Archive for the ‘History’ 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.

Answers to quizzes 19-25

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

19. Noah (PBUH) to his son who remained a disbeliever and tried to escape the Great Flood by taking shelter in a high mountain. Verse 11:42.

20. Prophet Shu`ayb (Jethro)’s daughter. She recommended Moses (PBUH) to her father as a hired hand for he is “strong and trustworthy.” Verse 28:26.

21. Righteous man Luqman preaching to his son. Verse 31:18.

22. Prophet Saalih (Mesoselah), PBUH, to his destroyed people who refused to believe in his message. Verse 7:79.

23. Young Abraham (PBUH) to the idols in his city’s temple. Subsequently, he axed them all, but the biggest one, to make the point to his people that these statues they worship cannot even defend themselves. Verses 37:91-92.

24. Pharaoh’s sorcerers, impressed by the magic performed by Moses. They included his brother Aaron too, although Aaron is not mentioned performing any magic. Verse 20:63.

25. Joseph (PBUH) after the wife of the nobleman kept pursuing him for an illicit affair. Verse 12:33.

How can I become an Islamic scholar?

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Salam, there is something that I’ve wanted to know but couldn’t really find any defined information on.
1- What is an Islamic Scholar? 2- How does one become an Islamic Scholar? 3- How many years does it take to become one? (how long) 4- What are the necessary college classes/courses and degrees necessary to be qualified as one? (i.e., PhD?) 5-Are there different types of Islamic Scholars(specializations)? If there are, what are they?

Becoming an Islamic Scholar is something that I am really interested in in the near future. I hope this is not a lot, and I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks!

An Islamic scholar is one who can study an Islamic text, determine its credibility and then deduce intent from it. Like any other field of scholarship, this requires acquiring knowledge as well as skills of logical analysis and critical thinking honed by discipline and methodology.

Such scientific approach is crucial for weeding out whimsical opinions! If you have listened to some fatwas (religious edicts) issued by unknown, self-appointed Muslim scholars on satellite TV and YouTube, you know what I’m talking about.

Prior to modern times, Islamic scholars were not many and they all had to learn and be licensed (Ijaaza) by a recognized scholar. This approach carried over to modern times in the form of colleges and universities where Islamic disciplines are formally taught by teachers of high repute and earned licenses. If you want to be a formal Islamic scholar, this is the proper way to go about it. Such study takes about four years in reputable learning institutions such as Al-Azhar and Darul-Uloom universities in Egypt, for instance.

That said, one can attend these places of learning and graduate from them without actually becoming a scholar! Why? Because a student who simply memorized what he or she has been taught and echoes the rulings he or she has learned is a copy, not a scholar. Such a person cannot handle new, controversial or challenging issues. You will notice right away that they do not have what it takes and that they will end up giving their personal opinion, which is often based on their likes and dislikes.

God has honored scholars a number of times in the holy Quran. For instance,
“Verily, those who truly fear God out of all His worshipers are the scholars” (35:28) and
“But if they had referred the matter back to the Messenger or to those of authority among them, then the ones who can deduce from it would have known about it. And if not for the favor of God upon you and His mercy, you would have followed Satan, except for a few.” (4:83)

Thus, true Islamic scholarship can save Muslims from falling prey to Satan. It can also sort out what is religion and what is tradition. So many people mix the two.

Finally, you asked about disciplines and specialties. Disciplines are many. There are disciplines centered on the Quran, such as its language and syntax, its interpretations, how to deduce rulings from it. There are disciplines centered on the Hadeeth, such as authenticating it, knowing the biographies and credibility of its narrators, how to deduce rulings from it, how it and the Sunna explain the Quran, etc. There is also the discipline of Usool-ul-Fiqh, which I personally think is near the top of disciplines, because it teaches the foundations of deduction. It disciplines the mind to be rational, logical and methodical. That way, the many pitfalls that some fall into can be systematically avoided.

There is also the discipline of law (Sharee`a), history, comparative religions and more. You can specialize in any of it. You can study with the aim of becoming a preacher, for instance, or a judge. Your academic advisor can help guide you in this endeavor. Best wishes.

Evolution of Islamic laws

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

Thank you, Aapa, for the blog you referenced in your recent question. I particularly like the author’s post on Islamic law. I like to second the the idea he stressed: that Islamic law evolved and was flexible and took in diversity of opinions, people and circumstances. I humbly think that this is also the case with executive government, economics, etc. Any student of Islamic history who read the writings of the Salaf (Muslim antecedents), can easily notice that evolution of thought, discipline and rulings.

What the Quran and the Sunna did was not ordain a rigid set of rules, but rather a framework within which a judge, ruler or businessman may work safely. Like a parent teaches their children how the world works so they make it and not get into trouble.

I watched a YouTube video with that brother interviewing Hamza Yusef. They were discussing the fact due to internet access to translations of hadith i.e Bukari and Quran many youths make judgments. They forget that many hadiths are contextual and it takes wisdom to understand. They joked that in the old days the elders/scholars would literally give them 20 lashes for the rash judgments.

Unfortunately, nationalism has erased the words of the tribal elder. And it is easiest to control the greatest number of people with the most rigid standards. George Orwell comes to mind in 1984. As nationalism spreads we have a loss of deep understanding of our faith. We have lost the sense of compassion that was a trait characteristic of the prophets.

We forget that we need forgiveness from Allah swt. We also need to be in the mode of forgiving. Our laws today are not the Laws of Love.

We forget our history. How can we forget what happened to us in Spain?

We need a basic class in why understanding sharia helps us to be the best of moral character. We are distanced from each other not by nationalism but our ignorance of the laws that unite us.

Islam is wide, but some want it narrow. It is easy, but some want it cumbersome. It is open, but some want it strict. It welcomes diversity and history has proved it, but some want it exclusive. It is adaptable, but some want it rigid. The problems Muslims have are not the result of Islam, as some Islamophobes want you to believe, but are the result of misunderstanding Islam. Hopefully, this blog may put a dent into that misunderstanding.

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? ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

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 analytical thinking reduce religious belief?

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

VANCOUVER โ€” A University of British Columbia study suggests analytical thinking can be harmful to religious faith. The psychology report, published Thursday in the prestigious journal Science, reveals that religious belief drops after subjects perform analytical tasks or are exposed to Auguste Rodinโ€™s sculpture, The Thinker.

However, UBC social psychologists Will Gervais and Ara Norenzayan insist they are not debunking religion or promoting atheism. Instead, they are trying to figure out the psychological origins of spirituality.

Source: UBC study | Holy Post | National Post.

Interesting study, but notice how it does not name the religions espoused by the participants? It means that they bundled all religions together versus atheism. That is an assumption on their part whose validity they first had to prove. Was a wide spectrum of religions represented in the survey takers? If not, the results would be biased.

Those snags aside, it is particularly profound to observe that the Quran keeps prodding its readers to think, reflect, examine, analyze, reason and adopt sound logic in conjunction with having faith and consulting ones heart, conscience, guts and feelings. That is the consistent message of Islam: Balance. Things in life are not “either or”, but rather “both and.” The challenge before each of us in life is how to correctly balance the seemingly opposite demands of aspects of our lives all of which we need. A Muslim finds enormous help on this tough task through the guidance of the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Sunna. In Islam, there is no conflict between science and faith, between scripture and history, between the individual and society, or between the spiritual and the material. They can all coexist and must. So can and must the heart and the mind just like the left brain and the right brain coexist and cooperate!

Blind faith is as bad as atheism. The former cancels the mind. The latter cancels the heart.

How can I defend Islam and the Prophet (PBUH)?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

I’ve been coresponding with a Christian missionary about Islam. He had been reasonable until his last email in which he accused Islam, Islamic history and the Prophet (PBUH) with the most horrid charges! He did not comment on, or indicate that he even visited the links I recommended to him. Then he finishes his vile email with the words “Perhaps a look at Zakaria Boutros ‘Truth Talk’ would be useful as he clearly articulates the Muslim position from Muslim sources, and the Christian position from Christian sources. Wishing you every good thing and blessing of Christ.”

How do I reply to him and defend Islam and the Prophet (PBUH) when he would not even visit the links I recommended to him?

Tell him that he cannot learn about Islam from Islamophobes like Zakaria Boutros any more than you can lean about Christianity from agnostics.

The sources of Islam are not the books written by Muslims! The sources of Islam are the Quran and the authentic Hadeeth. If the charge he made about Muslims persecuting Christians are true, it was the fault of those Muslims, not the fault of Islam, which prohibits persecution in religion and guarantees freedom of belief to all. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and Islam are absolved from the horrible things some Muslim did or do. Did Christians ever commit atrocities? They sure did. The Crusades come to mind and so do the Conquistadors and the IRA terrorist war against Protestant Britain. They were all done in the name of Christianity! Are those the fault of Christianity and the teachings of Christ, or are they the fault of Christians from whom Christ and Christianity are absolved?

The charge against the Prophet (PBUH) that you mentioned in your more detailed email, is a famous fallacy. See this post for explanation,

Also read the posts about apostasy if you like to reply to him about it. I doubt, however, that he will listen. He has taken the posture of self-righteousness. It is futile to converse with such people. Their arrogance deafens their ears.

You may also find the posts in the category: Muhammad very relevant to your question.

Why did Muslims lose their glory?

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

I’m curious about how the Islamic areas lost their power. I know it was powerful and had its golden age for awhile..but what destroyed middle-east and made it so weak as it is today?

In a few words: abandonment of principle.

It wasn’t military. For example, the Mongol invasion had a mightier military. It invaded and gobbled up the Middle East in a few years. But it was a crisis that brought out the best in Muslims. Saif-ud-Deen Qutuz of Egypt confronted the Mongols and defeated them. And, get this, the Mongols eventually accepted Islam.

The decline of Muslims began, IMHO, with the Ottoman Empire. During that time, religious knowledge declined because Ijtihaad (analysis) was suspended. The Ottomans had a mighty army, but instead of using it to protect Muslims and Islam, as God teaches, they used it to invade neighboring countries in Europe and collect taxes from their citizens. That is how resentment of Islam was born in Europe and it is why Europeans fear Islam today and believe it’s violent and a threat to them.

What sealed the decline and signaled its end is the genocide of Armenians at the hands of the Young Turks brief rule. It is no coincidence that the Ottoman Empire collapsed only eight years after that massacre. God’s retribution is not biased.

Too much attention to ancient artifacts

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

During the Egyptian revolution of January 25th, 2011, thugs invaded the Ancient Egyptian museum in Cairo and stole a number of artifacts. The mummy chamber was not invaded.

Are we giving too much attention to monuments and ancient artifacts? Don’t they belong to pagan times? As a matter of fact, I heard some Muslims call for the destruction of all ancient statues, like Taliban did with Buddha statues in Afghanistan.

God draws our attention to ancient artifacts as a sign of how He punishes people who disbelieve in Him and fight His Messengers. He addresses Pharaoh as the man was drowning and says to him,

“So, today We rescue you with your body [only], so that you will be for those after you a sign.” (10:92)

God frequently asks people this question in the Quran, “Did they not travel the land and see what was the end of those before them? They were stronger than them…” (30:9)

Losing, neglecting or destroying ancient artifacts is losing, neglecting and destroying signs of God that He intended for us to keep and learn from.

Consider the long Islamic history in Egypt during which no Muslim ruler of Egypt has ever even contemplated destroying the Pyramids, the Sphinx or any ancient statue. Not Umar ibn Al-Khattaab (RA) who sent a mission to Egypt to call its people to Islam, nor Amr ibn Al-Aas (RA) who lead that mission, nor the hundreds of righteous Muslim leaders who ruled Egypt for some 1000 years!

How come? Did they not see that the Sphinx was an idol that should be smashed? Ironically, the only one who tried to blow up the Sphinx was a non-Muslim: Napoleon Bonaparte. He succeeded in severing the Sphinx’s beard only

And this not unique to Egypt. Muslim rulers of Afghanistan never thought of destroying the Buddhist statues, but Taliban did. That’s what happens when unqualified people take charge.

OK, but we need to find a balance and not wish to possess those treasures.

I’m sure the British Museum will love you for suggesting that! Ancient monuments are the property of the countries they are in. It was no coincidence that God left those particular monuments where they are.

“And they (the remnants of Sodom and Gomorrah) are not far from the wrongdoers.” (11:83)

“And you pass by them (the site of Sodom and Gomorrah) by morning. And by night; do you not use your minds?” (37:137-138)

It is one of my great lifetime wishes to travel to Egypt and see all its ancient sites and museums they are so fascinating especially the mummies. I hope they remain safe. May God protect Egypt and its people

May you get your wish, and amen to your supplication. When you visit the museum of antiquities, go see the mummy of Pharaoh. You are going to feel the verses of the Quran that spoke about him. You will no doubt reflect on what happens to disbelievers, tyrants and conceited people! Here lies before you a man who claimed to be a god, and fought God’s Messenger, Moses, peace be upon him. He ended up in a box shown to all, his name is not even known for sure and his followers are no more, while Moses ended up honored by the followers of all three Abrahamic religions.

I don’t agree with those who call for the destruction of ancient statues. Instead, we should be learning from them, and appreciating them as beautiful art, regardless of their original purpose. As a good friend of mine said, you can appreciate something without worshiping it.

Nice way to put it. I lived in Egypt many years and not once did I ever see or hear of anybody prostrating to the Sphinx!