To Your Knees (Ghazal)

She doesn’t care for your soul, and will bring you to your knees,
siren of Satan, weak men-she will sing you to your knees.

Weakened King David, he saw her bathing there on the roof,
forgetting God, forgetting truth-prophet: “King to your knees.”

Oh Sampson, you would not marry Hebrew’s righteous daughters,
tempted by lust instead, the enemy’s sting to your knees.

Solomon not wise as he lived with his hundreds of wives,
worshiping their foreign idols, empty thing to your knees.

The righteous woman is more precious than jewels, a rare pearl
who will raise you up to the throne-not fling you to your knees.

Weak women weaken you further, your soul sucked dry as bone,
you have forgotten God; death is not the thing, to your knees.

Her hair in the sunlight, burnished gold; the gift of herself-
body, heart and soul, thankful to Allah, Salat-to your knees.

Jeff Buckley singing Hallelujah

Crown of Thorns

“They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him.  And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Matthew 27:28-29

“Religion is passionate, reckless, destructive, idol-smashing.  It’s a martyr burning at the stake. It’s a crown of thorns and a cross.” Martha Ostenso

Thorn trees are a symbolic archetype that is found in every one of the People of the Book’s sacred writings.  The description of thorns and thistles growing in a wilderness represents spiritual dryness, and alternatively the archetype of vegetative flourishing with flowing streams represents a state of spiritual fullness.  For example, from the creation story in the Book of Genesis is the archetype of thorns and thistles being represented as the consequence of sin: “To Adam he said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, You must not eat from it, Cursed is the ground because of your; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.  It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field” (v. 17-18).  In contrast, Genesis 2 exemplifies the previous state of sinlessness by its description of flourishment: “Now the Lord God planted a garden in the east, in Eden, with all kinds of trees…pleasing to the eye and good for food.  In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the Knowledge of good and evil….A river watering the garden flowed from Eden [with four headwaters]” (v. 8-10).

Similar contrasts are found in numerous verses in the remainder of the Old Testament, especially warnings given to the wayward idol worshiping Israelites.  The purpose of the Old Testament prophets is to strongly admonish the Israelites of their sin, warn them of the impending punishment and/or destruction, a call to repentance, and beautiful metaphoric descriptions of flourishing spiritual life, with the blessings provided by God for those who obey His commandments.  The Qur’an as well is enmeshed with visions of horrific punishment which will be poured down upon unbelievers on the Judgement Day, and splendorous descriptions of paradise and its many blessings for those who were steadfast in their submission to Allah (God).  For example, Surah 34 describes Allah’s punishment of a wilderness replacement for flourishing gardens as a symbol of a city that refused to acknowledge Allah for their blessings.:

“There was a sign for the people of Sheba, too, in their dwelling place: two gardens, one on the right, and one on the left: ‘Eat from what your Lord has provided for you and give Him thanks, for your land is good, and your Lord most forgiving.’ But they paid no heed, so We let loose on them a flood from the dam and replaced their two gardens with others that yielded bitter fruit, tamarisk bushes, and a few lote trees.  In this way  We punished them for their ingratitude-would We punish anyone but the ungrateful?”

(FYI -for non-Muslims, the word, “We” is used in the Qur’an as the Archangel Gabriel speaking for God to the Prophet Muhammad).

Tamarisk bushes grow close together in a dense, nearly impenetrable thicket and is an extremely invasive plant that replaces natural vegetation and is a poor habitat for wildlife. The wild Lote tree is a spiny shrub with slightly edible fruit, but is contrasted with the cultivated Lote tree in other passages (56:27-31) such as this one:

“Those on the Right, what people they are!  They will dwell amid thornless lote trees and clustered acacia with spreading shade, constantly flowing water, abundant fruits…”  

Hover your mouse over each pic for its descriptive label:

Those “on the Right” refer to the pious believers who will dwell in paradise.  Many of the descriptions of paradise in the Qur’an describe a place of flourishing and beauty.  However, in the first passage mentioned from the Qur’an is the story of people who didn’t acknowledge or give thanks to Allah for their blessings, so are indicative of those who don’t submit to Allah or believe.  Seen are the same archetype symbols of non-producing invasive plants that are not beneficial for animals or humans.  When land is to be cultivated these plants are burned so that productive plants may be planted.  The symbolism of the non-producing plants being burned is also characterized in this passage from Isaiah 33:10-12 where the prophet is admonishing and warning the Israelites for their ongoing sin:

10 “Now will I arise,” says the Lord.
    “Now will I be exalted;
    now will I be lifted up.
11 You conceive chaff,
    you give birth to straw;
    your breath is a fire that consumes you.
12 The peoples will be burned to ashes;
    like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze.”

The prophet Isaiah in chapter 32 expresses both the wilderness metaphor and the flourishing with the dividing contrast line of “Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high”:

For the land of my people in which thorns and briars shall come up;
Yea, for all the joyful houses and for the jubilant city.
14 Because the palace has been abandoned, the [l]populated city forsaken.
[m]Hill and watch-tower have become caves forever,
A delight for wild donkeys, a pasture for flocks;
15 Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high,
And the wilderness becomes a fertile field,
And the fertile field is considered as a forest.
16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness
And righteousness will abide in the fertile field.
17 And the work of righteousness will be peace,
And the service of righteousness, quietness and [n]confidence forever.
18 Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation,
And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places;
19 And it will hail when the forest comes down,
And the city will be utterly laid low.
20 How blessed will you be, you who sow beside all waters,
Who [o]let out freely the ox and the donkey.

Isaiah beautifully captures the desolation before God’s Spirit is poured out, and the abundant flourishing afterwards.  The metaphor and its representation are written in the same line, “Then justice will dwell in the wilderness…righteousness will abide in the fertile field.”  The spiritual wilderness will be transformed by the implementation of justice, and fecundity will be seen because of righteousness.  Walter Brueggeman writing in Journey to the Common Good, describes the wilderness/flourishing archetype as:

“Wilderness” is a place, in biblical rhetoric, where there are no viable life support systems.  [Alternately] “Grace” is the occupying generosity of God that redefines the place.”

Wilderness Places

“The realm of Pharoah [is a place or condition] where everything and everyone is reduced to a commodity and so human worth is measured by productivity, gain, and control.” (Journey to the Common Good, Walter Brueggeman, p. 117)

“Pharoah’s Egypt was a zone of abusive scarcity in which no could ever be satisfied, joyous, or at rest.” (From Whom No Secrets Are Hid, Walter Brueggeman, p. 65)

“Anxious scarcity evokes no gratitude, but only exploitation and violence.”(p. 67)

According to Brueggeman, the places of wilderness is likened to the condition of slavery under Pharoah’s rule.  The institution of government  has a voracious appetite that feeds on it constituents.  This is a structure that gives power to the rich, and oppresses all others.  It is in a constant state of over-satiation that constantly reinforces its own power by selfishly only seeing to its own needs and wants by taking advantage of the powerless.  The Israelites as slaves lived in a state of anxiety, just like the condition of anxiety we live in today.  We are at the mercy of company owners who like ravenous wolves when their company begins to fail, lay off employees letting them sink with the ship, while they fly off with huge amounts of money, making profit off their own failure.  For, sometimes the places of wilderness are initiated and found within a wealthy palace compound, and the land of flourishing within a poor person’s hut.

“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites.So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,[a] but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.” (Luke 22)

Jesus is in the temple with his disciples preaching and looks over to see a lone widow giving her offering.  Think about her heart.  She is poor, and doesn’t even hold onto the little that she has, and gives from a pure, loving heart for God.  The wealthy meanwhile have given larger amounts out of their abundance and receive attention, popularity and status, while Jesus is the only one who notices her extreme sacrifice.  Her sacrifice is worth more than all the gold in a rich person’s mansion.  Her sacrificial giving comes from a place of flourishing that will be rewarded by a loving God who sees and acknowledges all true sacrifice.

“The matter is all the more urgent, I believe, because the immense force of empire continues its lethal enterprise, refusing to notice the failed fabric of social reality all around.” (Journey to the Common Good, p. 103)

The wilderness signifies a state of sinfulness that doesn’t allow for spiritual flourishing.  The thorns and thistles take over the green productive plants, allowing the desert to form by drying up the life giving streams of life.  However, God hears the cry of the oppressed.  In Isaiah 41 is the promise of Yahweh turning the wilderness into abundance, “But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.”  Just as God answered the cry of the Israelites under slavery by sending Moses to lead them to the promised land, here again is the same response to the sincere cry for deliverance:

17 The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,”

And in 44:3-4:

‘For I will pour out water on [a]the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants;
And they will spring up [b]among the grass
Like poplars by streams of water.’

55:12-13:

“For you will go out with joy
And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
13 “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,
And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,
And [a]it will be a [b]memorial to the Lord,
For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”

Habakkuk speaks to the injustice of the empire:

12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed
And founds a town with [a]violence!
13 “Is it not indeed from the Lord of hosts
That peoples toil for fire,
And nations grow weary for nothing?”

According to Brueggemann, what brings flourishing is an “alternative reality” that is described and modeled by Jesus in the gospels. It is only this “alternative reality” than can release us from the bonds of fear, anxiety and scarcity.  For,if we don’t love our neighbors as ourselves we are not loving God.  And these are the most important commandments, “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul, and the second is alike to it, love your neighbor as yourself.”  God speaking through the prophet Isaiah (ch. 58) describes this “alternative reality”:

“Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
“Is it not to divide your bread [c]with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
“Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
“Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The [d]pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
10 And if you [e]give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the [f]desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
11 “And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your [g]desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not [h]fail.
12 “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the [i]streets in which to dwell.

Moses leading the Israelites through the wilderness to the promised land is a typology for the spiritual leadership of Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad (phuh) leading their followers into the deeper understanding of how to live in the alternative reality to combat the darkness of the oppressive empire.  The physical journey continues spiritually such that we are still on the journey of what Jesus called “the way, the truth, and the life,” and the Prophet Muhammad calls “the straight path.”  However, the Jews expected their Messiah would physically overcome the oppressive Roman government, so didn’t accept the more humble Messiah who attempted to teach them how to battle darkness with the light of the Spirit.  For example, this Messiah taught the Jews that when a Roman soldier orders them to carry their heavy pack for one mile (which the Jews perceived as oppressive, and hence looked at themselves as victims), to not just carry the pack for one mile, but to carry it for an extra mile.  That extra mile changes their entire mindset to one of servanthood away from victimhood.  But, because of the Jew’s unbelief, Jesus quotes from the Torah, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: `The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? (Matt 21:42-43)  The temple of the Kingdom of God is not just being built by Jesus, but by all the Prophets including the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and true believers who fully submit to God.

“I suggest that it is the task of followers of this gospel in our society [but what Brueggeman fails to understand that it is the task of all monotheistic believers to love one another first, and then work together in unity to bring about the kingdom of God]–who live in the totalitarian regime of military consumerism with all of its hopes and violence and anxieties-to depart….the possibility is for life lived in an alternative frame of reference organized around a counter-loyalty.” (Journey to the Common Good, p. 102)

The empire is Goliath, and any attempt to battle the oppressive, unjust institution will result in failure.  Jesus stated, “Repent, for the kingdom heaven is at hand,” for a new temple is being built, a spiritual temple which will reside among the earthly institutions to bring about flourishing in a dry land.  Let’s revisit the cross for a moment, shall we?  The soldiers place a crown of thorns on Jesus’ head and mock him as “King of the Jews.”  It is surmised the crown was made from the Lote tree which is also called “Christ thorn.”  The uncultivated thorn of wilderness, the thorn of scarcity, the thorn of a dry land with no living water, the thorn of desolation, the thorn of a place of injustice, the thorn tree of sin and unrighteousness, is twisted into a crown and placed on the One who provides an endless supply of living water, who brought an understanding of flourishing-who points us to the way out of the wilderness.  The crown of thorns symbolizes the sins of the empire being placed on Jesus’ head.  Remember, Jesus willingly sacrificed His life for God’s purpose:  “And behold one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.  Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.  Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” This is Islam, or full submission to God. (Matthew 26:52-53)

The oppressive government, the fear of the Pharaoh, the anxiety of an institution that creates itself over the God who created it, destroys the one it fears.  But, God, the Creator over all, resurrects the Christ – for no human entity can destroy God’s will and purpose.  His will, will be done.

“…wickedness is a refusal to accept the good ordering of life given by the creator:

    • Wickedness is to assume the continuing force of chaos, and so wickedness is to seek to amass whatever it takes-money, power, weapons, sex, and influence-to fend of chaos for one’s own interests.
    • Wickedness is to assume that there is no reliable supply of abundant bread, and so wickedness is to seek a monopoly of bread at the expense of the neighbor.
    • Wickedness is to imagine that rauch [the breath of God’s Spirit] belongs to us and not to God, and so wickedness is to practice hubris in order to maintain one’s own life and place in the world.

Wickedness, in sum, is the refusal of God the creator and the idolization of self as the center of reality.” (From Whom No Secrets Are Hid, p. 76)

The alternative reality is indeed, “neighborliness.”   It is loving when we want to complain and hate.  It is establishing resources for the poor and needy, and to stop holding on to our abundance because of fear.  It is to stop pointing our fingers at the “others” and begin working together in peace.  It is fully, deeply understanding that the monotheistic religions must reach out to each other first in love and acceptance. For it is up to us to flourish our dry land with the help of Allah’s Spirit. Just as the Qur’an states, we must transform ourselves first and then Allah will help us transform our communities and our nations.  However, just as with the Israelites, there must first be acknowledgement of sins and repentance and then Allah’s incredible transformative flourishing and revival will occur.  The “alternative reality” will reside within the physical reality of the kingdom of earth, to establish the kingdom of heaven.

However, because many of us live in a state of over-satiation we forget to acknowledge and thank Allah for all things-we lose our perspective as a mortal in front of the Creator of souls.  Luke 12:19 describes it thus: “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods stored up for many days.; relax, eat, drink, and be merry.’ ‘You fool!  This very night your life is being demanded of you.  And the things you have prepared, whose will be they be?”  Both Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) state we will not know when the Day of Recompense will come.  In fact, Jesus admonishes that it will come like a thief in the night, so we better be prepared.

Psalm 107

33 He [t]changes rivers into a [u]wilderness
And springs of water into a thirsty ground;
34 A fruitful land into a salt waste,
Because of the wickedness of those who dwell in it.
35 He [v]changes a [w]wilderness into a pool of water
And a dry land into springs of water;
36 And there He makes the hungry to dwell,
So that they may establish [x]an inhabited city,
37 And sow fields and plant vineyards,
And [y]gather a fruitful harvest.
38 Also He blesses them and they multiply greatly,
And He does not let their cattle decrease.

39 When they are diminished and bowed down
Through oppression, misery and sorrow,
40 He pours contempt upon [z]princes
And makes them wander in a pathless waste.
41 But He sets the needy [aa]securely on high away from affliction,
And makes his families like a flock.
42 The upright see it and are glad;
But all unrighteousness shuts its mouth.
43 Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things,
And consider the lovingkindnesses of the Lord.

 

The Hidden Jesus in Islam

As for those who ignore God and His messengers and want to make a distinction between them, saying, ‘We believe in some but not in others,’ seeking a middle way, they are really disbelievers.  We have prepared a humiliating punishment for those who disbelieve.  But God will give [due] rewards to those who believe in Him and His messengers and make no distinction between any of them.  God is most forgiving and merciful. (Surah 4:150-152) [All Qur’an quotes- translation  M.A.S. Abdel Haleem]

The Pew Research Center reported in 34 of 38 countries, at least half of Muslims believe Islam is the one true religion, and additionally, in the Middle East, North Africa, including Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, and the Palestine territories an overwhelming majority believe Islam is the only true religion (in which a believer will inherit eternal life).  Therefore, those Muslims who believe Islam is the only true religion, also believe it is their duty or da’wah to convert Christians to Islam.  Alternatively, most Christians believe Islam is a false religion, the angel Gabriel did not really speak to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh),  Islam is violent, and has as its goal to convert the entire world by whatever means necessary, and is a manifestation of Satan’s work to destroy Christianity.  Subsequently, most Christians also believe it is their duty to attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity.

It is evident the core problem is ignorance regarding each other’s religions and not following their respective Prophet’s teachings and actions regarding love and acceptance.  Also, many Islamic and Christian religious scholars make erroneous interpretations of each religion’s sacred writings and teachings.  Some of the interpretations are intentionally skewed for propaganda and converting purposes. For example, the Qur’an mentions Jesus 25 times and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) four times.  But, because of the misconceptions and conflict between Islam and Christianity, most Christians don’t know the Qur’an is partially based on the Prophets and Jesus, and Muslims disregard the teachings of the Prophets and Jesus, by primarily focusing on the direct teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  There are very few of Jesus’ actual teachings in  the Qur’an, so to better understand the nature and teachings of Jesus, one must study the Gospels. Most Muslims have not studied the Bible, and most Christians have not opened the Qur’an, but both erroneously base their understanding entirely on their religious leaders writings and teachings, political leaders rhetoric, and the media.

One Islamic Scholar writes, “Furthermore, only Muslims today actually follow Jesus and his true teachings [obviously this Scholar is inferring the only ‘true teachings’ of Jesus are to be found in the Qur’an]. Their way of life is much more in tune with the way of life of Jesus than any of the modern day ‘Christians” (Dr.Bilal Philips). First of all, the Qur’an provides few actual teachings of Jesus’, but only various mentions of the figure of Jesus, His relation to Mary, beliefs of Christians like the Holy Trinity, etc.  If I am a follower of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) then I study his teachings and actions to become a true follower.  Christians study the Bible, Jesus’ teachings and actions to follow Jesus.  Whether one is a Muslim or a Christian, there are those who claim to be believers, but don’t show by their behavior they are actually following Jesus or the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  I read a twitter post by a Muslim man who stated Muslims have no business reading any other religious book other than the Qur’an.  And yet the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) refers to Jesus as the Messiah and numerous times to the Old Testament Prophets, which should motivate a student of the Qur’an to refer back to the Bible to gain deeper understanding.  This would add to the message of the Qur’an and not detract from the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) revelations in any way.  However, many Muslims believe if they study the Bible, or learn Jesus’ teachings, they are somehow betraying their religion and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). While I was a Christian, I studied the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and the Qur’an.  I learned to love Islam, and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) while remaining a Christian.  This did not take away my love of Jesus.  I am a Muslim now, but was directed to convert by God.  This doesn’t mean Islam is better than Christianity, but God placed me in Islam for the fulfillment of His purpose; it is Allah’s will that the Ummah be strengthened for the coming storm. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) states in the Qur’an the best among us is the one that is the most pious. It is our submission to God and the condition of our hearts that matter, not which particular monotheistic religion we follow.  As the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught, “Argue only in the best way with the People of the Book, except those of them who act unjustly. Say, ‘We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you; our God and your God are the one [and the same]; we are devoted to Him” (Surah 29:46-47).  Once submission to God is enmeshed within our entire being, then the understanding of how we are to reach out to each other in love will be revealed by the removal of the veil of ego.

Alas, don’t tell me the Christians are lost.

Don’t tell me the Jews are lost.

Don’t tell me the infidels are lost.

Alas, my brother, you are lost,

that is why everyone else seems lost.

~ Rumi

Rumi, in this poem is speaking of arrogance and the lack of love.  The believer who loves does not consider any person lost to the Beloved, but loves everyone so they may be drawn to the light to be found.

The Old Testament, New Testament and the Qur’an cohesively fit together in a continuous strand of revelation.  The Old Testament is the beginning of God’s revelation but also points towards the future revelation of the Messiah as well as the far reaching future of the last days and the return of the Messiah.  The Gospels in the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Law found in the Old Testament but also points to the future return of the Messiah and Jesus’ prophecies of the last days.  The Qur’an looks back to the Old Testament Prophets and Jesus in the New Testament, but also looks to the future times by describing the last days, the return of the Messiah, and the Day of Judgement. Our respective stories are beautifully woven together by God as a testament of witness and faith when we bind our hearts together in love and acceptance.  God’s test of love is the heart that sees beyond our differences to the unity of nations lifting their praise up together for the One True God.

Jerusalem is considered sacred to all three faiths of the People of the Book.  The Jews because they believe the Dome of the Rock is where Abraham obeyed God’s command to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a test of obedience.  Also, the site where the Dome sits is the place where Solomon’s temple was built and destroyed later in 70 AD.  Christians, because the foundation of their faith is based in Judaism as well as Jesus’ ministry which had significant events that  occurred in Jerusalem, and Muslims, because the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have risen to heaven from the Rock. However, in spite of the significance of Jerusalem to all three religions, Jerusalem has been the center of conflict for centuries.  The significance of the three religions holding Jerusalem as a sacred city is relevant as the typology of the physical being represented in the spiritual world:

“The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem,which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.” Revelations 3:12

“Then the moon will be abashed and the sun ashamed, For the Lord of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, And His glory will be before His elders” (Isaiah 24:23).   Isaiah is prophesying about the end times, and in verses 4-5 states, “The earth mourns and withers, the world fades and withers, the exalted of the people of the earth fade away.  The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants, for they transgressed laws, violated statutes, broke the everlasting covenant.  Therefore, a curse devours the earth and those who live in it are held guilty.  Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and only a few people are left.”   The “everlasting covenant” is the promise not to worship idols or any other gods other than the one true God.

“It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord in the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”  Isaiah 27:13

All true believers who submit to God of the People of the Book will be together in the heavenly Jerusalem, God’s spiritual kingdom:

The [Muslim] believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabians – all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good-will have their rewards with their Lord.  No fear for them, nor will they grieve. (Surah 2:62)

For Muslims, the beauty of Jesus is hidden within the Qur’an because He is viewed as competing with the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  Somehow for Islam to be valid, Jesus must be made invalid, or not as important as Muhammad.  For those Muslims who argue for exclusivity of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Joseph A. Islam, writing in The Quran and Its Message: Exclusiveness of the Prophet Muhammad states, “The Qur’an makes it abundantly clear that Muslims are not to engage in drawing any distinctions between any of the messengers of God which is a fundamental requirement of a Muslim’s belief (2:285). Also, the methodology deployed to argue for exclusivity is not consistent often concentrating on the desire result as opposed to understanding the verses in context.  For example, in a similar manner, exclusivity can be argued for other messengers of God.”

One of the examples given:

Prophet Jesus’s Exclusivity

  • He was the only Prophet strengthened with the Holy Spirit since birth (5:110)
  • He was born with wisdom and spoke with wisdom as a young child (19:29, 3:46, 5:110) unlike other Prophets who did not receive Divine guidance until later in life (e.g. Prophets Abraham, Moses and Muhammad)
  • He was conceived from an immaculate conception (3:47, 19:20)
  • He was granted the power to heal the sick, the blind and to bring the dead to life (5:110)

http://quransmessage.com/articles/exclusiveness%20of%20prophet%20muhammad%20FM3.htm

Additionally, there is confusion regarding the Qur’an’s teachings on the Holy Trinity; Jesus as son of God, and Jesus as a Godly divinity.  The Christian church formulated its understanding of New Testament teachings by the writing of a statement of faith at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD called the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and became truly human. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. Who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. Who has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The words, “begotten of the Father” is what is refuted by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  Begotten infers physical sexual union between God and Mary, and if that were the case then Jesus would be a god too.  And, according to the Qur’an there are “no partners” with God.  However, this is not what Christians believe.  “By the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary” is truer to the meaning and belief of Christians.  The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) states that God can command something to be, and it will be created. This is no different than the Christian belief that the Holy Spirit’s power caused the immaculate conception.  The Nicene Creed takes its wording regarding “begotten of the Father” from Hebrews 1:5 which is quoted by the Hebrew’s author from Psalm 2:7:

“You are my son, today I have begotten you?” and ” I will be a Father to Him and and He shall be a son to me” (NASB). The NIV translation, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” and I will be his Father, and he will be my son.”  

Referring to this passage in Hebrews, the NASB Study Bible: “In the ancient Near East the relationship between a great King and one of his subject Kings, who ruled by his authority and owed him allegiance, was expressed not only by the words, “lord” and “servant” but also by “father” and “son.”  The Davidic King was the Lord’s “servant” and his “son.”    The “Davidic King” was the King prophesied who would come from the “root of Jesse,” as the awaited for Messiah.  Additionally, at the onset of Jesus ministry is the characterization of a Father and Son relationship indicative of the fully mature adult son and his relationship with his father which is a progressive transition from the child’s relationship with their father.  A father instills fear and respect within a child, so that the child may learn right from wrong with the later subsequent internal moral understanding.  From a child’s perspective their father is to be feared, and is all knowing and all powerful.  This was the stage the Israelites were in during the Exodus evident by God’s punishment when they did wrong, and rewards when they obeyed.  The adult son has a closer emotional relationship with their father characterized by not as much fear, but high respect and love.  When an adult commits a wrong act, they are not punished by their father, but must navigate natural and societal consequences.  Hence, Jesus exemplifies the spiritually mature son who has been made perfect by His father’s love.  (See blog posting, God’s Chosen People: The Journey for additional explanation of the spiritual development’s mirroring of emotional development).  Jesus’ relationship with God as son, is a spiritual developmental representation of the father/son relationship and doesn’t display an actual physical father/son relationship.

Jesus told the three disciples who observed the transfiguration not to tell anyone until after “he has been raised from the dead.”  Matthew 17:

17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things.12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

Additionally, Jesus, according to the Prophet Muhammad, cannot be God, as there is only one God, and Jesus Himself never stated He was equal with God.  The Nicene Creed states Jesus is, “one in Being with the Father.” In the Book of John, Jesus teaches, “I am in the Father and the Father is in Me (13:11).  And in verse 20, “In that day you will know that I am in the Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”  In 15:4, “Abide in me, and I in you.”  This is very similar to the Sufi concept of being one with the Beloved as seen in this Rumi poem:

By day I praised you

and never knew it.

By night I stayed with you

and never knew it.

I always thought that

I was me – but no,

I was you

and never knew it.

Jesus is describing being one with God as full submission to God, with the subsequent indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit.  He then explains that believers who submit to His teachings and follow His example, will allow Jesus to “abide” within the believer.  Jesus is not saying he is at an equal level with God, but is referring to the synthesis between the believer’s submission to God, and God’s Holy Spirit transforming a believer to become like Jesus to fulfill God’s will.

The understanding of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) regarding the Holy Trinity is that Jesus is on the same level with God, so God, Jesus and His Holy Spirit are all one.  The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh): “Those people who say that God is the third of three are defying [the truth]: there is only One God. If they persist in what they are saying, a painful punishment will afflict those of them who persist.  Why do they not turn to God and ask His forgiveness, when God is most forgiving, most merciful?  The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a messenger; other messengers had come and gone before him; his mother was a virtuous woman; both ate food [like other mortals]” (5:73-75). And in 4:171-173, “People of the Book, do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word, directed to Mary, a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers and do not speak of a ‘Trinity’– stop this, that is better for you–God is only one God, He is far above having a son, everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Him and He is the best one to trust.  The Messiah would never disdain to be a servant of God, nor would the angels who are close to Him. He will gather before Him all those who disdain His worship and are arrogant: to those who believe and do good works He will give due rewards and more of His bounty; to those who are disdainful and arrogant He will give an agonizing torment, and they will find no one besides God to protect or help them.”

Indeed, Jesus never stated he was God, but in various verses exclaims God’s sovereignty.  However, the description of the Trinity as the Godhead provides better understanding of the Trinity.  Within the Godhead is God as the “head,” and Jesus and God’s Holy Spirit are manifestations of God’s will and nature.  Picture a triangle with God at the top, and Jesus and the Holy Spirit respectively at each one of the bottom points of the triangle.  Hence, the Holy Trinity is not three equal parts, but God as the only God, and Jesus and His Holy Spirit as coming from God.  This is the understanding within Christianity, and one could also say the other Prophets including the Prophet Muhammad were manifestations of God’s will to reveal truth.

There is also misunderstanding of supposedly  Christians regarding Mary having equal standing with God as seen in 5:116, “When God says, ‘Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to people, ‘Take me and my mother as two gods alongside God?’ he will say, ‘May You be exalted!’ I would never say what I had no right to say–if I had said such a thing You would have know it: You know all that is within me, though I do not know what is within You, You alone have full knowledge of things unseen–”   This is evidently reference to the Catholics exalting of Mary which is not the belief of other Christian denominations, and certainly not Biblical.

Referring to Jesus as a “Messenger” in the Qur’an by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) can be found confirmation in Jesus’ words in the Book of John (12:49-50):

“For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent me has given me Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life, therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father told me.”

Also, there is a confusing passage in the Qur’an (4:157-159) that has led to disagreement among Islamic scholars, and by their misunderstanding directly refutes numerous passages in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Jesus’ words and prophecies.  As the angel Gabriel gave Muhammad revelation, we must remember that Gabriel’s revelations can’t contradict the revelations through Jesus, nor refute the eyewitness accounts by Jesus’ disciples.  The test of truth in the Qur’an is that it can’t cause God’s revelations in the Bible null and void by contradiction, otherwise God’s messenger is made false.  Many Muslims use these unclear passages in the Qur’an to denigrate the Bible and Christianity while elevating the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur’an which is not God’s will, nor does it follow Muhammad’s teaching regarding not discriminating between messengers. Because many Muslims state the Bible is false, this causes Christians to believe the Qur’an is false, and that Muhammad was not actually a prophet from God.  I will re-emphasize here, if Muslims state the Bible is false, then Jesus is not a messenger or prophet of God, and as a result Muslims are contradicting Muhammad’s claim in the Qur’an that Jesus was a messenger and prophet of God.  

Qur’an 4:157-159:

“They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him – God raised him up to himself.”

Prior to these verses, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is admonishing the Jews for not accepting their own messenger and other sinful behaviors.  A possible resolution to this unclear passage is that Muhammad is telling the Jews THEY did not kill Jesus, because Jesus was raised up to God, and appeared to many followers later for 40 days.  In other words, the entire event of Jesus being arrested, crucified, resurrected, descended, and ascended back to heaven was entirely in God’s will – the Jews did not determine the events, but God had complete control as a witness and glory to Himself. And as by eyewitness accounts Jesus appeared alive after He was crucified.  This interpretation does not contradict the events as outlined in the Bible and historical records.

However, most Muslims believe Jesus wasn’t crucified, that it was a mirage, or a delusion to make the Jews think that he had died.  Also, Islamic Scholars report there is not historical evidence for Jesus being crucified, which is inaccurate.  From Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources:

“Reporting on Emperor Nero’s decision to blame the Christians for the fire that had destroyed Rome in A.D. 64, the Roman historian Tacitus wrote:

Nero fastened the guilt . . . on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of . . . Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome. . . .

The “most extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius” was considered crucifixion. Many scholars speculating on, “mischievius superstition” believe it refers to the rumors circulating about Christ’s resurrection.

And from the well known ancient historian, Josephus:

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he . . . wrought surprising feats. . . . He was the Christ. When Pilate . . .condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared . . . restored to life. . . . And the tribe of Christians . . . has . . . not disappeared.{17}

Many scholars agree that some of Josephus words were changed by later Christians, but through thorough study of Josephus’ style of writing, parts of this document can be attributed to Josephus.  Michael Gleghorn (author), states, “But even if we disregard the questionable parts of this passage, we are still left with a good deal of corroborating information about the biblical Jesus. We read that he was a wise man who performed surprising feats. And although He was crucified under Pilate, His followers continued their discipleship and became known as Christians. When we combine these statements with Josephus’ later reference to Jesus as “the so-called Christ,” a rather detailed picture emerges which harmonizes quite well with the biblical record. It increasingly appears that the “biblical Jesus” and the “historical Jesus” are one and the same.”

And evidence from the Babylonian Talmud (AD 50-500): “On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald . . . cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.”{21}

There are other historical sources as well, but let’s turn to Jesus’ own prophecies regarding His crucifixion:

Mark 8:31: And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Matthew 17:22-23And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them,“The Son of Man is going to be [k]delivered into the hands of men; 23 and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.

Luke 9:22: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” Jesus is explaining to his disciples what was to happen to him, and warns them not to tell anyone. Luke is not an actual eyewitness, but interviewed Jesus’ mother and other eyewitnesses.

John 2:19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this [a]temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  Jesus is referring to His death and resurrection three days after His death.

Mark 14:58 and Matthew 26:61Jesus answered them, “Destroy this [a]temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” and and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the [a]temple of God and to rebuild it [b]in three days.’”

Matthew 27: 63: “But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a [a]sign; and yet no [b]sign will be given to it but the [c]sign of Jonah the prophet;” Jesus is responding to His accusers, by referring to the O.T. story of Jonah in the whale for three days – Jesus is referring to His death and resurrection three days later.

It is Satan’s will that the People of the Book disagree, and have continuing conflict with each other.  However, it is God’s will that we deeply understand we are to be united in our submission and love for God.  God has chosen different paths for the Jews, Christians and Muslims, but the three paths all come together in God’s kingdom.  Let us not forget this, and praise God together.

Image result for attacks on muslims

“There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab.  Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white- except by piety” (Hadith: Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon).

And, in Surah 5:48-49: “We sent to you [Muhammad] the Scripture with the truth, confirming the Scriptures that came before it, and with final authority over them: so judge between them according to what God has sent down.  Do not follow their whims, which deviate from the truth that has come to you. We have assigned a law and a path to each of you.  If God had so willed, He would have made you one community, but He wanted to test you through that which He has given you, so race to do good: you will all return to God and He will make clear to you the matters you differed about.”

There is growing discrimination and prejudice against Muslims in America and some other countries, but as a result the rhetoric against Whites and Christians by Muslims is growing increasingly angry, arrogant, and insulting.  The Prophet Muhammad repeatedly teaches the best among us is the one who is pious (definition: devotion for God or devout fulfillment of religious obligations).  Additionally, in Al-Maa’idah 5:2, Muhammad teaches, “…and let not the hatred of some people in stopping you from Al-Masjid al-Haram lead you to transgression (and hostility on your part).  Sinasi Gunduz writing in Attitudes and Behavior of the Prophet towards Non-Muslims (regarding the Prophet’s patience):

“The Prophet showed endless patience while conveying the message of Islam to the non-Muslims. He never tired of speaking to people and sharing with them the monotheistic belief which is the essence of the religion. He was always sincere in his relationships and he abstained from useless polemics or quarrels. As is stated in the Holy Qur’an, the Prophet always treated people well; he used kind words and avoided rude and aggressive behavior. As a matter of fact, despite the rude behavior of some of the communities he encountered while spreading the religion, the Prophet curbed his anger and asked Allah for salvation for them. For instance, when Prophet Muhammad went to Ta’if with Zayd ibn Haritha in search of a freer environment in which to convey the message of Islam due to the increasing pressure in Mecca, the leading figures in Ta’if treated him rudely and ordered the people to stone him and drive him out of the city. In response to this sad experience, Prophet Muhammad prayed that the people of Ta’if would be granted deliverance. It was due to his kind and forgiving attitude that the people did not refuse to listen to his message; rather, they considered it and decided to accept Islam, despite their initial opposition.

Jesus teaches the same behavior in response to those who are hostile, “You have heard that is was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:43-45)

It is those who are of the People of the Book who are servants of others that will be greatest in the Kingdom of God.  We are called to serve others in humility, and not raise ourselves, our Prophets, or our religion up higher than others.  God sees, and will reveal all things.

My poem: See

When your ego

ceases to exist

you will find the Beloved

gathering His children

together.

You will look

into their eyes

and see a brother

a sister

and all divisions

will end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ummah: Strangled by Culture?

The Prophet Muhammad (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” [Muslim]

Rasullullah  giving an example of Muslim unity is reported to have said in a Hadith:“The Muslim Ummah is like one body. If the eye is in pain then the whole body is in pain and if the head is in pain then the whole body is in pain”

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was very clear about how a Muslim community or ummah should behave towards each other.  It is extremely important for a religious community to have definitive standards of behavior as exemplified by their religious teachings.  For, if the ummah does not behave towards each other as the Qur’an teaches, there will be little unity and representation of the heart of Islam.  As a unified body, Islam can reach humanity in truth and justice.

A body must work together, and not against itself or it becomes weakened.  There is much disunity in Islam due to various sects warring against each other.  For example, shortly after the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) death, a disagreement arose among his followers regarding who should be his successor.  Some of his followers felt there should be a consensus regarding choice of successor, others determined only the Prophet’s descendants should become the next leader.  Subsequently, the position was given to an aide of the Prophet’s, Abu Bakr, but others thought the title should have been given to the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali.  Later, Ali was made leader, but was assassinated.  The followers of Ali are known as the Shiites.  However, the Sunnis believe themselves to be the only true adherents of the Prophet’s teachings.  Due to this early disagreement regarding who should succeed the Prophet the two sects have grown and developed different tenets which has led to modern day conflicts.  The Sunnis make up 85% of all Muslims and emphasize Allah’s power within all domains of life including the public and the political, while the Shiites focus more on martyrdom and sacrifice.  Also, there are some similar facets of the Shiite and Sufi (mystical branch of Islam) sects which emphasizes an internal approach to Islam as opposed to the more conservative external aspect of Islam.  Additionally, there is a sub-branch of the Sunnis called Wahhabism which is extremely conservative but that has incorporated many tribal characteristics into its expression of Islam.

There is the Ahmadiyya sect which began in British India near the end of the 19th century that believes the Messiah has already come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian.  Ahmadiyya’s believe that Allah sent Ahmad (like Jesus) “…to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace.”  The Ahmadiyya sect emphasizes religious plurality based upon Ahmad’s recognition of other religions founders such as Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu and Guru Nanak (Sikhism).  Ahmad believed these other religion’s teachings are incorporated into Islam.  Additionally, Ahmad taught his followers to focus on a “jihad of the pen” to defend Islam.  Unlike Sunni and Shiite sects, the Ahmadi Muslims believe in separation of mosque and state.  The primary belief espoused by the Ahmadi’s Muslims is “love for all, hatred for none.”  Unfortunately, because some of the Islamic beliefs of the Ahmadi Muslims are different than the Sunnis and Shiites, the Ahmadi Muslims have experienced persecution and oppression around the world by other Islamic sects who believe the Ahmadi’s are not really Muslim. https://www.alislam.org/introduction/

The Qur’an on dividing religion into factions:

“As for those who have divided their religion and broken up into factions, have nothing to do with them [Prophet].  Their case rests with Allah: in time He will tell them about their deeds.” 6:149

“Turn to Him alone, all of you.  Be mindful of Him; keep up the prayer; do not join those who ascribe partners to Allah, those who divide their religion into sects, with each party rejoicing in their own.” 30:31-32

It is easily seen how conflict has developed looking at the spectrum from the conservative Wahhabism to the mystical, internal sect of Sufism. In Sura 30, a key point is “….each party rejoicing in their own.”   A sect that is arrogant and superior acting will persecute another Muslim sect out of pride, and not attempt in humility to find common ground based upon the Qu’ran. Repeatedly in the Qur’an the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) tells the believers to fully submit to Allah. By submitting to Allah, the body will beginning acting as one moving together based upon the pure teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  Not acting in unity is like a group of people rafting down rapids who are each paddling a different way based upon the direction they individually think the raft should go down the river.  Subsequently, the raft will not move intentionally, but will follow the strongest current which may cause the rafters to be in danger from obstacles that will cause the raft to flip and throw the rafters in the river. This is why many rafting trips on rapids have a river guide to make sure all the rafters are paddling together in the direction that will be the safest.  As Muslims, our guide is the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who was chosen as God’s messenger to keep Muslims together moving towards Allah.

rafting

 

The challenge is being able to accept internal sect differences without letting the differences create conflict.  The Ummah refers to all Muslims around the world being in one body who are to help each other, defend each other, encourage each other and work together to spread the compassion of Allah to the disadvantaged thereby being a witness to Allah.

However, oftentimes the behavior of many Muslims is no different than that of non-believers.  For example, on my twitter feed I observed a Counselor frequently re-tweet a Psychologist whose many sayings appear to be spiritually wise.  I looked at the Psychologist’s twitter page and discovered that he had tweeted thousands of times, and had thousands of followers, he had only “liked” someone else’s tweet seven times. The Psychologist’s twitter behavior causes his words to become impotent because his behavior does not align with his teachings. We are to treat each other the same way we ourselves want to be treated. Our behavior must match that of our religion’s teachings or we present ourselves as hypocrites.  Some Muslims express the same twitter behavior as the Psychologist I mentioned by engaging in a twitter competitive, popularity contest.  Muslims on my twitter feed who have published books or who have thousands of followers rarely if at all “like” someone else’s posts. It is a pecking order of the worse sort.  The goal is to get the most followers while following the least number of people.  Instead of encouraging and lifting up other Muslims, they compete in the numbers game to come out on top.  And yet, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) teaches that the best among us is the one that is most pious.  And piety must have at its foundation humility.

The Ummah becomes weak by those who seek to subvert Allah’s will by following the way of unbelievers-the most respected are those with wealth, status and power.  The children’s movie, Happy Feet, is a good visual representation of the Muslim Twitter hierarchy.   The main character, Mumbles, is considered the least of the penguin colony because he can’t sing like the other penguins.  Instead, he dances.  Subsequently, Mumbles is made fun of , mocked and ostracized.  He goes on a journey to seek the truth regarding the decreasing number of fish in an attempt to help the colony and is directed to the character of “Lovelace.”  Lovelace represents the Muslims who seeks admiration based upon their power, wealth and status.  The penguins go to Lovelace for advice and answers because of his popularity, not because he has true spiritual wisdom.  In Mumbles case, Mumbles himself had the courage and wisdom to continue the journey without Lovelace’s advice.  Mumbles courageously risks his life for the good of the colony, and by so doing, reveals himself to be the true leader of the colony.

king-of-penguins-happy-feet

Lovelace, King of the rock mountain

Happy Feet – Lovelace video clip

In order for the Ummah to be strong and function as Allah’s wills, it must move together based upon the direction provided in the Qur’an.  Each individual must understand the need to submit to Allah in order for the Ummah to be an effective body.  The various sects need to focus on their Qur’an based similarities instead of their differences.  Many Muslims today believe Islam needs a revival.  However, in order for a revival to occur, the broken body must be healed.

Ummah

We move together

individually using our strengths

to strengthen the whole.

We protect each other

thereby keeping the body safe.

We humbly bow together

to be raised up by Allah.

For so it is His will.

The Holy Spirit

holy-spirit-1

All of creation is a symphony of the Holy Spirit which is joy and jubilation.~  Hildegard

“Shekhinah is said to rest on the heads of those who do good deeds…the human body is a wick, and a light is kindled above…The light on one’s head needs oil, the oil of good deeds!” (The Zohar)

Ru’ah ha-Kodesh (Hebrew) – cultivation of the Holy Spirit

In John 3 is the story of a Pharisee named Nicodemus who was a ruler of the Jews who sneaks out at night (possibly because he didn’t want the other Jewish leaders to know what he was doing) to speak to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”  Jesus responds to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus not understanding, asks Jesus how a person can re-enter their mother’s womb and be born again.  Jesus explains that unless one is born of water and the Spirit they will not enter into the kingdom of God.  “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.  The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

windmillsJesus is referring to the redemptive, transformative work of God’s Holy Spirit in a believer’s heart.  Being born of water symbolizes purification brought about by awareness of sin and then repentance. Also, God’s Spirit is frequently represented by the descriptor of “wind” or “breath.”  Not knowing where the wind comes from or where it is going is significant in that humans have no control over obtaining God’s Holy Spirit, but it is entirely by God’s will.  By prayer, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and willfully submitting ourselves to God we can open our hearts to the possibility of the infilling of His Spirit.  God’s Holy Spirit will not reside in the condition of an impure heart.

The Spirit of God is not just for Jews and Christians, but for any monotheistic believer.  The Old Testament in Isaiah 56:7 states, “…these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” During the time of the Old Testament, there were two nations, that of the Hebrews and non-Hebrews or Gentiles.  However, this scripture also points to a future time as was symbolically evident on the day of Pentecost.

pentecost_celpentecost1_buildfaith-org

After Jesus was resurrected and physically appeared to not only the disciples but many others, “To these [apostles], He also presented himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of things concerning the kingdom of God.  Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard it from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’  So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’  He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:3-8)

Later the Apostles went to Jerusalem and in the upper room, “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the other of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (1:14)  It is important to note that they were united in prayer, with one purpose which was fulfilling God’s will.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.  And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.  Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.  And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing then speak in his own language.  They were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘, Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?’  Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Capadocia, Pontus, and Asia.  Phrygia, and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes.  Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.  And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity¸ saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’  But others were mocking, and saying, ‘They are full of sweet wine.” (Acts 2:1-13)

Peter then stood up and spoke to the crowd telling them that they were not drunk on wine, but that this is what was spoken of through the Prophet Joel:

And it shall be in the last days, God says, “That I will pour forth My spirit on all humankind; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my bondslaves, both men and women, I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy.  And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.  The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.  And it shall be that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord [God] will be saved.(Acts 2:15-21)

The symbolism of all the believers in the gathering having visible evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit along with being able to understand what each was saying without knowing each other’s language refers to the unity and oneness in the Spirit of believers from ALL nations

The Apostles were given “power” by God’s Spirit to perform miracles including prophecy, healings, and bringing the dead back to life.  It is always God’s power and not our own that provides a witness to non-believers.  For when a non-believer observes miracles performed by those who are filled with God’s Spirit acknowledging God as the source of their power, they receive observable proof of God’s mighty power.

Jesus emphasizes the importance of being prepared by being filled with the Holy Spirit for his return in the Parable of the Ten Virgins:

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them.  But the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.  Now while the bridegroom was delaying they all got drowsy and began to sleep.  But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold¸the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’  Then all the virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.  The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too, go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.  Later the other virgins also came, saying ‘Lord, open up for us.’  But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’  Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13)

This parable of Jesus refers to the last days when he returns.  The lamps symbolize being prepared with the infilling of God’s Holy Spirit.  The brides who were not prepared represent those whose hearts were not righteous by constantly seeking God, consistent in reading the Word, and not putting Jesus’ words into action.  Jesus strongly tells his disciples that no one knows the day or the hour of his return, and if a believer is caught unawares by their ongoing sinful behavior, they will not enter into the kingdom of God.

The expression of God’s Spirit is similar to when we think or talk, but without language. Sometimes we think or talk while imagining something in our mind, or sometimes we just think without a mental visual.  God’s Spirit  is like a breath of air that gently comes down upon us or sometimes even as a stronger wind, but which always comes from above.  God’s Spirit comes to us with a message which may be visions, and/or a sense of knowing.  Whether a vision, sensing or knowing, all is embedded within the feeling of being enveloped in a blanket of love, wisdom and compassion.  That is how we know with certainty the experience is from God.  Also, God’s Spirit feels like a supercharged electrical current that comes down from God, and in turn the believer can focus this current outwards for healings carried on a flow of compassion .

So, God’s Spirit fills the believer for the purpose of direction, guidance, and the expression of miracles, but a spirit filled believer will also experience the Holy Spirit when God is giving a specific message for a specific purpose.  Historically, the revivals that occurred around the world were begun with the gift of the Holy Spirit accompanied by signs and wonders.  We know based upon prophecy in the Bible that the last days will be filled with God’ signs and wonders so that the fullness of believers will be accomplished.

We must be prepared, for we don’t know the time of His coming.  However, Jesus states that we will know by the events happening that the time is close, just as when leaves turn in the autumn we know that winter is near.   All monotheistic religions must reach out to each other in love and acceptance, and in turn express God’s love to the world by service and witness.

End Times described by hadiths relating to the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) teachings:

The signs of the Last Day will “…follow one another like the pieces of a necklace falling one after the other when its string is cut. (Tirmidhi)

Also, Allah’s Messenger (saas) said: “The Harj (will increase).”  They asked, “What is the Harj?” He replied, “(It is) killing (murdering).” (Bukhari)

The Hour will come with violence, bloodshed, and anarchy become common. (Al-Muttaqi Al-Hindi, Muntakhab Kanzul Ummaal)

Corruption has appeared in both land and sea because of what people’s own hands have brought about so that they may taste something of what they have done so that hopefully they will turn back. (Surat ar-Rum:41)

Great cities will be ruined and it will be as if they had not existed the day before. (Al-Muttaqi al Hindi, Al-Burhan fi Alamat-al-Mahdi Akhir al-Zaman)

My Muslim brothers and sisters, you are being called to be a light to the nations, so earnestly seek God’s will and Holy Spirit to empower you for the task God is giving you.

 

 

 

Khidr: That Which is Hidden

Qur’an 18:60-82

And (remember) when Musa (Moses) said to his boy-servant: “I will not give up (travelling) until I reach the junction of the two seas or (until) I spend years and years in travelling.”  But when they reached the junction of the two seas, they forgot their fish, and it took its way through the sea as in a tunnel. So when they had passed further on (beyond that fixed place), Musa (Moses) said to his boy-servant: “Bring us our morning meal; truly, we have suffered much fatigue in this, our journey.” He said: “Do you remember when we betook ourselves to the rock? I indeed forgot the fish, none but Shaitan (Satan) made me forget to remember it. It took its course into the sea in a strange (way)!”  [Musa (Moses)] said: “That is what we have been seeking.” So they went back retracing their footsteps. Then they found one of Our slaves, unto whom We had bestowed mercy from Us, and whom We had taught knowledge from Us. Musa (Moses) said to him (Khidr) “May I follow you so that you teach me something of that knowledge (guidance and true path) which you have been taught (by Allah)?” He (Khidr) said: “Verily! You will not be able to have patience with me! “And how can you have patience about a thing which you know not?” Musa (Moses) said: “If Allah will, you will find me patient, and I will not disobey you in aught.” He (Khidr) said: “Then, if you follow me, ask me not about anything till I myself mention it to you.”So they both proceeded, till, when they embarked the ship, he (Khidr) scuttled it. Musa (Moses) said: “Have you scuttled it in order to drown its people? Verily, you have committed a thing “Imra” (a Munkar – evil, bad, dreadful thing).” He (Khidr) said: “Did I not tell you, that you would not be able to have patience with me?”  [Musa (Moses)] said: “Call me not to account for what I forgot, and be not hard upon me for my affair (with you).” Then they both proceeded, till they met a boy, he (Khidr) killed him. Musa (Moses) said: “Have you killed an innocent person who had killed none? Verily, you have committed a thing “Nukra” (a great Munkar – prohibited, evil, dreadful thing)!”  (Khidr) said: “Did I not tell you that you can have no patience with me?”  [Musa (Moses)] said: “If I ask you anything after this, keep me not in your company, you have received an excuse from me.” Then they both proceeded, till, when they came to the people of a town, they asked them for food, but they refused to entertain them. Then they found therein a wall about to collapse and he (Khidr) set it up straight. [Musa (Moses)] said: If you had wished, surely, you could have taken wages for it!”  (Khidr) said: “This is the parting between me and you, I will tell you the interpretation of (those) things over which you were unable to hold patience. “As for the ship, it belonged to Masakin (poor people) working in the sea. So I wished to make a defective damage in it, as there was a king after them who seized every ship by force. “And as for the boy, his parents were believers, and we feared lest he should oppress them by rebellion and disbelief. “So we intended that their Lord should change him for them for one better in righteousness and near to mercy. “And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the town; and there was under it a treasure belonging to them; and their father was a righteous man, and your Lord intended that they should attain their age of full strength and take out their treasure as a mercy from your Lord. And I did it not of my own accord. That is the interpretation of those (things) over which you could not hold patience.” (Muhsin Khan translation)

This passage in the Qur’an is filled with symbolic deeper meaning for those who have eyes to see it’s hidden truths.  The first verse begins rather suddenly, asking the reader/listener to remember the story of Musa (Moses) telling his boy servant about searching for the “juncture of two seas.” The inference is the listener should already know the previous story regarding Musa that they can connect with this story.  The Sahih al-Bukaria collection of hadiths compiled by Muhammad al-Bukari in 870 AD (most authentic collection of reports of the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), provides the necessary preface to this story in the Qur’an.  According to the hadith, Musa was asked by the children of Israel who the most learned person was.  Musa replied, “I am.”  Allah tells Musa that he should have stated that Allah knew best who the most learned person was, as that person is not Musa but “Khidr.”  Musa asks Allah where Khidr could be found, and Musa is told he is at the “Junction of the Seas.”

green-kidhr

The Arabic Qur’an refers to the person of “Khidr” as one of Allah’s “votaries” in its English translation. A “votary” is a “devoted follower, adherent, or devout worshiper,” which is a fairly general term.  However, later commentaries determined this mysterious person was “Khidr,” who is a mythological, allegorical figure that appears in earlier myths and faiths around the world.  The esoteric nature of this figure has greatly influenced Sufi literature and thinking.  “Khidr” appears to be an archetype of of the mystical, immortal person who is granted direct communication with God.  He is also referred to as “Elijah” which is a typology of an Old Testament Prophet which according to prophecy will appear again at the end times.  The typology does not refer to the exact person of Elijah, but a human figure who will represent the a similar prophetic persona.  Sufism refers to “Khidra” as an afrad.  An afrad is a person who receives illumination directly from God without human mediation.  Additionally, “Khidr” is referred to as “The Green One,” which symbolizes “freshness of knowledge”…drawn out of the living sources of life (water of life). (www.khidr.org)

“Khidr” is the human representation of spiritual enlightenment brought about by direct revelation from God.  This type of person is Allah’s chosen instrument to enlighten humanity on its path of spiritual progression.

The allegory begins with Musa (Moses) deciding to travel until he finds “Khidr” at the junction of two seas.  When their fish disappears, Musa will know that it is the place they are to meet Khidr.  However, the fish are forgotten by Musa’s servant, but the servant remembers the exact place where the fish escaped from the basket into the sea.  Musa tells the servant they must turn around and go to the place where the fish escaped to meet Khidr.

There is important significance of the “junction of two seas.”  Many Scholars believe the two seas represent the outward revelation (as represented by Musa) and the inward revelation (as symbolized by Khidra).  However, a more accurate interpretation  is that this junction is the point in time when the Messiah came on the scene of civilization, in what Christians refer to as the “locus of revelation.  Up to the point of this juncture, the revelation from God was an external manifestation.  Moses went up the mountain to speak with a visible presence of God, God’s visible presence (Shekhina) traveled with the Israelites during the Exodus and was present in the Holy of Holies in the inner sanctum of the first temple.  God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, which was an outward form of basic laws to live by with the expectation of obedience.  God outwardly punished the Israelites if they disobeyed by allowing them to lose in battle, and rewarded them of they obeyed.  Because of the Jewish leaders increasing the number of laws the Israelites must follow (613), the spiritual emphasis became following each and every law, and not on the deeper core truth which was justice.

However, when the Messiah comes, the outward form changes to an inward form.  Jesus is given revelation inwardly from the internal presence of God’s Spirit.  Communicating directly with God in this manner is an internal representation of being on the mountain with God.  This is characterized by the Prophet listening, and obeying God’s directions.  The symbol of the mountaintop is God seeing the entire landscape around the mountain in all time.  Also, God will reveal the landscape and the future to the Prophet, so hence, both are in the immediate present time looking at time’s events for the purpose of prophecy.

In my blog posting on this site, God’s Chosen People: The Journey I discuss the Axial Age  (approximately 800 – 2oo BCE) as pre-frontal lobe brain development which provided the brain structure processes to allow for meta-cognition, reflective thinking, and the ability to understand intuitive knowledge, abstract thinking, and symbolic meaning which came to fulfillment in Jesus’ teachings and then later the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  This was a major turning point in civilization which allowed for the deeper understanding to progress spiritually.  The figure of “Khidra” is the mythological expression of metaphysical theology, and the symbolic human representative of God who is to receive illumination directly from God.

The fish are forgotten by the servant which symbolizes a lack of spiritual attentiveness or awareness. The servant mentions Satan caused him to forget, but more accurately is that Satan took advantage of the servant’s lack of attentiveness.   Musa was to eat the fish for breakfast before he met Khidra.  Fish symbolize knowledge and wisdom in which Musa would have needed to understand Khidra’s teachings.   We must recall that Musa is sent on this journey because he proudly exclaimed to God that he is the most learned person, which represents the proud arrogance of the Jews during that time period.  Because the Jews were designated as God’s “chosen people” and given the law, superiority developed which made their special status as God’s chosen people exclusive and not inclusive as God originally intended. For inner truth always addresses the importance of love and compassion.Therefore, in an act of humility, Musa must follow Khidra to learn from him.   Khidra repeatedly tells Musa that he must be patient and not question his actions because these are things, Musa “knows not.”  Remember, Musa’s perceptions lack spiritual depth due to his inability to reflect and understand symbols. So Khidra acknowledges Musa will not be capable of understanding the directions Khidra is receiving from God until it is explained.

In each of the three events; tearing a hole in the boat (the Arabic term is “xaraqa” which means “tearing something mischievously and without consideration), killing a boy, and rebuilding a wall in an inhospitiable village all appear confusing to Musa, as he only perceives with his eyes and shallow attention.  In each instance he confronts Khidra, not giving Khidra the respect he should have as a messenger from Allah, and subsequently reveals he is not trusting Allah.  Kihdra explains to Musa the hole was torn in the boat so the king could not take it from the poor village by force.  This is evidence of what Walter Brueggeman in The Prophetic Imagination terms “royal consciousness.”  A society that operates under a “royal consciousness” is one where the King (or Leader) becomes rich and powerful off the backs of the poor.  Subsequently, the King and the wealthy live in over satiated lives such that their spiritual life diminishes, which in turn affects the spiritual level of the entire community.  The Kingship unilaterally taking all the ships and boats for its own use obviously affects the people’s ability to physically survive, but in looking deeper we see the spiritual symbolism of the people unable to fish (to obtain spiritual knowledge) by not having the means to extract the knowledge from teachings of the Prophets (the sea equating to the source of all wisdom and knowledge). Due to the satiation of the King, Allah is not primary, but wealth and power have co-opted the worship of Allah.

In the second event, Khidra explains to Musa that Allah instructed him to kill the boy because the boy was rebellious and disbelieving which would have had a detrimental effect on his believing parents.  Allah would replace this child with a believing child to keep the parent’ s faith and marriage strong. The firstborn son has great significance in the Old Testament among the Israelites.  The Israelites were expected to donate the “first fruits” of their labor to Yahweh, and as such Yahweh even commanded the Israelites to dedicate their firstborn sons to service within the sanctuary.  The highly valued firstborn son was to be the inheritor and carry on the family line.   In Ezekiel 20:25-26 Yahweh orders the Israelites to sacrifice all first-born sons by killing as a punishment to the Israelites for their disobedience and worship of idols which would have been the severest punishment possible.   Also, because the Jews rejected the Messiah,  God sacrifices Jesus (a firstborn son), so that the spiritual blessing is given to the Gentiles instead. In this case from the Qur’an, the disobedient firstborn son is sacrificed so that the spiritual blessing would remain with the parents.

The third event relates to Allah making sure two orphans from believing parents are provided for later in an inhospitable village.  A hadith states the people of the town were “mean and of low quality.”  Certainly, to not offer hospitality during this time period was considered incorrigable and inferred the people of the town were not believers and were most likely idol worshipers.  So Allah protects the orphans so that when they became adults they would be provided for and as a result of their presence in the village, idol worshipers may be influenced to become believers themselves.

The significant revelation of the relationship between Khidra and Musa is the lack of trust from Musa in Khidra as Prophet.  Musa continually looks to his own human understanding, and doesn’t display trust and faith in Allah. The lack of acknowledgement of Allah’s providence speaking through His chosen messengers has been consistent throughout human history.

The first story in this Surah is the tale of the seven believing young people who escape persecution from their idol worshiping community and hide in a cave.  The people in the cave fall asleep for 300 solar years, and when they awaken one is sent to the town with a silver coin to purchase food.  The one chosen is told to be careful “For if they come to know of you, they will stone you (to death or abuse and harm you) or turn you back to their religion, and in that case you will never be successful” (18:20).  An earlier account of the seven youth in the cave appears to come from a documented tale in which seven young people hid in a cave outside of Ephesus in 250 AD, fall asleep, and then awaken 300 years later to find the community filled with believing Christians.

Prophet Muhammad (pubh) and his followers during the time the story of the Cave was written in the Quran were undergoing persecution by the Quraish tribe.  According to one commentator, “the Quraish resorted to ridiculing, scoffing, threatening, tempting, raising objections and making false propaganda against the Holy Prophet and his followers” (https://www.al-islam.org/enlightening-commentary-light-holy-quran-vol-9/section-2-companions-cave).   The Muslims were forced to fight the Quraish and migrate to avoid the new religion from being totally annihilated.

In the story of the cave in the Quran, the believing youth are protected by Allah by hiding in the cave.  There is significance in the number of years in the cave which its symbolic meaning parallels the Old Testament story of Jonah in the whale for 3 day which Jesus references as the “sign of Jonah” referring to his own death and resurrection.  Jesus was in the tomb (cave) for three days before being resurrected.  “Three” symbolizes a period of significant spiritual transformation.  In the case of the youth in the cave, while they were “sleeping” the village they fled from became a believing village, so during the time in the cave, there was great spiritual transformation in the village.

Sayyd Qutb from Muslim Intellectual in his commentary writes, “The curtains hiding the future are stretched in full so as to hide everything beyond the present moment.  Our eyes cannot discern what is behind that curtain, and our minds are finite, no matter how advanced our knowledge may be” (http://www.islamawareness.net/Children/story11.html).  The believing youth went into the cave as Allah directed not knowing the outcome.  This is the trust and faith that Allah expects as He sees behind the curtain into the future.  This is the same trust and faith which should be placed in Allah’s Prophets who are completely submitted to accomplishing God’s will and purpose for the benefit of humanity.

Following the story of the cave, is an account of two men who are both blessed equally by Allah with abundantly producing lands.  However, one of the men pridefully attributes the abundance to himself, while the other, in humility, gives thanks to Allah.  The first man is blindly led by his ego, so loses what he was blessed with by not acknowledging Allah as the provider of blessings.  This story compares and contrasts the heart of the true believer with that of the non-believer.  What has been given to non-believers will be taken away on the Judgment Day, and believers will beg go on to be blessed with spiritual abundance.  Again, there is an example of spiritual blindness evident by not acknowledging that Allah is the provider of all things.

The last story in the chapter refers to a great king, Dhul-Qarnain (“he of the two horns) who is empowered by Allah to build a great wall between two mountains to protect humanity against the power of Gog and Magog.  There is much debate among religious scholars including Islamic scholars whether this king is Alexander the Great as the two stories parallel each other.  Alexander was king of Persia and Greece (East and West) which they believe refers to the designation of “he of the two horns.”  Gog and Magog is referred to in the New Testament Book of Revelations as hostile nations of the earth during the end times.  Either way, Gog and Magog, symbolizes the chaos and destruction of nations who are non-believers and are led by Shaytan.

The conclusion of the verses relating to Dhul-Qarnain (18:83-101):

“Say: ‘Shall We tell you the greatest losers in respect of (their) deeds?  Those whose efforts have been wasted in this life while they thought that they acquiring good by their deeds! [This refers to those verses in the Quran where the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) discusses “intention.”]  They are those who deny Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations,etc.) of their Lord and the Meeting with Him (in the Hereafter).  So their works are in vain, and on the Day of Resurrection, We shall not give them any weight.  That shall be their recompense, Hell; because they disbelieved and took My Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) and My Messengers by way of jest and mockery.”

A common thread through the entire Surah is persecution and disbelief of Allah’s chosen Prophets or Messengers.  The people of the cave must escape from persecution, Musa doesn’t trust Allah’s Prophet, the two men given land by Allah is representative of the behavior of a non-believer and a believer, and the last story is evidence of the destructive power of non-believing nations including the persecution and disrespect of Allah’s Messengers, but with the final outcome of judgement against those who fought against Allah’s will and purpose.

Most of Allah’s Prophets have been disbelieved and persecuted including the Prophet Muhammad.  The Prophet stands between the death trap of lack of human understanding and Allah’s clear direction through the Prophet to humanity.  He or she is in between two worlds; that of Allah’s prescience and human disbelief.  The Prophet must stay alone on the mountain with Allah in present time just as Musa had to physically go alone to the mountaintop to communicate with Allah.  How can any person understand the experience of the Prophet?  There can be no understanding, but there must be faith and trust in Allah’s direction through the Prophet.  Allah provides signs and wonders as a witness to His chosen Messengers, but even these are oftentimes not acknowledged.  For those who don’t believe in Allah’s miracles as a witness to His Messengers will be certain judgement.  Their actions against a Prophet show a clear lack of belief in Allah.

Allah’s purpose unfolds in ways we can’t understand.  Many people are chosen to be a part of this unfolding, but unless those people fully submit to Allah’s will, their significant role in His purpose will be lost, and Allah will choose a different person to fulfill that particular role in the unfolding of His purpose.  There is the path of predestination to fulfill His purpose, but within that path is free choice.  We have the choice of submission to Allah, or the choice of following our own will.  The Prophet has been predestined and is willfully submitted to Allah’s path no matter the outcome, even if it leads to death.  The path of Allah’s purpose has been laid for humanity’s spiritual welfare, and as the Quran teaches, the outcome of humanity and all of us individually is based upon our submission to His will.

From the Stuff of Stardust

made-from-dirt 

 We are the stuff of stardust created by God out of the same molecules and atoms as dirt.  And, just like worms, we squirm through the darkness of the mud of our physical world.  His hands lovingly formed the earth clay into human forms, fired the forms in His kiln of fire, painted beautiful colors as the base coat of culture, and then the beautiful, detailed fine details of religion.  The forms are then re-fired to enhance the human creativity of His purposed vessel.  Slowly, he pours His Divine light into the forms, and what began as clay, is transformed into chalices holding aged wine, ready for the Beloved’s royal wedding feast.

The pattern of the infilling of the form is found throughout if one has eyes to perceive it.  There is the form of religion which is created from human expression through ritual and art, but within the form dwells the true knowledge of God, for those who can move up out of the mud of their physical existence.  There is the form of various of cultures, which takes a beautiful shape or an ugly shape entirely dependent upon the beautifying element of religion.  When religion is allowed to create the outer beauty, the culture is transformed into its purpose of divine nature.  Nations are forms created by God purposed to be transformed into vessels for the infilling of His Spirit and Will.  As His light fills the various forms in expanding multiplicity, such is the Light filled Kingdom born here on earth as it is on heaven.

Now the Silence, Now the Peace hymn

Lyrics

Now the silence, now the peace,
Now the empty hands uplifted;
Now the kneeling, now the plea,
Now the Father’s arms in welcome;
Now the hearing, now the power,
Now the vessel brimmed for pouring;
Now the body, now the blood,
Now the joyful celebration;
Now the wedding, now the songs,
Now the heart forgiven, leaping;
Now the Spirit’s visitation…
Now the Father’s blessing,
Now, now, now.