Saturday, June 27, 2009

Miracles of the Qur'an (part 1)

About a year ago, a friend gave me something to read entitled "Miracle of the Qur'an" by Gary Miller, a Muslim convert. It was absolutely amazing and so I thought I'd post parts of it on here.

"Some years ago, the story came to us in Toronto about a man who was in the merchant marine and made his living on the sea. A Muslim gave him a translation of the Qur'an to read. The merchant marine knew nothing about the history of Islam but was interested in reading the Qur'an. When he finished reading it, he brought it back to the Muslim and asked, "This Muhammed, was he a sailor?" He was impressed at how accurately the Qur'an describes a storm on a sea. When he was told, "No as a matter of fact, Muhammed lived in the desert," that was enough for him. He embraced Islam on the spot. He was so impressed with the Qur'an's description because he had been in a storm on the sea, and he knew that whoever had written that description had also been in a storm on the sea. The description of "a wave, over it a wave, over it clouds" was not what someone imagining a storm on a sea to be like would have written; rather, it was written by someone who knew what a storm on the sea was like. This is one example of how the Qur'an is not tied to a certain place and time. Certainly, the scientific ideas expressed in it also do not seem to originate from the desert fourteen centuries ago."

"Many centuries before the onset of Muhammed's Prophethood, there was a well-known theory of atomism advanced by the Greek philosopher, Democritus. He and the people who came after him assumed that matter consists of tiny, indestructible, indivisible particles called atoms. The Arabs too, used to deal in the same concept; in fact, the Arabic word dharrah commonly referred to the smallest particle known to man. Now, modern science has discovered that this smallest unit of matter (i.e., the atom, which has all of the same properties as its element) can be split into its component parts. This is a new idea, a development of the last century; yet, interestingly enough, this information had already been documented in the Qur'an which states:

" He [i.e., Allah] is aware of an atom's weight in the heavens and on the earth and even anything smaller than that..."

Undoubtedly, fourteen centuries ago that statement would have looked unusual, even to an Arab. For him, the dharrah was the smallest thing there was. Indeed, this is proof, that the Qur'an is not outdated."

"If one assumes that the Qur'an is the product of a man's mind, then one would expect it to reflect some of what was going on in the mind of the man who "composed" it. In fact, certain encyclopedias and various books clam that the Qur'an was the product of hallucinations that Muhammed underwent. If these claims are true - if it indeed originated from some psychological problems in Muhammed's mind - then evidence of this would be apparent in the Qur'an. Is there such evidence? In order to determine whether or not there is, one must first identify what things would have been going on in his mind at that time and then search for these thoughts and reflections in the Qur'an.

It is common knowledge that Muhammad had a very difficult life. All of his daughters died before him except one, and he had a wife of several years who was dear and important to him, who not only proceeded him in death at a very critical period of his life. As a matter of fact, she must have been quite a woman because when the first revelation came to him, he ran home to her afraid. Certainly, even today one would have a hard time trying to find an Arab who would tell you, "I was so afraid that I ran home to my wife." They just aren't that way. Yet Muhammed felt comfortable enough with his wife to be able to do that. That's how influential and strong woman she was. Although these examples are only a few of the subjects that would have been on Muhammed's mind, they are sufficient in intensity to prove my point. The Qur'an does not mention any of these things - not the death of his children, not the death of his beloved companion and wife, not his fear of the initial revelations, which he so beautifully shared with his wife - nothing; yet, these topics must have hurt him, bothered him, and caused him pain and grief during periods of his psychological reflections, then these subjects, as well as others, would be prevalent or at least mentioned throughout."

I love how logical Miller is - the whole piece was written in order to logically and categorically prove that the Qur'an is of divine origin and not written by man. Instead of attacking anyone who claims this, he is using pure logic (in a very POLITE manner) to show that it is impossible that the Qur'an is man-made. More Muslims should use this approach, instead of going red in the face and shouting about "infidels" and "going to hell". This is not going to convince anyone to convert to, let alone respect, Islam.

I'll be posting more soon!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Feeling vs. Logic

I was just reading this lovely post by Sarah, and it got me reminiscing about the day I decided to be a Muslim. My dad's Muslim so technically I was born a Muslim, but I didn't really call myself one until the day I began praying, in April last year.

I had always tried to approach Islam (and religion in general) from a logical point of view. How do we know God exists? How do we know the Qur'an is authentic? How do we know Islam is the true religion? I used to have endless discussions (*ahem* arguments) with friends about these topics. They would always win. I realized I never had a good enough argument as to why God/Islam were not real. As many books and articles as I read about these issues, I never really found an argument that a friend couldn't refute.

It still wasn't enough though. There was a point where I realized God did exist, and Islam was real, but where I felt I wasn't ready to become a Muslim yet. Soon after this I figured out what was stopping me: a feeling. I didn't feel God or Islam. This is really hard to describe. I just suddenly knew that when I got that feeling, I would be ready to become a Muslim. I wasn't sure when I would get it, or how to speed up the process of getting it, but I just knew that it wasn't about logic anymore. I was convinced in my head. (I'm not going to say "I just needed to be convinced in my heart" cause it sounds unbearably corny and Hollywoodish. Although I did just say it. Anyway!)

Then one day I got the feeling! I woke up and realized that I wanted to start praying. This was it! I asked a friend to teach me how to pray that night. I got very emotional and started crying halfway through, which lengthened the whole process by an hour, but it was happy crying so it was all good. After that I said the shahada and went to sleep. The next morning I woke up a Muslim.

Since then I've never looked back. Nothing has been able to turn me away from Islam, simply because I now feel Islam and God in me all the time. There are many things I'm still unsure of, but they haven't made me doubt Islam itself. Logic (and the type of education I had) would have made me turn away when I found out about polygamy, beating (disciplining?) wives, and inheritance in the Qur'an. Feeling made me research it further and understand that there are different interpretations and understandings of these verses. Not once did I doubt God: it was always Muslims who I doubted, and their interpretations.

What was it like for you? Was it a logical/emotional decision to become a Muslim, or both?
Since I grew up with a Muslim parent, I was already exposed to Islam to an extent, although thankfully I was never forced or pressured to be a Muslim until I decided to be. I'm guessing it might be different for someone who wasn't exposed to Islam, for them it might be a combined logic/feeling decision. I'd love to hear everyone's experiences!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I was recently talking to a friend of mine, and he brought up the fact that he hates going to Friday prayers these days because he feels he doesn't learn anything from them anymore. Instead of talking about Islam, imams tend to go on and on about Americans, Israel and the Jews (apparently a subject ALL Egyptians love to go on and on about, even though 99% have never met a Jew).

When I hear the khutbas sometimes, I'm pretty shocked at how aggressive they are. The imam is usually yelling at the top of his voice about how Israel has raped all Arabs and needs to be wiped off the face of the earth (to use Ahmedijinad's diplomatic phrasing). Then they move on to ALL Jewish people, without making a distinction between Jews, Israeli Jews, and the Israeli government. It's sad because in the 50s Cairo used to be very cosmopolitan: Jews, Christians, Muslims, everyone got along. Jews used to call themselves Egyptians, not Jews. Then the Jews were pressured into leaving, and so they all left (leaving behind a few old ladies). Synagogues that remain in Cairo today are full of security, and I doubt they are used often.

There's also the fact that the Qur'an is NOT anti-Jewish. The Qur'an speaks about specific Jewish tribes at the time who were against the Prophet (pbuh). I don't get how this applies to all Jews at all times. Seriously! They are people of the book, and imams shouldn't be spreading hatred against them, or for that matter spreading hatred against anyone.

Anyway, I've heard complaints about khutbas several times from different people. When did imams become political experts as opposed to religious scholars? Why not discuss Islam? Or at least discuss current affairs without inciting violence and preaching hate. Like my friend said, he wants to learn something new about his religion, not get a hate-filled lecture.

I wonder whether the changing nature of khutbas has started attracting new kinds of men to the mosques. Men who want to hear these hate-filled sermons, as opposed to all kinds of men who want to hear about Islam. I know of many men (mostly older) who have stopped attending Friday prayers altogether because they can't listen to what the imams are saying.

One annoying thing must be that one goes to prayer to meditate, find peace, and connect with God. Then you hear a hate-filled khutba, and the peacefulness probably disappears. Instead of educating young Muslims and teaching them Islam, imams are filling them with hatred and violence. This can't end well.

I wonder if this is limited to Egypt, where many people have started using the mosque as a political tool? Does this happen in mosques you go to?

Note: I'm not saying all imams in all mosques in all countries do this. I am talking about imams in mosques people I know frequent. These include many mosques and many imams, which is why I decided to write a post about it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


"Many prayers are declined because of the rank odor of a corrupt heart rising through the beautiful words. Let the words be wrong, but the meaning right. That flawed utterance is dearer to God."

- Rumi

Absolutely beautiful.

It reminded me of how a lot of non-Arabic speaking Muslims seem worried about mispronouncing prayers/Arabic words. I don't think anyone should worry too much about that; the fact that you are praying and doing it for God is what matters, not whether you get the pronunciation right. Similarly, someone could pronounce all the words perfectly, but if they're a bad person I'm sure the prayer won't count for much.

This quote reminded me of how amazingly simple God has made Islam. It's so beautiful in its simplicity. That's why it really, REALLY bothers me when people try to complicate it/make it difficult/take everything to an extreme. Of course Islam has its challenges: praying 5 times a day, fasting, Hajj - these things are not easy. But they're simple! The meaning behind them is simple, the message of the Qur'an is simple, and I really think God wants us to be happy in this life, and so has given us a religion that is beautiful and that compliments our common sense and conscience. I realized everything that is seen as "Islamic" and doesn't make sense to me comes from the Hadith, not the Qur'an, which is why I don't really trust the Hadith that much.

When I think of the spiritual message of the Qur'an I get very emotional. Peace, justice, compassion, forgiveness, happiness, love - we Muslims could be the happiest and most peaceful people on earth if we listened to what the Qur'an is telling us. Mashallah for this amazing book! It really is a miracle. Think of the way God describes Himself. Think of the Prophet. Where are these qualities in Muslims today?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Ummah

While I was living in Zambia, about 4 years ago, I had begun thinking about Islam. I began talking to people about it and reading up on it, to try and get more of an idea of what it was about. About a month after that, I moved to Egypt. My quest for knowledge ground to a halt when I saw what life was like in an "Islamic" country.

I was 16 at the time, and so it was hard for me to realize that what Egyptians were practicing was something different from Islam: it was a mixture of culture, tradition, and Islam that had been mixed together for so long no one could tell them apart anymore. People were rude, people were impatient, there was rampant sexism everywhere, there was an unbelievable amount of sexual harassment, the driving was intolerable, and life in general was frustrating. At the same time, most Egyptians claimed to be very religious. They would pray, fast, pay zakat, and fulfill all other outward obligations. So I stopped thinking of becoming a practicing Muslim because to put it simply - Egypt turned me off Islam.

When I began university, things changed. I began reading, talking to other people, and exposing myself to alternative ideas of Islam. That's when I realized how far Islamic societies are from what the Qur'an states. That's when I realized that many Muslims fulfill their OUTWARD obligations (i.e. things other Muslims will see) while ignoring their inward ones, such as compassion, forgiveness, justice, etc.

I would read the Qur'an and get one image of Islam, then interact with Muslims and get another. At the time I thought it was just Egyptians who had it wrong. But now I can see that not only Arabs have warped Islam. Converts, Americans, Europeans, Africans - there are people within every group that prefers to focus on showing others how Islamic they are, rather than showing God. Similarly, there are people that like to complicate Islam and make it much harder than it needs to be, thinking this is the fastest way to get to heaven.

My question is, how happy are you with the Ummah? Do you feel like Muslims make it harder or easier for you to practice Islam the way you see fit? Do you find that your views on Islam are the same as other Muslims around you, or are they different?

(This post doesn't apply to all Egyptians of course. Just to the majority of those I have interacted with/observed).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Islamic Inheritance

Islamically (i.e. according to the Qur'an), a woman is supposed to inherit half of what a man inherits. At the time the Qur'an came down, this was seen as a monumental shift: now that a woman could inherit and thus participate in the economy, she was no longer seen (could no longer be seen) as property. Thus this inheritance gave her much more power than she had previously known.

At the time, it was rare for women to work, although some women did. Khadija is a well-known example, as well as Umm Salama, one of the Prophet's wives, who sold things she had embroidered. Generally, however, I think we can say that men were the sole bread winners. So it made sense that they would inherit more than their sisters, since they would have to take care of a family.

In the 21st century, I think we can say that in most households across the globe, both men and women work (with maybe the exception of a few countries, like Saudi). I know that in Egypt it is rare to find a family where both sposes do not work, and in fact over 30% of households are female headed, i.e. only the woman works.

So my question is: does Islamic inheritance still apply? If my brother and I are both expected to contribute to raising a family, why should he inherit more than me? Yes, I know, usually the man is more responsible etc etc but from what I see, both spouses usually contribute as much as they can. So is this something that needs to change, since the context has clearly changed? I also know that a Muslim women is not obliged to spend the money she makes, whereas a man is. But seriously, how many people know of a woman who keeps her money when she knows her family needs something? Hardly any, so that argument doesn't make sense to me.

In Iran for example, women now inherit as much as man. I've always wondered why this change happened in Iran: is the culture more open, or is it because Shia's are more open to interpretation? I remember once learning of 2 different ways of seeing the Qur'an: as timeless, for all Muslims at all times in all places, and absolutely no changes should be made; or as specifically meant for 7th century Arabia, and thus certain things cannot be applied today.

Now I know a lot of Muslims will have a problem with the suggestion of "applying something differently than is specified in the Qur'an", but let's remember that the Qur'an is supposed to be timeless, and thus should fit every context. Let's also remember that the Qur'an was clearly written in order to appeal to Arabs (for example, Paradise is always described with rivers flowing, something that would appeal greatly to those living in the desert, but not necessarily to those living in marshlands). Thus certain things may have made sense to 7th century Arabs, but they may not work as well for 21st century Germans, for example. A final point is that there are things that the Qur'an did not ban, but have become taboo. Slavery is an example. The Qur'an does not make slavery illegal, but today most Muslims acknowledge that it is wrong and do not own slaves. I think it should be the same with inheritance: today most women work and thus should have access to the same resources as the men in their family.

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on this.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Only in Saudi (part 1 of many parts)

Ah...Saudi. The Birthplace of Islam. The country with Makkah and Madinah. The place that claims to uphold Islamic values. The country that tries to be the beacon of light in the Muslim world. The land where shari'a rules.


Also the country where many ridiculously un-Islamic things happen.

I was reading this post and I still can't get over how racist this is. The post basically talks about blood money, which is how much you pay a family when you kill one of its members. We have this in Egypt too although I'm not sure how it works. I personally would never accept money and would rather the person go to jail but a lot of people don't seem to have a problem with putting a price on a life.

Anyway these are the prices in Saudi:

  • 100,000 riyals if the victim is a Muslim man
  • 50,000 riyals if a Muslim woman
  • 50,000 riyals if a Christian man
  • 25,000 riyals if a Christian woman
  • 6,666 riyals if a Hindu man
  • 3,333 riyals if a Hindu woman.
So. What have we learnt from this?

1. A woman is half of a man.
2. A Saudi man is worth $27,000, a Saudi woman is worth $13,000, and Hindu woman is worth $888.
3. Saudi's government is racist.
4. I can't believe how low Saudi has gone: from the birthplace of Islam to this.

Now the prices in general are pretty low. If you must put a price on someone's life at least make it high. The price for a Hindu woman is pretty shocking. Above all else though is the blatant racism of this policy. I mean seriously, if you MUST be racist at least try and HIDE it! This one policy contains sexism, racism, and religionism (I know this isn't a word). I wonder how many Saudis know about it?

Anyway. Next time you're in Saudi and you want to accidentally kill someone, look for the cheapest target!

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I can't believe the stupidity of this article:

Seriously? I can't believe there are Americans out there who think like this. Will post more on this article when I have time.

Update: a few "highlights" from the article:

The media can spin their subjugation and adulation a million different ways, but America did not vote for a "Muslim presidency," which is what this is.

Okay, when will people get that Obama is not a Muslim? I mean seriously, let's all move on. The article mentions that he quoted from the "Koran" three times. I don't really get why this is a problem, but apparently it is.

In his typically anti-semitic fashion, Obama came down very hard on the Jews in his speech today to the Muslim world.

This I just found funny. If anything, I think Obama made it clear that the US supports Israel OVER Palestine. Americans seem to be so used to their leaders bending over backwards to do anything for Israel that anyone who doesn't do this is labeled "anti-semitic". By the way for anyone interested in how much pressure American politicans face re. the Israel issue, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" is an excellent book.

I think the part where he compares Israelis with white supremacists to be most enlightening. Jews suffered under Hitler...."Palestinians" suffer under occupation. His perfect pronunciation of 'Koran' and assalaamu alaykum in the Arabic way is certainly code for his Muslim bonafides. "Peace be upon them all (the prophets)".

His pronounciation of those two words wasn't "perfect", as any Arabic speaker will tell you. And I knew the comment about the three Prophets would be a problem for some Americans the second I heard Obama say it.

"In Ankara, I made clear that America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam." Obama has promised. But what if Islam is at war with us? What if Islam attacks America again? What then?

Okay who exactly is "Islam"? How can a religion be at war with America? Oh wait, then again, the American government has declared war on abstract entities before, such as "terror".

As for all the examples the article enlightens us with, coudn't we "Muslims" come up with similar photos and happenings in the US? Of course. This is so ridiculous! I seriously didn't think people could be this stupid, and clearly there are many of them, as can be seen from the comments.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Obama's Speech in Cairo

Barack Obama was in Cairo today for around 8 hours, and he gave a speech at Cairo University. I wasn't at home at the time so I couldn't watch it live, but I got messages from friends asking what I thought of the speech. Apparently everyone watched it and everyone I've spoken to since was really impressed. For the first time in a while Egyptians (and others) are excited and positive about something political. Maybe because Bush's speeches were such disasters, or maybe because we can see goodwill behind Obama's words, but he really does seem to be someone that can change things. I had my doubts when he got elected since I doubt any American president has the power to change as much as we seem to think he can. And Obama has stopped talking about torture, Guantanamo etc and is very cautious about what he says about Israel-Palestine. But still, the speech today showed that he is making some kind of effort to reach out to Muslims. Some nice moments from the speech...

How he spoke Arabic at the beginning, saying "shukran" and "salaam alaikum".

When he mentioned Al-Azhar, and how it has existed for 1000 years. He described Azhar and Cairo University as representing the harmony between tradition and progress.

America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. They overlap and share common principles: justice, progress, tolerance. There must be an effort to listen and learn from each other.

He mentioned the Qur'an and quoted from it, which of course got a lot of applause. I have to say it touched me too. He mentioned hearing the adaan when he lived in Indonesia, and the amazing accomplishments of Islamic civilization which paved the way for Europe's renaissance and enlightenment.

How interconnected the world is today; a problem in one country has repurcussions everywhere. Thus it is in everyone's best interest to help others.

Those were some of the good points he made. Of course I didn't believe the whole "we want to leave Afghanistan; we were forced to attack; etc etc" but I guess he has to say that.
Wish I had been able to see him!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I was looking through some hadith yesterday and came across one of my favourite:

On the authority of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them both), from the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), among the sayings he related from his Lord (glorified and exalted be He) is that He said:

“Allah has written down the good deeds and the bad ones.” Then He explained it [by saying that] “he who has intended a good deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over. But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed.”

It was related by al-Bukhari and Muslim.


I've been generally paranoid about reading hadith because I'm worried about not knowing which ones are strong (with strong chains etc) and which ones are weak. I only began practicing Islam last year and so I don't feel I've studied enough or read enough to be able to get a grip on hadith. For this reason I've only read a few collections. Many people have warned me that a lot of hadith are not real and were added later, or were not transmitted properly. I can understand this, since it was humans who transmitted hadith and thus mistakes are inevitable. It is definitely something I want to study more.

Does anyone have any good online sources for hadith? I've been trying to find an English Bukhari or Muslim collection (books) but haven't so far.
Also, what are everyone's opinion on Bukhari and Muslim? Do you accept all the hadith in their collections, or do you do further research and question each hadith before seeing it as authentic?
What are your opinions on hadith in general?