99 Names – 99 Deities #2

– Communal harmony in present day India is under threat with a series of lynchings carried out by so called Hindu Cow vigilantes on innocent Muslims and Hindu Dalits. By the grace of the divine we can draw parallels between Islamic and Hindu thought in order to bring both communities closer together and end the violence. This will be the purpose of this blog series – 

For basic understanding of the title “99 names 99 deities” I will share this information snippet.

Hindus recognize one God, Brahman. Brahman is the ultimate reality and the eternal origin who is the cause and foundation of all existence. The deities of the Hindu faith represent different expressions and manifestations of Brahman.

Similarly, Muslims recognize one God, Allah. Allah also is the ultimate reality and the eternal origin who is the cause and foundation of all existence. Allah has 99 names which represent his different attributes and qualities.


2. Lakshmi and al-Wahhab

 

 

Introduction

Spiritual and Material Prosperity and wealth is something that all of us seek and wish to have in life. It is this aspect of the divine that we turn to when we feel that we are in need and wish to receive these two precious gifts.

Etymologi

Lakshmi is the Hindu Goddess of spiritual and material wealth. Her name is derived from the Sanskrit root words Laks and Laksa. Laks means :

“to perceive, observe, know, understand” and Laksa means “goal, aim, objective.”

Thus, Lakshmi represents the goal of life. Know your objective, understand your goal. These are the ideals that Lakshmi stands for.

Al-Wahhab is the most liberal bestower, the great giver, the giver of gifts. His name is derived from the Arabic root word “Waw-ha-ba” meaning :

“to give/grant/bestow, dedicate, offer as a present/gift.”

The arabic word Hiba means gift. Hiba and Wahhab are related words.

Textual Analysis

In Chapter 67 verse 19 of the Holy Qur’an, Allah says :

“Do they not observe the birds above them spreading their wings and folding them? None could hold them except the Compassionate (Allah), surely it is He Who watches over all things.”

The word Arabic word for observe comes from the root word “Ra-Alif-Ya” meaning :

“to see/think/hold, in opinion of, perceive, judge, consider, know.”

Seeing a bird is only half the story. Understanding that the bird is part of God’s creation and that it is God who is holding up the bird is the entire story. Thus, this seeing that the Qur’an talks about is a seeing that perceives not only the material world but also the spiritual world i.e seeing the bird and the force that is behind it, God.

This simple message that the Qur’an is conveying is exactly what Lakshmi symbolizes, that the goal of life is not only to have material wealth (having two physical eyes with which one can see the physical world) but to combine this material wealth with spiritual wealth (seeing the physical world with ones eyes but understanding that there lies a spiritual realm behind it.)

Symbolism

Lakshmi’s image is laden with deep symbolism. She is omnipresent and this is symbolized by her four arms which represent the four cardinal directions present in the universe. Her sari, colored red, denotes activity and action. The embroidered golden lining which graces her red sari symbolizes prosperity.
The message that is meant to be conveyed here is that Lakshmi is everywhere, never resting but always deep in the throes of activity and action, her activity and action being the giving of the gifts of wealth and prosperity to her devotees.

Similarly, the also omnipresent al-Wahhab is always busy with the task of bestowing gifts upon his devotees.

Ritual

It is believed that the one who recites this name of Allah (swt) 100 times after two rakaats (cycles) of Namaaz (prayer) will get all of his/her needs fulfilled.

Hindus wishing to obtain the blessings of Lakshmi chant her name 100 or a 1000 times during their ritual worship of the Goddess.

Invocation for communal harmony

We ask Lakshmi and al-Wahhab to bestow upon us the gift of peace within our communities and mutual understanding towards one another ❤

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99 names – 99 Deities

Communal harmony in present day India is under threat with a series of lynchings carried out by so called Hindu Cow vigilantes on innocent Muslims and Hindu Dalits. By the grace of the divine we can draw parallels between Islamic and Hindu thought in order to bring both communities closer together and end the violence. This will be the purpose of this blog series.

For basic understanding of the title “99 names 99 deities” I will share this information snippet.

Hindus recognize one God, Brahman. Brahman is the ultimate reality and the eternal origin who is the cause and foundation of all existence. The deities of the Hindu faith represent different expressions and manifestations of Brahman.

Similarly, Muslims recognize one God, Allah. Allah also is the ultimate reality and the eternal origin who is the cause and foundation of all existence. Allah has 99 names which represent his different attributes and qualities.

1. Al Musawwir and Vishwakarma

 

 

The worlds highest minaret, the Qutb Minar in New Delhi, built around 1192, not only has Arabic script invoking Allah (swt) but also Devanagari script invoking Lord Vishwakarma, the lord of craftsmanship.

So here we can use the Qutb minar in order to bridge Islamic and Hindu philosophy and thought. Vishwakarma, known as the “architect of the whole universe”, equates to Al-Musawwir, the name of Allah which means “The fashioner, the bestower of forms, the shaper.”

May the architect of the whole universe build peace within our world. May the shaper shape understanding for one another within our hearts.

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

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 😉

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!