Saturday, June 21, 2014, 7:54 AM
One of the most insidious forms of bigotry is intolerance of religious certainty. To believe in God at all requires a leap of faith. No one can show God to us or describe Him to us in terms that would allow us to know Him except that we have innate knowledge of Him and of His promise to return us to Him in the end. Our life experience tells some of us that we can trust God's conspicuous Message—that it will guide us to righteousness—and that God will keep every promise made. Either we spend our lives confirming our faith in God or we spend our lives pushing God away. Of this I am certain. But I understand that there are others who have found nothing that inspires their absolute trust.
Certainty of faith is not indeliberate. It begins with acknowledgement of God and a personal need for refuge that can only be found with God, the Creator. Ultimately, from deep within one's soul, the decision is made to submit one's will to the will of God. Submission is supported by prayer, fasting, and the purification of giving charity. It endures trial and suffering. It sacrifices worldly desire for an unbreakable friendship with God. It meets each personal failure with acknowledgement and humility and a sincere request for God's forgiveness and a prayer for help in persevering. It is a life spent seeking knowledge and community with other Believers.
God is One; God is Eternal and Absolute. He exceeds anything we can imagine. We can only know of Him what He reveals to us. Some of us find refuge in the assurance that God keeps every promise and that God has made clear what worldly pleasures He allows us or denies us. We want to know what our rights and responsibilities with God are and we want to be assured that they will not shift just because other paradigms shift. Others choose a different way. God allows them that. Who would I be to deny them?
Saturday, April 19, 2014, 10:43 AM
Abraham is indeed an excellent example for those whose hope is in God and the Last Day. He was devoutly obedient to God, true in Faith; he did not join gods with God. He was tried by his Lord with certain commands which he fulfilled. So God rendered Abraham pure in this world; in the Hereafter, he will be in the ranks of the Righteous. Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to God, does good work, and follows the way of Abraham, the true in Faith, the one God took for His friend?
And those who have their hopes in the Hereafter believe without joining other gods with the One True God. They believe steadfastly in the revelation given to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus. They believe in all revelation to all prophets from their Lord, without making a difference between one and another of them. They follow the way that finds it's fulfillment in truth and justice; they avoid the common run of those who lead away from the Way of God.
For those who reject faith, God grants them their pleasure for a while but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire. These are the ones who dispute about the Word of God. They have no warrant, only the vain desires of their own hearts. They seek to make the Path crooked even while they are witnesses to God's Covenant. But God is enough against those who are in schism. Some of them conceal the Truth which they themselves know. They believe neither in God nor the Last Day. They distort the Book with their tongues, speaking as though their lies are actually written into the Book. They are perverted transgressors who seek for other than the religion of God. In the Hereafter they will be among those who have lost all spiritual good. Their reward will be that on them rests the curse of God, God's angels, and all mankind. Except for those who repent and make amends; verily, God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Abraham did plead with God for the people of Lot, for Abraham was, without doubt, forbearing of faults, compassionate, and given to look to God. But the people of Lot were deep in sin; they committed lewdness such as no people in Creation had committed before. Abraham's answer was that the Decree of his Lord had gone forth against these people and cannot be turned back. So when God's Decree was issued, He destroyed the cities except for Lot and his family because Lot and his family were righteous people. And none can plead the case of those who refuse to be guided.
Monday, December 14, 2009, 7:52 PM
The Inviolable House of Worship is under the jurisdiction of the people of Saudi Arabia. Of course, the endeavors of men are always imperfect—no one knows this better than God. If perfection were required, God might have sent down a band of angels to maintain the Ka’bah. The one thing I hope the Saudis never change is their policy of not allowing non-Muslims to build their houses of worship there. This is the site of the first masjid ever set up by God for mankind. Richly blessed by God, it is a source of guidance unto all the worlds. God made it a place where Believers might retreat often for prayer. Wherever Muslims are in the world, God commands that we turn toward the Inviolable House for prayer. Abraham once stood there and prayed with his son, Ishmael. God commanded Abraham and Ishmael to purify this House making it a sanctuary only for the worship of the One True God. All who believe in God and the Last Day may pray there; God only forbids those who reject clear guidance. Why should Unbelievers be allowed to erect their monuments to falsehood in the vicinity of what God has established?
How can there be any doubt that Islam is completely free of bigotry and prejudice when it is the Word of God that we uphold? Bigotry and prejudice are the fruits of weakness, fear, and ignorance. God is All-Powerful, All-Knowing, and Sovereign Lord. Everything from God is pure, beneficent and merciful to all who embrace it.
Islam is not for the faint of heart, not for those who are brought low when others find fault, not for those who think themselves enlightened by the human experience and not in need of the guidance that can only come from God, Most High.
Sunday, July 5, 2009, 3:58 PM
Ramadhan is a time for acts of worship, a time for introspection, and a time for seeking the purification of our souls. It is a time to ask forgiveness of our sins and to forgive those who have transgressed against us. It is a time for deliberate acts of charity. As this year's Ramadhan approaches, we see the politicization of the act of giving charity. Some say that in an effort to suppress financing of terrorism, US laws have suppressed charitable giving by Muslims. Some have said that if not allowed to give to charities outside the United States, they cannot or will not complete this religious obligation.
Perhaps because the Arabic zakat is often translated as tax, for some of us its significance has become more worldly than spiritual. The spiritual importance of giving charity is emphasized in the Holy Qur'an by its inclusion--with prayer--in many verses. Prayer and charity exemplify righteousness. Prayer and charity are goods we send forth for the benefit of our souls. We give charity, with hearts full of fear, seeking God's countenance, and hoping that some of our sins will be forgiven. Giving charity saves us from the covetousness of our souls and acknowledges that all that we are given is merely a loan to us from God and that therein is the right of those who have been given less.
Forgoing this part of our religion would mean willfully neglecting a requirement God has given. In this circumstance it would mean replacing the criteria God has given with your own invented criteria. Are you prepared to stand before God on the Day of Judgment and declare that in your neighborhoods, in your towns, and in the country where you have chosen to live, you found no person or organization that met God's criteria for receiving your charity?
It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards east or West; but it is righteousness to believe in God 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 God-fearing. (Holy Qur'an, II:177)
Saturday, April 25, 2009, 11:45 PM
Why does Islamic financing look like usury? On a recent episode of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly (April 10, 2009), Hussam Qutub, Director of Communications for Guidance Residential, explained how his company helps a family purchase a home. After the family makes a qualifying down payment, the home is purchased with the family and Guidance as co-owners. In lieu of interest the family pays Guidance a monthly fee. With each payment the family makes, their ownership increases while the financier's ownership decreases. As with other financial institutions, if the borrower should default on the loan, Guidance will foreclose, but only after "trying to work things out."
Reading the final verses of the second chapter of the Holy Qur'an (Al-Baqara), beginning with verse 270, we find that the true concern in the charging of interest is its lack of charity and lack of concern for the needs of our neighbors. If a neighbor comes to us with a need, those of us who submit to God, will help without profit or benefit to ourselves. If it becomes difficult for him to repay, the devout among us will remit the debt as charity.
Those who devour usury will not stand except as stand one whom the Evil one by his touch Hath driven to madness. That is because they say: "Trade is like usury," but God hath permitted trade and forbidden usury. Those who after receiving direction from their Lord, desist, shall be pardoned for the past; their case is for God (to judge); but those who repeat (The offence) are companions of the Fire: They will abide therein (for ever). (2:275)
In trade, one agrees to pay for a product or service at a price the seller and buyer both agree is fair. In usury, one person has a difficulty that compels him to ask for help. The usurer agrees to a loan but only if the debtor agrees to repay more than what is loaned. If the debtor's difficulty continues, the usurer adds more fees until the amount of the debt is perhaps doubled or multiplied.
O ye who believe! Devour not usury, doubled and multiplied; but fear God that ye may (really) prosper. (3:130)
How is it that Islamic scholars have so clearly missed the mark on what God forbids? According to an article on Forbes.com, "Islamic Finance" (April 21, 2008), Islamic finance is booming. With only twenty men said to be qualified to determine Sharia compliance, each scholar sits on from ten to forty compliance boards and annually earns ten thousand to one million dollars for each seat. And Islamic financing is projected to grow to up to one trillion dollars in the next few years.
It is disingenuous to say that Islamic financing is investing or risk sharing. Huge profits are being generated not by the buying and selling of goods and services but by usury. Without a clear understanding of what God truly allows, some Muslims are opting not only to pay interest--cloaked as something else--but to pay at a rate higher than if they chose traditional financing.
The foundation for truly Islamic financing must be charity; it must be a system that allows those who have more than they need to assist those who would otherwise not meet their needs. It must be void of any opportunity to profit from the misery of those who are less fortunate, with only the desire to please God.
O ye who believe! Fear God, and give up what remains of your demand for usury, if ye are indeed believers.
If ye do it not, Take notice of war from God and His Messenger. But if ye turn back, ye shall have your capital sums: Deal not unjustly, and ye shall not be dealt with unjustly.