Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Riaz Haq's Ramadan Sermon

Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. Al-Quran 13:11

Muslims around the world have welcomed the holy month of Ramadan once again this year. Mosques and the Muslim mass media are resonating with the usual exhortations to fasting and extra prayers to earn maximum reward during the most blessed month of the Islamic calendar.


As I hear these exhortations, I am thinking in my own mind as to what would be a perfect sermon that would be most relevant to contemporaneous Muslims, particularly Muslims in Pakistan today. It is unlikely that I would be asked to deliver a khutba this month. However, if I were asked, here's what I would say:


My Dear Muslim Brothers and Sisters:

Assalam-o-Alaikum.

I begin in the name of Allah, the most beneficent and the most merciful.

"Ramadan is the (month) in which the Quran was sent down, as a guide to mankind and a clear guidance and judgment (so that mankind will distinguish from right and wrong).." (Quran 2:183)

Clearly, the Holy Quran is our guide to living our lives as Muslims. It is about praying, fasting and giving to the poor. However, it's clearly not just about Huqooq ul Allah. It's as much about Huqooq ul Ibad as it is about Huqooq ul Allah.

What does respect for Huqooq ul Ibad mean in Pakistan's context?

1. Respect Human Life:

First, the respect for Huqooq ul Ibad means that we should respect the needs and the rights of our fellow human beings. Not just Muslims. But all humankind. The Quran  (13:117) says "And We have sent you not but as a mercy for the 'Alameen" (all creation)". Our Prophet Muhammad  (PBUH) came to us as "Rehmat ul lil Alameen", not just Rehmat ul lil Muslimeen. The first among these rights is the right to life. We must not accept or condone the taking of innocent human life under any circumstances. We must not sympathize with groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban who proudly take "credit" for killing innocent people.

2. Do Not Steal:

Second, the respect for Huqooq ul Ibad means that we must not steal, and yes, that includes stealing electricity. We must not "fix" our meters to avoid paying fully and honestly for what we owe to the electric company or any other utility companies.

Bribe in Ramadan

Please take seriously the ads such as the following from Peshawar Electric Supply Company: "Do your fasting, pay zakat (charitable donations) and serve your parents, but do these things by the light of legal electricity."

3. Earn an Honest Living:

Third, the respect for Huqooq ul Ibad means earning an honest living. We must not use fasting as an excuse for not doing an honest day's work for our employers. Breaking your fast with food or beverages that have not been honestly earned will void your fasting and prayers.

4. Don't Harshly Judge Others, Particularly People of Other Faiths:

Prophet Muhammad sought counsel with Christian monk Waraqa ibn Nawfal and protection for 90 of his persecuted followers by appealing to Negus, the Christian King of Abyssinia.

Will non-Muslims who do good be excluded from paradise? The answer is NO. Here's Chapter 2 Verse 62 of the Holy Quran:




Translation:  "Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve"
My dear brothers and sisters in Islam:

We often lament the decline of the Muslim world in the last few centuries. We vociferously complain about corruption and violence in our countries. We often pray to Allah SWT to make things better for us. But we  must heed Allah's words in the Holy Quran: Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.  This Ramadan will be another wasted opportunity if we don't begin to act to make things better for ourselves. As Allah SWT says in the Holy Quran (13:11):

Surah Ar-Ra'ad in Al-Quran 13:11

Translation: For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah . Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron.

Here's how Allama Iqbal captured the spirit of this Quranic ayah in the following Urdu couplet:

Khuda nay Aaj tak us qaum ki halat nahi bedli
No ho jis ko khyaal aap apni halat kay badalnay ka

Here's a video discussion on Huqooq ul Ibad in Islam:


Respecting Rights in Ramadan; Abbottabad Commission Report; BBC Documentary on Altaf Hussain from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Is Ramadan an Excuse to not Work? 

Huqooq ul Ibad--Respecting Rights of Fellow Humans

Appeal to Stop Power Theft in Ramadan

Ramadan Commercialization By Mass Media

Misaq e Madia ad Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

The Prophet I Know


14 comments:

Ali T. said...

Thanks for sharing. Even though people generally read and nod their heads in affirmative but they go on with their lives as ususal and forget about what they just read. If just a few read and follow, that will be a big thing. If 1% of the audience in Friday prayers walk out of the masjid and retain and impliment the lessons given in the khutba every week, our societies would have been a lot cleaner than what we see or hear today. Unfortunately, People just complete the formalities and jestures and feel like their fraiz are done. May Allah give all of us toufeeq to follow the spirit of worship.

Riaz Haq said...

Ali T:" Even though people generally read and nod their heads in affirmative but they go on with their lives as ususal and forget about what they just read"

My argument is different. I think the khutbas at masajid are not relevant to the issues of the day...Please read my full blog post to get the crux of it...

Imran Q. said...

People come to Jummah and listen to the Khutba with a mindless attitude. The first perspective is the person delivering the Khutba has no status, so why listen. Second, none of this is relevant to the current affairs or day to day stuff. Third, people are so overwhelmed with day-to-day stuff, they really don't pay attention, they are thinking of the next meeting, what problems to solve, which dinner to attend... The problem is on both sides, first Khutbas need to be relevant, just one or two points need to be addressed, should not be more than 10-15 minutes, they need to be informative, something about call to action etc. Similarly, on the people's side, people should have the ability to interact with the Imam later on with what has been said.

Steve G. said...

Those are very beautiful words. Thank you. I am a Roman Catholic and see so many philosophical similarities.

I once read that there are three levels in religion. At level #1 people do not do bad things because they fear punishment. At level #2 people do good things so that they can get rewards. At level #3 people do not think about rewards, they just do what is right.

Many years ago I started to wonder whether God is bored by us in churches where we are toadying endlessly and asking for more money, a new house, a better job, a second car, and so on. Perhaps He is outside of the churches, lurking in the shadows observing whether we give a few rupees or dollars to a beggar or just walk by quickly.

Best wishes and Ramadan Mubarak,

Feisal M. said...

Well said! So true and apropos!

Amjad said...

Well said, Riaz -- ameen.

For a few years now, I've been fantasizing that the mullah's should be advised (ordered?) to include 3 points in the weekly Friday khutba: (1). always speak the truth (2). be clean in person and in your environment (3). do not bribe, for any favors.

I don't think anyone has taken it seriously:))

Mike Z. said...

Outstanding.

Anonymous said...

Dude Riaz I agree with u..
. But why should I pay electricity bills when people in Karachi or in Bannu and Waziristan shamelessly refuse to do so and the government sits there helplessly... Why should I pay taxes when the government is going to waste away half of it in corruption.... I am son of an army officer and know how shamelessly these army officers, politicians and civil servants in Pakistan indulge in corruption.... I hope u understand what I am saying..... But the good thing is people of Pakistan have finally realized that they must change for good otherwise a disaster awaits them

Riaz Haq said...

In the first batch of ratings for the month of Ramadan from Pakistan, ARY Digital has been crowned the clear leader.
According to Medialogic data for Females CnS (calculated 15 minute time-bands), ARY Digital grabbed 1285 GRPs in the first ten days of Ramadan.
Express Entertainment boasted of 1230 GRPs, while Hum TV was a distant third with 559 GRPs.
In further good news for ARY Digital, its gameshow ‘Jeeto Pakistan’ raked in 8.62 TRPs between 19:30 and 22:00 on Wednesday 9th July. During the same period, Express Entertainment was second with 5.18 TRPs, A Plus in third with 2.13 TRPs and Urdu 1 in fourth with 1.43 TRPs. In the UK, ‘Jeeto Pakistan’ is aired at 20:30 on ARY Digital.

- See more at: http://www.media247.co.uk/bizasia/pakistan-ratings-ary-digital-leads-during-ramadan-2014

Riaz Haq said...

Prophet Muhammad sought counsel with Christian monk Waraqa ibn Nawfal & protection for 90 of his persecuted followers by appealing to Negus, the Christian King of Abyssinia.

Will non-Muslims who do good be excluded from paradise? The answer is NO. Here's Chapter 2 Verse 62 of the Holy Quran:

"Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve"

Riaz Haq said...

#Islamic scripture is not the problem, #US should not fund dissident #Muslims like Ayan Hirsi Ali. #Islamophobia http://brook.gs/1BsSS53

Some Muslims have cited Scripture to justify violence, and some have cited it to justify peace. If Scripture is a constant but the behavior of its followers is not, then one should look elsewhere to explain why some Muslims engage in terrorism. And if Islamic Scripture doesn’t automatically lead to terrorism, then one should not expect the reform of Islam to end terrorism. Indeed, even the ultratextualist followers of the self-proclaimed Islamic State ignore Scripture that is inconvenient for their brutal brand of insurgency.

Consider the Gospels, Scriptures that advocate far less violence than the Koran or the Hebrew Bible. Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek. Yet the crusaders murdered thousands in their rampage across the Middle East, and U.S. President George W. Bush, a devout Christian, invaded Iraq without military provocation. Readers may object to these examples, arguing that other factors were at play—but that is exactly the point: Christian Scripture doesn’t always determine the behavior of its followers, and the same goes for Islamic Scripture.

REFORM, MEET REALITY

The faulty causal chain is the biggest flaw in Hirsi Ali’s essay, but there are others. Even assuming that the liberal reform of Islam would help reduce terrorism—and indeed, few outsiders would complain if the majority of Muslims decided that some of the harsher passages of their Scriptures weren’t relevant to modern life—the picture Hirsi Ali paints of lonely Muslim dissidents trying to start an Islamic reformation is not accurate. A liberal reformation of Islam has been ongoing for two centuries; the problem is that it has faced some stiff competition.

As with the Protestant Reformation, there is a conservative reform movement in Islam today that competes with the liberal reformers. Foremost among the conservatives are the ultraconservative Salafists—Islam’s Puritans. They want to scrape off all the foreign accretions, such as Greek philosophy, that have attached themselves to Islam over the centuries and go back to a supposedly pure version of the faith. One big reason the conservative reformers have won the day so far is that some governments, especially the wealthy states of the Persian Gulf, have sponsored the ultraconservatives. Because rich Muslim governments have put their thumbs on the conservative side of the scale, Hirsi Ali wants the United States and other Western countries to do the same on the liberal side.

There are many problems with this approach. For one thing, the United States has laws against promoting one set of religious beliefs over another. Before 9/11, the U.S. government refused to fund programs that gave preference to one sect over others or a more tolerant version of a faith over a less tolerant form, although there was some wiggle room for secular programs, such as science education, overseen by religious institutions. Better, officials argued, to promote human rights and freedoms without the trappings of religion. But after the attacks, the U.S. government began to make a few exceptions to this long-standing tradition by funding some Muslim institutions overseas to promote pluralistic versions of Islam. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development mission in Indonesia funded a group that put pluralistic messages in religious sermons delivered by women and sponsored a radio show about religion and tolerance. That’s not quite what Hirsi Ali wants—the programs didn’t repudiate parts of Islamic Scripture or seek to reform the religion wholesale—but it’s close.

http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/markaz/posts/2015/06/16-islamic-scripture-not-problem-mccants?cid=00900015020089101US0001-06191

Riaz Haq said...

Textual analysis reveals less violence, more forgiveness in #Quran than #Bible. #Islam #Christianity #Judaism
http://odintext.com/blog/text-analysis-quran-bible-3of3/


Those who have not read or are not fairly familiar with the content of all three texts may be surprised to learn that no, the Quran is not really more violent than its Judeo-Christian counterparts.

Personally, I’ll admit that I was a bit surprised that the concept of ‘Mercy’ was most prevalent in the Quran; I expected that the New Testament would rank highest there, as it did in the concept of ‘Love’.

Overall, the three texts rated similarly in terms of positive and negative sentiment, as well, but from an emotional read, the Quran and the New Testament also appear more similar to one another than either of them is to the significantly “angrier” Old Testament.

Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface here. A deep analysis of unstructured data of this complexity requires contextual knowledge, and, of course, some higher level judgment and interpretation.

That being said, I think this exercise demonstrates how advanced text analytics and data mining technology may be applied to answer questions or make inquiries objectively and consistently outside of the sphere of conventional business intelligence for which our clients rely on OdinText.

I hope you found this project as interesting as I did and I welcome your thoughts.


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For instance—and not surprisingly—“Jesus” is the most unique and frequently mentioned term in the New Testament, and when he is mentioned, he is mentioned positively (color coding represents sentiment).

“Jesus” is also mentioned a few times in the Quran, and, for obvious reasons, not mentioned at all in the Old Testament. But when “Jesus” is mentioned in the New Testament, terms that are more common in the Old Testament—such as “God” and “Lord”—often appear with his name; therefore the placement of “Jesus” on the map above, though definitely most closely associated with the New Testament, is still more closely related to the Old Testament than the Quran because these terms appear more often in the former.

Similarly, it may be surprising to some that “Israel” is mentioned more often in the Quran than the New Testament, and so the Quran and the Old Testament are more textually similar in this respect.


Old Testament is Most Violent

A look into the verbatim text suggests that the content in the Quran is not more violent than its Judeo-Christian counterparts. In fact, of the three texts, the content in the Old Testament appears to be the most violent.

Killing and destruction are referenced slightly more often in the New Testament than in the Quran (2.8% vs. 2.1%), but the Old Testament clearly leads—more than twice that of the Quran—in mentions of destruction and killing (5.3%).

New Testament Highest in ‘Love’, Quran Highest in ‘Mercy’

The concept of ‘Love’ is more often mentioned in the New Testament (3.0%) than either the Old Testament (1.9%) or the Quran (1.26%).

But the concept of ‘Forgiveness/Grace’ actually occurs more often in the Quran (6.3%) than the New Testament (2.9%) or the Old Testament (0.7%). This is partly because references to “Allah” in the Quran are frequently accompanied by “The Merciful.” Some might dismiss this as a tag or title, but we believe it’s meaningful because mercy was chosen above other attributes like “Almighty” that are arguably more closely associated with deities.

Riaz Haq said...

#Arctic #Ramadan: fasting in land of midnight sun comes with a challenge. #Canada
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/03/ramadan-canada-arctic-fasting-hours-sunlight


In Canada’s Arctic, summers are marked by a bright light that bathes the treeless tundra for more than 20 hours a day.

For some, it’s a welcome change from the unrelenting darkness of winter. But for the small but growing Muslim community of Iqaluit, Nunavut, life in the land of the midnight sun poses a singular challenge during the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims typically fast from sunrise to sunset.

“I haven’t fainted once,” said 29-year-old Abdul Karim, one of the few in the city who has fastidiously timed his Ramadan fast to the Arctic sun since moving from Ottawa in 2011. This year that means eating at about 1.30am before the sun rises and breaking his fast at about 11pm when the sun sets.

“The only reason to stop would be if it hurts my health,” Karim said. Pointing to his sizable frame, he laughed as he added: “But looking at my condition, I don’t think fasting will hurt me.”

As the end of Ramadan draws near for Muslims around the world, much of the holy month’s focus on community work, prayer and reflection has been a constant in communities around the world. But in Iqaluit and the other Muslim communities that dot the Arctic, the long days have forced a shift in how the element of fasting is approached.

Most in Iqaluit adhere to the timetable followed by Muslims in Ottawa, some 1,300 miles south of the city – a nod to the advice of Muslim scholars who have said Muslims in the far north should observe Ramadan using the timetable of Mecca or the nearest Muslim city.

It still means fasting for some 18 hours a day, said Atif Jilani, who moved to Iqaluit from Toronto a little over a year ago. “It’s long days, but more manageable.”

Many in the 100-strong community break their fast together, gathering in the city’s brand new mosque – completed in February amid temperatures that dropped as low as -50C with windchill – for nightly potluck suppers. As they tuck into traditional meals such as dates, and goat or lamb curries, the sun shines brightly through the windows.

It’s a scene that plays out across Canada’s northernmost mosques during Ramadan, as Muslim communities wrestle with the country’s unique geography.

The 300 or so Muslims in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, have several options when it comes to fasting during Ramadan, said Nazim Awan, president of the Yellowknife Islamic Centre, with exceptions made for those who are pregnant or ill.

“There might be some superhumans who want to fast for 23 hours, but the other option is to follow the intent and spirit of fasting by following nearby cities, or they can follow the times of Mecca and Medina.”

In recent years, much of the community has opted to follow the Ramadan timetable of Edmonton, in Alberta. Some, such as Awan – a father of two young kids, including a 12-year-old who recently started fasting – follow the timings of Mecca. He hopes to encourage his son with the more manageable timetable of about 15 hours of fasting as compared with about 18 hours in Edmonton. “If I fast Yellowknife or Edmonton times, my son might say, Papa, you are really insane, what are you doing?” he said.

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It’s particularly true for those like Karim who have determinedly followed the local sunrise and sunset. But his efforts will be rewarded years from now, said Karim, thanks to the lunar calendar. Ramadan will eventually fall during winter, which in Iqaluit sees the sun rise and set within a few hours each day. “I’ll follow those hours too,” he said with a laugh. “Oh yes, definitely.”

Riaz Haq said...

A Saudi Morals Enforcer Called for a More Liberal Islam. Then the Death Threats Began.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/11/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-islam-wahhabism-religious-police.html?_r=0#

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia — For most of his adult life, Ahmed Qassim al-Ghamdi worked among the bearded enforcers of Saudi Arabia. He was a dedicated employee of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice — known abroad as the religious police — serving with the front-line troops protecting the Islamic kingdom from Westernization, secularism and anything but the most conservative Islamic practices.

Some of that resembled ordinary police work: busting drug dealers and bootleggers in a country that bans alcohol. But the men of “the Commission,” as Saudis call it, spent most of their time maintaining the puritanical public norms that set Saudi Arabia apart not only from the West, but from most of the Muslim world.

A key offense was ikhtilat, or unauthorized mixing between men and women. The kingdom’s clerics warn that it could lead to fornication, adultery, broken homes, children born of unmarried couples and full-blown societal collapse.

For years, Mr. Ghamdi stuck with the program and was eventually put in charge of the Commission for the region of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Then he had a reckoning and began to question the rules. So he turned to the Quran and the stories of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions, considered the exemplars of Islamic conduct. What he found was striking and life altering: There had been plenty of mixing among the first generation of Muslims, and no one had seemed to mind.

So he spoke out. In articles and television appearances, he argued that much of what Saudis practiced as religion was in fact Arabian cultural practices that had been mixed up with their faith.

There was no need to close shops for prayer, he said, nor to bar women from driving, as Saudi Arabia does. At the time of the Prophet, women rode around on camels, which he said was far more provocative than veiled women piloting S.U.V.s.

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The Unexpected Reformer

The first time I met Mr. Ghamdi, 51, formerly of the religious police, was this year in a sitting room in his apartment in Jidda, the port city on the Red Sea. The room had been outfitted to look like a Bedouin tent. Burgundy fabric adorned the walls, gold tassels hung from the ceiling, and carpets covered the floor, to which Mr. Ghamdi pressed his forehead in prayer during breaks in our conversation.

He spoke of how the world of sheikhs, fatwas and the meticulous application of religion to everything had defined his life.

But that world — his world — had frozen him out.

Little in his background suggested that he would become a religious reformer. While at a university, he quit a job at the customs office in the Jidda port because a sheikh told him that collecting duties was haram.

After graduation, he studied religion in his spare time and handled international accounts for a government office — a job requiring travel to non-Muslim countries.

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Kaust followed the precedent of Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, which had also been shielded from clerical interference, highlighting one of the great contradictions of Saudi Arabia: Regardless of how much the royal family lauds its Islamic values, when it wants to earn money or innovate, it does not turn to the clerics for advice. It puts up a wall and locks them out.

Most clerics kept quiet out of deference to the king. But one member of the top clerical body addressed the issue on a call-in show, warning of the dangers of mixed universities: sexual harassment; men and women flirting and getting distracted from their studies; husbands growing jealous of their wives; rape.