Prophet's Manners and Disposition

"By the grace of Allah, you are gentle towards the people; if you had been stern and ill-tempered, they would have dispersed from round about you" [Qur'an 3:159]

About himself the Prophet (pbuh) said:
"Allah has sent me as an apostle so that I may demonstrate perfection of character, refinement of manners and loftiness of deportment." [Muwatta; Musnad; Mishkat]

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Harry Potter: Facts about Fiction

The following is a four years old article by Khalid Baig, but with a new movie out, it is worth reading before one decides to go to the cinema. (July 10, 2007)

  

Harry Potter: Facts about Fiction

By Khalid Baig

As expected there was much frenzy around the latest Harry Potter book. Bookstores and clubs around the world arranged special midnight parties and other events in celebration of the launching of the long-awaited fifth book in the series. A grandiose countdown was held in Times Square for the coming of the fifth book.

The book was set to break many old records. Online bookseller Amazon had already received one million pre-orders of the new book, its largest pre-order ever. Scholastic, the American publisher had ordered 8.5 million copies as the largest first printing ever. Worldwide, 13 million copies of the book had rolled off the presses in a massive print run.

The other books in the Harry Potter series have been translated into more than 55 languages, including Urdu, Persian, and Turkish. Nearly 200 million copies of the first four books have been sold in 200 countries.

What is all this craze about?

The series chronicles the growing up of a young orphan wizard named Harry Potter who attends a secret magic boarding school called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Harry is a very unique wizard. His parents are killed while he is a baby by a wicked powerful wizard named Voldemort, but generally called "you-know-who" or "he-who-must-not-be-named". Voldemort fails in his attempt to kill Harry and instead is nearly destroyed when his magic rebounds on him. Harry is left with a lightning shaped scar on his forehead.

Harry is sent to live with his "muggle" (non-magical people) relatives for the next ten years. He lives a miserable life, tormented by his aunt and uncle and his spoiled cousin. They attempt to keep him from knowing that he is a wizard.

Then, suddenly a letter arrives from Hogwarts on his eleventh birthday, changing his life completely. Harry finds out he is a wizard and rather famous for his encounter with the evil lord Voldemort. Despite opposition from his aunt and uncle, Harry goes to the wizard boarding school where he meets new people, including his best friends Ron and Hermione. Harry discovers that he has both admirers and enemies.

Each book details the events of one school year.

The main characters in the story have few noble qualities; they lie with impunity, use profanity, don't respect their elders, break rules regularly, and are unrepentant.

While the books are characterized by most people as innocent fantasy and entertainment, they contain many evil messages - not all of which are subtle.

The books glorify magic and sorcery. Harry and his classmates regularly cast spells, brew potions, learn to tell the future, communicate with the spirits of the dead, train magical animals, and ride brooms. They study astrology, crystal gazing, numerology, transfiguration, and divination. Darker things occur as well such as murder, human sacrifice, drinking of unicorn blood, etc. The fight between good and evil in this book is actually a conflict between "good magic" and "evil magic", both of which are evil.

The books are in effect promoters of paganism. They glorify magic and paganism while non-magical people, called Muggles, are despised and portrayed as boring, narrow-minded, and paranoid of magic.

Not surprisingly, the main characters in the story have few noble qualities; they lie with impunity, use profanity, don't respect their elders, break rules regularly, and are unrepentant.

And for all these qualities and more, the books are popular and are having an effect. It is the "in" thing to purchase the book. And not just the book. Children have gone crazy over Harry Potter memorabilia, surrounding themselves with Harry Potter T-shirts, posters, toys, costumes, wands, hats, etc.

The media has been glorifying the book that glorifies sorcery.

Welcome to the world of capitalism and paganism, where superstitions and the occult reign supreme in the hearts and minds of people, and where the twin forces have forged an "alliance of the willing" that is doing its "magic" on a global scale.

Capitalism is all about maximization of profits and if that requires appealing to the lowest instincts and the darkest recesses of human nature, so be it. Millions of dollars have been spent on advertising the latest craze on billboards, buttons, bumper stickers, and posters etc. U.S. publisher Scholastic alone has planned a $4 million marketing budget for this single book - among the largest advertising budgets ever for a book.

The media machine --- equally adept at political, cultural, and commercial propaganda --- has been doing its part faithfully, paying a great deal of attention to the smallest events relating to the coming of the fifth book. It has been glorifying the book that glorifies sorcery.

Even if it were innocent entertainment (which it is not) the extreme devotion would be unjustified. But this culture is given to extremes and incidents of mass craziness are nothing new in it. The cabbage patch dolls craze in the 1980s was similar to current craze over the Harry Potter books. The Cabbage Patch Dolls were the fad of the 1980s. The most distinctive feature about them was that each doll looked a bit different from others and came with its own unique name and birthday, "adoption papers," and a "birth certificate." Marketing gimmick and television coverage combined to make sales explode starting in 1983. Chartered planes were used to bring the dolls from the overseas manufacturing plants to meet the ever increasing demand. Fist fights among eager customers often broke out in retail stores when a shipment of dolls arrived. In 1985, Coleco posted record sales of $600 million, thanks to their Cabbage Patch Kids.

When life has no higher purpose, entertainment and fun become the over-riding goal in life. When there is no belief in or clear concept of God as Creator and Master of the universe, superstition, sorcery, and the occult become fascinating.

When life has no higher purpose, entertainment and fun become the over-riding goal in life.

It is a reflection on the state of the society that there has been scarce opposition to this series that promises to become darker with each new release.

The Role of Muslims

In this current state of hysteria, Muslims should have played an important role in opposing this book and exposing the flaws of this culture. It is the duty of Muslims to guide the world, rather than blindly follow the ignorant masses. The Qur'an commands us in Surah Al-Kahf, "And don't obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds." [Al-Kahf 18:28]

Yet, unfortunately, we find very little opposition or reflection from Muslims, many of whom have chosen to blindly follow the pop culture. Many Muslims have assured themselves that the books are harmless fiction. Others even claim them to be beneficial because they encourage reading. Reading what? It does not occur to them to ask that question.

Islam prohibits both pointless entertainment (lahw) and sorcery. But countless Muslims seem to be unaware of that. And they are the ones fascinated by Harry Potter.

ref. url: http://www.albalagh.net/current_affairs/harry_potter.shtml

Analysis: More than Bad Rulers and Corrupt Societies

Analysis: More than Bad Rulers and Corrupt Societies

By Khalid Baig

In the past centuries the Muslim world was much more integrated than we realize. It was one social, cultural, religious and economic domain. Its language, system of education, currency, and laws were the same.

 

When British journalist Robert Fisk said that in the face of disaster Arabs act like mice, he was being polite. He could have said that the Muslims act like mice. The question is why?

It is easy and customary to blame the current Muslim rulers for this sorry situation. No doubt the Iraq invasion would not have been possible without their acquiescence and support. If they refused to open their lands, waterways, and airspace to the invasion, it could not have taken place. Neither would the slaughters in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosova, Kashmir, Chechnya, and Palestine have been possible if the Muslim rulers had their act together. But was it only because the Muslim rulers happened to be immoral, coward, and unscrupulous characters? Is the 1.2 billion strong Ummah suffering only because there are fifty-four corrupt persons who are ruling it?

These rulers do not carry out all their plans personally. They have armies of compliant soldiers, bureaucrats, and other staffers at every level of government that do the dirty work. Further the societies at large produce, nurture, and sustain the corrupt machinery of the corrupt governments. As we continue our investigation, we find that our problem is corruption; not only of the rulers but also of the ruled. Today we have strayed from the Shariah in our personal lives; we lie, cheat, steal at a higher rate than ever before; we exploit and oppress in our small spheres. In short, our problems are caused by our moral corruption.

But there is something more. And it is getting scant attention in the Muslim discourse.

Islam teaches us the correctness of belief is even more important than correctness of deeds. There is an implied message here: The corruption of ideas is far more devastating than the corruption of actions. This may be happening here. We complain about the particular tribal leaders that happen to be there today but forget about the tribalism that sits at the root of all this. This tribalism of the nation-states has been enshrined into the constitutions, legal structures, bureaucracies, and the entire apparatus of government in every Muslim country. Its language and thinking, though anathema to Islam, has gained widespread acceptance. While we condemn its outcome, we do not sufficiently examine or challenge the system itself.

We complain about the particular tribal leaders that happen to be there today but forget about the tribalism that sits at the root of all this

 

We constantly talk about the Muslim brotherhood and the need for Muslim unity. We assert that Muslims are one Ummah. Simultaneously --- and without much thought --- we embrace the symbols, ideas, and dictates of its exact opposite. We have lived under our nation-states, celebrated our national days, and sang our national anthems all our lives. As a result the realization that the gap between the idea of the nation-state and that of one Ummah is wider than can be patched with good leaders of individual nation-states does not occur easily. We do not realize that we may be trying to simultaneously ride two different boats going in opposite directions.

So let us consider some real life situations. In Pakistan, the provinces of Sind and Punjab share the Indus River. Available water is less than their combined needs and Punjab is situated upstream while Sind is downstream. Quite naturally, there is constant bickering over the distribution of water. The conflict is resolved by the presence of a central government and by the realization that both provinces belong to the same country. Now imagine that the two provinces had been transformed into two separate countries. We can be certain that the small issue that no body in the world knows about or cares about today would become a big international conflict. And it may matter little whether they were called Islamic Republic of Punjab and the Islamic Republic of Sind! The logic of a sovereign country is very different and once you embrace that there are consequences that good intentions and good people alone cannot overcome.

When completed Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project, (GAP in Turkey) will reduce water supply to Syria by 50% and to Iraq by 90%, selling it instead to Israel through the so-called Peace Pipeline. A comparable situation would be Punjab denying water to Sind and then selling it to India.

 

To understand that let us move from the Indus basin to the Furat-Dijla (Euphrates-Tigris) basin. What is presented as a hypothetical situation in the former has been turned into an unfortunate reality in the latter. Both Dijla and Furat originate in Turkey, pass through Syria, and end up in Iraq where they join to form the Shat-al Arab that then discharges into the Persian Gulf. Mesopotamia means the land between the two rivers, the two rivers having been the source of civilization since the ancient times. Add the artificial international borders between Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, and the same life giving water turns into an explosive that could rock the area. In 1974 there was a near war between Syria and Iraq as Syria began to fill the reservoir that has become Lake Asad, decreasing the flow of the river to Iraq to as little as 25 percent of the normal rate. Armies were moved and threats were exchanged, though finally diplomatic activity by the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia defused the situation. In 1990 tensions ran high as Turkey stopped all flow in Furat for one complete month as it started to fill the Ataturk Dam.

Today Turkey's Southeast Anatolia Project, (GAP in Turkey) is promising a much more serious conflict in the days to come. The multi-billion dollar GAP includes more than 20 dams and 17 electric power plants, which will reduce water supply to Syria by 50% and to Iraq by 90% when it is completed in another twenty years. Even more bizarre is the plan Turkey has for part of the water that it denies to Syria and Iraq seriously endangering their agriculture and economies; it will sell it to Israel through the so-called Peace Pipeline that will run through the Mediterranean. The agreement with Israel was signed in 2001. "We have declared that we can sell water to whichever country needs water, regardless of its language or flag," said Cumhur Ersumer, Turkey's energy minister at that time. "It looks like Israel will be the first country to buy Turkey's water." That is the logic of the nation-state as articulated by Suleyman Demirel: "Neither Syria or Iraq can lay claim to Turkey's rivers any more than Ankara could claim their oil. This is a matter of sovereignty."

We can be sure that accountants in Turkey can show that Turkey will benefit economically by doing what it plans to do. And even a so-called Islamist party in Turkey will be driven by those calculations pledging, as it does, allegiance to "Turkish national interests." A comparable situation would be Punjab denying water to Sind and then selling it to India. No matter how corrupt leaders in Pakistan become (if they have not already reached the limit) it is just impossible to imagine that outcome. And yet the same situation is not only possible, it is there in the other case. Such are the wonders of the corrupt ideology of nation-state!

Conflicts of interest between any two entities are normal and natural. What is crucial is the mechanism and structure for resolving them. Islamic laws of inheritance highlight this fact. Conflicts could develop even among close relatives over distribution of inheritance. Since Islam values very smooth relations and does not like even the slightest bickering there, the Shariah has provided the detailed rules for this distribution. Neither the people involved, nor the government can override this distribution. Thus a solid mechanism has been provided for resolution of these conflicts.

In case of two provinces of the same country, the mechanism for the resolution of their conflicts remains in the form of the central government as well as firm realization on the part of everyone that they are riding the same boat. However when they turn into independent countries, both of these are lost.

How the definition of the self-interest can change with a change in the frame of reference can be seen through another example. When the US gave the Pakistani ruler the choice of either joining the invader or joining the target he did not hesitate for a minute to choose the first option. It can be criticized as much as one wants, but the fact remains that under the frame of reference under which Pakistan and all Muslim countries operate today, that was an option. But can we imagine the US demanding, or Pakistan conceding the support for attacking Baluchistan? This would clearly be seen as preposterous by everyone. As far as the Shariah is concerned, the two situations are exactly alike. But in the system of nation-states they are not.

The gap between the idea of the nation-state and that of one Ummah is wider than can be patched with good leaders of individual nation-states

 

That the opposition to what the Pakistani president did was manageable is also a reflection of the fact that Muslims the world over have generally and unwittingly bought into the philosophy of this nationalism.

The imposition of embargo on Afghanistan and Iraq is another example of the clash between Islam and the nation-state. Islam teaches that it is not a believer who eats while his neighbor goes to bed hungry. The system of the UN on the other hand, ordered its member-states not to supply any food or medicine to those dying of hunger and disease in Iraq. Again, the fact that Muslim countries have complied with the latter without any consternation or serious opposition is a reminder of our subconscious acceptance of the nationalist ideology.

We can see why world Muslims acted like mice in the face of disaster. The Qur'an warned us not to engage in disputes and infighting or we would become weak and powerless. But we have not only done the exact opposite, we have given a permanent structure and legal cover to the arrangement for that infighting in the current political organization of the Muslim domain.

This exposition of the ideology of nation-state invariably faces a mental block; namely that all this is impossible. This argument runs like this. We had a Khilafah centuries ago. Since then we have had a checkered history of nominal Khalifah, Sultans, and Nawabs running their own kingdoms and fiefdoms. Today we have fifty-four states and there is no way we can change that in our life times. Yes and no. While we had more then one centers of political power for centuries, the Muslim world was much more integrated then than we realize. It was one social, cultural, religious and economic domain. Its language, system of education, currency, and laws were the same. There were no restrictions on travel, or movement of capital or goods. A Muslim could take up residence and start a business or get a job anywhere. Ibn Batuta traveled from Tunisia to Hijaz, East Africa, India, Malaya, and China, covering 75000 miles without traveling the same road twice. During the twenty-five year journey he took up residence where he wanted to; got even government assignments as Qadi and even as ambassador in China for the Sultan in India. If that was possible then, it should be easier now because of the huge advances in the communication and transportation technologies alone.

The corruption of ideas is far more devastating than the corruption of actions.

 

No one is suggesting that we can dismantle the fifty-four Muslim governments overnight and replace them with a Khilafah. But we can gradually breakdown the barriers between the Muslim states in travel, trade, and all exchanges at personal levels. With free flow of people, goods, capital, and ideas throughout the Muslim domain, a quite revolution can begin. We could realize that this domain is much more self-sufficient and strong then we have ever realized. That its various parts complement each other's needs and strengthen each other. That it is the artificial borders between Muslim lands drawn by colonial powers that have terribly weakened it!

While we recognize that the barriers to that vision are real and very serious, we must also realize that the most serious barriers are mental and psychological. We must break through the mental straitjacket and realize that another world is possible. Only then we will begin to see how to get there. It may take a generation or many generations. But we will never get there if we do not know that is where we want to go. Today sometimes Muslims say out of frustration that Muslim governments should form their own United Nations. The suggestion does capture our deep desire for unity as well as our deep running confusion about it. For it has one s too many. The Islamic discourse should be about a United Nation of theirs and not United Nations.

Reference url: http://www.albalagh.net/food_for_thought/corrupt_societies_rulers.shtml

Reason and Revelation by Khalid Baig

American economist Robert Samuelson recently made an interesting observation about the American society in his Newsweek column: "America's glories and evils are tightly fused together." Quoting sociologist Seymour Lipset, he asserts that America's economic vitality and progress come from the same source as do crime, family breakdown, inequality, and vulgarity. Freedom and individualism have fired economic advance, yet have also inhibited social control. But why the qualities that bring the best in a nation also should bring the worst in it? Is humanity doomed by having its vices and virtues so intricately mixed?

Samuelson does not probe the issue. Instead he seems to be happily resigned to it. "We are burdened as well as blessed by our beliefs," he says. Economics, we may be reminded, is the dismal science.

Actually the world is not doomed by design. Samuelson comes very close to the truth but he confuses approaches or tools with attributes. A tool that works great in one area is also being used in another for which it was never designed. The problem lies with the user who keeps on insisting on its use in the second area citing its success in the first. To put matters simply, it's the free use of reason and intellect that is behind most of America's (and West's in general) phenomenal scientific and material progress. It's the use of the same tool in moral, and religious life that has caused its equally phenomenal moral degeneration!

Every tool has a designated area of application. Outside, it will fail to work. A 4 bit computer is good for some elementary math involving whole numbers. It may multiply 2 by 20 and give the correct answer instantly. But burdened with complex calculations involving several decimal digits, it will give the WRONG answers. A weighing scale meant for gold will not work for iron and vice versa. Their resolution and capacity are inappropriate for those applications.

Same with the tools we use for learning about the world. Our senses and intellect are wonderful things. Science and technology are all about their use. Certainly it was free inquiry driven by reason that led to so many of the discoveries of science. It happened at an accelerated pace during the past four centuries and the results are everywhere around us to be seen.

But a tool that is so great in one area may be totally useless, even dangerous, in another. Pure Reason, uninformed by Divine Guidance, is a defective tool for deciding purpose of life or suggesting its values. What is Right and what is Wrong? These questions require knowledge beyond what we can acquire by using our senses and reasoned analysis. As a direct result, everyone's reasoning is different. That is why philosophers have never been able to agree upon what should be the goal of life. Happiness? Survival? Pleasure? Love? Self-fulfillment? You name it. In addition, it is impossible for us to separate our reasoning in these matters from our feelings. Pure or uninformed reason becomes just a tool to justify what we desire.

Today West's problem is that it has accepted the wrong tool for developing its moral compass. Probably the majority of its people abhor homosexuality. They may know that it is an abomination and evil. Yet today same-sex marriages are getting legal sanction in the West. And they are helpless in trying to stop its advances. Why? Because they cannot argue that it is wrong based on pure reason. It is easier to make a case against smoking in public places, then against the worst forms of immorality. Such is the result when pure reason becomes the accepted arbiter of right and wrong.

There is nothing modern about this either. Several centuries ago, Obaidullah Hasan Qirwani, a leader of the renegade batani cult declared it foolish for a brother to marry his beautiful sister to a total stranger, while trying to be content with a less qualified wife -- another stranger. She would be much more suited to be wife of her own brother, with whom she may be a lot more compatible, he argued. His argument is, no doubt, sickening. But is there a counter argument based on pure reason?

Certainly mankind needs a superior tool for determining the values and purpose of life. A source of guidance that is based on certain knowledge, not conjecture. One that can inform our desires rather than being subservient to them. This is what Prophets, Alayhim assalam, came with. They claimed to have access to the higher source of knowledge, the Divine Revelation. Those who accepted them used reason and observation to verify their authenticity and character. But they accepted Divine Revelation as a SUPERIOR source of knowledge! That is why a son can tell his father:

"O my father! To me has come knowledge that had not reached you. So follow me. I will guide you to a Way that is even and straight." (Maryam, 19:43).

All this is obvious, except in implications. We accept this is Right and that is Wrong because the Revelation TOLD us, not because it PROVED it to us. What is wrong with riba? Gambling? Pork? Alcohol? Revelation told us that they were wrong. Why is hijab necessary? Allah and His Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, ordered that. What are the rights of men and women? Those given to them by Allah and His Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The attribute of the Muslims is that they "listened and followed" (Al-Baqarah, 2:285). It is not that they listened and questioned, and argued, and investigated and then if they felt like it, they followed. That is also THE message of Prophet Ibrahim, alayhi assalm's, sacrifice, a defining event for Islam. For the Qur'an describes the moment when the father and son were ready for the ultimate sacrifice by saying: "When they surrendered" (Al-Saffat, 37:103). Literally it can also be translated: "When they accepted Islam." For pure reason could have raised a million questions about the command for that sacrifice.

Normally it is difficult for us to say "I don't know." It is even more difficult for nations to admit a weakness in their celebrated tools of inquiry. That is the dilemma of the modern world, which sees so much wrong with itself but cannot bring itself to admitting the problem with its basic approach. But a Muslim is the person who has both the wisdom and the courage to surrender before the higher source of knowledge and guidance. For him Revelation informs his reason and his reason controls his emotions. Such is the person who is blessed, but not burdened, by his beliefs.

Reference url: http://www.albalagh.net/food_for_thought/reason.shtml

Prophet's Address at Tabuk

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Prophet's Address at Tabuk

In 630 C.E.,  prophet Muhammad saws.gif (304 bytes) led an expedition to Tabuk. At Tabuk he delivered a classical address which provides glimpses of his message. After praising Allah T'ala and thanking Him, the Prophet said:

   "Verily the most veracious discourse is the Book of Allah. The most trustworthy stronghold is the word of piety. The best of the religions is the religion of Ibrahim. The best of the precedents is the precedent of Muhammad. The noblest speech is the invocation of Allah. The finest of the narratives is this Quran. The best of the affairs is that which has been firmly resolved upon. The worst in religion are those things which are created without sanction. The best of the ways is one trodden by the Prophets. The noblest death is the death of a martyr. The most miserable blindness is the waywardness after guidance. The best of the actions is that which is beneficent. The best guidance is that which is put into practice. The worst blindness is the blindness of the heart.

  The upper hand is better than the lower hand[1]. The little that suffices is better than what is abundant and alluring. The worst apology is that which is tendered when death stares one in the face. The worst remorse is that which is felt on the day of Resurrection.

  Some men do not come to Friday prayer, but with hesitance and delay. And some of them do not remember Allah but with reluctance. The tongue which is addicted to false expression is a bubbling spring of sins.

  The most valuable possession is the contentment of heart. The best provision is that of piety. The highest wisdom is fear of Allah, the Mighty and the Great. The best thing to be cherished in the hearts is faith and conviction; doubt is infidelity.

  Impatient wailing and fulsome laudation of the dead is an act of ignorance. Betrayal leads one to the fire of Hell. Drinking amounts to burning. Obscene poetry is the work of the devil. Wine is the mother of all evil. The worst thing eaten is one which belongs to the orphan. Blessed is he who receives admonition from others.

  Each one of you must resort to a place of four cubit (grave). Your affairs would be decided ultimately in the next life. The worst dream is false dream. Whatever is in store is near.

  To abuse a believer is transgression; raising arms against him is infidelity. To backbite him is a disobedience of Allah. Inviolability (and sacredness) of his property is like that of his blood.

  He who swears by Allah (falsely), in fact falsifies Him. He who pardons others is himself granted pardon. He who forgives others, is forgiven by Allah for his sins.

  He who represses anger, Allah rewards him. He who faces misfortunes with perseverance, Allah compensates him. He who acts only for fame and reputation, Allah disgraces him. He who shows patience and forbearance, Allah gives him a double reward. He who disobeys Allah, Allah chastises him.

   I seek the forgiveness of Allah.
   I seek the forgiveness of Allah.
   I seek the forgiveness of Allah.


Footnote:

1. The hand which gives charity is better than the one which receives it.

Reference: Life of Muhammad by Prof. A.H. Siddiqui, pp. 283-4

Short Quotes

Mercy

"And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) except as a mercy to mankind" (The Holy Quran, Al-Anbiyah, The Prophets 21:107)