Integration · Politics

On Freedom of Speech and the Ability to Ponder and Reflect

Freedom of Speech and the Ability to Ponder and Reflect.png

Arfa Niswan Yassir, Swindon

Love and compassion softens your heart whereas selfishness leads you to cross the limits of what is acceptable to many. It is heart wrenching indeed to see the name of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) yet again used politically in an unthinkable manner. If we just stop and think about this issue, it concerns someone who for 1.6 million Muslims is the saviour of mankind, a person who was a blessing for every living soul, who had the benevolence to forgive the cruellest of enemies at the height of his power and strength, indeed, the Holy Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) who spent sleepless nights praying for humanity. For whom Allah states:

“So haply thou wilt grieve thyself to death for sorrow after them if they believe not in this discourse.”

Al-Quran [18:7]

The Holy Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) had so much love for humanity that he was about to grieve himself to death, and the aforementioned verse is witness to this.

This was the stature of our Prophet (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) about whom someone today is planning a rather regrettable competition. We reject this approach, we reject this competition, we reject this abuse of freedom of expression and we reject the motives behind this move.

Such activities are carried out under the cover of freedom of speech! When freedom impinges on morality it is bound to cause trouble. To my mind Allama Iqbal, poet and philosopher of British India fairly sums up this idea of freedom in his Urdu couplet:

آزادیِ افکار سے ہے اُن کی تباہی

رکھتے نہیں جو فکر و تدبر کا سلیقہ

The poet says that free, unbridled thinking can bring about the ruin of those who don’t possess the skill and flair needed to ponder and reflect over matters.

As Muslims let’s respond to this ‘competition’ with efforts at vying with each other in good works, as the Qur’an commands us (2:149) vying with each other in trying to emulate the noble and blessed model of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him). These efforts of course will last for a lifetime, while such competitions will come and go.

This is not about infringement of the grace of our Holy Prophet, because no one on the face of the earth has the capability to bring disgrace to the noble Prophet, it is actually about the sentiments of millions of Muslims which Geert Wilders wants to deliberately hurt. However, Islam teaches respect, love and compassion. We can never think of caricaturing any holy person. We respect all the Prophets of God who came through ages, we respect the Pope, the Dalai Lama and other spiritual leaders who are revered around the world because we are ethical and practice restraint in using our freedom of expression and we aspire to make this world a better place.

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Features · Islam

Divine Attributes: Al Wali, The Friend

Al Wali.png

Reem Shraiky, London

And to Allah alone belong all perfect attributes. So, call on Him by these. And leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His attributes. They shall be repaid for what they do.

-Al-Araf, verse 181

One of the Divine Attributes of Allah is Al-Wali: The Arabic word Wali has various possible meanings and has a very broad spectrum of usage in Arabic, it means among other things: the helper, a Being that takes care of all matters of the universe and all creation, so it applies to the relation of Allah with the believers.

One of the other meanings of Wali we find in the Arabic lexicon is rain which follows upon rain. So, what connection or relationship has this got with the word Wali as it is commonly understood? We understand the word Wali to mean someone who is very friendly, who is very loving to someone, but it also as I mentioned means a rain which is incessant, or a storm on the heel of another and so on, such that there is no dry period in between.

Given that rain is a potender of blessings, we can take this to mean that the true lovers – or real friends – whom we can term Wali are those whose benefit continues to flow in the directions of those whom they hold dear, and there are no dry periods. There is no latent hindrance in between, no gaps, no chasms in between, and a true friend is the one who is always good to his or her friend. Now, there may be some patches where you may feel that the friend is not your friend anymore, but if the friendship is true, that rough patch would immediately be followed by another expression of love. So that is why it is not a continuous rain but rather rain after rain that is described and this can be experienced in everyday life, in true friendship.

Sometimes, not only in friendships but also in other relationships which such as the parent-child relationship, the parents become apparently angry, for a while they seem to be breaking away from their children and dissociating with them, in extreme cases they ostracise them. Then there follows another rain, which sometimes is even stronger than before, of expressions of love. So, that is why, this is a beautiful word described as we find it in the Arabic usage.

So, God has applied it in the context of His relationship with the believers. Sometimes, the believers find themselves in a state where they think God has ceased to be kind to them but that is only a temporary phase. So, people  briefly feel sometimes they are abandoned by God, as if God had no relationship with them, and cares no more for them, but that also is an expression of love. He’s trying them like a parent tries their child. This doesn’t mean that the parent has ceased to love them during that period of trial, it only means that they decided to wait for their child to emerge successful from the trial that they might show them what love is, and shower bounties upon bounties and one expression of love after another would follow after this short period of trial is over. So, wilayat of God with the believers has exactly the same nature and the same connotation.

It is stated in Surah Al Baqarah ‘Allah is the friend of those who believe…’ God is the Helper of believers and fulfils their needs, guides them and establishes for them reasoning and proofs. He takes them out of spiritual and physical weakness towards advancement and strength. Those who abide by God’s commandments, God truly becomes their Friend and no opposition, no force on this earth can destroy them.

And with some of Allah’s friends, you also see expressions of such closeness as if God is following their calls and demands, and that we have seen numerous times in the blessed lifetime of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings be on him). He predicted and foretold many things. Also, we have seen this illustrated in the lifetime of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), that instead of having received a definite message from God, he said, Allah would do it, and God would do it exactly so and this has also been witnessed by the companions of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) by way of prayer. It is as if God had told them that He was going to do certain things in a certain manner. So, they would say, so and so would happen, and it happened. This fulfills another connotation of Wali which means one who listens.

So, as we can see, the word Wali has a broad range of connotations all of which deepen our understanding of the love and closeness of Allah.

Have they taken for themselves protectors [Walis] other than Him? But it is Allah Who is the real Protector [the Wali]. And He quickens the dead, and He has power over all things.

-Al-Shura, verse 10

Islam · Politics

Response to Anti-Islam Sentiment

Graphic-Navida blog on Wilders

Navida Sayed, London

There was widespread disquiet following Dutch politician Geert Wilder coming back on the scene yesterday announcing to hold a cartoon competition of our beloved Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

The impact of Mr Wilders’ announcement has somewhat spiralled out of control among people from all walks of life on social media resulting in individuals instantaneously reacting without a pause for thought. Social media platforms were laden with hundreds of concoctions offensive, abusive, derogatory comments against Islam and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Enraged individuals who clearly don’t know the basics about Islam were exchanging deluded and distorted comments. Existing negative media content about Islam already drives such individuals and Wilders’ announcement gives it a big boost.

Surely freedom of speech does not mean creating disorder and chaos in the world. The antagonism Mr Wilders is breeding and expanding will harm peace of society by creating further divisions and barriers. Wilders’ interpretation of freedom of speech will open a gateway for further bigotry.

Prevention remains better than cure we can only pray and hope the relevant authorities will rethink and take responsibility.

Producing and publishing cartoons may be the asserted right of individuals wishing to express freedom of speech, however is it necessary at the expense of hurting the sentiments of others and jeopardizing peace in society? Will posting cartoons of our beloved Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) enable the world to become a better and peaceful place?  Surely this cannot be deemed as freedom of speech especially if it leads to strife.

As for our response, regardless of the surge of hatred against Islam, in these last ten days of the blessed and holy month of Ramadhan, we will continue to pray and won’t give up advocating peace, tolerance, love and understanding among followers of all faiths.

A humble message to all fellow Muslims in the world, let us all endeavour to put into practice the goodwill, piety and self-discipline acquired during Ramadhan, and  not be provoked by  Wilders of the world. Pray for unity among the Muslim Ummah and understand the Need for the Imam. I end with the words of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace):

‘Alas! Heaven is bearing witness and you do not hear; the earth is crying out: One is needed, one is needed, and you pay no attention! O unfortunate people! arise and see that in this time of distress, Islam has been trodden underfoot and has been maligned like criminals. It has been counted among liars and has been written down among unholy ones. Then would not God’s jealousy be aroused at such at time? Understand then that heaven is drawing close and the days are near when every ear shall hear the affirmation: ‘I am present’.

(Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 13, pp. 228 -330 – Essence of Islam, Vol. IV, pp. )

 

Freedom and Responsibility · Islam

Rights and Responsibilities of Free Speech

Iffat Mirza Blog-Free Speech

Iffat Mirza, London

In every walk of life, freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. The two are inseparable. However, when it comes to freedom of speech people can be quick to forget this. Perhaps it is that they feel protected by the law or bolstered by their own convictions that they forget that actions have consequences. Freedom of speech seems to have become an increasingly complex concept in modern society. When it comes to attacking religion, it is easy to do so in the name of freedom of speech and often go overboard in patronising, and even abusive, terms, all whilst having no regard for the sentiments of millions of people across the globe.

It seems that Geert Wilders is one of these people. Having recently declared a contest to draw the Holy Prophet Muhammad (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) he has made a calculated decision to offend the Muslim world. In Islam it is forbidden to draw the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). To justify this under the guise of ‘freedom of speech’ is a complete misunderstanding of the concept. To play with the sentiments of nearly 2 billion Muslims across the globe is to make mischief, not to protect the sacred rights of speech or expression. In fact, if Mr Wilders is so concerned with the freedom of speech, surely it makes no sense to then try to ban the Holy Qur’an as he famously alluded to in the past. Surely, to ban literature is the greatest violation of freedom of speech. In this Orwellian society that Mr Wilders is devising , the words ‘freedom is slavery’ are certainly beginning to seem increasingly true, as the state will inevitably believe that government approved religions and literature are ‘correct’ and anything else deserves silencing and banning. The hypocrisy of his ‘defence of freedom of speech is astounding’.

As a student of language and literature I am very passionate about the concept of freedom of speech.  I am even more so passionate about it because as a Muslim I believe that God has gifted us with the power to reason and therefore analyse situations and articulate them. The power that words and other art forms have is inspiring and it is for this reason that whilst freedom of speech must be defended, so must the sentiments of the populace.

John Stewart Mill, known to be one of the best thinkers of the 19th century, was a great pioneer of freedom of speech. In his 1859 work On Liberty, he writes:

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.

Mill explains the necessity to understand both sides of an argument in order to justify your beliefs. One must know the ins and outs of his opponents’ views to fully affirm why he is in opposition. It is not enough, in this right, to look towards the actions of a few so-called Muslims, nor is it enough to base his view on the stereotypes of Muslims.

Indeed, to criticise the teachings of Islam, as with any concept, one must first learn, and then understand the teachings of Islam. Perhaps then Mr Wilders would learn that he is not the first leader to defend freedom of speech, but in fact the Holy Prophet (May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) stood for the populace, and not only encouraged the minorities to live and worship freely, but also instructed all Muslims to allow them to do so.

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5836469/Anti-Islam-political-party-plans-hold-competition-drawing-cartoons-Mohammed.html
  2. https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Islam-and-Freedom-of-Conscience.pdf page 31
  3. John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859.
Islam

The Red Rag of Caricatures

 

durood

Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot

Things must have been a little too quiet for Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders lately, after all US President Donald Trump has been more a public anti-Muslim irritant since he ran for President. Not one to be overshadowed where Islam and Muslims are concerned Wilders has once more decided to stir things up by holding a contest to draw the Holy Prophet of Islam, peace and blessings be on him. The fact that Wilders has been allowed to hold the caricature contest in the Parliamentary offices of his PVV party almost gives it a kind of validation when one would hope Parliament would try to diffuse any possible trouble before it can be triggered.

Wilders has shown his fanatical anti-Islam stance in the past by calling for bans on the Holy Qur’an and mosques explaining that away by claiming Islam is not a religion. However, encouraging the drawing of cartoons of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, doesn’t support any arguments he may have, rather it is merely another way to offend Muslims by insulting their revered Prophet. This has happened in the past when Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten published caricatures and in another contest in Texas, USA which followed the Charlie Hebdo shootings; in all these cases cartoonists depicted the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in an offensive way and claimed it was to protect their rights to free speech.

Muslims hold the love of God topmost but among humankind the love for the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, comes first. This is illustrated by the fact that any Muslim who writes or speaks his name will add ‘peace and blessings be upon him’ as a mark of respect. In actual fact Muslims believe in and respect all God’s Prophets and will also invoke peace on them when speaking their name. This love and respect will not be undone by offensive cartoon depictions and will not lead to ideological discussions; it will lead to sadness among the majority of Muslims who will find it offensive and yes, in reprisal there will potentially be violence among an extremist minority.

So knowing all this it is evident that Wilders is supporting a caricature contest such as this only to insult and offend Muslims despite also knowing that, as with a red rag in front of a bull, it can trigger extremists to retaliate violently and in an un-Islamic way, as in the Charlie Hebdo killings. But it seems that to someone like Geert Wilders, who seems to want to cause trouble, any resulting offence and even violence must be worthwhile. What instead should be the reaction of peaceful Muslims to this provocation? Invoking ‘Durood’ (salutations) on the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him:

“Bless, O Allah, Muhammad and the people of Muhammad, as You did bless Abraham and the people of Abraham, You are indeed the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.

Prosper, O Allah, Muhammad and the people of Muhammad, as You did prosper Abraham and the people of Abraham, You are indeed the Praiseworthy, the Glorious.”

Features · Islam

Divine Attributes: Al Wadud, The Loving

Al Wadud

Tooba Khokhar, Cambridge

He who would know the secret of both worlds,
Will find the secret of them both, is Love.

—Fariduddin Attar

The belief that love is the cornerstone of the universe is a thing embedded deep in the human essence. Love, we are told, is our polestar as essential to our spirits as air and water is to our bodies. English Romantic poet William Blake went so far as to say that “…we are put on earth a little space/ that we may learn to bear the beams of love” while two centuries before him Shakespeare declared love “the star to every wand’ring bark”.

In the Islamic tradition, the earth and all its dwellers are said to be in a state of perpetual yearning for the Beloved. The ocean waves are restless and the nightingale’s song is sorrowful because of the separation from their true Beloved. Likewise, the heart of man carries a deep-seated yearning for its Maker and Creator.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would often recite a beautiful prayer seeking Divine Love. “O Allah, I ask You for Your love and the love of those who love You and such conduct as should lead me to Your love. O Allah, make Your love dearer to me than my soul and my family and my wealth and dearer than cool water.” To have in one’s heart for the Divine Beloved a love greater than that for all else we hold dear.

One of the attributes of the Divine is that He is Al-Wadud, the Loving. And as such the love that dwells in our hearts is only really a response to the loving nature of our Creator. As God Himself describes in the Holy Qu’ran, He is the Source and Origin of all true love. In chapter 19, verse 97, He promises “Those who believe and do good deeds — the Gracious God will create love in their hearts.” demonstrating that love is both a mercy and a reward from the Divine. Likewise, regarding the sacred bond between husband and wife, we read in the Holy Qur’an that “…He has put love and tenderness between you…” (30:22).

And as the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) elucidates, even human love is not a thing separate from our love of Allah, rather in every inclination of the heart, there is a trace for our instinctual longing for our Creator. In The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, he writes of our elemental “attraction” towards the Divine.

Every exhibition of affection by a person in fact proceeds from that very attraction, and the restlessness of a lover which a person experiences is in truth a reflection of that very love, as if he takes up diverse things and examines them in search for something that he has lost and whose name he has forgotten. A person’s love of property, or children, or wife, or his soul being drawn towards the song of a sweet voiced singer, are in fact all in search of the lost Beloved[i]

Where does this attraction stem from? As the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) detailed elsewhere “Perfect praise is offered for two kinds of excellences, fullness of beauty (husn) and fullness of beneficence (ihsan). If anyone possesses both these excellences, one’s heart becomes enamoured of him”[ii] God’s characteristic of being the Loving encapsulates both fullness of beauty and fullness of beneficence for what could be purer and more beautiful than possessing an infinite capacity to love and what could be more benevolent than to bestow it upon all of creation?

However, as the Holy Qur’an states “…there are some among men who take for themselves objects of worship other than Allah, loving them as they should love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in their love for Allah…” (2:166). Many of us worship at the altar of false beloveds. However, this verse deems such love to be misplaced and encourages true belief in order to strengthen the bonds of Divine Love. For, each time we lose our way, it is in turning back to our Origin that we can again find peace, turning once again to the Creator with infinite stores of mercy and love. So, we are told “…seek forgiveness of your Lord; then turn to Him wholeheartedly. Verily, my Lord is Merciful, Most Loving.” (11:91). And it is this merciful love which is the greatest blessing of all.

Become a lover; if you don’t, one day the affairs of the world

Will come to an end, and you’ll never have had even

One glimpse of the purpose of the workings of space and time.

–Hafiz[iii]

[i] Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), The Essence of Islam, Volume I, p. 137

[ii] Ibid., p. 92

[iii] Lloyd Ridgeon (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Sufism, p. 180

Hijab · Islam

Dignity of Hijab and Ill-Advised Solidarity Against it

Hijab, Solidarity_.png

by Navida Sayed, London.

In Islam, modesty and chastity are very important tenets of faith, and are achieved through establishing certain codes of behaviour and dress. However over the last decade the hijab has not only become one of the most widely discussed controversial topics but has resulted in Muslim women dealing with endless challenges and negativity.

In pursuit of their own political agendas repeated stabs by some to intervene and attempt imposing a dress code on how Muslim women should /should not dress has divided society. The publicity surrounding such attempts has led to backlashes against Muslim women in hijab and has also resulted in some women abandoning the hijab to fit into society.

Social media platforms can be dynamic catalysts of global public opinion, especially responsible for generating popular beliefs and attitudes about most things, including discussion on Muslim women.  This has resulted in many with little awareness of Islam to identify Muslim women in hijab either with terrorism or as oppressed women in desperate need of liberation from their hijab.

Recently some non-Muslim women decided to wear hijab in solidarity with Muslim women, a personal choice and a nice gesture to support Muslim women already facing antagonism. To make matters worse social media then became a platform for ridicule suggesting ‘take off your hijab in solidarity’ with feminists and ex-Muslims.

Women choosing to walk away from the hijab as feminists or activists are taking the removal of the hijab to a whole new level, from videos and blogs on how to remove the headscarf to linking the headscarf as an out dated cultural practice or view it merely as a piece of cloth. If any women removed their hijab out of defiance, because it was enforced on them, this enforcement is clearly against the teachings of Islam. It is not for man to either impose or enforce the hijab on women, nor punish them for not observing it.

Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab do not struggle with any kind of inferiority complex or dilemma about whether or not they should wear the hijab. They do not feel constricted or objectified, instead they feel confident and empowered. Hijab establishes dignity and respect for women, so that they are recognised in society as individuals who are respected for their intelligence, personality and academic achievement, rather than for their physical appearance. For Muslim women having the right to choose what to wear, including the hijab, is the most liberating and empowering choice of all.

Ironically whether it is a political figure or a journalist it’s men who always try and dictate the dress code for Muslim women. Yet they seem to be clearly unaware that men were the first to be instructed in the Qur’an to lower their gaze and not ogle women in society. Being aware of men’s weak innate nature, God further guided women to cover themselves as a preventative measure for their own protection.

Muslim women are granted the right to dress how they choose and will not remove their hijab in solidarity with anyone, because among other things it will not make the world a better place. If women were safe in a world where covering up was not a choice we would not see so many high profile sexual harassment cases. But it all comes down to choice in how a woman wishes to dress, Islamic dress code should not repeatedly be targeted.

Women in hijab will stand by in solidarity, which results in real support for the betterment of society. Women united in true solidarity can confront problems together, not with hatred or derision for one another’s beliefs and practices. Lets stand in solidarity and mutual respect for one another to counter all hurdles which threaten to divide us.

Islam

Our Response: The Need to Lift the Stigma

Our response

Laiqa Bhatti, Surrey

Fasting in the month of Ramadhan is obligatory for every man and woman, except for those who are travelling or sick. Also exempt are women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating. As a mother of two, I have more than once been exempt from fasting for all those reasons. But when reading the recent articles on how Muslim women have been shamed for eating during Ramadhan, it struck me how yet again, cultural ignorance has been mistaken for Islamic rules. I have experienced both, the cultural ignorance and the true application of Islam’s openness in these matters. The former has nothing to do with the latter. In fact, it was Islam that lifted the stigma of menstruation 1400 years ago through Holy Scripture as well as through the teaching of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) and yet here we are again, subjugating women into shamefulness. Does Islam really require women to conceal such a common natural phenomenon that affects roughly 50% of the world’s population?

‘And that He creates the pairs, male and female,’ (Surah Al-Najm, verse 45)

When God Himself has created woman, then there is nothing in the functioning of His creation that is shameful. It is only Islam that not only gave rights to women such as the right to divorce, the right to inherit, the right to vote, the right to have an equal voice and at the same time normalised the differences between men and women. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) openly spoke about matters pertaining to women, his teaching also demonstrated that menstruation was not something to be ashamed of. Muslim women are exempt from Praying, fasting and other aspects of daily life to ease any hardship this time may bring.

Sadly, as time has passed cultural ignorance has now in some sections of society infiltrated the beautiful and pure teachings of Islam and once again, women find themselves compelled to pretend something so natural and universal does not exist. When the Qur’an that is read by every Muslim man and woman, clearly speaks about menstruation, when the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) clearly spoke about menstruation to Muslim men and women during his counsel, how is it right to associate this shame surrounding menstruation with Islam?

Furthermore, the pretence of women not having menstruation verges on the point of deception and lying. That deception and lying can then lead into a myriad of other sins.

‘Most hateful is it in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.’ (Surah Al-Saff, verse 4)

How can it then be acceptable that women should not disclose that they are not fasting and instead pretend otherwise? So, it is simply not feasible to associate the stigma surrounding menstruation to Islam. It has been used as a beating stick since the dawn of mankind and Islam only normalises them. Cultural stigma needs to be removed as it hinders the truth being spoken and allowing Muslim women to practice their religion as it was prescribed for them.

Uncategorized

Divine Attributes: Al Aleem, The All-Knowing

Al Aleem.png

Basma Qazi Chaudhry, Kent

It is Ramadan, a holy month which takes us on a journey of spiritual enhancement and is filled with the remembrance of Allah. It is time to speak little, to eat little and to sleep little, as per a famous Persian proverb. It is also time to reflect on the many Attributes of our Creator.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) writes in his book, Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, “Man is supposed to have full awareness of his Creator and to understand His attributes to a level that his cognisance reaches a degree of certainty.” The key to this cognisance lies in God-consciousness and the desire to emulate His attributes, within the realm of the possible; in other words, belief and action. One such attribute is Al-Aleem, the All-Knowing, possessor of knowledge absolute, past, present and future. Allah Almighty has given us His written Word as a master key; the Holy Quran, revealed in the holy month of Ramadan, is knowledge incarnate such that “…if the oceans became ink for the words of my Lord, surely the ocean will be exhausted before the words of my Lord came to an end [18:110].”

As a scientist, the Quran spoke to Nobel laureate Professor Abdul Salam. He once wrote, “The Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah’s created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart.”

To help us mere humans along the way to attaining true knowledge, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) tells us that “Allah has designed the human mind with two different talents. On the one hand, he has been given intellectual abilities…[and] on the other hand Allah has gifted man with spiritual powers and perceptions as well.” [i]

We are told that these talents are a dual gift; the intellectual abilities allow us to observe and analyse the elaborate infrastructure of our physical nature and declare that this profoundly organised universe should have a creator. It is, however, beyond the capacity of the intellectual abilities to go further and declare the existence of said creator. It is not within their scope. However, the spiritual faculty advances comprehension to the point where one knows that there is indeed a creator. The mere inference that there ought to be a higher force at work cannot be complete understanding. Both forces complement each other.

Nowhere is this pairing more fruitful than when we ponder upon the created universe and try to understand God through nature. The noble laureate Professor Abdus Salam once said, “We are trying to discover what the Lord thought; of course, we miserably fail most of the time, but sometimes there is great satisfaction in seeing a little bit of the truth.”

Before the advent of the Promised Messiah (as), Muslims generally believed that the truths of the Holy Quran had been exhaustively laid bare, by the early scholars. That there was nothing more to be said. Astonishing is it not for this is Allah’s very own speech. Its knowledge could never be confined by anything less than infinity. Science has demonstrated time and again that knowledge of our physical nature is boundless. The humble honey bee continues to fascinate, and the human genome is only just mapped. Even the tiniest blade of grass seems to hide within it an infinity of structure and functions. The words of Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood, the Second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community sum it best:

How could they have ever conceived that the Word of God would or even could be limited in meaning? Was it to yield all its meaning in one or two generations and nothing in the succeeding generations? If external nature can yield new knowledge from day to day, if philosophy and science can continue to advance, if geology, archaeology, physiology, botany, zoology, astronomy, political science, political economy, sociology, psychology, ethics, and other natural studies can be added to daily, should not the Word of God yield more and more knowledge as we advance from one period of history to another?

Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad

Knowledge is par force, a time-dependant continuum, with history and changes over time. It matters where we were a 100 years ago, 500 years ago or where we will be 500 years from now. We crow about our supposedly superior human significance. Let’s gain a little perspective. Cosmologists estimate that the universe has been in existence for about 15 billion years. If we were to imagine all that time compressed in to one calendar year, then human beings only appeared at 10.30pm on the 31st of December, become fire domesticated at 11.46 p.m. and the whole of recorded history occupies only the last ten seconds of the said cosmic year. Not only that, but in cosmic terms, we are infinitesimal. According to astronomers, there are ten times more stars in the universe than grains of sands in all the world’s deserts and beaches. Yet currently, we flatter ourselves that we have discovered the laws that apply to all times and all places. Since we are only familiar with a tiny fraction of the universe, this seems like a huge leap of faith. Hence, there is no guarantee that our current knowledge is the correct one. Future generations may look upon our achievements and dismiss our science as crude just as we did the Ptolemaic theory in favour of Galileo’s.

The Holy Quran is the Word of God, His very speech; it is but fitting that we should and will derive newer and newer knowledge from it. If modern science seems contrary to the teaching of the Qur’an, the errors, whenever and wherever necessary, will be corrected, by new knowledge drawn from the Qur’an.

“Science [is] concerned with nature, the handiwork of God. The Quran [is] the Word of God…There can be no contradiction between the two.”

Invitation to Ahmadiyyat, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad

Any doubts raised by natural knowledge are due only to lack of reflection. In other words, we haven’t gotten there yet. But in order to advance in our knowledge and appreciation of the universe, we should be looking towards the Book of Al Aleem.

[i] The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), Haqiqatul Wahi, as cited in URL: https://www.alislam.org/allah/Al-Aleem-Bestower-of-True-Dreams.pdf

Holy Quran · Islam

The Illuminating Verse

Illuminating Verse

Arfa Niswan Yassir, Swindon

Since the past one month this verse (or should I say part of a Quranic verse) remains somewhere at the back of my mind somehow, and every mention of light or Nur makes me think about it. The verse is as given below:

اَللہُ نُوْرُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الْاَرْضِ

Surah Al-Nur verse 36: “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth…”

The word Nur is found in Arabic, Persian and Urdu. It can be translated as light, transfiguration, manifestation, beauty, gorgeousness etc.
‘The Light’ or Al Nur is also one of the names/attributes of Allah the Almighty.

Light as described by English dictionaries is an entity that stimulates sight, makes things visible. Physics suggests it as energy or particles called photons. But the light being mentioned in this verse requires ‘vision’ rather than ‘sight’. Light as a natural agent also requires us to have sight, similarly Allah’s light Nur also requires something from us i.e. vision!

In the spiritual world ‘light’ is precisely referred to as guidance and ‘darkness’ as absence of guidance or ” This light is not just illumination or brightness but energy as well; positive energy. So this light has a broader meaning than just illumination, it means that in order to make sense of anything in our world we need to absorb this Nur according to our capability and willingness. Just like in order to see anything around us we need the light of the physical world similarly through Allah’s Nur we can make sense of the things going on around us. Light travels in a straight line and for the spiritual path to seek Allah’s light we also need to tread the straight path, which in Quranic idiom is the ‘right path’ Siratal Mustaqeem.
Light in the broader sense can be understood in three contexts:

1. The light around us.
2. The light that is absorbed, i.e. we contain.
3. The light that is reflected (As by the Prophets and spiritually exalted people and through God’s holy books).

The Light Around Us
A true believer must strive to absorb & retain this light through thick and thin that is why the colour of the flag of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) was black! Black absorbs all light, all shades of light. We require a lifetime to absorb and retain this light. Reminds me of a quote by the celebrated 13 century Persian mystic and poet Maulana Rumi:

‘The wound is where the light enters your soul’

Well, basically this depends upon the person, the wound can also be the place from where the entire light could exit as well! Tough and trying situations would have different impact on two different hearts. So a willing heart might find light from any source experience or happening while an unwilling heart might chose to dwell in darkness. But it’s always around!

The Light We Absorb
Shown in our thoughts and actions.

It is written in Mathnawi, series of six books of poetry by Maulana Rumi:

The light which shines in the eye
is really the light of the heart.
The light which fills the heart
is the light of God, which is pure
and separate from the light of intellect and sense.

 Mathnawi 1:1126-7

Light That Is Reflected
Allah’s light is manifested as divine guidance through Holy books revealed by Him, His Prophets, spiritually exalted people who tread His path and reflect His light from which others can seek beneficence.

Further Quranic References of The Light:
In Surah Al-Baqarah verse 257 it is stated: ‘There should be no compulsion in religion…’ The verse goes on to say Allah has sent His religious law (Shariah) to distinguish between right and wrong and in the very next verse Allah states:

“Allah is the friend of those who believe: He brings them out of every kind of darkness into light. And those who disbelieve, their friends are the transgressors who bring them out of the light into every kind of darkness…’

So the believers are promised Allah’s help to move out of darkness into light Nur.

In Surah Al Taubah, verse 32 Allah states:

‘They desire to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths; but Allah will permit nothing expect that He will perfect His light, though the unbelievers may dislike it.’

Hence this light is always there around us, willing hearts can absorb it and reflect it as well. Allah explicitly states that no human activity can put this light out, this is an affirming statement for us.
This light, this Nur is the bigger purpose of life, this light is happiness, this light is the real beauty that we need to develop in ourselves and find in others, this light is the objective of life, this light is the destination. This light can be absorbed & retained with total surrender. Only then we can actually ‘reflect’ the light to others. Just disliking darkness is not enough to travel towards light we need to tread the straight path, which is the ‘right path’.