Thursday, October 17, 2013

Those Who Earned Allah’s Anger and Those Who Have Gone Astray

Recently I received a question about the meaning of the last two verses in Al-Fatiha. The Question is given below followed by my response.

Question: In Al-Fatiha, it says
Iyya-ka na`budu wa iyya-ka na-sta`een. Ihdi-na as-sirata al-mustaqiim
You alone we worship and You alone we seek the help of.
Guide us to the path straight
Sirata allathina an`amta `alay-him ghayr il-maghdubi `alayhim wa la ad-daallin
The path (of) those You have given grace, not those who Your
anger (is) on them and not those who went astray

In the later ayat, who are those that have Allah’s anger and who are those that have 'gone astray' ?
Traditionally and in many English translations this is viewed as the Jews and the Christians. I find this disrespectful to people honesty following a faith in good conscience. .If indeed that is an appropriate rendering, then I am troubled, for I do not feel that monotheistic faiths are mutually exclusive  (yes, there are differences, but) I feel that these differences can be respected rather than picked over. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  The interpretation you refer to is based on this Hadith:

 Narrated Adi bin Hatim: I asked Allah’s Messenger about the aya: "Ghairil maghdubi ‘alaihim [not (the way) of those who earned Your Anger]," he replied: "They are the Jews". And : "Walad dallin (nor of those who went astray)," he replied: "The Christians, and they are the ones who went astray".
 This Hadith is quoted by Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud

It refers to the Jews and Christians in Medina who struggled against Prophet Muhammad and his companions. Sura 2 has many statements accusing those Jews of acting against what they learned from the Torah. The Christians were criticized for being exaggerated in their devotion to Jesus, declaring him to be God and not a man who was a Prophet.

But note also aya 62 in sura 2 which says:

Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

This shows that the hadith quoted above is not a condemnation of all Jews and Christians.

 Moreover it is said in sura 4 aya 93 : “If a man kills a believer, his recompense is Hell, to abide therein, and the anger and curse of Allah are upon him.”  

From this aya we can infer that the majority of those who are earning Allah’s anger at this time are from the Muslims because of their readiness to kill people, Muslims of other sects and non-Muslims simply because they don’t agree with them.

Those who are astray

This refers to people who abandon truth out of exaggerated devotion and ignorance. An illustration of this is provided by the present day worshippers among Muslims who pray day and night but don't know what they are saying in their prayers.

 Go to traveeh in a mosque in Ramadan. There are hundreds of people praying but most have no idea of what is being said in prayer. They worship Allah in a manner that is misguided and devoid of knowledge.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Religious Tolerance

Sura 22 Aya 67

To every community We have given ways of worship which they observe. Therefore, do not let them draw you into disputes on this matter, but invite people to your Lord, for you are on the right way.

An attitude of religious tolerance is described in this verse. It is in recognizing the authenticity of the different ways of worship found among different people. Different religious traditions represent different possible paths to God-consciousness, and it is a mistake to argue with people about their traditions and rituals. 

The opposite attitude is to consider our own particular ritual of prayer as the only one acceptable to God. An extension of this belief is that all other ways are misguided and those who follow them are bound for hell. This belief is the root of intolerance. It has caused enmity and bloodshed between religious communities for centuries.
When Muslims were a new community on Long Island in the 1980s, they formed an association but did not have a building of their own. They approached a church, and the elders of the church gladly gave them permission to hold their prayers in the church. The church elders demonstrated the wisdom conveyed by this aya.

In a few years, the Muslim community collected enough funds to build a mosque of their own and moved their congregation to the new building. A few years later, a group of Ismaili Muslims approached them because they were new to the area and did not yet have a building of their own. They asked the officials of the mosque for permission to hold their prayer services in the mosque. The mosque officials denied them permission. “The Ismailies are misguided people, and their prayer is not correct,” said one of the mosque trustees. The mosque trustees did not understand the message of this aya.

This attitude is common in mosques throughout the world. It is at the root of the deep suspicion many Muslims display toward peoples of other faiths, not only non-Muslims, but also Muslims with alternate traditions. In many countries Muslims following the teachings of different imams are alienated from each other, and sometimes hostile to each other. Minority Muslim populations such as the Ismailies, the Druze, and the Ahmadies feel isolated and persecuted in many Muslim countries.

 An essential part of Muslim reformation is to recognize that tolerance is not a Western idea, but it is a universal concept from the Quran. It is beneficial to everyone who practices it. Societies where people accept each other irrespective of religious beliefs are strong and dynamic, and societies where there is intolerance among faith groups are splintered and weak.

The attitude of self-righteous intolerance comes partly from feelings of insecurity about your own ways. If you have not thought about your rituals of worship deeply and are not sure why you do them, you feel threatened by the alternatives offered by others. If, on the other hand, you are sure that you are on the right way as the aya above points out, you will gladly acknowledge that other people have their own authentic ways of worshipping God. This tells us that we should focus on improving our own prayer and other rituals, so that they bring peace and fulfillment to us, rather than criticizing what others do.