An Interview With Dr. Amina Wadud

This is an interview that Dr. Wadud did during her visit to the Nordic Forum in the Swedish city of Malmö in June 2014. The interview was conducted by “Feministiskt Perspektiv”, a Swedish  magazine. The original interview is in Swedish, and so I translated it to English. 

Amina Wadud became world famous in 2005 when she led both men and women in prayer in New York. She is an Islamic scholar that has produced women and LGBTQ-friendly Qur’anic interpretations. Bella Frank met her during the Nordic Forum in Malmö.

“There is no verse in the Koran that says that men must lead the prayer, there is no verse in the Qur’an that says women cannot lead the prayer.”

The words are Dr. Amina Wadud’s. She is an Islamologist and Islamic feminist and last summer she visited Malmö during the Nordic Forum. 20 years ago, she became the first woman to hold a Muslim sermon, known as a khutbah, for both men and women in South Africa. She is a role model for Muslim feminists and feminists from other faiths who see no contradiction between religion and gender, and she has spent decades producing new readings of the Qur’an and has literally pushed forward the position of women in Islam.

Amina Wadud became known to a wider audience in 2005 when she led both men and women in prayer in New York, which came to be discussed among Muslims and Muslim scholars worldwide. Many called her act anti-Islamic and profane, such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. But she was also supported by others as Gamal al-Banna, the younger brother of the Muslim Brotherhood founder, who argued that her act was supported by Islamic texts and sources. And many Muslims see her as a role model, as can be seen in the book A Jihad for Justice – Honoring The Work and Life of Amina Wadud in which 33 writers, academics, activists and others have expressed the importance that her work has had on their lives.

The Koran from a woman’s perspective

Her personal reading of the Koran developed gradually. She became a Muslim in 1972, earned a  doctorate in Arabic and Islamology in the late 1980s and studied at al-Azhar University in Egypt. She then got a post at the International Islamic University of Malaysia and it was there, during meetings with “Sisters In Islam”, that questions were raised about the role of women, especially pertaining to the Islamic rituals : For example, what did Islam say about where women inside a mosque should pray?
The main question in her first book entitled the Qur’an and Woman, which was released in 1992, was simply whether it mattered if the Qur’an was read from women’s perspective.

The conclusion : Yes it does.

“The reason for this is that women and men have different experiences, not least because of patriarchy, ie the privileges of men and men’s way of being and thinking”, she tells me when we meet in the sunny lobby of the Triangle Scandic Malmö hotel. One of the examples she gives is that when the Qur’an speaks of Mary giving birth to Jesus, it is described through Mary’s internal process. But despite the fact that men can not bear children, it has only been men who have interpreted this verse and its meaning and it is thus this lack of experience that becomes problematic.”

“Experience tells us something about what it means to be human, and if the only way we think about what it means to be human is from a man’s perspective, there will be gaps. So I thought that there was a possible gap in how we understand a text which is more than 1400 years old and that is central to the Islamic world view of Islamic law and Islamic cultures, and that in 1300 years we only had reports from a male perspective and thus there were probably some things that we had missed.”

“One of the problems is that for so many centuries, women were absent in the official reading of the Qur’an. In Islam there is a tradition of ijtihad, which means “effort”, that is, the effort to try to understand God’s word, usually undertaken by scholars who find new interpretations of the law based on Islamic principles. The sources are the Qur’an, but also the Prophet Muhammad’s life, which is recorded in the hadith.”

“However, if the principal architects of it happen to be male, it means that the way they interpret texts will include a privileged spirit of their experience of the text, their thoughts and ways of being. To add a gender inclusive reading also means that what we believe is the primary source can no longer be taken for granted – because of human effort to understand it. It is a human effort to understand it, the effort is not divine, yet the conclusions drawn have been given divine sanction,” she says.

Sermon led to long studies

She explains that her driving force behind her Qur’anic studies was her love of the Qur’an, its language, and a willingness to understand. So she therefore studied first “tafsir”, interpretation. So the focus is on understanding the Qur’an and not in the areas that are closely related with Islam, such as law and culture. But Amina Wadud realized that she could not stop at merely reading the Qur’an, and the need to move from interpretation to the application became increasingly clear. However, a step that could have appeared as a logical extension of the thoughts of the application, namely that she as a woman also participate in the rituals that usually have been reserved for learned men, was not a planned decision.

The first time it happened was eleven years before the acclaimed prayer in New York during a lecture tour in South Africa. Just 45 minutes before it was time for the friday prayer, she was asked to speak and to give a so-called khutbah at the Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town. It was an event that led to much debate around the world, but instead of participating in these debates she devoted the next decade to intellectual and spiritual studies, where she contemplated within herself and asked questions about what it meant both for herself but also for Islam and for other Muslims.
“It took eleven years before I would again agree to not only keep preaching but also lead the prayer, and do so a very public way,” says Amina Wadud.

One of the questions she wrestled with is that in Islam, prayers are directly between the believer and God without any intermediaries. So why does it then matter where men and women stand in the mosque? Why is it important that a woman can lead the prayer when she is still able to communicate with God directly? The answer that Amina Wadud arrived at is that an important part of Islam is its collective rituals, and that the leadership roles of these rituals had been wrongly been assigned men. “This has no basis in the Qur’an,” she says.

“There is no textual basis for it. There is no verse in the Qur’an that says that men must lead the prayer, there is no verse in the Qur’an that says women can not lead the prayer, there is no hadith that says women can not lead, nor is there any hadith that says that men must be those leading the prayer.”

Can no longer be ignored

When she led the prayer at the Synod House in New York in 2005, it was to bind together the inner and spiritual aspects with the public and political external aspects. Although it is still very rare for a woman to lead men and women of prayer – it happens, but mostly in the smaller circles of reformist Muslims – something has fundamentally changed.

“Now everyone is talking about it, everyone. Even if they only speak about it to say that they disagree with it. In other words, it can no longer be ignored, and for me it is a very big milestone that one can no longer ignore that it exists and it is great,” she says emphatically.

In the book “Inside the Gender Jihad” in 2006, she writes about her experiences as a black woman and a Muslim working as an academic in universities in the American South, and the experience of growing up as a poor black girl and the struggle for social justice which she inherited by her father who was Methodist pastor. For Amina Wadud, Islam is a fight for social justice and she has described her long work with Islam, justice and gender as being closely linked to her father. It is now more than half a century ago that he took her to what would become a defining moment for her, and for the struggle for social justice. The year was 1963, and the event was Martin Luther King’s march on Washington.

“It was a pivotal moment for me. It was hot and we stood at a monument where there was no shade to shelter us from the sun and people kept coming up on the stage to make speeches, and as a child I did not understand what it was they were talking about.

“In my blood and in my heritage there is a close relationship between faith in God and social justice.”

Allied with the LGBT community

Amina Wadud’s work with a gender inclusive reading of the Qur’an has also inspired other groups of Muslims to initiate readings based on other issues of sexual orientation, such as queer and LGBT. Amongst others we have Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle, who has written the books Homosexuality in Islam and Living Out Islam, and groups like the El-Tawhid Juma Circle in Canada.

“We do not need to separate our religious selves from our sexual orientations just because there is a heteronormative. Muslim societies have been predominantly heterosexual but there has always been diversity, it’s just that some have been marginalized and have therefore remained invisible. I am allied with the LGBT community. Humanity is not only limited to heterosexuals, and a Muslim has no priority in their faith over another Muslim exclusively for where they happen to be on the heteronormative scale.”

This implies a questioning of dichotomies previously presented as self-evident and where fundamental choices have been explicit. The choice between being a feminist and a Muslim, the choice between Islam and human rights or the choice between being gay and being Muslim. The alternative to such dichotomies are what she calls radical pluralism and horizontal reciprocity. Radical pluralism is all about praising diversity and equality at the same time, and also about breaking privileges : privileges that have to do with gender, race, class or ethnicity.

“Radical pluralism evens out the playing field and it is uncomfortable because it means that you can not always get the best place, you can not always get the best light, the best air or the best water. Sometimes you have to share it with others, and it can also mean that you get less, or you will not get anything.”

“We must be willing to understand that until the playing field is equalized, those who have privileges must accept that they have them, and then stay away from them,” she says.

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A Beautiful Encounter

Dear friends,

Earlier this evening I attended a story telling workshop in the Swedish city of Göteborg, and the workshop itself turned out to be a wonderful and inspiring experience. It was led by two young men who tour the world with their workshops called Rafael and Sahand.

So, the moment that hit me deepest and that I just have to share with you all is the moment when one of the participants was asked how he was able to overcome his alcohol and drug addiction. The question came after the workshop was over, and it was my friend who asked. Important to note here that he gave his answer to me and my two friends, so in other words, to three Muslims. During the workshop he had told his story about how he had been hooked for 20 years, and how he had just now been drug and alcohol free for just about 600 days. Just hearing that was special, because when you have someone in front of you who openly declares something of this magnitude, it is almost like hearing, “I came back from the dead.” Just heavy, heavy stuff.

He went on to tell his story, which was very inspiring also, but one that I wont tell here. It had to do with the temptations of falling back into addiction.

So, here was his answer to my friend’s question. He said “I fell back on my spiritual weapons. The weapons that everyone has but that they are not all aware of. These weapons are patience and humility. The next step was to kill my ego. Once I did these things, I was able to get back on my feet.” I was shocked. I never expected to hear such an answer. It was almost as if he was giving Dawah (Inviting others to Islam), except that he had absolutely nothing to do with Islam.

And I said to myself, “Wow, this guy is talking about Islam, but he has no idea that he is talking about Islam.” Here is a man who spoke of how spiritual weapons saved his life, who spoke about how he had to kill his ego in order to get rid of a deep addiction. These words from this man come to me during a period where I am constantly breaking down the Koranic message to find out what words are attached to belief. So lets break it down together.

The servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth in humility (25:63)

As I noted in my last post, humility is such an essential part of faith that God describes his servants as those who walk upon the earth in humility. Yet without ever opening the Koran, he found this “weapon” within himself.

No one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but persons of the greatest good fortune. (41:35)

Patience is mentioned in the Koran no less than 90 times. It is also said that those who are patient get the highest reward (Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account 39:10). This reward is described here by the words of Sulayman ibn Qasim, who said, “the reward of every deed is known, except for the reward of patience which will be like heavy rain.”

Did not this mans reward fall down like heavy rain? His life was saved due to his patience. The heavy rain that came down was his new life.

Moving on, one of gods names is As-Sabur (The Patient One), and the word itself carries a very deep meaning.

The name is connected to the root s-b-r which has the following classical Arabic connotations :

to be patient, to be enduring
to endure trial or affliction with good manner
to be contented in trial or affliction without show of complaint
to make no distinction between comfort and affliction
to bear calmly, to persevere cheerfully
to be steadfast, constant
to restrain, confine, restrain, withhold from something

Patience is so essential to Islam that Sheikh Tosun Bayrak has this to say about Sabûr :

The meaning of Islam is submission; to forego one’s appetites, desires and will in the favor of the will of Allâh. To be able to submit, one has to be patient. In Islam, patience is a sign of faith…

Just beautiful that this man was able to find his inner strength and change himself for the better.

I finish here by saying that Allah, The Koran, and Islam are not only for Muslim but they are for all of mankind. Indeed, the Prophet (pbuh) was sent as a mercy to all the worlds, and Allah is the “Lord of all the worlds.”
Islam is not named after a founder, a person, or even God. No, it is named after an attitude, a feeling, an essence, and that essence is “Peace obtained by voluntarily submitting oneself to the will of God”, and in other words, killing your ego.
Islam is not a Muslim monopoly, it is a human monopoly, and it is to be found in every human being. This man is a clear proof of this. “The spiritual weapons that everyone has but are not all aware of.” These are his words, no? Do we not all say that everyone is born a Muslim, and that actually Muslim converts should be called reverts, because they are reverting to their true human nature? If this man ever heard about the real teachings of Islam, and “converted”, he would be the ultimate revert, because it was the Islamic essence, and thus his true human nature, that saved his life.

In this man I found the true Islamic spirit, and yet he had nothing to do with Islam. However is that really so? By name and affiliation he had no connection with it, but he for sure had the essence of it, and in the end, the essence is all that matters.
For if we really are to believe that God created all human beings, then we must also believe that all human beings are capable of responding to spiritual laws, and so us who are “believers” must never put down other people in any way, because belief is not about a name, or a title, its about the essence. We must simply be the guides and companions of all of humankind.

Heaven for this man was the start of his new life. May God bless him and continue to guide him. Ameen.

Reflections On The Koran’s 29th Chapter (The Spider)

I find this chapter to be very beautiful and thought provoking. It is full of powerful warnings that really get deep inside of you and move you to the point that you would never dare let yourself go down the path of wrongdoing.

It is also full of reminders of how God wants you to be on this earth as a human being. The chapter never fails to conflate belief with good deeds and disbelief with bad deeds, to the point where you realize that belief alone is not enough in the eyes of the creator just as disbelief alone is not disbelief if it is not accompanied by wrong deeds.

Belief and good deeds go in hand in hand, just as disbelief and bad deeds go hand in hand.

This chapter carries much of the Koranic essence, that is to say, the essence of the Koran that carries with it the message that you are responsible for your own actions and that you will ultimately be judged by them, that your ultimate judgement only stems from what you did. This chapter truly brings to life the old saying, “you reap what you sow.”

Let us take for example, the verse that speaks about Pharaoh and the punishment that he received :

“And Allah would not have wronged them, but it was they who were wronging themselves” (29:40)

A clear example of being held responsible for ones own actions. In the case of Pharaoh, we know what his actions were, and they were the actions of a tyrant. Pharaoh was a man who held an entire people in slavery, among many other things.

For us, the reminder is good one. If you need a reminder of Koranic Karma, then look no further than the chapter of the spider. This verse explains it in chilling detail :

“Or do those who do evil deeds think they can outrun Us? Evil is what they judge” (29:4)

Now, we will examine the words of this chapter in detail.

“Arrogance, evil, hypocrisy, corruption, immorality, falsehood.”

These are the words that this chapter uses along with disbelief. So clearly, disbelief is deeply connected to arrogance, lying, evil, hypocrisy, corruption, immorality, and falsehood. In the case of Pharaoh, he stretched these words to the extreme.

We can ask ourselves the question also. To what degree are we stretching these words in our own lives?

But allow us to take it a step further. Can one truly be a believer if one is arrogant? No, one cannot be. Why? One answer could be because God does not ask for arrogance from us. However, this answer alone is insufficient.

So, why is it that you cannot truly be a believer if you are arrogant? Because if you are arrogant, you are ascribing a partner to Allah. And what is this partner that you are ascribing called? It is simply called arrogance.

With this in mind, it becomes clear why arrogance, evil, hypocrisy, corruption, immorality, and falsehood go hand in hand with disbelief and thus we then know why disbelief is in fact, disbelief, because disbelief means ascribing partners to Allah.

The definition of the partner called arrogance is “having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.”

By contrast, the Koran asks for humility. Since God asks for humility, humility is not a partner and is in fact one of the qualities that is necessary for belief in God. You can see arrogance as the partner that gets in the way of belief, and humility as the quality that is essential to belief.

The definition of this quality is “a modest or low view of one’s own importance.”

Moving on, take a look at the world today. War, poverty, pollution. Are these not the results of men who are arrogant, hypocritical, immoral?

What runs the world today? Money. Money equals power. These men worship money, and they are blinded by their own greed. The worlds number one industry is the weapon industry. What does the weapon industry need to exist? It needs war. All this leads to the deaths of millions of people. But you see, when you worship money, you will do anything to keep on making it, even at the cost of so many human lives.

These partners that live inside of us can really lead us astray, and cause immeasurable suffering, both on ourselves and on others. They lead to the fire, the fire that the Koran so repeatedly makes reference to. The fire that burns on the inside, and the fire that burns on the outside. The fires that consume this world, because of the fires that are burning inside of men. This is why the Koran so heavily warns us against worshiping anything else besides Allah.

(Let us also remind ourselves that since the Koran dealt with the most serious issues of it’s time, it is only right that we use it to deal with the most serious issues of our time, if we wish to bring about true justice).

“Then in falsehood do they believe, and in the favor of Allah they disbelieve?” (29:67)

Indeed, in falsehood do these people believe.

So as we can see, interestingly enough, disbelief is actually a belief, but it is a belief in falsehood, arrogance, evil, immorality, corruption, and hypocrisy. It is so much deeper than simply saying, “I disbelieve.”

Disbelief, according to the Koran, is only evident by your actions. Just ask Pharaoh.

The same goes with belief.

Truth, hope, righteousness, goodness, gratefulness, consciousness, observation, reason, knowledge, remembrance, prayer, argumentation, work, patience, reliance, jihad (to struggle, to strive).

These are the words that this chapter uses along with belief. Just as disbelief is deeply connected to a state of being and to actions, so is belief connected to a state of being and to actions.
So take a step back and reflect on the words that are interconnected with belief. They are indeed beautiful words, and they are what is needed in order for us to be true believers. They are what is needed, because, just like disbelief, belief, according to the Koran, is only evident by your actions and what you put into your life. Belief alone is not enough, because belief alone carries no weight, and is meaningless. Words alone mean nothing if they are not followed up by actions.

Just like the old saying goes, “If your gonna talk the talk, you gotta walk the walk.”

This chapter has something very heavy to say about the fact that belief alone is not enough. This is the second verse of the chapter, and it really sets the tone for the rest that is to come :

Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? (29:2)

There it is! The words explicitly tell us that we cannot just sit on our behinds and proclaim that we believe.

Because in the midst life, life that is trying, life that is intense, and life that is all and everything that we have ever known, belief is to strive, to struggle, to observe, to use our reason, to seek knowledge, to work, to be truthful and to have hope, to hold fast to righteousness and goodness, to rely on god and to be grateful to god, to be conscious of god and to remember god in prayer, to argue in a way that is best (29:46), and to have patience.

Moving on, why are these words so interconnected with and so essential to our belief, our belief of “La illaha ilallah?” And why is our belief of “No God but God” the most important part of our faith?

I will say it simply. Truth is belief, because God asks for it from us and it thus becomes a quality of God, and not a partner that one can worship besides God. How can one worship truth besides God, when God is truth?

Hope is belief, because God asks for it from us and it thus becomes a quality of God, and not something that we can worship besides God. How can one worship hope besides God, when God is hope?

Goodness is belief, because God asks for it from us and it thus becomes a quality of God, and not a partner that one can worship besides God. How can one worship goodness besides God, when God is goodness?

This is why we repeat this line in our prayers at least 17 times a day : “You alone do we worship.” (1:5)

Know this, and take it with you, for surely :

“Prayer prohibits immorality and wrongdoing” (29:45)

This is why we pray, and this why we worship! To stay away from all of the partners that are mentioned in this chapter, and to become one with the qualities of God, the qualities that can never lead us astray.

What happens when you worship truth, hope, and goodness? What happens is that you worship no God but God. What happens when you worship no God but God? Falsehood, arrogance, and evil cannot be worshiped alongside God, and thus, they are left to wither away in the dust. What is left standing, is all that is good, and when all that is good is left standing, then, peace starts to appear.

When peace starts to appear, paradise also starts to appear, and when paradise starts to appear inside of your heart, that paradise is then reflected outwards into the world, and thus, the world becomes a better place, and when the world starts to become a better place, only then will you have fulfilled your role as a true believer of the one and only lord of all the worlds, Allah.

“And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our paths. And indeed, Allah is with the doers of good” (29:69)

It is all there, in the sacred words of this verse, the final verse of the chapter of the spider. No matter who you are or what your faith is, know that God is with those who do good, and if you struggle for a righteous cause, then God will surely guide you to one of his many paths. For in the end, all rivers end up in the same ocean.

To conclude, it is not only by knowing what you should do that you truly know what you should do. It is also by knowing what you shouldn’t do that you know what you should do, and this chapter gracefully lays out for us all of these examples so that we may understand.

Thank you for reading, dear friends 🙂 And do not forget to go and read the chapter for yourselves!

God bless, and stay free

Poem For Her Words

Dear fellow travellers 🙂

Today, after school, as I was fooling around on FB, I fell upon a post on Malala’s page. It was an open letter that she read out loud to the still kidnapped girls in Nigeria. First time that she speaks publicly since December, and so I am happy that she has broken her silence, even if hearing her read her letter is a very heavy and sad ordeal. One year later, and they are still gone, but one year later, and she still carries them with her.

So, these are the words that came to my mind once I had finished listening to her words.

“When she speaks, the whole world stops,
and even the stars stand still to listen,

But why?
Why does the universe pause, just to hear her words?

Because, just like light is in perfect submission,
to the glow of the sun,
she is in perfect submission,
to the will of Allah,

Like the light serves and loves all,
as a servant of the sun,
she too, serves and loves all,
as a servant of The Most Compassionate,

Like the light is at peace, knowing that it can only exist,
through the grace of the sun,
so too, is she at peace, knowing that she can only exist,
through the grace of The Source Of Peace,

Like the light carries, the mercy of the sun,
she carries, the mercy of The Most Merciful,

Like the light is at one with the sun,
she is at one, with God,

And so, this is why, when she speaks, the whole world stops,
and even the stars,
stand still,
to listen”

Poem For You

Just like I see light, when the glow of the candle appears before me,

When you appear before me, I see God

Just like I see gentle green, when my gaze meets a field of softest grass,

When my gaze meets yours, I see God

Just like I hear beauty, when the wind sings it’s song full of wisdom,

When I hear your voice, I see God

And just like I am with God, when I turn to him in prayer,

When I am with you, I am with love

A Koranic Journey

Peace be upon you, dear friends 🙂

I recently got an idea that I now wish to share with you all.

There are many things in life that we all share. They are all free, and cost nothing. By simply reflecting upon them, we can find happiness, inner peace, and a true connection with our creator.

So, I invite you to embark on a Koranic journey that will give you endless treasures, free of charge.

“Have they not seen the birds in mid-air? None holds them up except for Allah. Indeed, in this are signs for those who believe” (16:79)

Let us go outside, take a look up at the skies, and simply look at the birds that are flying. See how they flap their wings with such grace, and float on the winds so effortlessly. Isn’t it beautiful? Meditate on the flight of the birds, for their flight is a treasure that you can always have, whenever you need comfort. Let the birds uplift you, and take you up to the heavens.
You have witnessed the flight of birds many times before, but this time, the flight of birds is “a sign for those who believe.”

“And Allah has sent down rain from the sky and given life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who listen” (16:65)

Let us continue our journey, with a little bit of rain. Sit down on the grass, and simply enjoy the rain as it falls down from the sky, bringing with it  an abundance of blessings. And as you watch the water grace the earth with its mercy, remember that you are witnessing the cycle of life. Yes, you have seen rain fall thousands of times, but in this very instant, the rain is “a sign for a people who listen.” So listen to each and every raindrop, for they carry with them wisdom from a far away place, a wisdom that you can always turn to whenever you need it.

“It is Allah who sends the winds, and they stir the clouds and spread them in the sky” (30:48)

Here comes the wind, softly caressing your senses. Invisible, yet there it is, full of mystery. Let us sit a little while longer, and watch as the clouds slowly move along, changing forms and shapes. The winds and the clouds will always be there for you.

“It is he who shows you lightning” (13:12)

It is time to go back inside, and watch the lightning from a safe place. Meditate on lightnings sublime power, on the intense flashes of light, on this glorious sign from the creator.

“He causes to grow for you the herbage, the olives, the date-palms, the grapes, and every kind of fruit. Verily! In this is indeed an evident proof and a manifest sign for people who give thought” (16:11)

Now it is time to eat something. Hopefully, you like olives, dates, and grapes. If not, I am sure that you have at least one favorite fruit. Not only do all of these things taste good, but they are very good for your health also. This is why, fruits and vegetables are “an evident proof and a manifest sign for people who give thought.” So while we eat from the bounties of our earth, let us give thought.
That apple you are eating helps to keep your teeth clean. That carrot that you are munching is great for your eyesight. You who are eating that date, if you only ate dates for two months, your skin would become 5 times more beautiful. Every fruit has its magical property, just as every vegetable has its magical property.

“And what he has created in the earth of varied hues, most surely there is a sign in this for a people who are mindful” (16:12)

From the windows, we can see yellow sunflowers and red roses, the greenest of leaves and the brown of the soil. Colors are wonderful, and they are a big reason as to why our earth is endlessly beautiful. So take in all the colors that you are seeing at this very instant, and know that you can derive infinite peace from them.

“Make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction, but do good, for Allah loveth those who do good” (2:195)

Finally, we finish our trip with a reminder to take care of our own selves, and to always do good.
A reflection on this verse might be to drop that cigarette, which literally is “your own hands contributing to your destruction”?

So, during our Koranic voyage, we observed the flight of birds, the fall of the rains, the winds and the clouds, flashes of lightning, the many colors of nature, and we ate fruits and vegetables. One can say that none of these things are new for us, and yes, I would have to agree, they certainly have been experienced by almost all of us.

But here, we have a chance and an opportunity to look at all these things from a spiritual point of view, from a point of a view that will bring us closer to our creator, closer to God. If you see God in everyone of these things, and if everyone of these things remind you of God, then, you will find an inner peace that you will carry with you forever and always. When your heart can rejoice at something that otherwise might have seemed routine, that is when you start knocking at the door of true happiness. Life truly is about all the things that we encountered on our Koranic journey, and of course, many more things that are to be found in the Koran.

So take the step, and start looking at life with a new pair of eyes.

It was a pleasure to be your guide on this journey. God bless, and stay free 😉

Poem for Islam

While the leaf is busy leaving behind it’s deepest green and welcoming the colors of golden red, we pray

While the sun rises, once again sharing it’s infinite light, we pray

While the moon watches over us, it’s wisdom covering our souls, we pray

While the bombs fall, and flesh is torn again and again, we pray

While evil seems to never have an end, and darkness is all that we can see, we pray

While rainbows paint themselves all over our skies, we pray

While children laugh and share their joy with one another, with no worries about what tomorrow will bring, we pray

While life runs past us, never stopping to take us by the hand, we pray

And while death comes to take away all that we have ever known, we pray

For as God is eternal, so is our prayer

Amen

A Poem Without A Title

Hey y’all,

Recently, I have started writing poetry once again. Poetry comes and goes, and usually, at least for me, the “goes” are longer than the “comes.” But since at the moment I have some words that have found me, then I will share them with you. This poem has no name at the moment, but it is dedicated to everyone….

When your sadness is deep, covering your heart like the moon covers the sun, take comfort in knowing that deepness, is revealed to you,

When your pain is deep, cutting like a knife, be happy, for then you know, what deepness is,

When your suffering is deep, streaming down like tears, then look within, for deepness is there, giving you greetings of peace,

When your sorrow is deep, and you feel your soul slowly bleeding, do not grieve, for deepness is there, sharing all your sorrows with you,

When your loneliness is deep, and you feel like you will forever be alone, don’t despair, for deepness will always be, your constant companion,

When your sadness is deep, covering your heart like the moon covers the sun, take comfort in knowing that God, is revealed to you,

When your pain is deep, cutting like a knife, be happy, for then you know, what God is,

When your suffering is deep, streaming down like tears, then look within, for God is there, giving you greetings of peace

When your sorrow is deep, and you feel your soul slowly bleeding, do not grieve, for God is there, sharing all your sorrows with you,

When your loneliness is deep, and you feel like you will forever be alone, don’t despair, for God will always be, your constant companion,

Koranic Universalism

Dear friends,

I spent half of the night writing these words, under the pale moonlight 🙂

It is my belief that Islam goes beyond mere tolerance towards other faiths. In my understanding of it, it goes beyond tolerance and establishes universalism.

I write these words in the hope that they can help to build bridges between people of different faiths and backgrounds, all in the spirit of goodwill and unity.

So with an open heart and mind, I invite you to read my analysis of 16 verses from the Holy Koran that I believe are key in planting the seeds of peace and understanding.

“And there is not a people but a warner has gone among them” (35:24)

I choose to start off with this verse because it clearly states in plain words that all people have received a warner. “And there is not a people” is not confined to a specific geographical location or a space of time. This can lead us to logically deduce that God sent warners to every corner of the earth.

“For every people is a guide” (13:7)

This verse confirms the previous one, and again states in plain words that there is a guide for every people.

“And we sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people, in order that he might make (the Message) clear for them.”
(14:4)

I find this verse to be extremely revealing and important, because it further opens up the geographical landscape by mentioning language. If Gods message was only confined to the Arabic people, well then why would more languages be needed?
By telling us that the messengers spoke the languages of the people that they were sent to, it not only reveals to us that all languages are Gods languages, but that the messengers appeared in many different locations. Also, one must understand the language of one’s respective holy scripture and not only recite verses without understanding them.
This is further expounded in the verse as it tells us that the reason that the messenger spoke in the language of his people was so that he could “make the message clear for them.”
Moving on, the proof of this specific verse lies in our hands today. If we look at all of the worlds sacred scriptures, we will see that the original versions come in a variety of languages, as a result of their different locations of revelation.
This to me shows that there is no chosen language and that all languages are equal in the sight of God. A beautiful celebration of diversity and a further proof that messengers appeared all over the world.

Let us now take a pause and collect the 3 words that have been assigned to those in charge of delivering Gods message to all of the earths peoples. The words that have so far been used are “Warner”, “Guide”, and “Messenger.”

“For each period is a Book (revealed)” (13:38)

This verse further recognizes the existence of other sacred texts besides the Koran. One of the Islamic articles of faith is belief in the books of God. Mentioned are the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel, but with this verse and the ones that we have examined beforehand, we can add all other divine scriptures to the list, such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita etc…

“Without doubt it is (announced) in the mystic books of former peoples” (26:196)

Here, we find that the Koran mentions the “mystic books of former peoples.” Again, another acknowledgement of scriptures and peoples before the advent of the Koran.

“(Muslims) believe in that which has been revealed to thee (O Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee.” (2:4)

Here, we are told that we Muslims believe in all revelations prior to the Koranic revelation.
A highly pluralistic verse that when combined with what we have previously examined reveals just how deeply pluralistic the Koranic message is.

“And certainly We raised in every nation a messenger, saying: Serve Allah and shun evil.” (16:36)

Now we turn our attention to verses that speak of nations. This verse tells us that every nation received a messenger, and that the messengers job was to tell the people to Serve God and stay away from evil.
Is not India a nation? Is not China a nation? Is not Persia a nation? Is not Krishna a messenger? Is not Buddha a messenger? Is not Confucius a messenger? Is not Zoroaster a messenger?

“And for every nation there is a messenger” (10:47)

This verse confirms the previous one. Guru Nanak was a messenger, from the Punjab. Bahai’ullah was a messenger, from Iran.

“Mankind is a single nation. So Allah raised prophets as bearers of good news and as warners.” (2:213)

With this verse, the Koran tells us that we are a single nation. Should a single nation quarrel over petty theological differences that have evolved over time? No, it most definitely should not. As a matter of fact, it should not quarrel over anything, and hold fast to the rope of unity. We also see the Koran making reference to it’s message as delivered by the prophets as “good news.”

“And we sent messengers that we have mentioned to thee, and messengers that we have not mentioned to thee” (4:164)

This verse is perhaps the most important one in this entire analysis because it explicitly tells us that some of the messengers have not been mentioned. Indeed, the messengers of the non-abrahamic faiths are not mentioned in the Koran. So, who are these messengers that are not mentioned? They are the messengers that have appeared all over the world ever since God started sending them.

“We did aforetime send messengers before thee: of them there are some whose story we have related to thee, and some whose story we have not related to thee” (40:78)

Here, the Koran tells us that not all of the stories of the messengers are related to us. Just because messengers are not mentioned by name or by story, does not mean that the Koran rejects them.

“And those who believe in Allah and His messengers and make no distinction between any of them (in belief), to them He will grant their rewards.” (4:152)

Not only are we told to believe in all of Gods messengers and not make any distinction between them, an order which is purely universalist in nature, but we are told that we will be rewarded for adopting this universal spiritual outlook. Why will we be rewarded for it? Because such a spirit creates peace between people, and that is exactly what Islam is, peace.

“Oh Mankind! Behold, We have created you from a single pair of male and female and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another (Not that you may despise one another) Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is the most righteous. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” (49:13)

As we can see, a diverse and multi-cultural world is all a part of Gods plan and the noblest of us in his sight are those who do the most good. If diversity is a part of Gods plan, then who are we to ever even dare to pass judgement on others because of differences, whatever these differences may be?

“Among his proofs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variation in your languages and your colors. In these, there are signs for the knowledgeable”(30:22)

Here, even the variation of our skin colors are spoken of as one of Gods signs! Racism anyone? And, even the messengers of God all have different skin tones, from the light brown of Jesus to the dark shade of Krishna.

“If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what he hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is he that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute” (5:48)

Again, diversity in all it’s shades and colors is part of the divine will. A believer must live in accordance with this divine will. In this case, living in accordance with the divine will can only lead to a more peaceful and tolerant world.

“Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (2:62)

Shah Waliullah, the noted theologian from the subcontinent, had the opinion that the Quranic reference to the Sabian community was in fact a reference to the Hindus. Other noted theologians from the subcontinent take it to mean all of the non-abrahamic faiths. In any case, “any who believe in God and the last day, and work righteousness” is enough to include people from all faiths. In light of all the previous verses that we have analyzed, we can safely infer that this is the case.

The Koran uses the terms “people”, “language”, “colors”, “books”, and “nations” in connection with it’s “warners”, “guides”, “messengers”, and “prophets”.

Peoples, languages, colors, books, nations, warners, guides, messengers, prophets. A comprehensive list of universal terms.

To conclude, it is my belief that the Holy Koran is telling us that we must believe in and respect all of the messengers.
This means studying all of the worlds scriptures and regarding people of other faiths as sisters and brothers, all united in the one and only universal force, God.

It was a pleasure to share my thoughts with you. Stay free, and God bless!