Friday, October 31, 2008
By Abdul Rahman al-Sheha*
Islam removes all the impositions of barriers and classes among the members of the Islamic society in order to enable them to enjoy and practise their legitimate rights. No discrimination of any type is allowed in Islam. Lineage, colour, region or language must not give individuals any special class or status in the Islamic society. This is done essentially to avoid difference between the privileged or under-privileged on account of his colour, race, social class, nationality or any other means of discriminations.This is based on the verse of the Glorious Qur’an Sura Nisa [Women] 4:1 the meaning of which is translated as: “Oh mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single Person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women; fear Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.”
It is also based on the statement of Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam – peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “O Mankind! Your Lord is One. Your (grand)father is one. All of you belong to Adam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Adam is created of soil (earth dirt). Truly, the most honourable person in the Sight of Your Lord, the Almighty Allah, is the most pious among you. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab. There is no superiority for a non-Arab over an Arab. There is no superiority for a red (race) person over a white person. Likewise, there is no superiority of a white over a red (race) person except for the level of piety (mindfulness of God, the Almighty Allah in life and practices)”[Ahmad, Hadith No.411]. *
The basis of humanity with all its races, according to Islam, is one source without any distinction. Islam does not tolerate any false pride in lineage, social status and belonging and the like. Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) says, “The Almighty Allah has removed the false pride-taking, which was practised in the pre-Islamic period, where individuals took false pride with their ancestors (forefathers). All mankind belongs (in lineage) to Adam. Adam is created of soil (earth dirt)”[AbuDaoud, Hadith No.5116].*
Furthermore, Islam bans all types of discriminations, as pointed earlier. No racial discrimination is allowed or tolerated according to Islam. Previously, Jews and Christians considered themselves of a higher breed, race or class of people. Based on this the Almighty Allah exposed the truth of Jews and Christians as stated in the Glorious Qur’an Sura Maiedah [The Table] 5:18 the meaning of which is translated as: “(Both) the Jews and the Christians say:We are sons of Allah, and His beloved. Say:Why then does He punish you for your sins? Nay, you are but men, of the men He has created: He forgives whom He pleases, and He punishes whom He pleases: and to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between: and unto Him is the final goal (of all)”.
It is also reported that one of the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) namely Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) once said to black slave who served him, calling him as follows: O the son of the black lady. Upon hearing this call, Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) turned to Abu Dharr and said to him immediately: “Are you insulting this man with his own (black) mother? Truly, you still possess some of the qualities of the pre-Islamic era. It is over. It is over. There is no virtue or merits for the son of the white woman over the black woman except for piety and righteousness or good deeds and actions”[Ahmad, 4:145]. Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) upon hearing the comment of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) put his head down on the ground for his slave servant to come and step with his black foot on his head although the Prophet did not command him to do so. Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) felt very bad and regretted what he did and that was the reason that urged him to lay his head on the ground for his black slave servant to step on it in retaliation and revenge for what he, the master, attacked his servant with. Moreover, Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) wanted to discipline himself in a hard and humiliating way so as he would never repeat such a sin in the future.* Similarly, all people are alike and equal in terms of the various acts of worship.
The rich, the poor, the leader, the peasant, the white, the black, the dignified, the humiliated are all alike and equal before Allah in terms of all acts of worship in Islam. All commands, and all prohibitory items, are applicable to all without any distinction because of class, social status or race. The Almighty Allah states in the Glorious Qur’an Sura Fussilat 41:46 the meaning of which is translated as: “Whoever works righteousness benefits his own soul; whoever works evil, it is against his own soul: nor is Your Lord ever unjust (in the least) to His Servants”.
The differentiation between individuals in the Sight of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is based on their levels of piety, righteousness, compliance of the Commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. The Almighty Allah states in the Glorious Qur’an Sura Hujurat [The Chambers] 49:13 the meaning of which is translated as: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the Sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. In addition, Allah has full Knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).”*
All individuals are equal in Islamic code of law. Penalties, judgments and legal sentences are applicable to all classes of people without any distinction. There are no particular forms of penalties or sentences for a certain class of people. All people are equal within the jurisdiction of Islamic law. No individual or class of people has immunity over and above the Islamic laws.‘A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) reported that the Koraishites were too concerned when a Makhzoomi woman stole and Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) wanted to apply the corporal punishment in her case, amputating her hand. The Koraishites consulted among themselves and said, ‘The best person to talk about the Makhzoomi woman thief to the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is his most beloved Companion (and the son of his most beloved companion) Osamah bin Zaid (may Allah be pleased with him)’.Thus, Osamah (may Allah be pleased with him) spoke to the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) concerning the Makhzomi, woman. Upon listening to Osamah (may Allah be pleased with him), Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said, ‘O Osamah! Are you coming to intercede concerning a corporal punishment set by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala? (How dare you do this?)’.Allah’s Messenger (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) stood up, as soon as he finished his conversation with Osamah and delivered a speech saying, “The people (or nations) before you were destroyed due to the fact that when a noble person among them would steal, they let him go unpunished, but if a poor, weak and gullible person among them steals they will apply the corporal punishment to him. By Allah! If Fatimah (may Allah be pleased with him); the daughter of Muhammad stole (the value where she will be subject to corporal punishment) I shall cut her hand” [Bukahri Hadith No.6406 and Muslim, Hadith No.9].*
All members of the nation have the right to benefit from the national resources. Also, all are equal in this right. This means that individuals have an equal right to receive a fair share of the national Islamic wealth. However, they will not be equal in terms of work they present.The first Caliph; Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) distributed the gifts among the Muslims equally. A group of people differed with him in opinion on this distribution and argued, ‘O Caliph of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam)! We notice that you have distributed the gifts in equal shares among people. However, certain individuals have certain virtues and priorities. We wish that you had given a special gift to such individuals’.Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) replied: “How can I tell the specific virtues and privileges of the individuals you mentioned? What I give is merely a living allowance. Offering an equal living allowance to people is better than favouring certain individuals. As for those who presented extra work for Islam their rewards are preserved with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) As for this worldly wealth, it is here for the good pious person and the evil ones. This wealth is not remuneration for the works they presented” [See, Abu Yala, ‘al-Ahkahm al-Sultaniyah’ (Sultanic Rules), p.222].
Each member of the Islamic society has a right to the national wealth and buried land resources, such as oil, gold, silver, diamond and other precious metals. Islamic government must exert every effort to secure job opportunities for its constituents and organise the utilisation of such national resources. None has the right to monopolise, abuse or act for his personal interest on national resources. The Almighty Allah states in the Glorious Qur’an Sura Mulk [The Kingship] 67:15 the meaning of which is translated as: “It is He Who has made the earth manageable for you, so traverse you through its tracts and enjoy of the Sustenance which He furnishes: but unto Him is the Resurrection”.*
Islam declares all people equal in terms of human values. The only distinction between people is on the basis of service that the individual presents to his society and community. Moreover, Islam looks at the religious, social or worldly services that individuals offer to their society and community.Islam, for instance, does not look at a hardworking individual and a sluggish on equal footing in terms of pay and financial rewards. Islam, also, does not treat the good and evil individuals equally in terms of rewards and punishments. The Almighty Allah states in the Glorious Qur’an Sura Anam [Cattle] 6:132 the meaning of which is translated as: “To all are degrees (or ranks) according to their deeds: for Your Lord is not unmindful of anything that they do”.
*From his book Misconceptions About Human Rights in Islam
1- To be noted there is no socialism or communism in Islam.
2- There is however social jusitce.
3- Flat taxes is encouraged.
4- Giving money to the poor is common in the major three religions. Islam has it as a fixed value of 2.5% of non-used capital to be sure we have the minimum to support the poor.
5- Sharia is only applied on Muslims.
6- Making a cut in a theif hand was made quite difficult as a law to apply. It is the job of the government not let people became theives.
7- The law of stonning for adultry was made quite difficult to apply. It protected the sinners and more so the crazy honour killing. Meanwhile Islam is very strong in upholding the virtue and pure society.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
1- The Quran is no doubt from the Lord of the worlds:
2:2 This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil). -
ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ (2:2)
32:2 The revelation of the Scripture whereof there is no doubt is from the Lord of the Worlds. -
تَنزِيلُ الْكِتَابِ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهِ مِن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (32:2)
2- No doubt there will be a day of judgment:
45:26 Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Allah giveth life to you, then causeth you to die, then gathereth you unto the Day of Resurrection whereof there is no doubt. But most of mankind know not. قُلِ اللَّهُ يُحْيِيكُمْ ثُمَّ يُمِيتُكُمْ ثُمَّ يَجْمَعُكُمْ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ لَا رَيبَ فِيهِ وَلَكِنَّ أَكَثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (45:26)
45:32 And when it was said: Lo! Allah's promise is the truth, and there is no doubt of the Hour's coming, ye said: We know not what the Hour is. We deem it naught but a conjecture, and we are by no means convinced. وَإِذَا قِيلَ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَالسَّاعَةُ لَا رَيْبَ فِيهَا قُلْتُم مَّا نَدْرِي مَا السَّاعَةُ إِن نَّظُنُّ إِلَّا ظَنًّا وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمُسْتَيْقِنِينَ (45:32)
4:87 God - save whom there is no deity - will surely gather you all together on the Day of Resurrection, [the coming of] which is beyond all doubt: and whose word could be truer than God's? اللّهُ لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ لَيَجْمَعَنَّكُمْ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ لاَ رَيْبَ فِيهِ وَمَنْ أَصْدَقُ مِنَ اللّهِ حَدِيثًا (4:87)
3- Muslims may have occasional doubt even the prophet: when this happen one to ask God forgiveness and assert his belief by going through the proofs of the Quran.
10:94 And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. فَإِن كُنتَ فِي شَكٍّ مِّمَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ فَاسْأَلِ الَّذِينَ يَقْرَؤُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكَ لَقَدْ جَاءكَ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ فَلاَ تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُمْتَرِينَ (10:94)
4- Living in persistent doubt is disbelief:
14:9 Hath not the history of those before you reached you: the folk of Noah. and (the tribes of) Aad and Thamud, and those after them? None save Allah knoweth them. Their messengers came unto them with clear proofs, but they thrust their hands into their mouths, and said: Lo! we disbelieve in that wherewith ye have been sent, and lo! we are in grave doubt concerning that to which ye call us. أَلَمْ يَأْتِكُمْ نَبَأُ الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَعَادٍ وَثَمُودَ وَالَّذِينَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ لاَ يَعْلَمُهُمْ إِلاَّ اللّهُ جَاءتْهُمْ رُسُلُهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَرَدُّواْ أَيْدِيَهُمْ فِي أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَقَالُواْ إِنَّا كَفَرْنَا بِمَا أُرْسِلْتُم بِهِ وَإِنَّا لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّمَّا تَدْعُونَنَا إِلَيْهِ مُرِيبٍ (14:9)5- Living and dying in doubt or disbelief will be your gate to hell:
57:14 They will cry unto them (saying): Were we not with you? They will say: Yea, verily; but ye tempted one another, and hesitated, and doubted, and vain desires beguiled you till the ordinance of Allah came to pass; and the deceiver deceived you concerning Allah; يُنَادُونَهُمْ أَلَمْ نَكُن مَّعَكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَى وَلَكِنَّكُمْ فَتَنتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ وَتَرَبَّصْتُمْ وَارْتَبْتُمْ وَغَرَّتْكُمُ الْأَمَانِيُّ حَتَّى جَاء أَمْرُ اللَّهِ وَغَرَّكُم بِاللَّهِ الْغَرُورُ (57:14)
6- The faithful are those who believe and conquer their doubts:
49:15 The (true) believers are those only who believe in Allah and His messenger and afterward doubt not, but strive with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah. Such are the sincere. إِنَّمَا الْمُؤْمِنُونَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَرْتَابُوا وَجَاهَدُوا بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الصَّادِقُونَ (49:15)
By Laurence B. Brown, MD
Let’s talk frankly. Almost never do non-Muslims study Islam until they have first exhausted the religions of their exposure. Only after they have grown dissatisfied with the religions familiar to them, meaning Judaism, Christianity and all the fashionable “-isms”—Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism (and, as my young daughter once added, “tourism”)—do they consider Islam.
Perhaps other religions do not answer the big questions of life, such as “Who made us?” and “Why are we here?” Perhaps other religions do not reconcile the injustices of life with a fair and just Creator. Perhaps we find hypocrisy in the clergy, untenable tenets of faith in the canon, or corruption in the scripture. Whatever the reason, we perceive shortcomings in the religions of our exposure, and look elsewhere. And the ultimate “elsewhere” is Islam.
Now, Muslims would not like to hear me say that Islam is the “ultimate elsewhere.” But it is. Despite the fact that Muslims comprise one-fourth to one-fifth of the world’s population, non-Muslim media smears Islam with such horrible slanders that few non-Muslims view the religion in a positive light. Hence, it is normally the last religion seekers investigate.
Another problem is that by the time non-Muslims examine Islam, other religions have typically heightened their skepticism: If every “God-given” scripture we have ever seen is corrupt, how can the Islamic scripture be different? If charlatans have manipulated religions to suit their desires, how can we imagine the same not to have happened with Islam?
The answer can be given in a few lines, but takes books to explain. The short answer is this: There is a God. He is fair and just, and He wants us to achieve the reward of paradise. However, God has placed us in this worldly life as a test, to weed out the worthy from the unworthy. And we will be lost if left to our own devices. Why? Because we don’t know what He wants from us. We can’t navigate the twists and turns of this life without His guidance, and hence, He has given us guidance in the form of revelation.
Sure, previous religions have been corrupted, and that is one of the reasons why we have a chain of revelation. Ask yourself: wouldn’t God send another revelation if the preceding scriptures were impure? If preceding scriptures were corrupted, humans would need another revelation, to keep upon the straight path of His design.
So we should expect preceding scriptures to be corrupted, and we should expect the final revelation to be pure and unadulterated,for we cannot imagine a loving God leaving us astray. What we can imagine is God giving us a scripture, and men corrupting it; God giving us another scripture, and men corrupting it again … and again, and again. Until God sends a final revelation He promises to preserve until the end of time.
Muslims consider this final revelation to be the Holy Quran. You consider it … worth looking into. So let us return to the title of this article: Why Islam? Why should we believe that Islam is the religion of truth, the religion that possesses the pure and final revelation?
“Oh, just trust me.”
Now, how many times have you heard that line? A famous comedian used to joke that people of different cities cuss one another out in different ways. In Chicago, they cuss a person out this way, in Los Angeles they cuss a person out that way, but in New York they just say, “Trust me.”
So don’t trust me—trust our Creator. Read the Quran, read books and study good websites. But whatever you do, get started, take it seriously, and pray for our Creator to guide you.
Your life may not depend on it, but your soul most definitely does.
Copyright © 2007 Laurence B. Brown; used by permission.
About the author:Laurence B. Brown, MD, can be contacted at BrownL38@yahoo.com. He is the author of The First and Final Commandment (Amana Publications) and Bearing True Witness (Dar-us-Salam). Forthcoming books are a historical thriller, The Eighth Scroll, and a second edition of The First and Final Commandment, rewritten and divided into MisGod'ed and its sequel, God’ed.
In the British newspaper the "Daily News" 25/6/84 under the heading "Shock survey of Anglican Bishops" We read
"More than half of England's Anglican Bishops say that Christians are not obliged to believe that Jesus Christ was God, according to a survey published today. The pole of 31 of England's 39 bishops shows that many of them think that Christ's miracles, the virgin birth and the resurrection might not have happened exactly as described in the Bible. Only 11 of the bishops insisted that Christians must regard Christ as both God and man, while 19 said it was sufficient to regard Jesus as 'God's supreme agent'"
But what is a messenger of God? Is he not "God's supreme agent" ?. This is indeed what God Himself has already told us in the noble Qur'an 1400 years ago, and exactly what Jesus (pbuh) himself testified to in the Bible:
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent."
Astounding, isn't it? With every passing day, the most learned among the Christian community are slowly recognizing the truth and drawing closer and closer to Islam. These are not Muslims who issued this statement. These are not "liberal" Christians. These are the most learned and most highly esteemed men of the Anglican Church. These men have dedicated their whole lives to the study of the religion of Jesus, and their study has driven them to the truth which God had already revealed to them in the Qur'an 1400 years ago: That Jesus was not God. That God is not a Trinity. And that the stories of the ministry of Jesus in the Bible have been extensively tampered with by the hands of mankind.
"And when Allah said: O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he said: Be You glorified. It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then You knew it. You know what is in my [innermost] self but I know not what is in Yours. Truly! You, only You are the Knower of things hidden. I spoke unto them only that which You commanded me, (saying): Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord, and I was a witness over them while I dwelt among them, and when You took me You were the Watcher over them, and You are Witness over all things."
The noble Qur'an, Al-Maidah(5):116-118
The Church, as Heinz Zahrnt put it "put words into the mouth of Jesus which he never spoke and attributed actions to him which he never performed." One of those who has shown that most of what the church says about Jesus is baseless is Rudolph Augustein in his book "Jesus the Son of Man." Another very comprehensive study of this matter can be found in the book "The Myth of God Incarnate" which was written by seven theologian scholars in England in 1977 and edited by John Hick. Their conclusion in this matter is that Jesus was "a man approved by God, for a special role within the divine purpose, and..... the later conception of him as God incarnate ... is a mythological or poetic way of expressing his significance for us." See also John Mackinnon Robertson's "Christianity and Mythology" T.W Doane's "The Bible Myths and their Parallels in Other Religions" (A good summary of these studies is available in M.F. Ansarei, "Islam and Christianity in the Modern World").
A University of Richmond professor, Dr. Robert Alley, after considerable research into newly found ancient documents concludes that
"....The (Biblical) passages where Jesus talks about the Son of God are later additions.... what the church said about him. Such a claim of deity for himself would not have been consistent with his entire lifestyle as we can reconstruct. For the first three decades after Jesus' death Christianity continued as a sect within Judaism. The first three decades of the existence of the church were within the synagogue. That would have been beyond belief if they (the followers) had boldly proclaimed the deity of Jesus."
Is there any confirmation of this in the Bible, yes! If we were to read the Bible we would find that long after the departure of Jesus, his faithful followers continued to "keep up their daily attendance at the Temple" (Acts 2:46) It would be beyond belief to imagine that had Jesus indeed preached to his apostles that he was God, and if Jesus had indeed commanded them to forsake the commandments, that they would then disregard all of this and continue to worship in a Jewish synagogue on a daily basis, let alone the great Temple itself. It is further beyond belief that the Jews of the Temple would stand idly by and allow them to do this if they were preaching the total cancellation of the law of Moses and that Jesus was God.
Can any Trinitarian Christian, even in their wildest fantasies, imagine that the Jews in an orthodox Jewish synagogue would stand idly by while he took out his cross and prayed to Jesus in the midst of their synagogue and was publicly calling others to worship Jesus and forsake the commandments? How much more preposterous to imagine that they would have nothing to say to someone who did that in their most sacred of all synagogues, the Temple, on a daily basis yet.
This is further evidence in support of the Qur'an, that Jesus only called his followers to a continuation of the religion of Moses and not by any means to the total cancellation and destruction of that law.
In the previous section, we read the following verses of the Bible:
"Know therefore this day, and consider [it] in thine heart, that the LORD he [is] God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: [there is] none else." Deuteronomy 4:39.
"Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3
"For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name [is] Jealous, [is] a jealous God:" Exodus 34:14
"Ye [are] my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I [am] he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, [even] I, [am] the LORD; and beside me [there is] no savior." Isaiah 43:10-11.
"Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I [am] the first, and I [am] the last; and beside me [there is] no God." Isaiah 44:6
"That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that [there is] none beside me. I [am] the LORD, and [there is] none else." Isaiah 45:6
"For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I [am] the LORD; and [there is] none else." Isaiah 45:18.
"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I [am] God, and [there is] none else." Isaiah 45:22
Now we should begin to ask ourselves: If there was no god before or after God Almighty, then how was Jesus (pbuh) "begotten" as a god? The answer is: he was not. He was a mortal man, not a god. We even have the testimony of the majority of today's Anglican Bishops in defense of this basic truth. If we want the testimony of a trustworthy witness then how much more trustworthy a witness shall we ever find than the majority of the most learned and respected conservative Christians of the Anglican Church?
The Bible only preaches that Jesus is God and that God is a Trinity to those who do not know it's innermost details and the truth of the history of the Church as these men have come to know it. But let us move on in our study of the Biblical verses so that we can see only a small sampling of the evidence that has made the truth clear to these men.
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Muslim-SA@acsu.buffalo.eduLast modified: Sun Nov 17 03:22:21 EST 1996
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
By: Porfessor: Shahoul Hameed
There are a number of vital differences between the Qur’an and other scriptures like the Torah and the Gospel:1. From the moment of the first revelation to the Prophet (pbuh), the believers were learning the Qur’an by heart, and recording it correctly. It is obligatory that every Muslim must learn at least a portion of the Book by heart. There are thousands and thousands of Muslims all over the world, who have learned the whole Qur’an by heart; and no other book has such an honor. From the very beginning, the Qur’an has been in the hearts and hands of the people; and no other book can make that claim.
2. The Qur’an is the Last Testament of God for Man; it is Divine Guidance perfected and preserved from corruption; and it is the only Book that calls itself “a Guidance for the God-fearing” and “a Healing and a Mercy for the believers” most emphatically; and repeatedly it is stated that it is from the One and Only God of the universe. Neither the Torah, nor the Gospel does this.
3. The Qur’an is the completion and confirmation of all the truth in the previous scriptures; it verifies and affirms the truth in all the Books of God and recognizes all the prophets of God before it, including Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, peace be on them all. No other scripture does this.
4. The Qur’an is a complete Guidance to man, and Muslims must order their lives in accordance with the norms given in the Qur’an in all walks of their life; while other communities do not make such a claim about their scriptures.
5. The Qur’an is the most frequently read book in the world, as its verses are recited five times daily in the prayers all over the world; and all pious Muslims read at least a few verses from it every morning. This has been happening without break for over fourteen centuries. Is their any other book like this?
6. A whole month of fasting and prayer is held in commemoration of the Descent of the Qur’an to the earth; no other book has such an honor.
7. The Qur’an is the only scripture that remains intact in its original form, in a living language, namely Arabic. And what is more, it is still understood by the Arabic speaking peoples; because the Qur’an has been keeping all through the centuries its unchallenged sway over the grammar and syntax of literary Arabic; whereas the original languages in which all other scriptures were revealed or composed are dead languages now.
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “If there were a Qur’an with which mountains were moved, or the earth were cloven asunder, or the dead were made to speak, (this would be the one!) But, truly, the command is with Allah in all things! Do not the Believers know, that, had Allah (so) willed, He could have guided all mankind (to the right)? But the Unbelievers,- never will disaster cease to seize them for their (ill) deeds, or to settle close to their homes, until the promise of Allah come to pass, for, verily, Allah will not fail in His promise.” (13:31)
The Islamic religious year is known as Hijri year. It began with the Hijrah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from Makkah to Madinah in the year 622 of the common era. The twelve-month year is based on a purely lunar cycle of 354 days. Thus Islamic dates have no fixed relation to the seasons of the 365 day solar year. Over the course of years all Islamic events may occur in spring, summer, autumn or winter.
Twelve Islamic months are as follows:
Muharram ul Haram
Following are the most important religious days in Islam:
This is the main day of weekly religious service in Islam. Mosques are usually filled to capacity with worshippers on this day. Worship service which consists of sermon and congregational prayer is held around noon time. In most Muslim countries Friday is also a weekly holiday. Government offices and schools are closed on this day.
Muslims respect Friday because, according to Islamic tradition, it was the first day of creation when God created the heavens and earth. It is also believed to be the day when the resurrection will take place and so it will be the Day of Judgment. Muslims believe that Friday has a special cosmic significance and it is a very blessed day of the week.
Ramadan (9th month):
Ramadan is the ninth month of Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims consider this whole month a blessed month. They fast during the days of this month and make special prayers at night. People also give more charity and do extra righteous deeds.
During the month of Ramadan, Prophet Muhammad received the first revelation. The angel Gabriel came to him while he was in the cave of Hira, near Makkah, and told him that God had appointed Muhammad as His last Messenger and Prophet. Muhammad began his prophetic mission from that time and started preaching the divine message that continued coming to him at different intervals during the rest of his life for 23 years. Ramadan is thus the month of celebration as well as the month of discipline and self control.
Laylat al Qadr:
This is a special night of the month of Ramadan. The Qur'an has spoken about this night in Surah 97, al Qadr. It is mentioned that the Qur'an was sent down in the Night of Qadr. The Night of Qadr is better than one thousand months. The whole night is blessed, it is full of peace and angelic presence. Although it is not told exactly which night of the month of Ramadan is the Night of Qadr, Muslim make special prayers in the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan, hoping that one of it is the blessed Night of Qadr.
Popularly the night of the 27th of Ramadan is celebrated with special prayers and vigils. Mosques are full of worshippers and special prayers services, readings from the Qur'an and religious chants are performed in mosques or private gatherings.
Eid-ul-Fitr (1st of Shawwal, 10th month):
At the conclusion of the month of Ramadan, on the first day of the 10th month of Islamic lunar calendar occurs Eid-ul-Fitr. This is one of two main festivals of Islam and is celebrated by all Muslims throughout the world
The ceremony of Eid-ul-Fitr starts early morning with a worship service. This service is generally held in a large open place and is attended by thousands of Muslims. After the prayer the leader of the prayer (Imam) delivers a short sermon and then people greet each other. The rest of the ceremonies are held generally privately with families and friends.
The significance of Eid is that it is a day of thanksgiving to Allah that He gave the opportunity to Muslims to benefit from and enjoy the blessings of the month of Ramadan.
The Day of Hajj (9th of Dhul Hijjah, 12th month):
Pilgrimage (Hajj) is one of the five pillars of Islam. Every adult Muslim who can afford it physically and financially must perform Hajj at least once in his/her life. The Hajj takes about five days, beginning from the eighth day until the twelfth . The twelfth month of Islamic year is named after Hajj and is called Dhul Hijjah.
Hajj ceremonies take a pilgrim from Makkah to its surrounding historical places Mina, `Arafah and Muzdalifa. The main day of Hajj is the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah. On this day all pilgrims must gather in the valley of `Arafah from mid day until sunset. Muslims in other places who are not on pilgrimage often observe this day of `Arafah with fasting. It is an optional fasting and is considered very meritorious.
Eid-ul-Adha (from 10 12 of Dhul Hijjah, 12th month):
Following the day of Hajj comes Eid-ul-Adha. It begins from the 10th day of the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This is the second main annual festival in Islam. On this day also exactly like the previous celebration, festivities begin with a prayer service held in an open place in the morning of the first day. This prayer is attended by a large number of Muslims. Since this festival occurs immediately after the Day of Pilgrimage those who go to make pilgrimage celebrate it in Mina, near Makkah. Other Muslims around the world also join with the pilgrims in their joy and thanksgiving.
Another significance of Idul Adha is that it is a time of sacrifice. Muslims commemorate Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. Since God gave Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) a lamb to sacrifice instead of sacrificing his only son, Muslims also offer the sacrifices of animals. The sacrifice can be done after the prayer on the 10th until the 12th before sunset. The meat of the animals is given to needy people and friends and a portion of it is also kept for one's own consumption. Often people cook this meat during the holidays, make feasts and enjoy the celebration.
Other important days:
The above days are universally recognized by all Muslims. There are some other important days that are often celebrated by Muslims with varying degrees of enthusiasm and devotion. Some Muslims do not consider them as religious holidays at all.
New Year Day (First day of Muharram, 1st month):
The New Year Day of Hijrah reminds Muslims of the Hijrah (migration) of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him - from Makkah to Madinah in the year 622. It is well known that the Hijrah did not take place on the first day of Muharram, it probably occurred in the month of Rabi'ul Awwal (3rd month). Also the Hijri calendar was instituted some time in the reign of Caliph 'Umar (634 644 C.E.). However, due to the association of Islamic calendar with Hijrah, new year day becomes an important day to remember the meaning and significance of Hijrah.
In modern times, some Muslims also began using it to send greeting cards and celebrate new year. There are, however, no religious services associated with this day.
Ashura (10th of Muharram, 1st month):
After his arrival in Madinah in the year 622, Prophet Muhammad - peace be upon him instituted fasting on the 10th of Muharram. A year later this fasting was replaced with the mandatory fasting in the month of Ramadan. However, fasting on `Ashura' remained a voluntary fasting. Many Muslims usually fast on this day also.
This day is also associated with the martyrdom of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussain ibn Ali. He was killed in the battle of Karbala' on the 10th of Muharram in 61 A.H. (October 10, 680 C.E.). It is a day of sadness for all Muslims. Shi'ahs in particular attach a great significance to this day and mark this day and the whole month of Muharram with mourning. Special gatherings (majalis) are held to remember the suffering of the Imam and his family and the events that led to Karbala'.
Maulid al Nabi (12th of Rabi'ul Awwal, 3rd month):
This day is remembered as the Birthday of the Prophet peace be upon him. It is a very popular day of celebration. It, probably, began early in the Fatimid Egypt (beginning of tenth century C.E.) where people began distributing sweets and making special chanting and festivities on this day.
There are no special prayers or religious services associated with this day, but many Muslims use this day to talk about the Prophet, his life and example. They use it as a time to express their love and devotion for Prophet Muhammad. It is now celebrated with varying degrees of enthusiasm throughout the Muslim world and wherever Muslims live. Some people, however, criticize it because it has no sanction in the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet and the early community (salaf) did not mark this day with any special festivities.
Night of Isra' and Mi'raj (27th of Rajab, 7th month):
Night journey of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him from Makkah to Jerusalem and then his ascension to Heavens occurred in the year 620 C.E. It is mentioned briefly in the Qurán (Surah 17 and 53). The Hadith literature gives much more details of this experience of the Prophet.
Muslims remember this day as a day of great miracle and honor of the Prophet. On the eve of the 27th of Rajab, gatherings are held in the mosques and homes to remember the event and the whole story is told in poetry, chants or lectures. Sweets are distributed and great happiness and joy is expressed.
There are also no special prayers associated with this night. Muslims remember this day with varying degrees of enthusiasm and devotion. Some people do not celebrate it at all.
Night of the Middle of Sha'ban (15th of Sha'ban, 8th month):
There are all kinds of legends associated with this night. In some countries it is celebrated with firework.
People make special prayers at night and consider it a "night of destiny". There are no authentic ahadith about this night. There are, however, a number of weak (da`if) ahadith that mention that the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him - used to make special prayers on this night. He used to visit the Cemetery of Muslims and pray for those who passed away and used to fast the following day. The cumulative effect of these ahadith make them acceptable to some. On the basis of these reports some consider fasting on this day a blessed act. Again, this night and its following day are not universally accepted by all Muslims.
Article Contributed by: itsIslam Staff
The infinite power of God has no clearer proof than that furnished by the study and examination of the phenomena of the created universe and the multiple forms and colorations of nature that can never be fully described.
When we look at God's creation we find ourselves confronted with so vast an energy that no limit can be imagined for it. A look at creation and the millions of truths secreted in the wonders of nature and the depths of man's own being provides the clearest indication of the scale of the power of the One Who has created it, for the rich and complex order of being admits of no other explanation.
It is God's incomparable power that compels man to bow humbly before the Creator of this great scheme. There is no word to express the dimensions of His power; that unique essence has much power that whenever He wills a thing to come into existence, it suffices for the command "Be!" to issue forth from Him and the object addressed will be.
Quran says: "When He wills a certain thing, He commands it 'Be!' and it is" (36:82)
The law expounded in this verse is the best indicator of His limitless power and manifestation of His boundless power and splendor. It negates any limit that might be set on God's power and proclaims the inadequacy of all criteria and measures when confronted with this divine law.
The champions of the natural sciences, the men of the laboratory, despite all the advances they have achieved, have not yet gained complete knowledge of the inner secrets of a single one among the numerous and varied beings of the created universe. Nonetheless, the partial and defective knowledge that man has acquired concerning a few of the beings that exist in this world is enough for him to realize with all his being that the great power that has created such variety and abundance in the universe must be infinite.
Consider the range of His creation: tiny creatures and monstrous beasts with strange appearances both dwelling in the depths of the ocean; delicate and melodious birds with multicolored wings, the beauty of which skilled artists imitate as an adornment to their craft; stars that shine in the heavens and the sun that rises and sets; the dawn and the moonlight; the planets, galaxies and nebula each of which sometimes contains at its heart millions of great shinning stars giddying in their apparent infinitude.
Does not a creation such as this, awe inspiring in its splendor, indicate the infinite power of its Maker? Can one disregard the power of a Creator Who imparts such variety to life and made distinct, finite forms of it appear in all this vast range of phenomena? Now, given the fact that all these captivating forms of creation ultimately arise from the atom, the question of being cannot be explained except by reference to a guiding and infinite power. It is He Who impels all things toward the assumption of life-giving form and possesses the power and intelligence to plan and design this vast and precise scheme.
Large and small, difficult and easy, are properties pertaining to finite beings; in the infinite realm of God's essence and attributes, there is no question of great and little, much and few. Impotence and inability are caused by the finiteness of the energy at the disposal of an agent, by the existence of an obstacle on his path, or by the absence of means and instruments; they are inconceivable in the case of an infinite power.
The Quran says:
"Nothing in the heavens or on earth can induce weakness or impotence in God; indeed, God is all-knowing and all-powerful." (35:44)
God is capable of doing all things, He has created the world according to a precise and specific scheme in the framework of which a set role has been assigned to certain phenomena in the origination of others. Those phenomena are completely and unquestioningly subordinate to His command while fulfilling that role and never rebelling against His orders in the slightest.
The Quran says:
"The sun, the moon and the stars are all at His command. Be aware that creation belongs only to God; it is His penetrating command that in its exalted purity creates the world and all it contains." (7:54)
Strictly speaking, no creature in the scheme of the universe can be a manifestation of power or have any share in His will and command, for just as God has no partner in His essence, so, too, He has no partner in His agenthood. Just as all creatures in the world lack independence in their essence and are dependent on Him, they also lack it in producing acts and effects. Every agent and cause derives the essence of its being from God and also its power to act and produce an effect. Whenever He wills and necessitates it, the order that encloses all beings abandons its role, for that order is itself subordinate to His will, precious and firm though it may be. The Creator Who has assigned a particular effect to every factor and cause is able to neutralize and suspend that effect at any instant. Just as one command brought the order of the universe into existence, another command robs phenomena of their customary effect.
Thus, the Quran says:
"They said, 'Burn Abraham and thus us render help unto your gods, if you are men of action.' We commanded the fire, 'be cool for Abraham and harm him not.' They sought a stratagem against him, but We made them the losers." (21:68-69)
Although the powerful attraction exerted by the sun and the earth prevails over a vast space, both bodies are subordinate to His will. As soon as He gives a little bird the necessary power, the bird is able to resist the pull of the earth and take flight.
The Quran says:
"Do they not look at the birds in the heavens and see how the skies have been subjugated to them? It is God alone Who keeps them aloft, and in this there is an evident sign of God's power for the people off faith." (16:79)
Whatever phenomenon may be imagined to exist in the world of being finds its needs for sustenance and life met by the Creator. Therefore, whatever power and capacity is found in the scheme of creation must necessarily go back to the infinite power of God. Ali, peace be upon him, him, the Commander of the Faithful, says in a sermon reproduced in the Nahj al Balaghah:
"O God, we cannot penetrate the depths of Your splendor and majesty. We know only that You are living and self-subsistent, that You are exempt from eating and sleeping. No mind can perceive You and no eye can see You. But You see all eyes, You know the life span of all things, and You are all-powerful.
Although we have perceived nothing of Your creation, we are astounded by Your power and praise You mightily. That which is hidden from us and our eyes cannot see and our mind and intelligence cannot attain, which is concealed from us by veils of the unseen, is much greater than what we can see ..."
When man decides to build something, for example, a hospital, he assembles the necessary tools and pieces of equipment that do not have any essential relationship with each other, and, then, connects them with each other by means of a series of artificial relationships in order to reach his goal.
In order to create such artificial relationships, he makes use of different forces and object that he finds to be already existing. His work and activity are a part of the system of creation; they are not properly speaking creative activity, but only a form of motion that takes place within existing objects. Divine creation forms a quite different category from the production of artificial relationships between unrelated objects. God originates things with all their properties, forces and energies and characteristics.
One whose heart beats with the love of God and flows over with belief in the Creator of all being will never be discouraged lonely and hopeless even in the midst of the most complex difficulties. Whatever deed he undertakes he does so in the consciousness of being in the protective shade of a supreme power that can make him triumph over all difficulties. A man who is aware of God and knows that he enjoys His support can resist and endure all kinds of hardship. Difficulties are for him like foam on swift vanishing foam on the face of the waters.
The fire that burns within him becomes ever brighter and he emerges stronger than ever from the crucible of hardship. Throughout the toils he endures, he is comforted and strengthened by God's kindness and favor, and it is this that forms the true motor of his activity. Failure does not block his path and cause him to surrender; instead, with sincere intention and diligent effort, he continues his strivings until final victory.
He understands well that his efforts cannot remain fruitless and that victory goes to the deserving. Whenever He wills, God takes the hand of the fallen and the oppressed who have no refuge other than Him and raises them up to the apex of power. Sometimes, too, He rubs in the dust of humiliation and disaster the noses of the powerful and arrogant oppressors who believe only in violence and the logic of force and treat men as if they were worthless.
How many arrogant tyrants have been cast down by disaster in the course of human history, sinking and vanishing in a tempest of shame!
The story of God's messengers represents in itself a complete and ideal model of human values. We all know how the messengers stood alone against the oppressive forces of their day in order to guide men to salvation, reform their society, and inculcate lofty values in them. In doing so, they lit the first spark that ultimately destroyed polytheism
The response aroused by their beliefs caused such a positive tumult that they were able to change the face and direction of history. They laid the foundations of monotheistic worship and established the principles of virtue in the most comprehensive way. Who can deny the role played by their devotion and faith in the untiring struggle they waged? How far can will power alone take man, and how much can it enable him to endure and sacrifice? A cursory review of the proud history of the Prophets' lives enables us all to behold, in the most vivid fashion possible, the sincerity and devotion they displayed, their mercy and forbearance, and their intense desire to guide and reform men. The fundamental secret of their success was the fact they never thought of themselves for a single instant; they sincerely renounced their own beings, making them a gift to God's cause. God then responded by bestowing immortality and everlasting fame on them. Allah is the proper name of God, however, we know Him generally through His attributes. These attributes describe how Allah manifests Himself to us (also see Attributes of Allah). God's attributes are innumerable since human intellect cannot possibly comprehend every aspect of the Supreme Being. A Hadith of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him) makes mention of Ninety Nine names of Allah commonly known as Al- Asmaul Husna, the Most Names.
In the Holy Quran we read:
"And to Allah alone belong all perfect attributes. So call Him by these.And leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His Attributes." (7:181)
"Allah - there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not;and He is the High, the Great." (2:256)
"Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is a lustrous niche, wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a glittering star. It is lit from blessed tree - an olive - neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would well-nigh glow forth even though fire touched it not.Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whomsoever He will. And Allah sets forth parables to men, and Allah know all things full well.This light is now lit in houses with regard to which Allah has ordained that they be exalted and that His name be remembered in them, Therein is He glorified in the mornings and the evenings" (24:36-37)
"He is Allah, and there is no God beside Him, the Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is Gracious, the Merciful.He is Allah, and there is no God beside Him, the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace, the Bestower of Security, the Protector, the Mighty, the Subduer, the Exalted. Holy is Allah far above that which they associate with Him.He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most Beautiful Names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty the Wise." (59: 23-25)
Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: The Holy Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
"Allah has ninety nine Names, one hundred less one; and who memorized them all by heart will enter Paradise." (Bukhari, The Book of Tauhid)
Article Contributed by: itsIslam Staff
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The prophet teach us alot about the nature and Attributes of God as well as about ourselves.
They teach us about the Sovereignty of God. He is Sovereign over the Nations. Nothing is more central to the thinking of these prophets than the fact that God is the sovereign Lord of history and that nothing happens, either to Israel or to the gentile Nations that is not the result of His direct determination. The locust plague of Joel was His doing. The destruction of Nineveh was from Him. He rules supreme in the kingdoms of men, setting up one nation and putting down another, exalting one man and humbling another to the dust. Through it all, He rules supreme and He is working out His sovereign purpose. God is the potter. The nations are but vessels in His hand to make and remake as He wills. `Behold, as clay is in the potters hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. Jer. 18:6 He has absolute power to dispose of the nations as He will, though He leaves them room to repent. Each Prophet always presented the two ways. Serve God and you will live; Curse Me and you will dies. Repent and God will avert the evil; Reject me and I will cast you off. Jer. 7:1-15.
God is faithful in keeping his promises. God is fulfilling His promises all throughout the Old Testament. No amount of sin or rebellion on man's part can alter His plan. Now we are waiting for the final act of History, the last Judgment of which the prophets spoke so often, when Christ shall return victorious on the clouds of heaven to judge the living and the dead and to gather His Church from every kindred and tribe and nation. Rev. 7:9
It was the prophets awareness of the holiness of God which lead them to their passionate preaching about sin. Take for instance the trihagion of Isaiah. Holy, Holy, Holy. It was Isaiah's encounter with the thrice holy God which prepared him for ministry. Isaiah 6:1-8 It made no difference where the sin was found, whether in foreign lands (Edom-Obadiah, Assyria-Nahum) or among God's people. Nowhere in the Bible are there stiffer denunciations of sin and heartier calls for a deep and legitimate repentance than in the Prophets. Apart from repentance judgement falls.
God is not only sovereign, faithful and holy, but he is also gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy. Love is not incompatible with justice. Each Prophet had a message of judgment as well as words of encouragement to repent which issued out of a loving heart for God's people. Who knows if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him. Joel 2:14. It is because of his great love for His people and even for Nineveh that he sends prophets with the message of judgment and even sending the judgment itself. God knows that sin is an outrage against himself, and humanity. He knows that sin is destructive so he judges it. He judges it in his own people so that they will turn back from sin to himself.
So in the prophets as well as in the rest of the Bible we see all the attributes of God: His goodness as well as His severity, His sovereignty as well as His faithfulness to his word. We see the sovereignty of God's holiness as well as His glory, power, love, mercy and grace. May we see in the sin of Israel and Judah our sin. May we be as the prophets, full of zeal for the glory of God hating sin and loving mercy and justice.
The Prophets Themselves
We also learn about the Prophets. Though we may not possess their prophetic gift, yet we may certainly model their lives and imitate their characters. The pre-exilic prophets lived out their days in a world very similar to ours. Isaiah 1:2-16 Broken homes, corrupt children, murder and chaos the order of the day, the church a mere ritual and tradition and threat from a world power hanging over their heads. Habakkuk 1
What was their attitude in the face of this desperate situation? They submitted to God in an attitude of faith, they surrendered their lives in God's service, they trusted in God completely and implicitly. Their lives were examples of holiness. They had seen God in all His glory and thus they had a right view of man. These men hated sin. They were horrified at injustices. They abhorred the arrogance of man because only God should receive glory. They were breakers of images, challenging all religious traditions, and shams. They were authentic, their lives exemplified their message and because of this, they were lonely, suffering men.
If you read the Quran, Hadith and Sira (Biography) of Muhammad (PBUH) you find God is sovereign, faithful kept his promise to his prophet of spreading Islam, Muhammad was holy, he talked about God love/justice and Muhammad had all the characters the author describe for a prophet.
By DAVID BROOKS
Roughly speaking, there are four steps to every decision. First, you perceive a situation. Then you think of possible courses of action. Then you calculate which course is in your best interest. Then you take the action.
Over the past few centuries, public policy analysts have assumed that step three is the most important. Economic models and entire social science disciplines are premised on the assumption that people are mostly engaged in rationally calculating and maximizing their self-interest.
But during this financial crisis, that way of thinking has failed spectacularly. As Alan Greenspan noted in his Congressional testimony last week, he was “shocked” that markets did not work as anticipated. “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.”
So perhaps this will be the moment when we alter our view of decision-making. Perhaps this will be the moment when we shift our focus from step three, rational calculation, to step one, perception.
Perceiving a situation seems, at first glimpse, like a remarkably simple operation. You just look and see what’s around. But the operation that seems most simple is actually the most complex, it’s just that most of the action takes place below the level of awareness. Looking at and perceiving the world is an active process of meaning-making that shapes and biases the rest of the decision-making chain.
Economists and psychologists have been exploring our perceptual biases for four decades now, with the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, and also with work by people like Richard Thaler, Robert Shiller, John Bargh and Dan Ariely.
My sense is that this financial crisis is going to amount to a coming-out party for behavioral economists and others who are bringing sophisticated psychology to the realm of public policy. At least these folks have plausible explanations for why so many people could have been so gigantically wrong about the risks they were taking.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb has been deeply influenced by this stream of research. Taleb not only has an explanation for what’s happening, he saw it coming. His popular books “Fooled by Randomness” and “The Black Swan” were broadsides at the risk-management models used in the financial world and beyond.
In “The Black Swan,” Taleb wrote, “The government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look at its risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup.” Globalization, he noted, “creates interlocking fragility.” He warned that while the growth of giant banks gives the appearance of stability, in reality, it raises the risk of a systemic collapse — “when one fails, they all fail.”
Taleb believes that our brains evolved to suit a world much simpler than the one we now face. His writing is idiosyncratic, but he does touch on many of the perceptual biases that distort our thinking: our tendency to see data that confirm our prejudices more vividly than data that contradict them; our tendency to overvalue recent events when anticipating future possibilities; our tendency to spin concurring facts into a single causal narrative; our tendency to applaud our own supposed skill in circumstances when we’ve actually benefited from dumb luck.
And looking at the financial crisis, it is easy to see dozens of errors of perception. Traders misperceived the possibility of rare events. They got caught in social contagions and reinforced each other’s risk assessments. They failed to perceive how tightly linked global networks can transform small events into big disasters.
Taleb is characteristically vituperative about the quantitative risk models, which try to model something that defies modelization. He subscribes to what he calls the tragic vision of humankind, which “believes in the existence of inherent limitations and flaws in the way we think and act and requires an acknowledgement of this fact as a basis for any individual and collective action.” If recent events don’t underline this worldview, nothing will.
If you start thinking about our faulty perceptions, the first thing you realize is that markets are not perfectly efficient, people are not always good guardians of their own self-interest and there might be limited circumstances when government could usefully slant the decision-making architecture (see “Nudge” by Thaler and Cass Sunstein for proposals). But the second thing you realize is that government officials are probably going to be even worse perceivers of reality than private business types. Their information feedback mechanism is more limited, and, being deeply politicized, they’re even more likely to filter inconvenient facts.
This meltdown is not just a financial event, but also a cultural one. It’s a big, whopping reminder that the human mind is continually trying to perceive things that aren’t true, and not perceiving them takes enormous effort.
1- Great article.
2- Our behavior overshot our reasoning.
3- That is why we overshot up and create the market ballooning or we overshot down in finding the bottom.
4- The CDS (of markets not Banks CDS) and its gambling process easily cause us to overshot. They are not even real investments.
5- God's simple economy is much easier and smoother than this market. We complicate markets to make more money and we drowned ourselves.
6- If people want to correct the market which is global, volatile and even scary they have to sit first together and see how the markets work, how they fall, how to get the gambling out of the market and how people to learn to be happy with reasonable profits or losses.
Monday, October 27, 2008
One of the most important virtues of Muslim is Patience. Examples in Quran:
1- Patience commonly linked to prayers: since both are the best at the time of affliction:
2:45 Nay, seek (Allah's) help with patient perseverance and prayer: It is indeed hard, except to those who bring a lowly spirit,- وَاسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ وَإِنَّهَا لَكَبِيرَةٌ إِلاَّ عَلَى الْخَاشِعِينَ
2:153 O ye who believe! seek help with patient perseverance and prayer; for Allah is with those who patiently persevere. يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ اسْتَعِينُواْ بِالصَّبْرِ وَالصَّلاَةِ إِنَّ اللّهَ مَعَ الصَّابِرِينَ
2- Knowing that trials are test from God help us to be more patient: Many times it is used to purify us.
2:155 Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوفْ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الأَمَوَالِ وَالأنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ
25:20 And the apostles whom We sent before thee were all (men) who ate food and walked through the streets: We have made some of you as a trial for others: will ye have patience? for Allah is One Who sees (all things). وَما أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ إِلَّا إِنَّهُمْ لَيَأْكُلُونَ الطَّعَامَ وَيَمْشُونَ فِي الْأَسْوَاقِ وَجَعَلْنَا بَعْضَكُمْ لِبَعْضٍ فِتْنَةً أَتَصْبِرُونَ وَكَانَ رَبُّكَ بَصِيرًا (25:20
3:186 Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُواْ الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُواْ أَذًى كَثِيرًا وَإِن تَصْبِرُواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ فَإِنَّ ذَلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الأُمُورِ
3- We to remember the good days which will help us to be patient: as when God sent Moses he knew how Beno Israel were suffering. So he told Moses to remind them of the good days and how to be patient and grateful:
14:5 We sent Moses with Our signs (and the command). "Bring out thy people from the depths of darkness into light, and teach them to remember the Days of Allah." Verily in this there are Signs for such as are firmly patient and constant,- grateful and appreciative. وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَى بِآيَاتِنَا أَنْ أَخْرِجْ قَوْمَكَ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ وَذَكِّرْهُمْ بِأَيَّامِ اللّهِ إِنَّ فِي ذَلِكَ لآيَاتٍ لِّكُلِّ صَبَّارٍ شَكُورٍ2-
4- We are to be patient until God brings forth the relief: you do the right thing and be patient and God is the one who decides.
10:109 Follow thou the inspiration sent unto thee, and be patient and constant, till Allah do decide: for He is the best to decide. وَاتَّبِعْ مَا يُوحَى إِلَيْكَ وَاصْبِرْ حَتَّىَ يَحْكُمَ اللّهُ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الْحَاكِمِينَ
5- We are to aid one another to be persevere and be patient:
103:3 Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of patience and Constancy. إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ (103:3)
6- In the end the righteous prevail:
11:49 Such are some of the stories of the unseen, which We have revealed unto thee: before this, neither thou nor thy people knew them. So persevere patiently: for the End is for those who are righteous. تِلْكَ مِنْ أَنبَاء الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهَا إِلَيْكَ مَا كُنتَ تَعْلَمُهَا أَنتَ وَلاَ قَوْمُكَ مِن قَبْلِ هَـذَا فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ الْعَاقِبَةَ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
7- In fact God promise is true to those who are patient:
30:60 So have patience (O Muhammad)! Allah's promise is the very truth, and let not those who have no certainty make thee impatient. فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَلَا يَسْتَخِفَّنَّكَ الَّذِينَ لَا يُوقِنُونَ (30:60)
40:55 Then have patience (O Muhammad). Lo! the promise of Allah is true. And ask forgiveness of thy sin, and hymn the praise of thy Lord at fall of night and in the early hours. فَاصْبِرْ إِنَّ وَعْدَ اللَّهِ حَقٌّ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنبِكَ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّكَ بِالْعَشِيِّ وَالْإِبْكَارِ (40:55)
8- The reward of being patient is most in the eternal life: Though a lot of time the righteous prevail in this life, the eternal life which is far more important and should be our final aim:
13:22 Those who patiently persevere, seeking the countenance of their Lord; Establish regular prayers; spend, out of (the gifts) We have bestowed for their sustenance, secretly and openly; and turn off Evil with good: for such there is the final attainment of the (eternal) home,-
وَالَّذِينَ صَبَرُواْ ابْتِغَاء وَجْهِ رَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُواْ الصَّلاَةَ وَأَنفَقُواْ مِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ سِرًّا وَعَلاَنِيَةً وَيَدْرَؤُونَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ السَّيِّئَةَ أُوْلَئِكَ لَهُمْ عُقْبَى الدَّارِ
1- The oath is an obligation if we to use God's name:
16:91 Fulfill the covenant of Allah when ye have covenanted, and break not your oaths after the asseveration of them, and after ye have made Allah surety over you. Lo! Allah knoweth what ye do.وَأَوْفُواْ بِعَهْدِ اللّهِ إِذَا عَاهَدتُّمْ وَلاَ تَنقُضُواْ الأَيْمَانَ بَعْدَ تَوْكِيدِهَا وَقَدْ جَعَلْتُمُ اللّهَ عَلَيْكُمْ كَفِيلاً إِنَّ اللّهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا تَفْعَلُونَ (16:91)
2- God warns us not to use our oath to deceive people: the punishment of that is grave.
16:94 Make not your oaths a deceit between you, lest a foot should slip after being firmly planted and ye should taste evil forasmuch as ye debarred (men) from the way of Allah, and yours should be an awful doom. وَلاَ تَتَّخِذُواْ أَيْمَانَكُمْ دَخَلاً بَيْنَكُمْ فَتَزِلَّ قَدَمٌ بَعْدَ ثُبُوتِهَا وَتَذُوقُواْ الْسُّوءَ بِمَا صَدَدتُّمْ عَن سَبِيلِ اللّهِ وَلَكُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ (16:94)
3- God more explicitly explain this punishment of breaking the oath: This is particularly in breaking our faith and turning away from Islam.
3:77 Lo! those who purchase a small gain at the cost of Allah's covenant and their oaths, they have no portion in the Hereafter. Allah will neither speak to them nor look upon them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He make them grow. Theirs will be a painful doom. إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَشْتَرُونَ بِعَهْدِ اللّهِ وَأَيْمَانِهِمْ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلاً أُوْلَـئِكَ لاَ خَلاَقَ لَهُمْ فِي الآخِرَةِ وَلاَ يُكَلِّمُهُمُ اللّهُ وَلاَ يَنظُرُ إِلَيْهِمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَلاَ يُزَكِّيهِمْ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (3:77)
4- Breaking the Oath take away our good deeds: It is particularly so in affidavit between strong and weak countries.
16:92 And be not like a woman who breaks into untwisted strands the yarn which she has spun, after it has become strong. Nor take your oaths to practise deception between yourselves, lest one party should be more numerous than another: for Allah will test you by this; and on the Day of Judgment He will certainly make clear to you (the truth of) that wherein ye disagree. - وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ كَالَّتِي نَقَضَتْ غَزْلَهَا مِن بَعْدِ قُوَّةٍ أَنكَاثًا تَتَّخِذُونَ أَيْمَانَكُمْ دَخَلاً بَيْنَكُمْ أَن تَكُونَ أُمَّةٌ هِيَ أَرْبَى مِنْ أُمَّةٍ إِنَّمَا يَبْلُوكُمُ اللّهُ بِهِ وَلَيُبَيِّنَنَّ لَكُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ مَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ (16:92)5- God allow us to break the oath in rare occasions: this is if we to find out the righteous thing is to do so and not what we took oath on. Understandably you do not do that with treaties signed between nations but mostly in personal matters.
2:224 And make not Allah's (name) an excuse in your oaths against doing good, or acting rightly, or making peace between persons; for Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth all things. -
وَلاَ تَجْعَلُواْ اللّهَ عُرْضَةً لِّأَيْمَانِكُمْ أَن تَبَرُّواْ وَتَتَّقُواْ وَتُصْلِحُواْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ وَاللّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ (2:224)
Lit., "do not make God, because of your oaths...", etc. As can be seen from verse 226, this injunction refers primarily to oaths relating to divorce but is, nevertheless, general in its import. Thus, there are several authentic Traditions to the effect that the Prophet Muhammad said: "If anyone takes a solemn oath [that he would do or refrain from doing such-and such a thing], and thereupon realizes that something else would be a more righteous course, then let him do that which is more righteous, and let him break his oath and then atone for it" (Bukhari and Muslim; and other variants of the same Tradition in other compilations). As regards the method of atonement, see 5:89.(Quran Ref: 2:224 )
6- God will not punish us for the oath that is not intentional: some people particularly the Arab in time of Muhammad had the habit of swearing in God even non-intentional. God for his fairness will ask us about the intentional. It is more prudent to avoid swearing except for the rare occasions when swearing will be important like in courts.
2:225 Allah will not take you to task for that which is unintentional in your oaths. But He will take you to task for that which your hearts have garnered. Allah is Forgiving, Clement. لاَّ يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ
اللّهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِيَ أَيْمَانِكُمْ وَلَكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا كَسَبَتْ قُلُوبُكُمْ وَاللّهُ غَفُورٌ حَلِيمٌ
7- For the oath that is intentional and we break he gave us the way out:
5:89 Allah will not take you to task for that which is unintentional in your oaths, but He will take you to task for the oaths which ye swear in earnest. The expiation thereof is the feeding of ten of the needy with the average of that wherewith ye feed your own folk, or the clothing of them, or the liberation of a slave, and for him who findeth not (the wherewithal to do so) then a three day fast. This is the expiation of your oaths when ye have sworn; and keep your oaths. Thus Allah expoundeth unto you His revelations in order that ye may give thanks. لاَ يُؤَاخِذُكُمُ اللّهُ بِاللَّغْوِ فِي أَيْمَانِكُمْ وَلَـكِن يُؤَاخِذُكُم بِمَا عَقَّدتُّمُ الأَيْمَانَ فَكَفَّارَتُهُ إِطْعَامُ عَشَرَةِ مَسَاكِينَ مِنْ أَوْسَطِ مَا تُطْعِمُونَ أَهْلِيكُمْ أَوْ كِسْوَتُهُمْ أَوْ تَحْرِيرُ رَقَبَةٍ فَمَن لَّمْ يَجِدْ فَصِيَامُ ثَلاَثَةِ أَيَّامٍ ذَلِكَ كَفَّارَةُ أَيْمَانِكُمْ إِذَا حَلَفْتُمْ وَاحْفَظُواْ أَيْمَانَكُمْ كَذَلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ (5:89)
Muslims at the time of messenger Muhammad (PBUH) were coming from a war. The sky was clear and the sun was very strong in a hot day. Suddenly a single cloud appeared and covered the sun protecting them for long time. It was a miracle for Muslims at that time, for the hypocrites it was a cloud and passed by.
God gave us a lot of signs. That I wish we do not look at them and say a cloud and passed by. These are some of his signs:
1- The creation:
2:164 Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are signs for a people that are wise. إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَالْفُلْكِ الَّتِي تَجْرِي فِي الْبَحْرِ بِمَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ وَمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ مِنَ السَّمَاء مِن مَّاء فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الأرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِن كُلِّ دَآبَّةٍ وَتَصْرِيفِ الرِّيَاحِ وَالسَّحَابِ الْمُسَخِّرِ بَيْنَ السَّمَاء وَالأَرْضِ لآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ
2- Our failure to prove existence from non-existence: We did not see the creation to disprove the Bible and Quran:
18:51 I called them not to witness the creation of the heavens and the earth, nor (even) their own creation: nor is it for Me to take as helpers such as lead (men) astray!مَا أَشْهَدتُّهُمْ خَلْقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَا خَلْقَ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَمَا كُنتُ مُتَّخِذَ الْمُضِلِّينَ عَضُدً
ا3- The good and evil:
21:35 Every soul shall have a taste of death: and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial. to Us must ye return.كُلُّ نَفْسٍ ذَائِقَةُ الْمَوْتِ وَنَبْلُوكُم بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ
4- The scientific miracles of the Quran: see my blog, one here is self identity from finger print.
Yes, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers.
5-The linguistic miracle of the Quran:
36:69 We have not instructed the (Prophet) in poetry, nor is it meet for him: this is no less than a Message and a Qur'an making things clear: وَمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ الشِّعْرَ وَمَا يَنبَغِي لَهُ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا ذِكْرٌ وَقُرْآنٌ مُّبِينٌ
6-The personality of the messenger Muhammad (PBUH): was very honest and fears God. The worst lie is to lie against God:
6:21 Who doth more wrong than he who inventeth a lie against Allah or rejecteth His signs? But verily the wrong-doers never shall prosper.وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّنِ افْتَرَى عَلَى اللّهِ كَذِبًا أَوْ كَذَّبَ بِآيَاتِهِ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُونَ
7-Quran in large part agrees with the old and new testament and confirms the stories in the bible:
2:41 And believe in what I reveal, confirming the revelation which is with you (Jews and Christians), and be not the first to reject Faith therein, nor sell My signs for a small price; and fear Me, and Me alone.وَآمِنُواْ بِمَا أَنزَلْتُ مُصَدِّقاً لِّمَا مَعَكُمْ وَلاَ تَكُونُواْ أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍ بِهِ وَلاَ تَشْتَرُواْ بِآيَاتِي ثَمَناً قَلِيلاً وَإِيَّايَ فَاتَّقُونِ
8-The miracle of the Quran as a whole: It supersedes the physical miracles of Moses and Jesus since it is continues and for all people. In fact the disbelievers dealt with these signs as sorcery.
27:13 But when Our signs came to them, that should have opened their eyes, they said: "This is sorcery manifest!" فَلَمَّا جَاءتْهُمْ آيَاتُنَا مُبْصِرَةً قَالُوا هَذَا سِحْرٌمُّبِينٌ
27:14 And they rejected those signs in iniquity and arrogance, though their souls were convinced thereof: so see what was the end of those who acted corruptly!وَجَحَدُوا بِهَا وَاسْتَيْقَنَتْهَا أَنفُسُهُمْ ظُلْمًا وَعُلُوًّا فَانظُرْ كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُفْسِدِينَ
7:132 They said (to Moses): "Whatever be the signs thou bringest, to work therewith thy sorcery on us, we shall never believe in thee.وَقَالُواْ مَهْمَا تَأْتِنَا بِهِ مِن آيَةٍ لِّتَسْحَرَنَا بِهَا فَمَا نَحْنُ لَكَ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ
9-God give the late signs: Some wants to see God, the angels or his wrath (like Noah flood) are all late signs. I would rather stick to the above signs.
6:158 Are they waiting to see if the angels come to them, or thy Lord (Himself), or certain of the signs of thy Lord! the day that certain of the signs of thy Lord do come, no good will it do to a soul to believe in them then if it believed not before nor earned righteousness through its faith. Say: "Wait ye: we too are waiting."هَلْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلاَّ أَن تَأْتِيهُمُ الْمَلآئِكَةُ أَوْ يَأْتِيَ رَبُّكَ أَوْ يَأْتِيَ بَعْضُ آيَاتِ رَبِّكَ يَوْمَ يَأْتِي بَعْضُ آيَاتِ رَبِّكَ لاَ يَنفَعُ نَفْسًا إِيمَانُهَا لَمْ تَكُنْ آمَنَتْ مِن قَبْلُ أَوْ كَسَبَتْ فِي إِيمَانِهَا خَيْرًا قُلِ انتَظِرُواْ إِنَّا مُنتَظِرُونَ
So I tell to those who would say a cloud and passed by be more wise.Those who continue to reject God's signs are choosing hell over heaven.
2:39 "But those who reject Faith and belie Our signs, they shall be companions of the Fire; they shall abide therein."وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرواْ وَكَذَّبُواْ بِآيَاتِنَا أُولَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
It is important to have faith and the more strong the faith the better off you are.
To submit to Islam (mental) can be even started with zero faith. Even very faithful Muslim would ask God to die on the submission of Islam. So submission gives you the ground that you build your faith on. Submission means even if I get doubts sometimes, I would continue to declare my faith since I have overwhelming signs of God existence. Many times we are inpatient or do do not know his wisdom, as yet.
By Katherine Bullock
What am I doing down here? I wonder, my nose and forehead pressed to the floor as I kneel in prayer. My kneecaps ache, my arm muscles strain as I try to keep the pressure off my forehead. I listen to strange utterings of the person praying next to me. It’s Arabic, and they understand what they are saying, even if I don’t. So. I make up my own words, hoping God will be kind to me, a Muslim only 12 hours old. OK. God, I converted to Islam because I believe in you, and because Islam makes sense to me. Did I really just say that? I catch myself, bursting into tears. What would my friends say if they saw me like this, kneeling, nose pressed to the floor?...They’d laugh at me. Have you lost your mind? They’d ask. You can’t seriously tell me you are religious. Religious...I was once a happy ‘speculative atheist,’ how did I turn into a believer and a Muslim? I ask myself. I turn my mind into the past and attempt a whirlwind tour through my journey. But where did it begin? Maybe it started when I first met practicing Muslims. This was in 1991, at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
I was an open-minded, tolerant, liberal woman. 24 years old. I saw Muslim women walking around the International Centre and I felt sorry for them. I knew they were oppressed. My sorrow increased when I asked them why they covered their hair, why they wore long sleeves in summer, why they were so ill-treated in Muslim countries, and they told me that they wore the veil, and they dressed so, because God asked them too. Poor things. What about their treatment in Muslim countries? That’s culture, they would reply. I knew they were deluded, socialised/brainwashed from an early age, into believing this wicked way of treating women. But I noticed how happy they were, how friendly they were, how solid they seemed. I saw Muslim men walking around the international centre.
There was even a man from Libya - the land of terrorists. I trembled when I saw them, lest they do something to me in the name of God. I remembered the television images of masses of rampaging Arab men burning effigies of President Bush, all in the name of God. What a God they must have, I thought. Poor things that they even believe in God, I added, secure in the truth that God was an anthropomorphic projection of us weak human beings. But I noticed that these men were very friendly. I noticed how helpful they were. I perceived an aura of calmness. What a belief they must have, I thought. But it puzzled me. I had read the Koran, and hadn’t detected anything special about it. That was before, when the Gulf War broke out. What kind of God would persuade men to go War, to kill innocent citizens of another country, to rape women, to demonstrate against the US?
I decided I’d better read the Holy book on whose behalf they claimed they were acting. I read a Penguin classic, surely a trustworthy book, and I couldn’t finish it, I disliked it so much. Here was a paradise described with virgin women in it for the righteous (what was a righteous woman to do with a virgin woman in Paradise?); here was a God destroying whole cities at a stroke.
No wonder the women are oppressed, and these fanatics storm around burning the US flag, I thought. But the Muslims I put this to seemed bewildered. Their Quran didn’t say things in that way. Perhaps I had a bad translation?
Suddenly the praying person I am following stands up. I too stand up, my feet catching on the long skirt I wear; I almost trip. I sniff, trying to stop the tears. I must focus on praying to God. Dear God, I am here because I believe in you, and because during my research of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism, Islam made the most sense.
Bending over, my hands at my knees, I try hard to reassure myself. God. Please help me to be a good Muslim. A Muslim! Kathy, how could you - a white western women who is educated - convert to a religion which makes its women second class citizens!
But Kingston’s Muslims became my friends, I protest. They welcomed me into their community warmly, without question. I forgot that they were oppressed and terrorists. This seems like the start of my journey. But I was still an atheist. Or was I?
I had looked into the starry night, and contemplated the universe. The diamond stars strewn across the dark sky twinkled mysterious messages to me. I felt hooked up to something bigger than myself. Was it a collective human consciousness? Peace and tranquility flowed to me from the stars. Could I wrench myself from this feeling and declare there is no higher being? No higher consciousness? Haven’t you ever doubted the existence of God? I would ask my believing Christian and Muslim friends. No, they replied. No? No? This puzzled me.
Was God that obvious? How come I couldn’t see God. It seemed too much a stretch of my imagination. A being out there, affecting the way I lived. How could God listen to billions of people praying, and deal with each second of that person’s life? It’s impossible. Maybe a First Cause, but one who intervened? And what about the persistence of injustice in the world? Children dying in war. A just, good God couldn’t allow that. God didn’t make sense. God couldn’t exist. Besides, we evolved, so that disposed of a First Cause anyway.
We kneel down again, and here I am, sniffing, looking sideways at my fingers on the green of my new prayer mat. I like my prayer mat. It has a velvetty touch to it, and some of my favourite colours: a purple mosque on a green background. There is a path leading to a black entrance of the mosque and it beckons me. The entrance to the mosque seems to contain the truth, it is elusive, but it is there. I am happy to be beckoned to this entrance.
When I was much younger I had a complete jigsaw picture of the world. It fell apart sometime during the third or fourth year of my undergraduate study. In Kingston I had reminded myself that I had once been a regular churchgoer, somewhat embarrassed, since I knew that religious people were slushy/mushy, quaint, boring, old fashioned people. Yet God had seemed self-evident to me then. The universe made no sense without a Creator Being who was also omnipotent.
Leaving church I had always had a feeling of lightness and happiness. I felt the loss of that feeling. Could it be that I had once had a connection to God which was now gone? Maybe this was the start of my journey? I tried to pray again, but found it extraordinarily difficult. Christians told me that people who didn’t believe in Lord Jesus Christ were doomed. What about people who’ve never heard of Jesus? Or people who follow their own religion? And society historically claimed women were inferior because Christianity told us it was Eve’s punishment; women were barred from studying, voting, owning land. God was an awful man with a long white beard. I couldn’t talk to him. I couldn’t follow Christianity, therefore God couldn’t exist.
But then I discovered feminists who believed in God, Christian women who were feminists, and Muslim women who believed Islam did not condone a lot of what I thought integral to their religion. I started to pray and call myself a ‘post-Christian feminist believer.’
I felt that lightness again; maybe God did exist. I carefully examined my life’s events and I saw that coincidences and luck were God’s blessings for me, and I’d never noticed, or said thanks. I am amazed God was so kind and persistent while I was disloyal. My ears and feet tingle pleasantly from the washing I have just given them; a washing which cleanses me and allows me to approach God in prayer.
God. An awesome deity. I feel awe, wonder and peace. Please show me the path. But surely you can see that the world is too complex, too beautiful, too harmonious to be an accident? To be the blind result of evolutionary forces? Don’t you know that science is returning to a belief in God? Don’t you know that science never contradicted Islam anyway? I am exasperated with my imaginary jury. Haven’t they researched these things?
Maybe this was the most decisive path. I’d heard on the radio an interview with a physicist who was explaining how modern science had abandoned its nineteenth century materialistic assumptions long ago, and was scientifically of the opinion that too many phenomena occurred which made no sense without there being intelligence and design behind it all. Indeed, scientific experiments were not just a passive observation of physical phenomena, observation altered the way physical events proceeded, and it seemed therefore that intelligence was the most fundamental stuff of the universe.
I read more, and more. I discovered that only the most diehard anthropologists still believed in evolution theory, though no one was saying this very loudly for fear of losing their job. My jigsaw was starting to fall apart.
OK, so you decided God existed. You were a monotheist. But Christianity is monotheistic. It is your heritage. Why leave it? Still these questioners are puzzled. But you must understand this is the easiest question of them all to answer. I smile.
I learned how the Quran did not contradict science in the same way the Bible did. I wanted to read the Biblical stories literally, and discovered I could not. Scientific fact contradicted Biblical account. But scientific fact did not contradict Quranic account, science even sometimes explained a hitherto inexplicable Quranic verse. This was stunning.
There was a verse about how the water from fresh water rivers which flowed into the sea did not mix with the sea water; verses describing conception accurately; verses referring to the orbits of the planets. Seventh century science knew none of this. How could Muhammad be so uniquely wise? My mind drew me towards the Quran, but I resisted.
I started going to church again, only to find myself in tears in nearly every service. Christianity continued to be difficult for me. So much didn’t make sense: the Trinity; the idea that Jesus was God incarnate; the worship of Mary, the Saints, or Jesus, rather than God. The priests told me to leave reason behind when contemplating God. The Trinity did not make sense, and nor was it supposed to. I delved deeper. After all, how could I leave my culture, my heritage, my family? No one would understand, and I’d be alone. I tried to be a good Christian.
I learned more. I discovered that Easter was instituted a couple of hundreds of years after Jesus’s death, that Jesus never called himself God incarnate, and more often said he was the Son of Man; that the doctrine of the Trinity was established some 300 odd years after Christ had died; that the Nicene Creed which I had faithfully recited every week, focusing on each word, was written by MEN at a political meeting to confirm a minority position that Jesus was the Son of God, and the majority viewpoint that Jesus was God’s messenger, was expunged forever.
I was so angry! Why hadn’t the Church taught me these things. Well. I knew why. People would understand that they could worship God elsewhere, and that there, worship would actually make sense to them. I would only worship one God, not three, not The Father, Son and Holy ghost; not Jesus as Lord, nor the Saints, nor Mary. Could Muhammad really be a Messenger, could the Quran be God’s word? I kept reading the Quran.
It told me that Eve was not alone to blame for the ‘fall;’ that Jesus was a Messenger; that unbelievers would laugh at me for being a believer; that people would question the authenticity of Muhammad’s claim to revelation, but that if they tried to write something as wise, consistent and rational they would fail. This seemed true. Islam asked me to use my intelligence to contemplate God, it encouraged me to seek knowledge, it told me that whoever believed in (Jews/Christians/Muslims/whoever) would get rewards, it seemed a very encompassing religion. We stand again and still standing, bend down again to a resting position with our hands on our knees. What else can I say to God? I can’t think of enough to say, the prayer seems so long.
I puff slightly, still sniffling, since with all the standing and kneeling and standing I am somewhat out of breath. So you seriously think that I would willing enter a religion which turned me into a second class citizen? I demand of my questioners. You know that there is a lot of abuse of women in Islamic countries, just as in the West, but this is not true Islam. And don’t bring the veil thing up. Don’t you know that women wear hijab because God asks them to? Because they trust in God’s word.
Still. How will I have the courage to wear hijab? I probably won’t. People will stare at me, I’ll become obvious; I’d rather hide away in the crowd when I’m out. What will my friends say when they see me in that?? OH! God! Help.
I had stalled at the edge of change for many a long month, my dilemma growing daily. What should I do? Leave my old life and start a new one? But I couldn’t possibly go out in public in hijab. People would stare at me. I stood at the forked path which God had helped me reach. I had new knowledge which rested comfortably with my intellect. Follow the conviction, or stay in the old way? How could I stay when I had a different outlook on life? How could I change when the step seemed too big for me?
I would rehearse the conversion sentence: There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet. Simple words, I believe in them, so convert. I cannot, I resisted. I circled endlessly day after day. God stood on one of the paths of the fork, tapping his foot. Come on Kathy. I’ve brought you here, but you must cross alone. I stayed stationary, transfixed like a kangaroo trapped in car lights late at night. Then one night, God, I suppose, gave me a final yank. I was passing a mosque with my husband. I had a feeling in me that was so strong I could hardly bear it. If you don’t convert now, you never will, my inner voice told me. I knew it was true. OK, I’ll do it. If they let me in to the mosque, I’ll do it. But there was no one there. I said the Shahada under the trees outside the mosque. I waited. I waited for the thunderclap, the immediate feeling of relief, the lifting of my burden. But it didn’t come.
I felt exactly the same. Now we are kneeling again, the world looks so different from down here. Even famous football players prostrate like this, I remember, glancing sideways at the tassels of my hijab which fall onto the prayer mat; we are all the same and equally humbled before God. Now we are sitting up straight, my prayer leader is muttering something still, waving his right hand’s forefinger around in the air. I look down at my mat again. The green, purple and black of my prayer mat look reassuringly the same.
The blackness of the Mosque’s entrance entreats me: ‘I am here, just relax and you will find me.’ My tears have dried on my face and the skin feels tight What am I doing here? Dear God. I am here because I believe in you, because I believe in the compelling and majestic words of the Quran, and because I believe in the Prophethood of Your Messenger Muhammad. I know in my heart my decision is the right one. Please give me the courage to carry on with this new self and new life, that I may serve you well with a strong faith. I smile and stand up, folding my prayer mat into half, and lay it on the sofa ready for my next encounter with its velvety green certainty. Now the burden begins to lift.