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The idea that the world is composed of four or five elements (fire, water, earth, wind, and aether) was almost universal in the ancient world. The science and mythology of many ancient civilizations, from Greece to Japan, operated on this understanding.
While Islam is not really married to the idea of four elements (it is not supported in an explicit way in the Quran or hadiths), it is interesting to note that Islamic metaphysics and cosmology use this system.
This is especially the case in the spiritual world. The jinn are made from a smokeless Fire, the humans are made from Earth (Teen), and the soul (ruH) comes from the word for Wind (reeH). The Throne of Allah was settled upon Water (11:7), until that water was separated into the heavens and earth. The angels are from light (Noor, a word related to Nar).
Allah does not raise a prophet except that he speaks the language of his people. He may have used these literary devices to explain a realm that is ultimately beyond our understanding (ghayb). The Quran is a book that needs to be intelligible to people, especially when speaking on the unseen and unknown.
While the universe is simply not made up of H2O, the image of Water as a fluid, clear, shapeless structure is befitting to understanding the world. In physics, the concept of fields (gravitational, spatial) operate largely on fluid mechanics. “Water” is a chaotic substance that was then categorized, compartmentalized and distinguished into the world we know today.
Similarly, a simple sample of the water (saliva) in your body can create an entire profile of who you are: your DNA, and therefore, your family lineage, your appearance, your susceptibility to diseases, and even parts of your personality.
There are some things that are beyond literal and metaphorical. The dichotomy of literal and metaphorical is sometimes not just inaccurate, but harmful to our readings of scripture.
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[This will be a series of blog entries on the history of ShiaChat.com; how it was founded, major ups and down, politics and issues behind running such a site and of course, the drama! I will also provide some feedback on development efforts, new features and future goals and objectives]
Part 1 - The IRC (#Shia) Days!
Sit children, gather around and let me speak to you of tales of times before there was ever high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi, YouTube or Facebook; a time when the Internet was a much different place and 15 yearold me was still trying to make sense of it all.
In the 90s, the Internet was a very different place; no social media, no video streaming and downloading an image used to take anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on how fast your 14.4k monster-sized dial-up modem was. Of course you also had to be lucky enough for your mom to have the common courtesy not to disconnect you when you’re in the middle of a session; that is if you were privileged enough to have Internet at home and not have to spend hours at school or libraries, or looking for AOL discs with 30 hour free trials..(Breathe... breathe... breathe) - I digress.
Back in 1998 when Google was still a little computer sitting in Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s basement, I was engaged in endless debates with our Sunni brothers on an IRC channel called #Shia. (Ok, a side note here for all you little pups. This is not read as Hashtag Shia, the correct way of reading this is “Channel Shia”. The “Hashtag” was a much cooler thing back in the day than the way you young’uns use it today).
For those of you who don’t know what IRC was (or is... as it still exists), it stands for Internet Relay Chat, which are servers available that you could host chat rooms in and connect through a client. It was like the Wild West where anyone can go and “found” their own channel (chat room), become an operator and reign down their god-like dictator powers upon the minions that were to join as a member of their chat room. Luckily, #Shia had already been established for a few years before by a couple of brothers I met from Toronto, Canada (Hussain A. and Mohammed H.). Young and eager, I quickly rose up the ranks to become a moderator (@Ali) and the chatroom quickly became an important part of my adolescent years. I learned everything I knew from that channel and met some of the most incredible people. Needless to say, I spent hours and dedicated a good portion of my life on the chatroom; of course, the alternate was school and work but that was just boring to a 15-year-old.
In the 90’s, creating a website was just starting to be cool so I volunteered to create a website for #Shia to advertise our services, who we are, what we do as well as have a list of moderators and administrators that have volunteered to maintain #Shia. As a result, #Shia’s first website was hosted on a friend’s server under the URL http://786-110.co.uk/shia/ - yes, ShiaChat.com as a domain did not exist yet – was too expensive for my taste so we piggybacked on one of our member’s servers and domain name.
The channel quickly became popular, so popular that we sometimes outnumbered our nemesis, #Islam. As a result, our moderator team was growing as well and we needed a website with an application that would help us manage our chatroom in a more efficient style. Being a global channel, it was very hard to do “shift transfers” and knowledge transfers between moderators as the typical nature of a chatroom is the fact that when a word is typed, its posted and its gone after a few seconds – this quickly became a pain point for us trying to maintain a list of offenders to keep an eye out for and have it all maintained in a historical, easily accessible way.
A thought occurred to me. Why not start a “forum” for the moderators to use? The concept of “forums” or discussion boards was new to the Internet – it was the seed of what we call social media today. The concept of having a chat-style discussion be forever hosted online and be available for everyone to view and respond to at any time from anywhere was extremely well welcomed by the Internet users. I don’t recall what software or service I initially used to set that forum up, but I did – with absolutely no knowledge that the forum I just set up was a tiny little acorn that would one day be the oak tree that is ShiaChat.com.
[More to follow, Part 2..]
So who here is still around from the good old #Shia IRC days?
In Shiachat threads many years ago the argument was presented that the sums spent e.g. on the Imam Raza ((عليه السلام).) shrine could be better spent on various social services for Iranians. My counter argument at the time was that visiting the shrines was and is for many ordinary Iranians their only escape from the mundane aspects of everyday life.
In addition spending such sums on the social space meant that it could be consumed by all, rather than the few.
The British journalist and commentator George Monbiot has expressed this idea in a more general manner in order to defend sustainable consumption:Quote
Well, there is. There’s not enough space for a private luxury, but there is enough space for everyone to enjoy public luxury. If only we use the space more intelligently, there is enough space for everyone to enjoy magnificent public parks and public swimming pools and public museums and public tennis courts and public art galleries and public transport. By creating public space we create more space for everybody, whereas when we create private space, we exclude the majority of people and create less space for others.
The following is an article written by an educated uncle in the community. He requested I post it on here for others to benefit.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Away from tales and stories reported by narrators (humans) where we find contradictions and confusion, we will first talk to our minds in the light of the Quran. Many people that I have talked to were unaware that certain beliefs actually entail unacceptable consequences that sometimes lead to blasphemy (kufr) without them realizing it. We take lessons from the Quran. The best lesson is that of Iblis (Satan).
· What did Iblis (Satan) do to deserve Allah’s stern wrath and to be called Kafir by the Quran?
· Did he deny the existence of Allah?
· Did he refuse to worship Allah?
· No, none of the above.
· He only refused to fall prostrate to Adam? But it actually was the refusal of Allah’s command. He preferred his opinion to Allah’s command. He wanted to worship Allah the way he wants, not the way Allah wants.
The Quran says in Chapter 7 (Al-A’raaf), Verse 12:
قَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسْجُدَ إِذْ أَمَرْتُكَ ۖ قَالَ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِن طِينٍ
[Allah] said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?" [Satan] said, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay."
· We are free in this world to chose to obey Allah’s commands or disobey them.
· Those who knowingly refuse the commands of Allah, particularly the major commands that constitute the pillars of faith, and die with it, are likely to be treated in a similar manner.
· It is very serious. The consequence is rather dire.
The Quran says in Chapter 33 (Al-Ahzaab), Verse 36:
وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ ۗ وَمَن يَعْصِ اللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُّبِينًا .
It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error.
The Quran says in Chapter 10 (Yunus), Verse 44:
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ ٱلنَّاسَ شَيْـًٔا وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱلنَّاسَ أَنفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ
Indeed, Allah does not wrong the people at all, but it is the people who are wronging themselves.
Things We All Agree Upon
To have a proper understanding of what happened after the death of the Prophet, and the truth about the Sahabah, we need to keep in mind few points. We all agree about these points. Hence, we will reference them when necessary and when required.
1. Islam is a complete religion. No additions are allowed under any pretext or justification. We only require the right interpretation of the Qur’an, which was given by the Prophet himself who explained everything. The question remains is: in the midst of contradictions and confusion, who actually carries this right interpretation of the Qur’an?
The Quran says in Chapter 5 (Al-Ma'idah), Verse 3:
الْيَوْمَ أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ وَأَتْمَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ نِعْمَتِي وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ الإسْلامَ دِينًا
This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.
واتاكم من كل ماسألتموه
And He giveth you of all ye ask of Him
- Is governing not an issue that we may ask about?
- Shouldn’t we find it in the Quran? And in a very clear way.
- So that as Allah says in the Quran says in Chapter 8 (Al-Anfaal), verse 42:
وَلَٰكِن لِّيَقْضِيَ اللَّهُ أَمْرًا كَانَ مَفْعُولًا لِّيَهْلِكَ مَنْ هَلَكَ عَن بَيِّنَةٍ وَيَحْيَىٰ مَنْ حَيَّ عَن بَيِّنَةٍ ۗ وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَسَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
But [it was] so that Allah might accomplish a matter already destined - that those who perished [through disbelief] would perish upon evidence and those who lived [in faith] would live upon evidence; and indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing.
3. Allah sent the Prophet and Quran to manifest justice. The Quran says in Chapter 14 (Al-hadid), verse 25:
لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ
We have already sent Our messengers with clear evidences and sent down with them the Scripture and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice.
Also, in Chapter 3 (Aal-Imran), verse 18:
شَهِدَ ٱللَّهُ أَنَّهُۥ لَآ إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَٱلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةُ وَأُوْلُواْ ٱلْعِلْمِ قَآئِمًۢا بِٱلْقِسْطِ ۚ لَآ إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ
Allah witnesses that there is no deity except Him, and [so do] the angels and those of knowledge - [that He is] maintaining [creation] in justice. There is no deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.
Also, in Chapter (Al-aaida), verse 44:
وَمَنْ لَمْ يَحْكُمْ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْكَافِرُونَ
And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the disbelievers.
4. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) has given us hands, legs, tongs, eyes etc. He told us how to use them in the right way and get rewarded, and refrain from using them in evil ways.
5. Likewise, Allah also has given us the brain/mind and thinking power to differentiate between right and wrong. Furthermore, He told us to use the mind in the proper way to get to the truth of things. There are tens of verses in the Holly Quran in this regard. If we do not use our mind in the right way, and make mistakes or sins, we will be questioned about them by Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى). This is a very serious matter that most people do not pay attention to. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) sent the Prophets and holy books so that people obey his orders. Allah does not play games.
It is also noted that when people are prejudiced towards some opinion (or persons) and are not fully objective in their treatment of any subject, in particular that of religion, the mind will be clouded and will not be able to arrive at the truth. The prejudice acts like a wall or barrier preventing the mind from reaching the truth. In most cases people are unaware of this barrier.
We now ask some questions and try to find answers to them in the light of the Quran and the above verses. Let us see what the questions below entail (while people are oblivious of it).
From point 3 above, Allah sent the holy books so that justice is served and preserved. This justice is Allah’s justice, not a human interpretation of justice. Worshiping Allah the right way (the way He wants, not the way we want) is the ultimate justice. Other things stem from this, since obeying all Allah’s Commands is part of this justice. Justice is paramount. Everything is related to justice and hinges on it.
Is governing part of this justice? Absolutely. Governing in a just Islamic way is what Allah ordered us to do. He sent all his Prophets, including our Prophet, for the sole purpose of justice.
Did the Prophet leave a will, or did he not?
To say he did not, implies that he disobeyed the Quran and Allah. It also implies that he ordered people to make their wills yet he did not. This further implies that the Prophet was a hypocrite and disobedient to Allah, which no Muslim can accept, or even dares to entertain.
Hence, he must have left his will.
The Prophet had two wills to make:
· One as a Muslim leaving his will to his family. We will not indulge in this here now because it is not our current discussion.
· The other is his will as the head of the Islamic state (or Islamic community) and this will is for the well being of Muslims. This will must have been obvious to all Muslims. It is the Command of Allah. The Prophet must have told the Muslims abundantly and in a very obvious way how to govern themselves after his death to maintain justice and to protect Islam and themselves. This is so important for Islam (the last and complete religion) to continue to the end of time. Also, it must have been a direct order from Allah, whose revelation included everything people need, and should be found obvious in the Quran if Islam is a complete religion. So, what is this will? And where is it?
· Furthermore, one may contemplate the question: Didn’t any of the Muslims ask the Prophet how they are to govern themselves after him? What about the Sahabah who are held at such a high status? Didn’t any of them ask the question?
· Questions we as Muslims may ask:
- Did the Prophet appoint a person as his successor? If so, who is he?
- If not, did he appoint a counsel to select the ruler? If so, who are they?
- Did he set up an Islam method of how to elect the ruler?
- If he had left choosing the ruler to the Muslims (and the Sahabah) to decide, did he tell them how to do it?
- Did he tell them the proper Islamic system of election? Or did he leave them to be confused about such a paramount issue?
- Why would he leave them without clarifying to them what to do?
- Is this expected of a wise person, let alone the last Prophet of Allah?
- If there is Islamic system of election, where can we find it?
- Are there any hadiths on this issue, since it is so important, and the Muslims were divided because of it?
- Since governing is paramount in Islam for justice to prevail (as we mentioned above) why can’t we find proper and abundant fiqh derived directly from the Quran and hadiths about it?
- If none of the above, then it would appear that Islam is not a complete religion as the Quran, and the Muslims claim.
- Is this acceptable?
- Why is this subject so unclear and engulfed by so much confusion, while the Prophet told us everything else, even how to wash when we go to the toilet?
- Is this confusion deliberate?
- Who is behind it? And who benefited from it?
· What about Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى)? Did He leave this important issue without clarification to the Muslims (who are humans and can make mistakes) without telling them what to do, and how to do it?
· If so, then if there is injustice due to the wrong choice of ruler, we should blame Allah for not showing us the way.
- Is this acceptable?
- Isn’t it kufr to believe that?
· If this is not acceptable, and we believe it is not, then we should categorically claim that the solution is available somewhere. And in a very clear way.
Every Conceivable Probability
Every conceivable probability, reasoning and justification are acceptable, no matter how illogical they are, except the one probability that the Prophet named a person to be after him. This probability is never logical, never included, and never accepted. As if the Prophet had no right, or did not know how, to select a good Sahabi to succeed him.
The Sunnah of the Prophet
The Sunna of the Prophet is everything he said, did or gave tacit approval to.
For those who believe that the Prophet left choosing the ruler to the Muslims (and the Sahabah) to decide, then it is a sunnah, and should be followed and abided by. Also, this sunnah must be Allah’s order and command, because the Prophet applies the Quran to the letter. It should not be disobeyed.
· Why did Abu Bakr not abide by this Sunnah when he appointed Omar to rule after him? Is this not disobeying the sunnah?
· Is this a new phenomenon that was not part of the Islam of the Prophet (i.e. a bid’ah) that Abu Bakr invented?
· Is disobeying the sunnah, not disobeying Allah?
· Also, when Omar accepted to be appointed, is this not disobeying the sunnah, and the command of Allah?
· Omar, in turn, appointed a group of 6 people to choose the successor after him:
- Is this not disobeying the sunnah and the command of Allah?
- Where did this number 6 come from?
- Is this number 6 available in the Quran or sunnah?
- How were these 6 people selected out of the rest of the Sahabah?
- From an Islamic point of view, what are the virtues and abilities of these 6 people to be eligible as rulers?
- Is there anything about that in the fiqh books?
- Were there no other Muslims worthy of including in this group?
- Where is this information available?
· The Imam Ali was the leader of the Muslim army during the time of the Prophet. Is this not a sunnah?
· Why is it that the first three Kalifas did not abide by it?
· Where is the military role of Imam Ali during their reign?
For those who say that Abu Bakr appointed Omar because the situation required it. We may ask:
· Abu Bakr’s actions major decisions should all be Islamic. Is appointing a ruler after his death Islamic?
· Is it in the Quran?
· Is it a Sunnah?
· Did the Prophet give Abu Bakr this right?
· When the Prophet died, was the Muslim situation so good that they did not need the Prophet to appoint a successor for him? Or at least an advice for them as to what to do?
· What about the fact that the Ansar and Muhajireen (who assembled in Saqifat Bani Sa’ida and were discussing who should be the ruler for three days) drew their swards and almost killed each other due to the fact that the arguments and disagreements between them were so high, while the Prophet’s body was still not buried?
· Did this situation not warrant the Prophet to advise them about it?
· Did the Prophet know this would happen?
· Did Allah not tell the Prophet that this would happen, and what to do to evert it?
· Was is it proper for the Sahabah to meet for three days to argue about this issue (meeting and arguing for three days means there was a big disagreement between them), leaving the Prophet body not buried?
· Imagine the Sahabah meeting for the first whole day. During this day they would go home to eat then come back to the meeting (perhaps more than once). They go to the toilet. They pray etc. They go home to sleep, then come back to the meeting. They did this for three days, and the body of the Prophet is left without them attending to it (except Imam Ali, the Prophet’s family, and a few notable Sahabah who did not attend the meetings).
· Was this proper of the powerful Sahabah to do?
· Is this a show of respect to the Prophet, who is the beloved of Allah, the Creator of all things?
The Guardianship of Islam
Guardianship goes beyond ruling. In fact, ruling is part of this guardianship, and the guardian must be the ruler, otherwise how can he have the required influence and authority to protect Islam and the Muslims?
· Who was the guardian of Islam?
· Naturally the Prophet himself was the guardian.
· Who made him the guardian?
· Allah did, since Allah is the ultimate guardian. Islam is Allah’s religion.
· Did Islam need a guardian after the Prophet?
· Who is the guardian after the Prophet death?
· Who appoints him? Shouldn’t it be God since it is His religion, and He is the one who knows the best person for the task?
Most Muslims at the time of the Prophet were new to Islam. Some entered into Islam only few years before the Prophet died. Most people did not know how to read or write, and needed someone to explain the Quran and the rules to them. Understanding the Quran and its explanation is not a simple matter that one can take lightly. Even at our present time, with the high education available, we still need someone specialised to explain the Quran properly. There has to be one person, or a group of Sahabah, who should have been able to do that.
But there is a problem:
What about if the Sahabah make a mistake? Is the correct interpretation lost forever? In other words; the real Islam is lost for ever.
For the person, or group of Sahabah, to be such that they don’t make a mistake,
· This person, or a group of Sahabah, must be chosen by the Prophet himself because he is the only one who knows the eligible person, or persons, for the task.
· But how does the Prophet know?
· He must be told by Allah. In other words, it is the command of Allah.
· Then, the guardian, or guardians, must be chosen by Allah who knows the eligible ones to guard his accepted religion.
· Hence, guardianship is Allah’s appointment. This point is of paramount importance that we need to pay attention to.
· It cannot be perceived that Allah leaves such an important issue to humans, who can make mistakes, to decide.
Some may say that a group of Sahabah will make sure that they tell each other and make sure that Islamic rules are preserved.
The question, then, becomes:
· How may Sahabah are required to make sure that Islam is preserved?
· Who choses these Sahabah?
· And who are these Sahabah?
· Some say if ten Sahabah (as a minimum) agree on a verse in the Quran, then it is right, and that how the Muslims put the Quran together during the time of the Khalifah Uthman.
· Why ten?
· Is this an infallible number?
· Who decided on the ten?
· Where did this magic number come from?
· Is it in the Quran? No.
· Is it the order of Allah? No.
· Did the Prophet say it? No.
· This also entails, for us Muslims, that the number ten should be acceptable for any other subject. Is this acceptable?
· If none of the above, then we discard the tales related to this number, particularly with regards to putting the Quran together during the time of the Khalifah Uthman.
· Furthermore, these people are telling us the number of people is more important than one actually knowledgeable person. Shouldn’t the level of expertise be more important than the number of people?
The Quran says in Chapter 62 (Al-Jumu’a), verse 11:
وَإِذَا رَأَوْا تِجَارَةً أَوْ لَهْوًا انفَضُّوا إِلَيْهَا وَتَرَكُوكَ قَائِمًا ۚ قُلْ مَا عِندَ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ مِّنَ اللَّهْوِ وَمِنَ التِّجَارَةِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الرَّازِقِينَ
But when they saw a transaction or a diversion, [O Muhammad], they rushed to it and left you standing. Say, "What is with Allah is better than diversion and than a transaction, and Allah is the best of providers."
Surat Al-Jumu’a was revealed to the Prophet on the sixth year of Hijrah. That is 5 years before the Prophet died. Even then, most Muslims (except few, and it is said 12 of them) used to leave him while he was delivering the Juma’a speech of the Juma’a prayer to go to worldly things, to the extent that necessitated Allah to dress them down.
People say all the Sahabah maintain justice and piousness. So, whoever you follow, you will be guided. This is in direct contradiction to the above verse.
This is also in direct contradiction to Chapter 63, in the Quran: المنافقون Al-Munaafiqoon (The Hypocrites). This chapter clearly says that there were hypocrites who were part of what we now call Sahabah (since Sahabah are defined as anyone who saw the profit even once).
The Quran says in Chapter 9 (At-Tawba), verse 101:
وَمِمَّنْ حَوْلَكُم مِّنَ ٱلْأَعْرَابِ مُنَٰفِقُونَ ۖ وَمِنْ أَهْلِ ٱلْمَدِينَةِ ۖ مَرَدُواْ عَلَى ٱلنِّفَاقِ لَا تَعْلَمُهُمْ ۖ نَحْنُ نَعْلَمُهُمْ ۚ سَنُعَذِّبُهُم مَّرَّتَيْنِ ثُمَّ يُرَدُّونَ إِلَىٰ عَذَابٍ عَظِيمٍۢ
And among those around you of the Bedouins are hypocrites, and [also] from the people of Madinah. They have become accustomed to hypocrisy. You, [O Muhammad], do not know them, [but] We know them. We will punish them twice [in this world]; then they will be returned to a great punishment.
Prophet Moses and the Israelites
The events of the Prophet Moses with the Israelites that the Quran tells us are eye opening examples.
The Israelites saw with their own eyes how Prophet Moses split the sea with his stick. They crossed the sea to safety while the water was high around them. No one told them the event as a story. It happened to them first hand. Only a few days later when Moses left them to converse with Allah, they gathered the gold from women. Every woman donated her gold to make a calf, and worship it.
The Quran goes on about other stories of the Israelites with Prophet Moses.
Most people think that this behavior is a characteristic of the Israelites. They forget that the Israelites are humans like everybody else, and that this behavior is a human behavior of those who are either not believers, or they are new to the belief and don’t fully understand it.
The Quran tells as many stories about the people of the Prophets.
Why do Muslims think that the new Muslims during the time of the Prophet Muhammed are any different while the Quran, and the Prophet himself told them that they will behave no different from the people before them.
The Quran says in Chapter 3 (AaL Imraan), verse 144:
وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَفَإِنْ مَاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انْقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَى أَعْقَابِكُمْ وَمَنْ يَنْقَلِبْ عَلَى عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَنْ يَضُرَّ اللَّهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيَجْزِي اللَّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَ
Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So, if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.
My eyes tear up at this kalaam... O Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى)... Please reveal Imam Mahdi (عليه السلام) soon and make us amongst his supporters...
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I am alone at home for the week. Mom has gone to visit my aunt & uncle in New York state. I'm happy for her because she hasn't gone on a vacation since before COVID19 began it's rampage through America; so it's good that she's getting to visit them. She'll be visiting with my cousin Hannah as well. However, it's just me here with the cats (after all someone had to stay around to feed, water, scoop, and spend time with them). I have the house to myself for a week. Just me, completely alone and that got me thinking about my progress in Islam.
There is a masjid here in town. A Sunni masjid but a masjid nonetheless. I have gone there before when I was first investigating Islam, but not since I have decided to follow the Shia. I wanted to attend Jummah today, but the masjid is still closed because of COVID19. Unfortunately, even if the masjid was open, I can only think that I would be castigated by nitpicking brothers for how I pray, the way I perform the wudhu, and have to get into debates that I am not prepared for (and don't want to get into) as to why I "pray the wrong way" and how I am a heathen, so on and so forth. There is no Shia Islamic Center anywhere remotely close to my hometown. The closest one is 120 miles to the north of me and that's simply too far to drive for a Jummah service every week with the price of gas being what it is and me not even working at the time being (as well as not being able to leave the county without permission, but we won't get into that).
It makes me lonely as a revert. A revert who is the only Muslim in his family, let alone his household. I read through the Quran, sure but a lot of brothers and sisters have and many of them many more times that I already have. I have no background with the Hadith and don't know how to determine which are reliable, which I am allowed to use, and how to read them. I have no older brothers who can mentor me in Islam, as I feel like I am the only Shia in the area even if that is not true. What I liked about being a Christian, despite the glaring theological problems with Christianity, was the community and fellowship that was available to me at any of the hundreds of churches in the area. There were older Christians who could mentor me in the faith, Bible studies that were run that I could attend, service work in the community I could participate in... the communal aspect of religion is very important; but sadly I do not have any of those luxuries right now whether it's because of the town I live in or whether it's because I'm in the minority of an already minority religion in America. On one hand, I find myself wishing that Islam in America was like Christianity while on the other hand, for reasons I'll not get into here that I've already outlined in numerous threads, I thank Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) that it is different entirely. Shia Islam, despite being the minority of a minority in America, has yet to become infected and corrupted the way that Christianity has and inshallah, it never will. Inshallah, Islam in America will truly grow in to the "fastest growing religion" and will bring about a revival of traditional values and morality that this country desperately needs.
But before that day comes, what is there that can be done?
The answer: cling closely to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى), the example of the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) and the Glorious Quran. Read it every day without ceasing, when you finish the final surah-- go back to the beginning and start over again. Make your five daily prayers wherein you spend time with Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) and for those five wonderful times throughout the day, spend time before Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى). Recite the Tasbih. Renew your Wudhu always. Read Islamic literature and watch Khutbas, and offer dua that Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) might bring you some upright brothers to fellowship and pray along with, who encourage you as you encourage them. Perfect your prayers (which can be quite the challenge for Westerners with no background in Islam or Arabic). Enjoin good and forbid evil. Do the little things for family and friends to let Allah's (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) light shine through you and make this world a better place.
Being alone in your deen can be rough, it can certainly test your resolve to stay on the right path. Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) never tests you beyond what he knows that you can handle and like steel in a furnace, these tests are to refine you into something more beautiful. Alhamdulillah.
"And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him...."
Each and every creation (makhlooq) in this universe has a natural innate attachment with the creator. Every being that is created, itself carries a signature of the creator in every form and shape and also submits to the reality of existence of its creator. This is not something for which a creature needs something from outside his being. His existence itself contains those elements that lead his way towards his creator. If we try to specify those elements within a human being, our first attention goes towards the conscience (fitrah) of a human being. This conscience is captured in our soul and is completely intrinsic to our being. The spirit is the being which is the home of conscience while body is just the outer representation of our being.
Our conscience is the one which tells us the right and wrong and all such moral principles. Hence, it needs to have an orientation or inclination. Orientation will set a direction for a being and finally a direction will have no end without an inspiration. So, basically, every spirit has a conscience which sets the moral principles and in order to do that, we ultimately and naturally need an ultimate inspiration. The entity that might act as an inspiration can have a scope. But there needs to be one entity, neither more nor less, which needs to be above every entity. To explain this mess, I would like to take an example of a student pursuing a career:
Let's suppose that a person has an orientation of caring and healing others. A sudden thought comes to his/her mind that he/she should become a doctor. Also, he/she defines certain objectives to achieve his/her career. This is the direction that was taken according to the orientation. According to the scope of final objective, inspiration or motivation is also recognized. And finally, he/she goes to the school and college and studies to become a doctor which is the path to reach the inspiration.
If we carefully notice this example, everything is clear-as-sky that the career path selected is due to the orientation which acts as a cause and it is pointing towards a direction to become something which is guided by the inspiration. And the inspiration here can be multiple but one, the ultimate is definitely needed. So, that states our point of view that the idea of God is an idea of ultimate inspiration which is undeniable if we have a conscience that is willing to set it's moral principles. Now, because taking care of morality is intrinsic to our conscience, the idea of god is also intrinsic and an innate reality which cannot be denied by our conscience.
This argument stated above begs a question. What about the conscience of a person who denies the existence of God? The simple answer is that it is impossible. Because it is not our words that testify to the idea of God but it is our conscience and our conscience doesn't work exactly according to us. Every being has an ultimate inspiration within his self. If someone denies that ultimate inspiration, his self will start recognizing something else as an inspiration and if he still denies this new inspiration then his self will cling to something else and so on. So, denying the idea of God means ultimately denying the idea of existence or submitting to something at some point by stopping the loop of denial. My physics teacher in school once said that most of the scientists our athiests and they don't believe in god. But he was forced to conclude his statement by saying that there god is nature. So, one can say that 'his idea of god is different than others' but cannot deny the idea itself. So, we conclude that atheism by definition has no value and it is fundamentally impossible to deny the existence of God. And the Holy Quran states in this context:
"The seven heavens declare His glory and the earth (too), and those who are in them; and there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorification; surely He is Forbearing, Forgiving." Al Isra (17:44)
The above verse shows how the idea of God is within every creation. And another verse which states that how our conscience says opposite to what a proponent of athiesm might say:
"Read your book; your own self is sufficient as a reckoner against you this day." Al Isra (17:14)
Our self definitely contains this fundamental idea of god and that is the reason it will be a proof against us finally. Also, Imam Ali (عليه السلام) states, "The one who recognized his self, recognized his lord" implying that ultimately our self consists all those fundamentals we need to understand the idea of God in its entirety. So, now let us go further to address what is left with us.
We see that ultimately we now have to see what can be the possible reality of God. And we shall only use the most basic rational ways to reach the results inshallah. We can easily think of some possiblilities. Either God is one or more than one. Within these two broad categories of reality of God lies a long list of classifications. We are not going to mention them as it is not at all necessary to ponder on each and every speculation regarding these categories. Definition of more than one gods is followed in the polytheistic systems. This is a possibility but let us match this idea with what our self testifies. It doesn't matter for us over here whether Gods are two, three or more than that but the fact of the matter is that does our pure and perfect self which is the essence of our being accept it? Our self contains the innate idea of God which must be an ultimate inspiration. Can we have more than one ultimate inspiration? If we have many inspirations within our idea of God, those inspirations should either be absolutely equal or they should differ from each other. If they are equal then why are they having multiple forms? There multiple forms is a proof of the fact that they are different. Even if there forms are identical in a way that they are exactly a replica of each other then they cannot be absolute or independent. Because a replica needs to have an original version which means it depends on it's original form and that implies that it is not absolute but rather relative to the existence of the original version. Another proof is there similarlity which itself testifies that they are not unique.
So, absoluteness with exact equality is impossible and hence we are left with another option that they are different. Now, being different is itself a proof that one inspiration is better than another and one is best of all of them. So, again the multiplicity of the inspiration will finally melt down into a single inspiration which is best of all of them. We see this in the polythiestic faiths where one god is better than other and one of them is best of all. Because establishing such an idea is possible but it will not sustain. It will finally break into a hierarchy. This defeats the argument of multiple gods. As the gods which are different, comparative and have a hierarchy can be an inspiration but not ultimate inspiration. Our soul is traversing on a path which should end up on the absolute, the ultimate inspiration and objective rather than a passer-by-checkpoint or a short term goal. A doctor will never settle alone with a medical science degree. He/she will explore more unless and until he reaches a point where he doesn't need to strive further.
The Holy Quran challenges the idea of multiple gods or even a lower form of god by stating:
Do not associate with Allah any other god, lest you sit down despised, neglected. Al Isra (17:22)
This verse is not neglecting the possibility of a human being to accept multiple gods but rather it is clarifying that one would not achieve and would be finally neglected and despised if they do so. Because, naturally it means lowering the bar of the objective and inspiration which will be problematic for none but the self of the person as his soul will loose the ability to explore, think and ascend further. Finally, submitting to something less than the ultimate inspiration actually means submitting to someone who carries it's own inspiration. As Quran says:
"Those whom they call upon, themselves seek the means of access to their Lord-- whoever of them is nearest-- and they hope for His mercy and fear His chastisement; surely the chastisement of your Lord is a thing to be cautious of." Al Isra (17:57)
So, we notice how beautifully these verses state which is extremely fundamental to our souls. How these verses convert the fundamentals of every being into words and negate the reality of polythiestic ideologies. The verses of Quran are definitely speaking the voice of our self here which we don't listen. Concluding the above argument, we stand clear that atheism is impossible and an athiest has a god which he submits but is unaware of his own submission. And polytheism which might be a possible inclination will vanish if we deeply ponder upon the fundamentals of our self. We will understand if we ponder carefully that all the entities that we accidently thought of as gods were short of being an ultimate inspiration.
Now, if we enter into the realm of monotheism, we again need to deal with several questions. Now, the focus of discussion has shifted from 'what is the suitable idea of god?' to 'how should we define a single inspiration/God?' There can be a few possibilities. But those possibilties are not what we are looking to identify but rather what our soul will find to be the best. We need to understand that we are not forcing our conscience to accept something which is not asked for and is inferior. The concept of a single inspiration is proven but that inspiration should fit into the exact criteria of what our conscience fundamentally wants. It was stated in the above discussion that there must be atleast one ultimate inspiration above all that should suffice the requirement of our final destiny or objective on this journey of our soul. Further, we also stated while having an argument on polytheism that inspiration can be comparative and different but such inspiration cannot be considered ultimate inspiration. It might be the best among all but if it is comparable then it is not unique. Our ultimate inspiration should be one, unique, independent and above everything while being the origin of everything. Can an entity within the realm of creation fulfill such a criteria? Can we call a creation, an origin of other creation? Even if this creation is not known to us or it is something really amazing and out of the box? The problem over here is that, whatever it might be, it is still a creation and hence it doesn't fulfills the criteria of being above all. Because, it lies withing the realm of creation and is remotely comparable to something even if the comparison is not that close. A star we see in the sky might be a million light years apart but the distance is still finite and it can be compared to other stars because it is has all the features of a star. So, this short example shows that our conscience will never settle with an ultimate inspiration which is not unique in all aspects and has nothing remotely similar. One might say, what about this universe as a single entity? Well, this universe is a system which is dependent upon several physical forces and natural phenomenas and if we contemplate the origin of these forces we are left with a question mark. It doesn't suffice the criteria of the self that the inspiration should be independent. So, whatsoever we might imagine and regardless of how much we move ahead, our self searches for more.
We our left with nothing but to take an option of this ultimate inspiration which is away from all bounds. This process of reasoning to reach the final conclusion is quite clear in the Holy Book (Qur'an) where Prophet Ibrahim (عليه السلام) says:
So when the night over-shadowed him, he saw a star; said he: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: I do not love the setting ones.
Then when he saw the moon rising, he said: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: If my Lord had not guided me I should certainly be of the erring people.
Then when he saw the sun rising, he said: Is this my Lord? Is this the greatest? So when it set, he said: O my people! surely I am clear of what you set up (with Allah).
Al Anaam (6:76-78)
As Imam Ali (عليه السلام) states the definition of that one god, the ultimate inspiration below:
Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators and whose claim (to obedience) cannot be satisfied by those who attempt to do so, whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate, and the divings of understanding cannot reach; He for whose description no limit has been laid down, no eulogy exists, no time is ordained and no duration is fixed. He brought forth creation through His Omnipotence, dispersed winds through His Compassion, and made firm the shaking earth with rocks......
He is a Being, but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.
(excerpts of Nahj ul Balagha sermon 1)
As Amir al Mumineen (عليه السلام) defines, this is the ultimate destiny and inspiration our self is looking for and this is the only inspiration which can set pure moral standards for our conscience. Hence, this is the best and most beautiful definition of monotheism as it is testified by the soul and it is fundamental and intrinsic within ourselves.
Concluding this entire discussion now, we reach a conclusion which is solely given to us by our pure soul and our conscience. Similar to this, as described in the above verses, every particle in this entire universe is in complete servitude to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) (the ultimate inspiration). Hence, while setting up moral principles, they should be derived from this inspiration and nothing else. Such should be the fundamental of the religion of our conscience. Therefore, monotheism in theory and in action is our fundamental principle whether we accept it or deny it. As the verse below says:
"Whoever goes aright, for his own soul does he go aright; and whoever goes astray, to its detriment only does he go astray...." Al Isra (17:15)
At last, the acting upon this principle just means pure servitude. We end on where we started. Serving the commandment of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) is the only way to act upon the principle of monotheism and for this Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) has given commandments in his book of principles i.e Quran. Along with this he has brought the guiding inspirations which are not the ultimate inspirations but just the checkpoints on the path. Not the destiny but the bridge that connects to destiny. These are the prophets and Ahlulbayt (عليه السلام). This is just a brief Islamic point of view to elaborate the principle of monotheism and not necessarily the scope of our discussion for now. In this way we conclude our discussion by claiming from the purity of our soul that:
"Verily, we belong to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) and verily to him do we return."
[Al Baqarah (2:156)]
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Hello.First book I would to anyone who is looking to fight with his Nafs is to read book Self Building by Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini.It is published in urdu as well.
A few words about my experience.I found this book tough to get through.I stopped in the middle two times before finally finishing it.Well worth the time spent.
The author develops his arguments by going through material and immaterial aspects of our existence.
After this short introduction the book is divided into three parts namely self refinement, self perfection and finally means of perfection.
I would prefer you go through it slowly highlighting parts and rereading them at times. Here is link to english edition.
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A ferocious warrior, a soft spoken sage,No other man could be both in any era or age,A servant so humble, an emperor so great,Never has a man possessed both traits so innate,
The father of orphans, the prince of a nation,
Two faces in this world which have no relation,
And yet, my Master, you were all of these things,
Everything and more, your virtues gushing like springs,
A man has only one heart, so how were you, you?
How are you everything, how can you be true?
I sat at the gate of my heart just as you sat at yours,
And He showed me how all this in your heart flows.
For if a man sits as watchful as you of his heart,
And no iota of doubt can take it apart,
Then that man is not certain, but certainty itself,
And if he defeats the whole of disbelief alone,
Then that man is not faithful, but the very faith itself,
And if you lifted the gate which forty men couldn't,
Then you are not strong but rather strength itself,
And if you demonstrate the impossible,
Then surely you are the hand of God Himself,
And I have no words to describe your words,
Suffice to say you are the word of God itself.
An eternity could pass yet your mystery will always be,
You are the blinding light that allows us to see,
The deafening truth that allows us to hear,
The saint whom we call in any worry or fear,
No words can describe you and no mind can perceive,
Your justice no judge or wise man can achieve,
And your lineage...where can I even begin?
Divinity and godliness and cures are found therein,
And why not, when their mother is their mother,
The radiant soul, and there will never be another,
And your light is the light of God's most adored,
The messenger you guarded with your life and your sword,
You are Ali- elevated in every way,
Second to none but one, no matter what they say,
The spark that ignites every beat of my heart,
The beauty of both worlds- God's own work of art,
The victor in battle and of the hearts of the pure,
Your allegiance is the promise of a future secure,
Your name is my cure in affliction and pain,
And I will call out to you again and again,
Let them mock and deny and say what they please,
I'll smile as you rescue me from hardship to ease.
Tonight and always, my heart overflows,
Your love is infinite and within me it grows,
The more I know you, the less I can contain,
Abu Thar was in love- he wasn't insane,
A badge of honour and a mark of pride,
He couldn't conceal it even if he tried,
You are the wealth which can't be taken away,
And so we will praise you all night and all day,
Judgement will come and still we won't finish,
Your virtue and glory will never diminish.
So I ask one last time, how are you, you?
A sage and a lion, how can both be true?
How can these virtues fit in one heart?
And I have only one answer- you are God's work of art.
Qudsiyaa Taahera sardaar-e-nisaa hai Zehraa,
Himmat-e-hasti-e-aurat ki sada hai zehraa,
Aalam-e-jehl ke toofaañ na bujhaa paaye jise,
Khalq-e-zan meiñ quvvat-e-shamm-e-haya hai zehraa
Apna haqq jaanna laazim hai so ye yaad rakheñ
Markaz-e-haqq-e-haqiiqi ka pata hai Zehraa,
Ilm-o-Irfaan ka meyaar khirad se hai pare,
Ilm ke shehr ki raunaq hai ana hai zehraa,
Malka-e-khalq kahaañ or kahaañ baagh-e-fadak,
Past-fitrat ko khaber kya ho ke kya hai Zehraa
Majlis-e-sheh meiñ jab aao to khuloos-e-dil se,
Mehv-e-riqqat jo sar-e-Farsh-e-aza hai Zehraa
Gulshan-e-Ahmed-e-mursal hai mu.atter jis se,
Paiker-e-sabr-o-gul-e-arsh-e-ulaa hai Zehraa
Fakhr-e-rab ruu-e-muqaddas hai saraapaa ismat,
Dasht-e-pasti meiñ balandi ki naba hai Zehraa,
shakl-o-seerat meiñ baseerat ki har ek jumbish meiñ,
Apne hi aap meiñ qur.aan-e-khudaa hai Zehraa
Parda-e-azmat-e-niswaañ pe likha ho goya,
Deen-e-islam ki zeenat ki ridaa hai Zehraa
Shafqat-o-rehmat-e-khaaliq ki ziyaa hai Zehraa,
noor ko noor ki naayaab ata hai Zehraa
Zikr jinka hai ibadat ki har ek zeb-o-'zain',
Lauh-e-mehfooz paa tehreer-e-baqaa hai Zehraa
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It's been a while since I last posted a blog but I would like to share my thoughts on Joe Biden's first day as president.
Words cannot describe how great it is to see Donald Trump leave. Donald Trump was one of the worst presidents in American history. He caused nothing but trouble to America. He is the one who resulted in Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (both men who were responsible for removing terrorism) getting killed which happened early last year. His policies on the Covid-19 disaster were horrible. Joe Biden addressed the Covid-19 matters very nicely on Day 1 and getting rid of the issues Trump caused since he became president. He is going to make America recover from the issues that Trump caused in the last 4 years.
Edit: I've changed my stance on Biden. He is not that much better than Trump after all. He has caused more trouble than Trump has in the Middle East, in Syria with his strikes. He only has better Covid-19 policies and he is only stopping Trump's racist policies and his border wall for Mexicans.
I will start by giving a very simplified functional subdivision of the human Central Nervous System. Based on function, human brain can be divided into three areas
1. Brain stem: Brain stem is an upward continuation of spine. It is concerned with functions like controlling heart rate, regulation of blood pressure, breathing and some digestive functions to name just a few. Some of these are vital functions so an injury to brainstem could mean immediate death. That is why special care is taken to stabilize the neck in road traffic accidents.
2. Limbic System: This is a group of structures in our brain which together are involved in controlling behavior and emotions- Anger, pleasure, fear and punishment, reward, rage, curiosity, hunger, satiety, sexual drive, motivation and passivity, all of these come from the limbic system.
3. Cerebral Cortex: This is what we call the higher brain in laymen terms. It performs the ‘executive functions’. The prefrontal cortex(PFC) occupies the anterior portion of the frontal lobes and is thought to be one of the most complex anatomical and functional structures of the mammalian brain.
- All living creatures have some system for maintain vital body functions like breathing in place of brainstem.
- All vertebrates possess a limbic system so dogs, cats and other animals are able to feel and express emotions.
- Amongst vertebrates the only classes to possess the characteristic cerebral cortex are mammals (and some reptiles, lolz, so the conspiracy theories about the world being controlled by an elite group of reptiles could turn out to be true)
- Amongst the mammals Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) bestowed the humans with the most highly developed cerebral cortex of all its creations on earth. When I say highly developed I don’t mean size or surface area relative to body, I mean functionally development and intellectual capabilities. Humans are probably intellectually highest of all the earthly species created by Allah.
It is because of this highly developed cortex that humans sit at the top of the hierarchy and have been called ‘Vicegerents of Allah’ on earth. Of course, not any two footed being in human form can be the vicegerent of Allah(سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى). He also has to manifest divine attributes in both his private and social life.
So our cerebral cortex is capable of ‘higher mental functions’ like thinking, abstraction, planning, decision making and controlling the limbic system! This last function is probably its most important function.
The brainstem functions are not under our conscious control. Obviously we cannot tell our bodies increase or decrease the heart rate or blood pressure.
Higher mental functions are almost always voluntary.
The limbic system sits on the the borderline between brain stem and cerebral cortex both structurally and functionally (the word limbic means borderline in latin) What does this mean? This means that we can choose to exercise control over our behavior and emotions using the executive powers of cerebral cortex or we can let the limbic system run loose and let it do whatever it wants in which case a human would be expressing a range of unbridled emotions anger, curiosity, sexual drive etc
Let’s look at some differences in capabilities of humans vs animals which are manifested by virtue of an intellectual cortex and are important from a religious perspective.
- Animals are incapable of differentiating between haram and halal. That’s why Allah(سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) didn’t make it obligatory on them to respect these boundaries. It is the cerebral cortex and its associated areas which give the humans the capability learn this and differentiate between the two in various life situations. But if the humans choose not to utilize the cerebral cortex for this purpose and let their limbic system(emotions) take over, they lose the differentiation and in those instances they are acting like animals. This can easily be observed in the most primal of behaviours like consuming food and copulating and also in advanced actions like earning rizq through unlawful means.
- Animals cannot be taught moral and ethics. If your pet dog steals a piece of meat you can arouse feelings of fear and punishment in it but you cannot teach him why stealing is wrong. This is again due to the absence of the cerebral cortex that humans possess and probably this is the reason why animals won’t get punished for misconducts in the akhirah like humans.
- Animals cannot differentiate between tahara and nijasat. Again this is something which is a function of cerebral cortex. Physical purity is something which is very crucial in Islamic faith.
- The principles of mahram/namehram can only be comprehended by humans.
Looking at the above we can see how intellect elevates humans from the level of animals to vicegerents of Allah. Maybe this is why most of things that are counted as sins in islam are in principle limbic system(emotions) overriding the cortex(intellect)
- Anger- limbic system taking charge,
- Zina and haram lust – limbic system taking over humans,
- Consuming haram food and even stuffing yourself with halal food- limbic system satiety centre gone out of control,
- Curiosity- Even though the mechanism behind curiosity isn’t very well understood because it is difficult to differentiate curiosity from information seeking but what research has discovered so far is that a part of the limbic cortex is involved in both regulation and reward that is associated with curiosity(1). In Surah Hujraat (49:12) Allah forbids us from spying and ‘Tajassus’ but if limbic system is not controlled the person could be snooping around other people’s affairs, just like an animal would sniff and examine any object in vicinity.
- Gambling – During gambling intellectual areas of the brain like prefrontal cortex show less activity than limbic areas depicting a link between gambling and limbic system(2) What’s interesting is that in an animal study conducted on gambling ,some species of animal demonstrated the same choices and psychological behavior as pathological gamblers. So, when Allah(سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) made gambling haram it was probably to not let humans reduce themselves to animals.
- Drinking –Alcohol impairs functioning on the prefrontal cortex, disrupts normal pattern of neuronal activity required for decision making and thinking and hence leads to limbic system taking over. This is manifested a as lack of inhibition in people commonly observed in people who has ingested alcohol.(3)
If we look at Jihad bil nafs in medical terms it’s just a battle between limbic system and cerebral cortex.
Looking at the lives of Ahlulbayt (عليه السلام) we won’t find any instance where we see limbic system ruling over them. There is a famous incident where in the battle of Khandaq, where Imam Ali(عليه السلام) was on Amr bin abde Wud’s chest and about to kill him but then he abused Imam Ali(عليه السلام). At this Imam Ali (عليه السلام) moved from Amr’s chest and walked away. After the battle was over people asked Imam Ali(عليه السلام) the reason why he had spared Amr’s life when he had overpowered him. At this he replied,” When I had floored him, he abused me, as a result of which I was overcome by rage. I feared that if I were to kill him in that state of anger, it would be for pacifying my anger. So I stepped away from him till my fury subsided.Then I returned to sever his head from his body only for the happiness of Allah and in obedience to Him.” (Manaqib Al Abi Talib by Ibn Shahrashub)
In Sahifa e Sajjadiya, Imam Sajjad (عليه السلام) has described three types of worshippers
i. Those who worship Allah because of fear of hell
ii. Those who worship Allah to get to Jannah
iii. Those who worship Allah because they find Allah worthy of worship.
He(عليه السلام) says the third is the highest form of worship. Why? Because the first two are worship of punishment and reward (limbic system worships) while the third is the worship of intellect (Prefrontal cortex).
So if we learn to control our limbic systems through reflection and worship gradually, we gain power over our nafs and then no amount of worldly temptation and desires can then take us away from out true purpose, that is submission to Allah(سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى).
Sometimes we forget to be grateful for many of the blessings God has decreed upon us that if we were to thank him for countless days and nights, it would never be sufficient. Some of us may not realise that despite living in a house where our parents have different mindsets that complicate many aspects in life, perhaps during their time they had it far more worse. We forget that they have gone through immense pressure trying to give us a life far more opportunistic than theirs, yet they fail to realise how a lot of their customs prevents us from seeking opportunities in the first place. Think about the conservative societies they used to live in the past century and how difficult it was to overcome. Perhaps our parents think that their way of upbringing will lure us away from the demonised world, to save our mental stability and hence they carry their past teachings and culture to the next generation. On the contrary, that belief has torn us apart.
Our parents have survived war, signed myriad of papers and fought with the Western laws to seek a better environment for themselves and future offspring. We know that our families cannot seem to fathom our changes as we develop. They believe we are steering out of the line of honour and family reputation that if a slight error was committed then it would be spread throughout the entire community. You end up hearing tales and calumnies from storytellers who often find it entertaining to dwell in the affairs of others. The values and customs I have been raised in believe that a family's dignity and privilege is held by the eldest daughter where her wrongdoings mean familial destruction. Whilst having a good reputation at some point is crucial to living a substantial life, parents forget that our unexpressed feelings matter more than pleasing an egoistic community.
In Islam, one of the major sins is the displeasing of parents, where their anger is equatable to God's. Surely we must strive to respect them as they become elders, despite the levels of irritability we receive almost everyday. We are taught to maintain patience and that is further learnt more deeply during adolescence. Even so, a lot of the times one has knowledge of what is right yet still choose to divert into the path of wrong. An example is when our parents infuriate us, it results in retaliation rather than remaining quiet and calm. Understandably, nobody wants to hear someone create quite vague assumptions and further jump to the worst conclusions. That is one of the nuisances we normally find within parents.
From past personal experience, despite my OCD was likely of being genetic, I discovered that the strategies my parents used to make the entire family adhere to religion were often uncompromising. They believe using threats will make their children stand firm towards God and whilst I partially agree, the end result may be discrepancy. I've always loved being a Muslim. Observing full hijab from a very young age, praying at night outside the backyard beneath His illuminating creation whilst holding the sacred Qur'an in my hands. I thought I felt undeniable peace, but was it truly as peaceful as it sounded like? I was on attack the minute I stood onto my prayer mat or opened a supplication prayer. Those rampaging thoughts destroyed my inner peace. It seemed like I was a saintly servant of God, but the reality was that I was hurting deep down without even figuring out the cause. After recovery, a part of me came to conclusion as to what had led to these doubts and whispers in the first place. It somewhat was in relation towards my parent's upbringing, where I had noticed the number of threatening remarks they used in relation to God made me believe that I was obliged to add in the extra effort and consistency towards my prayers and other obligations. However, a number of times they had caught me in such a state and tried to give me solid advice that I am already pious enough in the eyes of God. And yet I always felt like I did a mistake in my ablution that led to repetitive cleansing.
Then again, we are far more mature than to be constantly blaming parents for our actions. I criticise myself for being too naive and turning small situations into extreme ones. The truth is nobody else is at fault but ourselves because we have full control over our own actions. We are willing to blame others for our mistakes in order to escape guilt or responsibility. Parents may have played some role in the way we have turned out to be, yet we know ourselves way too well as adults that most of it is our own fault, Maybe we did not realise that controlling our thoughts and actions could have been taken into our own hands if only we did not let all that negativity consume us.
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Original post: https://www.iqraonline.net/dialogue-with-believers/
An epidemic harming our communities is the general inability, hesitance & fear of engaging in dialogue with one another. In fact, in recent years, it appears there has been a significant increase in our communities engaging and initiating inter-faith dialogue, yet we do not see this phenomenon within our own communities. This is while we need such initiatives perhaps even much more so than inter-faith. We lack the ethics and etiquette of engaging in dialogue with other believers and this naturally weakens, distances and breaks up our communities on various fronts. This is of utmost concern particularly for the diaspora that is already in a vulnerable position – and things do not seem to be getting any better. Dialogue is not simply “speaking” – speaking is not the issue, in fact, many of us speak and have a lot to say, and our pulpits are occupied all year long with trained scholars, untrained lecturers and academics speaking.
A dialogue will generally have these three elements:
1) Two or more people
2) A subject of dispute or a subject that needs clarification
3) An expectation that the result of dialogue will either be in favour of you and/or the other party, or not (depending on the conclusion).
When dialogue does not take place, the results we observe are usually the belittlement of others, insults, accusations and rumours, swearing, and in fact, a lack of dialogue can even lead to physical confrontations, wars and bloodshed. These are of course all horrible consequences, particularly when the victims are no other than our selves. These consequences show that the subject of dispute was not resolved or there was no capacity to engage in a dialogue to begin with.
Why do we not engage in dialogue amongst ourselves? Are those who we disagree with amongst the believers so off the mark that we need to maintain a position against them like we should do with those who are genuine enemies of our belief? This is most often not the case at all and only in extremely exceptional circumstances do we have to encounter such groups of people – at which point it would be difficult to even classify them as believers. In the Treatise of Rights, Imam Sajjad (a) says that people of your creed enjoy the following rights over you:
The right of the people of your creed is harbouring safety for them, compassion toward them, kindness toward their wrong-doer, treating them with friendliness, seeking their well-being, thanking their good-doer, and keeping harm away from them. You should love for them what you love for yourself and dislike for them what you dislike for yourself. Their old men stand in the place of your father, their youths in the place of your brothers, their old women in the place of your mother, and their young ones in the place of your children.
Neglecting dialogue over matters of contention, more often than not, results in the trampling of some or all of these rights. So what prevents us from engaging in dialogue? Perhaps one or more of the following preliminaries required for dialogue do not exist:
1. The need to recognize other believers as noble creations of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى). Verse [17:70] says Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) has given the children of Adam nobility and honour. In some of our communities, we see believers giving a lot of respect to Sayyids and this is not for any reason except for the fact that they are connected to the Prophet (p) through a chain of many generations. However, it behooves us to realize that we (and creation as a whole) are connected to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) directly (or as per certain schools of philosophy, we are the very connection itself). Looking at another believer through the lens of dishonour and painting them as ignoble will not lead us anywhere and signifies a much greater spiritual problem.
2. Acknowledging that humans are different from certain aspects – gender, ethnicities, tribes, physical and spiritual capacities, affinities, tastes etc. We have two types of Sunnah (pl. Sunan) – the Sunnah of the Prophet and the Sunnah of Allah. The Sunan of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) are divided into two: there are some Sunan that only become applicable when humans bring them upon themselves through their free-will; for example, the increased bestowal of guidance once we have wilfully chosen to come into Islam -
[47:17] As for those who are [rightly] guided, He enhances their guidance.
[19:76] Allah enhances in guidance those who are [rightly] guided.
There are some Sunan of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) that are absolute, not conditioned to the free-will of man. One of these Sunan is His creating us different. These differences are one of the necessary conditions for trial and tribulation to have any meaning in this world.
[5:48] …and had Allah wished He would have made you one community, but [His purposes required] that He should test you in respect to what He has given you…
[6:165] It is He who has made you successors on the Earth, and raised some of you in rank above others so that He may test you in respect to what He has given you.
As such, it is normal that even within the same worldview, there will be times people reach different conclusions and do things differently. Acknowledging this opens the door to considering certain points of contention worthy of engagement. On the contrary, allowing these contentions to break us apart may very well be a sign that the believers are failing in their trials.
3. The lack of desire to engage in Ṣulḥ - to reach a conciliation and compromise. Ṣulḥ is often discussed in the context of resolving personal disputes and ironing out details of settlements, or as a treaty for halting warfare. But the general principles of Ṣulḥ can also be used to resolve larger community disputes – as was common in the Muslim world in the past and continues to be the case in many rural places. However, this generic understanding of Ṣulḥ only works if parties involved have a desire to discuss their disputes in a sincere manner (the details and mechanisms of Ṣulḥ have been discussed in detail in their appropriate places). One should not see the mere existence of differences as necessarily going against the command of holding on to the rope of Allah [3:103] - these two are reconcilable on many occasions as the scholars have mentioned. The absence of Ṣulḥ breaks and fragments the communities of the believers.
4. Reality is too vast and not all of it is in our hands. At any given point we have only understood certain aspects of it and that as well to a certain degree, not absolute reality –
[17:85] and you have not been given of the knowledge except a little.
We need to acknowledge that there are other perspectives and there is genuine room for these perspectives to be justified within an Islamic framework. The vastness of reality should alone be enough to humble and soften us to engage in dialogue with another party amongst the believers. The delusion of having uncovered all of the truth regarding a certain matter and behaving as if no one else could possibly say anything that would add anything to our knowledge is a deterrent and barrier for dialogue.
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I wish to share my thoughts on the concept of Unity. To do that, I have a perspective which is a cumulation of all the experiences of my life put together. My perspective may have a bias since it is a combination of the realities that I have lived and observed at different points in time.
In order to explain my thoughts, I am compelled to make the best use of my language skills. I believe the English Language is one of the most, if not THE most spoken languages in contemporary times. I start off by introducing myself to the reader. I like to think of myself as a being that is subject to constant evolution. Evolution in the form of mind, body, brain, soul, spirit, etc.
So in order to understand me, the reader should have a basic understanding of the concept of Unity, Duality, Multiplicity, and Infinity.
Since only certain things can be explained at any one point in time (because time is relative), my goal here is to explain the concept of Unity.
In Arabic (the language of the Arab people), Unity is analogous to the concept of 'Tawhid'.
But in order to continue in English, I will have to proceed and due to my limitations to explain this concept, and the readers' limitations to understand this concept, I will have to improvise.
Understanding Unity via Duality can be done in countless ways. The way I wish to do so is through the relativity of time. Basically, in order to explain Unity to you, I will keep time as a constant for a short period of time. It is at my discretion (at present) to pick a point in time to explain to you the concept as I am the speaker and you are the listener (presumably).
The point of time that I pick is one from history. I have picked it because of its significance in countless ways, depending on the observer of time. The date I've picked is the 10th of October 680 C.E (Common Era).
Since I am explaining Unity through Duality, I would now like to divide the recording of time in history via two methods already used. The Gregorian Calendar (the 12 months commonly used today, supposed to have marked the beginning of the Common Era, following the birth of Jesus Christ) and The Hijri Calendar (the 12 months commonly used by the Muslim population of the world, following the migration of Muhammad to Mecca).
10th of October in the Gregorian Calendar coincides with the 10th of Muharram in the Hijri Calendar. More specifically, 10th October 680 C.E = 10th Muharram 61 A.H.
Since we are now keeping 'time' a 'constant', we have limited 'space' to keep making progress.
So, in a few words, Unity explained via Duality means that at it's most basic, yet Absolute, Unity means two things (keeping in mind that time is NOT a constant). As we understand, Unity exists via space relative to time. I repeat, Duality of Unity is known in contemporary times as the Space-Time continuum.
Do we understand the Space-Time continuum? Maybe, maybe not. I'd prefer to think that we do understand this continuum. You, me, we, all of us understand it in a different way.
Coming back to time. To conclude this, on the 10th of October 680 C.E. (10th of Muharram 61 A.H.), an event took place.
ONE event, best explained to be a combination of Infinite events, held at the same point in time for Existence to comprehend the Infinite potential of mankind in the form of Duality.
The Duality of Right vs. Wrong. The Duality of Truth vs. Falsehood. The Duality of Being a Creation Vs. The Creator.
As long as we can compel ourselves to observe all of history via the concept of Unity and applying Duality at it constantly, it will only be by a miracle that we don't/can't SEE the truth, HEAR the truth, FEEL the truth.
Anything and Everything else is just pure coincidence.
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Needless to say, before we can perform our duty against bid'ah, the pre-requisite step is to be able to see and identify it. How many people are aware of the dangers of bid'ah but due to lack of understanding are nevertheless a victim of it. The reason is that bid'ah is extremely deceptive - it is disguised as a praiseworthy act that promises to earn abundant reward for the performer and bring him closer to Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام). The deception is increased because we see each and every Shia around us performing these acts. To add to this, the popular scholars keep promoting bid'ah as their standing and livelihood depends on it.
It is sad to say that bid'ah has been so strongly established in the Shia religion that the actions performed under it are now considered to be pillars and foundation of religion. Anyone who dares speak against these actions risks being ridiculed and ostracized. If a Shia were to give up all the innovations practiced in the name of religion, he would find himself isolated, cut-off and lonely. But such is the path on which a true Shia must tread in order to prove his loyalty to Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام).
Please refer to our previous two articles on bid'ah:
Scholars must speak against bid'ahQuote
رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وآله : إذا ظهَرتِ البِدعُ في اُمّتي فلْيُظهِرِ العالِمُ علمَهُ ، فمَن لَم يَفعلْ فعَلَيهِ لَعنةُ اللّهِ
Rasool Allah (s) said: When the innovations appear in my community (ummah), the scholar must manifest his knowledge (I.e. speak against them). So the one who does not do so, upon him be the curse of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى).
[Al Kafi V 1 – The Book Of Intellect and Ignorance CH 19 H 2]Quote
امام على عليه السلام : أفضَلُ عِبادِ الله إمامٌ عادِلٌ، هُدِِِىَ، فَأقامَ سُنَّةً مَعلومَةً، وأماتَ بِدعَةً مَجهولَةً
Imam Ali (عليه السلام) said: The most virtuous of Allah's servants near Allah is a just leader, who is guided and guides others, and who has established the known traditions, and who has abolished the doubtful/problematic (majhool) innovations.
[Nahjul Balagha, Serman 164]Quote
رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وآله : من أتى ذا بدْعةٍ فعطَّمهُ فإنَّما يَسْعى في هَدْمِ الإسلام
Rasool Allah (s) said: If one comes across an innovation and appreciates it (sides with it), so rather he has assisted in the demolition of Al Islam
[Al Kafi V 1 – The Book Of Intellect and Ignorance CH 19 H 3]
We must disassociate from the people of bid'ah
Below is a very strong hadith that highlights the danger of bid'ah.Quote
مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ الْحُسَيْنِ عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ أَبِي نَصْرٍ عَنْ دَاوُدَ بْنِ سِرْحَانَ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص إِذَا رَأَيْتُمْ أَهْلَ الرَّيْبِ وَ الْبِدَعِ مِنْ بَعْدِي فَأَظْهِرُوا الْبَرَاءَةَ مِنْهُمْ وَ أَكْثِرُوا مِنْ سَبِّهِمْ وَ الْقَوْلَ فِيهِمْ وَ الْوَقِيعَةَ وَ بَاهِتُوهُمْ كَيْلَا يَطْمَعُوا فِي الْفَسَادِ فِي الْإِسْلَامِ وَ يَحْذَرَهُمُ النَّاسُ وَ لَا يَتَعَلَّمُوا مِنْ بِدَعِهِمْ يَكْتُبِ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ بِذَلِكَ الْحَسَنَاتِ وَ يَرْفَعْ لَكُمْ بِهِ الدَّرَجَاتِ فِي الْآخِرَةِ
The Messenger of Allah (s) said: When you will find people of bid'ah (innovation) and doubt/suspicion after me, do baraa' (disassociate) from them and increase in your insults (sabihim) to them, and oppose (them) and bring evidences against them so they may not become greedy in bringing fasaad (corruption) to Islam. You must warn people against them and do not learn their bid'ah (innovation). Allah will write for you hasanaat (good deeds) for this, and will raise you darajaat (levels) in the next life.
[Al Kafi V 2 – The Book Of Belief and Disbelief CH 163 H 4]Quote
أَبُو عَلِيٍّ الْأَشْعَرِيُّ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الْجَبَّارِ عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ أَبِي نَجْرَانَ عَنْ عُمَرَ بْنِ يَزِيدَ عَنْ أَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع أَنَّهُ قَالَ لَا تَصْحَبُوا أَهْلَ الْبِدَعِ وَ لَا تُجَالِسُوهُمْ فَتَصِيرُوا عِنْدَ النَّاسِ كَوَاحِدٍ مِنْهُمْ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص الْمَرْءُ عَلَى دِينِ خَلِيلِهِ وَ قَرِينِهِ
Abu Abd Allaah (عليه السلام) said: Do not befriend the Ahl Al-Bid'ah (People of Innovation), and do not sit with them, so you may become like one of them (according) to the people. The Messenger of Allaah (s) said: A man is upon the religion of his friends and associates.
[Al Kafi V 2 – The Book Of Belief and Disbelief CH 163 H 3]
Aabid vs AalimQuote
رسولُ الله صلى الله عليه وآله : فَضلُ العالِمِ عَلى العابِدِ بِسَبعينَ دَرَجَةً، بَينَ كُلِّ دَرَجَتَينِ حُضْرُ الفَرَسِ سَبعينَ عاماً ؛ و ذلكَ أنَّ الشّيطانَ يَضَعُ البِدْعَةَ لِلنّاسِ فيُبصِرُها العالِمُ فَينهى عَنها، و العابِدُ مُقبِلٌ عَلى عِبادَتِهِ لا يَتَوَجَّهُ لَها و لايَعرِفُها
The Prophet (s) said: The knowledgeable man (aalim) is superior to the worshipper (aabid) by seventy degrees, the distance between two degrees spanning the gallop of a horse for seventy years; and this is because Satan plants an innovation (bid'ah) amongst the people which the knowledgeable man (aalim) notices and prohibits, whilst the worshipper attends to his worship neither taking any notice of it nor recognizing it.
[Rawdhat al Waaizin, #17]
An Aalim abolishes bid'ah because of his knowledge of the hadith. His knowledge leads him to limit his actions to those dictated by the Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام) and will never overstep the defined boundaries. Of all the popular speakers today who are quick to jump on to the Mimbar, how many are true Aalims as defined by Ahlul Bayt (عليه السلام)?
(Also published on blog: https://ahlulbaytmission.org/2019/08/24/our-duty-against-bidah/)
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Ya Rab! I never claimed that I am your absolute obedient, neither I say that I fulfill rights of my family and those around me. But, at least I keep a heart that hates my wrongdoing and is afraid of your punishment and your rejection. I am faqir in the world of piety, having no wealth to spend except remorse at my disobedience and I have always been keeping my eyes on the rich among the pious with eyes like that of a beggar who looks at the rich only if he pay attention to me and give me some from what you have granted him. I am disaster for myself, sinner who has no hope in himself. Several times you have saved me from my own mistakes yet I am not learning to be obedient. Who will help me if not you, while I have no hope in your creation among whom everyone is a player vying for their vested interests becoming trial for each other to ascertain what is his peer ? Sinner trying to find more sinners to appease his heart that he is not the only sinner and boastful good-doer trying people so that he can boast that no one is more righteous than him. I am one who say that I am absolute sinner mourning over my sins and biting my own hands as to why wasn't I much enlightened at the first place. Will you make me your humble servant, Ya Rab! knowing that I am a sinner yet I repent and feel bad and detest myself. Please forgive me for the sake of Ahlebait (عليه السلام).
This story is about a tea party, but actually it isn't about the party.
It isn't about the party that Anna Pavlovna holds, the one that many people know about but about whose subsequent events they remain unfamiliar. In fact if I wanted to I could try really hard and remind myself of the time I attended, but as I said that's not really the purpose of this story.
You see Sakina many people arrive at Anna Pavlovna's party with high hopes and expectations. They have a self-image of their literary prowess and they want to be able to tell everyone else that not only did they attend but that they experienced everything else that happened afterwards as well.
I was a bit like that to be honest. The first time I went I was about your age. I'd heard a lot about Anna Pavlovna's world and I wanted to be able to casually mention to friends and associates that I'd been. And so I would try so very very hard to get to know the attendees and to be honest it was impossible. I made many attempts and never got further than the entrance to the party itself.
So I tried a different tack.
I'd try less hard.
Instead of trying to get as far into this world as I could and meet as many people as I could, as quickly as I could, I would take the opposite approach.
I would only spend so much time at the party and I would stop, no matter how engaging the characters and no matter how interesting the stories that they had to tell.
And the next day I would come back to where I had left off and the people and the stories would still be there and slowly but surely I'd have the impetus to find out a little more about them and the following day a little bit more and so on.
In fact their lives became a little soap opera for me that went on for over a year and that's how I finished War & Peace.
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Imam Jafar al-Sadiq(عليه السلام) said: 'Allah revealed to Dawud(as): " When one of my servants resorts to me and not to anyone of My creation, I know that from his inner intention, such that even if the skies and the Earth and their inhabitants were to conspire against him, I will make an outlet for him in spite of them. And when one of My servants resorts to one of my creatures, I know that too from his intention, such that I cut off the means of subsistence of the skies from him, and I will make the Earth disintegrate from under him, and do not care in which valley he perishes."' al-Kafi,v.2, p.52,no.1.
Imam Jafar al-Sadiq(عليه السلام) said: ' Whoever from among the servants of Allah devotes himself towards that which Allah loves, Allah too devotes Himself to that which he loves. And whoever resorts entirely to Allah, Allah protects him, and whoever turns towards Allah, Allah accepts him and protects him, such that whether the sky was falling upon the Earth, or a calamity was to befall all the inhabitants of the Earth, he would in the Party of Allah, secure from all calamities. Indeed,does not Allah say: "Surely those who guard against evil are in a secure place?"' (Qur'an 44:51) al-Kafi,v.2,p.53,no.4
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Tolerance is inherently moral and necessarily social. And it can only be applied to people who are different, people you wouldn't consider part of "your" group. It is taught, a developed moral characteristic that may become part of who you are. We aren't born tolerant though, and that is why so many groups of influence have tried to develop this concept of group. Fascism itself is based on it. Our natural intolerance spreads as the worst virus if there are no forces to put an end to it. This is what sociology, so far, has been able to appreciate in the concept of tolerance at a macro-social level, and it has its reasons.
If tolerance is not natural to us, but rather "homophily" (the preference of those with similar characteristics: race, socio-economical class, ideology, etc.), then tolerance is a trait that we can only develop through education, and only if we find it any useful or right.
In the Qur'an it was already pointed that we were created in different groups:
"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another." (Surat al Hujurat)
So I can just expect that for an early Arabic society this indeed meant a call for tolerance for a religion that was going to spread across many nations. It was useful. However, nowaday, this is not what we, as individuals, face. Living in a globalized world, being connected by the Internet and its very own culture, tolerance seems less and less necessary and useful. Ideologies and groups compete between each other, and a call for tolerance is against the efforts to reinforce that feeling of group. It isn't useful for many. Not to mention that tolerance is a highly difficult trait to acquire, as it requires great efforts of empathy. Ask yourselves to which point can you accept the different? And I don't mean their mere existence, most don't care about that. I mean tolerating someone different that is part of your life, in some way or another. We have always been taught to be tolerant when it has been useful, but not because it is good, because it is morally right. Because it is not among the interest of any group of influence. Groups, as the master of history and sociology of the Muslim world once said, Ibn Khaldun, have only one goal: power.
That's why, even revolutions, that are supposed to be the fight for ideas, end up in some sort of fascism and/or dictatorship. Even when the people that lead them truly wanted free elections (modern history is full of examples of this, it is something we can't avoid). They are still necessary, though, for the progress of ideas.
What happens, however, in our societies? In the West, tolerance has been imposed as something useful, but racism, mysogyny, LGBTphobia, etc. are still realities that many people even hate to discuss (many people attack feminism, for instance). In the Muslim world, tolerance died centuries ago, and an enormous amount of groups appeared. We are still reinforcing through our culture this intolerance, based on unreasonable discrimination: country of origin, skin color, studies, amount of money, gender, sexuality, beliefs, family/tribe name, etc. You can realize this inability to accept the different for instance in the topic of marriage, at what type of characteristic will people, parents, or ourselves if we have sons or daughters to marry, will look at. And it's not always the obvious (like don’t be racist). It is usually ideological. We can't accept other mentalities because we weren't taught about that, because the group we belong to doesn't want that.
Tolerance isn't only about accepting black people, or trans people, or seeing women as equals. People will probably try to appear as tolerant in that sense, because it is useful for them. However, as a moral trait, these people are not genuinely tolerant, but conveniently civilized. Real tolerance is being able to respect others by their opinion, beliefs, lifestyle, and of course, biological circumstances. Accept them as long as you are not tolerating the intolerant.
This conflict is paradoxical, and it is a well known paradox in social sciences (originally proposed by Karl Popper). The problem with tolerating the intolerant, as I said at the start of this entry, is precisely how fast and easily their intolerance spreads (because it is natural). As individuals and iA as free thinkers, we should fight to develop tolerance within ourselves and condemn intolerance even when it is present in those people who are part of "our" group (be it our racial "group", ideological, whatever). Intolerance isn't a joke, it's a social human and moral issue of high importance, and has always shaped our destiny.
Thus, I can only advise my readers to dedicate some time to observe that aspect of their hearts, if they behaved in a tolerant manner, identify our errors, ask for forgiveness to the Most Merciful, and ask him to guide us and make us more aware of being tolerant when we are, again, tested in life. Remember to ask Him to guide me as well, iA.
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I had the privilege and honor of going to Umrah a few weeks ago. Having completed my hajj in 2010, it was time to pay Hijaz another visit to pay my respects to the Prophet (saw) and his progeny in Madinah and visit the House of Allah in Makkah.
Hopefully the pointers below will help anyone planning on going for Umrah.
First, if you haven't been to Saudi before, it is best to go with a registered group. It will make things easier for you because other than following instructions, there shouldn't be much to worry about..Also, if you don't speak arabic or urdu/hindi/bengali, then it would be better to go with a registered group because language can be an issue in some places.
Anyway, I decided to go with my family instead of a group. The primary hurdle in going to Saudi is getting a visa. These are things to remember:
- We had to apply to a local consulate but individual travelers cannot apply on their own. The visa application has to be submitted through an authorized travel agency.
- Even though the Umrah visa is free, these agencies charge between $175 - $200 per person for visa.
- Also, note that you can only apply within 30 days of going for umrah.
- You need to buy non-refundable return tickets before applying.
- The other mandatory requirement is to get a meningitis vaccination. CVS, Walgreens or RediClinic can do this without a prescription. Without insurance, it will cost between $150-$200. Get the vaccination record from the Pharmacy and submit it with your application.
- Common sense would dictate that you buy your tickets once visa approval is obtained but not in this case.
- Visa application usually takes about 1 week to process...might take longer during busy times.
Next decision is where to fly in/out from. If you decide to go to Makkah first, you will have to fly into Jeddah. Since Jeddah is inside the meeqat***, you will have to wear your ihram from the point of origin. So we chose to fly into Madinah first.
I would recommend either Turkish Airlines or Emirates. We flew Emirates from the US. We had a 5 hour layover in Dubai so we went out of the airport and had a nice dinner. US Citizens do not need a visa for Dubai (UAE).Came back to the airport around 11p for our 105a flight to Medinah.
We arrived in Madinah around 345a, got out of the airport by 445a. Since we were not part of a group, I made arrangements transportation arrangements with or hotel. It took about 30 minutes to get to our hotel right next to Masjid Al-Nabawi (Mosque of the Holy Prophet).
We stayed at Hotel Pullman Zamzam Madinah. Fantastic 5* hotel with great rooms and awesome breakfast. The only downside to the hotel is that it is on the opposite end of the Ladies entrance to the mosque so it took the ladies about 15 minutes to walk to the mosque. The hotel did provide a shuttle service for women at regular intervals.
After checking-in, we took a quick shower and made our way to the Mosque just in time for Fajr - individual, not jama'ah.
After every salah every day, the Saudis open Jana'at Al-Baqi for an hour or so. Much to my surprise, the Saudis were fairly relaxed in letting people get in, recite dua/ziarat albeit quietly and even take pictures.
Imam Hasan (as), Imam Sajjad (as), Imam Al-Baqar and Imam Al-Sadiq are buried here.
If I am not mistaken, I think Hz Umm-al-baneen is buried where I have drawn the red circle:
Went back to our hotel around 7am. We ate breakfast and finally went to bed after a 24 hours journey.
We woke up around 3pm and went to the Prophet's mosque for zuhrain. We prayed some other prayers so got back to the hotel around 430p. We rested a bit more and then made our way back to the mosque for maghribain around 7p. Once again, we stayed there for around 2 hours and then had dinner and then back to the hotel.
We are recommended to pray full zuhr/asr/isha in Medinah.
After taking an early night, we headed to the Prophet's mosque around 2am where we prayed salat-e-layl and other prayers. Returned to our hotel just after fajr. Our schedule for the rest of the day was the same as the previous day. However, there are other ziarats in Madinah one can visit:
- Masjid al-Shams
- Masjid al-Zul Qibltayn
- Masjid al-Quba
- The Saba Saba Masjids
- Masjid al-Fatah
- Masjid Salman al-Farsi
- Masjid al-Ali A.S.
- Masjid al-Bidi Fatimah Zehra A.S.
- Ohud – Hazrat Hamza A.S.
I stayed in the Prophet's mosque from 130am - fajr. I had the honor to pray salat-e-layl in Riyad-al-Jannah (Piece of heaven) - it is adjacent to the Prophet's grave. After salah, I went to Jana'at-al-Baqi for Ziarah al-wida (Farewell ziarah).
We rested for a couple of hours, had breakfast and then made preparations to head to Makkah for Umrah.
The main thing required is to perform a ghusl with the niyyah (intention) Niyyat: “I am doing Ghusl for the following for wearing Ihram for Umra al-Mufradah Sunnat Qurbatan Ilallah”. You cannot use scented soap when doing this Ghusl.
The next step is to wear the ihram. Ihram for men - consists of two pieces of white cloth and for ladies their usual daily wear is their Ihram, but it is highly recommended that it be white as it is the sign of purity.
Please not that even though one is wearing the ihram, the niyyah for Ihram is done later.
We bought our ihram in Medinah for about $20 (60-75 Saudi Rial).
We checked out of our hotel to make our way to masjid-e-Shajarah. I made transportation arrangements while in Medinah. It cost just under $200 for a personal mini-van.
We stopped at Ohud for 15-20 minutes for a quick ziarah of Hz Hamzah's grave.
Then we made our way to masjid-e-Shajarah. This is a designated point of wearing ihram per sharia. There are 6 other places as well in different parts of Saudi.
If you are already wearing ihram, you can take off the top portion and put it on again and make the niyyah (intention):
“I am wearing Ihram for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Illallah”. Immediately after making the niyya, recite the talbiya (calling) in arabic:
Labbaik, Allahumma Labbaik,
Labbaik La Sharika Laka Labbaik,
Innal Hamda WanNe’amata Laka Walmuka
La Sharika Laka Labbaik
This is to be recited as many times as possible until you reach the vicinity of Makkah.
After wearing the ihram and reciting talbiya, proceed to the inside of the Mosque and recite 2 rakat salat with the niyyah, "Offering 2 rakat salah for wearing ihram qurbatanillah".
Once you adorn the ihram and make the niyyah, there are about 25 things that become haraam upon a person.
Once we completed our prayers, we made our way towards Makkah, reciting talbiya as much as we could.
One thing to note is that in Shia fiqh, men ar enot allowed to travel under shade during the day while in ihram.so it is advisable to plan your journey such that you arrive in Masjid-e-Shajarah around maghrib. If traveling during hte day, then there is a kafarah (penalty) of 1 sheep.
We made a couple of stops on our way to Makkah which was about a 5 hour drive (430km or 250m)
Day Three - Arrival in Makkah:
We arrived in Makkah around 5pm. Since we had already prayed zuharain en route, we decided to rest a bit in our hotel. We woke up, did ghusl made our way to the Holy Kaaba around 730p. One has to be in wudu (or ghusl) for tawaf.
We prayed maghrib and isha and then started our umrah. These are the steps for umrah:
1) Perform tawaf (circumambulation) around the Kaaba 7 times. The niyyah (intention) is:
I am going round this Ka’aba seven times for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah.
Since the masjid has several floors, it is important to remember that we can do tawaf on any floor as long as your height is below the top of the kaaba.
2) Upon completion of tawag, recite 2 rakat salat-e-tawaf behind the Maqam-e-Ibrahim (place of Ibrahim) - recited just like fajr
I am offering two Rakaat Salaat for Tawaaf of Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah
3) Perform Sa'ae (wudu not necessary). This is where you walk from Safa'a to Marwa 7 times (about 3.5km in total). Niyyah (intention) is:
I walk between Safaa and Marwah, seven times for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah
Going from Safa'a --> marwa = 1
Marwa --> Safa'a = 2
Safa'a --> marwa = 3
Marwa --> Safa'a = 4
Safa'a --> marwa = 5
Marwa --> Safa'a = 6
Safa'a --> marwa = 7
So you start at Safa'a and end at Marwa.
4) Once Sa'ae is over, the next step is taqseer (cuting part of mails of hair). Niyyah is:
I am performing Taqseer so as to be relieved of Ihram for Umra al-Mufradah QurbatanIlallah
It is best to do the 4 steps without too much of a break in between them. At this point, you can take a break and even take of your ihram.
5) Whether you take a break or not, the next step is to perform tawaf-e-Nisa. Everyone has to do this - young/old, man/woman, married/unmarried, etc.). Niyyah is:
I am doing Tawaaf-un-Nissa by going round this Ka’aba seven times for Umra al-Mufradah Qurbatan Ilallah
6) Last step is to perform salat tawaf-e-Nisa. Niyyah is:
I am offering two Rakaat Salaat for Tawaaf-un-Nissa for Umra al-Mufradah QurbatanIlallah
The entire umrah took about 2 - 2.5 hours to complete.
This is the completion of the umrah.
After completing our umrah, we went back to our hotel, had dinner and went to sleep.
We went to the Kaaba about 2 hours before fajr to perform Sunnah tawaf (each tawaf is 7 rounds). After each tawaf, reciting salat-e-tawaf is obligatory. You can make the intention of perfomr tawaf for others alive or deceased. This day was spent between our hotel and performing salah+tawaf throughout the day. There are other ziarah to be performed in makkah:
- Hajr al-Ismail
- Makaam al-Ibrahim
- Zam Zam
- Hills of Safa and Marwa
- Janab al-Khadijatul Kubra
- Janab al-Abu Talib
- Janab al-Abdul Mutalib
- Hazrat Abdullah
- Hazrat Amina Bint al-Wahab
- Masjid al-Jinn
- Cave of Thawr
- Cave of Hira
- Jabal al-Rahmah
- Muzdhalifa or Ma’shar
- Masjid al-Kheef - In Munna
We were able to perform the green ones above. We also had the opportunity to pray salat in the hateem which is not always open. We were able to touch the kaaba several times including rukn-e-Yemeni (corner from where Hz Fatima bint Assad went inside the kaaba to deliver Hz Ali (as).
Pic in hateem under the kaaba
Cloth of the kaaba - it is actually pieces of cloth sewn together instead of a very large piece of cloth.
We performed our final prayers and then checked out of our hotel to go to Jeddah airport. We flew from Jeddah --> Dubai and stayed there overnight, then flew back to the US.
I was pleasantly surprised that the Saudis were pretty lenient this time.People were free to pray and take pictures as they wanted...for the most part. I would recommend taking salah, dua and ziarah information on your phones rather than books.
I will also try to upload the guidebook I used for most of the trip.
Please let me know if you have any questions. I tried to cover the most important aspects of umrah.
The languages of the world can be divided into families and sub-groupings. This means that several groups of languages can be thought to be related due to recurring and predictable patterns observed throughout them. These can be related to both grammar and phonology. What this means is that these languages descend from a proto-language and possible this language descends from a larger grouping. What happened was that the speakers of the proto-language started moving away from each other, and in a time before literacy, let alone wide spread dissemination of printed material and a standardized educational system, before people would leave their homes to work in the big city and return (before towns even!), and before our modern technology which keeps us connected, the speakers of a language just started speaking differently. This could have happened in several ways, sound changes for vowels are some of the simplest, think of how differently British people and North American people pronounce the word "far". Consonantal phonemes (sounds) can be dropped or added, you can also have grammatical innovations which make up for something lacking in the proto-language (e.g. the creation of a definite article) or a simplification of something in the proto-language (maybe a complex case system is dropped, or at the least reduced), though it's important to remember these are sporadic and things are traded off for one another, languages don't just become "simpler". Within no time Group A can no longer understand Group B anymore. A linguist will determine this using the comparative method, this requires looking at the different languages and comparing them for regular patterns to ascertain genetic (in a linguistic sense) relation. There is one limitation to this, the comparative method can only work compare changes made within a few thousand millennia, after 7000-10, 000 or so years it ceases to be very reliable as it cannot account for a change being due to genetic relation or just coincidence. There are some languages which are isolates, meaning they lack genetic relation to any language we know of. This doesn't mean they emerged out of nowhere, rather their relatives went extinct before we could get any record of them.
Linguistics today classify Arabic as one of the Afro-Asiatic languages (also called the Hamito-Semitic languages in older literature). This language family is perhaps one of the oldest that we know of, the proto-language, Proto-Afro-Asiatic, was spoken sometime around 15, 000 BCE. This language family includes the Semitic languages (of which Arabic is a member), the Egyptian languages (both Ancient Egyptian and Coptic), the Berber languages, the Cu[Edited Out]ic languages (including Somali), the Chadic languages, and possibly the Omitic languages. Now, when this proto-language was spoken, how exactly it split into its daughter-languages, and in what order that happened is something debated by linguists (a video that shows some possibilities), but the connection between these languages has been observed for a very long time. The first person to observe the similarities between these languages was Judah b. Quraysh (fl. c. 9th century), a Jewish Rabbi with knowledge of Aramaic, Arabic, and Hebrew and noticed their similarity to the Berber languages spoken in Algeria. The eminent 19th century German philologist, Theodore Benfey, went on to demonstrate a systematic relationship between the Ancient Egyptian language and Semitic languages (Rubin, 2013). Such correspondences can be observed in grammatical features, such as several of the Afro-Asiatic languages having a construct state (إضافة, for those of you who might have studied Arabic grammar), this is an exceedingly rare construction indicating possession, it is only found outside the Afro-Asiatic family in a single Nilotic language. In the Afro-Asiatic family, the construct-state is found in the Semitic languages, the Berber languages, and the Egyptian languages. They also share a root system for their morphology, and similar nominal systems for their nouns. We can also compare vocabulary to find a proto-word that developed into cognates across various languages. One such reconstruction is the word "les" (meaning tongue, this root will remain italicized), it appears in the Semitic languages originally as Lišān (and this further developed from there), in Egyptian as ns and later in Coptic as les, in the Chadic languages as ḥalisum, ʾVlyas, and lyas, and in a Cu[Edited Out]ic language as milas (Orel & Stolbova, 1995).
Arabic can further be classified as a Semitic language. This language family is believed to be about 6000 years old and is thought to have originated in South-West Asia. There are a number of features common to the language, including shared verb stems (the أبواب), a case system of nominative -u, accusative -a, and genitive -i (found preserved in Classical/Middle Arabic, Ugaritic, and Akkadian), and a root system with shared roots between these languages¹. Arabic fits into these languages as a West Semitic languages, meaning it is excluded from being one of the East Semitic languages (the Akkadian languages or Ebalite). It is also a Central Semitic language, so it is excluded from the South Semitic languages which include the Modern South-Arabian languages, the Ethio-Semitic languages, and the Ancient South Semitic languages. It splits from the other Central Semitic languages, which go on to become the North-Western Semitic languages including Ugaritic, Aramaic, and the Canaanite languages (including Hebrew and Phoenician). What distinguishes Arabic from the other Central Semitic languages are 14-19 linguistic innovations not found in other Central Semitic languages, these include:
The loss of the independent first person pronoun "ʾanāku" (Arabic only preserves the proto-Semitic "ʾanā")
Replacing mimation with nunation (تنوين), meaning, a nūn is fixed to the end of words (in the form of tanwīn), not a mīm, such as what can be found in Hebrew.
The preposition fī (in) is derived from the word for "mouth" (فم).
The development of the mafʿūl passive participle.
A full list can be found in Ahmed Al-Jallad's forthcoming article, "The Earliest Stages of Arabic and its Linguistic Classification".
Now with an understanding of language families and Arabic's Afro-Asiatic and Semitic context you have a foundation for exploring the development of Arabic as we know it. We are left, however, with the need to know who the speakers of this language were and where they lived. We're now ready for the next part of our historical epic. Join me next time!
¹ A cool resource to look at different Semitic roots is this website. You can search roots and compare cognates across various languages.
Wolff, H. E., (2018, May 14). "Afro-Asiatic languages", Encyclopaedia Britannica,
Orel, V. E., & Stolbova, O. V., (1995). Hamito-Semitic Etymological Dictionary: Materials for Reconstruction.
Rubin, A. D. (2013). "Egyptian and Hebrew", Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics. Geoffrey Khan (ed.).
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