Lamp of Islam articles

Quran

Essential methodology for understanding the Quran

Basic guidelines on how to study the Quran

Translation of an untranslatable book

Importance of holistic reading

Understanding the vague messages

When a reading of the Quran can misguide

A reading of the Quran can misguide when …

Why traditional tafsirs are unreliable

Differences among Quran-centrists

An answer to a deist’s rebuttal of the Quran

Unfolding of divine messages is like biological evolution

An answer to Jay Smith’s “Examining the Newest Historical Research on Islam …”

 

Hadith

The Quran prohibited hadiths

Hadith prohibited Hadith

The first four Caliphs prohibited hadiths

Earlier Muslims prohibited hadiths

Common sense prohibits Hadith

The Quran relates Hadith to shirk

The Quran rejects Hadith and its authority

The Quran describes Hadith as satanic revelation

The Quran exposes hadith, sunna, ijma, sharia and salaf

The Quran disapproves of all hadiths other than the Quran

Why the Prophet prohibited Hadith

How hadiths contradict science and reason

How hadiths insult and demonise the Prophet

How hadiths severely corrupted Islam

 

Observation

Hearing, sights and senses as flying birds

Meaning of ‘BIRD’ in the Quran

Where is our ‘Bird of destiny’?

Sensory perceptions in the Quran

Importance of scientific observation

The Quran calls on us to travel

Divine gifts of transport

Can scientific observation be one of the ‘pillars’ of Islam?

 

Reasoning

The Quran calls for inductive reasoning

The Quran calls for critical thinking and reasoning

 

Scientific understanding

Relationship between the Quran and science

What a doctor can learn from the Quran

An answer to Richard Carrier’s “Cosmology and the Koran”

Reading the verses on natural phenomena: A multi-layered approach

 

Science

Articles on science

 

The Oneness and the Transcendent

Why awareness of Oneness and Transcendent is so important

How rejection of Oneness and Transcendent leads to fire

All good deeds spring from the Awareness of Oneness

Will God send disbelievers to eternal hell?

Abraham’s observation of the Universe

Arguments for the existence of God

Messages in our own self

God in the Upanishads

The famous light verse

Abraham’s four birds

Hell and its duration

The Light of the Upanishads

Every kindling of fire is a reminder!

Countering the mosque-goers’ argument during the coronavirus pandemic  

Hell is temporary, heaven is unending

 

Shahada

A preface to “22 serious reasons shahada should contain no name except God’s”

22 serious reasons shahada should contain no name except God’s                

The first commandment of Islam has no name in it except God’s

La ilaha illa Allah is the only shahada found in the Quran

The Quran doesn’t authorize any added name in shahada

Islam revolves around Oneness and so should shahada

In all service we should remember only the ever-living One who never dies

We are not allowed to make distinction between the messengers

God is enough as witness that Muhammad was God’s messenger

The Quran relates the testimony ‘Muhammadur rasulullah’ to hypocrisy

The Quran links the added shahada to rejection

Pairing God with Muhammad violates holistic logic

The Quran condemns those who mention ‘others’ with God

Associating sanctified creatures with God is idolatry, the gravest offense in Islam

Extended shahada is not a requirement to be or become a Muslim

Extended shahada is not a requirement for salvation

Islam is not about any particular messenger

The Quran presaged the extended shahada as deviation

Extended shahada creates false religions by inventing secondary authorities

Sectarian shahada is based on baseless hadiths

‘Shahada hadiths’ are contradictory and confused

Sectarian shahada was a later invention

Earliest ‘dated Muslim texts’ constantly remember God but never Muhammad

The dual shahada evolved in line with an increasing idolization of Muhammad

A summary of “22 serious reasons shahada should contain no name except God’s”

Distortion of shahada evidenced by archaeology

Distortion of shahada through the political slogan of the Umayyads

 

True Islam

Islam is not about any particular messenger

The Quran calls for inductive reasoning

The Quran calls for critical thinking and reasoning

Quran, the messenger of peace and tolerance

The Quran calls for peace and tolerance: verse examples

The Quran promotes religious pluralism

The Quran promotes art and aesthetics

Pursue pleasure and happiness and mind the balance

Pollutants and evils intruded into Islam through traditions

Book review: Abdur Rab’s “Rediscovering Genuine Islam”

 

Muhammad

The Muhammad of the Quran

True Muhammad versus false Muhammad (part-1)

True Muhammad versus false Muhammad (part-2)

Can Muhammad of hadiths be a prophet of God?

Miraj from the Book of Viraz?

Was Muhammad an epileptic?

Muhammad cartoons controversy: what does the Quran say?

A review of Dan Gibson’s Mecca vs. Petra theory

Petra has nothing to do with the origin of Islam

How hadiths insult and demonise the Prophet

Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires by Juan Cole

 

Islam vs Muhammadanism

How all the corruption in Islam started

Darood (salawat): Its origin and danger

Miraj from the Book of Viraz?

Lailatul Qadr: Night of Meditation

Who can intercede on the Day of Judgment?

What does the Quran really say about intercession?

Understanding chapter 6 from Abraham’s perspective

How hadiths insult and demonise the Prophet

Quran, the messenger of peace and tolerance

The Quran calls for peace and tolerance: verse examples

Distortion of shahada evidenced by archaeology

Zoroastrian influence on traditional Islam 

Pollutants and evils intruded into Islam through traditions

Distortion of shahada through the political slogan of the Umayyads

Should we add sanctifying titles and phrases to the names of the messengers?

 

Pluralism

The Quran promotes religious pluralism

Meaning of COLOURS in the Quran

One light (the Truth) is split into many colours (a truth’s)

We are called to observe the colours

The famous Light Verse

Why light is one and darknesses are many

Black and White in the Quran

Various colours in the Quran

One ‘green’ with many products

God in the Upanishads

The Light of the Upanishads

Arabia: The Untold Story: a review

The Quran accepts shirk as a necessary evil

Similarity between Hindu, Christian and Muslim prayers

The story of Adam: a call for a secular, pluralistic society

Quran, the messenger of peace and tolerance

The Quran calls for peace and tolerance: verse examples

 

Islam vs rituals

Salat during the time of the Prophet

Why salat is NOT ritual prayer

The word ‘salat’ in the Quran

Miraj from the Book of Viraz?

Lailatul Qadr: Night of Meditation

Meaning of Safa and Marwah

Zoroastrian influence on traditional Islam

Why establishing the Salat means doing Works of Reform

Is praying for something or someone helpful?

 

Islamic and un-Islamic practices

The Quran never allowed wife beating

Child marriage violates the Quran

Miraj from the Book of Viraz?

Lailatul Qadr: Night of Meditation

Abortion from a Quranic perspective

Should halal slaughter be banned?

Facts about pork

Circumcision: an overview 

Should we recommend circumcision?

Is adoption prohibited in Islam?

Zoroastrian influence on traditional Islam

The Quran promotes art and aesthetics

Pursue pleasure and happiness and mind the balance

Countering the mosque-goers’ argument during the coronavirus pandemic

Halal food misconceptions

 

Salat

Salat during the time of the Prophet

Why salat is NOT ritual prayer

The word ‘salat’ in the Quran

Why QIBLA is not physical direction

Zoroastrian influence on traditional Islam

Why establishing the Salat means doing Works of Reform

Why the Prophet’s wartime salat was not ritual prayer

Origin and development of traditional Muslim prayer

 

Reviews and rebuttals

Arabia: The Untold Story: a review

A review of Dan Gibson’s Mecca vs. Petra theory

Petra has nothing to do with the origin of Islam

An answer to a deist’s rebuttal of the Quran

Can Muhammad of hadiths be a prophet of God?

Lands are shrinking, despite what Quran’s critics say

Does the Quran really say that the Sun sinks in a murky lake?

Book review: Abdur Rab’s “Rediscovering Genuine Islam”

An answer to Richard Carrier’s “Cosmology and the Koran”

An answer to wikiislam’s rebuttal of the Quran about ‘frontal lobe and lying’

An answer to Jay Smith’s “Examining the Newest Historical Research on Islam …”

An answer to Richard Carrier’s “Predicting Modern Science: Epicurus vs. Mohammed”

 

Same sex relationship

The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love 

The Quran doesn’t penalise homosexuality

A same sex act in itself is not a transgression

Lot’s people assaulted ‘men from other nations’

Understanding the story of Lot

Does the Quran condemn homosexuality?

The significance of ‘Nay, but’ in the story of Lot

Did Lot really offer his daughters to the rapists?

Why the traditional understanding of the story of Lot makes NO SENSE

 

Messages in nature

Messages in physical sciences

Messages in life sciences

Messages in human sciences

Messages in our own self

 

Dialectics

Dialectics in society

Laws of historical dialectics in the Quran

Dialectical expressions in the Quran

The Universal Flux

 

Cosmos

Is there a cosmic blueprint?

The Big Bang and the origin of the Universe

The Expanding Universe

Meaning of ‘seven Heavens’

Strict balance in the expanding Universe

An answer to Richard Carrier’s “Cosmology and the Koran”

Death and rebirth of stars: a reminder

What is ‘the lowest Heaven’?

Heliocentric concepts in the Quran

Meaning of ‘seven Earths’

Mind and the Universe

What is harder to create: Man or Universe?

An answer to Richard Carrier’s “Predicting Modern Science: Epicurus vs. Mohammed”

The Universal Flux

 

Solar system

Meaning of ‘seven Heavens’

What is ‘the lowest Heaven’?

Heliocentric concepts in the Quran

Meaning of ‘seven Earths’

 

Earth

Earth’s axial rotation

Earth’s orbital revolution

Earth is a spinning ball

Earth as a spaceship

Two Easts and two Wests

Meaning of ‘seven Earths’

Does the Quran really say that the Sun sinks in a murky lake?

Lands are shrinking, despite what Quran’s critics say

Mountains are passing like clouds

 

Evolution

Evolutionary sequence in the Quran

Man has evolved through stages

Rumi and the Quranic concept of evolution

The story of Adam confirms evolutionary origin of humans

Unfolding of divine messages is like biological evolution

What is the original material that man has evolved from?

 

Plants and photosynthesis

Every kindling of fire is a reminder!

One ‘green’ with many products

 

Adam

The story of Adam is a parable

The meaning of the story of Adam

Understanding the allegory of Adam

Adam is not a name of a person

Is Adam a prophet?

Creation of Adam is a constantly recurring event

How would the ‘Forces’ know about future violences?

Why Adam’s mate in the Quran has no name

Where is the garden of Adam?

How fall of Adam can be reversed

Meaning of ‘children of Adam’

The story of Adam confirms evolutionary origin of humans

The story of Adam: a call for a secular, pluralistic society

 

Noah

What was the actual age of Noah

Understanding the Flood Parable of Noah

Why the flood story of Noah is similar to the Hindu flood legend of Manu

 

Abraham

Abraham’s observation of the Universe

Understanding chapter 6 from Abraham’s perspective

Abraham’s four birds

 

Jesus

Does the Quran really support the Virgin Birth of Jesus?

The spirit-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was a real, mortal man 

 

Quranic allegories

What was the actual age of Noah

Understanding the Flood Parable of Noah

Why the flood story of Noah is similar to the Hindu flood legend of Manu

Abraham’s four birds

A lesson from the story of Aaron

The Parable of the Town in Ruins 

Does the Quran really support the Virgin Birth of Jesus?

The spirit-bearing man who gave Mary a pure son was a real, mortal man 

Hell is temporary, heaven is unending

Hell is temporary, heaven is unending

In our study Hell and its duration, we made two important observations: first, fire/hell is not a locality but a state of existence, a metaphor for the corrective experience of self-consciousness. Second, with the Final Judge just and merciful, there cannot be eternal doom in Islam.  

Here we will go through the Quranic guidance and will note the reasons why hell is temporary, while heaven is unending:

God, first of all, is most Merciful, most Compassionate

The God as portrayed in the Quran is mainly an infinitely merciful and all-forgiving god rather than a cruel, vengeful deity. In fact, MERCY is the principal attribute of Islamic God – a concept that is constantly repeated through the formula Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim and is expounded all over the Quran1 (1:1-3, 6:12, 6:54, 7:156, 40:7).

God fully knows our minds and is most understanding

The Quran illustrates God as the one who is ‘closer to us than our jugular veins’ and ‘nearer to us than all our nearest’ (50:16, 56:85). So God is not only the ultimate witness over everyone and everything (13:33, 22:17), He is also fully aware of what is in our minds (2:235, 3:29 …)2. God, thus depicted, must be a most understanding entity, rather than a judgemental, resentful deity.

God is unto all people Merciful and Compassionate

God is Compassionate to ALL people3, irrespective of their station in life or their belonging to a certain category (2:143, 38:54, 39:53, 40:7, 42:5, 22:65; cf. 16:4-7, 17:110).

God’s mercy encompasses all, including sinners and hell-dwellers

The very opening verses of the Quran assert that God, the Sustainer and Evolver of the entire Universe (the Sustainer of all the worlds. 1:2), takes care of all things with loving tenderness (the Mercygiving, the Merciful. 1:3; ‘Rahman’, ‘Raheem’), just as a mother’s womb (‘rahm’; cf. 3:6) nourishes the foetus with love and care. So, evidently, it is impossible that the same God would make His creation to punish them, since His mercy encompasses all things, including sinners and hell-dwellers4 (7:156, 39:53, 40:7).

Everything will be brought to divine justice where nothing will be wasted or ignored

It is important to appreciate that God is not only Merciful but also Just and His justice also extends to just retribution. One can therefore logically expect that they would be recompensed for what they have earned, which is a fundamental teaching of the Quran. In other words, fire/hell is not a mode of retaliation by a cruel, vengeful deity, but it is the result of one’s own wrongdoing that naturally leads to its negative consequences. While assuring absolute divine justice for everyone, purely based on one’s DEED rather than one’s CREED (2:286, 3:25, 6:160, 28:84, 36:54, 46:19; cf. 18:7, 46:19, 49:13-14), the Quran insists that, irrespective of one’s position or station in life, even the smallest details of all the actions of every human will be brought to divine justice where nothing will be wasted or ignored (4:40, 6:164, 13:33, 45:22, 53:36-42, 91:7-10, 99:7-8).

God’s chastisement is proportionate to the extent of one’s wrongdoing

The Quran describes the penalty of an evil deed as proportionate to the extent/like of it (6:160, 28:84). Thus all divine chastisement will be in exact accordance to the measure of the wrongdoing and not an atom’s weight of injustice will occur5 (2:286, 3:25, 4:40, 6:132, 10:27, 36:54, 78:22-26, 99:7-8).

The final judgment will be based on absolute justice tampered with divine mercy and compassion  

The Quran further cheers us up with the reassurance that, since the Judgment belongs to God alone (6:57, 6:159, 12:40, 40:12), His final judgment will be based on absolute justice tampered with divine mercy and compassion (18:88, 21:92-94, 28:77, 41:30, 46:13, 95:6).

Hell has numerous layers, to recompense the numerous levels of wrongdoers

The Quran at many places alludes to the ‘abode of the wrongdoers’ as a multifaceted place which is geared to fit the various levels of evils they commit. It is not a place where everyone will be given the same chastisement.

And for all such, hell is the promised abode./ With seven6/many gates leading into it – each gate receiving its share of wrongdoers. 15:43-44

To each will be degrees according to what they did; He will recompense them and they will face no injustice. 46:19

Hell is a home, but not an eternal abode

The idea of eternal hell, probably a traditional Christian import to early Islam via hadiths and tafsirs, found its support in Quranic exegesis largely through two overtranslated Quranic words: khalada (root kh-l-d), and abadan (root a-b-d). Both words essentially mean stay, dwell or abide, often for a long time, without necessarily referring to perpetuity7. Now, while both words occur for both hell and heaven to describe their durations, there are verses that specifically place a limit on the duration of hell, though no such limit is placed in the case of heaven. Thus, traditionally overinterpreted as eternity, the actual description the Quran sometimes uses for the nature of fire/hell as an abode is a permanent address or residence, which simply means a home, rather than a temporary lodge. In fact, this is an allegorical expression in accord with the reality of long-lastingness of fire/hell that derives from the very definition of fire/hell as a part of akhirat or lasting, as opposite of ajilat or fleeting.  

Hell lasts shorter than heaven

Though both khalada and abadan occur in the Quran for both hell and heaven to describe their durations, and though both words sometimes occur together (as ‘khalidina fiha abadan’) to emphasise the long-termness of both heaven (64:9) and hell (4:169), there is an interesting subtlety here. When heaven and hell are contrasted together, the duration of the inhabitants of heaven is described as ‘khalidina fiha abadan’, while the duration of hell is limited to ‘khalidina fiha’ without the elaboration ‘abad’:

He will admit them to Gardens beneath which rivers flow, to abide therein lastingly (khalidina fiha abadan). That will be the supreme achievement./ But those who reject and deny Our messages, such are dwellers of the fire, to abide therein (khalidina fiha): what a miserable destination! 64:9-10

Hell is only for a limited period of time

The extent of the duration of hell is specified by the Quran itself to mean only a period of time (78:23, 6:160, 28:84; cf. 6:128, 7:46, 7:156, 11:45, 11:106-108, 18:60, 57:13, 101:9). Here again, our concept of physical time of this world may not be sufficient in such discussions about the incomprehensible dimensions of ‘hereafter’. For example, in the following passage, the use of the word ahqaba, which only means a limited period of time, clearly indicates that the duration of the punishment in hell is not unceasing, but limited (cf. Moses’s persistence for huquba, i.e. long time, 18:60):

For the transgressors it is a dwelling/ In it shall they remain for ages (ahqaba, root h-q-b)/ … A requital proportioned. 78:22-23, 26

A period of hell is extendable and therefore cannot be infinite

In the following verse we note a punishment being prolonged or extended. This would arguably be in contradiction with the idea of eternal punishment, simply because a period that can be extended cannot be infinite.

Nay, We will record what he says, and We will extend (namuddu, root m-d-d) his punishment extensively. 19:79

Hell ends, but heaven continues

Now please read the following verses:

As for those who are miserable, they will be in the fire; in it for them is a sighing and a wailing./ Abiding therein as long as the Heavens and the Earth exist, unless thy Sustainer wills it otherwise: for thy Sustainer does as He pleases./ As for those who are happy, they will be in the Garden; abiding therein as long as the Heavens and the Earth exist, unless thy Sustainer wills it otherwise, a gift unceasing. 11:106-108

Here the phrase “as long as the Heavens and the Earth exist” clearly refers to the duration of a New Universe, because our current Universe will be dismantled for a new one with different dimensions8 (14:48, 21:104, 25:22, 39:37, 50:44, 69:16, 70:9).

Now, while the phrase occurs for both hell and heaven to describe their durations in this New Universe, there is some difference in these descriptions.

In the case of hell, a limit is placed on its duration by the subsequence of the phrase “unless thy Sustainer wills it otherwise” (cf. 6:128)9, an action that becomes accomplished by the immediately following, strong announcement of its implementation: “for thy Sustainer DOES as He pleases”.

In the case of heaven, however, no such limit is placed as it is reassured that heaven, the default destination, is a gift that will never end (41:8, 84:25, 95:6), i.e. unless God wills to bestow on man a yet greater reward. In other words, the duration of heaven will exceed the duration of the New Universe or unless He opens up to man a new, yet higher stage of evolution.

Unlike heaven, hell is never described as unending

The reference to heaven as ‘a gift unceasing’ in 11:108 is reinforced in the Quran with a similar and repeated expression ‘a reward that will not end’ (41:8, 84:25, 95:6; cf. 68:3). No such expression has been used with reference to hell10, which points to a clear distinction between the duration of heaven and the duration of hell.

Surely those who acknowledge and promote reforms shall have a reward that will not end (ajrun ghayru mamnoon). 41:8

Hell, as a mother’s womb, is only a stage of development towards rebirth and a sign of divine mercy

The Quran depicts hell as a nursing mother to the ‘sinners’ till they are reborn after they are evolved and completely cleansed of the taint of ‘sin’. A mother’s womb or a nursing mother’s lap is only a stage of development and the child doesn’t stay in it forever.

But he whose scale of good deeds is light/ The Abyss shall then be a nursing mother (umm) to him. 101:8-9

Hell will be connected through a door with the chamber of mercy

The Quran informs that a wall with an exit will be placed between heaven and hell, which suggests a potential passage out of the punishment and therefore access to divine mercy:

On that Day, the hypocrite males and the hypocrite females will say to those who acknowledged: “Wait for us! Let us absorb some of your light.” It will be said: “Go back behind you, and seek light.” So a wall will be placed between them with a door, its interior containing MERCY, but on the outside of it is torment. 57:13; cf. 7:46

The myth of infinite punishment is dismissed by a simple arithmetic:

Reward for a good deed is TENFOLD and requital for a bad deed is only to its extent

The traditionalists’ myth of infinite punishment, by a cruel irrational deity, is categorically dismissed by one single verse – with the assertion that the reward of a righteous work is to be ‘multiplied by ten’ whereas the penalty of a bad action is ‘only with the like of it’ (6:160). This is further confirmed by verses like 28:84 and 10:27.

Whoever brings a good deed will receive a tenfold reward. And whoever brings an ill deed will be requited only with the like of it. And no one will be wronged. 6:160

Whoever brings forth a good deed, he receives a better reward than it. And whoever brings forth an evil deed then the retribution for their evil deeds is only to the extent of their deeds. 28:84

With the Final Judge just and merciful, there cannot be eternal doom in Islam

The Quran describes God as the ‘most just of judges’ (11:45). It is impossible that a just judge would impose an endless punishment for limited wrongdoings committed in such a short span of life.

Since the final judge is a just and merciful God, there cannot be such thing as eternal doom in Islam. To believe otherwise is insult to our God-given intellect.

Summary

Above we went through the Quranic guidance and noted the reasons why hell is temporary, while heaven is unending: ♦ God, first of all, is most Merciful, most Compassionate ♦ God fully knows our minds and is most understanding ♦ God is unto all people Merciful and Compassionate ♦ God’s mercy encompasses all, including sinners and hell-dwellers ♦ Everything will be brought to divine justice where nothing will be wasted or ignored ♦ God’s chastisement is proportionate to the extent of one’s wrongdoing ♦ The final judgment will be based on absolute justice tampered with divine mercy and compassion  ♦ Hell has numerous layers, to recompense the numerous levels of wrongdoers ♦ Hell is a home, but not an eternal abode ♦ Hell lasts shorter than heaven ♦ Hell is only for a limited period of time ♦ A period of hell is extendable and therefore cannot be infinite ♦ Hell ends, but heaven continues ♦ Unlike heaven, hell is never described as unending ♦ Hell, as a mother’s womb, is only a stage of development towards rebirth and a sign of divine mercy ♦ Hell will be connected through a door with the chamber of mercy ♦ The myth of infinite punishment is dismissed by a simple arithmetic: Reward for a good deed is TENFOLD and requital for a bad deed is only to its extent ♦ With the Final Judge just and merciful, there cannot be eternal doom in Islam.

***********************************

Note 1

MERCY is the principal attribute of Islamic God – a concept that is constantly repeated through the formula Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim and is expounded all over the Quran:

With the attribute/s of God, the Mercygiving, the Merciful. 1:1. This appears routinely at the beginning of every chapter in the Quran (except 9); cf. 1:1-3.

Say: Unto whom is all that is in the Heavens and the Earth? Say: To God, who has ordained MERCY on Himself. 6:12

Your Sustainer has ordained MERCY on Himself. 6:54

But My MERCY encompasses all things. 7:156

Our Sustainer, You encompass all things with MERCY and knowledge. 40:7

Note 2

The Quran insists that God is not only the ultimate witness over everyone and everything (13:33, 22:17), He is also fully aware of what is in our minds (2:235, 3:29, 3:119, 3:154, 5:7, 5:99, 8:43, 11:5, 28:69. 29:10, 33:51, 35:38, 39:7, 40:19, 42:24, 50:16, 57:6, 64:4, 67:13, 67:14, 84:23).

Note 3

God is Compassionate to all people, irrespective of their station in life or their belonging to a certain category:

Most certainly God is unto mankind Merciful and Compassionate. 2:143

Such is Our provisions, it does not run out. 38:54

Say: O My servants, who have transgressed against their own selves, despair not of God’s MERCY: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He is the Forgiver, the Merciful. 39:53

Our Sustainer, You encompass all things with MERCY and knowledge. 40:7

The Heavens are about to rent asunder from above themselves; and the controllers hymn the praise of their Sustainer and seek for­giveness for those on Earth: Behold! Verily God is the Forgiving, the Merciful. 42:5

He withholds the Heaven from falling on the Earth except by His leave: for God is Compassionate, Merciful to all people. 22:65

Note 4

God’s mercy encompasses all things, including sinners and hell-dwellers:

He said,“My chastisement, with it I afflict whom My law involves – but My MERCY encompasses all things.” 7:156

Say: O My servants, who have transgressed against their own selves, despair not of God’s MERCY: behold, God forgives all sins – for, verily, He is the Forgiver, the Merciful. 39:53

Our Sustainer, You encompass all things with MERCY and knowledge. 40:7

Note 5

The Quran insists that all divine chastisement will be in exact accordance to the measure of the wrongdoing and not an atom’s weight of injustice will occur:

God does not burden any self beyond its capacity. In its favour is what it earns, and against it is what it earns. 2:286

Every self shall receive what it has earned, and no injustice will be done to anyone. 3:25

Verily, God does not wrong by as much as an atom’s weight. 4:40

For all shall be judged according to their deeds – and thy Sustainer is not unaware of what they do. 6:132

As for those who earn evil, the recompense of evil will be evil like it. 10:27

This Day no person will be wronged in the least, nor will you be requited for other than what you were doing. 36:54

For the transgressors it is a dwelling/ In it shall they remain for ages/ … A requital proportioned. 78:22-23, 26

Then anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good, shall behold it./ And anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil, shall behold it. 99:7-8

Note 6

While “seven/many gates leading into it” alludes to the numerous degrees of ‘hell’ that await the ‘sinners’ in accordance with their numerous levels of ‘sinning’, it also alludes to the numerous ways of wrongdoing that lead to inferno. Interestingly, the concept of ‘hell’ as such is referred to in the Quran under seven different names, all of them metaphorical (necessarily so, because they relate to what the Quran describes as al-ghayb, “something that is beyond the reach of human perception”): namely nar (fire, which is the general term), jahannam (hell), jahim (blazing fire), sa`ir (blazing flame), saqar (hell-fire), laza (raging flame), and hutamah (crushing torment). From Asad’s note on 15:44. We can compare this with heaven, which also has many ranks (58.11) in accordance to the measure of one’s deeds (76:16).

Note 7

The verb ‘khalada’ derives from the root word kh-l-d, which occurs in the Quran in multiple shades with primary meaning stay, dwell or abide. Then the word ‘abadan’ derives from the root word a-b-d, which in Arabic simply means remain, stay or dwell. The word kh-l-d has been used to describe the time period for both the dwellers of heaven (3:107) and hell (16:29), while it is accompanied with a-b-d also both for heaven (64:9) and hell (4:169). It is important to note that both kh-l-d and a-b-d may also imply duration, often a long duration, with or without a limit.

Note 8

New Earth and New Heavens: The day the Earth is replaced with another Earth, as are the Heavens, and they will appear before God, the One, the Irresistible. 14:48 (cf. the Old Testament, Isaiah 65:17 & 66:22).

Note 9

Please note the phrase “unless thy Sustainer wills it otherwise” (illama shaa rabbuka) in 11:107 and 11:108. Obviously, as God has appointed ‘a due measure’ or unchangeable law for everything in the Universe (17:30, 30:37, 39:52), and as His Rule is therefore the Rule of law, here as well as many other places in the Quran, ‘divine will’ infact means ‘divine laws’ (or what we humanly perceive as ‘natural laws’), and should not be misconceived in mortal terms as the erratic whim of a muddle-headed despot. These laws are dialectical and deterministic as we observed elsewhere.

Note 10

Some people cite these verses in support of eternal hell: And they said: “The Fire will not touch us except for a few number of days.” Say: “Have you taken a pledge with God? If so, then God will not break His pledge. Or do you say about God what you do not know?”/ Indeed, whoever earns evil and is surrounded by his mistakes; those are the people of the Fire, in it they will abide. 2:80-81. In fact, there is nothing in these verses to say that hell is eternal. Here is Asad’s note: “According to popular Jewish belief, even the sinners from among the children of Israel will suffer only very limited punishment in the life to come, and will be’ quickly reprieved by virtue of their belonging to “the chosen people”: a belief which the Qur’an rejects.” Regarding the word “khalidoon” in 2:81, as Joseph Islam observed, “restricting the meaning to its present common usage ‘eternal’ is not correct from a classical Arabic or Quranic perspective.” See: http://quransmessage.com/articles/is%20the%20punishment%20of%20hell%20eternal%20FM3.htm

Origin and development of traditional Muslim prayer

Origin and development of traditional Muslim prayer

Question: What is salat and how did the earliest Muslims perform it?

Answer: In its most occurrences in the Quran, the word SALAT simply means contact or COMMUNICATION – and, more specifically, communication with a guide – for reminding/remembering (zikr) of God’s messages.

During the time of the Quranic revelation, this guide was the messenger himself, who used to conduct regular salat/communication sessions with his followers as part of his duty to deliver the message. These sessions were mainly about pondering over the words freshly revealed along with discussing the important issues of the community. Besides, people were persistently instructed to “establish this on-going communication/salat in practice” (“aqeemoo alssalata”) for establishing order in personal and collective life.

This is how at least the sahaba performed their salat, as we know from the Quranic evidence.

Question: But isn’t the traditional ritual prayer as observed today same as the salat sessions during the Prophet’s time?

Answer: No. Since those prophetic congregations were primarily intended to deliver and disseminate the messages – and because their audience were therefore urged to understand and assimilate them by thinking and reasoning – they essentially differed from the ritualistic prayer services traditionally misperceived as salat.

Question: In what way does the traditional ritual prayer differ from the original salat?

Answer: Sadly, today’s ritual prayer is a mindless ritual developed over time mimicking the original salat, by annexing to it certain repetitive mechanical movements and robotic chanting, mostly devoid of any real sense or benefit, while entirely overlooking the quintessence of salat and its actual objective – thus reducing it into an act of mockery, to put it bluntly.

Question: Then why does the current Muslim ritual prayer look so similar to the earliest Muslims’ salat as described in the traditional sources?

Answer: Trying to understand how the earliest Muslims performed their salat is not really helpful if we view the issue through the lens of traditional sources as they are based on unreliable, unverifiable hadith hearsays.

Question: Then could you explain how the traditional view of salat may have been developed?

Answer: Unfortunately, very little research has been done so far on the way the earlier generations of Muslims gradually conceived and developed the ritual prayer. The topic itself is a difficult area to study, largely because of the insufficient written record about prayer ritual in the sixth and seventh century religious traditions in the region. A relatively reasonable study in this regard is “The origins of Muslims prayer: sixth and seventh century religious influences on the salāt ritual”, a thesis produced by Justin Paul Hienz. It employs the theory of syncretism while considering the possible sixth and seventh century religious influences on the origin and initial development of Muslim prayer.

The thesis maintains that the evolving prayer that was practiced by the earlier Muslims was most probably a syncretized form of ritual that slowly merged within itself the religious rituals observed in Jewish traditions (ritual cleaning, direction faced during prayer), Zoroastrian traditions (ritual washing, five times prayer), Monophysite Christian traditions (number of prayer times) and various traditions indigenous to the sixth to seventh century Arabian Peninsula (prostration).

The thesis claims that prostration was NOT borrowed from the Jews during the time of the Quranic revelation, because prostration was most likely NOT practiced by the Jewish communities with whom Muhammad had contact since it had fallen out of use by then. Thus it differs from Khaleel Mohammed’s suggestion in his essay “The Foundation of Muslim Prayer” that early Muslim prayer was essentially the same as Jewish prayer in the Arabian Peninsula.

Then some other studies suggest that Muslim prayer was influenced by Zoroastrian traditions in a much later period, probably during the Abbasid reign, when, in line with several other adjustments, prayers were switched from earlier two to three to Zoroastrian five times a day. For example, according to Tom Holland, the five daily prayers were actually imported into the Islamic tradition from Zoroastrianism well after the death of Muhammad and after the Muslims had conquered the greater Middle East. Holland argues that, in the mid eighth century, Zoroastrian converts to Islam in southern Iraq, especially Zoroastrian priests or mowbeds in Kufa, brought with them five daily prayers from their own religion. In support of his claim, he cites the observation allegedly made by Rav Yehudai, a Jewish scholar of that time living near Kufa.

Yet, mainly because of the incomplete written record and a shortage of verifiable historical data on the exact origin and development of the ritual prayer practiced by the earlier Muslims, it remains difficult to be certain to what extent all the above conclusions are factual or not. While I personally have no problem in generally accepting their claims, including the theory of syncretism, we should obviously keep ourselves open to any other or further study on this issue.

Question: I am finding it hard to explain how we have all of the different types of Muslims, including four Sunni Schools, two Shia Schools, and the Ibaadhis, all understanding the salat to mean 5 ritual prayers and even praying the same amount of rakat (prayer cycles). Seeing that these schools are politically at odds with each other, how did they agree on this from a historical standpoint?

Answer: Once again, not enough research has been done on the actual reasons why the ritual prayer among various Muslim factions remains largely similar. The most possible scenario, however, seems the following: The shaping of the Muslim ritual salat was somehow finalised as an officially standardised version of five daily prayers during the early Abbasid period (750–850) when its imposition in Islam, as shown by researchers like Goldziher, was implemented mainly by the then-authority in power who were strongly influenced by Zoroastrian ideas and practices. It appears that this officially standardised version of ritual prayer established itself as a common corpus that was shared by Muslims in general, before it became consolidated and codified, along with expected variations, by the growing sects and madhabs through their corresponding hadiths and clerical opinions. Many other areas of the ritualised Islam, such as dual shahada and traditional azan, evidently underwent a similar course of evolution.

Question: Some people cite Muwatta of Malik Ibn Anas, the eighth century collection, to prove that the earliest Muslims used to pray the way they pray today. What do you think about it?

Answer: If the dates reported about Muwatta Imam Malik are correct, then Muwatta was compiled by Imam Malik towards the end of the eighth century (779-795 CE, 163-179 AH), i.e. during the early Abbasid period, allegedly at the request of the Abbasid Caliphs al-Mansur and Harun al-Rashid. As the above link suggests, Imam Malik was instructed to follow specific guidelines set up by the authority of Caliph al-Mansur himself, who was particularly notorious for oppression of Islamic scholars and muting of all the dissenting voices. This state-sponsored suppression of the differing Islamic schools, and the expected annihilation of their works, can largely explain the sole, uncontested existence of the officially standardised version of the Muslim ritual prayer and the resulting conformity as we find it today. It is important to note that the Abbasid period, starting from al-Mansur, was marked by its reliance on Persian bureaucrats and its adoption of Persian customs and Zoroastrian traditions. Harun al-Rashid’s administration was virtually controlled by the Barmakid Persians.

Question: So the Abbasid Caliphs coerced everyone throughout their empire into following the one standardised, state-sponsored version of prayer, seemingly for the sake of unity and conformity. I note that the Abbasid period remarkably experienced serious butchering of dissenting factions along with distortion of oral traditions and scribal errors. These reports are very interesting and demand further study. On the other hand, in my further note, since Imam Malik was born in the late Umayyad period and derived his views from scholars in Medina, he must have been drawing his knowledge from an existing but evolving tradition that was probably looser and less formal. Now, the ways we are expected to interpret his views are based on subjective texts from his disciples who spread out in different countries while carrying with them versions that often lacked agreement, both in content and in interpretation. But, despite all this, it appears that a skeletal text with a core concept of ritual prayer must have been already extant during the late Umayyad period. I think the key might be then is to uncover what really happened during the reign of the Umayyad Caliphs Abdul Malik to Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz, rulers who are said to have established unity and reform. Do you agree?

Answer: What you are saying makes sense. Yes, in order to better understand how the Muslim ritual prayer was gradually shaped into the current form, researches need to shed more light on the major events occurring during the Umayyad period, with special focus on the time of Abdul Malik onwards. These events were unfolding in a specific environment – under the pressure of various socio-economic, political and psycho-theological factors – in order to serve the needs of this period of Arab expansion, including unity, stability and reform.

Here is a brief list of the important events of that time: establishment of Arabic as the lingua franca of the empire; introduction of a single Islamic currency in place of Byzantine and Sasanian coinage; reunification of the Caliphate with key administrative reforms; suppression of all active domestic opposition; military response to the Byzantine-Christian resurgence; criticism of Muslim scholarly circles; establishment of Kaaba as the common qibla, reconstruing it as a physical direction for prayer; development of ritual prayer; development of dual shahada as a well-devised politico-theological formula; ritualizing Islam into a structured religion of five pillars and so on.

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By Siraj Islam (based on an online discussion with Corey Balsano)

The Universal Flux

The Universal Flux

The Quran describes the reality of matter in a way that appears consistent with the current quantum concepts. Let us take this passage as an example:

Everyone that is thereon is passing away,/ But there remains forever the Self of thy Sustainer, majestic and glorious./ Which then of the bounties of your Sustainer will you deny?/ Of Him asks everyone that is in the Heavens and the Earth: Every moment is He in action. 55:26-29

Now, in quantum physics, since matter = energy = action, any object is merely a series of events or actions. So everything is made of zillions and zillions of quanta of action. This means that the only way anything can ever exist is through incessant action.

Thus every moment, in every tiniest fraction of every micro-second, the unfolding Universe including the evolving life in it is in flux (‘Everyone that is thereon is passing away’; cf. 27:88, 28:88, 39:21, 55:26-27, 57:20, 84:16-20).

In this universal flux, the apparent solidity and immobility of the mountains is only an illusion, as the Quran spotlights it.

This continuous change or motion of all matter, including the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative, is the basis of all creation and evolution. The Universe therefore is the sum total of the whole process from past to present to future.

However, this Quranic reasoning, which affirms the Heraclitean idea “Panta Rhei” (“Everything flows”)1 and the Buddhist philosophy of universal flux, doesn’t stop there. It goes beyond. …

It goes on arguing that the whole Universe is not only in flow; but every moment absolutely everything – from the most infinitesimal particle or event of microcosm to the most colossal superstructure or event of macrocosm – ultimately depends for existing and functioning on the Divinity (‘Of Him asks everyone that is in the Heavens and the Earth’; cf. 6:14), who is constantly in action (‘Every moment is He in action’; or, ‘Every moment is He in something new’, which suggests a creative evolution; cf. 35:1).

The mode whereby God is “constantly in action” is clarified by a set of statements throughout the Quran, e.g.: When He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, ‘Be’ – and it becomes (2:117; 3:47, 6:73, 16:40, 19:35, 36:82, 40:68; cf. 54:49-50). This implies that there is no time lag between the divine willing of a creation and the creating, i.e. His willing and creating are concurrent (Surely We have been creating everything according to a measure./ And Our command is but one, as the twinkling of an eye. 54:49-50). This places divine command beyond any dimension of time.

So this flowing existence, which is possible only through an incessant ‘series of quantum of action’, is constantly springing from the eternal divine command BE (kun, or creating) and is going through an unceasing temporal process of BECOMING (‘and it becomes’, fayakoon, or the created), which is simultaneous and same as the being. This is how being exists only through becoming.

In other words, the spaceless-timeless instruction BE, veiled as the underlying primordial information, manifests itself into the material domain of space-time as a series of actions, which is a process of BECOMING and which appears in our illusory perceptions as ‘matter’.

The Quran keeps on relating to the ever-changing nature of the material Universe, to remind us, through contrast, of the ‘changeless and eternal’ reality of the essential Being, the ever-lasting reality of God2, or ‘the Uncreate’, as Buddha defines it (‘But there remains forever the Self of thy Sustainer, majestic and glorious’; cf. Everything is perishing except His Self. 28:88).

Besides, while thus stressing on the transitory nature of our present existence as a manifestation of God’s infinite creative power, the Quran asks us to acknowledge this bountiful creativity as on-going and hence extending throughout the Transcendent3 (‘Which then of the bounties of your Sustainer will you deny?’).

This takes us to the opening verses of a few chapters of the Quran (57:1, 59:1, 61:1), such as: All that is in the Heavens and the Earth FLOWS4 for God. And He is the Almighty, the Wise. 57:1

Final thoughts

The whole Universe is not only in incessant flow; but every moment everything depends for existing and functioning on God, who is constantly in action. This bountiful creativity of God is on-going and so extends throughout the Transcendent.

Related article: Mountains are passing like clouds

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Note 1

For Heraclitus, “Everything is in flux” (Panta Rhei), “Everything flows and nothing is left” and “All things are in motion and nothing remains still or unchanged”. He is known for his alleged notion that “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” We can easily witness this all-encompassing flow by delving into the physical bodies of visible matter: they all are made of atoms; and all atoms are made of subatomic particles, like electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks; and all subatomic particles are made up of energy bundles; and all the energy bundles are waves in a cosmic dance of constant transformation and flux. While describing this universal phenomenon, Friedrich Engels cited human body as an example: “Every moment, it assimilates matter supplied from without, and gets rid of other matter; every moment, some cells of its body die and others build themselves anew; in a longer or shorter time, the matter of its body is completely renewed …”. He concludes, “All nature, from the smallest thing to the biggest, from a grain of sand to the Sun, from the protista to man, is in a constant state of coming into being and going out of being, in a constant flux, in a ceaseless state of movement and change.” (Dialectics of Nature)

Note 2

While observing this transitory world – where everything is constantly coming into being, and ceasing to be, where being exists only through becoming, and where everything is ephemeral and nothing lasts – Abraham’s quest for God cannot accept anything temporal as God (‘I love not setting ones 6:76’; cf. 6:75-79) and eventually settles in and submits to the ‘changeless and eternal’, the One (6:78). This awareness is summarized here: And do not call besides God any god; there is no god but He. Everything is perishing except His Self. To Him belongs the judgment, and to Him you are being returned. 28:88

Note 3

Here is another call to witness that nothing is ever at a standstill as everything at every moment is moving unceasingly from one state of being into another: But nay! I do call to witness the sunset’s afterglow, / And the night and its unfolding,/ And the Moon as it grows to its fullness:/ You are surely moving onward from stage to stage./ What then is the matter with them that they acknowledge not? 84:16-20. After referring to the unfolding of the regular observable events of change and motion in our Solar system – including Sun the star (‘sunset’s afterglow’), Earth the planet (‘night and its unfolding’ due to Earth’s rotation) and Moon the satellite (‘Moon as it grows to its fullness’) – the Quran reminds us that we ourselves are also in a journey of gradual ascension, from plane to plane (‘You are surely moving onward from stage to stage‘). As the inexorable movement of all that exists, from stage to stage and from one condition into another, corresponds to a fundamental law evident in all creation, the Quranic wisdom finds it irrational to assume that human self – which is otherwise designed with divine wisdom and plan – alone should be any exception, and that his onward journey should cease at the moment of his physical demise, or wouldn’t be followed by a change-over into another state of being, differently dimensional than the current one: And whatever you are given is only the passing recreation of this current life, and its glitter; and what is with God is better and everlasting. Will you not then reason? 28:60

Note 4

All that is in the Heavens and the Earth FLOWS for God. And He is the Almighty, the Wise. 57:1 Sabbaha lillahi ma fee alssamawati waal-ardi wahuwa alAAazeezu alhakeemu 57:1. Rendered here as flows – though traditionally translated as glorifies – the word sabbaha derives from the root Siin Ba Haa, which originally means to swim, roll onwards, glide, flow (like celestial bodies swimming in orbit, 21:33, 36:40, 79:3), the act of swimming (79:3), occupation or performance of a daily course (73:7) etc. The reason the Universe remains in existence is that it is constantly in flux as every moment God keeps creating it anew. This understanding of 57:1 is fully consistent with its following context (57:2-6) that describes cosmic evolution.

Mountains are passing like clouds

Mountains are passing like clouds

The apparent solidity and immobility of the mountains is only an illusion

Here we will reflect on this interesting passage of the Quran:

Seeing the mountains1 you think them solidly fixed1, while they are passing1 as the passing of the clouds. Such is the artistry of God, who has ordered everything thoroughly to perfection. Indeed He is fully aware of what you do. 27:88

Now, it is not only that mountains are mobile rather than static due to the movement of the tectonic plates floating on underlying semifluids; but mountains are swimming in high speed through the cosmic ocean along with the axial and orbital motion of the Earth and also with the motion of all the higher celestial systems. Moreover, since all matter in the Universe is in constant change and motion in both macro and micro level, the apparent solidity and stillness of the mountains is only an illusion2.

Note again: “Seeing the mountains you THINK them solidly fixed, while (in reality) they are passing as the passing of the clouds. …”.

This reminds us to witness that nothing is ever at a standstill, since everything at every moment is moving unceasingly from one state of being into another. To exist, being is constantly going through becoming.

This concept is akin to The Universal Flux of Heraclitus – where absolutely everything is passing away in every microsecond – as well as to the Buddhist view of reality as something eternally impermanent.

We get a call to a deeper vision

Interposed between the statements about the diurnal rhythm, the doomsday and the law of requital, the verse here calls on man to journey from a shallow view towards a profound vision, to deeply observe God’s infinite creativity and the related message, as stated in its preceding verse 27:86.

Here ‘the artistry of God’ – a concept that is expounded by the verb atqana, which grossly means perfected – refers to the soundness, beauty and thoroughness of creation that is in perfect consonance with the divine purpose and guidance behind it.

While thus stressing on the universal motion and the transitory nature of the world, including our existence, as a manifestation of God’s infinite creative power, the verse with its related context makes us ponder the lasting reality of God and the Transcendent.

Earth with mountains rotates from West to East, the same direction the cloud masses move

Please note how the mention of night and day in the preceding verse 27:86, an oft-repeated Quranic expression for Earth’s axial rotation, forms a prelude to the allusion of Earth’s motion in 27:88. Also, one may argue that, by likening the passing of the mountains with the passing of the clouds, the Quran may have equated the direction the Earth rotates (together with mountains) with the direction the clouds move.

The direction of movement of the main cloud masses at 3,500-4,000 metres high is always from West to East. That is why it is generally the state of the weather in the West which is looked at in meteorological forecasts. The main reason why cloud masses are pulled from West to East is the direction in which the Earth rotates. As we now know, our Earth spins from West to East. This scientific fact, only recently discovered, was apparently foreshadowed by the Quran at a time when the Earth was believed to be flat, and to be resting on the back of an ox. Some people may see this as a scientific miracle of the Quran.

The earlier commentators struggled to make sense out of all this

The earlier audience of the Quran, with their belief in a flat and static Earth, struggled to make sense out of this seemingly ‘bizarre’ claim in 27:88 about the cloud-like flux, fluidity and motion of the mountains. As they couldn’t grasp the complexity of the idea due to the inadequate scientific information of their time, they tried hard to explain away the cloud-like passing of mountains as a future event, thus misreading the verse as simply one of the verses related to the end of the world. Their understanding failed to take into account the following observations:

The starting phrase “Seeing the mountains you THINK them solidly fixed” points out our superficial perception that mountains are firm and fixed. Then it is negated by its immediate antithesis “while (in reality) they are passing …”, which identifies this perception as an illusion. And, because the second statement negates the first, both of them must be logically interconnected within the context of the same present event rather than referring to a future cataclysm.

Then the verse goes on defining this unnoticed phenomenon as an expression of God’s artistry or creativity (sun’a Allah), which, clearly, cannot be about the chaos at the destruction of the Universe. Thus the narration doesn’t fit into the description of the verses about the last Hour (69:14, 73:14, 81:1-3, 101:1-5), which would involve a calamity of cosmic magnitudes with serious disorder and devastation, while causing an utmost shock and panic among the witnesses.

Finally, the concept God’s artistry or creativity is explicated by a reference to His organized order and perfection in creation (“Such is the artistry of God, who has ordered everything thoroughly to perfection”). This leaves no room for traditional confusion: The end of the world, with its chaos and destruction, is neither the perfection of art, nor an imperceptible event.

Final thought

In this universal flux, the apparent solidity and immobility of the mountains is only an illusion.

Related article: The Universal Flux

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Note 1

Here we look into a few words used in 27:88: ● Jabal: Usually translated as mountain, the word jabal derives from the root Jiim Ba Lam, which occurs 41 times in the Quran, in two derived forms: 39 times as the noun jabal (mountain/s) and twice as the noun jibillat (generations, multitude). ● Jamidat: Translated above as “solidly fixed”, the word jamidat derives from the root Jiim Miim Dal, which occurs only once in the Quran, as the active participle jamidat and means solid, stationary, fixed, immovable, still, motionless, stagnant etc. ● Tamurru: Translated as ‘they are passing’, the word tamurru, which derives from the root Miim Ra Ra, is grammatically an imperfect verb and thus denotes a present continuous event that further continues to be occurring in future. Some traditional commentators have translated the word as ‘they will pass’. However, an imperfect verb in Arabic doesn’t imply future tense.

Note 2

MOUNTAINS IN THE QURAN: The Quran mentions mountains in 39 instances, to relate various aspects of the topic. The overall trend throughout these references, however, is a constant insistence on the cloud-like flux, fluidity and wobbliness of the mountains. Otherwise, the Quran itself states that its illustrations about mountains are often parabolic and mainly for the purpose of reflection (59:21). Thus, though the mountains in the Quran are seemingly solid and fixed like pegs (78:7, 27:88, 79:32), they are intrinsically non-solid, nebulous, frail and volatile as they pass like the passing of the cloud (7:171, 27:88). They tremble in awe of God (19:90, 33:72, 59:21), tend to move (13:31, 18:47, 27:88, 81:3) and crumble by divine revelation (7:143, 59:21). They will disintegrate into pieces and particles at the end of time, in apocalypse (73:14), when they will resemble wool (70:9) or fluffed up wool (101:5) or mirage (78:20) before they eventually get annihilated (20:105, 52:10, 69:14, 77:10) and totally vanish (14:46, 56:5). Here are a few verses for comparative study: He said: “You will not see Me, but look upon the mountain, if it stays in its place then you will see Me (you can ‘see’ God’s reality only in the domain of the changeless).” So when his Sustainer revealed Himself to the mountain, He caused it to crumble (God reveals Himself through universal flux); thus Moses fell unconscious. 7:143; And We raised the mountain above them as if it were a cloud, and they thought it would fall on them. 7:171; And if a Quran were to be used to move mountains, or to slice the Earth, or the dead were spoken to with it. 13:31; And their scheming was enough to make the mountains cease to exist. 14:46; And the Day We move the mountains, and you see the Earth level, and We gather them; so We will not leave out anyone of them. 18:47; From it (the trinity), the Heavens are about to shatter, and the Earth crack open, and the mountains fall down crumbling. 19:90 (cf. 21:22); And they ask you about the mountains, so say: “My Sustainer will annihilate them completely.” 20:105; We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the mountains, but they shrank from bearing it, being afraid of it. And man undertook it. He has indeed been transgressing, ignorant. 33:72; And the mountains will be wiped out. 52:10; Had We sent down this Quran to a mountain, you would have seen it trembling, crumbling, out of concern from God. And those parables We present for humankind so that they may reflect. 59:21; And the Earth and the mountains will be removed from their place and crushed with a single crush. 69:14; The Day the Heaven is like molten copper./ And the mountains are like wool. 70:8-9; The Day the Earth and the mountains shake, and the mountains become a crumbling pile. 73:14; And when the mountains are destroyed. 77:10; And the mountains as pegs? 78:7; And the mountains will be moved as if they were a mirage. 78:20; And the mountains He fixed firmly. 79:32; And when the mountains are made to move. 81:3; And the mountains will be like fluffed up wool. 101:5

Why the Prophet’s wartime salat was NOT ritual prayer

Was the Prophet’s wartime salat a ritual prayer

Earlier we discussed Salat during the time of the Prophet and observed Why salat in the Quran is NOT ritual prayer.

In line with the above, here we will go through a few reflections on Quran 4:101-1031 that demonstrate that the salat led by the Prophet during wartime was not ritual prayer:

And if you (plural) go forth in the land, then there is no harm that you (plural) shorten the communication, if you fear that the rejecters will try you. The rejecters are to you a clear enemy. 4:101 

And if you (singular, addressed to the messenger) are with them and you establish the communication for them, then let some of them stand with you, retaining their arms; and when they have complied (sajadoo) then let them be BEHIND you (plural); and let a group that has not yet made the communication come and make the communication with you (singular), being prepared against danger and retaining their arms: for the rejecters hope that you would neglect your weapons and goods so they can come upon you in one blow. But it shall not be wrong for you to lay down your arms if you are impeded by rainfall, or if you are ill; but be wary. God has prepared for the rejecters a humiliating retribution. 4:102

After you are done with the communication, remember God while standing or sitting or on your sides. Then when you are secure, establish the communication. Indeed, the communication for the acknowledgers is a prescription scheduled. 4:103

Now:

1. If salat is ritual prayer, which requires four compulsory postures with all the recitals and utterings, then how and how much can it be shortened in case of danger (4:101)?

2. If salat is ritual prayer, and therefore yusalloo in 4:102 means doing ritual prayer, then why should yusalloo in 33:56 mean sending blessings?

3. If salat is ritual prayer, then why were the companions of the Prophet not allowed to temporarily opt out of it in exceptional situation like war, when they were allowed to lay down their weapons in exceptional situation like rainfall or illness (4:102)?

4. If salat is prayer that must be performed in ritually specified hours (waqt), then how can and why should a single ‘imam’ lead a series of such prayers for successive groups attending one after another, in one waqt (4:102)?

5. If salat is prayer, and if the groups prayed in successive sessions so that others could guard them, then why didn’t every group perform their prayer led by their own imam while other groups (or their own subgroups) guarding their back? Why did they need to be led by a single imam (4:102)?

6. If salat is ritual prayer that includes four mandatory postures – i.e. standing, bowing, prostration and sitting – then why does 4:102 mention only prostration but is silent about other postures?

7. If salat is ritual prayer, then how were the warriors at the Prophet’s salat doing physical bowing and prostration, by carrying dangerous, sharp and heavy weapons, such as swords, shields, arrows, bows and spears (4:102)?

8. If salat is prayer, and if it can be reduced in case of danger (4:101) and can be sometimes performed without physical prostration, e.g. while walking or riding (2:239), then why did the warriors so desperately need to do physical prostration, despite wartime danger and despite carrying dangerous, sharp and heavy weapons (4:102)?

9. If salat is ritual prayer where the attendants must pray behind the ‘imam’, then why were the warriors told to position BEHIND him after their completion (note ‘warāikum’, ‘behind you’, 4:102) – if they were not initially staying face-to-face in front of him whilst taking instruction (cautionary advice)?

10. If sujud implies physical prostration, which must precede sitting as part of a mandatory sequence of four ritual postures, then how can salat in 4:102 become complete after prostration, without requiring sitting, the next compulsory posture?

11. If sujud implies physical prostration, which traditionally must be two per rakat – followed by sitting, then followed by the next rakat – then how is the salat in 4:102 completed with a ‘single’ prostration without sitting and so without proceeding to a second rakat?

12. If rakats are essential building blocks of ritual salat, and are made of the four essential postures, then how can they be performed while walking or riding (2:239) and be reduced in case of danger (4:101)? Also, why is rakat as a concept completely absent in 4:102 and elsewhere in the Quran?

13. If salat is a ritual which is so important that it needs to be performed even in the midst of enemy attack (4:101-103), then how would a modern army establish it in today’s scenario of warfare?

14. If salat is established by performing ritual prayer and not by doing works of reform, then why is a secured environment or getting authority in the land so essential for establishing the salat (4:103; cf. 21:73, 22:41)?

15. If salat is ritual prayer, and the messenger could ‘establish salat’ in a time of danger (“you establish the salat for them, 4:102”), then why did his followers need to wait for a secured environment or getting authority in the land in order to ‘establish salat’ (4:103)? Did the messenger’s ‘establishment of salat’ differ from his followers’ ‘establishment of salat’?

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Note 1

And if you (plural) go forth in the land, then there is no harm that you (plural) shorten the communication, if you fear that the rejecters will try you. The rejecters are to you a clear enemy. 4:101 Wa-itha darabtum fee al-ardi falaysa AAalaykum junahun an taqsuroo mina alssalati in khiftum an yaftinakumu allatheena kafaroo inna alkafireena kanoo lakum AAaduwwan mubeenan 4:101

And if you (singular, addressed to the messenger) are with them and you establish the communication for them, then let some of them stand with you, retaining their arms; and when they have complied (sajadoo) then let them be BEHIND you (plural); and let a group that has not yet made the communication come and make the communication with you (singular), being prepared against danger and retaining their arms: for the rejecters hope that you would neglect your weapons and goods so they can come upon you in one blow. But it shall not be wrong for you to lay down your arms if you are impeded by rainfall, or if you are ill; but be wary. God has prepared for the rejecters a humiliating retribution. 4:102 Wa-itha kunta feehim faaqamta lahumu alssalata faltaqum ta-ifatun minhum maAAaka walya/khuthoo aslihatahum fa-itha sajadoo falyakoonoo min wara-ikum walta/ti ta-ifatun okhra lam yusalloo falyusalloo maAAaka walya/khuthoo hithrahum waaslihatahum wadda allatheena kafaroo law taghfuloona AAan aslihatikum waamtiAAatikum fayameeloona AAalaykum maylatan wahidatan wala junaha AAalaykum in kana bikum athan min matarin aw kuntum marda an tadaAAoo aslihatakum wakhuthoo hithrakum inna Allaha aAAadda lilkafireena AAathaban muheenan 4:102

After you are done with the communication, remember God while standing or sitting or on your sides. Then when you are secure, establish the communication. Indeed, the communication for the acknowledgers is a prescription scheduled. 4:103 Fa-itha qadaytumu alssalata faothkuroo Allaha qiyaman waquAAoodan waAAala junoobikum fa-itha itma/nantum faaqeemoo alssalata inna alssalata kanat AAala almu/mineena kitaban mawqootan 4:103

Is praying for something or someone helpful?

Is praying for something or someone helpful

Here we are using the word ‘prayer’ for the Quranic term dua1. This is NOT to be confused with salat, which is traditionally undertranslated as ritual prayer.

Does praying for something or someone change God’s own course of action?

No. God’s own course of action tracks a perfect plan – designed and predetermined by His infinite wisdom. It is completely irrational to believe that He would impulsively suspend, amend or undo it in accordance with our petition or prayer.

Doesn’t God give to those who ask from Him?

God is not an external entity or deity that is separate from everything. He works through His laws, which He never changes. These unchangeable laws, manifested to our observations as laws of nature, act upon the condition of a people largely through the agencies (malaika) of their own actions. Thus God doesn’t change our condition unless we change ourselves (13:11). Therefore the only means to this end are not prayers but actions, and only actions.

So, prayer by itself without action doesn’t change anything?

No. Invoking God to change our circumstances without following it with relevant actions will yield no change (8:53). Prayer without real life actions is therefore devoid of any use or meaning. My prayer will not help a student pass her exams unless she properly studies the subjects. Trust in God But Tie Your Camel is an ancient Arab proverb. 

But doesn’t God sometimes intervene in our life, and prayer sometimes attracts this intervention?

No. God is high above our human perceptions of time and space. Yet He is constantly active in the Universe, in every moment and every point (55:29), through the Rule of His unchangeable laws. As God is thus constantly active in our life through His laws, He doesn’t need to separately intervene in it. In other words, since God is NOT a muddle-headed despot with erratic whim, there is no reason why He would break or violate His own laws. This is an important difference between the Islamic God and the polytheists’ gods.

If God never changes His laws, and doesn’t change people’s conditions unless they change themselves, then how does praying for something or someone make sense?

Man is hard-wired to cry out to his Sustainer when in distress or when needs help. Viewed from an anthropological perspective, prayer is a psychological placebo and an important gesture of human language. First, throughout the millennia and across cultures, man has been thriving through numerous psychological placeboes. And prayer, at the least, is one of them. Placeboes are all about ‘mind over matter’ and serve their own important purposes. While one may try to dismiss all placeboes as illusions (from another perspective, our whole life is an illusion), paradoxically however, many of these so-called illusions have been essential tools for survival and evolution of humans, both as collectives and individuals. Second, praying for others is an expression of compassion and a beautiful gesture in human language. In exercising compassion, one betters oneself and gives life a deeper sense of meaning. A gesture of ‘compassion to all’ (42:5) is one of those basic minimums of humanity that make us human.   

How does prayer help as a placebo?

Since prayer is essentially a personal, subjective thing, everyone perceives it in their own ways. The many nuances include: ● Prayer is simply reiteration of our ardent desire and thus spotlighting on a real issue that motivates us to take related actions. In other words, by bringing a desire from the subconscious to the conscious, and thereby transforming the potential energy of psyche into the kinetic energy of all-out-efforts, prayer works to fulfill our desires. ● Prayer functions as the first move to trigger our actions, wherefrom God becomes a coworker with us, since He helps those who help themselves. ● Prayer awakens us like an alarm clock. For example, an utterance of prayer before starting your car gives you an added alertness for careful driving. ● Prayer is a moment of contemplation and self-examination. This opens doors for new possibilities by making us aware about our strengths and limitations. ● Prayer is a self-reminder through a soliloquy, i.e., an act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud addressed to one’s inner self. This helps us prevent repeating our past mistakes, while doing the things right. ● Prayer is a sort of goal setting. For instance, praying for your kids to grow up educated sets a goal that persuades you to take care of your kids’ education. Praying for finishing tasks properly on time moves your efforts in the right direction. ● Prayer generates positive vibes and positive thoughts that can keep you sane and hopeful about life. It is this power of positivity that often makes a real difference in our life. ● Prayer in monotheistic traditions2 is a time of conversation with God when people praying with faith lift their minds and hearts to Him. It is assumed that, like meditation or contemplation, it provides a stairway to reach a higher spiritual level. ● Praying for something or someone, according to an atheist’s worldview, does nothing and makes no sense.

What are the overall benefits of prayer?

According to the pro-prayer psychologists, prayer may deliver a range of benefits: ◦ It gives you hope and assurance. ◦ It relaxes your mind. ◦ It gives you better control of life by helping you deal with problems. ◦ It lowers blood pressure and stress. ◦ It is good for your heart. ◦ It speeds up recovery from sickness. ◦ It boosts mental health by increasing happiness. ◦ It improves mental health by helping you become a better person. ◦ It encourages you to eat healthy. ◦ It may help you to live longer.  

How does prayer boost mental health?

Here we are not talking about prayer “miraculously curing someone.” Instead, prayer gives hope and relief to the distressed and saves them from despair and isolation. This can improve a person’s mental health, such as reducing anxiety and stress, as it boosts their mood by releasing oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine from the brain. In turn, this can then translate into “better physiological functioning,” such as counteracting the effect of the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, and improved immune functioning. Thus prayer may have similar effects on mental well-being as meditation and yoga, which spill over into physical effects. Likewise, when someone prays for others, the compassion that she displays towards others positively contributes to her mental well-being.

How does prayer deliver other health benefits?

Possible mechanisms by which prayer delivers health benefits are: ◦ Prayer as a relaxation response. ◦ Prayer as a placebo. ◦ Prayer as an expression of positive emotions. ◦ Prayer as a channel for mobilising some of brain’s hidden reserves that can benefit the body through psychosomatic links. Any benefit to mental well-being, which prayer has, is going to translate into benefits for physical well-being over time. Take pain control as an example. While prayer lowers depression and anxiety symptoms and increases optimism, it may reduce physical pain by easing the subjective component of pain. Some studies found that prayer decreased pain symptoms after a caesarean section and improved the quality of life in women undergoing radiation therapy.

What is the Quranic position on prayer?

The Quran promotes the concept of dua/prayer as an expression of man’s submission to God and a manifestation of their neediness to Him. It cites numerous examples of duas where humans directly address and supplicate their Sustainer. These examples reveal the spiritual purpose of dua, which is to create and nurture a God-centric existence. From a deeper Quranic perspective, however, dua is not a supplication but an affirmation to mobilise your own divinely gifted energies, which triggers a chain of events that starts working for you (2:186, 28:87, 40:60, 50:16). Thus, while dua is not utilised as a means to an end, it is externalising the natural disposition and innate desire within the human psyche.

Why are all the Quranic prayers addressed to Rabb, instead of Allah?

It is interesting to note that in almost all the 111 instances of the Quranic prayers, where humanity directly addresses and supplicates God, the Quran uses the generic title Rabbana (Our Sustainer), as opposed to Allah. This is because – while it is impossible for us to directly connect with the Divine (Allah) whose essence/persona is absolutely unknowable to us – our relationship with Him is through our awareness of Him being our Sustainer (Rabb)3. When children cry to their mother, they address her as “mum”, a call that represents the organic relationship where the mother’s name is irrelevant to the child. Furthermore, the Quran calls on us to become rabbaniyoon (3:79), i.e., to follow the divine attribute of Rabb (the Sustainer) as the only appropriate goal in our spiritual journey towards perfection. During dua/prayer, by consciously addressing this epitome of perfection, a person gets reminded of their responsibility to continuously evolve and progress towards perfection.

Isn’t praying for others a form of intercession?

No. We often say for a sick friend that “He is in my prayer”, or say a few words of prayer for him. As a beautiful gesture in human language, it is an expression of compassion rather than intercession. Obviously, this prayer or good wishing cannot function as an intercession, since it doesn’t change God’s (or nature’s) own course of action. 

Is it fine that I pray for mental peace and tranquillity whenever I feel necessary, though I am not a fan of traditional ritual prayers?

We can always invoke/pray to our Sustainer for our inner peace, inspiration or meditation purpose. We can do it personally in our own way, as often as we feel required, without necessarily reducing it into an organised ritual.

Are you saying that prayer should be personal and non-ritual?

Yes. The Quran describes dua/prayer as a concept very different from salat, which is traditionally undertranslated as ritual prayer (3:38-39, 14:37-40, 17:110). A heartfelt prayer at a personal level can be a beautiful communication with your inner self, i.e. the divine Spirit inside you (15:29, 38:72, 50:16), thus leading to a very personal connection with your Maker. Ritual prayers, in contrast, tend to be a mindless, mechanical practice. This is especially true for public ritual prayers4, which is more about connecting with the ‘Pack’ instead of connecting with your Maker.

Final thoughts

Prayer (dua) is a psychological placebo and an important gesture of human language. It may deliver a range of benefits, including boosting mental and physical health. However, prayer without real life actions has no use or meaning.

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Note 1

The Quranic term dua derives from Dal-Ayn-Waw (د ع و): to seek, desire, ask, demand, call upon, invoke, ascribe, cry out, call out to, pray, supplicate, petition, require, need, summon, invite, assert, succour. https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/roots/Dal-Ayn-Waw.html; LL, V3, pp: 49, 50, 51  ##  http://ejtaal.net/aa/#q=d3w

Note 2

In some monotheistic traditions, prayer can be silent or said out loud. It can use set words, or a person’s own words. It is assumed that God always answers our prayers, but often in ways we do not understand. When a prayer is not answered in our expected way, this may simply mean that God’s infinite wisdom is preparing something that is best for us.

Note 3

As the most frequent description of God and His most manifested role, the word Rabb in the Quran occurs a total of 975 times, starting with the very opening declaration, “All praise is due to God alone, who is the Rabb (Sustainer) of the Worlds”, a central Islamic concept that is oft-repeated throughout the Book. Rabb in the Quran stands for the manifested aspect of the Divine, who not only nourishes, cherishes, sustains and evolves, but also gives full form to something starting from original material and changing it through various stages towards a meaningful direction (20:50).

Note 4

Public ritual prayers, especially if mindless and mechanical, are more about connecting with the ‘Pack’ instead of connecting with God. Public rituals become conforming to our surrounds rather than with our Sustainer. They quickly move to ‘looking the part’, ‘being accepted into the pack’, ‘following the pack-leader to please both the pack and the pack-leader’ etc. The Quran consistently says that it is what is in your heart and not the display of your sleeve that matters.

Facts about pork

Facts about pork

For open-minded readers who are interested in knowing the main nutrition facts and health effects of pork, here is a summary:

▪ Pork is the meat of the domestic pig. As the most commonly consumed red meat worldwide, especially in eastern Asia, it is the world’s most popular type of meat.

▪ It is often eaten unprocessed, but cured (preserved) pork products, such as smoked pork, ham, bacon and sausages, are also very common.  

▪ High-quality protein is the main nutritional component of pork, making it useful for muscle growth and maintenance. The fat content of pork varies. It’s mainly made up of saturated and monounsaturated fats.

▪ Pork is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, phosphorus, and iron.

▪ Pork contains a number of bioactive meat compounds, such as creatine, taurine, and glutathione, that may benefit health in various ways.

▪ Moderate consumption of lean pork, as a part of a healthy diet, is unlikely to increase your risk of heart disease.

▪ In itself, pork is likely not a risk factor for cancer. However, high consumption of overcooked pork is a cause for concern.

▪ Due to possible contamination with parasites (main issue cysticercosis1), consumption of raw or undercooked pork should be avoided, especially in developing countries, though infection is very rare in developed countries. While improvements within the food industry have reduced the risk of infection, thoroughly cooking pork is still critical for preventing foodborne illness.

▪ Since the parasite is destroyed by thorough cooking, a practical answer to the pork taboo would be to cook the meat thoroughly rather than avoiding it. Interestingly, the taboo persists among Jews, Muslims and Seventh Day Adventists even when they migrate to regions where infection is not a problem.

▪ The bottom line: Being a rich source of high-quality protein, as well as various vitamins and minerals, lean pork can be an excellent addition to a healthy diet. It may improve exercise performance and promote muscle growth and maintenance. On the negative side, consumption of both undercooked and overcooked pork should be avoided. Overcooked pork may contain carcinogenic substances, and undercooked (or raw) pork may harbour parasites.

▪ Many pork-eating nations have been producing some of the healthiest people and most of the productive minds of the world. 

▪ Though not exactly a health food, moderate consumption of properly prepared pork can be an acceptable part of a healthy diet. For reference and further details, please see: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/pork

Related articles:

Why Are Some Animals Considered Unclean?

Halal food misconceptions

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Note 1

Cysticercosis is a tissue infection caused by cysts of the pork tapeworm,  T. solium. The condition develops when tapeworm eggs from contaminated food enter the body and form cysticerci (cysts). In most cases, the cysts stay in the muscles and do not cause symptoms. However, symptoms may be present when the infection is found in the brain, eyes or heart. Cysticercosis can be eradicated from the developing countries by improved sanitation, better animal husbandry, and meat inspection – as known from the experience of developed countries where the issue is virtually non-existent. 

Dialectical expressions in the Quran

Dialectical expressions

When we express two opposing ideas, the first idea is thesis and the second idea is its antithesis. Thus night is the antithesis of day; disorder is the antithesis of order. During a discussion, dialectics is a process of interaction between thesis and antithesis that results in synthesis.

Now, in rhetoric, it is the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, usually in a balanced way.  The phrase “Man proposes, God disposes” is an example. It is a figure of speech, also called rhetoric dialectics, which involves the bringing out of a contrast in the ideas by an obvious contrast in the words, clauses, or sentences, within a parallel grammatical structure, as in the following: “When there is need of silence, you speak, and when there is need of speech, you are dumb; when present, you wish to be absent, and when absent, you desire to be present; in peace you are for war, and in war you long for peace; in council you descant on bravery, and in the battle you tremble.”

Languages and literatures widely vary in respect of the use of rhetoric dialectics. Let us take western languages as an example. For instance, among English writers who have made the most lavish use of antithesis are Pope, Young, Johnson, Gibbon and Lyly. It is, however, a much more common feature in French than in English; while in German, with some striking exceptions, it is conspicuous by its absence.

It is fascinating to observe that dialectical expressions are abundantly used throughout the Quranic literature. Also, these expressions are exceedingly rich in content as usual. The Quran, as we know, has always to say something much more than what the first time reader may expect or what may sometimes appear at first sight. And it is often through this use of rhetoric dialectics.

For interested readers we present below a sample list of dialectical expressions used in the Quran:

He said: Surely I know that which you know not. 2:30

Behold! In the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, in the succession of the night and the day, …  2:164

They ask you about intoxicants and gambling. Say: In them is great abuse and some use for men, but their abuse is greater than their use. 2:219  

Slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep; His is whatever is in the Heavens and whatever is in the Earth….He knows what is in front of them and what is behind them. 2:255

The right way has become distinct from error. 2:256

You grant dominion unto whom You will, and take away dominion from whom You will; and You exalt whom You will, and humble whom You will. …/ You merge the night into the day and merge the day into the night, and You bring forth the living from the dead and You bring forth the dead from the living, 3:26-27

To Him submits whoever is in the Heavens and the Earth, willingly or unwillingly.. 3:83

Behold! in the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and in the succession of night and day, .. 3:190

Who created the Heavens and the Earth and made the darkness and the light. 6:1

God, the Originator of the Heavens and the Earth, when it is He who feeds and is not Himself fed? 6:14

There is not a moving creature on the Earth, nor a bird that flies on its two wings, but … 6:38

And with Him are the keys of the unseen, none know them but He. And He knows what is in the land and in the sea; and not a leaf falls except He knows of it; nor a seed in the darkness of the earth; nor anything moist or anything dry; all in a clear record. 6:59

The Knower of the Invisible and the Visible. 6:73

Verily God is the Splitter of the seed and the kernel. He brings forth the living from the dead and He is the bringer forth of the dead from the living. 6:95

Sights encompass Him not, but He encompasses all sights. 6:103

And We have created you, then fashioned you.. 7:11

It is He who begins the creation then reproduces it. 10:4

He it is who made the Sun a splendour and the Moon a light, and measured for it stages that you might know to compute the years and reckon. …/ Most surely in the succession of the night and the day, and in all that God has created in the Heavens and the Earth, are signs… 10:5-6

Mankind was but one nation, then they differed… 10:19

Say: God brings the creation into existence, then He reproduces it. 10:34

And to God is the direction of the way, but some ways go not straight. 16:9

Say: Who provides you with sustenance from the Heaven and the Earth? Or who has power over the hearing and the sights? And who brings forth the living out of the dead, and the dead out of the living? 10:31

Nor is concealed from your Sustainer the weight of an atom in the Earth or in the Heaven, nor any thing less than that nor greater… 10:61

And He knows its habitation and its repository: all is in a clear record. 11:6

And how many a Sign in the Heavens and the Earth which they pass by, yet they turn away from it! 12:105

God is He Who raised up the Heavens …/ And it is He who spread out the Earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm and flowing waters: and of every fruit He placed therein two opposites; He draws the night as a veil over the day …/ And in the Earth are plots neighbouring, …like and unlike – although they are watered with one water, yet We make some excel others in produce. 13:2-4  

God knows what every female bears and by how much the wombs fall short or exceed. 13:8

Whoever is in the Heavens and the Earth does prostrate to God, willingly or unwillingly, as do their shadows at morning and evening. 13:15

Thus does God compare the real and the false. Then the scum disappears as a worthless thing; while that which is of benefit to mankind remains on the Earth. 13:17

God extends provision for whom He wills, or restricts, according to a measure. 13:26

God erases whatever He wishes, and (or) consolidates13:39

Do you not see that God created the Heavens and the Earth with Truth? If He so wills, He can remove you and bring forth a new creation? 14:19

And there is not a single thing but with Us are treasures of it. And We do not send it down from high but in accordance with a known measure. 15:21

And verily, it is We who bring to life and cause to die,…/ And certainly We know those of you who hasten forward, and those who lag behind. 15:23-24

He has created man out of a tiny drop. Then, lo! the same is an obvious reasoner!/ And He has created the livestock, whence you have warm clothing and uses, and whereof you eat. 16:4-5

Our word for anything when We intend it, is only that We say to it, Be, and it becomes. 16:40

And of the fruits of date-palms and vines: you derive from them strong drink and good nourishment. 16:67

See they not that God, who created the Heavens and the Earth, has power to create the like of them? 17:99

And man says: What! when I am dead shall I then be raised up alive?/ Does not man remember that We created him before, when he was nothing? 19:66-67

He said: Our Sustainer is He who gave to everything its nature and form, and further guided it. 20:50

The Heavens and the Earth were joined together, then We split them asunder… 21:30

It is He who created the night and the day and the Sun and the Moon. 21:33

And you see the Earth barren, but when We sent down the water thereon, it thrilled and swelled and grew every pair of cheering growth./ This is because God is the Reality: it is He who gives life to the dead, and it is He who has power over all things. 22:5-6

Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear? For surely it is not the eyes that are blind, but blind are the minds which are in the foremost. 22:46

God is He who revolves the night and the day. 24:44

And He it is who makes the night as a covering for you, and the sleep a rest, and makes every day a Resurrection. 25:47

And He it is who has set two seas to flow freely, the one sweet and thirst-allaying, and the other salty and bitter – and yet between the two He has made a barrier and a ban inviolable./ It is He who out of water has created man, then has He established for him relationship by lineage and relationship by marriage. 25:53-54

Blessed is He who has set up in the Heaven Strongholds (of Stars) and has placed in it a Lamp and a shining Moon./ And He it is who made the night and the day to succeed each other, for him who desires to celebrate His praises or desires to be thankful. 25:61-62

The One who created me, then it is He who guides me. 26:78

Will they not adore God who brings to light what is hidden in the Heavens and the Earth, and knows what you hide and what you reveal. 27:25

Seeing the mountains you think them solidly fixed, while they are passing as the passing of the clouds. 27:88

They only know the outward of the immediate life: but of the End they are heedless. 30:7

And among His wonders is that He created opposites for you from yourselves that you may find rest in them, and He placed love and mercy between you. 30:21

And among His wonders is the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and the diversity of your languages and colours. 30:22

And among His Signs, He displays to you the lightning, as a fear and a hope, and sends down water from the Heaven and thereby gives life to the Earth after it is lifeless; verily in this there are messages indeed for a people using reason. 30:24 

Do you not see that God extends provision for whom He wills, or restricts, determining according to a measure (His laws)? In that there are messages indeed for a people who acknowledge (the Divine laws). 30:37

Neither creation of you all nor raising of you all is but as a single self: surely God is Hearing, Seeing. 31:28

He knows that which goes down into the Earth and that which comes out of it, and that which comes down from the Heaven and that which goes up to it. 34:2

Not an atom’s weight in the Heavens or on Earth escapes His knowledge; and neither is there anything smaller than that, or greater, but is recorded in a clear record. 34:3

Are they then not aware of how little of the Heaven and the Earth lies open before them, and how much is hidden from them? 34:9

Whatever God out of His grace opens up to man, none can withhold it; and whatever He withholds none can release thereafter. 35:2

And the two seas are not alike: the one sweet, pleasant to drink; and the other salty and bitter. 35:12

He merges the night into the day and merges the day into the night, and He has subjected the Sun and the Moon. 35:13

If He wills He can blot you out and bring in a new creation. 35:16

It is God who holds the Heavens and the Earth that they deviate not: and if they should deviate, there is none – not one – who can grasp them after Him. 35:41

Neither is it for the Sun to overtake the Moon, nor can the night outstrip the day; and ALL swim along in orbit. 36:40

And had We willed, We verily could have transformed them in their place, then they would not be able to go on, nor to return. 36:67

Does not man see that it is We who have created him from a tiny drop? Then, lo! the same is an obvious reasoner! 36:77  

Say: He will revive them who produced them at the first, for He is Knower of every creation,/ He who has appointed for you the fire from the green plant, so that you kindle therewith. 36:79-80

Said he: I am better than he: Thou hast created me out of fire, whereas him Thou hast created out of mud. 38:76

He created the Heavens and the Earth with truth: He coils the night around the day and He coils the day around the night; and He has subjected the Sun and the Moon …/ He created you out of a single living entity, and out of it fashioned its pair39:5-6

It is God who has made the night for you so that you may repose therein and the day sight-giving. 40:61

God it is who made for you the Earth a dwelling place and the sky an overhanging shelter, and fashioned you, then made your shapes excellent. 40:64

It is He who gives Life and Death; so whenever He decrees an affair, He only says to it: ‘Be’, and it becomes. 40:68

God, who gives speech to all things, has given speech to us, and He created you in the first instance, and unto Him you return. 41:21

Among His messages are the Night and the Day, and the Sun and the Moon. Adore neither the Sun nor the Moon, but adore God Who created them, if it is Him you wish to serve. 41:37

In time We shall show them Our messages in the utmost horizons and within themselves, until it becomes clear to them that this is the truth. 41:53

To Him belong the treasures of the Heavens and the Earth: He enlarges and restricts the provision to whomever He wills. 42:12

And among His Signs is the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and what He has scattered throughout them of living beings: and He has power to gather them together when He pleases.  42:29

O mankind! Behold, We have created you as (or of) male and female, and made you into nations and groups, that you may know each other. Surely, the most honourable of you in the sight of God is the most conscious of you. Surely, God is All-knowing, All-aware. 49:13

Were We then fatigued with the first Creation, that they should be in doubt about a new Creation? 50:15

And it is We who have built the Heaven with power; and most surely it is We who are expanding./ And the Earth have We spread out wide – and how well have We ordered it!/ And in everything have We created oppos­ites, so that you might bear in mind. 51:47-49

Or has He daughters while you have sons? 52:39

And to God belongs the End and the Instant. 53:25

And that truly to your Sustainer is the Utmost Limit;/ And that it is He who made to laugh and to weep;/ And that it is He who caused death and granted life;/ And that He has created the two opposites, male and female, …/ And that it is He who enriches and impoverishes. 53:42-48

And the Heaven, He has raised it high, and has set the Balance. 55:7

Sustainer of the two sunrise points and Sustainer of the two sunset points. 55:17

He has let the two seas to flow freely, they meet together;/ Between them is a Barrier which they pass not. 55:19-20

His is the dominion over the Heavens and the Earth; it is He who gives Life and Death. …/ He is the First and the Last, and the Outward and the Inward57:2-3

He knows what enters within the Earth and what comes forth out of it, what comes down from Heaven and what mounts up to it. 57:4

His is the dominion over the Heavens and the Earth: and unto God all affairs go back./ He merges the night into the day and merges the day into the night 57:5-6

And We sent down iron, wherein is great might, and many uses for men. 57:25

He has created the Heavens and the Earth with truth, and He has fashioned you, then perfected your design: and to Him is the ultimate journeying. 64:3

Do they not see the birds above them expanding and contracting? Nothing upholds them save the Beneficent. Surely He is Seer of all things. 67:19

Verily, it is We who have created man out of a tiny drop intermingled, to try him: so We have made him hearing, seeing./ We have guided him to the way, then he is either appreciative or unappreciative. 76:2-3

It is We who have created them and strengthened their frame. And when We willed, We changed (replaced) their likes by a change (replacement). 76:28

Have We not made the Earth to draw together to itself,/ The living and the dead?/ And set therein mountains, firm lofty, and given you to drink of water sweet? 77:25-27

Have We not made the Earth a cradle?/ And the mountains projections,/ And We have created you in opposites,/ And made your sleep a repose,/ And made the night a covering,/ And made the day a living? 78:6-11

Then We cause to grow therein the grain,/ And grapes and green fodder,/ And the olive and the palm,/ And enclosed gardens, of thick foliage,/ And fruits and herbage,/ Provision for you and your livestock.  80:27-32

And the Night as it departs,/ And the Morn as it breathes, 81:17-18 

The One who created you, then fashioned you with due proportion, then made you balanced?/ Into whatsoever form He willed, He assembled you. 82:7-8

But nay! I do call to witness the sunset’s afterglow,/ And the night and its unfolding,/ And the Moon as it grows to its fullness;/ You are surely moving onward from stage to stage./ What then is the matter with them that they acknowledge not? 84:16-20.

So let man deeply observe of what he was created!/ He was created out of gushing water,/ Emerging from between the backbone and the ribs./ Most certainly He is well able to bring him back…/ By the Heaven which returns,/ And by the Earth which opens out. 86: 5-8, 11-12

Glorify the name of your Sustainer, the Most High;/ Who created, then fashioned with due proportion;/ And who determined according to a measure, then guided. 87:1-3

Nay, but when the Earth is ground to smallest particles, grinding, grinding, 89:21

Verily We have created man into struggle. 90:4

Have We not made for him two eyes?/ And a tongue and two lips?/ And pointed out to him the two highways?/ But he has not attempted the Ascent. 90:8-11

By the Sun and his brilliance;/ And the Moon as she follows him;/ And the Day as it reveals him;/ And the Night as it veils him;/ And the Heaven and what built it;/ And the Earth and what expanded it;/ And the Self, and what fashioned it with due proportion;/ Then inspired it to its wrong and its right;/ Succeeded has he who grows it;/ And failed has he who buries it. 91:1-10

And indeed the End is better for you than the Instant. 93:4

Surely We created man in the best of moulds./ Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low. 95:4-5

Read in the name of your Sustainer who has created./ Created man out of a clinger./ Read for your Sustainer is Most Generous,/ Who has taught by the pen,/ Taught man what he knew not. 96:1-5

Did Lot really offer his daughters to the rapists?

Did Lot really offer his daughters to the rapists

Earlier we noted how the people of Sodom preyed on outsiders and travellers in the worst ways, by committing hate attacks like homosexual gang rapes in the highway. This trend is further demonstrated by the example where the gang of transgressors blamed Lot for protecting foreigners and tried to sexually attack his visiting guests.

Now, a traditional reading of this story often assumes that Lot offered his own daughters to seduce the rapist mob when they were about to gang rape his visitors. It also assumes that this is the part that condemns homosexuality, as this is why Lot specifically offers women, as opposed to men. This reading, however, is too literal and superficial. There are many reasons why Lot cannot be really offering his own daughters to the transgressors. Please consider the following observations:

1. No sane person would offer his daughters to be gang raped

It is impossible that Lot would offer his daughters to a gang of homosexual rapists. No sane person on Earth, let alone a prophet of God, would willingly offer his daughters to rapists.

2. No sane person would throw his daughters into a crowd just to reform the crowd’s sexual behaviour

No sane person would present his innocent daughters to a crowd of rapists without regard to their liking or choice – just for the sake of reforming the crowd’s sexual orientation.

3. There is no reason why Lot would offer his daughters when there were other women

There is no reason why Lot would offer his poor daughters despite the availability of the community’s own women. Or was that community procreating and surviving without their women? 

4. In the Quranic story of Lot, the number of ‘daughters’ is unspecified

In the Quranic story of Lot, the word ‘daughters’ is in plural (banāt), not dual (bintāni, two daughters). In contrast to the Pentateuchal account about Lot’s two daughters (Genesis 19:8, 19:30-36), this makes the number of ‘daughters’ unspecified and untold.

5. Lot, as the spiritual father of his people, calls the daughters of his community ‘My daughters’

The Quranic story implies that, as the spiritual father of his people, Lot calls the daughters of his community ‘My daughters’ (note: ‘MY people! these MY daughters …’, 11:78, 15:71; also cf. ‘brothers of Lot’, 50:13; ‘their brother Lot’, 26:161).

6. In the Quranic story, Lot NEVER really offers his daughters

In the Quranic story, Lot NEVER really offers his daughters. For example, he NEVER says “Take or marry my daughters”. Rather he only says “MY people, these MY daughters (haolai banatee), they are purer for you” 11:78 (cf. “these MY daughters, if you would be doers” 15:71).

7. The mention of male homosexual rape has a context

Lot’s men approached men from other nations to commit hate attacks like homosexual gang rapes in the highway. Those visitors, especially in that ancient time, were expectedly men rather than women. Hence the mention of male homosexual rape.

8. The story of Lot condemns xenophobic hate, not homosexual love

As noted elsewhere, what is denounced in this story is inhospitality and oppression, not homosexual or consensual love.    

9. The men of Sodom were mainly heterosexuals who were not sexually attracted by men

There is no inherent or environmental reason why Lot’s nation should be especially more homosexual than any other nation of the world. So, as expected, the average men of Sodom were also mostly straight and often married to women. Thus the attackers of Lot’s guests were not really driven by homosexual attraction or consensual love. If they were, Lot wouldn’t have asked them to go back and seek love in their own women.

10. The attackers rejected Lot’s advice about women because they were xenophobic rapists, not because they were gays

Since these jingoist men were not gay, they approached men from other nations without “leaving their own women” (26:165-166). Their acts of hostility and inhospitality were solely intended to bully, crash and eject all the outsiders (15:70, 15:76, 26:167, 29:29). This is the only motive behind their attempt to gang rape Lot’s guests. And this explains why they didn’t stop approaching the visitors/men despite Lot’s reminder about love with their own women.  

11. If the attackers were gays, it would be pointless to redirect them to women

If their interest in the visitors/men was really due to homosexual attraction or consensual love, it would be totally pointless to redirect them to women.  

12. The attackers admit that their society allowed them to rape visitors, but not their own women

These attackers do not say that they are not sexually attracted to women. Rather they admit that, while their jingoist society allowed them to have control over foreigners and strangers by committing sexual assaults on them, they were not given the same right to rape the women of their own community (“They said: You know well that we have no right to your daughters, and you know well what we want. 11:79”).

13. The attackers say that what they want is rape, not love

Furthermore, the attackers themselves admit that they are not interested in love, but rape (“and you know well what we want. 11:79”).

14. This is a clear reference to gang rape of foreigners and visitors

This is a clear reference to gang rape of outsiders, which is about power and coercion, and which is unleashed to bully, control and punish the victims. This is not an account of healthy desire and tender love.

15. The number of Lot’s own daughters cannot be enough to satiate the lust of a whole crowd

Lot couldn’t be talking here about his own daughters, since their number must have been too insufficient to satiate the lust of a whole crowd of rapists.

16. Lot’s reminder is a call to the path of love, instead of rape

In this story therefore Lot is NOT offering his own daughters to the gang of rapists, but only asking them to go back and seek love in their own women (his spiritual daughters) rather than disgracing him by sexually assaulting his foreign visitors (11:78, 15:70-71; cf. 26:166). This is a general advice and a call to the path of love, instead of rape (11:78-80).

Summary and final thoughts

Lot didn’t offer his own daughters to the gang of rapists, but only asked them to go back and seek love in their own women (his spiritual daughters) rather than sexually assaulting his foreign visitors. This is a general advice and a call to the path of love, instead of rape.

Halal food misconceptions

Halal food misconceptions

What are the prohibited foods and meats in the Quran?

The only prohibited foods and meats in the Quran are: Dead meat, running blood, swine/rotten meat and what was dedicated to other than God (2:173, 6:145, 5:3, 16:115).

Is eating anything of the above list a sin?

We note that the above list is followed by the reassurance that even consuming anything of it is not a ‘sin’ if it is not done out of “willful disobedience or transgression” (2:173, 6:145, 16:115). And that, far more important is what is in our heart and mind (5:93, 6:118-119).

Should we make a fuss about the so-called halal food?

No. What people eat or partake is not really an issue as long as they live consciously and do good works (“Those who acknowledge and do good works bear no guilt for what they eat/partake as long as they are aware and acknowledge and do good works. 5:93”; cf. 6:118-119). Thus the actual emphasis in the Quran in matters like this, is on spiritual values rather than on rituals and taboos (2:189, 5:101-103, 87:8). 

Does the Quran promote the traditional concept ofhalal slaughter’?

No. While the Quran lists the disapproved methods of killing animals for consumption (“Forbidden to you is … the strangled, beaten to death, killed by a fall, gored and savaged by a beast. 5:3”), it doesn’t support the much held notion that the so-called halal slaughter as practiced today by the traditional Muslims is a requirement to make the meat ‘halal’.

Is ‘halal slaughter’ the only accepted method to kill an animal for consumption?

No. The Quran nowhere ordains that halal slaughter, which is a misnomer, or any particular way of slaughter, is the only accepted method to kill an animal for consumption.

Can a Muslim consume meat sold by non-Muslims or prepared by them with their own methods?

Yes. The Quranic position in this regard becomes obvious when we note that the Quran clearly and unreservedly approves the food of “the people of the Book” (5:5), i.e., Jews, Christians and, in a wider sense, all religious groups with scriptures, like Hindus, Buddhists and Zoroastrians, as well as secular groups with inner script of conscience and scientific guidance, like agnostics and atheists.   

Then where did all the traditional details of ‘halal slaughter’ come from?

All the traditional details of halal slaughter, including the pre-slaughter utterance of the extra-Quranic mantra “Allahu Akbar”, are human fabrications and mainly based on hadith-borne imports from local Judaeo-Christian traditions during the earlier Islamic centuries.

But isn’t ‘halal slaughter’ essential to remove the prohibited blood from the dead animal?

Not really. The prohibition of blood refers to the consumption of “running blood” only (6:145), not blood trapped inside the flesh. Also, even the traditional halal slaughter doesn’t remove ALL blood from the dead animal.

Isn’t pre-slaughter utterance of God’s name essential to make the meat halal?

No. The Quran DOESN’T really say that a pre-slaughter utterance of God’s name is essential to make the meat halal. Even 22:36, the only verse that is sometimes quoted in this regard, is more like a reminder for the pilgrims to feel appreciative of God’s blessings for the provisions of the livestock after the prohibition of hunting is over during Hajj. And because this reminder is addressed to the pilgrims, and not the slaughterers, it is not associated with the actual slaughtering. 

Yet, isn’t the traditional pre-slaughter utterance of “Allahu Akbar” a beautiful way to remember God before killing an animal?

No. The conscious appreciation of God’s favours to us while eating or partaking of any blessing of life, by remembering His attributes of mercy, as instructed in the Quran (6:118), is in clear contrast with the traditional pre-slaughter utterance of “Allahu Akbar”, an extra-Quranic mantra that had its first physical appearance as a military slogan during the Umayyad period of Arab expansion.    

So, leaving the slaughtering issue aside, don’t we need to utter God’s name before consumption of meat?

No. The Quranic instruction “remember God’s attributes of mercy before eating/consuming/enjoying” (6:118) is often miscomprehended as “utter God’s name before eating”. In fact, what the Quran asks here is to consciously appreciate God’s every favour to us as His grace and mercy, before partaking of it. In order to follow this simple message, we neither need to “utter” anything, verbally or vocally, nor do we need to say God’s “name”. Furthermore, the instruction is general and includes all provisions and all foods (6:118-121), and not just meat (meat of the livestock during Hajj, 22:28, 36; meat and fish caught by the trained dogs and birds, 5:4, etc).

Then what is the significance of remembering God’s name before eating?

Often undertranslated as ‘name’, the word ‘ism’ in the phrase “ism allah” (6:118) actually means sifaat, or attribute (note: God has no name). In the context of 6:118, “ism allah” specifically refers to the principal divine attributes of mercy attached with Bismillah. This concept is expounded and constantly repeated all over the Quran through the formula Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim (“With the attribute of God, the Mercygiving, the Merciful. 1:1”; cf. 1:1-3, 16:4-7, 17:110, 22:36). Thus, if one acknowledges God’s messages in nature, one would expectedly commemorate with gratitude His attributes of mercy while partaking of any blessing of life (“So eat/consume/enjoy from that on which God’s attribute (of mercy) has been remembered, if you indeed acknowledge His messages. 6:118”).  

So we don’t need to utter anything, verbally or vocally, before eating?

No. Often undertranslated as “utter”, the actual word in the instruction “remember God’s attributes of mercy before eating/consuming/enjoying” (6:118) is “dhik’r”, or “remember”. To the Divine who knows our mind, it shouldn’t matter whether our remembering is hidden or expressed (59:22). Since intentions are just as essential as actions (2:158), what is important is sincerity of mind, not a lip service (35:10, 29:2-3, 59:22).

What is the Quranic position on pork?

The Quran is inseparably tied to its context and environment. This explains why it doesn’t precisely mention potentially harmful meats of many omnivorous or carnivorous animals such as dogs, cats, bats, snakes or hawks, or harmful plants like poisonous mushrooms. Pork was allegedly prohibited simply because it was considered unclean and therefore harmful, as the Quran itself confirms the reason (“for it is impure/ tainted/ contaminated, 6:145”). Clearly, during those days when pigs were rarely domesticated in Arabia due to nomadic pastoralism, they used to be reared in filthy conditions. There is no reason to consider them haram in our time if they are clean and harmless, i.e. if they are raised as domestic livestock in hygienic environment that meets modern food safety standards and/or if the meat is properly prepared. For further info, see: Facts about pork. The Quran allows consuming all foods that are wholesome and harmless (2:168, 5:4) and explicitly urges not to declare any good thing unlawful (5:87-88, 10:59, 16:35, 16:116). Besides, some authors argue that the expression ‘lahm khinzir’, traditionally translated as ‘swine meat’, actually means ‘rotten meat’ from a Quranic perspective.

What is the Quranic position on seafood?

Although the Quran declares all seafood lawful (5:96, 16:14, 35:12) and urges not to declare any good thing unlawful (5:87-88, 10:59, 16:35, 16:116) – some Muslim clerics, influenced by hadiths, declare numerous foods, including some excellent seafoods like mussels, lobsters, shrimps, crabs, octopus etc., unlawful.

What is the Quranic position on other foods prohibited by hadiths?

There are many additional dietary prohibitions in hadiths, such as uncooked garlic, donkey meat, frogs, lizards (discouraged), hedgehogs, fanged beasts, taloned birds and so on. The absence of explicit prohibition in the Quran about these items, however, suggests that they are left to one’s personal decision.

What is the logic behind the prohibition of “what was dedicated to other than God”?

There is a deep rationale behind the prohibition of “what was dedicated to other than God” (“maohilla bihi lighayri Allahi”; 2:173, 6:145, 5:3, 16:115). As we noted, the instruction “remember God’s attributes of mercy before eating/consuming/enjoying” (6:118) tells us to consciously appreciate God’s every favour to us as His grace and mercy, before partaking of it. The instruction is general and includes all provisions and all foods, and not just meat (6:118-121). This conscious appreciation of life’s blessings must be entirely dedicated to their ultimate source, i.e., to one God alone, and must not be corrupted by sharing with ‘others’ (these may include modern day idols).

Why are some Quran-centrists supporting the animal welfare groups so concerned about ‘halal slaughter’? 

Our reflection on God’s attributes of mercy should inspire us to actualize these divine attributes in human capacity (59:24; cf. 1:1, 2:138, 6:118), thereby making our behaviour towards animals more humane and compassionate (16:5-7, 36:71-73, 6:38). In line with this persistent Quranic emphasis on universal compassion, our main animal welfare concerns should be whether or not animals are being cared for ethically and – in relation to slaughter, including the traditional halal slaughter – whether or not animals are rendered unconscious (stunned) before they are killed. While widespread research continues to show the animal welfare benefits of pre-slaughter stunning, halal-slaughtered animals are dying in agony because of ‘Muslim ignorance’ over pre-slaughter stunning. If that’s the case, then one may rightfully argue that halal slaughter without stunning should be BANNED in a society where a more humane method is available.

In non-halal abattoirs, animals are shot in the head for pre-slaughter stunning. Doesn’t the Quran say that any animal that is “struck with an object” is haram (5:3)?

Most advanced societies have now adopted the principle of a two-stage process for the non-ritual slaughter of animals to ensure a rapid death with minimal suffering: 1. STUNNING by firing a metal bolt, or passing electricity, into the brain of the animal. This causes an animal to lose consciousness immediately, so the animal can’t feel pain. The law states that, with few exemptions, all animals must be stunned before ‘sticking’ (neck cutting) is carried out. 2. STICKING by cutting an animal’s neck, using a very sharp knife, to sever the major blood vessels in its neck/chest that supply the brain. This ensures rapid blood loss and therefore death. Now, the root of the word you translated as “struck with an object” is wāw qāf dhal, which occurs only once in the Quran (5:3), as the passive participle mawqūdhat. The word actually means “that which has been beaten to death”. This is not the same as the modern method of stunning, which doesn’t really result in death.

What do the Muslim scholars think about the modern slaughtering methods?

Interestingly, in a study by researchers at the University of Bristol, over 95 per cent of the Muslim scholars agreed that if stunning did not result in death, or cause physical injury or obstruct bleed-out, the meat would be considered halal. The same study, however, suggests some Islamic scholars are ignorant about the humaneness of stunning, leading to animals dying in pain. For example, a quote from “Islam Question & Answer” says: “It is haraam to stun an animal by striking it or giving it an electric shock etc, because that causes suffering to the animal …” This is so absurd. How can slitting the throat of an animal without stunning and let it bleed to death be less suffering than stunning and then slitting its throat? These archaic rituals and practise are just not consistent with the awareness of animal welfare.

How important is the issue of halal food?

For millions of unquestioning Muslim minds, halal food has become an obsession and a silly taboo that divides them with the rest of humankind by unnecessarily breeding mutual hate (cf. 42:13). Muslims must wake up and focus on issues that are far more important for them and their fellow humans.

Is veganism compatible with Islam?

Yes. Inspired by the Quranic spirit of universal compassion and care, some vegan Muslims argue that veganism is very much compatible with Islam. If we are to follow ourselves the most principal divine attributes (“the Sustainer of the worlds, the Mercygiving, the Merciful. 1:1-3”) – i.e., when it comes to taking care of the Earth (7:56, 2:60, 2:205) and caring for all of God’s creations (6:38, 6:165, 1:2) – we should, at the very least, consume animals humanely, while considering cutting down on meat and even starting a vegetarian lifestyle. As the Quran promotes ideas that side with a vegetarian worldview, it is time more Muslims turned to veganism.

Further reading:

Should halal slaughter be banned?

Why Are Some Animals Considered Unclean?

Facts about pork