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A Message of Mercy

Islam is described in the Qur’an as a message of Mercy for the world. This truth can be demonstrated thoroughly in its teachings whether through the Qur’an or the Sunnah. Any person who studies Islam deeply comes to the conclusion that God’s message is a message of peace, security, prosperity, love, justice, and happiness for all of His creation. All what a person needs for understanding Islam is humility, open-mind, attention, and an effort to learn about it from reliable sources and not from the media or extremist religious broadcasts and periodicals.

 

The Qur’an teaches that Allah sealed the revelation to mankind through His last Prophet and Messenger Muhammad (P.b.u.h) as finality. In His last revelation, or message, to the world He set a system and a way of life that can guarantee a life of righteousness, justice, and peace for every living being. He called people to Islam, which is an acceptance of a constant state of peace with God as we have seen previously and He called them also to abide with a divine law to organize their lives. In this message there is mercy on different levels. That is why Allah said that His last Messenger was sent to the entire world as a Mercy. We read in the Qur’an,

“We sent thee not, but as a mercy for all creatures” (21:107)

 

And He also says,

“Say: “O people! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He that gives both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, who believes in Allah and His Words: follow him that (so) you may be guided.” (7:158)

In many chapters of the Qur’an, Allah reminds people of the blessings and possessions they have because He is the one who gives and takes away things such as health, wealth, intellect and life. He uses in all these cases the word Rahmah, Mercy1, and wants people to be merciful to one another as well as to all His creatures. The Prophet (S), who was the example and practical model of God’s teachings, as we will see, urged people to be merciful and compassionate. He said,

“Be merciful to others, Allah will be Merciful to you, and forgive, Allah will forgive you” Related by Ahmad.2
And he also said when al-Aqra’a ibnu Haabiss, a Bedouin man, saw him kissing his grand son al-Hassan and said that he had ten children and he never kissed anyone of them:

“Whoever does not show mercy to others, Mercy won’t cover him” Agreed upon it. Ahmad added: ” and whoever does not forgive, Allah won’t forgive him”3
He also said,

“The merciful ones deserve the Mercy of the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth so that the One in Heaven – Allah – will cover you with His Mercy” Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daawud and at-Tirmidhi. The latter said it is good authentic.4

The Messenger of Allah (S) taught his followers that Islam is about mercy and being merciful. He explained and demonstrated that practically. Once He gave a parable to the mercy of God by pointing to a woman who was carrying her baby while breast-feeding him. He asked his companions, “Would you think this woman would throw her baby in the fire?” They replied, Certainly not! She wouldn’t allow herself to do that. He then said, “Know that Allah is more Merciful to you than this woman to her baby”.5

A model of Mercy

In fact, there are hundreds of sayings that we can mention here in this context.6  All the teachings of the Prophet (S) were about how to be merciful and show the others the mercy of Islam. There are many stories mentioned in the biographies of the Messenger of Allah (S) of people who embraced Islam not because they studied it in the classes or heard about it in lectures, but rather because they saw the behavior of the teacher and his disciples. That behavior was one of the main reasons thousands of people embraced Islam and committed themselves to Peace.  The Prophet Muhammad (S) proved to us that he was the embodiment of the teachings of the Qur’an as his wife ‘Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) described him when she was asked by some people about his character. She said:

“His character was the Qur’an. Don’t you read Allah saying in the Qur’an, “And you indeed stand on an exalted standard of character”(68:4). Related in all the six books of Hadith and by Ahmad and others. 7
The Prophet (S) with his pattern, character, and his personality was and still is considered by the faithful as a gift from God. That gift is a precious one because it is a Mercy. He (S) used to call his companions and say,

“O people I am indeed a gift of mercy from Allah to you”8

Once some of his followers, while suffering from the persecution and the injustice of the Polytheists of Makkah, asked him to curse them, he replied:

“I was not sent by God to curse people, but rather as a Mercy to them” Reported by Muslim.9

God described Prophet Muhammad (S) in the Qur’an mentioning some of his qualities. He says,
God showed to His messenger one of the main reasons why people followed him. He said,
“It is part of the Mercy of Allah that you deal gently with them. Had you been severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about you: so pass over (their faults), and ask for (Allah’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs (of moment). Then, when you take a decision, put your trust in Allah. For Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).” (3:159)

One of the companions named Malek ibn al-Huwayrith came once with a group of youth from a different part of Arabia to learn about Islam and to stay as guests and students at the Prophet’s place for many days. On the twentieth day, they told him that they missed their families and that they could not stay longer than what they had planned. He (S) understood their situation and gave them permission to leave and instructed them briefly on what to do for prayers. Malek (r) said: “He was very considerate of our situation, and indeed very kind, very compassionate, and very merciful…”.10

I am mentioning this to show that if we Muslims are ordered by God to follow our Prophet (S) and to behave like him as much as we can then we should also be kind and merciful as he was. For those of us who love to follow his way, we are not a threat to anyone, but a mercy. Islam is crystal clear and does not allow its adherents to have double standards. We Muslims have one Book, one God, and one pattern to follow that is the pattern of the Prophets (Peace be upon all of them). Allah (swt) says regarding following the last Messenger (S),

“You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the praise of Allah.” (33:21)

And He also says:

“Say: “This is my Way: I do invite unto Allah – on evidence clear as the seeing with one’s eyes – I and whoever follows me. Glory to Allah! And never will I join gods with Allah!” (12:108)

And He says regarding following all the Messengers (Peace be upon them),
“There was indeed in them an excellent example for you to follow, for those whose hope is in Allah and in the Last Day. But if any turn away, truly Allah is Free of all Wants, Worthy of all Praise.” (60:6)

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Islam: Does it bring Peace?

Nowadays, we hear, very often in the media and everywhere else different parties who are in search for peace or what is called “Peaceful Resolutions”. Many of these belligerent parties have been in long processes of peace talks, or are still trying to find ways to initiate peace talks. How does Islam perceive peace in general? And what is really the state of peacefulness? Is it one sided? One way oriented? Serving one party on the account of others? Or is it a general and a just peace where everybody enjoys equal rights?

 

Islam means ‘submission to and acceptance of the will of God’ and has at the same time the meaning Peace derived from the Arabic word “salaam”. Islam, terminologically speaking, is a religion that carries the word “Peace” and is not named after a certain prophet, a god, or a philosopher. Some Orientalist writers have tried very hard during the last two centuries to use in their literature the word “Mohammedanism”, which is a misnomer that even Muslims are not familiar with, in order to classify Islam as a founded religion rather than a revealed one.

 

In the word “Islam”, many shades of meaning are implied.  The word “salaam” translated as “peace”, has a much wider significance.  It includes a sense of security, soundness, freedom from defects like in “saleem”, preservation like in “saalem”, deliverance and safety like in “salaama”, salutation with those around us as in “salaam”, resignation with satisfaction and no discontent, and the ordinary meaning of peace, which is freedom from any jarring element.

In fact, for Muslims the relation between submission and peace is a causal one because Submission to Allah in Islam brings peace on different levels beginning with the individual to the whole community, to all the creation of God. Allah says in the Qur’an,

“But God does call to the Home of Peace: He does guide whom He pleases to a Way that is straight” (10:25).

The Qur’an’s message calls to peace and to the elements that guarantee it by laying a foundation of four cornerstones that are respectively: Justice, Tolerance, Respect and Dialogue. Without these four elements peace would be only ink on paper or a shallow concept.

The Muslims’ mission in this world is to call, as God Almighty does, to peace and its cornerstones and to be peacemakers beginning from the individual to the society at large.

Psychological and Spiritual Peace:

First, submission, or Islam, is in fact a psychological and spiritual peace.  It is peace of the soul within the person who submits to his, or her, Creator. A few eastern religious ideas and practices were perceived by some Western psychoanalysts as very useful for studies in psychotherapy, such as the disciplines of Yoga and meditation in Buddhism or Hinduism. But very few of these modern scholars have dealt with Islam and tried to study objectively the efficacy of the Islamic psychotherapy, which stems from the principle of peace; peace of the soul and the self.

Sincere submission to God for a Muslim ends all the struggles he, or she, might have either within himself, or herself, or when dealing with others. Therefore, this submission makes a person very peaceful and tolerant.  The more a person is sincere and faithful in his, or her, submission to God, the more the feeling of peacefulness is increased and reflected in the character. The genuine Muslim person becomes certain that Allah is watching over him, or her, and therefore, it is implausible that this person would cause any harm or injustice to anyone. The true Muslim establishes peace with His Lord, Allah, first and then builds on this base the determination to be peaceful with the creation of God.

Peace is a reality and not a dream or an illusion; it can happen anywhere and anytime.  Islam believes in this reality and urges Muslims to strive at establishing peace. Peace in Islam is considered as one of the great blessings; Allah mentions that one of the blessings he grants the faithful servants is peace and security. He says that He has promised those who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will, of a surety change their state, after the fear in which they lived, to one of security and peace as we read in the Qur’an (24:55).

Life itself is the embodiment of peace and this is why by nature humans love to live and be surrounded by living beings and feel the manifestations of different elements of nature. In Islam, life is a great blessing in this world and an eternal reward in the Hereafter when it is directed towards pleasing the Creator and life Giver, God Almighty.  Life is manifested on two levels: the physical and more importantly the spiritual. Allah says,
“O you who believe! Give your response to Allah and His Messenger, when He calls you to that which will give you life; and know that Allah comes in between a man and his heart,1 and that it is He to Whom you shall (all) be gathered.” (8:24).
It is crystal clear that the life mentioned here is the life of the heart and the soul. If the heart is empty from the love of, and the dedication to, God it becomes dead even if there is a physical life. The soul, or heart, becomes dead because of the death caused by ignorance and rejection as the commentators of Qur’an said. Our Prophet (S) explained that by saying,
“The parable of a person who remembers his Lord and a person who does not; is like the one of the living and the dead” (Related by al-Bukhari & Muslim)2.

According to the language of the Qur’an, humans need to balance between the life of the soul and the life of the body to avoid going to the extremes. Once one of these two lives is neglected on the account of the other, the actions of the person start leading him, or her, astray from what is known in Islam as the “Straight path”, the path of those who seek the pleasure of God, the path of righteousness. Allah says,
“But seek, with the (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the Home of the Hereafter, but do not forget your portion in this World. Be good to others, as Allah has been good to you, and seek not (occasions for) mischief in the land: for Allah loves not those who do mischief.”(28:77)

A balanced life in Islam is a life where the individual lives a very normal life and remembers His, or Her, Lord constantly or as often as possible.

Remembering God means also remembering the covenants we have made with Him. One of those covenants is to make peace with God and His creation. This is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength and determination. We believe that this commitment to peace requires a great strength, power, courage, and tremendous effort. Working for peace through one’s commitment to the will of God proves how a person is capable to silence his, or her, own personal desires and to overcome any self-interest. That peace also empowers humans against Satan who tries to control them through lust, greed, desire, and other weaknesses. If a person is trapped in the vicious circle of the self-seeking lust and pleasure, it is difficult for the truth to reach his, or her, heart. The false desires and the absence of contentment do indeed blind and seal the hearts and cover them from receiving the light of God. Lust and desire for pleasure and material things are never satisfied because of the endless greed of humans. They never provide real, long lasting happiness or satisfaction, but ultimately result in suffering and dissatisfaction in their life and in the Hereafter.    Self-centeredness and concern only about personal lusts, desires and interests could become fire, which cannot be extinguished by adding fuel to it, but rather by applying moderation and moral values using something better, which gives life and peace; something like water.
Social and Political Peace:

Islam is a social and political peace because submission to Allah means for a society a total rejection of corruption, wrong- doing, and deviant and harmful behaviors.  Commitment to peace with God and His creation leads to unity, love, harmony, dialogue and respect for others.  An ideal society is what human beings have been dreaming of since even before Plato’s ‘Republic’ or Augustine’s ‘Eternal City of God’. With Muhammad (P.b.u.h), the ideal society was constituted of faithful followers called “Companions”, who submitted to the Message in obedience to God and His Prophet and Messenger (P.b.u.h.).

The organization of that society started from basic requirements such as the brotherhood between all Muslims.  Peace was declared verbally in every daily encounter of two individuals or more.  Salutation (!?????? ?????) – As-Salaamu Alaikum!- in its verbal form means “Peace be upon you!” Allah says in the Qur’an:

“Salute each other a greeting of blessing and purity as from Allah” (24:61).

And He also says:

“When a courteous greeting is offered to you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or at least of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things.” (4:86).

The Prophet (P.b.u.h) was once asked:

“Which is the best Islam?”  He (S) replied: “You feed the hungry and you say Salaam to those you know and those you don’t know.” (Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim)3.

He (P.b.u.h) also said:
“You won’t enter Paradise unless you believe, and you won’t believe unless you love each other. Do you want me to show you something that if you do it you will love each other?  Say Salaam to each other- Send messages of peace to each other-” (Related by Muslim)4.

Even Prophet Ibrahim (P.b.u.h), who declared himself as a Muslim, used to say “Salaam”.  Allah says about Ibrahim:
“When they entered his place they said “Peace” and he said “Peace” (11:69).

Thus, expressing peace verbally is very important in Islam because it unifies people and makes them feel totally secure among themselves. This enactment of salutation in Islam on a daily basis and in every encounter of two people or more is indeed a renewal of commitment to peacefulness and a reminder of one another of the rights and duties implied by the statement: “As-Salaamu alaikum!” meaning ” Peace be upon you!”

That is why peace is translated into physical actions, which cannot be achieved unless there is sincere submission and commitment – Islamic faith is belief and conviction in the heart, verbal declaration with the tongue, and action. A true Muslim, or submitter, is the one who promotes peace rather than enmity, violence, disrespect and hatred.  The Prophet Muhammad (P.b.u.h.) said:

“The Muslim is the one who avoids harming others with his hand and his tongue” (al-Bukhari and Muslim)5. In another narration6, he added, “and the believer is the one that people are safe from him in regards of their lives and properties” (at-Tirmidhi, an-Nassa’i, and Ahmad)7.

This means that any verbal or physical action, which results in harm, offense, and violence, is contradictory to true submission, unless it is a matter of a necessary self-defense in reaction against an outside aggression, as it will be elucidated later.
Peace is the general principle even in war.  Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“But, if the enemy inclines towards peace, you have to incline towards peace and trust in Allah, for Allah is the One who hears and knows” (8:61).

The Qur’an teaches while Muslims must always be ready to fight intellectually or even physically for a just cause if it was forced upon them, even in the midst of the fight they must always be ready for peace if there is any inclination towards peace by the other side.  There is no merit merely in a fight by itself.  It should be a goal not for itself, but to establish the reign of peace, justice, and righteousness.

The Prophet (S) always taught his disciples that peace and justice are the principles. Every Muslim should live and walk with principles. He stressed that principles should at all times take precedence over the personal interests whether dealing with Muslims or non-Muslims. During his life – before and after Islam was established – he constantly praised the “Confederacy of the Fudul.” It was the decision of the leaders of the tribe of Quraysh in Makkah during the Pre-Islamic times to assemble in one house and to make a covenant binding themselves by a solemn agreement that if they found anyone, whether a Makkan or an outsider, had been wronged they would take his part against the aggressor and make sure that the stolen property was restored to him, or her. Prophet Muhammad (S) once said, “I witnessed in the house of Abdullah ibn Jud’aan a covenant, which I would not exchange for any number of fine camels: If I were invited to take part in it during Islam I should do so.”8

To spread the message of peace is the role and mission of every Muslim. Even when Muslims won wars and battles, they didn’t execute and torture the captives, nor rape their women and molest their children, as it happened and continues happening today in the case of many warring parties. Muslims were required to be peaceful towards them and treat them in a humanitarian manner, granting them rights ordained in the Islamic law. History witnesses that Muslims under genuine Islamic leadership always treated their prisoners and captive kindly even before the famous Geneva Convention act. Allah says in the Qur’an,

“O Prophet!  Say to those who are captives in your hands: “If Allah finds any good in your hearts, He will give you something better than what has been taken from you, and He will forgive you, for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful” (8:70).

Thus, the purpose of Muslims, or true submitters, is to invite people to God’s Grace and Mercy not to exterminate them for the sake of revenge. Any creation of God is not cheap in Islamic teachings let alone Human life. Every human being deserves dignity, respect, and the right to live in God’s world. No one deserves to be killed unjustly. All humans are equal in terms of their rights and obligations that are related to their necessities of life.

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The Power of Faith

“God is the Reason for Life, and Faith explains everything”

What is Faith, and what does it do? We all know it’s got to do with how what we believe affects what we do, but people often disagree what those beliefs should be. Everybody believes something, and everyone has reasons for the choices they make. If Faith is the link between belief and action, then Faith is something everyone has, and it’s what gives us purpose, whether we believe in God or not.

Life is something else we’ve all got in common. Does it have a purpose too? Some of us have easy lives, and some don’t, but everyone knows that the only certainty is change. It seems to me that, if there’s no purpose to life then life is cruel no matter what happens. When tragedy strikes it’s meaningless. If fate is blind, then no good will come of suffering, no matter what we do. Suffering is inevitable:  If good comes your way, it only means it didn’t go to someone else!

With God there is a purpose to everything. Life becomes an ongoing conversation with your Creator: The things that happen to you are one side of the conversation, and your side is the responses you make. The events of your life become part of an ongoing relationship, and that changes everything: I had cancer last year, and I still thank God for it. I knew it was just one more step along the journey I’m taking. I don’t know why I’m here, but I know that God will make sure it all makes sense, and that the purpose of my life will be achieved, in the end.

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The Image of Islām

What does Islam do? I know it sooths pain and mends hearts. I’ve been told it heals all manner of wounds, hurts and injuries. I have felt it give purpose and meaning to every aspect of my life, both the good and the bad, heard it explain the inexplicable and seen it bring joy and comfort where none was to be found. I believe that Islam works miracles every day.

That’s not the image of Islam in most peoples’ minds today. For many non-Muslims the religion of Islam has become a symbol of fear and terror- a maelstrom of rage fueled by self-righteous hatred. Some leaders around the world have learned to use that fear to rally their people behind them, and they’re leading us all into a downhill spiral of war. Their actions anger Muslims in turn, feeding the flames of destruction, but are non-Muslims really the one’s we should blame? They may have learned how to use our religion as a tool, but tragically, they learned it from us: Around the world Islam is a rallying cry, uniting Muslims in truly laudable efforts like the pursuit of freedom and equality in different parts of the world, but Muslims have used it for lesser purposes as well. In Muslim nations today, Islam is hijacked for political gain, tweaked to promote a specific point of view, manipulated for personal profit and power and even warped to encourage war or justify oppression. In non-Muslim countries Muslims have done the same things in our smaller communities on a smaller scale. The abuse of Islam and Muslims is despicable, no matter who’s doing it.

What should Islam be? Our beloved religion of Islam, as revealed through the prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), is nothing less than the True Path leading to Peace through Submission to God’s Will. The Holy Quran proclaims:

“The Religion before Allah is Submission to His Will” Chap. 2 V. 19
And
“Verily, this is My Way Leading straight: Follow it!” Chap. 6 V. 153

Islam is Allah’s tool, to make us His servants. Islam does not serve Muslims. Muslims serve God. If we truly intend to reclaim Islam and return it to what it once was, we must stop striving to make Islam serve our ambitions, live our lives according to the commands of the Quran and the Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him) and make our submission to Allah real, like it was when the Ummah began.

Today, some Muslims are striving to reclaim Islam by proclaiming that Islam and the Quran are only for Muslims. We read in Chapter 81 V. 27-29:

“Verily this is no less than a Message to all the Worlds: With profit to whoever among you will to go straight: But ye shall not will except as Allah wills- The Cherisher of all the Worlds.”
Allah revealed the Quran to guide anyone from anywhere. The Quran promises us that Allah has chosen everyone who seeks the straight path, no matter where they begin. Allah calls His servants from where we are, not from where others want us to be. When Muslims try to re-make the Path of Submission into the Path we think it should be, or when we allow it to be used to separate us, divide us, or to cause conflict, suffering or war, we’re serving only ourselves, to our own destruction. Whenever we proclaim the truth that Islam brings Peace to everyone, everywhere, we’re serving God.

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A Well Spent Life

As the pace of life hastens, many of us find it difficult to fit many tasks, duties and obligations in our everyday life. There are deadlines to meet, kids to drop off, and dry cleaning to pick up. We want to do many things but we fail to achieve most of them. We all have weekly schedules, but sometimes when we let things go out of control and don’t plan properly; they overwhelm us and consequently our behaviour and attitudes turn inappropriate or, even worse, they do not reflect a good and positive image of ourselves.

 

More importantly, we may increasingly neglect the needs of our bodies and our souls. Our bodies need good rest, good care, good food, good water and good air. Our souls also need good rest and time out, purification, refreshment and energizing. All of that is fulfilled through our physical, spiritual, intellectual and social duties. For instance, the daily prayers, meditation, reading, learning, attending study circles, looking after family needs and spending quality time with the loved ones are definitely some of many things that can impact our welfare and happiness in life.

 

In the following lines, I would like to suggest some simple yet effective tips and ideas to help us all – including those who go to work early in the morning or to school, so that they can have as enjoyable, organized and well spent day as possible. Therefore, when our days, weeks and months become organized consequently we will have a well spent life. A life where everything is balanced and all aspects of what constitute life are taken care of. The soul’s needs are fulfilled; the body’s needs are satisfied, mental well being is established and family and social relationships are strengthened. In additional to our pursuit of our material and financial security, these four aspects of life should be in our minds constantly.

Step 1: Becoming fully conscious of the Problem

Needless to say, more and more people today seem to hold the perception that it is almost impossible to appropriately fulfill religious or social duties while making a living – one, it seems, always has to come at the expense of the other. Everyone is in a continuous struggle to keep the balance between the two.

Our financial success has become unfortunately the criterion of success in life – not relationships, not education and not even health or faith. Therefore, many people are gradually made to believe that money does bring happiness since the focus of the meditations of almost everyone in this world is on the “Almighty Dollar”. If you can buy a smile and the consciousness of many then money becomes everything. The saying that goes, “money does not buy happiness” is usually answered in many people’s minds as someone put it, “yes! But money buys honey and honey is sweet.”

Step 2: Becoming fully conscious of our responsibilities and priorities in life

Many of us would carry our children’s photos in our wallets or have the family’s latest or favourite portrait on the office desk at work or wear a ring on a finger to make sure that we do not forget our loved ones. All these things may remind us and help us to focus for some time on those we love, but they do not guarantee anything more. Being conscious of our responsibilities comes from our understanding of the weight we carry when we’re in charge of others. That weight is well felt if we comprehend the danger of neglect and the outcome of it. We care because we do not want to fail
therefore we aim at succeeding by meeting reachable goals.

However, the only way to success is through the proper setting of our priorities. These priorities are ranked based on their importance in both this life and the hereafter. For instance, the Qur’an’s way of legislation follows this method; God Almighty decrees orders based on the things that matter, or should matter, the most to the people of faith. The usual order in all the Qur’anic and Prophetic texts in regards to duties, rulings and regulations is as follows:

  1. Faith: Relationship with God – Worship – Manners – Morality – Spiritual purification and elevation
  2. Family: Filial Piety – Nurturing & raising children – Marriage – Relationships – Rights & Duties
  3. Physical/Mental Health: Healthcare (Good Rest and sleep – Good and balanced Nutrition – Good Air Breathing – Exercise and activity)
  4. Society: Charity – Neighbours – Friends – Humanity – Social work –Community – Government
  5. Education: Learning – Teaching – reading – studying – Training – Development
  6. Making a Living: Work – Trade

The first three elements should always take precedence over the last three ones at all times. However the last three could be set between themselves in a different order based on different situations and circumstances. Making a living and earning is not a goal but a means. However it has become nowadays more and more difficult and it’s not an easy thing to simplify its priority.

Step 3: Changing our attitude towards different aspects of life

Our Faith teaches that money is a means and should never be the ultimate goal. In Islam, we repeat a supplication that explains better this concept where we beg God saying, “O Allah! Do not make dunia – the material world – our major worry and the end of our knowledge, but rather put in our hands not in our hearts.”

Making a difference between the major goals and the major tools will enable us to understand the different aspects of life that collectively constitute life in its ideal and complete form.

Step 4: Managing our time and energy better

1 – Manage your time wisely: Control time and do not let it control you!

Make a “To Do” List Every Day. Review your to-do list and refresh your memory about scheduled meetings or classes.

Put things that are most important at the top and do them first. If it’s easier, use a planner to track all of your tasks. Make your most important phone calls early. You’re more likely to catch people at their desks at the beginning of the day.

Then use your paper or electronic calendar to divide the rest of the day into project segments. Even if your time estimates are approximate, they help you focus on how much you can realistically expect to get done. Attack the most important projects when your personal energy is highest. For many, this may be first thing in the morning.

Check your e-mails and messages throughout the day, again sorting them immediately. Read and respond to urgent items, but file the rest away for the time you’ve already scheduled to handle them.

Wrap up the day and prepare for tomorrow. Review your checklist and cross off completed items. Move any pending items to a fresh list for tomorrow. You can use many free and effective software programs for this e.g. Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar, Plaxo etc.

On another note, count your hours. If you sleep 6 or 7 hours and work for 8 hours plus the Traffic which can be in average 1 to 2 hours you are left with 7 to 9 hours for other things. Shopping, Meals and time with the family will take an average of 4 to 5 hours and the time in the masjid at night for Dars, Isha and Taraaweeh etc. will take a maximum of 2 to 3 hours. You will be left with another 2 hours that you can use for either more learning about Islam or for school homework or extra business or some workload from your office.

2 – Manage your energy wisely: Use your positive energy positively!

While managing your time make sure that you do the most demanding jobs or activities early in the morning without exhausting yourself. Rest in between different tasks and breathe enough oxygen at all times. Most of our stress is caused by incorrect breathing, dehydration, worry and unrest. Breathe properly – take deep breaths regularly to let oxygen flow through your body. Drink plenty of water. Try to understand where you lose time the most and cut it down. This way you will also save energy. You must take a nap even for 5 minutes and even while sitting on a chair. Today’s experts are confirming what Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) stressed to his followers to observe a short nap everyday after lunch time or any time during the day. These power naps refresh and revitalize the body, the mind and the soul. Having that break is fundamental even if you are the busiest person on earth. Just try it for a week or two and see the difference yourself.

3 – Make your rest the daily Salaat (prayer):

Salaat rests the mind, the body and the spirit. Use your break time for Salaat with a congregation if you can. After you freshen up with the water of Wudu (ablutions) you will feel some change. Touching the water is something that has its own spiritual and physical significance. We were created from clay that originated by itself from water as God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an, “We made from water everything that is living.”

4 – Watch less TV:

Unfortunately, it is widely common among many of us to stay up most of the night watching TV and movies for hours instead of doing useful things. We all like to laugh and have fun sometimes but we need to balance things otherwise we tend to become excessive. If constant entertainment sets the mood of our nights then we will be missing many important points of life. Sadly enough, in today’s world, the mind yearns only for entertainment rather than for learning and seeking spiritual elevation and purification.

5 – Complete a project:

Try to set some goals in the beginning of every month and plan for them in a way you will achieve by the end of the month what you intend to achieve. For instance, commit yourself to collecting funds for one of your mosque’s projects, or for an orphanage, or a school…etc., Plan it well by contacting your close ones and friends. If you achieve more than half then it will be considered a success and it will encourage you to do better the next month. There are many things that could be done and achieved but we exhaust ourselves over the small things in life and waste a lot of time and energy because we do not set priorities and we do not work with a plan that defines our goals.

A well spent life

This way, if we give more focus to the abovementioned issues and areas of life we will spend our life in the best manner. Life is indeed too short and too precious. What can be done today should never be delayed till tomorrow and what can be done tomorrow does not need to be done today especially if it will be at the expense of something that is a higher priority today.

Imam Hamid Slimi

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MARRIAGE: QUEST FOR PERFECTION OR SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS?

Marriage is ultimately a quest for peace and tranquility

Finding someone for marriage is one of the most discussed topics among single people and specifically among our Muslim youth today since relationships between males and females in Islam are not considered right except through the ties of Nikah. For those who have chosen to abide with the laws and principles of Islam and hold on to chastity and patience, marriage discussions are so fascinating, promising and one of the best outlets of relief. Young people who are struggling, dreaming or even fantasizing about a potential spouse (one they have in mind or hope to find) often do so because the romantic possibilities seem endless; they hope with abandon and trust in God to help them find that person.

Our eyes and minds are constantly bombarded with images and thoughts which bring new considerations and efface old ones. Today’s culture and environment have opened so many ways of communication between people that they have taken away the simplicity of life and the contentment which used to help us focus, set life priorities and most importantly understand that no one is perfect and therefore reasonable adjustments always need to be made. The more sophisticated we become the more we demand and expect from the others.

The universal expression of art, literature, movies and music has been very successful in convincing us that “happiness in marriage must start with a love story.” Thus, falling in love has become the “standard” for starting a married life. Consequently, the focus of many becomes the search for love, or the cliche – coup de foudre – when people, who by nature never like to fall, make the sole exception to willingly fall in the ocean of love. Many want to experience what poets have been ruminating about, what stories and novels have been relating to us, what artists have been illustrating and playing to the world. Falling in love in the romantic language means experiencing perfection by tasting the ultimate sweetness that this earthly world can offer and achieving a sort of transcendence towards the ultimate uplifting physical and spiritual experience.

The question which comes to mind is: are those looking to get married on a quest for the perfect partner or on a search for a compatible partnership leading to happiness? We certainly cannot expect what we cannot give and since no one is perfect then why would someone expect perfection to be realized through a partnership made of imperfect beings? Thinking that the other will be perfect and hence will make me happy and content is an illusion. In reality no one can make you happy and content except yourself and when you accept the fact that you cannot expect others to be perfect because you are not perfect either. In fact this quest for romantic perfection is entirely self-defeating. God Almighty says, “Lo! Allah does not change the condition of a folk until they (first) change by themselves that which is in their hearts;” (Chap. 13 V.11). Only once we let go of this romantic notion which is really a figment of our collective imaginations can we begin our quest towards happiness.

The million dollar question: what is happiness? Happiness means amongst other things contentment, satisfaction, fulfilment, accomplishment and achievement which are almost linear in fashion. Therefore, if I achieve my goals then I should be happy. The Holy Qur’an states the goals of marriage in the following verse, “And among His signs is this: He created for you mates from yourselves that you might find rest and peace in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo! Herein indeed are portents for folk who reflect.” (Chap. 30 V. 31)

The goals here are rest, tranquility, peace of the mind and peace of the soul. This is why the sense of peace and harmony is a signal that creates that first acceptance of the other; the exchange of inexpressible signals that follow then grown from acceptance to become Mawaddah or spiritual love. Mawaddah has to be cultivated over time like a fruit-bearing tree; spiritual attachment is cemented by the spiritual enrichment and appreciation, which is unlike the physical desire driven by one’s biology that eventually decreases over time.

Having said all of this, Islam does recognize the fact that there should be a reasonable level of compatibility between a man and a woman over different aspects of life, mainly personality and faith. The components of a compatible personality used to be and to some degree still are one’s education, manners, perceptions, social upbringing and physical appearance to a certain extent. As for ethnicity, race, culture, and lineage – these have nothing to do with compatibility since they tend to counter the message of equality, uniformity and human brotherhood stressed by the Qur’an and the Prophet (PBUH) – in fact these elements have always been the causes of division, conflict and even war.

However, even this notion of marriage compatibility has evolved in our days beyond character, reasonable education, etiquette, abilities and reasonable material establishment. Due to today’s economic pressures, compatibility for a large number of those on marriage quest means the full package that is a ‘romantic experience with a wealthy partner’ -or at least a person with ‘stable’ income – and all the better if he or she looks like a prince or princess. This has led to the unfortunate raising of standards to the degree which is far beyond acceptance and reasonable chemistry, hard work, a sense of responsibility and physical compatibility. The search for mutual compatibility – something that was relatively easy to find – has been replaced by high expectations and low preparation for marriage which according to recent statistics is one of the main causes of divorce today. The high divorce rate in both Muslim and non-Muslim communities have surpassed any historical records.

According to the Prophet (PBUH) marriage is something simple: “If someone with good character comes to you to propose for marriage and you feel pleased and satisfied with his religious beliefs and practices as well as his character (manners and personality), then you should marry him, otherwise there will be fitnah (tribulation and great evil) and big corruption on earth.” (Reported by Imam Tirmidhi and others) He also said, “Women are asked for marriage for four things: wealth, family status, beauty and the practice of faith. So you should marry the one with faith, otherwise you will lose more than you gain.” (Reported by Imam Bukhari and others) Are we really following his advice or have we gone off the wrong track?

There are several considerations one must make when looking for a future spouse.

  • Look for a person from whom you get a feeling of peace, tranquility and a sense of security. This is what matters the most and the rest is icing on the cake.
  • For every man there is a right woman and for every woman there is a right man. You only need to look in the right place, the right way at the right time.
  • Seek the help of God by praying for your marriage. Even Prophet Musa (Moses) prayed for personal peace and security and God immediately answered him when he said, “My Lord! I am needy of whatever good You send down for me.” (Chap 28 V.24)
  • Seek help from those with experience and exposure. People will help you! Put your trust in Allah and in a few trusted people who care about you and would love to see you happy.
  • Attend various Islamic gatherings at Islamic centers or in mosques and engage in appropriate (professional) conversation with the members of the opposite sex without being isolated with them.
  • You can also correspond with potential mates through third-party Muslim marriage websites or advertising. Our methods of communication have changed and there is nothing wrong with that as long as the principle of professional conduct is maintained.
  • In the time of the Prophet (PBUH) the Sahabah (his companions) used to meet people sometimes in his presence and sometimes in other circumstances. For instance, on a number of occasions women used to come presenting themselves as candidates for marriage and accordingly, some men would accept their proposal of marriage. The Sahabah were very simple and undemanding about choosing their partners so long as they fulfilled basic religious and character requirements.

In our society, generally speaking, we tend to put far too many conditions and requirements that are not essentials from an Islamic perspective in a marriage. Islamically, the basic things we should consider are religion and character, all other requirements can be compromised on. Young people have to stop chasing the notion of the perfect one and start looking for the peaceful one. Islam is based on peace and Allah Almighty constantly calls us to the house of peace. Marriage is about finding peace within oneself and with one’s spouse. Ultimately, there is no one to blame for not finding a partner but oneself because as the Prophet (PBUH) said “Allah has taken it as a duty upon Himself to help the one who seeks Nikah.”

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Islam’s Viewpoint on Violence

Unfortunately, many radio and T.V reporters and newspaper journalists keep quoting the words extremism and extremists, fundamentalism and fundamentalists, terrorism and terrorists, bombs, killings…etc., altogether and constantly along with the words Islam and Muslims. This steady brainwashing process makes the viewer, the listener, or the reader believe gradually that there is somehow a relation between Islam and terrorism. It is never a matter of religion when a person from a different faith commits some terrorist acts or a murder, which occurs every minute or second around the world. Unfortunately, when it comes to Muslims – and humans are not all perfect- the issue is considered religious or has something to do with the religion of Islam or what the smart journalists call “Holy War”. The latter is actually an unfamiliar idiom to the Muslims and the Islamic literature that was imported from the European Crusaders and used to mean for the Europeans a holy Christian war against Islam and the Muslims.

Misconceptions about the word “Jihaad”
Jihaad derives from the three root letters word “ja-ha-da”, which derives from the word Juhd, and which means effort and strife. The verb for Jihaad is Jaahada, which means to strive, to make an effort, and to do the best in one’s capacity in order to reach a certain noble goal.
Jihaad is the endeavor to obtain and reach the pleasure of God whether by consecrating one’s life and time to work righteousness and virtuosity or by fighting to establish justice – on the other hand fighting for corruption is not a Jihaad but rather a bagh’y, which means tyranny and injustice.
The definition of Jihaad in Islam is, “to strive in defending oneself, one’s family, one’s faith, one’s property, and one’s honor when they are attacked by a transgressor, or an enemy”. We can define Jihaad also as ” a defensive reaction, or measure, against an outside aggression that attacks directly the main necessities of life in Islam: one’s faith, one’s life/ health, one’s mind, one’s progeny, and one’s property”.
The greater Jihaad has more to do with one’s own struggle to overcome the temptation around, the desires and lusts. The Jihaad of everyday is the strife to stick to the straight path; the path of righteousness and piety. In every person’s journey in this life, there are good times and bad times. To make Juhd, or effort to the utmost level while dealing with all the ups and downs of life, is actually a great Jihaad. Any hurdles and obstacles need sacrifices, which require great energies in order to be overcome. They can be in different forms and tastes, but the believer recognizes what is beneficial or harmful in this life and for the hereafter.
Allah has called sticking to Qur’an, to its values and teachings, and using it for intellectual argumentation against those who do not believe in it, a great Jihaad in itself. Allah (swt) says,
Therefore obey not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost endeavor, with the (Qur-an) (25:52).
Actually, in the Qur’an, the great Jihaad is to work righteousness by living the divine word and translate it into practice and reality. Allah (swt) says,
And those who strive in Our (Cause), We will certainly guide them to Our Paths: for verily Allah is with those who do right.” (29:69).
The world today is very well familiar with the word Jihaad, but not with its meaning and significance. We can just take a look at a local newspaper or turn on the radio or T.V for the daily news to see and hear the demonizing of the Muslim people. Many people think that Jihaad tells Muslims to go and kill innocent people and civilians as the “Holy war” of the Crusades did. In Islam, people do not go to fight just for the sake of fighting, shedding blood and slaying, but they fight only to defend themselves and fend off corruption on earth and to establish righteousness, law and order on different levels as I mentioned above. Allah (swt) says,
And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Verily, Allah does not like the transgressors” (2:190).
Jihaad is a defensive measure in all cases not an offensive one. It defends all the necessities of life that if lacked, life cannot continue existing.

Jihaad and Terrorism
If we compare the examples of Jihaad in the time of our Prophet (S), which was in accordance with the Islamic law (Shari’ah), with what is now called terrorism in general, we find absolute differences in terms of the motives, reasons, and the manner both are conducted.

First, it must be emphasized that the system of Islam is anti-terrorism and anti- extremism. A simple look at the Qur’an or the Hadith would be enough to draw this conclusion. We can quote in this context, for instance, this following Ayah where Allah is instructing Muslims to be kind to others who are not Muslim and do not fight or oppress them.
Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loves those who are just.” (60:8)

Second, Muslims do not and cannot condone or tolerate any terrorist acts including the killing of innocent people no matter what their faith is.

Third, Allah (swt) showed explicitly in the Qur’an and Muhammad (S) explained clearly in the authentic Hadiths that one cannot kill children, women, old or innocent people, and civilians, who are not fighting against Muslims. It is also forbidden to destroy crops and cut down trees or kill animals, except for subsistence – as far as Islam is concerned, being righteous even in times of war is a cornerstone of the faith.

Fourth, Allah has set the limits for Jihaad, or self-defense, and Muslims have no other choices but to stick to them. The Messenger of Allah (S) himself practiced Jihaad within clear and defined limits that are well known in the Islamic law. If some people use the Machiavellian rule, which says: “Goals justify the means” to interpret Jihaad in the Qur’an they are indeed wrong. These people cannot relate to the teachings of Islam because such a rule is considered in Islam, a satanic rule. They may use it the way they want and the way it fits their agenda because divine commandments, the consequences, and the price, which is almost always paid by the innocent, is not their concern. Such individuals neither represent the Muslim Ummah nor do they derive any authority from it. In fact, in Islamic law Jihaad has to be declared only by the highest authority of the Muslim governance. After exhausting every other peaceful solution and in consultation with the council of scholars and representatives of the people, a decision is made and then, the commands are to be obeyed accordingly.

War, Violence, and Peace
The idea of war in Islam is the act of last resort and it is only to defend Islam, its people, peace, and those who ask for help to establish justice. When the Prophet (S) went to fight, he first warned the people not to transgress the limits, and not to stop the messengers who were calling people peacefully to Islam. Allah (swt) says,”There is no compulsion in religion.” (2:256)
We read sometimes some allegations against Muslims, which accuse them of spreading Islam in the past by the sword. This kind of statement does not stand on clear evidences. Islam, as mentioned above, doesn’t use the Machiavellian rule “goals justify the means”.
The Prophet (S) when faced by the need of using this act of last resort, namely the use of force, he used to pre-warn the opponents; he didn’t surprise them, he faced them, didn’t kill them from the back, and he never started the war until the enemy started it. If solutions could not be reached, he used to tell them to pay Jizyah. The latter is a kind of tax to be paid by people living in the land controlled by the Muslim state in order to become eligible for protection and citizenship. Muslim citizens had to pay another form of tax called “Zakaat” – alms, which is the third pillar of Islam. Otherwise, if they refused and insisted on fighting, the war was the last solution and resort. Allah (swt) says,
And fight in the way of Allah those who fight you, but transgress not the limits. Truly, Allah does not like the transgressors” (2:190).
Ibnu ‘Abbass, the highest authority in commenting and explaining the Qur’an among the companions of the Prophet (S), as well as other scholars said that the order was to defend themselves and react against any aggression without involving children, women, monks, and the like.
This verse was the first one to be revealed concerning Jihaad in order to explain to the Muslims that there is no contradiction between what they were taught by the Messenger of Allah (S):
Muslims are those who avoid harming others with their tongues and hands” and between defending themselves against an aggression. Jihaad is very important in Islam because it secures peace for the people, their honor, their properties, and the rule of law, order and justice. All nations do Jihaad when they are attacked, but what makes it special in Islam is that it becomes obligatory and a religious duty on ordinary people to defend themselves against their enemy, again, with well defined rules of engagement. And of course any sane person would fight when there is no one to defend him, or her, or when the government calls for volunteers. Allah (swt) says,
To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight), because they are wronged; and verily, Allah is Most Powerful for their aid; They are those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right, (for no cause) except that they say, “Our Lord is Allah.” Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated, in abundant measure. Allah will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Might” (22:39-40)
True practicing Muslims do not violate the laws of Islam and the laws of the countries where they live in. They are honest and brave, not cowards and they never stab from the back. Muslims are human beings and value the human life as stated previously. If a war does happen, Islam teaches not to kill children, women, old people, priests and monks who are praying or on retreat, not to destroy places of worship and crops, not to cut trees or kill animals.
Unfortunately, some media sources that are controlled by people with agendas do not bother with differentiating, investigating and ascertaining facts when a terrorist act happens in a Muslim country or any other part of the world – the usual fast conclusion is that Muslims did it. Muslims suffer this psychological onslaught by defamation in the streets, television, radio and newspapers. They suffer collectively through endless bitter nightmares as it happened to many of us in 1995, after the Oklahoma bombing took place.
Muslims are, however, not given a chance to defend themselves in most cases. In Islam using weapons of mass destruction such as bombs , chemical and biological weapons is not even permissible no matter what the cause is. A Muslim soldier who is fighting in a war cannot kill unless with beneficence. Mutilation and burning are not allowed; cutting noses, heads, legs…etc., is not permissible let alone using bombs. In Islamic law, bombs are not allowed nor tolerated, even in a war against the enemy because the bombs cause great damages to unintended victims and do worse than mutilation, which is forbidden in Islam.
The Prophet (S), teaching his companions how to take the life of an animal for food to eat in a manner that reduces the pain and suffering when slaughtered, said:
Allah has prescribed beneficence in all things. Thus, when you kill do it the best way, and when you slaughter an animal do it the best way. Let each one of you sharpen his blade and let him spare suffering to the animal he slaughters” (Muslim and others) .
If this was said about the animal used only for food, what could we expect to be said about human beings? Bombs mutilate and destroy humans and other living beings, structures, and properties; hence bombs are not an option for Muslims. Consequently, based on the Islamic law and its principles, these kinds of weapons of mass destruction are not allowed. Muslims should actually stand with those movements, which are calling the governments to stop the proliferation of land mines, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, not selectively but universally i.e. countries friendly to superpowers should be also prohibited from possessing weapons of mass destruction.
Moreover, as mentioned previously, the Islamic law does not allow the Muslim soldiers to kill women, children, the elderly, monks or to cut trees, destroy crops or kill animals, unless it is for the purpose of subsistence. When the Prophet (S) saw a woman killed in a battle he became angry and said to those who were with him “not to kill women and children”(Related by the Jamaa’ah -all the compilers of Hadith- except an-Nassa’i).
Even if they happened to be in the war, they should be pushed aside and not killed. Abu Daawud relates that the Prophet (S) said to some Muslims who were going for jihaad, in a self-defense reaction against an attack by the people of Makkah,
Go in the name of Allah , with the help of Allah and according to the Millah (way) of the Messenger of Allah. Do not kill an old person, a little child, or a woman” .
In another narration related by Imam Ahmad, the Prophet (S) said,
Do not betray, do not be excessive, do not mutilate, do not kill children and the monks who are worshipping in the monasteries” .
The companions of the Prophet (S) said,
The prophet (S) used to encourage us to give charity and to forbid us from mutilation” .
In another narration it says,
The Prophet (S) forbade us from taking properties by force and mutilating”.

There are many other Hadiths similar to the ones mentioned . When the Prophet (S) entered Makkah with a large army and conquered it, the former Makkan enemies felt humiliation from within and regretted what they did against the Prophet (S). They expected severe retaliation to happen to them. When the Prophet (S) asked the people of Makkah what they thought he was going to do with them, they said, “You are a noble person and a generous person in forgiveness and a son of a noble and generous person”. He said, ” go, you are free!” Then he read what Allah mentioned in the story of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) (P.b.u.h.) when his brothers admitted their sin and apologized for what they did to him,
This day let no reproach be (cast) on you: Allah will forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!“(Yusuf: 92).

He (S) was in a position of power and could punish them or kill them, but instead he (S) wanted peace. He (S) told to his companions that no one could touch them or their property. This is what our Prophet (S) did when he was in a position of power.
When his uncle Hamza was mutilated and his nose, ears and intestines were cut off and his liver was eaten savagely by Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan, the Prophet (S) did not avenge this cruelty on the person who had done it when he (S) met him later on. And this is how Muslims are supposed to behave. We can read hundreds of similar examples in history, recording the noble treatment by Muslim rulers of the Crusaders in Palestine after the latter’s defeat. Muslims do not enjoy taking revenge, but they enjoy establishing justice and peace.
Even if others opted to use the rule “Goals justify the means” we cannot use it. Human life is given honor, protection and full dignity in Islamic teachings. It shouldn’t be made cheap by ‘goals justify the means’, whether by Muslims or non-Muslims. In Islam human life is so valuable that it cannot have a price.

As Muslims, we are obliged to show to the world that Islam honors human life. Islam categorically says “no” to terrorism, guns in the hands of children, nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. Islam says “no” to sanctions where innocent people, especially children, pay the price. These are sanctions carried out by the very people who profess to have human rights or claim to be defending human rights. Nobody wants to talk about terrorism of nations against nations as it happened in Bosnia, Kashmir, Kosova, Chechnya or Palestine. The media is silent about this kind of state terrorism. Many politicians have lost their credibility because of their double standards and hypocrisy. When the oppressed masses finally demand their rights, they are branded as terrorists. There have been many revolutions in the west against tyranny, but history does not record them as terrorism. Where is justice? Isn’t it the bedrock of peace?
From the Book “Terrorism: An Islamic Perspective” by Imam Hamid Slimi

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WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM

Imagine a world where Muslims, Christians and Jews live in peace

If there are moments in history where it’s possible for humanity to make a paradigm shift, I hope this is one of them. I’m writing this to Muslims, Christians and Jews, but the rest of you might be interested as well. None of us like the direction things are going, and it’s probably a little late to be pointing this out, but I think we’re all losing the most important battle in our much-denied war over the Holy Land. For the sake of a few small patches of real estate our collective body count has been climbing for the last sixty years, but we’ve conceded the issue of exactly what it is that we’re fighting about without even a whimper.

We’ve apparently all agreed that religion is the problem in the Middle East. Whether it’s Muslim terrorists, greedy Christians or racist Settlers, we all blame someone. We’re all struggling to prove that our path is better than the rest, and so there’s a growing consensus that the birthplace of all our faiths is home or two or even three incompatible religions. Like Pepsi versus Coca-Cola, we’ve turned it into a brand war. Marketers love marketing, and it’s understandable that politicians would want to believe that politics is the only path to peace in the Middle East, but the real tragedy is that we’ve gone along with them. Honestly, nothing could be further from the truth.

When you get down to what Islam and Judaism say about God and us and the rest of creation, it’s hard to tell us apart. Most Christians will agree that the only thing that really makes them different is their commitment to the Holy Trinity. We’re all convinced we were created by the God of Abraham. We all believe that He’s talked to us through His Books, His Prophets and His Angels ever since. Except for the few parts we don’t agree about, we’ll all even concede that those Books, Prophets and Angels have said pretty much the same sorts of things. It’s shocking, but the same is true when you look when you what all our books say about Israel. In fact, the Quran is clearer about Jews having a right to live there in peace than the Torah!

The Jewish claim to the land is based on a passage you can find in the eighteenth chapter of the first book of either the Bible or the Torah. In Genesis 18:17-19, God asks:
Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.

There’s no question the deal is conditional, and depends on how the children of Abraham “keep the way of the Lord”. The Quran, on the other hand is more definitive. Al-Maeda 5:20-21 proclaims:
Remember Moses said to his people; “O my People! Call in remembrance the favor of Allah unto you, when he produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what he had not give to any other among the peoples. O my people, enter the Holy Land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be over-thrown to your own ruin.”

The word most translations present as meaning “assigned” is actually much stronger than that implies. “KatabAllahu” really means something much closer to “destined” or “God-ordained”. Since that means that the Quran says it’s part of Allah’s plan for humanity for Jews to live in Israel, I think it’s fair to ask: What’s the problem?

“Live in Peace” gets complicated when you add the word “together”. For Muslims, Al-Isra 17:104 is clear that together is part of God’s plan too.
And We said thereafter to the Children of Israel, “Dwell securely in the land of Promise”: But when the second of the warnings came to pass, We gathered you together in a mingled crowd.

It would be nice if mingled crowd described of the way people are living in the Middle East today. Collection of warring mobs is closer to the truth, but that only brings us back to God’s real plan for peace in the Holy Land.  When you actually sit down and read what He has to say on the subject, it turns out the One who made us all has always intended for Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together, and that He wants us to live that way in peace.

Back in the first century of Islam in the days of the rightly guided Caliphs, it’s amazing the lengths they went to, getting along. Al-Ankaboot 29:46 told them: “Do not argue with the people of the Book (Christians and Jews), except in the politest manner.” In disputes, An-Nahl 16:125 commanded them to: “Dispute in ways that are best and most gracious.” Back then Muslims knew that true Islam requires that all humans be treated equally, without discrimination. When the Prophet Muhammad settled in Medina, Muslims, Jews, Christians and Pagan Arabs lived in peace. The Prophet told his followers: “Whoever hurts a non-Muslim, I shall be his complainant, and for whomever I am a complainant, I shall ask for his rights on the day of Resurrection.”  He also proclaimed: ‘Whoever persecutes a non-Muslim or demands work from his beyond his capacity or who takes something from him with evil intentions; I shall be a complainant against him on the day of Resurrection.”  Finally, he stated: “He who hurts a non-Muslim hurts me, and one who hurts me, hurts God.”

As Islam spread, it also spread the idea of government by ”Shura” or “Mutual Consultation”, a community based form of democracy. Muslims protected the rights and freedoms of everyone. When the son of the Governor of Egypt slapped a Christian who won a race ahead of him, Umar, the second Caliph, ordered the son to be beaten by the Christian and said: “How could you make slaves of these people who had been born free?” When he learned that Muslims had confiscated the land of a Jew to build a Mosque, he ordered the Mosque destroyed and the land returned. When Umar entered Jerusalem in victory, he visited the Christian church there. When the Muslim prayer was due, the Christian patriarch invited him to perform it. Umar refused, saying: “I fear that once I have my prayer in this church, the coming generations of Muslims would say that in this place Umar had performed his prayer and therefore it has become a Mosque. I want the church to remain a church.”

For their part, both the Torah and the Bible have explicit instructions regarding how Jews and Christians are supposed to conduct themselves towards others. Exodus 22:21 tells them:
“Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.”
Leviticus 19:33–34 expands on this:
“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Finally, Leviticus 24:22 confirms:
“You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the Lord your God.”

According to both 1 Kings 8:41–43 and Isaiah 56:7 both Jerusalem and the Temple are meant for everyone:
“As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name—for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.”

And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—these will I bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

Finally, Ezekiel 47:21-23 told Jews that when they take control, they’re supposed to treat the people who were already living there like family:
“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the aliens who have settled among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the alien settles, there you are to give him his inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord.

Unfortunately, no Jew has read the word most Bibles translate as “alien”, “stranger”, or “sojourner” that way for two thousand years. Back in the early days of the Talmud Israel had endured a series of invasions, first by the Babylonians, then by the Greeks and the Romans. It just wasn’t possible for them to obey a law requiring that Jews treat aliens the same as Jews when those aliens were foreign invaders, imposing laws of their own! Rabbis decided that the word “Ger” only meant “Convert”, even though the same word is used to describe the Jews themselves as strangers when they living in Egypt. It worked so well back then that no one’s ever changed it back.

Can you imagine a world where Muslims, Christians and Jews acted as if God loves us all, and wants us to live in peace? Our religions have actually been telling us how to do it all along. We’ve all got our radicals, and we’re all going to have to learn to ignore them, but it should be easy to tell them apart. The bad ones have one thing in common: they all use faith to force others to do what they want us to do. The good guys (and girls) know that faith is about doing what God wants and trusting Him to look after the rest.

Political solutions are really no better: negotiation is always about making the best deal for you, but faith is really about making the best deal for everyone. Our books all agree that we’re going to have three religions until the end. Jews are waiting for the Messiah to come, and Muslims and Christians are both looking forward to Jesus coming back, but God has told us all that until then He wants us to be good to each other. We are all the Children of Abraham. That makes us family. Maybe we should all try to live that way?

 

Written by Dr. David Liepert

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ACHIEVING BALANCE

As the pace of life hastens, many of us find it difficult to fit many tasks, duties and obligations in our everyday life. There are deadlines to meet, kids to drop off, and dry cleaning to pick up – so many things to do that we increasingly neglect the needs of our bodies and our souls. Many of us are sleep deprived, over-worked, chowing down junk food and not getting enough exercise. Just as our bodies need to be well-rested, well-fed and hydrated for maximum endurance, so too our souls need purification, refreshment and energizing. Daily prayers, meditation, reading and learning, attending study circles and spending quality time with the loved ones are definitely some of many activities that can contribute positively to our spiritual and mental health.

We need to create and maintain a delicate balance between the needs of the body and soul to establish mental well being and strengthen family and social relationships. Using the Sunnah (Prophetic tradition) as a guide, I would like to suggest some simple yet effective tips so that we can make the most of our waking hours.

  1. Become fully conscious Needless to say, more and more people today seem to hold the perception that it is almost impossible to appropriately fulfill religious or social duties while making a living – one, it seems, always has to come at the expense of the other. Everyone is in a continuous struggle to keep the balance between the two. Our financial success has unfortunately become the criterion of success in life thereby increasing our focus on ‘almighty dollar’. We need to refocus on what truly makes a successful life – strong relationships between us and our families, communities and God.
  2. Identify responsibilities and priorities in life Success comes to those who set proper priorities, ranked on their importance in both this life and the hereafter. For instance, in the Qur’an God Almighty decrees orders based on the things that matter, or should matter, the most to people of faith. The order of importance in the Qur’anic and Prophetic texts in regards to duties, rulings and regulations is as follows: faith, family, physical and mental health, society, education and employment. The first three elements should take precedence over the last three ones at all times.  However the last three can be set (between themselves) in a different order based on different situations and circumstances. For example, earning a living is not a goal but a means to an end – achieving respite from poverty – however, it has become a priority in itself at the expense of others.
  3. Change attitudes Islam teaches us to balance between our faith (deen) and the material world (dunya). Musims repeat the supplication often: “O Allah! Do not make dunya our major worry and the end of our knowledge, but rather put it in our hands not in our hearts.” In fact, it is a well known story that during the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the companions of the Prophet would only trade as much as they needed to, and once they had made enough for the day, they closed their shops so that other merchants may benefit.
  4. Manage time
    • Make a “To Do” list every day and review it regularly
    • Prioritize tasks using a planner and make calls first thing in the morning
    • Divide your time into projects and tasks and estimate time required
    • Check your email only three times a day, respond to queries and sort them into folders
    • Review your checklist at the end of the day and move pending items to a fresh list
    • Set spiritually motivated community goals every month e.g. volunteer your time towards the local community centre or mosque and support good causes with your time
  5. Manage energy
    • Sleep well – seven hours is good for most people
    • Learn to breathe properly as most of us don’t know how to
    • Stay hydrated – drink eight to twelve glasses of water depending on body weight
    • Take power naps – the Prophet (PBUH) used to nap for a few minutes after lunch everyday
    • Freshen up with ablution (wuduh) and turn your daily prayers into rest – the Prophet (PBUH) said “the coolness of my eyes lies in Salaah”
    • Try to pray in congregation – it boosts community spirit
    • Watch less TV and instead play sports or play with your children – watching television is a passive activity encouraging couch potato behavior while playing sports or with the children is pleasurable exercise!

Focusing on the above activities will help achieve and maintain a balance between our spiritual, physical and material goals and needs, ultimately helping us to achieve a well spent life.

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