Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dubai to have Holy Qur’an plant park


The Dh27 million project in Al Khawaneej is to be completed by September next year

By Majorie van Leijen -- June 22, 2013


Dubai will have a park that has plants and trees mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. 

The General Projects Department of Dubai Municipality has announced plans to create a Holy Qur’an Park in Al Khawaneej.

All plants mentioned in the Holy Qur’an and available in the UAE will be showcased in the 60 hectare park, such as fig, pomegranate, olive, corn, leek, garlic, onion, lentil, barley, wheat, ginger, pumpkin, watermelon, tamarind, seder, vineyards, bananas, cucumbers and basil.

There are 54 species mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. We will have 35 of these in the park,” explained Mohammed Noor Mashroom, director of the department. 

The remaining 15 species will be grown in green houses and 20 outside.

The park will also have a tunnel which exhibits the miracles described in the Holy Quran in the form of images and audio material. 

The theme park is intended to educate the public about the Holy Qur’an and its miracles, said Mohammed. 

“These plants are expected to make visitors think about the reason for their names to appear in the Holy Qur’an. We are hoping to attract school excursions to the park,” he added.

The park will have tracks for running, cycling and sand walking besides an Umrah corner, outside theatre, fountains, desert garden, palm oasis and a lake. 

The total cost of the project is estimated at around Dh27 million as per current tenders. Initial site preparation, tracks and service buildings have been completed and work on the second stage of the project will start next month. 

The park is expected to be completed by September 2014.

Animals and insects which have been named in the Quran

The Hud Hud bird. (Quran 27:20)

Approximately 35 animals have been named in the Quran; the birds and insects of which are:

Salwa (سلوی)=The quail (Baqarah:57), Ba’uth (بعوض)=Mosquito (Baqarah:26), Dhubab (ذباب)=Fly (Hajj:73), Nahl (نحل)=Honeybee (Nahl:68), Ankabut (عنکبوت)=Spider (Ankabut:41), Jarad(جراد)=Grasshopper (A’raf:133), HudHud (هدهد)=Hoopoe (Naml:20), Ghurab (غراب)=Crow (Ma’idah:31),Ababil (ابابیل)= probably ‘Swallow’ (Fil:3), Naml (نمل)=Ant (Naml:18), Farash (فراش)=Butterfly (Al-Qari’ah), Qummal (قمّل)=Flea (A’raf:133).

Also, other animals have been mentioned in the Quran which are as follows:

Qirdah (قرده)=Monkey (Baqarah:65), Bighal (بغال)=Mule (Nahl:16), Ghanam/Na’jah/Dha’n/Ma’z (غنم/نعجه/ضأن/معز)=Sheep (An’am:143-146 and Sad:23-24), Dhi’b (ذئب)=Wolf (Yusuf:15), Ba’ir (بعیر) and Jamal(جمل)=Camel (Yusuf:65; A’raf:40…), Qaswarah (قسورة)=Lion (Muddathir:51), Kheyl (خیل)/Jiyad (جیاد)(plural of جواد)/Safinat (صافنات)(plural of صافنة)=Horse (Nahl:8; Sad:51), Baqar (بقر)=Cow (Baqarah:70),Ijl (عجل)=Calf (Hud:69), Hayyah (حیة)=Snake (Taha:20), Thu’ban (ثعبان)=Python (A’raf:107),Himar/Hamir (حمار/حمیر)=Donkey (Nahl:8; Baqarah:259), Khinzir  (خنزیر)=Pig (Baqarah:173), Kalb(کلب)=Dog (A’raf:176), Nun/Hut (نون/حوت)=Fish (Anbiya:87; Kahf:63), Dhafadi’ sin. Dhifda’ (ضفادع)=Frog (A’raf:133), Fil (فیل)=Elephant (Fil:1). The Quran has also mentioned the names of different types of camels such as: بحیره/سائب/حام/وصیله (Ma’idah:103).

Surat Al Maidah recited by Mishary bin Rashid Al-Afasy

 
I am now listening to and reading  Surat Al Maidah (Quran chapter 5) recited by Mishary bin Rashid Al-Afasy. Introductory comments on the surah here.

How Islam Spread in India


Today, there are over 500 million Muslims throughout the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), making it one of the largest population centers of Muslims in the world. Since Islam first entered India, it has contributed greatly to the area and its people. Today, numerous theories about how India came to be such a largely Muslim land exist. Politically, some (such as the Hindutva movement in India) try to make Islam seem foriegn to India, by insisting it only exists because of invasions by Arab and Persian Muslims. The truth, however, is far from that. Read more.....

Friday, June 21, 2013

People Nowadays


On the authority of Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
Whosoever removes a worldly grief from a believer, Allah will remove from him one of the griefs of the Day of Judgment. Whosoever alleviates [the lot of] a needy person, Allah will alleviate [his lot] in this world and the next. Whosoever shields a Muslim, Allah will shield him in this world and the next. Allah will aid a servant [of His] so long as the slave aids his brother. Whosoever follows a path to seek knowledge therein, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise. No people gather together in one of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, but tranquility and peace descends upon them, mercy envelopes them, the angels surround them, and Allah makes mention of them among those who are with Him. And whosoever is slowed down by his actions will not be hastened forward by his lineage.
(40 Hadeeth of Nawawi - number 36)

Surah an Nisah Recited by Abdul Rahman Al Sudais (chapter 4 of Quran)

 
I am now listening to Surah an Nisah Recited by Abdul Rahman Al Sudais (chapter 4 of Quran). Introductory comments on the surah here.

Waiting for Ramadan

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ تُقَاتِهِ وَلَا تَمُوتُنَّ إِلَّا وَأَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ 
 وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَ‌ٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ --- "O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah with the care which is due to Him, and do not die unless you are Muslims. And hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited, and remember the favor of Allah on you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts so by His favor you became brethren; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it, thus does Allah make clear to you His communications that you may follow the right way."  (3:102)

WHO finds violence against women 'shockingly' common

More than a third of women in the world have been raped or physically abused, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday, calling violence against women a "global health epidemic."
About 80 percent of the time this violence occurs in the home, at the hands of a partner or spouse. More.......

Surah Al e Imran recited by Sheikh Mishary Al Afasy (with simultaneous English translation)


I am now reading, and listening to, Surah Al e Imran recited by Sheikh Mishary Al Afasy (with simultaneous English translation). Introductory comments on the surah here.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Complete Surah Al-Baqarah with English and Urdu translation by Ahmed Al Ajmi


I am currently listening to this recitation by  Imam Ahmed Al Ajmi of Surah Al-Baqarah. People can also follow along with the Urdu and English translations. Introductory comments on the Surah here.

Also, narrated Abu Mas'ud: The Prophet said, "If somebody recited the last two Verses of Surat Al-Baqara at night, that will be sufficient for him." (Sahih Bukhari)

and

Ibn 'Abbas reported that while Gabriel was sitting with the Messenger (may peace be upon him) he heard a creaking sound above him. He lifted his head and said: This is a gate opened in heaven today which had never been opened before. Then when an angel descended through it, he said: This is an angel who came down to the earth who had never come down before. He greeted and said: Rejoice in two lights given to you which have not been given to any prophet before you: Falihat al-Kitab (suratal fatiha) and the concluding verses of Suarah al-Baqara. You will never recite a letter from them for which you will not be given (a reward).(Sahih Muslim). Listen: 


How Hieroglyphics were Originally Translated


Today the website "Today I found out" posted an article about the history of the Rosetta Stone and how hieroglyphics were first translated. The author, Emily Upton, writes:
Hieroglyphics were elaborate, elegant symbols used prolifically in Ancient Egypt. The symbols decorated temples and tombs of pharaohs. However, being quite ornate, other scripts were usually used in day-to-day life, such as demotic, a precursor to Coptic, which was used in Egypt until the 1000s. These other scripts were sort of like different hieroglyphic fonts—your classic Times New Roman to Jokerman or Vivaldi. 
Unfortunately, hieroglyphics started to disappear. Christianity was becoming more and more popular, and around 400 A.D. hieroglyphics were outlawed in order to break from the tradition of Egypt’s “pagan” past. The last dated hieroglyph was carved in a temple on the island of Philae in 395 A.D. Coptic was then written and spoken—a combination of twenty-four Greek characters and six demotic characters—before the spread of Arabic meant that Egypt was cut off from the last connection to its linguistic past.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 20th marks World Refugee Day: Refugee numbers around the world are highest level since 1994



June 20th marks World Refugee Day, when the international community highlights the stories, perseverance, and contributions of refugees. The focus of World Refugee Day 2013 is on the impact of war on families. The core message is "1 family torn apart by war is too many." Why hold a refugee day? Found out more by clicking here.


Click here to find out what fellow Canadians are doing to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20th and beyond.

Refugee numbers around the world are at their highest level since 1994, the United Nations refugee agency reported this past Tuesday in a sobering look at global displacement.

More than 45.2 million people either fled their own countries or were internally displaced in 2012, compared to 42.5 million the year before, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in its annual global trends report. 

War remained the dominant reason for displacement — 55 per cent of all refugees came from five war-affected countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan. 

"These truly are alarming numbers. They reflect individual suffering on a huge scale and they reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them," Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees and head of UNHCR, said in a statement. Read more at: United Nations reports highest level of refugees since 1994



Islam is not just about what one believes


Islamic scholarship not only involves the proper understanding of the Islamic belief system (aqeedah), but also involves ibadat (formal acts of worship) and muamalat (how we deal with one another). (I should note that these fields of scholarship overlap quite a bit as they are interrelated) Some people embrace the mistaken assumption that it is only necessary to have a proper understanding of aqeedah and matters concerning ibadat and that how we deal with one another is not as significant.  Many Muslims are very observant when it comes to ensuring they have good understanding of aqeedah and are punctual and consistent in their formal acts of worship, but their behavior and how they deal with others is much to be desired. They lie, cheat, steal, treat people rudely and behave arrogantly, etc. and think as long as they have the right belief and peform their prayers that everything is ok. This position actually runs contrary to the Quran itself, as evidenced in numerous verses. Consider the following small selection of verses which highlight this point (note, I hyper-linked the Arabic):
 "But give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness, that their portion is Gardens, beneath which rivers flow. Every time they are fed with fruits therefrom, they say: 'Why, this is what we were fed with before,' for they are given things in similitude; and they have therein companions pure (and holy); and they abide therein (for ever)." (2:25) 
 "As to those who believe and work righteousness, Allah will pay them (in full) their reward; but Allah loveth not those who do wrong." (3:57) 
"Allah will not leave the believers in the state in which ye are now, until He separates what is evil from what is good nor will He disclose to you the secrets of the Unseen. But He chooses of His Messengers (For the purpose) whom He pleases. So believe in Allah. And His messengers: And if ye believe and do right, ye have a reward without measure." (3:179)
"But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, We shall soon admit to Gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,- their eternal home: Therein shall they have companions pure and holy: We shall admit them to shades, cool and ever deepening." (4:57) 
"But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness,- we shall soon admit them to gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,-to dwell therein for ever. Allah's promise is the truth, and whose word can be truer than Allah's?" (4:122) 
"But to those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, He will give their (due) rewards,- and more, out of His bounty: But those who are disdainful and arrogant, He will punish with a grievous penalty; Nor will they find, besides Allah, any to protect or help them." (4:173) 
"To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward." (5:9
"On those who believe and do deeds of righteousness there is no blame for what they ate (in the past), when they guard themselves from evil, and believe, and do deeds of righteousness,- (or) again, guard themselves from evil and believe,- (or) again, guard themselves from evil and do good. For Allah loveth those who do good." (5:93)
I could furnish many more Quranic verses which mentions the phrase  believe and do deeds of righteousness, but I think the point has been adequately made here. In Islam, belief and action cannot  be separated because God, in the Quran, has over and over again linked the two together. Right belief and right action go hand in hand, and the true believer cannot have one without the other. If one claims to be a believer in tawheed and prays on a regular basis, but then proceeds to behave in an unrighteous manner, then they are behaving contrary to the Quran. 

And part of this right action is how we deal with one another in our daily lives -- muamalat. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the following verses and measure your conduct by what is being said here:
"O ye who believe! Let not some men among you laugh at others: It may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): Nor let some women laugh at others: It may be that the (latter are better than the (former): Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connoting wickedness, (to be used of one) after he has believed: And those who do not desist are (indeed) doing wrong.
"O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it... But fear Allah: For Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.
"O humankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)." (49:11-13)
There are literally dozens and dozens of verses in the Quran and numerous narrations from the Prophet (pbuh) regarding how to properly deal with one another as human beings and I could includes pages and pages of Quranic verses and prophetic sayings regarding this topic. Sadly, in this modern age, many of these injunctions have been overlooked even though God emphasizes numerous times the importance of dealing with one another in a proper way and how to give full consideration to people's feelings. (see, for example Quran 2:262-264) We instead take as our models of behavior celebrities, evil and unrighteous people, or the standards of the wider society in which we live, even though many times this behavior runs contrary to what God has revealed in the Quran. We, as Muslims, have lost our way and have utterly failed to embrace the true spirit of Islam. We have instead embraced a mode of behavior which is shallow, mean-spirited and legalistic, and yet continue to insist we are better than those who do not believe in Islam. We have no right to take a high moral ground if we behave like everyone else around us and fail to adopt an exemplary moral and upright character. 

May God guide us all on the right path. Ameen!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

God had no son: the central message of tawheed


Regardless of what people say or believe, God never had a son. To say that God had offspring is the greatest sin in Islam for God is one and no one or no thing is like Him in any way. The Quran makes this point over and over again but people continue on with their vain disputes concerning this matter. (see Quran 43:80-84) Those individuals who leave Islam and embrace other belief systems which teach that God had a son will have to throw all rationality out the window. It is doubtful whether such people even properly understood tawheed in the first place. Many of these people use their new position to attack the Islamic faith and distort its message beyond all comprehension. Most certainly believing Muslims do not recognize their faith in what these people say about Islam because the willful distortions are so great that they become laughable to those who know better. I state here once again, the heart and soul of the Quranic message is tawheed -- the absolute oneness of God -- and over and over again the Quran seeks to convince readers of this reality with the use of many stories, metaphors, allegories, examples from nature and history, etc. But some people refuse to be convinced and, as God states in the Quran, they refuse to believe unless they associate partners with God. 

The problem with many of those who have rejected the message of tawheed is that they have not taken the time to study that which they are rejecting. Many times this is so because they cannot possibly imagine that the Quran presents a message of truth and that Muslims are right after-all. They judge Islam by the behavior of Muslims, which its totally unfair. Islam must be judged by what the Quran says and not what Muslims do, and the only way one can judge anything is to familiarize themselves with that thing. Many people will say that they have read portions of the Quran and could not understand it or that it was a bunch of nonsense. There are at least two reasons for this: Firstly, they are reading the Quran through a lens of pre-existing prejudice and thus interpret it in a very negative fashion. With this pre-existing prejudice it is little wonder they would reject what the Quran is saying, because they have not opened their hearts and minds to its message. Anti-Islam polemicists resort to this all of the time with a view to driving people away from the Quranic message, and their websites are all over the internet. Secondly, they have failed to understand that the Quran has one central message or theme, which is tawheed. When reading the Quran one should ask the question, "how is this verse seeking to convince me of the truth of tawheed?" Sadly, people get caught up in side issues instead of sticking to the core message at hand and when they do so, confusion arises. There has to be some fairness and open-mindedness in the mind of the reader before they embark on a study of the Quran. Reading a few select passages and interpreting them in the worst possible way, that no Muslim could possibly recognize, is not the proper course of action if one wants to gain an understanding of the Quranic message.

In light of what I have written, I invite you to give consideration to the following selection of Quranic verses:

وَقَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ وَلَدًا ۗ سُبْحَانَهُ ۖ بَل لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ كُلٌّ لَّهُ قَانِتُونَ -- They say: "Allah hath begotten a son": Glory be to Him.-Nay, to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth: everything renders worship to Him. (2:116)

قَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ ۖ وَقَالَ الْمَسِيحُ يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ ۖ إِنَّهُ مَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدْ حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ الْجَنَّةَ وَمَأْوَاهُ النَّارُ ۖ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ -- They do blaspheme who say: "Allah is Christ the son of Mary." But said Christ: "O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord." Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. (5:72)

بَدِيعُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ تَكُن لَّهُ صَاحِبَةٌ ۖ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۖ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ -- To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: How can He have a son when He hath no consort? He created all things, and He hath full knowledge of all things. (6:101)

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ عُزَيْرٌ ابْنُ اللَّهِ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَى الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ اللَّهِ ۖ ذَ‌ٰلِكَ قَوْلُهُم بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ ۖ يُضَاهِئُونَ قَوْلَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن قَبْلُ ۚ قَاتَلَهُمُ اللَّهُ ۚ أَنَّىٰ يُؤْفَكُونَ
اتَّخَذُوا أَحْبَارَهُمْ وَرُهْبَانَهُمْ أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَالْمَسِيحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا إِلَـٰهًا وَاحِدًا ۖ لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ --- The Jews call 'Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One Allah: there is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: (Far is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him). (9:30, 31)

قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ وَلَدًا ۗ سُبْحَانَهُ ۖ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ ۖ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ إِنْ عِندَكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ بِهَـٰذَا ۚ أَتَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
They say: "Allah hath begotten a son!" - Glory be to Him! He is self-sufficient! His are all things in the heavens and on earth! No warrant have ye for this! say ye about Allah what ye know not? (10:68)

وَقُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي لَمْ يَتَّخِذْ وَلَدًا وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ شَرِيكٌ فِي الْمُلْكِ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ وَلِيٌّ مِّنَ الذُّلِّ ۖ وَكَبِّرْهُ تَكْبِيرًا -- Say: "Praise be to Allah, who begets no son, and has no partner in (His) dominion: Nor (needs) He any to protect Him from humiliation: yea, magnify Him for His greatness and glory!" (17:111)

وَيُنذِرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ وَلَدًا --- Further, that He may warn those (also) who say, "Allah hath begotten a son": (18:4)

مَا كَانَ لِلَّهِ أَن يَتَّخِذَ مِن وَلَدٍ ۖ سُبْحَانَهُ ۚ إِذَا قَضَىٰ أَمْرًا فَإِنَّمَا يَقُولُ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ -- It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, "Be", and it is. (19:35)

وَمَا يَنبَغِي لِلرَّحْمَـٰنِ أَن يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا --For it is not consonant with the majesty of (Allah) Most Gracious that He should beget a son. (19:92)

مَا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ مِن وَلَدٍ وَمَا كَانَ مَعَهُ مِنْ إِلَـٰهٍ ۚ إِذًا لَّذَهَبَ كُلُّ إِلَـٰهٍ بِمَا خَلَقَ وَلَعَلَا بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۚسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ -- No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him! (23:91)

الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَمْ يَتَّخِذْ وَلَدًا وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ شَرِيكٌ فِي الْمُلْكِ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَقَدَّرَهُ تَقْدِيرًا -- He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: no son has He begotten, nor has He a partner in His dominion: it is He who created all things, and ordered them in due proportions. (25:2)

لَّوْ أَرَادَ اللَّهُ أَن يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا لَّاصْطَفَىٰ مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ ۖ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ -- Had Allah wished to take to Himself a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He doth create: but Glory be to Him! (He is above such things.) He is Allah, the One, the Irresistible. (39:4)

وَأَنَّهُ تَعَالَىٰ جَدُّ رَبِّنَا مَا اتَّخَذَ صَاحِبَةً وَلَا وَلَدًا  -- 'And Exalted is the Majesty of our Lord: He has taken neither a wife nor a son. (72:3)

And finally,

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ
وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ

Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;
Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him. (Chapter 112:1-4)

Privacy commissioners raise concerns about Google Glass



Canada's privacy commissioner and 36 of her counterparts in this country and around the world want to know how Google plans to protect people's privacy when Google Glass hits the streets........Almost from the moment Google announced its wearable computer goggles, privacy concerns were raised about the ability to record people surreptitiously and, in the blink of an eye, post it to the Internet. More.....

Fourth Annual Summer Institute on Theology and Disability July 15 - 19, 2013 (Toronto)

The Fourth Annual Summer Institute on Theology and disability will take place at Toronto's  Chestnut Conference Center this year from Monday July 15th to Friday July 19th. The focus this year is on interfaith perspectives on disability, hence the conference title is,  “In God There Is Diversity, But No Division: Building Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration through Theology and Disability.”  As the title suggests, with the diverse city of Toronto acting as a backdrop, the focus will be on exploring disability and theology from a variety of religious perspectives and traditions.

One of the featured plenary speakers, doing at least two presentations, is Mohammed Ghaly from the Netherlands, who has written one of the key books about Islam and Disability entitled "Islam and Disability: Perspectives in Islamic Theology and Islamic Jurisprudence."  

A full list of speakers can be found here

The first day of the Summer Institute, as is customary, will be focused on Disability, Diversity, and hospitality-Getting to the Heart of the Issues. As in the previous Institutes, this event will feature the key Faculty/Mentors for the Summer Institute: Hans Reinders, John Swinton, Bill Gaventa, Jeremy Schipper, and Tom Reynolds. People interested can register for this day alone if they wish. Then, successive days will include two plenary sessions each morning followed by afternoon discussion groups and workshops by guest speakers, faculty/mentors, and some participants. Tuesday addresses “Case Histories” in Theology and Disability,” Wednesday:” Where Faith hits the Road: Theology, Ethics and Practice;” Thursday: Sacred Texts and Traditions in Islam and Judaism; and Friday: Hospitality at the Center: Interfaith Relationships and "Evangelism" through the Lens of Disability.

Other featured speakers this year include: As mentioned above, Mohammed Ghaly from Leiden, The Netherlands, one of the premier scholars on Islam and Disability; Jason Hays, a pastoral theologian and counselor; Julia Watts Belser, Rabbi and professor at Missouri State moving this summer to Georgetown University, and Judith Snow, a Toronto based disability activist, leader and writer who has worked around the world in close partnership with Inclusion Press.

Additional highlights include an optional excursion, dinner and reflection time to the L’Arche community at Daybreak, a Tuesday afternoon meditation led by the Spirit Movers from Daybreak, afternoon discussion groups with all of the plenary speakers, afternoon symposium for graduate students who want to do summary presentations of their own work with guidance by Summer Institute mentors, and more. For an up-to-date Week at a Glance schedule, go to the Summer Institute website.

Current sponsors for the Summer Institute on Theology and Disability include The Bethesda Institute, Emmanuel College of Victoria University in the University of Toronto, the United Church of Canada and members of the Faith and Culture Inclusion Network of Ontario, including Christian Horizons, Inc., L’Arche of Ontario, Canada, and other faith based organizations.

Complete information about the program and registration is now online at http://bethesdainstitute.org/theology. Weeklong registration includes all lunches and two dinners. Information and links to conference lodging with conference negotiated rates are also available through the website. Primary conference lodging is at the Chestnut Residence and Conference Center and at the Metropolitan Hotel across the street. The Chestnut residence includes continental breakfasts. Note also that the institute has some  funds available for possible scholarships. For more information on that please contact Bill Gaventa at: bill.gaventa@gmail.com

Please also note that there is currently emerging a possibility of a workshop being led on Tuesday afternoon by two imams  in the Toronto area, and some others are working on the possibility of an Iftar meal on Tuesday  at the Conference Center.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The message of Tawheed must go beyond mere intellect


By S N Smith -- JUNE 17, 2013

On this blog, I enjoy commenting on various verses of the Quran. I do so not as a scholar, for I am not one, but as a simple Muslim offering my reflections on what I have read. When I over intellectualize these Quranic verses I am reading, I tend to come up empty. I am not suggesting that I should shut down my intellect, for there are many verses which call on the believers to think, ponder and reflect on what the Quran is saying. But my intellectual abilities are only one part of who I am and I feel that God is reaching out to another part of me which goes beyond intellect. I think this is where many Muslims make a mistake. They fall into the trap of over intellectualizing and even literalizing what they are reading and, as a result, miss out on a lot regarding what God is seeking to tell them. But I will concentrate on my own short-comings first and foremost and leave others to deal with their own struggles to understand. 

The message of the Quran is both simple and complex at the same time. The average person can understand its message, yet it can exhaust those with highly advanced intellectual abilities. The Quran is both accessible and inexhaustible. No matter what level you are at, there is something in the Quran for you. I find this encouraging, for if I have to be an advanced specialist in various fields of scholarship in order to have access to what God is saying to me, then I will never learn or understand anything regarding the Quranic message, and thus there will be an untraversable gulf between me and God. In fact, there are many examples of people who have advanced training in the Quran and Quranic sciences, yet that knowledge has not lead them closer to God in the least, but instead has acted as a buffer between them and hidyah (guidance and spiritual enlightenment). What good is it to have a mountain of knowledge on Islam and the Quran and yet none of this knowledge sinks in to the point one submits to what God has revealed? I would rather understand a little, but that little would be instrumental in bringing me closer to God,  than understanding a whole lot but not allowing any of it to affect me in the least. That would be a travesty. 

When I read the Quran, I look for simple themes, and I write simply on what I observe. I have come to the conclusion that there does not exist a single verse in the Quran that does not mention tawheed (the oneness of God), clarifying what it means and prohibiting what opposes it. The very heart of the Quranic message is tawheed. Why is this emphasized so much? Because not believing in it or seeking to negate it is the biggest sin and takes one out of the fold of Islam (See Quran 22: 31; 16: 86). God tells us over and over again that He is one and beside Him there is no other and that the very purpose of our existence is to submit to that reality. It is our role on earth to uphold this message of tawheed, implement it in our lives and challenge any teaching or practice which seeks to negate it. This is why we have to turn to the Quran over and over again, so that this tawheedian world view sinks into not only our minds, so that we intellectually understand it, but into our hearts also, so that it can have a profound impact on how we live our lives and prepare us for the day when we will all stand before God. 

If one claims to be a believer in tawheed, that person must measure that belief, as a well as their behavior, by the Quran. A true believer in tawheed will be honest in their dealings, kind to their spouses and neighbors, possess an  upright moral character, be an outstanding and law-abiding citizen, be slow to wrath, quick to forgive, be charitable to those in need and seek to avoid those things which God has prohibited. If a person acts contrary to this and insists that they still believe in tawheed, the message has merely reached their minds but has yet to sink into their hearts and bring a lasting transformation in the way they lead their lives. This is all something the believer must strive for, to move beyond an intellectual understanding of tawheed and allow it to reach the inner recesses of their hearts. For the message of tahweed is not merely and academic exercise, but something, when properly embraced, that transforms the life of the believer. 


S N Smith writes from Ottawa, ON.

40 percent of Canadian MPs declare secondary source of income


An analysis of the most recent MP disclosures reveals 40 per cent of all Canada's MPs declare a secondary source of income. Of the 306 MPs currently sitting in Parliament who have filed income disclosures, a Huffington Post Canada analysis of the public registry shows more than 121 declared some kind of additional income — including some 68 Conservatives, 35 New Democrats, 14 Liberals, three Bloc Quebecois members and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who declared her salary from the party.

Comedy's Odd Couple



 Comedian and Rabbi Bob Alper and Lawyer and Community Activist Azhar Usman are a comedy duo known as 'Comedy's Odd Couple' performing together in an act entitled: 'One Muslim, One Jew, One Stage.' Their comedy routine aims to entertain and heal through humour and social commentary. Both on and off stage the comics demonstrate friendship, respect and understanding. As noted by the Boston Globe, "It could be the opening line of a joke from a Dean Martin roast: 'There's this Muslim comedian and this Jewish comedian' but it's actually a thoroughly modern comedy tour featuring two hip standup comics who draw on their similarities, rather than their differences, for laughs."

On Suffering


By S N Smith

لَا يُكَلِّفُ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْعَهَا ۚ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ ۗ رَبَّنَا لَا تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا ۚ رَبَّنَا وَلَا تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا ۚ رَبَّنَا وَلَا تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ ۖ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا ۚ أَنتَ مَوْلَانَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ --- "On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray:) "Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith." (Quran 2:286)

أَمْ حَسِبْتُمْ أَن تَدْخُلُوا الْجَنَّةَ وَلَمَّا يَأْتِكُم مَّثَلُ الَّذِينَ خَلَوْا مِن قَبْلِكُم ۖمَّسَّتْهُمُ الْبَأْسَاءُ وَالضَّرَّاءُ وَزُلْزِلُوا حَتَّىٰ يَقُولَ الرَّسُولُ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ مَتَىٰ نَصْرُ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّ نَصْرَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ --- Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden (of bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? they encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: "When (will come) the help of Allah?" Ah! Verily, the help of Allah is (always) near! (2:214)

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I have been ill for a long time -- at least 9 years -- and my condition has taken a turn for the worse in the past few months. The month of May, in particular, was a very difficult time for me as I was certain I would perish off the face of the earth. Yet here I am writing this article on suffering. I have no idea if I will ever recover from my condition and the thought I would have to spend the rest of my life in this state is a rather distressing one which has brought a lot of sadness into my life. 

Suffering, my dear readers, is part of the human experience whether one is a believer or not. Suffering is our common heritage as a species. Yes, some suffer more than others, but no one completely escapes suffering -- whether they live in a lofty palace or find shelter in a dilapidated cardboard box. But that thought alone does not take away the pain, but only to remind you that your (and my) situation is not unique. Sometimes we assume that when we look at people from a distance that their condition is fine and they are not experiencing any suffering at all, but this would be a false assumption. (see, for example, Quran 2:273) If you were to look at me, for example, you would not know -- unless I told you -- that I am experiencing a lot of pain. No one, not one single soul, remains untouched by some kind of pain or suffering in their lives. 

This post is not an attempt to comprehend the full wisdom and purpose behind suffering as that would be impossible for me to accomplish. The Quran has several verses which discusses this topic. Consider these three passages as a small sample:

God says in the Quran chapter 29 verses 2-3 

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ

"Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, "We believe", and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false."

God also says in chapter 2 verse 155 of the Quran: 

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُم بِشَيْءٍ مِّنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ 

"And We will most certainly try you with somewhat of fear and hunger and loss of property and lives and fruits; and give good news to the patient."

And, in chapter 2 verse 186:


لَتُبْلَوُنَّ فِي أَمْوَالِكُمْ وَأَنفُسِكُمْ وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا أَذًى كَثِيرًا ۚ وَإِن تَصْبِرُوا وَتَتَّقُوا فَإِنَّ ذَ‌ٰلِكَ مِنْ عَزْمِ الْأُمُورِ

"Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs."

Besides a lecture by the late Imam Asghar Jaffer, entitled "Difficulties in Life are Trials in Islam," which is filled with words of wisdom, I invite you to read an interesting article by Mushfiqur Rahman, entitled "Islamic Perspectives on Trials and Tribulations," which offers a Quranic perspective on human suffering. The author writes: "......central to understanding the Islamic perspectives on trials and tribulations, and that is: trials and tribulations is not an end on itself. It is a temporal event and a part of a process beyond which lies the reality of something good and desirable." He further writes,

Nothing happens in this world except through the leave of Allah (swt). Therefore, a person who has been suffering from distress should know that Allah (swt) is fully aware of all that has happened or been happening to him. It is not a chaotic world where pain and suffering happens at random, nor is it a lawless universe without a ruler and watcher where the strong – be that a person or a nation – can do whatever it wishes to the weak without a consequence. The believer should know that Allah (swt) is aware of every little details of everything that happens, so much so that not even a leaf falls from a tree without Allah (swt) being aware of it.
In closing off this post, I remind myself and you that God says in the Quran chapter 27 verse 62:

أَمَّن يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ وَيَجْعَلُكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ الْأَرْضِ ۗ أَإِلَـٰهٌ مَّعَ اللَّهِ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَذَكَّرُونَ

"Or, Who listens to the (soul) distressed when it calls on Him, and Who relieves its suffering, and makes you (mankind) inheritors of the earth? (Can there be another) god besides Allah? Little it is that ye heed!"

Mustard Seed and Tawheed


يَا بُنَيَّ إِنَّهَا إِن تَكُ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ فَتَكُن فِي صَخْرَةٍ أَوْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ أَوْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَأْتِ بِهَا اللَّهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَطِيفٌ خَبِيرٌ


O my son! surely if it is the very weight of the grain of a mustard-seed, even though it is in (the heart of) rock, or (high above) in the heaven or (deep down) in the earth, God will bring it (to light); surely God is Knower of subtleties, Aware; (Quran 31 verse 16)

وَنَضَعُ الْمَوَازِينَ الْقِسْطَ لِيَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ فَلَا تُظْلَمُ نَفْسٌ شَيْئًا ۖ وَإِن كَانَ مِثْقَالَ حَبَّةٍ مِّنْ خَرْدَلٍ أَتَيْنَا بِهَا ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِنَا حَاسِبِينَ

And We will set up a just balance on the day of resurrection, so no soul shall be dealt with unjustly in the least; and though there be the weight of a grain of mustard seed, (yet) will We bring it, and sufficient are We to take account. (Quran 21: verse 47)

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As I mentioned in a previous post, there does not exist a single verse in the Quran that does not mention tawheed (the oneness of God), clarifying this teaching and prohibiting what opposes it. The two verses above are no exception to this rule. Utilizing the imagery of a simple mustard seed, readers are reminded that God is all knowing and nothing, not even something as small as a mustard seed, is beyond His knowledge. 

Why do you think that God used a mustard seed to teach such an important lesson? To us, a mustard seed is a tiny insignificant thing which we don't give much thought to.  The mustard seed, in fact, is usually about 1 or 2 mm in diameter, hardly something worth our consideration. But for God there is in the mustard seed an important lesson for us to learn, which is that nothing, absolutely nothing, escapes God's grasp no matter how small or insignificant it may be. Furthermore  there is no one, other than God, who possesses this ability. 

So here we see that something as central as the message of tawheed, if we think about it deeply, can be found in something so small. This tells us that all around us, in nature, are lessons or markers which point us to this reality. Due to the seeming insignificance or mundaneness of those things, however, we overlook these lessons. God wants us to see that we can learn deep spiritual lessons and truths from the most tiny and insignificant things, even a mustard seed. 

Take a look around you and reflect, for nature can teach you many things about the reality of tawheed.  For example, consider this verse:  وَلَمْ يَرَوْا إِلَى الطَّيْرِ فَوْقَهُمْ صَافَّاتٍ وَيَقْبِضْنَ ۚ مَا يُمْسِكُهُنَّ إِلَّا الرَّحْمَـٰنُ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ بَصِيرٌ ---  "Do they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in? None can uphold them except (Allah) Most Gracious: Truly (Allah) Most Gracious: Truly it is He that watches over all things." (67, verse 19)  

Consider also the verse which says,  وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ فِي الْأَنْعَامِ لَعِبْرَةً ۖ نُّسْقِيكُم مِّمَّا فِي بُطُونِهِ مِن بَيْنِ فَرْثٍ وَدَمٍ لَّبَنًا خَالِصًا سَائِغًا لِّلشَّارِبِينَ  -- And verily in cattle (too) will ye find an instructive sign. From what is within their bodies between excretions and blood, We produce, for your drink, milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it. (16 verse 66)

To further highlight the comprehensiveness of God's knowledge, note that God is referred to in the Quran as As-Samee (All Hearing -- see Quran 4:134; 13:10; 58:1), Al-Baseer (The All Seeing -- 3:15; 60:3; 26: 218-220; 4:19 ), Al-Aleem (The All Knowing) and Al-Khabeer (The All-Aware -- 6:18; 31:34; 49:13; 23:91; 8:75).