Archive | November 5, 2010

Fasting for Change

Fast for Change 

By Hwaa Irfan

When we are surrounded with dissension, whether that dissension reveals itself in our family life or in the public sphere, to boost the meaning and purpose of our deen, fasting is a useful spiritual tool we can call on at anytime.

This is one particular time we should call on the tool of fasting, with the Wikileaks revealing the extent of the factionalism that took place in Iraq. I have worked with good Sunni’s and good Shi’a’s and whatever appears in the press would not turn me against either for I am a Muslim first and foremost, and in the tawhid of our deen, to turn against a people because of bad experiences and interpretation of information only serves to weaken my deen at the pleasure of our enemies. It hurts me to listen to Sunni’s speak of Shi’a in a negative light without little prompting, which only demonstrates how much we have become our own enemy by looking at incidents through the prism of the “other”, a prism that was introduced into the Muslim world through the successful endeavors’ of the British and the French to undermine and weaken the Ottoman Empire – they were successful, and remain successful in their deliberate campaign the spread dissension between Iraqi Shi’a and Sunni in the U.s. occupation of Iraq. We do not seek to explore the fact that Shi’a and Sunni marriages in Iraq were commonplace before the U.S. invasion and occupation, we do not seek to explore the foreign influence in the rampant violence, we do not seek to see how this politicking fragments Shi’a and Sunni unity, and we do not seek to explore the suffering that Shi’a have suffered over time at the hands of Sunni. We do not be mindful of the affiliations of the compilers of the Wikileak affect interpretation of data instead we fall prey to the same obsessions that dominate the secular world into the Muslim world, so what makes us so different?

{ And when there comes to them news of security or fear, they spread it abroad; and if they had referred it to the Apostle and to those in authority amongst them, those amongst them who can search out the knowledge of it would have known it, and were it not for the grace of Allah upon you and His mercy, you would have certainly followed the shaytan save a few} (An-Nisa 4:83) 

If the dead of Iraq were only Shi’a, would Sunni’s who see only that which is Sunni consider it to be none of their concern? If the dead were only Christians, would Shi’a and Sunni it to be none of their concern? If the dead were only agnostics, would all the Muslim sects consider it to be none of their concern? A life is a life, and life is valued in Islam, because life is the vehicle of change.

Do we forget who financed the Iraq-Iran war? It took a non-Muslim, Gareth Porter (an investigative historian and journalist) to highlight that sectarian deaths were a part of U.S. terror strategy, and that 

  • General D. Petraeus developed the strategy of using Shi’a’s and Kurds to suppress Sunnis 2004 -2005 – and what do we have a balkanized Iraq

 

  • Deployment of Shi’a and Kurd police in Sunni areas

After all, how else does one bring down a majority!

Fast to erase the idols from our hearts, the idol which turns a friend into a foe, and an imaginary fear into a living reality. But most of all, fast for the unity we so desperately need, or like the rest of the world, we will lose our selves in the hatred of the ill-conceived “other,” otherwise we will wake up one day and discover that we cannot even trust our own shadow!

{And not like those who became divided and disagreed after clear argument had come to them, and these it is that shall have a grievous chastisement} (Ale Imran 3: 105)

{Surely they who divided their religion into parts and became sects, you have no concern with them, their affair is only with Allah, then He will inform them of what they did} (An Anam 6: 159) 

My ‘Ummah will be divided into seventy three sects. All of them will be in the Fire except one? (Muslim #976) 

“What is meant by the term “ummah” in this ahadith is the ummah of response (ummatul-ijaabah – those who responded to the call to Islam after having been invited), which shall be divided into seventy three sects; seventy two of which are deviant, who practice innovated religious practices that do not constitute apostasy. Each shall be punished in accordance to the innovations and deviation (it practiced), except for those who Allah pardons and forgives. Their final abode will be Jannah. The only sect that will be safe is Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah, who adhere to the Sunnah of the Prophet (sal-Allahu `alayhi wa salam) and hold fast to what he and his Companions (radhi-yallaahu ‘anhum) were holding to. It is they about whom the Prophet (sal-Allahu `alayhi wa salam) said:

((A group of my ummah shall remain steadfast, on the truth, victorious, unharmed by those who oppose them, and do not support them, until the death or until the Day of Resurrection)), [Sahih al-Bukhari, #71 & 3641, and Sahih Muslim, #1920]

As for those whose innovation casts them out of Islam, they belong to the ummah of invitation (ummatud-da’wah – those to whom the Prophet (sal-Allahu `alayhi wa salam) was sent to invite to Islam), not the ummatul-ijaabah. They shall remain in the Hell Fire forever, and this is the most valid opinion.

It is also said that the term “ummah” in this ahadith means ummatud-da’wah, which is a general term indicating all those to whom the Prophet (sal-Allahu `alayhi wa salam) was sent (i.e. mankind) those who believe and those who do not believe. Whereas the term “the saved sect” is the ummatul-ijaabah, which strictly applies to those who believe in the Prophet (sal-Allahu `alayhi wa salam), truthfully and die in such a state (of belief). This is the sect that will be saved from the Fire; either by prior punishment or without prior punishment, and their final abode will be Jannah, (insha-Allah).

As for the seventy two sects (in the second opinion) they are all, excluding the saved sect, disbelievers who will live forever in the Fire. Hence, it is clear that the ummatud-da’wah is more general in connotation than the ummatul-ijaabah. That is to say, whoever belongs to the ummatul-ijaabah belongs to the ummatud-da’wah, while not everyone of the ummatud-da’wah belongs to the ummatul-ijaabah.

And with Allah lies all success and may Allah send prayers and salutations upon our Prophet (sal-Allahu `alayhi wa salam) and his family and his companions.

The Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fataawa

 

Related Topics:

The Idols of Our Lives

The Secret Iraqi Files

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The Idols of Our Lives

The Idols of Our Lives

By Hwaa Irfan

The lifestyles today are multifarious in their commonalty, which one could suppose is a gift of globalization, when we choose to look at the many dysfunctional forms of how we have ‘chosen’ to live our lives.

The verb ‘to choose’ may seem like one that depicts the democracies today, if we disregard the real meaning of ‘democracy. It may seem as if at this point in history the liberties we speak of and fight for are quickly spreading, but when extreme in polarities meet they become one and the same. That sameness can be for the sake of this argument, be reduced down to the idols in our lives on both a personal and public level. We may not see the things we worship as an act of worship whether they be material, physical (our bodies), or socio-psychological, but they do represent the individualism that separates us rather than nourishes a collective consciousness that is able to resolve the problems that we face whether those problems be personal or political. 

There is one period in history that serves as an example that may serve to reflect on the path we seem to be taking. That period is the Byzantine period, which from inception began with Constantine the Great, Monday 11 May 330, and ended on Tuesday 29 May 2453 with Sultan Mehmet II – lasting for just over 1,123 years. Lord  John J. Norwich summarized that period as follows: 

“There has been no other enduring civilization so absolutely destitute of all forms and elements of greatness… Its vices were the vices of men who had ceased to be brave without learning to be virtuous… Slaves, and willing slaves, in both their actions and their thoughts, immersed in sensuality and in the most frivolous pleasures, the people only emerged from their listlessness when some theological subtlety, or some chivalry in the chariot race, stimulated them to frantic riots… The history of the Empire is a monotonous story of the intrigues of priests, eunuchs and women, of poisoning, of conspiracies, of uniform ingratitude, of perpetual fratricides”. 

Background

Dominating the regions around the Mediterranean: including Gaul, Britain, Anatolia, the Balkans, Southern Palestine, (bearing in mind that Jordan was once a part of Greater Palestine), Egypt, and Syria; with domination over the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Though honored with the tribute of introducing Christianity as a state religion, Constantine I had patronized Christians up until the point it cam einto conflict with his burning desire to unify the Roman Empire under his rule alone.  Constantine I’s solution was to do away with synods of local bishops, and replace it with a universal Council of the Church, which was to be held in Nicaea. It took place in 325 with attendance mainly from the East with Constantine I presiding. To challenge the belief from the East that prophet Isa/Jesus the son of God and not co-eternal, , Constantine argued with a  contentious term, homoousios, meaning of substance to remove the threat from his ambitions. With majority acceptance, Constantine I’s first Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches was successful with descending voices put into exile, and their literature burnt. Constantine’s power of persuasion and supporting activities (e.g. establishing Sunday as a Christian day of worship) was able to allay any fears on the part of both pagans and Christians of the Roman Empire, yet the growing factionalism amongst Christian leaders presented a threat of further instability. 

And so it was that the Roman concept of statehood was ratified further under Emperor Constantine I. 

The Byzantine Influence

Through political Byzantium political pressure, the Western concept of monotheism found its way into Arabia in the period, which led to the first unified Arab confrontation in Southern Palestine at the battle of Ajnadayn in 634.

Byzantine and Sasanid empires were exhausted by decades of warfare by the time Arab forces sought to drive them back. The Monophysite Christians in Syria, the Nestorian Christians in Iraq had troubled relations with Byzantine and Sasanian overlords. Local populations were content to accept a new regime.

As a rule, Arab Muslim soldiers were not allowed to take hold of conquered land as their own, for those lands were considered the permanent possession of those communities, revenue could be taken, but not the land. Former religious orders were left intact with Iranian, Aramean, Coptic and Greek scribes and accountants worked for the new regime as they did for the old. Landowner, chiefs, and headmen kept their authority depending on the social order of the locality, but of course there were exceptions. With the establishment of Ottoman rule, was the Turkish influence which put greater emphasis on state rule over religious affairs in Turkish terms more than Islamic terms, often neglecting, and confiscating properties the church o the needs of Christian leaders and their communities by the 13th  century. 

The aim to bring Muslim religious life under state supervision descended from the imperialism of the Byzantines and the Sasanids to ensure proper relations between state and religion – Byzantines believed in regulating church doctrine by presiding over church councils and recommending standards of belief; whereby the emperors appointed patriarchs, bishops and archbishops.  Just as there was one ruler in heaven there could only be one ruler on earth. Islam like Christianity was to fall prey to the state so that it could be regulated in line with the needs of the state. The construction of monumental mosques followed in the steps of the monumental churches built by Constantine I under the leadership of ‘Abd al-Malik, and al-Walid in Syria and Egypt.  Ibn al-Muqaffa’ who translated Sasanid literature into Arabic took the view and advised that the Caliph could not afford  religious leaders and scholars to be outside state control in order that in turn they could control the believers.

Worshipping Idols

As we can see today by the example of the global economic crisis, the state is limited in what it can take responsibility for, and that which is the responsibility of the individual. Secularism by its nature is incapable of taking responsibility for the nature of man, and the earth that sustains us.

During the troubles of the Byzantine Empire it was to meet with a challenge, a challenge that was brought about by the evolution of the idol worshipping or more specifically icons. Byzantine had had 6 emperors in 25 years, and was in the midst of a climaxing anarchy by the time Theodosius III ascended the mortal throne.  One of his many concerns like his survival, was the question of whether art fell under the realm of religion, and whether the godhead could be depicted visually. It was at a time when icons as objects of worship was being a trend amongst the Christians to the extent that icons would be worshipped publicly in and of themselves; to the point whereby an icon would stand in as a godparent at a baptism. The bishops of Asia Minor took great offence and established a campaign. This argument appealed to Theodosius III who held sermons on the issue as in direct disobedience to the second of the 10 Commandments. Following suit, Theodosius III turned to the largest icon in the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople – a huge golden representation of prophet Issa/Jesus to destroy it as an example. Outraged women set upon the demolition men and killed them there and then. Many such upheavals were to follow. It was not until 730 that a royal edict was given demanding the destruction of all icons. The lengths that followers of the Christian faith were prepared to go to, to protect their icons included monks in the East  saving what they could and fleeing to places such as Greece and Italy or into the deserts.  This measure was counteracted by Pope Gregory II and III, who asked Theodosius III to leave matters of dogma to the Church. Theodosius III responded by transferring bishoprics in the Balkans from the See of Rome, to Constantinople dividing the Christian Churches of the East and West.

It was Theodosius III’s son Constantine V who took matters further as an iconoclast. Divisions occurred within the family, where one was either pro icons or against, and anyone on the wrong side was to be eliminated. It was not until 10th February 754 that resolution was made by summoning a Council excluding all the Holy Sees of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Rome. The decision was that Christ was not represent-able or aperigraptos, and could not be confined to time and space, while icons of mother of Christ was full of pagan worship. To follow, all those for icons or iconodules  were excommunicated during a time when the region was experiencing a dwindling population due to malaria and the plague. To say the least iconoclasm only lasted periodically after Theodosius III died because of the iconoclast Patriarch that was in place.

The Islamic Influence 

The concept of tawhid is intrinsic to belief as a Muslim. It underlies an individual’s relationship with the Creator and His creations  i.e. all other relationships because we all come from Him, are created by Him, and unify in Him. That is why the concept of harm i.e. haram underlines the Sunnah/traditions of Islam – to hurt another, to kill another, to harm another is to harm  a part of one’s own soul. Also, intrinsic to the concept of Islam is the belief in one God, not the many gods of the Roman Empire. In the words of ‘Ali bin ‘Uthman al-Hujweri, an Afghani Muslim philosopher and teacher of 11th century AD: 

“Created things known as ta’ayyunat (limited beings)  are veils to conceal Oneness of Being in the sense that when different kinds of pots are made out of clay, various forms appear and the substance clay disappears. Similarly when water is converted into ice which is visible and water goes into concealment”.

The Islamic month of Dhul Q’adah, the month before the month of pilgrimage is significant in this respect, because it represents the birth of two prophets who sought to rid the world of the limited things that we worship. Thos two prophets are Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham, and Prophet Issa/Jesus. The extent to which some of the Byzantine Christians were prepared to go for their idols, which is basically what their icons were is only an example of the extent to which we are prepared to go today to protect our own idols. Both Prophets Ibrahim/Abraham, and Issa/Jesus did as Theodosius III, but Theodosius III did it to protect the sovereignty of the Roman Empire on earth, and Prophets Ibrahim/Abraham, and Issa/Jesus did to protect the sovereignty of God.

Multifarious

Today, we have been removed very much from our true nature, spreading the kind of confusion the implications of which we have yet to acknowledge. They can be best explained in the words of psychotherapist Carl Jung:

“… modern man can know himself only in so far as he can become conscious of himself – a capacity largely dependent on environmental conditions, the drive for knowledge and control of which necessitated or suggested certain modifications of his original instinctive tendencies.. His consciousness therefore orients itself chiefly by observing and investigating the world around him, and it is to its peculiarities that he must adapt his psychic and technical resources. This task is so exacting, and its fulfillment so advantageous, that he forgets himself in the process, losing sight of his instinctual nature and putting his own conception of himself in place of his real being.”

“Separation from his instinctual nature inevitably plunges civilized man into the conflict between conscious and unconscious, spirit and nature, knowledge and faith, a split that becomes pathological the moment his consciousness is no longer able to neglect or suppress his instinctual side. The accumulation of individuals who have got into this critical state starts off a mass movement purporting to be the champion of the suppressed. In accordance with the prevailing tendency of consciousness to seek the source of all ills in the outside world, the cry goes up for political and social changes which, it is supposed would automatically solve the much deeper problem of split personality. Hence it is whenever this demand is fulfilled, political and social conditions arise which bring the same ills back again in altered form. What then happens is a simple reversal: the underside comes to the top and the shadow takes the place of the light, and since the former is always anarchic and turbulent, the freedom of the “liberated” underdog must suffer Draconian curtailment. All this is unavoidable, because the root of the evil is untouched and merely the counter-position has come to light.” 

The idols we worship cannot replace what we have lost of ourselves whether we are Muslims or non-Muslims.  Those idols do not only take the form of physical things, but include how we see ourselves – a process of objectification which has been brought about by such champions of oppression like Western feminism, capitalism, nationalism, the gay movement, and materialism for example.  In that sense, we have become addicts of our negative emotions, because of lack of self awareness. In so doing, our negative emotions of for example, selfishness, arrogance, desire (as in lower desires), self hate, hate of others, clothes, the big wedding, the mobile, the way in which we commemorate religious events, and all that which goes with status and wealth, and all that which causes us to harm ourselves and others (including the earth) are form of idol worship. We fight to hold onto those idols as much as the Byzantine Christians fought with their lives to hold onto their icons. As Muslims, this is the anti-thesis of tawhid, which is to be in a state of Islam, not to worship Islam. To be in a state of Islam is to hand over sovereignty to Him, our Creator, but instead we allow ourselves  to be dominated by our negative emotions, and limited things. We do not even realize the limitation of those limits when they no longer provide us with the initial stimulation, or the initial rush of adrenaline, which because they are limited means to sustain the adrenaline rush, the fix, the stimulation is to want more, or to seek some other thing that provides the same initial affect. It may be that the extremes of what we are doing will bring us back to the point where the two extremes meet – when we are forced to question, to reflect and to see the idols in our lives that only serve to dis-empower us not to empower us all because they create multiplicity of being!

{Sovereignty belongs only to God; He has commanded that you shall not serve any but Him. That is the right religion, but most people do not know} (12:40) 

Sources:

Al-Hujweri, A. “The Kashful Mahjub.” A.S Noordeen, Malaysia. 2000.

Jung, C J. “The Undiscovered Self.” Routledge & Kegan Paul, U.K. 1996

Lapidus, I. M. “A History of Islamic Societies.” Cambridge University Press, U.S. 1995

Norwich, J.J. “A Short History of Byzantium.” Penguin Books, U.K. 1998. 

Related Topics:

Who or What Gave You Life?

The Ideology of Charisma

The Emperor’s New Clothes

The House of Three Rooms

Society Says Your Body Not Your Mind!

The Law of Three: Concealment and Attraction

Finding the Real You!

Can You Just Change Your Mind Just Like That!

Letter to the Self #2: Ego

Distractions of Life vs. God