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The premise of my very first column in Barbados TODAY back in November 2014 was an African proverb, “In crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build dams”.

Today, our world, while in crisis, seems to be witnessing less of the building of bridges and more of the building of dams or rather the building of walls. Are we less wise or more foolish?

The building of walls is not a new phenomenon. In fact, the practice stretches way back in history. Some walls were built to keep others out and some to keep certain people in. Some walls have withstood the ravages of history and have remained a potent symbol of what they stood for.

The Great Wall of China is a tourist attraction. This was started in the 7th century B.C. Like most walls it was created to protect the inhabitants of one region from the people of another region.

Our sacred scriptures tells us of a wall built by a righteous and just ruler and world traveller who led a powerful force that went from the western to the eastern end of the world. Dhul Qarnain, as he is named in Arabic, was asked by the inhabitants of a place in the east to build a barrier to protect them from the ravages of two tribes known as Gog and Magog.

These two tribes are found in Jewish, Christian and Islamic eschatology, associated with the end times. Dhul Qarnain built a wall made of iron.

My generation’s experience with famous walls relates to the Berlin Wall. This wall was started in 1961 by the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and completely cut off West Berlin by land from surrounding East Germany and East Berlin. The Berlin Wall was a symbol of the Cold War divide between the Communist/Socialist East and Capitalist West.

Two US Presidents went to the site of that Wall to proclaim America’s support for West Berlin and its opposition against the Wall. John F. Kennedy in 1963 with his famous “I am a Berliner” speech and Ronald Reagan in 1987 when his even more famous pronouncement was made “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!”

An interesting and detailed article on this subject of barrier walls can be found at: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/borders-and-walls-do-barriers-deter-unauthorized-migration. It mentions: “At the end of World War II there were fewer than five border walls in the world, according to Élisabeth Vallet, a professor of geography at the University of Québec at Montréal. By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, there were 15. Today, there are nearly 70.”

In very recent years, the Israelis built a wall to divide Palestinian lands. Donald Trump lauded this wall and has used it as a symbol of achieving security. Yet while the Israelis would have the world believe that building this wall prevented suicide Palestinian bombers and other terrorists from attacking Israel, the results of this wall have been devastating on the Palestinians.

An article by George Lowery in the Cornell Chronicle highlights the findings of Christine Leuenberger, a senior lecturer in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, who previously studied the Berlin Wall and finds there are commonalities with the Israeli-West Bank barrier-wall. She pointed out that the barrier is damaging Palestinians’ culture, education and economy.

“On the Israeli side, they most often call it the security fence or anti-terrorist fence or some refer to it as the separation fence or demographic wall. On the Palestinian side, the apartheid wall, because they consider it racist. The colonization wall, because they see it as a mechanism of colonizing their land. Whatever it’s called, the barrier and its associated checkpoints have negative implications for people on both sides. Palestinian education is suffering and its economy is shattered while Israel is faced with implementing a costly occupation that many experts believe affects the social and moral fabric of Israeli society. When very young soldiers have complete control over another population, the potential for abuse is high”

Leuenberger adds: “. . . Social networks built through family networks are falling apart because of barrier closures. People are becoming more alienated and society more fragmented. From the Israeli perspective, the various closure mechanisms within the Palestinian territories –– including 558 gates, roadblocks and checkpoints –– are vital for Israel’s security. The barrier at times veers deep into Palestinian land partly due to topographical and security concerns for the 250,000 Jewish settlers in the territories, at times cutting off Palestinians from their own land, towns and villages. Tales of critically ill Palestinians who had to travel 60 kilometers to a hospital in Ramallah rather than to the Israeli hospital in East Jerusalem five minutes away.”

In 2017, we have US President Donald Trump signing an Executive Order to build a $15 billion wall along the US/Mexico border. Interestingly, this Executive Order comes not even a week after his inauguration. An inauguration which witnessed Trump attending a pre-inauguration church service at which Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor who has a history of inflammatory remarks about Muslims, Mormons and Catholics, stated in his sermon: “You see, God is not against building walls.”

Jeffress, in that sermon, compared Trump to the story of the biblical leader Nehemiah who helped rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its walls. Trump is making good on campaign promises that got him elected but that has also made him the most divisive President of the modern era. Building physical walls as well as legal walls, as witnessed by his most recent Executive Order banning persons from some Muslim majority countries and refugees from entering the United States, can in reality be seen as all smoke and mirrors as pointed out by Suad Abdul Khabeer, an assistant professor of Anthropology and African American Studies at Purdue University.

She writes: “So, what is at play here? Trump is continuing what he started on the campaign trail. He is tapping into the fear that breeds the kind of xenophobia that gets folks excited about walls and bans, only to distract them from all the promises he won’t be keeping. In this way, these moves are a bunch of smoke and mirrors, for which Trump has become pretty famous. However, that doesn’t mean these distractions aren’t dangerous. Indeed, they are. They are a danger to the communities of colour they target. Likewise, they are dangerous for Trump supporters who will find that even with bans and walls, they will still be left behind.”

If Hollywood movies are anything to go by, President Trump would do well to watch The Day After Tomorrow –– a 2004 climate change science-fiction disaster movie that showcases the large-scale destruction of the United States and the US Government, including its President, having to seek exile in a friendly and welcoming Mexico.

Don’t underestimate the power of God in causing the mighty to fall and the lowly to rise.

What Exactly Constitutes an Authentic Expression of Islam?

For the last three decades Muslims who live in Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, have been grappling with the thorny issue of what exactly constitutes an authentic expression of Islam. It wasn’t always like this, but it has made the Caribbean a highly desired destination for a variety of foreign scholars and organizations looking to make their mark.  

In Guyana and Trinidad, countries with the largest communities, the majority of Muslims are direct descendants of indentured labourers who were brought from India to cultivate rice and sugar plantations during the British colonial period. There is also now a growing number of converts to Islam mostly from the African West-Indian communities across the English-speaking Caribbean.   

While indentureship ended in the early 20th century, the East-Indian Muslims stayed on, raising families, establishing businesses, forging communities and building mosques – 140 alone in Guyana.

Although religious texts were imported and disseminated locally, it played only a limited role in keeping people connected to the religion. The rhythm of Islamic spirituality for the mostly agrarian communities were the intermittent visits of a number of respected scholars who were grounded in tassawuf. 

Read more


I am also prompted in a small way by my “critic” who in response to my column last week commented and asked: “What about the atrocity in Orlando? Is that building bridges? . . . . What do New Barbadians think about this? Do they agree? This is more important than nonsense about Muhammad Ali.”

There is no doubt in my mind –– and in the minds of millions of Muslims across the globe –– that the horrendous act of killing people in a gay nightclub by Omar Mateen was absolutely wrong and unjustified. Islamic organizations, groups, communities, scholars, commentators and individuals have come out publicly and all condemned this atrocity.

Why did they see the need to come out? Because, first and foremost, it was wrong; but also because it was widely reported that a “Muslim” carried out the act. Immediately as news broke of the tragedy, a link was made to “ISIS”, “self-radicalization”, “Islam-inspired”, and all the other popular buzzwords that follow whenever a “Muslim” does such evils.

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Such linkages no doubt serve to empower and embolden the likes of Donald Trump who saw it fit at the time of the tragedy to thank his followers for congratulating him on his stance of barring Muslims from entering the United States.

Islam, a complete way of life

One must understand, first of all, that Islam means “complete submission to the Will of the One God in every aspects of one’s life”.  Thus the Shariah (Islamic Law) covers every aspect of a Muslim’s life: business, social, political, marriage, husband-wife relations, inheritance, relations with non-Muslims etc., etc.

In so far as the requirement regarding the age of marriage is concerned, the Shariah requires, among other conditions, that the parties must have reached the age of puberty, and if one of the parties is below that age, the consent of the parent or guardian must be obtained.

While on the question of Shariah, I must point out that “in a Muslim State, the non-Muslims enjoy special privileges according to Shariah (Islamic Law). They are granted freedom of movement and religious worship, and freedom from external threats. In the event that the Muslim State goes to war the citizens who are not Muslims can either choose to join the army, or refrain from doing so. In the latter case they must pay a special tax called Jizyah

In light of the Shariah as regards non- Muslims in a Muslim country, as stated in the preceding paragraph, is it too much to expect that where Muslims are in a minority (as in this country), they should be afforded full opportunity to practise their religion, especially in accordance with the provision in the Constitution of this country that guarantees “freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance”?

The Muslim Marriage  Act

The vast majority of Muslims and Hindus in this country are descendants of indentured labourers from India who began arriving in the country from 1845. These people worked under very trying conditions without being given the same facilities as the Christian community. One of these was the non-recognition of marriages contracted under Shariah (Islamic Law). As a result children born out of Muslim marriages were considered illegitimate, and this was indicated on their birth certificates. In addition, when the husband died, neither wife nor children could inherit the deceased’s property because the marriage was not considered legal. (The deceased’s property would revert to the State.)    As a consequence great financial stress was placed on untold thousands of citizens. A similar situation existed with respect to Hindu marriages.

Trinidad and Tobago then being a Colony of England, representations were made to the British  Government by both individuals and organisations from as early as 1915  to have both  Hindu and Muslim marriages (and in the case of Muslims – divorces) recognised by the then Colonial Government. These repeated representations eventually resulted in the passing of legislation – the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Ordinance, in the case of Muslim marriages and divorces.

The following extract of the address of the then Honourable Attorney General (an expatriate, like most of the senior Government officials when Trinidad and Tobago was a Colony of England), in moving the second reading of the Bill on the first November, 1935 is pertinent:

“The Bill constitutes a very liberal effort to satisfy the aspirations of the Muslim community in relation to their Civil Status in matters of marriage, legitimacy and divorce. ......................... The Bill was forwarded to the Secretary of State for the Colonies who submitted same to the Authorities in India. Certain suggestions were made by different authorities consulted, and by some of the Muslim Associations here and in India. In so far as it has been practicable, these have been embodied in the present Bill. Every endeavour has been made to meet the wishes of the Muslim community. It has not been possible to satisfy them in every respect, but it is believed that the Bill in its present form is acceptable to the members of the community.”

The above will illustrate the extent of the research and care the British Government took to ensure its overseas subjects were given full freedom to practice their religion. Perhaps the present Hon. Attorney General will advise us as to who are his advisors in this matter.

Is it not ironic that when we were a Colony, our Colonial masters, who we have criticised so much, enacted legislation to give their Hindu and Muslim subjects in this country freedom to practise their religion, and that now we are an independent nation the representatives we voted to rule us are in the process of taking away those privileges, which are embodied in our Constitution?

UN Resolutions on the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage  and the Registration of Marriages.

These are two General Assembly Resolutions on the matter: 1763 A dated 7 November 1962 and 2018 (XX) of 1 November 1965. The former states the State Parties “shall take legislative action to specify a minimum age for marriage” but does not specify an age.

 However, a minimum age of fifteen years was subsequently recommended in the Second Resolution. Principle 11 reads as follows : “Member States shall take legislative action to specify a minimum age for marriage, which in any case shall not be less than fifteen years of age; no marriage shall be legally entered into by any person under this age, except where a competent authority has granted a dispensation as to age, for serious reasons, in the interest of the intending parties.”

Fifty five of the one hundred and ninety two member States have signed the Convention. Among these are:

(i)     The United States of America, where each of the fifty States has its own marriage laws. In thirty two of the States (64%) the age of consent is sixteen years, with provisions for marriage at a younger age with parental or judicial permission.

(ii) England, where 45% of the population   are Christians, and one can marry at the age of sixteen with parental permission.

(i)                 Italy, where members of the Roman Catholic faith comprise 87.8 % of the population, and the marriage age is sixteen years with parental consent.

The Government proposes to make the legal minimum age for marriage for the Trinidad and Tobago, regardless of one’s religious beliefs, to be eighteen years, which is that advocated by a declining Christian community (52..9% of the population in 2000 and 48.8% in 2011).

If 15-16 years is an acceptable age for marriages in the countries to which reference has been made in the paragraph before the last, on what basis has the Government determined that the minimum age in Trinidad and Tobago should be as much as 18, regardless of one’s religious beliefs?

Marriage Age: a secular, not a religious, matter?

Some persons have contended the minimum age for marriage is purely a secular matter. I would draw their attention to the following:

 (i)   The Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago begins as follows-

 Whereas the people of Trinidad and Tobago –

(a)    Have affirmed that the Nation of Trinidad and Tobago is founded upon principles that acknowledge the Supremacy of God, faith in fundamental rights and freedom, the position of the family in a society  ....”

  (ii)      Part 1 Rights enshrined No. 4 provides as follows:  “freedom of conscience and religious belief and observance.”

  (iii) in the swearing-in ceremony for many officials in the country  the official takes the oath of office holding one of the sacred books,         (iv) religion is taught in schools, holidays are given to mark some of the religious observances of minority groups, etc.

 

Child  Marriages vs. Child Pregnancies

The Honourable Attorney General has been able to obtain statistics from the relevant Ministry regarding marriages of persons between the ages of 12 and 16, the number of which totalled 548 in 10 years.  This would average 54.8 persons per year. The Government is spending a lot of effort endeavouring to impinge on the religious rights of slightly over 20% of the population. Compare this with its dismal failure to take positive action on many major issues affecting much larger numbers of the population: e.g.:

(a)  the over 2,500 teenagers who the Minister of Education revealed become pregnant every year, most of whom do not return to school (Trinidad Express 10th. February 2014. (There are no statistics of the number of abortions that took place.)

(b) the murder rate in 2015 (403), which ranks our country as having the 13th. highest murder rate in the world.

(c) the 15,312  reports of cases of domestic violence between the period 1 January 2004 to 28 February 2014 (an average of  slightly over 1,000 a year), and that is just the number of reported cases.

Seventeen groups are in favour of the Government’s proposals

Seventeen groups have so far been named as being in favour of the proposals. I would suggest that the relevant authority verify the bona fides of these groups in order to ascertain whether or not they are representative organisations (and if so, of who and what) or “paper” bodies, and are  truly representative of the population as a whole on this issue.

The  thin edge of the wedge

 religious groups to practise their faiths. One may therefore see in the future legislation which will make it illegal:

·         For Muslim ladies to wear the hijaab and items of adornment which would identify them as Muslims (as already exists in at least one country in Europe),

·         For Muslim men to wear a beard and/or a topi (similar to a skull cap),

·         To slaughter animals as prescribed by Islamic law,

·         To give religious instruction in all schools etc., etc.

Proposals came like a thief in the night.

One expects that any party seeking to govern a country would have indicated in their Election Manifesto that, if elected, they would enact legislation to impinge on the religious beliefs of any of its citizens, especially when they number nearly twenty five percent of the population and have made considerable contributions in all aspects of the country’s successes.

In the circumstances I would suggest that the affected communities should take the following steps:

(a)    Lobby for the parties in Parliament  to afford their members to vote according to their conscience,

(b)   Petition the President of the country to appoint two temporary Senators to present the views (one Hindu and one Muslim who must be versed in their respective religions) of the two faiths when the matter comes  before the Senate,

(c)    Lobby their Parliamentary representatives urging them to reject the proposal as it impinges on their religious beliefs and the Constitution. 

Amendment to the National Anthem

Finally, if the proposed amendment is made into law it would obviously be necessary, as a corollary, to amend our National Anthem by deleting the words “here every creed and race find an equal place”.

As we settle down into the grip of another New Year, the past slips further away into obscurity and I am soberly having to grapple with the fact that many youngsters' ears have never even heard the Beatles song, "Yesterday." It's an ominous sign of age creeping up and tapping you on the shoulder like a policeman halting you for driving too fast, dangling a rusty bucket in hand and reminding you of your own inescapable mortality.

If that's the case, how much hope can we bank on to imagine they would know that there once really was a guy called Cat Stevens who dreamed of transporting his generation to a better world with a song called "Peace Train"? The chance of these young'uns ever hearing anything more about this old "Cat" becomes even more remote when you realize that he decided to embrace Islam and become a Muslim in 1977, almost 40 years ago, when none of these kids (and some of their parents) were even born.

The next major ponderable impossibility would be for them -- as well as their parents -- to have been given enough accurate information about "why" he decided to jump off the friendly choo choo and align himself to what seems today to be an alien and anti-Western religion, hell-bent on the destruction of civilization as we know it. How can we solve this paradox as we observe the increasingly frightful and blood-chilling news connected to the name of the faith he adopted as his own -- Yusuf Islam?

Listening more closely to the "Cat" and his songs of the '70s might have partially solved the puzzle. When he stunned the music world by walking away from fame and money, all you had to do was to listen to "Father & Son" to hear the last words of the song say, "There's a way and I know, that I have to go -- away..." But that still doesn't really explain "why."

Therein lies the riddle -- and here comes the explanation: What people don't know is that the actual station, at which the earnest peace-seeking singer alighted, was in fact hundreds of light years away from the (wild) world that sprouted around him following his entrance to Islam.

After having reached the peaceful state of submission to God, emptying his ego and bowing his head, learning to pray and fast, it was only one year after his conversion when the Iranian Revolution suddenly shook the planet. This was followed soon after by the war in Afghanistan, the Palestinian Intifada, the Iran-Iraq War, The Satanic Verses publication, the Bosnian Genocide, the list of tragedies rolled on through to 9/11 and all that followed up to the crisis we are facing in the world today with the arrival of ISIS and the ubiquitous war of-and-on terror which has invaded and affected all of us.

Now for the good news: Having recently attended the annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit Convention in Toronto over the Christmas period, it was perhaps one of the most exhilarating reminders of the wonderful faith I (first-person) had discovered and embraced before the dark clouds appeared and negative storm of propaganda against Islam began to hail down upon us.

Unfortunately, very few people know or have access to the enlightening and spiritual teachings of this faith as so much time and attention is paid to the more radicalized elements of the Muslim community. Nobody is saying such deviants do not exist, but they are unrepresentative (approx. 0.01 percent) and they receive an unfair percentage of the media's valuable and influential space, which should be more fairly distributed to cover the real positive representations of the faith and its ethical principles.

Although the new Prime minister of Canada Mr. Justin Trudeau sent a
special video message
of welcome and support to the event, there was hardly any other blip on the radar of media consciousness. Shame. Maybe that was because there was no bomb threat, no chaotic scenes or bloodshed; so it passed most people by like a snowflake floating in the breeze without even a whimper.

Why do beautiful things have such a hard time being noticed? And here's the point: If the real intellectual and heart-cleansing message of Islam is not publicized or promoted, then the field is left to the belligerents and deadly aspirants of Armageddon. Can't we try a bit harder to get back on that "Peace Train" again? To recall some lyrics in that anthem, "Why must we go on hating, why can't we live in bliss?"

It was truly refreshing listening to some of the inspiring testaments and speeches of the heart-centered scholars of this religion, reminding us of our common humanity and the links to wisdoms so often forgotten in the flattened landscape of modern reporting these days. The metaphysical mountain of knowledge and wisdom of the scholars of the heart are hardly seen or heard.

One of the illuminated (Western) Muslim scholars of the convention, Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah reminded us of the universal essence in the axis of all being: "Truth is necessarily coherent; it's in your DNA, in your teeth, the dragonfly, the colorful fish of the reef -- it's in the Golden Mean of geometry."

He pointed out that the major problem with "science" today is its separation from metaphysics. How can you study the beauties of the intricately unified geometric patterns of the cosmos and not recognize the awesome intellect and artist behind its existence?

Another problem is how little people know or are informed about the core commonalities between roots of Islam and Christianity and Judaism. As a British Muslim and artist and musician, born and bred in the heartlands of modern Western culture and civilization, it's still disheartening. That's why, when lecturing in public to mainly English-speaking audiences, I personally make sure to remind them that Islam embraces an unshakable belief in Jesus, Moses, Abraham and most prophets and messengers of the One true God mentioned in the Bible.

Like most things, the trouble lies is in the narrowness of our perception, as well as where we first obtain our information about such increasingly politicized subjects. The meaning of belief in God ultimately should lead a person to be the most humane and charitable, exemplified by the true teachers of faith, the chosen missionaries of God. The Last Prophet Muhammad said, "He is not a believer who goes to sleep while his belly is full while his neighbor goes hungry."

He also prophesized that there would arise extremists of faith who's "words go no further than their throats." The name given to radicals in Muslim history has always been the same: outsiders (al-khawarij). The Prophet maintained that the best of affairs lies in the "middlemost" of it, calling for justice, balance and moderation. And this was exactly what the convention was inviting to; the necessity of an "Alliance of Virtue."

It is high time the good people of the world, from all faiths and denominations work together to benefit mankind, through knowledge and good actions. The center is where we can all meet; a place where we can stand high above the sloganizing and chaos caused by religious radicals and soldiers of self-immolation and destruction. One of the memorable sayings of a famous Muslim mystic, Rumi, comes to mind here: "Out beyond the ideas of wrong and right there is a field... I'll meet you there." In that spirit, the words of my old song "Peace Train" also resonate:

Get your bags together,
Go bring your good friends, too
'Cause it's getting nearer
It soon will be with you

Call me Cat or Yusuf, I am an optimist -- and a believer cannot be anything else. Until that great train arrives, I hope that the expanding year will truly be one in which we can resolutely commit to our common humanity, and practice the heavenly teachings of true teachers and guides, many of whom I was honored to meet at the Convention in Toronto.

Peace be with you

Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens)

Extracted from HuffPost http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cat-stevens/alliance-of-virtue-islam_b_9101284.html

Defending the Indefensible

As a roaring chorus of condemnation of the Sangh-inspired storm of intolerance rises to high heavens, the perpetrators of crimes against humanity are busy defending the indefensible. Sangh stalwarts, with the silent backing of the government at the Centre, are in denial, pretending that nothing has happened that required such nationwide outrage and protest by the best of our writers, poets, artists and scientists across the country.

Taking the lead, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said that much is being made out of small things, thus indirectly ignoring the devastating wave of intolerance sweeping northern India. Worried over the trend of hate and hysteria unleashed by the Sangh, the President of India has cautioned the country thrice over the last couple of weeks against this mischief.

Not only the intellectual leaders of the country, whose numbers are now too large to be counted easily, have warned against this anti-national mischief but the Reserve Bank Governor Raghuramrajan has warned the country twice over the last few days. The last high-profile person to publicly vent his worry over intolerance, for which he has been denounced by the Sangh as a crypto-Pakistani, was actor Shahrukh Khan.

The fact remains that to describe the ongoing orgy of murder and mayhem as mere intolerance is a gross understatement. The brilliant Indian writer Arundhati Roy has explained why she has returned her award. (She also refused a Sahitya Akademi award in 2005).

“First of all, ‘intolerance’ is the wrong word to use for lynching, burning, shooting and mass murder of fellow human beings. Second, we had plenty of advance notice of what lay in store for us. So I cannot to be shocked by what has happened after this government was enthusiastically voted into office with an overwhelming majority. Third, these horrific murders are only a symptom of a deeper malaise…Whole living populations - millions of Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians - are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come.”

The growing intolerance in the country has drawn everybody’s attention including the global rating agency Moody’s analysis wing, Moody Analytics, which has shown concern over the deteriorating business and investment environment in India because of violence and instability. The Sangh-controlled government at the Centre has tried to pooh-pooh the Moody Analytics view saying that those were merely the views of a “junior” employee. To that Modi Analytics has replied that these were not the views of a single “employee”, but of Moody Analytics as a whole, as an organisation.

In the face of such horror, the common government and Sangh view is that there is nothing wrong with the communal environment in the country and those who are protesting are doing it under a vaguely defined “conspiracy,” which seems to be known to them only. Thus they are trying to defend the indefensible.

Seeing the public outrage growing, even the Prime Minister has twice appealed for public serenity and peace. If there is no turmoil, what is the reason from such an appeal? We are further befuddled when we see the same Prime Minister on two days in Bihar clearly trying to trigger a civil war between Muslims, Backward castes and Dalits telling them that Lalu-Nitish are trying to “steal” reservation from them and pass it on to “a community”. We all know which community he is talking about.

Whatever BJP-RSS may claim about the Moody Analytics, the British home secretary has said that he would talk to Prime Minister Modi about the Moody Analytics report. The British PM, too, will raise the issue of the Moody report. After all, the report cannot be dismissed so easily.

http://iosworld.org/short_takes/Defending_the_Indefensible.htm


Abraham’s Prayer:

The coming of Father Abraham ushered in a new era in the mission of man as the Vicegerent of Allah on the earth. On one hand he was a model for mankind, while on the other he became the father of the revealed religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Judaism and Christianity came from his son with Sarah, while Islam came from his son Ishmael.

Christians do not recognize Ishmael as a son in every sense of the word, because he was born from the slave of Sarah that is Hagar. However their argument for not accepting him as a legitimate son of the Patriarch is very weak. Their reason for not accepting him as Abraham’s first son is as they say that he was the son of lust and not the son of Promise.

What they failed to take note of is the fact that his father Abraham was a very pious person and because of his righteousness, according to their beliefs is that he is in Paradise.

He became the father of Ishmael when Sarah gave her slave Hagar to him, so that he did not commit any immoral act. So the argument about him being the son of lost is misleading.

Sarah’s gift to Abraham:

Abraham was nearing eighty years old and was not blessed with any offspring from Sarah. He used to pray for a son, as he was desirous of having someone to take up his legacy and continue to spread the Religion of Submission, Islam.

Abraham’s prayer is recorded in the Holy Qur’an as follows:

O my Lord, grant me a righteous son. (37:100)

Both Abraham and his wife Sarah were concerned about the fact that they did not have any children. The Bible tells us about their concern as follows:

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife bare him no children, and she had a hand maid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord had restrained me from bearing I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten yars in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband to be his wife. And he went in unto Hagar and she conceived. (Gen. 16:1-4)

So Ishmael was born in the normal way like any other human being. His birth was that of a normal child, which resulted in the union of a male Abraham and a female Hagar, who was given to him by her mistress Sarah.

From Ishmael’s genealogy came Prophet Muhammad (pboh). The Prophet (pboh) was also born as a normal human  being. Perhaps, that is a reason why Allah records about him in the Holy Qur’an in the following verse.

Say, (O Muhammad) I am a human being just like you. (18:110)

Both the Qur’an and the Bible confirm that fact that the Merciful Lord accepted the prayer of Abraham regarding his off springs. In the case of Ishmael there are the following references.

Bible:

According to the Bible, the Lord said to Abraham:

As for Ishmael I have heard your prayer, I will indeed bless him and make him fruitful, giving him many, many descendents. He shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. (Gen. 17:18-20)

Qur’an:

Allah tells us about the birth of Ishmael in the Qur’an as follows

So We gave him (Abraham) the good news of a boy (Ishmael) ready to suffer and forbear. (37:101)

Both the Qur’an and bible confirm that Ishmael was a gift from the Lord to the Patriarch. So to lower his status in the eyes of man, in order to promote the importance of Isaac is misleading. Both of these sons had their mission, one to the Israelites and the other to the whole world.

In addition to getting the good news from the Lord about Ishmael, Abraham also prayed that from his offspring should come a person who will be able to establish the Lord’s religion of Submission on the earth. This is confirmed in the Holy Qur’an in the following verses:

Our Lord, send amongst them (i.e. among the progeny of Ishmael) a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse Thy Signs to them and instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, and sanctify them. (2:129)

Abraham: a model.

Abraham is recognized as a model and a very righteous person. This is confirmed both in the Bible and in the Qur’an.

The Bible records about his righteousness in the following verses:

And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels unto Abraham’s bosom. (Lk. 16:22).

Allah says about him in the Qur’an the following:

Abraham was indeed a model, devoutly obedient to Allah, (and) true in faith; and he did not join gods will Allah. He showed his gratitude for the favors of Allah, Who chose him and guided him to a Straight Way. And We gave him good in this world, and he will be, in the Hereafter, in the ranks of the righteous. So We have taught you ( O Muhammad), follow the ways of Abraham, the True in Faith, and he did not join gods with Allah. (16:120-3)

Abraham’s prayer was very specific. He wanted someone to come after him whol will be able to:

1.     Teach the people how to read the Book.

2.     Teach them the messages contained in the Book.

3.     Teach them the wisdom (application and benefits) of the Messages in the Book.

4.     Teach them self-purification and Spirituality

None of the Messengers were able to fulfill the prayer of Father Abraham. As a result the Israelites were always on the lookout for him who was to come as the answer to the Patriarch’s prayer.

There were always wise men called Sophias on the borders and in the important centers on the lookout for him who was to come, i.e. the Expected one. When John the Baptist began his mission the people taught that he was the Expected One. In response to their belief he said:

I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. (Lk.3:16)

When Jesus began his mission, John taught that he was the Expected One, so he sent two of his disciples to question Jesus about it. The Bible records this in the following verses:

And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus saying: Art he that should come? Or look we for another? (Lk.7:19)

In response to John’s query Jesus said:

Verily, I say unto you, among them that are born of woman there had not been a greater than John the Baptist. (Mt.11:11)

And I shall pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. (Jn.14:15)

I have yet many things to say unto you but you cannot bear them now. Howbeit when the Spirit of Truth is come, he shall guide you unto all truth, for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak; and he shall show you things to come. (Jn.16:12-15)

Neither did John nor Jesus meet the criterion of the conditions made by Father Abraham regarding the prayer for the one who was to take his legacy. As a result the Sophias continued to keep looking for the Expected One.

When Prophet Muhammad (pboh) was born they saw the sign in the sky and they were sure that he had arrived. This was confirmed by the Jewish Monk Bohira who interviewed the Prophet (pboh) as a boy who was in the company of his uncle Abdul Mutallib, on a caravan journey to Basra.

We see that Allah answered Abraham’s prayer with the birth of Prophet Muhammad (pboh). He says:

Allah did confer a great favor on the Believers when He sent among them a Messenger from amongst themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs of Allah, sanctifying them, and instructing them in Scripture and Wisdom. (3:164)

Unfortunately, the followers of Isaac did not select to accept him as the one they were expecting due to the fact that he came from the progeny of Ishmael and not of Isaac.

Whatever Jews and Christians may want to believe, that does not alter the position and status of the Prophet (pboh), as he was the only one that was able to unite mankind into one brotherhood. He fulfilled the prediction of Jesus who informed his people that the Comforter will teach them all things, and will not say anything, except what the Lord wants him to say. About this Allah says:

He never said of his own desire, (all that he said) is inspiration (from the Lord) sent down to him. (53:3-4)

 

TO BREATHE

Salaam All

“I swear..by the night when it draws in, and by the dawn when it exhales” (Surah At-Takwir, 17-18)

At the pool, I watched a bunch of people swimming. Some little kids could stay underwater for just a few seconds, while others, like Za, stayed under for a long time … up to 90 seconds (scaring me in the process). There are others who can hold their breath for five and a half minutes! But no matter how long you hold your breath, everyone desperately needs to gasp for air when surfacing from under water.

God's LEAST blessing to us...and our GREATEST Need at each moment....is a single breath.

In life, so many people are slowly asphyxiating. This spiritual choking manifests itself in many different responses: feeling overwhelmed, lonely, guilty, unimportant, ashamed, unsafe, worthless, stupid, left out, incompetent, being lost in life, never catching up on tasks, craving a drink, needing coffee to get started, seeing the glass half empty, never getting a break, feeling unattractive, eating to soothe, being passed over, picked last, or picked on. Some people feel flat out hopeless, helpless, and even suicidal. And you see these people all around you...on the streets, in offices, in the mosques, at the shops...

Why? 

Because they are not spiritually “breathing.”

To pray is to breathe

When people are not praying, they are spiritually suffocating. They’re on life support … dying … or maybe they have never really lived. Just as the body must have oxygen, our spirit, our essence, can’t survive without prayer … without connecting to God, and breathing Him in. 

His Book and prayer are our daily breath.

Prayer is an opening of our hearts to God. Praying allows us to connect with and understand His spiritual world. As we spend regular time in prayer, our spiritual radar becomes tuned and tweaked to God’s settings. So, we breathe Him in and connect more powerfully, prayer after prayer, breath after breath.

You see, as we pray, we tune our radar to His frequency, which allows us to receive His communication without clutter and interference. Frequent, meaningful prayer refines our spiritual radar. We begin to zero into His frequency easily. Using His clear guidance, life becomes easier and more fulfilling

Have you ever experienced that scary choking feeling when something was caught in your throat? Satan is trying to influence what you breathe in each day. But Satan’s air is really carbon monoxide. His poisonous air actually obstructs our breathing and chokes us. Satan brainwashes us to think that talking to God is wasted time, an obstruction we can’t afford in our day. Don’t be so easily tricked.

Stop and do this exercise. Hold your breath as long as you can, then breathe. The urgency and powerful way you gasp for air represents how much you actually need God every second of your life! Pray deeply and breathe easily … or avoid prayer and choke fearfully. Whether you breathe in God through prayer, or you breathe in the toxic fumes of this world is your decision, so choose well.

BTW...the above verse is a miracle...so let's explain...

The time of day when photosynthesis is most efficient, is the time when oxygen is produced in the highest amounts, and this happens in the morning hours when bright sunlight first appears. As the sun rises, the leaf transpires, and the process of photosynthesis begins. In the afternoon, the process is reversed; photosynthesis slows down and respiration increases due to increasing transpiration derived from the increase in temperature. And at night, transpiration slows down and the plant is at ease due to the decrease in temperature.

The phrase that draws the attention to the morning “itha tanaffasa” ie “as it breathes away” in the Surah At-Takwir, metaphorically means to breathe deeply or respire. The phrase emphasized in the verse is remarkable in the sense that morning is the time when oxygen production starts, as well as being the time when the oxygen is produced most. In addition, the importance of this fact is emphasized in the verse with the oath being made upon this fact. 

Photosynthesis, which was one of the most important discoveries of the 20th century, is one of the scientific miracles of the Quran, indicated by the verse above. 

Shamal...Please circulate the Prayer brochure and let it be a breath of fresh air for your contacts. For the more people who breathe consciously aware of God the better the world becomes. Thank you.
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