Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Beauty of Islam

Dr. Jamali Sarfraz has a full page interview on Islam in Jersey in the Jersey Evening Post. "Extremists are not part of my beautiful religion". And Bailiwick Express also reports on him.

“Although we are a small community here in Jersey we stand side by side along with the wider Jersey community and we show our solidarity and support for the people of Paris, and our prayers and thoughts are with them,” he said. “I condemn these horrific, tragic and abhorrent attacks. “These terrorists – they call themselves ‘Islamic State’ or Muslims, but there is nothing Islamic about their actions at all.”

I am not a Muslim, and some of the verses in the Koran seem to condone or recommend violence. That is something that Gavin Ashenden never ceases to comment on. But he conveniently forgets verses in his own Bible, such as these from Psalm 137:

O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you
With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock.

A blessing on someone who kills babies? I think Gavin Ashenden would protest that we have to look at what is important, and while those verses tell us about the hatred inculcated in the Jewish people when they were taken into exile in Babylon, they are not to be taken as a guide for life. They do not form part of the “big picture” of Christianity, or even Judaism. We have to read verses in context.

So why on earth can’t he manage to do that with Islam?

There are issues I have with Islam – how those who leave the faith get treated, how women are segregated in worship, but there are issues I have with Christianity about similar matters. Christianity is in the West, usually better at the treatment of what can be called “apostasy”, but that has taken hundreds of years, and there are still Christian fundamentalists groups who cut off the apostate from ties of family.

Christians still have immense trouble with gays and transgender people, even on Jersey – Dr Ashenden can be taken as a prime example as someone who regards being gay as a curable disorder. Christians often treat women as second class within the faith community, as the recent wrangling over Women Bishops shows. Again, Dr Ashenden does not accept that women priests are genuine.

On a personal note, I have had to look at my own prejudices over the years, including prejudices I had in the past against Islam and women priests. I'm sure I still have many. But a degree of introspection can be helpful. One of the things that I learnt from Annie Parmeter, from her work in counselling, was how she said that our own prejudices can become fixed patterns, that when prompted, almost without thinking, we come out with them; in a way they control us. Seeing the same, almost predictable reactions about any good news regarding Islam, I can't help but think she was right, and at times like that, I miss her wise counsel most.

But let us return to the interview.

One of the things that struck me most with the interview with Dr Sarfraz was the phrase “my beautiful religion”. I had never thought of Islam in that way – the idea of “beauty”.

So I decided for today, to select some quotations which I think demonstrate the beauty of Islam.

At its best, I think Islam, like Christianity, speaks to the human condition. It is a mirror, reflecting who we are, showing us who we are, but also who we could be.

If you have no failings of your own that you perceive, you must be a rare individual. And if you have failings, like me, it is good to be reminded of truths that point us gently, like signposts, towards better directions to travel. We may not all travel in the same way, but we all need directions.

The Beauty of Islam

‎"We as Muslims are meant to heal others, not to hurt as some others who call themselves Muslims do. Islam is a hospital for the sick at heart and those with a troubled mind. And the chief doctor is the Beloved of Allah, our Master Muhammad al-Moustafa, the Holy Qur'an is the pharmacy, and the words and actions of the Prophet are prescriptions of remedies, assured to cure." - Imam Birgivi

The strong person is not the good wrestler. Rather, the strong person is the one who controls himself when he is angry.
(Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 73, #135)”

“I challenge anyone to understand Islam, its spirit, and not to love it. It is a beautiful religion of brotherhood and devotion.”
― Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Smiling in your brother’s face is an act of charity.
So is enjoining good and forbidding evil,
giving directions to the lost traveller,
aiding the blind and
removing obstacles from the path.

(Graded authentic by Ibn Hajar and al-Albani: Hidaayat-ur-Ruwaah, 2/293)”

Declare your jihad on thirteen enemies you cannot see -egoism, arrogance, conceit, selfishness, greed, lust, intolerance, anger, lying, cheating, gossiping and slandering. If you can master and destroy them, then you will be read to fight the enemy you can see.”
― أبو حامد الغزالي

A seeker went to ask a sage for guidance on the Sufi way.
The sage counselled,
"if you have never trodden the path of love, go away and fall in love;
then come back and see us."
Jami (Essential Sufism)

The poet Hafiz wrote
"The sun never says to the earth,
'You owe me.'
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights up the whole sky."

"I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God".

If words come out of the heart, they will enter the heart, but if they come from the tongue, they will not pass beyond the ears.
Al-Suhrawardi (Essential Sufism)

Justice, mercy, wisdom, righteousness and common good are the basics of Islam. Whatever gets out of justice to injustice is not from Islam. Whatever gets out of mercy to violence is not from Islam. Whatever deviates from common good to harm is not from Islam, and whatever dissents from wisdom to imprudence is not from Islam.
-- Imam Ibnul-Qayyem

"True knowledge can only be acquired through humility. The path towards this knowledge is like a person's wanting to drink from a stream, he has to lower himself to be able to drink. Water seeks the lowest level, thus we have to imitate water" (Sidi Hamza al qadri al boutshish)

The heart, in its journey to Allah, Majestic is He, is like that of a bird; Love is its head, and fear and hope are its two wings. When the head and two wings are sound, the bird flies gracefully; if the head is severed, the bird dies; if the bird loses one of its wings, it then becomes a target for every hunter or predator.
- Ibn al-Qayyim

No mirror ever became iron again; No bread ever became wheat; No ripened grape ever became sour fruit. Mature yourself and be secure from a change for the worse. Become the light — Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

The World is three days: As for yesterday, it has vanished, along with all that was in it. As for tomorrow, you may never see it. As for today, it is yours, so work in it. - Hasan al-Basri

1 comment:

James said...

And add another dimension too: Islam at its best was and is responsible for things of great aesthetic beauty as well. In a world run by accountants, this truly is important, because it speaks of a value beyond money.