Mosques: They Are Not What They Should Be

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A mosque is supposed to be a spiritual retreat – a community centre which encourages spiritual growth and makes people feel welcomed. You could think of it as a gym, except that it’s for the soul and not the physical body. Yet, unfortunately, mosques have lost their appeal. I think this is largely due to the fact that they tend to be male-dominated with a strict dress code focusing on very minute details of how to worship God. Inhospitable to women and non-Muslims, most people have stopped going to the mosques altogether.

What would I do if I was in charge of a mosque?

• Instead of stocking Arabic Qurans only, I would include translations. Muslims who do not understand Arabic stand in prayer not having the slightest idea about what the Imam is reciting. Tell me, what is the point? Salat means to connect with God. If you have no idea about what is being recited from God’s message, how can you connect with Him? Salat is a practice initiated to review the commandments of God, so that we keep ourselves aligned with them. A renewal of what we profess to believe in; to act as a constant reminder. Hence, before starting prayer, the Imam would announce what he would be reciting, so that the people could open up the relevant passage in the translations. While he recites in Arabic, they would read it in a language they understand. This would not only educate them about the Quran, but it would also fulfill the purpose of Salat – to connect and strengthen their relationship with God.

• Every Friday, Muslims go to pray the Jummah – even those that usually don’t pray. So, you have a great platform in the form of Friday prayers to educate people about the contents of the Quran. The Khutbah (sermon) does not even come close to this. Often, it is in Arabic, so people have no idea what is being said. Even if it is in their language, the substance is usually worthless. Hence, what I would do is I would choose a certain topic – say, modesty. Compile the relevant verses on it, and then give a sermon based on this. Not only would this clear a lot of misconceptions, it would also attract a loyal following of Muslims and non-Muslims who actually want to know about the Islam proposed by the Quran!

• Apart from these two fundamental changes, I would set up sessions where people would come together to discuss their interpretations of the Quran. In addition, they could also talk about relevant issues that need to be addressed in their community and elsewhere. So, it’s not all a preach preach preach sort of thing, it would also encourage people to share their own views. This would teach people tolerance. That, it’s never “my way or the highway”. This practice is crucial to being broad-minded and is bound to reduce zealots and religious extremism.

• Lastly, I would try to keep the environment of the mosque friendly. No one would be harassed based on their clothing, ideas, or gender. Yes, gender! The mosque would welcome both men and women. Women would not be considered inferiors, and would be encouraged to actively participate in all the activities. To facilitate children, the mosque would have a play area where they could play under the supervision of a nanny while their parents perform their duties. It is ironic how Islam liberates women, but certain Muslims want to keep them caged in homes.

So, there we have it: A mosque that is actually beneficial to the society. A mosque not built on sectarianism, but to promote unity. You could say that it’s wishful thinking, but all actions stem from thought.

The main problem with Muslims today is a lack of education and miseducation about the Quran. This allows “Imams” to cash in on their ignorance. Hence, you have so many sects all claiming to have the “true and right version of Islam”. Since Muslims are oblivious to the message of the Quran, they find it easier to blindly follow whichever sect or ideology they are “born in”. Once Muslims are exposed to the Quran like how I propose the Mosque would, they would automatically disassociate themselves from dogmatic ideologies. Of course, not all would. But it would be a step in the right direction. A step we so desperately need!

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

 

 

 

Why A Helping Hand Is Always Better Than Praying Lips

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With the current crisis going on in Gaza, Iraq/Syria, and all around the world, I often hear statements like “Please make dua (prayer) for them”, or “Pray for the destruction of the oppressors”, and think to myself: “What good is a prayer without action?”

We have imams supplicating their hearts out at the weekly Friday prayer, imploring God to restore the condition of the “Muslim Ummah” and pleading God to help the Muslims. But that doesn’t seem to do anything whatsoever. The atrocities keep happening, and the “Muslim world” keeps plunging into deeper issues.

Why?

Well, let’s see! Because we’re not doing anything about it!

Prayer, as I understand it, is your self-talk with God to provide you a direction towards your goal. To act as a constant reminder, a motivator even. An example would suffice for the skeptic. Ask all your friends and family to pray that you pass an exam, but do not put any effort into studying the material. Do you reckon you will pass? No one does that, because deep down inside you are perfectly aware that it is doomed for failure. So, why persist in this dogma when it comes to the well-being of others?

As long as prayer inspires you to actually do something, or increase your empathy with those who are suffering, it can be considered useful. But in and of itself, prayer is not a magical mantra that would automatically set things aright. From a very early age, we’re brainwashed to pray for this and pray for that. Most of us are not taught activism, unfortunately! Hence, this type of mindset breeds lazy individuals who put everything in the “hands of God” in the face of oppression, greed, and tyranny.

So, what is the problem exactly? Has God stopped listening to us? Or, could it possibly be that we’ve forgotten the vital aspect that WE were supposed to be the vicegerents (Khalifa) of this earth (2:30)? Certainly, you would not ask your boss to do something that was delegated to you!

God has endowed us with body, mind, and soul. Body to be mobile, active. Mind, to ponder and come up with solutions. And Soul, to feel the pain of others. We are assigned a role to help humanity and have been given the necessary tools to collectively achieve this goal. But, what do we do in return? Ask God to intervene somehow to restore order. How ironic! And how utterly ungrateful we have become…

The prophets, our supposed role models, did not pray all day long asking God to put an end to the oppression of human beings. No, they were intelligent beings who knew that prayer without action is a mockery of the “self”. Musa (Peace be upon him) is the prime example for this. An ordinary man with practically no following whatsoever decided to face the tyrant Firaun one on one. With his utmost dedication and determination, he freed the children of Israel from the oppression of Firaun.

These are the role models we have to revive, if we are to improve the sanctity of human life. This is what we call following the example of the prophets. Following their character! And, here too, we have deviated from the right course. Instead of following their character, we try to imitate their personality by dressing up like them. But, I digress.

In conclusion, we have to stop acting as if God will take care of everything eventually. This is not our purpose as human beings. Sure, prayer is a great practice — as long as it is complemented with activism. Contribute your time, your resources, to the well-being of others. Only then will we reach self-actualization. And only then can we hope to have a clear conscience.

 

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Effective Supplications

We come across many ‘Supplications’ in the Quran that Prophets and believers do. Let me put forward my understanding and it’s purpose of it.

 Let’s take this for an example: Among them is he who says, “Our Lord, give us in this world [that which is] good and in the Hereafter [that which is] good and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” 2:201

Now the purpose of sharing dua’s in the Quran is to make you internalize the message within. You could say this dua as much as you want, but do you really think Allah wants that from you? What good is lip service? Allah wants you to develop your soul to the point where your state of being is a witness to this supplication.

Most hateful it is with Allah that you say that which you do not do. 61:13 You see how powerful those words are? So before you say the supplication in 2:201, make sure you have internalized it. Your actions should be a proof of the supplication you make. Are you really working for priming your soul to the point where you get the best of both worlds?

Praying without action is useless. It’s simply lip service – the easiest thing to do. I can pray all I want, but to pass an exam, I must study. Similarly, I can pray all I want for people who are oppressed in the world, but until I do something about it, its utterly useless and a mockery of your own ‘self’.

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5 Misconceptions about Islam.

Hello & Peace be with you! I want to share some of my thoughts with you on Islam. I’ve really had enough of “my religion/sect is right and yours is false” line of thinking.
  1. Allah (The God) is NOT a man in the sky. God is everywhere and is hence timeless/boundless. None can fathom His form, yet He perceives everything (Apparent or hidden – 6:103). When the Qur’an refers to his “face” (2:272), it refers to His existence as the face is covered when one dies. Beautifully presented, but taken literally by some people unfortunately. In addition, when He refers to His “hands” (36:71), it obviously denotes His strength! And that is a pretty straightforward thing to understand.
  2. Every Prophet came with the same message, and that was Islam (42:13). Islam is NOT a label or a religion of the Arabs. Rather, it is the means to achieve peace (what Islam means) in your inner self, in the society, and eventually in the Hereafter.
  3. Allah is NOT an economist who observes behaviors and patterns, and then passes laws accordingly. He is the Creator and hence knows its Creation perfectly. He knows what will work and what wouldn’t. Hence, his laws do not ever change! To think otherwise would obviously demean His Knowledge (33:62).
  4. Malaika (angels) are NOT endowed with wings! Wings denote power and speed. They are the universal forces, I believe. When Allah says: “Jibrael (Malaika) brings down the revelation to your hearts” (2:97), it is NOT an angel with wings that does so. It is only a natural phenomenon that whenever you study the book with interest and conviction, the force Jibrael brings down the revelation to you. It is automatic! Just like a pen is bound to fall if it is dropped! No “angel brings it down”. Malaika praise Allah by carrying out his commands in the universe, not by humming his Praises. He is FAR above what we attribute to Him. He does not need our Praise. He only wants us to acknowledge His existence, follow his commands (to attain peace) and stay connected with Him (Salat) for our own betterment!
  5. Salat (Prayer) is NOT necessarily a rigid bundle of rituals. It is your connection with God. So, just as there is no “set” method of eating/studying/teaching/conversing, Connection with God is also a thing which should come naturally to you. How that comes to you is none of my or anyone else’s business. If you find it in rituals, please continue to do so (without invoking anyone else of course, including the prophets). If you find it in reading the Qur’an, then that can also be considered as Salat. The prime focus should be on what derives the most connection, not mindless rituals on which people debate even today! The important thing is to establish a connection whereby one can feel His presence at all times. 2:67-71 deals with this beautifully. It is to be noted that I do not condemn rituals, just the overemphasis on them.

See, the Deen (Way of life) by Allah is very easy to implement. In a nutshell, it is to develop your inner self, help other people to the best of your abilities by opposing tyranny in the land, and being at peace with the Hereafter. That’s all! Now the problem is, no money can be made if the Deen of Allah was this simple since there would be absolutely no need of endless priests/imams. That’s where they come in and make the Deen difficult for everyone to implement (by coming out with their own books and laws) and thus making one of the worst crimes by making the Qur’an dependent on THEM (57:27). They divide people into sects and delude them into thinking that only their followers will achieve salvation. Examples are in front of you!

Now some of these concepts might be new to you, but if you’re reading this, I just want to thank you. And I want you to think about it with a clear head. Are we doing justice to the Supreme Creator by dividing into religions, and worse even, sects? And that we fight with each other that our version is the best and others are doomed for fire when we don’t even need any book to teach us about how to spend this life! It’s installed in every single one of us! We already know what is good and what is bad. The Qur’an is a reminder (Dhikr) for a reason. It reminds you of what’s already there! The only reason we might not be at peace is because of the piles of garbage that has been fed to us, unfortunately by our own family, society, and priests (knowingly or unknowingly). Hence the need of Qur’an, only to polish our souls! So break the shackles and set free! Don’t let anyone think for you and dictate YOUR life. Do it yourself! If you disagree with any of my points, fair enough! Your path should be unique since you have to walk on it. I am nobody to tell you to do this or do that. Focus on your spirituality! Walk your own path!

Finally, if you find anything useful out of this, it is only from the Lord of the Universe and I am really humbled to him for making me at peace with His book and Himself. What I condemn today, I was a part of a year ago so I know how it feels like. You can defend your imams all you want but it does not change the fact that they’re one of the biggest problems why the so called “Muslim world” is totally opposite to what its name suggests, and that is to attain peace and security.

Thank you for your time 🙂