Friday, February 26, 2010

Interpretations and Intentions

So, let's talk about this. The thing that upset some and completely offended others. The thing that caused backbiting and stress.

Caption: The difference between a covered and uncovered woman.

This picture can be taken in many different interpretations. What I find interesting is that it brings forward the preconceptions people have; it reveals what they assume within.

Hijab: assumed to be limited to the headcovering that Muslim women wear. Yes, the word, hijab, is typically used in this fashion as it makes it easy to describe and determine what you are talking about. The concept behind hijab is much more wide though, and should be understood correctly. Hijab is not only covering your hair, but covering your body shape and being modest in mind and action. Hijab in this sense is for both men and women. Anyone following one of the three Abrahamic religions will agree that modesty is a moral deeply valued.

As Muslims, we believe that modesty is a timeless value and does not change with the social norms. The dress code does not become more strict or lax when those around them change the way they dress. As such, we dress relatively the same as we did 1400 years ago. The cloth and colors and styles are different, yes, but the level of modesty remains the same. This is not true for all Muslims, but many Muslims do follow this, or have intention of reaching this level at some point, inshaAllah.

Does this mean that anyone who does not dress the same is considered immoral or immodest? NO

There are many women in this world that have the intention of dressing modestly. While we believe that the guidelines we follow are valuable for all people, we don't hold people who aren't Muslim to the same standards we hold. Heck, we don't hold others basically to any standard... who are we to make the measuring stick for the world's population to live up to?

So who or what does this picture refer to? It refers to those who place themselves on display intentionally and it refers to the unwanted attention people get when they are out and about. In no way is the intention behind showing this to the general public a secret way for me to degrade those who do not dress like me.

I welcome discussion and comments.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Opening...

1. In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
2. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds
3. Most Gracious, Most Merciful
4. Master of the, Day of Judgment.
5. Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.
6. Show us the straight way.
7. The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, Those whose (portion) is not wrath and who go not astray. [Qur'an, Surah (chapter) 1 in its entirety]

Right now, my mind is busy and I can't imagine sleeping. I think about these words, the Words of God, and how much they mean to me. I can't imagine sleeping as I'm distracted by all the things I want to say to so many different people, and these Words of God move me in this moment. I need to share. Then, maybe I can sleep, inshaAllah.

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

With His name, I live. Although I'm just a simple human and I forget to begin even meaningful things in His name, it touches me each time I remember to do so consciously. I want it to remain conscious and not a habit I form and forget why I'm doing it. He allowed me another day to live and to repent for anything I wish. He allows me to breathe and talk to those close to me, learn, and he has given me ears to listen. Why don't I start with His name, the most beautiful names, more often?

Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds

To Him is only where our praise should be directed. Who else would deserve praise when He gives us the faculties in order to do things that are praiseworthy in the first place? My heart finds rest knowing He is in control, and I praise this.

Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Who knows more mercy than the one who created mercy? He has given us mercy to use in our daily lives. Are we using it? How are we using it? We are in such need of His Mercy that it humbles me to think of how I could have ever thought that I was sufficient, or merciful on my own. I become low and stingy with my mercy towards others based on my current mood or situation. This shows my fleeting ability to give the mercy He has provided me.

Master of the, Day of Judgment.

I will meet my Master, Creator, Judge, Sustainer... I will be held accountable. And in those times that I feel like not giving mercy and grace, I must remember that I will be held accountable for this; and they will be held accountable for the reason I am feeling merciless. In the end, there is both justice and mercy and while I feel wronged, and can not sleep, I can rest knowing that this world is so fleeting and insignificant in terms of time. What can I do to make this life significant? To make the next life significant... in a positive way?

Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.

Who else? Who else can guide me when I feel so wronged and alone? It is only through recognizing our Creator for who He is and acting accordingly that we can live successful lives. When we recognize Him as the Creator of all that there is, it is only to Him that we can turn to in the darkest of times.

Show us the straight way.

We need His guidance. "I was once lost, but now am found", as the Bible says. A Buddhist monk said, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." We ask that Allah shows us what it means to be found and shows us the correct way to look at the world, ourselves, and scripture. We ask that He gives us the guidance in the way that HE wants us to live our lives and the strength and courage to do so even in opposition.

The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, Those whose (portion) is not wrath and who go not astray.

I ask Allah for specific guidance. To be of those who He has shown His Grace and to lead me to walk in their footsteps. People throughout time are not all that different. There are those who walk in the footsteps of the Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon them all) and those who tread their own path and lose the guidance and light from Allah. Please keep me from being of those who follow their own conjecture and inshaAllah (God-willing) stay with those that have the proof and guidance given by the one and only God, Allah subhana wa ta'ala (Glorious and Exalted is He)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don't Touch Me With Your Religion

We live in a society today where everyone is free to do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't bother or interfere with another's life. This of course, can go under many interpretations. Many people would say that homosexuality isn't a big deal... but yet, they don't want to see them showing affection in public. The same goes for Muslims. Many will say that religion is a personal choice, but when it comes to women wearing the hijab (headscarf), this appears to impose on the American lifestyle or people feel it is necessary to "liberate" such women from this "oppression." The same opposition is shown when Muslims ask for breaks at work in order to pray.

The fact is, that we don't live in a rural society anymore, and we are going to step on each other's toes. We must look towards the middle path which means not accepting anything in order to not hurt anyone's feelings, nor should we distance ourselves from anyone different from ourselves. We are commanded to speak up, but we should choose our words carefully.

"Let there be a community among you who call to the good, and enjoin the right, and forbid the wrong. They are the ones who have success." [Qur'an 3:104]

And as the "different" ones, we can't hide our religion nor push it in anyone's face. Simply, we follow the guidelines of Islam in how to conduct our daily lives, and make accommodations when necessary. We can't please everyone, and it seems we are bound to upset some. How we handle that though can make the world of difference. We must be an active part in our societies and make positive difference and maybe this gap that seems so wide may become more narrow through time, education, care, and understanding.

Remember - you are not God. You don't know everything. Allow for others to speak and to give their voice respect. You may learn something.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Thoughts on the Gospels

I recently finished reading the Gospels in the Revised Standard Version Bible we have (thank you, thrift store for always having Bibles on sale!). I had read parts of the Bible and many parts in order as I had intentions on reading it cover to cover a number of times, but that was over 10 years ago now so I felt I needed to renew my knowledge of what Christians believe Jesus said. Now, I'm no expert and I still haven't gone back through my notes, highlighted passages and everything to bring it all together... so let's call this my rough draft of thoughts.

First, for those who aren't Muslim, I will explain the Muslim's belief in Jesus and the Bible. We believe that Jesus was a mighty messenger of God, one of the best sent to mankind. The books sent down from God, including the Gospel and the Torah, in its original form was the pure Word of God. We know that the original text does not exist today in its pure form and we know this from Bible scholars themselves. We believe that today's Bible that we have available has pieces of truth and wisdom, but since it has been changed by man throughout time, we do not accept the whole of it without question. With that said, we see passages that remain the same throughout time from the books of the Torah (from Moses), the Psalms (from David), and the Gospel (from Jesus, peace be upon them all) and we believe that these all point to the universal message God has sent since the beginning of time, so we point to these to illustrate what we know to be true.

Okay.... now to the meat of this!

Jesus is clear in his directive. He came to guide the lost sheep of Israel back to the worship of the One True God. He commonly shows his slavehood to God, the Father and refers to the fact that he was sent for God's purpose, not of his own. Yes, he does say that "I and the Father are one" [John 10:30], but he also refers to his disciples as one with him [John 17:22] and in fact, gives them the same power that God gave to Jesus. They are able to heal others and preach; not on their own, but through the power that Jesus gave to them through God, the Father. My question is, how come Jesus is considered divine, but the disciples are not? Especially if Jesus is considered God Himself, why would the relationship be different when the words he is using are the same?

Second, Jesus prayed to God. It doesn't make sense that Jesus would pray to himself nor that he would say "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" [Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34] He forsook himself?? Jesus continually preaches that with correct faith, his followers can do anything, including move mountains [Matthew 17:20]. Yet, when he prayed to God (himself?) to "take this cup from me" [Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42] regarding the Jews trying to persecute him, his prayer was not answered?

As a Muslim, we believe that Jesus was saved from the torture on the cross (his prayer was answered). How? We don't know, and that's okay. In my reading of the gospels, I feel this matches closer with the Gospel account than the crucifixion story we know today.

Jesus also instructed all of his followers to keep the commandments [John 14:15 and Matthew 19:17-21] and there is no record to show that he strayed from following the commandments himself. There are points where the Jews accused him of not keeping the Sabbath, but in each instance, Jesus uses this as a time to teach what the Sabbath is really about, and to correct their actions.

Some singular points to mention:
  • In John 3:16, the word "begotten" is not accurately translated. The original meaning of the Greek word "monogenes" is "unique" and is translated as such in different areas of the Bible.
  • This could be my own misunderstanding, but I didn't believe that high priests existed at the time of Jesus (priest is a very Christian terms, and they were Jews at the time), but the high priest prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation [John 11:51-52] and it sounds as if this is a new prophesy, especially considering that previous prophecies were stated specifically throughout the Gospels. However, a Christian once pointed out to me that Isaiah 53:5 points to the atonement of sins by Jesus as a prophecy. It just doesn't make sense that someone new would be making this claim of prophecy if it was known for quite some time.
  • A common response to those who say that Jesus never said to worship him is that people did worship him, and he did not stop them. Again, when we look at the meaning of the Greek word "prosekunesan" that is translated to "worship", it literally means "to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand" and has the general meaning of "bow, crouch, crawl, kneel or prostrate." This type of reverence was common in that time, especially to a leader in the land or community.
  • Lastly, the stark contrasts in varying events in the Gospel are concerning, but this is a large topic on its own.
Overall, the Gospels are overwhelmingly the same message that Islam teaches and solidifies my faith in knowing I am following the path that God has laid down for us since the beginning of time. It is through the works of Paul that the message gets distorted to something that Jesus would say "I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.' [Matthew 7:21-23]

Peace and blessings to all. This is not to throw stones at anyone personally.... it is only to share my findings when searching on my journey of faith.