November 23, 2005
November 16, 2005
Q Some Americans would see the title of your lecture, "The Politics of the Qur'an," as synonymous with the politics of terrorism. How do you respond?
A: One of the big problems in the American society is that people do not have a sense of what the Qur'an is. So when someone commits an act of violence and cites a verse from the Qur'an, which seems to justify violence, then it's easy for people to make the assumption that the Qur'an is a document of violence. So one thing that needs to happen is for people to have a general sense of the sacred texts of religious traditions and to see that there is violence and peace in all of the sacred texts and that people have justified violence by quoting all of the sacred texts.
Q Is there a fundamental gap in understanding between Islam and the West?
A: There are translation gaps. Muslims approach the Qur'an primarily through hearing it in Arabic. It's a very different experience than reading the Bible, and it makes it very difficult for people, when they pick up a Qur'an and read it, to understand the spirituality that Muslims feel and sense when they hear the Qur'an.
Q Does that translate into anything practical in terms of our understanding of the Muslim world?
A: What's often lost are the deeper feelings of tenderness, of solidarity with other human beings, of subtlety, of the ability to have many interpretations. All of these things when they are lost lead then to a very stereotypical sense ... a narrow, more rigid sense of what the tradition is.
Q There was lively controversy after the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill assigned students in 2002 to read your book, "Approaching the Qur'an." Critics said you sanitized Islam by leaving out passages commanding violent behavior in jihad. How do you respond?
A: It's a category mistake. If someone were presenting to Muslims aspects of the Bible that most Christians and Jews find deeply personal in their private religious lives, ... you would probably present something like the Book of Genesis. ... You probably would not present the Book of Joshua, in which God requires his people to exterminate all of the people of the Palestine area. ... I took the part of the Qur'an that Muslims learn first, that they memorize most often, and I translated that.
November 09, 2005
Answer: Saidina Ali k.w. pointed out that:
If one approaches the Qur'an with evil and ugly intentions, closed paradigms and limited understanding, he will understand the Qur'an with his limited, ugly understandings. If one approaches the Qur'an with love and mercy, the Qur'an will build upon them castles of mercy and compassion.
--Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, Interview with the Editors of "Inabah" magazine, p. 5
Comment: After reading this answer, the image I got was of the Qur'an as a mirror. The Qur'an is certainly more than just a book; likewise, our relationship with the Qur'an is not one-way, but two-way. The Qur'an not only provides us guidance generally, in the form of various rules and legislation, but also seems to provide individual guidance, in part through its ability to "read the reader." ("There comes a moment in the reading of the Qur'an, as for example in personal study focused on understanding the meaning, whether reciting out loud or reading it silently, when readers start feeling an uncanny, sometimes frightening presence. Instead of reading the Qur'an, the reader begins feeling the Qur'an is 'reading' the reader! This is a wonderfully disturbing experience, by no means requiring a person to be a Muslim before it can be felt." -- Fredrick Denny, Islam, p. 88)
But everyone is not able to partake of the Qur'an's wisdom. I have come across many people online who have demonstrated their inability to grasp all or a part of the Qur'an due to their mindset. And this metaphor, of the Qur'an as a mirror to one's soul, strikes me as particularly apt. The mind that is clouded and opaque has no ability to see the Qur'an's beauty. That soul, as Dr. Khaled pointed out, will have nothing more than "limited, ugly understandings." However, if one's mind is the least bit transparent, then the Qur'an will reflect back its beauty upon that person's soul. Insha'allah, the soul will continue to grow and become more beautiful the more it reads the Qur'an.
November 04, 2005
"Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued."
This is one verse hostile non-Muslims like to point out, whining that we Muslims would inflict upon them the jizya if we were able. (Hey, everyone's gotta pay their taxes, ya know? ;) )
On page 27, Dr. Khaled addressed this topic in his article, The Place of Tolerance in Islam." (To read the entire article, click on the Inabah button at the top of Masjid Khadijah's website, then click on the Issue 21 icon. The article, in PDF format, is on pp. 21-27 (pp. 19-25 on Adobe Reader). This excerpt is another good reason why everyone (Muslims and non-Muslims) need to understand the historical context underlying the revelation of the Qur'an.
The other major issue on the point of tolerance in Islam is that of the poll tax (jizyah) imposed on the People of the Book (Christians and Jews) who live in Muslim territory. When the Qur'an was revealed it was common inside and outside of Arabia to levy poll taxes against alien groups. Building upon the historical practice, classical Muslim jurists argued that the poll tax is money collected by the Islamic polity from non-Muslims in return for the protection of the Muslim state. If the Muslim state was incapable of extending such protection to non-Muslims, it was not supposed to levy a poll tax. In fact, 'Umar, the second Rightly Guided Caliph and close companion of the Prophet, returned the poll tax to an Arab Christian tribe that he was incapable of protecting from Byzantine aggression.
Aside from the juristic theory justifying the poll tax, the Qur'an does not, however, pronounce an absolute and unwavering rule in favor of such an institution. Once more, attention to historical circumstance is essential. The Qur'an endorsed a poll tax as a response to particular groups in Arabia who were persistently hostile to the early Muslims. Importantly, the Prophet did not collect a poll tax from every non-Muslim tribe that submitted to Muslim sovereignty, and in fact, in the case of a large number of non-Muslim but non-hostile tribes, he paid them a periodic sum of money or goods. These tribes were known as "those whose hearts have been reconciled." Furthermore, 'Umar entered into a peace settlement with Arab Christian tribes pursuant to which these tribes were obligated to pay the Islamic annual tax known as the zakah and not the poll tax. Reportedly, although they refused to convert to Islam the Christian tribes contended that paying the jizyah (poll tax) was degrading and, instead, asked to pay the zakah, and 'Umar accomodated their request.
In short, there are various indicators that the poll tax is not a theologically mandated practice but a functional solution that was adopted in response to a specific set of historical circumstances. Only an entirely ahistorical reading of the text could conclude that it is an essential element in a Divinely-sanctioned program of subordinating the non-believer.
October 31, 2005
I've chosen this particular excerpt because I think Dr. Khaled provides a very good distinction between the concepts of jihad and qital. The concept of jihad is often confused by non-Muslims with what we Muslims call qital, or fighting. Jihad and qital, as Dr. Khaled shows, are quite distinct concepts from each other and jihad, which is a positive value, should not be confused with qital.
I've also included two additional paragraphs to this excerpt because it helps to illustrate some of the limitations that are placed on qital that we Muslims are to follow:
"Jihad is a core principle in Islamic theology; it means to strive, to apply oneself: to struggle, and persevere. In many ways, jihad connotes a strong spiritual and material work ethic in Islam. Piety, knowledge, health, beauty, truth, and justice are not possible without jihad - without sustained and diligent hard work. Therefore, cleansing oneself from vanity and pettiness, pursuing knowledge, curing the ill, feeding the poor, and standing up for truth and justice even at great personal risk are all forms of jihad.
"The Qur'an uses the term jihad to refer to the act of striving to serve the purposes of God on this Earth, which include all the acts mentioned above. Importantly, the Qur'an does not use the word jihad to refer to warfare or fighting; such acts are referred to as qital. While the Qur'an's call to jihad is unconditional and unrestricted, such is not the case for qital. Jihad is a good in and of itself while qital is not. Every reference in the Qur'an to qital is therefore restricted and limited by particular conditions, but exhortations to jihad, like the references to justice or truth, are absolute and unconditional. Consequently, the early Muslims were not allowed to engage inqital until God gave them specific permission to do so. The Qur'an is careful to note that Muslims were given permission to fight because they had become the victims of aggression. Furthermore, the Qur'an instructs Muslims to fight only those who fight them and not to transgress, for God does not approve of aggression.
"In addition, the Qur'an goes on to specify that if the enemy ceases hostilities and seeks peace, Muslims should seek peace as well. Failure to seek peace without just cause is considered arrogant and sinful. In fact, the Qur'an reminds Muslims not to pick fights and not to create enemies, indicating that it is a Divine blessing when one chooses to make peace. God has the power to inspire in the hearts of non-Muslims a desire for peace, and Muslims must treat such a blessing with gratitude and appreciation, not defiance and arrogance.
"In light of this Qur'anic discourse, Muslim jurists debated what would consitute a sufficient and just cause for fighting non-Muslims. Are non-Muslims fought because of their act of disbelief or only becase they pose a physical threat to Muslims? Most jurists concluded that the justification for fighting non-Muslims is directly proportional to the physical threat they pose to Muslims. In other words, if they do not threaten or seek to harm Muslims, then there is no justification for acts of belligerence or warfare. Similarly, relying on precedents set by the Prophet, classical Muslim jurists held that non-combatants - children, women, people of advanced age, monks, hermits, priests, or anyone else who does not seek to or cannot fight Muslims are inviolable and may not be targeted."
October 25, 2005
However, if we really wish to emulate the Prophet (pbuh) in his fasting, we need to fast a lot more than just eight Ramadhans. From Saiyid Sulaiman Nadwi's book, "Muhammad, The Ideal Prophet: A Historic, Practical, Perfect Model for Humanity" (translated by Mohiuddin Ahmad), page 101:
"The Prophet commended keeping of fasts throughout the month of Ramadhan. But, in addition to these, he punctuated every week with a fast or two. 'When he took to the keeping of fasts,' says 'Ayesha, 'it appeared as if he would never give them up.' The Prophet forbade his followers to prolong the voluntary fasts beyond a day at a time, but he himself used to fast continuously for days together without even taking anything during the night. If his companions tried to emulate him, he dissuaded them saying: 'Who amongst you is like me? My Lord provideth sustenance to me.' Normally, he kept fast for the whole of two months during Sh'aban and Ramadhan, the 13th, 14th and 15th of each month, the first ten days of Muharram, six days following the 'Id-ul-fitr, and on Mondays and Thursdays in every week. In this manner did the Prophet teach his followers how to keep fasts."
October 19, 2005
'Adi, the son of Hatim, the famous chief of the tribe of Tay, was still a Christian when he called upon the Prophet in Madina for the second time. He saw, on the one hand, the deference paid to the Prophet by his devoted companions and, on the other, the preparations being made for the holy war. Unable to decide whether Muhammad was a prophet or a king, he was still in two minds when he saw a slave girl coming to seek the Prophet's advice in private. "Come on," he heard the Prophet replying, "I'll go wherever you want." 'Adi at once saw that no king could be so modest and unassuming. He threw away the cross hanging from his neck and embraced Islam."
October 17, 2005
"Abu Talha relates that once he saw the Prophet [pbuh] lying in the mosque. He was, at the time, hungry and restless. Some of his companions, on another occasion, complained of hunger to the Prophet and showed him the slab of stone each had tied to his stomach to mitigate the aching void. They found the Prophet [pbuh] still more famished for he had tied two slabs of stones to his stomach. At times his voice showed that he was starving. Another time, when he had had nothing to eat for quite a few days, he went to see Abu Ayyub Ansari who immediately brought some fresh dates and got some meals cooked for him. Before taking anything brought to him, he sent a bread with some meat to Fatima who had also not taken anything for the last two days."
-- Saiyid Sulaiman Nadwi, "Muhammad, The Ideal Prophet: A Historic, Practical, Perfect Model for Humanity," Translated by Mohiuddin Ahmad, p. 104
October 10, 2005
Lost Budgie wrote: "So, how about it? In as unequivocal a manner as possible, and with no weasel words, please clearly state that those Muslims who crashed the airplanes on 9/11 were NOT martyrs to Islam and that they are burning in hell."
I had been asked to respond to certain of your comments on this thread and, originally, I was going to do that; however, I then decided not to because I felt your post and comments were just too silly and islamophobic to argue with. Plus, it's Ramadhan and I would rather keep to the theme of the month; namely, practicing self-restraint. Still, this last comment of yours deserves a response, if only to educate you and other non-Muslims on an important point of Islam.
What you've asked us to do, in the above quotation, is - quite simply - extremely sinful behavior. In Arabic, the sin is known as shirk, or the association of others with Allah (swt). This is the one sin Allah (swt) has told us that he will never forgive. The fact of the matter is that we cannot say one way or another whether *anyone* (let alone the 19 highjackers of 9/11) is or will be in heaven or hell. We cannot even say whether a person is in or out of Islam. These decisions are Allah's (swt) alone; we do not have the prerogative, authority nor ability to make such pronouncements. To think that we can is to think that we have some of the powers of Allah (swt), and that is shirk, because we are setting ourselves up as Allah's (swt) equal - and that, of course, can never be. After all, no human being is a god. Astagfirullah!
October 05, 2005
Women who have children out of wedlock are about 30 percent less likely to get married than childless single women, according to a new study.
When unwed mothers do marry, they are more likely to land husbands who are significantly older and less educated than those of women who don't have children.
"It's more difficult for unwed mothers to get married, and if they do, they tend to not marry well," said Zhenchao Qian, associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University.
More than a third of female-headed families with children live in poverty compared to only 6 percent of married couples with children, Qian said. Marriage may not help unwed mothers economically, however, because their partners tend to lack education and are less likely to have opportunities for good-paying jobs.
The study drew from data collected in the Current Population Survey between 1980 and 1995. The sample included 102,722 women aged 18 to 34.
Their results are detailed in the current issue of the journal Social Forces.
One more reason to follow Islam!
September 26, 2005
As Muslims, we know that the Qur'an has 114 suwar (pl. of surah) and that there are 113 basmallah, the only surah not having a basmallah being the ninth (At-Taubah, Repentance). However, my ustazah asked, did you know that there is a 114th basmallah in the Qur'an? And there is:
"It is from Solomon, and is (as follows): 'In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful: (27:30)
I've been thinking about this verse since I heard about the connection (114 suwar, 114 basmallah). Obviously it could be "coincidence" that there is a 114th basmallah to make up for the one missing at the beginning of At-Taubah... But I've come not to believe in "coincidences" when it comes to the Qur'an. The Qur'an is far too subtle a work to be governed by mere coincidence. This to me is a sign (ayat) from Allah (swt) that shows once more the divine authorship of the Qur'an.
September 23, 2005
"Why is it that Islam is always brought into question when a small minority of Muslims actually commits crimes of aggression? Why is it assumed that Islam itself is actually driving these murderers to such levels of hatred and ignorance? Islamic terrorism has no roots in the religion itself; rather it grows out of individuals' own interpretation of it, personal intolerance and hate, and in some cases, perhaps even insanity."
"If enough people read the teachings of Islam they would understand that it promotes tolerance, patience, kindness and understanding toward both Muslims and non-Muslims. The killing of innocents has been and always will be a major sin, as in any other religion or belief system. Some religious leaders, however, take liberties in interpreting certain verses of the Koran or sayings of the Prophet Mohammad, taking them out of context to suit their own political agendas, and sometimes managing to brainwash others with false promises of paradise in the afterlife. Islam itself does not sponsor or condone the terrorist acts of Muslims, and thus should not be held responsible for them.
"Islam is not uncivilized, outdated or intolerant; it is people who promote radical, unconventional beliefs and practices of Islam. Reforming Islam itself is not going to solve the problem of terrorism perpetrated by extremists, because no matter how much theology and doctrine change, people themselves probably will not. Reinterpreting holy texts would fail, first because of the widespread and strong opposition it would receive, and second because extremists will always manage to find something in the texts of Islam that they can twist to fit their agendas.
"Unfortunately, it seems that in all societies there exists a minority of narrow-minded fanatics. For example, Christianity is widely seen as a moderate religion which promotes peace, and is what it is today because of many periods of reformation, schism, and soul-searching. However, there are still groups of people all over the world who promote extreme views in its name, for instance the once powerful Ku Klux Klan, a self-proclaimed Christian organization. What changed was not the religion, nor interpretations of core religious texts; rather, popular support for the organization eroded as the hearts and minds of the population at large turned against bigotry and discrimination of all kinds, thanks in large part to the civil rights movement in the United States.
"Mindsets are the problem, not what is written in Islam's holy texts. Altering this state of mind should be the focus of intellectual efforts to end terrorism, not modifying or reforming Islam.
"What gives rise then, to this unfortunate and misplaced perception? Simple lack of knowledge about Islam. There is a vital need to raise the awareness in Western countries on some simple facts about Islam. The states of the Middle East and the Muslim world should do much more in terms of public diplomacy. Their current utter lack of the most basic public relations skills is one of the biggest reasons the teachings of Islam are hardly known, much less properly understood, in the West. Western journalists and analysts often know no more than their audiences, making it difficult, if not impossible, for them to put events in the Middle East and acts of terrorism in their proper context.
"Credible intellectual and religious figures should also make more efforts to reach out to national and local media in the West. Scholars, sheikhs and other religious figures should swallow their pride and pay special attention to more conservative media outlets such as the Fox News Network, often criticized for its bias, to reach those sectors of the American population that tend to be unthinkingly anti-Islam. They will need to have a strong grounding in Western history and politics so they can help define for Western audiences the difference between Islamic principles on the one hand, and the actions of a few on the other, in terms they will understand. And they should not let Westerners forget that dangerous, extremist movements claiming to draw on religion have existed in the West as well."
September 19, 2005
Steve wrote: "I think a reasonable person can debate what kind of clothing is acceptable under Islam. I know dozens of Muslims who ruitinely wear shorts and skirts, and at the same time affirm most of the basic principles of Islam."
Those shorts-and-skirts Muslims must be young. :) Yeah, I've heard of cases up in Malaysia where a young woman might go out in public wearing something skimpy but also wearing a hijab. Go figure. Still, there are clearly defined dress codes for both Muslim men and women. Those women who wear the shorts and skirts are not following the dress code. While they may "affirm most of the basic principles of Islam," Islam is not a "pick and choose," cafeteria-style religion. Muslims should (ideally) follow all aspects of Islam as much of the time as possible. As my wife would say, "We strive to be better Muslims."
"That being said, whats at issue is whether or not the actions of this tennis player is worthy of a 'fatwa.'"
A fatwa in and of itself is merely an opinion, and does not necessarily have to be obeyed. Most people who ask for a fatwa normally ask for themselves (i.e., they have a particular situation they would like resolved, and they are looking for guidance in the form of a fatwa). That someone asks, "What about the type of clothing a female tennis player wears in public, like Sania Mirza?" seems a little odd, but is still not out of the realm of the ordinary. In that regard, Ms. Sania is worthy of a fatwa, as is any other Muslim in the world.
"I completely agree that an Islamic council should be more worried about things like Wahhabism or the Mujahadeen than tennis attire."
In all honesty, the vast majority of fatawa that are issued deal with very mundane, daily life issues. There's nothing wrong with an Islamic council dealing with the bigger issues (many Muslims wish they would), but most of their work deals with very small issues.
"However, it is the position of some Islamic scholars that if the purpose of rules and regulations regarding attire is to not attract attention to ones self, then covering up in conditions such as western society and or tennis courts might actually defeat the intended purpose of such modesty..."
Possibly, but... The purpose of the dress code, of course, is for modesty; it's not necessarily to not attract attention to one's self. While a pro female tennis player might attract attention initially by, say, wearing a sweat suit instead of a skirt and blouse, don't you think the fuss might die down fairly quickly (within a year's time at the most)? Is women's beach volleyball popular because we value the women as athletes...or because they wear bikinis? Was Anna Kournikova as popular as she was because of her tennis skills (her having never won a Grand Slam tournament) or because of her looks?
September 16, 2005
Lost Budgie wrote: "Unfortunately, many Islamic scholars do not share your interpretation of Islamic scriptures and laws."
And many do. Read my last post [referring to what I have posted in my last entry on this blog].
"Whether apostates are killed by countries or individuals, the killings perfectly illustrate that this interpretation of Islam is held by many of the faith."
Many people of all faiths will have different interpretations regarding their religions. Some interpretations are held in ignorance; others are held as a result of correct study. Christians and Jews all supposedly follow the Ten Commandments, but that doesn't mean that they obey them (particularly the sixth).
"(For a tiny sample of what can be found on the web, click here for the photos and names of ten Iranian women who were all hung together for apostasy in 1983. Many since that time, of course. This was just a busy day.)"
Personally, I don't agree that these women were apostates; I believe they were murdered for following a different religion (their murders I condemn). If you want to argue that Baha'i's are Muslims (and thus apostates), then you're following a Shi'a perspective, which I don't think many people around the world (including Sunni Muslims) would agree with.
"References? Well, let’s start with Abul Ala Mawdudi and his book “The Punishment of the Apostate according to Islamic Law”. An English translation can be found here.
"Mr. Mawdudi was, of course, a founding father of Pakistan and has been described as 'the most widely read Muslim author of the 20th Century, contributing immensely to the contemporary resurgence of Islamic ideas, feelings and activity all over the world.'"
This is one person's view on the topic and, as such, doesn't carry much weight within the Islamic community. Even if Mawdudi's work is accepted within one of the madhab, that doesn't necessarily mean that any of the other madhahab would also accept it.
"Mr. Mawdudi also provided the introduction to A. Yusuf Ali’s 'The Holy Qur’an, Translation and Commentary'."
Not in any of the three volumes my wife and I have of Yusuf Ali's translation (including original version and revised). Not that, even if Mawdudi's introduction appears in some limited edition printings of Yusuf Ali's translation, would his work make a speck of difference.
"On the web today, you can find many Islamic websites that agree with the position that apostates should be killed. Try here or here to start."
You do know that you can't always trust what you read on the Internet, right? :) Why are you bringing up non-scholarly works?
"So JD…. you disagree with Mr. Mawdudi and others who hold the position that both the Koran and Hadith command (ie: COMMAND, not “recommend”) the execution of Muslim apostates."
You obviously didn't read my earlier post or the article I linked to. The Qur'an forbids the execution of apostates. The one hadith that supposedly forms the basis for the execution of apostates is, in fact, ignored for the imposition of a death penalty for apostates. As the article I linked to pointed out, "The Shari`ah has not fixed any punishment for apostasy." Just because other people may think differently doesn't mean that they're correct or that their thoughts supersede the Qur'an.
"Respectfully, I point out that the disagreement on this issue between Muslims of good faith well illustrates the problem confronting modern-moderate Muslims as they try to reconcile the foundations of Islam with contemporary living."
You crack me up. If you think that Muslims are struggling with some sort of "reconciliation" between Islam and contemporary life, then you obviously don't know Muslims very well. We live within the contemporary world very well, thank you very much.
In the meantime, this entire conversation about Muslim apostasy is largely moot for the most part. It rarely happens. As another Muslim on another blog recently wrote on this topic: "To be honest, this [contemporary apostasy] is not something that really comes up often. The missionaries would have you believe that this is because converts would be killed, as if masses of Muslims are yearning to be Christian, but they’re afraid. In fact, they have a very hard time converting Muslims, and when they occasionally do, it’s Muslims who are not very knowledgeable about Islam in the first place." (Source)
September 15, 2005
The problem with this person's comment, of course, is that nowhere in the Qur'an is it said that apostates are to be killed. In fact, it's just the opposite. Allah (swt) tells us that we humans are to leave apostates alone, that not only shall Allah (swt) “punish them with a grievous penalty in this life and in the Hereafter” (9:74), but that Allah (swt) alone will punish them.
“And leave Me (alone to deal with) those in possession of the good things of life, who (yet) deny the Truth; and bear with them for a little while. With Us are Fetters (to bind them), and a Fire (to burn them), And a Food that chokes, and a Penalty Grievous.” (73:11-3)
Muslims have no problem in arguing against the false notion that apostates must be killed. A number of Muslim scholars have argued thus:
“A number of Islamic scholars from past centuries, Ibrahim al-Naka’I, Sufyan al-Thawri, Shams al-Din al-Sarakhsi, Abul Walid al-Baji and Ibn Taymiyyah, have all held that apostasy is a serious sin, but not one that requires the death penalty. In modern times, Mahmud Shaltut, Sheikh of al-Azhar, and Dr Mohammed Sayed Tantawi have concurred.” (Source)
September 14, 2005
September 07, 2005
Should the gay community feel that Muslims are treating gays harshly by not allowing homosexuality, they should also remember that for Muslim heterosexual couples, pre-marital sex is also not allowed within Islam (this being known as zina or adultery, with its own severe punishments), nor are couples allowed to live together prior to marriage.
August 26, 2005
This is correct except for the order. Anonymous has listed it in order 2-3-4-5-1. Religion is first.
August 23, 2005
The comment that was deleted was in response to the following question: "What have Muslims invented in the last 500 years?" The writer in question asserts that Muslims have done absolutely nothing inventive in the past 500 years, which, of course, is a rather stupid and easily refutable assertion. For example, I had posted in my deleted comment a link to the Granted Patents webpage at the General Directorate of Patents - King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology website. The page is in Arabic, however. Today, while "googling" for the KACST website, I also came across a US government webpage that categorizes by technology class all of the patents made in Saudi Arabia between 1999 and 2003.
My point in choosing Saudi Arabia for this refutation was merely to show one Muslim country's efforts in creating intellectual capital (in this case, in the form of patents). Obviously, this one country is not the entire Muslim world, but it is sufficient enough to disprove the writer's original assertion.
August 18, 2005
Over at Indigo Jo Blogs, there's the oft-repeated argument over Aishah's age when she was married to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Instead of replying there (because the following is so lengthy), I'm posting this response here, and will link the response over in the comments section of IJB's thread.
This particular response is not mine, but was written by a woman whose nick was Ruqaiyyah. The post was taken from Beliefnet (where I used to be a regular), and was originally written on 24 April 2001.<> I have edited her post slightly for grammar, punctuation, and spelling; otherwise, the words are hers:
Dear Cassian, AAWR. This will probably be one of the most difficult replies I have to write in this dialogue, because there is so much that needs to be said. You have done a great deal of research, and have pointed out various references, but at the same time, every single point you raise in my opinion you have gained the wrong interpretation.
But let us start at the beginning with the facts; yes, the Prophet (pbuh) was over
My own conclusion is that she was born in
So, my first part of my answer is that the whole business of Aishah's age is debatable. I have a booklet on the subject, if you are interested, published by IPCI in Birmingham.
The second part of my answer is to consider the thorny issue of pedophilia. There is all the difference in the world by adult men committing indecent sexual acts on small children, and the issue of love (which might not even be a physical thing at all) between an adult and a child. The Prophet (pbuh) was well known for his great love for children, but certainly with no sexual content to it whatsoever. He had many children himself, the four girls surviving and two sons dying, at which he adopted his four-year old cousin Ali and brought him up and also adopted a
At the same time, we have to realize that the culture was very different; the usual age for a girl's marriage was once she reached puberty and her periods commenced, thus making her technically 'adult'; it was the same for Jewish people - and we might observe how the Virgin Mary was presumably only
Another aspect I would like you to consider is the very deep love that can exist between an older person and a tiny child. I cannot be the only grandma to whom a little grandson has seriously declared that he loves me, and will marry me when he grows up. I love him, too, more than any other human being. But you will have to take my word when I say there is no question of any pedophilia involved. You will also have to take my word when I tell you that when I was
So, I have to conclude that the love between the Prophet (pbuh) and his best friend's daughter - whom he knew from her birth - was not pedophilic at all, but a very sincere and deep mutual love. The fact that he may have engaged her at the age of
The fact that the Prophet (pbuh) dreamed about Aishah is nothing suspicious - there was no suggestion whatsoever in the hadith that the dream was of a sexual nature, just that they were destined to marry. So, to get back to your opening paragraph, yes - it was all normal.
August 09, 2005
There is one paragraph that I have personally modified. The author made the suggestion that to contact a certain person at the Islamic Society of Wichita for more information on classes about Islam. However, in the interest of a wider audience, I have rewritten that paragraph. It begins with "Contact your local mosque..." and is in italics, so you shouldn't be able to miss it. :)
All it the fear factor: Muslims and terrorists. The two go together in many people's minds, and little if any distinction is made between fanaticism and faith.
Before you give in to fear, ask yourself: How much do I know about the religion of Islam? When I hear the word Muslim, do I immediately think only of terrorists?
Regardless of your preconceptions -- or misconceptions -- are you willing to learn more about the religion of more than 1 billion people?
First, take this six-question quiz to give yourself a baseline for learning:
1. True or false: Most Muslims are Arabs.
2. True or false: The ultimate meaning of worship for Muslims is observing the five pillars of Islam: profession of faith in Allah, performance of prayers five times a day, fasting, giving to charity and pilgrimage to Mecca.
3. Jihad means:
A. Struggle to live a perfect life
B. Struggle to defend Islam
C. Struggle to convey the message of Islam
D. All of the above
4. Only a government, through its Islamic leaders (caliph or imam), can call for a holy war. Which of the following rules for waging such a war does NOT apply:
A. Do not kill children or women.
B. If a fighter turns his back, do not kill him.
C. Take action against an enemy before he attacks.
D. Fight on behalf of religious freedom.
5. True or false: Marriage in Islam is a social contract that requires the consent of both parties.
6. True or false: Islam, Judaism and Christianity all believe in the coming of a Messiah.
Here are the answers, according to several authoritative sources:
1. Most Muslims are Arabs. False. Of the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, about 20 percent are Arabs.
2. False. Worship is everything that a person does to submit to Allah. The five pillars are part of that broader and all-inclusive understanding of worship.
3. Jihad means: D. All of the meanings of struggle, including to live a perfect life, to defend Islam and to convey the message of Islam.
4. The following rule for waging a holy war does NOT apply: C. Take action against an enemy before he attacks. The Quran enjoins Muslims: "Fight for the sake of Allah those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. Allah does not love aggressors" (2:190).
5. True. Neither bride nor groom can be forced into a marriage.
6. True. Beliefs differ, but all three religions teach about a Messiah (or Mahdi in Islam).
If you got all six correct, you've made a good start in learning about Islam. But there's more to do.
Centuries of fear and suspicion -- between Jews, Christians and Muslims -- make the task daunting. And a post-9/11 world has only intensified those fears.
Moreover, it doesn't help that our interlocking histories (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have spawned intolerance and suspicion of one another. No religion is guiltless.
Fueling the greater angst among non-Muslims today is a belief that Islam is only a religion of violence. That's why it's important to learn about the religion. Here are some ways to begin:
• Read such books as What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam by John Esposito (Oxford University Press); Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam by Paul Findley (Amana Books); Terror and Suicide Attacks: An Islamic Perspective edited by Ergun Capan (Light Inc.).
• Attend classes that provide an overview of Islam. Contact your local mosque for more information. Many mosques frequently have classes about Islam for new converts and non-Muslims who are interested in the religion and the Muslim way of life. Look in your local Yellow Pages for the telephone number of the mosque nearest you.
• Raise the hard questions you have about Islam with Muslim leaders. All of us are challenged to explain, as best we can, the seeming inconsistencies, contradictions and mysteries of our faith. Don't be afraid to ask.
"Truth and love are one and the same," wrote then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. "This affirmation -- if we grasp its full import -- is the greatest guarantee of tolerance, of a relationship with the truth, whose only weapon is itself and thus is love."
Although differences will always remain among people who don't share the same faith, learning from one another can break down walls that separate.
And in the end, that can go a long way in reducing the fear factor and increasing mutual understanding and respect.
Reach Tom Schaefer at 268-6586 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
June 12, 2005
The Quran is a book with special sensitivity to Muslims, and there are certain rules that need to be followed, Ahmed said.
"It is also about personal perception. Some people get upset if someone burns a U.S. flag - it will enrage them to no end. Others will say it's just a piece of cloth," said Deedra Abboud, executive director of the Muslim American Society's Arizona office, based in Phoenix.
"The Quran is considered divine speech and mentions that only those purified should touch it," said abdul Wali, whose institute educates both Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam. "It is not simply ink on paper - it is a crystallization of divine speech."
When one of his children drops the Quran on the floor, abdul Wali says to kiss it as a way of apologizing. Muslims keep their Qurans on the highest level of bookshelves out of respect, he said.
"The Quran will bear witness for or against you on the day of judgment," he said. "It's not just a book."
Other religions also have traditions about handling their holy books. In Judaism, the Torah scroll is stored in the center of the sanctuary in an "aron kodesh," Hebrew for holy ark.
"You don't just put it in a box and put it in the corner," said Rabbi Robert Eisen of Congregation Anshei Israel, 5550 E. Fifth St., a Conservative Jewish congregation. "It also has to be dressed in an appropriate manner - a mantle over it and very often ornaments."
If a Torah wears out, it cannot simply be thrown away, he said. It is buried either with the rabbi or with a prominent member of the congregation.
"If a Torah scroll falls on the ground, some counsel that we are to fast for 40 days as a community, or give to charity," Eisen said.
He said any other Jewish text with God's name in it should be kissed if it's dropped and should never be left open. When the texts wear out, they cannot be thrown into the garbage but must be buried in a "genizah" - a burial site for sacred Jewish objects, including texts.
"I think you will find in all religious traditions a way of maintaining respect and structure within community and life," Eisen said. "If something is going to be considered sacred and holy in and of itself, it has to be treated in a consistent way."
Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas said the Bible holds a place of reverence in Catholicism that's often referenced by the deacon or priest when he kisses it. The Bible is held high during the procession at the beginning of church services.
"Sacred books of any religion are to be respected, to be held as special and not to be tossed. Oftentimes even a Catholic in private prayer will read the Bible and kiss it as respect to the word of God," Kicanas said. "Clearly, it's the responsibility of any culture to respect the sacred books of any religion."
April 07, 2005
"but how different ?
"e.g. is it
"(A) just pronunciation e.g. in the S of England we say "Baaarth & Graaass in the North they say "Bath & Grass" with a short a - but if that is all it was why did Allah have to reveal the Koran in the different dialect, Mohamed could have just pronounced the words differently?
"(B) different words for the same thing e.g. blackberry in the south - bramble in the North? Sidewalk (US) - Pavement (UK),
"(C) different words and grammar, e.g. Standard English, "I am going he is....", old fashioned country English "I be going, he be ...",
"(d) very different words and grammar, UK v West Indian English
"which was it ?"
In my research, the answer is at least both (a) and (b). (It could also be (c) or (d), but I haven't read anything to suggest that yet.)
"In some cases, each tribe used different words to describe the same object. For example, some tribes called the lion an 'asad,' while other tribes called it a 'layth,' 'hamzah,' 'hafs,' or a 'ghadanfar.' In other cases, differences occurred in the way certain letters were pronounced due to vowelling differences."
-- Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, "Usool at-Tafseer: The Methodology of Qur'aanic Explanation," p. 175
"In order to take into account the various differences which existed among the Arabian dialects, Allaah revealed the Qur'aan in seven different forms. The forms matched the dialects of the following seven tribes: Quraysh, Huthayl, Thaqeef, Hawaazin, Kinaanah, Tameem, and Yemen. These various forms did not represent different Qur'aans, as Jibreel only conveyed verses from a single Qur'aan written on a protected tablet (al-Lawh al-Mahfooth) in the heavens. However, Jibreel was instructed to recite the verses that he brought in seven forms corresponding to the dialects of the major tribes. The various forms represented the various ways in which the same word might be said according to the various dialects. However, the meanings were all stated the same."
-- ibid, pp. 176-7
"This Qur'aan has been revealed in seven forms, so recite whichever is easiest for you."
-- ibid, pp. 178 (Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 6, p. 482, no. 514 and Sahih Muslim, vol. 2, pp. 389-90, no. 1782)
April 02, 2005
Perhaps I can help.
I've only looked at the past few posts in this thread, but what strikes me about this conversation (especially from Rex's side) is how it misses the forest for the trees. There's all this yada, yada, yada about how verses x, y and z somehow "prove" that the Qur'an supports a flat-earth theory.
The purpose of the Qur'an is to provide arguments in favor of a belief in one God, Allah (swt), a moral lifestyle, and so on. In the case of verses 88:17-20 (one example), the argument is the former, how by considering different aspects of nature (in this case, the camel, the sky, the mountains and the earth) one may come (insha'allah) to an understanding as to who the Creator really is.
"Allah commands His servants to look at His creations that prove His power and greatness. He says,
"(Do they not look at the camels, how they are created) Indeed it is an amazing creation, and the way it has been fashioned is strange. For it is extremely powerful and strong, yet gentle, carrying heavy loads. It allows itself to be guided by a weak rider. It is eaten, benefit is derived from its hair, and its milk is drunk. They are reminded of this because the most common domestic animal of the Arabs was the camel. Shurayh Al-Qadi used to say, 'Come out with us so that we may look at the camels and how they were created, and at the sky and how it has been raised.' Meaning, how Allah raised it in such magnificence above the ground. This is as Allah says,
"(Have they not looked at the heaven above them, how we have made it and adorned it and there are no rifts on it) (50:6) Then Allah says,
"(And at the mountains, how they are rooted) meaning, how they have been erected. For indeed they are firmly affixed so that the earth does not sway with its dwellers. And He made them with the benefits and minerals they contain.
"(And at the earth, how it is outspread) meaning, how it has been spread out, extended and made smooth. Thus, He directs the bedouin to consider what he himself witnesses. His camel that he rides upon, the sky that is above his head, the mountain that faces him, and the earth that is under him, all of this is proof of the power of the Creator and Maker of these things. These things should lead him to see that He is the Lord, the Most Great, the Creator, the Owner, and the Controller of everything. Therefore, He is the God other than Whom none deserves to be worshipped." (My emphasis.)
Arguments like Rex's is merely barking up the wrong tree.
Understanding the Qur'an is a lot easier when you leave your preconceived notions behind.
April 01, 2005
No, the sura makes no such implication. The sura states, "They float each in an orbit." (My emphasis.) Not, "they float each in the same orbit." I've tried to think about why you might have made such an erroneous original statement ("Why does the Quran say that the sun has an orbit, when we know it doesn't ?" (#38)). Even the ancients, as far back as Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus; 85-165 CE), knew that the heavenly bodies all travelled in separate orbits. My conclusion was that you must be taking the perspective of an observer who watches the sun, moon and planets as they traverse the zodiacal band, wherein most of those bodies (with the notable exception of Pluto, the comets and some asteroids) all appear to be moving within the same area of the sky. Even if we take this perspective, the earlier sentence in the sura remains true: "It is not for the sun to overtake the moon..." The sun, of course, can never "overtake" the moon in the sky. The moon moves too quickly in its apparent motion. When there's a solar eclipse, it is the moon that overtakes and then passes the sun, not the other way around.
"It should also be pointed out that is is NOT the 'SUN' that revolves around the a 'galactic center' but the entire solar system. (#43)"
Irrelevant. It is the sun's gravity that holds the solar system together. The sun orbits around the galactic center; the rest of the solar system is merely along for the ride.
"Also as I pointed out the sun does not 'orbit' the center of our galaxy. (#45)"
Never taken an astronomy class, huh? :) Well, here's some information for you:
"The sun is one of hundreds of billion of stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. The galaxy is composed of gaseous interstellar medium, neutral or ionized, sometimes concentrated into dense gas clouds made up of atoms molecules, and dust. All of the matter -- gas, dust, and stars -- rotate around a central axis perpendicular to the galactic plane. The centrifugal force caused by the rotation balances out the gravitational force, which draw all the matter toward the center.
"The mass is located within the circle of the Sun's orbit through the galaxy is about 100 billion times the mass of the Sun. Because the Sun is about average in mass, astronomers have concluded that the galaxy contains about 100 billion stars within its disk.
"All stars in the galaxy rotate around a galactic center but not with the same period. Stars at the center have a shorter period than those farther out. The Sun is located in the outer part of the galaxy. The speed of the solar system due to the galactic rotation is about 220 km/s. The disk of stars in the Milky Way is about 100,000 light years across and the sun is located about 30,000 light years from the star's center. Based on a distance of 30,000 light years and a speed of 220 km/s, the Sun's orbit around the center of the Milky Way once every 225 million years. The period of time is called a cosmic year. The Sun has orbited the galaxy, more than 20 times during its 5 billion year lifetime. The motions of the period are studied by measuring the positions of lines in the galaxy spectra."
Source: Period of the Sun's Orbit around the Galaxy (Cosmic Year) (All italics mine.)
Understanding the Qur'an is a lot easier when you leave your preconceived notions behind.
March 30, 2005
I suspect idbc is referring to either of the following verses:
"And He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. They float, each in an orbit." (21:33)
"It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit." (36:40)
We all know that the moon has its own orbit, revolving around the earth; however, the sun has its own orbit as well...around the galactic center, which is estimated to take about 225-250 million years for one "cosmic year."
The Qur'an is correct, yet again.
March 21, 2005
- Is it wrong for a revert to Islam to take a Muslim name? No.
- Is it permissible for a revert to Islam to take a Muslim name? Yes.
- Does a revert to Islam have to take a Muslim name? No.
- Should the revert to Islam be encouraged to take a Muslim name? Yes. There is no sin if a revert does not take a Muslim name, nor should reverts be pressured in any way to take a Muslim name; however, there is nothing wrong with encouraging converts to take a Muslim name either.
- Is there a need for the Muslim ummah to encourage a "diversity" of names? No. Granted, there are many "Muhammad's" and "Ali's" around the world, but there already is a great diversity of Muslim names in use around the world. Encouraging "diversity" in Muslim names is a red herring.
- By taking on a Muslim name, will a revert be considered a "fake Arab?" No. In my experience, the only people who equate all Muslims with being Arab are ignorant non-Muslims. (Only 18% of the entire Muslim population is Arab.)
- Is Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) a "fake Arab" because he took on a Muslim name? No.
- Is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor) a "fake Arab" because he took on a Muslim name? No.
(I may add onto this list in the near future, insha'allah.
This argument strikes me as equivalent to saying "Chinese people cannot adopt English names; they may only use their given Chinese names." Which, if I told my told my Chinese colleagues and students (e.g., Pamela, Nigel, Louis, Kitty, Johnson, Eunice, Michelle, and so on) that, I'm sure they'd all have a hearty laugh.
A rose by any other name...
March 16, 2005
I can see where you might think this but, from my perspective, this is more a case of culture shock. The conversations about hijab are more common among Western Muslims (especially converts) than they are with Muslims living elsewhere in the world. For example, here in SE Asia, discussions about hijab (or tudungs, as they're called here) are rare among individuals or in the media. There's no real need for the "fascination" as so many women wear the tudung on a daily basis.
"She was further manipulated by the muslim men around her into this idea that because she is a muslim she has to wear the clothes of a arab woman."
Leaving aside your questionable issue of "manipulation," you need to realize that wearing hijab or tudung does not mean a woman is wearing the clothes of an Arab. It doesn't even really mean that a woman is wearing Muslim clothes. What is a nun's habit other than a form of hijab? Wearing a hijab or tudung means that a woman fears Allah (swt) in the positive sense. It's too bad non-Muslims can't seem to grasp that fact.
March 13, 2005
I'm a former Catholic turned (briefly) UU turned (eventually) Muslim.
IMO, my short answer would be "yes, one probably could," but for myself I would add, "why bother?"
For me, Islam is the priority; UUism is a luxury. Islam, as Muslims will tell you, is a way of life, not merely a religion. Islam is very pervasive in our lifestyles, affecting many aspects of life that (for example) Christianity does not affect. For example, in terms of prayer, the necessity of doing the five prayers daily is much more important than attending a church once per week. (If that. The UU congregation I had joined closed down their church every summer for about four months. I realize not every congregation is like that, but the experience made me question how serious these people were in their religious beliefs - something you don't worry about with most Muslims.)
Moreover, the UU service has always seemed to me to be more in the way of a sermon about some topic that may or may not touch on religion, with the congregation being more interested in coffee and discussion as opposed to prayer. There's nothing wrong with coffee and discussion, of course, but each has its place. A church, to me, is a house of prayer and, well, one ought to pray in it. :)
The other issue I think is a problem is that there are some significant differences from a philosophical perspective between the two religions. The Unitarian side of the church I think, historically, was a Christian attempt to come to the same position Islam came to; i.e., there is only one God (Allah - swt), and that Jesus (pbuh) was only a prophet as opposed to being a part of the trinity. That was the aspect that had originally drawn me to UUism. Of course, now, UU members have diverse opinions regarding whether to believe in God or not (the humanist/atheists vs. the theists), including the split between the UUA and the AUC.
On the other side, the Universalist position (how could God ever put someone in hell?) just goes completely against the grain of Islam. As a Muslim, I don't accept that idea. And there are other issues, primarily social, where Islam and UUism clash (e.g., gay rights, death penalty, abortion, etc.). Islam, I'm afraid, is too conservative for most UUs.
And so, as a Muslim, I feel my priority as good a Muslim as I can possibly be, but that if I were interested in some coffee and discussion, I *might* consider visiting a UU church some Sunday. (But don't expect me anytime soon. ;) )
March 06, 2005
The Bible in its entirety (New and Old Testaments), I don't believe, was ever intended to be recited or memorized in full (although I believe portions of the Old Testament were written for the purpose of recitation). The Bible, of course, was written by numerous authors as opposed to the Qur'an (one - Allah (swt)). Moreover, the Bible is a combination of different writing styles, being mostly prose with a smattering of poetry. The Qur'an has a unified style, being neither prose nor poetry, but using some of the elements of poetry, such as rhymes and near-rhymes.
People are able to memorize the entire Qur'an due to several reasons. First, as I mentioned above, there is the poetic element of rhymes and near-rhymes. To the best of my knowledge, virtually every verse of the Qur'an ends in a rhyme or near-rhyme. For example, Al-Ikhlas:
Qul huwa Allahu ahad
Lam yalid walam yoolad
Walam yakun lahu kufuwan ahad
"Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him." (112:1-4)
As you can see, each verse ends in an "ahd" sound. Even the verses that are the most "legalese" rhyme. (Ask your local legislators to try writing laws that rhyme! ;) )
Another reason why the Qur'an is memorized by so many is that children are encouraged to learn the Qur'an. Many are taught the Qur'an by rote, others learn Arabic and are able to memorize because they have an understanding of the language.
Of course, for us adults, memorizing the Qur'an may be more problematic; however, there are numerous websites that provide recitations by various people that allow us to listen to the proper pronunciation of the verses. You might find this page, Short Surahs of the Quran, to be of interest. (All of these audio clips are set up for RealPlayer.)
With regard to memorizing the Qur'an, one of my favorite quotations is from Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall, an Englishman who converted to Islam and translated the Qur'an into English in the 1930s. In his footnote to verse 55:17, he wrote:
"It is a fact that the Koran is marvellously easy for believers to commit to memory. Thousands of people in the East know the whole Book by heart. The translator [Pickthall], who find [sic] great difficulty in remembering well-known English quotations accurately, can remember page after page of the Koran in Arabic with perfect accuracy."
"And in truth We have made the Qur'an easy to remember: but is there any that remembereth?" (55:17)
February 28, 2005
The Qur'an may be read in any order. You will
discover that it's not a "linear" type of book. You
can read the Qur'an from front to back, from back to
front, or choose any individual surah (chapter) that
tickles your fancy. :)
The Qur’an was revealed in stages to Muhammad (pbuh) over a 23-year period. Many of these ayaat were revealed in response (normally after, but sometimes before) to specific historical events. As a result, there is often an historical context to these ayaat that Muhammad (pbuh) and the Sahabah (“companions” to the Prophet (pbuh) – the first Muslim community) knew instinctively; after all, they were living through those events. However, we Muslims and non-Muslims are living 1400-plus years after the fact, and non-Muslims in particular are ignorant of Islamic history. Trying to use an ayah in a general fashion that was revealed for a specific event in history is tricky business, even for a Muslim. Without an understanding of early Islamic history and Arabian culture, mistakes are often made in the interpretation of Qur’anic ayaat. As an imam once said in a khutbah (sermon), “To understand the Qur’an, one must understand the life of Muhammad (pbuh). And to understand the life of Muhammad (pbuh), one must understand the lives of the Sahabah.”
To be continued, insha'allah.
January 08, 2005
This is a gross distortion of what the Qur'an actually says. Nowhere does the Qur'an say that all who are not Muslim (or all infidels) should be killed. What the Qur'an does say, for example, is:
"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have Turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith." (2:190-1)
"Why should ye be divided into two parties about the Hypocrites? Allah hath upset them for their (evil) deeds. Would ye guide those whom Allah hath thrown out of the Way? For those whom Allah hath thrown out of the Way, never shalt thou find the Way. They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks;- Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty (of peace), or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. If Allah had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (Guarantees of) peace, then Allah Hath opened no way for you (to war against them). Others you will find that wish to gain your confidence as well as that of their people: Every time they are sent back to temptation, they succumb thereto: if they withdraw not from you nor give you (guarantees) of peace besides restraining their hands, seize them and slay them wherever ye get them: In their case We have provided you with a clear argument against them." (4:88-91)
"But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." (9:5)
Before I begin my analysis, we need to stress a point that most non-Muslims overlook when reading the Qur'an: the Qur'an frequently needs to be read in the light of its context. There are generalities in the Qur'an that have guided the lives of Muslims since its revelation, including the Muslims of today, but many verses are also best understood by examining the context of the verses, not only the literary context (what other verses precede and come after the verse in question), but the religious and - most importantly - the historical context as well.
In the first case (verses 2:190 and 2:191), we have a general commandment ("Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you,...). However, even this is limited ("...but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors.), the limits being such as if the enemy quits fighting, then the Muslims too should quit fighting as well. In the second verse, though, we find that the "them" in question are the Pagans of Makkah. This deduction is made from the phrase ("fight them not at the Sacred Mosque"), and is obvious to any who has studied early Islamic history.
In the second case, we find another verse that reads "seize them and slay them wherever ye find them", but the literary context shows that "they" is referring to the Hypocrites, a Medinan faction of pseudo-Muslims who came to naught before the Prophet's (pbuh) death. Likewise, in the third case, we are told directly that those whom should be slain were the Pagans of Makkah. This is not a general commandment to the Muslims of today that we should slay "pagans"; the verse is a time-specific commandment referring to a specific people (although the second half of the verse, "...but if they repent...", is a general commandment that could be applicable today).
There are other verses that refer to fighting, but these too need to be considered in the appropriate context. Like other religious books, the Qur'an is deep and subtle and requires more than a surface reading in order to understand it. Little effort put into understanding the Qur'an will result in little profit.
The Qur'an states that men may marry up to four women if they can deal justly with each woman (4:3); however, 33:50 exempts the Prophet (pbuh) - and only the Prophet - from this limitation:
"O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makkah) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her;- this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess;- in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And Allah is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful." (33:50)
"Why is it acceptable that a prophet lusted after a girl at only 5, married her at only 6, and consummated the marriage at 9?"
The following was posted by a woman, "Ruqaiyyah," on Beliefnet back in April 2001. (I have taken the liberty of editing for spelling, punctuation and grammar; otherwise, this is as she wrote.) IMHO, this is one of the better answers to this type of question regarding Aishah.
"But let us start at the beginning with the facts; yes, the Prophet (pbuh) was over 50 when he was engaged to Aishah, who was perhaps only 6 years old, their physical marriage commencing three years later when she was 9. My first comment is to let you know that the scholars do actually differ in the information given; all the hadiths claiming that she was only 6 are based on Urwah, and are not from Madinah, which to many Sunni scholars makes them suspect. That is not to say they are not true, but they are 'suspected.' Secondly, you need to know that the birth and death dates of many of the Prophet's (pbuh) companions, including his wives, are not known for certain, and there are several possible dates given for many of them. Most scholars accept that Aishah died at the age of 67, but they give the date of 672 CE/ 50 AH, after a widowhood of 40 years. Just to give you an idea of the complication of it all, I would like to tell you in detail that there are three main theories –
"(1) The most widely accepted in the Muslim world, that Aishah was born in the 4th year of Prophethood, ie.614 CE, based on Ibn Sa'd's work. If true, she was 5 when Khadijah died, 6 at nikah, 9 at marriage, but these sources also suggest she was only 18 when Prophet died; this means she would only have been 58 in 672.
"(2) If she were born 4 years before the Prophethood, she would have been 14/15 when Khadijah died, 15/16 at nikah, 19 at year of marriage, 27/28 when he died, and would indeed have been 67/68 in 672.
"(3) Other hadiths say she was born five years after Fatimah, who was said to have been born 5 years before Prophethood, making Aishah's birth that year - 610. Then she would have been 9 when Khadijah died, 10 at nikah, 14 at marriage, 22 when he died, and 62 when she died. However, Fatimah's dates are also disputed.
"My own conclusion is that she was born in 605-6, and that Ibn Sa'd was cursed by a glaring example of writer's slip that went unnoticed by those who used him as their primary source. The slip, I believe, was that he stated Aishah was born in the 4th year of the Prophethood, when what he actually meant was 4 years before it. So, my first part of my answer is that the whole business of Aishah's age is debatable.
"The second part of my answer is to consider the thorny issue of pedophilia. There is all the difference in the world by adult men committing indecent sexual acts on small children, and the issue of love (which might not even be a physical thing at all) between an adult and a child. The Prophet (pbuh) was well known for his great love for children, but certainly with no sexual content to it whatsoever. He had many children himself, the four girls surviving and two sons dying, at which he adopted his four-year old cousin Ali and brought him up and also adopted a 14-year-old slave-boy, Zayd, and brought him up too. In later life, when he married his other wives, they also brought with him all their children by their previous marriages - for example, Umm Salamah came with 3 (and one born just after their marriage); Sawdah came with 6, etc. There was never any suggestion of pedophilia.
"At the same time, we have to realize that the culture was very different; the usual age for a girl's marriage was once she reached puberty and her periods commenced, thus making her technically 'adult'; it was the same for Jewish people - and we might observe how the Virgin Mary was presumably only 12 years old when she gave birth to Jesus, if the material about her upbringing and family background has any truth in it. Boys tended to marry for the first time round about the age of 15-16. In reality, many little girls of twelve or so have already experienced 'being in love', and boys tend to do so just a little later. It seems to be natural. Whether or not they should be having a sexual relationship at that age has varied in public opinion throughout the ages; in practice, many seem to do so, whether or not their families know about it. Certainly this seems to be the case in the UK. You are probably aware of the Muslim point of view that once a youngster shows signs of sexual urges that are becoming difficult to control, it is more sensible and kinder to get them married, (then they can have as much as they like, honorably), than let them risk all the consequences of sex outside marriage.
"Another aspect I would like you to consider is the very deep love that can exist between an older person and a tiny child. I cannot be the only grandma to whom a little grandson has seriously declared that he loves me, and will marry me when he grows up. I love him, too, more than any other human being. But you will have to take my word when I say there is no question of any pedophilia involved. You will also have to take my word when I tell you that when I was 12 I was deeply in love with our 45-year-old postmaster, at whose office I had a part-time job. I adored him - but again, no pedophilia whatsoever! And at that time, I also had plenty of toys to play with.
"So, I have to conclude that the love between the Prophet (pbuh) and his best friend's daughter - whom he knew from her birth - was not pedophilic at all, but a very sincere and deep mutual love. The fact that he may have engaged her at the age of 6 was not at all unusual - many children were engaged at birth. The physical marriage when she arrived at puberty (which for girls can vary, and is normal, between 9 and 18ish) was also normally accepted. Most of his companions had similar marriages, as did the Virgin Mary and Joseph. According to the Protevangelion (Gospel of James), Mary was 12 and Joseph around 80 - with an already existing grown-up family! He certainly died not long after the marriage, and there is no further Gospel mention of him.
"The fact that the Prophet (pbuh) dreamed about Aishah is nothing suspicious - there was no suggestion whatsoever in the hadith that the dream was of a sexual nature, just that they were destined to marry. So, to get back to your opening paragraph, yes - it was all normal."