The Progressive Faith

Progressive Faith

At a time, when Western Europe was, quite literally, plunged in darkness, tenth century Muslim Spain had paved roads with street lighting and running water.

Disease in Christendom during the Middle Ages was viewed as a punishment from God. Muslims, on the other hand, believed in the inherent goodness of people and studied disease in a matter-of-fact manner, resulting in the early removal of cataracts, invention of surgical instruments and the differentiation between small pox and measles.

When the vast majority of Europe thought the earth was flat, Muslims were busy calculating the earth’s diameter and circumference and were venturing to show, how lunar and solar eclipses take place.

Reading such comparisons, a Muslim naturally feels awed and proud at the same time. However, one must wonder, what enabled Muslims to be so far ahead of their contemporaries? The answer lies in the most fundamental elements of Islam.

Islam has a long-standing tradition of scholarship. The very first verses revealed to Prophet Muhammad (sa) enjoined him to read and informed him that God taught man everything that he never knew before. At another place, Allah (swt) exhorts the believers to ask Him: “My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Ta-Ha 20:114)

The Prophet (sa) himself is known to extol the benefits of knowledge and wisdom. For example, he once said: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim.” (Baihaqi) Additionally, he has stated: “He who goes forth in search of knowledge is in the way of Allah (swt) till he returns.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Along with the thirst for knowledge, the use of reasoning is another vital tool for any Muslim. Allah (swt) says in the Quran:

“Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding. Those who remember Allah (always, in prayer) standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth (saying): ‘Our Lord! You have not created (all) this without purpose, glory be to You! (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the torment of the Fire.” (Al-Imran 3:190-191)

Hence, the seeds for an intellectual tradition were sowed from the very beginning. The Quran specified with clarity that God’s universe was not random, a mere chance, but was created with wisdom and purpose. This led Muslims to look upon the entire world as a research field, which further spurred numerous mathematical, scientific and geographical discoveries.

Islam is more than just a religion. Being a ‘way of life’, our ancestors did not confine it to the mosque, making it apparent in everyday activities of people. Muslims refined astronomy as a science, in order to offer their five daily prayers at accurate times, to predict when the crescent moon will appear, to find the direction to Makkah for prayers; in the process, and to achieve these aims, they perfected the astrolabe.

Furthermore, Islam is a universal religion – not for a few chosen people or tribes but for all people and for all times. With this collective and inclusive outlook, Muslims began to gather any and every scholarly work they could lay their hands on – be it Greek, Persian, or Indian – as the Islamic Empire grew. Then, they commenced the scrupulous task of translation and, afterwards, busied themselves in its study. With study came reformation of ideas, theories and methodologies. Hence, the Muslims enhanced scientific approaches, which enabled them to take the work of their predecessors to new heights – unlike the rest of Europe at the time, which was steeped in squalor and stagnation.

In the process, Muslims were able to achieve a magnificent balance between their worldly needs and spiritual beliefs. Indeed, today, we need to return to our basics, instead of loosing ourselves in religious nit-picking and divisiveness, which also plagued Christendom during the Medieval Ages. Once we truly internalize Islam into every aspect of our lives as a living, breathing phenomenon, then we can, perhaps, aspire towards faith-based progress again! Insha’Allah.

Working with the Media

Working with media

When you see some form of injustice around you, it becomes part of your duty as the caliph of Allah (swt) to do something about it. It is easy to sit back and complain that Muslims are painted with an unfair brush in the Western media. It is harder – but more effective – to do something about it. Regardless of your education background, work experience, language barriers or other responsibilities, each and every one of you can (and should) make an effort, so that you can at least be counted among those, who are trying to make a difference.

Working with the media is a powerful way to make a difference, because if you are successful, you can touch the lives of hundreds and thousands of people in a very cost and time-efficient manner. And now with the Internet, you are no longer limited to your local town or even country. You can try to get your message to people in all far flung corners of the globe by the power you have been blessed with.

Start with Dua

If you want to dispel the myths and misinformation about Islam and Muslims by writing about your Deen in the media, then make your intentions pure.

Letters to the Editor

You need not have a degree in journalism or extensive writing experience to write a letter to the editor. Just remember to be concise and polite, and even if your letter is not published, be assured that someone did read it. Just bringing the point across that there are Muslims in their readership base is the first step you should aim for. Therefore, you should write to the editor or a particular writer of a story that piqued your interest with both positive and negative feedback.

Unfortunately, we are all motivated to complain, when some media outlet talks negatively about Muslims. We gather friends and family, forward emails and sign petitions like there is no tomorrow. While that is important, establishing a relationship with the media for positive feedback is a great place to start. Everyone likes to be complimented.

Know the Process

Nothing frustrates an editor more than the writer not knowing anything about the publication she or he is interested in. Pick up a few issues of the newspaper or magazine or read through online archives to get a feel for the publication. Find out, how they accept articles. Find out, if they prefer email or snail mail, what sections of the publication they accept freelance work for, what word count stories do they usually assign first-timers, and what topics have their already covered?

After doing this research, plan out your article and send a brief outline to the editor. Do not follow up almost immediately as editors are inundated with a lot of queries every day. Follow up politely after two weeks to see, if they have made a decision. Do not be disheartened, if they choose not to show interest in your story.

Choose an Angle

The best way to stand out in a sea of queries is to choose an angle. Instead of just pitching “Ramadan”, I had more success in pitching “Ramadan: Why do Muslim Children Fast?”, “Ramadan in the Workplace” and “Fasting in all Faiths”.

Do Not Give Up

There will be rejection, so be prepared for it. However, do not give up. Polish your writing skills and attend workshops. Offer to volunteer for local papers, so that you learn the ropes. Make a website and start a free blog, so that you have a permanent place to store all your thoughts.

Even though getting published does boost your confidence, never let it go to your head. Constantly evaluate your intentions for getting into this field and praise Allah (swt) for giving you the opportunity to serve Him with your pen. Use your words wisely and continue your mission to change hearts, one reader at a time.

Don’t Get Caught Dead Without Islam – Part 1

Dont get caught without Islam

Why do we fear death? Why do we fear something, which we have not tried out? Normally, we fear fire, because we have been burnt by it. We fear only something we have experienced, and from that experience we understand its dangers and harms. So why it is that we fear death, since none of us has experienced it or have come back and spoken about it?

We suppose that the reason for our fear is, perhaps, partly instinctual. This is something, which is shared by all the Allah’s (swt) creatures. They all have a natural desire to survive. But beyond that we, who remain above Allah’s (swt) other creatures, have an intellectual ability to go beyond our instincts.

If our intelligence serves us right, we should not fear something which is unavoidable – death – which comes to everyone. We know without a doubt that we cannot take this world with us. We will leave everything behind – all the things we have gathered: the house, car, wife, children, friends and everything else. If we are certain about this reality, then our intellect should also indicate that we cannot become too attached to this world.

However, we choose to fear death and love this world. This is one of the signs of our times, which Prophet Muhammad (sa) predicted would happen to Muslims. In the Prophet’s (sa) time, his companions were not afraid of death. And that is why they defeated people around them, who were far greater in number and stronger than them in might.

A renowned publication called “The Companions of Prophet Muhammad (sa)” written, compiled and translated by Abdul Wahid and published in England is worth mentioning here. It is critical for us to read these stories, because they give us the feeling about the lives of the early generation of Muslims, their understanding of Islam, and how it transformed them in their time.

Fourteen hundred years ago, our beloved Prophet (sa) had spoken of a time, when the world would partake in the destruction of the Muslim Ummah. What happens, when you put a plate of food down before a group of animals? They all rush to the plate, and every one sticks his mouth in the plate for gobbling up the food. He (sa) gave this metaphor to explain that the plate of food represented the Muslims of the future. The companions questioned him, bewildered – will this happen, because Muslims will be few in numbers in the future? He replied: “No. Their number will be many.” We always hear that one third or one fourth of the population of the earth is Muslim – that comes to nearly one billion Muslims.

The Prophet (sa) continued: “They (Muslims) will be many, but they will be like bubbles, like the foam produced by the flood. The flood comes through and takes things away, churns them up and, hence, bubbles are created on the surface of the flood, having no strength, very weak, useless and that is what all Muslims will be like.” He went on to explain why.

They will be useless, because they will have a deep and strong love for life and fear of death. The fear of death will penetrate into their hearts so deeply that they would do anything to stay alive and to collect the trinkets of this world. Because of that, other nations will destroy them. This state will not change, until Muslims once again realize the reality of this life and return to the essence of the faith of Islam.

The meaning of the religion is not for people to come to the Masjid to pray, while in reality they are not praying. You see them playing with their head guards, checking their watches, leaning on one foot and switching to the other foot, cracking their knuckles and engaging in all kinds of other distractions during prayer except praying. It is as if prayer is just a ritual their parents do and, thus, they are doing it, too.

What is the purpose of praying? Are we doing Allah (swt) a favour? Does Allah (swt) need our prayers? Are we praying, because we need to pray? And if we need to pray, why do we need to pray? These are the realities, which we have to grasp in order to become meaningful Muslims. And when Islam becomes a way of life, it will ensure that we will loose the fear of death. Only then we will be able to become Muslims, who are the source of guidance for this world. We will become an example of righteousness, upholders of the law, which should govern the lives of mankind.

But the reality is that we, today, fear death, because we don’t know, what comes after it. We don’t know, what we are going to find, when we die. It is unknown; though Allah (swt) has told us in great detail what we will find, following our demise. He has explained to us about the angel, which comes to takes a person’s soul, about the whole process of being in the state of grave, about resurrection and the judgment, about crossing over the bridge (Saraat) and going either to Paradise or Hell, about what is in Paradise and what is in Hell. In spite of all this being unknown, through revelations Allah (swt) has explained it to us vividly. Because our faith has not gone beyond the state of meaningless rituals, we remain in darkness.

It is a reality that the societies, which have gone to the Moon, etc., are the same societies destroying the various creatures and vegetation, the atmosphere and themselves, too. We find the rate of murders, suicides, AIDS, diseases, etc., rising higher every year. Technological advancement does not provide stability to society, as ultimately the stability comes from faith. It is spiritually based. This is one of the things, which amazed some Westerners and caused them to become Muslims. They came across Muslims, who, under the worst circumstances, seemed to have a spiritual calmness and ability to deal with their situation, in spite of the severity of the calamity. This serenity was a result of their firm faith in Islam as a way of life. Western society cannot explain how it can be that some people seek death. Those early empires, which came across Muslim regions, could not understand it then, and society cannot understand it today either.

Transcribed for Hiba by Nazir-uddin Qureshy