Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Science: Islam's forgotten geniuses

For 700 years, the international language of science was Arabic

(Telegraph, UK)

The untold story of Arabic brilliance should be a timely reminder of a proud heritage, says Jim Al-Khalili

Next year, we will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth, and the 150th of the publication of his On The Origin of Species, which revolutionised our understanding of biology.
But what if Darwin was beaten to the punch? Approximately 1,000 years before the British naturalist published his theory of evolution, a scientist working in Baghdad was thinking along similar lines.
In the Book of Animals, abu Uthman al-Jahith (781-869), an intellectual of East African descent, was the first to speculate on the influence of the environment on species. He wrote: "Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring."
There is no doubt that it qualifies as a theory of natural selection - even though the Book of Animals appears to have been based to a large extent on folklore rather than on zoological fact.
Despite the strong feelings Darwin provokes among many Muslims - many Islamic scholars see the Koran as creationist, and so at odds with evolution - it seems astounding that al-Jahith's quote has been largely ignored.
In fact, although popular accounts of the history of science typically show no major advances taking place between the Romans and the Renaissance, al-Jahith's work was part of an astonishing flowering of invention and innovation that took place in the Muslim world, and in Iraq in particular, in the Middle Ages.
This world view, based on a mixture of theology and rational thinking, produced wonderful advances in philosophy, astronomy, medicine and mathematics, in particular the emergence of algebra and trigonometry.
Although the Muslim world is often now seen as ill-equipped for scientific discovery, we can look back to Baghdad and see the origins of the modern scientific method, the world's first physicist and the world's first chemist; advances in surgery and anatomy, the birth of geology and anthropology; not to mention remarkable feats of engineering.
For 700 years, the international language of science was Arabic; and Baghdad, the capital of the mighty Abbasid Empire, was the centre of the intellectual world. The story starts around 813, when the caliph of Baghdad, al-Ma'mun, is said to have had a vivid and life-changing dream. In it, he met the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who instructed him to "seek knowledge and enlightenment".
This was the starting point for a lifelong obsession with science and philosophy. Al-Ma'mun created the famous House of Wisdom, a library, translation house and scientific academy unmatched since the glory days of Alexandria.
The caliph would then recruit some of the greatest names in Arabic science, such as the mathematician al-Khwarizmi and the philosopher al-Kindi. Although many of these thinkers were not Arabs themselves, they conducted their science and wrote their books in Arabic.
In the West, though, they were better known by their Latin names, such as Alkindus, Alhazen, Averroes and Avicenna. The most famous of all was Avicenna (or ibn Sina, to give him his correct name).
Born in Persia in 980, he was a child prodigy who grew up to become one of the world's greatest philosophers and physicians. His great work, the Canon of Medicine, was to remain the standard medical text both in the Islamic and Christian worlds until well into the 17th century.
He is credited with the discovery and explanation of contagious diseases and the first correct description of the anatomy of the human eye. As a philosopher, Avicenna is referred to as the Aristotle of Islam; as a physician, he is its Galen.
Indeed, it would not be inappropriate to refer to Aristotle and Galen as the Avicennas of the Greeks. My favourite of all the Abbasid scientists, however, is another Persian scholar by the name of al-Biruni.
Here was a polymath with a free-ranging and formidable intellect: not only did he make significant breakthroughs as a philosopher, mathematician and astronomer, but he also left his mark as a theologian, encyclopaedist, linguist, historian, geographer, pharmacist and physician.
Famously, having developed the mathematics of trigonometry, he was able to measure the circumference of the Earth to within a few miles. The only other figure in history whose legacy rivals the scope of al-Biruni's scholarship would be Leonardo da Vinci. So what went wrong?
What brought to an end this golden age of Abassid and Arabic science? The standard answer is that the ending came suddenly, in 1258, when the Mongols ransacked Baghdad. During the occupation, a large number of the books in the House of Wisdom were destroyed.
But Baghdad was by this time far from the only centre of scholarship in the Arabic speaking world - and wonderful advances continued to be made in Cairo and Cordoba right up to the European Renaissance in the 15th century.
There is also an argument that the decline was due to a change in attitude of the Islamic world towards science. This was primarily a consequence of the work of the 11th-century scholar and theologian al-Ghazali, who famously criticised Muslim scientists for their over-reliance on the philosophy of the ancient Greeks.
Yet this, too, cannot be the whole story. Al-Ghazali was primarily attacking a theological viewpoint that relied on ideas he deemed anti-Islamic. Hard science should not have been so affected by this more metaphysical dispute.
The real decline had much more to do with a weakening of the power of the caliphate as a whole, of which the Mongol invasion was merely one symptom.
By the end of the 11th century, Baghdad had lost control over much of its empire, and weaker caliphs were simply less inclined to encourage and finance scientific scholarship. But, just as the golden age of Arabic science began with the translation of the great Greek texts of Aristotle, Euclid and Ptolemy, so was the work of the Arabic scholars transferred to Europe
. For example, al-Jahith's Book of Animals was a major influence on Arab scholars of the 11th to 14th centuries, and the Latin translations of their work in turn became known to Charles Darwin's predecessors, Linnaeus, Buffon and Lamarck.
By the 16th century, while scientific and technological progress continued to be made at a gentler pace in the Muslim world under Persian and Ottoman rule, the European Renaissance was well under way.
The mystery is why the debt the West owed to Muslim scholars was then overlooked: acknowledged at all, the Abbasids are normally credited with nothing more than acting as the guardians of Greek science.
In a world of increasing religious tension, the untold story of Arabic science is a timely reminder of the debt the West owes to the Muslim world – and, perhaps more importantly, of the proud heritage today's Muslims should acknowledge.
 Jim Al-Khalili is professor of physics and public engagement in science at the University of Surrey. Tomorrow night, he delivers the Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize lecture, which will be webcast live at 5.30pm at, and will then address the invite-only Telegraph/Novartis Scientists Meet The Media reception at the Royal Society in London.

• Ibn al-Natis, a Syrian from the late 13th century, is credited with giving the first correct description of blood circulation in the body, 400 years before the work of Thomas Harvey.
• The Polish astronomer Copernicus (1473-1543) has Arabic astronomers to thank for his calculations: indeed, there are diagrams in his books that appear to have been lifted exactly from the work of the Arab astronomer Ibn Shatir 100 years earlier.
• The modern scientific method, based on observation and measurement, is often said to have been established in the 17th century by Francis Bacon and René Descartes. But the Iraqi-born physicist Ibn al-Haythem (Alhazen), had the same idea in the 10th century.
• The word "alchemy" derives from the Arabic "alkimya", which means "chemistry". The world's first true chemist was a Yemeni Arab by the name of Jabir ibn Hayyan, born in 721.
• Al-Razi (Rhazes) was the greatest clinician of the Middle Ages. Born near Teheran in 865, he ran a psychiatric ward in Baghdad at a time when, in the Christian world, the mentally ill would have been regarded as being possessed by the devil.
• The word "algebra" comes from the Arabic "al-jebr", and was made famous by the great ninth-century mathematician al-Khwarizmi. But contrary to popular myth, algebra was not an Islamic invention - its rules actually go back to the Greek mathematician Diophantus.

Monday, January 28, 2008

EU ministers express concern about Dutch anti-Islam film

BRDO PRI KRANJU, Slovenia (AFP) — EU justice ministers have expressed concern about a far-right Dutch lawmaker's plan to make a potentially inflammatory film about the Koran, ministers and officials said Saturday.
They said that Dutch justice officials had raised the issue at informal talks in Slovenia, and had called for EU support, amid concern that the short film could reignite tensions with Muslims after the Danish cartoons affair.
"It would, of course, have important repercussions for other countries of the European Union as well," Luxembourg Justice Minister Luc Frieden told AFP, on the sidelines of the talks.
"It is our moral duty to call upon everybody, to make people aware, so that they do not abuse their fundamental rights" of freedom of expression, he said.
"We must also protect those who may be hurt or harmed by irresponsible statements."
Far-right deputy Geert Wilders has been in the spotlight since he announced in the Netherlands in November that he plans to make a short film to show that Islam's holy book is "a fascist book" that "incites people to murder".
Dutch observers fear that Wilders will burn or tear up the Koran in it.
"The Dutch minister expressed a certain preoccupation about that and asked for the support of his colleagues," an EU official told AFP.
It remains unclear if and when the movie will be shown. Wilders told Saturday's edition of Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that it would be several weeks yet, after earlier giving a date of the end of January.
"The EU has to be attentive," the EU official said. "We are trying to avoid the situation we had with the cartoons."
A series of 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in Denmark's biggest daily newspaper two years ago led to deadly riots in several Muslim countries.
Devout Muslims consider all depictions of Mohammed in pictorial form to be blasphemous.
The EU official said that the bloc's Counter Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove noted during the discussions that "we have to think about how to deal with that."
German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said the EU ministers "agreed we would remain in contact" with their Dutch counterpart Ernst Hirsch Ballin over the issue.
De Telegraaf said it had viewed some rushes from the film.
"The opening shot shows to the left the cover of the Koran, and to the right the words 'Warning: this book contains shocking pictures'," it said.
Then images such as "a decapitation in Iraq, a stoning in Iran and an execution in Saudi Arabia, where sharia (Islamic law) is applied" are shown, it said.
"Those who find that shocking should not get angry with me, but with those people who did these things," Wilders told the paper.
"The film does not only talk about the Koran, it plays out within its framework," he said. "The edges of the book will be permanently visible (in the film) and within this frame, we show images of what is described in the words of the Koran."
In another twist to the story Friday, Wilders' party spokesman said the lawmaker would take legal action against a clip circulating on the Internet where a poster with his picture is riddled with bullets.
"Mr Wilders will file a legal complaint against the film" which he finds "disgusting", a spokesman for his Freedom Party told AFP.
Wilders has been under heavy police protection since the 2004 murder of Dutch director and columnist Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh was killed by a radical Muslim after he directed a film criticising the position of women in Islam.
Numerous Islamic associations have already urged Muslims in the country to stay calm and not allow themselves to be provoked.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has said the Netherlands is ready to act quickly if the film causes unrest, and stressed that "provocations" have no place in the Dutch tradition of tolerance.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yousuf Al Qaradawi slammed the silence of Arab and Muslim countries over the war of impoverishment and humiliation waged by Israel against Gaza people

Doha – Muharram 18, 1429/ January 26, 2008 – Renowned Islamic scholar Yousuf Al Qaradawi yesterday slammed the “silence” of Arab and Muslim countries over the “war of impoverishment and humiliation” waged by Israel against the people of Gaza. In his Friday sermon at the Omar bin Al Khattab Mosque yesterday after an absence of several months on account of illness, Al Qaradawi stated that the Arab and Muslim countries should have pressured the US to change its attitude toward the crisis. His last sermon was on June 15.“There are more than 1 billion Arabs and Muslims around the world, but they did nothing for their besieged brethren in Gaza. Some countries are totally silent while others are shyly condemning the blockade,” Gulf Times reported quoting Sheikh Qaradawi as saying. The scholar renewed his calls for boycotting the goods of the countries he described as “enemies for Islam” and for supporting the Muslim and Arab causes. “I do not know why people stopped boycotting their goods though the battle is still going on. If only the Arab and Muslim countries can pressure the US through its interest in the region, it would change its stand on our causes, including the Palestinian cause,” he said. The scholar called on the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, to resume their dialogue and meet once again in Cairo. “Both Fatah and Hamas should be united in their fight against the sons of Zion. The common ordeal should bring them together. The leaders of the factions should forget their differences and stop challenging one another. It is time to stop infighting and start dialogue in this critical stage.” Al Qaradawi hailed Cairo’s decision of opening the border gates with Gaza and allowing a large number of the besieged Palestinians to enter Egypt for stockpiling on food and medications. However, he urged Egypt not to submit to pressures from Israel or the US to close the border-crossing gates again. “I hope that Egypt will stick to its brave decision.”The scholar also dismissed the notion that the 1973 War erupted between the Arabs and Israel as “the last war between Israel and Arabs”, saying that “this is wrong notion as Israel is still stockpiling weapons by the support of the US.” He called on Muslims around the world to help out the Palestinians by sending donations. “Donating to the Palestinians in their ordeal is some sort of holy Jihad,” he said, while praising the diplomatic and relief efforts to alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza. After the prayer, the faithful took part in a protest march organized by the Central Municipal Council (CMC), shouting anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans and carrying Palestinian flags with photos of the founder of the Hamas movement Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Among those who participated in the march were CMC chairman Nasser Al Kaabi along with some other municipal council members, Palestinian Ambassador Munir Ghannam and Qatar’s former Minister of Information Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al Kuwari. Speaking on the occasion, Al Kaabi said the march aimed to convey a message of support for the Palestinians by the Qatari people. “We would like to say no to the impoverishment and humiliation inflicted on the people in Gaza. We will also launch fund-raising campaign to help the people of Gaza in their ordeal,” he told the gathering. CMC member Mohamed Al Azaba urged Arab countries to take a cue from Qatar and support the Palestinians in their ordeal. “We should unify our efforts to alleviate the sufferings of our brethren in Palestine and end this unfair blockade,” he added.

When Allah showers His mercy on us

25 January 2008

I WOKE up this morning to the welcome pitter-patter of rain as it hit my bedroom window. I simply love the rain. It brings new life while both cleansing and refreshing the Earth. Living in the Middle East, which is often hot, dry and barren, really brings the rain's innumerable blessings to the fore.
Without rain, where would we be? Life on this Earth, as we know it, would cease to exist. Vegetation would dry up and humanity as well as animal life would be wallowing in misery. Truly the rain is a welcome blessing with each and every drop that falls from the sky.
It was only after extensive technological advances were made in weather technology that humans were able to dissect rain clouds and determine exactly how rain forms and is eventually released from the clouds. If only scientists had equipped themselves with the knowledge of the Holy Quran, they would have saved much time and probably billions of dollars. More than 14 centuries ago, Allah revealed much about the creation of rain.
Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran: "It is Allah who sends the winds, and they raise the clouds: then does He spread them in the sky as He wills, and break them into fragments, until you see rain-drops issue from the midst thereof: then when He has made them reach such of his servants as He wills, behold, they do rejoice!" (30: 48)
This ayah, or verse, from the Holy Quran clearly reveals that there are three parts to the miracle of rain. In the first part, the verse says that Allah is responsible for sending in the winds while also lifting the clouds, which modern science calls 'water evaporation'. Water evaporates from all the sources of water on the planet - oceans, lakes, rivers and even rain puddles! The water is literally sucked up into the clouds with the assistance of the wind. In the next part, the verse tells how Allah spreads the clouds and breaks them up. Anyone who has ever witnessed the sky right before a rainstorm knows that during this weather event the sky is roofed with a canopy of clouds. In the third part, Allah reveals that the shape of the rain is in drops, or tiny spheres, not triangles or cubes. It took modern scientists centuries to comprehend the shape of the rain yet Allah revealed it before man could uncover the knowledge! The rain clouds pass quickly over the parched Earth releasing their load of water. And the verse also mentions that the rain is strictly under Allah's control and it is a gift for whomever He wills to receive it. And whomever Allah does not will to receive it faces much hardship in the form of drought and starvation.
Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran: "He sends down (from time to time) water from the sky in due measure, and we raise to life therewith a land that is dead. Even so will you be raised (from the dead)." (43: 11)
The miracle of rain being likened to death in the above verse denotes the Power of Allah. Allah can raise the Earth out of drought and decay just as He can raise the dead, on the Day of Judgment, to stand accountable for deeds committed on this Earth.
The rain also revitalises us both physically and spiritually. The time of rain is one of the times we are promised that our duas, or supplications, will be answered.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "There are two which will not be rejected: dua at the time of the call (to prayer) and when it is raining." (Abu Dawood-Saheeh)
When it rains, we can visualise one of the countless ways in which Allah shows His infinite mercy to mankind. Seizing the opportunity to kneel in supplication to Allah during the rain is an excellent possibility to receive forgiveness and countless blessings. Allah-Willing!

Netherlands braced for Muslim anger as politician releases 'anti-Islam' film

By Claire Soares in The Hague
Friday, 25 January 2008

For a film that lasts just 10 minutes and for which no one has even seen a trailer, it is creating one hell of an uproar. The cinematic debut from the anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders has forced the Netherlands to wrestle with the limits of its age-old tradition of free speech and stirred up anxieties about a multicultural society.
The film, billed by Mr Wilders as an illustration of how the Koran inspires people "to do the worst things", is the latest provocation from the maverick MP who has compared Islam's sacred text to Hitler's Mein Kampf, tried to ban the burqa and the building of mosques and called for all Muslims in the Netherlands either to give up their religion or go back to their own countries.
In a sign of how preoccupied the government is with the impending fallout, the Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, made an extraordinary statement before the Wilders film was even finished, let alone screened.
"It has become apparent that concerns exist, both here and abroad, that the film could be offensive, potentially inviting heated reactions that could affect public order, public safety and security and the economy," he said at a weekly briefing. "The government is preparing for the possible repercussions that the broadcast of the film could have, internationally as well as domestically." But there is no suggestion of a ban.
Mr Wilders had promised to screen his film today, saying he would post it on the internet if no willing Dutch broadcaster could be found. But he has since been quoted as saying that the film will not debut for a couple of weeks. When contacted yesterday, his spokesman refused to confirm or deny any release date.
Meanwhile, imams are being urged to preach calm at Friday prayers, while mayors across the country have been put on alert, as have Dutch embassies around the world.
Zainab al-Touraihi, a member of the Contact Group Between Muslims and the Government, said: "It's ridiculous that a film that's not even come out yet is dominating and getting so much attention. But as time approaches, people are getting scared.
"I know Wilders is a man who says crazy things, but now he's going to visualise them. Words on paper can touch you, but a movie packs more of a punch."
The prevailing sentiment on the streets of The Hague is that Mr Wilders has the right to say what he likes, swiftly followed by a desire that he reflect on the consequences of those words.
As the Prime Minister diplomatically put it: "This country enjoys a long tradition of freedom of expression, religion and belief. This country also has a tradition of respect, tolerance and responsibility. The government will honour these traditions and calls upon everyone to do the same."
If, as has been rumoured in the Dutch press, Mr Wilders rips or burns the Koran on camera, the images would be available across the world within minutes. Fears of a backlash are strong, especially given the anger that boiled over in 2005 after a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the prophet Mohamed.
Already, an Iranian parliamentarian has warned that he might call on the government to review its relations with the Netherlands, and on a visit to Europe this month, the Grand Mufti of Syria declared that any desecration of the Koran by Mr Wilders "will simply mean he is inciting wars and bloodshed".
But the film furore is also hitting the Dutch closer to home, reviving painful memories of the turmoil that followed the murder of the film director Theo van Gogh in 2004. A distant relative of his namesake Vincent, Van Gogh had made a film, Submission, which accused Islam of condoning violence against women and projected quotes from the Koran on to naked female bodies. He was gunned down by an Islamist militant in broad daylight on a busy Amsterdam street, before having his throat slit.
Today, on Linnaeusstraat, away from Amsterdam's picture-postcard canals, you have to look hard to find any sign of what happened on that November morning. On the rust-coloured asphalt of the cycling lanes are two teaspoon-sized indentations that a local says are the marks left by two of the bullets fired.
But the scars on the Dutch national psyche are much more visible. "I never expected anything like that would happen here in Holland. It was very strange, a total shock," said Ed Mulder, who owns an opticians opposite the spot where the outspoken film director died. "But if it's happened once, it could happen again."
Van Gogh's murder ignited a wave of religious violence, with mosques and churches being firebombed. And it also provoked much soul-searching in a country that had prided itself on its tolerance. The fact that the murderer had been born and brought up in Holland led many to question how well the country's one million Muslims were integrated into the nation's population of 16 million.
Mr Wilders was already known for his anti-Islamic diatribes at that time and was swiftly given round-the-clock protection, which he still has to this day. This week, it emerged that the government's top counter-terrorism official had reportedly warned Mr Wilders that he might have to leave the country if he released the film.
But in an open letter to the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant on Wednesday, the politician refused to accept any responsibility for what he described as the "hysterical panic" surrounding his unaired movie. "[That] says everything about the nature of Islam. Nothing about me," he wrote. "Islam is an intolerant ideology... within which there is no room for matters like self-reflection and self-criticism."
Mr Wilders' Party for Freedom won nine of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament at the last election, but it regularly polls above that level. Some attribute his popularity to a talent for headline-grabbing soundbites, such as warnings of a "tsunami of Islamisation"; some suggest that his larger-than-life persona stands out in an otherwise uncharismatic political scene.
For others, he is carrying on the torch of Pim Fortuyn, the pioneer of anti-Islamic politics in Holland before he was murdered in 2002. Like Fortuyn, Mr Wilders taps into the anti-establishment feeling and voices the opinions of those who blame Muslims for all that is bad in their lives.
"The big political parties are almost afraid to address it, and that strengthens some people's sense of abandonment and allows Mr Wilders a way in," explained Tofik Dibi, a Green Party MP.
He added: "I feel so disappointed that everything is getting overshadowed by Wilders and we do not get round to discussing the important underlying issues. We should be properly discussing the place of religion, of Islam, in a Western society, but he is holding the country in a headlock."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Yusuf Islam - Allahumme Salli

Interview With Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) First Part 1 of 3

Interview With Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) Third Part 3 of 3

Dua Makarimul Akhlaq

Dua by Sheikh Ibrahim Jebril

Athaan (Call for Prayer) - Sheikh Mishary b. Rashid Afasy

Mohammed second most popular name in Britain

By Rukshana Choudhury

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that more baby boys are being named Mohammed. For the last decade Jack has been the most popular boys’ name in England and Wales. But multicultural British children named after Prophet Muhammad came a close second. It first entered the top 30 list in 2000 and its popularity continued to rise by 12% last year, and this popularity shows no indication of slowing down, giving the name the potential to be number one next year. While Mohammed is in 17th place, its position is No 2 when all 14 varied spellings of the name are taken into account. The 14 different spellings, which were shared by 5,991 newborn boys last year, beat Thomas to third place, followed by Joshua and Oliver. The name Mohammed comes from the Arabic script and its various spellings which include: Muhammad, Mohammad, Muhammed, Mohamed, Mohamad, Muhamed and Mohammod, depend on the diverse ways of pronouncing the name, and reflect the diverse ethnic makeup of Britain’s Muslim population. . Mohammed, which means “one who is praiseworthy”, is often given to boys as an honorary prefix. It is then followed by the name which they are commonly known by. Professor of ethnic relations at Warwick University, Muhammad Anwar, said, “Muslim parents like to have something that shows a link with their religion or with the Prophet.” 3 per cent of the British population is Muslim which amounts to 1.6 million people. However, the Muslim birthrate is approximately triple the non-Muslim one. The official figures from the ONS confirmed that Grace is the most popular name for girls, beating 2006 top name, Olivia, to third place. The most popular name for girls born to Muslim parents in 2006 was Aisha, in 110th place. The name, meaning “living”, also belonged to one of Prophet Muhammad’s wives. Mufti Abdul Barkatullah, a former imam at the Finchley mosque in northwest London, told The Muslim News, “Parents who name their son Muhammad believe that the name has an effect on their personality and future characteristics. They are saying that this boy will be of good character.”

Book Review - Exploring the origins of Islamic civilization

By Muhammad Khan

Essays on the Origins of Islamic Civilization, by Muhammad Abdul Jabbar Beg, Cambridge: MAJ Beg, pp. 312, 2006, PB. £8.99 Born in Gachahar, Dinajpur, in British India in 1944 and brought up and educated in East Pakistan, Dr Muhammad Beg obtained his bachelors and masters degrees in Islamic history from Rajshahi University before he proceeded to Christ’s College, Cambridge University, where he obtained a doctorate in Middle Eastern history in 1971. He was in England when Pakistan broke up and the eastern wing of the country became known as Bangladesh. With the assistance of the late Dr Martin Lings (Abu Bakr Siraj al-Din), the famed author of The Life of Muhammad, he was able to obtain temporary work at the British Museum in London and in 1972 he became a British citizen. Then he moved to Malaysia where he taught Islamic history at the National University of Malaysia for more than a decade. The essays in the book under review formed part of his introductory lectures on Islamic history and civilization at the National University of Malaysia. Thereafter, he moved to the University of Brunei Darussalam as an Associate Professor of Islamic history and civilization, and lectured there for four years. During this period he authored and edited scores of books and treatises including Islamic and Western Concepts of Civilization (1979, reprinted 2006), Wisdom of Islamic Civilization (1980, reprinted 2006), Social Mobility in Islamic Civilization (1981, reprinted 2006) and Historic Cities of Asia (1985) among others. After teaching for nearly two decades in the Far East, Dr Beg returned to Cambridge in 1990, where he resumed his career as a lecturer and researcher. In addition, he has contributed entries to prominent publications like The Encyclopaedia of Islam (second edition, Leiden), Islam Ansiklopedisi (Istanbul, Turkey) and The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Modern Islamic World (Oxford, 1995). However, it was Dr Beg’s Brief Lives of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (2002, revised edition 2003) which captured my attention. Having already read scores of books on the life and times of the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions (sahabah), I found this book very unusual and informative because the author adopted a historical approach to the lives of the sahabah. In his foreword to the second edition of the Brief Lives, Dr Beg wrote, “A cursory glance at the biographical books written by Islamic scholars between the Second and the Ninth century AH/Eighth to Fifteenth century AD indicates the range of documentation available to modern scholars. Many of these books are, however, deficient in one respect. It would seem that early Islamic biographers did not pay much attention to the chronology of events in the lives of the first Islamic generation. This particular deficiency is also found in some of the preliminary writings on the lives of the Companions which are presently proliferating in various parts of the world.” (p6) The author’s historical approach to the lives of the Prophet’s companions represents an important shift away from the traditional hagiographical works of both the early and modern Muslim writers about the first Islamic generation. For this reason, the author should consider undertaking a similar approach to the sirah (life and times) of the Prophet (pbuh). The need for a modern, critical historical approach to the life and times of the Prophet (pbuh) from an Islamic perspective has been long felt but it was the late Dr Muhammad Hamidullah who came very close to achieving this in his Le Prophete de l’Islam (2 vols, Paris, 1959). However, having read most of Dr Beg’s books and treatises I feel he is ideally placed to accomplish this important task. Steeped in traditional Islamic thought and history and also trained in modern methods of research and scholarship, in the book under review, Dr Beg attempts to explore the origins of Islamic civilization in order to identify and examine the historical basis of Islam as a global religion, culture and civilization. In Dr Beg’s own words, “The study of Islam, from the theological, historical and sociological point of view, has been attempted by many scholars of diverse backgrounds. Some of these writings are genuine attempts to explain Islam to readers who are not familiar with the subject. Other approaches have been polemical, and some have presented Islam from a cross-cultural perspective. Islam has also been discussed by scholars interested in comparative religion. Each scholarly attempt to present Islam from a new perspective has yielded a new interpretation of Islam. Moreover, each new interpretation can be useful to readers of different backgrounds.” (p1) Being a historian by profession, the author pursues a historical-cum-multi-disciplinary approach to analysing the origin and development of Islam as a global religion and civilization. Consisting of nine essays, a synopsis and a short preface, in this book, the author provides a complex but cogent answer to the question: what is the origin of Islam as a religion, culture and civilization? In the first essay, the author surveys the works of several Western writers on Islam including Humphrey Prideaux, Richard Bell, Charles Torrey and Robert Serjeant, and shows how their theories concerning the origin of Islam do not stand up to serious scrutiny. Although this essay provides a useful survey of Western scholarship on the early Islamic period, a fuller and more comprehensive survey of Western scholarship on the origins of Islam in general, and the life and times of the Prophet (pbuh) and the Qur’an in particular, has been provided by the late Dr Muhammad Mohar Ali in his Sirat al-Nabi and the Orientalists (2 vols, Madina, 1997) and The Qur’an and the Orientalists (Ipswich, 2004). These two books should be read along with Dr Muhammad Mustafa al-Azami’s On Schacht’s Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence (Riyadh, 1985) and The History of the Qur’anic Text (Leicester, 2003) for an exhaustive critique of Western scholarship on the origins of Islam. The subject of the second essay is the first Islamic State founded by the Prophet (pbuh) in Madinah. In this essay the author traces the origins of this first City-State especially in relation to the Constitution of Madinah. Since the author is an expert on the lives of the sahabah, he also provides an illuminating and well documented account of those companions who played a pivotal role in consolidating Islam in its early days. Although the historians tend to divide early Islamic history into two periods, namely the era of the first four Caliphs and the Umayyad period, Dr Beg argues that early Islamic history should instead be divided into the era of the Caliphs who were sahabah (that is, from Abu Bakr to Muawiyah) and the period of those Caliphs who were not sahabah (that is, from Yazid to Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, thus covering the first century of Hijrah). Although this is an interesting suggestion, it is doubtful whether the Islamic scholars and historians would take this suggestion seriously because Muawiyah is largely considered to have been a King rather than a Caliph. The same is true of all the other Umayyad rulers other than perhaps Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz. By contrast, essays 3, 4, 5 and 6 are titled as follows: ‘Equality and Meritocracy in Early Islamic Society’, ‘Women of Arabia during the First Islamic Century/7th Century AD’, ‘Menial Labour and Craftsmanship’ and ‘The Origins of Islamic Cities’. These are some of the most informative essays I have read on the early Islamic period. The author has literally ploughed through the classical Arabic as well as modern sources on the early Islamic period and in so doing he has developed a coherent and most illuminating picture of the early Islamic society. Although the subject matter of essay 3 has been discussed by the author in considerable detail in his Social Mobility in Islamic Civilization, this essay nevertheless throws fresh light on the issue of social mobility/stratification in the early Islamic society. Likewise, in essay 4, after analysing the position of women in seventh century Arabia, the author concludes that Islam substantially improved women’s position and status throughout Arabian society. However, the most unusual and interesting part of this book is essay 6. Since the author obtained his doctorate on the subject of menial labour during the early Abbasid period, it is not surprising that this essay provides a detailed and insightful analysis of different types of professions which existed during the early Islamic period. Dr Beg begins by exploring Islamic attitudes to work, labour, craftsmanship and skill, and then explains how small-scale industries (such as grain-mills, textiles, handicrafts, factories and shipyards) emerged in the Muslim world during the Umayyad period. Thereafter, in essay 6 the author provides an equally enlightening analysis of the origins of early Islamic cities like Makkah, Madinah, Basra, Kufa, al-Fustat, Wasit and Baghdad. Some of the information contained in this essay also appears in the author’s Historic Cities of Asia (Kuala Lumpur, 1985). Unlike the four aforementioned essays, a lot has already been written concerning the subject matter of the remainder of this book, namely the basic features of Islamic art, architecture and science. As such, Markus Hattstein and Peter Delius’s Islam: Art and Architecture (Knoemann, 2004), Titus (Ibrahim) Burckhardt’s Art of Islam: Language and Meaning (London, 1976) and Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s Islamic Science: An Illustrated Study (London, 1976) and Science and Civilization in Islam (Cambridge, 1987) provide a detailed exploration of the topics covered by Dr Beg in the last three essays of this book. Nevertheless, I found these essays very useful and informative because the author analyses Islamic art, architecture and science from a historical perspective. Now in his early sixties, the author has spent a lifetime studying and researching Islamic history and culture and, as such, this book contains a wealth of historical data, information, as well as illuminating discourse on the origins of Islam as a global religion, culture and civilization. Although published by the author himself, I feel this book can be improved further by thorough re-editing. The fonts are too small, the index is very brief and in the bibliography ‘idem’ appears on pages 300 to 302 instead of the author’s names. These minor issues aside, Dr Beg should be congratulated for his invaluable contribution to Islamic history and culture. Muhammad Khan M Khan is the author of the forthcoming book The Muslim 100: The Life, Thought and Achievement of the Most Influential Muslims in History.

Turkey is preparing to lift the ban on the wearing of Islamic headscarves in the country's universities

Turkey's ruling AK party has come to an agreement with a nationalist party on lifting the ban on women's Islamic headscarves in the country's universities. The move will doubtless upset Turkey's secular elite, who see the ban as a key element separating religion from the state.Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan - whose wife and daughters wear the headscarf - denies claims by secularists that his AK party - which has its roots in Islam - is trying to boost the role of religion in the staunchly secular nation. A statement said: "The issue of the headscarf was evaluated in terms of rights and freedoms, and the technical work on lifting the ban is continuing."The ruling party needs parliamentary backing from the nationalists of the MHP to reform two clauses in the constitution, one which says everyone in Turkey is equal regardless of language, race, color, sex or religion, and another which says no-one should be deprived the right to an education. Many women in Turkey decide not to go to university because they want to keep their heads covered, and opinion polls show strong public support for the ban to be lifted.

Millions gather for Bangladesh Islamic meet

TONGI, Bangladesh (AFP) — Nearly two million people gathered near the Bangladesh capital Dhaka for a three-day event billed as the largest annual Islamic event after the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.
From dawn, huge columns of thousands of devotees defied fog and cold as they streamed toward the gathering site on the banks of the river Turag at Tongi for the Bishwa Ijtema, or World Muslim Congregation.
The gathering -- at which Muslims pray and listen to religious scholars -- was first held in the 1960s and was launched by Tablig Jamaat, a non-political group that urges people to follow Islam in their daily lives.
"I cannot afford to go to the Hajj. But every year I come to the Bishwa Ijtema to listen to the religious scholars," said Hamidur Rahman, 60, a poor villager from the northern Bangladesh district of Kurigram.
Police said at least two million people were attending the event, with some 8,000 officers deployed.
"People started coming to the site in batches more than a week ago. The main site became full last night," said Mizanur Rahman, the assistant superintendent of police.
"But this morning we only see people heading to the Ijtema site from all directions. Now all the roads leading towards the main site are full with people," he said.
Organisers said Muslims from at least one hundred countries had joined this year's congregation which would conclude after prayers on Sunday when some three million people were expected to attend.
Bangladesh, with a population of 144 million, is the world's third-largest Muslim-majority nation.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Islamic Law : The future scenario

by Shah Abdul Hannan

We are all happy that a major international seminar on Islamic law is being held in Bangladesh with the participation of major scholars in this field from various parts of the world.Islamic law research has progressed a lot and some laws on the basis of Islam have been legislated in various countries, though we can not say that the legislated laws are perfect and there are no lacunae. There has been major progress in the case of Islamic constitutional law and financial law in particular. Ulama and politicians for the first time in history agreed on the principles of Islamic constitution when in Pakistan they framed constitution in 1956 and then 1973 constitution. These were defining moments in the area of Islamic constitutional thought. Before that , because a kind of monarchy prevailed and later colianlism ruled the Muslim world, the political fiqh of Islam could not develop properly though some writings of Khaldun, Imam Gazali, Mawardi , Nizamul Mulk Tusi and other writers are available. But it was through Pakistan constitution for the first time and later through Iranian constitution we could formulate clear constitutional principles which are also suitable in the changed world of the current time.The agreement was reached in these documents that the state would be a republic, sovereignty in the absolute sense belongs to Allah, government would be run by the people's representatives elected by the people , there would be a list of fundamental rights which every citizen would enjoy, judiciary would be independent. These are the guidelines for future for Islamic jurists where ever they work for Islamic constitutional thought.In the area of law making the Mazhab is no longer a primary factor, if we look into the constitutions as we have mentioned, OIC fiqh academy rulings and in the new manuals being made internationally or nationally by IDB, Islamic Banks and other Islamic institutions. The same principle has been followed in framing new Shariat Act of Pakistan where it has been laid down that the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah would be the guiding principles, the opinion of any scholar of the past or present may be alluded to if felt necessary.There is a lot of mis-understanding about the depth and vastness of Islamic law. Lot of people think that Islamic law relates to some criminal matter only where as criminal issues in Islamic law is not even five percent of the totality of Islamic law. Islamic law covers also regulations regarding economics, business, finance, banking, constitutional law, moral and ethics, family law ,procedural law of various types.I also feel that a lot of research lies ahead of us in all areas, particularly in the areas of finance, political thought , Hadood (criminal punishments clearly provided in the Quran and Sunnah.). In this regard some issues have been raised by Dr Tariq Ramadan and some other scholars. In Pakistan also , Hadood law came under scrutiny on the ground that some provisions are hurting the women interest in an unfair way .As far as I have understood the problem is not in the substantive part but in the procedural part of the law which is really based on British criminal procedure .British criminal procedure is very long-winded and can not do proper justice as we have seen in the matter of repepeated police remands and consequent torture.The modern judiciary has failed to solve the problem and urgent steps are necessary in this regard.It should also be clarified what we mean by Islamisation of law.I have checked up most of the laws in Bangladesh and in ninety eight percent there is hardly any thing to change because these deal with procedure and the punishment , if any , provided in these also falls in the area of Taazir ( laws to be made by the state ).For instance all the university acts, all the finance acts, all the Municipality acts, traffic act, poison act,all commercial acts etc.Only in some acts some sections have to be changed mainly involving interest .The penal provisions in various acts and in the penal code may remain as these fall in the area of Taziir. Even in Pakistani acts the few punismentswhich normallyfall under Hadd have also been divided into two parts , if the cases are proved by witnesses or evidence as required for Hadd , they are given Hadd punisment but if not proved in the manner required for Hadd punishment they are classified as liable to Taziir ( for instance theft has been classified as theft liable to Hadd and theft liable to Taazir ).As such when time is appropriate, some sections in Penal code may be added for Hadd punishments.The present penal provisions on theft, robbery and adultery may remain as Taazir punisments.We are all committed to the development and application of the law of Islam in all branches of human life as Islamic laws are fully consistent with human rights ( Islam gives all human and fundamental rights to all citizens, Muslims and Non-Muslims,as seen from OIC declaratio of human rights agreed to by senior Ulama, thinkers and legal experts) We hope this two-day international seminar would be a success.

(Chairman of the inauguaral session Shah Abdul Hannan's speech in the opening session of International Islamic law seminar in Dhaka,held in BIAM auditorium on 11.1.08 where the Chief Justice of Bangladesh Mr M. Ruhul Amin was the Chief Guest)

Analysis: Anti-Islam film scares The Hague

BERLIN, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The Dutch government is bracing for widespread violence that could be sparked by an anti-Islam film that its producer wants to broadcast sometime this week.
The film, financed by right-wing politician Geert Wilders, will reveal the Koran as a source of "inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror," Wilders said.
The anticipated screening has already sparked international protests. Although no one has seen the film yet, there are rumors Wilders will tear up or burn the Koran in it. If that was true, Ahmad Badr al-Din Hassoun, the Grand Mufti of Syria, said earlier this month at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, "this will simply mean he is inciting wars and bloodshed. ... It is the responsibility of the Dutch people to stop him."
On Monday, an Iranian lawmaker warned The Hague not to allow the screening of the film.
"If the Netherlands will allow the broadcast of this movie, the Iranian Parliament will request to reconsider our relationship with (the Dutch government)," said Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Iranian security and foreign policy commission, according to Iran's federal news agency IRNA. "In Iran, insulting Islam is a very sensitive matter and if the movie is broadcast it will arouse a wave of popular hate that will be directed towards any government that insults Islam."
The Dutch government seems to think in the same terms. It fears a crisis similar to the one sparked by the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad in Danish -- and later European -- newspapers two years ago, when Danish products were boycotted, Danish embassies set on fire and dozens of people died in violent protests all over the world.
To be prepared for all eventualities, the Dutch government over the past days summoned its key ministers and officials linked to security issues. The Hague has compiled a secret document (which the Dutch media said it has obtained) detailing emergency measures in case of riots or attacks, including short-term evacuations of Dutch embassies and citizens from the Middle East. Apparently, imams in several large Dutch cities have already had to calm Muslims angry over the news of the film.
"We are ready to react quickly, it is our role to be prepared for calamities," Dutch Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende told journalists at his weekly news briefing.
While a state-funded TV station has already recalled its promise to air the movie, Wilders, the most prominent member of the far-right Freedom Party, or VVD, has vowed to broadcast his film -- on a smaller TV station or on the Internet via YouTube -- whatever the pressure may be.
The Netherlands has had a history of violence connected to anti-Islam statements, and thus, officials there are particularly vigilant.
In November 2004 in Amsterdam, a Dutch teenager from Moroccan descent stabbed to death and nearly decapitated the filmmaker Theo Van Gogh after the airing of his controversial film "Submission," which criticized the suppression of women in Islamic culture.
Van Gogh had made the film together with prominent Somalia-born Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, then a Dutch lawmaker, who lives in self-imposed exile in Washington. Yet even Hirsi Ali has criticized Wilder's film as provocative and warned the Dutch government not to leave the field of debating integration of immigrants to extremists.
Wilders, however, has managed to grab all the headlines. The 42-year-old, infamous for his big platinum blond hair, sees himself as continuing the struggle of the late right-wing populist politician Pim Fortuyn, who was shot in 2002 by an animal-rights activist.
Wilders in the past years raised eyebrows with very controversial statements concerning Islam, saying the Koran was inciting hatred and fascism, and warning of an Islamization that was washing over the Netherlands like "a tsunami."
Dutch embassies all over the world have been told to highlight that the Dutch government is not backing the message of the film or any of Wilders' statements. While Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende fears that the film is able to "threaten the public order, the security and our economy," he said he cannot and does not want to censor the movie, citing the country's tradition of free speech.
At the same time, there is Holland's "tradition of respect, tolerance and responsibility. And absurd insults of certain groups are not part of that," Balkenende said in reference to Wilders' film.

Iran Warns Netherlands Not to Air Controversial 'Anti-Muslim' Film

A senior Iranian lawmaker warned the Netherlands on Monday not to allow the screening of what it called an anti-Islamic film produced by a Dutch politician, claiming it "reflects insulting views about the Holy Koran."
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, promised widespread protests and a review of Iran's relationship with the Netherlands if Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders' work is shown.
"If Holland will allow the broadcast of this movie, the Iranian parliament will request to reconsider our relationship with it," Boroujerdi said, according to IRNA, the official Iranian news agency. "In Iran, insulting Islam is a very sensitive matter and if the movie is broadcasted it will arouse a wave of popular hate that will be directed towards any government that insults Islam.
Wilders calls his 10-minute film "a call to shake off the creeping tyranny of Islamicization, " and said it could air as early as this week on Dutch television.
"People who watch the movie will see that the Koran is very much alive today, leading to the destruction of everything we in the Western world stand for, which is respect and tolerance," Wilders, the 41-year-old leader of the right-wing Party for Freedom, said last month in a telephone interview with

"The tsunami of Islamicization is coming to Europe. We should come to be far stronger."
Like other European countries, the Netherlands is struggling to cope with an influx of Muslim immigrants, and the newcomers are often relegated to working at low-paying jobs and living in high-crime ghettos. Though the Dutch boast of their culture of tolerance, tensions have been high, with some blaming rising unemployment and crime on newcomers from Muslim countries like Turkey, Morocco and Somalia.
In the late 1990s, political leaders like Pim Fortuyn, Somalian-born writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali and outspoken filmmaker Theo van Gogh seemed to tap into a growing well of resentment against Muslims and criticism of Islam.
In 2002, tensions broke into outright murder when Fortuyn was shot by an animal rights activist who told the judge in the case that he was acting on behalf of the country's Muslims. Two years later, van Gogh was shot, stabbed and nearly decapitated on an Amsterdam street by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Muslim and a Dutch citizen of Moroccan descent.
Van Gogh, with Hirsi Ali, had recently made the film "Submission," a 10-minute movie that the two said depicted the abuse of women in Islamic cultures. After van Gogh's murder, the Dutch government placed public figures known for their anti-Muslim stances in safehouses.
Among them was Wilders.
He hasn't been out of government protection since, a situation he said "I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy," and his views on Islam have only hardened.
Five months ago, he called for the Koran to be outlawed in the Netherlands.
"I believe our culture is much better than the retarded Islamic cultures," he told "Ninety-nine percent of the intolerance in the world comes back to the Islamic religion and the Koran."
Though he refuses to claim the mantle of van Gogh's successor, Wilders clearly sees himself as continuing the controversial filmmaker's work. He acknowledges the similarities between "Submission" and his own 10-minute work.
"I have so much respect for van Gogh's movie, aimed at one part of the Koran, women's bodies, one very bad part of the Koran," Wilders said. "I will use not only that theme but many others. Of course at the end it is a different movie."
Though Wilders has remained steadfastly vague about the specific contents of his movie, saying he wants to maximize the "moment of the broadcast itself," he added that it will include "images and parts of real-time movies that really happen in the Netherlands and the U.K. and the Middle East, the intolerance of the Koran that is still alive and vivid today."
Wilders, raised Catholic but long an atheist, said he's working with professors who are experts on the Koran and Islamic culture, professional filmmakers and scriptwriters to complete his film, which he hopes to broadcast this week on "Nova," a popular news program on Dutch public television. If "Nova" refuses to air the program, he said, he will broadcast the movie using the air time his political party is guaranteed by the government.
The Dutch government, which is protecting Wilders, has publicly warned him about the potential for violence at the completion of his film and has expressed concern over his personal safety. The government is also concerned about peace within the country and interests abroad. In 2005, cartoons printed in a Danish newspaper led to Danish embassies being set on fire, multi-million-dollar anti-Danish consumer boycotts in the Middle East, and hundreds of deaths in riots across the Muslim world.
"The government is taking the announcement of this movie quite seriously," said Floris van Hovell, a spokesman for the Dutch Embassy in Washington, D.C. "Obviously, because the movie hasn't been made, we cannot say anything about the movie until the movie has been shown, but the message Mr. Wilders has told us he wants to portray is disturbing."
Asked if the government plans to beef up security, Van Hovell last month said the government is making a concerted effort to reach out to the Muslim community in the Netherlands and the larger Muslim world.
"We're explaining that in the Netherlands you have freedom of expression, and that at the same time the Dutch government is very concerned about the message Mr. Wilders supposedly wants to portray in his movie," van Hovell said. --(FOX News)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Surah 055 - Surah Rahman - Sheikh Muhammad Al Luhaidan

Hadiths provide guidance too

IN PUBLIC discourse in the West, it is assumed that the Holy Quran is the sole foundation of the Islamic faith, and other sources, which contribute to the diversity of the faith, are simply ignored. Marco Schöller, a scholar of Islam who has now translated the popular hadith collection of Al Nawawi into German, elaborates on this particular source in the following interview:
What is a hadith?
Schöller: The term refers to a message or information that is conveyed by word of mouth. As a specialist term, it means a story by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or about him — what he said, did, or how he observed something, etc. These hadiths have been passed down orally and were only recorded in written form at a later date, being transmitted further as books or collections.
How authentic are the hadiths?
Here, Islamic scholarship takes a fundamentally different view than that of the Muslim world. There are hundreds of thousands of hadiths in circulation. Muslims regard a few thousand as authentic. A small number of hadiths have attained canonical status, while six collections — and there are a further four or five — are considered to be fundamental to the faith. Over and above these are thousands of collections, offering an enormous amount of material. There is such an abundance here that it makes historical classification very difficult.
Are hadiths still read today? Do people having disputes consult family members well versed in the hadiths? Do they turn to hadith scholars? What role do hadiths play in the faith?
Yes, all these cases hold true. The most important thing to keep in mind is that hadiths play a very important role in the lives of the faithful — depending on how pious they are, of course. Information on hadiths is available everywhere. Many books, however, don't present them in the original collected form with their difficult language, but rather as a small selection.
People rely on scholars, private teachers, or state run schools. The state employs scholars, muftis for instance, to provide guidance on certain issues. It would be difficult to find a Muslim who wasn't familiar with even just a few hadiths of the Prophet.
Is this also the case for the younger generation?
No longer in Europe, of course, but this can be assumed to still apply in the Muslim world, where the environment, schools and family connections help to maintain the practice. I believe that it just isn't possible to live in a Muslim country with the kinds of social and religious demarcations found in the West.
The West is currently very much occupied with the question of the essence of Islam. Can you infer from the hadiths a particular spirit or essence of Islam?
Western readers will find passages that are, if not irreconcilable, then extremely contrasting. In just about any collection you will find very general hadiths, which don't seem in any way specific to Islam and that are permeated with an all-around humanistic spirit.
Quite simply put, our Judeo-Christian background offers a dualism — Christianity as the ethical religion that has transcended the law, and Judaism as the religion of the law. In Islam, we have these two facets operating side-by-side. It would prove fatal to try to play them off against each other; doing so would go against the spirit of Islam.
© Common Ground News Service

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Can a Machine Issue Islamic Fatwas?

By Mona Madkour

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- A controversial new electronic device could revolutionize the field of Islamic jurisprudence and allegedly issue more accurate Shariah fatwas [religious edicts]. The device, currently in production in France, will be known as the 'Electronic Mufti' and will depend on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to issue opinions on contemporary Muslim affairs and matters.
Asharq Al-Awsat met with the only Arab participating in the production of this machine, Engineer Dr. Anas Fawzi, who hails from Egypt and is a communications expert who is part of the team based in France.
He describes the device as "a very large capacity computer on which all the information that is relevant to a given [historical] figure is uploaded; everything that has been mentioned in history books or chronicled documents that indicate his/her responses and attitudes towards all positions adopted in his/her life. Through a process that relies on AI, the computer then simulates responses based on the available data so that the answers are the expected response that the person in question would give if they were alive," said Dr. Fawzi.
"The device deduces the expected response through consulting thousands of examples that have been uploaded on to the machine, pertaining to that person whilst taking into account their reactions so that it may relate the expected response in accordance with their personality as created by the Artificial Intelligence apparatus," explained Dr. Fawzi.
Regarding the team working to implement this project, Dr. Fawzi said that the creation of this machine is undertaken by a group of French scientists and that it is not available to the public.
He added, "Despite the success of research over the past decades, [AI] is still incapable of fully knowing and familiarizing itself with the human mind's operations. There are also considerable attempts being made to make AI machines 'translate' human emotions and reactions from sadness to joy and compassion, among other human feelings."
In terms of the nationalities of the scientists and their fields of specialization, Dr. Fawzi said, "Scientists who have invented this device [electronic mufti] hail from various different nations. I am honoured to be part of this unprecedented scientific achievement. Through my work and residence in France for many long years, I am proud to be working with an exemplary large team where dozens of specializations abound."
In terms of implementing this technology and benefitting from it in the realm of Islam and fatwas, Dr. Fawzi said, "Although a team has assembled and uploaded all the information that is available about the Prophet Mohammed in [canonical] Islamic history books, the holy Quran and what is known about his life through Sunnah," he acknowledges that it would be highly controversial – if not downright contentious – to implement this.
Notwithstanding, he revealed, "I have consulted with several Islamic scholars and clerics in elevated positions – there is no need to mention their names so as to avoid stirring up public opinion – however, they have assured me that such a device is not 'haram' [prohibited by Islam]. But there are fears and scepticism regarding misuse and causing any misrepresentation or defamation to the figure of the Prophet. There are also fears in terms of Arab and Islamic public opinion and their acceptance of a machine such as this."
Dr. Fawzi expressed his aspiration to supervise over a team that could be headed by a group of Islamic clerics who would be directly responsible for all the religious edicts that can be sent to anyone anywhere in the world via email or through mobile phones or even using telephones so that questions may be posed directly.
Regarding the views of various Islamic scholars and clerics about this device, the Egyptian Awqaf [Religious Endowments] Ministry's First Undersecretary for Preaching Affairs, Dr. Shawqi Abdel Latif said with regards to the concept of 'simulating' the figure of the Prophet of Islam to serve the Islamic religion in accordance with special conditions: "the idea is a noble one if indeed it calls for Muslim unity in matters of religion in light of the satellite [channel] wars that the Muslim endure, in addition to the incapability of the relevant bodies of formulating and setting forth ideas in the interest of Muslims. However, I strongly stress that there is no machine or human mind capable of simulating the figure of the Prophet regardless of their knowledge or immensely advanced technological capabilities."
He also added that, "God Almighty blessed the Prophet and chose him and you cannot transcend over the rest of the creatures to be like him; the true differentiating factor here is Revelation. The incorrect interpretation of the Quranic verse 'Say: I am only a mortal like you' (Surat al Kahf 18:110) does not in any way mean that there is any similitude between us and the Prophet or between him and any famous figure that the machine can simulate."
Dr. Abdel Latif continued to say that, "If they wanted to apply this machine's capabilities to Islam then the sole condition would be that it serve the implementation of Islamic Shariah and unite the religions fatwas [religious edicts] and ijtihad [independent Islamic interpretation]. This can be achieved through the formation of an Al-Azhar religious committee that could attribute what has been issued by the machine to be in accordance with Islamic Shariah – not according to what the Prophet has said."
As for Dr. Mustafa al Swahili, professor at Al-Azhar University, he totally rejects the concept behind this machine and said, "I am in complete agreement that Islam is a glorious science and that it invites interpretation – so long as it does not violate the religion. I believe a device such as this will create confusion among the people since no matter how advanced science is; it will still have limitations because simulation is limited and does not yield full answers."
However, Dr. al Swahili stressed the importance of seeking knowledge and confirmed that it is an Islamic duty to always seek and further knowledge.

Islam doesn’t support terrorism

LAHORE: Islam does not support extremism; in fact it supports peace and harmony, scholar Dr Mehmood Ahmad Ghazi said on Thursday.He told participants at a seminar on ‘The role of the youth in combating extremism’ at Forman Christian College University (FCCU) that the unjust treatment meted out to Muslim countries across the world was the basic reason of extremism in the Muslim world. “Western countries are occupying Muslim territories across the globe,” he added.The Iqbal International Institute for Research and Formanite Islamic Society of FCCU organised the seminar.He said, “Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan are under occupation and their occupiers are eyeing their resources. This is injustice and is creating extremists in Muslim countries. The activities of these extremists are a big challenge at this time.”He said Muslims felt helpless and took extreme measures while reacting to injustices. “Western countries need to think about the root problem and start solving them.”He said terrorists were not linked to Islam, but the western media was doing exactly that; showing Muslims as the only terrorists.He said the younger generations should follow the Quran and Sunnah and work hard to lead a good and honest life.FCCU vice principal Dr Christy Munir said the role of the youth to combat terrorism was important and that the university was working to polish its students. --(Daily Times)

Unease in the Netherlands over MP's planned anti-Islam film

THE HAGUE (AFP) — The plans by far-right MP Geert Wilders to make a film that he says will show the Koran is "an inspiration for murder" has caused unease in the Netherlands which fears violent repercussions.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has said that Wilders' plans and the international attention they are getting is causing the government headaches.
"We have seen other crises but this is a substantial one," he told Dutch public television.
Wilders, the head of the far-right Freedom Party, announced in November that he planned to release a 10-minute film this month that will show his view that Islam's holy book, the Koran, "is an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror".
Nobody knows for sure if the film project will ever see the light of day but the government here is bracing for the worst.
Some observers fear Wilders will burn or tear up Islam's holy book in the movie, likely to prompt protests in Muslim countries.
The Hague fears a repeat of the 2005 riots when thousands took to the streets in Muslim countries to protest cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that appeared in a Danish newspaper.
"We are ready to react quickly, it is our role to be prepared for calamities," Balkenende told journalists.
The government is trying to get the message across abroad that while the famed Dutch tolerance guarantees Wilders the freedom of expression, The Hague does not support his opinions.
Wilders, whose party has nine of the parliament's 150 seats, is a remarkable presence in Dutch politics with his bleached blonde bouffant hairdo and his increasingly harsh comments about Islam and established political parties.
He won't comment on what his movie will actually show and refuses to be swayed by the government's concern about the possible effects of his film.
"Now that everybody is already in a state (over the film) I see it as a confirmation that I should go ahead. I would not be worth a button if I were to capitulate now," he told the HP/De Tijd magazine.
It is not sure how the film will be shown: on television, posted on the Internet or in another way.
In November Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen met with Wilders personally "to point out the risks in making such a movie for himself and his entourage, and for the Netherlands and the Dutch interests abroad," Verhagen's spokesman Bart Rijs said
The government is also working to minimise the possible fallout of Wilders' film in the Netherlands itself.
The MP has already received many death threats and he has been under round-the-clock protection since the November 2004 murder of outspoken columnist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Muslim.
Van Gogh was killed in Amsterdam after he directed a controversial film written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- a former political ally of Wilders -- which examined the subordination of women in Islamic society.
Inter-ethnic tensions flared in the Netherlands after the murder but calm returned after a few months. Several mosques and some churches were set ablaze but nobody was severely wounded or died in the protests.
To try to defuse tensions here the Dutch police diversity watchdog LECD advised the police force this week to be "flexible" with possible legal complaints about the movie.
Police officers should write up complaints from citizens even if "no obvious criminal offence" is committed in the film. According to the diversity watchdog this will help people "vent their anger".
On Wednesday the Netherlands got a taste of a possible reaction of the Muslim world when the Grand Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that if Wilders burns or tears up the Koran in his film "this will mean he wants war and bloodshed".

Controlling anger, forgiving others

In this characteristic, lies the crux of the problem for human nature. You see, anger and forgiveness go hand in hand. It is very easy to get angry, but it is very difficult to forgive. Just sit back and ask yourselves at this moment, how many friendships we could have saved; how many family disputes we could have avoided; how many severed relationships we could have mended, if we knew what Allah has said to us about it in the Qur’an. Anger and forgiveness are inseparable for in order to control one you must lose the other.When one gets angry he loses his control over himself and thus is liable to say or do things that he may regret later when he regains control over himself. Even doctors and psychologists, in this 121st century, have proved through scientific research that when human beings get angry, they are in a state of subconscious in which they do not realise what they are doing.This is why our Prophet described anger as a raging fire (Abu Dawood) and advised the Muslims not to say or do anything till their anger had subsided. A simile can be drawn here since fire destroys everything it engulfs. Similarly anger destroys human beings, since it is burning the individual who is angry as well as the people on whom that individual is letting his anger out on.This is why in another hadith the Prophet said to the Muslims, “If you have nothing good to say remain quiet.” Meaning use the tongue only for halal good purposes otherwise keep quiet, because if you don’t then you are accumulating sins through the tongue. Certainly, the tongue will stand witness on Day of Judgment against you, because Allah says which means“And they will say to their skins,” Why do you testify against us?” They will say: Allah has caused us to speak, – as He causes all things to speak...” (Surah Fussilat 41:21)The tongue is a blessing which Allah has given to all of humanity. For he says in the Qur’an which means:“And a tongue and a pair of lips.” (Surah Al-Balad 8:9)This tongue can cause great harm if not used properly and guarding against it is very important. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said:“Whoever guarantees me (the chastity of) what is between his legs (i e his private parts), and what is between his jaws (i e his tongue), I guarantee him Paradise.” (Bukhari)One of the key distinctions of a true believer is the ability to control anger as described by Allah in the Qur’an:“Those who spend in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger and who pardon men; verily, Allah loves the good-doers.” (Surah ‘Ali-Imraan 3:134)If we were to look at this aayah for a moment and see what Allah is saying with the many Ahadith mentioned about restraining our anger we would be able to understand them better. To share just a couple of them, the Prophet said:“The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.” (Bukhari)In another hadith the Prophet mentions how to repress our anger. Allah’s Messenger said:“When one of you becomes angry while standing he should sit down. If the anger leaves him, well and good; otherwise he should lie down.” (Tirmidhi)Today, a person is considered powerful if he can show his strength and might through his anger or any other source, and by the same token a person who is mild, cool and easy going is considered to be a weak. This is indeed a sorry state to be in, and is a complete contradiction to our religion. As Muslims we have to understand that we have to see what the Qur’an and Sunnah are saying in regards to each aspect, and not follow the tide of society we are living in. From childhood to old age the social scientist, the psychologist and the psychoanalyst have been feeding us with the notion that we are to let it out i e our anger and not repress it.Unfortunately some of these misguided people have influenced the Muslim community as well. We find people being less and less tolerant with each other and being more and more violent.Alhumdulilah Allah has saved us from these wicked theories and given us His Glorious Book. In this Book He says “And Obey Allah and his Messenger, and do not dispute (with one another) lest you loose courage and your strength depart, and be patient. Surely Allah loves those who are patient.” (Surah Al-Anfal 8:46)Instead of letting it out, here we are told to be patient by our Lord who is Knower and Hearer of all things.We are encouraged by our Creator over and over to forgive others, so that He may forgive our mistakes. It is a double reward with Allah for implementing this characteristic, because Allah says in the Qur’an which means:“...Let them pardon and forgive. Do you not love that Allah should forgive you? And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah An-Noor 24:22)The mercy of Allah overcomes his anger as this is recorded in Saheeh Al-Bukhari. In his infinite mercy He has given us so many chances and opportunities to benefit from them. If we could even follow this simple hadith of the Prophet who said:“He who conceals (the faults) of a Muslim, Allah would conceal his faults in this world and in the Hereafter,” not only would we benefit immensely, but our brother would be saved of being humiliated at the same time.I pray to Allah that he give us the understanding to forgive each other and to refrain from being angry at each other. Ameen. --(GT, 18 Jan 08)

Securing our future

By Shaykh Ahmed Aways

TARBIYAH in Islam is very important, for indeed all of the religion is based upon tarbiyah (ie the education and upbringing of the people). This starts first of all with the education and training of our own selves; then of our families; and then of the community at large. But this tarbiyah is most important with respect to our children, so that they are brought up upon the correct path of Islam. Because of this, many of the scholars take care in discussing this aspect of tarbiyah more so than the others.After the benefit of the deen Islam and that of our own creation, from the best of benefits is that of having children. We see their benefits both in this world and after we have passed away. As for the benefits in this world – when a person becomes old and unable to earn a livelihood, all of his friends and companions leave him alone; but it is his children who look after him, bearing his problems and burdens.As for after his death, then a person surely benefits from his children as the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “When the son of Adam passes away, all of his deeds are stopped except for three: Some kind of charity that is continuous, or (written) knowledge which the people are benefiting from, or a righteous son (child) who is praying for him.”Additionally, from the benefits of having children is that, if they were to pass away whilst still children, they intercede for their parents. This is authentically reported from the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), who said: “There is no Muslim individual, male or female, who has three of his children pass away whilst they are young, and he is patient with that, except that they will come and intercede for him on the Day of Judgment.”So ‘Umar (radhiallahu anhu) asked, “What about two (children)?” Upon this the Prophet said, “It is the same for two (children).” (Al-Bazzaar, al-Haakim, Sheikh Al-Albaani mentions it in his book, Kitaabul-Janaaiz)As for the person who has one child who passes away and he is patient with this, seeking his reward from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), then he shall also find a great reward with Him. As in a hadith wherein it is reported that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) used to sit down in his sitting place and his companions would sit in front of him, to seek benefit and learn from him. From amongst them was a man who had a small boy. He used to come to the Prophet from behind his back by way of respect, then he used to sit in front of him, and sit his son in front of the Prophet. The Prophet asked, “Do you love this child of yours?” The man replied, “Yes, and may Allah cause you to love him also.”Then it happened that this child passed away, and the man was so sad that he used to refrain from coming to sit with the Prophet. So the Prophet asked his companions about this man saying, “Why is it that he no longer comes to my sitting place?”2 So the companions told him that the man’s son had passed away and that he was sad because of that.The Prophet went to see this man and asked him, “What has happened to your son?” And the man told him that he had passed away. So the Prophet said, “Do you wish that your son could be here with you spending time with you, or do you prefer that your son would reach Paradise before you, waiting at the Door of Paradise to open them for you?” So the man said, “O Messenger of Allah. I wish that my son would go forth before me and precede me to Paradise.” So the Prophet said to him, “Verily, this is for you.” So upon this, one of the companions said, “O Messenger of Allah, may I be sacrificed for your sake! Is this (reward) only for this man or is it for all of the people?” He said, “No, this reward is for all of the people (ie those who lose a child and are patient with their loss).” (al-Haakim, adh-Dhahabee declared it saheeh as did Sheikh al-Albaani).Also from the benefits of having children is that if one has daughters and is patient with them, bringing them up correctly, then for him is a great reward from Allah. Our mother ‘Aa’ishah (radhiallahu anha) said, “A woman with two daughters and who was very poor came to my door requesting charity. All I had was three dates, so I gave them to this woman and her two daughters. The woman gave a date to each of her daughters, and kept the third date for herself. But when the two daughters had finished their dates, they both looked up to their mother wanting the date that she had. At this, the mother felt mercy for her two daughters and split the date into two halves. She gave one half to each of her daughters, and then they all went away. When the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) came back I informed him about what had happened. He (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “Anyone who has daughters and is good in bringing them up, then they will be as a barrier between him and the Hell-Fire.” (al-Bukhari and Muslim).Many of the people look down upon this affair of bringing up the children correctly. However, if we were to neglect this responsibility then we would never achieve the correct tarbiyah of our societies. It is obligatory for the parents to take care of their children as the responsibility for them is upon their shoulders. As the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “All of you are shepherds and are responsible for your flock.”Unfortunately, many of the people look down upon their affair of bringing up the children correctly and consider it as a small matter and unimportant, instead of busying themselves which affairs such as politics and those things which it may be beyond their ability to reach. They look to those things that are ‘seen’ as more important and so look down upon the affair of raising their children correctly.In this they are mistaken, as whoever the Imaam or the leader of the believers may be, even if he was the most righteous of all righteous people, and the most just of all rulers, he will not be able to take over the affairs of someone else’s children. And if this Imaam was the worst of all the people, yet a person was to take care of his own family, as is his responsibility, then how is his harm and his condition going to affect that person? Allah says (what means), “Verily! Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves.” (Ar-Ra’d 13:11)So it is upon us to change our own condition and the condition of our own families, and then (after that) to look to the condition of our communities and the community of the Muslims at large. For if we were to neglect this responsibility then we would never achieve the correct tarbiyah – training, upbringing and education – of our societies.Indeed the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) encourage us to bring up our children correctly; ordering us with righteousness and good conduct ourselves as well as ordering us to prevent our families from falling into that which would result in their own destruction. As Allah says (what means), “O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones.” (At-Tahreem 66:6)And He says, “And enjoin Prayer on your family, and be patient in offering them (i e the Prayers).” (Taa-Haa 20:132)The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “Order your children with salaah when they are seven years old, and beat them upon it (ie force them to do so by hitting them) when they are ten years old, and (also) separate them in their sleeping place.”So, with the preceding ayaat and hadith, Allah and His Messenger teach the believers about the importance of salaah and worship. And the hadith of the Prophet is teaching his ummah about how to live this life free from all types of doubts and misconceptions, by avoiding those places and situations where such doubts and misconceptions may arise. Therefore, the order is that one should raise one’s children upon the most blessed and praiseworthy of characteristics.What follows are some practical steps towards establishing the correct tarbiyah in one’s home.Seeking Righteous ChildrenWhen an individual wants to get married, they should have the intention to have – and ask Allah to give them righteous children. They should be patient upon this and seek their children with the correct intention (ie to increase the number of the Prophet’s ummah, and seek Allah’s reward in this life and the Hereafter by way of his children). As the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: “Marry those women who are loving and fertile; for verily I want to be amongst those (Prophets) who have the most followers on the Day of Judgment.”So when a person gets married he should seek children with the intention to have many children which will go towards making up the ummah of the Prophet and that these children may become righteous slaves of Allah so that he may benefit from them in this world and the Hereafter. This is because the intention has a special and important place with regard to the outcome, as the Prophet said: “Verily, every action is by its intention.”Therefore if one has the correct intention at the beginning of the action, then he will have its correct fruits at the end.Setting A Good ExampleThe parent should set the best example for their children. They should hasten to do that which is good and, likewise, hasten to leave all that is evil. This is because children follow the example of their parents, and they love, respect and admire them. The parents are, therefore, the first and most lasting of examples for their children. Whatever the parents are upon, the children follow them, and it is not possible, however one may try to, to hide one’s evil characteristics from their children.A person may go into his home, closing the door behind them, but it is the children who know the reality of their affairs. They know the true character of their parents, what they watch and what they see, and they know their situation perfectly. So we should try and be good examples to our children, having the best characteristics, being good towards the people, and remaining upright in our religion.Placing Importance Upon the ReligionThe parent should make the most important affair in his life and that of his child the religion. They should raise their child to know that the most important aspect of his life is that he be upright in his religion, correcting it and clinging to it firmly. Allah said (what means):“And this (submission to Allah, Islam) was enjoined by Ibraaheem upon his sons and by Ya’qoob, (saying), ‘O my sons! Allah has chosen for you the (true) religion, then die not except in the faith of Islam.” (Al-Baqarah 2:132)And also Allah says,“And he [Ibraaheem] made it (ie Laa ilaha illallah – none has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone) a Word lasting among his offspring (True Monotheism), that they may turn back (ie repent to Allah or receive admonition).” (Az-Zukhruf 43:22)So this should be our greatest concern with regard to our children, that we make clear to them the importance of their religion and their being upright upon it. We should not be overly concerned with their dunya (ie that they bring home food or drink or wealth, rather we should be most concerned with their remaining as upright Muslims). So for this, the believer should make du’aa to Allah and supplicate to Him that He guides his children and makes them upright, for indeed there is no power or strength except in Allah. No one has the ability to guide his children himself, or to keep them upon the straight path, rather this is in the Hands of Allah. Allah says that the believers say (what means):“Our Lord! Bestow on us from our own wives and our offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and make us leaders for the muttaqoon (ie pious and righteous persons who fear Allah much [abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden] and love Allah much [perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained].” (Al-Furqaan 25:74)Also, Prophet Ibraaheem mentioned in a long du’aa (what means);“O my Lord! Make me one who offers prayers perfectly, and (also) from my offspring, our Lord! And accept my invocation.” (Ibraaheem 14:40)We should, therefore, follow this example of the Prophets in making du’aa to Allah and taking the necessary steps in educating and bringing up our children upon this religion, and asking Allah to keep them upright in their religion.Showing Love and Kindness Towards One’s ChildrenThe parent should control his affair with love, kindness and softness, and should not always use harshness and beating to bring up his children. Rather he should make his way to be primarily a loving and concerned way. However, if the situation requires that he should also use harshness and hardness, and even hitting his children, then he should do so as and when the situation requires it, but he should not make this his way (ie that he is always hard and harsh towards his children). We should not be like those people who are always hard upon their children as this may lead them towards further corruption and going astray. Neither should we be like many of the Europeans are (ie that they leave their children without any discipline so that they follow whatever way they like and do whatever they like). Rather we should take the middle course, using harshness and softness, according to the situation. We should always try to exercise balance in raising our children, balancing their affairs correctly and making the uppermost characteristic that of kindness, softness and mercy.Teaching Good CharacterThe parent should aim to raise his children upon good character from a young age. He should teach them the Qur’an, the seerah of the Prophet and that of the companions also. One should not leave his children to continue making mistakes saying that he will correct them when they get older, because indeed it becomes increasingly more difficult to correct a person when he has grown up upon incorrect actions and bad characteristics. As a poet once said, “Whoever grows up upon something, he grows old upon that same thing.”So we should teach our children from a young age the correct ‘aqeedah and belief, for example that Allah is above His Throne, and we should teach them love for the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and his companions. We should also teach them aspects of good character, like being courageous, kind, generous and modest, etc. Then if one of our children makes a mistake, we should point out this mistake to them and explain that the action is wrong, not leaving them and saying ‘they are just children’ or that we will tell them when they grow older. This is because of the saying, “Whoever grows up upon something, he grows old upon that same thing.”And from the guidance of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) is that he used to train and bring up the children from a young age upon good manners and character. As can be seen in the hadith of Hasan (radhiallahu anhu), in which he narrates how he once took a date from the dates of sadaqah, and the Prophet reprimanded him and told him to take the date out of his mouth. The Prophet explained to him that the dates were for sadaqah (charity), and that sadaqah was not allowed for the Prophet or his family.So the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) did not leave Hasan alone; rather, he reprimanded him for what he did and explained to him the correct way, using intelligence and hikmah. Likewise in the hadith of the son of Umm Salamah (radhiallahu anhuma), who narrated that he used to stay in the house of the Prophet, and that he used to eat in an incorrect way (ie from everywhere in the plate). So the Prophet said to him:‘O boy! Mention Allah’s Name ie say ‘Bismillah’, eat with your right hand and eat that which is in front of you.’ (Al-Bukhari)So this companion went on to narrate that he continued to practise this etiquette of eating until that day (ie until he had become older). This shows that the Prophet would correct the children by pointing out their mistakes, and also he did so in such a way that they would continue upon the correct way that he had taught them until they became older. And the Prophet is for us the best of examples to follow.Exercising Justice With Regard To One’s ChildrenThe parent should neither oppress nor wrong any of his children. He should not show one of his children due favour more so than the other, by giving him more than his children or praising him more than any of the others. Indeed this type of oppression and favouritism can be a reason for the children swaying from the correct path and developing personal problems later on in life. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said:“Fear Allah and be just with regard to your children.”Indeed, being just can positively affect the children’s tarbiyah, just as being unjust can have negative affects upon their tarbiyah. Of these negative effects is that the child may feel that if he cannot find justice with his own parents, then whom can he find justice with? And he may carry this problem and feeling in his heart all of his life.Spending Upon One’s ChildrenThe parents, both the mother and the father, should be generous and take time out to spend upon their children. They should take the necessary steps to earn money and spend upon their children in a manner that is correct. Indeed, anything that one spends upon his family with the correct intention, will have a reward for it. As in the hadith of Sa’d ibn Ma’aadh (radhiallahu anhu), who narrated that the Prophet said:“There is nothing that you spend upon your families, even the food that you put into the mouth of your wife, except that you will get a reward for it.”Also there is a hadith which is collected by Muslim, which states the importance of spending upon the family and that it is from the best of actions with which one draws nearer to Allah. In this hadith, the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said:“Two dinars which you spend by way of sadaqah (charity), or two dinars which you give to the miskeen (poor), or the two dinars which you give to your family – with which of these is the greatest rewards? Indeed the greatest of these as regards reward is that dinar which you spend upon your family.”In conclusion, everyone should take care of his family, for if it were the case that everyone in the society were to take care of the upbringing of their families and take care of their financial needs, then this would prove good and beneficial for the society as a whole. And if everyone were to leave the affairs of their families and their children, then this would lead to the corruption of the society, and poverty would be widespread. By spending upon our families and taking care of their tarbiyah, is how we train them and help them to remain upright upon this religion of Islam.
1. Taken from a tape by Sheikh Ahmed Aways
2. This was from the Sunnah of the Prophet, that if he had people who would come to him and then stop coming, he would ask about their condition and their affairs.

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