Monday, 16 August 2010

Downsizing The Faithful

A renowned Pakistani English newspaper, for reasons best known to the editor, did NOT publish the following letter whose text I am reproducing here and whose title is: Downsizing The Faithful.

A prayer rug (musalla) is something that millions of Muslims use daily to offer prayers. Its ever-reducing dimensions worry me because in luxury hotels I encounter a 24”x36” size—fit only for little green men from planet Mars. Using this diminutive prayer rug, if one prostrates correctly, the feet stay out, and if one adjusts the feet, the forehead violates the boundaries. Moreover, in attempting to squeeze one’s entire body into the said dimensions makes one resemble a seated camel or a bag full of laundry.

The required ideal of being able to match one’s honesty of intention with the perfection in posture is so hard to achieve these days. Reproduced below are the Ahadith (sayings) of the messenger of Allah (peace on him) mentioned in Book 4, Hadīth 1002 of Sahih Muslim (also mentioned by Abu Awaanah, and Ibn Hibbaan):

“Maimuna reported: When the Apostle of Allah (peace on him) prostrated himself, if a lamb wanted to pass between his arms, it could pass.”

This explains how much space existed between his arms, as he prostrated, and the floor. Compare that space with the kind of miserly ‘sujood’ (prostration) we perform in our mosques because the Imams of the mosques force us to do so without correcting the situation.

In addition, in Book 4 (Sahih Muslim), Hadīth 997:
“Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace on him) said: Observe moderation in prostration, and let none of you stretch out his forearms (on the ground) like a dog.”

At home, I am lucky to have a 25”x42” musalla that provides great tranquillity to my average frame. In many mosques, one finds carpets that indicate individual musalla size, but at prayer time—in an effort to squeeze Satan out of the rows of the faithful—men inconsiderately press against each other to render these markings meaningless. As a result, one finds it very difficult to raise one’s hands to pronounce the takbeer. Perhaps this is the reason we—unlike the rest of the world—love forming queues but only sideways. It seems that the musalla manufacturers calculate their profit margins carefully by downsizing us all and without considering an average Muslim’s dimensions.

Moreover, having patterns or pictures printed on a musalla is a distracting innovation (bidah). Now that five-star hotels have sprung up all around the Baitullah (House of Allah at Makkah), will we see hotel buildings or their logos on the prayer rugs of the future?

Before we forcibly turn the whole world into—well, just like ourselves—we need to get the size of the prayer rug correct by adhering to specified standards. The prayer rug needs to be of a comfortable size, neither too large nor very small, made out of decent materials (such as silk, wool, or cotton), and beautiful enough to make even a stone-hearted disbeliever fall down prostrate in praise of the Creator.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Abrogation In The Qur'an

Great confusion exists in the minds of many Muslims regarding abrogation (Nasikh, Manssokh) of the verses of the Holy Qur’an, the final message from the Creator for mankind. Invariably, even the so-called educated class, casually admit during drawing room discussions that certain verses of the Qur’an stand cancelled or replaced by other verses. This amounts to inventing a lie against Allah! Let us see exactly which verse is at the heart of their misunderstanding.

While Ibn Arabi reduced such abrogated verses considerably, Suyuti brought them down to twenty-one, Shah Waliullah down to only five:

Cancelled 2: 180, replaced by 4: 11, 12
Cancelled 2:240, replaced by 2: 234.
Cancelled 8:65, replaced by 8: 62.
Cancelled 58: 12, replaced by 58: 13.

Now let us see what the Qur’an itself says in 2:106:
“Any message which, We annul or consign to oblivion We replace with a better or a similar ones. Dost thou not know that God has the power to will anything?”

Reproduced below is the commentary by Dr. Muhammad Asad for 2: 106, and which explains the problem with the misunderstood ‘doctrine of abrogation’ because today the unbelievers use it as a beating stick against the Muslims:

“The principal laid down in this passage—relating to the suppression of the Biblical dispensation by that of the Qur'an—has given rise to an erroneous interpretation by many Muslim theologians. The word ayah (‘message’) occurring in this context is also used to denote a ‘verse’ of the Qur'an (because every one of these verses contains a message). Taking this restricted meaning of the term ayah, some scholars conclude from the above passage that certain verses of the Qur'an have been ‘abrogated’ by God’s command before the revelation of Qur'an was completed. Apart from the fancifulness of this assertion—which calls to mind the image of a human author correcting, on second thought, the proofs of his manuscript deleting one passage and replacing it with another—there does not exist a single reliable Tradition to the effect that the Prophet ever declared a verse of the Qur'an to have been ‘abrogated’.

At the root of the so-called ‘doctrine of abrogation’ may lie the inability of some of the early Commentators to reconcile one Qur’anic passage with another: a difficulty which was overcome by declaring that one of the verses in question had been ‘abrogated’.

This arbitrary procedure explains also why there is no unanimity whatsoever among the upholders of the ‘doctrine of abrogation’ as to which, and how many, Qur'an-verses have been affected by it, and, furthermore, as to whether this alleged abrogation implies a total elimination of the verse in question from the context of the Qur'an, or only a cancellation of the specific ordinance or statement contains on it. In short, the ‘doctrine of abrogation’ has no basis whatsoever in historical fact, and must be rejected. On the other hand, the apparent difficulty in interpreting the above Qur'anic passage disappears immediately if the term ayah is understood, correctly, as ‘message’, and if we read this verse in conjunction with the preceding one, which states that the Jews and the Christians refuse to accept any revelation which might supersede that of the Bible; for, if read in this way, the abrogation relates to the earlier divine messages and not to any part of the Qur'an itself.”

Please carefully read what the Qur'an says about 'strong drinks and games of chance'.

The ayahs concerning drinking and usury came in two stages: initially as mild prohibitions (to make the unbelievers-turning-into-believers feel repulsed) and finally as firm commands (to make real believers want to give up the vices entirely). Indeed Allah knows that alcohol contains ‘some benefit’ for mankind but notice how drunkards allow themselves the benefit of the doubt (doubt and confusion within themselves) by misusing the merciful revelation to ruin their lungs or to look good amongst drinking buddies. As human beings we possess the potential to justify all our demands, and in this ability resides our TEST.

The changes or the annulments actually refer to entire revelations (Torah, Zaboor, Injeel), one following the other through God’s prophets and meant for different times and nations. Stoning to death was prescribed for scores of spiritual and social offences in the Old Testament but a lenient view was taken in the final revelation, the Qur’an, keeping in view mankind’s material and spiritual states.

May Allah have mercy on those who think He sits on the heavenly throne changing His mind or that He cancels ayahs (messages) midstream during revelation.

And in 35:43, Allah says:
Thus [it is]: no change wilt thou ever find in God's way (sunnah Allah); yea, no deviation wilt thou ever find in God's way!

Indeed Allah is neither like us, nor thinks or acts like us.