Friday, July 10, 2015

Riaz Haq's Ramadan Sermon: Interfaith Relations in Islam

"Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" Quran 2:62 (Translation by Yusuf Ali)

"There is no compulsion in religion" Quran 2:256 (Translated by Shakir)

"Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion." Quran 109:1 (Translation by Pickthall)

My Dear Muslim Brothers and Sisters:


In a prior Ramadan sermon, I have discussed the importance of Huqooq ul Ibad (rights of fellow human beings), the significance of earning an honest living,  abstaining from harshly judging others and taking responsibility for both the negative or positive consequences of our actions.

In this sermon,  I am sharing with you some verses from our holy book to convey to you the Quranic exhortation to establish good interfaith relations.  The verses amply make it clear that Islam not only acknowledges the existence of other faiths but also accepts religious pluralism.

The Quran reveals that Allah sent 120,000 of His prophets to humanity. It follows, therefore, that Islam does recognize differences in points of view and religious beliefs outside Islam (Quran 109:1). The Quran says no one has a right to force their own understanding of religion upon others (Quran 2:256). It acknowledges that other religions can also lead to salvation (Quran 2:62).

In chapter 5 verse 48, the Quran says: "Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ."  (Translation by Sahih International)

So the diversity we see in this world is all Allah's creation. We should, therefore, not fight the will of Allah. We must accept it.

In matters of state, we must emulate the State of Madina that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) created. We must learn from Misaq-e-Madina (Charter of Medina), Islam's first constitution approved by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Honored by US Supreme Court

Here's the opening line of Misaq-e-Madina:

"This is a document from Muhammad the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), governing relations between the Believers i.e. Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib and those who followed them and worked hard with them. They form one nation -- Ummah."

It clearly says that all citizens of "Yathrib" (ancient name of Madina), regardless of  their tribe or religion, are part of one nation--"Ummah". So the word "Ummah" here does not exclude non-Muslims who lived in Madina.

Further into the "Misaq" document, it says: "No Jew will be wronged for being a Jew. The enemies of the Jews who follow us will not be helped. If anyone attacks anyone who is a party to this Pact the other must come to his help."

The Misaq assures equal protection to all citizens of Madina, including non-Muslim tribes which agreed to it. The contents of Misaq-e-Madina, Islam's first constitution approved by Prophet Mohammad 1400 years ago, appear to have inspired Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah vision of Pakistan where people of all religions and nationalities live in harmony with equal rights and protections under the law.

In conclusion, let me remind you that in chapter 21 verse 117, the Quran says that "Allah sent Muhammad (SAW) as a blessing to all His creation", not just Muslims. We must, therefore, treat all of Allah's creation with love and kindness. This clearly exhorts all Muslims to strive for interfaith harmony.

May Allah accept our fasting, our prayers and our charity in this holy month of Ramadan and guide us all to be His best servants.

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 and Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

The Prophet I Know

Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West

Strong Eid Sales in Pakistan Confirm Nielsen's Data


Tambi Dude said...

All benign verses of Quran are abrogated by later versions which are violent. Quran has one simple rule. When two verses contradict each other, the one revealed later abrogates the one earlier. For every "your religion to you, mine for mine", there is "whoever changes his religion kill him". More details here

Every act of ISIS is a leaf out of the page of Hadees. Have you ever wondered why muslim terrorists always justify their actions by quoting quran or hadees. Sample pasted below.

You are a 800 pound fruit-cake. No informed person in the west believes Islam is a peaceful religion. Notice the number of political parties in Europe which is anti islam. Bobby JIndal is one too.

Taliban spokesman Muhammad Khorasani has justified the Peshawar jihad massacre (Army Public School on Dec 16 2014) by likening it to Muhammad’s massacre of the Jewish Qurayzah tribe.

Khorasani says: “The Mujahideen were instructed to only kill the older children. The Peshawar attack is in complete accordance with the Prophet’s teachings because when the Prophet killed the Jewish Tribe of Banu Qurayza, he put the same guideline, that only the children who have hair below their belly button (pubic hair) are allowed to be killed. Killing of women and children is also in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet. Those who object to this claim can refer to Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Hadith 148.”

David Rubin said...

“You will surely find the most intense of the people in animosity toward the believers to be the Jews…” — Qur’an 5:82

Riaz Haq said...

Ravi Krishna:

So you support the ISIS version of Islam by cherry-picking from the Quran to justify your innate hatred of Muslims? Right?

Ok, it's a game that anyone of a religion can play to malign other religions. So let me ask you this: do you know about your own Hindu holy books? About Lord Krishna who you are named after?

A key teaching is contained in the story of Arjuna. Arjuna was about to go into battle when he discovered many of his relatives and friends were on the opposing side. Arjuna didn't want to kill people he loved, but was persuaded to do so by Krishna.

Krishna tells Arjuna that he should fight, for the following reasons:

it is his duty - his dharma - to fight because he was born a warrior
he was born a member of a warrior caste and his duty to his caste and the divine structure of society are more important than his personal feelings
violence only affects the body and cannot harm the soul, so killing is not a fault and there is no reason for Arjuna not to kill people, nor should he be sorry for those he has killed
behind this lies the Eastern idea that life and death are part of an illusion, and that the spiritual is what matters

About Child marriages:

For fear of commencement of puberty let the father give his daughter in marriage while she is still going about naked. For if she remains at home after the marriageable age sin falls upon the father.”
The Yogi Vasistha
Child marriage is a big problem. There are 24 million child brides in India alone. In Nepal, 63 percent of girls marry before age 18, and in some regions, the percentage is even higher. The practice, while technically illegal, is so socially accepted that hardly anyone complains.As one mother put it, on the day her 12-year-old daughter married a man of 20, “Doesn’t a daughter’s marriage weigh you down? How would we get her married later?” She then complained, “I still have the burden of marrying one more daughter.” Yet 12 is hardly young—girls are sometimes married off at half that age.If the statistics are shocking, they’re nothing compared to the human reality. Some girls are tortured or killed by their new in-laws in disputes over dowries. Inevitably, the children are raped by their husbands, and many die because their bodies simply aren’t ready to handle pregnancy. And the brides who survive are hardly happy. One teenage girl who was married at age nine said, “I hope other children will not suffer like me.”

Riaz Haq said...

Ravi Krishna:

Here's more on Hinduism and Violence:

There’s a chapter in Subhash Gatade’s below-the-belt book Godse’s Children (Pharos Media). It is: “Shastrpujas: what’s religious about worshipping weapons?” Contrary to the general perception of Hinduism being an irenic (peace-loving!) faith, it’s a religion that has violence embedded in its fabric and bloodshed in its spirit. Because of its inherent violence and obscurantism, two philosophies alienated themselves from its wider canvas and came to be known as Buddhism and Jainism (History and doctrine of Buddhism by Edward Upham, 1829).

If Hindus consider a few Quranic verses, quoted out of context, as violent and potentially dangerous, one finds Hinduism’s all ancient scriptures advocating the use of weapons and justifying bloodshed. Nationalist Indian historians are happy to heap blame for the destruction of Hindu temples on the waves of Muslim iconoclasts who wreaked havoc on their country from the time of Muhammad ibn Al-Qasim onwards. He came to Sindh in 712 AD. They’ve less to say about the destructive role of Brahmin zealots in the overthrow of Buddhist viharas and the absorption of Buddhist beliefs and iconography into reformed Hinduism - just as they remain largely silent about the impact on the rest of Asia of what was India’s greatest export: the civilising influence of Buddhism.

In these same circles, the pioneering work of orientalists such as William Jones, James Princep and Cunningham is often portrayed as part of an anti-Brahmin, pro-Buddhist conspiracy of “Britishers” against Mother India. Adi Shankar was so paranoid to “save” his great Hinduism that he wrote a treatise in Sanskrit justifying the weapons and even “ritualistic sacrifice” to the deities. To him, Shankar’s Trishul (Trident) and Durga’s so many weapons in as many hands were exhortations to the devotees to emulate their deities in every respect, especially in terms of violence. That’s why he’d lay down the conditions that in philosophical discourses with Buddhist monks and scholars, whoever would lose, would have to resort to self-immolation. Many Buddhists monks immolated themselves having been defeated by the redoubtable, but extremely cunning Adi Shankar. Orientalist David Gardley opined that “Since deities are often the mental manifestations and imaginary projections of a race, community or a homogeneous group, it superimposes its own thoughts, views and ethos on the deities”.

The very mentality of the followers of Hinduism has been violent, blatantly violent at that. There’re instances recorded by the great historian and professor of history at Dhaka University Professor Ramesh Chandra Majumdar when Hindus, especially Hindu-Brahmins of the Eastern India, massacred non-Brahmin Hindus when Muslim invaders passed through their villages! Such desecrated Hindus had no right to live, believed the Brahmins and quoted from their antiquated scriptures, why gods wanted to annihilate such defiled Hindus (Oxford University Essays on Hinduism, 1965). It’s but obvious that its deities also became like that to suit this violent streak. Hinduism, “the existing paganism” (Edmund Blunden’s phrase) always approved of violence, justifying it as a measure to thwart challenges from outside and within.

History will bail me out that the Deccan plateau was red with blood of the Shaivites and Lingaites. Shaivites claimed that it was Lord Shiva’s divine order to kill the followers of the opponent sect. And that’s why he brandished his trident. Krishna, if at all he existed (though chances of his existence are very very bleak), was the main cause of Kurukshetra that witnessed unprecedented bloodshed. That’s the reason, scriptures of Jainism consign him to Raurav, the seventh and the lowest hell. When a religion believes so much in sanguinary myths and violent ways through its deities, how can it claim to be non-violent and peace-loving?

Riaz Haq said...

David Rubin:

I believe you deserve the same kind of a response as your fellow troll Krishna.

Your false ID suggests you are posing as a Jew here. So let me assume for a moment that you are one and suggest to you to read the following:

Here are some verses from a Holy Book:
1. “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
2. “If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ ... do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death.”
3. “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”
4. "Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys"

Q. Are these from the Quran or the Bible?
A. From the Bible. Matthew 10:34, Deuteronomy 13:6-9, Numbers 31:17-18 (Deuteronomy 2:34; 3:6; 20:16-18)

Riaz Haq said...

Seeing marauding gangs of Buddhist monks killing innocent Muslims in South East Asia, one wonders how serious is the Buddhist teaching of pacifism. Here's an excerpt on it from The Guardian:

The exaggerated image of pacifism projected on Buddhism (and Hinduism) was embraced and promoted by natives, as it conveyed moral superiority over colonialist oppressors and missionaries. Getting the message fed back by natives reinforced the original misconceptions. But the ultimate source is Euro-Americans themselves, weary of a century of warfare and longing for a pacifist Shangri-La. Buddhist cultural values were never so simplistic and practically served rājas, khans, and daimyō for millennia. The main reason Buddhists' history does not match our expectations, aside from them being as human as the rest of us, is that our expectations have been mistaken. Some think that fantasies of a pacifist utopia benefit the Tibetan cause. It can also be argued that they encourage communists to contemptuously dismiss western support for Tibet and obstruct Buddhists from engaging their values.

The Buddhist world is racked with violence and it has never been more important to understand Buddhist ethics. These include never acting in anger; exhausting alternatives such as negotiation; striving to capture the enemy alive; avoiding destruction of infrastructure and the environment; and taking responsibility for how one's actions and exploitation cause enemies to arise. They also emphasise the great psychic danger to those who act violently, something we see in the large number of suicides among youth sent to these wars. Above all, rather than "national self-interest", the guiding motivation should be compassion.

Since the Dalai Lama's first statement, it became clear that Bin Laden did not die in a firefight to avoid capture, but was shot down unarmed. The Nobel laureate made the news again, calling the killing understandable, but this time he equated the death with the hanging of Saddam Hussein, expressed sadness at the killing, and re-emphasised his commitment to nonviolence.

Riaz Haq said...

This is from 2008:

In Lhasa, where howling Tibetan mobs turned on ethnic Han Chinese and Hui Muslims last Friday in the worst violence in nearly 20 years. Many businesses owned by the Han Chinese and Hui Muslims were attacked and burned. It should be noted here that most Hui are similar in culture to Han Chinese with the exception that they practice Islam, and have some distinctive cultural characteristics as a result. For example, as Muslims, they follow Islamic dietary laws and reject the consumption of pork, the most common meat consumed in Chinese culture, and have also given rise to their variation of Chinese cuisine, Chinese Islamic cuisine. Their mode of dress also differs only in that adult males wear white caps and females wear headscarves or (occasionally) veils, as is the case in most Islamic cultures.

News agencies report that a homemade bomb was thrown at a paramilitary vehicle yesterday. Police fired teargas to disperse onlookers and schools were ordered to close early. It was unclear how many people were hurt. Residents said four police were killed or wounded but officials would not comment.

The Chinese premier has accused the Dalai Lama of organized violence by the Tibet government in exile along with its western supporters. The scenes of violence perpetrated on the streets of Tibet and neighboring provinces raise questions about the non-violence preached by the Dalai Lama and his supporters. The Dalai Lama, speaking to the media in India, has denied supporting violence. He has offered to resign if the violence continues.

But the anti-Chinese protests and violence across Tibet and in neighboring provinces have continued where many Tibetans live. According to the news reports from a remote corner of Gansu province, hundreds of Tibetans on horseback galloped through a town shouting “Come back Dalai Lama” and “Free the Panchen Lama”, before ripping down a Chinese flag and raising a Tibetan snow lion banner.

M. Zaidi said...

How convenient!
Why did we leave non-believers out? They are human too and truly the innocent ones. Please give them a break.
When will we stop this religious bigotry and stop saying things that are just convenient?
“Choose some thing or go to hell”, is compulsion to me.
Riaz Bhai I expected more of you, after all you are the voice of the poor world!!

Riaz Haq said...

M. Zaidi: " Why did we leave non-believers out? They are human too and truly the innocent ones. Please give them a break."

I think the religious people need this sermon far more than the agnostics :-)

Saeed said...

Ravi Krishna:

You Internet Hindus Are So Pathetic The Only Act Of Valor You Can Perform Is In Front Of A Desktop Keyboard

1.The Banu Qurayza Massacre's Authenticity is Highly Suspect Since It Is A Maqt'uh Hadith i.e Chain Of Narrators Is Avialbale upto taba'een Before That The Chain Is Broken

2.Before Blaming Islam As Violent Why Don't You Care To Study What Pushyamitra Sunga Did To Buddhism.And Where To Start Where To End As Far As RSS and VHP Are Concerned Their Entire History is Made Of Bloodshed and Violence

Anonymous said...

I consider all religions to be fantasy but making a comparison between dharmic and abrahamic religions is a bit silly. There's no way you are going to convince anyone that dharmic religions have been more violent or as violent as abrahamic ones. most of what is known of shankara's life is pure speculation but as far as debate is concerned - the loser in a debate certainly did not have to immolate himself. some of shankara's greatest followers were his defeated adversaries. but yes i don't see the point in abusing any one religion just because the fan club are crazy. i believe these are all fantasies and the sooner we all get over them and lead a life based on rationality the better. As human beings, we react to events. now we can either respond peacefully or violently. the question that people throughout the world should ask themselves is whether a violent confrontation is really helping anyone and whether violence is a good advertisement for their religion.


Riaz Haq said...

The month of Ramadan is entering into its last quarter, and that is increasing philanthropy activities in Pakistan. Muslims during this holy month of Ramadan usually not only fast, but also do charity work, because it is said that Muslims should help Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, who are needy. There are many compensatory duties regarding charity in Islam, including Zakat and Fitrana. Both are usually done in this month of Ramadan.

Zakat al-Fitr is charity given to the poor at the end of the fasting in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The word Fitr means the same as Iftar - breaking a fast - and it comes from the same root word as Futoor, which means breakfast.

The main purpose of Zakat al-Fitr is to provide the poor with a means with which they can celebrate the festival of breaking the fast (Eid al-Fitr) along with the rest of the Muslims.

Every Muslim is required to pay Zakat al-Fitr at the conclusion of the month of Ramadan as a token of thankfulness to God for having enabled him or her to observe the obligatory fast.

The significant role played by Zakat in the circulation of wealth within the Islamic society is also played by the Sadaqat al-Fitr. However, in the case of Sadaqat al-Fitr, each individual is required to calculate how much charity is due from himself and his dependents, and to go into the community in order to find those who deserve such charity. Thus, Sadaqat al-Fitr plays a very important role in the development of the bonds of community.

The rich are obliged to come in direct contact with the poor, and the poor are put in contact with the extremely poor. This contact between the various levels of society helps to build real bonds of brotherhood and love within the Islamic community and trains those who have, to be generous to those who do not have.

Several organizations, like Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Charity Foundation, Edhi Foundation, Sahara Foundation, and the Red Crescent Authority, have taken the lead in this noble task of serving the deserving people by organizing Iftar programs.

Charities are coming from immigrant Pakistanis from all over the world, particularly from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Meanwhile some foreign organizations are also doing charities and providing food, clothes, and even medicines to poor and needy people. In such activities, the UAE embassy in Islamabad is leading, compared to any other foreign organization.

These Iftar programs are being held in compliance with the directive of the President of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the UAE has been purposefully engaged in Iftar programs, which besides provision of food stuff, readymade meals are also included in distribution of alms and clothes to orphan children and the needy on the eve of Eid ul Fitr. The UAE ambassador to Islamabad Essa Abdulla Al Basha Al Noauimi, since the beginning of the holy month, has been distributing among needy families, large quantities of dates, which were sent by the UAE Red Crescent. At least 50,000 tons of dates have been distributed across the country as part of its continuing Ramadan programs, it said.

A delegation of the Khalifa Charity Foundation specially flew into Pakistan to distribute twenty tons of dates and 150,000 bags of flour in some districts of southern Punjab and the Balochistan provinces.

Another initiative was launched by the Director of the “UAE Project to Assist Pakistan," Abdulla Al Ghafli, under which a consignment of 160 tons of flour were transported to Khyber Pukhtoonkhaw. This was meant for the families of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who had to leave their homes as a result of the military operation against the militants in South Waziristan. The IDPs had to take shelter in camps in KPK, and this project would benefit about 20,000 such families.

Riaz Haq said...

From mystics to Marxists: Karbala in South Asian culture

There is history and then there is the memory of history. While history is preserved in annals, its memory comes down to generations through the interplay of culture, traditions and oral accounts.

Every significant event ever unfolded on the face of the earth is temporal in a sense that it occurs in a particular time-space setting, and at the same time, eternal, because of its sheer ability to recreate itself over and over again.

While the temporal aspect is discrete and entrenched in time, determining the course of succeeding events, the eternal aspect is pliable and serves as a cornerstone in times to come, in order to make sense of the past, reconcile with the present, and map out the future.

When it comes to tragedy, the memory can overshadow the event itself. Memory is human, all too human. History is not.

Karbala is memory. Such is the timelessness of the memory that the howl of Karbala still echoes in the air after all these centuries.

Such is the versatility of the symbolism attached to it that it has attracted poets, mourners, mystics, revolutionaries, devotees and writers alike.

Such is the appeal of the tragedy that Karbala has become a significant constituent of the cultural construct of the subcontinent.

How Karbala captured the mystics
Mysticism has been at the roots of the South Asian cultural edifice since the days of the arrival of Muslim saints (Sufis) to the Indian soil.

Wahdat al-Wajood (Doctrine of Immanence), theoretically developed by Ibn Arabi, took roots in the Indian soil because it was more Indian in character. The cry of “Ana al-Haqq” (I am Truth) raised by Mansur Hallaj on the gallows reverberated through the Muslim world and inspired people in distant lands. It was a cry of “Fana fi’llah” (annihilation in the Divine) in order to attain subsistence in God (Baqa bi’llah).

Karbala, in this particular Sufi tradition, is not mourned but celebrated because of annihilation of the physical self into the Divine.
While the commemoration of Karbala emphasises the trials and tribulations faced by Prophet Muhammad’s (Peace be Upon Him) family, the mystic celebration deals with the spiritual outcome of this particular event. The martyrdom for the will and the love for the Divine attains the highest status in this realm.

Khuwaja Moinuddin Chishti points to the same notion when he majestically says:

“Haqqa ke bina-e la illah ast Hussain”

(The truth is that the foundation of la-illah is Hussain)

Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai mourns and celebrates Karbala in his magnum opus “Shah Jo Risalo” in the same tradition:

“Martyrs’ tribulation is God’s grace
Only the intoxicated may fathom the mystery of the case of Karbala”
[Sur Kedaro, Shah Jo Risalo]

Mansur and Hussain are celebrated in the same vein within this particular tradition.

In the realm of music, the indigenous musical tradition, qawwali, is particularly important in weaving musical notes in service of the concept of “fana”. For centuries, qawwals have celebrated the mystical aspect of Karbala in the verandas of Sufi shrines.

It is the same tradition taken up by the modern prophet of qawwali, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He is well aware of the context when he uses interpolation during one of his performances and rhetorically asks questions firmly entrenched and answered in the subcontinent’s mystical ethos:

“Kyun piya Ibn e Haider ne Jaam e Fana
Khaal Khichwai Tabraiz ne kyun bhala
Daar pe charh ke Mansur ne kya kaha
Sub bana ke khilonay raha tu hi tu”

(Why did Ibn e Haider drink hemlock?

Omar said...

Karbala, in this particular Sufi tradition, is not mourned but celebrated because of annihilation of the physical self into the Divine.

Riaz Haq said...

From NJ Senator Cory Booker:

Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people;

before you tell me how much you love your God, show me how much you love all His children;

before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors.

In the end, I'm not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how you choose to live and give.

Riaz Haq said...

After ‘#thebiggestloser ,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight as #metabolism Slowed. #weightloss #NBC #reality

Danny Cahill stood, slightly dazed, in a blizzard of confetti as the audience screamed and his family ran on stage. He had won Season 8 of NBC’s reality television show “The Biggest Loser,” shedding more weight than anyone ever had on the program — an astonishing 239 pounds in seven months.

When he got on the scale for all to see that evening, Dec. 8, 2009, he weighed just 191 pounds, down from 430. Dressed in a T-shirt and knee-length shorts, he was lean, athletic and as handsome as a model.

“I’ve got my life back,” he declared. “I mean, I feel like a million bucks.”

Mr. Cahill left the show’s stage in Hollywood and flew directly to New York to start a triumphal tour of the talk shows, chatting with Jay Leno, Regis Philbin and Joy Behar. As he heard from fans all over the world, his elation knew no bounds.

But in the years since, more than 100 pounds have crept back onto his 5-foot-11 frame despite his best efforts. In fact, most of that season’s 16 contestants have regained much if not all the weight they lost so arduously. Some are even heavier now.

The results, the researchers said, were stunning. They showed just how hard the body fights back against weight loss.

“It is frightening and amazing,” said Dr. Hall, an expert on metabolism at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. “I am just blown away.”

It has to do with resting metabolism, which determines how many calories a person burns when at rest. When the show began, the contestants, though hugely overweight, had normal metabolisms for their size, meaning they were burning a normal number of calories for people of their weight. When it ended, their metabolisms had slowed radically and their bodies were not burning enough calories to maintain their thinner sizes.

Researchers knew that just about anyone who deliberately loses weight — even if they start at a normal weight or even underweight — will have a slower metabolism when the diet ends. So they were not surprised to see that “The Biggest Loser” contestants had slow metabolisms when the show ended.

What shocked the researchers was what happened next: As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed, the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight.

Mr. Cahill was one of the worst off. As he regained more than 100 pounds, his metabolism slowed so much that, just to maintain his current weight of 295 pounds, he now has to eat 800 calories a day less than a typical man his size. Anything more turns to fat.

‘A Basic Biological Reality’

The struggles the contestants went through help explain why it has been so hard to make headway against the nation’s obesity problem, which afflicts more than a third of American adults. Despite spending billions of dollars on weight-loss drugs and dieting programs, even the most motivated are working against their own biology.

Riaz Haq said...

Textual analysis reveals less violence, more forgiveness in #Quran than #Bible. #Islam #Christianity #Judaism

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.


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...

#Lebanon: #Annunciation is a joint #Muslim-#Christian national holiday. #Quran's Sura Aal e Imran #Mary #Marium …

What is Mary’s place in the Qur‘an?
Like the Gospel, the Qur‘an goes into details to describe the episode of the Annunciation and Christ’s miraculous birth. In the Qur‘an, no woman is mentioned by name but Mary’s, which comes up 36 times. A long verse is even dedicated to her. When God “hath preferred thee above (all) the women of creation,” her place was set forever. Her title applies to her life on earth as well as beyond. Choosing the Annunciation as a feast day to bring everyone together should be welcomed in both communities.

How did the initiative start and how did the government react?
A Christian friend of mine had this dream to see Muslims and Christians pray together. After we first met, we began working together and quickly focused on organising a joint ceremony on 25 March (feast day of the Annunciation) inside Notre-Dame Church in Jamhour. When a Christian TV station broadcast the service live, I took advantage of the situation to work with top officials at the Islamic-Christian Committee to send a message to the government in which I proposed that this day would become a joint Muslim-Christian national holiday centred on Mary. The idea took off, and despite the opposition of the main religious authority of my community (the Mufti of Lebanon) who wanted me transferred to another job, the government unanimously backed the plan. A year later, my idea of a feast day was accepted by the new prime minister when I went to see him as member of the newly created Muslim-Christian association “Together around Mary, Our Lady.”

What impact can this joint celebration have on Muslim-Christian relations?
Our initiative will affect Muslim-Christian relations for a long time. This coming together around Mary is already an especially important event in the history of our two religions. Once more, the Holy Virgin will increase her love for the whole of humanity, and Lebanon will show once again that, in addition to being a country, it is also a message.

Riaz Haq said...

#Arctic #Ramadan: fasting in land of midnight sun comes with a challenge. #Canada

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Riaz Haq said...

Sharia law compatible with human rights, argues leading barrister
In 2008, Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury, sparked controversy when he appeared to suggest that sharia law should be more widely adopted.

A leading barrister has called for the UK to become more sharia-literate, while arguing that Islamic law can be compatible with the toughest human rights legislation.

Sadakat Kadri told the Guardian that so-called "sharia courts", such as the Muslim arbitration tribunal, were good for "the community as a whole" by putting Sharia on a transparent, public footing and should be more widely accessible to those who want to use them.

Kadri said they played a role in safeguarding human rights: "It's very important that they be acknowledged and allowed to exist. So long as they're voluntary, which is crucial, it's in everyone's interests these things be transparent and publicly accessible. If you don't have open tribunals, they're going to happen anyway, but behind closed doors."

Top five sharia myths

That amputation is a typical punishment for theft in Muslim countries

Of the world's 50 or so Muslim-majority states, only about half a dozen allow for amputations and at least one of those countries – Pakistan – has never carried out the penalty in practice

That veiling is mandatory under sharia law

Women are simply advised by the Qur'an to wear modest clothing and – like men – to lower their eyes and maintain their chastity

That suicide bombing is permissable under sharia law

Most interpreters of the Qur'an understand it to forbid suicide. The first suicide bombing by Muslims was carried out in 1983 during the Lebanese civil war

Stoning is mentioned in the Qur'an

Stoning is not mentioned as a punishment in the Qur'an. It was institutionalised on the basis of hadiths (reports about Muhammad) which were themselves not written down until more than a century after his death

Capital punishment for apostasy is mentioned by the Qur'an

The Qur'an repeatedly warns believers who abandon their faith that they will have to account to God in the afterlife, but it does not provide for their punishment on earth. Again, it was hadiths that later served to justify the death penalty

Riaz Haq said...

79% of American Muslims marry within their faith, 21% outside, according to Pew Research.

77% of American Muslims identify with their childhood religion, 23% don't.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Prophet Muhammad PBUH Ramadan sermon:

Give alms to the poor and indigent ones among you; surround your elderly with respect, and be kind to your youngsters. Visit your kin and safeguard your tongues and do not look at what Allah has decreed as prohibitive for you to look at, and do not listen to anything your ears are forbidden from hearing. Be kind to the orphans of others, so that your own orphans will equally receive kindness. Repent your sins to Almighty Allah and raise your hands to Him in supplication during the times of your prayers, for they are the best times during which Almighty Allah looks with mercy to His servants and answers their pleas when they plead Him.


"O People! Whoever among you improves his conduct during this month will have a safe passage on the right path when many feet will slip away, and whoever among you decreases the burdens on his servant, will be rewarded by Almighty Allah decreasing his reckoning.

Whoever among you abstains from harming others will be spared the Wrath of Almighty Allah when he meets Him. Whoever among you affords generosity to an orphan will be rewarded by Almighty Allah being generous to him on the day of judgment.

Whoever among you improves his ties with his kin will be rewarded by Almighty Allah including him in His mercy, and whoever among you severs his ties with his kin, Almighty Allah will withhold His mercy from him when he meets Him.

Riaz Haq said...

Religious scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi has become a popular figure in Pakistan for his strict reading of the Koran -- which, he says, dictates against gender discrimination, terrorist jihad, and other favorites of modern Islamists

Ghamidi first appeared on the popular radar after being handpicked by President Pervez Musharraf last year for the Islamic Ideology Council, an independent constitutional body that consults for the Pakistani legislature. Soon after Ghamidi joined, the council moved to roll back Islamic sharia laws regarding rape and adultery that required, among other things, four witnesses to a rape for a successful conviction. Ghamidi worked overtime, throwing himself into classical Islamic texts, spending hours on the air in the popular media, and churning out documents from the Al-Mawrid Institute of Islamic Sciences, a think-tank and publishing house he founded in the city of Lahore. In every possible forum, he invoked his religious authority to make the case that the "Islamic laws" themselves were "un-Islamic."

The old laws were finally amended. Along with a few like-minded scholars, he had managed to pull the rug out from under the political Islamists at the peak of their post-9/11 power.

Even more incendiary than his specific position on questions of Islamic law, though, is Ghamidi's vision for the future of Islamic politics. Ever since the Islamization campaign in Pakistan in the 1970s, religious parties have been making deep inroads into political power. But their real glory days came after September 2001, when a coalition of religious political parties led by the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami landed a majority in two of the four provincial governments in Pakistan. Pakistan, which began as a secular republic, has increasingly Islamized thanks to shrewd realpolitik maneuvering by some religious leaders.

Ghamidi expounds a different ideal: Muslim states, he says, cannot be theocracies, yet they cannot be divorced from Islam either. Islam cannot simply be one competing ideology or interest group that reigns supreme one moment and is gone the next. He instead argues for the active investment of the state in building institutions that will help create a truly "Islamic democracy."

"I challenge liberal and conservative thought at the same time," he told me recently at his home in Lahore. "The liberals in Pakistan are confused by me. The religionists are fuming and have called me everything short of an infidel."

Born to a rich, land-owning, religious family, Ghamidi grew up studying the Koran, Arabic, and Persian, and found a special interest in Western philosophy. He began his formal study of Islam only after completing his Masters in English Literature in 1977 from the prestigious Government College in Lahore. It was a chance meeting with Amin Ahsan Islahi, an Islamic theologian best known for his 6,000-page Urdu commentary on the Koran, which drew Ghamidi into the realm of religious scholarship.

"If you want to study Islam," he recalled his mentor warning him, "you will have to leave dreams of leadership and become a servant of knowledge."

Riaz Haq said...

Acceptance of pluralism is part Islam:

“And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides Allah, lest they insult Allah wrongfully without knowledge. Thus We have made fair-seeming to each people its own doings; then to their Lord is their return and He shall then inform them of all that they used to do”

Al Quran al-An‘aam 6:108


"Lakum Deenukum Waliyadin" (To you your religion, to me mine)

Al Quran Al Kafirun 6:109

Riaz Haq said...

#Muslim Convert Prof Jeffrey Lang : 97% of the #Quran teaches #ethics, relationship between #God and humans, faith and reason. Only 3% emphasizes rules but we are obsessed with them but all sermons are about rules, not the essence of #Islam via