Al Wassay God and the Expanding Universe

Epigraph:

And the heaven We built with our own powers and indeed We go on expanding it. . (Al Quran 51:47)

galaxy_universe-normal
The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles on the theme of religion and science

By Dr. Zia H Shah and Dr. Lutf ur Rehman

Published in the Muslim Sunrise (The Oldest Muslim Publication of North America)

The Holy Qur’an invites mankind to ponder on the universe that He has created.  The Qur’an urges us to reflect on the Laws of Nature — with examples drawn from cosmology, physics, biology and medicine — as signs for all men. For example the Glorious Qur’an says, “Do they not then look at the camel, how it is created? And at the heaven, how it is raised high?’ (Al Quran: chapter Ghashiayah)

Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IV, wrote in his book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth:

At the time the Holy Qur’an was revealed, the human understanding of the nature of the cosmos and the movement or the stillness of the heavenly bodies was extremely primitive and obscure. This is no longer the case, as our knowledge of the universe has considerably advanced and expanded by the present age.  Some of the theories relating to the creation of the universe have been verified as facts, whereas some others are still being explored.  The concept of the expanding universe belongs to the former category, and has been universally accepted by the scientific community as ‘fact’. This discovery was first made by Edwin Hubble in the 1920s. Yet some thirteen centuries before this, it was clearly mentioned in the Qur’an in Sura Dhariyat: And the heaven We built with Our own powers (aydin) and indeed We go on expanding it (musi’un).  It should be remembered that the concept of the continuous expansion of the universe is exclusive to the Qur’an. No other Divine scriptures even remotely hint at it.

Read further on page 27 of the Winter 2016 volume of the Muslim Sunrise: Muslim Sunrise Winter 2016 volume

The Concept of Justice in Islam by Sir Zafrulla Khan

scales-of-justice

Author: Sir Zafrulla Khan

The Quran has at various places reiterated this principle.

And the recompense of an injury is a penalty the like thereof; but whoso forgives and his act brings about reformation, his reward is with God. Surely, He loves not the wrongdoers.(XLII. 41)

This verse lays down the principle that the penalty in respect of a wrong or injury should be in proportion thereto, but that where forgiveness would lead to reformation, the injury should be forgiven or the penalty may be reduced. A Contravention of either of these principles would amount to wrong doing. A penalty severer than that demanded by the wrong or injury done, or, forgiveness or lenience in a case where the circumstances do not indicate that forgiveness might result in improvement or reformation would both be wrong.

Again:

Surely, God wrongs not anyone even by the weight of an atom. And if there be a good deed, He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward. (IV. 41)

The same principle is repeated in various contexts. For instance:

For those who do good deeds, there shall be the best reward and yet more blessings. And neither darkness nor ignominy shall cover their faces. (X. 27)

And as for those who do. evil deeds, the punishment of an evil shall be the like thereof, and ignominy shall cover them. (X. 28)

It may be pointed out that the safeguarding against darkness and ignominy in one case and being subjected to ignominy in the other is, in the strict sense, not a part of the reward or the penalty, but is a consequence which flows from the nature of the act in each case. It is a quality of good and evil respectively.

Whoso does a good deed shall have ten times as much; but he who does an evil deed, shall have only a like reward; and they shall not be wronged. (VI. 161)

Whoso does evil will be requited only with the like of it; but whoso does good, whether male or female, and is a believer-these will enter the Garden; they will be provided therein without measure. (XL. 41)

Read the book in PDF format: The-Concept-of-Justice-in-Islam

The author has counted the very first verse of each surahBismillah, which is common to all surahs except for one. So please adjust the count by one depending on your volume of the Quran.

About the author of the book from Encyclopedia Britannica:

Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan

“Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan was a Pakistani politician, diplomat, and international jurist, known particularly for his representation of Pakistan at the United Nations (UN).

The son of the leading attorney of his native city, Zafrulla Khan studied at Government College in Lahore and received his LL.B. from King’s College, London University, in 1914. He practiced law in Sialkot and Lahore, became a member of the Punjab Legislative Council in 1926, and was a delegate in 1930, 1931, and 1932 to the Round Table Conferences on Indian reforms in London. In 1931–32 he was president of the All-India Muslim League (later the Muslim League), and he sat on the British viceroy’s executive council as its Muslim member from 1935 to 1941. He led the Indian delegation to the League of Nations in 1939, and from 1941 to 1947 he served as a judge of the Federal Court of India.

Prior to the partition of India in 1947, Zafrulla Khan presented the Muslim League’s view of the future boundaries of Pakistan to Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the man designated to decide the boundaries between India and Pakistan. Upon the independence of Pakistan, Zafrulla Khan became the new country’s minister of foreign affairs 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.

He was knighted in 1935. He is the author of Islam: Its Meaning for Modern Man (1962) and wrote a translation of the Qur’an (1970).” [Encylopaedia Britannica]

Running Scared of the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful?

Epigraph

But whoso does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven, and shall not be wronged even as much as the little groove in a date-stone. (Al Quran 4:124)

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The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles on the holy Quran and to overcome sectarian divide among the Muslims

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

I did my high school and early college from Cadet College Hasanabdal, 1973-1978. Our religious studies teacher was Chaudhary Muhammad Hussain. Before he did masters and became a teacher, he used to be a police inspector.

He told us an interesting story during one of his classes, while talking about theft. He shared with us the most successful method to get a confession from a Muslim accused of theft, from his police service years.  He said it was common that those accused of theft will give false testimony even after swearing on the Quran.  But, there was one thing that scared them to death.  He said that the police investigators would get three stones and ask the accused to place his hand on them and say that if he lies, let there be three divorces to his wife. With the hand on the stones they will not give false testimony, lest their wives are divorced and next time they are intimate with them they will be committing adultery and possibly fathering bastards. This put the fear of God in them.

Most theologians today will say that such a divorce is not valid but nevertheless it scared the accused to a degree that nothing else did. The accused were not afraid of stealing or swearing false testimony on the Quran, but were scared to death of the three divorces that would not have been valid. An ill placed fear because of the personal, social and religious conditioning of the persons involved.

We may not have committed a theft but many of our religious leaders hold us in the palm of their hands and keep scaring us into contradictory ideas.

They quote numerous verses of the Quran to tell us that God of Islam is the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful and yet based on literal reading of some other verses of the Quran scare everyone that non-believers will go to an eternal hell.  An infinite punishment for a finite crime and the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful God, please give me a break!

They tell us that the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, is mercy for all the people in the world and in the same breath teach extreme prejudice against the people of other sects and scare us enough to believe in those ideas.

They teach us that there is freedom of religion in Islam but, ‘we will kill the apostates,’ scared to death, we accept the ideas of the so called scholars, no matter how nonsensical those are.

The so called scholars tell us that the non-believers mocked at the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, during his lifetime, and had the freedom of speech, as so says the Quran in Surah Munafiqoon, but they will kill the blasphemer and we readily yield.

Some of them teach us interfaith tolerance with the Christians and the Jews but discrimination against many a Muslim, we oblige.

They teach us that they love Islam and would do anything to help promote it, but do not collaborate to the slightest degree if it is not their sect or their myopic view and many won’t move an inch unless they are the lead dog and we don’t mind.

But, here is my proclamation of emancipation for all the Muslims.

We are not obliged to honor contradictory life style or to follow contradictory instructions or hold contradictory views. The Quran says in Surah Nisa:

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ ۚوَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللَّـهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا

Will they not, then, meditate upon the Qur’an? Had it been from anyone other than All-Knowing Allah, they would surely have found therein many contradictions. (Al Quran 4:82)

The All Knowing God and His religion and His literal word, the holy Quran, cannot be contradictory.  But, humans are always vulnerable to be contradictory!

Conflict or contradictory ideas lead to anxiety, depression and inaction.

The mental conflict below the level of conscious awareness is called unconscious conflict. The conflicts in conscious level, when repressed, shifts to unconscious. Here the desires which cannot be satisfied at conscious level are repressed to unconscious level as a mechanism of escaping. Many of our wants raised by Id may not be socially acceptable. Such wants are objected by the Ego and the Super ego. Hence these are repressed to unconscious.

The repressed desires or wishes remain active in the unconscious part of our mind. They slowly gather strength by making alliance with other similar experiences and become stronger. This group of repressed wants which is working for the satisfaction try to come back to the conscious. This process is called complex. As soon as complexes are formed they give rise to conflicts in the unconscious.

They try to come back to conscious, but prevented by censor or preconscious. So they try to enter the conscious level when censor is at rest or sleep. They may appear in the form of dreams, slip of tongue, slip of pen, motivated forgetting, etc. Sometimes they may appear in the form of peculiar behavior and mannerisms.

I refuse to accept contradictory ideas, no matter what the station of the religious authority or how many of them, to keep my sanity and peace of mind.

It is best to have courage and resolve the conflict and not let the conflict of your parents, your leaders or your loved ones become your conflict.  This can be avoided by exploration, learning and placing the blame where it belongs rather than trying to displace it.

The preachers of many of the sects of Islam, keep scaring us, day in day out, in trying to stress whatever  is their agenda of the day and not too infrequently it is stressing the sectarian differences.

We need to have better appreciation of the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful and our accountability.

There is a Hadith in Sahih Bukhari: There was a man who had heartlessly murdered ninety-nine people. Then, he felt remorse.

He went to a learned man and told him about his past, explaining that he wished to repent, reform, and become a better person. “I wonder if Allah will pardon me?” he asked.

For all his learning, the scholar was a man who had not been able to digest what he had learned. “You will not be pardoned;’ he said. “Then I may as well kill you, too,” said the other. And kill him he did.

He then found another worthy individual and told him that he had killed a hundred people. “I wonder,” he said, “whether Allah will pardon me if I repent?” Being a truly wise man, he replied, “Of course you will be pardoned; repent at once. I have just one piece of advice for you: avoid the company of wicked people and mix with good people, for bad company leads one into sin:”

The man expressed repentance and regret, weeping as he sincerely implored his Lord to pardon him. Then, turning his back on bad company, he set off to find a neighborhood where righteous people lived.

On the way, his appointed hour arrived, and he died. The angels of punishment and of mercy both came to take away his soul. The angels of punishment said that as a sinful person he rightfully belonged to them, but the angels of mercy also claimed him, saying, “He repented and had resolved to become a good man. He was on his way to a place where righteous people live, but his appointed hour had come.” A great debate ensued, and Gabriel was sent as an arbitrator to settle this affair.

After hearing both sides he gave this verdict: “Measure the ground. If the spot where he died is closer to the good people, then he belongs to the angels of mercy, but if it is nearer to the wicked people, he will be given to the angels of punishment.”

They measured the ground. Because the man had just set out, he was still closer to the wicked. But because he was sincere in his repentance, the Lord moved the spot where he lay and brought it to just outside the city of the good people.

That penitent servant was handed over to the angels of mercy.

The most encouraging verse in regards to Divine forgiveness to me seems to be: “Surely, Allah will not forgive that any partner be associated with Him; but He will forgive whatever is short of that to whomsoever He pleases. And whoso associates partners with Allah has indeed devised a very great sin.” (Al Quran 4:48)

However, I do believe that all the verses on a given subject should be read in unison to come to a more balanced understanding.  So, I am going to list several verses below, which I believe have a clear bearing on the issue of ultimate forgiveness and salvation on the Day of Judgment.  First a few verses about the accounting and scaling the good deeds versus the evil ones:

The Crashing Blow! What is the Crashing Blow? What will explain to you what the Crashing Blow is? On a Day when people will be like scattered moths and the mountains like tufts of wool, the one whose good deeds are heavy on the scales will have a pleasant life, but the one whose good deeds are light will have the Bottomless Pit for his home a – what will explain to you what that is? — a blazing fire. (Al Quran 101:1-11)

On that Day when the Trumpet is blown, the ties between them will be as nothing and they will not ask about each other: those whose good deeds weigh heavy will be successful, but those whose balance is light will have lost their souls and will be in Hell. (Al Quran 23:101-103)

On that Day, people will come forward in separate groups to be shown their deeds: whoever has done an atom’s-weight of good will see it, but whoever has done an atom’s-weight of evil will see that. (Al Quran 99:6-8)

And Luqman continued, ‘My son, if even the weight of a mustard seed were hidden in a rock or anywhere in the heavens or earth, God would bring it to light, for He is all subtle and all aware. (Al Quran 31:16)

There is a Hadith that once there was a prostitute, who saw a thirsty dog yearning for water near a water well.  She was so moved that she descended in the well and brought water in her shoe for the dog. The Merciful God was so moved by the mercy of the woman that He forgave all her past sins and granted her paradise.

Such Hadiths may suggest to the novice a degree of randomness in God’s Judgment. But, to get a balanced view of Divine matrix in Afterlife, one should read the above quoted verses once again and then flavor them with the following verses that highlight that even though there is accounting and no randomness, yet the forgiveness and mercy of God will be the over-riding theme on the Day of Judgment:

But if you avoid the great sins you have been forbidden, We shall wipe out your minor misdeeds and let you in through the entrance of honor. (Al Quran 4:31)

Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to God. He will repay those who do evil according to their deeds, and reward, with what is the best, those who do good. As for those who avoid grave sins and foul acts, though they may commit small sins, your Lord is ample in forgiveness. (Al Quran 53:31-32)

Whoever has done a good deed will have it ten times to his credit, but whoever has done a bad deed will be repaid only with its equivalent – they will not be wronged.  (Al Quran 6:160)

Whoever comes before God with a good deed will receive a better reward; whoever comes with an evil deed will be punished only for what he has done. (Al Quran 28:84)

So, unlike those accused of theft, in the opening of this article, we do not have to run scared of the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful and carry a balanced understanding of our accountability, so we do not get scared and entangled into contradictory ideas and beliefs.

Sometimes the Quran is Written on Stone and Often on Paper?

quran on stone in cordoba mosque
The Mehrab of the Cordoba Mosque in Spain with some verses inscribed on stone, first built in 784 CE. We have the best collection of articles to overcome sectarian divide among the Muslims

Source: The Muslim Times, an International Blog to Foster Universal Brotherhood and Sisterhood

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

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.”

“We created you, We gave you shape, and then We said to the angels, ‘Bow down before Adam,’ and they did. But not Iblis: he was not one of those who bowed down.” So says the Quran in the seventh chapter, describing Adam and his wife and their encounter with Iblis or the Satan, “God said, ‘What prevented you from bowing down as I commanded you?’ and he said, ‘I am better than him: You created me from fire and him from clay.’ God said, ‘Get down from here! This is no place for your arrogance. Get out! You are contemptible!’ but Iblis said,‘Give me respite until the Day people are raised from the dead,’ and God replied, ‘You have respite.’ And then Iblis said, ‘Because You have put me in the wrong, I will lie in wait for them all on Your straight path: I will come at them–– from their front and their back, from their right and their left–– and You will find that most of them are ungrateful.’ God said, ‘Get out! You are disgraced and banished! I swear I shall fill Hell with you and all who follow you! But you and your wife, Adam, live in the Garden. Both of you eat whatever you like, but do not go near this tree or you will become wrongdoers.’ Satan whispered to them so as to expose their nakedness, which had been hidden from them: he said, ‘Your Lord only forbade you this tree to prevent you becoming angels or immortals,’ and he swore to them, ‘I am giving you sincere advice’– – he lured them with lies. Their nakedness became exposed to them when they had eaten from the tree: they began to put together leaves from the Garden to cover themselves. Their Lord called to them, ‘Did I not forbid you to approach that tree? Did I not warn you that Satan was your sworn enemy?’ They replied, ‘Our Lord, we have wronged our souls: if You do not forgive us and have mercy, we shall be lost.’ He said,‘All of you get out! You are each other’s enemies. On earth you will have a place to stay and livelihood–– for a time.’ He said, ‘There you will live; there you will die; from there you will be brought out.’” (Al Quran 7:11-25; translation by M Abdel Haleem)

For thirteen centuries these verses were written in stone and all the Muslim commentators read a creation story of Adam in these verses, in literal terms. For some well read Muslims in the last few decades, who understand Darwin’s theory of evolution and its proofs that have piled up in the twentieth century, these verses are now written on paper and they read them metaphorically. But, even today for a large number of Muslims, including conservative scholars and commentators, shall we say with dogmatic thinking, these verses are still inscribed on stone and they refuse to learn or appreciate the mounting evidence to show that all life forms on the planet earth are related to each other and came from common ancestors.

quran on stone

In the military and political scene of the seventh century Arabia, God ordained for the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him: “Fight those of the People of the Book who do not [truly] believe in God and the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden, who do not obey the rule of justice, until they pay the Jizya, a tax, and agree to submit.” (Al Quran 9:29) Now, every sensible Muslim realizes that the socio-political scene and military strengths have changed in very dramatic ways in the last 14 centuries and I don’t know of any Muslim individual, group or sect, at least not personally, who is trying to put this verse into practice, in a reading like it was read in the seventh century Arabia. Muslims are able to feel and see the changing times and none of them are keen to impose Jizya on Europe, Australia, USA, Canada or Israel. But, when it comes to human rights and women rights many refuse to acknowledge any difference between seventh century Arabia and the 21st century global village.

Read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”

Each student, scholar and sect of Islam fossilizes different verses of the Quran, while understanding others in a more progressive reading. This helps them to shift the blame of the sectarian differences to God, rather than taking responsibility of their own myopia and shortsightedness. This attitude of dogmatic thinking not only divides the Muslims but also sets them up against their non-Muslim neighbors. It allowed Indonesia to send a popular Christian Governor of Jakarta, Ahok to jail for two years, for trumped up blasphemy charges. Suggested reading: The Quran Only Means What Our Wisdom and Intentions Dictate: A Progressive Understanding.

Every Muslim scholar worth anything, today recognizes that the Quranic verses about slavery and concubines don’t have any present day application due to lack of relevant circumstances. We do know, however, that this enlightenment has not reached ISIS. Suggested reading: A Sexual Offender from ISIS: Is the Quran to Blame?

But, when it comes to rape victims, many of these same scholars of Islam, insist on four eye witnesses and discard DNA evidence. They fail to see that times have changed. They fail to see that as far as the verses applicable to rape are concerned, the Quran is written on paper and not on stone.

Addressing the seventh century Arabs, the Quran inspired to study biology and said: “Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made?” (Al Quran 88:17) If the verse is written on paper, today we can read it as: Do they not look at the kangaroos, how they are made? Do they not look at the viruses under the microscope, how they are made? or Do they not look at the bissons, how they are made? In so doing we will be fulfilling a repeated injunction of God to study nature and find the Creator God, a study that will lead us to not only a belief in Personal God of the Abrahamic faiths, but also Afterlife: “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 13:2)

I believe the only verses that are written in stone are about Monotheism, Afterlife and compassionate living and the constant reminder in the Quran to create a just and loving society. With this liberated understanding it is so much easier for me to see through the differences between different sects and struggle of each Muslim country with human and women rights and the blasphemy laws. It allows me to see all Muslims as fellow brothers and sisters and minimize the sectarian differences and try to stick to the prophet Muhammad’s injunction: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” [Muslim]

Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran

quran on wood

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

universe-and-man
The Muslim Times has the best collection for interfaith tolerance and religion and science

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

The Jews and the Christians associate themselves with Isaac, the younger son of Abraham, while the Muslims, while recognizing the prophethood of Isaac, have a greater association with Ishmael as many of the first Arab Muslims in Makkah were his direct descendants. But, few among us are fully aware of a paradigm or way of religious understanding that I am going to share below.

Every time a Muslim stands up to pray and they are supposed to pray five times a day, they say a verse of the holy Quran as the intention for their prayer. Do you know which verse it is and if you are a Muslim, do you know which surah it is from?

The verse is: إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّذِي فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ حَنِيفًا ۖ وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ “I have single-mindedly devoted the whole of my attention to Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and I am not of those who associate partners with Allah.” (Al Quran 6:79/80)

This verse is not talking about the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, or Ishmael but about Patriarch Abraham and is a very integral part of every Muslim’s spiritual life.

The whole story and the context of this verse is:

Thus, it happened, that when Abraham was enveloped in the darkness of night, he saw a star, whereupon he exclaimed: Can that be my Lord? and when it set, he muttered: I like not those that set. Then when he saw the moon rising, he said: Can this be my Lord? and when it set he said: Had my Lord not guided me, I would surely have been of those who go astray. Finally, when he saw the sun rising, he said: Can this be my Lord, no doubt this is the biggest? But when that also set, he said to his people: Most certainly, I have no truck with that which you associate with Allah; I have single-mindedly devoted the whole of my attention to Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and I am not of those who associate partners with Allah. (Al Quran 6:76-79/77-80)

The holy Quran frequently talks about Abraham and Moses and other Jewish prophets including Jesus, may peace be on all of them. In this sense Islam is not a new religion rather a continuation of what Abraham believed or did some 1800 years before Jesus.

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.”

My main point in this article is that the interfaith tolerance for the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims, lies in the person of Patriarch Abraham, who is referred to as Hanif’ in the holy Quran. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues describe the meaning of Hanif’, in their commentary, talking about the verse 98:5:

Hanif’ (pl. hunafa’) derives from the verb hanifa, meaning ‘to incline.’ It is employed in the Quran to indicate one who inclines away from idolatry and toward belief in the Oneness of God (tawhid). Abraham is thus described as a Hanif’ in several verses (2:135; 3:67, 95; 4:125; 6:79, 161; 16:120, 123). And in 10:105, the Prophet is enjoined, Set thy face toward the religion as a Hanif’, and be thou not among the idolaters; see also 22:31; 30:30. For the meaning of Hanif’, see 2:135c.

Rather than obsessing on parochial details and non-consequential issues in each tradition, the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims will do well by constant focus on how Deism leads to Monotheism in their respective traditions and for this purpose, here are some starting materials: Deism: Common between Islam, Christianity and Judaism and 12 Famous Scientists On The Possibility Of God. It is taking the attention away from the politics of the last 3800 years and focusing on the basic and the fundamental, which is Monotheism of the Abrahamic faiths.

Read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”

If our religious grounding or foundation pours out of the spring of Deism, as was true for many of the Founding fathers of USA, rather than revelation of individual prophets, it will bring the Jews and the Christians and the Muslims in debate with the agnostics and the atheists to establish Monotheism and away from the less significant issues that drive the children of Abraham apart from each other.

This idea should not be foreign to the Muslims at all as there are numerous verses in the Quran that suggest Deism as the foundation for the Personal God of the Abrahamic faiths or Monotheism. Not only the foundation of Monotheism, the holy Quran often uses the first creation as the proof for the second creation or the Afterlife, the second most important belief of the Abrahamic faiths. The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah, in a new commentary of the Quran, the Quran dot love, and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah. Additional suggested reading in this regard is: Cataloging 750 verses of the Holy Quran inspiring believers to study nature.

This is not to deny the differences that exist between Judaism, Christianity and Islam but to change the focus to what is common and fundamental. If the Abrahamic faiths are not about the Creator of this universe, who is also the Lord of Mercy and wants to have a relationship with the humans and become a Personal God, then I know not what they are about.

I conclude with another verse of the holy Quran:

Say Muhammad, ‘O People of the Book! come to a word common between us and you — that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partner with Him, and that some of us take not others for Lords beside Allah.’ But if they turn away, then say, ‘We bear witness that we have submitted to God.’ (Al Quran 3:64/65)

Suggested Reading

Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke

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

Photosynthesis: deserving of our awe or ridicule?

For the Forty Percent Europeans, Who Don’t Believe in a Soul

Compassion or Dogma: That is the Question for the 21st Century?

Atheism exposed in one paragraph

A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

Video: The world’s best known atheist, Richard Dawkins does seem to believe in a Creator God

How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

Surah Tein: The Fig — A Metaphor for Pluralism

abrahamic faiths

Introduction

This surah is the most concise and eloquent description of the paradigm of the Abrahamic faiths, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  It describes Monotheism and accountability in Afterlife and how God has created humans in the finest state.  It emphasizes that unless humans live this paradigm and perform good deeds, they are vulnerable to degenerate to the lowest of the low.

The first three verses of this surah cite the totality of evidence of the genuine revelation of the Abrahamic faiths and their positive history as a proof for the paradigm proposed here.

The surah can serve as the best platform for interfaith tolerance and pluralism among the followers of the Abrahamic faiths and gives a vision, within which to conceptualize human psychology.

The interfaith tolerance for the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims, lies in the person of Patriarch Abraham, who is referred to as Hanif’ in the holy Quran. Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues describe the meaning of Hanif’, under the commentary of 98:5:

Hanif’ (pl. hunafa’) derives from the verb hanifa, meaning ‘to incline.’ It is employed in the Quran to indicate one who inclines away from idolatry and toward belief in the Oneness of God (tawhid). Abraham is thus  described as a Hanif’ in several verses (2:135; 3:67, 95; 4:125; 6:79, 161; 16:120, 123). And in 10:105, the Prophet is enjoined, Set thy face toward the religion as a Hanif’, and be  thou not among the idolaters; see also 22:31; 30:30. For the meaning of Hanif’, see 2:135c.

Going back to the theme of human vulnerability, we believe it should be considered as a sister surah to Surah 103. According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues in the introduction to this surah:

The main theme is found in vv. 4-6, which are among the most famous verses in the Quran. They speak to the human condition, which originated as the most exalted of creation, but can fall to the lowest of the low (v. 5) when human beings fail to live in accord with their true nature, a message similar to that of 103:2-3: Truly mankind is in loss, save those who believe, perform righteous deeds, exhort one another to truth, and exhort one another to patience.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

95:1. By the Fig and the Olive.

وَالتِّينِ وَالزَّيْتُونِ

95:2. By the Mount Sinai.

وَطُورِ سِينِينَ

95:3. By this safe town of Makkah.

وَهَـٰذَا الْبَلَدِ الْأَمِينِ

95:4. We created humans in the finest state.

لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ

95:5. But they degenerate to the lowest low!

ثُمَّ رَدَدْنَاهُ أَسْفَلَ سَافِلِينَ

95:6. Except those who believe and do good deeds. They will have an unfailing reward.

إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَلَهُمْ أَجْرٌ غَيْرُ مَمْنُونٍ

95:7. After this, what makes any man deny the Judgement?

فَمَا يُكَذِّبُكَ بَعْدُ بِالدِّينِ

95:8. Isn’t God the Best of the Judges?

أَلَيْسَ اللَّـهُ بِأَحْكَمِ الْحَاكِمِينَ

Commentary

95:1

“By the Fig and the Olive.”

This is symbolism for Jerusalem or Christianity.

95:2

“By the Mount Sinai.”

This is symbolism for Moses or Judaism. According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues:

According to most  commentators, Mount Sinai is also referred to by name in 23:20 and simply as the Mount (al-Tur) in eight other verses (2:63, 93; 4:154; 19:52; 20:80; 28:29, 46; 52:1, though others say such verses do not necessarily refer to Mount Sinai; see 23:20c). It is also sworn by in 52:1. In 23:20 sayna’ is used for ‘Sinai,’ but here  the word is sinin, which some say is  actually taken from the Ethiopic for ‘beautiful’ and in this context means ‘the blessed beautiful Mount’ (Q, Sh, T). Others say that it  means every mountain upon which there are fruit-bearing trees (Q, Sh).

95:3

“By this safe town of Makkah.”

This is symbolism for Islam or the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him. According to Malik Ghulam Farid:

‘The Fig,’ ‘the Olive,’ ‘Mount Sinai’ and ‘this Town of Security’ have been invoked as witnesses to support and substantiate the claim made in the Surah that the Holy Prophet shall succeed in his mission. ‘The Fig’ and ‘the Olive’ are symbolic of Jesus; ‘Mount Sinai’ of Moses; and ‘this Town of Security’ of the Holy Prophet. These three verses together point to the well-known biblical reference, ‘The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir with them; and He shined forth from Mount Paran’ (Deut. 33:2).

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues regarding this verse:

In pre-Islamic Arabia Makkah  was a refuge in which no fighting was allowed (see the introduction to Surah 105); hence it was a secure land, or a land made safe; cf. 29:67: Or have they not considered that We have made a secure sanctuary while people are snatched away all around them? Some say that the fig and the olive (v. 1) is a reference to Jerusalem, where Jesus was sent, Mount Sinai is a reference to the place where God spoke to Moses, and this land made safe is a reference to the place where the Prophet Muhammad was sent (IK).

The first three verses of this surah cite the totality of evidence of the genuine revelation of the Abrahamic faiths and their positive history as a proof for the paradigm proposed here.

95:4

“We created humans in the finest state.”

The holy Quran also states: “Allah is He Who made the earth a resting-place for you and the heaven a canopy.  He formed you and then shaped you into a beautiful state and provided you with all good things. That is Allah, your Lord, so glory be to Him, the Lord of all the worlds.” (40:64)

This verse talks of the great spiritual, moral, social and intellectual potentials of man and rather than giving a pessimistic view inherent in Original Sin of Pauline Christianity, gives us a positive and optimistic message.

95:5

“But they degenerate to the lowest low!”

Those who do not live in the paradigm of Monotheism and constant cognizance of accountability in the Afterlife and as such perform good deeds are vulnerable to ‘degenerate to the lowest low!’

95:6

“Except those who believe and do good deeds.”

The Quran is not monopolizing or limiting the salvation and is giving the key to success to everyone in searching the truth and doing good deeds.  However, there is no denying that the better one’s beliefs or world view and the better one’s actions or deeds, greater is the likelihood or excellence of salvation.

Salvation cannot be monopolized as the Quran states:

Surely, the Believers, and the Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians — whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds — shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 2:62)

And:

Surely, those who have believed, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians — whoso believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Al Quran 5:69)

And:

As to those who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians, and the Magians and the idolaters, verily, Allah will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection; surely Allah is Witness over all things. (Al Quran 22:17)

Suggested reading: We Will be Judged by Our Compassion and Deeds and Not Our Dogma.

95:7

“They will have an unfailing reward. After this, what makes any man deny the
Judgement?”

According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues regarding this verse:

As translated, this verse is a  question posed to those who deny the revelation, the Resurrection, and other aspects of religion. It may also be addressing belief in the Prophet specifically, as if to say, ‘Who would deny thee, O Messenger, after the appearance of these proofs of religion’ (Q, R, T),  though this reading is considered grammatically problematic by some (Al). The verse also indicates  amazement that anyone could witness human beings coming from a drop (see 16:4; 18:37; 22:5; 35:11; 36:77; 40:67; 53:46; 75:37; 76:2; 80:19) and rising to the most beautiful stature, yet still deny the Resurrection (Al, Q, R).

The first creation becomes a powerful proof for the second creation or Afterlife.

95:8

“Isn’t God the Best of the Judges?”

The righteous believers can always find comfort and consolation in the justice of the Most Just. According to Seyyed Hossein Nasr and colleagues regarding this verse:

Cf. 6:57: Judgment belongs to  God alone; He relates the Truth, and He is the best of deciders; 11:45. God is also referred to as the best (or most just) of judges (7:87; 10:109; 12:80). In relation to the preceding verses, the implication is that human beings differ, because some leave the state of the most beautiful stature and descend to the lowest of the low, while others remain in the most beautiful stature, and it is only logical that they would differ in recompense according to God’s most just judgment (Tb). As the Prophet is  commanded to say in another verse, God will judge between you on the Day of Resurrection concerning that wherein you used to differ (22:69). This is in reference to the great difference between believers and disbelievers, and the good and the wicked indicated in several verses (e.g., 5:100; 6:51; 13:16; 32:18-22; 35:19-22; 38:28; 39:9; 40:58; 59:20).

 

A Quranic Prophecy against High Odds: The Roman victory against the Persians

Source: The Muslim Times, An International Blog Fostering Universal Brotherhood

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

The 30th Sura of the Holy Quran, named Rome, opens with the declaration of a prophecy about the ultimate success of the Romans over the Persians. The prophecy was made at a time when the tide of the Persian conquest was sweeping away everything before its irresistible onrush and the degradation and humiliation of the Romans had sunk to its lowest depths.

It was then beyond human knowledge and ingenuity to predict that within a period ranging from three to nine years, tables would be completely turned upon the Persians, and the vanquished would become the victors. The prophecy was literally fulfilled in most extraordinary and unforeseen circumstances. In today’s terms it would be like a Prophet making a clear prophecy, against high stakes that Russia has been humbled in the Cold War, but, would within nine years put USA to shame and come back with the fullest glory, as the sole super-power! How likely is such a prophecy to succeed?

Let me, now, quote from the commentary of the Holy Quran edited by Malik Ghulam Farid, as it comments on verse 30:5, of the Holy Quran:

In order fully to appreciate the significance of this and the preceding two verses it is necessary to cast a cursory glance over the political conditions that obtained the two great Empires that lay on the borders of Arabia-the Persian and the Roman Empires-shortly before the advent of the Holy Prophet of Islam. They were at war with each other. The first round had gone in favour of the Persians whose tide of conquest began in 602 A.D., when in order to avenge the death of Maurice, his patron and benefactor, at the hands of Phocas, Chosroes II, started the war with Rome. For twenty years the Roman Empire was overrun by Persian armies as it had never been before. The Persians plundered Syria and Asia Minor and in 608 A.D. advanced to Chalcedon. Damascus was taken in 613. The surrounding country on which no Persian had ever set foot since the founding of the Empire was utterly and completely laid waste. In June 614 Jerusalem was also captured. The whole of Christendom was horrified by the news that together with the Patriarch the Persians had carried off the Cross of Christ. Christianity had been humbled in the dust.   The flood of Persian conquest did not stop with the capture of Jerusalem. Egypt was next conquered, Asia Minor again overrun, and the Persian armies were knocking at the very gates of Constantinople. The Romans could offer but little resistance as they were torn by internal dissensions. The humiliation of Heraclius was so complete that “Chosroes wanted to see him brought in chains to the foot of his throne and was not prepared to give him peace till he had abjured his crucified god and embraced the worship of the sun.” (Historians’ History of the World, vol. 7, p. 159; vol. 8, pp. 94-95 & Enc. Brit. under “Chosroes” II & “Heraclius”). This state of affairs very much grieved the Muslims as they had much in common with the Romans who were the ‘People of the Book.’ But the Quraish of Mecca who, like the Persians, were idolaters, were glad to see this discomfiture of Christian armies a happy augury for the overthrow and destruction Islam. It was shortly after this complete debacle of Roman forces that in 616 A.D. came the revelation to the Holy Prophet, which forms the subject-matter of the verse under comment and the two preceding verses. These verses possessed a twofold significance. They foretold, in circumstances then quite inconceivable, that the whole position would be completely reversed within the short space of eight or nine years (Bid’ meaning from three to nine years-Lane) and the erstwhile victorious Persian armies would suffer a crushing defeat at the hands of the utterly defeated, prostrated and humbled Romans. The significance of the prophecy lay in the fact that, within this short period, the foundations of the ultimate triumph of Islam and that of the defeat and discomfiture of the forces of disbelief and darkness would also be firmly laid. The prophecy was fulfilled in circumstances beyond human calculation and comprehension. ‘In the midst of the Persian triumphs he (the Holy Prophet) ventured to foretell that before many years should elapse, victory would return to  the banners of the Romans.  At the time when this prediction is said to have been  delivered, no prophecy could be more distant from its accomplishment, since the first twelve years of Heraclius announced the approaching dissolution of the Empire’ (Rise, Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon, vol. 5. p. 74).
After licking his wounds for several years, Heraclius was at last able to take the field against the Persians in 622, the year of the Holy Prophet’s Hijrah to Medina. In 624 he advanced into northern Media, where he destroyed the great fire-temple of Goudzak (Gazaca) and thus avenged the destruction of Jerusalem. This happened exactly within nine years, the period foretold in the verse; and to add to its importance and significance it happened in the year when the power of the Quraish also suffered a very serious reverse in the Battle of Badr, which recalled a biblical prophecy foretelling the fading of the glory of Kedar (lsa. 21:16-17). In 627 Heraclius defeated the Persian army at Nineveh and advanced towards Ctesiphon. Chosroes fled from his favourite residence Dastgerd (near Baghdad) and, after dragging on an inglorious existence, was murdered by his own son, Siroes, on 19th February, 628, A.D.; and thus the Persian Empire, from the apparent greatness, which it had reached a few years earlier sank into hopeless anarchy (Enc. Brit.). The fulfilment of the prophecy was so remarkable and unforeseen that prejudiced Christian writers have been hard put to it to explain it away. Rodwell says that the vowel points of the Arabic expression used in the verse were left undecided so that it would read either way, i.e.; Sayaghlibun meaning, “they will be victorious,” or Sayughlabun meaning, “they will be defeated.” He even adds that the ambiguity was intentional. The Rev. gentleman pretends not to understand this simple fact that the vowels of an expression which had been recited hundreds of times in daily Prayers and otherwise could hardly be left undecided. Mr. Wherry goes a step further. He says: ‘Our daily newspapers constantly forecast political events of this kind.’ To this futile attempt of Mr. Wherry to explain away and belittle the importance of the prophecy Gibbon’s quotation given above provides a crushing reply.

To clearly document that Christendom had indeed been revived from the claws of death and oblivion, let me quote Tom Holland,  the author of Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, which won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize, as he knowingly or unknowingly becomes a witness for one of the prophecies of the Holy Quran. He writes in his recent    book about Islam, In the shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World:

The restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem was the profoundest demonstration imaginable of the great victory that had been won in the cause of Christ. It also served as a ringing statement of Heraclius’ intent: never again would he permit the Christian empire to be pushed by its enemies to the edge of oblivion. On his approach to Jerusalem, he had made a point of stopping off in Tiberias, where he had been hosted by a wealthy Jew notorious, under the Persian occu­pation, for his persecution of the city’s churches. Asked by Heraclius why he had so mistreated the local Christians, the Jew had answered disingenuously, ‘Why, because they are the enemies of my faith.” Heraclius, grim-faced, had advised his host to accept baptism on the spot – which the Jew had prudently done. Two years later, this order was repeated on a far more universal scale. From Africa to distant Gaul, leaders across the Christian world received news of a startling imperial decision: all Jews and Samaritans were to be brought com­pulsorily to baptism. Heraclius, conscious of how close he had come to defeat, and of the debt he owed to Christ, was not prepared to take any second chances. From now on, the Roman Empire would be undilutedly, and therefore impregnably, Christian.[1]

Online version of Encyclopedia Britannica has the following to say about the reversal of fate of Heraclius, within a span of a few years:

In 614 the Persians conquered Syria and Palestine, taking Jerusalem and what was believed to be Christ’s Cross, and in 619 occupied Egypt and Libya. In an effort to placate the Avars, Heraclius met them at Thracian Heraclea (617 or 619). They sought to capture him, and he rode madly back to Constantinople, hotly pursued. Overlooking their perfidy, he finally made peace with them and was free to take the offensive against the Persians.

In 622, clad as a penitent and bearing a sacred image of the Virgin, he left Constantinople, as prayers rose from its many sanctuaries for victory over the Persian Zoroastrians, the recovery of the Cross, and the reconquest of Jerusalem. He was, in effect, leading the first crusade. Indeed, in the ensuing hostilities, a pious poet contrasted the dancing girls in the Persian general’s tent with the psalm singers in the Emperor’s. In a brilliant campaign, he manoeuvred the Persians out of Anatolia and suggested a truce to the Persian monarch. This offer Khosrow II contemptuously rejected, referring to himself as beloved by the gods and master of the world, to Heraclius as his abject and imbecilic slave, and to Christ as incapable of saving the empire. Mindful of the propagandistic value of Khosrow’s response, Heraclius made it public.

The next two years he devoted to campaigns in Armenia, the manpower of which was vital to the empire, and to a devastating invasion of Persia. In 625 Heraclius retired to Anatolia. He had encamped on the west bank of the Sarus River when the Persian forces appeared on the opposite bank. Many of his men rushed impetuously across the bridge and were ambushed and annihilated by the enemy.

Emerging from his tent, Heraclius saw the triumphant Persians crossing the bridge. The fate of the empire hung in the balance. Seizing his sword, he ran to the bridge and struck down the Persian leader. His soldiers closed rank behind him and beat back the foe.

In 626 the Persians advanced to the Bosporus, hoping to join the Avars in an assault on the land walls of Constantinople. But the Romans sank the primitive Avar fleet that was to transport Persian units across the Bosporus and repelled the unsupported Avar assault. Heraclius again invaded Persia and in December 627, after a march across the Armenian highlands into the Tigris plain, met the Persians near the ruins of Nineveh. There, astride his renowned war-horse, he killed three Persian generals in single combat, charged into enemy ranks at the head of his troops, killed the Persian commander, and scattered the Persian host.

A month later, Heraclius entered Dastagird with its stupendous treasure. Khosrow was overthrown by his son, with whom Heraclius made peace, demanding only the return of the Cross, the captives, and conquered Roman territory. Returning to Constantinople in triumph, he was hailed as a Moses, an Alexander, a Scipio. In 630 he personally restored the Cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.[2]

Reference:

1. Tom Holland.  In the shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World.  Little Brown, 2012.  Page 295-296.

2. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/262495/Heraclius