Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Islam gives me peace - A R
From a non-believer to a worshiper; from
polytheist to monotheist; from Dileep Kumar to Allah Rakha Rahman, the famous
music wizard has come a long way. This journey, he says, has completely changed
his outlook toward life. Rahman is well-known in India. He revolutionized Bollywood music, giving it a new
direction. But in Mina, the man was spiritually charged, relaxing in his camp
after Isha prayers, remarkably very far from the rhythm of success.
He said that in India’s film world, people change Muslim names to Hindu ones to
get success but, “in my case it was just the opposite from Dileep Kumar to
Allah Rakha Rahman — and I’m very proud of it.”
Rahman’s music is everywhere: in discotheques, in malls, at wedding parties, on
satellite channels, in taxis. He is a celebrity in his own right. His face
adorns the cover of every album he cuts. Autograph hunters hound him wherever
he goes. A couple of companies have tried to lure him into product
endorsements, but he refused, preferring to distance himself from the glare and
the sometimes self-indulgent afterglow of fame.
Such was his attitude when Arab News met him yesterday in Mina after a hunt of
five hours that had started just after Maghreb
prayers. Once a practitioner of idolatry, Rahman now talks about Islam like a
scholar. He winced as he spoke about the ignorance of some Muslims and the
divisions among them on trivial issues.
Rahman, who has come to perform his second Haj with his mother, utilized every
bit of his stay in Mina, Arafat and Madinah in prayer and remembrance of God to
“cleanse the inner self.”
He said Islam is a religion of peace, love, coexistence, tolerance and
modernity. But due to the behavior of a few of us, it’s labeled as an
intolerant orthodoxy. He says that the image of Islam is being tarnished by a
small group of people and that Muslims must come forward to present before the
world the correct picture of their divine faith.
“The enormity of their ignorance of the Islamic history and its code of conduct
is mind-boggling. We should be united in fighting these elements for the cause
of Islam,” he said.
“Muslims should go to lengths to follow the basics, which say ‘be kind to your
neighbors, keep smiling when you meet others, pray and do charity.’ We should
serve humanity. We should not show hostility toward others, even to the
followers of other faiths. This is what Islam stands for. We should present
before the world a model through our behavior, nature and presentation. The
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never used his sword to spread Islam;
rather he spread the religion through his virtues, behavior, tolerance and
righteousness. And this is what is needed to change today’s distorted image of
Talking about his Haj, Rahman said, “Allah made it very easy for us. And up
until now, I have enjoyed every bit of my stay in the holy land and I pray to
Allah to accept my pilgrimage.”
For him, the stoning ritual is a physical exercise that symbolizes internal
struggle: “It means the defeat of temptation and killing the devil inside
“I would like to tell you that this year I got the most precious gift on my
birthday, Jan. 6. Allah gave me the opportunity to confine myself inside the
Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah and pray all through the day. Nothing could match
this experience and that too on my birthday; I am extremely delighted and
thankful to Allah,” he said.
Rahman said that prayers release his tension and give him a sense of
containment. He performs prayers despite heavy work pressure. “I am an artist,
but despite tremendous work pressure I never skip prayers,” he said. “I am very
punctual in offering the day’s all five prayers on time. This releases me from
tension and gives me hope and confidence that the Lord is with me, that this is
not the only world. It reminds me of the Day of Judgment.”
It was in the year 1989 that he and his family embraced Islam.
Talking about his reversion, Rahman said, “The wh ole process started with a
sequence of dream. It was in 1988. I was in Malaysia and had a dream of an old man who was asking me to embrace
Islam. For the first time, I did not take it seriously, but then I saw the same
dream several times and I discussed it with my mother. She encouraged me to go
ahead and to respond to the call of the Almighty. Also, in 1988, one of my
sisters fell seriously ill and in spite of the family’s effort to cure her, her
health deteriorated by the day. Then under the guidance of one Muslim religious
leader we prayed to Allah, which did wonder for my sister and she made a
miraculous comeback to life. Thus, began my journey from Dileep Kumar to A.R.
He said the decision to embrace Islam was a mutual one with his mother. Not one
to normally discuss this aspect of his private life, after taking a pause,
Rahman narrates succinctly, “My mother and I resolved to follow one faith … we
wanted to cleanse ourselves of our sorrows.”
After initial doubts, his three sisters also embraced Islam. For them he has
tried to be a role model, he said. However, his eldest sister was divorced
Rahman began learning piano at the age of four. But life was not all that
hunky-dory for the young boy who lost his father at the age of nine.
The responsibility of supporting his mother Kasturi (now Kareema Begum) and
three sisters soon fell on his young shoulders. He began his prosperous musical
career at age eleven out of necessity.
Rahman is married to Saira. They have three children: two girls, 10 and seven,
and a three-year-old son.
Rahman performed his first Haj in 2004. This time, he is accompanying his
“I wanted to bring my wife also for Haj this year, but since my son is only
three years old, she could not make it. God willing, I will come again — next
time with my wife and children,” Rahman said..
Challenges Facing Islam and the Muslim Ummah
It is a fact, universally acknowledged that current world crises have assumed
alarming proportions, leaving everybody in a state of utter awe and fear. The US
and its trusted ally, Britain, are seen hell-bent on ensuring world domination through
means fair or foul. Yesterday, Sudan
and Afghanistan were brutally targeted. Today it is Iraq, which is the victim of their blatant aggression. Who
knows which other Muslim country will be their next victim. Their avaricious
eyes are closely riveted on the Muslim World.
Chain of events go to prove beyond doubt that protagonists of the New World
Order as envisaged by George Bush, have very cleverly planned to undermine,
cripple and (if possible) annihilate the Muslims from the planet. These powers
are already working in this direction and they have partially succeeded in
their nefarious designs as well. Some of the Muslim countries have been
rendered totally ineffective and they are seen dancing to the tune set by
'Champions' of the New World Order. On the other hand, those Muslim countries
who have seen through their cunning game, are being dubbed as fundamentalists.
They are denigrated as bigots and reactionaries and listed as rogue states. A strange
irony of fate, indeed!
Events of recent world history go to prove beyond doubt that Western World is
in the grip of a nervous fear with regard to the resurgence of Islam. To
subvert this gushing wave of Islamic revivalism, the West has mustered all its
resources to destroy all ideological-oriented Muslim countries. As a result,
these countries are falling victim to their aggression in quick succession. Iran,
Iraq, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Malaysia, Sudan and Afghanistan have been subjected to acts of brute aggression. Their
only 'Sin' is that they are the followers of a 'faith' which challenges their
hegemony in categorical terms!
Recent most victim of their aggression is Iraq. Both America and Britain have let loose hell on the helpless Iraqi people and they
are persuading France as well to join hands with them for its complete
destruction. Sudan, too, is a constant eye-sore for them and for the past many
years, they have been working desperately hard to 'teach' the Sudanese people a
lesson, but thanks to the heroic struggle of this great nation that their ugly
designs have come to a naught. Sudan has fully seen through their clever game and is determined
to resist their designs.
Pakistan, too, is a source of constant discomfiture for the West.
Successful demonstration of its nuclear capability has left the West in a state
of total bewilderment. The atomic blast has come to them as a rude shock. No
doubt, America and other Western nations had some indications about Pakistan's nuclear preparations but they were not yet mentally
prepared to hear this news. India, too, had thought that it would take a long time for Pakistan to catch up with them. On successful display of our
nuclear capability, Indian Prime Minister, Vajpayee had to admit openly that by
carrying out a successful experiment, Pakistan had set all those doubts at rest which had been lurking in
the minds of the Indians.
a matter of serious concern that after the end of the Cold War, balance of
power has glaringly tilted in favour of the United States and the West. Russia
is faced with a series of grim crises and is no longer in a position to
challenge the US hegemony. In fact, Russia is virtually perched on the horns of dilemma, as it is on
the verge of bankruptcy. Its ailing President Yeltsin is trying desperately
hard to cling to power despite his failing health. Judged by any standard, he
is unable to govern the huge monolith that is Russia. In fact, Russia is currently characterised by multifarious paradoxes. On
the one hand, we see the extreme paradox of the falling ruble and acute food
shortages, plaguing the people, while on the other hand, a new breed of the
affluent class is mushrooming all over the country. The entire situation is
somewhat farcical. This sharp difference between the 'haves' and the
'have-nots' is likely to foment revolution. The entire situation is
outrageously alarming. Political analysts are of the view that in case Russia succeeds in overcoming its domestic problems, it may as
well stage at least a partial comeback on the global scene. In that case, it
will be able to pose some threat to the West, which is currently coercing all
the Third World countries.1
Prime Minister, Yevgemy Primakov visited India
immediately after the cessation of air strikes on Iraq. This visit was significant in the sense that it came out
with a new proposal of striking a triangular alliance between Russia,
India and China. Although China
has summarily dismissed this idea, yet some of the Third World
countries are feeling somewhat relieved. They feel that in times to come, Russia
may be in a position to take up cudgels on their behalf, in case America continues browbeating them in future as well as it is
doing today. China, however, is very wisely maintaining its neutral stance.
Regrettably in the past, some of the Pakistani governments have played second
fiddle to US designs. The results have been quite disastrous. Now that it is
abundantly clear that it is extremely naive on our part to rely on its false
promises. Currently, America is targeting other Muslim nations, but under a calculated
strategy, it is wooing Pakistan, in view of its geostrategic location. America is fully conscious of our strategic importance, and as
such, is toying with us for the time being. This is, however, just a temporary
phase. God forbid, sooner or later, our turn would also come. Under these
circumstances, the wise course of action for us would be to first set our house
in order and then strike strategic alliance among various Muslim countries.
Emotional outbursts and empty rhetorics would not help us for long. Under a
planned strategy Muslim countries should forge unity among themselves first, on
regional basis and then in the second phase, extend its base so as to encompass
all the Muslim countries in its fold. Towards that end, we must work
consistently and with a spirit of devotion.
The 'begging bowl' syndrome that has gripped many Muslim countries including Pakistan and the economic disparity between the masses and the
ruling classes, is a source of grave concern. Taking Pakistan as a case study, we see that due to ill-conceived policies
of our governments (both past and present), the country is bordering bankruptcy
and its inflated debts have tarnished its international image. In order to
salvage our lost prestige and rehabilitate our economy on sound footing, we
must take drastic remedial measures. Half hearted efforts will not bear any
fruit. The cancer is rather deep rooted and warrants immediate major surgery.
We must not lose sight of the fact that the US is proverbially a fair-weather friend. It acts as a friend
only when its own interests are well served. Viewing Pakistan's position, we see that we have been living on American
help for the past many years, and no wonder, America may now expect us to toe its line and help her in
furtherance of her global agenda. This will be hard choice for Pakistani
leadership because following America's dictates means annoyance of the Muslim World. How Pakistan acquits itself from this crisis is a question which is
agitating every Pakistani's mind, today.2
Now a few words about the current trends in Far East. The
states hit hard economically in recent years are Indonesia and Malaysia. Needless to say, both these Muslim states were showing
such spectacular progress in the economic field that America and her allies could not reconcile themselves to the fact
that the two Muslim countries should win such a respectable place in the comity
of nations. So through clever manipulations of exploiters like George Soros, the
economies of both these states has been virtually crippled. Mahathir Mohammed
who had brought economic stability to his country is now being maligned so
cruelly that his reputation is touching the lowest ebb.
Recently, in Pakistan, two successive governments have tried to emulate the
policies of these Asian Tigers, but their outcome has been virtually nil. Main
reason of their failure is that the entire nation is a victim of corruption,
mismanagement and moral bankruptcy. The IMF and the World Bank have taken Pakistan in their inextricable coils and these financial wizards
are now telling us the technique to manage our economies. This, in fact, is a
snare, cleverly laid to cripple our economy. By following this pattern,
inflation would certainly rise and there would be food shortages as well. At
this, naturally, people would feel discontented and there would be a political
turmoil. This in turn, would push the country into the vortex of lawlessness,
anarchy and thus peace and progress would be inevitably disturbed. 3
And now a few words about recent state of affairs in Iran. We see that for Americans, Iran is not an unknown entity. The Iran-Contra affair had made
headlines in 1987 and if we go a little further back to 1985, storming of the
American embassy in Tehran and taking of American hostages in an event which
Americans are not going to forget so soon. 4
Here, we may point out that if the West wants to stir up things in Iran, it will do so at its own peril. It may try to use Pakistan against Iran, but we are sure, this strategy won't work. Despite
differences of some peripheral nature that exist between the two countries, Pakistan and Iran are tied together in bonds of perennial brotherhood.
Surely, Pakistan will not allow itself to be used as a tool for furtherance
of American designs. Iran, as we all know, is oil rich. Its Caspian oil is a
tantalizing target for the Western World to control its resources. Placed in a
difficult situation, Pakistan has to tread very carefully in its dealing with its immediate
Muslim neighbours. We need all the support from various Muslim countries in
implementation of our agenda. Let us hope that this Muslim World shows its
unswerving solidarity with us for frustrating our enemies' designs.5
II Global Islamic Renaissance
Islam, as we all know, is the majority religion in some 52 states, but in
view of its universality, it is not tied to any geographic landscape. As such,
it is not a religion in the literal sense of the term but is an ideology, a
civilizational approach, and a message. Followers of this dynamic 'Deen' are
spread all over the globe and they number about 800 million in Muslim majority
areas. In addition, there are over 400 million Muslims, spread over in various
parts of the world.
It is, however, unfortunate that Islam, through the ages, has remained the most
misunderstood religion in the West. No doubt, it is a religion that stands for
peace and justice but the jaundiced eyes of the West see it as a religion of
war and fanaticism. It is a matter of common knowledge that Muslims had
exercised dominance in the world for a very long time, and happily all through
this long span of time, the Islamic civilization had invariably provided peace
and security to all the citizens, including non-Muslims. In fact, it was the
Muslim World that had provided shelters to all those non-Muslims who were
persecuted in different parts of the world, particularly in Europe.
Here, Professor Khurshid Ahmed quotes Robert Briffault who examines in his
monumental work 'The making of Humanity', the record of the Muslim state and
society. He observes: 'Theocracy in the East has not been intellectually
tyrannical or coercive. We do not find there the obscurantism, the holding down
of thought, the perpetual warfare against intellectual revolt, which is such a
familiar feature of the European world, with Greece and Rome at its back'.6
Another reputed historian, William Muir also admits that 'the Islamic leniency
towards the conquered and their justice and integrity presented a marked
contrast to the tyranny and intolerance of the Romans. The Syrian Christians
enjoyed more civil and popular liberty under the Arab invaders than they had
done under the rule of Heraclius and they had no wish to return to their former
Under the Western colonial rule, the situation, however, changed drastically.
The Muslim World remained virtually colonized for over three centuries and
during this period, nations in the Third World in general and the Muslim World
in particular were brutally persecuted at the hands of the colonial powers on
one pretext or the other. Here, Arnold Toynbee's candid remarks merit serious
attention: 'in the encounter between the world and the West that has been going
on by now for four or five hundred years, the world, not the West, is the
entity, that upto now, has had the significant experience. It has not been the
West that has been hit by the world; it is the world that has been hit - and
hit badly by the West. The West (the world will say) has been the arch
aggressor of modern times'.8
It is ironical that this very Muslim World, which has suffered at the hands of
the West in the past and which remains very weak even today, is now being
projected as a threat to the West. Muslims only 'fault' is that they are trying
to rediscover their identity and set their own house in order. This awakening
on their part is taken as a challenge to the West and Muslims are denigrated in
the loudest possible terms and their activities are seen as a big threat to the
West's deep rooted prejudice against Muslims is highly regrettable. Nothing
could be farther from the truth than branding Muslims as terrorists. Granted
that there is a world-wide wave of Islamic revivalism, Muslims have no
aggressive designs against anyone, at home or abroad. Presently, their main
effort is to seek technology and then improve their lot, so that they could
shape their lives in the light of their faith, values and traditions. They do
not want to isolate themselves from rest of the world. Instead, they want to
live with others with respect and honour, not as their chattel slaves, but as
respectable members of society.9
It will not be amiss to mention here that spirit of Islamic renaissance is
future-oriented and as such it has nothing in common with the fundamentalist
approach of the Christian groups. It has shown great awareness of the problems
of modernity and the challenges of technology. Its emphasis on the original
sources of Islam, imparts to its approach a flexibility to innovate.
The point to note here is that awakening among Muslims is a reaffirmation of
Islamic morality and a rededication of the resources of the Ummah - material as
well as the human to the achievement of social justice and self-reliance.
Muslims, by and large, have been inspired by a 'new vision' to rebuild their
industrial and social life in accordance with the ideals and principles of
Islam. They are now striving to establish a new social order, ensuring peace,
dignity and justice to all oppressed people of the world. Islamic upsurge, in
no way, stands for bigotry or obscurantism. It is a dynamic movement which is
in complete harmony with the callings of modern sensibility.10
The real competition between Islam and the West is, in fact, at the level of
two cultures and civilizations. One is based upon the Islamic values and the
other draws its sustenance from the values of materialism, rationalism and the
Muslims may be branded as fanatics or fundamentalists but, in fact, there is no
going back in history. Muslims want to go ahead in a much more creative way
than their recent predecessors. They may reconcile themselves to accept
nation-state as a starting point, but all the same, it is not the Muslims'
ideal. The concept of nation-state constitutes the present-day reality and as such,
Muslims do not want to dismantle their political system in an arbitrary manner.
In fact, they are eager to bring about a greater sense of unity in the Islamic
Ummah and greater cooperation and closer integration between the different
Muslim states. Under Islamic idealism, every nation-state would gradually
become an ideological state and in the final analysis, these would go to make
up the commonwealth of Islam.11
It is unfortunate that the West has turned a blind eye to the strength and
potential of the Islamic movements. Instead, it has embarked upon denigrating
it as fundamentalist, fanatic, anti-Western and arrachronistic. Viewed in this
context, the West seems once again committing the fatal mistake of looking upon
others, belonging to different faiths, through their jaundiced eyes. No doubt,
this increases the divide between the two cultures.12
Through this ill-advised approach of the West, great damage is being done to
humanity. Tarnishing Islam's image is bound to misinform the Western people and
policy-makers about the true nature of Islamic resurgence, as they are being
forced to see Islam in the light of a particular unhappy chapter of their own
With regard to Islamic resurgence, we must keep in mind that there is also a
political dimension to the situation, which must not be ignored at any cost. We
must keep in mind that there is nothing anti-Western in the Muslim resurgence.
It is neither pro-Western anti-West on the political relationship between
Western countries and the Muslim World, despite the loathsome legacy of
colonialism which has the potential to mar these relationships. We must keep in
mind that if China and the United States can have friendly relations without sharing common culture
and politico-economic systems, the West and the Muslim World must also learn to
co-exist. Much depends upon how the West looks upon the phenomenon of Islamic
revivalism and wants to come to terms with it. If in the Muslim mind, Western
powers remain associated with efforts to impose the Western model on Muslim
society, then of course, the tension would inevitably increase. Differences are
bound to multiply. And if things are not resolved peacefully, through dialogue
and understanding, showing respect for each other's rights and genuine
concerns, they are destined to be resolved otherwise. But if, on the other
hand, we accept that this is a pluralistic world, the Western culture can
co-exist with other cultures without expecting to dominate them; that others
need not necessarily be looked upon as enemies but as political friends, then
there is a genuine possibility that we can begin to live peacefully. If we
follow this approach, we can discover many a common ground. This is the key to
the future world order. The question here arises if we are prepared to accept
co-existence of all cultures, religions and nations. If the answer is in the
affirmative, the future is sure to be bright, otherwise pall of gloom will
engulf our entire planet.13
III Towards the reality of Islam
Muslim Ummah has passed through many vicissitudes during long history of
its existence. Its conflict with the West, has, however, varied dimensions. It
is certainly far more significant as compared to other conflicts it has
experienced in the past. Western civilization has affected about all aspects of
Muslim life. As a result, impact of its ideology and philosophy is more deeply
ingrained on the Muslim mind than that of the political domination and military
supremacy of the western power over the Muslim World. In fact, the intellectual
domination of the West has influenced the thought pattern, culture and even the
religious attitude of the Muslims.
To offset the negative influences of the West, our first step must be on
shedding off the spirit of 'apology' which is only another name for
intellectual defeatism. And the next stage must be our conscious and deliberate
effort to follow the footsteps of the Holy Prophet (SAW). We must keep in mind
that Sunnah alone mirrors the true teachings of Islam. By applying this as an
ultimate test to the requirements of our daily life, we can easily recognize
which impulses from Western civilization might be accepted and which might be
conveniently rejected. Instead of meekly submitting Islam to foreign
intellectual norms, Muslims must learn to regard Islam as the norms by which
the world is to be judged.14
Muslims of the world must realise that only by regaining their lost
self-confidence, can they expect to turn their way upwards once again. They
must not forget that they will never be able to reach their goals, if they
committed the folly of destroying their own social institutions and imitate a
foreign civilization - foreign not only in an historical or a geographical
sense but also in a spiritual sense.
Currently, when the influence of Western civilization is making itself more and
more felt in Muslim countries, the attitude of our intelligentsia is quite
intriguing in this matter. They are of the opinion that it is impossible for
the modern man to simultaneously follow the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet and also
follow the Western mode of life. The dilemma of the present generation of
Muslims is that they are ready to adore everything that comes from the West.
They primarily adore the foreign civilization because of its foreign, powerful
and materially brilliant posture. This 'Westernisation' is the strangest reason
why the whole structure of basic Islamic fundamentals have become almost
The tendency on the part of Muslims to imitate a foreign civilization is the
direct concomitant of a feeling of inferiority. This, and nothing else, is the
matter with the Muslims who imitate Western civilization. They contrast West's
power and technical skill with the sad misery of the world of Islam. At this,
they start believing that in present times, there is no way but to imitate the
western way. They, then, start blaming Islam for their own shortcomings and
then adopt the apologetic attitude.16
In order to achieve the regeneration of Islam, it is our considered view that
the Muslims must free themselves entirely from the spirit of apology for their
religion. rather, they must live with their heads lifted up. They must realise
that they, as Muslims, are markedly different from the rest of the world, and
as such, they must be proud of their being different. They should endeavour to
preserve this difference as a precious quality and pronounce it boldly to the
world. this does not, however, mean that Muslims should seclude themselves from
the voices coming from within. They must always be prepared to receive new,
positive influences from a foreign civilization without necessarily destroying
their own. An example of this kind was the European Renaissance. There, we see
that Europe had accepted Arab influences in the matter and method of
learning. But it never imitated the outward appearance and the spirit of
Arabian culture. They never sacrificed their own intellectual and aesthetic
independence. We must never forget that no civilization can prosper, or even
exist, after having lost this pride and the connection with its own past.17
Regrettably, the world of Islam, with its growing tendency to imitate West and
to assimilate Western ideas and ideals, is gradually severing bonds which link
it with its past. It is losing therefore, not only the cultural but also its
It is pertinent to note here that Islam is not only a 'belief of heart', but
also a very clearly defined programme of individual and social life. It can be
destroyed by being assimilated to a foreign culture which has essentially different
moral orientation. Equally, it can be regenerated, the moment it is brought
back to its own reality and given the value of a factor determining and shaping
our personal and social existence in all its aspects.18
Under the impact of new ideas and conflicting cultural currents, so
characteristic of the period in which we are living, Islam can no longer afford
to remain an empty form. We must, therefore, revert to the reality of Islam. It
is this road alone which can appeal to those who believe in their past and in
the possibility of the transformation into a living future.19
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Col (Retd) Ghulam Sarwar has Masters Degrees in English, Urdu and Islamic
Studies. He has been awarded Sitra-e-Imtiaz. He has also the Editor of several
publications both in Urdu and English. He has written more than 1500
articles/book reviews in sarious magzaines/journals/newspapers. He has actively
been involved in research/literary activities. He carries with him 37 years of
teaching experience. Presently he is Director (Research) Friends, Rawalpindi.
Worship is common to all religions. What differs is only the manner and style
of worship. That which is unique in Islamic mode of worship is that it contains
features from the mode of prayers found in other religions. Some people pray to
God in a standing posture and some in a sitting posture. In some religions
people remember God by kneeling to Him, while others bow down to Him. Some
stand before Him with folded arms, and others with arms hanging at their sides.
In short there is no single mode of worship common to all religions as a whole.
It is fascinating however to note that Islam instructs its followers concerning
the manner of prayer so comprehensively, that all the postures of worship found
in other religions are symbolically represented in the mode of Muslim prayer.
Another step forward in the direction of ushering in an era of universal
religion, it seems.
The institution of Islamic prayer is a most highly developed system, covering
every human requirement. It should be membered at the outset that the purpose
of worship is not just bowing to a superior being and paying homage to His
greatness, as if God created man only for satiating His egotistic desire of
being praised. All the purposes mentioned in relation to the philosophy of
worship and the manner in which a Muslim is required to conduct his prayer,
makes it manifestly clear that the benefit of prayer is drawn by the worshipper
himself and in no way can it be taken as a favour to God. The Holy Quran
declares that God does not stand in need of mens' praises. He is so great in
His nobility and so sublime in His character that the praises of His creatures
do not add anything to His magnanimity and majesty. The Holy Prophet (sa) of
Islam once mentioned that if the entire mankind had turned away from God and
committed the worst possible sins, one and all, they would not diminish His
universal grandeur even as much as when someone dips a sharp needle into a vast
ocean; the water one finds adhered to the surface of the needle would be far
more than the sins of the entire mankind could take away from the glory of God.
So, worship in the Holy Quran is only prescribed for the sake of the worshipper
himself. It is a vast subject, and we can only illustrate a few points in
relation to this as mentioned in the Holy Quran and the traditions of the Holy
Prophet of Islam.
Remembrance of God and pondering over His attributes during the prayer helps
man in refining his spirit, bringing it more into harmony with the nature of
God. This is central to the Islamic prayer. Man was made in the image of his
creator, and he must ever strive to gain closeness to Him. This is a lesson in
nobility which is ultimate. Those who train themselves to think like Godre and
to act like Him within the limitations of the human sphere, constantly improve
in their relation to all other human beings and even other forms of life.
In human terms it can be better understood with respect to mother's attitude
towards her children. For the one who truly gains nearness to a mother, all
that is dear to the mother will naturally become dear to him as well. Acquiring
the attitude of the creator is like acquiring the attitude of an artist to his
works of art. It is impossible for one to be near God and distance himself from
His creation. Again, the term used for worship in the Quran is derived from a
word which is so significant and different from terms used in other religions.
Ain, Be, Dael ('A', 'B','D') are the three root letters which have the basic meaning
of slavery. Like a slave who loses everything to his master and follows him in
all respects, the worshipper in Islam must do the same in his relation to God.
The infinitive used for worship has the connotation of following in the
footsteps of someone. That is the ultimate in the imitation of God's
attributes. The Quran also says:
Verily, Prayer prevents the worshipper from indulging in anything that is
undignified or indecent. Surah Al-Ankabut (Ch. 29. V 46)
This verse has both positive and negative connotations, both highly essential
for cultivating ideal human conduct. Thus in its negative connotation, it helps
the worshipper by liberating him from sins of all types. In its positive
connotation it educates man, fines his character and cultivates his qualities
to such sublimity as he becomes worthy of communion with God.
Another area which is highly important in this regard is the role worship plays
in developing one's soul. According to Islam, each human soul in relation to
the carnal human body can be likened unto a child in the uterus of the mother.
To give birth to a healthy child requires so many influences that are
constantly transferred from the mother to the embryo, and the child at a later
stage. If the mother's influences on the embryo are unhealthy, the child is
born as congenitally ill; if they are healthy then the child is born enjoying
perfect health. Of all the influences that work towards the making and
modification of the human soul, prayer is the most important single factor.
The institution of Islamic prayer is rich in so many profound lessons as are
not found even fractionally in other religions. Islam admonishes both
congregational and individual prayer. The congregational prayers are held in a
manner which is amazingly well organised and meaningful.
There is one leader who leads the congregation in all such prayers. That leader
is not an ordained priest; anyone whom the people consider worthy of this task
is chosen as the 'Imam'. The assembly is admonished to be arrayed behind the Imam
in perfectly straight lines, each worshipper standing close to the other,
shoulder to shoulder, without any distance between the two worshippers. They
follow the Imam perfectly in everything that he does. As he bows they bow, as
he stands they stand. As he prostrates they prostrate. Even if the Imam commits
a mistake and does not condone it even after a reminder, all followers must
repeat the same. To question the Imam during the prayer is not permitted. All
face the same direction without exception, facing the first house of worship
ever built for the benefit of mankind. No-one is permitted to reserve any
special place behind the Imam. In this regard the rich and poor are treated
with absolute equality, so also the old and the young. Whoever reaches the mosque
ahead of others has the prior option to sit wherever he pleases. None has the
right to remove others from the place that they occupy, except for reasons of
security etc., in which case it becomes an administrative measure. Thus the
Islamic system of prayer is rich not only in spiritual instruction, but also in
communal and organisational instruction.
All mosques are frequented five times a day, a task which appears to be
over-much demanding to a casual observer. This aspect should be further
elaborated to build a more comprehensive picture of the role of congregational
prayers in the Muslims' way of life. Of course in an ideal Muslim society,
where mosques are provided within reach of almost every citizen, the five time
congregational prayer becomes a routine way of all Muslims' life. The midday
prayer, which ordinarily is more problematic, is performed in Muslim societies
during the midday break from work. Thus it is not only a lunch break, but is
slightly extended to accommodate the performance of prayer as well. The next
prayer after the midday prayer is the afternoon prayer, which is performed
almost immediately after return from an ordinary day's work. Then no prayer is
permitted until after sunset. The time between the two is spent in outdoor activities
like sports, shopping, walks, visits to friends and relatives etc. It is a
period of relaxation in which prayers are practically forbidden, except for the
quiet remembrance of God which becomes a constant feature with some believers.
At sunset, the night of the believer begins with the sunset prayer, after which
there is again a time for relaxation, dining, and so on. The night is capped
before retirement with the last prayer which is called Isha. It is discouraged
to stay awake after Isha in wasteful occupations of gossip and vain talk etc.
The Muslims are encouraged to acquire a habit of early to bed and early to
rise. The day, next morning, begins routinely in the small hours before dawn.
The prayer which is performed at the end of the night is called Tahajjud. It is
not obligatory, but is a very highly emphasised optional prayer. The dawn
ushers in the time for morning prayer, which is called Al-Fajar. Optional
prayers are not recommended between Fajar and sunrise, for obvious reasons.
Then till Zuhar, the midday prayer, only two optional prayers are mentioned;
otherwise the pre-Zuhar period is expected to be spent in normal day to day
Looking at the institution of prayer in Islam from another angle, it is
intriguing to note how well organised, disciplined and comprehensive it is.
There are certain prayers of congregation in which recitation of the Quran is
done in a loud, audible voice, in a semi-singing tone, which does not exactly
conform to the concept of singing, but which has a rhythmical tone that is
deeply penetrating. The Holy Prophet (sa) also advised that there should be a
shadow of sadness in the tone in which the Quran is recited; this makes it more
touching, with the meaning of the verses sinking deeper into the recesses of the
heart. In some prayers, particularly the two afternoon prayers, there is no
loud chanting; this goes well with the general mood of the time. Even the birds
cease to sing during the early parts of the afternoon, and there is a general
air of silence covering the hubbub of normal work. The morning prayer, the
prayer after sunset and the prayer after the fall of night all include periods
where chanting of verses is the routine practice.
The prayer can be further divided into two categories. As against congregational
prayers, individual prayers are also highly emphasised. In congregational
prayers, society pays homage to God collectively and openly. In individual
prayers, emphasis is laid on privacy, and there should be no effort to display
such prayers to anyone. Similarly the late night prayer is performed in perfect
privacy. Members of the same house try to find their own niches, and even
husband and wife try to say their prayers separately so that communion with God
becomes a highly personal affair.
It has been observed that the institution of the five time congregational
prayer has worked very well, for over fourteen hundred years or so, for the
protection and preservation of this holy institution. The mosques have been the
mainstay in keeping this noble institution alive. They also serve as education
centres for young and old, and throughout history they have played the most
prominent role in religious teachings and instruction.
The places of worship in Islam, whether congregational or private, are kept meticulously
clean. Everyone is expected to take his shoes off before entering such places.
Although in every prayer the worshipper has to touch the floor with his
forehead, sometimes briefly and sometimes for longer periods, it is surprising
that no skin diseases have been transferred from forehead to forehead in the
Muslim society. Some may attribute this to the high standard of cleanliness and
some to the blessings of God, but this is a well observed fact.
As far as the contents of the prayer go, they are of two types:
l. A formal routine recitation of verses of the Quran and other prayers which
are done essentially in the language of the Quran, which is Arabic. All
worshippers are expected to know the meaning of what they are reciting,
otherwise they will deprive themselves of the immense benefit which they may
draw from the meaningful recitation. It will make this discussion too lengthy
if we were to go into the details of the contents, but such readers as are
interested in further study can always consult the relevant literature.
2. To the second category belong the individual prayers in one's own language,
in which one is free to beg as he pleases. This second category is
controversial in the sense that many a school of jurisprudence disallow such
practices and insist on the recitation of only the prescribed form,
irrespective of whether the worshipper understands that or not. However, they
do appreciate the need for private and personal prayers, so they suggest
praying in one's own it language after the formal prayer has ended and not
during its course. We, the Ahmadi Muslims, recommend and practice the former
option of praying to God in one's own language as one pleases during the formal
As we have amply demonstrated above, the institution of Islamic prayer is a
highly developed one, where the individual is required to pray five times a
day, both individually and in congregation with others. Islamic prayer thus
plays an important role in the life of a Muslim, and in the spiritual and moral
upbringing of the individual.
Teaching your Child about Islam
Freda Shamma PhD
are born in a state of fitra (purity) and then their parents teach them to be
believers or unbelievers. According to the Musnad Ibn Hanbal, "The
children of the unbelievers are better than you grown-ups. Every living
creature is born with a righteous nature." It is our obligation and duty
as parents to teach our children so that they grow up to be believing,
practicing Muslims. Sending the child to an Islamic weekend school or to a
full-time Islamic school is an important but minor part of their Islamic
education. The major 'institution of learning' for each child is his family,
and the major 'professors' of this institution are the parents.
The most effective way to teach anything to anybody is to be a role model.
This is why Allah sent human beings as prophets to all peoples. Whether we
willingly accept this job or not, it is a fact that your child learns how to
function in life by watching what you do. Even the absent parent is role
modeling to the degree that a boy, whose father abandoned his family, will
probably treat his own children the same way.
Every time we deal with our children, we are teaching them, whether we intend
to or not. There is a famous poem by an anonymous author that depicts this
vividly. It begins:
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.If a child lives with
hostility, he learns to fight. If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be
Therefore we must examine carefully how we deal with our child in order to have
a desirable end result. This same poem continues:
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient. If a child lives with
fairness, he learns justice. If a child lives with security, he learns to have
POSITIVE VS. NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT
As the above poem indicates, negative comments and treatment result in
negative attributes in our children, and positive comments and treatment result
in positive results. The term 'positive and negative reinforcement' is popular
in modern psychology, but it was advocated by the Qu'ran and the actions and
sayings of Prophet Muhammad (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him), 1400
years ago. How do we use positive reinforcement to teach our children?
Young children are basically good. Furthermore they want to please their
parents. When you praise them for their good behavior by telling them that Papa
and/or Mama is happy with their action, you are using positive reinforcement.
Unfortunately many parents ignore their child's good actions and only comment
on the bad actions. Let us take an example.
Iman is three years old and has a baby brother, Samir, who is one. She gets
out her blocks to play with and of course Samir crawls over to get involved.
She gives him a red block and then proceeds to build a tower. Samir grows tired
of his one block and tries to get more. In the process he knocks down the
tower. Iman reacts angrily and grabs all the blocks and tells her brother that
he can't play with any of the blocks. Her mother hears her and shouts at her
angrily, "Iman you are a bad girl not to share with your brother. Give him
Iman did two actions concerning her brother: 1. She gave him a block and 2. She
took the blocks away. She received attention from her mother for the bad
actions. This teaches her that if she wants attention from her mother, she
should NOT share.
How else could the mother have handled it? If she had praised Iman when she
first shared ("Iman, what a nice sister you are, to share with your
brother. I'm so happy to see you do that."), then Iman would remember that
her doing ‘good’ resulted in her mother's attention. When her brother knocks
over her blocks, her first inclination will probably be to grab all the blocks
but if her mother is there to console her and encourage her to try again
("Oh Iman, it's too bad that Samir knocked over your blocks. He was trying
to play with you, but he is too little to be good at making towers. Why don't
you build a little tower for him to play with, and then you can build a big one
for yourself."), then she will happily give him more blocks. She will want
to share next time as well because that action got her mother's attention.
INTEGRATING ISLAM INTO LIFE
One of the most important aspects of raising your children to be Muslims is
to introduce the idea that Allah is also happy with their good actions. If you
say that what they did or are doing is making you and Allah happy, then the
child begins to associate good behavior with acting for the pleasure of Allah,
which in a nutshell, is exactly what being a good Muslim involves. Can you say
anything better of a believer other than that he/she does everything fi
sabillah (for the sake of Allah)?
The child who errs is forgiven by Allah, and if he dies in childhood, he
automatically goes to heaven. This mercy of Allah should guide us as we guide
our children. It is not necessary to make the child fearful of Allah or fearful
of going to hell. In fact, this approach is counter productive - it often
achieves the very result we are trying to avoid. Stressing the negative and the
punishment makes the child want to avoid anything to do with the religion. He
or she grows up thinking that it is religion that keeps him from enjoying life.
ATTRIBUTES OF ALLAH
When you are talking to children under the age of twelve, stress the
characteristics of Allah that will give him security and assurances as he grows
and encounters fearful situations and unknowns. He needs to be aware of the
many blessings Allah has given to him to help him enjoy and cope with his life.
And he needs to understand which actions Allah will be pleased with, rather
than worry over punishment for mistakes he knows he will make.
ISLAM AND DAILY LIFE
Too often when parents think about talking to their children about Islam,
they concentrate on the ritual of the five pillars. They teach them how to make
salat (required prayer), and they teach them some short Qur'anic Surah(chapters).
These are important, but don't forget that Islam is a total way of life, and
every aspect has an Islamic element that you need to talk about and demonstrate
for your child. When the father goes off to work, the mother can say 'Good bye'
or she can say 'Assalamu Alaikum' and add its meaning in English, 'may Allah's
peace be with you". As she and the young child start to do something
together, she can mention that the father is doing what Allah says a good
father should do - working to take care of the family. She can also mention,
and the father should also mention it frequently, that she is trying to please
Allah by doing many things to help her child and the family. When the child
helps her mother clean off the table, the mother should mention that Allah is
pleased with children who help their parents. Mentioning the Islamic aspect
does not imply nor suggest that you need to deliver lectures about Islam to
your child. No child wants to sit still long enough to hear a lecture about
anything. The effective teaching comes as short comments or stories that point
out the Islamic nature of the action. When the parents pay zakat (yearly
compulsory tax), they should mention the fact to their children. When they
visit the sick, they should quote a Qur'anic ayah (verse) or hadith (story
about Prophet Muhammad) which indicates that this action pleases Allah. When
there are two ways that a child can respond to a situation, the parent can
mentions nicely which way will be pleasing to Allah.
The constant reference to Allah, the constant encouragement to do what is
right, and the constant praise and positive reinforcement for doing the right
actions, will focus your child on the right path.
As our children reach adolescence, they begin to question what they have
been taught, especially if most of the youth they associate with are
non-Muslims, or non-practicing Muslims.
If you have already established a positive relationship with your youth, then
your teenage child will come to you with his/her questions and concerns. Do not
mistake these questions and worries as a rebellion against you or against their
religion. They see the kids at school dating, and it looks like fun. 'Why
shouldn't we date?' they wonder. Be happy that your youth feels comfortable
coming to you with these issues.
If you have not established a positive relationship with your child by this
time, you will probably have a big problem on your hands, because your youth
will have the same questions, but he won't come to you for a discussion about
them. He will be seeking his answers from his friends, and if his friends are
not actively practicing Muslims, he may be getting answers that go against
Why do some parents and youth have a positive relationship and others do not?
There are at least two important factors here: time and what kind of time? Did
the parents spend time with their children as they were growing up? Did they
make a practice of asking their children about their school, their friends,
their opinions on various things, and then LISTEN to their answers?
Remember positive reinforcement? What kind of time do the parents spend with
their children? Is it based on positive reinforcement, or does the child
expects to hear angry and negative comments every time he/she tries to talk to
Thirteen year Omar is fasting for his second year, during Ramadan. One
Saturday he and another Muslim, Adnan, go to a non-Muslim friend's house to
play. At one o'clock, Omar phones home to tell his mother, " Johnny keeps
asking us to eat lunch. We told him we're fasting and he should go ahead, but
he says if we don't eat, he won't either. Adnan says if I break my fast, he
will too. What should I do?"
"I can't believe you're asking me that," complains his mother.
"Allah is going to punish you if you don't fast! You know better than
that? Why can't you act like a good Muslim. Your father and I have taught you
better than that!"
How often will Omar asks his mother any questions after a response like that?
By assuming that his behavior is negative and giving negative reinforcement,
you can be sure that Omar is not likely to ask his mother for help again.
Instead, imagine if his mother answered this way:
"You did the right thing by phoning when you weren't sure. But I think you
already know what you should do. What do you think is the right thing to
Omar answers, "I think I should say no, I'm going to keep fasting."
"You are exactly right," answers his mother. "I'm so proud of
you for the way you are thinking."
EVALUATING THE NEGATIVE
you have discussions with your youth, you may be alarmed at his rudeness, or
his apparent rejection of everything you say. He may even tell you that you are
stupid or you don't understand, or you don't care about him. This does not mean
what it sounds like. It means that he does not feel comfortable with the
answers he is getting. Maybe what you say is opposite to what he is feeling at
that moment, or maybe he has given that answer to his non-Muslim friends and
they have rejected that opinion.
Although it is very hard, remain kind and positive with your youth. It really hurts
the parent to hear these comments, but they are not really aimed at the parent,
but at the thinking process he/she is now undertaking.
During your discussions with your youth, you will now want to include both
positive and negative reinforcement. 'Yes', you may agree with your youth, 'it
is very difficult not to drink when everyone else is, but remember that Allah
will reward you for your good behavior, and remember His punishment if you
follow someone other than Allah.'
When there are so many unIslamic forces putting pressure on your youth, he now
needs to understand that Allah will hold him accountable for his actions. Allah
will help if the youth ask Him for help, and he will be rewarded for following
the right path, but accountability also means he will receive punishment for
his bad deeds.
Life is too difficult to do by oneself. The young child has his parents who
protect him, and encourage him and who 'know everything'. Then he/she grows up
and discovers that mother and father don't really know everything. Furthermore
at school he/she is hearing and seeing other philosophies of life, and the
selfish, materialistic one most readily seen at school seems like fun, and
besides, 'everyone else is doing it'. How is the youth supposed to figure out
who is right? It is a difficult time for him/her, and it is up to the parents
to be supportive, to encourage discussions, to make allowances for mistakes,
but at the same time, to remain firm in their teaching of Islamic values.
SEVERAL ISSUES INVOLVED
While teaching and talking to our children about Islam, we need to be aware
of certain hidden issues. These are secular vs. religious actions, facts vs.
behavior and acquiescence vs. critical thinking. These issues affect our
thinking and acting although few of us are aware of them.
SECULAR VS. RELIGIOUS
Hina was an attractive fifteen-year-old with a slender, attractive figure.
She attended the Islamic weekend classes on a regular basis, wearing very short
skirts and skintight sweaters. The teacher mentioned to her mother that she
might want to encourage her daughter to dress more Islamically because her way
of dress would attract undesired attraction of the boys at school.
"Hina, you have to change the way you are dressing. It's unIslamic. No
more short skirts and you have to wear overlarge sweaters to hide your
shape!" scolded her mother.
"Who are you to say anything?" responded Hina angrily. "Look at
yourself, your dress is up to your knees and I can see everything about your
Hina's mother has a split personality when it comes to religion. On one hand
she prays her prayers and fasts during Ramadan. On the other hand she likes to
be 'fashionably' dressed when she interacts with non-Muslims. She reads the
Qur'an most evenings, but spends her afternoon gossiping with her friends. What
is her daughter learning?
Hassan is no better off with his father, who takes him to the weekend Islamic
classes but tells him he can skip Juma because his academic studies are more
important. Hassan's father is a leader in the Muslim community, but Hassan
overhears him bragging to his friends about how he cheated on his income tax
and got away with it.
If we as parents pick and choose which aspect of Islam to apply and which to
omit from our own lives, we can hardly expect our children to live purely
Islamic lives. If Hina's mother chooses her clothing based on what her non
Muslim associates are wearing, then of course Hina will demand the same right,
even though her mother feels like her clothes are too short or too tight. The
question is, who is the authority and who has the right to decide? If it is
Allah who has the right to decide, then parents have no right to pick and
choose which practices they will follow. If it is the individual who decides,
then children have as much right as their parents, once they reach puberty.
Parents who think differently will have their youth point this out to them (if
they are on speaking terms). For sure the youth will be thinking this. If you
know you are not following what Allah orders, you can attempt to change your
own behavior, admit to your youth that you are also still growing in your
faith, and tell them frankly that you are trying to help them on the right path
now because it will make their life easier and better. Then you will need to point
out the times when your deviation from Islamic values has caused problems for
If you choose to ignore this aspect, most likely your children will choose to
ignore your advice.
FACTS VS. BEHAVIOR
This aspect has already been alluded to in this paper, but it needs a bit of
explanation. We expect the masjid (mosques) classes to teach our children how
to read the Qur'an in Arabic, but not to understand what it means. We expect
the masjid to teach our children how to pray, how to fast, etc. but NOT HOW TO
LIVE, how to behave.
These are facts, not behavior. Many children know how to pray; very few feel
the need to pray because they understand its importance. Quite a large number
of children know how to read the Qur'an. Only a few read the Qur'an in order to
understand what it is saying, or in order to answer their questions.
Islam is a complete way of life. The facts (the 5 pillars, the biography of
Prophet Muhammad) are useful when they help the person learn how and why they
should do something. The fact that Prophet Muhammad lived 1400 years ago is a
fact. By itself, that fact is worthless. The fact, that he lived as a Muslim in
a city where Muslims were few and persecuted, is worthless until it helps us
realize that if he and the early Muslims could flourish in that setting, then
so can we. When we teaching our children about Islam, we need to teach them how
to behave, not just to memorize facts. Instead of giving them lists of facts to
learn, set them an example and mention the Islamic connection while you are
doing it. You visit someone who is sick; mention that this is an Islamic
requirement, discuss with your child why it is good to do this act. Make sure
you visit with sick people who are not part of your cultural group and
non-Muslims as well. One important lesson for your child to learn is that
Islamic behavior is good for everyone, even non-Muslims.
Watch TV with your children, especially the pre-teens. Don't preach, but
discuss the behavior of the characters in the sitcom (comedy). Make comments like,
'Aren't you glad you're a Muslim so you don't have that problem' (concerning
problems with dating, drinking, etc.)
Initiate discussions with your children. Bring up situations like, 'What should
you do if a friend in school is out sick for a week?" It is extremely
important to really listen to what your children are saying. They know in a
second if your mind is preoccupied with something else. When you ask for their
opinion, really listen to their answer, and make your next comment reflect
ACQUIESCENCE VS. CRITICAL THINKING
Many parents grew up in areas where colonizing rulers maintained schools
for acquiescence. That is, pupils were taught to repeat exactly what the
teacher told them. If the test question asked for 3 reasons why it is good to brush
your teeth, the answer had to be the exact three reasons that the teacher had
told them in class. The pupil is not supposed to think; he is supposed to
accept everything without questioning. This is too often the way we teach our
children about Islam. Do this action because Islam says you have to. Do this
exactly the way I say because every other way is haram. Our children need to
learn that there are two kinds of knowledge, that which is revealed and that
which is humanly acquired. Knowledge revealed in the Qur'an and hadiths is
unchanging and unarguable. Knowledge that is derived from our five senses and
our own thinking is subject to error and can and should be questioned.
North American schools, including good Islamic schools, stress critical thinking.
For children who grow up here, it is not sufficient to say you have to do this
because I say so. You can expect your children to honor and obey you because
Islam requires obedience to parents, but you must also explain and discuss why
you are asking for their obedience. Your youth should be required to pray,
because Allah says for them to pray, but you must also be open and willing to
discuss why Allah would ask us to do that. What are the possible benefits of
praying, what should you do if you feel like the prayer is empty of meaning to
you, and so on. These questions don't mean your youth are turning away from
Islam; they mean that your youth are thinking seriously about their religion.
One of the most wonderful things about Islam is that because it is the truth,
it can stand up to the most critical of questions.
Parents must also learn to acknowledge that they make mistakes, and they are
ignorant of certain answers. Your child does not have the right to expect you
to be able to explain every Islamic injunction. He/she does have the right to
expect you to give an honest and open response to their questions. When you
tell your youth, "That's an important question. I don't know the answer.
Let's see if we can find out what the Qur'an says about it." then you have
created an open, honest exchange of thoughts with your youth.
Discuss Islam with your children from the time they are young, stressing the
positive, and encouraging them to speak frankly and freely to you. Be an
Islamic role model for them. By the time they have emerged from their
troubling, questioning adolescence, you will have children who have actively
embraced Islam, and who want to be Muslim because they know that it will make
their life better in this world, and in the hereafter, in shaa Allah (Allah
This paper was first presented at the Annual Convention of the Islamic Society
of North America, Chicago, Sept. 2, 2000.
Dr. Freda Shamma has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction, which she
received from the University of Cincinnati. She has worked on curriculum development in several
Muslim countries as well as for Islamic schools in North America.
Currently she is the Director of Curriculum Development for FADEL (Foundation
for Advancement and Development of Education and Learning) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her latest publication can be found in Muslims and
Islamization in North America: Problems and Prospects, ed. Amber Haque. Amana
Dr. Shamma has five children, the oldest of whom is married with two children,
and the youngest is in high school. All of her children are active in Islamic
work, and particularly active in MYNA, Muslim Youth of North America.
Who is Da'ee Ahmed Moait?
Where is he from & where is he going?
He's a man originally born in Egypt. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1979, where he worked as a computer engineer for
approximately 15 years. During this time, he realized his journey to Allah and
What is his Message?Within the reality of the condition of the Ummah (Muslim
nation), here or abroad, he realized that he has a duty and a job in front of
Allah, so that when he goes to the grave, he can say to Allah:
"I tried to convey and live your message, and spread it to the maximum of
my ability. I tried to address the message to the most of my ability and
understanding, in the middle of the absence of Khalifah, the absence of
Shari'ah (i.e. Islamic Law), the absence of Unity, the absence of the reality
During the attack against Islam, from in and out- by us, or others. Attacks
through innovation, new ideology and groups.
"These groups are fighting over differences in fiqh which already exist in
the history of Islam, and forget the message, the duty, love of Allah, love of
the Rasul (Sallallahu alaiyhi wa sallam). They forget about loving Islam, about
being merciful to mankind, and forget our duty and noble cause- the one Allah
has given to us already." They forgot our history of Iraq,
Tatar, and Mongolia. We forget the history of Andalusia, the Ottoman Empire.
"And we forget Allah. Therefore, Allah has made us forget ourselves."
I believe I am the poor to Allah, Ahmed Moait; I have a message to Muslims and
Non-Muslims, to all mankind:
"Wake up before it's too late. My message is very simple, we have to
embrace Islam, Muslim and non-Muslim. We have to go back to the base, we have
to understand, acknowledge, and develop the belief or the Oneness of Allah, the
Creator, the Almighty." We have to develop ubudiyya (slavery to Allah),
and Rububiyya (realizing Allah is the Governor, Controller, and Provider) with
all the names of Allah in reality- Not in the tongue, in a speech or on the
internet.. And we have to set the role model and feel responsible, so that when
you die, you can say, "Allah I tried my best, with my body, my time and my
money. With my love, my devotion, and my thinking. That's my goal, my aim, my
job and my duty. The one which Allah has honored me with and already gave it to
You might have some question about what's his background, who's the teacher
that influenced him in his life. I have many, but one Sheikh advised me,
"If you want to be a Da'ee today, don't mention names. The Moment you
mentions names, one group will like you and one group will hate you. It will
become a battle against the name, and people will forget the message." If
you fear Allah, if you love Allah, and if you believe in Allah, listen and try
to benefit yourself.
I'm a human being, I'm carrying a message. I have my goodness, I have my
weakness, I have my faults, I have my mistakes, and I have my sins. May Allah forgive
me and forgive all of us. Please, if you want to benefit yourself, listen with
your heart and try to see what this man wants to say. Forget about everything,
forget about his language, his mistakes, his pronunciation, this is not the
time for that now. It's the time to call Allah, before it's too late. Only if
you go back to the history.
May Allah guide us to the straight path, may Allah give us Light, Basira
(vision), Wisdom, Comprehension, Understanding, Sincerity, Truthfulness, and
the ability to see what's right and what's wrong. He's the Only One who can do
that. If you want to know if what I'm saying has goodness or not, call Allah
and ask him. If I’m wrong, may Allah forgive me, I only try. Whatever I do
right, may Allah make it only for Him and reward me in this life and the
hereafter. I'm only calling towards Allah, the rest is his business, if he
wants to accept you and choose you. "Walhamdu'lillahir Rabbil Alameen
(Thanks to Allah)". May Allah the Almighty put Barakah (Blessing) and Noor
(Light) and Kabul (Acceptance) in everything we say and we do. Sincereley,A
man preparing himself for the grave.Da'ee Ahmed Moait
Medina Suras Saved Islam
When Allah awarded Prophet-hood to our Prophet, he ordered him to continue the
peaceful teachings of prophet Jesus. These instructions came in the initial 87
Meccan Surahs (verses of Quran). Our poor Apostle toiled with these ineffective
Suras for 13 years without much success. With these useless verses, he managed
to convert only his immediate family, friends and a few destitute pagans.
Others mocked and laughed at him. They called him a fake, a liar and a
charlatan. After his miserable failure in Mecca and not being able to convince even his own uncle and
guardian Abu Talib, he went to Taef to preach Islam. They not only laughed at
him, they beat him up and chased him out of the town. Finally Meccans got so
sick and tired of his sermons that they told him to take a hike or face
consequences. He took a hike to Madina to save his neck. Allah soon realized that
his order of peaceful teachings cost Jesus his life and got Mohammed kicked out
of his hometown. He said enough is enough and decided to abrogate all the
peaceful Meccan verses: 2:106 Whatever ayas We abrogate We bring better ones.
16:101And when We change (one) communication for (another) communication, and
Allah knows best what He reveals. Allah then decided to try a different
approach to make Islam successful. He changed the rules and launched all evil
acts, which were previously prohibited. In his reformed Madina Islam, deceit,
torture, murder, assassination, massacre, genocide, pillage, robbery,
enslavement and rape were made halal (legal) acts, deserving of paradise, as
long as they were perpetrated on infidels. Allah also changed some social laws from
his previous scriptures to accommodate existing Arab customs and habits. He
permitted polygamy, temporary marriages (muta), pedophilia, marriage with
adopted son's wives, wife beating, and sex with slave girls. The new Islam
became an instant hit. The Medina Suras were able to achieve in a few months
what the Meccan Suras could not do in 13 years. Arabs began converting in
droves and started gaining Allah's blessings as well as booty and captured
women. The rest is history.Following are some of the most beautiful ayahs
(verses), which changed the course of history and saved Islam from extinction
along with how Prophet Mohammed lived them to set example for the Muslim Umma
for all time to come. The Prophet was a living Quran. As Allah said in aya
33.21, "Mohammed is your role model" and in 4.80 "Obeying
Mohammed is obeying Allah. Muslims don’t have to kill each other in fights over
Quranic interpretation they just have to look at the prophet's life.KILLING
INFIDELS:8.55, 9.5, 95.5, 9.111 Infidels are worst beasts and lowest creatures
and must be killed wherever they are found. Tabari VII:97 "The morning
after the murder of Ashraf, the Prophet declared, 'Kill any Jew who falls under
your power.'" Tabari VIII:38 "The Messenger of Allah commanded that
all of the Jewish men and boys who had reached puberty should be beheaded.
Tabari VIII:141 "The battle cry of the Companions of the Messenger of
Allah that night was: 'Kill! Kill! Kill!'" Tabari IX:69 "Killing
disbelievers is a small matter to us." Ishaq:550 "The Muslims met
them with their swords. They cut through many arms and skulls. Only confused
cries and groans could be heard over our battle roars and snarling." In
the following ayas Allah confirms that our prophet was an accomplished killer
of kuffar: 3.152 You slew them by His permission. 33.26 A part [of them] ye
slew, and a part ye made captives; (Every male of Quraiza tribe, above the age
of 13 were killed, others were made captives) 008.017 : It is not ye who slew
them; it was Allah: 8.67 It hath not been [granted] unto any prophet, that he
should possess captives, until he had made a great slaughter [of the infidels]
in the earth. BURNING:003.181. 8.50, 17.97 : The penalty for disbelievers is
Scorching Fire! Allah's favorite punishment is burning the kuffar
alive.Bukhari:V4B52N260 "Ali burnt some apostates publicly' Ishaq:316
"Following Badr, Muhammad sent a number of raiders with orders to capture
some of the Meccans and burn them alive." Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52,
Number 259: Allah's Apostle sent us in a mission and said, "If you find
so-and-so and so-and-so, burn both of them with fire"THROAT CUTTING:47.04
When ye meet the Unbelievers smite at their necks. Cutting throats was our
Prophet's favorite mode of killing kuffars. His cutting of 900 Quraizan throats
in a single day probably is still a world record. "Sirat e
Rasulullah" by Ishaq, pg. 464After 800-900 male adults of Bani Quraiza
were beheaded in batches, and thrown in trenches dug in Madina. ROBBING AND
HAVING SEX WITH INFIDEL CAPTIVE WOMEN:8.1,9.5,8.41, 48.20,
4.3,4.24,23.6,33.50,70.30: " Booty is halal. Muslims are allowed to rob
infidels. They are also allowed have sex with their captured women which are
part of the booty."Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59, Number 512: Narrated Anas:
Prophet attacked Khaybar unannounced. Their men were killed, their offspring
and woman taken as captives. Safiya was amongst the captives, She first came in
the share of Dahya Alkali but later on she belonged to the Prophet. Bukhari vol
3,Book46, No. 717Prophet had suddenly attacked Bani Mustaliq without warning
while they were heedless and their cattle were being watered at the places of
water. Their men were killed and their women and children were taken as
captives; the Prophet got Juwairiya on that day. ""Sirat e Rasulullah"
by Ishaq, pg. 464 The apostle divided their property, wives and children as
booty. He took Rayhana d. Amr b. Khunafa for himself.Bukhari Volume 5, Book 59,
Number 447: Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Sad said, "Kill their men and
take their women and children as captives, "On that the Prophet said,
"You have judged according to Allah's Judgment," MUSLIM WIVES ARE
TILTHS:2.223 Your wives are a tilth for you to be cultivated in any way
desired.Nobody cultivates his tilth as our prophet did, and between his many
wives, his slave girls, his captured women, he had a lot of tilth to cultivate.
Bukhari,Volume 1, Book 5, Number 268: "The Prophet used to visit (had sex
with) all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven
in number. Prophet was given the sexual strength of thirty men." BABY
TILTHS:65.4 You can marry (and divorce) little girls who have not yet reached
menstruation age.Our prophet married Ayesha at age 6 to comply with this aya.
However due to her tender age he had to restrict himself to thighing before she
reached age of 9. Thighing is defined by Islamic scholar Khomeini in
"Tahrirolvasyleh" fourth volume, Darol Elm, Gom, Iran, 1990 as follows: "Thighing is a means for an adult
male to enjoy a young girl who is still in the age of weaning; meaning to place
his penis between her thighs, and to kiss her." The following is from a
committee of muslim ulema answering the question:
"the Prophet, the peace of Allah be upon him, practiced
"thighing" of Aisha - the mother of believers - may Allah be pleased
WIFE SWAPPING:4.20 You can change your wives. Islamic wife-swapping requires
saying "talaq" three times to one of the four wives, and replacing
her with another wife. Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 63, Number 187: Narrated Aisha:
A man divorced his wife, then she married another man who also divorced her.
The Prophet was asked if she could legally marry the first husband. The Prophet
replied, "No, she cannot marry the first husband unless the second husband
has had sex with her."SEX SLAVES:24.33, 4.3, 4.24 , 23.6, 33.50,70.30 Your
slave girls are your possessions( you can have sex with them, gift them, sell
them or ransom them). Just don't force them to sell their bodies to earn you a
livelihood. But if you are under a compulsion (hard up and starving), then go
ahead do it, Allah may forgive you. Our Prophet lived these ayas to the
fullest. By Allah's order Prophet Mohammed received 20% of all booty including
captured women. His biggest takes came from Mustaleeq and Quraiza raids where
his 20% booty came to hundreds of captured women. He sold them, gifted them or
ransomed them as the following hadiths say: "Sirat e Rasulullah", by
Ishaq, pge 466"Apostle sent Sad b. Zayd Al Ansari with some of the captive
women to Najd. He sold them for horses and weapons"Muslim Book 019,
Number 4345: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent the young
captured woman to the people of Mecca, and surrendered her as ransom for a
number of Muslims who had been kept as prisoners at Mecca.(Ref: Waqqidi,
Tabari, Ishaq)A fifth of the booty was, as usual, reserved for the Prophet, and
the rest divided. From the fifth Mahomet MADE CERTAIN PRESENTS OF FEMALE
CAPTURED WOMEN TO HIS FRIENDS. The History of Tabari, vol 8, pge 29-30 From his
share of captive women, Prophet Mohammed gave his son-in-law, Ali a slave girl,
Raytah bt Hilal to enjoy her at his will. He also presented Uthman b. Affan,
his son-in-law, another slave girl Zainab b. Hayan, and bestowed another girl
(name unknown) to his father in-law Omar Ibn Khattab. Omar gave that girl to
his son Abdullah. Most of Prophet' s other elite companions received slave
girls as gifts.MARRYING DAUGHTER IN LAW:33.37 Muslims are allowed to marry the
wives of their adopted sons.Prophet Mohammed lived this aya by acquiring his
adopted son's gorgeous wife Zainab after seeing her in the nude accidentally
and liking what he saw. Tabari vol 8:"One day Muhammad went out looking
for Zayd (his adopted son). Now there was a covering of hair cloth over the
doorway, but the wind had lifted the covering so that the doorway was
uncovered. Zaynab (Zaid's beautiful wife) was in her chamber, undressed, and
admiration for her entered the heart of the Prophet '"FIRST COUSINS:33.50
First cousins are halal for apostle without nikah. (For others they are halal
after nikah.)One of Prophet's wife was his first cousin. He acquired and lived
with her without nikah in accordance with this aya.. He was also found spending
nights at his first cousin Hani Bint Abu Talib's house after Khadija's death.
As a matter fact he was at Hani's house the night he said he was taken to Allah
on a winged horse Buraq. ONE NIGHT STAND FOR PROPHET:One night stands are free
for Prophet Mohammed as prophetic perks.33.50 Mohammed, any woman who offered
herself to you is halal for you. Others have to pay for their one night
stands.004.024 all others are lawful, provided ye seek with gifts from your
property, Shias call it muta.Obligation to practice this aya made logistics a
big problem for our prophet who already had nine wives and a regular supply of
captured women from jihadi raids.Bukhari,Volume 7, Book 62, Number 24: A woman
came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I have come to give
you myself.Bukhari,Volume 7, Book 62, Number 48:Narrated Hisham's father:
Khaula bint Hakim was one of those ladies who presented themselves to the
Prophet. 'Aisha said, "Doesn't a lady feel ashamed for presenting herself
to a man?" Bukhari,Volume 7, Book 62, Number 53: Narrated Thabit
Al-Banani: "A woman came to Allah's Apostle and presented herself to him,
saying, 'O Allah's Apostle, have you any need for me?' "Thereupon Anas's
daughter said, "What a shameless lady she was! Shame! Shame!" Anas
said, "She was better than you; she had a liking for the Prophet. ONE
NIGHT STANDS FOR MUSLIM UMMA:Allah requires common Muslims to pay for their one
night stands. Here are the temporary nikah ayas:004.024 all others are lawful,
provided ye seek with gifts from your property 005.087 I: O ye who believe!
make not unlawful the good things which Allah hath made lawful for you.
Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 13o: Narrated 'Abdullah: We used to
participate in the holy battles led by Allah's Apostle and we had nothing (no
wives) with us. So we said, "Shall we get ourselves castrated?" He
forbade us that and then allowed us to marry women with a temporary contract
(2) and recited to us: -- 'O you who believe! Make not unlawful the good things
which Allah has made lawful for you, but commit no transgression.' ( 5.87)
Shias take full advantage of this Allah's blessing and call it Muta. Sunnis
have different name like misyarLOVE MAKING DURING MENSTRUATION:002.222: They
ask thee concerning women's courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So
keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are
clean. Our apostle followed this aya by restricting himself to just fondling
his wives during menses. Sahih Bukhari: Volume 1, Book 6, Number 298: Narrated
'Aisha: During the menses, he used to order me to put on an Izar (dress worn
below the waist) and used to fondle me. Bukhari,Volume 1, Book 6, Number 299:
Narrated 'Abdur-Rahman bin Al-Aswad: (on the authority of his father) 'Aisha
said: "Whenever Allah's Apostle wanted to fondle anyone of us during her
periods (menses), he used to order her to put on an Izar and start fondling
her." 'Aisha added, "None of you could control his sexual desires as
the Prophet could." Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 6, Number 300: Narrated
Maimuna: When ever Allah's Apostle wanted to fondle any of his wives during the
periods (menses), he used to ask her to wear an Izar. He also limited himself
to kissing and sleeping on their naked thighs during their menses.THIGHING AND
Sunaan Abu Dawud: Book 1, Number 0270: Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin:
Prophet said said: Come near me. I said: I am menstruating. He said: Uncover
your thighs. I, therefore, uncovered both of my thighs. Then he put his cheek
and chest on my thighs. Bukhari ,Volume 8, Book 82, Number 827: Narrated
'Aisha: Allah's Apostle was sleeping with his head on my thighs. PROPHET AS A
MERCY FOR ALL:021.107 : Mohammed has been sent as a mercy for all creatures.Our
prophet strictly prohibited killing of women during jihadi raids. That showed
his great mercy. His standing orders were to round up all captured women and to
distribute them among jihadis. He also prohibited his jihadis from using coitus
interruptus when having sex with their captured women. That was to make sure
that the experience is enjoyable for the captured women also and that they are
not left high and dry and unfulfilled by the selfish act of premature
withdrawal for selfish reasons. That shows how caring he was even in case of
enemy women. Here is a famous hadith.: Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 34, Number 432:
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: that while he was sitting with Allah's Apostle he
said, "O Allah's Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty,
and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus
interrupt us?" The Prophet said, "Do you really do that? It is better
for you not to do it. Prophet Mohammed had a heart of gold and always shared
his bed with the wife of the murdered infidel chief. Ishaq. Page 766:
Abu Ayyub al-Ansari guarded the tent of the Prophet the whole nigh (after
Kaybar raid). When, in the early dawn, the Prophet saw Abu Ayyub strolling up
and down, he asked him what he meant by this sentry-go; he replied: "I was
afraid for you with this young lady (in your bed). You had killed her father,
her husband and many of her relatives, and till recently she was an unbeliever.
I was really afraid for you on her account". The Prophet prayed for Abu
Ayyub al-Ansari.MERCY IN CASE OF CIRCUMCISION OF WOMEN:In those days it was
customary to cut the external female genitalia completely when circumcising
women. Our prophet instructed to do cutting in moderation. That showed his
kindness and concern for women's pleasure in love making.Sunan Abu Dawud Book
41, Number 5251:Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah:A woman used to perform
circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: Do not cut
severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband. PUBIC
TEST FOR CHECKING ADULTHOOD:Our prophet showed his human side by making sure
that only adults were killed in surprise raids of infidel villages. His
instructions to differentiate between adults and children were very specific
and strict, they were to undress the captives and check the length of their
pubic hair. Only those showing healthy growth of pubic hair were killed. Sunan
Abu Dawud Book 38, Number 4390: Narrated Atiyyah al-Qurazi: I was among the
captives of Banu Qurayzah. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had
begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed.
I was among those who had not grown hair. DISCIPLININGWIVES BY ABSTAINING:4.34
When a wife misbehaves, stop sleeping with her.Whenever any of the Prophet's
wives misbehaved, he stopped sleeping with her and gave her turn to another
wife (or a slave girl).. Bukhari Volume 3, Book 43, Number 648: The Prophet did
not go to his wives because of the secret (that Prophet had sex with Hafsa's
maid in Hafsa's bed) which Hafsa had disclosed to 'Aisha (against Prophet's
request), and he said that he would not go to his wives for one month as he was
angry with them when Allah admonished him (for his oath that he would not have
sex with slave girl Mariyah).DISCIPLINING WIVES BY BEATING/FLOGGING:4.34 When a
wife misbehaves beat/scourge her.Islamic way of beating or flogging wives is striking
at their padded areas to avoid breaking any bones. Here is an example how
considerate our prophet was when he beat his wives on their padded parts.Muslim
Book 004, Number 2127: Ayesha narrated. "He struck me on the chest which
caused me pain. " SEX AFTER FLOGGING:Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number
132: Narrated 'Abdullah bin Zam'a: The Prophet said, "None of you should
flog his wife as he flogs a slave and then have sexual intercourse with her in
the last part of the day."
ISLAM AND ECOLOGYby Marjorie Hope and James Young
Seyyed Hossein Nasr sees at the center of Islam a charge to protect the natural
world -- a world that reflects the higher reality of the transcendent God.
MARJORIE HOPE and JAMES YOUNG are a husband-and-wife writing team who have
traveled in more than eighty countries. This article forms part of a
book-in-progress on the potential for an effective ecological ethic in several
major religions, tentatively entitled The New Alliance: Faith and Ecology.
The Qur'an' and the Hadith are rich in proverbs and precepts that speak of the
Almighty's design for creation and humanity's responsibility for preserving it.
For many Muslims, citing these is enough to prove that Islam has always
embraced a complete environmental ethic. Others are more critical. They readily
acknowledge that the guidelines are all there in Islamic doctrine. Tawhid
(unity), khilafa (trusteeship), and akhirah (accountability, or literally, the
hereafter), three central concepts of Islam, are also the pillars of Islam's
environmental ethic. But they add that Muslims have strayed from this nexus of
values and need to return to it.
Many of the Qur'anic verses cited by Muslims bear a striking resemblance to
passages in the Bible, and portray a similar view of creation. "Praise be
to Allah who created the heavens and the earth and made light and
darkness" (Q.6:1). Later, in Q.6:102, we glimpse the principle of unity:
". . . . There is no God but He, the Creator of all things." The
dignity of all creation is proclaimed: "The seven heavens and the earth
and all therein declare His glory: there is not a thing but celebrates His
praise. . ." (Q. 17:44).
To humankind is given the role of khalifa (trustee): "Behold, the Lord
said to the angels: 'I will create a vicegerent on earth. . . .' " (Q.2:30).
But it is a role that each person must perform wisely and responsibly, fully
aware of human accountability to the Almighty. "Do no mischief on the
earth after it hath been set in order, but call on him with fear and longing in
your hearts: for the Mercy of God is always near to those who do good"
(Q.7:56). In other parts of the Qur'an we read that God rejoices in creation;
all nature declares God's bounteousness; the variety in creation points to the
unity in the divine plan; and God gave humankind spiritual insight so that it
should understand nature. Moreover, the principle of balance is fundamental to
that plan: "And the earth We have spread out like a carpet; set thereon
mountains firm and immobile; and produced therein all kinds of things in due
Although many Muslims with whom we have talked are familiar with these broad
Qur'anic principles, few see any need to move an ecological ethic to the center
of their awareness. True, some Muslims have become heads of national and international
environmental organizations, but the average citizen is only vaguely aware of
the extent of the crisis; most political and educational leaders perceive only
a few of the problems, and those in isolation. Moreover, many advance the
common argument that "when we catch up with the technological superiority
of the West, then we can begin to focus on this issue." Not a few Muslims
see environmentalism as still another form of Western control, intended to keep
Islam from developing and Muslims from realizing their economic potential.
Hence it is hardly surprising that, generally speaking, there is little
discussion about actually applying Islamic principles to environmental
practice. A few scholars and grassroots leaders, however, have begun to grapple
with the question.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr
While Islamic writing in general lacks the self-criticism that Westerners
value, and the study of comparative religion is seldom considered important,
the view of the distinguished philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr is wider in
scope. Born in Iran, he studied physics and math at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, obtained a doctorate in science and philosophy at
Harvard, and then returned to Iran,
where he eventually became chancellor of Aryamehr
University. After the Khomeini revolution in 1979, he began teaching
Islamic studies in the United States. Although most of his twenty-odd books focus on Islamic
civilization, some deal with the spiritual crisis facing humanity today, and
all evidence his knowledge of Western and Eastern scientific and religious
traditions. We met him at George Washington
University in his well-ordered office, lined with books in many
Dark and slender, with a neat, graying beard, Nasr spoke gravely, in impeccable
English. He greeted us cordially, but seemed eager to move to the business at
hand. We asked him to comment on the impact of the movement to join the forces
of religion and ecology.
"Well, in the West, it has certainly made some compelling statements. But
one has to ask, 'What power does it have over the political domain?' The
politicians may nod and even agree -- but the developers go right ahead,
cutting down woods, uprooting endangered species. That's a result of the
Western dogma of separating science from the sacred and religion from the
secular. In Islamic countries religion is a stronger force. In a true Islamic
society, political leadership could act in accordance with the shari'ah as set
out by doctors of the law. If they pronounced polluting industries and certain kinds
of development in violation of Islamic principles, political leaders would have
to take strong measures against transgressors. Remember, I am talking about
what would happen in a true Islamic society. Unfortunately, today the West
dominates the world economy, so Islam reacts to the West both economically and
politically. The West sets the agenda."
"From reading your work, we've seen how destructive you feel the
separation between religion and the secular domain to be."
He nodded. "That is rooted in Western modern science and its domination of
our view of nature, a view that separates nature from the sacred. Renaissance
humanism gave rise to a world centered on man instead of God. Human reason was
no longer bounded by allegiance to anything beyond itself. Before, all
civilizations looked beyond themselves to God -- to revelation. I'm not hostile
to Western science but to its claim to be the only valid science of the natural
world. There are other ways of 'knowing.' Western science has become illegitimate
because scientists and the rest of society fail to see the need for a higher
knowledge into which it could be integrated. The spiritual value of nature is
destroyed. We can't save the natural world except by rediscovering the sacred
"That is what Thomas Berry is talking about," we observed.
"Yes. Yes, Berry speaks to the heart of the matter. He brings the urgency
of the crisis to the fore. But his 'geologian' concept of religion is limited
to the earth, without remembrance of transcendence. The traditional perspective
of the Muslim -- and Christian -- is that man comes from a sacred heaven to an
earth which is also divine creation. Even the American Indians have a sky
father. What I am saying is that the whole of nature is descended from higher spiritual
realms. There can be no sacredness of the earth without the sacredness of
Heaven. Man is that special creature who transcends the earth. A theology is
not valid unless we remember where the sacred comes from."
"What are some other ways your thought differs from Berry's?"
"His view also has roots in evolutionism," Nasr said. "But I
would say you cannot hold a true ecological philosophy and a belief in
Darwinism at the same time. Darwinism has eradicated the sense of the sacred.
'Survival of the fittest' runs counter to the harmony in nature. True, on
television we can actually see violence -- like lions eating other animals. But
that's what television chooses to focus on -- violence, competition -- rather
than the cooperation that is so basic in nature."
"Cooperation. Isn't that the emphasis of the Russian scientist Kropotkin,
who observed mutual aid among animals in Siberia, then criticized Darwin for stressing competition?"
"That's right." He nodded briefly. "The idea that man comes out
of the mud, so to speak, is false. It simply provides a way of reducing the
higher to the lower."
"Your writings suggest that we need to reestablish a metaphysical
tradition in the West within the framework of Christianity. This would provide
a criterion for judging and regulating the sciences. And for evaluating
evolutionary theory, too?"
"Yes, we would no longer rely on evolution as dogma. Evolutionary theory
gives rise to pseudo-philosophies like the survival of the fittest, picturing
man as the inevitable winner of the long struggle, with the right to dominate
all things. This destroys the spiritual significance of nature -- which depends
on the fact that it reflects a permanent reality beyond itself."
"And this sense of the sacred pervaded the world of Islam and the rest of
the East until the onslaught of Western science and technology?"
"Yes, and eventually the onslaught of Western religion, too." Nasr's
smile was ironic. "Western Christianity wed itself to the Western
sciences. Missionaries brought modern medicine and technology, and worked
hand-in-glove with Western governments for what they called 'progress.' The
very idea of unilateral progress disoriented the East. At first it had little
meaning for the people. They had always lived close to the cyclical rhythms of
nature. In fact, previously nineteenth-century Westerners called Arabs
'naturalists' in a disparaging way. Islam did resist the West until pressure
became too great. So even the Arabs and Persians who had once created the
glories of Islamic science -- the very foundations of European mathematics,
astronomy, chemistry, physics -- proceeded to learn Western science. And to be
corrupted by its mechanistic and materialistic worldview.
"In the 1960s, Iran was the most advanced Muslim country in the Middle East.
While industrializing rapidly, we created nature parks, and in the 1970s we
held environmental conferences attended by Ivan Illich and other notables. Yet
when the Shah asked for advice about shifting to nuclear power, and I suggested
he should rely instead on resources like wind and solar energy, my advice was
not followed by the government."
He sighed heavily. "It is much more dangerous in the West today. They want
to remove problems brought on by destroying the balance between man and nature
through further domination of nature. The problem is not really
underdevelopment in the Third World, but overdevelopment brought by the West."
"Yet you seem to believe that to some degree Islamic societies have
resisted Western modes of thought."
"Yes, they are the only ones where significant segments of the population,
from jurists to villagers, refuse to consider any form of knowledge as secular
-- where religion can still function as the foundation of a wholistic approach.
Of course, it can be distorted into a parody of itself. Certain countries try
to copy the West, mostly because they have to recycle petrodollars and so are
forced into this game. Their pretense of being completely Islamic societies is
in fact not completely true, especially as far as the environment is concerned.
Still, as I say, throughout the world there are many Muslims who are trying to
rediscover traditional Islam. Traditional as distinguished from
"Could you tell us a little more about how you see that distinction?"
"Certainly. Today there are basically three types of Islam:
traditionalism, modernism, and a variety of forms of revivalism usually brought
together as fundamentalism. Until two hundred years ago, in spite of the many
schools and interpretations, all Muslims lived within the tradition, with its
roots in the Qur'an, Hadith, and the shari'ah. It was a living tradition,
emphasizing the harmony of law, art, and all forms of knowledge. In the
eighteenth century modernism, with its roots in secular humanism, entered this
world, in all fields from science and philosophy to art, and traditional Islam
began to weaken. Today we also see it struggling against many of the forms of
violent revivalism usually called Islamic fundamentalism, which speaks of
reviving Islam in opposition to modernism. But most so-called fundamentalists
are pseudo-traditional, as can be seen in their attitude toward modern
technologies and the destruction of the environment. Many of the so-called
fundamentalists, like Christian fundamentalists, pull out a verse from the
scriptures and give it a meaning quite contrary to its traditional commentary.
Also, even while denouncing modernism as the 'Great Satan,' many
fundamentalists accept its foundations, especially science and technology. For traditionalists,
there is beauty in nature which must be preserved and beauty in every aspect of
traditional life, from chanting the Qur'an to the artisan's fashioning a bowl
or everyday pot. Both fundamentalists and modernists, however, could just as easily
produce mosques that look like factories. Many fundamentalists even seek a
Qur'anic basis for modern man's domination and destruction of nature by
referring to the injunction to 'dominate the earth' -- misconstruing entirely
the basic idea of vicegerency: that man is expected to be the perfect servant
"To turn to a very tangible environmental problem like overpopulation --
what would traditionalists say about that?"
"It is a problem, a major one. But it is not soluble as an entity unto
itself; it is connected with other issues. Because of the imbalances in the
political situation, many in Muslim countries have felt that power lies in
numbers. But in the end, overpopulation is simply too great a burden, and there
are now new interpretations among religious scholars who try to interpret the
teachings of the Prophet to enable planning for one's family in accordance with
one's possibility of supporting them."
"Good. But isn't the real question how many can the earth support? And
doesn't a just and workable solution involve allowing more women to become
Islamic scholars and jurists?"
He looked at his watch and stood up quickly. "I would like to be able to
discuss these matters with you, but regrettably, I have an appointment. Women
do have more power in Islam than most Westerners realize. I regret I must end
our conversation now."
* * *
Seyyed Hossein Nasr's writings spell out many of these ideas in greater detail.(*)
Running through them is the theme of "man's total disharmony with his
environment." He sees the crisis as the externalization of an inner
malaise that cannot be solved without "the spiritual rebirth of Western
man." The human destiny, says Nasr, entails fulfilling the role of God's
vicegerent on earth and protecting the natural order, thus bearing witness to
the truth that the whole of nature speaks of God.
The Renaissance led to the separation of philosophy from theology, reason from
faith, and mysticism from gnosis. (The latter term Nasr uses not to designate a
secret knowledge based on mystic revelation but to refer broadly to
"illuminated knowledge.") In medieval times Christianity, like Islam,
was steeped in tradition. But as the West emphasized the rigid logic of Aristotelian
thinking, the sense of the sacred diminished. By the seventeenth century the
science of the cosmos was secularized. The scientific revolution mechanized the
Western worldview, and, with the appearance of the nineteenth-century
sociologist Auguste Comte, led to examining the person and society as elements
that could be measured with the aim of manipulation and predictability.
Nasr attacks what he calls the "hypothesis" of evolution. He uses the
term not to mean modifications within a particular species (which do occur, he
says, as a species adapts itself to changed natural conditions) but the belief
that through natural processes one species is actually transformed into
another. Nasr passionately criticizes this on a wide variety of grounds -- metaphysical,
cosmological, religious, logical, mathematical, physical, biological, and
paleontological -- building arguments too complex to recapitulate here. His
central concern is that what he calls "the deification of historical
process" has become so powerful that in many souls it has replaced
religion and veils the archetypal realities.
Among his arguments is the contention that there is a remarkable unanimity that
humankind descends from a celestial archetype but does not ascend from the ape
or any other creature. Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Islam, and many other
traditions do demonstrate awareness that other creatures have preceded
humankind on earth and that the earth's geological configuration has changed.
For example, over a thousand years ago Muslim scientists knew that sea shells
on top of mountains meant that mountains had turned into seas and seas into
mountains, and that land animals had preceded humans on earth. But no sacred
scriptures, whether they speak of creation in six days or of cosmic cycles
enduring over vast expanses of time, speak of higher life forms as evolving
from lower ones.
A number of scientists have found difficulties with the theory of evolution,
Nasr says. For example, the lack of fossils intermediate between the great groups
requires explanation. Contrary to Darwinian theory, each new species enters
life quite suddenly, over an extended region, and with all its essential
characteristics. A truly scientific statement would be that nature produces
species that are constant and unchanging, but occasionally disappear. Nasr
comes to the rather startling conclusion that as long as humans have lived on
earth, they have not evolved at all. Moreover, Nasr says in Man and Nature the
same species still live, die, and regenerate themselves -- except for the
unfortunate species that modern humanity has made extinct (128).
Underlying these developments, Nasr says, was the absence of a higher form of
knowledge which encompasses all learning and all phenomena: metaphysics. In the
East, this "sacred science" endures to this day. Some early Christian
thinkers were metaphysicians -- Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, for example -- and
so were such later mystics and theologians as Eckhart, Erigena, and Nicolas of
For Nasr, Muslims are a kind of "middle people," geographically and
metaphysically located between other Oriental traditions and Western
Christianity. Islam's elaborate hierarchy of knowledge is integrated by the
principle of unity (tawhid), running as an axis through every mode of knowledge
and being. There are juridical, social, theological, gnostic, and metaphysical
sciences, their principles all derived from the Qur'an. Within Islamic
civilization, too, there have developed philosophical, natural, and
mathematical sciences that became integrated with the worldview of Islam. On
each level of knowledge, nature is seen in a particular way. For jurists it is
the background for human action, for scientists a domain to be analyzed, and
for metaphysicians the object of contemplation. Ultimately, all Islamic
sciences affirm the Divine Unity.
Nasr finds throughout Islamic history an intimate connection between the
metaphysical dimension of the tradition and the study of nature. Muslim
scientists were Sufis. In Islamic as in Chinese civilization, observation of
nature and even experimentation generally stood on the gnostic and mystic side
of the tradition. In Islam the indivisible link between humans and nature and
between religion and the sciences lies in the Qur'an itself, the Logos or Word
of God. "By refusing to separate man and nature completely, Islam has
preserved an integral view of the Universe and sees in the arteries of the
cosmic and natural world order the flow of divine grace, or barakah.. . . . Man
can learn to contemplate it, not as an independent domain of reality but as a
mirror reflecting a higher reality" (Man in Nature, 95). In Islam, then,
nature has never been considered profane. Someone like Avicenna could be both a
physician and a philosopher who sought knowledge through illumination. That
modern science did not develop in the bosom of Islam is a sign not of
decadence, but of the Islamic refusal to consider any form of knowledge as
purely secular and divorced from the ultimate goal of human existence.
Across the centuries, the same principles of the Divine Unity have guided
Islamic science, art, and law. Islamic cosmology and cosmography have served as
matrix for the Islamic sciences, from geography to alchemy. Maps were based on
observation, and remain amazingly accurate. Yet they were also works of art.
Islamic medicine produced detailed, accurate anatomical studies, even while
following the ancient injunction against dissection. Founded on the doctrines
of unity and balance, Islamic medicine is to this day practiced with success in
places like the Hamdard Institutes. The plant world was studied with minute
care, but with the goal of drawing spiritual lessons from it. Muslim scientists
have always recognized that nature is, above all, a reflection of the Paradise
whose memories we still bear in the depths of our souls.
This symbolic approach to creation can be likened to the Orthodox Christian
view that icons are an image of the divine world. Indeed, at one point Nasr
observes that Islamic science is in the most profound sense an art, one that
enables the human to contemplate the visible cosmos as an icon revealing the
spiritual world beyond it. Thus, we humans have studied animals not only for
their own sake, but also to know better our own inner reality. This reality is
the total reflection of the Divine Names and Qualities, just as animals are the
partial, but often more direct reflections. Humans, as central in the
terrestrial environment, are better able to exercise responsibility for it.
The correspondence between microcosm and macrocosm, and the study of the
gradation of beings, form the background for scrutinizing the various forms in
nature. Humankind stands at the pinnacle of the hierarchy. But "man cannot
gain an awareness of the sacred aspects of nature without discovering the
sacred within himself or herself," Nasr once told an interfaith conference
on "Spirit and Nature," which was recorded for a program produced by
The perfect expression of the microcosm opening to the macrocosm lies in
Sufism, which Nasr calls the inner dimension of Islam. The author of several
books on Jalal al-Din Rumi and other Sufi mystics, he frequently quotes from
their works, as in these lines of the Persian poet Hafiz:
There is no veil between the lover and the Beloved;Thou art thine own veil, O
Hafiz, remove thyself.
One should learn to contemplate the world of nature as a mirror reflecting the
Divine God, who is both transcendent and immanent. Trees are not only necessary
to maintain life, they are a recurring symbol. The Qur'an compares the cosmos
to a tree whose roots are firm in the heavens and whose branches spread to the
whole of the universe, symbolizing the participation of the whole cosmos in
prayer. In Islamic tradition, it is a blessed act to plant a tree even one day
before the end of the world. Water has a fundamental reality which symbolizes
Divine Mercy. In Islamic law, to pollute the water is a sin, and according to
certain jurists, the person who does so can even be called a kafir, a
condemnatory term for someone outside the pale of religion.
Ranging through a broad spectrum of wisdom traditions, Nasr pays homage not
only to the two other Abrahamic faiths, but also to the spiritual traditions of
Native Americans and Shintoists, for whom revelation is directly related to
natural forms. The American Indian, for example, sees the bear or eagle as a
divine presence. All religious traditions, too, posit the hierarchical nature
of reality -- as in the orders of angels described by Dionysius, or
intermediate worlds in the cosmologies of Mahayana Buddhism. Thus we have many
traditions, yet one, the Primordial Tradition, which always is. This lessens
neither the authenticity nor the complete originality of each, which emanates
as a direct message from Heaven and conforms to a particular archetype. From
interfaith dialogue we should not expect the conversion of participants.
Rather, we can gain understanding of another world of sacred form and meaning
through preservation of our own tradition.
The geometric patterns in Islamic art reflect the archetypal world. Traditional
Islamic architecture and city planning never sought to convey a sense of
defiant human power over nature. Where there were hot deserts, the streets were
narrow to prevent the sun from dissipating the cool night air. Slatted
wind-towers on housetops caught the breezes that ventilated homes. Even
religious architecture reflected harmony with nature. Light and air entered
easily into the traditional mosque, and birds often flew around during the most
solemn moments of a ceremony. The sun-heated buildings, wind-turned mills, and
water provided energy for small technologies. In the Middle East, particularly Persia, the Muslims perfected the ancient system of qanats,
elaborate underground channels that stored water and carried it long distances
without danger of evaporation. Many are still being used today.
In the traditional Islamic pattern of life, work is not separated from life,
but reflects natural rhythms. An artisan's workday, for example, may last from
dawn until long after sunset, but the work is done in the bazaar, the bosom of
the community, and is interrupted by coffee-drinking with friends, dining at
home with family, prayers at the mosque, or quiet meditation.
Today, concern for a greater reality in the contemporary world can be observed,
Nasr maintains, in the growing interest in ecology and a concomitant urge to
rediscover the sacred. If the limitations imposed by a desacralized mode of
knowing were removed, the sacred would manifest itself of its own accord, he
tells us in Knowledge and the Sacred. "The light has not ceased to exist
in itself. The cosmos seems to have become dark, spiritually speaking, only
because of the veil of opacity surrounding that particular humanity called
Contrasting Perspectives: Thomas Berry and Seyyed Hossein Nasr
The two modes of thought represented by Nasr and Berry are both so significant that they reach well beyond
conventional boundaries of separate religious and cultural traditions.
Comparing their ideas, not all of them mutually exclusive, may clarify their
differing approaches and highlight basic intellectual choices that religious
believers concerned with ecology will eventually have to make.
Berry's starting point is the natural world. For him, as St. Paul indicates in the Epistle to the Romans, the earth itself
is divine Scripture, and the universe is the ultimate sacred community.
Although Nasr has called Scripture and nature the two grand books of divine
knowledge, he starts with the divine world. In another sense, his starting
point is revelation, the only means by which the Source can, even partially, be
known. It is revelation from a personal God who created the world, watches over
the acts of all human beings, and intervenes in their affairs. Although Nasr
acknowledges the mode of revelation in religions that center on a nonpersonal
Supreme Reality rather than a personal God, and sometimes uses
"revelation" simply to refer to the world of faith, he is most
concerned with direct revelation, communicated to a human prophet.
For Berry, "revelation" is the awakening of the sense of
ultimate mystery. The "revelatory import of the natural world" is a
recurrent motif; he asks us to listen to the universe. God is a word that Berry rarely uses: it is employed in so many different ways that
it is too ambiguous; besides, he is primarily concerned with the larger
society, not simply with "religious" people. More often, Berry speaks of "the divine," for it conveys better
the ineffable/numinous presence in the world about us.
For Nasr, "nature," a symbol of a transcendent reality, teaches human
beings about God. His vision seems propelled by an urge to perceive patterns of
unity, hierarchy, order. It might be called a mathematical vision; mathematics,
an abstraction with respect to the world of the senses, is regarded by Muslims
as the gateway leading from the sensible to the intelligible world. Nasr
perceives reality through the lens of archetypes. Like the great naturalist
writers, Berry takes joy in the wildness of the natural world --
wilderness undisturbed by human interference. He delights in the smells,
tastes, sounds, the sight and the touch of the earthscape; they enter the very
stuff of his being. On lone walks through the woods he enjoys listening to the
trees. Indeed, he has suggested that the salvation of Christianity lies in
absorbing the positive elements of paganism, as it has assimilated Greek
thought and much of Oriental wisdom.
These contrasts seem related to a fundamental difference in emphasis between
the religions that nurtured these men. Christianity tends to be a way of love,
Islam a way of knowing through illumination. Like Hinduism, Buddhism, and
Zoroastrianism, Islam has stressed sapiential doctrines. Mainstream Christian
thought has tended, in Nasr's words, to limit the "function of
intellection to that of a handmaid of faith rather than the means of
sanctification, which of course would not exclude the element of faith"
(Knowledge and the Sacred, 36). In Christianity caritas is more important. In Berry's vision, this theme extends to the earth, and he even
speaks of "falling in love with the universe."
Metaphysics is a realm that Berry rarely discusses, while for Nasr it is the scientia sacra.
For the latter it is a key to perceiving the hierarchy and humankind's elevated
position in it as vicegerent of creation. Berry's perception is closer to the Native American view that we
are one among many species, each with its own distinctive grandeur: for flying
the birds are infinitely superior; for swimming, the fish. So, too, for
producing apples, the apple tree is best. For reflexive thinking, the human.
That which is absolutely superior is the integral community of all species, for
as St. Thomas says in his Summa Theologica, "The whole universe
together participates in and manifests the divine more than any single species,
whatsoever" (I, q.1, a.10).
The concept of "evolution" holds different meanings for Nasr and Berry. Nasr sees it as a vain attempt to prove that higher
biological forms emerge out of lower ones. The idea violates the principle of
hierarchy fundamental to Islam and is wrong in the strictly scientific sense,
and in its influence on other modes of thought. Berry finds excitement in the idea that there was a time
sequence in the very formation of the earth, that earlier life-forms were
simpler than later ones, that the earth, especially its life forms, is in a
state of continuing transformation. The universe has revealed itself as an
emergent evolutionary process.
In Berry's perspective, the universe had a beginning; and time is
irreversible. In Nasr's complex discussions of different conceptions of time, a
recurring theme is that the movement we see in our environment is cyclical
rather than evolutionary -- witness the seasons. But for Berry this does not mean that the natural world moves only in
eternal, unchanging cycles. In fact, the reason we are in trouble is that while
the seasons do come round again every year, the life-systems are deteriorating,
continually, bringing more dust storms, contaminated water, spoiled harvests,
and extinction of species that once made this earth their home.
Berry focuses on cosmogenesis, understanding the universe not as
"being" but as always in the process of becoming. We human beings
also evolve and our vision evolves; our story and that of the earth are
intertwined. We are truly of the earth; our sense of the divine reflects the
outer world, and can alter as that world is altered. Such a view violates the
very principle of the unchanging nature of sacred realities that is fundamental
to Nasr's thought. For him, nature is a reflection of the paradise whose
memories we still bear. The Way is the way back, through the revival of
traditions as manifested in the great civilizations. Only thus can we rediscover
the sacred and dissipate the loneliness of a world from which the spirit has
Each way -- Nasr's and Berry's -- contains wisdom. Although their perspectives differ
radically, both philosophers locate the source of our plight less in external
conditions than in the way we perceive and approach them. Both suggest that we
humble ourselves before the mystery, the awesome forces of creation -- and
simplify our lives accordingly. Both remind us of the peril of hubris,
forgetfulness of human limits.
Four centuries ago the Persian Sufi poet Abd al-Rahman Jami foresaw the
predicament of power-driven humanity today:
I lost my intellect, soul, religion, and heartIn order to know an atom in
perfection.But no one can know the essence of the atom perfectly.How often must
I repeat that no one shall know it; then farewell!
Our brief summary of aspects of Nasr's thought is based on his Man and Nature:
The Spiritual Crisis of Modern Man (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1968);
Science and Civilization in Islam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968);
Sufi Essays (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1972); Islamic Science: An
Illustrated Study (London: World of Islam Festival Publishing Co. and Thorson
Publishers, 1976); Knowledge and the Sacred, the 1981 Gifford Lectures (Albany:
State University of New York Press, 1989); Traditional Islam and the Modern
World (London: Kegan Paul, 1987).
*[Back to text]
Dogen, in Philip Kapleau, The Three Pillars of Zen, rev. ed. (New York:
Doubleday, 1989), 310.
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Vol. 44 Issue 2, p180, 13p
direction mode we go ahead in Islam