Dhikr – Awakening from Illusion

Society is filled with imagery of that which is not real – whether artificial personalities in media, the latest celebrity gossip, fake images in advertisements, or fictional stories in film and on television. Is life just about filling one’s mind with these illusions? Or can we awaken from all this and direct our consciousness towards the ultimate reality?  Every human being is in search of peace and tranquility. But where is one to find it? It seems every day in our lives we are confronted with more problems and more worries. Studies have shown almost half of all people find their job extremely stressful, many hate their boss or can’t stand their coworkers, and others call in sick to avoid work.1National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, 1999. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/99-101/. And after working long hours, many people find only more life stressors awaiting them at home with increased rates of dysfunctional marriages, abusive relationships, and overwhelming financial obligations. Many turn to alcohol to ‘drown out their sorrows’. People desperately begin to pursue frequent vacations to escape life’s stresses and find a serene place of comfort, but they find themselves returning to their usual life even more disgruntled and irritable than when they left. The medical literature indicates that as such stress accumulates it may be associated with a wide variety of negative health outcomes including hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, and even cancer.2See for instance Byles J et al. Psychological distress and comorbid physical conditions: disease or disability? Depression and Anxiety (2014) 31:524-532. This begins a vicious cycle, as chronic illnesses themselves are one of the leading causes of stress, pushing an individual into psychological dysfunction, clinical depression, anxiety...

Scholars (3) – What could go wrong?

This is a continuation of the discussion on the role of scholars. Please read the preceding part 1, and part 2. Do scholars sometimes make mistakes? Despite the advantage afforded by lengthy educational training, human error is inescapable. Imam Malik (d.179H) famously said, “Everyone can have their statement accepted or rejected, except the Prophet Muhammad”. 1Siyar ‘Alam al-Nubala 8/93 Whenever an expert advances a viewpoint that is not substantiated by research and is contradicted by other experts in the field, such a viewpoint is rightly repudiated by those who possess the requisite skills to evaluate the research. It is essential that such a repudiation come from the community of experts so that the lay people are not left in the dark. How should a mistaken view be handled? The best way to help people is for other experts to clarify the correct understanding of the subject. Focusing on the person who made the mistake rather than the topic itself only leads people to get caught in unhelpful partisan debates driven by emotion rather than reason. On the other hand, when people acquire a correct understanding of the topic, they can judge for themselves and understand why a certain view is incorrect. Also, it is important not to disregard everything from a person when they make an error on one matter – they may still have valuable contributions on other matters. Just because an expert holds a mistaken view on one matter does not disqualify them from being an expert, or else there would be none left! When is there a risk of bias in a scholar’s views?  Human beings...

Harmony with Humanity – Islam and Non-Muslims

How do human beings live together on a planet with so many different moral systems, ideologies and religions? What does Islam say about dealing with non-Muslims? Doesn’t religion always create artificial barriers between people?​ In order for people to live peacefully together on this planet, they must be willing to deal respectfully with those who belong to other communities. ​A common feature of all fanatical ideologies is xenophobia – the extreme hatred for those who are different and do not belong to one’s group.​ It is essential then, for any system of guidance (religious or otherwise) that purports to be a complete way of life, that it must accommodate outsiders with tolerance and respect. ​ The emergence of fanatical ideologies in war-torn and politically repressive Muslim-majority countries​ has lead many to question how Islam defines its relationship with the outsider. It is of critical importance therefore, that a close examination of the foundational and authoritative sources be undertaken to answer this question. ​ What does Islam say about relationship with non-Muslims?​ Islam teaches that a believer’s faith in God must manifest itself in compassion towards all creation. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Show mercy towards all on this Earth, the one who is above the Heavens will bestow mercy on you” (Sahih Bukhari).​ Indeed, the Qur’an describes Prophet Muhammad as “a source of mercy to all creation” (21:108), and as the famous Qur’anic exgete Ibn Jareer al-Tabari (d.310H) relates, “This includes both Muslims and Non-Muslims.” The Prophet Muhammad said, “You are not a believer until you love for your brother what you love for yourself” (Sahih...

Tawheed – A Life Worth Living

What is it that makes my life worth living? Some people have the luxury of approaching this question as a mere philosophical exercise; for others, this question continues to haunt them, driving them to the depths of depression. Is life really just the pursuit of transient pleasures and accumulating material wealth? What happens then when life becomes filled with challenges and hardships?  Why bother continuing with such a life? In this article we explore a unique perspective that logically connects our spiritual journey with the reality of existence.   What constitutes a meaningful and prosperous life? Undoubtedly, this is a question that has plagued the minds of philosophers, scholars, and laymen alike throughout the course of human history. Some have questioned whether there should be any purpose at all. After all, if the universe is nothing more than shifting gooey soup of particles, the existence of worlds, organisms, and you, is purely incidental and ultimately, meaningless (read more in this article). Your existence really does not matter at all, and you just have to live with that, as the nihilists preached. The Islamic message however, presents something very different. The Qur’an is very direct in confronting the question of meaning: “Do you really think that We created you without purpose, and you would not return to Us?” (Qur’an 23:115) So what is the purpose of life in Islam?  The Qur’an articulates a vision of humanity’s purpose that merges moral, spiritual and intellectual dimensions. Human beings were created to develop their relationship with the One true God (Qur’an 51:56), but this spiritual journey is also tied to the moral duty to enjoin...

Rahmah – Compassion is Crucial

Why do human beings do good towards others? At the end of the day, is it always for some selfish motivation? Where does compassion come from and why is it important? How can compassion be revived in the world today? In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful – that is the verse that begins the Qur’an and is repeated 114 times. It is hard to ignore the theme of mercy and compassion (Ar. Rahmah) throughout Islam. The Divine Mercy of God “encompasses everything in existence” (Qur’an 40:7), and God states that the Qur’an is intended as a source of mercy and compassion (Qur’an 16:89), and that the Prophet Muhammad was only sent as “a source of mercy and compassion to all creation” (Qur’an 21:107) . The very first tradition of the Prophet Muhammad that a person learns when studying Islam is the saying, “The Most Merciful bestows His Mercy upon those who continually act with mercy. Be merciful to all those on earth, and you will be granted mercy by the One above Heaven” (Sahih Bukhari). While it is most frequently translated as simply ‘mercy’, the arabic word rahmah actually conveys something deeper. It comes from the same root as the arabic word rahm, which mean’s a mother’s womb. It is the compassionate love that we see in a mother’s love for her child. It is the simple act of selfless caring. It is genuine concern for the well-being of another and a profound desire to alleviate their suffering and misery. The Prophet Muhammad likewise used the same example of motherhood, to explain to his companions that God’s rahmah towards His...