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Why Muslims should visit al-Aqsa and Palestine

This follows on my previous post regarding my trip to al-Aqsa and Palestine. The question of “Why Muslims should visit al-Aqsa” does not really need an answer, every Muslim is aware of the sanctity of the mosque and the encouragement our Prophet (ﷺ‎) gave his companions, and by extension us, to go and visit it in the same manner of which we go to visit the other two holy sanctuaries in Mecca and Medina.

But since 1967 following the occupation of East Jerusalem by the state of Israel, a disagreement has occurred amongst Muslims, both laymen and scholars, as to whether we should visit the mosque while its current situation is in such a state. The feeling amongst many is that to visit al-Aqsa would mean having to go through the state of Israel, which in turn poses this question, is doing so legitimising their illegal occupation?

The reality on the ground, and something that is obvious for people of intellect to see, is that the Palestinian people are in a dire state. As Gaza has essentially been turned into a prison, and the West Bank is constantly being confined and suffocated by the growth of settlements and the wall, al-Aqsa, just like everything else the Palestinians own, is becoming susceptible to Israeli encroachment. Throughout 2013, and remaining unreported by mainstream media, extremist Zionists entered the Temple Mount under armed escort on a near daily basis. On some occasions IDF forces close the mosque to Muslims so that Israelis can enter unperturbed. In at least one instance on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah this resulted in tear gas fire being fired on worshippers to force them out. (See Al Jazeera’s report here and a video of the incident here). The Israeli government has only been able to carry out such transgressions given the fact that the number of Palestinians able to travel to al-Aqsa to worship has decreased. As Habib Ali mentioned, if the Noble Sanctuary were full of believers for every prayer, just as the sanctuaries of Mecca and Medina are, the Israeli government would never be able to do such things. And this is where we need to come in.

For those of us with nationalities that allow travel to Israel (which includes a number of Muslim majority countries) we should make a sincere intention to travel to al-Aqsa with or without Israeli occupation. The way things are right now, peace does not look imminent, the Palestinian Authority essentially runs as an Uncle Tom Authority (to use the nomenclature of Malcolm), and it does not look as though they will have the will and determination, particularly given the ruling party Fatah’s secular leaning, to secure or care about complete control of the Noble Sanctuary. Just as we as Muslims in the west need to stop relying on politicians at home to make our societies a better place to live in, we need to do the same for other Muslims in other countries. Let us not put our hopes on politicians who do not know or care about us, in the hope that maybe some day he or she will do the right thing, let us as Muslims roll up our sleeves and instead put our trust in Allah. If Muslims were to travel to al-Aqsa, regularly and in large numbers, it would ensure the sanctity of the blessed place would remain intact, as a result, if we go there and purposely ensure we stay in Arab owned hotels, eat in their restaurants, buy their goods and so on, it would enable the Palestinians (both Muslims and Christians) to have more economic clout which will lead them to have more of a say in Israeli society.

One concern Muslims may have travelling to the region is Israeli immigration. The fact of the matter is their discriminatory profiling of travellers is part of the establishment’s wider aim to ensure the weakening of foreign solidarity with the Palestinians. When one travels there it is obvious to see that Israeli immigration, apart from the desk clerks, are highly understaffed. It’s for this reason the Flytilla incident happened in 2012, Israel does not have the means or manpower to put large numbers of travellers through their stringent immigration checks. Again if the number of Muslims travelling to the area were to increase, Israel would have no choice but to either reduce their checks for Muslim travellers, or spend the millions required to vet every single one that comes through their borders.

Many people feel that travelling to Israel is somehow justifying and accepting their occupation, but if one reflects on this it’s not really a stance that has any tangible worth. The fact that you have your passport looked over is not in anyway granting them some sort of victory and you accepting defeat. If one is truly adamant about BDS you can always choose to travel from Jordan rather than Tel Aviv, which if I were to return again would be my choice. Although you will still potentially go through a long waiting time to have your passport cleared, on your return you should not receive any issues, and you need not have any interaction with Israel proper.

The one last final thing I will say on the matter is with regards to the issue from a jurisprudent point of a view. There are some scholars such as Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi and Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi who hold the opposite opinion of what I’m espousing here. However the martyr, Shaykh Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Buti, had the opposite view, he said:

Muslims visited Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa while it was under the rule of the Crusaders and they never considered their pilgrimage to be recognition of the Crusaders or their assumed rights. Indeed those Muslims saw their visits to Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa as a challenge to the Crusaders’ presence and a continuation and a renewal of their covenant with the Almighty to repel that aggression … It is by God’s Grace that I searched and found no Imam in history and no Companion of the Prophet (pbuh) who severed ties or stopped visiting Al-Masjid Al-Aqsa while Jerusalem was under the Romans [Byzantines].

This for me put to bed any hesitation I had lingering about my decision to visit Palestine, for although I have a lot of respect for Shaykh al-Yaqoubi and Shaykh al-Qaradawi (more so the former), Shaykh al-Buti was one of the marja’ scholars, those who have been given authority to ascertain new rulings by the preceding maraji’ scholars, it is the highest authority a scholar of jurisprudence can be awarded in our time, and with all due respect Shaykh al-Buti was one of them, but Shaykh al-Qaradawi and Shaykh al-Yaqoubi are not.

With that I again ask all Muslims who are serious about their faith and in supporting the Palestinian people to make their intention to visit al-Aqsa. One needs to only look at the rapid expansion that has happened in Mecca and Medina (whether you like it or not) to see the potential benefit that could come about if the mosque was full every day with people praying. Rather than sitting on our sofas watching the plight of the Palestinians on our tvs from the comfort of our homes we should get up and help them in a sustained and consistent way that will prove more beneficial to them than just the occasional charity donation.

For some more reading on this topic I would recommend the following pamphlet forwarded to me by sister Sidra MushtaqWhy Visit Masjid Al Aqsa – Virtues & History

EDIT: It has recently come to my attention that Shaykh al-Yaqoubi is not of the opinion that al-Aqsa should not be visited, rather he encourages it. See here:


Reflections on Ibn ‘Arabi – “I Follow the Religion of Love”

O Marvel! a garden amidst the flames.
My heart has become capable of every form:
it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
and a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Kaa’ba,
and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Quran.
I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love’s camels take,
that is my religion and my faith.

Shaykh al-Akbar Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi is arguably the most controversial scholar within Sunni Islam, the only other individual to cause as much commotion within our tradition was his spiritual adversary, Shaykh al-Islam Taqi al-Din Ahmad Ibn Taymiyya. As Shaykh Hamza mentions, much of the work of Ibn ‘Arabi is outwardly kufr, and the snippet of poetry above from his collection of poetry Tarjuman al-Ashwaq can be interpreted as being such.

However as is with the nature of poetry, it cannot be taken at face value. Poetry at its pinnacle is a manifestation on the tongue on what the heart contains, and the nature of the heart is different to that of the mind, in that it is not necessarily comprised of things that are wholly logical and bound by the limits of the world (“My heavens and My earth cannot contain Me but the heart of My believing servant contains Me“). If we look at Ibn Arabi’s work in the context of orthodoxy we will find our way through ‘the sea without a shore’ that is the work of the ‘greatest Shaykh’.

In the creed of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’al Jama’ah we hold that all actions, good and evil, are created by Allah (“Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of Daybreak, from the evil which He created” 113:1-2), it is through a human being’s free will and choice that he or she acquires the action they choose to perform. When one comes to this realisation, it leads one to understand the statement of the Prophet (ﷺ‎) “to worship Allah as though you see Him”, for if everything around you is by the will and decree of Allah, then the means you see fade away and manifest to the heart the cause of all that is real, which in reality is al-Haqq, the Truth or the Ultimate Reality, that is Allah. Even the idol worshipper, who commits the gravest sin, can only do so because Allah has left that person to the choice they have made, and for the one who has become annihilated in the remembrance of Allah, even that is a reminder of Him, for it is a manifestation of the divine wrath, a single piece in the ephemeral world that serves its purpose simply to reflect the eternal.

So where does love fit into all this? In a hadith qudsi, Allah tells us through the words of His messenger (ﷺ‎): “I was a hidden treasure and loved to be known“, to this end Ibn ‘Arabi writes: “None but God is loved in existent things. It is He who is manifest within every beloved to the eye of every lover—and there is nothing which is not a lover. So all the cosmos is a lover and beloved, and all of it goes back to Him.” Once the aspirant sees Allah in everything, even seeing disbelief for him is a sign towards love of Allah, for it is a reminder of when his or her existence was not driven towards seeking the Ultimate Reality. Without witnessing wrath how would we know mercy? Without knowing misguidance (dalala) how we would we know what is guidance (huda)? For Ibn ‘Arabi, Islam is love, and love is his religion, for true love can only exist for Allah, and all exists by, for and through Allah.

See also: Shaykh Nuh Keller on Wahdat al-Wujud (Oneness of Being)

The Dawkins Delusion

Late last year Professor Richard Dawkins gave a frank and open interview with Mehdi Hassan on Al Jazeera regarding his views and opinions on religion and his general philosophy on life. Ever since then there has been a consistent, (and frankly quite pitiful) tirade between Hassan and Dawkins on twitter, in the most instances Dawkins deriding Hassan’s Islamic beliefs, in particular about Buraq (which Dawkins refers to as “a winged horse”) and the Night Journey and Heavenly Ascension of the Prophet (ﷺ). After numerous messages on Dawkins’s feed over the last few months criticising the Islamic religion it eventually lead to this infamous one last week:

Unsurprisingly this lead to a huge backlash online, but what was most surprising was the voice of opposition was coming mostly from atheists, who took offense at his implied bigotry in the statement. Dawkins’s response, with his usual sense of indifference, was that he was merely stating a fact, and took issue with people accusing him of being racist. In a sense Dawkins was correct, both in the statement he made, and in the fact that Islam is not a race. But it does not take away from the fact that the reason he posted the message was because he does have a bigoted (not racist) opinion of Islam and religionists in general. The former being highlighted further by another tweet he made previous to this one:

Yes, he was stating a fact, and it was true, but the implied message he is making is that the religion of Islam is one that holds people back from making intellectual progress and development, particularly in the field of science. His bigotry is further highlighted by the dichotomy in the two tweets posted above, in one he claims Islam did well in the Middle Ages, and in the other that the whole Islamic culture is a complete failure. Prejudice by its nature is illogical, the fact his two statements contradict one another and were made less than a month apart are a manifestation of the inward illogical prejudice he holds inside himself against people of faith. Ironically he gives the appropriate response to his first tweet in itself, if the religion of Islam hinders intellectual progress, how did its adherents achieve the breakthroughs and discoveries it did in the Middle Ages? The religion those people followed is the same as what myself and the other two billion Muslims in the world follow, so surely the religion itself is not what is to blame for the slow down in scientific progress. What he fails to mention is the socio-political factors that have led to the current state of the Muslim world in the modern era. When Europe’s long overdue intellectual heyday arrived in the form of the Renaissance (ironically enough the fuel for which was the achievement of the Muslim world), it led to European colonisation, which in turn resulted in the vast majority of the globe’s population to be ruled over by those who deemed them inferior (see Edward Said’s ‘Orientalism’), which then meant that the third world developed an inferiority complex, (see Egypt: “We want a western style democracy…we don’t want that guy’s democracy…we want a coup…no we don’t want a coup…” etc). Professor Dawkins also fails to realise that the two main centres of learning in the classical Islamic world were Andalusia and Baghdad, the former being torn down by the Reconquista and the latter by the Mongol Horde.

Further rebuttal of his unnecessary social media tirades can go on, but the fact of the matter is Dawkins’s assertion that religion, and in particular the Islamic religion hinder development and innovation are ill-founded. It adds to the already weak foundation by which Dawkins promotes atheism. Admittedly I haven’t read ‘The God Delusion’ (ironically given all his criticisms of Islam he hasn’t read The Qur’an either so we’re on equal ground), but what is apparent in his approach to religion is the idea that if something cannot be proved, or is deemed impossible by the laws of physics, it must be rejected. So things such as the existence of a Higher Being, angels, the human soul, heaven and hell, can therefore not be accepted as they cannot be proven by science. What this therefore does is remove the possibility of anything metaphysical or existential to be even probable, which is where the problem lies. His thought is bound by the physical constants of the universe and empiricism. The universe is finite, it has a beginning and end, which has been proven by science, but what science cannot prove is what is outside of the universe, both in the sense of space and time. What was there before the universe? What is outside of it? What is after it? These things cannot be answered through the laws of the universe because the universe does not exist in those realms, the physical must therefore give way to the metaphysical. Logic dictates there must be something illogical, relative to the material world, that explains who we are and where we came from, and this is where religion comes in to try and answer those questions. For me personally the answers to those questions comes from Islam, and the reason why I chose this religion was because of The Qur’an. The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic, a language that is bound by such scientific rules of grammar that it is often equated to mathematics. Anyone can learn the vocabulary and grammar of the language to create speech, but no one has, is or will be able to, using the exact same components, create anything that comes close to The Qur’an. It begs to be accepted that only something other than a finite human mind could come up with such a text that opens the heart and shakes the soul as much as The Qur’an simply using the Arabic language. It in itself, like the universe, is a symbol that the physical must be complemented by the metaphysical. The universe, something so vast and amazing, yet bound by physical constants must have been created by a Higher Being, just as The Qur’an bound by the rules of Arabic must have come from the same source.

In conclusion, Dawkins is a scientist, he does not have a firm grounding in theology or philosophy that is sufficient to counter popular religious beliefs, particularly non-Christian ones. His approach to religion is very much a eurocentric western-oriented viewpoint, his understanding of the concept of God is founded on an anthropomorphised culturally Christian understanding, for someone who promotes atheism it begs to be asked why in this globalised age he hasn’t fully researched the eastern traditions and added them into his arguments. All these things are further compounded by his bigotry and derision of religion simply to provide a sensationalist edge to his preaching. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf once mentioned that Nietzsche’s atheism is far more convincing than the ‘New Atheists’ of today, so much so the Shaykh mentioned “Nietzsche took my religious spine, and shook it.” Unfortunately Dawkins comes nowhere close.

The Cobbler Principle – Advice for Muslims in the Workplace

Something I hear a lot from many young professional Muslims is their perceived struggle to balance an enriched spiritual life with a working professional one. Many young Muslims in their adolescence, as part of their growth as Muslims pick up on the teachings of our pious predecessors with regards to the dunya, or “lower world”. They learn that greed, avarice, arrogance, love of wealth/power/status, were shunned by all the people of piety and righteousness throughout history, whether they were prophets, awliya – saints,  or siddiqun – truthful ones. This isn’t reserved for the Islamic tradition, zuhd or asceticism is found in most world religions, particularly in the eastern traditions.

But for those of us here in the western world, putting food on our table isn’t cheap, and neither is keeping a roof over our heads, so as our blossoming younger generation leave the bliss and idleness of university life, the reality of living in the modern world dawns on them. Gone are the days of spending sleepless nights in the ISoc prayer room engulfed in prayer and meditation, to be replaced with an early night in because you have to catch the tube at 8 in the morning (and get up for the dawn prayer before that). For many Muslims  who tend to be in the early 20s to mid 30s category, this starkness of life can have a negative effect, and leaves many people wondering “Where am I going with my life?”, “Am I doing the right thing by chasing the world?” and so on.

The fact this happens to many people, particularly of those of a spiritual disposition, highlights something that was glaringly missed by them in their formative years, that is the realisation that everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen, are by the decree of God. Now many people on reading that will say they have known that all along, but notice the use of the word realisation. The fact that divine decree and destiny are fundamental aspects of Islamic theology, means it is understood and accepted by everyone, but the realisation of the fact is quite different. What that entails is to become submitted to, and acceptive of what life has dealt to you. A principle known in the Islamic tradition as sabr, a higher form of patience that entails both inward and outward calm in the face of either uncertainty or affliction.

So how does this translate to the workplace? One train of thought that I talk about with Muslims is what I have come to call “The Cobbler Principle”, i.e. approach your employment like a cobbler. A cobbler (an old-timey shoemaker), would get up in the morning, go to work, do what he needs to do, and come home. He works to suffice himself in this world, his drive in life is not to make shoes, that’s his occupation and he keeps it that way, for a Muslim the motivation for life is God, but for life to go on one needs to work, so work provides the means to carry on moving towards God. And that has many multifaceted results. Work provides one with money to give to charity, it provides the ability to perform the pilgrimage, it enables one to provide for ones family, which is a religious obligation and by definition an act of worship, and quite importantly for us in the west in the long run, it provides a means for us to become a more economically independent and politically more influential demographic of society.

If God has decreed for you that you are to work, it is the responsibility of a Muslim to be accepting and patient of that decree, and  then to ensure it doesn’t take one away from the remembrance of God, rather he or she should turn that work itself into remembrance by understanding the realisation of God’s divine decree, and mould one’s intention to fulfil that purpose. God willing people will find themselves more relaxed and at peace with themselves in the workplace, and that will result in a more spiritual outlook on life.

Yearning for God Through Fasting

“The fasting person has two occasions for joy, one when he breaks his fast because of his breaking it and the other when he meets his Lord because of the reward for his fast.” – Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

“Now listen to this reed flute’s deep lament

About the heartache being apart has meant:

‘Since from the reedbed they uprooted me

My song’s expressed each human’s agony” – Rumi

For those of us in much of the Northern Hemisphere, particularly here in the UK, this year’s Ramadan has been an arduous one. Nearly the entire day spent without even a sip of water can be a challenge for even the most capable of us. But somehow through the heat, long days and sleepless nights we get through it for an entire month, while our bodies are depleted of their sustenance, our souls are enriched through our spiritual restraints and sincere intentions to obey our Lord and Creator.

At the end of the long day finally comes the relief. In that moment when one breaks their fast, usually with a date or a sip of water, comes that joy and euphoria of relief from what is one of the most basic and simple of foodstuffs. This simple, short and profound moment was likened by the Prophet (ﷺ) to when the believer who fasted returns to his Lord and basks in His divine presence. The body has received it what it desperately yearns for, and it is a reminder of when man will receive what he truly yearns for. The joy of breaking fast is a reflection of the Beatific Vision, a sign from God to remind us of our true destination and the purpose of our journey. Just as He separated Eve from Adam, and made the union of man and woman a waymark to remind us of this long journey, so too does fasting act as a reminder.

Mosques in Britain – where do we go from here?

As the number of practicing Muslims in the UK has steadily grown since the 1950s, the number of mosques in Britain unsurprisingly has also risen. Many of them have a story to tell, whether it’s through its congregants, its decor, in its position in the town or city in which it is located, each facet can potentially make up one small part in the multicultural story of post-colonial Britain. For example, given the number of Muslim immigrants to the country were (and many still are) part of the working or lower middle classes, many mosques were originally not purpose built, and started in any kind of location that could be found. Whether it be in an abandoned church, pub, shop front or so on. As time progressed and the congregation grew, the mosque was built upon, enlarged and improved. As one mosque got too busy and full, or more Muslims shifted to a different part of town, another one was built, and that was eventually enlarged and improved.

Now, we’ve reached a stage for someone living in a major urban centre such as London, finding a place to pray is not an issue. But unfortunately, given the number of different groups and organisations that have developed in the UK, these mosques very seldomly work together in any kind of cohesion, and what results are a number of different issues that affect the community at large. Eid on different days, the continuation of sectarian divides, the lack of sharing of resources, there are a number of problems mosques in the UK face today. Yet however we continually see up and down the country new ones being built or rebuilt. In some areas such as Cambridge or Canterbury, both places I’ve lived in, there is only one main mosque in the city, and the building of a new larger one is required to meet the basic needs of the community. But in larger urban areas such as London, Birmingham or Manchester, the problem isn’t so much that the city needs a place to pray, it’s just because there’s a particular area within the city that isn’t close enough to a mosque for people to attend regularly.

What this results in now is the constant demand for funds to build new mosques, and as the standard has now been set on what a mosque in Britain should be like, an inaccurate standard in my opinion, the councils for these mosques go out seeking funds that are just not within the wider community’s budget. Because your standard Mosque has a dome and minaret, your new one needs to have one as well, the other mosques don’t have an English speaking imam or resources for new converts, so don’t worry about that, no one expects that from you. As the community has diversified and grown beyond its immigrant working class heritage, unfortunately many of its place of worship haven’t.

So what is a potential solution for mosques in Britain to improve? In many Muslim countries you have a concept of a Jami’ mosque, a large mosque within a city centre that is built to cater for the large number of people who need to attend Friday prayers. You then also have a number of smaller ‘satellite’ mosques, “non-Jami’” that are built for the standard five daily prayers, so that people don’t have to walk long distances to attend prayers in congregation. Traditionally these mosques would work as ‘back ups’ in case the Jami’ mosque got too full on Friday. I think we as a continually growing community need to look at this option for our mosques in this country. Rather than continuously building large Jami’ mosques, pockets of Muslims in areas where the nearest mosque is not walking distance away should set up small centres of gathering for the five daily prayers. This can be as simple a place as a converted shed or garage, a handful of people who are the most knowledgeable in faith from this microcosm of people take on the responsibility of leading the prayers, and at most you have somewhere between 20-30 congregants (including women). On searching Google I can’t find the UK legislation that deals with organising gatherings of private worship at home, but you wouldn’t place the mosque in an area where people would have to drive to get there, it would solely be for people in the surrounding streets. The benefits of performing worship in this way are numerous. People who would generally not attend prayers, or those who faced difficulty in attending them in the main mosque, would now find it a lot easier. You would get to know who your neighbours are, you would meet them on a regular basis, as opposed to the large number of people you could potentially meet at a large-scale mosque. This leads you to finding out when your neighbours need any help, whether it be financial or otherwise, you can ascertain if someone living nearby is eligible for zakat and give them your donation, as opposed to a faceless charity online. Because the mosque is a community based initiative by local people, you avoid sectarian divisions, partisan mosque committees are not required, but scholars should still be consulted when needed. Gatherings of knowledge can be more commonplace and personal if there is a person of knowledge who lives nearby who can carry out classes and gatherings of dhikr. Women who were forgotten about or ignored by larger mosques have a simpler place to meet and seek knowledge if they choose to.

In this way you start a centre of spiritual development from the root. Rather than focusing on the exoteric features of the building, you start off in the way of the Prophet’s (ﷺ) mosque, a place of gathering and remembrance that builds on the faith of the local people. By making initiatives in the grass roots we have the potential to develop and progress our community collectively much more than large organisations who face many diseconomies of scale. We have traditionally been a people focused on community, yet we lack much that others have, especially when you look at the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, the Ahmadiyya, or the Dawoodi Bohras, they look out for one another, they help each other when they need it, because they know who is who in their community and they find out who needs help. We lack that, and there’s many reasons for it, but as we grow we need to change, and for that to happen we need to do things a little differently going forward.

Lowering the gaze – “Do you serve halal movies?”

Muslims in the west today have some peculiar priorities (in this faqir’s opinion anyway), one example being the approach to halal food, something I’ve discussed previously. One particular example is how some Muslims having the tendency to judge what is permissible to eat by the certificate issued by a certain ‘Halal Committee’.

But this post isn’t about such said committees (I personally have very little idea what each of them represent so I wouldn’t be able to discuss them even if I wanted to). But the one thing Muslims don’t seem to take much scrupulousness over, I think, is the images we look at on our tv screens and at the cinema. Looking at nudity whether “in the flesh” or an image of it is not permissible in our tradition which is very obvious: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze…” and “Tell the believing women to lower their gaze…” (24:30 & 24:31). Before we go out to eat at a restaurant some of us will take the liberty of calling the restaurant to ask if they serve halal food, or ask a waiter or the manager when we get there. But to this day I’ve never heard of a Muslim saying they don’t want to see a film at the cinema because it contains nudity, sex or gratuitous violence. We usually judge whether we want to go eat at a particular restaurant based on 1) The positive things we’ve heard about it, and 2) Whether we as Muslims can eat the food they serve. With regards to films or tv shows the former criteria is only what we seem to be judging by.

Now it can be argued that they are two completely different things, which is fair enough. But I would say that what we look at and view, has the potential to have more an effect on us than what we eat. If we eat something impermissible or bad for us, we can force it out of our bodies, or eventually it will pass through and leave us anyway. But if we have looked at something and taken it into our sights it’s stamped on our minds forever, and no matter what we do we will never be able to get rid of it. I argue that the images we are exposed to have a more profound effect on us than the food we eat. The advertising industry and its negative effects being testimony to this assertion.

Myself personally I will try to avoid watching things that contain some of what I mentioned previously. And I can personally say that by avoiding them it has had a positive effect on me spiritually. The mind and the heart feel cleansed from things that you will eventually come to see as pollutants. Looking back on when I had no concern for such things it felt like a time when the heart was being bogged down by this negative exposure to the visceral, and the mind was being constantly being clogged by random clutter.

I suppose this is an effect of we as simple humans being more inclined to judge ourselves by what we do on the outward, and forget to realise it’s things on the inward that have the greater effect on us as people.

The Goal of all Faiths is to Seek God

And (remember) when thy Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their reins, their seed, and made them testify of themselves, (saying): Am I not your Lord? They said: Yea, verily. We testify. (That was) lest ye should say at the Day of Resurrection: Lo! of this we were unaware. – Surah al-A’raaf: 172

“No child is born except on the fitra [natural disposition to God] and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian (Zoroastrian), as an animal produces a perfect young animal: do you see any part of its body amputated?”
– Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 441

Part of Islamic belief is the idea that all human beings are born in a natural disposition to believe in God. When He created human souls He asked them if they bear witness that He is their Lord, to which all of them replied “Yes”. For some Muslims then it is not surprising that in the modern secular world where religion is usually placed into a backseat, that many people will refer to themselves as ‘agnostic’, or you will usually find them saying “I believe in Something, but I’m not really sure what It is”. Strangely it is usually people who are raised with no sort of religious up bringing that come up with these kinds of statements, testimony to the fact that belief is inherent in human beings, and something our soul inclines toward. Indeed it’s usually the militant atheist who will adamantly state a complete denial of anything metaphysical or spiritual, most people of no faith, have something of a faith inside them that’s bursting to come forth and find answers for questions their overly logicised mind cannot answer.

When one reflects on the major world religions, we find that the goal, no matter how veiled or disguised, still remains to be God. This is clear in the Abrahamic faiths, despite Judaism’s exclusivity and Christianity’s confusing mix and match of the pagan and the Abrahamic. How can God create all things and then only grant salvation to a few select born with the right parents, or only to those who accept that the sign of His love is that He must manifest Himself into a man, suffer, and then die for Him to be able to forgive sins?

A sceptic may have a looked at the title of this piece and dismissed the idea given the concept of the ‘Eastern Faiths’, namely Hinduism and Buddhism. The former a very much polytheistic tradition, and the latter dismissing the concept of a Creator. Hinduism at its core essence, and according to some of its philosophies is monotheistic. The concept of Brahman (or Baghwan in modern Hindi) is something akin to the concept of a Higher Entity; “the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe”. The polytheistic nature of modern Hinduism is very similar to the pagan Arab tradition, a belief in Allah, as a Creator who is in the heavens, but then taking other gods alongside Him as minor deities on Earth to supplicate to instead. Buddhists on the other hand, strive not for God, but for enlightenment and the removal of human desire. But what is enlightenment? If we were to compare anything similar in the Islamic tradition to it we would possibly see it as something similar to ma’rifa, or gnosis of God. As the Hadith Qudsi states: “When I love him [My slave], I shall be his hearing with which he shall hear, his sight with which he shall see, his hands with which he shall hold, and his feet with which he shall walk”. Hardly something that can be taken lightly, a position and rank with God that causes creation to succumb to one’s demands by the right of its Creator, a deeper sense of knowledge that expands the mind and opens the soul and destroys all desire except for the One whose bliss is truly infinite, is this not the kind of thing Buddhists strive to attain in their life? When one reflects on the Eastern traditions, it makes sense when we see some of its adherents seemingly able to perform miracles. By controlling their ego (nafs), and struggling to search for what their soul desires, they have just touched the reality of the Prophetic statement regarding wilaya, or friendship with God.

Through reflection one finds common themes amongst nearly all religions, even amongst the not so common ones, for example the idea of a kind of God in Native American folklore. For the discerning Muslim this does not come as a surprise, as God tells us in the Qur’an: “And We never sent a messenger save with the language of his folk, that he might make (the message) clear for them” (14:4). We also find allusions to divinely revealed scripture across numerous tradition, the Vedas of the Hindus described as “not of human agency and directly revealed”. Everything seems to point to One source, but does that mean that Islam is a universalistic religion? The answer is simple, God tells us in the Qur’an: “He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the Religion of Truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion” (9:33). Why does Islam with its holistic teachings then demand that it be considered the one true faith? If we reflect on what we mentioned previously, the goal of man must be to seek God, but do any of those faiths tear down the barriers that have been erected by man and go directly to the source? Some of the traditions we discussed see God as this vague supreme entity that cannot be fathomed or comprehended, and that has its truth to a certain extent. But it is only Islam that provides that relationship with that Supreme Magnificence that is God. It doesn’t need to be made into an idol or a crucified man, or a mysterious guessing game reflected on by philosophers for millennia; “We are closer to him than his jugular vein” (50:16). Islam provides that personal relationship with the Creator without any barriers, and by merely going back to the root of all things, when we were gathered in that primordial realm and declared “We bear witness”, we find the answers to all of the questions we had in our lives, and with that single truth we find salvation: “The key to paradise is ‘There is no god but God'”, “God has made the fire impermissible for the one who declares ‘There is no god but God'”. That’s it. The answer to all life’s question lies in that simple reality, the one single truth that all faiths strive to reach, succinctly placed into one simple phrase with which the path to salvation is opened, and the path to damnation is lost.

“No god but God”.

Mufti Taqi Usmani’s Advice on Prayer

The following is a pdf article by the erudite scholar of the Sub-Continent Mufti Taqi Usmani on some advice on improving one’s prayer in the outward form as per the Hanafi school. It’s relatively short but the amount of information it contains is vast in benefits:

“Critical Eyes in a Critical Time” by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Another excellent blog post by Shaykh Hamza discussing verifying truth and scrutinising the media: Critical Eyes in a Critical Time