Friday, May 23, 2008

The Reading (Al-Quran)

Salamun alaikum readers, my two latest musings have been about us Muslims as readers. I also gave the links to the Quranic verses where Allah has told us to read. I wrote on my last posting how many Muslims just recite and not read, but today I want to muse about reading and trying to understand the Quran.

The thing is that most Muslims read the Quran in translation, and for most of my life I thought the various translations gave an accurate translation from Arabic to whatever language one was reading it in.

Sadly this is not the case, and this is the root of our greatest problem with understanding Islam. The problem is not even obvious because if you read most translations in English, Norwegian and Indonesian (and I assume it is so in all other languages), they are all mostly translated the same. So if one word means something in one verse and something else in other verses, they all translate it the same. Why is this?

Is there something wrong with the world’s translations of the Quran? Have we been misled? This is a scary subject and for most Muslims a VERY traumatic thought that the Quran they read may be misleading them on some issues! Wow. “I don’t believe it” is their general reply (with “their” I refer to nearly all Muslims, my former self included).

How can I say this, me, just a silly housewife with no greater study of the Quran. Me, a woman that can not read and understand Arabic. Some Muslims say that I don’t know what I talk about and that I should listen to the Ulama and the proper scholars of Islam, they will tell me what the correct interpretation of all Quranic verses is.

So how did I end up with the minority view?

It started for me well over a year ago, until then I was what you could call a traditional Muslim. I followed the Islam of my father and the family I grew up in. But to my great blessing I married a man that have become Muslim late in life, he has always loved and sought God, and when all religions were looked at, he came to Islam. He told me that Allah has given him a gift that as long as he truly look at something from all sides, in the end Allah shows him what is true. This gift was bestowed on him after he left the belief in re-incarnation and saw what this was. This does NOT mean he knows all truth, it only means that when he looks at something from all sides and truly studies it deeply, a guidance is given. Or so he says, and I believe him.

So my husband being who he is continued to read after becoming a Muslim. He went to the missionary school library and read most books on Islam, from its friends and foes. He read from all the various sects and law schools and groups in Islam. He read from their own point of view, and from that of their opponents. He of course also read a lot on the internet.

He also translated some books from English to Norwegian, the first being “Jesus a Prophet of Islam”. He did that so his fellow Norwegians could read in their own language something that could educate them of their Christian beliefs and show some of what Islam was about.

This led him to various new ways to look at things and he realized that as the Christians had corrupted the message of Jesus, so had the Hadith writers corrupted the true message of the Quran.

So what is this all about you may ask? A little you may have seen from my article on Hijab, and how deep this corruption goes you need to find out for yourself. For me this dialogue with my husband and my own study have lead me to not put two lines under ANY answer, to question anything and to READ.

I don’t ask you to “believe” in anything you read from the links below, and I certainly hold judgment on many of the issues presented there. So do my husband, he also continues to read and we both fell strengthened in our faith in Allah.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Reciting is not Reading

Salamun alaikum dear readers, in my last posting I wrote about us Muslims not reading, but many Muslims will argue that they do read, they do read the Quran on a daily basis. This is a difficult one, what constitute “reading”? Yes it is true that many look in a book and say words that appear on the pages. So from someone looking at that person to any outward appearance the person is “reading”. But truly, is this “reading”?

Many Muslims “read” from Arabic version of the Quran without having any knowledge of the Arabic language, they “read” the words but they don’t know the meaning of them. Many Muslims have even memorized the whole Quran on this basis, a great effort but does it generate knowledge? But, truly this is NOT reading, this is called reciting.

I know many Muslims are under the impression that reciting the Quran in the Arabic language (even without understanding a word) generates many rewards from Allah. But Allah calls us to READ?

So what is “reading”? Wikipedia, the internet encyclopedia says this about reading;

Reading is the cognitive process of deriving meaning from written or printed text. It is a means of language acquisition, of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. Effective readers use decoding skills (to translate printed text into the sounds of language), use morpheme, semantics, syntax and context cues to identify the meaning of unknown words, activate prior knowledge (schemata theory), use comprehension, and demonstrate fluency during reading.

Based on this, does it constitute “reading” what most Muslims do when they read the Quran? I think not.

Again, Allah tells us; READ. So let us do so because wider and greater understanding lead to correct action and I am sure this again leads to a world more in line with Allah’s commandments. The verse below truly encourages us to understand, verify everything and be seeking knowledge. We truly are held responsible by Allah for that.

17:36 “Do not uphold what you have no knowledge of. For the hearing, eyesight, and mind, all these are held responsible for that”.

Wassalam and peace avid readers.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Why don't Muslims Read?

Salamun alaikum dear readers, lately I have thought a lot about why we Muslims don’t read. Coming from Indonesia to Norway I see a huge difference in reading habits. In most Norwegian homes they have huge shelves with books, in Indonesia if they have shelves; there are hardly any books, just decorations. Why is that?

Most Indonesians are Muslims and Allah says in the Quran many times “READ”, below is perhaps the most known verse.

  • 96:1 Read in the name of your Lord who has created.
  • 96:2 He created the human being from an embryo.
  • 96:3 Read, and your Lord is the Generous One.
  • 96:4 The One who taught by the pen.
  • 96:5 He taught the human being what he did not know.

At the end of this musing I have pasted references to more Quranic verses where Allah asks us to read.

When I look at the so-called Muslim countries I see an ocean of illiteracies and non-readers. In many of those countries we have a big portion of the populace that is illiterate, but the governments are full of Muslims. It should be the duty of a government to educate the populace, but it seems to me that the government in those countries is quite happy keeping them ignorant.

In the Western world (for all their faults) at least they put a large effort into teaching everybody to read and have a minimum of education. Is this one of the major reasons why the Muslim countries are so backward? Is it because they do not READ?

Many Muslims will argue that they do read, they do read the Quran daily. I will answer this in a separate musing because it is not true, they recite and do not read (but more on this in another day).

Another reason is of course poverty, many families can not afford books, but there are libraries free of charge to borrow books. But the funny thing is that most people have never been there, or at least never to borrow any book outside school curriculum. People never go there to READ, to study, to educate themselves, to learn something new. Me neither, it was first when I came here, where most people read that I started to read, in an environment of readers I started to read.

So? How to change this downward spiral of ignorance? For those of you that have seen the trilogy “The Matrix”, one of the characters say in this film; “Ignorance is Bliss”. No, no, no. Ignorance leads to every bad thing in this world.

Any bad thing you can think of is done by ignorance, or not knowing the consequences of ones actions.

Again and again, Allah tells us; READ. So let us do so because understanding lead to correct action and I am sure this again leads to a world more in line with Allahs commandments.

Below are some references to Quranic verses you could read, and think about their implications. Again, Allah asks us to read, to study and to develop our knowledge on all important issues. This is not about faith; it is about knowledge to better our situation and that of our fellow man.

  1. Do not accept information on faith; critically evaluate it with your reason and senses (17:36)
  2. Ask the experts if you do not know (16:43)
  3. Use intelligence, reason and historical precedents to understand and carry out God’s commands (7:179; 8:22; 10:100; 12:111; 3:137)
  4. Do not dogmatically follow the status-quo and tradition; be open to new ideas (22:1; 26:5; 38:7)
  5. Be open-minded and promote freedom of expression; listen to all views and follow the best (39:18)
  6. Do not follow conjecture (10:36,66; 53:28)
  7. Study God’s creation in the heavens and land; explore the beginning of creation (2:164; 3:190; 29:20)
  8. Attain knowledge, since it is the most valuable thing in your appreciation of God (3:18; 13:13; 29:43,49)
  9. Be a free person, do not follow crowds, and do not afraid of crowds (2:112; 5:54,69; 0:62; 39:36; 46:13)
  10. Do not follow blindly the religion of your parents or your nation (6:116; 12:103,112)
  11. Do not make profit from sharing God’s Message with others (6:90; 36:21; 26:109- 180)
  12. Read in order to know, and read critically (96:1-5; 55:1-4)
  13. Do not ignore divine revelation and signs (25:73)
  14. Do not miss the main point by indulging in small and inconsequential details (2:67- 71; 5:101-102; 22:67)
  15. Hold your judgment if you do not have sufficient information; do not rush into taking a position (20:114)

Wassalam and peace avid readers.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Family Name

According to Muallif in Islam children especially women should use the name of their father and not their husband. I don't agree with that.

In my family we belong to a tribe with no family name, so we all have different second names. And my family have been Muslims for hundreds years. Different cultures have different approach to “family name”. In Iceland for example it is common for the woman to use “daughter of (Margitdottir)” and the son “son of (Olafson)” as family name, similar in Arabic. In the western world one use the family name of the father and the newly wed wife take the same as the husband. This way it signifies that she, the children and husband have the same name, showing they belong to one family.

So is this un-Islamic? In the Quran only one verse (please correct me if I'm wrong) talked about family name, namely Surah 33:5, but this verse talk about adopted children, signifying that they should keep their fathers name and not the name of the man who adopt them. To me this is so that people should know their blood-line, and not become confused to who were their father and mother was.

Is it then a sin for a woman to take her husband family name so she and her children have the same family name? I don’t think so, and the verse in the Quran to me signifies support for this belief. Why? Because the verse is about knowing your blood – your bloodline – your family.

For those that see it differently, well this is your belief. Allah knows best.