Archive for the ‘Arabic’ Category

Drawing images of living beings

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Forgive my bad English (I’m from Spain).
I heard that Prophet Muhammad said that making a picture of a human or animal being is haram (prohibited) and in the Day of Judgement God will ask us to turn our pictures to life. Is it true? Can’t we paint this beings?
God bless you

Your English is just fine! Thanks for writing. And may God bless you too for doing the research and verifying what you hear. Too many people simply take for granted what they have been told, without ever attempting to ask themselves if it is true.

The hadeeth you refer to is authentic. It was narrated by Ibn Abbaas (RA) and reported by Al-Bukhaari. Another version of it, also reported by him, was narrated by Ibn Umar (RA).

Those two hadeeths, and there are other, use the Arabic word صورة “Şoora”, which in today’s Arabic is often used to mean a picture, but it actually means “likeness” and that is how it was used by the Arabs of the Seventh Century. The word for picture is actually رقم “Raqm”, which in today’s Arabic has come to mean marking or engraving.

This distinction can be discerned from another authentic hadeeth, reported by Muslim and narrated by Abu-Talha, where the Prophet (PBUH) made an exception from the prohibition a raqm on a cloth. It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that the prohibition applies only to three-dimensional images, i.e., statues, figurines, embossed images, etc.

The ending of the two hadeeths of prohibition give away the reason for the prohibition. It’s what Americans call “playing God.” That is, the attempt by humans to do things that only God may do. Creation of living beings is God’s domain only.

This prohibition is not unique to Islam. The exact same thing is said in the Second Commandment, prohibiting making engraved images and bowing to statues.

This is the key to understanding the prohibition of sculpting images of living beings. It is God’s protection of us from Shirk (associating others with Him in worship).

One may think that shirk is far-fetched in today’s educated world. One, therefore, may think that this prohibition may have been called for in ancient times, when shirk was rampant, but not relevant in today’s sophisticated societies. But that is not actually the case! There are millions of people in today’s sophisticated world who pray to statues. Many even bow down to images on the wall. Many believe that a token or a figurine will bring them good fortune, heal them or stave evil away from them. All of that is shirk.

Why is shirk so dangerous? Because it creeps on people’s psyche, with enthusiastic help from Satan, until they are detached from God. That is the greatest loss.

Tawheed (the oneness of God) is the central teaching of Islam. It is also the subject of the First Commandment. God is teaching us to worship Him only and abandon any hint of worship of anyone or anything else – not because He needs it, but because we do. Human nature is such that we look for idols, literal or figurative. We keep aggrandizing the people we admire. Americans have coined a good term for that: hero worship. Shirk can be subtle.

The issue at hand is not art, creativity or expression, all of which are allowed in Islam. Rather, it is the kind of art, creativity or expression that is dangerous to our souls.

Being a beacon of light

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Brother, why do people, believers and non-believers, not understand the power of faith?

And question number two: The prostration of the heart. I have read that once the heart prostrates it remains in that position. That the body returns to the upright position but the heart has no fear of death. Can you give me some links to ponder this one?

Lastly, I have caught so many blessings my hands are teaming full. Now…what do I do with the blessings. How do I serve my Lord and Creator such that the blessings are spread as the hadith about the corn…how does one make one blessing turn into the thousands? I am a simple woman. I am not Yusef (Joseph, peace be upon him).

I would respectfully disagree that the heart remains prostrate. Did you know that the word for heart in Arabic, Al-Qalb, literally means that which keeps turning over? Recall the supplication of the Prophet (PBUH), “O Turner of hearts, steady my heart upon Your religion. O Diverter of hearts, direct my heart toward obeying you.” (Narrated in different versions by Umm Salama and Anas and reported and rated between authentic and sound by At-Tirmizhi and Al-Albaani).

I wish the heart could be set once and for all, the task of faith would’ve been easy.

People underestimate the power of faith because it does not work the way they expect! People want things now and faith produces results on God’s own timing. People want specific things, but faith brings them what God has determined to be best for them. “And God knows and you do not know.” (3:66)

The way to turn one blessing into thousands is to “lend God a goodly loan” (57:18). That expression God uses in the Quran several times and it a surprising statement, isn’t it? How do we creatures lend anything to our Creator? And what do we lend Him? He is the owner of everything we’ve got, including our lives. How do you lend someone something he owns and you don’t?

The best way to understand this metaphor is to contemplate an Egyptian proverb that says, “Do the good and throw it in the river!” What the Egyptians mean by that is that we are to do good and not expect anything in return because we know that God will reward us for it sometime somehow. That is the goodly loan. You do not collect interest on it nor recall it nor does it become due any time, but it pays off big time. You just don’t know when or how.

Is the word “Allah” exclusive to Muslims?

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

A court in Malaysia ruled that non-Muslims cannot use the word “Allah”,
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/14/us-malaysia-court-allah-idUSBRE99D01J20131014

Is this proper?

No. To begin with, one cannot censor the use of words that other people use unless the usage is defamatory, slanderous, libelous or profane.

Secondly, the word “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for God. God uses it in the Quran to refer to Himself because the Quran is revealed in the Arabic language, not because that is His name. God does not have a name. He does not need one. You and I have names because there are many creatures that are just like us, so a name is necessary to distinguish us from others. But there is only one God.

Arab Christians and Jews call God “Allah.”

It is true that many Islamophobes have been abusing the word “Allah”, but these folks do not realize that, by doing so, they are abusing the same God they believe in!

When God says in the holy Quran that He has beautiful “names” that we should use when we call upon Him (7:180), He is referring to His attributes, such as Ar-Rahmaan (The Beneficent), Al-Ghafoor (The Much-Forgiving), At-Tawwaab (The Oft Accepting of repentance). One of those attributes is Allah, which means The God.

Are we at fault for all bad things?

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

I would like to know why do we tell “Everything good is from Allah SWT and everything bad is from us.”

If you have already answered this question in your older posts, please provide me the link.

You are referring to verse 4:79, but you should also take verse 4:78, which establishes the context, in order to understand it:

“{4:78} Wherever you may be, death will catch up with you, even if you should be within towers of lofty construction. And if good comes to them, they say, “This is [coming] from God”; and if a bad [thing] hits them, they say, “This is [coming] from you.” Say, “All [things come] from God.” So what is [the matter] with those people that they can hardly understand a statement?

{4:79} What comes to you of good is [caused] by God, but what comes to you of bad is [caused] by yourself. And We have sent you, [O Muhammad,] to the people as a messenger, and sufficient is God as Witness.”

Most translations I read of these two verses fail to distinguish between the two different prepositions that God used here, namely من and من عند, which would lead the English reader to view these two verses as contradictory to each other! 4:78 says that God is the source of all things, good and bad, while 4:79 says that only good things are caused by God while bad ones are caused by us. The distinction specified in the Arabic is lost in the translation and leads to a wrong conclusion! Rather, من عند means “comes from the reservoir of” while من means “is caused by.” Thus, to be faithful to the Arabic, and in doing so dispel confusion, I suggest the above translation.

It is particularly interesting to me that in 4:78, God chastises people for not understanding plain talk. That means that this distinction I explained above was clear enough, yet people did not get it. Indeed, the source of all things is God. Who else is or can be a source? But the cause of something is creature action. If we don’t do the wrong things, nothing wrong will happen! The Sunna (way) of God is that everything is in order, working as planned, in harmony, in precise measure and timing, well designed for maximum benefit. That is why God says that the cause of good is He. God does not do anything to ruin His plan or design. But we often do.

Why are there wars, famine, scarcity, disease, poverty, ignorance, etc., in the world? It is all caused by human action. We are all capable of choosing right, but some of us willingly and knowingly choose the wrong. The result is suffering. That is the cosmic law of cause and effect that God created and set forth.

Related post: Why is there suffering, death, evil and injustice in the world?

Answers to quizzes 11-18

Friday, April 5th, 2013

You had enough time to figure out the answers to quizzes 11-18, haven’t you? 🙂 Here they are:

11. Friday and Saturday. Friday is mentioned in verse 62:9 and it has the honor of also being the name of Chapter 62. Saturday is mentioned five times! In verses 2:65, 4:47, 4:154, 7:163 and 16:124.

12. Ramadan, the fasting month, the 9th month of the Hijri (lunar) year. It has the special honor that the revelation of the Quran was started in it.

13. Mary. She is mentioned ten times in the Quran: in verses 3:36, 3:37, 3:42-45, 4:156, 19:16, 19:27, and 66:12 and 21 other times in the identification of Jesus. She has the special honor of being the only woman mentioned in the Quran by name and that Chapter 19 is named after her.

14. Luqmaan, Goliath, King Saul, Haman and Zayd. Luqman is mentioned in verses 31:12-13 and Chapter 31 is named after him. Goliath is mentioned in verse 2:251. King Saul, called in Arabic Taaloot, is mentioned in verses 2:247 and 2:249. Haman, Pharaoh’s minister is mentioned in verses 28:6, 28:8, 28:38, 29:39, 40:24 and 40:36. Zayd ibn Haaritha is mentioned by his first name in verse 33:37.

15. Gabriel, Michael, Haaroot and Maaroot. Gabriel, who transmitted the Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was mentioned in verses 2:98 and 66:4. He is mentioned by title many other times. Michael is mentioned in verse 2:98. Haaroot and Maaroot, who taught people some secrets of magic at the time of Solomon, were mentioned in verse 2:102.

16. Egypt, Babylon and Rome. Egypt was mentioned four times: in verses 10:87, 12:21, 12:99 and 43:51. Babylon was mentioned in verse 2:102. Rome is mentioned in verse 30:2 and is the name of Chapter 30.

17. Mecca, Medina and Midyan. Mecca is mentioned by that name in verse 48:25 and by its old name Baca in verse 3:96. Medina is mentioned by that name in four verses: 9:101, 9:120, 33:60 and 63:8 and by its old name Yathrib in verse 33:13. Midyan is mentioned in nine verses: 7:85, 9:70, 11:84, 20:40, 22:44, 28:22-23, 28:45 and 29:36.

18. The Children of Israel, Quraysh, `Aad and Thamood. The Children of Israel were mentioned in the Quran 40 times! Quraysh, the Prophet’s tribe is named in verse 106:1 and is the name of Chapter 106. `Aad is mentioned 19 times and Thamood 25 times.

Specificities meant for generalities

Monday, August 13th, 2012

In a previous post, you mentioned the hadeeth which instructs us to make up for missed prayers by praying them later. Most scholars who read this hadeeth agreed that it is specific for unintentional missing of prayers, such as due to sleep or forgetfulness, and that it does not include intentional missing. That is why they have ruled that prayers intentionally missed cannot be compensated, but that the repenting Muslim should offer a lot of nawafil (extra) prayers and hope that God will forgive him. Isn’t it true that the hadeeth is specific?

Scholars of Usool-ul-Fiqh (Foundations of Deduction) have noticed many examples in the Quran and the Hadeeth of statements using a specificity but whose coverage is clearly general. They coined this style خاص أريد به العموم (a specificity meant for generality). This Arabic style is an alternative way of quoting examples to illustrate a point which is general.

Let me give you an example. In verse 6:151, God says, “…and do not kill your children because of poverty; We provide for you and them.” Here God cites a specificity, namely, poverty, as the reason some people killed their children. Does that mean that killing one’s children for other reasons is OK? Obviously not. The reason given was only an example to illustrate the point that there is no cause for one to kill one’s children, as God is in control and provides.

One simple way to figure out if a specificity is meant for a generality is absence of the generality! And that is why the prayer expiation hadeeth was meant for generality, because we do not have any statement in the Quran or the Hadeeth that tells us what do with a person who purposely missed his prayers. It is that lack of direct evidence that forced scholars to conjure up an expiation. Some scholars even said that there is no expiation and that a man purposely neglecting his prayers is an apostate and must be killed! An opinion that is totally without merit.

Learning the Quran by learning Arabic

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Salam,

I just want to ask if perhaps you could help me to understand the Qur’an better. The thing is I know how to read and write Arabic. We have that as a subject from first to sixth grade although my school was a Catholic school. So I can read the Qur’an but I can not understand Arabic save for some words. I end up relying on the English translation. But I still want to read, write and understand. Can you suggest any website or anything where I can learn to understand Arabic? I know it would take a long time but it will be a great help to me. Thank you.

You are fortunate that you can read and write Arabic. Most Muslims don’t!

While learning Arabic is not necessary for being a good Muslim, or for understanding the Quran, since there are many good translations of it, knowledge of Arabic adds a dimension to understanding the Quran that no other tool can approach.

The Quran is the undisputed masterpiece of Arabic language and literature. Even non-Muslims who have mastered the Arabic language agree. The sheer beauty of the Arabic words, expressions and style that God uses in His Quran has mesmerized the polytheists of Mecca, who were themselves masters of Arabic literary avenues. The Quran challenged them to come up with a book like it. They did not even try. Then the Quran challenged them to come up with ten chapters like any of its chapters, some of which are as short as three verses (11:13). They did not even try. Then the Quran challenged them to come up with one chapter like any of its chapters (2:23). They did not even try. Finally, the Quran declared its superiority, “Say: Verily, if mankind and the sprites combine in order to bring about the like of this Quran, they will not, even if they backed each other!” (17:88)

The Most Read Book discussion board attempts to translate the Quran into English in a way that preserves the Arabic style and literal meaning of each word as much as the English language permits. Take a look at it and you will get a sense of why that is important and why knowing the Arabic can make a significant difference in learning the Quran.

I take it that you really want to master the Arabic language as it is used in the Quran. I know of a school in the USA whose mission is to do just that. It is called Al-Bayyinah Institute and it was founded by a gentleman whose native language is not Arabic, but he was determined to master it and he did. His name is Nouman Ali Khan, may God bless his effort.

On gentleness and responsibility

Monday, May 7th, 2012

We are such passionate beings we forget the message of Allah is one that encourages the best of manners. But it is more than a superficial gesture. We have to recall the gentleness that the Prophet always carried. We forget the strength of being kind and gentle. The refinement it carries. The respect it brings upon the personhood of the gentle being.

One day a man said something abusive to the Prophet (PBUH). `Aa’isha (RA) was standing there and heard it and she returned it in kind! The Prophet (PBUH) promptly said to her, “Easy now, `Aa’isha, God loves gentleness in everything.” Narrated by `Aa’isha and reported by Al-Bukhaari.

Indeed, the Prophet (PBUH) was gentle and friendly even to his enemies. God says in the holy Quran, “So by mercy from God, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech], thick-hearted (harsh), they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them, ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon God. Indeed, God loves those who rely [upon Him].” (3:159)

A major role for gentleness is in the call to Islam. God emphasizes that calling people to Islam must be done with “wisdom and good preaching” and that arguing with them must be “in the most beautiful manner” (16:125). Yet, you find some Muslims today that drive away potential converts by the way they behave, by the way they talk and even by the way they look! Why would anybody in their right mind consider giving Islam a first look after seeing what these Muslims do?

That is the opposite of Da`wa (proselytizing)! The Prophet’s advice to his missionaries has been, “Make things easy and don’t make them difficult. Give good news and don’t repulse.” Narrated by Anas ibn Maalik and reported by Al-Bukhaari, and also narrated by Abu-Moosa Al-Ash`ari and reported by Muslim. See how beautiful the Prophet’s advice has been and how many Muslims do the exact opposite!

Most major figures in history are either remembered for being gentle or ruthless. But, we forget that a major component of piety is gentleness.

Did you notice that the gentle are far more remembered? How many people remember Abraham (PBUH) and are named Abraham? How many people remember Nimrod, if that’s even his name?

And my major thought; the one that makes me write to you is our lack of understanding of the covenant we have made with Allah. The one we forget so easily. We proclaimed to Allah subhana wa taala, and let me know if I am wrong, that we would take care of His Earth and all its inhabitants. Is not the English word vicegerent? I wish I knew the Arabic word.

The Arabic word is Khaleefa, which means deputy. A deputy’s job is to take care of things on behalf of the King. God made it clear that man’s job on earth was to be His deputies (2:30). When God appointed David (PBUH) King of Israel, He said to him, “O David, We have made you a deputy in the land, so judge between people with the truth and do not follow desire.” (38:26)

As I mentioned in a previous post, all suffering, misery and imbalance in the world is a direct, predictable result of injustice, which comes from not abiding by the truth and following desire instead.

God praises people who cultivate and improve the earth and chastises those who ruin it and spread mischief.

We do not recall that we are the ones who are responsible for the contents of the Quran. We have forgotten that we are responsible and accountable.

Excellent point. In fact, God vowed to preserve the text of the Quran, but left to us the preservation of its teachings. But even the text of the Quran would not have been preserved if it weren’t for the righteous people who did the work! There were attempts early on to have differing versions of the Quran, however slight, but they all failed, thanks to upstanding leaders such as Uthmaan ibn `Affaan, may God have been pleased with him.

You are indeed correct that we have a covenant with God. I talked about that in this earlier post. God expects us to fulfill all covenants we make. Consider:

“O you who have believed, fulfill contracts.” (5:1)

“And fulfill [the terms of] a treaty. A vow will be accounted.” (17:34)

“And remember the favor of God upon you and His covenant with which He bound you when you said, ‘We hear and we obey’; and watch out for God. Indeed, God knows well what is within.” (5:7)

“They fulfill their pledges and fear a Day whose hardship flares up.” (76:7)

Arabized words

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Why does the Quran use Isa for the name Jesus (as)? Why dosen’t it use Yeshua? Because in google translate, when you translate the english name Jesus to Arabic, it says Yeshua…but when you write Jesus son of Mary and translate that to Arabic, THEN it says Isa ibn Maryam. Why does the pronoucation of the name Jesus(as) change? Thanks!

His name was not Yeshua either. Jesus, peace be upon him, spoke Aramaic. His name, therefore, is what the word is in Aramaic, that is `Eesho`.

So, why is he referred to in the Quran as `Eesa? Because that is how the Christian Arabs referred to him. Ancient people did not keep foreign people’s names as they are pronounced in the foreign language. Instead, they transliterated the names, and sometimes even translated them, to their language.

Coptic Egyptian Christians refer to Jesus as Yasoo`. The Japanese refer to him as Yesu.

The translation of names is particularly interesting. Take for instance the disciple Peter. The name Peter is an English rendition of the Greek Petros, which means “a rock.” Why is that? Because Peter’s actual name was Sakhr, which in Semitic languages means a rock.

BTW, Google Translate is very good, but it has errors, and Google actually lets you suggest improvements to the translation it produces.

Does Islam have a flag?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

In my country of India, I see people using green flags on which a crescent and a star are drawn. Is that the flag of Islam? Is there a significance to the color green in Islam?

I asked a scholar and he said that Islam has no flag and green has no significance in Islam.

I beg to differ. Muslim troops always had one fighter carrying Al-Liwaa’, which is a long stick with a flag tied to its top. Its objective was to identify where Muslim troops are, so that other troops can join them. Another job of Haamil-ul-Liwaa’ (flag carrier) was to rally the troops.

Therefore, there was a flag for Muslims.

As for the color green, it had significance to the Arabs. Because it is the color of plantations and grass, it always was a metaphor for prosperity and blessings. For instance, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “The world is green and pretty, and God has appointed you custodians of it to see how you will do.” Reported by At-Tirmizhi, Ibn Maajah, Ibn Hanbal and Ad-Daarimi and rated authentic by Al-Albaani. The Prophet (PBUH) always disliked ugly names, and had the habit of changing them. One day he passed by a town called `Afira (dusty or arid), he renamed it Khadhira (green), reported by Ibn Hanbal and Abu-Daawood and rated authentic by Al-Albaani.

And we know that green is the color of clothes people wear in Paradise (18:31, 76:21), so clearly the color has Islamic meaning.