Tag Archives: Islam

freedom of speech

Blasphemy, freedom of speech, rule of law; these are the familiar topics in discussion these days. I was thinking to write my thoughts on these topics. Hence, I had to think twice, even to think about such topics because there is no room left for tolerance. Fatwas are already set up as soon as you give your opinion about anything which is not acceptable to any other sect.
I would wish to present some excerpts from a dialogue I read years ago in Urdu, recently I have discovered the English version which was originally translated from French to Persian. A dialogue between Ja’far as Sadiq (702-765 CE) was the 6th Imam Of twelve Shias and according to some traditions a teacher of Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Wasil Ibn Ata and many more including Jabir Ibn Hayan the alchemist. I would like to request my readers to keep the time of this discussion in mind before I present you more on the subject of blasphemy and other related issues.

Theory about the “Origin of the Universe”. By Ja’far as Sadiq ;
“ The universe was born out of a tiny particle, which had two opposite poles. That particle produced an atom. In this way matter came into being. Then the matter diversified. This diversification was caused by the density or rarity of the atoms.”
Ja’far as Sadiq was a patient and tolerant teachers of his time. After his lectures he would listen and reply to the remonstrances of his critics.
The Dialogue is between Ja’far as Sadiq and Abu Shakir. Abu Shakir used to criticise Ja’far as Sadiq on his Islamic views, specially Tawheed, oneness of God.
Once Abu Shakir, said to him: Would you allow me to ask some questions?
Why not? said Ja’far as Sadiq.
Abu Shakir: Is it not a myth that there is Allah?
You want people to believe in a thing which does not exist. If there was Allah, we could have felt his existence through our senses.
You may say that we can perceive the presence of Allah by our intelligence and not through our inner or outer senses. But our intelligence also needs the assistance of our five outer senses, without which it cannot function. We cannot make any reasoning or come to any conclusion without the help of our senses.
By your imagination you have created a being, which is of your own image. Since you see, talk, hear, work and rest, He also does exactly what you do.
You do not show Him to anyone. To maintain your hold on the people you say that He cannot be seen. You also say that He was not born from the womb of a woman. He does not procreate and that He would not die.
Your Allah is also like the veiled god. You say that the universe was created by Allah. As a matter of fact the universe came by itself. Does anyone create the grass, which grows in the field? Does it not grow and get green by itself? Does anyone create the ants and the mosquitoes? Do they not come out by themselves?
l know that some people, who have been deceived by you, believe in your invisible Allah, but you cannot deceive me and make me believe in Him.
By introducing your invisible Allah to the people, you want to acquire wealth and position and have a respectable, comfortable and luxurious life. These are my last words. I do not want to say anything more.
Ja’far as Sadiq replied:
l would like to start with the last part of your speech. Your accusations that I want money, position and a comfortable life would have been justified if I was living like a caliph. You have seen today that I have eaten a few morsels of bread only and nothing else. I invite you to my house to see for yourself what I will have for dinner and how I live.
Abu Shakir, if I wanted to acquire wealth and have a good life, as you say, I was not obliged to teach and preach to get rich. I would have earned money and got rich by my knowledge of chemistry. Another way to get rich was to do business. I have more knowledge’ about foreign markets than any merchant in Medina.
I have heard, that your father was a pearl merchant. Perhaps you may have some knowledge about pearls. But I know all about pearls and precious stones. I can also appraise their market value. If I wanted to get rich I would have worked as a jeweller. Can you test and recognise a precious stone? Do you know how many kinds of rubies and emeralds there are in the world?
I know nothing about them, replied Abu Shakir.
Do you know how many kinds of diamonds there are and what colours they have?
I am not a jeweller, but I know all about the pearls and precious stones. I also know where they come from. All jewellers must know about gems, what I know, but few of them know their sources. Rough diamonds are cut by experts. This is the cut of a diamond, which gives it its brilliance. Those who are experts in cutting diamonds are trained from the childhood in the profession of their fathers and forefathers. Cutting a diamond is a very delicate and difficult art. A diamond is cut only by a diamond.
I have said all this simply to show to you that if I wanted to accumulate wealth, I could have done so by making use of my knowledge about jewels.
You have said that I have fabricated stories and ask the people to worship Allah, who cannot be seen. You refuse to acknowledge existence of Allah, because He cannot be seen. Can you see inside your own body? If you could have seen what is inside you, you would not have said that you do not believe in Allah, who cannot be seen.
You have said, that a thing which cannot be seen, touched, tasted or heard, does not exist.
Do you hear the sound of the movement of blood in your body? It makes a full circuit of your body. If the circulation of blood stops for a few minutes you will die.
Abu Shakir said: I cannot believe that blood circulates in the body.
It is your ignorance, which does not let you believe that your blood circulates in your body, and the same ignorance does not let you believe in the existence of Allah, Who cannot be seen. Have you seen the tiny living beings, which Allah has created in your body?
It is because of these small creatures and their wonderful work that you are kept alive. They are so small that you cannot see them. Since you are a slave of your senses, you do not know about their existence. If you increase your knowledge and decrease your ignorance, you will come to know that these small beings in your body are as large in number as the particles of sand in the desert. These small creatures are born in your body, multiply in your body, work in your body and die in your body. But you never see them, touch them, taste them or hear them in your life time. If you had known yourself and had the knowledge of what is going on inside your body, you would not have said that you do not believe in Allah.
Pointing his finger to a huge stone Ja’far as Sadiq said:
Abu Shakir, do you see the stone, which is in the foot of that portico? To you it seems lifeless and motionless, because you do not see the brisk motion, which is inside the stone. Again it is lack of knowledge or your ignorance, which would not let you believe that there is motion inside the stone. The time will come when the learned people would see the motion which is in the stone.
Abu Shakir. You have said that everything in the universe came by itself and has no Creator. You think that the grass in the field grows and gets green by itself. You must know that the grass cannot grow without seeds and seeds would not germinate without moisture in the soil and there would be no moisture if no rain falls. The rain does not fall by itself. First the water vapours rise and gather above in the atmosphere in the form of clouds. The winds bring the clouds. Then the water vapours condense and fall down as rain drops. The rain must also fall at the right time, otherwise no grass will grow and become green.

Take the seeds of ten kinds of herbs and put them in a closed jar, which has sufficient water, but no air. Would they germinate? No, in addition to water, seeds need air also. It is possible to grow grass, herbs and fruits in hot houses, when it is very cold, provided there is sufficient air. Without the presence of air no grass will grow in the fields. If there is no air, all plants and animals, including human beings, would die.
Do you see the air, on which your very existence depends. You only feel it when it moves. Can you refuse to believe in the existence of air? Can you deny that to grow and get green the grass needs many things like seeds, soil, water, air, a suitable climate and above all a strong managing power, which may co-ordinate the action of these different elements.
It is not because of one’s knowledge, but it is due to his ignorance that he does not believe in Allah. When a wise man thinks of himself, he finds that his own body needs a controller so that all its organs and systems may function properly. He then realises that this vast universe also needs a controller or supervisor so that it may run smoothly.
Do you think that the mountains are only heaps of stones? The Great Allah has created them to serve some very useful purpose. They were not created so that you may take stones and turn them into idols. Wherever there is a mountain there is flowing water. Rain and snow which fall on the mountain tops produce streams of fresh water. These streams combine together to form big rivers, which irrigate farms and fields.
I am too small and too weak to create Allah with my brain. It is He, who has created my brain, so that I may think of Him and know Him – my Creator. He was there before I came into being and He would be there when I am no more. I do not mean that I would be totally destroyed. Nothing in the universe is totally destroyed. Everything is subject to change. It is only Allah, Who does not change.
Abu Shakir said: I cannot believe that a thing may be everywhere but remain unseen.
Ja’far as Sadiq said: Do you know that the air is everywhere but cannot be seen?
Said Abu Shakir: Although I cannot see the air, I can at least feel it when it moves. But I can neither see your Allah nor feel his presence.
Ja’far as Sadiq said: You do not feel the presence of air when it is not moving. The air is only a creation of Allah. He is everywhere, but you cannot see Him or feel His presence by your senses. You have admitted just now that although you do not see it, but your instinct or your soul tells you that there is something inside the stone, and is not the stone, which can help you. That something is Allah.
I know that you will not accept, or perhaps you do not understand, what I say. A man must have sufficient knowledge to understand complicated problems.
If there was no Allah there would have been no universe and no you and me.
The sentence, “There is no Allah”, is meaningless. The existence of Allah is a must.”
Everything in the universe obeys His laws, which are permanent and eternal. Because of His absolute wisdom and knowledge, He could make such wonderful laws, which will last for ever. Each and every law, made by Him serves some special and useful purpose.
Ja’far as Sadiq asked: Do you now believe that Allah, who cannot be seen, does exist and what you worship is the unseen Allah?
Abu Shakir replied: I am not yet convinced. I am in a quandary. I am full of doubts and misgivings about my convictions.
The above discussion will make me more comfortable to explain my views on blasphemy in my next write up .

Women : face of Islam

Aerial view of Hijr e Ismail,picture credit googleimages

I travel to open my heart and eyes and learn more around the world than our books will accommodate.I travel to bring what little I can in my ignorance and knowledge,to those parts of the globes whose riches are differently dispersed.Six years ago I travelled to Mecca to perform Hajj in search of few unanswered questions.

Hajj is one of mankind’s most enduring rites for more than 1400 years.The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey, and can support their household during their absence. There are about 3 million Muslims from all over the World perform Hajj and approximately 4 million Muslims perform Umrah every year.The present form of Hajj was established by Muhammad with its roots in the chronicle of Abraham, the Hajj is a set of rituals performed every year for five days in the month of Zia-Hajj. Pilgrims follow the route of Muhammad, who went on only one Hajj. It begins in Mecca, before moving to the desert of Mina, then to Arafat, for a day-long vigil, then to the rocky plain of Muzdalifah, a few miles away, where pilgrims collect pebbles to ritually stone the Devil, and then brings back to Mina for three days. Back in Mecca, pilgrims bid farewell to the Kaaba.

What is so special about the Hajj that it is expected to produce close to significant changes in the personality, attitude, and outlook of a person? Is there anything magical in the rites and rituals of the Hajj that produces the changes, or is it the constant conscious effort on the part of the performer to inculcate in himself/herself the spirit of those rites and rituals which brings close to the desired changes?What is the most significant aspect of this adoration?

Since my return from Hajj I have consulted many accounts written on Hajj to learn the essence and core lesson from Hajj.Majority of the accounts discuss about the rewards of Hajj , seldom scholars have pointed out towards the literal message.

While browsing many accounts on Hajj I came across a quote from Jaffer Sadiq;

“Ismail buried his mother Hajr in the area of Hijr e Ismail and then constructed a wall over it so that people would not step her grave.”

The whole practice of Hajj hides in these lines ,this tradition is further explained by Dr Ali Shariti in his account on Hajj,he elaborates;

Toward the west of Kaaba there is a semi-circular short wall which faces Kaaba. It is called Ismail’s Hajar. Hajar signifies lap or skirt. The semi lunar wall resembles a skirt.Sarah, the wife of Ibrahim had a black maid called Hajar. Here was a woman who was not honoured enough to become a second wife to Ibrahim yet Allah connected the symbol of Hajar‘s skirt to His symbol, Kaaba.The skirt of Hajar was the region in which Ismail was raised. The house of Hajar is there. Her grave is near the third column of Kaaba.

What a surprise since no one, not even the prophets, is reckoned to be buried in mosques, but in this case, the house of a black maid is located next to Allah’s house! Hajar, the mother of Ismail is buried in that location. Kaaba extends toward her grave. There is a narrow passage between the wall (Hajar’s skirt) and Kaaba. When circumambulating around Kaaba, Allah commanded that you must go around the wall not through the passage otherwise your Hajj will not be taken on.

Those who believe in monotheism and those who have accepted Allah’s invitation to travel to Hajj must touch this skirt when circumambulating the Kaaba. The grave of a black African maid is now a part of Kaaba; it will be circumambulated by man forever! Today the infection of social profiling still remains where we are judged on the colour of our skin, caste, social class or even beliefs.  How wonderful is this symbol that Ismael planted?A flag of equality at the entrance of the all knowing, all seeing Great creator’s household. Now we can affirm the Kaaba is humanity’s bastion.

Allah, the Almighty  needs nobody and nothing. However, among all His countless and eternal creatures, Allah has chosen one, mankind, the noblest of them.From among all humanity: a woman, From among all women: a slave, And from among all slaves: a black housemaid!

The weakest and most humiliated one of His creatures was given a place at His side and a room in His house. He has come to her house and become her neighbour.. Hence now, there are two, Allah and Hajar, under the ceiling of this “HOUSE”!

The rites of Hajj are a memory of Hajar. The word Hijrah (migration) has its root in her name as does the word immigrant.

Hajar‘s grave is in the midst of man’s circumambulation of Kaaba. You, the immigrant, who has disassociated himself from everything and accepted Allah’s invitation to go to Hajj, you will circumambulate Hajar’s grave and the Kaaba of Allah simultaneously. The planets rotate around the sun, the electrons around the nucleus, rotating around such a center mean allegiance with love. Tens of thousands circumambulating around the Kaaba and Hajr like the galaxy turning together with billions of stars.

Although the history of hajj goes back to Ibrahim’s era, but Islam contributed furthermore towards Hajr.In the second year after Hijrah according to some traditions Prophet Muhammad was  commanded to change direction of prayers from Mosque Al-Aqsa to The Holy Kaaba.Prayers have become a constant reminder about  the importance of women. Stand in respect when you embark on your prayers and bow down to bury your ego to acknowledge the status of WOMEN and thank Almighty God in Sujood for giving you this chance to infer.It is hard to realise.But for those who think they live in freedom and defend humanism, the significance of these incidents transgresses the scope of their apprehension.

 

 

Esteem is an unassuming resounding force. It means being treated with consideration and esteem and to have a regard for other peoples’ feelings, listening to people and discovering them, i.e. giving them one’s full attention. Even more importantly, respect means treating one with dignity. Respect is the opposite of humiliation and contempt. Hence, where the latter can be a cause of conflict, the former and its opposite can help translate it. How do you feel when you are appreciated , honoured and respected ?

Do women need any legislation to protect themselves under such commandment ?

be respectful to women,for they are the mothers of mankind.”

This article first published in The Nation