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“Do they not travel through the land, so
that their hearts may learn wisdom, and
their ears may learn to hear?…” 22:46
“Those who believed, and those who
were Jewish, and the Christians, and the
Sabians, and any that believe in God and
the Last Day, and work righteousness,
they will have their reward with their
Lord, on them will be no fear, nor shall
they grieve.” 2:62
I’m just returning with an interfaith group of 16 Atlantans from a one week journey to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Window Rock, Arizona. This was another World Pilgrims venture that brings people of various faiths together to travel to interesting places which provide a backdrop for interpersonal and interfaith engagement. A distinguished group inclusive of two Rabbis, two Pastors, an Imam, and an Islamic Publisher, shared prayers, meditations, and reflections while overlooking the Rim of the Grand Canyon and contemplating the wonders of God.
There is nothing like the Grand Canyon, and to partake in it’s awe-inspiring majesty and beauty at sunrise, midday, and at sunset, with spiritually inclined people, is soul-stirring and deeply moving. Not only are the Canyon’s seven ecosystems brimming with diverse life, the Canyon itself seems to be alive as the colors, shapes, forms, and landscapes constantly change in response to sunlight and the position or disposition of the viewer. Six million years old, 277 miles long, 10 miles wide, 1 mile deep, exposed cliffs and pinnacles, expose the wonders of Earth and the Grandeur of God, while invoking humility as deep and expansive in the hearts and minds of observant human beings.Upon one of these many cliffs, we shared in an inspiring Christian worship service.
After 3 days at the Canyon, we passed through the Petrified Forest en-route to the Navajo Capital of Window Rock, Az. There we were welcomed and enlightened by a Navajo Cultural Practitioner (Medicine-man), who shared with us the sad and sordid history between the Native Americans and the U.S. Government. Nothing there for any of us to be proud of, and that wretched history continues today through the discriminative policies that dis-empower the Reservations and Indian tradition. In spite of it all, the Navajo, Hopi, and other tribes have held on to the love and reverence of nature, the earth , it’s creatures, and the human responsibility to live in harmony with the creation and to serve as caretakers, and not exploiters. Our Practitioner said if you care for the Earth, it will take care of you. To him the earth is us and it’s vegetation is our Pharmacy. It was here, under the huge oval opening in a mountainous rock that gave Window Rock it’s name, that we collectively observed the Muslim Jumuah Prayer.
The next day we traveled to Sedona to immerse in the beauty of the red rock formations that are acclaimed to be a vortex of spiritual energy. It is indeed mesmerizing, and the perfect setting for our Shabbot (Jewish Sabbath) Service. Once again, Pilgrims returned more enlightened and appreciative of the others’ faith and of their own, and more committed to interfaith collaboration for the benefit of our City and as an investment towards the renewal and preservation of our Earth and Humanity.
submitted by Plemon T. El-Amin
“What is the life of the present but play and entertainment? Best is the home in the hereafter, for those who are righteous. Do you not then understand?” 6:32.
“Leave those alone who take their religion to be play and entertainment, and are deceived by the life of the present…” 6:70
Although life is like a game (6:32, 3:185, 22:6), it should be played by the rules of religion (6:70) which God has revealed and programmed into creation. To explain this analogy I point to a lesser creator (23:14), the video-game designer.
The creator (23:14) of a video game, like the Creator of the heavens and the earth, gives the player freedom within limits. And although the number of environments, strategies, resources, actions, and outcomes that we can choose from are predetermined, the one we choose is in no way predetermined.
And when the game is over, whether we succeed in beating the game, fail, or quit; when the system shuts down, the image turns off, the controls are laid down upon the ground, we must rise to a greater reality. (3:185).
Submitted by Bilal Muhammad
Verses Referenced Above
“… blessed is God, the Best of the creators.” 23:14.
“… the life of the present is but stuff of illusion.” 3:185
“This is because God is the Reality. It is He Who gives life to the dead, and it is He Who has power over all things.” 22:6.
Pilgrimage Not Prison, Psalms 84:1-6, Quran 22:29, 3:96
“How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty. 1
My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. 2
Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, LORD Almighty, my King and my God. 3
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. 4
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 5
As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.” 6
“So let them complete the rites prescribed for them, make their promises, and circle the Ancient house.” 29
“The first house appointed for humanity was that at Baka. Full of blessing and of guidance for all systems.” 96
The freedoms produced by the democracy and free market economy of the United States are among the greatest ever established. However, when the limits on these freedoms are ignored by its citizens, these very same freedoms often morph into unethical behavior, corruption, criminality, and prison, whether an actual prison or metaphorical one.
We all know that the home is the best places to begin preventing the thinking that lead to greed, which in turn lead to the “big house”; virtuous thinking like humility, delayed gratification, and patience, which can also be learned by taking a trip to “the house”, which is referenced in the Scriptures above.
The ritual involves circling the four corners of the Kaaba, also known as “the house” in Beka/Mecca. Since there is no real inherent value in walking around in circles; and with so many people there, doing so without purpose is futile at best, and harmful at worst. Some people, out of arrogance and impatience, push and shove while circling the house. And again, with so many people in the crowd, people get hurt. Some visitors of the house, as do some American prisoners, allow arrogance and impatience to throw them into “the revolving door” of destructive.
Here are my thoughts on how this works…
Corner 1: At the house, whether in Beka/Mecca or in America, we should learn to pray for and to work for what we want, but we should also learn to make peace with the idea of not having all the things we want until we reach heaven, or until we are able to obtain it in the right way, and we should also learn to continue to enjoy our walk with or with out some of those things; or we can push around to corner two.
Corner 2: We can become impatient because we did not get what we wanted when we wanted it, and we can begin to obtain those things in the wrong way, and continue shoving our way to corner three.
Corner 3: We can eventually feel guilty (or at least feel fearful of getting caught) and decide to stop pushing and shoving, and to resume our walk, peacefully around to corner four, which is also corner one.
Corner 4/Corner 1: Pray for and work for what we want, but make peace with the idea of not having it until we reach heaven, or until we can obtain it in the right way, and to continue to enjoy our walk with or with out those things, or we can shove our way back to corner two.
Now that I think about it, there are other similarities between Mecca and prison, but without getting too political, let’s just stick with the similarities during the pilgrimage. During the pilgrimage, much like prison, there is a lot of waiting around, a lot of reflecting, and plenty of time for soul-searching. Often, people consider themselves reformed, transformed, and born again. Perhaps taking your child on just one trip to this small house can prevent future trips to the big house.
What do you think? Post a comment.
Is Allah, in the verses 4:160-162 below, urging Jews and others to pray and give money according the Sunnah of Muhammad the Prophet? In other words, is Allah asking people to convert to Islam? Or is Allah defining salat and zakat as universal practices that Jews and others can perform without “converting” to Islam?
I think that since Allah does not reveal the details of salat and zakat but instead reveals a universal meaning for the words (22:34-35, 4:160-162 ), and that since Allah tells Jews to look to the Torah as it pertains to practicing their religion (5:43), and also since neither Jews, Christians, nor others need to convert to Islam to be considered believers and to receive salvation (2:62, 5:69, and 22:17), for all these reasons, I do not think that Allah is encouraging Jews or others to pray and give money according to what Muslims consider to be the Sunnah of Muhammad the Prophet.
So why does Allah say that Jews are to practice salat and zakat in Quran 4:162? I think this because salat and zakat are more universal than many Muslims think they are, even for Muslims.
As I mentioned, Allah uses the terms salat and zakat universally as prayer and paying money (22:34-35, 4:160-162 ) and leaves the details of these practices out. For these reasons I think that any believer including Muslims, can consider paying taxes (read more) or making other payments as paying zakat. And all believers, including Muslim believers, can consider performing salat in any way that is in-line with the Quran, including performing salat with the Jews, as performing salat.
The Verses Referenced Above
“And for the iniquity of those who were Jews, We made impermissible for them certain good and wholesome things, which had been permissible for them. With this, they hindered many from Allah’s way.” 4:160
“And because they took usury, though they were forbidden, and because they devoured the people’s sustenance. We have prepared for those among them who do not believe a terrible punishment.” 4:161
“But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and who believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you, and those who establish salat and pay zakat, and believe in Allah and in the Last Day, to them will We soon give a great reward.” 4:162
“To every people We have appointed rites and ceremonies, which they perform. The let them not dispute with you over the matter, but invite them to your Lord, for you are surely on the right way.” 22:67
“But why do they come to you for decision, when they have their own law before them? In it is the command of Allah, yet even after that they would turn away, because they are not people of faith.” 5:43
“Those who believe, and those who follow Jewish Scriptures, and the Christians, and the Sabians, and any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, they will have their reward with their Lord, on them will be no fear, nor shall they grieve. “2:62
”To every people We appointed rites that they might mention the name of G-d over the sustenance He gave them from animals. And your G-d is One G-d, so submit your will to Him, and give the good news to those who humble themselves” 22:34
“They are those whose hearts, when Allah is mentioned, are filled with awe. Who show patient perseverance over their afflictions, establish salat, and give out of what We have bestowed upon them.” 22:35
G’d tells us in the Holy Qur’an, “It is He Who has named you Muslims, both before and in this (Revelation.)” We should also understand that the religion of Al-Islam builds upon the excellence that G’d has given every man. And just as the nature of all the prophets was Muslim, so is the nature of everyone in our religion. But what is Muslim? G’d has given every creature its nature, and that nature is Muslim. You may say, “Do you mean the nature of a snake is Muslim?” Yes. A snake wants peace.
We also believe that the nature of the celestial bodies: the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, the many Stars and other planets is Muslim. Science tells us that if there is confusion or disorder in the universe, there is a force that brings about order and peace again. This in itself tells us that the nature of the universe is Muslim. Thus, Al-Islam is the religion after the very nature in which G’d created man.
All religious people don’t see G’d in the same way, but if they are sincere in their beliefs, G’d will help them. Prophet Mohammed (saw) said, “Every child is born a Muslim, but it is the circumstances in which he is born that makes him Jew, Christian or other.” G’d says that He has established man on the order of the pattern found in the universe. He formed man to that pattern, and that is the pattern of behavior we call Islamic behavior.It should be clear to the Muslim that what Al-Islam offers in terms of behavior is the kind of behavior G’d's creature should have. Al-Islam offers its adherents the kind of future G’d's creatures should look for in this life and in the Hereafter.
The Muslim life is not a life of conflict. It is a life of unity. The Muslim doesn’t see spiritual life in any kind of conflict with community life, political life or economic life. But, because man is an emotional, moral and spiritual creature, spiritual life is a necessary condition for him if he is to make real progress in the field of material reality.The essential life for man if he is to make real progress on this earth is spiritual life, and this life begins with a belief in our hearts, our minds, and in our souls that we are accountable to One G’d Who is superior, perfect, absolute and eternal.All religious people don’t see G’d in the same way, but if they are sincere in their beliefs, G’d will help them.
“We have indeed created man in the best of molds,then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low,except such as believe and do righteous deeds: for they shall have a reward unfailing.” The natural conscience of man is excellent. G’d says that He has made man in the most excellent mold or form. Muslims reject the idea that human nature is gross matter, a situation for sin. We see the human nature as the base that supports everything else. Nature should be appreciated for its whole function and role, and should not be blamed for deviation.Man has a very special nature that is human. He is not only Muslim, but he is also human: he is man. If we imitate any other creature in our behavior, then we are stepping outside of our natural form, which is man. No one should say that nature is bad just because some men act like dogs. They should say that nature is good, but some men are confused, acting outside of their true nature.
If a dog acts like a dog in its nature, we don’t say that the dog is bad. Nor do we say that nature is bad because we expect a dog to act in the form of a dog. But if man acts like a dog, there are some ignorant scientists who say, “Nature is bad”. A scientist should be the last one to make such a statement. He should understand the difference.
Nature should be appreciated for its whole function and role, and should not be blamed for deviation. Al-lslam brings peace to ourhearts and to our souls. It reconciles the spiritual and worldly life within us. Nature is not bad, it is excellent. But, because of man’s free will and free spirit, he will copy forms that are not his own if he is denied the right kind of learning environment. G’d has given us a great freedom, but it is also a great risk, and it puts the moral burden on society to see that the circumstances are good for the evolution of the creature that G’d has made.
The religion of Al-lslam brings peace to our hearts and to our souls.It reconciles the spiritual and worldly life within us. It brings unity so that we are not secular in one part of our soul, and spiritual in another part, causing war within our own soul against ourself. Some people run from the worldly reality of their form to build the spiritual reality, and some run from the spiritual reality of their form to build the worldly or material reality. Such people are in trouble. But the Muslim should be united. His life should be reconciled. He should be at peace with himself, and most of all, at peace with his nature.Though nature is excellent and is the beginning place if we expect our lives to grow or develop, it is not enough. It is not until Revelation comes that man really finds his purpose on this earth, his purpose in the universe, and has true satisfaction in his heart and so If anyone doubts that nature is a good base for establishing excellence for man in society, then they should look at Prophet Mohammed.
“You have in the Messenger of G’d a beautiful pattern (of conduct), for anyone whose hope is in G’d and the Final Day.”When we study the life of Prophet Mohammed (saw), we find that he was excellent in his nature even before he was given the mission of Prophecy and Revelation. He was admired and trusted by his countrymen. Even before G’d missioned him, they called him, “The honest one, the trustworthy one,” translated, “Al-Amin” in Arabic. People saw something in him that made them feel that whatever he would say would be for the good of all that everyone could accept.
Since we know that Prophet Mohammed was already established in the excellence of nature before he received Revelation, that speaks for the religion being after the very nature in which G’d created man (din al-fitra).If anyone doubts that nature is a good base for establishing excellence for man in society, then they should look at Prophet Mohammed. In him we see that he was trustworthy and morally upright. He refused to worship more than One G’d, even though all of his countrymen were bowing down to idols.
Even though Prophet Mohammed was excellent in his nature, admired by his countrymen, and trusted by everybody, still he was unhappy. In his moments of heaviness of heart, he would go to the cave of Hira at the top of the mountain called, Jabal AI-Nur (Mountain of the Light), which is on the outskirts of the City Mecca. There in the opening of the cave would he sit and think on the condition of his people, the condition of the world, and in his soul he would cry out to G’d. And it was there that G’d responded to him and gave him the first Revelation of Qur’an.
It was with Revelation that Prophet Mohammed became the Messenger of G’d, a new man, a leader for his people and for all people. Revelation enabled him to lead his people out of darkness and ignorance into moral excellence, knowledge, the To tell people that their nature is bad hinders and burdens them unnecessarily.A world was formed, and it became the most dynamic society in the world at that time. Even today, scientist and historians marvel who study what took place during his life and mission. They admit that no other person has been able to accomplish so much in such a short span of time. He turned his people around from an idolatrous, a scattered, disunited warring people of small factions of gangs and tribes into one united community under G’d.
Let us understand the excellence of nature. Let us also understand that G’d rewards us for obeying the excellence of our nature.In this society, it is very important for Muslims to know that G’d approves human nature. There is no ritual or exercises in our religion to train, strengthen or prepare us to disengage our life from our nature. On the contrary, there are influences, teachings, etcetera, to encourage us to embrace, to accept, to appreciate and to understand that our nature is excellent.
To tell people that their nature is bad hinders and burdens them unnecessarily. It becomes very difficult for them to be good. If someone tells you your nature is bad.It is the unnatural condition in the mind of men that has led to the extreme kind of deviation we have in the behavior of man. If you must die, then die to your own foolishness, and not to the nature in which G’d created you. ou should ask, “If I am bad by nature, what is the use of trying to be good?” It is natural for people to want to be themselves.
G’d made us that way. If you give somebody an ideology, philosophy or theology that says to them that their nature is bad, then you are telling them, “If you want to be good, you can never be yourself.” Actually, you are telling them that they have to go outside the nature in which G’d created them, if they are to be good. It is the unnatural condition in the mind of men that has led to the extreme kind of deviation we have in the behavior of man on this earth. G’d did not create the situation for man to go to the extremes that he goes in being a deviate, a pervert or some kind of weird creature.
G’d did not create a situation for extreme behavior in the deviate line or deviate direction. It was man experimenting, dreaming and acting outside of the voice of his good nature that brought him to such a conclusion which brought about the introduction of the false idea that says man must free himself from his nature. Such teachings say that man must first die to his own nature.The truth is that if you must die, then die to your own foolishness, and not to the nature in which G’d created you. And once that happens, then you can live in the truth.”
-Imam W.D. Mohammed