Freedom in Islam
freedom in islam is considered one of the most important elements taught and exemplified by the life of prophet muhammad (p.) in his manners and teachings.
from the beginning of the civilization, freedom has been sought and studied by philosophers and religious thinkers. history has proven that freedom has been used and abused by the rulers of the world when they reached the peak of their power at the expense of the weak and oppressed people, regardless of the nature of the government (monarchy, democratic, socialist, etc.,). all have used the principle of divide and conquer.
on the contrary, islam has promised and fulfilled the true freedom . god almighty says, "there is no compulsion in the religion [of islam] when the right has been distinguished from the wrong. (the qur'an, 2:256)".
also, prophet muhammad (p.) says that the best of you in the sight of god is the most righteous person.
the goal is to distinguish right from wrong. if a person realizes the righteousness and elects this path, then, he is in the sight of god the most righteous person.
people of different origin such as turks, persians, and indians accepted islam, and today when they have the freedom to choose, but they do not go back to worship idols. when arabs rulers left these people and their countries, people have chosen islam as their only religion.
this is mainly because islam is the practical way of life for people of different nationalities and races.
freedom in islam, basically has two facids: freedom of thought and freedom of action. tawhid, the unity of god, is an example of former. chapter 109 kaferoon of the holy qur'an explains this principle:
". . . . you have your religion, and [ i have ] my religion." the qur'an 109:6.
further, throughout the qur'an one finds many verses that encourage freedom of thought. thus qur'an reads:
" i preach you only one thing, that is to rise up for the sake of god, jointly and singly, then think". the qur'an 34 : 46 the second facid of freedom in islam is the purification of self. the life of the prophet muhammad (p. ) explains this second principle. this principle applies to all regardless of race, gender or age. his life is an example for all nationalities with all different background such as black, white, young, old, short, tall, male or female because islam knows no discrimination.
human reaps what he sows. righteousness in islam means doing good deed as a muslim for the sake of god. islam opens its wide door for every person from all walks of life because, as prophet (p.) says, "all of you are from adam and adam is from dust. " thus we all are equal in the sight of god. islam shows no discrimination against any one.
we were taught by prophet muhammad (p. ), who declared freedom, equality, and liberty for all mankind. with this principle of islam, the faith has become the perfect solution to the spiritual needsof human being. the prophet (p.) recited in the last sermon of his life the verse of the holy qur'an: 5:3 "today, i have completed your faith for you and bestowed upon you my blessings and chose islam as the religion". the qur'an, 5:3. wa assalam alaykum.
A brief history of qur'an
the month of ramadan marks the revelation anniversary of the holy qur'an. qur'an is the revelation of the god almighty to the holy prophet muhammad (p.), which took place from the year 609 to 633 c.e. annually, during each month of ramadan, the ninth month of the islamic calendar, all of the revelation that prophet (p.) had received in the past years was revealed again during the laylat al-qadr, a special month of ramadan, in 609 c.e.
the qur'an was revealed within two periods, the meccian from 609 to 622 c.e.,
when prophet muhammad (p . ) was in mecca and the median, from 622 to 633 c.e., when he migrated to madina. in general, the first session deals with the islamic doctrines and faith, and the second period mainly is concerned with the islamic practical law.
there are 114 chapters in the qur'an, each deals with a variety of subjects. the qur'an was written down under prophet's (p.) supervision by the companions.
the qur'an's message
one of the main qur'anic goal is to establish equality and justice among all mankind. the qur'an says:
" we have sent you (muhammad (p.) for all mankind " (34:28).
the qur'an liberate the human mind from ignorance and prejudice, and encourage to observe the greatness of god's creation.
the qur'an also encourages to obtain knowledge for the sake of betterment of humanity and be active throughout the life.
therefore, imam ali (a.) states that those who read qur'an would increase their knowledge and decrease their ignorance.
the qur'an reads:
o mankind, worship your lord, who has created you and those before you, so that you may ward off evil". qur'an 2:21 the qur'an reads:
"surely, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of the night and day, and the ships which run on the sea with that which is of use to men, and the water which god sends down from the heaven reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and (in) the ordinance of winds, and the clouds obedient between heaven and earth, are signs for the people who reason" (2 :164).
the qur'an says :
and when it is said to them, " follow that which god has revealed, they say, we follow that wherein we found our fathers. [what!] even though if their fathers were unintelligent and were not guided ! (2 : 170).
the qur'an says :
"he is who appointed the sun a splendor and the moon a light, and measured her stages, that you might know the number of the years, and the reckoning. god created not (all) that save in truth. he details the revelation for the people who have knowledge." (10:5)
translation of qur'an
the first and the oldest translation of the qur'an into another language was reported by al sarkhshi in his work titled "al mabsoot ".v.1:37. al sarkhshi mentions that the persians wrote to salman ( the companion of prophet muhammad (p.)), asking him to translate the first chapter of the qur'an. this chapter is called the " fatiha ", the opening. today the qur'an has been translated into many languages including english.
among the english translation available in the market are:
- ahmed ali, mir s.v. the qur'an. karachi: sterling printing and publishing, 1964.
ali, ahmed. the qur'an. karachi: akrash publishing,1948.
amir ali, hashim. the qur'an. tokyo: charles e. tuttle co.inc,1974.
arberry, arthur j. the qur'an. oxford: oxford university press., 1964.
asad, muhammad. the qur'an. gibralter: daral andalus ltd., 1980.
bell, richard. the qur'an. great britain: morrison gibb ltd., 1960.
dawood,n.j. the qur'an. middlesex: penguin books, 1972.
irving, t.b. the qur'an. battlebaro:amano books,1985.
khalifa, rashad. the qur'an. tuscon: islamic productions, 1981.
muhammad ali maulana. the qur'an. chicago: spaciality promotes co. inc, 1973.
maududi, abdul s.a. the qur'an. lahore: islamic publication, 1978.
pickthall, muhammad m. the qur'an. new york: muslim world league, 1977.
rizvi, m. sayyed. the qur'an. richmond : 1985.
rodwell, m.j. the qur'an. london: j. m. dent and sons ltd,1974
sale, george . the qur'an . england : federick warner publishers, ltd.
shakir, m.h. the qur'an. new york : mihrab publishers and book distributors, 1986.
sher ali, maulwi. the qur'an. rabwah : qur'an publications, 1974
yousuf ali, a. the qur'an. new york : tahrike tarsile qur'an, inc,1987.
zafrulla khan, muhammad. the qur'an. chichester : r.j. acford ltd, 1985.
one of the most recent translation is the noble reading, by dr. thomas ballantine irving, whose muslim name is tasleem ali. it took dr. irving, as he told me, 23 years to accomplish his translations, while working in baghdad, iraq.
however, none of the translations present the linguistic meaning of the original qur'an. therefore muslim scholars insist on writing the original arabic script side by side with any translation.
qur'anic manuscripts :
the early muslims were very concerned towards reciting, writing and preserving the qur'an in fine caligraph. some oldest copies that i was able to see are the following : at the radawi museum, in iran; the british museum, in london; the mosque of al hussain, in cairo; and the holy najaf, in iraq.
in the united states at the toledo museum of art, the following are preserved:
kufic manuscripts: a page of the ninth century from persia, written in kufic, a style of writing which was used from the sixth century c.e. to the eleventh century. the name of kufic comes from kufa, a town in iraq. (this is been kept in the george w. stevens gallery #4).
a leaf of manuscripts written on paper dating to the tenth or eleventh century. the manuscripts is from persia and it is decorated in the red and gold. (the george w. stevens gallery #7)
a page in the kufic manuscript from the ninth century c.e. excol (anthens uphom pope, greek roman art # 41,41).
i hope that qualified scholars research more for the manuscripts available in their areas.
may god's mercy and peace be upon all.
wa assalam alaykum.
Ramadan : The historical background
muslim all over the world annually commemorate this month by worship and rituals even though customs may differ from one country to another. in some islamic countries, the governments signify to the people the approaching of ramadan by firing guns . this custom continues twice everyday of ramadan to indicate the 'suhur' the meal before fasting and the 'futur' the time of breaking the fast.
during ramadan, community members visit each other almost every night to have religious discussion and recite special invocations of ramadan.
Ramadan throughout history
ramadan is the ninth month in the muslim lunar calendar. the lunar calendar has 29 days in some months and 30 days in others. the word 'ramadan', and its linguistic meaning goes back to the arab naming of months for the conditions in which they occurred. for instance, the month of 'muharram' was called as such because it was sanctified as a month when no one may enter into war. at that period of time, fighting was common among arabs as their means of survival except in month such as muharram.
another month, 'safar', meaning empty, indicates that the arabs used to leave their dwellings, consecutively, their homes were empty, therefore the month was named accordingly. 'jamada', a colder month means 'freezing', which was common during this time.
the arabic word 'ramada', means 'severe heat', which describes the weather during this time. therefore the month was named 'ramadan' or the month of severe h. during the month of ramadan, a person prevents himself from any evil acts in order to purify self from accumulated sins in the past years.
revelation of the qur'an
in 609 c.e., when prophet muhammad (p. ) reached forty years of his age, he was in the practice of going to the cave of hira to contemplate on the way of life of the people who were lost in their own lust and ignorance. during one period of meditation in the month of ramadan, the angel gabriel came to prophet muhammad and gave him a revelation of the events to come. then, the prophet (p.) continuously received revelation on different occasions. however, every year in the month of ramadan, until the prophet's death in 633 c.e., prophet muhammad (p.) received revelations from god for the whole past year. these revelations constitute the qur'an which was revealed in two periods called the macceian and the madinian.
the macceian revelations generally were before the prophet's migration to madina (609-622 c.e.), and the madinian verses were revealed after his migration to madina in 622 c.e. the macceian mostly speak on islamic faith, while madinian mostly concern with the details of the islamic law, emphasizing the practical aspect of the qur'an and god's plan for mankind.
the total number of chapters in the qur'an is 114, beginning with 'al-fatiha' the opening chapter. the name of this chapter proves that the holy qur'an was written and divided into chapters during the time of prophet muhammad (p.). ever since muslims have maintained the same text in its original arabic language, stressing the importance of leaving the qur'an unaltered.
numerous qur'anic manuscripts are preserved at: the radawi museum in iran; the british museum in london, england; the mosque of al hussain in cairo, egypt; and the holy najaf in iraq. some copies are dating back to the second and third islamic century.
islam and fasting
in the second year of the 'hijrah', migration to madina in 623 c.e., god had commanded the muslims to fast.
the qur'an says :
"o you who believe! fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those who were before you. so that you may become cautious (2 :183) these verses indicate three facts :
first, that the fasting has been established in all religions.
second, that fasting in islam differs in the intensity of its goals from other religions. third, that in fasting, muslims accomplish 'taqwa', which leads to a complete dedication to god.
many religions encourage fasting because through it, god's grace becomes apparent and a person's faith becomes more meaningful. fasting is a direct aid to strengthen humans faith and train oneself to control his wimps. fasting is a way to teach one how to keep his body and soul in balance.
The events of ramadan
to abstain from food, drink, and any foul language or action is the main practice of fasting. there are several ways fasting can be broken such as by eating or drinking during the day of ramadan.
first, ramadan begins with 'suhar', that is to eat and drink before dawn, enabling a muslim to sustain his fast throughout the day, as it was the prophet's (p.) practice.
second, reciting the qur'an, the word of god during the days of ramadan. this helps a person to dedicate some time of his to worship, to give charity, and after each prayer recite the following invocation:
oh god almighty, let those who have preceded us in this life have your grace and mercy.
oh lord, help every poor person and make every hungry person full, and clothe those who are naked.
oh god, help every indebted person pay his debts, and let every traveler be united with his loved ones.
oh god, let every prisoner of war be liberated, and help dishonest one become pure in heart, by your grace.
oh lord, cure every illness and fill our poverty with your fullness. help us to change our faults and give us the beauty of your perfection.
third, 'iftar' which means breaking the fast after sunset. the prophet (p.) says: "whoever of you feeds a hungry person, or a fasting person in this month, shall receive his reward from god and will have his sins forgiven, and shall be rewarded in the hereafter."
muslims, at the time of breaking fast, recite the following short invocation: " oh lord almighty, only for you we fast, by your bounty we break our fast, and only upon you we rely."
fourth, the 'lailat-ul-qadr' " the night of planning, during this night, god has planned the course of humanity. it is recommended for muslims to worship and be especially close to god during this night. the qur'an devotes to this night the whole chapter number 97. among the nights of ramadan. the 19th, 21st and 23rd, are considered the most holy nights. therefore, many invocations and rituals are described in the books of worship.
id-ul-fitr breaking the fast
on the first day after the month of ramadan, muslims throughout the world celebrate after breaking the fast. it is an international muslim celebration. members of each family gather to praise god almighty and visit each other, exchanging gifts. this day gives muslims a chance to plan their future and review their obligations. imam ali (a) says, " it is a celebration for those who have obeyed god through fasting; and any day that a person obeys god, is a day of celebration."
to fully understand the needs of the poor, every muslim, whether he or she fasts or not, is obligated to give approximately six pounds of food to a needy person. in this way, muslims share god's blessing with others who are in need.
in short, fasting and the rituals of ramadan are the ways of purification. through self denial, charity and self control, a person would be able to come closer to perfection.