Islam and Safeguarding Human Life in the Modern Context

Islam and Safeguarding Human Life in the Modern Context

By Shahul Hameed

Islam and Safeguarding Human Life in the Modern ContextAccording to Islamic teachings, all living things are partners to humans in life and each species deserves respect. Environmentalists never tire of stressing the importance of water as the “source” of life on earth. In fact, the ever-glorious Qur’an is the only divine book that lays so much stress on how life is so closely linked to water:

And have not the ones who disbelieved seen that the heavens and the earth were an integrated (mass), then We [Allah] unseamed them, and of water We have made every living thing? Would they then not believe? (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:30)

Almighty Allah also says:

And Allah sends down from the skies water; so He gives life therewith to the earth after its death. Surely in that is indeed a sign for a people who listen. (An-Nahl 16:65)

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has taught that any person who plants a crop that feeds another person, animal, or bird, will receive his or her due reward in Paradise, and that denying water to living beings or destroying trees or plants is viewed in Islam as a grievous sin.

Modern scientific methodology and technology have their roots in the experimental science propagated by the previous generations of Muslims. What came to be known as Islamic science never was a greedy venture to conquer the forces of nature, but an ethical pursuit of knowledge with a view to decipher the signs of Almighty Allah in nature as well as in the whole universe.

While Muslims are proud of their contributions to science and technology as a means of improving the quality of human life, they are happy that they have little to do with the development of such technologies as linked to the destruction of nature, the environment, and of living beings through the wasteful exploitation of God-given resources and through the manufacture and use of weapons of global destruction.

In his article “Islam and the Environment,” Arafat El-Ashi, director of the Muslim World League in Canada, observed that “Human life is sacred in the sight of Islam; hence, no one is permitted to take the life of another person except as life-for-life; and in Islam suicide is a crime” (Smith).

Islam gives an integrated view of life and reality, and it is unique in that it holds every human activity, whether this-worldly or the other-worldly, under the purview of religion. That is because Islam views life as an organic whole; whose divergent spheres are subject to the same guiding principles.

The Islamic Shari`ah is a body of laws meant to govern the whole of human life. The scholars of Islam have underscored five major objectives of the Shari`ah based on the noble Qur’an and the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad — peace and blessings be upon him (Al-Timimi). These objectives are the protection and promotion of the following:

1. Deen — Religion

2. Nafs — Life

3. Nasl — Progeny or family

4. `Aql — Intellect or mind

5. Maal — Property or wealth (Siddiqi)

Thus, having irresponsible sexual relations, that often lead to unwanted pregnancy and consequent infanticide, is most heinous from the viewpoint of Islam.

One may wonder why the preservation of life is second to the protection of religion. The answer is that everything, including the very idea of protecting life, comes from religion; for Muslims, the very purpose of human life on earth is to worship Almighty Allah alone (Al-Timimi).

Our concern here is the protection of life, which is the second objective of the Shari`ah. The sanctity of human life is declared repeatedly and most emphatically in the ever-glorious Qur’an. An example is the Qur’anic verse that reads:

If any one slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land, it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. (Al-Ma’idah 5:32)

To kill just one innocent human is like killing the whole of humanity, and to save just one human amounts to saving the whole of humanity! Can we possibly find a better way of emphasizing the sanctity of human life?!

Among the pagan Arabs at old times, there existed the horrible practice of burying alive the newborn girls. Today, however, this practice further developed to kill the babies even before they are born! By this, modern people have made the crime of infanticide a small matter of medical expediency. This practice is strongly condemned in a number of Qur’anic verses. An example occurs in one of the earliest chapters revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in which reference is made to the Day of Judgment and the signs preceding it; two of these verses read:

When the female infant buried alive will be asked, for what sin she was slain. (At-Takwir 81:8-9)

Indeed, by prescribing death penalty for the murderer, the Shari`ah aims at the protection of life. Yet, no one has the right to take the life of another except under due legal process. Moreover, it is a unique feature of the Shari`ah that it makes a provision for the family of the murdered so as to forgive the murderer. They can do so freely or after receiving some token financial compensation.

The third objective of the Shari`ah is the protection of the progeny or family. It is well known that Islam strictly prohibits the free mingling between opposite sexes. While marriage is permitted and encouraged by the Shari`ah, promiscuity is forbidden in no uncertain terms. Islam views the sexual impulse of the humans as something natural and beautiful, not as something dirty. That is why Islam has regulated such impulses and nurtured and satisfied them through marriage.

Islam seeks to strengthen the family because outside it, there is no real protection for children, especially in their early stage of growth when the attention and care given to them by their parents are of crucial significance. So, any action that undermines the family is considered a serious crime in Islam; punishments are prescribed proportionate to the seriousness of the criminal act.

Thus, having irresponsible sexual relations, that often lead to unwanted pregnancy and consequent infanticide, is most heinous from the viewpoint of Islam, and due punishments are prescribed for such serious violations of Allah’s commands.

But in “modern” societies, especially in the West, permissiveness, which means no accountability to anyone, is the norm. This is most abhorrent to Islam, however.

In short, safeguarding the institution of the family is essential for the security and stability of any society. Crimes and increasing mental disorders leading to suicides seen in Western societies are often traceable to the dissolution of family. Where families have broken down, children may well develop criminal tendencies ultimately giving rise to social disruption. Therefore, the family is seen as greatly important in maintaining peaceful life at the individual, social, and international levels.

 

References:

  • Murad, Khurram. “Shari`ah: The Way of Justice.” Young Muslims. Accessed 29 June 2008.
  • Siddiqi, Muzammil H. “Ethics of Shari`ah and Our Responsibility.“IslamOnline.net.28 July 2005. Accessed 29 June 2008.
  • Smith, Gar. “Islam and the Environment.” Islam Awareness. Accessed 29 June 2008.
  • Al-Timimi, Ali. “Islam: The Cure for Societal Ills.” Islaam.com.18-20 Oct. 1993. Accessed 29 June 2008.

 

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Courtesy onislam.net with slight modifications.

Professor Shahul Hameed is a consultant to IslamOnline.net. He was previously the Head of the Department of English, Farook College, Calicut University, and the president of the Kerala Islamic Mission in Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.

 

 

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What Is Islam’s View about Education, Science and Technology?

What Is Islam’s View about Education, Science and Technology?

By Safuan Ramlan

The framework of Islamic thought represents a comprehensive view of life and the universe. A Muslim is therefore required to acquire both religious and worldly knowledge. In fact, Islam advocated knowledge at a time when the whole world was engulfed in ignorance. In a matter of years the early generation of Muslims became a learned and refined people, for Islam had awakened in them the faculty of intellect. Those early Muslims understood from the teachings of their religion that useful knowledge is necessary for the benefit of the self and of humanity. Hence, they pursued it to such a degree that they surpassed other nations in development and productivity and carried the torch of civilization for many centuries.

Muslim history abounds with examples of scientific and cultural ingenuity. Muslims inherited the knowledge of the nations that came before them, developed it and placed it in the context of a precise moral framework. Muslim scholarship made a vital contribution to the enrichment and advancement of human civilization.

While Europe was still in the dark ages, religious Muslims were making great advances in the fields of medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, literature, and history documentation to mention but a few.  Many important new procedures were transmitted to medieval Europe from Muslim regions, such as Arabic numerals with the principle of the zero vital to the advancement of mathematics and the use of algebra.  Sophisticated instruments, including the astrolabe and the quadrant, as well as good navigational maps, were first developed by Muslims. Only after people lost sight of their religious beliefs and obligations did the scientific achievements of the Muslim world cease and fall into obscurity.

Similarly, Islam does not now oppose any modern inventions that are beneficial to mankind. It is sufficient that they be used in the name of God and for His cause. In reality, machines, instruments and devices have no religion or homeland. They can be used for either good or bad objectives, and the way they are used can affect much of the earth’s population. Even something so simple as a glass can be filled either with a nourishing drink or with a poison. Television can provide education or immorality. It is up to the user to decide, and a Muslim is commanded to make good use of all the means at his disposal while being prohibited from causing harm to himself or others. Failure to use the proper means toward benefit is, in effect, a deprecation of Islamic teachings.

A truly Islamic government is required to the best of its ability to provide all means that promote adequate education for its citizens. Education is a right for all individuals and the required moral duty of every capable Muslim. All able, intelligent and skilled individuals in an Islamic society are required to educate themselves not only in the basics of their religion but in necessary worldly affairs. Further, it is obligatory upon qualified people to study every beneficial field of knowledge. For example, since every society needs doctors, it becomes obligatory for some people to go into the field of medicine to fulfill the needs of society.

Advancements in science and technology are among the ways and means to achieve development of the Muslim world. Islam calls upon Muslims to pursue knowledge in the broadest sense of the word. Prophet Muhammad said, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim.” [Narrated by Ibn Majah] He also said, “For one who treads a path to knowledge, Allah will make easy the path to Paradise.” [Narrated by Muslim] And the Qur’an contains numerous references to knowledge and its importance, such as:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day are signs for those of understanding. (Al `Imran 3: 190)

Say, ‘Are those who know equal to those who do not know?’ (Al-Zumar 39: 9)

Allah will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge by degrees. (Al-Mujadilah 58: 11)

Qur’anic verses encourage study and contemplation of the universe that surrounds us and is particularly concerned with those sciences that give human beings the ability to benefit from the world around them. While encouraging investigation, the Qur’an contains references to a variety of subjects which have been shown to be scientifically accurate.   This is the fulfillment of God’s statement over 14 centuries ago:

We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. (Fussilat 41: 53)

Thus, when a Muslim has a sincere and wholesome intention to obtain knowledge, it will also have a positive effect on his faith. For knowledge reinforces textual evidence for the existence of the Almighty Creator and assists in appreciation of the many scientific allusions found in the Qur’an.

There has never been an established scientific fact that contradicted the teachings of Islam. Whatever modern science discovers only increases the Muslim’s knowledge of God’s magnificent creation. Thus, Islam actively encourages scientific endeavors and the study of God’s signs in nature. It also welcomes beneficial technological advances and allows people to enjoy the fruits of human ingenuity.

To a Muslim, conflict between science and religion is an impossibility, for religion comes from God and so does His system of creation and development. The modern, purely materialistic approach to scientific and technological advancement has indeed granted man a measure of physical comfort, but not mental or spiritual comfort. Islam advocates the incorporation of knowledge within a just and balanced value system where anything beneficial for one’s spiritual and worldly improvement is encouraged and advocated.

 

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Safuan Ramlan is a member of the Executive Team of the Malaysian Society for Engineering and Technology, Malaysia.

Taken with slight editorial modifications from gainpeace.com.

 

 

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Development of Science & Technology in Islamic History

Development of Science & Technology in Islamic History

By Saheeh International

Development of Science & Technology in Islamic HistoryThe frameworks of Islamic thought represent a comprehensive view of the life and the universe. A Muslim is thereof required to acquire both religious and worldly knowledge; in fact, Islam advocated knowledge at a time when the whole world was engulfed in ignorance. In a matter of years the early generation of Muslims became a learned and refined people, for Islam had awakened in them the faculty of intellect. Those early Muslims understood from the teachings of their religion that useful knowledge is necessary for the benefit of the self and humanity. Hence, they pursued it to such a degree that they surpass other nations in development and productivity and carried the torch of civilization for many centuries.

Muslim history abounds with examples of scientific and cultural ingenuity. Muslims inherited the knowledge of the nations that came before them, developed it and placed it in the context of a precise moral framework. Muslim scholarship made a vital contribution to the enrichment and advancement of human civilization.

While Europe was still in the dark ages, religious Muslims were making great advances in the fields of medicine, mathematics, physics, astronomy, geography, architecture, literature, and history documentation to mention but a few. Many important new procedures were transmitted to medieval Europe from Muslim regions, such as Arabic numerals with the principle of the zero vital to the advancement of mathematics and the use of algebra. Sophisticated instruments, including the astrolabe and the quadrant, as well as good navigational maps, were first developed by Muslims. Only after people lost sight of their religious beliefs and obligations did the scientific achievements of the Muslim world cease and fall into obscurity.

Similarly, Islam does not now oppose any modern inventions that are beneficial to mankind. It is sufficient that they be used in the name of God and for His cause. In reality, machines, instruments and devices have no religion or homeland. They can be used for either good or bad objectives, and the way they are used can affect much the earth´s population. Even something as simple so simple as a glass can be filled either with nourishing drink or with a poison. Television can provide education or immorality. It is up to the user to decide, and a Muslim is commanded to make good use of all the means at his disposal while being prohibited from causing harm to himself or others. Failure to use the proper means toward benefit is, in effect, a deprecation of Islamic teaching.

A truly Islamic government is required to the best of its ability to provide all means that promote adequate education for its citizens. Education is the right for all individuals and the intelligent and skilled individuals in an Islamic society are required to educate themselves not only in the basics of their religion but in necessary worldly affairs. Further, it is obligatory upon qualifies people to study every beneficial field of knowledge. For example, since ever society needs doctors, it becomes obligatory for some people to go into the field of medicine to fulfill the needs of society.

Advancements in science and technology are among the ways and means to achieve development of the Muslim world. Islam calls upon Muslims to pursue knowledge in the broadest sense of the world. Prophet Muhammad said, ”For one who treads a path to knowledge, God will make it easy the path to paradise.” And the Qur’an contains numerous references to knowledge and its importance, such as:

Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alteration of night and day, and the ships which run upon the sea with that which is of use to men, and the water which Allah sendeth down from the sky, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and (in) the ordinance of the winds, and the clouds obedient between heaven and earth: are signs (of Allah’s sovereignty) for people who have sense. (Al-Baqarah 2:164)

Say, Are those who know equal to those who do not know? (Az-Zumar 39:9)

God will raise those who have believed among you and those who were given knowledge by degrees. (Al-Mujadilah 58:11)

Qur’anic verses encourage study and contemplation of the universe that surrounds us and is particularly concerned with those sciences that given human beings the ability to benefit from the world around them. While encouraging investigation, the Qur’an contains references to a variety of subjects which have been shown to be scientifically accurate. This is the fulfillment of God’s statement over 15 centuries ago:

We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is truth. (Fussilat 41:53)

Thus, when a Muslim has a sincere and wholesome intention to obtain knowledge, it will also have a positive effect on his faith. For knowledge reinforces textual evidence for the existence of the almighty Creator and assists in appreciation of the many scientific allusions found in the Qur’an.

There has never been an established scientific fact that contradicted the teachings of Islam. Whatever modern science discovers only increase the Muslim’s knowledge of God’s magnificent creation. Thus, Islam activity encourages scientific endeavors and the study of God’s signs in nature. It also welcomes beneficial technological advances and allows people to enjoy the fruits of human ingenuity.

To a Muslim, conflict between science and religion is impossibility, for religion comes from God and so does His system of creation and development. The modern, purely materialistic approach to scientific and technological advancement has indeed granted man a measure of physical comfort, but not mental or spiritual comfort. Islam advocates the incorporation of knowledge within a just and balanced value system where anything beneficial for one’s spiritual and worldly improvement is encouraged and advocated.

 

 

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Muslims’ Contribution to Agriculture

Muslims’ Contribution to Agriculture

By Salah Zaimeche

Muslims' Contribution to Agriculture 2History books in schools usually convey the notion that the agricultural revolution took place in recent times in the form of rotation of crops, advanced irrigation techniques, plant improvements, etc… some such changes only taking place in the last couple of centuries in Europe, and some even taking place nowadays.

It is explained that such revolutionary changes fed the increasing European population, released vast numbers from the land and allowed agriculture to produce a capital surplus, which was invested in industry, thus leading to the industrial revolution of the 18th-19th century.

This is the accepted wisdom until one comes across works on Muslim agriculture and discovers that such changes took place over ten centuries ago in the Muslim world, some such changes being the foundations of much of what we have today.

Watson, Glick and Bolens, in particular, indeed, show that the major breakthroughs were achieved by Muslim farmers on the land, and by Muslim scholars with their treatises on the subject.

Thus, as with other subjects, prejudice distorts history, Muslim achievements of ten centuries ago covered up; a point raised by the French scholar, Cherbonneau, who holds: ‘It is admitted with difficulty that a nation in majority of nomads could have had known any form of agricultural techniques other than sowing wheat and barley.

The misconceptions come from the rarity of works on the subject… If we took the bother to open up and consult the old manuscripts, so many views will be changed, so many prejudices will be destroyed.’

The Agricultural Revolution

As early as the ninth century, a modern agricultural system became central to economic life and organization in the Muslim land.

The great Islamic cities of the Near East, North Africa and Spain, Artz explains, were supported by an elaborate agricultural system that included extensive irrigation and an expert knowledge of the most advanced agricultural methods in the world.

The Muslims reared the finest horses and sheep and cultivated the best orchards and vegetable gardens. They knew how to fight insect pests, how to use fertilizers, and they were experts at grafting trees and crossing plants to produce new varieties.

Glick defines the Muslim agricultural revolution in the introduction of new crops, which, combined with extension and intensification of irrigation, created a complex and varied agricultural system, whereby a greater variety of soil types were put to efficient use; where fields that had been yielding one crop yearly at most prior to the Muslims were now capable of yielding three or more crops, in rotation; and where agricultural production responded to the demands of an increasingly sophisticated and cosmopolitan urban population by providing the towns with a variety of products unknown in Northern Europe.

Whilst for Scott, the agricultural system of the Spanish Muslims, in particular, was `the most complex, the most scientific, the most perfect, ever devised by the ingenuity of man.’

Such advancement of Muslim farming, according to Bolens, was owed to the adaptation of agrarian techniques to local needs, and to `a spectacular cultural union of scientific knowledge from the past and the present, from the Near East, the Maghreb, and Andalusia.

A culmination subtler than a simple accumulation of techniques, it has been an enduring ecological success, proven by the course of human history.’

Fertilizers, in their variety, were used according to a well-advanced methodology; whilst a maximum amount of moisture in the soil was preserved.

Soil rehabilitation was constantly cared for, and preserving the deep beds of cropped land from erosion was, according to Bolens, again, `the golden rule of ecology,’ and was `subject to laws of scrupulous careful ecology.’

For Scott, the success of Islamic farming also lay in hard enterprise. No natural obstacle was sufficiently formidable to check the enterprise and industry of the Muslim farmer. He tunneled through the mountains; his aqueducts went through deep ravines, and he leveled with infinite patience and labor the rocky slopes of the sierra (in Spain).

The rise of productivity of agricultural land and sometimes of agricultural labor owe to the introduction of higher yielding new crops and better varieties of old crops, through more specialized land use which often centered on the new crops, through more intensive rotations which the new crops allowed, through the concomitant extension and improvement of irrigation, through the spread of cultivation into new or abandoned areas, and through the development of more labor intensive techniques of farming.

These changes, themselves, were positively affected by changes in other sectors of the economy: growth of trade, enlargement of the money economy, increasing specialization of factors of production in all sectors, and with the growth of population and its increasing urbanization.

Irrigation, from Andalusia to the far East, from the Sudan to Afghanistan, remained central, `the basis of all agriculture and the source of all life.’

The ancient systems of irrigation the Muslims became heirs to were in an advanced state of decay, and ruins.’

The Muslims repaired them and constructed new ones; besides devising new techniques to catch, channel, store and lift the water, and making ingenious combinations of available devices.

All of the Kitab al-Filahat (book of agriculture), whether Maghribi, Andalusian; Egyptian, Iraqi; Persian or Yemenite, Bolens points out, insist meticulously on the deployment of equipment and on the control of water.

 

Water Management

Muslims' Contribution to Agriculture 1Water, so precious a commodity in a more Islamically aware age, was managed according to stringent rules, any waste of the resource banned, and the most severe economy enforced. Thus, in the Algerian Sahara various water management techniques were used to make the most effective use of the resource.

The Foggaras, a network of underground galleries, conducted water from one place to the other over very long distances so as to avoid evaporation. Although the system is still in use today, the tendency at present is for over-use and waste of water. Still in Algeria, in the Beni Abbes region, in the Sahara, south of Oran, farmers used a clepsydra to determine the duration of water use for every user in the area.

This clepsydra regulates with precision, and night and day, the amount going to each farmer, timed by the minute, throughout the year, and taking into account seasonal variations. Each farmer is informed of the timing of his turn, and summoned to undertake necessary action to ensure effective supply to his plot.

In Spain, the same strict management was in operation. The water conducted from one canal to the other was used more than once, the quantity supplied accurately graduated; distributing outlets were adapted to each soil variety, two hundred and twenty four of these, each with a specific name.

All disputes and violations of laws on water were dealt with by a court-whose judges were chosen by the farmers themselves, this court named The Tribunal of the Waters, which sat on Thursdays at the door of the principal mosque. Ten centuries later, the same tribunal still sits in Valencia, but at the door of the cathedral.

 

The Loss of Ecological Balance

`With a deep love for nature, and a relaxed way of life, classical Islamic society,’ Bolens concludes, `achieved ecological balance, a successful average economy of operation, based not on theory but on the acquired knowledge of many civilized traditions.’

It was colonialism, she recognizes, which subsequently and seriously upset the traditional agricultural balance in order to increase profitability for the colonizers.

The decline of agriculture as the destruction of other aspects of Islamic civilization had, however, begun with the various invaders, from the Crusaders to the Mongols, from the Banu Hillal to the Normans and Spain’s conquistadors in the West. Such invasions caused the ruin of irrigation works, destroyed permanent crops, closed down trade routes, and caused farmers to take flight.

The Muslim farmers also became over taxed by their new masters in Christian Spain and Sicily, and were exterminated in those countries; their system perishing with them.

The later colonizers, the French, only finished off whatever was left. No better place to see that than in Algeria, where the French on arrival in 1830 found a much greener country than the one they left 130 years later, and a population living more or less in harmony with its environment. In their wars of devastation against Algerian resistance, the French destroyed the garden rings that surrounded towns and cities, cutting trees and orchards.

After that, they deforested whole regions to exploit timber, and took all fertile lands from their Muslim owners, forcing them to subside on arid lands, and in the vicinity of forests causing their degradation.

Later, during the war of independence 1954-62, the French set ablaze millions of acres of forest lands; and then departed, leaving a legacy of bareness and hostility to greenery from which the Algerians have not recovered yet.

 

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Courtesy www.muslimheritage.com with slight editorial modifications to the original article titled: Muslims’ Contribution to Agriculture.

FSTC stands for the Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization. The Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilisation (FSTC) is a British not-for-profit, non-political, and non-religious organisation founded in 1999 by a group of philanthropic historians, scientists, engineers and social scientists. It is dedicated to researching and popularising the history of pre-Renaissance civilisations, especially the Muslim civilisation, that have had an impact upon the scientific, technological and cultural heritage of our modern world.

 

 

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The Prophet’s Mercy towards the Elderly (P. 2/2)

The Prophet’s Mercy towards the Elderly (P. 2/2)

By Muhammad Mus`ad Yaqut

                       Member — The Afro-Asian Writers’ Association

Easy Rulings for the Elderly

Shari`ah always adopts leniency and ease with persons having excuses, such as the elderly. This can be noticed in expiations and obligations required from them.

The best evidence of easing expiations for the elderly is the story of Khawlah bint Tha`labah, which was mentioned at the beginning of Surat Al-Mujadilah. Her aged husband, Aws ibn As-Samit, who was also her cousin, pronounced zhihar (declaring her unlawful to him as a wife, while at the same time not divorcing her so she can remarry). Thereupon the general Islamic ruling concerning zhihar was revealed:

Those who put away their wives (by saying they are as their mothers) and afterward would go back on that which they have said, (the penalty) in that case (is) the freeing of a slave before they touch one another [that is, have intercourse]. Unto this you are exhorted; and Allah is Informed of what you do. And he who finds not (the wherewithal), let him fast for two successive months before they touch one another [that is, have intercourse]; and for him who is unable to do so (the penance is) the feeding of sixty needy ones. (Al-Mujadilah 58:3–4)

After this revelation the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) spoke to Khawlah:

The Prophet said to Khawlah, “Let him free a slave.” She said, “O Messenger of Allah, he does not have the means to do that.” The Prophet said, “Then let him fast for two consecutive months.” She replied, “By Allah, he is an old man; he is not able to do that.” So the Prophet told her, “Then let him feed sixty poor people with a wasaq (a measure equal to approximately 132.6 kilograms) of dates.” She said, “O Messenger of Allah, he does not have that much.” The Prophet then promised to help him by giving him an amount of dates; after all this he did not forget to advise the lady, “Take care of your cousin properly.” (Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, vol. 8)

Concerning obligations, Islam exempts the elderly who cannot bear fasting the month of Ramadan from observing this obligation, but requires them to feed a poor person for each day that they miss. Also, the elderly who cannot pray standing up are allowed to pray sitting down; if they cannot pray sitting down, they are allowed to pray lying on a side.

In addition, it is authentically reported that the Prophet once rebuked Mu`adh ibn Jabal when he led people in prayer and prolonged it:

The Prophet said to him, “O Mu`adh! Are you putting the people to trial? [Thrice] It would have been better if you had recited Sabbihisma Rabbika-l-a`la [Surah 87], Wash-shamsi wa duhaha [Surah 91], or Wal-layli idhayaghsha [Surah 92], for the old, the weak, and the needy pray behind you.” (Al-Bukhari)

Also, Islam allowed the elderly who cannot perform Hajj to delegate another person to perform it on their behalf. Al-Fadl narrated that a woman from the tribe of Khath`am came to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and said, “O Allah’s Prophet! The obligation of Hajj has become due on my father while he is old and weak, and he cannot sit firm on the mount; may I perform Hajj on his behalf?” The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) replied, “Yes, (you may)” (Muslim).

Examples of the Prophet’s Mercy

Having discussed the Islamic code of treating the elderly, it is now appropriate to give some practical examples from the Prophet’s life. We will see him listening politely and respectfully to an elderly polytheist, seeking to release an elderly man captured by Quraish, and honoring an elderly person and ordering him to improve his appearance.

Listening to an elderly polytheist respectfully. Ibn Kathir, in his biography of the Prophet, narrated that `Utbah ibn Rabi`ah, one of the chiefs of Makkah’s polytheists, came to the Prophet trying to dissuade him from his call. He addressed the Prophet in a ridiculing manner, “Are you better than `Abdullah (the Prophet’s father)? Are you better than `Abdul-Muttalib (the Prophet’s grandfather)?” But the Prophet did not respond to those degrading remarks. `Utbah continued, “If you say that they are better than you, then they worshiped the gods you criticize; and if you claim that you are better than they, you can proclaim this loudly in order to be heard. You exposed us before the Arabs until it was spread among them that the Quraish has a magician or a monk. Do you want us to unsheathe the sword and engage in a bitter war until annihilation?”

When `Utbah noticed the politeness of the Prophet, he changed his offensive tone and continued, “Oh my nephew! If you desire money and wealth by preaching what you are preaching, we will collect enough for you from our own. We will make you the wealthiest of all of us. If it is chieftainship that you desire, we are ready to make you our paramount chief, so that we will never decide on a matter without you. If you desire rulership, we will make you our ruler. And if this condition that you call revelation is a jinn whose grip you cannot escape from, we are ready to call the most distinguished physicians of time to examine you, and we will spend generously till you are completely cured. For sometimes a jinn seizes hold of a victim totally till the former is exorcised.”

When `Utbah finished his impudent speech, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) asked him politely, “Is that all, Abu Al-Walid?” “Yes,” he replied. “Then listen to me,” the Prophet said to him. “I will,” agreed `Utbah. Then the Prophet recited the beginning of Surat Fussilat (41).

Seeking to release an elderly captive. In his biography of the Prophet, Ibn Hisham reported that when the Muslims captured `Amr ibn Abi Sufyan ibn Harb in the Battle of Badr, it was said to Abu Sufyan, “Pay for the ransom of your son `Amr.” However, Abu Sufyan answered, “Must I lose twice! They have killed Handhalah and now I must pay for the ransom of `Amr! Let him stay with them, they can keep him as long as they wish.” Afterwards an old man called Sa`d ibn An-Nu`man of the tribe of Banu `Amr ibn `Awf departed for Makkah to perform `Umrah. In spite of the critical political conditions, especially after the Battle of Badr, Sa`d ibn An-Nu`man thought that he would not be captured in Makkah since the Quraish did not harm pilgrims. However, Abu Sufyan attacked him and held him hostage until the Muslims in Madinah released his son. Some people of the tribe of Banu `Amr ibn `Awf went to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and told him what had happened to their relative. They asked him to give them the son of Abu Sufyan to free Sa`d ibn An-Nu`man from captivity. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) released the son of Abu Sufyan without a ransom and then sent him to his father who, consequently, released the old man.

Treating the elderly gently. Ibn Kathir tells the following in his biography of the Prophet. When the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) entered Makkah in Ramadan AH 8 (January 630) and entered the Sacred Mosque, Abu Bakr brought his father, Abu Quhafah, to the Prophet to embrace Islam. When the Prophet saw him, he said to Abu Bakr, “Why didn’t you leave the old man at his house and I would’ve gone to him there?” Abu Bakr said, “You are more deserving of him coming to you than he is of you going to him.” The Prophet seated Abu Quhafah in front of him and honored him. Then he passed his hand on Abu Quhafah’s chest and asked him to embrace Islam and Abu Quhafah did. The Prophet, noticing that Abu Quhafah’s hair was white, directed that his hair be dyed.

These are just few examples of the Prophet’s gentleness, mercy, and respect towards the elderly. These examples, and many others, translate the sublime Islamic code of ethics for treating the elderly and provide Muslims, generation after generation, with a practical model that they should follow. Such care for the elderly is in line with the Islamic principle of the dignity of the human being and with the spirit of solidarity and mercy that pervades the Muslim society.

 

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Taken with slight editorial modifications from www.onislam.net.

Muhammad Mus`ad Yaqut is an Egyptian preacher and  researcher. He prepares and presents programs on the Egyptian TV and other Arab satellite channels. He is a member of the Afro-Asian Writers’ Association.

 

 

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Faith: The Life-Changing Key

Faith: The Life-Changing Key

By Dr. Ali Al-Halawani

– Writer and Researcher

Faith the Life changing PowerNaturally, every sealed lock has to be manipulated by its own key to be unlocked. No matter what the endeavors one makes to unlock it using other than the suitable key, all these efforts will go in vain.

Particularly, the key to the Muslim personality is religion … faith … Islam. With this Faith the Prophet’s Companions and early Muslims set out to bring the world out of darkness into light; from the tightness of this present world into the vastness of the present as well as the next life; from the injustice of false religions into the perfect justice of Islam as were well pronounced by the Companion Rib`i ibn `Amir in front of Khosrau, king of Persia, one of the greatest two powers of the time.

With this Faith, Muslims were capable of defeating the Crusaders in nine consecutive Crusades where Europe advanced its best abilities and capabilities to defy Muslims and capture their lands in the name of Christ. Indubitably, Christ, the messenger of Allah, is innocent of all the massacres they were responsible for!

With this Faith, Muslims were capable of overcoming and defeating the Tartars who plagued Asia, Europe and some parts of the Muslim lands in the 13th century and only Muslims from Egypt and the Levant were able to stop them under the banner of faith and the leadership of Al-Muzaffar Sayf al-Din Qutuz who pronounced his famous cry for Islam, “wa islamah” (Oh my Islam!).

Another thing is that, if one is asked, “What does man need most?” One would answer, “To feel one’s humanity and dignity and to be able to achieve happiness in this present life and in the hereafter.” Truly, none of these will ever be attained but through faith in Allah and through fulfilling the true meaning of servitude to Him.

In addition, reforming people and communities cannot be carried out randomly or haphazardly. Rather, a nation cannot be reborn or revived except through a very long process of genuine education or radical change that affects all its joints. Almighty Allah says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what means:

Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts. (Ar-Ra`d 13: 11)

This changing of the condition of individuals and folks is not an easy task as it involves a hard as well as an ongoing process of reform and nothing is capable of doing so except faith in Allah the Almighty; faith is the wonder-worker.

Noteworthy, faith does not recognize age or the phases put forward by some psychologists or educationists as prerequisites to success of educational labor. They claim that the golden age for a person to be changed and/or reformed in terms of habits and behavior is early childhood. To them, if this age is past, nothing would ever be capable of changing any person for the better. They further believe in the English proverb that reads, “Always has been, always will be.”

In the same vein, a poet once said what means,

Education may benefit the young,

None could avail those of old age,

If fixed, erect becomes the twig,

Never softens, if wished, a bocage.

Amazingly, faith, if penetrated into one’s soul and found itself the right place in one’s heart, would change one’s direction, attitude towards the Creator and the creation, judgment on things and issues, and it would change one’s worldview and no age – or anything else – would ever stand in its way.

To see how Faith can change people’s worldview and behavior, let us take as an example the story of Pharaoh’s sorcerers as narrated by the Qur’an,

And when the wizards came they said unto Pharaoh: Will there surely be a reward for us if we are the winners? He said: Aye, and ye will then surely be of those brought near (to me). Moses said unto them: Throw what ye are going to throw! Then they threw down their cords and their staves and said: By Pharaoh’s might, lo! We verily are the winners. Then Moses threw his staff and lo! It swallowed that which they did falsely show. And the wizards were flung prostrate. Crying: We believe in the Lord of the Worlds. The Lord of Moses and Aaron. (Pharaoh) said, Ye put your faith in him before I give you leave. Lo! He doubtless is your chief who taught you magic! But verily ye shall come to know. Verily I will cut off your hands and your feet alternately, and verily I will crucify you everyone. They said: It is no hurt, for lo! Unto our Lord we shall return. Lo! We ardently hope that our Lord will forgive us our sins because we are the first of the believers. (Al-Shu`ara’ 26: 41-51)

And, in Surat Taha, Almighty Allah relates the threats Pharaoh made the sorcerers as saying what means,

Now surely I shall cut off your hands and your feet alternately, and I shall crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and ye shall know for certain which of us hath sterner and more lasting punishment. They said: We choose thee not above the clear proofs that have come unto us, and above Him Who created us. So decree what thou wilt decree. Thou wilt end for us only the life of the world. Lo! We believe in our Lord, that He may forgive us our sins and the magic unto which thou didst force us. Allah is better and more lasting. (Taha 20: 71-73)

How did they undergo a personality change? How did they change their own judgments concerning issues? How were their behaviors amended?

Their eagerness was to money and wealth, {Will there surely be a reward for us if we are the winners?}, and their earnest hopes were closely associated with Pharaoh, {By Pharaoh’s might!}.

That was their logic before faith touches their hearts. However, when they tasted the sweetness of faith, their only reply to the terrible threats made by Pharaoh was,

We choose thee not above the clear proofs that have come unto us, and above Him Who created us. So decree what thou wilt decree. Thou wilt end for us only the life of the world.

At first, their dreams and aspirations were for the perishable luxuries of this present life, but then, their hopes and aspirations were redirected towards the hereafter.

At first, they swore by the dignity and might of Pharaoh, then, they started to swear by Allah, the Creator.

Amazingly, the direction was changed… the logic was changed… the personal behavior was changed… even the words and phrases were changed… their selves and souls changed… and nothing could have ever done that except faith.

Let us look into another example of what faith is capable of doing to the life of human beings. Here is the example of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab, Leader of the Faithful who succeeded Caliph Abu Bakr As-Siddiq.

`Umar was known for his cruelty and hard heart. Not only did he torture weak Muslims in the early days of Islam, but he also set out to murder the Prophet, an attempt that he delayed until he “disciplines” his sister who embraced Islam. The news of her conversion drove him mad that he slapped her on the face, in her house and before her husband, causing her face to bleed.

Yet, after reading few verses from Surat Taha, the light of faith found its way to `Umar’s soul. When `Umar tasted the sweetness of faith and realized the eternal beauty of Islam both his reason and heart were set free and emancipated from the bonds of ignorance, polytheism and diversion.

As a proof of the emancipation of his reason, he cut the tree under which the Companions paid homage to the Prophet as to fight against the polytheists on the day of Hudaibiyah lest the people forget and then start to glorify that tree in complete contradiction to what Islam teaches.

And, as a sign of the emancipation of his heart, he was reported to have said, if a mule stumbled at the bank of the Euphrates, I would be responsible for it in front of Allah… why haven’t I paved the way for it?!

What was the main factor behind this radical change that affected `Umar and changed his whole being? It was nothing but Faith.

That is how faith changes people for the better and how it gets the best out of everyone. Indeed, Faith is the wonder-worker.

 

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Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation, Misr University for Science Technology (MUST); Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department,www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators Linguists (WATA). You can reach him at alihalawani72@hotmail.com.

 

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Europe: The Seeds of the Renaissance

Europe: The Seeds of the Renaissance

By www.whyislam.org

RenaissanceIslam encourages the gathering of knowledge and the use of reasoning. In the Qur’an, God repeatedly urges humans to use their intellect and thinking skills so that they may differentiate between truth and falsehood. Allah Almighty says:

In the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day, there are signs for people with intelligence: those who remember God, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing. Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire. (Al `Imran 3: 190-191) and,

Will they not ponder the Qur’an? If it had been from other than Allah, they would have found many inconsistencies in it. (Al-Nisa’ 4: 82)

Furthermore, Islam is a universal religion – not for a few chosen people or tribes, but for all people and for all times.

With this collective and inclusive outlook, Muslims began to gather any and every scholarly work they could lay their hands on – be it Greek, Persian, or Indian – as the Islamic Empire grew. They, then, commenced the scrupulous task of translation and, afterwards, busied themselves in its study. Moreover, they initiated the procedure of verifying ancient beliefs and often postulated alternate theories regarding core issues, complete with extensive testing of their ideas. In fact, the scientific process of observation, hypothesis, experimentation, and conclusion was first fully introduced by the Muslims.

For instance, Ibn al-Haytham (c. 965-1039), who studied light and wrote The Book of Optics, believed that human beings are flawed and only God is perfect. To discover the truth about nature, Ibn al-Haytham, a devout Muslim, reasoned that one must eliminate human opinion and allow the universe to speak for itself through physical experiments. “The seeker after truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them,” he wrote. “But rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration.”

European depiction of the ar-Razi, in Gerard of Cremona’s “Recueil des traités de medecine” 1250-1260. Gerard de Cremona translated numerous works by Arab scholars.

Spain and Sicily provided two major points of contact between Muslims and the rest of Europe. Interaction between Muslims of these two states and the rest of the Western European bloc took place as a result of Crusades and other battles, alliances, and intellectual pursuit. In fact, Spain became the prime channel through which advancements in a variety of fields from all over the Muslim world reached Western Europe. Some westerners visited Spain and were enthralled by its beauty, commitment to scholarship, and convivencia. They decided to stay, learned Arabic, and began translating Muslim scholarly works into Latin. Gerard of Cremona (c. 1114–1187) was a prolific translator who translated some 87 Arabic books into Latin, including the texts of al-Khwarizmi, al-Farabi, ar-Razi, among others. Michael Scot (c. 1175 – 1232) was another such individual who went on to become the librarian for King Frederick II’s vast collection of Arabic works in Sicily.

Such exchange facilitated the transfer of knowledge from Spain into the rest of Western Europe.

 

 

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The Influence of Islamic Culinary Art on Europe

The Influence of Islamic Culinary Art on Europe

By Dr. Zohar Idrisi

Figure 1: Frontispiece of the Latin translation of a medical work by Ibn Zuhr, the De Cognitu difficilibus (Venice, 1628).

Figure 1: Frontispiece of the Latin translation of a medical work by Ibn Zuhr, the De Cognitu difficilibus (Venice, 1628).

Editor’s Note: This article was originally a talk presented at the international conference 1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in our Worldorganised by FSTC at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on the 8th of March 2006, on the occasion of the launch of the exhibition 1001 inventions. The conference proceedings are edited by Dr. Salim Ayduz and Dr. Saleema Kauser.

The fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century CE brought a halt to the advance of human civilization. It was only in the 7th century CE that another civilization of comparable proportions arose in a totally unexpected area: Arabia. This heralded a period of transition for the world, as Islam expanded beyond the ethnic boundaries of its Messenger.

As different areas embraced Islam, the Arabs encountered a whole range of fruits and vegetables previously unknown to them. The transplantation of a diversity of crops and fruit-bearing trees to different climates became the challenge that motivated the Islamic Agricultural Revolution.

Consider sugar. In the 4th century BCE the Greeks had reported from India “honey growing on trees, without bees.” It took the skill and determination of Muslim agronomers to meet the transplantation challenge for this crop, thereby bringing it into cultivation in Egypt, Syria, North Africa and even Spain and Sicily.

The creation of wealth was one of the legacies of this agricultural revolution, as it developed trade and travel with consequent increases in human contact and exchange of knowledge and ideas.

In parallel, the Muslim physicians exploited the availability of previously unknown herbs and spices and became the dominant authority in deciding what to eat and when to eat it.

Some of the important works of the physicians of Islam are:

  • Thâbit Ibn Qurra (836-901) : Several treatises
  • Abû Bakr al-Râzî (865-925): Al-Hâwî fî ‘t-tibb (the Continens)
  • Ibn Sina (980-1037): Al-Qânûn fî ‘t-tibb (the Medical Canon)
  • Ibn Sa’id al-Qurtubi (10th century): Kitâb khalq al-janîn wa tadbîr al-hibâla (diet for fœtus and pregnant mother)
  • Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr (1092-1161): Al-Taysîr fî ‘l-mudâwât wa-’l-tadbîr Kitâb al-aghdia (Book on Nutrition of Ibn Zuhr’s Al-Taysir).

Thus, within the Islamic domains culinary art did not develop in a random manner. On the contrary, it was an art in its own right, based on thorough medical research and dieticians’ advice. Ingredients were selected, composed into dishes and subsequently diffused to the public at large. Dishes had therapeutic virtues and acted as preventive medicine by fortifying the body to resist diseases and slow down the process of ageing.

In effect, there is a hadith that defines man’s duty towards the health of his body: “Ina li-jasadika ‘alayka haqqan”, meaning: “Your body has a right over you”. As the number of recipes increased, writers began to compile them into books.

Some of the best-known Muslim cookery books are:

  • Kanz al-fawâ’id fî tanwî’ al-mawâ’id: Anonymous; 10th-century Egypt, origin probably North Africa
  • Fadhalât al-khiwân fî atayyibat at-ta’âm wa-’l-’alwân: Ibn Razîn Attujîbî; 12th-century Muslim Spain
  • Kitâb at-tabîkh fî al-Maghrib wa-’l-Andalus: Anonymous; 12th-century Morocco, Muslim Spain
  • Kitâb at-tabîkh: Mohammed al-Baghdâdî; 13th-century Iraq
  • Kitâb at-tabîkh: Ibn Sayyâr al-Warrâq; 13th-century Iraq
  • Tadhkira: Dâwûd al-Antâkî; 13th-century Syria
  • Wasla ‘l-habîb fî wasf al-tayyibât wa-t-tibb: Ibn ‘Adîm; 13th-century Syria
Figure 2: Ottoman painting of a Banquet given by the commander-in-chief Lala Mustafa Pasha to the janissaries in Izmit, 5 April 1578 (Topkapi Palace Museum Library).

Figure 2: Ottoman painting of a Banquet given by the commander-in-chief Lala Mustafa Pasha to the janissaries in Izmit, 5 April 1578 (Topkapi Palace Museum Library).

Thus, for the first time, within the Islamic civilisation, some of the food that had previously been available only in palaces became democratized and hence was available to the whole population. Nutrition had developed into a therapy, promoting the health of the citizens according to their environment and the season of the year.

In the 13th century, the books of Muslim physicians and the compilations of recipes attracted the attention of both rulers and the Church in the West. Interest increased when Ferrara, Salerno, Montpellier and Paris became centres for studying Muslim medical works.

In European ruling and aristocratic circles, the demand for Muslim foodstuffs and spices increased rapidly. However, ordinary folk, particularly in Northern Europe, had only a restricted diet, based on leeks, onions, cabbage (kale), apples and bread, with the occasional addition of meat or fish. On the other hand, the people of Southern Europe had a somewhat better life with salads, a wide range of fruit and vegetables, but most important, oils for frying, sweet desserts and cheeses.

The aristocracy of Europe despised the use of vegetables and ate a mainly meat diet. Consequently, they suffered widely from gout. The arrival of sweets, jams and preserves created another problem: constipation, through neglect of the recommendations of Muslim physicians. Thus, we learn from the chronicles of the Pope in Avignon in the 14th century, that boats from Beirut brought jams, preserves, rice and special flour for cake-making, plus compensatory laxatives!

However, there was one European monarch that took care to follow the Muslim diet, by importing their expensive products and fruits. This was Queen Cristina of Denmark, Sweden and Norway, separated from her husband in 1496 and living on a tight budget. She even fasted more than the Church decreed, to save money to buy such rarities, since Denmark itself could supply only apples and rye. It is perhaps “food for thought” to consider the origin of Danish pastries!

The availability of Latin translations of Arabic works on medicine and cuisine caused the appearance in Europe of a plethora of guides in the vernacular for the benefit of both physicians and cooks. The Taciunum Sanitatis (The maintenance of health) of the 11th century [1] formed a basic compendium for physicians and its contents were widely copied, whilst the copies themselves were plagiarised between countries. Cuisine was in fact a means for the mighty to show their wealth and importance to their subjects. Several cookery books appeared in this period.

The order of courses at meals became that of the Muslim world: Salad or soup – a main course – then dessert (in Latin “exit”) to close the stomach, following Rhazes’s and Ibn Zohr’s recommendations. The whole event was concluded by hand washing at the table with rose water.

What then were the dishes that were transmitted through translation and contact? The list is indeed long, but a few major examples are:

Pasta: There are examples of the use of pasta recorded by travellers, e.g. Al-Bakri (11th century CE) [2], and also in official chronicles, e.g. a convent in Northern Spain that records bringing in Muslim women to make pasta for a banquet. All of these pre-date Marco Polo.

Take a look at the wrapping of a pack of pasta and you will see that it is made from durum wheat and not, like Chinese noodles, from rice. The Chinese do not in fact have durum wheat, which is high in gluten, thereby increasing the dough’s elasticity. This special type of hard wheat was introduced by the Muslims into Sicily and Spain in the 10th century.

Even more significant is the derivation of lasagne from the Arabic lisanmeaning ‘tongue’ [3].

Distillation: Distillation was unknown to the Roman world. It appeared early in the Islamic world in the works of Al-Râzî and Jâbir Ibn Hayyân and was mentioned in the Latin translation of Ibn Sînâ’s work in the 11th century CE, with the distillation of oils from plants and spices and, eventually, the production of alcohol for medical purposes only, since its drinking was forbidden for Muslims. Minorities such as Jews and Christians were not deprived of the right to use this process and hence made their own spirituous liquors such as kirsch (in Arabic karaz = ‘cherry’), whisky and vodka (in Arabic sakarka = ‘grain alcohol’).

Ice Cream: In Italy “cassata” derives from qashda (‘cream’ in Arabic). Ibn ‘Abdûn’s records (market supervisor in 12th century Seville) was vigilant regarding the qashda/ cream salesmen. Also Sorbets musharabiya were in existence in the 11/12th centuries CE. The technique of preserving and storing of ice was widespread and is evidenced by ice-houses.

Syria supplied Egypt with ice whilst Spain used the Sierra Nevada. Some physicians such as Al-Rhazi and Ibn Sina were against ice cold drinks because they explained it was harmful to the nerves.

Patisserie: It is ironic to see that France today is the mother of pastries, whereas in the 14th century they were such a novelty that the king had to have footmen guarding the shop, where they were sold for the first time.

History shows that the Muslim physicians were the fathers of this therapeutic cuisine that influenced the world and was carried later by European travellers to the New World. This short paper showed how Europeans in the Middle Ages struggled with this complex culinary art and how its ingredients were the prize that drove them to compete for the trade in exotic spices and other ingredients.

Bibliography

Al-Bakrî, Abdellah, Kitâb al-Masâlik wa-’l Mamâlik, traduction française Mc Guckin de Slane. Paris: Librairie Paul Geuthner, 1913.

El Khadem, Hosam, Le taqwim al Sihha d’Ibn Butlan: un traité du 11ème siècle. Académie Royale de Belgique, Lovanii Adibus Peeters, 1990.

Marquet, Yves, La Philosophie des alchimises et l’alchimie des philosophes: Jabir Ibn Hayyan et les Frères de la Pureté. Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose, 1988.

Miranda, Huici, Un Manuscrito anonimo del siglo XIII sobre la cocina hispano-magrebi. Madrid, 1967.

Platina Bartolomeo Sacchi, De Honesta Voluptate: (“On honourable pleasure and health”). Roma, 1474; reprint Platine de honesta voluptate et valetudine, Venetiis: Laurentius de Aquila, 1475.

End Notes

[1] El Khadem, Hosam, Le taqwim al Sihha d’Ibn Butlan: un traité du 11ème siècle. Académie Royale de Belgique, Lovanii Adibus Peeters, 1990.

[2] Abdellah Al-Bakri, Kitab al-Masalik wa-‘l-Mamalik, traduction McGuckin de Slane, Paris: Paul Geuthner, 1913, p. 301.

[3] See recipe in anonymous 13th century works n° 74 and 184, translated by Miranda: Huici Miranda, Un Manuscrito anonimo del siglo XIII sobre la cocina hispano-magrebi, Madrid, 1967.

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Source: www.islamic-arts.org

Dr. Zohor Idrisi is a Research Fellow of the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization.

 

 

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Religion between ‘Blind’ Imitation and Certainty (P. 2)

Religion between ‘Blind’ Imitation and Certainty (P. 2)

By Dr. Ali Al-Halawani
– Writer and Researcher

rose1In part 1, we dealt with the issue of religion and whether it is inherited just as wealth, real estate and riches or not. It was proven – through thorough examination and careful consideration – that, were inheritance of religion the rule, all followers of every faith would remain faithful to the faith they received from their ancestors, and we would have never seen any nation or human community forsake their religion or abandon it for another.

We also came to realize that the Ever-Glorious Qur’an censures the fall of the human mind into the abyss of imitation as in such a case one avoids using any evidence or appropriate justification.

Religion is all about evidence and conviction

Indeed, true religiosity which influences one’s behavior, leads to right guidance, and incites sacrifice and generosity, is the belief which is based on conviction that stems from within the human soul. This conviction is associated with clear evidence that warrants one’s free choice of any particular religion as a way to follow in developing his relationship with Allah and the people.

Islam abhors compulsion and rejects coercion, and all those who embraced Islam throughout history did so out of their free will and liberal choice. If some orientalists tried to cast doubts on Islam and claimed that it was spread by the edge of the sword, there are many others, even from among the orientalists themselves, who defended Islam and refuted these false allegations.

Allah Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an,

There shall be no compulsion in religion! For truly rectitude has been made clearly distinct from perversity. (Al-Baqarah 2: 256), and,

Rather, say to one and all: The truth has come from your Lord in this Qur’an. So whoever wills – let him believe! And whoever wills – let him disbelieve! (Al-Kahf 18: 29), and,

Will you then be the one to compel people to faith so that they become believers, O Prophet? (Yunus 10: 99)

It is unimaginable that a religion that praises the use of human reasoning, relies thereon, and entrusts it with religious duties, would accept from its adherents to adopt it by relying on blind imitation and inheritance, just as for personal possessions!

Reasoning and meditation are Islamic obligations, while abandoning the intellect is a heinous crime, and what follows is the punishment prepared for those who disregarded their minds and led their lives as mere imitators and blind followers of others, as the Qur’an says,

Moreover, they shall say: If only we had listened to God’s message, or had used our reason to discern its truth, we would not be among the Companions of the Flaming Fire of Hell. They will thus acknowledge their own sin. So damned are the Companions of the Flaming Fire of Hell! (Al-Mulk 67: 10-11)

The Qur’an reaffirms the responsibility of each and every human being to use his senses in a way to seek guidance; Allah says,

Indeed, the hearing, and the sight and the conceptions of the heart- every act of each of these faculties one shall answer for in the Hereafter. (Al-Isra’ 17: 36)

If we look closely into the Qur’an we will find hundreds of verses that cherish human reason, contemplation, meditation and insight, such as the following,

A most blessed Book (the Qur’an), which We have sent down to you, O Prophet, so that they who hear its tidings may reflect on its verses. (Sad 38: 29) and,

We have made it an Arabic Qur’an, so that you may understand its prolific meaning. (Al-Zukhruf 43: 2)

 

Imitation vs. conviction

There is a great distance between the faith that is inherited and the faith that is earned through conviction and persuasion. The former is weak and feeble, and cannot stand even one test or confrontation with reason. Regarding those whose faith is only inherited, Allah says,

Moreover, among humankind, there is the type of person who worships God as if he is teetering on the outermost edge of faith. Thus if good befalls him, he is at peace with it. But if a trial befalls him, he turns about-face back into unbelief. Thus, he loses the good of this world and the bliss of the Hereafter. Such is the most manifest loss! (Al-Hajj 22: 11)

As for the one whose faith is based on conviction and clear evidence, we can see his example in the confrontation between the sorcerers and Pharaoh when they discovered the truth of the message of Prophet Musa. The Qur’an says,

They said: We will never prefer submission to you over believing in the clear and miraculous proofs of God that have come to us, nor over the One who originated us! So decree whatever punishment you will decree. You but decree in the life of this world. As for us, we have believed in our Lord, so that He may forgive us for our misdeeds, and for whatever sorcery you have forced upon us. For God is best in reward and everlasting in punishment. (Ta Ha 20: 72-73)

Thus, when they became certain about the truth of Musa’s message, they submitted their will to Allah and were not deterred in the least by the threats of Pharaoh, who they knew was perfectly able to punish them in a severe way.

In fact, the great early imams of Islam throughout history abhorred and rejected blind imitation, and warned Muslims against it. Imam Al-Shafi`i once said, “Do not imitate me, do not imitate Malik, nor al-Awza`i, nor Al-Thawri. Instead, take from [the sources] where they took.”

The great people who influenced the march of thought in positive ways were not from those who inherited Islam. Rather, they were from among the people of intellect, insight and evidence. To conclude, as one of the early righteous people said, “The current conditions of this Ummah will not be set right save by following what amended its past condition.” Notably, the earlier Muslims were from among those who used their intellect, held fast to their faith that was gained through complete and rational conviction, and – as a result – sacrificed everything in the process of defending their own convictions. Shall we be like them?

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Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Teacher of Linguistics and Translation, Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST); Former Editor-in-Chief of the Electronic Da`wah Committee (EDC), Kuwait; Former Deputy Chief Editor and Managing Editor of the Living Shari`ah Department,www.islamOnline.net; Member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS); and member of the World Association of Arab Translators Linguists (WATA). You can reach him at alihalawani72@hotmail.com.

 

 

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The Prophet’s Mercy for Dead Believers

The Prophet’s Mercy for Dead Believers

By Dr. Ragheb El-Sergany

The Prophet's Mercy for Dead BelieversHow did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) treat Muslims who passed away?

Was the relationship of the Prophet with his Companions a temporary one?

Did the Prophet’s care and compassion for them fade out after they passed away?

Did the daily problems of life cause him to forget his Companions as we do with our friends a few years after they die?

Reading through the Prophet’s Sunnah proves that the Prophet continued to show mercy towards his Companions even months and years after they passed away.

Visiting their graves

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to visit the graves of his Companions, pray for them, and remember and praise their good traits. He wanted this spirit to prevail among Muslims. He encouraged Muslims to visit the graveyard frequently and to pray for the deceased no matter how many years passed after they left.

The Prophet said: “Visit the graves, for that makes you mindful of death.” (Muslim)

He himself was consistent on doing that, setting an example for the believers after him. `A’ishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported that whenever it was her night (when the Messenger spends night in her room), he used to go to the Baqi` (the cemetery of Al-Madinah) at the last part of night and say,

Peace be on you, O abode of the believing people. What you have been promised has come to you… O Allah, forgive the [dead] people of the Baqi`Al-Gharqad. (Muslim).

`Uqba ibn `Amir reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) one day went out and offered prayer over the martyrs of Uhud just as prayer is offered over the dead. He then came back to the pulpit and said:

I shall be present there (at the Hawd, the Prophet’s Pool) before you. I shall be a witness over you and, by Allah, I am looking at my Pool now.

And I have been given the keys of the treasures of the earth (or the keys of the earth) and, by Allah, I am not afraid that you would associate anything with Allah after me, but I am afraid that you would be vying with one another over (the treasures of) the earth. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

This happened, according to some narration of the hadith, eight years after the battle of Uhud. The Prophet, after these long years, still cared for the martyrs of Uhud, prayed and supplicated Allah for them.

The Prophet also urged Muslims to pray for their deceased because it helps him. Abu Hurayrah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah said,

When a man dies, his deeds come to an end, except for three: An ongoing charity, knowledge from which people derive benefit, a pious child who prays for him. (Muslim)

Paying off their debts

The Prophet also urged Muslims to pay off the debts of their relative deceased. On one hand this will be an act of showing mercy towards the deceased and, on the other hand, it is a protection of the rights of people who are alive. It is a general mercy for both, the alive and the dead people.

Abu Hurayrah narrated that that the Messenger of Allah said:

“The soul of the believer is chained to his debt until it is paid off.”  (At-Tirmidhi)

Commenting on this hadith, Imam Ash-Shawkani said, “This hadith is a call for the heirs to pay off the deceased’s debts.”

Moreover, when the state resources were sufficient to repay the deceased’s debts, the Prophet pledged to pay them off. He said:

I am closer to the believers than their own selves. So, if one of the believers dies leaving debts [unpaid off], I will repay it, but if he leaves wealth, it will be for his heirs. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

He also used to support the children of the deceased if they were not capable to pay their father’s debt. Jabir (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:

`Abdullah ibn `Amr ibn Haram (Jabir’s father) died and was in debt to others. I asked the Prophet to intercede with his creditors for some reduction in the debts.

The Prophet requested them (to reduce the debts) but they refused. The Prophet said to me, “Go and put your dates (in heaps) according to their different kinds: the `Ajwa on one side and the cluster of ibn Zayd on another side. Then, call me.”

I did that and called the Prophet. He came and sat at the head or in the middle of the heaps and ordered me: “Measure (the dates) for the people (creditors).”

I measured for them till I paid off all the debts. My dates remained as if nothing had been taken from them.  (Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet was so concerned about rescuing the deceased from the punishment of the hereafter that he did not only ask for paying financial debts but also instructed that Hajj should be performed on behalf of the deceased if he died without fulfilling this duty.

Concern about the deceased’s mercy

One of the amazing stories that shows the Prophet’s mercy towards dead believers is what happened when he passed by two graves whose inmates were being punished for sins they used to do in the world . Ibn `Abbas reported:

The Prophet once passed by two graves and said, “They (the deceased persons in those graves) are being tortured not for a great thing to avoid.” And then added, “Yes, (they are being punished for a big sin), for one of them used to go about with calumnies while the other never saved himself from being soiled with his urine.” (Ibn Abbas added): Then he took a green leaf of a date-palm) and split it into two pieces and fixed one piece on each grave and said, “May their punishment be abated till these (two pieces) get dry.”

The Prophet’s mercy was not restricted to the pious and obedient believers but also extended to the sinners and the disobedient.

 

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Dr. Ragheb El-Sergany is an Egyptian Muslim preacher, surgeon and academic who is best known for his studies of Islamic history, and his founding and current supervision of IslamStory.com, a website that deals with the studies of the history of Islam. He is also an assistant professor of Urosurgery in Cairo University School of Medicine. Dr. El-Sergany has hosted and co-hosted several well-known satellite-TV programs in the Arab world, which has contributed to his reputation among Arab audiences.

 

 

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