Learning About Islam – What is Bismillah

IN the name of God (Bismillah), the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy! Praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy, Master of the Day of Judgment.
It is You we worship, it is You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path; the path of those You have blessed, those who incur no anger and who have not gone stray. (AL-Quran, chapter 1).

Seven Verses from the HOLY QURAN define the Islamic faith. Muslims memorize these seven verses (also called Ayats) in the original Arabic and recite it during prayers 5 times a day. For those of you who want to learn about Islam, and also for those Muslims who want to clarify thoughts on Islam, this is the starting place, the opening verses of the MAJESTIC AL QURAN AL KAREEM.

Lets get started. How do we know these Ayats were not made up by a man? What is the proof that the verses were “revealed” from the Heavens?
Belief can be of two types, either one believes its truly from the heavens or one believes it was written by a man or a team of men and women. Lets say we have the belief that it was written by humans. Fair enough, who were these men and women? Were they Arabs or non Arabs? Were they followers of One God or multiple gods? Did they have a portfolio of written or oral literature as was the custom in Arabia in the 6th century? It is very natural for humans to want to pen their names (real or fake) on their works, and even more so when they gather together to write the verses for a new religion. Who were these “humans” who acquired PhD level linguistic, historical, scientific, psychological and above all civilization knowledge. Surely they must have left behind track record of discussions and debates with their locals before embarking on such an advanced form of philosophical cum literary adventure that would go on to become a watershed in human history of civilization. I understand, for 1400 years not a single convincing idea could prove human intervention behind the formulation of the Ayats. So, lets leave it at that.

Wait a minute, what about the Prophet of Islam, the Holy Messenger Nabi Muhammad (sallillahu alihi wa alihi wa sallam, Peace be Upon Him, PBUH) wrote the verses. He (PBUH) recited the verses to his companions which makes the idea convincing that he must have drafted the verses himself. Lets look at that more closely. First of all, Prophet Muhammad (Sallillahu alihi wa alihi wa sallam) was known as the un-lettered prophet, that is at the start of his mission he had not acquired the skills for reading and writing. For 40 years he (PBUH) lived in Makkah with very high honor and prestige, he was called Sadeq and Amin (the truthful and the trustworthy) by the Makkans due to his honest personality without ever being credited for reciting any kind of poetry or prose, let alone writing Ayats of the highest classical (Fushat) Arabic language which would become the standard for Arabic grammar.

Would you believe it if I told you that the greatest work of English language was written by someone who was not only un-lettered but had never written or expressed English literary or grammatical skills ever in his life? Obviously not. You might call it an “obnoxious idea”. Lets be fair and apply the same thought for the author of the Verses above. It could not have been written by any man or woman, therefore the only author must be other than what we know or understand as humans. Lets stop here, and move on with the verses.

The opening verses have combined two important ideas of our age. Science and Philosophy. Science because we know from Quantum Physics about time, space and matter. The first cause behind these three has to be the will of God. It is only after the First Cause has been established that the process of matter and antimatter, evolution and the development of human civilization can be discovered scientifically. Let say then today is the very first day for the first cause, the starting point of Time itself, how would the beginning look like, what would it begin by, under whose authority would the beginning take place? These questions are generally asked for any major event. Its like a person while inaugurating a ceremony says “on the authority given to me by and so and so….”.

Should Time, space and matter (humans, the milky way, the solar system, the galaxies, the nebula etc) start its journey by the will of God, by the authority given to the properties of matter and atoms and by the Power of God, then it makes absolute sense that this journey should start by the name of God. That is “BISMILLAH”. the starting point of all that we know on Earth, in the Oceans and in Space.

Muslims will thus say BISMILLAH at the start of anything. At the time of waking up, before a meal, before starting a journey, before starting work, before getting into a transport, before take off, before reading and so on.

Thanks for reading. Take care…

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Why the West Fears Islam

When one examines the West’s fear of Islam, and tries to relate it to the reasons usually given — Muslim fundamentalism, militancy, radicalism, terrorism, totalitarianism — it is difficult, if not impossible, to justify this fear on the basis of reasons given. One has to believe, however, given all the facts and expertise available to the West, that the fear has to be rational. What is this fear that causes enemies of the Muslim world to play subtly on the theme of the Crusades in order to demonize Islam and Muslims? Let us first examine what it is not, before we draw our conclusion as to the real reason why the West fears Islam.

The fear of Islamic fundamentalism, militancy, radicalism, terrorism, totalitarianism, and the West’s discovery of the “rogue states,” appeared quite conveniently with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Former Defense Secretary McNamara, in his 1989 testimony before the Senate Budget Committee, said U.S. defense spending could safely be cut in half. It became clear that the U.S. had to either undergo massive shifts in spending, a painful and unwelcome prospect for the defense establishment, or find new justification for continuing high levels of military expenditures. To provide this justification the Pentagon manufactured the threat of “rogue states and nuclear outlaws.” The Gulf War was a contrived opportunity to sell this justification to the American people, to protect oil company profits, and to control the flow of oil to Europe and Japan which need it much more than does the U.S.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies calculates that the $262 billion U.S. defense budget accounts for about 37 percent of global military expenditures. Russia, Japan, and China each will spend about $80 billion, $42 billion, and $7 billion. The six “rogue states” — Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, North Korea — have a combined annual military budget of $15 billion. The U.S. budget for covert operations (U.S. terrorism?) alone is double this amount. Given the paltry defense expenditures of all the “rogue states” combined, even after correcting for differences in costs, one has to believe that the “rogue states” are no match, militarily, for the West.

And, leaving aside the morality of U.S. covert operations which invite retaliation, Muslim terrorists should not be a major fear. Far more acts of terrorism and violent crime in the U.S., according to government statistics, are committed by non-Muslims than Muslims. And if Muslims do pose a terrorist threat to the U.S., one hears little discussion of what it is that the terrorists really want. Perhaps, all they want is for the West to stop interfering in their countries, in ways that we would never tolerate in the U.S.

Islamic totalitarianism, an oxymoron to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of Islam, should not be a Western concern. A Muslim ruler may be totalitarian, but then her rule would not be Islamic. Furthermore, the Western record on supporting totalitarian Muslim regimes — Iran under the Shah, Iraq before the Gulf War — and doing business with non democratic regimes — China, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia — speaks for itself.

As for fundamentalism, Islam has no parallel to the U.S. Protestant Christian movement which opposed modern scientific theory, and which coined the term in 1920 to designate those “doing battle royal for the fundamentals.” Rather Islam has from its birth stressed the use of reason and logic.

Islamic law is based upon the Quran, examples and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, analogical deduction, consensus among the learned, and individual reasoning. When the Prophet’s contemporaries heard the words islam and muslim, they understood them as denoting man’s “self-surrender to God” and “one who surrenders himself to God,” without limiting himself to any specific community or denomination, eg. in the Quran, 3:67, where Abraham is spoken of as having “surrendered himself unto God” (kana musliman), or in 3:52 where the disciples of Jesus say, “Bear thou witness that we have surrendered ourselves unto God (bianna musliman).” In Arabic, this original meaning has remained unimpaired.

Absent a generally accepted definition, the label Islamic fundamentalism serves only to obscure issues, rather than to resolve them. Meanwhile, the Christian Coalition, and the Zionists and their biblical claim to Palestine appear fundamentalist to many, yet both are courted by U.S. politicians, and not viewed as a threat.

One can go on eliminating Western arguments against Islam and Muslims. Eventually, one has to ask, what then is the source of the West’s fear of Islam and Muslims?

The late Marshall G. S. Hodgson, in Rethinking World History, states: “[Islam’s] conscious hopes for a godly world order represent one of the most remarkable undertakings in world history and because its less self-conscious general cultural heritage is laden with human values.” Muslims see the West beset with broken families, violent crime, drugs. They see a society divided by race, religion, and huge disparities in income. They long for a peaceful life in which they may provide for the basic needs of their families, and enjoy the respect due to all mankind regardless of their race, religion, position, or wealth.

These Muslims see their goals for a more just and compassionate society thwarted by a corrupt Muslim elite who pursue wealth and power regardless of the cost to their fellow human beings. They see these elites, who govern not by consensus as Islam prescribes, permitting outside powers to exploit their country while they derive few benefits, and find themselves subordinated by Western influences driving them down the troubled road taken by the West. They see few opportunities to earn a living because most opportunities are withheld for the elites and their sycophants. And they see these elites remaining silent when their faith, which offers solutions to the many social problems that plague the West, is denigrated in the propaganda which serves to maintain these elites.

The Muslim elites’ allies are the defense establishment and the neoimperialists. Islam’s mandate for justice and compassion opposes the primary objective of these neoimperialists who seek to follow policies outlined in 1948 by “the leading dove and peace prize winner” Mr. George Kennan, for the U.S. Department of State. In his top secret Policy Planning Study 23 Mr. Kennan stated in part: “. . .we have about 50% of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3% of its population . . . Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity . . . To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality . . . We should cease to talk about vague and . . . unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization.”

To avoid exposure these neoimperialists and their allies in the U.S. defense establishment, spurred by the enemy within, divert attention by demonizing Islam and Muslims, thereby fanning the fires of bigotry and raising unrealistic fears among the people of the West.

Courtesy : The Wisdom Fund

A King and the Moon – and the Beginning of a 1000 year Civilization from India

On my lunch break right now, so I can afford to share my thoughts. On my way to work I read the ARABIC Grammar book. Four English to Arabic phrases from this book knocked me off few hours ago. Here are the 4 lines:

  1. Al Hindu watanun Adheemun. India is a great country.
  2. Al Hindu watanee. India is my country.
  3. Uhibbu Watanee. I love my country.
  4. Al Hunudu kulluhum Ekhwatee wa Akhawatee. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.

The book was written by Mr Amanulla Vadakkangara, a respected educationist from Malappuram District in Kerala, India. The author taught Arabic in an international Indian school in Doha, Qatar. Are you surprised yet? If not, then let me explain this in bit more detail.

The outside world thinks that Muslims of India are basically north Indians speaking Urdu and having more in common with Central Asian cultures as in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan which produced raiders and conquerors whose very names still evoke some kind mixed feelings in the common people. Pakistani books usually credit a young general called Bin Qasem with the honor of bringing Islam by the sword to India going back to the 8th-9th century Umayyad dynasty. It is said that Bin Qasem in an effort to rescue a band of Muslims wrongly captured by Raja Dahir of Sind arrived with about a hundred soldiers defeating armies much more numerical superiority paving the way for the firm footing of Islamic governance in the western region of South Asia (basically Sind and Punjab to some extent in today’s Pakistan).

This story is refuted strongly by another Muslim community called the Shiites. They say that Bin Qasem was actually ordered by the great butcher Hajjaj ibn Yousuf to hunt down supporters of the Ahl-al-Bayt (peace be upon them) who had takn refuge in the court of Raja Dahir who himself being overtaken by the nobility of the Shiite Muslims refused to give them up to anyone and in the process lost his Kingdom to the young Muslim Arab general.

Now, let me tell you that there is yet another story which clouds both the narrations stated above. Islam is said to have arrived in India much earlier than Bin Qasem, if we follow the history of a certain king based in Kerala in the 7th century. Kerala boasts of an interesting geography located in the southwestern tip of India placed right next to Tamil Nadu in the east and the Arabian Sea in the west, basically the Malabar coast is the site of Kerala where natives speak Malayalam housing 56% Hindus and 26% Muslims in its state. The Kerala Muslims (or Malyallam Muslims) also called Mappas locally have a rich story to tell and it goes back to the 7th century at the time of the Holy Nabi Sallillahu alihi wa aalihi wa sallam.

According to legend a noble king called Cheraman Peruman was out at night when he witnessed the splitting of the moon. His amazement could not be explained by any scholar in his court except when he approached visiting Arab traders about it who only promised to search for answers in their journey on the sea. Years later, the Arab traders came back to him with answers, and the answer was in their desert country of Arabia itself for a man had arrived in their midst who declared his appointment as the leader of mankind being the last and final Prophet and Messenger of ALLAH Swt. It was the blessed Nabi sallillahu alihi wa Aalihi wa Sallam who had split the moon into pieces one day as his miracle for the doubters’ minds. The Prophet (swm) had split the moon by asking ALLAH SWT for a miracle and it was that miracle which the noble king had witnessed and it was this even t that was responsible for setting off waves of questions and thoughts in the heart of the noble king.

He had decided. He would go to Arabia, meet the blessed Messenger (swm) of ALLAH SWT so that he could become a Muslim at the hands of none other than the man who was the Ambassador of God. The noble King set out for Arabia with his Arab friends. He is said to have reached the kafela of Muslims during the time of the Farewell Pilgrimage. There, the King was given audience with the Noble Messenger of God (PBUH) where the king said his shahadah to enter the fold of Islam as a believer. How could this meeting take place without some exchange of gifts as India was famous in the world for its exquisite and extra-ordinary beauty and flavors. The noble king brought with him Garlic Pickle as a gift which the Noble Messenger (PBUH) accepted very happily choosing to share them with his companions.

On the return journey through Yemen, the noble king fell seriously ill, not being able to make it to his kingdom he summoned his Arab friends to take his money back to Kerala and inform his family of what had happened and instruct them to light up Islam in Kerala starting with a Masjid for which his money should be used completely. King Cheraman Peruman Radi Allahu Anhu rests in Yemen while the Cheraman Jama Masjid in Kodungallor stands today as a testament to the noble king’s legacy.

Lets come back to my Arabic lessons. The fact that Kerala currently is called home by 8.8 million Muslims makes them a Muslim community equal to the Hashemite Kingdom Jordan. The Malayallam language should also be considered as an Islamic language if only to honor the brilliance of the Malayallam culture for upholding the dignity of Islam when the courageous followers of the noble king constructed the Islamic mosque letting the drops of Islamic knowledge accumulate over centuries into an ocean of art, culture, knowledge and scholarship for the benefit of all mankind.

Mr Amanulla chose to write the four sentences in Arabic and English it seems with another greater agenda more noble than learning another language for the sake of it. The agenda, it would seem to me is this, the word Hindu is an Arabic Islamic word, this should be known to all the Muslims in South Asia. Al-Hindu is the Arabic translation for India. In Sanskrit, India is called Bharat not Hindustan. It was the Islamic world that called Bharat as Al-Hind and the Central Asian Muslims called it Hindustan (as in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan etc). Every Indian should therefore be a Hindu I terms of ethnicity, according to Arabic Islamic understanding. The plural form of Hindu is Al-Hunudu, that is all Indians which naturally includes Muslims and non Muslims also signifies the above statement which says that Hindu is a nationality not a religion as such. It were the colonialists British who had to severe the brotherhood between the natives by splitting the religious harmony through categorizing where the great Hindu brotherhood of Muslims and non-Muslims fell apart once the Hindu was given the religious shape and color. On the other hand Muslims were pulled away by another form of religion advocated by the British loyalist “Sir” Syed Ahmed Khan under the banner of the Two Nation Theory. It was a divisive theory that floated just after the First War of Independence conducted by the Sepoys in 1857 when Hindus and Muslims for the “second last” time united against a common foe. The “Last Time” for Hindu Muslim unity was under the banner of “KHILAFAT MOVEMENT” organized by Mawlana Mohammad Ali and his brother Mawlana Shawkat Ali, together called the Ali Brothers.

Islam’s forerunners were the noble companions among whom is the blessed king of Kerala Syedene Cheraman Peruman Radi Allahu Anhu. His travel to the Arabian peninsula in order to meet the Leader of all Mankind was the reason and the heavenly door for the entry of Islam in India, also known as Al-Hindu in the Islamic Arabic language. For 1000 years Islam contributed to the economic, social and educational advancement of Al-Hind. The cultural character of present day India can never be separated from its Islamic identity no matter how hard certain right wingers may try. The tear drop on the cheek of time, the greatest throne of the material world, the fort of jewels, the tomb of the emperor, and so on and so forth are the fruits of a work created in the mausoleum of love nurtured by the brotherhood of respect and dignity and long dreamed by a lonely king taking a night walk staring at the beautiful face of the moon.

 

 

 

 

This is How Long You Will Live

Management gurus tell me to write a plan, what I want in life, happy family, money, home, car, business and then they say I should pursue it with the belief that I will achieve them. They come up with stories of successful people who did exactly that. I don’t think life is really like that. Management Gurus are wrong. Sorry!

Lets start like this. What do you know what’s going to happen in your life? The simple answer is you don’t know. Except for one thing, your life will one day come to an end. You could be the richest, the most powerful person on earth, but that will not change the most basic fact. Life will come to an end at some point and all those plans and strategies you made for life will surely vanish in thin air. And then what?

You have essentially two possibilities. You can either believe that life ends here on Earth and that’s the end of everything. Or, you could believe that life on earth will end while simultaneously another life will begin in another dimension, another time and space equation, the knowledge of which is yet unknown to you. Your first option is a bit scary. If this life is all you have, then you better put all your energy to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. If you cant achieve anything then you will be unfortunately amongst the loosers. Well, at least that’s how I would interpret the messages of Management gurus.

It sounds bit sad that this wonderful life on earth will end and we will take none of our material accomplishments with us anywhere. Then why bother with anything at all? They talk about light at the end of the tunnel. What tunnel, what light? There is nothing to look forward to if this is it, this life and nothing after this. It seems also an indirect way of motivating the philosophy “ends justify the means” because you only live once and therefore you need to get whatever you want by any means necessary. This is also why they even teach that its okay to steal, to break rules and step over your emotions and feelings to get to wherever you want to be. It sounds all negative to be in a situation like this. It almost doesn’t make sense to live out this life under these dark clouds.

What about the second option, does that make life sound any better. Think about this for a while. Management Gurus show their stars, the winners, and then they motivate us to go after our goals with the same zeal as their super heroes. Well, guess what, 99% of the people are not going to do that. There will be men and women who will not make it to the Olympics, there will be people living on tiny paychecks, there will be farmers and factory workers who will not win Oscars. That’s real life buddy. That’s the hard life that we have to deal with. What future should they look forward to?

Some people believe in a different concept of life. Our stay on earth is temporary and short. This life is only one stop in the long journey that will take us all to a place more beautiful more rewarding than what we see here. That is the life after death, the eternal life. The rewards in the heavens will far outstrip the rewards in this world. Most important of all, unlike this crazy material life, we will have equal opportunity to enter the heavenly garden, based on our Goodness, unlike this life which pretty much only values material accomplishments.

Sounds more like a fairy tale doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what makes it all the more motivating and exciting. We are allowed to feel happy about such a concept of life where we will find pure and complete justice. We will find that the homeless and the billionaire will be evaluated for their good deeds and the one who qualifies gets entry into the garden of eternal pleasure. Maybe both of them will get entrance, all depends on the individual’s deeds. That sounds like a plan to me.

The wealth centric corporate world would desperately want us to believe in reality, to believe in what we can understand based on our limited knowledge. The good news is, it doesn’t have to end this way. We can indeed think about a better future in the After Life regardless of our material positioning in this world. So, if I ask myself, how long will I live?

The answer is, our life in this world is a very short one. When we will come back to life, in the Hereafter, we will say this worldly life lasted not for more than afternoon or an evening.

Belief in Life After Death is the right solution for those 99% people who work hard every day to meet the demands of responsibility. The heavenly concept in no way discourages you to not make any material plans for this world. Quite the contrary actually. It forces you to think about time. Your time. Since you know its limited, you will now make a much better plan for this world and for the world to come. In the process, hopefully, goodness and grace will be the guiding light.

 

 

 

 

 

Jerusalem – the Eternal Capital of Believers

The blessed land of Jerusalem belongs to the One who created it. That is the Almighty God, ALLAH the most Supreme. That is what I believe. I will put up my arguments below.

Prophet Musa (AS – Peace be Upon Him) delivered Bani Israel (the family of Isarel or Jacob) from the slavery of Phiraoun. The followers of Musa AS were thrown in the wilderness for 40 long years until an entirely new generation of jews grew up to accompany Joshua and Calebe to conquer the Promised Land. Nabi Musa (AS) himself never set foot on the Promised Land. Here lies the big clue to Bani Israel’s fortunes.

Nabi Musa AS went to Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights in which time he received the Ten Commandments (or the Torah). Bani Israel during this time split into two broad groups. One held on to Faith and Belief in One God and rallied around Nabi Haroon (AS), Nabi Musa’s brother. While the other group rallied around a golden calf. Nabi Haroon AS represented Belief, while the golden calf represented the Duniya (the material world). The Duniya is Satan’s weapon to lure Believers away from the slavery of God to the slavery of their desires, lusts and ambitions.

Lets see whats written in the OT, Detronomy 31, 16-18:

“Deuteronomy 31:16-18English Standard Version (ESV)

16 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers. Then this people will rise and whore after the foreign gods among them in the land that they are entering, and they will forsake me and break my covenant that I have made with them. 17 Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they will be devoured. And many evils and troubles will come upon them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ 18 And I will surely hide my face in that day because of all the evil that they have done, because they have turned to other gods.”

Bani Israel cant fool the Believers. A person cant be a criminal and an honest judge at the same time.  The Promised Land can only be inherited by such people who keep their covenant with God, who commit no evil on earth, who worship not foreign gods, who remain by choice the people who God loves, and not those who God has turned away from.

The only people who can inherit the Holy Land are those who keep their covenant with God, remain truthful to their religion and do not adopt any other creed in contradiction to the Unitary concept of God. What a man claims as his denomination is of the least concern. The most important criteria for the right to rule over Jerusalem should be a man’s faith in God followed by his righteous actions.

Only a true, sincere believer will call Jerusalem his home.