Tag Archives: The Book of Destiny

The Book Of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

THE BOOK

OF

DESTINY

(An English Translation of the Book

Kitaabut Taqdeer)

 

 PARWEZ

 

Tolu-e-Islam Trust®

Lahore – Pakistan

 

 

THE BOOK OF DESTINY

By Ghulam Ahmad Parwez

Published by

Tolu-e-Islam Trust ®

At

An-Noor Printers, Lahore

All rights reserved.

This book or any part thereof shall not be reproduced without the written permission of Tolu-e-Islam Trust ®

For further information, please contact:

Tolu-e-Islam Trust ®

25-B, Gulberg 2, Lahore – 54660, Pakistan

Tel:  (++92) 42-5753666, 5764484 & 5714546

Email: trust@toluislam.com; Visit us at:  www.toluislam.com

ISBN  978-969-8164-18-8

Originally published in Urdu under the title, “Kitaabut Taqdeer”.

A History of Editions:  1971, 1973, 1978, 1982, 1989, 1994, 2006

English rendering by Khalid M. Sayyed, Peterborough, England

Sponsored by Maqbool M. Fahrat (UK)

Total sale proceeds from Tolu-e-Islam Trust® publications are spent on dissemination of Quranic teachings.

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The Translator’s Note – The Book of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

It is with a curious mix of feelings that I present this work. I feel proud to have conveyed to the reader of the English language a remarkable book by one of the two men I have been directly influenced most by, intellectually. (The other was my maternal grandfather Hakim Pir Rasheed-ud-Daula of Gujrat, Pakistan, a very close friend and confidante of Inayatullah Khan Al-Mashriqi, the famous mathematical genius and leader of the popular Khaksaar movement in the sub-continent).

I was introduced to Parwez in 1959, purely accidentally, while I was browsing in my grandfather’s library. By 1968/9, I became fully convinced of the academic and logical sense his work made; I practically joined the intellectual movement of Tolu-e-Islam by trying to establish one of earliest representative circles (Bazm) in the London area circa summer 1969. After that, I had regular personal meetings with Parwez whenever I happened to be in Pakistan. I hold the sincere view that Parwez’s interpretation of the Islamic religious thought, and that of the Quran in particular, is by far the best thing to happen to Muslim literature in modern times.  To the best of my ability, I have tried to capture the essence of Parwez’s thought in a way that may be palatable to the average English language reader. At times, I have had to omit certain linguistic and cultural references which, in my view, would have been almost totally alien to non-Urdu speakers. This I have done in an effort to avoid unnecessary complexity.

In order to fully appreciate Parwez’s stance, it is highly desirable to keep in mind the difference in meaning, interpretation and application of some fundamentally important terms and expressions of the Quran as he takes them and as they are conventionally taken by the dominant majority of Muslims. For that, I have recommended to the publishers to include a comparative glossary of such terms.

This work was completed in November 1997 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia during my long stay there (for a total of 23 years) as a lecturer in English language at the King Saud University’s College of Languages and Translation. Since my return to the UK in 2000 I have been teaching English Language first at Leicester College in Leicester and currently at Peterborough Regional College in Peterborough, where I live with my wife. We have three children. I am indebted to my circle of like-minded friends in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, above all Mr. Asif Jalil, for all the support and encouragement I have enjoyed throughout my occupation with this work. In addition to that, I owe gratitude to the London Bazm, especially Mr. Maqbool Farhat for all the encouragement and support. I also feel flattered by Tolu-e-Islam Trust (the parent organization of Parwez’s philosophy) for entrusting me with the task.

KHALID M. SAYYED, MA (Punjab), PGCE (London), M Ed (OU, UK).

September 2004,   Peterborough, UK

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Glossary Of Quranic Terms- The Book of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

It is important to glance comparatively at some useful Quranic terms and expression used in this book. Their exposition by Parwez, apparently digressing from the traditional, is based upon two principles:

  1. The language employed by the Quran should be looked at from its perspective of the time of the appearance of the Book (5th/6th Century AD);
  2. The Quran reinforces and clarifies the terms and expressions used by it through ‘repetition of verses’, i.e., using antonyms, synonyms, explanation, and repetition, etc.

Parwez’s approach is no where more elaborately illustrated than in his monumental Lughaatal Quran.

TERM TRADITIONAL PARWEZ
Deen Religion (the principles, the rituals, etc.) based upon the Book, the Traditions of Muhammed, various schools of thought The way of life (principles) suggested for mankind in the Quran.
Mazhab Religion Any way (or philosophy) of life.
Sala The five obligatory daily prayers The entire system of following Allah’s way (including the ritual prayers)
Zaka The 2.5 % tax paid to the poor from one’s annual holdings. The entire system of the state managing its finance.
Izza Social status and respect Power and control
Zilla Degradation Weakness and vulnerability
Taqdeer Pre-decided destiny Universal laws of Nature
Aakhera Life after death Future as well as the Hereafter
Iman Faith, belief Satisfied conviction
Momin A pious Muslim A deeply convinced Muslim
Janna Paradise in heaven Paradise as well as a paradisical society on Earth (Here)
Jahannum Hell Hell in the Hereafter as well as hellish life on Earth (Here)
Aadam Adam, the first man Mankind
Shaitaan / Iblees The Devil Human sentiments of rebellion and emotions of depression
Malaaeka Angels Forces of Nature
Qibla Kaaba, the sacred House of Allah in Mecca The physical (and spiritual) center of the Muslim nation

 

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Foreword – The Book of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

The question of Destiny – be it religion or philosophy – is considered to be the most difficult, complex and unexplained. The great deal that has been written on this problem has not only been unable to solve it, but also it leaves one ever more confused. After having published Jahane Farda – the last volume of my Ma’aareful Quran series (the voluminous and extensive Lughatul Quran and Mafhoomul Quran) – I saw as having completed a large part of my sacred mission of promoting and publicizing the Quranic thought. I was looking forward to devoting the rest of my days to compiling and editing Tabweebul Quran. But, I noticed that nearly 90% of the queries received to seek further explanation of the Quranic teachings dealt – directly or indirectly – with the problem of destiny. Such questions, nay objections, were mostly from the young. Briefly, they said that a religion which proclaims that Man’s destiny is pre-determined and unchangeable, cannot be an effective tool in a competitive life and world. Others, who had started pondering over the Quran, found several contradictions in it. For example, they said, it (the Quran) says that it is Man’s choice to pick the right or wrong path of life. Yet, at other places, it says Man has no choice in the matter since righteousness is given by Allah alone. Such queries and objections made me see as inadequate whatever I had already written on the subject. Since it is scattered in various books, I felt a special treatise was needed to answer this enigma. Otherwise, all my efforts to get the educated young interested in the Quran would be rendered futile. They could even grow distrustful of Deen (Islam). That has been the driving force behind this treatise you have in your hands.

The Quran has clearly and satisfactorily explained this most complex problem like it has so eloquently, yet simply, dealt with other problems regarding human life and the universe. But, it requires a deep study of the Quran, for which one must consider the following:

Normally, a book deals with one subject and is divided into chapters. Each chapter deals with one particular aspect of the subject and is self-contained. All chapters chain the various aspects together to give a coherent view of the subject. The Quran has a different style. It deals – not with one subject – but with crucial problems of human existence and those of the universe at large. Obviously, a book of normal proportions, when dealing with such complex and numerous issues, just cannot discuss them in detail. Therefore, it has dealt in great detail, with the issues of human life but only touches upon the realities of the universe and human existence. It expects Man to discover the secrets of the universe. Also, the Quran does not deal with a topic fully at one time. Instead, it spreads it throughout the book through its method of repetition (tasreef-e-ayaat), – the principle, the explanation of it, illustration through examples, the exception(s) – all sprinkled all over. It is out of scope of the book you are reading to explain this particular style of the Quran and its aptness in its role of a complete and permanent eternal code of life for all mankind for ever to come. For the moment, it is suffice to state that the best approach to comprehend the Quran is to keep in view all the relevant verses throughout the book about a particular question. Isolated verses do not, and cannot, present a true picture. That has been my own approach, and, on this very basis, after a life-long toil, have managed to compile my ‘Lughaatul Quran’ and ‘Mafhoomul Quran’. In this book, too, I have adopted the same technique.
Another obstacle in the way of understanding the Quranic teaching is the traditional approach of translation. The fact of the matter is that the Quran cannot be translated into any language. This is true, though amazing. No other language has the vocabulary synonymous with the Quran. I have dealt with it in detail in the introductory chapter to ‘Mafhoomul Quran’. Those interested may well read it there to discover that the fact of the Quranic ‘untranslatability’ (being untranslatable) has been acknowledged by Muslim as well as non-Muslim scholars. The Quran can be interpreted but cannot be translated. This very fact prompted me to author ‘Mafhoomul Quran’ which, thanks to Allah, has been very well received with a wide-spread voluntary acclaim that it has helped tremendously in comprehending the Quran.
In this book I have quoted the Quranic verses in the following manner: ‘this verse is traditionally translated like this, but its interpretation is …’ . This is not to say that the translation is erroneous. The question of error does not arise in an untranslatable situation. For example, verse 93, Sura 16 is translated thus: “Allah misleads whosoever He wishes and guides whosoever He wishes.” The same mode of translation can be found in all publications – even when it is translated into Arabic! Nonetheless, a careful look, in the light of the principle of tasreef-e-ayat’ mentioned above, reveals that this translation conveys an erroneous – rather opposing – view of the Quranic teachings in this regard. Therefore, “من يشاء” must be correctly interpreted in view of various Quranic verses in this connection before this particular verse can be understood. This is the approach I have taken, i.e. interpreting the Quranic vocabulary through Quranic verses on the basis of recognized Arabic lexicon, in interpreting the entire Quran in ‘Mafhoomul Quran’. I have made use of this technique in this book, too.

In regards to understanding the Quran, one must keep in view the point that the Quran’s claim of being divine is supported, among others, by the fact that it contains no self-contradiction at all (verse 4, Sura 82). Therefore, an interpretation of a verse cannot be correct if it is contradictory to another. One must be mindful of this while reading the Quran. This is exactly what I have done. The Quran has no contradictory statements. If one is noticed, the fault lies not with the book but with the reader. Such confusion can be removed by deeper consideration, spurred by curiosity.

One more fundamental requirement is for the reader to shed off all the pre-conceived concepts and beliefs before reading the Quran. Otherwise, you may psychologically look for evidence in support of your views. This will render comprehending the Quran impossible. This is why the Quran puts the condition of “لااله” before “الا الله”, i.e., to ‘get to Allah’ one must clear one’s mind of all ‘non-Allah’ concepts. Allah will not enter the Kaaba unless it is cleared of idols. This is really hard to do but there is no other way to comprehending the Quran.
I have also stated in this book thus: “When Deen changes to Religion (مذهب)…..” The difference between the two must be made clear. Ad-Deen is the code of life handed down from God to mankind through his messengers by means of the process of Revelation. This is obliterated into mazhab (religion) by human alterations. Religion, though devised by man, is attributed to God. Common man is thus hoodwinked into submission by the religious priesthood. When a voice of dissent is raised against a covenant of (religious) faith, the priests whip up popular opinion against it by accusations of digression from the established norms of the earlier generations (the respected forefathers). Thus, they make sure that that voice is muted. Their efforts succeed with help from the fact that religious beliefs, however wrong, are one’s most precious possession and are extremely hard to part with.

Islam, too, has gone through this process. The Deen had been given to man by God through the Messenger. Soon after, it was infiltrated by human concepts and beliefs, gradually descending to the level of religion. That very religion is our current ideology. But there is one basic difference between us (Muslims) and other religions. That very difference has the potential of reconverting religion into Ad-Deen. That fundamental difference is that we have the Book of God. It contains Ad-Deen in its original and un-obliterated form. This situation is unique to Islam. Today the Quran is the only original divine book under the sun. Therefore, should we wish to transform our current religion into Ad-Deen, we have to weigh and test our current religious beliefs and practices against the Quran – keeping those which agree with it and discarding the ones which don’t. The whole point of my Ad-Deen efforts is to bring back to light the divine. Hence this book is a very important link in a long chain of my publications. It shows that one of the fundamental causes of our downfall through history is the non-Quranic belief of Destiny. This is an anti-Deen and illogical belief which has reduced a lively people to a mere heap of dust. I request the reader to ponder deeply over my presentations. This is highly desirable as the current concept of the problem of Destiny has been with us for centuries and has become an article of faith. To replace it with the correct Quranic concept one needs deep pondering as well as exemplary patience and rare perseverance.

This book is intended for those who wish to understand the problem of Destiny through the Quran. Hence, it contains no philosophic or linguistic discussions. I have tried to explain one of the most complex problems in a simple way, through the Quran. Also, I have tried to keep its style as simple as possible, though it is difficult to change one’s writing style, especially during one’s twilight years. The extent of my success can only be judged by the reader.

The Quranic verses have been referred to by the verse number after the Sura (chapter) number. For Example, 3:15 means: the fifteenth verse of the 3rd Sura (Aal-e-Imraan). If you don’t find a particular verse printed here, please look it up in a copy of the Quran – keeping in mind that numbering of a particular verse may differ from one copy of the Quran to another.

Finally, I must state (as I always do) that this presentation is the result of human deliberations to comprehend the Quran. As such, it may not be perfect. I have presented, to the best of my faculties, what I have come to conclude as true and correct. I will consider myself successful if you agree with it. Otherwise, you are free to deliberate over the Quran yourself. I, as a rule, avoid argumentation. I will consider myself duly rewarded if my efforts succeed to reveal the Quran in its true light, even to a single reader.

Thanks

Parwez

25-B, Gulberg 2, Lahore

September, 1971

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Table Of Contents – The Book of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

Table of Contents I-VIII

The Translator’s Note IX-X
Foreword XI-XVI

THE BACKDROP (Chapter-1)
1-4

THE CONCEPT OF ALLAH (Chapter-2)

Taqdeer 6
Allah’s ‘Amr’ Bound To Laws 7
Laws of Nature 7
Laws of Nature are Permanent 10
Allah’s Word (كلمة الله) and Allah’s Way (سنة الله) 10
Haq 11
Allah Bound Himself! 12
Allah’s Promises 12
A Criticism Answered 13
Religion’s Concept of Allah 13

MAN (Chapter-3)

Man’s Will and Choice 15
Man’s Responsibility 16
Story of Man – Freewill and Enforcement 16
The Way of Infidels and Polytheists 17
Allah’s Will 18
Man’s Will in Man’s World 18
Restricted in Choice 18
Actions and Results 19
State of Nations 19
Further Explanation of the Term ‘Taqdeer’ 19
Umar Farooq’s Illustration 20
How Did This All Change? 21
Belief of Enforcement 21
Predictions and Prophecies Are Pure Conjecture 23
Fortune-Tellers and Astrologers 24
‘Deen’ Transformed into Religion 24

THE LAW OF RETURNS (Chapter-4)

The Two Levels of Human Life 25
Three Categories of Laws 26
The Soaring Global Crime Rate 28
The Weighing Balance 29
Individuality of the Human Personality 31

TRAGEDIES AND AFFLICTIONS (Chapter-5)

Success Due to Oneself, Failure Due to Allah 33
What is ‘Museeba’? 34
‘Musaaeb’ Are Caused by Man’s Actions 34
The Reprieve 35
Ignominy and Disgrace 36
Allah is Not Unfair 37
Two Verses From An-Nisa 38
Misconceptions 39
Individuals in an Unfair Society 40
Early Muslim History 41
A Conspiracy 42
Importance of Material Benefits 44
Clash of Right and Wrong 44

FATE OF NATIONS (Chapter-6)

Historical Evidence 47
Refuting a Messenger 48
Unfairness Breads Destruction 48
Period of Respite 49
Every Ajal Has a Law 50
The Book 51
Important Verse Regarding the Question of Fate 56
By Allah’s Permission/Order 59
Meaning of Izn 60
Acceptance/Rejection of Allah’s Message 62
No Calamity Befalls Man without Allah’s Izn 63
Guidance Through Law 64

GOOD AND EVIL (Chapter-7)

Sensitive Dispositions 65
Disapproval of the Material World 66
Reincarnation 66
Christianity’s ‘Original sin’ 66
Dualism of the Magi 66
Schopenhauer’s Pessimism 67
In Praise of Researchers 68
Ulema 68
The Author’s Own Experience 69
Children Born Deformed 69
Allah Has Created ‘Good’ Alone 70
Moral Good and Evil 71
The Present Day Hell 72
Rich and Poor by Birth 72
The Quran is a Source of ‘Good’ 73
Absolute Good and Evil 73
Self Assessment 77
Summary 77
Gain and Loss 77
The Solution 78
One Important Point 79
The battle of Bedr 79
Shaitaan (Devil)/Iblees 80
The Concept of Compulsion 81
The Quranic View 82
The Muslim Iblees (Shaitaan) 83
Iblees is Controllable 83
Why the Tussle of Good and Evil 84

IF ………..THEN (Chapter-8)
(IN THE QURAN)

Judicial Law 85
Physical Law 85
Permanent Values 85
Law and Its Philosophy 86
Deen and Mazhab (the System and Religion) 86
Some Examples From the Quran 87

HOW DID IT ALL HAPPEN? (Chapter-9)

Our Current (Muslim) Beliefs 90
The Old Scholastic Philosophy is Futile Today 91
History is Unreliable 92
The Correct Attitude Toward History 93
The Idea of Compulsion At the Dawn of Islam 94
Harmazan’s Testimony 95
A Conspiracy by Christians and Jews 96
The Asaawra of Iran 97
Influence of Christianity 98
The Tradition 100
Tradition to Support Compulsion 102
The Figurative and The Literal Constituents of Conviction 105
The Sixth Constituent 105
Elaboration by the Late Syed Sulaiman Nadwi 106
The Quranic Support for Compulsion 109
Fundamentals of Comprehension of the Quran 109
Explanations of The Quran 110

THE LAW OF DIVINE WILL (Chapter-10)

Intention and Will 112
If Allah Willed 113
Examples from The Quran 114
Why Were All People Not Created Good? 114
Demand for Miracles 115
Allah’s Reply 115
Why All the Violence and Killing? 116
What Allah Wills 117
Examples from The Quran 117
But whatever Allah Wills 118
If Allah Wills 119
The Airplane Disasters 120
Meanings of ‘in’ (إن) 120
Don’t Desire But What Allah Desires 124
Whoever Wishes 125
Two Meanings 126
An Important Verse from Sura An-Nahal 126
Allah does What He Wants 127
According to His Plan (مشيئة) 128
Allah’s Intention Realized 129
Laws for Respect and Degradation 129
Zakariya’s Child 130
Concept of Allah in Imperial Islam 130
Allah Controls All Things 131
Meaning of Qadeer 131
Allegory of Agriculture 133
The Messenger’s Wish 133
Interstellar Life 134
Allah’s Measures and Standards 135

MISGUIDANCE (Chapter-11)

Chain of Divine Guidance 136
Allah Alone is The Source of Guidance 137
Messengers Are Chosen by Allah 138
People Who Can be Guided 139
An Objection to ‘هدى للمتقين’ (Guidance for ‘The Guided’) 139
Meaning of Muttaqi 140
People Who Cannot be Guided 141
Those Who Walk Blindly 141
Those Who Follow Their Emotional Drives 142
The Conformists 142
The Polytheists 142
The Hypocrites 142
The Transgressors 143
The Unfair 143
Allah Has Sealed Their Hearts 144
Receptive Mind 144
The Hypocrites 146
Allah’s Word Comes True 147
Created for Hell 148
Their Hearts Lock Themselves 148
Men’s Own Deeds Act as Result 149
Whoever So Wishes, Accept and Whoever So Wishes, Reject 149
The Clergy 151
من يشاء – Whoever Wants or Whomever He Wants 151
A Review 154
Al-Muddil – One of Allah’s Names 154

DOES ALLAH CONTROL WEALTH? (Chapter-12)

In Praise of Poverty 157
Distribution of Wealth 158
‘Allah Gives You Sustenance’ والله يرزقكم 159
Conditions for Obtaining Sustenance 160
Wealth Included in Rizq 161
Search for Sustenance 162
Hunger is Allah’s Punishment 163
Respectable Sustenance 164
Distribution of Rizq (the Economic System) 165
Riches and Poverty 165
The Quran’s Answer 165
Quran’s Economic System 166
He Gives Sustenance Beyond Estimate 168
Korah’s Examples 170
What is Anfaaq? 171
Sustenance ‘Without Estimates’ 171
The Convinced of The First Era 172
We Distribute 174
Two Basic Factors of Earning Sustenance 174
Difference in People’s Capacities and Abilities 175
Society is Responsible 176
Criterion for Respect 177

YOU (O ALLAH) EXALT AND (Chapter-13)
DEGRADE WHOEVER YOU WISH

Meanings of Ezza and Zilla 178
Conditions for Achieving Sovereign Status 179
Importance of Physical Qualities 180
The Story of Saul 181
Allah’s Program is Done by Man 182
Laws for Exaltation and Degradation 182
It is A Collective Effort 183
‘Ezza’ from Good Deed 183
‘Ezza’ as Respect 183
Misplaced Standard of Respect 184
Pseudo-respect (عزة الاثـم) 185
Social Status According to Deeds 185
Divine Support and Help 185
Meaning of ‘Nusra’ 186
Allah Helps those Who Help Him! 186
Sword Needed for ‘Nusra’ 188
Battle of Bedr 188
Help Through Angels? 189

‘HE FORGIVES OR PUNISHES (Chapter-14)
WHOMEVER HE WANTS’

Interpretation of من يشاء 192
Two Applications of Maghfara: 192
Good Deeds Neutralize Bad Ones 193
Allah Has No Favorite Offspring 194
Punishment According to Circumstances 195
Collective Punishment 196
Requests for Forgiveness 196
Pride in Sins 197
Mystics, Too! 197
St. Paul’s Influence 198

‘IS THE MOMENT OF DEATH (Chapter-15)
PRE-DECIDED?’

Belief and Action 199
Everyone Dies 199
Death Through Allah’s Izn 199
Rules of Death 200
Conviction in the Hereafter Eliminates Fear of death 201
To Die for Allah’s Cause 201

MISFORTUNE OF THE HUMAN FEMALE (Chapter-16)

Dejection Over Female Births 203
Women and Religion 204
Woman in the Torah and Christianity 205
Philosophers 205
The Quran 206
The Purpose of Marriage 208
Men are Qawwamoon Over Women 209
Sayings Attributed to Ali 210
Civilized Societies of Today 212
Erroneous Examples from Nature 213
Male and Female Offspring 214

PRAYER/SUPPLICATION (Chapter-17)

Universality of Prayer 215
The Current Concept of Prayer 216
Da’aa Meaning ‘Petition’ 217
Allah Listens to His Favorites 218
Divinity of Kings 219
How Are Prayers Answered? 219
Prayers of Divine Messengers Answered 221
Prayer of The Oppressed Answered 222
The Quranic State Responds! 223
Why Pray? 224
Not So in A Just Society 224
Umar’s Eloquent Statement 224
Muslim Prayers Are Collective 225
What Prayer Achieves? 226
Psychological Change 227
What is ‘Remembering’ God? 228
Prayer for Others 228
Individual Prayers of Messengers 229
Prayer is A Blessing and Denying It is Denying God 229
Rahma 230

THE SUMMARY (Chapter-18)

The Inanimate, Plants and Animals 233
Manifestations of Freedom of Choice 233
The Status of the Convinced ` 234
The Correct Way 236
An Objection 237
Law is Nothing But Standing Orders 237
Order and Law 237

Glossary of Quranic Terms 239

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Prayers/Supplication – The Book of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

In this chapter I propose to tackle one of the most delicate and sensitive issues in the domain of religion, viz a viz prayer, be it in the form of certain rituals of worship, or the act of working a request to the Almighty. It is a sensitive issue because prayer is directly concerned with human sentiments and emotions whereas the Quran suggests the use of reason to tackle life’s problems.

UNIVERSALITY OF PRAYER

Prayer has been an element of humanity ever since the dawn of history. It has been one common characteristic of mankind regardless of time, place, society or philosophy, or the deity involved, or even the rites employed. The incentive for prayer is asking an invisible mighty power for help. Even worship is invariably a prelude to prayer, sacrificial, or other offerings made to a deity are also conditionally accompanied by a request. Prayer is solace for the wronged, support for the weak, hope for the dismayed, shoulder to cry on for the lost and the last chance for the hopeless. The more sentimental, devoted and absorbed a prayer feels, the better are the chances considered for the prayer’s success.

I propose to critically examine such an emotional issue because the Quran bases its teachings on reason and logic (even metaphysical phenomena like the Hereafter (2:219-220).  It guides to the path of God (the truth) those who strive to ponder upon it (29:69).

THE CURRENT CONCEPT OF PRAYER

The prevalent concept of prayer makes it an activity in which God is regarded to do, or give, something. But the Arabic term du’aa means to call out to (beckon) someone. As ‘calling out’ is often for help, the term has also come to be used for seeking, asking for, requesting, etc.

The Quran often uses the same term for both a currently prevalent erroneous concept as well as the Quranic version of it; for example, ilaah (to mean ‘idol’ as well as Allah) and ‘ibaada (for reverential worship as well as practical adoption of Allah’s law). Similarly, da’aa, yad’oo, etc., have been used in the meaning of the idolaters calling out to their gods and goddesses for help as well as for a Muslim to obey Allah. Let us first look at instances in the Quran where this particular term and its derivates have been used to mean ‘obedience to Allah.’ Sura Al-Momin (The Convinced): ‘He (Allah) lives and gives life. There is no sovereign but He. So, (call out to and) obey Him alone. Say (O Prophet!): “I have been forbidden to obey those whom you call (obey) other than Allah. I have been ordered to submit to the pressure of all worlds!  (40:65, 66).  Sura Maryam (Mary) cites Abraham saying to his people: “And I sever connection with you and also those who call (obey someone) other than Allah! I (only) call (obey) my Preserver!”…. so he severed all connections with those who obeyed someone other than Allah …’ (19:48, 49).  Sura Al-Momin (The Convinced): ‘Your Preserver says to you: “Call Me and I will answer you. Those who transgress My obedience shall enter Hell, humiliated!” (40:60). Sura Al-Jinn (The Jinn) mentions residents of Paradise answering the query about their deserving the good by responding:  “Previously (in the worldly life) we used to call (obey) Him.” The Messenger was told: ‘Say: “I only call (obey) my Preserver and do not have any one sharing with Him!” (72:20). Messengers, in general, beckoned: ‘and do not call (obey) any other god along with Allah’ (25:213; 28:88; 72:18).  Sura Al-An’aam (The Cattle) clearly asks the Messenger to say to men: “After having received such clear guidance, how can I call a god other than Allah?  I have been ordered to submit (only) to the Preserver of all worlds!” (6:71).

DA’AA MEANING ‘PETITION’

Let us now look at the instances where da’aa has been used in the Quran to mean calling out to Allah (for help, guidance, etc.). Before we do that, however, we should look at some of the questions raised by this particular meaning of da’aa.

The belief in an unchangeable pre-destined life renders da’aa simply futile. For example, the pre-written destiny of a dying patient cannot be altered by praying (da’aa) – praying with the belief that prayer can alter destiny negates the original belief of the unchangeable. Furthermore, it projects God in a strange light – He first decides something (unchangeable destiny) and then waits for prayer by men to change it!

Difficulties also arise with the view that God rules by decree – making decisions as events occur. For example, A (in the right) and B (in the wrong) involved in a law suit against one another, both pray to God for success. Obviously, only one of the prayers will be answered. Who is it going to be? Will it be A, because he is right, or B, because he prayed more devotedly?  What if A had not prayed at all? If we take the view that A’s prayer will be answered because he is in the right (which is contrary to our social experience, anyway), then once again, prayer is rendered pointless. Again, one may take the view that, in order to succeed, prayer must be accompanied by proper action.  In that case, will B win despite being wrong and A will lose despite being right?

These problems are compounded further by the traditional interpretation of the famous verse from Sura Al-Baqara (The Cow):

‘(O Messenger!) When My people ask you about Me, tell them that I am close to them; whenever a caller calls, I respond with a reply.”  (2:186)

The problem with this interpretation is our common observation that it does not hold true in countless cases of oppressed, poor and down-trodden people around the globe.  The traditionalist response to this argument claims that God listens to everyone but decides and does what is really good for the petitioner; therefore, an unanswered prayer is actually a blessing in disguise. This response, apart from being unsatisfying for the wronged, has far-reaching undesirable consequences. The oppressed are asked to accept the state of affairs as God’s better judgment and take all injustice and unfairness committed against them lying down, silently and happily!

ALLAH LISTENS TO HIS FAVORITES

Another traditionalist belief is that God answers prayers only of His chosen people. This has resulted in the proliferation of the so-called ‘intermediaries,’ forming a link between Man and God. Countless people refer to these ‘exalted’ men – dead or alive – to forward their requests to God with a recommendation.

DIVINITY OF KINGS

Obviously, this particular belief is a product of the autocratic period of Muslim history. It was to the benefit of the absolute rulers to have the people believe that ‘the king is God’s shadow on Earth.’ It was, therefore, natural for the masses to imagine God in the same mould as they experienced their earthly rulers (His shadows), complete with His divine court, guards, sentries, intermediaries, and above all, a whimsical process of decision-making.

About the ‘intermediaries’, the Quran says: ‘They are men just like yourselves (7:194). About dead ‘agents’ (whose graves are so very reverentially visited by millions) it says:  ‘They just cannot hear you. Even if they do, they cannot respond! (35:14). Also, ‘they remain ignorant of whatever you say to them’ (46:5); ‘they do not know even about their own resurrection’ (16:21). How can such dead people help the living?

HOW ARE PRAYERS ANSWERED?

As to the question how and when, are prayers answered, let us once again look at verse 2:186, which says: ‘When My men ask you of Me, tell them I am close to them and respond to everyone who calls Me.’  It goes on: ‘If you wish an answer from Me, you must be convinced of My guidance and obey Me.’ Sura Ash-Shura (The Consultation) says: ‘Those get their answers who are convinced and do good (prayer and fruitful) deeds’ (42:26).  Sura Al-Momin (The Convinced): ‘You call Me, I’ll respond; (but) those who defy and transgress, they will enter Hell, humiliated! (40:60). Sura Al-A’raaf (The Heights), while talking about ‘calling out to Allah,’ says: ‘He certainly does not like the transgressors’ (7:55). ‘Those who reject the laws of Allah do not get their prayers answered (40:50). Conviction, followed by continuous diligence to adopt and implement His laws, is the fundamental requirement for getting prayers answered. In fact, such men work constantly at it round the clock and ‘call out to their Preserver, in hope and despair, and keep available for common use what He has given to them! (32:15, 16).

Sura Aal-e-Imran (Family of Imran) contains a beautiful account of this concept. I quote here my interpretation of it from my work Mafhoomal Quran:

For those who put their reason to use, there are great signs in the creation of the universe and the cycle of day and night of the scope and validity of His laws.

It is for those men of reason who constantly keep in view Allah’ laws, be they standing, sitting, or lying down; they keep pondering over the creation of the universe. Their research makes them convinced and they say: ‘O our Preserver! You have created this universe neither in futility nor for destructive purposes. You are too great to have done it so! Grant us the ability to (benefit properly from the universe as a result of our scientific research and practical experimentation and thus) save ourselves from destruction.

Those who do not follow this course of action see their efforts wasted away and they plunge into a humiliating, miserable existence with help coming from nowhere.

It is desirable to harness the forces of Nature and use them for the universal sustenance of Man, not for destruction. This can be done only by a people who are firmly convinced of the divine guidance.

Therefore, these men of reason also say: ‘O Our Sustainer!  We heard a caller calling us to be convinced of the validity of our Preserver’s Laws.  We responded to his call and became convinced.

Then these convinced men of reason desire in their hearts (and they pray): “O our Sustainer! Please save us from the consequences of errors we make. Make up for our little slips and mistakes of judgment and application. Please give us the eventual end of a prosperous existence.

O our Preserver! Please keep Your promise You have made, through Your messengers (Divine Revelation), of bestowing us with prosperity and success. Please do not let us be humiliated on the Dooms Day.

We are sure you are a keeper of promises!  (3:189-193)

To all this, Allah’s reply is the following:

‘Their Preserver then responded to them:  “(I have heard your prayers, but you must remember that) I do not waste the work of a worker – man or woman – (and respond fully to an action).” (3:195)

PRAYERS OF DIVINE MESSENGERS ANSWERED

Let us now make things even clearer by looking at the situation of the exalted messengers of Allah praying and having their prayers answered. About Noah, it is said that he called out to Allah when his people opposed him vehemently.  Allah says:  ‘So We are the best (of those) who answer (prayers) (37:75).  How did He do it?  ‘We revealed upon him (the way of) constructing an ark!’ (23:27).

When Moses was told to free Israelites from the oppressive slavery of the Egyptians, he prayed for divine help in view of the gravity of the commission.  Allah answered: ‘O Moses, We (hereby) grant what you seek’ (20:30). ‘Go, you and your brother (to the Pharoah), with My word; do not you be lax with it! (20:42). Elsewhere; ‘(Allah) said, “I have answered your prayer. So, be steadfast and never follow those who do not know” (10:89).

Again, when Moses prayed for his people to be granted bounties of the here and the hereafter, he was told it could happen only if “they follow the last Messenger; Our blessing, although encompassing the entire Universe, can be obtained by men if they are convinced of Our Laws, abide by them and provide sustenance for others” (7:156-157).

Zakariya’s prayer for a son was granted right away in principle but materialized only when “We cured his wife for him” (21:89-90).

It is obvious, therefore, that prayers are answered only when the relevant laws are properly applied. Praying without appropriate action is commented upon in Sura Ar-Ra’d (The Thunder) with the allegory of a thirsty person standing inactive on the bank of a river. Such prayers all go wasted (13:14).

PRAYER OF THE OPPRESSED ANSWERED

A possible comment on the above can be the intriguing question. Does God not at all answer prayers of the oppressed? The Quran’s reply to this is in the affirmative.  Yes, their prayers are answered.  Following is how it happens.  Look at a leaf from the Muslim history of the early period.

Years of consistent hard struggle had resulted in the Muslims’ own sovereign rule in the town of Yathrib (Medina). In the meantime, Muslims still trapped in Mecca came under increasing oppression at the hands of the Quresh (the ruling tribe of non-Muslims). The oppressed Muslims prayed to Allah for deliverance. Allah said to the Muslims in Medina:  ‘What has come upon you that you do not take up arms in Allah’s way? The weak men, women and children call out to Us: “O our Preserver! Take us out of this town of transgressors. Please send some helper and friend for us!”  (4:75).

THE QURANIC STATE RESPONDS!

Clearly, Allah does not help the oppressed directly.  He does it indirectly through other men. For the first thirteen years of the movement, the Muslims’ prayers (under the oppression of the Quresh in Mecca) were answered by words of advice, consolation and suggestions of remaining steadfast, etc.  Allah said, “Who is the One who answers the call to Him of the desperate and removes their predicament?  He (does it when He) makes you the inheritors of Earth!” (27:26). Please remember that this inheritance is a result of their convinced good deeds (24:53).

Elsewhere, about the Muslims the Quran says:  ‘They are the ones who respond to their Preservers’ beckoning and establish sala (a comprehensive system of adopting Allah’s system), make decisions through mutual consultation, and keep for common use whatever sustenance they have” (42:38). This method of ruling through mutual consultation, established to create and sustain a fair and just social order, is the same employed to salvage the Israelites from the shackles of Egyptian bondage.  Sura Al-Qasas (The Narration):

‘The Pharoah had carried transgression to extremes. He operated a policy of ‘divide and rule’ by oppressing and neutralizing the potentially dangerous, while promoting the gutless. We wanted to grace the oppressed with bounties, i.e., inheritance and power in the land where they could have their own sovereign government.’ (28:4-6)

 

WHY PRAY?

Let me ask you to ponder — just for a few seconds — upon the question: Why and when do the oppressed need to pray to God? They do so in an unjust, unfair and oppressive society which is oblivious to their predicament and abandons them by neglecting them completely.

NOT SO IN A JUST SOCIETY

They see no other recourse open to them than to plead with the Almighty. But this never happens in a fair and just society, simply because there is no need to.

UMAR’S ELOQUENT STATEMENT

This fact was so very eloquently illustrated by Umar, the second Caliph, when he announced:

‘I have been entrusted with the responsibility of the Caliphate so that I stop your prayers on their prayers on their way and not let them reach Allah!’

It sums up the purpose and target of the Quranic social order.

MUSLIM PRAYERS ARE COLLECTIVE

In such a society, no one needs to pray to the Almighty because His representatives on Earth are taking care of them.  In such a society there are no individual prayers. This explains that fact that all the Muslims prayers mentioned in the Quran are collective. A glance at those can make clear their purpose.  Some of them are:

  1. O Preserver of all worlds! Guide us on the right path, the course of those blessed by You! (1:5-7)
  1. O our Sustainer! Bestow nice things on us here as well as in the hereafter. (2:201)
  • O our Sustainer! Give us steadfastness so that we do not falter. Save us from the consequences of small errors. Give us triumph over the enemy.  (3:146-147)
  1. O our Sustainer! Ignore our errors and forgetfulness. Don’t let us slip back into ignorance like nations of the past.  Give us strength to carry out our responsibilities.  Give us triumph over those people who oppose your system (2:286; 3:15).
  1. O our Preserver! Don’t’ let us go astray now that we are on the right path. Please keep us provided for (3:7).
  2. O our Sustainer! Keep promises you have made to us through Your Messengers (3:192-193).
  • Let us be among the doers of good deeds (5:83). Not among the transgressors (7:47).
  • Let the Right decide the conflict between us and our opponents (7:89).
  1. O God! Save us from the oppressors (10:85).
  1. Prayers to be saved from the punishments in Hell (25:65)
  1. Let our families (wife and children) be the cause of happiness, let us be the leaders among law-abiders (25:74).
  • O our Sustainer! Take us, as well as our brethren gone before us with conviction, under Your protective fold. O God! Keep our hearts free of malice for our brothers (59:10).
  • (Muslims praying in Heaven to) complete our light.(66:8)

It is time now to consider the most important question one may ask at this point: ‘Granted that prayers are collective, what do they achieve?’ This being a pivotal question needs careful consideration.

WHAT PRAYER ACHIEVES?

Human actions spring from desire.  Desire and the subsequent will, directly influence an action and its performance. It prepares one psychologically for the forthcoming action.  The verbalization of desire is prayer, as Iqbal(1) very aptly puts it in one of his poems for children.

My desire is on my lips as prayer

Be my life as a candle fairer

 

PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGE

Psychological change in a person, and for that matter, in a nation, has far-reaching effects.  One can only wonder at the linguistic depth the pre-Islamic Arabic had reached.  The simple nomads of the ‘jahliya’ (ignorance) period used to milk their animals but not quite, leaving a little in there to induce down more later.  That little amount of milk thus left was called ad-daai’ya (the caller; the prayer).

This illustrates prayer in the human context, i.e., the condition which spurs emotions into action for subsequent performance. Expression of one’s desires is prayer.

It is important to consider two fundamental points regarding desire.

Keep your desires in line with Allah’s Will.

First, let us see the nature of desire. The Quran suggests the standard of a Muslim’s desire as:  ‘and don’t desire but what Allah wants –‘(81:29) i.e., abide by His laws and follows His system.

(1)          Dr. Sir Sheikh Muhammad Iqbal (1876-1938), popularly known as Allama Iqbal, the poet-philosopher of the East, was key figure in the country wide political movement for the freedom of British India in the second and the third decade of the 20th century.  He was instrumental in the revival of the Muslims of the sub-continent into a potent group which later emerged as the newly created sovereign nation of Pakistan in 1947.  Iqbal wrote poetry extensively in Urdu and Persian and is revered in Pakistan for the magical style.

As mentioned earlier, the sole purpose of human endeavor is to develop one’s personality. The standard to measure this development is to see how much of ‘Godness’ is reflected in one’s personality. Of course, one kind of divine attributes are beyond humans (e.g., eternity and immortality).  But humans can develop in themselves the godly attributes of benevolence, sustenance, kindness, etc. This depends upon having a desire to develop such attributes. So, men should desire what God wants them to, which can be found in His Revelation (the Quran), without which: ‘Man instead of praying for good, prays for bad, in his haste’ (17:11).

WHAT IS ‘REMEMBERING’ GOD?

Secondly, the objective of desire must always be kept in view.  The Quran says the Convinced “keep in view Allah’s law standing, sitting and lying” (3:191). Again, in Sura Ha’Meem (HM): ‘Those who say, “Allah is our Preserver”, and then stand firm, they have angels descending upon them to console and comfort them with their support here and in the hereafter, and give them glad tidings of Paradise promised to them.  There (in Paradise) you will get what you wish and will happen what you pray for’ (41:30-31). A Muslim, by definition, does not desire (pray) for anything out of line with Allah’s Will. That, therefore, guarantees answering of the momeneen’s (the Convinced) prayers.

Regarding the help by angels, the Quran has clearly called it “psychological satisfaction (8:10) resulting in steadfastness. (8:11).

PRAYER FOR OTHERS

As far as praying for someone else is concerned, it is nothing but the expression of one’s good wishes. It acts as moral support for others. One case in point is the practice of praying for the dead (who of course remain unaffected) which is a solace to the bereaved. Such acts are socially desirable to promote gregariousness.  That is why the Messenger was told to “appreciate and facilitate those who bring in their donations because your prayer is satisfying for them” (9:103).

INDIVIDUAL PRAYERS OF MESSENGERS

The Quran reports some individual prayers of divine Messengers.  Job (Ayyub) prayed to Allah in his predicament and He salvaged him (2:83, 84); Younis (Jonah) called out to Him and his calamity was alleviated (31:87, 88). In the first place, the Quran reports no details as to how such help was given.  Secondly, and fundamentally, it is impossible for us to fully comprehend the mechanism of divine Revelation and the nature of the Allah – Messenger relationship. Therefore, it is better left at that. The Messenger Muhammad’s individual prayer mentioned in the Quran is ideal for everyone: ‘Say, “O Preserver! Give me knowledge aplenty!”’(20:114)

PRAYER IS A BLESSING AND DENYING IT IS DENYING GOD

A commonly-held belief is that rejecting the mechanism of prayers makes one deny the benevolence (traditionally translated as ‘mercy’) of God, which is denying God and His powers. Let us see what rahma is in the Quranic context. For that, we must recall the concept of tauba (repentance) mentioned earlier in the book.

The ancient Judaic jurisprudence had no place for tauba.  Every little error had to be punished. The Hindu concept of ‘karam yoge’ (reincarnation) held a similar position. The Christians believe in ‘the original sin’; Christ went to the Cross to absolve Man of sins; anyone believing in the Christ’s being the Saviour gets salvation; that is the basis of the ‘God is Mercy’ belief.

 

RAHMA

The Quran holds a view different from both of the above.  God’s Law of Returns contains both justice and clemency, the latter having a concept different from that in Christianity. The Quranic concept of clemency may be illustrated by the example of a person putting his/her hand in a flame. The burning which results naturally in pain is justice. At the same time, Nature has created means and ways of treating burns. That is Allah’s clemency (rahma). This fact can be useful only to those who know and utilize it. This, in the Quranic sense, is tauba (repentance), i.e., efforts to rectify a mistake.  This point is aptly illustrated in the figurative story of Man’s creation. Both Man and the Devil erred but whereas Man repented and was willing to rectify his error, the Devil refused to confess, and stood defiant. Nature (God) was clement to Man but not to the Devil.

The Quran elaborates it in Sura Az-Zumr (The Groups): “Say (O My Messenger) to those people who have done wrong to themselves: “Don’t lose hope of Allah’s clemency. Verily, He has created means of recovering all falterings. He certainly is the Protector and the Clement! Come back to your Preserver and submit to Him before your error bears result, after which no one will be able to come to your aid (39:53-55).  Elsewhere, it is clarified thus: “When they, who are convinced of Our laws, come to you (My Messenger), say to them:  “Peace be upon you, as your Preserver has bound upon Himself to be clement, i.e., anyone of you who unknowingly falters, then repents and rectifies it, shall find Allah protecting and clement” (6:54).

This is not to be taken as a licence to commit wrongs. It says: “This is how your Preserver shall be clement to you. But, if you return (to your ways), Our system (of punishment) shall return to you” (17:8).

Tauba (repentance), therefore, is only for those who are convinced of the natural Law of Returns. The disbelievers, on the other hand, have been said to be hopeless of divine clemency.  Sura Al-‘Ankaboot (The Spider) says: ‘Those who reject Allah’s Law and His Principle of Returns, are the ones hopeless of My clemency.’ (29:23)

Elsewhere, the Quran says: ‘That who loses faith in his Preserver’s clemency, has surely lost his way’ (15:56).  Contrary to this: “Verily, those who are convinced and abandon (everything for Allah) and struggle in Allah’s way, seek Allah’s clemency. Certainly, Allah is the Protector and the Clement” (2:218). Allah’s clemency (rahma), therefore, is for those who strive.  Says the Quran:

‘Even among the Convinced, the lethargic – save the invalid – can never be at par with those who strive with their selves and wealth in the way of Allah.  He holds the strugglers in a higher state than those who shirk action. The system benefits all but the endeavoring are graded higher than the passive ones – higher status and protection and clemency.  Certainly Allah is Protector Clement’ (4:95-96).

Finally, consider Sura Al-’Araaf (The Heights) where Moses prayed for His blessing for Israelites and got this reply: ‘Surely, My clemency encompasses everything. But among men, only those want it who abide by His laws, work for universal sustenance of mankind, are convinced of the validity of laws, and follow the illiterate Messenger in the future, who they find mentioned in the Torah and the Bible – he will promote good and forbid wrong, allow nice things and disallow bad, break their unnatural yoke of slavery, lighten them by relieving them of burdensome slabs.  That is the only way to obtain Allah’s clemency, which engulfs the entire universe in its benevolent folds! (7:156-157).

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Misfortune Of The Human Female – The Book of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

Addressing the Annual Tolu-e-Islam Convention in March 1966, I read a paper titled ‘Allah’s Will’. It met with widespread appreciation. Here, I quote from the paper a fictional story meant to illustrate my point about the misfortune of the human female:

Noor Khan’s wife had borne four girls, one after the other. Each female birth had plunged the family in a melancholic depression. After the birth of the fourth girl, Noor Khan, pressured by his parents and close relatives, had decided to take a second wife. He postponed it only after the wife had woefully pleaded with him, but had told her his firm intention of taking a second wife if she gave birth to one more girl. Unfortunately, she did bear a girl for the fifth time in a row. The wife started to have fainting spells due to a sinking heart. The family was annoyed with her. The husband refused even to see her. She used to cry alone! Female neighbors would visit and console Noor Khan’s wife saying: ‘It is all Allah’s will. He decides who begets male offspring or female. Crying won’t change anything. Nobody can alter what Allah has pre-ordained. Be patient and learn to live with it. No divine action is without goodness. He has every right to decide His creatures’ fate. King Sulaimaan (Solomon) once harbored some disapproving feelings about a divine decision. He was punished to work in a bakery for 12 years! So, do not complain! The Almighty applies His law almost inconsiderately!’

DEJECTION OVER FEMALE BIRTHS

Later in the chapter we shall examine the belief that it is Allah who decides, of His own sweet will, who begets what (boys or girls).  First, however, let us ponder over the widespread reaction, especially in Oriental societies (in particular among the Muslims of the sub-continent of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), of despair over the arrival of a female baby. The situation is quite common and is by no means restricted to the lower (poor and uneducated) strata of society. Even claims of broad-mindedness, on the part of the elite, belie undercurrents of the same mood. One reason for this attitude is economic as females are economically dependent on men in a male-dominated society.  Secondly, there is the fundamental reason of the female being considered as naturally inferior to the male. Let us examine the validity of this particular notion.

WOMEN AND RELIGION

The Hindu philosophy treats women like a commodity which remains in a man’s (her father, husband and son) possession all her life. She is not allowed to own anything. She gets whatever she does as charity, not as of right. As a wife, she may have to take more husbands than one. The Mahabharat, the ancient Hindu scripture, records Dropedy as having five husbands who lost her in a gambling bet! According to Prans, another series of books sacred to Hinduism, Narpasi Kamya was wedded simultaneously to seven men. Another lady with the name of Warkashi was the shared wife of the ten Parchita Brahmin brothers who were well-versed in religious literature. Since the religious code was authored by Brahmins (the highest caste), they enjoy special privileges under law. The holy book Hatherved (and also Ragved) records:

‘A woman claimed as his by a Brahmin is his property even if she has had ten non-Brahmin husbands. It is because Brahmins are the rightful owner of women.’

WOMAN IN THE TORAH AND CHRISTIANITY

The Torah says:  God created   Adam and woman (Eve) was created out of his side (rib) to alleviate his boredom and loneliness.  Eve subsequently got deceived by the Devil and she tempted Adam who was eventually expelled from Paradise. This story is the basis of the Christian view of woman as the source of all evil. Every human child is born with the original sin of Adam and Eve. The only way to salvation is the belief in Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. The female, being the source of evil, is detestable enough not to be touched. That forms the basis of Christian saints leading a life of celibacy. So much so that early Christian history records a sect called the Valesians who voluntarily castrated themselves to be close to God. The Christian belief that the female cannot enter Paradise presented the problem of Mary. It was resolved by asserting that all females shall be transformed into males in the Hereafter. St. Paul preached that the male begot the female rather than the other way round; since the female was created for the male’s sake, she must stay inferior to him in status.

PHILOSOPHERS

Thinkers of the human race have not treated women any better. Aristotle, the original thinker, preached that women were inferior to men in every aspect.  He believed women had 28 teeth against men’s 32! He said, ‘Suffice to say that Woman reflects a flaw in Nature’s plan.’ Plato used to say: “A good woman is an impossibility.  Every other woman is worse than the previous one.” In the modern age, Rousseou, the initiator of concepts like human rights and democracy, said, ‘Woman has been created solely for the purpose of obeying and serving Man and bear his injustices.’ Up to the 19th Century, the Western researchers believed that ‘the very first animal to be domesticated by Man was Woman.’ It seems only yesterday that Queen Victoria of Britain, a woman herself indeed, commented angrily on the new movement for the rights of women:

‘Her Majesty the Queen strongly desires to get support and help, oral or written, of all intellectuals who can do something to put an end to this mixture of feminine stupidity and madness. The problem is too infuriating for Her Majesty to contain her anger. God has created men and women differently. Therefore, women must stay within their limits.’

Sadly, the situation has not improved up to the present day. H. L. Mencken writes: ‘The concept of love has been invented to inculcate the false notion that one woman is different from another. This is an illusion. All women are alike.’ C. O. Skinner says: ‘The most fantastic of human concepts is the idea that the female also contains some good.’

At present, the United States represents the apex of human civilization where women are supposed to have been emancipated. It is saddening to note from a semi-official publication, Dialogue (Number 4, volume 3, September 1970), that the research therein tries to prove that women should not be considered equal to men.

THE QURAN

The mistreatment of the human female at the hands of the male of the species is matchless throughout the animal kingdom. At the advent of Islam, when Christianity was the dominant philosophy, degradation of women had reached its peak.

Entered the Quran with a resounding claim that the prevailing notions about women are fabrications of the male mind; they have absolutely nothing to do with reality. Men and women are equally human. “Your Preserver created you from one living being” (4:1). The biological difference between male and female is of function not of status. They have equal potential as human beings. Sura Al-Ahzab (The Factions) says: “Both men and women can:

i) Submit completely to the will of Allah,
ii) be members of the group which is convinced of the validity of Allah’s laws to ensure universal peace,
iii) preserve and use their capabilities in the Divine Cause,
iv) practically prove their commitment to Allah’s program,
v) be steadfast,
vi improve themselves progressively working for Allah’s plan,
vii) sacrifice for others,
viii) exercise self-control,
ix) put their sexuality under Allah’s program,
x) remember always Allah’s plan and laws,

 

Allah promises for them safety of protection and a great reward!” (33:35)

Thus covering each and every aspect of human life, the Quran announces: “And whoever does good deeds – male or female -, and is convinced of the Divine Message, shall enter Paradise with none of their deeds going waste!”  (4:124). Regarding marital life, the Quran treats them absolutely equally as far rights and responsibilities are concerned (ولهن مثل الذي عليهن بالمعروف). The only exception is that, after a divorce or the death of a partner, the male may remarry immediately while the female has to undergo a period of waiting. The reason is very clearly biological -pregnancy.

 

THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE

It is interesting to note the purpose of marital union put forward by the Quran: “So that it breeds calmness, closeness and benevolence between you.  In it there is truth for those who care to ponder” (30:21). Obviously, there can be no mutual love and peace of mind if a marital union is based upon the notion of one partner’s superiority and dominance over the other. As far as the Quran is concerned, equality is the rule regarding men and women.

But later, as had happened with religions prior to Islam, Muslims abandoned the Quran. Consequently, wrong notions about the female of the human species infiltrated, and eventually became part of, the Muslim philosophy. The technique employed to achieve this was, as I have previously mentioned, fabricated traditions of the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad), who happened to be the most prominent champion of equality of human rights in history.

For example, borrowing from The Old Testament, Ibn Kathir wrote in his commentary on the Quran:

‘True Tradition has it that woman is created out of (man’s) rib. Since the top-most rib is the most curved, it can only break if you try to straighten it. So, you can use it to your benefit only with the curve there.’

 

Al-Jaame’ as-Saheeh, the authentic collection of the Prophet’s sayings and deeds by Bokhari reports from Abu Huraira: ‘The Messenger of Allah said: “If the children of Israel were not created, meat would never rot; if Eve was not created, no wife would betray her husband!” Another report in Bokhari says: ‘The Messenger said, “After I am no more, no problem will be more damaging to men than women!” Yet another report says: ‘The Messenger said, “Three things are ominous – woman, home and the horse” (Bokhari; Book of Marriage). The Book of Prophets in Bokhari reports the Messenger as saying: ‘When I visited Paradise, I found the majority to have been the poor; in Hell the majority (of them) were women.”

MEN ARE QAWWAMOON OVER WOMEN

Such fabricated traditions are also to be found aplenty as far as marital life is concerned.  They put a husband as an absolute ruler over his wife. Such fabrication was supported by certain Quranic verses, suitably interpreted, of course. A well-known example is the famous verse from Sura An-Nisa (Women) which is traditionally translated as: ‘Men are controllers of women’ (4:34). The Arabic term ‘qawwamoon’ really means ‘those who provide a sustainable and suitable environment’. The verse in question should, therefore, be interpreted as: ‘As women have to spend a considerable amount of their time and energy in bearing and rearing children, men should take on the responsibility of providing the necessities of life’. It is simply division of labor.

It may be interesting to see the background which is traditionally reported for this particular verse. Under the common practice of recording asbaab an-nuzool (‘the occasions of revelation’), it has been reported that:

‘A woman complained to the Messenger that her husband had slapped her. The Messenger had barely finished delivering his ruling of retribution when this verse was revealed, forcing him to cancel his decision!’

Another Tradition says:

The Messenger said, “Do not hit your wives.” Later, Umar came and said, “Your ruling has encouraged wives to be aggressive to their husbands.” The Messenger permitted wife-beating which resulted in widespread application. Several women came and complained to the Messenger. He said, “It is not nice that you hit your wives.” He wanted to get women the right of retribution but this verse was revealed upholding the ruling that husbands may beat their wives up because they are their lords.

Ash’as reports: “I happened to visit Umar on one occasion. The couple quarreled, by chance. Umar hit his wife. Later, he said to me, “Ash’as, remember three points which I heard from the Messenger and have remembered to this day. One, never ask a husband why he hit his wife. Second, never forget to offer additional prayer (witr) before going to bed at night.” The third point was forgotten by the reporter.

Going a step further, another Tradition reports the Messenger as saying: “If I could order prostration to anyone other than Allah, I would have ordered wives to prostrate (themselves in submission) in front of their husbands!”

 

SAYINGS ATTRIBUTED TO ALI

Statements of a similar nature have been attributed to Ali, the fourth Caliph (successor of Muhammad), in the well-known book Nahaj-al-Belaagha[1]

[1] The book is a collection of the writings (letters, messages and sermons of Ali Ibn Abu taleb, the fourth caliph of Islam.

(The Path of Eloquence), Ali is reported to have said: “O people! Women have faulty beliefs and reason, and have less than full share (of them).  (Therefore) Keep away from women of loose character, and be careful even of good women! Do not carry out their instructions even in fair matters so that they do not expect you to comply in unfair situations.”  Elsewhere, Ali is reported to have said, “The female is like a nice well-behaved scorpion – enjoyable to live with but stings whenever she can!”  Another statement of his is: “Woman is all evil. A bigger evil is that one cannot be without her!” Interestingly, one can also find traditions of a contrasting nature. For example, it is reported that the Messenger said, “Paradise lies under the feet of one’s mother.”

Such Traditions were fabricated in the monarchical era (mainly the Abbasid period) of Muslim history. It was the time when women were treated as a commodity. Ahmed Ameen, an Egyptian, writes in Daha-el-Islam:

Baghdad had commerce of slaves (men and women). One particular market place was known as Share-Dar-ar-Rafiq (the Slave Market Street). Traders of slaves were known as nakkaas, a term originally used for cattle traders. They worked under an offical inspector known as Qayyam-ar-Rafiq. Caliph Mutawakkil’s harem had 4000 temporary concubines.

The Persians learnt the philosophy of mysticism from Christians, passing it on to Muslim mystics, who in the manner of Christian monks and Hindu jogis (hermits), adopted a life of celibacy because the female was believed to be the source of all evil. Ali Hajveri([1]) writes:

([1])         A highly respected mystic, popularly known as Daata Ganj Baksh, whose tomb in Lahore, Pakistan is reverentially visited by millions every year.

‘The very first evil to befall Man in Paradise originated from woman. The very first evil to appear on Earth (the squabble of Cain and Abel) occurred because of a woman. When Allah wanted to punish the two angels Haroot and Maroot, that, too, was because of a woman. Even today, all religious as well as worldly problems occur because of women!’

 

CIVILIZED SOCIETIES OF TODAY

It is no wonder, therefore, that the arrival of a baby girl is not exactly exhilarating for the family, and she herself is plagued by a permanent inferiority complex. It is tragic that, despite our claims of being advanced in education and civilization, the despicable situation of maltreatment of the female continues.  The age-old tradition of dowry in many Oriental societies is a case in point. Furthermore, according to the prevalent, so-called Sharia.  Laws, the husband retains the right of divorcing the wife quite easily at any time he deems convenient for himself. Contrarily, the wife has to go through an excruciatingly humiliating legal process which they often consider to be more painful than their unsuccessful married life! Even when a woman succeeds in getting free from the shackles of such a marital contract, the simple basic question of existence for the rest of her life stares her squarely and icily in the face. In addition to being financial, the question is also of protection of her honor, dignity and chastity. In most societies even today, a man’s patronage is considered essential for a woman’s protection. Even when a woman does manage to live without male protection, she is under constant threat of ostracization if the evil elements of society spread rumors about her morals. Kidnappings and rapes are common occurrences. The Quran very eloquently referred to the ignorant Arab practice of burying alive their infant baby girls by asking: “What will your reply be when that child will be asked on the Day of Judgment: ‘Why were you killed?’” (81:9). Today’s girls may well ask Allah Himself that! I have had several young girls and women putting to me the unanswerable query: “Why did Allah make me a female?” “What did my brother do to deserve the better life form of a boy?” Trying to answer this query, the Hindu philosophy put the blame on one’s previous sinful life. The Muslim theological answer is: ‘It is entirely Allah’s own unquestionable will to make a person male or female or bestow an honorific life or strip one of it.’  The Hindu philosophy does not blame Brahama (the Supreme God) whereas the Muslim philosophy does! The Muslim God appears to be unjust and unfair!

ERRONEOUS EXAMPLES FROM NATURE

The religionists attempt to support their stand with some examples from Nature where animals are not allowed to question the choice of their sex or species, etc. But such examples should not be applied to the human situation. No animal is concerned with, or even conscious of, status, humiliation, respect, etc. Man is self-aware as well as sensitive. The Quran declares Man (both men and women) to be respectable by birth (17:70). A just God simply could not create the two sexes with different status; He declares: “We are not unjust to Our people!” (50:29). In actuality, it is us humans who have created for ourselves unjust, unfair and unequal societies. In a Quranic society, the female will not feel, and will not be, inferior to the male. The biological difference between the sexes is for performing various complementary natural functions. This difference does not affect their human status at all. Status in a Quranic society shall be determined by the quality of one’s performance (46:19), man or woman (3:194)! The natural biological difference should not be a source of jealousy, or even envy (4:32-35). The Quran aims to put a permanent end to partisan human societies, patriarchy or matriarchy, and create a society on the basis of absolute equality of opportunities, rights, responsibilities and merit of performance.

MALE AND FEMALE OFFSPRING

Verses 49 and 50 of Sura 42 in this regard use the phrase (من يشاء) and the term (قدير). If (من يشاء) is to be interpreted in the traditional mode to mean ‘to whom He wants’ it should be in agreement with the view of an absolutely equal status of the sexes. Taking the Quranic position of equality of sexes, the phrase means ‘according to His plan (مشيئة), i.e., natural laws of conception, fertility, pregnancy and so on. Infertility, for example, is mentioned in the case of Messenger Zakaria’s (Zechariah) wife who got treated and was cured before she gave birth to a boy named Yahya – John – (21:90). Treatment of sterility is fairly common in today’s medically advanced world.

Extensive medical research is being done in the era of fetal sex. Sura Aal-e-Imran (The Family of ‘Imraan) says: “He is the One who gives you shape in wombs according to His plan” (3:5). Scientists now know how the sex of a baby is determined by Nature. Next, they are trying to discover means of controlling the process in a way which enables us to choose the sex of a fetus. This ability of Man to discover Nature and use it to his advantage was referred to by the Quran in (2:31). That is what is meant by ‘angels bowing to Man (2:34), i. e., Man can harness the forces of Nature because of its permanence and consistence (30/30).

Thus, Man is gradually becoming the master of his own destiny.

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Is The Moment Of Death Pre-Decided? – The Book of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

BELIEF AND ACTION

A widespread belief among religionists is that every person – in fact, every creature – has a pre-determined life span, and that the moment of death is unavoidable as well as unchangeable. This concept of pre-determination is also believed to be applicable to matters of one’s health. But, the fact of the matter is that, the adherents to this belief do everything within their power to cure an illness when it strikes. This attitude is blatantly contradictory to the belief held. Discrepancy in belief and action is a destroyer of nations.

Thought and practice must go hand in hand. Incidentally, the religionists see a certain psychological advantage in having faith in pre-determination.  For example, it is supposed to alleviate fear in fighting soldiers in the face of death.

EVERYONE DIES

The human body, like everything, is subject to natural physical laws. “Every living being has to die” (3:184), “Even if you take refuge inside strong fortresses!” (4:78). “You cannot run away from it!” (62:8). So much so that the Messenger himself was told: “They (your opponents) have to die, and so have you!” (39:31).

DEATH THROUGH ALLAH’S IZN

Sura Aal-e-Imran says (as traditionally translated) in 3:144: “No one can die but with Allah’s izn (order) – this has been written down!” Please consider carefully the terms izn,  kitab’ and ajal used in this verse (refer to Chapter 6 where the Quranic sense of these terms is given): izn: divine law, ajal: period or end of a period; kitab: code of law). Therefore, the above verse (4:144) means that life and death occur according to divine (natural) law. The time-period spanning a man’s birth and death (ajal) is his age which is determined according to the divine law: “Every period as a law..” (13:38).  The ending moment of such a period – death – cannot be shifted forward or backward” (63:11). That is, ‘death’ is the moment when age (period of time) ends, whenever it occurs. So, the problem of its occurring before or after ‘the determined moment’ simply does not arise.  The really relevant question, therefore, is whether age (time-period between birth and death) can be shortened or lengthened. ‘Young’ and ‘old’, in connection with age, are relative terms measured against ‘normal’ age-span of a particular group. It is a known scientific fact that the normal life expectancy in any given group can be controlled through hygiene, eating habits, prevention and treatment of disease, the standard of living, etc. It applies to groups as well as individuals.

RULES OF DEATH

This fact is referred to by the Quran as “Age is not pro-longed or shortened for anyone except according to law” (35:11). It is obvious that the precise period of time (age) is not pre-determined.  It can be controlled through natural physical laws mentioned above in addition to factors like hereditary tendencies, as well as post-natal care, physical and mental well-being, etc. These very rules (values) determine one’s, and a group’s, age: “We have established laws of death for you (all)” (56:60). It is Man’s choice to violate, or abide by, those rules: “And do not put yourselves to death by your (own) hands!” (2:195). Furthermore, the principle in point is amply shown by the punishments (and the difference thereof) for deliberate and accidental killing of a human being – cold-blooded murder is punishable by a sentence while accidental killing may be dealt with ‘blood-money’ (4:92-93).

Sura Maaeda: “Whoever kills someone without due cause (cold-blooded murder) or spreads anarchy (treason, mutiny, rebellion, etc) really kills the entire mankind. And whoever gives life to one person really gives it to the entire human race!” (5:32). How can a life be saved if it is pre-destined to end at a particular moment in time? This is why battling soldiers are instructed to take precautionary measures for their safety (4:71). In times of danger, the prayer congregation will be held in groups taking turns in guarding their fellow soldiers (4:102).

CONVICTION IN THE HEREAFTER ELIMINATES FEAR OF DEATH

We are left with the problem of fear of death. This can be dealt with by examining,  and  then  accepting,  the  Quranic  concepts  of  life  and  death.  It basically says that human existence does not end with the physical death.  A human being, having led a Quranic life, becomes equipped to move into the next evolutionary phase after death: “Death and life have been created so that you can test yourselves for capabilities of better work (67:2). Iqbal, Poet of the East, so beautifully puts it one of his Persian works: “A convinced man smiles in the face of death.”

 

TO DIE FOR ALLAH’S CAUSE

As to the deeds which develop the human potential (for transfer to the next phase of life) the basic principle is to uphold a permanent value when it gets tangled up in a tie with a physical value. The most attractive the physical value, the more weighty the deeds to disregard it for a permanent value. The most important physical value, in fact for all life, is self-preservation (saving one’s own life). One who puts his life on the line for Allah’s cause, deserves the highest merit. Such people do not really die: “But they are alive and you are not aware of it!” (2154). Iqbal, once again, has put it so eloquently in his works to be enjoyed by readers with access to either Persian or Urdu.

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Is The Moment Of Death Pre-Decided? – The Book of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

BELIEF AND ACTION

A widespread belief among religionists is that every person – in fact, every creature – has a pre-determined life span, and that the moment of death is unavoidable as well as unchangeable. This concept of pre-determination is also believed to be applicable to matters of one’s health. But, the fact of the matter is that, the adherents to this belief do everything within their power to cure an illness when it strikes. This attitude is blatantly contradictory to the belief held. Discrepancy in belief and action is a destroyer of nations.

Thought and practice must go hand in hand. Incidentally, the religionists see a certain psychological advantage in having faith in pre-determination.  For example, it is supposed to alleviate fear in fighting soldiers in the face of death.

EVERYONE DIES

The human body, like everything, is subject to natural physical laws. “Every living being has to die” (3:184), “Even if you take refuge inside strong fortresses!” (4:78). “You cannot run away from it!” (62:8). So much so that the Messenger himself was told: “They (your opponents) have to die, and so have you!” (39:31).

DEATH THROUGH ALLAH’S IZN

Sura Aal-e-Imran says (as traditionally translated) in 3:144: “No one can die but with Allah’s izn (order) – this has been written down!” Please consider carefully the terms izn,  kitab’ and ajal used in this verse (refer to Chapter 6 where the Quranic sense of these terms is given): izn: divine law, ajal: period or end of a period; kitab: code of law). Therefore, the above verse (4:144) means that life and death occur according to divine (natural) law. The time-period spanning a man’s birth and death (ajal) is his age which is determined according to the divine law: “Every period as a law..” (13:38).  The ending moment of such a period – death – cannot be shifted forward or backward” (63:11). That is, ‘death’ is the moment when age (period of time) ends, whenever it occurs. So, the problem of its occurring before or after ‘the determined moment’ simply does not arise.  The really relevant question, therefore, is whether age (time-period between birth and death) can be shortened or lengthened. ‘Young’ and ‘old’, in connection with age, are relative terms measured against ‘normal’ age-span of a particular group. It is a known scientific fact that the normal life expectancy in any given group can be controlled through hygiene, eating habits, prevention and treatment of disease, the standard of living, etc. It applies to groups as well as individuals.

RULES OF DEATH

This fact is referred to by the Quran as “Age is not pro-longed or shortened for anyone except according to law” (35:11). It is obvious that the precise period of time (age) is not pre-determined.  It can be controlled through natural physical laws mentioned above in addition to factors like hereditary tendencies, as well as post-natal care, physical and mental well-being, etc. These very rules (values) determine one’s, and a group’s, age: “We have established laws of death for you (all)” (56:60). It is Man’s choice to violate, or abide by, those rules: “And do not put yourselves to death by your (own) hands!” (2:195). Furthermore, the principle in point is amply shown by the punishments (and the difference thereof) for deliberate and accidental killing of a human being – cold-blooded murder is punishable by a sentence while accidental killing may be dealt with ‘blood-money’ (4:92-93).

Sura Maaeda: “Whoever kills someone without due cause (cold-blooded murder) or spreads anarchy (treason, mutiny, rebellion, etc) really kills the entire mankind. And whoever gives life to one person really gives it to the entire human race!” (5:32). How can a life be saved if it is pre-destined to end at a particular moment in time? This is why battling soldiers are instructed to take precautionary measures for their safety (4:71). In times of danger, the prayer congregation will be held in groups taking turns in guarding their fellow soldiers (4:102).

CONVICTION IN THE HEREAFTER ELIMINATES FEAR OF DEATH

We are left with the problem of fear of death. This can be dealt with by examining,  and  then  accepting,  the  Quranic  concepts  of  life  and  death.  It basically says that human existence does not end with the physical death.  A human being, having led a Quranic life, becomes equipped to move into the next evolutionary phase after death: “Death and life have been created so that you can test yourselves for capabilities of better work (67:2). Iqbal, Poet of the East, so beautifully puts it one of his Persian works: “A convinced man smiles in the face of death.”

 

TO DIE FOR ALLAH’S CAUSE

As to the deeds which develop the human potential (for transfer to the next phase of life) the basic principle is to uphold a permanent value when it gets tangled up in a tie with a physical value. The most attractive the physical value, the more weighty the deeds to disregard it for a permanent value. The most important physical value, in fact for all life, is self-preservation (saving one’s own life). One who puts his life on the line for Allah’s cause, deserves the highest merit. Such people do not really die: “But they are alive and you are not aware of it!” (2154). Iqbal, once again, has put it so eloquently in his works to be enjoyed by readers with access to either Persian or Urdu.

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He Forgives Or Punishes Whomever He Wants – The Book of Destiny – G A Parwez (Translated by Khalid Sayyed)

Parts of some verses in the Quran contain phrases like this one:  يغفر لمن يشاء ويعذب من يشاء (3:128). They are traditionally translated as, ‘Allah forgives whomever He wishes and punishes whomever He wishes’. Such interpretation can only lead to a concept of God who is whimsical, unpredictable, unsystematic and moody. This divine behavior is much like that of earthly absolute monarchs of ‘royal disposition’ in the words of the famous Persian poet Saadi Shirazi. This is quite contrary to the Quranic concept of Allah. Let us have a look at it.

Punishment (عذاب) is usually taken to be eternal fortune in Hell. But, the Quranic use of the term عذاب encompasses much more. Consequences of all wrong human actions – realizable both Here and in the Hereafter – is عذاب in Quranic terms. So much so, that a sentence from a court of law is also عذاب.

Maghfara (مغفرة) does not mean ‘forgiveness’. Linguistically, it means ‘to arrange for protection’. Please refer to chapter 4 where we saw that there is a period of wait between an action and its result. If someone uses this period accordingly, the probable bad consequences of an action can be averted. That is مغفرة (protection)(1).

(1)        I have dealt at length with this subject in my work ‘Jahane Farda’ (Tomorrow’s World), dealing with the Hereafter.

They deserve divine punishment and shall be punished accordingly” (5:80). Sura Aal-e-Imran, after having talked about sins by the Jews – rejecting the Divine Law, murdering their prophets and social reformers – says: “Tell them, O Messenger, of the (impending) torturous punishment” (3:20).

A little further on, the Sura says: “Those who reject the divine laws are punished severely (with عذاب ) in this world and also in the Hereafter” (3:55).

Also: “Those who reject Allah’s laws get عذاب in this life and in the Hereafter and can never buy themselves out of it, even if they spend all the money in the world!” (5:36). Sura An’aam says: “Those who deny Our guidance, shall be subjected to punishment (عذاب) because of their transgression” (6:49). Sura Tauba: “The opponents of the Muslims are under the erroneous arrogance because of their wealth and numbers. This very misconception shall lead them in the battlefield to be punished by you!” (9:52; 9:85). Sura Hood: “These people neither think nor care, nor listen to anyone, nor see where they are going. How can they escape punishment?” (11:18-24; 2:7).

Some verses use rahma as an antonym to azaab.  Sura Aal-e-Imran says:  “O the Convinced! Take care and not behave like those who, after having had clear guidance from Allah, began squabbling and split up in factions. They are the ones who will get a big punishment when the consequences of all actions will be realized. On that occasion, some faces will come alight (as a result of their good deeds) while others will go dark because they had reverted to rejection of Allah’s laws after having adopted them. They will be told to have the taste of the punishment ‘for your rejection’. The bright faced people, at the same time, shall be under Allah’s rahma (safety and protection) (3:104 – 106).

INTERPRETATION OF  من يشاء

It is obvious from all the above that punishment comes to men because of their own actions (Law of Returns or the Law of Allah’s Will).  The verses where the subject of من يشآء is Allah (whomever He wants) refer to Allah’s Will. Sura A’raaf reports Moses praying to Allah:  “O Allah, bestow on us the niceties of Here and the Hereafter!” Allah replied: “(If you wish to avoid My punishment, be informed that) My punishment befalls according to (the Law of) My Will (under systematic rules, not whimsical decisions). As to My rahma (safety and protection), it covers the entire universe but it is destined only for those among men who abide by Our laws, establish a universal system of sustenance and are fully convinced of the validity of Our laws; also for those who will follow Our illiterate Messenger, mentioned in the Torah and the Bible, who will enact the good and prohibit the bad …..” (7:155-56).

Sura Beni Israel: “O Messenger! Tell My adherents to converse nicely among themselves and be fair in their dealings because the Devil wants to split you up into warring factions. Don’t follow him as he is your sworn enemy. Allah knows what you do! If (your deeds are) according to Allah’s will, you will deserve His rahma (safety and protection); otherwise, punishment (azaab) will befall you. It is entirely up to them to choose between Allah’s rahma and ‘azaab. O Messenger! You have not been appointed to force them to make the right choice!” (17:54).

Let us now examine maghfara.

TWO APPLICATIONS OF MAGHFARA:

It can have two applications:  1) In an epidemic, people with a greater power of resistance escape it. In the Quranic scheme of things, this type of maghfara comes with precautionary measures men may take against calamities.  2) The epidemic victimizes one who survives but is left very weak and recovers fully when properly treated.  In the Quranic system, this type of maghfara comes with tauba (repentance). The Quranic concept of tauba may be illustrated by the example of a wayfarer who taking a wrong turn goes away from the intended destination. As soon as he realizes the mistake, he turns back and returns to the spot where the wrong turn was taken. This return is known as tauba. But obviously, returning to the spot of mistake is not enough. One must resume the journey on the right path. That is ‘good deeds’ in the Quranic terms. This concept is elaborated in Sura Nisa: “To Allah, tauba is for those who happen to make an error due to ignorance but return as soon as they realize it; in that case Allah (His Law) also returns to them…” (4:17). Subsequent to this first step, “and then if the returnee does good deeds out of conviction, only then shall he be among the successful” (28:67).

GOOD DEEDS NEUTRALIZE BAD ONES

The other application of maghfara is based upon   the principle: “Certainly, good deeds push away the bad ones” (11:114). All this should clarify the verse (3:128) at the head of this chapter. That is, whoever stubbornly   refuses   to learn from mistakes gets azzab; but one who amends one’s mistakes, will escape it. It is illustrated in Sura Maaeda where a thief’s punishment is mentioned. The verse goes on to say: “and whoever returns after his wrong deed, and does good, Allah shall return to him. Surely, Allah is the provider of maghfara (safety and protection) and rahma (niceness)” (5:39). But, why should maghfara and azaab go hand in hand? It is because the Quran wanted to create a realistic balance between the two extremes of the Jewish (all punishment, no forgiveness) and the Christian (all mercy, no punishment) value-systems. The Quran says: “Don’t they know that it is Allah who controls supreme over the (entire) universe? He achieves it through His Laws. Similar divine laws have been suggested for human societies so that the application of punishment (عذاب) and safety of protection (مغفرة) is done according to laws and principles given by Allah” (5:38-40).

It follows, therefore, that a culprit should be punished only if he/she persists in criminal activity. Repentance and reformation must result in forgiveness. “Whether you expose, or conceal, whatever is in your hearts, Allah takes it all into account. Then, punishment or forgiveness is decided according to His laws – and Allah has set laws for everything” (2:284). Elsewhere: “Whosoever so wishes, may get (because of one’s actions) punishment (عذاب) or niceness (رحمة)” (29:21).

ALLAH HAS NO FAVORITE OFFSPRING

Sura Maaeda refers to the Jews and the Christians claiming to be God’s favored children which exempted them from punishment. The Quran replied by asking: “Punishment in the Hereafter aside, why does Allah punish you here? Allah has no children, favorite or otherwise. He punishes or protects people according to His laws because to Him alone is the control of the entire universe” (5:18).

The same Sura explains: “Allah has promised safety or protection and great rewards to those who are convinced of His laws and then do good deeds accordingly” (5:9). Sura Fatah, after having spoken of the worthy attributes of Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, and the people with him says: “Allah has promised safety (and) protection and great reward to the Convinced who do good deeds” (48/29). Sura Hood mentions safety (and) protection and great reward as “the return of good deeds and steadfastness” (11:11). This is repeated in (33:35).  Sura Ahzaab, after having listed the attributes of Muslim men and women, says: “Allah has for them ready the safety of protection and a great reward” (33:35).

Contrarily; polytheism cannot enjoy the benefit of protection (4:48; 4:116); “people who commit rejection of Allah’s laws and are unfair, and persist (in their ways), cannot get maghfara” (4:168).

The basic principle of reward and punishment is beautifully given in the following verse: “Why would Allah punish you if you are convinced of the validity of His laws and use His bounties properly?” (4:147).

 

PUNISHMENT ACCORDING TO CIRCUMSTANCES

Another important aspect of the Quranic system of punishment and forgiveness is the individual circumstances of the accused involved.  For example, two culprits guilty of the same crime should not have a similar sentence if their individual circumstances differ i.e., upbringing, education, awareness, etc. That is why; the Quran proposes that ‘women of possession’ (1) be given half the normal sentence (4:25), whereas ladies of the Messenger’s family were to be sentenced TWICE of the usual! (33:30-32).

 (1)      At the advent of Islam, buying, selling and possessing women as concubines, and for other purposes, was part of life. The Quran refers to them as ‘those possessed by your right hands’. That was to be temporary for all practical purposes. Subsequently, the Quran outlawed the practice.

COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT

 

In addition to the individual, collective situation of a society must also be taken into consideration because ‘when vices spread widely in a society, Evil takes over (76:7), sparing no one of its effect.  Therefore, the Convinced must safeguard against such a situation  “and take care of such an evil as it does not confine itself only to the wrong-doers.…” (8:25). For example, a broken dam floods not only the areas of bad workmen guilty of a faulty job but also those completely detached from the situation. That is why the Quran emphasizes reformation of society as a whole which will automatically affect individuals. ‘Ad-Deen’ is a social system which brings peace to its members. This was the point made by Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab, the second Caliph, when he punished the employer whose mistreatment drove some of his employees to stealing food! In another instance, Umar suspended the punishment for stealing food (just enough to quench hunger) during famine.

 

REQUESTS FOR FORGIVENESS

The misconception that salvation and forgiveness is not dependent upon Man’s  deeds but  on Allah’s whims  and  moods has  sent Muslims  down the deepest  pits  of  destruction  as a nation.  This erroneous idea has led them to beliefs and practices such as this: No matter how many wrong or bad deeds one commits, Allah will forgive one if one recites 33 times the chant of ‘Please Allah, forgive’ after every prayer. The Quranic truth, however, is: “This is the Paradise you are inherited with because of your deeds!” (43:72) Today, Muslims believe that they will enter Paradise only because of Allah’s benevolent mood and momentary sweet will. The fact of the matter is that the Quran has said:

“Do you think you will enter Paradise easily? Nay, you haven’t yet gone through the harsh stages like peoples of by-gone ages – so harsh that the earth shook under their feet and the messenger and his companions wondered when Allah’s help would come! Allah consoled them by glad tidings of the imminent divine support.” (2:214)

Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, is reported to have said: “Paradise exists under the shade of swords!”

PRIDE IN SINS

Sadly, that is not the end of the story. Incredible as it may appear, the fact is  that  one  of  the  two  most authentic works of Hadith (the Messenger’s tradition), Muslim, reports the following from Muhammad: “By  the  One  who  possesses  myself,  if you don’t sin at all, Allah will remove you and replace you with those who will indulge in sins and then seek Allah’s forgiveness.” No wonder the crime and sin rates are unabated in most Muslim societies!

MYSTICS, TOO!

Sufis, the adherents to the mystical tradition, have reported fantastic stories to make the point. One particular episode: “A devotee, after having worshipped Allah for twelve years in a jungle, heard the divine: ‘Say what you want?’  Searching for a reply, he noticed a sage (actually, the Devil in disguise) appeared and suggested asking for justice.  His request for justice was replied by: ‘OK. You sat and worshipped on a stone for twelve years.  Justice demands that this stone sits atop you for twelve years! After those painful twelve years, Allah inquired of his request once again. This time the mystic, having learned his lesson the hard way, asked for Allah’s benevolence. He was rewarded by appointment to the rank of qutub (a high ranking dervish in the traditional mystic hierarchy) with the admonition:

‘Remember, justice is demanded by the devilish. Muslims always seek Our Benevolence!’

 

  1. PAUL’S INFLUENCE

The source of such ideas appears to be the Christian dogmas invented by St. Paul.  In one of his letters in the New Testament, he writes: ‘You have been salvaged because of belief. It is not because of your deeds. It is God’s gift’ (Letter to the Ephesians, 2:8-9). Elsewhere: ‘Therefore, we conclude that Man is considered righteous because of belief, not because of deeds of religion’ (Letter to the Romans, 3:28).

This view established the Christian dogma of ‘God is Mercy’. Such concepts eventually found their way into Muslim philosophy, supported by fabricated traditions like: ‘No one among you shall enter Paradise because of deeds!’ (as in Taj al Uroos; also reported by Edward Lane in his Lexicon ).

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