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Topics - Arman

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1
General Issues / Questions / Can we have concensus?
« on: August 24, 2015, 09:27:35 PM »
Salamun Alaikum.

After spending more than a year in this forum, I am now convinced that in a forum like this we will never get consensus on most of the topics. For example, we will never get consensus on whether it is okay to personify God and if yes, to what extent. Nor will we have consensus whether ?Religion? is necessary or only an evil. We cannot come to a conclusion about what is salaat, jakaat, hujj, ramadan, riba. Nor can we agree on fundamental scientific observations like the shape of earth or evolution of species.

Given so much disagreement my question is, can we have at least consensus on some points? Below I list 10 points on which I believe we should and can have a consensus. May I take your opinion on whether any of you would disagree on any of the 10 points below?

1.   That we should be grateful for the gift of life ? our physical abilities, our intellect, our families, our education, our achievements and failure ? everything.

2.   Because of our gratitude we should acknowledge our responsibility to be fair towards others to the best of our abilities.

3.   And that we should be held accountable for our ability / inability to be fair to others and accept the consequences thereof.

4.   In our effort to be fair towards others we should strive to be respectful to moral standards by striving towards goodness and nice things and refraining from all form of deplorable practices.

5.   That we should also strive for purification in our livelihood, lest we consume what does not rightfully belong to us.

6.   That we should practice restrain on our physical desires and material passions lest they should lead us to act immorally.

7.   That to the extent of our ability we have an obligation to explore and contemplate and debate the source and the purpose of our conscious experience.

8.   That in determining what is fair, what is good and pure vs. what is deplorable, evil and immoral our final standard should be the most sincere application of our own intellect and conscience ? we must avoid blind faith in any book / dogma / preacher or tradition. (By blind faith I mean a faith that wants us to shut off our intellect and conscience.)

9.   That if we end up making a mistake, we should be remorseful and we should turn back through correction and reconciliation as soon as we recognize the mistake and

10.   That we should help each other in fair dealings and forbid from all forms of deplorable behavior.

It is my humble opinion ? if we can accept and agree upon the above principles we can peacefully coexist irrespective of our otherwise differences of beliefs, rituals and traditions. If we can be sincere, our master is not unjust by an atoms weight and He guides to the straight route whomever He wills.

Later to our Master is our return and He will judge amongst us how we used to act.

Best regards,
Arman


2
Prophets and Messengers / Proper translation of Nabi and Rasool
« on: July 19, 2015, 11:30:26 PM »
Salamun alaikum.

I would like to seek opinion of the independent researchers in this forum regarding the proper translation of the words nabi and rasool.

Traditionally I have been using the words ?Prophet? for nabi and ?Messenger? for rasool ? which is consistent with mainstream translations.  But perhaps these are not the best choices.


?Prophet? means someone who makes prophecies. On the other hand Nabi should be someone who brings some new information or news (which may or may not be a prophecy).
So, it now seems to me the translation ?Messenger? is rather more appropriate for the term nabi.

On the other hand ?rasool? simply means someone sent on behalf of another (may or may not be with a message / news / information). For example even ?angels of death? are repeatedly called ?rasool? in Qur?an. Based on this, it now appears to me a more appropriate translation for rasool would be ?emissary?. Or, is there a more suitable word?

So my suggestions: nabi = prophet messenger; rasool = messenger emissary.


Any thoughts?

May Allah guide us all to the straight route.

Regards,
Arman

3
Science / Paths taken by humans to resolve religion vs. science conflict
« on: February 23, 2015, 12:45:31 AM »
Salamun Alaikum.

After spending a considerable time with this forum ? I was taking a stock of what I am gaining from my participation here and what I am giving. It seemed to me that the greatest lesson that I took from interacting with various members in the forum is some insight into how human beings resolve religion vs. science conflict. I humbly share my observations with you below.

A blue-print of various paths taken by humans to resolve religion vs. science conflict:

Child is born into the world ? with a clean slate ? no memory, no intelligence.
Child uses its inherent ?intellect? to learn from experience ? it starts to gather information and knowledge.
Child uses its inherent ?conscience? to judge right and wrong. It understands everyone deserves to be treated ?fairly? and it has no right to inflict pain on others. It continues to refine its ?judgement? with knowledge.
 
Child grows into a young human with rudimantary experience (knowledge) and grossly shaped Judgement. It starts to receive more sophisticated information on religions (holy books) and science.

Young human observes the parity between his inherent  ?intellect? with science, he/she feels inclined to embrace it.
Young human observes the parity between his inherent  ?conscience? with religions (holy books), he/she feels inclined to embrace it.

===

Young human continues to receive greater insights into both religious and scientific knowledge as he/she grows.
Human is faced with a dilemma when he/she observes:
Intellectual interpretation of religions (holy books) seem to contradict science.
Science alone seems inadequate to address moral dilemmas.

===

Path 1: Religious Orthodoxy:

Stage 1 ? Human concludes that the religion (holy books) and interpretation thereof must be accepted unquestioned (i.e. blindly). He/she starts to repress his/her inherent intellect.
Stage 2 ? Once repressing intellect becomes a no-brainer, any contradiction of the religion (holy books) and interpretation thereof with inherent morality also starts to appear to be a no-brainer.
Stage 3 ? Human becomes full scale religious fanatic ? ready to perform every act of non-sense and immorality in the name of religion.

===

Path 2: Scientific Orthodoxy:

Stage 1 ? Human concludes that the religion (holy books) and interpretation thereof are non-sense. He becomes inclined to repress his inherent ?conscience?.
Stage 2 ? Once repressing conscience becomes a no-brainer, pursuit of selfish materialistic goals seem to be the end game.
Stage 3 ? Human becomes full scale atheist and moral nihilist? ready to perform every act of non-sense and immorality in the pursuit of selfish materialistic goals.

===

Path 3: Uninformed balancing:

Stage 1 ? Human concludes that the religion (holy books) and interpretation thereof must be kept separate form science. He starts to live in two ?worlds? conveniently interchanging between the two depending on circumstances.
Stage 2 ? When religion is kept out of scientific discussion, he always has a ?caveat? in the back of his mind when studying science/economics/philosophy ? perhaps all this is wrong after-all. He learns to provide only lip service to his academics, to his job, to his community. He looses faith in the system he lives in ? he feels he lives in a materialistic world which only needs to be ?milked?. He stops himself from getting too carried away with secular values and laws lest he becomes an atheist. He concludes that his environment does not give him the opportunity to live a moral life (which he convenienty confuses with his religion) and hence there is no point of living a moral life.
Stage 3 ? When intellect is kept out of religious discussion, he starts to see religion only as a collection of rituals that must be practiced without questioning. He shys away from questioning and free thinking (which he convenienty confuses with immorality). But, he also stops himself from getting too carried away with religion lest he becomes a religious fanatic. Providing lip service and adhereing to blind rituals becomes the essence of his religious life.
Stage 4 ? Human uses his religious rituals to justify / ?balance? his immorality in material life. The human becomes a Hypocrite.

===

Path 4: Enlightened balancing:

Stage 1 ? Human concludes that his inherent intellect and conscience is his inviolable obligation to his ?Source? of human life. He understands all piety and all enlightenment is rooted in upholding his/her God gifted faculties.
Stage 2 ? Human approaches religion (holy books) with his full intellect and conscience and only accepts interpretations that conform to both.
Stage 3 ? Human approaches science with his full intellect and conscience and only accepts scientific explanations to undersand material aspects of the world ? never allowing it to undermine his spiritual and moral pursuits.
Stage 4 ? Human uses his religious awareness to get inspiration to live a righteous life of highest and most refined moral values. Human uses his scientific awareness to live a life of intellectual enlightenment. Thus, human learns to live a ?conscious? life.

===

Do you agree with the above blue-print? If no, how would you like to change it? If yes, in which stage of which path do you see yourself?

May Allah guide us all to the straight route.

Regards,
Arman

4
For some time I was willing to write on this topic, because this is s particularly rampant problem in this very Forum!
 
?From my childhood I thought rice is our food and we control rice for our need. But recently after I watched a TV program I suddenly realized ? that simply is not the case. We humans have been duped to think like that by this seemingly harmless plants. Over the world 2bn+ people work day in day out to produce rice, to facilitate their growth to ensure their species are taken care of. So indeed it is the rice and other plans like those who are really controlling this world. Every war, famine, or tragedy that we have are somehow caused by these plants so that we humans do not progress too far to become so smart that we no longer need the plants. Otherwise how do you explain that in every scene of crime we find some criminals who eat rice and other plants in one way or other!?

What you read above is a silly conspiracy theory meant for fun. But conspiracy theories do not remain such ?silly and funny? when those are designed and propagated against people. They become a sinister tool for fueling sectarian attitude, narrow mindedness and hatred towards others. But since juicy conspiracy theories have the charm of being ?mysterious? and at the same time feeds the narrowness held deeply in our soul ? they are extremely popular throughout the world!

Take for example India and Pakistan. Most Indians love to believe that every act of terrorism that happens in Indian soil and every unsolved mysterious murder is a work of Pakistan Secret Service (ISI). On the other hand most Pakistanis love to believe that every act of terrorism that happens in Pakistan soil and every unsolved mysterious murder is a work of Indian Secret Service (RAW). Just to give you how silly these theories can be some even like to blame the recent Taliban attack to Peshwar school upon RAW!

Many religious people love to fantasize about a secret anti-religion force named ?Illuminati? who are now ruling the world by the name of ?Free Masons? and they consider this to be the root of all evil in the world.  Many irreligious people love to fantasize that religion itself is a deep conspiracy against humanity and they consider this to be the root of all evil in the world. 

Many of the Jews / Israelis and their Patrons in the West find the ?Muslims? to be the catalyst of every act of terrorism everywhere around the world. And as soon as there is an act of subversive activity they start looking for Jihadi linkage to it. On the other hand, many of the ?Muslims? (from both traditional and reformist camp) find the ?Jews / Israelis and their Patrons in the West? to be the catalyst of every act of terrorism everywhere around the world. And as soon as there is an act of subversive activity they start looking for Zionist linkage to it.

Within the broader ?Muslim? camp the people who do not like rituals like to float conspiracy theories on when and how salaat rituals etc. were invented and the Muslim population world-wide were brain washed to believe in them.  On the other hand the people who believe rituals to be the be-all and end-all of Islam like to float conspiracy theories on when and how western atheists and Christians conspired to create online revolution in the name of Quranism to debunk everything that is ?Islam?.


Having Faith in Allah ? the Master of universe is all about understanding that everything comes from Allah. There is no mysterious superpower that is controlling the affairs of the world. Allah is in absolute control everywhere all the time. Faith in Allah requires us to step out of the narrow mindedness of our self or race or nationality or religion (millat) and see the world from an open, tolerant, objective perspective. Qur?an says ?Allah captures every vision? so to see Allah?s perspective we need to look at the world from everyone?s perspective. ?Conspiracy theories? do just the opposite. They help us to reconfirm our narrow perspective and add fuel to our envy and hatred of others. Thus I am convinced conspiracy theories are devil?s favorite pastime.

Those who are the father of flame (abu lahab) of envy and hatred, and those who carry the firewoods (hamma latal hatab), soon they will burn in the very fire they light up and soon their necks will get caught in their own twisted rope (hablum mim masad).

May Allah guide us all to the straight route.

Regards,
Arman

5
Salamun Alaikum.

Recently I received mixed feedback on a couple of my post (both on the forum and through PM), so I thought it makes sense that I elaborate on my understanding of this topic on a new thread. First of all for the benefit of readers who missed my earlier posts on this topic, here is a recap of what I said earlier:


?You have probably got the idea that Qur'an says Allah will burn the unbelievers in hell - which you are finding difficult to understand. I believe if you study diligently you will soon come to the conviction that this is a misconception based on faulty translations. Qur'an does not say this. Neither Arabic root meaning, nor Quranic theorlogy supports the word "kafir" to mean "unbeliever" - rather kafir is somone who represses or suppresses his "faith".

But, then again, isn't "faith" (Iman) same as "believing" (Janna)? NOT EXACTLY. Faith is acknowledgement of our relationship with our Creator - that as our solemn "gratitude" towards the One who gave us the life we have an inviolable responsibility to live a responsible life based on the sense of right and wrong He instilled in us. Although I am using the word "He" and "One" it is possible to acknowledge and accept the same relationship without assigning a "Personification" to God. That is exactly what many in the Buddhist and Atheist camp do.

If you ask "an atheist who dedicates his whole life to help other people" why he or she helps others or strives to be a good person - the atheist would probably answer - I do not do this to please any deity, rather I do this for my own satisfaction - I do this because doing this (i.e. being good and helpful) makes me feel complete - it helps me look into the mirror with my head held high. (Helping others not to please any deity, but for the sake of goodness itself - is in other words helping others seeking the face of Allah - as suggested by Qur'an. Because Allah is the ultimate source of Goodness - Allah is NOT a deity.)

In other words what they really mean is that "goodness" is a natural instinct built into them. They surrender to this natural instinct. This surrender to ones God gifted instinct is already what is true "submission / islam"; this is already a mark of their "faith" or Iman. Of course, believing in a "personified" God is more in line with the teaching of the messengers and holy scriptures (including Qur'an), as it is easier for most people to conceptualize God in that way - but mere "belief" in a "personified" God is by no way a mandatory criteria for being a Mu'min or faithful. It is theoretically possible for one to be atheist and mu'min (faithful) and muslim at the same time. There are even Qur'anic examples of such people.

On the otherhand kafir who are condemned to eternal hell are people who (nomatter which religious camp they belong) are ungrateful towards the universal force which created and sustains them - and thereby represses their faith - forces their own soul to believe they have no obligation to act responsibly and morally. Kafir from the atheist camp believe they have no moral responsibility because there is no "God" and the kafir in the religious camp believe they have no moral responsibility as long as they can please their respective "deity" through worship and blind acceptance of customs and practices preached by the clergy of their religion. Thus "believing" (Janna) can act like a two way sword - when a faithful (mumin) believes in Allah, it is likely to elevate him to the status of a Muttaqui (Conscious), but when a kafir believes in Allah often he ends up believing in a deity (tagoot) by the name Allah and associate their clergy and scholars as partner to Allah to define rules and regulations superceding their God-gifted sense of right and wrong.

Just like a mu'min can belong to a religious or a secular club, a kafir can belong to a religious or a secular club. The differentiating crieteion between a mu'min and a kafir is their faith (acceptance of their obligation to live responsibly), not their belief.


When I said ?There are even Qur'anic examples of such people.? I was referring to the below:

The act of believing is merely accepting a hypothesis as true. People believe in ghosts, aliens and all sorts of strange and unproven things. Merely such believe in an entity named ?God? or ?Allah? does not make someone a Mumin. There are numerous verse in Qur?an which indicate that. Example: 2:100, 49:14 etc.

The act of having faith is accepting a relationship as a binding obligation. When it is said that the servant is faithful to his master ? it does not only mean the servants believes his master to be so, rather it means he accepts the master-slave relationship as a binding obligation. In Arabic, we read that Muhammad (pbuh) used to be called ?al-amin?. That is not because he believed something, rather because once he was entrusted with something, he would take that relationship as a binding obligation.

Believing is a binary variable - one either believes or he does not; but Faith is a matter of degree. (See ref 9:124).

Is it possible to have faith without believing? I think possible. Imagine a servant who is carrying out his master?s order even after his master?s death. He knows and believes that he is no longer a servant as his master is dead, BUT he still upholds faith in his master-slave relationship through his actions.

We have faith in Allah when we accept acting based on our God-gifted sense of right and wrong as a binding obligation on us. We know our life is a gift and we have faith in the ?One who gave us this gift? by acting responsibly. It is unlikely, but possible that an atheist may accept acting based on his/her inherent sense of right and wrong as a binding obligation.

Is there any Quranic example of someone being mumin without believing? Let?s take 2:249. Among the forces of Talut, those who believed/assumed that they would meet their master said certain things. It can be logically inferred that in that group there were others who did not really believe or assume that they would meet their master. But arguably they were among the faithful based on their act of fighting in the path of Allah. But clearly those who did believe in meeting Allah were on a stronger footing of faith.

 

Now let me elaborate a bit on these ideas with more supporting arguments and proofs.

?Atheist? is only a label. There are 2billion+ Christians and 1billion+ Muslims in the world. What is your best guess of the % of people within this 3billion+ that really, really believe with the fullest implication of the word that there is a God who will hold us accountable for our actions - as opposed to simply providing lip-service to their religious dogmas to go along with their respective ?community?? I am convinced there are more ?unbelievers? with ?Christian? and ?Muslim? labels than there are official ?unbelievers? with ?Atheist? label. Rather the ?Atheist? are more honest and truthful about what they believe. So, declaration of ?belief? DOES NOT suffice as faith:

Quote

2:8   And among mankind  who say ?We have faith in Allah and in the last day?, but they are not with the faithful -

2:9   They seek to deceive Allah and those who have faith ? but they don?t deceive except their (own) souls  ? but they don?t realize.

(My personal translation, cross checking recommended.)

And do not forget those religious ?label? holders who may have ?belief? in some form by listening to others but have no clue what is the implication of their belief or what is the meaning of having ?faith?.

Quote

2:78   And among them are the uninformed  - they don?t know the book except wishful thinking  ? and nor they have but beliefs.

(My personal translation, emphasis added, cross checking recommended.)

Now let?s look at ?unbelievers? outside the fold of ?Fraternity of the book?. Many of you would know that most Buddhists would acknowledge themselves as ?Atheists? because in Buddhist ideology there is no ?Personification? of God. They acknowledge the spirit of the universe as eternal, impersonal and naturally ?just? which returns good karma with good and bad karma with bad? just like Newton?s 3rd law. I am convinced that their acceptance of their eternal link with the spirit of universe suffices as ?Faith in Allah? and their acknowledgement of invariability of karma (?in this life or next) suffices as ?Faith in the last day?; thereby I am convinced they are covered by the umbrella protection clause promised by Allah in Qur?an:

Quote
2:62   Indeed, those who had faith, and those who became hudan (i.e. repenters)  or the nasara (i.e. helpers)  or the sabian (i.e. rejectors)  ? whoever put faith in Allah and the last day and acted righteously ? so for them their reward is with their Master, and they don?t have any fear, nor will they grieve.

(My personal translation, emphasis added, cross checking recommended.)

Wonder about a person working righteously while holding atheist / Buddhist beliefs? Please take some time to read about this lady:

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28863019

I do not know what is her destiny in afterlife; but I am convinced I won?t mind too much being in company with her.


This takes me to the discussion on people who actively declare and promote themselves as ?(Moralist) Atheist? (like this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Mujica). YES I do acknowledge that their over enthusiasm to denounce the concept of God does seem problematic and prima facie it seems more likely that they would not have faith. BUT then again, we do not know who have what in their heart. It is a matter for Allah to judge, not us. It may be possible even while consciously rejecting the ?Concept of God? they sub-consciously acknowledge acting upon goodness as their obligation as a mark of gratitude to the ?Gift of life? they are enjoying, and it may be possible such acknowledgement would suffice as ?Faith in Allah?. (Analogy: If I fully appreciate the making of my iPhone and use it responsibly as its features are supposed to be use, that suffices as my faith in the makers of the iPhone even if I have no clue whether the phone is made in China ot Planet Mars.) ... AND it may be possible even while consciously rejecting the ?Concept of Afterlife? they sub-consciously acknowledge they are accountable for each of their actions because one way or other inappropriate actions cause suffering (? to our generation or the next), and it may be possible such acknowledgement would suffice as ?Faith in the last day?. So, as long as these people ?Offer us peace?? i.e. they are not fighting us or causing corruption, we have no right to say that they are not ?faithful?. Because, we cannot simply label people as ?faithful? and ?not faithful? to create divisions in the world so that the labelled ?faithful? can win over the labelled ?unfaithful? and have worldly victory. Certainly, the true reward  is not in winning over others on ?theological debate? but the true rewards are with our Master to whom we all return, and who is aware how we all act:

Quote

4:94   O! Those who have faith ? when you set forth in Allah?s path then clarify and do not say to those who offer you peace, ?You are not a faithful? seeking (mere) trifle of the life of the world ? then there are larger booties with Allah. That?s how you used to be from before. Then Allah favored upon you ? so clarify. Indeed of how you act - Allah happens to be All-aware.

(My personal translation, cross checking recommended.)

Personally, I am increasingly becoming doubtful that those who ?believe? in a personalized God are better in acting righteously compared to those who actively ?un-believe? but promote the ?faith? that we have an inviolable responsibility to uphold our conscience and intellect as a mark of gratitude towards the gift of life. The record of human rights violation, corruption, war-mongering, intolerance, hypocrisy, inefficiency and poverty in ?Majority Muslim? countries compared to such records in  ?Majority Irreligious? countries is fostering my doubt.

But all said and done, I do not recommend at all to stop believing in God. Rather I would invite everyone to be humble - to believe in God and to believe that to God is our destiny, and to seek His help to lead us to the straight route. OTHERWISE holding on to the faith that we have an inviolable responsibility to uphold our consciousness is going to be ever so much more difficult:

Quote

2:45   And seek help through the patience and the salaat* and indeed it surely is severe except for the humble ones.

2:46   Who believe that they will meet their Master and that to Him they will return.

(My personal translation, emphasis added, cross checking recommended.)
 

Believing is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to have faith. Let?s recognize the difference and hence put the due emphasis on faith, rather than being overly obsessed with believing.

May Allah guide us all to the straight route.

Regards,
Arman

P.S. The mainstream linguistic scholars are also catching up with the idea that faith in scriptures is not same as believing. Here is a very interesting presentation on related topic:
https://www.ted.com/talks/karen_armstrong_makes_her_ted_prize_wish_the_charter_for_compassion


6
General Issues / Questions / Rituals - revisited
« on: November 30, 2014, 11:30:32 PM »
Salamun Alaikum.

Let me begin with a personal account with which many of you may be able to relate. When I was a school boy we had this unofficial rule at our home that every evening from 7:00 to 9:00 we have to sit in our study table and study. It does not matter whether we had homework or not ? or whether we are already prepared for the exams ? this was a study ritual we had to abide by (except for the period after exam before start of new class). I got so used to the ritual that I would feel sort of guilty if for some reason I missed the study (e.g. a guest coming in or a family party).

Was the 2 hours of study equally effective for me every day? Of course not. There were days my mind used to be so preoccupied with plans for upcoming holiday etc. that I would not concentrate on my studies at all. But on the retrospect if I am given an opportunity to re-live my childhood ? I would not change the ritual of evening studies. Those couple of hours of routine studies helped me immensely to achieve whatever academic success I had and shaped me as a person.

Am I correct to call those 2 hours of routine as a ?ritual?? Let?s now think for a while what is a ritual.  Based on dictionary definition a ?ritual (noun)? is:

Quote
: a formal ceremony or series of acts that is always performed in the same way
: an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time

From "Ritual." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritual>.

The above definition does allow calling the evening study routine a ritual. By the same token ? brushing tooth every day is a ritual ? so is routine practicing of song by a singer, routine cleansing of the house we live in or routine physical exercises performed by athletes (and increasingly by every health-conscious individual).

What do these rituals give us? They give us ? (1) discipline: that we do not miss-out of tasks which are important but perhaps may not always seem urgent; (2) convenience: they put virtuous practices as a part of our ?habit?, and last but not least (3) representation: they also serve as a communication to others. Everybody in the house knows that 7-9 pm is the study time of the school-boy so you better not disturb him at this time. We know that some colleagues of us go to the Gym every day during lunchtime. So, we do not bother him with other lunch plans.

Can rituals be misused? Of course. A student may go to his study table every evening to impress his parents but while at it if left unsupervised, he may choose to read a recreational novel instead of real study materials. I can go to gym routinely but make it an occasion of gossiping or ?dating? instead of physical exercise.

A ritual at personal level goes wrong when the ?original/proper intension? of the ritual somehow gets changed. That?s also true for social rituals ? but there the forces of corruption are even stronger.

We can think of exams and home works as rituals in academic space. But how often it is criticized that excessive obsession with exams and home works put the goal of seeking knowledge in the back-burner and make the students mere certificate seekers?

In a democracy, the periodic election, parliament, constitution etc.  are examples of political rituals. But how often do we see these institutions misused by autocratic regimes to grab and hold power?

The bottom line is any ritual can be corrupted if it deviates from its true intension ? and in the social space there are active vested groups who benefit from corrupting rituals to serve their own benefits.


Let?s now take these ideas about rituals and take them to religious rituals. Indeed most religions usually claim that their rituals are not mindless practices offered to a deity ? they serve a higher purpose. They help the individual to attain piety of soul and a refined conscience. But in practice ? more often than not the purpose of the ritual gets distorted / corrupted and they do become mindless activities performed to express one?s alliance with a particular religious ideology in hope of the pleasure of a particular deity.

The reason of this corruption is not very difficult to guess. The clergies who are supposed to be the teachers of the religious rituals often find it in their own interest to repackage the ritual as a ?service to the deity? than a ?self-development practice?. Because, if they can establish a ?deity? that demands blind adherence to a specific form of ritual and if they can convince a critical mass of people to have faith in that deity ? it secures them politically and financially. The corruption has become so commonplace that many people have now started to think that ?worshiping a deity? is supposed to be the ?original / intended? purpose of religious rituals.

Unfortunately that is the state of every major religion of the world including the religion of ?Islam? (term used in conventional sense).

Now, what is the optimum solution of this situation? When politicians misuse the democratic rituals (election etc.) do we eliminate those rituals or seek a solution within system? A father who finds out that his son reads novel while sitting at the study table, should he eliminate the evening study rituals - OR, perhaps try to motivate the son to the actual purpose of this ritual and its benefits? Killing the ritual will not solve anything ? rather it will pave the way for greater chaos.

For ages rituals have helped humans to develop themselves. Academic rituals helped them develop academically ? physical rituals (exercise) helped them develop physically and spiritual rituals helped them develop spiritually. Like other personal rituals religious rituals can be easily seen to have those 3 virtues: (1) discipline: that we do not miss-out on spiritual exercises which are important but perhaps may not always seem as urgent as dietary / physical exercise rituals; (2) convenience: it puts virtuous practices as a part of our ?habit?, and last but not least (3) representation: it also serves as a communication to others ? we do not bother a practicing muslim to have lunch on a Ramadan day. Imagine if we had no religious fasting, and we voluntarily chose on our own to skip food and drink for a day to practice self-control - how much explaining we would need to those who would doubt out sanity :)

Because of such obvious benefits, every time societies tried to look beyond ?pointless religious rituals? they ended up reinventing rituals of their own. A good test case is the Sikhism which started off as a religion strictly against any form of ritual (see http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Sikhism_and_Ritualism) ended up having strictest rituals ? in dress code and naming conventions. Even some of the modern atheists are recognizing the necessities / virtues of rituals performed with appropriate intentions and promoting rituals within atheist theology (see www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_atheism_2_0).

If we cut out the spiritual rituals religions get downgraded from being a choice of lifestyle to a set of ?theological and philosophical theory?. A ?theological and philosophical theory? is a good fuel for academic debate and attractive pastime for the intellectually active ? but a theory alone cannot give an individual the strength to remain spiritually and morally alert, a theory alone cannot reach to every nook and corner of the society ? from children to the elderly, from the least educated to the scholar to make them concerned about morality and conformity, a theory alone cannot hold a society together on moral ground. That is why, when it comes to rituals I believe we should strive to reset the emphasis on substance over form - not to eliminate it altogether. It is the deviation from true purpose of ritual which is the problem ? not the ritual itself. A correct diagnosis of the disease is critical - before we jump into the operation table with our surgical knives to cut the rituals out of spirituality.

I know this post is likely to draw immediate criticism from some of you who have taken a strong position against all form of religious rituals ? because a contrary view is likely to hurt your ego. But perhaps after you overcome your knee-jerk reaction you?ll give this issue a second thought. Perhaps taking the teeth out is not the only solution for toothache.

May Allah guide us all to the straight route.

Regards,
Arman

7
Hadith Discussions / Joining in Traditional Salaat Ritual
« on: October 20, 2014, 09:30:51 PM »
Salamun Alaikum.

As a continuation of the discussion originated in another thread, let us discuss, whether from the Qur?anic point of view, it is acceptable to join in prayer with a group of traditional muslims. The primary reason why some Quranists have argued that one should not join such rituals is the assertion that the mention of Muhammad in the traditional salaat ritual is a form of shirk, or at least such mention invalidates the salaat ritual.  I have already expressed my assessment on this here: http://free-minds.org/forum/index.php?topic=9606944.msg358159#msg358159
And http://free-minds.org/forum/index.php?topic=9606944.msg358163#msg358163

For the sake of ease of reference, let me reiterate my key propositions here:

1)   Per my understanding ?Shirk? occurs when we overrule our God gifted senses (conscience, intelligence) to uphold the instruction of others / to express our love for others OR when we pray to someone other than Allah in the sense that the ?partner? can decide, change or influence the decision of Allah.
(There is a clear difference between praying for someone and praying to someone ? let?s not confuse between the two.)
2)   I do not consider blessing on a prophet (in 2nd or 3rd person) or mentioning the name of a prophet (in or out of the salaat ritual) to be shirk; nor do I believe such practices invalidate one?s salaat.
(I find no support in Qur'an that to be valid a salaat ritual cannot have any mention of anyone other than Allah)

Now I would like to review some of the verses of Qur?an that have been quoted to refute my position.

Believe me Armanaziz, adopting the truth takes precedence over unity.

Why constantly mention Muhammad alone when you believe in other messengers(2:136)? That is giving Muhammad more distinction than other messengers and violation of the Quran(3:84). Next, you do not invoke another name next to God particularly in salat(72:18), the salawat of orthodox muslims during tashahood falls into this. It divides your attention which should be absolutely devoted to God alone(29:45), that is why, not once in the Qur'an is sunni or shiite shahada fonud and this isn't a coincident. If the salawat isn't idolising Muhammad, why must it be done in the middle of salat, why is it believed that ommitting it nullifies ones salat?

Even if one is to forgive their mention of Muhammad, how about the fact that they recite loudly or silently whereas recitation is to be moderate tone(17:110)? You mean you join them in reciting silently in your mid day salat, disregarding Qur'an?

I understand your concern but please, lets maintain the topic.

Why constantly mention Muhammad alone when you believe in other messengers(2:136)?

You are confusing between differentiating and being selective. Qur?an itself mentions some messengers and does not mention some. In other words, Qur?an itself is selective when it comes to the question of which messengers to mention and to what degree. It is never theoretically possible to be equally selective to all messengers because we will never know the names of all messengers. Being selective in mentioning or discussing one messenger does not constitute differentiation as long as we understand and acknowledge that there is no qualitative difference between the messengers. More on this point here:

http://free-minds.org/forum/index.php?topic=9605445.msg356940#msg356940

you do not invoke another name next to God particularly in salat(72:18),

When Qur?an refers to ?calling someone with Allah? or ?calling someone other than Allah? the implied meaning is always to pray to someone along with Allah or pray to someone other than Allah. If you literally take ?Calling? as mentioning someone?s name ? such literal commandment will be absolutely impractical to implement. Even, such a requirement will bar you from reciting the Qur?an in the mosque (and in the salaat). While reading the Qur?an we should always be careful not to take an overly literal interpretation that does not stand the test of common sense.

It divides your attention which should be absolutely devoted to God alone(29:45)

Quote

29:45 Recite what has been inspired to you of the book and establish the salaat. Indeed the salaat prevents from the immorality and the barbarity and surely the remembrance of Allah is the greatest (reminder). And Allah knows what you fabricate.

(My personal translation; cross-checking and criticism encouraged)


Exactly how does the above verse imply that in the salaat the attention should be absolutely devoted to God alone? This ?absolute devotion to God alone? hypothesis is an innovation of RK.  In Qur?anic perspective God is remembered through constant gratitude and thank for all the gifts of God. If we recite the book (the Qur?an) does the attention remain absolutely devoted to God alone?

why is it believed that ommitting it nullifies ones salat

I agree this is an incorrect assumption and it is problematic. Many traditional muslims are too quick to judge whose prayer is valid and whose is not and this attitude has given rise to numerous sects ? just like many quranists are falling in the same trap. The message that students of Qur?an should bring to the community should be ? do not be overly obsessed with the form and format of the ritual. What is important is whether the ritual helps establish the respect of God in your life, helps you remind to uphold your sense of right and wrong and reminds you of your obligation to remain faithful to your creator. After all, the salaat ritual is a means towards an end ? not an end in itself that performing it one way or other will determine your fate. Mentioning or not mentioning one individual messenger should not be the core contention in the prayer.

how about the fact that they recite loudly or silently whereas recitation is to be moderate tone(17:110)

Once again a Qur?anic verse is being taken too literally - or a poor translation is being used. What this verse is implying is that do not be to expressive or make a big show of your salaat, nor should you be too silent or secretive about your salaat, but seek a moderate ?path? (sabeel) in between these two. The verse is concerning the attitude, not the intensity of voice in terms of decibel!

Haven't found a verse that confirms that we are not to pray with them. However, I found verses that tell us to avoid associating Allah with someone else in our worship. In a situation like this, we are permitted to go against the wish of our parents.

I explained at the very outset what I understand by shirk / associating partner with Allah and why I find it unwarranted to consider a mere mention of the name of messenger during the salaat ritual constitute as shirk. If such mention makes a person commit shirk then one commits such shirk by reciting Qur?an as well.


Quote
You shall worship GOD alone - do not associate anything with Him 4:36

A?BUDU means ?to be slave to?.. not ?worship?. The verse says, ?And be slave to Allah and do not associate any partners with Him.?

Peace.

Here are verses that confirm not to pray with them?
9:107
There are those who abuse the masjid by practicing idol worship, dividing the believers, and providing comfort to those who oppose God and His messenger. They solemnly swear: "Our intentions are honorable!" God bears witness that they are liars.
 

This is a highly questionable translation. Where does the words ?idol worship? or ?comfort? appear in the Arabic verse?
A simple word-by-word translation would be closer to the one follows:

Quote

9:107   And those who took a mosque (for causing) affliction and repression and division among the faithful and (as) a post for whoever warred against Allah and His messenger from before ? and surely they will swear, ?We did not intend except the nicest (outcome)? ? but Allah bears witness, indeed they surely are liars.


(My personal translation; cross-checking and criticism encouraged)


Like many others verses of Surah 9 ? this is a war-related verse and is talking about masques used as war posts against the believers.

Quote
. . . adopting the truth takes precedence over unity.

Most certainly it does. But what is the falsehood that we are denouncing when we are parting from those who bless the messenger in their salaat? Is it a falsehood that Muhammad is messenger and slave (a?bd) to Allah? Is it falsehood that Qur?an endorses blessing on messengers who passed away?

The TRUTH that we SHOULD strive to uphold is - in spite of our differences (in terms of interpretation of the scripture or the ?ideal? method of worship)  all of us - irrespective of sect or path - whoever strive to uphold our God-gifted conscience and intellect - we all submit to the same One Allah. He is the One we be slave to and He is the One we seek help from.

Yes - when traditionalists try to impose their "hadith" upon us - by forcing us to engage in practices neither supported by Qur'an, nor morality - we must take a stand and get separated. We must not join in senseless war against humanity and education (e.g. ISIS, BOKO Haram), nor should we encourage or tolerate senseless practices like stoning or circumcision - even if our families insist. But silly disagreement over form / format of ritual should not be the reason to break apart. On question of ethics we should be firm - on question of rituals we should promote tolerance of variant views.

May Allah guide us all to the straight route.

Regards,
Arman




8
General Issues / Questions / The Qur'an, islam and the Personalized God
« on: October 08, 2014, 11:57:26 PM »
The perception that God must be pleased by a lot of ritualistic behavior has its roots in human ideas of what is God and the "object God" comes forth in their perception while God in fact is an abstract entity which can impossibly be personified as a standard character and since That God is omnipresent, available at all locales, then also common rituals lose their meaning. Earlier people may have known this but then their imagination turned them into using something such as "Kabah", an innocent building, as so-called qiblah or focal point (which the word does not translate into), so that God becomes an image of something so they can materialistically worship something just like their gods of old which they put into stone statues or whatever. People do something just like what father Abraham was so much against during his life and then also defend it that this man was praying for rituals (!) or other invented nonsense. Talk about "shirk" while the man never even uttered a thing like that.

The key point of the above paragraph ? per my reading ? is the part highlighted in red which implies ? God is an abstract entity, which cannot be personified, and hence all form of rituals dedicated to a personified God is meaningless. I would humbly like to share my views on this point.

From the earliest recorded history human beings have been curious about their Creator ? the concept ?God?. It has been clear to faithful people in all generations that ? we have a Creator and the life has a purpose. The life is a gift to us and it is our solemn obligation to lead the life responsibly. While this core ?faith? that we must live responsibly per the senses of right and wrong gifted to us by our Creator has remained common to virtually every community, the best way to understand and appreciate that Creator ? ?God? has been a subject of debate and discussion throughout time. Different communities came up with different interpretation of this idea of ?God? and different ?paths? to ?be one with God?. Among those different paths ? one path is through the guidance of messengers and books (including the book named Qur?an).

The very idea that God can select individuals as prophets or messengers to communicate His message to mankind implies a ?personalized? view of God. The very idea that there can be a divine book authorized by the Master of the universe assigns a personalized character to the Master. And it is self-contradictory to acknowledge Qur?an as a divine book sent to a divinely authorized messenger and to reject the personalized view of God at the same time. The Qur?an  in its very opening (fatiha) praises the Master of the Universe (Rabbul Alamin) ? and starts calling this Master with second person singular ? You. ?You are the One we are slave to, and You are the One we seek help from.? The moment one decides to call God in second person ? one is in effect assigning a personalized image to the God. Then throughout the Qur?an God has been portrayed as One who is Merciful, Forgiving, Tolerant ? one who can respond to prayer and forgive sins ? one who loves good people and is angry with those repressing/rejecting their faith. These are all invariably attributes of a personalized God.

If one accepts Qur?an as a divine text ? one by default accepts that it is a valid path to understand God as a personalized God. God is definitely not a person or entity in the sense we human beings understand a person or entity ? but given the limitation of human understanding, conceptualizing God as a personalized God is an acceptable path and the faith in messengers and divine books is essentially part of that path.

This path is not the only path the humans have come up with to seek God. There is the path of Budhdhism that does not portray God as a person ? and hence does not believe in messengers and scriptures either; there is the path of Pantheism which endorses searching for the countenance of God in every object and every entity. And not the least there is the path of Agnostic Moralism? which simply says ?we don?t know? when comes the question of nature of God or afterlife, but none-the-less endorses faith in one?s responsibility to lead a sensible and moral life.

From my humble understanding of Qur?an I find the book endorses the path of Abraham (Millat-i-Abraham) which involves 1) a conceptualization of God as a personalized God, 2) faith in messengers and books and 3) endorsement of rituals to worship a personalized God. Per Qur?an, Abraham was trying to create a safe-haven ? a ?house? for the wondering mankind where they can take shelter against all the confusion of various theologies and dogmas. A ?house? of security, purified from all forms of perversion and falsehood, where devotees can safely take shelter ? and have faith that they are worshiping none other than the Master of the universe. Qur?an endorses the path of Abraham, confirms Abraham was among the righteous ? and that opting out of this path is outright foolishness.

Quote

2:125   And as We assign the house (as) a resort for mankind and (of) security; and take from Abraham?s standpoint a salaat ritual; and We made a covenant with Abraham and Ishmael to cleanse My house for the circumambulators and the (devotedly) secluded ones and those who bow down and prostrate.

2:126   And as Abraham said, ?My Master, assign this land as secured and provide its fraternity with the fruits ? who (would) have faith in Allah and the last day among them.? He said, ?And whoever would repress (faith), then I allow him enjoy a little. (But) later, I compel him to the suffering of fire and vile is (such) a destination!?

2:127   And as Abraham raised the foundation of the house, along with Ishmael: ?Our Master, accept (this) from us. Indeed You are You - the Listener, the Knowledgeable.?

2:128   ?Our Master! Also (please) assign (both of) us as submissive to You and from our offspring a community submissive to You and show us our rites , and relent to us ? Indeed You are You - The Relenting, the Kind.?

2:129   ?Our Master! Also (please) animate within them a messenger from among them to recite to them Your signs and to teach them the book and the wisdom and to purify them. Indeed You are You ? the Almighty, the Wise.?

2:130   And who will opt out of the religion of Abraham except who fools his (own) soul? And certainly We have chosen him in the world and indeed, in the hereafter, he is surely amongst the righteous.

(My personal translation, cross-checking is recommended)


However, the Qur?an does also make a point that throughout course of human history different communities have been guided through different prophets in different paths ? but those who have true faith would understand the divisions between communities regarding the teaching of prophets ?are merely outcome of mutual envy between communities.

Quote

2:213   Mankind used to be a single community. Then Allah animated the prophets, as bearer of (glad) tidings and as bearer of warnings, and sent down with them the book in truth to judge among mankind in what they differed in it. And none differed in it except the ones ? they were given it from after clear proofs which came to them - envy among them. Then Allah guided those who had faith regarding what they differed in it from the truth with His authorization. And Allah guides to straight route whomever He wills.

(My personal translation, cross-checking is recommended)


Qur?an does not say millat-i-abraham is mandatory for mankind. What it says to be mandatory is the resolution (deen) that one sumbits to the Master of the universe by being true to the sense of morality which is essentially a part of his very nature. Everything in the heaven and earth submits to Allah by complying to its God-gifted nature ? It is only the human (perhaps also the jins) who fancy to deviate from that resolution. No matter which path (millat) one follows they cannot repress (ka-fa-ra) their natural God-gifted sense of right and wrong ? that?s the resolution that each and every Prophet preached. A path that leads to deviation from such resolution will never be acceptable:

Quote

3:83   So, do they seek (ways) besides Allah?s resolution (deen), while whatever is in the heavens and the earth have submitted to Him willingly or under compulsion, and they will be returned to Him?

3:84   Say, ?We have faith in Allah and what is sent down on us and what was sent down on Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes and what was given to Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Master. We do not differentiate among any of them and we are submissive (muslim) to Him.

3:85   And whoever seeks a resolution (deen) other than submission (islam) then never will (it) be accepted from him and in the hereafter he will be among the losers.

(My personal translation, cross-checking is recommended)


Those who have true faith would understand the division between personalized and non-personalized God ? the division between religions and creeds ? the division between rituals vs. no-rituals ? the division between the choice of messenger ? the division between qibla of east, west or no qibla at all ?are merely outcome of mutual envy between communities.

In essence any path that puts faith in the Creator (in whatever name or no name at all), and acknowledges our inviolable responsibility to lead a responsible life based on the sense of right and wrong the Creator has gifted us ? is indeed a path towards the same destiny. Understanding and seeking God as a personalized God ? is just one of such paths, and essentially the Quranic path.

When it comes to conceptualization of the unobservable realm (al-ghaib), "I am right, you are wrong" attitude is not going to take us anywhere. Imagine four charaters. A musalli who is reciting the verses of holy book in solemn devotion to Allah to be guided aright; a yogi  who is devotedly contemplating on holy name of Brahman ? with hope of seeing Brahman in everything so that he can attain the highest moral virtues; a monk practicing sacrifice of all worldly desire seeking nirvana ? the oneness with the "non-personalized" spirit of the universe AND a scientists who is wondering over big-bang and quark and relativity, and human evolution and marveling at the vastness and mystery of the universe to draw inspiration to lead a responsible life ? in essence all four of them are seeking the face of the same One God - a God who is beyond the conceptualization ability of ALL OF THEM but within the reach of sincere devotion of EACH OF THEM. The sooner mankind collectively realizes this the sooner we can hope for a harmonized world of peace and prosperity.

May Allah guide us all to the straight route.

Regards,
Arman

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