Thursday, January 31, 2008

Reading the Koran


By: Tariq Ramadan New York Times* -

For Muslims the Koran stands as the Text of reference, the source and the essence of the message transmitted to humanity by the creator. It is the last of a lengthy series of revelations addressed to humans down through history. It is the Word of God -but it is not God. The Koran makes known, reveals and guides: it is a light that responds to the quest for meaning. The Koran is remembrance of all previous messages, those of Noah and Abraham, of Moses and Jesus. Like them, it reminds and instructs our consciousness: life has meaning, facts are signs.
It is the Book of all Muslims the world over. But paradoxically, it is not the first book someone seeking to know Islam should read. (A life of the Prophet or any book presenting Islam would be a better introduction.) For it is both extremely simple and deeply complex. The nature of the spiritual, human, historical and social teachings to be drawn from it can be understood at different levels. The Text is one, but its readings are multiple.
For the woman or the man whose heart has made the message of Islam its own, the Koran speaks in a singular way. It is both the Voice and the Path. God speaks to one's innermost being, to his consciousness, to his heart, and guides him onto the path that leads to knowledge of him, to the meeting with him: "This is the Book, about it there can be no doubt; it is a Path for those who are aware of God." More than a mere text, it is a traveling companion to be chanted, to be sung or to be heard.
Throughout the Muslim world, in mosques, in homes and in the streets, one can hear magnificent voices reciting the divine Words. Here, there can be no distinction between religious scholars (ulema) and laymen. The Koran speaks to each in his language, accessibly, as if to match his intelligence, his heart, his questions, his joy as well as his pain. This is what the ulema have termed reading or listening as adoration. As Muslims read or hear the Text, they strive to suffuse themselves with the spiritual dimension of its message: beyond time, beyond history and the millions of beings who populate the earth, God is speaking to each of them, calling and reminding each of them, inviting, guiding, counseling and commanding. God responds, to her, to him, to the heart of each: with no intermediary, in the deepest intimacy.
No need for studies and diplomas, for masters and guides. Here, as we take our first steps, God beckons us with the simplicity of his closeness. The Koran belongs to everyone, free of distinction and of hierarchy. God responds to whoever comes to his Word. It is not rare to observe women and men, poor and rich, educated and illiterate, Eastern and Western, falling silent, staring into the distance, lost in thought, stepping back, weeping. The search for meaning has encountered the sacred, God is near: "Indeed, I am close at hand. I answer the call of him who calls me when s/he calls."
A dialogue has begun. An intense, permanent, constantly renewed dialogue between a Book that speaks the infinite simplicity of the adoration of the One, and the heart that makes the intense effort necessary to liberate itself, to meet him. At the heart of every heart's striving lies the Koran. It holds out peace and initiates into liberty.
Indeed, the Koran may be read at several levels, in quite distinct fields. But first, the reader must be aware of how the Text has been constructed. The Koran was revealed in sequences of varying length, sometimes as entire chapters (suras), over a span of 23 years. In its final form, the Text follows neither a chronological nor strictly thematic order. Two things initially strike the reader: the repetition of Prophetic stories, and the formulas and information that refer to specific historical situations that the Koran does not elucidate. Understanding, at this first level, calls for a twofold effort on the part of the reader: though repetition is, in a spiritual sense, a reminder and a revivification, in an intellectual sense it leads us to attempt to reconstruct. The stories of Eve and Adam, or of Moses, are repeated several times over with differing though non-contradictory elements: the task of human intelligence is to recompose the narrative structure, to bring together all the elements, allowing us to grasp the facts.
But we must also take into account the context to which these facts refer: all commentators, without distinction as to school of jurisprudence, agree that certain verses of the revealed Text (in particular, but not only, those that refer to war) speak of specific situations that had arisen at the moment of their revelation. Without taking historical contingency into account, it is impossible to obtain general information on this or that aspect of Islam. In such cases, our intelligence is invited to observe the facts, to study them in reference to a specific environment and to derive principles from them. It is a demanding task, which requires study, specialization and extreme caution. Or to put it differently, extreme intellectual modesty.
The second level is no less demanding. The Koranic text is, first and foremost, the promulgation of a message whose content has, above all, a moral dimension. On each page we behold the ethics, the underpinnings, the values and the hierarchy of Islam taking shape. In this light, a linear reading is likely to disorient the reader and to give rise to incoherence, even contradiction. It is appropriate, in our efforts to determine the moral message of Islam, to approach the Text from another angle. While the stories of the Prophets are drawn from repeated narrations, the study of ethical categories requires us, first, to approach the message in the broadest sense, then to derive the principles and values that make up the moral order. The methods to be applied at this second level are exactly the opposite of the first, but they complete it, making it possible for religious scholars to advance from the narration of a prophetic story to the codification of its spiritual and ethical teaching.
But there remains a third level, which demands full intellectual and spiritual immersion in the Text, and in the revealed message. Here, the task is to derive the Islamic prescriptions that govern matters of faith, of religious practice and of its fundamental precepts. In a broader sense, the task is to determine the laws and rules that will make it possible for all Muslims to have a frame of reference for the obligations, the prohibitions, the essential and secondary matters of religious practice, as well as those of the social sphere. A simple reading of the Koran does not suffice: not only is the study of Koranic science a necessity, but knowledge of segments of the prophetic tradition is essential. One cannot, on a simple reading of the Koran, learn how to pray. We must turn to authenticated prophetic tradition to determine the rules and the body movements of prayer.
As we can see, this third level requires singular knowledge and competence that can only be acquired by extensive, exhaustive study of the texts, their surrounding environment and, of course, intimate acquaintance with the classic and secular tradition of the Islamic sciences. It is not merely dangerous but fundamentally erroneous to generalize about what Muslims must and must not do based on a simple reading of the Koran. Some Muslims, taking a literalist or dogmatic approach, have become enmeshed in utterly false and unacceptable interpretations of the Koranic verses, which they possess neither the means, nor on occasion the intelligence, to place in the perspective of the overarching message. Some orientalists, sociologists and non-Muslim commentators follow their example by extracting from the Koran certain passages, which they then proceed to analyze in total disregard for the methodological tools employed by the ulema.
Above and beyond these distinct levels of reading, we must take into account the different interpretations put forward by the great Islamic classical tradition. It goes without saying that all Muslims consider the Koran to be the final divine revelation. But going back to the direct experience of the Companions of the Prophet, it has always been clear that the interpretation of its verses is plural in nature, and that there has always existed an accepted diversity of readings among Muslims.
Some have falsely claimed that because Muslims believe the Koran to be the word of God, interpretation and reform are impossible. This belief is then cited as the reason why a historical and critical approach cannot be applied to the revealed Text. The development of the sciences of the Koran -the methodological tools fashioned and wielded by the ulema and the history of Koranic commentary -prove such a conclusion baseless. Since the beginning, the three levels outlined above have led to a cautious approach to the texts, one that obligates whoever takes up the task to be in harmony with his era and to renew his comprehension. Dogmatic and often mummified, hidebound readings clearly reflect not upon the Author of the Text, but upon the intelligence and psychology of the person reading it. Just as we can read the work of a human author, from Marx to Keynes, in closed-minded and rigid fashion, we can approach divine revelation in a similar manner. Instead, we should be at once critical, open-minded and incisive. The history of Islamic civilization offers us ample proof of this.
When dealing with the Koran, it is neither appropriate nor helpful to draw lines of demarcation between approaches of the heart and of the mind. All the masters of Koranic studies without exception have emphasized the importance of the spiritual dimension as a necessary adjunct to the intellectual investigation of the meaning of the Koran. The heart possesses its own intelligence: "Have they not hearts with which to understand," the Koran calls out to us, as if to point out that the light of intellect alone is not enough. The Muslim tradition, from the legal specialists to the Sufi mystics, has continuously oscillated between these two poles: the intelligence of the heart sheds the light by which the intelligence of the mind observes, perceives and derives meaning. As sacred word, the Text contains much that is apparent; it also contains the secrets and silences that nearness to the divine reveals to the humble, pious, contemplative intelligence. Reason opens the Book and reads it -but it does so in the company of the heart, of spirituality.
For the Muslim's heart and conscience, the Koran is the mirror of the universe. What the first Western translators, influenced by the biblical vocabulary, rendered as "verse" means, literally, "sign" in Arabic. The revealed Book, the written Text, is made up of signs, in the same way that the universe, in the image of a text spread out before our eyes, abounds with these very signs. When the intelligence of the heart -and not analytical intelligence alone -reads the Koran and the world, the two speak to one another, echo one another; each one speaks of the other and of the Unique One. The signs remind us of meaning: of birth, of life, of feeling, of thought, of death.
But the echo is deeper still, and summons human intelligence to understand revelation, creation and their harmony. Just as the universe possesses its fundamental laws and its finely regulated order -which humans, wherever they may be, must respect when acting upon their environment -the Koran lays down laws, a moral code and a body of practice that Muslims must respect, whatever their era and their environment. These are the invariables of the universe, and of the Koran. Religious scholars use the term qat'i ("definitive, "not subject to interpretation") when they refer to the Koranic verses (or to the authenticated Prophetic tradition, ahadith) whose formulation is clear and explicit and offers no latitude for figurative interpretation. In like manner, creation itself rests upon universal laws that we cannot ignore. The consciousness of the believer likens the five pillars of Islam to the laws of gravitation: they constitute an earthly reality beyond space and time.
As the universe is in constant motion, rich in an infinite diversity of species, beings, civilizations, cultures and societies, so too is the Koran. In the latitude of interpretation offered by the majority of its verses, by the generality of the principles and actions that it promulgates with regard to social affairs, by the silences that run through it, the Koran allows human intelligence to grasp the evolution of history, the multiplicity of languages and cultures, and thus to insinuate itself into the windings of time and the landscapes of space.
Between the universe and the Koran, between these two realities, between these two texts, human intelligence must learn to distinguish fundamental and universal laws from circumstantial and historical models. This intelligence must display humility in the presence of the order, beauty and harmony of creation and of revelation. At the same time it must responsibly and creatively manage its own accomplishments or interpretations, which are sources of extraordinary success, but also of injustice, war and disorder. Between Text and context, the intelligence of the heart and that of the analytical faculty lay down norms, recognize an ethical structure, produce knowledge, nourish consciousness, and develop enterprise and creativity in all spheres of human activity.
Far from being a prison, or a constraint, revelation is an invitation to mankind to reconcile itself with its deepest essence, and to find there both the recognition of its limitations and the extraordinary potential of its intelligence and its imagination. To submit ourselves to the order of the Just One and of his eternity is to understand that we are free and fully authorized to reform the injustices that lie at the heart of the order or disorder of all that is temporally human.
The Koran is a book for both heart and mind. In nearness to it, a woman or a man who possesses a spark of faith knows the path to follow, knows her or his own inadequacies. No sheik is needed, no wise man, no confidant. Ultimately, the heart knows. This was what the Prophet answered when he was asked about moral feelings. In the light of the Book, he said, "Inquire of your heart." And should our intelligence stray into the complexities of the different levels of reading, from applied ethics to the rules of practice, we must never forget to clothe ourselves in the intellectual modesty that alone can reveal the secrets of the Text. For"it is not the eyes that are blind, but the hearts within the breasts." Such a heart, humble and alert, is the faithful friend of the Koran.
Tariq Ramadan is a professor of Islamic studies at Oxford and at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obama's not a Muslim, but why should it matter?

From: Seattle Times.

By: Leonard Pitts Jr. / Syndicated columnist

Barack Obama is not a Muslim.
We know this because he has told us so.
We know it because there is no credible evidence to suggest otherwise.
We know it despite a campaign of lies and whispers from various bloggers, pundits and head cases.
Barack Obama is not a Muslim. But, what if he were?
Same guy, same charisma, same inspirational idealism. But also, a Muslim. Not a crazy Muslim. Not a guy prone to strapping bombs to his chest in hopes of meeting virgins in heaven. A Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-type Muslim. A Dave Chappelle, Ahmad Rashad, Shaquille O'Neal-type Muslim. A guy you like and admire who just happened to be, you know ... Muslim.
Would it matter? Should it?
The question bears answering because of the creepy, are-you-now-or-have-you-ever-been attitude toward Islam that seems to be seeping into the public dialogue lately. As in that campaign of lies and whispers that keeps showing up in my inbox — claims that Obama won't salute the flag, took his oath of office on a Quran, belongs to a terror cell and other assorted idiocy.
NBC News anchor Brian Williams has apparently been getting the same e-mails. In moderating a recent Democratic debate, he asked Obama about rumors "that you are trying to hide the fact that you're a Muslim ... "
The senator laughed a heard-that-a-few-times-before laugh. Then he replied that he is a Christian, that he is a victim of Internet rumor, and that he trusts the American people to "sort out the lies from the truth."
What bothered me is that, by its phrasing, Williams' question presupposed there is something wrong with being a Muslim. And Obama's answer left the presupposition unaddressed.
What if he were a Muslim? What then?
A 2007 Pew Research Center survey found that 43 percent of us have a favorable opinion of Muslims (make it Muslim Americans and the number rises to 53 percent). Which may sound not so bad, except when you compare it with favorable ratings of other religious groups. Jews, for instance, are at 76 percent. Even evangelical Christians manage 60. And that ranking for Muslims represents a 5-point drop since 2004.
It's no mystery why the nation's opinion of Muslims is becoming less favorable. In a word, terrorism. And, frankly, Americans are right to fear Muslim fanatics who embrace violence as a means of getting what they want.
But see, the key word there is not Muslim. It's fanatic. Yet some of us still think Muslim is the brand name for crazy. Me, I think the only difference between religious fanatics here and in the Middle East is that Middle Eastern nations tend to be theocratic (i.e., the word of the holy book has the force of law) and to be intolerant — sometimes, violently so — of dissent. So no one dares tell them no.
But if Pat Robertson, to name an American Christian fanatic not quite at random, had the force of law behind him and the ability to silence those who disagree, don't you think he would be as scary as the scariest ayatollah in Iran?
I do. That's why I would never want him to be president. Which is not quite the same as saying I'd never want a Christian to be president. I just prefer my presidents — regardless of their religion — reasonable. And sane. That seems a fair standard.
Yet it's a standard some of us now discard. The ongoing whisper campaign against Barack Obama, against his very American-ness, is a shameful appeal to ignorance and fear. Against that, I offer a simple statement the world's most famous and well-loved follower of Islam made just after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"I am a Muslim," said Muhammad Ali. "I am an American."
That says it all. Or at least, it should.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Principles of Success



According to the Quran, Prophet Muhammad was the most excellent example for all of humanity. Even non-Muslim historians recognize him to be one of the most successful personalities in history. In 1946 Reverend R Bosworth-Smith in "Mohammed & Mohammedanism." wrote about the Prophet: "Head of the state as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but, he was pope without the pope's claims, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue. If ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by a right divine It was Mohammad, for he had all the power without instruments and without its support. He cared not for dressing of power. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping with his public life." In 1978 Michael Hart in his book " The 100 Most Influential Persons In History", selected Prophet Muhammad as the most influential person in history and had this to say about his choice: "My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the secular and religious level... It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history." The Prophet's words and actions show us the way to achieve success, not just in this world but in the hereafter as well. In short, the Prophet of Islam was a positive thinker in the full sense of the word. All his activities were result-oriented. He refrained from all negative elements of behavior that are counter-productive to achievement such as hate, envy, arrogance, greed, etc. All the actions of the Prophet were solely based on a pure intention to please God. By studying the life of the Prophet we can identify some of the principles of success. The First Principle: Take the easier path. This principle is well explained in a saying of A'ishah. She said: Whenever the Prophet had to choose between two options, he always opted for the easier choice. (Bukhari) To choose the easiest option means that you should evaluate your options and choose the most feasible. One who begins from this starting point will surely reach his goal.The Second Principle: See advantage in disadvantage. In the early days of Makkah, there were many problems and difficulties. At that time, a guiding verse in the Quran was revealed. It said: With every hardship there is ease, with every hardship there is ease. (94:5-6). This means that if there are some problems, there are also opportunities at the same time. The way to success is to overcome the problems and avail the opportunities. The Third Principle: Change the place of action. This principle is derived from the Hijrah. The Hijrah was not just a migration from Makkah to Madinah, it was a journey to find a more suitable place to put Islam into action. Physical migration and perseverance is an important element in establishing Justice and Peace. This also planted the roots of intellectual migration from the subjugated minds to an awakened spirit. The Fourth Principle:Make a friend out of an enemy. The Prophet of Islam was repeatedly subjected to practices of antagonism by the unbelievers. At that time, the Qur'an enjoined upon him the return of good for evil. And then, as the Quran added: You will see your direst enemy has become your closest friend. (41:34) It means that a good deed in return of a bad deed has a conquering effect over your enemies. And the life of the Prophet is a historical proof of this principle. The greatest example of amnesty was shown by the Prophet after the blood-less conquest of Makkah. All enemies of Islam were granted pardon including Hinda, the wife of Abu Soofyaan who had disemboweled the martyred body of Hamza, the Prophet's uncle. In spite of her detestable mutilation of Hamza's body, the Prophet forgave her. The Fifth Principle:Education is central to success. After the battle of Badr, about 70 of the unbelievers were taken as prisoners of war. They were educated people. The Prophet announced that if any one of them would teach ten Muslim children how to read and write he would be freed. This was the first school in the history of Islam in which all of the students were Muslims, and all of the teachers were from the enemy rank. The Sixth Principle:Don't be a dichotomous thinker. In the famous battle of Mutah, Khalid Ibn Walid decided to withdraw Muslim forces from the battlefield because he discovered that they were disproportionately outnumbered by the enemy. When they reached Madinah, some of the Muslims received them by the word 'O deserters!' The Prophet said: 'No, they are men of advancement'. Those Madinan people were thinking dichotomously, either fighting or retreating. The Prophet said that there is also a third option, and that is to avoid war and find time to strengthen yourself. Now history tells us that the Muslims, after three years of preparation, advanced again towards the Roman border and this time they won a resounding victory. The Seventh Principle:Do not engage in unnecessary confrontation. This principle is derived from the treaty of Hudaybiyyah. At that time, the unbelievers were determined to engage Muslims in fighting, because they were in an advantageous position. But the Prophet , by accepting their conditions unilaterally, entered into a pact. It was a ten-year peace treaty. Until then, the meeting ground between Muslims and non-Muslims had been on the battlefield. Now the area of conflict became that of ideological debate. Within two years, Islam emerged as victorious because of the simple reason of its ideological superiority. The Eighth Principle:Gradualism instead of radicalism. This principle is well-established by a Hadith quoted in Bukhari. A'ishah says that the first verses of the Qur'an were related mostly to Heaven and Hell. After some time when faith had taken hold in peoples hearts, God revealed specific commands to desist from unjust and self-deprecating social practices that were prevalent in the Arabian dark ages. This is a clear proof that for social changes, Islam advocates the evolutionary method, rather than the revolutionary method. The Ninth Principle:Be pragmatic in controversial matters. During the writing of the Hudaybiyyah treaty, the Prophet dictated these words: 'This is from Muhammad, the Messenger of God.' The Qurayshan delegate raised objections over these words. The Prophet promptly ordered the words to be changed to 'Muhammad, son of Abdullah'. This simple change placated the Qurayshan delegate.These are just some of the principles by which the Prophet of Islam conducted his life. His achievements have been recognized by historians as the supreme success. We would be wise to live by following his example.
You have indeed in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in God and the Final Day .. (Quran 33:21)

Adapted from the "Principles of Success in the Light of Sirah" by Wahiduddin Khan - Renaissance Islamic Journal

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Meet the Prophet Muhammad


“I began to look at him and at the moon, he was wearing a red mantle, and he appeared to be more beautiful than the moon to me.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
This is how Jabir ibn Samura described the Last of the Prophets, the Chief of the Pious, the Prince of the Believers, the Chosen One of the Most Merciful – Muhammad, the Messenger of God.
He had a pleasant face that was round, white, and fair. His hair fell to his ear lobes. His beard was thick and black. When he was pleased, his face would light up. His laugh was no more than smiling. His eyes were blackish, and his eyelashes were long. His long eyebrows were curved. When the eyes of Abdullah ibn Salam, the chief rabbi of Medina, fell on his face, he declared that such a noble face could not be the face of a liar!
He was of medium height, neither tall nor short. He walked inclining forward. He wore tanned leather sandals. His pants would reach to the middle of his shin or sometimes just above his ankles.
On his back, towards the left shoulder was the ‘Seal of Prophethood’. It was the size of a pigeon’s egg with spots like moles on it. His palms were described to be softer than the brocade of silk.
He was recognized by his fragrance when he approached from a distance. Drops of his perspiration were described to be like pearls. His companions collected his sweat to mix with their perfumes which made them even more fragrant!
Islamic doctrine holds if someone has been blessed with the vision of the Prophet in a dream as described, then indeed they have seen him.
He would keep silent for long periods of time and was the most dignified when silent.
When he spoke, he uttered nothing but the truth in a voice pleasing to the ears. He did not speak rapidly as many people do today; rather he spoke in a clear speech so that those who sat with him could remember it. His speech was described to be such that anyone who wished to count his words could have done so easily. His companions described him to be neither vulgar nor indecent. He neither cursed people, nor abused them. He merely reprimanded by saying:
“What is the matter with such and such people” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
The most hateful conduct to him was lying. Sometimes he used to repeat himself twice or even thrice to enable the listeners to understand him well. He would give short sermons. While delivering the sermons his eyes would become red, his voice would rise, and his emotions become visible as if he were warning of an imminent assault from an enemy.
He led a simple life without any extravagance or lavishness. He put the worldly life behind his back and turned away from it. He considered it to be a prison, not Paradise! Had he wished, he could have had anything he desired, for the keys of its treasures were presented to him, but he refused to accept them. He did not exchange his share of the life to come with the worldly life. He knew that it is a corridor, not a permanent residence. He understood fully well that it is a transit station, not a leisure park. He took it for its real worth - a summer cloud that would soon disperse.
Yet God says He enriched him from poverty:
“Did He not find you poor and enrich you?” (Quran 93:8)
Aisha, his wife, said:
“A month would pass while the family of Muhammad would not light fire in their homes. They subsisted on two things - dates and water. Some residents of Medina who were his neighbors would send milk from their sheep, which he would drink and then give to his family.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)
She said the family of Muhammad never ate wheat bread to their satisfaction for three consecutive days from the time of his arrival at Medina until he passed away, about 10 years!
With all this, he would stand up in the middle of the night to offer his gratitude to his Lord in prayer. He would pray for so long that his feet would swell! When his wives would ask why he worshipped God so much, his only response would be:
“Shall I not be a thankful servant of God?” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim)
Omar, one of his companions, remembering the days he passed in hunger said that sometimes the Prophet did not even have rotten dates to satisfy his hunger!
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud, another companion and eye-witness, says that once ,when Muhammad, may God praise him, awoke from sleep, the marks of the mat made out of date palm leaves on which he used to sleep were etched on his body. Abdullah complained:
“My father and mother be ransomed for you! Why did you not let us prepare something (softer) for you from which you could protect yourself?”
He replied:
“I have nothing to do with this world. I am in this world like a rider who stops under the shade of the tree for a short time and, after taking rest, he resumes his journey again, leaving the tree behind.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
Various conquerors in the annals of history are known for spilling rivers of blood and erecting pyramids of skulls. Muhammad, may God praise him, is known for his forgiveness. He never took revenge from anyone who wronged him to the point that he never struck anybody with his hand, neither a woman nor a servant, unless he was fighting in battle. His forgiveness could be seen on the day he entered Mecca as a conqueror after eight years of exile.
He forgave those who persecuted him, and forced him and his family in exile for three years in rugged mountains, who had accused him of being a lunatic, a poet, or one possessed. He pardoned Abu Sufyan, one of the most evil of people who plotted to persecute him day and night, along with his wife, Hind, who mutilated the dead body of the Prophet’s Muslim uncle and ate the raw liver after ordering Wahshi, a fierce slave known for his fighting skills, to kill Him, which later led them to accept Islam. Who else could be on such an exalted standard of character but the noblest and most truthful Messenger of God?
Wahshi, who used to live in Mecca, won his freedom from Hind for the service of killing the uncle of the Prophet. When Islam gained dominance in Mecca, Wahshi ran away from Mecca to Taif. Eventually Taif also succumbed to the Muslims. He was told Muhammad would forgive anyone who accepted Islam. Even though the crime was so great, Wahshi gathered his courage and came to the Prophet of Mercy and announced his Islam, and Muhammad, may God praise him, forgave him.
His forgiveness even extended to Habbar ibn Aswad. When Zaynab, the Prophet’s daughter, was migrating from Mecca to Medina, the Meccans tried to stop her, Habbar was one of them. He made the Prophet’s pregnant daughter fall from her camel. As a result, she lost her baby. Running away from the guilt of his crime, Habbar fled to Iran, but God turned his heart towards the Prophet. So he came to the Prophet’s court, acknowledged his guilt, bore the testimony of faith, and was forgiven by the Prophet!
Muhammad, may God praise him, performed physical miracles with God’s permission. He split the moon into two halves by merely pointing his finger at it. In a mystical journey known as Mi’raaj, he traveled in one night from Mecca to Jerusalem on a heavenly mount, al-Buraq, led all the Prophets in prayer, and then ascended beyond the seven heavens to meet his Lord. He cured the sick and the blind; demons would leave the possessed by his command, water flowed from his fingers, and his food would glorify God.
Yet he was the most humble of men. He sat on the ground, ate on the ground, and slept on the ground. A companion narrated that if a stranger were to enter a gathering where he was present, he would not be able to differentiate the Prophet from his companions due to his humbleness. Anas, his servant, swore that in his nine years of service, the noble Prophet never chastised him or blamed him for anything. Those around him described Muhammad to be so humble that even a little girl could hold his hand and take him wherever she wished. He used to come to the weak among the Muslims in order to visit the sick and attend their funeral processions. He used to stay at the back of the caravan to aid the weak and pray for them. He would not hesitate to walk with a widow or a poor person until he had accomplished for them what they needed. He responded to the invitation of even slaves, eating nothing more than barley bread with them.
He was the best of men to his wives. Aisha, his wife, described how humble he was:
“He used to remain busy serving and helping his household, and when the time for prayer came he would perform ablution and go for prayer. He would patch his own sandals and sew his own garments. He was an ordinary human being, milking his sheep, and doing his own chores.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Indeed he was the best of all people to his family. His personality was such that people were not driven away from him!
Such was the noble Prophet of God who we must love more than our own selves and whom God has described as:
“Indeed in the Messenger of God you have a good example to follow…” (Quran 33:21)

Blogger Comment:

1- It is amazing how Muhammad and Jesus sounds alike.
2- It is amazing how their followers are fighting each other over the years though they both are the closest in message and in claiming one another.
3- In fact Muhammad followed Jesus and at the end of time Jesus will return and would follow Muhammad.
4- It is a prophecy of Muhammad that Jesus after his second coming and establishing his kingdom will die and be buried with him in the same grave.
5- This great fusion of Muslims and Christians in the end of time would make the world one nation and one family.
6- In fact The Jews who were neither the followers of either would connect to them and possibly connect them. I do not now the scenario but I can hope this is the scenario.

Sunni - Shia: Brief History


By: Huda Dodge* -

Both Sunni and Shia Muslims share the most fundamental Islamic beliefs and articles of faith. The differences between these two main sub-groups within Islam initially stemmed not from spiritual differences, but political ones. Over the centuries, however, these political differences have spawned a number of varying practices and positions which have come to carry a spiritual significance.The division between Shia and Sunni dates back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad , and the question of who was to take over the leadership of the Muslim nation. Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet's companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job. This is what was done, and the Prophet Muhammad's close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation. The word "Sunni" in Arabic comes from a word meaning "one who follows the traditions of the Prophet."On the other hand, some Muslims share the belief that leadership should have stayed within the Prophet's own family, among those specifically appointed by him, or among Imams appointed by God Himself.The Shia Muslims believe that following the Prophet Muhammad's death, leadership should have passed directly to his cousin/son-in-law, Ali. Throughout history, Shia Muslims have not recognized the authority of elected Muslim leaders, choosing instead to follow a line of Imams which they believe have been appointed by the Prophet Muhammad or God Himself. The word "Shia" in Arabic means a group or supportive party of people. The commonly-known term is shortened from the historical "Shia-t-Ali," or "the Party of Ali." They are also known as followers of "Ahl-al-Bayt" or "People of the Household" (of the Prophet).From this initial question of political leadership, some aspects of spiritual life have been affected and now differ between the two groups of Muslims.Shia Muslims believe that the Imam is sinless by nature, and that his authority is infallible as it comes directly from God. Therefore, Shia Muslims often venerate the Imams as saints and perform pilgrimages to their tombs and shrines in the hopes of divine intercession. Sunni Muslims counter that there is no basis in Islam for a hereditary privileged class of spiritual leaders, and certainly no basis for the veneration or intercession of saints. Sunni Muslims contend that leadership of the community is not a birthright, but a trust that is earned and which may be given or taken away by the people themselves.Shia Muslims also feel animosity towards some of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad , based on their positions and actions during the early years of discord about leadership in the community. Many of these companions (Abu Bakr, Umar, Aisha, etc.) have narrated traditions about the Prophet's life and spiritual practice. Shia Muslims reject these traditions (hadith) and do not base any of their religious practices on the testimony of these individuals. This naturally gives rise to some differences in religious practice between the two groups. These differences touch all detailed aspects of religious life: prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, etc.Sunni Muslims make up the majority (85%) of Muslims all over the world. Significant populations of Shia Muslims can be found in Iran and Iraq, and large minority communities in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Lebanon.It is important to remember that despite all of these differences in opinion and practice, Shia and Sunni Muslims share the main articles of Islamic belief and are considered by most to be brethren in faith. In fact, most Muslims do not distinguish themselves by claiming membership in any particular group, but prefer to call themselves simply, "Muslims."

Huda Dodge is an educator, freelance writer and editor. She is the author of The Everything Understanding Islam Book, published in 2003 by Adams Media Corporation. She has been active on the Internet for over a decade, and has been's Guide to Islam since 1998. She currently teaches elementary school in the Middle East.

Blogger Comment:

1- Simply Islam and simply Muslim.
2- Though Shia have these differences with Sunni, they are in most part follow the main articles in faith and are good devout Muslims.
3- Though Ali was a great Muslim companion and son on law of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his family is the most honoured in Islam after Jesus (PBUH) and his mother Mary he was not a prophet.
4- Certainly there is no Divine message to him or his family non so over after Muhammad (PBUH). The last message and last messenger is Islam and Muhammad (PBUH). Ali was gifted with wisdom from God and possibly some other people from his family but the prophetic inspirations ended by the prophet.
5- Of his descendants is the Mahdi who from the few hadith we know about him is a man that God will guide him to the best of Islam and humanity. There is still some mystery about him in the way of guidance and if any miracles or particular signs will make people know him and follow him.
6- Al Mahdi is very likely will guide people back to the simple Islam and through wisdom and God blessing he will establish the just government that people are yearning for.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Marian Wright Edelman, Former Counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King, Talks to VOA

From: VOA

By Judith Latham Washington21 January 2008

Marian Wright Edelman is an American activist for the rights of children. She is president and founder of the Children’s Defense FundMarian Wright Edelman, former counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – whose birthday we commemorate this week – says she feels very fortunate to have been at the “intersection of great leaders and great events.” Ms. Edelman, who is herself a champion for civil rights, is founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, one of the nation’s strongest voices for children and families.

Americans are celebrating this week the life of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.Speaking with host Carol Castiel of VOA News Now’s Press Conference USA, Ms. Edelman says she first met Dr. King as a student when he came to speak at her college and offered two pieces of advice: to “keep moving” and that “you don’t have to be able to see the whole stairway to take the first step.” She describes him as a “very intense presence” in her life from 1960 to 1968. She says Dr. King saw clearly the triple evils that would undermine America unless they were confronted – racism, excessive materialism, and militarism.

Ms. Edelman says unequal access to health, unequal educational opportunities and unequal economic chances — cutting along racial lines — are resegregating our children.Marian Wright Edelman says America has made great progress and Dr. King would be “very proud” to see that “we’ve got a woman and a black running for president,” black cabinet members, and that the number of elective officials has gone from a few hundred to almost 10,000. But he would not be pleased that “we have almost 13 million poor children, 47 million uninsured Americans, a cradle-to-prison pipeline in which one in six black boys is going to go off to prison in his lifetime.” Marian Wright Edelman says that, while education is the ticket to everything, today 88% of black fourth graders and 86 % of Latino fourth graders, and 61 % of white fourth graders cannot read at grade level. Ms. Edelman says Americans would much rather celebrate Dr. King than follow him, but it is really “time to finish what he began.”

Marian Wright Edelman says “it is time to end poverty, starting with child poverty.” She says that no other industrialized nation “lets its children go poor.” And the priority for choosing any presidential candidate should be that he or she would ensure that all 9.4 million uninsured children get health care. Furthermore, it is essential that there be equal educational opportunity on a nondiscriminatory basis. To bring that about, Ms. Edelman says, “We have to build a movement.” And while who is in leadership positions is important, what happens will depend on what citizens do. She predicts that three groups will be crucial to building this movement – women, high school and college students, and the “faith networks that have lost their prophetic voice.” What it will require, Ms. Edelman says, is resetting “America’s moral compass.” She believes there are “no military solutions” to these problems, and she says Dr. King was so clear that the choice is “not between violence and non-violence but between violence and non-existence.”

Martin Luther King Day this year is Monday, January 20. Regarding his vision, Ms. Edelman says, she is “so tired of people looking for a savior.” Dr. King is not going to come back, and “we can’t wait for the next charismatic leader; the job is up to us.” She says it’s about responsible, disciplined citizens who do justice every day, who vote and who hold their leaders accountable. And, she adds, “We are the solution to our problems.”

For full audio of the program Press Conference USA click here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Life and Beyond according to the Quran


By: Muhammad Abdel Haleem

In the Quran life in this world is an inseparable part of a continuum, a unified whole - life, death, life - which gives our life a context and relevance. In this context, the life of the individual is made meaningful and enriched inasmuch as it is full of 'good works'. Life in this world leads to the afterlife, a belief which is fundamental in the Quran. The afterlife is not treated in the Quran in a separate chapter, or as something on its own, for its own sake, but always in relation to life in this world.Linguistically it is not possible in the Quran to talk about this life without semantic reference to the next since every term used for each is comparative with the other. Thus: al'ula and al-akhira (the First and the Last life), al-dunya and al-akhira (the nearer and the further/latter life). Neither has a name specific to itself, or independent of the other. Consequently, the frequency of the terms in the Quran is the same, in the case of dunya and akhira- each appears 115 times.There is a reference, direct or indirect, to one aspect or another of the afterlife on almost every single page of the Quran. This follows from the fact that belief in the afterlife is an article of faith which has a bearing on every aspect of the present life and manifests itself in the discussion of the creed, the rituals, the ethics and the laws of Islam. In discussing the afterlife, moreover, the Quran addresses both believers and non-believers. The plan of two worlds and the relationship between them has been, from the beginning, part of the divine scheme of things:It is God who created you, then He provided sustenance for you, then He will cause you to die, then He will give life back to you. Quran 30:40It is We who give life and make to die and to Us is the homecoming. Quran 50:43He created death and life that He might try you according to which of you is best in works. Quran 67:2According to the Quran, belief in the afterlife, which is an issue fundamental to the mission of Muhammad, was also central to the mission of all prophets before him.Belief in the afterlife is often referred to in conjunction with belief in God, as in the expression: 'If you believe in God and the Last Day'. Believers are frequently reminded in the Quran, 'Be mindful of God and know that you shall meet Him' (Quran 2:233) (used in this instance to urge fitting treatment of one's wife in intimate situations). 'To Him is the homecoming/ the return' (Quran 36:83; 40:3 and passim). As a belief in the afterlife is so fundamental to Islam, it is only right that Muslims should regularly be reminded of it not only throughout the pages of the Quran but also in their daily life. Practicing Muslims in their five daily prayers repeat their praise of God at least seventeen times a day, 'The Master of the Day of Judgment' (Quran 1:4) . Being inattentive to the afterlife (Quran 30:7) or to the prospect of coming to judgment (Quran 32:14) are signs of the unbeliever.All this heightens the believer's sense of responsibility for actions in this life. In fact the principles and details of religion are meant to be seen within the framework of the interdependence of this life and the afterlife and to color the Muslims' conception of life and the universe and have a bearing on their actions in this life.

Excerpted from "Understanding The Quran" by Muhammad Abdel Haleem

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A citizen of the world, spiritually, mentally


By: Farzina Alam

William Webb would never have had to hide in the men' s room at a convention, waiting for a gaggle of girls to lose interest. But Imam Suhaib Webb is a different story. Such is the Muslim community' s fascination with this American-born Azhari student that one day he had to do just that.
"I' m married!" he says, almost at a loss for words. "This is a fitna [discord]"
Webb is hard to miss, and his charisma and vision are even harder to ignore. Whether ambling through a bookstore in Old Cairo or sitting on the floor of Al-Azhar directing visitors, Webb is clearly at home. But few Azhari students are tall, blond, blue-eyed and reared on American hip-hop in a rough part of America' s heartland.
More importantly, few students at Al-Azhar share Webb' s daunting mission. Part of the vanguard of a new generation of American Muslim leaders, he is trying to articulate an American Islam that reflects both its heritage of Eastern scholarship and the needs of its American believers. Easy? Not in the slightest.
Born in the USA
Now in his third year of study at Al-Azhar, Webb has a growing following among American and British Muslims. But he wasn' t always Imam Suhaib Webb. Once upon a time he was William Webb, born in 1972 to a Christian family in Oklahoma, where his grandfather was a preacher. "I had a lot of trouble accepting God as a human being or creation," he recalls. "Even as a young child I would ask my mother questions. Suddenly, God is one of three instead of God just being God. So I became a little confused. How could the prophets before Jesus go to heaven if they couldn' t worship Jesus? If [the criteria for heaven was] worshipping and recognizing him as a deity and [as] the key to paradise?"
At 14, Webb went through a spiritual crisis. By then he had become a gang member. "Although I came from a middle-class family, I went to a rough high school," he says. Deeply entrenched in the 1980s hip-hop community, Webb worked as a DJ.
"Hip-hop was more of a social movement than it is now. Now it' s all, 'I got girls, I got some nice gold, nice car, I' ll kill you and I love my mamma.' [Back in the] '80s and '90s, there was more of a sociopolitical, almost Afro-centric feel, which was kind of laced with the teachings of Islam due to the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X."
Webb credits this as his first exposure to Islam. "There was always a feeling among the hip-hop community and among inner city African-Americans and the whites that mix with them that Muslims are correct, and Islam is the true religion. Malcolm went that way so it must' ve been right."
He got his first copy of the Qur' an at age 17. "I read the Qur' an for three years in the restroom because I was scared my mother would pulverize me if she saw the Qur' an in her house," he says, his eyes growing wide. "It was a big deal!"
Once in college, his life became further intertwined with gang violence, culminating with his involvement in a drive-by shooting. That, he says, was a wakeup call. At the height of his material success as an artist, "I was completely empty inside and spiritually dissatisfied. I felt impoverished on an internal level."
At age 20, when most freshmen in college were joining fraternities and spending the year drunk on dormitory lawns, Webb made the shahadah (the Muslim declaration of faith, recited at the moment of conversion).
"You' re a Westerner, Brother!"
The interview is interrupted several times as visitors wander through Ibn Tulun mosque doors. Imam Suhaib greets them all. When addressing me, he keeps his eyes on the floor. He knows the mosque quarters well: When a man approaches to ask where the fatwa office is, he gives directions without a pause.
For him, converting to Islam wasn' t enough. In one year, Webb will finish his studies at Al-Azhar, adding a formal degree to his already formidable accumulation of religious knowledge: He spent 10 years studying with a Senegalese scholar and memorized the Qur' an under his guidance. He has studied with well-known sheikhs in the US and United Kingdom, and traveled to Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia to learn more. Egypt has been the first place in which he has dropped anchor.
The Muslim American Society sponsored Webb' s move to Egypt in an attempt to cultivate leaders among American Muslims and deal with a crisis facing modern Muslims in the West. In a country where about 85 percent of non-African-American mosques are led by foreign-born imams, scores of religious leaders are confronting a community they do not understand.
"We felt that the youth were very confused when dealing with imams [sent from abroad], who are not really able to understand where the youth are coming from. They don' t even speak the language at times. At times, they even exhibited behavior that is reprehensible for us in the West, like in their understanding of women and their role in the community. [] We had a hard time swallowing that, so we felt we needed some local expression.
"The quality of the [imam] is that he should have knowledge of the religion and knowledge of the place in which he articulates his views. There was a need for indigenous scholarship and articulation in America - so in order to do that, we had to sponsor people."
There are 8-9 million Muslims in America, but Webb counts only nine or 10 Americans at Azhar with him. "It' s scary because if you take all the students of [Islamic] knowledge in Syria, Saudi, and Africa - probably only 100 [American] students are out there studying, with a mere handful going back."
But it isn' t merely the imams who are to blame for this gulf of misunderstanding, he says. "The problem is also the communities these imams from abroad land in. If those communities don' t engage that imam and don' t encourage him to branch out into society, then you have problems."
As a Western convert to Islam, Webb has found himself in an unusual position: smack in the middle of East and West. Coming to terms with the responsibility such a position holds isn' t always simple. "As Western Muslims, we have a complex when we deal with the tradition. [In the sense that] we are told that traditional Islam is the savior for everything in the West. But I don' t buy that Our job as Western Muslims is to synthesize and articulate a Western Islam.
"There' s nothing wrong with that. The Malaysians articulate a Malaysian Islam. The Pakistanis love biryani; the Arabs hate spices and the Africans like a mix. We in the West, because of the society we live in, because of the way our society moves, we cannot just merely regurgitate sixth- or seventh-century texts and try to answer the crisis of humanity. Our job is to fuse both."
As a convert, knowing what aspects of East and West to adopt or reject is also a challenge. "I have to engage the tradition first, understand it, then what I learn from the teacher, I have to translate into my experience as a Westerner. And I shouldn' t be ashamed of that.
"We have a lot of brothers and sisters who convert to Islam who experience crises in dealing with modernity. What brought sovereignty to women and urbanization is modernity, what brought management - we don' t have any management here - is modernity.
"At the same time spiritually, I have issues with modernity. The absence of God, the absence of a creator. The outcome of modernity was basically Hitler and Mussolini, but we can take just the good. I felt that I didn' t want to lose my identity as a Westerner. I don' t want to start speaking like," and he adopts a fake Indian accent for a moment, "'Hello, my name is Suhaib from Oklahoma.' I meet brothers who go through this crisis. I meet people who don' t want to dress like a Westerner - why not? You' re a Westerner, brother! The Prophet rarely asked people to change their dress or their names unless their names meant something really bad."
Webb believes converts in the West have not really come to grips with this fusion. "Our job as Western Muslims is to learn our religion well, to have an understanding and articulation that' s balanced within the confines of our environment, because we represent a reservoir of prophetic guidance to the West. And the West represents a reservoir of material guidance for us." The trick, he believes, is knowing how to fuse the two.
"All of us, whether you like it or not, here [in the East] we are representatives of the West; [over] there, we are representatives of the East. Although I' m definitely not Eastern: My hair is blond, my eyes are blue. But immediately people assume I have experience with the East because I' m Muslim."
While in Egypt, Webb is equipping himself for a return to the States, where he will try to bridge the gulf he believes Western Muslims experience. "I feel I have a long way to go. I' m still in the beginning. What I' m learning here is very theoretical, I learn a lot more when I go back to my environment and I can thematically relate what I study here here it is hard for me to contextualize."
Unwanted celebrity
But, as Webb' s case shows, the respect a scholar earns in our world can be a double-edged sword. The ugly fact is that many scholars, especially white converts, cannot avoid the probing lights of celebrity.
Webb follows a long line of white convert sheikhs, such as Hamza Yusuf, Abdal-Hakim Murad (Tim Winter) and Nuh Hamim Keller, all of whom have been slated for unwelcome celebrity status. "Groupies," as the followers who amass around such scholars at public events are sometimes called, are frequently criticized for blind, unconditional acceptance of their leaders' words.
In a world where Muslims are increasingly demonized, does a white man' s conversion provide a form of validation for the followers?
"We have the habit in the West to transfer our constructs so if we like David Beckham, we replace David Beckham with so-and-so imam. Is there a subliminal factor in dealing with the white person, looking up to white people? I think so! I' ve seen our community react to an African-American becoming Muslim and saying, so what? But a white dude with blond hair who looks like Owen Wilson and everybody goes crazy.
"It' s [not] just Caucasian imams. We have a tendency to react and always blame the white man. The whole whitey syndrome, that' s also a symptom of a construct that exists within us. But I' ve seen other ethnic groups being idolized as well and put on a pedestal, which is not befitting a human being."
Webb emphasizes the importance of not creating a utopian vision of imams. "People make mistakes, people are human beings. When they let us down, we grill them and destroy them, and this is another problem." Part of the responsibility, Webb recognizes, lies with the imams themselves. His words reveal how much of this he incorporates into himself: His upbringing and his past are clearly still a large part of who he is today.
"We have to be very down to earth, sit on the floor, eating koshary, saying, 'What' s up, how the homies doin' , chill' We don' t have to be walking around with a conglomerate of bodyguards, paratroopers and storm troopers, because that creates an image that the Prophet did not want us to have.
"We have to be careful not to create that climate. When the Prophet went to Medina, people didn' t know who he was. He didn' t stick out; he was like an ordinary person. We have to be very cautious, not to translate the Catholic tendencies in the West to our religion, making imams and spiritual leaders above correction."
He shakes his head as he recalls ducking into the men' s room to escape a clutch of groupies. "I' m just Suhaib Webb. Who is Suhaib Webb? My wife can write a whole encyclopedia about my mistakes and my errors. I struggle to pray and wake up in the morning just like you. I struggle with my non-Muslim family members - I' m nothing when I go visit them. I' m William! 'Yeh, I know this guy - I knew this guy when he used to pick his nose and play basketball.' "
Some have called Webb the next Hamza Yusuf, but Webb shies away from that description. "We' re lowering him by comparing me to him. He has his own role and area to focus on. Me, I like to deal with people on more of a grassroots level. He is a very gifted person. I' m from Oklahoma; we barely speak English correctly."
But, for some, this imam is more than just William. UK government officials were recently quoted in The Guardian defining Webb as a "moderate leader" along with the likes of Hamza Yusuf and Amr Khaled. Government endorsement of this form has proven a tight squeeze for community leaders such as Webb. When Hamza Yusuf was appointed a Muslim representative and advisor to George Bush after 9/11, there was no end to the accusations of treachery he faced. Is it fair to assume that community leaders are sellouts simply because Western governments like what they have to say?
Regarding the work he recently did for UK Muslim grassroots initiative The Radical Middle Way, which was backed by the UK government, Webb says, "There was a little bit of that slack working [] on the Radical Middle Way, but we have to move beyond that and be more mature and engage. They are our governments, and we live within the framework of these governmental systems. If we reject them, what have we accomplished?" This anti-establishment trend among Muslims, Webb notes, is alarming. He stresses that accepting the system and engaging in it doesn' t mean agreeing with everything it does. "Protesting is part of engagement!" And on being labeled moderate? "I was actually pleased to be mentioned in that light - honored."
Al-Azhar in America
After earning his degree at Al-Azhar, Webb hopes to return to the States where he has planned, along with the Muslim American Society, to start a foreign version of Al-Azhar, "hopefully trying to get it recognized by Azhar itself, as an official Azhar in the West. We also want to start an official imams' training course." Above all, he wants to deal with Muslims in the West on a grassroots level. "Sometimes we' re so involved in global issues we forget the Joe, Paul, John and his lunchbox who goes to the steel mill and doesn' t know whether he should pray dhuhr and asr together because he is working all day."
In the meantime, this Azhari student has an afternoon of study and memorization ahead of him. Webb is just one of the thousands at Azhar, and the professors cut this American no slack. He is up for the challenge, because he knows that the work he has set for himself back at home will be harder than anything the sheikhs could throw at him.
Farzina Alam is a freelance writer and journalist.

An Introduction to the Quran


An Introduction to the Quran (part 1 of 2): Organization and Meanings

The Quran is the Muslim scripture, that is to say the scripture of the followers of Islam. Islam is the religion established among the Arabs - a people until then largely confined to the Arabian Peninsula - by the Prophet Muhammad in the early seventh century. The Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad by God through the agency of the angel Gabriel; this took place partly in Mecca, his hometown, and partly in Medina, where he succeeded in creating a state in an otherwise stateless tribal society. The message was revealed in Arabic, the language of the people it was initially addressed to, even though the message was ultimately for the whole of humanity. The Quran specifically mentions that Muhammad was the messenger to the whole of mankind, and that he is the last messenger to be sent. Thus, the Quran is the final message that supersedes and reiterates the basic religion God ordained for the Jews and the Christians, as well as the Muslims. Today, the total number of Muslims in the world is over a billion, making up almost a fifth of the world’s population. For all Muslim communities, whatever their language and wherever they live, the Quran is their scripture.

The Basics
The first thing to understand about the Quran is its form. The Arabic word, ‘Quran,’ literally means both ‘recitation’ and ‘reading’. Similarly, the Quran was both recited orally and written down in book form. The true power of the Quran remains in the oral recitation, as it is meant to be read aloud and melodiously, but still the verses were written down on available materials as an aid to memorizing and guarding it, and these were collected and ordered in book form both privately and, at a later stage, institutionally. The Quran was not meant to tell a chronological story, and thus, the Quran should not be viewed as a sequential narrative like the book of Genesis. The Arabic book that goes by the name Quran is about as long as the New Testament. In most editions it is about 600 pages in length.
In contrast to the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, the Quran issued from the mouth of a single person, who recited what he heard from the angel Gabriel. On the other hand, both the Jewish and the Christian scriptures are collections of many books that were written down by a large number of human beings, and opinions differ as to their status as revelation.

How Is The Quran Organized?
The Quran is composed of 114 parts or chapters of unequal length. Each chapter is called a surah in Arabic and each sentence or phrase of the Quran is called an aaya, literally ‘a sign.’ Like the Bible, the Quran is divided into discrete units, referred to as verses in English. These verses are not standard in length or meter, and where each begins and ends was not decided by human beings, but dictated by God. Each one is a discrete act of locution of closed signification, or ‘sign’, denoted by the word aayah in Arabic. The shortest of the surahs has ten words, and the longest surah, which is placed second in the text, has 6,100 words. The first surah, the Fatihah (“The Opening”), is relatively short (twenty-five words). From the second surah onward, the surahs gradually decrease in length, although this is not a hard and fast rule. The last sixty surahs take up about as much space as the second. Some of the longer aayahs are much longer than the shortest surahs. All surahs, except one, begin with Bimillah hir-Rahman nir-Rahim, ‘In the Name of God, the Most-Merciful, the Compassionate.’ Each surah has a name that usually mentions a key motto within it. For example, the longest surah, Surah al-Baqara, or “The Cow”, is named after the story of Moses commanding the Jews to offer a sacrifice of a cow, which begins by God saying:
“And remember when Moses said to his people: ‘God commands that you sacrifice a cow…’” (Quran 2:67)
Since the various chapters are of various lengths, the Quran was divided by scholars of the first century after the death of the Prophet into thirty roughly equal parts, each part is called a juz’ in Arabic. This division of the Quran was done in order for people to memorize or read it in a more organized fashion, and it has no influence on the original structure, as they are mere marks on the sides of the pages denoting the part. In the Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, one juz’ is usually recited every night, and the entire Quran is completed in the thirty days of the month.

Translations of Quran
A beginner should know a few points about Quran translations.
First, there is a distinction between the Quran and its translation. In Christian view, the Bible is the Bible, no matter what language it may be in. But a translation of the Quran is not the word of God, for the Quran is the exact Arabic words spoken by God, revealed to Prophet Muhammad by Gabriel. The word of God is only the Arabic Quran as God says:
“Indeed, I revealed it as an Arabic Quran.” (Quran 12:2)
A translation is simply an explanation of the meanings of the Quran. That is why one modern English translation has been titled “The Meaning of the Glorious Quran”: it strives only to give the meaning, but falls short, as any translation must, of reproducing the form of the Holy Book. The translated text loses the inimitable quality of the original, so be aware of the degree to which a translation reflects the original message at every level of meaning, and that it will probably not match it.. For this reason, all which is regarded as ‘recitation’ of the Quran is to be done in Arabic, such as the recitation of the Quran in the five daily prayers of the Muslims,
Second, there is no perfect translation of the Quran, and, being human works, each almost always has errors. Some translations are better in their linguistic quality, while others are noted for their exactness in portraying the meaning. Many inaccurate, and sometimes misleading, translations that are generally not accepted as reliable renditions of the Quran by mainstream Muslims are sold in the market.
Third, while a review of all the English translations is out of the scope of this article, some translations are recommended over others. The most widely read English translation is by Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali, followed by that of Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, the first translation by an English Muslim. Yusuf ‘Ali’s translation is generally acceptable, but his footnote commentary, useful at times, can be odd and unacceptable. Another widespread translation is done by Dr. Hilali and Muhsin Khan called ‘Interpretation of the Meaning of The Noble Quran.’ Although it is the most accurate, the many transliterated Arabic terms and endless parentheses makes it hard to follow and confusing for a beginner. A newer version with more flowing text has been published by Saheeh International, and this is probably a better translation, as it combines both exactness in translation and readability.

Exegesis (Tafseer in Arabic)
Although the meanings of the Quran are easy and clear to understand, one must be careful to make assertions about the religion without relying on an authentic commentary. Not only did Prophet Muhammad bring the Quran, he also explained it to his companions, and these sayings have been collected and preserved till this day. God says:
“And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the message that you may explain clearly to men what is sent for them…” (Quran 16:44)
In order to understand some of the deeper meanings of the Quran, one should rely upon commentaries which mention these statements of the Prophet as well as his companions, and not upon what they understand from the text, as their understanding of it is limited to their prior knowledge.
A specific methodology exists for exegesis of the Quran in order to extract the proper meaning. The Quranic sciences, as they are called, are an extremely specialized field of Islamic scholarship which requires mastery in multiple disciplines, like exegesis, recitations, script, inimitability, circumstances behind revelation, abrogation, Quranic grammar, unusual terms, religious rulings, and Arabic language and literature. According to scholars of Quranic exegesis, the proper method of explaining the verses of Quran are:
(i) Tafseer of the Quran by Quran.
(ii) Tafseer of the Quran by the Sunna of the Prophet.
(iii) Tafseer of the Quran by the Companions.
(iv) Tafseer of the Quran by Arabic language.
(v) Tafseer of the Quran by ‘opinion’, if it does not contradict the above four sources.

An Introduction to the Quran (part 2 of 2): Its Inimitableness and Language

Muslims are absolutely convinced of the greatness and importance of the Quran, which is usually mentioned with epithets like “noble,” “glorious,” and “pure.” What is it that so deeply moves the Muslim when reciting from the Quran, when seeing its verses, or when barely touching it?
The style of the Quran is inimitable and of divine beauty and power. Try as he may, no man can write a paragraph that is comparable to a verse of the revealed Book. This has to do partly with the literary merit of the text and the efficacy of the words - their transforming and saving power - that is inimitable. It moves an illiterate shepherd to tears when recited to him, and it has shaped the lives of millions of simple people over the course of almost fourteen centuries; it has nourished some of the most powerful intellects known to human records; it has stopped sophisticates in their tracks and made pious believers of them, and it has been the source of the most subtle philosophy and of an art which expresses its deepest meaning in visual terms; it has brought the wandering tribes of humanity together in communities and civilizations upon which its imprint is apparent even to the most casual observer.
To recite the Quran is the most sublime and edifying occupation for the Muslim, even when he or she does not intellectually understand its words, as is the case with most non-Arab believers. The Muslims’ desire to recite the Quran as beautifully as possible, and the art of tilāwat, the proper recitation, has developed into a science. Even when reciting the Book without embellishment, one has to observe certain rules of recitation. The hafiz, who “preserves” the Quran, i.e., knows it by heart, is highly respected, and boys and girls are sent at an early age to the mosque to memorize the ‘Book.’
In order not to besmirch the sacred character of the Quran, care should be taken that it is not left in a place where someone may accidentally stand, sit on or otherwise disrespect it; it is extremely disliked to use any book, let alone the Quran, as a prop for holding anything up. When not being read, the Muslim will replace it in the shelf of the bookcase, or on the lectern. Some people wrap it carefully in cloth in order to preserve it and also to be able handle it when not in a state of purity if needed. They also like to ensure that it is placed above other books, and they avoid just letting the Quran lie around. It is absolutely forbidden to take it into the place one urinates or defecates or that is a place of major impurity (toilets, middens, sheepcotes, city sewers, etc.). Even reciting it in such places is a thing not done.
Language of the Quran
The Quranic world view is closely tied to the Arabic language, which, like Hebrew and Aramaic (the language spoken by Jesus), belongs to the Semitic family. The Quran defines itself specifically as an ‘Arabic scripture’, and the message is shaped to the complex structure of the chosen language, a structure fundamentally different to that of any European tongue. The internal logic of Semitic languages is very different from that of Indo-European languages such as English, Latin, Sanskrit, and Persian. Every Arabic word may be traced back to a verbal root consisting of three, four or five consonants from which are derived up to twelve different verbal modes, together with a number of nouns and adjectives. This is referred to as the triliteral root, and specific words are formed from it by the insertion of long or short vowels and by the addition of suffixes and prefixes. The root as such is ‘dead’ - unpronounceable - until brought to life, that is to say vocalized, by the vowels, and it is according to their placing that the basic meaning is developed in a number of different directions. The root has sometimes been described as the ‘body’ while the vowelling is the ‘soul’; or again, it is from the root that a great tree grows. Without understanding the meanings and the related concepts of the Arabic words, it is impossible to appreciate the richness of the associated meanings, the difficulty of translating words into English, and the interrelationships among Arabic words that are obvious in the original.
The Muslims’ preoccupation with the sublime language of the Quran grew into the study of grammar and rhetoric, especially when non-Arabs entered the fold of Islam in increasing numbers and had to be taught about the peculiarities of the language of revelation. The belief that the Book was untranslatable forced those who embraced Islam to learn Arabic or at least to become acquainted with the Arabic alphabet. Many times, this led nations to actually adopt Arabic as their native languages, as is the case with all Arab nations save the Arabian Peninsula. This had immense consequences for other languages, such as Persian, Turkish, Malay and many others, who adopted the Arabic script. Quranic sayings and expressions are used as much in high literature as in daily conversations, even among non-Arabs, and Arab non-Muslims.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"The Establishment"

By: Maged Taman

In Wikipedia "The Establishment" is a pejorative term to refer to the traditional ruling class elite and the structures of society which they control. The term can be used to describe specific entrenched elite structures in specific institutions, but is usually informal in application and pejorative. For example, candidates for political office are often said to have to impress the "party establishment" in order to win endorsement.

This word The Establishment you hear it more in the news now than ever, particularly in the current 2008 American Presidential Election. The people of America wants to declare their dissatisfaction with The Establishment. There is no better way to declare that in a democratic country except by election. Politicians felt it and all for change now.

The American people has forced the politicians to either change or be changed. It says to the establishment we need change and we do not care if we change The Establishment or The Establishment changes itself.

The spirit of change is not known how and where it came from it is likely multi factorial. It is like a strong wind that blow on the faces of all of us. The establishment have to adapt to the wind and not to stand to its force. The media got it and is leading the people for call of change. We are in the perfect storm and we can not look back the change is a call by most Americans. It is not a proposal it is a strong demand.

It is not an empty call or a new fad it is a real new existence coming with its ideas and its strategies. It will let us all participate in a positive change in our lives. It is not only about new ideas for governing like health care and so forth but also the way in how to govern through team thinking and consensus. It is the strong wind of change that will advance our enjoyment of the advance of science and sharing wealth. It is the way of delivery it is like in health care you have all the advances and you do not have the best way of delivery.

It is not about a person or a leader it is about ideas you can feel , touch and prove. It is not an empty rhetoric it is about the fine details on plans for our future. It is not about destroying The Establishment but about deep changes in the hearts and minds of the individuals of the establishment. It is about we all compete and take the lead in this new change of America ordinary Americans or members of The Establishment. It is about getting idealism out of our hearts to be our daily reality. It is about a new spirit that change all of us to a new perfect and united America.

It is about we are to stand for each of us. It is about our success we see it in other people success and not their failures. It is about crossing all party lines all things that separate us to meet right in the middle and have everyone realises his dreams.

It is not about me or you it is about all of us. We all are the Establishment. The elites, politicians, media, CEO's .... will get it we have let them be The Establishment and it is time to know that we are the people who established them.

We are the people of America are requiring that The Establishment to feel that they are America, we and them are one and the same.

The Bible Denies the Divinity of Jesus (part 7 of 7): God and Jesus Are Two Separate Beings


By Shabir Ally

For example, in Matthew 9:2, Jesus said to a certain man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Because of this, some say that Jesus must be God since only God can forgive sins. However, if you are willing to read just a few verses further, you will find that the people “...praised God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:8). This shows that the people knew, and Matthew agrees, that Jesus is not the only man to receive such authority from God.

Jesus himself emphasized that he does not speak on his own authority (John 14:10) and he does nothing on his own authority, but he speaks only what the Father has taught him (John 8:28). What Jesus did here was as follows. Jesus announced to the man the knowledge Jesus received from God that God had forgiven the man.

Notice that Jesus did not say, “I forgive your sins,” but rather, “your sins are forgiven,” implying, as this would to his Jewish listeners, that God had forgiven the man. Jesus, then, did not have the power to forgive sins, and in that very episode he called himself “the Son of Man” (Matthew 9:6).

John 10:30 is often used as proof that Jesus is God because Jesus said, “I and the father are one.” But, if you read the next six verses, you will find Jesus explaining that his enemies were wrong to think that he was claiming to be God. What Jesus obviously means here is that he is one with the Father in purpose. Jesus also prayed that his disciples should be one just as Jesus and the Father are one. Obviously, he was not praying that all his disciples should somehow merge into one individual (see John 17:11 and 22). And when Luke reports that the disciples were all one, Luke does not mean that they became one single human being, but that they shared a common purpose although they were separate beings (see Acts 4:32). In terms of essence, Jesus and the Father are two, for Jesus said they are two witnesses (John 8:14-18). They have to be two, since one is greater than the other (see John 14:28). When Jesus prayed to be saved from the cross, he said: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
This shows that they had two separate wills, although Jesus submitted his will to the will of the Father. Two wills mean two separate individuals.

Furthermore, Jesus is reported to have said: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). If one of them forsook the other, then they must be two separate entities. Again, Jesus is reported to have said: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46). If the spirit of one can be placed into the hands of another, they must be two separate beings.

In all of these instances, Jesus is clearly subordinate to the Father. When Jesus knelt down and prayed he obviously was not praying to himself (see Luke 22:41). He was praying to his God.
Throughout the New Testament, the Father alone is called God. In fact, the titles “Father” and “God” are used to designate one individual, not three, and never Jesus. This is also clear from the fact that Matthew substituted the title “Father” in the place of the title “God” in at least two places in his Gospel (compare Matthew 10:29 with Luke 12:6, and Matthew 12:50 with Mark 3:35). If Matthew is right in doing so, then the Father alone is God.

Was Jesus the Father? No! Because Jesus said: “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9). So Jesus is not the Father, since Jesus was standing on the earth when he said this.

The Quran seeks to bring people back to the true faith that was taught by Jesus, and by his true disciples who continued in his teaching. That teaching emphasized a continued commitment to the first commandment that God is alone. In the Quran, God directs Muslims to call readers of the Bible back to that true faith. God have said in the Quran:
Say: “O people of the Book (Christians and Jews)! Come to a word that is just between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords beside God.” (Quran, 3:64)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Bible Denies the Divinity of Jesus (part 6 of 7): Evidence from the Gospel of John


By Shabir Ally

The Gospel of John, the fourth Gospel, was completed to its present form some seventy years after Jesus was raised up to heaven. This Gospel in its final form says one more thing about Jesus that was unknown from the previous three Gospels — that Jesus was the Word of God. John means that Jesus was God’s agent through whom God created everything else. This is often misunderstood to mean that Jesus was God Himself. But John was saying, as Paul had already said, that Jesus was God’s first creature. In the Book of Revelation in the Bible, we find that Jesus is: “the beginning of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14, also see 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Colossians 1:15).
Anyone who says that the Word of God is a person distinct from God must also admit that the Word was created, for the Word speaks in the Bible saying: “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works...” (Proverbs 8:22).
This Gospel, nevertheless, clearly teaches that Jesus is not God. If it did not continue this teaching, then it would contradict the other three Gospels and also the letters of Paul from which it is clearly established that Jesus is not God. We find here that Jesus was not co-equal with the Father, for Jesus said: “...the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28).
People forget this and they say that Jesus is equal to the Father. Whom should we believe — Jesus or the people? Muslims and Christians agree that God is self-existent. This means that He does not derive his existence from anyone. Yet John tells us that Jesus’ existence is caused by the Father. Jesus said in this Gospel: “...I live because of the Father...” (John 6:57).
John tells us that Jesus cannot do anything by his own when he quotes Jesus as saying: “By myself I can do nothing...” (John 5:30). This agrees with what we learn about Jesus from other Gospels. In Mark, for example, we learn that Jesus performed miracles by a power which was not within his control. This is especially clear from an episode in which a woman is healed of her incurable bleeding. The woman came up behind him and touched his cloak, and she was immediately healed. But Jesus had no idea who touched him. Mark describes Jesus’ actions thus: “At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’” (Mark 5:30). His disciples could not provide a satisfactory answer, so Mark tells us: “Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.” (Mark 5:32). This shows that the power that healed the woman was not within Jesus’ control. He knew that the power had gone out of him, but he did not know where it went. Some other intelligent being had to guide that power to the woman who needed to be healed. God was that intelligent being.
It is no wonder, then, that in Acts of the Apostles we read that it was God who did the miracles through Jesus (Acts 2:22).
God did extraordinary miracles through others too, but that does not make the others God (see Acts 19:11). Why, then, is Jesus taken for God? Even when Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, he had to ask God to do it. Lazarus’ sister, Martha, knew this, for she said to Jesus: “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:22).
Martha knew that Jesus was not God, and John who reported this with approval knew it also. Jesus had a God, for when he was about to ascend to heaven, he said: “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” (John 20:17).
John was sure that no one had seen God, although he knew that many people had seen Jesus (see John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12). In fact Jesus himself told the crowds, that they have never seen the Father, nor have they heard the Father’s voice (John 5:37). Notice that if Jesus was the Father, his statement here would be false. Who is the only God in John’s Gospel? The Father alone.
Jesus testified this when he declared that the God of the Jews is the Father (John 8:54). Jesus too confirmed that the Father alone is the only true God (see John 17:1-3). And Jesus said to his enemies: “ are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.” (John 8:40). According to John, therefore, Jesus was not God, and nothing John wrote should be taken as proof that he was God — unless one wishes to disagree with John.
Previous: The Bible Denies the Divinity of Jesus (part 5 of 7): Paul Believed That Jesus is not God

Was Islam Spread by the Sword?


By AlJumuah Magazine

It is a common misconception with some non-Muslims that Islam would not have millions of adherents all over the world, if it had not been spread by the use of force.
The following points will make it clear, that far from being spread by the sword, it was the inherent force of truth, reason and logic that was responsible for the rapid spread of Islam.
Islam has always given respect and freedom of religion to all faiths. Freedom of religion is ordained in the Quran itself:
“There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong.” (Quran 2:256)
The noted historian De Lacy O’Leary wrote:[1] “History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.”
The famous historian, Thomas Carlyle, in his book Heroes and Hero worship, refers to this misconception about the spread of Islam: “The sword indeed, but where will you get your sword? Every new opinion, at its starting is precisely in a minority of one; in one man’s head alone. There it dwells as yet. One man alone of the whole world believes it, there is one man against all men. That he takes a sword and tries to propagate with that will do little for him. You must get your sword! On the whole, a thing will propagate itself as it can.”
If Islam was spread by the sword, it was the sword of intellect and convincing arguments. It is this sword that conquers the hearts and minds of people. The Quran says in this connection:
“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best.” (Quran 16:125)
The facts speak for themselves
· Indonesia is the country that has the largest number of Muslims in the world, and the majority of people in Malaysia are Muslims. But, no Muslim army ever went to Indonesia or Malaysia. It is an established historical fact that Indonesia entered Islam not due to war, but because of its moral message. Despite the disappearance of Islamic government from many regions once ruled by it, their original inhabitants have remained Muslims. Moreover, they carried the message of truth, inviting others to it as well, and in so doing endured harm, affliction and oppression. The same can be said for those in the regions of Syria and Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, North Africa, Asia, the Balkans and in Spain. This shows that the effect of Islam on the population was one of moral conviction, in contrast to occupation by western colonialists, finally compelled to leave lands whose peoples held only memories of affliction, sorrow, subjugation and oppression.
· Muslims ruled Spain (Andalusia) for about 800 years. During this period the Christians and Jews enjoyed freedom to practice their respective religions, and this is a documented historical fact.
· Christian and Jewish minorities have survived in the Muslim lands of the Middle East for centuries. Countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan all have significant Christian and Jewish populations.
· Muslims ruled India for about a thousand years, and therefore had the power to force each and every non-Muslim of India to convert to Islam, but they did not, and thus more than 80% of the Indian population remains non-Muslim.
· Similarly, Islam spread rapidly on the East Coast of Africa. And likewise no Muslim army was ever dispatched to the East Coast of Africa.
· An article in Reader’s Digest ‘Almanac’, yearbook 1986, gives the statistics of the increase of the percentage of the major religions of the world in half a century from 1934 to 1984. This article also appeared in The Plain Truth magazine. At the top was Islam, which increased by 235%, while Christianity had increased by 47%. During this fifty-year period, there was no “Islamic conquest” yet Islam spread at an extraordinary rate.
· Today the fastest growing religion in America and Europe is Islam. The Muslims in these lands are a minority. The only sword they have in their possession is the sword of truth. It is this sword that is converting thousands to Islam.
· Islamic law protects the privileged status of minorities, and that is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. Islamic law also allows non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the minorities themselves. The life and property of all citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred whether they are Muslims or not.
It is clear, therefore, that Islam did not spread by the sword. The “sword of Islam” did not convert all the non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries. In India, where Muslims ruled for 800 years, they are still a minority. In the U.S.A., Islam is the fastest growing religion and has over six million followers.
In his book The World’s Religions, Huston Smith discusses how the prophet Muhammad granted freedom of religion to the Jews and Christians under Muslim rule:
The Prophet had a document drawn up in which he stipulated that Jews and Christians “shall be protected from all insults and harm; they shall have an equal right with our own people to our assistance and good offices,” and further, “they shall practice their religion as freely as the Muslims.”[2]
Smith points out that Muslims regard that document as the first charter of freedom of conscience in human history and the authoritative model for those of every subsequent Muslim state.
[1] In his book Islam at the Crossroads, p.8.
[2] Quoted in The World’s Religions by Huston Smith, Harper Collins, 1991, p. 256