Archive for the ‘People of the Book’ Category

What does Zikr mean?

Monday, July 6th, 2015

God has vowed to preserve the Quran Himself. He says, most emphatically, in verse 15:9,
“Verily, it is We who sent down the Zikr and verily, We surely shall be of it Preservers.” (15:9)

The word Zikr (with a fricative Z as in this or that) means mention, remembrance or reminder. The syntax and context are what determines which semantic is meant. The scholars have been unanimous that the Zikr mentioned in 15:9 is the Quran. What they did not agree on is whether it is only the Quran. The reason they thought other items may be included in the Zikr in 15:9 is the apparent implication of other verses. For instance,
“And We sent down to you the Reminder that you may make clear to the people what was sent down to them and that they might reflect.” (16:44).

In this verse, if the Zikr is only the Quran, then what is “what was sent down to them”? Isn’t that the Quran also? That is why many scholars have opined that the Zikr here refers to the Hadeeth.

But if the Zikr includes the Hadeeth, then it too must have been preserved by God. While the strict Muslims take that position, historical evidence begs otherwise. While the Quran was written down before the death of the Prophet (PBUH), and committed to memory by thousands of people, the Hadeeth was not written down for two hundred years after the Prophet’s death. It was only then that the Hadeeth was meticulously authenticated and less than one in ten narrations have been found to be authentic. This means that the Hadeeths evaluated as authentic can be relied on in matters of the religion, but it also means that the Hadeeth was not preserved, or else it would not have required such massive effort to authenticate.

Therefore, I respectfully disagree that the Zikr refers to the Hadeeth, or includes it. So, how can we explain 16:44?

The key to understand 16:44 is to notice the word “people” in it. People include non-Muslims! Thus, what this verse is saying is that one of the functions of the Quran is to clarify to non-Muslims the scriptures which were sent to them, e.g., the Torah and the Gospel.

This conclusion is backed up by a later verse in the same Chapter,
“By God, We did certainly send [messengers] to communities before you [, O Muhammad], then Satan embellished for them their works, so he is their ally Today and for them is a painful torment.

And We have not sent down upon you the Book [, O Muhammad], but so that you may clarify to them what they differed about and as guidance and mercy for a folk who believe.” (16:63-64)

16:63 makes it clear that the pronoun “them” in 16:64 refers to followers of prior scriptures.

A reader may jump in here and quote,
“And We certainly did write in the Zaboor (Psalms), after the Remembrance (Torah), that the land – shall inherit it My righteous worshipers.” (23:105)
and argue that the Torah has been described as the Zikr. It was. But then, it was humanly altered thus it ceased to be Zikr. Only the original, pure revelation from God qualify as Zikr. The only scripture that God has vowed to preserve Himself is the Quran.

Moral atheists?

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

As-Salaam-Alaikum,
I would like to know, what is the Islamic response to those people (atheist, agnostics, etc.) who say that you can be moral without religion?

They say this because since they don’t believe in God or any religion for that matter that that you can be a good moral person without God or religion. In a way I kind of understand where they are coming from but then I kind of feel like something is wrong with their statements.

What is the Islamic response to people who say things like this?

Thanks!

Morality cannot be forced on people but it can be enforced by law. That is, a society can arrange itself such that certain values it considers paramount are upheld and others it considers harmful are stopped by force of law. But that is a different question altogether from people committing themselves willingly to certain moral values. We see all parents raising their children to certain moral values they believe in, but the children may not observe them when they grow up. And we also see the flip side: parents neglecting moral teaching of their children, yet the children acquire moral attitudes when they grow up!

Islam teaches us that non-Muslims can be moral and furthermore can do good. The Quran says, “And verily, among the people of the Book are those whom if you entrust with a Qintaar (a heap of money), he would deliver it to you” (3:75). God also tells us in the Quran that “whatever good they (non-Muslims) do, they will not be denied it” (3:115).

That is why, when non-Muslims do good to us, we are required to reciprocate with good. Asmaa’ bint Abi-Bakr had migrated to Medina, but her mother, Qateela bint `Abdil-`Uzza, remained in Mecca and remained polytheist. Then one day, Qateela traveled to Medina to see her daughter and brought her a gift. Asmaa’, however, wary that she must sever her relationships with polytheists, refused to let her in the house and would not accept her gift! The Prophet (PBUH) heard of this and told Asmaa’, “Accept her gift and be good to your mother.” Narrated by Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr (Asmaa’s son) and reported by Al-Haythami and has been rated well by Ibn Hubbaan.

So, if religion is not a pre-requisite to morality, then why is religion necessary? Religion’s purpose is not only to establish a moral code, but also to establish a bond between man and God, a bond man feels very strongly. A bond that atheists cannot explain away. That affinity is ingrained in all of us since before we were born. God says in the holy Quran, “And [mention] when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their backbones – their offspring and had them testify of themselves, [saying to them], ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘But yes. We have testified.’ [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, ‘We were of this unaware.'” (3:172)

Besides, moral values vary with people. What is immoral to some may not be to others. And what is moral to some may not be to others. God has given us in the Quran the true moral code to live by. And He had His Prophet (PBUH) teach it to us in the authentic Sunna.

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.

Beliefs Muslims and Christians share about Jesus

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

Egyptian Coptic Christian writer Louis Grace wrote recently, “I learned to love Jesus Christ because of the Quran!”

Did that statement surprise you? Though I was delighted to read it, it did not surprise me. Mr. Grace grew up in a Muslim country that has a 1400 year history of cordial relations between Muslims and Christians. Even though many attempts throughout the centuries tried to sew seeds of division between the two, none has succeeded.

The Quran mentions Jesus, son of Mary, peace be upon both, numerous times and always with high praise and affection. In case you didn’t know, here are what Muslims and Christians have in common in regard to Jesus (PBUH):

  • Jesus was born miraculously to the virgin Mary.
  • Jesus was “the word of God”.
  • Jesus was a true prophet and a messenger of God.
  • Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) promised to the Children of Israel.
  • Jesus received from God a holy scripture, the Gospel.
  • Jesus performed many miracles, including raising people from the dead.
  • Jesus will come back.

Did any of that surprise you? It’s all in the Quran for all to read and learn. With all this in common between Muslims and Christians, what can be between them short of a cordial relationship?

When Jesus comes back

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Assalam u Alaikum, I was just wondering what will happen to people other than the people of the book on the day of judgment? Because I read that when Isa ibn Mariam (as) (Jesus) comes back, all the People of the Book will believe in him and become Muslims. But what about people who are not from the People of the book like Hindus or Buddhists or Sikhs etc.? What about them? Will they convert and believe in Isa (as) or not? Will they follow Ad-Dajjal (Antichrist)? Thanks and may Allah (swt) bless you!

The short answer to your question is this verse,

“Verily, those who have believed (the Muslims), those who came back apologizing (the Jews), the Sabeans, the Christians, the Magi and those have associated [others with God in worship] – God will decisively judge between them on the Day of Resurrection. Verily, God is upon everything a Witness.” (22:17)

It is a matter of Al-Ghayb (the Beyond). This verse makes it clear that such judgment is up to God only. We cannot nor should attempt to make a judgment about the destiny of any people of any belief.

As for your point about Jesus, peace be upon him; God tells us in the Quran, “And there is from the People of the Book [none] but who will surely believe in him (Jesus) before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be upon them a witness.” (4:159)

The preceding three verses state very emphatically and unambiguously that Mary (PBUH) was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus (PBUH), that nobody killed Jesus and that, in fact, he never died at all – God raised him up to Him. When Jesus comes back, the People of the Book – the Jews and the Christians – will have to believe the truth about him as taught in the Quran, because Jesus will be there teaching the same teachings until he dies. Whether they continue to believe after his death is unknown. They may differ about him yet again like they did the first time!

The Antichrist, by definition, will come before Christ Jesus does. This is confirmed in the Hadeeth. Jesus will easily defeat him.

We don’t know whether people other than Christians and Jews will choose to follow Jesus when he comes back and accept Islam. Nor do we know what will be the judgment of non-Muslims on Judgment Day. But we know this for sure: “God does not do a spec’s weight of injustice” (4:40) So, rest assured that God will dispense His judgment fairly and gracefully as only He can. After Salmaan Al-Faarisi, may God have been pleased with him, accepted Islam (he had been a Christian), he asked the Prophet (PBUH), with great concern, what will be the destiny of his parents and other relatives who were righteous people but had no chance to know about Islam until they died. God revealed this verse to answer that question,

“Verily, those who have believed (the Muslims), those who came back apologizing (the Jews), the Christians and the Sabeans – those who believed in God and the Final Day and did a righteous [deed], for them will be their reward with their Lord and there shall be no fear upon them, nor shall they grieve!” (2:62)

God is fair; He would not punish a people until after He sends them a messenger (17:15). Thus, those who die without having any knowledge of Islam will be judged on their reply to their prophets and messengers. And if they had none, on their faith in God and Judgment Day and their actions in life, something which only God truly knows.

On hijab, niqab, beards and faith healing

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

The dean of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar university, Egypt, made announcements that are bound to get criticism. Dr. Aamina Nusayr said that Niqab (face veil) is a Jewish tradition and not part of Islam, while Hijab (head scarf) is. She criticized Salafis who let their beard grow to look like a “radish bundle” as she put it, and finally she said that healing with the Quran is hocus pocus; that the Quran heals the soul, not the body.

What do you think?

There is no evidence from the Quran that the Niqaab is required for Muslim women. The only evidence comes from hadeeths that state that the wives of the Prophet (PBUH) wore it. Some scholars view that as a mandate on all Muslim women, but the majority see it as a special status for the Prophet’s wives only. Other women may elect to wear it, but they are not required to. That view best matches the evidence. Whether the Niqaab is a Jewish tradition is something that Jewish readers and historians are better qualified to confirm or refute.

Dr. Nusayr said that 13 exegetes have interpreted the so-called Hijaab verse (24:31) to mean the head and neck, not the face. I agree that it does not address the face, but I respectfully disagree that it orders covering of the hair. The verse clearly orders covering the upper chest, using whatever the woman is wearing on her head. The assumption that the woman is wearing a head cover is what prompted most scholars to say that a head cover is required. But the verse never said it was!

So, why does the Quran make this assumption? It’s because everybody at that time covered their heads – women and men. In fact, that was the custom of all people, not just the Arabs, throughout the centuries. Only in the Twentieth Century did people start to go out with exposed hair.

The Hijaab verse requires women to cover their decollete area, that’s all. The reason is that many dresses at that time were tailored with an open decollete area, and Islam makes it clear that this area is a charm that can incite lust and therefore should be covered. A dress that does not have such design already complies with the Hijaab verse, whether the woman is covering her head or not.

Interestingly enough, the verse mentions one more thing that women of the time used to wear: ankle bracelets! Should we then conclude that ankle bracelets too are required?! I’m not aware of any scholar who suggested that. Ankle bracelets are neither required nor forbidden. They are simply allowed, just like head covers are. What is forbidden about ankle bracelets is banging the feet so that they chime, thus drawing attention to the woman’s legs though they are hidden. You can see the fallacy of the conclusion that because God mentions a head cover it must be required.

It also follows that ankle bracelets that chime all the time are forbidden even if the woman wearing them never bangs her feet. It also follows that a woman wearing ankle bracelets that never chime may bang her feet as much as she likes! Get it? The scholars who have been fixated on the words “their head covers” totally miss the points of the Hijaab verse, namely: (a) Women should cover areas of their bodies that tend to arouse men’s lust, and (b) Women should not draw attention to those areas even if they are covered. That would defeat the purpose of covering them!

As for the unruly long beard, the evidence for it comes from a hadeeth where the Prophet (PBUH) says, “Let the beards grow, and trim the mustaches. Do the opposite of the Magi.” Narrated by Abu-Hurayra and reported by Muslim who rated it authentic.

It is important to realize that imperatives in religious texts are two types: mandates or recommendations. Scholars of Foundations have devised a simple rule to be able to tell which is which. If the order is accompanied by explicit words that it is a mandate, then obviously it is. If the flip-side of the order is prohibited, then the order is a mandate. Otherwise, the order is a recommendation. The consequence of this distinction, as the scholars defined it, is that with a mandate you are rewarded when you do it and punished when you don’t. With a recommendation, on the other hand, you are rewarded when you do it, but not punished when you don’t. There is no evidence that shaving a beard is prohibited. Therefore, the order in the hadeeth is a recommendation.

The other point to consider is that the hadeeth clearly states a contingency, namely, that Muslims should look distinctly different from the Magi. A command revolves around its contingency, as the scholars have concluded, so the hadeeth only applies if today’s Magi all have the same distinct look and a Muslim imitates that look. I rather doubt that today’s Magi all wear their facial hair the same way.

Finally, healing with the Quran is not hocus pocus. God says in it, “And We send down of the Quran what is a healing and a mercy for the believers” (17:82). This verse does not say whether the healing is spiritual, physical or both. Since it doesn’t, we have to assume both unless other evidence suggests otherwise. Verses 10:57 and 41:44 also make the same statement. There is evidence from the Hadeeth for and against faith healing. Evidence for it comes from `Aa’isha and evidence against it comes from Ibn `Abbaas. `Aa’isha’s narration quotes the Prophet (PBUH) making a supplication for a sick person, but he did not recite any verses. Therefore, we can conclude that faith healing (Ruqya) is not recommended, while supplications are. Furthermore, to say that this is the only way to heal is a stretch, since neither God nor His Messenger have suggested that. God is the Healer whether the medicine is the Quran, a supplication or pharmaceutical.

God knows best.

Does the Quran confirm science or vice versa?

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

I am opposed to the whole idea of scientific nonimitability of the Quran; proving the truth of the Quran by means of showing its statements of scientific facts that were only established centuries after the Quran was revealed.

My reasons are three-fold:

  • It gives non-Muslims a license to bear witness for the Quran,
  • It exposes the total deficit of Muslims in the scientific fields, and
  • The Quran is not meant to be a book of science, but a book of guidance.

The Quran tells a lot of stories, doesn’t it? Does that make it a story book? Of course not. All the stories God tells us in the Quran are told for their moral lessons. They ferment the faith and teach us how to live a life that pleases God. They also tell details that were previously unknown to the Arabs or to the Prophet (PBUH). Thus, they also serve as confirmation of the truth of his prophethood.

The Quran also makes quite a few prophecies, most of which came true during the life of the early Muslims. Does that make it a book of prophecies? No. All the prophecies that God tells us in the Quran are told to confirm the truth of the Quran and the prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him.

Likewise are the scientific facts stated in the Quran. Most of those statements were not even understood by Muslims. It was only when those facts were discovered by scientists, Muslim and non-Muslim, that the wonder of those verses became appreciated.

Speaking of Muslim scientists, did you forget the it was Muslims who established the scientific method? That is the foundation of all scientific discoveries to date. There were hundreds of Muslim scientists inventing or discovering thousands of scientific facts that enriched the world. The fact that Muslims have not contributed to science for sometime now is a reflection on them not on the Quran. It was the Quran that inspired the early Muslims to seek knowledge and investigate the material world.

As for your objection to non-Muslims bearing witness for the Quran, I don’t understand your objection. God says in the holy Quran, “And a witness from the Children of Israel testified to it” (46:10). If God finds such testimony worthy of including in His Last Testament, why would you find it objectionable?

But even without that, the non-Muslims who made scientific discoveries confirming the Quran did not do them to confirm the Quran, nor were most of them even aware that the Quran had mentioned their discoveries 14 centuries earlier! So, it’s not a testimony.

The scientific statements made in the Quran confirm science and science confirms the Quran. That is only natural, since the author of the physical laws and the author of the Quran are the same: The One true God, Allah, may He be sanctified and exalted.

My aunt keeps telling me about Jehovah

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Hello, I have a Jehovah’s Witness aunt whom I think is trying to convert me. No one in my family knows that I’m a Muslim, being that I’m only a 15 yrs old convert. My aunt who’s a Jehovah’s Witness gave me a Jehovah’s Witness book for young people which I still read, because it has good moral messages which comply with Islamic morals and I find nothing wrong with them. But I just feel a lil uncomfortable when she’s telling me about Jehovah God and how he’s blessing me etc. What should I do? How should I respond to this? Should I tell her I’m Muslim and talk to her about the Quran? Thanks

Your aunt loves you and if she’s trying to convert you, she’s doing it out of her belief and out of her love for you. You should be kind to her as you have been. You are probably too young to tell her about Islam though, but it’s your call. If she’s a supportive kind of person, you may tell her. But bear in mind that many people nowadays have a negative view of Islam because of the media, so if she’s the kind of person who believes what she hears on TV, you’d be better off not telling her.

Jehovah did bless you! The name Jehovah is the English pronunciation of the Hebrew word Yahweh, which means “O You who is He!” The reason for this name is that many Jews took the third Commandment very seriously and thought it meant to never say God’s name. What the commandment actually teaches is that a believer should not swear by God’s name unless he means what he says and will honor what he promises. This is the same teaching in the Quran,

“And do not make God a subject to your oaths…” (2:224)

And God explains this verse further in the following verse,

“God does not chastise you for what is unintentional in your oaths, but He chastises you for what your hearts have earned. And God is Forgiving and Forbearing.” (2:225)

And the Prophet (PBUH) explained oaths etiquette by saying, “Whoever is going to swear, let him swear by God or be silent.” (Narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar and reported by Al-Bukhaari who rated it authentic).

So, Jehovah is Allah and He blessed you by guiding you to Islam.

How was prayer done before it was mandated?

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

How many times did the Prophet Muhammad(SAW) pray before he got the order to pray 5 times a day? How many times did the prophets before Muhammad (SAW) pray?

We don’t know. What we do know is that the Prophet (PBUH) prayed a good portion of the night every night, as God commanded him in the beginning of his mission,

“O you bundled up! Stand up [in prayer] during the night minus a little” (73:1-2)

Many of his fellows did the same, as God tells us in the same Chapter, verse 73:20. So, it is reasonable to assume that the format of the prayer was known to them before the mandate.

I am not aware of any evidence that the format of the prayer was different before the mandate, or that the number of prayers Muslims offered was fixed, or that they prayed at specific times. The command to pray and give alms was unspecific until both were mandated later.

As for previous prophets, we do not know how many times a day they prayed. Interestingly enough, you can read in the New Testament that Jesus (PBUH) used to stand up in prayer almost the whole night. I have also been referred to a YouTube video showing how the proper Jewish prayer is to be performed. Guess what, it is almost identical to the Muslim prayer. I’m not the least bit surprised.

Do Muslims have a covenant with God?

Monday, June 13th, 2011

The Jews believe that they have a covenant with God. Do Muslims believe they have a covenant with God? What does Islam say about God’s covenant?

God’s covenant with people has been the same since He created Adam. It is that we believe in Him alone, do not associate anything or anybody with Him in worship, uphold His laws, follow His Messengers, and honor His scriptures. That is Al-Amaana (the Trust) which God speaks about in this key verse,

“We offered the Trust to the heavens, the earth, and the mountains. They declined to carry it and were apprehensive of it. But man carried it; he is ever unjust and ignorant.” (33:72)

We volunteered for the job, but we haven’t done it too well!

The first obligation of the covenant is made clear in this verse:

“When your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, [saying to them], “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified.” [This] – lest you should say on the day of Resurrection, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” (7:172)

The belief in the One God is in our DNA!

Whenever God sent a Messenger to a people, He had them testify that they would uphold the Covenant. That is why many scriptures are called Testaments. There are many verses in the Quran which speak about that, for instance:

“And [recall] when God took the covenant of the prophets, [saying,] “Surely whatever I give you of the Book and wisdom and then comes to you a messenger confirming what is with you, that you [will] indeed believe in him and support him.” [God] said, “Have you acknowledged and taken upon that My commitment?” They said, “We have acknowledged.” He said, “Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses.” (3:81)

Thus, the Covenant was taken by all prophets and part of it was that all future prophets must be followed.

“And [recall] when We took the covenant from the Children of Israel, [enjoining upon them], “Do not worship except God; and to parents do good and to relatives, orphans, and the needy. And speak to people good [words] and establish prayer and give alms.” Then you turned away, except a few of you, with refusal.” (2:83)

The covenant included God’s moral teachings as well as theological fundamentals. The Children of Israel were one of the earliest people who did not uphold the Covenant.

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when God took a covenant from those who were given the Book, [saying], “You must make it clear to the people and not conceal it.” But they banished it behind their backs and exchanged it for a small price. Then how wretched is what they purchased!” (3:187)

The covenant included spreading the word of God to all, but people have hidden it, or worse, altered it.

What do people get when they stick to their end of the Covenant? God explains clearly in this verse,

“And God had already taken a covenant from the Children of Israel, and We delegated from among them twelve leaders. And God said, “I am with you. If you establish prayer and give alms and believe in My messengers and support them and loan God a goodly loan, I will surely remove from you your misdeeds and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow. But whoever of you disbelieves after that has certainly strayed from the level road” (5:12)

We get the company of God! We get expiation of our sins. We get the ultimate reward in the Hereafter. May God enable us to uphold His Covenant and not deviate from the level road.

In case you’re wondering whether Christians were exempted from the Covenant, I invite you to read Mathew 5:17-20, in which Jesus (PBUH) is reported to have said that any talk about him abolishing the law is nonsense, that the law stands as long as the heavens and the earth stand, and that those who do not uphold the law will not enter the Kingdom of God. The law of God has been, and always will be the same, and it applies to all people without exceptions. Upholding it is the covenant we made with God.

God reminds Muslims in the holy Quran of their covenant with God. He says,
“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 is much Knowing of that within the bosoms.” (5:7)