Sunday, February 27, 2011

(11) The Meaning Of Jihad In Islam.

By Sodium

The Arabic word, " Jihad, "simply means "struggle". But, such a definition is too simplistic, since the word,"Jihad",has been used in the Qur'an and Hadiths and hence the question is often asked what kind of struggle one is dealing with. That means that further explorations are needed to achieve more meaningful meaning of the word," Jihad, " as it is expressed in the scriptures of Islam.

"Jihad" means any one of, or all of the following detailed meanings, related to its appearances in the scriptures of Islam:

(A) Since the solid-rock foundation of Islam is " Al-Tawheed, ",meaning ,"The ONE-NESS OF GOD",and since the vast majority of the people of Arabia in the 7th century(AD) were Pagans,it took a great deal of "Jihad" for the converts from Pagan to Islam, to adhere firmly to the belief that there was only one God who created life and the whole universe. Here,the meaning of "Jihad" is to struggle for the sustenance of such a belief.

(B) There are certain negative characteristichs embodied in the human nature that can be most damaging to the common good of any human society. It takes personal " Jihad "to overcome the tendency of such charachteristics before they implode from within of the human nature. In such a case,"Jihad" means struggle for self-discipline and self-control.

(C) As The Prophet Muhammad and his followers had settled in Medina, they had to build a new community for themselves so that they could practice their religion and the Islamic way of life, under the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad." Jihad "meant ,here,struggling within the community to build such a community through cooperation,compassion toward one another as members of a harmonious community, with a common goal: serving the common good.

(D) Islam abhors injustices and abhors starting an aggression, but if injustice is committed against Islam and Muslims and if aggression is committed against Islam and Muslims, it is the obligation or rather the duty of all Muslims to fight back in self-defense, until all injustices are eleminated and the aggression is defeated or at least stopped. There is no " turning the other cheek " in Islam. But,the instruction is very clear: never, never start an aggression which is just as telling about the essence of Islam, as " turning the other cheek " in Christianity.

These are the fundamental meanings of the Arabic word,"Jihad" in Islam.

Although there are other meanings of "Jihad" in Islam such as " Jihad " to aquire knowledge, Jihad to practice all the five pillars of Islam, as they were listed in Topic,(4) of this series, the above list from (A) through (D) makes a fine understanding of what the word ," Jihad "really means.

Just to show the priority of the various meanings of " Jihad, " as The Prophet Muhammad returned to the city of Medina,with his followers,after the Battle of Badr against the caravan of the Meccans who wanted to kill him, he was quoted saying the following statement:

" We are returning from the lesser Jihad and going on the Greater Jihad. "   For the authenticity of this Hadith, check Al-Bukhari, the exponent and authoritative scholar on all Hadiths.

It is clear that the meanings of "Jihad" in (A),(B) and (C) take precedent for understanding "Jihad" than (D). That does not mean that (D) should be ignored. It should not. It is just not as great as the other three meanings of "Jihad".

Next will be Topic (12) The Status Of Women In Islam.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(10) The Greatness Of Islam.

By Sodium

Some Islamic scholars define the greatness of Islam by its many characteristics, as described in the verses of the Qur'an and as recorded in the Hadiths, ( speeches and comments made by the Prophet Muhammad ) and the Sirah (the way The Prophet conducted his daily life). Such characteristics include following, but not all of the characteristics:

* The fundamental and solid foundation of Islam is," The Tawheed, ",meaning, the belief in the "The Oneness of God). Remember that the whole Arabia was mainly Pagan.

* Islam asks its adherents of the faith to follow moral path and pious deed in their daily lives.

* Knowledge, whether technical or abstract, is highly respected and encouraged in Islam.

* Ignorance is, at least, criticized, if not condemned in Islam.

* The element of flexibility does exist in Islam.

* Love, friendship, unity, justice, and tolerance are embodied in the teachings of Islam.

* Islam calls for moderation even in eating foods.

* Islam is kind to the poor and sides with the underdogs in any society.

* Islam is compatible with new invention and new discoveries.

* Islam stands firmly against slavery.

Although all the characteristics cited above about Islam are true,the writer of this essay believes that the greatness of Islam stems from its unique simplicity. Such a simplicity lies in the following characteristics:

~ Islam requires no middle human acter to be between a Muslim and his God,(Allah).

~ The Muslim can spread his little rug on the ground of any place in the world and face the direction toward the Holy ground of Ka'bah in Mecca and pray. He needs not to go to a mosque to pray,although Muslims go to the mosques to pray together,especially on Fridays.

~ Muslims can adhere firmly to the five pillars of Islam, listed and outlined in Topic (4) of this short course and be good practicing Muslims.

There are other characteristics of Islam, but all the foregoing characteristics are enough, for the time being, to remember by the novice readers who are interested in learning about Islam.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

(9) Continuation Of Interpretation Of The Verses Of The Qur'an.

By Sodium

The writer of this essay was lucky enough to get the four volumes of "Tyseer El-Tafseer" (Making The Interpretation Easy) from Eyad, as a gift, just two years before Eyad died,at the young age of around forty, from cancer. His father, Chief Justice Ibrahim Qattan, had passed away three years earlier. In a sense, Chief Justice Qattan was lucky, due to the fact that he passed away before seeing his oldest son dying from cancer. The writer of these lines deeply mourned and terribly missed both of them. Learning from both of them like learning from a vast sea of profound knowledge and valuable wisdom. Their memory will remain with the writer of these words as long as he lives.

The four volumes of the " Tyseer El-Tafseer " ( Making Interpretation Easy ) have become the main reference the writer of this essay consults when he faces difficulties in understanding any verse or surah,(revelation),in the Qur'an. Chief Justice Qattan has even given the Arabic-Arabic definitions of difficult words in the Qur'an, in the four volumes, so vividly and easy to follow.

Although Oxford University in England usually translates what has been published in the Arab world, the writer, here, has no idea whether the monumental four volumes of "Tyseer El-Tafseer" have been translated into English or not. If they have, it is highly recommended, to those interested, to have them in homes libraries, as a reliable reference for the interpretation of the verses of the Qur'an, although the writer of this essay strongly believe that the Qur'anic Arabic is simply and purely untranslatable. However, some translation from reliable sources is better than translation from unreliable sources.

I Will not burden the novice readers of this essay with the complexity of the details involved in the interpretation of the verses of the Qur'an, but will suggest to remember the following points:

~ Scholars differ in the interpretation of some of the verses of the Qur'an.
~ Scholars differ in their Ijtihad, (relentless dedication in digging out knowledge about the possible correct interpretations of the verses of the Qur'an.)
~ The most reliable interpretations are those that are based upon the archives of the content of the Qur'an and the interpretations recorded by the Sahabah, (Companions),of the Prophet Muhammad such as Abu-Bakr El-Sidiq, The First Caliph after the death of the Prophet, Omar ibn El-Khattab, The Second Caliph, Othman ibn Affan, The Third Caliph and the first person who wrote the Qur'an, Ali ibn Abi Taleb, The Fourth Caliph and First Cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. In addition to those four companions, there were many others, but one name coms to mind is the name of Al-Bukhari who was a man of deity and who spent his life in recording and segregating the more than 600,00 Hadiths, speeches and statements so many people claimed that they heard the Prophet saying, and sirah, (the way the Prophet conducted his daily affairs).

~ As a result of Ijtihad, ( relentless dedication in digging out and searching for knowledge for the sole purpose of correctly interpreting the verses of the Qur'an ),the following Mathahib, (Schools of Thought), had developed:

* Hanafi School of Thought: founder and scholar, Imam, ibn Hanaf.
* Maliki School of Thought: founder and scholar, Imam, ibn Malik.
* Shafi'i School of Thought: founder and Scholar, Imam, ibn Shafi'.
* Hanbali School of Thought: founder and scholar, Imam, ibn Hanbal.

Each one of these four schools of thought has its followers in the Arab and Islamic world and the followers of each of the school of thought seem to concentrate in specific countries or regions of the Islamic world. For example, The Hanbali School of Thought is followed by most Muslims in Saudi Arabia while Maliki School of Thought is followed by majority of Muslims in Iran. So is the case in the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.

The difference between one school of thought and the other three school of thought is simply in details of the interpretation of the verses of the Qur'an, since all Muslims everywhere adhere to the Five Pillars of Islam, outlined/listed in Topic (4) earlier.

There are other ways through which the verses of the Qur'an were interpreted, ranging from historical records to philosophical thoughts to social and scientific thoughts to Shi'a thoughts to Mu'atazalah (the secluded and isolated ones by choice) thoughts, Sufis philosophy(will dedicate a special topic on it, at a later time separate from the course currently at hand). There are also the Fiqh approach for interpretations and it has to do of the derivation of Shari' a laws. Perhaps one of the most reliable ways of interpreting the verses of the Qur'an is the one that is based on KNOWING THE REASON FOR A PARTICULAR VERSE TO APPEAR IN THE QUR'AN IN THE FIRST PLACE.

The writer of this essay has been convinced that knowing, or at least understanding of the reason/reasons behind the appearance of a verse in the Qur'an, in the first place, makes a lot of sense, because of the strength of The Principle of Cause an Effect which applies in the interpretations of countless phenomena in different fields of human endeavors. In other words, each verse(EFFECT) in the Qur'an must have a (CAUSE),a story or event that compelled its appearance in the Qur'an, in the first place.

Final words: If the novice reader, about Islam, can remember just 50 percent of the foregoing, for the time being, he or she has achieved some learning and some value ,he or she can build on,if interested.

(9) Interpretations Of The Verses Of The Qur'an.

By Sodium

It is imperative to keep in mind that the interpretation of the verses of the Qur'an has never been easy. Islamic scholars spend a life time in their attempt to find the correct interpretations and some of them die before they reach their objectives. One of those Islamic scholars who had reached his objective before he passed away in the 1980's was Justice Ibrahim Qattan who was the Judge of Judges of The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan where the writer of this essay was stationed in its capital, Amman, for more than 20 yeas, managing technical business operations for the whole Middle Eastern and North African countries, on behalf of an American multi-national corporation. During that period of time, the writer of this essay met Eyad Ibrahim Qattan in a conference on the Arabic literatures for which the writer had/has a great deal of appreciation, if not total and complete fondness. Fast friendship developed with Eyad who happened to be the oldest son of Justice Ibrahim Qattan. Through Eyad,the writer had the utmost honor and pleasure in meeting with his father whose face gave the impressive impression of radiating a mixture of dignity, honesty, morality and sheer human humility. His manners command instant admiration and so it has been ever since the first meeting. In short,he was a man with beautiful demeanors,beautiful soul and beautiful mind.

Achievement of Chief Justice Ibrahim Qattan:
Justice Ibrahim Qattan was a graduate of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, the oldest and most prestigious university in the Arab world, if not in the whole world. To make a long story short, Chief Justice Qattan held the position of Minister of Justice or Minister of Education of the government of Jordan, several times, before he was promoted to the highest judicial position and title in the land: Judge of  The Judges. While holding that office, Prince Hassan ibn Talal, the Crown Prince of Jordan, then, had commissioned him to try to find reasonable interpretations for the verses of the Qur'an. After years of researches, in the Arabic language and Islamic archives wherever he could find them, world wide, Justice Qattan wrote and published four monumental volumes, interpreting every verse in the Qur'an. None was left out. He was a true master in the scholarly interpretation of the verses of the Qur'an one has to see and review the four huge volumes Justice Qattan authored to truly appreciate what the writer, here, has been trying to convey to the readers of this essay.

Justice Qattan has crowned his monumental four volumes by the following fitting title:

"Tyseer El-Tafseer" (the spelling of this title can also be: Tysir El-Tafsir ).

"Tyseer" in the Arabic language means " Making Easy".
"El-Tafseer" in the Arabic language means "The Interpretation".
The net result of the translation is:

"Making Easy The Interpretation"

[Warning from the writer of this essay: Interpretation of the verses of the qur'an has never been easy. Justice Qattan chose the above title for his four volumes to encourage other scholars to do their share of contributions without fear of failure.

I am facing technical difficulty. Must stop.