Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Beautiful Muslim Prayer For The Fasting Month Of Ramadan

By Sodium

I have come lately across a short, meaningful and above all beautiful prayer for the month of Ramadan. I have felt that it is incumbent upon me to pass it to my Muslim friends, just in case they were unaware of its existence:

In English Alphabets but Arabic Words:
" Allahuma, Eni Laka Sumto, Wa Beka AAmunto, Wa Alyka Tawakulto, Wa Ala Rezqika Aftarto. "

Translation to English:
" O' God. for YOU I have fasted, and in YOU I have believed, and upon YOU I have faithfully depended, and upon/from YOUR bounty I broke my fasting. "

Very Beautiful, indeed, when one remembers that the solid rock foundation of Islam is " Al-Towheed," which means " The Oneness of God," that was rejected by the vast majority of Meccans who worshiped then three goddesses made of stones; and were kept in Ka'ba. The names of the three goddesses were:

*  Al-Lat.
*  Al-Uzza.
*  Manat.

I wish I had come across the prayer quoted above at the beginning of Ramadan, not at about the middle of it, since only 14 days left for the month of Ramadan to be over, for this year. But, as the wise people say: it is better late than never.

Ramadan Kareem for all Muslims everywhere.....

Friday, July 19, 2013

( 6 ) " The Great Crusades (1095-1272) "

By Sodium

From the very beginning of the chapter of this topic, Graham Fuller, author of the book entitled, " A World Without Islam," attracts the curiosity of the reader by asking the following two questions:

Question One:
" Could there even have been crusades in the absence of Islam in the Holy Land? "

Question Two:
" In a way, what historical event could be more about religion than the Crusades?

Answering the Two Questions:
The answer to the first question can " apparently " be found in the speech through which Pope Urban II called on all Christians in Western Europe to wage wars against the Muslims in the Holy Land to make sure the Holy City of Jerusalem would not remain in Muslim hands but Western Christian hands. Please notice that the world, " apparently " has been used as part of the answer given. In other words, the real reasons for such a call for crusades against the Muslims in the Holy Land extend further than what the " apparent " answer that was given. In fact some of the reasons can be deduced from the speech itself given by Pope Urban II himself. No need is necessary to quote the entire speech to comprehend some of the reasons, but the following two quotations from Urban's speech will suffice:

Quotation One:
    "O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race ( the Pope meant Arabs and Turks by the word, "race" ) which worship demons, should conquer a people which has the faiths of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ."

Quotation Two:
" Let those who for a long time have been robbers, now become Knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and sisters now fight in a proper way against the barbarians."

Based on those two quotations, one can deduce the following points:

~  Pope Urban II had clearly called for violence, violating one of the most important tenets of Christianity, which Jesus Christ had taught and preached.

~  Quotation One, as quoted above, clearly shows the depth of hatred Pope Urban II had held towards the Muslims and their religion, ( calling their religion, demons ), in spite of the recorded fact that Jesus preached: " Love your enemy."
~  Quotation Two, as quoted above, has clearly revealed that Pope Urban II had other non-Islamic and non-religious reasons to call for wars against the " Barbarians," by changing suddenly and immediately the status of robbers into Knights so that they could join in the Crusades and fight as Knights, not as robbers. The Pope sounded as having very serious and difficult social problems within the realm of Christianity in Western Europe and found calling for Crusades might help him overcome his serious social and probably economic problems. Why did robbers exist, in the first place, in his realm of Christianity, if there were no serious economic problems beside the social ones?

The two quotations quoted above, plus the discussion that followed them, have answered the first question that has been raised by Graham fuller, author of, " A World Without Islam."

The answer to the second  question, as raised by Graham Fuller, and I repeat it, here, as a reminder:  " In a way, what historical event could be more about religion than the Crusades ? " is as follows: The answer to this question is obviously and most likely there is none. Almost 200 years of Crusades, in the name of Christianity against Islam and Muslims were waged; and yet at the end the Crusaders were expelled out, not only from the Holy Land, but also from the entire Middle East region in which they established their own City-States, across the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, even deeper than the Mediterranean coast line, like their ruined huge castle in the town of Karak, in southern Jordan.

The author has given detailed accounts, or rather detailed descriptions of what the Crusaders had done after Pope Urban II made his speech, calling for Crusades against Muslims and Islam. Anyone who is interested in reading the atrocities and criminalities of the Crusaders, during the entire period of Crusades, from 1095-1272 A.D, can find them in history books or in the Internet. I personally prefer reading the history books, since what has been published on the Internet is subject to deletions. The books remain as they were published, as long as they existed. However, the following recorded criminal acts are worth mentioning, here, to show that the hidden and unannounced agenda for the Crusades was fundamentally geopolitical whose big prize was hegemony of the West over the East which at the end had failed:

*  The first act of criminality committed by the former robbers whose status was changed by Pope Urban II from Robbers to Knights was killing of Jews who were living in the Rhineland of Germany. The Crusaders' threat to the Jews was: " Christianize or Death. "  As a results, many Jews had committed suicide. The hatred of Jews in Western Christianity stems from some people's mind-set that the Jews were the ones who killed Jesus Christ. In my opinion, what is in the mind-set of those Christians who hate Jews is a myth. I may tackle that issue in a future essay which may, indeed, show it was ( and still is ) a myth.

*  In their way to the Holy Land in Palestine, Crusaders stopped by Constantinople killed their fellow Christians and destroyed the city in the process.

*  In another Crusades, the Crusaders stopped by Greece and killed their fellow Christians who followed the Greek Orthodox Church, not the Papacy in Rome.

* Still in another Crusades, the Crusaders stopped by the Balkans and killed their fellow Christians who followed the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia, not the Papacy in Rome.

The above examples related to the murderous nature of the Crusaders against the Jews, and their own fellows Christians in Constantinople, Greece and the Balkans, clearly shows that geopolitics for hegemony was deeply amalgamated with the Western Christianity which wanted to save the Holy City of Jerusalem from the hands of the Muslims " infidels."

And I would leave the rest of the atrocities and criminalities committed by the Crusaders at that, for this topic.

What Two Knowledgeable Experts Say About The Crusades:
At this point of the topic, it is worth quoting one important quote the author of the book has quoted.  The following quote is by Carol Hillenbrand, a specialist in the History of the Crusades:

" Contact with the Muslim world gave the Europeans a taste for all kinds of commodities, including ivory, inlaid, metalwork and other luxury goods that came from the Arab World. Of these the most important were textiles: damask, fustian, muslin, organdie, satin and taffeta."

" Crusaders returning home from the Holy Land speak of the exotic countries they had left behind. The phenomenon of Orientalism from the 18th century onward and its manifestations in Western art and literature, so powerfully described in recent times by (the late) Edward Said fed on the heritage of the Crusades. The Muslim world was the place of deserts, walled cities, veiled women, harems, eunuchs, bathhouses, intrigues, outlandish animals, clothing, languages, luxuries and an alien religion; in short, a land of romantic mystery and danger "

And finally, Graham Fuller, author of the book, " A World Without Islam, " has expressed some of his own views,  as follows;  and I quote him below:

" Islam today is a convenient shorthand to characterize the immense geopolitical complexities that made the saga of the Crusades. The Crusades are now part of the pantheon of the East-West tensions. Yet, we noted some of the early foundation of this struggle well before the appearance of Islam in the regional rebellions inside the Byzantium Empire against Constantinople; these movements embraced various religious banners (heresies) as vehicles and symbols for what was basically a contest for territory and power. These tensions preexisted Islam, ran parallel to Islam and still exist within the Middle East today. Could have been Crusades without Islam?  Perhaps not in quite same form, but a restless and ambitious Europe would probably found its way quickly enough to the East, in any case. It had already launched war against other border areas of Europe. If the distracting factor of Islam had never existed, the tensions between Rome and Constantinople would likely have been far more direct and confrontational than they were even at the time."

Final words From The Writer Of This Review:
If I refrain from pointing out that I have one single disagreement, however small, in this topic, I will be less than an honest man. My disagreement has to do with semantics, not with the substance of the chapter of this topic:

Calling the Crusades as " The Great Crusades " is totally unacceptable to me.. On the contrary, I would call them " The Murderous Crusades, " or " The Horrible Crusades, " or some other similar descriptions as these two descriptions I have just mentioned, but never " The Great Crusades."

I repeat that my disagreement is in semantics, not in the substance of the chapter of this topic.


Next topic will be topic ( 7 ) Shared Ecoes: The Protestant Reformation and Islam.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

( 5 ) " Islam Meets Eastern Christianity. "

By Sodium

This is the third time I write a review to this topic. And in each of the three times, I have found myself compelled to change the narrative of the review, for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons has to do with the length of the review. Another reason has to do with what is important to include in, and what is un-important to exclude out of this current review. However, the main reason was the deletion or disappearance of most of the first two posts I personally posted on the Internet. The other reasons mentioned in the foregoing were by-products of the deletion or disappearance that had occurred initially. What has caused the deletion or disappearance, I simply do not know. I can only assume and my assumption could be totally wrong.

In short, the readers who are interested in the struggles within the realm of Christianity and within the two competing Roman Empires, in Rome and Constantinople respectively, before the appearance of Islam, can read or consult (3) Power, Heresy, and Evolution of Christianity; and topic (4) Byzantium versus Rome: Warring Christian Polarity. Both topics have already been covered, as integral parts of the whole review, from beginning till end. Therefore, there is no need, of me, to go all over again discussing or even listing the factors that had made the whole Greater Syria ready to embrace the new spirit the conquering Muslim Arabs brought with them from Arabia. That brings us to the essence of this topic." Islam Meets Eastern Christianity. "  In other words, what had the conquering Muslim Arabs had done to the Christians of Greater Syria which they ruled ?  The first allegation surfaced in Christendom was that the conquerors had spread their Islam, in the territories they conquered and ruled, was by the power of their swords. Let us put this allegation under scrutiny and then decide upon  its validity. How can we do that ?  Well, one avenue available is to read what some of the professional historians have written about such an allegation and I quote below what they have written, precisely as they are quoted in the book entitled, " A World Without Islam " by Graham Fuller:

Historian Arnold Toynbee:
" In the first place we can discount the tendency -which has been popular in Christendom- to overestimate the extent of the use of force in the propagation of Islam. The show of adherence to the religion exacted by the Prophet successors was limited to the performance of a small number of not very onerous external observances....In the conquered provinces of the Roman and Sassanian Empires the alternatives offered were not "Islam or death" but "Islam or a super-tax"- a policy traditionally praised for its enlightenment when pursued long afterwards in England by Laodicean [religiously disinterested] Queen Elizabeth."

Historian of Islam, Ira Lapidus:
" The Arab conquerors did not require the conversion as much as the subordination of non-Muslim peoples. At the outset [the Arab conquerors] were hostile to conversions because new Muslims diluted the economic and status advantages of the Arabs."

" At the time of the conquest, Islam was meant to be a religion of the Arabs a mark of caste unity and superiority. The Arabs had little missionary zeal. When conversions did occur, they were an embarrassment because they created status problems and led to claim for financial privileges."

" And this privileged position for Arabs within Islam, of course, directly contrary to the final address of the Prophet himself:

[    O' people ! Verily your Lord is one and your father is one. All of you belong to one ancestry of Adam and Adam was created out of clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab; nor for white over the black nor for the black over the white except in piety. Verily the noblest among you is he who is the most pious.]

" The Arabs were changed from a clan or tribal people into an "urban" peple, mingled with non-Arab peoples, abandoned military affairs, took on civilian occupations and lost their monopoly on Islam. Correspondingly, non-Arab peoples entered the military and government services, converted to Islam, adopted the Arabic language, and claimed a place in the government of the empire in which they were initially subjects."

Professor of Medieval Islam, Merlin Swartz:
" Most of the Jewish population was discontented with their persecuted status within the Byzantium Empire and welcomed the Muslim armies, whose rule would turn out to facilitate a new flowering of Jewish culture."

The author has quoted more quotes, but the above quotations should suffice to refute the allegation that Islam was spread by the sword as Muslim Arabs conquered and ruled Greater Syria and other Christian provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Jerusalem and Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab:
The following story is not in the  book, but from me, based on what I have already read about how the city of Jerusalem when it fell, without blood shed, into the hands of the conquering Muslim Arabs. In my views, It is a fascinating story that must repeatedly be told over again and again to prove one point: one of the fundamental abstract characteristics of Islam is, indeed, tolerance. Here below is the story:

As the conquering Muslim Arabs surrounded the walled city of Jerusalem, they demanded from the city's leaders, who were mostly Christian religious leaders, to surrender peaceably to avoid blood shed. The city leaders responded that they would surrender the city key only to Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab to ensure safety for the city's population. The Commander of the sieging Arab army sent a message to Omar, informing him of the response received from the city's religious leaders. In order to avoid blood shed, he ( Omar ) accompanied his servant and traveled, on a camel, from Mecca to Jerusalem-a very long ride. Omar instructed his servant that he ( Omar ) and his servant should take turns in riding the camel in order both of them could arrive to Jerusalem in acceptable physical shape.. So it was: The Caliph Omar rode the camel for a few miles and then his servant rode it for a few miles while the Caliph Omar walked on foot and led the camel and they kept taking turns until they reached Jerusalem.

When they arrived to Jerusalem gate, it happened that it was the turn of the servant riding the camel and the Caliph Omar on foot leading it. As the camel parked near the gate, the religious leaders of Jerusalem ran towards the person who was riding the camel to welcome him to the great city of Jerusalem, wrongly assuming the servant was the Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab. As the servant explained to them how they traveled on one camel from Mecca until they reached Jerusalem, the leaders of Jerusalem were so impressed by the fairness and humility of Omar, they immediately and gladly offered him the key of the city of Jerusalem. As they showed the Caliph of all Muslims every where, the major monuments in the city, it was Islamic prayer time as they were in the Christian Church that was built on the spot where Christians believed that Jesus Christ was buried. It is called the" Church of the Holy Sepulchre "  While in that Church, Omar expressed his wish to be excused for a few minutes to pray outside the premises of the Church. The Christian leaders offered him to conduct his Islamic prayer inside the Church where he and they were. Omar politely declined accepting their offer, saying to them that if he accepted their offer to pray inside their Church, the Muslims may insist on building a mosque on the spot where he prayed. So, Omar stepped outside the Church and on his small little carpet conducted his prayer, in Mecca's direction. Indeed, what Omar had predicted then what the Muslims would do had happened: They built a mosque on the spot where Omar prayed outside the greatest and holiest Christian Church in Christendom, the "Church of the Holy Sepulchre," in the city of Jerusalem.

Such a disciplined conduct of Omar has to do with the very old Arab culture of " Murrowah " whose meaning was covered, on this website, in an essay entitled," ( 1 ) Arabia Before Appearance of Islam. Some Arabs pronounce " Murrowah " as " Muro'ah. "  Either way, the meaning of either word remains the same.

Because of the fact that the religious leaders of Jerusalem could not agree among themselves who should keep the key of the city of Jerusalem, they had chosen a Muslim or a Muslim family to keep the key of the city of Jerusalem. And the key has been in the safe hands of a Muslim, ever since and through the ages. As Israel illegally annexed occupied Jerusalem, one may wonder if the key is still in the safe hand of a Muslim, or has been confiscated by the government of Israel, as it has brutaly confiscated Palestinian lands and homes, on daily basis, in the West Bank of Palestine. One must wonder !

This story of Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab in Jerusalem is profoundly telling, as to how Islam had once met Christianity within the walls of the city of Jerusalem and at the greatest and holiest Christian Church in Christendom, in the absence of blood shed. This story stands in a striking contrast to what the pages of the recorded human history tell us: Conquerors showed no empathy, let alone mercy, towards their victims, the conquered people, How the Muslim Arabs had handled their conquest of Jerusalem was ( and will remain ) truly one of the many peaceful and positive characteristics of Islam.

Yes, indeed, Islam had met Eastern Christianity in the Church of Holy Sepulchre, in the city of Jerusalem, in the 7th century of the Christian Calendar, in a humane and splendid way.


Next topic will be topic number ( 6 ) The Great Crusades.