Michael Shermer with Bart Ehrman — Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife

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Suggested reading by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times:

“But you prefer the life of this world, whereas the Hereafter is better and more lasting. This indeed is what is taught in the former Scriptures — The Scriptures of Abraham and Moses.” (Al Quran 87:16-19)

How Can the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims Argue Afterlife

Human Soul: The Final Frontier?

A Slight Twist Makes David Attenborough a Great Teacher for God of the Abrahamic Faiths

Is There an Afterlife? – Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, David Wolpe, Bradley Artson Shavit

Hijab: Quran is to be Understood in the Context of Time – Every One Knows It But Does Not Say It

burqa
Burqa – This could be my paternal grandmother in her younger years

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The picture above could be of my paternal grandmother in her younger years, she was born in 1910 and passed away in 1982, except that there were no color cameras in Pakistan, when she was in her twenties and thirties.

I do not remember her ever wearing such a Burqa, but I remember clearly from my early childhood that she had one, I believe her’s was white in color.

I loved my grandmother, however, I do not remember having any positive or negative emotions or associations about this article of clothing until 2001.  Since, September 11, 2001, I have come to abhor this article of clothing, given its association with the Taliban and it becoming a symbol of lack of human rights in the Muslim societies, compared to the Western world.

burka_1927573c
Another form of Burqa – My mother could be in this picture but obviously I cannot tell

My mother in her twenties through forties dressed like what is shown in the above picture. It was an overcoat of a thin soft black clothing and a separate headgear with two relatively transparent face veils. Individually the veils were some what see through, but together these became almost opaque. Many of the ladies of her generation would use both of the face veils in public.  During that time it was not uncommon to hear from devout Muslims that only hands and feet of women can be uncovered in public.

In her fifties through seventies, she would be in what we call Hijab these days, but without any make up.  The picture below would represent that:

Hijab
This is what is conventionally called Hijab these days

The above is what is called Hijab these days. The above lady could be my sister, cousin, niece or daughter-in-law, except that she is not. Many of the ladies in my family now will dress like her.

The Holy Quran has a couple of verses about modest dressing. In the most often quoted verse on the subject, it says:

And say to the believing women that they restrain their eyes and guard their private parts, and that they disclose not their natural and artificial beauty except that which is apparent thereof, and that they draw their head-coverings over their bosoms, and that they disclose not their beauty save to their husbands, or to their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands or their sons or the sons of their husbands or their brothers, or the sons of their brothers, or the sons of their sisters, or their women, or what their right hands possess, or such of male attendants as have no sexual appetite, or young children who have no knowledge of the hidden parts of women. And they strike not their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may become known. And turn ye to Allah all together, O believers, that you may succeed. (Al Quran 24:31/32)

This verse defines immediate family and modest dressing.

How do the Muslims understand the above verse and what has it meant over the decades in the last century, as far as modest dressing is concerned?

The apologists for Islam, from all sects, would have debated tooth and nail for the exclusive validity and approval in the eyes of Allah, for only one of the three above examples, in the relevant era.

Today some of them will deny that such a progression has happened in the last century and would like to find comfort in their emotionally and strongly held belief that the Quran does not change over time and need not be understood and interpreted in the light of demands and needs of the time.

burkini
These could be my nieces on a Western beach. I do not have any daughters, but for my generation or my parents’ generation even this small degree of freedom would have been inconceivable

Omar Naseef; Muslim, Writer, Traveler, Author, Foodie and Adventurer, in a recent article, titled, God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead? wrote in the Huffington Post, what is meant by a ‘living’ or a ‘dead’ document:

There’s a vigorous debate in the United States about the nature of our constitution. Liberals tend to argue that the constitution is a living document, while conservatives, like the late Justice Scalia, claim our constitution is ‘dead, dead, dead’.

If the authors of the constitution were alive today – having lived through 239+ years of U.S. history – do we really think they would ask their 1787 selves how to interpret the constitution?

This same ‘living’ versus dead argument often happens in religion. Those who argue for ‘dead’ are often conservatives, and they are hurting their own cause. It is proper for all of us to deliberate before breaking with long-held tradition. However, insisting that the understanding of sacred text is frozen puts the most fundamental belief of religion at risk.

When any religious person claims that a sacred text is ‘dead’ – in that the understanding of its meaning is fixed forever – they are directly at odds with their own idea of a living, active God.

Each one of the Muslims, whether conservative or liberal, young or old, man or woman, actually has seen many examples in their lives that the Holy Quran is to be interpreted in the context of time, whether he or she fully realizes it or acknowledges it or not.

In this article I have talked about only Hijab, but, a series of articles will follow.

Zafrulla and JFK
Sir Zafarulla Khan in a meeting with President John F Kennedy

Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, the first foreign minister of Pakistan and one time President of the United Nations General Assembly,  highlighted in his book, Islam – Its Meaning for Modern Man, in the chapter about the Holy Quran that it is a dynamic and a living document. He writes:

It is this comprehensiveness of the Quran, the need to make provision for guidance in every respect for all peoples for all time, that made it necessary that the guidance should be conveyed in verbal revelation. The Quran is literally the Word of God and possesses the quality of being alive, as the universe is alive. It is not possible to set forth at any time the whole meaning and interpretation of the Quran or, indeed, of any portion of it with finality. It yields new truths and fresh guidance in every age and at every level. It is a standing and perpetual miracle (18:110).

The world is dynamic and so is the Quran. Indeed, so dynamic is the Quran that it has always been found to keep ahead of the world and never to lag behind it. However fast the pace at which the pattern of human life may change and progress, the Quran always yields, and will go on yielding, the needed guidance in advance. This has now been demonstrated through more than thirteen centuries, and that is a guarantee that it will continue to be demonstrated through the ages.

The Quran has proclaimed that falsehood will never overtake it. All research into the past and every discovery and invention in the future will affirm its truth (41:43). The Quran speaks at every level; it seeks to reach every type of understanding, through parables, similitudes, arguments, reasoning, the observation and study of the phenomena of nature, and the natural, moral, and spiritual laws (18:55; 39:28; 59:22).

The Quranic principles are profound and everlasting, but, the details are negotiable. We will always be able to demonstrate the benefits of modest dressing and modesty in general, in any society or at any time. For example, read: Modesty–A universal Value and Wearing Hijab for Modesty in All Things. But, modest dressing will look some what different in different times and places.

This is an age of information and younger generations are very proficient in quickly finding out relevant details on any issue. So, the apologists of Islam need to do due diligence if they want to remain relevant.

I do love the Quran and study it every day. But, I am also a pragmatist and do not want to hold any positions that a little Google search or listening to a few videos in YouTube exposes.

Welcome to the new world and a more rational understanding of the scriptures. Stay tuned for future examples to show in the words of Sir Zafrulla: “The world is dynamic and so is the Quran. Indeed, so dynamic is the Quran that it has always been found to keep ahead of the world and never to lag behind it. However fast the pace at which the pattern of human life may change and progress.”

Suggested Reading about the Quran

Reading the Quran and the Bible Literally Means Demons and Jinns Will Rule Humans

The Holy Quran Does Not Exhaust Any Subject in Any One Chapter

God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?

Explaining Misinterpretations of the Holy Text to a Christian Audience

Meeting the Quranic Adam with Charles Darwin

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Covid 19: Religious Versus Scientific Perspectives, Now that We Have Two Vaccines?

Epigraph:

Allah has created the heavens and the earth with a purpose and based on precise truth. In that surely is a sign for the believers. (Al Quran 29:44/45)

leaning tower of pisa
If you take off to fly from the Leaning Tower of Pisa, after devout prayers by the Pope, Imam of Kaaba and the Chief Rabbi, you will crash to the ground no matter what. It is not that the prayers do not work but they do not work against the laws of nature, made by the Creator of our universe

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

I wrote this article in May of 2020, but now six months later in Nonmember as Pfizer and Moderna have reported that their vaccines have almost 95% effectiveness, I am choosing to republish this article, as it may give readers a new experience with this enhanced perspective. 

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina has slammed the World Health Organization (WHO) for not endorsing its COVID-19 herbal cure.

Last month, the Malagasy president officially launched Covid-Organics (CVO), an organic herbal concoction, claiming that it can prevent and cure patients suffering from the novel coronavirus.

“If it were a European country which had discovered this remedy, would there be so many doubts,” he said in an exclusive interview with France 24, Paris-based international television news network and Radio France International.

”The problem is that it comes from Africa. And they cannot accept that a country like Madagascar, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, has discovered this formula to save the world,” he added (1).

But, how does WHO know quackery from real treatments? After all some fundamentalist Hindus in March 2020, were promoting cow urine as prevention against coronavirus infection.

Many news channels covered cow urine drinking party. US News, for example wrote: “A Hindu group hosted a cow urine drinking party on Saturday as they believe it wards off the coronavirus, as many Hindus consider the cow sacred and some drink cow urine believing it has medicinal properties.

Experts have repeatedly asserted that cow urine does not cure illnesses like cancer and there is no evidence that it can prevent coronavirus.

The ‘party,’ hosted by a group called the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (All India Hindu Union) at its headquarters in the country’s capital, was attended by 200 people, and the organizers hoped to host similar events elsewhere in India.

‘We have been drinking cow urine for 21 years, we also take bath in cow dung. We have never felt the need to consume English medicine,’ said Om Prakash, a person who attended the party.

Chakrapani Maharaj, the chief of the All India Hindu Union, posed for photographs as he placed a spoon filled with cow urine near the face of a caricature of the coronavirus.

Leaders from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have advocated the use of cow urine as medicine and a cure for cancer.

A leader from India’s north eastern state of Assam told state lawmakers earlier this month during an assembly session that cow urine and cow dung can be used to treat the coronavirus.” (2)

The fundamentalist Muslims were quick to promote black seed or Kolonji as a prevention and cure for Covid 19 infection.

Bishop Gerald Glenn, the founder and pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church (NDEC) in Chesterfield, Virginia, died on April 11, 2020, church elder Bryan Nevers said in a video post on the church’s Facebook page.

“During this time of intense grief, we ask that you pray continually for the FIRST FAMILY of NDEC,” a Facebook post from the church read. “While they are mourning the heartbreaking earthly absence of their family patriarch & spiritual father, they also have family members who are struggling to survive this dreaded pandemic.”

Glenn and his wife, Marcietia Glenn, tested positive for the virus, their daughter Mar-Gerie Crawley said in a video shared on Facebook. Crawley said in an update Friday that Gerald Glenn was very sick but had improved slightly after being put on a ventilator.

“I just beg people to understand the severity and the seriousness of this because people are saying it’s not just about us, it’s about everyone around us,” Crawley said.

She told Richmond station WTVR that Glenn had diverticulitis and that it was not uncommon for him to get sick or have a fever. Glenn’s health worsened despite trips to urgent care and the emergency room, she added.

Despite authorities urging people to practice social distancing, Glenn held an in-person service on March 22.

“I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus,” Glenn told his congregation in a sermon that day, according to video of the service shared by WTVR. He vowed to keep preaching “unless I’m in jail or the hospital,” the New York Times reported.  He died three weeks later of Covid 19 infection (3).

God may applaud the Pastor’s religious zeal in the Hereafter, but, He certainly did not appreciate the Pastor’s flaunting of the laws of nature.

In the meanwhile, there has been growing disquiet in Israel about the slowness of some ultra-Orthodox communities to adopt official measures to reduce the spread of the virus.

Many ultra-Orthodox live within large families in crowded neighborhoods. Their access to the internet and social media is also limited for religious reasons, meaning news and information from the outside world is comparatively poor.

In some strictly religious communities, gatherings for prayer and celebrations including weddings have continued to take place, despite the nationwide ban.

BBC reported, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town with one of the highest rates of coronavirus cases in Israel has been placed under effective lockdown.

Residents of Bnei Brak, just outside Tel Aviv, will only be allowed out in exceptional circumstances. Only some key workers will be allowed in.

A senior health official said almost 40% of the town’s 200,000 inhabitants probably had the virus (4).

Happy Science is a Japanese doomsday cult. It claims 11 million members worldwide in more than 50 countries, operates a publishing company and several film/animation studios, funds a political wing that fields candidates in Japan, runs a system of unaccredited “universities” and holds events and enlightening seminars.

Formerly known as The Institute for Research in Human Happiness, Happy Science is one of a large number of new religions which have sprouted up in post-war Japan, generally regarded derisively and suspiciously by most Japanese, particularly after a 1995 terrorist attack perpetrated by a different cult in Tokyo’s subway. The group’s English-language reading materials seem benign enough, but the group’s far-right political agenda is expressed much more openly and unambiguously in their Japanese-language media, which espouses extreme Japanese nationalism, social conservatism and xenophobia (5).

According to Happy Science, the virus was created as a bioweapon by the Chinese government in Wuhan, and then, in a twist, it was unleashed by a U.F.O. to punish the communists for their godless ways. It has spread to other lands that lack true faith.

This material was quickly published as three booklets in Japanese and has now been translated in English this month as “Spiritual Reading of Novel Coronavirus Infection Originated in China.”

But there is hope for the faithful, the Happies say. Along with the book series, they now sell coronavirus-themed DVDs and CDs of Mr. Okawa, the supreme head of Happy Science lecturing; the sound alone of his voice is meant to hold immune-boosting power.

In one video clip, Mr. Okawa advised, “You must knock out the coronavirus with your El Cantare belief.”

He also introduced the sacred text of a new ritual purported to miraculously cure the disease. It is conducted in private at temples, in exchange for donations. Japanese ads list several prices for virus-related blessings, going from $100 to more than $400.

Numerous members of the congregation have requested the coronavirus prayer.

“It’s amazing,” Mr. Hagimoto said. “We’re seeing people being cured.”

Before his extravagant reinvention, Mr. Okawa was born Takashi Nakagawa in 1956, on the southern island of Shikoku in Japan. The postwar decades in Japan had seen a surge in new and novel forms of religion that blended imported New Age texts with longstanding Japanese traditions. It was in this soul-searching mélange that Mr. Okawa came of age.

In the early days of the virus, Happy Science had proudly kept its Manhattan doors open for business even as some churches closed. But as infections in the city soared, the temple announced that it would lock up.

Beginning in April, Happy Science will administer spiritual vaccines remotely (6).

Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times and author of this article. The Muslim Times has the best collection for religion and science themes

There is a legendary experiment that young Galileo Galilei did in the sixteenth century, perched atop the Leaning Tower of Pisa, he dropped cannonballs of different weights to see if all objects fall at the same rate due to gravity. They did. It’s a story that’s easy to remember, but whether it actually took place is debatable. If a Muslim saint, a Christian Pastor, a Jewish Rabbi, a Hindu Pundit or a Buddhist incarnation of Buddha were to jump off from Leaning Tower of Pisa to fly after their prayers, they will crash to the ground at the same speed. Gravity rules no matter what!

Likewise these religious experts despite their set of beliefs, dogma and rituals cannot fight or deny the biology of Covid 19.

In the words of Charles Darwin, as he quoted Francis Bacon from his book Advancement of learning, in the later editions of On the Origin of Species, to establish the proper relationship between religion and natural science: “To conclude, therefore, let no man out of weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well-studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficiency in both.”

WHO has not directly responded to the President of Madagascar, but they have posted on their website, under the heading of, WHO supports scientifically-proven traditional medicine:

“The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes innovations around the world including repurposing drugs, traditional medicines and developing new therapies in the search for potential treatments for COVID-19.

WHO recognizes that traditional, complementary and alternative medicine has many benefits and Africa has a long history of traditional medicine and practitioners that play an important role in providing care to populations. Medicinal plants such as Artemisia annua are being considered as possible treatments for COVID-19 and should be tested for efficacy and adverse side effects. Africans deserve to use medicines tested to the same standards as people in the rest of the world. Even if therapies are derived from traditional practice and natural, establishing their efficacy and safety through rigorous clinical trials is critical.” (7)

As noted in the epigraph of this article, Allah has created our universe based on precise truth, which here will imply scientific truth and laws of nature, any attempts to succeed in such a universe that are not based in reality and instead bank on emotional or ill placed religious zeal are destined to fail. Indeed, only honest scientific method and not religious dogma or ritual will offer us prevention and cure of the novel Covid 19.

Additional reading

From the Muslim Sunrise: Truth and Science

Science: The Only Present Day Arbiter Between Religions?

References

  1. https://themuslimtimes.info/2020/05/16/madagascar-slams-who-for-not-endorsing-its-herbal-cure/
  2. https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2020-03-14/hindu-group-offers-cow-urine-in-a-bid-to-ward-off-coronavirus
  3. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/14/coronavirus-bishop-who-defied-social-distancing-dies-covid-19/2987693001/?utm_source=Pew+Research+Center&utm_campaign=111da5ac62-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_04_14_12_57&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3e953b9b70-111da5ac62-400098637
  4. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-52149316
  5. https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Happy_Science
  6. https://www.nytimes.com/article/happy-science-japan-coronavirus-cure.html
  7. https://www.afro.who.int/news/who-supports-scientifically-proven-traditional-medicine?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhf7k9NK66QIVQb7ACh2IjAeoEAAYAiAAEgJgLfD_BwE

Moderna Vaccine More Than 94% Effective

Epigraph:

Every human life is precious and sacred and saving one is like saving the whole of humanity. (Al Quran 5:32)

The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles for the war against Covid 19, especially the vaccines. Suggested reading by the Muslim Times: Covid 19 is Not, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist

Moderna Vaccine Found Highly Effective at Preventing Covid

Source: Bloomberg

By Robert Langreth

  •  Vaccine has 94.5% efficacy in an analysis of late-stage trial
  •  Interim results suggest vaccine may also block severe cases

Moderna Inc. said its Covid-19 vaccine was 94.5% effective in a preliminary analysis of a large late-stage clinical trial, another sign that a fast-paced hunt by scientists and pharmaceutical companies is paying off with potent new tools that could help control a worsening pandemic.

The highly positive readout comes just a week after a similar shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE was found to be more than 90% effective in an interim analysis. Both shots rely on a technology called messenger RNA that has never been used to build an approved vaccine. Soon, millions of people around the world could be spared from illness by the breakthroughs.

A preliminary analysis of data from more than 30,000 volunteers showed Moderna’s vaccine prevented virtually all symptomatic cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the company said in a statement on Monday.

Moderna shares rose more than 9% in pre-market U.S. trading, while in Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was up 1.5%.

Read further

Ghamidi the Most Pluralistic Muslim Scholar from Pakistan

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, reformist scholar and popular television preacher. The Muslim Times has an extensive collection about pluralism and to overcome sectarian divide among the Muslims

Jāvēd Ahmed Ghāmidī (Urduجاوید احمد غامدی‎) (born April 18, 1951) is a PakistaniMuslim theologian, Quran scholar, Islamic modernist, exegete and educationist. He is also the founding President of Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences and its sister organisation Danish Sara.[3] He became a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology (responsible for giving legal advice on Islamic issues to the Pakistani Government and the country’s Parliament) on 28 January 2006, where he remained for a couple of years.[4] He also taught Islamic studies at the Civil Services Academy for more than a decade from 1979 to 1991.[5] He was also a student of Islamic scholar and exegete, Amin Ahsan Islahi. He is running an intellectual movement similar to Wasatiyyah, on the popular electronic media of Pakistan.[6] Currently he is Principal Research Fellow and Chief Patron of Ghamidi Center of Islamic Learning in Dallas, Texas, United States. Javed Ahmad Ghamidi was named in The Muslim 500 (The World’s Most Influential Muslims) in the 2019 and 2020 editions.

There are dozen of his videos in the YouTube. We have highlighted a few before as well in the Muslim Times.

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Did you know Harvard recognizes Quran as one of the best expressions for justice

Harvard University
John W. Weeks Bridge and clock tower over Charles River in Harvard University campus in Boston with trees, boat and blue sky. The Muslim Times has the best collection about the holy Quran

The university references a verse from the Quran, regarding it as one of the greatest expressions of justice in history.

Source: Step Feed

When it comes to the law, both legislation and implementation are deemed relative. But the same can’t be said for justice as by definition it is the offering of what is morally fair and right. As we know, the law should seek justice and Harvard knows exactly how Islam is doing so.

Harvard Law School, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions (No. 7 in the world, to be exact), actually speaks of justice at the entrance of its faculty library. In doing so, it references a verse from the Quran, regarding it as one of the greatest expressions of justice in history.

The phrase at hand is Verse 135 of Surat Al-Nisaa (The Women), which is posted on a wall facing the faculty’s main entrance, a wall that portrays some of the best phrases with regards to justice. The first media reports of the news date back to February 2014, but the news resurfaced on our newsfeed this week. We thought it’s worth a reminder especially in the age of rising Islamophobia in the U.S., particularly.

Read Further

Ayat Harward

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We have saved the above video in the Muslim Times as well:

Yusuf Cat Stevens tells us how he came to Islam through the reading of the holy Quran and the beautiful pure Monotheism in this:

The Water Cycle and the Holy Quran

Introduction by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

In this post, I intend to introduce a part of the popular book by Dr. Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, The Qur’an and Science, about the water cycle.

I would let him do the talking about harmony between the Quranic description and the modern understanding of the water cycle.

In my introduction, what I want to emphasize is what could have gone wrong, if the Holy Quran was not the literal word of God, as we see in the case of the Holy Bible, or was a myth, as we see in the case of the Chinese and the Japanese myths about creation.

The contrast with scientific contradictions in the Bible and sheer mythical nature of Chinese and Japanese traditions, brings out the elegance and beauty of the Holy Quran.

The Chinese tell of a time during the Hsia dynasty, in the third millennium before Jesus,  when our cosmic environment suddenly changed. Ten suns appeared in the sky. The people on earth suf­fered greatly from the heat, so the emperor ordered a famous archer to shoot down the extra suns. The archer was rewarded with a pill that had the power to make him immortal, but his wife stole it. For that offense she was banished to the moon.

The Japanese have their own share of myths.  According to them, Izanagi-no-Mikoto (male) and Izanami-no-Mikoto (female) were called by all the myriad gods and asked to help each other to create a new land which was to become Japan.  They were given a spear with which they stirred the water, and when removed water dripped from the end, an island was created in the great nothingness.  If our Western Navy personnel find these myths to be literally true our ships and fleets may begin to sink!

If you read your book of Genesis carefully, the earth is created before the sun, we can have days and nights before the creation of the sun, our earth has a roof or a vault called the sky, plants and animals gain existence only after mankind and to top it all off, Grand Ma Eve was created from Grand Pa Adam’s rib, while he was sleeping.

Additionally, there are only four rivers in the planet earth, if time and space were not a consideration, I could keep on reading Genesis over and over and keep on adding to this list.

According to the second chapter of Genesis seas have been created, the whole of universe is in place, God has rested for a day also and yet there has been no rain at all on planet earth.   The water cycle simply does not exist for the writers of the Holy Bible!

For additional details about scientific contradictions in the Bible and myths of different medieval cultures, read an article in the Muslim Sunrise, The Root Cause of Science and Religion Conflict: Wrong Theology!

Water Cycle

By Dr. Maurice Bucaille

When the verses of the Qur’an concerning the role of water in man’s existence are read in succession today. they all appear to us to express ideas that are quite obvious. The reason for this is simple: in our day and age, we all, to a lesser or greater extent, know about the water cycle in nature.

If however, we consider the various concepts the ancients had on this subject, it becomes clear that the data in the Qur’an do not embody the mythical concepts current at the time of the Revelation which had been developed more according to philosophical speculation than observed phenomena. Although it was empirically possible to acquire on a modest scale, the useful practical knowledge necessary for the improvement of the irrigation, the concepts held on the water cycle in general would hardly be acceptable today.

Thus it would have been easy to imagine that underground water could have come from the infiltration of precipitations in the soil. In ancient times however, this idea, held by Vitruvius Polio Marcus in Rome, 1st century B.C., was cited as an exception.  For many centuries therefore (and the Qur’anic Revelation is situated during this period) man held totally inaccurate views on the water cycle. Two specialists on this subject, G. Gastany and B. Blavoux, in their entry in the Universalis Encyclopedia (Encyclopedia Universalis) under the heading Hydrogeology (Hydrogéologie), give an edifying history of this problem.

“In the Seventh century B.C., Thales of Miletus held the theory whereby the waters of the oceans, under the effect of winds, were thrust towards the interior of the continents; so the water fell upon the earth and penetrated into the soil. Plato shared these views and thought that the return of the waters to the oceans was via a great abyss, the ‘Tartarus’. This theory had many supporters until the Eighteenth century, one of whom was Descartes. Aristotle imagined that the water vapour from the soil condensed in cool mountain caverns and formed underground lakes that fed springs. He was followed by Seneca (1st Century A.D.) and many others, until 1877, among them O. Volger . . . The first clear formulation of the water cycle must be attributed to Bernard Palissy in 1580. he claimed that underground water came from rainwater infiltrating into the soil. This theory was confirmed by E. Mariotte and P. Perrault in the Seventeenth century.

In the following passages from the Qur’an, there is no trace of the mistaken ideas that were current at the time of Muhammad: –sura 50, verses 9 to 11: “We sent down from the sky blessed water whereby We caused to grow gardens, grains for harvest, tall palm-trees with their spathes, piled one above the othersustenance for (Our) servants. Therewith We gave (new) life to a dead land. So will be the emergence (from the tombs).” –sura 23, verses 18 and 19: “We sent down water from the sky in measure and lodged it in the ground. And We certainly are able to withdraw it. Therewith for you We gave rise to gardens of palmtrees and vineyards where for you are abundant fruits and of them you eat.” –sura 15, verse 22: “We sent forth the winds that fecundate. We cause the water to descend from the sky. We provide you with the water-you (could) not be the guardians of its reserves.” There are two possible interpretations of this last verse. The fecundating winds may be taken to be the fertilizers of plants because they carry pollen. This may, however, be a figurative expression referring by analogy to the role the wind plays in the process whereby a non-raincarrying cloud is turned into one that produces a shower of rain. This role is often referred to, as in the following verses: –sura 35, verse 9: “God is the One Who sends forth the winds which raised up the clouds. We drive them to a dead land. Therewith We revive the ground after its death. So will be the Resurrection.” It should be noted how the style is descriptive in the first part of the verse, then passes without transition to a declaration from God. Such sudden changes in the form of the narration are very frequent in the Qur’an. –sura 30, verse 48: “God is the One Who sends forth the winds which raised up the clouds. He spreads them in the sky as He wills and breaks them into fragments. Then thou seest raindrops issuing from within them. He makes them reach such of His servants as He wills. And they are rejoicing.” –sura 7, verse 57: “(God) is the One Who sends forth the winds like heralds of His Mercy. When they have carried the heavy-laden clouds, We drive them to a dead land. Then We cause water to descend and thereby bring forth fruits of every kind. Thus We will bring forth the dead. Maybe you will remember.” –sura 25, verses 48 and 49: “(God) is the One Who sends forth the winds like heralds of His Mercy. We cause pure water to descend in order to revive a dead land with it and to supply with drink the multitude of cattle and human beings We have created.” –sura 45, verse 5: “. . . In the provision that God sends down from the sky and thereby He revives the ground after its death and in the change (of direction) of winds, there are Signs for people who are wise.” The provision made in this last verse is in the form of the water sent down from the sky, as the context shows. The accent is on the change of the winds that modify the rain cycle.

–sure 13, verse 17: “(God) sends water down from the sky so that the rivers flow according to their measure. The torrent bears away an increasing foam.”

Read further in the book in the chapter on Earth: The Bible the Quran and Science

Are Religions Pluralistic or Myopic and Parochial?

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The Muslim Times has the best collection for universal brotherhood and interfaith tolerance and to refute racism

By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The Gettysburg address by President Abraham Lincoln was only two minutes long, yet it is written in golden letters in history for all times to come.

On November 19, 1863 delivered the Gettysburg Address, at the official dedication ceremony for the National Cemetery of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, on the site of one of the bloodiest and most decisive battles of the Civil War. Though he was not the featured orator that day, Lincoln’s brief address would be remembered as one of the most important speeches in American history. In it, he invoked the principles of human equality contained in the Declaration of Independence and connected the sacrifices of the Civil War with the desire for ‘a new birth of freedom,’ as well as the all-important preservation of the Union created in 1776 and its ideal of self-government. (1)

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President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address

Lincoln’s deep voice echoed passionately: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (2)

He was inspired by his polished human conscience and his Christian faith. In the Gospel of Mark we read:

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (3)

In the Old Testament that is shared by the Christians and the Jews, we read:

“You must not exploit or oppress a foreign resident, for you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (4)

“You must treat the foreigner living among you as native-born and love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (5)

“Do not despise an Edomite, for he is your brother. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you lived as a foreigner in his land.” (6)

“You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners who dwell among you and who have children. You are to treat them as native-born Israelites; along with you, they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.” (7)

The first ideal in Confucianism is “Jen.” This is Confucius’ idea of the ultimate brotherly love. It is the idea that no matter where you live in the world, we are all brothers because we are all humans. To achieve Jen is to be able to devote yourself to making others happy, both those in your community and those within your family. As the old saying goes, treat others as you yourself would like to be treated. (8)

Mencius or Mengzi (372–289 BC) was a Chinese Confucian philosopher, who has often been described as the ‘second Sage,’ that is, after only Confucius himself. He is part of Confucius’s fourth generation of disciples.

He believed ‘Jen’ is implanted in the individual by T’ien (Heaven).  One could say Jen is our Heaven-endowed nature.   The Constant Virtue of Jen can be interpreted as the main principle of being Human. (9)

Five centuries before Christ, Confucius set forth his own Golden Rule: “Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself.” (10) The teaching of the Golden Rule in each religion is universal and transcends race, religion and gender.

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Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times and author of this article

All the prevalent world faiths, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, give a universal message. Nevertheless, they have parochial streaks available within their traditions and scriptures that those with myopic vision and ulterior motives can read in limited ways, in service of their nationalist or populist agenda as opposed to a universal one, in service of their political goals.

Read how Reid Turner, who attended Bethel University and Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN and pursued additional graduate studies at the University of Chicago, is reading a parochial message, just for the Christians, in the New Testament and accusing Pope Francis of misinterpreting the Bible, when the Pope speaks for universal brotherhood in our global village:

“In the following examples the Pope appears to be manipulating scripture to deemphasize Christian brotherhood and elevate universal brotherhood.  …

The Pope here is trying to identify the ‘little ones’ of Matthew 10:42 with the Universalist understanding of ‘brethren’ in Matthew 25:40, who he here equates with ‘the vulnerable of the Earth.’

There is nothing wrong or contrary to the Christian message to see the face of Christ in those who suffer. The point here is that Jesus never identifies Himself with them in a general sense in Matthew or anywhere else in the New Testament. He identifies only with His followers.

In my estimation there is evidence of a pattern; the Pope appears to be intentionally manipulating scripture to replace references to Christian brotherhood with the concept of universal brotherhood.” (11)

The New Testament and for that matter all religious scriptures are like a mirror, each reader, whether a Universalist or one with a myopic view, sees himself or herself in the mirror.

Likewise, all of the universal quotes of the Old Testament are ignored when the Zionist and the right wing politicians in Israel, want to insist on a Jewish state, at the detriment of the human rights of all the Palestinians, both the Christians and the Muslims.

Similar exploitation and misinterpretation of the universal message of the Quran by the myopic Muslim leaders can be cited. But, in the interest of space I am not going to pursue that here.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages. (12)

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The first two Articles of UDHR, among the 30 state:

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (12)

Devouts of each religion continue to claim that their religion is universal and in keeping with the 30 Articles of UDHR.

But, periodically they also come up with a more limited reading of their tradition and scriptures in one guise or the other. Allow me to ask the followers of each and every religion, do you believe in a universal religion or a parochial cult?  Do you read a pluralistic message of justice and compassion for the whole human family in our global village in your scripture or do you preach a limited message of ‘have’ and ‘have-nots’ to the exclusion of others, putting one group in ‘the chosen’ sphere and the other in ‘the heathens?’

I for one, by the Grace of Allah, do not waiver from the universal and the pluralistic message of the Quran.  No matter the circumstances or the audience!

This is how I read the Muslim scripture, the holy Quran, the final literal revelation of the All-Knowing God.

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Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan

My task has been made easy by none other than the celebrated polymath, Sir Zafrulla Khan. He became Pakistan’s first Foreign Minister in 1947 and served concurrently as leader of Pakistan’s delegation to the UN (1947–54). From 1954 to 1961 he served as a member of the International Court of Justice at The Hague. He again represented Pakistan at the UN in 1961–64 and served as president of the UN General Assembly in 1962–63. Returning to the International Court of Justice in 1964, he served as the court’s president from 1970 to 1973. (13)

He wrote a booklet correlating the 30 Articles of UDHR with various verses of the holy Quran. The booklet can be read online. His booklet is titled, Islam and Human Rights. (14)

I hope the Universalists in each religion will create a more comprehensive message from their respective traditions and scriptures and safeguard our one human family from being broken down into factions by corrupt parochial voices whether they come in the guise of patriotism, nationalism, fundamentalism of the respective religions or populism.

With this I rest my case against racism or dividing human societies or countries on the basis of religions or sects.

References

  1. History channel.
  2. History channel.
  3. Mark 12:28-31.
  4. Exodus 22:21.
  5. Leviticus 19:34.
  6. Deuteronomy 23:7
  7. Ezekiel 47:22.
  8. https://worldhistory.us/great-thinkers/confucianism-the-five-ideals.php
  9. Jen in Confucianism.
  10. https://www.amazon.com/Confucius-Golden-Rule-Russell-Freedman/dp/0439139570
  11. https://thefivebeasts.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/pope-francis-scripture-and-universal-brotherhood/
  12. https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
  13. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Muhammad-Zafrulla-Khan
  14. https://themuslimtimes.info/2018/05/24/book-review-islam-and-human-rights/

One Verse That Can Catapult Our Understanding of the Quran in Our Global Age

Epigraph:

We did not send you Muhammad, but as mercy for the whole mankind. (Al Quran 21:107/108)

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The Mosque of Medina, first built by the prophet Muhammad himself

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Some 44 million Muslims live peacefully as law abiding citizens in Europe.  They have not been brought there as slaves but they, their parents or their grand parents came there out of their sweet will and volition for better economic or other opportunities.

Travel back to 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus reached the American soil, the last city-state of Granada fell to the Christian rulers and every Muslim in Europe was either killed, banished or converted by force to Christianity.  There was then no one openly Muslim in the Christian Europe for a couple of centuries.

Today the Christians are their neighbors, colleagues and mentors.  Sometimes they are spouses and family members.

Obviously these are two polar opposite circumstances.  If the holy Quran is read as a rigid set of instructions about the Muslim-Christian interaction to create human societies, then it can obviously not handle both situations.

The way the Muslims of the fifteenth and the sixteenth century read the Christian-Muslim relationship in the Quran cannot be true for the twenty first century.

It is projected by the Pew Research Center that the Muslim population in Europe is growing; they project 10% of all Europeans will be Muslims by 2050.

Better paradigms for coexistence between the Muslims and the Christians are very much needed and for the Muslims it starts with their understanding of the Quran.

If my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, an American composer, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

Going back to the subject at hand: understanding the Quran:

A large majority of the Muslims read the Quran for blessings and delegate their understanding of the book to the scholar of their choice, who often defer it to the scholar of their choice of the past centuries.  This emphasis on the past scholarship leads to extreme conservatism and changes the Quran into a rigid document.

Omar Naseef writes in his article, God Is Living, So Why Does Religion Treat God As Dead?:

There’s a vigorous debate in the United States about the nature of our constitution. Liberals tend to argue that the constitution is a living document, while conservatives, like the late Justice Scalia, claim our constitution is “dead, dead, dead”.

If the authors of the constitution were alive today – having lived through 239+ years of U.S. history – do we really think they would ask their 1787 selves how to interpret the constitution?

In secular law, the debate is reasonable. Because the authors are dead and a “living” constitution risks judicial tyranny, we do need to find some way to reasonably restrain the interpretation, especially since we can amend the constitution if we aren’t happy with its meaning.

This same “living” versus dead argument often happens in religion. Those who argue for dead” are often conservatives, and they are hurting their own cause. It is proper for all of us to deliberate before breaking with long-held tradition. However, insisting that the understanding of sacred text is frozen puts the most fundamental belief of religion at risk.

When any religious person claims that a sacred text is “dead” – in that the understanding of its meaning is fixed forever – they are directly at odds with their own idea of a living, active God.

This relatively unknown author is not alone in his opinion. A polymath from the last century, Sir Zafrulla Khan who was the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan and President of United Nation General assembly for a term, among other accomplishments agrees:

It is this comprehensiveness of the Quran, the need to make provision for guidance in every respect for all peoples for all time, that made it necessary that the guidance should be conveyed in verbal revelation. The Quran is literally the Word of God and possesses the quality of being alive, as the universe is alive. It is not possible to set forth at any time the whole meaning and interpretation of the Quran or, indeed, of any portion of it with finality. It yields new truths and fresh guidance in every age and at every level. It is a standing and perpetual miracle (18:110).

The world is dynamic and so is the Quran. Indeed, so dynamic is the Quran that it has always been found to keep ahead of the world and never to lag behind it. However fast the pace at which the pattern of human life may change and progress, the Quran always yields, and will go on yielding, the needed guidance in advance. This has now been demonstrated through more than thirteen centuries, and that is a guarantee that it will continue to be demonstrated through the ages.

The Quran has proclaimed that falsehood will never overtake it. All research into the past and every discovery and invention in the future will affirm its truth (41:43). The Quran speaks at every level; it seeks to reach every type of understanding, through parables, similitudes, arguments, reasoning, the observation and study of the phenomena of nature, and the natural, moral, and spiritual laws (18:55; 39:28; 59:22).[1][2]

For the Quran to be dynamic it needs to be read in the context of the time.  The majority of the Spanish Christians may have been blood thirsty enemies in the 16th century but today in Europe they are neighbors, colleagues, teachers and mentors. They are benefactors of the Muslims in several capacities.  For some they are even spouses or blood relatives.  Unless we can read the Quranic principles according to the circumstances we are vulnerable to box ourselves into fixed paradigms to our and others’ detriment.

I believe that we need to grasp what is fundamental in the holy Quran and for that matter in any book or writing and not go after the allegorical. Let the fundamental define the allegorical and not vice versa. The Quran says:

He it is Who has sent down to you (Muhammad) the Book; in it there are verses that are fundamental or decisive in meaning — these are the corner stone of the Book — and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue those that are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and wrong interpretation of such ambiguous verses. And none knows their right interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding. (3:7/8)

So, what is a fundamental teaching?

A fundamental teaching is what is substantiated not from one perspective but from multiple or all angles. It is something which does  not leave the slightest doubt in your heart and mind. It is something that you can easily defend,  no matter who the audience. It is something that you like to preach to your children and you don’t hide from anyone. It is something that is true whether you are on the receiving end or the opposite. It is true whether you are a leader or a follower. It is true whether you are among the ‘haves’ or the ‘have-nots.’ It is not what is preached by one scholar, one leader or one sect of Islam. It is true if it follows the Golden Rule.

It is a fundamental teaching if it fulfills all or a majority of the above conditions.

A fundamental Quranic teaching is one that is not mentioned once or twice in the scripture, rather dozens of times from different angles and perspectives.

Once you have a few fundamentals going for you, you will be able to understand more and more of the Quranic text. The Quran will be made easy for you. You will begin to resolve the apparent conflicts in the Quran. Because your understanding would be in keeping of the Divine understanding and rise above the vulnerability of human inconsistencies and contradictions.

I believe that the verses about compassion and justice in the holy Quran are fundamental. As there are, Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran and scores of verses about justice in human affairs.

Let us read the whole of the Quran in light of the verse that has been mentioned as the epigraph and I promise you that you will not go wrong in your worldly or heavenly life:

We did not send you Muhammad, but as mercy for the whole mankind. (Al Quran 21:107/108)

This is the best pluralistic message, which as Muslims we can never forget or make it secondary to any other commandment or teaching.

May Allah grant us the courage and wisdom to read the scripture for ourselves and not through the limiting eyes of the scholar or the leader of our choice only.

Additional suggested reading: Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran

Reference

  1. https://themuslimtimes.info/2019/02/01/sir-zafrullah-khan-introducing-the-holy-quran-to-the-world/
  2. This quote is from the chapter about the Quran. Read the whole book online: ISLAM – Its Meaning For Modern Man