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

Myriam Francois-Cerrah
Myriam Francois-Cerrah

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.

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

Surah Rome: A Powerful Case for Our Creator God

Northern lights
Northern lights in Iceland. The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about the holy Quran and Monotheism

Allah says in verses 17-27 and I am quoting from the translation by Muhammad Abdel Haleem:

So celebrate God’s glory in the evening, in the morning – praise is due to Him in the heavens and the earth – in the late afternoon, and at midday. He brings the living out of the dead and the dead out of the living. He gives life to the earth after death, and you will be brought out in the same way. One of His signs is that He created you from dust and – lo and behold! – you became human and scattered far and wide. Another of His signs is that He created spouses from among yourselves for you to live with in tranquility: He ordained love and kindness between you. There truly are signs in this for those who reflect. Another of His signs is the creation of the heavens and earth, and the diversity of your languages and colors. There truly are signs in this for those who know. Among His signs are your sleep, by night and by day, and your seeking His bounty. There truly are signs in this for those who can hear. Among His signs, too, are that He shows you the lightning that terrifies and inspires hope; that He sends water down from the sky to restore the earth to life after death. There truly are signs in this for those who use their reason. Among His signs, too, is the fact that the heavens and the earth stand firm by His command. In the end, you will all emerge when He calls you from the earth. Everyone in the heavens and earth belongs to Him, and all are obedient to Him. He is the One who originates creation and will do it again – this is even easier for Him. He is above all comparison in the heavens and earth; He is the Almighty, the All Wise.

Suggested reading

Everything is a Miracle According to the Holy Quran and Albert Einstein

How Islam has Influenced Christian understanding of God

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

A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God

How Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque prepares Iftar for 30,000

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Arabic: جَامِع ٱلشَّيْخ زَايِد ٱلْكَبِيْر‎, romanized: Jāmiʿ Ash-Shaykh Zāyid Al-Kabīr) is located in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates.[1] The largest mosque in the country, it is the key place of worship for daily prayers, Friday gathering and Eid prayers. During Eid, it may be visited by more than 41,000 people.[1]

History The Grand Mosque was constructed between 1996 and 2007.[2] It was designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky.[3] The building complex measures approximately 290 by 420 m (950 by 1,380 ft), covering an area of more than 12 hectares (30 acres), excluding exterior landscaping and vehicle parking. The main axis of the building is rotated about 11° south of true west, aligning it in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Dimensions and alignment are estimated from satellite images; this information is not available at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque Web site as of 2014.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Muslim Times has the best collection to refute sectarianism among the Muslims

The project was launched by the late president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who wanted to establish a structure that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art.[4] His final resting place is located on the grounds adjacent to the complex.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center (SZGMC) offices are located in the west minarets. SZGMC manages the day-to-day operations and serves as a center of learning and discovery through its educational cultural activities and visitor programs.

The library, located in the northeast minaret, serves the community with classic books and publications addressing a range of Islamic subjects: sciences, civilization, calligraphy, the arts, and coins, including some rare publications dating back more than 200 years. The collection comprises material in a broad range of languages, including Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Korean.

For two years running, it was voted the world’s second favorite landmark by TripAdvisor.[5]

Suggested reading

Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran

Forty Hadiths or Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad about Compassionate Living

Surah Al Ma’un – The Common Kindness

Understanding Satan in the Quran Provides for Progressive Islam

Adam and Eve
Where was Eden, wherein Satan seduced Adam and Eve?

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

Satan or Iblis is mentioned no less than 60 times in the holy Quran. Is Satan a real physical entity or only a metaphorical construct?

The understanding of Satan by 1.6 billion Muslims is bogged down by the commentaries of these verses by numerous scholars in the last 1400 years.

I have found Jāvēd Ahmad Ghāmidī to be one of more progressive scholars in recent times and I have learnt from him on several issues, yet his description of Satan, even though modern in some ways is still elusive in other ways and self-contradictory, for his obsession with Jinn as beings created from energy, among his other ideological limitations. He is a Pakistani Muslim 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.[1] 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.[2] He also taught Islamic studies at the Civil Services Academy for more than a decade from 1979 to 1991.[3] He was also a student of the famous Islamic scholar and exegete, Amin Ahsan Islahi. He is running an intellectual movement similar to Wastiyya in Egypt on the popular electronic media of Pakistan.[4]

Here are his videos about Satan in Urdu:

Before dwelling further on this subject that many will find controversial, let me say, read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”

I believe the best understanding of Satan and the best commentary of these verses is provided in light of modern psychology and biology and a short description here will clarify centuries of debate and also give us a paradigm for a progressive understanding of the holy Quran and Islam.

Study of human mind in the last two centuries in the field of psychology has not shown any evidence of thought insertion by external beings in normal and healthy human functioning.  As a physician and a student of psychology, I know, I own all my thoughts and am responsible for them.  All Knowing God can reveal Himself to the prophets and saints, He is Omnipresent and Omniscient, attributes that our conscience refuses to attribute to Satan, or we will be believing in almost two Gods, one of virtue and the other of evil, akin to a belief in Zoroastrianism.

Please find all the sixty two mentions of Satan or Iblis in the Quran, in the references below.[1]  In each instance it is easy to attribute the sin or misconduct to human failings rather than an external invisible being. I will examine just one instance here today, “And he who turns away from the remembrance of the Gracious God, We appoint for him a Satan, who becomes his companion.” (Al Quran 43:36) As someone gradually grows away from the concept of All Knowing God, who is All-Aware of our inner most thoughts and all our deeds, he becomes more and more vulnerable to sins and crime, as human psychology and daily experience suggests and we need not invoke an external Satan. Suggested reading and viewing of a National Geographic documentary: All Knowing, All Seeing God Keeps Us Away from Crime and Sin: See the Evidence.

The holy Quran describes a meeting of God, angles, Satan, Adam and Eve on several occasions.  Such a meeting never happened in a physical sense and is only a metaphor.  A metaphor that was very necessary for the first addressees of the holy Quran, the seventh century Arab desert dwellers, unless Allah was going to teach them all about human biology and evolution, with proofs and details.  A discussion which would have been very likely to transform the struggle for spiritual life into modern day debates among the creationists and evolutionists.

Homo-sapiens have evolved from chimpanzee like animals in the last 200,000 years or so.  Molecular biology has become fool proof evidence for the common ancestry of all life on the planet earth.  The debate is over as far as this aspect of evolution is concerned.  Now only the ill informed or stubborn debate this issue.

Watch the logical presentation of molecular biology in the short video below and think, would you rather agree with this or with the convoluted  description of Jāvēd Ahmad Ghāmidī above?

If our understanding of the 62 verses talking about Satan and Iblis is guided by human psychology and biology, rather than an insistence on literalism, then stage is set for reading the holy Quran with an open mind, rather than in a fixed framework of our ideology and instead of using the scripture for legalistic debates we begin to read it in the privacy of our minds for a better understanding of religion for individual spirituality, rather than making it into a dueling sport or the basis of our politics or governance.

The Eden from which Adam and Eve were expelled was not somewhere in heavens or paradise, but on this very planet earth!

Suggested reading:

Biology of Our Human Family: Who are We Related To?

Jinn: Do They Exist?

Hamza Yusuf on Jinns: Powerful Men or Demons?

Saving the Muslims From Exorcisms and Jinns

The Holy Quran and the Seventh Century Arabian Metaphors

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

Possessed by Jinns: Many Medieval Muslim Scholars Need Exorcism

References

  1. 2:34, 36, 168, 208, 268; 3:175; 4:76, 117, 120; 6:43, 142; 7:11, 27, 175, 200, 201; 12:5, 42; 15:17, 31, 32;  16:63, 98; 17:27, 53, 61; 18:50, 63; 19:44, 45, 68, 83; 20:116, 117, 120; 22:3, 52, 53; 24:21; 25:29, 55; 26:95;  27:24, 25; 29:38; 31:21; 35:6; 37:7; 38:41, 74, 75; 34:20; 36:60; 41:36; 43:36, 62; 47:25; 58:10, 19; 59:16; 67:5; 81:25.

We have saved the above videos in the Muslim Times as well to preserve them for the posterity:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything is a Miracle According to the Holy Quran and Albert Einstein

Epigraph:

He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (Al Quran 59:24/25)

universe-and-man
The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles on the theme of religion and science, interfaith tolerance, Judaism and Christianity

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

Albert Einstein, the man of the century for the 20th century, according to the Time magazine has the following quote attributed to him.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.  Albert Einstein

I will let any true atheist explain the first half of the quote, while I will explain the second half of the quote, which I live by and which I believe, ‘everything is a miracle,’ is not only a quote of Einstein, but a central tenant of the holy Quran and which is repeated often in the scripture, alluding to different things or phenomena with different emphasis on each occasion.

quote-there-are-two-ways-to-live-you-can-live-as-if-nothing-is-a-miracle-you-can-live-as-if-everything-albert-einstein-56459

In the epigraph of this article we read, “All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah;” in other words every thing is a miracle. Stated another way in the holy Quran: “Indeed, in the heavens and the earth are Signs for those who believe.” (Al Quran 45:3)

In Surah Rome we read:

So celebrate God’s glory in the evening, in the morning–praise is due to Him in the heavens and the earth– in the late afternoon, and at midday. He brings the living out of the dead and the dead out of the living. He gives life to the earth after death, and you will be brought out in the same way.  One of His Signs is that He created you from dust and– lo and behold! – you became human and scattered far and wide. Another of His Signs is that He created spouses from among yourselves for you to live with in tranquility: He ordained love and kindness between you. There truly are Signs in this for those who reflect. Another of His Signs is the creation of the heavens and earth, and the diversity of your languages and colors. There truly are Signs in this for those who know. Among His Signs are your sleep, by night and by day, and your seeking His bounty. There truly are Signs in this for those who can hear. Among His Signs, too, are that He shows you the lightning that terrifies and inspires hope; that He sends water down from the sky to restore the earth to life after death. There truly are Signs in this for those who use their reason. Among His Signs, too, is the fact that the heavens and the earth stand firm by His command. (Al Quran 30:17-25)

The very creation of the universe, what the scientists describe as the Big Bang, was a miracle, which in turn set up a chain of events of further miracles and the holy Quran alludes to this in the following verses:

Do not the disbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were a closed-up mass, then We opened them out? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? And We put firm mountains on the earth, lest it should sway under them, and set broad paths on it, so that they might follow the right direction, and We made the sky a well-secured canopy– yet from its wonders or miracles they turn away. It is He who created night and day, the sun and the moon, each floating in its orbit.  (Al Quran 21:30-33)

Having outlined the miracles or Signs mentioned in the Quran, Today I want to share only one miracle in our world, from a scientific perspective, what has been dubbed as Quantum entanglement, as described by a NOVA documentary:

If we start our spiritual journey from the study of the nature, as is suggested by the holy Quran dozen of times, all the Monotheists, be they Jews, Christians or Muslims of whatever sect, will be drawn together in glorifying and worshiping the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; rather than being cleaved apart by details where they differ, in different revelations to the different prophets including the person of Jesus, may peace be on him.

Suggested reading

Deism: Common between Islam, Christianity and Judaism

Patriarch Abraham’s Deism and Monotheism: The Best Paradigm For Interfaith Tolerance

12 Famous Scientists On The Possibility Of God

Every Ray of Light Gives Us Eternal Hope in God’s Providence

Religion and Science: The Indispensable God-hypothesis

We have saved the above documentary in the Muslim Times as well so we do not loose the miracle of this article in future:

 

Demystifying Freedom of Speech from the Holy Quran

FREEDOM-facebook
The Muslim Times has collected every thing useful about free speech and its limitation

Source: The Muslim Sunrise; Summer 2016

By Zia H Shah MD

As I write this article in April of 2016, two very dramatic events have occurred in the domain of freedom of speech or shall we say lack thereof, within the last month.

In Bangladesh, Nazimuddin Samad, 28, who had been on a hit list of 84 bloggers drawn up by Islamists in Bangladesh, was hacked to death and then shot. Last year, suspected militants hacked to death at least four atheist bloggers and a secular publisher in one of a series of targeted killings.i

In Glasgow, UK, the man accused of murdering Glasgow shopkeeper Asad Shah has issued a statement, saying he carried out the killing because he believed Mr. Shah had “disrespected” Islam. Tanveer Ahmed, 32, from Bradford, is accused of killing Mr. Shah outside his shop in Glasgow.

In the statement he denied the incident had anything to do with Christianity.

Mr. Ahmed claimed Asad Shah had “disrespected” Islam. The shopkeeper, an Ahmadi Muslim, who had moved from Pakistan to Glasgow almost 20 years ago, was found with serious injuries outside his shop on Minard Road in Shawlands on the 24th of March. He was pronounced dead in hospital. Mr. Shah was killed just hours after he posted an Easter message on Facebook, wishing his Christian customers a happy Easter.ii

Such violence in the name of Islam is complete antithesis of what Islam truly stands for.

Those of us, who have seen the Message movie, about the life of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, would recall a scene, when the companions of the Prophet are saying the creed of Islam or Kalimah in Kaaba.

The non-Muslim Meccans start throwing stones at them and start beating them.

The character of Hamza, who is not a Muslim yet, being played by Anthony Quinn, enters the courtyard of Kaaba and says tauntingly to Abu Jahal, one of the main leaders of the Meccans, “He is the bravest man in the desert, when he meets unarmed men!”

Abu Jahal retorts, “Muhammad is a liar.”

Hamza responds, “Where is the lie and where is the truth, when it has not been spoken yet.  You do not let him speak?”

Early Muslims were for free speech and their opponents, the Meccans for coercion and taking away the freedom of speech of the early Muslims.

Free speech is certainly a tool of the believers and it is mentioned as such several times in the Holy Quran.  For example, “And let there be among you a body of men who should invite to goodness, and enjoin equity and forbid evil. And it is they who shall prosper.”iii And, “And the believers, men and women, are friends one of another. They enjoin good and forbid evil and observe Prayer and pay the Zakat.”iv

The Holy Quran issues a challenge to the non-believers to produce its equivalent, if they do not esteem it to be word of All Knowing God: “And if you are in doubt as to what We (Allah) have sent down to Our servant (Muhammad), then produce a Chapter like it, and call upon your helpers besides Allah, if you are truthful.”v

The Quranic challenge is indeed freedom of speech for the non-believers.

The Holy Quran repeats this challenge with slight variation several times:

  • Do they say, ‘He has forged it?’ Say, ‘Bring then a Surah (chapter) like unto it, and call for help on all you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.’vi
  • Do they say, ‘He has forged it?’ Say, ‘Then bring ten chapters like it, forged, and call on whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.’vii
  • Say, ‘If mankind and the Jinn gathered together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like thereof, even though they should help one another.’viii

The Holy Quran is inviting non-believers to bring their proofs and argue against every Quranic proposition.  If this is not freedom of speech, I do not know what is?

The Quranic freedom is not only for the likeminded or the yes men, but for the contrarians or those who beg to differ. For example the Quran says: “And the Jews and the Christians say, ‘None shall ever enter Heaven unless he be a Jew or a Christian.’ These are their vain desires. Say, ‘Produce your proof, if you are truthful.’”ix

Many a non-Muslim philosophers have expressed similar sentiments, for example, Noam Chomsky says, “If we do not believe in the freedom of expression for the people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”x French philosopher François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), known by his pseudonym Voltaire is attributed the following quote, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I ‘ll defend to the death your right to say it.”xi

Read further on page 27 of: The Muslim Sunrise; 2016_summer

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