Monday, October 31, 2005

On Doubts ...

One cannot help but realize that in the war between Good and Evil, the methods of warfare used by the adversaries are very different. While Good presents its agenda through the immaculate portrayal of a pristine message, Evil has nothing worthwhile to present. So it resorts to dirty war, playing its game by covering the facts through the use of dirty tricks like white lies, distortion of truths, and mixing truths with lies. In practical terms, Evil will use tactics such as murder, conspiracy, magic, bribery, terrorism, and deceit. But perhaps the most effective weapon that Evil has at its disposal is the creation of doubts in the minds of people about what should be very simple and clear. This is because while the reality behind lies can eventually be found out, there is no easy cure for suspicion. Doubts have the uncanny ability to linger on even after facts have been uncovered and lies have been exposed.

It is no wonder then, that the Qur'an announces at its very inception that it is the book in whose credibility there can be absolutely no doubt:

"This is the Book in which there is no doubt [about its authenticity or authorship]..." (Qur'an: 2,2)

In these days of uncertainties, it is heart-warming to know that there is a helping hand out there which is a sure hand and is never mistaken. Perhaps we should revert back to this 1400-year old ancient document that will never betray us, ever.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Which is More Practical: Islam, Communism, or Individualism? ...

During our discussion on the hijab at my entry titled, "On the hijab ...", Mr Carty has asked me the following question:

"Is an ideal Islamic state any more possible than the ideal communist society (in real life, communism is a totalitarian nightmare), or the ideal individualist anarchy (in real life, anarchy means rule by gangs of thugs)?

After all, three out of the four Khalifah Rashidun were assassinated... "

Due to the importance of the question, I have decided to answer it in a separate entry. Here is my answer:

You have asked a very pertinent and important question. You may not have noticed it, but the answer to your question lies in the question itself: Communism and individualism are two opposite extremes, and in the middle of these two extremes lies Islam. The ideal Islamic state is the perfect balance between totalitarianism and anarchy. As such, the ideal Islamic state is very much possible, as has been borne out by experiment. The "role-model" Islamic State is, of course, the State of Medina that was ruled by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). The State of Medina was an incredible reality, for, apart from containing all the ingredients of an ideal Islamic state, it also was an incredible success, having survived against all odds. This state was expanded and worked upon by the Khulafa Rashideen, who ensured the guaranteed delivery of human rights to the general population. Afterwards, we have had "near-ideal" Islamic states at various points in history. Cordoba, Cyprus, Baghdad, Samarkand, and Bukhara were all Islamic welfare states at different times in history.

The problem in creating an ideal Islamic state is that forces of totalitarianism and forces of individualism automatically align themselves against the Islamic state, making survival an issue. Thus, any ideal Islamic state will find itself at odds with imperialistic powers from without and anarchic rebellions from within. This creates extreme strain on the nascent Islamic state, which is an otherwise beautifully balanced society. It is no wonder then that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) had to fight several battles during his ten-year stay at Medina. Likewise, the Khulafa Rashideen were constantly engaged in military conflict with the imperialistic Roman and Byzantine empires. They also faced individualistic rebellion from within the Islamic state, which they had to crush with force. It was their engagement with these internal rebellions that led to the assassinations of the Khulafa Rashideen.

It would, however, be cruel to deduce that since three of the four Khulafa Rashideen were assassinated, the ideal Islamic state is "not possible". To understand how monstrous this error is and how great this blunder is, consider the assassination of American president, John Kennedy. I do not intend to compare Kennedy's worth with the Khulafa Rashideen, but one can draw lessons from analogy. Should one deduce that the reforms instituted by Kennedy are "not possible" in today's world because Kennedy was assassinated? Does Kennedy's assassination mean that he was an unpopular ruler? Should Kennedy's assassination be a lesson for us that Kennedy's ideas or ideals were unworthy? The clear answer to all these questions is "No". It turns out that some people have drawn perverse deductions from the assassinations of the Khulafa Rashideen. Foremost among these are the Western "orientalists", who have been spewing propaganda against Islam for the past several centuries. These "orientalists" claim to be specialists in Islam. As such, they are specialists in the art of maligning Islam, specialists in the art of mixing truths with lies, and specialists in the art of throwing dust in people's eyes. God protect us from the evil of the prejudiced historian of Islam.

Monday, October 24, 2005

More on the Hijab: Why Does the Hijab Provoke a Strong Emotional Reaction in non-Muslims? ...

In response to a previous post titled "On the Hijab ...", Mr. George Carty has asked me in his comment why the hijab provokes such a strong reaction in non-Muslims. I have attempted to give an explanation at the comments section of the "On the Hijab ..." entry, but Mr Carty is right in noting that my reply is comprehensive enough to warrant a separate entry, so here is my reply.

To understand why the hijab provokes such a strong reaction in non-Muslims, especially Western non-Muslims, one must consider the history of Europe. It may be noted, as I have noted in my original posting, that Mary, mother of Jesus (peace be upon him), preferred to wear the hijab, as can be attested by the fact that virtually all portraits of the blessed lady have depicted her with the hijab. At some point in history, Christian women got rid of the hijab, even though portraits of Mary (may God be pleased with her) continued to depict her with the hijab. The hijab, which was originally meant for all women, became confined only to a select group of women called the nuns. It was the historic battle between the Church and Science during the European Renaissance that finally helped to make the hijab so unpopular in Europe.

Everyone knows about how the Church was a great impediment to the progress of Science. The reason for this unfortunate conflict was the injection of Greek philosophy into the Bible centuries before the Renaissance even started. A significant portion of this Greek philosophy was unscientific and simply nonsense, but the upholders of the Church, unaware of this historic reality, sought to uphold the Bible as sacrosanct and thus vehemently opposed anything that was opposed to their set beliefs and patterns of thinking. In the battle between the Church and Science, the latter emerged victorious. While this victory paved the way for scientific progress and technological advancement in Europe, it also ensured the separation of the Church from the State. The Church, having thus lost its influential power, became an object of attack by the upholders of Science. Atheism became increasingly popular and morality levels plunged. Religion became "unscientific", faith became "blind", and secularism became the new religion of the European. Practices associated with religion became unpopular and frowned upon. One of these practices is the hijab, which, because of its association with nuns, became a symbol of oppression reminiscent of the oppression of the Church to advancement and progress. Thus, the woman who wears the hijab came to be considered as backward, conservative, or fundamentalist.

A very different story is found when one considers the history of Islam. It is important to note that while Christianity did away with the hijab, Islam did not. At the same time, while Christianity found itself at odds with Science, Islam found itself to be the impetus for Science. While Christianity lost its alliance with the State, Islam presented a framework for the establishment of the State. Thus emerges the modern Muslim woman, smart, confident, educated, and professional, with her all-too-conspicuous hijab. The European non-Muslim fails to come to terms with this combination of qualities because history seems to tell him, "There is something terribly wrong with that combination". Hence the strong emotional reaction.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Conspiracy of the Dark Ages ...

Western writers have designated the term "dark ages" for a thousand-year era that was actually the brightest epoch in human history. The prejudiced (or ignorant) writer would want others to think that there was no great civilization between the Roman and the modern civilization. At best, he would admit that there was a "short" period of Islamic brilliance, or that the Muslim scientists merely "collected" previous knowledge and passed it over to the Renaissance.

Our response to the Western use of the term "dark ages" has been regrettably lukewarm. When answering the prejudiced Western writer, we tend to make statements such as "Islam was enjoying its Golden Age at a time when Europe was drowned in its Dark Ages". Such a well-meaning statement may seem quite ok at first sight, but implicit in that statement is the fact that we have come to accept the term 'dark ages' that Western historians want to use. This is a monstrous error and should never be made. If Northern Europe was in a dark period of its history, one shouldn't say that they were in "their" dark ages, for by analogy, we Muslims are in "our" dark ages today, yet we hardly use the term "dark ages" for the present times. I will add in parentheses that if Rome and Greece are a part of Europe, then so is Spain, and it would be outright hypocritical to say that Europe was in glory during the Roman and Greek civilizations, yet it was "in its dark ages" during Islamic Spain's 800-year wonderful civilization.

The civilization spurred by Islam in the medieval ages was undoubtedly the greatest civilization witnessed by humanity. The Islamic civilization of the medieval ages produced a social system that guaranteed the rights of the individual, including women’s rights and minority rights – something which has not yet been achieved fully by the West. The literacy rate reached an unparalleled 100% in Islamic Spain, which is unmatched by present-day America, which stands at 99%. One should study in detail about the banking system, the military system, the sewerage system, the education system, and what not, developed by the Islamic civilization of the middle ages. One will come to the straightforward conclusion that the Islamic social system of the medieval ages was the most advanced system ever developed.

(Adapted from a posting I made on the Muslim Heritage website. Please see the Muslim Heritage website for information about the rich intellectual Muslim heritage that has been stifled in history books.)

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Movie, "The Message" ...

The other day, Geo TV aired the 1976 movie, The Message, as part of its Ramadan package. I have seen this movie quite a few times before, yet I felt the same sense of wonderment while watching it now that I had felt when I had watched the movie for the first time. The movie seeks to depict in a highly summarized manner the 23-year prophetic struggle of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). While the movie does a good job of what it portends to do, namely portray the reality of the times of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), I am nevertheless struck by the question of why the movie never seems to lose its attraction for people. It is just as popular today as it was some thirty years ago and it would be no exaggeration to say that The Message has been one of the most watched movies. One wanders what is so deeply attractive about a movie that is neither a love story nor an epic adventure, but is only the story of the personal ambition of a single man for an achievement that is next to impossible. Perhaps it is the fact that that the movie allows one to imagine one were there at the time all those events happened. The swords, the battles, the dialogues, the treaties, the conspiracies, the blessings, the people, the desert, the horses, and the camels, all combine to create a very real atmosphere that is devoid of any surrealism or false hypnotism. As such, the movie is a must-see for all Muslims (and non-Muslims too). Watch it!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Pakistan, Earthquakes, and the Spirit of Brotherhood ...

The 7.6-magnitude, devastating earthquake that jolted Pakistan on 8th October, 2005 was one of the greatest tests Nature has put to the Pakistani nation. With tens of thousands of people dead and literally millions rendered homeless in Kashmir, this was an unprecedented situation for the country. Never before, except maybe at the partition of Pakistan from India in 1947, have we experienced such death and destruction. But in a response that was almost as swift as the earthquake itself, the Pakistani nation sprang forward as one to aid their Kashmiri brothers in plight. Within a few hours of the quake, thousands of relief camps had been established all over the country, where people donated generously with whatever they could: money, clothes, blankets, and food items. I offer my salutation to the spirit of brotherhood of the Pakistani nation, who have always related to the pain and suffering of their afflicted brothers and sisters in the World, be it our brethren in Yugoslavia, in Palestine, or in Kashmir.

Yet, amidst this greatness, this brotherhood, and this generosity, there were people, quite well-to-do people, wealthy, rich, affluent people, who have not had a single rupees' worth on their credit to the quake victims. They may have listened to the news on the television and cast a pitying glance at the faces of the tormented victims, but they could not be motivated enough to actually do something for the victims. Their love of wealth prevented them from spending their wealth, their love of comfort prevented them from going out of their way to help those in need, and their love of power prevented them from heeding to the cries of the powerless and the helpless.

Earthquakes are an unusual time in history, for they tend to bring out the good and the bad in people. In this respect, it is instructive to study what the Qur'an says about the Final Earthquake, the harbinger of the Day of Reckoning:

1. When the Earth is shaken with its [final] earthquake.
2. And when the Earth throws out its burdens.
3. And Man will say: "What is the matter with it?"
4. That Day it will declare its information [about all what happened over it of good or evil].
5. Because your Lord has inspired it.
6. That Day humankind will proceed in scattered groups that they may be shown their deeds.
7. So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it.
8. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it.

(Qur'an: The Earthquake)

May God grant us with more than a mountain's weight of good and less than an atom's weight of evil.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Was Islam Spread by the Sword? ...

This is a tricky question. For if one replies with the correct answer, which is "Yes!", then the Islamophobe says, "Hey, you see, you guys had nothing genuine to offer, so you used the Sword to get your job done." On the other hand, if one answers the question with the defeatist answer, "No", then the historic military campaigns launched against the enemies of Islam lose their legitimacy and significance. In an attempt to simultaneously protect both the pacifism and the authenticity of his religion, the "progressive, enlightened Muslim" is forced to respond with the latter answer. This is an extremely unfortunate situation, for it strips Islam of its vital military aspect. While on the one hand, this is a reflection on the art of deception of the Islamophobes, on the other hand, it is also a reflection on the spiritual crisis that has pervaded the Ummah. The fact of the matter is that Islam did spread by the Sword. One cannot ignore the fact that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) is the most successful army general of all time, having fought several battles and won virtually all of them. Nor can one ignore the fact that the military campaigns carried out by the First Four Caliphs were directly in consonance with the military injunctions of the Qur'an. However, the automatic derivation that once having occupied foreign lands, the conquering Muslims took to a campaign of forceful conversion of the natives to Islam, is a slander borne out of spite and is not supported by historical evidence. In fact, the subjugated populations were allowed religious liberty and basic human rights were not suspended. Conversion to Islam took place only when the conquered populations came into close contact with Islam and Muslims. These were personal decisions that were made for spiritual reasons and not under threat or for worldly reasons.

The lesson to be learnt for all of us is that the rebirth of Islam from the current state of ignominy will necessarily entail some amount of military conflict. Those people who discount the role of the Sword in the name of pacifism do a great disservice to Islam. I would also like to mention as a disclaimer the fact that Islam is the most pacifist religion; the killing of innocent civilians is expressly prohibited in Islam and the present-day acts of terrorism cannot find their motivation from Islam.

The Network of Deception ...

I was reading the excellent blog Thoughts & Readings, where I put in a comment to a posting titled "Fear", dated Monday, September 26, 2005. I received the following response to my question at the bloggers' other blog, Spiritual Tendencies.

A Question from Thoughts & Readings

A dear brother of mine posted this at ‘Thoughts & Readings’:

Hatim Al-Asamm asserted, ‘Do not be deceived by righteous places, for there is no place more righteous than Paradise, and consider what Adam [peace be upon him] met with in a righteous place! And do not be deceived by abundant acts of worship, for consider what Iblis came to after so much worship. And do not be deceived by large quantities of knowledge, for Balaam knew the Greatest Name of God, and consider what he met with! And do not be deceived by meeting the pious, for there is no person with a greater destiny than Mustafa [may God's blessing and peace be upon him], and meeting him did not benefit [some of] his relatives and enemies.’

And brother Fayyaz Khan posed a very good question as such:

‘If one isn't to be deceived by righteous places, abundant acts of worship, large quantities of knowledge, and meeting with the pious, then how is one supposed to follow the right path? What is the foolproof method to get rid of this network of deception?’

In my humble opinion, the great Hatim al-Asamm (may God be pleased with him) said such to prevent negligence on the part of seekers, when it comes to realising that total dependance on God is the ultimate cause of salvation and the attainment of the Divine Truth.

Performing abundant acts of worship, attaining large quantities of knowledge and regular meetings with the pious are all extremely beneficial means to a greater end. But all that, not complemented with the dire need of God's grace will deceive the seeker into assuming that he is progressing on the right path, causing him to be fully satisfied with his current state and actions.

That particular state of self-satisfaction is the deception, not the acts of worship, abundant knowledge and meetings with the pious.

We have heard and read of extreme acts of worship and self-mortification by the Sufis while failing to see that these Sufis do not actually take into account what they have done and how much, all they consider is Who all that was for. They are never satisfied with themselves, always satisfied with God and seek only His satisfaction.

Therefore, the proper method of approach to God must always be based on fear and utter need of His grace. If one is in a state which is deemed good, one must always be aware that God has the ability to remove him/her from that state, if He so chooses.May God bless and protect us!

Posted by Shaik Abdul Khafid at 10/10/2005

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Last Sermon ...

The Last Sermon of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) is a landmark sermon in the history of Islam. It was delivered by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) at the occasion of the Final Hajj (pilgrimage) performed by him. That the sermon is a landmark is obvious from the very words of the sermon that have reached us through the centuries, unadulterated and unedited. The following are main extracts from the Last Sermon.

`O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I don't know whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be here. O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity.'

'Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things. O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah's trust and with his permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never be unchaste. O People, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers (salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in zakat. Perform hajj if you can afford to. All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.'

'Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim, and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not go astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. O People, no Prophet or Apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand my words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to all others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people.'

The sermon summarises the Message of Islam in a nutshell. As such, the words, 'All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to all others and those to others again', mean that the sermon was meant for an unlimited audience. Besides, the prophetic statement, 'All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action', is a clear indication that the intended audience is not only the Arab nation but in fact it is the whole of humanity.

The Last Sermon gives us the specialist's prescription by which an Islamic Renaissance can be achieved in an individual, in a family, in a community, in a nation, and finally, in the Ummah. The formula has the advantage that it has the full endorsement of God and His Beloved Prophet (peace be upon him). Therefore, it is the only viable working algorithm that can lead to success. The formula constitutes the following main points.
  • Belief in the Finality of Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): There will be no prophet after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Any claimant to this position will be considered nothing more than a crook and the religion of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) will be considered final and binding.
  • Belief in the sanctity and utility of the Qur'an: The Qur'an will be considered the final, unaltered Word of God and will be followed in letter and spirit.
  • Belief in the sanctity and utility of the Sunnah: The prophetic example will be followed as the "gold-standard".
  • Belief in the Reckoning: God will undoubtedly reckon our deeds, so we should be prepared for it.
  • Fundamental rituals of Islam: The five daily prayers (salah), the daily fasts of Ramadan, the wealth tax (zakat), and the Hajj (pilgrimage), will be obligatory and binding on all Muslims.
  • Position of women in Islam: Women have the right to be fed and clothed in fairness and be treated with kindness. Those people who think that Islam is "unfair" to women think so only out of ignorance or sheer prejudice.
  • Equality of the human race: The fact that the Qur'an is in Arabic and that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) preferred to speak in Arabic does not make Islam racist or myopic in any sense.
  • Equity within the human race: There will be zero tolerance for injustice; neither will we allow ourselves to be unjust nor will we allow injustice to be done upon us.
  • Brotherhood within Islam: The more than one billion Muslims in today's world are all one brotherhood. Like brothers, we should be concerned for each other's welfare; like brothers, we should help each other; and like brothers, we should be united as one family.
  • Be honest: Do not hurt people's trusts.
  • Do no harm: 'Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you' is a universal statement that extends to non-Muslims too; that is, a Muslim is not allowed to hurt a non-Muslim under normal circumstances. Those people who think that Islam is out there to hurt non-Muslims should shut up their mouths after listening to this prophetic statement.
  • Interest (usury) is outright illegal: No matter what the gurus of today's economics say, the fact remains that interest is illegal. Interest is one of the most heinous means to enslave humanity, as can be witnessed by the plight of nations that are under debt to the big financial institutions. The brilliant success of Islamic banks has proven through experiment that Islamic banking is a better alternative to interest-based banking.
  • Islam is for all times: The prophetic statement, 'And may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly' clearly indicates that the Last Sermon is meant to be passed on to future generations till eternity. It is meant to be understood and followed by all who listen to it.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Where Art Thou, Andalusia? ...

Once upon a time, there lived in a far off place a very beautiful garden. It was a garden of such exquisite beauty as had never been seen or heard before. People would come from far away to experience the look and feel of this beautiful garden. Some would never leave. Those who left would leave with an everlasting impression of beauty and wonder. This was a garden where the captivating mosaic of flowers never seemed to fade before the eyes, where streams of sparkling, crystal water flowed with abundance and without abandon. This was a garden where the sweet perfumes of jasmine filled the air with an aura of eternity and engulfed the senses like a mother embraces her beloved child. This was a garden where the thorn could not hurt the delicate petals of the rose and the sparrow would sing his melodious songs all day, uninterrupted, unbothered, and unassuming. The fragrant flowers and the green carpet of soft grass would be all ears to the unique and haunting melodies that evoked a strange mixture of sorrow and happiness. This garden was a garden from Heaven that we created on Earth; this garden was the Jewel of the World.

Where art thou, Andalusia?