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UNCOVERING the original message of the Arabic Qur'an by using Lexicons compiled more than 1,000 years ago.

ISOLATING Fact from Fiction.

RECOVERING Hope and regaining the perspective where Humanity is one, God's Message is one, and our Future CAN become one we all look forward to!


Image: 14th C. Qur'an, Mamluk origin, Library of Congress; Rights obtained.

A BREAKTHROUGH project which helps understand the Qur'an AS REVEALED -not just 'as explained.'


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 49; HQ4:114-126, pages 97+98

Welcome Friends:  Ahlan wa sahlan!
1.     People who hold ‘secretive’ conversations usually have something to hide, which indicates that the topics they discuss, or the plans they make, are more likely NOT to be about general welfare!  Verse 114 is general in its statement that no good is likely to come out of secretive exchanges, unless the subjects discussed are related to enjoining charity, or mutually acceptable deeds, or reconciling people.  Any who hold this type of private exchange will be highly rewarded. 
I find Yusuf Ali’s interpretation of ‘najwa’ نجوى* as ‘secret counsel’ easier to understand than Asad’s ‘confabulations.’  See Ali’s note 625 regarding what motivates people into secrecy.
‘Najwa, ‘ or secret counsel is also mentioned in HQ9:78 and 43:80, and in both cases it is about Hypocrites:
Know they not that God knows their secret (thoughts) سرهم and their secret counsels,  نجواهمand that God knows well all things unseen? (9:78)
Or do they think that We do not hear their secrets سرهم and their private counsels نجواهم? Indeed (We do), and Our messengers are by them, compiling (it all)! (43:80).

2.     Verse 115 tells us that anyone who extracts himself from the Messenger and follows a path other than that of the Faithful… such a person will be left to his own devices, only to find that his chosen path has landed him in Hell, an evil journey’s end.   Muhammad Asad tells us that this stresses man’s freedom of choice (note 139).

3.     Verse 116 is a statement of fact, similar to HQ4:48, except that today’s verse tells us that whoever commits ‘Shirk’ has strayed afar and lost his way.  (Remember, HQ4:48 ended by informing us that whoever commits ‘Shirk’ has indeed conceived a grave Hindrance?  See Posting Feb 18th.) 
In verse 117 the type of ‘Shirk’ committed by the Meccan idolaters is mentioned, in that they called upon ‘female/ lifeless symbols’ instead of God (Ali/Asad), thereby calling upon the rebellious Satan who was cursed/rejected  (Ali/Asad).  ‘Shirk’ will be discussed with more detail below.
Verses 118-120 tell us more.  It is enlightening to know the devices by which the Deviant/Shaytan might mislead the weakest of us (in spirit).  ‘He’ prods us by using what we already have, our base desires, and builds them into powerful longings, constantly nurtured by false promises.  Such promises are nothing but Deception.  Idolaters, for example, would imagine great benefit in sacrificing their cattle to the idols, while others would perceive great self- advantage in corrupting God’s Creation.
If we took a close look at all that we, as humans, have done to our own detriment (from mere pollution to genocide) we find behind such acts THE lowest of our base desires.  This also works on the individual level; we can actually place all our desires into either of these two general categories expressed in HQ20:120, the desire for Eternal Life, or the desire for Permanent Possession; it is either Self-prevalence or Acquisition:

“But Satan whispered unto him, saying: "O Adam! Shall I lead you to the tree of eternal life; and a kingdom that will never decay?"
4.     Verse 121 tells us what abode such misguided persons -whose eyes did not rise above their physical existence- can expect, in contrast to verse 122 which tells us what those who attained to Faith AND did good deeds should expect.  What a different everlasting home each group pursued, and in fact successfully built for itself!

5.     Before we leave these verses, a few words on ‘Shirk,’ especially the type hardest to reject:

Committing ‘Shirk’ is by associating anything or anyone with God, holding that entity equal to Him in one way or another, or ‘heeding its summons’ rather than God’s.  The ‘traditional’ explanation of ‘Shirk’ is that it is two kinds:  Obvious Shirk is the belief in redemption through anyone other than God (deities, saints, prophets, religious figures), while subtle Shirk is believing in the harm or benefit of anything/anyone other than God (magic, jinns, talismans, even engravings of God’s name or Qur’an worn for protection).  But if we looked closely at ‘Shirk’ in our lives today, we’d find ‘subtle Shirk,’ dressed up as ‘Innovation,’ gaining access to our Youth, and as ‘Tradition,’ residing with the elders.  There is a generational gap in everything, even in Shirk!  And although both are dangerous, which of these two does the Qur’an address? 
The Qur’an addresses Resident Tradition.  It is the powerful conditioning force that implants itself in human consciousness and transmits itself from one generation to another, making wrong seem right just by habit.  Rote repetition of the Tradition of parents or forefathers is viewed negatively in the Qur’an (2:170; 5:104; 6:148; 7:28; 7:28 just to name a few verses- there are many more), and we are asked to re-evaluate everything by the light of Awareness.  It is easy to shrug off responsibility by saying, that we were only following our forefathers or that, “Had God willed, things would have been different..” as in HQ16:35:

“And those who Associated (with God-committed Shirk) say, "Had God so willed, we would not have worshipped any other than Him - neither we nor our forefathers; nor would we have declared anything as forbidden without a commandment from Him." Even so did speak their predecessors; but then, isn’t it incumbent upon the Messengers only to deliver (the message) clearly?”

It is also easy, as we get older, to be immersed further in Tradition.  It becomes more difficult to throw aside something that not only feels right, but has fixed the boundaries of our comfort zone.
The Qur’an, and early Islamic history, both show us what to do:  Educate, set a good example, and PAVE the way for the youth to make changes for the better.  When Tradition hindered the older and more influential Meccans from pursuing Truth, the younger and less influential people made the difference and carried the new Faith forward.  It is no coincidence that many of the famous heroes of Islam were the sons and servants of the Meccan ‘Heads of Denial,’ those most reluctant to change.  Perhaps now is the time for world Youth, from all backgrounds, to join together saying: “Enough! WE will build our future on Awareness and Mutual Respect- regardless of any narrow-minded, separatist traditions that exist in our communities.” 

6.     Verses 123-124 set down a Divine Rule which, as the verses insist, does NOT follow the desires or wishful thinking of either the Believers or the People of (earlier) Compilation, and that Rule is:

Whoever commits a misdeed shall be requited for it, and shall find none other than God to protect or help him.  And whoever performs any good deeds, be they male or female, whilst they are Faithful, such shall enter the Garden, and will  not be wronged of any of their dues, were they so tiny they would fit in the groove of a date-pit نقيرا.

This is such an important concept it should be hung on the walls of every Synagogue, Church, and Mosque, and indeed in all our homes!  Enough thinking of ourselves (whoever we might be) as superior to everyone else: we are all inherently equal! 
Neither our own wishful thinking - nor the wishful thinking of People of (earlier) Compilation will do any of us any good, or change God’s rule.  What a just concept!

7.     Verses 125-126 form a beautiful conclusion to today’s Reading, beginning with the question:  “Who could be of a superior Standard of Accountability than someone who focuses direction purely towards God whilst being a performer of Good Deeds and follows Abraham’s creed in a Haneef follows circular  manner (by leaning towards God whilst dealing with ever-changing demands)? ….. ”  See definition of ‘wajh’ meaning ‘direction,’ discussed on Jan 10th, and the definition of ‘Haneef’ in Posting of Jan. 12th.
Attached to that question is a notice on the status of Abraham as compared to everyone else, in that God ‘did take Abraham for a friend/exalted Abraham with his love’ (Ali/Asad). 
And finally the statement that to God belongs everything and He encompasses all.

Enough said!
Our next Reading is from HQ4:127-140.

Peace unto all!

(نجو)  النون والجيم والحرف المعتلّ أصلانِ، يدلُّ أحدُهما على كَشْطٍ وكشف، والآخَر على سَترٍ وإخفاء.
فالأوَّل: نَجَوْتُ الجِلدَ أنْجُوه –والجلد نَجاً- إذا كشَطْتَه. ويقولون: هو في أرضٍ نَجَاةٍ: ونَجَا الإنسانُ ينجو نَجاةً، ونَجاءً في السُّرعة؛ وهو معنى الذَّهاب والانكشاف من المكان.
والأصل الآخر النَّجْو والنَّجْوَى: السِّرُّ بين اثنين. وناجَيْتُه، وتناجَوْا، وانتَجَوْا. وهو نَجِيُّ فلانٍ، والجمع أنْجِيَة.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 48; HQ4:102-113, pages 95+96

Welcome Friends:  Ahlan wa sahlan!
In our last reading we saw the importance of travel, and today, upon looking in our ‘Tanzil’ link, we find that the Qur’an says no less than 14 times ‘travel through the earth’ (copy & paste: سيروا في). 
1.     Some might find it amazing that the Qur’an –more than 14 centuries ago- was encouraging repressed persons to emigrate, but that is only natural: Nothing should block the path of human potential!  And it is through travel that Islam spread, arriving in China only a few decades after the Prophet’s emigration, peace upon him, perhaps in response to his advice: “Seek knowledge even in China.”  Islam spread all along the route there, and was in full flourish during the rule of the Ming Dynasty, which, as evidence seems to indicate, was Muslim*.

2.     Our Reading today continues with ‘relaxation’ of obligations of prayer, here related specifically to the congregational Prayer of an army fearing sudden attack, which is why it is called, ‘Prayers during Fear’ or  "صلاة الخوف".
Verse 102 details how to conduct a congregational prayer in such times of danger, maintaining readiness during its rituals, and safeguarding one’s arms and equipment.  Muhammad Asad tells us in note 132 that the words ‘or if you suffer from affliction’- "أو كنتم مرضى" allows for a wide range of possible emergencies.

3.     Verse 103 tells us to remember God at all times and to uphold prayer when safe.   It also tells us that prayer is ‘a timed compilation,’ a ‘kitaab.’ 
Muhammad Asad translates this as “sacred duty linked to particular times of day,” while Yusuf Ali says it is “enjoined on Believers at stated times.” 
Indeed, each of our prayers is a compilation that is set to a certain time of day or night, when all its parts come together at that point in time, to form one valid unit.  The word ‘mawqoot’ موقوت or ‘timed’ indicates that, outside that time, the unit is invalid.  This is why most scholars say that prayer is an act of worship that cannot be made up later.  A study of these verses strengthens that argument, for had anyone been a candidate for the right to make up their prayers later, it would have been such an army.  They would not have required a special ‘Prayer of Fear’ where they would exchange formation in bowing and prostrating just to uphold congregational prayer on time.

4.     Verse 104 encourages the Believers to persevere, and shows the difference between what they seek from God- and will obtain- and what others neither seek nor will obtain.

5.      Verse 105-107 addresses the Messenger Muhammad, peace upon him, telling him he should judge with the Compilation, and seek God’s forgiveness, and he should NOT to argue on behalf of those who are traitors (to their own Selves, as explained in the last verse).  What a telling description of Hypocrites and half-hearted people!
Verse 108-109 warns that they can hide things from others but not from God Who Is with them, encompassing all, and will furthermore Be their Judge on Resurrection day.

6.     Verses 110-112 begin with a beautiful promise to any who wrong their own Selves, that they will find God Most Forgiving and Unceasingly Compassionate… and end with a dire warning to any who commit a sin and then blame it on an innocent person.

7.     Verse 113 addresses the Prophet, showing him God’s Grace and Mercy in keeping him above the influence of those who would seek to misguide him-and also in revealing to him the Compilation and Wisdom and imprinting upon him what he had no knowledge of (‘allama means to imprint, impress).

Enough said!
Our next Reading is from HQ4:114-127.

Have a Blessed Weekend, and Peace unto all!

I was informed of that from personal Chinese Muslim friends.  Naturally, there are many who say that the evidence is lacking.
Read: POEM in Praise of Prophet Muhammad (s) by First Chinese Ming Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang.
The poem, engraved in stone, is in the Mosque of Nanjing:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 47; HQ4:91-101, pages 93+94

Welcome Friends:  Ahlan wa sahlan!
In our last reading we were introduced to the contrast of ‘amn’ - أمنversus ‘khawf’ خوف – the concepts of ‘security, or feeling of safety’ versus ‘fear, or sense of alarm.’  Knowing that these two are ‘opposing concepts’ will help us better understand today’s verses. 
Let us keep in mind that our topic continues with Hypocrites attempting to play both sides!
1.  Verses 91-94 should be read together, with special attention to the root verb ‘amana’ – أَمَنَ-* because we have unfortunately narrowed down the connotation of this word in our minds, to the result that, in Muslim understanding, the verb applies to belief only.
Verse 91 mentions the word “ya’man” يأمن and talks of those who wish to keep themselves ‘safe’ from the Believers as well as from those who fight them.
Verses 92-93 discuss the issue of mistakenly causing the death of a “mu’min” (same root verb) and the result of such an act if it is done deliberately. 
Verse 94 tells the Believers not to answer a greeting of Peace by accusing that person of not being a ‘Mu’min.

In verses that forbid us from harming a “Mu’min,” most of us tend to understand this word to mean ‘a Muslim,’ a ‘Believer’ who is of ‘our’ faith.  But is the Qur’anic intent limited to that narrow meaning? (This, despite our knowledge that every life is sacred, and that someone who believes in God would not harm any of His creatures, and would resort to the legal system for retribution, and when fighting would abide by the rules of a just warfare).
This issue should be a HIGH PRIORITY in Muslim Dialogue today, and the resulting research would form a powerful deterrent to all indiscriminate acts that take place ‘in the name of God,’ especially among civilian populations.

We do know, generally speaking, that a Mu’min translates to a ‘Believer,’ but in verses such as these, what exactly does a “Mu’min” translate to?  
Linguistic research and Qur’anic (context) show us that a “mu’min” could also be a person who trusts us, feels no fear of us, believes in our sincerity.  This is clear in the following verse which uses the term “mu’min lana” (مؤمن لنا):

“And at nightfall they came to their father, weeping, (16) [and] said: "O our father! Behold, we went off racing with one another, and left Joseph behind with our things; and thereupon the wolf devoured him! But [we know that] you would not trust us even though we speak the truth" - (12:17) وَمَا أَنتَ بِمُؤْمِنٍ لَّنَا وَلَوْ كُنَّا صَادِقِينَ

Before that, in HQ12:11 the brothers had asked their father to trust them(...ما لك لا تأمننا على يوسف...):

"O our father! Wherefore will you not trust us with Joseph, seeing that we are indeed his well-wishers?

Back to our verses:  We are often entrusted by someone who does not share our faith.  Do we uphold such a trust, or betray it?  We know the answer to that:  In fact, the Trusting person’s belief has nothing to do with anything, since, as always, we maintain people’s trust (HQ23:8; 70:32).  Each of us is a ‘Trustee,’ an ‘Ameen,’ which if you remember, was Muhammad’s nickname –The Ameen (الأمين) - throughout his life, long before he became a Messenger of God at 40, peace upon him.
Is it conceivable that ANY moral person -anywhere on earth- would betray trust? (See HQ2:283; 3:75 for similar connotation.) 
Such an act can never be justified, and societies throughout history have considered this immoral, and have penalized such treachery.
This is why it is indeed an act of heinous MURDER to take the life of unwary persons no matter what killing apparatus is used (such victims would not be prepared for the minimum defensive measures of fight or flight).  Killing in ‘cold-blood’ has no justification, yet what is even worse than that, is killing someone who trusts another NOT to.  As the lexicon elucidates, the word ‘amaanah’ أمانة trustworthiness is opposite of ‘khiyaanah’ خيانة treason.  A person might be trusted because of a uniform, being a fellow citizen, a fellow traveler, a neighbor, or just because he first approached others in peace.  No need to elaborate any further: This should work both ways, to the benefit of unwary populations at all times.     

2.  Verse 95 tells us that Believers are NOT of one level- some are passive while others are active, striving hard in their wealth and in themselves- so how can they be deemed equal? 
Here we find the word ‘daraja,’ which we usually translate as ‘degree’ or ‘grade,’ but it denotes motion in Arabic, as in ‘to step’ or proceed forward or upward*.  This helps us better understand HQ2:228, where the ‘darajah’ which the  ‘men/active persons’ or ‘rijaal’ have, is relevant to divorced females. (Doesn’t it denote higher maneuverability in ‘rijaal,’ and therefore a higher responsibility?  To think it denotes the ‘higher worth’ of one gender over another makes no sense.)
Anyway, here the term ‘darajah’ is much clearer, seen only in terms of action versus inaction and passivity.
Muhammad Asad’s note 122 explains  (جهد)‘striving hard’ from the root verb ‘jahada’- he also explains.(مجاهد- جهاد)
Verse 96 tells us that those who exert a higher effort deserve higher rewards, which is only just.

3.  Fast forward, and  we are given a peek into the end of our lives on earth, when the angels of Death ask those who have ‘wronged themselves’ as to what state they were in… and they offer the lame excuse that they were ‘weak, downtrodden’ on earth.  The angels then ask them a valid question, “Was God’s earth not spacious enough for you to move away in its expanse (from those whom you claim were holding you back)?”  Their inaction had stunted their growth in life, and lost them the chance to avail themselves of its bounties.  Verses 97-100 indeed show us the benefit of travel! 

4.  Following the same line of thought related to traveling God’s wide earth, we arrive at the verse related to reducing hardship while traveling, this time with regard to the prayer itself (in Feb. 18th posting we discussed ‘Tayammum’ or ‘dry ablution,’ also granted to travelers).  With ‘prayer shortening’ which we call ‘qasr,’ all units of four are shortened to two.  Although not mentioned here, in practice there is more which we have received through the Messenger’s direct example.  Muhammad Asad tells us about this in his note 127, while Yusuf Ali elaborates in his note 617.  

5.  This is a clear example of a ritual that has gone forward, without need for books or learning, passed down through families generation after generation.  This offers us one example of what we spoke about earlier, namely the difference between Muhammad’s being ‘Prophet’ and ‘Messenger,’ peace upon him.  In common matters of his everyday life, the Qur’an called Muhammad ‘Prophet,’ and even his companions were known to give him their own, often conflicting opinions.  On the other hand, in matters which relate directly to the Message (such as Prayer), those who believe in the Message he brought should also acknowledge him as the Messenger from whom they learn and emulate. It is in this capacity that God commands those of Faith, or Believers, to obey him, as we noted in earlier posts.  

Enough said!
Our next Reading is from HQ4:102-113.

Peace unto all!
الراغب الأصفهاني:"أصل الأمن طمأنينة النفس وزوال الخوفو"آمن" إنما يقال على وجهين: أحدهما متعديا بنفسه، يقال "آمنته": أي جعلت له الأمن، ومنه قيل لله مؤمن، والثاني: غير متعد، ومعناه صار ذا أمنوالإيمان هو التصديق الذي معه أمن."
لسان العرب: الأَمْنُ: ضدُّ الخوف. والأَمانةُ: ضدُّ الخِيانة.
معجم المقاييس: (أمن) أصلان متقاربان: أحدهما الأمانة التي هي ضدّ الخيانة، ومعناها سُكون القلب، والآخر التصديق. والمعنيان كما قلنا متدانيان. قال الخليل: الأَمَنَةُ مِن الأمْن. والأمان إعطاء الأَمَنَة. والأمانة ضدُّ الخيانة.

 معجم المقاييس: يدلُّ على مُضِيِّ الشّيءِ والمُضيِّ في الشّيء. من ذلك قولُهم دَرَجَ الشّيءُ، إذا مَضَى لسبيله. ورجَع فُلانٌ أدراجَه، إذا رَجع في الطّريق الذي جاء منه. ودَرَج الصَّبيُّ، إذا مَشَى مِشْيته.
لسان العرب: دَرَجُ البناءِ ودُرَّجُه، بالتثقيل: مَراتِبُ بعضها فوق بعض. والدَّرَجَةُ واحدةُ الدَّرَجات، وهي الطبقات من المراتب. والدَّرَجَةُ: المنزلة، والجمع دَرَجٌ. ودَرَجاتُ الجنة: منازلُ أَرفعُ من مَنازِلَ. والدَّرَجانُ: مِشْيَةُ الشيخ والصبي. ويقال للصبي إِذا دَبَّ وأَخذ في الحركة: دَرَجَ. ودَرَج الشيخ والصبي يَدْرُجُ دَرْجاً ودَرَجاناً ودَرِيجاً، فهو دارج.

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