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13.7.16

How to be true to the Quran

It's a book that constantly invites you to think.

I met a friend for coffee the other day. He brought along two friends – a Canadian who serves as a senior professor at one of Thailand’s most esteemed universities and a professor at a Malaysian university.

In the middle of our conversation, the Canadian told of a recent lecture during which he bantered with his students about science and religion in a humble attempt to mould the minds of future scientists. A student stood up and said: “Just because God created us with a brain, it does not mean we are meant to use it to question Him. Just accept everything you are told and stop thinking so much.”

The student was a Muslim.

The entire class fell silent upon hearing this. The professor said he too was dumbfounded. He told us that in all his 35 years as a lecturer, he had never heard such an absurd statement from a research student of all people.

The local professor seated with us laughed out loud when I remarked that this kind of mentality was growing fast among members of Malaysian society. Apparently, she faces an even bigger crowd of students who were quite satisfied to not question but follow blindly.

On my way home from this meeting, it struck me how wrong I was earlier for thinking it was the less educated who succumbed to the herd mentality. It never occurred to me that our well-educated young were also on the verge of sacrificing their God-given mental capabilities in order to satisfy Him, thinking that is what God expects of them.

I remember having religious discussions with some highly educated friends and every time I quoted a certain verse from the Holy Book to prove a point, I was gently reminded against trying to fully understand the content of the Quran on my own. I was told that I might deviate from its true meaning. Instead, I was advised to read the explanations provided by the ulamas in order to get a correct understanding of God’s words.

But the Quran is meant for all mankind, not just a privileged class. If we’re not supposed to try to understand it on our own, why is it replete with verses such as these:

Verily, in this is indeed a sign for people who think. (16:69)
Do they not think deeply (in their own selves) about themselves (how God created them from nothing, and similarly He will resurrect them)? (30:08)
Have they not journeyed upon the earth, that they might have hearts by which to understand or ears by which to hear? (22:46)
These are the parables We set forth for mankind, that haply they may reflect. (59:21)

This brings to mind how our education system has failed in aiding the intellectual growth of our young. After 12 years of school, our students’ intellect and spirituality should be somewhat highly developed, thus giving them the ability to apply critical thinking. Sadly, this is not the case, as the Malaysian professor pointed out.

Students and Muslims at large can better themselves and their capacity to think critically only by engaging in discussions and debate, without fearing that the religious authorities would label them as infidels. This should be the true Islamic way.

The truth is, through the Quran, God repeatedly challenges us to think critically. He tells us to observe, seek knowledge, ponder and ask questions. Sadly, a superficial study of the Quran and a reliance on the explanations provided by our ulamas alone have made us mentally sluggish besides carrying the risk of having the divine message misunderstood and misrepresented.

We must, like the early Muslims, challenge ourselves intellectually because God knows that we are capable of it.

In the words of a fellow Muslim: “To be a Muslim is to have Islam. It is to have peace, and that comes from being free. To be free you need to have knowledge, and to gain knowledge you need to be able to think properly, and to think properly you need to learn to be critical. To be a real Muslim, you cannot but be a critical thinker.”

How to be true to the Quran
by Mikha Chan, freemalaysiatoday.com
http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIwnfzhmSw

11.7.16

Violence and Islam not the same: Islamophobia will not solve the problem of terrorism

The recent spate of terror attacks in various parts of the world, with one being in neighbouring Bangladesh, has once again alerted Indian security agencies. Analysts have started pointing out the looming threat of Islamic State hovering over India. This is especially in the light of India sharing a porous border with Bangladesh.

However, above all, there has been an unequivocal demand coming from all sections of the society that Muslims should come out and condemn this killing. This was my biggest fear while I witnessed terrorists taking hostages of customers at the upscale café in Dhaka on television sets, apart from the safety of those inside the café. I knew that this attack would once again give a strong edge to Hindutva elements in propagating Islamophobia, this will once again make it easy for them to pursue their politics and mobilise the masses in India against the dangers of Islamic radicalisation. Within no time after the Dhaka hostage crisis, it was visible on social media, even the liberals who are otherwise champions of minority rights in India, took to writing about how Islam is not a religion of peace, as if violence and Islam are inseparable entities.

It reminded me of Sam Harris, the loudest voice of new atheism in the world and his claim that 'most Muslims are utterly dangerous.' Little that these people know that today, the biggest victim of terrorism are Muslims themselves, it is they who are being targeted by this menace of Islamic State and it is they who are there at the forefront of the battle against it, be that in Syria or Iraq. It would not be difficult to point out the forces responsible for the creation of Islamic State and the rise of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi for their strategic interest in the entire West Asian region. But that will be a different debate altogether.

Indian Muslims have already started feeling the heat of all this. There has been news every day about intelligence agencies busting an "ISIS module” in the country, the discourse of terror in the country has shifted to Islamic state from Indian Mujahideen. There have been subsequent arrests of alleged members of the so-called Islamic State from different parts of the country, all on charges of having allegiance to the most well-armed terror outfit or being its sympathisers. Amidst this, IM, which was responsible for every blast in the country in the past and hatching conspiracies for the same, has ceased to exist. It has vanished from the scene. But now since there is Islamic State, there are also debates around radicalisation and de-radicalisation of Muslims, especially Muslim youths in the country. Skeptics have started pointing out the need to make Indian Muslims go through the process of de-radicalisation to avoid its adverse effects on the security apparatus of the country.

However, what is missing from the debate is what could actually be the factors leading to extremism among Indian Muslims. Why is nobody talking about the terror unleashed by the fringe Hindutva elements and feebleness of the state to protect its minorities against them as a dangerous trend, something which carries the potential of breeding extremism among Indian Muslims? It seems we as a society, as well as a nation, have collectively lost the ability to comprehend the basic proposition of cause and effect relationship.

If we are really concerned about the growth of religious extremism among Indian Muslims, the Indian state should make sure that it deals with majority extremism with an iron fist and acts according to the principles of justice, essential for the survival of a modern nation state.

Above all, unwanted witch hunting of Muslim youths in the name of terrorism should immediately come to a halt, and so should the politics around it. We have seen in the past how people like Mohammad Amir Khan and many unknown individuals have spent more than ten years in jail for no crime of theirs. In most of the terror cases, the court has acquitted Muslim youths after they spent years in jail. But most importantly, what is imperative is that we head towards a more inclusive state, where minorities, essentially Muslims too can reap the fruits of development and are not left confined to their ghettos.

Violence and Islam not the same: Islamophobia will not solve the problem of terrorism     by Asad Ashraf, m.firstpost.com
(Asad Ashraf is a journalist based in Delhi and has worked for organizations like Centre for Equity Studies, DNA, and Tehelka.)

http://m.firstpost.com/india/violence-and-islam-not-the-same-islamophobia-will-not-solve-the-problem-of-terrorism-2885370.html

4.7.16

What walking across the Holy Land, Middle East taught me about life


"For the next three and a half months, my routine was simple. I’d wake and walk, eat and talk."
I left Jerusalem on a cold and grey December morning. Armed police watched in bemusement as I staggered down narrow streets, stooped under the weight of an oversized pack and clinking cobbles with my neon hiking poles. I wondered – not for the first time – if it really was a good idea to try and walk 1,000 miles through the Holy Land, mostly alone.

Within hours the city had melted away, and with it my fears about the wisdom of this journey. A series of shepherds’ trails and dry canyons took me through the desert hills of the West Bank, amidst familiar names in unfamiliar surroundings – from Bethlehem to Jericho to the Jordan River. Layers of history and culture lay palpably heavy on the landscape – here, the Mount of Temptation where Jesus resisted the Devil; there the tumbled Roman columns and crumbling Byzantine churches of empires now long gone. [Note that the FCO currently advises against all travel to certain parts of Israel and Palestine. See below for information.]
For the next three-and-a-half months, my routine was simple. I’d wake and walk, eat and talk. I travelled as far as felt necessary each day and to guide my wanderings I followed a series of ambitious new hiking trails in the region. Mountains grew around me when I left the West Bank and began heading south through Jordan; in the distance, terraces of olive groves gently stepped their way down to the valley. To my untrained eye the green, fertile vistas felt much more akin to the backdrops of southern Italy.
Further south, 800m-deep gorges cut viciously across the landscape, creating canyons of harsh, perfect beauty. I passed the Ottoman village of Dana, pitched as precariously as it is picturesquely on a cliff edge, then plodded through the ancient Nabataean kingdom of Petra, with its geometrically-perfect rock-cut architecture. Beyond that lay the great desert of Wadi Rum, which Lawrence of Arabia once wrote to be, ‘vast, echoing and Godlike.’
I ended by crossing the Sinai Peninsula, finishing atop the mountain where Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments. Whether that is true or not, there us certainly something special found there in the whole empty, epic and rugged wilderness of Sinai.
The landscapes of this region are spectacular, but what will last longest in my memory, however, are the conversations I had and the warm the reception with which I was met. In the West Bank I’d often be pulled into the shade to share lunch. “Palestinian food is the best,” I was told. “It’ll make you fat and happy!”
In Jordan, as I wandered alone across hillsides, shepherds would rush over to insist that we drink sweet tea together. Outside the city of Kerak, after a particularly long day, a man called Mahmoud beckoned me into his home and suggested I stay the night. I agreed and he asked if I would mind if he washed my feet. “You must be tired and in pain,” he concluded.
This is a part of the world that is often maligned; regularly marked out as dangerous, unsafe or risky. What I found instead was a region defined by hospitality. The Holy Land is one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been, and that’s a revelation worth experiencing.
Leon’s trip in numbers
The number of camels I bought in Egypt. Sinai is wild and empty; it would be impossible to cross without two weeks' worth of food and water. With the help of a Bedouin called Musallem, I found a fine camel called Harboush for the job, whose only weakness was a propensity for eating things that he shouldn’t. He was forgiven for munching the cucumbers, and even for eating the cardboard boxes that our water bottles came in; it took more conflict-resolution to bring us together, however, after he tried chomping through my video camera…
The number of days I spent walking. I was on the road for nearly four months, but didn’t walk every single day. I was collecting notes for a book as well as taking photos and video footage, so once or twice a week I needed to hole up in my tent or in a cheap hotel to consolidate my material. I spent roughly two-thirds of the nights outside in a tent or bivvy bag, and the rest in guest-houses or the homes of strangers who invited me in.
The number of scorpions I encountered. There are some vague rules of etiquette when using the ‘bathroom’ in the wilds, which essentially go something like: Bury it or Cover it. Twice in Jordan I lifted a nearby boulder to attempt the latter, only to find a small but angry looking scorpion staring back at me. One feels particularly vulnerable in such situations.
The number of walking trails I followed: the ‘Masar Ibrahim al-Khalil’ (www.masaribrahim.ps), the ‘Jordan Trail’ (www.jordantrail.org) and the ‘Sinai Trail’ (www.sinaitrail.org.) All allow plenty of scope for adventure, but with enough direction and infrastructure to ensure an immersive experience.
The number of walking companions I had along the way. My criteria to qualify as a companion was anyone who spent at least a day on the road with me. I set out from Jerusalem with a friend called Dave Cornthwaite, who sadly got injured after the West Bank section. Later I was joined by fellow adventurers Sean Conway, Pip Stewart and Austin Vince at various points, as well as (more briefly) by a host of other characters including the US Ambassador to Jordan and a Bedouin hiking guide with a complete disdain for walking.
The number of people I encountered during 150 miles of walking in the Sinai. In the West Bank I passed through multiple communities each day, and in Jordan I’d have empty stretches punctuated by regular towns and occasional cities. In the Sinai, however, I passed just one small oasis settlement in two weeks. Ein Hudera has been a stopping-off point for pilgrims en route to Mount Sinai for centuries, and I spent a night there with the Bedouin who watch over it. The next day, it was back into the sparse, empty deserts.
25kg
The average weight of my backpack. The gear I needed for walking was relatively small and lightweight – tent, sleeping bag, clothes and a few accessories. On top of that I added in a video camera, tripod, laptop and more communications gear. Finally, I’d carry enough food and water to get me to the next point where I could resupply. In populated areas this wasn’t that much – maybe just two litres of water – but at other times I would go days between water sources, and my pack at one point topped 40kg.
777
The population of The Samaritans, the smallest and most ancient religious sect in the world. They live high on a hilltop above the Palestinian city of Nablus. In a region dominated by Islam, Christianity and Judaism, the Samaritans are fiercely independent. It’s possible to visit them – I did so, arriving in their enclave late one evening to try and meet a High Priest. When I found him he was happy to chat, but only after he finished his business on Facebook – a perfect collision of the ancient and the modern worlds.

1,584
The number of kilometres logged on my GPS. Each morning I’d turn on my tracker and begin logging the distance moved. The total figure came in slightly below 1000 miles (1600 kilometres) but as I never used the tracker during my days off, when I’d wander for hours around various towns and cities, I’m pretty confident that during the journey I covered well over 1000 miles. I’d also turn it off when I got lost, which happened more than I’d like to admit. Still, where’s the fun in walking if you can’t take a wrong turn here and there?
10,000 years
The age of the city of Jericho. As I entered the city of Jericho I saw a sign proclaiming it the ‘Oldest City in the World.’ It was not the last time I’d hear such a claim – three more times on this walk I’d be told that somewhere else held the title. Whether 10,000 years is accurate, or whether there is somewhere slightly older, seems slightly irrelevant – Jericho is a city that wears its age well, and its history blends seamlessly with the bustling, vibrant vibe of present day.
What walking across the Middle East taught me about life
telegraph.co.uk
Leon McCarron is currently working on a film and book about his adventures walking in the Middle East. For more details about the journey and to keep up to date with the stories, visit walkthemasar.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice: The FCO currently advises against all travel to certain parts of Israel, Palestine, and Egypt's Sinai Peninisula. We recommend that you follow FCO advice, and obtain specialist insurance if you do decide to visit places it deems unsafe. The FCO advises against all but essential travel to Jordan's northern border.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/middle-east/articles/what-walking-across-the-middle-east-taught-me-about-life-leon-mccarron/

2.7.16

REVELATION of QURAN:


Laylat al-Qadr (Arabicلیلة القدر‎‎) (also known as Shab-e-Qadr , loaned from Persian), variously rendered in English as the Night of DecreeNight of PowerNight of ValueNight of Destiny, or Night of Measures, is in Islamic belief the night when the the Quran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It is one of the odd nights of the last ten days of Ramadan and is better than 1000 months of worship. Muslims believe that on this night the blessings and mercy of Allah are abundant, sins are forgiven, supplications are accepted, and that the annual decree is revealed to theangels who also descend to earth.(wiki)
These are the divine Messages (Quran)  that emanate from the "Preserved Tablet" in the form of the Qur'ān (85.al-Burūj:21-22). This "Preserved Tablet," from which all revealed Books take their rise, is also what is called the "Hidden Book" (56.al-Wāqi`ah:78) and the "Mother of all Books [umm al-Kitāb]" (13.ar-Ra`d:39, from which also comes the confirmation or or cancellation of revealed verses [and Books]).
First Phase of Revelation:
The Qur'ān was first revealed from the "Preserved Tablet" on a certain night (probably 21,23,25,27 or 29th) in the month of Ramadān: (in an implicit form--out of which full-fledged details were given out gradually and as occasion arose):
We have sent [the Book] down on a Blessed Night, since We were going to warn [mankind]. In it [i.e., that Night] every matter of Wisdom is decided upon--as  a Command from Us, for We send Messengers as a Mercy from your Lord.  (44.ad-Dukhān:3-6)
The month of Ramadān wherein the Qur'ān was sent down as guidance for mankind and [its verses] as clear proofs for [this] guidance and as furqān [i.e., as distinguishing clearly truth from falsehood]. (2.al-Baqarah:185)
The wording of verse 44.ad-Dukhān:3-4 "We sent it down on a Blessed Night wherein every matter of wisdom is decided upon" bears a striking resemblance to that of sura 97.al-Qadr concerning the "Night of Determination or of Accounting [qadr]" as a whole is 94.ash-Sharħ:1-3:
We have sent [the Book] down on a Blessed Night, since We were going to warn [mankind]. In it [i.e., that Night] every matter of Wisdom is decided upon--as  a Command from Us, for We send Messengers as a Mercy from your Lord.  (44.ad-Dukhān:3-6)
"Have We not opened your heart and relieved you of the burden which was breaking your back?"; "relief from the burden" was then effected once and for all (although another burden--that of executing the Message--was put in its place). The spirit of Revelation in terms of potentially total Revelation had made its contact with the Prophet's mind.
Second phase- Gradual and intermittent Revelation in 23 Years:
Although no subsequent event of Revelation was easy, for the Qur'ān itself was  a burdensome Call, not only in its content but even in its genesis, nevertheless, this first event of "breaking the ground" ensured that the Message as a whole had  a definite and cohesive character. The recurring Qur'ānic term tanzīl, as the commentators assure us, often means gradual and intermittent Revelation, or "sending down."
The Meccans objected to this gradual revelation of the Qur'ān:
"Those who disbelieve say: Why has the Qur'ān not been sent down upon him [Muħammad] all at once? So it is, in order that We give strength to your heart and [also] We have arranged it in an order" (25.al-Furqān:32), i.e., it has been arranged according to the occasion.
Moreover, "In truth have We sent it down and in truth has it come down. ... A Qur'ān that We have sent intermittently that you may recite it to people at intervals, and We have sent it down in successive Revelations" (17.al-Isrā':105).
The Qur'ān testifies both to the crushing burden and to the power of its own Call: "If We had sent this Qur'ān down upon a mountain, you would have seen it humbled and split asunder through fear of God: these are likenesses We cite for men so that perchance they might reflect" (59.al-Ħashr:21).
Again, "If it were possible for  a Qur'ān that mountains be moved by it or the earth rent or the dead spoken to [by its power, this Qur'ān would have done it]" (13.ar-Ra`d:31).
After all, it was this Message which brought Muħammad (PBUH) back to life (6.al-An`ām:123).
Even though the Qur'ān often mentions that pagans do not respond to it, yet it also avers that they did not want their people to listen to it for fear they would be influenced by its powerful appeal: "Those who disbelieve say, Let you not listen to this Qur'ān; rather, confuse the hearers, maybe you will win [against Muħammad]" (41.Fuşşilat:26).
It was because of this power that the pagans are said to be "like asses fleeing from a tiger" (74.al-Muddaththir:50).
Miracle & inimitability of the Qur'ān:
The enemies of Prophet Muħammad (PBUH) were often left speechless: "When you see them, their [well-built] figures impress you, but when you listen to what they have to say, they are no more than sticks piled one upon the other" (63.al-Munāfiqūn:4).
We have said that the Prophet mentally "heard" the words of the Qur'ān; but he also mentally "saw" the Qur'ān being recited by the Spirit of Revelation--"Holy Documents containing Precious Books" (98.al-Bayyinah:2).
Again, "Say: this Qur'ān is but an admonition; whosoever will may take admonition from it. [It is contained] in Noble Documents, exalted and pure in the hands of Divine Messengers [Angels or Spirits of Revelation], who themselves are noble and pure" (80.`Abasa:11-16).
There is a vast literature in Islam known as i`jāz al-Qur'ān setting out the doctrine of the "inimitability of the Qur'ān." This doctrine takes its rise from the Qur'ān itself, for the Qur'ān proffers itself as the unique miracle of Muħammad (PBUH). No other revealed Book is described in the Qur'ān as a miracle in this way except the Qur'ān itself; it follows that not all embodiments of Revelations are miracles, even though the event of Revelation itself is a kind of miracle.
The Qur'ān emphatically challenges its opponents to "bring forth one sura like those of the Qur'ān" (2.al-Baqarah:23) and "to call upon anyone except God" to achieve this (10.Yūnus:38; cf. 11.Hūd:13, which is probably earlier).
Arabic:
There is a consensus among those who know Arabic well, and who appreciate the genius of the language, that in the beauty of its language and the style and power of its expression the Qur'ān is  a superb document. The linguistic nuances simply defy translation. Although all inspired language is untranslatable, this is even more the case with the Qur'ān. 
The Qur'ān is very much conscious that it is an "Arabic Qur'ān" and, the question of ideas and doctrines apart, it appears certain that the claim of the miraculous nature of the Qur'ān is connected with its linguistic style and expression. Unfortunately, non-Arab Muslims do not realize this enough; while they correctly assume that the Qur'ān is a book of guidance and hence may be understood in any language, they yet not only deprive themselves of the real taste and appreciation for the Qur'ānic expression but--since even a full understanding of the meaning depends upon the linguistic nuances--also cannot do full justice to the content of the Qur'ān. It is extremely desirable and important that as many as possible of the non-Arab educated and thinking Muslims equip themselves with the language of the Qur'ān.
Extracts from; "Themes of Quran": by Fazal ur Rahman :
http://freebookpark.blogspot.com/2014/10/books-by-fazlur-rehman.html
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