In the name of God, most Compassionate, most Merciful
#11 What is Ramadan
Ramadan is that time of year when Muslims recharge their spiritual batteries. For a whole month they fast from dawn to sunset, and offer additional prayers at night. After the end of Ramadan comes one of the two Muslim festivals, a day of Eid. On this day Muslims thank God for his guidance and grace in helping them to control their baser desires and fulfill their spiritual needs. Muslims agree on all the fundamentals of the fast. This makes the fasting a worldwide phenomenon observed by the devoted among the world's one billion Muslims as one international community. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim year which follows the lunar calendar. Each month begins with a sighting of the moon's crescent and lasts 29 or 30 days until a sighting of the next month's crescent.
Due to a difference of interpretation, some Muslims may begin and end Ramadan a day before the others. One interpretation accepts the sighting anywhere in the world, whereas the other interpretation prefers to wait for a sighting closer to home. Since neither interpretation rejects the Islamic sources, Muslims remain one international community despite this interpretive variety. Ramadan is the month in which the Qur'an was revealed as a guidance for all mankind. It is a criterion by which to distinguish truth from falsehood. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that on each day of Ramadan, God frees many souls from the fire of Hell. Muslims should introduce the Qur'an's teachings to others so they too can have the opportunity to be free. Fasting is a major feature of Ramadan. Many religions recognize the benefits of fasting, but only Islam institutes a month of it to secure its benefits for all its adherents. God prescribes in His book that all able-bodied Muslims must fast. This will develop in them a consciousness that will help them towards right conduct and prevent them from wrongdoing. To obtain this result, a Muslim must stick to both the formal and informal aspects of the fast.
The formal aspects include abstaining from food, drink, smoking and sexual intercourse. The informal aspects of the fast are just as important. The fasting person must abstain from lying, cheating, argumentation, fighting, foul language and every sort of evil. In this month one has to cutivate a lasting awareness of God, and a keen sense to observe his commandments throughout the year. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that if someone does not give up falsehood in speech and actions, God has no need for such a one to give up his food and drink.
#12 What Jesus said About Fasting
The Gospel of Matthew shows that Jesus "fasted forty days and forty nights" (Matthew 4:2). The Gospel of Luke adds the detail that "in those days he did eat nothing; and when they were ended, he afterward hungered" (Luke 4:2). Since Jesus fasted, his true followers will also fast, if they indeed follow his teachings. He said, "If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed" (John 8:31). People had complained to Jesus saying, "Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisess; but thine eat and drink?" (Luke 5:33). But Jesus replied that as long as he is with them his disciples should not fast, but after he is taken away then "they will fast in those days" (Luke 5:35). This is why Jesus also gave them instructions on how to fast for the sake of God (Matthew 6:16-18).
If they were never to fast, such instructions would be pointless. The Bible shows that the disciples were fasting afterwards: "they had fasted and prayed" (Acts 13:3), and again they had "prayed with fasting" (Acts 14:23). The Bible mentions fasting as one of the observances of a minister of God (2 Corinthians 6:5), and "fastings often" as a proof of the worth of a disiple of Jesus. Luke 5:33 quoted above reveals that a) fasting means abstinence from eating an drinking, and b) that although the disciples were not to fast until after Jesus was taken away, Jesus himself continued to fast, otherwise the complaint would have been against him also. It is clear that the Jewish Rabbis were fasting (Matthew 9:14, and Mark 2:18). Jesus too was called a Rabbi (see John 1:38, 3:2, 6:25 and Matthew 23:8). So he too must have been fasting.
The disciples were unable to drive out a demon from a boy, but Jesus drove it out. When the disciples asked how he did it, he said that this kind can be driven out only "by prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:29). This shows that because the disciples were not fasting they could not drive out the demon, and that Jesus could drive it out because he was fasting. Some copyists attempted to change this verse by leaving out the words 'and fasting'. This is how, for example, the Revised Standard version reads. But this reading gives the passage an impossible meaning that Jesus's disciples were not praying either. This is perhaps why the Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard version restores the words' and fasting'. The New Testament from the Ancient Eastern Text also includes the words 'and fasting' (Mark 9:29). God rescued us from this uncertainty by revealing his final incorruptible message in which He instructs all able believers to fast for a month each year. Today Jesus's true followers are still fasting according to God's pure instructions. Muslims are the true followers of Jesus and all of God's Messengers.
Common ?s of Islam
When people hear that the Prophet had many wives they conclude without much thought that the prophet was a sensuous man. However, a quick historical review of his marriages proves otherwise. When he was 25 years old he married for the 1st time. His wife, Khadija was 15 years older than he. She remained the ONLY wife of the prophet for the next 25 years until she died. Only after her death, did the prophet marry other women. Now it is obvious that if the prophet was after physical pleasure he did not have to wait until he was more than fifty years old to start marrying more wives.
He lived in a society in which it was quite acceptable to have many wives. But the prophet remained devoted to his only wife for 25 years. When she died she was 65 years old. His later marriages were for various reasons. Some marriages were with the views to help the women whose husbands had been killed while they were defending their faith. Others were with a view to cement relationships with devoted followers like Abu Bakr. Yet others were to build bridges with various tribes who were otherwise at war with the Muslims. When the prophet became their relative through marriage, their hostilities calmed down, and much bloodshed was averted. Recent non-muslim writers who had the opportunity to study the life of the prophet first hand reach a similar conclusion about his plural marriages. John L Esposito, the Professor of Religion and Director of the Centre for International Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, says that the most of these marriages had "political and social motives" (Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1988, p19). This he explained as follows: "As was customary for Arab chiefs, many were political marriages to cement alliances. Others were marriages to the widows of his companions who had fallen in combat and were in need of protection." (John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, pp.19-20). Esposito reminds us of the following historical fact: "Though less common, polygyny was also permitted in biblical and even in postbiblical Judaism. From Abraham, David and Solomon down to the reformation period, polygyny was practiced (p.19)." Another non Muslim Caesar E. Farah writes as follows: "In the prime of his youth and adult years Muhammad remained throughly devoted to Khadija and would have none other for consort. This was an age that looked upon plural marriages with favor and in a society that in pre-Biblical and post-Biblical days considered polygamy an essential feature of social existence. David had six wives, and numerous concubines (2 Samuel 5:13, 1 Chronicles 3:1-9, 14:3) and Solomon was said to have as many as 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Solomon's son Rehoboam had 18 wives and 60 concubines (2 Chronicles 11:21). The New Testament contains no specific injunction against plural marriages. It was commonplace for the nobility among the christians and jews to contract plural marriages. Luther spoke of it with toleration (Caesar E. Farah, Islam: Beliefs and Observances, 4th edition, Barron's, U.S. 1987, p. 69). Caesar Farah then concluded that Muhamad's plural marriages were due "partly to political reasons and partly to his concern for the wives of his companions who had fallen in battle defending the nascent Islamic community." (pg. 69).
Muslims believe that God's messenger Jesus, son of Mary,(on whom be peace) did not die yet. God tells us in His own words that Jesus was raised up by God and that he was neither killed nor crucified (Qur'an 4:157-158). Furthermore, God tells us that in order to foil the plans of the unbelievers, God recalled Jesus and raised him up (Qur'an 3:55). Muslims understand from the Qur'an that Jesus did not die. Muslims believe that Jesus will be coming again. A common explanation of 4:159 in the Qur'an is that when Jesus returns the people of the book will each believe in Jesus as he really is. Another verse in the Qur'an calls Jesus (on whom be peace) a sign of the day of Judgment (Qur'an 43:61). This was further explained by the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he said that Jesus's return will be a sign that the day of Judgment is near. God alone knows the full wisdom behind what He does.
We can only try to understand some of the reasons. With God's help we can point to several reasons why Jesus will be coming again. One reason is that when the angel Gabriel anonounced to Mary about the birth of Jesus, he prophesied that Jesus will speak to mankind while he is a baby and again when he is mature (Qur'an 3:46). But the Arabi word kahlan here translated "maturity" actually refers to a maturity at 40 years old. When Jesus comes back he will live to this age and the prophecy will be fulfilled. Jesus also foretold his death (Qur'an 19:33). This too will be fulfilled when he returns, and Jesus will be buried in Medina near his brother in faith, the last prophet (pbuh). Another reason for Jesus's second coming is that he will be honored with the opportunity to personally correct the belief of his people. Too many have disbelieved and rejected him. Many others have believed incorrectly about him. When he returns, everyone will believe in him correctly.
Another reason for his coming is that some of his teachings have been forgotten (Qur'an 5:14) and replaced by misguided teachings (Qur'n 5:77, 9:30) Jesus will have the honor to break the symbols of such false teachings and to dramatically confirm his true teachings which were also taught by his brother in faith, the last prophet (pbuh). Another reason is that in the last days an evil man called the Antichrist will arise. He will spread much corruption on the earth. Jesus will return to slay this man and restore peace on earth. As to why Jesus alone and no other prophet will come back is for God alone to say. The above are only a few indications. Finally, we must admit that Jesus (on whom be peace) was very unique. His entry into the world was unique, his departure was unique, and his return will be spectacular. The Qur'an rightly calls him "illustrious in the world and in the Hereafter, and one of those brought near unto Allah" (Qur'an 3:45).
Why does the Qur'an Allow Muslim Men to have Four Wives? =>
There are some situations in which it is advantages to society to have men marry multiple wives and for this reason polygyny is practice by many religions and cultures. Here we will see that the Qur'an permits only a restricted and limited for of that practice. Only 2% of Muslim marriages are of this nature.
Notice that the Qur'an permits but does not command a man to have four wives. Furthermore, the Qur'an stipulates that a man is responsible for the maintenance of his wife or wives. If a man has more than one wife, he has to provide seperate living accommodation for each of his wives. Multiple marriages are a heavy responsiblity on the male. It is not a pleasure trip as many people may assume. Some even imagine all kinds of sexual exploits involving a man and his wives altogether.
However, such activity is not permissible in Islam. A man must divide his time equally among his wives. He may, for example, spend one night with each wife on a rotating schedule. IF a man cannot maintain justice in the treatment of his wives, the Qur'an stipuates that he is to have no more than one wife. Polygyny provides a solution to some of life's problems. When there is a shortage of men, for example after a devastating war, many women will be unable to find husbands. Most women in that situation, given the option, would rather be a co-wife than no wife. If one maintains a strict monogamy in such situation, moral depravity is bound to result. It may be useful at this point to see what some non Muslim writers are now saying on this much misunderstood subject.
John Esposito says: "Although it is found in many religious and cultural traditions, polygamy (or more precisely, polygyny) is most often identified with Islam in the minds of Westerners. In fact, the Qur'an and Islamic Law sought to control and regulate the number of spouses rather than give free license. He also goes on to explain that in a society which allowed men an unlimited number of wives, Islam limited the number of wives to four. Then he continued to say: "The Qur'an permits a man to marry up to four wives, provided he can support and treat them all equally. Muslims regard this Quranic command as strenghtening the status of women adn the family for it sought to ensure the welfare of single women and widows in a society whose male population was diminished by warfare, and to curb unrestricted polygamy" Karen Armstrong explains much the same in her book entitled 'Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam.' She says: "We have to see the ruling about polygamy in context. In 7th century Arabia, when a man could have as many wives as he chose, to prescribe only four was a limitation, not a license to new oppression." (karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam, Victor Gollanez Ltd. 1991, p. 191).
IT is unfortunate that the Western media often gives the wrong impression of what Islam is all a bout. Karen Armstrong writes: "Popular films like Harem give an absurd and inflated picture of the sexual life of the Muslim sheikh which reveals more about Western fantasty than it does about the reality" (p. 190). Some people incorrectly assume that because of this ruling most Muslim men would have four wives. However, as Huston Smith points out, "multiple wives are seldom found in Islam today" (The World's Religions, p. 252). Ira Zepp, Jr says that "less than 2% of Muslim marriages are polygamous" (A Muslim Primer, p. 180). About this being a solution for the problem of surplus women, Ira Zepp, Jr. comments on page 181 of his book: "The Roman Catholic Church is facing the same problem today in parts of Africa. Social and economic reasons are forcing the Church to reconsider polygamy as a Christian option."
Isn't it true that the Qur'an is copied from the Bible? =>
No. This is not true. All evidence show that the Qur'an could not have been copied from the Bible. Take for example the story of the flood that occurred in the days of the prophet Noah (pbuh). This event is narrated in both the Bible and the Qur'an. A careful examination of the two versions will show that the Qur'anic version could have come from no other source but God alone. One important difference between the two accounts is that whereas the Bible describes the flood as a worldwide flood (Genesis ch. 7) the Qur'an mentions it as a local flood affecting the people of Noah (Qur'an 7:59-64). Today, it is acknowledged that no record exists of a worldwide flood occuring at the tiem specified in the Bible. How did the author of the Qur'an avoid this mistake unless the author was God Himself? The closest thing in history to a flood like the one described in the Bible and the Qur'an, is a discovery made by Archaeologist Sir Charles Leonard Wooley.
In 1929 he discovered remains from a flood which occurred around 4000 B.C. His findings are described in the described in the book entitled: The Bible as History by Werner Keller. Keller tells us: "The incredible discovery at Ur made headline news in the United States and in Britain" (The Bible as History, 2nd Revised Edition, Bantam Books, 1980, p. 27). But was this a worldwide flood? After describing the extent of the flood,Keller explains: "Looking at the map we should call it today 'a local occurrence'" (p. 28). "In other words," writes Keller, that flood was "obviously not of sufficient magnitude for the Biblical unimaginable extent described in the Bible still remains 'archaeologically not demonstrated'" (pp. 29-30). Another comparison will again demonstrate that the Qur'an was not copied from the Bible. In the Bible we are told that God drowned the Pharaoh ahd his army when they pursued Moses (pbuh) and his people (Exodus 14:28). The clear indication in that description is that the body of the Pharaoh perished in the sea.
However, the Qur'an dared to differ and prove true. In the Qur'an we find that God promised to preserve the body of the Pharaoh as a sign for later generations (Qur'an 10:90-92). True to the Qur'anic promise, the mummified body of the Pharoah was discovered by Loret in 1898 at Thebes in the Kings' Valley (The Bible, the Qur'an and Science by Dr. Maurice Bucaille, p. 238). From there it was transported to Cairo. Eliot Smith removed its wrappings on July 8, 1907 and gave a detailed description in his book entitled the Royal Mummies (1912). From which source did the author of the Qur'an derive this information? How did the author of the Qu'ran know that the Pharoah's body was preserved whereas the knowledge that the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead was not discovered until recently? And how could the author of the Qur'an predict that the body of the Pharoah will be discovered later, unless the author was God Himself?
What are some of the rights given to women in Islam? =>
The Qur'an places men and women on a similar relationship before God, and promises both the final goal of paradise for those who believe and do right (Qur'an 3:195; 4:124, 16:19, 40:40). The Qur'an also speaks of similarity in terms of creation. God tells us that HE created a single soul and from it its mate, then He made countless men and women from those two (Qur'an 4:1). The Qur'an does not contain the belief that the man alone is created in the image of God. Because of this fundamental similarity between men and women, the Qur'an declares that women have rights similar to the rights against them according to what is equitable (Qur'an 2:228).
In a time when women where devalued and female infants were buried alive, the Qur'an raised the value of women and prohibited female infanticide. Due to the Qur'an, this practice was abolished, but in recent times advances in the science of genetic selection has encouraged some unbelievers to practie a modern form of female infanticide. The Qur'an also abolished the practice whereby inheritance went to only the oldest male heir. Instead, a woman can inherit from her father, her husband, and her childless brother (Qur'an 4:7,32,,176). In Islam when a woman gets married she does not surrender her maiden name, but maintains her distinct identity. Some Muslim women have adopted the surnames of their husbands, but this is due to cultural influence, not Islam.
In a Muslim marriage the groom gives a dowry to the bride, not to her father. This becames her private property to keep or spend, and is not subject to the dictates of her male relatives. Any money she earns or recieves is similarly her very own. Under Islamic Law a woman cannot be married without her consent. She has final approval on a marriage partner and she can repudiate a marriage arranged without her consent. She also has the right to initiate a seperation from marriage if her rights under marriage are not granted. Widows have the right to remarry, and they are in fact encouraged to do so. The Qur'an places on men the responsibility of protecting and maintaining their female relatives. This relieves women of the need to earn their own living. It also means that a man must provide for his wife even if she has money of her own. She is not obligated to spend her money i the maintenane of her family. Incidentally, a woman is also not required to cook for her family, although she may do so out of love and compassion. The example of our noble prophet (pbuh) is that although he was such a great leader, he assisted in the housecleaning and mended his own clothes. In return for the added responsibility, the Qur'an gives men the degree of leadership (Qur'an 2:228, 4:34). This does not mean that men should dominate women, but rather that they should deal with them in kindness, mercy, and love (Qur'an 4:19, 30:21).
Muslims say they do not worship idols, how come when they go to Mecca, they kiss a black stone? ý(Kaba) Isn't that like worshipping an idol? =>
Muslims do not worship the black stone. They regard the stone as a created thing. The most fundamental principle of Islam is that nothing or no one is to be worshipped except Allah, the one true God. Muslims who can afford the journey are required once in their lifetime to visit the House of Worship in Makkah. This was the first house built for the worship o the one true God. It was constructed by Abraham and his son Ishamael (peace be upon them).
The black stone wa brought to them from heaven by the angel Gabriel to function as a corner stone. It was thus affixed in one corner. Because Muslims kiss that stone, some observers hastily conclude that Muslims worship it. A kiss, however, is not an act of worship. If you kiss your child, for instance, that does not mean you worship your child. Some may find it strange that Muslims should treat a stone with respect. But this is not just any old stone. It is an item out of paradise. The act of fixing a stone to mark a place of worship is as old as history. In the Bible, we are told that Jacob (pbuh) had fixed a stone at a place where he saw a vision. He poured oil on it and called it Bethel meaning 'house of God' (Genesis 28:18). He did this again upon God's instruction (Genesis 35:1, 14, 15). No one should understand from this that God instructed Jacob to worship the stone.
There are people going around telling you to only follow the qur'an and not to follow the hadiths and that they are fabricated. Please do not pay attention to these people for they claim they all is found in the qur'an, but, where does one find how to pray? what to say? in what order? how many rakats? at what times? what is the order of making wudu? and where is 'Allahu Akbar' mentioned in the qur'an. So, if this is not in the Qur'an, where is it found? Who is teaching these people to pray? Where are they getting their info from? Is is authenthic? Are millions of muslims praying wrong then? Hopefully, this will make them think and perhaps change their views. Allahu Alim.