doing good works and called upon Us with longing and fear, and humbled themselves to Us" (Quran 21:89-90).

The beautiful qualities of John
Allah did not just miraculously grant Zecheriah a son. He made this child a blessing for his parents and beautiful in character. Prophet John is described in the Quran as chaste and righteous.
"Then Zecheriah prayed to his Lord: 'O Lord! Grant me from Yourself out of Your grace the gift of a goodly offspring, for indeed You alone heed all Prayers. As he stood praying in the sanctuary, the angels called out to him: 'Allah gives you good tidings of John, who shall confirm a command of Allah, shall be outstanding among men, utterly chaste, and a Prophet from among the righteous" (Quran 3:38-39).
"'O John! Hold fast the Book with all your strength. We had bestowed wisdom upon him while he was still a child; and We also endowed him with tenderness and purity; and he was exceedingly pious and cherishing to his parents. Never was he insolent or rebellious. Peace be upon him, the day he was born, and the day he will die, and the day he will be raised up alive. (Quran 19: 12-15).

Part of a line of honored Prophets
Finally, as mentioned above, Prophet John is one of the Prophets Muslims must believe in. He is one of the 25 mentioned in the Quran.
"And We bestowed upon Abraham (offspring) Isaac and Jacob and each of them did We guide to the right way as We had earlier guided Noah to the right way; and (of his descendants We guided) David and Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron. Thus do We reward those who do good. (And of his descendants We guided) Zecheriah, John, Jesus and Elias: each one of them was of the righteous." (Quran 6:84-85).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Muslim scholars send Christmas greetings, accept dialogue invitation

By: John Thavis Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- An international group of Muslim scholars has accepted an invitation from Pope Benedict XVI for a major dialogue session at the Vatican.Meanwhile, the group has issued a message of Christmas greeting to "our Christian neighbors all over the world."A letter from Jordan's Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, architect of the Muslim scholars' project, said the group planned to send representatives to the Vatican in February or March to work out details of the dialogue.The letter, dated Dec. 12 and addressed to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, thanked the pope for inviting the Muslim experts to meet with him and for the pontiff's personal encouragement of the dialogue initiative.The letter also raised a delicate issue when it spoke of "some recent pronouncement emerging from the Vatican and from Vatican advisers ... as regards the very principle of theological dialogue with Muslims."Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the new president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said in October that he was not sure theological dialogue was possible with Muslims. That view also has been voiced by some other Catholics experts.The prince's letter said that although the Muslim scholars think that complete theological agreement between Christians and Muslims is impossible by definition, they do wish to seek a common stand based on areas of agreement -- "whether we wish to call this kind of dialogue 'theological' or 'spiritual' or something else."The Muslim response was the latest in a series of cooperative steps that began in October, when 138 Muslim scholars addressed a letter to the pope and other Christian leaders. The letter called for new efforts at Christian-Muslim dialogue based on the shared belief in the existence of one God, in God's love for humanity and in people's obligation to love one another.In November, the pope responded by inviting a group of the Muslim scholars to meet with him and with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The Vatican expressed the pope's appreciation for the "positive spirit" of the Muslim text.Talal, president of the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, said in his latest letter that the Muslim scholars foresee a dialogue with two dimensions.The intrinsic dimension refers to "our own souls," he said, and would be based on the shared affirmation of one God and the twofold commandment to love him and one's neighbor.An extrinsic dimension, more connected to the world and society, would use the pope's "excellent idea" of the Ten Commandments as the basis of dialogue among Jews, Christians and Muslims, he said.On this basis, the prince said, the Muslim scholars would approach the three specific areas of dialogue mentioned by the Vatican: respect for human dignity, objective knowledge about the religion of other believers, and promotion of mutual respect among younger generations of Christians and Muslims.Talal's letter said the Muslim scholars' motive for dialogue is essentially "wanting to seek good will and justice" in order to practice what Muslims call "rahmah" and what Christians call "caritas" -- love and mercy.The message of Christmas greetings began by citing the Quran: "Peace be upon Jesus Christ who says: Peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am resurrected." Then it thanked Christians for the "beautiful and gracious responses" to the Muslims' dialogue initiative.The message noted the recent close of the Muslim feast of the hajj or pilgrimage, which commemorates the faith of the Prophet Abraham. It said God's refusal of the sacrifice of Abraham's son reminds all followers of the Abrahamic faiths to "do their utmost to save, uphold and treasure every single human life and especially the lives of every single child."It pointed out that Muslim scholars recently issued a declaration affirming "the sanctity of human life -- of every human life -- as an essential and foundational teaching in Islam that all Muslim scholars are in unanimous agreement upon."The Christmas greeting offered a prayer that the new year may bring "healing and peace to our suffering world" and "mutual forgiveness within and between communities."END

Jews and Muslims see the US as a place to make peace


In the US the two religious groups, historically at odds, find new opportunities for dialogue and understanding.

CHICAGO - Muslims and Jews, a tiny slice of the US population, are looking for new ways to get along that could set a worldwide example for two ancient but often alienated faiths, religious leaders and experts say.
"I've encountered (among Muslims) a more centrist, a more moderate voice that is looking to the Jewish community to help project that voice ... to the greater world," says Rabbi Marc Schneier of New York, speaking of a national summit of imams and rabbis he helped organize earlier this year.
He also cited a recent incident in a New York subway "where four young Jews were being verbally and physically assaulted on a train for wishing the passengers a happy Hanukkah, and the only individual to come to their rescue was a young Muslim man," Hassan Askari, of Bangladeshi heritage, who was also beaten.
"That is a very, very powerful example" of what can happen. The challenge is to try to strengthen Jewish-Muslim cooperation and have it serve as a paradigm for communities around the world," added Schneier, who founded the New York Synagogue in Manhattan and also the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding.
On another front, leaders of the Islamic Society of North America and the Union for Reform Judaism, representing respectively the largest US Islamic organization and the largest organized Jewish segment in the country, have agreed on a tutorial for dialogue.
"We need to get the truth about each other from one another," says Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic group.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie of the Reform group told his followers the two religions share "ancient monotheistic faiths, cultural similarities and, as minority religions in North America, experiences with assimilation and discrimination."
In a country of 315 million, Muslims number about 2.4 million, according to a recent Pew Research Center study, which also found them to be mostly middle-class members of mainstream society. Others believe the figure is several million higher, and no estimates are available on how many practice the faith.
There are perhaps 6 million Jews in the United States, only about a third of them affiliated with a congregation. Of those who do attend synagogue, 38 percent are Reform, 33 percent Conservative and 22 percent Orthodox, according to one survey.
Zahid Bukhari, director of the American Muslim Studies Program at Georgetown University, says Muslim-Jewish dialogue "is a new beginning."
One difference in the US, he says, is that in places like Europe "within each country you will find a concentration of Muslims from a certain country," such as Algerians and Moroccans in France or South Asians in England.
"In America we have Muslims from 80 different countries. They are younger, they are more educated, more professional, more integrated into society and they feel more comfortable. And the host society here is different," he says.
But he says what's happening is a "model which I hope we could duplicate" globally.
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, author of the newly published "You Don't Have to be Wrong for Me to be Right," says one thing that sets the US situation apart is that no one speaks for all Jews or Muslims, and this allows for openness.
"Even religious Muslims and religious Jews are more integrated into the fabric of general American society than in other countries like Britain and France. It is possible to be deeply and visibly religious and still participate in the public culture – that's not true everywhere," he says.
Farid Senzai, director of research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, says there is a real effort at the local effort by mosques to develop joint activities with synagogues, and it goes down to the individual level as well.
"Muslims in this country have it much better off than elsewhere in the world," he says. "The Muslim community in the United States will in fact have a tremendous impact on Muslims elsewhere because they are able to debate and influence each other."

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Obvious Existence of God


By A.O.

From the moment man opens his eyes to this world a great order surrounds him. He needs oxygen to survive; it is interesting that the atmosphere of the planet on which he lives provides more than just the adequate amount of oxygen he needs. This way, he breathes without difficulty. For the existence of life on this planet, the existence of a source of heat is essential. In response to this need, the sun is located at just the right distance to emit the exact amount of heat and energy human life needs. Man needs nourishment to survive; every corner of the world abounds in astonishingly diversified provisions. Likewise, man needs water; surprisingly, three-fourths of the planet is covered with water. Man needs shelter; in this world of ours, there is land on which it is suitable to build and all sorts of materials with which to make shelters.
These are only a few among billions of details making life possible on earth. In brief, man lives on a planet perfectly designed for his survival. This is certainly a planet “created for human beings”, as God said in the Quran:
“Do you not see that God has subjected for you all that is in the Heavens and all that is on the Earth, and has completed and perfected His Bounties upon you, [both] apparent and hidden?...” (Quran 31:20)
A person’s interpretation of the world rests on “acquired methods of thought.” That is, he thinks in the way he has been taught, or, less kindly, the way in which he is indoctrinated. Under this misguidance, he often dismisses all the aforementioned as “trivial realities.” However, if he does not side-step the matter, and start questioning the conditions making our existence possible, he will surely step out of the boundaries of habitual thinking and start to think:
How does the atmosphere serve as a protective ceiling for the earth?
How does each one of the billions of cells in the human body know and perform its individual tasks?
How does this extraordinary ecological balance exist on earth?
A person seeking answers to these questions surely proceeds on the right path. He does not remain insensitive to things happening around him, and doesn’t plead ignorance about the extraordinary nature of the world. A person who asks questions, who reflects on and gives answers to these questions will realize that, on every inch of the planet, a plan and an order reigns:
How did the flawless order in the whole universe come into being?
Who provided the delicate balances in the world?
How did living beings, incredibly diversified in nature, emerge?
Keeping oneself occupied with relentless research to answer these questions results in a clear awareness that everything in the universe, its order, each living being and structure is a component of a plan, a product of design. Every detail: the excellent structure of an insect’s wing, the system enabling a tree to carry tons of water to its topmost branches, the order of planets, and the ratio of gases in the atmosphere; all are unique examples of perfection.
In every detail of the infinitely varied world, man finds his Creator. God, the owner of everything in the whole universe, introduces Himself to man through the flawless design of His creation. Everything surrounding us, the birds in flight, our beating hearts, the birth of a child or the existence of the sun in the sky, manifest the power of God and His creation. And what man must do is understand this fact.
These purposes owe their existence to the fact that everything has been created. An intelligent person notices that planning, design and wisdom exist in every detail of the infinitely varied world. This draws him to recognition of the Creator.
So you need never plead ignorance that all living beings, living or non-living, show the existence and greatness of God, look at the things around you. Strive to show appreciation in the best manner for the eternal greatness of God. For the existence of God is obvious, and ignoring it would only be the beginning of the greatest damage we could ever do to ourselves. That is simply because God is in no need of anything. He is the One Who shows His greatness in all things and in all ways.
God is the owner of everything, from the heavens to the earth. We learn the attributes of God from the Quran:

“God! There is no god but Him, the Living, the Self-Sufficient. He is not subject to drowsiness or sleep. Everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them but they cannot grasp any of His knowledge save what He wills. His Footstool encompasses the heavens and the earth and their preservation does not tire Him. He is the Most High, the Magnificent.” (Quran 2:255)

Jesus (PBUH) in Islam.


By: Sadullah Khan

"Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter, he is of those nearest to Allah"; [Qur'an 3:45]

Belief in Prophets (May Allah's Peace be upon all of them)
Islam emphasizes the universality of the institution of prophethood. According to the Qur'an, there is not a single nation in the world to which a prophet has not appeared sometime in history: "There is not a people but a warner has gone among them" [Q35:24]. And again: "For every nation there is a messenger" [Q10:47]
The Qur'an mentions about 25 of the Biblical Prophets by name [Q4:163] and we are further told that there have been prophets besides those mentioned in the Qur'an: "And We sent messengers We have mentioned to thee before, and messengers We have not mentioned to thee" [Q4:164] .
It is an Islamic article of Faith to believe ...
in all Prophets; from Adam through Abraham, Moses, Jesus to Muhammad (peace be upon them) [Q2:184]
all Prophets were models of excellence who were commissioned to guide humankind [Q2:213]
the mission of Prophets was to establish justice for all [Q57:25]
that Prophets were the embodiments of Righteousness;
"And Zachariah, John, Jesus and Elijah;
all of these were of the most Righteous." [Q6:85]
It is an accepted fact in Islam that the struggle and legacy of the prophets (peace be upon them) serve as universal guides, excellent examples and as sources of hope and inspiration.

Status of Maryam/Mary
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a prominent figure in Islam and the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur'an. The Qur'an upholds Mary as one of the four perfect examples of womanhood [Q66:12] . Mary is mentioned more times and more biographical information about her is contained in the Qur'an than in the entire New Testament.
The birth of Jesus Christ is described in twice in the Qur'an - chapter 3 and chapter 19. Reading from the beginning of his birth, we come across the story of Mary, and the esteemed position which she occupies in the House of Islam, before the actual annunciation of the birth of Jesus is made.
The Qur'anic account of Mary includes the pregnancy of her mother, Mary's birth and the annunciations of the coming birth of Jesus: "Remember how she preserved her chastity, into whom We breathed a life from Us, and made her and her son a token for humankind" [Q21:91]. The Qur'an teaches that Mary is to be revered because she completely submitted herself to God's will, even though it meant that her own family would accuse her of unchastity when it was discovered that she was pregnant [Q19:16-21] .
The mother of Jesus (peace be upon them) is accorded highest respect and considered as among the most noble in the estimation of Allah. [Q3:33] Behold! the angels said: O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you, chosen you above the women of all nations." [Q3:42]
The entire chapter 19 titled Maryam/Mary in the Qur'an and another (chapter 3) is titled Al-'Imran after the family of Mary.
Jesus /'Isa referred to 9 times in the Qur'an as 'Isa and 16 times as 'Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus son of Mary)
Mary is considered chaste, virtuous, receiver of God's spirit, a testimony to the veracity of God's message and piously obedient [Q66:11]
Jesus (pbuh) himself is recorded as saying about his respected mother,

Uniqueness of Jesus (pbuh)
Virgin birth -The Qur'an gives an account of the birth of Jesus in chapter 3. Mary is described as being a virgin, chosen by God, and considered with great honor. "Behold! the angels said: O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary." [Q3:45] . Verse 47 relates the response of and to Mary, "She said: O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me? He said: 'Even so: Allah creates what He wills: When He has decreed a plan, He merely says to it, 'Be,' and it is!" The Qur'an thus affirms and Muslims believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. The birth is seen as a sign (ayah) of Allah's power and as a miraculous event. And Muslims have a high regard also for Mary. However, the Qur'an presents Jesus as the son of Mary and not as the Son of God, a significant point particularly emphasized.
Like Adam (pbuh) -Though the unique birth of Jesus with one parent is no indication of divinity just as Adam's creation was without any parentage [Q3:59] .

Messiah -It is obvious that Jesus holds an exalted place within Islam. Some of the honorable epithets of Jesus (pbuh) mentioned in the Qur'an are ... prophet / nabi, messenger of God / rasul, of the Righteous / min-as-salihin, word of Allah / kalimatu-Llah), spirit from God / ruhun mina' Llah, positive sign/symbol for humanity / aayatun lin- naas, mercy from God / rahmatan minna, the son of Mary / ibne Maryam, eminent in this world and the next / wajihan fid-dunya wal-aakhirah, and most unique of all... the Messiah / masih.
Miracles -The Qur'an speaks of Jesus possessing intellect and eloquence in childhood [Q19:30] and documents some of Jesus' miracles, including curing the sick, restoring the sight of the blind and reviving the dead, with God's permission [Q5:110] .
The Qur'an specifically mentions two miracles which the Bible does not contain;
1. The Qur'an records Jesus as an infant verbally defending Mary's innocence [Q19:27-35]. In Surah 19:27-34, Jesus speaks from the cradle to state his mission. Jesus said, "I am indeed a servant of Allah Who has given me revelation and made me a prophet."
2. The Qur'an [Q5:110] also reports that Jesus formed a bird out of clay, and blew into it, and it came to life and flew away.
This last miracle is not recorded in the canonical New Testament but does appear in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.
It must be remembered that all miracles / mu'jizah performed by prophets (pbuh) are done through the agency of the prophets but by the power and authority of God. Jesus' miracles too are considered basically in the line of his being a prophet and in God's enabling and permitting him to do so. The Qur'an thus stresses the fact that the miracles of Jesus were performed by the permission and power of God [Q5:110] .

No Easter Commemoration
Millions of Christians commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (pbuh), and this begs the question that if Jesus is important to Muslims, why do Muslims then not commemorate Easter. Though Muslims accept Jesus (pbuh) as a great prophet, revere his exemplary mother Mary, and believe that Jesus is the Messiah; Muslims do not accept the major concepts that are central to the commemoration of the Easter weekend. Among these concepts are...
Divine Incarnation and Trinity [Q4:171][Q112:1-4] -Allah is ONE in an absolute sense, no one shares in His Lordship nor in His divinity; nothing is equal or comparable to God. This is in keeping with the command, "and Jesus answered him, the first of all the commandment is, Hear, O Israel; The LORD our God is One LORD." [Mark 12:29]. In promoting a great human such as Jesus (pbuh) to divinity, does not elevate Jesus as much as it minimizes the concept of the divine; is not making the finite infinite as much as making the perfect imperfect; not an elevation of Jesus, but rather a devaluation of the Divine.
Crucifixion -Christ, according to Muslim belief, did NOT die on a cross [Q4:157] but was rather elevated by Allah and saved from being killed [Q4:158].
Resurrection -Not having died, Jesus could NOT have been resurrected [Q4:156].
Inherited Sinfulness [Q2:285] -Babies are born pure and no one is born bearing the sin of any one and no one bears the burden of another [Q17:15] .
Redemption / Atonement -Muslims do not believe in the doctrine of Original Sin, so there is no theological need for the all-atoning sacrifice of Jesus through his crucifixion and resurrection. Muslims further believe that each person will be held accountable before God for his/her own actions and thus responsible for their own salvation. Therefore, we will not be able to rely upon anyone else, not even Jesus or Muhammad, to save us from our sins. Sins are those acts we deliberately incur by our choice of actions, we are responsible and hence personally accountable. In Islam there is no notion of redemption for one's sin by another. Each one is accountable for himself/herself [Q99:7-8] and for each person according to his/her personal striving [Q2:286] .

Jesus is ...
Jesus denied by some as a fictional character, accused of being an illegitimate child by some, misconceived as divine by many; considered as a Prophet and Messiah in Islam. People do have differing perspectives on Jesus' life and teachings, but his spiritual legacy, as a righteous and principled guide, his mission as a Prince of Peace offers an alternative opportunity for people of faith to recognize their shared religious heritage.
Allah bears testimony to the truthfulness of Jesus; his mission, character, status and his very being. "Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: a statement of truth, about which people dispute." [Q19:34].
All sincere ones would do well to reflect on the verse in the Quran reaffirming Islam's eternal message of spiritual unity: "Say: 'We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and message given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to all Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves." [Q2:136]

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Convert To Islam: Colonel Donald S. Rockwell, Poet and Critic, USA


By: Colonel Donald S. Rockwell, Poet and Critic, USA author, editor-in-chief of Radio Personalities, and author of the books “Beyond the Brim” and “Bazar of Dreams”

The simplicity of Islam, the powerful appeal and the compelling atmosphere of its mosques, the earnestness of its faithful adherents, the confidence inspiring realization of the millions throughout the world who answer the five daily calls to prayer - these factors attracted me from the first. But after I had determined to become a follower of Islam, I found many deeper reasons for confirming my decision. The mellow concept of life - the fruit of the Prophet’s combined course of action and contemplation - the wise counsel, the admonitions to charity and mercy, the broad humanitarianism, the pioneer declaration of woman’s property rights - these and other factors of the teachings of the man of Mecca were to me among the most obvious evidence of a practical religion so tersely and so aptly epitomized in the cryptic words of Muhammad, “Trust in God and tie your camel.” He gave us a religious system of normal action, not blind faith in the protection of an unseen force in spite of our own neglect, but confidence that if we do all things rightly and to the best of our ability, we may trust in what comes as the Will of God.
The broadminded tolerance of Islam for other religions recommends it to all lovers of liberty. Muhammad admonished his followers to treat well the believers in the Old and New Testaments; Abraham, Moses and Jesus are acknowledged as co-prophets of the One God. Surely this is generous and far in advance of the attitude of other religions.
The total freedom from idolatry ... is a sign of the salubrious strength and purity of the Muslim faith.
The original teachings of the Prophet of God have not been engulfed in the maze of changes and additions of doctrinarians. The Quran remains as it came to the corrupt polytheistic people of Muhammad’s time, changeless as the holy heart of Islam itself.
Moderation and temperance in all things, the keynotes of Islam, won my unqualified approbation. The health of his people was cherished by the Prophet, who enjoined them to observe strict cleanliness and specified fasts and to subordinate carnal appetites ... when I stood in the inspiring mosques of Istanbul, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Algiers, Tangier, Fez and other cities, I was conscious of a powerful reaction [to] the potent uplift of Islam’s simple appeal to the sense of higher things, unaided by elaborate trappings, ornamentations, figures, pictures, music and ceremonial ritual. The mosque is a place of quiet contemplation and self-effacement in the greater reality of the One God.
The democracy of Islam has always appealed to me. Potentate and pauper have the same rights on the floor of the mosque, on their [foreheads] in humble worship. There are no rented pews nor special reserved seats.
The Muslim accepts no man as a mediator between himself and his God. He goes direct to the invisible source of creation and life, God, without reliance on saving formula of repentance of sins and belief in the power of a teacher to afford him salvation.
The universal brotherhood of Islam, regardless of race, politics, color or country, has been brought home to me most keenly many times in my life and this is another feature which drew me towards the Faith.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Eid Al Adha truly symbolises



AS AN American convert to Islam, one of the questions my non-Muslim friends and family members often ask me is about animal sacrifice in Islam. From what they tell me, they feel that Muslims engage in ritualistic animal sacrifice in order to please God. This could not be further from the truth! Since the holiday of Eid Al Adha is upon us, I would like to dispel some myths about animal sacrifice in Islam and provide some answers to questions pertaining to what Eid Al Adha symbolises.
There are only two Eids that Muslims celebrate each year. The first is Eid Al Fitr that comes after Ramadan (the month of fasting) and the second one is Eid Al Adha, which translates into "The Festival of the Sacrifice". Eid Al Adha concludes the Haj or the pilgrimage to the holy city of Makkah. Pilgrims who have completed the Haj as well as Muslims all over the world make a sacrifice on this day. The sacrificial animal is usually a lamb or a goat. The reason Muslims do this is to commemorate the sacrifice that Abraham (Ibrahim) was willing to make for the sake of obeying God.
One night, Abraham had a dream that he sacrificed his son Ishmael on a stone altar. Of course, which father would not be distressed by a dream of killing his own son? Since Abraham believed that his dream came from God, he went to his son, who was just a boy, and told him about the dream. The boy immediately told his father that he should do as he was commanded. Both agreed. They went to the forest and the boy lay down. He was waiting for his father to kill him. The emotions both must have been going through were tremendous — the boy watching his father about to kill him and the father, who was 97 years old, preparing to kill his beloved son. Without hesitation, Abraham prepared to strike his son with a large knife. But before he could do so, an angel appeared and told Abraham that his sacrifice had been accepted even though he had not shed a drop of his son's blood. Just the fact that he was willing to sacrifice his son showed his willingness to follow God's command. The father and the son found a ram nearby to sacrifice instead.
The sacrifice Muslims make on Eid Al Adha is not only symbolic, but it also serves a social purpose. Muslims who sacrifice an animal distribute the meat among their own families and the needy. Every year, at Haj, an estimated one million kilogrammes of meat are made available to the poor following the sacrifice. So, the sacrifice is not made to please God. It is a sacrifice of wealth and property. It costs money to buy an animal to sacrifice for Eid Al Adha and the price of lambs and goats goes up every year. The real sacrifice is in sharing the sustenance with the poor and needy. And it demonstrates our thankfulness to God for food.
Ironically enough, the countries that denounce Muslims as being "barbarians" for slaughtering animals during the Eid Al Adha holidays are themselves perpetrators of crimes against animals.
In her book, Slaughterhouse, Gail A Eisnitz reveals some of the atrocities committed in the US meat industry. She actually went undercover in many meat factories to discover horrors, which she depicts in her book. She learned that cows routinely receive a gun shot to the head as a means of slaughter. Chickens are boiled alive to remove their feathers. Hogs are also sent into large vats of boiling water where they drown to death. One worker even describes in the book one of his own inhuman acts, "One time I took my knife-it's sharp enough-and I sliced off the end of a hog's nose, just like a piece of bologna ... I took a handful of salt brine and ground it into his nose."
Humans are the masters of this Earth. We are the only creatures with the gift of reason that helps us to choose between right and wrong. So while animal sacrifice is considered to be an act of charity in Islam, there are other places in the world where animals are certainly treated in a cruel manner. I think Western philosopher Immanuel Kant hit the nail on the head when he said," He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." Sumayyah Meehan is a Kuwait-based American writer who embraced Islam.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Bible Denies the Divinity of Jesus (part 4 of 7): The Greatest Commandment in the Bible and the Quran


By Shabir Ally

Some will say that this whole discussion over the divinity of Jesus is unnecessary. They say, the important thing is to accept Jesus as your personal savior. On the contrary, the Bible’s writers stressed that, in order to be saved, it is necessary to understand who exactly is God. Failure to understand this would be to violate the first and greatest of all the commandments in the Bible. This commandment was emphasized by Jesus, on whom be peace, when a teacher of the Law of Moses asked him: “‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:28-30).
Notice that Jesus was quoting the first commandment from the book of Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Jesus confirmed not only that this commandment is still valid, but also that it is the most important of all the commandments. If Jesus thought that he himself is God, why did not he say so? Instead, he stressed that God is one. The man who questioned Jesus understood this, and what the man says next makes it clear that God is not Jesus, for he said to Jesus: “‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.’” (Mark 12:32).
Now if Jesus was God, he would have told the man so. Instead, he let the man refer to God as someone other than Jesus, and he even saw that the man had spoken wisely: “When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” (Mark 12:34). If Jesus knew that God is a trinity, why did not he say so? Why did not he say that God is one in three, or three in one? Instead, he declared that God is one. True imitators of Jesus will imitate him also in this declaration of God’s oneness. They will not add the word three where Jesus never said it.
Does salvation depend on this commandment? Yes, says the Bible! Jesus made this clear when another man approached Jesus to learn from him (see Mark 10:17-29). The man fell on his knees and said to Jesus: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied: “Why do you call me good? No one is good — except God alone.” (Mark 10:17-18).
By so saying, Jesus made a clear distinction between himself and God. Then he proceeded with the answer to the man’s question about how to get salvation. Jesus told him: “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17, also see Mark 10:19).
Remember that the most important of all the commandments, according to Jesus, is to know God as the only God. Jesus further emphasized this in the Gospel According to John. In John 17:1, Jesus lifted his eyes to heaven and prayed, addressing God as Father. Then in verse three, he said to God as follows: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3).
This proves beyond doubt that if people want to get eternal life they must know that the One, whom Jesus was praying to, is the only true God, and they must know that Jesus was sent by the true God. Some say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. But Jesus said that the Father alone is the only true God. True followers of Jesus will follow him in this too. Jesus had said that his true followers are those who hold to his teachings. He said: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31). His teaching is that people must continue to keep the commandments, especially the first commandment which emphasizes that God is alone, and that God should be loved with all our hearts and all our strengths.
We love Jesus, but we must not love him as God. Today many love Jesus more than they love God. This is because they see God as a vengeful person who wanted to exact a penalty from them, and they see Jesus as the savior who rescued them from the wrath of God. Yet God is our only savior. According to Isaiah 43:11, God said: “I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” Also God said according to Isaiah 45:21-22: “Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”
The Quran confirms the first commandment and addresses it to all humankind (see the Holy Quran 2:163). And God declares that true believers love Him more than anyone else or anything else (Quran 2:165).

The World of the Jinn (part 1 of 2)



Throughout history man has always had a deep attraction for the supernatural and the unseen. The existence of a world parallel to our own has always fascinated people. This world is commonly referred to as the spirit world, and almost every set of people have some concept of one. With some people, these spirits are no more then the souls of dead people- or ghosts. With others, spirits are either the forces of good or the forces of evil - both battling against one another to gain influence over humanity. However, both of these explanations are more in tune with folk tales and fantasy. The true explanation of such a world comes from Islam. Like every other way, Islam also claims to explain this realm of the unseen. It is from this realm that Islam explains to us about the world of the Jinn. The Islamic explanation of the Jinn provides us with so many answers to modem day mysteries. Without the knowledge of this world, the Muslims would become like the non-Muslims and be running around looking for any old answer to come their way. So, who or what are the Jinn?
The Jinn are beings created with free will, living on earth in a world parallel to mankind. The Arabic word Jinn is from the verb ‘Janna’ which means to hide or conceal. Thus, they are physically invisible from man as their description suggests. This invisibility is one of the reasons why some people have denied their existence. However, (as will be seen) the affect which the world of the Jinn has upon our world, is enough to refute this modern denial of one of God’s creation. The origins of the Jinn can be traced from the Quran and the Sunnah. God says:
“Indeed We created man from dried clay of black smooth mud. And We created the Jinn before that from the smokeless flame of fire” (Quran 15:26-27)
Thus the Jinn were created before man. As for their physical origin, then the Prophet, may God praise him, has confirmed the above verse when he said:
“The Angels were created from light and the Jinn from smokeless fire.” (Saheeh Muslim)
It is this description of the Jinn which tells us so much about them. Because they were created from fire, their nature has generally been fiery and thus their relationship with man has been built upon this. Like humans, they too are required to worship God and follow Islam. Their purpose in life is exactly the same as ours, as God says:
“I did not create the Jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (Quran 51:56)
Jinns can thus be Muslims or non-Muslims. However, due to their fiery nature the majority of them are non-Muslims. All these non-Muslim Jinns form a part of the army of the most famous Jinn, Iblees- or Satan[1]. Consequently, these disbelieving Jinns are also called devils. Jinns also become Muslims, as they did in the time of the Prophet, may God praise him, when a group of them were amazed by the recitation of the Quran. God orders the Prophet to tell the people of this event:
“Say (O’ Muhammed): It has been revealed to me that a group of Jinn listened and said; ‘Indeed we have heard a marvelous Quran. It guides unto righteousness so we have believed in it, and we will never make partners with our lord’.”(Quran 72:1-2)
In many aspects of their world, the Jinn are very similar to us. They eat and drink, they marry, have children and they die. The life span however, is far greater then ours. Like us, they will also be subject to a Final Reckoning by God the Most High. They will be present with mankind on the Day of Judgment and will either go to Paradise or Hell.
That which clearly distinguishes the Jinn from mankind, are their powers and abilities. God has given them these powers as a test for them. If they oppress others with them, then they will be held accountable. By knowing of their powers, we can often make sense of much of the mysteries which go on around us. One of the powers of the Jinn, is that they are able to take on any physical form they like. Thus, they can appear as humans, animals trees and anything else. Thousands of people have sighted strange looking creatures all over the world - and it seems more plausible all the sightings of such creatures may have been Jinns parading in different forms.
The ability to possess and take over the minds and bodies of other creatures is also a power which the Jinn have utilized greatly over the centuries. This however, is something which has been prohibited to them as it is a great oppression to possess another being. Human possession is something which has always brought about great attention. But the true knowledge of this subject is rare. Over the last 3 decades the subject of possession has become very commercialized. During the 70’s, films such as The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby were used to educate people about possession. However, because such institutions (the film industry) were heavily influenced by Christianity, knowledge of the subject was non-existent. Rather then educate people about Jinn possession, films such as The Exorcist just tended to scare the living daylights out of us!
Only through Islam can we understand such a phenomena. We know as Muslims, that Jinns possess people for many reasons. Sometimes it is because the Jinn or its family has been hurt accidentally. It could be because the Jinn has fallen in love with the person. However, most of the time possession occurs because the Jinn is simply malicious and wicked. For this reason we have been commanded to recite the Quran frequently in our houses as the Prophet, may God praise him, said:
“Indeed, Satan flees from the house in which Surah Al-Baqarah (the 2nd chapter of the Quran) is recited.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
If a person does become possessed, then the name of God has to be used in expelling the Jinn. If we look at the practice of the Prophet and his companions, we find many invocations to exorcise the Jinn. All of them invoke God to help the possessed person. How contrary this is to many modern-day exorcists. Many exorcists, often invoke the names of others besides God to exorcise the Jinn. When the Jinn does leave, these people believe that their way was successful. However, this is a ploy of the Jinn, as it knows that if it obeys the exorcist, then it has succeeded in making him worship others besides God. The Jinn often returns when the exorcist leaves, as it knows that nothing except the words of God can stop it from oppressing others.
It is not only humans which are possessed, but also animals, trees and other objects. By doing this, the evil Jinn hope to make people worship others besides God. The possession of idols is one way to do this. Not so long ago the world-wide phenomenon of Hindu idols drinking milk, shocked the world. From Bombay to London, Delhi to California, countless idols were lapping up milk. Ganesh the elephant god, Hanuman the monkey god and even Shiva lingam, the male private organ (!), all seemed to guzzle down the milk as if there was no tomorrow! Unfortunately people were taken in by this and many flocked to feed the Hindu gods. This feat was undoubtedly done by the Jinn as a classic attempt to make people worship false gods.
[1] Unlike Christianity, Islam maintains that Iblees (Lucifer) was from the Jinn and not an angel. Angels do not have a free will to disobey.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Muslims celebrate the Christian meaning of Christmas


The Christmas holiday is coming upon us, with colorful lights, joyful carols and people going to churches to celebrate the birth of Jesus (Prophet Isa). It is well known, particularly in this holiday season, that Christians follow the teaching of Jesus. What is less well understood is that Muslims also love and revere Jesus as one of God's greatest messengers to mankind.
The personality of Jesus plays a central role in Islam. Muslims believe that God delivered the Gospel — Injeel to Jesus, just as he did Ta'wrat with Moses and the Old Testament (Zabur) to David and the Koran to Prophet Muhammad. It is critical for Muslims and non-Muslims to understand that a person is not considered a Muslim unless he or she believes in Jesus, and Islam is the only religion that testifies to Christianity.
Islam also assigns a very high degree of respect to the mother of Jesus, Mary (Mariam). There is an exclusive chapter in the Koran on the mother of Jesus by the name of ''Sura-e-mariam.'' The life of Jesus Christ is a momentous event for Christians and non-Christians alike. Jesus Christ's birthday is a signpost, and of all the great people born through the ages, imagine that Jesus is so important that his life divides time between B.C. and A.D.
Both Muslims and Christians can learn a lot from Christmas. This annual celebration is the victory of paganism over the religion of Jesus and no one disputes that many of its symbols came from the pagan religions rather than the birth or teaching of Jesus Christ. The incorporation of these pagan rituals with Christianity has taken a toll by corrupting the original Christian principles of spirituality, simplicity, humbleness, kindness and generosity.
Christmas is an awesome time of year, but the irony is that Prophet Jesus and his teaching are becoming more and more absent from the celebrations. However, there is a positive side of Christmas becoming increasingly secular. I think it's awesome that Christmas brings some of the greatest truths of the gospel to light. If it were not for the Christmas or Thanksgiving holidays, family relationships would be worse than they are. In fact, these are the only times that many families make an attempt to mend broken relationships.
In the fight to separate religion from schools and government, I think the Christmas celebration is a great victory to bring back spirituality to one's life. I take pleasure in seeing the Gospel of Jesus displayed in public places. It is a shame to see that ''Merry Christmas'' has given way to ''Happy Holidays'' or ''Seasons Greetings.'' The blame lies with commercialism, rather than with militant Islam or Judaism. Denying the Christianity in Christmas celebrations helps no one. Actually, we Muslims welcome having more of a Christian content, because at present it is more of a shopping festival. Muslims do celebrate Christmas in our own way, by celebrating our love to this blessed baby and Messiah.
As the forces of hate in this country try to pull Muslims and Christians apart, we are in desperate need of a unifying force. That force could be the message of love, peace and forgiveness taught by Jesus and accepted by followers of both faiths. I think of a quotation: ''Jesus, Son of Mary, said: 'The World is a bridge, pass over it, but build no houses upon it. He, who hopes for a day, may hope for eternity: but the World endures but an hour. Spend it in prayers, for the rest is unseen.' ''
This Persian calligraphy is arched and enscripted at the entrance of the greatest piece of Muslim architecture, the mosque built by Emperor Akbar, at Fatepur Sikri, a few miles to the west of Agra, in northern India. Why is this Christian quotation given a center stage in a Muslim monument, and why would a Muslim emperor want to place such a phrase over the entrance to the main Mosques in his capital city?
This saying was circulated around the Muslim world, from Spain to China. The Koran calls Christians the ''nearest in Love'' and instructs Muslims to ''dispute not with the people of the book that is, the Jews and Christians.'' The relationships between Islam and Christainity are complex and intricately woven. There were never any conversions by swords, a myth much propagated in anti-Islamic literature. The American Muslim community stands ready to honor the legacy of building bridges of interfaith understanding and challenging those who would divide our nation along religious or ethnic lines.
As Christmas approaches, I have to ask, why is Jesus Christ's birth celebrated around the world, particularly in America, and yet his message of peace on earth and communal love is so silently ignored?. Will the persecutions, greed, exploitation, oppression and injustice carry us into another year with a most un-Christ like persistence?
Mohammed Khaku lives in Upper Macungie Township.

How the Quranic revelation began


By: Al Bukhari - translation By Muhammad Asad

Yahya ibn Bukair related to us, saying: ... on the authority of Aishah, Mother of the faith, said:
The first [kind] of revelation to which the Apostle of God was initiated was the true dream during sleep 1, and he never saw a dream but it came like the dawn of the morn. 2 Thereafter the solitude became dear unto him, and he withdrew into seclusion in the cave of Hira' 3 and there applied himself to ardent devotions 4 - that is worship 5 - during many nights ere he went home and provided himself with food therefore; then he would return unto Khadijah and provide himself with food for a similar [number of days] - until the truth 6 came unto him whilst he was in the cave of Hira: the angel came unto him and said: "Read! - He said: "I am not of those who read." 7
He said [in his narrative]: Then he took me and pressed me until all the strength went out of me; thereupon he released me and said: "Read!" And I said: "I am not of those who read." Then he took me and pressed me a third time; thereupon he released me and said: "Read in the name of thy Sustainer Who hath created - created man from a clot! Read! And thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful!" 8
And thus the Apostle of God returned, his heart trembling, and came unto Khadijah bint Khuwailid and said: "Wrap me up! Wrap me up!" 9 And they wrapped him up until the awe left him. Then he told Khadijah what happened and said unto her: "Verily, I fear for myself." 10 - Thereupon Khadijah said: "Nay, by God! Never will God humiliate thee! Behold, thou fulfillest the duties of kinship, and supportest the weak, and bringest gain to the destitute, and art bounteous toward a guest, and helpest those in genuine distress."
Then Khadijah went with him unto Waraqah ibn Naufal ibn Asad ibn 'Abd al-'Uzza, a son of Khadijah's uncle. He had embraced Christianity in the Time of Ignorance 11 and wrote the Hebrew script, and did write in Hebrew out of the Gospel whatever God willed him to write; and he was an old man and had become blind. And Khadijah said unto him: "O uncle's son, hearken unto thy brother's son. 12" - And Waraqah said unto him: " O my brother's son, what dost thou see? " Thereupon the Apostle of God told him what he had seen. And Waraqah said unto him: "That [was] the Angel of Revelation whom God sent down upon Moses. O, would that I were a youth! Would I were alive when thy people drive thee away!" - Then the Apostle of God said: "Why ! Are they to drive me away?" - He said: "Yea. Never came a man with the like thou hast come with but was persecuted. And if thy day [of need] witnesseth me [alive], I shell help thee with a powerful help." - Thereafter Waraqah took no part [in these matters] until he died. 13 And the revelation broke off. 14
1. The first of these prophetic dreams occurred in the month of Rabi' al-awwal in the year 13 B.H. (February, 610 C), when the Prophet had just completed his fortieth year (Al-Baihaqi, apud FB i,21).
2. i.e., with the clearness of light after darkness.
3. A hill about three miles north-east of Mecca, to-day known as Jabal Nur ("Mount of Light"), because there the first verses of the Holy Qur'an were revealed.
Many conjectures have been made as to length of the Prophet's retirement at Hira', and whether it took place only once or on several occasions. IH (i,150) states that there were several such times of seclusion, namely, "one month in every year." But this is contradicted by the Tradition (SM, Kitab at-tafsir) in which the Prophet distinctly declares that he remained one month (in all) at Hira'. Moreover, it is evident from Tr.3 of our work that Muhammad's love of solitude dated from the beginning of the prophetic dreams, the first of which, according to Al-Baihaqi (cf. I, 9) took place about 6 months before Gabriel's appearance at Hira'; so there can have been no question of his withdrawing into solitude" one month in every year." We must, therefore assume that he withdrew into the cave only once, and spent there about one month; this seclusion was interrupted by his short visits home for the sake of taking provisions.
4. It is somewhat difficult exactly to translate the term tahannuth used in the Arabic text. It is available in two readings, the order being tahannuf.. Tahannuth is derived from hanth, and means "avoidance of sin." But as this does not at all comply with the subsequent remark "that is, worship," we must accept the second reading tahannuf as correct: and it is, in fact, as well-known linguistic peculiarity of the Arabs that in their speech they often transform the consonant f into th. Now, the word tahannuf is not of Arabic origin, but probably derived from the Canaanite-Aramaic hanpa which literaly means "one who turns away." In Syriac it was prominently used to describe one who turns away from his religion, a renegade; so the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate who gave up Christianity and reverted to the old Roman faith is called, in Syrian-Christian manuscripts, Yulyana hanpa ; the same term often was applied to the Manichaeans and Sabaeans, presumably owing to the fact that their religions contained Christian elements without fully subscribing to the doctrines of the Christian Church. When the Arabs, in pre-Islamic times, adopted this word to their language they used it in its original sense of "turning away", namely, from idolatry and, subsequently, from every kind of worldliness. Thence tahanuff came to denote the ardent devotions (mainly consisting of long vigils and prayers) of the unitarian God-seekers who, consequently, were called hunafa' (sing., hanif ) - a designation which was to become familiar to Muslims owing to its association, in the Qur'an, with the name of Abraham. There it is almost synonymous with "Unitarian."
5. This comment originates from the famous tab'i (i.e., "successor" of the Companion) Ibn Shihab, one of the narrators of the above Tradition.
6. "Truth" means revelation in wakeful state, as contrasted with that in dream. Some Traditions (e.g., IH i, 151) report that the appearance of Gabriel at Hira was a dream-experience, like the Prophet's former visions; but Al-Bukhari's version, which admittedly is more reliable (and, moreover, supported by SM, Kitab at-tafsir ), does not allow of such an interpretation.
The appearance of Gabriel at Hira and consequently, the first revelation of the Qur'an , took place, according to all authorities, during the month of Ramadan, 13 B.H (July or August, 610 C.), but there is no agreement as to the exact date. If, as some commentators assume, the first revelation coincided with the lailat al-qadr ("Nigh of Destiny"), then it would have been one of the last ten nights of Ramadan, because the Prophet mentioned in other Traditions these ten nights as those among which the lailat al-qadr is to be sought.
7. These words of the Prophet are sometimes translated as "What shall I read." From the linguistical point of view this interpretation is by no means impossible: the particle ma can be used in an interrogative sense ("what") as well as in a negative ("not"). But almost all philological authorities (with the single exception of Al-Akhfash, apud 'UQ i,67) are, for grammatical reasons, against this interpretation. The translation "I am not a reader" or "I am not of those who read" appears, therefore, to be the correct one.
8. Q.xcvi, 1/3 - This beautiful story of the Prophet's first encounter with the Angel of Revelation reminds us, in certain points, of Jacob's wrestling with the angel as described in Genesis, Ch. 32. But whereas Jacob resisted, Muhammad surrendered himself entirely to the angel's embrace: and here the highest quality of Prophethood is manifested. The perfect Prophet is he who, at the time of revelation, eliminates his own dynamic personality to such a degree that almost nothing remains in him but the faculty of reception. This probably is the most difficult task ever set before man. In the average human being the impetuosity of feelings, desires and nervous sensations overpowers and dims his purely receptive qualities, his ability to listen to the voice within him or from above him. To be a Prophet means no more and no less than to be full and empty at one and the same time: a human being filled with the consciousness of his life and the natural impulses of action and self-assertion- and, at the same time, a passive, purely receptive instrument endowed with noting but the highest sensitiveness and power of exact registration. The primary duty of a Prophet, in contrast with that of any other spiritual leader, is not to produce images and ideas born in his own mind: it consists only in the reading out of the unseen book of Divine Truth and the reproducing of its meaning to mankind without additions or subtractions. In the word "Read!" which opened the first revelation to Muhammad this call to Perfect Prophethood is already fully expressed. The Law of God, the Eternal Truth behind the perceptible things, was laid bare before him, waiting to be understood by him in its innermost meaning. Thus it would be wrong to translate here iqra' by "recite"- though the Arabic language certainly permits it - because recitation implies the delivery before an audience of something committed to memory - and at the moment of the angel's first appearance there was nothing as yet in the Prophet's memory, and there was no audience. On the other hand, "reading" implies the conscious following and mental assimilation of words or ideas from an outside source: and this, without doubt, was the thing required from the Prophet. At first he was under the illusion of having been ordered to read actual scrip, and this, he knew, he could not do because he was illiterate. But when the angel concluded this Revelation, the Prophet understood, in sudden illumination, that he was ordered to receive the spiritual message of the Supreme Being; and the magnitude of this task with all its implications of responsibility and self-sacrifice overwhelmed him and filled him with awe.
9. Because he shivered from the excitement caused by the vision. The calming influence of a cover drawn over the whole body was known to the Arab kahanah (sing., kahin), or soothsayers, of pre-Islamic times, and it is very probable that its use by the Prophet led the heathen Quriash to the erroneous assumption that he belonged to the same class of visionaries.
10. The fear expressed by the Prophet had its origin in the noble humility of his soul: he thought himself unworthy of the exalted position of Prophethood. The explanation given by some of the commentators , that he was afraid death or of having become insane, is purely hypothetical and, moreover, not corresponding with Khadijah's answer to the Prophet: "...never will God humiliate thee," - which means: "...never will God confer a task upon thee which thou art unable to perform." The suggestion of other commentators, that he was afraid of persecution by his countryman, is entirely without foundation. As is evident from the subsequent talk between the Prophet and Waraqah ibn Naufal, the Prophet had no notion of danger from that direction until Waraqah told him so.
11. "Time of Ignorance" (jahiliyah) is the period before the announcement of Muhammad's prophetic mission.
12. Waraqah was not in reality an uncle of the Prophet, though they belonged to the same branch of Quraish: but it is an Arab custom, prevalent even in these days, to address an old and respected an as "uncle"; hence Khadijah's expression "thy brother's son."
13. Most commentators agree that Waraqah died before the Prophet began preaching Islam in public, i.e., before the persecution by the Quraish started. Only Ibn Ishaq (apud FB i, 21) mentions that Waraqah was present when Bilal was maltreated on account of his adherence to the Prophet: but as this account is contradicted by the evidence of Traditions in the compilation of both Al-Bukhari and Muslim, it must be regarded as a historical mistake.
14. Between the first revelation mentioned in the above Tradition and the next one a period of about three years elapsed during which the Prophet recieved no revelation. This period is called "the break in the revelation" (fatrat al-wahi). It was a time of deepest distress for the Prophet. The absence of revelation almost led him to believe that his first experience at Hira was an illusion; and it was only due to Khadijah's undaunted faith in his prophetic mission that he did not entirely lose his courage.

Excerpted from "Sahih Al-Bukhari. The Early Years of Islam". Translated and Explained by Muhammad Asad.

Sahih Al Bukhari - The Early Years of Islam(318 pages - Muhammad Asad)
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This work comprises the historical chapters of the most important compilations of Traditions, Sahih of Imam al-Bukhari and depicts the beginning of the Prophet's revelation, the merits of his Companions and the early years of Islam up to and including the decisive turning point of Islamic history, the Battle of Badr. The author had set out to translate the whole of Sahih al-Bukhari but much of his manuscripts were destroyed in the chaos that followed the Second World War. It was not in vain: in his own words, "ten years spent on analyzing, translating and clarifying the Sahih were a God-willed preparation for a work which for a very long time had represented an enticing dream to me: a new rendering into English of the Message of the Quran..."

Treating Christmas with Respect


By Abdul Malik Mujahid

Christmas is an annual Christian religious holiday commemorating the birth of Prophet Jesus, peace be upon him. For many Muslims who even do not celebrate the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, it becomes an issue of what stand they should take.
There have been a number of legitimate criticisms of the holiday from Muslims and non-Muslims based on theological and cultural considerations. However, this cannot be used to disregard the holiday as merely an exercise in ancient pagan practices, for instance, or excessive consumerism. Muslims have to remember that for practicing Christians, Christmas really is about Jesus.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was so accommodating of Christians that according to the two earliest Islamic historians, Ibn e Saad and Ibn Hisham, the Prophet even allowed a delegation of 60 Byzantine Christians from Najran in Yemen to worship in his own mosque in Madinah. Lead by their bishop (Usquf), they had come to discuss a number of issues with him. When time of their prayer came, they asked the Prophet's permission to perform this in the mosque. He answered, "conduct your service here in the mosque. It is a place consecrated to God."
God expects us to stay away from mocking the religious beliefs of others, no matter how much we disagree with them. He says in the Quran: "And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides God, lest they insult God wrongfully without knowledge. Thus We have made fair-seeming to each people its own doings; then to their Lord is their return and He shall then inform them of all that they used to do" (Quran, 6:108).
We also have to remember that even if for many nominal Christians, the celebration is not really about participating in religious traditions, Christmas is a time for families to get together. In a number of cases it is the only time of year families get together, either because family members are scattered in different parts of the country or the world, because of communication and relationship problems, or because in America today, the family unit is becoming weaker and weaker.
Christmas is a great time to relate to our neighbors. We should not forget though, that "relating" does not mean "preaching". Dawa cannot be made in a rude manner. Allah says in the Quran: "Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful advice, and reason with them by ways that are the best and most gracious: because your Lord knows best, (those) who have strayed from His Path, and those who receive guidance " (Quran, 16:125).
In particular, when dealing with Jews and Christians, Allah says: "Do not argue with the People of the Book unless it is in the politest manner, except for those of them who do wrong. Say: 'We believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you. Our God and your God is [the same] One, and we are Muslims before Him'" (Quran, 29:46).
This may not be an occasion to emphasis the differences as much as the commonality of our beliefs, unless someone is really asking you about them.
A starting point for a discussion about Christmas could be the Islamic belief in all Books revealed by Allah and all Prophets sent by Him. In this discussion, special emphasis could be made on Prophet Jesus. Non-Muslims are often surprised to discover that Muslims also believe in this noble Prophet and his great mother Mary (peace be upon her).
Remember that respect does not mean compromise. This article is not asking you to compromise anything. You have freedom of religion given by God to believe in what you believe in. But in a world where conflict is increasing, a Muslim should be a bridge- builder and a peacemaker. It was due to the Muslim practice of Islamic ideals of respect and tolerance that the key of the holiest Christian Shrine in Jerusalem, the church of the Holy Sepulcher, remains entrusted with a Muslim family, as it has been for over 1400 years.
These are the lessons which need to be learned by those extremists who attack Christians during their worship in Nigeria and those extremists who burn Masjids in the USA.

Blogger comment:

1- Prophet Jesus (PBUH) is loved by all Muslims.
2- His birth day should be respected if not celebrated by Muslims. A lot of Muslims celebrate the birth day of prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is more of celebration of God gifts of Jesus and Muhammad to us.
3- For a lot of Christians Jesus is the son of God. As children they were raised to believe that. As Muslims we have to respect their faith and in the same time we asked by God to tell them who is Jesus is.
4- It is very possible that we are the generation that will see Jesus, God only knows. However there are a lot of signs everywhere to tell us we are at the end of time.
5- It is never in history it is as important for Muslims to respect and even celebrate Christmas as today. We and as well our Christian brothers will be coming together at certain time to get the world ready for Jesus Second Coming.

A Brief Review of 3 Spanish translations of the Quran


By Alejandro Hamed

It used to be really difficult to find an English translation of the Quran. That has now changed, as various translators and publishers work to regularly improve the quality of their translations of the Book of Allah.
Today, Spanish translations of the Quran are where English ones once were. They are few and far between. However, with the growing number of Spanish-speaking Muslims, mostly converts to Islam, this is changing.
Br. Alejandro Hamed is one of these Spanish-speaking Muslims. He has reviewed three current translations of the Quran in Spanish. Here are his thoughts.
I have obtained the following three translations of the Quran in Spanish: the revised third edition of 'El Noble Coran' (Darussalam, Riyadh, December 1997), the Spanish translation of the Quran by Abdel Ghani Melara Navio (a Spaniard who converted to Islam in 1979) and the third US edition of "El Coran" (Tahrike Tarsile Quran, New York, 1992), the Spanish translation of the Quran by the Spaniard Julio Cortes.
For many years, I have had a copy of "El Sagrado Coran" (El Nilo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1953). This is a translation by two Muslims of Argentinean background, Ahmed Abboud and Rafael Castellanos.
I have compared a number of the verses of the Quran as given by these three different translations.
Before I give you some of my impressions, let me quote a couple of other opinions.
Thomas Irving, in his introduction to Julio Cortes' edition writes: '...Another translation has been published in the Argentina, which has not reached my hands. The translator is a Muslim.......Up to now, the best version is that by the Spaniard Julio Cortes....'.
I presume that the other translation Irving is referring to is the one by Abboud and Castellanos.
Muslim-American author and educator Yahiya Emerick, in the chapter Hispanic-Americans of his book 'How to tell others about Islam' writes: 'The most widely available (Spanish translation) is that of Julio Cortes, although many native speakers dislike the style Cortes used. The translation of Rafael Castellanos, El Sagrado Coran, is more appealing.'
Here are my impressions.
Aboud and Castellanos' translation
This translation is far superior in style, elegance and eloquence to the other two.
It takes more liberties in constructing sentences in Spanish, but it remains true to the meaning of the Arabic original (to the extent possible, of course). This translation is often easier to read and grasp than the other two.
Aboud and Castellanos' translation is preceded by a brief biography of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), a list of short Hadiths, and an account of the great spiritual and material advances that humanity owes to the Quran.
This translation does not contain an analytical index.
Abdel Ghani Melara's translation
This is an acceptable translation. The somewhat plain Spanish he uses lacks the force and eloquence of the version by Abboud and Castellanos, and it is sometimes less clear.
On the other hand, I believe it tries to remain closer to the original Arabic text on a word-by-word basis.
It provides commentaries to some verses of the Quran. However, the commentaries are brief and few in number.
Melara's translation contains a glossary but no analytical index.
It is readily available in different sizes and in Spanish-only or in a Spanish-Arabic version.
Julio Cortes' translation
You can add me to the list of native Spanish speakers that dislike this translation.
The choice of words, the construction of the sentences, the rhythm of the text, they all leave much to be desired.
However, it does contain a glossary and an analytical index.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

About to Lose Faith


By Hagar

[Are those who know equal to those who know not? It is only men of understanding who will remember.] (Az-Zumar 39:9)

These were the first words from the Qur'an that touched me. And when I read that I could not stop thinking about it. I wondered what should I really know to understand? What really is knowledge?

What is it in reading books and studying theories, philosophies and thoughts if at the end we still do not find any meaning for our existence? Western answers for this dilemma just made me frustrated, uncomfortable, hopeless and, at the end, depressed.

At that time I could not believe in God nor pray anymore. How it happened? I do not know.

What I know is that it was like in one day I believed in God (I was Christian – a Protestant) and the next day to think about the existence of a God, Creator, was like nonsense to me.

I used to read part of the Old or the New Testament every day and also make studies of it. I found nice words there, but unreal ones. I mean, without applicability. I have never seen anyone living in accordance with these words.

Observing the way people live, the way things happen, the way deals and arrangements are done around the world to make ones superior to others, I, in my mind, concluded that this is a very unjust and unfair world. The Bible's words, so nice, were not more than some man's invention.

Religion was not more than a way to keep the poor and the oppressed people calm, satisfied and submissive, like cattle. It was verily the opium for the people. It was a way to keep the uncontrollable mankind under some rules that allowed him to live without kills each other at least openly.

In this point it was easy to lose my faith, my belief. I thought, "If there is a God, he is cynical and unfair. I do not make deals with unfair people, I do not make deal with an unfair god."

I wished I had never learnt how to read and wished just be like other people around me. Going to work, coming back home, watching TV (and accepting all what is said there), reading Sidney Sheldon, buying clothes, etc. I thought maybe I could be happy living in that way. Alienated.

But I was in a path without return. What I have seen, read, observed was me and I could not find any reason to be alive anymore.

I stopped making questions and chose one definite answer: this entire world and the whole creation were by chance and full stop. Done. The problem of the creation was solved and the mankind was just pathetic and ridiculous.

But for some reason at that time I could not nominate (and now I call destiny) I still could not sleep well seeing injustices and manipulation practiced for some groups above others. I chose a side and a cause to defend.

I chose to learn more about Muslims and defend their cause. I could choose another "minority" or oppressed people, but, for reasons that Allah knows better, I chose Muslims.

I had never heard about Islam before, but I was curious to know who was those that the western world was calling terrorists. I knew if the TV was showing them as evil, it was necessary to investigate because something was hidden on the whole story.

To know about Muslims and Islam I should be in touch with Muslims. In Brazil, my country, we do not have too many communities. Then I went to the Internet and met many in chat rooms.One young Saudi Muslim told me about Nizar Qabbani and I researched about him and found a poem called "I am with Terrorism". The poet quotes many events and places totally unknown to me and I realized how ignorant I was. I had never heard about any of those facts.

One day, I was chatting with a chat friend (today a loved brother) and he showed me a site where I could read the Qur'an. I opened it and random a surah (chapter) to read.

The title was in Arabic and I asked him the meaning in English and he told me it was the "Day of Judgment". He told me that he was wondering why I chose exactly that surah, that should be an advice.

I remember I said to him if there is a God and if He is Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent, He knows that words of punishment cannot affect me at all. Instead I am looking for words of hope, reasonable and effective words of hope.

At that time I remember that every night I had the same wish: I wish I could not wake up tomorrow. But the next day my eyes were opened again. It was reaching an unbearable level.

I left Brazil and came to Germany.

One day I was really desperate. I made ablution the way I read Muslims do, I prostrated the way I knew Muslims do and said "God, if You are real, release me from this situation. Show me the way."

Al-hamdu llilah. He did. I felt peace in my heart. Such peace I was looking for.

In my German class there were some sisters and I asked them some instructions. They gave me some books and my first Qur'an. May Allah bless them all.

I read the Qur'an. And there I found:

[And I created not the jinn and the mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).] (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

[And We have made some of you as a trial for others; will you have patience?] (Al-Furqan 25:20)

And all the answers I was looking for were there.

My life didn't change. It was still hard most of the time. What changed was my attitude facing the life. I still have more "no" then "yes" from Allah. The difference is that now I know that He is my Lord and my Wali (Guardian), and His "no" is better to me. I am grateful.
Hagar is a 42-year-old Muslim convert. She holds a degree in linguistics and literature and is a specialist in Portuguese language and literature.