Monday, June 24, 2019

Why have Fatwas against Islamist Terrorism failed as A Counter-Terrorism Tool, Explains Sultan Shahin in a Conference in Birmingham, And Suggests the Kind of Fatwa Required

By Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam
22 June 2019
Numerous fatwas (edicts) have been issued by ulema (Islamic scholars) across the globe, particularly since 9/11 in a bid to stem the tide of Islamist terrorism. Tens of thousands of ulema have endorsed these fatwas issued by influential institutions of Islamic learning of all sects in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh as well as other parts of the world. When issued, these fatwas inspiredgreat expectations. As perceptive and insightful an observer as Mr. Ziauddin Sardar proclaimed “the beginning of the end of the war of terror” when a hundred thousand Deobandi ulema endorsed a fatwa issued by the hundred-year-old Islamic madrasa in Deoband, India, “unequivocally denouncing terrorism,” in June 2008. Similarly, Sufism-oriented Barailwis, hard-line Salafis, Ahl-e-Hadeesis, have all denounced Islamist terrorism in their separate or joint statements. But terrorist ideology continues to attract our youth, particularly in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. What used to be merely a Pakistan-sponsored secessionist struggle is showing signs of tuning into an Islamist struggle for the establishment of Islamic Sharia through a universal Caliphate, very much redolent of the objectives of the so-called Islamic State or ISIS.  Popularizing the slogan of “Shariatya Shahadat,” a militant leader Zakir Musa, Burhan Wani’s successor, even threatened to kill Hurriyat leaders for calling Kashmir’s separatist movement political and not religious. Calling them “hypocrites, infidels, followers of evil”, the militant had warned to chop off their heads to be hanged in Lal Chowk in Srinagar, “if they create hurdles in the path of making Kashmir an Islamic State”.
The most intriguing question in this scenario is: why are fatwas of leading ulema of all Maslaks (sects) so ineffective in stemming the tide? The fatwas are clear and passionate in their condemnation of terrorism. The Deobandi fatwa, for instance, should have been the most influential. Most militants in the South Asian sub-continent, including the Taliban, are products of madrasas that can be called Deobandi. The fatwa says: “Islam has taught its followers to treat all mankind with equality, mercy, tolerance, justice. Islam sternly condemns all kinds of oppression, violence and terrorism. It has regarded oppression, mischief, rioting and murdering among severest sins and crimes. … In Islam, creating social discord or disorder, breach of peace, rioting, bloodshed, pillage or plunder and killing of innocent persons anywhere in the world are all considered most inhuman crimes.”
According to this fatwa, the very purpose of Islam, the fatwa says, is “to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace”. Muslims should not co-operate with people who spread the lie of terrorism; and those who do are “committing sins of oppression”. 
Similar sentiments were expressed in fatwas from Pakistan and Bangladesh, again endorsed by tens of thousands of clerics from across these countries. Like fatwas given before in Pakistan, the recent Paigham-e-Pakistan Fatwa issued on 20 January 2019 also denounced all types of extremist ideologies and criticized the promotion of sectarian hatred, called it mischief on earth and demanded the state to resolve this critical issue with an iron fist. The forceful imposition of sharia -the common practice promoted and followed by the terrorist organizations- and the armed struggles against Pakistan have been declared Haram (Forbidden) under this fatwa. The fatwa declared suicide haram and jihad only a state’s prerogative. Scholars from all Islamic schools of thought stated that suicide attacks have been forbidden by the Qurʾān and they have been termed as Haram (Strictly Forbidden). Hence, the ones involved in such horrific crime must be considered rebels and Khawarij and shall be punished to the greater extent. Furthermore, according to the Islamic teachings this fatwa also supported military operations aimed at eradicating extremist and militant evils out of this society.
In a similar vein. the fatwa issued by over one lakh Bangladeshi Islamic scholars in August 2016 declared militancy and extremism in the name of Islam haram or 'forbidden'. The 'fatwa' was signed by some 1, 01,524 Islamic scholars belonging to Bangladesh Jamiatul Ulama.
The fatwas declared, “killing of innocent people indiscriminately is not permissible in Islam, killing of children, women, old and weak people who do not take part in a war is strictly forbidden in Islam. Even killing of these kinds of people during war is not allowed in Islam. Killing of people during prayer is a heinous and severe crime.
While presenting the fatwa before the Press, Maulana Fariduddin Masoud, chairman of Bangladesh Jamiatul Ulama said: “Islam is a religion of peace. In the name of Islam, some quarters are spreading extremism and terror through misinterpretation of Qurʾān and Hadith to gain their personal interests. Though many label the militants as jihadis, they are actually terrorists. Islam doesn't support terrorism. And those, who are carrying out suicide attacks with the belief to go to heaven as martyrs if they die and live as heroes if remain alive, will not go to heaven according to Qurʾān and Hadith. The participation in Namaz-e-Janaza for those religious terrorists, militants and secret attackers is also forbidden. And those who will die taking stand against these militants will be regarded as martyrs,"
These are all severe condemnations of terrorism. Then why do these fatwas have no influence on the section of our youth which listens to the militant ideologues’ rhetoric. Almost 40,000 foreigners joined the so-called Islamic state, from around the world, and, of course, it is safe to assume that many more must have wanted to join but couldn’t due to logistical difficulties. Travelling to a so-called state which was not really a state recognised by even one member of the global community was not easy. Where does militant ideology’s appeal come from and why are the passionate efforts of all our ulema not so successful? This is a question that needs to be pondered upon seriously, if we are to stem the tide of militancy from the Muslim community.
A close reading of these fatwas reveals that while these are all long on rhetoric, they are short on details and specifics, the terms in which militant ideologues talk. The influential militant ideologues like Syed Qutb, Maulana Maududi, Abdullah Azzam, Anwar al-Awlaki, Aiman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, all of them make a persuasive case of their militant ideology, comprehensive, internally consistent and coherent, based on solid foundations of Qurʾān, Hadith and events of Islamic history, particularly actions of the companions of the Prophet (s.a.w) and the Salaf ul Saleheen. Apart from these, the militant narratives are also based on universally accepted theological doctrines of Uncreatedness of the holy Qurʾān, universal applicability of all exhortations of Qurʾān and Hadith, Abrogation of early Makkan verses preaching peace, co-existence, patience in times of adversity by later militant Madinan verses of war, exhorting Disavowal and Dissociation with Idolaters and subjugation of People of the Book, punishment of death for blasphemers and apostates, etc.
On the other hand, most of the counter-narratives of clerics, proclaiming Islam as a religion of peace are one-liners. If at all they quote Qurʾān, they quote just one verse (5:32) which says killing even one innocent person amounts to killing humanity and saving one person amounts to saving humanity. The rest is rhetoric. Strong, passionate rhetoric, absolutely, but just that -- rhetoric. There is only one fatwa among the many which takes up the issue in some detail. It’s the fatwa from Bangladesh Jamiatul Ulema. It at least acknowledges a coupleof the many militant verses that are repeatedly used by radicals in justifying violence. But it again makes the same familiar mistake of countering it by quoting early Makkan verses advocating patience in the face of adversity. The madrasas that these clerics run teaches books like Itqan fil Uloomul Qurʾān, Tafsir-e-Jalalain, Hujjatullah al Baligha, etc in which Tehreef fil Qurʾān Naskh, Mansookh, etc are discussed in great detail, giving credence to the radical narrative that verses exhorting peace in early Islam were abrogated by later verses of war. Indeed, there is a widespread view that one sword verse 9: 5 alone has abrogated 124 early Makkan verses, exhorting peace, tolerance, pluralism, co-existence, patience, etc. And there are something like 164 verses of war that were revealed later in Madina, which have by virtue of having come later abrogated earlier verses. This argument of progression of the duty of Jihad has been taken to a point where  verses 9:5 and 9:29, asking Muslims to kill the Mushrik and subjugate ahle kitab, are supposed to have abrogated not only verses teaching patience in Makka -- Inna Allah ma as-Sabireen, God is those who are patient (2:153), 11:49, 50:39, 39:10, 70:5, 15:85, 15:85, (39:10, 70:5 -- but even verses 22:39 and 2:190, permitting the use of force in self-defence. Offensive jihad has thus become an obligation for every Muslim in the view of several authorities. Even a Sufi of the highest order like Imam Abu-Hamid al-Ghazali says that Muslims should go on Jihad at least once a year. Obviously, this Jihad can only be offensive in nature.
The fact of the matter is that in every war, once a decision has been taken to go to war, people are motivated to fight, rewards are announced, punishment is prescribed for disobedience and so on. But once the war is over, these instructions are no longer considered applicable. Our tragedy is that under the Doctrine of Uncreatedness of Qurʾān and the Doctrine of Abrogation, these last verses of war in SuraTaubah like 9: 5 and 9: 29 have become the pre-eminent teaching of Qurʾān in matters of war and peace and relations of Muslims with non-Muslims. The general acceptance of Blasphemy and Apostasy as crimes punishable with death has taken even intra-Muslim discord to a new height, resulting in takfeer of entire communities and killings.
Thus, we Muslims are stuck in a situation where the radical war-mongers have an upper hand. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that ulema are not yet prepared to come up with a genuine counternarrative. They seem to think that passionate rhetoric will do the trick. I do not doubt their intentions. But when a strategy fails, one has to think of the next step. In my view, the following declarations will have to be made forcefully and repeatedly by ulema around the world for the tide to begin turning.
1.       Qurʾān has been created by God. It is a collection of verses that were revealed to Prophet Mohammad (saw) initially in Mecca, as instructions into the universal faith that has been coming to humanity since the advent of Prophet Adam (AS) on earth, through a series of prophets of equal status (Qurʾān 2:136) sent to all nations, bearing the same message. So, these initial verses that teach us peace and harmony, good neighbourliness, patience, tolerance and pluralism are the foundational and constitutive verses of Qurʾān. They constitute the fundamental message of Islam. But Qurʾān also contains many contextual verses that were revealed as instructions from time to time for the Prophet (saw) and his companions to deal with difficult existential situations that arose as both the Mushrikeen (pagans) of Makka and Ahl-e-Kitab (People of the Book) living in Madina mostly refused to accept the message of God coming to them through the Prophet, and decided to eliminate the Prophet and his few companions. These verses are of great historical importance and tell us the near-insurmountable difficulties the Prophet had to face to establish our religion. But despite their importance they are no longer applicable to us as instructions of war, over 1400 years after the wars were fought and won by the grace of God. We are not engaged in any war now.
2.       The Doctrine of Abrogation, as defined by radical ideologues today, is a false doctrine. God cannot be giving orders only to abrogate them later, except that some orders may be simply meant to have temporary application as in the case of war-time instructions.
3.       God does not prescribe any punishment for blasphemy and apostasy. Nor does He authorise any human, a ruler or scholar to punish any one.  So even if there is fool proof evidence that someone has committed these crimes, the punishment has to be left to God.
4.       We are now living in the world of modern nation-states; our international relations are guided by the charter of United Nations which has been signed by virtually the whole world including all Muslim majority states.  It is simply not possible today for any state to conquer new territories and establish its rule there as was the norm until the first half of the twentieth century. So, all talk of performing Jihad at least once a year should cease, even if it was indeed mandated by Qurʾān and Hadith. It is simply impractical and God does not ask us to perform impossible task.
5. There is no scriptural sanction for the call of a global Khilafat of Muslims either in Quran or Hadith. Modern pluralistic states are very much in tune with the first Islamic State evolved by Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) under the constitution provided by Meesaq-e-Madina. Muslims do not need a global Khilafat, though Muslim-majority countries can cooperate more fully in the spirit of brotherhood sanctioned by Quran and even form a commonwealth of Muslim states.
6. Modern Democracy is a fulfilment of the Quranic exhortation of amrahum shoora bainahum. SoMuslims should try and strengthen Democratic institutions in the countries where they live either as a majority community or as a religious minority.
7.       Let us all accept that Islam is primarily a spiritual path to salvation, one of the many (Qurʾān 5:48) sent by God to humanity in different ages through different prophets, all of equal status (Qurʾān 2:136, 21:25, 21:92). God has asked us to compete with one another in performing good deeds [Qurʾān 2:148, 23:61] and that is what we should be focussed on. As Qurʾān came to confirm all previous faiths, we can only respect and accept all other religions as paths to the same divinity. The Doctrine of al-Wala wal-Bara as propagated by radical elements is misconceived and impractical in the present highly complex and intricately interwoven global society.
I hope Ulema as well as common Muslims will consider these points in the spirit of consultation in which it is being presented and a consensus will gradually evolve.

Some Questions to Muslims Who Believe Islam Promotes Pluralism

By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
03 June 2019
India is a multi-religious and multi-cultural society. It is one of the greatest strengths of the country, that despite attempts to homogenise its religio-cultural standards, the country still remains diverse and plural. Attempts to homogenise have come from both sides: from the side of secularists who have historically tried to promote a single ‘rational and scientific’ standard by belittling the diverse religious traditions of the country; and from right wing religious organizations who have sought to argue that their reading of a particular religious tradition should be the only standard. India is a shining example that all such attempts have failed and the country continues to be plural.
This is the reason perhaps why followers of different religions in India have started arguing that their religions promote pluralism and diversity. Muslims are no exception to this rule. In almost all formal gatherings, Muslims point out that Islam promotes diversity and pluralism. However, when one starts interrogating such assertions, these Muslims either parry the question or start calling you an Islamophobe. Such a response only tells us that deep down, Muslims have clearly not done enough hard thinking on this issue and their articulation that Islam promotes pluralism is just a performance which they are enacting in front of a sympathetic audience. This not only does disservice to the cause of inter-religious harmony but also to Muslims themselves since they do not have the intellectual capacity to confront their own religious past.
Most Muslims, even the educated ones, paint a very dark picture of pre-Islamic era. Muslims unthinkingly argue that it was a period of Jahiliyya or ignorance, that the condition of women was miserable and that there was no law or regulation which governed that society. You just ask them how they know so much about the pre-Islamic period when there is a near absence of written historical records. More importantly, Islamic literature also tells us that the whole notion of Jahiliyya is a construct of latter day Muslim scholars, anxious at making a distinction with their own past.
Like many parts of the world, Arabia was largely an oral culture. Written texts were a rarity and thus what we know about the period comes largely through the works of Islamic writers. It must be remembered that Islam emerged victorious in this battle between ‘truth’ and ‘ignorance’ and victors all over the world have tended to write histories which have been disparaging about the vanquished. Also, we must remember that according to the tenets of modern historiography, volumes of Hadees literature, which tell us about this supposed pre-Islamic period, cannot even be considered as historical texts. But most Muslims rely on these obscure texts for their arguments and find no problem in citing these antediluvian texts. At the same time, they will argue with all passion that texts of other religious traditions cannot be relied upon because they are not grounded in history. It beats common sense how Muslims can belittle other religious and cultural traditions and yet vouch for the pluralistic ethos of Islam.
If pre-Islamic Arabia was such a regressive place, then how did it throw such valiant women of strong character like Khadija, who was the first to realise the prophetic mission of Muhammad? If women had such a low status in society, how did she become a first rate entrepreneur before Islam came to the picture? If there was nothing to be appreciated in that society, how it produced first rate poets and satirists remains an intriguing question. If there were no rules in that society, then how did the rule of not shedding blood at the Ka’aba got enforced?
The problem is that Muslims do not question the received wisdom which has come down to them through generations of religious scholars, all of whom have been united in their a historical opinion that pre-Islamic Arabia was a place of Jahiliyya when there is ample evidence that this might not be the case.
A genuine dialogue and search for pluralism within one’s own religious tradition cannot begin without a ceaseless search for the truth in the light of available evidence. Relying on texts of dubious historical authenticity is certainly not the right way to go about it. For example, the same texts also inform us that the Prophet ordered the execution of the poetess Asma bint Marwan, who used to compose poetry against Islam and the Prophet. Now, if we are arguing that Islam stands for pluralism, then we need to be able to answer such tough questions as why the Prophet was not tolerant enough to withstand criticism from a woman or why he couldn’t accept another point of view. And certainly there cannot be any idea of pluralism without the practice of tolerance.
There are other questions which Muslims advocating Islam’s supposed pluralistic ethos need to confront. They rightly point out that the covenant of Medina is a pluralist document, which talks of amicable living together between the Jews and Muslims. The problem is that such a covenant can be read as an agreement between two Semitic traditions, both claiming to worship the same God. But can this also be extended to polytheistic traditions? This question is certainly important in the Indian context where a large majority of population is certainly polytheistic. How does Islam in India want to deal with them if it wants to showcase itself as a religion devoted to pluralism? Muslims have unthinkingly advocated that the covenant of Medina serves as a guide for plural living together, even with the Hindus.
However, it is an open question as to how this can be extended to Hindus if Islamic ideas and practices have been antithetical to idol worship and polytheism? Islamic monotheism stands opposed to polytheism and no hermeneutic jugglery can resolve this problem. Islam fought against polytheism practiced in Arabia and wiped it out very rapidly. The very reasonable conclusion that one derives from Islamic history is that monotheism is far superior to polytheism. After all, how do the Muslim advocates of pluralism account for the fact that the Prophet himself removed idols from the Ka’aba signalling the final triumph of Islam over polytheism? How can someone, who was intrinsically antithetical to non-monotheistic ways of relating to God, be considered as an ambassador of religious pluralism as claimed by some well-meaning Muslims?
The whole point of arguing all this is not to belittle any religious tradition. But just to open up a debate amongst those Muslims who sincerely believe in a reading of Islam which is pluralist and tolerant.
Arshad Alam is a columnist with

What Is The Islamic Ruling About Those Who Cooperate With ISIS And Other Terror Outfits Committing Sins and Transgression?

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
10 June 2019
Cooperating with ISIS or any other “Islamist” terror outfits is forbidden and an act of severe oppression. The reason is that such outfits are committing sins of transgression whereas Almighty Allah says in the Quran, “And Cooperate in righteousness (birr) and piety (Taqwa), but do not cooperate in sin (Ithm) and transgression (‘Udwan). And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty (5:2)”.
In this Quranic verse, Almighty Allah commands Muslims to cooperate with one another in righteousness, good deeds and avoiding sins. God Almighty forbids Muslims from helping one another in committing sin and aggression. The divine message of this verse is general in its approach and a definitive proof for forbiddance of cooperation with the terror organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda whose acts are those of sins and transgression.  
Explaining the words ‘Ithm’ (sin) and ‘Udwan’ (aggression/transgression), Ibn Jarir Tabari said, “Ithm means abandoning what Allah has commanded to do, while transgression means overstepping the limits that Allah has set in your Religion (Din) and overstepping what Allah has imposed upon you concerning yourselves and others.”  (Tafsir Tabari, Arabic version, Vol. 9, 490)
From the perspective of Quran, Sunnah and the details given in classical books of Islam, when we judge the acts of ISIS, we find them as nothing but acts of transgression.
Allah Almighty says,
“Do not exceed the limits; and Allah does not like the transgressors” (2:190).
This command of God Almighty, as per majority of classical Islamic scholars, is Muhkam and not abrogated (Mansukh). They use this Divine command to discuss the usual rules of war, such as the prohibition against killing women, children, old people, monks, hermits, the chronically ill, peasants and those who offer peace etc.
Hazrat Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “The phrase “do not exceed the limits” renders “do not kill women, children, old men, or those who offer peace and restrain their hand. If you do that, you will have transgressed against them”. (Jamiul Bayan, vol. 2, p. 110-111, printed at Beirut Darul Ma’rifa)
Now please observe all the ghastly terror attacks perpetrated by ISIS and weigh up all limits set by Allah Almighty and the Hadith of Hazrat Ibn Abbas mentioned above. A man of faith and sincerity will not refuse to accept that the ISIS is perpetrating acts of transgression. With this observation, please ponder over this divine command “ not cooperate in sin (ithm) and transgression (‘Udwan). And fear Allah; indeed, Allah is severe in penalty (5:2)”.
This divine command clearly substantiates the fact that those who cooperate in acts of transgression and sins committed by ISIS will be accountable to God Almighty and bear the severe penalty.
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A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamphobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

Adjurations in the Quran

By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
11 June 2019
Scholars of Islam have strangely struggled with explaining the adjurations in the Quran when these offer them the opportunity to show their skills of interpretation and understanding of metaphors and of poetic allusions. Some have even wondered “what does Allah mean by swearing by something that is inferior to Him?”!  Others are clearly embarrassed by Allah swearing so often because a man who swears often is looked down upon. The scholars have struggled with the following thoughts:
The Qur’ān says: “Do not yield to any mean oath-monger.” (Q 68:10) This verse implies that swearing an oath is condemnable. An oath therefore does not behove the Majesty of Allah.
People never take an oath except by something exalted and glorious. The Prophet (sws) has said: “Whoever swears an oath should swear it by God or keep silence.” (Bukhārī No: 3624) This clearly forbids taking an oath by anything other than God. How is it then becoming of Allah, the Lord of the worlds, to swear by His creatures and also by ordinary things like the fig and the olive?
Imām Rāzī tried to explain the oaths by saying that since the Qur’ān was revealed in the language of the Arabs, it follows the convention of swearing excessively in that society! The scholars have been baffled because they have failed to come to grips with Divine Speech and the distinct difference between the objective and quite often the irrelevance of the oaths of human beings and the adjurations of Allah in the Book which are very precise and apt and serve the purpose of explaining something less understood by what is openly recognized or easily understood.  Quranic adjurations are in a very distinct and unique class incomparable with any work of human beings.  Although the scholars have struggled and tied themselves in knots trying to explain these, we shall soon see that these are very simple to understand and serve a very useful purpose in driving home a point and making it clear.
Surah 36 YaSeen
(1) Ya Sin.
(2) By the Qur´an, full of Wisdom,-
(3) Thou art indeed one of the messengers,
(4) On a Straight Way.
(5) It is a Revelation sent down by (Him), the Exalted in Might, Most Merciful.
(6) In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless (of the Signs of Allah).
To the readers of the Quran who find the Book full of wisdom, invoking the property of the Quran as a Book full of wisdom, constitutes proof of Muhammad being indeed one of the messengers of Allah on a straight path. Would such a Book which is full of wisdom say anything false or foolish?  Can Muhammad to whom such a Book is revealed be a false messenger?
The two Arabic letters Ya and Sin are explained by most scholars as addressing the Prophet since the next few verses are addressed to him. However, although the verses following “Ya Sin” address the Prophet, these are also meant for every reader who reads the Book. Ya Sin could therefore be a shorter form of “Yāayyuhā L-Nāsu” which means “O you people”. Since this combination of letters appears only once in the Quran, anything we say about it is only conjecture. However, when the letters are recited, the effect on the listener is to alert him or draw his attention to what follows and far more effective than “Yāayyuhā L-Nāsu”. Without doubt this Surah is addressed to all mankind and not only the believers.
Surah 79 An-Nazi'at / Those who drag forth
(1) By the (angels) who tear out (the souls of the wicked) with violence;
(2) By those who gently draw out (the souls of the blessed);
(3) And by those who glide along (on errands of mercy),
(4) Then press forward as in a race,
(5) Then arrange to do (the Commands of their Lord),
We are aware of the different ways in which people die - some with ease and others after great suffering when everyone is praying for their death so that they are relieved of their suffering. This is then followed by a brief description of the role of angels. The rest of the Surah is about the Hereafter about which we know very little. In the death and the manner in which different people die is a lesson as well as proof of Allah’s control over our lives in this world. This proof is offered as evidence of the truth of what Allah says will happen in the Hereafter. The purpose of the adjuration here is to draw our attention to what is known or can be known as proof of what we do not know but are being informed of.
Surah 91 As-Shams
(1) By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour;
(2) By the Moon as it shows up after the Sun;
(3) By the Day as it shows up (the Sun´s) glory;
(4) By the Night as it conceals it;
(5) By the Firmament and its (wonderful) structure;
(6) By the Earth and its (wide) expanse:
(7) By the conscious living human being, and the proportion and order given to it;
(8) And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-
(9) Truly he succeeds that purifies it,
(10) And he fails that corrupts it!
(11) The Thamud (people) rejected (their prophet) through their inordinate wrong-doing...
The great order, beauty, purpose and unfailing precision and regularity of a few wondrous natural phenomena are cited as proof of what follows. The purpose is to say “As surely as the wondrous phenomena sworn by,  the human consciousness enlightened by the Quran as to what is right and wrong, succeeds if it purifies self and fails if it corrupts it. This law of consequences of human behaviour is as certain, fixed, and unchanging, as the laws the heavenly bodies follow”.
Surah 93 and 94 Ad-Dhuha / The Morning Hours and Ash-Sharh / The Consolation
These Surahs are usually read together since the subject matter is common.
(93:1) By the Glorious Morning Light,
(2) And by the Night when it is still,-
(3) Thy Guardian-Lord hath not forsaken thee, nor is He displeased.
(4) And verily the Hereafter will be better for thee than the present.
(5) And soon will thy Guardian-Lord give thee (that wherewith) thou shalt be well-pleased.....
.... (94:5) So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief:
(6) Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.
The metaphor of the Glorious morning light following the Night when it is still is clear and made amply clear with the 94:5 and 94:6
Surah 100 Al-Adiyat / The Chargers
(1) By the (Steeds) that run, with panting (breath),
(2) And strike sparks of fire,
(3) And push home the charge in the morning,
(4) And raise the dust in clouds the while,
(5) And penetrate forthwith into the midst (of the foe) en masse;-
(6) Truly man is, to his Lord, ungrateful;
(7) And to that (fact) he bears witness (by his deeds);
(8) And violent is he in his love of wealth.
(9) Does he not know,- when that which is in the graves is scattered abroad
(10) And that which is (locked up) in (human) breasts is made manifest-
(11) That their Lord had been Well-acquainted with them, (even to) that Day?
The adjurations in this Surah provide evidence of man’s vanity, passions and vaingloriousness. This is contrasted with the unglorious end of such a vain man and the fact that he has very little to be proud about.
Surah 95 The Fig and Surah 103 Al-Asr
(95:1) By the Fig and the Olive,
(2) And the Mount of Sinai,
(3) And this City of security,-
(4) We have indeed created man in the best of moulds,
(5) Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low,-
(6) Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.
(7) Then what can, after this, contradict thee, as to the judgment (to come)?
(8) Is not Allah the wisest of judges?
(103; 1) By (the Token of) Time (through the ages),
(2) Verily Man is in loss,
(3) Except such as have Faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.
The subject matter in the two Surahs above covers the characteristics of those who are successful and is almost the same as shown below:
(95:6) (All our unsuccessful) Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing and (103:3) (All our unsuccessful)Except such as believe, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of Truth, and of Patience and Constancy.
Surah 103 swears by Time to say that all through the ages, or as Time is a witness, the people who have been successful are as described in the Surah.
Surah 95 swears by City of security or Sanctuary which we know is Mecca and associated with Muhammad (pbuh), the last Prophet.
By the Mount of Sinai associated with Prophet Moses (pbuh)
By the Fig and the Olive. What does the Fig and the Olive refer to? To be consistent it must refer to two other messengers of Allah and not to the fruit. Olive refers to the Mount of Olives associated with Jesus (pbuh) and The Fig refers to the Fig tree under which Buddha (pbuh) received enlightenment.
Please notice that not only time is a witness to the essential requirement for success, but the message carried by all the messengers of Allah through time from Adam to the last Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the same is what Surah 95 is saying.
 Muslims have a problem with naming Buddha as a prophet. The Quran is also very subtle in doing so and not sworn by the “The Mount of Olives” and “The Fig Tree” as it could have very well done if it wished to be more explicit.  The subtlety could be because Buddhism has changed over the years into worship of Buddha and the Quran therefore refrains from explicitly endorsing it in its present state. There are certain things that the Quran merely hints at and is meant only for those who can understand and digest and not for everyone. Most Muslim scholars have waxed eloquent on the virtues of the Fig and Olive as a fruit and it does not bother them to mix the metaphors. Imam Razi is among them.
What is common between Buddhism and the three Abrahamic faiths is:
A very clear and explicit deontological moral code which is followed as a religious duty out of reverence for the code or reverence for the Law Giver or Allah. This fulfils the criteria of doing righteous deeds
A firm belief in the consequences of our deeds on this earth. This fulfils the criteria of belief
While the Abrahamic faiths believe in a personal God, the Buddhists are believed to be agnostic, but their agnosticism is not denial of God but on the other hand they recognize a Being or Intelligence higher than self which governs the Universe, ensures order and corrects things.  They see their moral code given by Buddha to be in accordance with this higher Intelligence and submit to it out of reverence.  This is a very refined concept of God and perhaps more accurate, whereas, ours is closer to building a mental image of God while the Quran says Allah is unlike anything we know. At the other extreme is building an idol of God which we avoid as this is explicitly prohibited. The Buddhist concept is extremely refined but difficult to follow, which is why in the later revelations perhaps, the concept is made a little more concrete, but less concrete than building and worshiping an idol. In essence, the Buddhist religion is very much Allah’s religion like the other explicitly named religions.
Surah 37 As-Saaffaat / Those drawn up in Ranks
(1) By those who range themselves in ranks,
(2) And so are strong in repelling (evil),
(3) And thus proclaim the Message (of Allah)!
(4) Verily, verily, your Allah is one!-
(5) Lord of the heavens and of the earth and all between them, and Lord of every point at the rising of the sun!
(6) We have indeed decked the lower heaven with beauty (in) the stars,-
(7) (For beauty) and for guard against all obstinate rebellious evil spirits,
(8) (So) they should not strain their ears in the direction of the Exalted Assembly but be cast away from every side,
(9) Repulsed, for they are under a perpetual penalty,
(10) Except such as snatch away something by stealth, and they are pursued by a flaming fire, of piercing brightness.
(11) Just ask their opinion: are they the more difficult to create, or the (other) beings We have created? Them have We created out of a sticky clay!
(12) Truly dost thou marvel, while they ridicule,
(13) And, when they are admonished, pay no heed,-
(14) And, when they see a Sign, turn it to mockery,
(15) And say, "This is nothing but evident sorcery!
(16) "What! when we die, and become dust and bones, shall we (then) be raised up (again)
(17) "And also our fathers of old?"
The adjuration “By those who range themselves in ranks”,is an endorsement of the strategy of standing united against evil and for proclaiming the Deen of Allah and compared with Allah ranging the lowers stars to beautify the Heavens and to guard “against all obstinate rebellious evil spirits”.
Surah 51 Adh-Dhaariyat / The Winnowing Winds
(1) By the (Winds) that scatter broadcast;
(2) And those that lift and bear away heavy weights;
(3) And those that flow with ease and gentleness;
(4) And those that distribute and apportion by Command;-
(5) Verily that which ye are promised is true;
(6) And verily Judgment and Justice must indeed come to pass.
(7) By the Sky with (its) numerous Paths,
(8) Truly ye are in a doctrine discordant,
(9) Through which are deluded (away from the Truth) such as would be deluded.
(10) Woe to the falsehood-mongers,-
(11) Those who (flounder) heedless in a flood of confusion:
The winds play an important role in dispersing seeds, pollen and spores. These carry the clouds that bring rain which revive vegetation and help grow crops and fruit in abundance.  The ships sail with their help and wind power finds many other uses. The winds play a beneficial role without which life on this earth is not possible. This is a Sign of Allah and of his Mercy and distributive justice and power to do all things. Man however chooses the wrong path from the many paths available to him forgetting Allah and His Power to bring him to justice.
We have seen that the adjurations in the Quran are not like the oaths of us human beings, but among the most powerful and most easily understood Signs of Allah, through which Allah makes the most telling points. These draw our attention to what is both striking and obvious, to serve as evidence for the Message that needs to be understood. We have also seen that there is no mystery in the adjurations and neither does it require deep mystical knowledge to understand their meaning and purpose. It requires simplicity, humility and integrity to understand but not complex or esoteric scholarship. The scholars with their esoteric scholarship have made heavy weather of these simple to understand adjurations and confused themselves and others.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to

Islamic Teachings of Mercy, Kindness and Compassion towards All Creations of Allah

By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
13 June 2019
There are certainly war-related rulings in the Quran and Ahadith, but they are contextual and relevant only for preventing oppression, curbing religious persecutions and gaining religious rights. It will be injustice for any “Islamist or Jihadist groups” to apply them to a pluralistic country, especially India, where people of different religions coexist with all their respective religious freedom and civil rights. Moreover, Indian Constitution also guarantees security from religious persecutions; it will be unfair for anyone to take the law in their own hands to punish the persecutors or go to join the “Islamist” groups such as ‘ISIS’ which itself is a group of transgressors, oppressors and religious persecutors.(Related Articles can be found on this page (
We have been saying it repeatedly that the concept of Islamic war, which is fought by the State of Islam, is fully confined to repelling religious persecutions, whether committed by believers or non-believers, and not against all Kuffar. Therefore, we find in the Quran the allowance to coexist with non-violent Kuffar, disbelievers or non-Muslims in peace, as God Almighty says in the Quran, “And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.” (9:6)
In a pluralistic society where non-violent people of different faiths coexist enjoying their respective rights under the constitutional laws, it will be sheer injustice, from Islamic perspective, to encourage war or unfair retaliation. In such a society of pluralism, the primary goal of Muslims and non-Muslims should be to raise echoes of peace, tranquility, tolerance, kindness and compassion.   
The faithful Muslims who want to devote their life to the cause of God Almighty must develop it with the sense of general command of mercy, kindness and compassion towards all creations of Allah Almighty, regardless of religion, caste, race, culture and colour.
A number of Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet peace be upon him) teach Muslims to adopt approach of general mercy, kindness and compassion towards all creations. Some of them are as follows;
The Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said, “Almighty Allah does bestow His Mercy upon a person who is not merciful upon the people” (narrated by Jareer bin Abdullah, Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
Hazrat Abu Hurairah said that he heard Abul Qasim, the Truthful and the Deliverer of the Truth (peace be upon him) saying, “Mercy is not removed but from a wretched person” (Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Rahmaan (Allah) has Mercy on those who have mercy. Be compassionate to those on the earth and He Whose Divine Authority is over the skies, will be Merciful towards you”. (Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi reported from Abdullah Ibn ‘Amr)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “He who shows no mercy upon our children and shows no respect to our elders, and he who does not command righteous deeds and he who does not forbid evil, is not from amongst us”. (Tirmidhi reported it from Ibn ‘Abbas)
It is reported from Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) that if a young person respects an elderly person due to his old-age, then Allah will appoint for him, one who respect in his old-age.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “It is from the signs of Respect for Allah, to be respectful to an elderly Muslim, and to respect one who bears the Qur’an (i.e. a Hafiz), who is neither Ghaali nor Jaafi, and to be respectful to a Just Ruler”. (Abu Dawud reported this Hadith from Abu Musa)
The words ‘Ghaali’ and ‘Jaafi’ refer to those who exaggerate and do not focus on the accuracy of the words or those who recite merely for showiness. So this hadith asks us to be respectful towards those Huffaz of the Quran who are neither Ghaali nor Jaafi.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A believer (Mumin) is a sanctuary of affection, and there is no good in that person who neither shows any affection nor receives any affection” (Imam Ahmad and Baihaqi reported it on the authority of Abu Hurairah)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whosoever fulfils the need of someone in my Ummah with the aim of making him happy, he has pleased me and whosoever pleases me has pleased Allah, and whosoever pleases Allah, Allah will enter him into Heaven (Jannat)” (Baihaqi reported it on the authority of Hazrat Anas)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whosoever redresses the grievances of an aggrieved person, Allah will have seventy three blessings and absolutions recorded for him. Through one of them, all of his issues will be set aright and with the remaining seventy two, his status will be elevated on the Day of Judgment” (Baihaqi reported it on the authority of Hazrat Anas)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “All believers (Muminin) are like one person (i.e. one body). If his eye is inflicted (by illness), then his entire body is ill and if there is an illness in his head, then his entire body is ill” (Sahih Muslim on the authority of Nu’man bin Basheer)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A believer unto another believer is the example of a solid structure, that part of it gives strength to other parts of it. He (peace be upon him) then intertwined the fingers of his one hand to the fingers of the other hand. In other words, Muslims too, should be united in the same manner as the fingers are entwined”. (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim reported it on the authority of Abu Musa)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Assist your brother, be he the oppressor or the oppressed!’ Someone asked, “O Messenger of Allah! If he is oppressed then I will (surely) assist him, but if he is the oppressor, how should I assist him?’ He  said, “Stop him from committing oppression. In this way you will be helping him”. (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Mulsim on the authority of Hazrat Anas)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A Muslim is a brother unto another Muslim. Neither should he oppress him, nor should he quit assisting him and one who is there for his brother in a time of need, Allah is there in his time of need. Whosoever removes a single difficulty of a Muslim, Allah will eliminate for him one difficulty from the difficulties of Judgment (Qiyaamat), and that person who veils the secrets of another Muslim; Allah Almighty will veil his secrets on the day of Judgment” (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim on the authority of Ibn Umar)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I swear an oath by Him in Whose Divine Control is my life, a servant is not a true believer unless he loves for his Muslim brother that which he loves for himself” (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim reported it from Hazrat Anas)
Hazrat Tameem Daari reported narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Deen (Religion) is to wish-well (i.e. to be supportive and loyal)’. He said it thrice. We asked “Who should be loyal to?”. He (peace be upon him) said, “Allah and His Messenger and His Divine Book and the Learned leaders of the believers and to the Muslims in general” (Sahih Muslim)
Hazrat Jareer bin Abdullah says, “We pledged the oath of allegiance at the hands of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) to establish Namaz, give Zakaat and to be supportive (i.e. caring) to every Muslim” (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Treat each person according to his status’. In other words, approach each person as it is befitting his status. Do not deal with everyone in the same manner, but in doing so, one must take heed not to belittle or embarrass anyone else”. (Abu Dawud reported this Hadith from Hazrat Ayesha – May Allah be pleased with her)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “A good person amongst you is one from whom there is expectation of good and from whose mischief others are spared. A bad person amongst you is one from whom there is no expectation of any good and from whose mischief others are not spared”. (Tirmidhi and Baihaqi reported this hadith on the authority of Abu Hurairah)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The entire creation is dependent on Allah and the dearest to Allah is the one who is kind towards all those who are dependent upon Him” (Baihaqi reported it from Hazrat Anas)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Always remain in the fear of Allah wherever you may be, and if you commit any wrong, then thereafter do that which is right. This righteous deed will cleanse it and approach people with good manners” (Tirmidhi reported it on the authority of Hazrat Abu Zirr) – May Allah be pleased with all companions!
A regular Columnist with, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).

As Scriptures Can Be A Source of Moral Instruction and Spiritual Growth, So Too Can ‘Everyday’ Experiences—Our Own As Well As Others

By Roshan Shah, New Age Islam
20 June 2019

Name of the Book: The Moral Vision
Author: Maulana Wahiduddin Khan
Published by: Goodword Books, Noida (
Year: 2018
ISBN: 81-87570-01-6
Pages: 206

Almost a century old, New Delhi-based Maulana Wahiduddin Khan is a prolific spiritual teacher and writer. Author of several dozen books and head of the Centre for Peace and Spirituality, Khan is one of the most widely-known present-day Islamic scholars, not just in India but globally, too. This delightful book is a collection of more than 100 short essays (mostly of single page length) by Khan, each of which highlights one or more moral value and indicates the importance of ethics as the basis of a truly meaningful life. Khan has a deep understanding of the Islamic scriptural tradition, but in this book he also draws insights from other sources, indicating a universal understanding of spirituality based on an ethical core which people of all faiths might easily connect with. The spirituality that he espouses doesn’t call for negating the world. Nor does it involve esoteric doctrines and demanding physical austerities and practices. It is simply about leading a God-oriented life, the Art of conscious ethical living day to day, one could say.
Reflecting Khan’s understanding that spirituality isn’t something cut off from daily life, but, rather, deeply rooted in it, this book is framed around anecdotes from the lives of people (famous as well as ‘ordinary’), aspects of Nature, key events in the history of countries, reports in newspapers and so on, through which Khan derives useful moral lessons which we can put into practice in our everyday lives. In this way, he shows us how every experience can be a source of spiritual growth if we care to reflect on and learn from them. From such experiences, no matter how ‘negative’ some of them might seem, one can draw spiritual nourishment, growing in awareness of such values as God-consciousness, forgiveness, patience, compassion, determination and positive thinking. The many little stories that this book narrates strikingly highlight these and other such values, embodied mostly in the form of real-life events and phenomena.
A few examples from the book vividly illustrate this powerful technique. In a story titled ‘Teacher Tree’, Khan tells us that the tree-trunk forms only one half of a tree, the roots being the other half. The top half of a tree can only stand erect and verdant above the ground when the tree is prepared to bury its other half beneath the ground, Khan explains. “A tree stands above the ground, fixing its roots firmly beneath the ground. It grows from beneath, upwards into the air; it does not start at the top and grow downwards”, he notes. “The tree is our teacher”, he continues, “Imparting to us the lesson of nature that if we seek to progress outwardly we must first strengthen ourselves inwardly; we must begin from the base of our own selves before we can hope to build society anew.”
In another chapter, showing how individuals can draw useful spiritual lessons for their own lives from the history of entire countries, Khan highlights the case of Japan. In 1941, Japan attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbour, destroying a large number of American vessels. In retaliation, in 1945, America dropped two atom bombs on Japan—on the two major industrial cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima—thus annihilating Japan as a military power. Thereafter, America kept up a tight military and political hold on Japan. But instead of taking revenge on America for the large-scale atomic devastation, Japan responded peacefully positively to the new situation. Before World War II, Khan explains, Japan relied on the power of military weapons. But after witnessing the destruction that these weapons caused, it relinquished their use and set about progressing entirely on peaceful lines, so much so that in a few years it became an economic superpower.
Simply by accepting the fact that aggression could not serve dividends and then channelizing its potentials towards the field of industry, Japan reached new heights. It was able to turn its military defeat into an economic victory by abstaining from retaliation, encouraging patience and perseverance, avoiding provocation and focusing on fields of peaceful activity. Khan explains that Japan initially accepted the military and political supremacy of other countries, quickly adapted itself to new scales of values, and then got busy with the task of economic rehabilitation without wasting any time on bewailing lost opportunities, blaming others for one’s misfortunes or engaging in pointless nostalgia. Instead of seeking revenge, Japan focussed on availing existing opportunities. It accepted, Khan tells us, the blame for its destruction, and, once having done so, was able to seriously work for its own economic uplift.
Perceptive readers can draw numerous from this little snippet of Japanese history for their own personal lives. One of these is how to deal with others in this world of competition. Khan notes that one can approach this predicament in two ways: one is to collide with that which obstructs one’s path. The other is to circumvent the obstacle and then go one’s way (the path adopted by post-World War II Japan). The first, Khan explains, is self-destructive, while the second is much more likely to prove advantageous.
Here is a startling anecdote from modern Indian history which Khan uses to highlight a lesson we can profit from in our own lives. Lord William Wintock was the British Governor-General in India from 1828 to 1935. He had the dubious distinction of ordering the destruction of the Taj Mahal at Agra, an order that; fortunately, he was not able to carry out. The East India Company had been facing tough times, and it was suggested to Wintock that the sale of the Taj Mahal would fetch a sum of 100,000 rupees, enough to extricate the Company from its financial losses. When the news of the Company’s intentions circulated, there was widespread opposition to the move. This infuriated Wintock, who apparently now gave orders for the total destruction of the Taj Mahal. But opposition to the command now escalated, with Hindus and Muslims joining in one voice of protest against it. The danger of full-scale rebellion prompted his advisors to persuade Wintock to withdraw the order.
It was not the people who saved the Taj Mahal. Rather, it was saved by its own beauty. Had the Taj Mahal not been beautiful, it would not have won such overwhelming support; Hindus and Muslims would not have united behind it to foil Wintock’s designs. Displaying his wonderful knack of deriving spiritual lessons from every event, Khan writes: “Just as virtue in a thing wins support for its cause, so virtue in humans has the same effect. It wins one friends from the enemy camp, appreciation even from strangers. A virtuous nature is the greatest asset a person can have, for with it comes support from all quarters”.
This book is a precious gem, not to be missed, full of valuable insights on how to live a more meaningful life. The approach to spiritual growth that it articulates based on deriving and learning from lessons from every event and situation, is a really valuable tool that perceptive readers can use in their own lives with great benefit to themselves and others. Just as scriptures can be a source of moral instruction and spiritual growth, so too can ‘everyday’ experiences—our own as well as others—this book beautifully teaches us.

The Concept of Human Equality in Islam Can Develop Pluralism

By Kaniz Fatma, New Age Islam
21 June 2019
Men and women are equally created in their basic humanity. Discrimination on the basis of gender, colour, lineage, class, race, or language is strongly prohibited in Islam. Equality does not mean that all are completely alike since there is no denial about natural differences. The two genders complete and complement each other. Allah says in the Quran,
“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer.” (4:1)
In another verse, He Almighty says,
"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female, and have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Indeed the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted" (Quran 49:13)
It is reported that the Messenger of Allah said, “Allah does not look at your bodies and your colours but at your acts and your hearts (i.e. outward deeds and inward intentions) (Sahih Muslim)
These commands are equally applicable to all human beings without any discrimination due to class, race or social status. Allah Almighty says,
“Whoever does righteousness - it is for his [own] soul; and whoever does evil [does so] against it. And your Lord is not ever unjust to [His] servants.” (41:46)
Islam dislikes all sorts of racism. For example, one of the companions of Allah’s Prophet (peace be upon him), Hazrat Abu Dharr once said to a black slave, “O the son of the black lady!” Upon hearing this, the Messenger of Allah turned to Abu Dharr and said to him,  “Are you insulting this man with his mother? Truly, you possess some of the qualities of the era of Ignorance (pre- Islamic times). That time is finished and over. There is no virtue or merit for the son of the white woman over the son of the black woman, except through piety and righteousness, or by good deeds and actions” (Ahmad 4:145.)
It is narrated that Abu Dharr, after hearing the Prophet’s words, put his head down on the ground in humility for the slave to come and step with his foot on his head, as expiation for his racist words. Though the Prophet did not command him to do so, Hazrat Abu Dharr did it to discipline himself by humiliating himself in this way so that he would never commit such disrespectful words in the future.
This is to assert that in Islam, a person’s worth is determined by his good deeds and by his obedience to Allah.
Islamic value of equality is based on the following principles;
1.       All human beings are created by One God.
2.       The father of all human beings is One, that is, Hazrat Adam (peace be upon him)
3.       Allah is Just and Kind to all His creatures, without having any partiality to any race, age or religion.
4.       All human beings are equally born, that is, none of them brings any possession with him, and they die without taking back anything of their worldly belongings.
5.       Allah judges every individual on the basis of his merits and deeds.
6.       Allah has conferred on Children of Adam, that is, on all mankind, a title of honour and dignity. 
These principles are mentioned in the Quran and Hadith. For instance, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “O Mankind! Your Lord is One. Your father is one. All of you belong to Adam. And Adam is created of soil. Truly, the most honourable person in the Sight of Your Lord, the Almighty Allah, is the most pious among you. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab. There is no superiority for a non-Arab over an Arab. There is no superiority for a red (race) person over a white person. Likewise, there is no superiority of a white over a red (race) person, except for the piety and God consciousness. (Musnad Ahmad Hadith no. 411)
To sum up, Islam declares all human beings equal in terms of human values, yet every person is rewarded in accordance with his service that he offers. This concept, if utilized in daily life, can greatly benefit the societies and develop pluralism. There will be thus no room for prejudice, oppression or persecution.   
What Does Taqwa Mean?

By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

18 June 2019

Strangely, I find Islamic scholars struggling to give the meaning of Taqwa although; the Quran gives the meaning directly as follows:

ذَٰلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لَا رَيْبَ ۛ فِيهِ ۛ هُدًى لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ

(2:2) This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to the Muttaqin.

The above verses says that the Quran is a Book of certain guidance for the Muttaqin and the verse below says that whoever listens to the Word or command of Allah, and then follows the command in the best possible manner, are the ones whom Allah has guided, or in other words these people are the Muttaqin.

الَّذِينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ هَدَاهُمُ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمْ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ

(39:18) Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best thereof: those are the ones whom Allah has guided, and those are the ones endued with understanding.

Taqwa is therefore to follow the commands of Allah in the best possible manner. The Quran also makes clear how to obey the important commands of Allah in the best possible manner.

Taqwa in Salat

For example, if it is Salat, then, it is performed facing Kabaa (2:149 and 150), celebrating “Allah´s praises in the manner Allah has taught you, which ye knew not before” (2:239). The obligatory Salat must be performed in Jamaat or congregation “bow down with those who bow down in worship” (2:43, 3:43).  Obligatory prayers are to be performed at stated time (4:103). Wudhu or Tayammum need to be performed before Salat in the manner described in verse 5:6 or in 4:43 respectively.  Most importantly, one must stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind) while performing Salat (2:238) and never miss performing an obligatory Salat even when traveling or even while fighting in a war (4:101 to 103) and 2:239.

Taqwa in Zakat

Give zakat freely what is in excess of one’s needs to the needy (2:215), without miserliness or niggardliness (4:37), with a kind word and without injury or insult, and without making it a show to be seen of men, seeking nothing but the countenance of Allah (2:262 to 264).

Taqwa in the Treatment of One’s Parents

Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none but Him, and that ye be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in thy life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them in terms of honour. (Quran 17:23) And, out of kindness, lower to them the wing of humility, and say: "My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood." (Quran 17:24)

The commandments for the Islamic way of life describe vividly the best way to follow the commands. The command describes the body language that is appropriate (lower the wings of humility) – once such a posture is assumed, can a person misbehave? The command says that even the expression of impatience such as saying uff (just a sound emitted which means the equivalent of “Oh No!”)is to be avoided at the mistakes the elderly often make. It says that only words of honour are to be used with parents such as “beloved father/mother”. And how beautiful is the prayer that is taught! "My Lord! bestow on them thy Mercy even as they cherished me in childhood". The prayer reminds us of how our parents cherished us in our childhood which primes us or puts us in the frame of mind to behave towards them in the same kindly manner overlooking their infirmities, follies, forgetfulness, repetitiveness, sensitivity and many other afflictions of old age that require our constant attention, love, care and patience.

Following a command but without Taqwa

(2:27) Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to Allah): It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: "Be sure I will slay thee." "Surely," said the former, "Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are Muttaqin.
Here it means those who sacrifice willingly and in the best possible manner and not in the manner described below:
(2:67) And remember Moses said to his people: "Allah commands that ye sacrifice a heifer." They said: "Makest thou a laughing-stock of us?" He said: "Allah save me from being an ignorant (fool)!"
(68) They said: "Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us what (heifer) it is!" He said; "He says: The heifer should be neither too old nor too young, but of middling age. Now do what ye are commanded!"
(69) They said: "Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us Her colour." He said: "He says: A fawn-coloured heifer, pure and rich in tone, the admiration of beholders!"
(70) They said: "Beseech on our behalf Thy Lord to make plain to us what she is: To us are all heifers alike: We wish indeed for guidance, if Allah wills."
(71) He said: "He says: A heifer not trained to till the soil or water the fields; sound and without blemish." They said: "Now hast thou brought the truth." Then they offered her in sacrifice, but not with good-will.
The number of questions asked itself is an indicator of unwillingness to obey the command under the pretext of lack of clarity. Notice that with each question, their task becomes more difficult. If they had Taqwa, or desire to obey the command of Allah, they would have sacrificed willingly without asking any question, and could have sacrificed any heifer and not one answering to the exacting specifications.
The Meaning of Taqwa As the Quran Teaches Us
Let us go back to the verse:
(2:2) This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to the Muttaqin.

From the discussion above, we know that Muttaqin in this verse means that the Quran is a guidance without doubt, to those who read/listen to the Quran in the best possible manner. What is reading/listening in the best possible manner? It is reading/listening paying full attention to every word and its meaning. Even if an enemy of Islam does that, the Quran becomes a guidance to such a person. For example, Hazrat Umar was one such enemy of Islam for whom listening to a few Ayats of the Quran became guidance to accept Islam.
The Story of Umar’s Conversion
Hazrat Umar (RA) before his acceptance of Islam was a cruel and prominent persecutor of Muslims and a bitter enemy of Islam and Muhammad (pbuh). When the faith kept growing despite the persecution, the leaders among the persecutors decided to assassinate Muhammad. Umar volunteered to do the job.
The story of Umar’s conversion is recounted in Ibn Ishaq's Sīrah. On his way to murder Muhammad, Umar met his friend Nua'im bin Abdullah who had secretly converted to Islam. When Umar informed him that he had set out to kill Muhammad, Nua'im said, “why don't you return to your own house and at least set it straight?"
Nuaimal Hakim told him to inquire about his own house where his sister and her husband had converted to Islam without Umar’s knowledge. Upon arriving at her house, Umar found his sister and brother-in-law Saeed bin Zaid (Umar's cousin) reciting the verses of the Quran from sura Ta-Ha. He pounced on his brother-in-law and began beating him. When his sister came to rescue her husband, he also hit her. They kept on saying "you may kill us but we will not give up Islam". Upon hearing these words, Umar slapped his sister so hard that she fell to the ground bleeding from her mouth. When he saw what he did to his sister, he calmed down and asked his sister to give him what she was reciting. His sister refused saying "You are unclean, and no unclean person can touch the Scripture." He insisted, but his sister refused and asked him to first purify himself by bathing. Umar did so and then began to read the verses that were: Verily, I am Allah: there is no God but Me; so serve Me (only), and establish regular prayer for My remembrance (Quran 20:14). He wept and declared, "Surely this is the word of Allah.” He then went to Muhammad (pbuh) and accepted Islam.
 How did the reading of a few verses from the Quran become a source of guidance for the violent Umar who was till recently a bitter opponent of the Prophet and Islam? Did he read the verses with the fear of Allah in his heart? No, he simply read it out of bewildered curiosity and the need to know what had transformed his sister. He wanted to better understand so that he could better oppose it. He did not read with the intention of becoming a Muslim. He was however in a heedful state as he very much wanted to understand its appeal to the people who would not give it up even when persecuted. When he read the verses, he was not in a state of fear or awe. After the reading and the reading turning into guidance, he was filled with awe and subsequently fear of Allah when he reflected on his past and the dark deeds he had done in his ignorance of the Deen of Allah.
 The Quran is a guidance to every heedful reader/listener who pays careful attention to its meaning. Who can deny it? It is not a source of guidance for the heedless. Who can deny this? One may read the Quran a thousand times in a heedless state. It will not benefit the reader. A person may like a single verse so much, that he may spend all night reading the verse again and again in a heedful state filled with awe, wonder, humility and gratitude. Such a reading will transform the reader.
The Prophet (pbuh) spent all night reading:
 إِن تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ ۖ وَإِن تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ 
 (5:118) "If Thou dost punish them (the Christians who venerated Jesus as son of God and Mary as Mother of god), they are Thy servant: If Thou dost forgive them, Thou art the Exalted in power, the Wise."
The verse contains the intercession of Jesus (pbuh) for his Ummat. In the verses that follow, Allah does not reject the intercession. How subtly Allah informs us that even such Christians, who worshiped Jesus and Mary, can also hope for His forgiveness! The Prophet wept all night reading this verse again and again because this single verse reflects several of Allah's attributes such as Al Lateef, Al Rahim, Al Rehman, Al Rauf, Al Karim, Al Ghaffar, Al Qaabidh, Al Halim, Al Hakam, Al Ad'l, Al Ali, Al Kabir, Al Qadeer, Al Muqtadir, Al Hasib, Al Jalil, Al Mujib, Al Hakim, Al Wadud, Al Majeed, Ash Shaheed, Al Wakil, Al Wali, Al Muhsi and Al Hamidu. This is the most beautiful verse of the Quran. However, this verse is beyond the understanding of our Ulema, who consider the Christians as Kafir destined for Hell. They are heedless of the Quran and heedful of the secondary sources which clouds their minds preventing them from understanding.
To obey a command of Allah in the best possible manner, what is required is to pay heed/attention to every requirement and detail. For example, while offering Salat, paying attention to every detail and requirement described before.
The word heedfulness contains all the other meanings given to the word Taqwa and its derivatives besides also meaning ‘in the best possible manner’ or ‘most sincerely’. One can be heedful from:

1. Sheer curiosity to acquire correct knowledge as Hazrat Umar did when he first listened to a recitation of the Quran.
2. Fear of Allah
3. Reverence of Allah
4. The desire to please Allah
5. Love of Allah
6. The desire to see the countenance of Allah in the Hereafter
7.  The desire to excel
8. The urge to gain piety
9. The urge to gain righteousness
10 To gain nearness to Allah
11 To gain the Inam of Allah.

The methodology that I have followed to derive the meaning of Taqwa was to let the Quran teach me its meaning. This is the methodology that I follow for all my articles. To the best of my knowledge and belief, no other person has derived the same meaning of Taqwa, because no one else follows the same methodology with the same Taqwa or intensity. They follow it loosely, or without adequate Taqwa, which is why their meanings do not fit well the usage of the word in the Quran. For example, this is how Yusuf Ali and many others translate verse 2:2

(2:2) This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah;

To fear Allah, one must believe in Allah and know His attributes which means that one must already be on true guidance. The verse then becomes a tautology –The Quran is a guidance without doubt to those who are on true guidance! This is clearly nonsensical. The word and its derivatives have been used 239 times in the Quran and a mistranslation plays havoc with the correct understanding of the Quran. While piety or righteousness are not incorrect translations of Taqwa in other verses, these words are less meaningful and effective than heedfulness. We can understand the requirement to be painstakingly heedful of every detail, but what does it mean to be pious or righteous?

Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to