Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Seeking Knowledge

Human history pre-dates the advent of Islam by about twenty five thousand years. During this long period man made little progress in knowledge and science. Because there were no Islamic Schools True scientific progress was made only when Islam broke with the ancient system of royal absolutism, thus heralding the age of intellectual freedom.

It is a well-known fact that while intellectual progress is best made through the exchange of views, the system of determinism stalls this process altogether. This has been very well expressed by an American writer: ‘When all think alike, no one thinks very much.’

The ispiration of seeking knowledge came from Qur’an and Hadith. Quran is its incredible depth of meaning. Many many volumes have been written expounding on the meanings the Holy Quran and this practice continues till this day. The Quran is like an ever-flowing spring: it gives and gives and never runs dry. And people will take from Quran Recitation according to the extent of their sincerity and their willingness to be guided.

The fact is that the world of realities is unbounded in scope. But the mind of a single individual—particularly in isolation—has its limitations. It is only in a situation where there can be a frank exchange of views and free interaction without any official repression, that people can learn from one another and there can be a widespread increase in knowledge. Conversely, in an environment where people’s thinking is confined to a single constricted sphere, general knowledge will remain limited.

When people have full freedom to think and speak, differences of opinion will inevitably result. Each will criticize the other’s viewpoint. This process of criticism is an essential part of intellectual development. In this world the choice for us is not between uncritical acceptance. It is rather between criticism and mental stagnation. If curbs are placed on criticism, what results in reality is mental stagnation rather than a state of uncomplaining acceptance.



There are lots of yummy things happening over at My Halal Kitchen. Check it out. She's a revert who is also a chef. Read More...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Freedom of Thought in Islam

Islam for the first time in human history brought about a revolution in freedom of thought. In all the ages of history prior to Islam, the system of absolutism prevailed, and man was consequently denied freedom of thought. This was a matter of the utmost gravity for it is a fact that the secret of all human progress lies hidden in such freedom.

The first benefit of intellectual freedom is to enable man to achieve that high virtue which in the Qur’an is called "fearing the unseen." That is, without any apparent compulsion or pressure from God, man, of his own free will, acknowledges God and leads his life in this world, going in fear of Him. In the absence of an atmosphere of total freedom, no one can undergo this spiritual experience—an indescribable spiritual pleasure—which is called in the Qur’an, going in fear of the Lord. Without such freedom it is not possible to give credit to anyone for this highest of human virtues.

Man is a thinking creature. Of necessity he forms opinions. If curbs are placed on the independent expression of his views, the content of his thought may remain unchanged, but his ideas will never find expression in his speech and writings. Islamic Schools promote freedom of thoughts by removing the curbs. Curbs of this nature, imposed by a community or a state, will ultimately produce a society of hypocrites. No sincere person can ever flourish in such a repressive atmosphere. It is only freedom of thought and expression which can save man from hypocrisy. Moreover, intellectual freedom is directly related to creativity. A society with freedom of thought will produce creative human beings: a society which places curbs on freedom of expression will necessarily witness intellectual stagnation; it will stop producing creative minds, and its development will come to a final standstill.

Non-Muslims claim that they respect the freedom of every human but Muslims were brutally tortured on practicing their religion i.e. for offering prayers and Quran Recitation. In matters of criticism or expression of differences, the right approach is for people to end unnecessary sensitivity to it instead of attempting to put an end to criticism and differences. This is the demand of Islam as well as of nature.

According to the Hadith it is a virtue on the part of believers: to accept the truth without any reservation when it is presented to them. That is to say, a believer is one who has the ability in the perfect sense of the word to accept the truth. Whenever truth is brought before him, whenever his faults are pointed out to him, no complex comes in the way of his accepting of the truth.

This quality is present to the maximum degree in one who is ready and waiting to accept the truth when it is brought before him. Eager for his own improvement, he accepts the truth with pleasure. This keenness for self-reform through acceptance of the truth is perfectly expressed in the words of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab: "May God bless on one who sends me gifts of my own shortcomings." Read More...

Tot LoL

Videos submitted, rated and screened by parents.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Promoting Equality Through Education

Equality is to give equal right to everybody in the society regardless of the religion, cast, color, ethnicity and status. Equality can b attained by giving proper education and through awareness and b setting up rules and regulations to make sure that rights of the people are respected.

The Islamic shariah, in accordance with original uncorrupted creation, does not propound such equality as may ignore individual differences and talents and the natural variety among humans. The very diversity is a great source of good for mankind that the Islamic School of thought has realized. This may be supported with the following verse from the Holy Qur'an:

"0 Mankind ! we created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other." (49, 13).

It is obvious at the same time that diversity among humans in traits and talents is natural to them; therefore there will be limitations in natural, social and political positions, as one inquirer did notice. Some of the limitations are temporary, some permanent; some are infrequent, some frequent. However, a limitation is specific. It may not be generalized to inequality in other rights. A person who is morally upright is not equal to a crook in terms of morality, but they may be equal otherwise. Nor is an intelligent person equal to a dull one, but they are equal in other spheres. In the same way, woman is not identical to man in her traits, gifts, and abilities ( as we shall be discussing in detail later on ).

The limitations in these examples are natural. The social limitations are those imposed by society as a result of experiences and practice. They are, in the final analysis, intellectual attitudes related to the above-mentioned traits. There is, for instance, the established difference between the ignorant and the learned. No one would assign to an ignorant person major responsibilities that are crucial to the community.

Political limitations are those accepted by politicians and administrators which sanction barring certain classes from positions of authority for political or military reasons. There are restrictions on military personnel's marriage to foreign women, and many other limitations. It is under such rules that non-Muslims are forbidden in the Muslim state from occupying certain key positions. For similar reasons, non-Muslim men are forbidden from marrying Muslim women. But of that later.

Through Quran Recitation we come to know that equality has got mere importance in Islam. Children should be such education that they respect the right of everyone equally.

If absolute equality were maintained, it would lead to unendurable complications. Men would underestimate their abilities and neglect their talents, with deleterious consequences for mankind. The system of life is absolutely linked to recognizing legitimate privileges and rights, and no progress is possible without accepting these facts. The collapse of communism is a glaring example for those who have insight.

Therefore variance in talents and their use and employment must be reflected in real terms where abilities are used for the good of society. People will be graded in a hierarchy in offices and departments.


A Week Has Passed

It seems like so much time has passed since Eid. I forgot to show you some of the birds that we saw during the bird show last week. There were hawks (which are surprisingly loud), a barn owl, and an American Eagle.

Barn Owl

American Eagles Eat Canada Geese

Not sure if I got a picture of the hawk....We got back into our routine but everyone was still distracted.

My husband and I humored the kids a bit and took them to their favorite playground.


They would spend the whole day there if they could!


Acorn Collector

Surah Kahf at the Park

My oldest is now starting multiplication and MashaALLAH she's doing well. InshaALLAH in the coming weeks I will have her complete copywork pages for it so that she can memorize the multiplication table.

We're Doing Multiplication Now

I found a chart for multiplication at Montessori Materials. There is a control chart as well as a blank chart for her to fill in. She can use a dry erase marker and then compare her answers when she is finished. I think that I will have her complete this and then next week start timing her, InshaALLAH.

The younger two are learning shapes and colors so we used the math bears for counting and sorting and the geoboards to stretch their minds a bit, lol (I'm terrible at jokes).


Creating Shapes II

Oh, and I managed to finally finish an Eid gift (from last year, SubhanALLAH) for my son.

Aran Sweater

I just kept procrastinating and the pregnancy was tough and so on. I finished the back piece (the easy part, lol) in between other projects over six months or so and the rest I did in the past eight days!

AlhamduLILLAH he likes it and it still fits.

Child's Aran Sweater

It's the Child's Aran Pullover from Caron International. It's still a bit big because it's a size six. Now, the oldest wants one "tomorrow", lol. Read More...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Importance of Religious Education for Pupils

The world has changed drastically due to the advancements in the field of education. In early ages education was thought to be important only to earn a decent amount of money and to live a life in good manner but now humans are exploring more and more things to get the knowledge of this universe and to innovate latest things.

No doubt, science has brought revolutionary changes in our lives but religious education is still that much important as it used to be few decades ago. Therefore a good Islamic School is the one which provides modern scientific education as well as Islamic education.

Man is in constant struggle to unleash the mysteries of life and religious education is equally important in accomplishing this task with scientific education. That’s why it is stressed that religious education should also be given to the children with modern education. Being a Muslim we can benefit Quran Recitation to know what Qur’an says about the mysteries which are still unrevealed.

Seeking agreement on what might constitute a national framework for religious education has been a protracted and carefully negotiated process requiring decisions to be made regarding what should be recommended and with what degree of prescription. Determining the curriculum for any subject is bound to be fraught with difficulty, as choices have to be made concerning what to include and so inevitably what to exclude. In religious education the process has always been regarded as particularly sensitive, given the potential for controversy when there is a need to take account of more than one major religious tradition and limited curriculum time available.

At the same time as this issue has preoccupied religious educators, other advancements in the syllabus have challenged the addition of religious education as a compulsory subject. The strengthening of personal, social and health studies in the National Curriculum and the introduction of citizenship as an additional compulsory subject has led people to question the worth of religious studies to the education. Religious studies provide a heavy set of arguments that demand serious attention of religious educators, not only in the US but also across other international communities.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Islam and Ethics

Ethics generally refers to a code of conduct, that an individual, group or society hold as definitive, in differentiating right from wrong. Islam as a comprehensive way of life encompasses a complete Ethical system that is an important aspect of its world-view. We live in an age where good and evil are often looked at as relative concepts. Islam however, holds that Ethical positions are not relative, and instead, defines a universal standard by which actions may be deemed Ethical or unethical.

Islam’s Ethical system is striking in that it not only defines Ethics, but also guides the human race in how to achieve it, at both an individual as well as a collective level.

According to the Islamic School of thought Ethical system stems from its primary creed of belief in One God as the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Islam considers the human race to be a part of God’s creation, and as His subjects.

From an Islamic perspective, the purpose of human life is to worship God, by leading this worldly life in harmony with the Divine Will, and thereby achieve peace in this world, and everlasting success in the life of the hereafter. Muslims look to the Glorious Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet as their Ethical guides.

The Glorious Qur’an says:

“It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing.” [Al-Qur’an 2:177]

The love and continuous awareness of God and the Day of Judgment enables man to be Ethical in conduct and sincere in intentions, with devotion and dedication.

The guiding principle for the behavior of a Muslim is what the Qur’an refers to as Al `Amal Assalih or virtuous deeds. This term covers all deeds, not just the outward acts of worship.

By Reading Islamic literature and through Quran Recitation we come to know that some of the most primary character traits expected of a Muslim are piety, humility and a profound sense of accountability to God. A Muslim is expected to be humble before God and with other people. Islam also enjoins upon every Muslim to exercise control of their passions and desires.

Charity is one of the most commendable acts in Islam. In fact, Zakah, the annual charity that is obligatory on every Muslim who has accrued wealth above a certain level, is one of the pillars of Islam.

Gratitude in prosperity, patience in adversity, and the courage to uphold the truth, even when inconvenient to one, are just some of the qualities that every Muslim is encouraged to cultivate.

For an individual as well as a society, Ethics is one of the fundamental sources of strength, just as immorality is one of the main causes of decline. While respecting the rights of the individual within a broad Islamic framework, Islam is also concerned with the Ethical health of the society.

The Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) summarized the conduct of a Muslim when he said: “My Sustainer has given me nine commands: to remain conscious of God, whether in private or in public; to speak justly, whether angry or pleased; to show moderation both when poor and when rich, to reunite friendship with those who have broken off with me; to give to him who refuses me; that my silence should be occupied with thought; that my looking should be an admonition; and that I should command what is right.”


Monday, September 21, 2009

EID MUBARAK to Everyone!


'Id Mubarak

The Gang's All Here

InshaALLAH you all had a safe and happy Eid and were able to spend it with those whom ALLAH has given to you to love and cherish. Remember those with hardship in your du'a, and want for them what you want for yourselves. Read More...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to Get Around

How to Get There

I got a little compass a few weeks ago so that we can learn about directions and how to find our way.

This led us to discussing the Qibla and where it is in our home.

My daughter and I posted index cards with the cardinal directions and of course I realized that I forgot to put the Arabic directions up before taking a picture.

Follow Directions

Eid Preparations

My mind is not what it used to be and fasting is hard this time! It somehow escaped me that Eid is coming InshaALLAH!

I kept thinking it was at the end of next week, lol. After panicking for a few minutes, lol, I made a checklist of a few things and things were okay, alhamduLILLAH.

This year, I've decided to make my daughter's play kitchen new again by making some play food for my two year old and getting her some new pots and pans.

Stocking the Shelves


My dad bought the play kitchen for my oldest when she was about two (you can see how small she and my son were in the photo, lol).

Hold on Tight!

I got the crochet patterns from ravelry and etsy if you are interested. Read More...

What A Busy Week

We've been working hard this week and accomplished most of what I planned.

I've really been using Starfall a lot this week, as well as Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone is really helping, MashaALLAH, we're using more Arabic all the time and my daughter has naturally picked up sentence structure and verb conjugation through the program, AlhamduLILLAH.

Alphabet Sounds

It seems to be easier to rotate the older two to the computer for language lessons so that I can give them individual attention without interruption.

I might set up other stations as well if I can stop procrastinating, InshaALLAH. An Arabic station would be nice. I keep coming across such helpful things like this Arabic letter position flip book at Talibiddeen Jr.

First, Initial and Last Form of Arabic Letters

First, Initial and Last Form of Arabic Letters

I printed it on green cardstock and then laminated it and punched two holes in the top (ouch, my hand - the three hole punch wouldn't line up correctly, so I used the hand-held one). I used 1"loose leaf rings (100 for $7.99 on EBay) and I didn't cut between the individual letters (to keep it simple).

I also printed out the Arabic Numbers Practice Book from YemenLinks.

Arabic Notebooking This page is from Talibiddeen Jr.

Arabic Practice Book

Hindi Numerals

Instead of letting my daughter color the pages and forget all about them, I borrowed the idea from Chasing Cheerios to print the pages and put them in protective sheets. We added them to her binder and now she can write on them with the dry erase markers.

Reusable workbooks, MashaALLAH. It saves paper, she can do them again as needed, and when she's done, her brother can use them, InshaALLAH.

We've been going strong in our Islamic Studies, starting with the family tree of the Prophet Muhammad salallahu,alayhi wa salaam.I read a bit from our new books and added some of the more vibrant details from the Sealed Nectar as well as Stories of the World by Safia Iqbal.

We finally put a few names on the tree and in our notebooks.

Adding Names

Instead of doing traditional coloring pages, we colored the most vital elements and added them to our notebooks.

Mother and Father

Halimah, Foster mother of the Prophet (SAWS)

My daughter is doing well with her vocabulary and spelling, but we really need to work on spacing! The words run together quite a bit but I think daily copywork will fix this problem, InshaALLAH.

I find notebooking fun and less stressful than lapbooking. MashaALLAH, there are some beautiful lapbooks out there but I think I need a tutorial, lol. Not about how a lapbook is put together, I know how they look, but who does most of the work and how many days does it take?

Here is are some pages from our notebook. We were learning about the dangers of idol worship and also about the Prophet Adam (AS), Habeel and Qabeel, and how the community grew.

Islamic Studies Notebooking Layout

What is Idol Worship?

The People of Adam Increase in Number

The opportunities to study geography are abundant, so we started with Makkah and Medina and Jeddah.

Makkah is on the Arabian Peninsula

I've been wanting to do this for a while and I would like to continue with some key elements of geography (continents, bodies of water and land forms, ie peninsula, island, etc) as well. I have all the necessary items for this but I would love to get a large world map, InshaALLAH. Read More...

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Mosque

A mosque is a place where followers of Islam. Muslims offer prayers five times a day. It is the place where collective prayers are offered lead by an Imam. The word "mosque" in English refers to all types of buildings dedicated for Islamic worship.

A mosque is also a center of social activities for Muslims where different people come for prayers and Quran Recitation and worship of Allah five times a day and meet each other, discuss some religious affairs, take guidance and help each other.

All adult Muslims, with exceptions for the infirm, are required to offer prayers five times daily. Most mosques will organize a formal time of prayer for each of the daily time slots. In addition to holding the daily prayers, mosques hold weekly Jumaah services which replace the midday prayer on Fridays. While daily prayers can be performed anywhere, it is obligated to attend Friday prayers at the mosque.

Mosques are also used as Islamic Schools where children come to learn and Memorize Qur’an, some of the children who are needy and orphans may reside there in attached hostels. All the expenses are paid by the people living in vicinity.

There are few rules that should be followed in the respect, when entering in the mosques e.g. one should be neat and clean, mentally normal and in senses. In mosques talking loud or irrelevant discussions are not allowed. One should not bring his shoes into the Mosque.

The third of the Five Pillars of Islam states that Muslims are required to give approximately one-fortieth of their wealth to charity as zakat . Since mosques form the center of Muslim communities, they are where Muslims go to both give zakat and, if necessary, collect it. Prior to the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr, mosques also collect a special zakat that is supposed to assist in helping poor Muslims attend the prayers and celebrations associated with the holiday.

The architecture of mosques is a continuation of pre-Islamic architecture of palaces built during the Parthian and Sassanian dynasties of Persia. The Sarvestan palace from the Sassanian era is a great example of this. For example, the idea of having an arched entrance and a central dome is clearly one borrowed from pre-Islamic, Persian architecture. After the Arab invasion of Persia, this architecture, as well as elements of Sassanian culture, was used for the new Islamic world. Many forms of mosques have evolved in different regions of the Islamic world. Notable mosque types include the early Abbasid mosques, T-type mosques, and the central-dome mosques of Anatolia. The oil-wealth of the twentieth century drove a great deal of mosque construction using designs from leading non-Muslim modern architects and promoting the careers of important contemporary Muslim architects.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Human Rights in Islam

Since Allah is the sole master of men and the universe, He is the supreme Lord, the upholder and the Merciful, Whose mercy shrines all beings; and since He has given each man human self-respect and honor, he has given equal rights to all their humans, which is clearly stated in Qur’an Hadith and other in authentic Islamic literatures.

Every human being is thereby related to all others and all become one community of brotherhood in their honorable and pleasant servitude to the most compassionate Lord of the Universe. In such a heavenly atmosphere the Islamic confession of the oneness of God stands dominant and central, and necessarily entails the concept of the oneness of humanity and the brotherhood of mankind.

Although an Islamic state may be set up in any part of the earth, Islam does not seek to restrict human rights or privileges to the geographical limits of its own state. Just like Muslims perform their religious duties like prayers, Quran Recitation, fasting etc, the people of other religions can also practice their religion in Muslim states with complete freedom. Islam has laid down some universal fundamental rights for humanity as a whole, which are to be observed and respected under all circumstances whether such a person is resident within the territory of the Islamic state or outside it, whether he is at peace or at war. The Quran very clearly states:

"O believers, be you securers of justice, witness for God. Let not detestation for a people move you not to be equitable; be equitable - that is nearer to God-fearing." (5:8)

Human blood is sacred in any case and cannot be spilled without justification. And if anyone violates this sanctity of human blood by killing a soul without justification, the Quran equates it to the killing of entire mankind.

"...Whoso slays a soul not to retaliate for a soul slain, nor for corruption done in the land, should be as if he had slain mankind altogether." (5:32)

According to the Islamic School of thought it is not permissible to oppress women, children, old people, the sick or the wounded. Women's honor and chastity are to be respected under all circumstances. The hungry person must be fed, the naked clothed and the wounded or diseased treated medically irrespective of whether they belong to the Islamic community or are from among its enemies.

When we speak of human rights in Islam we really mean that these rights have been granted by God; they have not been granted by any king or by any legislative assembly. The rights granted by the kings or the legislative assemblies, can also be withdrawn in the same manner in which they are conferred. The same is the case with the rights accepted and recognized by the dictators.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Islam and Education

Islam is the religion of peace, and it is one of the most sacred and trustworthy religions and in Islam to seek knowledge is a sacred duty, it is obligatory on every Muslim, male and female. The first word revealed of the Qur’an was "Iqra" READ! Seek knowledge! Educate yourselves! Be educated.

This importance of education is basically for two reasons. Education makes man a right thinker. Without education, no one can think properly in an appropriate context you. It tells man how to think and how to make decision. The second reason for the importance of education is that only through the attainment of education, man is enabled to receive information from the external world. It is well said that

"Without education, man is as though in a closed room and with education he finds himself in a room with all its windows open towards outside world."

The reflective book of Holy Quran is so rich in content and meaning that if the history of human thought continues forever, this book is not likely to be read to its end. Every day it conveys a new message to the humanity. Every morning, Quran Recitation gives us new thoughtful ideas and bound us in the boundaries of ethics.

Islamic Education is one of the best systems of education, which makes an ethical groomed person with all the qualities, which he/she should have as a human being. The Western world has created the wrong image of Islam in the world. They don't know that our teachings are directly given to us from Allah, who is the creator of this world, through our Prophets. The students of an islamic school are well groomed, ethical, educated and best citizens than that of other schools.

The Muslims all over the world are thirsty of acquiring quality education. They know their boundaries and never try to cross it. It is the West, which has created a hype that the Muslim are not in a path of getting proper education. They think that our education teaches us fighting, about weapons, etc., which is so false. This is true that there are certain elements, which force an individual to be on the wrong path, because as we will mould a child, they will be like that, but it doesn't mean that our religion teaches improperly to us.


I Removed the Previous Post

I removed the last post concerning the women of hell because I didn't see and could not find a reference for it. I could have written about it in the comments but I know that not everyone reads the comments. Forgive my haste and naivete - I should never have linked to something with no reference - the mistake is mine. Read More...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Making Islamic Education Relevant

One of the problems faced by many Muslim communities in the area of education are the students and their lack of interest in the material or curriculum. The reality is that many of our children are bored at weekend and full-time Islamic schools and this prevents them from properly absorbing and understanding the knowledge being conveyed.

This is a major issue that must be dealt with in the most sensitive way. Abdullah Hakim Quick, with years of experience in the area of Islamic education and social services, provides possible ways to make the school curriculum practical, relevant and interesting to the younger generation.

This lecture is essential for all school principals, teachers, imams, youth group leaders and parents. Other topics discussed: why some Muslims have negative feelings about Islamic education, how to get parents involved in the Islamic school, the balance between love and discipline, teaching our children the Qur'an, weekend Islamic schools are not enough, using the internet for information, getting government funding for Islamic schools, and what about home-schooling?

These practises should be followed in Quran Recitation schools and other islamic schools. The purpose is to develop the interest of children in learning and islamic education. This lecture will surley help you maintaining good atmosphere in schools and giving quality education to the children which is more relevant in today’s life.


Monday, September 14, 2009

History of Islamic Education

Islam has, from its inception, placed a high premium on education and has enjoyed a long and rich intellectual tradition. Knowledge ('ilm) occupies a significant position within Islam, as evidenced by the more than 800 references to it in Islam's most revered book, the Qur’an. The importance of education is repeatedly emphasized in the Quran with frequent injunctions, such as "God will exalt those of you who believe and those who have knowledge to high degrees" (58:11), "O my Lord! Increase me in knowledge" (20:114), and "As God has taught him, so let him write" (2:282). Such verses provide a forceful stimulus for the Islamic community to strive for education and learning.

The advent of the Quran in the seventh century was quite revolutionary for the predominantly illiterate Arabian society. The starting of Islamic education was Quran Recitation, and the first word was “Iqra” that means “read”. Arab society had enjoyed a rich oral tradition, but the Quran was considered the word of God and needed to be organically interacted with by means of reading and reciting its words. Hence, reading and writing for the purpose of accessing the full blessings of the Quran was an aspiration for most Muslims. Thus, education in Islam unequivocally derived its origins from a symbiotic relationship with religious instruction.

Thus, in this way, Islamic education began. Pious and learned Muslims (mu' allim or mudarris), dedicated to making the teachings of the Quran more accessible to the Islamic community through islamic school, taught the faithful in what came to be known as the kuttāb (plural, katātīb). The kuttāb could be located in a variety of venues: mosques, private homes, shops, tents, or even out in the open. Historians are uncertain as to when the katātīb were first established, but with the widespread desire of the faithful to study the Quran, katātīb could be found in virtually every part of the Islamic empire by the middle of the eighth century. The kuttāb served a vital social function as the only vehicle for formal public instruction for primary-age children and continued so until Western models of education were introduced in the modern period. Even at present, it has exhibited remarkable durability and continues to be an important means of religious instruction in many Islamic countries.

During the golden age of the Islamic empire (usually defined as a period between the tenth and thirteenth centuries), when western Europe was intellectually backward and stagnant, Islamic scholarship flourished with an impressive openness to the rational sciences, art, and even literature. It was during this period that the Islamic world made most of its contributions to the scientific and artistic world. Ironically, Islamic scholars preserved much of the knowledge of the Greeks that had been prohibited by the Christian world. Other outstanding contributions were made in areas of chemistry, botany, physics, mineralogy, mathematics, and astronomy, as many Muslim thinkers regarded scientific truths as tools for accessing religious truth.

The Arabic language has three terms for education, representing the various dimensions of the educational process as perceived by Islam. The most widely used word for education in a formal sense is ta'līm, from the root 'alima (to know, to be aware, to perceive, to learn), which is used to denote knowledge being sought or imparted through instruction and teaching. Tarbiyah, from the root raba (to increase, to grow, to rear), implies a state of spiritual and ethical nurturing in accordance with the will of God. Ta'dīb, from the root aduba (to be cultured, refined, well-mannered), suggests a person's development of sound social behavior. What is meant by sound requires a deeper understanding of the Islamic conception of the human being. Read More...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Syed Akbar Ali: The Quranic Islam versus the ‘Religion’ of ‘Islam’

By Yoginder Sikand

Born in 1960 Ipoh, Perak, Syed Akbar Ali is a Malaysian of Tamil Muslim (Mamak) origin. He studied business management and engineering in the United States, after which he returned to Malaysia to work as a banker and then served a stint as a Consultant at the National Economic Action Council of the Prime Minister’s Department. He presently runs a jewellery business in Kuala Lumpur. He was also a newspaper columnist for several years, writing mainly about religion, politics and current affairs He has published three books so far: To Digress A Little (2005), Malaysia And The Club of Doom (2006) and Things in Common (2008). He is an activist of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

Ali is not a trained traditional alim, but he assumes that, as a Muslim, it is his right to seek to understand the Quran on his own. A striking feature of Ali’s approach to Islam is his reliance only on the Quran, for, as he argues, God Himself has guaranteed that the Quran shall be protected by Him. The same is not true, he argues, for the Hadith as well as the corpus of fiqh, all of which he dismisses as unreliable. Given that many of the problematic issues in traditional and contemporary Islamic discourse to do with women, non-Muslims, inter-community relations and so forth, have their basis in the Hadith and fiqh, and not in the Quran, Ali’s approach enables him to provide novel answers to such issues without having to engage with the Hadith and fiqh at all.
A second major aspect of Ali’s understanding of Islam is his insistence that Islam is not a religion, in the sense of a cult and a set of beliefs about the supernatural. Rather, it is a complete way of life, ad-din in Arabic, which has been taught by all the many prophets that God has sent to the world, the last of whom was the Prophet Muhammad. ‘Islam’, he points out, simply means ‘to surrender’ to God, and this has been the way life that all the prophets. As he puts it, ‘Islam is not a religion or agama. There is no such thing as a religion of Islam […] Islam is a deen or way of life, a good way of doing things. Deen can also imply an Order—an ordered way of life.’[1] In these two senses, then, he argues, Islam represents true universalism. In contrast, he claims that Muslims have reduced Islam from a way of life to a mere religion, a narrow set of laws and beliefs. In his view, they wrongly understand Islam as a cult that is in fierce completion with other cults for supremacy. In this way, he claims, they are not ‘true’ Muslims, in the literal sense of the term (which means to ‘submit’ to God’s Will). Instead, he generally refers to them as ‘deviationist religionists’[2] and ‘cultists’.
A third significant aspect of Ali’s understanding of Islam relates to the question of Islamic authority. God’s last revelation to humankind, the Quran, he says is for all to study and understand. There is no priesthood in Islam, and hence the class of ulema, who presume themselves to be authoritative interpreters of Islam, functioning almost similarly as priests in other religions, has no basis in the Quran. From this follows the argument that one is not bound to follow the opinion of the ulema, past or present.
A fourth central focus of Ali’s approach is to deconstruct, even dismiss, much of the corpus of what has come to be widely understood as the Islamic shariah. He claims that much of this is actually the invention of the earlier ulema, mixed with what he regards as fabricated Hadith narratives for which there is no reliable historical record, as well as the baneful impact of Jewish and Christian thinking on the early Muslim scholars.[3] In this way, Ali is able to argue that many of the deeply problematic aspects of the historical shariah are simply not Islamic at all, in that they have no sanction in the Quran, which, Ali insists, is the only text that Muslims must rely on.
One of Ali’s principal concerns is the formidable rise of conservative, supremacist and reactionary, groups speaking in the name of Islam, in Malaysia and elsewhere, many of which have taken to violent means. These include, but are not limited to, the principal opposition party in Malaysia, the ‘Islamic’ PAS. He considers them a danger to Islam itself. With regard to such elements in Malaysia, he argues that they are a ‘corrupting influence’, because they are ‘advocating chaos and confusion’ and that they would destroy Malaysia if they are left unchecked. Despite claiming to be champions of Islam, most of them, he says, ‘[do] not possess Islamic values.’ Hence, ‘they just [do] not represent Islam’. In a meeting with the then Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, chief of the UMNO of which Ali is an activist, Ali pointed out that in a way he, Mahathir, was responsible for the promotion of such elements because of his so-called Islamisation policies that had been ‘hijacked by some of the extremists to almost destroy our nation’. Mahathir’s ‘indulgence’, through financial patronage and setting up various ‘Islamic’ institutions in which they had been employed, had empowered them, particularly the conservative ulema, ‘to a level which had never been seen before’ in Malaysia. Many of them, although funded by the UMNO-led Government, were ardent supporters of the PAS and were, so he alleged, ‘abusing government machinery’ in order to further ‘their evil beliefs’.[4] He accused the private ‘Islamic’ schools being run by what he called ‘religious extremists’ in Malaysia of ‘churning out mindless kids who cannot contribute much good to themselves or to their society’. Such schools, which received government patronage, taught their students ‘to hate and foment violent and aggressive thinking.’[5]
The oft-discussed ‘Malay Dilemma’ is another issue that Ali deals with at length. He argues that the post-1970 New Economic Policy that gives special privileges to the Malays has killed the spirit of competition and hard work and the desire for knowledge, making them dependent almost wholly on state patronage.[6] This dilemma is exacerbated by narrow understanding of Islam as a stern religion that forbids even minor pleasures and that preaches Muslim supremacism and abhorrence of non-Muslims, thus leading to a ‘complex psyche that has many fears to contend with’.[7] Excessive government patronage has been made the Malays complacent. In contrast to the ‘enterprising’ and ‘industrious’ Chinese, the Malays remain ‘backward’ because, he says, they spend their time obsessing about ‘useless’ things: religion, sex, ‘hocus pocus black magic’, and endless consumption, caring little, if at all, for intellectual pursuits. This is not something unique to the Malay ‘Muslims’, however, Ali argues. Rather, he says, in this ‘they have friends among all the “Muslim” peoples of the world.’ ‘In every “Muslim” country’, Ali writes, ‘their peoples are at the bottom of the heap. It can be seen that among the poorest, most unhygienic […] most unintelligent people in the world today are the so-called Muslims.’[8]
As Ali sees it, ‘backwardness’ is thus not something limited to the Malay ‘Muslims’, but, rather, is somewhat of a general ‘Muslim’ phenomenon. Ali regards this as owing principally to the fact that Muslims the world over have developed a distorted understanding of Islam itself, as a result of which they have collectively failed to adhere to the ‘clear teachings’ of the Quran. That is to say, Ali argues, it is not because of Islam that they are ‘backward’. Rather, the contrary is true. ‘Because of their own non-adherence’ to the Quran, he insists, ‘they suffer many calamities. They have been forsaken in this world.’ Ali goes so far as to argue that what he regards as the ‘false’ Islam that they follow, which he considers as having nothing at all to do with what he believes is the true Islam of the Quran, that they have met this fate. Hence, it is inevitable, he says, that their ‘distorted’ religion, which they regard as the solution to their woes, will only further exacerbate their plight rather than solve it. As he puts it, ‘They are also led to believe that somehow they will be blessed in the Hereafter for doing the same things that makes them non-achievers in this world’.[9]
A major target of Ali’s ire are ‘Muslim’ clerics, whom he derisively refers to as ‘priests’, and ‘shamans’ and ‘morons’[10], denying them the exalted title of ulema or ‘scholars’. He accuses many of them of ‘depend[ing] on outright lies to make a living’, of using religion as a ‘money-making venture’. He remarks that the Quran condemns priests for taking people’s money, and that it viscerally opposed to the concept of priests offering ‘the keys to paradise’ and serving as intermediaries between Man and God, which is what he regards the class of Muslim clerics as having virtually become. To make matters worse, he argues, the average guru agama or Malay Muslim religious teacher ‘will likely not know the contents of the Quran’, which is why the people they preach to also remain ignorant of the real message of the Islamic revelation.[11]
If Ali denies the self-styled ulema the right to speak for Islam or even to define it, he is equally critical of efforts by the state, in Malaysia and other Muslim-majority countries, to impose ‘Islamic’ laws. Naturally, he is also opposed to the Islamists’ agenda of an ‘Islamic’ state. His argument is that the Quran is ‘clear as to what a person should do and not do’, and hence there is no need for the state to legislate in such matters.[12] Since Islam ‘has already been perfected’ in the Quran, to seek to legislate it is, Ali argues, meaningless. That would only lead to the shackling of the law, to endless disputations resulting from differences in interpreting Islamic legal injunctions, to the hegemonic imposition of the views of one ‘Muslim’ sectarian grouping over the others and to gross human rights abuses, particularly of vulnerable groups such as women and non-Muslim minorities.[13] It would also hurt those Muslims who differ with the interpretation of Islam of the state and religious authorities, who can easily accuse them of ‘heresy’ and ‘apostasy’, which are punishable crimes in Malaysia and many other Muslim-majority countries.[14] In other words, Ali argues the case for a secular, that is to say religiously-neutral, state, claiming that this is precisely what Islam itself mandates.
Ali’s critique of dominant understandings of Islam includes a denunciation of the conflation of Islam with elements Arab culture, or what he derisively dismisses as ‘desert culture’.[15] To equate the two, he believes, is to completely undermine the universality of Islam, which, in his view, is compatible with all human cultures and is not tied to any particular one. A ‘major cultural failure’ of Malaysian Muslims’, he argues, ‘is our inability to fend off the Arabisation of Malay music, culture, religion and language’.[16] This tendency to ‘ape the Arabs’ by regarding Arab culture as somehow more ‘Islamic’ also leads to a pervasive sense of alienation from local culture and a profound feeling of inferiority vis-à-vis the Arabs, who are considered to be somehow ‘better’ Muslims just because of their culture and language. This attitude, Ali laments, nurtures among the Malays a strong sense of ‘self-deprecation’ and ‘low self-esteem’ that keeps the community down, leading to ‘negative values’ and ‘arrogance, rudeness and withdrawal into racial and religious cocoons’ that become shields to cover up for their weakness.[17] In this regard, Ali caustically asks:
[W]hat is the worth of being respected by the Middle Eastern countries […]? They are without doubt among the most oppressive, undemocratic, poor and corrupt nations on the surface of Allah’s earth. They are hardly the paragons of Islamic virtue that they are made out to be. Even their citizens do not like their countries.[18]

It is not the Arabs that the Muslims should emulate or learn Islam from, Ali argues. Since he interprets Islam as ‘an ordered way of life’ or ‘a good way of doing things’,[19] Islam, he contends, is found wherever this way of life is practiced, no matter what those who practice it call themselves as. Islam stresses the acquisition and application of knowledge, upholding the truth, intellectual courage, hard work, logical thinking, honesty, integrity, justice, politeness, care and respect for fellow humans, professionalism, a scientific approach, non-aggression and so on. A true Muslim ‘has to be a non-threatening person to his fellow human beings’ and have ‘evil thoughts against others’, he adds. ‘This is what Islam really is’, he insists, arguing against the dominant notion of Islam as a ‘religion’, a set of do’s and don’ts, beliefs and legal restrictions.[20] Those who adopt these values Quranic are practicing Islam even if they do not call it or recognize it as such. For instance, he argues the enormous scientific and economic ‘development’ that China has witnessed and the rising standards of living of its people is ‘Islamic’, because this is a reflection of a truly Islamic way of, and approach to, life. Islam, then, he argues, conduces to material prosperity, for God is said to have promised this to those who truly submit to Him.

Why, then, Ali asks, are most Muslim countries economically deprived? He has a simple answer: in the name of following Islam, they actually follow something else which they call by the same name. The ‘Islam’ of ‘the confused religionists’ makes its followers ‘dirt poor’, besides ‘stupid, violent and downtrodden by everyone else.’ Only the ‘more crafty religionists frequently enrich themselves’ at the expense of the many.[21] The self-styled ‘Muslim’ religious authorities are, Ali contends, directly complicit in the Muslims’ economic and intellectual backwardness, because of the various restrictive laws that they seek to impose, their inculcation of a deadening fatalism, their opposition to intellectual and religious freedom, their stern, their deep-rooted misogyny and stern authoritarianism, their opposition to science, and their hatred for non-Muslims, all in the name of Islam.[22] To repeat a point made earlier, Ali insists that this is not Islam at all, but what he calls a ‘deviant religion’. Because most Muslims follow this ‘religion’ instead of the Islam of the Quran, he argues, they have ‘been forsaken’ by God, which, in turn, has led to horrific ‘poverty, violence and ignominy’ among many Muslim communities. Unless the Quranic Islam is properly understood and practiced, he warns, the situation will not change. Contrarily, if Muslims continue to adhere to their ‘religion’ that they wrongly consider to be the true Islam, their problems will only get worse.

In this regard, Ali sees little hope, for a whole range of forces, including and particularly Muslim political and religious authorities throughout the world, are viscerally opposed to any reforms in the Muslims’ religious thought, erroneously believing this to be ‘un-Islamic’. Thus, he writes:

Despite such horrific truths, the confused Arab religionists keep insisting that the same Allah who has forsaken them in this world will somehow bless them in the Hereafter for the same non-achievements. This is the sick logic which they force their followers to swallow hook, line and sinker […] The confused religionists are following the Fool’s Law of repeating the same unsuccessful method again and again with the hope that maybe the next time round the results will be magically different [….] They are hoping that all the things they do which can make them violent, poor and unsuccessful in this life will somehow win favour from Allah for success in the next life. Such tragic stupidity![23]

[1] Syed Akbar Ali, To Digress A Little (published by the author), Kota Bharu, 2005, p.103.
[2] Ibid., p.2.

[3] In his Things in Common, Ali argues that several contentious aspects of contemporary Muslim thought and practice, such as degradation of women, ill-treatment of non-believers and punishment for apostasy, are not sanctioned in the Quran, but, rather, were borrowed by the later Muslims from the Old and the New Testaments (see
[4] Ibid., p.6.
[5] Ibid., p.11.
[6] Ibid., p.14.
[7] Ibid., p.42.
[8] Ibid., p.58.
[9] Ibid., p.58.
[10] Ibid., p.94.
[11] Ibid., p.93.
[12] Ibid., p.96.
[13] Ibid., pp.103-4.
[14] In this regard, Ali writes, with reference to Malaysia, ‘It is an irony that the Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, Tien Taos, Sikhs and everyone else has total freedom to interpret and practice their religion any which way they want but the so-called “Muslims” do not have the same right’, their right to do so being restricted by the state (p.106)

[15] Ibid., p.107.
[16] Ibid., p.100.
[17] Ibid., pp.115-18.
[18] Ibid., pp.103-4.
[19] Ibid., p.103.
[20] Ibid., p.263.
[21] Ibid., pp.233-35.
[22] Ibid., pp.241-47.
[23] Ibid., pp.248-49.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Impact of Education on Society

A society is a body of individuals of a species, generally seen as a community or a group. Human societies are characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals that share a distinctive culture or institutions. The behavior of the people is a major constituent in building up a society, more is the education of the people, better will be the society.

At the advent of Islam education was one of the major points of emphasis. Holy Prophet (PBUH) punctuated the importance of education, for the betterment of the society and to improve the living standard of the people. At that time the concept of an Islamic School was incurred.

Other than modern and scientific values, Ethical education plays vital role in building up a good society where people can help each other. Before the advent of scientific education Muslim students were taught Quran Recitation, Calligraphy, arts, dawah and other such subjects. The base of Islamic studies is Qur’an, hadith and Sunnat.

Civilization perceives education as an essential tool to maintain a normal civilization. Learning is a passive process, something that someone else does to you, instead of something you do for yourself. A child attends school with the intention of learning something new, to broaden his intellectual ability. He gets awareness about the societies as a school is itself a society where children from different background, nature, tradition and religion come and work as a group.

Education brings patience and ethics, the most important factors in building a peaceful and healthy society. Read More...

Table Manners Link Found

AlhamduLILLAH, Umm Rashid found the link for me! Take a look here. Read More...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Values-Based Islamic Approach to Inter-Community Dialogue

By Yoginder Sikand

Chandra Muzaffar is one of Malaysia’s best-known human rights activists and public intellectuals. Born in a Hindu family with origins in Kerala, South India, he converted to Islam as a young man. Having worked at several Malaysian universities, he now heads the Kuala Lumpur-based Just World Trust, an NGO dedicated to promoting inter-community dialogue and justice.

Author of numerous books, Chandra is a prolific writer, having published widely in Malaysia and abroad. One of his principal concerns, in his writings and activist involvement, is to promote an Islamic ethic of inter-religious dialogue. Such dialogue, he believes, is an Islamic imperative, besides being indispensable in today’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious Malaysia. It is also crucial, he stresses, at the global level, particularly since many conflicts across the globe, while rooted in economic and political factors, are sought to be projected and legitimised as religious conflicts between Islam and other faiths and ideologies.

Muslim, Dialogue and Terror is Chandra’s principal work on Islam and inter-faith dialogue, in which he seeks to articulate an inter-faith ethic rooted in an expansive understanding of Islam (This book is available online on This article examines the methodology and the arguments that he employs in the book to articulate this project.

Like many other contemporary socially-engaged non-ulema Muslim scholars, Chandra seeks to directly approach the Quran in order to understand and interpret his faith, largely by-passing the corpus of traditional fiqh, and making only passing reference to the corpus of Hadith. This is hardly surprising since the latter two sources contain numerous prescriptions that are plainly inimical, to put it mildly, to harmonious relations between Muslims and others. In approaching the Quran, Chandra does not rely on the works of traditional exegetes (mufassirun), whose views and perceptions were undoubtedly influenced by their own socio-historical contexts, and many of who were sternly prejudiced against people of other faiths. Instead, Chandra seeks to interpret the Quran on his own, guided by a deep concern for justice, peace and equality that transcend narrowly-inscribed religious and communitarian boundaries.

Islamic Inter-Faith Theology: A Values-Based Approach to Re-Interpreting Islam and Inter-Community Relations

Chandra describes the Quran as ‘in essence, a Book whose fundamental aim is to raise the spiritual and moral consciousness of the human being.’ This understanding of the Quran leads him to stress what he sees as the underlying spirit or ethical values of the text over its letter. Some of the fundamental values that he discerns in the Quran are freedom, accountability, justice, kindness, mercy, love, equality, honesty, compassion, fairness, and devotion to the cause of the poor and the oppressed. These values he regards as universal, not limited in their applicability to fellow Muslims alone. In this way, he is able to articulate an Islamic ethic of inter-faith dialogue that is Quranic, that prioritizes the spirit over the letter of the text, that is based on what he regards as the fundamental and universal values of the text, and one that is also contextually-relevant.

Chandra describes this way of relating to the Quran as a ‘values-based approach’. He contrasts this with the traditional ‘fiqh-based ‘approach, which prioritises the letter of the Quran over its spirit, draws heavily on the cumulative fiqh tradition, and stresses, to the point of obsession, forms, externalities, symbols, rituals, laws, regulations and narrowly-construed understandings of Muslim identity. The former is universal, flexible, open, and inclusive, while the latter is particularistic, rigid, closed and exclusive. The former stresses justice, freedom, love, compassion and equality, the latter authoritarianism, control, harshness and hierarchy. The former is open to non-Muslims, actively embraces them as fellow human beings and appreciates the common values that their religions share with Islam. The latter is stridently hostile to people of other faiths, or only grudgingly tolerates them at best.

Appealing for this fundamental transformation in Islamic thought based on the ‘values-based’ approach to the Quran, which would also be reflected in the way Islamic theology and jurisprudence are imagined, including with regard to non-Muslims, Chandra argues:

It is only too apparent that a non-dogmatic approach to Islam, which recognises the primacy of eternal, universal spiritual and moral values while acknowledging the importance of rituals, symbols and practices, is the most sane and sensible way of living the religion in today’s world. The values approach to Islam—the antithesis of the rituals and symbols approach—is not only legitimate from the perspective of the religion but also necessary at this juncture in history.

Making a broad survey of relations between Muslims and others in various countries, and at the global level as a whole, Chandra argues that a host of factors have contributed to increased polarization between them in recent years, particular after 9/11. Much of the responsibility for this rests on the Muslims themselves, he says, but he also regards what he calls ‘the politics of global hegemony emanating from Washington’s imperial ambitions’ as a major factor. This latter points leads him to argue, as he does in many of his other books, that inter-religious and inter-communal solidarity for peace and justice must necessarily also require a forceful challenging of the structures of power at the global level, most importantly Western, and, in particular, American, political, economic and cultural hegemony, because this is one of the major causes for conflict between Muslims and others.

This task, Chandra insists, must go hand-in-hand with a willingness on the part of Muslims themselves to introspect, and to cease blaming others for all their ills. In turn, this requires a fundamental re-evaluation of the way Muslims understand their religion, identity and tradition. In particular, it requires, Chandra says, ‘breaking through the hardened crust of exclusive, dogmatic thinking’, and embracing ‘an inclusive, universal approach’. Seeking to pre-empt critics who would regard this as compromising on Islamic teachings, he insists that it is perfectly in consonance with Islam, which ‘regards all human beings as brothers and sisters, imperiled by the same human condition.’ The pathetic state of most contemporary Muslim societies and states, including the increasingly strained relations between Muslims and others, have much to do, he says, with a dogmatic understanding of Islam that negates the fundamental Quranic values that he distills from the text, as mentioned above.

Chandra traces this ‘dogmatic’ understanding of Islam to the deep-rooted tradition of taqlid, strict adherence to received understandings of Islamic theology and jurisprudence, and a dogged refusal to re-examine and re-interpret these in changing contexts. These understandings reflect deep-rooted biases against non-Muslims (and women) and an underlying notion of Muslim supremacism and communalism. New understandings of Islamic theology and jurisprudence are thus urgently required for Muslims to be able to seriously dialogue with others and work together with them for peace and justice.

As Chandra puts it,

The taqlid-conditioned notion of morality will have to yield to a concept of ethics which articulates in crystal clear terms the Islamic commitment to justice, compassion, freedom and equality […] Such a view of morality, there is no need to emphasise, would be true embodiment of the spirit of the Quran and Sunnah.

For this new approach to Islam and Islamic morality to emerge as a dominant paradigm would require Muslims to ‘re-orientate their thinking on Islam’, focusing particularly on what Chandra regards as the basic moral values of the Quran. From this would emerge understandings of Islamic theology and jurisprudence that are rooted in these values—values that are universal, not limited just to Islam alone. Accordingly, Chandra writes, received theological notions and fiqh prescriptions that depart from these values would no longer be considered relevant, normative and binding. This values-based understanding of Islamic theology and fiqh would, clearly, be more receptive and conducive to genuine inter-faith and inter-community dialogue, something that traditional understandings upheld by conservative ulema and radical Islamists greatly militate against.

Were Muslim societies and countries truly committed to the Quranic vision and values that he outlines, Chandra argues, relations between Muslims and others, both within countries and at the global level, too, would have been vastly different than they are today. True inter-faith dialogue and solidarity thus urgently require these fundamental Quranic values to inform, once again, Muslims’ understanding of their faith as well as their behaviour. Chandra does not consider these values to be exclusively Islamic, though. He regards all religions as reflecting, in various ways and to various degrees, precisely the same values. This being the case, genuine inter-community solidarity and understanding must be built on the firm foundation of these values that are common to all religions.

Inter-Community Dialogue and Social and Political Activism

The sort of dialogue that Chandra envisages departs from the traditional approach that involves religious ‘leaders’ from different faith communities coming together to discuss their respective religious beliefs and practices, an approach characteristic of many religious groups that use dialogue simply as a means for missionary work. For Chandra, dialogue goes much beyond this and seeks to bring people of different faith traditions together to recognize their common humanity and the common values that their religions uphold, and to work together for common social purposes, including peaceful resolution of conflicts and challenging despotism, dictatorship, injustice, imperialism, radicalism in the name of religion (including Islam) and the global capitalist system and its underlying materialistic and consumerist ethos or what he calls ‘moneytheism’.

Aware of the growing influence of conservative as well as radical groups that are vehemently opposed to inter-faith dialogue and interpret Islam accordingly in a narrow, exclusivist fashion, Chandra insists that Islam calls upon Muslims to dialogue with others. He points out, for instance, that the Quran exhorts Muslims, Jews and Christians to come together on the basis of certain shared beliefs and values. He also regards the Pact of Medina, between the Muslims, led by the Prophet, and the Jews and pagans of the town, and the Pact of Najran between the Prophet and Christians, as the Prophet’s practical expression of the Quranic call for inter-faith dialogue and solidarity and the imperative of ‘coming to terms with “the other”’.

Chandra critiques self-styled Islamist groups for misusing the doctrine of jihad to legitimize the killing of innocent people, non-Muslims as well as Muslims, including perfectly innocent civilians, something that has played a major role in worsening relations between Muslims and others in recent years, besides giving Islam a bad name. Chandra recognizes the justice and legitimacy of certain causes that radical Islamists champion, such as countering Zionist occupation in Palestine or opposing the American invasion of Iraq. He also recognizes that Islam allows for armed defence as a form of jihad under certain extreme circumstances. Yet, he points out, Islam does not sanction indiscriminate violence against non-Muslims in the name of jihad or preach hatred for people of other faiths, as some radical Islamists claim. He regards this tendency to be a major hurdle to inter-faith dialogue and improving relations between Muslims and others.

Islam opposes every form of injustice and oppression, Chandra writes, and it is thus the duty of Muslims to actively seek to oppose and end injustice and oppression, even if it is perpetrated by Muslims themselves against others. This struggle against injustice and oppression is a form of jihad. Critiquing the tendency to equate jihad with warfare, he writes that non-violent forms of protest and mobilization, are themselves forms of jihad and are often more efficacious, besides being approved of in Islam as well. He cites in this regard the peace treaty entered into by the Prophet and his Meccan opponents at Hudaibiyah, and the valiant resistance put up by Imam Husain to the forces of the tyrant Caliph Yazid at Karbala, which he characterizes as ‘the noblest instance of resistance to injustice, motivated by principle and conscience.’

Critique of Religious ‘Revivalism’

Chandra finds much of the phenomenon of the contemporary global rise of religious ‘revivalism’, including of Islam, deeply problematic. While he recognizes that, in many cases, such ‘revivalism’ represents a protest against despotic ruling elites or Western political, cultural and economic hegemony, or forcible occupation of Muslim lands, as in Iraq, Kashmir and Palestine, he points out that for many ‘revivalists’ religion is deployed simply as a mobilisational device, often used as a means to bolster a narrow understanding of religious and community identity as pitted against what are portrayed as menacing ‘others’. In such cases, religious ‘revivalism’ is simply another term for communalism and a potent tool for identity politics and conflicts. This, in turn, completely over-turns and thoroughly undermines what Chandra regards as the fundamental values of religion. Accordingly, Chandra appeals for inter-communal solidarity and dialogue to challenge narrow communalism that often masquerades in the guise of ‘religious revivalism’. His opposition to radical Islamist groups demanding the creation of an ‘Islamic state’ in Malaysia, which he regards as a threat not just to the country’s non-Muslims but also to his own understanding of Islam, is a case in point.

Critique of the ‘Islamic State’

A fundamental concern of contemporary Islamic ‘revivalists’ is the establishment of what they call an ‘Islamic state’—that is to say, a state ruled in accordance to what is commonly regarded as the shariah. Chandra has consistently opposed the notion of such a state, arguing that it would inevitably harm non-Muslims, women and even Muslims themselves, and deleteriously impact on inter-community relations. One reason for this is that the historical shariah that Islamists as well as the conservative ulema seek to impose, based mainly on the inherited corpus of fiqh rather than on a direct reading of the Quran, is heavily biased against women and non-Muslims. Besides, it is sternly authoritarian and anti-democratic, and for centuries has been cynically employed by oppressive regimes to legitimize their rule in ‘Islamic’ terms and to crush dissent. A state based on the historical shariah would thus lead to tyranny, repression and dictatorship, ironically in the name of Islam, a religion that, Chandra argues, is stridently opposed to every sort of oppression. Hence its legitimacy even in Islamic terms is questionable.

Thus, Chandra elaborates:

There is another equally serious threat to freedom and civil society in the Muslim world. It comes from a trend that is often described as “Islamic resurgence”. Though in their drive to establish an Islamic State, these resurgents, like other dissidents, espouse the ideals of freedom, human rights and civil society, a close examination of their ideology and their performance in power reveals a pronounced proclivity towards authoritarianism and hegemonic dominance. The contrast between the Islam of the Prophet and the Islam of the resurgents is so stark that one wonders whether the resurgence that is occurring today is Islamic at all. Can we call this an ‘Islamic resurgence’ if it does not bring into fruition the eternal values of love and compassion, of justice and freedom, of equality and dignity embodied in the Quran and exemplified in the life of the Prophet? Or, is this resurgence the contemporary expression of some other trend in Muslim history? […] It is [a] reactionary, conservative, law oriented, power centred Islam that the resurgents have inherited and seek to propagate.

By thus seeking to distinguish Islam from the historical forms it has taken and in which it has been understood, and by offering a values-based approach to the Quran, stressing its underlying moral principles over external symbols and rituals, Chandra is able to articulate a refreshing alternative to stultified Muslim discourses about Islam’s approach to other religions and ideologies and their adherents. In this way, he points to the rich theological resources that the Quran contains to argue the case for a true global ecumenism, a universal ethic that he regards as indispensable in today’s context to promote justice, peace and inter-community solidarity and to challenge all forms of oppression.

Chandra Muzaffar can be contacted on
The website of his Just World Trust is