Is ‘Islam’ indeed a pronoun?

Well, is it?

Or is it an adjective?

Was it the name that God Almighty lent to the way of life He Ordained for man?

Or is it an Arabic word descriptive of the way of life into which man was to strive to attain, that is, the attainment to a state of peace through surrender to His Will?

Is it an Arabic word that is just as susceptible to translation, like any other Arabic word?

Take the last part of Surah 5 verse 3.

This day have I perfected for you your religion ( diina ) and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion ( diina ); but whoever is compelled by hunger, not inclining willfully to sin, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful - as translated by Shakir.

Could ‘Islam’, like ‘diina’, in this verse, not be translated, too, into English?

For that matter, could ‘Allah’, too, not be translated?

Published in: on May 18, 2008 at 9:40 am  Comments (6)  

The origins of prayer

Israk Mikraj or The Journey by Night – quite a story, actually.

You find this narrated in Bukhari’s Hadis Sahih.

I like how Dina Zaman narrates this mind-blowing event in Malaysiakini

I’ve always wondered, though, when God commanded that Muhammad should perform his prayers 50 times a day, would not Muhammad have replied, ‘I hear, I obey, my Lord’?

And when Moses, having been told of this whilst Muhammad was descending, said ‘Muhammad, your people would not be able to abide that. They would not be able to cope’ ( as narrated by Dina ), would not Muhammad, mindful that ’50 times a day’ was a command from the Creator, have replied, ‘Get behind me, satan’, headed straight back home and wasted little time doing anything else given that if one was to pray 50 times a day, there would be little time for anything else?

Published in: on April 26, 2008 at 6:29 am  Comments (3)  

Was he illiterate?

Surah 2 verse 285 confirms that ‘The messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His messengers; We make no difference between any of His messengers; and they say: We hear and obey, our Lord! Thy forgiveness (do we crave), and to Thee is the eventual course’.

We hear and obey, our Lord.

How would the prophet have responded to this?

‘Read in the name of your Lord Who created. He created man from a clot. Read and your Lord is Most Honorable, Who taught (to write) with the pen, taught man what he knew not’ – Surah 96 verses 1-4.

Did the prophet say ‘I hear and obey, our Lord’ or ‘I cannot read’ as contended in the hadith?

What means God by this?

‘And you did not recite before it any book, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted’

Is it that the prophet did not himself transcribe the revealed words of the Holy Qur’an because to do so would have invited all sorts of accusations, as this verse seems to say, or because he did not know how to write?

 

Published in: on April 18, 2008 at 5:21 am  Comments (5)  

Is alcohol haram?

In my ‘Islam-as I say-tion’ paper, I had written :

‘Most who profess a faith in Islam take the view that consumption of intoxicants per se is a sin. I do not share this view. I am particularly guided by Surah 5 verse 93.

“On those who believe and do good there is no blame for what they eat, when they are careful, believe and do good deeds. God loves those who do good.”

It does not matter that you do not share my understanding of this verse and all of the others that may or may not have a bearing on the issue of consumption of intoxicants. What does warrant constant remembrance is that all of us have been given Divine leave to study the Holy Qur’an and to take such guidance therefrom as we will.  

As always, I am mindful that I could be wrong in my understanding.

I am also mindful of the Divine Command with regard to this difference in understanding.  

Whatever it be on which you differ, the decision is with God. Such is God, my Lord. In Him I trust, and to Him I turn. – Surah 42 verse 10. 

“Shall I seek as my Lord other than God, when He is the Cherisher of all things? Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself. No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another. Your return in the end is to God. He will tell you the truth of the things which you disputed.” – Surah 6 verse 164.

“If they do wrangle with you, say ‘God knows best what you are doing. God will judge between you on the Day of Judgment concerning your differences’”. – Surah 22 verses 68 and 69.

“O God, Creator of the heavens and earth, Knower of all that is open and concealed, it is You that will judge between Your servants in matters on which they differed”. – Surah 39 verse 46 ‘

Thought you might want to read about this ongoing debate on the fatwa on alcohol by Sheikh Qardawi.

 

Published in: on April 16, 2008 at 12:25 pm  Comments (24)  

The sunnah of the final prophet

1,400 years ago, God told Muhammad of a time when men would strive, by false accounts, to mislead people from the way of life that God had ordained. This is how God put it to Muhammad.

 

“But among men are also those who, without any knowledge, and taking it lightly, spread frivolous hadith to mislead from the way of God. For such as these the nemesis will be shameful. When our  verses are recited before them they turn away haughtily as though they did not hear them, as if a deafness had come into their ears. So give them tidings of a shameful punishment.” – Surah 31 verses 6-7 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

Muhammad would not only have revealed this verse to the numbers that made up the ummah during his time, he would most assuredly have also delivered the following to them :-

 

“God has revealed the most beautiful Hadith in the form of a book, consistent with itself; repetitive. The skins of those who fear their Lord tremble thereat; then their skins and their hearts yield to the celebration of praises of God. Such is the guidance of God; He Guides therewith whom He pleases, but such as whom God leaves to stray shall have none to guide.”  Surah 39 verse 23 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“God! There is no god but He! Of a surety He will gather you together against the day of judgment, about which there is no doubt. And whose hadith can be more true than God’s ?”.  – Surah 4 verse 87 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“Such are the Signs of God which We rehearse to thee in truth. Then in what hadith  will they believe after God and His Signs?” – Surah 45 verse 6 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“In what hadith, after this, will they believe in ?” – Surah 77 verse 50 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

God also told Muhammad that he would have occasion to lament : My Lord, surely my people treat this Qur’an as a forsaken thing’.” — Surah 25 verse 30  of the Holy Qur’an.

 

Given that which was revealed to Muhammad, it must now be asked if he might have then said to the ummah : ‘Follow the guidance in the Qur’an as well as my hadith and you will not go astray’. Those who would be inclined to answer this in the affirmative must reconcile their conclusion with the following command from God.

 

“Follow the revelation given unto you from your Lord, and follow not, as friends or protectors, other than Him. Little it is ye remember of admonition.” — Surah 7 verse 3 of the Holy Quran.  

 

The oft-heard argument to this is that surely Muhammad had to explain the Qur’an to the ummah; that the prophet’s explanation was then the ‘flesh that clothed the dry bones of the law’. This argument, to my mind, runs counter to the following revelations.

 

“It is for Us to explain it.” – Surah 75 verse 19 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“And no question do they bring to you but We reveal to you the truth and the best explanation.” – Surah 25 verse 33 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“God Most Gracious. It is He who Teaches the Qur’an.” – Surah 55 verse 1 & 2 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“Say : ‘Shall I seek for judge other than God, when it is He who sent to you the Book, explained in detail? They know full well to whom We have given the Book, that it has been sent down to you from your Lord in truth. Never be then of those who doubt.”

- Surah 6 verse 114 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“There is not an animal on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but are communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.” – Surah 6 verse 38 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“One day We shall raise from all peoples a witness against them, from amongst themselves, and We shall bring you as a witness against these. And We have sent down to you a Book explaining all things; a guide, a mercy and glad tidings to all muslims.” – Surah 16 verse 89 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

The retort to this is that even as the Qur’an is complete, yet it is not easy to comprehend. Muhammad would have had to explain the ‘explanation of God’ in the Qur’an, or it would have remained largely a misunderstood tomb. To this, see what God says.

 

“And We have made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember. Then is there any that will receive admonition ?  – Surah 54 verses 17, 22, 32 and 40 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“Frivolous hadith to mislead from the way of God.                                                                      

 

Has this come to pass?

 

 

Take the five pillars of Islam.

 

The Syahadah.

 

 “ I bear witness that there is no god but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God.” A prerequisite for entry into Islam, obligatory as an utterance in prayer, and a vital recitation on one’s deathbed. So we are told. Yet this is nowhere to be found in the Qur’an.

 

See, though, what God says :

 

There is no god but He ( laa ilaaha illaa huwa ) : that is the witness of God, His angels and those endued with knowledge, standing firm on justice. There is no god but He ( laa ilaaha illaa huwa ), the Exalted in Power, the Wise.” : Surah 3 verse 18 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“It is He Who has sent His messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, to proclaim it over all religion. AND ENOUGH IS ALLAH FOR A WITNESS.”          Surah 48 verse 28 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“Whatever good happens to thee is from Allah, but whatever evil happens to thee is from thy soul. And We have sent thee as a messenger to mankind. AND ENOUGH IS ALLAH FOR A WITNESS.” -  Surah 4 verse 79 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“But Allah beareth witness that what He hath sent unto thee He hath sent from His Knowledge, and the angels bear witness; BUT ENOUGH IS ALLAH FOR A WITNESS.” – Surah 4 verse 166 of the Holy Qur’an. 

 

Could it be that the prophet commanded that we should bear witness to his messengership? See what he was commanded to say :

 

“Say: ‘ENOUGH IS ALLAH FOR A WITNESS BETWEEN ME AND YOU; FOR HE IS WELL – ACQUAINTED WITH HIS SERVANTS AND HE SEES.’ ”             - Surah 17 verse 96 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“Say: ‘What thing is most weighty in evidence?’. Say: ‘ALLAH IS WITNESS BETWEEN ME AND YOU; THIS QURAN HATH BEEN REVEALED TO ME BY INSPIRATION, THAT I MAY WARN YOU AND ALL WHOM IT REACHES.’   - first part of Surah 6 verse 19 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

Yet those who are disbelievers say: ‘You are not the apostle sent’. Tell them: ‘GOD IS SUFFICIENT AS WITNESS BETWEEN ME AND YOU, AND HE WHO HAS KNOWLEDGE OF THE BOOK.’ ” – Surah 13 verse 43 of the Holy Qur’an.

                                                      

“Say: ‘ENOUGH IS ALLAH FOR A WITNESS BETWEEN ME AND YOU. He knows what is in the heavens and on earth. And it is those who believe in vanities and reject Allah that will perish.’ ” – Surah 29 verse 52 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

Did God forewarn the prophet of those who would bear testimony to his messengership? See what the prophet was told :

 

“When the hypocrites come to thee, they say, ‘WE BEAR WITNESS THAT THOU ART INDEED THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH’(nasyhadu – innaka larasuulu –llaahi) Yea, Allah knoweth that thou art indeed His messenger, and Allah beareth witness that the hypocrites are indeed liars.” – Surah 63 verse 1 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

Salat

 

This is understood by most to mean the ritual prayer. Taking this for the moment as being correct, are there any circumstances in which God forbids the performance of salat? My reading of the Qur’an reveals only two. A mind befogged and a state of uncleanliness, as decreed in Surah 4 verse 43 of the Holy Qur’an. So detailed is God that verse 43 in fact narrates the circumstances which would lead to a state of uncleanliness warranting abstinence from salat. Nowhere in this verse, though, does God include menstruation as occasioning a state of uncleanliness covered by verse 43. Yet women today are forbidden to salat when the menstrual period sets in. Wherefrom is this injunction derived?

 

I’ve been told time and again that provided the intent is pure, the ritual prayer, as salat is commonly understood, may be performed anywhere that is clean. If so, why then, is Prophet Abraham quoted as follows in the Holy Qur’an : “O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular Prayer ( translated from salat ). So fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed th em with fruits: so that they may give thanks—Surah 14 verse 37 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

This verse suggests that some of the progeny of Abraham were deliberately relocated so that they might salat there. If salat is ritual prayer that can be performed anywhere, as we are told, why then does Abraham say that they have been relocated to this particular location in order that they may salat there. If, on the other hand, salat related to  a ‘complete way of life’ or ‘our commitments to God’, might this verse then mean that Abraham relocated some of his progeny to this new, barren land so that they may endeavour to establish there the ‘complete way of life’ or ‘our commitments to God’?

 

Consider this suggestion also in the context of Surah 11 verses 84-87.

 

Here we are told that Shuaib was despatched to the Madyan to share with them the dos and donts of the way of life as ordained. He said : “O my people! worship God: Ye have no other god but Him. And give not short measure or weight: I see you in prosperity, but I fear for you the penalty of a day that will compass (you) all round. O my people, give just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due: commit not evil in the land with intent to do mischief. That which is left you by God is best for you, if ye believed! But I am not set over you to keep watch!”.

 

To digress a little, it is interesting to note how Shuaib’s closing remark is similar to how Prophet Muhammad was so often commanded in the Holy Qur’an to say that he was merely a warner and was not sent to watch over the peoples affairs.

 

Returning to the Madyans, see what they say in response to Shuaib’s dos and donts. “O Shu’aib! Does thy prayer ( translated from salatuka ) command thee that we leave off the worship which our fathers practised, or that we leave off doing what we like with our property? truly, thou art the one that forbeareth with faults and is right- minded!”

 

My question. Can we visualise a ritual prayer of one person as a  command to another to abstain from certain conduct? How does my prayer prohibit your actions?

 

If the word ‘salatuka’ was read as ‘way of life’ and that part of the verse now translated to read : “Does thy way of life ( my suggested rendition of salatuka ) prescribe ( as opposed to ‘command’ as now appears in the translated verse ) that we leave off the worship which our fathers practised, or that we leave off doing what we like with our property?”, does the whole of Surah 11 verses 84-87 now begin to make nore sense.

 

Shuaib approached the Madyan with a list of dos and donts. This is his dakwah. He is now asked, “does your way of life prohibit our ways?”.

 

 

Saum

 

What does God say of the saum ( understood to be the fast ) in the Qur’an?

 

“…summa ’atimmus-siyaama ’ilal-layl” —- part of Surah 2 : 187. Here, God tells us when we are to cease the saum ( understood to mean to break our fast ). This has been translated as follows :-

 

“Then complete your fast till the night appears.” – Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

 

“Then strictly observe the fast till nightfall.” – Pickthall.

 

“Then complete your fast till the night appears.” – King Fahd translation.

 

“Then resume fasting until nightfall.” – Asad.

 

“Kemudian sempurnakanlah puasa itu sehingga waktu malam.” – Jab. Perdana Menteri.

 

“Kemudian sempurnakanlah puasa sampai malam.” – Mahmud Yunus.

 

“Kemudian sempurnakanlah puasa sampai malam.” – Othman Ali.

 

“Then fast until the following night.” – Rashad.

 

“Then complete the fast until nightfall.” – Irving.

 

“Then complete the fast unto the night.” – Arberry.

 

“Then complete your fast till nightfall.” – Maududi.

 

 

All 11 translators are unanimous; we are to saum ( or fast as commonly understood ) until nightfall.

 

 

If my research is correct, the Arabic word translated to mean night, nightfall or malam is “ ’ilal-layl ”, stemming from the root word “layl”. The root word or its derivative appear in 81 verses, all of which are translated to mean “night” or “nightfall”. Five such verses are Surah 2 : 51, 2 : 164, 2 : 274, 3 : 27 and 3 : 113.

 

The Quranic word for sunset, on the other hand, is “ghurub” ( Surah 18 : 86; 20 : 130;   50 : 39 ).The setting of the sun appears in the Quran as “gharaba” in Surah 18 : 17. “Maghrib” generally means “west” in the Quran ( Surah 2 : 115; 2 : 142; 2 : 177; 2 : 258; 7 : 137; 26 : 28; 55 : 17; 70 : 40; 73 : 9 ), and its appearance in Surah 18 : 86 is translated by the following to mean :-

 

“setting of the sun” – Arberry.

 

“where the sun set” – Maududi.

 

“where the sun sets” – Irving.

 

“the far west” – Rashad.

 

“tempat terbenam matahari” – Othman Ali.

 

“ditempat terbenam matahari” – Mahmud Yunus.

 

“ke daerah matahari terbenam” – Jab. Perdana Menteri.

 

“setting place of the sun” – Pickthall.

 

“setting of the sun” – Asad.

 

“setting of the sun” – King Fahd translation.

 

“setting of the sun” – Abdullah Yusuf Ali.

 

 

Has God commanded us to saum ( fast, as commonly understood ) until nightfall or are we to cease to saum (break our fast as commonly understood) at sunset? Taking the common understanding of saum to be correct, does God say we are to saum ( fast ) until “maghrib” or until “layl” ? Take another look at Surah 2 : 187. The next fasting month, when the azan is called at maghrib, look at the nearest park and see if children are still playing outdoors. If they are, without the aid of street lighting, ponder if it is already nightfall, or only dusk? And if it is not yet nightfall ( “layl” ), by whose command do you then cease the saum ( break the fast )?

 

Zakat?

 

We are told today that this command of God in the Qur’an requires of us a contribution of 1/40th of our income to the baitulmal. This is nowhere to be found in the Qur’an.

 

Interestingly, there is one specific instance in the Qur’an where a messenger of God was despatched to a tyrant with a command from God that the latter should zakat. This is the account of Moses’ encounter with Pharaoh. We are told in numerous verses that Moses was to ask Pharaoh to free the children of Israel from their state of bondage. Surah 79 verses 17-19 details one specific message that Moses was to deliver to Pharaoh.

 

“Go to Pharaoh, for he has indeed transgressed all bounds, and say to him, ‘Will you not be purified ( an tazakkaa )  and be guided to your Lord, so that you may fear Him’.”  

 

Was this then a command to Pharaoh to hand over to Moses 1/40th of all camels, horses, cattle, sheep, slaves, gold and silver and this would suffice to purify Pharaoh of his reign of tyranny?

 

The Haj.

 

We are taught that the circumambulation ( tawaf ) of the Ka’aba is a mandatory ritual in the performance of the Haj. Seven in all. Is this in the Qur’an?

 

See what God says.

 

“Behold! Safa and Marwa are amongst the symbols of God. So if those who visit the House in the season or at other times should compass them round ( an-yat-tawafa ), it is no sin in them. And if anyone obeys his impulse to do good, be sure that God Knows.”- Surah 2 verse 158 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

God in the Qur’an says that He does not hold it against us as a sin if we perform the tawaf, but we are told today that it is mandatory.

 

Frivolous hadith to mislead from the way of God?

 

Lord, surely the people treat Your Qur’an as a forsaken thing!

 

How has this come about?

 

Ask any Muslim ulama and he will readily acknowledge that there are hadith which are spurious and therefore are to be rejected.

 

The 9 volumes of Sahih Bukhari are reputed to be amongst the most reliable.

 

 Imam Bukhari is said to have collected more than 600,000 narrations of the hadith of Muhammad. He rejected about 593,000 and retained about 7000. These 7000 appear as some  2000+ hadith in those 9 volumes.

 

Let us observe just 1 hadith.

 

Hadith No.423, Volume 2,Hadeeth of Bukhari:

 

“Narrated Abu Hurairah:The angel of death was sent to Moses and when he went to him, Moses slapped him and spoiled one of his eyes. The angel went back to his Lord, and said,’You sent me to a slave who does not want to die’. Allah restored his eye and said,‘Go back and tell him (i.e Moses) to place his hand over the back of an ox, for he will be allowed to live for a number of years equal to the number of hairs coming under his hand’.(So the angel came to him and told him the same). Then Moses asked,’O my Lord! What will be then?’. He said,’Death will be then’. He said,'(Let it be) now’. He asked Allah that He bring him near the Sacred Land at a distance of a stone’s throw. Allah’s Messenger said,’Were I there I would show you the grave of Moses by the way near the red sand-hill’.”

 

Isn’t this fantastic? God sends the angel of death to take Moses life and instead, the angel gets a walloping from Moses and returns to God “empty-handed”. Moses defeated God’s Will!!!!???

 

Compare this hadith with the following verses from the Holy Qur’an.

 

“He is irresistible, from above over His worshippers, and He sets guardians over you. At length, when death approaches one of you, Our angels take his soul, AND THEY NEVER FAIL IN THEIR DUTY.” - Surah 6 verse 61 of the Holy Qur’an.                    

 

BUT TO NO SOUL WILL GOD GRANT RESPITE WHEN THE TIME APPOINTED HAS COME, and God is acquainted with that which you do.” Surah 63 verse 11 the Holy Qur’an.

 

Do we reject the above hadith as being in conflict with the above verses? If so, must we not also then ask if Bukhari then knew so little of the Qur’an that he did not himself reject this hadith that conflicted with the Qur’an? You are in fact saying that you use the Qur’an as your yardstick. Did not Bukhari do likewise? Let us not forget that he is reported to have devoted his life to Islam. When you reject a hadith because you say it conflicts with the Quran, are you not then to that extent questioning the scholarship of Bukhari in the matter of the Quran? I say you are, and justifiably so. 

 

Does it not make you wonder how this man could have included such hadith that so blatantly violated the Qur’an? Was he more taken in by the reputation of the narrators rather than the unchangeable words of God? How did Bukhari make such a serious mistake? Was it a mistake?

 

These questions will no doubt earn one the accolade of heretic, “anti-sunnah” and “anti-hadith”. If it is any consolation, Muhammad suffered worse.

 

The world of Islam today asserts that the hadith accounts in the volumes of Bukhari and the several other imams are indispensable if we are to attain to a viable understanding of the sunnah of Muhammad; that without those hadith accounts, the Qur’an is a dead letter. Imam Shafii’ in his Risala puts his case thus : ‘The Qur’an has more need of the hadith than the hadith has need of the Qur’an’. 

 

Lord, surely these people treat Your Qur’an as a forsaken thing!

 

The sunnah of Muhammad?

 

Is this not to be found in the Qur’an?

 

Five times a day, the Muslim world exhorts in prayer : “Show us the straight way       ( siraatal-musta-qiim ); the way ( siraatal ) of those upon whom You have bestowed Your Grace, not those who incur Your Wrath or who go astray”. Surah 1 verses 6 & 7 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

The sunnah of Muhammad?

 

“Say : ‘Come, I will rehearse what God has prohibited you from. Join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want – We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, that you may learn wisdom. Do not come near the property of the orphans, except to improve it, until he attains the age of full strength. Give measure and weight with justice. No burden do We place on any soul but that which it can bear. Whenever you speak, speak justly, even if a near relative is concerned, and fulfil the Covenant of God. Thus does He Command you, that you may remember. Verily, this is my straight way ( siraatii-musta-qiiman ); follow it. Follow not paths that will scatter you from His Path. Thus does He Command you, that you may be righteous”. – Surah 6 verses 151-153 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

The Muslim world craves the sunnah of Muhammad. And yet two comprehensive verses detailing the siraatii-musta-qiiman of Muhammad are not enough.

 

Lord, surely the Muslim world treats Your Qur’an as a forsaken thing!

 

“ And is it not enough for them that We have sent down to you the Book which is rehearsed to them? Verily in it is mercy and a reminder to those who believe.” –Surah 29 verse 51 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“Follow the revelation given unto you from your Lord, and follow not, as friends or protectors, other than Him. Little it is ye remember of admonition.” — Surah 7 verse 3 of the Holy Quran.

 

 

“God! There is no god but He! Of a surety He will gather you together against the day of judgment, about which there is no doubt. And whose hadith can be more true than God’s ?”.  – Surah 4 verse 87 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“Such are the Signs of God which We rehearse to thee in truth. Then in what hadith  will they believe after God and His Signs?” – Surah 45 verse 6 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

 

“In what hadith, after this, will they believe in ?” – Surah 77 verse 50 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

 

This is my understanding and my faith. If I have fallen into error, then it is to our Lord that I must answer to, whose Judgment I submit to.“ Is not God the most equitable of all judges ?” – Surah 95 verse 8 of the Holy Qur’an.

 

“But thou dost wreak thy vengeance on us simply because we believed in the signs of our Lord when they reached us! O Lord, pour out upon us patience and constancy, and take our souls unto Thee as submitters to Thy Will.”— Surah 7 verse 126 of the Holy Qur’an.

Published in: on April 13, 2008 at 1:34 am  Comments (15)  

Ego – the heart of idolatory?

“God never forgives the idolization of anything besides Him, and forgives all lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up any idol besides God, has forged a gross blasphemy.” -  4 : 48.

 

 “God does not forgive the idolization of any idols besides Him, and He forgives all lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who idolizes any idol besides God, has gone far astray.” – 4 : 116

 

“Those who believe, then disbelieve, then believe, then disbelieve, then plunge deeper into disbelief, God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them to any path.” – 4 : 137.

 

“And race towards forgiveness from your Lord, and a paradise that encompasses the heavens and the earth; it awaits the righteous who are charitable during the times of prosperity and the times of hardship. They control their anger, and they pardon the people. God loves those who are charitable. When they fall into gross sin, or wrong their souls, they remember God and ask forgiveness for their sins; and who forgives the sins except God? They never persist in sinfulness, knowingly.” – 3 : 133-135.

 

God says that whilst the sin of idolatry will never be forgiven, yet He forgives all sins of the one who is quick to the remembrance of God upon the realisation of his wrong and sincerely repents. I suggest that from the verses above, sincere repentance is evidenced by one who refrains from persistently and knowingly repeating a wrong.

 

Does God’s forgiveness extend also to the sin of idolatry? When God says that He will not forgive the idolator, does this mean that even the sincerely repentant idolator will never be forgiven his past idolatry?  We need to reflect on this because even as we regard ourselves as believers, God says that most of the believers cannot believe in Him without also associating others with Him. “And most of them believe not in God without associating with Him!” - 12 : 106.

 

If indeed there is no forgiveness for the sin of idolatry, both past and present, and given that God says that even the believers cannot believe in Him without falling into idolatry, it is critical that we understand what is idolatry; what it means to associate another with God.

 

As always, God does not leave us without guidance. He cites several instances of idolatry in the Qur’an.

 

“They even set up idols from among the jinns, though He created them. And they invented sons and daughters for Him, without knowledge. Most glorified and most exalted He is, over and above anything they describe.” -  6 : 100.

 

“During his absence, the people of Moses sculpted from their jewelry a calf that produced a sound. Did they not see that it could not speak to them, nor help them in any way? They worshipped it and turned wicked.” – 7 : 148.

 

“However, when He gives them a good healthy baby, they set up an idol out of God’s gift to them. Most exalted is God, over and above anything they idolize.” – 7 : 190.

 

They have taken their priests and rabbis as lords besides God, as well as Christ the son of Mary. They were commanded not to worship but the one God; there is no god except He, much too glorious to have partners.” – 9 : 31.

 

“What about the one who idolizes his own ego? Can you do anything for him?” – 25 : 43.

 

Jinns, things sculpted by the hands of man, our children, the clergy and our own desires. These, God tells us, are some of the things that set us on the path to idolatry. 

 

We claim to have come to believe in the Qur’an to the exclusion of all other innovations of man. We believe we have rid ourselves of the ulamak and human intercessors. Perhaps we have also come to realise that “our” children are not really “ours” but mere trusts placed with us by God for a time; that they, like us, belong to Him.

 

What of our egos? Have we, then, rid ourselves of our egos? Or do we still exalt our own vain desires? Have we made ourselves gods, our own desires always displacing the guidance of God?

 

What does it mean to deify one’s own desire? Let us look to the Qur’an for guidance.

 

 “We created you, then shaped you, then said to the angels, ‘Fall prostrate before Adam’. They fell prostrate, except Iblis; he was not with the prostrators. God said, ‘What prevented you from prostrating, when I ordered you?’. He said ‘I am better than he; You created me from fire and created him from clay’.” – 7 : 11-12.

 

Did Iblis feel remorse and regret for his arrogant disobedience? No! “He said, ‘Since you willed that I go astray, I will always skulk on Your straight path, and mislead them. Then I will come to them from their front, from behind them, from their right, and from their left, and you will find most of them unappreciative’.” – 7 : 16-17.

 

Iblis had given in to his own vain impulse, disobeyed God and was unrepentant. “God said, ‘You are evicted therefrom, despised and debased. Those who follow you, will join you in hell.” – 7 : 18.

 

Iblis was condemned to hell. That would mean God did not forgive Iblis for his unrepentant disobedience. Might this mean that unrepentant disobedience to God borne of our own vain impulse is a specie of idolatry for which there is no forgiveness?

 

Compare the position of Iblis with that of Adam. Adam was induced by the promise of immortality ( “Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden. He said, ‘Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest you should become angels or such beings as live forever’” – 7 : 20 ) and everlasting kingship ( “But Satan whispered evil to him. He said, ‘O Adam, shall I lead you to the tree of eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?’” - 20 : 120 ) to disobey God’s command not to approach the one prohibited tree ( “We said, ‘O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and eat of the bountiful things therein as you will, but approach not this tree, or you run into harm and transgression.” - 2 : 35).

 

What was Adam’s reaction when he was rebuked by God for his disobedience?

 

“They said, ‘Our Lord, we have wronged our souls and unless you forgive us and have mercy on us, we will be losers’.” – 7 : 23.

 

“God said, ‘Go down therefrom, all of you, as enemies of one another. When guidance comes to you from Me, those who follow My guidance will never go astray, nor suffer misery’.” – 20 : 123.

 

“Then Adam received from his Lord words, whereby He redeemed him. He is the redeemer, the merciful.” – 2 : 37.

 

Adam disobeyed God, giving in to his own vain desire, but was remorseful and heeded the guidance of God. For this, God redeemed him of his wrong.

 

“He accepts the repentance of His servants and pardons the sins. He is fully aware of everything you do.” – 42 : 25

 

“O you who believe, if you observe God, He will enlighten you, remit your sins, and forgive you. God possesses unlimited grace.” – 8 : 29.

 

“Say to my servants who exceeded the limits, ‘Never despair of God’s mercy; God forgives all sins; for He is the forgiver, the merciful.” – 39 : 53.

 

“Anyone who falls in sin, or wrongs his soul, then turns to God for forgiveness, he will find God forgiving, merciful.” – 4 : 110. 

 

“Yet your Lord regards those who fall in sin out of ignorance, then repent and reform; your Lord thereafter is forgiving, merciful.” – 16 : 119.

 

My understanding is that both Iblis and Adam had committed the sin of idolatry in that they had both allowed their respective egos, their own vain desires, to lead them into disobedience to God’s command. However, Iblis showed no remorse and swore that he would endeavour to divert as many of God’s servants as he could from God’s way. For this, God condemned Iblis to hell. Adam, on the other hand, immediately realised his wrong and turned to God beseeching forgiveness. Whilst God did punish Adam by despatching him to live on earth for a time, He promised Adam that guidance would be sent to him and that if Adam would hold on to that guidance, God would redeem him. We are told that Adam was indeed redeemed.

 

If the above analysis is correct, this might suggest that even the sin of idolatry is forgiven of one who sincerely repents. My understanding is that idolatry borne of our own ego occurs when we disobey God’s commands by exalting and giving in to our own vain desires. There is sincere repentance for such acts of idolatry when, having come to realise or know that our acts in furtherance of our own desires are at odds with that which God commands, we forthwith refrain from such acts. God says that those who are conscious of Him never persist in a wrong knowingly.

 

Are we idolators of our own vain desires? Do we disobey God’s commands by exalting and giving in to our own whims and fancies? This can only be ascertained if we honestly measure our own actions against God’s commands.

 

Take for instance the matter of forgiveness.

 

“Ask the believers to forgive those who do not expect the days of God. He is the one who judges the people for whatever they do.” – 45 : 14.

 

“Whatever you possess is the temporary material of this life. What God possesses is far better and everlasting, for those who believe and trust in their Lord. And they avoid gross evil and sins, and whenever provoked, they forgive.” – 42 : 36-37.

 

“Many followers of previous scripture wish to revert you back to paganism, due to jealousy on their part, now that the truth has been manifested to them. You shall forgive and forget them, for God is the one who will judge them. God is omnipotent.” – 2 : 109.

 

To forgive, as I understand it, necessitates one ridding oneself of the feeling of hate and anger towards the wrongdoer. Perhaps the Christians have aptly described how a believer might abide by the enjoinment to forgive – hate the sin, not the sinner!

 

What of God’s command to deliver His message? Do we honour this?   

 

You shall invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and compassionate enlightenment, and debate with them in the best possible manner. Your Lord knows best who is deviating from His path, and He knows best who are the guided ones. And when you avenge any aggression against you, you shall inflict an equivalent punishment. But if you resort to patience, it would be best for the patient. You shall resort to patience; and your patience will be aided by God. Do not grieve over them, and do not be annoyed by their schemes. Surely, God is with those who observe righteousness, and those who are pious.” – 16 :125-128. 

 

God is precise. Invite others to Him “with wisdom and compassionate enlightenment”. God tells us to debate with them “in the best possible manner”. God enjoins us to be patient”, “not to grieve over them” and “not to be annoyed by their schemes”.

 

See what are some of the things that God commands of the believers.

 

“… be not divided amongst yourselves” – 3 : 103

 

“If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel, make peace between them…”

– 49 : 9.

 

“O you who believe, avoid excessive suspicion, for suspicion in some cases is a sin. And spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his brother? No! You would abhor it. Fear God, for God is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” – 49 : 12

 

Do we “hear and obey” our Lord? And if we do not, is it to our own desires that we harken? Have we not then fallen into idolatry?

 

Will we not turn to God for forgiveness as did Adam? Will we not say, ‘Our Lord, we have wronged our souls and unless you forgive us and have mercy on us, we will be losers’.”

 

Is there forgiveness for our idolatry?

 

“And race towards forgiveness from your Lord, and a paradise that encompasses the heavens and the earth; it awaits the righteous who are charitable during the times of prosperity and the times of hardship. They control their anger, and they pardon the people. God loves those who are charitable. When they fall into gross sin, or wrong their souls, they remember God and ask forgiveness for their sins; and who forgives the sins except God? They never persist in sinfulness, knowingly.” – 3 : 133-135.

 

The command to each of us is to invite all to the path of our Lord. What is this “path”?

 

“If anyone desires a way of life other than one of attainment of peace by submission to God, never will it be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost.” – 3 : 85.

 

The path of attainment to peace by submission to God.

 

“O believers, enter into complete peace and do not follow in the footsteps of Satan; for he is truly your manifest enemy.” – 2 : 208.

 

“God guides those who seek His good pleasure to the path of peace, brings them out of the shadows of darkness into the light, by His leave, and guides them to a straight path.”  - 5 : 16.

 

O you tranquil soul ! Return to your Lord , well-pleased and well-pleasing Him. Enter then among my devotees ; enter then My garden.” – 89 : 27-30.

 

 

We will never attain to the path of peace until we submit ourselves completely to God (2 : 112). I believe that we will never be able to submit ourselves completely to God until we rid ourselves of our egos. Until then, we will never enter His garden. Look at some of the things that God enjoins upon us as mentioned above : to forgive; to be patient; to avoid undue suspicion of others; to abstain of speaking ill of others in their absence. Think of the last time that you disobeyed any one of these commands and honestly ask yourself what drove you to such disobedience.

 

“What about the one who idolizes his own ego? Can you do anything for him?” – 25 : 43.

 

“…God will never change the condition of a people until they change it themselves…”

-13 : 11.

 

Salam.

Published in: on April 7, 2008 at 6:54 am  Comments (2)  

The Foresaken Qur’an

‘And the Messenger cried out: O my Lord! surely my people have treated this Quran as a forsaken thing’ – Surah 25 verse 30 as translated by Shakir

 

If you have read Mahaguru58’s posting entitled ‘Answering rest of Fatt Monk’s questions on Islam’, you will see first-hand the above verse being played out.

 

Fatt Monk’s question, apparently, was ‘if a person is born into a Muslim family, does the person have the choice of quitting Islam and join another religion?’                                          

  

Mahaguru58 replied with an emphatic ‘No’.

 

Not, ‘No, I don’t think so’ or ‘In my view, no’ or ‘ In my view, it is a big sin’.

 

His ‘No’, in the context of that question, means a  person born into a Muslim family does not have the choice of quitting Islam and join another religion.

 

Born a Muslim, die a Muslim!

 

No choice!

 

Many unsuspecting readers would be forgiven for thinking that Mahaguru58 had just restated the position in Islam as laid down in the Holy Qur’an, and not his own view on the matter.

 

See, though, what the Holy Qur’an says.

 

‘How shall Allah guide a people who disbelieved after their believing and (after) they had borne witness that the Messenger was true and clear arguments had come to them; and Allah does not guide the unjust people. (As for) these, their reward is that upon them is the curse of Allah and the angels and of men, all together. Abiding in it; their chastisement shall not be lightened nor shall they be respited. Except those who repent after that and amend, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Surely, those who disbelieve after their believing, then increase in unbelief, their repentance shall not be accepted, and these are they that go astray. Surely, those who disbelieve and die while they are unbelievers, the earth full of gold shall not be accepted from one of them, though he should offer to ransom himself with it, these it is who shall have a painful chastisement, and they shall have no helpers’ – Surah 3 verses 86 – 91 as translated by Shakir.

 

‘Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path’ – Surah 4 verse 137 as translated by Shakir.

 

The answer in the Holy Qur’an to Fatt Monk’s question is yes, but you will face God’s wrath.

 

Mahaguru58 says no. Cannot.

 

‘And for what your tongues describe, do not utter the lie, (saying) This is lawful and this is unlawful, in order to forge a lie against Allah; surely those who forge a lie against Allah shall not prosper’ – Surah 16 verse 116 as translated by Shakir.

 

Few who profess Islam, though, will question or challenge Mahaguru58 and the likes of him in respect of such stated views.

 

 Why?

____________________________________

 

‘They have taken their doctors of law and their monks for lords besides Allah, and (also) the Messiah son of Marium and they were enjoined that they should serve one Allah only, there is no god but He; far from His glory be what they set up (with Him). They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, and Allah will not consent save to perfect His light, though the unbelievers are averse. He it is Who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth, that He might cause it to prevail over all religions, though the polytheists may be averse. O you who believe! most surely many of the doctors of law and the monks eat away the property of men falsely, and turn (them) from Allah’s way; and (as for) those who hoard up gold and silver and do not spend it in Allah’s way, announce to them a painful chastisement,   – Surah 9 verses 31-34 as translated by Shakir

 

Year : 1997

 

Place : KL High Court Canteen

 

Present : Lawyer H ( Indian Muslim ) and myself

 

Me : This is for you

 

H : What’s that?

 

Me : Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Qur’an.

 

H : For what?

 

Me : To read, lah. Try and understand God’s verses.

 

H : Oh,  I have the Arabic Qur’an.

 

Me : Oh, didn’t know you understood Arabic.

 

H : I don’t

 

Me : Well take this, lah and try to understand

 

H : No thanks. I tak layak to try and understand on my own tanpa berguru.

 

Me : Ok, read the translation and then ask your guru a lot of questions.

 

H : No, lah. The ustaz says its dangerous to baca terjemahan. May get confused.

 

Me : Is it not dangerous to believe everything the ustaz says without verifying from the Qur’an?

  

H : That’s the trouble with you, lah. Iman tak cukup kuat.

 

Me : Iman terhadap siapa? Tuhan ke Ustaz?

_________________________________________

 

By year 2000, I had grown restless with most of the translations.

 

One verse in particular was causing me immense trouble.

 

‘O our Lord! surely I have settled a part of my offspring in a valley unproductive of fruit near Thy Sacred House, our Lord! that they may keep up prayer; therefore make the hearts of some people yearn towards them and provide them with fruits; haply they may be grateful’ –Surah 14 verse 37 as translated by Shakir.

 

This is supposed to be the supplication of Abraham.

 

I’ve checked this verse with every translation I have. They all have Abraham saying the same : that he has despatched some of his progeny to a barren land to ‘keep up prayer’.

 

My late father said we could pray in any place that was clean. Yet this verse has it that Abraham despatched his offspring to an unproductive valley for the sole purpose of performing prayer.

 

If my late father was right that one could pray anywhere, why was Abraham sending his children to what appears to be ‘no man’s land’ to ‘keep up prayer’?

 

 ‘Prayer’ in Surah 14 verse 37 is translated from the Arabic ‘salata’.

 

My difficulty with Surah 14 verse 37 drove me to the conclusion that if I was going to get anywhere at trying to understand the Qur’an, I would have to try and do my own translation and interpretation.

 

How? I could not read or understand Arabic.

 

Hannah E. Kassis’s Concordance of the Qur’an in conjunction with Othman Ali’s ‘Al Qur’an Terjemahan cara Lafzhiyah’ have been invaluable aids, together with scores of dictionaries.

 

I examined every verse in the Qur’an where the Arabic ‘salata’ or words that shared the same root therewith appeared.

  

Surah 11 verses 84 – 87  left me convinced that salata and the other words that shared the same root had been wrongly translated to mean ‘pray’ or ‘prayer’.

 

‘And to Madyan (We sent) their brother Shu’aib. He said: O my people! serve Allah, you have no god other than He, and do not give short measure and weight: surely I see you in prosperity and surely I fear for you the punishment of an all-encompassing day. And, O my people! give full measure and weight fairly, and defraud not men their things, and do not act corruptly in the land, making mischief: What remains with Allah is better for you if you are believers, and I am not a keeper over you. They said: O Shu’aib! does your prayer ( translated from ‘asalatuka’ ) enjoin you that we should forsake what our fathers worshipped or that we should not do what we please with regard to our property? Forsooth you are the forbearing, the right-directing one’

 

If the translation of ‘salata’ to prayer in the context of Surah 14 verse 37 seemed at  odds with an understanding that prayer could be performed anywhere, the translation of ‘asalatuka’ to prayer in Surah 11 verse 87 raised, for me, at least,  the following curiosity.

 

Can prayer enjoin?

 

If ‘way of life ordained’ or something similar was substituted for ‘prayer’ in Surah 14 verse 37 and Surah 11 verse 87, would the verses tend to make more sense?

 

If ‘prayer’ in the two verses were substituted with ‘covenants with God’ or something of similar meaning, would this, too, not make more sense?

 

Today, I am convinced that ‘salata’ and other words that share the same root do not mean ‘prayer’ or some ritual.

 

I am still searching for answers.

 

Am I not entitled to search?

 

Am I not entitled to try and understand the Qur’an for myself?

 

My effort to translate and understand the Qur’an for myself is ongoing.

 

 And if I err in this effort, it is only to my Lord alone that I must answer to.

 

Are those who profess Islam, then, entitled to stop me?

 

‘Those who listen to the word, then follow the best of it; those are they whom Allah has guided, and those it is who are the men of understanding’ – Surah 39 verse 18 as translated by Shakir 

 

____________________________

 

 

 

Aidid Safar ( not his real name ), too, tried to translate and understand the Holy Qur’an for himself.

 

He authored a book entitled ‘Arab Conspiracies against Islam’ which, I understand, has since been edited, re-titled ‘Mental Bondage In The Name of God’ and is available online through Amazon.

 

At his website, he says : Yes, they do say ‘Islam’ is peace, but what many do not realise is the obscurity surrounding this word, which has fooled the people for ages and that the conspirators have successfully turned it into a brand name for a religion not ordained by the God.

 

A Malaysian, he left Malaysia to avoid persecution by those who would deny him his right to think and reason.
Published in: on April 5, 2008 at 12:08 pm  Comments (10)  
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