Women’s Mosque? Women’s Empowerment?

February 2nd, 2015

By Khalid Baig

Posted: 11 Rabi al-Thani 1436, 1 February 2015

The Women’s Mosque of America has started operations in Los Angeles. It is not a mosque per se, but the name of a non-profit organization. It began with holding female only Jumuah prayers, in an old synagogue with Stars of David etched on the stained glass windows. The decision to use this venue was made to “promote peace.”

Creating a separate space for Muslim women is a noble idea. Unfortunately the organizers chose the one event for this project for which it has no basis in the Shariah. Muslim women are not required to offer Jumuah. They are allowed but not required. (They can offer the Dhuhr prayer instead.) Further by consensus of scholars of all schools, Muslim women are not allowed to lead Jumuah prayers or deliver Jumuah Khutbahs. Not surprisingly the project met with disapproval from the great majority of local Muslim scholars who objected exactly on this ground. The women who prayed there were advised to still offer their Dhuhr prayer as the prayer obligation remained undischarged.[1]

But there is a larger issue that has not been discussed. One wonders what the officers of this corporation would think of establishing a women only school or women only college. Obviously if women need access to Islamic education in an exclusive space, then would not a daily regular school be far superior to a twenty minute sermon delivered once a month? Alas their future programs make no mention of such a plan. On the contrary other programs will be coed.

It is also interesting to see the media reaction. This was a media event and all the big names were there. And they were excited. From the Los Angeles Times to the Wall Street Journal, from ABC news to Fox News, everyone praised this as a historic event. It was considered a key development in empowerment of Muslim women. “Maybe we could get a female Luther out of this,” Los Angeles Times reported an excited congregant as saying.

The question that we must ask is what the media reaction would be if the organizers had opened a women’s only college instead. Would that be considered a historic event that would open the doors to scholarship for Muslim women? Would that be praised by the same media as a space “where Muslim women can ‘bring their whole self,’ learn more about their faith and foster bonds of sisterhood?”

It is more likely that this would be ridiculed as a step backwards, as another sign of oppression of Muslim women.

Why? Why the same act is praiseworthy in one case and blameworthy in the other?  The answer may be that it is flouting the traditions and well established Islamic teachings in one case and complying with them in the other. The first act is therefore considered empowering and the other enslaving. The hypocrisy has a rationale!

It may be therefore empowering to deconstruct the notion of “women’s empowerment” itself.

The sad fact is that we are caught up in the discourse of empowerment. Everyone these days is for “women’s empowerment.” And it is taboo to question this dogma. But let us ask, where does this word come from? Does it come from the Islamic discourse or its textual sources? The Qur’an does not talk about “women’s empowerment.” Neither does Hadith. Neither does the Islamic literature produced by authorities and scholars of varied persuasions over the centuries. If in doubt please tell me what is the Arabic term for “empowerment” and where do you find it in the Islamic textual sources?

Let us face it: It is a foreign term. And like other foreign terms it has to be examined carefully before we start using it and submit to its dictates.

The term as used today comes from the feminist discourse. And it brings with it the entire feminist agenda. Simply stated, the ideology of women’s empowerment means establishing an absolute-no-holds-barred-equality between men and women. Dozens of international organizations are devoted to promoting “women’s empowerment” and use the term interchangeably with “gender equality” and “gender mainstreaming.” At a more basic level it means fighting for your rights. As American feminist Gloria Steinem said, “Power can be taken, but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself.”

Let us contrast this with Islamic history.

The pre-Islamic Meccan society, like all Jahiliyya societies then and now, had its share of the weak and the downtrodden. Women were oppressed. So were slaves. Anyone belonging to another tribe was discriminated against. Did the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, go to them and say I have come to empower you? Did he invite them to start an empowerment movement? If he did, the seerah and Hadith books do not record it. Rather his message to everyone was, “Become a believer and you will be successful.” The promise was falah, the eternal and ultimate success, to be achieved through iman (faith) and taqwa (righteous action performed with the fear of displeasing Allah). To men and women, to slaves and masters, the rich and poor, Arabs and non-Arabs, the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said one thing:

"O people, say there is no god but Allah and you will be successful." Belief in Allah and submission to His commands were the road to falah.

“O people, say there is no god but Allah and you will be successful.” Belief in Allah and submission to His commands were the road to falah.

“O people, say there is no god but Allah and you will be successful.” Belief in Allah and submission to His commands were the road to falah.

The society that was so built did eliminate the injustices to the slaves and women and the poor and all the downtrodden people. But the path to that uplifting was not through the talk of empowerment. Rather it was through an exactly opposite strategy. Islam did not urge women to fight for their rights; it urged the men to discharge their responsibilities toward the women, fearing Allah. It did not urge the poor to fight for their rights; it urged the wealthy to discharge their responsibilities toward the poor, fearing Allah. It also urged the women to discharge their responsibilities toward their husbands. In fact it changed the focus of everyone from their rights to their responsibilities. For in the Hereafter we’ll be held accountable for our responsibilities, not our rights. If we were shortchanged on our rights here, we will be fully compensated there. But if we were negligent in discharging other’s rights on us, we will have to pay heavily for it there. Needless to say, with everyone concerned with their responsibilities, the rights of the others are automatically secured. Further, with justice being a supreme goal of Islam, redressing injustices becomes everyone’s job not just those of the victims. With this approach Islam obtained justice in the society but without the incessant friction and disharmony that is an essential result of an ongoing fight. It uplifted women without instituting a perpetual gender war. As Imam Zaid Shakir notes: “Islam has never advocated a liberationist philosophy.”

The language of empowerment is diametrically opposed to it. It makes everyone focus on their rights, not their responsibilities. The battle cry is, watch out for yourself for no one else will. This then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. With no one being primarily concerned with discharging their responsibilities, securing your rights becomes a lifelong struggle. You will only get those rights for which you fight. Hence the perpetual campaign for women’s empowerment.

What has that led to? The exact opposite of what it aimed at. The empowerment rhetoric did not end exploitation of women; it actually has opened exciting new avenues for it. As Dr. Brooke Magnanti wrote in the Telegraph, “Too often the word is used as a smokescreen for increasing consumerism, a cousin of L’Oreal’s ‘because you’re worth it’ whereby you can presumably empower yourself by buying shoes and pretty little journals, which is somehow worthier than simply buying things because you need or like these things. Or worse still, by landing some 9-to-5 corporate grinding job.”[2]

But it has done much more. It has destroyed the home and family beyond recognition. Even more, it has drastically changed men and women. Here are the words of Father John McCloskey, a Catholic priest lamenting the disaster that this world has faced.

There is something radically wrong with the family and the relationship between the sexes in the West as we rapidly approach the third millennium of the Christian era… Indeed it would be hard to find similar situations in history, unless it be the pre-Christian paganism of the Roman Empire (cf. St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans l: ll-20) or the behavior of the barbarian hordes of central Asia as they poured into a weak and decadent empire… Today, in societies that are nominally Christian, we witness the phenomenon of women who do not act like women, nor men like men, nor families like families. Codes of moral behavior that have made the family the central unit of society and have been the “guardrails” of civilization for centuries have been discarded as antiquated.”[3]

If we blindly follow the talk of women’s empowerment, we will also be headed to this lizard’s hole. Or we can follow the path of falah shown by the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam and say goodbye to the borrowed language and borrowed ideologies.

The Women’s Mosque organization was started by two ladies, a comedy writer and a lawyer, as a reaction to their “mistreatment” at some other mosque. The “mistreatment” consisted in somebody in that mosque gently pointing them upstairs to a separate area for women.  They apparently thought that the separate upstairs space that had been provided was beneath them. One wonders if that is the attitude of a humble servant of God. In reaction they organized an event that violated the commands of the same God whom they so desperately wanted to serve. And they started a first ever “protest mosque.”

Among other firsts, it also encouraged women to “enter the mosque in the type and style of clothing in which they feel comfortable.” In other words it decreed that Islam does not prescribe any dress code for prayers. Anyone who thought otherwise was asked to keep their opinions to themselves. It asked that no woman should remind another woman to, say, cover her head while praying. If the mosque was a consecrated space which imposed its own rules of decorum and proper conduct, including dignified and modest attire, the “Women’s Mosque” had nothing to do with that.

Such is the tragedy when we become consumed by our desires. These ladies and their sympathizers would do well to listen to the words of Imam Zaid Shakir: “Our fulfillment does not lie in our liberation, rather it lies in the conquest of our soul and its base desires. That conquest only occurs through our enslavement to God.”

Does Islam ask the women to get sacred knowledge? Absolutely. And today, unlike the bleak picture painted by the marketing department of Women’s Mosque, women are very active in seeking religious knowledge. They are doing it from their homes over the phone and Internet; in gatherings arranged at private homes; in schools established for this purpose. And they are doing it in mosques as well. There are some institutions who have thousands of women studying with them from their homes. They are studying Arabic, Hadith, Fiqh, Qur’an, and so on. May Allah bless these efforts and multiply them. This is the right answer to the problem of women education. Not a Jumuah khutbah delivered by a woman once a month.

The organizers of the Women’s Mosque are right that for proper education women need a safe space where they are by themselves. Where they can discuss their problems freely, get inspired by other sisters, and seek both emotional and intellectual fulfillment from them. Where they do not have to act like men or compete with them. Where women can be women. If one is guided by Islamic teachings and not the talk of empowerment then one could easily see that it should lead to the development of female only schools, colleges, and youth groups.


[1] For a detailed discussion of the fiqhi ruling on women leading prayers, see Imam Zaid Shakir’s article at http://www.newislamicdirections.com/nid/articles/female_prayer_leadership_revisited. But the matter is simple to understand even without a detailed technical discussion. Dr. Salman Nadvi, who headed the Islamic Studies department at the University of Durban until his retirement and who is the son of the illustrious scholar Allama Sulaiman Nadvi, said: “If Allah wanted women to lead their own Jumuah prayers He would have asked the Prophet to order this and would have asked the Ummahat al-Mu’mineen to lead the prayers.”

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/dr-brooke-magnanti/

[3] http://www.catholicity.com/mccloskey/singlesexedu.html

source: http://albalagh.net/current_affairs/0107.shtml

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The Nobel Award and the Not-So-Noble Propaganda Campaign

November 30th, 2014

By Khalid Baig

Posted: 20 Dhul Hijjah 1435, 15 October 2014

“The US corporate media loves talking about the remarkable bravery and strength of Malala and the brutality of the Taliban forces that almost killed her. Such coverage fuels its racist, orientalist, neocolonialist narrative about “backward,” violent, misogynist Muslims and their need for “white saviors,” thereby legitimizing Western imperialist interests in South and West Asia.  (Ben Norton in Dissident Voice)

The news of the award of a Nobel Prize for Peace to a Pakistani girl was accompanied by a condemnation of the Pakistani society in the mainstream media. Its crime: Its people were not dancing in the streets to celebrate the honor given. They even had the temerity to question the motives of the award givers and the actions of the recipient. They refused to take the attacks of the young recipient on Islam in stride. If it was trying to give a message to Pakistan, the Nobel committee must have felt that it was doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful. Poor, fanatic Pakistanis who cannot appreciate a good thing.  “By winning the Nobel prize, Malala joins Pakistan’s loneliest club,” announced the Washington Post in a bold headline.

The distance between the make-believe world of the media and the reality can be seen in that headline itself. Did she win, as the headline says, or was she awarded? You win, say, a marathon race, by being the first to reach the destination. It reflects effort and achievement. You do not get it because of the largess of the judges. They do not declare you a winner to promote the diet and exercise routine that you had followed. A Nobel prize, on the other hand, is an award— a political decision made by the judges aimed at achieving a political goal. Even the award announcement makes it so clear. It says: “The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.” This is loaded political language.

Obviously if one does not agree with your political goals, one will not support the decisions made to advance those goals. There will be no reason to celebrate the award, in contrast to the win in the race. The media showed a singular inability to understand the distinction by blaming the Pakistanis for not celebrating the “win.”

Education is a wonderful thing. But what exactly do you want to teach? In case of Malala the agenda is very clear. In the writings that have been published in her name, she looks down on the education in the core values of one’s faith. She does not like Islamic studies. She is concerned about the increase in the number of madrasahs. She condemns female students who were the victims of barbaric military atrocities including dropping of phosphorous bombs on their own school. So much for being a champion of universal education!

Beyond education she also has statements to make on important issues of the day in Pakistan, like Blasphemy laws, Islamization of penal code, Hudood ordinance, even Muslim protests against the intensely provocative insults of Salman Rushdie. And on all these issue she parrots the lines taught by her imperial mentors. It is obvious that all her utterances are scripted. Further, her script writers and those who have awarded her for reading from the script are certainly working in harmony.

And then the pundits wonder with perfect disingenuity why the people are not rejoicing over her “win.”

But there was some consolation for the media. For some people did fall for the trap both in Pakistan and in the diaspora.

If you are suffering from  a very low self esteem (itself a gift of the media) you would be excused for grabbing on to anything to raise it up, including a tainted award.  They exhibited the signs of an inferiority complex: Denial, day dreaming and wishful thinking. Denial that a young girl is being used (Even when many of them agreed that her book is a case of that. No one defends her book and people in Pakistan are not rushing to the bookstores to get a copy.); daydreaming that the powers that be are choosing to honor a Muslim girl because of her goodness; and wishful thinking that some good can come out of the plans which are anything but good.

Their infatuation with the Nobel prize —itself a mark of colonization of the minds—led them to accept the Malala-for-education-versus-Taliban-against-education narrative. Little did they realize that this is a false dichotomy created by the propaganda machine. She is no champion of education and those questioning her status as a heroine are not against education. She did not build schools or help anyone get an education. She did not come up with any program for spreading education. She only allowed herself to be used by faithfully uttering the propaganda lines that she had been assigned. In a way she had been abducted. Her Nobel Prize award was a certificate that her abduction was complete.

After reading her book and her pronouncements the most charitable thing that can be said is that she is young and innocent and is unfortunately being used by powers with an agenda. This admission will lead us to pray for her liberation from the trap she has fallen into.

Let us mourn the abduction of a daughter of this ummah. And let us also mourn the celebration in some quarters of this abduction.

http://www.albalagh.net/current_affairs/0106.shtml

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Al-Hidayaah – Charity Fundraising Dinner

November 30th, 2014
Charity Fundraising Dinner - Al-Hidayaah Keighley

Charity Fundraising Dinner – Al-Hidayaah Keighley

More Information

Venue: Lala’s Banqueting Suite
55 Toller Lane, Bradford, BD8 9DD

Enjoy an evening of Inspiration with short speeches, Qiraat and Naats to enlighten the audience, followed by charity fundraising auction, ending the night with a three course meal

Special Guest:

Sheikh Abu Bakr As Shatri- World renowned reciter of the Holy Qu’ran.

Also attending the event are prominet scholars:

Mufti Saiful Islam - Prinicipal of JKN Institute, Bradford

Mufti Abdul Wahab – Presenter on IQRA TV, London

Maulana Dr Rafaqat Rashid- Senior Lecturer at JKN Institute, Bradford

Many more famous quran and nasheed reciters will be present at this event including

Maulana Imtiyaz Sidat- Leicester

Qari Zakir Dola- Preston

And many more local students.

Brothers and Sisters Welcome- Fully Segregated Seating

Tickets will also be sold at the door. Please purchase tickets now, tickets are fast selling out and is sold on a first come first serve basis:

This voucher admits one person only and should be presented upon entry.

for more information please call 07873 166437

 

Click Here to Purchase your ticket Now

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Seven‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Seven

Purpose of Our Life

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
I did not create the Jinns and the human beings except for the purpose that they should serve and worship Me. (Adh-Dhāriyāt, 51:56).

ʿIbādah, which has been translated as service and worship here, implies total obedience, willing surrender, and dedicated worship. The purpose of our creation and of the freedom of choice given to us is that we choose the path of submission and lead a life of loving service to our Creator. If we do so we’ll fulfill the purpose of our creation—which is the very definition of success. Its manifestation will be the everlasting bliss in Paradise. If we fail to do that, our life will have been a failure which will be manifested in the never ending punishment in the Fire.

If we choose other goals in life—goals that are contrary to this goal—then regardless of whether or not we succeed in achieving those goals, our life will have been a failure.

Individual Responsibility

أَلَّا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ
That no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden. (An-Najm, 53:38)

As Muhammad  Asad writes, this  expresses  a  categorical rejection of the Christian doctrine of the “original sin” with which every human being is allegedly burdened from birth; secondly, it refutes the idea that a person’s  sins could be “atoned for” by a saint’s or a prophet’s redemptive sacrifice (as evidenced, for instance, in the Christian doctrine of Jesus’ vicarious atonement  for mankind’s sinfulness, or in the earlier, Persian doctrine of man’s vicarious redemption by Mithras).

This also has serious implications in law. No one can be punished for the crimes of another. It thus negates collective punishment as well as guilt by association, principles that are being violated in the new security states now emerging.

Qur’ān is Easy

وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ
Indeed  We  have  made  the  Qur’ān  easy  for  seeking  advice.  Then  is there any that will receive admonition?? (Al-Qamar, 54:17)

The  Arabic word  is  dhikr,  which  means  remembering, mentioning, reminding, and invocating. This also implies seeking advice. The Qur’ān has been made very easy for all this. Its words are easy to memorize and easy to comprehend and  follow. Its  simple message solves the  riddle of  the purpose of creation and our role in this world. Anyone who approaches the Qur’ān with an open mind to seek guidance will be guided by it.

At the same time it is a profound work with an unending store of meanings and fiqhi points within its limited word list. The best of experts may spend a lifetime to unearth them and the store will still not be exhausted. The task of deriving legal rulings is therefore to be entrusted to those who have developed the requisite knowledge and expertise.

Sūrah Ar-Raḥmān

Called the bride of the Qur’ān, this beautiful sūrah has a unique rhythm to it punctuated by the constant refrain, “How many of the bounties of Your Sustainer shall you deny?”

Addressed to both human beings and jinns it describes their creation, reminds them that everything in this universe has a finite lifespan after which it will end and then will be resurrected to face the results of its endeavors—either Hell or Paradise. There is a moving description of both.

The Space for Women

حُورٌ مَّقْصُورَاتٌ فِي الْخِيَامِ
Most beautiful eyed ones (houris) houris, cloistered in cool pavilions. (Ar-Raḥmān, 55:72)

Regarding the maidens of Paradise, it is significant that we do not find them in the public space, where there are eternal young boys as servants. The maidens will be in private pavilions. And they will be happily cloistered in their vast pavilions. Maqṣūrāt has also been interpreted to mean restrained as to their glances. Either way they will be leading happy sheltered private lives.

If anyone harbors the suspicion that this arrangement may be uninteresting they may do well to ponder on what the Qur’ān says elsewhere about the Paradise, “Ones who will dwell in them forever. They will have no desire for relocation from there.” Paradise is the ideal state. And if our ideas of the ideal state are at variance from the Qur’ānic description, we need to seriously rethink our ideals.

This Life and That Life

اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ ۖ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ حُطَامًا ۖ وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانٌ ۚ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ
Know (O men) that the life of this world is but a play and a diversion, and pageantry, and (the cause of ) your boastful vying with one another, and (of your) greed for more and more riches and children. Its parable is that of (life-giving) rain: the herbage which it causes to grow delights the tillers of the soil; but then it withers, and you can see it turn yellow; and in the end it crumbles into dust. But (the abiding truth of man’s condition will become fully apparent) in the life to come: (either) suffering severe, or God’s forgiveness and His goodly acceptance: for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion. (Al-Ḥadīd, 57:20)

This is a description of the life lived in this world without concern for the life to come. Like the vegetation that brings delightful greenery and then withers and crumbles, this life goes through its cycles and no stage in this cycle is permanent, no matter how badly we may wish it to be. Permanencebelongs to the life to come. And wisdom is in not letting the fleeting pleasures distract us from the permanent ones.

One result of developing the correct outlook here will be a graceful life that will not be unduly impacted by the highs and lows of life. As the following āyah says: “so that you may neither grieve on what has escaped you, nor over-exult on what He has given to you.”

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Two‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Two

Sūrah al-Aḥzāb: Reflections on Hijab

In this sūrah, which was revealed at the time of the battle of the trench (also known as the battle of Aḥzāb), hijab was introduced as a formal requirement for Muslim women. This was a revolutionary change. The Arab society of the time was a stranger to the idea of segregation and hijab as mentioned in āyah 33 below. This era was declared as a dark era of ignorance (al-Jāhiliyyah al-Ūlā, or the earlier Jāhiliyyah) and the new Muslim community  was asked to move away from its cultural and social practices. The qualifier Ūlā (earlier) implies the prophesy of a later Jāhiliyyah, and what we are witnessing today in the modern world fits the bill.

Those who are trying to reconcile Islam to this modern Jāhiliyyah have been working hard to  water down these teachings. Among their arguments is that these āyahs were meant only for the wives of the Prophet ﷺ. Little do they realize that the household of the Prophet ﷺ was  charged with becoming the model that the rest of the  community would follow, for a revolutionary change in  such practices required the presence of cultural leaders. A careful reading of the following āyahs will make that amply clear.

يَا نِسَاءَ النَّبِيِّ لَسْتُنَّ كَأَحَدٍ مِّنَ النِّسَاءِ ۚ إِنِ اتَّقَيْتُنَّ فَلَا تَخْضَعْنَ بِالْقَوْلِ فَيَطْمَعَ الَّذِي فِي قَلْبِهِ مَرَضٌ وَقُلْنَ قَوْلًا مَّعْرُوفًا
O wives of the prophet, you are not like any other women, if you observe taqwā (righteousness). So, do not be too soft in your speech, lest someone having disease in his heart develop fancies (about you); and do speak with appropriate words. (Al-Aḥzāb 33:32)

This āyah makes two points. First, the wives of the Prophet ﷺ are at a level above other women because of taqwā. Second, in talking to other men their talk should avoid display of female charms to prevent the development of any fancies. Are we to believe that developing taqwā and preempting the possibility of developing lust were only the concern of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ?

وَقَرْنَ فِي بُيُوتِكُنَّ وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَىٰ ۖ وَأَقِمْنَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتِينَ الزَّكَاةَ وَأَطِعْنَ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ ۚ إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ لِيُذْهِبَ عَنكُمُ الرِّجْسَ أَهْلَ الْبَيْتِ وَيُطَهِّرَكُمْ تَطْهِيرًا
Remain in your homes, and do not flaunt your charms as they used to flaunt them in the days of earlier ignorance; and establish Ṣalāh, and pay Zakāh, and obey Allāh and His Messenger. Allāh only intends to keep (all sorts of ) filth away from you, O members of the family (of the prophet), and to make you pure through a perfect purification. (Al-Aḥzāb, 33:33)

Here again the question will be whether breaking from the Jāhiliyyah practices was only required of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ. What about Ṣalāh and Zakāh? Why are  they mentioned in this “exclusive” directive?

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَن يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامٍ غَيْرَ نَاظِرِينَ إِنَاهُ وَلَٰكِنْ إِذَا دُعِيتُمْ فَادْخُلُوا فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانتَشِرُوا وَلَا مُسْتَأْنِسِينَ لِحَدِيثٍ ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ يُؤْذِي النَّبِيَّ فَيَسْتَحْيِي مِنكُمْ ۖ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ ۚ وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِن وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ ۚ وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَن تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَن تَنكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمًا
And when you ask anything from them (the blessed wives of the Prophet), ask them from behind a curtain. That is better for the purity of your hearts and their hearts. (Al-Aḥzāb, 33:53)

We can continue the same question here. Was the purity of hearts only needed for the wives?

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِن جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَن يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا
O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers that they should draw down their shawls over them. That will make it more likely that they are recognized, hence not teased. And Allāh is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. (Al-Aḥzāb, 33:59)

This āyah now extends the command to all Muslim women although wives and daughters of the Prophet ﷺ are again mentioned first. The reason for earlier specific addresses to them should now be obvious to everyone. They were charged to lead the cultural revolution—as they in  fact did. Hijab became a symbol of all Muslim women, not just that of the wives of the Prophet ﷺ. The ban on free mixing extended to the entire community. Islam established separate spheres for men and women, and Muslim societies throughout the centuries held fast to this norm.

Satan: The Eternal Enemy of Human Beings

إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ فَاتَّخِذُوهُ عَدُوًّا ۚ إِنَّمَا يَدْعُو حِزْبَهُ لِيَكُونُوا مِنْ أَصْحَابِ السَّعِيرِ
Surely Shayṭān (Satan) is an enemy to you: so treat him as an enemy. He only invites his adherents, that they may become Companions of the Blazing Fire. (Fāṭir 35:6)

There is only one permanent external enemy of human beings—Shayṭān (Satan), also referred to  as Iblīs or  the Devil. He is a sworn and irreconcilable enemy. Other external enemies, among humans, become enemies to the extent that they become agents for this eternal enemy. So there is a huge difference between the two classes of enemies. We do fight the human enemies when that becomes absolutely necessary, but we can also try to win them over with good character. Thus in sūrah Fuṣṣilat we are told how to turn enemies into friends: “Good and evil are not equal. Repel (evil) with what is best, and you will see that the one between whom and you there was enmity (will become) as though he was a close friend.” And if they stop following Satan, then former enemies become brothers as has been seen throughout the history of Islam. Not so with Satan. The Qur’ān reminds us repeatedly that Satan is a manifest enemy. Here, again, it is commanding us to make sure we treat him as enemy. We must fight him and protect ourselves from his cunning ways all our life. No appeasement, no compromises, no truce, no let up in the fight. Never.

While Satan invites us to unbelief, he also tempts us to commit all sorts of sins. However some sins have been specifically mentioned as high on the agenda of Satan. These include nudity and obscenities, consumption of alcohol and ḥarām food items, gambling, and extravagance.  A hadith mentions breaking up  the  family and  sowing dissension between husband and wife as being on top of the satanic agenda. To the extent that these are prevalent in a society, that society is under satanic influence. And the Believers have their job cut out for them to fight the enemy plans.

The True People of Knowledge

أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَخْرَجْنَا بِهِ ثَمَرَاتٍ مُّخْتَلِفًا أَلْوَانُهَا ۚ وَمِنَ الْجِبَالِ جُدَدٌ بِيضٌ وَحُمْرٌ مُّخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهَا وَغَرَابِيبُ سُودٌ. وَمِنَ النَّاسِ وَالدَّوَابِّ وَالْأَنْعَامِ مُخْتَلِفٌ أَلْوَانُهُ كَذَٰلِكَ ۗ إِنَّمَا يَخْشَى اللَّهَ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ الْعُلَمَاءُ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ غَفُورٌ
Did you not see that Allāh sends down water from the sky whereby We bring forth fruits having different colors. And among the mountains there are tracks, white and red- of different colors, and (others) utterly black. And among humans and beasts and cattle, there are those having different colors as well. Even so only those of His servants fear Allāh who have knowledge; surely Allāh is All- mighty, All-forgiving. (Fāṭir, 35:27-28)

After mentioning the great diversity in plant and animal kingdoms, in  geological  formations and  in  humans, this āyah goes on to give a new perspective on the knowledgeable and hence on knowledge itself. The examples mentioned are all the subjects of science. But not all those who would study and master them will have true knowledge, for true knowledge produces consciousness and fear of Allāh. If the latter is absent, so is the former. Such a person will remain an ignorant person in the sight of Allāh, no matter how many professional degrees and awards he or she has accumulated.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Five‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Five

The Purpose behind Economic Scarcity

وَلَوْ بَسَطَ اللَّهُ الرِّزْقَ لِعِبَادِهِ لَبَغَوْا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَٰكِن يُنَزِّلُ بِقَدَرٍ مَّا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِعِبَادِهِ خَبِيرٌ بَصِيرٌ
For if Allāh were to grant (in this world) abundant sustenance to (all of) His servants, they would behave on earth with wanton insolence: but as it is, He bestows (His grace) from on high in due measure, as He wills: for, verily, He is fully aware of (the needs of) His creatures, and sees them all. (Ash-Shūrā 42:27)

Economics is the science that deals with the issue of scarcity. However it cannot see the Divine plan behind this scarcity and therefore leads to the same wanton insolence that is meant to be avoided through it. Scarcity of provisions leads to interdependence and makes the working of the human society possible. It also makes us realize our limits and keeps us from being haughty. The result is that we are thankful for the bounties we receive and patient over wants that go unfulfilled. But when this understanding is not there, it results in exploitation and oppression. We want to have monopoly over the limited resources and use that monopoly for unfair advantage.

That is why Islamization of Economics, and other social and physical sciences, is so important  for the welfare of humanity.

Shūrā = Democracy?

وَالَّذِينَ اسْتَجَابُوا لِرَبِّهِمْ وَأَقَامُوا الصَّلَاةَ وَأَمْرُهُمْ شُورَىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
Those who hearken to their Sustainer, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual Consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance; (Ash-Shūrā, 42:38)

This āyah highlights the importance of shūrā or the system of mutual consultation for the running of all collective affairs, whether in the family, in a small group or at the highest levels of the Islamic state. When carried out properly, the system shows that the power of the group is much more than the sum of its members. The group benefits from the best of individual resources, talents and ideas. The process of consultation also brings its members closer together, cementing the group. A hadith promises Allāh’s succor to those practicing shūrā.

Sometimes people mention  Islamic Shūrā as another name for democracy. This is a dangerous oversimplification and ignores the gulf of difference between their philosophical underpinnings.  Democracy is  not  a  system of  mutual consultation, but a system of negotiation between divergent interests. Each constituency on this negotiating table seeks to gain at the expense of others and will do whatever it can get away with—from vote rigging and gerrymandering to manufacturing consent through slick propaganda campaigns. The division of the community into political factions is part of the blueprint of democracy, as is the permanent division between the ruling and opposition groups.

All of these are the exact opposite of the spirit and purpose of shūrā, where everyone is working towards the same goals and seeks the greatest benefit for the entire group.

The centrifugal tendencies of democracy require some organizing principle to keep the group together. This was provided by territorial nationalism and the nation-state, which has done much harm to humanity. It is no accident that the rise of democracy and the nation-sate has been simultaneous. Needless to  say that  Islam stands in  total opposition to territorial nationalism.

The Perils of Affluence

وَلَوْلَا أَن يَكُونَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً لَّجَعَلْنَا لِمَن يَكْفُرُ بِالرَّحْمَٰنِ لِبُيُوتِهِمْ سُقُفًا مِّن فِضَّةٍ وَمَعَارِجَ عَلَيْهَا يَظْهَرُونَ. وَلِبُيُوتِهِمْ أَبْوَابًا وَسُرُرًا عَلَيْهَا يَتَّكِئُونَ. وَزُخْرُفًا ۚ وَإِن كُلُّ ذَٰلِكَ لَمَّا مَتَاعُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۚ وَالْآخِرَةُ عِندَ رَبِّكَ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
Were it not that all people would become of a single creed (i.e. disbelief),  We  would  have  caused,  for  those  who  disbelieve  in Raḥmān, roofs of their houses to be made of silver, and the stairs as well, on which they would climb, and doors of their homes, and the coaches on which they would recline, and (would have made some of these things) of gold-ornaments. And all this is nothing but an enjoyment of the worldly life. And the Hereafter, with your Lord, is (destined) for the God-fearing. (Az-Zukhruf 43:33-35)

This is a perspective on the perils of gold and silver that is totally ignored today both by the experts and the laymen. It is a mercy of Allāh that He did not make all of the non-believers extremely rich. Otherwise the road to unbelief would become so slippery that no one would escape sliding down to it.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Three‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Three

Ignoring the Signs of Allāh

وَمَا تَأْتِيهِم مِّنْ آيَةٍ مِّنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِمْ إِلَّا كَانُوا عَنْهَا مُعْرِضِينَ
There comes to them no sign from the signs of your Lord, but they turn away from it. (Yāsīn, 36:46)

The Prophetﷺ called sūrah Yāsīn the heart of the Qur’ān because it encapsulates the essential message of the Qur’ān and the signs in the universe that point to its truth in a very powerful way.

Yet  the  signs cannot  benefit those who are bent  on ignoring them. After mentioning various signs of Allāh (dead earth that comes to life with rain, night and day and sun and moon, ships and other means of travel), it points out the state of self-imposed ignorance whereby human beings refuse to learn from the signs. This nonchalance results in foolish argumentation from them, mentioned in the next two āyahs. (Why should we feed the poor, God could have fed them if He wanted? And when is this resurrection after death going to take place?) The answer is to shake them out of this frivolity by giving a glimpse of the Hereafter where the sinners will be separated from the pious. The difference between the former’s doom and the latter’s bliss is not something that any sensible person can brush aside lightly.

The charge of ignoring the signs applies to those who pay no attention to them as well as those who study them in great depth but with a closed mindset that has already decided that this is a creation without a Creator and a design without a Designer. Their study does not lead them to God, because of its prior assumptions and predetermined conclusions. This applies to almost all study of science even in the Muslim classrooms  today because they just ape the methods and philosophies of ignorant science leaders. This is a similar message to what was given in sūrah Yūsuf4  and should be a point of much concern for Muslim educators and scientists today.

Did Man Create gods?

قَالَ أَتَعْبُدُونَ مَا تَنْحِتُونَ
He  answered:  “Do  you  worship  something  that  you  (yourselves) have carved, (Al-Ṣāffāt, 37:95)

Atheists, new and old, have declared that man created God. With this they laughingly assure themselves that they have satisfactorily answered the question as to who created man. But this absurdity has a basis, which the Qur’ān points out here. Man, in fact, has created gods. Whether it is the physical statues of deities or the false ideas about gods, they are all human creations. They result when we surrender to our own lusts, desires, and wishes. That however does not negate the existence of the one True God who created us. Atheism took root in the non-Muslim world, where its leaders only saw the false gods of human creation and decided that that was the entire story. In contrast those who read the Qur’ān with an open mind will come in conversation with the one True God.

Worship has always been a common practice in all human societies. But we have two options about it. We can worship the one True God who created us or we can worship the false gods of our own creation—including the “no God” of atheism.

Doubt the Hereafter? Answer This.

أَمْ نَجْعَلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ كَالْمُفْسِدِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ أَمْ نَجْعَلُ الْمُتَّقِينَ كَالْفُجَّارِ
Shall We treat those who believe and do righteous deeds the same as those who commit mischief on the earth? Shall We make the God- fearing equal to the sinners? (Ṣād 38:28)

This is the question that everyone who rejects or harbors doubts about the Hereafter must answer. Allāh is just and justice demands the existence of the Hereafter where everyone will be rewarded or punished for their good and bad deeds. Those who reject or doubt the Hereafter necessarily believe in an unjust world.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty Four‏

July 25th, 2014

Juz Twenty Four

Sincerity

Sincerity and exclusive devotion to Allāh alone is the central tenet of Islam. In sūrah al-Zumar, which was revealed before the migration to Abyssinia and which is a concise statement of what Islam is all about, this tenet is repeated four times. It begins with a command and a statement of principle:

إِنَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ فَاعْبُدِ اللَّهَ مُخْلِصًا لَّهُ الدِّينَ. أَلَا لِلَّهِ الدِّينُ الْخَالِصُ
Surely We have revealed the Book to you with truth; so worship Allāh making your submission exclusive for Him. Remember, Allāh alone deserves the exclusive submission. (Az-Zumar, 39:2-3)

Then it reiterates the command:

قُلْ إِنِّي أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ اللَّهَ مُخْلِصًا لَّهُ الدِّينَ
Say, “I have been ordered to worship Allāh, making my submission exclusive to Him. (Az-Zumar, 39:11)

And again it asserts a statement of fact:

قُلِ اللَّهَ أَعْبُدُ مُخْلِصًا لَّهُ دِينِي
Say, “It is Allāh whom I worship, making my submission exclusive to Him. (Az-Zumar, 39:14)

Those who believe in Allāh being the sole creator and master of this universe still run the danger of losing the purity of their devotion due to lusts and desires. Attaining and maintaining this purity is a life long struggle.

It  helps to realize that  of all groups of Muslims, the Companions had the highest level of sincerity. And their unique status is due entirely to it. That is why Allāh announced in the Qur’ān that He was pleased with them, while Allāh does not accept anything which has any taint of insincerity. Learning about their lives and keeping an eye on their examples is thus an effective way of nurturing this sincerity.

Turning Back to Allāh

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَىٰ أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ. وَأَنِيبُوا إِلَىٰ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَسْلِمُوا لَهُ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ الْعَذَابُ ثُمَّ لَا تُنصَرُونَ
Say: “(Thus speaks Allāh:) ‘O my servants who have transgressed against your own selves! Despair not of Allāh’s mercy: behold, Allāh forgives all sins. Surely, He is the One who is the Most-Forgiving, the Very-Merciful. Hence, turn towards your Sustainer (alone) and surrender yourselves unto Him before the suffering (of death and resurrection) comes upon you, for then you will not be helped.”(Az- Zumar, 39:53-54)

This is such a reassuring message for those who have sinned. By sinning we transgress against our own selves. But the All Merciful Allāh will still turn to us with mercy if we turn to Him in repentance. He is Most-Forgiving; there is no sin He will not forgive if we sincerely seek His forgiveness and take corrective action. The pencil which has been given to us to draw the course of our life’s journey does come with a huge eraser. It lasts as long as the pencil itself. There are no signs on the highway of life that prohibit a U-turn. No matter how messed up our lives may have been, we can always correct course. The door to repentance  is always open—until the very end of our life. But if we wait too long and the end comes in sight, then repentance will not help.

Admonishment to Pharaoh

يَا قَوْمِ لَكُمُ الْمُلْكُ الْيَوْمَ ظَاهِرِينَ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَمَن يَنصُرُنَا مِن بَأْسِ اللَّهِ إِن جَاءَنَا ۚ قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ مَا أُرِيكُمْ إِلَّا مَا أَرَىٰ وَمَا أَهْدِيكُمْ إِلَّا سَبِيلَ الرَّشَادِ. وَقَالَ الَّذِي آمَنَ يَا قَوْمِ إِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُم مِّثْلَ يَوْمِ الْأَحْزَابِ. مِثْلَ دَأْبِ قَوْمِ نُوحٍ وَعَادٍ وَثَمُودَ وَالَّذِينَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ ۚ وَمَا اللَّهُ يُرِيدُ ظُلْمًا لِّلْعِبَادِ
“O my people, the kingdom is yours today, while you are dominant on the land. But, who is going to help us against Allāh’s punishment, if it comes upon us?” Pharaoh said, “I do not give you an opinion unless I myself believe it to be correct, and I do not direct you to anything but to the right way.” Thereupon exclaimed he who had attained to faith: “O my people! I fear for you something like a day of the (disbelieving) groups (of the past), like the fate of the people of Nūḥ and ʿĀd and Thamūd and those who were after them—and Allāh  does  not  intend  to  do  any  injustice  to  His  servants.”  (Ghāfir, 40:29-31)

The story of the believer in the court of the Pharaoh is described in some detail in this sūrah. He kept his belief to himself for fear of persecution. However when things started to go out of hand, he had to come out and tell the truth. In the first sentence above he spoke of we and us so as not to alienate them. Upon Pharaoh’s rejection of his passionate appeal, he had to tell them “I fear for you.”

Moral: The inclusive language should be used whenever possible and the exclusive language when necessary.

Fighting Evil with Good

وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ
Good and evil are not equal. Repel (evil) with what is best, and you will see that the one between whom and you was hatred become as if he were a close friend. (Fuṣṣilat, 41:34)

This teaching will keep the callers to Islam from ever going on ego trips in dealing with the opponents. In his commentary on this Sayyidnā ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās said, “Show patience when someone is venting his anger on you. Show forbearance when someone is rude to you. Forgive when someone hurts you.” We should never leave the high moral ground in dealing with adversity and it may even win over the most committed enemies.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Twenty‏

July 18th, 2014

Juz Twenty

Friendships

وَيَوْمَ يَعَضُّ الظَّالِمُ عَلَىٰ يَدَيْهِ يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي اتَّخَذْتُ مَعَ الرَّسُولِ سَبِيلًا. يَا وَيْلَتَىٰ لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أَتَّخِذْ فُلَانًا خَلِيلًا. لَّقَدْ أَضَلَّنِي عَنِ الذِّكْرِ بَعْدَ إِذْ جَاءَنِي ۗ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِلْإِنسَانِ خَذُولًا
And (be mindful of ) the Day the wrongdoer will bite his hands saying, “ Would that I had taken a path along with the Messenger! Oh, woe to me! Would that I had not taken so-and-so for a friend! He did lead me astray from the Message (of Allāh) after it had come to me! Ah! Satan is but a traitor to man! (Al-Furqān 25:27-29).

This is the last sūrah revealed before hijrah; its āyah 85 was revealed when the Prophet ﷺ had already started his journey to Madinah. This was a heart breaking departure and he was consoled that Allāh would be bringing him back to this city as a conqueror. This happened within a decade although at that time there were no apparent clues leading to this result.

In preparation for the encounter with Jews in Madinah, the first 43 āyahs give a detailed account of the life of Prophet Mūsā not given anywhere else in the Qur’ān. The parallels between the lives of Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ and  that of Prophet Mūsā are unmistakable.  Prophet Mūsā had also left his home when his life was threatened. He was later brought back and ultimately the Pharaoh was drowned. The account thus provides assurance for the Prophet ﷺ and admonishment for the unbelievers.

Qārūn (Korah) and Others of His Ilk

إِنَّ قَارُونَ كَانَ مِن قَوْمِ مُوسَىٰ فَبَغَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْكُنُوزِ مَا إِنَّ مَفَاتِحَهُ لَتَنُوءُ بِالْعُصْبَةِ أُولِي الْقُوَّةِ إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ قَوْمُهُ لَا تَفْرَحْ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْفَرِحِينَ. وَابْتَغِ فِيمَا آتَاكَ اللَّهُ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ ۖ وَلَا تَنسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَأَحْسِن كَمَا أَحْسَنَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَلَا تَبْغِ الْفَسَادَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُفْسِدِينَ. قَالَ إِنَّمَا أُوتِيتُهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ عِندِي ۚ أَوَلَمْ يَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَهْلَكَ مِن قَبْلِهِ مِنَ الْقُرُونِ مَنْ هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُ قُوَّةً وَأَكْثَرُ جَمْعًا ۚ وَلَا يُسْأَلُ عَن ذُنُوبِهِمُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ. فَخَرَجَ عَلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فِي زِينَتِهِ ۖ قَالَ الَّذِينَ يُرِيدُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا يَا لَيْتَ لَنَا مِثْلَ مَا أُوتِيَ قَارُونُ إِنَّهُ لَذُو حَظٍّ عَظِيمٍ. وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ وَيْلَكُمْ ثَوَابُ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لِّمَنْ آمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَلَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا الصَّابِرُونَ. فَخَسَفْنَا بِهِ وَبِدَارِهِ الْأَرْضَ فَمَا كَانَ لَهُ مِن فِئَةٍ يَنصُرُونَهُ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُنتَصِرِينَ. وَأَصْبَحَ الَّذِينَ تَمَنَّوْا مَكَانَهُ بِالْأَمْسِ يَقُولُونَ وَيْكَأَنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَقْدِرُ ۖ لَوْلَا أَن مَّنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيْنَا لَخَسَفَ بِنَا ۖ وَيْكَأَنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الْكَافِرُونَ.
Indeed Qārūn (Korah) was from the people of Mūsā, then he rebelled against them. And We had given him treasures such that the very keys of them were too heavy a burden for a company of men endowed with strength. (Remember) when his people said to him, “Do not exult. Surely, Allāh loves not those that exult. And seek the (betterment of ) the Ultimate Abode with what Allāh has given to you, and do not neglect your share from this world, and do good as Allāh did good to you, and do not seek to make mischief in the land. Surely, Allāh does not like the mischief-makers.” Answered he: “This (wealth) has been given to me only by virtue of the knowledge that is in me!” Did he not know that God had destroyed (the arrogant of ) many a generation that preceded him—people who were greater than he in power, and richer in what they had amassed? But such as are lost in sin may not be asked about their sins (for ascertaining their sins). And so he went forth before his people in all his pomp; (and) those who cared only for the life of this world would say, “Oh, if we but had the like of what Qārūn has been given! He is a man of great fortune indeed!” But those who had been granted true knowledge said: “ Woe unto you! Merit in the sight of Allāh is by far the best for any who attains to faith and does what is right: but none save the patient in adversity can ever achieve this (blessing).” And thereupon We caused the earth to swallow him and his dwelling; and he had none to help him against Allāh, nor was he of those who could defend themselves. And on the morrow, those who but yesterday had longed to be in his place exclaimed: “Alas (for our not having been aware) that it is indeed Allāh (alone) who grants abundant sustenance, or gives it in scant measure, unto whichever He wills of His creatures! Had not Allāh been gracious to us, He might have caused (the earth) to swallow us, too! Alas (for our having forgotten) that those who deny the truth can never attain to a happy state!” (Al-Qaṣaṣ 28:76-82)

The account of Qārūn (Korah in the Bible) is given at the end of the sūrah. Qārūn is the personification of the possible evils of wealth. He was given tremendous wealth, which got to his head. He believed, as many do today, that his economic success was the result of his own knowledge and smarts. Little did he realize that for every smart person who has struck it rich, there are many smarter people who have not. How many are the economically successful who can see that their success was the result of simply being at the right place at the right time? Failure to comprehend that our wealth or lack thereof is a test decreed by Allāh according to His plan leads to the other common evil. The surplus wealth begs to be put on display to advertize the superiority of those who hold it. Qārūn did the same. And it did take its toll on the shallow people who are captivated by this world and have not received the revealed knowledge. (Such are the people being produced by our education systems today). They said Qārūn had got it made and wished they had the same. The people of knowledge (i.e revealed knowledge) tried to talk sense to them telling them the real important things were faith and virtue. The truth of this was finally realized by the first group when Qārūn was buried alive along with his wealth.

Wealth also took another toll on the poor Qārūn. He belonged to a colonized people (Bani Israel) and had accepted to work for the Pharaoh as his agent to control his own people. He betrayed his people and became an oppressor for them— because his narrowly conceived vested interests dictated so.
We can see the dark character of Qārūn, the agent, in the history of colonized people to this day. We can also see the character of Qārūn, the filthy rich, in every society.

Successful Personality

تِلْكَ الدَّارُ الْآخِرَةُ نَجْعَلُهَا لِلَّذِينَ لَا يُرِيدُونَ عُلُوًّا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فَسَادًا ۚ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ
As for that Ultimate Abode (the Hereafter), We assign it to those who do not intend haughtiness on earth nor mischief. And the (best) end is for the God-fearing. (Al-Qaṣaṣ, 28:83)

The eternal success belongs to the good people. Their defining characteristic is that they seek neither oppression of others nor corruption. They are a God-fearing people or muttaqī in the special Qur’ānic terminology.

Nurturing of taqwā is a central Islamic goal. The Qur’ānic guidance is beneficial only for those who have taqwā. The purpose of fasting is also to develop taqwā. All acts of virtue are performed by the muttaqīn (plural of muttaqī). Paradise has been created for the muttaqīn.

Limits of Parental Rights

وَوَصَّيْنَا الْإِنسَانَ بِوَالِدَيْهِ حُسْنًا ۖ وَإِن جَاهَدَاكَ لِتُشْرِكَ بِي مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلَا تُطِعْهُمَا ۚ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
We have charged man to do good to his parents. But if they insist upon you that you associate with Me that of which you have no knowledge, then do not obey them. To Me is your return; then I shall tell you what you were doing. (Al-ʿAnkabūt 29:8)

The persons who have the  greatest right on  us are our parents. Yet when this right impinges on the right of Allāh to be worshipped alone, it will be disregarded. It follows that rights of other people will be disregarded even more when they conflict with the commands of Allāh. There is absolutely no obedience to other people that results in disobedience to Allāh.

A Great Reassurance

وَالَّذِينَ جَاهَدُوا فِينَا لَنَهْدِيَنَّهُمْ سُبُلَنَا ۚ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَمَعَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
But as for those who strive hard in Our cause—We shall most certainly guide them onto paths that lead unto Us: for, behold, Allāh is indeed with the doers of good. (Al-ʿAnkabūt, 29:69)

This āyah holds great reassurance for all those who may find hurdles in obeying Allāh. When doors seem to be locked and all options look bad, let us have faith. We should turn to Allāh seeking His help and do the best we can under the circumstances. And we will find a way out with help from totally unexpected sources. The Qur’ānic words are very emphatic. Let us find comfort in their great promise. If we keep this āyah in front of us, we’ll never lose hope, no matter what the current circumstances.

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Quran Reflections – Juz Nineteen‏

July 18th, 2014

Juz Nineteen

Friendships

وَيَوْمَ يَعَضُّ الظَّالِمُ عَلَىٰ يَدَيْهِ يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي اتَّخَذْتُ مَعَ الرَّسُولِ سَبِيلًا. يَا وَيْلَتَىٰ لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أَتَّخِذْ فُلَانًا خَلِيلًا. لَّقَدْ أَضَلَّنِي عَنِ الذِّكْرِ بَعْدَ إِذْ جَاءَنِي ۗ وَكَانَ الشَّيْطَانُ لِلْإِنسَانِ خَذُولًا
And (be mindful of ) the Day the wrongdoer will bite his hands saying, “ Would that I had taken a path along with the Messenger! Oh, woe to me! Would that I had not taken so-and-so for a friend! He did lead me astray from the Message (of Allāh) after it had come to me! Ah! Satan is but a traitor to man! (Al-Furqān 25:27-29).

This is direct reference to the case of ʿUqbah ibn Abu Muʿayṭ, who accepted Islam then turned back and even spat on the face of the Prophet ﷺ under the pressure of his friend Ubayy ibn Khalaf. Both of them reached an evil end.

But the wording is general and is a reminder that we should never accept as friends those people who may lead us away from the path of the Messenger ﷺ. If we do we’ll get nothing but regrets in the end. We should choose friends who will be a positive influence on us, whose friendship will make it easy for us to follow the path of piety and righteousness. A hadith makes it very clear: “Everyone is influenced by his friends, so watch out whom you are befriending.”

The Qur’ān and Us

وَقَالَ الرَّسُولُ يَا رَبِّ إِنَّ قَوْمِي اتَّخَذُوا هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ مَهْجُورًا
And (on that Day) the Messenger will say: “O my Sustainer! Behold, (some of) my people have come to regard this Qur’ān as a thing to be shunned” (al-Furqān, 25:30)

The reference in my people (qawmī) is to the mushrikīn of Quraysh. But the general wording should give pause to the Muslims whose behavior fits the description. Today we have severed the link between the Qur’ān and our daily life. We do not read it, try to understand it, reflect on it, and make it the guiding light for the individual and collective affairs of our life as we ought to do. To the extent that we are deficient in these obligations, we are liable to be accused as mentioned here. May Allāh protect us from the Qur’ān and the Prophet ﷺ becoming our accusers.

Portrait of Believers

This sūrah ends with another snapshot of the character of believers. As mentioned  in  the  reflections on  Sūrah al- Mu’minūn, these should not be seen as so many disjointed commands, but as pointers to the desirable personality. These are the people who can affectionately be called the servants of the Most Merciful.

It is also to be noted that the qualities are listed not as goals but accomplishments. These āyahs are not saying, “O believers do this.” Rather they are saying, “Believers are already doing this.” At other places in the Qur’ān believers have been praised for virtuous acts though they were not commanded to do them anywhere in the Qur’ān. Reflecting on this will enlighten us about both the role of the Prophet ﷺ and that of the Companions. The Companions  either learned these qualities directly from the Prophet ﷺ or as a result of Prophetic training, they developed that mindset that automatically led them to the praiseworthy course of action.

Qualities:
They walk humbly.
They avoid arguments with the ignorant people.
They spend the nights in worship of Allāh.
They follow the path of moderation in economic matters. They are neither spendthrift nor stingy.
They respect sanctity of life.
They do not commit fornication or adultery.
They do not bear false witness.
They do not turn deaf and dumb to the words of Allāh.
They seek and pray for raising a family based on piety and virtue.

Pharaoh and “Political Islam”

قَالَ لِلْمَلَإِ حَوْلَهُ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَسَاحِرٌ عَلِيمٌ. يُرِيدُ أَن يُخْرِجَكُم مِّنْ أَرْضِكُم بِسِحْرِهِ فَمَاذَا تَأْمُرُونَ
He (Pharaoh) said to the chiefs around him “This man is certainly an expert sorcerer”. He wants to expel you from your land with his sorcery. So what do you suggest?” (Ash-Shuʿarā’ 26:34-35)

The encounters of Prophet Mūsa with the Pharaoh are reported in several places in the Qur’ān including  here.  It is obvious that both Pharaoh and his expert  advisers were looking at the “problem” of Prophet Mūsa as a political problem. For them it was all about a power struggle. They painted Prophet Mūsa as the leader of a “political Islam” that threatened to drive them from power and fashioned their strategy and propaganda campaigns accordingly. In  sūrah Taha we see them calling Prophet Mūsa as a threat to their superior lifestyle. “Said they, ‘Certainly, these two are sorcerers who wish to drive you out from your land, and do away with your excellent way of life.’”

This preoccupation with political analysis became the big barrier that kept the Pharaoh and his advisers from seeing the Truth.

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