by Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Religion is not difficult to follow, for it prescribes the most reasonable and logical way to conduct oneself. These instructions contained in the glorious book and from the lives of the holy infallibles, are rather adequate in illuminating the path to a successful life, both here and now, and in the afterlife.
If we were to study the most prominent writings of authentic scholars, the code of life is usually surrounded on the premise of rights of others, obedience to the laws of the Creator and responsibilities of the self. However, over zealous individuals or those who wanted to deliberately pollute the clarity in matters of faith, started coining their own text extolling on practices that have nowhere been prescribed by the above twin sources, over a long period of time, a resultant confusion followed by adoption of practices and rituals ensued.
There are many instances of such acts or actions that have come to be a mainstay in contemporary religious practices, and many of them become harder to disprove with the passage of time. A compounding problem is our land of origin. Khojas (Khwajasa) emerged from the Indian sub continent, where formal conversion had taken place. Unfortunately, although the departure from idol worshipping had been attained per se, ther was a literal sense of embodying objects of worship to appease the heart, and this we can see is an ongoing struggle amongst our people, a few of whom fail to distinguish between messengers of Allah (SWT), his successors and deities (Devis or devtas).
Even today, we see many such new practices coming to the fore by virtue of our community’s expansive travel, to both India as well as the gulf region, which then offers its own set of practices, emanating from Islamic as well as pre-Islamic eras (pagan practices). It will be remembered that up until the 1990s, the atmosphere a Shaam e Ghariba nights would be dark and dull but filled with candles, and when these candles were circulated in the hall, many of our unsuspecting brothers, partook of the flame as a token of blessing. But as you can now imagine, the practice resembles profoundly, the Hindu ritual in an Aarti pooja. Not only that, for centuries, Persia was predominantly comprised of fire worshippers and this could have added to the overall influence, given that the rendition on these nights is usually in Farsi, the Persian language.
One such practice that took the community by storm was the obsession with the digits 786. Even today, it is pretty reputable to have these numbers imprinted on your car license plate or even your mobile number in many parts of East Africa. Ironically, not just Muslims, but also Hindus revere this number as both in turn claim of it as being a numerical representation of the verse Bismillah hir Rahman
Damodar Kumar Pamnani, in answering a public forum question, comprehensively provides an insightful understanding to this panache:
“786 is probably the most popular number in the Indian subcontinent. Irrespective of which religion an individual belongs to, most of the people here consider this number as “holy” or “lucky”. While most of the people of other faiths would not really know the reason behind it, Muslims would understand the significance as this number is believed to be a shorter or numeric form of Arabic phrase “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim” which literally translates into “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”. The question however that even most of the Muslims would not be able to answer is that how
The explanation behind this lies in the numeric or chronological order of the Arabic alphabet. For example, English Alphabet has 26 letters from A to Z. If you are to arrange these letters in a numeric order, then A would be number 1, B would be number 2, C number 3 and so on with Z finally getting assigned the number 26. The same way, there are two known ways of arranging the Arabic alphabet. One is Alphabetical method which also applies to all other alphabets of other languages. In this method, we put the letters in a certain order. Like the English alphabet is arranged as A,B,C,D …. Z. Here A always comes first and Z always the last. Same way, Arabic alphabet is arranged as Alif, ba, ta, tha etc where Alif always comes as the first letter.
There is however another and a lesser known method of arranging Arabic letters. This method is known as Abjad or ordinal method in which each letter of the alphabet has an arithmetic value assigned to it. This value necessarily is from one to one thousand. In this method, the letters are arranged in the following order, Abjad, Hawwaz, Hutti, Kalaman, Sa’fas, Qarshat, Sakhaz, Zazagh.
So if we are to look at the complete Arabic alphabet, the arithmetic values assigned as per the Abjad method are as follows:
Alif – 1
Baa – 2
Jeem – 3
Daal – 4
Haa (small) – 5
Waaw – 6
Zaa – 7
Haa (big) – 8
Tau – 9
Yaa – 10
Kaaf – 20
Laam – 30
Meem – 40
Noon – 50
Seen – 60
Ayn – 70
Faa – 80
Saud – 90
Quaf – 100
Raa – 200
Sheen – 300
Taa – 400
THaa – 500
Khaa – 600
Thaal – 700
Dhaud – 800
Thau – 900
Ghayn – 1000
Hamza is not included in the table above because it has the same numeric value as Alif because it is the letter which marks the glottal stop in Arabic.
the numeric values above, if we break “”Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim” in
arithmetic values, we would get the following numbers. We are taking
all the letters used in the phrase and the arithmetic values assigned to
Haa (Small): 5
Haa (big): 8
Haa (big): 8
If we add all these numeric values, the sum total would be 786 and that is how this number is used as a shorter or numeric form of the phrase “”Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim”
The interesting thing to know here is that this practice is not from the time of the Prophet nor mentioned in the Quran. This arrangement of Abjad method was done much later, most probably in 3rd century of Hijrah during the ‘Abbasid period, following other Semitic languages such as Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldean, etc. This was merely the practice of some of our pious predecessors in India who decided to use the Abjad method and came up with the number 786. For the rest of the world, this number holds no greater value or significance. It is something that Indians came up with and only people from Indian sub-continent or from the countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh believe in.”
The Holy Qur’an laments on numerous occasions that groups of people regularly belied the message of Allah (SWT) on the pretext that their forefathers used to act thus. However, the dictates of the Holy Qur’an are pretty clear and we should remain wary of amalgamating elements that, at worst, may be tantamount to shirk.
by Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi (Toronto, Canada)
“Zakat, as we Shia calculate, is payable on 9 items only. These items were the measure of wealth in those times and therefore should we not apply the principle to our wealth in general, as the Sunnis do, and not just to those 9 items?” The Islamic shari’a (code of laws) is based on a system within which they are formulated and worked out.
In Shi‘a Islam, the two main sources of laws are the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet and Imams (may peace be upon them all).
The Qur’an, while ordering us to pay zakat, has not outlined the items on which zakat is applicable. Interestingly, the case of salat is also the same. While the Qur’an has ordered us to say the daily salat in more than 25 verses, nowhere does it tell us how to perform the daily salat. In these cases, we have to refer to the sunnah for further details.
When Shi‘a jurists refer to the sunnah, after studying and analyzing all the authentic ahadith on this subject, they reach to the following two conclusion conclusions:
a) Zakat is wajib (obligatory) on the following nine items: Coins: silver; gold Cattle: cows; sheep and goats; camels Crops: wheat; barley; dates; raisins
b) Zakat is mustahab (recommended) on other items that can be weighed or other things that grow from the earth
In conclusion, the jurist (mujtahid) is bound to follow the sources; if the sources clearly con?ne the items of compulsory zakat to nine, then they cannot go by their personal inclination and extend that list. In order to extend that list, they need clear proof in the religious sources to suggest that these items were only applicable to those days and
One of the decisive ahadith on this issue is presented here as an example in which Muhammad atTayyar asked Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) about the items on which zakat is wajib. The Imam (a.s.) listed the nine items as ?xed by the Prophet himself and then said, “The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) exempted the zakat from other items.” A person then asked the Imam, “May Allah protect you; we have an abundance of grain (not listed by you) with us.” The Imam asked, “And what is that?” The person replied, “It is rice.” The Imam remarked, “Yes, it is plentiful (in your area).” Then the person asked, “Is there zakat in it (i.e., in rice)?” Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) scolded him by saying: “I am telling you that verily the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.) has exempted the zakat from other items and you are still saying ‘We have
The statement of Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) is clear that there were other items such as rice and other grains known to the people of that time and area as “wealth,” but still he insisted that you cannot include those in the list of items for wajib zakat.
Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Young people of this time face some acute challenges, never seen before in history. For once, the emphatic African adage of ‘Can the tail ever lead the head?’ is being subjected to a tensile test and the orderly structure of society is rapidly shifting, or dare I say, worsening.
To start with, it is strongly contended that today’s child knows more than his or her parents, and this alone could mean so many different things. After all, this is the information age that is relentlessly propelled by information, communications and technology, now very much within the reach and command of all individuals, big and small. Naturally, how ca one contest this theory when we witness day in and day out, how comfortable the younger generation is in the laps of is most coveted paramour – the smart phone and the tablet.
But before one scurries away with this thought, awarding premature accolades to the young individual living today, take a moment to comprehend the burden that they now face, almost brutally. The difficulty of growing up in this era is that there are no barriers – a good thing n a sense and a bad one otherwise. The time that preceding generations took to receive, understand and apply knowledge passed on to them and as per their age requirement, has now been replaced by an unbelievable universal code, where every information is available to everyone at any time. The predisposition to this mammoth cache of information, predisposes younger people to fall prey to myths and stereotypes that the formulators of these platforms purport to process, and now there is no intermediary to explain or interpret a life occurrence.
Members of the elder generation suddenly understand that this change in how we bring up our children, has been part of a larger design, that essentially takes away the proprietary rights one has within their family. The power that technology and the associated instruments give to the younger generation, abruptly places them in a very isolated place, and the winds of globalisation disperse mindsets, values and thought processes to places and people it was not supposed to reach.
As we sat down to listen to some young diploma individuals from different backgrounds, we were stunned to listen to this particular presentation by a community girl who was trying to make the case for same-sex alliances. Her research and presentation
Perhaps, our families are not doing enough, and resigning too quickly to the invasion that has wreaked havoc in homes. But that would be utterly cowardly
in the midst of these crises, we burden our children with more magma. Our gatherings are filled with talk about the who’s who of society. More often tan note, we rally around the monied class of society, reward them for their every little donation and generosity, we even qualify their talk as being the right advise. And whereas this as well may be true, for it is incorrect to postulate that the rich are not worthy of respect and honour, but to insinuate that only they are, falls within the ambit of what is known in psychology as the Survivorship Bias.
James Clear writes in his 5 Common Mental Errors That Sway You From Making Good Decisions Survivorship bias refers to our tendency to focus on the winners in a
Another example: “Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg all dropped out of school and became billionaires! You don’t need school to succeed. Entrepreneurs just need to stop wasting time in class and get started.”
It’s entirely possible that Richard Branson succeeded in spite of his path and not
It is time we introspect – spending too much time judging and talking about others, leaves us with absolutely no time to improve ourselves. If we keep passing the spirit of survivorship bias to our children, we may as well have deceived them the most, more than the monstrous media we all claim to be behind the moral massacre of our times.
By Sheikh Mansour Leghaei
What are miracles? Do they exist? Are miracles a form of magic? What is the scientific take on miracles? This and more in this very educative and thorough text.
Three different concepts of possibility:
1. Rational Possibility
2. Scientific Possibility
3. Historical Possibility
4. Religious Possibility
In order for a statement to be rationally impossible it has to eventually lead to the Principle of Contradiction.
The principle of contradiction is a law of thought stating that a thing cannot ‘be’ and ‘not be’ at the same time. The principle of contradiction usually develops itself on three specific forms known as the “Three Logical Axioms” which are:
• A is A.
• A is not ‘Not-A’
• Everything is either ‘A’ or ‘Not-A’.
For a miracle to be logically and rationally impossible, it should result in the principle of contradiction. If for instance the concept of a miracle is like a ‘triangle square,’ then it is rationally impossible. Then we are obliged to conclude that what happened was not a miracle or whatever is a miracle does not happen.
Here we can certainly assert that the claim of Christians on the deity of Jesus and the concept of trinity as a miracle is wrong, for it is rationally impossible and hence their claim must be rejected.
Similarly, the law of cause and effect is a rational law and hence for miracles to be in violation of any rational law, it has to be rationally impossible. If a prophet for instance claims that the total of the angles of a triangle miraculously equals to 190 degrees, then his claim is rationally impossible.
Our claim is that miracles are rationally possible for it is not against the principle of contradiction nor is it against the law of cause and effect.
In order for something to be rationally possible, it is enough that it cannot be logically proven wrong. Presumably no one can rationally prove that there cannot be any other influencing force to nature beyond ordinary human knowledge.
If the concept of miracle is like saying this object is a triangle square, then it is irrational.
Miracles are rationally impossible if they happen without any cause. But if the natural cause that we are aware of is replaced with another cause – which was not known to us, it is not irrational.
For instance, we have discovered a relation between Nurofen as a painkiller and a cure for headaches. If one claims that, ‘My headache was miraculously cured,’ meaning that it was cured without any cause whatsoever, then he is talking irrationally and only then we can say that either a miracle did not occur and he is wrong in his claim, or what happened is not miracle.
The claim in a miracle is that perfect humans such as prophets, due to their access to divine knowledge, have access to other causes of healing a headache different from ordinary known medical methods. Thus, the cause is there, though it is a different cause to the one known to ordinary humans.
Moreover, the correlation between a cause and its effect is also present in a miracle. Because what the necessary correlation between a cause and its effect is that the cause must enjoy what it wants to give to the effect. For instance, ice does not enjoy the heat to burn the wood. Again, the claim in a miracle is that the extraordinary cause by far enjoys the properties required, for instance to cure a person who was born blind.
Therefore, our claim in miracles is the substitution of one cause with another; be it a known physical cause to us, or a metaphysical.
There are many phenomena that appear to contradict physical laws but today parapsychologists suggest the possibility of their causation by mental processes such as telepathy, clairvoyance and psycho kinesis that are inexplicable by science.
Dr. V. Frankle; the founder of logotherapy claimed that he could even cure an asthmatic by the method of logotherapy. Does it mean his claim is irrational?
In religion we are taught of some causes that otherwise would have been unknown to us. For instance, paying charity, visiting the first of kin, and praying for others are introduced as possible methods of prolonging one’s life.
Statistics today show that people with strong religious faith react better to fatal diseases such as cancer and enjoy more chance for recovery. (See the chapter on the Power of Faith)
Is a miracle scientifically possible?
In order for us to understand whether miracles are scientifically possible or not, we ought to get acquainted with some of the characteristics of natural science.
Some Characteristics of Natural Science:
1. Nomological (Newtonian): That means according to the Newtonian natural concept of the world, the scientific laws are general based on our observation.
2. Repetition: (See the article: Miracles and Modern Scientific Thought)
3. Statistical (Quantum Physics): That means according to quantum physics, what we call a natural law is in fact the most possible option, not the absolute one.
4. Natural laws are conditional not absolute. That means the relation between a natural cause and its effect is not absolute and limited and hence there are scientifically more possible methods to achieve the effect. For instance, one of the ordinary known methods of splitting the water of a river is to construct a damn. But is this scientifically the only possible method? Science has no negative answer for it. Thus, though perhaps exceptionally there is a natural phenomenon of making a path amidst a sea in Korea which is one of the most surprising sights in Korea.
Internationally renowned, “Chindo’s Sea Way” is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the waters around the island of Chindo recede to reveal a long path connecting Hoedong-ri with the neighboring Modo-ri. The seaway is formed because of the great difference between the ebb and flow of the tide. The path is 10 to 40 meters wide and 2.9 km long.
This phenomenon occurs regardless of the speed of the tide or waves. Every year, around half a million foreign tourists and local tourists come to witness this marvelous phenomenon in February of the lunar calendar.
A variety of lively festivals take place to mark the occasion such as Kanggangsuwollae (Korean traditional circle dance), Ssitkim-gut (a shaman ritual, consoling the souls of the dead), Dul Norae (songs people sing while working in the fields), Tashiraegi, Manga (songs of consolation sung at burial ceremonies), and Puknori (drum performance). A French Ambassador, who visited Chindo Island in 1975, first introduced “Chindo’s Sea Way” to the world, by contributing an article to a French newspaper saying that he has seen Moses’ Miracle in Korea.
In 1996, the Japanese popular singer Taentoyosiri sang about Chindo’s Sea Way, which was a great hit. This song motivated a lot of Japanese tourists. To visit the site:
5. Possible Alternatives. Ibn Sina suggests that miracles and other extraordinary events occur because some humans enjoy a powerful soul that can influence nature. He argues as any human soul can influence his own body, they have the power to exceed this power to other materials. Levitation, thought reading, hypnotism and evil eyes are ordinary examples of this influencing power.
Imagine you are a plant. In the world of plants it is impossible in the natural movement of a plant to move from one continent to another. But a human can interfere and move a plant thousands of miles away just in a few hours.
Therefore, our senses can only claim the relation between two phenomena but cannot scientifically claim that A is the only cause of B. Thus, a miracle is not the violation of a natural law; it is introducing a new cause to a particular effect.
As a matter of fact, given the scientific progress of the last two centuries in medicine for example, diseases that were considered mysterious are now understood without appeal to supernatural powers. Thus, if today’s medicine cannot cure a born blind, it is not rational to assert it is rationally impossible to cure a born blind.
Dr. Paul Feyeraben: Against Method (1924-1994)
The Austrian physicist and scientist who perhaps due to a personal experience of his health problem not only lost his faith in western medicine but in science in general and promoted the school of postmodernism or decentralism.
In his book ‘Against Method’ he argues that there is no scientific method and as such we can’t justify science as the best way of acquiring knowledge. The truth, he argues, is that: “Science is much closer to myth than a scientific philosophy is prepared to admit. It is one of the many forms of thought that have been developed by man, and not necessarily the best.”7
6. Descriptive or Prescriptive. We were told that natural laws differ from national laws in that the first is descriptive and hence cannot be changed. One can claim that natural law is descriptive to us since we do not make them, we only discover them, but for the Maker of the natural laws it is possible to be prescriptive. For instance, national law for any ordinary citizen is descriptive as he cannot change it, but for the members of the parliament it is prescriptive. Similarly, natural laws for us as humans are descriptive, but for God who made these laws, it is prescriptive and He can order fire not to burn or harm His Prophet Ibrahim.
‘It is a miracle!’ Many physicians have experienced situations during their careers whereby something out of the ordinary and contrary to their medical knowledge had happened; they call it a miracle. We have witnessed many patients diagnosed with fatal diseases, who without any scientific explanation, and ironically ‘impossible,’ were cured. The Shrines of our Imams (a.s) have cured many miraculously.
Could strong historical evidence prove the occurrence of miracles?
First of all as Swinburne8 stated, it is unfortunate that Hume was so bigoted in his views by refusing to face facts, in that he claimed even if there is ample historical evidence for the occurrence of miracles, we cannot accept them.
Secondly, there can be three different ways of finding the occurrence of an event in the past:
a. By the means of remembering it.
b. The ample and excessive number of eye witnesses narrating it,
c. From the remaining physical impacts
Any of the above methods are acceptable so far as they do not report a rational or scientifically impossible event.
Does testimony of the followers of different religions on their miracles destroy their testimony as Hume claimed?
The fallacy of his argument is that a miracle is a proof for the truth and authenticity of prophet-hood of a prophet not a proof for all the present teachings of those religions.
From the Islamic point of view, all previous prophets are true and we believe in them as well as their miracles unless its narration contradicts the fundamental teachings of religions. The difference between Islam and today’s Christianity is about the wrong concepts imported and fabricated doctrines of churches.
If one persists to argue about the authenticity of historical miracles, we can still prove the possibility of miracles by the virtue of the still present living miracles of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). And the best proof for the possibility of something is its occurrence.
1. The Qiblah of Masjedul-Nabi
2. The Quran
4. Religious Possibility
Any reported miracle from Prophets is religiously possible in so far as their occurrence is not contrary to the sublime teachings of divine religions. Thus, although the Christian narration of the miracle of Jesus, that he had supposedly changed water to wine without any known catalyst, is not rationally or even scientifically impossible, but religiously is impossible and hence cannot be historically agreed upon either.