The Eternal Challenge

The Eternal Challenge

By Huraira Maneer

قَدْ جَاءَكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ نُورٌ وَكِتَابٌ مُبِينٌ

“…There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book.”

Evidence is fascinating. It governs what we believe and don’t believe in. It outlines what we take as truth and what is false. It also ensures that our beliefs and actions, whether they be connected to worldly or religious affairs, are based on sure knowledge and insight.

A couple of years ago I was at a conference where the scholar delivering the lecture asked the audience a question: “What evidence is there the Quran is the word of God (from an objective standpoint)?” This startled us – you would think the answer would be just ‘belief’ rather than having solid textual evidence for it. The question wanted the evidence for the evidence – looking for an explanation for why the Quran is definitely and only the word of God, should be believed in and abided by all, and as a result used as a basis on how to live our lives. This is a fundamental question every Muslim should be able to answer, particularly living in the west so (a) We can strengthen our own belief in Allah & the Quran and (b) Call/give Da’wah to others upon sure and firm insight. For this reason, I have compiled this piece, so this essential question may be addressed:

Upon what basis and reasonings can we attest that the Quran is definitely the word of God – and as a result should be believed and lived by? This is through the Quran’s miraculous nature, miraculous from a plethora of perspectives. So, what exactly makes the Quran miraculous, which would support our belief that it is from God/Allah?

The framework of the answer can be summarised as follows: 1. Preservation 2. Scientific relevance 3. Literary features 4. Accurate predictions 5. Cannot be imitated 6. Societal Impact

(1) Preservation – the Qur’an we have today is exactly the one revealed to the Prophet , word for word, letter by letter.

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ

Verily We: It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’an) and surely, we will guard it (from corruption)

  1. Linguistically – the words and verses that make it up are preserved and unchanged. Yet, books and manuscripts are inevitably prone to alterations and change.
  2. Tajweed (correct pronunciations) – The rules and regulations for pronouncing each individual letter have also been preserved, as well the actual content.
  3. Language – the meanings of words are also preserved. This is as time goes on, meanings of words may change. For example, the English word ‘nice’, used to mean ‘foolish’ and stupid’ in the 14th century

(2) Scientific relevance

We are currently experiencing magnificent rate of technological progress; new theories are being formed and old disproven consistently (e.g. our understanding of the speed of light was only proven incorrect in 2011). Even if we were to gather the greatest scientists in the world to write a book of theories/workings about the natural world, it wouldn’t be long until parts become outdated and proven incorrect (especially if the facts proposed couldn’t be proven with the technology we have!) as newly developed technology allows us to falsify such theories.

Yet, the Quran puts forward many facts about the natural world, that are only being proven, and proven correct at that, in our current technological age – with none have been proven incorrect. Further, the Quran was revealed more than 1400 years ago – such propositions (a)could not be tested and (b) have also stood a very long test of time. It is not rational to suggest aa norma illiterate arab orphan, let alone a group of the most academically skilled to bring forth such a proposal without parts soon being proven incorrect. Such perfection and knowledge therefore point only to a greater more higher being that is all knowing – the existence of God/Allah. Such scientific miracles also include embryonic development, the expanding universe, oxygen saturation at higher altitudes and so on.

(3) Literary Features

Many verses of the Qur’an were revealed in response to sudden unplanned questions and challenges. Anything revealed was final, thus none of the 6236 verses underwenthrou any editorial process. If we were to gather the greatest poets/linguists of all time – it would not be possible for them to integrate such eloquent literary features, even more so on their first attempt – even more so for hundreds of pages and thousands of verses!

I will highlight a couple of those literary features with the aayaat/verses below:

3i: Subtlety – “Allah has not made for a man two hearts in his interior…” Allah specified man, excluding women. Had women been included, the verse would not be entirely applicable to the specific case of a pregnant woman who has her and her babies’ heart in her interior.

3ii Precision – In the Quran, Moses addresses the Israelites with the phrase “My people”, while Jesus/Isa addresses them with “Oh Children of Israel”. Both were addressing the Israelites, yet Jesus never addresses them with “My People”. This is as, in Jewish tradition, identity is given by the father. Thus, as Jesus/Isa was of no father, he did not have his identity connected as so to the israelites. Yet Musa was, so they were ‘his’ people in the technicality of lineage.

(4) Accurate time-bound predictions about of future events

Many people of history have come forward claiming to be Prophets – putting forward prophecies about future events. False prophets often have ambiguous, jumbled prophecies that ultimately become falsified. Let us compare this to prophecies in the Quraan:
(4i) Victory of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) over the Persians. The Byzantines had just suffered defeat, at a time when victory would seem impossible, Allah states they will be victorious after their defeat – exactly by a few years. And as so did it occur! Had they not become victorious after their defeat the Prophecy would be incorrect and proven wrong, as it specified victory within several years.

(4ii) Abu Lahab dying a disbeliever – Allah says Abu Lahab will enter into the fire, thus die disbelieving. By outwardly professing belief he could have easily proven the Quran ‘wrong’ – yet did not, fulfilling Allah’s promise.

Examples of other prophecies include: The Prophet conquering Makkah, competition in constructing high buildings, preservation of the Quran, women being dressed yet naked.

It was not possible for the Prophet to guess them as they spanned a multitude of nations of different time periods, many outside the sphere of influence the Muslims – without a single mistake, all the while being very specific. The rational mind concludes that the Prophet must have been divinely inspired with such knowledge by an all-knowing being who knew what has occurred and will occur – God/Allah.

(5) Cannot be imitated

Allah issues forth a challenge to the Arabs and the whole of mankind in general by saying:
“..if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful.
If this book was from a human being, then surely it can be reproduced – in its style and content. The reproduction should also be future proof (cannot be outdated and produced on its first attempt – just like the Quran).

The fact that they could not do so, in the peak era of Arabic eloquence and pinnacle of its linguistic mastery, shows that not only that it hasn’t been reproduced – but that it will not, and cannot ever be reproduced (since such a pinnacle will not be reached again). As a result, if this book cannot be imitated by a human, our rationality tells us the author of the Quran is of unmatched perfect knowledge, unlike the limited knowledge and ability of humans – from God/Allah. Further, God states that they may falsify or validate what they produce by ‘call[ing] upon your witnesses other than Allah’ to assess whether they have indeed reproduced a surah the like thereof – this makes the challenge a fair one, since the reproduction must be testified to by scholars of the Arabic language the can do so.

(6) Impact on society

The morality presented in the Quran totally transformed the savage pre-Islamic Arabia – and at that, within a mere 23 years. Slavery was an economic institution; adultery, alcoholism and illiteracy were widespread; the powerful oppressed the poor and needy; men could marry any number of women; sons ‘inherited’ their father’s wives once their father died; Women could not own property and had little/no inheritance rights; female infanticide was rife. Can you imagine having to reform such a society? To demonstrate the magnitude of solving a multitude of social ills, one only has to look at the American ‘prohibition’ – where one of the most powerful governments was not able to solve the single social ill of alcohol use. Yet, in the span of 23 years, an illiterate man reformed a whole society of poor Arab Bedouins, such that they then went onto establish a political and cultural societal entity spanning from Morocco to China that lasted for centuries – miraculous!

It was the absolute moral justice of the Quran that appealed to the populations of the nations that were being conquered – to the extent that not only were the Muslims welcomed, but (e.g. Coptic’s of Egypt) actually facilitated and joined the Muslim ranks when they approached non-Muslim lands – societies had the age-old oppression uprooted and then went on to thrive. This is as the Quran presented the (a)all just Islamic law; from this justice came (b) peace and coexistence. This thus permitted (c) free intellectual activity such as literacy – and it was from this (d) knowledge originated, ushering Europe out of the dark ages and into the Renaissance. Thus, this is a book unique in its total impact of reforming whole civilizations, rather than one or two social ills! Is a human himself able to author a book which can achieve such a level of moral justice, and thus impact societies in such a way? Such a morality must have come from a being who is all just and fair, knowing about the human creation – Allah.

               

That all folks for the blog folks! So, if someone asks yourself, what evidence is there that the Quran is from God. I ask Allah to make this post of benefit in strengthening our belief in him and increasing our efforts of inviting and educating non-Muslims about the Quran – the everlasting miracle.

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاتهAL-QURAN-islam-kuran-furkan

Uncategorized

Struggling towards sincerity

Struggling Towards Sincerity – Humza Asad

The prophet (saw) said,

” إنَّمَا الْأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّاتِ، وَإِنَّمَا لِكُلِّ امْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى، فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى اللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيبُهَا أَوْ امْرَأَةٍ يَنْكِحُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إلَيْهِ”

“Actions are judged by their intentions, so each man shall have what he intended.”

And the hadith continues on saying “and whosoever’s hijra was to Allah and His Messenger, his hijra is to Allah and His Messenger; but he whose migration was for some worldly thing he might gain, or for a wife he might marry, his migration is to that for which he migrated.”

When I first met my committee in around March time, we had the usual discussion which any new team would have. Why are we here; what can we expect; what is expected from us. And amidst that discussion a crucial point was put forward. A point which was to set a precedent for the perspective which we would have when we approached our work. A point which was to set a precedent for our mindset moving forward. And that was; isoc – much like anything else in life – is a transaction. The more you are willing to give, the more you should expect to receive in return. So, if you want to be stingy with your investment in this transaction, then don’t be surprised when you are returned with a sum that matches you in your stinginess. And if you want to be naïve with your investment in this transaction, then don’t be surprised when you are returned with a sum that fittingly reflects your naivety.

“So, to each man is what he intended.” And thus, an evaluation of the type of transaction we have engaged ourselves in is absolutely necessary. An evaluation of exactly what we have intended is crucial because to each man is what he intended. And so, the intentions we put forward will be indicative of the results we are expecting.

However, when looking at our Muslim community the opposite is true. The sad reality is that we’ve (whether consciously or subconsciously) shifted our focus in alignment with the shift of societal focus. Anyone who’s analysed the evolution of western civilisation will understand that as the church separated from the state – as theology was disengaged from the practical application of governmental affairs – a much greater and more significant separation would be initiated as a consequence. One which would manifest itself at the level of the individual. The separation of the internal affair from the external affair.

Examples of this disparity are numerous. A critique of ethical philosophies which arose show a society much more concerned with a consequentialist view on morality; putting emphasis on the importance of outcome of our actions over the intention or reasoning behind them. We find a society which has engrossed itself with the objectification of both men and woman, inundating people with images of outer appearance and offering cosmetic solutions. We find a society that has overwhelmed itself with social media and the concern to busy oneself in projecting superficial appearances and relationships over very intrinsic, real life family interactions. We find the rise of the scientism spearheaded by empiricism (the senses and outer body experience) as the ultimate method towards truth and understanding. And this ever-strengthening campaign of removing (or shifting focus) from the external affair from the internal has filtered down and affected our Muslim community at large.

Let me ask a simple question. And I want everyone to engage with a mental hand up. We ma shaa Allah have had many successful charity campaigns across the country. With the primary intention to focus on enjoying good and alleviating specific poverty or suffering. But how many people reading this woke up in the last 1/3 of the night, when Allah descends and made sincere dua for the cause? How many people when it rained or whilst travelling for their mountain trek – at times we know that dua is accepted by Allah – how many people raised their hands and made dua to Allah sincerely for their cause? Although the question is directed towards ISOCs engaging in charity week campaigning. It is transferable to any community work we do in any environment.

It was narrated by ibn Abbas that one day he was sitting behind the prophet (saw), i.e. on the same mount. And as they were riding the prophet (saw) turned around and said, “O young man, I shall teach you of some advice. Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah alone. And if you seek help, then seek help in Allah alone. And know that if the nations were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you accept with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

Your rizk has already been written. The pens have lifted, and the pages have dried. So, whether we announce that we have raised 10,000, 15,000, 20,000, 40,000 know and internalise that if we had raised these sums of money or if we had just raised a few pennies. That by Allah if He had willed those pennies would go a lot further than any of that money. And by Allah, if He wills those pennies may have a greater weighting for you on the day of Judgement. And if he wills those thousands of pounds may have equal weight against you on that day.

So its time to look down at the hand we’ve outstretched in this transaction. How sincere have we been in what we’ve put in front of Allah? And to answer this question we need to practically reflect upon our lives. Here are 5 points to practically implement in order to retain sincerity in what we do:

  • Do we truly know why we are doing what we are doing? To please Allah doesn’t cut it. There are plenty other ways which are more efficient and effective in pleasing Allah; isoc isn’t the only way to do so. Remember that a tree with shallow roots is likely to be swayed with the slightest of breezes. Similarly, if you haven’t yet found a strong enough reason as to why youre doing what you are doing, then expect your intentions to sway in whichever direction the context blows in
  • Have we prioritised our Islam à Do we prioritise what Islam asks us to prioritise? A simple question: Was the way you prayed, the time you prayed and the khushoo you felt in salah better before you got involved in this work or now. Because if your answer is the latter then there needs to be some fundamental changes. How can we expect to be sincere in what we do when we prioritise other than what Allah prioritised for us – the question then needs to be asked, who are we even doing this for?
  • Understand the focus of your transaction is in the hand that is outstretched to give – and not in the hand which is outstretched to receive. Those of us who believe in Allah need to understand that we are required to wait until resurrection for the completion of this transaction. We cannot completely focus our thoughts on the outcomes of our actions as Allah has been asking of our efforts and not results. You’ve heard it many times. Nuh (as) preached for 950 years and in comparison to how long he worked, he only received a handful of followers. Yet he’s one of the greatest men to walk on this Earth. There needs to be a serious shift in perspective
  • Understand the faults in short-sightedness – sincerity can no longer be an action but rather it needs to be internalised as a trait. That is, it needs to become the descriptive word of your character and no longer just the descriptive word of the action which you undertake. You yourself as a person are required to be sincere and not just your actions. A person cannot be truly sincere if they are sincere on only some occasions – sincerity must be consistent. The way you tackle this is to do continuous good deeds that you do so regularly they become part of you – part of your character and part of your nature; becoming a trait. Which is why the prophet (saw) said: “the best deeds are those which are done continuously; even if they amount to a little.” That is not to say that you don’t continuously question the sincerity of your actions.
  • And finally, this leads me to the last practical point. And that is a lot of what we do in ISOC and committee focuses on the external – how many guys came to that event, whats the headcount at that talk, how much are we raising throughout charity week and are generally deeds which are one-off and large in scale. So if we want to make sincerity a part of us then we are required to slow down in our individual lives. Re-synchronise ourselves and the best way to do this is for everyone to have a secret action between themselves and Allah. An action which nobody knows about and will ever know about apart from Allah. And an action we commit to so regularly that it becomes part of our nature and character trait. And due to the privacy of this action, if we indulge in it enough, we will find true sincerity.

We ask Allah to put sincerity in all that we do

Uncategorized

Standing on the shoulders of giants

 

Abdullateef Bioshogun

“if you want your name to be remembered after your death, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about”   Abraham Lincoln

I start this in the name of Allah, the most beneficent, the most merciful. I have just attended the 55th Fosis Annual Conference – my second ever Fosis conference – and it was a great experience indeed; Alhamdulillah. Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by the intensity of the first 15 minutes. I had never had so many people approach me all at once trying to get to know me and I forgot more names within 30 seconds of hearing them than I care to admit. Nevertheless, I did make several friends and we concluded the night with some delicious cuisine from Afghanistan (Kobeda kebabs are a wonderful creation of Allah).

I had many deep discussions with my new friends and old friends alike. I remember one particular conversation with some brothers from Birmingham about whether there was a need to change one’s personality upon attaining a new position of leadership – and if so to what extent? It really got me thinking about the concepts of sincerity and personal development – two themes explored rather widely in the Quran. I request that my dear readers think about this after concluding this article.

While the event was brilliant and enjoyable because of the ample banter and nice food (Kobeda kebabs!), it was fantastic because of the well-chosen topic of the conference; explored thoroughly through the talks and workshops. The topic was legacy; its meaning, examples from history and ideas about how we can go about leaving our legacies.

Isaac Newton is known to have expressed a metaphor created by Bernard of Chartres that goes: “we are like dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants, and thus we are able to see more and farther than the latter.” And while these legends were only saying this as an expression of their humility it is indeed how every legend is born – all giants were once dwarves. And, as we were shown in the many talks at the conference, we have more than enough giants preceding us. We simply have one job… climb onto one of their shoulders.

It’s easier said than done though, since the media and the way in which the world is generally run is fined tuned so that from birth we are conditioned to think small of ourselves and to settle for the ‘normal’ repetitive lives we are used to. Anything above that is left to be depicted in the movies and fairy tales. Shaytaan gave himself a job to do and his work ethic is remarkable! We should at least try to match it.

“Fame is a result of what you get in life, greatness is a result of what you give in life.” I got this from one of the talks. Our legacies are what we give to the world, a concept regarding which Islam provides much encouragement (does sadaqah jaariyah ring any bells?). The thing is, a lot of us are studying to become engineers, healthcare professionals, lawyers etc where we will get the opportunity to help people everyday and leave our legacies. But, with all due respect to these professionals and without diminishing the significance of their sacrifices, these are ‘normal’ legacies which many people achieve. If one is extending a helping hand, let them maximise the reach of their extension. This is the mentality the Prophet (peace be upon him) had and as such it is the mentality we should copy.

We should not be content with the amount we give to the world. We need to break away from the attractive spell cast onto us by the dunya. I ask Allah to make it easy to adopt this mentality and to make possible for us a legacy worth being proud of.

Uncategorized