Tips to a Better Marriage

I have listed some rules that may benefit those seeking an Islamic marriage, as well as those who are already married. I do not pretend to be an expert of any kind. I have learned what I know through marrying at the early age of 18, just 9 months after embracing Islam. I muddled my way through much of my 14 years of marriage, and consider myself a graduate from the 'school of hard knocks'. The rules are:
1. Be conscious of your physical appearance.
No one was more conscious of this than the Prophet. His Sunnah reflects keen attention tseekingo personal hygiene and good grooming. He kept himself strong and muscular. Most likely the first aspect of you that attracted your mate was your appearance, so don't think that simply because you are married the task is over. You can't hide a weight problem under Thawbs' (dress) and long Khimars' (veils). Your mate knows. Be aware that you live in a society that places a high premium on physical appearance. It flaunts the shapely female and her muscular counterpart. Temptations that beckon non-Muslims beckon Muslims as well. Don 't allow your mate to get side-tracked by the likes of a 'Raquel Welch or an Arnold Schwarzenegger'. Jog, join a gym, roller skate, swim and stay in shape. Insha' Allah, you will be more vibrant, more radiant, and more attractive to your mate.
2. Be aware of your role, but do not fall into role-playing.
Muslim spouses sometimes experience difficulties because they are trying to do things 'by the book' without giving due consideration to the conditions prevailing in their country. For example, most female converts are taught that the role of the Muslim woman is to be at home raising her children. Supposedly, it is the man who works outside the home to maintain the family. She may have read about birth control and assumed that it has no place for the Muslimah; yet, it is worth noting that the Prophet himself allowed coitus interruptus. If ideal Islamic conditions prevailed, there would be no reason for a sister to worry about her financial situation interfering with her right to bear children. However, without an Islamic society, needy Muslim families may have to resort to welfare and food stamps rather than Zakaah and Sadaqah. This creates a feeling of dependence and humiliation that can place extreme stress on a marriage. In this ease, it may be helpful for the Muslim couple to delay having children, or for the wife to work while the children are young and until the couple 's financial situation improves. Islam gives you this flexibility. Don't be afraid or ashamed to use it.
3. Be a companion to your mate.
Try to show enthusiasm for your spouse's interests and hobbies. It is well-known that the Prophet would run races with 'Ayesha. By all means try to involve your mate in your interests.
4. Be active in Islamic community life.
This will strengthen your commitment to Islam while providing you wish a wholesome social outlet. Encourage your spouse to engage in activities that promote Islam. Have dinners at your home for Muslims as well as non-Muslims, and don't neglect your relatives. These activities will indirectly enhance the quality of your marriage through widening your circle of activity and contacts.
5. Admit your mistakes and have a forgiving, generous attitude when your mate errs.
This country is a difficult place to live in. Most Muslims fall short of the Islamic ideal. Contradictions abound. Be quick to admit your shortcomings and work to amend them. Be understanding when your mate does not live up to the Islamic ideal and gently try to motivate him or her in the right direction.
6. Have a sense of humour.
Be able to chuckle at life's minor aggravations.
7. Be modest when around members of the opposite sex.
Do not try to test your spouse's affection by feigning interest in another. This will only cause dissension and bad feelings.
8. Share household duties.
Brothers, take note. This is especially important these days when women work outside the home. The Prophet always helped his wives around the house and even mended his own clothes. Who knows? You might find you actually like preparing the evening meal or taking care of junior so your wife can have the afternoon off. The Messenger of Allah said, "The most perfect of the believers in faith is the best of them in moral excellence, and the best of you are those who are kindest to their wives." (at-Tirmidhi).
9. Surprise each other with gifts.
Treat her to an evening out alone, away from the children. There are no words to describe the lift this can give to a marriage.
10. Communicate your feelings to one another, good and bad.
Tell him how handsome he looks. Where there is disagreement, have an open discussion. Don ' t collect red stamps. Nip it in the bud .
11. Live within your means.
Stay away from credit cards if you can. Sisters, take note. Don't envy the possessions of your friends, and don't belittle your husband because he can't provide them for you. Muslim couples will do well to stay away from ostentatious living. The Prophet did not live luxuriously, and neither should you.
12. Respect your mate's need for privacy.
A quiet time to oneself each day, either at home or away from home, can make a disagreeable person agreeable.
13. Don 't share personal problems with others.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, but if you must discuss personal problems, make sure it is with a person in whom you have the utmost confidence. If you have a learned Muslim brother or sister in your community, seek him or her out first.
14. Be sensitive to your mate's moods.
If you want to share a personal achievement, don't do it when your spouse is 'down in the dumps.' Wait for the proper time.
You may be saying to yourself, "All This is easier said than done." Well, you're right. A successful marriage doesn't just happen. It's not simply a matter of luck or finding the right person. It takes hard work and determination. It means being selfless and making mistakes. It means having vengeance on your mind but forgiveness in your heart. But, then, its perfection is "half of faith."
"And those who pray, 'Our Lord! Grant unto us spouses and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.'" Qur'an 25:74
"The whole world is an asset and the best asset is a good wife." (Muslim)
"And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts). Verily in that are Signs for those who reflect." (30: 21).

Social Unrest in Tunisia: "We Have a Right to Work, You Robbers!"

Since 17 December, Tunisia has been the scene of widespread rioting. The unrest initially broke out in an economically disadvantaged region and was subsequently disseminated right across the country by protest movements. The authorities are reacting by going on the offensive and implementing a full security clampdown.
"During the 23 years he has been in power, Ben Ali has forgotten the country's inland regions. Now the people forgotten by the Republic are recalling themselves to its memory," so said economist Abdeljelil Bedoui in response to the riots that broke out on 17 December in the town of Sidi Bouzid in western central Tunisia.

Protecting Children Being Forced to Beg

In response to a Human Rights Watch investigation, Senegalese authorities have begun enforcing a law prohibiting anyone from forcing a child to beg. Since we released our report on widespread abuses taking place at Quranic boys’ schools, ten teachers who forced children to beg have been convicted.
In late 2009 Human Rights Watch researchers documented the system of exploitation in which boys who attend Quranic schools are forced to beg all day, seven days a week on Senegal’s streets to meet quotas for food and money set by their teachers. The teachers, known as marabouts, often live in relative affluence because they keep everything the boys (know as talib├ęs) receive from begging. Should the boys fail to meet the quotas, they may be severely beaten by the marabouts.

Jordanian Fatwa Bans Pre-Marital Virginity Check

A religious Jordanian council has issued a fatwa banning male suitors from demanding virginity checks on girls who they planning to marry, media reports said Monday.

The Jordanian Council of Iftaa, the body in charge of issuing contemporary religious edicts, issued its ban to curb the growing trend of suitors asking for what is commonly known as the "hymen-check" because they suspect their brides-to-be.

At least 1,000 virginity tests are requested every year, Dr. Moemen al-Hadidi, chairman of the National Forensic Center (NFC), told Al Arabiya, adding "this is not a big number when compared to other countries in the world."

Before the ban, every man had the right to file a request that his future wife be examined to make sure she is a virgin.

The fatwa now regulates such tests and states that a virginity test can only be conducted if necessary and it should be based on an official request by the judicial authorities.

For some Jordanians the hymen-check is as an insult to women and their families while others argue that it is the man's right to request such an examination in light of the increasing liberalism in the Jordanian society.

Critics, mostly women's rights organizations, argue that men's chastity should be tested as well.

The rate of honor crimes in Jordan has remarkably risen and in most cases, a girl is killed based on a suspicion and there is usually no proof that she actually had sex outside marriage.

Women in a Qur'anic Society

The topic of this paper was chosen out of the conviction that humanity is suffering today from a number of serious social problems related to women and to the interrelations of the two sexes in society. Although these problems may be more pronounced, disturbing, more debilitating for some of us than for others, there are probably few if any regions of the contemporary world whose citizens have not felt in some way the repercussions of these problems. Therefore, there is a pressing need for exploring possible solutions. The problem of women is linked, for the present study, with the Qur'an, and what I have called the "Qur'anic society," out of strong conviction that the Qur'an offers the most viable suggestions for contemporary social reform which can be found in any model or any literature. Many of you may be puzzled by the title of this paper-"Women in a Qur'anic Society." You may ask yourselves, "Why didn't she say "Women in Muslim Society" or even "Women in an Islamic Society?" Let me explain why the expressions "Muslim" and "Islamic" were rejected for this paper, and how the use of the rather unusual appellation, "Qur'anic society," is justified.
There are at least three reasons for my choice of that title. The first of these derives from the concern that many beliefs and practices have been labelled "Muslim" or "Islamic" without warranting those names. There are approximately 40 nations of the world which claim to have a Muslim majority population and therefore to be exemplary of "Muslim" or "Islamic" societies. This of course results in a great deal of confusion as the question is asked: Which of these regions represents most faithfully the true "Islamic" society? Among Muslims that question is most frequently answered by the claim that their own national or regional society is the truest to the intentions of Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala.
Non-Muslims, on the other hand, and especially the Western anthropologists who travel around the world to investigate the customs and mores of its peoples, tend to treat each variation within the Muslim World as equally valid. This results from their adherence to what I call the "zoo theory" of knowledge. Adherents of that theory regard all Muslims-and of course similar treatment of other non-Western people is discernible-as different species within the human zoo. The "zoo theory" protagonists go to the field, record and snap pictures of every strange or exotic practice they see and hear; and for them, this is Islam or Islamic practice. A trip to another part of the Muslim World with the ubiquitous devices for recording and photographing generates a different body of materials documenting superficial variations in customs. But this, too, is Islam or Islamic practice for the "zoo theory" investigator or ethnographer. There is far too little effort spent on understanding Islam as a whole. As a result, the basic premise of scepticism and relativism is confirmed in the mind of the researcher; and he/she returns home convinced that there is not one Islam, but scores of Islams existent in the world. In like fashion, the researcher reports that there are many definitions or descriptions of the status and role of women in Muslim society. Each one of the resultant definitions or descriptions is dubbed as "Muslim" or "Islamic" even if we as Muslims may hold some of these practices to be distortions or perversions of our principles and beliefs by the misguided or uninformed among us.
It was partly to avoid confusion with these variant descriptions and misunderstandings that I have chosen the appellation "Qur'anic" for the present discussion. In this way, I hope to move beyond the limited relevance and particularism of a "zoo theory" of investigation to a presentation which avoids such fragmentation and is ideologically in conformance with the true prescriptions of Islam. In regard to matters so determining of our destiny and very existence, we can never be satisfied with mere reportage about certain human animals in the "zoo" who are statistically "Muslim" or whose customs have been labelled as "Islamic." Those designations have sometimes been misapplied. "Qur'anic," on the other hand, is a term which is unequivocal. It points clearly to the topic of this paper.
Secondly, "Qur'anic society" was judged to be the most suitable title for it orients us towards discovering those core principles in the Qur'an itself which form the underlying framework for our societies throughout the Muslim World. It is the society based on Qur'anic principles which is the goal of all of us, even though we may unknowingly deviate from time to time from those principles. It is the conformance to a Qur'an-based society for which we must all work if the Muslim peoples are to enjoy a felicitous future. It is not an Indonesian, Pakistani, Saudi Arabian, Egyptian or Nigerian version of that society that we should regard as indisputable norm, but one firmly based on the teachings of the Holy Qur'an. Only therein can we find a proper definition of woman's role in society. Since it is these teachings which are the subject of my paper, "Women in a Qur'anic Society" seemed the most proper title.
Thirdly, I wish by this choice of title to emphasize that we should regard the Holy Qur'an as our guide in all aspects of our lives. It is not only the prime source of knowledge about religious beliefs, obligations, and practices, it is also the guide, whether specific or implied, for every aspect of Islamic civilization. In the centuries of past glory, it determined the political, economic, social and artistic creativity of the Muslim peoples. If we are to succeed as members of an Islamic society in the coming decades and centuries, it must again determine our thinking and our actions in an all-inclusive way. Din is not limited to the Five Pillars of the shahadah, salat, siyam, zakat, and the hajj. Din in fact defies simple equation with the English term "religion," for the former's significance penetrates into every nook and cranny of human existence and behaviour. Surely it should be our goal to relate every action to our Din. We can only do this by allowing the Holy Qur'an to in-form and re-form every realm of our lives.
As a step in this direction, let us consider what the Qur'an has to teach us about the society towards which we should be striving, and ponder its effect on the position of women. What are the basic characteristics of a Qur'anic society which particularly affect women?
Five characteristics  - which seem basic, crucial and incontrovertible - of Qur'anic society will be considered. Although they are presented in a series, each one rests upon the others and affects them. The interdependence of these five characteristics makes it difficult to speak of any one of them without mention of the others, and of course they do not and cannot exist in isolation from one another.
The first of these characteristics of a Qur'anic society which affect women is that both sexes are held to be equal in status and worth. In other words, the Qur'an teaches us that women and men are all creatures of Allah, existing on a level of equal worth and value, although their equal importance does not substantiate a claim for their equivalence or perfect identity. This equality of male and female is documentable in the Qur'an in passages pertaining to at least four aspects of human existence and interaction.
A. Religious Matters
The first of these Qur'anic confirmations of male-female equality are contained in statements pertaining to such religious matters as the origins of humanity, or to religious obligations and rewards.
1. Origins of Humanity. The Qur'an is devoid of the stories found in the Old Testament which denigrate women. There is no hint that the first woman created by God is a creature of lesser worth than the first male, or that she is a kind of appendage formed from one of his ribs. Instead, male and female are created, we read, min nafsin wahidatin ("from a single soul or self") to complement each other (Qur'an 4:1; 7:189). Whereas the Torah or Old Testament treats Eve as the temptress of the Garden of Eden, who aids Satan in enticing Adam to disobey God, the Qur'an deals with the pair with perfect equity. Both are equally guilty of sinning; both are equally punished by God with expulsion from the Garden; and both are equally forgiven when they repent.
2. Religious Obligations and Rewards. The Qur'an is not less clear in commanding equality for men and women in its directives regarding religious obligations and rewards. We read:
Lo! Men who surrender unto Allah, and women who surrender, and men who believe and women who believe, and men who obey and women who obey, and men who speak the truth and women who speak the truth, and men who persevere (in righteousness) and women who persevere and men who are humble and women who are humble, and men who give aims and women who give alms, and men who fast and women who fast, and men who guard their modesty and women who guard (their modesty), and men who remember Allah and women who remember-Allah hath prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward. (33:35)
B. Ethical Obligations and Rewards
Secondly, the Qur'an reveals to mankind the desired equality of the two sexes by establishing the same ethical obligations and rewards for women and men.
And who so does good works, whether male or female, and he (or she) is a believer, such will enter Paradise and they will not be wronged the dint in a date-stone. (4:124)
Whosoever does right, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily We shall quicken with good life, and We shall pay them a recompense according to the best of what they do. (16:97)
If Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala had not deemed the two sexes of equal status and value, such explicit statements of their equality in ethical obligations and rewards would not have been made in the Qur'an.
C. Education
Although the more specific commands for the equal rights of women and men to pursue education can be found in the hadith literature, the Qur'an does at least imply the pursuit of knowledge by all Muslims regardless of their sex. For example, it repeatedly commands all readers to read, to recite, to think, to contemplate, as well as to learn from the signs (ayat) of Allah in nature. In fact, the very first revelation to Prophet Muhammad (S) was concerned with knowledge. In a Qur'anic society, there can never be a restriction of this knowledge to one sex. It is the duty of every Muslim and every Muslimah to pursue knowledge throughout life, even if it should lead the seeker to China, we are told. The Prophet (S) even commanded that the slave girls be educated, and he asked Shifa' bint 'Abdillah to instruct his wife Hafsah bint 'Umar. Lectures of the Prophet (S) were attended by audiences of both men and women; and by the time of the Prophet's death, there were many women scholars.
D. Legal Rights
A fourth evidence in the Qur'an for the equality of men and women is its specification of legal rights which are guaranteed for every individual from cradle to grave. Unlike the situation in the West, where until the last century it was impossible for a married woman to hold property on her own, to contract with other persons, or to dispose of her property without the consent of her husband, the Qur'an proclaims the right of every woman to buy and sell, to contract and to earn, and to hold and manage her own money and property. In addition to these rights, the Qur'an grants woman a share in the inheritance of the family (4:7-11), warns against depriving her of that inheritance (4:19), specifies that the dower (mahr) of her marriage should belong to her alone and never be taken by her husband (2:229; 4:19-21,25) unless offered by the woman as a free gift (4:44).
As with any privilege, these rights of women carry corresponding responsibilities. If she commits a civil offence, the Qur'an tells us, woman's penalty is no less or no more than that of a man in a similar case (5:41; 24:2). If she is wronged or harmed, she is entitled to compensation just like a man.
It is clear that the Qur'an not only recommends, but is even insistent upon, the equality of women and men as an essential characteristic of a Qur'anic society. The claim of the non-Muslim critics that Islam denigrates women is denied emphatically by the Qur'an. Similarly denied are the arguments of certain Muslims that women are religiously, intellectually and ethically inferior to men, as Jewish and Christian literatures had earlier maintained.
Now let us consider the second basic characteristic of the Qur'anic society which affects the position of women. This is found in the directives for a dual sex rather than a unisex society. While maintaining the validity of the equal worth of men and women, the Qur'an does not judge this equality to mean equivalence or identity of the sexes.
Probably all of you are familiar with the contemporary move toward unisex clothes and shoes, unisex jewellery and hair styles, unisex actions and entertainments. In fact, it is often difficult in America to decide whether one is looking at a boy or a girl. This results from the current notion in Western society that there is little if any difference between the two sexes in physical, intellectual and emotional endowment; and that, therefore, there should be no difference in their functions and roles in society. The dress and the actions are but superficial evidence of this deeper conviction. Accompanied by a downgrading of the qualities and roles traditionally associated with the female sex, this current idea has generated a unisex society in which only the male role is respected and pursued. Although meant to bring a larger measure of equality for women, the idea that men and women are not only equal, but equivalent and identical, has actually pushed women into imitating men and even despising their womanhood. Thus it is generating a new type of male chauvinism. Tremendous social pressures have resulted in stripping women of their role-responsibilities formerly performed by them, and they are forced to live a life devoid of personality and individuality.
The society based on the Qur'an is, in contrast, a dual-sex society in which both sexes are assigned their special responsibilities. This assures the healthy functioning of the society for the benefit of all its members. This division of labour imposes on men more economic responsibilities (2:233, 240-241; 4:34), while women are expected to play their role in childbearing and rearing (2:233; 7:189). The Qur'an, recognising the importance of this complementary sexual assignment of roles and responsibilities, alleviates the greater economic demands made on male members of the population by allotting them a larger share than women in inheritance. At the same time it grants women the right to maintenance in exchange for her contribution to the physical and emotional well being of the family and to the care she provides in the rearing of children. The unisex ideology generates a competitive relationship between the sexes which we find in America and which is disastrous for all members of society: the young; the old; the children; the parents; the single and the married; the male and the female. The dual-sex society, by contrast, is a more natural answer to the question of sexual relationships, a plan encouraging co-operation rather than competition between the sexes. It is a plan which has been found suitable in countless societies through history. Only in very recent times did the idea of sexual non-differentiation or identity achieve prominence, and then primarily in the Western society. Even the medical evidence for mental or emotional difference between the sexes is suppressed in Western research, for it threatens the prevailing trends of thought. How long this socially disastrous movement will continue before it is rejected as bankrupt is not known. But certainly we as Muslims should be aware of its deficiencies and dangerous consequences, and make our societies and young people aware of the disaster caused by it.
Protagonists of the unisex society have condemned the dual-sex human organisation as dangerous for the well-being of women. If dual sex means that one sex is superior to the other, such a situation could have arisen. But in the true Qur'anic society, toward which we all aspire to move, this is not possible. As we have seen above, the Qur'an advocates eloquently the equal status of women and men at the same time as it recognises their generally relevant differences of nature and function. Thus while acknowledging the religious, ethical, intellectual and legal equality of males and females, the Qur'an never regards the two sexes as identical or equivalent. It justifies this stand in its assignment of variant responsibilities and its provisions regarding inheritance and maintenance which match those responsibilities.
The third characteristic of the Qur'anic society which is strongly assertive of women's position is the insistence on the interdependence of the members of society. Contrary to the contemporary trend to emphasize the rights of the individual at the expense of society, we find the Qur'an repeatedly emphasising the interdependence of the male and female as well as of all members of society. The wife and husband, for example, are described as "garments" (libas) of each other (2:187), and as mates living and dwelling in tranquillity (33:21;see also 7:189). Men and women are directed to complement each other, not to compete with each other. They are the protectors of each other (9:71). Each is called upon to fulfil certain assigned responsibilities for the good of both and the larger group.
In order to insure this interdependence which is so necessary for the physical and psychological well-being of both men and women, Allah, in the Holy Qur'an, stipulated the reciprocal or mutual duties and obligations of the various members of the family-men and women, fathers and mothers, children and elders, and relatives of all degrees (17:23-26; 4:1, 7-12; 2:177; 8:41; 16:90; etc.). The care of and concern for other members of society is equally a duty of the Muslim.
It is not righteousness that you turn faces to the east and the west; but righteous is he who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and gives his wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free ... (2:177)
The Qur'an thereby instils in the Muslim a sense of a place within, and responsibility to society. This is not regarded or experienced as a repression of the individual. Instead the Muslim is constantly encouraged in this interdependence by experiencing the benefits it brings. The economic, social and psychological advantages of such close relationships and concerns within the social group provide more than ample compensation for the individual to sublimate his/her individualistic aspirations. The anonymity and lack of social interdependence among its members in contemporary Western society have caused many serious problems. Loneliness, inadequate care of the aged, the generation gap, high suicide rates, and juvenile crime can all be traced back to the ever-worsening breakdown of social interdependence and the denial of the human necessity for mutual care.
Closely intertwined with interdependence is the fourth basic characteristic of the Qur'anic society which serves to improve male-female relations. This is the institution of the extended family. In addition to the members of the nucleus that constitutes the family- mother, father and their children-the Islamic family or 'a'ilah also includes grandparents, uncles, aunts and their offspring. Normally Muslim families are "residentially extended;" that is, their members live communally with three or more generations of relatives in a single building or compound. Even where this residential version of the extended family is not possible or adhered to, family connections reaching far beyond the nuclear unit are evident in strong psychological, social, economic and even political ties.
The extended family solidarity is prescribed and strengthened by the Holy Qur'an, where we find repeated references to the rights of kin (17:23-26; 4:7-9; 8:41; 24:22; etc.) and the importance of treating them with kindness (2 :83; 16: 90; etc.). Inheritance portions, for not only the nuclear family members but those of the extended family as well, are specifically prescribed (2:180-182; 4:33,176). Dire punishment is threatened for those who ignore these measures for intra-family support (4:7-12). The extended family of Islamic culture is thus not merely a product of social conditions, it is an institution anchored in the word of God Himself and buttressed by Qur'anic advice and rules.
The extended family is an institution which can provide tremendous benefits for both women and men when it exists in conjunction with the other basic characteristics of a Qur'anic society.
1) It guards against the selfishness or eccentricity of any one party, since the individual faces not a single spouse but a whole family of peers, elders and children if he or she goes "off course."
2) It allows for careers for women without detriment to themselves, spouse, children or elders, since there are always other adults in the home to assist the working wife or mother. Career women in an Islamic extended family suffer neither the physical and emotional burden of overwork nor the feeling of guilt for neglecting maternal, marital or familial responsibilities. In fact, without this sort of family institution, it is impossible to imagine any feasible solution for the problems now facing Western society. As more and more women enter the work force, the nuclear family is unable to sustain the needs of its members. The difficulties in the single parent family are of course magnified a hundred-fold. The strain that such family systems put on the working woman are devastating to the individual as well as to the marriage and family bonds. The dissolutions of families which result and psychological and social ramifications of the high divorce rate in America and other Western nations are the growing concern of doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists and sociologists as well as, of course, of the unfortunate victims of these phenomena.
3) The extended family insures the adequate socialisation of children. A mother's or father's advice in a nuclear or single parent family may be difficult to be followed by an unruly or obstinate child, but the combined pressure of the members of a strong extended family is an effective counter to non-conformance or disobedience.
4) The extended family provides for psychological and social diversity in companionship for adults as well as children. Since there is less dependence on the one-to-one relationship, there are less emotional demands on each member of the family. A disagreement or clash between adults, children or between persons of different generations does not reach the damaging proportions it may in the nuclear family. There are always alternative family members on hand to ease the pain and provide therapeutic counselling and companionship. Even the marriage bond is not put to the enormous strains that it suffers in the nuclear family.
5) The extended family or a'ilah guards against the development of the generation gap. This social problem arises when each age group becomes so isolated from other generations that it finds difficulty in achieving successful and meaningful interaction with people of a different age level. In the 'a'ilah, three or more generations live together and constantly interact with one another. This situation provides beneficial learning and socialisation experiences for children and the necessary sense of security and usefulness for the older generation.
6) The 'a'ilah eliminates the problems of loneliness which plague the isolated and anonymous dwellers in the urban centres of many contemporary societies. The unmarried woman, or the divorced or widowed woman in an Islamic extended family will never suffer the problems that face such women in contemporary American society, for example. In a Qur'anic society, there is no need for the commercial computer dating establishments, the singles' clubs and bars, or the isolation of senior citizens in retirement villages or old people's homes.
The social and psychological needs of the individual, whether male or female, are cared for in the extended family.
As marriage-bonds grow more and more fragile in Western society, women tend to be the chief victims of the change. They are less able to re-establish marriage or other bonds than men, and they are more psychologically damaged by these losses.
7) The extended family provides a more feasible and humane sharing of the care of the elderly. In the nuclear family unit, the care of the elderly parent or parents of one spouse may fall entirely on one individual, usually the mother of the family. She must provide for the extra physical care as well as for the emotional well-being of the elderly. This is a tremendous burden on a woman who probably has children's and husband's needs to attend to as well. If she is a working mother, the burden can be unmanageable; and the elderly are put in an old peoples' home to await death. With the shared responsibilities and duties that the extended family provides, the burden is significantly lightened .
The fifth basic characteristic of a Qur'anic society is that it is patriarchal. Contrary to the goals of the Women's Liberation movement, the Qur'an calls for a society which assigns the ultimate leadership and decision-making role in the family to men.
Any society is made up of smaller organisations of humans, governments, political parties, religious organisations, commercial enterprises, extended families, etc. Each of these organs needs to be stable, cohesive and manoeuvrable if it is to be beneficial to its constituents. In order to acquire these characteristics, the organisation must assign ultimate responsibility to some individual or some group within its ranks.
Therefore, the citizens may vote, parliament may legislate, and the police may enforce the law; but it is ultimately the head of state that carries the burden of making the crucial decisions for the nation, as well as the onus or approval, i.e., the responsibility, for those decisions. In like manner, the work of a factory is conducted by many individuals, but all of them are not equally capable of making the ultimate decisions for the company. Neither is each employee equally charged with the responsibility for the organisation's success or failure.
The family also has need for someone to carry the burden of ultimate responsibility for the whole. The Qur'an has assigned this role to the most senior male member of the family. It is this patriarchal assignment of power and responsibility which is meant by such expressions as "wa lil rijali 'alathinna darajatun " (2.228; see supra, pp. 40, 41), and "al-rijalu qawwdmuna 'ala al-nisa'i.... " (4:34). Contrary to misrepresentations by the Qur'an's enemies, these passages do not mean the subjugation of women to men in a gender-based dictatorship. Such an interpretation shows a blatant disregard of the Qur'an's repeated calls for the equality of the sexes and for its command to show respect and kindness to women. The passages in question point instead to a means for avoiding internal dissension and indecision for the benefit of all family members. They advocate for a patriarchal society.
In addition, we would draw attention to the use of the word qawwamun in the statement, al-rijalu qawwamuna 'ala al-nisa'i ... (4:34). Certainly the verb qawwama, from which the verbal noun qawwamun is derived, does not imply despotic overlordship. Instead, the term refers to the one who stands up (from qama, "to stand") for another in a protective and benevolent way. If an autocratic or domineering role for the male half of the society had been meant, there are many other verbal derivatives which would have been more applicable, for example, musaytirun and muhayminun Other instances of the Qur'anic use of the term qawwamun confirm this supportive rather than authoritarian or tyrannical meaning of the term (see 4:127-135; 5:9). Ascription of a different significance to the passage in question is, therefore, ideologically inconsistent as well as linguistically unsupportable.
Why should the Qur'an specify male leadership for the 'a'ilah, i.e., a patriarchal family, rather than a matriarchal organisation? The Qur'an answers that question in the following manner:
Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women)....(4:34)
Physical and economic contributions and responsibility are, therefore, the Qur'anic reasons for proposing a patriarchal rather than a matriarchal society.
Some Westerners, confronted by the problems of contemporary society, are beginning to ask such questions as: Where can we turn for help? What can we do in the face of the present social disintegration? It is a time of despair and searching as Western society reels under the blows of steadily increasing personal disorientation and societal dissolution.
What can we do as Muslims to help? First of all, we must build true Qur'anic societies throughout the Muslim World. Without these, we cannot establish equitable and viable accommodation for the interaction of men and women in society. In addition, we cannot hope to establish in the coming generations a respect for and loyalty to our societies and their accompanying institutions if pseudo-Islamic societies are the only ones we are capable of producing and maintaining. Pseudo-Islamic measures or institutions are actually anti-Islamic; for they posit a model which cannot be respected, and attach to it the label of "islam" in the minds of many Muslims as well as non-Muslim. this results in a wrongful transfer of the onus of the faulty institution to the religion of Islam itself.
We must educate our fellow Muslims-and especially the youth for they are the leaders of tomorrow-with regard to the importance and viability of their (Qur'anic traditions concerning women, the family and society. Despite the failure of alternative contemporary Western social patterns, some Muslims seem to hanker after the Western brand of sexual equality, its unisex ideas and modes of behaviour, overemphasis on individualism or personal freedom from responsibility, and the nuclear family system. We must awake to the dangers which accompany such social ideas and practices. If the consequences of these ideas and practices are not pointed out and combated, we are doomed to an unfortunate future as such social experiments are to fail ultimately.
But even this is not an adequate response for us as Muslims. As vicegerents of Allah on earth (2:30), it is our duty to be concerned about the whole world and about all of God's creatures. In the light of the command to propagate the will of Allah in every corner of the earth, we should not neglect to suggest or offer the good that we know to others. It is time for Islam and the Muslims to present their solutions of the problems of contemporary society, not only to the Muslim audience, but to the non-Muslim audience as well. This can and should be done through the living example of true Qur'anic societies in which the problems of men and women are resolved. It should also be done through informative writings and discussions by our scholars which could be made available to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

A Christmas Palm Tree

In late December, the plains of North India turned suddenly cold and grey. Towards evening, as the sun is beginning to set over the minarets of the village mosques, smoke from the buffalo-dung cooking-fires begins to mass in a flat layer at the level of the tree tops. By dusk, the layer has turned into a vaporous mist which thickens and curdles overnight to form by morning a dense fog.
Some fifteen years ago, on just such a bleak, cold dawn, I climbed the long flight of ceremonial steps leading up to the great mosque at Fatehpur Sikri. This lay in the heart of the ruined Moghul capital built by the sixteenth century Emperor Akbar, a few miles to the West of Agra. I was a nineteen year old backpacker, and it was my first visit to India. I had just spent my first Christmas away from home, and I was enjoying the sensation of complete disorientation. It was immediately after Christmas, I kept thinking, but not only was there not a Christmas tree or a Christmas decoration in sight, there was nothing even remotely Christian to be seen- or so I thought.
For when I reached the top of the steps that rose to the Buland Darwaza- the massive domed, arched gate leading into the Imperial mosque- I saw something that confused me even further. Here was one of the greatest pieces of Muslim architecture in India, but according to my guide book, the strip of Persian calligraphy which framed the arch read as follows:
"Jesus, Son of Mary (on whom be peace) said: The World is a Bridge, pass over it, but build no houses upon it. He who hopes for a day, may hope for eternity; but the World endures but an hour. Spend it in prayer, for the rest is unseen."
The inscription was doubly surprising: not only was I taken aback to find an apparently Christian quotation given centre stage in a Muslim monument, but the inscription itself was unfamiliar. It certainly sounded the sort of thing Jesus might have said, but did Jesus really say that the world was like a bridge? And even if he had, why would a Muslim Emperor want to place such a phrase over the entrance to the main mosque in his capital city? Weren't Christians regarded as the enemies and rivals of the Muslims- and vice versa? This was certainly the impression I had been given at my Catholic school where I had only ever come across Islam in the confrontational context of the Crusades.
It was only much later, after I had lived and travelled in India and the Middle East for several years that I began to be able to answer some of these questions. The phrase emblazoned over the gateway was, I learned, one of several hundred sayings and stories of Jesus that fill Arabic and Islamic literature. Some of these derive from the four canonical gospels, others from now rejected early Christian texts like the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, others again from the wider oral Christian culture-compost of the Near East- possibly authentic sayings and stories, in other words, which Islam has retained but which Western Christianity has lost.
These sayings of Jesus circulated around the Muslim world from Spain to China, and many are still familiar to educated Muslims today. They fill out and augment the profoundly reverential picture of Christ painted in the Koran where Jesus is called the Messiah, the Messenger, the Prophet, Word and Spirit of God, though- in common with some currents of heterodox Christian thought of the period- his outright divinity is questioned. The Koran calls Christians the nearest in love, to Muslims, whom it instructs in to "dispute not with the People of the Book [that is, the Jews and Christians] save in the most courteous manner and say we believe in what has been sent down to us and what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is one".
I have been thinking a lot about that quotation over the last three months. Ever since September the 11th we have seen some of the right-wing Qualities,- as well as the tabloids- united in an often virulent bout of Islamophobia, as a hundred instant experts in Islam have popped up to offer their disparaging views on a religion few seem ever to have encountered in person. After the scale of horror of the atrocity in New York perhaps this sort of thing is inevitable; but it doesn't alter the fact that the image these writers are projecting of Islam- particularly vis-a-vis its relations with Christianity- is a ludicrously unbalanced, inaccurate and one-sided one.
For the links that bind Christianity and Islam are so deep, and so complex, and so intricately woven, that the more you learn about them, the more the occasional confrontations between the two religions begin to seem like a civil war between two different streams of the same tradition than any essential clash of two incompatible civilisations. When the early Byzantines were first confronted by the Prophet's armies in the seventh century, they assumed that Islam was merely a variant form of Christianity: Islam of course accepts much of the Old and New Testaments, obeys the Mosaic laws about circumcision and ablutions, and venerates both Jesus and the ancient Jewish prophets.
The early Life of Muhammad relates how, when Muhammad entered Mecca in triumph and ordered the destruction of all idols and images, he came upon a picture of the Virgin and Child inside the Ka'ba. Reverently covering the icon with his cloak, he ordered all other images to be destroyed, but the image of the Madonna to be looked on as sacrosanct. When Muhammad's successor Abu Bakr stood on the borders of Syria he gave very specific instructions to his soldiers: "In he desert", he said, "you will find people who have secluded themselves in cells; let them alone, for they have secluded themselves for the sake of God. Likewise, when his successor Omar went to Syria, he actually stayed with the Bishop of Ayla and went out of his way to meet the Christian Holy Men in the town.
For many years Muslims and Christians used to pray side by side in the great churches of the Middle Eastern cities: in Damascus, for example, the great basilica of St John was used for worship by both Christians and Muslims; only fifty years later were Christians obliged to pray elsewhere and the building formally converted into what is now known as the great Ummayad mosque. As late as 649 AD a Nestorian bishop wrote: "These Arabs fight not against our Christian religion; nay, rather they defend our faith, they revere our priests and saints, and they make gifts to our churches and monasteries. There were never any conversions by the Sword, a myth much propagated in anti-Islamic literature.
Indeed, the greatest theologian of the early church, St. John of Damascus (d. 749), was convinced that Islam was at root not a new religion, but instead a variation on a Judeo-Christian form. This perception is particularly remarkable as St. John had unique access to the fountainhead of Islamic thinking in the earliest days of the faith. He had grown up in the Ummayad Arab court of Damascus- the hub of the young Islamic world- where his father was chancellor, and he was an intimate boyhood friend of the future Caliph al-Yazid; the two boys drinking bouts in the streets of Damascus were the subject of much horrified gossip in the streets of the new Islamic capital. But, in his old age, St. John took the habit at the remote desert monastery of Mar Saba, where he began work on his great masterpiece, the Fount of Knowledge.
I first really heard about St John of Damascus and his writings when I went to spend a few nights in Mar Saba in the course of a journey around the monasteries of the Middle East in 1994. Mar Saba lay tucked into a cliff face in the wastes of Judea, a spectacular near vertical plunge of chapels, cells and oratories. One night, while the monks were still singing their vespers in the chapel, and their chant of their kyries were echoing around the rock-cut corridors of the monastery, I was taken by the monastery guestmaster to see the cave where St John wrote The Font of Knowledge. With a flickering storm lantern in his hand, he led the way to a small cell backing onto a rock wall, its ceiling cut so low as to make standing virtually impossible. "St John spent thirty years in that cell," he said. "Although he could not stand he hardly ever went out of it. He believed he had become too proud of his high position in the court of Damascus, so he chose this cave in which to live as a monk".
It was here that St John of Damascus wrote his critique of Islam, the first ever penned by a Christian. Intriguingly, John- the ultimate insider- regarded Islam as a form of Christianity closely related to the heterodox Christian doctrine of Arianism: after all this doctrine, like Islam, took as its starting point the idea that on Christmas Day God could not have become fully human without somehow compromising his divinity. Used to the often surrealistic scriptures of the Gnostics, then in widespread circulation among the Christians of the Near East, John was apparently unworried by the points where the Koran diverges from the basic narrative of the Gospels- such as the very full but oddly unfamiliar description it gives of the first Christmas. In this Koranic version, Jesus' birth takes place not in a stable but under a palm tree in an oasis, shortly after which the Christ child, still in his swaddling clothes, sits up and addresses Mary's family with the words: "I am the servant of God. He has given me the Gospel and ordained me a prophet. His blessing is upon me wherever I go, and He has commanded me to be steadfast in prayer and to give alms to the poor as long as I shall live. I was blessed on the day I was born; and blessed I shall be on the day of my death; and may peace be upon me on the day when I shall be raised to life."
Islam, of course, grew up in the largely Christian environment of the Late Antique Levant, and the longer you spend in the ancient Christian communities of India the Middle East, the more you become aware of the extent to which Eastern Christian practice formed the template for what were to become the basic conventions of Islam. The Muslim form of prayer with its bowings and prostrations appears to derive from the older Syrian Orthodox tradition that is still practised in pewless churches across the Levant. The architecture of the earliest minarets, which are square rather than round, unmistakably derive from the church towers of Byzantine Syria, while Ramadan, at first sight one of the most distinctive of Islamic practices, bears startling similarities to Lent, which in the Eastern Christian churches still involves- as it once used to in the West- a gruelling all-day fast.
Perhaps no more branch of Islam shows so Christian influence as Islamic mysticism or Sufism. For Sufism with its Holy Men and visions, healings and miracles, its affinity with the desert and its emphasis on the mortification of the flesh and the individual's personal search for union with God, has always borne remarkable similarities to the more mystical strands of Eastern Christianity, and many Muslim saints- such as the great Mevlana Rumi- worked to reconcile the two religions. Indeed the very word Sufi seems to indicate a link with Christianity. For Suf means wool which was the characteristic clothing material of Eastern Christian monks which was taken over by the early Mystics of Islam. Other styles of dress adopted by the Sufis are also anticipated in pre-Islamic Christianity: the patchwork frock made from rags, and the use of the colour of mourning, black for the Christians, dark blue for the Muslims.
Another interesting link- at the extreme edge of both Christian and Muslim asceticism- is the wearing of heavy chains. This was a practice first adopted by the Christian Grazers and which was later adopted by some Sufi sects. Through punishing the flesh, such exercises were believed by both groups of ascetics to induce visions and spiritual ecstasy.
Certainly if a monk from sixth century Byzantium were to come back today, it is probable that he would find much more that was familiar in the practices and beliefs of a modern Muslim Sufi than he would with, say, a contemporary American Evangelical. Yet this simple truth has been lost by our tendency to think of Christianity as a thoroughly Western religion rather than the Oriental faith it actually is. The recent demonisation of Islam in the Christendom, and deep and growing resentment felt in the Islamic world against the Christian West, has created an atmosphere where few on either side are still aware of, or even wish to be aware of, the profound kinship of Christianity and Islam.
I first came across the idea of Christ as an object of Muslim devotion when I read that inscription quoting Jesus, son of Mary, on Whom be Peace, on the gateway at Fatehpur Sikri. Last month I came across a Mughal miniature, now on display in the British Library, which was probably painted within that city soon after the gateway had been built. It is a nativity scene, with Mary and the Christ child and wise men coming to offer gifts. But the wise men are Mughal courtiers, Mary is attended by a Mughal serving girls, and the Christ child and his mother are sitting under a palm tree. As this miniature shows, there are certainly major differences between the two faiths- not least the central fact, in mainstream Christianity, of Jesus' divinity. But Christmas the ultimate celebration of Christ's humanity- is a feast which Muslims and Christians can share together without reservation. At this moment when the Christian West and Islamic East seem to be heading for another major confrontation, there has never been a greater need for both sides to realise what they have in common and, as in this miniature, to gather around the Christ child, to pray for peace.

Tawheed: Monotheism


Tawheed, monotheism is the belief in one god. In Islam it is the belief in Allah, the one true god. The basis of monotheism in Islam can be seen in the Qur’an where Allah says, “Not a messenger did We send before thee without this inspiration sent by Us to him: that there is no god but I; therefore worship and serve Me.” (HQ21: 25). This idea is the basis of Islam. The purpose of writing this composition is to try to show Muslims and non-Muslims alike that there are many signs that point to monotheism. We will show that man has an innate desire to seek out his Lord. We will also show how nature points to monotheism and also how science and technology has helped man to see the oneness of Allah. It is my hope that this composition is easily understood and will help the readers to have a better understanding of Tawheed. 

Lesson One: Seeking Allah

         Allah, the Lord, Cherisher, Evolver of the universe who depends on no one and with out Whom no one would exist has given man an innate need to search for Him. Allah says in  the Qur’an, “Allah the needless” (112:2) which has also been translated as “Allah, the eternally besought of all” by Izzudd in al-Hayak, shows the fact that everyone searches for Allah. We all have a burning desire to know where we come from. The primitive man with his limited resources have from the beginning of time tried to explain how the world came into being and what his role should be in it. Man came into this world with everything he needs to survive; he didn’t have to find the necessities of life they were already provided for him. Man was never taught how to breath, and a baby was never taught how to suck on his mother’s breast, yet we all breath and are nourished. How did that come to be? There are all different types of plants and animals that were here prior to us, so we could not have created them, so where did they come from and who created them? These are the type of questions that were asked by our ancestors and are still being asked by us today. Fortunately for us Allah in His Omnipotent Wisdom and Knowledge created this inquisitive nature in us to search for the answers to these mysteries and has given us the answers to these perplexing questions. After a thorough examination of cause and effect we come to know that there is a Primary Cause that has instigated all the subsequent effects.
         When we don’t find or have an understanding of the Primary Cause we continue to search because we find ourselves unfulfilled and saddened. We do this because the Creator has also given us a need to be thankful because we were only created to worship and praise him. Indeed we have a lot to be thankful for, such as our mental and physical faculties as well as our social relations. In order for us to have a sense of completeness this urge to be thankful has to be addressed and satisfied. Satisfaction only comes from knowing your Lord and until He’s known the search will continue.
         While we search for Allah, the Primary Cause, we find ourselves being pulled in many directions. Once the knowledge of there being a primary cause is realized we have to find the correct way of following the commands of Allah “The Primary Cause”. This process is just as difficult if not more difficult than finding the Cause because of everyone having an idea of how we should go about serving Allah. On an everyday basis we find Christians, Jews, Buddhist, Muslims, atheist and others trying to propagate their way of life. Unfortunately every road doesn’t lead to Allah and the way that he has chosen for us. However we are also blessed with fortune because the All Wise Creator and The Primary Cause has given us guidance from the beginning of mans existence as shown by the Holy Qur’an “And received Adam from his Lord words and Allah turned to him mercifully verily, He is the Oft-turning to mercy, the Most Merciful. Said We then, get down ye all together and when cometh from Me unto you a guidance, and whosoever follows My guidance on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve”. (2:37-38). Our learned men in their commentary on this verse states that the guidance that’s being referred to in this verse was created along with the creation of Adam (peace be upon him or p.b.u.h). In this we see that man has always been guided, the key is to be guided aright. With right guidance we can cease searching for Allah and begin knowing him.   
  Lesson Two: The signs of Allah in our daily life
         Allah says in the Qur’an “Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth; - (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.” (2:164). This verse admonishes us to take notice of the natural order of life and how Allah provides sustenance for us. By doing this we will begin the process of getting to know our Lord. We take the time to revere and respect man for his achievements and works. And man’s works fall very, very short of the works of Allah. By contemplating the signs and wonders of Allah we obtain a greater appreciation 
and knowledge for how great our Lord is. This knowledge allows us to worship Allah and have faith in Him. This knowledge is also essential in us having the right concept of Allah. The wrong concept of Allah will have us worshipping the created and not the Creator. With an incorrect belief system we will find ourselves depressed, frustrated and full of despair. This is the problem faced by materialist, agnostics, scientists, and atheist because through their disbelief they have nowhere to turn to in their time of need. An example of that is, when an agnostic person feels that a bad omen has come on them and they want help from the Almighty how do they address Him, how do they seek His countenance, how will they know what the prescribed actions are to alleviate themselves from this bad omen. They can’t find the solution to their problems because they don’t acknowledge “The Cause” so a lot of them from these groups commit suicide, turn to drugs or withdraw completely from life. This is because they have no hope. Hope can only comes from knowing that Allah, who created all things, has power over all things and has the ability to change all things. When you don’t submit to Allah you can’t know the kindness, love, and mercy that He has for his creatures. Thus leaving us to our own limited and inadequate understanding and depriving ourselves of the Mercy of Allah. 
        Islam is by definition is the total submission to the will of Allah. Another definition is peace. When we analyze these definitions we can deduce that peace, real peace, can only be obtained by submitting our will to that of Allah. That is the definition of a Muslim. Where in the above paragraph those that didn’t acknowledge Allah fell into peril and despair, the Muslim is assured of the mercy of Allah. Armed with this info the Muslim experiences lest anxiety when he deals with death, fear of the unknown, war and every day life. The Qur’an attests to this when it says, “It is those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with oppression – that they are (truly) in peacefulness, for they are on right guidance.” (6:82).  
       This peace that Allah bestows upon his devotees also gives him a sense of responsibility towards himself and the creations of Allah. This makes the Muslim learn what his rights are and the rights that others have on him. When a person doesn’t know that he is accountable for all his actions he will not always do his best. He wont cross his t’s nor dot his I’s , he wont see a job through, he wont have compassion for his fellow man. But the Muslim that fears his lord and knows his Lord, knows his responsibility and lives up to them. If everyone knew their rights and the rights of others on them there would be no selfishness, oppression or aggression toward one another. 
Allah deals with his creation by His signs (prophets) through them He shows us how we are to deal with life on every level. This is why we have no excuses, our Lord has provided everything for us. And has guided us to righteousness, and in order to be righteous we have to hold true to the trust given to us by Allah most high. The only way to live up to this trust is to have a sense of  responsibity, and make it strong within us and nurture it by understanding the signs of Allah.

Lesson Three: Two clear ways of knowing Allah

     Man has been said to posses mind, body and soul. The mind and soul are the intellect and spiritual aspects in man. These are his  tools that deal with his internal faculties. His eyes, ears, nose, skin and mouth deal with the external. These tools that Allah has given to man allows us to know Him in various ways. 
      Allah has separated man from his other creation by giving him the ability to reason. With this reasoning, if man is left alone with no external coercion he will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that he didn’t create anything, not even himself, so there has to be a greater force, a Creator that has created everything. The Qur’an gives a great example of man’s inner and external search for him through the story of Prophet Abraham (p.b.u.h). Allah says, “ So also did We show Abraham the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth, that he might (with understanding) have certitude. When the night covered him over, He saw a star: He said: "This is my Lord." But when it set, He said: "I love not those that set." When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said: "This is my Lord." But when the moonset, He said: "unless my Lord guide me, I shall surely be among those who go astray." When he saw the sun rising in splendor, he said: "This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all)." But when the sunset, he said: "O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah. (6:75-79). In this story we see Prophet Abraham watching the heavens and observing the signs of Allah in nature (the stars, moon and sun). While he is using his physical faculties, he sees the stars, moon and sunrise and set. He when he saw each of them rise he concluded that they must be his Lord, but when they set his internal faculties deduced that these things were created and that the creator of these things must be worshipped. He must be his Lord. Hence Abraham declared “Verily I have turned my face wholly unto Him Who originated the heavens and the earth, being upright, and I am not of the associators.” (6:79) From Ibrahim (as) we find where man has found the right path through his intellect, and also by means of his physical faculties.
         Some people never come to that realization. One group of people that used their physical faculties, were actually deceived by the signs of Allah when He bestowed his blessings on them like power, riches, sons and status. Pharaoh and the people of Pharaoh fit this description. There are many references to the story of Pharaoh and Prophet Moses (p.b.u.h) in the Qur’an for this purpose I will use what Allah says,” Then after them We sent Moses with Our signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them: So see what was the end of those who made mischief. Moses said: "O Pharaoh! I am a messenger from the Lord of the worlds, - One for whom it is right to say nothing but truth about Allah. Now have I come unto you (people), from your Lord, with a clear (Sign): So let the Children of Israel depart along with me." (Pharaoh) said: "If indeed thou hast come with a Sign, show it forth, - if thou tellest the truth." Then (Moses) threw his rod, and behold! It was a serpent, plain (for all to see)! And he drew out his hand, and behold! It was white to all beholders! Said the Chiefs of the people of Pharaoh: "This is indeed a sorcerer well-versed. "His plan is to get you out of your land: then what is it ye counsel?" They said: "Keep him and his brother in suspense (for a while); and send to the cities men to collect- and bring up to thee all (our) sorcerers well-versed." So there came the sorcerers to Pharaoh: They said, "of course we shall have a (suitable) reward if we win!" He said: "Yea, (and more), - for ye shall in that case be (raised to posts) nearest (to my person)." They said: "O Moses! Wilt thou throw (first), or shall we have the (first) throw?" Said Moses: "Throw ye (first)." So when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror into them: for they showed a great (feat of) magic. We put it into Moses’ mind by inspiration: "Throw (now) thy rod”: and behold! It swallows up straight away all the falsehoods, which they fake! Thus truth was confirmed, and all that they did was made of no effect. So the (great ones) were vanquished there and then, and were made to look small. But the sorcerers fell down prostrate in adoration. Saying: "We believe in the Lord of the Worlds, - "The Lord of Moses and Aaron." Said Pharaoh: "Believe ye in Him before I give you permission? Surely this is a trick, which ye have planned in the city to drive out its people: but soon shall ye know (the consequences). "Be sure I will cut off your hands and your feet on apposite sides, and I will cause you all to die on the cross." They said: "For us, We are but sent back unto our Lord: "But thou dost wreak thy vengeance on us simply because we believed in the Signs of our Lord when they reached us! Our Lord! Pour out on us patience and constancy, and take our souls unto thee as Muslims (who bow to thy will)! (HQ 7:103-126) Here we find Allah sending Pharaoh one of his signs (Moses p.b.u.h) with clear evidence. Pharaoh, taking himself to be god was full of arrogance because of what Allah had given to him (power, wealth, sons). Pharaoh’s intellect (inner faculties) was astray because of his physical perceptions concerning the blessing Allah gave him. Allah gave Moses (p.b.u.h) signs to warn Pharaoh of his waywardness and to return him to the path. When Pharaoh saw the physical power of Allah through His signs, Pharaoh resisted and was destroyed. When Pharaoh was drowning he finally acknowledge Allah, and said, “There is no god but the God of Moses (p.b.u.h).” (HQ 10:90). Here we find Allah giving man the opportunity to use his external and internal tools to acknowledge Him by his signs, but man not recognizing his own limitations failed to see Allah’s signs. He failed to see that Allah is not limited and it was Allah that  gave man everything he had. May Allah keep us far away from the arrogance of  Pharaoh, and may he also remove the veils from our sight so that we acknowledge Him internal and externally. 
       Allah has designed man to call out to Him in his time of need. At that time he realizes that he has no power. He sees his limitations and has no choice but to call on Allah.. At this time his faculties, internal and external, turn to the Primary Cause for help. Unfortunately after  man is delivered from his calamity many of them fall right back into disbelief. The man that doesn’t fall back into disbelief is that man that has used his faculties to bring him to the light of reason. His veils are removed and he has truly come to know his Lord.

Lesson four: An answer to an important question

        God, the eternal, there is no god but he, he, who has no partners or associates. He begets not nor was He begotten, and there is none like Him. This by all accounts can be viewed as surah Ikhlas in the Qur’an, but it is actually the concept of   Umvelinqangi, pronounced as Walla hu gani held by the South African Zulu tribe. This was their concept of Allah before any European made his way to their land. The Zulu’s are an ancient tribe that was isolated from outside influences and were able to arrive at this concept. We can say that this idea was miraculous, but Allah says in the Qur’an “ And indeed raised We in every nation an apostle (of Ours preaching) that “Worship ye God (only), and shun ye (the worship of every kind of) idol,” so of them were some whom God guided, and of them were others on whom error was confirmed; Therefore travel ye in the earth, then see what hath been the end of the beliers.”(16:36) Allah tells us here that every nation had an apostle sent to them, from among their own people. We have seen a reference from the Qur’an that when Allah created Adam (as) guidance from Allah was present. The Zulu’s aren’t the only ancient people that had this idea, the proof of that comes from the above verse where Allah says “travel the earth and see what happened to the beliers.”   
         There are some that say that we get our religious beliefs from customs. However customs vary from people to people. The belief that there is a Higher Being can be seen in every people at every place and time. Customs have come to overshadow the belief in the Higher Being, but this Higher Being (Allah) gave guidance to every people. So the custom of Allah giving guidance is actually the most common custom. Allah testifies to this when He says “Verily We sent thee with truth, as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner: and there is not a people but a warner hath gone among them.” (HQ35: 24) This shows that every people had been warned but they didn’t heed the warning. They forgot the revelation, changed it or disregarded it.  This caused some people take their other traditions and even nature as being their gods (idols). Allah has given man an innate desire to know Him so that burning turns us back to Him.  
Psychologists say, “that the human spirit or soul has four senses”: Sense of knowledge, sense of goodness, sense of beauty, and sense of belief. The sense of worship is rooted deep in our in our spirits. Allah created us this way. None of these senses can be separated from us or from each other. These senses are called fitrat (divinely- created nature) in Islam. This nature allows us to know that love for Allah has always existed and will continue to exist. And faith in Allah is an eternal flame that warms our heart and spirit. In order for us to be successful we have to be aware of this nature and nurture it.

Lesson five: A True story

        Imam Ali (p.b.u.h) has said, “Praise be to Allah who wore (the dress of) honor and pride and has chosen them both for Himself giving not to his creatures.” He the Imam continues, “And Allah, The Exalted, has cursed those of his servants who attempt to quarrel with Him over this quality (honor and pride)”. 
       From the above we see that only Allah has the right to be proud. Al- Mutakabbir is one of the attributes of Allah. This attribute describes how Allah is the One that possesses all greatness, Who is above having any of the qualities of His creatures, Who is above being harmed by the oppressors among His creation, Whose greatness and pride are the super-most. This shows that Allah is the only One that deserves the attributes of greatness, perfection, pride, and glory, all at the same time. Who is greater than Allah? And whom does Allah submit to? The answer to both questions is no one. Thus Allah has said, “Surely evil is the dwelling place of those who are proud.” (HQ16: 59).  We find that, the first being to be filled with pride was the Iblis, the shaytan, he was ordered by Allah to bow down to Adam (as) but he was full of pride and Allah cursed him until the day of judgment. (HQ15: 29-33). By us being filled with pride we follow the example of shaytan, the rejected, and that leads straight to the hell fire. What an evil abode it is.     
      We see that as men we can’t do anything. Those that came before us were punished because they tried to adorn the cloak of Allah (pride). There are many ways for us to show pride, here are a few; we show pride by not obeying Allah, not giving full measure, not supplicating to Allah etc. Pride is a disease of the heart. The cure for it is to submit to Allah, realize everything was created by Him, thus everything belongs to Him, and that we are only here to worship Him.

Lesson Six: The second way of coming to know Allah

        Looking at the world we live in, we realize that this world is not in chaos and disorder. On the contrary, we see that this world follows specific laws and follows them without any deviation. Nothing happens haphazardly, it happens for a reason.
       The earth is made primarily of water. Approximately 75% of the earth’s surface is water. This no coincidence, every living thing is made from water and is dependent on it for it’s survival. Without this essential element the earth could not support life. With water we grow our crops, give water to our cattle, and hydrate ourselves. It is no wonder why Allah has given us such an abundance of water. We get it from rain, dew, streams, and oceans. In this we see that this world had to be planned by a Master Planner, that knows the needs of the creatures here on earth. 
       We also see that all creatures have special qualities that allow them to survive. The animals that live in nature have furs and hairs that allow them to deal with cold and heat. In the winter they grow longer and fuller coats and in the summer they shed there winter coats so that they will be cool. This had to be planned because of how this happens all the time without fail. This is evidence of the laws of nature that all creation follows. 
       Men have been on the face of this earth for eons and have made tremendous strides in the field of science. Man has been a great imitator. All of his systems are based on nature. Man makes airplanes and the concepts of flight come directly from birds. He builds irrigation systems to simulate rain. Man looks at these systems occurring in nature and has to say once again that this system didn’t happen by chance. It had to have been made by a Master Builder. 
     The probability of an uneducated man going into a computer plant to reconfigure the programs of that system is slim to none. No matter how long he stares at this computer he will never be able to figure it out. There are some geniuses that are capable of doing extraordinary things, but the complexity of a computer system even confounds its makers. There are millions of actions that take place while operating a computer. The computer gathers data, displays that data, saves, deletes, and controls functions of other computers hundreds of miles away. In this world man is that uneducated     
guy sitting there looking at the huge computer system. Even the brilliant among us can’t begin to imagine what it will take to run this universe. How can a man regulate all the births that occur in plants and animals, how can he regulate temperatures all over the world? How can he not see that it is Allah the Master Planner, and Master Builder, that is in control. He is The Lord, Cherisher, Sustainer, and Evolver of all the worlds. (HQ1:2). 
      Here we can see that if man were to sit back and ponder the order in nature he will find his Lord. Allah has said “Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding,- Men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth, (With the thought): "Our Lord! not for naught Hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire. (HQ3: 190. -191) These verses show that if man would ponder these signs in nature we will see that The All-Mighty creator made this system and we will be successful if we praised and worship Him. We can also see that this system was not created for nothing, but for a purpose. All praises belong to Allah. 
Lesson seven: Examples from creation. 
   With the advancement of technology the world is as they say a “smaller place”. We are able to see now what was revealed in the Qur’an fourteen hundred years ago because of this newfound technology. The more we learn about this system the more we see the oneness of Allah. Maybe with more advancement we will be able to prove more of the Qur’an. 
       The human body is truly a work of art, Allah says ”We have created man in the best  structure”. (HQ95: 4)  This ayat from the Qur’an shows that there was a creator that created us, but in the previous section it was said that technology helped to prove the oneness of Allah. When we see man as an adult it is hard to imagine his humble beginnings, what we see is the end result. A man with two eyes to see, a nose to smell, a mouth to taste, skin to feel and a host of systems that make the machine (man) function. Science and technology has taught us that the most complicated thing on earth is man. We all have different talents, shapes, colors and languages yet we all begin the same way. In this we see that we all breathe, eat and drink to survive. That shows we all have the one creator. Allah says, “Was he not a drop of sperm emitted (in lowly form)? Then did he become a leech-like clot; then did (Allah) make and fashion (him) in due proportion.”
(HQ 75:37-38). When man was fashioned, Allah gave him a respiratory, digestive, and neurological system that is self regulated. Again these aren’t things that man asked for but if he didn’t have them he couldn’t survive. 
      Here we will take the time to discuss one of the systems that makes man unique from other creatures, that is mans digestive system. Allah has given some animals the ability to only digest herbage, while in others meats. Man can digest both herbage and meats. Man needs nutrients from both to survive. To discuss the entire process here will be lengthy, but in brief digestion starts with saliva in the mouth, digestive enzymes in the stomach, and the distribution of nutrients from the large intestine. After then the body excretes the waste products that will harm the body. This is present not only in man but also through out all creation. The oneness of Allah is seen hereby technology because only with recent technological advances has this information become available. Allah has made these signs available to us fourteen hundred years ago. 
Lesson eight: A world of wonder in a small bird. 
    In this lesson, we want to leave aside the large country of our body, which we have briefly touched upon and turn to a look at the wonder of other creatures. 
    We look at the sky at certain times and we see large groups of birds flying together in well-organized groups. These are called migratory birds and they fly thousands of miles annually to mate. These birds mate at there places of birth. These birds have no maps, compasses or north star system used in cars to guide them to their destination. How are they able to navigate these great distances without the guidance systems we have? 
    Science now says, that these birds have a natural compass that guides them over these great distances. These birds make these migrations annually. Who taught them how to fly? Allah says,” Do they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in? None can uphold them except (Allah) Most Gracious: Truly (Allah) Most Gracious: Truly it is He that watches over all things.” (HQ67: 67). Who tells them when it is time to make their migrations? Again science has said that birds have a natural instinct that allows these birds to know when to take flight. Allah says, "I put my trust in Allah, My Lord and your Lord! There is not a moving creature, but He hath grasp of its forelock. Verily, it is my Lord that is on a straight Path.” (HQ11: 56). In the commentary of this verse Abdullah Yusef Ali says, “this verse shows that Allah has full control over every creature.” This shows that what science is referring to, as nature is only Allah. More evidence can be seen of this when we find baby birds that have been hurt and are unable to keep up with the flock. Humans have nursed these birds to health and when it is time to make the migration they make that migration without any help. And they find their way back to their birthplaces. These phenomena can only be present if a Wise Creator were present to cause this wonderment. 
Lesson nine: Love for insects and flowers.  
     Generally when we think of insects and flowers we either say of the flowers that they are beautiful or they cause allergies, and of insects that they are nuisances. All of these statements are true in their proper contexts.  
      Flowers and plants are beautiful; they have many different colors, shapes and scents. Along with being beautiful they provide oxygen and can be used as a food source for us humans. In them we also find some that have medicinal properties that helps heal people. Flowers and plants have a very big problem that has been solved by our Creator. The problem is that, science has found in the plant kingdom that there are both male and female plants, Allah also attests to this when he says” Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge. Because plants don’t walk like animals they need help in the area of reproduction. This is where the nuisances come in, (the insects). We have come to find that pollen that fertilizes the female plants get to them primarily by insects traveling from one plant to the other. 
  There is no wonder why plants and insects burst upon the scene at the same time.  They are dependant on one another for their survival. Along with plants being beautiful some cause allergic reactions in people. Science now tells us that if people are allergic to say an individual flower if they eat the honey of bees that have eaten primarily from that flower they will build up a natural defense towards that allergy. Allah says of the bee, “And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men's) habitations; Then to eat of all the produce (of the earth), and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors, wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought. (HQ 16:68-69). Truly this gift from Allah is also a mercy from Him, and a testament that he knows his creation. He knew that some people would be allergic to flowers and has given them the perfect natural remedy. Glory be to Allah the Knower, the Merciful. 
Lesson ten: In the world of infinitely small things.     
      Allah has said, “When Prophet Solomon (p.b.u.h) with his large army of men, jinn, spirits and animals entered a valley where several thousand ants were carrying on with their daily routine on the surface of the earth, they at once decided to enter into their holes inside the earth so that they might not be inadvertently crushed by the hosts of Sulayman.” (HQ 27:18) Allah has also said, “There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end.”(HQ6: 38). From these Qur’anic verses the ants and other living beings are said to live in communities like us and also they have the ability to communicate with each other. We as humans are sometimes oblivious to these facts.
       Science shows that the ant has a lifestyle very similar to ours. Ant society is very complicated, and organized. They have a Queen that they all answer to, nurseries, factories, armies, silos for grain and scouts. People have devoted many years to the study of ant society to bring us this information. The ant if his grains are wet brings them out to dry. If the grain begins to bud he removes the buds, this keeps the grain soft and from taking root. At the sign of danger the scout ant gets word back to the mound to have the mound protected. If the scout ant finds food he leaves a chemical trail that the other ants can follow to get to the food and they will never get lost. There are questions that keep recurring here, who taught the ant what it knows? The answer is always the same, Allah.
   The smallest building block of creation recognized is the atom. Everything is made of atoms. Some atoms are very stable on their own and others are very unstable. Some atoms need to combine with others to become stabilized. The periodic table gives us a list of elements and it gives the atomic make up of all of them. Up until recently men thought that there was nothing smaller than the atom but science introduced us to protons and neutrons. Science has also shown how atoms can be split. The splitting of atoms have great benefit and great detriment.
       We know how devastating the atomic bombs were to Japan in WWII, it is well documented the destruction it caused to that island. However today that same technology that was used for destruction is now used for energy. In many countries it is the chief source of energy. In many ways the atom or the splitting of the atom can be seen in the same light as iron. That may seem strange, but Allah says, “We sent aforetime our messengers with Clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance (of Right and Wrong), that men may stand forth in justice; and We sent down Iron, in which is (material for) mighty war, as well as many benefits for mankind, that Allah may test who it is that will help, Unseen, Him and His messengers: For Allah is Full of Strength, Exalted in Might (and able to enforce His Will).” (HQ 57: 25). From this verse Allah lets us know that in iron we can get destruction or benefits. We also see in the smallest of things the atom we can either have destruction or benefit. Allah, there is no god, but he knew what man could do with possessing atomic knowledge. He knew the power of it because we see it manifested everyday in the sun and stars that he created. Nothing was created for naught, Allah is not blind nature he is the Knower.
Appendix to lesson ten: How splendid are Allah’s Qualities! 
       Know that to the same extent that realizing the existence of Allah through studying the secrets of the created world is easy, learning of His Qualities is difficult and requires a great deal of care and caution.
      This is because Allah can never be compared to anything. Allah in his infinite wisdom assures that when he says, “He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him.” (HQ112: 3-4). Ayatollah Pooya in his commentary on this verse states, “Anthropomorphism, the tendency to conceive God in the terms known to man, creeps in at all times and among all peoples. Nothing or no being can be separated from the infinite Supreme Being nor was there anything or being from which He was separated. So neither He begets nor was He begotten. Therefore there cannot be any being like to Him.” So in a nutshell anything we imagine to be Allah is not Allah. So how do we know our Maker? We know him by his qualities.
     Allah has Qualities both negative and positive and they’re both infinite. Infinite Qualities of any imagined perfection and negation of all imagined imperfections he doesn’t have.
The most well known Qualities of Allah are:
    1. Allah is the “Knower”(‘Alim): He knows all things.
    2. Allah is Powerful (Qadir): He has ability over all things.
    3. Allah is the Living because something which is living has wisdom, power and because Allah is Wise and Powerful, thus he is Living
    4. Allah is the Willer (Mur’id) that is He has a Will power and he is not obliged in His work and whatever He does, has a goal and wisdom and even the smallest thing in the universe does not lack a philosophy and a goal.
    5. Allah is Perceiving (Mudrek), that is, He understands and perceives all things; He sees everything; He hears all things and He is aware of all things.
    6. Allah is Primordial and Eternal (Qadim and Azali), that is, He always was and His existence has no beginning because He always boils from His inner Essence and because of this, He is primordial and eternal because a person whose being is from he himself has no non-existence or annihilation.
    7. Allah is the Speaker (Mutakalim), that is, He can create waves in the atmosphere and speak to His Prophet, not that Allah has a tongue or lips or a larynx.
    8. Allah is Truthful (Sadiq), that is, whatever He says is the Truth and is equivalent to reality because lying comes from ignorance or from weakness and a lack of  power and it is impossible for Allah Who is Knowing and Powerful, to lie
    The Most well known negation of Qualities of Allah are:
    1. He is not a composite. That is, He does not have mixed elements because in this case, He would be in need of other elements, whereas, He is in need of nothing.
    2. Allah is not a body because every body is limited, unstable and accepts annihilation.
    3. Allah is not visible. That is, He cannot be seen because if He could be seen, He would be a body, limited and accepting annihilation.
    4. Allah has no place because He is not a body to require a place.
    5. Allah has no partner because if He had a partner, He would have to be a limited creature because two non-limited, from every point of view, is not possible and in addition, the unity of law of this world shows His Oneness.
    6. His Qualities are exactly like His Essence.
    7. Allah is Needless and Self –sufficient. He is rich and containing everything because an endless being from the point of view of knowledge, power and all things had no deficiencies.
           Allah says again, “There is nothing like unto Him.”