Volume 15-11 No:179
Q. At one time, Islam was a shining beacon in a dark world filled with ignorance. Muslims worshipped, worked, invented, wrote, painted, built and every human potential was realized. The results are with us today in mathematics, science, medicine, philosophy and religion. While Europeans were wrapped up in politicized religion with its inquisitions and suppression of science and medicine and all of the things that outline human potential. It is now Islam that is living in the dark ages of politicized religion and suppressing anything uneducated (except in religion) mullahs deem in their opinion to be against the Koran which it seems is everything. I ask you to explain. What happened? When did Islam take a downward spiral and reject God's promise of giving the human race the potential to progress? Why did Islam lose it's intellectual and creative sparkle. It seems the focus now is on developing creative ways to kill as many people as possible. Although I realize not all Muslims are to blame for the violence, there is blame for the passivity that "mainline" Muslims are showing in light of these actions. To sit around complaining the world is against you and labeling anyone who is not Muslim as an infidel is the easy way out. It is much harder to work for progress than it is to work in destroying someone else's progress. You must recapture the good that has been lost. The possibilities of what was is still in your genes. You can work your way back to a leading status in the world. Do you really think God, the same one all religions on earth worship favours certain Muslims in their resentments, their hate, their refusal to accept God's gift of human potential? I wish you luck. In the meantime the "woe is me" attitude does nothing but steal your hope and your potential. That fact puts us all in constant danger that will force armed conflict that is going to consume many lives.
(Joe Biernacki, Houston, Texas)
A. Thank you very much for the sane advice. No Muslim scholar could have phrased it better. The question you have posed in between your sensible admonition is, “I ask you to explain. What happened? When did Islam take a downward spiral and reject God’s promise of giving the human race the potential to progress? Why did Islam lose its intellectual and creative sparkle”?
The first revelation to the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) was about gaining knowledge. It consisted of five verses; “Read in the Name of your Lord who created. Created man from (a substance) that clings. Read! Your Lord is the most bountiful one who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know”.
Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) himself was unlettered. He descended from the cave of Hira with the first revelation and within a course of 23 years made the leaders of the world out of camel grazers. He declared that gaining knowledge was compulsory for every Muslim male and female. He said that the ink of the pen of a scholar was better than the blood of a martyr. He told that a scholar is 70 times superior to a worshipper. He freed the war prisoners if they could teach 10 Muslims reading and writing. He ordered his followers to obtain wisdom from whomsoever it came considering it their own lost heritage. The subsequent revelations of Qur’an told a Muslim that the Qur’an was the Word of God while the universe was a Work of God. The wisdom they acquired inspired them to explore the universe with the same devotion as if they were studying the Ayahs (verses) of The Book. Within 300 years, Cordova, Grenada, Baghdad and Cairo became the most important centres of seeking knowledge in the world. There were more than 200 bookshops per street on many streets of Baghdad in the 10th Century AD where the students from Europe visited to buy books. Among the top 132 scientists of the world 121 were Muslims at one time while the rest were educated in Islamic universities. When Muslim army entered a city, the terms of peace with the conquered invariably included a clause that they should be given possession of all works of Greek knowledge, a clause to which the conquered readily agreed as they were a useless heap for them.
It was the peak of intellectual heights when in 12th century, Iran and Iraq fell to Tatarian Genghis Khan and Halakoo Khan. History has never witnessed such scenes of indiscriminate murder and destruction as at the hands of Tatars. Millions of Muslims were murdered. They literally drank toasts on the towers erected of human skulls. The terror of Tatar was such that a Tatar woman ordered a man in the street to stay put, came back with a sword and beheaded him. The water of the rivers turned red. The Tatar destroyed all treasures of knowledge, books and libraries in Baghdad. They made bridges by dumping books in the river. The Tatarian attack changed the course of all creative progress in Muslim states. Possession and safe keeping instead of creativity and evolution became their psyche. The downfall continued till the early 20th century. The most revered religious scholars of the darkest Muslim era (19th and early 20th century) ruled that the women were forbidden education. While they still talked of the golden era with pride, they declared the universities were the abattoirs of humanity. They ordered to shut all eyes from whatever wisdom came from the West. They classified knowledge into the worldly knowledge (rejectable) and the knowledge pertaining to Hereafter (attainable). The Prophet’s classification of knowledge was Ilm-e-Nafey (the knowledge that benefits) and Ilm-e-Ghair Nafey (the knowledge that does not benefit the humanity). Whatever knowledge was there in the languages other than Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Urdu was taboo. The list is very long. All this happened in the name of Islam through the most revered scholars of Islam.
The Muslims have started learning. It is a transitional phase. The out of context Islam and Qur’an, by those alone who had no scientific knowledge of the universe and their self proclaimed exclusive right to interpret has given rise to many contradictions. The colonization, suppression and discrimination of the have-nots by those yielding power have driven some Muslims youths of a resurgent community in the third world to take to terrorism in the name of Jihad. Islam is a very powerful tool and a powerful tool when used by those who do not understand it well is very dangerous. Those aggrieved now are themselves to be blamed. They have inspired them to use Islam against their adversaries for their own political motives and now they cannot do anything. They cannot wipe Islam out. If it could be wiped out it would have vanished in the last centuries. The only proper course is not to use misguided religious elements by any power to gain political mileage against anyone. They should instead help Muslims educate and gain wisdom which was once their hallmark.
The dilemma of a majority of sane Muslims is two-fold. Their attitude towards the interpretations of the clergy of the recent past and their attitude towards the aggrieved champions of democracy and freedom who have scant respect for the freedom and democracy of others. We are rightly indebted to the clergy who have safeguarded Islamic texts and tenets through the centuries to pass on to us unadulterated but misinterpreted, some unadulterated texts in the socio-political compulsions of the past. We shall always revere them but a rational sense has to be prevailed to correct their mistakes.
Secondly we have to convince the advance democratic nations to respect and strengthen the democratically elected governments of the developing world by not supporting, inciting and aiding the unpopular kings, autocrats, dictators and separatist movements for their immediate gains.
We are confident that we shall overcome and Islam will emerge once again a very strong tool for peace and benevolence.
Q. I wish to respond to the suggestion put forth in Mr. S. Abdullah Tariq's article Response for the call of Jihad in the October 2001 edition of the Islamic Voice. In your article, Mr. Tariq advocated: ". . . that American Muslims while not responding to the call of Jihad by Afghanistan, should demand and put pressure on their Government to produce concrete proof of the involvement of Bin Laden in the terrorist attacks in America instead of attacking Afghanistan which is ready to hand him over to a third country". In US justice system, the suspect and his accomplices are brought into custody before an evidentiary hearing is held. It would be rather illogical for the court to hand over a list of witnesses while the suspect is at large and is capable of killing witnesses and destroying evidence.
(Sarah Gabig, Capt, USAF, Deputy Chief, Electrical Technology Branch, AFRL/PRPE; OH 454337251)
A. You surely would have heard of (in)famous writer Salman Rushdie. He has written the controversial book The Satanic Verses in which he desecrated the Prophet of Islam. In Iranian justice system, he was guilty of an act punishable with death. As Rushdie was a British national, Iran could not bring him to its version of justice. Iranian Supreme leader Ayatullah Khomeni announced a hefty prize on his head. Evidence of Rushdie's crime was open for all the world to see. Had Iran had power like USA, do you think it would have been justified for Iran to bombard UK to seek Rushdie? Iran was not as strong so Ayatullah contented himself to announcing a prize over his head. How did the world react to his announcement?
When a country wishes its criminal deported to it, it has to satisfy the system of justice of the other country about his crime where the criminal has taken refuge. In the absence of any evidence thereof such requests are not granted.
True, the killing of thousands of innocent Americans by terrorists was a most heinous crime. We want the culprits to be brought to justice. True again that the publicized credentials of Bin Laden by the Western media paint him as a hardcore terrorist. Accepted that his statement of justification of the terrorists' attack mark him a fanatic but those facts do not prove his involvement in the crime the least. Many Non-Muslim governments including China have dismissed the American government's projected evidence against him as rubbish. Killing thousands of innocents and rendering millions, crippled, starving homeless to apprehend that one person against whom the American justice system has secret evidence is also a most heinous crime bigger than the crime of the deplorable terrorists.
If Bin Laden has planned or executed the terrorist attack in the US, he should be apprehended and killed, but sorry, the American justice system is the most unreliable when American ego is hurt. The evidence of this is printed with blood in all the newspapers of the world.
The Haj pilgrims going through Haj Committee are offered subsidy/concession in airfare. It is paid by the Government of India to the Air India. Haj is obligatory upon those who are capable to bear all the expenses of Haj journey, including the maintenance of his family during his absence. According to Islamic law, no help, not even a single coin is allowed to be taken to discharge an obligation. It is most unfortunate that all the Haj pilgrims going through Haj Committee are taking this indirect help, in most cases unknowingly. Is it allowed, legal and legitimate for Muslims to subsidise the Haj this way. Morever, most of the Government money comes from interest, taxes from liquor, illegal drugs etc. Kindly provide a fatwa.
(Md. Altaf Hussain, Niliapool, Dibrugarh, Assam)
We do not issue fatwas but do express opinion in keeping with context and circumstances. As far as our study goes, it is illegitimate for Muslims to seek subsidy on Haj journey from the Government of India. More so in a secular country like India where the Government is supposed to respect all religions and favour none, such subsidy is totally undesirable and should be withdrawn. It has already attracted criticism from the VHP and other Hindutva bodies. Despite their anti-Muslim rhetoric, let us be fair in accepting this criticism. Let us put the whole question of Haj Airfare Subsidy in the socio-political and purely economic context.
Last year nearly 90,000 Indian pilgrims went for Haj and the government of India paid out nearly Rs. 120 crore (Rs. 1200 million) to the Air India towards subsidizing the airfare. It is reported that the Haj airfare costs Rs. 29,000 but each individual pilgrim pays only Rs. 12000 towards the air journey to the Haj Committee which takes him to Jeddah from anywhere in India, say from Mumbai or Kolkata or Srinagar. Remainder of the money i.e., Rs. 17,000 is borne by the Government of India. The fact is that even a Delhi-Bangalore-Delhi air journey would cost an individual something like Rs. 14,000. Going by the current fares, a Muslim pilgrim is paying for an international trip even lesser than what he would pay for a domestic two-way journey.
There is one more aspect to it. While a person travelling on Delhi-Bangalore-Delhi uses two flights, the journey of pilgrims to Jeddah actually involves four flights. It is because all the chartered flights that take the pilgrims from say Kolkata to Jeddah have to return empty. Similarly, after 40 days the planes have to fly empty to Jeddah to bring back the pilgrim to Kolkata. Looking from this angle, the Rs. 12,000 airfare is highly subsidized and should in no case be done by the government. Even if the Air India allows 33 per cent discount (because the tickets are booked in bulk), the airfare of Rs. 12,000 will be unfairly low and unviable for the these kind of air operations.
But at the same time let us be reminded that Indian Muslims did not demand the airfare subsidy. This was begun after the ship voyages to Jeddah were phased out. But now since the subsidy is in force since 90s, several Muslim organizations demand that it should continue. It is unfair and any such demand should be held illegitimate. Considering the plain terms in which the Holy Qur’an lays down the obligation of Haj, the government subsidy is untenable and should be discontinued. Moreover, the cheaper Haj journey is encouraging people to repeat Haj performances. Haj is obligatory just once in a lifetime. It does not add to one’s piety to do it repeatedly. Nor should repeat performances become a status symbol.
However this should not bar the Muslims from exploring the ways to make the Haj operations cheaper. One way this can be done is by amending the Central Haj Act and forming a Haj Corporation. This could mobilize deposits from aspirants of Haj pilgrimage, do some business, make profits, which could then go into making their Haj cheaper. It could as well go into buying planes which could be leased out to other airlines for eight months and do the Umrah and Haj trips during Ramazan and between Zul Qaidah and Muharram. Any operation that involves an international pilgrimage by 100,000 people annually, could make a sound business proposition. The Muslims of India should demand suitable amendment in the Central Haj Act and put some business minded members on the Central Haj Committee. The current Haj management leaves much to be desired. There is a serious apprehension that a lot of bungling and corruption is involved in booking of accommodation in the holy sites.
We can take a leaf from Tabung Haji Corporation in Malaysia which has involved some business principles in making the pilgrimage cheaper for its pilgrims.
Finally, let us mobilize Muslim opinion to demand withdrawal of airfare subsidies for Haj in best traditions of secularism. Such a partisan largesse to Muslim is all likely to kick up demands from other communities. This will not be in the interest of this nation.
As clean earth is not available in our cities and towns, could we use talcum powder? The Ulema should consider the proposal.
(A. Ismail Sait)
The Quran prescribes clean earth as the agent of Thayammum (partial dust-bath), ( 4 : 43, 5 : 6).
The word saeed meaning ‘earth’ always appears alongwith the qualifying word thayyib, meaning “Pure and pleasant” in the Holy Qura’n with respect to the subject of Thayammum. This means that the earth or the material akin to it must be free from filth, obnoxious or offensive elements.
The Fiqh authorities have said that the dust gathered on materials not akin to “earth” such as pure metals etc., is good Thayammum material, for, the dust emanates from the earth. But that was in olden days when the environment was comparatively clean. Today, in most of our mohallas, the dust that collects anywhere, even if it be on the painted walls of mosques, emanates from the dirty black silt that the Municipal workers scrape from the gutters and dump all along our lanes and bylanes.
Similar is the fate of the traditional arrangement in certain mosques where some sand is kept in a flat container alongwith a signboard indicating that it is the place for Thayammum.
Whether there is a lid over the sand or not, it is nevertheless open to the outside dust. And that sand, in all probability, has not been replaced for decades! Most of those who avail of it, are people afflicted with communicable diseases. Even the common cold virus is transferrable through such a medium. Now, how can this be considered safe, let alone clean and pleasant?
Such a predicament is due to our tendency to hang on to hearsay and tradition, without subjecting them to the litmus test of the Qur’an. For, here, the qualifying word thayyib - “clean” shines out throughout!
Considering most urban environments of the world, and worse still, the phenomenon of progressive urbanization underway everywhere, it seems scientifically sound, and quite in accordance with the Qur’anic wisdom that the universally available commercial Talcum Powder is the answer!
For, Talcum Powder is nothing but powdered soap-stone which is part of the earth, like other kinds of stones, pebbles, rocks, sand, clay, etc. Of course, commercial Talcum includes traces of chemicals for added perfumery or medicinal value. Not only is this powder pure and pleasant, it is untouched by hand. What is poured out, is never returned to the container. There is no risk of any contamination whatsoever. In olden days such a precaution was unnecessary due to easy and quite obvious access to and availability of clean Thayammum material. Today in our extremely contaminated environment, Allah has endowed us with the easy availability of the knowledge and technique to overcome it.
Al-Qur’an guides us to the wisest path, a path that is most pleasant, most easily accessible, and most scientific!
It is the duty of the Ulema to give Fatwas in the light of Holy Qur’an so that people are not put to inconvenience as regards ‘ibadath!