The Islamic View on Consumption & Material Development in Light of Environmental Pollution
Ingrid mattson, Phd
There is no doubt that islam values the development of material culture and improvements in technologies that make life easier, healthier and more enjoyable for people. islam does not romanticize poverty and hardship. The holy Qur’an, referring to the ramadan fast says, ‘God wants ease for you, He does not want hardship for you.’ (2:185) The persistent Qur’anic reminder to give charity, to shelter the orphan, to feed the poor, all show the high value islam places on relieving the suffering of others. Further, there are many prophetic teachings about the spiritual reward one receives from removing a hardship from another person. For example, even to remove a fallen branch from a pathway, making it easier for others to walk that path, is an act of charity. Throughout islamic history, believers with great resources and those of limited means did what they could to ease the journey of the pilgrim and the traveler by maintaining roadways, and by providing water and shelter along the way. it is not too much to say that to work to ease the hardship experienced by others is an ethical imperative in islam; indeed, one of the five major maxims of islamic ethics is “hardship should be eased” (almashaqqah tajlib bi taysir).
Allah – the Word
By ANTHONY SHADID
It was 2006 when I sat with a friend, Hikmat Farha, at the foot of a snow-capped Mount Hermon. Our conversation was about politics, as it usually is in Lebanon, and to make a point, he cited Imam Ali, warrior, sage and seventh-century caliph whom Shiite Muslims consider the divinely sanctioned successor to the Prophet Muhammad.
“Don’t be afraid to walk in the path of righteousness, even if you must venture alone,” Hikmat said, his rendering of Imam Ali’s words from Nahj al-Balagha, the Way of Eloquence, a collection of sayings, sermons and speeches that has served for centuries as a model of Arabic, much the way Cicero’s speeches did for Latin.
Hikmat was a Greek Orthodox Christian. So was his town, which still prides itself on its Bedouin roots, a sense of honor and hospitality so pronounced that a relative there once threatened to beat guests if they refused to eat at his table. I thought of our conversation amid the news about an uproar in Malaysia over a court ruling that overturned a government ban on the Christian use of word Allah to denote God.
No one would hold up the Middle East as a beacon of acceptance. Indeed, tolerance in the region never quite matches its diversity, its truth apparent in the withering of Iraq’s proud Jewish and Christian communities and the sectarian strife that simmers and sometimes explodes in Egypt and Lebanon. A contest in much of the Middle East is under way to claim everything from history to power. At heart, that contest revolves around the axis of identity, now more than ever defined religiously.
But in the Middle East, colloquial Arabic, drawn from the millennia-old tongue in which Muslims believe God spoke to Muhammad, has yet to become a battleground.
Inshallah, God willing, everyone says about everything in the future tense, from an appointment the next day to the sun rising in the east. The same goes for In Allah rad, if God wills it. The word Allah infuses virtually every salutation, greeting and condolence, spoken upon departure and arrival, and at birth and death, a centuries-long refinement of mutual social exchanges that ensures almost no moment is awkward. Kater khair Allah, a Christian in Hikmat’s town would say to his Muslim neighbor.
To him, a shared God, the God of Abraham, has a shared name, Allah.
Not that there aren’t differences in emphasis. Arab Christians often use the words for Lord (rabb) and Father (abb) to denote God. No Muslim would swear on the cross or the Virgin, as Christians do. (Our Lady Mariam, Muslims would say.) Beyond language, fear, suspicion and resentment of other creeds remain a part of the culture, sometimes encapsulated in simple proverbs. To Muslims around Hikmat’s town, you should “eat dinner with a Druze, spend the night with a Christian.” Or, in another rendering,
“Spend the night with anyone except the Druze.” To Christians, you should “eat dinner with a Druze, spend the night with a Muslim.” Only the Druze knew what the Druze said.
But away from the tensions that roil so much of the Middle East, the chauvinism, and the political machinations that stoke religious hatred for tactical gain, the language is a vestige of a shared culture that is undeniably Islamic, but perhaps universal, too.
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Zakat in America: The Evolving Role of Islamic Charity in Community Cohesion
by Ingrid Mattson, PhD
The Prophet Muhammad told leaders of Muslim communities to “take (zakat) from their rich and return it to their poor.” Islamic law fleshes out the implications of Qur’anic and prophetic teachings on charitable distribution, including what comprises the boundaries of any particular community within which zakat should be distributed. Zakat, often characterized as “charity,” is in fact, a wealth tax whose observance is one of the five “pillars” of Islam. The centrality of zakat to Muslim religious identity imbues it with an emotive dimension that has spiritual and social ramifications. In many cases, zakat assumes a symbolic role as an indicator of community cohesion and the sincerity of one’s commitment to religious brotherhood.
This is especially true in a diverse community, like the American Muslims, who display significant income and opportunity gaps that sometimes correlate to ethnic or racial divisions. In this paper, we will explore traditional teachings on zakat distribution and discuss the ways in which trends in contemporary American society facilitate or inhibit the ability of zakat distribution to serve as an instrument of community cohesion.
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Pursuing an Islamic Metamorphosis
The Muslim world faces a decline similar to that of medieval Europe; a potential rebirth requires a new consensus.
Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqi
In his book, The Autumn of the Middle Ages, Dutch historian Johan Huizinga describes the decline of the medieval world as a process of ”dying and rigidifying of a previously valid store of thought”.The main thesis of Huizinga’s book is that, by the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the cultural forms and norms on which medieval Europe was based became overused and exhausted. When any ideal becomes exhausted, it fails to be a source of inspiration; rather it becomes an artificial burden. From Huizinga’s perspective, the European world of the late middle ages was a world of artificial vanity and self-deception, a ruin of a world that had died a long time before.
I think that the abstract aspect of Huizinga’s thesis on cultural forms is enlightening, and can be extended to explain transitional moments in other cultures, including contemporary Islamic culture. The cultural legacy modern Muslims inherited from their ancestors is exhausted, and – with lack of self-criticism – much of this legacy is becoming a burden rather than a source of inspiration.
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Syed Abu-Ala’ Maududi’s Surah Introductions to the Qur’an
The Meaning of the Qur’an (Arabic: Tafhim al-Qur’an) is a book divided into six volumes written by the Islamic scholar Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi (1903-1979). This work is one of the most prominent exegesis of the Qur’an (Arabic: tafsir), based on the Sunni hadith literature and includes an introduction for each Surah in the Quran, explaining the name, period of revelation and a large section on its historical background. Unlike many early translators, Maududi uses the standard technique of providing an explanation of the Qur’anic verses from the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammed. Below is a list of Maududi’s introductions to each Surah in the Qur’an, representing a small portion of the six volumes which comprise the complete commentary.
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Polarization of the Islamic and Western Worlds: Us against Them
It smells of war. At least we are gradually getting the idea of what it must have been like in former times. When we suddenly stood face to face with the enemy: us against them.
How entire peoples arrived at a point where they assumed that their existence was at stake because it was under threat from those with a completely different existence. Later, such behaviour would be described as “war psychosis” or “collective pathology”.
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Unskewing Skewed Logic (on western mis-perceptions of Islam)
by the Rev. Lewis Scudder
There’s a piece surfing the Internet under the by-line of ‘Emanuel Tanay, M.D.’ entitled, ‘A German’s View of Islam.’ Apart from the opening quotation about the average German and Nazism, there’s nothing very German about it. The author is Paul E. Marek, who published the essay in 2007 under the title, “Why the Peaceful Majority is Irrelevant.” –ww.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/6996
Tanay himself, a Polish Holocaust survivor living in Ann Arbor, Michigan (USA),denies authorship. Marek is a second-generation Canadian of Czech descent, is an educational consultant. Tanay’s signature on the chain-letter email version is a forgery
although why it was forged makes no sense. Nonetheless, we can set it aside.
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Respecting the Qur’an
by Ingrid Mattson, PhD.
Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician who broke with a mainstream national party to form his own extreme-right, anti-immigrant platform. Wilders has directed most of his hatred in recent years at Muslims. Wilders has called for the Qur’an to be banned and in the last few months has been promoting his “documentary” attacking the Qur’an. Wilders has intimated that the documentary will show a copy of the Qur’an being desecrated or destroyed.
Geert Wilders wants the Qur’an to be banned. Many Muslims want Wilders’ film to be banned. Wilders wants Muslims out of “his country” and to be denied the rights of other citizens to practice their faith. No doubt, many Dutch Muslims wish that Wilders would just go away (and Wilders has received threats of violence from some). Neither Wilders nor these Muslims will (or should) get what they want. Now what?
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The Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding has published it’s first annual report on the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. Full printable pdf file is found here.
from BBC News
During the 10th Century, Muslims and Jews who did not convert to Christianity in the Spanish city of Cordoba faced torture or death. David Edmonds examines how the historic clash of the three religions in the city has left it with a tangled legacy.
by Noah Feldman
Noah Feldman, a contributing writer for the New York Times magazine, is a law professor at Harvard University and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This essay is adapted from his book “The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State,” which will be published later this month.
Last month, Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, gave a nuanced, scholarly lecture in London about whether the British legal system should allow non-Christian courts to decide certain matters of family law. Britain has no constitutional separation of church and state. The archbishop noted that “the law of the Church of England is the law of the land” there; indeed, ecclesiastical courts that once handled marriage and divorce are still integrated into the British legal system, deciding matters of church property and doctrine. His tentative suggestion was that, subject to the agreement of all parties and the strict requirement of protecting equal rights for women, it might be a good idea to consider allowing Islamic and Orthodox Jewish courts to handle marriage and divorce.
Stopping Oppression: An Islamic Obligation
- by Ingrid Mattson
Chapter five from the book September 11: Religious Perspectives on the Causes and Consequences (2002), edited by Ian Markham and Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi’, reprinted with permission from Oneworld Publications.
A person should help his brother, whether he is an oppressor or is being oppressed. If he is the oppressor, he should prevent him from continuing his oppression, for that is helping him. If he is being oppressed, he should be helped to stop the oppression against him.
The Prophet Muhammad1
The terrorist attacks of September 11th have raised important questions about the role of Muslim leaders in shaping a responsible discourse of resistance to oppression and injustice. In this article, I will examine some of the issues that have been raised in this regard and will consider the question, what kind of leadership do Muslims need in the face of oppression? In particular, I will consider the role of American Muslims in the context of world events following the terrorist attacks of September 11th. I will acknowledge that since Muslim leadership must be responsive to events, this question cannot be answered completely in isolation of specific circumstances. The appropriate response will necessarily depend on the nature of the threat. At the same time, I will stress that any truly appropriate response must be firmly rooted in faith. A faith-based response is one that recognizes the omniscience of God, and the limits of human understanding. Faith urgently demands that we recognize the omnipotence of God, and the limits of human authority. Finally, faith demands that we acknowledge the absolute accountability of each individual before God, and that communal solidarity should never impede honest self-criticism, nor should it lead to injustice against other groups.
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The Qur’ân’s Evaluation of Human Nature:
An Inquiry with a View Toward Christian-Muslim Dialogue
Lewis R. Scudder, Jr.
(from The Reformed Review)
There is far more sound than sense made about how Islam evaluates human
nature and how that might bear upon the agenda of dialogue between Christians
and Muslims. Among the mantras endlessly repeated by Muslim apologists is
that Islam views human nature with liberal optimism and has no notion of
“original sin.” Rather, so they say, Islam views the human being as born
essentially with a clean slate. They cite (not altogether accurately) the term fitrah
as it is used in Sûrah 30:30, “Set your face toward religion with lofty intent,
[toward] the innate character of God (fitrah) in the context of which the human
race was brought forth (fatara). There is no changing what God has created. That
is the religion of worth, but most people refuse to know that.”1 Leaving aside, for
the moment, the Christian understanding of sin and human nature, we must ask:
Is this Muslim apology really valid? Does the Qur’ân sustain it? And the answer
we must give is no, not very well.