Ramadan: the Month of the Quran, the Last and the Lasting Divine Guidance

August 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah

Before it came to be known as the month of Fasting, the companions of the Prophet (s) knew Ramadan as a month of the Quran, the last and lasting Divine guidance to humanity.

“The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the Criterion (between right and wrong) So, whoever of you sights the month, he/she must observe fasts that month and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not observe fasts must be made up) from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and he does not want to make things difficult for you. He wants that you must complete the same number of days and that you must glorify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him. (2:184).

The revelation began in the month of Ramadan. The night in which the Quran began to be revealed is referred to in the Quran the blessed night: We sent it (the Quran) down on a blessed night, (44:2) or the night of Decree, Verily, we have sent it (this Quran) down in the Night of Al-Qadr. (97:1). It was the strength, clarity, simplicity and universality of the message that the night was described an extraordinary night.

With its 6332 ayas (verses) spread in 114 suras (chapters) divided in seven stages and 30 parts, the Quran was finalized and compiled in the life time of the Prophet (s) who alone among human beings knew what it was. Only the Prophet (s) could testify, verify and approve what the Quran consisted of as no other human being in his time shared that experience. He put his seal of approval on the finality of the divine message and gave his instructions on its arrangement.  The Prophet (s) ensured that every verse revealed to him was recorded and written at the time of its revelation.

In one of the several ahadith mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, one of the companions, Bara’a narrates that “when the verse “not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home) except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame),  and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives, Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with  their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home0 to each Allah has promised good, but has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home by a huge reward.” (4:95) was revealed, the Prophet (s) immediately called one of the scribes of the Quran to bring in the ink, pen and the tablet so that it could be written down. 

It is also mentioned in Masnad Ahmed, Sunan Abi Dawood, Sunan Nasai, Jami Tirmdhi, Ibn Habban, and Musdark Hakim that Usman bin Affan, the third Caliph, narrated that whenever a verse was revealed, the Prophet (s) used to call scribes immediately and instruct them to write it in the sura whose part is was meant to be.

Zaid bin Thabit is reported as mentioned in Sahih Bukhari, that in the life time of the Prophet (s) there were at least four from Ansar of Medina, Abi binKaab, Maadh ibn Jabal, Zaid, and Abu Zaid who had the entire Quran written with them.

It is also reported that in Medina Abdullah bin Saeed bin al-As, who was a calligrapher was specially instructed to teach the art of writing the Quran to the citizens of Medina.

Besides other material, paper was also used to write the Quran. The scriptures refers to the word paper twice:  But even if we had sent down unto thee [O Prophet] a writing on paper, and they had touched it with their own hands – those who are bent on denying the truth would indeed have said, “This is clearly nothing but a deception!” (6:7), “For, no true understanding of God have they when they say, “Never has God revealed anything unto man.” Say: “Who has bestowed from on high the divine writ which Moses brought unto men as a light and a guidance, [and] which you treat as [mere] leaves of paper, making a show of them the while you conceal [so] much – although you have been taught [by it] what neither you nor your forefathers had ever known?” Say: “God [has revealed that divine writ]!” – and then leave them to play at their vain talk. (6:92) The Quran also uses the word Riq, “In a Scroll unfolded; (52:3), a kind of paper made from the skins of animals.

In the books of ahadith, we come across the names of at least 45 more companions who knew how to read and write the Quran. They are (in alphabetical order):

Aban,
Abdur Rehman,
Abdu Rehman bin Hur bin Umr bin Zaid,
Abdulla Saeed bin al As,
Abdullah bin Arqam Zahri,
Abdullah bin Rawah,
Abdullah bin Saad bin Ab Sarh
Abdullah bin Zaid
Abdullah in Abdullah bin Abi Salool,
Abu Abas,
Abu Bakr,
Abu Yunis Maula Ayesha,
Ala bin Hadhrami,
Ali ibn Talib,
Aseed bin hadheer
Aus bin Khauli
Ayesha bint Abi bakr,
Fatima bin Muhammad,
Hafsa bint Umar
Handhala bin Rabi
Hundhala al-Asadi,
Jaheem binal Salt,
Khalid bin Saeed bin al-As,
Khalid bin Walid,
Muaqaib bin Fatima,
Muawiya bin Abi Safiyan,
Mughaira bin Shaaba,
Muhammad bin Salma,
Munzr bin Umr
Nafe bin Tareeb bin Umr bin Naufal,
Najiatu Tafawi,
Rafe binMalik
Sad bin al Rabee,
Sad bin al-As,
Sad bin Ibadah
Shahar bin Saad
Sharjeel bin Hasna,
Ubi ibn Kaab,
Umar bin al-Khattab,
Umme Habiba bint Abi Safiyan
Umr bin Al-As,
Umr bin Rafe
Usman bin Affan,
Zaid bin Thabit,
Zubair bin Awwam,

He was so particular about preserving the Quran in writing that even at the time of his migration from Makkah to Median, he had a scribe with him with ink and pen.

The Quran described itself as a book, a word that appears in 230 times in various contexts.

Even though there are narrations in many books that suggest that the Quran in the form that we have it today was compiled during  the Caliphate of Abu Bakr at the insistence of Second Caliph Umar bin al-Khattab and later finalized at the time of third Caliph, Usman bin Affan, the verdict of the Quran about its finalization, preservation, authenticity and compilation is overriding. “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).” (15:17) “And (moreover) We have guarded them from every evil spirit accursed.” (15:17). Or “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3).

It is obvious that the efforts of the Caliphs were to make copies of the Quran from the original for wider distribution in the Muslim world. It is evident from the writings of Ibn Hazm in his book Kitab ul Fisl that over 100,000 copies of the Quran were present in the entire world at the time of Umar bin Al-Khattab

The Quran describes itself as a book that proves the commonality of the Divine messages previously revealed to earlier prophets that were not preserved in the original form by their followers. It also asserts that the Divine message has essentially been the same revolving around three main principles;

a); monotheism in the sense that the source of all divine messages is Allah, the initiator and the creator of the universe,

b); the guidance from a higher and neutral source is needed by human beings to lead a simple and disciplined life. It is only through following the divine guidance human beings can discipline their lives the same way as every thing else in the universe runs in a perfect order.

c); the life is in constant evolution and the death would not end the life but move in a difference stage of existence where individuals and groups would be held accountable for every thing that they do and say in their limited life in this world.

The greatest miracle of the Quran is the consistency of this message throughout evident in all its suras and ayas.

The linguistic beauty and style are evident to only those who understand the language but the clarity and consistency of the message is for everyone regardless of their linguistic skills and they relevant for all times.

In other words every sura of the Quran is connected with its overall message with variations in emphasis and every aya is related with a particular aspect of the message within the context of the total guidance.

Thus the month of Ramadan offers the believers a unique opportunity to refresh their understanding of the guidance and live it for an entire month so that the life in coming months could be disciplined around that. Thus, the first task for every believer is to get connected with the divine guidance in a disciplined, consistent and regular basis.

The fasting enables a person to live the principle of self control and self discipline, which is essential to realize the strength and relevance of the Divine message.

Seemingly, a large number of Muslims do not know the Arabic language and hence find it hard to understand when the Quran is recited to them. Moreover, we also have the traditions informing us that the reading of the Quran gives us the reward of reading one letter to the equivalent to the 30 letter reward. The mercy and the divine measurement for good deeds are limitless and this narration should be read in that context.

Besides earning reward for reading the Quran without understanding, we can also make efforts in the month of Ramadan to read it with understanding. This may even double or triple the reward. It is no harm to read the Quran with translation. Non-Arabic speaking believers can recite the Quran in Arabic and listen to its pronunciation during the taraweeh prayers besides, reading the translation in their own languages to understand the essence of the divine message. This understanding will enable us to get closer to the guidance of Allah.

Often it is argued that it is difficult to understand the Quran in any other language. The Quran, on the other hand repeats the following verse four times: “And We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition? (54:17) Besides, the Quran also says: “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” (30:22)

The reading of the Quran with meaning would give us an opportunity to understand the Divine message as is and inspire us to appreciate its relevance for us in our times. Thus in addition to reading the Quran, we can also make efforts to live it.

We spend much of our efforts in correcting our pronunciation of the Quran. This is good and the proper sound of every letter and word must be perfected authentically. However, the main purpose of perfecting the pronunciation must never be ignored: I, e, to understand so that we could live the Quran, the way our Prophet (s) lived it.

During the month of Ramadan we arrange lavish functions for the breaking of fast, a good practice to bring people together. However, if in these functions, we make it a habit to focus on understanding one of the passages of the Quran, probably we can make better use of these gatherings. It would not take us more than 5 to 10 minutes to reflect on the message of the Quran in these functions, but it would help us understand the divine guidance, the main reason for decreeing fasting in this month.

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the Criterion (between right and wrong) So, whoever of you sights the month, he/she must observe fasts that month and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not observe fasts must be made up) from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and he does not want to make things difficult for you. He wants that you must complete the same number of days and that you must glorify Allah for having to guided you so that you may be grateful to Him. (2:184)

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Tricky PETA’s “Muslim” Website

November 1, 2009 by · 6 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

Editor’s Note:  PETA has addressed all of the most pressing concerns that TMO had about its website, and that is a credit to its founder, Ingrid Newkirk, and also to Kathy Nizzari and Hanif Akhtar, who all took the time to respectfully address our concerns.  The main concern was that the site should say it is sponsored by PETA, which it now does, “Sponsored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals” at the bottom of the page, a little hard to read but it is there.  The second major concern was the “empty ritual” language referred to below.  Actually PETA has been quite sensitive and responsive in addressing TMO’s major concerns, compared to which all our other concerns are minimal.  We may disagree about the substantive issues relating to animal treatment, but we no longer have ethical concerns about their website.

 

Farmington–October 28–If you had asked me October 19th about PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) I might have said, “aren’t they the people who protect animals?”

IslamicConcerns I would not have gone into the issue of their calling fish “sea kittens,” or their spraying fake blood to ruin the furs that people wear, or their doing demonstrations around the world wearing minimal clothing.  These things I found out about in the course of my writing this article. PETA after all wasn’t really on my plate–not really on an agenda related to Islam. 

But now things have changed.  PETA launched a website called Islamic Concerns (www.islamicconcerns.com) early last week, and we at TMO received a press release rather proudly proclaiming that fact.  I immediately went to the website and searched in vain for the notice that PETA is behind the website.  No “about” page saying “PETA proudly produced this website.” No acknowledgment that the website islamicconcerns.com was commissioned by non-Muslims with a non-Muslim agenda (as per editor’s note above this has now changed).

At a glance the website appears fine.  In large letters it says Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim.  The website is very attractive, at least until you start reading it or trying to see who is behind it.

At a closer look the website is problematic.  It stated until last Thursday that the slaughter of animals after hajj is “an empty ritual.”  (After TMO raised this issue with PETA they removed that language from their site although the site still argues against sacrificing animals in a more oblique way).  The site quotes a “scholar” who argues that all of the ahadith relating to dogs are incorrect.  The site fails to advertise that the entire website is commissioned by non-Muslims with a secular agenda.  It argues that the prescribed method for slaughtering animals in Islamic and Jewish law is too painful and should be amended to include stunning prior to slaughter.  The “fatwas” on the website are a smorgasbord of bizarre material, whatever fatwas suited the fancies of the non-Muslims who built the site.  The Muslims involved in the site care deeply about animals but do not appear to care very deeply about practicing Islam.  The website states conclusory fatwas unsupported by Islamic scholars, for instance that eating meat from animals who have themselves eaten pork is haram–this may or may not be true, but if it is it should come from a real scholar.

The website advocates extreme and unnecessary solutions to legitimate problems.  Admittedly factory farms likely feed chemicals and reprocessed animals to their livestock, and engage in other unsavory practices, and perhaps there is unnecessary mistreatment of such animals precedent to slaughter.  But if you sincerely want to help Muslims eat halal and wholesome meat, then the response to this problem is to support small farms, not to go vegan.

Also granted, animal testing is sometimes cruel.  But the solution to this is not to throw blood on people or to protest or yell and scream.  The solution is to live a simple lifestyle in which as much as possible we use the materials that don’t need animal testing–the same materials we use in following the sunnah of Prophet (s).

Immediately after learning of the site and seeing it I called PETA’s designated spokesperson on the issue, Kathy Nizzari, and in answer to my first question, “Did any Muslims contribute” to the site, Ms. Nizzari proclaimed that the “very devout Muslim” Hanif Akhtar had been involved. Nizzari, the primary spokesperson for PETA’s Islamic Concerns website, asked that I speak with Akhtar rather than her about the site.

I interviewed Mr. Akhtar three days later, last Thursday, and I say with sincerity that I respect Mr. Akhtar for his honesty and his taking the time to talk with me. 

Mr. Akhtar is not “devout,” any more than I am devout. He does not pray more than other Muslims, nor does he have a great deal of knowledge of Islam.  He is a practicing vegan (no meat no dairy) (originally from Pakistan), as are his entire family–he does not eat meat and will state with conviction that there is a branch of Muslims who believe that ahadith should not be followed.  In speaking about dogs he quoted from the surah called “Ashabul Kahf” (actually al-Kahf), speaking of the dog who was mentioned in that surah.

Still, he respects Prophet (s) and will not go as far as to state that he puts his vegan beliefs above the teachings of Prophet (s).  Confronted with the problematic issues on the website listed above, he sounded legitimately surprised and promised to speak with other PETA people about what is on the site, for example he said he “took exception with the website” in calling the slaughter of animals after hajj “an empty ritual.”   He promised to address this issue with others at PETA, and in fact a week later we no longer see that language on the site.  He said he did not know about the (still) missing “about” page. Again, he seems sincere to me, even if perhaps not religious, and certainly not “devout.”

While he admits he uses leather he says no one else in his family does.  An apparently sincere and honest man, but this is not a person who can be relied on as an expert in Islam or Islamic law. Likely PETA has never employed any such person.

Mr. Akhtar works on a purely voluntary basis for PETA, and provided some guidance in a review capacity on the website–if he saw a problem, he explained, he mentioned it to the PETA staff which corrected it–”just minor spelling mistakes,” he said. But in a cursory review of the website I was able to find the several significant problems listed above that he said he was unfamiliar with.

The Muslims who worked on the site always appear to be at the periphery.  When i mentioned Muslims to Nizzari, she pointed at Akhtar.  When I mentioned Muslims to Akhtar, he pointed at Nizzari.  One does not appear to be Muslim at all, and the other, for all his sincerity, is by his own admission not religious. 

Although the website supposedly provides Islamic law on subjects related to Islamic diet, there is no consistent school of thought referred to.  Mr. Akhtar mentioned a person named Ali–whose last name he would not share with me–who contributed to the website but was currently “in Iran,” therefore I assume he is Shi’a which is I guess a starting point although there is no attempt to clarify that perhaps the Islamic Concern website is built on Shi’a law.  There are different schools of thought, Ja’fari, Hanbali, Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki. 

Non-Muslims may believe that a handful of fatwas plucked from around the Muslim world form a convincing argument, any Muslim knows there is discipline involved.

So far we addressed the ethical issues of the website.  On a practical level, this website is a rather large block of uncertainty cast apparently by an extreme minority secular organization–so this is not likely to work. 

Moderate Muslims will be incensed that PETA is trying to trick them.  Shi’a are never going to accept this website when their religious authorities are marja’iyya.  Practising Sunnis are not going to take Islamic advice from shadowy online “Islamic” sites, especially insofar as they contravene the Sunnah of the Prophet (s).  Maybe some young impressionable Muslims will be swayed by the site, but the backlash against the site will likely outweigh any gains PETA might make.

How can it be Islamic to become a vegan animal worshipper who calls fish kittens, when the sunnah of the Holy Prophet (s) is to eat meat, and to wear leather–just the leather socks alone that Prophet (s) wore are proof of this.  What about other sunnahs involving leather? Muslims care about animal welfare, but it is not Islam to unbalance the world to the extent that the central concern of life is that no animal be harmed in any way.

So my advice to PETA, make a website, it’s okay.  But admit who you are and do not try to trick us.  And do not expect to change the world too much with this latest attempt to subvert Islam in the interests of promoting a secular and crafty agenda. One piece of advice from Qur`an–enter houses by their front doors.

It is no virtue if ye enter your houses from the back: It is virtue if ye fear Allah. Enter houses through the proper doors: And fear Allah. That ye may prosper.

Baqara:189 (Y. Ali)

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