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This is from a recording made by a close friend at a recent public
lecture given by William
Chittick at Carleton University. The subject of the lecture was
love in the Qur'anic worldview and is based on material Chittick has
collected for a new book he is working on.
The lecture centers around a ubiquitously well known verse in the Qur'an, a verse described by Sam'ani as a "body-melting, heart-burning" verse.... You can listen to it here or subscribe/listen to it as a podcast in iTunes....
When remembrance (dhikr) of Allah is connected with the aspect of His mercy, that quality of mercy begins to manifest within one's own character - it gains a real, living presence and the heart expands with it's growth....
....Today Israel capitalizes on a name and a difficult history, but this Israel of our era has not within it the character of a promised land....
Although in a narrative sense the sura of Joseph (Yusuf) is one of
the most accessible and straightforward chapters of the Qur'an,
describing in chronological order the story of Joseph's betrayal by his
brothers, his rise to prominence in Egypt, and his reunion with his
family, it is simultaneously a narrative whose surface conceals immense
depths of meaning. The apparent meaning is a veil over multiple layers
of hidden significance....
Since the language of dreams is a cloaked, symbolic language - a
language of ideas, concepts, and truths embodied into various forms,
bodies and events that symbolize the true meaning - because of this it
remains opaque to most. They do not know how to interpret so they shake
their heads and say "confused
A book is not simply words on a page - it is one mind crafting an
effect upon other minds - it does not assume its true form except
through the action of reading. By this it creates a world of image and
story within our minds like software running within the engine of our
imagination. In this way, the text is capable of lifting off the page
as the words construct elaborate landscapes within the domain of our
People encompass multiple existences, multiple levels of dealing and
interacting with the world. The foremost level is an individual level -
the level of a single person or single self (nafs) and the moral and
ethical life and behavior of that person within the milieu of small
scale interactions. This is the level at which most people relate to
religion and ethical life - they see religion as an individual
Time has a mysterious existence, a nature that is, as yet,
unfathomable to us. It does not have any immediately evident, firmly
graspable reality such as that found in material objects (and even our
understanding of matter succumbs to mystery as we peer deeper into its
The prophet's knowledge of past events and histories was deep, his
ability to read and perceive the minute invisible traces that connect a
place to it's spiritual history was through the connection of his own
being to the plane of the unseen....
Here is a paradox for a modern age which seeks to do away with the
Divine, to remove it from their frame of reference and erase it from
the public sphere. "Those who have
no belief set up rivals to their
Lord" (Qur'an 6:1). But how can those who disbelieve in God set
up rivals to their God?....
Like the mystical alchemists who used the chemical transmutations of
the elements as a symbolic representation of an inner transmutation of
their heart and soul, the ascent of a mountain, the rise above the
forest line into the rarefied atmosphere and stunning beauty of its
heights, the sweeping, arcing view of the earth below - these are
representative of a parallel ascent within the nafs (the soul)....
While the Qur'an points out that existence is absolutely transparent
before God, it also points out that God has drawn many veils over his
creation and that some of these veils are veils of privacy placed as a
mercy and as a token of dignity and respect between people. These are
veils which it is an injustice and a violation to remove....
Jesus said, "To this end was I
born, and for this came I into the world, to bear witness unto the
truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice. Pilate then said
unto him, What is truth?" (John 18:37-38)
Pilate's response is a fascinating one. "What is truth?", he says, but he does not voice the question as a genuine query - it is a rhetorical question, a statement describing reality as Pilate observes it - there is no truth, there are only constructed ideologies and practical necessities and people act based upon these....
Fasting (Sawm) carries a two-fold meaning - two seemingly opposing definitions combined into a single word. And sawm, as described in the Qur'an and the hadith, simultaneously fulfills both of these definitions. The primary meaning is to hold back, to refrain from, to abstain - the further meaning is to rise beyond, to move past former limits....
The myriad facets of intellectual expression historically inspired by the Qur'an and the profound and deep hermeneutics that flowered in various historical forms and in various schools of thought stands in stark contrast to the vicious tail-swallowing vision of an ideology of takfir. For most of Muslim history, an ideology of takfir was a troubling but well-contained side-issue. In recent times, in a strange historical aberration wrought by vast global political changes, it has come into a position of destructive prominence.....
Like a magician working his sleight-of-hand deceptions to deceive and misdirect the eye, political sleight-of-hand artists work their deceptions to deceive and misdirect a society's collective mind and attention. The mass media provide the stage on which the theatre of deception unfolds....
Here is a compiled reference list of every Qur'anic and Biblical verse referenced on the Islam from inside website, as well as links to the specific articles in which those verses appear. The Qur'anic verses are listed in sura and verse order....
....It is not only the thing seen that is of importance but the
vision and the perspicacity of the one doing the seeing. God always has
a relation of nearness to us - "He
is nearer to you than your life-vein" (Qur'an 50:16) But for us
to draw nearer to Him, we have to embark on a journey of knowledge of
what is configured within our own selves.
This becomes possible through the substantive bond we have with God through our nafs.....
....We all have inner convictions and determinations, we all have intentions and aims that are beneficial to ourselves and to those around us. For many of us these convictions and determinations and intentions often live and die within us....
The Danish cartoons which caricatured the Prophet in different ways (including depicting him wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb), has stirred up, not surprisingly, a hornet's nest of controversy. It is yet another (in this case, somewhat silly) manifestation of an ongoing process in which secular society, acting according to an internal impulse, periodically lampoons various sacred icons. The cartoons could have confined themselves to satirizing specific politically motivated actions and still made their point, but instead targeted the principal foundations of the faith (the Prophet and the Qur'an).....
Some time back I was involved in a series of internet discussions on raising children in which Christian scripture was quoted to emphasize the importance of using discipline and training to rigorously mold a child to a particular mindset. The concern in the discussion was with the use and application of Christian scripture in a way that did a disservice to the scripture itself....
....Any turning away from something also involves a turning towards something else. This is the nature of the world. In the hadith describing the creation of aql (intellect) and ignorance, God commands the aql and it responds by turning towards Him, He then commands ignorance and it turns away from Him. So any turning away from His Mercy, or any arrogance towards His guidance indicates the beginnings of ignorance....
"Then leading him to a height, Satan showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor and said to him, 'I will give you all this power and glory of all these kingdoms....worship me then and it shall be all yours.' Then Jesus replied, 'Be off, Satan! For scripture says: You must worship your Lord, your God and serve Him alone.'....
Knowledge shapes and defines - it lays some limits and demolishes others - it provides a template, an unfolding genome from which both individual understandings and societal forms emerge. We as individuals have control over knowledge, but so also does knowledge have a powerful control over us....
"And Who brings forth the living from the dead, and brings forth the dead from the living?"
The clay (the earth through which we are created) is a dead thing (but has the capacity to come to life). The spirit is a living thing - the source of life. We are composed out of these two opposites – clay (or earth) and spirit - one low, the other high, one dead, the other alive. They are combined in us so that we contain within ourselves both the properties of life and death, of spirit and matter....
Several years ago William Chittick gave a lecture at our local university on Ahmad Sam'ani's view of Adam's fall as elaborated in Sam'ani's work, "The Ease of Spirits in Explaining the Names of the All-Conquering King" ("Rawh al-arwah fi sharh asma' al-malik al-fattah").
It's a fascinating and beautiful lecture (reflective of the excellence of Chittick's work in general) and I have wanted for some time to make it available online but did not feel right doing so without first obtaining Chittick's permission. I was recently put in contact with him and he has very graciously, granted permission. The lecture is now available as a podcast. You can listen to it here or subscribe/listen to it as a podcast in iTunes....
Each person carries within themselves their own reality-distortion field - this consists of all the layerings of experience, opinion, tendencies, habits, desires, genetic dispositions, physical structure, psychological structure, societal and parental imprintings, media influences, educational influences, religious background, information and mis-information....
The qur'an speaks of two resurrections that take place after death – the first is in the barzakh and the second is at the final judgment. A person’s life is likened to a book – with each thought, word, and action, they are writing on the pages of their soul....
The Arabic for the word that is generally translated as "upright" is "hanif". Hanif in general usage refers to those people who, in pre-Islamic times, maintained monotheistic beliefs when the society around them had slipped into polytheism. They followed the true nature and disposition given to mankind, which points to a belief in One God....
This verse opens with a command - God commands the Prophet to state a truth about himself - to reveal to the people information about his state and condition and his relation to God. This truth can be understood at different levels....
The story of the golden calf is a pointer to the importance of making intense and continuous efforts in maintaining, cultivating, developing, and inculcating deep understanding and knowledge of religion and revelation....
There was once a King with a vast kingdom. He was a very great King, good, fair, just, merciful, loved deeply by all his subjects, by all the creatures in His kingdom.
When two mirrors are held facing each other a regression of reflections results. A corridor of mirrors dwindling away into miniscule images beyond the range of vision is created. But each time the reflections repeat themselves the quality of the reflection degrades ever so slightly. At first this change is hardly noticeable, but as we look deeper into the never-ending well of repeating images the degradation becomes obvious....
In light of today’s environmental crises, many secular and religious
have begun to look into underlying philosophical causes for man's
attitude towards his environment. Part of this search involves a look
root philosophies affecting the human outlook and interaction with the
and the responsibility religion shares in creating the attitudes and
that have led to the desecration of nature that has occurred in the
The verses on the first battle the Muslim's engaged in are very
unique in the manner in which they combine details about the events and
the physical aspects of the battle with a spiritual commentary that
makes it clear that there was far more happening than simply an
encounter between two opposing forces.....
Society is a reflection or projection of the human mind - in other
words, the world as it is and as it has been, is to a great extent
shaped by people's minds and their interactions with one another and
with their environment.....
These verses describe the spiritual vision and state of certainty
granted to Abraham as a gift from Allah. In a series of revelatory or
intellectual unveilings, the Reality behind existence - it's true
nature - was manifested....
The blowing of the trumpet in this verse signifies the calling of
everything that is in the heavens and earth to an accounting. It
signifies a transformation of all existence....
Iraq's provisional constitution is set to go into effect on June 30,
2004. There's already an excess of coverage and discussion on the news
the net, and lawyers and "experts" are busy publicly dissecting the
direction, limitations, and scope of its various articles. The full
of the constitution can be found here and it's
that all those interested in the future of Iraq should take the time to
"When nobody except a group of three members of his family was left
with al-Husayn, he moved against the people (the soldiers), while the
three (moved with) him until (all) three were killed. Al-Husayn was
left alone. Despite being weighed down by wounds in his head and body,
he began to strike against them with his sword and they scattered, to
right and left, away from him....
This piece is a brief description of the matam (breast beating) portion of the majlis (gatherings) that are held during the first ten days of Muharram to commemorate the tragedy of Karbala....
When we remember past events and recite the stories of the incidences that took place at Karbala and draw lessons from them we are fulfilling a qur'anic entreaty to call to mind past occurrences and draw lessons from them. Just as the qur'an is a book of guidance for us, from God, so also is the universe, the world which we inhabit, a "book" of God replete with signs (ayats) and waymarks - a guidance to those whose hearts are inclined to seek guidance and who strive to understand the significance of human actions in this world....
A question frequently raised in reference to Imam Husain's martyrdom and our commemoration of it is "Why dwell on the past?...Why put so much time and energy into remembering an event that happened centuries ago?...Why not let the past be past and put it behind us once and for all?"....
"...we heard the fierce, grief stricken background of this sound - the sound of men groaning, crying, and shouting.... There came into view....rank after rank of men naked to the waist.... They were like a regiment of...soldiers marching as captive to their doom....their eyes gazed fixedly ahead...."
For those not well acquainted with the life and death of Imam Husain(a.s.), the commemoration of his martyrdom is seen as an emotional occasion - a cry of the heart for what is lost. It is this, but it is also much more than this.....
The word "shahid" (martyr) means "witness", in the sense of one who
is a witness to the Truth of God as manifested in the Qur'an, in
history, in the world, and within one's own self. It describes a type
of person who has clearly understood the deep distinction between truth
and falsehood and who, by the example of his life and the manner of his
death becomes a criterion (furqan), a standard of judgement between
right and wrong....
On the occasion of the first of
Muharram (the Muslim New Year and the beginning of 10 days of mourning
for the grandson of the Prophet (s.a.), slain at Kerbala)
A new year signifies renewal, birth, new beginnings. While the 1st
marks the new year celebration for many Muslims - for others it marks a
of mourning and contemplation. But this is not an inappropriate
a new beginning....
One of the key, central, defining rituals of Islam is the Hajj - a
difficult physical and spiritual journey that holds open the
possibility of life-transforming change for those who perform it with a
committed and open heart. Salutations and congratulations to all those
who are fortunate enough to make the journey this year.
From Imam Zain-ul-Abideen's (a.s.) dua for the day of Arafah:
"Make me not an aid to the wrongdoers,
nor their hand and helper in erasing Thy Book!
Defend me whence I know not with a defense
through which Thou protectest me!....
And complete Thy favour toward me!
Surely Thou art the best of those who show favour! Place the rest of my life in the hajj and the 'umra
seeking Thy face,
O Lord of the worlds!
And may God bless Muhammad and his Household, the good,
the pure, and peace be upon him and them always and forever!"....
Read more (Hajj pilgrims)....
These verses (6:151-153) appear in the context of a dialogue between
the Prophet and the Jews and Christians. As such, the verses are laying
groundwork or foundation of a type of behaviour and character that
be commonly acceptable to Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
6:151 Say: Come, I will recite unto you that which your Lord hath made a sacred duty for you: That ye ascribe no thing as partner unto Him and that ye do good to parents....
Verse 116 of the fifth chapter (Sura al-Maidah) in the qur'an reads
005.116 And behold! God will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of God'?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden....
Many Muslim writers when writing about Jesus (a.s.) inevitably deal with him in negative terminology (as in 'he is not the son of God'). Muslims and Christians have spent a good deal of time debating these aspects of Jesus always using Christian theology as a starting point. Due to this the Christian community does not know how Christ is percieved in purely Islamic terms....
"The first thing created by God
Intellect" (Prophetic hadith)
In the following discussion on the place of intellect in Islam, the analogy of a computer may help clarify some of the points made. This is an analogy used only to provoke some thought and is not meant to be carried too far. There is, after all, no such thing as a perfect analogy. A perfect analogy would, in fact, BE the thing described.
Imagine that the computer screen and all activity on the screen represents the world of material existence....
The qur'an delineates three levels for the soul (the nafs, the self). In sura 12:53 it mentions the nafs ammara (the commanding soul). This is the level at which most of us exist. Our self consists of a conglomeration of wants, desires, impulses, habits, fears, angers, appetites, tendencies and an ego that constructs a self image that it then seeks to protect and maintain any way it can....
The qur'an uses many different modes of address in it's verses. Some
are addressed specifically to the people of the book (Jews and
Christians), others to humankind in its totality, some to the
The words "Bismillah alRahman alRahim" (In the name of Allah, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful) are above every sura except the ninth sura (there they occur in the body of the sura) and are a sign that God's mercy presides over everything. His Lordship over all things is not due to domination by violence or subjugation but to the two forms of compassion (Rahman and Rahmin) which manifest, nurture, support, surround, and enter into all things....
Sometimes the world you know slips away from the range of your vision and a terrible, alternate reality materializes in front of your eyes, displacing the familiar and the known with a strange and unwelcome universe. A sense of mental slippage, a sliding away of all established comfort and assurance accompanied the images of massive passenger airliners slamming their enormous bulk with bullet like velocity into the twin towers that overlooked New York city......Read more (September 11)....
When I was asked to say some words about Imam Ali (a.s.) for this wiladat, I found it very difficult to find the appropriate words or topic to present. Not because there is little to say about our Imam, but because I do not know how to say it – I do not feel adequate to the task – I do not feel that I truly know our Imam, but rather that I know only a few surface details, some scattered facts, some historical events, some sayings of his – dispersed bits of knowledge.....Read more (Knowing the Imam)....
When the Qur'an talks of past events it often speaks of them as if these events exist within our own memories or in a collective human memory as an integral part of our own selves and of our human heritage and nature. It has a unique methodology in that it asks us to recall some past historical occurrences in the same manner with which we remember events from our own lives, as if they exist in our own individual, personal storehouse of experiences....Read more (Time in the qur'an)....
What is it? What does the Qur'an say about it?
The Prophet (s.a.) was once asked, "What is more important than prayer?" He replied, "The spirit of prayer" - the spirit that animates the prayer. He was asked what is more important than fasting - he replied, the spirit of fasting. For each question concerning an Islamic practise the answer was the same - because the spirit brings the action to life and unfolds its potentials. Without this animating spirit, the prayer is only movement, and the fasting only hunger. But when spirit enters, when a pure and concentrated intention enters, the prayer has the potential to become a miraj (an elevating spiritual journey), and the one fasting has the potential to witness laylatul qadr (the night of destiny - a night when blessings from the spiritual world descend to this world).
It's late and the room is dark except for the flickering light cast
the television. I should be in bed but the endless analysis and
commentary on the trade centre attack and America's unrelenting military response mesmerizes me. On the screen is an ochre-tinted map of Afghanistan and the countries that border it. An orange tinge seeps into the room as the map expands and bleeds past the edges of the tube. Tiny word boxes pop-up on the map as an unseen commentator talks. Each box contains short descriptive phrases and point-form summaries about Afghanistan's bordering nations and their military significance to the United States in this crisis. I notice that by the tv's projected light, my skin is the color of Afghanistan's desert sands, and as I watch the strategic overview, with its tiny moving icons of planes, destroyers, missiles and troops, a feeling of unreality, of a disturbing absurdity washes over me....
We often encounter the world with a mind overflowing with media
images and our own imaginative projections - a sort of mental ecosystem
which provides a psychological environment into which we can fit our
images, these landscapes of information, contour outlooks, adjust
and have a determining effect on how we perceive the world. They are
subtle technology of our brains, the hidden mechanism of the mind
which experience is made 'safer' and more digestible, and through which
avoid being overwhelmed by the 'new' or changed by the powerful impact
raw, unprocessed reality.
Raw: unaltered from its original state, not filtered or diminished in effect, exerting a forceful power and impact. This is the closest I can come to describing the intensity of the mental collision that occurred when I plunged from the cold of a North American winter into the powerful heat and movement of Mecca, the city at the heart of the Islamic world....
Read more (Around the Kaaba)....
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