Know Your God
The word "Islam" is an Arabic word which means "submission to the will of God". This word comes from the same root as the Arabic word "salam", which means "peace". As such, the religion of Islam teaches that in order to achieve true peace of mind and surety of heart, one must submit to God and live according to His Divinely revealed Law. The most important truth that God revealed to mankind is that there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshipped except for Almighty God, thus all human beings should submit to Him.
A lovely song by Sami Yusuf! What can i say...
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
Saturday, 30 May 2009
Peace be upon you...
To all my brothers and sisters out there who would like to know more about Islam and the Muslim society in Japan, i recommend you to check out these websites:
[articles & info]
guide to Islam
mosques in Japan
Quran in Japanese translation
Islamic organizations in Japan
Islamic Circle of Japan
Muslim Students Association of Japan
Islamic Trust Japan
Aspiring Malaysian Rijal
Ikatan Persaudaraan Islam Jepun
Saturday, 28 March 2009
photos by Saizensen
(1) Religious concept of Japanese people in present day
As being well known, Japanese Shinto since the ancient time and Buddhism that had been transferred from India, China and Korea thousand and a few hundred years ago had been widely spread among Japanese people who had earnestly worshiped both. In the middle age, Christianity was brought by missionaries from Europe to Kyushu or West Japan, however, the Tokugawa government (17th AC - 1868) banned it in those days. Later the Meiji Government (1868 - 1912) admitted the freedom of religion and allowed Christianity to spread again.
After Japan's defeat of the World War II in 1945, the worship toward Shinto which had been the spiritual pillar of the nation was rapidly declined. Buddhism also isolated from the real world because its doctrine was too deep and difficult. It used to emphasize only formal or ideological sermons such as funeral, ancestor service, Bon, equinoctial week, etc.
Under these circumstances and the age of spiritual vacuum, many new waves of religion erupted to preach doctrines which people can easily understand, are attached with daily life, and fill the vacuum of their mind. One of them got so much popular and is rapidly expanding to enter into the field of political renovation movements through its religious activities.
What happened with Islam which is the topic of this paper? Generally speaking, most of Japanese have been indifferent, ignorant, or not interested in Islam. Going back to history, some pioneers have broken ground of Islam in the middle of the Meiji period, i.e. about 90 years ago. However, since their preaching power was week only a limited number of people worshiped.
After the outbreak of the China-Japan incident and the Greater East Asia War, it was discovered that a few hundreds of million Muslims resided in many areas of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, which aroused the interest in Islam by some scholars. As a result, some people converted to Islam and a number of Islamic books which had never seen before started appearing on store selves. Nevertheless, the light of Islam had been put off due to the defeat in the war which caused shortage in food, clothe, or accommodation and made people occupied only with daily necessities and worldly matters.
Since 1955, missionaries of Tabliq from Pakistan started visiting Japan every year to preach Islam all over Japan. At the end of 1973, the first Oil Shock erupted and threatened the daily life of people. They realized that the oil which is indispensable for our daily life was produced by Islamic nations in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia. Then people suddenly showed the strong interest in Islam.
Taking advantage of this golden opportunity, Dr. Saleh Samarrai who had studied in Japan since 1960, came back to Japan to establish the present Islamic Center, Japan and initiated the systematic Islamic Dawah activities. This was an innovative incident in the history of Islam in Japan. It is no exaggeration to say that this became the driving force for various movements which made the Japanese Islamic circle recognized among Japanese people. Of course, the read ahead is much far, there are still many commitments which the Islamic Center, Japan has to fulfill.
(2) How do Japanese people consider Islam?
How do Japanese people accept and recognize Islam, a foreign religion, which has been comparatively recently introduced to Japan? It is sad to say that until recently, 90% of Japanese people used to misunderstand that Islam, a barbaric, aggressive and inferior religion, came from barren deserts of Arabia. First of all, polygamy, prohibiting alcohol, pork and so on. Also once a year, they have to fast for one month. Preconceived ideas that Islam is extremely strict in commandments or rules, clag into brains of Japanese people. This stereo type preoccupied people's minds.
Especially, the polygamy which has been repeatedly used as a means of attack for the anti-Islamic propaganda, is often taken as ithyphallic as if Islam allows or promotes polygamy. In fact, this needs the clear explanation and remarks, which I will describe in another section and skip here.
Above all, briefly saying, Islam may generally give an impression that its commandments are strict with the complicated rules and rituals. Therefore, most of people shrink back at its entrance, back away from it or avoid it. It is so-call disliking without trying. It would be equal to the proverb that "wait for a hundred years until Yellow River gets clean" (the river is always dirty not to get clean for ever).
These misunderstanding or falsification were somehow brought back by those students who had been dispatched to learn the advanced culture of Western nations , later had accepted Christianity, and had been brainwashed ideologically. Even after they returned to Japan after their study, they were misguided by Christians to believe that Islam was a barbaric or vulgar religion. In fact these brilliant elites wrote many textbooks and books to be spread widely.
This is the reality of the prejudice carried since the beginning of the Meiji Era to the present time in Japan. It was been the general tendency apart from a few exceptions.
The second reason for prejudice is that most of nations in Middle East, Asia and Africa had been colonized by the Western Powers and subordinated under their control. The majority of them left themselves to the exploitation of the Western nations or were not fully independent. Therefore, other nations jumped into conclusion that the religion, that was worshiped (修正: practiced) by those underdeveloped people who were culturally or economically inferior, must be an uncivilized and vulgar religion. They despised and fooled Islam from the beginning. In other words, They concluded that since the Christian civilization is superior to the Islamic civilization the former religion was also much superior to the latter religion.
It is one of the major reasons that they could not spiritually afford to contemplate about Islam calmly or deeply. This unfavorable trend has been corrected along with the change and progress of the objective time and the aspersion or slander has been dwarfed, however, it would take still a long time for people except a few number of believers to respect it as one of the three major religions in the world.
Briefly saying, in the sage of Heise started from 1989, while there are not many people as those who used to look down on Islam immediately after they heard about Islam in those days of Meiji, Taisho, and Showa (1868 ~ 1989), there are not many people in total who proactively embrace Islam. Since it would need a certain amount of pages to explain, I will do in another occasion. While scholars or researchers are increasing, it seems that, they may hesitate to enter Islam due to the feeling of distance in order to follow and adjust to the way of Islam as a perfect Muslim.
(3) What is Islam?
Islam is generally translated into 'peace' or 'chastity', however, they are not enough to explain. In summary, it is based on the teaching to surrender to Allah, the only one God, obey Him and pray for peace. In rather hard saying, it teaches us the righteous way in the world and ethics of human life from every direction and field. While it may be obsolete to say, aside some part, it is strangely very much similar to the Imperial Rescripts on Education that people, irrespective of age or sex, used to recite before the end of the war. You, readers, may try to read and compare both for proof.
Leaving the profound and ultra-hyper doctrines such as difficult Islamic theologies or philosophies to specialists, scholars, or researchers, the revelation of the Qur'an, the Holy Book of Islam, teaches us how human beings should behave or the way of daily life, the guideline or direction and also the practical code of life which fits to the reality. It also shows how a society as well as individuals should deal with others, how to negotiate. These teachings of daily life by the religion that was initiated 1400 years ago, still goes for the modern times in which super advanced science and technology are being developed day and night, without any contradiction. Furthermore, the population of Muslims is increasing all over the world, which gives the clear evidence.
(4) What is anti-Islam? Or misunderstanding of Islam
In comparison with other religions like Christianity or Buddhism, there are many differences in Islam. The most distinctive character is that it does not worship Buddha or the cross. In short, Islam is not idol worshiping like other religions.
Then, what does Islam worship? In one word, we worship only Allah, who is only one and has been omnipresent in every space from the beginning of the world creation, whom we cannot see by our eyes (it is called Gaybu in Islam ) , and who is omnipotent, and we also follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, a messenger of God, and believe him as a prophet of God. On the contrary, it is against the teaching of Islam to worship someone or something but Allah.
As I mentioned above, unscrupulous people of Christian countries in the West, intentionally spread negative and distorted images of Islam which are far away from the true picture of Islam. Recently, many people realized its mistake by themselves, or were taught by others, however, a certain number of people still stubbornly despise or looked down Islam.
These people often mention the polygamy which I quoted in (2). They misunderstand in extreme cases that Islam officially admits it or rather promotes.
What about the fact? Some of learned people realized and corrected their mistake, however, they could have understood the reason if they studied the truth in the course of the history. When the teaching of Islam was enlightened to the Arab world, they often used to fight with pagans or different ethnic groups. They had rarely experienced peaceful times and suffered from wartime conditions. Therefore, many of men went to battlefields and also many of them died there. Their wives were left widows, suffered from earning bread and became badly off. When women lost their fiancé, only the way to save them was the protection by marriage because there were not social welfare systems or facilities as we see in present days. Islam puts the strict conditions that only the husband who can treat his wives equally without discrimination, physically and financially love, and take care of them are allowed. Therefore, ordinary people except riches or royal families did not have much to do with polygamy. In the present Islamic world, there are not many husbands who have plural wives. On the other hand, in the first stage of Islam, the polygamy was the effective and necessary means for people to increase the population as many as possible, as we did in Japan during the wartime with the slogan, "bring forth and increase".
What about in non-Islamic countries? Though they may keep monogamy on the surface, they give silent approval to keeping a mistress or a second wife. Japan is also not an exception. In this sense, Islamic countries are more fair and forward-looking.
All the misunderstandings have been carried by the people who were brainwashed by Western Christian countries during the Meiji Era. Once you understand the cause of the misunderstanding, it will melt way and ordinary people will understand clearly.
Also regarding Ramadan, it is not forced to anybody. Sick persons, travelers, pregnant women or children are exempt from fasting. They will resume once they clear their problems and fit themselves to fasting, for example, after travel or delivery, recovery from sickness. Islam does not force everybody to keep fasting.
Islam has flexible approach toward all aspects of life as well as fasting. The teaching is very flexible and comprehensive. Once you know Islam, you will easily understand its characters.
(5) Thoughts of ordinary Japanese and similarity with Islam
Japanese people called themselves as a clean nation and were proud of it from ancient times. Since we had abundant clean water in mountains and rivers and we have four seasons every year with genial climate, Japanese people naturally became the clean nation.
On other hand, most of Islamic countries are in barren deserts where trees do not grow or water is scant. Since their landscape is desolate, they always wash their body or keep clean themselves before prayer or after discharging urine or defecating. If water is not available, they may use clean sand. It has some sort of similarity with the ablution that Japanese people often clean their mouth and hands before entering and praying inside a Shinto shrine.
b. Honor and Faith
It is also the same with Muslims. It is strictly prohibited in the Qur'an to break a promise. It is to be expected to carry out in any case once you promise. This is the teaching of Islam that is also common with Japanese.
We are also similar in respecting manners. Japanese people emphasize courtesy and principle. If someone does not follow, others will not care him.
How about Islam? The revealed Holy Qur'an teaches the guideline and principle of Muslim's daily life which are given in details, for example, how to visit friends, how to walk on the road, etc. If you enter into a room or climb stairs, you have to send elders forward. Start from the right sleeve and then the left sleeve when you put on the cloth, or start from the right foot when you stand up to walk, since it is considered that the right hand is clean and the left hand is unclean.
d. Salvation and charity
While Japanese people used to consider from the ancient time that it was a virtue to help and give charity to poor, weak, or underprivileged people, Muslims are more positive and practical.
Why are they so? Many verses of the Qur'an emphasize the spirit of mercy and salvation, and positively promote its practice.
One of the five pillars of Islam which are the basic duties of Muslim, is zakat, charity. It is quite clear from the fact that Zakat is indispensable in Islam.
The Japanese race has been brave since the ancient time. People stopped saying something brave or gallant on the face, because it may cause unnecessary misunderstanding or dispute since the wartime militarism had been thoroughly removed and eliminated on the declaration of the Peace Constitution after the World War Second.
Nevertheless, I have to state that the true courage should not be violent, aggressive, threatening barbarism. It should be the true courage to follow justice and the golden road of the universe.
Though many Muslim nations have experienced rise and fall from ancient times, all of them followed the spirit of Islam with bravery, especially the first one hundred years in the beginning of Islam were the most paramount. That was why the great teaching of the emerging Islam had rapidly spread in the region of meniscus shape centered by Arab in a short time. If it had been done by brute courage, territorial ambition or materialistic lust, Islam would not have expanded so much that there are one billion believers as one of the three biggest religions in the world.
Similarities between both are countless, and we find so many similar aspects that I will not list in this paper.
(6) Why Japanese people should accept Islam?
a. For Japanese people who unnecessarily flow to flippancy and luxury
All material and immaterial assets were destroyed and lost when Japan lost the World War II. The damage was tremendous to the extent that the nation was on the verge of ruin at a certain stage.
However, standing up from this serious crisis of turmoil and apathy, one hundred million Japanese people worked so hard day and night as one nation that they could overcome every kind of troubles. Within 10 years after the defeat, they promoted a number of reconstruction projects and within 20 years they could reach the pre-war level. Later Japan outstripped it with astonishing speed every year and nowadays, Japan distinguished herself in the world in every field of politics, economy, culture, academic study, etc. Japan, that people though was almost disable to recover, became one of the largest powers in the world.
Therefore, the national life became very rich, which people could never image during or soon after the war. They get used to luxury, consumed goods unnecessarily without considering abuse, and they do not care the fact they put on warm cloths, take abundant and tasty foods in daily life.
People's vainglory is puffed up with the materialistic ideas that people believe they can get everything only with money and never have the thankfulness to God, the Creator of the Universe.
The people who depend on money and materials in daily life, would get confused or lost when they encounter a natural disaster or unexpected accident or incident while they feel no problem in a peaceful time or their conditions or environments are stable. It is because they have not cultivated patient, strong and sturdy mentality. As a result, they are equal to weakly children mentally and physically. Affluent materials and rich foods have negative effects to wreck the nation for both mind and body. It is somehow a bitter phenomenon.
In these situations, there is the best and most effective medicine, that is Islam. The best way is to follow and practice the Teachings and Spirit of Islam.
Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has been a barren desert since the ancient time and Islam was born and has been grown from the harsh and hard natural environment. That is why Islam teaches the very positive way of life, to encourage simple and sturdy life, face difficulties resolutely and preserve against poverty.
For example, fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam, represents its model. It is nowadays well known by nonbelievers as Ramadan of Islam. In fact, Muslim may practice it whenever he or she decides to do it for a day. They really feel the importance of food and realize the gratefulness to Allah who provide.
If you keep on training yourselves in daily life, you will be able to withstand starvation, hunger or thirst and will not feel any pain. They will not give up so easily like people who have indulged in luxurious life. They have patience, resolution not to bend their necks to difficulties. They will never complain, get exhausted nor have any negative thoughts.
From these aspects, young people, who have been brought up after the war, especially should accept the Muslim's way of life that practice the teachings of Islam based on the simple life and thrift and they should welcome and learn its teachings.
b. Friendship based on the spirit of Islam
In Japan nowadays, there are many people or organizations that promote friendship wit Asian, Arab or African countries, or start positive actions based on the slogan "Friendship with Asian, Arab and African countries". For example, they accept, take care of , or support foreign students and trainees.
Of course, there are several associations or organizations which produce some results. However, in fact, there are comparatively many of them which show just shadow play for the sake of formality.
Under these circumstances of international exchanges, though some of Japanese people may do something with good intention, they may often cause negative effects to receive a backlash from a counterpart just because of their ignorance about its custom and tradition. Even if they may understand custom, tradition, or language to some extend, we should be very careful not to conflict with the teachings and commandments of Islam to get along with Muslims.
One of the best way is to learn the way of Islam, the teaching of Allah for him or her in order to become Muslim, and contact and communicate with Muslims from Islamic countries. By doing so, you will be sincerely dedicated to establish the true friendship and mutual understanding which will be able to strike the right cord of people's hearts. This will be able to achieve the true and close friendship. It will be the true and real friendship with those countries if this is realized. People will conclude that it will be the nearest way though it looks an indirect and long way, to understand and embrace Islam in order to go along with and promote friendship with one billion of Muslims who reside in Asia, Africa and Arab nations.
The statement above had been given to me by Hajji Omar Mita, my former mentor who passed way a decade age, during his life. Mr. Omar Mita used to mention that we would be proud of ourselves that Japanese people are the most excellent nation in fame and reality, if we live based on the spirit of simple, strong, sturdy life, i.e. if we accept the spirit of Islam and apply to the real life, which would bring the strength of Samson. His words are very much rational and appropriate. In fact, he used to deplore that most of the people who have been brought up after the war, have poor-spirit with gallon head. We should fairly admit the reality.
In brief, the friendship and diplomacy should be led not only by technology, economy or culture but also spiritual communication which go deep into the bottom of hearts, i.e. we should understand what the spirit of Islam and respect it, which will be the real and best friendship.
Looking back the pre-war Japan, thought people used to consolidate into the unit under the spiritual pillar of the Emperor as the central core, based on the loyalty and patriotism, this spiritual structure was totally collapsed by the defeat of the World War II, and they started emphasizing westernization under the banners of democracy and freedom.
Many of pre-war bad habits and obstacles were removed, however, our unique Japanese traditional virtues were also demolished under the name of old-fashion. All the morals have been fallen away. As a result, many flippant and gooey Japanese who lost healthy spines increased in these days, which is a really sorry state for us.
At present, the Ministry of Health and Welfare recently announced that though the height and physics of Japanese youth apparently improved quite well, their chest size became narrower and their physical strength is getting much less than those in the pre-war period. It is an interesting data in fact. One of the specialists clearly pointed out that the major reason is that people go for delicious cuisine in daily meals and, on the contrary, they do not exercise much for training.
With in a decade, Japan would have only top-heavy, fragile people without soul as mentioned above. We already witness these signs unfortunately. What shall we do to solve the situation? There are many countermeasures to be taken. The author believe that if we understand the spirit of Islam and grasp the quintessence of Islam, we will be automatically a physically and mentally strong nation and we will be welcome by one billion Muslim spreading all over the Asia, Arab and African continents, as their true and heartfelt friends. It would be best for both worlds.
Some of historians foresee that, in the forthcoming century, the Western materialistic civilization will start decline and the age of Muslim will arrive with the renovation of a new Islamic civilization, a successor of the Saracen civilization that has been declined for hundred years.
We Japanese people should not see matters through shortsighted and narrow views. Rather we should open our eyes toward the coming new century to encourage ourselves for further development. For that sake, lets start learning what Islam is.
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
What comes to your mind when you think of a Muslim woman? A mysterious, veiled victim of male oppression, awaiting Western liberation? A slogan-shouting terrorist? An uneducated foreigner with whom you have little or nothing in common? Unless your social circle includes Muslim friends and acquaintances, the chances are that your impressions of Muslim women have largely been formed by negative media stereotypes - images that usually have little to do with real life, and may have been designed to attract more viewers, sell more products, or gain support for someone's political agenda.
How much do you really know about Muslim women's lives or views, and why does it matter? Well, for one thing, Muslims account for 20-25% of the people on this planet, and Islam has become the second main religion in Europe. But did you know that the majority of European and American converts to Islam are women - not men? Would it surprise you to learn that many women in the Muslim world feel sorry for Western women and view them as being victimised? Have you ever stopped to consider why Muslim women who immigrate to the West usually maintain their identity and strive to pass it on to their children? A thinking person may well ask, if Islam is as oppressive to women as some journalists would have us believe, why aren't Muslim women running away in droves? What it is about Islam that attracts any followers outside its heartlands?
In this brochure we aim to look beyond sensationalistic or alarmist stories to take a glimpse at what Islam has to offer educated women in today's world, and understand why so many (men and) women of every race, colour, and social class have made Islam their choice. The truth, like real life, is beyond propaganda and stereotypes.
The Islamic view of women
First of all, women are portrayed positively in the Qur'an and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). The Qur'an is the only book of world Scripture in which women are frequently referred to alongside men, and both are described as being friends and partners in faith. The following verses are just a few notable examples:
The believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they promote the right and forbid the wrong, establish prayer, pay the poor-due, and they obey God and His messenger. As for these, God will have mercy on them. Surely God is Mighty, Wise. God has promised to believers, men and women, gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein, and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of God: that is the supreme felicity. (Qur'an 9:71-72)
Surely for men who surrender to God, and women who surrender
and men who believe and women who believe;
and men who obey and women who obey;
and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth;
and men who persevere (in righteousness)
and women who persevere;
and men who are humble and women who are humble;
and men who give alms and women who give alms;
and men who fast and women who fast;
and men who guard their modesty and women who guard
(their modesty);and men who remember Allah much and women who remember - Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. (Qur'an 33:35)
There is no question in Islam of men and women being at odds with one another, engaged in some kind of historical struggle for power. Rather, the roles of both are complementary and essential. The Qur'an states:
O mankind! Be mindful of your duty to your Lord, Who created you from a single being, and from it created its mate, and from the two of them has scattered countless men and women (throughout the earth). Fear God, in Whose (Name) you demand your rights of one another, and (be mindful of your duty) towards the wombs that bore you. God is ever Watching over you. (Qur'an 4:1)
Do not long for the favours by which God has made some of you excel others. Men shall have a share of what they have earned, and women shall have a share of what they have earned. (Do not envy each other) but ask God to give you of His bounty. God has knowledge of all things. (Qur'an 4:31-32)
The Prophet Muhammad augmented the revelations he received with further teachings and his wonderful personal example, which made him beloved by family and followers alike. He forbade violence against women, and preached against all forms of abuse of power. He warned that both men and women would be held accountable by God for those in their care or under their authority, and said:
Let no Muslim man entertain any bad feeling against a Muslim woman. If he should dislike one quality in her, he will find another that is pleasing.
The best of believers are those who are best to their wives and families.
The position of women in other religions
While these teachings may not seem very remarkable today, they were revolutionary at the time they were revealed, for Arabs and non-Arabs alike. While Muslim sons were being taught that Paradise lay at their mothers' feet, women in Confucian China were told to obey their fathers, then their husbands, and finally their sons after their husbands' death. Hindu women were declared to be unfit for independence, inherently weak, easily misled, sinful and unintelligent. In Buddhism, women were said to be the personification of evil. At the time, Jews and Christians believed women to be responsible for the downfall of the human race, and considered menstruation and childbirth to be the consequences of a Divine curse. One thousand years after Muhammad, in 1586, French Catholics were still debating whether or not women possessed souls! English Christians burned millions of women alive on the mere suspicion that they were witches. Married women in Europe did not gain the right to own property, obtain a divorce or enter into their own contracts until the 19th century. Not surprisingly, women who found such teachings unreasonable rebelled against them and fought for better treatment. Whereas other women have often had to pit themselves against the authority of a male priesthood, in Islam the dynamics of social change have been quite different.
Muhammad was greatly concerned with women's rights
The Prophet Muhammad was an extremely successful social reformer as well as spiritual and political leader, who championed the rights of the weak and oppressed. The Qur'anic verses referring to women had the effect of vastly improving the status and rights of women at the time they were revealed. Muslim women were granted the right to own, inherit and dispose of their own property as they saw fit; reject forced marriages; keep their own names and identities after marriage; initiate divorce; and obtain an education - back in the 7th century. In contrast to the dismal situation affecting many women in developing countries today, early Muslim women were noted for their learning and accomplishments. The Prophet declared, 'To seek knowledge is an obligation on every Muslim, male and female,' and his own wife Aisha was responsible for transmitting thousands of his sayings to later generations. Aisha was also renowned for her knowledge of poetry, medicine, and Islamic law, as well as her personal qualities of character and intelligence. When she led a battle after the Prophet's death, no one objected on the grounds that she was a woman. Many Muslim women in the medieval period enjoyed positions of respect as scholars and religious authorities. Therefore, Muslims seeking to improve the position of women in society have usually focused their efforts on getting men (and women) to practice Islam, rather than trying to 'reform' it, as happened with other religions. The main obstacles to Muslim women achieving the rights guaranteed to them, then and now, have been persistent un-Islamic cultural traditions (usually dating to the period before people accepted Islam in a given locality), inadequate religious education, and the bad side of human nature.
Women's roles, rights and obligations
As shown in the Qur'anic verses above, women are considered to be the spiritual equals of men, and they have the same religious duties. This is all the more important when we consider that the main goal of a Muslim is to serve God, and that this world is regarded as no more than a testing-grounds to prepare oneself for eternal life after death. Therefore, worldly accomplishments, fame, wealth and power simply do not have the same attraction for a Muslim, whose main focus is on the Next World. The Qur'an repeatedly draws our attention to the fact that the time we spend in this world is short and unpredictable, and what really counts is our character, how we treat others, and what we do with the blessings God has given us. In this context, home and family are of paramount importance, since stable families are essential to the rearing of well-adjusted children who will transmit their faith and values to the next generation. According to a well-known Arab proverb, 'The mother is a school.'
Islam supports the traditional division of labour whereby women assume the main responsibility for home while men are responsible for their financial support, but with an important difference: motherhood and homemaking, like a Muslim's inner life, are not considered to be less important or rewarding than a professional career. Indeed, motherhood is one of the most important professions, and competent mothers who can successfully run a warm and welcoming home, and raise a family of happy, confident and well-disciplined children are becoming increasingly harder to find. Muslim wives and mothers are granted the respect due to all women for the struggles and sacrifices they make for the sake of their families. Furthermore, Muslims consider it unfair to burden women with both the physical and emotional demands of motherhood and the professional demands of the workplace, which end up exhausting so many women and destroying family life for the sake of economic gain. Muslims often express sympathy for women in the West, who often suffer from sexual exploitation and abuse at home and in the workplace, while being unappreciated in their traditional roles. Western women who seek to be respected must often dress and behave like men, and are expected in practise to neglect their children's needs for the sake of their careers. In Islam, femininity is appreciated, and Muslim women may seek a higher education, work outside the home or volunteer their services to benefit the community as long as their primary responsibilities are taken care of. Any money that a Muslim woman earns is her own, to spend as she likes; men remain solely responsible for maintaining the family.
Although Muslim parents traditionally play an important role in arranging introductions and helping to choose marriage partners for their children, both husband and wife must freely agree to the marriage. The Prophet granted girls who had been forced into marriages against their will the right to have their marriages annulled.
The relationship between husband and wife in Islam is an interdependent one, based on love and tranquillity. The Qur'an says,
And of His signs is this: He created spouses for you from among yourselves that you might find comfort in them, and He put between you love and mercy. Surely there are signs in that for people who reflect. (Qur'an 30:21)
Both parents should strive to establish a stable, loving home and partnership. Major family decision-making should be through consultation and discussion. As the provider, the husband is expected to take the lead, as he is accountable to God for his care of the family. If no agreement can be reached, the wife should be supportive as long as her husband does not ask her to do anything that contravenes religious law. This works well as long as each spouse behaves maturely and treats the other with respect, kindness and consideration.
Codes of behaviour for women and men
In order to safeguard the moral integrity of family and society, Muslim men and women are expected to observe certain guidelines of behaviour that Westerners may find restrictive. Both sexes are expected to dress modestly in loose, non-transparent clothing and avoid situations that would put them alone with members of the opposite sex, or lead to temptation or misunderstandings. Muslim women additionally cover their hair, since women are ordinarily considered to be the more attractive of the sexes. These restrictions are not observed at home among close family members, but serve to protect women's honour in public and draw attention to their personal qualities rather than their looks. In Islam, the sexual urge is considered to be natural and desirable as long as it is confined to expression within marriage. However, Muslims are saddened by the rise in the vulgar exploitation of women and the human body for marketing purposes and pornography, which inevitably result in a cheapening of sexuality and the undermining of family and spiritual life.
Islam's appeal to today's woman
For women who enjoy being women and appreciate the differences (as well as the common ground) between the sexes, who would prefer to be respected for their intelligence and character rather than being chased after for their looks, and who would like to pursue personal and spiritual fulfilment at a human pace without having to neglect their families, Islam is a very appealing alternative.
A few words about polygamy…
Many people are aware that Muslim men are permitted to marry more than one wife. What is not generally known is that strict conditions of equal treatment in terms of time and money are imposed on men who do, or that women may stipulate in their marriage contracts that they have the right to divorce if their husbands take another wife. In reality, monogamy is the norm and polygamy the exception; it has never been common among Muslims except in areas where it was already practised, and it is seldom successful unless the first wife agrees. Islam did not introduce polygamy; in reality, some form of polygamy - whether with legal marriages, mistresses, prostitution or extra-marital affairs - occurs in every society. Rather, it allowed and regulated it in order to protect the women and children who might otherwise be taken advantage of. In certain cases, such as when the first wife is chronically (or mentally) ill or unable to bear children; when there are many widows and orphans due to war; or when a marriage has effectively broken down but the wife would prefer to remain married; open and legalised polygamy can be a workable second-best solution.
The Prophet Muhammad was married to his first wife, Khadijah, for 25 years, and he did not take other wives until after her death. His marriages to several widows and divorcees in later years were primarily contracted for political and humanitarian reasons, as was expected of a man in his position. His home life was characterised by love, consideration, kindness and respect.
Sunday, 4 January 2009
"Let me explain the problem science has with God.", The atheist professor of philosophy pauses before his class and then asks one of his new students to stand.
Professor: "You're a Muslim, aren't you, son?"
Student: "Yes, sir"
Professor: "So you believe in God?"
Professor: "Is God good?"
Student: "Sure! God's good"
Professor: "Is God all-powerful? Can God do anything?"
The professor grins knowingly and considers for a moment. "Here's one for you. Let's say there's a sick person over here and you can cure him. You can do it. Would you help them? Would you try?"
Student: "Yes sir, I would"
Professor: "So you're good...!"
Student: "I wouldn't say that"
Professor: "Why not say that? You would help a sick and maimed person if you could in fact most of us would if we could... God doesn't"
"He doesn't, does he? My brother was a Muslim who died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. How is this God good? Hmmm? Can you answer that one?"
The elderly man is sympathetic. "No, you can't, can you?" He takes a sip of water from a glass on his desk to give the student time to relax. "In philosophy, you have to go easy with the new ones"
"Let's start again, young fella"
Professor: "Is God good?"
Student: "Er... Yes"
Professor: "Is Satan good?"
Professor: "Where does Satan come from?"
Student: "The student falters. From... God..."
Professor: "That's right. God made Satan, didn't He?"The elderly man runs his bony fingers through his thinning hair and turns to the smirking, student audience. "I think we're going to have a lot of fun this semester, ladies and gentlemen". He turns back to the Muslim.
"Tell me, son. Is there evil in this world?"
Student: "Yes, sir"
Professor: "Evil's everywhere, isn't it? Did God make everything?"
Professor: "Who created evil?"
Professor: "Is there sickness in this world? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All the terrible things - do they exist in this world?"
The student squirms on his feet.
Professor: "Who created them?"
The professor suddenly shouts at his student. "WHO CREATED THEM? TELL ME, PLEASE!"
The professor closes in for the kill and climbs into the Muslim's face. In a still small voice: "God created all evil, didn't He, son?"
The student tries to hold the steady, experienced gaze and fails. Suddenly the lecturer breaks away to pace the front of the classroom like an aging panther. The class is mesmerized. "Tell me, he continues, How is it that this God is good if He created all evil throughout all time? The professor swishes his arms around to encompass the wickedness of the world. All the hatred, the brutality, all the pain, all the torture, all the death and ugliness and all the suffering created by this good God is all over the world, isn't it, young man?"
"Don't you see it all over the place? Huh?" Pause. "Don't you?" The professor leans into the student's face again and whispers, "Is God good?"
"Do you believe in God, son?"
The student's voice betrays him and cracks. "Yes, professor. I do"
The old man shakes his head sadly. "Science says you have five senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. You have never seen God, Have you?"
Student: "No, sir. I've never seen Him"
Professor: "Then tell us if you've ever heard your God?
Student: "No, sir. I have not"
Professor: "Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God or smelt your God...in fact, do you have any sensory perception of your God whatsoever?"
Professor: "Answer me, please"
Student: "No, sir, I'm afraid I haven't"
Professor: "You're AFRAID... you haven't?"
Student: "No, sir"
Professor: "Yet you still believe in him?"
Professor: "That takes FAITH!"
The professor smiles sagely at the underling. "According to the rules of empirical, testable,
demonstrable protocol, science says your God doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?
Where is your God now?"
The student doesn't answer
"Sit down, please"
The Muslim sits...Defeated.
Another Muslim raises his hand. "Professor, may I address the class?"
The professor turns and smiles. "Ah, another Muslim in the vanguard! Come, come, young man. Speak some proper wisdom to the gathering"
The Muslim looks around the room. "Some interesting points you are making, sir. Now I've got a question for you. Is there such thing as heat?"
Professor: Yes, the professor replies. There's heat.
Student: "Is there such a thing as cold?"
Professor: "Yes, son, there's cold too."
Student: "No, sir, there isn't"
Professor: The professor's grin freezes. The room suddenly goes very cold.
The student continues. You can have lots of heat, even more heat, super-heat, mega-heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat but we don't have anything called 'cold'. We can hit 458 degrees below zero, which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold, otherwise we would be able to go colder than 458, You see, sir, cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat we can measure in thermal units because heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it"
Silence. A pin drops somewhere in the classroom.
Student: "Is there such a thing as darkness, professor?"
Professor: "That's a dumb question, son. What is night if it isn't darkness? What are you getting at...?"
Student: "So you say there is such a thing as darkness?"
Student: "You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is not something, it is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light but if you have no light constantly you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? That's the meaning we use to define the word. In reality, Darkness isn't. If it were, you would be able to make darkness darker and give me a jar of it. Can you... give me a jar of darker darkness, professor?
Despite himself, the professor smiles at the young effrontery before him.
"This will indeed be a good semester. Would you mind telling us what your point is, young man?"
Student: "Yes, professor. My point is, your philosophical premise is flawed to start with and so your conclusion must be in error...."
The professor goes toxic. "Flawed...? How dare you...!
Student: "Sir, may I explain what I mean?"
The class is all ears.
Professor: "Explain... oh, explain..."
The professor makes an admirable effort to regain control. Suddenly he is affability itself. He waves his hand to silence the class, for the student to continue.
"You are working on the premise of duality", the Muslim explains. "That for example there is life and then there's death; a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science cannot even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism but has never seen, much less fully understood them. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life, merely the absence of it"
The young man holds up a newspaper he takes from the desk of a neighbor who has been reading it. "Here is one of the most disgusting tabloids this country hosts, professor, Is there such a thing as immorality?"
Professor: "Of course there is, now look..."
Student: "Wrong again, sir. You see, immorality is merely the absence of morality. Is there such thing as injustice? No. Injustice is the absence of justice. Is there such a thing as evil?" The Muslim pauses. "Isn't evil the absence of good?"
The professor's face has turned an alarming color. He is so angry he is temporarily speechless. The Muslim continues.
"If there is evil in the world, professor, and we all agree there is, then God, if he exists, must be accomplishing a work through the agency of evil. What is that work, God is accomplishing? Islam tells us it is to see if each one of us will, choose good over evil"
The professor bridles. "As a philosophical scientist, I don't vie this matter as having anything to do with any choice; as a realist, I absolutely do not recognize the concept of God or any other theological factor as being part of the world equation because God is not observable"
"I would have thought that the absence of God's moral code in this world is probably one of the most observable phenomena going", the Muslim replies. "Newspapers make billions of dollars reporting it every week! Tell me, professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?"
Professor: "If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, young man, yes, of course I do."
Student: "Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?"
The professor makes a sucking sound with his teeth and gives his student a silent, stony stare.
Student: "Professor, Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you now not a scientist, but a priest?
Professor: "I will overlook your impudence in the light of our philosophical discussion. Now, have you quite finished?" the professor hisses.
Student: "So you don't accept God's moral code to do what is righteous?"
Professor: "I believe in what is - that's science!"
Student: "Ahh! SCIENCE!", the student's face splits into a grin, "Sir, you rightly state that science is the study of observed phenomena. Science too is a premise which is flawed..."
SCIENCE IS FLAWED..? the professor splutters.
The class is in uproar. The Muslim remains standing until the commotion has subsided.
Student: "To continue the point you were making earlier to the other student, may I give you an example of what I mean?"
The professor wisely keeps silent. The Muslim looks around the room.
"Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen air, oxygen, molecules, atoms, the professor's brain?"
The class breaks out in laughter. The Muslim points towards his elderly crumbling tutor, "Is there anyone here who has ever heard the professor's brain... felt the professor's brain, touched or smelt the professor's brain?"
"No one appears to have done so", The Muslim shakes his head sadly. "It appears no one here has had any sensory perception of the professor's brain whatsoever. Well, according to the rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science, I declare that the professor has no brain!"
The Muslim sits...Because that's what a chair is for!!!