The Challenge of Building Community Harmony
Does Islam Provide For Human Rights?
Role of Muslims in non-Muslim lands
You Are an Arab; Imagine That
Some Notes on Islamic Ethics
How to avoid catastrophe and serve Islam
To Practice What We Preach
Duties Towards Parents
True piety does not consist in turning your faces towards the east or the west –but truly pious is s/he who believes in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends their substance –however much they themselves may cherish it –upon their near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God. Qur’an: 2:177
Abu Huraira Narrates: Allah's Apostle said, "Anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should not harm his neighbour; and anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should entertain their guest generously; and anybody who believes in Allah and the Last Day should talk what is good or keep quiet (i.e. abstain from all kinds of evil and dirty talk). Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 47
The verse and the prophetic tradition in epigraph tell amply about human aspects of Islam and about the responsibilities of Muslims to humanity, especially to those who are in close proximity in terms of blood relations and social interactions. An objective look at the normative teachings of Islam and at the lack of adherence of many Muslims to those in totality points the finger at the dichotomy and segmentation that evolved over the time in the performing of religious responsibilities among the Ummah. Many a Muslim is there who is reasonably careful about rituals but regrettably negligent to their duties to parents, to neighbours, to relatives, and to the poor; there will not be any dearth of examples to show that Muslims though well-clad in Islamic dress and well-attended in rituals have very little in their personality to impress people with good behaviour; many Muslims are there who spend much money to make several visits to Mecca to earn the pleasure of Allah, but they shy away from performing their duties to the less fortunate section of their neighbourhood, where actually lies the real pleasure of Allah. Examples of dichotomy in Muslims’ lives can go on and on. This happens mostly because of not accepting Islam in its totality. Interminable sermonising about rituals from the podium and lack of enough focus on other aspects of Islam, especially those related to our responsibilities as good human beings, has shaped Muslim minds in disarray.
The current world scenario and the place of Muslims in it badly demands that Muslims should be best examples, as it is religiously mandatory upon them, in performing their duties towards humanity. While in past few Muslim heroes conquered distant lands with the strength of their character, the presence of a sizeable Muslim population in the West in the contemporary world does not seem to make any significant moral impact among western societies. It should be firmly established in Muslim mind that to be a good human being is the prerequisite to be a good Muslim. Here lies the primary work of Muslim scholars as well as lay people. Islam is and will be the alternative to bring peace and harmony in a world torn with hypocrisies and oppressions; but this will come true only if Muslims can live Islam and represent it to the world not merely through speeches but, mostly importantly, by life examples. Muslims’ adherence to Islamic teachings in totality will save their sufferings in many parts of the world, as it will rescue the humanity from an utter desolation.
The articles in this issue of Al-Baiyyinah mostly deal with the human aspects of Islam, especially Muslims’ duties as minority in non-Muslim lands. I hope readers will find the writings rich in pointing towards our duties to fellow human beings, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Portsmouth, UK, 5 October 03
Dr. M A Bari
In the aftermath of race riots in some northern England cities in the summer of 2001, the need for genuine community cohesion has been felt across the board. Reports after reports, some commissioned by the government, claimed that the root causes of riots lied with social deprivation on the one hand, and mistrust due to 'fracture' or 'segregation' among communities on the other. The debate took a new twist and became intense after the tragic event of September 11.
The riots shook the Muslim community to a great extent. For the first time in Britain, the second and the third generation Muslim youths of South Asian origin clashed with the police in that manner. Britain, of course, had seen many serious race riots involving black and the right-wing white youths, the skinheads, in the past decades. The Brixton and Toxteth riots in 1981 and the Brixton riot of 1985 were more serious. The media had never picked them up in the way they did in 2001, nor had the religious identity of the perpetrators ever become an issue. But this time religion of Islam was linked with the rioters, and most often in a negative way, in tabloids and even in broadsheet print media. This insensitive vilification of a minority community because of their religion has unfortunately given ammunition to the far right political opportunists like the British National Party who spearhead an Islamophobic campaign against Muslims in Britain. The real causes of the riots are in danger of being marred because of this communal colouring, which creates more community disharmony than cohesion.
It is unfortunate that some South Asian Muslim youths who were not known for criminality in the past responded to the provocation by the right wing youths belonging to the British National Party (BNP) and became involved in the riots. As their community came to terms with reality, many of them turned up into police station with their parents to offer apology for their misdemeanour. But, disgracefully, their positive gesture only brought heavy punishments for them from court, between four to five years of imprisonment for throwing stones. This was widely seen as disproportionate by any previous standard. The stone-throwers in the riots of 1980s were generally dealt with in the magistrates' court with comparatively lenient punishments. In response to the critiquing by the civil rights campaigners of this disproportionate punishment, the Home secretary David Blunkett's pronouncement of strong words, such as, 'whining maniacs' and 'bleeding-heart liberals' was regrettable. As a result, Muslims, who were already facing worst kind of Islamophobic treatment after the September 11 event, now feel more vulnerable and marginalised. The feeling that their dignity and respect has been undermined and that they have been made scapegoat is running high among Muslims.
Islam's position on violence or terrorism is clear. Muslims have evidently clarified their position since the events in England and America. But there is no respite in ill treatment towards Muslims in many parts of the world. Muslims are the victims of media propaganda, prejudice and discrimination just for being who they are.
Islam does not condone any unprincipled methods to achieve even justified objectives. Justice is at the core of Islam, which means that injustices cannot be undone by further injustices. Islam's justice is transcendental and it is neither selective nor time-bound. The Qur'an emphatically announces:
Help one another in righteousness and Allah-consciousness. Do not help one another in wrongdoing and transgression. (Qur'an 5:2)
You who believe, be steadfast witness for Allah in equity. Do not let hatred for a people lead you into deviation from justice. Be just, this is closest to being Allah-conscious. And remain conscious of Allah. Verily, Allah is aware of what you do. (Qur'an 5:8)
This spirit of justice is the essence of Muslim passion to work for a common good with others. Building bridges among people and communities and creating community cohesion is at the root of Islam's social life. Muslims are expected to abide by Islamic teachings in whichever society they live. They need to interact and engage with other communities, join hands with others to create a safe and better society. Despair, disaffection and grievances cannot lead them to adopt policies and actions that go against the principles of Islam.
The emphasis on community and civic responsibility in Islam is derived from the Qur'an and the Sunnah. In the chaos of tribal feud in the prevailing Arabia that divided and weakened the Arabs for a long period in history, Islam fastened people's hearts together, not only those of Muslims but also those of who shared common vision of humanity. The community of Muslims were raised 'for humanity' (Qur'an 3:110).
The 'Charter of Madinah', the first written constitution in human history, was the best guideline for community harmony. Islam invited the People of the Book (the Jews and the Christians) to come forward and work together for the common good of humanity (Qur'an 3:64).
Community starts with the extended families and neighbourhoods, who are often people of different backgrounds. While the extended families may be of the same faith and culture, neighbourhoods, especially in pluralist societies, may consist of people of different ethnic and religious denominations. Let us see what Islam says about Muslims’ duties and obligations towards their neighbours and people beyond:
And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness to parents, and to near kindred, and orphans, and the needy and unto the neighbour who is of kin (to you) and the neighbour who is not kin, and the fellow traveller and the wayfarers (Qur'an 3:36).
These duties and responsibilities (Qur'an 2:177, 16:90, 17:26, 30:38, 42:23, 59:8) can be effectively delivered only in an environment of communal harmony. These are some of the ways to please Allah, Whose pleasure is the ultimate aim of believers. This is the covenant, which was sent to the previous people as well.
And (remember) when We made a covenant with the Children of Israel: Worship none but Allah and be good to your parents and to kindred and to orphans and the needy, and speak good to humankind. (Qur'an 2:83)
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a perfect example of a community person. Even before he was bestowed with prophethood, he was known as 'Amin' (trustworthy) and 'Sadiq' (truthful) among the people of his city. He helped people in their needs and mediated in their feuds. When he received the first revelation and rushed home with anxiety and fear, his wife consoled him with the words that echo his service to the community.
Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones. (Bukhari)
The following traditions speak amply about Muslims' responsibilities toward their neighbours and other people in the community.
Jibrail has been recommending good treatment towards the neighbours so much that I thought he would give them the right to inherit. (Bukhari, Abu Dawud)
By Allah, s/he has no faith (the prophet repeated it three times) whose neighbours are not safe from their wrongful conducts. (Bukhari, Muslim)
S/he is not a believer who eats their full while their neighbour remains hungry by their side. (Baihaqi)
If any one is pleased to love Allah and His messenger or rather to have Allah and His Messenger love s/he should speak the truth when s/he tells anything, fulfil their trust when s/he is put in a position of trust and be a good neighbour. (Tirmidi and Baihaqi)
Muslims have taken these Qur'anic and Prophetic instructions of creating and maintaining good relationship with neighbours and others in humanity as their religious obligation. To Muslims rendering the rights of neighbourhood or belonging to a community is extremely important. These rights and responsibilities are embedded with such depth in the Muslim psyche that Muslim scholars, leaders and ordinary people have kept this spirit alive, even in extreme circumstances. One such story exemplifies Muslim position regarding neighbours.
The notable scholar Sheikh Abdul Qadir of Gilan in Iraq had a neighbour who would give him lot of troubles especially by his noisy manners. The Sheikh bore all this and never made any complaint or argued with him. One day the neighbour was arrested and taken by the police. The Sheikh did not know this but he realised that he was not being disturbed any more. He became worried and asked people about the neighbour. When he was told that the neighbour was in jail he became shocked, instead of being happy. Without any delay he went to see the local judge and requested him to see whether his neighbour was at all guilty to suffer imprisonment. The judge knew the Sheikh well and immediately checked the file. The man was found innocent. The Sheikh asked for his release; and the order of release was passed. The neighbour became just as astounded as when he was first arrested for no apparent reason. He asked the policeman what was going on. When the policeman told him that his neighbour, Sheikh Abdul Qadir, pleaded with the judge on his behalf, he felt ashamed for his past misdeeds. He straightway came to the Sheikh from the prison and apologised for his past actions, 'O Sheikh, I have always been a bother to you. Please forgive me, I promise I will never disturb you again.' The Sheikh replied, 'I haven't done you any particular favour. I have just done my duty as a Muslim neighbour. I am sorry I couldn't help you earlier.' The man was greatly touched by his words and embraced Islam.
We now live in societies, which are riddled with prejudice, discrimination and hatred. These have become the common diseases across the world and most often dis-empower the minority and weaker communities and inhibit their progress.
Muslims are aware that in an attempt to strive for inclusion in the mainstream society, minority communities may weaken their attachment with their religious, cultural and ethnic values. They may lose their balance and harmony under the impact of marginalisation and social exclusion. Some may grow distrust in themselves and others through 'self-hate', 'acting out', violence and hypersensitivity. Others may give in to fatalism and 'acting in'. This may even break the spirit of community feeling at some stage.
It is true that inclusion and community harmony can only be realised if it is a two way process. When the mainstream society shows empathy and respect to the minority communities and try to accommodate them as equal partners, the latter would feel confident and try to adapt in the best possible manner. If this is not the case, genuine cohesion then becomes an uphill, if not impossible, task.
For Muslims the choice is straightforward. As a community of purpose with a firm belief in the 'unity in diversity' of humankind (Qur'an 4:1, 49:13), it is their divine duty to proactively engage in building a harmonious community around them. They can only maintain a moral high ground and walk straight and talk direct without any fear or frown, if they unilaterally embark on this project.
Once upon a midnight Ramadan, while I mused about the man,
Who had brought the wise and wonderful Qu’ran, upon him peace I implore
While I read, intently bound, suddenly there came a sound
As of someone begin to pound, pound at my study door.
‘Peace,’ I hushed, ‘and cease that sound at my study door’-
Then I resumed as before.
Ah, distinctly I recall, it was in the greatest month of all
That someone brazen with great gall chose my words to ignore
Instead, two harried feet hastily entered, and in my room suddenly centered
And a voice uninvitingly ventured- ventured to impose upon me more.
No sooner had that voice found words than I cried out as once before-
‘Peace, for evermore’.
‘Wait!’ did the intruder curb, ‘I had no wish at all to perturb,
The note that says ‘Must Not Disturb’ placed upon your study door,
However, he continued to blast ‘I wish to know the Islamic past
of why you Muslims like to fast and consider it not a chore.
That was the reason for my pounding upon your study door-
This I seek, nothing more’.
‘Allahu Akbar’ I impeded, and my heartbeat gradually receded
Then I promptly pleasantly proceeded, relating what was dear to my hearts core.
‘While the rest of the town is in slumber, Muslims awake and start to wonder
About all those people who are in hunger, whom God has made very poor.
Compassion softens the Muslim heart and we glorify God in grateful awe.’
Said he, ‘Tell me more.’
‘To abstain from food and drink, from before sunup till sun sink
grants Muslims the time to think about matters others normally do ignore.
Matters one may view as onerous, only make our good actions strenuous
And our giving so much more generous to those who need our money more.
Then in worship are we all night with our faces pressed against the floor.
Entreating only from God succor.
‘Sacred is the Al Quadr night, whence descended the Holy Book of Light
One good excels a thousand months of right, and blessings are multiplied more.
In this special month of Ramadan, Muslims read and memorize the Qu’ran
And combat the evil whisperings of Shaytan, whom God has warned us of before.
We pray and supplicate for our own selves, but it is to God whom we fast for.
Never is it a chore.’
Just as I concluded his behest, up did my visitor get,
Looking as though his mind was set, he strode confidently across the floor.
Only then did I exclaim, ‘Wont you please provide your name,
And indeed what you wished to gain by seeking to know about this lore.
It is every Ramadan midnight that I reflect on the Qu’ran and its splendor.
Then you pounded at my door ’.
Said he, ‘Surely, if the truth be known, in the dark outside I deserve to be thrown
But your request I cannot bemoan so now listen to the why and wherefore.
It was to steal that I came here tonight, but thwarted was I when began you to recite
As I was filled with much delight at words more beautiful than I ever heard before.
I realized the one with much money but no good deeds is the one who is truly poor.
All praise to The Creator!’
Shah Abdul Hannan
Sometimes it is alleged by some quarters that Islam does not guarantee adequate level of human or fundamental rights. This misgiving has become quite widespread and has been further intensified by the absence of enough clarification and publicity of Islamic viewpoints. Moreover, some extreme manifestations of Islamists such as some of the activists of the Taliban movement and administration in Kabul have foregrounded and have given supposed theoretical underpinnings to the propagandists against Islam.
However, this perception is not true. Such perception has gained ground mostly because of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of the works of mainstream Islamic scholars. In support of the view that Islam has provided for all necessary human rights for all irrespective of gender or religion, I will present three proofs from current works.
In the constitution of Pakistan of 1956 and 1973, a list of fundamental rights has been enumerated which will be available to all citizens, whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, men or women. This constitution was in past prepared and fully supported by the Ulama of all groups in Pakistan.
In the constitution of Iran, which was prepared by the Ulama of Iran, a similar list of fundamental and human rights have been provided for and this constitution was adopted by a referendum with 98% majority. The lists of rights in the aforesaid 2 (two) constitutions include almost all rights as may be seen in any other constitution. These rights include right to life and property; right of association and movement; freedom from torture and unjust detention; equality of opportunity, freedom of religion and all other necessary rights.
These constitutions were prepared after long debates in the light of the texts of the Qur'an and Sunnah and all other relevant issues by leading Ulama of these countries and we can not accept individual opinion of laymen against such broad majority.
Again many writers have written on human rights and upheld that Islam does give all necessary rights for all persons. In this connection of the many books written on the subjects, I refer to two books: one by Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi (Human Rights in Islam) and the other by Muhammad Salahuddin (Fundamental Rights in Islam in Urdu. It is therefore clear from the above discussion that Islam does give all basic human rights to all though there are some violations in some places and some groups have misunderstanding about it. It is the duty of the mainstream Islamic scholars to clarify the issue in details to all.
All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, and may the blessings and favours of Allah descend upon Prophet Muhammad. I testify that there is no object of worship except Allah and I testify that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Thereafter:
It has never been known to history, ever since the Divine command to "Recite!" was ordained upon the Prophet Muhammad, sal Allahu alaihi wasallam, that there has not been a single place on earth where Muslims have enjoyed political authority, and by their very presence their faith has not brought about a radical transformation in the culture, language, lifestyle, perceptions, and the beliefs of the indigenous people of that land. This is because Islam, by its very nature, is a faith that cannot be concealed. The only way for a Muslim to hide his Islam from others is not to practice it. A Muslim student will not be able to eat with his friends in the cafeteria in Ramadan. A Muslim adult will need to have space arranged in their workplace when it's time for Salah (prayer). Likewise, when the Sahaba (Companions of Prophet) were conquering new frontiers and establishing Islam in the new territories in Africa, Asia and even in Europe the local people who were not forced to convert, were still able to witness the justice of the Islamic order. Non-Muslims citizenry were not to be molested or harmed by the new Muslim rulers; animals were not to be abused or overburdened; and the Khalifah (Muslim ruler) himself could be questioned at anytime if there was the slightest suspicion of corruption. It was this absolute spirit of justice and equality that so easily and quickly swayed the masses into embracing the Deen-ul-Haq (true religion of Islam).
However, time is now much different. Muslims are no longer 'opening' the non-Muslim world to Islam. We are no longer entering the non-Muslim lands as conquerors or conveyers of Allah’s Message; we are arriving here as immigrants seeking a better life. There are some among us who have sought refuge on western shores because their lands of origin, which were once bastions of Islam, have now become so averse to Islam that these people were persecuted because they chose to practice and live Islam the way it ought to be lived. And in their doing so, they somehow became a threat to the status quo in their home countries. As they left behind the persecution in the East and arrived here in the West, it goes without question that they were better able to live as Muslims here than they were in 'Muslim' lands. Even today Muslim countries exist where it is prohibited by law for Muslim women to wear headscarfs.
It is important for the rest of us to keep in mind that such asylum seekers who come to Europe and America to escape cruel persecutions at the hands of violent secular 'Muslim' states are a minority. Most of us came here to make more money. This, we must understand and accept without questions. However, one important difference between us and the generation of early Muslim traders who sailed from Muslim lands and took Islam as far as the shores of Malaysia and Indonesia is that they did not shy away from interacting with local peoples. The success that Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala granted them in their da'wah (preaching of Islam) can vividly be observed today as Indonesia, once a region of clustered islands that was home to Hinduism and various other idolatrous ideologies, is now the most populated Muslim country in the world. Early Muslims were not able to disseminate and win support toward the concepts of Tauheed, Prophethood, and Divinely-revealed scripture by merely mastering the language of the natives. They did not win reverts to Islam by merely delivering lengthy speeches or by passing brochures on street corners. But unlike us, they did one thing. They lived Islam. They lived, in word and deed, the commandments and the disciplines of the Qur'an and the Sunnah. They were honest in their business dealings; they didn't cheat the natives in commercial transactions; they showed due respect to Salah when it was time for prayer. Needless to say, whoever came into contact with the Muslims, whether it was the merchants of Ceylon or the residents of Samarqand, was enamoured by their character. As we study the Seerah of our Prophet, sal Allahu alaihi wasallam, we see that the Rasul, sal Allahu alaihi wasallam, did not only propagate Islam among the Meccans by his powerful words, but the Message also enjoyed tremendous credibility due to his exemplary actions. He practised what he preached. We know by way of hadith that Aisha had correctly testified that the Messenger, sal Allahu alaihi wasallam, was "a moving Qur'an". He even earned the respect of his enemies. When Abu Sufyan was questioned by Heraclius about the Prophet, sal Allahu alaihi wasallam, he had to admit that the Messenger had never been one to tell lies (Bukhari Volume 1, Book 1, Number 6).
There is no question that the Muslims need to reach to non-Muslim Europeans and Americans in the churches, in the synagogues, in the schools and universities, in the prisons, and in the suburbs. But we as modern yet traditional Muslims, intelligent but Allah-fearing at the same time must understand that propagation of Islam, the truest of ideologies, is not just a task for ulama (clerics and scholars). The Prophet commanded us 'to propagate on his behalf, even if as little as one ayah (sentence)'. Speaking to the pilgrims on Yaum-al-Arafah on the Farewell Hajj he ordered the Muslim masses, not just the intellectuals from the Sahabah, to take his words to those that are absent, and then he made a dua that the absentees understand (and thus accept the message) better than those that are present. If we want to replicate a fraction of the success that the early generations enjoyed with this Deen, we have to take it to our neighbours. Remember that if you are among those sincere Muslims that can communicate the beauty of Islam in their actions, those beautiful actions and the magnanimous deeds which find their source in the Sunnah of the Messenger, then we do not have to worry about winning reverts by only giving flowery speeches. Our actions will speak for themselves Insha-Allah.
And we must never lose hope in the Absolute power of Allah. The Qur'an teaches us that "Verily, Allah has power over all things (Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 20)." Think of the power that the message of Islam would have if the 6 million Muslims in America, for example, became 6 million da'ees (conveyers of the message of Islam). With millions of workers for Islam in this country there would not have been a single fanatical priest who could have got away with pouring filthy lies on our Prophet. The average American would see the real Islam and the real Sunnah in the example of their Muslim co-workers or their Muslim fellow students. They would have known better than to have believed in false propaganda. If the majority of the Muslims practice their Deen (religion), if they do not ignore prayer, if they do not ignore fasting, if they are kind neighbours who consider it haram to go to sleep while their neighbour is hungry, if they are decent spouses who do not abuse their wives, are merciful to their children, and are respectful to their elders, everyone around us, whether they accept Islam or not, would have a real understanding of how this Deen transforms lives.
We must always bear in mind that guidance to Islam is in the Hands of Allah. When the Rasul, sal Allahu alaihi wasallam, made a dua to Allah to strengthen Islam by bringing either Umar ibn al-Kahttab or Abu Jahl to the fold of Islam, Allah accepted his dua and brought Umar into Islam. Even though Rasul was the best of da'ees he was not able to make Abu Talib, his own uncle, accept Islam; and despite that he told his beloved uncle to say the Kalima (the pronouncement of belief) on his deathbed; Allah didn't will it.
So if we as Muslims in non-Muslim lands can return to Islam, if we can raise righteous Allah-conscious children, even if it is too late for all of the 6 million Muslims to be representatives of Islam in America, for example, today, then tomorrow we can have 16 million da'ees in America Insha-Allah. In Ayah 125 of Surah an-Nahl, Allah says "Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching, and argue with them in the best manner. Surely, your Lord knows best those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way." His messnger told Ali "...If one man is guided on the right path through you, it would be better for you than (a great number of) red camels (Bukhari Volume 5, Book 57, Number 51)."
And Allah knows best.
“Why are Arabs always angry?” a reader recently asked me, in a message filled with thoughtless sarcasm. I refrained from replying right away, because he seemed little interested in listening. I could not help wondering how he might have felt if he himself were an Arab. So, I am writing back:
Imagine for a moment that you are an Arab.
For years you watch Palestinians being slaughtered, their land invaded and reinvaded, and for years witnessing the United States government block any attempt to punish those who aggressed upon the people whom you call “my people”.
Not only have the United States’ vetoes at the United Nations Security Council suffocated any initiative to deploy even unarmed observers to provide badly needed protection for Palestinians, but, thanks to billions of annual US funds, Israel manages to expand illegal settlements and provide its army equipped with the greatest killing machines of all time.
Your human rights are never brought up unless an outside power is using the subject to inflict political pressure on your ruler. You are worth a press release by a human rights group once every blue moon, a release that no one bothers to read. You simply matter to no one.
You are an Arab and have been watching Iraq being invaded under the pretext that it possesses weapons of mass destruction, enough to annihilate civilization, as we know it. You are gripped by fear, not fearing the harm of the alleged weapons, but the disastrous attack and occupation of a battered country, one that you often called the centre of your civilization.
Then, since you are still an Arab, you watch giant multinational corporations flood Iraq, to buy and sell its oil without the consent of its people. In fact, you witness Israelis flooding the “centre of your civilization”, seeking cheap oil and demanding pipelines that would go through their ports. Meanwhile, Israel still holds millions of your Palestinian brethren hostage to curfews and checkpoints amid the constant fears of endless deadly strikes and assassinations.
To your surprise, you learn that no weapons of mass destruction are even found in Iraq. You hear top American officials say that Saddam might have in fact destroyed his weapons prior to the invasion. You hear another say Iraq is swimming in oil. You knew it all along and were shunned when you tried to explain what you had discovered.
You watch thousands of right wing missionaries flooding the weakened Iraq, vowing to convert your people to a religion that is not theirs. Others call your prophet a “devil” and your religion “evil” and demand that your school curriculum change to fit the agenda of some think-tank 7,000 miles away from your home, alien to your culture, language and heritage.
You learn of occupation soldiers mass raping your brothers and sisters in Iraq. The British Daily Mirror tells you that soldiers enjoyed themselves to the point that they took photos of raped men to commemorate the occasion, and were only uncovered by a chance.
You watch your people’s history looted and set ablaze. You cannot help but notice that American weapons were not only killing Iraqis, but Palestinians too. You learn that mostly American made weapons are the ones that claimed the lives of those Palestinian children you keep seeing on television.
You learned that the man who caused their death, Ariel Sharon has been granted a new title, “a man of peace” by President George Bush. You wonder if Bush realizes that Sharon’s last nickname was the “Butcher of Beirut.”
You try to escape. You invested in a small satellite dish and decide to watch mindless entertainment. To your surprise, you and your people are the hot topic for entertainment. In Hollywood, you are filthy, smelly, repulsive and backward. You deserve no respect. You are the bad “Ayrab”, the devious womanizer whose death in the end of a movie must symbolize a happy ending.
You try once more to escape, this time you run away from oppression, poverty and your bitter memories. You sneak into France, to Italy, to Spain, to Australia, to the US. You think your college degree will open doors for you. They are all sealed and you find yourself handcuffed and “shipped” back.
Then your brother decides to chase after another destiny. He chooses another route for himself. He manages to live in the United States. He spends his nights writing letters to the editor expressing the rage you once felt. They are never published. He reflects on his feelings by keeping a journal filled with poetry, flags and pictures he draws of Palestinian children. He hears US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice threaten other countries in your region that they will be dealt with through a “made in America” solution.
Later that night, he watches a program aired by BBC called “Israel’s Secret Weapons.” The program says that Israel is the “world's sixth largest nuclear arsenal with small tactical nuclear weapons ... as well as medium-range nuclear missiles launchable from air, land or sea.” He also learns that Israel has undeclared biological and chemical capabilities and used an unknown gas against Palestinians in Gaza two years ago that sent hundreds of people to the hospital with severe convulsions. No US official comments on the reports, except Mrs. Rice, who describes Israel as the United States’ partner and exchanges friendly smiles and warm handshakes with those who developed such deadly agents when she is in Tel Aviv. Also, the overwhelming majority of the US Congress just finishes signing a letter to Bush demanding that he never pressure Israel.
Your brother writes a letter to the editor expressing his dismay, as he never did before. No one responds and the letter is never published. Instead, he resorts to his journal. He writes a poem filled with curses and angry phrases that didn’t rhyme.
I still cannot help but wonder: If you were an Arab, wouldn’t you be angry?
*Ramzy Baroud is the editor-in-chief of Palestine Chronicle, and the editor of the anthology titled: “Searching Jenin, Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion.” He can be reached at email@example.com
The world is in great crisis. At its root, it has an ethical and moral crisis. Therefore ethics and morals should be rethought in this age to mitigate catastrophes. Secular ethics differ from religious morality, as the later is established on two basic doctrines: belief in God and belief in the Hereafter.
Islam views all human beings as the ‘trustee’ or ‘vicegerent’ or ‘successor’ of God on this earth (khalifah al-ard) (Qur’an: 2:30, 6:156, 27:62, 35:39). Islam rejects the notion that the humankind should be essentially viewed animals, whose ultimate goal of this life is happiness or just performing duty for duty’s sake. According to Islam, the absolute good is to seek the pleasure of Allah by fruitfully performing the test of life and by pursuing what is right and by avoiding what is wrong.
Then questions arise: What are the sources of knowledge about right and wrong? Where is this information derived from? Islam’s response is clear: The divine revelation – The Qur’an and the authentic traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). As the intellect and the experimental sources of knowledge, whether it is based on ‘empiricism’, ‘intuitionism’ or ‘rationalism’, are subjective and hence can be biased, and as there is no universal agreement on what is right and what is wrong, these sources of knowledge about good and evil are imperfect and inadequate. On the contrary, the divine revelation has no such deficiencies.
Another crucial point is the ‘motivation’ for observing a moral code. Islam says that it is the pursuit of the pleasure of Allah and the desire to avoid everything which displeases Him that motivates a believer to practice morality. So the Allah-consciousness (taqwah) is the pillar. The Qur’an contains many verses that tie together taqwah and the love of Allah (3:76, 3:31, 2:165).
Islam has some simple and natural rituals that are the starter and booster of its moral and ethical teachings. And every segment of worship is not merely a set of rituals empty of moral relevance. For example, the whole act of praying (Salah) is an act of moral teaching in
- conscious submission to Allah,
- humility and
- keeping away from wrong deeds.
Similarly, the ‘poor-due’ (Zakaah) is related to a moral principle, as it is a religious duty which expresses a feeling of love, compassion and mutual concern to the less fortunate members of society.
According to the Prophet, the best beloved is the most moral in conduct (i.e., the best in manners and morals). In another saying, the Prophet (swm) says that ‘among the believers, those who are most perfect in belief are the best in behaviour’.
In Islam, belief and actions, faith and moral codes have a one-to-one relationship. So the lack of practice of the moral code in one’s action is evidence of weak faith and vice versa. And this practice must encompass every sphere of life – personal life, social life, economic life and political life. And this way, with some reasonable regulations, Islam beautifies the life of everyone, everywhere in this world with harmony. May Allah guide us to His right path!
Acknowledgement: Badawi, Jamal; ‘Islamic Teaching Course’, Vol. 2, Islamia Schools Trust, England
Murad W. Hoffman
Summary of Chapter 6, ‘Islam 2000’
Summarised by Atiq Ahad
From the previous chapters, it has been obvious that the western world and Islam are heading for a violent conflict with potentially tragic consequences for both sides, most particularly for the Muslim communities in the US and Europe. It is high time indeed to ask what can be done, on both sides, about the threatening situation and to act accordingly.
Building solid bridges between the North & the Islamic South requires more substantial efforts to demolish the ingrained prejudices against Islam. This effort should start at grammar school level. Muslims must make a major effort to help defuse the explosive situation. I will point out several areas in which this can be done. But let me make clear from the outset that I do not call for any concessions which would touch the essentials of the Islamic faith, the Qur’an – God’s own word – and the authentic Sunnah of the Prophet. The aim is not to adopt Islam to modern requirements but to revive it in such a way that its relevance for the modern age can be recognized by even the most recalcitrant Occidental.
I submit that reforms are due on the Muslim side in at least the following fields:
· Education and technology
· Women’s emancipation
· Human rights
· Theory of state and economy
· Magic and superstitious practices
This presupposes a neater distinction between:
· Islam as religion and Islam as civilization
· Sound ahadith and fabricated ahadith
· Shariah and fiqh
· Qur’an and Sunnah
Everybody knows that the Ummah is badly in need of reforms in the field of education and technology to salvage itself from subservience to foreign powers and foreign cultures. I trust that the five pillars have a reliable foundation in the hearts and lives of Muslims; so Islamic sensitivity will secure such an aversion that it will give immunity to the bits and pieces of western culture.
Nowadays, the Islamic world can even be put to shame by the highly specialized knowledge on things Islamic acquired by western orientalists. Ahmad Deedat says, where are the qualified Muslim “occidentalists” so necessary for a North-South dialogue? In the field of education and science, there is, of course, an ongoing reform effort to bring about an “Islamization of Knowledge.” My guess is that there is only one (but simple) way to Islamize knowledge – forming true Muslim scientists.
No other factor is harming the chances of Islamic da’wah as much as the occidental assessment that women in Islam are second-class citizens, marginalized, suppressed and mummified. The trouble is that this assessment is not without foundation, because Muslim women in many parts of Islamic world are still deprived of their Qur’anic rights and status.
Since the frightful institution of the harem virtually disappeared, polygamy is less of a problem for Islamic da’wah than the brutal African custom of female circumcision (wrongly attributed to Islam), the idea of male superiority and the veiling of women.
Against this background, most Europeans and Americans still have to be convinced that women in Islam enjoy the same religious status – the same rights, duties, and finally – as men: the same dignity, the same spirituality and the same essential human nature. It is vital – and possible – to contradict the misconceptions concerning women in Islam. Otherwise, Islamic da’wah in the West is almost hopeless.
As regards human rights, Muslim legal professionals must at least begin to add chapters on the issue of human rights to their textbooks. As a minimum, we must underline that individuals are better protected, at least in principle, by divinely decreed behaviour than by legal norms elaborated by parliaments.
Better than that: We are in a position to prove that the various Muslim declarations on human rights from the western viewpoint cover almost all issues in a satisfactory manner; except two:
· First, the Shari’ah makes a difference between Muslims and non-Muslims in the field of inheritance and marriage.
· Second, Muslim law cannot fully follow the western fiction that there are no relevant differences whatsoever between men and women as far as their family obligations are concerned. Nor can it positively endorse homosexuality.
The Muslim posture regarding state and economy is equally dismal. It is often misunderstood but true: In spite of the fact that Muhammad (peace be upon him) founded a confederate state at al Madinah in 622 (M. Hamidullah, The First Written Constitution in the World, 3rd ed., Lahore, 1975), Muslims still find it difficult to explain how a truly Islamic state, at the end of the twentieth century, should look (No such difficulty for Muhammad Asad, See his very learned and wise input The Principles of State and Government in Islam, 2nd ed., Gibralter, 1980).
Sum total: When challenged on questions of democracy, republicanism, or the separation of power, Muslims should not go into hiding or fumble around. Rather, they should assure their challengers that none of these concepts is, by nature, foreign or inimical to Islam.
Much of western disdain for Islam is based on the observation of primitive, atavistic religious practices surrounding the graves of Muslim “saints,” and of black magic practices as well. This should not be tolerated, since seeking intercession violates one of the most fundamental tenets of Islam. I suggest that the entire Islamic world, in this respect, should adopt the Wahhabi rejection of any cult of saints. Also, in the Wahhabi spirit, we should strive for the elaboration of a sirah of our Prophet that, cleansed from all later legends and attributions of miracles, could be used for contemporary da’wah. (For details, see Hussein Amin, Le livre du musulman desempare, Paris, 1992, pp. 23-29)
Communication: I suggest that if we want to be taken seriously, we must be heard to speak with one voice, at least on major moral issues like abortion, surrogate motherhood, organ transplantation and the like.
It is, in fact, doubtful whether the appointment of a khalifah would have been a good thing for the Muslim world community since it was, and continues to be, split into now more than 50 states. Under these conditions, a khalifah could not exercise political power. Even if it were more effective, the OIC itself, founded in Rabat in 1969, should not, and could not, pose as a “khalifah by committee” either.
In short: An Islam with an American and a European colouring is emerging side by side with the Islam of Maghribean or Egyptian colouring. Not a “German Islam” – God forbid! – but an Islam in Germany, not an American Islam – but an Islam in the US. This new development will help us to see more clearly what features of the Islam we are familiar with are part of its essence, and which of its features are merely a matter of Arab or other civilizations.
It is quite another story that Muslims are urged to obey Allah and His Messenger (3:32; 8:46; 24:52,54; and 47:33), the model to emulate (33:21). To emulate Muhammad may take the form of young Europeans dressing, growing their beard, eating and brushing their teeth exactly as Muhammad had done. In doing so, they emulate not only the Prophet but also the civilization in the Hijaz of the Quraysh of the 7th century C.E. The effect of this approach is obvious: Islam is portrayed as a religion for and by Arabs, and these young European Muslims tend to become part of subculture with folkloristic colouring. For Islamic da’wah, these effects are detrimental, to put it mildly.
All along this chapter has been focusing on issues that are crucial for the western perception of Islam, i.e., on issues of communication. Therefore, we must use arguments and language specifically appealing to the western mind, and that can be done best by Muslims raised in the West.
Edited by Adil Salahi
We spoke earlier about good manners and how the Prophet rated them as the best way to ensure a high position in heaven on the Day of Judgment. We are using the term, “good manners,” as denoting universally accepted virtues, such as forgiveness, generosity, bravery, forbearance, fidelity, looking after other people’s interests, etc. Today, we begin a discussion of how the Prophet, the most perfect example for people to follow, practiced what he preached and conducted himself as required by the highest standards of good manners. We will speak about certain aspects of his character showing that his example is the one to follow in every respect.
The Prophet disliked hard attitudes and hard character. His wife, Aisha, says of him:
“God’s messenger was never offered a choice between two alternatives over matters of this world without choosing the easier one, unless the easier choice be sinful. In that case, he kept furthest away from it. God’s messenger never sought revenge for himself, unless it is something, which violates what God has consecrated. In that case, he sought to set the record straight for God’s sake.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and Malik)
He taught his community and his followers in all generations to prefer the easier course in all matters. Whatever would please people and ensure their comfort and happiness was always preferable to the Prophet. The only proviso is that this easier option must be legitimate. If it were sinful, he would steer away from it. That is to be expected from the Prophet who has been sent as mercy for mankind. A sinful practice is indeed the more difficult choice, although it may appear easy or more enjoyable. The ease and enjoyment can only be momentary. They are, however, attended by God’s displeasure, which puts people in a very difficult position.
Moreover, the Prophet never sought vengeance for himself. Seeking vengeance is characteristic of a hard person who finds it difficult to forgive. The Prophet was willing to forgo any personal injury he may have suffered. But he was unwilling to forgive the violation of God’s strict bounds. We can easily see the distinction between the two. When it was a matter of principle, relevant to what God has made lawful or forbidden, then the Prophet was unwilling to sacrifice even a minor principle. He honoured them all.
Another Hadith that is of great significance is the one reported by Abdullah ibn Massoud, who quotes the Prophet as saying:
“God has apportioned to you your characters in the same way as He has apportioned your provisions. God gives wealth to those He loves and those He does not love, while He does not grant faith except to those whom He loves. He who holds money too dearly to spend it (for God’s cause) and is prevented by the fear of the enemy from fighting and is too weary to stand up at night in worship, should often repeat: “There is no deity except God,” and “All glory be to God,” and “All praise be to God,” and “God is supreme”. These are the translation of “La ilaaha illa Allah,” and “Subhana Allah,” and “Al-hamdu lillah,” and “Allahu akbar.” (Related by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad and Al-Hakim).
The first sentence in this Hadith tells us that our characters are given to us by God. This means that by nature we have the aptitude to follow a certain course, or adopt a certain line. It does not mean that some of us are created liars while others are, by their nature, truthful. We can certainly develop our characters, taking free decisions to be, for example, generous, forgiving, reasonable, etc. This is no different from the apportioning of our provisions by God. It does not mean that we will get our money whether we work for it or not. God certainly does not shower money or provisions on us from the clouds. He facilitates for us our work and makes our efforts successful. The more we do the greater are our earnings. People sometimes suggest that it is better to spend time in worship than to work for one’s living. They argue that what God has apportioned for us we will get. This fatalistic attitude is not Islamic. God tells us to work in order to earn our living. If we do not work, we earn nothing. The Prophet once saw a man spending all his time in the mosque. He asked who supported him. When he was told that it was his brother, the Prophet said that his brother was a better worshipper than him.
The second sentence in this Hadith tells us that wealth is not that important in the Islamic view. God gives wealth to believers and non-believers, to those He loves and to those He does not love. So, when we see a man who is very wealthy, his wealth does not signify that he is dearer to God. Nor is a poor person less favoured by God. The Prophet tells us:
“Had this world (and all its riches) been worth even the span of one wing of a mosquito in God’s sight, not a glass of water would He have allowed of it to any non-believer.”
If this world and all its riches is so worthless in God’s view, then being wealthy does not mean that one is favoured or loved by God. It is faith with which God favours those whom He loves. Faith gives a person good character. He earns respect in his community even by those who do not share his faith. This is due to the fact that when one has faith, one tries his best to behave well with others, improve his manners and adhere to noble moral values. That is bound to earn him the love and respect of everyone. That is true wealth, which is indicative of God’s favour.
Faith places certain requirements on people. They are supposed to sacrifice their money and their lives for God’s cause. Yet such a sacrifice does not come so easy to all people. Man is sometimes governed by his narrow view of this world. He finds it difficult to part with his money, even for a good cause. He may slacken when he is called upon to join a campaign of jihad. He may prefer to rest at night and finds it difficult to wake up in the middle of the night in order to stand up for worship. When a person shows such reluctance, it does not take him out of the realm of faith altogether. He is still a believer, but his motives have not been refined enough by his faith. The Prophet prescribes for him that he should repeat praises and glorifications of God. By doing so, he reminds himself of his position in this world and that he is totally dependent on God. He remembers that God has given him so much of His grace that he should always be thankful. He may remember that when he fulfills his duty and sacrifices his wealth and shows his readiness to sacrifice his life, God will give him more. That may come in this world or in the next life.
Repeating such praises of God is important, even if it does not bring about such a change of attitude. God rewards us generously for praising and glorifying Him. Moreover, we feel our relationship with God to be more intimate. We know that we depend on Him for everything in our lives. We know that His grace and bounty is so great that we cannot thank Him enough for it, were we to spend all our time in worship. After all, our worship does not benefit God; it benefits us only. We have a better character for it. Then we should not hold it as a favour, which we do to God. We should remember the sacred, or qudsi, Hadith in which God tells us that if all human beings and all jinn, in past and future generations, were as devoted and as pious as the most dedicated believer to have ever lived, they would not increase God’s kingdom by their worship in any way. Conversely, if all of them were as wicked as the most evil unbeliever to have ever walked this planet, they would not decrease, by their disobedience, God’s kingdom in any way. As I have already said, our worship refines our own characters. It benefits us, and does not benefit God in any way. It is only through God’s grace and generosity that He rewards us for it.
Sumayyah bint Joan
A. Kind Treatment of Parents at Old Age
It is narrated that the Prophet, peace be upon him (PBUH), repeated' "May he be humbled (or cursed),” three times. When he was asked to whom he was referring, he said,
"The one who witnesses one or both of parents live to old age, but does not enter Paradise (by not serving them and not treating them with ihsan)". (Muslim)
With the advancements in modern medicine and nutrition, more people are living longer now. Because of this, Western societies are faced with the task of caring for more and more elderly people. About 2.2 million friends and relatives care for 1.6 million elderly loved ones in the United States. Those numbers can only increase, says Shirley O'Bryant, family relations researcher at Ohio State University.
The number of adult children who must care for their elderly parents is also growing, she says. More than 80 percent of couples in their 50s and 60s today have at least one living parent, compared to less than 50 percent at the beginning of the century.
"Also, today's young couples are having fewer children than in past generations," O''Bryant says. "Fewer people have brothers and sisters with whom they'll be able to share the responsibility of their parents’ care." As life spans get longer, this problem will only get more difficult. O'Bryant also said.
"In the future, the major problem will be that many old adult children will need to provide care to their very old parents," "The age of the caregiver will bring on a whole new set of complications when they try to meet growing family obligations."
In many societies today, these care-facilities for the elderly express the major fragmentation in the social and familial fabric that has occurred over time and the wrong changes in values and life styles. These facilities, which now are called "Senior Housing," have become the transitional place where old parents spend their last days before they are permanently moved into their graves. As for the children, they see it a fitting solution. They have to work hard during the day and need to get rest or have some fun in the evening. They have no time to spend with their old parents except in some occasions here and there. The days when the son would come home from work and go to check on his mother or father before he turns to his wife and children are gone.
As Muslims, it is not only a social obligation, but also it is our duty to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala to care for our parents in their old age, as they cared for us in childhood. This is the least anyone can do for his parents and it is only appropriate in this regard to remember the saying,
"Whatever you do to your parents your children will do to you."
B. The Greater Right of the Mother
When we look at the nature of the child's relationship to his mother we find it to be so unique that no other relationship could be compared to it. He manifests love to her before anybody else, if she goes away he calls her, if she ignores him he begs her, if he is in need he asks for her help. He thinks that she has all the good, and believes that harm cannot reach him so long as she is protecting him.
Allah, subhanahu wa ta' ala, says,
"His mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his weaning is (or takes place) within two years." [30:14]
It is reported that the Prophet (PBUH) was asked by a man as to who was most deserving friendly care and good companionship from him. The Prophet (PBUH) replied,
"Your mother, then your mother, then your mother, then your father, then your nearest relatives in order." (Bukhari and Muslin)
It is said that Owaiss ibn Aamer al-Qarni who lived in Yemen, believed in the Prophet (PBUH) before his death but could not come to Madinah to meet with him because he had to take care of his mother. Umar ibn al-Khattab said that he heard the Prophet (PBUH), say,
"Owaiss ibn Aamer will come to you with the delegation of Yemen, he had leprosy but it is all gone except for a small part. He is very beneficent and dutiful to his mother and if he swore on Allah about something, Allah will fulfill it. If you could, ask him to pray to Allah for your forgiveness." (Muslim)
In the time of Uthman, the third khalifah, the price of dates became very expensive. During that time, people saw him extracting the juice from a date tree by incising the tree with a knife. The people surprisingly asked why he would destroy a tree, that at that was so costly. He replied that he was doing so to carry out the wish of his mother who had asked him to bring the juice for her. "How can ignore the desire of my mother,” he asked?
The majority of scholars have agreed that mothers enjoy greater rights than fathers, but it does mot mean that children should serve their mothers and ignore their fathers. For both of them nice behaviour is emphasized. But it should be borne in mind that mothers are comparatively weaker in our society; and due to the greater services rendered by her, she is more deserving to be comforted and treated nicely by the children.