Looking within…

Democracy’s Root: Diversity

Please click the link posted above to read the entire article; however to provide you with a brief, the following is an opinion forwarded by columnist Thomas L. Friedman in the NY Times; his opinion was based upon the recent event regarding the visit of the King of Saudi Arabia to the Vatican to meet the Pope. Friedman believes that instead of giving the Pope a gold sword and a gold statue of the camel it would have been better if the King had taken a BRAVE MOVE and gifted the Pope with a DARING visa to visit the city of Mecca & Medina. He says in his article “I give King Abdullah credit, though. His path-breaking meeting with the pope surely gave many Saudi clerics heartburn. But as historic as it was, it left no trace. I wished the pope had publicly expressed a desire to visit Saudi Arabia, and that the king would now declare: “Someone has to chart a new path for our region. If I can meet the pope in the Vatican, I can host Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Shiite and Buddhist religious leaders for a dialogue in our sacred house. Why not? We are secure in our own faith. Let us all meet as equals.” ”

Why not?

I’ve been asked this question a few times hence I figured I’d write about it. I encourage all who have something interesting to say about this matter to comment freely. From what I understand, the reason why we, the Muslims, don’t allow people of other religions to visit our “sacred house” (the Kaba’a) is because we don’t want it to become a mere tourist attraction but how can we really defend this honest statement when we ourselves don’t follow it anymore. While at Hajj I noticed many people having slipped into their world of vanity had forgotten their sole intention of being there. A few even stood by the Kaba’a and posed in front of it as though they were standing besides the Taj Mahal pleased to be taking home a great souvenir. Openly snapping pictures from their technologically equipped camera phones and focusing more on the black square rather than their prayers. It was a little frustrating to see this happen especially when I came to realize that I myself had succumbed to this diversion. However it hit me within a split second after taking pictures that what I was doing was wrong and un-Islamic so I shunned my phone away for the rest of my trip. Regardless times have changed and with that our thinking, I guess there is always a price to pay for modernization and somehow we have never been able to find this balance with religion. Our thinking has evolved so far that we have forgotten to respect the teachings of our archaic religion and with that the right to defend this statement.

However, going back to Friedman and his idea of Democracy… Friedman states that Saudi Arabia has a long way to reach democracy and it won’t be able to attain so until it allows religious freedom in its country. His definition of religious freedom does not only mean allowing people to practice their religion in that country but also welcoming other religions to enter the Holy Mosque at the Kaba’a as though allowing this would create a more Democratic Society?

Friedman questions “Why not?”,

But why, is there a need for them to go there when there isn’t really a purpose behind it all? Wouldn’t it be inviting MAJOR Trouble from both ends that may not really be worth it. Especially with the Arab-world follows its set of rules based on the Shari’a (Islamic Law).

Even Democracy comes with a price and how much are we willing to pay to gain it? I agree with Friedman that democracy isn’t about majority rules it’s about the minority rights, but what is Saudi doing so wrong if they are clearly saying, this is an Islamic country. If you don’t want to live there leave… and that goes for all Muslims too, if we recall; Allah has said in Sūrat’l-Nisā’(Section 14, verses 97,98,99,100): “Verily, as for those whom the angels take while they are wronging themselves, they say, ‘In what condition were you?’ They reply, ‘We were weak and oppressed in the Earth.’ They say, ‘Was not the Earth of Allah spacious enough for you to emigrate therein?” This sura, clearly states that if you are not allowed to practice your religion in a country, the world is vast enough to leave and perform Hijrah (emigration) to find another abode. Didn’t Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) do so and leave for Medina when he (PBUH) wasn’t allowed to perform Islam in Mecca. So why is it a problem that we now cherish our ‘sacred house’ and wish to preserve it the way we want? Its not like they are forcing anyone to stay there and follow Islam, are they?
People are always trying to find fault with anything that is different from the norm and it’s funny because people time and again have set up these norms for all to follow. And those who don’t become the wrong-doers and this misfortune of the world goes back and forth and so on and on, it’s a continuum that never seems to be happy with the other’s state of being.

For years humanity has fought in the name of equality, freedom, and choice, many lives have been lost in this battle to promote minority rights. Us Muslims too have fought for these rights many many years ago, first it was for slaves, then women, then religious freedom then why the attack upon Islam now? Weren’t we the ones who first freed Blacks from slavery some 1400 years ago, weren’t we the ones who gave women equal rights as men and stopped the killing of a female child upon birth some 1400 years ago, weren’t we the ones who fought to practice Islam some 1400 years ago. Then why the blame on Islamic countries now; that they don’t believe in democracy, deprive minorities of their rights, and treat women unjustly. We are attacked over and over again for things that we preached first, fought for and believed in. How did we drift so far away from what we deserve – Respect?!! Why these allegations when we were the ones who first led this world into Democracy? Who is to blame for this transition from right to wrong? If only we could savor what we once believed in… maybe then Islam wouldn’t be so far away from the truth; so misunderstood.

Falak Zaffer, December 18th 2007.

6 thoughts on “Looking within…

  1. Well what i personally feel that there is no work left to get done in modifying Islam. But there is certainly loads of mentality change that should be done by the current Islamic leaders. Politicians everywhere of all countries & religions are all the same they just wont change.I believe that there aint gona be a world war or use of nuclear warheads as every nation today depends upon the other for diffrent sorts of business but i cant say the same about whats gonna happen in future. Islam & Christianity are quiet similar till Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and if they are then why does discrimination exist? Itz cuz of the people and their leaders…Okay the Atheist & The Theist debate wouldnt end to. As the non religious people quiet ofently ask us about “How God Was Created”? Well i want to ask them that if according to them planet earth was created by gases or meteors etc… then who created those gases & meteors… and if those gases were created by something else that what created that something…So ultimately its we & us who are soully & wholly responsible in ruining civilizations blaming religions, destroying the ozone layer & the world… And itz only cuz of this “”” $ “”” and nothing else… So coming to the point unless these oldies dont change their orthodox behaviours and we people still treat money as god which is happenin and will always happen you will see wars, religous debates, global warmin etc happenin…So a sane person should alwayz shut up work hard and do some overtime & spend some quality time with family & friends…PS: Sorry for my crooked english.

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  2. A couple things to think about first, maybe: What makes a given modern political state “Islamic”? I understand in some sense why that label is used, appropriately or not, by the Islamic Republic of Iran, or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We mean that a significant majority of the people are Muslims, and their lives are lived that way, and the government facilitates that in some way. But, without getting very far into my personal beliefs about governments, I want to raise the question about whether a government can “submit to the will of The One God”. In addition, even if we acknowledge that the idea is to run a modern state/nation from Muslim principles, I question whether what we see out of those 2 countries actually looks anything like the historical precedent, or the consensus of the ummah. A great example is the stonings that have happened for adultery, when the Qur’an is pretty clear on it being a 50 lashes deal. For a well-publicized recent example of justice in Saudi Arabia, see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7112999.stmI've just not seen an implementation of Sharia that seems like a religious method of jurisprudence rather than a government means of abusing people (in all fairness, I don’t think even any secular country could make that claim on anything but a very small scale, it just gets me particularly heated to see it being done in the name of the Divine.) Also, I think a lot of scholars would come up with the opinion that an awful lot of Sharia law doesn’t apply to other People of the Book living in an “Islamic” country, past the jizya, the protection of their lives and property equal to Muslims, and there not being compulsion in religion.I understand there being a point to prescribing certain limitations, when it comes to holy places, so as to keep it from being a tourist attraction, but I think it’s a tricky line to draw for a lot of reasons. One is that it only hurts the community of the faithful to be insular. You don’t get outside support that way, you get less sympathy that way. In the specific case of Mecca and Medina, I think they’re losing the opportunity to show a lot of non-Muslims one of the most beautiful parts of their religion. Plus that it goes far against the historical precedent all the way back to Muhammad’s time, that masjids were not just places for Muslims to pray, they were community centers, schools, and places of rest for travellers.During my recent trip to Israel/Palestine, it was difficult to me to accept the restrictions that other people were able to place on where I could go. I saw a lot of really disgusting tourism going on, and so I know where people believe the justification comes from. But it was particularly disturbing to me how often it was assumed I was not Muslim, and really just not welcomed, as I’ve felt in the Sates. Maybe it was just frustrating, because it felt more important to me there to see al-Aqsa than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and I would have rather gotten in jummaa at Omar’s Mosque than visited the Western Wall.But ultimately, I just want to ask: Who decides? Does the Saudi government get to decide “only Muslims”? Do they get to decide what “Muslim” is defined as? How “Muslim” does one have to be to count?I don’t know the Ultimate Truthful Answer to that question, but I have to say I’m wary of putting the power to answer it in the hands of any given government. In Jerusalem, it was in the hands of the Israeli government, and I talked to people in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem who had been prevented from going to al-Aqsa when they wanted to. They got turned away, one way or another, by some 17 year old kid in an army uniform, the same way I did. And that feels pretty crappy.

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  3. I was following the Saudi rape victim’s case for a while as well… hence I did make it a point to bring up the Sharia law in my article. However the Sharia is the law that Arabs have agreed upon following and hence the government is the one who would decide and justify the need for it. In this case however the King did accept to pardon the woman due to political influence of other countries when she was to be punished on two counts, one for being seen with a non-mahram alone and secondly for committing adultery (having confessed of having an affair with the man she was caught with). Regardless she was forgiven but yet Saudi was criticized on its barbarism. It still comes down to my question, is it better to be strict or create a society with no boundaries, no morals, and no shame?

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  4. The quranic verse “O you who believe! Verily, the Mushrikin are impure. So let them not come near Al-Masjid Al-Haram after this year” (9:28) has provided the prohibition on Non-Muslims into the holy mosque in Mecca. Scholars have also include Medina in the understanding of this verse. As to the why? Perhaps the best answer, in my opinion, was given by Dr. Zakir Naik of India in the following way:”It is true that non-Muslims are not allowed in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, by law. The following points will serve to elucidate the possible reasoning behind such a restriction.1. All citizens are not permitted in the cantonment areaI am a citizen of India. Yet, I am not permitted to enter certain restricted areas like the cantonment. In every country there are certain areas where a common citizen of that country cannot enter. Only a citizen who is enrolled in the military or those who are connected with the defence of the country are allowed in the cantonment area. Similarly Islam is a Universal Religion for the entire world and for all human beings. The cantonment areas of Islam are the two holy cites of Makkah and Madinah. Here only those who believe in Islam and are involved in the defence of Islam i.e. the Muslims are allowed.It would be illogical for a common citizen to object against the restriction on entering a cantonment area. Similarly it is not appropriate for non-Muslims to object against the restriction on non-Muslims against entering Makkah and Madinah.2. Visa to enter Makkah and MadinahWhenever a person travels to a foreign country he has to first apply for a visa i.e. the permission to enter that country. Every country has its own rules, regulations and requirements for issuing a visa. Unless their critera are satisfied they will not issue a visa. One of the countries which is very strict in issuing a visa is the United States of America, especially when issuing visas to citizens of the third world. They have several conditions and requirements to be fulfilled before they issue a visa.When I visited Singapore, it was mentioned on their immigration form – death to drug traffickers. If I want to visit Singapore I have to abide by the rules. I cannot say that death penalty is a barbaric punishment. Only if I agree with their requirements and conditions will I be permitted to enter the country.The Visa – The primary condition required for any human being to enter Makkah or Madina is to say with his lips, La ila ha illallah Muhammed ur Rasulullah meaning that ‘there is no God but Allah and Muhammed (pbuh) is His Messenger.’”—–Zakir NaikAnd it is not in the Muslim tradition only that this has been prescribed. I remember a few years back when Musharraf visited a hindu temple in India and many hindus were offended and did not consider it appropriate for a NON HINDU to enter their special temple. Am sure more such rulings can be found of other religions in the past and present where they have such restrictions. Just google it! Also, it is very odd on one hand to say that “we support other beliefs and cultures” and then at the same time crticize and question their beliefs and ask it to be changed. This is very hypocritical. And I agree that we the Muslims have this belief and we believe with our hearts that it is forbidden for non-Muslims to enter the holy mosques. This is our belief and we ask that we be respected for it especially by Americans since they LOVE to show that they stand for RESPECT and ACCEPTANCE of all faiths. Well this is part of our faith so accept it. If someone from another faith told me I could not enter their place of worship I would completely understand and respect his belief and not get OFFENDED or CARE that i didn’t get to enter it. I think picking on Islamic beliefs has become a trend and habit now especially since we’re always in the spotlight nowadays. So many things about islam are picked on but many of those beliefs and practices are in other faiths also in one form or another but no one picks on those. Why? The best thing to do is just educate the people about understanding our faith since even though islam is the fastest growing religion(esp in the west) it is also the most misunderstood.

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  5. A couple points: Doesn’t mishrikun normally refer to polytheists (those who associate partners with The One God), not other monotheists and People of the Book? Aren’t they normally considered kfr’s, or people who have turned away, rather than idolaters (Buddhists, Hindus, etc.)?Second, I think if you look at the historical context of this, isn’t it after Muhammad and his followers came back from Medina to take Mecca? And isn’t it very specifically the pagan Arabs that this verse is in reference to, since they were allowed in the Sacred Mosque the first year, as a condition of the treaty, which prohibited no bloodshed for the first year (for the Quraysh, for the tribes with which there was no specific time limit on the treaty, they were given 4 months, I think)? As I read it, it’s letting the Quraysh and the other defeated tribes of Mecca know that they’ll no longer be allowed to make their jahliyya pilgrimages to the Kaaba after this point.I just did a little bit of reading on it, and it seems that some scholars have proposed that by that what we’re talking about is the whole district or part of town around Masjid al-Haram, not just the building or courtyard itself. That makes some sense to me, from a security and symbolic standpoint, and it makes sense theologically, since the Ascension proper didn’t start actually at the masjid, it started at a nearby house.As far as possible arguments about letting in disbelievers (both types) due to cleanliness concerns (spiritual and physical), there’s evidence both ways. There seems to be a heavy stress on keeping mosques “pure” within the hadith, there’s also the instance where after the Muslims take Mecca, one of the groups representing the Thaqif tribe were housed temporarily in the masjid (see above post on historical purposes of mosques). When people complained that they were unbelievers, Muhammad told them that the masjid was not affected by it.Interesting questions that come to mind, in a similar vein: When Ahmadinejad made hajj last year, surely he had security with him. Did his bodyguard team make wudu before entering? Did they take off their shoes? Did they leave their weapons at the door? (I doubt the answer to any of these questions is yes.)

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  6. Hello Joe. First of all good questions and i like the fact you have done research on your questions beforehand, bravo. Now with regards to your first question regarding the word “Mushrikeen” this word is derived from the word “Shirk” which means partners. And yes mushrikeen DOES refer to people who set partners with God in any way or form just as the hindus, budhists, etc. HOwe’ver so do the Christians. They associate or “partner up” with God, according to the Muslims, Jesus. They believe him to be the son of God, and we do not believe this. By doing so they are associating partners with God. So they ARE mushrikeen also. The title “People of the book” only means that they are among those who USE to follow the guidance at one point from God in some particular time. Its like saying about an Indian Muslim living in America that he is “an Indian American” even though he/she is not living in India but it just tells that he/she has indian roots or lived there at some point. The title “People of the Book” has the same affect. In the Qur’an Allah says, “And say: “All praise and thanks are Allâh’s, Who has not begotten a son (or offspring), and Who has no partner in (His) Dominion, nor is He low to have a Walî (helper, protector or supporter). And magnify Him with all magnificence [Allâhu-Akbar (Allâh is the Most Great)].” (Quran 17:111). In this verse Allah tells us that attributing a son to him is attributing a partner with Him. Hence the Christians are from the Mushrikeen. The pagan Arabs use to attribute angels as daughters of God at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and they were rebuked for this statement. The kaafir is the one who denies and conceals the truth. The basic meaning of the word kufr in Arabic is concealment. Kufr can also take the form of denying and rejecting. The Jews and Christians are both kaafirs and mushrikeen. They are kaafirs because they deny the truth and reject it. And they are mushrikeen because they worship someone other than Allaah. There is a good article on this topic: http://www.islamqa.com/index.php?ref=67626&ln=engAs for your second paragraph, you are absolutely right about how the verse and when it was revealed. But we have to see HOW it was understood by them which is more important. And yes there is a difference of opinion among the scholars and some of them do consider allowing Jews and Christians to enter the sacred mosques and one of the scholars says no ANYONE can come as long as they do not stay there. But we have to refer to the evidences. The word used in the verse for “mushrikeen” in 9:28 is used in a general sense which will include the people of the book becasue they fall under the definition of the “mushrik”. Yes, there is difference of opinion among the scholars as to WHAT exactly is considered Sanctuary, is it the mosque itself? OR is it the whole city or what? I can’t comment on this point much since I have not looked into this point. I could not find anything on thaqif tribe and when they were housed in Mecca could you write out the whole incidnet and from where it came from? I dont have my book which details the life of Muhammad with me so I cannot refer to it.Lastly, with regards to the Iranian president visting Mecca then I dont know how that relates to all this since he’s a Muslim. And you dont have to have wudu before entering a mosque and you dont have to take your shoes off before entering a mosque if they dont have any impurity (urine, stool, etc.) on it. In fact, the prophet Muhammad use to pray in the mosque with his shoes on ;). And with regards to his body guars I saw the youtube video and he’s mostly surrounded by Saudi police around him and I couldnt spot a weapon. But even if they did in case of high risk of security and necessity scholars have said that then haram become halal. For eample, Muslims cannot eat pork but in case of necessity and fear of death due to starvation they are permitted to eat it.

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