Stop Monopolizing Allah!

Amidst the mournful incident of MH 370, it was reported recently that the Malaysian Islamic Propagation Organisation (Pekida) was willing to suffer a bloodbath for Islam and the country, including defending the word “Allah”.

Bloodbath – right. Thanks for using such a non-violent term to represent Islam. We really needed that! Ironically, the biggest enemies of Islam are not people outside of Islam, rather the very prominent representatives of Islam who, for some reason, never fail to bring shame to us all. So, cheers to the new round!

Let me assure you, as long as we have organizations like Pekida around, you can be sure that Islam will remain a laughing stock for the masses. And, why shouldn’t they? When Muslim leaders come out with such insane stuff, how can we expect any better?

Instead of using their prominent position to their benefit in bringing a positive light to Islam, they’d rather prefer wasting other people’s time by focusing on the most ridiculous and silliest of things. Today, they want non-Muslims to refrain from using the word Allah. Tomorrow, who knows? I mean, we’ve digressed to a point where we now want a copyright on “Allah”. Shameful, to say the least!

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Islam is not an Arabic religion
Muslims make a big mistake by mixing Arabic culture with Islam. Many believe that it was Prophet Mohammad who brought Islam, but this can’t be further away from what the Quran says. The truth of the matter is that Islam is not a recent, 7th century Arabic religion. It is the same religion that was revealed to all prophets:

He has ordained for you all, the same System of Life that He enjoined upon Noah – And We have revealed to you (O Prophet!) the same message as We enjoined upon Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: “Establish the Divine System of Life and make no sects in it (do not be divided). Quran, 42:13

Prophet Mohammad said: And I have followed the religion of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Quran, 12:38

Having established that, it is obvious that Prophets throughout the times referred to God in their own respective languages. Hence, Allah is not a proper noun for the “God of Muslims.” It simply means “The God” in Arabic. Since the Quran is in Arabic, it refers to the Supreme Being as Allah. Similarly, if it was in any other language, it would refer to Him by the equivalent word for God in that very language.

From a Quranic point of view, one can observe that Allah is not the name of a unique God that Muslims believe in, rather it is an all encompassing term for the Supreme Being regardless of the faith one subscribes to. Christians, Jews, and other religious group are seen as using the word Allah to denote God in the Quran, and never has this been contested in any verse (5:17, 5:18, 5:72, 5:73). To give you a few examples:

Surely those who acknowledge (this divine book); and those who are Jewish, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whomever of them acknowledges Allah and the Last Day (Accountability) and does acts of reform; they will have their reward with their Lord, with no fear over them, nor will they grieve. Quran, 2:62

If we are to assume that believing in Allah equates to believing in Islam, then the first phrase of the verse loses purpose. After all, the gist of the verse is that no matter your religion, as long as you believe in God and continually reform yourself, you could expect reward.

A similar case is presented in the following verses

“And they claim, ‘None will enter Paradise unless he is a Jew or a Christian.’ This is nothing but their wishful thinking. Say: Bring your proof if you are truthful.”Quran, 2:111

“Nay, whoever submits his whole being to Allah, and he is a doer of good to humanity, his reward is with his Lord. Then, no fear shall come upon them nor shall they grieve.” Quran, 2:112

Hence, it is clear that Allah is used to denote God in Arabic as a noun, and not a proper noun.

God does not have a fixed name

Say, “Call upon God (Allah), or call upon the Almighty (Rahman): By whatever name you call upon Him, to Him belongs the best names and attributes of perfection…” Quran, 17:110

 

Conclusion
Did the members of Pekida never read the Quran for themselves? This is not something that requires intensive research, as it is blatantly obvious! So, what kinds of people are representing Islam in Malaysia? As always, the authority lies in the wrong hands.

Muslims, I sincerely urge you to start focusing on the big picture – things that really matter. It is high time we transcend petty arguments, and get involved in educating ourselves about the Quran and others around us to clear such misconceptions that certain individuals impose upon Islam.

Allah is not a trademark that Muslims own, and neither do Muslims own the Arabic language. It is about time we realize that.

 

This article was also featured in The Malaysian Insider, The Malay Mail Online, and ARY News.

 

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Let’s be honest: Do you really believe in the Day of Judgment?

Over the years, belief has become a problematic word for me. Religious people are too fixated on scoring brownie points with God by exhausting all their efforts into believing this and believing that, all the while, failing to utilize that belief into something productive that makes them grow. It seems to me that people have made religion into a document that supposedly leads them to heaven just by signing on it (proclaiming they believe in it). What a shameful way to belittle God, this is!

The Quran, like any other book, is not to be “believed”, rather it is a self-help book that needs to be internalized so that the reader may evolve as a person. Quoting 14:1, “A book we have revealed to you so that you may bring people out of darkness towards light.” This, of course, can only be achieved when you act on it.

Belief, you could say then, is only the initial step of a ladder that ultimately leads towards it’s implementation: Necessary to take, however not as an end in itself; rather as a means to an end. Therefore, it is only reasonable to say, a belief that doesn’t translate into action is hollow, worthless, and a downright mockery of the self. This, I constantly remind myself, is an act of hypocrisy. And, most abominable in the sight of God is that you say what you do not do. (Quran, 61:3)

One of the fundamental teachings of the Quran is to acknowledge the Day of Judgment. But, why? Not many of us ask that question. When I started reading the Quran, my approach was to believe everything I read, without questioning. After all, how could I question God? However, as I went deeper into the Quran, I realized that doubt is an essential part of faith and spirituality. It is only when you question, does the wisdom behind every commandment reveals itself.

So when I questioned the point behind there being a Day of Judgment, I realized that if internalized from the core of your being, this belief molds people into responsible citizens who make decisions not on impulse, but by weighing and analyzing the pros and cons of it. People who realize that they are accountable for all their actions would never even think of wronging somebody else in the least. This, if adopted as a whole, would lead to Islam: a peaceful world.

Governments, too, try to replicate this model in order to ensure law and order in society. However, this still leaves room for people to commit injustices and indecencies in their private spaces, as well as public spaces through corruption. But there is no corruption in the court of God, is what some of us forget. It is a just system that judges you on behalf of your actions, not your beliefs. Hence, acknowledging the Day of Judgment should not be the focus. The focus, rather, should be on tuning our actions to the point where they act as a witness to our belief.

However, it is truly unfortunate and perplexing to see that so many Muslims, despite “believing” in the Day of Accountability, reject accountability in spirit. Through fabricated stories outside of the Quran, it is widely believed that Mohammad (salutes and respect to him) would intercede on behalf of every Muslim. Pause there. Before you react, imagine a judicial system where criminals could receive amnesty, just because they were “favorites” of the Judge. Would you call that justice? Surely, not! Then, what picture have we painted of God?

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And so it is, if you were to ask any Muslim whether he acknowledges a Day of Judgment, he would swiftly respond in the affirmative. “Of course, I do!” Yet, on the contrary, these very Muslims, though not all, don’t think twice before committing injustices and obscenities. Is that not a huge contradiction? The question that must be asked is, if you really believe in judgment, how is it that your actions don’t reflect it?

A million dollar question!

Are we not missing the point?

 

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Musings on Chapter 1 of the Quran: The Perfect Introduction?

Chapter 1 (Fatiha) is possibly the most read chapter of the Quran. It is an integral part of Muslim prayers and is repeated tens of times in a day. Yet, we must ask ourselves, what purpose does it serve? Why is it the very first chapter of the Quran?

For some reason, I just did;  and had an epiphany!

I think the answers to those questions lie in Ch2 V2: Quran as a revealed message will only serve as a guide for the Muttaqeen (those who are conscious of God). This is because everyone else wouldn’t embrace the message holistically to allow it to have a meaningful and drastic impact in their life.

So, to me,  Chapter 1 demonstrates the attributes of a person who has metaphorically awoken from sleep, suddenly becoming conscious of God (Muttaqi). These 6 verses could be considered as universal truths of a spiritual awakening, regardless of the faith one subscribes to. They immediately grab the attention of the reader, and go onto demonstrate Islam in a nutshell.

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Ready?  Let’s  dissect it!

(Note: I am not referring to the bismillah as verse 1.)

 

Verses 1-4 deal with the symptoms of a spiritual awakening. What are they?

 1st symptom: An immense feeling of praise and gratefulness for God, who is:

The Nourisher-Sustainer of the universe.

The Almighty (Rahman), and at the same time, The Merciful (Raheem).

Since both of the above words come from Rahm (literally: womb), these attributes outline the protective and evolusionizing aspect of The Beloved. The Muttaqi has experienced these attributes on a personal level. (V1-2)

2nd symptom: The realization of being dependent on a Higher Being (Maalik), and the fact that he is accountable for his actions. Therefore, it is ONLY Him that he would seek to serve and ONLY His aid that he would seek. (V3-4)

V5-6 is the prayer of the Muttaqi. What does he ask for?

He ONLY implores God for guidance towards the straight path:  A path on which there is positivity (favor and blessings); not a path involving negativity (wrath) and misguided people.

This, again, signifies the utmost importance given to God, while moving away from human authorities (idols). Furthermore, Islam is defined:

It is a straight path (without contradictions)

It is path on which you encounter positivity

It is a path devoid of negativity and misguidance

This short chapter includes much repeated key words in the Quran such as deen, ibadah, rabb and includes major themes of the Quran such as:

  1. Being grateful.
  2. The oneness and other predominant attributes of God.
  3.  Accountability for our actions.
  4. Dependence on a higher power.
  5. Avoiding Shirk (Association).
  6. Monotheism.
  7. Seeking guidance and aid.
  8. What Islam is as a system.

Conclusion

A grandeur introduction, isn’t it? So rich with detail, despite its briefness! Needless to say, I am completely awed!

At the risk of repeating myself, I would say that Chapter 1 is the Quran in a nutshell! If your Quran reading can be considered a spiritual workout, then Fatiha is the nutrient-dense pre-workout snack.

Can Praying For The Deceased Make A Difference?

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It is common practice among Muslims and other faiths alike to hold ceremonies in which relatives come together to pray for forgiveness for someone who has passed away. There are “Quran Khawanis” in which it is allegedly believed that reading the Quran would somehow benefit the deceased. People go so far in this dogma that they send someone else on behalf of the deceased for pilgrimage, in the hopes that the reward may be given to the deceased person. From an empathetic point of view, I understand. I really do. There are withdrawal symptoms in play and it may give a sense of satisfaction to pray or do whatever you can to “help”. However, I am sad to break the bitter truth to you: it doesn’t make any difference.

When a person dies, his account of deeds is closed. Nothing can be added or subtracted. We are judged on the Day of Judgement purely on the merit of our own actions. And it’s only fair this way, if you think about it. If the wicked people could go to heaven just because their family prayed a lot, would that be justice? Likewise, if the deceased was a good person, he would then naturally go to heaven. What would be the purpose of your prayers, then? Let’s see what the Quran has to say about this:

Every person is responsible for his own actions

That no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another – 53:38

“And that the human being can have nothing except what he has earned (good or bad) – 53:39

And that his effort is going to be seen – 53:40

And then he will be fully rewarded for it – 53:41

Whoever chooses to follow the right path, follows it but for his own good; and whoever goes astray. goes but astray to his own hurt; and no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden – 17:15

And none can carry the load of another; and even if it calls on another to bear part of its load, no other can carry any part of it, EVEN IF THEY ARE RELATED. You will only be able to warn those who are concerned towards their Lord while unseen, and they hold the contact prayer. And whoever contributes, is contributing for himself. And to God is the final destiny –  35:18

 

Even the Prophet cannot redeem guilty people

Ask forgiveness for them, [O Muhammad], or do not ask forgiveness for them. If you should ask forgiveness for them seventy times – never will Allah forgive them. That is because they covered the truth about Allah and His Messenger, and Allah does not guide the Fasiqeen – 9:80

 

 Prophets couldn’t save their own family. What makes us think that we can?

Prophet Nooh tried to save his son but was reprimanded by God very severely as he was not among the reformists. Upon this, Nooh asked for forgiveness (11:45-47).

Prophet Ibrahim sought protection for his father from God, but to no avail. (9:114)

Loot’s wife was not saved from the punishment. (11:81)

 

There is no intercession on the Day of Judgement

And fear a Day when no soul will suffice for another soul at all, nor will intercession be accepted from it, nor will compensation be taken from it, nor will they be aided – 2:48 (Also check 2:123, 2:254, 39:44, 43:86, 74:48)

Conclusion

All these points go on to prove that we are judged purely based on our actions. As I have previously mentioned in an article, prayer alone does not influence the outcome – action does.

Having said that, it just baffles me that this has become common practice in our society, especially since the Quran is crystal clear on this subject. If one would stop, and think just for a moment – one immediately realizes how illogical a practice this is. But, perhaps, this is what happens when “Muslims” stop reading the Quran and get their information from secondary sources. We were never supposed to be a dogmatic lot. You would be surprised to see the amount of emphasis the Quran puts on critical thinking, especially when it comes to matters of religion as this is where most of the exploitation is done. But it’s easily overlooked  as these “scholars” portray themselves as representatives of God. Only if we would read the book we so dearly claim to believe…

 

For those who persevere in doing good there is the ultimate good in store, and more [than that].No darkness and no ignominy will overshadow their face: it is they who are destined for paradise, therein to abide – 10:26

On the other hand, there is he who has inevitably deserved suffering (for his persistence in following false ‘authorities’). Can you save the one already committed to fire? – 39:19

 

 

 

Be Altruistic!

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God has given us an amazing gift in the form of life, what are we doing to give back?

Our prime purpose in this life is to give, to benefit humanity in some way. The Quran repeatedly emphasizes the importance of spending in “the way of God” to help those who are not as fortunate as we are. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is stressed more than this! When we distribute our resources with others, we perform the real act of Shukr (giving thanks!) and acknowledge the fact that everything we temporarily own, and the means through which we earned it, ultimately comes from God!

But, my concern is that we have become too focused on ourselves, even when we are giving away. I observe that most Muslims pay more charity in the month of Ramadan because it is a “blessed month”  so that they could debit as many rewards (sawab) as they can in their account. This type of mindset hinders spiritual growth, my friend. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not implying that your service is considered null in the eyes of God or anything of that sort. I am simply asking you to tweak your paradigm a bit. 🙂

The purpose of giving is just that: giving! No more, no less. We should do good to our fellow humans simply because it is the right thing to do. It is what the soul yearns for! Expecting “rewards” for our service makes the whole process unnatural. It’s no more about benefiting others anymore, it becomes self centered. The ego comes in: “What can I get from this?”

I realized this truth some time ago, and I believe it is crucial for all of us to understand this to evolve as spiritual beings. An example would suffice: A mother is selfless. She loves her child because she feels that way, not because she wants someone to take care of her in old age. Although a good upbringing will bring comfort to her when she does get old, her intention of loving the child is not based on that. Furthermore, observe nature. It is selfless, too! A tree gives, but does not ask anything in return.  Nature is self-less, and so should we!

So, in conclusion,  don’t fret over accumulating rewards or recognition for yourself. Help someone just because they need your help, because they deserve it! In the famous words of Rumi: “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy!”

“The example of those who spend their wealth in the cause of God is like sowing a seed that brings numerous shoots, each shoot with a hundred grains. This is how God’s Law of Recompense rewards men and women. God is Infinite, Knower.” Quran 2:261

“You will never attain exponential growth of the ‘self’ unless you open up for others the possessions you cherish. And whatever you spend, God is well Aware of it. [God, the Knower of your own ‘self’, reminds that Paradise is for those who attain self-actualization by giving. 92:18]” Quran 3:61

 

Follow The Voice Within

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If you call yourself a Muslim, but haven’t read the Quran — then the best course of action to take would be to obviously read it. No one is born into a religion just as you can’t be born into a political ideology. I can’t call myself a Communist if I haven’t researched it for myself. Bear in mind, that when you decide to identify yourself as a Muslim to other people, you decide to become an ambassador of Islam. People who aren’t familiar with Islam will usually base their opinion on it according to your actions.

However, even if you can’t get yourself to read it for some reason or the other, the least you could do is follow your conscience. Now, by conscience, I mean the inner voice which never shies away from expressing itself –The Rooh (Spirit/Soul) of God that is within us all (15:29). No one can be spiritually content if their actions are negative. As an example, don’t drink, gamble, fornicate, backbite, lie, spend lavishly, cause corruption etc. If only you happen to avoid such things, then congratulations! You have adhered to many teachings of Islam as well as all the other religions. See, every religion stresses the importance of behaving morally. That is essentially the core of them all. And we all know that you don’t need religion to teach you morals. The soul already knows what’s right and wrong. Just listen to it!

Having said that, it is of paramount importance that you read the Quran sooner than later. Why? Because then you’ll not be as gullible as most religionists usually are. Since you have no foundation of the Quran, “scholars” can basically feed you anything and attribute it to Islam and you won’t know what hit you. That’s why, some of them (if not most!) try to keep people away from reading the Quran for themselves. After all, their bread and butter depend on it! They discourage people from forming their own opinions lest they interpret it ‘wrongly’. Or, the promises of rewards that one gets by reading the Quran in a language he doesn’t even understand! How ridiculous! The Quran is a practical guide on life. The sole purpose of this book is to bring people out of darkness, towards light (14:2).   It is a book that yearns to be understood, and most importantly implemented!     

So if you don’t want to be fooled, read it. After having read the Quran, you will have developed a criterion from which you can judge whether a statement is Quranic or not. That’s where the “blasphemy law” comes in to silence those who speak truth, a law so contradictory to the message of the Quran! (You can read it about it here)

Follow your conscience, think for yourself & evolve!