A World without Hospitals

Apr 11 - A world without Hospitals

By Saulat Pervez

Today, we often take hospitals for granted, but there actually was a time when these institutions did not exist. People considered illnesses as supernatural occurrences and cures were similarly deemed to be the result of spiritual interventions.

On the other hand, Prophet Muhammad (sa) has reportedly said: “Seek medication, because Allah has created a medication for each disease except senility.” (Abu Dawood, At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah) Islam, furthermore, taught human beings that they were free from the original sin, leading Muslims to believe in the inherent goodness of humans; this modern outlook enabled scientists to study disease in a matter-of-fact manner. Therefore, as explained by Michael Hamilton Morgan in “Lost History, the Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers and Artists”: Muslims believed that “disease [had] specific, scientifically based physical causes. It [was] not a punishment visited on men from God.”

This empirical worldview led to the invention of the hospital, as we know it today. Indeed, the modern hospital has its roots in the Bimaristans, as established by the Abbasids in Baghdad. The first hospital was founded in 914 C.E. Another hospital was built in 918 C.E. at the behest of Caliph Muqtadir. Among the physicians here was the renowned ar-Razi (Rhazes).

“By the year 1000, five major hospitals [were] built in Abbasid Baghdad. These hospitals serve[d] multiple purposes, not unlike modern hospitals containing surgery centers, outpatient clinics, psychiatric wards, convalescent centers and even nursing homes. And quite often they [were] free to those in need,” writes Morgan. Soon, hospitals became common landmarks all across the Muslim world.

In fact, the very spirit behind the concept of hospitals was to provide ready care to anyone who seeks it, irrespective of gender, race, religion or status. Doctors treated and studied the patients, and documented their findings. This shows that the physicians were not only interested in curing their patients’ immediate ailments, but also in conducting important research which would then be published in the form of books. These texts, later translated into Latin, became the foundational tools for the rebirth of Europe and continued to be used for several centuries.

Such medical advances also led to the development of the field of pharmacology. As a result, the very first pharmacies were pioneered by Muslim doctors. According to Dr. Gustave le Bon: “Muslims invented the art of mixing chemical medicaments in pills and solutions, many of which are in use to this day, though some of them are claimed as wholly new inventions of our present century by chemists unaware of their distinguished history. Islam had dispensaries, which filled prescriptions for patients [free of charge], and in part of countries where no hospitals were reachable, physicians paid regular visits with all the tools of their trade to look after public health.”

In the end, the privileges we enjoy today have a rich history and a meaningful purpose –dating back to more than a millennium! Sadly, our current conditions belie our downhill spiral: our hospitals are either modern and expensive or unhygienic and cheap. It is high time that we re-instill our Islamic values not only in our practice of worship but also, by extension, in the social aspects of our lives – without discrimination.

Islam in Singapore

Apr 11- Singapore

By Ruhie Jamshaid

The little island nation of Singapore is renowned to be a modern, urban ‘lion-city’. It is often recognized as the commercial heart of Asia. The levels of cleanliness and law and order found in this nation are somewhat legendary, with many cities, such as Dubai, Bahrain and Shanghai, modelling after it.

However, beyond the glitz and glamour of the heart of the far East, lies a nation that is admired for its sense of respect for all religions and races. A myriad of races from the Chinese to Malays and Indians live side by side on the island, practicing their religions. Needless to say, Islam, too, is practiced freely and widely in Singapore!

In fact, growing up in such a multi-cultural country as Singapore, I had the opportunity to learn about my religion from my Malay and Arab friends. Somehow, the religion of Islam and my culture as a Pakistani were often separate entities. Hence, I got a chance to study my religion for what it is, beyond cultural influences.

One of the most wonderful things about being a Muslim in Singapore is celebrating Ramadan. This holy month is always very special here. It is a common practice to go to the Masjid for Taraweeh prayers as a family. Every locality, or rather housing estate, has a mosque, although the volume of the Adhans has to be controlled for the sake of not disturbing non-Muslim residents. Iftar is organized in all the mosques for all and sundry. It is common to find people of such varied nationalities as Moroccons, Bangladeshis, Indonesians and the local Singaporean Malays sitting side by side and breaking their fasts. Taraweeh prayers are conducted with Tahleels and Dhikr sessions.

My family and I cherish the opportunity to go to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers. It is an opportunity for us to meet other Muslims and for our children to be aware of the spirit of Islam in a community. As many Muslims are foreigners, with only a few family members in Singapore, Eid-ul-Fitr prayers also offer an opportunity to connect with the Muslim community.

The Chinese Muslim community of Singapore, though small in number, is also an interesting aspect of the Muslim community found here. While they practice Islam, they also embrace certain Chinese cultural practices, such as the celebration of the Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Ms. Mah, a Chinese Muslim, states: “We are basically all Chinese, except that we practice Islam. For instance, we avoid pork, which is often the preferred meat in Chinese households!” Many Chinese Muslims in Singapore have either embraced Islam through marriage and adoption, or their families are of Hui or Uyghur descent, having moved to Singapore from China in the 1920s.

It is quite easy to practice Islam in most areas of life in Singapore. Though there may not be special rooms allocated for Salah in most workplaces, it is typical for employers to make allowances for you to go to a quiet corner such as a staircase area or your own office cubicle to pray. Halal food is also easily available with most fast food restaurants being Halal. Wearing Hijab at workplaces can be an issue but in daily life, it is common to find Muslim ladies donning the Hijab at market places and restaurants.

Generally, Islam is seldom viewed suspiciously in Singapore. Therefore, the freedom to practice one’s religion without fear of being ostracized makes it all the worthwhile to be a Muslim in Singapore.

Armageddon

Apr 11 Armageddon

The word ‘Armageddon’ is widely used for a severe bloody final war supposed to be fought in a small mountainous valley of Magdo (Jerusalem). This will be a divine battle between the forces of virtue and the forces of evil. It will be led by Dajjal, or the Antichrist, and Jesus Christ. For this purpose, they quote the Revelation book from the Bible: “And he (the angel) gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” (16:16)

This madly propagated future war was also blindly believed and advocated by former US President Ronald Reagan, who often used to explain that such an enormous bloodshed will take place in the valley (up to 200 miles from Jerusalem) that the reins over the horses will sink in the blood, and the entire battlefield will get covered with the blood of horses and men. Reagan emphasized: “God will, on that day, permit the human nature to expose itself fully. All capital cities of the world, London, Tokyo, Paris, New York and Chicago, etc., will be annihilated.”

The most popular contemporary US Evangelist Jerry Falwell declares: “The final battle is a horrible fact, and we are part of the last human race. There will be a final clash and God will wipe off the entire planet of earth.”

US Christians deem this subject so significant that millions of books on the topic have captured the attention of the readers. The evangelists have coined a fresh terminology of ‘rapture’. They claim that Jesus will descend just before the war, lift all the Christians into the clouds and award salvation to them all. By rapture they mean the salvation in the sky at the hands of Jesus Christ. Rapture and Armageddon, therefore, are interlinked. An eminent scholar Karl Millen Tire remarks overwhelmingly: “Thanks to Lord. I will watch the ongoing events of the war sitting in the elevated seats of Paradise.”

Another prominent Christian preacher, Clloyd states that the first attack in the Armageddon will be made by Christ himself, who will use a totally new weapon. People will perish instantly and their tongues will dissolve inside their mouths. He tells his followers not to take Christ as a mere religious personality, but think of him as a five-star general.

Still another fundamental evangelist Lindsey states that since about a dozen nations today are in possession of nuclear weapons, we can annihilate the entire world for sure.

Although nothing of the above is true, the Christians are still striving hard to make it happen. They are looking forward to the re-arrival of their Messiah, the Christ. But, on the other hand, when we glance over the conduct of the Muslims, we feel ashamed. A sort of irrelevance and distraction has captured their minds. Nobody is worried about the horrible days that they are heading towards. Their activities, way of life, habits and matrimonies are indicating that they have no sense of the befalling calamity.

The only way open to the Muslims now is to submit to Allah (swt) and obey His commandments. Instead of involving in pomp and show, they should review their lavish style of living and spare a fair amount of their yields for the advancement of Islam.

Dajjal and the End of Times

Dajjal

Five Periods of the Ummah

In a very popular tradition, the Apostle of Allah (swt) has informed his disciples that:

Your religion originates with the prophethood and Allah’s mercy, and will remain as long as Allah (swt) wills so.

Then, Allah (swt) will replace it with the Caliphate ‘in the pattern of the prophet-hood’. Then Allah (swt) will end it.

Then, it will be succeeded by the tyrant kingship, which will last as long as Allah (swt) wills it! Then, Allah (swt) will end it also.

Then, there will be the reign of terror, which will stay as long as Allah (swt) wills so. Then, Allah (swt) will end it as well.

Then will return the same ‘Caliphate after the pattern of the prophethood’, which will administer the affairs of the people in pursuance of the Sunnah of the Prophet (sa), and Islam will take root on the Earth. This rule will please those who will belong to the heavens, and those who belong to the Earth. When it dominates, the heaven will generously shower its blessings, and the Earth will divulge all its treasures. (Musnad Ahmad)

According to this eye-opening Hadeeth, three eras have already passed. We are living between the fourth and the firth eras. The end of the entire universe is imminent.

Major Signs of the Qiyamah

The Prophet of Allah (sa) has predicted a number of signs before the first trumpet will be blown in the heaven. They may be classified into two categories:

(1) the minor signs and

(2) the major signs.

The major signs will affect the affairs of the entire world. Among the manifestations of those are:

  1. Dajjal;
  2. Imam Mahdi;
  3. Isa (as);
  4. The community of Gog Magog;
  5. Emergence of a vast and thick smoke;
  6. Revelation of a talking-beast on the Earth;
  7. Rising of the sun from the West;
  8. Waging of an ever bloody huge war against the Muslims;
  9. Re-victory of the Muslims of Constantinople;
  10. Imperialistic sanctions on Egypt and Iraq
  11. Erasing of the building of the sanctified Kabah.

Although the major signs will reshape the existing world totally in favour of the Muslims, no definite time has been predicted by the Prophet of Allah (swt). Which sign will appear first is, therefore, out of our jurisdiction. Thus, we cannot calculate the exact arrival time of the Dajjal, etc.

The writer is the Director, National Academy of Islamic Research, Karachi. He has authored multiple books on Dajjal and the end of times.

War in Monotheistic Religions – Christianity

Apr 11 - War in monotheistic religion

Throughout history, many wars have been waged with religion being their stated cause and peace as their desired outcome. In the previous article, we took a look at the history of Judaism and traced the origins of war in this religion. This time, we will search for the roots of the concept of war in Christianity, as interpreted by Karen Armstrong, a renowned modern religion writer.

Pacifism

In about 27 C.E., many Jews of Palestine were attracted by a new sect which, according to Armstrong, claimed to be a universal form of Judaism. The leader was a Jew by the name of Jesus (Isa), who claimed to be the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for. He quickly attracted a large following, eventually making his way from his native Galilee to Jerusalem, where he preached of the approaching Kingdom of God. Seeing in his preaching a potential political threat, Romans, who ruled Jerusalem at the time, arrested him and had him crucified, as the history of Christianity has it. Jesus’ refusal to oppose Romans, even in the face of his death, clearly testified to the pacifist nature of his teachings. He taught his followers to turn the other cheek when attacked.

After the death of Jesus, his followers continued to be peacefully practicing Jews, worshiping daily in the Temple and living according to the Torah (Taurat). What distinguished them from other Jewish sects was their belief in Jesus as the Messiah and their expectation of his second coming – his returning to the world for establishing the Kingdom of God.

A Jew by the name of Paul was to take Jesus’ teachings to a new dimension. He started preaching to the Gentiles (non-Israelite tribes or nations), transforming Christianity from a Jewish sect into a universal religion, which was to bring redemption to the entire world. Paul’s version of Christianity had no room for a holy war, because Christians were to show love even to their enemies, as Jesus had enjoined it. According to Armstrong, Paul presented “Christianity as a spiritual religion: salvation now meant liberation from sin and death, not an extermination of the enemies of God”.

Several later historical developments within Christianity can be pinned as contributing factors leading to the formation of the concept of the ‘holy war’ during the Crusades: the image of the Antichrist, movements of martyrdom and monasticism as well as St. Augustine’s philosophy of a just war.

Antichrist

By the end of the first century, Christianity underwent certain transformations, which introduced more violent ideas into the peaceful religion of Jesus and Paul. The author of “Revelation” (one of the books of the New Testament written later) brought back into Christianity the importance for Judaism apocalyptic tradition. He talked of cosmic battles foretold by the Jewish prophets as heralding the final triumph of Christianity, when God would send down the New Jerusalem and a new perfect world from heaven. He described God’s enemies as terrifying monsters, placing a particular emphasis on a great Beast, which would crawl out of an abyss and establish himself in the Temple. It was from this powerful image of the Beast that the later generations of Christians developed a belief in what they called the Antichrist, which became very important in the ideology of crusading. According to Armstrong, “by the time of the Crusades, European Christians firmly believed that before the final apocalypse, Antichrist would appear in Jerusalem, would set himself up in the Temple and fight the Christians there in the great battles”.

Martyrdom

Initially, the attitude of the Roman Empire towards Christianity was not a tolerant one – they often persecuted and executed Christians who refused to sacrifice to Caesar. These persecutions eventually formed in Christians a strong sense that ‘the world’ was against them. This insecurity, according to Armstrong, led to a cult of voluntary martyrdom. The martyr was seen as the perfect Christian, “because Christ had said that giving one’s life for the beloved (Jesus) was the greatest act of love”. Eventually, the martyrdom cult acquired an aggressive dimension as martyrs started to denounce themselves to the authorities and believed that they were taking part in a cosmic battle with evil. Although martyrs passively allowed the inflicting of violence upon them, they thought of themselves as the ‘soldiers of Christ’, and considered their deaths as ‘victory’. Even though the Church tried to stop this trend of voluntary martyrdom, it never completely died out and surfaced again during the time of the Crusades.

Monasticism

When, years later, the persecutions stopped and Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Christians faced a new dilemma: how could they be perfect Christians when there was no more opportunity for martyrdom? The answer was discovered in the movement of monasticism: radical Christians were to flee ‘the world’, which was hostile to them, and take refuge in the wilderness. Although Jesus and Paul had never promoted this type of asceticism, monks and their like-minded Christians believed that it was not possible to practice true Christian values in ‘the world’. In later centuries, Western Christians further developed the movement of monasticism by secluding themselves in monasteries which they saw as “fortresses of Christianity in a Godless world”. The monks living in them were considered as taking part in a holy war against the spiritual enemies of God. When the Crusades began, the monks became some of their most active participants.

Just War

During the early Middle Ages, Europe was under constant attacks by its enemies: barbarians destroyed the Roman Empire which was followed by the invasions of Norsemen, Muslims and Magyars. This constant threat and insecurity brought an aggressive element into the peaceful religion of Christianity. Despite all the attacks, the Church tried to keep the violence under control and remain pacifist. The Greek Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Empire regarded war as unchristian and preferred to hire mercenaries for their wars instead of using Christian soldiers. It was their Western brethren, the Latin theologians, who developed the concept of a just war. This would enable the Christians to fight and defend themselves without guilt.

In early fifth century, St. Augustine of Hippo (North Africa) laid the grounds for the Christian concept of a just war. According to Armstrong, St. Augustine “decided that, while wars against other Christians were always sinful and unjust, God could sometimes inspire a Christian leader to wage war against pagans”. According to him, the difference between a pagan war and a Christian one was that it had to be inspired by love towards the enemy. The war could not be based on revenge; it had to be based on the sense of justice. Violence was to be seen as medicinal – just like disciplining a child for his own good. Although Augustine’s arguments in favour of violence were paradoxical, Christians could no longer survive without war. However, it was only during the Crusades that the involvement of Christians in warfare transformed into a ‘holy war’: in 1095, Pope Urban II summoned the First Crusade for exterminating ‘the enemies of God’ – the Turks, an accursed race that had captured the holy land.

Today, the Christians are divided between two stances on war:

1) Pacifism: war cannot be justified under any circumstances;

2) Just war: war is never good but sometimes necessary and should be conducted within the limits of justice.

Compiled from Karen Armstrong’s “Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today’s World” published by Anchor Books (www.anchorbooks.com)