Thursday, 29 December 2011

Tis the reason for the season Part 2 The Birth of Jesus in the Quran

In the previous part I quoted signs from the Quran that relate directly to Mary peace be upon her. Now I shall quote the tale of the Birth of Jesus peace be upon him from the Quran: 

   "The angels said, 'Mary, God gives you news of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, who will be held in honour in this world and the next, who will be of those brought near to God. He will speak to people in his infancy and in his adulthood . He will be one of the righteous.' She said, 'My Lord, how can I have a son when no man has touched me?' [The angel] said, 'This is how God creates what He will: when He has ordained something He only says, "Be", and it is." [The Family of 'Imran 3: 45-47] 

   "Mention in the Qur'an the story of Mary. She withdrew from her family to a place to the east and secluded herself away; We sent Our spirit to appear before her in the form of a perfected man. She said, 'I seek the Lord of Mercy's protection against you: if you have any fear of Him!' but he said, 'I am but a messenger from your Lord, to announce to you the gift of a pure son.' She said, 'How can I have a son when no man has touched me? I have not been unchaste,' and he said, 'This is what your Lord said: "It is easy for Me - We shall make him a sign to all people, a blessing from Us."' And so it was ordained: she conceived him. She withdrew to a distant place and, when the pains of childbirth drove her to [cling to] the trunk of a palm tree, she exclaimed, 'I wish I had been dead and forgotten long before all this!' but a voice cried to her from below, 'Do not worry: your Lord has provided a stream at your feat and, if you shake the trunk of the palm tree towards you, it will deliver fresh ripe dates for you, so eat, drink, be glad, and say to anyone you may see: "I have vowed to the Lord of Mercy to abstain from conversation, and I will not talk to anyone today."' 
    She went back to her people carrying the child, and they said, 'Mary! you have done something terrible! Sister of Aaron! Your father was not an evil man; your mother was not unchaste!' She pointed at him. They said, 'How can we converse with an infant?' He said: 'I am a servant of God. He has granted me the scripture; made me a prophet; made me blessed wherever I may be. He commanded me to pray, to give alms as long as I live, to cherish my mother. He did not make me domineering or graceless. Peace was on me the day I was born, and will be on me the day I die and the day I am raised to life again.' Such was Jesus, son of Mary." [Mary 19: 16-34]

  "Remember the one who guarded her chastity. We breathed into her from Our Spirit and made her and her son a sign for all people." [The Prophets 21:91]

My Journey with the Franciscan Friars in London

    Well where to begin. I went to a franciscan friary in a poor area of London. the friary had 5 friars. 1 of which is only there for a month from the states. In fact half the friars were american. 

    I was given a small room like themselves, there wasn't any cabinet or wardrobe. for they live a life of poverty and luckily I got a small feel for that. I say small because I had a mattress, and when I peeked into their rooms, all I saw were sleeping bags. It was as I thought it would be, a life of prayer and service. the complete surrender of the self to God, which came in the form of worship & service, what else could it be?

    They serve a soup kitchen for the poor 4 days a week. It popped a bubble I was in, to see people like that, dark fingertips and blood shot eyes. poor and homeless. the friars provide food and shelter, a place to have a shower, and one volunteer even gave hair cuts! But they had as they have to offer something more. As I see those folks, no wonder they become alcoholics or drug addicts, who wants to confront such a reality? Especially there, I remember seeing in the horizon of that area the big corporate buildings of London, but that's where the friars come in.

    I think when people have God in their hearts this suffering can become ever so more tolerable perhaps. One can see that in the life of those who went through poverty and had God in their hearts and by their side as it were. Like St. Francis, Job and The Final Prophet peace be upon him & people who lived in poverty yet had wide grins. because they are in a state of trust, reliance and love of God I think.

    This was a really important Journey for me to witness & be part of. I even got to witness the rosary with the friars for the first time. They said Hail marys so many times I memorized it!

    As I pray 5 times a day and prostrate to God, they also do the same every time they enter the chapel.

    All this and the conversations I had with the brothers were really inspiring one way or another. Thanks be to God. One Father Jacob spoke to me about why he sees Christianity as the path to follow through modern day miracles and the Eucharist. Another Brother John Baptist who was your average enthusiastic american, where he helped me go through the motions of their 5 prayers and also decorate the Christmas tree, we spoke of pro-life issues and my reasons for actually being there. Then brother Justin who came to London for the first time for his break from Seminary school was a nice man who would stay in prostration for minutes, where the other brothers would prostrate for no more than half a second. Father Emmanuel who spoke to me of his calling to a life as a friar and the importance of being servants to the poor. Finally Brother John Bosco, who probably found it odd for a Muslim to visit a christian friary, that showed in his conversation with me as he believed my faith to be that of aggressors, when I showed him scripture, he recoiled to events that in my opinion are more rooted in politics than faith as evident for me anyway. It was a most intense conversation, I pray he sees Islam as it truly is. 

This is my take of my Journey to St. Fidel's Friary of the Franciscans of the Renewal.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Infanticide in Pre-Islamic Arabia

I came across a journal article from the International Journal of Academic Research titled: "Infanticide in pre-Islamic era: phenomenon investigation"  In it was discussed the prevalency of such an act, why and if there were any protest or action against it. 

I would like to quote to you some of what was in this article in regard to two matters:
 1- reasons for infanticide &
 2- How it was retaliated against. 

Helpful Definition:

Jahiliyya: generally used to identify the period pre-dating Islam in Arabia. Literally translates as the period of ignorance. 

1- Reasons for infanticide: 

" Reasons for infanticide: Some of the Arabs used to resort to infanticide for various reasons (7). 
   First: Intense jealousy and fear of being shamed. Those were Banu Tamim, Kinda and other tribes. The background to this fixation was when Banu Tamim refused to pay ransom to Emir Nu’man ibn al-Munther. The brother of Nu’man, named al-Rayyan, fought them, plundered their belongings and enslaved their women folk. A delegation from Bani Tamim, made representations to the Emir regarding their captive women folk. He ruled that they choose between remaining in his household or, that he return with them. They included the daughter of Qays ibn ‘Assem. She chose captivity rather than returning with her husband. Thereupon, Qays swore to bury every daughter born to him, and he did burry scores of new born girls. In this connection, there is another version. The story tells that the tribe of Rabii’a was the first to have perpetrated infanticide. The tribe was raided and, a girl was abducted for the Emir of the raiders. He recovered her as a part of a peace deal, but she was given the choice, by mutual agreement, between going back with her father or, remaining with her husband. She chose to remain with her husband, which choice angered her father whereupon, he enacted the practice of infanticide amongst his people, and they followed his enactment.
   Second: Some of them would bury alive those newborn infants if their color was blue, or if their bodies carried many spots, or were hairy or, physically handicapped, because they regarded them as bad omens (8).
    Third: Some would perpetrate infanticide, out of poverty and fear of not being able to sustain their children.
    Fourth: Some would take it upon himself, to slaughter one of his children, if ten children were born to his household, as did Abdul Muttalib in his famous episode with his son Abdullah, father of the prophet (pbuh).
    Fifth: some would say, that the angels are the daughters of God, God forbid, wherefore they disposed of girls, one after the other."

2- How it was retaliated against: 

   "There were amongst the Arabs those who were enlightened, who would refrain from committing this heinous crime. Al-Qurtubi has narrated that “those honorable men amongst them would refrain from committing infanticide and would forbid others from committing it (2). Alussi narrates that: many wise Arabs did not accept that foul practice, and some of them would pay ransom to their parents to save them (3). We would have liked to see al-Qurtubi or Alussi mention the names of those who had refrained from committing that act, but they only mentioned the names of those who urged its abandonment. 
    Zayd ben Amr ben Nafeel used to resurrect the victims of infanticide and, would tell a man who wished to kill his newborn: Do not kill her, I would support her. He would take the infant and raise her until she become of age; then, he would take her to her father and say: if you wish it, I would deliver her to you, and if you wished otherwise, I would take care of her (4).
    Al-Qurtubi and al-Alussi narrated that (5), Sa’sa’a ben Najia, grandfather of the poet al-Farazdaq, used to buy the infants whose father wanted to bury them on grounds of destitution. He succeeded in saving sixty six such infants, up to the era of the Messenger of God. Al-Farazdaq proudly registers this feat in a poem, in which he boasts: From amongst us are those who resurrected the infanticide and Ghaleb and ‘Amr and those who opposed such acts. Those are my forefathers, show me their likes, if o Jareer we meet in confrontation.  
    Ibn Duraid narrates: “Sa’sa’a was a man of great standing. He would ransom the infants destined to die, during the Jahiliyya, and on the advent of Islam, he had thirty such infants in his hold. Sa’sa’a embraced Islam before the Prophet (pbuh) (6).
    Ibn Hajar quotes Sa’sa’a as having said: I had an audience with the Messenger of God (pbuh), and he recited to me verses from the Qur'an. I said: O Messenger of God, I have done good deeds during the Jahiliyya, would I be rewarded for them? The Prophet asked him: what did you do, and he narrated how he had ransomed infants threatened with infanticide. Al-Farazdaq the poet, boasts about it in the following verse (7). It was my grandfather who forbade infanticide, and resurrected the victims from perdition. It is claimed that he was the first to do that. I said, it has been proved that Zeid ben Nafeel used to do so, and therefore if is possible to give pride of place to Sa’sa’a over the Tamim and other tribes, and the precedence of Zeid over the Quraysh (8).
    Ibn al-Jawzi narrates in his biography of Sa’sa’a, his story with a man who wanted to perpetrate infanticide against his infant girl (9). I found cases during the Jahiliyya  where men protested against the practice of infanticide, but these were rare cases involving sisters, and do not match the feats of Zeid ben ‘Amr, or Sa’sa’a ben Najia. 
     Ibn Hajar narrates in his biography of ‘Olatha be Wahb ben Khalifa al-Ghanawi that “He wanted to burry two of his newborns during the Jahiliyya, and his son Rabee’ ben ‘Ollatha said to his father: why don’t you leave them alone, and he did. When Islam came, ‘Ollatha and his sons embraced Islam, including the two daughters (10). We found some cases where the perpetrator of infanticide felt deep remorse, and this is what happened with Bani Laquita. Khazanal al-Adab narrates a verse on Laquita, by poet Qurayt ben Onif al-‘Anbari. He said: If I belonged to Mazen [tribe], the sons of Laquita Would not have plundered my camels  
    She is Um Hisn ben Hathifa. She was given this name because her father did not have any other children, and the Arabs during that era were prone to commit infanticide. When he saw her his heart softened towards her, and said to her mother: breast feed her and hide her from the sight of people. Thus, she was named Laquita (11). 
    Ibn Qutayba narrates that Imru’o al-Qays had girls and no male offspring. He was extremely jealous, and whenever a girl was born to him he would commit her to infanticide. When his women saw this characteristic in him, they dispersed their girls amongst various Arab quarters. When he was informed of this, he pursued and killed them (1). This story confirms that women were against infanticide and would protest against it.
    Perhaps the whole tribe, at the protest of women, would forgo infanticide. Thus Zuhra ben ‘Allab did not have any children, so he married ‘Aqila bint ‘Abdel-‘Ozza ben Ghira al-Thaqafi. She gave birth to three boys who died at a young age. He swore that if a baby girl were born to him, he would kill her. His wife did give birth to a girl, and he ordered that she be buried. The tribe of Quraysh said to him: the Arabs were prone to do that infanticide, because of abject poverty, and you have plenty of money. He told them about the circumstances surrounding her birth, and that he had ordered her infanticide, and how her mother hid her. Zahra then had a dream, with a voice telling him: perhaps a young friendly knight, and a leader amongst leaders, and a man of generosity in time of need, would be in the womb of that infanticide baby. Wherefore he kept her alive, named her al-Sawda, and she got married to Amr ben Ka’b, ben Sa’d ben Taym ben Murra (2)."
To find out more please go to the link at the beginning to read the full article. 

The question at the end is....Is the struggle for the protection of children then and now much different?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Tis the reason for the season Part 1 Who is Mary in the Quran?

I would like to share with you three passages of the Quran relating to Mary peace be upon her, let it not be said I didn't blog for Mary & Jesus. A most beloved people to our Lord. 

Note: The family of 'Imran mentioned is attributed to the family of Mary peace be upon her

"God chose Adam , Noah, Abraham's family, and the family of 'Imran over all other people, in one line of descent - God hears and knows all. 'Imran's wife said, 'Lord, I have dedicated what is growing in my womb entirely to You; so accept this from me. You are the One who hears and knows all,' but when she gave birth, she said, 'My Lord! I have given birth to a girl' - God knew best what she had given birth to: the male is not like the female - 'I name her Mary and commend her and her offspring to Your protection from the rejected Satan.' Her Lord graciously accepted her and made her grow in goodness, and entrusted her to the charge of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah went to see her in her sanctuary, he found her supplied with provisions. He said, 'Mary, how is it you have these provisions?' and she said, 'They are from God: God provides limitlessly for whoever He will.'" [The Family of 'Imran 3: 33-37]

"The angels said to Mary: 'Mary, God has chosen you and made you pure: He has truly chosen you above all women. Mary, be devout to your Lord, prostrate your self in worship, bow down with those who pray.' This is an account of things beyond your knowledge that We reveal to you: you were not present among them when they cast lots to see which of them should take charge of Mary , you were not present with them when they argued [about her]. " [The Family of 'Imran 3:42-44]
"Mary, daughter of 'Imran. She guarded her chastity, so We breathed into her from Our spirit. She accepted the truth of her Lord's words and Scriptures: she was truly devout" [Prohibition 66:12] 
Next part to come soon! On the pregnancy & birth of Jesus peace be upon him  =)