Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I've done something bad.. now what?

In the Name of Allah, The Most Kind The Most Merciful

One of the things I am involved in is assisting reverts. I got an email from a revert about a 'bad' sin they had committed. This revert felt 'felt too ashamed to even approach God'. Here is the email I replied with, I think it's beneficial to share this.

As I said before, we all commit sins. And when muslims do this, one of a number of things can happen:
  • They don't even feel bad about doing it, but continue to do it and enjoy it
  • They feel bad about doing it, and want to stop, but the desire of their soul keeps pushing them to do it again
  • What happened with you: they feel so bad about doing it, that they think they have lost all connection with God. Like you say, this leads to a domino effect
All of the above are the 'wrong' thing to do. The most important thing, of course, is to do what Allah wants us to do. What does Allah want us to do? Does he want us to just sulk away out of fear and shame? Or does he want us to approach him? It is very, very clear that Allah WANTS us to approach him after sinning. The idea that what we have done is so bad that we can't approach Allah is simply a trick of Satan to keep us away from Allah. Allah says in the Quran:

Allah wants to turn to you in repentance, but the wish of those who follow their lusts is that you should turn away from Him- far, far away.
Allah wants to lighten your difficulties: For man was created Weak . 4:27-28

These verses make it very clear that when you do a sin, Allah WANTS you to turn to him in repentance. Those who reject Allah, like Satan, and follow their own lusts - they want you to NOT turn to Allah in repentance, but to do what you did, which was turn away from Allah. Allah knows that we are weak, and we sin. One of the names of Allah is Al Haleem, which means 'The Most Tolerant'. Allah is tolerant of our sins, and gives us chance after chance to turn back. In the Quran, Allah says that if He were to take everyone to task for his sins, there would not be a single human being left on earth. What matters is the state you are in when you die. So Allah gives everyone time to repent. So you may be thinking, or rather Satan may be whispering in your mind 'what I did was REALLY bad'. So for a start, it's a good thing you realize how grave what you did was (and I'm not judging you here). The Prophet(SAW) said 'Remorse is repentance', meaning that feeling bad is actually a good thing, as it really is a sign that Allah has accepted you. As for whether there are any sins which Allah does not forgive, Allah says this in the Quran:

Those who invoke not, with Allah, any other god, nor slay such life as Allah has made sacred except for just cause, nor commit fornication; - and any that does this not only meets punishment, but the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to him, and he will dwell therein in ignominy, unless he repents, believes, and works righteous deeds, for Allah will change the evil of such persons into good, and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful 25:68-70

In these verses, Allah is saying that there are three sins which deserve a double punishment: taking partners with God, murder, and fornication. But even these sins are forgiven with repentance and doing good deeds, such as salat. Allah does NOT say that whoever does these three things can never come back to him. So look at what you did, which was not as the same level as these three things... how can you think, based on this, that Allah will not accept you if you turn back to Him?

I sincerely pray to Allah to help you stay on the right path, Ameen.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jesus in The Quran

In the Name of Allah, The Most Kind The Most Merciful

A summary, with references, of the description of Jesus (peace be upon Him) in the Quran.

His Name

In the Quran, Jesus is referred to as Isa, which is the Arabic for Jesus. He is also referred to as Masih in several places (3:45,4:171, 5:17) which literally means 'anointed' in Arabic. This is translated in English translations as either 'Christ' or 'Messiah'. Another epithet used throughout the Quran for Jesus is Son of Mary (2:87, 2:253, 4:171, 5:46), to emphasize the Quranic belief that Jesus is the son of a human woman, and not the son of God.


The story of the birth of Jesus is told in the Quran in two places, Surah 3 and Surah 19. We are first told about Mary. Here are the main points about Mary as told in the Quran (3:35-43, 19:16, 66:12).
  • Mary was descended from the family of Amran, the father of Moses.
  • Before she was born, her mother dedicated her to be used for God's service.
  • As she was growing up, the prophet Zachariah - the father of John the Baptist - was given the task of looking after her.
  • Mary was miraculously provided by food from God.
  • She was a devout worshipper of God
  • She is considered one of the most pious women who ever lived on earth
  • She was chaste, truthful and obedient to God

His Birth

Here are the main points about the birth of Jesus as told in the Quran (19:16-29, 3:35-37)
  • Mary is informed by the angel Gabriel that she will give birth to Jesus.
  • Being chaste, she asks how this can happen. She is told that God merely needs to say 'Be' for a thing to happen.
  • Jesus is conceived by the breath of Gabriel, which he blows into Mary's womb.
  • Mary goes to a remote place to give birth.
  • She suffers from the pangs of labour. She is comforted with food and water.
  • She gives birth to Jesus, and takes him to her people.
  • Her people accuse her of being unchaste.
  • In reply, she points to the baby Jesus, who - even though a baby - begins to speak to the people.
Relationship to God
  • The very first words which Jesus speaks, in the scene presented above, are "Surely I am a servant of God; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet;". With these words, the Quran immediately makes clear that Jesus is not divine in any way, but is a servant of God and a prophet of His. (19:30).
  • Jesus is referred to as a messenger of God throughout the Quran (2:87, 2:136, 3:84, 4:171).
  • He is called a word from God, and a spirit proceeding from Him (3:45, 4:171).

Holy Spirit
  • The Quran mentions in a number of places that Jesus was strengthened by the Holy Spirit (2:87, 2:253, 5:110). The 'Holy Spirit' refers to the Spirit and to the scripture given to Jesus. It may also refer to the angel Gabriel.
  • Jesus was given this strengthening by the Holy Spirit in times of hardship, distress and opposition or enmity from the people. An example of this is the one cited above, where Jesus is able to talk to the people while still a baby in the cradle.
His mission

  • Jesus was blessed, and commanded to pray to God and give charity (19:31-32).
  • He is said to be given a scripture referred to as the Injil, which confirms the Torah given to the Children of Israel (3:3, 3:50,5:46, 61:6).
  • The mission of Jesus was to tell the Children of Israel to worship one God, and only one God (5:72).
  • The religion of Jesus is the same religion as that given by God to the prophets Noah, Abraham, Moses and Mohammed(42:13).
  • Jesus is referred to as a bringer of wisdom, and to explain to the Children of Israel some of their differences. (43:63).
  • Jesus is said to have performed many miracles as clear signs of his mission. Such miracles include giving life to clay birds, giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, and raising the dead to life. The Quran emphasises that these miracles were performed with the permission of God (2:87, 2:253, 3:49, 5:111-115, 43:63).
  • Jesus was rejected by the Children of Israel (3:52, 3:54, 5:110, 61:6).
  • Jesus was assisted by his disciples (3:52-53, 5:111-115, 61:14).
  • Compassion and mercy was put in the hearts of those who followed Jesus (57:27).
  • Jesus predicted the coming of Mohammed (61:6).

His demise

According to the Quran, the Jews tried to kill Jesus; but the Quran says that he was neither killed nor crucified, but it was made to appear so, and that he was then raised up to God (4:157-158).

His return

Jesus will return to earth before the day of judgment, towards the end of time (43:61, 4:159). Muhammed (peace be upon Him) informed muslims that Jesus will fight with and defeat the Antichrist.

His evidence on the Day of Judgement

On the day of judgement, Jesus will emphatically deny that he ever called upon anyone to either worship him or his mother (5:116).

Rejection of Church doctrine

  • The Quran rejects Jesus being the son of God, or God taking any sons (19:88-92, 21:26-29, 2:116, 9:30, 10:68, 18:4-5).
  • The Quran rejects Jesus being God (5:17).
  • The Quran rejects the notion of the trinity (4:171).
  • Throughout the Quran, Jesus is said to have clearly stated his people to 'worship God, your Lord and my Lord' (3:51, 5:72, 5:117,19:36, 43:64).
  • The idea of Jesus dieing for mankind's sins is rejected. In many places, the Quran makes it clear that every soul is responsible for his own actions, and that one's sins cannot be borne by anyone else (6:164, 35:18, 53:38).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is there a personal interaction with God in Islam?

In the Name of Allah, The Most Kind The Most Merciful

An email exchange.

The question

Does Islam teach anything that corresponds to the Christian concept of a personal interaction or relationship to God?

The answer

There are a number of ways in which practicing Islam leads to a personal interaction with God.
First and foremost is the daily ritual prayers. As you may be aware, muslims are enjoined to pray to God 5 times a day. The very first prayer is before sunrise, which is before the time people usually get up. In this way, the very first thing a muslim is supposed to do when he wakes up is turn to God and pray to Him. The other times of prayer are at noon, in the middle of the afternoon, at sunset, and then at night. As you can tell, this allows a muslim to turn to God many times during the day continually, and helps to make a muslim always mindful of God.

The prayer itself is a very personal interaction between God and the devotee. Prayer has been described as having a conversation with God. Let me try and describe some of the actions in the prayer. A devotee is in different positions in prayer, and recites different things in these positions. The prayer starts with the devotee reciting the first Chapter of the Quran, which is called 'The Opening'. This is as follows.

In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.
Praise and Thanks be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful;
The Master of the Day of Judgment.
You alone we worship, and Your help alone we seek.
Guide us to the straight path
The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your Grace,
Those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who do not go astray.

This chapter is a prayer in itself. As you can, it is split into two parts. First, the devotee acknowledges, praises and glorifies his Creator and Sustainer. He does this by referring to God in the best words, as God has taught him. He thanks and praises God. He acknowledges God as being the only Creator and Sustainer of all mankind. He glorifies God by declaring the endless mercy of God. He acknowledges that on the day of judgement, when all of mankind is resurructed and judged, God alone will have sovereignty. The devotee then mentions the relationship he has with God: he worships God, and God alone, and asks God only for help. The second part is a supplication to God. A supplication for guidance. Guidance to the path which will lead to the pleasure of God, and not to his displeasure. Guidance to find the straight path, and to be able to stay on it. This is an admission from the devotee that without God continually guiding him, he cannot and will not be guided.

As you an imagine, when this is recited from the heart, the devotee feels very close to God, and feels the assurance of God answering his supplication and guiding him. Throughout the day, within the five prayers, the devotee recites this 17 times.

Now another aspect of praying is bowing down. Why do we bow down? In bowing, the devotee renews his submissiveness and humility, striving to refine his inner feeling thru a fresh awareness of his own impotence and insignificance before the might and grandeur of God. In this position the devotee uses his tongue to glorify God and testify to His supreme majesty, both outwardly and inwardly. The words which are recited in this position are 'Glory to my Lord, The Most Great'.

Another position is that of prostration, when the devotee falls down with his face to the floor. This is the highest level of submission. The devotee brings the most precious part of his body, namely his face, down to meet the most lowly of all things: the dust of the earth. At the same time the devotee renews his inner awareness of God's majesty by glorifying him, reciting the words 'Glory to my Lord the Most High'. In this position, one should be confident of hoping in God's mercy. God's mercy flows towards weakness and lowliness, not towards arrogance and vanity. This is also the best position to supplicate, make a personal prayer request to God, because this is the nearest that a muslim can get to God.

Outside the ritual prayers, there are other acts of worship which a muslim can make involving a personal interaction with God. One of these is supplicating to God, asking him of something. In the Quran, it is written that God is close to his devotees when they call on Him. Supplication is a very important aspect of worship for a muslim. When a muslim supplicates, he does so in a manner where he feels that God is listening to Him, and God is ready to give him whatever he asks for. In supplication, a muslim opens his heart and asks God for whatever he feel he needs. As we see from above, a muslim can ask for guidance, can ask for God to make him a better muslim. He can ask God for good health and for sustenance. He can supplicate to God for his parents, his/her spouse and children. He can ask God for help with his career, exams, school work, etc. He can ask God for any specific need he has, be it big or small. He can ask God to help others. When a muslim is supplicating, he should think of it as an opportunity to converse with God. A muslim should supplicate with absolute trust in God, that either his prayer will be accepted, or God will give him something even better.

A beautiful example of supplication was shown to us by the Prophet Muhammed. He was sent initially to the idol worshippers of Arabia to call them back to the oneness of God. He suffered great hardship in this, and on one occasion he was driven out of a town, being pelted with stones. His shoes were full of blood, wounds were all over his body and he been insulted, ridiculed and abused. In this state, he made the following beautiful, amazingly intimate supplication to God:

"O God! I complain to You of my weakness, my scarcity of resources and the humiliation I have been subjected to by the people. O Most Merciful of those who are merciful. O Lord of the weak and my Lord too. To whom have you entrusted me? To a distant person who receives me with hostility? Or to an enemy to whom you have granted authority over my affair? So long as You are not angry with me, I do not care. Your favour is of a more expansive relief to me. I seek refuge in the light of Your Face by which all darkness is dispelled and every affair of this world and the next is set right, lest Your anger or Your displeasure descend upon me. I desire Your pleasure and satisfaction until You are pleased. There is no power and no might except by You."

One final thing I will mention, and that is asking for forgiveness. As I have indicated in my original email, a muslim can attain salvation, even after committing sins, by turning to God in repentance. This act of repentance is another very personal act, solely between the devotee and God. There are many prayers for asking for forgiveness, and this one here is one of my favorites.

O God! Separate me from my sins as you have separated the East and West. O God! Cleanse me of my sins as white cloth is cleansed from dirt. O God! Wash me of my sins with water, ice and snow.

An example of practicing Islam

In the Name of Allah, The Most Kind The Most Merciful

Just imagine if every muslim was like this... the whole world would accept Islam. And don't think this is an exaggeration, the whole of Indonesia became muslim because of the honesty of the muslim traders who went there. Too many muslims think that the only way to communicate and spread the message of Islam is to order people around with fatwas and criticism... this shows the real way, by leading by example. And of course, this was the way of the Prophet(SAW).

Bangladeshi cabbie in NY returns cash left in taxi

New York taxi
The tourists said the honest driver had saved their vacation

A Bangladeshi taxi driver in New York City has gone out of his way to track down the person who left thousands of dollars in cash in the back of his cab.

Mukul Asadujjaman, a medical student, drove nearly 80kms (50 miles) to an address he found with the money.

He left his phone number when he found no one at home. The money belonged to an Italian grandmother visiting the US.

Mr Asadujjaman was offered a reward, but he turned it down saying that as a devout Muslim he could not accept it.

Felicia Lettieri, of Pompeii, Italy, and six relatives had taken two cabs on Christmas Eve, Newsday newspaper reported.

Mrs Lettieri, 72, left her purse behind, with more than $21,000 of the group's travelling money, jewellery worth thousands more, and some of their passports.

Her sister, Francesca Lettieri, 79, of Long Island, said the honest driver had saved her family's vacation.

"We really love what he did," she said.

'Be honest'

A gracious Asadujjaman was quoted by the newspaper as saying that he may be broke, but he was also honest.

"My mother is my inspiration. She always said to be honest and work hard."

Mr Asadujjaman called a friend with a car and drove some 80km to a Long Island address in the purse.

No one was at home, so he left his phone number and a note, the report said.

His phone rang a short time later and he drove back to return the bag.

"They were so, so, so happy," Mr Asadujjaman told the paper.

Asked if he was tempted to keep the cash, Mr Asadujjaman said the money would have allowed him more time to study, "but my heart said this is not good".

He also turned down a reward, saying he could not accept it as a devout Muslim, Newsday reported.

"I'm needy, but I'm not greedy," he said. "It's better to be honest."

Mr Asadujjaman is not the first honest American-Bangladeshi cabbie to hit the headlines for noble behaviour.

In 2007, driver Osman Chowdhury returned a lost bag containing diamond rings worth $500,000 to the rightful owner.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A wake up call for me

In the Name of Allah, The Most Kind The Most Merciful

One of the things I like about doing dawah is that it often makes me re-assess myself. A few days ago, I got this question: Does Islam teach anything that corresponds to the Christian concept of a personal interaction or relationship to God? So I'm thinking, this is good chance to talk about salat, about dua, about rememberance of Allah, all of which make you get closer to Allah. And then I thought to myself: do I really get closer to Allah thru these things? We all know the importance of khushu in salat, and we all struggle with it. But, in my case at least, the other things are in a worse state. Let's take dua. Dua is a wonderful opportunity to totally open your heart to Allah, feel very close to Him, and ask of whatever you want. But how many of us, me included, just rush thru our duas after we make salat just for the sake of it? The same with rememberance of Allah. After salat, the Prophet(SAW) advised us to say Subhanallah 33 times, Alhamdolillah 33 times, and Allahu Akbar 34 times. But when we do this, are our hearts and minds in the right place? When we say Subhanallah, do we reflect on the glory of Allah, for example by pondering on His amazing creation? When we say Alhamdolillah, do we feel really gratefulness in our hearts for the countless favors He has given us? When we say Allahu Akbar, do we feel the might of Allah? As we say all these rememberances, do we really feel a personal interaction with Allah, as we are supposed to, or do we think about the kids, the cricket score, our meetings at work, what's for dinner, etc? So for me, the wake up call was this: before describing about how close a muslim can get to God thru his worship, maybe I should experience it for myself first.

Quran Lecture: Dialogue between Musa and Firaun

In the Name of Allah, The Most Kind The Most Merciful

You can listen to this here. Length is around 22 minutes.

Surah 26, The Poets

10. Behold, thy Lord called Moses: "Go to the people of iniquity,-

11. "The people of the Pharaoh: will they not fear Allah."

12. He said: "O my Lord! I do fear that they will charge me with falsehood:

13. "My breast will be straitened. And my speech may not go (smoothly): so send unto Aaron.

14. "And (further), they have a charge of crime against me; and I fear they may slay me."

15. Allah said: "By no means! proceed then, both of you, with Our Signs; We are with you, and will listen (to your call).

16. "So go forth, both of you, to Pharaoh, and say: 'We have been sent by the Lord and Cherisher of the worlds;

17. "'Send thou with us the Children of Israel.'"

18. (Pharaoh) said: "Did we not cherish thee as a child among us, and didst thou not stay in our midst many years of thy life?

19. "And thou didst a deed of thine which (thou knowest) thou didst, and thou art an ungrateful (wretch)!"

20. Moses said: "I did it then, when I was in error.

21. "So I fled from you (all) when I feared you; but my Lord has (since) invested me with judgment (and wisdom) and appointed me as one of the apostles.

22. "And this is the favour with which thou dost reproach me,- that thou hast enslaved the Children of Israel!"

23. Pharaoh said: "And what is the 'Lord and Cherisher of the worlds'?"

24. (Moses) said: "The Lord and Cherisher of the heavens and the earth, and all between,- if ye want to be quite sure."

25. (Pharaoh) said to those around: "Did ye not listen (to what he says)?"

26. (Moses) said: "Your Lord and the Lord of your fathers from the beginning!"

27. (Pharaoh) said: "Truly your apostle who has been sent to you is a veritable madman!"

28. (Moses) said: "Lord of the East and the West, and all between! if ye only had sense!"

29. (Pharaoh) said: "If thou dost put forward any god other than me, I will certainly put thee in prison!"

30. (Moses) said: "Even if I showed you something clear (and) convincing?"

31. (Pharaoh) said: "Show it then, if thou tellest the truth!"

32. So (Moses) threw his rod, and behold, it was a serpent, plain (for all to see)!

33. And he drew out his hand, and behold, it was white to all beholders!

34. (Pharaoh) said to the Chiefs around him: "This is indeed a sorcerer well- versed:

35. "His plan is to get you out of your land by his sorcery; then what is it ye counsel?"

36. They said: "Keep him and his brother in suspense (for a while), and dispatch to the Cities heralds to collect-

37. "And bring up to thee all (our) sorcerers well-versed."

38. So the sorcerers were got together for the appointment of a day well-known,

39. And the people were told: "Are ye (now) assembled?-

40. "That we may follow the sorcerers (in religion) if they win?"

41. So when the sorcerers arrived, they said to Pharaoh: "Of course - shall we have a (suitable) reward if we win?

42. He said: "Yea, (and more),- for ye shall in that case be (raised to posts) nearest (to my person)."

43. Moses said to them: "Throw ye - that which ye are about to throw!"

44. So they threw their ropes and their rods, and said: "By the might of Pharaoh, it is we who will certainly win!"

45. Then Moses threw his rod, when, behold, it straightway swallows up all the falsehoods which they fake!

46. Then did the sorcerers fall down, prostrate in adoration,

47. Saying: "We believe in the Lord of the Worlds,

48. "The Lord of Moses and Aaron."

49. Said (Pharaoh): "Believe ye in Him before I give you permission? surely he is your leader, who has taught you sorcery! but soon shall ye know!

50. "Be sure I will cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will cause you all to die on the cross!"

51. They said: "No matter! for us, we shall but return to our Lord!

52. "Only, our desire is that our Lord will forgive us our faults, that we may become foremost among the believers!"