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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A Ted Talk As Commentary of A Verse of the Quran

Epigraph:

“I have created men, high and low, but to worship Me.” (Al Quran 51:56)

Jonathan Haidt’s Ted Talk: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt asks a simple, but difficult question: why do we search for self-transcendence? Why do we attempt to lose ourselves? In a tour through the science of evolution by group selection, he proposes a provocative answer.

The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about the Quran and human psychology

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

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

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

The above one minute video clip is by Jaggi Vasudev also known as Sadhguru.

His criticism certainly needs to be tackled by the three Abrahamic faiths, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as they all believe in Afterlife.

Many a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim believe that their belief in Afterlife gives them hope, inspiration and sense of purpose.

To state the obvious, Afterlife and heaven and hell are described both in the Bible and the Quran.

The believers base their belief in the Afterlife on their faith in the respective scriptures, which is all well and good. But, this does not open up an avenue of discussion for them against the views of the agnostics, the atheists or those who do not believe in their respective scriptures.

The holy Quran does not only claim Afterlife but also suggests a poignant philosophical argument for it that is based in science.

The simple yet very profound argument has two parts:

A. This universe is not an accident. Its beauty, complexity and wonderful organization suggests an Insightful, All Knowing Creator.

B. The Creator of the first creation, in His creation, has certainly demonstrated His ability to recreate it.

Now, I propose to elaborate these two claims.

According to a Gallup poll in 2019, a large majority of the US population, 78% to be exact, believes in God the Creator, this includes both the camps of those who believe in guided evolution or creationism.

Despite the fact that significant population now identifies itself as unaffiliated to any religion, only 22% of Americans do not believe God had any role in human evolution.

I believe in guided evolution, as I believe both in a Creator God and in the facts of biological evolution.

Scientists and philosophers from all Abrahamic faiths, including myself, have laid out forceful arguments for our Creator God and I have been collecting these over the years and I propose to put them at your finger tips here:

How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

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

Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians

Photosynthesis: deserving of our awe or ridicule?

Allah the Creator, the Maker and the Fashioner: The Best Documentary on Birds

The anesthesia of familiarity: There should be a Creator of Our Universe

The Beauty and the GPS of the Birds and the Quran

Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God

A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

Plain Water will Tell you the Story

Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe by Martin Rees

The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? by Paul Davies

Moon: Does it have a purpose?

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

Twelve Famous Scientists On The Possibility Of God

The above should suffice for the first part of my thesis: This universe is not an accident. Its beauty, complexity and wonderful organization suggests an Insightful, All Knowing Creator.

Once the reader is comfortable with the first part, the next part, the Creator of the first creation, in His creation, has certainly demonstrated His ability to recreate it, naturally flows from it.

The holy Quran presents this reasoning, with different aspects of God’s creation several times. For starters: “Do they not see that Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, has the power to create the like of them?” (Al Quran 17:100)

Next I present, a verse of the Holy Quran, where Allah cites gravity and planetary motion as a pointer, towards His creativity and eventual hereafter:

Allah is He Who raised up the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne. And He pressed the sun and the moon into service: each pursues its course until an appointed term. He regulates it all. He clearly explains the Signs, that you may have a firm belief in the meeting with your Lord.  (Al Quran 13:3)

The Quran offers only one line of reasoning for the second creation, namely the first creation. Allah argues that one who has created this complex and awe inspiring universe and all  the life forms on our planet earth, should be able to recreate human life and of course the individual humans.

The Holy Quran discusses reincarnation in greater detail in the following verses in the chapter Yasin, adding the domain of biology to that of astronomy as the argument is built further, from the first creation:

Does not man see that We have created him from a mere sperm-drop? Yet lo! he is an open quarreler!  And he coins similitudes for Us and forgets his own creation. He says, ‘Who can quicken the bones when they are decayed?’  Say, ‘He, Who created them the first time, will quicken them; and He knows every kind of creation full well. He Who produces for you fire out of the green tree, and behold, you kindle from it.  Has not He Who created the heavens and the earth the power to create the like of them?’ Yea, and He is indeed the Supreme Creator, the All-Knowing.   Indeed,  His command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, ‘Be!,’ and it is.  So Holy is He, in Whose hand is the kingdom of all things. And to Him will you all be brought back.  (Al Quran 36:78-84)

In several places the Quran uses biology and regeneration of earth in spring as a metaphor for Afterlife:

Among His Signs is this that you see the earth lying withered, but when We send down water on it, it stirs and swells with verdure. Surely He Who quickens the earth can quicken the dead also. Indeed, He has power over all things. (Al Quran 41:40)

And:

He brings forth the living from the dead, and He brings forth the dead from the living; and He gives life to the earth after its death. And in like manner shall you be brought forth. (Al Quran 30:20)

The debate we are having here is not a new one but is an age old conflict between the believers and non-believers, as the holy Quran describes:

They say, ‘What! when we are dead and have become mere dust and bones, shall we indeed be raised up again? This is what we have been promised before, we and our fathers. This is nothing but fables of the ancients.’ Say, ‘To whom belongs the earth and whosoever is therein, if you know?’‘To Allah’, they will say. Say, ‘Will you not then be admonished?’ Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and the Lord of the Great Throne?’ They will say, ‘They are Allah’s.’ Say, ‘Will you not then take Him as your Protector?’(Al Quran 23:83-88)

The Quran is well aware of comments of critics like Jaggi Vasudev:

And they say, ‘There is nothing but this our present life; we die and we live here; and nothing but Time destroys us.’ But they have no knowledge of that; they do but conjecture. And when Our clear Signs are recited unto them, their only contention is that they say, ‘Bring back our fathers, if you are truthful.’ (Al Quran 45:25-26)

The Quran has a clear answer for its critics. As long as the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and other scientist are able to demonstrate there is a Creator of our universe, we are on very firm grounds to believe in the Afterlife. The first creation is proof enough for the future second creation.

I rest my case.

A British Convert to Islam: ‘I found Qur’an mother of all philosophies’

Myriam Francois-Cerrah
Myriam Francois-Cerrah.  The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about the holy Quran

Source: Arab News

By Myriam Francois-Cerrah, who became popular when she was a child for acting in the 90s hit film ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ Now she is gaining more popularity for being one of a growing number of educated middle class female converts to Islam in Britain. She has recently contributed to a series of videos on Islam produced in the UK titled, “Inspired by Muhammad.”

I embraced Islam after graduating from Cambridge. Prior to that I was a skeptical Catholic — a believer in God but with a mistrust of organized religion.

The Qur’an was pivotal for me. I first tried to approach it in anger, as part of an attempt to prove my Muslim friend wrong. Later I began reading it with a more open mind.

The opening of Al-Fatiha, with its address to the whole of mankind, psychologically stopped me in my tracks. It spoke of previous scriptures in a way, which I both recognized, but also differed. It clarified many of the doubts I had about Christianity. It made me an adult as I suddenly realized that my destiny and my actions had consequences for which I alone would now be held responsible.

In a world governed by relativism, it outlined objective moral truths and the foundation of morality.

Aside: Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran

As someone who’d always had a keen interest in philosophy, the Qur’an felt like the culmination of all of this philosophical cogitation.

It combined Kant, Hume, Sartre and Aristotle. It somehow managed to address and answer the deep philosophical questions posed over centuries of human existence and answer its most fundamental one, ‘why are we here?’

In the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), I recognized a man who was tasked with a momentous mission, like his predecessors, Moses, Jesus and Abraham (peace be upon them all).

I had to pick apart much of the Orientalist libel surrounding him in order to obtain accurate information, since the historical relativism which people apply to some degree when studying other historical figures, is often completely absent, in what is a clear attempt to disparage his person.

I think many of my close friends thought I was going through another phase and would emerge from the other side unscathed, not realizing that the change was much more profound.

Some of my closest friends did their best to support me and understand my decisions. I have remained very close to some of my childhood friends and through them I recognize the universality of the divine message, as God’s values shine through in the good deeds any human does.

I have never seen my conversion as a ‘reaction’ against, or an opposition to my culture. In contrast, it was a validation of what I’ve always thought was praiseworthy, while being a guidance for areas in need of improvement. I also found many mosques not particularly welcoming and found the rules and protocol confusing and stressful.

I did not immediately identify with the Muslim community. I found many things odd and many attitudes perplexing. The attention given to the outward over the inward continues to trouble me deeply.

There is a need for a confident, articulate British Muslim identity which can contribute to the discussions of our time. Islam is not meant to be an alien religion, we shouldn’t feel like we’ve lost all trace of ourselves. Islam is a validation of the good in us and a means to rectify the bad.

Islam is about always having balance and I think the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) message was fundamental about having balance and equilibrium in all that we do.

The Prophet’s message was always that you repel bad with good that you always respond to evil with good and always remember that God loves justice so even when people are committing serious injustices against you, you have a moral responsibility and a moral obligation in front of God to always uphold justice and never yourself transgress those limits.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: ‘Forgive him who wrongs you. Join him who cuts you off. Do good to him who does evil to you and speak the truth even if it be against yourself.’

Islam’s beauty really becomes to its own when it becomes manifest; and it becomes manifest when you make it into a tool for the betterment of society, human kind and the world.

The ideal from an Islamic perspective is for ethics to become living ethics, to become an applied body of values and not remain unfortunately as it often is cloistered somewhere which is some more divorced from reality.

Reference

Additional Reading

Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran

BBC Talk show: Almost 100,000 Britons have converted to Islam

The Holy Quran as the Miracle of the Holy Prophet

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Psalm 23 – A psalm of David: A Message of Hope

flower-hope-earth-climate-change-e1493332891171

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,a]”>[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

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

A Muslim could read this Psalm as a commentary on the Quranic verses 65:2-3.

Videos: Let Joel Osteen Breathe Hope, Optimism and Success in Your Life

Our Favorite Christian Prayer by Saint Francis

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

Al Hakeem: The Wise, The Creator With A Purpose

Cataloging 750 verses of the Holy Quran inspiring believers to study nature

If Gravity Exists, So Does God

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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Female Koran reciters ‘part of Islamic legacy’

The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about the holy Quran and the Muslim women rights

Female Koran reciters ‘part of Islamic legacy’

Around the world, there are differing attitudes to female voices reciting the Koran. For some, it’s thought they should be restricted to female-only spaces, reciting verses in women prayer circles or Islamic lectures, for fear that the voice in public is “sinful”.

But in many cultures it is encouraged and there is growing appetite to bring more women into the field.

Producer: Sophia Smith-Galer

You can find out more by listening to the World Service’s Heart and Soul programme here.