In the Name of Almighty God, The Merciful, The Compassionate

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

Salaam Aleikum (Peace be with you)! I hope you may gain some insight from my work here. Remember, I'm not a scholar and don't claim to be. I only claim to be a person who has a passion for both Islam and this great republic in which I live and wish to share my thoughts with others. Remember that anything good you find in this blog is from Allah, and anything wrong or bad is from my own flawed self.

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The Holy Ka'aba

The Holy Ka'aba
The House of God built by Abraham (peace be upon him)

The Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance
take out the 9th line, and it would be haram (forbidden) to say this.

Friday, December 17, 2010


In the name Almighty God, the Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. The prophet Muhammad once warned his followers, and by extension us, about a group of people called the "khawaarij". While it would take a whole book to explain the details of who and what he was talking about, It is recorded in hadiths that the prophet once said of them that "when you see them pray, they will make you feel inadiquate in your own prayer, but when they recite the Qur'an, it will never leave their throats, and that they pass thru this religion in a way like an arrow passing through a game animal".

The meaning of this is to say that these people would appear very religious outwardly, but in fact the Qur'an is never really in their heart. And they only have an outward "residue" of Islam, as the blood left on an arrow after it passes through a game animals body.

He said of them that there would be successive generations of them that will appear amongst his ummah (the Muslims) until the end of time. He even said that the Dajjal (Anti-Christ) will be from among them. Many Muslims therefore don't realize this, but the Anti-Christ will actually be from among the Muslims (or he will claim to be a Muslim). The prophet also said that they are the worst of all creation. He said that they will kill innocents believing that the Qur'an supports them, and he said they will twist verses of the Qur'an around to suit their own desires, in particular applying verses in the Quran referring to dis-believers to believers (ie the process of takfir or calling Muslims kufar or disbelievers, simply because they don't have the same theological views as they do).

Does this sound familiar? Sound like anyone we know today? Sounds a lot like the likes of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Muslim Brotherhood and other "Islamist" groups and movements of our time. It amazes me that more Muslims, especially the 'ulema (scholars), don't bring this topic up more often. Ironically I stumbled upon this information through the writings of Sheikh Nasr Deen Al Bani, one of the fathers of the Salafi/Wahabi movement.

Salafis readily refer to these terrorists as "khawaarij", however they fail to realize that terrorism, or violence against non-combatants, is only a symptom of the khawaarij ideology. The root of the khawaarij ideology is in fact a "Muslim-supremacist" ideology that centers around the idea that that they are the "true Muslims" or the Muslims upon real "truth" and all others and all other ideologies or philosophies are inferior.

This is the ideology of the modern day "Islamist". I personally prefer to call them "Muslim-fascists" because I don't like the idea of associating the word "Islam", my faith, with these people. These people have nothing to do with my faith, nor the faith of the majority of Muslims that I know. At any rate, we have to recognize that we don't need to only fight "terrorism", but we need to fight the ideology that breeds it.

Almost all Muslims condemn terrorism. Also, most "Islamists" condemn terrorism. However, in the case of Islamists, it is a very slippery slope from being a passive "Islamist" to being a violently aggressive one. This is because the Qur'an most definitely teaches that Muslims have a responsibility to defend their faith and their brothers and sisters in Islam. If one, who is already indoctrinated into Islamist thinking, is convinced that America ideology is not only inferior to Islam (which is the basic Islamist ideology), but is also convinced that America is actually at war with Islam (as many are led to believe by Al Jazeera, other mid-east media outlets and EVEN at times, American groups like CAIR) then it becomes natural for one to think that engaging in a militaristic jihad against America is incumbent upon them.

Terrorism is a military and law enforcement issue that needs addressed by law enforcement and military personnel. We as Muslims can and do assist them in that. Many Muslims even serve as police officers, FBI agents, soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. However the real fight isn't a martial one, but an ideological one. That is a fight that only we Muslims can fight. That is a fight that only we Muslims can wage, on the battlefield of the minbar (pulpit) against those that would turn our spiritual and personal relationship with God, into a political ideology that seeks domination over all others under the guise of "establishing God's rights on His earth".

Islam is fundamentally a religion based in personal liberty. God says in the Qur'an,

"Let there be no compulsion/coercion in matters of religion" (2:256)

This is to say that religious law or "shariah" is never meant to be civil law, or the law imposed by government. It is only the "law" that exists between the individual and God. Shariah tells me to not eat pork. It tells me to dress in a modest way. It tells me to pray 5 times a day according to the way of the prophet Muhammad. It tells me to fast during Ramadan and make the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in my life. And, it tells me that I nor any Muslim individual or group has the right to impose it on others, whether they be Muslim or not. This brings us back to the description of the khawaarij that they, "believe the Qur'an to be in their favor, when in reality it stands as a witness AGAINST them", as the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said.

With all this being said, we as Muslims need to stop making excuses for ourselves and our problems. We need to recognize that it is not a conflict of "us verses them" but indeed a conflict of "us verses us". I am not a scholar nor expert in anything, but I might humbly suggest some actions that need to be taken by the Muslim community to counter these problems.


We need to be educated about the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah (or example) of the prophet Muhammad. Many people point to the fact that the prophet Muhammad was a head of state and head of military during his time, and that many verses of the Qur'an refer to civil law. However, we have to understand the context of those verses and examples of the prophet. The prophet was put into a position of being a head of state by being invited to do so by the people of Yathrib, which later became Medina. So he had to do things, and verses of the Qur'an came as guidance, that were relevant to running a city-state such as that of Medina. Those verses are still just as relevant today, however they have to be understood in that context. Muhammad drafted the Charter of Medina which, while recognizing Muhammad as a prophet and messenger of God, outlined the laws and ordinances of the city-state along mostly secular guidelines. There wasn't a single verse from the Qur'an included in that Charter, and it was that Charter that served as the "Constitution" or legal framework of that city-state.

So if we really want to understand the Islamic ideal for state/national government, we should look to that, the Charter of Medina, as an example. The Charter of Medina can be readily found many places online, but in general the main principles outlined in the Charter are that all tribes, both Muslim and non-Muslims (including a large Jewish population who lived there at the time), are citizens of the city-state of Medina and all are accountable to each other. Jews were not to be treated poorly or in any way differently simply because they were Jewish. It established the death penalty for murderers, and it established that when the city-state is at war, none of the tribes had a right to opt out or to assist an enemy of the state in any way. There isn't a single verse of the Qur'an mentioned in it, thus, separation of mosque and state. THIS was the law of the land during the time that the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a head of state. From the time of his death, we have had an almost constant downward slope from that point, away from the liberty based governmental policies of that Charter.

The US Constitution is probably the most "Islamic" constitution/national charter written since that time in terms of most closely representing the principles of individual liberty and the separation of church (or mosque) and state established by the Charter of Medina. Just as the Prophet Muhammad was of course a devout Muslim (along with his followers at the time), the American founding fathers were devout Christians (mostly Unitarians) who recognized that the separation of religious scripture and governmental policies were not only important for protecting people from theological persecution like that seen in Europe, but also that it was necessary to protect the religious tradition itself. Muslims in the US and abroad should study and revere the US Constitution as a supreme example of how rule of secular law can exist, without secularizing the society at large. There has never, in the history of the world, been a nation in which people of so many differing religions and world views have been able to live peacefully side by side, under the rule of law, a secular law, while still maintaining their own religious individuality. This is fundamentally different from fascist-secular regimes like the Soviet Union, Tunisia and others that seek to "secularize" society as a whole (ie destroying religion in the public square). The US truly is a shining city on a hill, and all Muslims, especially American Muslims, should revere and respect that fact, and that comes with good civics education for our kids and new immigrants not only in public schools, but in our mosques and private Islamic schools as well.


Once we have these most essential education elements, they need to be implemented both within our mosques and Islamic organizations, and in our participation in the political process at large, i.e. voting and running for public office. We have to ensure that our mosques are being administered by people who embody these principles. That goes especially for the imam, who is delivering sermons and providing the congregation with spiritual guidance. We need to be sure that the imam is indeed delivering spiritual guidance, and not spreading Islamist rhetoric. While the vast majority of our imams condemn and most certainly don't preach violence, the number of them that preach "Islamist" ideas is far greater. Be very mindful of who you listen to because I've heard many imams and Muslim preachers who are considered "mainstream moderates" saying things that are very "Islamist" or anti-American in nature. That's not to say that they are themselves raging "Islamists" or "khawaarij", but as I said its a slippery slope and sometimes you can catch yourself on that slippery slope, not having ever realized that you were close to it. The remedy for that is of course understanding the proper meaning of shariah, which is that it is the ties that bind between the individual Muslim, and Almighty God, and it is NOT a matter of civil and governmental law to be imposed on the masses. As God says, "let there be no compulsion in religion".

We Muslims need to also involve ourselves in the republican process that is United States politics. Notice I used the word "republican process" and not "democratic process". These two terms are often used interchangeably, however they are actually very different. A democracy is a system by which the ultimate power comes from the people, and specifically the majority. It is, in a sense, mob rule. That is not what the United States is. The United States is a republic. A republic is a system in which the ultimate power derives from a charter or constitution. Therefore, the city-state of Medina during the time of the prophet was actually a republic. In the United States the Constitution, which is our charter, protects minorities that would, in a democracy, be marginalized by the majority. That's why votes in Congress don't always just take a simple majority vote, but in some cases take 2/3rds majority votes and so on. That is why the US Constitution counted slaves as 3/5ths of a citizen, because making them whole citizens (as per census numbers) would have given southern slave states an unfair advantage in the House of Representatives where representation is based on states population. It is also why the US Senate was created to give smaller population states the same legislative prowess as larger population states in that body.

We Muslims, after vigorously familiarizing ourselves with that Constitution, must exercise our duty, not right but duty, as citizens to vote for candidates that embody and believe in the principles of that Constitution and not for those who seek to undermine it, twist its meanings, or otherwise circumvent it in the name of "progressivism". When one of us has the financial means and most of all knowledge and experience to do so, they should also consider running for office and fighting for those Constitutional principles. Too often today, our Islamic organizations align themselves with the political left, or "progressives" who are not governing or legislating in the interest of the Constitution, but rather are governing in the interests of often foreign ideologies like socialism for example, that is a complete antithesis of the Constitution and of Islam. These organizations only align themselves with such people because the left pays lip service to Muslims and claims to "understand our plight". Our only plight is that we all to often play the victim card and don't get off our own rumps to change and better our situation. The left shares nothing with us in our core values and principles whether on social OR economic fronts. In the 2000 elections, Muslims overwhelmingly supported George W. Bush, and that was because the Muslims at that time found that their views and values seemed to align naturally with Republicans. Then 9/11 happened and all of a sudden we don't want to admit that the cancer, our cancer, of politcal Islamism had at that point boiled over, caused the death of over 3,000 innocent people and left us in the spotlight with our pants down. Instead of brushing ourselves off and and getting to work on the root problem, we deflect blame, deflect accusations, and deflect absolute facts about the Muslim world as if they don't matter. We deflect blame saying that "well those who commit terror are only a small few". Well yes but recent events have shown that those small few can work to great effect, and they will continue to do so until we address the root issue, which is politicized Islamism. Yes it is true that our own American government doesn't help the situation in the Muslim world in the way that they do things, but the problem of political Islamism would be there whether the American State Department and/or military was as well or not. It existed long before America stuck its nose in the business of the Middle East. Those of us Muslims who have the material and intellectual means to do so, should consider running for public office, but in doing that, run on the platform of Constitutional government and the ideal of liberty.


Liberty and freedom always come at a price. The struggle to achieve them is almost never bloodless. The American Revolution represents one of the most glorious struggles and victories for liberty that the world has ever seen. However, for the Americans at that time, there seemed nothing glorious about the horrors of war. There was nothing glorious about turning their guns on people who they only a few years earlier considered their countrymen. There was nothing glorious about having to look upon their former country's flag as now the flag of their sworn enemy. Many soldiers in the Continental Army were veterans of the British Army in the French and Indian wars, and now had to turn their guns at the same red uniforms that they themselves had once wore into battle and drive their bayonets into the bellies of men who they once would have taken a musket ball for. Despite the horrors of that experience, they did what was necessary to establish liberty, to establish justice, and to once and for all end the sectarian violence that had become the norm of Europe. America was and is at its core a living breathing rejection of Europe and all that it stood and in some ways does still stand for.

The word in Arabic, "jihad", literally means to struggle. This can apply to any struggle whether it be intellectual, financial and/or economic, and in some cases can be a martial or military jihad. Almighty God says in the Qur'an, "fight those who fight you, and drive them out of the places where they drove you out, and kill them wherever you find them, for verily oppression is worse than killing..."

To put this verse into context, it was revealed when hostilities first broke out between the Muslims of the city-state of Medina, and the pagan Quraysh tribe of Mecca. The Quraysh had declared war on the Muslims and had vowed to stamp it out. Up until that point Muslims had taken a pacifist stance, and refused to be drawn into violence. However, then these words of the Qur'an came.

The Quraysh had persecuted the Muslims in Mecca before they fled to Medina. In Mecca they had killed and tortured many Muslims who did not have the financial and social status to defend themselves in the tribal system of the Arabs. They persecuted them financially by forbidding anyone from trading with them or doing any kind of business with them. They spat on them and threw dung on them as they prayed at the Kaaba, and even at one point plotted and attempted to assassinate Muhammad.

This eventually culminated in a massive migration or "hijra" to the city of Yathrib, which like I mentioned would later become Medina. It was there that the natives, known as the Ansar or "helpers", together with immigrants from Mecca were able to build a thriving republic, based on equality under the law of the Charter of Medina, where they, the Muslims, were able to practice their faith freely and Islam was able to flourish.

Then, however, because of the threat posed by the flourishing city state of Medina, the Quraysh set out to destroy Muhammad and his religion of Islam, declared war, and marched on Medina to do just that. When these verses of the Qur'an came, the Muslims, despite how much they appalled war against their former countrymen and in many cases against their own family, formed an army and met the pagan Quraysh and ultimately defeated them.

In many ways this story parallels that of the American Revolution. The Americans were mostly people who fled persecution at the hands of European regimes, namely the British. They came to America to make a new way and a new and brighter future, only to find those same tyrannical forces coming to them to destroy that dream, and despite having no desire to do so, they fought, fiercely against the British, and eventually freedom and liberty won out over tyranny.

Both of these stories also parallel the story of Muslim immigrants to the United States. Many Muslim immigrants have come to the US fleeing persecution at the hands of tyrannical regimes of the "old world" (Muslim world). In most cases the core of these tyrannical regimes is politcal Islamism. They have come and found help amongst the "Ansar of the US" (American converts to Islam as well as friendly non-Muslims), to establish a freedom loving and liberty based Islamic community. Now we find those same tyrannical demons of the old world have followed those freedom and liberty loving Muslims to the "new world" and seek to extend their reign of terror and oppression here. Just as the British did to those early Americans. And just like the British had the Boston Massacre, today we have 9/11. Afghanistan and Iraq are our "Lexington and Concord". With 9/11 the war against this oppressive, tyrannical ideology that many of our brothers and sisters fled from, has begun. The only problem is that our situation today is like if the early Americans had just coward in a corner and let the French fight the British for them. That's not what they did. They faught alongside the French yes, but they indeed faught and steered the direction of that war. The non-Muslims of America in our Armed Forces today are like the French in the American Revolution....we can't just sit back and let them do the fighting. Muslims need to be LEADING THE CHARGE into battle against political Islamism! We need more and more and more Muslims joining the US Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force, not just for scholarships and GI grants, but because they WANT to be part of defeating this desease that is afflicting our religious community! We need our intellectuals actively engaged in intellectual battle against their clerics. We need our financiers and economists finding ways to block and destroy their funding that gets funnelled through Islamic banks and charities in the Middle East. We need our Muslim leaders and elected officials and military officers standing with our non-Muslim leaders, elected officials and military officers to plan and direct that battle together! WE, the Muslims of America and like-minded Muslims of the world, need to make a stand and FIGHT this cancer that is political, fascist Islamism. If there is any legitimate jihad, it is that.

I want all to know that I don't say these things with a light heart. I love my brothers and sisters in Islam with all my heart, including those who through misguidance or ignorance find themselves on the wrong side of this fight. It pains me to see those young brothers killed who have been brainwashed by Islamist pigs like Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Zawahiri, Anwar Al Awlaki and others. It pains me to see brothers and sisters killed accidentally by bombs meant for some of these pigs. However it pains me more to see brothers and sisters killed while attending jummah at their mosque on Friday by suicide bombers in Pakistan, or brothers and sisters killed in market places in Iraq by suicide bombers, or little girls having their genitals mutilated in Somalia, or Muslim women executed for adultery after being raped by their brothers and uncles, or seeing small children being dowsed in gasaline and set ablaze simply because they are a "Sunni" or a "Shi'i". This ideology, this barbaric, fascist, satanistic ideology that cloaks itself in my beloved faith must be stopped, stamped out, and destroyed. No more excuses, no more buts.......stand now for justice, stand now liberty, and stand now for Allah and for Islam.

...And Allah Knows Best...

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Culmination of Human Revelation

In the name of Allah (Almighty God) The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful. In a recent previous article, I talked about the concept of "the only true religion". As I said then, religions throughout human history were created by people in order to explain things that they did not and could not understand. In some cases they worshipped or revered nature as with many religious traditions of native peoples of Africa, Australia, The Americas, and ancient Europeans. In some cases they worshipped a man or mythical men and women as great powerful deities such as that of the Ancient Egyptians, the Ancient Greeks and Romans and to some extent Roman Catholic Christians. Still others seemed to base worship on the self as in Buddhism. Some say that there is NO supernatural power or if there is it is no consequence to us, such as in Atheism and Secular Humanism. All of these religious traditions have good points, but none contain viable, reasonable explanations for the real and ultimate source of existence. Ultimately, it can be reasonably and rationally deduced, as it was by philosophers such as Renee' Descartes, that finite things, meaning everything in the universe, cannot be ultimately created by other finite things. If so you're left with the concept of infinite regression; a phenomenon by which there is no actual beginning. In other words if life on Earth came from the primordial ooz, and the Earth created the primordial ooze, and the Earth was created of the Sun, and the Sun created out of the center of the galaxy, and the galaxy created in the "big bang" when a small dense bundle of mass exploded.......then what created that bundle of mass, and then what created that, and what created that, and so on, and so on. This is reasonably, rationally and actually physically impossible. Thus there must be an ultimate and infinitely powerful source from which all things originate. This infinitely divine force is thus the only thing worthy of any kind of worship or exaltation because it is therefore the only thing that we truly owe our existence to. So, therefore the conclusion is that all religion is rubbish, except, that which simply calls humans back to communion with that one divine, infinitely powerful source. That is the only thing that can be reasonably, rationally and scientifically sound.

However, we then are left with the question, "Does that infinitely divine power communicate with us?". Deists believe the answer is no. Deism is the belief that there is indeed an infinitely powerful source of creation but that it does not communicate with its creation. This would be a viable argument if it weren't for the fact that human beings, by their very nature, are creatures of faith. Even Atheists have faith, because it cannot be proven "scientifically" that The Divine DOESN'T exist no more than it can't be proven scientifically that it DOES exist. We are thus programmed to engage in some form of faith. Faith comes from someone or something conveying information to us, and then with or without tangible evidence, we believe it to be true. For example no one can see, feel, smell or touch an atom, however because of the effects we see of them, we believe, or you could say, we have "faith" that they exist. In the religious realm, faith comes from someone conveying information about The Divine or the supernatural to the masses and those masses consequently believing or having "faith" in that information. If we take into consideration that all religion is nonsense except for that which calls human beings to understanding and communion with that one infinitely divine source of all that is, then likewise all faith is null and void except for faith based on information that conforms to that ultimate reality.

Almost every religion has a belief in this ultimate infinitely divine source of power, including religious traditions that are understood to be polytheistic or paganistic. In Hinduism there is a belief in Rahman, which they understand to be the infinitely divine source of all creation, and then all of their subsequent gods and goddesses are only different manifestations of that infinitely divine force, and they pray to statues of those gods and goddesses as a way to channel and focus their prayer toward the "real" source of power, Rahman. Native Americans, while they revered many spirits of nature, also knew of the "great spirit" from which all things came.

In the history of human civilization, amidst all of these different religious traditions that arose to explain the unexplainable, there has been one thread that has continued to exist in perpetuity that despite occasional deviation due to the natural flawed nature of humans, has indeed called human beings back to realization and communion with that infinitely divine source of all existence. Evidence of that thread appears in scriptural books such as the five books of Moses, the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and others. Because these texts and revelations call human beings toward the worship of nothing besides that infinitely divine force, they are and can only be the true revelation of that infinitely divine force. As I stated earlier many of these texts were corrupted by humans at various points in their history, but the ultimate message still rings through them; There is nothing worthy of worship EXCEPT that infinitely divine force from which all creation originates.

Throughout all of these revealed scriptures, The Divine uses the great miracles of humanity as its medium. The great miracles of humanity could be narrowed down to reason, law, spirituality and language. It may seem odd at first, but really when you think about it these four things are the pillars of humanity. Every human civilization that has ever existed can be broken down into these four categories. It is ultimately these four things that distinguish humans from all other creatures both natural and supernatural.


Many millennia ago, a man named Abraham walked the Earth. His father was an idol maker; making idols that people of the time worshipped as gods. Abraham reasoned that this was absurd and illogical. These figures of clay and wood had no real power to help nor harm anyone. His rejection of these superstitious beliefs led to great conflict and eventual exile from his community. One night he looked to the night sky and saw a star and said, "perhaps this is my god". When that star vanished from the sky he said "this cannot be a god because it goes away". Then he saw the moon and again said "perhaps this is my god" but when the moon set he again said, "a true god cannot disappear". Once more when he saw the sun he said, "perhaps this is my god", but when the sun set, Abraham had an epiphany. He realized that the only true "god", was the force that was behind all of these things and indeed everything that existed. He, through the miraculous human gift of reason, came to realization of the existence of The Divine, and upon that realization he not only communed with The Divine but The Divine communed with him. Bestowing on him the gift of prophecy and made him a messenger to his people.


Some time after Abraham had long passed, lived a man named Moses. He was a descendant of Abraham through Abraham's son Isaac and of a people known as the "Children of Israel". At the time the Children of Israel were enslaved under the self proclaimed "god", Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. While Moses was raised in the Pharaohs household, he still was a "Jew", and upon accidentally killing a soldier of Pharaoh who was beating a Jewish worker, was made a fugitive from that land. It was during his days in the wilderness that The Divine chose him to be a messenger, speaking to him through a burning bush. Moses subsequently returned to Pharaoh demanding that the Children of Israel be free and came with miraculous plagues to support his position against the Pharaoh. Upon the freedom of the Children of Israel, The Divine revealed the next major human revelation through Moses; this time based on the next great miraculous gift of These laws found in today's Torah served as the first divinely inspired civic and social legal framework for human kind to live by, including civil, criminal, matrimonial, dietary and martial laws. This would become the greatest legacy of the Prophet Moses.


Amongst the Children of Israel there once lived a small boy named David. This small boy, who began life modestly, became the hero of his people upon defeating a mammoth of a man named Goliath from amongst the Philistines, the enemies of the Children of Israel. David eventually became a king, and more importantly, The Divine inspired in him the next major revelation to humanity, the Psalms. This time, The Divine used another of humanity's great miracles, language. The Psalms were song and poetry, that praised, gave thanks to, and explained the nature of The Divine.


Human beings have always had an attachment and fascination with the supernatural, our existence after death and the spiritual elements of our own selves. Again, from amongst the Children of Israel, came by far the most miraculous of all prophets, and indeed probably the most miraculous of all humans save maybe Adam (the first human). Jesus of Nazareth was born of a pure virgin mother, Mary, in which The Divine created Jesus in Mary's womb without the seed of a human male. Upon Jesus's birth he spoke as an infant in the arms of his mother to defend her honor from wicked accusations of the Jewish aristocracy. As a boy he spent time not learning, but actually TEACHING Jewish law in the Temple of Jerusalem, and as a man set about to bring the Children of Israel back to the spiritual elements of their faith that they had long forgotten. Jewish tradition had become at that time very dogmatic, ritualistic and devoid of inward, spiritual qualities that had been the legacy of great prophets like David. Most importantly, Jesus was the Messiah, prophesied in the book of Isaiah, come to be the savior of the Jewish people. His allegories and parables sparked deep inward reflection, inspired deep and undying love for one's fellow man, and most importantly, drew every individual who reflected upon his words back to communion with The Divine. While his enemies attempted to kill him, Jesus Christ was raised up and saved from their hands, and in the end days he will return to complete and fulfill his duty not only as the Messiah of the Children of Israel, but indeed the Messiah of Humanity.

All of these great prophets came with revelations that were testaments to the glory and majesty of The Divine. But The Divine wasn't done yet. The Divine revealed to Moses in his book of Deuteronomy, "I will raise up a prophet from amongst your brethren, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I command him" (18:18).

And then later, The Divine revealed through Jesus Christ the prophecy of another to come, a comforter and a spirit of truth. Jesus, peace and blessings be upon him said, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away. For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. Of sin because they believe not in me. Of righteousness because I go unto the Father, and you see me no more. Of judgment because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he shall not speak of himself but whatsoever he hears, that he shall speak, and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:7-14).

It is clear from these prophecies that The Divine's complete anthology was not completed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the revelation to Moses, The Divine notes that this prophet would be raised amongst their brethren. Up until Christ, the main lineage of prophets came from the Children of Israel, who are descended of Abraham through his Isaac. Abraham had another son named Ishmael who is considered the father of the Arabs. The revelation in Deuteronomy seems to indicate that this last great prophet will come from "the brethren" of the Children of Israel, the Arabs. In the mid 7th century in a town called Mecca, in Arabia, just such a prophet was called to the service of The Divine with the initial command, "READ!!! In the name of your Lord who created! Created man from a single congealed clot of blood. READ!!! for your Lord is most bountiful! Who taught the use of the pen, and taught man that which he knows not!!" (Qur'an 96:1-5)

The Prophet Muhammad is also most definitely the "comforter" prophesied by Christ in that Christ himself says, "he will glorify me". The prophet Muhammad praised Christ exceedingly and exposed his followers to honor Christ, AND the followers of Christ in that time period. In both Deuteronomy and in John it is said that this prophet would speak not of himself but what he is inspired to speak, and that was the miracle of the Qur'an.

While previous revelations used various different miracles of mankind to the exemplify the glory of The Divine, the last revelation of the Qur'an utilized ALL of them. The Qur'an constantly implores mankind to "think" and to "reason" and to contemplate the miracle of creation. The story of Abraham quoted above is found in the Qur'an. In Surah al Rahman (The Chapter of Mercy) The Divine says, "The most Merciful, taught the Qur'an, created mankind, and taught him eloquence of speech, the sun and the moon in precise orbits, and the stars and trees prostrate in adoration, and the heaven he raised and imposed balance, that you may transgress the balance. Establish weight with justice, and do not upset the balance. The earth he laid out for his creatures. Therein is fruit and palms with sheaths, and corn with husks for fodder, and sweet smelling plants. So which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?" In this the Divine encourages us to contemplate creation as the signs of His existence. The Qur'an includes law, giving rules for inheritance, marriage, diet, and warfare. It speaks eloquently of the spiritual nature of man and the need for an intimate relationship with The Divine.

Perhaps the most profound element of the Qur'an, is its language. In 7th century Arabia, poets were the rock stars of their day. Their mastery of the Arabic language was second none (in other languages) in the world. The word "Qur'an" means literally "recitation", and the primarily miracle of it was that the entire Qur'an is basically, a long and complex poem. Poetry that none of the great Arab poets could even begin to match. In the Qur'an, The Divine makes the challenge, "And if you are in doubt about what we have revealed to our servant, then produce a chapter like it! And call your witnesses and helpers besides God, if you are true" (Qur'an 2:23).

The entire Qur'an flows together as a poem, weaving in and out of different stories from our past, instructions on how to live, revelations of our afterlife and more, with a constant refrain of coming back to, "And God is Most Great...And God is Most Merciful...And God sees and hears all...etc...". The complexity of the Qur'an is also understood only by understanding it in its original language...Arabic. While English translations are useful for having at least a partial understanding of the message of some verses, it is absolutely impossible to accurately translate the Qur'an into any language. As a native speaker of English, I'm always learning more and more about the Arabic language of the Qur'an, and the more I pick away at that knowledge, the more I realize how truly miraculous it is. The Qur'an came in bits and pieces throughout the life and ministry of the Prophet Muhammad. It could be compared to doing a massive jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces are dumped out on a table, and you have no picture of what its supposed to look like. Gradually piece by piece it comes together, each piece relating to specific topics and issues taking place at that time, and then by the end, when the last piece was put into place only shortly before the prophets death, you stand back and look at this beautiful masterpiece, unmatchable by even the best of artisans in the world.

Another aspect of the miracle of the Qur'an is its preservation. The Divine says in the Qur'an, "We have sent down this reminder, and We will preserve it" (Qur'an 15:9). The Holy Qur'an is today, in its original Arabic, the exact same as it was in the time of the prophet Muhammad. Nothing has ever been added or taken away, and this is confirmed by even secular scholars and scholars of other religions. Moreover, the Qur'an, while it is compiled in book form and other digital formats, is primarily preserved in the minds and hearts of those who have memorized the entire thing....word for word. These people, known as a hafiz, are the primary preservers of the Qur'an.

The Holy Qur'an represents the culmination of The Divine's revelation to humanity. The seal of His message to us on how to understand Him, and to live our lives according to His will. The Qur'an, along with the Gospels of Christ, the Psalms of David, the Torah of Moses and the revelation of Abraham represent The Divine's communication with us, His creation. Our task is to try and understand them in context, and to come to that most important fundamental and indeed ONLY true act of religiosity.....To know the reality of God, and to come to communion with Him.

...And Allah (The Divine) Knows Best...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Muslims Should be Cautious When Voting This November

In the name of Allah (Almighty God), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. In November, most Americans will be voting for Congressional, Gubernorial, and other major federal, state and local political offices. This of course includes American Muslims. Like all Americans, Muslims need to realize the importance of their vote. Many Muslims don't vote at all, and I would caution my brothers and sisters that not voting is one of the worst things we can do for the progress of our community. Some may think that there is something fundamentally wrong with voting in a "non-Muslim" country from a shari'ah perspective. This is of course not true. There is nothing in the Qur'an or the Sunnah to suggest such a thing. In fact the Muslims, led by Ja'far ibn Abu Talib, in the first hijra to Abbassynia, settled in that Christian country, under a just Christian king, and even participated in wars on behalf of the king. They, who were among the best generation of Muslims, didn't seem to have any problem with serving and participating in a non-Muslim nation, in so long as it's leadership was just. In our nation of the United States, we have what is actually in Islamic terms, shurah, or mutual consultation. The people of the United States, voice opinions through votes as to who they feel would best run the country. Whether they be chief executives (president, governor, mayor) or legislators/law makers (congress, state legislatures, city councils).

In voting, it is firstly most important that the voter, Muslim or otherwise, be educated. Not necessarily just educated about "the issues", but primarily educated about the Constitution of the United States, AND the Constitution of the State in which you live. In many cases state constitutions are vastly similar to the US Constitution, but they may very a little from state to state. The Constitution is the most important thing for ANY American citizen to know and understand. The principals laid out in it, in the articles detailing the responsibilities of the three main branches of government, and in the Bill of Rights detailing the basic rights of American citizens, are the backbone, or rather the DNA of our entire nation. Without that structure, America would literally fall into chaos like many other nations around the world who have since adopted Constitutions similar to that of the US. The United States is longest running country in the world to maintain the same form of Government without violent struggles to change it or alter it. The Civil War doesn't count because it wasn't REALLY a Civil War it was a war of Southern Independence that they lost. They weren't fighting to alter the US governmental system. There is a fundamental reason why America has become so successful. It is the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees that the federal government is not the RULER of the people, but rather it exists only to be RULED by the people. The US Congressmen and women are not our superiors or rulers, they are our employees, and the same is true of the President of the United States. If the US was a company, we are the Board of Directors and the Stock holders, so therefore WE are the ones with the ultimate power.

This all being said, we as Muslims, need to be more cautious when exercising that power as American citizens. All citizens tend to focus on issues that directly pertain to them. Gays and lesbians focus on "gay rights". Evangelical Christians focus on moral social issues that pertain to their faith. Recent immigrants and offspring of immigrants tend to focus on immigration issues. This is of course natural, but it is the behavior of a largely uneducated populous. Citizens of course should be concerned about issues that pertain to them, but educated citizens also understands where those issues stand in importance to other issues that face ALL Americans, and sometimes when those issues are obviously less important, we have set aside our personal issues for the greater good. Besides, ultimately if people were educated and voted for whats best for America and not just themselves, it is very likely that those personal issues will be resolved much quicker anyway. For example, immigration reform is a definite issue that affects many Americans, however our present economic situation is an issue that affects ALL Americans, and thus we will never really be able to address the immigration issue until we first address our economic plight including our ever growing national debt which is ultimately the primary source of economic concern. Legal and illegal immigration wont be an issue if the job market completely collapses and there no jobs for ANYONE including immigrants.

Now, having said that, it is becoming quite obvious that the main issue in the minds of soon to be Muslim voters, is the rising tide of "Islamophopia" in America. Generally speaking, the main Islamophobic voices seem to be coming from the political right, while the political left seems more accepting of Muslims within American society. So, consequently, the vast majority of Muslims are most likely going to vote for Democratic candidates in the coming elections. This isn't surprising. However I ask my brothers and sisters to try and think beyond Islamophobia, and think about the bigger issues facing this country. Besides, Islamophobia is only the result of a very uneducated population on the beliefs, tenants, and people of Islam. No politician is ever really going to fix that. Only WE can fix that. Only we can fix that by interacting more with our non-Muslim neighbors and co-workers, and reaching out to other faith communities in common "enjoining of good, and forbidding of evil". Eventually, Islamophobia will subside, as have all such tensions in American history, as mainstream America becomes more familiar and thus more comfortable with their Muslim countrymen and women. If you look at the vast majority of people who hold very Islamophobic ideas, they typically don't personally know any Muslims. Even politically very conservative Americans who have personal connections with Muslims, have much different views; much more accepting views. So I might suggest that voting for candidates based on the issue of Islamophopia is really not the educated thing to do.

Republicans do indeed often support issues that run contrary to basic Muslim (and even Christian) moral values. We seen under President George W. Bush the creation of the Patriot Act, which gives the federal government surveillance authority without warrants on whomever they may deem to be a risk. This is not only immoral but it is fundamentally un-Constitutional. Likewise many Republicans engage in seemingly imperialistic endeavors with such things as "nation building", setting up military installations around the world in various countries, and generally sticking America's nose in the business of other sovereign nations in the name of "protecting our interests". No doubt that these are indeed much more important issues that the issue of Islamophobia in America, and in fact such behaviors of Republican politicians can be directly linked to the ever growing threat of international terrorism.

However, lets then talk about Democrats. Liberal Democrats often also represent fundamentally immoral and un-Constitutional ideas. Democrats typically favor bigger government, and typically have the notion that "we know better what to do with your money than you do". They typically support murder of unborn children through "pro-choice" views which is completely un-Islamic. They favor tax increases, increased funding to welfare programs that only facilitate laziness rather than help people get educated and get back to work. They favor tax systems in which the richer pay more. We may say "well Islamically wealthier people ARE responsible to help those who have less thru zakat". Well that's true, zakat is 2.5% of one's wealth. People making over six figures often pay almost HALF of the income in taxes. That's not zakat, that's robbery. And yes, they, Democrats, also engage in nation building and generally sticking America's nose in the business of other sovereign nations.

We have an ever increasing debt in our nation that WILL eventually destroy us if we are not careful. I would suggest that this is probably the MOST important issue we face. Jobs are hard to come by too, but this is mostly a result of an unsure economy. Employers simply can't afford to take chances to hire new employees when there is such uncertainty about America's economic future. Employers are thus either simply holing-up and not hiring at all or they are outsourcing labor to foreign countries where they can get labor at a fraction of the cost. Such so-called stimulus packages as has been implemented by both Bush and Obama are only giving money that we don't have, to industries in the hopes that they hire. I don't know, to me it seems that the very simple solution is to GIVE PEOPLE THEIR MONEY BACK! Cut taxes to the bare-minimum. I mean I'm talking bare-bones, just enough to pay the utility bills at the Capital building and White House, minimum. If people had more of that money back, particularly business owners who are the one's hiring people, then it just seems to make sense that jobs would start to come back and people would have more confidence in the economy. I just don't see how going into MORE debt by giving money we don't have to construction companies really does that, or passing a health-care bill that basically only requires people to buy health insurance without really addressing the ever growing cost of it, really helps anything. In fact, I tend to think it only hurts us in the long run.

I'm not suggesting that anyone vote Republican or Democrat, I'm just suggesting that we, American Muslims, think BEYOND Islamophobia when we go to the poles in November, to the real issues that face ALL Americans.

...And Allah Knows Best...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Only True Religion

In the name of Allah, (Almighty God), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Allah says in the Qur'an,

"And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it will never be excepted of him, and in the hereafter, he will be one of the losers". (3:85)

This verse is often understood by Muslims to mean that those who are Muslims are in the right, and non-Muslims would likewise interpret this to mean that, according to The Qur'an, non-Muslims are destined for hell. Amongst ultra-conservative Muslim sects it is indeed often seen this way. It has become common place for us to see the world as Muslims vs. Kufar (disbelievers). We readily hear Muslim parents warning their children about "playing with those kufar kids" or worrying about sending their kids to "kufar schools". I once was working in a warehouse in Columbus, and on this particular day I was unloading a truck with two other men. One of them was a middle aged Somali (Muslim) man and the other was an older white American (non-Muslim) man. As the day progressed we engaged one another in conversation as most co-workers do. We weren't talking about anything of great importance really, just small talk to make the day go by faster. We all laughed and joked with each other and got along well. At one point when the non-Muslim American man was away, the Somali man said to me, "you know he's a very nice man, too bad he's a kafir (disbeliever) going to hell".
This small conversation perfectly illustrates the mentality than many of us Muslims have. We have degenerated being a believer in "laa ilaha ila Allah" into just being "part of a club". A club in which we don't eat pork, drink, we pray five times a day, and where woman cover themselves. In many masajid (mosques) around the world, material available to non-Muslims and new Muslims mainly focus on Aqeedah (creed; manners of behavior) more so than tasawwuf (spirituality; ones personal relationship with the divine).
Salafis/Wahabbis expound that the basis of their entire ideology is Tawheed or the absolute oneness of Allah (God Almighty; The Divine). However, simple understanding of this principal is not what is meant by the verse

"And I did not create man and jinn except to worship me" (51:56)

Worship is only worship when the worshipper has three things; Iman (faith and proper belief in Allah), Islam (submission to Allah's will), and Ihsan (sincerity). In a famous hadith or prophetic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said that "ihsan" is to "worship Allah as if you see Him, even when you don't see Him, but know that He sees you".

This begs the question 'what does it really mean to worship Allah as if you see Him'? Ultimately it means that in order to truly worship Allah, one must first have a very personal, one on one relationship with Allah. One must see Allah not just as an arbitrary idea that we focus our religiosity on, but Allah is a living being, THE living being that upon whom we all depend, upon whom all the universe belongs and depends, the one who is the owner of all the most beautiful of attributes, and the one who is the ONLY one truly capable of helping you or causing you harm. Allah, to the true worshipper, is one's master, true love and best friend all wrapped up into one. Without this relationship with Allah, worship is hollow. Without this relationship fasting is just starving yourself. Without this relationship Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is just a really gruelling vacation. Without this relationship your salaah (ritual prayer) is just a really boring dance. Without this relationship recitation of the Qur'an is just singing.

So, when we focus our understanding of our religion so heavily on outward things, we must ask the question, are we really worshipping Allah, or are we worshipping our "religion"? Have we actually made the religion of Islam itself an idol besides Allah?

It is funny that in the above verse, "and anyone who seeks a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted of him..." when we translate this into English, usually we translate every word into English except the word "Islam". Why not translate that word too since it is an Arabic word. When we do it sounds like this

"And anyone who seeks a religion other than complete willful and peaceful submission and subservience to the divine, it will not be excepted of him and in the hereafter, he will be one of the losers".

When we translate the verse in this way, we can get a much different picture of what it really means.

Throughout the history of mankind, there have been many forms of religion that have risen and fallen as ways for man to explain that which he did not understand. Some peoples worshipped nature, a form of religion known as Pantheism. In this form of religion people saw "spirits" in all things around them including animals, trees, mountains and the land itself, wind, water and storms, and saw nature and the "creator" as one in the same. Primitive forms of this kind of religion are found amongst Native Americans, Australian Aboriginals, Native African tribes such as the Maasai, and ancient European cultures such as the Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Normans. Other types of religion are more religious civilizations. Entire civilizations that are built around the worship of some deity. Sometimes this deity could be something like the sun or the moon, and in others it can be a man such as the king himself such as in ancient Egypt where Egyptians worshipped the Pharaoh as a living god. People in ancient times largely believed in these things because proper understanding of science and the natural world had not come to fruition yet. Now that we do understand much about the natural world, we in the developed world know for example that it's not some magical spirit that makes the rain fall from the sky but rather we know that water evaporates off of the earth's surface, the water vapor collects in the sky in the form of clouds, and when the dew point is reached, the water liquefies and falls to earth as rain. We also know that certain stories that are the center of religious civilizations such as the Christian belief that the Earth was literally created in six days, and is only several thousand years old, is not accurate, but rather the Earth is billions of years old and was created over the course of millions of years. This disproving of age old religious traditions created in developed nations religious movements such as Secular Humanism and Atheism. Secular Humanists don't necessarily reject the existence of The Divine but reject supernatural or faith based beliefs as being the basis of morality. Atheists reject the existence of The Divine entirely, as with all other forms of the supernatural, and thus also reject such beliefs and faith as the basis of morality. Both religious traditions rely on ethics and reason as the basis of morality. Such traditions base their devotion to such ideas on the fact that it cannot be proven that God, or The Divine actually exists, and there is no physical, tangible way to test "faith". Thus, they reject faith as an archaic idea that basically only existed as a means for our ancient ancestors to mentally and emotionally deal with the natural world. However, there is one major loophole in this thinking. It is true that faith cannot really be measured nor can it be vindicated through any kind of testable fact and therefore at face value there isn't much difference between what we know as major religious traditions such as Christianity and ancient mythology such as that of the Greek gods and goddesses. However, it likewise cannot be proven in a physically tangible way that The Divine does not exist either. Therefore, Secular Humanists and Atheists also rely on some form of "faith" to justify their beliefs. We can therefore say that we as humans are hard-wired and destined to be people of faith. In reality faith is at the core of what we are because we are a rational being who contemplates our existence in the universe. As such, we will always be subject to faith as being as natural to us as eating and sleeping.

So, how do we know which path is the correct one? Well, that's the million dollar question. But, allow us to reflect on the story of Abraham (peace and blessings be upon him), as told in the Qur'an. It is said that Abraham was the son of an idol maker. His father carved wooded idols that the people of that day worshipped. Abraham abhorred this behavior as he could plainly see that these idols did not serve or protect anyone. They were just wood. His beliefs led to his eventual exile from his home. While alone at night he looked to the sky and saw a star and thought to himself "perhaps this is my god". Then, however, the star disappeared and Abraham said, "truly I don't not like a god that disappears". Then he saw the moon, and how it illuminated the land at night and again said, "perhaps this is my god". Then however the moon disappeared over the horizon and Abraham said, "truly I don't like a god that disappears". Then the next day he saw the sun and how it warmed the earth and he once again said, "perhaps this is my god". When the sun set Abraham said,

"Oh my people! Indeed I am free from all that you join as partners in worship with the truly divine! Indeed I have turned my face to He that CREATED the heavens and the earth, The Divine is and can only be ONE (infinate source of creation), and I am not of those who associate such partners in worship!".

What Abraham actually did, in a reasonable and rational way, was he PROVED the existence of The Divine by realizing that all things that we experience in this world and this universe is finite (with beginning and end). He realized that the finite cannot be the ultimate source of other things finite. Only something infinite can be such a source. Another way of looking at it is the phenomenon of infinite regression. If there is nothing infinite, no divine, then the process of finite creating finite, as it does through natural processes, would keep going back and back and back and back, with no beginning...infinite regression. Therefore, there MUST, rationally and reasonably speaking, be an ultimate infinite source from which all of these processes started. Like if we say life was created out of the primordial ooze, then the earth created the primordial ooze, then the earth was born of the sun, and the sun was born of the center of the galaxy, and the galaxy was formed in the big bang, and the big bang happened because the entire universe was once a very small very dense bundle of mass and it exploded, well then what created that bundle of mass? What caused it to explode? Whatever created that bundle of mass, what created it? And then what created that? So on, and so on. It is unreasonable, irrational, and physically impossible for that to be the case. Also, the infinite and divine, MUST consequently be a single force. If there were multiple forces they would simply compete and by there very nature anything that one created the other would destroy. If you have two infinitely powerful forces than one force will always be infinitely capable of annihilating anything the other does and the same visa versa. So, that infinite force, The Divine, not only must only, but CAN only be ONE.

Therefore, the only TRUE religion. Is simply the recognition of that infinitely powerful, Divine force, and recognition of this fact leads one to the only logical action which is to submit oneself to that force. Not just because one wants to, but because one recognizes that we are in that Divine infinite forces grasp whether we recognize it and submit to it or not. If we conclude that the Divine necessarily exists, and that the Divine is and can ONLY be one, then the only true religion that we can credit with being "accurate" is one that directs the rational and thinking human being back to that fact. Any form of religion that calls humans towards anything else, is quite simply....nonsense. That's not to say that there aren't valuable lessons and morals in other religions, but they are deviations nonetheless if they call human beings toward worship or veneration of anything but The Infinitely Divine. So, if the only correct path is that which leads us directly to The Infinitely Divine, then does that path exist today? If so what religion is it? I know Muslims will say ISLAM! ISLAM! (like a kindergartner saying "oooo pick me! pick meeeee!). To that I'll say this......yes and no. What? Blasphemy you say?

Like I said, any and all religion that calls people to venerate or worship anything besides The Infinitely Divine is utter nonsense; whether it's Egyptians worshipping Pharaoh as a living god, Greeks worshipping stories of Zeus, Native Americans worshipping trees, Aboriginals worshipping a mountain, Secular Humanists and Atheists worshipping themselves, Jews worshipping their rabbis and priests, Christians worshipping Jesus Christ (peace and blessings be upon him) or.....ready.....MUSLIMS WORSHIPPING THEIR IMAMS (leaders) AND THEIR RELIGIOUS SYSTEM AS A WHOLE!

This is why you see Muslims rioting in the streets when someone makes a stupid cartoon of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh)! This is why Muslims blow themselves up in mosques during Friday prayers for stupid political nonsense! This is why Muslim women are subjected behind a wall when that was NOT the practice of the prophet! This is why we care more about how long a man's beard is or how short his pants are then how sincere our own prayers are! We have in many ways become a people who worship the "idea of being Muslim". We look to our religious system with its sciences and it's rules and regulations and worship that. All the while, we have forgotten what it REALLY means to worship The Infinitely Divine. By the way the literal translation of the term "The Infinitely Divine" into the Arabic language is "Allah". This is why that infinitely divine being referred to itself with that name in the Holy Qur'an. Allah has communicated the message of His Absolute Oneness throughout human history. As the Qur'an says...

"And for every nation there was a messenger..." (10:47)

From the first man Adam, to all the prophets that we know of and those that we don't know of, Allah has communed with his creation. He has called us back time and again. Through our father Adam, through Noah and the flood, through Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah, through Abraham and his gift of reason, through Moses and his gift of the Law, through David and his gift of song, through Jesus Christ the Messiah and through his mother Mary the most honored of all women, and through Muhammad the seal of prophecy to all mankind, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon them all. All of these individuals toiled their life for only one cause; one idea. To direct their people back to worship and communion with The Infinitely Divine; Allah. Not ONE of them called their people to worship them or anything BUT Allah.

So what was that verse again?

"And whosoever seeks a religion other than complete willful and peaceful submission and subservience to the Divine, it will not be excepted of him, and in the hereafter, he will be a loser"

Look into yourself; as I look into myself. Are we really sure that we are practicing Islam? Are we really sure that we are worshipping Allah and not just the idea of being Muslim? Are we really sure that the people in the church down the street aren't? Or in the synagogue across town? Or, might they actually be doing just that, submitting themselves to that Divine force, in the only way they know how?

About the People of the Book, the Christians and the Jews, Allah says in the Qur'an,

"Not all of them are alike. A party of the people of the book stand for right, they recite the verses of Allah in the wee hours of the night, prostrating themselves in prayer. The believe in Allah and the Last Day. They enjoin good and forbid evil, and they hasten in good works and they are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, nothing will be rejected of them. For Allah knows well those who are God fearing/God conscious" (3:113-115)

Remember my brothers and sisters, that the world is not all black and white. Not all non-Muslims are kufar, and likewise not all those who are called Muslims are really as such. Remember that worshipping Allah is not about our "religious system". It's not about what language we speak or where we come from. It's not even about where we worship. It's about finding that "proof" of Allah in our mind, and then seeking Allah in our heart, and seeking to commune with Allah. Close your eyes and imagine that image of "worshipping Allah as if you see Him". The next time you pray, visualize not only your master and owner, but Allah as your true love (Al Wadud) and your best friend (Al Wali) and feel his comforting embrace, for he tells us that to his servant, he is closer than our jugular vein. (50:16)

...And Allah Knows Best...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Worship God as If you See Him

In the name of Almighty God, Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. It is recorded in the Sahih al Bukhari or the most widely recognized authentic collection of prophetic sayings and traditions (aka the Hadith) that one day a man came to the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) while he was among his followers and asked the prophet, "What is Islam (complete, willful and peaceful submission to Almighty God)?" To which, the prophet replied, "Islam is to testify that there is nothing worthy of worship besides Almighty God alone with no partner, and that I (Muhammad) am the messenger of God (shahadah), to perform daily ritual prayer (5 times a day) in remembrance and glorification of God (salah), To give a small portion (2.5%) of one's accumulated wealth to needy as a means of purifying one's wealth (zakat), to engage in religious fasting during the holy month of Ramadan (siyam), and to make or have sincere intentions to make the great pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca at least once in one's life (hajj)." *theses are the actions that make a Muslim a Muslim*

The man then asked, "What is iman (faith)?" The prophet said, "Iman is to believe in Allah (God Almighty), to believe in his prophets (all those mentioned in the Qur'an as well as the Qur'anic notion that there were many more not mentioned; these include but are not limited to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and of course Muhammad, peace be upon them all), to believe in his books (the Torah revealed to Moses, the Zaboor or Psalms revealed to David, the Injil or Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Qur'an revealed to Muhammad), to believe in his Angels (those mentioned by name such as Gabriel but also the countless Angels not mentioned by name), to believe in the Day of Judgment (that all people will be judged for their actions in this life), and to believe in qadr (the belief that Allah knows all that is, has been, and will be). *These are the beliefs that make a Muslim a Muslim*

Then the man asked, "What is Ihsan (perfection)?" To this the prophet said, "Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, even when you don't see Him, but knowing that He always sees you".

After this the man went away and the prophet asked his followers who were present, "do you know who that was?" His followers said "the prophet of God knows better than us". The prophet then said, "That was the Angel Gabriel and he did that to teach you your religion".

This story teaches us, just as it did the prophets contemporaries, what being a Muslim is all about. It outlines what one must believe to be a Muslim and what one must do to be a Muslim, and this hadith is often quoted when teaching the basics of the five pillars of Islam and the six pillars of faith. However, we often don't spend as much time talking about the last part of this hadith "ihsan". The prophet said that it means to worship Allah as if you see Him, even when you don't see Him, and always knowing that He sees you. Etymologically speaking the word "ihsan" means "to perfect" or "excellence". So, in actuality, the prophet is describing here how one perfects their worship of God, i.e., by worshipping Him as if He's right there in front of you, watching you, because in reality, He is, but it's only our tiny stature in relation to Allah, and our limited sensory perception that Allah created us with that prevent us from ever actually "seeing" Allah in this life.

The word ihsan is used also throughout the Qur'an, often times coupled with the words "iman" or "islam" but also is often coupled with the word "taqwa". Allah said in the Qur'an,

"Allah is with those who have taqwa and are muhsinoon (those who have ihsan)" (Surah an Nahl: 128)

The word "taqwa" is often translated as "fear of God". It is the concept that people do good and avoid wrong action and sin, out of fear of the punishment of God. It can also be understand as having a sense of "God consciousness" or being ever aware of God's sovereignty over you and your life.

Ultimately this is the primary ingredient missing in most of our society today. Not just Muslim societies, and not just American society, but BOTH. God consciousness or "taqwa" and "ihsan" are concepts fundamental to Islam, but I believe carry over into ALL divinely revealed faith traditions (i.e. Judaism and Christianity).

The English philosopher John Locke (who was one of the primary influences on the thought of Thomas Jefferson), in speaking about Atheism in in his "Letter Concerning Toleration" (published in 1689) says, "promises, covenants, which are the oaths are the bonds of human society, can have no hold on an atheist". This of course being because atheist, necessarily, have no sense of accountability to anyone but themselves. Thus, atheists, according to Locke, can't be "tolerated" in society.

So many people only pray when others around them are praying. Many only give charity when it is socially "hip". Like when the earthquake hit Haiti. Then, everyone was giving a dollar here a dollar there, but where were they for the YEARS before that when Haiti was the most impoverished nation in the western hemisphere. Many Muslims that I see on my facebook page or in the local community wave Palestinian flags and brandish red, white, green and black colors when something like the flotilla disaster happens, but where are they the rest of the time? The same is true for folks who speak so passionately about Palestine but seem to neglect to mention Somalia, or the persecution of Christians in China, or other social atrocities.

The point is that for Muslims, and for that matter Christians, Jews and other God fearing people, our entire lives revolve around the worship of Almighty God, and when we say worship we're not just talking about dogmatic rituals, we're talking about serving humanity. Muslims are commanded to serve Allah by serving creation, and Christians are obliged to love all, even the sinners for that was the way of Jesus Christ (peace and blessings be upon him). We need not do that only when it is socially savvy or "in" to do so, but we need to remember, "worship God as if you see Him, even though you don't see Him, but know that He SURELY sees you". We ALL need to live knowing that God Almighty sees us both outwardly and inwardly, and when we are along others or alone. If we all did that, this world might be a little better place.

...And Allah Knows Best...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reflections on Tawheed (The Oneness of God)

In the name of Almighty God, Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Probably the most important part of our aqeedah or theology is the concept of tawheed, or the absolute oneness of Allah, God Almighty. It is the foremost important element of the deen or religion of Islam; more important than no drinking alcohol, more important than avoiding pork, more important than how you dress, and even more important than the daily ritual prayers which are regarded as the most important "act" that Muslims are required by Allah to do.

The original Muslims, meaning firstly the prophet Muhammad himself of course, his contemporaries who followed him (the sahaaba), the generation immediately following the sahaaba (taba'een) and the generation immediately following the taba'een (taba taba'een) are known now as they were then, as the greatest generations of Muslims, known as our righteous predecessors, or as they are commonly referred to in Arabic, the Salafi Saleh. This concept comes from the saying of the prophet himself, when he said, "the people of my generation will be the best (in religion), and then those after them, and then those after them". These Muslims not only knew the concept of tawheed very well, it was the entire essence of their being. Everything they did, said, thought and believed revolved solely around this concept.

As succeeding generations came and went, the concept of tawheed started to become lost in the practice of Islam, as more and more Muslims became more and more distant from those earliest generations. Many Muslims began to mix local custom (which largely contradicted tawheed) with elements of Islam. All of the divinely inspired faiths are unfortunately subject to this phenomenon. A prime example is how so many ancient pagan rituals of Druid Europe made their way into the common practice of Christianity such as Christmas trees and Easter bunnies. As this phenomenon began to influence Muslims, the scholars of the time realized a need to systematically teach the concept of tawheed so that as new peoples and even whole nations entered into Islam, they would have the ability to be educated on this most important of principals. After all, the first pillar of Islam is the declaration of "laa illaha ila Allah" or "there is none worthy of worship except God". So for any worship to be directed at anything besides Allah was fundamentally anti-Islam, and as such was many of the practices of Muslims of the day which included the worship of graves and the veneration of so-called "saints". In order to teach tawheed in a relatively easy to understand way, the scholars broke the concept down into three parts.

1. Tawheed ul Rubbubiyyah (The Oneness of God's Lordship).
This is the element of tawheed which recognizes that everything in existence belongs solely to Allah, and Allah ALONE has dominion and control over it. A common Qur'anic du'a (supplicatory prayer) laa hawla quwata illa billah (there is no power or might except Allah) is a dhikr, or statement of remembrance, that emphasises this element of tawheed. This is emphasised in the hadith or saying of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that, "if the whole universe came together to harm you, they would not be able to unless Allah has willed it, and likewise if the whole universe came together to benefit you, they would not be able to unless Allah has willed it". This element of tawheed means that anything and everything belongs to Allah; the trees, the animals, us, all of the things we've made like buildings and art and literature, and everything else belongs to Allah. The fourth pillar of Islam, zakat (giving of at least 2.5% of one's wealth to the poor) is actually an act of worship that reflects this element of tawheed. We are required to spend of our wealth on those that aren't so fortunate because doing so is a recognition that your wealth is not really YOUR wealth; it belongs to Allah. You are only entrusted with it. Those who hoard wealth, are actually committing shirk (idolatry) because they are taking their money as lord instead of Allah. They hoard wealth because they believe that the money will benefit them. Remember the above hadith, no amount of money will ever benefit you unless Allah wills it. Therefore, it's not the money that ever benefits you, it's only Allah. So, it is impossible for anyone with true faith in Allah, and true taqwa (God fearing-ness) to be stingy with money. Those that are are either very weak in faith, don't have faith in Allah at all, or are just ignorant of this most important concept of tawheed ul rubbubiyyah.

2. tawheed ul asmaa wa sifaat (the oneness of God's names and attributes):
This element of tawheed basically means that only Allah Himself has the right to describe Himself, and we as His creation have no right apply attributes of creation to Allah and we have no right to apply attributes of Allah to anything in creation. Allah says in the Qur'an,
"All of the most beautiful names belong to Allah, so call Him by them, and leave the company of those who belie or deny his names" (Qur'an 7:180) The reference to names is referring to what we commonly know as the 99 names of Allah. The names of Allah reflect various attributes of Allah. For example one of Allah's names is Al Waduud (The All Loving). The Arabic word waduud is the generic word for love, but when we put the "Al" ahead of it, it then becomes a proper noun and means that Allah is "the all loving, the epitome of love, absolute love beyond any notion of love understood by anything in creation". The principal of tawheed ul asmaa wa sifaat indicates that you can give the name 'waduud' to things in creation but nothing in creation can be given the name "Al Waduud", because that name only belongs to Allah. It is for this reason that Muslims who are often referred to as "Wahhabis" resent that term because "Al Wahhab" is one of the names of Allah. The name of the founder of that movement was named Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab meaning "Muhammad, the son of the servant of 'The Giver of All".
In this element of tawheed we CANNOT attribute characteristics to Allah that He does not attribute to Himself. For example, some people believe that Allah, God, is present in everything; present in His creation. Some believe that all elements of creation are essentially "pieces" of Allah. This concept did creep into Muslim thought and some still believe that, but it is a blatant violation of tawheed ul asmaa wa sifaat, because Allah in His own words in the Qur'an, clearly indicates His separation from creation. The famous ayat ul kursi or "verse of the throne" indicates that when it says,
"His throne extends over the Heavens and the Earth and he feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them".
Also Allah says in Surat al Ikhlaas or "the chapter of purity"

"Say: He is Allah, the ONE. The Eternal, The Absolute. He begets not, nor is He begotten, and THERE IS NONE IN CREATION COMPARABLE TO HIM.

Likewise the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) once asked a young girl where Allah was and she pointed to the sky. Muhammad (pbuh) then indicated that she was correct.

So, to attribute the notion that Allah is "in" His creation is a violation of tawheed ul asmaa wa sifaat. The key to this element of tawheed is "don't saying anything about Allah that He did not say about Himself, and don't say anything about anything in creation that Allah reserved for Himself".

3. tawheed ul 'uluheeyyah (The Oneness of God's Worship) This element of tawheed "seals the deal" is a sense. We can often get someone to fall in line with tawheed ul rubbubiyyah by them simply understanding that there is no power in all the universe other than Allah. Also we could relatively easily get people to understand that you can't say things about Allah that he didn't say about Himself and so on. However, both of those together don't make a Muslim a believer. Allah says in the Qur'an "Invoke not, nor pray to any Deity but Allah, there is no god but Him". (Qur'an 28:88) This means that our worship cannot be directed at anything or anyone except Allah, and Allah alone. Now, when we say "worship", we often think of ritual prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, sacrificing live-stock, and things like that. However worship is defined in Islam as "any act of invocation, seeking reward or aid from a Deity". Why do Muslims pray? Because Allah orders us to do so, so we do it for fear of His punishment for not doing it. Therefore we do it in order to seek reward or to seek protection in Allah from His anger. However, what about this; why do you obey the law? By law, I'm talking here about the law of the land, established by the government. We obey the law because if we don't we can be locked up right? Wrong. As Muslims, we must obey the law of the land because Allah orders us to do so when he says, "Obey Allah, His messenger, and those in authority over you". If we obey the law strictly in order to avoid being locked up or fined, then we are actually committing an act of shirk, because at that point we are taking the government as a lord besides Allah. This is where a lot of Muslims erroneously claim that we don't have to obey American laws because they are "kafir" laws (such as the law that states a man can only have one wife). This is a grave error because as the above verse states, we are required by ALLAH to obey those in authority over us, and it makes no reference to whether they are Muslims or Kufaar or People of the Book or whatever. As long as the law doesn't prevent you from practicing an essential part of Islam, you must obey (and marrying multiple wives is not 'essential'). Thus, obedience is also worship. We cannot show allegiance or obedience to anyone but Allah because to do so would be shirk (idolatry) and a violation of tawheed ul 'uluheeyyah. However, this is one of the main reasons why being a Muslim is so compatible with being an American. The US Declaration of Independence states that, "All men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator (Allah) with certain unalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". As such the American ideology recognizes that rights come from God, not government. In reality, without really knowing it, they stumbled upon the concept of tawheed ul 'uluheeyyah because they recognized that government doesn't give people rights, only God does, and therefore it is not the job of the government to "rule" the people (i.e. the government acting as God) but rather it is only responsible for protecting the peoples' access to those God given rights. In keeping with that the Pledge of Allegiance, which is essentially a bayyah (pledge of allegiance in Arabic/Islamic termonology) say,
"I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, indivisable, with liberty and justice for all". Notice the "one nation under GOD" line. Many Muslims claim it is haraam (forbidden) to recite this but I would argue otherwise based on this line, because the pledge recognizes that the republic isn't God, but it exists under God, subserviant to God, recognizing Allah's sovereignty over it, just as the founding fathers realized that government does not exist to "play God" but it exists to protect the peoples' relationship with God (note: there have been moves by many atheist groups to remove the 'one nation under God' line from the pledge. Insha'Allah they will fail, but if they succeed then it would indeed be haraam or forbidden for a Muslim to say it; in my opinion). It is for this reason that I would argue, and Allahu 'Alim I may be wrong, that the United States, at least in it's founding principal, is the MOST Islamic country in existence today, even though it was founded mostly by non-Muslims.
Tawheed ul 'Uluheeyyah is about obeying, invoking, and putting one's trust in NONE but Allah and Allah alone, and then by doing that we also have responsibility to obey those who Allah orders us to obey like the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), our parents and those in authority over us (our government). If one finds themself unable to practice Islam while still obeying the laws of the land, remember Allah's words

"When the angels take the souls of those who died in sin, they (angels) will ask 'in what plight were you in?' and they (the sinners) will reply 'we were weak and oppressed in this land'. The angels will ask, 'was Allah's earth not spacious enough that you might move away from evil?' Such people will find there abode in Hell; what an evil refuge!" (Qur'an 4:97)

In layman's terms, "if you don't like it here....LEAVE". In some countries like Communist China, Cuba or other nations, many Muslims may indeed have difficulties practicing essential parts of Islam. Unfortunately that is the case in many Muslim majority countries such as Turkey where women are barred from wearing the hijab in public offices and schools, and in the formally Taliban occupied Afghanistan where women were barred from seeking education (which is an obligation on all Muslims). Fortunately, for us in the US, there really aren't any legal barriers to us practicing Islam, but nonetheless if a Muslim feels that they are not able to live "Islamically" here in the US, then as Allah says, they can always leave.

In conclusion, tawheed is indeed the most important concept of all Islamic concepts. It is this concept that should be taught first to new Muslims. I know that it wasn't really among the first things I was taught. It should be the first thing taught because once it is engrained in the mind and heart and soul of the new Muslim, all other elements of Aqeedah (theology, doctrine, lifestyle) will fall easily into place. New Muslim sisters wont have an issue with wearing hijab if tawheed is firmly engrained in their hearts. New brothers wont have problems lowering their gaze from the "poisonous eye candy" of our modern society, and most of all, ALL Muslims will be much more united and focused on our common goals of promoting what is good and preventing evil as opposed to focusing so much on our small and petty differences. I say all this first as a reminder to myself to focus on these concepts of tawheed and to use it to work towards bettering myself and bettering my iman. Insha'Allah I hope that some of you may find some benefit or at least food for thought. And, anything that I have said that is wrong is strictly from my own flawed self, and anything in this that is good is solely from Allah the Most Glorious, and the Most High.

...Allah Knows Best...