Tag Archives: Islam21C

Islam Q&A – Riba-Based Student Loans

Assalaamu Alaykum,

It seems strange that this fatwah even has to be posted, but due to the fitnah in the west, and specifically in the UK in regards to the official government run student loan schemes and whether they are permissible or not, I am glad somebody as reputable as Sheikh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajjid and Islam Q&A have been able to address this issue.

This is not to denigrate Sheikh Hatham al Haddad, his followers on Islam21C or anyone else who holds the opposite viewpoint. I said before others are being unfair and unjust towards him and overly harsh in their refutations of his errant opinions but when someone makes a mistake, it is important the truth of the matter is clarified.

Assalaamu Alaykum,

Gingerbeardman

Link back to original fatwah on Islam Q&A https://islamqa.info/en/249369

Original Question:

I have a question regarding interest. Firstly I would like to make it known that all my family is Muslim and we currently reside in Western Europe. I currently am a first year University student , in my country there is something called the Maintenance loan , which is a loan that can be taken not for the sake of the tuition fees of the university but to support a student in general while studying. This loan is entirely based on interest and ican be very desirable as it has very low interest rates and must also not be paid back till one finds themselves in a stable job hence maybe 10+years. I myself glory be to Allah have no need to take this loan as I am financially stable and have grants from the university itself. However my father has told me that I should take the full amount of this loan as it has very low interest rates. I have told him I do not need this money however he wants it for his personal gain and business endeavours. I know the great risk of interest and that it is very harmful. My question is what should I do in this scenario, would sin fall onto me?

Praise be to Allah

It is not permissible for you to take this loan, no matter how low the interest rate, because Allah has forbidden contracts that involve riba, whether the riba is great or small, even if it is only one dirham, and He has warned the one who consumes it and the one who pays it of punishment, wrath and curses. So beware lest you be one of them.

“Those who eat Ribâ (usury) will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaitân (Satan) leading him to insanity. That is because they say: “Trading is only like Ribâ (usury),” whereas Allâh has permitted trading and forbidden Ribâ (usury). So whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and stops eating Ribâ (usury) shall not be punished for the past; his case is for Allâh (to judge); but whoever returns [to Ribâ (usury)], such are the dwellers of the Fire – they will abide therein.

Allâh will destroy Ribâ (usury) and will give increase for Sadaqât (deeds of charity, alms, etc.) And Allâh likes not the disbelievers, sinners.

Truly those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and give Zakât, they will have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

O you who believe! Fear Allâh and give up what remains (due to you) from Ribâ (usury) (from now onward), if you are (really) believers.

And if you do not do it, then take a notice of war from Allâh and His Messenger but if you repent, you shall have your capital sums. Deal not unjustly (by asking more than your capital sums), and you shall not be dealt with unjustly (by receiving less than your capital sums).

And if the debtor is in a hard time (has no money), then grant him time till it is easy for him to repay, but if you remit it by way of charity, that is better for you if you did but know.

And fear the Day when you shall be brought back to Allâh. Then every person shall be paid what he earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly”

[al-Baqarah 2:275-281].

The Prophet of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) cursed the one who consumes riba and the one who pays it. Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5962).

It is not permissible for you to obey your father in that, because the rights of Allah and obedience to Him take precedence over the rights of the father and obedience to him. The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “There is no obedience if it involves disobedience towards Allah; obedience is only in that which is right and proper.” Narrated by Muslim (1840).

For more information, please see the answers to questions no. 181723 and 96613.

And Allah knows best.

Islam Q&A

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UNISEX TOILETS IN SCHOOLS – THE NEW LGBT BATTLEGROUND?

unisex toilet1-01

The humble toilet; a place of privacy, a place of personal grooming, and a place to relieve yourself. Well, not for many schools inspired by the LGBT movement. A number of schools that have undergone new build programmes or are planning to do so in the future are taking the opportunity to remove their segregated male and female toilets and replace them with ‘unisex toilets’. The usual form of these toilets is not literally a communal bathroom shared by both sexes – that would be too outrageous for the majority of parents. The usual form is a communal wash-basin area which is not an enclosed room and is largely visible to the main corridor of the school. The toilet cubicles themselves are fully enclosed from the ceiling to the floor but can be used by either gender.

The reasons for this change are often couched by schools in terms of cost savings exercises and improvements to behaviour. Of course the floor space needed for a ‘unisex toilet’ is considerably lower than the floor space required for two separate, enclosed toilets. It is claimed that having a wash-basin area visible to the corridor will reduce incidents of bullying and vandalism by virtue of staff walking past in the corridors. It is also claimed that forcing girls to share facilities with the generally more rowdy and messy boys will encourage boys to be cleaner and better behaved. But one of the main drivers, if not the main driver, is the relentless onslaught of the LGBT movement in schools to impose their outlook on sexuality on the rest of the community. They consider that having segregated toilets clearly demarked as male or female creates anxiety for transgender students who do not want to be assigned to the sex they were born as. The LGBT movement is not even prepared to tolerate separate male, female, and ‘unisex toilets’ for the fear that embarrassment will be caused to transgender students who are seen walking into the ‘unisex toilets’.

The argument that ‘unisex toilets’ improve behaviour in schools is a very lazy one. Putting boys next to girls does not automatically improve their behaviour and cleanliness. All it does is lead girls to feel more vulnerable and intimidated. If schools have a problem with vandalism or bullying in segregated toilets it is their responsibility to deal with it as it is their responsibility to deal with it in any part of the school through an effective behaviour policy supported by sanctions and rewards. CCTV cameras can be positioned to monitor behaviour around the wash basin areas of segregated toilets and regular cleaning of toilets should occur throughout the day where cleaners can report problems and CCTV images can be checked for culprits of vandalism. If schools have an effective anti-bullying policy all students will know who to talk to if they are targeted in an enclosed segregated toilet. The idea that having a unisex wash basin area open to the corridor that can be effectively supervised by staff casually walking pass from time to time and peering over is naïve.

The reality is that little thought has been given to the well-being of children when considering this proposal. The founder of Childline, Esther Rantzen, described the proposals as a ‘recipe for disaster’ and stated unequivocally, ‘Unisex toilets in schools should be avoided at all costs’.[1] Children in secondary schools in particular are often extremely self-conscious over the changes their bodies are going through during puberty. Menstruating girls in particular need their privacy and the last thing they need is to feel fear and anxiety in heading towards a shared facility. Consider an 11 year old girl having to negotiate her way past a group of strapping 16 year old lads in full swing with their bad language and banter. Imagine the humiliation she would feel if she needs to deal with some facial blemish like acne or readjust her blouse at the mixed wash basin. Now consider an 11 year old boy dying to relieve himself and finding a group of cackling 16 year old girls applying make-up and resenting his presence. In both cases there are likely to be large numbers of boys and particularly girls who refuse to use the shared facility and would rather wait until they reach home. This will be extremely unhealthy for them, as well as leading to lack of concentration in class and greatly reduced participation in after school activities. We have not even begun to discuss how ‘unisex toilets’ completely ignore the need of Muslim women to wash before the prayer and remove their covering. They will now be faced with the intolerable choice of exposing themselves to the opposite gender in clear contradiction with their faith or, worse still, abandoning the prayer, again in clear contradiction with their faith. The problems it creates are numerous and the only perceived benefit is that the extremely rare case of a student who is struggling to come to terms with their sex or gender will no longer have to feel the slight unease before walking into a segregated toilet.

The segregated toilet is one of the last places in our society where the natural desire for certain types of separation of men and women is still tolerated. It allows men and women to relieve themselves in comfort without the embarrassment of having to share a facility with the opposite sex. At the heart of this proposal is a strong desire by the LGBT movement to blur the lines between the sexes and remove any sense of mysticism which exists about the opposite sex. They want to blur the distinction between sex and gender, and transform sex into a spectrum rather than its binary division and what better place to start than the young, impressionable minds of our children?

It is the responsibility of every parent to take an active interest in the conduct of their school and vehemently oppose unisex toilets. Parents should join forces with other parents and raise their objections directly with the Headteacher. This is an issue which pans across different groups in society: men and women who want to preserve their dignity; different religious groups with a faith or value-based objection; people who see these proposals as morally objectionable and an attack on the social fabric of society; or just people who feel that some in the LGBT movement are imposing their views on sexuality in an aggressive, uncompromising manner.

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/unisex-toilets-in-schools-should-be-avoided-at-all-costs-9206081.html

DISCLAIMER: All material found on Islam21c.com is for free and is for information purposes only. All material may be freely copied & shared on condition that it is clearly attributed to Islam21c.com [hyperlinked] as the original source. The views expressed on this site or on any linked sites do not necessarily represent those of Islam21c.com

MANAGING THE WORK-LIFE-DEATH BALANCE

WORK LIFE DEATH BALANCE

 

The purpose of this article is not to offer any clear-cut instruction; rather, the aim is merely to provoke the reader into contemplating the various issues being discussed.

In the western world we often lament our lack of time. We often observe people who exist within our stratosphere that appear incredibly busy and we look at ourselves in self-depreciating disgust.

I have a few questions related to this image;

  • Does effort and toil necessarily equate to productivity?
  • Is an overwhelmingly demanding schedule the right approach for you?

I will start by offering an example from my own experience of the corporate world. There are colleagues who will put me to shame in their work ethic. Some take on an incredible amount of responsibility and are thus pulled from every sector of the working environment to offer their insights and guidance. Others are limited, or limit themselves to a small working area that they invest a heavy amount of time in.

Often we gravitate towards the former. The celebrity employee – always included in every email message, always in demand to attend any significant meeting and affecting everything and nothing at the same time. The demands on this person’s time, from every angle, can very easily lead to someone who can influence many factions infinitesimally but generally will struggle to achieve anything of significance.

Compare this to the worker who mines a solid hole through a stack of projects. His influence is limited to that particular area but that person’s achievement has the potential to echo throughout the business. An argument can be made that the former is required to tie the work of the latter and this is true. But only one can exist without the other and it is not the celebrity.

Similarly I look towards those brothers and sisters who appear fantastically productive in Islamic activity. They involve themselves in anything that seems productive for their ākhira and sacrifice attaining any form of a professional life in so-called ‘secular sciences’. Dedicating themselves to acquiring knowledge and supporting the dawah. These pantheons of society are examples to the rest of us as we aim to emulate them. For me, when I interact with such a person I find myself hating my pathetic limitations and weak drive. I vaguely ponder over the circumstances that will lead me to be as active.

I am reminded in this scenario of the “Professional Muslim.” This is a person who has the opportunity to be employed in a role that is directly related to the Hereafter. Is it indeed better to work to worship? For example, the employment in an Islamic organisation and the consequent ability to worship Allāh through your work creates the “perfect” scenario. I can see that for those with a thought to their Hereafter, this presents a potentially ideal situation and for those in that situation they are potentially at an advantage.

But, before we lament our loss at the lack of job opportunities in the Islamic Sector (does this even exist?) perhaps we should take a moment to think about that first question again. Does effort and toil lead directly to productivity? Productivity, in this case, being results in the Hereafter. I invite you to think about whether our īmān is capable of maintaining the correct sincerity or Ikhlās balance that we need for such employment. Are you able to demand the comfort of that higher pay rise for example? This is not to say that Islamic organisations should not pay you enough but do you, for example, already earn enough? Are you now carrying out your work because it is your job or because you want to please Allāh? These and other similar complications are perhaps more straight-forward in a job that is not directly associated with an Islamic Organisation. When you volunteer your time it is maybe easier to resolve your sincerity within your own mind when financial compensation is not involved. This is not to say that one is easier than the other. Rather, different people will thrive or struggle in different situations.

This vague example that involves “maybes” and “potentials” directly links to our pursuit of the correct work, life and death balance. There have been many articles written warning readers to strike the correct existential balance where we do not put work above our personal life and unintentionally sacrifice both in pursuit of one. As Muslims we should perhaps temper these studies with our knowledge of what is required of us to hit our over-arching target in this life: the pleasure of Allāh in pursuit of admittance to Jannah.

Is effectiveness perhaps what we should strive for? By effectiveness, I refer to continuity as opposed to achievement. I give you the example of ʿAbdullāh b. ʿUmar (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu). It is reported that he spent 14 years memorising Sūrah al-Baqarah. With that in mind, and with our knowledge that the person to lead the Salah is the person who has the most knowledge of the Qur’ān, if we were to hypothetically exist during his memorisation period, would our ḥufāth of today be comfortable leading the Salah ahead of Ibn ʿUmar? I would hazard a guess that they would not. So, is it the appearance of achievement that is our aim? Or is it the continuity of pursuit that we aim for? Allāh will not judge us on results. If so, then we, as a Muslim Ummah, will perish miserably on the last day. Allāh is Al-Ḥakīm. Thus, we will be judged on our efforts and sincerity not on our achievements. Perhaps to judge ourselves, private continuity of effort is the most telling sign. How consistently do we pray those two prostrations of night prayer without a soul being aware? How do we set up our learning and knowledge-seeking processes so that they will continue well into the future.

I give you the example of the Muslim youth scene. We are blessed with a variety of options for the knowledge seeker in the UK. Structured weekend learning programmes are available every week, online courses are also widely available, many of which are free. Alḥamdulillāh many of our youth whole-heartedly engage in these activities. But, what happens when our youth grow older? Time constraints are an inevitable aspect of growing older and, as such, we find we suddenly cannot fulfil our desire to engage in these activities. No longer can we travel around the country; no longer can we perhaps neglect our university studies for a short period of time to commit to organising an event. What then? Do we simply reduce our activities to accommodate our increased time constraints? Some may say that this is where the benefits and fruits of working in the Islamic sector can be seen. But my counter-argument is that the Islamic sector is nit weak. Knowledge and access to knowledge is a thriving “industry,” and I mean industry in a pure form. There are now countless institutes for learning and countless aid organisations. Our Ummah is most definitely in its ascendency, albeit it seems slowly. However, can a successful Ummah be built upon a population of scholars? The Prophet’s (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) Saḥāba were nothing less than scholars and they were the most successful of nations. The Saḥāba are more than 100,000, the ones recorded are numbered at around 5000, of those we only have detailed life stories of a handful. Guess which ones we have detailed life stories of? The best ones: the scholars. No doubt that these are the catalysts. But also no doubt that Allāh facilitated that the likes of ʿAbdul Raḥmān b. Awf would donate 2000 awqiyah of gold towards the war effort in Tabūk. As such, we have catalysts and we have facilitators, each as important as the other and neither of them mutually exclusive.

What is wrong in being successful in your professional ‘secular’ field? What is wrong with being able to open doors and give advice to your Muslim brothers? How amazing it is, when you see someone of responsibility and power in the corporate world, someone who is in demand all over the industry and professionally impeccable, practicing his religion to the best of his ability. What doors can this person open for the Ummah? Is it not significant for someone to open a business that turns into a conglomerate that provides a livelihood for Muslim brothers and sisters and pays a multi-billion pound zakāh every year? Imagine the ramifications, politically and economically, if there were several of these conglomerates that we could be proud of as Muslims? Imagine the impact on Dawah when many industries are questioned about ethics but this company has employees who will refuse to work for the company if they are not ethically compliant? Imagine the reward for the owner of such a business to create prayer facilities for all his employees where Salāh becomes the means by which profitability is sought.

This article opens a discussion more than any conclusive argument but, as was mentioned at the beginning of this article, the aim is to provoke thought. Where we expend our efforts and how we seek our wealth are questions that we all ponder from time to time on an individual basis but, perhaps, we should adopt a society-focused mentality wherein we look for what the Ummah needs and try to match our skill-set within that.

Just imagine….

Source: www.islam21c.com

DISCLAIMER: All material found on Islam21c.com is for free and is for information purposes only. All material may be freely copied & shared on condition that it is clearly attributed to Islam21c.com [hyperlinked] as the original source. The views expressed on this site or on any linked sites do not necessarily represent those of Islam21c.com

REFLECTING ON ‘BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME’

Written by Asim Qureshi

between-the-world-and-me-620x330

“When I finished reading this book, I realised that I’m still actually quite racist.”

These were the words spoken to me by a white doctor of Anthropology who has spent her life defending black men facing the death penalty in the South of the US. Her own story is one full of racism, having grown up in a racist house that despised her for rejecting their ‘ways’, in having a sister who married a member of the KKK in order to have a pure blood child, and being generally surrounded in a miasma of bigotry and violence.

Despite all of this, she grew up to fight every inch of prejudice and structural racism that she sees. It is that effort that I have learnt from directly, as she has taught me to learn the stories of my clients and their families, as humans, and not as witnesses. Her never-ending devotion to understanding is precisely the reason why my children call her Dado (grandmother) when she comes to stay at our home, because that is the relationship we feel she has with them.

And yet, on the completion of reading this book, my friend and mentor confided that she had not escaped her racism. Having now completed Coatses’s beautiful epistle to his son, I now understand how she came to that conclusion. It is not that I think my friend has any racist or bigoted tendencies, it is that Ta-Nehisi Coates forces us to reflect on our life and the lives of those around us, as we listen to his voice.

The experience he recounts, albeit with a brief sojourn to Paris, is largely about his experiences as a black man in the US. For me, as someone whose entire working life has revolved around policy and practice in the War on Terror, his intersection of the black experience to that of Muslims is a welcome sign of someone who sees and understands the structural nature of the threat we face,

“Michael Brown did not die as so many of his defenders supposed. And still the questions behind the questions are never asked. Should assaulting an officer of the state be a capital offense, rendered without trial, with the officer as judge and executioner? Is that what we wish civilization to be? And all the time the Dreamers are pillaging Ferguson for municipal governance. And they are torturing Muslims, and their drones are bombing wedding parties (by accident!)”

However, it is not these limited references to Muslims where I connected to Coates…it was in his experience as a black man. Throughout the book, he references moments where the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and Biggie Smalls become a soundtrack to certain experiences. He speaks of Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Franz Fanon, the names that woke me from my slumber. It dawns on me, that while I have never experienced the specific systematic discrimination of young black Americans, my younger self had subconsciously adopted their resistance as a reference point for my own. Perhaps it is because Asian communities had provided little to no avenue for resistance or counter-culture that could help to define our specific experience in the UK, that I, and many like me, chose to identify so strongly with conceptions of being black – that is – until for some of us, Islam provided a holistic response.

Ultimately, the central concern Coates has, is how his son will respond to the world around him. A world where he is trying to provide Samori with every opportunity he can, while at the same time forcing him to realise that the system that surrounds him and props up his privileges is utterly broken,

“I do not believe that we can stop them, Samori, because they must ultimately stop themselves. And still I urge you to struggle. Struggle for the memory of your ancestors. Struggle for wisdom. Struggle for the warmth of The Mecca. Struggle for your grandmother and grandfather, for your name. But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all. The Dream is the same habit that endangers the planet, the same habit that sees our bodies stowed away in prisons and ghettos.”

How does a father teach his child this lesson in a way that makes sense and is understandable? I am a father of three boys, and I am someone who works with trauma survivors. To what extent do I expose them to the reality of this world, and to what extent do I ask them to reject the superficial veneer that hides the truth of the matter? How do we teach them to resist prevailing narratives, when we want them to lead comfortable, poverty free, peaceful lives? Coates does not provide clear answers to these questions, but his voice of frustration vibrates like a deafening bell for the parents who live the same struggle,

“All my life I’d heard people tell their black boys and black girls to “be twice as good,” which is to say “accept half as much” These words would be spoken with a veneer of religious nobility, as though they evidenced some unspoken quality, some undetected courage, when in fact all they evidenced was the gun to our head and the hand in our pocket. This is how we lose our softness. This is how they steal our right to smile. No one told those little white children, with their tricycles, to be twice as good. I imagined their parents telling them to take twice as much. It seemed to me that our own rules redoubled plunder.”

Resisting pre-conceived notions of what is acceptable is no easy task. As a British-born Pakistani, I have made it my ultimate aim to shield my children from the over-obsession with whiteness, and in this instance I mean the specific desire that many Asians have for lighter coloured skin. My wife and I are dark skinned, as are two out of our three children. My eldest boy, in particular, has a skin colour and melanin count that does not require much protection from the sun we have in the UK, except on exceptionally bright summer days. When I see my wife fuss unnecessarily about putting a hat on him because others will comment on further darkening, it is the only time that I become upset. Upset, not with her, but with the way in which we have been forced to construct our decisions. Largely, I have been successful in shielding my children from this, but then I receive a curve-ball that I never anticipated. My middle boy, Aadam, saying, “Why am I the only one who isn’t dark? I want to be dark like you all.” I never told them one way or another about what is and isn’t beautiful, it was his own anxiety about being different and wanting to fit in better with those of us around him.

So how do we move away from the superficial? How do my children, and the son of Coates, avoid the ever present elephant in the room, that colour, race and class are everything. Coates realises that the truth itself is where any emancipation can begin, by accepting the truth of who we are, and the world that surrounds us. The problem with this acceptance, is that it leaves us in a very bleak place. For the sake of our children, it is not enough to simply encourage them thrive in a hostile environment as singular case studies of success,

“Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage. Enslavement was not merely the antiseptic borrowing of labor—-it is not so easy to get a human being to commit their body against its own elemental interest. And so enslavement must be casual wrath and random manglings, the gashing of heads and brains blown out over the river as the body seeks to escape. It must be rape so regular as to be industrial. There is no uplifting way to say this. I have no praise anthems, nor old Negro spirituals. The spirit and soul are the body and brain, which are destructible—that is precisely why they are so precious. And the soul did not escape. The spirit did not steal away on gospel wings.”

‘Between the World and Me’ is a book I will return to again and again. In particular, I will return to it when I am in need of helping my children make sense of the world that surrounds them. My instinct is to shield them, but perhaps that is the most sure-fire way of disabling them, and it is precisely there that Ta-Nehisi Coates makes his most important contribution.

Source: http://www.islam21c.com

DISCLAIMER: All material found on Islam21c.com is for free and is for information purposes only. All material may be freely copied & shared on condition that it is clearly attributed to Islam21c.com [hyperlinked] as the original source. The views expressed on this site or on any linked sites do not necessarily represent those of Islam21c.com

RING THEORY: THE QURAN’S STRUCTURAL COHERENCE

The Qur’an is a very unique book in terms of its composition. Its 114 chapters (or ‘Surahs’ in Arabic) are not arranged chronologically or thematically. Even within the individual chapters, numerous topics can be covered with sudden switches from one topic to another and then back again.

This unique structure at face value may appear to be disjointed. However, modern research has discovered a sophisticated structural coherence in the Qur’an known as ring composition.

RING THEORY

Article written by Abu Zakariya, and taken from Islam21C

THEORY OF RING COMPOSITION

Ring composition has been explained by Mary Douglas in her book “Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition”. In ring compositions there must be a correspondence between the beginning and the end. It is structured as a sort of circle, or mirror image. The central meaning of the text is placed at its centre. The second half mirrors the first half, in reverse order — e.g., A, B, C, D, C’, B’, A’.

The correspondence usually involves the repetition of a striking or evident word or phrase, and there must be a clear thematic connection between the two sections. The correspondence serves to complete the circle and provide closure. Also, the internal sections – within the ring – must correspond to each other.

To put it in simple terms; ring composition is the equivalent of putting a mirror in the middle – what is mentioned in the first half will be reflected in the second half.

THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE QUR’AN’S REVELATION

Before getting into the ring composition of the Qur’an, it’s worth discussing the background and circumstances of the Qur’an’s revelation:

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, could not read or write. The Qur’an itself confirms this:

“Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel…” [Chapter 7, verse 157]

Throughout his life, prior to Prophethood, Muhammad did not have a reputation for poetry. In fact we know from history that at a personal level he disliked it and wasn’t a skilled poet. There are instances where he attempted to relate some poetry and would jumble the words up [1]:

Qatadah narrated, Aisha was asked: Did the Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, use to relate anything from poetry?” She said: It was most detestable thing to him except that (at times) he used to relate a verse from the person of Banu Qays and he jumbled it up. Abu Bakr told him it was not like that. So the Prophet of Allah said, “By Allah I am not a poet and neither is it appropriate for me.”

The Qur’an was originally delivered to its first audience in the form of speech through recitation. Remarkably the Qur’an did not have the opportunity for an editorial process, as many verses were revealed on the spot as a response to unexpected questions and challenges that were brought forward to Prophet Muhammad from both believers and non-believers.

The 6,236 verses that make up the Qur’an were revealed gradually over a period of 23 years. It did not go through multiple revisions as it was revealed:

And those who disbelieve say, “Why was the Qur’an not revealed to him all at once?” Thus [it is] that We may strengthen thereby your heart. And We have spaced it distinctly. [Chapter 25, verse 32]

In light of these circumstances, one would expect the structure of the Qur’an to be incoherent. What we find however, is that it exhibits the sophisticated structure of ring composition.

THE RING COMPOSITION OF THE QUR’AN

Surah al-Baqarah, which we are going to use as a case study in this article, happens to be the longest chapter of the Qur’an and was revealed over a span of over nine years. Surah Al-Baqarah consists of 286 verses and can be divided into nine main sections based on theme/topic (verse numbers in parenthesis):

1. Faith vs. unbelief (1 – 20).
2. Allah’s creation and knowledge (21 – 39).
3. Deliverance of Law to Children of Israel (40 – 103).
4. Abraham was tested (104 – 141).
5. Ka’ba is the new qibla (142 – 152).
6. Muslims will be tested (153 – 177).
7. Deliverance of Law to Muslims (178 – 253).
8. Allah’s creation and knowledge (254 – 284).
9. Faith vs. unbelief (285 – 286).

Re-arranging this list to fit into a ring composition:

A Faith vs. unbelief (1 – 20).
——–B Allah’s creation and knowledge (21 – 39).
—————-C Deliverance of Law to Children of Israel (40 – 103).
————————D Abraham was tested (104 – 141).
——————————–E Ka’ba is the new qibla (142 – 152).
————————D’ Muslims will be tested (153 – 177).
—————-C’ Deliverance of Law to Muslims (178 – 253).
——–B’ Allah’s creation and knowledge (254 – 284).
A’ Faith vs. unbelief (285 – 286).

The coherence in the form of a ring composition is best illustrated in the diagram below (please click on picture to enlarge) [2]:

Baqarah ring diagram

If we examine the 9 sections we find that they contain sub-ring compositions. So what we have is rings within rings (please click on pictures to enlarge) [3]:

Baqarah ring A

Baqarah ring B

Baqarah ring C

Baqarah ring D

Baqarah ring E

Baqarah ring D'

Baqarah ring C'

Baqarah ring B'

Baqarah ring A'

Here is a table showing parallels between the corresponding sections (the correspondences here are indicated horizontally):

Baqarah ring summary

A noteworthy point is that the middle of Surah Al-Baqarah, the 143rd verse, mentions an important turning point for the Muslims:

Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness against you. And We appointed the qiblah which ye formerly observed only that We might know him who followeth the messenger, from him who turneth on his heels. In truth it was a hard (test) save for those whom Allah guided. But it was not Allah’s purpose that your faith should be in vain, for Allah is Full of Pity, Merciful toward mankind. [Chapter 2, verse 143]

This turning point was the change in qiblah, the direction of the daily prayers, from Jerusalem to Makkah. This represented a big test for the believers. We find the mention of this important turning point in exactly the middle of the chapter. Moreover this verse even contains the word ‘middle’!

Finally, it’s worth paying special attention to a particular verse of Surah al-Baqarah, the 255th verse known as ‘Ayat al-Kursi’. This verse is considered the most excellent verse of the Qur’an, according to Prophet Muhammad. Its memorisation is highly encouraged, and it just so happens that it too exhibits a ring composition:

ayat kursi

Notice that the middle of Ayat al-Kursi mentions ‘before’ and ‘after’ which could be yet another allusion to the mirroring of ring composition.

It’s worth highlighting that not only does Ayat al-Kursi contain its own ring composition, but it is also positioned as a sub ring within two larger rings – a concentric ring composition:

Multiple-levels

Raymond K Farrin, author of “Surat al-Baqarah – A Structural Analysis”, concludes on Surah al-Baqarah’s ring composition:

“Indeed this sura exhibits marvellous justness of design. It is precisely and tightly arranged, as we have seen, according to the principles of ring composition; even the section lengths fit perfectly in the overall scheme. Moreover, the precise structure serves as a guide, pointing to key themes in the sura. These occur, according to the logic of the pattern, at the centers of individual rings and, particularly, at the center of the whole sura. At the center of the sura, again, one finds instructions to face Mecca — this being a test of faith; identification of the Muslims as a new, middle community; and the message that all people, regardless of their qibla or spiritual orientation, should race to do good and God will bring them together.”

BENEFITS OF RING COMPOSITION

Ring composition has great exegetical application. For a ring structure not only holds the text together, but also gives focus to the important words and themes. By means of concentric patterning, ring composition calls attention to the centre – we are drawn to look here for the essential message. As Mary Douglas notes concisely, “The meaning is in the middle.” [4]

It also serves as an aid in memorisation, especially useful given the length of Surah al-Baqarah. In his study of ancient poetry, Cedric Whitman found that ring composition simultaneously performed both aesthetic and mnemonic functions. It aids memorisation by permitting the oral poet to easily recall the basic formulae of the composition during performances [5].

RING COMPOSITION IN OTHER LITERATURE

Some critics may point out that texts prior to the Qur’an had this literary style and therefore we cannot use this as evidence of the Qur’an’s divine origin. They put forward examples from Mary Douglas’ book “Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition” which states that ring compositions are found throughout ancient Eastern Mediterranean literature (like Homer’s Iliad) as well as the Bible.

Comparing the Qur’an’s structure to that of other texts is like comparing night and day for the following reasons:

1. Prophet Muhammad could not read or write, so it’s a lot more difficult to plan such a structure when all you have to go on is memory (the Qur’an was revealed orally of course).

2. Prophet Muhammad was not a poet nor did he have any literary reputation, and yet the Qur’an has this remarkable structure. How can a person with little to no experience or skill in poetry/literature achieve such sophistication?

3. The verses of the Qur’an were not revealed in sequential order like with conventional texts. Surah al-Baqarah, the example covered in this article, was revealed over a period of many years with its verses interspaced with the revelation of verses from other chapters. Unlike conventional texts this makes implementing such a structure much more difficult.

4. Many verses of the Qur’an are linked to questions and events that occurred unexpectedly, so unless a person can predict the future, how could a human being plan the verses ahead of time when they were not in his control? Other texts such as the Bible were written by multiple authors long after Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them) which would make planning such a structure much easier.

5. The Qur’an did not undergo any editorial process, Prophet Muhammad would fix the positions of the new verses as soon as they were revealed to him. With each new verse, again which were tied to external questions and events that were outside of his control, he would not go off and review what had been previously revealed and see where he can fit them in order to maintain this ring structure. So spontaneous revelation was immediately followed by the placement of the verse into the Qur’an, and once placed it was fixed with no opportunity for later editing. Other texts such as the Bible show evidence of multiple authors and several stages of editing, again making is much easier to achieve such a structure.

In summary, it is the unique circumstances of the revelation of the Qur’an that make its ring structure a strong argument for its divine origin.

CONCLUSION

Given the difficult and protracted circumstances of the Qur’an’s revelation, one would expect it to be in disorder. However as this article has demonstrated, any such understanding reveals a lack of insight into the Qur’an’s sophisticated structure. Upon deep analysis of the Qur’an’s composition we see that it exhibits a remarkable structure. It is simply impossible for Prophet Muhammad, given that he could neither read nor write and had no reputation as a poet or literary expert, to have engineered such a structure himself. This represents compelling evidence that his inspiration for the Qur’an was God Almighty, as the Qur’an itself states:

“Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him. He was taught by one mighty in Power.” [Chapter 53, verses 2-5]

Source: http://www.islam21c.com

Notes:

1 – Tafsir at-Tabari, also see Tafsir Abdul Razzaq 3/86 Narration No. 2496 under Qur’an 36:69.

2 – Original diagram taken from article at Islam21c, “The Coherence of al-Baqarah”.

3 – Surat al-Baqarah – A Structural Analysis, Raymond Farrin, 2010.

4 – Mary Douglas, Thinking in Circles 16, 35.

5 – Cedric M. Whitman. Homer and the Heroic Tradition. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1958.

DISCLAIMER: All material found on Islam21c.com is for free and is for information purposes only. All material may be freely copied & shared on condition that it is clearly attributed to Islam21c.com [hyperlinked] as the original source. The views expressed on this site or on any linked sites do not necessarily represent those of Islam21c.com

 

 

THE FALLACY OF COMPARING ‘VIOLENCE’ IN THE QURAN & BIBLE

quran-bible

A Dā’ī’s Perspective on Violence in the Qur’ān and Bible

A recent computer analysis of the Bible and Qur’ān has been making waves on social media.[1]OdinText, developers of analytics software, recently announced results from a comparative analysis of the Qur’ān and the Old and New Testaments using the latest data mining technology. The aim, according to the researcher, was to uncover with as little bias as possible the extent to which the content of any of these texts is more violent than that of the others. Their inspiration was pundits’ claims that the rise of terrorism connected with Islamic fundamentalism reflects something inherently and distinctly violent about Islām compared to other major religions. Tom Anderson, CEO of OdinText, states:

“Obviously, to understand any religion one must start with its literature. So, we thought it would be an interesting exercise to compare the primary books of Islam and Judeo-Christianity—arguably the core of their philosophies and tenets—using the advanced data mining technology that Fortune 500 corporations, government agencies and other institutions routinely use to comb through large sets of unstructured text to identify patterns and uncover insights,”

Their findings included:

– Of the three texts, the content in the Old Testament appears to be the most violent. Killing and destruction are referenced slightly more often in the New Testament (2.8%) than in the Quran (2.1%), but the Old Testament clearly leads—more than twice that of the Qur’ān—in mentions of destruction and killing (5.3%).

– The concept of ‘love’ appears most often in the New Testament (3.0%), significantly more than in either the Old Testament (1.9%) or the Qur’ān (1.26%).

– The concept of ‘forgiveness/grace’ occurs significantly more often in the Qur’ān (6.3%) than in the New Testament (2.9%) or the Old Testament (0.7%).

– On the concept of ‘faith/belief,’ the Qur’ān leads (7.6%), followed by the New Testament (4.8%) and the Old Testament a distant third (0.2%).

Tom Anderson comments on the findings:

“While we’ve only scratched the surface here, it appears safe to conclude that some commonly-held assumptions about and perceptions of these texts may not necessarily hold true. For instance, those who have not read or are not fairly familiar with the content of all three texts may be surprised to learn that the content in the Quran is not more violent than that of the Bible”

Full details of their findings can be read on their website.[2]

WHAT TO MAKE OF THESE FINDINGS

One obvious application for such findings would be in field of dawah to counter the widespread polemic that the Qur’ān is somehow inherently violent or more violent than other religious texts. Whilst it may be tempting to pull out these findings as some kind of trump card, I personally would advise against it. I do not think such arguments should be used in dawah generally speaking as it really amounts to nothing more than an appeal to Tu quoque, Latin for “you also”, which is a logical fallacy. By trumpeting such findings we as Muslims are essentially saying “you may accuse our Qur’ān of being violent, but at least it’s not as violent as these other books!” Arguably such sentiment does nothing to correct the distorted view that many have of Islām.

Furthermore, although the intentions of the researchers were to analyse the extent to which the content of any of these texts is more violent than that of the others, there is a subtle subtext that is at play. It is that violence of all kinds in religious texts, regardless of the context, is negative, or that somehow having less violence means that a religious text is superior. Scripture cannot separate itself from violence, because violence is a fact of life. Violence manifests itself in many different forms, such as criminal acts, racism and war. The one constant about violence is that it has been around since the beginning of time. Therefore any genuine book of revelation must provide a practical way of life which tackles violence as it has to deal with the reality of the world that we live in.

SOME ISSUES WITH THE METHODOLOGY

Such findings are of little value when they are detached from the context of their source material. Does the software take into account the different authorship of the texts? It seems that they treated each as a homogeneous text, and while the Qur’ān is from a single author, the Bible is a library of 66 books written by over 40 authors over a span of thousands of years. The researcher took the effort of analysing the Old and New Testaments in isolation, but even within each there are many contextual factors at play such as genre (the Bible is a mixture of history, poetry, proverbs, biography and the apocalyptic), historical backdrop and the target audience that the author was writing to. Is the software sophisticated enough to distinguish between the literal and allegorical? The Book of Revelation in the New Testament is undoubtedly one of the most violent and would weigh heavily in the results, but it is highly symbolic.

From the researcher’s own testimony it seems that language was not considered an important factor, their primary concern was ease of analysis, not accuracy:

“Secondly, there are obviously multiple versions and translations of the texts available for study. We’ve selected the ones that were most accessible and best suited for this kind of analysis.”

The software used English translations of all three texts for its source material, but the question must be raised as to how accurate the translations were. If you are not completing the analysis in the native language of a text, then you are just analysing the translators’ understanding and interpretation which could be far removed from the originals.

Part of the study analysed the Old Testament and New Testament separately. They were split apart for the following reasons:

“1) They were written hundreds of years apart and 2) their combined size relative to the Quran.”

This overlooks the fact that the texts are inextricably linked. The Gospel of Matthew alone directly quotes the Old Testament over 60 times and alludes to it even more.

Last, but by no means least, has the intent of the researcher been considered? On the one hand they claim that they have eliminated as much bias as possible:

“So, we’ve conducted a shallow but wide comparative analysis using OdinText to determine with as little bias as possible whether the Quran is really more violent than its Judeo-Christian counterparts.”

Yet on the other they have introduced bias by their approach to categorising the texts:

“‘Jesus’ is also mentioned a few times in the Quran, and, for obvious reasons, not mentioned at all in the Old Testament.”

It is one of the few givens across the plethora of Christian denominations that Jesus is the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, and yet the researcher has adopted a pro-Jewish, anti-Christian (and perhaps even anti-Islamic) interpretation that Jesus is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament.

These are just some of the considerations that are needed in order for me to take the findings of such a study seriously. Without them, such computer analysis is nothing more than a glorified word count. The researcher boasts about the speed at which their software “reads” the religious texts:

“Considering many people take at least a year to read just one of these texts, you may find it interesting that it took OdinText less than 120 seconds to read, parse and analyze all three texts at once!”

Such sentiments are symptomatic of the age we live in, where we judge matters superficially. We have been conditioned to communicate in 140 characters and express our emotions using memes. In the age of mass media propaganda we are bombarded 24/7 with sensationalist language. As Muslims we should look beyond the surface level, we need to ponder deeply and have insight into matters.

A BETTER APPROACH

As someone who has experience in inter-faith apologetics, I hope my insight can be of benefit. Let us analyse the core findings of the research which I will expand on using my own research. I believe what follows is a much more beneficial approach to discussing such issues:

  1. Of the three texts, the content in the Old Testament appears to be the most violent. Killing and destruction are referenced slightly more often in the New Testament (2.8%) than in the Quran (2.1%), but the Old Testament clearly leads—more than twice that of the Quran—in mentions of destruction and killing (5.3%).

Whilst it is undeniable that all three texts contain violence, the question should not be whether they contain violence, but rather what is the nature of the violence. One problem with such statistical analysis is that it reduces violence to a numbers game, but not all violence across the texts is the same.

Let us take the Old Testament for example, which contains some severe acts of violence:

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”[3]

It must be noted that the genocide of the Amalekites in Samuel’s time was a punishment for what their ancestors had done over 300 years previously. Violence of such a nature, which does not distinguish between combatant or civilian, adult or child and even animal or human, is common throughout the Old Testament. It is by no means an exception but rather the norm:

However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you.[4]

We are led to believe that these are the protocols of war that were revealed by God to Prophet Moses, the same Moses who in the Qur’ān reacted with shock when Khidr killed a single child.[5] By comparison nowhere does the Qur’ān command believers to slay innocents. As with all matters in life, Muslims are bound to act according to the code of conduct laid out in the Qur’ān, and war is no exception. If Muslims happen to be at war, then even when we might be facing severe opposition, we must be just. We are prohibited from the extreme acts of violence such as those found in the Old Testament:

“Fight in God’s cause against those who fight you, but do not overstep the limits: God does not love those who overstep the limits.”[6]

This ethos can be seen in the instructions given to the Muslim army by the first Caliph Abu Bakr (may God be pleased with him):

“I advise you ten things: Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.”[7]

The extreme violence of the Old Testament sits rather uncomfortably with the New Testament. When Trinitarians are shown such violent passages in the Bible, they try to distance themselves from the Old Testament because it stands at odds with the pacifist ways of Jesus (peace be upon him) as portrayed in the New Testament. Typically they dismiss such acts of violence by consigning them to a context or reality of the world that was specific to the Israelites. Jesus represents a new way, they say, with his new covenant of love and peace fulfilling and supplanting the warlike and vengeful covenant of old. Yet these same Christians believe that the Jesus of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament. So when God allegedly commanded the genocide of Israel’s enemies, that was Jesus. When God rained down fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah, that was also Jesus. So Christians cannot disconnect themselves from the Old Testament so easily, they have to reconcile these polar portrayals of God’s personality.

Moreover such internal inconsistency is not just limited to the interplay between the Old and New Testaments, it even occurs within the confines of the New Testament. On the one hand we have Jesus preaching a message of ultra-pacifism, with talk of loving one’s enemies and turning the other cheek, and on the other we have prophecies of his terrifying return in the End Times. In this Second Coming the gloves will be off: Jesus will have eyes of fire and out of his mouth will come a sharp two-edged sword. The Book of Revelation goes into detail about this future Jesus, who will “judge and wage war”,[8] his robe will be “dipped in blood”,[9] and he will be accompanied by “armies”,[10]with which he will “strike down the nations”.[11] So in the New Testament Jesus seemingly loves his enemies until he kills them all, a far cry from Christian missionary rhetoric that ”Muhammad is a Prophet of War, Jesus is a Prince of Peace”.

  1. The concept of ‘love’ appears most often in the New Testament (3.0%), significantly more than in either the Old Testament (1.9%) or the Quran (1.26%).

God’s love for mankind lies at the heart of the Gospel message: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”[12] Such emotive language permeates the New Testament and would have certainly registered positively in the OdinText results. While such concepts when reduced to counts of words such as “love” may appear positive, it brings us to a limitation of science. OdinText may very well tell us, with great speed and accuracy, how often “love” is mentioned in the New Testament, but it cannot answer questions about morality. Science can tell us how things are, but it cannot tell us how things ought to be. At face value the notion of Jesus sacrificing himself to redeem mankind may appear to be a noble act and undoubtedly is an aspect of Christianity that resonates deeply with its followers.

The reality though, is that such an act would be a gross act of injustice on the part of God. In the Gospel message, God effectively demonstrates His love by torturing and killing His son (subhānah – may He be exalted high above such a claim). Is such an act befitting of the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful? A human court that punished the innocent in place of the guilty would be considered corrupt, a miscarriage of justice. How much more unjust then would it be if God were behind such a system. You may wonder why is it that such a distorted concept of divine love has gained so much devotion among Christians. It is appealing to human beings because it shifts the responsibility of our sins onto Jesus. If Jesus died on the cross for our sins, then we already have our golden ticket to heaven. There is no need for us to strive, no need to repent, because Jesus has already done the hard work for us.

While such notions of divine love carry favour with Christians, they have long been a stumbling block for Jews to accept Christians’ view of Jesus. They treat Jesus as a Messiah imposter because the very notion of the beloved of God dying on a cross, a fate that the apostle Paul described as Jesus “becoming a curse”, runs counter to the very concept of justice laid out in the Old Testament. It is amidst all this confusion that the Qur’ān was sent down. The Qur’ān unravels centuries of myth making and demystifies for us who the real Jesus was. It solves all of these problems by revealing that it was not Jesus who was crucified, but rather it was made to appear so. In Islamic theology it is up to every human being to take responsibility for their own sins, as long as they have reached the age of discernment and are of sound mind. Not having the safety blanket of the crucifixion means that Muslims have to strive in bettering themselves from the cradle to the grave, in turn making the true believer a force for good in society, the very effect we would expect of God’s true love.

  1. The concept of ‘forgiveness/grace’ occurs significantly more often in the Quran (6.3%) than in the New Testament (2.9%) or the Old Testament (0.7%).

New Testament theology paints a picture of God whose forgiveness is contingent on the shedding of blood:

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”[13]

Sin, Christians believe, is like a debt that must be re-paid, it cannot simply be forgiven. Hence why Jesus was sent to die on the cross, his sinless life represents the perfect sacrifice to wash away the sins of the whole of humanity and reconcile us with God. The theology that underpins the crucifixion is that humanity is inherently sinful, a consequence of Adam (peace be upon him) eating from the forbidden tree. So when Adam violated God’s command not to eat from the tree, sin entered into humanity and has remained ever since:

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—“[14]

The solution according to the New Testament is thus: Jesus died on the cross in order to undo Adam’s “original sin”:

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!”[15]

Here we have a bizarre situation of the whole of mankind being held accountable for something we did not do, Adam’s original sin, and rewarded for something someone else did, the crucifixion. Such paradoxes are rampant throughout Christian theology.

Moreover such a drastic and elaborate solution, which effectively amounts to God incarnating Himself into the creation and committing suicide, misses a big point – the very capacity to make mistakes and commit sins was embedded into human nature the moment God gave us free will. God knew before He created us that we would err. So for the New Testament to claim that mankind has only been able to properly access God’s forgiveness the moment Jesus shed his blood on the cross makes a mockery of God’s forgiveness, it is an intolerable challenge to the principle of God’s mercy. We now know that the human story is so old, going back tens of thousands and perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, that to say it has only been 2,000 years since a proper relationship between man and God has been made possible, makes a mockery of the idea of divine love, because that is not loving. A God who coherently shows mercy, compassion and forgiveness for His creation does not stuff all of salvation into a single moment in human history.

The Qur’anic vision is very different:

“For every people there has been a guide”[16]

In Islām the salvation offered through all of the Prophets has been the same throughout history, submission to our Creator and forgiveness granted through sincere repentance. That is the true understanding of God as having forgiveness and compassion prescribed on His very nature. Unlike Christianity’s pessimistic view of humanity, Muslims believe that God created man in the best of states. Each baby that is born is pure and sinless. However human beings are prone to making mistakes because we are fallible beings, an inevitable consequence of the free will that God gifted us. When God created man He did not expect us to be angels, He already had countless angels, perfect in their compliance, to do His bidding. In the creation of Adam, God wanted to bring about something different: a creature of free will, submitting to Him out of choice. A consequence is that we commit sins, and if we are believers then we repent and return to God. That is the part that God loves: the repentance, the voluntary return. In Islām what is God’s attitude toward sins? He condemns the sins we commit, but He waits for us to repent, and when we do He welcomes us. The Qur’ān tells us:

“O my servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not the Mercy of God. Verily, God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”[17]

  1. On the concept of ‘faith/belief,’ the Quran leads (7.6%), followed by the New Testament (4.8%) and the Old Testament a distant third (0.2%).

While all three texts require that their followers believe in certain tenets, it is only really the Qur’ān that directly engages with its reader in order to have them reason their way to faith. The Qur’ān is unique because it is the only religious scripture that gives its reader the tools needed to identify God’s truth: “Will they not think about this Qur’ān? If it had been from anyone other than God, they would have found much inconsistency in it.”[18] Here the Qur’ān has provided us with an important principle that allows us to determine whether something is from God or not. If one reasons about theology and finds that there are glaring inconsistencies, then it cannot be from God. God is perfect in knowledge and therefore it stands to reason that His revelation will be perfect and free of inconsistencies. So we can use this principle as a falsification test to determine whether a doctrine is from God or is man-made.

Throughout the Qur’ān God constantly reminds mankind of His countless favours. For example the Qur’ān highlights that God gave us the gift of our senses and reason:

“It is God who brought you out of your mothers’ wombs knowing nothing, and gave you hearing and sight and minds, so that you might be thankful.”[19]

The Qur’ān in fact admonishes those who follow trends blindly:

Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of God are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.”[20]

An endearing quality of the Qur’anic narrative is that it appeals to its audience to make use of their intellect and reason:

It is He [God] who spread out the earth, placed firm mountains and rivers on it, and made two of every kind of fruit; He draws the veil of night over the day. There truly are signs in this for people who reflect. There are, in the land, neighbouring plots, gardens of vineyards, cornfields, palm trees in clusters or otherwise, all watered with the same water, yet We make some of them taste better than others: there truly are signs in this for people who reason.[21]

By comparison reading the Old and New Testaments is quite a passive experience as they do not really engage with their readers. While they do speak of many miracles performed by Prophets such as Moses and Jesus, peace be upon them, these are not events that we can witness for ourselves, therefore they have to be taken on blind faith. The Qur’ān is the miracle of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and Muslims believe it is the greatest miracle of all the Prophets. What makes the Qur’ān different from all the other miracles is that it is one which every­one can experience for themselves today, simply by opening a Qur’ān and reading it. Muslims do not just believe that the Qur’ān is from God based on blind faith because the Qur’ān is full of signs that it is the truth of God:“We shall show them Our signs in every region of the earth and in themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the Truth…”[22]

For some examples of what makes the Qur’ān miraculous you can refer to past articles such as the Qur’ān structural composition,[23] and its unveiling of lost history.[24]

CONCLUSION

It is my hope that we as Muslims avoid superficial approaches to comparing religious scripture such as that undertaken by OdinText. We should be people that do justice not only to our scripture but also that of the People of the Book. We should have insight into not only our own religion but also that of our fellow non-Muslims so that we can discuss our faiths properly and fulfil the principles of dawah laid out in the Qur’ān:

“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best…”[25]

Article written by Abu Zakariya

Source: http://www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] http://www.islam21c.com/special/web-posts/data-mining-software-compares-quran-bible-with-results-surprising-to-some/

[2] http://odintext.com/blog/text-analysis-answers-is-the-quran-really-more-violent-than-the-bible/

[3] 1 Samuel 15:2-3

[4] Deuteronomy 20:16-17

[5] Al-Qur’ān 18:74

[6] Al-Qur’ān 2:190

[7] Muwatta Imam Malik, Book #21, Hadith #10

[8] Rev. 19:11

[9] 19:13

[10] 19:14

[11] 19:15

[12] John 3:16

[13] Hebrews 9:22

[14] Romans 5:12

[15] Romans 5:17

[16] Al-Qur’ān 13:7

[17] Al-Qur’ān 39:53

[18] Al-Qur’ān 4:82

[19] Al-Qur’ān 16:78

[20] Al-Qur’ān 8:22

[21] Al-Qur’ān 13:3-4

[22] Al-Qur’ān 41:53

[23] http://www.islam21c.com/islamic-thought/ring-theory-the-qurans-structural-coherence/

[24] http://www.islam21c.com/islamic-thought/unveiling-history-the-qurans-remarkable-insight-into-the-past/

[25] Al-Qur’ān 16:125

DISCLAIMER: All material found on Islam21c.com is for free and is for information purposes only. All material may be freely copied & shared on condition that it is clearly attributed to Islam21c.com [hyperlinked] as the original source. The views expressed on this site or on any linked sites do not necessarily represent those of Islam21c.com

 

 

 

ROTHERHAM GROOMING: INCONVENIENT FACTS EXPOSED

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Rotherham grooming. We really should have read the Jay Report.

This week three brothers were given a 19 to 35 year imprisonment sentence for their abhorrent abuse of vulnerable young girls in Rotherham. A sensitive topic, and one that in no way detracts from the stories of the victims, is concern over the huge damage the press coverage of this case has caused the Muslim community as a whole and the Pakistani heritage community in particular. There is also a feeling of intimidation to acquiesce to demands to apologise and a fear that questioning the narrative will be portrayed as trying to reduce the significance of the crimes. Muslims stand united in condemnation of the criminals and in sympathy for the innocent victims. The only issue we have is the unbalanced furore over the Pakistani criminals and the virtual silence over the non-Muslims who have committed the same crimes.

The case began with a story in The Times in 2013 which forced authorities to take action to protect the victims of abuse who they had been aware of for some years but had failed to protect. The initial case involved a gang of Asian men who had been abusing young white girls they had picked up from the streets of Rotherham, many of them in social care and made vulnerable by a lack of adult supervision. The exposure of the initial gang led to other gangs being exposed and further victims of “on-street grooming” coming forward.

News coverage of gangs of Pakistani men abusing white girls exploded and the media constrained the story to the particular type of grooming the Pakistani men were involved in. To anyone following the story, it looked as though Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) was something unique to the Pakistani community. Just as we have seen with terrorism; repeated calls were made for the community as a whole to apologise and take responsibility. Muslim organisations such as the MCB and the Ramadan Foundation dutifully accepted collective responsibility on our behalf with press releases such as: “Child Abuse in Rotherham: We Cannot Let This Happen Again”[1] and by saying things like “Until British Pakistanis accept that this is a problem for our community we will not be able to eradicate this evil. Burying our head in the sand as the usual response is not good enough.”[2]

Rotherham Council commissioned an independent report into CSE in Rotherham which was led by Professor Alexis Jay and in August 2014 she published her “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997 – 2013”.[3]

In an epic failure for the Muslim community it seems we did not actually read the report and instead have relied on the way it has been presented by the media. To this day most people accept as fact that CSE is carried out by “gangs of predominantly Pakistani men.” Unchallenged for 2 years an article on the Telegraph website says all “1400 girls have been sexually abused by Asian men”.[4]

What the Jay Report actually said was:

“As has been stated many times before, there is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation, and across the UK the greatest numbers of perpetrators of CSE are white men. The second largest category, according to the Children’s Commissioner’s report, are those from a minority ethnic background, particularly those recorded as ‘Asian’. In Rotherham, the majority of known perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage including the five men convicted in 2010. The file reading carried out by the Inquiry also confirmed that the ethnic origin of many perpetrators was ‘Asian’. In one major case in the mid-2000s, the convicted perpetrator was Afghan.”

It is no surprise at all that the second largest group nationally after whites is a minority, who else could it be? And ‘Asian’ is the largest minority group, twice as numerous as blacks. The key point regarding Rotherham is “In Rotherham, the majority of known perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage including the five men convicted in 2010.” She is clearly referring to the tiny number of previous convictions before the story blew up and victims started coming forward in larger numbers. This is confirmed by mentioning next that the current enquiry’s reading of the case files (rather than convictions) showed that many perpetrators were Asian. Previous convictions: “majority Asian” while other cases, presumably the new unresolved cases: “many Asians”, a very unspecific term and presumably the majority were therefore not Asian or she would have said it. It is hardly surprising when the first gang to be exposed was Asian that many of the suspects she would see first were Asians.

Then in August 2015 local Sheffield paper The Star published a story titled “Majority of Rotherham child exploitation suspects are white, claims new report”.[5] In fact the data was not that new but related to the time the Jay Report was being compiled. The story quotes offender profile data that was obtained from the South Yorkshire Police and which was in a draft report presented to the Council by Rotherham Safeguarding Children’s Board.

“The number of offenders, including suspects, were mainly White (68%); 24% were Asian; 5% were from other BME communities; and 3% of offenders were female”.[6]

Not a single national newspaper reported this very illuminating data.

The data covered a key two year period between October 2012 – October 2014, that is, from before the story went public and victims started coming forward until the end of the period within which Professor Jay was collecting data for her report. She says in the Preface that “any evidence available to me up till June 2014 would be included in the report.” She claims to have had evidence pointing to there being 1,400 potential victims and alludes to having data on the ethnicity of the suspects which must surely be the same data the South Yorkshire Police had. No one can say it is an inaccuracy for her to claim that 24% of suspects being Asian is “many”, and it means the Asian community are over-represented in that sample, but it is not “the majority” or “mostly Asian” as reported by all sections of the media. This inaccuracy has been invariably understood by the public, and, in fact, has been ever since by politicians as well, to mean this is a uniquely Pakistani problem with just a few anomalous others.

The question must be: If the figures were known why were they not clearly presented in the Jay Report? And, why, when the media ran with it being a predominantly Asian phenomenon, Professor Jay made no apparent attempt to correct them?

The plot thickens

Rotherham council has been accused many times of cover-ups relating to this case.[7] In an interesting twist, the council demanded that the data showing that the majority of suspects were white be removed from the new report.[8] Not because they feared it was inaccurate, it was directly from South Yorkshire Police after all, but because “some of the data referenced could be misleading and was not telling services what they wanted to know”. Would it be misleading to have a clearer picture that the majority of perpetrators of the crime they are trying to tackle are not from the community everyone has come to expect? Surely facts are facts and the services could take them or leave them. And they said that “The data might not show enough distinction between CSE and other forms of sexual offence, for example, intra familial abuse.” Which was clearly not a very good excuse because the data specifically mentioned it was relating just to CSE.

It makes no sense whatsoever to remove from a central policy document titled “Child Sexual Exploitation – The Way Forward for Rotherham” the only reference available anywhere to the fact that 76% of perpetrators would not be as Asian as everyone would otherwise be expecting, and that 68% would in fact be white. Here’s the attendance register for the meetinghttp://moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk/mgMeetingAttendance.aspx?ID=13344

The chair of the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board resigned at the meeting and his replacement said:

“Collecting accurate data about Child Sexual Exploitation is an evolving process. Partners and ourselves continue to build on our knowledge and are using available data taken at a snap shot in time, but it is anticipated the data will become over time more reflective of the needs of victims and survivors of CSE.”

Which, as the data has not resurfaced in any form whatsoever, we can take to be council speak for: “We buried it”

The South Yorkshire Police have confirmed they have 300 suspects but did not mention the racial profile data which they obviously have available and said “they would not rush into making arrests”.[9] It looks as though the world will continue to believe those 300 suspects are all Pakistani for some time to come. The police did however confirm that at least 2 suspects are serving or former Rotherham Councillors.[10]

Fear of being seen as racist?

Another key aspect of the case and one that plays into anti-Muslim propagandists’ hands is that nothing was done to protect white girls from predatory Muslim men because of a fear of being seen as racist.[11]

South Yorkshire Police have denied it had been reluctant to tackle CSE or that “ethnic origin had been a factor” in its decisions.[12] The Jay Report is used repeatedly by the media and government to back up the myth but in fact it says:

“Within the Council, we found no evidence of children’s social care staff being influenced by concerns about the ethnic origins of suspected perpetrators when dealing with individual child protection cases, including CSE.”

The only hint towards this is where the report mentions an undefined perception that some senior people wanted to “’downplay’ the ethnic dimensions of CSE”. This is nowhere near meaning people should avoid investigating or prosecuting minorities simply because they were minorities and indeed they found no evidence of that. The fact is, as mentioned above, the Jay Report emphasises that the majority of convictions in Rotherham until that date had been of Asian men and also that the council had dealt with 12 cases of forced marriage in the Asian community, an equally sensitive topic, in the first few months of 2005 alone. It seems that the idea that there was a completely hands off approach to dealing with the Asian community is not borne out by the evidence.

While it isn’t a very good excuse for not tackling a crime committed by 68% white perpetrators, it is a convenient way to shift the blame back onto the Asian community; to say fear of offending them prevented the authorities from doing their jobs. The narrative becomes: “perhaps if Asians weren’t so damn touchy these girls would have been protected”.

Are Asians over-represented nationally in child abuse?

The short answer seems to be no. The white population of the UK is 86%. The Crown Prosecution Service’s lead on child sexual abuse says that white perpetrators account for between 80 and 90% of child abuse crimes.[13] The new specific crime of “on-street grooming” is where Asians are over-represented relative to their population. This has been attributed to the night-time economy many Asians work in; takeaways and taxi driving. Asians are more often on the street so that is naturally where their crimes might occur.

No-one should try to say any child abuse crime is more or less than another because of where it takes place but that is what is being attempted. We must be more careful not to allow non-Muslims to draw a line around a specific way Muslims are committing a widely committed crime in order for them to portray us as the only ones committing that crime. If the police are tasked with tackling that form of the crime, as they have been with on-street grooming, then of course the statistics will show an over representation, Muslim organisations will start apologising again and it will all go to fuel the Islamophobic media feeding frenzy.

 Written by Abdullah Thomson

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] http://www.mcb.org.uk/child-abuse-in-rotherham-we-cannot-let-this-happen-again/
[2] http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/crime/pakistanis-must-face-up-to-this-grooming-evil-says-community-leader-1-7746484
[3]http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/1407/independent_inquiry_cse_in_rotherham.pdf
[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11059138/Rotherham-In-the-face-of-such-evil-who-is-the-racist-now.html
[5] http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/majority-of-rotherham-child-exploitation-suspects-are-white-claims-new-report-1-7392637
[6]http://moderngov.rotherham.gov.uk/documents/s100912/CSE_The_Way_Forward_2015_18%20Consultation%20Draft.pdf
[7] http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/how-rotherham-council-tried-to-cover-up-child-
abuse-scandal-1-7088847
[8] http://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/news/crime/misleading-claim-on-most-rotherham-cse-abusers-being-white-wrongly-included-in-report-1-7587779
[9] http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/586677/Rotherham-child-abuse-scandal-300-more-suspects-identified-by-police-so-why-no-arrests
[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11695826/Rotherham-child-sex-abuse-300-new-suspects.html
[11] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11059138/Rotherham-In-the-face-of-such-evil-who-is-the-racist-now.html
[12] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-28934963
[13] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/03/nazir-afzal-there-is-no-religious-basis-for-the-abuse-in-rotherham

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SH. HAITHAM IN DEFENCE OF SHARIA COUNCILS

sharia-council-hh-2

In the name of Allāh, all praise is for Allāh, and may His peace and blessings be upon His final Messenger Muhammad sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam.

Over the last century Muslims have become an indispensible part of the landscape of the United Kingdom. The successful integration of Muslims in the UK whilst being faithful to their religion and identity has been exemplary. This integration has involved the creation of important institutions for the preservation of their identity and īmān, as well as to serve the wider society. Among such social institution are Sharia councils, which have been serving the community for decades. Sharia councils in the UK are in fact envied across Europe where extreme xenophobia and racism prevents the integration and flourishing of Muslims and their social institutions, particularly due to the plethora of problems they solve daily.

However, it is unfortunate that the flourishing of well-integrated Muslim communities has been met with increasing hostility over the last few decades by some non-Muslims. Sharia councils have been one of the many targets of the Islamic identity in the UK by this vocal few. The perennial attacks on Islamic Sharia councils in the UK and Europe are a prime example of the unfortunate combination of the hatred of a small number of ideologues with power and influence, and the remarkably shallow intellects of those who swallow their Islamophobic propaganda. Sadly the former have unique, unchallenged access to the tabloid-style media primarily consumed by the latter.

Had there been a fair and accurate representation of these councils, such attacks would only be carried out by the most ignorant or hateful of Islamophobes, as I believe the general public would not that easily be duped. This article therefore aims to clarify some of the misconceptions deliberately propagated about Islamic Sharia councils. It is also intended to help Muslims themselves appreciate the importance of such public bodies to protect Islamic identity in the western world for generations to come.

What are Islamic Sharia councils?

Islamic Sharia councils are also referred to as fatwa councils or Muslim arbitration services. Despite popular right-wing rhetoric and conspiracy theories, they are not courts. They are organisations established by a number of Muslim scholars and Imams to deal largely with matrimonial issues presented to them voluntarily by Muslims.

Some of them are registered charities; some of them are not-for-profit companies. The decisions they make are not binding under English law. This is a key fact often deliberately overlooked by those seeking to create fear and anxiety about some kind of “parallel legal system” lurking in the shadows, “creeping sharia” or the “Islamisation of Europe” conspiracies. From an English law perspective, they are a purely voluntary medium for people to resolve disputes, catered for in the Arbitration Act 1996.

It should be noted that the Arbitration Act 1996 does not cover family law, only civil law. This means that the decisions Sharia councils make are not even binding in family matters such as custody of children. The criticism of these councils for decisions that are purely voluntary and perfectly legal is thus desperate, bordering on absurd. What are the antagonists of Sharia councils really afraid of?

Why do Muslims need Sharia councils?

Muslims by their nature are attached to Islām and loyal to it. Therefore Sharia councils receive legitimacy through the acceptance of their judgements by the Muslim masses, because they judge between disputes according to Islām. Allāh (subhānahu wa ta’ālā):

“But no, by your Lord, they will not [truly] believe until they make you, [O Muhammad], judge concerning that over which they dispute among themselves and then find within themselves no discomfort from what you have judged and submit in [full, willing] submission.”[1]

“And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it. So judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.”[2]

This is indeed why authoritarian regimes and colonising powers throughout history have struggled with and prioritised the destruction of Sharia systems in the Muslim world and beyond. Whilst they give ultimate sovereignty to Allāh, authority remains with the people in highly devolved social and judicial systems empowered by their widespread acceptance—an obvious obstacle to colonisation and other forms of totalitarianism. This may be one reason for the opposition to Sharia councils today by those seeking to get rid of any obstacles to today’s hierarchical power structures; but this is a tangent that cannot be given justice here.

The fact of the matter is that Muslims have personal religious commitments and contracts that legal courts cannot cater for without a body like Sharia councils. Muslims living in countries that do not have Sharia councils suffer greatly if they find themselves in need of their services. I often travel to such countries in Europe and every time I do so I receive a large number of cases mainly from women who want to come out of their Islamic marriages but there is no one there to help them. Imams in those countries are afraid to carry out this function due to the xenophobia and smears against Sharia councils we are familiar with; and the legal courts cannot help those women either in their Islamic marriages.

In fact, I have recently come across two cases in a European country wherein a judge presiding over a civil divorce case between Muslims, demanded the husband to utter “talāq” who refused to grant it to his wife. Although the legal marriage in that country was dissolved and no longer recognised, the judges admitted that they have no ability to dissolve the Islamic contract between them in the absence of an Islamic scholar. Where do such women go if there are no Sharia councils?

It is not just the thousands of women seeking Islamic divorces that require Sharia councils. Often there are issues where the wali (Islamic guardian) is absent or an evil person, or unjustly preventing the sister from getting married. Many people also attend Sharia councils to solve financial disputes pertaining to contracts, wills, businesses and so on. They find Sharia councils much more effective, easier and cheaper to solve such disputes, as well as more faithful to the higher moral principles of their religion. Incidentally, due to such easy access to just arbitration it is no surprise that even non-Muslims are increasingly making use of such services.[3][4] The overarching point is that these bodies play a crucial role in preserving the Muslims’ Islamic identity in the West. If Muslims living in western countries are to be treated as equal citizens then their needs should be looked after and not be subjected to the usual irrational, xenophobic smears.

Do Sharia councils oppress women?

In my experience the vast majority of people who benefit from Sharia councils are women, making up more than 80% of the people who use them. Since the vast majority that attend Sharia councils seeking resolutions are women, and since they do so voluntarily, it is foolish to smear Sharia councils generally with the accusation of being oppressive towards women. Such attacks also show the astonishingly patronising view of Muslim women that we have seen time and time again from those that criticise Islām or Muslims; our sisters have been more than capable in refuting such foolish stereotypes.[5][6]

If women were truly oppressed by Sharia councils then why would they insist on going to them, when there is no legal force for them to do so? Why would the thousands of women who seek their services claim they are benefiting from those bodies? This challenge has been put plainly to many of the ideologists and policy makers that are attempting to ban Sharia councils, and after all attempts at a rational response have been exhausted, their explanation boils down to one of two things: (i) those women who insist on coming to Sharia courts are somehow ignorant and foolish of what benefits and harms them (and by implication, the right-wing politicians know what is best for them); or (ii) women who attend Sharia councils are forced to do so because of family or peer pressure.

Whilst the first does not require a response, the fallacy of the second justification for opposition to Sharia councils may require some exposure. If someone is pressured or forced against their will to do something or attend a particular place, then it is absurd to close down the place as a result. People might be socially pressured into going to a variety of places they would not otherwise go; the answer is to attack the peer pressure and empower the individuals being pressured, not to close down every place a person may happen to be pressured into going to. Would these great part-time bastions of women’s rights suggest we close down any place that some people might be pressured into going into by their peers?

These people ignore the fact that the vast majority of people who do attend do so out of their own volition, which is often explicitly enquired as to by the Sharia councils themselves. We sometimes see some so-called “journalists” with a clear ideology attend Sharia councils for one or two afternoons and make generalised pronouncements about “women forced to stay in marriages against their will” or other such ludicrous headlines. To blow exceptions out of proportion and actively ignore statistical significance to suit ones ideology is the essence of bigotry.

Do they discriminate against women?

It would be unfair to paint all criticism of Sharia with the same brush. Some people who do not harbour an ideological hatred of Islām or Muslims may still find themselves criticising Islām because of the common problem of interpreting one worldview through the lens of another. This is one of the greatest challenges when articulating Islām in the 21st century western world.

In the western world, due to its long history of men’s oppression and hatred towards women, those who fail to exercise diligence may interpret any kind of distinction between the two sexes as oppressive towards women. Even when men and women are treated the same, such as where there are separate public places suggested for men and women,[7] such people will automatically presume it is discriminatory against women, rather than it being the other way around.

Islamic values, beliefs and practices should not be tainted with such historical baggage that does not belong to Islām. Islām acknowledges that there are substantive differences between the sexes and thus this is reflected in their rights and responsibilities. Thus the literal interpretation of “equality” in the mathematical sense, does not apply in Islamic notions of men and women. Men and women in Islām complement each other through their differences rather than compete with one another. Although this is not the purpose of this article, it should not be ignored.

“And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of his bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing.”[8]

The crucial point to note is that regardless of the arrogance of those who believe they know what is better for Muslim women than they do themselves, the fact of the matter is countless Muslim women as well as men testify for the crucial need for Sharia councils.

What is the alternative?

Sharia councils are not perfect, by virtue of being part of human life. However, in their absence the burden of their vital work will fall on individual Imams and scholars. Great pains were taken by the architects of Islamic jurisprudence to reduce to near zero the potential for human desires and error to hamper the justice of the Sharia. This includes having a high degree of scrutiny and accountability between scholars.

If Sharia councils are banned under the pretext of protecting vulnerable women or preventing some kind of secret Islamic takeover, then individual Imams who are not part of public institutions that are transparent and accountable, will have to consider cases and disputes individually. This will increase the potential for human error and misuse. Furthermore, in European countries that effectively ban these vital services, we have even heard of vulnerable brothers and sisters having to go abroad in order to have their problems solved. What is better, that they refer to local scholars who understand their context or that they refer to scholars thousands of miles away in a completely different social setting and law?

Whatever arguments that those who wish to close down Sharia councils bring, one thing is certain. Regarding those countless men and women who continue to request the services of Sharia councils daily, as long as Allāh wills, we will never turn them away.

“He sends down from the sky, rain, and valleys flow according to their capacity, and the torrent carries a rising foam. And from that [ore] which they heat in the fire, desiring adornments and utensils, is a foam like it. Thus Allah presents [the example of] truth and falsehood. As for the foam, it vanishes, [being] cast off; but as for that which benefits the people, it remains on the earth. Thus does Allah present examples.”[9]

And Allāh knows best

Source: http://www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] Al-Qur’ān 4:65
[2] Al-Qur’ān 5:48
[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/5876577/Non-Muslims-turning-to-sharia-courts-in-Britain-to-resolve-disputes-claim.html
[4] http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2010/mar/14/non-muslims-sharia-law-uk
[5] http://metro.co.uk/2016/01/25/david-cameron-totally-patronised-muslim-women-heres-how-they-responded-5642928/
[6] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lim-women-ridiculing-david-cameron-over-comments-about-traditional-submissiveness-a6832351.html
[7] http://www.islam21c.com/politics/segregation-and-the-useful-idiot-paradigm/
[8] Al-Qur’ān 4:32
[9] Al-Qur’an 13:17

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THE ‘REGULATING MADRASAS’ BILL: BATTERED, BRUISED & BLOODIED, BUT NOT DEAD YET

cute child quran

Madrasas can give a slight sigh of relief, for now, before taking a deep breath and wondering what the government will try next. The proposal for regulating “Out-of-school Education Settings” appears less likely to proceed as planned after the government received many thousands of replies to the consultation from piano teachers and Christian Sunday Schools indignant that they were being caught in a net clearly designed to target Muslims. Thankfully many other groups fit the bill.

The proposal was debated among MPs recently and, along with noting that not one of the 13 Muslim MPs were present for the important 90 minute debate, it was interesting to see the mix of views among the opponents to the proposal and I would urge you to watch it for yourself here:http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/26ccaa60-67c0-4321-b5e3-b47be504d5b1

Sir Edward Leigh got the ball rolling and seemed to genuinely realise “the problem” the proposed regulation addressed was, in fact, a tiny number of Muslims who will always be under the radar of any legislation. He seemed genuinely concerned that not only non-Muslims but innocent Muslim groups, including the orthodox, would be caught in the broad net the government was proposing to cast. It became abundantly clear he knew it should really have been titled the ‘Regulating Madrasas Bill’ when he said

“The truth is that those thousands of hobby groups are being forced to register only so the system looks even-handed. That is the point: the Government are terrified of not looking even-handed, and therefore they are bringing in all those other harmless groups.”

Perhaps in a vain attempt to show they occupy the moral high ground, the government does not want to appear obvious in creating Islamophobic policy; or, perhaps they have to use these deceitful methods because thankfully, as this debate showed, some in government do not share the Tory leadership’s Neocon agenda.

As Islamophobia grows in the general public, it seems only a matter of time before the government can drop the pretence and start targeting Muslims openly. In fact is there anyone left who remains oblivious to what they are doing?

When Ofsted inspects a handful of private faith schools to rustle up some “damning” sample evidence of un-Britishness for the coming season’s Islamophobic policy making, is anyone fooled by the token inclusion of a few non-Muslim schools?

Could the increasingly obvious futility of this charade be why the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan all but admitted the new anti-extremism website educateagainsthate.com did not target non-Muslims. When asked if Christian converts should be reported she replied “of course not!”.[1]

During the Regulating Madrasas Bill meeting, the MP for East Belfast Gavin Robinson said,

“The Government recently published a counter-extremism strategy. When I asked why Northern Ireland, which has a fair number of extremists, was not included in the strategy, I was told, ‘Don’t push the issue too far. It is really a counter-Islamic strategy.’”[2]

David Cameron recently set out to reassure MPs that the Regulating Madrasas Bill would not harm any party other than Muslims who he has pre-emptively condemned for pre-crime thoughts. He came pretty close to speaking the truth but it came out expertly fudged as usual:

“The Government is working closely with the Church of England and other faith communities to ensure that the system is targeted, proportionate and focuses on those settings which are failing to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Those discussions have been productive, and we have made clear the focus is on establishments that are preaching hatred or putting children at risk.”[3]

Not all in government seem to have got the memo that Christians are to be viewed as non-combatants in this thought-war. Michal Wilshaw head of Ofsted appears to have the extremist hunting bit between his teeth and promised to raid Sunday Schools to look for them there as well. Perhaps forgetting Mr Wilshaw was only repeating the official line from Neocon head office, Tory MP Sir Gerald Howarth called for Mr Wilshaw to be sacked, for simply promising to follow through with the proposed legislation.[4] There is so much deception going on around this issue that people in government look like they are struggling to keep up with what is spin to fool the public, what is hollow appeasement to calm the unintended victims and what is actually intended policy.

In the Regulating Madrasas Bill debate Sir Gerald was refreshingly honest when he said “the problem is confined to one religion only: Islam!” showing great exasperation, I presume because while he thinks only Muslims are a threat to national security, the government cannot just write a bill plainly called The Regulating Madrasas Bill. No doubt, the Muslim community can empathise with him on that account. We all know exactly what the Bill is truly for. It seems like only the mealy-mouthed Tory leadership are left insulting everyone’s intelligence; thinking they can legislate against Scout groups then whisper quietly to them “don’t worry, we’re just using you as cover”. As Fiona Bruce MP pointed out “what if” the politicians making the reassuring whispers today change to, yes its sadly possible, an even more illiberal government who might actually use the enacted legislation against non-Muslims. If nothing else it would give job security to Michal Wilshaw.

Still, for whatever reason (probably legal), the puzzle the government has set itself is how to target Muslims without appearing to be targeting Muslims. This attack on Madrasas is mainly failing because of the other groups inadvertently being targeted. We should be under no illusion that they will just give up trying to regulate madrasas. There is hope that some opposition to Muslims being unreasonably singled out will come from the MPs who know what the first steps to fascism look like. That might keep us safe, for now.

I fear it is likely that if we do not urgently do more to address the Islamophobia that continues to ferment in the electorate, gradually MPs will view standing up for Muslims as being political suicide. As Gavin Robinson said about a previous debate, after simply defending Muslims against the poisonous ideology of Donald Trump, MPs were branded “Jihadist-supporters” by some. Also let us not forget the Prime Minster’s escape of censure for labelling his colleagues “terrorist sympathisers” when they opposed bombing Syria which, by the way, is just another Muslim nation that has never attacked the UK. We have become accustomed to a middle ground government and take it for granted. But, voters who are increasingly fearful of Muslims could easily replace their current openly “terrorist loving” MP with someone further to the Right, as is rapidly happening across Europe and, of course, in the USA.[5] The remainder would be MPs too afraid to speak out in our defence. Who can say if our current Muslim MPs will be useful in the future? Judging by their absence in this crucial debate they seem already entirely afraid to be openly defending Muslim interests.

If we do not start being more active in challenging the Islamophobic rhetoric from the government and the media we should not be surprised that people are increasingly fearful of us. Urgent action is needed by us all. Write emails lobbying your MP and councillors on issues of government policy that affect us. Invite your local MP to meet with a delegation from your mosque to discuss relevant issues. Offer to run a public open day at your local mosque if they do not already do them. Take some food around to your non-Muslim neighbours. Write letters or complaints to your local paper challenging Islamophobia. Phone in to radio programs when they are discussing Islam. Submit positive news stories to your local newspaper about your community and invite local journalists to community events. Volunteer for a community clean-up effort, food bank or soup kitchen. Force non-Muslims to notice you doing good deeds, not out of fear or to appease the non-Muslims, but because it is da’wah for the sake of Allāh. Don’t wait until you are perfect Muslims, as many think they should, we need to act now to the best of our ability. Stay within your scope of understanding and inshaAllah your efforts will not be counterproductive.

If we had all been doing our job of da’wah over the course of these last 40-50 years while there have been millions of Muslims in Europe it would have now been impossible to suddenly convince the public that we are a dangerous menace, because they would have all known our reality first hand. Sadly, many of us still do not challenge Islamophobia or engage with others. We are insular, staying within the comfort of our homes, extended families and Muslim communities. Ask the Jews where a campaign of hate ended for them and look to Bosnia and older history for what might happen again to the Muslims of Europe. Too many of us think that if we are quiet and keep our heads down no harm will come to us. It is true that we are innocent after all but the campaign against us goes on whether we like it or not and never has inaction won a battle.

Make duʿā’ for our success but do not forget that Mūsā (ʿalayhi al-Salām) had to hit the sea with his staff before Allāh parted it, Maryam had to shake the tree before Allāh made the fruit fall, Nūḥ had to build the ark. Do we not also have to take action before Allāh will answer our duʿā’ and, if He wills, allows us and our children to continue leading peaceful lives practicing our religion in Europe and calling others to the truth.

Probably the most useful thing to come from the debate was the legal advice that Fiona Bruce received from Professor Julian Rivers, professor of jurisprudence at the University of Bristol and an expert on law and religion. He described the proposals as “astonishing” and said that such a registration requirement, as it would apply to religious groups, would “be straightforwardly in breach of the UK’s international human rights obligations.” Imagine the backlash against the government if the bill went ahead but after a legal challenge all the faith groups including Muslims were exempt from regulation; Ofsted left dutifully seeking out extremists in Violin classes and Girl Guides groups.

Articles 8, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights,[6] and the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 which brings the convention into UK law,[7] states that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and expression, to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority. In his opinion, requiring religious groups to register would breach that. Last year, the European Court of Human Rights said that the European Convention on Human Rights “excludes any discretion on the part of the State to determine whether religious beliefs or the means used to express such beliefs are legitimate.”

So I would encourage every teacher in every Madrasa to start the next lesson by teaching the children to memorise sūrahs 8, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights as it is perhaps the main legal defence we have to practice and teach our religion in the UK. It is also, perhaps, the best defence against parts of our religion being labelled extremist.

And I would seriously encourage every Madrasa and, in fact, all Muslims to join Liberty.[8] Liberty is an organisation at the forefront in the fight against this government’s attempts to scrap the Human Rights Act. Pay attention to their campaigns as many of their fights are our fights.

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10153464670856939/

[2]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm160120/halltext/160120h0001.htm

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/12108953/David-Cameron-pledges-to-stop-Ofsted-inspectors-raiding-Sunday-schools-and-Scouts-meetings.html

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/12102135/Tory-MPs-call-for-Ofsted-chief-to-resign-over-threat-to-raid-Sunday-schools-in-extremism-crackdown.html

[5] https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=far+right+rise+in+europe+politics

[6] http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf

[7] http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/your-rights/human-rights/what-are-human-rights/human-rights-act

[8] https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/

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ISLAM 21C – BEWARE THE MARRIAGE BANDITS

marriage

I am sick of hearing about those brothers who prey upon the susceptibility of our sisters, using deception as a tool for marriage, and marriage as a guise for the fulfillment of their evil desires. I fear that if something is not done to tackle these abuses, we will only see the number of such incidents increase. Therefore, I feel compelled to share some of the cases I have encountered in order to highlight the nature of the issues at hand, and that we as a community must take drastic action to stop or minimize this evil.

One of the incidents which I came across just recently involved a sister who was divorced and the custodian of her children. She was living alone, away from her parents, when she was approached for marriage by a brother who seemed to be a practising Muslim. She had described that her parents were unhappy with her re-marrying due to her situation. The brother managed to convince her she had a legitimate Islamic right to search for a walī other than her own father due to the fact he was forbidding marriage for her on the basis of what he deemed to be a non-Islamic pretext. She was apprehensive in having a walī appointed from the same cultural background as she feared she may have been exposed within the community. However the brother managed to comfort her, exhorting her to appoint him, himself to find her a suitable walī. Due to her naivety and his callous experience in manipulating women, she accepted. So to summarise; she accepted to marry the brother without consent from her parents via phone and skype, with no witnesses or wedding, her walī was anonymous to her, and the brother she was to marry had the ability to appoint an anonymous walī for her. A few days after the questionable ‘nikāh’ had taken place, her ‘husband’ came to her with no other reason but to fulfil his sexual desire. It was only after this that she discovered he had various other sexual partners whom he had claimed to have married previously. A few days later he left her, however he would continue to return in order to blackmail her for sexual relations as he had convinced her their ‘nikāh’ was still valid. As a result, the sister unfortunately contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

In another incident, a sister who reverted to Islām ended up cohabiting with two men at the same time! Initially she married a brother who had come to the UK to study. The brother then left for his country, only to return within a few months. As a result of being alone, she was approached by another brother who offered to help annul her marriage contract. As she now believed her husband was no longer able to return to the UK, she proceeded. The brother introduced her to a supposed mufti who was located abroad. He went on to annul her contract and pronounce her as a divorcee who was able to marry again. Sometime later, the proclaimed mufti, who this brother had recommended, approached her for marriage himself! As he claimed he was of a certain school of thought, he managed to convince her she did not need a walī and hence they could marry over the phone. They went on to proceed with what I call a ‘tele-nikāh’, and she, without even seeing this so called mufti, was ‘married’ once again. Similar to the previous incident, there was no wedding ceremony and the witnesses were all communicating to the sister via telephone. She later met the mufti, who pronounced himself at her door with a gift and flowers. Overwhelmed, she ‘consummated the marriage’ with him. Shockingly (!), this proclaimed mufti also left after a few nights to his home city where he had a previous wife. A few weeks later, the first husband returned to find that she had ‘married’ someone else. He thereby explained that her marriage was invalid as she was still married to him, and began to sexually exploit the sister through blackmail while forbidding her to speak to the so called mufti. This brother would then leave, and the mufti would return, leaving the sister confused as to who she was legally married to. Eventually, the sister began to comprehend the seriousness of the situation at hand and decided to get in contact.

To mention yet another case in which a sister was taken advantage of: a brother had managed to deceive this sister into believing he was seeking asylum in the UK due to crimes he was accused of in his country. He needed a place to take refuge and so persuaded the sister to marry him. They lived together in secrecy, within which time the sister used to act as a slave for this brother. She used to cook, clean and spend money on the brother only to receive abuse in return. To make matters worse, she found the brother would sleep during the day and watch pornography during the night. He used emotional and religious blackmail to give her the impression that she was always in the wrong, and made her feel debased. He used to say “Allāh will never forgive you if you call the police” and used rhetoric such as “It is kufr to seek help from the disbelievers against a Muslim” to prevent her from reaching out for help from the authorities. She lived as a slave for some time until eventually she managed to escape from his web of deceit and torture, in what is a long, disheartening and traumatic story.

As you can see, these are distressing incidents. Prior to discussing any solutions, we must analyse these cases to determine the explanation behind their occurrence. The reasons are vast and complex, so I will mention but a few key factors.

We are able to ascertain that the sisters mentioned is these and most other cases are living alone or do not have a guardian present. They are either divorcees who have left the home of their parents, or new Muslims living by themselves. It is disheartening to know that many sisters insist they are able to live independently from their protectors and maintainers (who are their husbands, fathers and brothers) as Allāh has mentioned of them in the ayah. On the contrary, our sisters should accept that without the presence of any of these individuals who care for their safety, they will become easy and vulnerable targets, prone to susceptibility. It is within the fiṭrah (natural disposition) of a female to look for a male custodian around her, whether it be her father, brother or husband. This is why the sharīʿah gave the custody of the daughter to her father when she has reached maturity. A female who reaches the stage of adolescence is in need of a father figure in her life. If this figure is absent, the desire to replace this fulfillment could end up through a means which is ḥarām.

And Allāh mentions in the Qur’ān:

“And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect.” [1]

It is sad that some Muslim women show dissatisfaction when knowledge is brought to them that the custody of the daughter lies in the hands of her father once she reaches maturity. Are they unaware that the dissatisfaction they show may be directed to the teachings of Allāh and His messenger (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam). May Allāh protect us all from this hypocrisy. Many sisters, in particular those who come from broken families with the absence of any father figure, are more likely to be led astray by individuals who they misplace their trust in knowingly or unknowingly. These sisters need to take counter-measures to construct a barrier between themselves and evil individuals, through appointing a reliable and honourable safeguard. A hungry lion is more likely to target an isolated gazelle. Many sisters may have disagreements with their fathers due to age and cultural gaps which is understandable. However there is no man in the world who will protect and go through what a father will for his daughter. I recall several cases in which sisters would leave their fathers’ home to stay with friends and then fall into ḥarām relationships through them. To conclude, there is no greater shield than that which your parents (and particularly your father) may provide for you, so do your utmost to cherish them. And live mercifully with them without speaking an ill word to them, as they nurtured you when you were incapable of anything, and they have and will always be there for you.

Source: http://www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] al-Qur’ān 30:21

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