Fedwa Wazwaz

Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian- American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. By profession, she is a senior data warehouse programmer with the University of Minnesota. Read more about Fedwa Wazwaz.

Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz under Society, Education and literacy, Continuing education Updated: April 21, 2014 - 6:41 AM

"It is not for the swan to teach eaglets to sing."
-French & Danish Proverb

The Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota began a dialogue series called "Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!"

We had a dialogue on Abraham, the Angels, and Adam and Eve, upon them peace and blessings.  Our February dialogue was on Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, and one of our speakers was Dr. Terrance Nichols who recently passed away.  It was quite a shock to hear of his passing.

Those who knew Dr. Nichols, remember him for his kindness and being a great pioneer in interfaith relations.  His talk on Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, was extremely respectful.  He welcomed the dialogue series on the Prophets, and asked me to include Prophet Moses, upon him peace and blessings, as well.  It was sad to hear of his recent death.

In March, our dialogue explored Prophet David, upon him peace and blessings.  We had three speakers from the three Abrahamic faith community to explore his life and mission.  At the end of the program, some attendees were surprised that Muslims believed in the Biblical Prophets.

We continue this Sunday, April 27th, after Christians celebrated Easter on a dialogue of Jesus.  

Who is Jesus?  

Maybe it depends on who you ask…

Join us April 27 as we ask two well-respected local leaders familiar with the question. 

Their answers may well surprise you.

Dan Collison is Senior Pastor of First Covenant Church, Minneapolis, a Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research Fellow, key organizer of the Minneapolis Multi-Faith Network, and the President of the East Downtown Council business Association in Downtown Minneapolis. He received a Doctoral degree in Ministry from Fuller Seminary (CA), a Master’s degree in Divinity from Bethel Seminary (MN), and a Bachelor’s degree from The Eastman School of Music (NY). Before becoming a pastor, Dan—and his wife, Holly—ran an adult foster care home for men with developmental disabilities where he learned the importance and rewards of servanthood.

Owais Bayunus originally from Pakistan, has traveled and lived in several Muslim countries from where he has gathered fresh information about Islam and the lives of Prophets of Gods and their meaning from the original sources. After graduating from Cornell, where he was first introduced to interfaith teachings, and as former President of the Islamic Center of Minnesota, and chairman of Interfaith Dialog, he has spoken several times on the life of Jesus (pbuh) and Mary, in Colleges, Schools and religious institutions in USA and Overseas. He has also written several articles on the life of this very remarkable person in the history of the World, revered by the adherents of both, the Worlds largest religion Christianity and the second largest religion Islam.

For those who cannot attend, below is an edited version of an article I wrote in the past.  

According to Islamic teachings:

Jesus, son of Mary, peace and blessings upon them, is a revered religious figure and the bedrock of Christianity. He also is a venerated figure in Islam, the faith of some 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, said: “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary, peace and blessings upon him. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”

Like Christians, Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, upon him be peace, and in his miracles. Jesus’ life and mission are mentioned in eleven chapters of the Qur’an. A few of the chapters are titled: Maryam (Mary the mother of Jesus); Imran (noble family of Jesus), and Ma’ida (the Last Supper). Jesus, upon him be peace, is glorified in the Qur’an and is referred to as “the Messiah,” “a Word of God,” and “a Sign of God.”

Muslims regard Jesus, upon him be peace, as one of the mightiest messengers of God. He and his supporter, John the Baptist, and John’s father, Zachariah, are two other prophets of God and are of an unbroken noble lineage going back to the patriarch of monotheism, Abraham. Peace and blessings upon them all.

His miraculous birth began when his maternal grandmother, Hanna, who was barren, prayed for a child to devote to God’s service. God answered her prayer by giving her Mary. The Quran calls Mary “the most honored woman among all nations.”

When Mary, upon her be peace, matured, Archangel Gabriel came to her and said: “‘O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter, and of (the company of) those nearest to God.’ “

Being a chaste virgin, Mary could not comprehend this news.

Gabriel comforted her by explaining that, when God wishes to create anything, He says, “Be,” and it is. Muslims find similarities between Jesus’ birth and that of Adam, peace and blessings upon them, who was created without a father or mother. 

Jesus’ miraculous birth was a sign to people of the spiritual world who understood the spirit of the Divine Law.  As Jesus, upon him peace, said in the Bible - he did not come to destroy the Divine Law, but to fulfil it, holistically.

The Laws of God were not meant for those in power to dominate the weak, but to protect the weak from the exploitation of the strong. During Jesus’ time, the laws of God were divorced from the spirit of God. The Laws became an end instead of a means to nurture hearts and aid humanity in their worship of God.

Like every woman, Mary, upon her be peace, suffered during childbirth, but her suffering was compounded by her fear of how she would explain her pregnancy to her noble family. Muslims believe Jesus, peace and blessings upon him, performed his first miracle in the cradle by defending his mother’s honor to her family and people.

Muslims do not believe in original sin or that Jesus’ death was atonement for our sins. Rather, Muslims believe Jesus’ mission was to repair the misapplication and abuse of the Divine Law, and complement the legalism of the Torah and the prevalent materialism at the time with humility and spirituality, which were missing in his time.

Like many prophets who were empowered by miracles to suit their time and circumstances, Jesus, upon him be peace, was empowered by God to communicate divinity not only in words but by many miracles as well. Jesus, the son of Mary, upon him be peace, said, “God has given me the power to give life to the dead, sight to the blind, sound to the deaf; but He did not give me the power to heal the fool of his foolishness.”

Muslims believe after plots were made to kill Jesus, upon him be peace, he was not crucified but raised to the Heavens like the Biblical figures Enoch and Elijah. It may surprise many to know that Muslims await the second coming of Jesus, this time he will come back again as a just ruler, like Moses and Muhammad, peace and blessings upon them.  He will marry, have children and lead a war against the oppressors on earth and die a natural death.

Although there are differences between the Muslim and Christian view of Jesus, upon him be peace, the Qur’an repeatedly guides Muslims not to dispute with other monotheists over matters of doctrine. 

Please join us this coming Sunday and bring your questions to our speakers.

When
Sunday, April 27
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Where
Islamic Center of Minnesota
1401 Gardena Ave. NE
Fridley, MN  55432

Parking
Participants in the Muslim Christian Dialogue are invited to park on the street, in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Minnesota or in the parking lot of Totino Grace High School directly across the street.

Please foward to friends and family and spread the word.  

Conversation with Qays Arthur on Guidance and Faith 7

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz under Society, Education and literacy, Continuing education Updated: March 26, 2014 - 5:32 AM

"O 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. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).  
Qur'an (49:13)

Through a conversation with Shakyh Qays Arthur, I began a series which explored some spiritual aspects behind faith and guidance in accordance with Islamic teachings.  The series ended with a discussion on surrender from the perspective of self-knowledge.  

At times understanding ourselves comes through challenges with others.  These challenges force us to face parts of ourselves that we need to work on and that we need to open up to.  Hwaa Irfan summed it best in the following advice:

"We can learn much about ourselves from the challenges that bring out our impatience, our bigotry, our lack of compassion, our need to control or to be a victim of circumstance, our ability to give and receive, and our ability to accept our own selves thus others. We are presented with an opportunity to realize what is really important, and that we are not perfect, and that we have a few issues of our own that we need to work on, or to better ourselves so that we may help others. If we are impatient for example, we ask ourselves why are we so impatient, but we do not ask and answer the question ourselves. How can we answer the question, when we still think, and perceive as before. When we think and perceive a situation without change, nothing actually changes, so we must wait for the answer to present itself to us. This will come to us in many ways, but in that process changes will be taking place within us to ready us for the answer, and to be open to that answer. By doing so, we learn more about ourselves, and are more ready to for the next stage in our jihad an nafs (struggle of the soul)!" 

We will now address some questions as promised.   Before doing so, let me address some confusion that was made apparent in the comments section.  There were some comments in the last blog that raised some issues regarding their understanding of the Qur’an.  The Qur'an was revealed in a span of 23 years, and changes were taking place to prepare Muslims to receive its revelation.  As the Qur’an was revealed – Muslims were not sitting down in a classroom learning it divorced from life and its challenges, but they were prepared internally either through trials, hardships or challenges with others to fully receive its wisdom and understanding.

At times accusations are made about the Qur’an as a book promoting hatred and violence.  A few verses that teach or guide Muslims on how to respond in times of extreme conflict like facing ethnic cleansing or genocide are taken as a general rule with how to coexist with others.  The general rule that promotes coexistence are found in the following verses:

“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.  Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.” (60:8-9)

If we read the Qur’an in selective parts – we learn and understand nothing.  We must read it as a whole, and reconcile all its verses as a whole.  Hence, understanding the Qur'an requires study.  It is the book of God addressed to all of humanity till the end of time.   It is a book of wisdom that calls humanity to read, reflect, think, to verify, to investigate and seek to understand.  Some verses are very clear.  Some verses take time to understand, as they require us to grow to receive their wisdom.  Some verses lead to field of sciences to emerge.  For example, the laws of inheritance were the impetus behind Algebra. 

Wazwaz:  Shaykh Qays – in the first blog of this series, we discussed monotheism according to Islamic teachings.  You mentioned in that blog that the disconnection between Western Christianity and the Middle East as well as Muslims disconnection with earlier faith traditions.  You said:

"It therefore makes sense that a religion as thoroughly Semitic as Islam would be unrecognizable to them despite what is in their own books! Yet that disconnection is only perpetuated when we treat the Bible and Christianity as alien to our faith or when we look upon ourselves as some new, independent community as opposed to simply believers in God's final Prophet (peace be upon him) who continue in the legacy of the prophets of the Bible (peace be upon them all)."

That is an interesting point. Given your life experience how would you answer the following question:

"please explain how Islam can stake any claim to Adam. Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Had it not been for Moses, Islam would have no knowledge of Adam. You (or Mohammad) can not simply appropriate the words, works, deeds, etc., of an historical figure and fold them into your religion as if they belonged there all along."

Shaykh Qays:  Well the short answer to “explain how Islam can stake any claim to Adam” is: through God, the Creator of Adam, Moses (peace be upon them), and the questioner. In point of fact, as attested to by the Pentateuch itself, Moses was not its author; rather it was dictated to him by God.  Other books of the Hebrew Bible contain inspired writings of prophets as well as sages, in addition to direct revelation from God – all attributed to other than Moses yet ultimately the believer sees them all as having legitimacy from God.

If one does not accept the Divine authorship of scripture, choosing instead to belie what the scriptures claim of themselves and designate their authorship to the men who bore and transmitted them, then one will never be able to grasp “how Islam can stake any claim” to anything in previous scriptures. In fact, given what I mentioned about other books in the Hebrew Bible how can those books lay claim to what they claim. The answer is: through God.

So for Muslims there is nothing to explain or justify and there is no misappropriation taking place as the question seems to imply. The same Entity that the Bible calls men to worship and the same Entity that the Bible declares it was revealed and inspired by, has revealed the Quran. It's that simple.

Wazwaz:  The following question is regarding our last blog. Why did God ask Satan to kneel before another creation and why did Satan's refusal mean he is arrogant?

Shaykh Qays:  God commanded the Angels, in whose company Satan was, to prostrate towards Adam as an acknowledgment of the veneration and respect that God bestowed on Adam. It was an act of worship and obedience to the Lord of Adam, Most High. In a similar manner when Muslims pray today we prostrate in the direction of the Ka'ba in Makkah, thereby acknowledging its God-given status, because the Lord of the Ka'ba commanded that prayer be done in that manner. No one was commended to worship a creature be it the Adam (peace be upon him) or the Ka'ba.

Satan refused to heed the command not due to a misunderstanding or a slip but it was a willful refusal on the basis of his superiority complex – he felt he was better than another creature despite the fact that God Himself accorded that other creature a superior status. Arrogance doesn't get much better than that.

Wazwaz:  There seems to be confusion on fear from a questioner.  Healthy fear pushes people to know.  Unhealthy fear pushes people to insularity.  God mentions in the Qur'an that only people of knowledge have fear of God.  He equates fear of Him with knowledge of Him.  It is not a fear of the unknown, but a fear grounded in knowledge and reality.  I noted that humility is best defined as fearing God.  When we accept who we are, thus others, we also accept who God is - Majestic and Lord of the Worlds.  That fear pushes us to know Him and abide by His commands instead of to oppose and challenge Him.  One questioner felt equating fear with humility is unhealthy.  I also want to share a quote by Martin Luther King on this.

“Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyzes us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives. Our problem is not to be rid of fear but, rather to harness and master it.”

How would you respond?

Shakyh Qays:  I tend to agree with the questioner precisely because of what you mentioned about healthy versus unhealthy fear. That is, I would say that equating unhealthy fear with humility is a mistake. I would add that unhealthy fear is any fear that is for other than God or for the sake of God, just as unhealthy love is love for other than God or his sake. One constant message of the Quran is that the believer should fear none besides God – it is part of worshiping none besides Him.

The fear of God is based on the worshiper’s knowledge of His sheer unfathomable, awesome perfection – manifested in justice and overwhelming power - and it is always to be counterbalanced with love of God which is based on the worshiper’s knowledge of His sheer unfathomable, beautiful perfection – manifested in mercy and disarming tenderness. The one who is characterized by that kind of healthy, knowledge-based fear cannot help but be humble and submissive. On the other hand, unhealthy fear such as of that of losing one’s prestige or wealth, or being wronged by creatures like an evil tyrant or criminal should never be associated with humility. For that reason being defiant and apparently arrogant before a tyrant or criminal may actually be a good thing when the situation calls for it, while being humble in the face of evil is blameworthy.

Wazwaz:  Satan is quoted in the Qur'an as having fear of God.  Yet, he challenges God's knowledge and seeks time till the day of Judgment to show that God's decision to choose Adam as representative is wrong.  Even though he had knowledge of God, it was a distorted and twisted knowledge - since he had a false sense of who he was.  Would you agree?

Shaykh Qays:  Satan is not characterized as one of the God-fearing in the Quran. He is characterized as a disbeliever who was one of the God-fearing but was ruined by arrogance. He has knowledge of God and the greater realities of the unseen but he lacks faith which requires what in Arabic is called idh'an or accepting and submitting to what one knows. Satan knows reality but opposes it. His knowledge is against him and not for him. So in the sense that his knowledge is against him due to his arrogance I would agree that it is distorted. May Allah be our refuge from arrogance and knowledge that does not benefit us.

Wazwaz:  Since you are a teacher and student of sacred knowledge - what experience can you share that helped you or challenged you to see things differently to understand others?

Shaykh Qays:  At the risk of opening a whole new area of discussion as we close this one I will say that without doubt going to Saudi Arabia was a life-changing experience for me. By suddenly being immersed in a traditional and particularly austere Muslim culture and environment I learned, not only about the country and people, but also about myself in the process.

Saudi Arabia, to a Westerner, is a very “different” or “other” place – even for a Muslim from the West. It became apparent to me how important appreciating and understanding others is to self-knowledge. I also gained a new appreciation of the Sharia and the mercy that is inherent in its limits, prescriptions and proscriptions. Against the backdrop of the Sharia I could not only see how Saudi morality is influenced by their culture and norms but I could see the same with my own view of morality.

I thus also saw how misguided and potentially dangerous it can be to reduce the Sharia, the principles of which ensure that morality is upheld across different cultures, to one's own cultural manifestations while denying the legitimacy of others. To me that mistake is the result of looking at the religion, the Sharia, others, and the world through the narrow, impoverished lens of the sociologist or anthropologist or other such investigator whose judgment is deficient of genuine spirituality.

The reality is that God is greater than all of that and religion and Sharia are about Him and seeing the world through Him. That is the way of the prophets, the way of their leader Muhammad (God's peace be upon them all), and the way of Islam.

#End

Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz under Society, Education and literacy, Continuing education Updated: March 9, 2014 - 11:08 PM

"The rabbits' eye differs from that of the owl."   
--Greek Poverb

In 2013, the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota began a dialogue series called "Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!"

In previous months, we had a dialogue on Abraham, the Angels, Adam and Eve, and last month on Prophet Muhammad, upon them peace and blessings.  In March, we will continue our dialogue series with a dialogue on David, upon him peace.

For Muslims, all prophets are spiritual brothers, with Prophet Muhammad being the last and final messenger of God in this long chain of prophets.  As a Muslim, I know of their stories through the Qur'an and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)

King David's honor and import spans religious traditions.  In Judaism, he is remembered as the legendary second King of Israel and ancestor of the coming messiah.  In Christianity, he is known as the forefather of Jesus and the psalmist.  In Islam, he is a king and a Prophet revered for his righteous wisdom and willingness to stand against oppression.  

Everyone knows of the David and Goliath story.  According to Islamic teachings - the story has a beautiful dimension that is not discussed much.  When David fought Goliath - it was not a fight of someone wanting to be a hero.  David, upon him peace, was not someone with a savior complex.  David, upon him peace, did not see his strength in face of Goliath, or Goliath's power in his face, but the whole journey was a journey of David's reliance on God's Strength and witnessing God's Greatness and Power over every power.  The David and Goliath story is a story of a faithful few who witnessed the power and presence of God in their submission to His Commands after struggling to be true in word and deed to Him.

When Talut(David) set forth with the armies, he said: "Allah will test you at the stream: if any drinks of its water, He goes not with my army: Only those who taste not of it go with me: A mere sip out of the hand is excused." but they all drank of it, except a few

Then when he had crossed it along with those who believed with him, they said: "This day We cannot cope with Goliath and his forces." but those who were convinced that they must meet Allah, said: "How oft, by Allah's will, Hath a small force vanquished a big one? Allah is with those who steadfastly persevere." 

When they advanced to meet Goliath and his forces, they prayed: "Our Lord! Pour out constancy on us and make our steps firm: Help us against those that reject faith." 

By Allah's will they routed them; and David slew Goliath; and Allah gave him power and wisdom and taught him whatever (else) He willed. And did not Allah Check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief: But Allah is full of bounty to all the worlds. These are the Signs of Allah: we rehearse them to thee in truth: verily Thou [O Muhammad] art one of the messengers. (Qur'an: 249-252)

This month, our conversation will be led by Dr. Cameron Howard, Zafar Siddiqui and Rabbi David Wirtschafter.

Cameron Howard is assistant professor of the Old Testament at Luther Seminary.  She is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature.  Howard has published in a number of commentaries and journals including “New Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary” (Abingdon, 2010) and Word & World.  She is a contributor to WorkingPreacher.org and EntertheBible.org, where she co-hosts the podcast series “Everything You Wanted to Know About the Bible (But Were Afraid to Ask)."

Zafar Siddiqui is a co-founder of the Islamic Resource Group (IRG), an educational outreach organization dedicated to building bridges between Muslims and people of other faiths. He currently serves as the director of interfaith and civic relations at IRG.  Siddiqui serves on the advisory board of the Muslim Christian Dialogue Center (MCDC) at the University of St. Thomas. He is a member of the Twin Cities Interfaith Network (TCIN) and is active in several interfaith and diversity-related initiatives in the Twin Cities. 

Rabbi David Wirtschafter has served congregations in California, New Hampshire, and New York, and is currently rabbi of the Ames Jewish Congregation in Iowa. Raised in Minneapolis, he graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in English literature and from Hebrew Union College in New York with an M.A. degree in Hebrew literature. Actively involved in interfaith dialogue, social justice, and community service, he is a playful storyteller and a serious scholar who has given presentations on a wide variety of topics.  Much of Rabbi Wirtschafter’s current research focuses on troubling biblical texts and contemporary critiques of religion and on intelligent responses to both from within Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities.

If you cannot make it this month, watch for more dialogues in our series as we explore individuals revered as Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise to learn and dialogue about Jesus (April 27) and Solomon (May 18).  Upon them peace.

NOTE: In recognition of Easter Sunday, April's dialogue will break our regular pattern.  Instead of the third Sunday of the month, we will gather together April 27th for a dialogue of Jesus.
 


When
Sunday, March 16
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Where
Islamic Center of Minnesota
1401 Gardena Ave. NE
Fridley, MN  55432

Parking
Participants in the Muslim Christian Dialogue are invited to park on the street,  in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Minnesota or in the parking lot of Totino Grace High School directly across the street.

Please foward to friends and family and spread the word.  We hope you can make it and open your heart and listen to three great speakers!  

RSVP Now

Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz under Education and literacy, Continuing education Updated: February 11, 2014 - 4:55 AM

The first duty of love is to listen.
--Paul Tillich

The Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota begain a dialogue series called "Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise!"

We had a dialogue on Abraham, the Angels, Adam and Eve, upon them peace and blessings.  In February, we will continue our dialogue series with a dialogue on Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings.

For Muslims, he is the seal of the Prophets and the universal messenger.  Did you know Muslims believe the Bible predicts his coming? And while some Christians thought he was the Antichrist, others believed God used him to end paganism in the Middle East?

Join us Sunday, February 16 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. as the Muslim Christian Dialogue, a partnership of the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota, presents a dialogue of Muhammad.  

A sign of his great love was that he listened to everyone before judging to the extent that he was mocked for his listening skills.

"Among them are men who abuse the Prophet and say, 'He is (all) ear.' Say, 'He listens to what is best for you: he believes in Allah, has faith in the Believers, and is a Mercy to those of you who believe.' But those who abuse the Messenger will have a grievous penalty." (9:61)

This month, our conversation will be lead by Mohamed El-Tayash and Dr. Terrance Nichols.

Mohamed El-Tayash teaches Islamic Studies and social studies classes at Al-Amal School in Fridley.  He has a BA in both philosophy and history from the University of Missouri.  He is currently working towards a graduate degree in education from Hamline University.  For the past 8 years, he has been studying topics in Islamic Theology through Darul Qasim in Chicago, IL, an educational institute in traditional Islamic knowledge for adults.

Dr. Terrance Nichols is a professor of Theology and director of the Muslim Christian Dialogue Center at St. Thomas University.  He received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Marquette University.  He has published three books and numerous articles on various aspects of the Christian faith.  He travels frequently to share his knowledge and vision with others globally.  

If you cannot make it this month, watch for more dialogues in our series as we explore individuals revered as Prophets, Patriarchs, & People of Promise to learn and dialogue about David, Jesus and more...  Upon them peace and blessings!


When
Sunday, February 16
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Where
Islamic Center of Minnesota
1401 Gardena Ave. NE
Fridley, MN  55432

Parking
Participants in the Muslim Christian Dialogue are invited to park on the street,  in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of Minnesota or in the parking lot of Totino Grace High School directly across the street.

Please foward to friends and family and spread the word.  We hope you can make it and open your heart and listen to two great speakers!  

RSVP here

 

Conversation with Qays Arthur on Faith and Guidance 6f

Posted by: Fedwa Wazwaz under Education and literacy, Continuing education Updated: January 5, 2014 - 11:03 AM

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.
--Proverbs 9

This conversation is continuation to a series of conversations toward understanding Islam and Muslims. It is not a debating piece, but a reflective one. It is meant to clarify some of the confusion on Islamic beliefs. We are coming to the end of the discussion on submission.  This will end the conversation on faith and guidance as well.  We will address any questions in the next blog, and then start a new series on God. 

The beginning parts of the conversation on self-knowledge or surrender are: 6a6b6c6d and 6e.  In this blog, I hope to address two issues that enable Islamophobia.  First, we cannot know another if we do not truly know ourselves.  Second, the importance of humility, which to me is best defined as fearing God.  If you authentically know yourself and your liimitations, you are ready to know the Divine as He is, not as you want Him to be to serve you.  He is Majestic and not vindictive.  He is the Lord of the Worlds, and not a personal god that cares only for a select elite.  Hence, fearing God is due to His Majesty, His reality and embedded in love, which nurtures us up the steep road of guidance and purification and enables us to repent everytime we stumble and fall.  This leads to wisdom that allow us to know the other, despite their differences.   The blog is quite detailed and long and requires some thought and reflection.  Again, the verses below are used in the discussion:

(Qur’an al-Waqia: 80-86)
“A Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. Is it such a Message that ye would hold in light esteem? And have ye made it your livelihood that ye should declare it false? Then why do ye not (intervene) when (the soul of the dying man) reaches the throat,- And ye the while (sit) looking on,- But We are nearer to him than ye, and yet see not,- Then why do ye not,- If you are exempt from (future) account,- Call back the soul, if ye are true (in the claim of independence)?”

(Qur’an Ta-Ha: 14-16)
"Verily, I am Allah: There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only), and establish regular prayer for celebrating My praise. ”Verily the Hour is coming - My design is to keep it hidden - for every soul to receive its reward by the measure of its Endeavour. "Therefore let not such as believe not therein but follow their own lusts, divert thee therefrom, lest thou perish!"

Wazwaz:  Let me bring your attention to the verses from the chapter Ta-Ha.  In previous blogs, we discussed the importance of purification in faith.  We had a discussion on Satan, the avid worshipper, who was near to God – praying all the time.  Yes, he could not acknowledge or know Prophet Adam, upon him peace, in truth.  The Angels asked God why Adam was chosen as representative on earth, but Satan just did not want to know.  What happened with him in reflection on these verses?

Shaykh Qays:  In the chapter Al-Baqara (The Cow), God reveals what happened. The scholarly commentary of the Qur’an tells us – that angels were sent to purge the earth from elements that caused corruption on it. Satan was a jinn, a spirit being, and he was of renowned devotion and ability, in the company of a group of angels who cleansed the earth of its corrupt elements. When that task was finished, Satan's heart swerved as a sense of accomplishment gave way to an astounding arrogance. God was, of course, aware of that swerving in his heart and at that moment said to the angels that He will put a representative on earth. Satan, in his arrogance, felt that that rank belonged to him after all that he had accomplished. He felt a sense of entitlement.

After Adam, the first human and representative of God on earth, was created that group of angels, along with Satan, was commanded to prostrate towards him as a sign of respect. All of them prostrated except Satan who, overcome by arrogance and envy couldn't bring himself to obey. Instead he refused and said he was better than Adam, he did not say he was better than God, but his rejection of the command was clear disbelief.  

Now he disbelieved despite his knowledge of the truth. He knew the truth and he had knowledge of God, but he refused to submit due to a false and haughty sense of self-worth and entitlement.

Wazwaz:  You said that Satan had knowledge of God.  For people who accept faith and worship God, what lesson can we learn from him and his downfall?  Can we assume we arrived simply because we worship God?

Shaykh Qays:  Well, his heart changed despite profuse worship.  From the time he was created, all that time he was worshipping, God knew his final outcome.  We have to be aware that the outward showcase of faith should not bring self-satisfaction and a sense of entitlement.  Satan worshiped and felt a sense of success, which allowed this self-deception to creep into his heart. Scholars of Muslim spirituality, known as Sufis, say that you either worship God with a gaze that is toward Him, or toward your ego.  So worship could be a journey in the spiritual or just an ego trip. In Satan's fall there is a clear message: that true worship entails seeing oneself as a servant of God, and grasping that things are only significant to the extent that they are connected to God. That is self-knowledge.

And that knowledge is important especially because it is not uncommon for religious people to end up worshipping the command, instead of God. They see virtue in the command itself, detached from God. This state represents a lack of self-knowledge which happens when there is little knowledge of God - little true faith.

Wazwaz: Given what we discussed, how would you compare acting on true faith and knowledge with rejection of faith?

Shaykh Qays: That question is of great significance for those who want to avoid deception, especially self-deception, in matters of faith. You hear the word kafir which is mistranslated as infidel. Insofar as the term connotes mere nonconformity it is inaccurate. A Kafir is someone who actively rejects truth, as opposed to someone who simply does not know.  Kuffar (the plural) are people who are antagonistic to truth. And there is quite a contrast between such a state and that of faith.

The world of faith is a world that is literate. A world that has knowledge. Literate in the sense of being able and willing to read and see the signs that point to the reality of God. That literacy was facilitated by the Prophets who taught it with their lives and blood: they made their claims, performed their miracles and they spoke the truth. They taught things to people and when people applied it in their lives, at all levels including the spiritual, they were found to be truthful.

According to Islamic teachings, Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings, is the last Prophet. So his true followers live their lives grounded in that knowledge, reading the world with that literacy. They are literate in that sense, that they can look at themselves and things around them and interpret them properly - in truth. And when we say they interpret it properly and in truth we mean that they can see it all leads back to Allah and none else. So that is what the world of faith is about, it is grounded in knowledge that gives direction and purpose. It is a world of purpose. They know what they are upon, why they are in this world, and they act in accordance with that knowledge.

The world of rejection of faith is a world of dhun - conjecture, and ghafla - heedlessness. Where the world of faith is a world of knowledge that leads to awareness and purpose, the world of kufr is ignorance or convention, conjecture, and superstition - and this brings about heedlessness. If you ask why do you do this - or worship like this - they say - this is how we found our fathers or people around us worshipping or doing.

My father, may Allah preserve him, he would point that out to me - that before becoming Muslim, he, like so many others, would act on convention without what we call niyya or purposeful intent. Work, marriage all "mundane" matters were based on convention without the keen awareness that true faith demands.

That heedlessness is the basis of misguidance and regardless of what label one assumes whether Muslim, Christian or otherwise if the teachings of the prophets are not heeded then one consigns oneself to that state of misguidance in which one's opinions, and more often feelings, reign supreme. Whatever feels good, sounds good, increases wealth, and facilitates pleasure is good and only the vilest infractions are frowned upon in such a state. That is in stark contrast to the state of one who indeed has faith.

Wazwaz: So you would agree that surrender or submission in Islam is not about feeling inferior or being submissive, but about embracing knowledge of who we really are, about self-knowledge and this requires having fear of God that is embedded in love?  Many want to love God in a manner that denies His Authority, His Majesty – as though He needs our permission regarding His commands.  It is an abusive love that doesn’t care if He is angry or displeased, but merely exist to serve us and please us.

Shaykh Qays: Being inferior to what?

Wazwaz: Well for example, some people argue that people, who believe in God, are just not using their minds, not thinking or researching. The argument is made that such people just have an inferiority complex, or attached to being inferior or an attachment to feeling weak, an attachment to feeling sad or victimhood complex.  A case in point is people with a dependency disorder are attached to feeling helpless and in need of others, very clingy, and seek out people who dominate them.  

Shaykh Qays: Surrender does entail acknowledging one's inferiority whenever one is inferior such as before God and the people He has blessed. But that is just part of acknowledging the truth and being humble. But by no means does the religion encourage complexes which by their nature affect judgment. As regards dependency the Sufis will tell you that it is only to the extent that one submits to and depends on God alone that one can achieve true independence from everything besides him, including one's own desires and ego.

Now there may be people who externalize their complexes with religion as people do with many other things but Islam is about positive action and moral responsibility. The Quran is emphatic that only those who believe and work will prosper and that when misfortune strikes the believers blame none but themselves. There is no room for complexes.

Wazwaz: Can you expand on that?  We addressed submission from the angle of self-knowledge.  In summary of what we discussed, how would you now answer the question what is submission or surrender to God in Islam?

Shaykh Qays: Submission or surrender to God is based on the truth that is contained in revelation. That knowledge calls us to interact with ourselves as individuals and other creatures in a particular way. It causes us to strive to achieve purpose that is with God. If you take away the purpose - then everything is lost - it anchors everything. Questions of purpose are called the big questions: Why we are here and where are we going to? It simply flies in the face of reason, intuition, and lived experience to deny meaning and purpose. Submission, given what was just said, is accepting the knowledge of our purpose as contained in revelation. When we speak about submission, it is not about being blind or ignorant believers. The knowledge is present. Revelation demands believers seek knowledge. Prophets did not come to uphold systems of government and perpetuate worldly power structures. They came to empower people through knowledge of the truth. So seeking knowledge is an obligation as is arriving at faith through reflection and thought that leads to conviction. The nature of revelation is individual accountability, individual awareness, and not blindly following clergy or Caliph. That happens though. People, Muslim and non-Muslim, follow blindly a human being instead of learning and worshiping God, they start worshipping, as it were, that individual blindly. However when that happens Religion is absent regardless of how those who are in that condition identify themselves. We ask Allah for His protection.

Wazwaz: However, some Muslims do blindly follow. They do not know who they are, but just blindly follow to belong. There is no awareness of how they are being brainwashed, what emotional blackmail is or how mental abuse functions.

Shaykh Qays: As I had said knowledge is emphasized first and foremost. The first revelation that came down to Prophet Muhammad in the Qur'an is the verse "Read, in the name of your Lord...” It is not an academic thing. People try to reduce it to an academic thing because they have been taught that there can be that no thought outside of an institutional framework. The verse came down when there were no institutional frameworks in Arabia to a prophet who could neither read nor write. And it called people to think, to reflect.

Revelation criticized certain character traits that stunt intelligence such as arrogance and mockery or irreverence. But it never prohibited genuine enquiry because to do so would be to encourage blind convention which is not admissible in matters of faith. Unlike jurisprudence which is about law and expertise such that we have more need to defer to experts and conventions concerning the details, there is no room for convention in the fundamentals of faith or aqeedah. It is about conviction. And conviction doesn't happen merely as a result of what anyone else does or says. So the scholars of aqeedah say there is no taqleed(blind following) in aqeedah. And if someone says I am Muslim because my father is a Muslim and what he means by that is that he never thought about matters of faith for himself then he is sinful.

So surrender is about submitting to Allah and none besides with knowledge and purpose. And whoever fails to grasp that, whatever he may call himself, had failed to grasp the religion.

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