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Al-Hassan

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    Al-Hassan reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Devolution   
    This is part three in my series on postmodernism. For part two, click here, and you will also find the link to part one there.
    Many Muslims begin doubting their religion after surveying the evidence for evolution. Prior to Darwinian evolution, the Muslim civilization was usually not keen on hindering scientific progress, and in fact did what it could to propel it. With modern evolutionary biology however, there appears (at least on the surface) to be a clash between science and scripture. What are the forces at play here? What variables must we consider when dealing with this problem?
    The common stem from which these doubts sprout is an epistemology grounded in naturalism. The scientific method obviously has a place in truth-seeking: it draws its conclusions from sensory observation, and gives us indubitable truths about the universe in which we live. I would never abandon the scientific method as a tool in the quest to understand reality, but it is a tool after all. Science is always at the drawing board, revising old research, devising new methods, and challenging old conclusions. The basis of science is reason, which is why an experiment begins with a hypothesis (an educated guess of what we logically expect to take place) and a null hypothesis (what we expect will not take place). This presupposes cause and effect, and the law of noncontradiction; the idea that our universe operates in an orderly way, and that events do not happen at random. In the same way that logic is the foundation of science, it is also the foundation of our kalaami arguments for the existence of God.
    The scientific method as a tool will not be able to answer every question on ethics, anthropology, cosmology, purpose, metaphysics, consciousness/life/being, and epistemology - and although these areas are more uncertain and immaterial than the hard sciences, they are ultimately what we live for. So when I see New Atheists dismiss philosophy, or religion, I find it to be quite naive, because philosophy is the incorporeal foundation of science, and religion is the incorporeal foundation of society; with science being a tool with its own scope. New Atheism merely grew out of the carcass of occidental Christianity, and its logical conclusion is postmodernism, which is nihilistic, hedonistic, confused, and suicidal.
    So with that in mind, when science, which is sensory observation with inconclusive fluidity, becomes the criterion by which convention is confirmed or denied, there will naturally be clashes. Sometimes, those clashes exist only in the mind, because they are a clash between an interpretation of convention and a perceived reality. Other times, the clash can be based on flawed or incomplete scientific research. I'm not someone who denies evolution, as I think the position of denial becomes more discredited every year. But there are gigantic discoveries that occur periodically, discoveries that challenge previously-held beliefs in evolution and clash with existing hypotheses, discoveries that may have their own flaws that are exposed in the next discovery. This is partly why I find it difficult to answer questions on evolution - it is like the big bang: some are quick to find references to the big bang in the Quran and hadith, but if the big bang theory were ever superseded by science (and alternative hypotheses do exist), then that would throw those interpretations out as well. What I've realized after my third university degree is that these educational institutions have their own faith-based biases, assumptions, and ideologies, which guide their research - this is far more pronounced in the social sciences of course, but isn't limited to them.
    Ultimately, we won't achieve 100% scientific certainty in either the present evolutionary conclusions nor in the Adamic story. This then poses a question: is there any conventional value to the Adamic story? Whether or not it physically took place (and I believe that it did, in some way or another), it is an origin story that resonated with billions of people worldwide for thousands of years, with profound psychological truths and practical sociological lessons. Of course, the Islamic version is a bit more in line with naturalistic thinking - with the nasnaas, the thousands of Adams, the earthly setting of the story, the earthly origins of mankind, no mention of timeline/genealogy, and no "original sin" - but one has to go deeper into the story. The Quran avoids historicizing events, and so it lacks many dates, names, and places, and instead, encourages us to reflect on the lessons taught in each story. On one side, the story talks about humanity's vicegerency of God on Earth, humanity's ability to comprehend the aql (Logos), and humanity's eloquent mastery of language; on the other side, it talks about humanity's naivety, humanity's base desires, and humanity's sorrow after its fall. The story highlights the dualistic nature of man: that we are both celestial in one sense and earthly in another sense; spiritual and physical, supernatural and natural, "human" and animal. It is a story about the great natural telos of man, followed by his tragic fall, followed by his humble ascent. On another level, it talks of humanity's common, meek, and worldly origin, so as to avoid tribalism, racism, and chauvinism.
    According to the teachings of the Ahl al-Bayt, Adam lived in this very same world that you and I share. His "garden" was the state of his faith; he was living in the higher consciousness of the mind and the heart. Eventually, he "fell" into the lower, base desires of man (the stomach and genitals/nakedness), which made him shameful and regretful, because God created man for spiritual ascension and not decline. That regret brought him back to God in a corrective effort. This same story is reflected in mankind both on a microcosmic and macrocosmic level. We all have our own individual falls, where we immaturely decline into heedlessness. But on a civilizational level, we continue to fall vertically, from holistic celestial worldviews to our base desires. Philosophically, we have fallen from religious philosophy (philosophy of the spiritual hierarchy), to rational philosophy, to naturalist philosophy, to contemporary relativism (philosophy of the base human self). The problem with the evolutionary worldview is that it views mankind simply as bonafide tool-making animals. Evolution replaced the perennial notion of man’s fall with a theory of material progress. It gives us the guise of progress. But the reality is that we are falling from the divine to the mundane. The Christian world went from the leadership of prophets, to apostles, to false apostles, to pseudo divine kings, to secular materialist rulers, to the current White House spectacle. They went from traditional Christianity, to Protestantism, to capitalism and socialism, to modern base identities (vegetarians / what one eats, gays / who one has sex with, race / what colour we are born as). Islam went through a similar fall, from prophethood, to imamate and false caliphate, to colonialism, to militant secular states, to chaos. While this time is certainly noted for the rise of its science and technology, I see mankind falling into dogmatism, nihilism, social decadence, frivolity, vanity, impatience, and depression. Jahiliyya was a Fall to the bottom, where from which the Prophet stood his people back up. The hadiths describe the degeneracy of the End Times, but the night is darkest just before the dawn, and as soon as even the dimmest of light appears on the horizon, the very nature of people will pull them towards it - the Mahdi.
    In this sense, conventional truths, which is the sifted and sieved amalgamation of human thought and experience, has a meta-historical archetypal nature that is often more authentic than sensory truths. It would be foolish to disregard either one, because one deals with how, and the other deals with why. With a purely evolutionary worldview, man is a toolmaking animal, and our progress as a species is measured in the linear paradigm of scientific and technological advancement. But this says little about our quality of life, purpose of life, why we live, how we should live, where we come from, what it means to be human, the power of thought and conscious experience, and whether we really are "better" or more developed than our ancestors. It gives the illusion of upward ascent, but I see a downward regress during what should be humanity's most enlightened time, and that regress comes from our killing of our father - tradition, convention, religion, and ritual.
    The Fall gives meaning to human anxiety, depression, and alienation; and a promise of an ascent through effort, hope, promise, responsibility, and a return to being, vicegerency, sainthood.
    "And from the evil of darkness when it overspreads" (113:3)
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    Al-Hassan reacted to Haji 2003 for a blog entry, Unlimited pleasure   
    There are arguments given by atheists challenging religious beliefs, and resulting practices that science does not support and which atheists argue should be abandoned by believers.
    In this essay, I want to look at one example, where I think science is catching up with religion.
    The industrial farming of sugar by Europeans in the West Indies, starting from the eighteenth century, is a good example of improving the supply of something that was supposed to vastly improve the pleasure of significant numbers of people at little cost. Almost suddenly the population of Europe discovered how to sweeten their diet. It took many many decades to realise that, of course, there were health costs and the realisation that industrial production on this scale and such limited cost required unacceptable human sacrifices as well.
    The story for tobacco is a similar one.
    Relatively more recently we've cracked the problem of industrially producing foods that were hitherto a luxury, such as chicken. But at least in this instance, the knowledge that the welfare costs borne by the chicken are unacceptable has come much more quickly than was the case for the slaves producing sugar and tobacco. In the case of the chicken attempts to improve the situation have happened more quickly as well.
    We could list similar examples wherever man has acquired the technical knowledge that the hitherto expensive and difficult to manufacture could be made more cheaply in many instances this has come with a high cost to the human workers and animals involved in the production process.
    But what is also noteworthy is that in many instances there has also been an unacceptable cost to the consumers who had originally assumed that a source of cheap pleasure had been discovered. A high sugar diet kills, low tobacco consumption kills and meat produced with little regard for animal welfare is not healthy either.
    What are the implications for today? Just as improvements in shipping, various agricultural practices and refining processes allowed us to produce sugar, so various technical advances have allowed us to produce far higher and better 'quality' levels of entertainment for far lower cost than was previously ever the case. In a matter of 50 year years, television has gone from something that could only realistically be watched for a few hours a day to something that can deliver a variety of entertainment 24 hours a day, seven days a week for entire years. And we now realise the health costs of a sedentary lifestyle.
    But television also provides a good example of another risk that we are facing. The passive consumption of such entertainment nevertheless requires on the part of those being entertained some variety and on the part of those providing the entertainment there are advantages to reducing costs.
    Adding to this toxic mix is the realisation that although the original goals for entertainment may have been lofty, without a strict ethical and moral framework imposing restrictions the result is all too easily entertainment that appeals to the lowest common denominator and that is sex and we have the 21st century equivalent of sugar, which is pornography.
    There is a growing, but still limited, understanding of the effect of the consumption of porn, and in the case of children the science is still in its infancy. Also, the longer-term effects on entire societies are not well understood, because the experiments necessary to understand the impact are still being done, in real-time on actual societies.
    We are the guinea pigs because even people who do not consciously watch pornography are affected by people who do. The producer who makes a 'racy' drama for mass family audiences, could likely have had their ideas on what is acceptable shaped by their consumption of pornography. Gender relations, how men interact with women are all influenced by the communications to which they are exposed. The impact can therefore be in terms of how ubiquitous (pervasive) the impact is and also how insidious. Without stretching the point, the parallel with sugar is again interesting. Sugar consumption has become pervasive, we consume it even when we do not think we are, it is present in all manner of unlikely foods. Because, once marketers recognised our preference - including it in a wide range of offerings (in order to be customer focused) was the normal reaction of the market place.
    Like sugar, pornography held the promise of unlimited pleasure, at very low cost.
    Religious and moral objectors have appeared to have little science to back their reservations. If you combine the morality of the market with the assumption that anything adults (in this case the actors who perform) do out of their free will, for a fair wage, is acceptable, then there appear to be no restrictions at all as to what is done. Porn becomes a guilt-free pleasure.
    Initially, with what vestige of moral scruples remained, there were restrictions on supply and limitations on what children could watch. But in the case of children the advance of technology has meant that those restrictions have become difficult to enforce and regarding moral limits these have become more lax, as each passing generation has become more liberal in its tolerance of what is acceptable, having been conditioned by what they were exposed to.
    But just as our experience with sugar and tobacco and other products has shown us over the past few centuries, our being able to deliver pleasure at an industrial scale for low cost for the 'benefit' of large sections of society never ends well.
    At least with these offerings, the long-term costs paid by consumers were purely physical, with more recent products subject to industrialisation the costs are more likely to be psychological.
    An Islamic society that adheres to its principles would likely not have affected the growth trajectories of sugar and tobacco, other than perhaps slow down their initial establishment.
    The fair treatment of slaves would have imposed higher costs. However, in the case of pornography restrictions on what people are allowed to see of others should provide clear limits as to what can and cannot be consumed. Bear in mind that Islam does not have some vague restrictions on what people can and cannot see, the restrictions are explicit and formalised.
    This approach has a clear advantage when it comes to something like porn, whose non-religious definition has clearly changed over the years. What is now healthy family viewing was porn for previous generations. This is a product whose very consumption affects how we define it. Yet the Islamic injunction is very clear and is intended to hold for all time.
    This is a clear case of where science catches up with orthodox, traditional religious morality.
    https://contemporaniablog.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/unlimited-pleasure/#more-535
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    Al-Hassan reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Spread by the Sword?   
    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
               
                Not only is Islam the second-largest religion in the world, but it is the world’s fastest growing religion. With globalization and the influx of Muslim immigration to the West, many people are reluctantly meeting Muslims for the first time. Fear of the unknown is common, but that fear is constantly perpetuated by images of violence in the Muslim world. As a visible minority with little political leverage, the Muslim community is an easy target for xenophobes, warmongers, and nationalists. The Muslim world is the needed bogeyman for the military-industrial complex, private security companies, and isolationist politicians to thrive. Rather than trying to understand the complex imperial and economic variables that cause violence in the Muslim world, it is both simpler and more cunning to resort to generalized arguments about Islam. This view, however, overlooks the many scientific and philosophical contributions Muslims have made to Western civilization. More importantly, it distorts the reality of the Muslim civilization’s mostly-tolerant history. The centuries-old narrative that Islam was “spread by the sword” is still popular today, and it causes Muslims living in the West to be looked at as a suspicious Trojan horse waiting to Islamize the world. It is therefore necessary for us to deconstruct this worldview. This paper will briefly explore the rise and expansion of Islam, and demonstrate that tolerance and plurality were founding principles of Islamic ethics.
                Since the early days of the Prophet Muhammad’s ministry, Islam’s relationship with non-Muslim communities has been notable. Shortly after the Muslim migration to Medina (then known as Yathrib) in 622 CE, the Prophet drafted the Constitution of Medina. This charter put an end to tribal infighting in Medina, created a new judicial system, guaranteed the mutual protection of Muslims and non-Muslims, and established a new “Community of Believers (mu’mineen)”. (Gil, 2004, pp. 21) This community would include the Jewish tribes of Medina, while still recognizing their distinct identity and laws. Although Bernard Lewis claims that the Constitution of Medina was a unilateral proclamation by Muhammad, (Lewis, 1993, pp. 22) Muslim sources generally referred to it as a pact between the Muslims and the Jews following the two pledges at `Aqaba. Furthermore, Wellhausen, a German orientalist, regarded this charter to be a multilateral agreement negotiated between all of the involved groups. (Gil, 2004, pp. 22)
                The Prophet Muhammad also ratified writs of protection to other communities. The Ashtiname of Muhammad, which was written by `Ali b. Abi Talib upon the commission of Muhammad, granted privileges to the Christian monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. (Ratliff, 2012, pp. 63) The document guarantees that Christians are not to be overtaxed, plundered, disturbed, or coerced into marriages. (Morrow, 2013) These covenants demonstrate that the Prophet pursued a peaceful and tolerant coexistence with other communities, and made his followers accountable to ethical principles of justice.            
    The Prophet Muhammad very plainly stressed the equality of all people, regardless of tribe, colour, class, or ethnicity. While rights differed among subgroups of society, the Islamic civilization held no concept of the natural subordination of individuals or groups. (Hamid, 1982, pp. 127) Conversion to Islam only required a simple declaration of faith, while becoming a member of the ancient Greek polity was only possible for Greek male property owners. (Hamid, 1982, pp. 127)  The egalitarianism of the Quranic message was attractive to many who sought social refuge from the caste system and other forms of subordination. (Eaton, 1992, pp. 117)
    The Caliphate’s medieval conquests, which occurred after the Prophet Muhammad, are the main source of agitation among those suspicious of Muslims. It should be noted that `Ali b. Abi Talib, who is considered the rightful successor to Muhammad by Shia Muslims, refrained from taking part in these conquests, despite being renowned as a great warrior. There should be no doubt that there were incidents that occurred during early expansion that are not in line with the teachings of the Prophet, especially during the ridda wars and the Battle of `Ulays. The Shia Imams consistently held the Caliphate accountable during mistrials and in moments of nepotism; and they struggled to establish social and economic justice in the Muslim world. But, the frame that the Islamic conquests were wholly or mostly negative is a Eurocentric view that does not account for other pieces of the puzzle.
                Many ancient texts document extensive Judeo-Christian support for the Muslim conquests of Byzantium and Persia. Jews in the Levant had expected a redeemer who would deliver them from the Roman occupiers. (Crone, 1977, pp. 3-6) The Romans had destroyed the Jerusalem Temple in 134 CE, outlawed Jews from living within ten miles of Jerusalem, disbanded the Jewish high court, taxed the Jews heavily, and persecuted them for siding with the Persians. This torment ignited a messianic fervour among medieval Jews, leading to a widespread anticipation of a saviour. One of the earliest non-Muslim references to the rise of Islam is the Doctrina Jacobi, a Greek Christian anti-Jewish polemical text written in 634 CE, just two years after the passing of Prophet Muhammad. The text describes “overjoyed” Jews celebrating the Muslim arrival in Byzantium. (Crone, 1977, pp. 3) Moreover, The Secrets of Simon ben Yohai, a Jewish apocalyptic text written between the seventh and eighth centuries CE, tells of the emergence of an Ishmaelite “prophet according to God’s will” who would save the Jewish people from their oppressors. (Crone, 1977, pp. 4-5)
    The Islamic conquest of the Levant would restore Jewish access to Jerusalem and establish a polity that would include Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. The Pact of Umar II, a writ of protection extended by `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz in the seventh century, promised safety and the right to worship to Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians in exchange for the payment of the poll tax (jizya). (Berger, 2006, pp. 88) While some orientalists have criticized the Pact’s prohibition on riding horses, Muslim clothing and building high structures, these stipulations may have been placed to prevent insurrections against Muslim garrisons, rather than to humiliate or subordinate non-Muslims.
                The Muslim treatment of non-Muslims was similarly commended by Near Eastern Christians. John bar Penkaye, an East Syriac Nestorian writer of the late seventh century, praised the Muslim overthrow of the Sassanid dynasty. In his Summary of World History, he writes, “We should not think of the advent [of the children of Hagar] as something ordinary, but as due to divine working. Before calling them, [God] had prepared them beforehand to hold Christians in honour, thus they also had a special commandment from God concerning our monastic station, that they should hold it in honour … God put victory in their hands.” (Pearse) This early Christian account documents the just conduct of Muslim rulers, likening it to divine intervention. Furthermore, after the Byzantines had seized control of Egypt and put the Coptic Patriarch Benjamin I of Alexandria into exile, the Muslim conquerors restored Benjamin I’s authority and brought order to the affairs of the Coptic Church.
    Many cultures were drawn to Islam’s magnetic social appeal. Indonesia, which is the country with the highest population of Muslims, encountered Arab merchants in the thirteenth century. Along with the arrival of Muslim commercialism, Islamic stories and symbols were introduced to the population through traditional wayang puppet shows. (Hamish, 2011, pp. 46-51) In the Indian subcontinent, Islam provided social mobility to lower castes, giving people equal rights and freeing them from total subservience to the Brahmans. The transformative power of Sufism was also attractive to many Hindus who sought ascetic, mystical brotherhoods. (Lapidus, 1988, pp. 363) Sufi and Shia saints continue to be revered by Hindu and Sikh poets in India.
    Although the Muslim empires had a tumultuous relationship with European Christians over the centuries, sizable Christian and Jewish communities with ancient origins continued to thrive in the Muslim world. Moorish and Ottoman confrontations with Christendom have propelled the misconception that Islam was spread by the sword. The fact is, however, that the conversion of the Near East to Islam occurred very gradually. By 800 CE, only 18% of Iraq’s population was Muslim. (Brown, 2016) Furthermore, Egypt, Spain, and the Levant did not attain a Muslim majority until the eleventh century. (Brown 2016) This means that the Muslims were a minority in the heartlands of their own civilization for hundreds of years. While poll taxes and other social pressures certainly promoted conversion to Islam, ancient churches, synagogues, temples, and other relics were maintained. Judeo-Christian populations even had rights to printing presses and European books in the Ottoman Empire – a privilege rarely granted to Muslims. (Brown, 2016) 14% of the Middle East remained Christian by 1910, with significant populations in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. (Brown, 2016)
    On the other hand, Christendom had a relatively poor record with minorities. Although Iberia was mostly Muslim in the fifteenth century, all Muslims were expelled or forced to convert to Christianity in 1526. (Brown, 2016) In 1609, 3-4% of Spain’s population consisted of Christian descendants of Muslims, who were also expelled under King Philip the Third. Anti-Jewish pogroms were also common in pre and post-Enlightenment European history. While there are many ancient Christian communities in the Muslim world, there are practically no ancient Muslim communities in the Christian world, despite Islam’s long history in Spain, Portugal, Sicily, and Eastern Europe.
                In recent decades, the Muslim world’s relationship with its non-Muslim minority communities has suffered. Colonialism, neo-imperialism, military dictatorships, and poor economies have sometimes caused the alienation and scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities in the Muslim world. In June 2014, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which rose out of the destabilization of Iraq and Syria, routed Christians out of Mosul. This genocide marked the end of over a thousand years of continuous Muslim-Christian coexistence in the region. While ISIL’s actions are a black mark on modern Islamic history, ISIL’s main military and ideological opponents are other Muslims in the region and around the world. This paper demonstrates that normative Islam seeks unity under common ethical principles. It is vital for Muslims to revive an equitable, pluralistic and tolerant worldview, not just because diversity is strength, but because it is the ethos of our civilization.           
     
    Bibliography
    Berger, Julia Phillips., and Sue Parker. Gerson. Teaching Jewish History. Springfield, NJ: A.R.E. Pub., 2006. Print.
    Pearse, John Bar Penkaye, Summary of World History (Rish Melle) (2010). N.p., n.d. Web. 9 July 2016.
    Crone, Patricia, and Michael Cook. Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1977. Print.
    Http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4L23Z_agh1qeV_odQfV6Vg. "Dr. Jonathan AC Brown - The Message of Peace Spread by the Sword - UMaine IAW 2016." YouTube. YouTube, 2016. Web. 9 July 2016.
    Eaton, Richard Maxwell. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760. Berkeley: U of California, 1993. Print.
    Gil, Moshe, and David Strassler. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Print.
    Harnish, David D., and Anne K. Rasmussen. Divine Inspirations: Music and Islam in Indonesia. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.
    Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print
    Lewis, Bernard. The Arabs in History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993. Print.
    Morrow, John A. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
    Ratliff, Brandie, and Helen C. Evans. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th-9th Century. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. Print.
    ʻInāyat, Ḥamīd. Modern Islamic Political Thought. Austin: U of Texas, 1982. Print.
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    Al-Hassan reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Love and Suffering   
    Love and suffering is a match made in heaven. Love is breathlessly heart-wrenching, as it snares the mind of the lover and controls his actions. Any loving relationship will be filled with trial and tribulation, selfless sacrifice, selfish protectiveness, and frequent heartbreak. We both live and die for even a moment of true love. It is thus no coincidence that suffering is a component of many Arabic words for love. `Ishq (عشق), which is a fervent type of love, was originally a vine that winds itself around a tree, squeezing it until it withered. Shaghaf (شغف), which was the passion that Zulaykha had for Yusuf (12:3), was a form of heart disease. Muhjata qalb (مهجة قلب), an expression used to describe a lover, is actually the blood of the heart. Huyum (الهيوم), meaning passion, is a type of insanity. The Persian poem of Layla and Majnun comes to mind.
    Most of the Quran is relative-comparative. Its stories usually lack names, dates, places, and chronologies, and are instead filled with archetypal symbols that can be flexibly applied to other situations. It tries to tell the stories in a timeless and universal manner.
    The Husayni tragedy in Shii literature is similar. It is mourned by other prophets long before the event, it is mourned by nature (blood rain, blood earth, owls), it is mourned over by millions of angels, and it will be vindicated in the eschatological narrative. Karbala is described in Kamil al-Ziyarat as a piece of heaven on Earth, and as the conduit between heaven and earth (majma` as-samawati wal ard). Its soil is described as a cure, and it is given to the sick, and it is used for prostrations. In Shiism, the visitation of Husayn by one who correctly recognizes his status is considered a Hajj (or seven Hajj, or thousands of Hajj, or more), because the principle of Hajj is total submission and sacrifice, commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham; and Husayn cut his Hajj short to fulfill its end by going to Karbala and willingly giving himself to God. It is said that every grief in Islam is disliked, except for grief over Husayn, and so people forego their personal tragedies to mourn for the primordial epic tragedy. They wear black, abstain from makeup and dye, abstain from laughing, abstain from weddings and festive activities, sometimes for forty days.
    The love of Husayn is not just lip-service. It is the intense gallantry that a mother has over her child, the undying loyalty that a person has for their spouse, the forsaken mourning of a widow, and the adoration of a boy for his father. It is a bond closer than family and thicker than blood. His tragedy is the quintessential love story, with Abu Fadl al-`Abbas, Qasim b. al-Hasan, `Ali al-Akbar, `Ali al-Asghar, Habib b. Muthahir, and many other gems bravely followed their beloved into the engulfing abyss.
    Interestingly, there is no record of a relationship between the Imams and the historians of the tragedy, but there is much record of a relationship between the Imams and the poets. The Imams would invite poets to speak on the tragedy, make many supplications for them, add to their poetry, and gift them very generously. This to me says that the aim of the Shii is to find a meaningful and meta-historical route to Husayn, as the horrors of that day were unfathomable, and directed only at those who deserved it the least.
    Love and suffering are often paired in Islamic literature. There isn't really a concept of "happily ever after" in this world, it is rather seen as a prison of the believer, an abode of trials (dar al-bala'), a fleeting world (dar al-fana'), where the lovers of Ali will suffer the most, so that they may be refined and purified like gold in a furnace. The tradition says that those who suffer the most are the prophets and their successors, then those similar to them, and so on. The constant trial strengthens the faith of a true believer, who learns to lean on God alone.
    The timelessness of Islam's symbols emphasizes the finality of its message and the universality of its principles. Our religion uses relatable similitudes that resonate with our very core, making Islam not a seventh century Arabian phenomenon, but an expression of the nature in which we were created.

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    Al-Hassan reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Grading Hadiths: An Introduction   
    Biographical evaluation (`ilm ad-diraya, `ilm ar-rijal) exists both in Sunni and Shi`i branches, and it refers to the strengthening and weakening of individual narrators & transmitters, and chains of transmission (isnad, or plural: asaneed). The purpose of the system is to grade hadith reports based on the trustworthiness of its transmitters. To summarize the Sunni system, all companions of the Prophet (pbuh) - ie all of those who have been in his presence at some point in his life - are considered trustworthy (thiqa). These companions then narrated their traditions to their pupils, family members, and associates. They would then pass it down until they reached a compiler of hadiths, usually in oral form, but sometimes written.
    The Sunni system excels in its biographical documentation because it covers a vast amount of individuals, giving relevant data about many people. But the system does have its flaws:
    1) We don't consider all companions to be trustworthy; and we particularly distrust those who have directly oppressed the Prophet's family.
    2) The culture of memorizing, transmitting, and documenting hadiths did not receive widespread popularity until the 2nd century AH. Therefore, the careful preservation of these hadiths are in question. Sunni isnads tend to be long, transmitted orally over centuries.
    3) Strengthening (tawtheeq) is based mainly on scholarly opinion, with much disagreement.
    Shi`i hadiths take a different approach. The vast majority of Shi`i hadiths come from one of the twelve Imams. The Shi`a hold the belief of a golden chain, which is the chain from one of the Imams that goes through his forefathers back to the Prophet (pbuh). Through the hadith of thaqalayn, the Prophet established that the Qur'an and Ahl al-Bayt are what the Muslims must hold onto, and that the two are one in essence. The Ahl al-Bayt are (at least primarily) the 12 Imams + Fatima (as). In many hadiths, the Prophet aligned himself with `Ali and Fatima, saying the truth is with them, that whoever angers them angers the Prophet, that opposing them is hypocrisy and disbelief, etc. The tying of truth with `Ali, the Mahdi, etc. gives them high authoritative value. The Imams have said in many hadiths that all they say and do comes from the Prophet. Many times, they quoted the Prophet directly, and they have said that all quotations of the Prophet come from their golden chain to him. Likewise, as infallible guides, all that they say and do is from the Qur'an and Sunna, and therefore their words are taken as proof (hujja) for all religious matters.
    This means that the relation of hadiths in Shiism took place over a 300+ year period rather than just a 23 year period. Surely, the religion was completed and perfected by the end of the holy Prophet's lifetime. That same religion was relayed by the Imams. As hadith narration became popular in the second century AH, thousands of students studied under the 5th and 6th Imams. Together, al-Baqir and as-Sadiq narrated tens of thousands of hadiths on all topics - `aqeeda, fiqh, tafsir, history, eschatology, and more. The Imams gave their students the explicit instruction to write their words down, memorize their hadiths, and spread the knowledge to the people. Hence, the hadith collection process began in their lifetimes. The earliest available Shi`i notebook (usl) dates back to the time of the 4th Imam. By the occultation of the 12th Imam, over 300 of such usool existed. Unlike Sunni tradition, the hadiths were mostly not transmitted orally between the Prophet and a third century compiler. Rather, the hadiths came mainly from the Imams, and most of them were copied down during the time of the Imams. In some books, the chains of narrators are considerably shorter than in Sunni books. The time between the narration of the hadith and its compilation is also much smaller.
    As noted earlier, not all companions of the Prophet - or the Imams - are considered reliable. Their veracity and loyalty to Ahl al-Bayt must be proven. There are many ways that a hadith narrator is given tawtheeq:
    1. The Imams directly gave tawtheeq to some people.
    2. The Imams gave taraddi (expressing God's satisfaction) and tarahhum (asking God's mercy) to some people.
    3. Like in Sunni rijal, the scholars would give tawtheeq to people or weaken them, based on their biographical data, beliefs, actions, who they associate with, etc.
    4. The clients, messengers, and tax-collectors of the Imams were largely given tawtheeq.
    5. People can be given tawtheeq through other thiqa people.
    6. People can be given tawtheeq if they are relied upon by major trustworthy companions of the Imams (as`hab al-ijma`)
    And many other means.
    There are certain levels that a narrator can embody.
    1. A narrator can be considered thiqa. This means the narrator is trustworthy in what he narrates. Non-Shi`is can be considered thiqa, but this will be noted in the grading of the chain. A sahih chain is one where all the rijal are Imami Shi`a. A muwathaq chain is a chain that is all thiqa, but may include trustworthy Sunnis, Zaydis, Fat`his, Waqifis, etc.
    2. A narrator can be considered `aadil or faadil or mamdooh which means that he is a just and good person, but his explicit tawtheeq cannot be established. This makes a chain hasan in grading.
    3. A narrator can be considered dha`eef, which means he is weak. Either he is known for lying and bad character, or he is associated with the enemies of Ahl al-Bayt (nawasib, or ghulat - Shi`i extremists), or both.
    4. A narrator can be considered majhool, which means we may know some biographical details about the person, but not enough to establish trustworthiness or lack thereof.
    There is a theory called as`hab al-ijma` that is used by a minority of scholars. The as`hab al-ijma` are a list of 18 companions of five of the Imams who are considered very trustworthy central figures of the sect. This method says: any hadith that is authentic up to one of these 18 can be accepted. Even if one of these 18 individuals narrate from someone without tawtheeq, the idea is that they would not relate a hadith unless it had value - as they were close, accepted, and tested supporters of the Imams. However, to be safe and cautious, many rijal scholars do not use this method.
    The hadiths parimarily came from the Imams during their time in Medina. Their Shi`i partisans were mainly Kufan visitors who would go to Medina, stay for a while, gather knowledge and bring it back to Kufa. As mentioned before, Kufa and Baghdad were an Islamic powerhouse during the second century AH, and most of what was written in the early period in both sects was in Iraq and Persia. That is where most Muslim scholars came from and most Islamic books were written. Thus, the tradition survives through this transmission. From Kufa, the hadiths also went to Qum when Ibrahim b. Hashim and others took their traditions there. There were thousands of Shi`as in Iraq during the time of the 6th Imam, and many hundreds of his companions were Kufan transmitters of hadiths.
    A hadith or concept that is narrated through multiple chains is mutawater (widely narrated). `Aqeeda must be established on mutawater traditions. Fiqh however can be established throug ahad (single-authority) traditions.
    There are some issues with rijal. We should recognize that it is still a man-made system and will have its faults. The main fault in Shi`i rijal is that there are too many majhool narrators, because the Ahl al-Bayt had thousands of students, and the status of many of them was not known to the scholars of rijal. Also, different scholars had different opinions on certain narrators. There are also some manuscript discrepancies in the works of some rijal scholars (most prominently, Ibn al-Ghada'iri's). Sometimes we don't have as many biographical details as we want. Rijal scholars largely lived after the people they had written about were dead. However, the system can weed out contradictions and strengthen established concepts. It is also an insurance that what we believe and practice was what the best of the Muslims believed and practiced.
    The gradings of narrators are usually extrapolated from the biographical information provided by major Shi`i classical scholars of rijal. These scholars include Najashi (~ d. 1058), whose gradings are usually preferred, Ibn al-Ghada'iri (11th century), Shaykh al-Tusi (d. 1067), and Kashhi (d. 951). It is recorded that Shaykh al-Kulayni, the compiler of al-Kafi, and Shaykh as-Saduq had their own books of rijal, but those book have not survived. Furthermore, some scholars have accepted all of the narrators who have been included in Tafsir al-Qummi and Kamil az-Ziyarat, under the belief that the authors of these works have only included reliable narrators. Later scholars who have contributed to the science include `Allamah al-Hilli (d. 14th century), `Allamah al-Majlisi (d. 17th century), Shaykh Bahbudi (d. 20th century), Sayyid Burujirdi (d. 20th century), al-Khoei (d. 20th century), Muhammad Taqi al-Tustari (d. 20th century) Shaykh Asif Muhsini, Shaykh ar-Radi, Shaykh as-Sanad, and many others.
    It should be noted that the authors of the Four Books - Kulayni, Saduq, and Tusi - took rijal seriously. They believed that their books were filtered enough to represent Twelver Shiism, even for lay use. Kulayni in particular viewed his work as sahih in content. Many attested to the works of these scholars and others. While some later scholars have weakened many narrations in the Four Books based on a strict adherence to classical rijal standards, this standard is seen by some scholars to be too stringent and unnecessary. Still, the study of rijal provides a wealth of information on our sources, and it remains a critical tool for scholars and seminarians.
    That is some [very] basic information on rijal in Shiism - inshaAllah it is helpful to some.
  6. Like
    Al-Hassan reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Miracles - are where you look for them   
    So the nine year-old was asking why God does not provide us with miracles as He did in centuries past.
    I replied that miracles are everywhere, it's a matter of recognising their existence. At a personal level, unexpected, undeserved, serendipitous successes, could all be construed as miraculous. No?
     
     
  7. Like
    Al-Hassan reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, st. -1   
    In Bait-al Ma'mur, Azazil-later called Iblis-sitting on a white minbar and holding a tasbih in his hands, was preaching for a crowd of angels and other residents of empyrean. He was deeply happy and proud to see that he had such a special superior status and that the angels listened to him with great interest.
    After he finished his sermon, angels started asking him theological questions and he answered with full confidence. One of the angels asked:
    O God's beloved, we have worshipping God the Almighty for hundreds of years but we have not achieved a status as high as yours. Tell us, please, the secret behind your success in rising to this enormous  dignity and supereminence.
    Azazil, pleased to hear such a joyful acknowledgement but unaware of that what he thought and what he uttered would put him in a difficult imminent test, smiled and replied: "My friends! Listen to me carefully: I don't deserve the status I have been granted but let me reveal the secret behind my sucess to you.
    Of course, I am not going to boast but to offer help to those who desire to approach our Lord and make him pleased.
    Pure intentions! Friends! Pure intentions! Your problem is that you dont worship God purely for himself but you do it for the purpose of achieving a higher status. Such insincere worship is worthless and is never of any benefit to you.
    Another important point is to avoid being arrogant for it is a major obstacle to...".
    Azazil was preaching when suddenly he found some of the angels talking and not listening to him.
    He shouted :"What is up?! Why are you making so much noise?!"
    One of the angels said :"Sorry, sir! Our minds have been occupied with the recent news!"
    Azazil asked: "the recent news?!"
    The angel replied: "Yes. The news about a new unique creature which God the Almighty is going to create. It is said that no other creature will be equl to it and that God has special plans for this beloved creature-to-be".

    Azazil, surprised at what he had just heared, was lost in thought for a few moments and then said:
    "What a good wonderful news! Indeed, every decision our Lord takes, is wise and praiseworthy. Now, it is better to go and prepare yourselves for celebrating the birth of this welcome creature".
    As the angels were leaving, the purple beads of tasbih, one by one, slipped from his lap and the stairs and scattered on the ground; the tasbih that had been pressed and torn among the fingers of its angry owner who tried to show himself happy and satisfied.
     
     
    Footnotes:
    1. Bait-al Ma'mur( بیت المعمور) is a place in 4th or 7th heaven. It is a Ka'ba for angels.
    2. Tasbih( تسبیح) is a prayer beads.
    3. Minbar(منبر) is a pulpit.
    4. Azazil: عزازیل
  8. Like
    Al-Hassan reacted to Miss Wonderful for a blog entry, The Ash’ari Family II (4)   
    Original full post: http://www.iqraonline.net/the-ashari-family-ii-history-of-imami-shii-theology-4/
     
    In this post we will continue with the list of scholars from the Ash’ari family who have been categorized into the second and third group, post-migration to Qom.
    Second Group
    Zakariyyah bin Idris bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Considered a companion of Imam Sadiq, Imam Kadhim and Imam Ridha. Zakariyyah bin Adam bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Considered a companion of Imam Sadiq, Imam Kadhim, Imam Ridha and Imam Jawwad, but his narrations are all from Imam Ridha and Imam Jawwad. He was an important figure, to the extent that Imam Ridha (s) had informed one of his companions to refer to Zakariyyah for any religious inquiries. Sahl bin Yasa’ bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: A narrator of hadih from Imam Kadhim and Ridha. We have 11 narrations from him in our four-primary works of hadith. Isma’il bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: His name appears in certain narrations where he is narrating directly from Imam Kadhim and Imam Ridha. Marzban bin ‘Imran bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Kadhim and Imam Ridha. Idris bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha. Ishaq bin Adam bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha. Isma’il bin Adam bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: He most probably lived during the life of Imam Kadhim. Even though we have no records to show that he narrated anything directly from any of the Imams, he has still been described as an important scholar of Qom by Najashi. Muhammad bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: He had heard narrations from Imam Ridha and also narrates from Imam Jawwad. Sa’d bin Sa’d bin Malik bin Ahwas al-Ash’ari: From the companions of Imam Kadhim, Ridha and Jawwad. His name appears in 74 chains of narrations in the four-primary books. Isma’il bin Sa’d bin Sa’d bin Ahwas al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Kadhim and Ridha. 20 of his narrations from Imam Ridha appear in the four-primary books. Hamzah bin Yasa’ bin Yasa’ bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Sadiq and Kadhim and possibly had met Imam Ridha as well. ‘Imran bin Muhammad bin ‘Imran bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha. Muhammad bin Sahl bin Yasa’ bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha and Imam Jawwad. His name appears in 380 narrations in the four-primary works. There are about 30 more names that can be added to this list. This list brings us to the end of the middle of the 3rdcentury Hijri. During this time period, Kufa had already severely declined, and while there is activity happening in Baghdad amongst the Shi’as, it is nothing compared to what had taken place in Kufa in the previous century. All narrators in this list were travelling to different cities to meet the Imams (depending on where the Imams were) and then coming back to Qom and spreading their narrations.
    Third Group
    This list of forthcoming Ash’ari scholars begins from around the beginning of the 3rd century Hijri. These scholars were naturally influenced by the teachings of the previous two groups.
    Ahmad bin Ishaq bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Jawwad, Imam Hadi and Imam ‘Askari. He was known as Wafid ul-Qomiyyeen (the envoy of the Qomis) implying that he would travel often to meet the Imams with questions from Qom, and bring back what he had learned and heard. He was one of those individuals who had seen Imam Mahdi (s) and is deemed very reliable. ‘Ali bin Ishaq bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: It appears he did not directly narrate from any of the Imams, but he did possess his own book of hadith. Ahmad bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Ridha, Jawwad and Hadi. He was one of the greatest scholars of Qom and is recognized as the main authority during his time. His name appears in 2290 narrations in the four-primary works. He is known to have been strict when it came to accepting narrations and exiling individuals who he deemed problematic. He will be discussed in greater lengthy in future posts. Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Ya’qub bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Jawwad, and had various books. Muhammad bin Rayyan bin Salt al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Jawwad. ‘Ali bin Rayyan bin Salt al-Ash’ari: Companion of Imam Hadi and Imam ‘Askari. He was one of the financial-agents of Imam Hadi in Qom, and his name appears in the chains of 27 narrations. Sa’d bin ‘Abdullah bin Abi Khalf al-Ash’ari: His name appears in the chains of 1142 narrations in the four-primary books. There is confusion over whether he was a companion of Imam ‘Askari or someone who did not narrate from any of the Imams. Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Abi Bakr bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: He has also been recognized as Ahmad bin Abi Zahir Musa Abu Ja’far al-Ash’ari. He is someone who did not narrate from the Imams directly, but was one of the great scholars of Qom. Adam bin Ishaq bin Adam bin ‘Abadullah al-Ash’ari: His name appears in 13 narrations in the four-primary books. ‘Abdullah bin Muhammad bin ‘Isa bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: His name appears in 110 narrations in the four-primary books. ‘Ali bin Ahmad bin Ishaq bin ‘Abdullah al-Ash’ari: His name appears in 2 narrations in the four-primary works. Muhammad bin ‘Ali bin Mahbub al-Ash’ari: His name appears in 1118 narrations in the four-primary books and Najashi considered him a senior scholar in Qom. With this, we end the list of some of the most important names that left their mark in the history of Qom, and who helped shape religious discourse in the city. With the third group, we see an increase in scholarly activity within Qom, partly due to the Kufan heritage being transferred over in extensive amounts through important Kufan personalities like Ibrahim bin Hashim. With the first two groups, the trend more so for these scholars of Qom was to either meet the Imams directly, or visit Kufa to take narrations from teachers that were still present there. However, in the third century Hijri, and with the emergence of the third group, it was the physical transfer of Kufa’s heritage – such as books and manuscripts of various works – that played a huge role in giving Qom its authoritative position. This is not to say that some of the scholars were no longer traveling to meet the Imams, but rather this had slowly diminished, and after the occultation of the 12th Imam, no longer had any meaning.
    Over here we should also point out that with the presence of the Ash’ari family in Qom, which was in essence a Shi’i presence, many individuals from the lineage of Ali (s) and Fatima (s) also migrated and settled in Qom. The Ash’aris were known to have welcomed them into the city and gave protection to those who were merely seeking refuge in Qom. The work Muntaqalah al-Talibiyyah[1] of Ibn Tabataba (d. end of 5th century Hijri), records the name of thirty such individual who migrated to Qom with their families, many of these were either scholars of hadith themselves, or their children became scholars of hadith. Some of these individuals include Hamza bin Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Ja’far bin Muhammad bin Zayd (who Shaykh Saduq narrates a lot from), Hamza bin ‘Abdillah bin Hasan, ‘Ali bin Hamza, and Abu al-Fadhl Muhammad bin ‘Ali.
    As mentioned above, during the years when scholars from the third group lived, Qom had slowly become an authority for Shi’i religious discourse, to such an extent that scholars had now begun traveling to Qom to hear and record traditions. For example, we see important figures like Rayyan bin Shabib, Husayn bin Sa’eed al-Ahwazi, Hasan bin Sa’eed al-Ahwazi, Qasim bin Hasan bin ‘Ali bin Yaqtin, ‘Abdul Rahman bin Abi Hammad Sayrafi and more traveling to Qom for this very reason. In the next few articles we will try to address the role and influence of specific individuals, and as well as certain trends that were prevalent in Qom. For this reason, I have created a rough timeline showing when certain specific scholars who will be mentioned in subsequent articles were living and who their contemporaries were. Most dates are rough, as they are either unknown or there are multiple dates given for them.

    —————
    [1] Page 251-258 | Book can be downloaded here. The book has also been translated into Farsi as: مهاجران آل ابوطالب

  9. Like
    Al-Hassan reacted to repenter-gone4awhile for a blog entry, Week 1   
    General Info: 
    Body info:
    Height: 182cm Weight: 90kg
    Lifts max:
    Bench: 125kg max Deadlift: 180kg max Squat: 150kg max
    Nutrition structure:
    7 am Breakfast
    Protein shake > 60g protein, 10g BCAA, 14g of Glutamine, 110kcal Rice porridge(300g) > 10g protein, 36g carbs, 264kcal 4 egg omlette > 28g protein, 22g fat, 310kcal
    9 am Snack
    1 Banana > 27g carbs, 125kcal walnuts(150g) > 28g protein, 5g carbs, 102g fat, 1050kcal
    11 am Lunch
    Tuna in oil(100g) > 25g protein, 4g fat, 130kcal Protein shake > 60g protein, 10g BCAA, 14g of Glutamine, 110kcal Fullcorn bread(200g) > 36g protein, 42g carbs, 19g fat, 516kcal
    1 pm Snack
    1 Banana > 27g carbs, 125kcal walnuts(150g) > 28g protein, 5g carbs, 102g fat, 1050kcal
    4 pm pre workout
    1 large steak(250g) > 56g protein, 263kcal Rice wild(150g) > 12g protein, 109g carbs, 516kcal Broccoli(200) > 6.4g protein, 5g carbs, 60kcal
    Post workout
    Protein shake > 60g protein, 10g BCAA, 14g of Glutamine, 110kcal 1 Banana > 27g carbs, 125kcal walnuts(150g) > 28g protein, 5g carbs, 102g fat, 1050kcal
    6pm dinner
    1 large steak(250g) > 56g protein, 263kcal Rice wild(150g) > 12g protein, 109g carbs, 516kcal Broccoli(200) > 6.4g protein, 5g carbs, 60kcal 8 pm Snack
    1 Banana > 27g carbs, 125kcal walnuts(150g) > 28g protein, 5g carbs, 102g fat, 1050kcal 11 pm Night meal
    Rice porridge(300g) > 10g protein, 36g carbs, 264kcal 4 egg omlette > 28g protein, 22g fat, 310kcal Glutamine 5g, Creatine 10g, Multivitamines, 2 spoons of omega 3 and 6 oils  Total Values:
    Protein: 531.4g
    Carbs: 470g
    Fat: 400g
    Calories: 6500kcal

    Workout Routine:
    Morning before breakfast:
    250 crunches
    250 legraises

    Weightlifting around 5pm
    Day 1: Chest and Biceps Day 2: Shoulders and Traps Day 3: Upper back and Triceps Day 4: Rest Day 5: Lower back and legs Day 6: Triceps and Biceps Day 7: Repeat day 1 Structure:
    6 exercises on each body part mentioned, all in super sets. Meaning when you are done with exercise 1 you immediately do exercise 2. Except Bench-press, dead-lift and squats which are done in normal sets as they are core movements and needs fulls strength and focus. 
    Buildup for each exercise is split pyramid with 4 sets of 12/10/8/6 reps. The lower the rep the heaver the weight gets. 

    Example - Benchpress
    Set 1: 110kg 12 reps
    60 seconds break
    Set 2: 115kg 10 reps
    60 seconds break
    Set 3: 120kg 8 reps
    60 seconds break
    Set 4: 125kg 6 reps

    Example superset Biceps:
    Dumbell curls + Zbar curl
    Set 1: 6 reps DC 6 reps Zbar
    60 seconds break
    Set 2: 5 reps DC 5 reps Zbar
    60 seconds break
    Set 3: 4 reps DC 4 reps Zbar
    60 seconds break
    Set 4: 3 reps DC 3 reps Zbar


      
  10. Like
    Al-Hassan reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Developing a Personal Relationship with the Hidden Imam   
    During this occultation, there are unique trials, tests, tribulations, confusions and perplexities. Imam ar-Rida (as) said in two narrations that the Shi`a will be "refined (yuftanoon) just as gold is refined; purified just as gold is purified". (يفتنون كما يفتن الذهب، ثم قال: يخلصون كما يخلص الذهب.) When gold is taken out of the ground, it is black. During the refinement process, in order to rid it of excess minerals, it must be burned until nothing remains except pure gold. Likewise, during the occultation, "years will come that will perish them, a sword that will kill them, and a disagreement that will scatter them" (يأتي عليهم سنون تفنيهم، وسيف يقتلهم، واختلاف يبددهم  ). In the same hadith, as-Sadiq says this process will continue until 300+ true Shi`a are left. If you read the narrations on what constitutes a true Shi`a of Ahl al-Bayt, it's a very high bar that many of us will never reach. Beyond the 313 companions of the Mahdi, he will have no less than 10,000 others in his army, who will be people of taqwa, but not at the same level of yaqeen as the 313. These are the people that survive the tribulations, which will cause many Shi`as and Muslims to deviate under the heat.
    Not only are we supposed to "await the relief day and night" (ليتوقعوا الفرج صباحا ومساء), but awaiting the relief is considered a part of the relief (إنتظار الفرج من الفر ). This is a time period where we can gradually develop our relationship with the Imam and be counted from his followers without even fighting alongside him. The reward of one who recognizes him is like that of those who will be in his pavilion (ومن عرف إمامه ثم مات قبل أن يرى هذا الامر ثم خرج القائم عليه السلام كان له من الاجر كمن كان مع القائم في فسطاطه   ).
    Another spiritual instruction given to us for the occultation is to hold our tongues and stick to our homes (حفظ اللسان ولزوم البيت ). This is an indicator to the outward corruption and schism of this time period. The more time spent in the markets/malls, for example, the more likely we are to see/hear/do/buy things that are bad for our relationship with God and His representative. This is becoming increasingly the case with nudity, music marketed towards our desires, and a global culture that maximizes our ego and materialism.
    Now, if you've read in between the lines, there's a trend here. Recognition of the Imam is not just knowing his name and biography. True recognition is to have an experiential relationship with him; so much so that you begin to take on his characteristics. Imam as-Sadiq (as) says, regarding the true Shi`a, "They are those, whose lives are so simple, whose abodes move from place to another, who, if they are seen they, will not be known, if they are absent, they will not be missed, if they become ill, they will not be visited, if they propose to a woman, they will not be married, and if they die, their funerals will not be attended. It is they, who divide their wealth among them, who visit each others' graves, and who never disagree even if their countries are different.” (أولئك الخفيض عيشهم، المنتقلة دارهم، الذين إن شهدوا لم يعرفوا، وإن غابوا لم يفتقدوا، وإن مرضوا لم يعادوا، وإن خطبوا لم يزوجوا، وإن ماتوا لم يشهدوا، أولئك الذين في أموالهم يتواسون، وفي قبورهم يتزاورون، ولا تختلف أهواؤهم وإن اختلفت بهم البلدان). This isn't an instruction to be aloof, but rather, it's describing the state of the true believers of this time. They will be supporters of one another and have close ties, but to the outside world, it is as if they do not even exist. They are not recognized by their merit, and that's exactly what is happening now. The good is seen as evil, and the evil is seen as good, and so consequently, the Shi`a are despised, rejected, unrecognized, not missed, not visited, and not felt for. Sound familiar?
    This is a part of the tawalla and tabarra. Anyone can pray, fast, perform Hajj, and give alms, but the true Shi`i is the one who has a direct relationship with his Imam and disassociates from his enemies. During the time of Husayn (as), when he was calling his supporters to come with him to Karbala, it did not suffice to say "I am going to stay in Medina, pray more tahajjud, write up some fiqh manuals". The true supporter had to live Husayn's life and die his death. Those who didn't regretted that, and they became the tawwabun. During the time of as-Sadiq, he became a teacher and educator in theology and jurisprudence, and likewise, his companions were not off joining revolutions - they were students of his and teachers of the people.
    What I find fascinating is that the 313 live the life of the Hidden Imam. That is, they live simply, they are unrecognized, they are forgotten, they support one-another, and they seclude themselves from the overspreading darkness of this world. They feel the Imam's suffering and fear, and live it. But, their proximity to Imam will allow them to all travel to Mecca prior to his coming. They will be the first to give bay`a to the Imam upon his appearance. Then, they take on the new characteristics of the Imam: utmost strength, courage, initiative, and they abandon taqiyya. Then, with the Imam together, they bring justice and peace to a world fraught with tyranny and injustice.
  11. Like
    Al-Hassan reacted to Ruq for a blog entry, If you cant beat them join bear   
    Got the New Year blues? Wavey bear hasnt, he's been having funfunFUN on his stag weekend and honeymoon. Here's a sample of what he's been up to:
     
    It was theme park rides and racing on stag weekend in California...
      
             ...then off to Venezuela for sun, sea and romantic sunsets
                                    


     
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    Al-Hassan reacted to Ali for a blog entry, The Story of ShiaChat.com - The IRC (#Shia) Days!   
    [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?
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